Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

These and the like expressions are highly metaphorical, and imply nothing more but that in the divine mind and conduct, there is somewhat analogous to and resembling the sensible objects and the human affections, on which these metaphorical expressions are founded.

For if any one contends that the Hebrews themselves understood these expressions literally when applied to the Deity, and meant that they should be so understood by those who read their scriptures, he must likewise con. tend that the following expressions were understood by them in their literal meaning.-Psal. xvii. 8. " Hide me under the u shadow of thy wings.”—Psal. Ivii. 1. « In the shadow of thy « wings I will make my refuge until these calamities be overpast.'

:"-Psal. Ixi. 4. “I will trust in the covert of thy wings.Psal. xci. 1. « He that dwelleth in th secret place of the “ Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." ver. 4. " He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his 66 wings shalt thou trust.”—I say, If from the passages of scripture in which the members of the human body are ascribed to the Deity, it is inferred that the ancient Hebrews believed the Deity hath a body of the same form with the human body, we must, from the last mentioned passages of the same scriptures, conclude that they believed the Deity to be a tree with spreading branches and leaves which afforded an agreeable shade ; and a great fowl with feathers and wings ; and even a rock, because he is so called, Deut. xxxii. 15. Psal. xviii. 2. 31.

Such are the bold metaphors by which the ancient Hebrews expressed their conceptions of the attributes and operations of God. To prevent however those who are acquainted only with modern languages from being shocked with the boldness of these figures, modern critics have distinguished them by the appellation of Anthropopathia ; concerning which Lowth Isai. i. 24. Aha, I will be eased of mine adversaries, I will be avenged of mine enemies, thus writeth : “ This is a strong instance of the “ metaphor called Anthropopathia ; by which, throughout the “ scriptures, as well the historical as the poetical parts, the 6 sentiments, sensations, and affections ; the bodily faculties, “ qualities, and members of men, and even of brute aniinals, " are attributed to God ; and that with the utmost liberty and “ latitude of application. The foundation of this is obvious, it " arises from necessity : We have no idea of the natural attributes 6 of God, of his pure essence, of his manner of existence, of 56 his manner of acting : When therefore we would treat on

“ these subjects, we find ourselves forced to express them by “ sensible images. But necessity leads to beauty : This is true “ of metaphor in general, and in particular of this kind of me“ taphor ; which is used with great elegance and sublimity in " the sacred poetry : and, what is very remarkable, in the gross

est instances of the application of it, it is generally the most 6 striking and the most sublime. The reason seems to be this : “ When the images are taken from the superior faculties of the “ human nature, from the purer and more generous affections, “ and applied to God, we are apt to acquiesce in the notion ; “ we overlook the metaphor, and take it as a proper attribute : * but when the idea is gross and offensive, as in this passage of " Isaiah, where the impatience of anger and the pleasure of re“ venge is attributed to God; we are immediately shocked at the “ application, the impropriety strikes us at once ; and the mind 5 casting about for something in the divine nature analogous to “the image, lays hold on some great, obscure, vague idea, which « she endeavours in vain to comprehend, and is lost in immensity 6 and astonishment. See De S. Poesi. Hebr. Prel. xvi. Sub. fin. 6 where this matter is treated and illustrated by examples.”

From the above ingenious remarks it appears, that notwithstanding metaphors and other figures derive their origin from the poverty of language, they infuse both strength and beauty into any discourse where they are judiciously used. By exhibiting sensible pictures of our conceptions accompanied with pleasant images, they make a strong impression on the mind of the hearers : for which reason they have found a place, not in the ancient languages only, but in all the modern tongues also ; not excepting those which are the most copious and the most refined : in so much that it hath become the business of poets and orators, to ransack the whole compass of nature in search of resemblances between sensible and intellectual objects, on which to graft metaphors. And, not satisfied with natural and apparent likenesses, the most remote and disparate resemblances, nay resemblances founded merely on popular opinion, local prejudices, and national customs, have been made the foundation of metaphors.--Hence that diversity of figurative expressions observable in the languages of nations living at a distance from each other. Hence also, the figures, which to one nation appear natural and expressive, to others appear unnatural, tumid, and ridiculous.

SECTION II.

Of Picture writing : and of its Influence in the Formation of the

Primitive Languages.

In the early ages, after men had acquired any branch of useful knowledge, either by research or by observation, they naturally wished to communicate that knowledge to their contemporaries, and even to transmit it to posterity. But this they could not do effectually, till they contrived a method of making speech the object of sight. When this was accomplished, the knowledge which they conveyed to the ears of a few by pronounced speech, it was in their power to convey to multitudes, even in the most distant countries, by the eye.

The first method of rendering speech visible, was that which history informs us was practised by all the ancient nations we have any knowledge of, from the Chinese in the east to the Mexicans in the west, and from the Egyptians in the South to the Scythians in the north. All these, taught by nature, formed images or pictures on wood, or stone, or clay, of the sensible objects for which they had invented names, and of which they had occasion to discourse. By these pictures they represented not only the things themselves, but the articulate sounds or names also by which they were called. Thus to express, in that kind of writing, a man, or a horse, that is, to express both the name and the thing, they drew its picture on some permanent substance, whereby, not only the thing itself, but its name was immediately suggested to those who looked on its picture. But this method being tedious, the Egyptians, who it is supposed were the inventors of picture writing, shortened it by converting the picture into a symbol, which, as Warburton, to whom I am indebted for many particulars in this section, observes in his Divine Legation, they did in three ways. 1. By making the principal part of the symbol stand for the whole of it, and by agreeing that that part should express the character of the thing represented by the symbol. Thus, they expressed a fuller by two feet standing in water ; and a charioteer by an arm holding a whip. This is what is called the Curiologic Hieroglyphic.-From this, the Egyptians proceeded to a more artful method of rendering speech visible and permanent ; namely, by putting the instruments, whether real or metaphorical, by which a thing was done, for the thing done. Thus, they expressed a battle by two hands, the one holding a shield, the other a bow : a siege by a scaling ladderi

the divine omniscience, by an eye eminently placed : a monarch by an eye and a scentre. Sometimes they represented the agent without the instrument, to shew the quality of the action. Thus a judge was expressed by a man without hands looking downwards, to shew that a judge ought not to be moved either by interest or pity. This method was called The Tropologic Hieroglynhic. 3. Their third, and most artificial method of abridging picture writing, was to make one thing stand for another, where any resemblance or analogy, however far fetched, could be observed between the thing represented and the thing by which it was represented, whether that resemblance was founded in nature, or in popular opinion only. Thus a serpent, on account of its vigour and spirit, its longevity and revirescence, was made the symbol of the divine nature : a mouse was used to represent destruction : a wildgoat, uncleanness : a fly, impudence : an ant, knowledge : a serpent in a circle, the universe : and the variegated spots of the serpent's skin, the stars. This method of writing was called, The allegorical, analogical, or symbolical Hieroglyphic. And being formed on their knowledge of physics, the marks of which it was composed increased in number, as the Egyptians, the inventors of picture writing, increased in science.

But, in regard there are many qualities and relations of things which are not objects of sense, and many complex morat modes and other mental conceptions, which cannot be likened to any object of sense, consequently, which cannot be expressed by any picture natural or symbolical, it became necessary, in all kinds of picture writing, to introduce arbitrary marks for expressing these qualities, relations, and modes. Yet, even with this aid, picture writing was still very defective and obscure. The Chinese, therefore, to improve the method of rendering speech visible and permanent by writing, threw away the images or pictures altogether, and substituted in their place new marks, formed, it is said, from the images. However, as in this way of writing every word required a distinct character or mark, and as the greatest part of these characters were arbitrary, the difficulty of acquiring the knowledge of the meaning of such a multitude of characters, was so great, that very few could attain to it. Meanwhile, the Chinese method of denoting the separate words of which speech consisteth, by separate marks, is supposed by some to have suggested to the ingenious in other nations, the idea of expressing, by separate marks, the distinct articulate sounds of which words are composed. Hence, the alphabetical or literal method of writing arose, which, on account of its great facility and utility, hath come into general use among all civilized nations, except the Chinese themselves.

The literal method of writing, is generally said to have been first practised by the Phenicians. But whether they, or whoever else first used that method of rendering speech visible, were the inventers of the art ; or, whether, as Plato and Tully thought, De Leg. lib. iv. sect. 4. they were supernaturally assisted in the invention, is hard to determine. This however is certain, that the books of Moses were written in the literal method. And some learned men have thought, the first specimen of literal writing was that which God himself engraved on the two tables of stone, and gave to Moses on the Mount; who being taught the meaning of the characters by inspiration, communicated the knowledge of the same to the Israelites, from whom it passed to the Phenicians. Perhaps it may be some confirmation of this conjecture to observe, that the Chinese, though they have long possessed the art of writing by characters, have never been able to attain the method of writing by letters.

I have given the above account of the art of rendering speech visible and permanent by picture writing, not as a matter of curiosity, but to shew the influence which the hieroglyphical manner of writing had on the ancient languages. For the symbols used in that kind of writing, denoting the names of things, as well as the things themselves, in speaking, men would naturaly give to the things represented, both the name and the qualities of the symbol by which it was represented. Hence arose a new species of metaphor, altogether unknown in the speech of modern nations, and forming a kind of language which, though it may appear to us fanciful and dark, was well understood, and made a strong impression on those who were accustomed to it. -This higher kind of metaphorical language claims particular attention, because it is that in which the divine revelations, especially those concerning future events, were communicated to mankind, and in which they still remain recorded in scripture. Wherefore, to shew the influence which picture writing, particularly of the symbolical kind, had to introduce into the ancient languages the boldest, and in the opinion of modern nations, the most extravagant metaphors, the following examples are proposed to the reader's consideration.

1. A supreme ruler being represented in symbolical writing by a man with four wings, and his lieutenants or princes by one with

« AnteriorContinua »