Imatges de pÓgina

but the Law of Moses. However, to make it pertinent to the support of their impiety, they understood the book of Job to be an inspired relation of a real conference between the Patriarch and his friends. And give me leave to observe, that my Adversaries who have the same idea of this book will never be able to acquit the Prophet of this impious Sadducean opinion. Whereas the dramatic nature of it, here contended for, frees him entirely from the charge; which I desire may be accepted as another proof of the truth of our general interpretation of the Work. Manassah Ben Israel, who holds that Job taught the very contrary to a future State (not apprehending the nature of the Composition) has a whole chapter against the Sadducees, to shew, that this makes nothing against the reality of such a State,

I cannot better conclude what hath been here said, on this fainous passage, or better introduce what will be said on others to come next under examination, than with the judicious remark of an ancient Catholic Bishop, on this very book : IT IS FIT WE SHOULD UNDERSTAND NAMES AGREEABLY TO THE NATURE OF THE SUBJECT MATTER; AND NOT MOLD AND MODEL THE TRUTH OF THINGS ON THE ABUSIVE SIGNIFICATION OF WORDS * This, though a maxim of the most obvious reason, can never, in theologie matters especially, be too often inculcated. How usual is it, for instance, to have the following words of St. Paul quoted as a proof for the general resurrection of the dead, by those who (as the good Bishop says) mold the truth of things on the abusive signification of words. “ He that raised up Christ from the dead

[ocr errors]

ss shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his spirit $6 that dwelleth in your

III. But as the terms, in this passage of Job, aro supposed, by me, to be metaphorical, and to allude ta the restoration of a dead body to life, some have ventured to infer, that those who use such terms and make such allusions must needs have had the saving knowledge of the thing alluded to, Resurrection of the Body: And the following observation has been repeated, by more than one Writer, with that air of complacency, which men usually have for arguments they think unanswerable---If the Scriptures speak of temporal misfortunes and deliverance, in terms of death and a Resurrection, then the doctrine of a resurrection must have been well known, or the language would have been unintelligible. And here I will lay down this rule, All words that are used in a figurative sense, must be first understood in a literalt,

This looks, at first sight, like saying something; but is indeed an empty fallacy ; in which two very different things are confounded with one another; namely, the idea of a Resurrection, and the belief of it. I shall shew therefore that the very contrary to the first part of the learned Doctor's observation is true, and that the latter is nothing to the purpose.

1. The Messengers of God, prophesying for the people's consolation in disastrous times, frequently promise a restoration to the former days of felicity: and to obviate all distrust from unpromising appearances, they put the case even at the worst; and assure the People, in metaphorical expressions, that though the Community were as entirely dissolved as a dead

* Rom. viii. 11.

+ Dr. Felton's two Sermons before the University of Oxford, pp. 18, 19.


[ocr errors]

body reduced to dust, yet God would raise that Com munity again to life. Thus Isaiah : Thij dead inen shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise: Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust : For thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead*. And that we may have no doubt of the Prophet's meaning, he himself explains it-afterwards in the following words t : And I will camp against thee round about, and I will luy siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee. And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be as one that hath a familiar spirit out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust. Nothing could be more plain or simple than such a metaphorie-iinago, even amongst men who had no knowledge that the natural body was indeed to rise again ; because every man knowing that it is to live and to die, every man knows what it is to revive, this being only an idea compounded of the other two : So that we see there was no occasion for the doctrine of the Resurrection to make the language intelligible.

Nay farther, this metaphorical expression must have there most efficacy wþere the doctrine of the Resura rection was unknown. For we have observed it was employed to inspire the highest sentiments of God's Omnipotency; but that always strikes the mind most forcibly which is as well new as superior to its comprehension. Therefore life from the dead was used, (and from the force with which a new idea strikes) it became almost proverbial in the writings of the Prophets, to express the most unlikely deliverance, by the exertion of Almighty power. Ch. xxvi. ver. 19.


[ocr errors]

Ch. xxix. 3, 4.

The following instance will support both these observations; and shew, that the Doctrine was unknown; and that the Image was of more force for its being unknown. The Prophet Ezekiel *, when the state of things was most desperate, is carried, by the Spirit, into a valley full of dry bones, and asked this question, Son of man, Can these dry bones live? A question which God would hardly have made to a Prophet brought up in the knowledge and belief of a Resurrection. But supposing the question had been made ; the answer by men so brought up, must needs have been, without hesitation, in the affirmative. But we find the Prophet altogether surprised at the strange ness of the demand. He was drawn one way by the apparent impossibility of it to natural conceptions; he was drawn the other, by his belief in the Omnipotence of God. Divided between these two sentiments, he makes the only answer which a man in such circumstances could make, O Lord God thou knowest t. This surprising act of Omnipotency is therefore shewn in Vision, either real or imaginary. The bones come together; they are clothed with flesh, and receive the breath of life I. And then God declares the meaning of the representation.

" Then he said unto me, Son “ of Man, these bones are the whole house of Israel :

Behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope. " is Jost, we are cut off for our parts. Therefore

prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord “ God, Behold, O my People, I will open your graves, “ and cause you to come up out of your graves, and

bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall “ know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves,

O my People, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my Spirit in you, and

ye Ch. xxxvii.

# Ver. 8. 10.

6 sha!!

4 Ver. 3.

“ shall live ; and I shall place you in your own Land. " Then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, " and performed its saith the Lord *.”

Here we see, in a Prophecy delivered in Action or Vision, instead of Iords (the nature and original of which has been discoursed of clsewhere) and afterwards explained by words, to ascertain its meaning, that the figurative ideas of Death and Resurrection are used for temporal distresses and deliverance: and this, at a time when the Doctrine of the Resurrection, froin whence the metaphor is supposed to arise, was so far from being well known, that the figure could never have acquired its force and energy but from the People's ignorance of such a doctrine; the scenical representation, without all question, alluding to that proverbial speech amongst the Jews: Tilt thou shew wonders to the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise theet? On the whole then nothing was ever worse grounded than the observation, that if the Scriptures speak of temporal misfortunes and deliverance in the terms of death and a resurrection, then the DOCTRINE of a resurrection must have been well linown, or the language would have been unintelligible.

II. And now for the general Rule which follows: All words that are used in a figurative sense must be first understood in a literal. If no more be meant than that every figurative sense has a literal, the proposition is true, but trifling, because figurative is a relative term, and implies literal as its correlative. If it means, that he who uses words in a figurative sense must have an idea of the literal, this is likewise true, .but nothing to the purpose, because the idea of a thing does not imply either the truth or the belief of it. But if it means, that a figurative proposition implies * Ver. 11, & seq.

+ Ps. 1xxxviii. 11.


« AnteriorContinua »