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only (which surely cannot be disputed) that the author was a man of sense and genius, would he represent the bride as describing her beloved naked to the virgins, that they might know him'? Surely not: much less would he represent the virgins as describing the naked charms of the bride : the supposition is against nature, reason, and probability; to say nothing of decency and morals.
2. Let us compare this with other ancient poems, and particularly with the forty-fifth psalm, which appears also to have been a nuptial poem, and, probably, written on the same occasion. Here the parties are described in their royal or nuptial garments”; the queen especially, as clothed in wrought gold, and needle-work : nor is there any passage in the writings which compose our Bible analogous to this, supposing it to refer to the uncovered features.
3. Let us examine the internal evidence, and we shall find several circumstances which can be referred only to the dress, particularly in the description of the bride. The first article of the description, for instance, is the feet, which are described, not naked, but clothed with sandals, which strongly favours our idea. The next is, most literally and obviously, the covering of the thighs or loins. The head also is described in a manner which can be referred only to the dress : • Thine head UPON 6 THEE is like CARMEL.' Now Carmel was a
mountain covered with trees and' verdure, no doubt intermixed with flowers, which can refer to nothing but the liead-dress, or rather the nuptial crown formed of flowers and evergreens.-So again, in the description of the beloved his body like white ivory overlaid ' with sapphires,' I am much mistaken if this does not more naturally describe a white skin with a sapphire robe, or perhaps robes of blue and white, than it does the skin with blue veins.
4. If we recur to authorities, those in favour of my hypothesis are, at least, equally respectable with those on the other side. Among the rabbins, Aben Ezra 'was an advocate for this method of interpretation, and among Christian
, writers I have noted Sanctius, Poole, Bishop Patrick, and Dr. Gill. Mr. Harmer hath pleaded on the same side, with much ingenuity, and he is followed by Mr. Parkhurst.
5. It may be thought extraordinary by some mere English readers, that there should be a doubt or a difficulty upon this subject, and they may wish to be informed whence the ambiguity arises. To gratify such I would reply, partly from the nature of the Hebrew language, which denominates the articles of dress from the members of the body which they cover: and partly from the nature of poetry, which abounds in tropes and metonymies; and often becomes obscure by that conciseness which is essential to its elegance.
1 In Gill, ch. vii. 1.
If it be enquired, How are we to distinguish the parts clothed from the naked features? I answer not only by the expressions used, but also by the nature of the case, and the customs of the country; but the application of this rule must be referred to the comnientary.
The beauty of Solomon's imagery has been a subject of encomium with many writers, and particularly with the ingenious and elegant Bossuet: but if the reader have not taste to discern these, it would be in vain to point them out: it would be like pointing a blind man to the rainbow. We hasten therefore to the next, and one of the most important subjects of enquiry.
THE MYSTICAL SENSE OF THE POEM.
IT was a very early and general opinion among both Jews and Christians, who studied this book, that the author had something more in view than a literal reference to a beloved fairone, under the amatory expressions and figurative images employed, but they have differed very much in their methods of explication.
The learned Mr. Poole' mentions some writers who have conjectured the author's de
sign to be political, intended as' an encomium on the government of Solomon; or as one says, ' A dialogue between Solomon and the
republic of the Jews (personified as a female • beauty) inviting him to reign over it!'-Others have understood it as a philosophico-allegorical colloquy between the above prince and wisdom, or divine philosophy, according to his supposed language in the Apocrypha : • I loved
her, and sought her out from my youth; I • desired to make her my spouse, [or, to marry
her,] and I was a lover of her beauty'.'This, according to Dupin”, was the hypothesis of Theodore of Mopsuestia ; and both these expositions are, it must be confessed, ingenious and beautiful; but as I believe it is long since they had any advocates, I do not think it necessary to examine them.
The Targum, and several of the Jewish commentators, as Eben Ezra, Solomon Jarchi, and the author of the Book of Zohar}, consider this book as an historical parable, or mystical history of the ancient Jewish church : on the other hand some Christian writers, as Brightman and Cotton, consider it as prophetic of the Christian church: and some bave been so minute * as to point out the several periods to which it may be referred, answerable to the
1 Wisdom, viii. 2, &c. 2 Hist. Eccl. Cent. 5.
3 This book tells us that Solomon's Song comprehends the whole law, the creation, the slavery of Israel in Egypt, the Exodus, the covenant of Sinai, building the temple, captivity and redemption of Israel, &c. &c. and finally the sabbath of the Lord, which is, and was, and is to come + Herinischius in Gill.
states of the seven Asiatic churches, in the revelation, which they also suppose to be prophetical, as follows:
1. The Church at Ephesus, Rev. ii. I to 7. Cant. i. 5 to 17. A.D. 33 to 370. Smyrna
ii. I-17. 371 707. 3. Pergamos
ji. I-II. 708 — 1045. 4. Thyatira
iv. I-VI. 1046 — 1383. 5. Sardis
ini. I-6. v. 2--vi. 2.- 1384 1721. 6.
Philadelphia 7-13 - vi. 9 - vii.14. 1722 --- 2059. 7. Laudicea 14–22.--vill 1 - 14.
2060 & onwards.
These suppositions are so fanciful and unfounded, that I confess myselfat a loss how to attempt an answer; and shall therefore leave them with the censure of Dr. GILL', who observes that · hereby the book is made liable to arbi* trary, groundless, and uncertain conjectures,
as well as its usefulness in a great measure laid • aside.'
There is one other hypothesis which I would name rather out of respect to the talents of its author, than from any idea of its plausibility ; I mean that of the late ingenious Mr. Robinson of Cambridge, who thinks it not impro'bable' that the book, of Canticles is a topographical composition, descriptive, some beautiful spots in the landed estates • * of Solomon ? ;' and that, particularly, the description of the beloved in chap. v. intends nothing but a mountain, ornamented with copses, and enriched with quarries of marble, and a mine of gold.
It is readily adınitted that geography borrows many of its terms from the members of
Expos. p. 16. 34. edit. 2 History of Baptifm, ch. iii. p. 23, 4.