« הקודםהמשך »
mous expressions, and Strabo informs us, Algea kaldoi ta lepa
This class of heathen mythology is easily traced : but there was one which was involved in considerable obscurity, until the learned and elegant labours of Mr. Christie threw light upon it, by his works on the Athenian Skirapheria (the bough and umbrella), the Skiran rites, the Shews at Eleusis, and the Chinese Feast of Lanterns. The hidden meaning inculcated by the priests of obscene and cruel rites was not very obvious to the multitude, in the times of their greatest celebrity; consequently, any attempt to explain them in these days may be well supposed to promise but slender success: yet it seems that they were universally intended to teach the great truth of the regeneration of all things; and of the resurrection of the present material, as well as moral, world, into a more glorious state than it now wears, after having passed through a previous state of torpidity, rottenness, decomposition, or death. “ The hope of regaining this state of bliss, and the Divine promise that man should be eventually reinstated, were fondly cherished by the Pagans, and recorded, though misrepresented, by numerous fables and devices." (Christie.) -- The discovery of many ancient vases, which were deposited with the remains of the opulent Greeks and Romans, with emblematical devices painted upon them, has contributed to confirm the conjectures derived from other sources.
With the exceptions of the incarnations of the Deity in the Indian mythology, there are few direct traces of tradition respecting the character of the individual who was to effect the mighty changes to which all mythology bore witness. The actions of the Hercules of Tyre and Greece, as well as those of the Hercules of the Celts under the name of Ogmius, scarcely impeach the universal application of the above remark. We have seen, however, a book-if such it may be called-taken from a Chinese temple, consisting of leaves of a plant pasted on thick boards, which boards constitute the leaves of the book, so united together that when entirely opened all the leaves of the plant are seen at the same time. On these leaves of a plant are painted various devices, with several human figures; amongst whom one is conspicuous, both by his difference
of dress, and also by his not having the white, round, full-moon face of the present Chinese dynasty. This figure is pointing out to the others something worthy of their observation. In one picture he is directing their attention to a child sitting on the lap of an adult, which child has a glory round its head. In another, this child with the glory is seen in the heavens. In another, a temple is shewn coming down from the heavens, at which the spectators are gazing with great earnestness. In another, a serpent is seen
falling down from the ground on which the figures are standing, a circumstance which appears to give them great delight.
Next to the worship of the hosts of heaven, and the elements, the most universal of all the subjects of heathen mythology is that of the Serpent. The works that have treated on the Christian truths which Paganism has obscured, are both voluminous and expensive; and Mr. Deane has rendered a valuable service to the Christian scholars of the present day, by reducing into one volume that which must otherwise have been collected with much cost and labour. The object of his work is, as he states in his preface, p. viii. “ To establish, by the testimony of heathen authorities, the credibility of the temptation and fall of man in paradise, by the agency of Satan in a serpent's form: nor is it with a vain confidence that any new argument has been discovered, or any one placed in a more powerful light. I pretend only to gather what others have scattered; to collect, and arrange in a comprehensive syllabus, facts noticed and observations made, by men of admitted learning, on a subject of acknowledged interest.”
This is by no means, however, the only topic upon which information may be derived, and research profitably directed, from this volume. The author observes, p. 23, “ All are descended from the same family in the ark; and it is more than probable that some vestiges of the original history of man were preserved in the traditions of the more enlightened Gentiles. Such is the conclusion of unprejudiced reason; and, in full accordance, it has been ascertained that the philosopher, the mythologist, and the uneducated idolater of every nation, bears witness, in his writings, in his fables, or in his religion, to the truth of the Mosaic history." " These traditions and conceits,” observes Mr. Christie,“ of the early Pagans, may not be deemed unimportant, especially by those who feel interested in the calling in of the Gentiles. They are at present fast bound by prejudices, which are only strong because the grounds of them have been hitherto unexplained. But a knowledge of the causes of these errors, and a clue given to the path which a considerable part of mankind have trodden in their departure from the worship of the true God, may be one secondary mean of clearing their sight and enlarging their understandings, and of teaching them to retrace their steps; since most of their traditions, allegories, and symbols are but mistaken memoranda of promises long ago made, of the actual performance of which, in these latter times, it is the devout object of our missionaries to assure them."
DR. PYE SMITH AND THE REV. JOSEPH FLETCHER ON UN
“On the Principles of Interpretation as applied to the Pro
phecies of Holy Scripture: a Discourse, &c. By John Pye
Smith, B. D.” ABOUT thirty Dissenting ministers are accustomed to meet at each other's chapels once a month: on which occasions it is usual to select one of their body, in rotation, to preach before them upon some subject previously arranged. These thirty, who call themselves the Associated Congregational Ministers of London, (p. 4, note), are the hierarchy, as it were, of Dissenters; the bishops and archbishops of Non-conformity; and who, like all other hierarchies, look down upon the unfortunate wights who are not of that select band, much as they themselves are looked down upon by the other Bishops and Archbishops who sit in the House of Peers ; “ and so the world wags,” says Jaques. The sermons thus preached are not usually required 10 be printed : on some special occasions, however, they are published " by request ” of the other ministers who hear them : whence they assume a sort of semi-demi-official authority—that is, as much authority as any thing can have which emanates from a selfassembling number of individuals, who have no authority for any thing they do, or say, beyond that possessed by the single preacher. The sermons of last year were all published" by request :” it has been observed, that more sermons have been printed " by Request,” than by any other publisher in England : and in virtue of this “request” the sermons now to be considered are circulated, as containing more authority, and as exhibiting more completely the views of the persons associated and requesting, than any other document. It is for these reasons that we call the attention of our readers to them.
The first is that of Dr. Pye Smith, on 2 Pet. i. 19–21. Some allowance must be made for an affectation of pedantry in the " theological tutor” of a Dissenting academy, and therefore we pass by his making trivial, though bad, alterations in the version of the text, as it is possibly necessary upon all such occasions to signify that he can read Ĝreek.
'Tis thus erect be deigns to pour
Each poor” Dissenting wittol;
Just less than their own little." But this pedantry assumes a far more serious shape when the Doctor proceeds to encumber the study of God's prophetic
word with no less than twelve canons, which, if taken with the explanations he has given, would exclude the Doctor himself from the power of comprehending it. The opening paragraph shews that he has a very inadequate conception of the object or importance of the study.
“The subject appointed for the lecture of this morning is one of unquestionable importance, though I cannot represent it as possessing the highest consequence and interest: for the great objects of personal religion in the Christian's faith, obedience, and consolation, are both more plain in their own nature, and infinitely more important in their application, than any discussions can be upon the profound and difficult subject of inspired prophecy. Yet, most certainly, if studied with a modest and candid spirit, and in a due proportion to the other departments of sacred knowledge, the investigation of the prophecies is, in many respects, proper and advantageous. It serves to the illustration of God's universal providence; it confirms, by the most decisive proof, the reality of revealed religion; it is a part of the homage due to the records of that revelation; it elicits and establishes many of the most important rules for the interpretation of the Bible generally; and it furnishes a rich abundance of the materials and motives for devotion. To those persons, therefore, who possess the requisite means and opportunities for this purpose, it is clearly a duty to employ a sufficient portion of their time and talents in the diligent search into the meaning and the fulfilment of the prophetic oracles.”
“ Modest and candid spirit,” of course, means believing just as much as Dr. Smith will give them leave to do: and the "sufficient portion of their time and talents" signifies, the less the better. But let these common. places mean what they may, the whole passage is clearly intended as a damper: and what follows in the next paragraph is much worse.
“We cannot promise success.......to any persons, however sincere and upright, who implicitly rely upon the common translation in these, which, more than the other hooks of Scripture, are generally remarkable for difficulty in the teritis and obscurity in the matter. This difficulty and obscurity are intimated in various parts of the Divine word. Striking instances we have in those passages of the last prophetic book of Scripture, which expressly demand a mind endowed with a peculiar wisdom' in order to understand its mysterious language: Rev. xiii. 18; xvii. 9."
This is to say, that, because there is obscurity in rightly interpreting and applying symbols, therefore books which are not symbolical are obscure also. So much for the logic of Homerton. Our author next advances a step further, and says, “ This fact is also plainly asserted in our text;" and, after giving an outline of the Apostle's argument, neither very accurate nor very clear, he “submits the following as a just paraphrase of the text.
“And thus, by the independent evidence of the Divine mission of our Lord Jesus Christ, we possess the declarations uttered and written by the Hebrew prophets, rendered more sure to our apprehensions, and consequently more convincing to our judgment. To this collection of the ancient prophecies I exhort you to pay a diligent attention ; for, though it be at first like a lamp affording only a feeble light to a person travelling in the dark, yet, since the incarnation of the Messiah and the events connected with it have now taken place, the comparison of those events with the predictions of them will bring such information and conviction to your minds as will be like the bright and welcome dawn of day, after a gloomy and dreary night. For it is to be considered as a first principle in this department of Divine knowledge, that no Scripture prophecy explains itself, but must remain obscure till it is enlightened by its fulfilment : and even the prophets themselves, who delivered those declarations from God, were not able to interpret their own predictions : for propbecy at no time proceeded from the will, invention, sagacity, or foresight of men; but holy men of God, whom he had set apart for that very purpose, delivered, by speaking and writing, faithfully and exclusively, that which they were impelled by the Holy Spirit thus to utter."
A more abominable perversion of the word of God was never attempted by the most inveterate German Neologian. It is not possible that Dr. Smith should have been ignorant of Horsley's exposition of this very passage, and it therefore requires more than ordinary coxcombery to give another version, directly in the teeth of that learned divine, without offering one word of justification. He has interpolated the words “ since the incarnation of the Messiah and the events connected with it have now taken place,” for there is nothing like it in the original. He has made another interpolation, of the words “ but must remain obscure till it is enlightened by its fulfilment :” whereby he not only destroys the real argument of the Apostle, but he inserts “the private interpretation” of himself, Dr. Pye Smith, to make it appear that it has the authority of the word of God.
The argument of the Apostle is directly the reverse of that which it is represented to be by Dr. Smith. He commences his Epistle by exhorting them to the practice of different virtues ;
for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ : wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.” What can the “present truth” by any possibility be, but the truth of the everlasting kingdom, into which the Apostle desired his converts should have an abundant entrance ? “ For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the coming and power of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of his majesty.”—“The Apostle Peter,” says Dr. Smith,
ays Dr. Smith, “has been declaring the certainty of the Christian revelation, upon the grounds of that sensible evidence which himself and his fellowapostles James and John had enjoyed of the power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, when they were eye-witnesses of his majesty." The thing which was made known by Peter was not the certainty of the Christian revelation, but the "everlasting kingdom” of glory. Dr. Smith felt that the plain words of the text would not answer his purpose; that the original Greek was equally conclusive against him; and therefore he boldly at once changes the text. It was not “the certainty of the Christian revelation " which the Apostles saw on the mount, one