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À PLEASING scene in the Song of Solomon
having invited me to survey attentively its several particulars, I have endeavoured to illustrate and apply them: with how much propriety, I must leave the judicious reader to determine for himself. Justice will require, that he should read with candour and siispensè, what cannot well be judged of with precipitation.
The attempt to illustrate the following subject by passages of the Scripture, would be absurd, unless we take the Song of Solomon for a mystic allegorý, pregnant with prophetical allusion in every part of it. It might be tedious and impertinent to justify this opinion formally in the discourse itself; and therefore I beg leave to offer a word or two by way of Preface.
To some readers more nice than wise, the Can ticles have given offence: Whiston was for excluding them from the sacred Canon; but Carpzovius of
Leipsic, shewed long ago that his objections were superficial and groundless, and his authorities very disingenuously falsified *.
Bishop Lowth has gone deeper than Carpzovius; having not only indicated the general plan, but illustrated with great judgment some particular passages in the Song of Solomon: and the learned reader will find both pleasure and satisfaction if he peruses carefully the thirtieth and thirty-first prelections.
There are three sorts of allegorical composition, the continued metaphor, the parable, and the mystic allegory. The Song of Solomon is most properly referred to the last of these. The matter in this species of composition is borrowed from some well known transaction, and described in such terms as connect the whole with another transaction more sublime and interesting. The forty-fifth Psalm is a poetical description of the mystical union betwixt Christ and the church: the plan of the allegory, and the images which occur in the course of it, are much the same with those in the Canticles. The marriage of Solomon with the daughter of Pharaoh might be the ground of the allegory; but in some passages the composition rises as it were out of itself; leaving the
Carpzovii Critica Sacra, p. 111. cisca Pseudocriticam Gult. Whistonii.
kteral sense, and adopting such terms as can be aco commodated only to the objects of the mystic allusion. Thus at the seventh verse, the expressions drop the subject of the throne and kingdom of Solomon, and point directly to those of the Messiah-Thy throne; O God, is for ever and ever; the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. And again, at verse 12, the King, to whom the bride is presented, is expressly styled the LORD GOD, the object of adoration.
The learned author of the Prelections has given some cautions in regard to the explication of a mystic allegory, which deserve to be considered. He advises, first, that we should be careful not to urge our interpretations too far, nor to extend them to all the minute particulars of the allegory: and secondly, that we should observe the tenor of the Scripture itself, and conform as strictly as possible to the explications there delivered; so that the author of the Scripture may be his own interpreter. But let me observe, that the same prudence, which requires us not to urge our explications too far, will also direct us not to be over cautious, lest they should be empty, spiritless, and unaffecting. Where the whole is an allegory, the parts also are allegorical. · If the King in the fortyfifth Psalm is Christ, and the Queen is the church, then the Oil of gladness, the Myrrh, Aloes, and
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Cassia, and all other articles of the imagery, have their peculiar signification, and are subordinate to the general design of the composition. Whether we can ascertain the sense of every particular, is another question. Some passages will of course be very obscure, and others utterly unintelligible to us at this distance of time and place.
There can be no harm however in attempting to illustrate them, and many useful observations may occur, provided we adhere to the general design of the whole, and use the Scripture as our guide in accommodating the several parts.
These are the rules by which I have directed myself in the following discourse; not intending to compose a rigid commentary, but rather a meditation on a scriptural subject; in which sort of composition the writer may innocently be indulged with some degree of latitude; which, though it may excite the contempt of the fastidious critic, may afford both instruction and entertainment to a pious reader: and then the end of the author will be answered.
1. The spirit of God communicates to
the mind of man the knowledge of spiritual things, by means of a certain resemblance, which the Creator hath wisely ordained between the objects of sense and the objects of faith.
Hence it is that the scriptures abound so much with metaphorical allusions to the natural creation. Sometimes they refer us to the heavens and firmament, to the sun, the moon, and the stars; which, in the emblematical language of divine revelation, are but other names for Christ, the church, and AA 3