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The relation between the Divine and human elements in Holy Scripture : eight lectures preached before the University of Oxford in the year MDCCCLXIII .. online

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in other passages, '■for our sokes J * as well as for the
sake of the original hearers. Taken in connection
with the context, and illustrated by the method of his
own quotations, the Apostle's meaning must amount
to this, that the earlier Scriptures were intended to
serve a wider purpose than the immediate occasion of
their utterance furnished, or than the immediate
agents of their disclosure comprehended. This is
precisely what was meant by the double condition
which I named at the outset. If the necessity that a
revelation should first of all things be intelligible
caused God's earlier disclosures to be modified in form
by temporary considerations, the loftier use to which
they were destined in the future prevented their full
meaning from being exhausted by the applications to
which they were confined for a season. A spiritual
sense, then, must always have lain hid beneath the
letter, and must have been gradually unfolded, in
proportion to the elevation of the human faculties, in
their deepest relation to God. We must admit the
existence of that spiritual sense before we can trace
the successive disclosures of the ever-brightening light
which penetrates the letter of God's earlier word.
Throughout the entire range of the Old Testament
Scriptures, there exists a deeper signification than

a 1 Cor. x. 11 ; ix. 10 : Rom. iv. 24.


the literal — a signification which is veiled alike
under command and precept, type and symbol, history
and prophecy, stern denunciation and triumphal psalm.
On this basis rests the process of development which
Christ and His apostles have unfolded. Throughout
the New Testament, facts, prophecies, and simple
precepts — disclosures of God's own nature, and re-
cords of the wanderings of men — the prayer of the
penitent, the thanksgiving of the humble — the lamen-
tations of the captive, and the triumphs of the con-
queror — are all treated alike, as richly fraught with
that double sense which Christ's advent brought to
open light. Sometimes the proof of this is direct and
simple. Such is the interpretation of the broader
types and prophecies, which bore their distant witness
to the person or the work of Christ. Such is that
remarkable instance in which Christ Himself gave the
explanation of God's patriarchal title — the God of
Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob ; the God of the
living, not the dead. a Such is St. Paul's mode of
dealing with both primitive and Jewish history, in the
facts of which he descries deep allegories, containing
the germs of Christian doctrine. A complete account
of this characteristic of Scripture would trace the
gradual growth of prophecy, from its first faint lines
to its most detailed disclosures ; from the victory
promised to the woman's seed up to the minute indi-
cation of so many particulars in Christ's personal
history. It would teach us to recognise His image in

■ Matt. xxii. 32.


the heroes, who were raised as successive saviours for
His people ; in the Prophet, who was to be like unto
Moses; the Priest, who was to hold an imperishable
priesthood; the King, who was to claim the title of
the royal David's Lord. a It would teach us to read
Him alone in such types as the Star of Jacob, the
Sceptre of Israel, the Root of Jesse, the Sun of
Righteousness who was to ' arise with healing in His
wings ; ' b to find Him alone in such historical shadows
as the bread from heaven, and the uplifted serpent,
an£ the water springing from the smitten rock ; c to see
in the sacrificial lamb the figure of ' the Lamb slain
from the foundation of the world ;' and to trace the
minutest details of His passion in the victim who was
led ' as a lamb to the slaughter ; ' in Him whose hands
and feet were pierced ; whose garments they j^arted ;
who was buried ' with the rich in His death' d (3).

The doctrine of the spiritual sense, then, rests
on the belief that, in the composition of Scripture,
it was God Himself who furnished or suggested
the materials which His chosen servants, under His
continued guidance, clothed in such language as
their own intelligence and position prompted. The
reality of the Divine element in Scripture is the
truth on which the possibility of such senses must
depend ; for it implies that the res beneath the voces

a Deut. xviii. 15 ; Ps. ex. 1, 4. Cf. Acts iii. 22 ; Matt. xxii. 45;
Heb. v. 6.

b Num. xxiv. 17 ; Isa. xi. 1, 10 ; Mai. iv. 2 ; Rev. v. 5, &c.

c Ex. xvi. 15 ; Num. xxi. 9 ; John vi. 31 ; iii. 14 ; 1 Cor. x. 4.

d Rev. xiii. 8; Isa. liii. 7; Acts viii, 32; Ps. xxii. 16, 18;
Tsa. liii. 9.



shall be significant as well as they a (4). But before
we proceed to further proofs and instances of that
significance, we must premise one important principle,
which has been too often overlooked in these discus-
sions, namely, that such rights as might fairly be
claimed for the human authors of the Scriptures, are
in every case respected and reserved.

It cannot reasonably be doubted, that every inspired
writer, even when unable to fathom the full import of
his message, would still affix to every word he uttered
some one primary and sufficient meaning, which
would be directly connected with his special mission.
In cases of prophecy, this is often plain and unques-
tioned. Amos must have thoroughly understood that
God would transport His people beyond Damascus,
even though he did not know, what the light of the
fulfilment told St. Stephen, that they would be carried
beyond Babylon also. b Isaiah must have perfectly
comprehended the sense in which he described the ruin
of the King of Babylon as the fall of ' Lucifer, son of the
morning,' though he might not be able to regard it as
the type of that overthrow of the power of iniquity to
which Christ referred when He said, ' I beheld Satan
as lightning fall from heaven.' c God's wrath against
old guilty nations is expressed with as much clearness
and precision, as if it had no further bearing on more
spiritual forms of evil. The chastisements of Israel,
and God's forgiveness on their repentance, are all as
closely adjusted to the original circumstances as if

a S. Thorn. Aquin., S. Th., I ma Qu. i. Art. x. 3.
b Amos v. 27 ; Acts vii. 43. c Isa. xiv. 12 ; Luke x. 18.


they had never been meant to be extended to the
whole Church of God. Precisely in the same way, to
take an earlier instance, Abraham must have attached
a definite significance to the Divine title when he
called a place Jehovah-jireh, though we are told that
God was not revealed to him by the full signification
of His name Jehovah. a And to take a later instance,
the words of Christ Himself, which were uttered by
direct omniscience, bear as sharply and precisely on
the fall of Jerusalem as if they were not coupled with
other expressions of a broader range and deeper
meaning, which can receive no earlier fulfilment than
in the solemn events of His second advent. Or to
turn to cases where prophets look back to the facts of
history ; we may rest assured that Hosea was thinking
of the Exodus as he wrote, ' When Israel was a child,
then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt ;'
and it is a mere misapprehension of the question to
suppose that the believers in his inspiration are bound
to maintain that he used these words with any
primary reference to Christ b (5). The same remark
applies to Jeremiah's allusion to the mourning of
Rachel, which St. Matthew quotes in the same con-
nection. The prophets referred to well-known facts,
and God had caused those facts to be typical. But
the record of a typical fact becomes a prophecy, though
it might not in all cases be known to be such at the
time when it was written down. Dum narrat gestum,

a Gen. xxii. 14 ; Ex. vi. 3 (above, p. 50).
b Hos. xi. 1 ; Matt. ii. 15. c Jer. xxxi. 15 ; Matt. ii. 18.


prodit mysterium.* Events in the Old Testament
reappear as truths in the New Testament; but the
prophets who cite them in their earlier character
must on no account be put on the same level with the
evangelist who was inspired to see their prophetic
import, and to record the circumstances in which they
were fulfilled. To recur to my former illustrations.
The private understands the step that he is taking,
though he knows but little of its ulterior objects;
and the subordinate member of a numerous chorus
sees clearly the note which he himself is striking,
though he might be unable to tell you its exact
position in the complex harmony of the great master.
And this firm belief, that each writer thoroughly
understood the primary meaning of his own language,
is quite compatible with the conviction, that the true
fulfilment, when it came, drew out a meaning far
closer, deeper, and worthier, than the contemporary
or intermediate application could supply.

There might, indeed, be repetitions of such provi-
sional applications, as once and again the law took
effect, the principle found expression in an historical
event, and the prediction was strengthened by the
addition of a type, which each such fact of history
yielded (6). It was as though the reflection of the
coming future rested brightly and yet more brightly on
the crest of each advancing wave. But while each of
these applications might be real in its own place, and
might form a solid element in the onward movement

a S. Greg. Magn. ap. S. Thorn. Aquin., S. Th., I. i. Art. x. (Opp.,
i. 635 : ' Dinn narrat textum? &c).


of events, still the sign of imperfection would be found
to linger over all such partial shadows of the end. We
could not mistake them for that exhaustive fulfilment
which came at last to light up every line and feature
in the mysterious forecast, when the advent of the
grand reality brought the series of types and antici-
pations to its close.

Here, then, is the first caution which we must
observe when applying the doctrine of secondary and
spiritual interpretations of Scripture. We are by no
means to suppose that any inspired writer was so mere
a mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit, that he used words
to which he did not himself attach a definite meaning ;
and that, too, a higher meaning than his own thoughts
could have furnished. We are on no account to ima-
gine that any sower of the seed of the Spirit could
have been ignorant of the spiritual nature of his work.
What we allege is, that over and above that one clear
meaning in which the original writer used the words
of Scripture, they are often found to cover a secon-
dary and deeper sense, sometimes more than one
such sense, which it was a function of the later
revelation to disclose.

On the other hand, it is just as little to be thought
that, after this second sense had been extracted, the
first wholly lost its use and interest. The Mosaic
laws, for instance, still retain their distinct value as
the forms impressed by God Himself, for a most
important purpose, on universal principles of right
and wrong — a value which is entirely independent
of such well-meant but questionable explanations as


have been offered by Kabbalistic, Hutchinsonian, or
Sweclenborgian schools. Increased study only enables
its to extend the remark with greater confidence to
every portion of the older Scriptures; and to suspect
that the Church was meant by her Master to apply,
with careful sobriety of judgment, a similar interpre-
tation for large portions of the New Testament. The
earlier moral lessons, for instance, will no longer be
thought to be the mere vehicles of an unrelenting
sternness, fitted for the world's childhood, but un-
worthy of its maturity. We shall no longer look on
that old Jewish zeal, which bore fruit in hatred for
evil as well as love for good, as though it could yield
no precedent for Christian conduct, no pattern meet
for Christian men. The same is true of every portion
of that ancient record. To the devout and enlightened
Christian intelligence, the words of those elder Scrip-
tures can never become like the narrow cottage which
is abandoned to decay and desolation when its inmates
have left it for an ampler home. Still less are they
like the dead husk which may be cast away when the
fruit has been secured, or like the dead body which
may be buried when the spirit has departed. Rather
they are still and for ever alive with the abiding pre-
sence of the indwelling Spirit ; they rise in themselves
to a nobler elevation, in proportion as their loftier
meaning is unfolded : just as the image of the Saviour
jdorifies that long line of ancient worthies in which
it was foreshown; just as what man might have mis-
taken for the petty laws and narrow policies of one
small tribe in a secluded district swell out into the


reflection of the everlasting country, when the Gospel
discloses their eternal model, abiding in its glory in
the heavens.

But our safest guidance on this subject must be
sought from the recorded examples of the mode in
which Christ and His apostles were accustomed to
deal with the Old Testament Scriptures. Two main
principles appear to be suggested by that enquiry :
the one, which is again divisible into two parts, that
facts in the history of God's ancient Church are
regarded as sometimes symbolical, and sometimes
typical — in other words, as indicative at one time of
truths and at other times of events, which meet us
in the history of the Christian dispensation ; the
other, that the enactments of the Mosaic system were
frequently invested with so representative a character,
that we can still derive the greatest advantage from
translating them back into the more universal laws
on which they rest.

We have here three different modes of explanation,
under one or other of which most secondary meanings
can be arranged (7). In the first place, objects and
events which were in themselves perfectly real and
historical, are found to possess a symbolical force
when they are seen to embody a deep spiritual or
moral principle, which clothes itself in different ages
under varying outward forms. The case of types is
rather more complex, as they add to the symbol the
element of prophecy. And under this division may
be included two heads of interpretation which were
anciently marked by different names, the allegorical


and anagogic ; the one containing those types in the
Law which anticipate the Gospel ; the other comprising
those characteristics of the Church militant which pre-
figure the eternal glory of the Church triumphant.
To the symbolical and typical I have proposed to add
a third class, containing cases where the secondary
sense merely resolves a rule into the deeper law, which
gives it an abiding interest.

1 . Of the symbolical kind of secondary senses, the
leading instance is furnished by St. Paul's interpreta-
tion of the history of Sarah and Hagar a (8). The word
aXXrjyopou/xsva which he employs plainly means, as
St. Chrysostom interprets it, that the history referred
to ou [xovov 7raoa6r^oi oVsp Qaivsrai ' (mark the care
with which the literal meaning is secured ; ) aAXa xa)
aAXa TivoL dvayopzdsr h it gives a symbolical representa-
tion of principles, while it retains the character of a
plain historical record. The Apostle tells us, then,
that what is written about the members of Abraham's
household may be viewed in the more general light
of an allegory ; for that ' these are the two covenants ;
the one from the Mount Sinai, which gendereth to
bondage,' the other from that heavenly Jerusalem,
which ' is free,' and ' is the mother of us all.' This is
plainly a very remarkable claim to find a double
sense in a simple narrative, and to read the spiritual
relations of Jew and Christian in the representa-
tive records of the house of Abraham. As such it
calls for a closer examination when we are enquiring

a Gal. iv. 21-31. b Cramer, Caten. G. P., vi. C9.


into the Scriptural usage as to secondary senses.
My reason for assuming that in this case the
purely symbolical element is more conspicuous than
the typical will be made clear in the course of

The analogy, let us observe, is drawn from the
entire history, as well as from the persons. Viewed
in themselves, Hagar and Sarah are both mixed
characters. There was plainly much that was excel-
lent in Hagar, who twice received angelic visits, in
each case with the promise of a special blessing, and
who had realised a deeper truth than others of her
age and condition, when she said, ' Thou, God, seest
me.' a There had been passing traces of unbelief in
Sarah, though her doubts had been conquered by the
noble influence of Abraham's faith. b But even in
their merely personal aspect, the parallel would thus
far hold good, though it forms no part of the Apostle's
argument. For on the one hand, the law is ' good, if a
man use it lawfully,' and the ' commandment holy
and just and good;' and on the other hand there
have always been multitudes of unworthy Christians
who have been gathered within the outer fold of the
Gospel. When both these women were alike members
of Abraham's household, each had her own position
and duty. Sarah was the mistress, and Hagar was
the handmaid. It was the place of Sarah to rule, and
it was the place of Hagar to obey. Precisely analo-
gous, within God's household of the Jewish Church,

a Gen. xvi. 7 ; xxi. 17 ; xvi. 13.
b Gen. xviii. 12-15. c 1 Tim. i. 8 ; Rom. vii. 12.


was the relation between the Promise which was tin
basis of the Gospel, and the Law, which was the ruling
instance of ceremonial precepts and forms. The
Promise represented the free gift of God's Spirit. The
Law represented the more fleshly and servile element
of ritual obligation, which was ' added because of
transgressions." 1 When Hagar despised Sarah, and
when the son of Ha2;ar turned against the son of
Sarah and mocked him, b the true domestic order was
subverted. The mistress was taunted by her hand-
maid; the heir of the freewoman became the sport
of the son of the slave. The same thing happened
when the Law received the faith and reverence which
properly belonged to the Promise only; when men
looked for salvation to the works of the Law, rather
than the faith which had led to the justification of
their fathers; when the hard details of their legal
duties, which were the mere bond-slaves of their
nobler privileges, Avere allowed to absorb their entire
devotion, and the flame of spiritual worship died out
within their hearts.

And now observe the manner in which this inter-
pretation is applied by the Apostle. The Galatians
had fallen back from the spirit to the letter. To
counteract this evil tendency, he appeals to that very
reverence for the letter which they had selected as
their field of vantage. The history of Abraham stood
in the very forefront of those Scriptures which would
be especially described as the Law. What are the

a Gal. iii. 19. b Gen. xvi. 4; xxi. ( J.


lessons of the life of Abraham? Do they exalt Law
against Promise, flesh against Spirit, forms against
grace, works against faith? The very contrary is
true. You may see it, he elsewhere argues, from
the history of the justification and circumcision of
Abraham. 8 You may learn it here, he says, from the
records of his household history. You may learn it
if you will duly study what you are told about Sarah
and Hagar, and will draw forth the lessons which
that history should convey.

The son of Sarah was by special covenant to be the
ancestor of Christ; for 'in Isaac shall thy seed be
called.' b But though no such glory rested on the
son of Hagar, God had listened with favour when
Abraham had prayed that his son Ishmael also should
be blessed. His very name was a pledge that God
should hear. d He was ordained to be a great nation.
He did not die till this blessing had been abundantly
fulfilled ; till the twelve promised princes of his race
could be gathered together from their towns and
castles, that he might die ' in the presence of all his
brethren.' 6 But the promise which proved God's
goodness towards Ishmael was darkened from the out-
set by the prophetic shadow of his wild and lawless
career. 1 " His proper province was to yield to Isaac
loyal service. This was the highest household dignity
that belonged to him. So far as his domestic rights
went, he was not even so much as Esau was to Jacob,

a Roru. iv. 10. b Gen. xxi. 12.

c Gen. xvii. 20. d Gen. xvi. 11.

e Gen. xxv. 16, 18. f Gen. xvi. 12.


or as Eliab was to David (9). When lie mocked the
son of Sarah, he fell into domestic rebellion, and was
cast out into the desert, as the complaint of Sarah
was ratified by the sentence of God. a After this he
held his greatness as an alien and a stranger. He
had for ever forfeited his highest blessing. Hence-
forward he was, as God presignined, ' a wild man ;
his hand against every man, and every man's hand
against him.' b Henceforth he represented the resist-
ance of the flesh against the Spirit; the developed
rebellion of our fallen nature when it rises up against
the grace of God. Now it is this secondary, cor-
rupted, and unnatural relation which furnishes the
Apostle with his parallel for the not less forced, cor-
rupted, and unnatural position which the Galatians
were claiming for the Law of Moses. Ishmael might
have kept God's blessing if he had rendered due
respect to Isaac. And in the same manner, the Law
of Moses never gendered to bondage, except when
approached in a spirit at once servile and rebellious.
AVe may be sure that it was no bondage to Moses
and Joshua, to Gideon and Barak, to Samson and
Jephthah, to David, and to Samuel, and to the pro-
phets. But to the Scribes and Pharisees it had
become the sternest, though unconscious, bondage;
that of the fleshly, formal, and self-righteous heart.
Against these, and such as these, the Apostle, like his
Master, urges, that other heirs had now been born to
Abraham.' 1 Again the barren had been blessed with

; ' (Jul), xxi. 12. b Ccu. xvi. 12. c lid), xi. 23, 3U, 32.

11 John viii. 39. Cf. St. John Baptist in Matt. iii. 9.


offspring, and a new seed had been gathered from the
deadness of the Gentile world. Again had the an-
cient prophecies received a further and more noble
fulfilment: for many were now the children of the
desolate, in comparison with her who had the hus-
band; hi comparison, that is, with the debased and
downcast earthly Jerusalem, which was ' in bondage
with her children ' of the older covenant. 3

Now the whole of this exposition plainly rests upon
the principle that events of this kind happened under
God's special control, and may be regarded as sym-
bolical expressions of fundamental truths, which appear
and reappear, though less conspicuously, in the leading
incidents of every age. But we cannot admit that
there is the slightest disposition to interfere with the
literal sense of the original record. That sense stands
out as firm and unshaken as in the record of any
other history. Nor does the Apostle mean to teach
us that the facts to which he appeals had happened or
been narrated for no other purpose than to furnish
the lessons which he shows that they subserve. Those
chapters in Genesis are the literal account of real
occurrences which happened under the guidance of
the providence of God. They are recorded with per-
fect simplicity and singlemmdedness, the writer being
guided, but not trammelled, by the supervision of the
Holy Spirit. But they occurred in a household, by
which God's Church was then represented, at a time
when there was a peculiar energy in the operation of

a Isa. liv. 1 ; Gal. iv. 27.


God's spiritual laws. The events, then, are conspi-
cuously symbolical of fundamental truths, which per-
petually rise to the surface in the course of history,
though it is seldom that they can receive so vivid an
illustration as we find in that antagonism between
Judaism and Christianity, which lay open to the
observation of St. Paul.

2. It will not be necessary, in the second place,
to dwell at any length on the types of Scripture, many
of which I have already enumerated, while their main
characteristics must be familiar to our thoughts. The
whole history of the Jewish nation may be described
as one long type of Christianity ; of its privileges, its
obligations, the rewards which it offers to obedient
faith, the calamities which disobedience and distrust
involve. The chastisements which God inflicted on
the Jews for their lust, idolatry, and other sins, are

Online LibraryJ HannahThe relation between the Divine and human elements in Holy Scripture : eight lectures preached before the University of Oxford in the year MDCCCLXIII .. → online text (page 9 of 30)