« FöregåendeFortsätt »
ther as a groundwork on which others may build, than as a finished structure in itself. Such as it is, he submits it to the Christian public, conscious only of the purity of his motives, and satisfied with the advantage he has himself derived from the engagement. He will be unfeignedly thankful to any who may point out its defects, and suggest to him how they may best be supplied, should the work be, by public favour, brought to a second edition.
SYMBOLS are representative marks, by which outward objects are made to convey certain ideas to the mind. They had their origin in the poverty of language, which in ancient times did not contain a sufficient variety of terms to express the various conceptions of thought. The word Symbol is derived from a Greek term, which denotes casting or placing things together, with a view to comparison or to attentive consideration. It differs from the Emblem in this, that the resemblance conveyed by the latter, where some corporeal object is made to stand as the figure or picture of some moral property, is more arbitrary, and in some degree fanciful; while that which is intended by the symbol is converted into a fixed or constituted sign among men. Thus, if the dove and the bee are the emblems of meekness and industry, the olive and laurel are the symbols of peace after warfare, and have been recognised as such among barbarous as well as enlightened nations.
The symbol also differs from the type in this re
spect, that the former represents something past or present, while a type represents something future. Thus, the images of the cherubim and the bread and wine in the Eucharist were symbols, while the commanded sacrifice of Isaac was given for a type, and the sacrifices under the law were types also. So far, as Warburton remarks, symbols and types agree in their genus, that they are equally representations, but in their species they differ widely.
It is noway requisite that the symbol should partake of the nature of the thing represented, it is enough if there be a general resemblance in some of its properties.
Much light may be thrown on the symbolical language of Scripture by a careful collation of the writings of the prophets with each other, for the symbolical language of the prophets is almost a science in itself. None can fully comprehend the depth, sublimity, and force of their writings, who are not thoroughly acquainted with the peculiar and appropriate imagery they were accustomed to use. This is the main key to many of the prophecies, and without knowing how to apply it, the interpreter will often in vain essay to discover their hidden treasures. (See Vanmildert's Lectures, p. 240.)
The Author of the present work has been content to consider symbols in the same light as emblems, though their meaning be somewhat distinct; his whole object being to throw light on some of the more ob
scure passages of Scripture, in which the symbolical language occurs, especially as symbols do not uniformly preserve the same signification, but are representatives of different subjects, according to the diversity of their properties and aspects. Thus, iron viewed merely as a metal difficult of fusion, denotes strength or power-when applied to the disposition, betokens stubbornness-and to the soil or ground, refers to its infertility, and so in numerous other cases. Wherefore the subject to which the symbolical term is affixed must be viewed in its connexion and immediate reference before its signification can be thoroughly ascertained.
Nor is it less to be observed, that the same symbol is employed to point out very different and even opposite persons or characters. Thus, the Serpent is generally the symbol of Satan, but it is also represented as the pattern of wisdom or caution; and the Brazen Serpent is a well-known type of Christ, being so alThis mode of ap
luded to by the Saviour himself.
plication is to be accounted for, by considering the various properties which any creature or thing is commonly supposed to possess, and by selecting the evil. properties to picture out evil persons, and the good properties the reverse. For though among christians the serpent and the tempter are generally identified, yet among heathen nations that reptile has often been viewed as the symbol of deity, and in the Egyptian hieroglyphics as emblematic of eternity.
Though the subject of sacred symbols has been already treated of by some, yet the number of writers in this department of theology is hitherto comparatively small. The reason of this may be, that in order to illustrate the symbolic language properly, a very extensive acquaintance with ancient literature is requisite. The subject involves in it mythology, hieroglyphics, oriental customs, in short, all the learning of Egypt and the East. To such endowments the present writer makes no pretension. It presented itself to him as a branch of study that might be profitably occupied, as an exercise of the faculties, and as leading to various interesting and instructive inquiries. Had he possessed better resources, the work might have been proportionably improved. But his predecessors in this line of investigation were few; and had he not made a liberal, indeed an unreserved use of Daubuz's Dictionary, his own gleanings in this field of research must have been very scanty. The principal writers on the subject of symbols are as follows: Pierius in Hieroglyphica.
Pierre L'Anglois, Discours des Hieroglyphes.
Walchii Antiquitates Symbolicæ.
Honerti Institutiones Theologiæ Typica Emble
Ewaldi Emblemata Sacra.
Daubuz' Symbolical Dictionary.
Other works no doubt exist, especially in the lite