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ANOTHER, though less frequent error, is the assumption, as shown chapter XI., that narrative, or commemorative portions of the sacred volume, in which the rhetorical figures are employed in the usual manner, are nevertheless themselves taken in the whole as narratives, tropical; and that the events therefore which they relate or describe are not those which they actually denote; but that they are used representatively, and signify a different and analogous class. The effect is, accordingly, on a mere fanciful and arbitrary assumption, to set aside the true meaning of such passages, and force on them a foreign and false sense. It is most unjustifiable, therefore, and dangerous, as it enables the interpreter, under the pretence of a law of language, to reject the revelation God has made in any portion
of the Scriptures, and substitute a lawless dream of his fancy in its place.
There is an example of this in the interpretation many writers put on the xviiith Psalm, in which David commemorates a personal visible interposition of Jehovah, to deliver him from the hands of his enemies who were plotting his assassination. Thus Professor Stuart treats that representation of the appearance of the Almighty in his cloudy chariot, and extrication of the psalmist from danger, as a mere drapery of thoughts, or occurrences of a wholly different kind, fabricated by the writer, for the purpose of giving dignity and beauty to the poem. What those thoughts or events were, however, he does not show; nor could he have presented any statement of them, had he attempted it, that would have possessed the least air of probability; for if, as he asserts, the acts of God which are gratefully and adoringly commemorated are purely fictitious and representative, the gratitude and adoration which they are exhibited as exciting must, on the same principle, be held to be representative also; and the whole is turned into an inexplicable enigma ; for what merely resembling sentiment and act can gratitude and adoration be supposed to represent? It is rather, indeed, a trifling and impious farce; for why should acts be fabricated as grounds of adoration, unless it be that none that are real can properly excite those affections, and be made the theme of commemoration ? In setting aside what the hymn actually commemorates, he thus rejects its whole meaning, and exhibits it as a mere empty and heartless pageant.
Other writers have also treated the interposition of God celebrated in that Psalm as representative of a different act. Jerome regarded it as prophetic, instead of commemorative, and as having had its accomplishment chiefly in the miraculous events that attended Christ's death and resurrection. He says: Totus hic Psalmus sub persona David ad Christum pertinet. “The whole Psalm under the person of David refers to Christ.” He accordingly treats all the elements of the theophany, v. 6-16, as representative. The trembling of the earth prefigured Christ's passion. The mountains symbolized the proud, and their foundations demons; the fire denoted compunction; the water tears; and the coals of fire man's fallen nature illuminated at Christ's coming through baptism or repentance. Whether he supposed the Psalmist had himself been the subject of such a miraculous deliverance as he describes, he does not indicate. Several commentators also of the seventeenth century referred the Psalm to Christ.
Later writers, however, as Rosenmüller, Hengstenberg, Maurer, and Alexander, regard the intervention of Jehovah, which the Psalmist depicts, as supposititious or conceptional merely, and designed simply to represent in an emphatic and impressive forin the deliverances God had wrought for him by his providence; but hold that it is figurative instead of symbolical. Thus, in regard to the question whether the description of the tempest is to be understood figuratively or historically, Rosenmüller says: “It seems to be a poetic image which simply indicates that God was angry at the enemies of David, and moved by his prayers against them, delivered him—while supplicating—in a wonderful and glorious manner. Maurer also represents it as an cidwrotonois, a mere piece of imagery, exhibiting God as appearing at David's supplication, amidst lightning, and thunders, and an earthquake, and means nothing more than simply that God aided David.
None of these writers, however, give an adequate reason for their view of the passage. If correct, it should be verified by an analysis of the language, identification of the figures which it involves, and demonstration from their nature, that the descent of Jehovah which it describes, was merely tropical, not real. If it is figurative, the figure by which it is expressed should be designated, and the mode in
which it fills its office defined and demonstrated. If no such figure can be pointed out in it, or shown to exist, their supposition must be mistaken.
The reason given by Rosenmüller, for regarding it as tropical, is that David employed the image of a tempest in imploring Jehovah (Psalm cxliv. 5) to interpose for his deliverance; and that the other Hebrew poets described him, when angry and about to overthrow the enemies of his people, as shaking the earth and smiting the whole world with tempests and thunderbolts (Is. xxix. 6; Nahum i.; Hab. iii.; Haggai ii. 21; Zech. ix. 14, xiv. 3). But he there assumes what he should have proved, that these passages, all of which but the first are prophetic, are not to be literally accomplished. Psalm cxliv. 5–7, is a prayer, and so far from bearing any marks of a figure, is properly to be regarded as founded on the fact that God had, at the time it was composed, already interposed in that miraculous manner, as commemorated in Psalm xviii., and granted him such a deliverance. Had the Most High actually descended in such a form, and rescued him from impending danger, it certainly would have been most natural and appropriate when again environed by enemies, that he should ask another interposition in the same form. But it would have been wholly unnatural, had God never appeared for his aid in