« AnteriorContinuar »
his feet, a razor, or a scythe, in his right hand, a lock of hair on his forehead, and his head bald behind: of all which particulars the signification is too well known to need a comment. Justice with her sword and scales; Fortune with her feet upon a rolling sphere, and her eyes hood-winked; Vengeance with her whip; Envy with her snakes; Pleasure wjth her enr chanted cup ; Hope with her anchor; Death with his dart and hour-glass; and innumerable others of the same class, shew what delight men have always taken in painting their ideas after various ways under the images of visible forms, to give substance and force to their thoughts: and painters are but indifferently furnished for their profession without a competent knowledge of these things. The poetical figure called prosopopceia, or, personification, from whence all these devices are borrowed, is no where so frequently used, nor with so much sublimity* as in the holy scriptuje: of which the learned authorDe Sacra Poesi has selected many fine examples.
The enigmatical method of Pythagoras is well known; who was so fond of teaching by signs, that he made use of the letter Y to signify the two different roads of vice and virtue, to one of which young men give the preference, when the age of trial brings them to the point Where the way of life divides itself into these two. Certain moral precepts are preserved. Which are called the symbols of Pythagoras * He advises not to keep animals with crooked claws; by which he means, that we should not take into our houses and make companions of persons who are fierce and cruel in their nature; such as another author calls &,e,« *&ia*tlu>it* wild beasts in the shape of men.
The law of the Hebrews appointed the purity of their diet as a pattern and admonition to purity of conversation: after the example of which (for Pythagoras was a Syrian) he bids us $n,<rtfi.ttw awex^ai, to abstain from all such as die of themselves. He orders, not to stop upon a journey to cut wood; that is, not to turn aside after things impertinent to the end and purpose of our life. Also, never to make any libation to the Gods from a cine which has not been pruned: meaning, that no offering would be acceptable but from the fruits of a severe and well-ordered life. He pronounced it a base action to wipe azcay sweat with a swordi that is, to take away by force and violence what another hath earned by his labour. The literal
* These symbols are printed with Hierocles on the Golden Verses, and are commented upon by Gyraldiu.
ral sense of which symbol will not be understood, but by those who know, that the ancients used a flat instrument like the blade of a knife, with the edge of which they wiped away sweat from the skin, and cleared it of the water, &c. after the use of the bath. It was another of his sayings, that it is a foolish action to read a poem to a beast, to communicate what Js excellent to a stupid ignorant person: which is the same for sense with that figurative prohibition in the gospel, not to give a holy thing to a dog, nor to cast pearls before swine. To these symbols of Pythagoras the hieroglyphic philosophy of Egypt was nearly related, which Pierius hath taken great pains to interpret; and ajso the fables of ^Esop, which teach prudence and wisdom, and shew the colours of vice and virtue, from the instincts of animals.
Sacraments and ceremonies in religion are significant actions, which all nations and all ages have observed in their worship; and the church still retains them: though these latter times (and this unhappy country in particular) have produced a spurious race of Christians, who have thrown off sacraments and ceremonies all together; as if they had consulted with some evil spirit of a beggarly taste. Priests and singers in our church wear a white linen garment ment as a sign of purity, and to give them a nearer alliance to the company of heaven. Chanting by responses, which is of the first ages, was intended to imitate the choir of angels, which cry one to another with alternate adoration. The primitive Christians turned towards the east, in their worship, to signify their respect to the true light of the world. They set up candles in their churches as a sign of their illumination by the gospel: and evergreens are still placed there at Christmas, to remind us that a new and perpetual spring of immortality is restored to us, even in the middle of winter, by the coming of Jesus Christ. The Cross, as a sign of the Christian profession, hath been in use from the first ages of the gospel.
This affection to symbols in religious worship may be carried too far, and degenerate into theatrical scenery or even into idolatry, (for idols are no other than symbols:) but to cast them all off, and strip religious worship naked, is an act of fanatical ignorance, which understands neither the sense of ceremonies, nor the nature of man; whose mind in its present state must either raise itself by the help of sensible objects and bodily gestures, or be in danger of sinking into sullenness and stupidity.
Thus have the use of symbols extended to all
times, and wisdom hath been communicated in this form by the teachers of every science and profession. We might wonder if it were not so ; when God, from the beginning of the world, taught man after this form ; setting life and death before him under the symbols of two trees; and it is both an ingenious, and a sublime sentiment in a certain author, that the whole scenery of paradise was disposed into an hieroglyphical school for the instruction of the first man ; and that the same plan, so far as it could be, was afterwards transferred to the tabernacle and temple.
END OF THE LECTURES
On the Figurative Language of the