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speak to us now the same sense as they spoke to Adam in Paradise; when he was the pupil of heaven, and their language will last as long as the world shall remain, without being corrupted.
Thus, for example, if we take the word of God, we have a sound which gives us no idea; and if we trace it through all the languages of the world, we find nothing but arbitrary sounds, with great variety of dialect and accent, all of which still leave us where we began, and reach no farther than the ear. But when it is said, God is a sun and a shield, then things are added to words, and we understand that the Being signified by the word God, is bright and powerful; unmeasurable in height, inaccessible in glory; the author of light to the understanding, the fountain of life to the soul; our security against all terror, our defence against all danger. See here the difference between the language of words and the language of things. If an image is presented to the mind when a sound is heard by the ear, then we begin to understand; and a single object of our sight, in a figurative acceptation, gives us a large and instructive lesson; such as could never be conveyed by all the possible combinations of sounds. So again, when we are told of a being whose name is the devil, we go to the derivation of the term, and find it signifies an accuser; and accusation may be true or false. But, when instead of the word, we have a serpent as a figure of him, we are aware of his nature, and of our own danger. We understand that the devil is insidious and insinuating; that his tongue is double; and his wounds poisonous and fatal. When we are told that he is the prince of darkness, then we find that he promotes blindness and ignorance amongst men, as darkness takes away their sight; and that
he is contrary to God, who is light. When the devil is said to be a lion, then we understand, that as hunger makes the furious beast wander about the desert in search of prey; so the devil, with an appetite to destroy and devour, is always going to and fro in the earth, to watch and take advantage of the ways of men.
So plain is this sort of teaching, and so effectual, that if I were to begin with the first elements of instruction to a child, I think I would teach this ideal language in preference to all the languages of the world; for this is the life and soul of all the rest, and the best preparation of the mind for receiving the wisdom of God, who hath every were instructed us after this form: which, while it helps the understanding, has a wonderful power to engage the attention and please the imagination. Man from his childhood is strangely delighted with pictures; and the passion lasts to the end of his life: for when the eye ceases to be entertained as a child is, the mind will have its pictures for amusement and learning; and the wisest and greatest among mankind have been captivated by them in all ages.
As philosophy derived much of its influence from the powerful imagery of poetry in the ancient tragedies of Greece; so is the religion of revelation greatly assisted and enforced by its figurative language; always pertinent and instructive: and, on proper occasions, exceedingly sublime and beautiful.
The two ends of poetry, as they are laid down by the greatest master in the art, are to profit and to delight; to give the best instruction under the most pleasing form. The means it uses for the attaining of these ends, is to inform the mind by presenting to the imagination those pictures and images of
truth, which are to be gathered either from created nature, or the actions of men, and the various scenes of animal and social life. Philosophy and poetry differ in this respect; that the one instructs by words, and delivers its precepts literally; the other by the images of things: and if these images are lively and proper, then the mind is delighted with a moral as the eye with the effect of a picture. Therefore good poetry, under proper restrictions, is one of the greatest and best works of human art; and hath always been accounted divine, as proceeding from the assistance of heavenly beings. Even in the oratory of prose, the method of managing well an allusion or comparison is of great value, because it is of great effect. He is the most agreeable speaker, who can open and adorn the argument of his discourse by some apt representation of truth from the nature of things. But in religious subjects, where it is of the utmost consequence that men should hear attentively, and be persuaded effectually, there this manner is most valuable of all.
How beautiful is that admonition of Saint James, from the propriety of the imagery under which the moral is conveyed! He exhorts to govern the tongue; which though so small a member of the body, is yet of such good effect, that to govern the tongue is to govern the whole man. "If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to "bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the "horses' mouths, that they may obey us, and we turn "about their whole body. Behold also the ships, " which though they be so great, and are driven of "fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very "small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth." Nothing upon the subject can possibly exceed the
eloquence of this passage: and the Apostle carries on his discourse all the way in the same beautiful style of allusion.
How were the lowest among his hearers captivated, when our Saviour discoursed to them in parables ; explaining the doctrine of the kingdom of God from the scenes of nature which were daily before their eyes. The constitution of man's mind is still the same, in the rich and the poor, the learned and the ignorant and the principle on which it must be engaged to receive instruction can never alter. We are to learn all things by comparison; and the salvation of our souls depends so much on our improvement under this mode of teaching, that it is wisely provided by the author of our nature, that we are so much delighted with imitation in every shape. All the representations of the stage, which attract the multitude, are nothing but imitations of characters and scenes of imagery: poetry, painting, and music all engage the fancy with imitative effects of art. Mirth and sadness, conversation and devotion, the singing of birds and the confusion of a battle, are all imitable in musical sounds.
But this great plan of imitation is no where so conducted, nor carried to such a height, as in the signs and allegories of the holy Scripture, which compose the richest scenery upon earth. If the fancy of man is delighted with imitation even in the smallest subjects, how much more, when the originals are objects of an eternal nature, and the delineation of them is from that wisdom, to which the things of time and the things of eternity are equally known : and which framed this visible world as a counterpart to the other.
Great is the evidence which arises when these two
are laid together and compared; and I have frequently found it such by experience, when I have tried the force of it upon minds to whom it was new. If there be any difficulty in our creed, it is certainly much lessened, if the visible world presents to our senses the figures of those things which God hath proposed to our faith. To those who understand it, all nature speaks the same language with revelation: what the one teaches in words, the other confirms by signs; insomuch that we may truly say, the world is a riddle, and Christianity the interpretation. If Christ is called the true bread, the true light, the true vine, and the talents or gifts of God's grace are the true riches, &c. then the objects of sense, without this their spirit and signification, are in themselves mere image and delusion; and the whole life of man in this world is but a shadow, vain and empty, till the truth and substance of it is seen and understood. This relation between things visible and invisible we could never have found out of ourselves; but when the plan is proposed, it is so reasonable and striking, that nothing can resist it, but the blindness of false learning, or the malignity of vice, which has an interest against it. In the style of the scripture, the several objects in the visible creation, from the sun in the heavens, through the elements and seasons, the day and the night, the land and the sea, the fowls of the air, and the beasts of the field, down to the grass that springeth out of the earth, and the stones which are scattered upon the face of it, do all fall in naturally as figures to explain and enforce the things that belong to the kingdom of God, and to the soul of man as a part of it. Whosoever meditates upon the world thus applied as a figure of truth, and sces that agreement between nature and revela