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Septuagint and Vulgate has been translated capparis. This is not admitted by others, as in the authorized English version, where abiyonah is translated desire.' 'When the almond-tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire (abiyonah) shall fail.' As the name abionoth was applied to the small fruits of trees and to berries, so it has been thought to be the same word as abiyonah, and to indicate the caper-bush. This plant may have had two names in the Hebrew language, as, indeed, it has in the Arabic, and we may suppose it to be particularly adduced as growing especially on old walls and tombs. Further, if we suppose, as is natural, that the figurative language employed by Solomon is carried on throughout the sentence, it appears to me appropriate. For the caper-plant, like most of its tribe, is conspicuous for its long flower-stalks, which are erect when the plant is in flower and the fruit young, but which bend and hang down as the fruit ripens. As the flowering of the almond-tree has been supposed to refer to the whitening of the hair, so the drooping of the ripe fruit of a plant which is conspicuous on the walls of buildings and on tombs, may be supposed to typify the hanging down the head before "man goeth to his long home." Cyclopædia of Biblical Lit., art. Abiyonah.'
The caper-plant is too well known to require a description, especially as so many details have already been given respecting its habit. We have seen in the first place that it has a name, azuf, in Arabic, sufficiently similar to the Hebrew esof or esobh. It is found in Lower Egypt, in the deserts of Sinai, and in Palestine. Thus it is found in all the places where the esobh must have been indigenous, for the Israelites to have been able to obtain it for their religious ceremonies. Its habit is to grow upon the most barren soil, or rocky precipice, or the side of a wall, and this is also essential; for it is said, that Solomon knew all plants, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that groweth on the wall. It has moreover always been supposed to be possessed of cleansing properties; hence, probably, its selection in the ceremonies of purification, or its employment in these may have led to the supposition of its possessing the power of curing diseases like leprosy. Finally, the caper-plant is capable of yielding a stick to which the sponge might have been affixed, as we learn from St. John was done with the hyssop, when the sponge dipped in vinegar was raised to the lips of our Saviour. A combination of circumstances and some of them apparently too improbable to be united in one plant, I cannot believe to be accidental, and have therefore considered myself entitled to infer, what I hope I have now succeeded in proving to the satisfaction of others, that the Caper Plant is the Hyssop of Scripture.
ON INFERENTIAL REASONING FROM THE SILENCE OF SCRIPTURE.
THE omissions of an uninspired writer may arise from one of two causes-either from his ignorance and consequent inability to record, or from knowledge coupled with an intention to suppress. To decide in any instance which of these is in operation will be difficult and our conclusions unsatisfactory. Now with respect to canonical Scripture, whatever be the precise degree in which we acknowledge its inspiration, the supposition of ignorance will have no part in explaining an omission. We are sure that each of the inspired writers was empowered to deliver the whole of his message. When, however, we consider the completeness of the Tara ypain DEÓTVEVOTOS, and acquiesce in the declaration of the 6th Article of the Established Church, that 'Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation,' we are the more ready to acknowledge that whatsoever has been omitted has been suppressed intentionally. It is true that a particular book will omit many things, and the writings of an individual inspired penman will be in themselves incomplete. We cannot argue definitely from the silence of an isolated evangelist, because one gospel is evidently supplementary to another; and as each intended his record for a particular class of readers, it is only in considering the four combined that we can judge of the precise amount of revelation intended by the Spirit for the church at large. But let us consider the canon of Scripture as complete, as having one inspired source, though given at different periods and by various writers; let us regard it as the only declaration of the will of God left on record for the guidance of mankind; then must we be conscious that whatsoever is written is divinely revealed, whatsoever is not written is divinely suppressed.
Hence we may regard the silence of Scripture objectively. It is an ascertained fact of no small importance when we can distinctly aver that a given subject has been concealed from mankind. Such a discovery may be variously used, according to circumstances: it may on the one hand stimulate inquiry, it may on the other command withdrawal; it may in one case urge us to other sources of information, it may in the other tell us that research is
a The rule of the Journal is to give the names of the writers of the articles contained in it. But it is not thereby intended to exclude the contributions of writers who, as in the present instance, may have special reasons for withholding their names from the public, although they are imparted to the Editor.
VOL. IV.NO. VIII,
useless. Consequently it is wise to distinguish between the modes in which this silence is discernible. Of these, what we may term historical silence is the most obvious. It is easy to recognise a break in the chronicles of a nation. The interval between the histories of the Old Testament and the New is a conspicuous instance, and one that has excited the admirable labours of a Prideaux to supply the deficiency. The early history of Elijah is an instance of Scripture-silence which defies all curiosity. There is a further silence in Scripture which is less easy to deal with, because we have no opportunity of measuring its extent, and that is with reference to the deep things of God.' As to our own essence and composition, we may carry our investigations to some distance, and be repaid with much reward for our toil; but when analogy suggests a similar inquiry into the essence of Deity, Scripture meets us with blank silence. Equally futile is it to ask the origin of evil. That evil exists, Scripture everywhere tells us, but whence it came is an unsolved mystery. A little thought will multiply subjects on which we might à priori have expected a revelation, but if the revelation given is silent on these points, let this silence be pondered as an observed phenomenon.
There is a further class of subjects on which Scripture is nearly silent, and does no more than suggest their existence. These necessarily require a treatment different from the topics we have before mentioned, inasmuch as there is not that absolute suppression which would quench inquiry, but rather the utterance of faint sounds to which the mind is apt prematurely to bestow a meaning. Among the obscurities of Scripture none have excited more attention than that which relates to the state of the soul immediately after death. This is a question which every bystander at the dying couch, every mourner at the funeral obsequies, will be prompted to ask. It is the inquiry of human nature at large as it stands at the mouth of the sepulchre. And what does Scripture reply? Our Lord's answer to the dying thief, and one or two detached passages, just enable us to conceive of a locality termed 'Paradise,' or rather which we agree to call Hades (adns, quod videri nequit), which very name is alike a measure and an illustration of our knowledge of the subject. St. John's remark (1 John iii. 2) on the future state strongly bears on the subject of our present inquiry, as an instance of an inspired reference to the silence of Scripture. It has not yet been manifested (ovπw iQavepáln Tí éσouela) what we shall be. It is unnecessary to allude to other cases of what we may call the obscurities of Scripture; let it suffice to glance at this possible classification-historical silence, doctrinal silence, and partial silence. It is obvious that on subjects ranged under the two latter heads the greatest controversies have
arisen. The mind naturally inclines to claim wisdom above that which is written, and where human invention has least of inspired support it is to be expected that contrariety of opinion will be most prevalent. May it not be asked whether a more diligent observation of the silence of Scripture will not tend to narrow the polemical arena? It is of no less importance to study human ignorance than to enlarge the boundaries of human knowledge; and if the inquirer ascertains the directions in which his efforts cease to be of use, he is at least spared much fruitless toil. Nature has her secrets as well as Scripture. As thou knowest not what
is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child; even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all' (Eccles. xi. 5). But what has been found to be the successful mode of investigating nature? A rigid adherence to experiment. The inductive philosophy has always set out from the most obvious facts. The clearest revelations of the created universe have been accepted as the groundwork, and hypothesis has been found of value chiefly as suggestive of further experiment. Consequently a knowledge of the material world is not sought by mere speculation, but the phenomena which were most obscure have rather prompted a more accurate study of those. within reach. And this principle ought to be the basis of all inferential reasoning from the silence of Scripture, not to multiply speculation, but to take a more comprehensive view of that which is known and understood. The obscurities of Scripture will then be like the shades which the skilful painter makes use of to render more prominent the main features of his picture. The entire revelation will be more effectually investigated if we can discover analogies among the things revealed which do not characterize the things suppressed.
The inquiry indicated in the heading_of this article is one that does not admit of plenary treatment. In other words, no single dissertation can possibly exhaust the subject. We can at best throw out suggestions which may help the student in future biblical researches. The silence of Scripture can only be made palpable to inquiry in certain aspects. Take it in its entirety, and our investigation will be like a search into infinite space, of which stars and firmaments necessarily share but a millesimal part. We shall not therefore enumerate a series of negatives or attempt to classify the topics of which Scripture does not speak, but narrow our attention to those where, contrary to our expectation, all mention is withheld. And our attention is further confined by the Scripture itself pointing in certain specific cases to the silence which we now examine. Comparison of spiritual things with spiritual is, after all, the main canon of interpretation. The parables would be
dark sayings if the inspired solution of some did not suggest the mode of explaining the rest. The types would in like manner be mystical elements, material images and no more, if they were not irradiated by the light of a better covenant.'
The author of the epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. ix. 5) avows silence with respect to the typical meaning of the furniture of the tabernacle. Of which we cannot now speak (naтà μégos) particularly.' He may imply no more than the inexpediency of occupying much space of the page of inspiration with a description of those mysterious emblems piece by piece. It would, however, rather appear that there was a veil purposely drawn over the whole subject, especially with reference to the cherubim of glory. Indeed the tabernacle altogether suggests greater mystery than any one thing beside described in the sacred narrative. It was itself the seat of the divine glory, shining from within with the unapproachable light of the Shekinah. Its symbols partially reappear in St. John's Apocalyptic vision, and in the mystic portraiture contained in Ezekiel's first chapter we find some traces of the same. Without endeavouring to give any explanation of their meaning, without attempting to follow interpreters in their speculations on these aiviyuara, let it suffice to remark that there was doubtless a deep reason why the inspired writer to the Hebrews should not speak particularly' concerning them. But this is not the only suppression of information respecting the tabernacle. When we reflect on the minuteness of the directions given to Bezaleel and Aholiab for its first construction, to which whole chapters are devoted in speaking xarà μégos of its various contents, when we observe the careful marshalling of the Levites and priests for the purpose of transporting it from place to place, when we notice the frequent mention of it in successive localities, and the various miracles wrought, as if by its particular presence, at the river Jordan, in the land of the Philistines, and at various times in that of Israel, we are tempted to ask what was its ultimate destiny? Scripture tells us that it went to Babylon, and after that is silent. With regard to the end of the brazen serpent we have a revelation (2 Kings xxiv. 8), but in the case of the tabernacle all curiosity is disappointed. We hear of no Babylonish emerods, of no Chaldean Uzzah stricken with leprosy, no milch kine undirected by man conveying it to the sacred land. And this is the more remarkable as the Jewish types were by no means abolished, the tabernacle was divested of no portion of its mystic signification. Had the Levitical dispensation terminated at the Captivity, we should have expected no more to have heard of the tabernacle than we do in the Christian dispensation of the wood of the cross.