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blame the admixture of two ideas in the same figure. Quinctilian says, “We must be particularly careful to end with the same kind of metaphor with which we have begun. Some, when they begin the figure with a tempest, conclude with a conflagration, which forms a shameful inconsistency.'
Unity of conception, however, which is an indispensable element in every well-constructed figure, is essential to the existence of an allegory. It is the breath of its vitality, without which it cannot live. Without it the figure may exist in a perfectly healthy, although in a deformed state. Two ideas that are different may cohere in a figure without destroying its sense, although they mar its beauty. The confusion which naturally arises from this source, is in the figure corrected by the explanation in literal language, always appended to it. Thus when Shakespeare speaks of taking arms against a sea of troubles, his meaning is perfectly well understood from the iiteral context. But were an allegory constructed with two leading ideas in it, so diverse as these represent, it would be an incomprehensible chaos. The mere imagery, indeed, might be expanded into an allegory, but upon one condition alone, that it is bound together by unity of idea in the subject. Without this binding principle it would inevitably fall to pieces.
The allegories of Scripture all manifest this feature of unity of idea. The ideas developed in them are all connected together by a chain of association, the links of which are perfect and unbroken. Unity of conception is the central principle which presides over
the group of ideas, however numerous they may be. Thus how perfect is the unity which prevails in that beautiful allegory in Ps. lxxx. 8–16:
“ Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen and planted it. Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river. Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her? The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it. Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts : look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine; and the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that thon madest strong for thyself. It is burnt with fire, it is cut down; they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance."
And of that in John xv. 1-6:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine: no more can ye, except ye abide
I am the vine: ye are the branches : He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for withont me ye can do nothing.
If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned."
All the parables delivered by the Saviour exemplify the principle.
In the symbolic prophecies it is equally visible. It is apparent whether we take the short allegories of Joseph's and Pharaoh's dreams, (Gen. xxxvii. and xli.,) or the more extended allegories of Daniel's prophecies of the Image and the Four Beasts, ch. ii. and vii. In these prophecies its exhibition is made in a more formal manner than in the parables, as will be apparent on a comparison between the two. Unity of idea is here developed in the form of the composition as well as in the subject of it. The two following prophecies, besides displaying unity of idea in the form and subject, make a special development of The principle itself. Thus the two predictions in Dan. vii., and in Zech. vi., which are certainly to be held the very highest specimens of the symbolic art in the Old Testament, if we except Dan. ii., and which may therefore be appealed to with the greatest security, consecrate and embalm the principle itself, not alone by putting it in practice, but by embodying it in a special representation. They represent the origination of the subject in one source. Nothing could more strongly evidence unity of conception than this. The subject is represented to have one origin. It is of necessity one. It has the unity of the plant or the tree which springs from a common root.
The Revelation displays the principle in an eminent degree, although its existence has been sadly overlooked by the greater number of commentators upon it. The most learned among these have not scrupled to violate all regard to the principle by representing it as delivered in two books," the sevensealed” and “the little book.” It is all delivered in one seven-sealed book, a feature in the representation which stamps it with unity. The origination of the subject is made from a common source by the intervention of the four living creatures—a representation which again impresses it with unity; unity of conception characterizes its structure and its plan. No composition can manifest unity of plan and of plot more thoroughly than it does, as will be seen upon examination. The burden displays unity. It is the triumph of the kingdom of God over the last of the world-dominions, the Roman. This is the one glorious theme which sounds through all the chords of the majestic prophetic lyre.
It is evident that the discovery of this unity is a main key to the sense of the allegory, whatever it be. It is the sole key by which we can decipher the parables. All the subordinate signs are here determinable by a reference to that unity of idea which sustains the composition, and which is to it what the backbone is to the animal. It is certainly the most important key to the interpretation of a symbolic prophecy which has essentially the same nature as the parable, and which displays unity of idea in matter and form. Here, as well as in the parable, unity of
idea determines the application of the principal as well as tlie subordinate symbols. Let us try the effect of this key of explanation on any of these prophecies - it will be found a most efficient one. Let the two allegories in Joseph's dreams be taken as examples. The one idea of Joseph's exaltation will determine the senses of all the symbols, sun, moon, stars, and sheaves of corn, with sufficient exactness. Take the allegory which Joseph interpreted to the imprisoned butler :
“And the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, In my dream, behold, a vine was before ine: And in the vine were three branches : and it was as though it budded, and her blossoms shot forth; and the clusters thereof brought ripe grapes: and Pharaoh's cup was in my hand : and I took the grapes, and pressed them into Pharaoh's cup, and I gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand.”—Gen. xl. 9-11.
The one idea of the butler's release will explain all the symbols here. Or the following one of the baker :
“When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said unto Joseph, I also was in my dream, and behold, I had three white baskets on my head: and in the uppermost basket there was of all manner of bake meats for Pharaoh : and the birds did eat them out of the basket upon my head.” -Gen. xl. 16, 17.
The one idea of the baker's execution will here also determine the significations of the separate symbols.