Thursday, January 18, 2018

Pierre Allix on the Psalms

Pierre Allix (1641-1717) was a French Protestant pastor and author. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 compelled him to take refuge in London. There he set up a church in Jewin street, Aldersgate. He was the most celebrated Huguenot preacher of the 1680s in England. In 1690 Allix was created Doctor of Divinity by Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and was given the treasurership and a canonry in salisbury Cathedral by Bishop Gilbert Burnet.

The work is composed of two parts: First Allix presents an essay describing the correct method of interpreting the Psalms. The second part is the whole book of Psalms itself, supplied with short explanatory notes before each one.

The introductory essay by Allix, explaining the proper method of interpreting the Psalms, is an outstanding work. He argues conclusively, that the idea of “double meaning” is foolish. Neither Christ, nor His apostles ever understood the Psalms to have a double meaning (applied to David or Solomon, and also to Christ).

Allix write: “Nothing is more ordinary among the interpreters of the scripture, than to explain the Oracles of the Old Testament in the first place according to the Letter, and afterwards according to the spirit. They carefully refer to David, for instance, or to solomon, what they think belongs to them in the Psalms, and then what they find is non-applicable to David or to solomon, they pretend it has a regard to the Messias. The ground these Divines go upon-is, that the Holy Ghost in the New Testament has referred to our Lord Jesus Chris divers Prophesies, which seem to have been pronounced under the Old Testament with respect to David and to Solomon, and which indeed seem to befit them in some measure, though they have not an exact fulfilling in those Princes, but only in the Person of the Messias. “They assert therefore, that no inconvenience will follow from referring to the Type what belongs to it, and to the Antitype what concerns it; nay, they look upon this duplicity of sense in the same Prophecy, as worthy of the spirit of God, being an instance of the care he has taken to give his ancient People Types of the time to come...“I affirm that method to be absolutely unknown to the holy Writers; it is an human fancy, grounded only upon the invention of the Interpreters. And indeed, as it is not agreeable to natural Principles for God to grant a Revelation treating and speaking of two different Subjects and of two different Persons in the same speech, and with the same words, so one could never have guessed the Spirit of God did intend his Predictions should be so understood, without his particular Revelation that they had two senses this respected two Persons very different from each other in all the circumstances of place, time, and actions.”

Allix goes on to show how Peter, for instance, when citing Psalm 16, argues that it would be absurd to interpret it of David. Also, the Apostles refer more than once to David as “a prophet,” signifying that what he wrote could not possibly be about himself. It was the normal practice of Christ and His apostles to refer all of the Psalms to Christ – and to assert – in no uncertain terms - that they spoke of Him.

The early church did the same thing. This is seen in Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho, in Tertullian's Treatise Against the Jews, and Cyprian's books to Quirinius. Allix says, in essence,
“You can't go wrong interpreting the Psalms the way that the Apostles did – mainly because they did so under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit who put the original words in the mouth of David.”

The power of the predictive nature of the Psalms is blunted, Allix maintains, by this double method of interpreting them. So he says, “And truly, supposing that method of interpreting Scripture by a double sense to be true, they could never have been able to persuade anybody from the old Prophecies. Go and tell an Heathen or a Jew that there are Prophecies in the Old Testament that speak of two persons; viz. of David and of the Messias; at the same time, without any difference in the Stile, but distinguished only by this characteristic: that what has been fulfilled in David in a lower sense, was to he fulfilled in the Person of the Messias in a much higher and more magnificent sense, and I am sure he will appear not at all satisfied. with the Proposition...So long as Divine Revelation is brought in to declare a fact which is at a distance, and which cannot be known and which cannot be known otherwise, the efficacy of the Prophecy is much weakened by supposing that the Holy Ghost has expressed himself concerning two Facts, one present, and the other more remote, in the same terms, this thing would naturally confound the sense of the Prophecy, and seems to want a new revelation for the distinguishing of its senses.”

There are some valuable insights in the prefatory notes for each Psalm, but the real gold is the introductory essay on interpreting the whole book. 

The book can be accessed here

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