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first class? What belong to the second? What is the peculiarity of a verbal figure? What is the peculiarity of the other class? In what sense are the words employed in figures in which things are the instrument of illustration? What constitutes an expression figurative? How can it be known that a sentence is tropical? How many kinds of figures are there? Name them. Define the comparison, metaphor, metonymy, and others. What is a symbol? How do symbols differ from figures? Give an example of a symbol, and the mode in which it is used.
A Simile, or Comparison, is an affirmation of the likeness of one thing to another, and is expressed by as, like, so, or some other term of resemblance. Thus the personage throned on the cloud (Rev. xiv. 14) is said to have been like a son of man; that is, of a human form. In the description of Christ (Rev. i. 14) it is said, "His eyes were as a flame of fire, and his voice as the sound of many waters ;" and the visibleness and conspicuity of his coming is compared to a shaft of lightning that flashes across the firmament. "As the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so shall the coming of the Son of man be." (Matt. xxiv. 27.) The change from condemnation to forgiveness consequent on repentance, is compared to a change from the deepest red to the purest white. Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow;
though they be red as crimson they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah i. 18.) It is predicted of Zion, when redeemed, that God "will extend peace to her like a river," ever gliding and giving fruitfulness and beauty to the scene through which it passes; and the glory of the Gentiles, like an overflowing 66 stream" that is full to the banks, moving forward with a resistless current, and bearing on its bosom a rich commerce. (Isaiah lxvi, 12.)
Comparisons are of two classes. Those of the first simply affirm that one thing is like another. Thus it is said of the man of God (Judges xiii. 6), "His countenance was like an angel of God." It is said
man, "He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down; he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not." (Job xiv. 2.) The Psalmist said, "I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree" (Ps. xxxvii. 35); and he predicts that "the righteous shall flourish like the palm tree; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon." (Ps. xcii. 12.)
The other class, which is far the most effective, not only affirms the fact of a resemblance, but indicates its nature. Thus: "The man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season. His leaf also shall not wither.
And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. But the ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away." (Ps. i. 1–4.) The relation in which each resembles that to which it is compared is thus specified. The righteous not only resembles a tree, but a tree secured by its position from blight, and yielding fruit in its season. The ungodly is not merely like chaff, but like chaff driven away by the wind.
In the following the effect of God's word is compared to that of rain or snow on the earth:
"For as the rain cometh down,
And the snow from heaven,
And returns not thither
But waters the earth,
And makes it germinate and put forth its increase,
That it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater, So shall be the word that goeth out of my mouth;
It shall not return unto me fruitless;
It shall effect what I have willed,
And make the purpose succeed for which I sent it.”
ISAIAH lv. 10, 11
The most elegant and impressive of the similes of the poets are of this class. Thus Homer compares a young warrior killed by the spear of Ajax, and
divested of his armor, to a flourishing poplar felled by the axe, and left to wither in the summer air:
"But his days were few,
Too few to recompense the care that reared
Doomed by the builder to supply with wheels
ILIAD iv. 517-528.
Young employs the same simile to illustrate the sudden death of the beautiful and conspicuous in the glow of activity and enjoyment.
"Death loves a shining mark, a signal blow;
And startles thousands with a single fall.
The sun's defiance and the flocks' defence,