« AnteriorContinuar »
to be ect, if
in the of all al, or estial, neans tever mony netyd of, ation Pubt,
the ainEous ndi
are no doubt entitled to reject it. But do not first admit the testimony, and afterwards refuse your assent to what it manifestly implies; and that for such a reason as would prove no obstacle to your assent, on the information of a fellow-mortal. This is surely the reverse of what might be expected from a humble pious Christian. For if we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater“.
Besides, this conduct, in rejecting the obvious sense of the divine testimony, is the more inexcusable, as the circumstance on which the rejection is founded, is such as the whole analogy, of nature leads us to expect, in all the works of the Creator. If, in every part of the creation, we find that there are many creatures, the purpose of whose existence we cannot investigate ; and that there are hardly any natural productions, in which, though, from experience, we may discover the cause, we can trace its operation; it is but just to conclude, that this unsearchableness to human faculties, is a sort of signature impressed on the works of the Most High, and which, when found in any thing attested as from him, ought to be held, at least, a presumption in favour of the testimony.
But, though nothing can be more different from an implicit adoption of all the definitions, distinctions, and particularities of a sect, than the general disposition of the rationalist ; there is often a great
• 1 Jo. v. 9.
resemblance in their methods of criticising, and in the stretches which they make for disguising the natural interpretation of the sacred text. Each is, in this, actuated by the same motive, namely, to obtrude on others that interpretation which suits his favourite hypothesis. And, if we may say of the one, that he is too foolish to be improved by teaching ; we may, with equal justice, say of the other, that he is too wise to attend to it. Revelation, surely, was never intended for such as he. Our Lord said to the Pharisees, that he came not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentances. We may, with like reason, say, he came not to instruct the learned, but the ignorant. Nay he, in effect, says so himself. It was to babes in knowledge, not to sages, that the things of God were revealed by himo. The disposition of children, so often recommended as necessary for our giving a proper reception to the Gospel, and obtaining admission into the kingdom, refers as clearly to the teachable temper of children, free from prepossessions and self-conceit, as to their humility and innocence. How strongly is this sentiment expressed by the Apostle : If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise?! The judicious and candid will not mistake me, as, in matters of religion, decrying the use of reason, without which, I am sensible, we cannot proceed a single step ; but as pointing out the proper application of this faculty.
Mat. ix. 13:
6 Mat. xi. 25.
7 1 Cor. iii. 18.
is, in - obis fa
In what concerns revelation, reason has a two-fold province ; first, to judge whether what is presented to us as a revelation from God, or, which is the same thing, as the divine testimony to the truth of the things therein contained, be really such or not ; secondly, to judge what is the import of the testimony given. For the former of these, first, the external evidences of Christianity offer themselves to our examination, prophecy, miracles, human testimony; and then the internal, arising from the character of the dispensation itself, its suitableness to the rational and moral nature of such a creature as man. As to the second point, the meaning of the revelation given ; if God has condescended to employ any human language in revealing his will to men, he has, by employing such an instrument, given us reason to conclude that, by the established rules of interpretation in that language, his meaning must be interpreted. Otherwise the use of the language could answer no end, but either to confound, or to deceive. If the words of God were to be interpreted by another set of rules than that with which the grammar of the language, founded in general use, presents us; with no propriety could it be said, that the divine will is revealed to us, till there were a new revelation furnishing us with a key for unlocking the old. This consideration points to the necessity of the grammatical art, and of criticism, by means of which, readers, especially of a distant age and country, must arrive at the requisite proficiency in the language. As to both these, it is evident that the sacred writers
address themselves to our reason. Why, said our Lord", even of yourselves, judge ye not what is right? And the Apostle Paul': I speak as to wise men, judge ye what I say. With the first, the evidences of the truth of our religion, I am not here concerned. The great design of this work is, to deliver with plainness, in our own tongue, a very essential part of what was, more than seventeen centuries ago, com, municated in another tongue, to the inhabitants of countries remote from ours. It was, in order the more effectually to answer this end, particularly, to remove all prejudices and prepossessions which might prove obstructions in the way, that I determined, on reflection, to add to the Version, the Preliminary Dissertations, and the Notes.
The necessary aids for acquiring the knowledge of an ancient and foreign tongue, are more or fewer, according to the circumstances of the case. The distance of time and place, and the great difference, in respect of customs, manners, and sentiments, between those to whom the sacred writers first addres. sed themselves, and the present inhabitants of this island, could not fail to occasion our meeting with some difficulties. And, although it cannot be justly doubted, that a good deal of light has been thrown on some points, by the labours of former critics; it can as little be denied that, by the same means, many things have been involved in greater darkness. In other critical inquiries, wherein religion is not
ገ men, Lences
comts of I the o reight , on Jis
edge Ter, The
concerned, there is little to bias the judgment in pronouncing on what side the truth lies. But where religion is concerned, there are often, not only inve. terate prejudices, but secular motives, to be surmounted, to whose influence few can boast an entire superiority. Besides, I shall have an opportunity to observe, in the sequel, that, in what relates to this subject, there has come a gradual change on the meaning of many words, consequent on the changes which have been gradually introduced into the church, in religious ceremonies, modes of government, and formularies of doctrine. Old names are given to things comparatively new, which have, by insensible degrees, arisen out of the old, and have at last supplanted tl:em.
To trace such changes with accuracy, is an essential quality of philology. A translator, when he finds that the words used by former translators, though right at first, have since contracted a meaning different from that in which they were originally employed, sees it necessary, that he may do justice both to his author and to his subject, to substitute such terms as, to the best of his judgment, are adapted to convey those sentiments, and those only, intended by the author. When a change is made from what people have been long accustomed to, it is justly expected that the reason, unless it be obvious, should be assigned. Hence arises the propriety of schotia, or notes, both for vindicating the version, and for supplying further information, which, if not necessary to all, is, to most readers, highly useful. The