« AnteriorContinuar »
In an age like the present, wherein literary productions are so greatly multiplied, it is not matter of wonder that readers, when they hear of any new work, inquire about what, in modern phrase, is called the originality of the thoughts, and the beauties of style it possesses. The press teems daily with the labours of the learned. Plenty in this, as in every other commodity, makes people harder to be pleased : hence it happens, that authors are sometimes tempted, for the sake of gratifying the over-nice and fastidious taste of their readers, to affect paradoxes, and to say things extravagant and incredible, being more solicitous about the newness, or even the uncommonness, than about the truth, of their sentiments. Though I cannot help thinking this preference injudicious, whatever be the subject, it is highly blameable in every thing wherein religion or morals are concerned. To this humour, therefore, no sacrifice can be expected here. The principal part of the present work is translation. A translator, if he do justice to his author and his subject, can lay no claim to originality. The thoughts are the author's; the translator's business is to convey them unadulterated, in the words of another language. To blend them with his own sentiments, or with any sentiments which are not the author's, is to discharge the humble office of translator unfaithfully. In the Translation here offered, I have endeavoured to conform strictly to this obligation. As to the remarks to be found in the Dissertations and Notes, 'nothing was farther from my purpose than, in any instance, to
sacrifice truth to novelty. At the same time I will, on the other hand, frankly acknowledge that, if I had not thought myself qualified to throw some light on this most important part of holy writ, no consideration should have induced me to obtrude my re. flections on the Public. If I have deceived myself on this article, it is, at the worst, a misfortune which appears to be very incident to authors.
incident to authors. But, if some readers, for different readers will think differently, should find me, on some articles, more chargeable with the extreme of novelty, than with that of triteness of sentiment; I hope that the novelty, when narrowly examined, will be discovered, as was hinted above, to result from tracing out paths which had been long forsaken, and clearing the ancient ways of part of the rubbish in which, in the tract of ages, they had unhappily been involved. Those who are profoundly read in theological controversy, before they enter on the critical examination of the divine oracles, if they have the discernment to discover the right path, which their former studies have done much to prevent, and if they have the fortitude to persevere in keeping that path, will quickly be sensible, that they have more to unlearn, than to learn; and that the acquisition of truth is not near so difficult a task, as to attain a superiority over rooted errors and old prejudices.
As to the exposition of the text, where there is thought to be any difficulty, it is seldom that any thing new can be reasonably expected. If, out of the many discordant opinions of former expositors, I
shall be thought, by the judicious, to have generally chosen the best (that is, the most probable), I have attained, in regard to myself, my utmost wish. On this article, the exercise of judgment is requisite, much more than of ingenuity. The latter but too often misleads. In adopting the interpretation of any former translator or expositor, I commonly name the author, if at the time he occur to my memory ; but not when the exposition has been so long, and is so generally, adopted, that it would be difficult to say from whom it originated. Let it be observed, also, that when no person is named, I do not claim to be considered as the discoverer myself. A person will remember to have heard or read a particular observation or criticism, though he does not recollect from whom, or in what book ; nay, more, to reading and conversation we doubtless owe many sentiments, which are faithfully retained, when the manner wherein they were acquired is totally forgotten.
For my own part, I do not pretend to much reading in this way. I have not been accustomed to read whole commentaries. My way is (what I recommend to others, especially students), to consult them only occasionally, when, in reading, I meet with any difficulty ; and not even then, till after other helps, particularly the various readings, the ancient versions, the context, and the use of the sacred writers in other passages, have been, with the aid of concordances, in vain recurred to. Some seem to make the whole study of Scripture merely an exercise of memory; in my opinion it consists much more in
they pro. they cles,
e in hey ac
ny of 1
the exercise of judgment and reflection. It is only thus that we can hope to attain that acuteness, and preserve that impartiality, in judging, which will secure us against calling any man father upon earth. In this way, we shall avail ourselves of the services of the best expositors, on different, and even opposite, sides, without subjecting ourselves to any. We
may expect to meet, in all of them, with faults and imperfections : but, if I can safely reason from experience, I do not hesitate to say, that the least dogmatical, the most diffident of their own judgment, and moderate in their opinion of others, will be ever found the most judicious. Those, on the contrary, who are either the idolaters of their own reason, or blindly devoted to that of some favourite doctor, to whom they have implicitly resigned their understandings, display as often the talent of darkening a clear passage, as of enlightening a dark one. However, I am far from thinking that even such may not be some. times consulted with advantage. Considerable abili. ties are often united in the same person with considerable defects. And whatever a man's prepossessions in point of opinion may be, there are some things in Scripture which cannot be said to have
any relation to them. In regard to all such, it may justly be expected, that learning and talents will produce some light. There are few, therefore, who have really the advantages of literature and abilities, who, whatever be the party or system to which they have attached themselves, may not occasionally prove use: ful aids.
5 only s, and
earth. rvices posite,
d im experiogma
For the readings here adopted, I have been chiefly indebted to the valuable folio edition of the Greek New Testament published by Mill, and that published by Wetstein, but without blindly following the opinion of either. In the judgments formed by these editors, with respect to the true reading, they appear to be in extremes: the former often acquiesces in too little evidence, the latter requires too much. This, at least, holds in general. But whether I agree with, or differ from, either, or both of these, about any particular reading by which the sense is affected; that every intelligent reader may judge for himself, I commonly assign my reason in the notes. I do not, therefore, mean to enter farther into the subject, or examine the critical canons on which they found, or the opinions they have given on the comparative excellence of different manuscripts and versions. What has been written on this subject by Simon, Bengelius, Michaelis, and others, renders any discussion here the less necessary.
For the ancient versions, where it appeared proper, I have had recourse to Walton's Polyglot; of some, as the Syriac, the Gothic, or as it is now with greater probability accounted, the Frankish, the Anglo-Saxon, the modern Greek, and the Vulgate, I have copies, as well as of all the modern translations quoted in this work. All the late English translations, of any account, I had provided. There is indeed one, or perhaps two, that I have not met with, about which, to say the truth, from the accounts I have had of their plan and method, and from some
ome any ast