Page images
PDF
EPUB

that plan or dispensation which they have chosen to ascribe to Him. We speak of Christians, who profess to admit the authority of this record, but who have tainted the purity of their profession by not acting when they ought upon its exclusive authority ; who have mingled their own thoughts, and their own fancy with its informations; who, instead of repairing even in those questions of which revelation should have the entire monopoly, to the principle of “what readest thou ?” have abridged the sovereignty of this principle, by appealing to others, which are utterly incompetent, as the reason of the thing, or the standard of orthodoxy'; and so have brought down the Bible from the high place which belongs to it, as the only tribunal to which in all matters beyond the cognisance of the human faculties the appeal should be made, or from which the decision should be looked for.

3. But it is not merely among partisans or the advocates of a system, that we meet with this indifference to the authority of what is written. It lies at the bottom of a great deal of that looseness, both in practice and speculation, which we meet with every day in society, and which we often hear expressed in familiar conversation. Whence that list of maxims which are so indolently conceived, but which, at the same time, are so faithfully proceeded upon ?

66 We have all our passions and infirmities; but we have honest hearts, and that will make up for them. Men are not all cast in the same mould. God will not call us to task too rigidly for our foibles; at least this is our

VOL. IV.

т

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

's, BeSocande ad cerity. terjala is, that a raa soopez sets hins *** brward and says, “This is my seatiment." man he waxcesses that area is taken away frean the cru, either o practice or speculation, nts which he has falien. The carelessness with which the opinion has been formed, is of no account in the estimate. It is the mere existence of the spinion, which is pleaded in vindication ; and, under the authority of our mazim, and our mode of thinking, every man conceives himself to have a right to his own way and his own peculiarity.

4. Now this might be all very fair, were there no Bible and no revelation in existence. But it is not fair, that all this looseness, and all this variety, should be still floating in the world, in the face of an authoritative communication from God himself. Tiad no message come to us from the fountain-head of truth, it were natural enough for every individual mind to betake itself to its own speculation. But a message has come to us, bearing on its forehead every character of authenticity; and is it right now, that the question of our faith, or of our duty, should be committed to the capricious variations of this man's taste, or of that man's fancy ? Our maxim, and our sentiment !

God has put an authoritative stop to all this. He has spoken; ; and the right or the liberty of speculation no longer remains to us. The question now is, not " What thinkest thou ?" In the days of Pagan antiquity, no other question could be put; and the wretched delusions and idolatries of that period let us see what kind of answer the human mind is capable of making, when left to its own guidance, and its own authority. But we call ourselves Christians, and profess to receive the Bible as the directory of our faith; and the only question in which we are concerned is, “ What is written in the law; how readest thou?"

5. But there is a way of escaping from this conclusion. No man calling himself a Christian, will ever disown, in words, the authority of the Bible. Whatever be counted the genuine interpretation, it must be submitted to. But in the act of coming to this interpretation, it will be observed, there is room for the unwarrantable principles which we are attempting to expose.

The business of a scripture critic is to give a fair representation of the sense of all its passages as they exist in the original. Now, this is a process which requires some investigation; and it is during the time that this process is carrying on, that the tendencies and antecedent opinions of the mind are suffered to mislead the inquirer from the true principles of the business in which he is employed. The mind and meaning of the author, who is translated, is purely a question of language, and should be decided upon no other principles than those of grammar or philology. Now, what we complain of is, that while this principle is recognised and acted upon in every other composition which has come down to us from antiquity, it has been most glaringly departed from in the case of the Bible: That the meaning of its Author, instead of being made singly and entirely a question of grammar, has been made a question of metaphysics, or a question of sentiment: That instead of the argument resorted to being, “such must be the rendering from the structure of the language, and the import and significancy of its phrases,” it has been, “such must be the rendering from the analogy of the faith, the reason of the thing, the character of the divine mind, and the wisdom of all His dispensations." And whether this argument be formally insisted upon or not, we have still to complain, that, in reality, it has a most decided influence on the understanding of many a Christian; and in this way, the creed which exists in his mind, instead of being a fair transcript of the New Testament, is the result of a compromise which has been made betwixt its authoritative decisions and the speculations of his own fancy.

6. What is the reason why there is so much more unanimity among critics and grammarians about the sense of any ancient author, than about the sense of the New Testament? Because the one is made purely a question of criticism: The other been complicated with the uncertain fancies of

ing and presumptuous theology. Could we only dismiss these fancies, sit down like a schoolboy to his task, and look upon the study of divinity as a mere work of translation, then we would expect the same unanimity among Christians that we meet with among scholars and literati, about the system of Epicurus or philosophy of Aristotle. But here lies the distinction betwixt the two cases. When we make out, by a critical examination of the Greek of Aristotle, that such was his meaning, and such his philosophy, the result carries no authority with it, and our mind retains the congenial liberty of its own speculations. But if we make out, by a critical examination of the Greek of St. Paul, that such is the theology of the New · Testament, we are bound to submit to this theology; and our mind must surrender every opinion, however dear to it. It is quite in vain to talk of the mysteriousness of the subject, as being the cause of the want of unanimity among Christians. It may be mysterious, in reference to our former conceptions. It may be mysterious in the utter impossibility of reconciling it with our own assumed fancies, and self-formed principles. It may be mysterious in the difficulty which we feel in comprehending the manner of the doctrine, when we ought to be satisfied with the authoritative revelation which has been made to us of its existence and its truth. But if we could only abandon all our former conceptions, if we felt that our business was to submit to the oracles of God, and that we are not called upon to effect a reconciliation betwixt a revealed doctrine of the Bible, and an assumed or excogitated principle of our own ;—then

« PreviousContinue »