« PreviousContinue »
“1. That, as in the last, our Saviour declines answering her difficulty at all; and therefore, the passage belongs to neither of the cases for which I have laid down a rule. 2. That, according to the opinion of the best commentators, the woman in v. 15, received our Saviour's words with irony and levity, and did not so much solicit an explanation, as ridicule his words." (p. 112.)
The first of these replies has already been sufficiently noticed; and the second can scarcely detain us long. That the woman understood our Lord to have been speaking literally of water, when she said, "Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw"-must be manifest to every one; but how it is possible for any one to attribute to her the least tendency to irony or levity, in making such a request, is to me inexplicable. Yet, according to Dr Wiseman, this is done by "the best commentators." Lampe, indeed, mentions the doubts of interpreters on the subject; and hints that there may have been something slightly sarcastic in her manner: but he mentions no names*. Kuinoel also informs us that "there have been those who thought so" (fuerunt qui putarent);—this however is not language usually applied to "the best commentators." That the commentators, who take this view of the matter, are "the best," I should be sorry to believe; as I am but little acquainted with their labours....The Sa
"Interpretes dubitant, an responsum hoc ex merâ simplicitate et ignorantiâ, an verò ex malitiâ profluxerit. Sarcasticum quid
subesse videtur." Vol. 1. p. 729.
maritan woman appears to me to have merely done that, in perfect simplicity-which others, with far better opportunities of knowing our Lord's method of discourse, generally did—to have mistaken the literal for the spiritual meaning. Should, however, so strange a construction be put upon the woman's conduct, compare it with the scornful and violent proceedings of the Jews of Jerusalem, as recorded in John viii.-or with the sullen discontent of the Jews of Capernaum, as described in John vi.—and then determine what weight can be allowed to such a reason for our Lord's silence, at the well of Sychar. These are all the remarks, that I think worth making, upon the learned author's second reply. At least, I will only, in addition, avail myself of his own assistance, in refuting what he has already advanced. Having urged, as we have seen, "the opinion of the best commentators," he-very naturally, as it appears to me-next takes the opposite side of the question, in the following manner:
"A female comes, and he uses his right, by asking her for water. Nothing can be more beautifully natural than the dialogue which follows this request; every reply of our Saviour, in particular, is most aptly directed to his great object, which was not to instruct, but to excite the woman's interest in his regard; to stimulate her curiosity concerning him (and her language at v. 11 showed that he had inspired her with respect); and to make her his instrument for the consequences which followed. When he had wrought up these feelings to the highest point, till she asked (v. 15) at length, that he would give her the water whereof he spoke,
he most ingeniously leads her to a still more interesting, and to her, intensely trying topic, by the natural suggestion that her husband ought to be present." (p. 113.)
Here, as the reader will have observed, the scene is changed. We no longer behold the Samaritan woman treating our Lord "with irony and levity." All on her part, according to the new representation, is "curiosity" and "respect"-"wrought up to the highest pitch;" and every thing is now made exactly to correspond to this more interesting state of things....I have so often had occasion to animadvert upon the strange inconsistencies of this learned author, that my stock of phrases applicable to the subject is fairly exhausted. My opinion is, that, in the dexterity with which he maintains an opinion on one page, and the direct contrary on the next, he exists in the world -without a rival.... But the Samaritan woman being, according to the present scheme, full of curiosity and respect-the question recurs, why did not our Lord correct her misapprehension of his meaning? Dr Wiseman, who is seldom at a loss, tells us that his object was not to instruct. Now if there should be any reader, of this volume, so unfortunate as not to recollect our Lord's most striking discourse, on this occasion-respecting the true worshipper, worshipping God, in spirit and in truth-I entreat him to peruse the fourth chapter of St John. In short, let any one meditate for a space on the solemn import of that discourse,
and he will at once be enabled to decide upon the consideration due to Dr Wiseman's assertion - that our Lord's object, at the time, was not to instruct.... My limits will not allow me to discuss the consequences ingeniously drawn by the learned author from these premises. This section, indeed, must have put the reader's patience to the test; but the important bearings, of the topics successively brought under review, will, I trust, be admitted as a good reason for having discussed those topics with some minuteness. After the sentiments I have expressed, respecting the various parts of this third lecture, my judgment of the whole can be no secret.
OUR LORD'S ANSWER TO THE JEWS, AND HIS CONDUCT TO HIS DISCIPLES.
A LARGE mass of well-consolidated error is not easily rent to pieces; while a congeries of errors, gliding away from each other by their mutual action, only requires the removal of external compression, to be reduced to a state in which it can no longer impose upon the world. Had Dr Wiseman's hypothesis, respecting the sixth chapter of St John, rested on one substantial principle-or a number of principles well adjusted, and firmly bound together-there might have been some difficulty in effecting its destruction; but consisting as it does-if, in reality, it may be said to consistof many unconnected mistakes, counteracting each other a very small effort seems enough to ruin its pretensions to public confidence. The reader, when proceeding to consider what remains on the present subject, will bear in mind the flagrant misstatements and fallacious reasonings which have been pointed out:-will reflect that, whatever may seem plausible in the subsequent opinions of Dr Wiseman can be of no avail, in rectifying what has been shown to be wrong; and that whatever