« PreviousContinue »
Kuinoel, Rosenmüller and Bloomfield-I must say, that I have seldom found so large a mass of error compressed into so small a space. No ordinary power must have been at work for such an achieve
Dr Wiseman having detailed his reasons, which have now been reviewed, for the proposed division of the sixth chapter of St John, finally exults in them, as "the grounds which not merely authorize, but convincingly oblige us to suppose a transition to a new section of our Lord's discourse, at the forty-eighth verse." Those reasons, to enable the reader to see them at one view, are: 1. The use of "the emphatic asseveration," Verily, verily, assumed by Dr Wiseman to be an indication of a closing remark; but distinctly shown in some of the foregoing pages (15-17) to have been generally employed by our Lord in the commencement and continuation of his discourses;-2. The occasional repetition of the same words in our Lord's discourses-for example, I am the bread of lifeconsidered by Dr Wiseman as the means of enforcing different sentiments; which I have, from his own instances, shown (pp. 17-26) to be the usual means of farther illustrating and expanding the same sentiments;-3. A scheme of parallelism, applied to John vi. 48–51; which parallelism turns out (pp. 26-30) to be altogether destructive to Dr Wiseman's assumed division of the discourse ;and 4. An appeal to the 24th chapter of St Mat
thew; which, while it attests the extreme inaccuracy of Dr Wiseman's representations, establishes anything rather than that which it was meant to establish. The truth, indeed, is, that the arguments employed, in this first Lecture, do not merely fail in making out the points for which they were advanced, but positively prove the directly contrary points. Let me state, in conclusion, that the attempt to give credibility to the notion of a transition in our Lord's discourse, at the 48th verse of the 6th chapter of St John, is unsuccessful in the extreme; and that every legitimate principle of interpretation requires us to bring the 47th verse into close connexion with the verses in immediate succession.
It seems worthy of remark, that Dr Wiseman, although, in the case of St Matthew, willing enough to avail himself of "the best commentators," has not mentioned a single commentator, of any age, as agreeing with him in his proposed division, of our Lord's discourse in John vi, after v. 47. Kuinoel, the learned author's friend in the case of the 24th chapter of St Matthew, evidently conceives the discourse in St John to have been resumed at v. 47; and on that principle collects vv. 47-50 into one section. Let me also observe that an edition of the original, or a version, or a commentary, showing that Dr Wiseman's division of the discourse, after v. 47, had been anticipated, would be a greater curiosity than can well be imagined.
The reader will find, in the course of the next section, that Dr Wiseman's argument, founded on his proposed division of the 6th chapter of St John, is remarkably ingenious; and may fairly warrant great anxiety and corresponding pains, on the part of the learned author, to ensure its reception in the world. This consideration, as I have already stated, must be my excuse, for attempting so minute an examination, as the preceding pages exhibit, of the reasons brought forward in defence of that division. "If it shall be shown," the learned author fairly writes, "that the portion of the discourse comprised between the forty-eighth and fifty-second verses is a complete section of itself, we shall not unreasonably conclude that a new subject may likewise be therein treated." If, then, nothing of this has been shown, "we shall not unreasonably conclude" that the same subject, whatever it may be, is continued from the preceding portion of the discourse; and therefore, whenever Dr Wiseman deduces any consequences from this unwarrantable division, I shall take the liberty to intimate, that results drawn from unsubstantial premises can, in no case, be more than the shadow of a shade.
Another motive, I repeat, for such an examination, is derived from the importance of ascertaining by examples, at the very outset of the enquiry, the kind of reliance which is to be placed upon the statements subsequently presented to
our attention. Ample scope has been afforded for the purpose; and I cannot but think that the investigation has furnished excellent materials for forming a sound judgment on the subject.
From some passages, even in this first lecture, I infer that Dr Wiseman has a powerful imagination; and that he is fond of clothing its suggestions in magnificent language. I will illustrate my meaning by an instance, which is not without relation to the subject hereafter to be discussed. The day after the miracle of the loaves and fishes, described in the beginning of the sixth chapter of St John's Gospel, our Lord, on being at last discovered by the multitudes who had sought him, thus accosted them" Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled" and this representation, of the sluggishness of their feelings and the grossness of their motives, is most completely borne out by their conduct during our Lord's address. Such were the actual circumstances of that discourse, which, according to the grand conceptions and lofty phrase of Dr Wiseman (p. 37), "opened amidst the wonder, the admiration, the reverence of multitudes!" Surely the learned writer must have been bewildered by the creations of his own genius; and so, having wandered far beyond the precincts of truth, began to entrance his readers with the splendours of fiction. That a more erroneous view, of the
general character of the multitude, cannot possibly be entertained, must be acknowledged by every Nor is the mistake of little consequence. "A kind and skilful teacher," Dr Wiseman informs us (p. 29), “will address himself very differently to friends or to enemies, to those who are hearkening in order to learn, or those who are listening only to find fault:"-and this is given as a rule which is to guide us in the process of interpretation. If then, in attempting to explain the instructions of such a teacher, we mistake the object of his hearers—attributing to them a desire “to learn" when their disposition is rather "to find fault"-how can we avoid misunderstanding the nature of his discourse? This mistake, as we shall have many opportunities of observing, runs through the first part of Dr Wiseman's lectures; and the conclusion seems inevitable, that, so far as he adheres to his own principles, his interpretation of the main portion of John vi. must be a tissue of