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IN WHICH IT IS SHEWN, HOW THE LAN GUAGE OF THE SCRIPTURE DIFFERS FROM THAT OF OTHER BOOKS; AND WHENCE ITS OBSCURITY ARISES.
WHEN the maker of the world becomes
an author, his word must be as perfect as his work: the glory of his wisdom must be declared by the one as evidently as the glory of his power is by the other and if nature repays the philosopher for his experiments, the scripture can never disappoint those who are properly exer cised in the study of it.
The world which God hath made is open to every eye; but to look upon the works of nature, and to look into the ways of nature, are very different things: the latter of which is the result
result of much labour and observation. If the œconomy of nature is not to be learned from a transient inspection of the heavens and the earth; and if the ground will not yield its strength but to those who diligently turn it up and cultivate it; who can imagine that the wisdom of God's word can be discovered at sight by every common reader? Nature must be compared with itself; and the scripture must be compared with itself, by those who would understand either the one or the other.
Every science hath its own elements; it hath a sort of alphabet peculiar to itself; which must be learned in the first place, before any judgment can be formed, or any pleasure received when that science is treated of: for none but fools are enamoured with what they do not understand; and few things can be understood without being first learned. How can I understand, said the Ethiopian Eunuch, unless some man should guide me? . When he looked into the prophet Isaiah, he had a book before him, in which it frequently happens that the thing spoken of is not the thing intended; and he knew not how to distinguish of whom speaketh the Prophet this? said he; of himself, or of some other man? Therefore he wanted one to guide him. But the case is so particular, that something
something more than the guidance of man is necessary and the royal prophet was sensible of it, when he said, Open thou mine eyes, that I may see the wondrous things of thy law.Even in men of honest minds, well affected to the truth, there was found a slowness of heart, which our blessed Saviour found it necessary to remove by his own immediate grace, before his discourse could be understood: then opened he their understandings, that they might understand the scripture.
These, and many other like passages, shew, that there is a certain obscurity in the language of the bible, which renders it difficult to be understood; that there is something which common eyes cannot discern: and it may be collected from what happens to us in every other kind of learning, that there are elements or principles which must be known and allowed, before we can understand what the scriptures contain. The case of the Jews demonstrates by a notorious fact, that the matter of the bible may be grossly misapprehended and falsely interpreted. They were zealously affected, after their manner, to Moses and the prophets: they were familiarly acquainted with their writings, and understood the original language in which they were delivered. But still, they had eyes without
without seeing, and ears without hearing. The bible was open before them; but their attention or their affection (one of the two it must have been) did not penetrate beyond the surface. And as our Saviour preached to them in the same way as Moses and the prophets had written (of which we shall see more hereafter), they were as much at a loss for the meaning of his discourses, as for the true sense of the law and the prophets. The same defect may be in us at this day, and certainly is in many, although we have the scripture in our mother tongue; a blessing which was denied to us so long as we were under the authority of the Church of Rome. If a man hears the bible all his life with a Jewish mind, he will know no more of it at last than the Jews do. The son of Adam will be left as ignorant as the son of Abraham, unless his heart and understanding are opened to admit the principles of the Christian Revelation. It is vain to argue about the superstructure, so long as the foundation is disputed, either through ignorance or disaffection.
This obscurity then in the word of God doth not arise from the language or the grammar; for so far the bible, like other books, is the subject of critical industry: and much useful labour hath been employed by learned and pious men