Imatges de pÓgina
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best Biblical scholar he ever saw; being able to tell how often any original word occurred in the Old Testament or the New. Yet Thomas Walsh was a traveling preacher. And our late lamented brother Keyes* was much like him he was master of the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures. But brother Keyes' early advantages were nothing. Go with me six miles down the valley of the Otego, and I will show you the farm which constituted his college: he graduated upon the Hartwick hills. And from the time he was thrust out into the work, a green and awkward plough-boy, till the time of his decease, it is doubtful if there was an individual member of his conference to whom were assigned more appointments of little refinement, lean support, extensive travel, and abundant labors, than were assigned to him. And yet when he fell, though still in his prime, he was a literary giant. 2. But why is a knowledge of these languages needful? Or how would it improve our knowledge of the Bible? Because, first, by studying it through this medium, you would study it more attentively than you otherwise would. Searching the Scriptures in a learned language necessarily fixes the attention more closely upon each word and sentence than when you glide through them in your own familiar vernacular. You are more apt to remember where a subject is treated of, and what is said about it. Secondly, possessed of this knowledge, God speaks to you directly; but destitute of it, he speaks to you through an interpreter. And though your interpreter may be a learned and honest one, and as such we are free and happy to acknowledge the received English version, still, on account of variations in the structure and idiom of different languages, the best interpreter cannot convey the original sense in all its force and with all its shades of meaning. Thirdly, since our translation, Biblical knowledge has enjoyed the advantage of two hundred and thirty years research, in the progress of which much additional light has been elicited. But of what avail is this light to us without a knowledge of the original? We are informed of certain results 'tis true; but what do we know of the process by which those results have been arrived at? The conclusion is announced, but the premises are concealed. We perceive an increase of light, but cannot tell whether it emanates from the sun of the gospel, or whether it is reflected from the icebergs of rationalism. Hence, remaining ignorant of the languages, we must either consent to be led implicitly by the ipse dixit of other men, or deprive ourselves, in many instances, of the fruits of a

* Late a member of the Oneida Conference, but now in Abraham's bosom.-Ed.

whole life spent in Biblical research; that is, by neglecting a study which would require our leisure for four or five years, we lose the labors of forty or fifty years; nay, the accumulated labors of centuries. Fourthly, a knowledge of Hebrew and Greek is often important in ascertaining the truth in points of controversy. Is it asserted, for instance, that standing is the proper Scriptural posture in devotion? Aside from the numerous passages which might be quoted as authorizing the kneeling position, it is worthy of remark, that the same Hebrew verb, , which signifies to bless, adore, and invoke, also signifies to kneel. From which we infer that the posture generally assumed in blessing, adoring, and invoking, was that of kneeling. And this conclusion is confirmed by the fact that, the term for knee, is derived directly from the foregoing verb, and is applied to the knee, according to the learned Buxtorf, a benedicendo, et salutando, that is, from its being employed in blessing and worshiping. So again, if we knew nothing of the original of the word baptize but from the construction given to it by the strenuous advocates of a particular mode, we should probably have to yield to their views, suffer our Bibles to be mutilated, and conclude that whether the season be hot or cold, and whether the candidates be male or female, sick or well, they are not baptized unless the body is wholly immersed in water. But a critical and candid examination of the original word Barrio, as it occurs in the New Testament, proves that it is a generic, and not a specific term; that is, it signifies an effect produced, and not a specific outward act by which that effect is produced. The effect expressed by Banriw, is that of purifying; that is, when used in reference to the religious rite, it signifies to purify, without designating whether the purification is to be effected by sprinkling, affusion, or immersion. Instance Mark i, 8.

IV. Improvement in Biblical knowledge will be further promoted by attention to the rules and principles of interpretation or Hermeneutics, the science which teaches to find, and express in an accurate manner, the meaning of another's language. And as it is no longer a question whether the language of the Scriptures is to be interpreted upon the same principles as that of other books, it becomes a matter of the first importance to understand these principles. To illustrate it is often important to know whether a passage of Scripture is used in a literal or figurative sense. The rule is, that we are never to depart from the literal meaning without evident reason or necessity. And further, a passage is not to be considered figurative unless you can substitute literal words in the place of the figurative, and still retain a consistent idea. For

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example: the writer was once conversing with a Quaker on the duty and importance of promoting the missionary cause, and quoted, in favor of it, this passage: "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." Very true, he replied, but many things enjoined by Christ are not to be understood literally, but figuratively; as where he commands his disciples to wash one another's feet. Now this rule enabled me to obviate his objection. In the instance quoted by him, literal words may be substituted in room of the figurative; thus, cultivate a condescending disposition toward each other. But as to the passage quoted by me, if you call it figurative, the literal meaning is inscrutable. What literal words can you substitute, and make sense? The truth is, the passage, as it stands, must be taken in its literal meaning or it has no meaning at all. Again, it is necessary in order properly to understand many parts of the Bible, to know how much of it is typical, and how much is not. The cause of Christianity has suffered great disservice, from the days of Origen downward, by a tendency to a typical and mystical mode of interpreting the sacred volume. For example: it has been maintained that Abel was a type of Christ, and Cain of the Jews, who crucified him; that Pharaoh and the Egyptians were types of sin and Satan; the tree of life in Paradise, a type of the cross; and that the universal dominion given to man by his Creator, over the irrational tribes, was adumbrative of the unlimited power of the pope! Now that there are certain persons, events, and institutions named in the Scriptures, which were designed to represent certain other persons, events, and institutions, all must agree. But that this random way of multiplying them is incorrect and dangerous, is equally manifest. For upon this plan you make the Bible speak any thing and every thing. And in this way you might prove the divinity of Christ as readily from the first chapter of Job, as from the first chapter of John. Hence we want a rule to enable us to distinguish real types from those which are merely imaginary. The rule is this: while we may draw illustrations of religious truth from a great variety of things in the Bible, we are only at liberty to consider such portions of it typical as the Bible itself declares to be so.

V. Finally, great assistance in obtaining a knowledge of the Scriptures will be realized from an attentive examination of Biblical archæology; or the domestic, political, and sacred antiquities of the Jews, including Biblical geography, and accompanied with the history of those nations which were contiguous to, and cotemporary with, the ancient Israelites. These subjects present to our view a vast field of inquiry, greater than we can occupy in

this essay, or even thoroughly survey. Yet it is a field, every part of which is, to the student of theology, attractive in beauty, and abundant in fruit. We must satisfy ourselves at present by barely pausing to remark, that a knowledge of these subjects throws important light upon many passages of Scripture. For instance, Rev. xix, 12, "And on his head were many crowns." This is illustrated beautifully by the fact, that in the Olympic games, as the victor might conquer more than once in the same games, and sometimes repeatedly on the same day, so he was sometimes presented with many crowns. It were richly worth one's while to peruse the whole of Rollin's history merely for the sake of the striking and abundant proofs he furnishes of the fulfilment of Scripture prophecy. In Solomon's graphic description of old age, (Eccles. xii,) the force of the expression, "the almond tree shall flourish," is not felt till we learn that this tree puts forth snowwhite blossoms before its leaves appear, and at such a time presents a most beautiful and appropriate emblem of the hoary head of age. We always admired that passage in Hosea xiv, which compares the prosperity of the church to the rich exuberance of Lebanon. But our ideas have been much improved by reading the description of that celebrated mountain from Eastern travelers. After gazing with them upon its stupendous size, its summits piercing the clouds, its verdant slopes, variegated with groves of lofty cedar, oliveyards, and vineyards, its silver streams and murmuring waterfalls; after inhaling with them the coolness of its shades and the fragrance of its flowers and fruits, how sweetly do the accents of the prophet fall upon the ear: "I will be as the dew unto Israel. He shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his fruits as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return, they shall revive as the corn, they shall grow as the vine, and the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon." Follow those travelers a little further, and they will point you to the peaceful valley of the Jordan. The banks of the river, as you perceive, are bordered with a thick forest of reeds: and when the river rolls quietly within its channel those entangled thickets are the resort of lions. But now you observe the river is swollen, and has overflowed its banks far and near. And do you observe that fierce tawny lion that is ranging the adjacent fields, burning with resentment at having been driven from his favorite retreat, and ready to attack the first victim that falls in his way, while he makes the whole land reverberate with his terrific roar? Well, now you behold the figure which Jeremiah had in his eye

when, foretelling the invasion of Edom by the king of Babylon, he says: "Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the swelling of Jordan against the habitation of the strong," Jer. xlix, 19. And it is not improbable that Peter alludes to the same scene, 1 Pet. v, 8, where he says, "Be sober, be vigilant, for your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour." Thus led on by this species of research, as the Persian magi were led by the star in the east, we should soon arrive where the Saviour was born; but in this instance the star would not stop over that place: it would pass on until we had reviewed the memorable scenes of his teaching and miracles. It would bring us finally to the city over which he wept, and where he was condemned, and by wicked hands was crucified and slain; and at every stage of our progress new light would beam forth upon the corresponding portions of the word of God. And what an interesting branch of knowledge is here presented! How pleasing! How instructive! How hallowed! Others may excavate the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum; but let me linger about the fallen towers and dilapidated walls of Jerusalem. Others may delve in the catacombs of Thebes, or climb the time-worn pyramids of the Nile, in painful effort to decipher the hieroglyphics of the Pharaohs; but let it be my nobler, holier work to study those antiquities which illustrate the meaning of the book of God. Their success will only give them a more full and sickening view of the pollutions of ancient paganism. But in whatever degree we succeed, in the same degree we shall increase in that knowledge which makes wise unto salvation. To our minds even classic Greece and martial Rome present no charms like the Holy Land. In the mellow numbers of Pierpont we can say,

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"No, no, a lonelier, lovelier path be mine,

Greece, and her charms, I leave for Palestine.
There purer streams through happier valleys flow,
And sweeter flowers on holier mountains grow.
I love to breathe where Gilead sheds her balm,

I love to walk on Jordan's banks of palm;

I love to wet my feet in Hermon's dews,

I love the promptings of Isaiah's muse:

In Carmel's sacred grot I'll court repose,

And deck my mossy couch with Sharon's deathless rose."

We are now prepared, secondly, to consider the importance of a thorough acquaintance with the Scriptures on the part of the ministry.

I. And, first, from the nature of the book. It has been well remarked by an able theologian, that the office of reason, with

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