Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

rity, or of unenlightened Reason, or of Spiritual Illumination, can supersede the claims of these Sacred Writings to the highest rank in our estimation. Their sufficiency, their perfection, their preeminence above all pretensions of human wisdom or authority, and above all imaginations of preternatural gifts, are points never to be yielded, by those who have resolved to keep the Faith committed to them whole and undefiled.

This then is the first duty of the Christian expositor. But if, in resisting the claims of these opponents, he hastily conclude that all the oracles which they reve.. rence are to be despised as nothing worth ; he will soon find himself on untenable ground. To deny to them that secondary rank to which they are entitled, and to reject them even as auxiliaries in the interpretation of Scripture, must be injurious to the truth itself.

On this head, a species of enthusiasm occasionally prevails, which it is highly necessary to counteract; many being inclined to suppose, that the sufficiency and perfection of the Scriptures

cannot

.

cannot effectually be maintained, without disallowing any coadjutors in its interpretation; that it needs no authorized ministry, no helps of human learning, no Divine blessing upon the study of it, to enable the reader to deduce from it an entire and consistent body of truth. The affirmative of which opinion will by no means follow from the negative of those which it is intended to refute. For, though we reject all pretensions of public or of private judgment, to supersede the authority of God's Word; yet we may, and must, (unless we yield ourselves to a blind and superstitious use of it) call in these helps to its elucidation. Nay, it is evident from Scripture itself, that these are to be regarded as subsidiary to the work of spiritual instruction. ·

There are, indeed, texts of Scripture, which seem to speak in such absolute and unqualified terms of a certain internal power and efficacy in the Sacred Writings, that an undiscerning reader may possibly be led to suppose, that none of these helps are necessary for general edification. But when

the

H 3

66

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the same Scriptures admonish us of the duty of “ obeying them that have the rule " over usa” in spiritual concerns ;—when they declare, that God gave not only

Apostles,” and “Prophets,” and “Evan

gelists,” but also “ Pastors and Teachers, “ for the perfecting of the saints, for the “ work of the ministry, for the edifying of " the body of Christ ;"when they exhort us to be “ men in understandingo to “ be ready always to give a reason of “ the hope that is in us,” and to " prove “ all things, and hold fast that which is

good®;" —and when they further teach us, that by “ the Spirit of wisdom the eyes “ of our understanding are enlightened';' these suggestions are undoubtedly to be regarded as modifications of those texts which otherwise might appear capable of a more general and indefinite construction. Nor is it difficult to render these different representations of the subject perfectly con

a Heb. xiii. 17.
ci Cor. xiv. 20.
c1 Thess. v. 21.

b Ephes. iv. 11, 12,
di Peter iii. 15.
f Ephes. i. 17, 18.

sistent

sistent with each other; the necessity of such aids in the study of Holy Writ being in no wise incompatible with the most unreserved acknowledgment of its absolute perfection.

To regard the Sacred Word as an insulated production, entirely unconnected with human knowledge, is indeed a species of extravagance, scarcely less prejudicial to Divine truth, than those antiscriptural theories, to which apparently it stands opposed. Ecclesiastical History bears witness to the many pernicious errors which have arisen from this mistaken principle. In the middle ages especially, there were men, who, with a zeal very laudable in itself, opposed the mischievous subtleties of scholastic Divines; many of whom they justly regarded as mere dialecticians in theology, intent only upon a display of their talents for disputation, and wholly négligent of the reverence due to sacred subjects. These opponents, however, unhappily fell into the other extreme; and disclaiming altogether the use of human learning in the investigation of the truth,

began

H4

began to speculate on the oracles of God with uninformed minds and ill-regulated piety. Of some of them it is recorded, that assuming to themselves a denomination expressive of their being purely Scriptural Divines, they discarded all other studies but that of the Sacred Writings. And what was the consequence ?—Their crude conceptions, their abortive labours, produced strange and ill-formed theories, betraying in every feature the want of sound learning and well-disciplined understandings. From these sprung a new race of Mystics, far different from those who cultivated the philosophy of Plato and of Aristotle, but equally, if not more, injurious to the cause they professed to uphold. Hence arose interminable disputes between the advocates of Faith on the one side, and of Reason on the other; as if these were necessarily contrary to each other, and incapable of being brought to an agreement in the truth. These again give birth, in succeeding times, to various enthusiastic sects, entering upon the study of the Scriptures with a predetermination to neglect all mental culture,

and

« AnteriorContinua »