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perils and temptations not of ordinary occurrences; others, to the special exigencies of an infant Church, struggling with poverty and reproach. To apply these to every succeeding age, or to a state of society altogether different from that of the primitive Christians, may lead, and indeed often has led, to mischievous consequences. It has induced men of eccentric minds to attempt strange fantastic modes of life, generally impracticable, or, if practicable, entirely subversive of the social character.
Still, again it must be urged, there are no actual precepts or doctrines of Revealed Religion, which may not, when regarded under their necessary modifications, afford universal as well as particular instruction : nor may we venture to affirm, of any single portion of Holy Writ, that to believers in any age or country it is of no concern. But there are doubtless many portions, of which the proper application to other persons and to other times, must depend on a right understanding of their intended application to those persons and times for which they were immediately
written. It is thus that directions the most special and personal may afford general information to the rest of mankind. They teach them how to act when similarly circumstanced. They serve, either as specifications of general rules, or as limitations of those which are elsewhere more indefinitely expressed, or as enlargements of such as appear to be of a more limited and restricted nature. In all cases, they suggest what, cæteris paribus, or mutatis mutandis, is the proper test of obedience to the Divine Will. And thus the Christian becomes more thoroughly acquainted with his duty in special cases and under particular trials, as well as with its general principles. Where these however are confounded together, or substituted the one for the other, inconsistency and error will be the natural result. And, but for such perversion as this, the world had probably never heard of the follies of Christian Devotees and Anchorites; of the refusal of certain sects, to cooperate with the civil magistrate by the use of oaths or by the sword; or of the atrocities which blind
Fanatics have occasionally wrought, under a persuasion or a pretext of propagating the pure Religion of the Gospel.
Such a detail as would be necessary for the full developement of these subjects, the extent of the present undertaking does not allow. But enough may have been said, to shew the importance of “rightly” analysing, or dividing the Word of “ truth ;” and to trace some leading features of the system, most requisite to be distinctly borne in mind, if we would form clear conceptions of the whole as well as of its constituent parts ; or would attain to accurate notions of it, either as a rule of faith or of conduct.
These points being carefully secured, (subject to that first and greatest principle, the supreme authority of the Word itself, investing it with a dignity to which no human composition may pretend,) the work of interpretation may then be prosecuted with the same ardour of inquiry, the same exercise of the mental faculties, and the same freedom of sound and legitimate criticism, which ordinarily ensure
proficiency in other pursuits. These too will be the critic's best security against any
vain and ostentatious display of learning, for the support of a fanciful theory, or for giving a colour to opinions which cannot be maintained without some perversion of the Sacred Word from its plain and genuine meaning. This indeed is an exercise of talents, here worse than misplaced; it is.“ handling the Word of « God deceitfully.” Yet without some such disingenuous dealing, what erroneous system of Theology could maintain its ground ?
But cautions of this kind belong rather to the moral, than to the critical department': nor perhaps will any rules of criticism suffice to secure the interpreter of Holy Writ against errors, however palpable, unless his mind be first thoroughly im. bued with those sentiments of profound veneration for the subject, which will “bring into captivity every thought to " the obedience of Christ hi" Who,' then, “ is sufficient for these
h 2 Cor. x. 5.
8 2 Cor. iv. 2.
“ things ?”-Not the careless, not the indolent, not the superficial, not the unlettered mind. The sound Expositor will ever be distinguished from the vain, though learned, Sceptic, on the one hand; and from the ignorant, though not less conceited, Enthusiast, on the other;, by uniting the attainments of sound learning and sober judgment, to those of the profoundest reverence for the Sacred Word. Without these qualifications of the heart and the understanding, neither the utmost, zeal for the dissemination of the Scriptures, nor the most overweening confidence on the part of the Expositor himself, will make him." thoroughly furnished” unto the work he takes in hand. That which by Divine inspiration was “ written afore“ time for our learning,” is now, by God's blessing on human labour and diligence, to be made effective to that end. Like every other gift, it is bestowed for our cultivation and improvement; and in proportion to the labour, it is promised shall be the recompence. For, “ unto every
i Rom. xv. 4.