Imatges de pàgina

tained, by faithfully comparing together whatever the Word of God has made known to us concerning “spiritual things;" things above the reach of our natural faculties, and of which we can otherwise obtain no certain or satisfactory information.

This principle of interpreting Scripture by Scripture, is what Theologians call the Analogy of Faith ; an expression borrowed perhaps from a passage in St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, where he exhorts those who “ prophesy" in the Church, (that is, those who exercise the office of authoritatively expounding the Scriptures,) to " prophesy according to the proportion,or, as the word is in the original, the analogy of Faith.” To the same effect many. Commentators interpret St. Peter's maxim, that “no Prophecy of the

Scripture is of any private interpreta“ tion;” implying that the sense of any Prophecy is not to be determined by an abstract consideration of the passage itself, but by taking it in conjunction with other portions of Scripture relating to the

f 2 Peter i. 20.

subject :

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

e Rom. xii, 6.

subject :-a rule, which though it be

espe. cially applicable to the Prophetical Writings, is also of general importance in the exposition of the Sacred Volume.

Having then already shewn the necessity of a careful analysis of Scripture, or, as the Apostle expresses it, of “ rightly dividing " the Word of truth;”-it now remains to consider the counterpart of the subject, that of combining its respective portions, thus assorted or arranged, into a systematic form :--without which the work of Interpretation will be but imperfectly performed. Systems of Divinity, judiciously framed upon this principle, and constructed with the aids of sound learning and critical skill, are among the most useful labours of the Theologian. Nor is it a mean instance of the wisdom and goodness of the great “ Author and Fi“ nisher of our faith," that this exercise of the human understanding should be made instrumentally efficacious to the attainment of Divine truth. For, thus the best natural talents of man are called forth in the service of his Creator: and, by

N 3


means similar to those which are found successful in the investigation of human science, he is taught to prosecute his researches into “ the wisdom that is from “ above." So truly is learning the handmaid to Religion : and so admirably do the ways of Nature and of Grace, or rather the ways of God in both, correspond with each other! And thus are we taught, though we become children in simplicity, yet “ in understanding to be men 8.”

But, in pursuing the subject immediately before us, three chief points may be considered as comprised in the Apostolical rule, “ comparing spiritual things “ with spiritual :"_First, the Verbal Analogy of Scripture, or the collation of parallel texts illustrative of its characteristic diction and phraseology :-Secondly, the Historical Analogy, or collation of parallel events and circumstances for the elucidation of facts : - Thirdly, the Doctrinal Analogy, or collation of parallel instructions relative to matters of Faith and Practice. - Upon each of these, a few obg 1 Cor. xiv. 20.


sérvations may be requisite, followed by the illustration of them in some specific examples.

I. The first of these comprehends all that appertains to the department of Sacred Philology.

In the Holy Scriptures, as in other compositions, it may be presumed that the style of the several writers is distinguishable by some characteristic peculiarities. There is no reason to suppose, that the Holy Spirit, in suggesting to the Sacred Penmen the matter and substance of what they wrote, or even, occasionally, the very terms in which it should be expressed, should so entirely overrule their natural faculties as to bring them all to one standard in this respect. To suppose this, were to derogate from that Omniscience, which knows how to render


instrument subservient to its purpose, without destroying the character and properties of the instrument itself. Nay, it were contradictory to the internal evidence of Scripture; which sufficiently manifests, to the discerning critic, à consi


[ocr errors]

N 4


derable diversity of diction, and manner, and whatever constitutes peculiarity of style, in its several productions. To this point, therefore, especial attention will be necessary, where doubt and difficulties arise respecting the meaning of particular texts.

But, notwithstanding any specific diversities of style in the Sacred Canon, there is a general cast of character and expression in the entire Work, eminently distinguishing it from all other productions. This is to be ascribed, partly to the supernatural endowments of the writer, partly to the exalted nature of the subjects presented to his contemplation : either of which would give to his thoughts and expressions an elevation beyond their ordinary reach. Hence that peculiar energy, that sublimity and grandeur, which the best judges of excellence in composition have universally ascribed to the Sacred Writings; and to which might not unaptly be applied St. Paul's forcible expressions, that “the Word “ of God is quick, and powerful, and “ sharper than any two-edged sword,

“ piercing

« AnteriorContinua »