Imatges de pàgina

piercing even to the dividing asunder of " soul and spirit".

This its general character, therefore, as well as the appropriate style and manner of its various writers, must be taken into account by the Scripture Critic. Otherwise his philological inquiries, however marked by acuteness or ingenuity, will fail of a successful issue. Nor is this exacting any superstitious reverence for Holy Writ, or a greater labour of investigation than every scholar knows to be requisite in other branches of literature. The sense of all writers, indeed, inspired or uninspired, must necessarily be determined by regard to special circumstances, as well as by general rules. A general knowledge of the principles of grammar and criticism, and an acquaintance with the idioms of the language in which any. work is written, are, in every instance, indispensable. But the correct interpretation of any particular author will depend also upon an historical, as well as critical, knowledge of the language. It must be

h Heb. iv. 12,


deduced from the work of the writer him self, from the nature of his subject, and from the common acceptation of the terms he uses among his contemporaries. For, what author has not something appropriate in his manner of expression ? What work does not receive a certain tincture of character, from the age, or country, or condition and circumstances of the writer ? And what, for the most part, are the labours of commentators upon all compositions of ancient date, but inquiries into these particulars, on which their elucidation so much depends ?

Conformably with these principles, it is chiefly by attention to the Verbal Analogy of Scripture, that the Biblical is to be distinguished from the merely Classical Critic. Here his labours must begin : and the aid must be sought of a competent apparatus for the purpose; of Concordances, Scrip.. ture Lexicons, and other helps of a similar kind, which the industry and skill of the learned who have gone before have abundantly supplied, to facilitate such researches.

II. But

II. But, secondly, the Historical Analogy of Scripture, or collation of its circumstances and events, is further necessary for its accurate interpretation.

Some occurrences are but incidentally noticed in the Sacred Writings; others are more fully detailed; others are related by different writers, varying, in particular circumstances, according to their respective views of the subject.—Here the work of the faithful Interpreter is to bring together such passages of Scripture as have any connection with the event or fact to be examined ; and so to expound each separate portion of the history, that no seeming incongruity in its parts may deface the whole. Incalculable is the value of labours of this description, in supplying materials for the vindication of Revealed Religion against the cavils of Sceptics and Unbelievers. By the help of these, the general evidences of Christianity have often been admirably illustrated and defended; and the Scoffer has been defeated with his own weapons: while the research necessary for this purpose has had the effect, not only of discomfiting the adversary, but also of disclosing many admirable proofs of the Divine Wisdom and Goodness in the moral government of the world, which might otherwise have passed unheeded or unknown.

Superior knowledge and discernment, however, may sometimes be requisite, successfully to execute this branch of the Interpreter's office. But here again the storehouse of Theology is amply furnished with supplies for the diligent and inquisitive. As Verbal Analogy is aided by the use of Concordances and Lexicons; so is Historical, by Harmonies of the Sacred Writings, exhibiting in a connected series the matters which lie scattered in their different narratives; and presenting the readiest means of collating Scripture facts. Thus Scripture becomes its own Interpreter. Farther help, where necessary, must be obtained from studying the connections of Sacred with Profane History ; from the testimonies of Jewish and Heathen writers to the records of the Old and New Testament; and from such informa

tion as the more recent discoveries of the learned have afforded, respecting the times and countries to which the narratives of the Sacred Historians relate.

III. But, thirdly, still more important, with respect to its immediate subject, is the Doctrinal Analogy of Scripture, or collation of its parallel instructions relative to matters of Faith or Practice. To this indeed both the others must be considered as chiefly instrumental; since in all questions respecting matters of verbal or historical discussion, such a solution is to be sought for as shall not violate article of Christian Doctrine.

Here also we shall find it necessary to proceed on principles to a certain degree recognized in the exposition of other writings. When in any ordinary composition a passage occurs of doubtful meaning, with respect to the sentiment or doctrine it conveys, the obvious course of proceeding is, to examine what the author himself has in other parts of his work delivered upon the same subject; to weigh well the force of any particular expressions he is


any certain

« AnteriorContinua »