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ingness relates simply to the Divine authority of the doctrine propounded. It implies a readiness to abide by such a knowledge of God's will as may be obtained from any
well-authenticated revelation. It is not therefore the general disposition of a person habitually practising moral and religious duties, which is here intended, (though this is unquestionably of great importance in all inquiries after Sacred truth) but it is the specific character of a person free from prejudices unfavourable to the object of inquiry, and prepared, nay desirous, to profit by its researches. To him whose mind is thus open to conviction, our Lord holds out the assurance of success; prejudice and indisposition to the object of research being as films and mists to the sight, which render the objects of vision obscure and indistinct; whereas, these being removed, whatever is within reach of the faculty itself is readily discerned.
The question indeed, how far the understanding is dependent upon the will, though, abstractedly and metaphysically considered, it appears to be of a subtle and
difficult kind, is practically easy to be apprehended. For, although we are conscious that the will cannot absolutely control the understanding, so as to make it believe or disbelieve, contrary to its own convictions, yet are we equally conscious that it can indispose it to the reception, or even to the consideration, of particular truths; thus diminishing the force of that intellectual application which may be requisite for the purpose. And whatever be the motive by which the will is thus prompted to blind or to mislead the understanding, the effect may be the same. Whether the bondage be that of ignorance, of prejudice, or of moral corruption, the mind may be equally debarred of the free exercise of its powers, and in the midst of light remain in darkness.
It does not, therefore, necessarily follow, that because religious error has gained possession of the mind, there must be totally vitiated affections or an incurable depravity of heart. Neither does it follow, on the other hand, that uprightness and sincerity, accompanied with well-disciplined and pure intentions, afford entire security against the admission of error. As the understanding is in some measure dependent upon the will, so the will may be influenced by special motives and impulses, greatly altering the complexion of the case with respect to its moral aspect, although the result be substantially the same. Hence there may not unfrequently be found a propensity to imbibe false opinions in religion, and a disinclination to the truth, where it would be difficult to fix the stain of immorality or vice.
Nevertheless, our Lord's aphorism is both just and of universal application. If there be, from whatever cause, an indisposition to do the will of God, there will ever be a proportionate difficulty in coming to the knowledge of the truth : and if the mind be free from adverse prepossessions, obstacles will be so much the more easily removed. This we may conceive to be the full
scope and meaning of the text. Let us now consider how it may be applied to our proposed subject of Scripture-interpretation.
At first sight, it may appear that the position, “ If any man will do his will, he r shall know of the doctrine whether it be “ of God,” applies rather to the belief or disbelief of God's word in general, than to the interpretation of its particular doctrines. We may easily perceive the influence of a predisposition to conform to the Divine will, in prevailing upon men to embrace what is proposed to them as a Divine revelation; but we may not so clearly discern how a right exposition of what is contained in that revelation depends on such a frame of mind. The connection between virtue and faith on the one hand, or vice and infidelity on the other, is undoubtedly much more obvious to common apprehension, than the connection of a right or wrong interpretation of the Scriptures with a good or evil disposition.
For the elucidation then of this point, let it be observed, that, in the pursuit of every kind of knowledge, an earnest desire to obtain correct views of it greatly facilitates the labour, and is necessary to ensure its success. And if this be true of other
studies, still more evidently is it so in that of Revealed Religion. It is a circumstance which distinguishes this from every other study, that the knowledge it obtains is derived from the authority of an Instructor whose wisdom is infallible, and whose will is above control. It is essential to the sincere inquirer, that he'should enter upon the research with this consideration deeply engraven upon his mind. Such moral dispositions as are requisite in other pursuits, and especially that love of truth which is the powerful stimulus to improvement of every kind, are doubtless indispensable also in the character of the Sacred interpreter. But to complete that character, something more is also required. The Bible has pretensions exclusively its own. In his interpretation of it, the critic must ever bear in mind, that it is the work of Sacred Penmen, not of unassisted human powers. Therefore, not only an ordinary solicitude to avoid error, but also a readiness to submit, where the subject requires it, the understanding and the affections to what is
propounded on such authority, becomes the