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look, but also for those which can be realised and felt, and made to promote the honour of God and the good of man;to afford the motive and the power to bear and to forbear;to wait patiently for all the events and all the aids, which the word of truth has promised to bring about or to afford in our behalf;—and under no circumstances to lose our confidence in its promises, or to relax in our obedience to its commands. These are effects which nothing short of a disinterested and earnest cultivation of the truth will ever supply, and which even the Scripture itself without this will never afford; a conclusion, unhappily, to which every age of the Church, and every day of our lives, will afford the most abundant confirmation.
Next to the love of truth ought to be cultivated a deep humility of mind.
Human nature, how well soever it may be furnished with science or art, is still liable to mistake and error. The greatest efforts of the greatest men have come down to us, coupled with such marks of human infirmity, shortsightedness, and weakness, as to afford us an incontestable proof, that infallibility is no where to be found. Difference of powers have indeed been evinced, and still may be ; still these will leave the best, as they already have done, in a situation sufficiently humiliating to assure all, that perfection is not to be expected on this side of the grave. And, if this be invariably the case (and it is so), no one will see so much cause for humility as the man, who with due reverence approaches the word of God. Because, to err here might be everlastingly fatal, not only to one but to many: nor let any one say, to what height trifling errors, as they are called, may rise in the estimation of God, or how far succeed in ruining the believer's best interests. Modesty, therefore, in proposing, and moderation in maintaining, our opinions, can never be too much insisted upon; and, although we are called upon authoritatively to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, we are neither called upon to come to our conclusions hastily; nor to hold them, when arrived at, with obstinacy, contempt, or insolence. No; these are the properties of ignorance and arrogance; they are the inseparable companions, not of him who is inspired with a love of truth, but of the candidate for popular fame, influence, and consideration ; and are always first to stigmatise and to condemn what, perhaps, they have neither the ability nor the patience to consider or understand. Humility is, therefore, an indispensable requisite to the minister of Christ; and, if he have indeed to contend earnestly for the faith, he must be careful to remember, that it is his duty" in meekness to instruct those who oppose themselves.” *
One consideration more shall suffice on this head. The minister of Christ is bound to preserve and to inculcate the spirit of his Lord and Master : “If any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”+ And, let it be remembered, however dull of sight or heavy of hearing the world may be in other matters, they can always judge with sufficient accuracy on this ; at least to such a degree as to render the endeavours of that teacher abortive, who may happen to be otherwise minded. If, in the next place, we inquire what most particularly marked the mind of Christ, we shall find that it was the deepest humility. Entitled as he was to consider himself equal with God, he nevertheless took upon him the form of a servant, and humbled himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross : I and, in this respect, he left us an example that we should follow his steps.
Let us now, in the second place, consider in what way the intellectual powers with which we have been furnished may be most effectually brought to bear in rightly dividing the word of truth. It is a fact, I believe, to which no objection can be made, that, however gifted any one may be by nature, there is still a necessity for instruction in one shape or other, in order to qualify him to fill any important office. In the lowest ranks of life, a schooling and apprenticeship at least are found to be necessary to constitute the ordinary mechanic. In the learned professions generally, no expense is spared to form the successful physician or advocate; and experience, which is the safest guide in all such matters, abundantly assures us, that without such training no good result can reasonably be expected. In all these cases then, a continued, arduous, and painful preparation, is necessary. The children of the world are wise in this respect; and to their decisions we are here compelled to bow.
2 Tim.ï. 25.
+ Rom. viii. 9.
| Phil. ii. 7, 8.
$ 1 Peter, ii. 21.
Our Scriptures, the standing and permanent repositories of the word of truth, are, as it has already been remarked, easy in their diction, and are generally exemplified in the most intelligible manner; and so far they offer a probability of being universally understood and applied. There are, however, instances not a few, in which, if we may judge from facts, very great difficulties are to be found, such as appear to be in many cases of very considerable importance. It shall be our business now to consider in what
these have arisen; and, then to suggest how they may be most successfully met.
It should be observed, in the first place, that the languages in which our Scriptures are written have now ceased to be vernacular for many centuries ; that they were spoken by people differing in their opinions, habits, laws, and governments, most widely from ourselves; and, the consequence is, modes of expression in use and well understood among them, may be taken by us in senses totally different from those in which they understood them: and this has often happened. To notice a few.-When an Oriental, using the Hebrew language or any of its kindred dialects, wishes to make a prediction, or to speak of any thing which he believes shall certainly come to pass, it is usual with him to enounce this, either as already taking place, or as actunlly done. Language of this sort will generally be understood by Europeans as containing plain narrative; and hence many and great mistakes may arise : and such are actually found to exist.* In another case, instead of enouncing abstract opinions, the Oriental will generally enounce facts, and upon these he will reason.t These, again, may be mistaken for events: and this has often been done. In other instances, predictions will be made in the language of command ; and, as no such thing is done among ourselves, the literal translation of such passages will give any thing but the intention of their authors. I Mistakes of this sort have frequently been made, and very great stumbling-blocks they have proved. In other cases, when they intend to accuse any one of a crime, or otherwise strongly to mark his character, their expression will often be, that they make him such. If, for example, they intend to apply the character of hardheartedness to any one, they will say that they harden his heart; of blindness, that they blind his eyes; and so on; many, and indeed most, of which have constantly been misunderstood and misapplied.* It has indeed generally been held, and still is, that whatever the grammatical constructions of such passages may be in the original, the same ought to be presented in the translations and given as European forms ; without stopping for one moment to consider, whether they would present the intention of the author or not; or, whether these grammatical forms, as used by the people of the East, would not necessarily supply, in the languages of the West, sentiments totally opposed to those held by the original writers.
* The dialects of the East so allied to the Hebrew are, the Arabic, Syriac, Chaldaic, Ethiopic, Samaritan, and in a great degree the Persic. On this subject generally see my Hebrew Grammar, pp. 341—364. A remarkable instance of this kind may be found in Is. ix. 2, 3, which I would thus translate : The people who (now) walk in darkness shall (surely) see great light: (as to) the inhabitants of the land of the shadow of death, upon them shall the light (surely) shine. Thou shalt (surely) multiply the nation, shalt thou not surely) multiply the joy? (or, according to another reading, Thou shalt surely multiply the joy to it.) They shall (surely) rejoice before thee, like the joy in harvest, as (men) exult when they divide the spoil, &c.— The passage as it now stands in our authorised version is scarcely intelligible.
+ See my Hebrew Grammar, p. 352, &c. Of this character are parables generally, not to insist on innumerable instances occurring in other cases.
So Eph. iv. 26: “Be ye angry, and sin not,” as taken from Ps. iv. 4, where our version has, “Stand in awe,” &c. Another very remarkable instance of this kind of diction occurs in Ps. Ixix. 22, &c., where the Psalmist is generally understood to be cursing his enemies; whereas St. Paul has cited a part of this as prophetical, in Rom. xi. 9, 10, and argued from its fulfilment. The force of these expressions seems to be; Consider the thing as done, look upon it as fulfilled; put the case, or the like. In this view, David is not uttering imprecations, but strongly inculcating the moral law and its consequences.
Another consideration, and one of great moment here, is : These ancient people were extremely simple in their notions and habits. Of speculative philosophy they do not appear to have had the least notion whatever; and the consequence has been, as already remarked, instead of arguing from opinions as abstract notions, they generally argue from facts, events, or something or other, to which they can sensibly and demonstrably refer.
Of the Almighty, indeed, they speak as of something which neither the heavens nor the heaven of heavens can contain ; and yet, they often represent Him as the word, the angel, or as appearing to them in the form of a
Of his power, goodness, mercy, and truth, they speak largely; but then, these notions are gathered, not from any inquiries into his person, properties, or attributes, considered in the abstract; but from the acts which he has performed, from the declarations of his word, from the mercies which he has actually shewn, and from his faithfulness in following up
* Of this character are the passages in which God is said to have hardened Pharaoh's heart (comp. Exod. iii. 19; iv. 21.1 Sam. vi. 6);— Isaiah to have made fat the heart of the people, and to have blinded their eyes (ch. vi. 10);-Jeremiah to root out, to build, plant, pull down, &c.; and God to have deceived the people (Jer. i. 10; iv. 10); when nothing more than declarations to these effects could be meant, according to the Oriental idiom; and this too the context manifestly requires. See my Hebrew Grammar, pp. 112-119. So our Lord is said to have made himself the Son of God, when his declarations only intimated that he was so. John, xix. 7.