Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

LECTURE III.

The principle on which the proposed arrangement was made, and the reasons for the position of each branch, were so fully detailed in the preceding Lecture, that it cannot be necessary to give any further explanation. I will only therefore observe in general terms, that they are placed in such a manner as gradually to lead toward the establishment, the firm establishment, of Christianity.

But in order to obtain both a firm conviction, and a clear perception of the Christian doctrines, we must be content to travel through the paths Of Theology, without departing from the road, which lies before us. We must not imagine, that any particular branch may be selected at pleasure, as it may happen to excite in us a greater degree either of interest or of curiosity; for if this were allowable, where would be the utility of theological order? We must study the Criticism of the Bible, before we can be qualified, at least before we can be well qualified, to study the Interpretation of the Bible. And we must obtain a knowledge «f the Bible, before we can even judge of the argu

[ocr errors]

ments, which are alleged for its Authenticity and Credibility. But till these points have been established, we have established nothing in a religious view: and consequently if we undertake die latter branches of Theology, before we have gone through the former, we shall not only build the doctrines of Christianity, but Christianity itself on a foundation of sand. In short, whoever undertakes to study Theology without preparing himself for the latter branches by a knowledge of the former, undertakes as desperate a task, as a student in mathematics, who should venture upon Newton's Principia, before he had learnt, either the properties of Conic Sections, or even the Elements of Plain Geometry.

I am well aware, tiiat a numerous sect of Christians in this country have a much more easy and expeditious mode of studying Divinity. No literary apparatus is there necessary, either for the interpretation of the Bible, the establishment of its truth, or the elucidation of its doctrines. Inward sensation supplies the place of outward argument; divine communication supersedes theological learning. But as I am not able to teach Divinity in any other way than I have been able to learn it, as my own conviction of the truth of Christianity is the result, not of sudden impulse, but of long and laborious investigation, as I have no other knowledge of its doctrines, than that which is founded on the Bible, interpreted by human learning, my hearers must be satisfied, if they continue their attendance, to follow with patience and perseverance in all the portions of Theology, through which it is proposed to lead them.

As a reason for recommending so laborious a pur. suit, which perhaps to many persons will appear unnecessary, it may be observed, that the object of these Lectures is to form a theologian, who shall be thoroughly acquainted with his ground from the commencement to the close of his theological career, who, in the interpretation of the Bible, shall never refer to a fact in the criticism of the Bible, with which he is not previously acquainted, nor be compelled, when he is searching the doctrines of the Bible, to adopt a rule of interpretation, without perceiving the foundation, on which it rests.

To those especially, who seek for conviction in certain inward feelings, which the warmth of their imaginations represents to them as divine, I would recommend the serious consideration of this important fact, that the foundation, which they lay for the Bible, is no other, than what the Mahometan is accustomed to lay for the Koran. If you ask a Mahometan, why he ascribes divine authority to the Koran, his answer is, Because, when I read it, sensations are excited, which could not have been produced by any work, that came not from God. But do we therefore give credit to the Mahometan for this appeal? Do we not immediately perceive, when the Mahometan thus argues from inward sensation, that he is merely raising a phantom of his own imagination? And ought not this example, when we hear a similar appeal from a Christian teacher, to make us at least distrustful, not indeed with respect to Christianity itself, but with respect to Aw mode of proving it? He may answer indeed, and answer with truth, that his sensations are produced by a work, which is really divine, while the sensations excited in the Mahometan, are produced by a work, which is only thought so. But this very truth will involve the person, who thus uses it, in a glaring absurdity. In the first place he appeals to a criterion, which puts the Bible on a level with the Koran: and then to obviate this objection, he endeavours to shew the superiority of his own appeal, by presupposing the fact, which he had undertaken to prove. Let us leave then to the enthusiast these imaginary demonstrations, while we are seeking for proofs, which will bear the test of inquiry, and satisfy the demands of reason. Such proofs there are. But they are attainable only by him, who will resolve to enter on those paths of knowledge, which alone can conduct him to the place, where Christianity is confirmed.

[graphic]

As the Criticism of the Bible is the first object of our study, and as without it no man can become a sound divine, it must not only be described before all other branches, but must be described at considerable length. Nor can it be necessary to apologize to this audience for being diffuse on such a subject. If the critical inquiries into the poems of Homer, which have been lately instituted by Wolf and Heyne, are justly read with avidity by every real scholar, surely the same scholar, when he transfers his attention to the Bible, cannot listen with indifference to a recital of whatever has been attempted to place its criticism on a firm foundation.

But before we proceed to this recital, it is necessary, according to the plan presented in the first Lecture, to give some account of those very useful works, which are known by the name of Introductions to the Bible. These Introductions will furnish the theological student with such general information on the subjects of criticism and interpretation, as will be highly useful to him, before he undertakes these branches in detail. The works, which relate to special objects of criticism, will be mentioned hereafter, in their proper places.

Among the introductory works, which we are now to consider, there are some, which have particular reference to the languages of the Sacred Writings. Of this description is Hottinger's Thesaurus Philologicus. In this work Hottinger, who was Professor at Zurich in Switzerland, about the middle of the seventeenth century, treats of the Targums or Jewish Paraphrases, of the Masora or Jewish Criticism, and other branches of Jewish literature, with the view of illustrating1 the Hebrew Bible. Works of similar tendency are the Philologus Hebraus, and the Philologus Hebrao-mixtus of Leusden, who was Professor at Utrecht in the latter half of the seventeenth century. Leusden wrote likewise a similar introduction to the Greek Testament, entitled Philologus Hebrao-gracus.

Other introductions to the Sacred Writings contain information explanatory of their contents, without entering so particularly into the language, in which they were written. Of this description is the Opus Analyticum of Van Til, who was Professor at Ley

r

« AnteriorContinuar »