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Testament, from the same recommendation of the concord. ance that depended upon it; and Latin Testaments, as well as Bibles, were ever after distinguished into chapters and verses.
“It remained for the translators of the English Bible to push this invention to an extremity. The beginning of every chapter had been made a fresh paragraph in all the printed Bibles; but the verses were only marked by the number, either in the margin, or in the body of the matter; such minute subdivisions did not then seem fit to be made into distinct paragraphs. But the English translators, who had Aed to Geneva during the persecution of Queen Mary, and who published there a new translation, famous afterwards under the name of the Geneva Bible, separated every one of the verses, making each into a distinct paragraph. This new contrivance was soon received with as much approbation as the preceding; and all Bibles, in all languages, began to be printed in the same manner, with the verses distinguished into paragraphs; and so the practice has continu. ed to the present time. A singular destiny, to which no other book has been subjected. For in all other works, the index, or concordance, or whatever may be the subsidiary, is fashioned so, as to be subordinate to the original work; but in the Bible alone, the text and substance of the work is disfigured, in order to be adapted to the concordance that belongs to it; and the notion of its being perused, is sacri. ficed to that of its being referred to. In consequence of this, the Bible is to the eve, upon the opening of it, rather a book of reference than a book for perusal and study; and it is much to be feared, that this circumstance makes it more frequently used as such; it is referred to for verifying a quotation, and then returned to the shelf. What book can be fundamentally understood, if consulted in such a desultory way! Those, who extend their reading, but still regulate their efforts by the chapters, are not more likely to see the scriptural writings in the true view.”
On account of those divisions, and subdivisions of Scripture, a vast multiplicity of errors have arisen. It is not enough, if we quote the words of Scripture; but, the sense and meaning of Scripture must be produced. It is the sense and meaning of Scripture which is the Word of God, and which is to be the mean, and standard of our faith, and the rule and measure of our practice. A text may seem to mean very differently, when detached from the context, from what it signifies in connection with the preceding sentence, or when the drift of the whole passage, to which it relates, is carefully examined. Innumerable instances might be produced from the various creeds, systems, and opinions of the sects, which are multiplying every day in proof of this observation; in which the words of Scripture are brought to prove what the meaning of Scripture will never countenance.
It may not be inconsistent with the design of this chap. ter, to show the origin of the difference between the method of preaching in the Apostolic day, and that which followed, and obtains in a great degree in our own times; together with the origin of other peculiarities. For these purposes I will exhibit a few extracts from Church History-Mosheim, vol. 1.
“It deserves to be taken notice of here, of the third Century—that the discourses, or sermons addressed to the people were very different from those in the earliest times, &c. of the church, and degenerated much from the ancient simplicity. For not to say any thing of Origin, who introduced LONG SERMONS, and who was the first who ExPLAINED THE SCRIPTURES IN HIS DISCOURSES; several bishops who had received their education in the schools of the rhetoricians, were exactly scrupulous in adopting their public exhortations, and discourses to the rules of Grecian eloquence.” Is it not fair to conclude, that from these innovations, and explanations proceeded the first operation of creed making, and from which has evidently arisen the new, and different creeds since?
In respect to the errors of the fifth Century, the historian observes, “The sacred, and venerable simplicity of the primitive times, which required no other than a true faith in the word of God, and a sincere obedience to his holy laws appeared little better than RUSTICITY,and IGNORANCE to the subtle doctors of this quibbling age. Many of the over curious divines, who attempted to explain the nature, and reinove the difficulties of these intricate doctrines, succeeded very ill in this matter.
Instead of leading men into the paths of humble faith, and genuine piety, they bewildered them into the labyrinths of controversy, and contention, and rather darkened th:n illustrated the sacred mysteries of religion by a cloud of unintelligible subtleties, ambiguous terms, and obscure distinctions. Hence, arose new matter of animosity, and dispute; of bigotry, and uncharitableness, which flowed like a torrent through succceeding ages, and which all human efforts seem unable to vanquish. In these disputes the heat of passion, and the excessive force of religious antipathy, and contradiction, hurried frequently the contending parties into the most dangerous extremes. The doctrines of religion were at this time understood, and represented in a manner that savoured little of their native purity, and simplicity. P They were drawn out by laboured commentaries beyond the terms in which the divine wisdom had thought fit to reveal them; and were examined with that minuteness, and subtlety that were only proper to cover them with obscurity. And what was still worse, the theological notions that generaally prevailed were proved, rather by the authoritir's, and logical discussions of the ancient doctors, than by the unerring dictates of the divine word.” This seems to me to be literally true in the present age; so much so, that a better portrait cannot be drawn of it, than the one given above of the fifth Century. A single scrap of Scripture is of. · ten used as a text, and the preacher seems to be authorised to say almost what he pleases from it. Indeed, I see not the use of taking texts from the bible more than any other. book, in the way that it is usually doe for the purpose of preaching; their sense, and meaning are lost, by destroying the connexion.
The connexion between the American Governments, and the
Christian Religion; and the dependance of the former upon the latter for their perpetuation; together with the duty of Christians in the exercise of their political rights, &c. and the consequences of neglecting them.
Observations upon politics, and government, in a work like this, may appear to many improper--it is, at least by common consent, unusual. It has been a received opin. ion, too long for the interests of truth, and the happiness of mankind, (and, to the great discredit of christianity, amongst its professors,) that the christian religion, and civil governments have no connexion, in the nature of things, with each other. So far from any affinity existing between them, it is thought that they ought never to be blended, even in disquisition. I grant that the true principles of christianity, and a government bottomed upon fraud, and violence, have no connexion. But so far from a republi. can government, which embraces, by its principles, and in its provisions, the rights of man, and secures the happiness of society, existing independent of christianity, that it cannot, from the necessity of things, exist at all without it. The sentiment, amongst the christian part of society, of the separate and independent existence of the American governments, of christianity, must have arisen either from inattention to, or misapprehension of, the real character of christianity as revealed, of its design, and, use, of human nature, as it is without the knowledge, and influence of christianity, or from the many abuses which have been made of revealed religion by being blended with civil authority. In the latter case, it has ever been an engine of oppression, and the most bloody persecutions have grown out of it. Those who have never investigated the intrinsic nature of revealed religion, and its relation to the human mind, and suitableness for enlarging its store of knowledge, and of imparting information upon subjects of the first importance, and by which it appears that man sustains a quite different relation from any which he could possibly have thought of without, reject it on account of the evils which its abuses have produced.
A fact, within the recollection of many of my readers, has operated in producing a like opinion of the want of connection between religion, and government, amongst ma. ny of the denomination called Baptists, in the state of Virginia. Under the law establishing the Church of England, the Baptist brethren, about half a century ago, were most violently persecuted. The enemies of christianity availed themselves of this circumstance, and induced the persecuted christians to believe that the christian religion had no more to do with civil government, than government has with physics or geometry. This is the language of the law securing religious freedom. It is true, that the christian religion has never flourished in the embraces of civil authority; and, although it would not be more absurd for an earthly legislature to pass a law establishing the sun as the great fountain of natural light, than by law to coerce the christian religion, yet it is equally true, that the federal, and state governments of the United States are as necessarily dependant upon the christian religion, for their existence, and the people, for the knowledge, and enjoyment of their individual rights, and safe protection, as the citizens of America are dependant upon natural light for vision, and the discernment of surrounding objects. All that civil government ought to do, or, in justice, can do, in regard to religion, is to secure to every individual, and denomination, the liberty of conscience-the unmolested right to worship God in the way they think most agreeable to true devotion. To go beyond these objects, further than the constitution, and laws have gone, would be usurpation, and oppression. Up. on this view of the subject, there can be but one opinion amongst true republicans.