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of to you."
sail and steer by, in the perusal of any book.—(3) | He that dwelleth in the heavens did laugh at them; Ilereby, also, you shall have a summary recapitu- The Lord did have them in derision ! lation or recollection of the chief aim and subject- Then spake he to them in his anger;
And in his fury did he confound them : matter of every book, much tending both to help judgment and strengthen memory, after the perusal « Upon Zion, the mountain of my holiness!"
Assuredly I have anointed my king, of any book of the Old or New Testament. And therefore this course must needs be as a useful So long ago as Samuel's days, and by the hands of key, to unlock the rich cabinet of the Holy Scrip- that celebrated man (1 Sam. xvi.), was David tures, and to discover the precious treasures there anointed;" and he had repeated assurances, “that
the Lord had established him king over Israel," 2 A word or two on each of these topics :
Sam. v. 12. All attempts, therefore, in opposition, 1. An attention to the order of the several books, were to be “ derided;" and must end in the “ and the relation of their various parts, will mate- fusion” of their abettors. In further exposition, rially elucidate the different histories, and the allu- this royal proclamation expressly affirms, verses sions made to them by the inspired writers; it will 7-9, also help us to discover the force and propriety of I will declare the purpose of Jehovah: many directions and exhortations scattered through- He hath said to me:-“Be thou my son, out the Bible. Thus, the second Psalm, the literal “ This day have I adopted thee ! meaning of which has been greatly overlooked, is “Ask of me, and I will give to thee materially illustrated by considering it in its chro
“ The nations for thine inheritance;
“And the ends of the land for thy possession. nological connexion. Mr. Townsend refers it with
“ Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron ; much probability to the end of 1 Chron. xvii.
“ Thou shalt shiver them like a potter's vessel!" David was at this time in full possession of the throne, all the commotions of the seditious having Verse 7 most distinctly refers to the prophecy of happily subsided : its sentiments seem most ap- Nathan (1 Chron. xvii. 3—15); and it is not impropriate throughout; and all its parts were liter- probable that that faithful prophet did, first of all, ally verified in the occurrences and characters of “ declare” the things of these verses. this memorable occasion. The frequent change of so likely to act the herald on this memorable day?
very observable, but at the same time Most appropriately, too, are the “nations” that had perfectly natural and intelligible. Having remon- aforetime been “ tumultuous” here introduced ; strated (in ver. 1–3) with those who had been and the Philistines, or “ends of the land," so fully opposed to the king's accession, the writer (ver. subdued by the prowess of David's arms, 1 Chron. 49) declares the divine appointment of David's xiv. 17. The national address then closes in suitauthority ; and admonishes all to secure the bless-able admonitions, verses 10–12. ings of loyalty and obedience, verses 10—12.
Now, therefore, O chiefs, be wise ; How appropriate are the references made to the
Be instructed, ye judges of the land. late affairs of national agitation and alarm, in verses Serve JEHOVAl with fear; 1-3!
And rejoice with reverence.
Embrace ye the son, lest he be angry,
And ye should perish in the way ;
For his wrath will be kindled in a little.
Happy are all they who confide in him! Against Jehovah and against his anointed : Thus correspond the chieftains, or kings, of verses · Let us break asunder their bands,
2 and 10, and the son of verses 7 and 12. The “ And cast off from us their heavy yokes !”
concatenation of thought and expression is accuThe events here alluded to were, particularly, the rately and beautifully preserved throughout the civil war in Israel (2 Sam. ii., iii., iv.), which en- Psalm.t Let the forty-second Psalm be read as sued on the death of Saul, and which obstructed, the composition of David, penned when he was for a season, David's entire possession of the throne; fleeing from Absalom, and on the night when he together with the invasion of the Philistines, 2 was about to pass over Jordan; and an accurate Sam. v. 17 to the end ; 1 Chron. xiv. &–16. Over survey be also taken of the existing circumstances all these “ tumultuous” scenes the king triumphed; of the pious monarch, and the character of the and the rebels of Israel and Philistia “imagined surrounding scenery ; and that beautiful and afa vain thing." How decidedly is the interposition fecting composition will appear doubly beautiful of God maintained verses 4-6!
and affecting. The prophetic writings, and the
* Roberts' Clavis Bibliorum, i. p. 43.
+ Scripture Magazine, vol. iv. pp. 20–22.
epistles of the New Testament, are also suscep- tions; and they were ratified with scrupulous and tible of the same kind of illustration ; indeed, most solemn formality. There was no custom without connecting them in this way with the more prevalent at Rome; it was regarded as the several parts of the history to which they are re- cement of indissoluble friendship and union among kated, the meaning of many passages will remain families. Paul knew this; and, in his epistle to locked up from our comprehension. .
the Romans, he makes many beautiful allusions to 2. The titles of the several Books. These some- it. Thus, he speaks of the distinguished privilege times declare the design proposed by the author, of being adopted into God's family, and of the and therefore assist in understanding his reason- signal happiness of being constituted heirs of God, ing. &c. By the title of the book, we do not and joint-heirs with Christ Jesus, of a heavenly mean the word or words which stand at its head inheritance. The Romans would perfectly underin the respective Versions, but the real title of the stand him, and his words would have all their book, which will sometimes be found in the first effect upon the mind, when he told them, that they verse or verses, as given by the original penmen. had not received the spirit of bondage, again to Its importance, in such cases, is obvious.* fear, but that they had, through the benignity of
3. The authors of the respective Books may'gene- God in the gospel dispensation, received the spirit rally be ascertained from the titles prefixed to them of adoption, and could, with liberal and filial conin our translation; and it is obvious that a know- fidence, cry out, Abba ! Father! So, also, before ledge of the principal features of their character, we proceed to an attentive examination of the circumstances, and style, will materially conduce epistles to the Corinthians, it will be proper to reto our improvement in perusing their works. flect on what Corinth was celebrated for, and what
4. The persons to whom the Books were re- principally distinguished that renowned city. Most spectirely and primarily addressed. In the New ancient writers make mention of its abandoned Testament, there is a variety of compositions, luxury and effeminacy, and in their historical and some of these are inscribed and addressed monuments eternise its profligaey, voluptuousness, to particular people, residing in different towns and debauchery. Hence we see with what pecuand countries. The circumstances of such per- liar propriety Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, sons, as also their customs and usages, and the uses every argument and persuasive to deter them other remarkable things by which they were dis- from these vices. Each page is full of the most tinguished, are to be minutely and accurately warm and pathetic admonitions to fly them; and marked. Previously to the critical examination his epistles to this people, more than all his other of an epistle sent to Rome, to Corinth, or to Ephe- writings, abound with remonstrances against these sus, we should inquire what customs were preva
fatal excesses. We learn also from history, that lent in those places; for what such a town was
the Isthmian games were celebrated in the vicinity
of Corinth. principally celebrated ; and what peculiarly en
They were solemnized in honour of nobled and signalised such a city. Because, in Neptune every fifth year, and a vast concourse of writings addressed to the inhabitants of such places, people, from all Greece, assembled at Isthmus, on there must be frequent allusions to their distin- which Corinth was situated. At these games, great guishing circumstances, a knowledge of which will numbers of combatants, who were previously preillustrate many passages, and place them in a pared by a regular and strict regimen for the beautiful and striking point of view. In such arduous contention, entered the lists, and generously Egurative allusions consists a considerable part of vied with each other in various exercises, for the the elegance and effect of fine writing ; for they do envied palm. With what an elegant and beautiful not merely soothe and charm the imagination of propriety is it, then, that the apostle addresses the the reader-they infix the deepest impressions on Corinthians, in whose neighbourhood they were his mind and memory. For example; we find an solemnized, in the following terms:
ye epistle inscribed to the Romans. Antecedently to not, that they who run in a race, run all, but one our attentive and critical perusal of it, let us con
receiveth the prize ? So run, that ye may obtain. sider what customs eminently distinguished this And every man that striveth for the mastery is prople. As an instance, we find in their historians temperate in all things. Now, they do it to obtain Esquent mention made of adoption. Their poets a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. I are full of it; and it is the perpetual object of the therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, ridicule and banter of their satirists. Families of not as one that beateth the air : but I keep under distinction were continually settling mutual adop- my body, and bring it into subjection ; lest that, by
any means, when I have preached to others, I my* This will be found to be the case in Matt. i. 1 ; Mark i. 1; self should be a cast-away.” These are all agonistic Lake i. 1-4, &c.
terms, beautifully applied to our vigorous conten
tion in the Christian race ; and such an address to , illustration, it will be found to be too superficial the Corinthians was quite in character, and pro- and evanescent to be of much service. It is not perly introduced with, Know ye not ?" for every by such a process that we can reasonably expect citizen in Corinth was perfectly acquainted with to acquire the ability for an accurate interpretation every minute circumstance of this most splendid of Scripture; this can only be derived from a and pompous solemnity. With regard to the personal and attentive study of the word itself. Epistle to the Ephesians, also, we know that the Let the reader diligently study the Scriptures for temple of Diana at Ephesus was one of the most himself, and endeavour to form for his own use, superb and magnificent edifices the world ever saw; a series of introductions to the several books; and from this temple the apostle borrows some embracing a notice of the principal matters we beautiful imagery, in addressing the Ephesians, ch. have enumerated. By such a mode of proceeding, ii. 20—22.+ These remarks might be much ex- he will lay the foundation for solid information, tended; but what has been said is sufficient to contributive to a right understanding of the Book show the advantages derivable from an adoption of of God. Compendiums and Introductions are the rule here recommended.
good in their places; when judiciously drawn up, 5. The scope or principal design of the writer is they are valuable for the purposes of repetition, treated of in Section VIII., to which the reader is and for more forcibly impressing upon the memory referred.
what has been previously learned ; but they must 6. An acquaintance with the chronology, or the not rank higher than this in our estimation, nor period of time at which a book was written, as usurp that time and attention which should be well as the length of time included in it, is another given to the Bible itself. “Diligence in reading important aid in the investigation of Scripture. and examining the word, is a compendious system Chronology is justly regarded as one of the eyes of Mnemonics.” of history, and it is as necessary for the right understanding of Scripture, as of any other kind of
SECTION V. history. “Distinguish well between times and
GENERAL RULES FOR BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION, times, and
The Nature and Object of Interpretation - Usual Methods of 7. A knowledge of the principal parts or divisions
treating the Science of Interpretation-Proposed Method of of each book, is also indispensable. A particular discussing it here-Verbal Langnage—Difficulties of interpretanalysis of a book will not only afford a clear view ing written Language--Requisites in Literary Composition. of the chief subjects discussed in it, but also of
I. Interpretation is the art of exhibiting the the methodical and orderly coherence of all its
real sentiment contained in any
form of words, or parts. It will also enable the student to trace of effecting that another may derive from them the connexion subsisting between these parts, to the same idea that the writer intended to convey. the perfect understanding of the writer's design. All interpretation, therefore, depends upon two “ Books looked upon confusedly, are but darkly things : the perception of the sense contained in and confusedly apprehended; but considered dis- certain words, and the explanation of that sense tinctly, as in these distinct analyses or resolutions in proper terms.|| Interpretation is both graminto their principal parts, must needs be distinctly matical and historical. By the former is meant and much more clearly discerned.”+ V. Now, we would impress upon the reader's aid of the principles of grammar merely; by the
that kind of interpretation that is made out by the mind, the great advantages to be derived from a latter, that which, although built upon the gramsteady and persevering effort to collect for himself matical sense, is modified by historical circumthe various information of which we have been
stances. This is now designated grammaticotreating. To rely wholly upon the compendiums historical interpretation, and is that to which our or treatises furnished by others, is bad. Those
attention will be chiefly directed. There is another who spend a large portion of their time in wading division made by those writers who have formally through commentaries, or in forming selections, treated of the science of interpretation, namely, and digesting them into common-places, may into Hermeneutics and Exegesis ; the former appear to themselves to make wonderful progress denoting the theory or science of interpretation, in the acquisition of scriptural knowledge ; but and therefore comprising the rules by which the when they come to apply the information thus
process is to be conducted ; the latter signifying obtained to the purposes of biblical exposition or the application of those rules, in bringing out the
sense of the author. Hermeneutics is the science * Harwood's Introduction to the New Testament, vol. i. ch. of interpretation, and is therefore preceptire ; viii. sect. Il. + Roberts' Clavis Bibliorum, p. 45. Ibid., p. 46.
|| Ernesti's Institutes, Prolegomena, sect. 3, 4.
Edyesis is the act of interpreting, and is therefore be effectually guarded against. The consequence practical
is, that, instead of speaking with precision and cerII. But although we have felt it necessary thus tainty, that volume, which is the gift of inspired to point out the method in which the science of wisdom, the rule of all faith, and the ground of interpretation is usually discussed, the object pro- all hope, is made to mean anything or nothing, posed in this work requires that we should care- according to the caprice of those who claim the fully guard against an unnecessary multiplication privilege to discover its meaning, independent of of rules. We shall, therefore, at once direct the all human aids. The fact, however, is, that whatstudent's attention to such general principles as ever degree of inspiration may have been vouchmay give him a clear perception of the manner in safed to the penmen of the sacred Scriptures, * which the process of interpretation is to be con- their words must be interpreted by the same rules ducted, rather than attempt to distribute those as those which apply to the words of merely principles into a number of formal precepts. It human authors. If the same object was proposed is here, indeed, that some of the best works on by the sacred writers as that which is proposed by the art of interpretation are highly exceptionable. other writers, namely, the instruction of their Instead of laying down a few necessary and readers (and who can doubt it?), then the words obvious rules, most biblical writers have so mul- they employed must have been used according to tiplied and distributed the number of them, that general usage, and as they would naturally be the mind of the inquirer is strangely bewildered. understood by the persons to whom the writings This evil, at least, we hope to avoid.
were immediately addressed. "If the Scriptures III. To state, in a formal way, that the same be a revelation to men,” says Professor Stuart, principles of interpretation are common to both “then they are to be read and understood by sacted and profane writings; or, in other words, men. If the same laws of language are not to that the sense of Scripture is to be ascertained be observed in this revelation as are common to by the same process of investigation as that which men, then they have no guide to the right underis applied to other books, will seem to be a truth standing of the Scriptures ; and an interpreter too obvious for exposition. But the prevailing needs inspiration, as much as the original writers. method of discussing the art of Scripture inter- It follows, of course, that the Scriptures would be pretation will justify such a remark. Distinctions no revelation in themselves; nor of any use, have been multiplied, by the most refined critical except to those who are inspired. But such a ingenuity ; and rule has been added to rule, book the Scriptures are not ; and nothing is more with the utmost industry and labour. One evil evident, than that when God has spoken to men, consequence of this is, that many have been de- He has spoken in the language of men, for he terred from entering upon a subject deeply inte- has spoken by men, and for men.”+ But this resting to all ; and another, that, bewildered by the doctrine must not be pushed too far.
It is freely multiplicity of canons obtruded upon their notice, admitted, that divine assistance is really necessary in works on Scripture interpretation, not a few to the spiritual perception of Scripture ; althouglı have been driven to the opposite extreme, and it is not conceded, that this aid is intended to denied the necessity of any human aids for dis- supersede the ordinary means of knowledge, but covering the sense of the text. Because the only to render those means efficient. penmen of the holy Scriptures are ascertained IV. Since the Scriptures, then,' are to be interto have been divinely inspired, it is therefore preted according to the ordinary process employed argued, that they were not influenced by any of for eliciting the sense of any other literary comthose circumstances which contribute to form the position, we may safely lay it down, as a general character of other literary compositions; and maxim, that the great object of solicitude with the that, consequently, the ordinary rules of inter- biblical student should be, to discover the genuine pretation have no claims upon our attention, in signification of the individual words, comprising the attempting to gather the sense of the sacred writings. Can any thing be more unfounded and absurd ? For let it be remarked, that the persons
* This question is discussed in Part III., chap. i. sect. 1. who refuse to subject the Bible to the same pro
+ Elements of Biblical Criticism, p. 42. --Upon this topic, cess of interpretation as that which applies to
Planck has justly remarked, “ It is evident that we must
act in relation to the Bible, just as in relation to every other merely human compositions, do not pretend to writing. We must bring out its true meaning, precisely by the lay down any other principles, by the aid of which same means as we would apply to any other book ; in a word, its meaning can be ascertained, and by which in explaining the Bible, we must do the very same thing which those perversions of its sense that may result from sound understarding and rational logic always require to be sacred text. Sentences are made up of words, and | ticulars which it becomes our duty to conit is only in proportion as the elements of which sider. they are thus composed are understood, that their V. It will be evident, upon a little consideragenuine or real meaning can be perceived. It is tion, that the facility and certainty with which the in this stage of his inquiries that the greater part of understanding of any author is to be attained, will those difficulties to which reference has been made depend much upon the relative situation in which in a preceding section, will be found to obtrude he stands to us, and also on the subject of which themselves
done, in explaining every other book in the world." - Introduct. a heated imagination or an exuberant fancy, can Sarred Philol., Part II., chap. 3.
upon the student. If there existed a he treats. If he writes in our vernacular language, natural or essential relation between words and on a familiar subject, and is not far removed from ideas, or the objects for which the words stand as us by time, we shall have little difficulty in ascerthe representatives, then, indeed, the student might taining the sense in which he intended his words proceed in his business of interpretation with to be understood. If he writes on a scientific or facility, as well as with confidence. In such a case, abstruse subject, our difficulties will be in the ratio he would only need to have an accurate perception of our ignorance of the principles of such science, of the symbol employed, to determine the precise and of the nice shades of meaning attached to the nature of the idea it was designed to represent. terms employed. If he writes on morality and But the case is widely different. Letters and religion, which involve mixed modes, not easily words are but arbitrary symbols; they possess defined, and presupposes a certain degree of innothing in common with the ideas they represent; formation on the part of his reader, then the diffitheir meaning is not inherent, but accidental, or culties will be greatly multiplied; and especially so, conventional; that is, certain persons agree to em- if the topics be treated of in a poetical diction. But ploy certain words as the indicative marks, or if the author writes in a foreign language, we shall palpable representatives, of certain impalpable have to encounter not only these difficulties, but ideas; and it is only by ascertaining the exact the additional difficulty of understanding the lannature of that agreement, or, in other words, by guage itself, which will be in proportion to its antiobtaining a knowledge of the powers which the quity and other accidental circumstances.* Now,all persons using the words have attached to them, these difficulties united, present themselves in the that oral or written language, as a medium of com- Bible, which, as Burke has eloquently described municating thought, can be rendered intelligible. it, is “A most venerable, but most multifarious, If we place a book in the hand of an uninstructed collection of the records of the divine economy, person, it is to him a dead letter; its pages are a collection of an infinite variety of cosmography, overspread with lifeless forms, meaningless cyphers. theology, history, prophecy, psalmody, morality, To interpret its contents, he must learn the powers apologue, allegory, legislation, and ethics, carried of the letters; and, by the aid of grammars and through different books, by different authors, in dictionaries, the meaning of the words, and the different ages, for different ends and purposes." relations which they bear to each other, as fixed Hence, it is not only the most valuable of all and determined by the persons to whom the lan- books, but the most difficult book to be underguage appertained. It is true, that an acquaint- stood. Its interpretation demands an extent and ance with the general principles of language, which variety of knowledge, and a degree of application, are evidently founded upon the mental operations, attainable only by those who feel the value and and are, therefore, common to the whole human importance of scriptural studies. Of the nature family, in proportion to the intellectual refinement and sources of this knowledge it is our present and perfection of its individual parts, will greatly business to treat facilitate the study of particular languages or dia- VI. It has been judiciously remarked, that two lects ; but then it will only facilitate that study; things are essential to the excellence and moral it will not supersede it: there must be, in every character of any writing which professes to give language, the acquisition and remembrance of terms, instruction on subjects of importance; namely, because these are arbitrary, notwithstanding that that the words employed should be in the comthey may be connected together, and be governed monly received sense; and that its figures of in their relation by certain principles which are speech, if any be adopted, should be framed to more or less universal in their operation. But our place in stronger light the sentiment to be conobject is not to enlarge on the nature of language veyed, and to give it greater force with the judgany further than is really necessary to confirm and illustrate the proposition laid down ; namely, that the meaning of words is altogether contentional, and is therefore only to be ascertained by a certain in his " Inquiry into the looks of the New Testament,"
* Dr. Cook has some adınirable observations on this subject, process of inquiry, involving a number of par- pp. 42-80.