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at that time troubled with “ enticing words, phi- ! (d) The rules for applying the aid afforded by losophy, and vain deceit, after the rudiments of an examination of the scope, to the investigation the world.” He also shows, by borrowing argu- of particular passages of Scripture, must be nearly ments from evangelical doctrines, in order to combat the same as those employed in the investigation legal teachers, and by the inferences which he of entire books. The whole context should be draws from those arguments, that certain judaizing carefully examined, for the purpose of ascertaining teachers burdened the consciences of the Colos- whether the scope is expressly stated or fairly sian converts, by enjoining on them the observance implied in the writer's own words. Thus, if we of the ceremonial law, the necessity of circum- would understand the design of the apostle in cision (ver. 11), of keeping particular days (ver. 1 Cor. x. 25—29, we must refer back to ch. viii. 16), and of abstaining from divers kinds of meats 1, where his purpose in this part of the letter is (ver. 16_21); from which, as an intolerable yoke, clearly pointed out. Sometimes the design of a the apostles had deemed it necessary to deliver particular passage is ascertained by the concluding the Colossian church. Comp. Acts xy. with Gal. inference which the writer deduces.

So Paul, v. 3, 4, &c. (4) If we rightly consider what is Rom. iii. 28 : “ Therefore we conclude that a man said of Epaphras, at the commencement and con- is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law;" clusion of the epistle, we shall probably infer, that which defines the scope of the passage. Particular while he was earnestly commending to Paul the attention, then, should be paid to the particles, faith and love of the new converts, and while “wherefore,” “therefore," "then,” “ seeing that," glowing with holy zeal for their welfare, he moved &c. Considerable care, and some practice, will be the apostle, by his entreaties, to dispatch this letter requisite, to enable us to distinguish between the to Colosse and Laodicea, ch. i. 8, iv. 12, 13. principal and subordinate conclusions ; but the These points being premised, it is easy to ascer- benefits derivable from the practice will abuntain the scope of the whole epistle; which was, dantly repay the labour expended upon it. that Paul, in obedience to his duty as an apostle, (2) Where no assistance can be derived from might confirm the Colossian converts in the doc- any expressed or implied declaration of the trines of faith, and in seeking after that holiness writer's scope, we must endeavour to ascertain, which flows from them. It was also, that he from other authentic sources, the occasion on might seasonably heal the breaches made by Jewish which the book was written ; and the particular errors, which had spread, and were perhaps still circumstances, at that time, of the persons to prevailing; and that he might deliver the church whom it was immediately addressed. To know, from the evils which those errors had induced, as for example, that at the time John wrote his well as avert from it those which he foresaw gospel, the Gnostic heresy was spreading itself would be consequent on this vain deceit. It very through the church, and to be acquainted also evidently appears, from the whole structure of the with the leading features of that corruption of epistle, that the reason the apostle had for so care- religion, will materially assist in understanding fully confirming the Colossians in the purer doc- many passages in that important document, which trines of the faith, was a fear lest they should be it would seem probable must have had some reinjured by the pernicious opinions of heretical ference to their errors. A knowledge of the state men ; and the apostle himself makes all the doc- of the church at Corinth will throw considerable trines stated have a reference to it, when he says, light upon the epistles directed to it by Paul, in


lest any man should beguile you with which it is natural to suppose he would refer to enticing reords,” ü. 4. The declaration contained their mistakes and dissensions. So also we may in these words should be well considered, as we perceive the force and beauty of many of the exrecognise in it the true and genuine scope of the pressions in Ps. xcvi. and cv., when we ascertain, whole epist’e, expressed in Paul's own words. *

from 1 Chron. xvi., that they were sung on occa(c) Here it may be remarked, that the Book of sion of the ark being brought up to Jerusalem by the Acts of the Apostles, and particularly the David. The same remarks will apply to the profifteenth chapter, is of special assistance in attain- phetic writings, which may be materially eluciing to a right understanding of the epistles of dated by observing the circumstances that called Paul. The historical books of the Old Testament forth many of the predictions, and the state of render the same assistance in reading the Prophets things to which they had an immediate reference. and the Psalms; and the Books of Moses eluci- Should both these sources of information fail to date the writings of both Testaments.

ascertain the scope of the author, we must

(3) Attentirely and repeatedly read the whole * Franck's Analysis of the Epistle to the Colossians, Ap.

book, with a view to discover its scope from a Guide to the Scriptures.

general and connected view of its contents. In

This I

the epistolary parts of the New Testament, espe- reading which has been recommended for the cially, great light will be derived to the sense of several books should be carried throughout the the text, if this kind of reading be adopted ; and, whole, and that conclusions as to that revelation indeed, it should never be dispensed with, in the should not be drawn till the joint amount of the study of these important, and in many respects whole can be thus collected. Not thus to gather, difficult

, letters. They should be read, and re- from all the different books, what each has said read, from beginning to end ; and it is preferable of their common subject, must be to narrow the to use a copy where the text is not divided into grounds on which it was designed that our chapters and verses. Each one should be read as opinion of the revelation should be formed. I We would peruse an epistle from a friend ; and (4) It should be borne in mind, that the whole that three or four times over, without interruption, design of the Scriptures is to treat of Christ, in his until we have fully apprehended the meaning, mediatorial capacity. The Redeemer is the sum and the subject of the whole letter becomes clear. and substance—the very soul-of Scripture; and From this perusal, re-perusal, and repetition of every part of it has a reference to him, and his the document, we shall obtain a right knowledge mediatorial kingdom. Some passages treat exof the scope of the author, and an acquaintance pressly of him, inculcating faith in his promise, with the general argument of the epistle.* For, and obedience to his will ; some contain proas it has been well remarked, the composition of phecies concerning him, fulfilled, or remaining to every such work, however loose and imperfect, be fulfilled; others exhibit types and figures ; cannot have been fortuitous; we know that by while some are to be referred to him by the some exertion of mind it has been put together, analogy of faith, which is entirely founded upon and we discover in its connexions, such as they him. Hence the necessity of keeping the eye are, indications of the purpose for which the of faith constantly fixed upon the Redeemer, esertion was made. According to the tendency in reading every part of Scripture.“ In him all of the composition, may the inference be safely the promises of God are yea and amen;" 2 Cor. made to its purpose. Nor should this examina- i. 20. To him all the genealogies refer, all the tion be restricted to separate books of the Old or times relate, all the ceremonies point; and as New Testament: it should be extended to em- the sun imparts his light to all the heavenly brace all those books as a whole. As every part bodies, so Christ, “the Sun of Righteousness," of the divine revelation has an ultimate reference gives light and meaning to every part of the to one great subject, which is carefully pursued Bible. throughout, it is obvious that the continuous 5. Having thus pointed out the principal rules

for discovering the scope of a writer, it only re* Franck's Guide, p.

mains to offer a suggestion or two, by way of

caution, in the use of this aid to discover the Cook's Inquiry, p. 204. Mr. Locke states, in his preface to the epistles of Paul, that after having been convinced, by

of Scripture. bez esperience, that the ordinary mode of reading a chapter, (1) There must be an evident and necessary conand then consulting a commentator upon it, failed in giving him nexion between the sense given to a passage and a jest conception of the sense of an epistle, he saw plainly, after the scope of the discourse, and not only some tolerabe began once to reflect upon it, that if any one should now write him a letter, as long as St. Paul's to the Romans, con- ble agreement. The reason for this rule is, that it cerning sach a matter as this is, in a style as foreign, and ex- will sometimes happen, that several interpretations pressions as dubious, as his seem to be; if he should divide it may agree with the scope of the writer, and ito liteen or.sisteen chapters, and read one of them to-day, therefore a mere agreement with this can give no and another to-morrow, and so on, it was ten to one that be sborld never come to a clear comprehension of it. The way assurance that the sense assumed is the right one. to understand the mind of him that wrote it, he observes, every Thus Titus i. 11 has been interpreted in three He would agree, was to read the whole letter through, from one different ways, -as referring to slaves and their end to the other, all at once, to see what was the main subject ad tendency of it; or, if it had several parts or purposes in it, masters—to Jews and Gentiles—and to all men, It dependant one on another, nor in a subordination to one indiscriminately; but if the scope of the apostle's ctif aim and end, to discover what those different matters argument be examined, it will be found difficult here, and where the author concluded one and began another; to say what real connexion there could subsist in and is there were any necessity of dividing the epistle into parts, s mark the boondaries of them. In the prosecution of this the apostle's mind between the duties of slaves bea

, Nr. Locke determined upon reading each of the epistles (which is the subject of the exhortation in the di Paol through at one sitting, and to mark, as well as he was 9th verse, and for which the fact stated in the able

, the drift and design of the writer. By persevering in this 11th verse is assigned as the motive) and the plan, he at length obtained a good general view of the apostle's baa purpose in writing the several epistles, the chief branches of his discourse, and arguments used, and the disposition of the




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# Cook's Inquiry into the Books of the New Testament, p. 84.


salvability either of all men or of the Gentiles, (a) The following passages will at once illusas in opposition to the Jews. The only interpre- | trate and confirm the rule. In Luke ix. 50, our tation of the words, therefore, which gives them Saviour says, “He that is not against us is for a necessary connexion with the scope of the pas- us ;” but in Matt. xv. 30, it is, “ He that is not sage, is that which refers them to the persons with me is against me.” How are these proposispoken of in the 9th verse, namely, slaves. tions to be reconciled? Why, by taking one of

(2) But how are we to know when the sense them in some limited sense ; and the occasion on given to a passage has an evident and necessary which the first was delivered evidently points out connexion with the scope of a discourse? The fol- the limitation it requires. John, having seen one, lowing negative precepts have been given by who was not associated with the apostles, casting Professor Stuart ; and a meaning which does not out devils in the name of Christ, had forbidden infringe upon them will be found to harmonize him to do so. Jesus said to him, “ Forbid him with the subject of which the sacred author is not : for he that is not against us is for us.” “Fortreating, unless he has violated all the rules of lan- bid him not,”—that is the precept; forbid him guage and reasoning; which cannot be admitted.

not to do good in my name: and the reason fol(1) Where a meaning plainly contradicts the lows,—" for he that is not against us is for us ;" tenor of a discourse, it is to be rejected. (2) When he who does not oppose me promotes my cause ; it violates the principles of parallelism, and the con- let my gospel be preached, even though of strife clusions drawn from them, as to the sense of a pas- and contention. Here our Saviour inculcates forsage. (3) Where it gives an inept and frigid sense. bearance towards those who, from whatever moBy this is meant a sense which contributes neither to

tives, promote the progress of his kingdom : but argument, nor perspicuity, nor ornament.*

in the place in Matthew, he teaches us, that mere (3) The meaning, as discovered by the scope of indifference will not avail to our salvation ; that the writer, should be compared with that which the they who would obtain the reward must possess usus loquendi affords, for the purpose of forming a the character of his disciples; that they who judgment on their agreement. In other words, we do not confess him before men, and espouse his must see whether the usus loquendi will tolerate cause in this world, will be treated as his enemies any particular sense given to the passage by the at the day of judgment. scope of the discourse, especially in respect to (6) The manner in which Paul and James have words which have various meanings; or whether treated the doctrine of justification, will furnish there be a repugnance to it. Occasionally, the another illustration of this canon of interpretation. meaning derived from the scope of the writer James says, “ Ye see how by works a man is will lead to a knowledge of something which may justified, and not by faith only," ch. ii. 24; whereas serve to establish its harmony with the usus lo


“ Therefore we conclude, that a man is quendi. But to interpret solely from the sup- justified by faith, without the deeds of the law :" posed scope of a writer, without the aid and and it is a little singular that each of the apostles consent of the usus loquendi, and even in opposi- illustrates his position by the instance of Abraham. tion to it, belongs rather to rash conjecture than But the apparent discrepancy will be removed, if to interpretation by rule.

we examine the course of their reasoning. James (4) A proposition occurring in the course of an is labouring to prove that faith without works is argument, is not necessarily to be taken in the a dead faith, a faith which will not avail to salwidest sense which the words will bear. A pro- vation.—“What doth it profit, though a man say position, used merely as a link in a chain of he hath faith, and have not works? Can faithreasoning, is often expressed in more general can such a faith-save him?” “If a brother or terms than would be required to establish the sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and conclusion which the writer is proving; in this one of you say unto them, Depart in peace : be case, the proposition is not necessarily to be taken ye warmed and filled: notwithstanding ye give in the widest sense of which the words would them not those things which are needful to the admit. It may be subject to various limitations, body; what doth it profit?" What sincerity, which the writer did not think it necessary to what worth is there in such professions of kindexpress, because they did not affect the course of ness? What benefit do they confer on those who the argument; and we should ever bear in mind, are the objects of thein ? “ Even so faith, if it that our Saviour and his apostles adapted, for the hath not works, is dead, being alone." All promost part, their instructions to the occasion, without fessions of faith, which do not evidence their attempting to treat religion in a systematic order. truth by a holy life and conversation, are false

vain, and unprofitable. “Yea, a man may say, * Stuart's Elements of Interpretation,

to such a professor, “ Thou hast faith," or pre




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tendest to have it, "and I have works : show me | God;" therefore all, both Jews and Gentiles, must thy faith without thy works;" give me, if thou be "justified freely through the redemption that is canst, some other proof of it, “and I will show in Christ Jesus,” Rom. iii. 23, 24. But this conthee

my faith by my works. Thou believest there clusion will not follow from the premises, unless is one God: thou doest well; the devils also we understand the apostle to lay it down as a believe and tremble.” Wherein doth thy faith universal proposition, that all have sinned.differ from theirs, if it produce not the fruits II. The second means for judging of the sense of righteousness and holiness? “But wilt thou of words, to which reference was made at the know, 0 vain man, that faith without works is beginning of this section, is AN EXAMINATION OF dead," wholly unprofitable to salvation? “Was THE CONTEXT. not Abraham, our father, justified ;” did he not 1. It is certain, that many of the controversies show forth a living faith unto justification, “ by which have been carried on in the Christian works, when he had offered Isaac, his son, upon church, have arisen in consequence of their the altar ?" Did he not, by that act of holy authors having overlooked this rule, which is of obedience, prove and display a living faith in the very broadest extent in biblical interpretathe truth, and power, and promises of God, which tion. . Every theological doctrine that has been " was imputed to him for righteousness ?” “Seest broached, however absurd or monstrous its chathou how faith wrought with his works,” produc- racter, has been surrounded and supported by a ing obedience to the commands of God, however multiplicity of texts, which, having been forcibly apparently severe, and irreconcileable with his abscinded from their respective contexts, were promises ; “ and by works was faith made per- pressed into a service for which they were never fect," brought forth into action, and shown to be designed. Mr. Locke has somewhere said, that a lively and efficacious principle in the soul ? “if the Holy Scriptures were but laid before the * And the Scripture was fulfilled, which saith, eyes of Christians in their due connexion and Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to consistency, it would not then be so easy to snatch him for righteousness :' and he was called the out a few words, as if they were separate from friend of God. Ye see, then, how that by the rest, to serve a purpose to which they do not works a man is justified, and not by faith only." at all belong, and with which they have nothing Ye see that by works a man is justified—by to do. But as the matter now stands, he that has works evidencing that faith which is imputed to a mind to it may, at a cheap rate, be a notable the believer for righteousness; by such works a champion for the truth; that is, for the doctrines man is justified, and not by faith only——not by a of the sect that chance or interest has cast him mere barren profession, or even a mere specula- into. He need but be furnished with verses of tive belief, which does not influence the life and sacred Scripture, containing words and expressions conduct. Such appears to be the course of James's that are but flexible (as all general, obscure, and reasoning. Paul, on the other hand, is proving doubtful ones are), and his system, that has approto the Jews, that they, as well as the Gentiles, priated them to the orthodoxy of his church (of monst be saved by faith; and his argument is this: whatever denomination it may be), makes them * All have sinned, and come short of the glory of immediately strong and irrefragable arguments for God.' all have broken the moral law of God; no his opinion. This is the benefit of loose senove, therefore, can be saved by that law, which tences, and Scripture crumbled into verses, which Etacts a perfect obedience; and thence he con- quickly turn into independent aphorisms. But, dudes,

" that a man is justified by faith, without,” if the quotation in the verse produced were consiapart from, distinct from,“ the deeds of the law.” dered as part of a continued, coherent discourse, In order to be justified before God, he must have and so its sense were limited by the tenor of the that faith which God will impute to him for context, most of these formidable and warm righteousness ; a faith, however, which works by disputants would be quite stripped of those which love

, and makes those who are influenced by it they doubt not now to call spiritual weapons, and valous of good works.


will furnish they would often have nothing to say that would Es with another rule.

not show their weakness, and manifestly fly in (5) A proposition must be understood in a sense their faces.” tificiently large to bear out the conclusion which it 2. That such a perversion of the Scriptures as

intended to proce. Thus, in the first part of the is here pointed out may be guarded against, the Epistle to the Romans, Pauls object is to show that rule laid down for consulting the context merits the Jews, as well as the Gentiles, need the salvation the constant attention of the interpreter. We which is by Jesus Christ; and his argument is this: - All have sinned, and come short of the glory of * Christian Observer, vol. xi.



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are aware that some persons, who are far from indispensable that they should be altogether disrebeing lareless interpreters, do not hold this aid in garded; at least, in the examination of the context. very high estimation, conceiving its use to be Dr. Gerard has offered the following suggestions confined within very narrow limits. But, as upon the use of the context. Professor Stuart has suggested, this is by no (1) General terms being often used only in a mcans an accurate view of the subject; for “the part of their extension, it is the connexion that shores immediate context, either preceding, succeeding, to what part of it they ought to be limited. In or both together, is a rule for judging of the mean- Heb. xi. 6, it is said, Without faith it is iming of words of the very broadest extent. In possible to please God." But that this is not very many cases, indeed, the evidence of the saving or Christian faith, is evident from the usus loquendi is itself built upon the context. words that follow, and by which the expression We adopt the opinion, that the usus loquendi is limited, “ must believe that He is, and that He sanctions this or that particular sense, because the is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” context clearly shows that such a meaning is to (2) In like manner, ambiguous expressions must be assigned to it, and that no other can be given be restricted, among their seceral significations, to without rendering the sense frigid and inept. that one which suits the connexion. In Matt. xxiii

. Moreover, the general scope of an author does not 23, “judgment, mercy, and faith," certainly not forbid the admission of a great variety of argu- belief of any kind, but fidelity, as the connexion ments, illustrations, and episodes, into the inter-shows. In Rom. xiv. 23, the word is employed mediate parts of a discourse; so that one is far in another sense : “Whatsoever is not of faith, is more certain of giving a sense that is congruous, sin;" that is not justifying faith, not a warrant by consulting the immediate context, than by im- from Scripture, but—a full persuasion of the laremediately consulting the general scope of the fulness of the action. whole. Both, no doubt, are to be regarded; but (3) Every term should be considered as it stands of the two, the former is by far the most im- in the proposition, of rehich it makes a part; and portant means of assistance.” “ Indeed,” adds be explained, not by itself, but so as to bring out the this enlightened critic, “ I should doubt whether real sense of that rehole proposition. In Matt. viii. there is any one rule in the whole science of her-24, we read : “Whosoever heareth these sayings, meneutics so important, and of so much practical and doeth them [subject], I will liken him to a and actual use, as the one in question. Great. wise man, which built his house upon a rock” care, indeed, is necessary, to decide with certainty, (predicate]. The sense is plain: “He who pracwhat sense the context requires that a word | tises as well as hears, builds his hope of salvation should have, especially when the immediate sub- on a sure foundation." But Dr. Gill thus interject is briefly stated. But this care is as easily prets it: “The subject of the comparison is, practised as any other rule is, which herme- whosoever cometh to Christ by faith, being given neutics prescribe in different cases. Violence him of the Father' (supposed without ground]: must not be done to words by forcibly subjecting such an one hears his words, not only externally, them to the context, against etymology, analogy, but internally, and he doth them, exercises faith the rules of grammar, and the nature of language. on Christ, his grace and righteousness held forth But in every thing short of this, all good lexi- in them, and performs all duties without any view cographers and commentators adapt the meaning to obtain eternal life thereby, which he expects of words to the context, in cases too numerous to only from Christ, as his sayings direct him. need any specification."*

Every such believer builds the salvation of his 3. It is greatly to be desired, that our present soul; he digs deep, till he come to a good founmethod of breaking the Scriptures into chapters dation, a rock, Christ, the Rock of ages; and he and verses, was superseded by the adoption of lays the whole stress of his salvation on him.” a continuous text; or, at least, one only divided Here, plain expressions are explained by metainto such sections as would be obviously suggested phorical ones; a meaning is put on a word, inconupon a critical examination of the order of the sistent with its place in the sentence; the sentence sacred writers. According to our present distri- destroyed, being all turned into a predicate for a bution of the text, the continuity and completion subject gratuitously supposed; the real meaning exof many discourses are broken in upon, in a way plained away, turned into an insignificant assertion, most injurious to their sense, and most prejudicial that he who expects salvation only from Christ, to ordinary readers. If, therefore, a Bible be used lays the whole stress of his salvation upon him, in which these common divisions occur, it is or, ‘he who believes on Christ, believes in Christ.'

(4) In a piece of reasoning, every proposition * Elements of Interpretation, p. 80.

must be considered in its connexion rith the whole ar

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