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many things, yet it seems to me evident that the holy writers of the New Testament made use of that version many
times in their citation of texts out of the Bible. III. COMPARE the words and phrases in one place of an author with the same or kindred words and phrases used in other places of the same author, which are generally called parallel places; and as one expression explains another which is like it, so sometimes a contrary expression will explain its contrary. Remember always that a writer best interprets himself; and as we believe the Holy Spirit to be the supreme Agent in the writings of the Old Testament and the New, he can best explain himself. Hence that theological rule arises, that scripture is the best interpreter of scripture; and therefore concordances, which shew us parallel places, are of excellent use for interpretation.
IV. CONSIDER the subject of which the author is treating; and, by comparing other places where he treats of the same subject, you may learn his sense in the place which you are reading, though some of the terms, which he uses in those two places, may be very different.
And on the other hand, if the author uses the same words where the subject, of which he treats, is not just the same, you cannot learn his sense by comparing those two places, though the mere words may seem to agree : for some authors, when they are treating of a quite different subject, may use perhaps the same words in a very
different sense, as St Paul does the words faith, and law, and righteousness.
V. OBSERVE the scope and design of the writer: inquire into his aim and end in that book, or section, or paragraph, which will help to explain particular sentences : for we suppose a wise and judicious writer directs his expressions generally toward his designed end.
VI. When an author speaks of any subject occasionally, let his sense be explained by those places where he treats of it distinctly and professedly: where he treats of any subject in mystical or metaphorical/terms, explain them by other places where he treats of the same subject in terms that are plain and literal : where he speaks in an oratorical, affecting, or persuasive way, let this be explained by other places, where he treats of the same theme, in a doctrinal or instructive way: where the author speaks more strictly, , and particularly on any theme, it will explain the more loose and general expressions : where he treats more largely, it will explain the shorter hints, and brief intimations; and wheresoever he writes more obscurely, search out some more perspicuous passages in the same writer, by which to determine the sense of that obscurer language. . VII. CONSIDER not only the person who is introduced speaking, but the persons to whom the speech is directed, the circumstances of time and place, the temper and spirit of. the speaker, as well as the temper and spirit of the hearers : in order to interpret scripture well, there needs a good acquaintance with the Jewish customs, some knowledge of the ancient Roman and Greek times and manners, which sometimes strike a strange and surprising light upon passages which before were very obscure.
VIII. In particular propositions, the sense of an author may be sometimes known by the inferences which he draws from them; and all those senses may be excluded which will not allow of that inference.
NOTE, This rule indeed is not always certain in reading and interpreting human authors, because they may mistake in drawing their inferences ; but in explaining scripture it is a sure rule, for the sacred and inspired writers always make just inferences from their own propositions. Yet even in them we must take heed we do not mistake an illusion for an inference, which is many times introduced almost in the same manner.
IX. If it be a matter of controversy, the true sense of the author is sometimes known by the objections that are brought against it. So we may be well assured the apostle speaks against our justification in the sight of God by our own works of holiness, in the 3d, 4th, and 5th chapters of the epistle to the Romans, because of the objection brought F 2
against him in the beginning of the 6th chapter, viz. “ What shall we say then ? shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” Which objection could never have been raised, if he had been proving our justification by our own works of righteousness.
X. In matters of dispute, take heed of warping the sense of the writer to your own opinion by any latent prejudices of self-love and a party-spirit. It is this reigning principle of prejudice and party that has given such a variety of senses both to the sacred writers and others, which would never have come into the mind of the reader, if he had not laboured under some such prepossessions.
XI. For the same reason, take heed of the prejudices of passion, malice, envy, pride, or opposition to an author, whereby you may be easily tempted to put a false and invidious sense upon his words. Lay aside, therefore, a carping spirit, and read even an adversary with attention and diligence, with an honest design to find out his true meaning ; do not snatch at little lapses and appearances of mistake, in opposition to his declared and avowed meaning ; nor impute any sense or opinion to him which he denies to be his opinion, unless it be proved by the most plain and express language.
LASTLY, Remember that you treat every author, writer, or speaker, just as you yourselves would be willing to be treated by others, who are searching out the meaning of what you write or speak : and maintain upon your spirit an awful sense of the presence of God, who is the judge of hearts, and will punish those who, by a base and dishonest turn of mind, wilfully pervert the meaning of the sa. cred writers, or even of common authors, under the influence of culpable prejudices. See more, Logic, Part I. Chap. 6. 3 Directions concerning the Definition of Names.
Rules of Improvement by Conversation.
we would improve our minds by conversation, it is a great happiness to be acquainted with persons wiser than ourselves. It is a piece of useful advice, therefore, to get the favour of their conversation frequently, as far as circumstances will allow: and if they happen to be a little reserved, use all obliging methods to draw out of them what may increase your own knowledge.
II. WHATSOEVER company you are in, waste not the time in trifle and impertinence. If you spend some hours atnongst children, talk with them according to their capacity; mark the young buddings of infant reason ; observe the different motions and distinct workings of the animal and the mind as far as you can discern them; take notice by. what degrees the little creature grows up to the use of his reasoning powers, and what early prejudices beset and endanger his understanding. By this means you will learn how to address yourself to children for their benefit, and perhaps you may derive some useful philosophemes or theorems for your own entertainment.
III. If you happen to be in company with à merchant or. a sailor, a farmer or a mechanic, a milk-maid or a spitister, lead them into a discourse of the matters of their own pecüliar province or profession; for every one knows, or should know, his own business best. In this sense a common mechanic is wiser than a philosopher. By this means you may gain some improvement in knowledge from every one
IV. CONFINE not yourself always to one sort of company, or to persons of the same party or opinion, either in matters of learning, religion, or the civil life, lest if you should happen to be nursed up or educated in early mistake, you should be confirmed and established in the same mistake, by conversing only with persons of the same sentiments.
A free and general conversation with men of very various countries, and of different parties, opinions, and practices, (so far as it may be done safely), is of excellent use to undeceive us in many wrong judgements which we may have framed, and to lead us into juster thoughts. It is said, when the king of Siam, near China, first conversed with some European merchants, who sought the favour of trading on his coast, he inquired of them some of the common appearances of summer and winter in their country; and when they told him of water growing so hard in their rivers, that men, and horses, and laden carriages, passed over it, and thạt rain sometimes fell down almost as white and light as feathers, and sometimes almost as hard as stones, he would not believe a syllable they said : for ice, snow, and hail, were names and things utterly unknown to him, and to his subjects in that hot climate ; he renounced all traffic with such shameful liars, and would not suffer them to trade with his people. See here the natural effects of gross ignorance.
Conversation with foreigners on various occasions has a happy influence to enlarge our minds, and to set them free from many errors and gross prejudices we are ready to im . bibe concerning them. Domicillus has never travelled five miles from his mother's chimney, and he imagines all outlandish men are Papishes, and worship nothing but a cross. Tityrus, the shepherd, was bred up all his life in the country, and never saw Rome; he fancied it to be only a huge yillage, and was therefore infinitely surprised to find such palaces, such streets, such glittering treasures, and gay mage nificence, as his first journey to the city shewed him, and with wonder he confesses his folly and mistake.
So Virgil introduces a poor shepherd,
Urbem, quam dicunt Romam, Melibae, putavi