« ZurückWeiter »
maintains his opinion in a cogent and well-reasoned dissertation, contained in the abovementioned work.
The doctrinal sentiments of the following commentary will be identified as Unitarian ; but let it be understood, that no church, creed, society, sect, or name, only the writer, is responsible for them. They may agree with others or not; they should be adjudged according to their own merits, or demerits, at the bar of truth. If erroneous, they will perish, and the sooner the better ; but if true, they must eventually prevail, however slowly they make headway against the general current. What is asked is, that they may not be condemned without a hearing, nor examined without candor, nor admitted without reason and discrimination.
In the preparation of these Notes, the aid of critics and commentators has been as extensively sought as circumstances would allow. The words of Jesus might be applied : "Other men labored, and ye are entered into their labors." Some of the authors mentioned in the note * have been consulted, some read, some studied, and several quoted; while others have been used incidentally, or at second hand, which are omitted.
Lord Bacon, in his work on the Advancement of Learning, where he speaks of the theology of his day, remarks, "that if the choice and best of those observations upon texts of Scriptures, which have been made dispersedly in sermons, within
* The Versions and Editions of Luther, Griesbach, Bloomfield, Tyndale by Dabney, Beza, Sacy, Wakefield, Campbell, Thomson, Cappe, Palfrey, Bradford, and the Improved Version; the Commentaries of Poole, Fratres Poloni, Pearce, Hammond, Le Clerc, Lightfoot, Henry, Whitby, Goadby, Paulus, Rosenmüller, Kuinoel, Olshausen, Doddridge, Scott, Priestley, Cappe, Clarke, Kenrick, Dabney, Townsend, Trollope, Barnes, and Ripley; MS. Notes of the excellent Lectures of Norton and Palfrey; Calmet's Dictionary; the Pictorial Bible; Robinson's Lexicon; the Septuagint; Josephus, Eusebius; the Works of Haynes, Gerard, Symonds, Knapp, Winer, Hug, Horne, Bishop Hall, Watson, West, Newcome, Burder, Hannah Adams, Abbott, Greenwood, Ware, Furness, Cellerier, Bulfinch, Allen, W.J. Fox, Schleiermacher, Ballou, Farmer, Milman, T. B. Fox, Robinson, Spear; the Trial of Jesus, by Dupin; the Scriptural Interpreter, and other valuable periodicals.
this your Majesty's island of Britain, by the space of these forty years and more, leaving out the largeness of exhortations and applications thereupon, had been set down in a continuance, it had been the best book in divinity which had been written since the Apostles' times.” Agreeably to this suggestion, it has been the object of the following work to draw remarks from other sources than set commentators ; to resort for this purpose to sermons, essays, poems, and stories. Books not specially intended for expositions often contain most valuable hints ; in particular, the periodicals of the day embody some incomparable dissertations and comments on the sacred writings; in proof of which, among many instances, we need but refer to an article in the (English) “ Christian Teacher for January, 1841, on Matt. xi., John's message to Jesus ; which was copied into the “Christian Register” of February 13, 1841. The remarks of Dr. Channing on this point are worthy of attention, " Commentators have their use, but not the highest use. They explain the letter of Christianity, give the meaning of words, remove obscurities from the sense, and so far they do great good; but the life, the power, the spirit of Christianity, they do not unfold. They do not lay open to us the heart of Christ. I remember that a short time
I reading a book, not intended to be a religious one, in which some remarks were offered on the conduct of Jesus, as, just before his death, he descended from the Mount of Olives, and amidst a crowd of shouting disciples looked on Jerusalem, the city of his murderers, which in a few hours was to be stained with his innocent blood. The conscious greatness with which he announced the ruin of that proud metropolis and its venerated temple, and his deep sympathy with its approaching woes, bursting forth in tears, and making him forget for a moment his own near agonies and the shouts of the surrounding multitude, were brought to my mind more distinctly than ever before ; and I felt that this more vivid apprehension of Jesus was worth more than much of the learning in which commentators abound."
The Text used in this work is the Received Text, printed in paragraphs, according to the arrangement of Griesbach, and chiefly with his punctuation.
The occasional repetition of the same explanations and remarks is partly attributable to the interrupted method of composition unavoidable in a case where many authorities are consulted, and partly to the advantage of repeating what has been before said, rather than of occupying quite as large a space in making a reference to a previous passage.
Touching the general difficulties of forming a true and earnest commentary on the sacred writings, the author has become fully apprized in the progress of his labors. If, as some have contended, the interpretation of the Bible were a matter to be decided simply by the rules of philology, by the grammar and lexicon, the liabilities to error would be very much diminished.
is far otherwise. All our philosophical and theological views, all our habits, principles, and sentiments, our constitutional and acquired peculiarities, have a bearing upon our apprehension and explanation of each sentence. Biblical criticism puts under levy the whole existing amount of our knowledge and experience. Our views of the nature of God, his Providence, his Son Jesus Christ, of Man, of Life, of Futurity, will tinge with their own hues every verse. Our theories and practices sway us hither and thither, like grass in the wind, however determined our resolution to forget ourselves and yield with unprejudiced hearts to the pure impressions of Truth. Hence it is questionable whether creeds do not often exert more influence to dispose men to certain interpretations of the Bible, than does the Bible to modify creeds. Petrifactions are wont to gather around the fount of life, and to shape and impede the free jet and course of the waters, and therefore do the storms and overflowings of reformations come to break down and wash away these incrustations, that the streams may run in their native channels, pure, refreshing, and fertilizing.
The expositor is in constant danger of marring the high and holy beauty of the Ancient Thought by the intrusion of his modern factitious associations ; of separating the pure light into the inore striking but less natural colors of which it is combined ; of making the short long, and the long short, on his Procrustean bed ; of spreading his own parti-colored mosaic over the simple corner-stone of Christ, or “daubing it with untempered mortar.” It seems to be the object of some commentators to put as much into a text, or get as much out of it, as they can. They infer all the doctrines and duties of Christianity from a verse in the Pentateuch, or a parallelism in Proverbs, and justify their whole creed, however irrational, by an obscure phrase in the book of Revelation. Hence a learned divine of the last century, in a Latin epigram, written in a Bible, said, that it was a book, " where every one sought his own opinions, and where every one found them.” The sarcasm is not without point. One denomination of Christians has been accused of using a Bible of its own, different from that of others. The charge was untrue in its common acceptation, and unsupported by facts. But in reality, not one, but all sects have Bibles of their own, because all have their own interpretations of the volume. In this sense the Baptists have their Scriptures, and the Presbyterians theirs, and the Trinitarians, and Unitarians, and Swedenborgians, theirs. As Cecil said, “Men labor to make the Bible their Bible.” And they succeed; for the Bible is to each one the sense, the thoughts, the doctrines, which he draws from it, and attaches to it. So that when we enumerate the varieties of Christian belief, we begin to think that the old Talmudists were not so much out of the way, who assigned to each text of Holy Writ seventy-two faces.
The origin of these diversities may be illustrated in the following way.
When we look at the heavenly bodies we look through two atmospheres, both of which will affect the vision ; first, that of the earth, and secondly, that of the distant sun or star. So in studying the word of God, we are obliged to view it through our atmosphere, and its atmosphere ; our atmosphere of prejudice; interest, and passion ; and its atmos
phere of dead languages, ancient manners and customs, and obsolete opinions, which envelopes the great ideas of prophet and evangelist. Now the power of the commentator is restricted chiefly to clearing away, as far as may be done now after the lapse of centuries, the latter haze. He must seek to interpret his text in the spirit in which it was spoken or written. He must see with the eyes, and hear with the ears, and understand with the hearts of the men of old, place himself in their situation, and live over again their victories and defeats, their joys and agonies. He must enter the house of Joseph, and see him make himself known to his brethren, and shed tear for tear with him. He must mix with the furious multitude that rushes forth upon Mount Calvary, and catch a distant glimpse of the ek and undaunted Sufferer, and listen to his clear and sweet tones of love and pity, which are poured out like oil upon the sea of rage and scorn that dashed around him. The interpreter must become for the time the actor whose deeds he would explain, the speaker whose words he would illustrate and enjoin. But to revert to the former comparison, — the atmosphere of our own minds cannot be much affected by the commentator ; that must be clarified by self-culture, and the purifying influence of virtue. If we would find the truth, the condition is, to love and seek the truth.
It is the fashion with some to despise Biblical learning, and to assert that the Scriptures shine best in their own light. No doubt they do, if we are assured that it is their own light, and not some false meteoric ray. No doubt we may put up too many critical glasses to our eye, and obscure, rather than brighten or magnify into their true and immense size, the eternal principles of religion. Still, the naked eye is often materially aided in bringing them near, in all their sublime magnitude and unearthly glory, by the telescope of sacred criticism ; though they may twinkle with sufficient brightness, even to the most unassisted sight, to designate the great moral points of compass, and to guide the voyager home over the waters to his haven of rest. There are obscure allusions, ancient customs,