صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

fluence of fear, he is, indeed, a good soldier, and is worthy to be crowned with laurels but if not, all his professions and flourishes, will prove vain and ridiculous. In like manner, the character of the followers of Christ can never be so thoroughly proved, or so advantageously displayed, as when the interests of the church decline. To profess the name of the Lord, and to make fair promises and appearances, especially when the cause of religion is flourishing and fashionable, is attended with no peculiar difficulty: but to maintain a deportment answerable to these promises and appearances, in a season of abounding iniquity, when the idols of the world are set up, and all are required, as it were upon pain of death, to pay their adorations, is a thing rare and difficult. Then, if the christian, with his hand uplifted to Heaven, will solemnly say, No, and unshakenly resist the allurements and the assaults of the adversary, determining at all hazards, to keep his ground, and to discharge his duty, he is a christian indeed. His character shines bright and glorious, as a hero of the cross; and, in the view of all the wise and good, he is infinitely more worthy of imitation and of honor, than a Cæsar, or an Alexander. I am struck with a kind of sacred veneration, for the men of this intrepid, determined, christian character, wherever I meet them; whether delineated on the page of history, or presented to view in the actual walks of life. Such a character should ever be an object of the believer's highest aim. When called to act in a plain case of duty, and where the glory of God is evidently concerned, it is not for him, through any motives of worldly policy, to hesitate or turn aside, but to go forward, directly and resolutely, leaving the consequences to the disposal of infinite wisdom and power. Under all the circumstances of life, he should consider no evil so much to be dreaded, as sin, and no happiness or honor so much to be aspired after, as that which cometh VOL. 2-No. I.

2

from God, or is the result of a cheerful and unwavering obedience to his holy will. S. L. M.

For the Christian Spectator.

On the Principles of Interpretation, particularly of the Bible.

Man is formed by nature for society and the reciprocal communication of thought. In whatever situation placed, as soon as the faculties of his mind are developed, he voluntarily employs certain media, or external actions, to express to another those mental perceptions and operations which would otherwise be known to himself alone. These media are the Signs of Ideas. That they are extremely important to the moral and intellectual cultivation of the human race, will be obvious to every one.

The term Signs of Ideas, it will here be convenient to use in its most extensive sense, to denote any external action which makes known to another that which passes in the mind, whether it be a sensation or a percep tion, a desire or an affection, an idea or a volition. In order, however, to attain the object for which men employ signs, it is evident that every sign must have its definite meaning.

That branch of the sciences which relates to the signs of Ideas has been called Semiotic, from the Greek word nuo a sign. It naturally divides itself into two branches; the one containing the rules for the suitable use of signs, and the other, the rules for the right interpretation of them. They differ from each other as Synthesis and Analysis. The science of analyzing the signs of ideas is called Hermeneutic, from ipμnveuw to interpret.

Signs are either natural or artificial. Natural signs are so constituted as to be readily understood by every person without the aid of previous instruction, concert, or arbitrary custom. For example, a drowning person, when unable to use his voice, may beckon with his hand, and thus

request assistance. The artificial act itself, by which a person discovers

are those which have been adopted and established by mutual agreement, or by a custom which was merely arbitrary at its first introduction.

Signs are addressed principally to the eye and ear, but sometimes also to the other senses. Thus the present of a fragrant nosegay may have, and often has had,a great significancy. Pictures of objects themselves, certain motions of the body, and complex actions may also be signs of ideas. These last are called symbolical actions. Thus Jeremiah's bearing a yoke, the high-priest's washing himself before he draws near to God, Baptism, the Lord's Supper, are all very significant. Pantomime, or the the language of mute action, the language of symbols, hieroglyphics, &c. were very useful in ancient times for the preservation of knowledge.

Our concern here is principally with speech and writing. These two are the most complete means of communicating ideas, and by the use of them the human mind has attained its cultivation, and religion and morals been taught and propagated.Words uttered by the organs of speech, are the immediate; words expressed in writing, are the mediate signs of ideas.

Language at first consisted probably of only a few sounds. Much gesture and action were therefore necessary for the expression of ideas. Afterwards, in order to point out an object or action, the narrator would draw a sketch, or outline. From this arose the symbolical mode of writing, which prevailed for a long time in the East and in Egypt, until alphabetical writing was invented, in Phenicia, as it is generally conceded.

Hermeneutic, according as it is viewed objectively or subjectively, is either a collection of rules by the application of which the meaning of a discourse or writing is discovered and rightly explained; or the knowledge of these rules, and the skill of rightly applying them so as to find out and exhibit the meaning. The

and rightly expounds the meaning of a discourse or writing, is called exegesis, or interpretation. He who by practice has acquired such a skill of interpreting according to rules, is a scientific interpreter or exegete.He who, without established rules, has learned, by exercise in reading and reflection, to interpret the Bible, is an empirical interpreter. Thus hermeneutic is the theory, and exegesis the application of it. Both have been usually comprehended under the name of exegetical theology.

The accurate observation of Addison respecting the grammarian and logician, may be applied with equal propriety to the exegete. Every one that converses is an exegete, though he may be utterly unacquainted with the rules of exegesis, as they are delivered in books and systems. And it is also true, that one, by exercise in translating and expounding different authors, may have attained such skill in interpreting, and have so strengthened and sharpened his exegetical tact, that he may in very many places easily find out and exactly define the sense of sacred writ. Notwithstanding these admissions, however, many reasons may be given, why regular instruction in the science of hermeneutic is both useful and necessary for the student of the Scrip

tures.

1. The subjects, of which the bible treats, require a far more exact study of hermeneutical science, than is necessary for the understanding of other books. The Holy Scriptures, especially the books of the New Testament, treat in a great measure, of intellectual and spiritual objects, of God and other beings endued with reason, of the purposes and will of the Most High, of conscience and duty, of immortality, and of future rewards and punishments. Now these

"Every one that speaks and reasons may be utterly unacquainted with the is a grammarian and logician, though he rules of grammar or logic, as they are de liverd in books and systems."

subjects are some of the most difficult which the human mind is ever called to investigate.

2. In the books of the Old Testament, we meet with objects pertaining to the remotest antiquity, and also far removed from us as to place, occurrences such as we have never witnessed, and figures which we are not accustomed to use.

3. All this is in a language which has been long dead, in a style which has great peculiarities, and in species of poetry, prophecy, and proverb, such as we do not find in other books.

4. It must be added also, that the books of the bible were written by various authors, from time to time, so as to embrace a period of nearly two thousand years.

5. The same moral and religious truths, according as the circumstances of mankind required, were at first expressed obscurely in sensible images, then accompanied with verbal description, and at last exhibited in more accurate and refined language.

These reasons, drawn from the character of the bible itself, are, it is believed, sufficient to show, that the religious instructor, who would teach the result of his own examinations, ought from hermeneutic to learn the general and special rules of interpretation, to be acquainted with the various helps for discovering the sense, and to acquire the correct method of dismembering a text, and treating its several parts, so that the true meaning of the phrases and propositions, and the tenor of the whole passage may be faithfully, fully, and clearly exhibited. But there are further reasons which strongly recommend this study.

6. The vast accumulation of books in modern times, and the incalculable labour which has been bestowed on the scriptures, render the scientific and thorough study of them still more necessary. There is hardly an important text in the bible, which has not been variously explained by men

of great apparent candour, acknowledged learning, and, may I not also add, of unsuspected piety. The serious enquirer after truth, must, I think, close his eyes against this fact, if he willingly foregoes the aid, which the study here recommended presents, for the formation of his own opinions.

7. To the variety of opinion may be added the contentious spirit of the age. It is extremely difficult for the student of theology, unless he possesses settled principles of interpretation, to form his doctrinal views, without being influenced by the allurements of orthodoxy on the one hand, or of liberality on the other. Oue will admire old opinions, because they are defined and circumscribed by subtile distinctions. Another will adopt the new, because they have the charm of novelty. It requires some effort to differ in sentiment from the great and good and learned, whom one has been taught to revere. It requires some discretion to be singular, and yet not to love singularity. Enlightened criticism is the only preservative from these dangers. The noisy champion, before he has proceeded far in this course, will lose his angry zeal, the party names of modern origin will be forgotten in the study of antiquity, the distinction of new and old will vanish, because that which appears new, will probably be found to be old.

The testimony of man will yield to the judgment of God, and with that the admirer of truth will rest perfectly satisfied.

8. The most important distinctions in theology do, in fact, rest on different theories of interpretation, Thus the grammatical historical mode of interpreting, lately advocated by a learned writer in a neighboring state, has for the most part its uniform results. The philosophical mode, advocated by others, has also its distinct results. The doctrine of accommodation, which many learned Germans are said to hold, is also uniform in its conclusions. But one must be a scientific interpreter, to thoroughly un

derstand these distinctions, much more, to judge of their truth or falsehood.* G.

We'see then that it is unnecessary, from the mere fact that the Spirit is mentioned in the passage under consideration, to conclude that the third person in the Trinity is of course in

To the Editor of the Christian Spectator tended.

SIR,

I HAVE often, taking the common interpretation of the passage, asked myself, how the Spirit of God

could be said, in Rom. viii. 26, to make intercession for us, when that office appears to be, elsewhere in the scriptures, exclusively appropriated to Christ. Many commentators, among whom is the excellent Dr. Scott, though giving it as their opinion that the Spirit of God is there meant, appear to be pressed with the same difficulty that has occurred to me. They therefore resort to the supposition that the Spirit of God by suggesting suitable petitions to the soul, thus becomes in effect an intercessor. This however appears to me to be straining the passage beyond its natural meaning. Is it necessary in all cases where the phrase "the Spirit" or "the Holy Spirit" occurs, to restrict the meaning of course to the third person in the blessed Trinity? Nothing is more obvious than that these phrases occur, in innumerable instances, where they only signify the divine influence, without reference to a person, any farther than that this influ

ence is elsewhere said to come from

I should give the following paraphrase, as what I apprehend to be the meaning of the passage :-"Likethe apostle had made a short digres wise" (i. e. moreover, to return, for sion to speak of hope,) the Spirit of adoption of which we have spoken, "helpeth our infirmities," enables us to bear the sufferings mentioned in v. 18; for without this filial disposition we know not how we ought to pray, whether to deplore these calamities, or to wish to be delivered from them.

But this same spirit (TO TO [IVEUMA,) "maketh intercession for us," prays for us with silent, or inexpressible or broken petitions.

here personified as apa is in Ch. The word Пva is, I apprehend, vii. 17, 20. So then the spirit of adoption "helpeth our infirmities" in this way it enables us to bear the afflictions of life. It assists us to address the throne of grace in a becoming manner, by being in the exercise of a becoming disposition.

Although I suppose this passage immediately to refer to the spirit of mate reference may be to the Spirit adoption; yet I admit that its ultiof God, as the author of all christian graces.

My reasons for thus interpreting the passage are the following:

that person. For example; we often read of the Holy Spirit's being poured out. Now in what sense can this 1. The location of the article. be said of a person? To pour out influence is an intelligible expression; article, although it had been used in Пveva is used in v. 15 without the but to pour out a person conveys no meaning at all. Christians are said it refers to another subject. But in v. the verse preceding, which shews that also to be "full of the Holy Ghost," 16, I has the article with the adas in Acts vi. 3, and vii. 55, and many other places. Here the phrase. The same spirit wit dition of euro, which refers it to Пvɛv"the Holy Spirit" cannot refer to personality, but to the divine influ- of the spirit of adoption shews that That is, the possession

ence.

Our correspondent does not intend to deny that the unlearned man may ascertain those truths which are necessary to salvation. He insists upon severe study as necessary to form a scientific interpreter.'

&c. nesses,

we are the children of God. Πνευμα is not again mentioned till we come to v. 23, where it refers clearly to the same. In v. 26, the passage under consideration, it appears again with

the same reference, viz. the article. It is therefore the spirit of adoption, and not the Spirit of God, which is

meant.

I am aware, Mr. Editor, that the doctrine of the article on which I have founded these remarks, is disputed. Not to go into an investiga tion of that question, it must be allowed that the location of the article abovementioned corroborates at least the reasons which I am about to of fer.

2. To suppose that the spirit of adoption is meant, and not the Spirit of God, is necessary to preserve a connexion and consistency in the apostle's argument. That the spirit of adoption, or the filial spirit which christians possess, mentioned in v. 15, is the subject till v. 18, will not be questioned by any one; for the inference," then heirs," in v. 17, necessarily implies it. In v. 19, no doubt can be entertained that the same subject is continued: "the manifestation of the sons of God." In verses 20 and 21, whether mean the christian, as I am inclined to think with Schleusner it does, or the creature as it is translated, and as some contend; 7, it is said," shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." In the two following verses it is no less evident that the affair of adoption is still kept in view-"waiting for the ", the completion of our adoption, viz. the redemption of our body." As the apostle had, a little before, mentioned hope, he now makes a short digression, according to his usual manner, to speak of it, which digression occupies all that precedes the passage under consideration.Now for the apostle, after he had given notice of a return to his subject by the words auras de, to start off, and speak directly of the Spirit of God, would not, to say the least, seem to preserve that consistency and connexion which he usually does.

And

what follows the 26th verse too, keeps to the same point as what precedes it. "He that searcheth the hearts, (i. e. Christ, for this is said to be his province. Rev. ii. 23.) knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit"-knoweth what its silent aspirations mean, "because he maketh intercession for the saints, according to the will of God.” Now what connexion can there be between Christ's searching the hearts of men, and knowing the mind of the Spirit of God? And what reason does his making intercession for the saints, afford for his knowing the mind of that Spirit? But allow that the spirit of adoption is here personified, and you have a beautiful connexion. If Christ searches the hearts, then he surely understands the "groanings which cannot be uttered" of a filial spirit; and his knowing the mind of such a spirit is involved in the idea of his searching the hearts, and is presupposed in that of his making intercession for the saints. This same idea of adoption is kept in view also in the 29th verse-"that he (i. e. Christ,) might be the first-born among many brethren ;" looking back with a beautiful connexion and consistency to v. 17, where christians are mentioned as fellow heirs with Christ.

3. The interpretation which I have given of the passage in question is consistent with the whole tenor of scripture, whereas the one which I am opposing, so far as I see, is not. T. H. D.,

P. S.-I take this opportunity of expressing my obligations to U. V. for the correction of an error in a communication of mine on Parables. One needs but to look at the Greek, with U. V.'s remarks before him, to perceive their truth. It now seems strange that such an oversight should have been committed. It is an instance, however, of a man's practice being not always consistent with his principles.

« السابقةمتابعة »