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Joseph's sons, while in the tenth verse it is said his eyes were dim so that he could not see; i. e. he could see, but not distinctly-could not distinguish the features unless they came near.
Acts xvi. 11, 12, where we have the account of the first introduction of Christianity into Europe, it speaks of Philippi in Macedonia as a colony; and verse 21 implies that it was a Roman colony. The silence of contemporary profane history as to this fact rendered it a difficulty, even to learned men, and threw the suspicion of inaccuracy upon Luke's narrative; but some ancient coins have been since discovered, on which Philippi is recorded under this character, particularly one which states that Julius Cæsar himself bestowed the dignity and privileges of a Roman colony on the city Philippi, which were afterwards confirmed and augmented by Augustus.
Sometimes, though comparatively very seldom, the translation may be improved, or the original will admit of another rendering, and thus the difficulty may be removed.
2 Sam. xii. 31. David is said to have put the Ammonites under saws and under harrows of iron, &c.; which gives the impression of great cruelty on his part. Were there no answer to this, we must not shrink from charging him with whatever guilt might properly attach to the act, the Bible itself furnishing the principle by which to do so. But the original Hebrew admits of its being rendered instead of "under" " to" saws, &c., which implies nothing more than employing them as slaves in the most mean and laborious offices. The word translated "harrows of iron" may also be rendered "iron mines." It is, indeed, said (1 Chron. xx. 3), that David cut them with saws; but seven of the Hebrew manuscripts collated by Dr. Kennicott have the word which means, "he put them to saws," &c. See H. Horne, vol. i.
This illustration has been given to shew the value of a knowledge of the learned languages, and of those diligent researches which learned men have made to throw light on Scripture. "Pertness and ignorance," as Bishop Horne remarks," may ask a question in three lines, which it may cost thirty pages to answer." But thus has God sanctified the use of learning, and would teach the unlearned respect
for it. Mystery is only another name for our ignorance, "and those passages,' as Boyle says, "which teach us nothing else, may at least teach us humility." We may also be assured, that while "the scorner seeketh wisdom and findeth it not" (Prov. xiv. 6), and although God hath in his righteous judgment appointed that "the wicked shall not understand" (Dan. xii. 10), “the meek will he teach his way," “the meek will he beautify with salvation." Ps. cxlix. 4.
8 xvi. Quotations illustrating the leading object of this chapter.
Mosheim, speaking of the method of interpreting the Scriptures, and teaching religion in the first century of the Christian church, says, "Those who performed the office of interpreters, studied, above all things, plainness and perspicuity. The great study of those who embraced the Gospel was rather to express its Divine influence in their dispositions and actions, than to examine its doctrines with an excessive curiosity, or to explain them by the rules of human wisdom."
Referring to the period of the Reformation, Melancthon says, "It is necessary in the church, diligently to investigate and adhere to the simple, natural grammatical sense of Scripture. We are to listen to the Divine word, not to corrupt it. We must not play tricks with it, by fanciful interpretations, as many in all ages have done. The plain, natural sense of Scripture always carries with it the richest and most valuable instruction."
Luther says: "The literal meaning of Scripture is the whole foundation of faith, the only thing that stands its ground in distress and temptation."
Hooker says: "I hold it for a most infallible rule in exposition of Sacred Scripture, that where a literal construction will stand, the furthest from the letter is commonly the worst."
The following are given as illustrations of the violations of this rule, in addition to that already given, p. 69.
2 Tim. ii. 17, 18: "Hymeneus and Philetus. . . . saying that the resurrection is passed already;" that is, they spiritualized the plain declarations of the Bible on this subject,
declaring that such passages were not to be taken in their simple, natural, grammatical sense, but as intending only a spiritual resurrection from ignorance and error.
Lampe, whose Commentary on St. John, Hartwell Horne describes (vol. ii.) as unquestionably the most valuable work on that Gospel that was ever published, endeavours to shew, from the miracle of the marriage in Cana, that by the bridegroom is meant the governors of the Jewish church; the bride is the Jewish church itself; the marriage is the Christian dispensation; the failing of the wine, the departure of the Spirit of God from the Jewish church, which had begun to depart from the purity of the Law; the mother of our Lord is the heavenly Jerusalem, bringing into the liberty of the Gospel the children of the Jewish church; but she is reproved for impatience, not knowing the times and seasons or the hour, which had not yet come. The water is changed into wine; that is, prophecy and the Law are changed into the Gospel, with much more of the same kind. (Lampe, vol. i. pp. 518-520.)
The fascination of the ingenuity of such interpretations constitutes their peculiar danger, especially when adopted by men so learned and pious as Lampe. Cardinal Bellarmin, one of the most learned and upright of his order, whom Pope Sextus V. condemned for not going far enough in the assertion of Papal power, attempts to prove, from a comparison of Acts x. 13, "Rise, Peter, kill," &c. with John xxi. 16, that the duty of the Pope, as the successor of Peter, is to put heretics to death; an interpretation which seals the death-warrant of the Protestant church and the liberties of mankind. See T. H. Horne, vol. ii. p. 770.
On the mysterious doctrines of predestination, election, &c., Bishop Horsley says: "Differences of opinion upon these subjects have subsisted, among the best Christians, from the beginning, and will subsist, I am persuaded, to the end." And the martyr Ridley observes: "In these matters I am so fearful, that I dare not speak further; yea, almost none otherwise, than the text doth, as it were, lead me by the hand."
"The right way of interpreting Scripture, is to take it as we find it, without any attempts to force it into any particular system." (Cecil.)
"The Scriptures are the mysteries of God," says Bishop
Jewel: "let us not be curious: let us not more than God hath revealed by them.
seek to know
They are the
sea of God let us take heed that we be not drowned by them. They are the fire of God: let us take comfort by their heat, and warily take heed they burn us not. They that gaze over-hardly upon the sun, take blemish in their eye-sight."
Boyle says: "It ought rather to recommend than disparage the Scriptures, that what is revealed is so copious and extensive, that, like a river, it will supply a lamb with what may quench its thirst, and cannot be exhausted by an elephant. And again: "The Scriptures being composed of several obscure texts of Scripture, mixed with clear ones, several devout persons have rather chosen to read other books, which, being free from difficulties, might promise more instruction; but as the moon, notwithstanding her spots, gives more light than the stars that are luminous; so the Scripture, notwithstanding its dark passages, will afford a Christian more light than the best authors." (Boyle on the Style of the Scriptures.)
"Scripture doth best interpret itself." (Lowth.)
"Particular diligence should be used in comparing the parallel texts of the Old and New Testaments. It should be a rule with every one who would read the Holy Scriptures with advantage and improvement, to compare every text which may seem either important for the doctrine it may contain, or remarkable for the turn of expression, with the parallel passages in other parts of Holy Writ, i. e. with passages in which the subject matter is the same, the sense equivalent, or the turn of expression similar." (Bishop Horsley.) These parallel passages are easily found by the marginal references in Bibles of the larger form.
Bishop Horsley's remark may be thus illustrated: By referring to Gal. vi. 15, with v. 6, and 1 Cor. vii. 19, to explain what is meant by "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature," and by comparing these parallel texts, we learn he is a new creature who is under the influence of a faith which worketh by love, keeping the commandments of God; the term new creature implying a total change of principle, resulting from God's grace; (creation being the prerogative of God;) which a reference to John iii. 5, &c. confirms. So again, 2 Cor. i. 21, God is said to have
anointed us. In a parallel passage, 1 John fi. 20, where this turn of expression is used, the 27th verse of that chapter explains it to mean teaching, enduing with the gifts of the Spirit.
Bishop Horsley continues: "It is incredible, to any one who has not made the experiment, what a proficiency may be gained in that knowledge which maketh wise unto salvation, by studying the Scriptures in this manner, without any other commentary or exposition than what the different parts of the sacred volume mutually furnish for each other. Let the most illiterate Christian study them in this manner, and let him never cease to pray for the illumination of that Spirit by which these books are dictated, and the whole compass of abstruse philosophy and recondite history shall furnish no argument with which the perverse will of man shall be able to shake this learned Christian's faith." (Bishop Horsley.)
'O God, thou hast revealed more than we can know ; enough to make us happy! Teach us a sober knowledge, a contented ignorance." (Bishop Hall.)
QUESTIONS ON CHAP. IV.
The Scriptures speak of God as having hands, eyes, &c.; as repenting, swearing, hardening the heart, &c.; how are such passages to be understood? [p. 55.] What dangers must be guarded against on this subject?
What caution is necessary in the application to ourselves of Scripture examples, and also in reference to the silence of Scripture in not condemning a wrong action? [p. 57.]
To ascertain whether you rightly understand any doctrine, what must you do? and also, what must you do to render the doctrine of use to yourself? [p. 58.]
Shew that he who slights the doctrines of Christianity undermines its morality. [p. 59.]
Illustrate the practical use we should make of the promises and threatenings of Scripture. [pp. 60, 61.]
What are Archbishop Secker's rules for the interpretation of the Ten Commandments? [p. 61.]
Give some illustration of the figurative language adopted by the Prophets, and of the meaning of such figures as the falling of stars, &c. [p. 63, 64.]
What is Sir Isaac Newton's remark on the interpretation of unfulfilled prophecy? [p. 66.]
What two rules are of importance in the interpretation of Types? [p. 68.]
What must you particularly guard against in the interpretation of