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and solid knowledge, and whose chief design is to lead us into an acquaintance with things, or to enable us the more easily to convey those ideas, or that knowledge to others. An acquaintance with the various tongues is nothing else, but a relief against the mischief which the building of Babel introduced : and were I master of as maoy languages as were spoken at Babel, I should make but a poor pretence to true learning or knowledge, if I had not clear and distinct ideas, and useful notions in niy bead under the words wbich my tongue could pronounce. Yet so uns happy a thing is buman nature, that this sort of knowledge of sounds and syllables is ready to puff up the mind with yanity, more than the most valuable and solid improvements of it. The pride of a grammarian or a critic, generally exceeds that of a philosopher..
CHAP. VIII.-Of enquiring into the Sense and Meaning of
any Writer or Speaker, and especially the Sense of the Sacred Writing s.
It is a great unhappiness that there is such an ambiguity in words and forms of speech, that the same sentence may be drawn into different significations ; whereby it comes to pass, that it is difficult sometiines for the reader exactly to hit upon the ideas which the writer or speaker had in his mind. Some of the best rules to direct us herein are such as these :
1. Be well acquainted with the tongue itself, or language wherein the author's mind is expressed. Learn not only the true meaning of each word, but the sense which those words obtain when placed in such a particular situation and order. Acquaint yourself with the peculiar power and emphasis of the several modes of speech, and the various idioms of the tongue. The secondary ideas which custom hath superadded to many words, should also be kpown, as well as the particular and primary meaning of them, if we would understand any writer. See Logic, Part I. Chap. 4, Sec. 3.
II. Consider the signification of those words and phrases, more especially in the same nation, or near the same age in whịch that writer lived, and in what sense they are used by authors of the same nation, opinion, sect, party, &c.
Upon this account, we may learn to interpret several phrases of the New Testament out of that version of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which is called the Septuagint ; for though that version be very inperiect and defective in 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
axthor, 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 ex. plain himself. Hence that theological rule arises, that “ scriplure is the best interpreter of scripture ;' and therefore concord. ances, 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 bis 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 wbich 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 agtbors, when they are treating of a quite different subject, may use perbaps 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 : enquire into his aim and end in that book, or section, or paragraplı, which will help to explain particular sentences : for we suppose a wise and judicious writer directs his expressions generally toward bis designed end.
VI. When an author speaks of any subject occasionally, let kis sense be explained by those places where he treats of it distinctly and professedly: Where be treats of any subject in mystical or metaphorical terins, 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 whiere he treats of the same theme in a doctrinal or instructive way : Where the author speaks more strictly, and particularly on any theine, it will explain the more loose and general expressions : Where he treats more largely, it will explain the shorter bints and brief intimations : And wheresoever he writes more ohscurely, search out some more perspicuous passages in the same writer, by wbich to determine the sense of that obscurer language.
VII. Consider not only the person who is introduced speak. ing, but the persons to whom the speech is directed, the circuinstances of time and place, the temper and spirit of the speaker, as well as the temper and spirit of the bearers : 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 pot 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 ivferences ; 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 allusion 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 oth chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, because of the objection brought 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 righteoustess.
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 bad 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 in vidious sepse 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, Reinember 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 wbat you write or speak; and maintain upon your spirit an awful sense of the presen ce of God, who is the judge of hearts, and will punish
those who by a base and dishonest tura of mind wilfully pervert the meaning of the sacred writers, or even of common authors, under the influence of culpable prejudices. See more, Logic, Part I. Chap. 6. Sec. 3. Directions concerning the Definition of Names.
CHAP. IX.-Rules of Improvement by Conversation.
I. IF we would improve our minds by conversation, it is a great happiness to be acquainted with persons wiser than our. seloes. 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 trifles and impertinence. If you spend some hours amongst 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 creatare grows up to the use of his reasoning powers, and wbat early prejudices beset and endanger his understanding. By this ineans you will learn how to address yourself to children for their benefit, and perhaps you may derive some uscful philosophemes or theorems, for your own entertainment.
III. If you happen to be in company with a merchant or a sailor, a farmer or a mechanic, a milk.maid or a spinster, lead them into a discourse of the matters of their own peculiar 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 you meet.
IV. Confine not yourself always to one sort of company, or to persons of the same party or opinion, either in malters 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 ditferent parties, opinions, and practices (so far as it may be done safely) is of excellent use to undeceive us in many wrong judgments wbich we may have framed, and to lead us into juster thoughts. It is said when the King of Siain, near China, first conversed with some European merchants, who sought the favour of trading on bis coast, he enquired 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 med, and borses, and laden carriages passed over it, and that rain sometipes fell down almost as white and light as feathers, and sometimes alınost as hard as stones, he would not believe a syllable they said : for ice, snow, and huil, where dames and things utterly unknown to him, and to his subjects in that lot cliinate : he renounced all traffic with such shameful liars, and would not suffer them to trade with his people. See here the patural effects of gross igoorance.
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 imbibe concerning them. Domicillus has never travelled five miles from his mother's chimney, and he imagines all outlandisha men are Papishes, and worship nothing but a crose. Tityrus the shepberd, was bred up all bis life in the country, and never saw Rome; he fancied it to be only a huge village, and was therefore infinitely surprised to find such palaces, such streets, such glittering treasures and gay magnificence as his first journey to the city shewed him, and with wonder be confesses his folly and mistake.
So Virgil introduces a poor shepherd,
And thither drive our tender lambs from home.
Conversation would have given Tityrus a better notion of Rome, though he had never happened to travel thither.
V. In mixed company among acquaintance and strangers endeavour lo learn something from all. Be swift to hear, but be cautious of your tongue, lest you betray your ignorance, and perlaps offend some of those who are present too. The scripture severely censures those who speak evil of the things they know not. Acquaint yourself therefore sometimes with persons and parties which are far distant from your common life and customs; this is a way wbereby you may form a wiser opinion of men and things. Prove all things and hold fast that which is good, is a divine rule, and it comes from the Father of light and truth. But young persons should practise it indeed with due limitation and under the eye of their elders.
VI. Be not frightened nor provoked at opinions different from your own. Some persons are so confident they are in the right, that they will not come withiu the bearing of any notious