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church, have betrayed the waywardness of unpractised infancy at that work of authorship, in which they were but infants—one cannot but feel that they wrote under some powerful hold which at once guided and restrained them; and that, in the simplicity and purity and orderly keeping of all the parts in that venerable record, we have an internal evidence of as broad a distinction between the canonical and the uncanonical, as either the authority of the church or the innumerable written testimonies of the Christian fathers would serve to establish.
On the Supreme Authority of Revelation.
1. If the New Testament be a message from God, it behoves us to make an entire and unconditional surrender of our minds, to all the duty and to al} the information which it sets before us.
2. There is, perhaps, nothing more thoroughly beyond the cognisance of the human faculties, than the truths of religion, and the ways of that mighty and invisible Being, who is the object of it; and yet nothing, we will venture to say, has been made the subject of more hardy and adventurous speculation. We make no allusion at present to Deists, who reject the authority of the New Testament, because the plan or the dispensation of the Almighty, which is recorded there, is different frona that plan or dispensation which they have chosen to ascribe to Him. We speak of Christians, who profess to admit the authority of this record, but who have tainted the purity of their profession by not acting when they ought upon its exclusive authority; who have mingled their own thoughts, and their own fancy with its informations; who, instead of repairing even in those questions of which revelation should have the entire monopoly, to the principle of “what readest thou ?” have abridged the sovereignty of this principle, by appealing to others, which are utterly incompetent, as the reason of the thing, or the standard of orthodoxy; and so have brought down the Bible from the high place which belongs to it, as the only tribunal to which in all matters beyond the cognisance of the human faculties the appeal should be made, or from which the decision should be looked for.
3. But it is not merely among partisans or the advocates of a system, that we meet with this indifference to the authority of what is written. It lies at the bottom of a great deal of that looseness, both in practice and speculation, which we meet with every day in society, and which we often hear expressed in familiar conversation. Whence that list of maxims which are so indolently conceived, but which, at the same time, are so faithfully proceeded upon ?
66 We have all our passions and infirmities; but we have honest hearts, and that will make up for them. Men are not all cast in the same mould. God will not call us to task too rigidly for our foibles; at least this is our
opinion ; and God can never be so unmerciful, or so unjust, as bring us to a severe and unforgiving tribunal for the mistakes of the understanding." Now, it is not licentiousness in general, which we are speaking against. It is against that sanction which it appears to derive from the self-formed maxims of him who is guilty of it. It is against the principle, that either an error of doctrine, or an indulgence of passion, is to be exempted from condemnation, because it has an opinion of the mind to give it countenance and authority. What we complain of is, that a man no sooner sets himself forward and says, “ This is my sentiment,” than he conceives that all culpability is taken away from the error, either of practice or speculation, into which he has fallen. The carelessness with which the opinion has been formed, is of no account in the estimate. It is the mere existence of the opinion, which is pleaded in vindication,; and, under the authority of our maxim, and our mode of thinking, every man conceives himself to have a right to his own way and his own peculiarity.
4. Now this might be all very fair, were there no Bible and no revelation in existence. But it is not fair, that all this looseness, and all this variety, should be still floating in the world, in the face of an authoritative communication from God himself. Had no message come to us from the fountain-head of truth, it were natural enough for every
individual mind to betake itself to its own speculation. But a message has come to us, bearing on its forehead every character of authenticity; and is it right now, that the question of our faith, or of our
duty, should be committed to the capricious variations of this man's taste, or of that man's fancy? Our maxim, and our sentiment !
God has put an authoritative stop to all this. He has spoken; and the right or the liberty of speculation no longer remains to us. The question now is, not “ What thinkest thou ?” In the days of Pagan antiquity, no other question could be put; and the wretched delusions and idolatries of that period let us see what kind of answer the human mind is capable of making, when left to its own guidance, and its own authority. But we call ourselves Christians, and profess to receive the Bible as the directory of our faith; and the only question in which we are concerned is, “ What is written in the law; how readest thou?"
5. But there is a way of escaping from this conclusion. No man calling himself a Christian, will ever disown, in words, the authority of the Bible. Whatever be counted the genuine interpretation, it must be submitted to. But in the act of coming to this interpretation, it will be observed, there is room for the unwarrantable principles which we are attempting to expose.
The business of a scripture critic is to give a fair representation of the sense of all its passages as they exist in the original. Now, this is a process which requires some investigation; and it is during the time that this process is carrying on, that the tendencies and antecedent opinions of the mind are suffered to mislead the inquirer from the true principles of the business in which he is employed. The mind and meaning of the author, who is translated, is purely
a question of language, and should be decided upon no other principles than those of grammar or philology. Now, what we complain of is, that while this principle is recognised and acted upon in every other composition which has come down to us from antiquity, it has been most glaringly departed from in the case of the Bible: That the meaning of its Author, instead of being made singly and entirely a question of grammar, has been made a question of metaphysics, or a ques. tion of sentiment: That instead of the argument resorted to being, “such must be the rendering from the structure of the language, and the import and significancy of its phrases," it has been, “such must be the rendering from the analogy of the faith, the reason of the thing, the character of the divine mind, and the wisdom of all His dispensations.” And whether this argument be formally insisted upon or not, we have still to complain, that, in reality, it has a most decided influence on the understanding of many a Christian ; and in this way, the creed which exists in his mind, instead of being a fair transcript of the New Testament, is the result of a compromise which has been made betwixt its authoritative decisions and the speculations of his own fancy.
6. What is the reason why there is so much more unanimity among critics and grammarians about the sense of any ancient author, than about the sense of the New Testament? Because the one is made purely a question of criticism: The other has been complicated with the uncertain fancies of a daring and presumptuous theology. Could we