Page images

provide for him a version in his native tongue, are most awfully pledged to see that that version is a good one- -is the very best that learning and talent and acknowledged piety and diligent collective research can make it. Shall the body of learned Christians rest satisfied from age to age in this respect, if passages bearing upon man's duty and his eternal interests remain obscure, not because their Author made them obscure, but because the Church has not used the best secondary means to illuminate them? Granted unequivocally, that our own authorized version is pre-eminently good; that above 200 years ago all the best ability of the land was brought to bear on the revision of it; that it stands forth in a stereotype, bold and sharp and bright, so that, as to all material points of doctrine and practice "he who runs may read it;" yet it may be asked, Have the Church authorities, the learned part of the clergy, done their duty in this matter? Will any competent scholar say that all has been done which might have been done to give the plain and simple reader of an English version all the help that he might have in searching the written will of God? Has this unspeakably important subject weighed sufficiently on the minds of the right reverend bench? In the midst of secular parliamentary discussion, have they rightly felt the burden of this matter, and given it the advantage of their late and early investigations? In the course of two centuries and a half, much valuable criticism and much prayerful enquiry into the meaning of the text of Scripture has occurred. Has there been no permanent or occasional commission to watch with holy eagerness over these researches, and to give the authorized version the benefit of

this growing light? Can the bishops of this day say that all has been done which ought to have been done to take away from the cause of God and Protestantism the saucy reproach of Rome, that, after all, the Holy Scripture is an obscure book? If all had been done that might have been done, would it have been possible, in the 19th century, for any unlettered layman, who can only read his mother tongue, however well-meaning in purpose, and pious in his own submission to the authority of Scripture, to have disturbed the English reader with a parade of 20,000 emendations of the sacred text? Surely, after making all due allowance for the justifiable hesitancy to disturb the hallowed permanency of a national version, there is enough on the face of Dr. Conquest's title-page to show, that the authorities of the Church might have moved profitably in this matter, if they had deeply felt the paramount importance of the Protestant principle; and that amidst the cares that pressed down the mitre upon their brow, other things not so vitally momentous have appeared to claim more forcibly, perhaps too forcibly, prelatic attention. But surely, there can be few positions taken more safely than this, that if it is right for the common student of Scripture in the vulgar tongue to search for himself, it is of the very first moment to see that the version put into his hands should be as nearly as possible a clear, calm, unvacillating reflection of the original.

The duty of the private Christian is a very plain one. It is to deal, in the first place, (humbly and reverently, of course,) as he would with an act of parliament, or with the charter of the liberties of his country. The collective substance of its meaning must be the grand point with him. And this is to be

obtained, not by guessing, nor by sudden discovery, nor by the exercise of a fanciful ingenuity in twisting plain passages, and bringing out mystical meanings; but by calm and patient and diligent reading and re-reading, comparing passage with passage, history with precept, prophecy with fulfilment, type with antitype, spiritual things with spiritual, till the whole harmonious system of this volume of a thousand years stands out in bright, intelligible prominence before him.

We have spoken hitherto of the mode only by which either the learned or unlearned student is to attain to the simple grammatical meaning of the text of Holy Scripture. There is another point to which we purpose to advert, which is of deep importance to both. There is something more to be found in the Word of God than the grammatical meaning of its several sentences, or the collective wisdom of its whole announcement; there is divine teaching; there is intercourse with God; there is the agency of the Holy Spirit through the written truth, upon the human mind. This is the grand object and purpose of the written record. The Almighty, by the agency of his Spirit, has led certain "holy men of God," at different periods of the world, to put forth certain truths and statements which their minds had previously received. These truths and statements are not merely to be read, comprehended, and thought upon by other men; but they are to be the rational channel through which that same divine influence is to come upon their minds also, and to enter in and dwell there as a new life, a renewing agency. This is the great and essential distinction between theoretic and spiritual and saving knowledge. The Spirit of DECEMBER-1845.

God operates by the word to produce new principles, feelings, tendencies, and actions; to alter, by his own indwelling, the relation in which the creature stands to God: and to make all his moral acting thenceforth, not an independent creature-agency claiming individual merit before God, but an emanation from the heavenly source with which it has become vitally identified-an offshoot from the communicable holiness of God.

Now, it is a great matter to have arrived seriously at this view of the Holy Scripture. It is the exclusive channel of spiritual quickening and renovation. Whether men receive it through the secondary agency of books which quote the word, or ministers who preach it, or prayer-books and liturgical services that embody it, the work is the same; and it stands alone; the Holy Spirit accomplishing the eternal purpose of grace, dictates the written word, and then flows through it as a channel into the human soul to rescue it from the fall and condemnation, and to make it a partaker of the divine nature."

[ocr errors]

How infinitely this exalts the Scriptures! In what an exclusively dignified position it places "the Word." "The Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intent of the heart." Now it is of the first moment for the Scriptural student, whether learned or unlearned, whether reading in the original languages or in a modern tongue, to be fully and reverentially persuaded of this fact. Here, in these sacred heaven-descended words and thoughts, I must expect to meet God, and to realize the vivifying influence of his power and grace.

3 Y

I must bow in the spirit of a submissive worship before this Shechinah of the divine glory, and expect life and holiness and peace to emanate from it into my soul. There is much in this preparation of the heart. In nature there is an invisible and somewhat mysterious influence flowing round the earth, called the magnetic. It is found in every latitude and every climate of our world. Its influence everywhere upon the needle of the compass, wherever the mariner sails, proves its universality. This is well known; but there is another fact not so generally known-that all over the globe every piece of iron placed in a particular direction, called the magnetic meridian, has a tendency to receive this influence, and to become magnetic, and to develope magnetic qualities; and that any piece of iron placed in a position at right angles to that, which is called the magnetic plane, acquires an incapability to receive magnetic influence. The influence is there is universal. It accumulates on the one, it leaves the other untouched. In the one position, every successive vibration increases the magnetic power. In the other, every vibration diminishes it.

And so it is with the influence of the Holy Spirit through the written word. There is an humble, tractable disposition, which places the soul in a right relation for receiving and cherishing this heavenly guest. There is also a state of mind, even towards the sacred word itself, a hard, unbroken, self-sufficient, and critical spirit, which neutralizes and rejects it. The unquestionable fact in nature beautifully illustrates one of the greatest mysteries of God's moral and spiritual government; and calls upon us to take that right position towards this only channel of heavenly influence, which shall

make the gracious possibility of the gift a blessing and not a curse. To the Romanist and the Socinian, the possession of that word, from which they withhold due reverence, does not preserve them from "believing a lie," or receiving "strong delusions;" nay, through their own ready and wilful perversion of the sacred page, it seems to confirm them in their error. So when the ark of God was captive in the hands of the Philistines, it was to them but a source of affliction.


The hand of the Lord was heavy upon them;" and it smote also with equal severity the profane curiosity of the men of Bethshemesh, and the irreverent familiarity of Uzzah; while it was a source of blessing to the house of ObedEdom, and all that pertained to him. No reverence can be too

high for the channel of supernatural communication. The spirit of the 19th Psalm is that which becomes the scriptural student. We should regard it as the sun of the moral world, the commanding and unrivalled source of light. The external and internal evidence of the inspiration of Scripture is so properly and really sufficient that no extraordinary display of divine presence or power, no hand-writing on the wall, no illumined cross in the sky, should have more direct and authoritative control over us than the written word. "If they believe not Moses and the prophets neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead." We should wait before it as submissively as if we saw materially in it, what it really is—the cherubic manifestation whose flaming sword turns every way, to keep, that is, to preserve in covenantmercy, the tree of life. The phenomena of nature may tell much of the attributes of God, but there is here a still small voice which calls

[blocks in formation]


If it is so important to distinguish between the glorious object of the Bible Society and any infirmity or supposed awkwardness in its machinery, it is not less so to regard it in its twofold character of home and foreign operation. I am persuaded that the Society often suffers from a too exclusive view of its home proceedings. I admit that the rochial minister has a right to regard himself as responsible for the due supply of Bibles amongst his flock; and I admit that the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge would not fail to meet every demand that may thus be made upon them; nor should I be otherwise than glad to see every parish throughout the land supplied through this channel; nor would I blame the clergyman who resolved to discharge his duty to his parishioners through this medium, and through it alone. Yet still our parishes have not got thoroughly supplied with Bibles through the parochial clergy; nor has the zeal of the Bible Society in its home operations provoked the members of the Church by way of emulation to do their duty herein. One glance at the Reports of the Bible Society may suffice to show how necessary have been its efforts in

our own country, and still continue to be. And who would dare to wish this blessed work suspended or curtailed?

Yet, after all, what are all the operations of the Bible Society in Britain compared with those abroad? and is it reasonable or Christian to be so taken up with what appears to be exceptionable in its home proceedings, as to lose sight of the grandeur and extensiveness of its foreign operations? If the clergy will supply the wants around them in their own way, by all means let them do so. let every one in our beloved country possess a Bible, and we care not from whence it issues.


But can a clergyman really contemplate the wants of the world at large, and for a moment hesitate to avail himself of that sole existing instrumentality by which they can be supplied!

Every thought is comparatively of little moment in the contemplation of the universal dissemination of the divine word throughout the world. And we repeat it again and again, we are so anxious that it should be duly and calmly pondered, that there is no other machinery in existence for supplying the world's wants but the Bible So

ciety; so that until there is another institution in existence with its 160 translations and versions, they who stand aloof from the Bible Society either on principle refute the necessity and duty of circulating the Scriptures throughout the world, or, professing to acknowledge this duty, incur the responsibility of hiding their talent under a napkin, and run the risk of being regarded as slothful servants. 66 'To him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin." Oh, that my dear brethren in the ministry would consider in their excessive sensitiveness regarding contact with Dissenters, which leads them practically to lose sight of the grand object which it has in view, that the Great Head of the Church does not disdain to promote his designs by such alliances; nay, in his mysterious wisdom he has been pleased to accomplish his greatest works by unhallowed and unworthy associations of fallible beings. The very planting of his Church on earth was not, even under all the delicate and difficult circumstances of the case, to be effected by an entirely faithful and devoted band of fellow-helpers; but amongst the twelve apostles a traitor was permitted to have his place, even to the end. I am putting the case in an extreme point of view, and must not be understood as placing the Dissenters for a moment on a footing with Judas; but I think the argument is conclusive; and that we have a right to ask, if Christ saw fit to employ a Judas in the establishment of his kingdom on earth, is it for a Churchman to stand aloof from the most probable and most unexceptionable method of extending that kingdom, because they who differ from him are nevertheless anxious to participate in its accomplishment? Will the most bigoted Churchman ven

ture to deny that Christ is pleased to own Dissenters for his servants, and to bless their work? Can he cast his eye over the world and survey the great things which they are doing abroad, and for a moment doubt this? Then if Christ is manifestly employing Dissenters for his work in the world, who are we and what are they, that we should refuse to go hand in hand and heart in heart with them in the furtherance of an object which we all admit to be unexceptionable and essential? Oh, that the matter could only be rightly regarded in this point of view.

But if ever there was a time when the Bible Society presented itself as of the most urgent importance, it is the present. Popery, in its various influences, is making a fearful, though we believe an expiring struggle. But its dark, chilling clouds are overshadowing Christendom, and chiefly Britain; how important, then, that the word of God should shine forth everywhere as the sun in the firmament; how important to be in haste to fill the world with Bibles!

And if we look at our Missionary settlements, a spectacle presents itself which saddens and disturbs our feelings beyond anything that has hitherto had to be contended with. It is not the prejudice and the impracticable ignorance of the natives; it is not the difficulty of the languages; it is not the sacrifice of health and life; no, all this and much more has been overcome. The Stronger than the strong man armed has manifested himself as mighty to save. The Spirit has been poured out, and we have almost seen "nations born in a day:" but the sight which makes us weep, is that of the Jesuits and Popish missionaries going forth to disturb the native churches, and to uproot, if it were possible, all that

« PreviousContinue »