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of consequence similarly exhibited in them all? In all we find one God, and only one, the maker of heaven and earth, and of every thing that they contain. From all we learn that the world was made in six days, that God rested the seventh. All agree in the work of each day, in giving man dominion over the brute creation, in the formation of the woman out of the body of the man, in the prohibition of the tree of knowledge, in man’s transgression and its consequences, in the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, in the deluge, in the preservation of Noah's family, and of the animal world, by the ark, in the confusion of tongues, in the histories given of the patriarchs.
It were tedious, I had almost said endless, to emumerate every thing. Take the story of Joseph for an example, the only one I shall specify. In what version of that most interesting narrative, oriental or occidental, ancient or modern, Jewish or Christian, Popish or Protestant, is any thing which can be justly called material, represented differently from what it is in the rest ? Do we not clearly perceive in every one of them the partiality of the parent, the innocent simplicity of the child, the malignant envy of the brothers, their barbarous purpose so cruelly executed, their artifice for deceiving their father, the young man's slavery in Egypt, his prudence, fidelity, piety, chastity, the infamous attempt of his mistress, and the terrible revenge she took of his virtuous refusal, his imprisonment, his behaviour in prison, the occasion of his release, Pharaoli's dreams, and Joseph's interpretation, the exaltation of the latter in Egypt,
the years of plenty and the years of famine, the interviews he had with his brothers, and the affecting manner in which he, at last, discovered himself to them? Is there any one moral lesson that
be deduced from any part of this history, (and none surely can be more instructive,) which is not sufficiently supported by every translation with which we are acquainted? Or is this coincidence of translations, in every material circumstance, consistent with the representations which have been given of the total obscurity and ambiguity of the original ? The reverse certainly.
$ 15. Nor is it necessary, in this inquiry, to confine one's self to the points merely historical, though, for brevity's sake, I have done it. Permit me only to add in a sentence, that the religious institutions, the laws and the ceremonies of the Jews, as far as they are founded on the express words of Scripture, and neither on tradition, nor on traditionary glosses, are, in every thing material, understood in the very same way, by both Jews and Christians. The principal points on which the Jewish sects differ so widely from one another, are supported, if not by the oral traditive law, at least by mystical senses, attributed by one party, and not acquiesced in by others, to those
passages of Scripture, about the literal meaning whereof all parties are agreed.
§ 16. Yet our critic will have it, that our knowledge of these things is confused and general. He
had granted more, as we have seen, than was compatible with his bold assertions above quoted; and therefore to disguise a little the inconsistency of those assertions with the concession now made, he encumbers it with the epithets confused and general. But let the fact speak for itself. Had there been any source of confusion in the original, was it
possible that there should have been such a harmony in translations made into languages so different, and by men who, in many things that concern religion, were of sentiments so contrary ? But if this knowledge be confused and general, I should like to be informed what this author, and those who think as he does, would denominate distinct and particular. part, I have not a more distinct and particular notion of any history, I ever read, in any language, than of that written by Moses. And if there has not been such a profusion of criticism on the obscurities and ambiguities which occur in other authors, it is to be ascribed solely to this circumstance, that what claims to be matter of revelation, awakens a closer attention, and excites a more scrupulous examination, than any other performance which, how valuaable soever, is infinitely less interesting to mankind. Nor is there a single principle by which our knowledge of the import of sacred writ, especially in what relates to Jewish and Christian antiquities, could be overturned, that would not equally involve all ancient literature in universal scepticism.
§ 17. Some perhaps will be ready to conclude from what has been advanced, that all new translations of Scripture must be superfluous, since the language is so clear, that no preceding translator has missed the sense in points of consequence. It is indeed true, that no translator, that I know, has missed the sense in points of principal consequence, whether historical events, articles of faith, or rules of practice; insomuch that we may with Brown safe. ly desire the sceptic 58, “ to chuse which he should “like best or worst among all the controverted “ copies, various readings, manuscripts, and cata
logues, adopted by whatever church, sect, or par“ ty ; or even any of the almost infinite number of “ translations made of these books in distant coun“ tries and ages, relying on it as amply sufficient “ for all the great purposes of religion and christianity.”
Yet it is not to be argued that, because the worst copy or translation contains all the essentials of religion, it is not of real consequence, by being acquainted with the best, to guard against errors, which, though comparatively of smaller moment, and not subversive of the foundation, impair the integrity, and often injure the consistency, as well as weaken the evidence, of our religious knowledge. Although the most essential truths are the most obvious, and accessible to the unlearned, as well as to the learned, we ought not to think lightly of any advances attainable in the divine science. There is a satisfac
Essays on the Characteristics, Ess. III. Sect. iij.
tion which the well-disposed mind receives from an increase of knowledge, that of itself does more than repay all the labour employed in the acquisition. If this hold, even in ordinary subjects, how much more in the most sublime? There is, besides, such a symmetry of parts in the divine institution we have by Jesus Christ, that a more thorough acquaintance with each part, serves to illustrate the other parts, and confirm our faith in the whole. And whatever in any degree corroborates our faith, contributes in the same degree to strengthen our hope, to enhance our love, and to give additional weight to all the motives with which our religion supplies us, to a pious and virtuous life.
These are reasons which ought to weigh with every Christian, and the more especially, as the most minute examination will never be found an unprofitable study, even to the most learned. It is with the good things of the Spirit, as with what are called the good things of life ; the most necessary are the most common, and the most easily acquired. But as, in regard to the animal life, it would be a reproach on those possessed of natural abilities, through torpid indolence, to look no further than mere necessaries, not exerting their powers for the attainment of those conveniencies whereby their lives might be rendered both more comfortable to themselves, and more beneficial to others; it is, beyond compare, more blameworthy to betray the same lazy disposition, and the same indifference, in what concerns the spiritual life. Barely to have faith, does not satisfy the mind of the