Page images
PDF
EPUB

fine the word reformation. It may be said that, in using the terms repent and repentance, as our translators have done, for both the original terms, there is no risk of any dangerous error; because, in the theological definitions of repentance, given by almost all parties, such a reformation of the disposition is in. cluded, as will infallibly produce a reformation of conduct. This, however, does not satisfy. Our Lord and his Apostles accomodated themselves in their style to the people whom they addressed, by employing words according to the received and vul. gar idiom, and not according to the technical use of any learned doctors. It was not to such that this doctrine was revealed, but to thuise who, in respect of acquired knowledge, were babes 139 The learned use is known, comparatively, but to a few : and it is certain that with us, according to the common acceptation of the words, a man may be said just as properly to repent of a good, as of a bad, action. A covetous man will repent of the alms which a sud. den fit of pity may have induced him to bestow. Besides, it is but too evident, that a man may often justly be said to repent, who never reforms. In nei. ther of these ways do I find the word uETAVOEw ever used.

I have another objection to the word repent. It unavoidably appears to lay the principal stress on the sorrow or remorse which it implies for former misconduct. Now this appears a secondary matter, at

[blocks in formation]

the most, and not to be the idea suggested by the Greek verb. The primary object is a real change of conduct. The Apostle expressly distinguishes it from sorrow, in a passage lately quoted, representing it as what the sorrow, if of a godly sort, terminates in, or produces. Η κατα Θεον λυπη μετανοιαν κατεργαZetou, rendered in the common version, Godly sorrow worketh repentance. Now, if he did not mean to say that the thing was caused by itself, or that repentance worketh repentance (and who will charge him with this absurdity ?) η κατα Θεον λυπη is one thing, and usTavola is another. But it is certain that our word repentance implies no more in common use, even in its best sense, than in xata Osov auan, and often not so much. It is consequently not a just interpretation of the Greek word ueTavoia, which is not û xata sov aunin, but its certain consequence. Grief or remorse, compared with this, is but an acci. dental circumstance. Who had more grief than Judas, whom it drove to despondency and self-destruction ? To him the Evangelist applies very properly the term METAWEnbeis, which we as properly translate repented. He was in the highest degree dissatisfied with himself. But, to show that a great deal more is necessary in the Christian, neither our Lord himself, as we have seen, nor his forerunner John, nor his Apostles and ministers who followed, ever expressed themselves in this manner, when recommending to their hearers the great duties of Christianity. They never called out to the people, LETAMELEOSE, but always uETAVOELTE. "If they were so attentive to this

distinction, in order to prevent men, in so important an article, from placing their duty in a barren remorse, however violent; we ought not surely to express this capital precept of our religion, by a term that is just as well adapted to the case of Judas, as to that of Peter. For the Greek word ueTaue oual, though carefully avoided by the inspired writers, in expressing our duty, is fully equivalent to the English word repent.

$ 11. I shall now, ere I conclude this subject, consider briefly in what manner some of the principal translators have rendered the words in question into other languages. I shall begin with the Syriac, being the most respectable, on the score of antiquity, of all we are acquainted with. In this venerable version, which has served as a model to interpreters in the East; in like manner as the Vulgate has served to those in the West, the distinction is uniformly preserved. Metavosiv is rendered in thub, to reform, to return to God, to amend one's life; METAVOLA xnian thebutha, reformation ; METALE EoSat is rendered xin thua, to repent, to be sorry for what one has done. Nor are these Syriac words ever confounded as synonymous, except in the Apocalypse, which, though now added in the printed editions, is no part of that ancient translation, but was made many centuries after.

The second place in point of antiquity is, no doubt, due to the Vulgate, where, I acknowledge, there is no distinction made. The usual term for detavola

is pænitentia, for jetavosw and yetaus nouai, indis. criminately, pænitentiam ago, pænitentiam habeo, poeniteo, or me pænitet. These can hardly be said to express more than the English words repentance and repent. Metavolav ameta_Eartov is not improperly rendered pænitentiam stabilem, agreeably to an acceptation of the term above taken notice of.

Beza, one of the most noted, and by Protestants most imitated, of all the Latin translators since the reformation, has carefully observed the distinction, wherever it was of consequence; for, as I remarked, there are a few cases in which either term might have been used in the original, and concerning which, a translator must be directed by the idiom of the tongue in which he writes. The same distinction had been made before, though not with perfect uniformity, by the translators of Zuric. Beza's word for METAVOEw is resipisco, and for METAVota, resipiscentia. To this last term he was led both by analogy, and (if not by classical authority) by the authority of early ecclesiastical writers, which, in the translation of holy writ, is authority sufficient. These words have this advantage of pænitere and pænitentia, that they always denote a change of some conti. nuance, and a change to the better. For uerqueãoua his word is pænitere. Thus MetaMendels, spoken of Judas, is pænitens : Metavoiav auetauentov, resipiscentiam cujus nunquam pæniteat, in which the force of both words is very well expressed. So is also αμετανοητον καρδιαν, cor guod resipiscere nescit. Erasmus, one of the earliest translators on the Ro

mish side, uses both resipisco and pænitentiam ago, but with no discrimination. They are not only both employed in rendering the same word usTAVOEW, but even when the scope is the same. Thus LETAVOELTe, in the imperative, is at one time resipiscite, at another pænitentiam agite : so that his only view seems to have been to diversify his style.

Castalio, one of the most eminent Latin Protestant translators, has been sensible of the distinction, and careful to preserve it in his version. But, as his great aim was to give a classical air to the books of Scripture, in order to engage readers of taste who affected an elegant and copious diction; he has disfigured, with his adventitious ornaments, the native simplicity which so remarkably distinguishes the sacred penmen, and is, in fact, one of their greatest ornaments. We can more easily bear rusticity than affectation, especially on the most serious and important subjects. Among other arts, by which Castalio has endeavoured to recommend his work, one is a studied variety in the phrases, that the ear may not be tired by too frequent recurrence to the same sounds. The words under consideration afford a strong example. The verb METAVow is translated by him, I know not how many different ways. It is se corrigere, vitam corrigere, redire ad frugem, redire ad sanitatem, reverti ad sanitatem ; when the vices which we are required to amend are mentioned, the phrase is, desciscere a sua pravi. tate, desistere a turpitudine, desistere a suis operibus, impudicitia sua recedere, sua homicidia, &c.

« PreviousContinue »