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but also in less learned quarters. Our country contains a considerable number of empirical students of the sacred volume, who have not enjoyed the benefit of a learned education, but who do not therefore consider themselves to be any wise disqualified for “handling the word of God," after a fashion peculiar to themselves. They are busy rather than mighty in the Scriptures, and often attempt to screen, by their apparent piety, their dangerous ignorance of the rules of interpretation. For such persons, the Hermeneutics of Dr. Davidson will form a most suitable guide, if they can be persuaded that they need “some man to teach them.” From its half-popular style, it is within the compass of their understandings ; from its piety it must command their reverence; by its clear and irrefragable defence of common-sense principles, it is calculated to abolish their private theories, and by its exhibition of calm and laborious research, it might abash their presumption. We believe that a diligent study of its pages by the rulers of the Plymouth brethren, would go far to abate that rash confidence in a supernatural direction, the extravagant distortion of an important truth, which leads them at one time to a neglect of the plain letter of the New Testament, that puts to shame their loud complaints of similar misdeeds in other men ; and at another, to fanciful interpretations of the Old Testament, which overthrow the basis of all reasonable exposition. No religious instructor could peruse this work, without feeling the deep responsibility of his office. When the Most High vouchsafed a written revelation, He proposed in his own mind, the idea of that which the science of Sacred Hermeneutics should be ; and this consideration imparts a religious importance to the character of the canons of interpretation applied to the holy records, which weighs upon the conscience with a force equivalent to the wisdom and the power of the will of God. If the Deity has spoken to man in words, upon the subject of eternal salvation and judgment, then the grammar, the syntax, and the hermeneutical laws of the languages employed, become invested with infinite importance; and he who will trifle with the testimony of a manuscript, the translation of a jot or tittle, much more with the cardinal rules of explanation which the writings themselves, or the understanding and conscience of the reader demand, is condemned already, because he hath “taken away from the words of the book," and has forfeited the insertion of his own name in “the book of life.” “A fault in interpretation is not of less magnitude,” in the strong phrase of Tertullian, “ than a fault in the life.”
We hasten, however, to present a brief abstract of the contents of the valuable work before us, especially as our readers will thus be enabled to form an opinion of its merits, much better than by any general eulogium. One thing farther, however, we must premise, and that is, that the present treatise differs from, and excels others on the same subject, by joining example with precept. More than half of the volume is occupied in illustrating the hermeneutical principles which it teaches ; so that the student of Scripture is presented, not only with canons for the interpretation of the Bible, but also with a large body of instances developing the mode of their application, and serving at once as beautiful models of exegesis, and as a valuable collection of annotations on difficult and disputed passages.
The treatise commences with an admirable chapter upon “ Hermeneutical qualifications,” which are described under the three heads of moral, intellectual, and literary. Under the first topic, the reader will find a series of most affecting observations upon the necessity of “a singleness of desire to know the mind of God, accompanied by a sincere and steady determination to obey it.” Much of the German Rationalistic error is traced to a deficiency in this important pre-requisite.
"No human science compensates for this single-hearted desire; no extent of acquirement furnishes an equivalent. It cannot be purchased for gold, or bought for silver; nor does it spring up spontaneously in the soil of unrenewed nature. Rather is it a plant of heavenly origin, pointing to God, its great author, and bearing fruit to the glory of his name. We are thus conducted to the source of that desire which forms a qualification indispensable to the true expositor. The influences of the Holy Spirit produce it. Without Him it cannot exist or abide in the heart. The training of the school suffices not to call it into existence, nor can a religious education furnish it.”-"I am quite persuaded that we shall never be penetrated with an abiding sense of the wisdom of thus putting ourselves directly under the tuition of God, until we receive His Spirit in answer to prayer. Do we supplicate at the footstool of mercy? The mind is enlightened, and the honest determination formed. Do we cease to pray? The soul is covered with the sable curtain of unbelief ; it loses the attributes of honesty and humility; the motives become complex and corrupt.”—pp. 3, 4.
Under the head of “Literary qualifications,” the author thus stirringly exhorts the student :
“We have no hope that the noble science of theology will make real advances, unless thorough students of the word of God, imbued with a love of sacred literature, and resolved to bring every thing to the test of Scripture, appear amongst us. Fundamental investigations of doctrines we do not expect to see, until men be impregnated with the belief, that the Bible is a mine whose treasures have not yet been exhausted. Soul-satisfying discussions, such as chase away every doubt, and convey the truth with irresistible cogency, inust needs be rare, so long as the great body of commentators are content with a meagre, miserable apparatus, by which a sound and healthful exegesis is soon starved. We desire another spirit to be infused into the accredited expositors of the Divine word. We commend to their acceptance a more copious and learned furniture. We would show them that they are oft feeding on husks. Did they resolve to study the words of truth, the words of truth would assuredly be better understood.”—p. 19.
The second chapter handles the delicate subject of the “Use of reason in the exposition of Scripture,” and it contains more condensed wisdom upon that ill-starred topic, than is usually comprised in the same number of pages. The offices of reason are defined to be,-first, to inquire whether the Bible be really from God; secondly, to discover what laws of interpretation should be applied to the Bible; and thirdly, to acquiesce in the statements so discovered.
The third chapter explains the necessary limitations of the sentiment that the "language of the Bible should be interpreted like that of other books,” especially with a view to the interpretation of prophecy. Dr. Davidson appears to subscribe to the views of Davison, the lamented prebend of Worcester ; and he combats those of Mr. Alexander, in his remarkable and too little known Congregational Lecture, on the question of the “double sense.”
After a brief account of the Allegorists, the author proceeds to a prolonged and minute history of biblical interpretation, in chapters v. and vi.; dividing his subject into the Patristic and Hierarchical periods. The earliest fathers are summarily disposed of: and it is indeed a matter for profound astonishment, to observe the immediate contrast between their feeble tone of thought and childish spirit of exposition, and the strong striking sense displayed in the writings of the apostles. It might surely have been imagined, that those who had held intercourse with the generation which witnessed the miracles of the Redeemer, and heard the heavenly wisdom of the Holy Ghost, would have left us in their writings something more substantial in the shape of “tradition,” than the insane and flimsy productions which pass under their names. We are happy to perceive, that both Doctors Davidson and Bennett have assigned to Justin Martyr a rank more befitting his intellectual character, than that which his Benedictine and other editors have usually given to him. That he was a man of rather remarkable talent is not to be denied ; but that his testimony with respect to Christian doctrine, is of much weight and importance, we can by no means allow. Any person who will compare the statements and opinions, for example, upon future punishment developed in the Apologies, with those which he afterwards published in the Trypho, chap. iv., will not for the future place great reliance upon his judgment or consistency.*
The hermeneutical character of Clement of Alexandria, is treated rather largely in connexion with the rise and spread of the doctrine of Gnosis,--a system which had its foundation in a great truth, but which was perverted into a dangerous error, through intellectual pride and carnal imagination, as well as by the excessive indulgence of an allegorical method of interpretation.
We cannot, however, afford to follow the author through this interesting patristic history; but we must point out, as worthy of great
* In connexion with this discrepancy, the student will find much interesting matter for speculation in Irenæus, lib. ii., the last chapter ; and in Arnobius, contra Gentes, lib. ii. passim.
commendation, the succinct, luminous, and judicious accounts of the modes of interpretation adopted by Origen, Jerome, and his illustrious contemporary, Augustine. On the whole, candid investigators, upon a review of the surviving biblical labours of the early Christians, will subscribe to Dr. Davidson's summary of their merits :
“ With the Scriptures themselves in our hands, we should not confine ourselves to the comments of the Fathers, nor suppose that they were placed in more favourable circumstances for ascertaining the true sense of the word of God.”—“They left much to be investigated by succeeding writers. They did not pour a flood of light on any book of Scripture. We have to begin afresh the study of the word, as if they had never written, and examine the pages of inspiration by all legitimate appliances. The reign of their influence over modern exegesis has been long and unpropitious ; let us hope and trust that it is approaching a termination.”—p. 162.
The history of interpreters is now carried on from the eighth century, commencing with Bede and Alcuin, down to the German reformers. We cannot but regard this laborious catena Patrium as a very valuable accession to our popular literature ; especially as we can conceive of nothing which would have the effect of leading the student into an earnest reverence for the “ grammatico-historical” sense, so well as such a connected view of the methods of writers who have unfortunately, for the most part, neglected it.
The eighth chapter comprises a general description of systems of interpretation :-the moral ; the psychologico-historical ; the accommodation system; the mythic; the rationalistic; and the Pietist. In these pages will be found a large fund of clearly-digested information upon the subject of German philosophy and theology; but we could have wished for a more discursive treatment of the Pietist system of interpretation in an English work. We seem to observe, that this will be increasingly a form of error which our native ministry will be called to oppose ; and it is a subject demanding more consideration than it has usually received. A work which should determine and set forth, in a simple and decisive manner, the unwarrantableness of the ideas of the Pietists, Momiers, Brethren, &c., on supernatural assistance in interpretation, is still a desideratum.
The question now arises, “What mode of interpretation do we profess to adopt ?”—and it is answered by the author in chapters viii., ix., X., to be the grammatico-historical. The reader will here find condensed the best matter of the most approved hermeneutical writers ; the judgment and accuracy of Ernesti and Stuart without their dryness; a sufficient number of scientific rules to insure success, yet a due and perpetual acknowledgment of the supreme importance of common sense in the process of interpretation ; and, as before, an abundant array of illustrations and examples to enforce and enliven the explanation of the principles propounded.
N. 8. VOL. VII.
The eleventh chapter is nearly two hundred pages in length, and treats at large the difficult subject of quotations from the Old Testament in the New : considering, First, The source or sources whence quotations in the New Testament were taken ; Second, The various modes in which they were made ; including the topic of introductory formulas, and the degree of accuracy with which they adhere to the originals ; and, Third, The purposes for which they are cited in the New Testament. Under the second head of this division the reader is presented with a synoptical view of all the Old Testament quotations contained in the New, arranged in four parallel columns, of which the first is the Septuagint version ; the second, the Greek of the New Testament; the third, the Hebrew text; and the fourth, the English version. At the foot of each page are appended brief notes indicating the author's opinion in cases of difficulty, as to the cause of any existing diversity, the apostolic quotation, the Septuagint or the Hebrew text, as commonly understood. This compendium will be found a useful substitute for the more extensive works of Surenbusius, Drusius, Michaelis, and Randolph. On the whole, we cannot but regard these notes and the collation of the texts as a very desirable addition to an introductory work; and when the reader considers the extent of the difficulty sought to be obviated, and the malicious use frequently made of apparent discrepancies by Jews and infidels, he will not regret, that so minute and prolonged an examination has been given to the subject as a branch of sacred hermeneutics.
The topic of quotations is further carried out in a discourse upon introductory formulas, more full than that which was recently exhibited by Mr. Alexander in the Congregational Lecture already referred to, and equally free from an injudicious attempt to systematise them, after the manner of Surenbusius. Dr. Davidson boldly argues for the occasional use of accommodation by the inspired writers, but guards this delicate and necessary admission by a careful refutation of many important misapplications of that principle of interpretation. This laborious excursus concludes with some useful remarks upon the bearing of the previous induction upon the indefensible theory of verbal inspiration.
The twelfth chapter treats at large the alleged contradictions of Scripture, whether supposed to exist between one Old Testament writer and another, or between writers of the New Testament, or between the writers of the two Testaments. Under the second head a lucid discussion (chiefly extracted from Dr. Barrett) is introduced upon the genealogy of our blessed Saviour.
The thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth chapters explain and illustrate the utility of ancient versions and commentaries; of cognate languages; and of general information, in the interpretation of the word of God; and the work concludes with a biographical account of