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CASE X. İlhether it be lawful, for a man that is not a professed divine, that is,
as we for distinction are wont to call him, for a laic person to take
uponi him to interpret the Scripture. MANY distinct considerations had need to make way to the answer.
First, it is one thing, for a man to interpret Scripture; another thing, to take upon him the function of preaching the Gospel, which was perhaps in your intention. This is far more large than the other. “Every man, that preacheth, interpreteth the Scripture: but, every one, that interprets Scripture, doth not preach. To interpret Scripture, is only to give the sense of a text: but, to preach, is to divide the word aright; to apply it to the conscience of the hearer, and, in an authoritative way, to reprove sin, and de. nounce judgment against sinners : to lay forth the sweet promises of the Gospel to the faithful and penitent: for the performing whereof, there must be a commission to God's minister, from him, that sends him: upon which the Apostle hath pronounced a Tís induós Who is sufficient for these things ?
Secondly, it must be considered, in what nature, and within what compass, the interpretation is : for, doubtless, the just degrees of callings must be herein duly observed; whether in a public way, as pastors of congregations; or in a private way, as masters of famifies : whether in the schools, in a mere grammatical way; or in the church, in a predicatory.
Thirdly, it must be considered, as what the calling, so what the gifts are of the interpreter : for, surely, mere interpretation doth not depend upon the profession, but upon the faculty of the undertaker; whether he be learned or ignorant; whether skilful in languages and arts (which certainly must be required in whosoever would put forth his hand to so holy and great a work), or whether inexpert in both. Where these gifts of interpretation and eminent endowments of learning are found, there can be no reason of restraining them from an exercise so beneficially edificatory to the Church of God: without which, the truth of Christian Religion had wanted much, both of her vigour and lustre, in all generations. How famously is it known, that Origen, before his entering into Holy Orders, even at eighteen years of his age, entered into that great work of his catechisings ! Apollos, the Alexandrian, was ar eloquent man, and mighty in Scriptures, and taught diligently the things of the Lord; yet knew nothing but the baptism of John, till Aquila and Priscilla took him to task, and more perfectly e.rpounded to him the way of God; Acts xviii. 24, 25. And, what happy us it pleased God to make of laic hands, for both the defence and propagation of the Gospel, we need no other witness than St. Jerome; who hath memorized amongst the primitive Christians, Aristides, Agrippa, Hegesippus, Justin, Musanus, Modestinus, both the Apollonii, Heraclius, Maximus, and many others, whom God raised up amongst the learned laity of those times, to apologize for Christianity. And, in the last foregoing age, how scarce removed out of our sight, are Laurentius Valla, both the Earls of Mirandula, Capnio, Fagius, Erasmus, Faber, and the rest of those famous way-makers to the succeeding restitution of the evangelical truth! And, what a treasure in this kind had the Church of God Jost, if it should have missed the learned Annotations upon the Scripture, derived to us from the hands of Mercerus, Joseph Scaliger, Drusius, both Causabons, Tilenus, Grotius, Heinsius, Selden, and such other expert philologists, nerer initiated into Sacred Orders ?
Fourthly, due and serious consideration must be had of the interpretation itself; that it be genuine and orthodox : for there can be nothing in the world more dangerous than to mis-construe God speaking to us in his word; and to affix upon his Divine Oracles a sense of our own, quite dissonant from the intention of that Spirit of Truth.
Care, therefore, must be taken, that the interpretation given, be every way conform to the analogy of faith, and fully accordant to other Scripture.
The neglect whereof, through either ignorance or misprision hath bred inany foul and perilous solecisms in divinity. To give you a taste of too full a dish :- In the xvilith of Ecclesiasticus *, where the Vulgate reads, “ He, that lives for ever, created all things at once," some, and those no mean ones, of the Ancient, followed also by later interpreters, have been mis-led into an ungrounded conceit of an instantany and entire creation of the world, and all the parts thereof, in the first moment of time; whereas the Scripture bath expressly and punctually set down the several six days, wherein each part of it was distinctly formed: which those misconstruers are fain to understand of the distinct notifications given to the angels, concerning this almighty work : and what curious subtleties have been hereupon raised by our School-Divines t, is more fit to be past over with an unpleasing smile, than to be seriously recounted: whereas, the intention of the place, is only to signify that God made all things in the universal world, that have any being; intimating, not the time of creations, but, as our Version hath it, the generality of things created 1. What advantage the blasphemous Arians have formerly taken from the mis-interpretation of Proverbs viii. 22. where Wisdom is brought in, by the mistaking of some Antients, to say, The Lord created's me, instead of possessed me, in the beginning of his way, before his works of old, is more worthy of indignation, than any farther prosecution. But, most pregnant and notable is the gross misprision of a late famous schoolman, Franciscus d'Arriba, confessor to the late queen mother of France; who, to maintain that new way of reconciling that
* Eccl. xvii. 1. ixlos tanárra xosyn. + xorn, communiler. Mont. # Estii Annotat. in locum. s Prov. viii. 22. '33p.
scholastical ditierence among the Roman Doctors, concerning the effectual aid of divine grace, depending or ‘not depending upon free will (about which he had sixty days' disputation with Cardinal Ascoly and Cardinal Bellarmin; shewing how it might well be maintained without the devices of physical predeterminations, or that scientia media of our late Jesuits) relies chiefly for his opinion upon that test of Isaiah xlv. 11. Hec dicit Dominus, Sanctus Israelis, qui fecit ventura*: Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, who hath made things to come ; following a mis-edition of the Vulgate, which perverts the sense, by making a wrong stop in the sentence; whereas their own Montanus, and any other that hath but seen the Hebrew Text, would read it; Hæc dicit Dominus, Sanctus Israelis, qui fecit eum; Ventura interrogate me: Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel; and his Maker: Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, &c: referring the ventura, things to come, to the following interrogate. So Poza, the late extravagant doctor of Spain, in the maintenance of his novel opinions against Fathers and Councils, pressed against him, stands upon his defence, out of the Synod of Constantinople, Act. 5. grounded upon the words of miscalled Solomon; Beatus, qui predicat verbum inauditum ; Ecclus. xxv. 9. “ Blessed is he, that preaches a word unheard of;" corrupt. ing both the Text and the Council: whereas it should be read, verbuin inauditum obedientis: and the Council hath it aright, eis archiv ÚTuubovios; as ours.turns it likewise, “ Well is he, that speaketh in the ears of them, that will hear.” It were easy to fill a just volume, with instances of this kind.
To this purpose, it will be requisite to make use of all those helps, that may enable an interpreter to understand the Scriptures; whether those that are internal in itself, or external from other supplies.
Of the former kind, are a diligent sifting of the context and inference, and a careful comparing and conferring of one Scripture with another: for all truths agree with themselves; and this word of God is the sun, that gives us light to see itself
. External: where it will be needful to call, both for the aid of arts and tongues; and for the testimonies and judgments of reverend antiquity, and the not-to-be-neglected authority of modern doctors; and, thirdly, a due regard of those golden rules of interpreting, which are recommended to posterity by the learned pens of Clemens of Alexandria, Jerome, Augustin, Gerson, Hyperius, Illyricus, Jacobus Matthias, and others; which, as meet for a volume
apart, may not expect to find a room in so concise a tractate.
The want and neglect of all which requisites, what strange work it must needs make with the simple and unlettered, we may well conceive, when great clerks have hereupon bewrayed so foul and palpable miscarriage.
Albinus, the learned master of Charles the Great, writing upon John, finding it said of Judas, that, having received the sop, he went
* Vulg. Tra, Isa. xlv. II.
immediately out ; et erat nor, and it was night ; puts both together, as spoken of Judas. “He,” saith he,
night, that went out: as Christ is the day, that gives knowledge to his disciples, that were day too; so Judas, the night, gives knowledge to the Jews, that were night, of a traitorous wickedness, &c *."
What work Bernard t, who shewed in this that he saw not all things, makes of Demonium meridianum, “the noon-day Devil,” in one of his sermons, is evident to be seen : yet, had he been as well seen in language as he was fervent in his devotion, he had spared that discourse, as raised from a mere ungrounded interpretation; there being no Devil in the text, but a phantasm of his deJuded imagination.
And, if I should set forth the descants, that our Postillers run upon the names of Job's three daughters, I should seem to you as apt to sport in so serious a subject: and, if I could think it worth the labour of gathering up the wide senses, far-fetched allegories, absurd inferences, that ignorant Friars have fastened upon Scripture, it is not a small skin, that would contain that tome.
Surely, that man, whosoever he be, that would be hoising sail in these deeps of Scripture, had need to be well ballasted, and well tackled, and skilful in the compass; else, he will have much ado to escape a wreck. He, that will walk in paths of danger, had need to have his eyes about him: a hood-winked man may easily be carried against a post: and he, that hath not light enough to see his own way, had need to take heed whom he trusts.
He, that would blindfold follow those very interpretations, which the Church of Rome hath commended for authentical, would run into foul and dangerous absurdities. Let me single out some few, confessed by their own Estius and Lucas Brugensis : such, as are plainly contradictions to Scripture, and do, as it were, give the lie to God's Spirit.
Such is that 2 Sam. viii. 18. Filii autem David sacerdotes erant : The sons of David were priests : whereas, every child knows the Scripture frequently tells us none could be priests, but of Aaron's order and tribe, out of Levi's loins; and that David was of the house of Judah. The Septuagint rightly turns it cúrázzu I.
Again, who, that shall find it in the Vulgate interpretation, David desperabat '&c. David despaired that he could escape from the face of Saul, would not infer, that he utterly distrusted God's assurance, by the Prophet, of his future kingdom? whereas, the Original is, by Estius's own confession, festinabat; as we also turn it, David made haste to get away, &c. 1 Sam. xxiii. 26.
He, that should find it reported of one of the sons of Er, qui stare fecit solem, he that made the sun to stand still; i Chr. iv. 22. would justly wonder what kind of man this was, that had been so long obscured from the world, and yet should have done so strange
* Erat autem ipse nor. + Ps. xci. 6. Bern. Ser. 33.
# The word in the original is 5'7), which every man kaows to be used, ordinarily, to signify either Principes, or Sacerdotes; as Exod. ii. 16.
a miracle as never was done but by Joshua: whereas, he, that looks into the text, shall find no mention at all of the sun; but only of the mere proper name of Jochim, the son of Er.
He, that shall read in Job, where God speaks of the Leviathan, Cum sublatus fuerit (i.e. Leviathan) timebunt angeli, et territi purgabuntur ; When he raiseth up himself, the angels shall fear, and being terrified shall be purged ; Job xli. 25. would sure think this whale were the Devil, as some ancients have mistaken him; and may well wonder, how the good angels, being celestial spirits, could be capable of fear, or how the evil angels could be capable of purging: when the text hath no mention nor thought of Angels *; but only signifying the strength and terribleness of the whale, expresses it in these words ; When he raiseth up himself, the mighty are afraid; by reason of breakings they purify themselves.
Solomon was faulty enough in his idolatry; but he, that shall read, 1 Kings si. 5., in the Vulgate interpretation, that he went after Chamosh the god of the Moabites, shall add one idol more to him than we find bim guilty of.
Solomon was, in his holy and regular times, 1 Kings iv. 32., full of heavenly meditations and divine ditties; but he, that should fol. low the Vulgate interpretation, would fasten upon him almost four thousand + more than ever he owned,
After that Merah, Saul's eldest daughter, was given to Adriel the Meholathite, 1 Sam. xviii. 20. contrary to engagement; he, that will follow the Vulgate 1, must say, that David straight fell in love with Michal, the other sister: whereas, the text tells us, that Michal fell in love with him.
He, that should find in the Vulgate construction, that Saul sung all the day naked before Samuel in Naioth, would think bis new prophesying had put him into a merry vein; i Sam. xix. 24: whereas, the text only tells us, that he fell down stripped of his wonted clothes.
He, that should find in the Vulgate, Ps. Ixxi. 15., David reporting of himself non novi literaturam, I know no learning, would wonder at the Prophet's disparagement of his skill, who had elsewhere professed himself wiser than his teachers: whereas, all, tliat he says, is, that the mercies and blessings of God upon himn have been so many, that he knows not the numbers thereof $.
He, that should find the seven angels in the Revelation vestitos lapide, clothed with stone ||, would sure think them buried : whereas, the text is, clothed in pure white linen 9.
And what, do you imagine, would a plain reader think of that charge of the Wise Man, Noli velle mentiri omne mendacium ; " Be not willing to lie all manner of lies?” Ecclus. vii. 13. Would be not
* Where doubtless bikin was mistaken for buket, which title is sometimes given to the Angels.
ţ Quinque millia, for mille et quinque: five thousand, for a thousand and five.
Cecinit, for cecidit. § The word is nnod numeros. Hi Rev. xv. 6. acion ECTO Xulõvehr Suid. Ο ενδεδυμένοι λίνου, Rev. Χν. 6.