Page images

variance with itself, those solutions of difficult passages in sacred Writ, which best correspond with the most exalted ideas of the divine benignity, are to be preferred.

II. It is universally admitted, that the different writers in the New Testament have adopted different modes of expression; and as many expressions must vary in their import, according to the connection in which they are placed, and the manner in which they are introduced, whereever there is a direct opposition of phraseology, seeming to advance principles or doctrines contrary to each other, the best method of judging of such equivocal passages, is not by the sound of words, but by the general tenour of the principles expressed by the same, or other writers, in more explicit terms. Such expressions are not to be considered as detached aphorisms, containing first principles, but as strong and impressive statements, which have a reference to principles preciously advanced.

III. Expressions obviously metaphorical, cannot be the basis of an hypothesis. The object of a metaphor is to explain, illustrate, or enforce; but not to establish first principles. It elucidates subjects not completely obvious, either by the force of analogy, or by adducing examples from things more clearly understood. It will

[ocr errors]

give different colourings to a sentiment, derived from the subjects to which it alludes, and thus render it more lively, more pathetic, more degrading, more noble, more alarming, according to the impression which it is desirable to make upon the mind. But it always supposes, either that a previous attempt has been made to convince the judgment, or that some fact is known which we desire to render influential.

IV. When the sentiments of theologians oppose each other, and the language of scripture is adduced in support of their respective dogmata, the discriminating powers with which we are endowed teach us, that those opinions which are most consonant with reason should be preferred. Nothing irrational in itself can proceed from a wise being; and whatever appears to be irrational should be immediately suspected. All our intellectual faculties should be in exercise; but the decisions of the judgment should be slow and cautious. The wisest of beings permits us to hesitate in things obscure, that we may have time to balance between the possible and impossible, probable and improbable, credible or incredible. Our discriminating powers will finally discover some standard to which we can apply; and which will solve the difficulty. When, for example, our Saviour

says, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth, I am not come to send peace, but a sword," no Christian supposes that the grand object of his mission was to disseminate discord, foment animosities, and provoke bloodshed; notwithstanding the peremptory form of the assertion for the reason of every christian assures him, that this language of their divine Master opposes the whole tenour of his own conduct; opposes the injunctions he lays down to promote peace and concord; and is destructive of that happiness promised to the lovers of virtue and goodness. The christian is obliged, therefore, to solve these expressions in a manner congenial with the spirit of genuine Christianity; and to consider them, both as prophesies and warnings, given to his disciples, that the ignorance and evil passions of men, their prejudices, their pride, and arrogance of knowledge, shall render the gospel of peace itself the source of contentions, and of temporary disorders in the world, to which they themselves shall fall a sacrifice. In this instance we clearly see, that common sense directs a phraseology which, at first view, alarms and confounds, into its proper and instructive channel. Various other difficulties might be solved in a similar manner, were the dictates of common sense equally revered.




THE Jewish Dispensation was introductory to that of Christianity. According to the expres sion of Saint Paul, "it was a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ; and in this character it has instructed us in many important doctrines, upon which Christianity is founded, and which it illustrates and enforces upon superior principles, and by superior motives. To the favoured nation was fully revealed a knowledge of the one God; who is the great Creator and Governor of all things, possessing every natural and moral perfection. Hence it is that our Saviour and his Apostles profess not to reveal these truths to the world, as truths utterly unknown; but they refer to them as already established. The command to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, is an implication that we already know that he is good. A similar reference is made to the wisdom, knowledge, and power of

God. "Oh the depth of the riches both of the Knowledge and Wisdom of God, how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways are past finding out!" "That we may know," says the same Apostle, "what is the exceeding greatness of his power towards us that believe, according to the working of his mighty power." The spirituality of the divine nature, is mentioned but once, in the writings of the New Testament, and it is solely to draw the inference, that, as God is a Spirit, he is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth. The Jewish Religion, fully instructed that nation in their duty towards both God and man, and strenuously inculcated the practice of every moral duty from motives of piety. A former Disquisition has shewn that these facts are indisputable. But Christianity contains certain characteristics, which now demand the grateful attention of the Gentile world, as well as of the Jews.

The Christian Religion presents to the whole world, a brighter display of the divine Benignity, than was enjoyed before its promulgation: It enforces obedience to the divine commands, upon the most refined and exalted principles: and it promises infinitely superior remunerations.

« PreviousContinue »