« EdellinenJatka »
tion of his pamphlet, endeavours to turn the success of the Institution into an argument against the soundness of its views. • What truths” (says he) “ have ever been so suddenly, and extensively embraced, as the commercial illuminations of Mr. Law, or the reveries of. Peter, the Hermit ?” But, I would ask the author, Is there no other assignable cause for its rapid progress, but the congeniality of error with the human heart? Is not the early propagation of the Gospel, throughout the Roman Empire, justly considered as a proof of its divine original ? And may not a similar, though not a miraculous blessing, have crowned the labours of the Bible Society ? I do not propose these questions, as if their answers were decisive of the subject under discussion, but as sufficient to repel a misapplied presumption.
§ 2. Our Author, in the first page of the second section, advances another step towards the full developement of his views, by admitting, that “ the circulation of the Bible may, perhaps, form an important ingredient in a plan for promoting Christian knowledge ;-as part of a system, it might be indispensable;" “ but,” (he adds) “it may be fairly doubted, whether it will, of itself, promote in any sensible degree, the cause of religion and virtue.” This objection, then, goes no further than a charge of deficiency.--But is an institution incomplete, because it does not embrace every object, which is, in any way, capable of being connected with it? On the contrary, it is more likely to be efficient by being simple; and, if the example should be generally followed, the great system, of which it forms a part, will probably be better managed, by adopting, to a suitable extent, the approved principle of a division of labour.
Such is the unincumbered plan of the Bible Society. It circulates the Scriptures “ without note or comment," not because it would deny the legitimate use of these helps; but because, though useful in their place, they are not necessary to salvation ; and the impossibility of agreeing about the selection of them would frustrate that most Christian design of concentrating the efforts of various denominations of Christians. For a like reason, the Bible Society does not meet the wishes of our Author, in providing expounders of the Scriptures, to follow them into every cottage where they find their way: it leaves this de
partment to those who are entrusted with the ministry of the word.
To this principle of the Society, I am happy to be able to produce the approbation of the Bishop of St David's. “ It is a principle” (says his Lordship *) in the Preface of a Work entitled, “ The Bible, and the Bible alone, the Religion of Protestants.” “ It is a principle which militates against no form of Church Government; it neither advocates nor interferes with any peculiar interpretations of Scripture. It accepts the Scripture as its own interpreter. But it rejects nothing, it undervalues nothing, it discourages nothing, that can serve to explain the Scriptures. It proceeds on the principle of the authorized Version, and distributes the Bible without note or comment. But it does more: it upholds the authority of that Version by confining itself to it. With the first great principle of the Society for promoting Christian knowledge it co-operates most powerfully. It promotes Christian knowledge, by distributing the pure word of God to an infinitely greater extent, both at home and abroad, than could have been done by any Society not acting upon the single principle of distributing the Bible."
How unreasonable, then, is the complaint of our Author, that “no provision is made for expounding the Scriptures to the people by comment or oral instruction ?” It may be observed, however, that its direct tendency is to promote even those advantages, which it does not attempt to provide :-as, for instance, it can scarcely be doubted, that the Prayer-Book and Homily Society is the legitimate offspring of the Bible Society, and, (if my recollection : does not much deceive me) it has been ascertained, that the dissemination of the Common Prayer-Book has been increased since the period of its institution.
93. Immediately after the last quotation from our Author, it appears that a still more weighty objection is in l'eserve :- The Bible is represented as, perhaps, the most difficult of all books !-the causes of its obscurity are collected in formidable array, and it is asked, “ Will it be seriously maintained, that the contracted wind of an ignorant peasant can, in the short intervals of a life of labor, read and comprehend, in any tolerable degree, the “ high import” of these sublime and sacred books, which
* Sce a Review of Mr. Norris's attack, &c. by the Rev. W. Dtaltry,
have given full employment, for successive years, to capacities of the highest order, enjoying unbroken leisure, improved by various knowledge, and animated with fervent piety?”. Such questions as these, I trust, might be satisfactorily answered by many living proofs, that the intellects of the peasantry are not to be despised.-One should really think, that our author must have written theoretically on this part of his subject, and not from experience. The information of the peasant is doubtless inadequate to a critical acquaintance with the Bible; but does this render him incapable of understanding our Lord's parables accompanied with his own expositions ? Does this disqualify him for being affected as he ought by the history of the atoning sufferings and death of his Redeemer ? of his glorious resurrection and ascension, and of the labours of his Apostles? Perhaps some may answer-no:-but let him stop there.-Do not perplex" him with the difficulties of the Epistles. Others may suggest the inexpediency of employing his time upon the abrogated rites of the Mosaic dispensation. Our author's reasoning applies to the whole volume, (excepting such parts as he, and those who think with him, may choose to select) with additional allegations of obscurity against the glorious light of the New Testament. These terrors present à very awful aspect as they are exhibited upon the author's page, and I doubt not, from his own account*, that he has felt them, with all their aggravations, in the course of his studies. But I should be sorry to see one who could so state them, without any display of the light in which they are comparatively lost-I should be sorry to see him intrusted with the task of abridging the Bible for the use of the illiterateI should greatly fear his being so haunted with the visions of darkness, as to shut out the brightest beams of truth. These surely (notwithstanding all difficulties) are obvious and prominent in the volume of inspiration, unless the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not. Yet there is reason to believe, that they have not appeared thus prominent to the mind of our learned adversary; for he says, page 7, " The mine is rich, but the peasant wants skill to work it, and bring to light its inestimable treasures.” Now I would intreat him to reflect, that the very ignorance, of which he dreads
* See “ Thoughts” p. 14. ,
the consequences, is in a great measure a safeguard against the supposed mischiefs of obscurity. Very many of those difficulties, which have occurred to our author, must necessarily be unknown to the illiterate peasant; for they require a considerable degree of learning even to observe them. And those which he does observe he is not caught and entangled by like the critical enquirer. If he cannot readily surmount them, he sets them down to the account of his own ignorance, he blesses God for the abundance of plain truth by which he is enlightened, his soul is humbled and edified even by difficulties, and he proceeds without perplexity. As in viewing the works of God without science, he yet can sincerely adopt the praise of the Psalmist, that, “ the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth his handy work,”-SO, in contemplating the excellence of his word, he can go on with the same Psalm and
" The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”
Here is pointed out to us the indispensable quality for a right understanding of the holy Scriptures, whether in the learned or the unlearned-childlike simplicity. Without this, the highest attainments are in vain ;—with it, whosoever comes within the class of intelligent beings, may be made “ wise unto salvation,” and read the whole of the Bible with profit. A learned man, untaught of God, perhaps may smile. But, if he would not be numbered among those, who “ professing themselves to be wise have become fools,” let him recollect who it was that “ rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” (Luke x. 21.) This childlike disposition may be, and I trust is, often found among the most learned. In this case learning becomes a most valuable handmaid to religion ; but of itself merely it affords no security against wresting the holy Scriptures, and is not adequate to the saving knowledge of them. It is the single eye alone, which illuminates the body; but if the eye be evil, the brightest beams of truth shall shine in vain, its rays will be distorted, and the best auxiliaries will be perverted and abused. The “ natural man” (whether learned or unlearned) “ receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he
know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor. ii. 14.) What then, in either condition, is the true security against error and perversion? A real humble dependance upon his teaching, who has graciously promised unto Zion, that all her children - shall be taught of the Lord,” (Isaiah liv. 13.) and who has held forth by his apostle James the indiscriminate assurance “ If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
$ 4. But how is all this to be reconciled with the authority of another apostle referred to by our author in his fifth section ?-Without insisting on the syntax of the passage in the original, by which its application is limited, it is admitted, that in the Epistles of St. Paul there are some things hard to be understood”-but who are the unlearned, by whom they are wrested to their own destruction? Does the apostle mean those, who are unacquainted with Philosophy and Logic and Criticism? If so, he must have included a great majority of them, to whom these epistles were addressed; for we are informed, that “ not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, were called ;” (1 Cor. i. 26 ) yea, he must have included himself; for he and most of the apostles were, in this sense, actually aypau patok, 66 unlearned and ignorant men.” (Acts iv. 13.) We must therefore necessarily seek another meaning; and the true one does not appear very difficult to be found. Unlearned in what ? I answer-In the Scriptures-- kuchéic. These are they who are in danger of wresting the Scriptures, especially if they also deserve the character of instability. They, who are but partially acquainted with them, are liable to be imposed on, by the deceitfulness of their own hearts, or by the arguments of designing men
What then is the remedy? Should they be peasants, or in any of the lower orders of society, our author would advise to keep them still unlearned, to withhold from them the only infallible means of removing their ignorance. But
can he persuade us that St. Peter would sanction such " advice? It is not a little remarkable, that, in the
first chapter of the same epistlę, he commends those to whom he writes for their attention to that part of Scripture, which, in its very nature, implies obscuritythe writings of the prophets.
66 We have also a more