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certain it is that Paul called Epaphroditus the Apostle, or Missionary, or Messenger of the Philippians, ch. ii. 25. Paul, however, stands conspicuous as the called Apostle of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles; and, as such, enjoyed and displayed all the extraordinary signs or proofs of an Apostle. By whom, James was the church in Rome, not of Rome, gathered or planted?
James. Not by Paul; for when he wrote this letter he had never been there. He said he had often purposed to visit them because of the great fame of the church; but had not when he wrote this letter yet seen them. Some say it was planted by Peter. What do you say,
Father? Olympas. Of this there is no evidence in the inspired and authoritative writings of either Apostles or Evangelists of Christ. And certain it is that Peter was not in Rome when Paul addressed this letter to them; for in naming twenty-seven persons known to himself in Rome at this time, he could not have forgotten Peter. See ch. xvi. This is a fable long since exploded by the most learned and most reputable Christian authorities in the world.
I would have you all to notice that Paul calls the gospel of Christ the gospel of God—not because Christ is divine, but because the gospel was conceived and originated in the grace and philanthropy of God.
Again, I would have you noté emphatically the clear and explicit testimony of Paul, given spontaneously, to the divine nature of Jesus Christ, in the 3d verse. According to the flesh he was born of the race of David. But if he was not more than born of the flesh, all other men are, why say according to the flesh? This would be senseless unless he had been partaker of a divine nature or proved to be the Son of God according to a spiritual nature. “According to the flesh” evidently indicates humanity; and as certainly in this antithesis, "according to the Spirit" unequivocally indicates divinity. Two natures, then, meet in the person of Jesus the Christ.
Clement. What a sublime conception does Paul here express of the mysterious and sublime person called Jesus Christ! His glorious peculiarity, rather his peculiar personality, is, that he is a Divine Man, uniting in himself every attribute of humanity and divinity.
What, may I ask, Susan, is the most indisputable evidence of this glorious truth?
Susan. His resurrection from the dead. Being divine, it was imssible that he could have been involuntarily held under the power
of the grave.
Ephraim. What think you, Father Clement, are the precise ideas attached to “grace" and "apostleship,” verse 5?
Clement. I presume that their own conversion to God through him was of grace, and so understood by Paul. But he and some others had received more than grace—they had received a postleship for the purpose of bringing many out of all nations to the obedience of faith. In proof of which he says, "Amongst whom, or those who have become obedient to the faith, are you of Rome.”
Olympas. Then comes his usual salutation: "To all in Rome, beloved of God”—to the called-those who had obeyed--those only who had obeyed. Those only who obey are called. God may be calling others, but they are not the called until they obey the gospel. Can any of you furnish from these seven verses, with which we must close our present reading, having spent so much time on the introduction of this epistle; I say, can any of you furnish a second proof of the divinity of Christ?.
[After a long pause,] Susan. I am not sure that I am right, but it would appear that God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Lord Jesus Christ are equally invoked when grace and reace are equally supplicated from both. Does not Paul pray that grace and peace from God our Father, and from Jesus Christ the Lord, may be dispensed to them? Could he have thus associated a man or an angel or a mere creature with God in supplicating grace and peace from both?—!
Ephraim. Before we close our books I would remind brother Olympas that the origin or beginning of the church in Rome has not been developed this evening. I would request from sister Susan her exposition of this matter.
Susan. I can remember no notice of the commencement of this church in the New Testament, unless it can be traced to those Roman Jews and proselytes that are named in Jerusalem as having been present on the great day of Pentecost, and represented as participants of the blessings of that day.
Clement. I presume we can find no better origin for the church at Rome whom Paul addressed. They doubtless carried the gospel home to their own city.
Olympas. You will, my children, be prepared on the whole first chaper for to-morrow evening.
INTERPRETATION OF THE SCRIPTURES.
NO. IX It has been observed by more than one independent thinker connected with the existing religious parties, that men are singularly disposed to take leave of common sense when they enter upon the consideration of any subject appertaining to religion. They seem to think, since the things of religion belong to a different sphere from the things of the world, that nothing on earth can have any thing to do with them; and that, because revelation presents matters which reason could never have discovered, they are obliged to divest themselves of reason in order to be duly prepared for spiritual contemplation.
In no case is this striking proclivity more strikingly displayed than in the views commonly taken of the influence of the scriptures upon the mind. This is attributed to a mysterious energy inherent in the very words theinselves, independent of the authority from which they emanate, and the importance of the ideas they convey. There seems to be associated with reverence for the word of God, an indefinite and superstitious notion that supernatural or miraculous power adheres to the very expressions of the sacred volume, and that “the letter” itself has not only the power to “kill,” but the ability to “make alive.” It appears to be forgotten that the expressions of our version of Holy Writ are those of our native tongue, and that its words are the words of every day intercourse; the language of society; the conventional signs of thought. The obvious truth is overlooked, that we have here no importation of words from any celestial vocabulary endued with intrinsic spiritual efficacy; and that, if a single term is employed in an appropriated sense, or a single new one added, it is done in entire conformity with the laws of human language, and can have in itself no more power or meaning than men have given it.
If it were otherwise, language would of course cease to be understood by men, and would be no longer of any avail as a vehicle of thought. To have invented a new language of a celestial character, if such a thing might be, as a medium of divine communication, would indeed have been a useless miracle, since it would have implied the necessity of a second miracle in order to render it intelligible. It was the part of divine wisdom to adopt the existing language of men, and to employ the words of men in their usual and proper meaning. No new power was given to these words; no greater degree of intelligibility than they possessed already; nor were they
distinguished by any exemption from the operation of the usual laws of grammar; or rendered in any degree independent of the common pre-requisites to the just interpretation of language.
It is, indeed, admitted by the best critics, that the ideas only, and not the words of scripture, were the dictation of the Spirit. And upon this view is based the explanation of the difference of style so noticeable in the different writers of the New Testament, They were not, then, properly inspired writers, but inspired thinkers; and delivered to us, each, in the language which he judged most appropriate, the thoughts suggested by the Heavenly Monitor. But, even on the opposite hypothesis, that the Spirit of God dictated, in every case, the very words which are recorded, language itself must necessarily have prescribed limits to choice, and restricted communi. cation to the narrow precincts within which it is itself confined.Sometimes, indeed, as in the case of Paul, admitted to the glories of the third heaven, human speech seemed to be wholly incapable of conveying to others the impressions received; and it is evident that on many occasions the language of earth was inadequate to the complete exhibition of the things of the spiritual world. The most brilliant imagery is assembled; the boldest metaphors, the noblest antitheses, the most lofty and comprehensive epithets are employed: yet after all it is intimated that the reality exceeds the description; that contrasts are imperfect; that words are too few and too feeble: -the celestial robes are "whiter” than the vestments whitened by the fuller's art; the building of God which is to replace this earthly house, is but negatively pictured, as "not made with hands;" the “sure word of prophecy” is but as a light shining amidst the darkness of night, “till the day shall dawn” and the "day-star” itself arise “in the heart."
That such should be the case is nothing more than might be expected from the nature of the subjects of divine revelation. And for the same reason it will be more especially true of some of these subjects than of others. But in no case should too much be expected of human language. It should be remembered that thought is before words and often greater than these, and that mind is before and superior to thought. To give access to mind is the object of all the complicated apparatus of perception and of expression; and the facility of this access must vary with the power which this confers, and with the circumstances under which it is employed. These matters, indeed, are so obvious, that they scarcely require to be stated, were it not for the reason we mentioned in the beginning. SERIES III.- VOL. VI.
It ought to be evident, however, with regard to the scriptures, as with respect to all other writings, that words have no intrinsic perspicuity; that their intelligibility will depend upon the power of language to express the thoughts, and the fitness or ability of the reader to receive them; and that the language of the Bible derives its power; its application; its point; its use, from the authority of Him who speaks; the nature of the commuication; and the circumstances of those to whom it is addressed.
We have, we trust, already sufficiently shown that the perspicuity of language is relative, depending as much upon the fitness of the mind to receive, as the suitableness of the words to convey the thoughts. In regard to the scriptures, as we before stated, it is not to be doubted that the most appropriate terms which language afforded, were employed by the sacred penmen. Any want of clearness in these writings must, consequently, be occasioned by the poverty of human speech, and the inadequacy of earthly imagery, compared with the grandeur and the spirituality of the subjects of which they treat. In such cases, it accordingly requires, not only all due preparation of mind on the part of the reader, but that he should dwell upon the thought which words thus imperfectly convey, and, by continued and concentrated effort, enter into the full epirit of the passage, so as to fill up the mere verbal sketch with the spiritual thought, and impart proper form and relief and color to the whole. Language is here but as a door that admits us into a spacious and magnificent apartment, of which it forms itself but an insignificant portion, while at the same time it is the only means of access.
With regard, however, to the preparation of mind required on the part of the reader, there are many things to consider, to some of which we have already briefly referred. There is a natural as well 29 8n acquired fitness of the mind; a moral as well a spiritual preparation of the heart. There are gifts of perception and of intellect, as well as acquisitions of learning and experience; and capabilities of feeling, as well as habits of reflection, and these in all degrees of power and of activity. There are also the aids or the hindrances of time and circumstance, and the various influences of the modes in which a particular subject may be approached and examined.Upon these we deem it unnecessary to expatiate, and shall merely present a few reflections upon some of the more important points.
As a general principle, then, we may state that in proportion as the mind of the reader is like that of the writer, so, other things being equal, will be the facility with which the writing is understood.