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common to the natural man only—so allowing Infidels, Turks, Unitarians, and Jews, to come in amongst them (that is, calling that education which would be so called by all these, or they would not wish it)-they will soon get their minds schooled into a form of thinking, and therefore into the use of a language (for ideas always make their appropriate language), which will incapacitate them for receiving, or indeed taking up into their understandings at all, the great truths of the Bible.
The second way in which the true meaning of the Bible may become generally obscured, is in the change of opinion as to the standard of sound learning in those languages from which the Bible is translated. For example, let any one compare Lowth's translation of Isaiah with the common version. I would refer also to Mr. Bellamy's late appeal to the public. Again, let us compare Dr. Priestley's dicta with Bishop Horsley's, and all the other differences of judgment among those who by their respective parties are considered learned men. Again, let us remember the controversy between the late Dr. Kennicott and Granville Sharpe.
As the men of the same generation differ among themselves, so the standaròs of judgment, as to what constitutes the soundest learning, of one age, may alter and become different in the next: and when every sect in this country is put upon an equal footing, and thereby gathers strength and numbers and respectability; and when, by means of the London University and similar institutions, each sect comes to have its learned men, and as will follow, its own judgment as to what constitutes a learned man; we shall have nothing but differences of opinion upon the meaning of all the words and texts of Scripture. Each sect will then, like the Unitarian, bring out an “improved version" of its own; and when the appeal is made to the present Authorized One, it will be replied, “Oh! that is only the Church-of-England version—(alas! perhaps then Church of England no longer)—and what is that but one sect amongst many,“ the sect of the Thirty-nine Articles !!”
And so, finally, as I have said, it will come to be with the Bible as it now is with the church ; people will ask, “Who is to know which is the Bible, this man's version or that man's, this sect's or that sect's? And then, ay has been done with the church, a spiritual abstraction will be substituted for a visible thing; and they will say, The spiritual word of God is the only Bible, speaking to the heart of man by the Holy Spirit, and — the Bible is not a book at all.
The true meaning of the Holy Spirit was intended to run parallel to the literal expressions, with respect to the Bible; just as the true meaning of the Holy Spirit was intended to run parallel to the external ordinances and ministerial testimony,
VOL. 11.--NO, 11.
with respect to the church and clergy. Dissension, ignorance, and wickedness, have broken up the connection between the invisible and the visible church ; and the same things will likewise break the connection between the Logos, or Divine Word, and the Book of which it is now the external visible manifestation.
The third way by which the true meaning of the Bible may be lost, is by a falling away of the church from that spirit which is necessary to the right understanding of it. There needs little comment on this head : we have not bad the history of the first five thousand years of the world for nothing. If there is one truth more prominent than another in the Divine records of the dealings of God with men, it is the liability of the church, through wickedness, to fall away from the right understanding of the word of God. The Old Testament was given, in the first instance, expressly for the use and guidance of the Jews. Its precepts and histories were enjoined to be taught to their children, as they sat in the house or walked with them by the way; and they did so; nay, Biblical knowledge was so much the fashion with the Jewish people, that they ornamented their garments and houses with sacred texts. And yet, what did all this patronage of the Bible, and boasted faithfulness to its study, do for them? He, who is the spirit of what Law and Prophets testified, the burden of all their ordinances, and the object of all their sacrifices, came--and they took him for a common malefactor, and slew him. The Jews were totally
, . blinded to the meaning of that part of the Scriptures which it chiefly concerned them to know.
Now we, English Protestants after the fall, not only of the Jewish church, but of the early Christian churches of Asia, of the Greek church, and of the Roman church, all once as pure as our own, cannot surely undertake to say that it is impossible for us to come into a like evil predicament. If not, and our liability to fall be admitted, is it supposed that we must necessarily be at the same time conscious of our blindness? What proof is there in the Christian church's thinking she knows well the Scriptures, that she is not now as ignorant as the Jews were of their book? Surely a church full of parties, in a land full of schisms, is not that proof; surely a Christian government's making no difference between Christ and Antichrist, no distinction on account of religion (the only distinction among men worth making), is no proof. Surely the contempt that is manifested for the prophecies, which is a contempt for nine-tenths of the Bible, is no proof. Surely a people expressly enjoined to “ be as men that look for their Lord,” universally crying out “ Where is the promise of his coming ?” and condemning those who do look for him as a fanatical party- a people whose ministers are publishing sermons and whose learned inen are writing books to prove that he ought not to be expected—is no proof that we know much about the Bible. And, lastly, surely, a time in which it is necessary to make the most strenuous exertions, amidst scorn and reproach, to induce people to believe that Christ joined himself to that very nature which had fallen, and whose junction to him was its redemption, is not a time of much knowledge in the truths of the Bible!
It is absurd to endeavour to fence off any suspicion of our ignorance of Scripture, by shewing how much more we know of it than the Jews. Not to say, that the people who do not see the kingly coming of Christ, his reign in person and in glory upon the earth, know less of the book than they who did not see his first coming, humiliation, and sorrow upon the earth; we would observe, that the gift of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost was a much larger opening of truth to us than they ever had, and placed us upon a higher platform. When we remember what the dispensation of the Spirit is, it is enough to make us tremble to see how little we have used the gift. St. John writes to the church in his time, “ Ye need not that any man should write unto you, for ye have an unctiou from the Holy One, and
, ye know all things;” and St. Paul, speaking of the things that eye
hath not seen nor ear heard and which had not entered into the heart of men to conceive, says, to the church, “ but God revealeth them unto us by his Spirit, for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”
What then if God should expect of us, not what the Jews knew, not more than what the Jews knew, but this knowledge of his deepest things—of all things? Having furnished us so amply for our work, what if he should judge us by the works which we ought to have done? And why should he not? If we could put a zone of miraculous and invisible power round the waist of the warrior who should go to the battle for us, should we not judge him by the power we gave him, when the fight was done ? From a glance at these considerations, how dreadful should it seem to our ears for Christian people, so endowed, to talk about keeping to the plain parts of Scripture, and leaving the rest because they are mysterious-in other words, living by reason, sight, and common sense, rather than by faith, and the power and wisdom of the indwelling Spirit? Alas, alas! Christian prophets of our civilized stamp, had they been in Patmos, would have wept because the seven-sealed book was opened, not because it had been shut!
But, to conclude. By any one of these three mentioned ways we have shewn that the Bible may be taken away from the church; and therefore, any trust in the written book, as if, while we could keep hold of the paper and the type, and circulate them, we were guaranteed against losing the meaning of its contents, is as vain and wicked as the Papist's trust in the water of Baptism, the wafer of the Supper, or the orthodoxy of his church. The only faith that avails is that which, abstracting itself from all three, Bible, ministry, and sacraments, as parts, looks to that Divine unity of truth of which those parts form together the appropriate exposition: and if we can do so, we shall be taught rightly to appreciate the value of all the three, as distinct and equally important means of grace, and expect and receive from each institution its proper and intended nutriment. But if we select one, and exalt that one, whichever it is, into such an importance as to leave no other equal means to compare it with, and so, by the necessity of two or more, seeing the incompleteness of each in itself, we shall soon come to confound that one with its end, and worship it as if itself were God.
And now may the Great Head of the church, who gave the Bible to record his truth; who gave us a holy Ministry to preach his truth ; who gave us his blessed Sacraments to seal unto us his truth, be pleased to bless this feeble endeavour to assert their relation unto one another, to vindicate their connection with one another, and to prove their dependence upon one another. And may He, who is separate from each and above all, and who gave all for no other purpose than to lead his people unto himself, again revive and bless their use amongst us, and make them still more abundantly than ever overflowing channels of his Spirit and his grace.
ON THE PARABLE OF THE TEN VIRGINS.
Full of serious import, in the present crisis of the church of Christ, appears to be the parable of the Ten Virgins, Matt. xxv. 1, &c.: of which, however, I have not yet met with what appears to me to be a just interpretation, one that looks fairly at it in all its bearings. Believing that all God's holy word was written for our instruction, I am induced-looking for and trusting unto the promised aid of the Spirit of truth and wisdom-to offer to the church of Christ that view which seems to me most just ; accompanied with a hope, that, should I manifestly err, some one actuated by the spirit of love will point out with calmness and sobriety any evil consequent upon holding such a view. I must premise, that this interpretation hinges and turns upon the little but important word (too generally lost sight of) at its commencement, “ THEN;" evidently referring to the sudden and unexpected coming of the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven; the Lamb, whose union with the bride shall then be manifested. And of this coming of the Son of Man I can by no means agree with, but entirely dissent from, the opinion of those who assert that it is parallel to, or means the same thing as, the departure of individual souls at death ; referring the chief application of the parable to our going to be with Christ in the separate state, and not the coming again of the Son of Man to the earth, as the angel at his bodily and visible ascension proclaimed he should. That the Apostles did not thus conjoin the two events, is evident; for compare Phil. i. 20—24; 2 Tim. iv. 6; Heb. ix. 27; 2 Pet. i. 13–15; 1 Cor. xv. 6; 2 Cor. v. 1-9; Rom. viii. 23, with Titus ii. 13; Phil. iii. 20, 21; 2 Tim. iv. 8; Heb. ix. 28, and x. 37; 2 Pet. i. 16, and iii. 4, 12-14; 2 Cor. iv. 14.
Seeing this parable has no interpretation affixed, to whom was it addressed ? 'Privately, to Peter, John, James, and Andrew, to whom, in common with all Christ's true disciples, it was “ given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to others in parables ;" which would of itself suggest that it bore its full import on its face. But, nevertheless, from first to last it is a simile, and as such of equal import throughout.
Let us then, first, regard it as a parable, in its several bearings. A marriage is about to take place by night, and, as was wont in Eastern countries, virgins with lighted lamps kept watch, expecting the coming of the bridegroom. The world around most probably knew little of the matter, and cared less. The bridegroom not coming so soon as the virgins expected, the whole number fell asleep; leaving their lamps burning, so that, on the first intimation of his approach being given, they might rise and receive him. At midnight was heard the cry, Behold, the bridegroom cometh! go ye out to meet him." They all imme
" diately arose, and trimmed their lamps. Now, of these virgins five were wise and provident ; five were foolish and improvident; and from this arose the only apparent mark of difference, producing the disastrous issue. The former, whilst looking for his approach, considering they had been warned of a possibility of delay, took a supply of oil in vessels with their lamps: the latter, from the first, had but the oil expending in their lamps ; and, as a necessary consequence upon delay, their lights were just expiring. Feeling themselves placed in a great strait, they asked their provident companions for a portion of their oil; but they, perceiving their supply to be inadequate (with due regard to self) to make up the deficiency, refused; yet with an exhortation to them speedily to seek from those who sold, a fresh supply. At midnight, then, they hasten forth to buy; and whilst thus, at this unseasonable hour, engaged, the bridegroom comes; and, being met by those prepared, he enters with them to the marriage, and the door was shut. After a while the foolish ones return, and, knocking, say “Lord, open unto us;" but from