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Though Johnson would have screened bim, had he dared ;
To his fourth son their three fold impudence."* Many playsul literary impositions have been practised upon the public and upon individuals, which are commonly set down as mere jeux d'esprit, deserving slight, if any, reprehension. A strict inoralist, however, can hardly pronounce them innocent.
George Steevens, the commentator on Shakspeare, practised in the course of his very eccentric life, a great many impositions upon the credulity of antiquaries and weak-minded persons of all classes. They were, most of them at least, prompted rather by humor than by any malignant design. The famous story respecting the Upas tree of Java, “ the effluvia of which, through a district of twelve or fourteen miles, had killed all vegetation, and had spread the skeletons of men and animals, affording a scene of melancholy beyond what poets have described or painters delineated,” is said to owe its origin to Steevens. He published it in the London Magazine as an extract from a Dutch traveller, in whose work, however, no one could ever discover it. The many fictions of this nature which appeared in the London papers during the literary career of Steevens are ascribed by many almost en masse to Steevens, from the fact that several have been satisfactorily traced to his pen.
The younger Scaliger was, as was his father likewise, of an arrogant disposition, and plumed himself much on his supposed infallibility of judgment concerning matters of ancient literature. Muretus, with a mischievous intent to expose him to ridicule, sent him some verses purporting to have been copied from an old MS. Scaliger was entrapped, and affirmed at once that they were written by an old comic author named Trabeus. He cited them as precious relics of antiquity in a commentary on Varro's work De Re Rusticâ. Muretus thereupon disclosed the deception, and Scaliger was deservedly humbled.
Horace Walpole, being at Paris in 1765, wrote a letter to Rousseau in French, purporting to come from Frederic, king of Prussia, which produced the effect anticipated by its author. The extravagant conduct of Rousseau, upon an occurrence which keenly probed his singular vanity and self-consequence, afforded much amusement. Walpole, be it remembered, was the very man who spurned the unhappy Chatterton, upon discovering that the poems, which he published in the name of Rowley and other ancient writers, were written by himself.
* The writer of these lines evidently had in mind Dryden's Epi
gram on Milton.
If there was ever an innocent literary deception it was that of Mr. Burke in regard to his “ Vindication of Natural Society," which bore on its title page the words: By a late noble Writer," meaning Lord Bolingbroke. So completely did he attain the intended similarity in thought and expression, that many of great sagacity admitted without hesitation the genuineness of the work, and some even praised it above Lord Bolingbroke's best performances. The production was ironical ; it was designed to show that, on the same principles of reasoning which had been followed by the “noble writer” in the maintenance of his skepticism concerning Christianity, the expediency of political society might be disputed likewise. During the French Revolution, this same ironical composition of Burke's younger days was republished in England, as a piece of serious argument, by some of the admirers of those principles of anarchy under the venomous influence of which the French nation was then writhing in political convulsions.
The third general division of our subject relates to those who have published intentional untruth, as to the matters of fact which they state in their productions. We have already, however, extended our remarks to such a length as to preclude an examination of any of these frauds. In number and singularity they equal those which we have before noticed. That very extraordinary individual, George Psalmanazar, leads the host which enfilades before our mind's eye in view of this part of the subject of Literary Impostures. His autobiography is, we think, extremely entertaining, although D’Israeli pronounces it tedious.
A work on the literary impositions which have been perpetrated upon the public, besides being replete with interest, would be productive of considerable other advantage. It would furnish an important subject of study in the great science of human nature ; exhibiting peculiar, cultivated specimens of criminality.
THE ADVANCEMENT OF BIBLICAL KNOWLEDGE.*
By E. P. Barrows, Professor of Biblical Literature in the Western Reserve College.
“ All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” These are the words of an aged apostle, addressed to a youthful minister of Christ. The general truth which they assert is, that the holy Scriptures, given by inspiration of God, constitute a perfect rule for the direction of the christian teacher in all circumstances ; and that his perfection as a teacher consists in a perfect understanding of their principles, doctrines, and precepts. From the rich treasury of God's word, he is to furnish himself with sound doctrine for the illumination of the minds of those over whom the Holy Spirit has made him overseer ; from its bright and glorious principles, he is to convince men of sin, and put to silence gainsayers; from its precepts, he is to reclaim offenders, rectify what is amiss in the church, and train up her members to holiness and usefulness. If the Scriptures of the Old Testament merited the high eulogium of the apostle, how much more the sacred canon as we now possess it, complete in all its parts, containing not only the writings of “ Moses and the prophets," but also the words of Christ and his apostles! Of this it may be said with emphasis, that the man of God who fully understands the truths which it embodies, and how to apply these truths skilfully to the wants of his people, is “ perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” pertaining to his office.
The grand business, therefore, of every one who aspires to the work of the christian ministry, is to learn what truths the Scriptures contain, and how to apply these truths to the understandings and consciences of men. The former is accomplished by study ; the latter, mainly by practice. Both are indispensably necessary to constitute an efficient minister of the gospel ; "a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” The present occasion, however, leads us to consider more particularly that branch of ministerial qualification which consists in a thorough acquaintance with God's word.
* This article was delivered by the author as an Inaugural Address. Ed.
In pursuing this subject we shall inquire, first : What is involved in a thorough knowledge of Scripture ? and, secondly : How can this knowledge be most effectually diffused throughout the christian ministry ?
I. What does a thorough knowledge of Scripture involve ?
1. It involves a thorough acquaintance with the original languages of the sacred volume. This proposition, few, if any, will be inclined to dispute. We have a most excellent translation of the Scriptures into our vernacular tongue. For this inestimable boon we bless the God of our fathers. The sound learning and judgment of its authors, their freedom from a sectarian spirit, their scrupulous fidelity, and the majestic simplicity of their style are worthy of all praise. This translation we have ever been ready to defend against the cavils and inuendoes of superficial smatterers in sacred literature, and have felt that those sects, or fragments of sects, who find it in the way of their favorite dogmas, have a bad cause to maintain. Still, it is but a translation, and no translation, however perfect, can fully express all the delicate shades of meaning and connections of thought that belong to the original. Moreover, since its execution, biblical science has enjoyed the advantage of more than two centuries of investigation and research, in the progress of which much additional light has been elicited. In some few cases (not involving any fundamental doctrine or precept) it is generally admitted that the translators have erred ; in more still, the sense which they have expressed is one of two or more, either of which may be the true meaning of the original.
Their“ various readings" show that they themselves often hesitated as to the manner in which a particular word or phrase should be rendered. With all due deference, therefore, to these venerable men, we maintain that it is the duty of the man of God, to consult the original oracles of divine truth, and to judge for himself of their meaning. This was the doctrine of our pilgrim ancestors; it has ever been the doctrine of their descendants to the present day; and we mean to hand it down in its purity to our posterity.
2. A thorough knowledge of Scripture involves an acquaintance with the geography, and antiquities of ancient Palestine, and of the surrounding nations with whose history that of the children of Israel is connected. The eager demand for this species of knowledge among the conductors of Sabbath schools, Bible classes, and others who desire to qualify themselves for the work of expounding the word of God to the rising generation, (a demand which has called forth some of the noblest intellectual efforts of the age,) is a commentary on its value which all can read and understand. Without the light which it affords, no one can clearly apprehend the force of the numerous allusions to the location and relative position of the cities and civil divisions of Palestine, and of the surrounding nations ; to their natural scenery, climate, and productions ; and to the manners and customs of society ; which crowd almost every page of inspiration. Who, for example, can intelligently read the narrative of the apostle Paul's journies and labors, without an acquaintance with the natural and civil geography of the regions over which he travelled ? Who, that does not understand the posture in which the ancients were accustomed to take their meals, can comprehend how “a certain woman” could stand at our Saviour's feet “ behind him," while he was “at meat in the Pharisee's house," could wash his feet with her tears, wipe them with the hairs of her head, kiss them, and anoint them with ointment ? Who can fully understand the parable of the ten virgins without a knowledge of oriental nuptial ceremonies ? The above are a few obvious examples, selected from among many hundreds equally striking. Nor must the biblical student limit himself to the geography and antiquities of the Jews. In the course of their eventful history, the people of God were brought into contact with all the great monarchies of the ancient world, and from the geography and antiquities of all these are illustrations of Scripture to be sought. In the New Testament, more especially, Jewish, Grecian, and Roman geography and archaeology are all blended together, and are all indispensable to a full elucidation of the sacred page.
3. A thorough knowledge of Scripture involves an enlarged acquaintance with ancient history. We have remarked above that God in his providence brought his ancient people successively into contact with all the great monarchies of the earth. Let it be remembered that this was not for a day, or a month, or a year, but for long periods of time; not when these monarchies were in their infancy, but when they were in their prime of glory and strength. It seems ever to have been Jehovah's plan to place his chosen people in the very heart of the