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Interpretatione Scripturæ Sacra," discusses the question so fully, and illustrates his positions with examples so pertinent, as to render his work deserving the serious attention of the inquiring reader.(a)
Luther also was indebted to his knowledge of the Affections, and to his lively mode of representing them, for that eminent gift at exposition, with which he was endowed. Of this, his Comment on Genesis, and his Discourses on the Psalms, are conclusive evidences.
We next proceed to cite some observations, from the letter addressed by Spener to the Philo-Biblical College at Leipsic. This celebrated man observes "No practice will prove more pleasant or beneficial, and none more suitable to the College, than after fervent, secret prayer, to discriminate and enter into the Affections of the Inspired Writers with sacred attention and perseverance, and strive to unfold their nature and character. This being done, and the thoughts being collected and brought to bear on the subject in hand, the students will be able to mark, with the highest delight and profit, the indications of faith and of the mind of Jesus, together with the more minute circumstances; and easily awaken in their own bosoms, Affections of a kindred nature. That eminent divine, Luther, when speaking of this practice, says-Whoever adopts it, will, I am satisfied, learn more himself, than he can gather from all commentaries united.
By means of incessant and attentive reading, we should, as it were, raise the Writer from the dead, and consider him as alive; so as to form perfect conceptions mentally, of what we cannot actually behold. When engaged in the study of the Scriptures, the Idea formed in the Writer's mind should be carefully ascertained; the Affections by which he was influenced; his state of life; and his office, at the time he penned the book. Much do I wish that the labour which Casaubon has bestowed on Horace, Juvenal, and Persius, in his Prolegomena, were applied to the elucidation of the Divine Oracles, so as to give a just description of the Genius, Mind, Condition, Manners, and Affections, peculiar to each of the Sacred Writers. These are desirable subjects, that yet remain untouched.' Luther again remarks, that an expositor should, as it were, invest himself with the Author's mind, in order that he may interpret him as another self.' Bernard, likewise, excelled in this heavenly art, of correcting his own Affections by those of the Sacred Penmen; and it was thence he derived his spiritual erudition.” (b) Thus far Spener's letter; and to these names may be added that of Flaccus Illyricus, who also recommends the study of the Affections of the Inspired Penmen.
Let us now consider a few objections which may be made to this view of the subject. There are persons perhaps who think that the Holy Spirit is
wronged, when we attribute to the Sacred Writers, Affections which are, in reality, the fruit of his influence: and that the Scriptures are not to be referred to those holy men, but rather to the Holy Ghost who speaks by them. To this we answer, that the fact of their being divinely inspired, far from militating against our position, tends itself to convince us that the Holy Spirit kindled sacred Affections in the Writers' Souls; for it is absurd to suppose, that, in penning the Scriptures, they viewed themselves in the light of mere machines; or that they wrote without any feeling or perception, what we read with so great a degree of both. Doubtless, their minds were illuminated by the Spirit, and their wills inflamed with pious, holy, and ardent Affections, so that they wrote as they felt, and as they were “moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Pet. i. 21. Indeed, it appears that the Spirit condescended to accommodate himself to their peculiar genius and modes of writing, which evin dently vary in the different books of Scripture. Hence we conclude, that the minds of the Sacred Penmen were not unmoved; but, on the contrary, active, enlightened, and replete with holy Affections.
Besides, the Inspired Writers sometimes mention the Affections by which they are actuated, as hath been already shown; and this must form a complete answer to the Objection proposed: for who will have the temerity to afirm, when Paul expressly declares
his Love, Joy, Desire, Hope, that he really is not influenced by these sacred passions?
Again, it may possibly be objected, that, on the principles laid down, the Language of Divine Truth would become ambiguous; for that any one might give it what sense he pleased, by referring it to various Affections. In reply to this objection we observe, that we agree in considering it a matter of high importance, to develope the genuine and spiritual meaning of the written Word; and, then, prove it to be so, where there is no gesture or modulation of voice, to guide us in judging of the Affections. To infer, however, that we must not examine into the Affections of the Inspired Penmen, lest this ambiguity should arise, were to conceal our ignorance, and dissemble the difficulty rather than explain it. Daily experience testifies, that even familiar conversation is capable of various interpretations, according to the Affections that operate: will then our ignorance remove these Affections, which nature implanted, and which grace does not restrain? This objection is, in truth, a cogent argument in favour of the study of the Affections; for when we have acquired ability to develope them (which certainly is attainable,) the Scriptures, will, of course, cease to be ambiguous,
It forms no solid objection to our view of the subject, that many Commentators neglect this branch of exposition, and pass it over in silence. This consi
deration is abundantly overruled, by opposing to it the high authorities that have advocated the cause of the Affections. It might be added, that those persons are usually but indifferent examiners of the Scriptures, who, in searching into their meaning, depend, partially or entirely, on authority. It evidences, as Bernard has observed, that they do not read the Word in the Spirit, under whose influence it was written.
Besides, a consequence deduced from the ignorance or negligence of Commentators, can avail nothing against the doctrine. It is, indeed, to be lamented, that very few are solicitous to ascertain the spiritual meaning of the Sacred Writings; but are anxious rather to be diffuse on critical, controverted, and difficult points, where there is a wider field for the range of natural intellect. This inattention to the Affections is a main reason, why some commentaries are so meagre and unsatisfactory to spiritual readers, who with a view to personal edification, search after the mind of the Spirit, and the revelations of the divine image. A comment, written without adverting to the Affections, is so only in name and form.