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to a certain description of writers, or to the expounding of their peculiar subjects and texts; which latter we may term PARTICULAR Helps.
Rules of this kind may be learned by practice in reading the Scriptures; but the labours of others will also
prove useful. “ Rules formed by others,” says Danhauerus (“Herm. Sac.” p. 390) are not to be
neglected. They are like the counsels of a courier “ who has finished a journey which we are about to
commence; and the tendency of whose instructions " is to render the path of those who follow less ha“ zardous and difficult." Flacius has given us, in the second part of his “ Clavis Scripturæ,” a collection of rules, composed of such as he had himself remarked to be highly useful in the study of the Scripture; and of others, which he had gleaned from the writings of the Fathers. Danhauerus in his “ Herm. Sac.” proposes the following:
1. The most simple is the most genuine meaning. 2. The literal is preferable to the figurative sense.
3. The Scriptures are to be taken in their widest signification, when they are not limited by the Holy Spirit; especially in the descriptions that are given of the gracious blessings of the Gospel.
4. A less portion of Holy Writ must be interpreted agreeably to a larger; and one single passage is not to
be explained in contrariety to many others, but consistently with them.
5. The Scriptures sometimes denominate an action or thing from the object to which it finally refers.
6. The Sacred Writings sometimes affirm, that a thing which did not succeed, was never done.
7. The Scripture often accommodates its language, not so much to facts as they exist, as to the opinions of men respecting them.
8. What is said of Christ in the Inspired Volume, is sometimes understood of Him alone, as the Head of the Church; sometimes of the Body only, which is the Church; and sometimes of both the Head and the Body.
9. When a word which had preceded, is repeated in connexion with a conditional, or some similar particle, it, in the latter instance, imports an Intention; so that what, in the first place, is said to be done, is, in the second, said to have been done resolutely, on full consideration. Thus“What I have written, I have written.” John xix. 22.
10. The name “ Children” is not always indicative of a certain age; but is, sometimes an expression of love and tenderness. See John's Epistles.
11. An action begun, or about to be begun, is sometimes said to be finished.
12. A thing is often attributed to one who formerly was a remarkable example of any action. See Jude 11.(d)
Glassius has likewise furnished Rules of this kind (" Philologia Sacra,” Book 2,) and there are many interspersed in the Commentaries of Guierus, Schmidius, &c, and in the writings of the Rabbíns. It is, however, an easy matter, to draw up rules according to some assumed hypothesis; and, therefore, 1. Their authority should be examined, and 2. They must always be applied with caution.(c)
III. PARTICULAR Helps are those Rules which have been made for the purpose of interpreting particular writers and books. Glassius, Flacius, and others, have drawn up some which are applicable to Allegories, Types, Parables, &c. They likewise have some profitable thoughts, in reference to the writings of Paul, John, &c. Danhauerus, in his “Hermeneutica Sacra,” presents us with several Canons for the elucidation of the Prophets, Psalms, Types, Parable, and Laws: and it bas been already observed, that Chemnitz has furnished others explanatory of the Decalogue. On such principles, Rules might be farmed for the Lord's Prayer, &c.
Having considered INTERNAL Helps according to the classification of General, Special, and Particu
lar, we proceed to offer some remarks on Helps External.
EXTERNAL Helps are those which may be subordinately used, in more clearly ascertaining and expounding the sense of Scripture; though it is to be observed, that, in all things pertaining to eternal salvation, the Scriptures sufficiently explain themselves.
External Helps are for the purpose of throwing light on certain abstruse passsages, and on their literal sense: as Antiquities; the Rites and Customs of the ancients (things frequently alluded to in the Inspired Writings;) Geography, Chronology, Natural History, &c.; which, through the goodness of God, have been respectively treated, by men mighty in the Scriptures, in order to their elucidation. (f)
In the use of these Helps, both deficiency and excess are blameable. They who can admire nothing but their own meditations, and know not how to make Externals subservient to the edification of themselves and others, do most certainly commit the former error; while those who depend on the authority of expositors alone, and receive, as infallible, whatever pleases the learned, commit the latter fault, and infringe on the privileges of the Christian, the gifts of the Spirit, and the full assurance (Kanpo popoce) of faith. They are most secure who take the middle path; who neither rely on their own wisdom, nor are fascinated by the
authority of others; but learn happily to conjoin Internal with External Helps.
Internal Helps must be decidedly preferred to those which are External. Indeed, the latter are rather to be used in authorising and confirming the sense when it is discovered; or in determining it when, after all Internal Helps have been exhausted, it remains doubtful. Hence, they who labour through vast Commentaries, or devote their time to the purposes of forming selections, and digesting them into common places, will make but small advancement; and cannot reasonably expect to attain to an accurate and sound talent for interpreting Scripture. To write a Comment is one thing; but to develope the sense of the Sacred Volume is another.
Commentators are generally diffuse on critical, polemical and common-place subjects: and seldom examine very minutely into the spiritual sense of Scripture. We must therefore be careful to select such Commentaries as are most agreeable to the object we have in view; and especially such as evince the illumination of that Spirit who speaks in the Sacred Oracles. This is essential; for if we cannot understand the Scriptures, without the aid of the divine Spirit who dictated them; is it possible to derive assistance from a Commentator who bas presumed to judge of spiritual things, while he himself is carnal?(g)