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Some valuable remarks on this subject, by Melancthon, deserve to be noticed here: the reader may see them in his treatise “ de Origine et Auctoritate Verbi.”_“The gift of interpretation indeed, belongs not to the ungodly, but is with that assembly which is governed and sanctified by the Holy Spirit; for St. Paul says— Let the prophets speak two or three; and let the other judge; however, if any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.' Interpretation then is a revelation made by the Holy Spirit, and since the ungodly are the organs of Satan, it cannot be made in them. Hence, how much soever some men may excel in learning and polity, the interpretation of Scripture appertains not to them, but to the regenerate; because the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, which are spiritually discerned.” 1 Cor. ii.
Immediately antecedent to this remark, Melancthon has another: “When the ordinary succession and government of the Church were enjoyed by blasphemous, idolatrous, and ungodly men, God raised up Prophets and others, who were not in the order of succession, to reprovet he sins of the high and inferior priests. This is evident, as it respects the prophets Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, and Amos; whom the Lord endued with the gift of interpretation, at a period when the priests were enemies to the Truth.
So, in the time of Christ, the gift of Interpretation was not possessed by Annas, Caiaphas, the Scribes, and the Pharisees, though they were the heads of the visible Church, and considered themselves to be the only true Church and people of God. The gift was, at that time, confined to the Church and assembly of Zacharias, Elizabeth, the Baptist, the Shepherds, Simeon, Anna, the Apostles, &c., who were all conspicuous for their purity, and the light of heavenly instruction. It therefore becomes our duty not to listen to those who, for the sake of wealth and bonours, assume the right of interpretation, without being themselves influenced by the knowledge and fear of that God; who as the sole Author, is the sole Interpreter of Seripture; and who, by his Spirit, imparts the gift to those only who are pious, renewed, and lovers of the Word."
Caution is requisite in another respeet; namely, lest we accumulate External things without measure; for the perusal of Scripture is too easily neglected, when we are searching after many and various External helps. We may safely assure those who read the word with devotion and simplicity, that they will derive more light and profit from such a practice, and from connecting meditation with it (in the manner so exquisitely described by David, Psal. i.,) than can ever be acquired from drudging through an infinite variety of unimportant minutiæ. They who search
the Scriptures for the edification of themselves and others, and not for the sake of vanity, or to please men, will learn, from what has been advanced, to avoid the abuse of External things, and to build their knowledge of divine truth, on foundations firm and immoveable.
It is proper to observe that many things “ hard to be understood,” which will occur in Expository Reading, may be passed over until a greater proficiency has been made in spiritual wisdom. They who observe no medium, but seek to know every thing at once, are urged by this insatiable and irrational itch for knowledge, among a crowd of Commentators, and there they remain. They inconsiderately perplex their minds; add to the difficulties with which the pursuit of knowledge is attended; and, after all, remain ignorant of the “truth which is after godliness." In Expository Reading, every one must consider his own strength. A skilful architect first lays the foundation; but he does not immediately superadd the roof; and that student will ever make the most progress who, rising from less to greater points, and from the more easy to the more difficult, moves en in regular and happy gradation.
When the Literal Sense is ascertained, some give it 1. In a succinct Paraphrase; others, 2. In a prolix Exposition.
I. A PARAPHRASE may be either Historical or Textual. The former pursues the argument of a book historically, and aims at giving the sense and meaning of the Writer in perspicuous language; the łatter assumes the Person of the Writer, accompanies the text at the bottom of the page, and gives all phrases and expressions, in words that are simple and obvious.
In order to render a Textual Paraphrase just, five things are requisite:
1. The Literal Sense must be fully known.
2. All Propositions that are contained in the test, whether they be expressed or implied, must be explicitly and separately considered; lest any thing in the text should be neglected.
3. Instead of the more obscure, emphatic, and ambiguous words, contained in the propositions formed from the text, others should be substituted of a definite and obvious signification. The Emphasis may also be more fully shown.
4. Those which admit of it, may be expressed in the clearer words of Scripture itself; this alone is always equivalent to copious Annotations.
5. These Propositions thus explained, must be connected together, by means of copulative, casual, and conclusive particles, as the context may happen to require.
II. The prolix Exposition of the text chiefly respects the Analysis of it, and unites Logical with Expository Reading. If therefore we institute these Readings aright, we shall have no cause to complain either of the order, or of the matter. We ought however be te ous of the tural order, unless there be good grounds for deviation.