Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

he taketh under the sun? (Eccl. i. 2, 3.) And towards the close of the same book (ch. xii. 8.) he repeats the same subject, the truth of which he had proved by experience. So, in the commencement of the book of Proverbs, Solomon distinctly announces their scope, (ch. i. 1-4. 6.)-"The Proverbs of Solomon, the son of David king of Israel; -to know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity; to give subtility to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion; to understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings." Saint John also, towards the close of his Gospel, announces his object in writing it to be," That ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that, believing, ye might have life through his name." Therefore, all those discourses of our Lord, which are recorded almost exclusively by this evangelist and apostle, are to be read and considered with reference to this particular design: and, if this circumstance be kept in view, they will derive much additional force and beauty.

Of the application of this rule to the illustration of a particular section, or the ascertaining of a special scope, the seventh chapter of Saint Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians will supply an example. In that chapter, the object of which is to show that it was not good to marry, the apostle is replying to the queries which had been proposed to him by the Corinthian converts; and it is evident that his reply is continued through the whole chapter. But did he mean to insinuate absolutely that matrimony in itself was not good? By no means: on the contrary, it is clear from the scope of this section, given by Saint Paul in express words, that his design was not, in general, to prefer a state of celibacy to that of marriage; much less was it to teach that the living unmarried was either more holy or more acceptable to God; or that those who vow to lead a single life shall certainly obtain eternal salvation, as the church of Rome erroneously teaches from this place. But we perceive that he answered the question proposed to him with reference to the then existing circumstances of the Christian church. The apostle thought that a single life was preferable on account of the present distress — that is, the sufferings to which they were then liable. The persecutions to which they were exposed, when they came upon them, would be more grievous and afflictive to such as had a wife and children who were dear to them, than to those who were single and therefore, under such circumstances, the apostle recommends celibacy to those who had the gift of living chastely without marriage.

2, The scope of the sacred writer may be ascertained from the known occasion on which his book was written.

Thus, in the time of the apostles, there were many who disseminated errors, and defended Judaism: hence it became necessary that the apostles should frequently write against these errors, and oppose the defenders of Judaism. Such was the occasion of Saint Peter's second epistle: and this circumstance will also afford a key by which to ascertain the scope of many of the other epistolary writings. Of the same description also were many of the parables delivered by Jesus Christ. When any question was proposed to him, or he was reproached for holding intercourse with publicans and sinners, he availed himself of the occasion to reply, or to defend himself by a parable. Sometimes, also, when his disciples laboured under any mistakes, he kindly corrected their erroneous notions by parables.

The inscriptions prefixed to many of the Psalms, though some of them are evidently spurious, and consequently to be rejected, frequently indicate the occasion on which they were composed, and thus reflect considerable light upon their scope. Thus the scope of the 18th, 34th, and 3d Psalms is illustrated from their respective inscriptions, which distinctly assert upon what occasions they were composed by David. In like manner, many of the prophecies, which would otherwise be obscure, become perfectly clear when we understand the circumstances on account of which the predictions were uttered.

3. The express conclusion, added by the writer at the end of an argument, demonstrates his general scope.

Thus, in Rom. iii. 23. after a long discussion, Saint Paul adds this conclusion: - Therefore we conclude, that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law: Hence we perceive with what design the whole passage was written, and to which all the rest is to be referred. The conclusions interspersed through the epistles may easily be ascertained by means of the particles, "wherefore,' seeing that," "therefore," " then," &c. as well as by the circumstances directly mentioned or referred to. The principal conclusions, however, must be separated from

555

those which are of comparatively less importance, and subordinate to the former. Thus, in the epistle to Philemon, our attention must chiefly be directed to verses 8. and 17., whence we collect that Saint Paul's design or scope was to reconcile Onesimus (who had been a runaway slave) to his master, and to restore him to the latter, a better person than he had before been. In the epistle to the Ephesians, the principal conclusions are, ch. ii. 11, 12. and ch. iv. Î. 3. The subordinate or less principal conclusions are ch. i. 15. iii. 13. iv. 17. 25. v. 1. 7. 15. 17. and vi. 13, 14.1

4. The scope of a passage may further be known from history. For instance, we learn from history, that during the time of the apostles there were numerous errors disseminated; and therefore they wrote many passages in An acquaintance their epistle with the express design of refuting such errors. with these historical particulars will enable us to determine with accuracy the scope of entire books as well as of detached passages.

5. A knowledge of the time when a book was written, and also of the state of the church at that time, will indicate the scope or intention of the author in writing such book.

Thus, the epistle of Saint James was written about the year of Christ 61. at which time the Christians were suffering persecution, and probably (as appears from ch, ii. 6. and ch. v. 6.) not long before the apostle's martyrdom; which, Bishop Pearson thinks2 happened A. D. 62. in the eighth year of Nero's reign, when the destruction of the Jewish temple and polity was impending. (James v. 1.8.) At the period referred to, there were in the church certain professing Christians, who, in consequence of the sanguinary persecution then carried on against them both by Jews and Gentiles, were not only declining in faith and love, and indulging various sinful practices for instance, undue respect of persons, (chapter ii. verse i. et seq.) contempt of their poor brethren, (chapter ii. verse 9. et seq.) and unbridled freedom of speech, (chapter iii. verse 3. et seq.); but who also most shamefully abused to licentiousness the grace of God, which in the Gospel is promised to the penitent; and, disregarding holiness, boasted of a faith destitute of its appropriate fruits, viz. of a bare assent to the doctrines of the Gospel, and boldly affirmed that this inoperative and dead faith was alone sufficient to obtain salvation, (chapter ii. verse 17. et seq.) Hence we may easily perceive that the apostle's scope was not to treat of the doctrine of justification; but, the state of the church requiring it, to correct those crrors in doctrine, and those sinful practices, which had crept into the church, and particularly to expose that fundamental error of a dead faith unproductive of good works. This observation further shows the true way of reconciling the supposed contradiction between the apostles Paul and James, concerning the doctrine of salvation by faith.3

6. If, however, none of these subsidiary aids present themselves, it only remains that we REPEATEDLY AND DILIGENTLY STUDY THE ENTIRE BOOK, AS WELL AS THE WHOLE SUBJECT, AND CAREFULLY ASCERTAIN THE SCOPE FROM THEM, before we attempt an examination of any particular text.

Thus we shall be enabled to understand the mind of its author, and to ascertain the main subject and tendency of the book or epistle which may be under consideration or if it have several views and purposes in it, not mutually dependent upon each other, nor in subordination to one chief end, we shall be enabled to discover what those different matters were, as also in what part the author concluded one and began another; and, if it be necessary to divide such book or epistle into parts, to ascertain their exact boundaries.

But in this investigation of the scope, there is not always that clearness which leads to a certain interpretation: for sometimes there are several interpretations which sufficiently agree with the writer's design. In those places, for instance, where the coming of Christ is mentioned, it is not always determined whether it is his last advent

1 Franckii Manuductio, cap. iii. pp. 87, 88. 292. or English edition, pp. 61. et seq. 177. et seq. Franckii Prælect. Herm. pp. 38. et seq.

2 Annales Paulinæ, p. 31.

3 Jo. Henr. Michaelis Introductio Historico-Theologica in Jacobi Minoris Epistelam Catholicam, § viii. xi.

to judge the world, or his coming to inflict punishment on the unbelieving Jews. In such cases the interpreter must be content with some degree of probability. There are, however, two or three cautions, in the consideration of the scope, to which it will be desirable to attend. 1. Where, of two explanations, one is evidently contrary to the series of the discourse, the other must necessarily be preferred.

In Psal. xlii. 2. the royal psalmist pathetically exclaims When shall I come and appear before God?- This verse has, by some writers, been expounded thus; that a man may wish for death, in order that he may the sooner enjoy that state of future blessedness which is sometimes intended by the phrase seeing God. Now this exposition is manifestly contrary to the design of the Psalm; in which David, exiled from Jerusalem, and consequently from the house of God, through Absalom's unnatural rebellion, expresses his fervent desire of returning to Jerusalem, and beholding that happy day when he should again present himself before God in his holy tabernacle. In the fourth verse he mentions the sacred pleasure with which he had gone (or would repair, for some of the versions render the verb in the future tense) with the multitude to the house of God. There is therefore in this second sense a necessary and evident connection with the scope and series of the discourse.

In 1 Cor. iii. 17. we read, If any man defile (more correctly destroy) the temple of God, him shall God destroy. The phrase temple of God, in this passage, is usually interpreted of the human body, and by its defilement is understood libidinous unchastity, which God will destroy by inflicting corresponding punishment on the libidinous man. This sense is certainly a good one, and is confirmed by a similar expression at the close of the sixth chapter. But, in the former part of the third chapter, the apostle had been giving the teachers of the Corinthian Christians an important caution to teach pure and salutary doctrines, together with that momentous doctrine Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ, (v. 11.) — and that they should not add false doctrines to it. After largely discussing this topic, he subsequently returns to it, and the passage above cited occurs intermediately. From this view of the scope it will be evident, that by the temple of God is to be understood the Christian church; which if any man defile, corrupt, or destroy, by disseminating false doctrines, Goá will destroy him also.

--

2. Where a parallel passage plainly shows that another passage is to be understood in one particular sense, this must be adopted to the exclusion of every other sense, although it should be supported by the grammatical interpretation as well as by the scope.

Thus, in Matt. v. 25. we read- "Agree with thine adversary quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison." This passage has been interpreted to refer either to a future state of existence, or to the present life. In the former sense, the adversary is God; the judge, Christ; the officer, death; and the prison, hell and eternal punishments. In the latter sense, the meaning of this passage simply is, "If thou hast a lawsuit, compromise it with the plaintiff, and thus prevent the necessity of prosecuting it before a judge: but if thou art headstrong, and wilt not compromise the affair, when it comes to be argued before the judge, he will be severe, and will decree that thou shalt pay the uttermost farthing." Now, both these expositions yield good senses, agreeing with the scope, and both contain a cogent argument that we should be easily appeased but if we compare the parallel passage in Luke xii. 58, 59. we shall find the case thus stated- When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him, lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer (TW TраKTOρι, whose duty it was to levy fines imposed for violation of the law); and the officer on nonpayment cast thee into prison. I tell thee thou shalt not depart thence till thou hast paid the very last mite. — In this passage there is no reference whatever to a future state, nor to any punishments which will hereafter be inflicted on the im placable and thus a single parallel text shows which of the two senses best agrees with the scope of the discourse, and consequently which of them is preferably to be adopted.1

1 Bauer, Herm. Sacr. pp. 201-204. J. B. Carpzov. Herm. Sacr. pp. 33-35

SECTION VIII.

OF THE ANALOGY OF FAITH.

I. The Analogy of Faith defined and illustrated.—II. Its importance in studying the Sacred Writings.-III. Rules for investigating the Analogy of Faith.

I. OF all the various aids that can be employed for investigating and ascertaining the sense of Scripture, the ANALOGY OF FAITH is one of the most important. We may define it to be the constant and perpetual harmony of Scripture in the fundamental points of faith and practice, deduced from those passages, in which they are discussed by the inspired penmen, either directly or expressly, and in clear, plain, and intelligible language. Or, more briefly, the analogy of faith may be defined to be that proportion which the doctrines of the Gospel bear to each other, or the close connection between the truths of revealed religion.

The Analogy of Faith is an expression borrowed from Saint Paul's Epistle to the Romans, (xii. 6.) where he exhorts those who prophesy in the church (that is, those who exercise the office of authoritatively expounding the Scriptures) to prophesy according to the proportion, or, as the word is in the original, the analogy of faith. To the same effect many commentators interpret Saint Peter's maxim, (2 Pet. i. 20.) that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private, or self-interpretation; implying that the sense of any prophecy is not to be determined by an abstract consideration of the passage itself, but by taking it in conjunction with other portions of Scripture relating to the subject, "comparing things spiritual with spiritual" (1 Cor. ii. 13.); a rule, which though it be especially applicable to the prophetic writings, is also of general importance in the exposition of the sacred volume.1

II. It is evident that God does not act without a design in the system of religion taught in the Gospel, any more than he does in the works of nature. Now this design must be uniform: for, as in the system of the universe every part is proportioned to the whole, and is made subservient to it, so, in the system of the Gospel, all the various truths, doctrines, declarations, precepts, and promises, must correspond with and tend to the end designed. For instance, if any one interpret those texts of Scripture, which maintain our jus

Ernesti, Institutio Interp. Nov. Test. pp. 61, 62. Mori Acroases in Ernesti, tom. i. pp. 150-160. Franckii Prælect. Herm. pp. 29-61. Franckii Commentatio de Scopo Veteris et Novi Testamenti, Hale 1724, 8vo. Jahnii Enchiridion, pp. 6971. Rambach, Inst. Herm. pp. 145–197. 234. 238-240. Chladenii Instit. Exeget. pp. 375-387. J. E. Pfeifferi, Inst. Herm. Sacr. pp. 147–151. 267-276. Schæfer, ii. 62-68. pp. Institutiones Scripturistice, pars

1 Bishop Van Mildert's Bampton Lect. p. 181. Pfeiffer, Herm. Sacr. c. xii. (Op. t. ii. p. 659.) Carpzov. Prim. Lin. Herm. Sacr. p. 28. It may here be remarked, that the New Testament presents three terms, which appear to be synonymous with the analogy of faith, viz. 1. Rom. ii. 20. _ Μορφωσις της γνώσεως, και της αλήθειας εν Tu vouw, the form of knowledge, the grand scheme and draught of all true science, and the system of eternal truth in the law. - 2. Rom. vi. 17. Turos didaxns, the form or mould of doctrine into which the Christians were cast.-3. 2 Tim. ii. 17. Ymore-` πωσις υγιαινόντων λόγων, the form of sound words.

tification by faith only, or our salvation by free grace, in such a sense as to exclude the necessity of good works, this interpretation is to be rejected, because it contradicts the main design of Christianity, which is to save us from our sins (Matt. i. 21.), to make us holy as God is holy (1 Pet. i. 15.), and to cleanse us from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit. (2 Cor. vii. 1.) In the application, however, of the analogy of faith to the interpretation of the Scriptures, it is indispensably necessary that the inquirer previously understand the whole scheme of divine revelation; and that he do not entertain a predilection for a part only; without attention to this, he will be liable to error. If we come to the Scriptures with any pre-conceived opinions, and are more desirous to put that sense upon the text which coincides with our own sentiments rather than the truth, it then becomes the analogy of our faith rather than that of the whole system. This, Dr. Campbell remarks, was the very source of the blindness of the Jews in our Saviour's time they searched the Scriptures very assiduously; but, in the disposition they entertained, they would never believe what that sacred volume testifies of Christ. The reason is obvious; their great rule of interpretation was the analogy of faith, or, in other words, the system of the Pharisean Scribes, the doctrine then in vogue, and in the profound veneration of which they had been educated. This is that veil by which the understandings of the Jews were darkened, even in reading the law, and of which Saint Paul observed that it remained unremoved in his day; and we cannot but remark that it remains unremoved in our own time. There is, perhaps, scarcely a sect or denomination of Christians, whether of the Greek, Romish, or Protestant churches, but has some particular system or digest of tenets, by them termed the analogy of faith, which they individually hold in the greatest reverence; and all whose doctrines terminate in some assumed position, so that its partisans may not contradict themselves. When persons of this description, it has been well remarked, meet with passages in Scripture which they cannot readily explain, consistently with their hypothesis, they strive to solve the difficulty by the analogy of faith which they have themselves invented. But allowing all their assumptions to be founded in truth, it is by no means consonant with the principles of sound divinity, to interpret Scripture by the hypothesis of a church; because the sacred records are the only proper media of ascertaining theological truth.2

III. Such, then, being the importance of attending to the analogy of faith, it remains to state a few observations which may enable the student to apply it to the clearing up of obscure or difficult passages of Scripture.

1. Wherever any doctrine is manifest, either from the whole tenor of divine revelation or from its scope, it must not be weakened or set aside by a few obscure passages.

As the observance of this canon is necessary to every student of the inspired volume, so it ought especially to be regarded by those who are apt to interpret

1 Dr. Campbell's translation of the Four Gospels, vol. i. dissert: iv. § 14. p. 116.

3d edit.

2 Franck's Guide to the Scriptures, p. 79. Franckii Prælect. Herm. P. 185.

« ZurückWeiter »