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more widely spread than those of Grecian or of Roman conquerors! These are thy triumphs, unfettered by mountain chains, and unlimit. ed by ocean depths;—whose memorials are in the dark caves of the deep waters, and upon the high places of the earth. Thine, indeed, O Death! is the only universal empire that has ever flourished.How vain the enterprizes of an Alexander; the laurels of a Cesar; the victories of a Napoleon! It was by thee they conquered, and by thee they were themselves subdued! They reigned over a few ter. ritories-over a few of the people of a single generation; but thou over all lands, all earth-born tribes, and all generations of men!
Yet are these graves, indeed, so dread a memorial of departed joys? Ard would the world be happy and beautiful if there were no graves? Could we now banish Death, and live forever amid these earthly scenes, would this be felicity and eternal joy? Ah! no; never while sin remains! Never while unrighteousness and the unrighteous dwell on earth! If the longevity of the antediluvian world contributed to create giants in wickedness, and to fill the earth with crime and violence, until one faithful individual alone remained, what would be the condition of human society if Death placed no barriers in the way of crime! How soon would the rank and hardy weeds of unrighteousness overgrow and choak the tender and delicate plants of godliness! The very qualities which characterize the righteous--the gentleness and meekness, the humility, resignation, and love which belong to their very nature, cause them to shrink and perish beneath the rage of the fierce and reckless passions, and the proud oppressions of the ungodly. How happy is it, then, that Death in time suspends the conflict! Happy, that as the frost of winter consigns alike the delicate and the luxuriant herbage to the dust, in order that in early spring the contest may be again renewed on equal terms, so Death leaves free, to the coming generation, the field of the world, for the great controversy of good and evil!
Oh! then, how great a friend to righteousness is Death while sin yet dwells on earth! How potent an ally to curb the pride of the haughty and to break in pieces the oppressor! What sorrows has he not soothed! What pains and agonies of life has he not assuaged! Of what deliverances has he not been the author! How indispensable have been his services! Need we wonder that when other consequences of sin have been removed and ein itself destroyed, Death will yet remain--once the first among the powers that have ruled over man in his rebellion, and now the last to be dispensed with among those that have served in his restoration to the divine favor. For, if Death reigned by sin,
Jesus hath reigned by Death, and shall deliver up the kingdom to the Father, as soon as Death shall be no more!
Shall we say then: It is Death that robs us of our joys! It is the grave that mars the beauty of the world! Surely it is not Death by which Christ triumphed! Surely it is not the grave, in which Jesus once reposed! Ah! no. Death is now to us the gate of heavenly joy—these graves are now earth's glory, since that of Jesus is among them! Behold his tomb! No proud monument of earthly pride—no Egyptian pyramid-no spacious mausoleum, to commemorate, not the dead who lie beneath, their very names unknown, but the power of death that conquered them,—no lofty pillar reaching to the clouds and erected by human hands, but a NATIVE ROCK! fit sepulchre for the Author of Nature—a grave whose deep recesses have brought forth life and incorruptibility, and which is a memorial not of the dead, neither of Death, but of the Living and of Life!
These tombs, then, shall no longer mar the beauty of the world around us, since that of Jesus makes them but emblems of the destruction of the grave, and types of joy to come.
Let us, then, approach their salutary shelter and dwell amidst their shades. Let the sorrows of death become cur joys; its mourning our rejoicing. Let tears be sweeter than laughter, and prayer than merriment, and penitence than pride, and Christ than all the world, and his cross and sepulchre than home with all its joys. For Death is now the Christian's captive, and the grave his legacy of life-the dawn of mortality's night-the spring of an endless year that knows no winter.
INTERPRETATION OF THE SCRIPTURES.
In discussing the general subject of scripture interpretation, we have contemplated, in certain points of view, the two opposing theories respecting the perspicuity and intelligibility of the Bible. In order to keep these theories clearly before the mind, we will here briefly state them.
The one is, that the scriptures possess in themselves an absolute and necessary power to make themselves understood, wholly irrespective of the state or character of the mind to which they are presented. In this view, no preparation of mind or heart is supposed at all necessary to the reception or the truths of revelation.
All minds are, at all times, fit for their reception. Every body has "ears to hear;” and to hear, is at once to comprehend. It is supposed that the scriptures, independent of the nature of the subjects which they present, and even of the attention that is paid to them, have the power to reach and control the understanding and the affections, and all influences of every sort which may be thought by others requisite or even conducive to these ends, are accordingly contemned. There are, it is true, a great many different degrees and phases of this doctrine; from the time at which it first modestly displays its horns, in the haze of the western horizon, to that at which, like another satelite, high in the zenith, it reveals its full-erbed face unveiled. But we prefer to state it, and to consider it, as it is really and essentially, free from those reticences and ambiguities by which it is so often rendered misshapen or obscure. It is a necessary consequence of this view that to a proper understanding of the sacred writings, ignorance is just as conducive as knowledge, and that neither learning, nor talent, nor disposition, nor attention; in short, that no gifts, either natural or acquired, contribute any thing whatever to their interpretation. And the practical effect of it is, that the untaught and unstable, glad to receive and cherish a doctrine which places them upon a fancied equality with those of superior attainments and abilities, adopt the most crude and imperfect notions of religion, and adhere to them so much the more tenaciously, as they are, in their opinion, the evident doctrines of the word of God, of which they are themselves competent and author. ized expositors. Such individuals are readily recoguized by the vanity and confidence with which they propound their half-formed tenets, and the dogmatic intolerance, and procacity with which they at once begin to controvert the views of others.
The other theory is, that the written word is a dead letter, having no power or tendency whatever in itself to act upon the human mind. Nothing can secure this result but a direct and independent operation of the Holy Spirit, which, it is supposed, eas and often does, without the word, enlighten, convince, and convert the soul. Here, equally as in the other view, the state of the mind is a matter of indifference, and all human aids which might be thought favor. able to the object, such as learning, or natural ability, or purity of purpose, or earnestness of desire, or application, are absolutely unavailing. The wise know not God by their wisdom, nor do the prudent attain salvation by their vigilance, nor do the earnest secure to themselves a knowledge of the truth by strenuous perseverance. It is an instantaneous effect, produced by special supernatural power,
whose exercise depends wholly upon the sovereign will and pleasure of the Deity. The natural tendency and the actual effect of this doctrine is that the written word is neglected and its teachings disregarded, and that the supporters of the theory are characterized more by the unsettled state of their feelings, than by the clearness of their views of Christianity; that they are more superstitious than religious; and far better oneirocritics than interpreters of Holy Writ.
It is in opposition to both of the above theories that we have endeavored to show that the perspicuity of the scriptures is relative, and that a variety of influences may and do contribute to a proper comprehension of their meaning. We have already, we trust, in some degree, exhibited the importance of a proper state of minda suitable preparation of heart for the reception of the truth-and have briefly stated some objections to the popular doctrine which requires that this preparation of heart, or that spiritual discernment necessary to the just perception of scripture truth, shall be invariably referred to a special internal and efficient operation of the Holy Spirit."
And here, before proceeding farther with the subject, it may be well to remark, that this theory of special and supernatural mental illumination is not restricted to the case of conversion, but is applied to the whole subject of scripture interpretation. Hence the saint requires it, as well as the sinner; and neither can make any progress whatever in divine knowledge without it. It is important to remember this, for it might otherwise be supposed that by this “internal and efficient operation of che Spirit” is meant exclusively that special influence which is supposed necessary in every case of true conversion. This converting influence, indeed, though often conceived to be manifested in the extraordinary clearness and force communicated to certain passages of scripture by which the sinner is overwhelmed, is far more frequently supposed to operate by shedding abroad in the heart an indefinable tranquility and consciousness of peace and acceptance with God; and this, wholly independent and irrespective of any particular portion of divine revelation. It is not, then, let it be understood, converting influence, that is the special subject of consideration, but the theory that an efficient illuminating internal operation of the Holy Spirit is necessary always and to all, converted or unconverted,—in order to a just understanding of the scriptures. We have not thought it necessary, at present, directly to contro
SERIES 111,- VOL. v.
vert this theory. It has been deemed sufficient, in relation to the general subject of scripture interpretation, to object to it as an unauthorized mixture of opinion with faith, an unnecessary introduction of the question of the mode in which prayer for wisdom is answered, and an undue restriction of divine agency to one precise and unvaried channel. It ought to be sufficient for the Christian to inculcate belief in the statements, and trust in tbe promises of scripture, without insisting upon the addition of any theoretic view of the manner in which they are to be fulfilled.
We regard it, however, important to consider a little more fully th opposit e notion, that the scriptures possess in themselves an absolute intelligibility; and to exhibit the nature of those influences which are indispensable to a proper understanding of the things which they are designed to reveal. It is essential here that words be rated at their true value. This, indeed, is the very question in dispute. One party underrates; the other, overrates their power. The former supposes that the word alone does nothing; the latter imagines that it accomplishes every thing. Between such conflicting extremes, calm and impartial investigation may discover the happy medium of reason and truth.
That the power of words to communicate ideas depends upon the capacity to understand them, is a matter so obvious that it requires no argument. And this capacity is, by no means, always given by a knowledge of the individual words employed to communicate the thought. There are many, who, while they are willing to agree that we must understand the words in order to comprehend the thought, will by no means admit that we can fail to grasp the thought after having this acquaintance with the words employed to convey it. With them, each word has a certain determinate value, and it is only necessary to add together these separate values to have the true result. Words, however, are somewhat like numbers, whose value in combination is very different from that which they possess individually and alone. They are not, indeed, always affected by relative position to the same extent, or in the same manner as numbers, but every one, at all conversant with language, must be aware how much depends upon the arrangement of words, and how readily the meaning of a sentence can be changed, and even reversed, by a slight alteration in the order of its words, without making any alteration in these words themselves. Hence it requires the largest acquaintance with language; the most highly cultivated powers of thought, and the greatest delicacy of perception, to determine, with accuracy, the proper signification of the phrases and various combi