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altered. Phrases which at one time were clear and distinct, appear at another indefinite and obscure. Expressions which were once metaphorical become literal; and metaphors, whose use was once so frequent and determinate that custom had assigned to them a signification almost literal, grow, at length, so antiquated and obsolete, that the abstract conceptions of a less poetical age are apt to condemn them as unintelligible and absurd, or to interpret them in a sense which sometimes misrepresents, and generally exceeds, their real import. Thus length of years often destroys intellectual as completely as it does personal beauty, and so thoroughly changes the character of a composition, that it is not till after the strictest scrutiny that we are enabled to conceive what those who formerly looked upon it could admire.

Not only however has each age, but each country and each individual a distinct and appropriate train of images, expressions and thoughts. The invigorating mildness of a temperate zone, and the enervating heats and luxurious vegetation of a southern clime, generate ideas and representations of happiness and misery altogether dissimilar from those which prevail amongst the frozen inhabitants of the dark and dreary north: and the figures of speech are, of course, regulated by the pictures of the imagination. This effect is still heightened by peculiarities in the natural formation of each man's mind; so that where, as in the Bible, we meet with a work of great, though different degrees of antiquity, composed by several individuals and in different countries, not one of which has any strong resemblance to that in which we ourselves reside, obscurity, in no inconsiderable number of places, must be the necessary result. The writers must often appear inexplicable to our present notions, and sometimes irreconcileable with each other; because adopting the same words in a different sense, or expressing the same thoughts in phraseology of a dissimilar character.

2. We may discover a second cause of “ thing's hard to be understood,” in the medium which has been selected for the vehicle of revelation. The sacred Volume may be divided into the Old and New Testaments, not more by the different nature of the dispensations those covenants contain, than by the different languages in which they are written. The Law and the Prophets speak to us in the Hebrew tongue. The Gospel has brought life and immortality to light through the more polished periods of the Greek. Both languages, however, have long ceased to be spoken with purity by any people, and the grammatical

principles of both are distinct, in many essential points, from that construction and those forms of speech which are prevalent in modern ages, and in our native land. In searching out the meaning of the Scriptures, we have, therefore, to contend with the difficulties of two languages, both dead and disused, both different from each other, and both distinct from our own. Were there many other compositions of the same kind, or in the same languages, as the Bible in our possession, the obstacles arising from these circumstances would not perhaps have been found very formidable in reality, however alarming in their apparent magnitude. Had we the power of comparing the words and phrases whose meaning is dubious in the pages of revelation, with the more intelligible use of them in other and profane authors, the labour and literature of successive expositors would no doubt, in most cases, have long ago issued in a definite and true interpretation. But the Hebrew idioms are very often incapable of receiving illustration from analogous compositions, because the language of the Hebrew Scriptures is not to be found, under precisely the same modification, in any other writings ; whilst its vocabulary is so scanty, and its grammatical rules of such a nature, as to give rise to considerable ambiguity. Nor is this source of doubt confined to the Hebrew Scriptures or

the Mosaic covenant. It extends its influence also over the translation of those records into Greek, and over the pages of the Christian dispensation. For the phraseology of both the Septuagint and the Gospel, from having been written by Jews, has been moulded, in some measure, into a Jewish form, though written in Grecian words, and has thus frequently combined the peculiarities of both languages. Hence it is not unusual to meet with an expression which, in one place, is adopted in a classical, whilst in another it seems to bear an Hellenistical sense. Of course it must sometimes be difficult to determine in which of the two senses it ought really to be interpreted.

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3. That obscurity which springs from our ignorance of the precise idea it was the intention of an Author to convey, by the use of certain words and phrases in a foreign language, is considerably diminished in most cases, if we are acquainted with the manners and customs of the age in which he lived, and the political and religious system to which he was subject. We are then able, as it were, to place ourselves in the very situation in which he stood, to appreciate his feelings, understand his allusions, and enter into the principles of his reasoning.

Hence, though his composition be intricate and his phra

seology vague or abstruse, we are generally able to perceive the drift of his statements, and, by the aid of our own conjectures upon his probable intention, to ascertain the real meaning of his writings. But both the Ecclesiastical Polity of the Jews, and the Civil Polity of the Romans, under which the most important portions of the sacred Volume were produced, have long since ceased to exist; and the scanty, indistinct, and sometimes perhaps, even erroneous notions we entertain of their institutions, their forms of government and domestic arrangements, are to be gathered from the lucubrations of Antiquaries, whose works would require a life to read and more than a life to estimate. Nor is this the only, or the greatest disadvantage of this kind which we experience in our interpretation of the Bible. Could we even remove every doubt which rests upon the subject of the Jewish and Roman Antiquities, there would still remain a large field of research where no diligence or learning would be of any material use. For the more ancient books of Holy Writ refer to people and periods concerning whose manners and religion we can derive no assistance whatever from contemporary

I do not merely allude to those brief annals of the antediluvian ages which the Bible contains, and which are confessedly the only authentic account we possess of a most important


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