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they are intended to furnish, that he may not, through ignorance of this essential point, injure the cause he designs to defend.
them to her home and to her heart: she was unto them as a sister. And perhaps I may be permitted to add, that this love of the good is one great evidence of the sincerity of our religion. "Do good unto all men, but especially to the household of faith," is the injunction of the Apostle. Are we not brethren? Let us then 66 see that we fall not out by the way." May we love the good-may we unite ourselves to them- may we give them our hands and our hearts, and go forth together in the strength of our heavenly Father, to bless and benefit all around us! O happy country which should be thus bound together! And more and more happy shall we, as individuals, become in proportion as our own state more nearly approaches to this. Blessed, thrice blessed, shall we be, when all hearts, tuned as it were, by the hand of God, and moved by the breath of Heaven, shall sound one harmonious and concordant note, and join in one heavenly song-Glory to God, and good will to man;"-when our general aim, and our universal attainment shall be"to love God, and to love one another."
Tothe Editor of the Christian Observer.
THE prophecies contained in the Old and New Testaments have always been considered by competent judges as the strongest evi dences of the truth of Revelation. Bishop Newton observes, that "it is one of the excellencies of the evidence drawn from prophecy, that it is a growing evidence; and that the more prophecies are fulfilled, the more testimonies there are and confirmations of the truth and certainty of Divine Revelation." It is extremely necessary, therefore, that every person who attempts to demonstrate the truth of Christianity by an appeal to the prophecies, should be well acquainted with the nature of the evidence
Sir Isaac Newton (to who se opinions surely some deference is due) seems to have explained its nature accurately: he says, "The prophecies of the Old Testament were given, not to gratify men's curiosities by enabling them to foreknow things, but that, after they were fulfilled, they might be interpreted by the event, and the providence of God, not the interpreters, be then manifested to the world." If the opinion, then, contained in this quotation be correct, which I think is indisputable, it appears, that the evidence of Prophecy arises solely from those predictions which are already fulfilled; and that the office of an Interpreter of Prophecy is "not to foretel times and things by Prophecy, as if God designed him for a prophet," but diligently to collate the events recorded in profane history with Scripture predictions, in order to ascertain to which they allude. This being accomplished, we are able to encounter the infidel with this irrefragable argument, that since the records of Christianity contain predictions of events which did not occur till ages afterwards, the author of those records must be God-foreknowledge being one of the peculiar attributes of Deity. This statement, both of the nature of the evidence arising from prophecy and of the office of their interpreter, appears to receive additional confirmation from the obscurity of all prophecy previous to its fulfilment. The design of this obscurity is probably to discourage the attempt to predict future events, and to confine us to those which may appear to have been fulfilled. It is invariably found, that this obscurity is removed so completely after their fulfilment, that no rational mind can doubt to what event they allude. For instance, how clear and divested of all obscurity
do the prophecies relating to the Messiah now appear, to what they did before his advent; and since this has been the case hitherto, it is reasonable to conclude that such will be the case with respect to all that remain to be fulfilled.
On this ground, then, is it not to be lamented that commentators upon prophecy should not have adhered more strictly to this only safe rule of interpretation? An error in attributing a prediction of Scripture to some event already passed, is not attended with injurious consequences to the cause of Christianity; but when pious men predict, from the Scriptures, events which never occur, infidels rejoice and triumph, and religion is injured, undesignedly indeed, by her professed friends. That this has been the case, no one can doubt, who is acquainted with some of the comments on the prophecies that have appeared within the last twenty years. Opinions, not less discordant than extravagant, have been industriously propagated; and every individual, however illiterate, who imagined, that he perceived a new light thrown on the prophetic pages by some passing event, or who fancied that he could remove the veil from those on which it still remained, has deemed it improper to withhold his wayward fancies from "the public at large, and the religious world in particular."
It would not be a difficult undertaking in many instances to trace this assumption of prophetical powers, to that fruitful source of human actions-vanity. Especially may we apprehend this to be the case where we find these interpreters arrogating to themselves the merit of new discoveries, and insolently trampling upon the more unpretending suggestions of their learned and pious predecessors. This is an age of considerable pretension, but of little real learning; an age in which many philosophize who will not read. Young writers among us are apt to disdain the
aid of our ancestors, whose ponderous folios contain extensive information and erudite discussion; and to aim at comprising within the compass of a modern pamphlet all that is to be said upon subjects of the most abstruse nature. From such efforts important results cannot be anticipated.
In some instances, we have seen with surprise that the professed object of these adventurous interpreters of the prophetic volumes has been peculiarly the instruction of the poor. Now I will freely own, that I am not aware in what manner this end is to be effected by publications of this kind. If, indeed, it be at all necessary to explain the prophecies to the lower orders of society, time, perhaps, would be most profitably employed, and the object best accomplished, by abridging some standard work on the Prophecies.
My main objection, however, to this sort of Quixotism in the interpretation of the Sacred Writings is founded upon the awful character of the Sacred Volume itself. A commentator upon Scripture assumes to himself, indeed, a most dignified, but a highly responsible office. To misrepresent, even undesignedly, the meaning of the Holy Spirit, is a most serious offence; and therefore the attempt to make Scripture accord with a preconceived human system or hypothesis, which may or may not be erroneous, ought to be deprecated by every pious mind. Surely it is a primary duty to inculcate upon all men the simplicity and docility of the primitive Christians. They delighted to dwell on the truths clearly revealed in the Scriptures, and left those of a more mysterious nature to be revealed by their great Author, at his own time, and in his own way. They, indeed, approached the mysteries of the Sacred Volume but with reverence and self-abasement. They approached them in the spirit of St. Paul, and exclaimed, "O the
depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" Many parts of the holy Scriptures are still covered with a veil of mystery; covered, doubtless, for some wise purpose. It becomes us, then, to suffer that veil to remain, until the "fulness of the time be come," when it shall
be withdrawn; and those things which are now seen only as "through a glass darkly," shall be seen "face to face."
Although the theological works of the present day are very numerous, how few comparatively are those which can be strictly classed under the head of "hortatory theology." There is no deficiency of either controversial or abstract writings on subjects connected with religion. But those which represent religion as an operative principle, influencing the will, refining the affections, assimilating the whole man to the image of God; and which, while they magnify the mercy of God, enforce the obligation of a holy life by the sanctions of the law, are more rare than the temper of the age would have led us to anticipate. Let those persons competent to the task, and who are desirous of edifying either the rich or poor of the Church of God, employ their time and talents in supplying this deficiency.
I cannot close these remarks in more appropriate words than those of Bishop Newton: "If we would confine ourselves to the rules of just criticism, and not indulge lawless and extravagant fancies; if we would be content with sober and genuine interpretation, and not pretend to be prophets, nor presume to be wise above what is written, we should more consider those passages which have already been accomplished, than frame conjectures about those which remain to be fulfilled. Where the facts may be compared with the
predictions, there we have some clue to guide us through the labyrinth; and though it may be difficult to trace out every minute resemblance, yet there are some strong lines and features which cannot fail of striking every one who will but impartially and duly examine them*.'
To the Editor of the Christian Observer.
ALLOW me as a Christian, and as a member of the Church of England, at whose altars I hope one day to minister, to thank your correspondent, D. W., for his truly interesting and important remarks on the prevalence of certain theological errors. Whoever is con
versant with the present state of religion in this country, must be convinced, that at no time could they have been more seasonable, The church seems to be now rising from her slumber of ages. That pure fire which at a remote period burnt upon her altars, but which had almost become extinct, seems again to be bursting forth; and it therefore becomes an imperious duty on those who are concerned for her prosperity, to take heed that this fire be fed with hallowed materials. Your correspondent has manifested his anxiety on this point. Like a faithful watchman, he has raised his warning voice; and may the ministers of the sanctuary hear and attend!
Among the errors which he has so forcibly pointed out, there is one which, in my opinion, has done more to injure the cause of Christianity, and to promote the growth of impiety and infidelity, than any other-I mean that of a fanciful and forced interpretation of Scripture. The beautiful simplicity and perspicuity of Holy Writ, have too often disappeared amidst the allegorical, spiritual, or hidden meanings attached to them by fan
Vol. ii. p. 163.
ciful interpreters; of interpreters whose chief design has been to discover a sense which the Holy Spirit, perhaps, never intended to convey. From the days of Origen, there have never been wanting those who have endeavoured to convert the Scriptures into a mere collection of mysteries, paradoxes, and enigmas, But it was reserved for the 19th century to produce a commentator who should offer the most mischievous apologies for sins which Scripture either expressly condemns, or is infinitely far from Colamending; including, in these apologies, even the crime of Judas! Without any intention of arguing on a subject on which it must be thought that every man who is contented with the plain and unsophisticated testimony of Scripture has made up his opinion, I wish simply to point out the impropriety and danger of such a course of conduct.poft
Let us consider, for a moment, why the delinquencies of men, in the main faithful to God and to religion, are recorded in the Bible. In the first place, they serve the purpose of stamping the Scripture history with the character of truth: for as the best men are imperfect, a true history of them will transmit an account of the faults of conduct to which this imperfection led. But this is not the only object of such histories of the errors and sins of good men. Are they recorded, as some of the persons to whom I have referred appear to imagine, that we may plead them in excuse for our own faults? Certainly not. They are recorded in order to display the corruptions of our nature; our dependence upon God, and his hatred to sin wherever and by whomsoever committed. In the Scriptures we see nothing of that system of miti gation, of dilution, of extenuation, which prevails at present. A crime is not softened into an error; nor an error into an innocent failing. The sin and the sinner are strongly exposed and displayed. No at
tempt is made to soften the colourings, even though a portrait is to be presented of Abraham, or David, or Peter. God forbid, then, that we should depart from the practice of Scripture. The heart of man is always too ready to palliate its own transgressions, and to find an excuse for every error. Even the devout Christian is too often tempted to spare a darling lust; and, by a perversion of words, to ask, "Is it not a little one?" And it is chiefly from the testimony of Scripture, that this lust or sin is deeply offensive to God, that he is compelled to make the sacrifice. Had there been a single instance in which a sinful action had been palliated by the Holy Spirit, the "heart is" $o "deceitful," so "desperately wicked," that it would have clung to that instance as a sort of license for the coinmission of ten thousand acts of siu. But, blessed be God! this is not the case. Iniquity is condemned by the Bible in all circumstances, and in every character, The sin of the saint is recorded, that we may shun it. Why, then, should we, for whose benefit it is thus transmitted, seek to diminish the effect of the record? Why should we wish (I must use a strong expression)-why should we wish to open a flood-gate to licentiousness? Better would it be, if we must err, to err on the other side of the question; and rather to heighten the aggravations of sin, than to seek for its alleviations. Such an error might possibly do no harm; for neither can sin be made to appear too odious, nor the standard of moral purity be raised too high.
There is also another danger attending this method of commenting on Scripture, and a danger of no common magnitude: I mean, that of lulling the consciences of the inconsiderate into a false security.-What can be more likely to produce this effect than the extenuation of characters condemned
in Scripture? The false shepherds are represented as crying, "Peace, peace, when there is no peace;" and is not such extenuation a crime of the same nature? Shall a man, then, who professes a regard for the eternal welfare of the soul, venture on an interpretation that at best can do no good, and is in reality fraught with such fatal consequences? Let me earnestly en treat all who are to feed the flock of God, to consider that the most effectual means, under God, of rendering their hearers holy, is to inculcate universal purity. Let them faithfully, in order to this end, point out the crimes of Scripture characters; let them condemn a sinful action, though it should be the action of "the man after God's own heart." Is the prevarication of Abraham recorded in Scripture? Far be it from us to palliate that which is a lie, and therefore of fensive in the sight of God.-Are the crimes of David transmitted to us? Let us learn from his case how awfully a man may fall, who at one period of his life was truly devoted to God and delighted in holiness. Let us consider the misery of his after-life, and the pangs of that sorrow and penitence by which he returned to God.-Is the fall of Peter recorded? Then let us condemn that unbelief for which he wept so "bitterly."-Is it said of Judas, that it would have been better for him that he had "never been born?" Is his fearful end displayed as a warning to apostates? Then let us not seek to discover those alleviating circumstances in his character, or in his “damning deed," which shall tend to diminish the effect of his example. Let us not represent that death as the fruit of repentance, which was evidently the action of impatience and despair.
Neither will it be any excuse for such comments, to plead that they are intended to magnify the mercy of God, and to prove that no sin'ner is removed beyond the reach of
mercy. I believe that "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin;" and that therefore it could have washed away the stain of the sin of Judas. But have we suffieient evidence to prove that he was a true believer in the Son of God, or to render nugatory those passages which certainly in their li teral sense imply that he died as öne without hope? The mercy of God may be extolled without these adventitious aids. No sinner need despair while the cases of a Manasseh, a Saul, and a Magdalen are recorded to prove the ability and willingness of God to save. But every apostate has cause to tremble, while they contemplate in the death of a Judas the consequence of their sin. Apostacy is a sin of the first magnitude; and shall the end of the chief apostate be construed into an argument for the safety of his soul? Shall a license be collected from his his tory to "deny the Lord who bought us;" and "to trample under feet the Son of God?" Oh, no! it is a capital offence to lessen the force of Scripture warnings; especially when it is considered that all the aids of Scripture, conscience, and reason are at times too feeble to rouse or to restrain the sinner.
Humbly hoping that these remarks may tend to check the progress of so mischievous an error, I remain, &c.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. No duty, perhaps, is more strongly inculcated in the Bible than the "fear of God." The texts upon this subject are not confined to either Testament to the Law, or to the Gospel, to the commandments or the doctrines of the Bible. All breathe one and the same spirit; all teach the same great truth, that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." But how, then, it may be asked, are all these passages to be recon