Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

During the insurrection the Fort had been burnt and the whole country laid waste. The Brethren lost property to a very considerable amount; but they regretted nothing so much as the loss of the Arawak Grammar and Dictionary, which had been compiled with immense labour by their late brother Schuman.

Thus terminated the once flourishing mission on the Rio de Berbice. Most of the missionaries returned to Europe; and Climan and Vester, who still remained in Demerara, shortly after finished their earthly career. The few Indian converts who had come with them from Pilgerhut, repaired to the settlement which had been begun a few years before in the territory of Surinam.

ON THE TRIALS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.

To the Editor of the Christian Observer. In noticing another question proposed for consideration in your Number for August last, “What are the most trying times in a believer's experience?" I would adduce, as one of them, the distress of the Christian when, stretched on the bed of sickness, and beholding the “king of terrors' approaching, he feels tempted, instead of reposing with confidence on the mercy of his God and Father, through the infinite merits of the sacrifice of his Redeemer, to exclaim against the Divine goodness; unmindful that “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” The sweet singer of Israel presents a striking instance of submission under this trial : “ Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff comfort me.”—So again; the Christian, experiencing the vicissitudes of life, sometimes becomes as it were “the very scorn of men and outcast of the people.” Thus situated, he is peculiarly anxious that his faith may not fail him, surrounded as he is by the enemies of the cross of Christ, hut that it may shine more and more unto the perfect day, through the assistance of that Spirit, who alone is able to strengthen and establish it.

The believer, in the sudden dissolution of some dear relative or bosom friend, sometimes in the severity of the trial overlooks the especial mercy exhibited in the Divine dispensation towards the departed, who has been removed from the evil to come.

Further; the lukewarmness exhibited in many of those who profess and call themselves Christians may sometimes kindle a feeling of doubt in the mind of the believer, whether the religion he embraces be that of Christ or not. Actuated by this feeling, he pursues a strict inquiry, till at length he ascertains that such persons are of the number of those who are represented in the Scriptures as having a form of godliness, but denying its power ; who are hearers only, and not doers, deceiving their ownselves. Knowing this, he strives with redoubled zeal to walk as becometh the Gospel of Christ, and to serve the Lord with gladness and singleness of heart, mindful that his spiritual adversary is ever on the watch, seeking to entangle him and bring him under his domination.

The last circumstance I shall urge, is, when some powerful temptation or snare besets the believer in an unguarded moment. To escape temptation, our Saviour enjoins us to watch and pray; and ineffectual, through the Divine grace strengthening us, would be the attempts of the world to capture us by its alluring temptations, were that Saviour's injunction written indelibly on the tablets of our heart. Moreover, our Heavenly Father “will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able, but will with the temptation make a way for us to escape, that we may be able to bear it.”

M. G. H.

ON THE PARALLEL PASSAGES OF SCRIPTURE, WITH A PLAN OF AN IMPROVED METHOD OF ARRANGING THEM.

For the Christian Observer. MR. BickERSTETA, in his popular and useful work entitled “A Scripture Help” (p. 280 of the 14th edition), after shewing the usefulness of comparing parallel texts, and giving a remarkable quotation from Bishop Horsley on the subject, adds, “It does not however appear to the writer, that any work has yet carried this mode of interpreting Scripture to the full extent, or done it in that simple wuy in which it might be accomplished.” He then proposes his own way thus: “There is an outline or plan of Divine truth in the Bible. This may be ranged under different heads, as Gastrell has shewn in his Christian Institutes; and Warden still more fully (though many important heads are omitted, even by him), in his System of Revealed Religion.” He adds, “Each head might be numbered, and all the texts relating to that head or subject ranged under it, merely mentioning the book, chapter, and verse; and in the margin of each of those texts in the Bible the number of the head should also be inserted."

The advantage of the above plan, Mr. Bickersteth says, would be, that “ the reader might see on every text the whole of what related to that subject throughout the Bible, without the multiplication of texts in the margin, and without the omission of many material texts, as is unavoidably the case at present.” He adds, however, “ There would still be many historical passages, particularities of expression, and incidental beauties, which this mode alone would not embrace; and therefore, in addition to what has been suggested, there should still be many of the references which are in our present Bibles." He concludes with saying, “The writer gives this hint in the hope that some one of sufficient leisure may carry it into effect."

I fully agree with Mr. Bickersteth as to the value of comparing parallel passages of Scripture (and for more reasons than he has given), and also as to the defectiveness and inconvenience of the common mode of reference, not only from needless “ multiplication” and “omission,” but also from its perplexity, owing to the want of any distinction between the different kinds of references, causing both great waste of time and distracting the reader's attention from the main subject before him, so that in their present state they are generally better let alone altogether. I think, however, that a much “simpler” and every way better plan might be devised than that suggested by Mr. Bickersteth. If the Scriptures were a mere mass of Divine knowledge of doctrines, precepts, and facts, thrown together without order (as perhaps is the case in the Book of Proverbs), then the above method might be a very good one: but since that is not the case with the body of Scripture, which has as much method and consecutive order as any book has or ought to have, this method of reference seems tuo much like dissecting, instead of viewing the whole body in its natural form, beauty, and proportions. Mr. Bickersteth's plan is nothing more than an enlarged edition of Warden's “System,” only numbering each head in succession, instead of by chapters and sections, and omitting the words, giving only the references; and then referring every passage of Scripture to some one of these heads.

Now the objections to this are the following: First, It looks too much like human interference with the Bible to break it up in this manner, instead of directly referring from one part of Scripture to another; not but such a method may be useful as a “Scripture help,” but not so as to supersede direct reference, which, it appears, Mr. Bickersteth's plan would do. Secondly, It calls off the reader's attention from the stream of the narration or discourse, making him regard the passage before him as if it were a disjointed fragment of a system, instead of being a coherent part of the portion of Scripture which he is reading; and it appears to me to differ little from the “ Centones" of Homer and Virgil, except in being less ingenious and difficult. Thirdly, It tends to generate a minutely critical turn of mind, a state peculiarly unfit for the apprehension and enjoyment of the Scripture in its spirit.

I will now propose a method which it appears to me would both preserve the advantages of the common method, and remedy its defects. To understand it the better, it may be well to prefix a few observations on the study of Scripture in general, and on the use of comparing parallel passages in particular.

The great design of the Bible, from first to last, is to teach the way of salvation and everlasting happiness : and to learn that, must therefore be the great object of whoever reads it to good purpose; and the most uncritical reader, with nothing but the plain text before him, if he peruse it in a spirit of devoutness and obedience, will not fail of that object, although he may misinterpret or be altogether unable to understand various passages, and overlook many interesting points in it. This must always be the lot of a great proportion of its readers. But that is no reason why those who have the means should not try to get a more perfect knowledge of it, as is indeed sufficiently shewn by the number of commentaries and illustrations of it that have been written.

For those then who have capacity, leisure, and opportunity, to study the Bible more critically than others, the two main objects ought to be: First, To get a complete knowledge of its contents (the facts, doctrines, and precepts), and also of the scope and purport of each part of the whole; and, secondly, To enter into the beauties and excellencies of it. These two are different; the former being chiefly a matter of intellect, the latter of feeling. A third object which every one should have, to govern his life by the precepts of Scripture, does not come in here, being practice, not study.

Both these objects, it appears to me, are materially furthered by the comparison of parallel passages in the following manner :

Although, perhaps, every verse of Scripture (as in truth nearly every sentence of any book) contains within it more than one assertion, (thus Mr. Bickersteth, makes six out of Gen. ii. 15-a mode of dissection, or rather critical chemistry, much too minute for my taste), yet it is no less true that erery passage (sometimes extending to a whole chapter or more) contains sume one principal assertion; and though the same may be repeated in other parts of Scripture, yet there is always, or nearly always, some one place in which each particular subject of Scripture is MORE PARTICULARLY treated of than it is in any other place. On this, there is an excellent chapter in Franck's Guide to the Reading and Study of the Scriptures ; the best one, I think, in the whole work; c. 2. No. 6. pp. 41-44 of Jacques's translation,

The best way therefore in every respect, it appears to me, of making a collection of all the parallel passages of Scripture, without altering the order, would be this: First, Under each place of Scripture where any subject is treated most fully, to give references to all the texts relating to that subject from other parts of Scripture; and first, to those where the subject is treated of directly (though not so specifically as in one passage): and then the references to those passages where it is mentioned incidentally (see Franck, p. 43). For instance (to give the example quoted in the work and page just mentioned), the doctrine of justification is considered in Philippians, ch. iii.; but Romans and Galatians are more eminently the seats of that doctrine : therefore the collection of parallel texts should be made on one or other of them, rather than on Philippians; and then the first reference should be to either Romans or Galatians, and the second to Philippians ch. iii., before any others.

Secondly, Under all the other passages than the principal seat of any subject, there should be a reference to that principal seat only, which would save both room and time, both to the writer and reader.

Thirdly, Obvious repetitions and allusions to what has gone before ought to be distinguished from mere coincidences and references to what comes after, both for other obvious reasons and also because these repetitions are a peculiar characteristic of Scripture, as is observed by Pope, in his preface to Homer, the only other author who has them. I would for my part separate all the references to parts before from those to parts after, which I think would give a much simpler and clearer view of the subject, especially to any one reading the Scripture through in historical order.

Fourthly, Merely verbal parallels ought by all means to be distinguished from the rest, if inserted at all, as they only encumber the reading, and distract the reader's attention from what he wants to know to what he does not, and ought not to want to know. However, if they are to be given, the same method should be followed as above: that is, all the parallel passages should be given in a note on one only (which, as there are generally no principal places of mere verbul expressions, had perhaps best be given on the first occurrence of the word); and in all the parallel places, there should be merely a reference to this one.

The separation of the different kinds of references might be very easily and neatly effected by having two rows of columns for references to each page (or each column if there are two, as in the common editions of the Bible) and also, if necessary, by having different marks. But this is a secondary consideration ; the great one is that mentioned above, namely, to make the references to parallel passages really illustrative of Scripture, so as to serve in the place of notes, and make the Bible its own interpreter in reality, instead of merely to the eye, as I fear is the case in the present way of doing it.

W. A.

ON THE HUTCHINSONIAN PHYSICO-THEOLOGY.

To the Editor of the Christian Observer. There was a time when the system of theological physics and physical theology, known by the name of Hutchinsonianism, claimed a highly respectable number of advocates among learned and religious men, parti. cularly among the clergy of the Church of England. Whence then has it happened that this system has fallen into oblivion, that scarcely any of the younger students of philosophy or theology even knew what Hutchinsonianism is, and that its last lingering hold is to be found almost entirely among a very few of the surviving biblical scholars and divines of the last century?

It will be replied, that it has sunk by its own weight ; that it has been tried, and has not stood the test : yet, if names have influence, not indeed

as proofs, but as pledges that a matter is worth inquiring into, the names of Bishop Horne and Jones of Nayland would, of themselves, not to mention many others from Bates to Romaine, be sufficient to plead for a fair investigation of this neglected religious philosophy. Hutchinson was no common man: he was gifted with powers which Newton himself would not have despised ; and, what must endear him to every Christian, his whole effort was to sustain the dignity, the authority, the infallibility of the word of God. His harsh but expressive style, like that of the late Mr. Bentham, deters impatient readers from making themselves masters of his arguments ; but the outline of his views may be collected from the writings of many of his disciples. I know of no epitome at once so concise and elegant as the following by Mr. Jones of Nayland. It will probably be new to the great majority of your readers, and cannot, I think, fail to interest and edify them in its general outline, even if it do not convince them of the truth of the peculiarities of Hutchinson's opinions. Mr. Jones writes as follows:

"1. In the first place, the followers of Mr. Hutchinson give to God the pre-eminence in every thing. His authority with them is above all authority: His wisdom above all wisdom: His truth above all truth. They judge every thing to be good or bad, wise or foolish, as it promotes or hinders the belief of Christianity. On which account, their first enemies are to be found among sceptics, infidels, and atheists. Their next enemies are those who are afraid of believing too much : such as our Socinians and their confederates, who admit Christianity as a fact, but deny it as a doctrine.

“2. They hold, that only one way of salvation has been revealed to man from the beginning of the world; viz. the way of faith in God, redemption by Jesus Christ, and a detachment from the world : and that this way is revealed in both Testaments.

"3. That in both Testaments divine things are explained and confirmed to the understandings of men, by allusions to the natural creation. I say confirmed; because the Scripture is so constant and uniform in the use it makes of natural objects, that such an analogy appears between the sensible and spiritual world, as carries with it sensible evidence to the truth of revelation ; and they think that, where this evidence is once apprehended by the mind, no other will be wanted. They are therefore persuaded, it may have great effect toward making men Christians, in this last age of the world; now the original evidence of miracles is remote, and almost forgotten.

“4. They are confirmed Trinitarians. They became such at their baptism, in common with other Christians; and they are kept such by their principles; especially by what is called the Hutchinsonian philosophy of fire, light, and air. Nature shews us these three agents in the world, on which all natural life and motion depend; and these three are used in the Scripture to signify to us the three supreme Powers of the Godhead, in the administration of the spiritual world. Let any philosopher shew us one single effect, of which it may be proved that neither fire, light, nor air contribute to it in any of their various forms.

" 5. On the authority of the Scriptures, they entertain so low an opinion of human nature, under the consequences of the fall, that they derive every thing in religion from revelation or tradition. A system may be fabricated, and called natural ; but a religion it cannot be : for there never was a religion, among Jews or Gentiles, Greeks, Romans, or Barbarians, since the beginning of the world, without sacrifice and priesthood ; of which natural religion having neither, is consequently no religion. The imagination of man, by supposing a religion without these, has done infinite dis

« VorigeDoorgaan »