Page images
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

ment, of the works of Josephus and the elder Rabbins, and of the Syriac version of the New Testament. To evince the importance of such studies, he actually interprets, through the several sections of this long chapter, a variety of texts, which he confiders as unintélligible to him who is ignorant of Hebrew, Syriac, and the other dialects of the cast ; but, unfortunately, his learned editor proves, with the force of demonstration, that nine-tenths of his interpretations are erroneous. Indeed the superiority of the annotator over the author is here so conspicuous, that we trust no preaching baron, for the sake of courting the favour of such men as Boetteger, or the late Herder, will henceforth have the impudence to represent the learning of England as inferior to that of Germany; for had we not other proofs of the erudition of Michaelis, we should have been tempted, by the perusal of this chapter, to consider him as one of those, who, with the help of indexes, make a great display of literature by quoting 'works which they never read. He talks of Cilicisms with as much confidence as if he had read a number of books written by natives of Cilicia, who understood no other dialect than their mother-tongue; and he pronounces words and phrases to be barbarous, though grammatical, only because he never met with them in a classical author!

His general arguments, however, in behalf of oriental literature are unanswerable; and though, trusting to his own knowledge of it, he has certainly fallen into many errors, it has yet, in one or two instances, as certainly conducted him to truth. We recommend the following interpretation of a most important word to our methodists and 'true churchmen.

" Regeneration- fysveolaadmits, in the Greek, of several significations,viz. 1. The Pythagorean transmigration of a foul into a new body, which, in the proper sense of the word, is a new birth. - 2. The resurrection of the dead. 3. A revolution, such as took place at the deluge, when a new race of men arole. 4. The restoration of a ruined stale. The word is used in one of these senfes, Matth. xix. 28, but not one of them is Tit. iï.5, or the conversation of Christ with Nicodemus in the third chapter of St. John, who has used, instead of the substantive, the verb yevunOnyxt avaler, In both these passages, the regeneration is ascribed to water, which circumftance alone might have led a commentator, acquainted with the language of the Rabbins, to the right explanation ; especially as Christ himself in plies, by his answer to Nicodemus, Ch. iii, 10, that he is speaking of a real generation, that might be expected to be understood by a Rabbi. Various have been the conjectures on the meaning of this expression, and opinions have been formed on so important a subject and so unusual an expression, without knowledge of the language of the Rabbins, or a due regard to the connexion. It has been imagined that Christ intended to expre's a total alteration of religious sentiments and moral feeling, that was to be effected by the influence of the Holy Ghost and of baptism. But how could Nicodemus suppose that this was the meaning? By what motive could Christ have been induced to have used (to use) a term not only figurative, but even taken in a new sense, to express what he might have clearly explained in a literal and simple manner?' And with what justice could he censure Nico NO. LXXII. VOL. XVIII.

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]





demus for his ignorance on a subject, of which, according to this explanation, he could never have heard. I would occafion a long and tedious inquiry to enter into a minute detail of the various explanations of this palface, and it will be sufficient to mention that wbich naturally follows from a knowledge of the Rabbinical doctrines. In the language of the Rabbins, or to be born again," signifies “to be accepted of God as a son of Abraham, and by following the example of his faith to become worthy of that title.” In this sense the connexion is clear, the language is such as might he expected towards a malier in Ifrael, and the water, to which Chrili alludes, is that used in the baptiím of a prolelyte, to which the Rabbins à cribed a spiritual regeneration.” (Pp. 132, 133.)

If this be a just interpretation of the passage, and the arguments urged for it seem to be unaniwerable, all modern pretensions to suidden conversion--to instantaneous regeneration, or what, among the methodists, is called the new birth, are as directly contrary to Scripture as to experience. Regeneration is thus proved to be, what the doctrine of our church and of the antient fathers uniformly represents it-" admission into the church or family of Christ by baptism." - In the fifth chapter our author considers the quotations which appear in the New Testament from the writings of the old. Of these inany are introduced, he thinks, merely from habit, or as embellishments; and are accominodated to the writer's purpose as we accontmodate our quotations from the claslics of antiquity. Others are urged in proof of doctrines; and there are always quoted in the words of the original author, and in the sense in which he employed those words.

This diflin&tion seems to be well founded, and the reader will find some good rules by which he may ascertain to which of the two classes any particular quotation belonus. But when the author con, tends that no prophecy in the Old Testament had a double fense, he seems to have forgotten that the Jewish and Christian dispensations are but tuo parts of one great whole, of which the unity could hardly be discovered, but for their primary and secondary sense of some prophecies. The same thing inay be laid of the typical adumbration of the Chriftian religion under the rires and ceremonies of the Mofaic

law, an idea which he likewise rejects, without, as it appears 10 US, : having duly considered the subject. That much nonsense has been

written on types, and the double sense of prophecy, by a set of cabalistic critics who find Jesus Christ pourtrayed in the character of every gond man mentioned in the Old Teitament, must indeed be acknowledged ; but that there is a logical trith in some' types, and in the secondary sense of some prophecies, has been proved by Bishop Warburton and others, with a strength of evidence which nothing in the chapter before us will ever thake. Our author indeed, with a candor which does him honor, admits, that

« Great diffidence is requisite on our part in our critical explanations of the Old Testament, nor mult we inmediately conclude, that an apoiile has


[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

made á falle quotation, because he has applied a pallage in the Old Teilament in a sense, which, according to our judgment, it does not admit. Our own ignorance may be the cause of the feeming impropriety, and having found by actual experience, and a more minute investigation of the subject, that many passages, which other critics as well as mylelf had taken for alle quotations, were yet properly cited by the apostles, I trust that filure critics will be able to folve the doubts in the few examples which remain." (P. 210.)

In the course of this disquisition the author proves that the Old Testament is very frequently, though not always, quoted from the version of the seventy. He informs us, that Schulz inferred, froin this circumstance, that part of the Old Testament version, called the Septuagint, was not made in the days of the apostles and evangelists; but he shews, what is indeed known to every (cholar, that this hypothesis has not the shadow of a foundation. Ernesti, on the other hand, contends that the apostles have never quoted from the Septuagint; but as the examples in which their words agree with those of the seventy are too inanifest to be denied, he supposes that such para lages in the Septuagint have been purposely corrected, according to the New Testament, by the Christian transcribers. This hypothesis is shewn to be equally groundless with the former; and very satisfactory reasons are assigned why the Septuagint version was generally quoted where it gives the sense of the original Hebrew. The apostles, however, according to our author, have sometimes quoted from a text : which agrees neither with the present Hebrew, nor with the Septua. gint version ; but the proofs which he urges in behalf of this polition evince nothing but his own extreme inaccuracy. Indeed such are his quotations, even from works of his own, that we never can implicitly depend upon them; and this chapter, like the former, would be of very little value, were it deprived of the learned translator's notes. The following passage betrays a degree of inattention almost without a parallel.

"The New Testament, therefore, affords sufficient evidence that our Maloretic text is in many places corrupted, and fupplies in many cales the means of eorrecting it. But we must not, therefore, conclude that corrections of this kind are at all times allowable. Though Stephen, in the speech recorded in the seventh chapter of the Alls, has twice departed from the Hebrew text, preferring verle 14, the Greek reading, and verle 1, the Samaritan, a verle which in other relpects is exceptionable, no interence can be made to the disparagement of the Hebrew, for though Stephen was a martyr, he was not inspired, and St. Luke has delivered it, not as a commens tator, but as a faithful historian.(Pp. 221, 222.)

Though we are not accustoined to think with much veneration of the labours of the Malorites, we are satisfied that, if their vowel points be set aside, their text of the Hebrew scriptures will be found lufficiently correct. But what appears to us most worthy of animadversion in this extract, is the assertion that St. Stephen was not in. Spired. He was one of the seven whom the inultitude must have pere

K 2


ferves, in thean,

he has proved, is Folloy

ceived to be “ full of the Holy Ghost and of wisdom; he did great wonders and miracles among the people ; and he is expressly said to have been full of the Holy Ghost, and to have seen the glory of God and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.” This is the record of a faithful historian, and if it be not sufficient evidence of Stephen's inspiration, we know not how the inspiration of any man could be proved. The reader, however, needs not be under any apprehension of the disparagement of the Hebrew text; for, as Mr. Marsh obferves, in the passage, where St. Stephen is here said to have preferred the Samaritan, the Hebrew, the Samaritan, and the Greek texts all agree ;' and Whitby has proved, * to the conviction of every unprejudiced person, that in apparently following the Septuagint (v. 14), he has not in reality deviated from the Hebrew. .

- In the writings of Moses, says our author, to cross the sea fignifies to go the islands of the happy, or the region of departed spirits.(P. 224.)

When he hazarded this strange assertion, to which nothing in the pentateuch gives the slightest countenance, it is probable that he had been thinking of Moses, as of a mere Egyptian philosopher, and had hence inferred, without consulting his writings, that he employed certain phrases as they are said to have been employed in the most antient mysteries.

- The Egyptians, says Warburton, like the rest of mankind in their defcription of the other world, ufed to copy from something which they were well acquainted with in this. In their funeral rites, which was a matter of greater moment with them than with any other people, they used to carry their dead over the Nile, and through the Marí of Acherufia, and there put them into subterraneous carerns; the ferry-man employed in this business being, in their language, called Charon. Now in their mysteries, the description of the passage into the other world was borrowed, as was natural, from their funeral rites. So that the Charon below might very well refuse to charge his boat with those whom his namesake above had not admitted.”+

We recommend to our readers, with some confidence, the last section of the chapter under review. They will find it proved there that the Rabbinical mode of quotation was adopted by the writers of the New Testament, and that it accounts for many of the apparent inaccuracies with which infidels have so often charged their quotations. - There was lately a race of very pious persons, and perhaps it is not even yet extinct, who were greatly alarmed on hearing that in the various manuscripts and antient versions of the New Testament, many thousands of different readings are to be found; and that it is often difficult to decide which reading is that which was written or

[ocr errors]

* See his annotations on the seventh chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. Divine Legation, Book II. Sect. IV,


[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

dictated by the inspired author. To such persons we recommend an attentive perusal of the sixth chapter of the work before us. They will there find it proved, in a very satisfactory manner, that the autographa of the New Testament must have been very soon loit' or rendered utterly illegible; that, as some of the apostles dictated to an amanuensis, their writings, even in their original state, were not pro'bably free from trifling errors; and that of all the various readings, which have been discovered by the industry of criticisin, there is not one which affects the essential principles of Christianity.

" No book is more exposed to the suspicion of wilful corruptions, than the New Testament, for the very reason that it is the fountain of divine knowledge; and if in all the manuscripts now extant, we found a similarity in the readings, we should have reason to suspect that the ruling party of the Christian Church had endeavoured to annihilate whatever was inconfistent with its own tenets, and by the means of violence to produce a general uniformity in the sacred text. Whereas the different readings of the manuscripts in our pofleffion afford sufficient proof that they were written independently of each other, by persons separated by distance of time, remoteness of place, and diversity of opinions. They are not the works of a single faclion, but of Christians of all denominations, whether dignified with the title of orthodox, or branded by the ruling church with the name of heretic; and though no single manuscript can be regarded as a perfect copy of the writings of the apostles, yet the truth lies scattered in them all, which it is the buliness of critics to select from the general mass.” (Pp.

263, 264.) .
: Our author admits that the number of passages urged in support of
certain doctrines may have been diminished by our knowledge of the
various readings; but he contends that there is not one doctrine of
which the proof is weakened by those readings ; and in very fignificant
language he mentions the effect which this circumstance has pro-
duced among his illumined countrymen, whilft he shews that the
greatest part of the variations are of no importance.

"We are certain, says lie, that I John v. 7, is a spurious passage,* but the doctrine contained in it is not therefore changed, firce it is delivered in other parts of the New Teltament. After the most diligent enquiry, especially by those who would banilli the divinity of Christ from the articles of religion, not a single various reading has been discovered in the two


> * This language is certainly too confident; but we have no hesitation to
fay, with Bishop Horsley, that supposing the text genuine, the unity of the
Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, which it teaches, appears not to us
to be the unity implied in the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity. The dif-
puted text of St. John, taken by itself, affords, at least in our opinion, no :
proof at all of that doctrine, which, however, is established by the concur-
ring evidence of many passages besides the two quoted by our author. It
is established completely by the form of Christian baptism, which, on the
Arian hypothesis, would be an impious form, and, on the hypothesis of So-
cinus and his followers, a combination of impiety with absurdity._Rev.

K 3


« PreviousContinue »