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so prove the best remedy for that deadness, of which they often complain in the perusal of the sacred pages. There are some, the customary darkness of whose minds seems only to be rendered more terrifying by the occasional flashes of truth that dazzle their apprehensions; when (if I may risk the expression) they stumble upon the clear and forcible meaning of the inspired word; or, in other terms, when their faculties are so peculiarly enlivened, as to surmount the obstacles by which, through the want of a judicious and connected view of its contents, their way to profit and comfort is unavoidably impeded. By this assistance, they might discover a rich fund of instruction in those texts which, taken apart, seem to be inexplicable; and on those which appear most plain, a very different light would sometimes be thrown; not perhaps so striking as that which caught their first glance, but far more illustrative of the state of the reader, and therefore, more useful to his edification.

Whilst, in these respects, a great part of the benefit that might be derived from the Bible, is lost by crumbling it to atoms, instead of attending to the natural cohesion of its parts, there is, on the other hand, a sense, in which it is, commonly and improperly, regarded only in the mass, or lump, without analysing its materials, or even piercing its surface. As the Old and New Testaments are both delivered to us in our own language, in one volume, and at one time, many are ignorant that they are translated from different languages, or that the numerous distinct writings which compose them, were dictated at very distant periods of time; recorded by persons of very different descriptions and

addressed to people of various characters and circumstances. Of the latter, no more than two grand classes are usually distinguished, Sinners and Saints; and the difficulty often experienced by the sincere reader, in ascertaining to which of these he himself belongs, is much increased by the want of observing the different shades of character to which the several promises and threatenings of Scripture are addressed. The various features, so beautifully discriminated on the sacred canvass, are mingled and confused by the universal glare shed over the band of believers, gathered together around their Lord, from so many climates and ages of the globe: whilst, on the nearer side of this anticipated judgment-seat, the awful but profitable distinctions exhibited in the inspired representations of the unbelieving world, are, from the same cause, lost in impenetrable gloom. Hence, no personal and practical instruction can be obtained from either, till their real objects and natural appearances are defined, by a close and constant inspection of the Scriptures themselves. Some characters will then probably be restored to their proper groupe, and many actions will appear fit for imitation or censure, that were apprehended to have been the reverse.


SOME Cursory thoughts have been offered on the utility of this object. The practical evils which were then imputed to a common deficiency in such a knowledge, having been suggested chiefly by experience and

bservation, will probably have been allowed to exist. The attentive and candid reader may even have been engaged in tracing them to that deficiency, as one of their principal sources. But, except this occasion of defilement can be separated from the sacred streams, the attempt that has been made to detect its noxious consequences may have a totally different tendency from what was designed, and may disgust, or terrify from approaching the waters, the very persons for whose benefit the adulteration was pointed out, in order to be remedied.

In undertaking "the considerate and devotional examination of the whole revealed will of God," which was recommended as the grand antidote, a serious inquirer may be discouraged by the apprehension or experience of difficulties apparently insurmountable. That some obstacles are inseparable from the circumstances in which we receive the Holy Scriptures, cannot be disputed; but that they may be overcome, so far as of general importance, will, it is presumed, be the result of a fair investigation.

The nature of certain truths, which are absolutely asserted, or necessarily implied, in the word of God, is such as renders them incapable of being reduced to the contracted sphere of our understanding. At the same time, by their sublimity and magnitude, they command our attention and reverence; and have a proportionate influence by adding effective force to the comprehensible and practical branches of so grand a system. But if these cannot be understood by us, they may be, and VOL. III.


are, too often, mistaken, misrepresented, and abused. The intimations, therefore, which the Almighty has vouchsafed of his nature, subsistence, and decrees, as well as the ampler instructions he has addressed to us as the ground of our hope and the rule of our practice, must be regarded as subjects of our humble and serious judgment. And the immediate impediments to our progress in religious knowledge of each description, will occur in the expressions wherein the Divine oracles are comprised.

Every well-informed person, whose calling renders him conversant with such as have derived little or no benefit from education, must have found it difficult to explain his meaning to them, whether on spiritual or temporal affairs. People who discover a concern for eternal salvation, are mostly of the lower classes among mankind. Some cannot read. Many, who have this advantage, must often meet with terms in their Bibles, of which they are liable to form no distinct idea, or one that is false. And even those who have a good knowledge of their own language, may be at a loss to decide upon the meaning of many sentences, which either were at first obscure, from their construction, or have become so in the course of nearly two centuries, by a progressive change of words and phrases in the English tongue.

Much of the obscurity of our Bibles is deducible from a circumstance productive of inevitable and complicated difficulties. If it be not always easy for a person to communicate his ideas to one of his own nation, how much less to become intelligible to others, who not merely speak a foreign language, but whose very

ideas are foreign, having been excited by different objects from those which are familiar to us? The illus tration of any thing not present, must depend upon its comparison with something at hand. But the subjects of comparison vary according to the climates, productions, and customs, of distant countries. If a modern inhabitant of Judea spoke our language, he would still, therefore, find a difficulty in explaining himself to us. But the present languages and manners of most nations hardly differ more from those of one another, than from what were their own in former ages. So the Hebrew writings, which compose the Old Testament, had, through changes in their language, become unintelligible to the common people among the Jews, long before our Lord's appearance on earth. Hence those of the New Testament were written in another tongue, the Greek, which was then familiar to the dispersed Christian converts, for whose immediate benefit they were originally designed; and wherein, likewise, a translation of the Old Testament had been made, which was at that time in general use. The phraseology, however, both of that version and of the New Testament itself, partakes evidently more of the modes of speaking and writing which still continued to be customary among the Jews, than of the dialects which are found in remaining compositions of those profane authors who wrote in Greek, as their native language, in the ages preceding Christianity.

A due consideration of these indisputable facts will lead us to expect, and assist us to surmount, such impediments as occur in a translation from a tongue so ancient, and so little written, as the Hebrew; or from

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