« AnteriorContinuar »
abus Opportion of 25.7 Weaknes says thood." his or om knond
The Bible Societies should therefore go on with their work, not doubting of a precious and abundant harvest, nor daring to add to, or diminish from the Canon of Inspiration. It may be that some of the parts, which the presumptuous wisdom of man would omit as superfluous or dangerous, are the instruments which God has ordained to accomplish the most essential effects in his unsearchable counsels. " In the morning” then, ".sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.” (Eccles. xi. 6.) “ The foolishness of God” (says the Apostle) “ is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Cor. i. 25.) Let us leave' to him the controul and direction of consequences. The malice of Satan may oppose his designs, and the perverseness of man may abuse his blessings :-But if we attempt to withhold these, under the influence of fears from incidental danger, we shall be acting in co-operation with the enemy; we shall do infinitely greater mischief than that which we aim at preventing, and all analogy will protest against the weakness and sinfulness of our imaginary prudence. For its nature and tendency is such, that if it were possible to follow its suggesticos, the light of reason would be extinguished, as well as the light of Revelation :-the sun would cease to shine; and the prevention of all evils would be consummated in the annihilation of all good.'
$ 14. But in arguing froin analogy, we need go no farther than the admissions of Mr. O'C. himself, (p. 22.) where he seems almost conscious that he proves too much. He is aware that those, who (in his judgment) are alone qualified for the study of the Bible, are liable to abuse it; and that the case is not merely possible, but matter of experience. Yet he sees, in this instance, the impropriety of arguing from the abuse of what is good against the use. But how does he endeavour to escape from the obvious inference? By softening the fact which is subversive of his argument, and bringing a charge against the peasantry, which is contradicted by ten thousand examples. He alledges that the peasant « cannot use, he must abuse the Scriptures.” And, in almost equal defiance of fact, he attempts to diminish the weight in the opposite scale. " That men of cultivated minds, have sometimes, mis
ness and me, and alles mischief
taken the sense of particular passages of Scripture, is admitted.” “ It is also admitted, that the wise and the learned have, in, some mstances, wilfully perverted the sense of the sacred writings.” But Archbishop Tillotson will furnish him with more ample information upon the subject. In the sermon before quoted * he demands “ Must not men know the truth for fear of falling into error? Because men may possibly miss their way at noonday, must they never travel but in the night, when they are sure to lose it? And when all is done, this is not true, that heresies have sprung from this cause. They have generally been broached by the learned, from whom the Scriptures neither were nor could be concealed. And for this I appeal to the history and experience of all ages.".
To the authority of the venerable Archbishop, I shall add an extract from the very learned Bishop Horseley, in order to contrast his opinion of the profit that may be de rived from reading the Bible by an illiterate Christian, with Mr. O'C's. extraordinary assertion, that he must abuse it."
66 It should be a rule with every one who would read the Holy Scriptures with advantage and improvement, to compare every text, which may seem either important for the doctrine it may contain, or remarkable for the turn of expression, with the parallel passages in other parts of Holy Writ: that is with the passages in which the subject-matter is the same, the sense equivalent, or the turn of expression similar." .........." It is incredible to any one who has not in some degree made the experiment, what a proficiency may be made in that knowledge which maketh wise unto salvation, by studying the Scriptures in this manner, without any other commentary or exposition, than what the different parts of the Sacred Volume mutually furnish for each other. I will not scruple to assert, that the most illiterate christian, if he can but read his English Bible, and will take the pains to read it in this manner, will not only attain all that practical knowledge which is necessary to his salvation, but; by God's blessing, he will become learned in every thing relating to his religion in such a degree, that he will not be liable to be misled, either by the refined arguments, or by the false assertions of those who endeavour to ingraft their own opinion upon the oracles of God. He may safely be ignorant of all philosophy except what is to be learned from the sacred books, which indeed contain the highest philosophy adapted to the lowest apprehensions." He may safely remain ignorant of all history, exccpt so much of the history of the first ages of the Jewish and of the Christian church as is to bé gathered from the canonical books of the Old and New Testament. Let him study these in the manner I recommend, and let him never cease to pray for the illumination of that spirit by which these books were dictated ; and the whole compass of abstruse philosophy and recondite history, shall furnish no'argument with which the perverse will of man shall be able to shake the learned christian's faith. The Bible thus studied will indeed prove to be what we Protestants esteem it, a certain and sufficient rule of faith and practice, a helmet of salvation, which alone may quench the fiery darts of the wicked *.”
* On Matt. xxii. 13. see Ch. I. $ 7.
§ 15. And now I hope I may venture to rest satisfied, that I have refuted the principal argument, or rather exposed and rectified the principal fallacy, which our adversary's pamphlet contains;_namely, an assumption, which is re-iterated in various forms,--that the advocates for the circulation of the Scriptures, without note or comment, are obliged to deny the existence of obscurities and difficulties in them; and to maintain that the Bible is an easy book, level to all capacities, and that the greatest perspicuity is the necessary character of a divine revelation. (see p. 13.)
Having created this phantom for himself, the victory of course is easy and decisive. But the truth is, that the assertors of the rights of private judgment, have all along admitted the difficulties which occur, both to the learned and the unlearned, in the study of the Bible. But they have denied that this is a just reason for prohibiting or withholding that sacred volume, which (as Mr. O'C. himself describes it, (p. 11.) " is the charter of our salvation ;. -the great depository of the divine communications; the awful code, which the governor of the universe has issued to direct the conduct of his rational creatures, whom it
* See Bishop Horsley's Sermon on the Resurrection, &c. pp. 224-228 quoted in Dealtry's Review of Norris, p. 133, &c.
addresses, in every page, as free agents, and responsible subjects, and whose belief of the great truths it reveals, is made the test of their allegiance, and the foundation of their hope.” In truth the assumption, which our author so conclusively refutes in the beginning of his fifth section, is not the assumption of the members of Bible Societies; but of infidels. It is the Deist who maintains, in the un-. qualified extent of the proposition, “that perspicuity would necessarily be the character of a divine revelation.” If this be overlooked, a superficial reader is liable to be ensnared or perplexed ; but if it be borne in mind, it will furnish a safe clue through the labyrinths of many sections. But that I may avoid (as far as I am able) all material omissions, I purpose to devote another chapter to a successive examination of the whole.
Contains a Review of the Sections of Mr. O'Callaghan's
Pamphlet, in their order.
SECTIONS I. II. III. IV. V.
After reading attentively again the first five Sections, although I trust I have answered them already, yet I conceive that a few supplementary observations may set our author's fallacies in a stronger point of view. One of these consists in such a representation of the sources of obscurity in the Bible, that the result he arrives at is, that " it is. only by long and severe study, that men of the best understandings, enlarged by multifarious reading, can acquire, an adequate knowledge of the sacred writings." (p. 7.) Now an obvious question here arises :-adequate to what? Does it mean adequate to make them "wise unto salvation ?” Then it would appear that very few, in any class, are qualified to read the Bible profitably. But if it mean any thing else, the argument is of no force in the present question, which regards the competency of the illiterate to obtain sufficient knowledge from the reading of the holy Scriptures, for the practical purposes of faith and holiness. It is thus that by a dexterous, though per
ulated to I have th suitable
haps undesigned ambiguity, a delusive mist is thrown around the plainest truths.
What would an inquirer conclude, who had never read the Bible, in reasoning a priori from Mr. O'C's. account of it in the second section ? Would he not expect to find the study of it a most perplexing task? With difficulties predominant ; and exceedingly enhanced in the New Testament ?-More particularly in our authorised version, which is accused, in the end of the 5th section, with being “ of two hundred years standing, scrupulously literal, and therefore retaining all the difficulties of the original, and superadding others." And can the statement be a just one, which is calculated to make such an inpression ? I am persuaded the person I have supposed, upon an actual perusal of the sacred volume with suitable dispositions, whether possessed or not of literary advantages, would feel himself in the situation of one relieved from a cataract; who, in the time of his blindness, had heard an elaborate ex parte essay on optịcal illusions, and the errors and dangers to which men are exposed by vision. How completely would these be lost in the value of the acquired ability of directing his own steps; and in the admiration of innumerabļe objects of utility and pleasure continually presented to his view !
Not less delightful would be the surprise of that transition I am endeavouring to illustrate : - and one great cause of wonder and gratitude would be, how so many and powerful causes of difficulty could be neutralized to such a degree, as is discovered in experience. It would furnish a new proof of the divine origin of the Scriptures, and of the providential care which has been exerted to adapt the light of revelation to all ages and nations.
I have already reminded the reader of the unity and harmony which subsists, amidst all the diversity of authors and times *. · Remoteness of date is, in its natural tendency, a cause of obscurity :--but, the question is, has it in point of fact produced any material obscurity, even in the writings of Moses ? Nay, their very antiquity has conferred upon them such simplicity of style, as to render them peculiarly graphic in description, and clear and precise in narration. They are such exact copies of what they relate to have been said and done, as to make
* See Chap. II. Section 11. near beginning,