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The strong and steady light which it sheds upon the sacred oracles, and the spirit of pure and fervent devotion which pervades it, excite strong regret, that the same enlightened piety and discriminating judgment were not employed in the elucidation of the remaining books of the New Testament. But the Lord “ giveth not account of any of his ways ;” and upon this as well as upon every similar occasion, it becomes Christians to adopt the language of the humbled Psalmist, “ I became dumb, I opened not my mouth ; for it was thy doing.”
LONDON, November 16th, 1833.
The author of the following annotations being a Minister among the Wesleyan Methodists, the sentiments held by that body, and deducible as they conscientiously believe from Holy Scripture, may be expected to be found in them. Nothing is, however, stated in the controversial spirit; and he leaves to all the same liberty to investigate the sense of the divine word which he claims himself, without breach of charity. Three copious Commentaries * on the whole Bible, exclusive of the Notes of Mr. Wesley, have appeared in the religious society for whose use the present work is also principally designed. This is a gratifying fact, and affords honourable proof of the love of the Scriptures, and the desire to read them to edification, which characterize the Wesleyan Methodists. Within so short a period of time, no other religious body has ever produced so many commentators of equal rank, or given encouragement to the publication of so many commentaries, and those of a very ample size.
To none of them does the present attempt affect to be a rival. It is confined to the New Testament only; and it is not like the others, either in what is often called a Family or a practical and devotional Commentary. Its plan is therefore different; its sole object being the elucidation of the Scriptures; and by this means to lay the foundation, rather than suggest those practical and pious uses to which they must be applied if they make us “ wise unto salvation.” The leading rule by which the annotator has been conducted, is to afford help to the attentive general reader whenever he should come to a
• Those of Dr. Coke, Mr. Benson, and Dr. Adam Clarke.
term, a phrase, or a whole passage, the meaning of which is not obvious; and to exhibit the true theology of the sacred volume. The notes are therefore brief upon the plainer passages, and most copious where explication appeared necessary. Nor has any difficulty been evaded; but the author has applied himself earnestly to open the meaning of the most obscure passages according to the ability which God has given him. The notes are all original, except in a very few instances, and then they are acknowledged, and as far as the author is conscious, he has throughout most honestly given his views of the meaning of the divine word without bias of party, or prejudice, as in the sight of God. He commits the fruit of the study of many years past to the blessing of God and the candour of the reader.
THE GOSPEL OF ST. MATTHEW.
The general title to all the inspired books of the Christian Revelation, H Kain Alcónxn, could not be prefixed until the writings which it contains had been collected into one volume ; for an account of which, those who have written on the canon of Scripture must be consulted. It first appears in a work of Origen, and by a common metonymy was transferred from the Christian dispensation or covenant itself to the books which record it. Aicónxn was very early rendered into Latin by testamentum, instead of pactum,“ covenant,” according to Jerome's correction of the old Italic version, and thus passed into many ancient and most of the modern versions. There is, however, reason to conclude that testamentum, in the popular language of those ages, signified a covenant as well as a testament, for not only is the covenant with Noah rendered in the Italic version by testamentum, but in Isaiah xxx. 1, it is used for our@nxn, which has no other sense than covenant.
The New COVENANT is the appropriate description of Christianity ; for though OscOnxn signifies any disposition or arrangement in general, yet that arrangement or disposition which respected human redemption, both in the Old and New Dispensation, took the form of mutual promises, under mutual conditions, which is the true character of a covenant. This sense of the word esconxn has the support of numerous passages in the New Testament, where the term occurs : and there is indeed but one, Heb. ix. 15, about which there can be any reasonable doubt; and even this, when it comes to be considered, will appear to be best interpreted in the sense of covenant. But were that solitary text excluded, the manner in which St. Paul opposes the law, which assuredly was not a testament, to the Gospel, in the phrases the Old Covenant, and the New Covenant,—the circumstance that the promises of Christ, and of our salvation through him, are expressed by the prophet by the phrase of making “a New Covenant with the house of Israel,"—renders it imperative upon us to take the term drc@nxn, when considered as a general description of the whole body of Christian doctrine and promise, and of the writings which contain it, in the sense of Covenant. Some commentators, under the force of this argument, attempt to compromise the matter, and to explain Sic@nxen by “ a covenant, including within it a testamentary bequest ;” an unnecessary and not wholly an innoxious representation, as it somewhat eludes the real character of Christ's death, the efficacy of which is not to be compared to that from which a testament derives its force, which is simply the death of the testator, of whatever kind, or under any circumstances; but to the efficacy of the ancient sacrifices by which the solemn covenants between God and man were typically ratified. We have nothing in the words of Christ, or of his apostles, to suggest to us the idea of our salvation and its numerous blessings being conveyed to us in any way answering to the idea of a testamentary bequest; but Christianity is the new and infinitely gracious covenant of God with mankind fully declared; in which he engages, according to the forms of the said covenant, as quoted from the prophet by St. Paul, to be merciful to our unrighteousness; to remember our sins and iniquities no more; to put his laws into our minds, and to write them in our hearts; and to be to us a God, and to regard us as his people, and therefore to treat us as such in time and in eternity. The conveyance and security of all these comprehensive blessings of redemption were not simply by the death, but by “the blood of Christ ;” that is to say, by his violent, sacrificial, and propitiatory death ; which voluntary submission on his part was accepted by God on our account, as his resurrection from the dead publicly demonstrated. Thus this covenant of grace was confirmed and ratified to all who should, by complying with its terms,—“ repentance towards God, and faith,” or trust,“ in our Lord Jesus Christ,"—come personally within its provisions and promises, so as to claim the fulness of all its blessings, “grace, mercy, and peace.” The true view of the Christian system, in brief, is, that it is “ the new covenant in his blood ;” and the appropriate description of that collection of sacred books, which illustrate and commend it, is, “ The New Covenant of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” The usual title, the New Testament, is now, however, so familiar, that it would be affectation to disuse it ; but still the distinction above made ought to be kept in mind.