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explain them to advantage. Scripture,” said a very learned
man, “ iz given to all to learn ; “ but to teach, and to interpret, only to a 66 few?.” Ignorance of the Scriptures," as St. Jerome remarked many ages fince, “is the " mother and nurse of all error."
But error is never more widely spread, or more deeply rooted, than when a familiarity with fcriptural language is mistaken for a knowledge of Scripture : when, (as the same father describes the state of religion in his own time, and would that the description did not apply to ours!) “ persons of whatever age, sex, or con“ dition, all arrogantly claim the privilege of
interpreting Scripture ; wrest it, mangle it, “ teach before they have learned it ; and with
a certain facility and boldness of speech “ loudly proclaim to others, what they them“ felves do not understand":" when, like
! Hales's Golden Remains, p. 12.
* So quoted by Bp. Ridley. See his Life by Gl. Ridley, book vi. p. 470. The paflage alluded to appears to be as follows: Propterea errant, quia fcripturas nesciunt; et quia feripturas ignorant, confequentur nesciunt virtutem Dei, hoc eft Chriftuns. Hieron. Comment. in Mutt. xxji.
• Sola Scripturarum ars eft, quam fibi omnes pallim vindicant : hune garrula anus, hanc delirus fenex, hanc fophifta verbofus, banc univerfi præfumunt, lacerant, docent, antequam discant : et quadaın facilitate verborum, immo audacia, edifferunt aliis, quod ipfi non intelligunt. Hieron. Paulino. Ep. ciii.
" those rash presumers,” of whom St. Auftin complains, “ in support of their ungrounded
opinions, they pretend the authority of these “ sacred books, and repeat much of them even
by heart, as bearing witness to what they “ hold; whereas indeed they do but pro“nounce the words, but understand, neither “ what they speak, nor whereof they af" firmo."
In order to form “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word " of truth?,” not only are much zeal and diligence necessary in searching the Scriptures, but much study also in preparatory exercises ; much care in comparing them ; much judgment in applying them ; much discrimination in distinguishing between passages of a limited, and those of an universal and perpetual import ; much humility and fobriety of mind in explaining more mysterious points of doc. trine; and especially a freedom from all
• Quid enim molestiæ triftitiæque ingerant prudentibus fratribus temerarii præsum tores, fatis dici non potest : eum, fiquando de prava et falsa opinione fua reprehendi et cunvinci coeperint ab eis, qui noftrorum librorum auctoritate von tenentur ; ad defendendum id quod leviffima temeritate et apertiflima falfitate dixerunt, eosdem libros fanctos, unde id probent, proferre conantur; vel etiam memoriter, quæ ad teftimonium valere arbitrantur, multa inde verba pronunciant, non intelligentes neque quæ loquuntur, neque de quibus affirmant. Auguft. de Genesi ad literam. lib. i. c, xix. tom. iii. p. 130. ed Bened.
19 Tim. ii. 15.
prepossessions, and a steadfast attention to the facred volume, as one great whole; consisting indeed of a variety of parts, but all the various parts of which necessarily depend on, and harmonize with, each other. That such caution is reasonable will
appear to those, who reflect upon the various persons, by whom; the various persons to whom, and for whose use; and the manifold variety of local, temporary, and other circumstances, under which they were written: at the same time bearing in mind, that they relate to fpiritual things, some of which it surpasses the capacity of the buman understanding fully to comprehend; but that they all proceed from one unerring source, “ the Father of lights, 66 with whom is no variableness neither tha“ dow of turning 9;" and that they are all directed to one simple and harmonious end, " the bearing of witness unto the truth'.
Nor is it only from the reasonableness of the case, that I would enforce this falutary caution in examining and interpreting the Scriptures: but I feel justified in enforcing it, by the express testimony of an inspired Apoftle, that in the epistles of St. Paul, or in the
James i. 17.
r Jolin xviii, 37.
subjects of his epiftles, (for the sense varies with the original text,) " there are some " things hard to be understood, which they " that are unlearned and unstable wrest, (spe“ Grovow, put to the rack, unnaturally strain « and torture,) as they do also the other Scrip
tures, unto their own destruction.” And this caution I accordingly consider to be, as it were the anchor of the orthodox belief, which many disregarding " have been tofled to and “ fro, and carried about with every wind of “ do&trine;" and have unhappily made ship6 wreck of the true “ faith, which was once de“ livered unto the faints ."
Of such importance indeed is this caution to be considered in scriptural inquiries in general, and so peculiarly seasonable in the inquiry, which is proposed for the subject of these lectures; that I beg your attention, whilst, at the risk of anticipating, for the fake of a comprehensive view, some remarks which may hereafter recur more in detail, I proceed to enlarge on it to some extent in this introductory discourse ; and to lay before you a general statement of the principles, on which I conceive that the charges of our assailants may be repelled, and the evangelical churacter of our preaching be defended and maintained.
• 2 Pet. iii, 16.
! Eph. iv. 14.
I propose accordingly to place before your view several rules, which may be regarded of the greatest benefit towards a fatisfactory interpretation of the Scriptures; and, having made an application of them to topics, on which Christians are for the most part agreed, fhall subjoin examples of their application to more controverted points.
But here, before I proceed to a particular statement of the rules to be proposed, I must be allowed to protest moft decidedly against a claim, advanced by certain religionists, who affume to themselves exclusively a supernatural illumination in the explaining of Scripture; a claim, wbich is, if I mistake not, afferted for themselves, and denied to us, by a large proportion of our accusers. It is obvious, that the admission of such a claim muft at once fupersede all rational investigation into any controverted matter; for it were vain to expect, that any argument should weigh with him, who believes himself to be guided by an infallible monitor within him. The claim therefore carries with it a plain proof of its weakness; for it is a claim, which one man may advance as fairly as another; and if they do fo in mutual opposition, where is the criterion that is to decide? How far the weakness of the claim is exemplified in the two great leaders of Methodism, who maintained, each