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I of Israel is connected. The eager demand for this of knowledge among the conductors of Sabbath schools, lasses, and others who desire to qualify themselves for k of expounding the word of God to the rising generademand which has called forth some of the noblest in1 efforts of the age,) is a commentary on its value which ead and understand. Without the light which it affords, an clearly apprehend the force of the numerous alluthe location and relative position of the cities and civil of Palestine, and of the surrounding nations ; to their cenery, climate, and productions ; and to the manners oms of society ; which crowd almost every page of in· Who, for example, can intelligently read the narrahe apostle Paul's journies and labors, without an acce with the natural and civil geography of the regions ich he travelled? Who, that does not understand the n which the ancients were accustomed to take their
civilized world, a conspicuous object of attention to all the surrounding nations. To the north and east, they had the great Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian empires ; to the south, Egypt; to the west, Greece and Rome. Thus, while God
. kept them constantly surrounded by the instruments of his pleasure, he made them, in turn, a spectacle to the world, whether in victory or defeat, whether exalted by his favor above their enemies, or sunk by his frown beneath their iron yoke. Hence the history of ancient Israel becomes the leading element in the history of mankind before the Messiah's advent, even as the history of the christian church is the leading element since that era. Take away this element from the annals of antiquity, and they are left, like the primeval chaos, “ without form and void, and darkness is upon the face of the deep.” Restore it, and all becomes order, harmony, and unity of design. We see one empire springing into existence at the fiat of Jehovah, that it may be the instrument in his hand of accomplishing some deep and glorious purpose respecting his church, and then sinking into its original nothing, to make room for another, destined, in like manner, to subserve the interests of Zion. It is no exaggeration to say that the record of God's dealings with his church is the key to the universal history of mankind ; and that her destinies are the hinge upon which the destinies of all nations have ever turned. Viewed in this light, how important does profane history become! Isolated from sacred history, it is but a barren and disgusting detail of human passions and crimes ; but studied in connection with it, every page is luminous with instruction. What is it but a part and parcel of God's stupendous plan of subjecting all nations to the reign of the Messiah ?
Profane history, moreover, is the key of prophecy. How many predictions were uttered by the ancient prophets whose fulfilment is nowhere recorded in the Bible ! Many of these related to periods prior to the advent of Christ ; others have been accomplished since that day; others, again, are yet future; but the interpretation of all is to be sought from the page of uninspired history.
4. A thorough knowledge of Scripture involves an acquaintance with the internal history of the ancient world, that is, with its moral, religious, and political condition. The Mosaic economy was designed to be introductory to a nobler dispensation. Its perfection (the Holy Ghost being judge) was not absolute,
in comprehend how “a certain woman” could stand at our's feet“ behind him," while he was “at meat in isee's house,” could wash his feet with her tears, wipe h the hairs of her head, kiss them, and anoint them nent ? Who can fully understand the parable of the s without a knowledge of oriental nuptial ceremonies ? e are a few obvious examples, selected from among dreds equally striking. Nor must the biblical student elf to the geography and antiquities of the Jews. In e of their eventful history, the people of God were ito contact with all the great monarchies of the ancient 1 from the geography and antiquities of all these are s of Scripture to be sought. In the New Testament, 'cially, Jewish, Grecian, and Roman geography and y are all blended together, and are all indispensable ucidation of the sacred page. orough knowledge of Scripture involves an enlarged
ce with ancient history. We have remarked above 1 his providence brought his ancient people succescontact with all the great monarchies of the earth. membered that this was not for a day, or a month, ut for long periods of time ; not when these mone in their infancy, but when they were in their ry and strength. It seems ever to have been Jeho2 place his chosen people in the very heart of the
like the perfection of the Gospel, but relative, as a means to secure a further end, having reference to the existing circumstances of mankind. Whoever, therefore, would judge correctly of its provisions, must understand both the final end which it proposed to accomplish, the means which it selected for securing this end, and the adaptation of these means to the condition of the world. Many captious objections, for example, which have been urged against the policy which it prescribed with reference to the surrounding idolatrous nations, might have been spared, had their authors well understood the bearing of this policy upon the great end of this dispensation, which was to establish upon an immovable basis the doctrine of Jehovah's unity and infinite perfections, in opposition to the polytheism and image-worship that then prevailed throughout the world, that thus the way might be prepared for the introduction of the christian dispensation. The same remarks are, to a great extent, applicable to the New Testament. Without an acquaintance with the moral, religious, and political condition of the world at the period of our Saviour's advent, we cannot fully enter into the meaning of many passages which occur in the writings of the evangelists and apostles. For want of this knowledge, many a sincere inquirer after truth has felt himself greatly embarrassed and perplexed in the commencement of his investigations. But, as his acquaintance with the internal history of the ancient world has gradually increased, his difficulties one after another have vanished; light has succeeded to darkness, and order to confusion.
5. A thorough knowledge of Scripture involves an acquaintance with the laws of human language. For the Bible, though containing a revelation from God, is expressed in the ordinary language of common life, and is to be interpreted accordingly.
Whatever advantages we may imagine that we can secure to the cause of truth (or what we esteem the cause of truth) by deviating from the well established principles of interpretation which are employed in ascertaining the meaning of all other written documents, we shall find to our cost that, like the apocalyptic book, they are only sweet at the first taste. For one argument on the side of truth which can be thus wrested from Scripture, ten can, by the same method, be gained in behalf of error. How many forced constructions of the most simple passages of God's word would a rigid adherence to the laws of interpretion have prevented !---and how much angry logomachy!
perfection of the Gospel, but relative, as a means to
further end, having reference to the existing circumof mankind. Whoever, therefore, would judge correctprovisions, must understand both the final end which sed to accomplish, the means which it selected for securend, and the adaptation of these means to the condithe world. Many captious objections, for example, ave been urged against the policy which it prescribed erence to the surrounding idolatrous nations, might have ured, had their authors well understood the bearing of су cy upon the great end of this dispensation, which was ish upon an immovable basis the doctrine of Jehovah's d infinite perfections, in opposition to the polytheism ge-worship that then prevailed throughout the world, 5 the way might be prepared for the introduction of the dispensation. The same remarks are, to a great extent, le to the New Testament. Without an acquaintance
moral, religious, and political condition of the world at od of our Saviour's advent, we cannot fully enter into ring of many passages which occur in the writings of the ts and apostles. For want of this knowledge, many a quirer after truth has felt himself greatly embarrassed exed in the commencement of his investigations. But
, quaintance with the internal history of the ancient world ally increased, his difficulties one after another have ; light has succeeded to darkness, and order to con
6. A thorough knowledge of Scripture involves an acquaintance with the constitution of man considered as an intellectual and moral being. The word of God addresses itself to the whole complex nature of man, his understanding, his natural and moral susceptibilities, his powers of free agency. The more thoroughly, therefore, the minister of the gospel understands human nature, in the most enlarged sense of the term, the more clearly will he apprehend the great principles of revelation, which all address themselves to human nature; and the more skilfully will he be enabled to apply these principles in the interpretation of the inspired volume. There is a philosophy, "falsely so called,” which “ leads to bewilder, and dazzles to blind;" but true philosophy will always be found in perfect harmony with divine truth, for the book of the human mind, and the book of revelation, are both from God, and the one cannot contradict the other. We do not advocate the introduction of metaphysical subtleties into the pulpit. This is not their place. But we would have the man of God, when he enters the pulpit, understand the intellectual and moral constitution of the immortal minds upon which he is to operate. The more of this substantial philosophy he possesses, the better.
If, in the above attempt to show what is involved in a thorough knowledge of Scripture, we have not confined ourselves exclusively to the field of sacred literature, we hope we shall be pardoned for the digression. We wished to lay a foundation broad enough for the superstructure which we intend presentl; to rear upon it, and, in doing this, we could not well confine ourselves within the limits of any one branch of theological knowledge.
We cannot dismiss this part of our subject without adding that a right state of heart is indispensable to the successful study of Scripture. The Bible is not an abstract code of laws that can be examined with cool indifference, as one studies the laws of a foreign nation ; nor is it a mere record of human transactions, like the histories of Greece and Rome. It is a code of laws indeed, but one which lays its broad claims upon the conscience of each individual who reads it, demanding of him instant and unreserved obedience : it is a history, but a history of God's proceedings with this apostate world, in which he has clearly developed the principles upon which he will deal with us through time and through eternity. It opposes itself directly to human pride and selfishness in every possible form ; requiring
l Vol. XI. No. 29.
horough knowledge of Scripture involves an acquaint-
, we shall find to our cost that, like the apocalyptic
all to acknowledge their guilt and desert of eternal death, to submit themselves unreservedly to the authority of Christ, and to transfer their affections from earth to heaven. Is it not selfevident that the man who comes to the study of such a book, with a heart under the dominion of pride and earthly affections, will be constantly liable to err through the influence of passion and prejudice? How can he candidly examine and judge of a system of truth that comes into perpetual conflict with his daily habits and feelings? Men's hearts govern their heads, not their heads their hearts, as we may see every day illustrated in all the transactions of life. It was in view of this all-important truth that our Saviour uttered these memorable words, "If any man will do his" (God's) "will, he shall know of the doctrine," (which I preach) "whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. We find from experience that an obedient, humble, and devout state of mind, is an indispensable preparation for the successful investigation of truth. Let him who aspires to the office of the christian ministry bring to the study of the sacred oracles such a preparation; let him superadd all the subsidiary aids above enumerated; then, let him study the system of truth contained in the Holy Scriptures as one harmonious whole, endeavoring to see and understand the mutual connection and dependence of all its parts. Thus may he become "a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
II. We come now to inquire, how a thorough knowledge of the holy Scriptures can be most effectually diffused throughout the ministry.
To this inquiry we reply, it is necessary, in the first place, that we should have some men in the church who shall press every department of biblical and theological learning to its utmost limits; and, in the second place, that the great body of the christian ministry should receive such an education as will enable them to avail themselves of the results of these investigations. This proposition divides itself into two parts, each of which will be separately considered.
1. We must have some men in the church who shall press every department of biblical and theological learning to its utmost limits. In no other way has any department of human knowledge ever been carried to a high degree of perfection. The splendid discoveries in the natural sciences which have so greatly enlarged the dominion of mind over matter, have, with scarce an exception, been made by men who were determined to
know all that could be known of that department of nature which they had selected as their field of investigation. The same remark holds true with respect to philology, history, geography, and archaeology in all its diversified forms. It is only narrow-minded ignorance that inquires, "Of what use is all this waste of precious time, of strength, and of intellect? this plunging into the arcana of nature? this squandering of years in poring over the musty records of antiquity? When there is so much to be done in the world, why not devote ourselves to pursuits of practical utility?" Aye, but how are we to ascertain beforehand the practical utility of knowledge? Did those who first began to inquire into the nature of steam know that their inquiries were to result in the production of the steamengine? Some century and a half ago it might have been thought a very idle and unprofitable employment for a philosopher gravely to watch the effects of steam upon the lid of a tea-kettle, and to institute a series of laborious experiments for the purpose of ascertaining its properties. His neighbors might very naturally have rebuked him for wasting so much precious time in an investigation which could not possibly be of any advantage to the world; and that too at a period when the improvement of navigation, internal communication, and the mechanical arts presented such a wide field of profitable labor. But now, taught by experience, we have learned the folly of attempting to decide beforehand the practical value of knowledge. Were further illustrations needed, the history of modern science and literature would furnish them in great abundance. Nor is the history of biblical literature since the reformation less replete with instruction on this point. As its several departments have been, from time to time, advanced beyond their previous limits, new and unexpected light has been shed upon one portion after another of the sacred volume. Its great fundamental doctrines, written as with a sunbeam upon every page in characters so legible that " he who runs may read," have remained" without variableness or shadow of turning.' But, while the doctrines themselves have continued immutable from generation to generation, many important illustrations of these doctrines, that needed the light of philology, or history, or geography, or archaeology, or which were involved in the mists of false philosophy and erroneous principles of interpretation, have been freed from the obscurity that rested upon them, and made to shine forth in the simplicity and beauty of truth, not indeed