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It is another unfavourable circumstance with respect to the right understanding of the scriptures in this country, that the English translation of them was made at a time when the christian world was but just emerged from the darkness of popery, and while the belief of all those opinions which ara combated in the Appeal was almost universally retained. Our translators, therefore, having been educated in the belief of, and in a revereirce for, those particular opinions, and not having had their minds sufficiently enlightened to call them in question, it is no wonder that, without any ill design, they should, in many places of their version, have expressed their own sentiments, and not those of the apostles. In all these cases a just translation is all that is necessary to remove the errors into which a wrong translation has
But with respect to them, you, my brethren, who are not acquainted with the languages in which the scriptures were originally written, must necessarily depend upon other persons for the interpretation of them. You may however be able, in a great ineasure, to judge for yourselves concerning different translations, by considering, if you will take pains to reflect upon the subject, which rendering of a doubtful passage is most agreeable to the general strain of the scriptures, and to common sense,
Do not, however, immediately conclude that an interpretation of a passage in scripture is unnatural, because, when it is first proposed to you, it may seem to be so; because this may arise from nothing but
your having been long accustomed to understand it in a different sense, and from having imagined, though without sufficient grounds, that the tenor of scripture favoured a contrary sense. The Roman catholics, I doubt not, think it very unnatural to interpret the words of our Saviour, This is my body, in any other than in the most literal manner; and they think that our Lord's saying upon another occasion, Unless ye eat of the flesh of the son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you, abundantly confirms their interpretation.
Now, in this little treatise, I desire no greater indulgence in the interpretation of scripture than all Protestants think themselves justified in taking, when they assert, that the meaning of these figurative expressions is, not that the flesh and blood, but that the doctrine of Christ is to be received and digested, that is, to be improved and practised by us, in order to our final salvation. Since the very strongest figures of speech are manifestly used in almost all the books of scripture, it must be very unreasonable to expect that the most literal interpretation should always be the best.
I must further apprize you, my brethren, that the passages which I have attempted to explain, being, for the most part, highly figurative, are, on that account, peculiarly difficult to understand; so that though I may not have hit upon the precise sense of the writers, there may be no doubt, from other considerations, that the sense which I am combating is
not the true one; which is quite sufficient for my purpose. It by no means follows that because I am wrong, my adversaries are right.
In these cases there is the greatest room for criticism, and diversity of opinion. I have given what at present appears to me to be the real sense of every text of scripture which I have taken into consideration; but I shall gladly avail myself of the new lights which may be thrown upon any of them in future editions of this pamphlet.
In the mean time, with great diffidence of my own judgement, I recommend what I have now written to your most serious and candid consideration; desiring that you would read it with your Bibles at hand, turning to every passage to which I refer, and reading what goes before and after it; because I have no doubt but that, in this manner, you will see much more reason, if not to approve of my interpretations, yet to reject those of my aelversaries, than I have suggested in this treatise, in which I have made a point of being as concise as I possibly could, consistently with perspicuity.
The rapid sale of the Appeal makes me hope that, inconsiderable as the performance is, it has been the instrument of some good, in the hands of that Being who works by small things as well as by great ones.
PASSAGES OF SCRIPTURE.
I. OF THE POWER OF MAN TO DO THE WILL OF GOD. THAT the sacred writers consider all mankind as naturally possessed of sufficient power to do what God requires of them, is evident from their earnest remonstrances and expostulations with persons of all ranks and conditions, and their severe censure of them when they refuse to comply with their exhortations. Nor was this the case with the Jews and Christians only, who were favoured with divine reye lation. The apostle Paul evidently considers the Gentiles also in the same light; though, much not being given to them, much was not required of them.
In the first chapter of the epistle to the Romans this apostle represents the Gentile world, in general, as having grossly corrupted themselves; yet, in that very representation, he not only says, ver. 18, 19. that they had subjected themselves to the "wrath of God, revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrightcousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest, for God hath showed it unto them ;" but also ver.32.that "knowing the judgement of God, (that they
who commit such things are worthy of death,) not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them." So that the degeneracy and depravity into which they were sunk were owing, not to want of ability, but to wilfulness, and a determined opposition to the powers of conscience with which their Maker had endowed them, and which continued unceasing remonstrances within them. Reasoning with the Jews, in the second chapter, he gives the following representation of some of the Gentiles, ver. 14, 15. "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law to themselves. Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts, the mean while, accusing or else excusing one another:" and he adds in the 26th and 27th verses, "Therefore, if the uncircumcision," i. e. the uncircumcised Gentile, "keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncumcision be counted for circumcision?" i. e. shall he not be equally accepted by God as a righteous Jew? "and shall not uncircumcision, which is by nature, if it fulfill the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?” I presume no one will think so meanly of St. Paul's reasoning as to suppose, that he here puts a case which either never was true in fact, or possible in nature; but if this case either ever was true in fact, or possible, those uncircumcised Gentiles who should answer his description must certainly have received from their