תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

from the paths through which learning and genius press forward to conquest and glory, without bestowing a smile on the humble drudge that facilitates their progress. Every author may aspire to praise ; the lexicographer can only hope to escape reproach, and even this negative recompence has been yet granted to very few."

The writer of the present compilation (whilst he disclaims altogether the arrogancy which would measure pretensions with him who not only compiled that gigantic work, “the English Dictionary,” but was likewise the distinguished author of " The Rambler,” and “ The Prince of Abyssinia") is fully content to be numbered with those humble agents in the walks of literature; and to subject himself to the same sparing and scanty recompence of public applause, which generally attends them, with this essential difference however (in which the writer exults with peculiar satisfaction), that he can never acknowledge that his engagement was like Doctor Johnson's, one of extreme drudgery, depending exclusively on the inconstant breath of public opinion, or the immediate, or even the remote prospect of pecuniary reward. The compiler of “The Scripture References" has no such drudgery to complain of, in order to excite the sympathy of his friends, or to disarm the jealousy of others--no such apprehension, that popular applause may, or anxious forebodings that it will, be withheld. His work (however it may be received by the public, in whatever usefulness or estimation it may be held) has been to him, a labour of delight, a satisfying enjoyment, a work which gratified and filled his whole soul, and which brought such pure and substantial, as well as permanent and unpurchaseable pleasure to his mind, as he would not barter for the most unmeasured, and dearly earned meed of public approbation. In the hour of heavy domestic affliction, and bitter bereavement, it has been to him as a beacon, a bright and steady light, to point the way to heavenly comforts. In the day of adversity it has been to him a shelter from the storms of life. In his retirement, the precious and never failing source of holy contemplation, of“ holy exercise of the soul.” In the frequent avocations of his sacred profession, and the discharge of his active parochial duties, the ever ready, and efficacious means of furnishing his mind with the rich stores of heavenly wisdom, combined, classified, compared, contrasted, brought into juxta-position, from the wide range of the sacred Volume from Genesis to Revelation, and attested and illustrated by each other, to his astonishment and delight.

To those who watched the early efforts of the writer in his long but happy employment (entered upon at a period when various pressing engagements laid claim to a large portion of his time) it is well known, and it often excited wonder in their minds, how progressive, increasing, and all-absorbing was the intense interest which it produced ; and no language can more forcibly or more justly describe his feelings of pure intellectual enjoyment, and his unreserved devotion of himself to the persevering accomplishment of his purpose, than the eloquent and truly affecting language of the learned and pious Bishop Horne, in the preface to his “ Commentary on the Psalms of David."

[ocr errors]

« Could the Author flatter himself,” says Bishop Horne, " that any would take half the pleasure in reading the following exposition which he hath taken in writing it, he would not fear the loss of his labour. The employment detached him from the bustle and hurry of life, the din of politics, and the noise of folly ; vanity and vexation fied away for a season; care and disquietude came not near his dwelling; he arose fresh as the morning to his task, the silence of the night invited him to pursue it, and he can truly say, that food and rest were not preferred before it. Every psalm improved infinitely upon

his acquaintance with it, and no one gave him uneasiness but the last; for then he grieved that his work was done. Happier hours than those which have been spent in these meditations on the songs of Sion, he never expects to see in this world; very pleasantly did they pass, and moved smoothly and swiftly along; for when thus engaged, be counted no time. They are gone," continues the Bishop, "but have left a relish and a fragrance upon the mind; and the remembrance of them is sweet."

To every sentiment of the good Bishop of Norwich, the writer of the present publication unhesitatingly subscribes, as suitably, and powerfully descriptive of his own experience, except one. The compiler of these volumes has not finished his proposed work: his work is not yet done. He has no cause of grief on this account; the same delightful hours of continued Scriptural research remain for him ; his bappy and much-loved engagement, still renewed with daily freshness, and novelty, continues to fill his soul with the same undiminished, nay, with hourly increasing pleasure, and will (with the blessing of God) continue to be his unremitting employment (consistently with his high and important duties as a parish minister), so long as the Almighty may vouchsafe to spare him strength of mind and body, and the especial blessing of sight, to devote to this critical examination of the word of God, this unbounded and inexhaustible source of earthly happiness. And he could wish, in the language, and with all the sincerity of Bishop Horne, “that death might find him employed in such examination.” He truly feels that “the law of the Lord is perfect.” He truly feels that “the testimonies of the Lord are sure," and it is his continual and fervent prayer to the throne of grace, that it may fulfil its great object on himself

, and on those who peruse and faithfully meditate on the following pages, in “ verting the soul, in making wise the simple.” He has indeed experienced that “the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart," that “they are more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold ; sweeter also than honey and the honey-comb."

Such then has been the unmixed pleasure which the compiler bas enjoyed in the prosecution of an apparently laborious, and very tedious work, that he deems his whole life too short for seeking out, comparing, and arranging in Scriptural detail these sacred treasures, of such imperishable value. His progress in this research continues ; and whether it may happen or not, that any of his future commentaries, extracted exclusively from the book of everlasting truth, may see

con

the light, and be deemed worthy of the public protection, so bountifully bestowed on the present publication—his labour (if it may be called labour) will not in any degree relax, and his own secret gratification, and inexpressible delight, in storing up materials for future volumes, will be more than a recompence for all his perseverance and toil, in searching “ the glorious Gospel of the grace of God,” in its earliest origin, and in its extended progress through the long line of prophecy, to its wide and complete development in the full and final establishment of Christ's church on earth, and in the hearts of men. But toil it is not, “ there is hope in God's word.” “I have," saith the Psalmist, “as great delight in the ways of God's testimonies as in all manner of riches. The same is my comfort in my trouble : the statutes of the Lord have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage. If my delight had not been in the law of the Lord, I should have perished in my trouble : the entrance of God's word giveth light, it giveth understanding to the simple."

So much has been already written on the subject of Scriptural References, and the value of a careful and diligent comparison of parallel passages of the Bible, as the most efficacious helps to the right understanding of the word of God, and more especially those parts which relate to doctrine, that the writer of these pages needs only to adduce a few authorities on this important head.

The Rev. Thomas Scott, the able and voluminous commentator on the Bible, acknowledges the importance of thus studying the divine oracles of God in his preface to that work“

“Many readers,” says Mr. Scott,“ may not have time to consult marginal references, but though the author had for many years of his life studied the word of God as his one great business, he can truly aver, that the insight he has obtained, by an intimate knowledge of parallel passages into many parts which he had not before carefully noted, is so great, as abundantly to repay his labours, and to convince him, that consulting well-selected references forms one of the best helps for fixing the word of God in the memory, leading the mind to a just interpretation of it; and, in many cases, rendering it most affecting to the heart. It tends powerfully to counteract all sceptical doubts, when every part of Scripture is found thus, like an arch, to support, and to receive support, from the rest, and to constitute one grand, external and internal evidence. It serves also to satisfy the mind as to the meaning of disputed passages, when one sense is found manifestly to accord with the rest of the sacred word, and other interpretations evidently to run contrary to them; and in many cases, the author has found delightful surprise at striking coincidences which he had not noticed in the ordinary way of reading the Bible.”

The testimony of Bishop Horsely is also to the same effect. Speaking of the high value of comparing every text of Scripture with the parallel passages in other parts of Holy Writ, he says,

“ 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. Let him study those (adds the Bishop) in the manner I recommend, and let him never cease to pray for the illumination of that Spirit by which these books were dictated. 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 this learned Christian's faith."

This strong testimony of the Bishop is borne out and fully attested by all those who have thus methodically studied the word of God. The Bible thus arranged, and thus read, will furnish to the Christian warrior, who looks to the teaching of the Holy Ghost, and prays to the God of all knowledge for his divine assistance,—will furnish him with the whole armour of God: he will, through its instrumentality, and the blessing that cometh from above, be enabled “to withstand in the evil day; and having done all, to stand ;"—it will thus be to him as "the girdle of truth about his loins, and as the breast-plate of righteousness;"_by it will his “ feet be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;"—it will supply him with “ the shield of faith, wherewith he shall be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked;"—it will provide him with “ the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

“ We cannot,” says Chillingworth, “speak of the things of God better than in the words of God.”

The compiler has pleasure in quoting also the high authority of the learned Dr. Whately, the present Archbishop of Dublin, who observes in his “ Essays on some of the Difficulties of St. Paul,”

“ The popular and unsystematic character of the Sacred Writings makes it the more unsafe to dwell on detached portions of them, instead of comparing each part of Scripture with the rest.”

Which sentiment accords fully with that expressed by Dr. Gastrell, Bishop of Chester, in the preface to his “Christian Institutes,” where he remarks,

“ Had the Scriptures exhibited religion to us in that regular form and method to which other writers have reduced it, there would, to me at least, have been wanting one great proof of the authority of those writings, which, being penned at different times, and upon different occasions, and containing in them a great variety of wonderful events, surprising characters of men, wise rules of life, and new and unheard of doctrines, all mixed together with an unusual simplicity and gravity of narrative, do in the very frame and composure of them carry the marks of their divine original.”

Again: among the rules for gaining Scripture knowledge, dictated by the author of The Clavis Bibliorum,we read the following concise but comprehensive directions :

Beg wisdom of the only wise God, who giveth liberally and upbraideth not. Peruse the Scriptures with an humble, self-denying

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

heart. Familiarize the Scripture to thyself by constant and methodical exercise therein. Method and order, as it is the mother of memory, so it is a singular friend to a clear understanding. Heedfully and judiciously observe the accurate context and harmony of the Holy Scriptures. And lastly, learn that excellent art of explaining and understanding the Scriptures by the Scriptures."

“The Scriptures in some places speak more darkly and dubiously," continues this old writer; "in other places they express the same things more clearly and certainly."

The old Latin Fathers fail not to give their testimony also in confirmation of this truth. St. Augustine, in his “ Treatise of Christian Doctrine," declares, that

“ Where sentences are given more clearly, there we are to learn how they are to be understood in obscure passages?.” And the same father observed, and Irenæus some time before him, in the following words:

“ Certainly Scripture is the best expounder of itself. Scripture exposition of itself is most regular and safe?."

We have also the concurring testimony of St. Chrysostom, who thus writes in one of his homilies:

“ Let us attend to the scope of Scripture which interprets itself, and suffers not its hearers to err 3." “ The gold,” says Origen, “was not sanctified without the temple; no more any sense of the Scripture but what is drawn out of the Scriptures *.” And Hilary adds his unquestionably high authority to the following effect:

“He is the best reader who interprets sayings by sayings-who brings not an interpretation to Scripture, but findeth a sense in Scripture, and draweth it from Scripture,&c.

Here the compiler will add, in the words of the Rev. Matthew Henry, in his preface to “The Exposition of the Poetical Books of the Old Testament," —

“ Thus great, thus noble, thus truly excellent is the subject, and thus capable of being improved, which gives me the more reason to be ashamed of the meanness of my performance. We often wonder at those that are not at all affected with the great things of God, or have no taste or relish of them, because they knew little of them; but perhaps we have more reason to wonder at ourselves, that conversing so frequently and so intimately with them, we are not more affected with them, so as even to be wholly taken up with them, and in a constant transport of delight. I have nothing here to boast -nothing at all; but a great deal to be humbled for in the review of it.” Well may the compiler of the present work say, if Matthew Henry declared it of his valuable exposition_“I find many defects, and those who are critical, perhaps will meet some mistakes in it;

1 Ubi apertius sententiæ ponuntur, ibi discendum est, quo modo in locis intelligantur obscuris.--Doct. Christ. lib. 2. cap. 25.

2 August. de Doct. Christ. lib. 3. cap. 28.
3 Chrys. in Gen. Hom. 13.
• Orig. in Mat. Hom. 25.

« הקודםהמשך »