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When I hear ..... an ignorant religionist quote an unconnected sentence of half a dozen words from any part of the Old or New Testament, and resting on the literal sense of these words the eternal misery of all who reject, nay, even of all those countless myriads who have never had the opportunity of accepting, this and sundry other articles of faith conjured up by the same textual magic,— I ask myself what idea these persons form of the Bible that they should use it in a way in which they themselves use no other book? They deem the whole written by inspiration. Well! but is the very essence of rational discourse — that is, connection and dependency — done away, because the discourse is infallibiy rational ? — S. T. COLERIDGE: Literary Remains, vol. i. pp. 320-1.

It is only assumption, ... that universality and ubiquity are made the tests of religious doctrine. No universality or ubiquity can make that divine which never was such. It is a mere prejudice of veneration for antiquity, and the imposing aspect of an unanimous acquiescence (if unanimous it really be) which makes us regard that as truth which comes so recommended to us. Truth is rather the attribute of the few than of the many. The real church of God may be the small remnant, scarcely visible amidst the mass of surrounding professors. Who, then, shall pronounce any thing to be divine truth, simply because it has the marks of having been generally or universally received among

HAMPDEN: Bampton Lectures, p. 356. There is, in many minds, a native and almost invincible prepossession in favour of all that is accredited, or ancient, or associated with dignity and high station. It may be a physical propensity; it may be an intellectual weakness ; - it may be a moral sentiment, estimable and virtuous in its affinities, but in itself unintelligent, and liable to much perversion. There is in others a contempt of authority, - a fierce independency of action, - which may be equally injurious, when carried to excess. ... There is a constitutional churchmanship, and there is a constitutional sectarianism; and they are both equally contemptible and worthless. Our business is to preserve the habits of our mind, to the last practicable extent, free from the perversions of either class, and to follow truth alone wherever it may lead us; making candid allowance for the failings and errors of other men, but using the most vigorous exertions to surmount our own. Dr. M‘All: Discourses, vol. i. p. 253. [See pp. 250–1; vol. ii. p. 133–4.]

There are persons .... who, in supposed compliance with the precopt, “ Lean not to thine own understanding," regard it as a duty to

men?

.....

or

suppress all exercise of the intellectual powers, in every case where the feelings are at variance with the conclusions of reason. They deem it right to consult the heart more than the head; i.e. to surrender themselves, advisedly, to the bias of any prejudice that may chance to be present: thus, deliberately and on principle, burying in the earth the talent entrusted to them, and hiding under a bushel the candle that God has lighted up in the mind. .... I am far from recommending presumptuous inquiries into things beyond the reach of our faculties;

attempts to be “ wise above what is written;" groundless confidence in the certainty of our conclusions: but we cannot even exercise the requisite humility in acquiescing in revealed doctrines, unless we employ our reason to ascertain what they are; and there is surely at least as much presumption in measuring every thing by our own feelings, passions, and prejudices, as by our own reasonings. — ARCHBISHOP WHATELY : Essays on the Difficulties in Paul's Writings, Essay i. $ 3, pp. 26, 27.

In the formation of your own opinions, be independent; use your own reason, your own senses, your own Bible. Be untrammelled; throw off the chains and fetters which compel so many minds to believe only what they are told to believe, and to walk intellectually and morally in paths marked out for them by human teachers. Be modest. It is the characteristic of a weak mind to be dogmatical and positive. Such a mind makes up in dogged determination to believe what it wants in evidence. Come to your conclusions cautiously, and take care that your belief covers no more ground than your proofs. Do not dispute about what you do not understand, nor push your investigations beyond the boundaries of human knowledge. — JACOB ABBOTT: The Corner-stone, p. 322.

[By introducing into the “ Concessions of Trinitarians” these excellent observations of some of the most illustrious men in the orthodox body, we design not to imply any recognition whatever of the truth of Unitarianism. They are given, with several others of a similar tendency in the following section, with the view of pointing out the agreement which exists amongst all Protestant Christians, of dispassionate and reflecting minds, as regards the great principles which ought to be employed in the interpretation of Scripture; and of evincing, from the complaints made by Trinitarians themselves, that their opponents have just grounds for urging a calm and dispassionate use of the intellectual powers, in endeavouring to ascertain the true sense of Holy Writ.

L

SECT. IV.PRINCIPLES OR CANONS OF CRITICISM AND INTERPRETATION.

and keep,

[1] The earlier manuscript, cæteris paribus, is more likely to be right than the later, because every copying is liable to new errors. DR. HEY: Lectures in Divinity, vol. i. p. 48.

[2] A reading contradictory to a doctrine which the same apostle has delivered in another passage is to be regarded as spurious, because contradictions are improbable in an accurate writer, and impossible in one who is divinely inspired. — J. D. MICHAELIS: Introduction to the New Testament, vol. i. p. 330.

[3] Variety of reading is not of slight consideration; for, although it be demonstrably true that all things necessary to faith and good manners are preserved from alteration and corruption, because they are of things necessary, and they could not be necessary unless they were delivered to us, — God, in his goodness and his justice, having obliged himself to preserve that which he hath bound us to observe

yet in other things which God hath not bound himself so punctually to preserve, in these things since every variety of reading is crept in, every reading takes away a degree of certainty from any proposition derivative from those places so read; and if some copies, especially if they be public and notable, omit a verse or a title, every argument from such a title or verse loses much of its strength and reputation. — Bishop TAYLOR: Lib. of Proph. sect. ii. 4.

[4] When different reasons for the meaning of a word oppose each other, greater weight ought to be given to grammatical than to dogmatical reasons; because a proposition may be strictly true, which is not contained in the words of the text. ERNESTI: Principles of Biblical Interpretation, vol. i. p. 37.

[5] It is contrary to all just rules of evidence, and to the conduct of the best and wisest part of mankind, in relation to innumerable cases, philosophical, moral, and political, to violate or renounce great principles, which have been sufficiently established by prior proofs, because minor difficulties arise of which we are not able to find a solution. DR. J. P. Smith: Script. Test. vol. i. p. 94.

[6] No doctrine is admissible, or can be established from the Scriptures, that is either repugnant to them, or contrary to reason or to the analogy of faith. .... The different parts of a revelation which comes from God must all be reconcilable with one another, and with sound reason. The prejudices of different denominations unfit them for understanding the passages which are connected with the subjects of their disputations; but there are general principles that all parties adopt, and no text can be interpreted in a sense inconsistent with those articles which are universally received.

This conformity of every part to first principles is commonly called the analogy of faith. - H. HORNE: Introduction to the Study of the Scriptures, vol. ii. p. 672.

[7] No doctrine can belong to the analogy of faith (the constant and perpetual harmony. of Scripture in the fundamental points of faith and practice] which is founded on a single text; for every essential principle of religion is delivered in more than one place. H. HORNE: Introd. vol. ii. p. 566. There must be, in fact, a repeated revelation to authorise us to assert, that this or that conelusion represents to us some truth concerning God. HAMPDEN: Bampton Lectures, p. 55.

[8] When easy and natural interpretations offer themselves, those interpretations ought to be avoided which deduce astonishing and incredible doctrines. H. HORNE: Introd, vol. č. p. 671.

[9] Where it is not clear what is the precise meaning attached by the Sacred Writers to particular words or expressions, it is better that we should restrain our judgment concerning them, than deliver our sentiments rashly on points which we do not fully comprehend. — H. HORNE: Introd. vol. ii.

p.

673. [10] An obscure, doubtful, ambiguous, or figurative text must never be interpreted in such a sense as to make it contradict a plain one: for, in explaining the Scriptures, consistency of sense and principles ought to be supported in all their several parts; and, if any one part be so interpreted as to clash with another, such interpretation cannot be justified. Nor can it otherwise be corrected than by considering every doubtful or difficult text, first by itself, then with its context, and then by comparing it with other passages of Scripture, and thus bringing what may seem obscure into a consistency with what is plain and evident. H. HORNE: Introd. vol. ii. p. 567.

[11] In considering the doctrines of the Christian religion, what is clear is not to be rendered obscure by a few dark passages; but, on the contrary, obscure passages are to be illustrated by such as are more clear, No article of faith can be established from metaphors, parables, or single obscure and figurative texts. H. HORNE: Introd. Fol. č. pp. 672, 674. [12] Ascertain the notion affixed to a word by the persons

in

general by whom the language either is now or formerly was spoken, and especially in the particular connection in which such notion is affixed.

sense.

The meaning of a word used by any writer is the meaning affixed to it by those for whom he immediately wrote; for there is a kind of natural compact between those who write and those who speak a language, by which they are mutually bound to use words in a certain

The words of an author must not be so explained as to make them inconsistent with his known character, his known sentiments, and the known circumstances under which he wrote. The received signification of a word is to be retained, unless weighty and necessary reasons require that it should be abandoned or neglected.H. HORNE: Introd. vol. ii.

p.

510. [13] If we analyse the words of an author, and take them out of their proper series, they may be so distorted as to mean any thing but what he intended to express. Since, therefore, words have several meanings, and consequently are to be taken in various acceptations, a careful consideration of the preceding and subsequent parts will enable us to determine that signification, whether literal or figurative, which is best adapted to the passage in question. No explanation must be admitted, but that which suits the context. H. HORNE: Introd. vol. ii. pp. 542, 545.

[14] Between a general assertion in one text, and a restriction of it, or an exception to it, in another text, there is an appearance of contradiction which is sometimes removed by explaining the former with the proper limitations. Several general expressions, in all languages, not only admit of, but also require, a limitation; without which the true sense and meaning of many passages will not be understood. And as the eastern nations indulged themselves most freely in the use of strong and figurative expressions, the Scriptures require more limitations perhaps than any other book. - H. HORNE: Introd. vol. i.

p. 558.

[These principles of interpreting Scripture are chiefly taken from HARTWELL HORNE, because his work is more copious on this subject than any other which we have consulted, and because he has collected them from authorities of distinguished merit. Their bearing on the mighty question between Trinitarians, and the believers in the simple unity of the Divine Being, will often be observed in perusing the following portions of this treatise. May God grant that the reader be divested of the unholy influences of passion, prejudice, and party spirit! May he be pervaded by a single-minded desire to ascertain the truth, and to follow up his convictions, whatever they are, by professing them openly, but with Christian meekness!

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