Зображення сторінки

But we have further to object to the minuteness, and even occasionally the fancifulness, which appears in his explication of the types. We attribute to the characteristic ardour of our author's mind this fault, as well as the preceding. In the following passage, it is impossible to avoid condemning the excess of typical application.

“ Now Moses was the person who, by God's appointment, had put the priestly garments on Aaron, forty years before ; and he also was the person appointed to strip them off. Was this an accidental circumstance, without any mystical design? Can we suppose that, in a dispensation which was altogether figurative, such a singular fact as this was devoid of meaning? No: it was replete with instruction. We dread exceedingly the indulgence of fancy in interpreting the Scriptures, but we are persuaded that a very deep mystery was shadowed forth on this occasion. Moses was the representative of the law, as Aaron was of our great High Priest. Now it was the law which made any priesthood necessary. If the law had not existed, there had been no transgression : if that had not denounced a curse for sin, there had been no need of an High Priest to make atonement for sin : and if there had been no need of a real sacrifice, there had been no occasion for either a priesthood or sacrifices to shadow it forth. The law then called forth, if I may so speak, the Lord Jesus Christ to his office: and therefore Moses put the priestly garments on him who was to prefigure Christ. But the same law which rendered a real atonenient necessary, made the figurative priesthood wholly ineffectual : its demands were too high to be satisfied with mere carnal ordinances: there was nothing in a ceremonial observance that could be accepted as a fulfilment of its injunctions ; nor was there any thing in the blood of a beast that could compensate for the violation of them : therefore, to shew that nothing but the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ could be of any avail, the same hand that put the shadowy garments upon Aaron must strip them off again.” (Vol. ii. p. 91.)

The instances of what appears to us overstatement in the adaptation of the types are numerous, and we are not quite sure whether they do not constitute a principal defect of this part of the work,

In the exposition of Scripture imagery, again, occasional excesses are found. We doubt whether the following text was prudently selected in the first instance, considering the very different associations which the figure would excite in the breasts of the Jews, from those which it cannot fail to call up in the present state of society. Possibly such a passage would have been better treated incidentally, than made the prominent subject of an entire discourse. We refer to Amos, ii. 13. “ Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves." We ask our author, whether such language as the following can easily be acquitted of irreverence. “ See then the grounds of complaint which God has against us, and say whether the assiduity of harvest-men in loading their carts with their sheaves does not too much resemble us, who are thus incessantly loading. God with our iniquities, till he can bear us no more: yea, we help and encourage each other in the work, as if we were afraid that we could not otherwise heap up upon him a sufficient load ?" (Vol. vi. p. 371.)


Whilst we are speaking of what seems to have some appearance of irreverence, we may mention that at times an argument is pushed so far as to incur, however unintentionally, this

We confess we scruple at such language as this : “ With humble reverence we may say, that the benefit reaches even to Christ himself; for as in all the afflictions of his people he is afflicted, so in all their consolations also he is comforted. Further, if further we can go, even God the Father also is made a partaker of the benefit.” Vol. viii. p. 891.

But it is not only by excess in the illustration of the Scriptures that our author errs. We have met with some discourses in which he appears to us to have missed the prominent beauty : of the text. No. cviii. on Numbers xiv. 24,

But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereunto he went ; and his seed shall possess it,”quite sinks one of the chief peculiarities of Caleb's example, " his having another spirit with him," and dwells almost exclusively on the other parts of the passage. Again, the fine prediction, Micah v. 7, The remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men,"—is deprived of almost all its beautiful and exquisite imagery in our author's explication of it.

With respect to the merits of this work, as it regards what may be called Biblical criticism, we shall not say much. If by criticism be meant a laborious and honest investigation of the chief meaning of each passage under consideration,

which is the most important use of critical powers, we think very highly of this work. The sense, generally speaking, is given--the context examined--the beauty of the Scriptures elucidated-apparent contradictions reconciled, and different authorities weighed. Especially the SPIRIT of every text is followed, and generally with success; and the separate sentiments or expressions, or allusions, are admirably wrought in during the discussion. The criticism of sound sense, of piety, of labour, of much knowledge of the human heart, of skill in sermon-writing, of an intention simple and pure, and a devotion elevated and fervent, abounds in these volumes. And we really speak our sentiments when we say, that the critical science of particular words and phrases, is, in a work like our author's, of inferior moment. At the same time we must honestly express our conviction, that the attempts at verbal criticism which are scattered in the notes throughout these volumes are far from being satisfactory. We could have done better without them. The result of the author's study was all we wanted; but if he must give us critical notes,

[ocr errors]

προς το

they should have been submitted to the severe eye of some exercised scholar before they were permitted to appear. They are frequently doubtful, and sometimes decidedly wrong.

The brief note, vol, vii. p. 89, “ The salt sea is the Dead Sea," has, to our understandings, neither meaning nor force. That in p. 135, “ I say unto you, that ye resist not evil; that is, that ye resist not the injurious person,is worse; because if we depart at all from the English translation, we inust render, tompo, the Evil One, that is, Satan, as Bp. Middleton on the Greek article, has well remarked. The observation, p. 161, Seabñval seems to convey the idea of players on a stage,” is as bad; the true meaning is certainly to be gathered from the correspondent expression“ in secret," and has no immediate reference to the drama.

We take these samples almost at hazard. Where the endeavour reaches to the construction of passages, the success is still more dubious. On Rom. v. 1-5, it is proposed to include in a parenthesis the words, “ Knowing that tribulation worketh," &c. and to read the sense thus,“ We glory in tribulation also ; knowing, &c. &c.; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, &c.” A reading too harsh and violent, to rest on the slight grounds which are adduced, even if we speak of the English Testament only; but absolutely inadmissible if the Greek construction be consulted. A reading equally forced is proposed on Gal. ii. 20; and again on 1 Thes. i. 2-4. These sorts of errors seem to us to arise from a forgetfulness of the extreme difference of the genius of the English and of the Greek tongues; and would almost incline us to believe that our author's Greek knowledge has not been kept fresh and pure by a perpetual infusion from the sources of the language in the classical writers of antiquity—but has been pretty much confined to the language of the New Testament assisted by our English translation, and has thus been corrupted by the hazardous, but seductive mistake of arguing from the modern idioms to the ancient forms of the beautiful and philosophical language of Greece.

The most flagrant departure, however, from all analogy of derivation which has occured to us in these volumes, is the following really amusing and original observation, vol. vi. p. 257. * This is evident, from the customs of having salt-fish on AshWednesday, and pancakes on Shrove-Tuesday. The latter in all probability, arose from the people being reminded, or perhaps summoned, by a bell, to confess all their sins, hãy waxón. From hence it was called the Täv xonòv, or pancake bell.” When we read this extraordinary criticism, we first rubbed our eyes, and began to think we could not have read correctly. We then

[ocr errors]



took down Johnson, just to assure ourselves of what was too clear to require assurance, the real derivation of the word; we then shut up the volume in utter amazement at the infatuation to which the best-intentioned minds are subject, when once fancy has been allowed, first to obscure, and then seduce, and then extinguish, the plainest dictates of common sense.

Of hypothesis and invention in criticism we may say, ás Pope does of vice, that it is this

in fint LA monster of such frightful mien !!!,,

j That to be hated; needs but to be seen; 1.ts Estons But seen too oft, familiar with her face, 117411 to We first endure, then pity, then embrace. - "But we willingly abstain from further remarks. For these defects are minute and unimportant, considering the extent of this work and its chief design. If indeed, we were called to examine a

e volume, merely containing a dozen discourses, we might expeot a greater accuracy, or at least, must have fairly said, that the critical errors bore a more disturbing proportion to the bulk of the performance: but in the immense series of twelve hundred sermons, designed for popular use, an author is to be judged of by broader rules.

Setting aside, then, the comparatively few critical remarks, (almost all of which we could dispense with) and coming now to speak of the work as a whole, we do most sincerely recommend it to those who may desire an almost continued commentary on the Scriptures, and especially to the younger clergy. We should think it would gradually become a stock-book. We know few works of equal value. Indeed, with the exception of Bishop Beveridge's Thesaurus, nothing of the kind can claim to be brought into comparison with it. It does indeed excite our admiration, that a work of such persevering labour, should have been planned and executed by an individual clergyman. It might be thought, on a first consideration, that great marks of haste would have been apparent throughout the performance--but the fact is, upon the whole, just the contrary--we have no doubt that most of these discourses must have cost the author on an average twelve or fifteen hours hard study, and some considerably more. We find, indeed, on merely reckoning up the time which has intervened between the publication of the five first volumes and those before us--eighteen years,—that between sixty and seventy discourses must have been composed each year=and we should imagine that by far the best time of every week during that period must have been given to this labour. The same ardour of spirit, which has betrayed our author, as we have already noticed, into some comparatively unimportant mistakes, must have been the spring of this great undertaking; Directed to the truth of the Holy Scriptures, animated by faith, and imbued with heavenly charity, this sacred vigor of understanding and affection has reared an imperishable monu. ment of laborious diligence and well-directed enterprize. The whole work breathes and burns throughout with life and fervour. The characteristic canon which it follows is wise, and important, and novel. The knowledge of the art of sermon composition is the result of long practice and improved habit. The Divinity is sound, and holy, and spiritual. The variety, both in form and in matter, is perhaps full as great as the case would admit. The superiority to the trammels of human systems is generous and pure, and gives it an air of freedom from the opinions of men, and of subjection to the authority of God, which is very attractive. The force and pathos, which perpetually appear force indeed most frequently-interest the heart, and touch the consciences of men. In short, in all the main excellencies of so vast an attempt, we consider the author as completely such cessful; whilst in the defects themselves, which we know it would be easy to aggravate, we trace rather the overflowings and aberrations of the very mind which alone could execute such a design, than the characters of weakness, or negligence, or misrepresentation.

Upon its freedom from a spirit of party, however, we are very much inclined to rest much of the merit of the undertaking. Indeed this excellence flows from a yet higher one, to which we have so often adverted, the noble and successful determination to follow the inspired volume in its spirit and meaning throughout. Of course this, as well as every other commendation we bestow, must be taken with the deductions which human infirmity in all cases requires. But we speak advisedly when we declare that the ultimate blessing to the church which the superiority, and even opposition, to systematic views apparent upon the whole of this work, may be the means of conferring, can scarcely be too highly estimated. And this in two respects. First as it regards the clergy, and then the church generally. For the young divine, released from the preparatory studies of college, and called to a populous and important station, cannot but derive essential aid from the use of it. Let such a student, if he has two discourses to prepare each week, compose one himself, and take the other chiefly from our author If he first peruse with care the essay on the composition of a sermon in the former publication, with the valuable prefaces of the second volume of that series and the first volume of this, he will be prepared to derive great advantage from this work. The arrangement and principal thoughts of his experienced guide will accustom hím to accuracy of division and perspi

« НазадПродовжити »