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THE

AMERICAN

BIBLICAL REPOSITORY.

NO. XXV.

JANUARY, 1837.

ARTICLE I.

INTRODUCTORY OBSERVATIONS.

By the Editor.

THE first number of the Biblical Repository was published in January, 1830. Its object, as its name imports, was biblical -to collect and embody matters of permanent value, relating particularly to the literature of the Scriptures, and to questions growing out of that literature. Articles, to some extent, were also inserted, pertaining to sacred rhetoric and historical theology. Those subjects, philological, geographical, exegetical, historical, etc. were brought forward, which were thought to be best adapted to promote the interests of sound biblical and theological learning.

In July, 1833, the American Quarterly Observer was commenced, with the intention of occupying the ground which is common to the various religious denominations. It was devoted to the discussion of those principles in politics, morals and religion, which are recognized by the mass of Christians. With the promised cooperation of a number of competent writers, in various portions of the country, it was proposed to make the attempt to discuss the subjects of politics, political economy, mental philosophy, morals, etc., on the most enlarged grounds, as connected with the developments of divine providence, and the well-being of the whole human race. A somewhat extended VOL. IX. No. 25. 1

examination was also made of the more important works which issued from the American press, in connection with a condensed view of literary and religious intelligence and of political affairs.

In January, 1835, the two publications were united with the intention of maintaining the distinctive character in the plan of both. This arrangement was entered into, not because either of the separate works was unappreciated by the community, but for the purpose of concentrating talent and patronage in one publication; and thus augmenting the power and usefulness of the periodical press. It has been the aim of the editor and of his principal contributors to produce a work which should meet the wants of the mass of the intelligent and of the educated, and, at the same time, sustain a high rank in the estimation of the learned and christian scholar.

As the publication will be, in future, conducted on substantially the same general principles, though with enlargement and modifications, and as the sphere of its usefulness, it is hoped, will be considerably extended, it has been deemed important, that there should be, in a preliminary article, a few general observations on those principles, with some survey of the field to be cultivated. A few introductory paragraphs of explanatory statement will not be deemed out of place by those individuals, at least, who may now, for the first time, extend their patronage to the publication. Our remarks will be necessarily of a miscel laneous character.

1. Biblical Literature. In its most appropriate meaning, this branch of knowledge is of recent origin. In the creation and advancement of its interests, our country, even in the view of some of the more enlightened portions of highly civilized and jealous Europe, has attained an honorable rank. Ever since the revival of learning a few scholars, it is true, have devoted themselves to this sacred study, in its various departments, with equal credit to themselves and usefulness to the church. The names of the Buxtorfs, of Grotius, Pococke, Selden, Salmasius, and a few others, will be held in grateful admiration. But it is only a short period, comparatively, since it assumed a scientific form, developed general laws, and enlarged its points of interest in all directions, exhibiting itself in a striking attitude, no less by the multiplicity of its ramifications, than the precision of its rules and the fixedness of its principles. The fundamental importance of this branch of study, and its claims upon the attention of the periodical press, may be inferred from considerations like those which follow:

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Sacred philology has been the means of establishing the principal christian doctrines on a firmer basis. They were supported in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by a multiplicity of arguments, frequently by great ingenuity of reasoning and strictness of logic. Many passages of Scripture were interpreted with much felicity and force. Especially was the spiritual meaning, "the hidden glory" of some texts, beautifully expounded and illustrated. Yet there was a manifest deficiency in the knowledge of the true principles of biblical interpretation. Particular doctrines were supported by apposite and incongruous texts alike. Every part of the Bible was adduced in support of every other part, without any consideration in relation to the different nature, scope, object, etc. of the paragraphs brought thus into juxta-position. Deficiency in point and pertinence was made up by formidable numbers. With all the great and various excellencies of the theologians of past generations, in our own country and in England, and we would yield to none in promptitude to acknowledge those excellencies, still they adopted, for the most part, a very unsatisfactory and jejune method of sustaining those precious doctrines which were their sole trust and consolation. The case is now, however, widely different. A few texts, provided they are clearly and indisputably to the point, are justly regarded as affording to a doctrine a support infinitely firmer than a thousand disputed, vexed, irrelevant sentences, whose only appropriateness, it may be, is an accidental, verbal analogy. The doctrines of the atonement, the trinity, the deity of the Son of God, the eternal duration of future punishment, are defended by a few passages which have been most rigidly canvassed, and whose meaning is irrefragably established. The doctrines named do doubtless receive countenance from various parts of the Bible, and from its general current and texture. Collateral and subordinate proofs are not to be set at nought. Still, in the last resort, in the final conflict with a wary foe, or when the pious soul looks around for its strongest stay, tempted by unwelcome and skeptical thoughts, then a few distinct, unrefutable texts are precious beyond comparison. They are equally potent over the outward and the inward enemies. The obligations of the whole church to the philologists who have labored in the exposition and defence of these texts, are very great.

This study has no unimportant effect in promoting the unity of all true Christians. The unity to which we refer can never

be accomplished by controversy, nor even by amicable discussion, nor by the reluctant or the willing abandonment of denominational watchwords, nor by lamentations on the miseries of dissension, but, in the first place, by "seeing eye to eye." Christians and christian ministers must interpret the Scriptures substantially alike. They must not bring to its explication a system of rules, which would be utterly inapplicable to the deciphering of any other book. They must permit themselves to be under the dominion of common sense here as elsewhere. Before there can be any extensive and permanent unity of feeling, such as is involved in the sublime intercessory prayer of our Saviour, there must be a fixed determination on the part of the great body of Christians to interpret the Bible according to the common laws of language, and then to manfully abide the issue of such an interpretation. A course of this nature would terminate instantly half the disputes which now deface and rend the churches of Jesus. Sacred philology can, with the blessing of heaven, do much in bringing to pass such a result. Already, her efforts have not been altogether unavailing. Existing theological controversies, numerous and violent as they may be, are not to be compared to the gladiatorial exhibitions which were made in Germany soon after the Reformation; in Holland at the time of the Arminian controversy; or at some periods which might be specified in English church history. Eminent theologians of the present day, belonging to both divisions of the Protestant cause in Germany, to the established churches and the numerous dissenting bodies of Great Britain, not wholly excluding some Quakers even, and to the various christian sects of the United States, are agreed substantially in respect to the rules to be applied in the exposition of the inspired volume. Such agreement is certainly of very auspicious omen. Most assuredly, like results will follow in this study, as in any other branch of knowledge. The labors of Blackstone and one or two other British lawyers poured a flood of light into the previous confusion and intricacies of the English statutes. Occasions of endless strife were, doubtless, in this way, cut off. In precisely the same manner will an intelligible, consistent system of biblical exegesis remove at least some of the causes of ill feeling and of controversy, which have ravaged the fairest portions of God's heritage.

The study in question has a favorable bearing on the spread of Christianity. Its efforts in the elucidation of the Scriptures,

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