Imagini ale paginilor

prepossessions and self-conceit, as to their humility and innocence. How strongly is this sentiment expressed by the apostle: "if any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise!" 1 Cor. iii. 18. The judicious and candid will not mistake me as, in matters of religion, decrying the use of reason, without which, am sensible, we cannot proceed a single step; but as pointing out the proper application of this faculty.

In what concerns revelation, reason has a twofold province; first, to judge whether what is presented to us as a revelation from God, or, which is the same thing, as the divine testimony to the truth of the things therein contained, be really such or not; secondly, to judge what is the import of the testimony given. For the former of these, first the external evidences of Christianity offer themselves to our examination, prophecy, miracles, human testimony; and then the internal, arising from the character of the dispensation itself, its suitableness to the rational and moral nature of such a creature as man. As to the second point, the meaning of the revelation given;-if God has condescended to employ any human language in revealing his will to men, he has, by employing such an instrument, given us reason to conclude, that, by the established rules of interpretation in that language, his meaning must be interpreted; otherwise the use of the language could answer no end, but either to confound or to deceive. If the words of God were to be interpreted by another set of rules than that with which the grammar of the language, founded in general use, presents us; with no propriety could it be said that the divine will is revealed to us, till there were a new revelation furnishing us with a key for unlocking the old. This consideration points to the necessity of the grammatical art, and of criticism, by means of which readers, especially of a distant age and country, must arrive at the requisite proficiency in the language. As to both these, it is evident, that the sacred writers address themselves to our reason. "Why," said our Lord, (Luke xii. 57.) "even of yourselves, judge ye not what is right?" and the apostle Paul (1 Cor. x. 15.) "I speak as to wise men, judge ye what I say." With the first, the evidences of the truth of our religion, I am not here concerned: The great design of this Work is, to deliver with plainness, in our own tongue, a very essential part of what was, more than seventeen centuries ago, communicated in another tongue to the inhabitants of countries remote from ours. It was in order the more effectually to answer this end-particularly, to remove all prejudices and prepossessions which might prove obstructions in the way, that I determined, on reflection, to add to the Version the Preliminary Dissertations and the Notes.

The necessary aids for acquiring the knowledge of an ancient and foreign tongue, are more or fewer, according to the circum

stances of the case. The distance of time and place, and the great difference, in respect of customs, manners, and sentiments, between those to whom the sacred writers first addressed themselves, and the present inhabitants of this island, could not fail to occasion our meeting with some difficulties. And although it cannot be justly doubted, that a good deal of light has been thrown on some points by the labours of former critics, it can as little be denied, that, by the same means, many things have been involved in greater darkness. In other critical inquiries, wherein religion is not concerned, there is little to bias the judgment in pronouncing on what side the truth lies. But where religion is concerned, there are often, not only inveterate prejudices, but secular motives, to be surmounted, to whose influence few can boast an entire superiority. Besides, I shall have an opportunity to observe, in the sequel, that, in what relates to this subject, there has come a gradual change on the meaning of many words, consequent on the changes which have been gradually introduced into the church, in religious ceremonies, modes of government, and formularies of doctrine. Old names are given to things comparatively new, which have, by insensible degrees, arisen out of the old, and have at last supplanted them.

To trace such changes with accuracy, is an essential quality of philology. A translator, when he finds that the words used by former translators, though right at first, have since contracted a meaning different from that in which they were originally employed, sees it necessary, that he may do justice both to his author and to his subject, to substitute such terms as, to the best of his judgment, are adapted to convey those sentiments, and those only, intended by the author. When a change is made from what people have been long accustomed to, it is justly expected that the reason, unless it be obvious, should be assigned. Hence arises the propriety of scholia, or notes, both for vindicating the version, and for supplying further information, which, if not necessary to all, is to most readers highly useful. The frequent allusions to rites, customs, and incidents, well known to the natives of the writer's country, and to his contemporaries, render such occasional illustrations as can be given in the notes, very expedient for those of distant lands and ages. It is not on account of any peculiar obscurity in sacred writ, that more has been judged requisite in this way, with regard to it, than with regard to any other writings; but partly on account of certain peculiarities in the case, and partly on account of the superior importance of the subject. Of both these I shall have occasion to take notice in the Preliminary Dissertations. There is a further use in bringing additional light for viewing these subjects in, though we admit that the light absolutely necessary was not deficient before. To brighten our perceptions is to strengthen them; and to strengthen them, is to give them a firmer hold of

the memory, and to render them more productive of all the good fruits that might naturally be expected from them. The most we can say of the best illustrations which, from the knowledge of Christian antiquity, critics have been enabled to give the sacred text, is like that which the ingenious author of Polymetis says, in regard to the utility of his inquiries into the remains of ancient sculpture and painting for throwing light upon the classics: "The chief use," says he, (Dialogue vi.) "I have found in this sort of study, has not been so much in discovering what was wholly unknown, as in strengthening and beautifying what was known before. When the day was so much overcast just now, you saw all the same objects that you do at present-these trees, that river, the forest on the left hand, and those spreading vales to the right: but now the sun is broke out, you see all of them more clearly. and with more pleasure. It shows scarce any thing that you did not see before; but it gives a new life and lustre to every thing that you did see."

It cannot, however, be denied, that on this subject many things have been advanced, in the way of illustration, which have served more to darken than to illuminate the sacred pages. I have great reason to think, that in my researches into this matter I have been impartial; but whether I have been successful, is another question: for, though partiality, in the method of conducting an inquiry, sufficiently accounts for its proving unfruitful, the utmost impartiality will not always ensure success. There are more considerations which, in a work of this kind, must be taken into view, than even readers of discernment will at first have any apprehension of. Several of the changes here adopted, in translating both words and idioms, will, I know well, upon a superficial view, be judged erroneous; and many of them will doubtless be condemned as frivolous, which, it is to be hoped, will, on deeper reflection, be admitted, by well informed judges, both to be more apposite in themselves, and to render the matter treated more perspicuous.

In illustrating the principles on which some of the changes here made are founded, a great deal more, in the way of critical discussion, was found necessary, in order to do justice to the argument, than could with propriety be thrown into the Notes. A conviction of this first suggested the design of discussing some points more fully in Preliminary Dissertations. This, however, is not the only use which these discourses were intended to answer. Though there has appeared, since the revival of letters in the West, a numerous list of critics on the Bible, little has been done for ascertaining the proper, and in some respect peculiar rules for criticising the sacred books; for pointing out the difficulties and the dangers to which the different methods have been exposed, and the most probable means of surmounting the one, and escaping the other. Something in this way has been attempted

here. Besides, I have been the more free in applying my philological remarks in these discourses to various passages in the other apostolical writings, as I had a more extensive view in translating, when I first engaged in it, than that to which at last I found it necessary to confine myself.

I have endeavoured, in the interpretations given, to avoid, with equal care, an immoderate attachment to both extremes, antiquity and novelty. I am not conscious that I have, in any instance, been inclined to disguise the falsity of an opinion because ancient, or, with partial fondness, hastily to admit its truth because new. That an opinion is the opinion of the multitude is, to some, a powerful recommendation; to others, it appears an infallible criterion of error; to those who are truly rational, it will be neither. There are, indeed, many cases wherein antiquity and universality are evidences of some importance. It has been all along my intention, never to overlook these circumstances where they could be urged with propriety; for certain it is, that singularity is rather an unfavourable presumption. But I hope that, with the help of some things which are treated in the Preliminary Dissertations, the intelligent and candid reader will be convinced, that nowhere have I more effectually restored the undisguised sentiments of antiquity, than where I employ expressions which, at first sight, may appear to proceed from the affectation of novelty. I have, to the utmost of my power, observed the injunction which God gave to the prophet Jeremiah: I have stood in the ways; I have looked and asked for the old paths, Jer. vi. 16. And if in this research I have in any instances proved successful, men of discernment will, I am persuaded, be sensible, that nowhere have I been luckier in conveying the genuine conceptions of the most venerable antiquity, than in those places which, to a superficial examination, will appear, in point of language, most chargeable with innovation. The very command, to look and to ask for the old paths, implies that it may happen that the old paths are deserted, consequently untrodden, and known comparatively to very few. In that case it is manifest, that the person who would recommend them runs the risk of being treated as an innovator. This charge, therefore, of affecting novelty, though very common, must be, of all accusations, the most equivocal; since, in certain circumstances, nothing can more expose a man to it, than an inflexible adherence to antiquity.

I may, in this Work, have erred in many things; for to err is the lot of frail humanity, and no merely human production ever was, or ever will be, faultless. But I can say with confidence, that I have not erred in any thing essential. And wherefore am I thus confident? Because I am conscious that I have assiduously looked and asked for the old paths, that I have sought out the good way, that I might at all hazards both walk therein

myself, and recommend it to others; and because I believe the word of the Lord Jesus, "Whosoever will do the will of God, shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God," John vii. 17. This I think a sufficient security, that no person, who is truly thus minded, shall err in what is essential. In what concerns the vitals of religion, rectitude of disposition goes further even to enlighten the mind than acuteness of intellect, however important this may be in other respects. But the exercise of no faculty is to be despised, that can be rendered in any degree conducive to our advancement in the knowledge of God. Nay, it is our duty to exert every faculty in this acquisition as much as possible.

In an age like the present, wherein literary productions are so greatly multiplied, it is not matter of wonder that readers, when they hear of any new work, inquire about what, in modern phrase, is called the originality of the thoughts, and the beauties of style it possesses. The press teems daily with the labours of the learned. Plenty in this, as in every other commodity, makes people harder to be pleased: hence it happens, that authors are sometimes tempted, for the sake of gratifying the over-nice and fastidious taste of their readers, to affect paradoxes, and to say things extravagant and incredible, being more solicitous about the newness, or even the uncommonness, than about the truth of their sentiments. Though I cannot help thinking this preference injudicious, whatever be the subject, it is highly blameable in every thing wherein religion or morals are concerned. To this humour, therefore, no sacrifice can be expected here. The principal part of the present work is translation. A translator, if he do justice to his author and his subject, can lay no claim to originality. The thoughts are the author's; the translator's business is to convey them unadulterated, in the words of another language. To blend them with his own sentiments, or with any sentiments which are not the author's, is to discharge the humble office of translator unfaithfully. In the Translation here offered, I have endeavoured to conform strictly to this obligation. As to the remarks to be found in the Dissertations and Notes, nothing was further from my purpose than, in any instance, to sacrifice truth to novelty. At the same time I will, on the other hand, frankly acknowledge, that, if I had not thought myself qualified to throw some light on this most important part of holy writ, no consideration should have induced me to obtrude my reflections on the public. If I have deceived myself on this article, it is, at the worst, a misfortune which appears to be very incident to authors. But if some readers, for different readers will think differently, should find me, on some articles, more chargeable with the extreme of novelty than with that of triteness of sentiment, I hope that the novelty, when narrowly examined, will be discovered, as was hinted above, to result from tracing out paths which had been long forsaken, and clearing the ancient ways of part of the

« ÎnapoiContinuă »