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know of any way wherein the common sense of the great bulk of mankind can ordinarily be exercised upon the words of scripture, to determine their meaning, except by applying to its language the same criterion by which it judges of the sense of words in general; which is their natural, obvious, and primary construction, according to the rules and idiom of the language or dialect, in which they happen to be expressed.

To adopt any other method of arriving at the true sense of scripture but this, is to substitute an indefinite and capricious standard of interpretation, taken from I know not what imaginary notions, and preconceived opinions, of the interpreter himself; and consequently of as many kinds as there can be peculiar principles and notions of different expositors— all equally arbitrary and precarious, and all equally unsatisfactory to any but those who first set them up and apply them. If there is any one principle of interpretation, which from the nature of the case is not liable to vary; which is founded in the reason of things, and cannot accommodate itself to the particular tastes or prejudices of individuals; in the use and admission of which persons of every persuasion might be capable of concurring, and which would lead all, if they applied it rightly, to similar conclusions; which is consequently the least likely to fail of the desired effect, and therefore we may presume was of all others, intended to be our guide and director in arriving at the knowledge both of what we are required to believe, and of what we are bound to practise; it appears to me to be this, that we take the words of scripture as we find them; that we endeavour to ascertain their true, gramınatical

sense, whether in the Old or the New Testament, in the first instance, and then receive the truths which are thereby conveyed, whether articles of faith or rules of practice, according to the plain and simple and obvious meaning of the language itself.

In what way, might we ask, has it pleased the Spirit of God both under the Old and the New dispensation to convey the knowledge of his will to his moral and responsible creatures, whether through the instrumentality of prophets, or by that of apostles; whether to their own contemporaries, or to future generations? By the use of language: by the use of the same medium through which men converse with one another, and make known their thoughts to one another; by the intervention of spoken or of written propositions-of the former, for the benefit of contemporaries, of the latter, for that of posterity. How then shall we judge of the meaning of language, as pronounced by the mouth of an inspired teacher, or as dictated by the pen of an inspired writer, except as we should judge of it, when employed as the ordinary means of conversation, or oral communication between one man and another, or as the established, and in fact, the only possible mode of recording for the benefit of posterity, and transmitting to future ages, the thoughts and sentiments of a mere human writer?

Now what inconsistency must there be in supposing the same medium of communication to be of necessity employed, when God converses with his creatures, as they themselves employ in communicating with each other; yet one rule of interpretation to be proper for the latter, and another for the former?

While the medium or instrument of the communication is the same, the manner of applying it, and the mode of interpreting it, must be and ought to be the same. If we read an ancient author, for example Thucydides or Sophocles, our first business, in order to understand his meaning, is to be able to construe his language; and for the process of construing his language, there are fixed rules and directions, determined by the genius of the language itself, in the admission and observance of which all scholars are agreed. When we have mastered this preliminary difficulty, no one doubts that he has ascertained the sense and meaning of his author, in a particular instance, who has ascertained the legitimate grammatical sense, the obvious and primary meaning, of his words.

The same rule of proceeding ought to be applied to scripture, especially in its moral or didactic parts. We are bound to ascertain in the first place, the grammatical sense and construction of its propositions, according to the genius of the Greek or of the Hebrew language; and when we have done that, we are authorized to conclude that the meaning implied in that grammatical sense and construction, as it obviously appears to be, so actually is, the true. Every one may concur with equal reason in this meaning; for if they understand the language aright, and apply its rules aright, it must and it will appear one and the same to all. If we once take the liberty of departing from this standard, and allow ourselves to suppose that the words of scripture, in a given instance, whatever they may appear to be, and whatever in their simple grammatical sense they would

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be construed to mean, may yet denote something else; we open the door to endless confusion and perplexity.

If then we meet with propositions in scripture, of a moral or practical nature, the grammatical sense of which it is easy to ascertain, and the meaning of which, when so ascertained, is found to be of a nature that might readily have been mistaken, if it was not intended to be understood as it is ex

c I am speaking of the moral and doctrinal parts of scripture, when I contend for the necessity of receiving and construing its words, according to this simple and obvious law. I am not speaking of its prophetical or allegorical parts. The grammatical sense of a given proposition, and the real sense, may not necessarily be the same thing. The words which express the proposition may require to be construed in such and such a way, so as to make such and such a meaning; yet that sense may not convey the real meaning of the proposition after all. This distinction, however, between the grammatical sense and the real sense, can hold good only in those cases where the letter of the text is one thing, and the spirit is another; where consequently the obvious, primary, and grammatical meaning of the words is symbolical and figurative: in other words, it can hold good only in the prophetical and allegorical parts of scripture. Even in these cases themselves, it cannot justly be deemed that the obvious and grammatical sense is not the first to be true—the first that was intended at least-whatever further meaning that first intention itself may be subservient to. But there cannot, or at least there ought not, ever to be this kind of opposition between the primary and secondary intention, between the grammatical sense and the real meaning, of the simply moral and doctrinal parts of scripture. In such parts of revelation the grammatical sense, and the real sense, both ought to coincide, and we may take it for granted always were intended to do so. There can never be one rule or standard of interpretation for the grammar, and another for the sense of such propositions, as there must be, if what they cannot but be construed to say, is not supposed to express what they mean.

pressed—that is, unless it had been guarded and restricted accordingly; which it would have been easy to qualify even as they are stated, by the addition of the necessary limitations, or to have expressed originally in a manner equally agreeable to the genius of the language, and much more secure from the possible danger of misconstruction; which, nevertheless, are neither so qualified as they stand, nor yet so differently expressed as not to require qualification-we ought not to doubt that they were purposely stated as they are, and were always intended to be received as we find them. It matters not whether they appear to contain more or to contain less, in the particular instance, than we expected; to overstate a particular doctrine, in our apprehensions, or to understate it. They mean neither more nor less in the given instance, than as measured by themselves, and as judged of by their own grammatical testimony, they are seen to mean. It is wresting and torturing scripture, to make it signify that which it was never intended to do; it is exaggerating it, to make it signify more than it was designed to signify; it is defrauding and detracting from it to make it signify less; it is dealing unfairly by it, and falsifying it more or less, to make it do any of these things. If the words of our Saviour, then, which inculcate on those addressed, the duty of taking no thought about such and such things, are so couched as to prohibit it not in a certain degree, nor after a certain manner, but in any degree and after any manner at all; the natural inference from them is, that in respect of the persons addressed at least, it was a positive duty to take no thought about those things at all; to consider the

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