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designed to be more obvious to the majority of Biblical readers, and more practical in its genuine result.
It is not pretended that the volume exhibits a complete system of Hermeneutics, in the view usually taken of the subject. Many will look in vain for chapters on emphasis, the figures of speech, the principles of prophetic interpretation, &c., which have been purposely omitted. The first does not appear rightly to belong to Hermeneutics, as far as the author is able to see, though he cannot pause to explain the reasons of his opinion. To describe grammatical or rhetorical figures separately, is the business of grammar or rhetoric;—and it would have been inconsistent with the original plan to take up the third topic at length and by itself, as if it were peculiar or unique. In addition to these, the second leading part of the subject has been omitted, viz. the best mode of giving an exact delineation of the original when understood, or of bringing forward the meaning after it has been discovered. Here the character of versions, paraphrases, commentaries, and scholia should have been discussed, with the comparative merits of these expedients for making the mind of the Spirit intelligible to others. To compensate for the omission of this division, it has been incorporated with the other. It appeared of little consequence to reserve for it a distinct place; while the volume increased to such an extent as to compel abridgment. Perhaps also, some may consider Schleiermacher's definition of Hermeneutics, which excludes from the science the art of appropriately explaining the meaning of an author (die Darlegung des Verständnisses), as more philosophical and correct than the usual explication.
- The nature and characteristics of Hebrew poetry have been waived, chiefly for want of sufficient space, although
it was at one time intended that parallelism should be noticed at large, and the late attempts of Koester and Ewald to extend the principle to entire verses, brought under review. In the mean time, it may be said of Ewald's “ Allgemeines über die Hebräische Poesie,” published at Göttingen in 1839, that it is a very ingenious and elaborate essay on the structure and strophes of Hebrew poetry, thoroughly German in its nature, and metaphysically obscure. That it is a' failure, it would not be difficult to demonstrate, although it displays great acuteness and originality of conception.
The Bibliographical Appendix has been compiled with considerable labour, and a studious desire of accuracy. The author is satisfied that he has given as fair and impartial a judgment respecting the works noticed, as his acquaintance with them warranted. It is time, that students of the Bible should cease to be guided by the decisions of popular reviews and sectarian magazines. It is time, that bibliographical notices should be made to serve as useful guides to the inquirer, and not as laudatory commendations calculated to mislead. A faithful estimate of such books as are mentioned has been attempted; how far the attempt is successful, remains to be determined by the opinion of competent scholars. On this as well as every other subject, the writer has exercised independent thought, uninfluenced by the praises or censures pronounced by others, and often unknowing of their particular sentiments respecting the volumes and dissertations inserted in the chapter. In the absence of a full history of Biblical interpretation from the Reformation to the present time, the portion in question may serve to indicate the progress of Hermeneutical investigation, with the various phases through which it has passed,
The book contains general, not special Hermeneutics. With the former it is wholly occupied. This arose from the leading idea that guided the author, viz. that the Bible should be as far as possible its own interpreter. The manifestation of such a plan is prominent throughout. It has been kept steadily in view. Hence special Hermeneutics have been avoided—and hence, too, the Hermeneutics of the Old and New Testaments have been combined, after the manner of the older writers. In special Hermeneutics great room is afforded for the introduction of doctrinal sentiments previously held, and the influence of theological creeds previously subscribed. They embody, in general, the doctrinal system of a particular individual, which is brought to bear upon the exposition of Scripture in an order the reverse of right. Avoiding a procedure so objectionable, the author of the present volume has studied to simplify the principles of interpretation as much as possible, so that all Christians, sincerely professing to receive the Bible as the word of God, may be disposed to acquiesce in them as certain and self-evident. They have been in some degree axiomatised, which can only be done with success by resting on the broad basis of Scripture and common sense together.
The idea may occur to some, that two topics have been treated with a copiousness disproportioned to the others with which they are associated, viz. the quotations from the Old Testament in the New, and the apparent contradictions of Scripture. The reason of this is, because they demand more detail in order to be useful to the student of the Bible. If it be found, that nothing essential has been omitted in either, or that the discussion of them is satisfactory and near to completeness, the writer's design has been answered. Had space permitted, other
chapters should have been enlarged, and appropriate examples increased. Possibly this may be done at a future time, should a second edition be called for.
The author is sincerely sensible of many imperfections in the work which he now ventures to send forth. But he has endeavoured to do what he could, in the time and circumstances connected with its composition. Had he possessed greater advantages and leisure, it might have had a higher claim to the approbation of learned and intelligent judges. By the kind providence of God he has been enabled to bring it, such as it is, to a termination; and it is his humble prayer, that it may tend to promote the intelligent study of the Holy Scriptures, to restrain error, and to check the influence of unsound exposition. It is of prëeminent importance, that a healthy piety, founded on a clear apprehension of divine truth, should be formed and matured. Dangerous sentiments, professedly drawn from the word of God, are widely afloat in the religious world. Delusive views of essential doctrines are fearfully prevalent. It becomes, therefore, the imperative duty of each one who undertakes to expound the Bible, to have certain fixed principles by which he may be guided amid the rubbish of antiquated notions and the accumulation of ingenious novelties thrown in his path. Let him seek for truth and truth alone, undismayed by the opprobrium of sect, the standard of party, the fear of heresy, the tyranny of prejudice, or the current of opinion. The Bible must be his only infallible text-book. To understand its paramount disclosures, he should bring all the perspicacity and learning he may possess, unswayed by the dogmas of any creed, however wisely framed, or industriously lauded. Let him strive to attain, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, those broad, comprehensive views of revelation,
which shall at once settle and enlighten the mind, while purifying the heart from selfishness and sin. If rules have only a negative effect, they will not be worthless ;if their only tendency be to keep away from false opinions claiming to be derived from the word of God, they will not be propounded in vain :- but if they have a positive as well as a negative character ;—if they be adapted to open up the true meaning, no less than to discountenance erroneous exegesis, they will rise in importance in the estimation of the believer, and demand to be faithfully applied, with all Christian sobriety and holy solicitude.
In conclusion, the writer cordially adopts the language of the illustrious Neander :-“ The judgment of all impartial friends of truth, be it favourable or adverse, will be always welcome to me. The judgment of those who are the leaders or slaves of parties and schools, I despise. Every kind of popery, whether it be a state-church, a doctrinal, a pietist or a philosophical, an orthodox or a heterodox popery, is to me an abomination. May the Lord preserve to his church that FREEDOM which he has procured for her, and prevent his disciples from becoming the slaves of any man, or of any human spirit !”
· The Indices have been compiled by the Rev. James Bewglass, to whom I beg to express my grateful acknowledgments.
LANCASHIRE INDEPENDENT COLLEGE, MANCHESTER,
March 31st 1843.
A table of Errata will be found at the end of the rolume.