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principles. We say, that these principles, sufficient in the ordinary course of life, are very weak against violent temptations, against impetuous passions, against the critical circumstances of every kind, to which man is exposed; that, on the contrary, the graces and the promises of the gospel have a powerful and victorious force, and that therefore, to deprive it of the succour of religion, is to render virtue uncertain. We say, that whereas the Christian doctrine is sensible to all men, these principles cannot be so; neither to the wicked man, who listens only to his passions; nor to the brutal man, who is drawn along by his senses; nor to the multitude, which is incapable of precision and justness; and therefore, to destroy religion, is to take away from public manners the most universal resource which Providence has afforded them. We say, above all, that all the means which Society can employ to oblige man to fulfil his duties, are approved and fortified by religion, and insufficient if it does not lend them its aid.
The first of these means is self-interest; and without doubt, if that interest was well understood, if it was directed by religion, it would be the safeguard of morals, and the guarantee of reciprocal services without which society cannot subsist. But this powerful spring of action is often dangerous. If in consulting his private, man separates it from the public interest; if the exclusive love of himself succeed to the lawful inclination which leads him to love himself; if in wishing to exist for himself, he thinks he owes nothing to others, society must fall to pieces. It maintains itself, like the universe, only by the agreement and the correspondence of its parts.
We could here reproach infidels with the mistakes of some among them, who, in reminding man of his interest, have no fear of enervating filial respect, paternal love, the ties of blood, those of friendship, even probity, courage, and disinterestedness; who have not blushed to justify avarice, voluptuousness, the disorderly pleasures of the senses; and who, under the vain pretext of re-establishing man in all his rights, have destroyed those of society.
But it is not upon errors of individuals, it is upon the doctrine of infidelity itself, that we wish to establish the triumph of religion. We suppose, then, an infidel, animated with love of the public good, saying to men; "Since each member of society has infinite wants, and limited faculties to provide for them, the industry of several ought to supply to the industry of one alone, by serving our equals, we cannot hurt ourselves, and the services which we render them are always a feeble compensation for those which we receive from them."
It is of this infidel that we demand, whether that connexion of general with private interest, will always be so urgent and so sensible, that society will not lose any of its rights. Often, to be useful to his equals, he must separate himself from every thing we hold dearest. Often, to serve society, he must forget himself. Beneficence supposes some privations; generosity includes some sacrifices; even justice sometimes requires them. The passions, more especially, insulate those whom they govern; and that which favours them, appears always to man to be his dearest interest. If the duties which he must fulfil, are painful, if the services which he must render, are near, and those, which we expect, remote; if his services counteract some strong inclinations, and some prevailing tastes, what resource to determine himself will the man find, who is led by that personal interest to which infidelity recals him? The compensations which society presents to him, are not superiour to the advantages, from which it wishes him to detach himself. The motives which it offers him, are of the same nature as those which excite his resistance. The goods of which he must deprive himself, are always present. Those with which it flatters him, are often uncertain. Shall we be astonished, if, meaning to consult only his own interest, he is led to prefer what is useful to him, to that which is useful to others; his private, to the public good; his advantage to that of society?
Religion, on the contrary, does not present society to man, only as the centre and the union of all that is dear to him, but as the perpetual miracle of divine wisdom, the greatest of its works after the creation. To disturb the order of it, is to be wanting to providence; and every thing which interrupts its harmony, is a sort of profanation and sacrilege. Society is in the eyes of the Christian a single and immense family; of which God is the chief, and all the members are brethren. United to succour and solace one another, the law of love given to all men is particularly made for them. When, by mutual services they follow its impression, they fulfil part of the ministry for which Providence has deigned to associate them; and it is even to God that they are wanting, if they neglect to protect their equals, and to be useful to them.
According to these ideas, what charms have the social virtues for a Christian! He will hear without doubt often the imperious voice of the senses; he will experience the violent emotions of covetousness, which leads men to be hard and unjust but he will hear at the same time the voice of God which recals him to his brethren. He will see hard-heartedness and injustice pursued by divine vengeance; he will see rewards prepared for the New Series-vol. III.
beneficent and charitable man, for the submissive and faithful subject, for the generous citizen. Even if his private interest be found in opposition to that of society, another interest, foreign to earth and of a superiour order, supports and animates him. Confined to present time, infidelity can put no difference between what society promises and what it requires: In sacrificing to it his repose, his fortune, even his life, the Christian knows that he is still labouring for his own happiness. Religion de taches him both from the goods which he must sacrifice for society and from those which he may receive from it. As he seeks not its favours, he fears not its ingratitude, and whether it protects him, or neglects him, be never ceases to be faithful to it, because God orders him, and will be his reward.
SYRIAC VERSION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
FOR THE CHRISTIAN DISCIPLE.
THE Rev. Claudius Buchanan, in a publication entitled "Christian Researches in Asia," makes the following observations:
"The Syrian Christians inhabit the interior of Travancore and Malabar in the south of India, and have settled there from the early ages of Christianity.
"In the Acts of the Council of Nice, it is recorded that Johannes, Bishop of India, signed his name at that Council, A. D. 325. The Syriac Version of the Scriptures was brought to India, according to the popular belief, before the year 325." Dr. Buchanan further observes :-" They have preserved to this day the language in which our blessed Lord preached to men the glad tidings of salvation. Their scriptures, their doctrine, their language, in short their very existence add something to the evidence of Christianity."
It appears from Dr. B., that these Syrian Christians had never seen a printed Bible before he visited them. The Bibles in their possession were all manuscripts. Some of them, almost worn out, had been in their possession, as they supposed, more than 1400 years. They contended that the New Testament was first and originally written in Syriac, the language spoken by our Saviour and his apostles; that the common people of Jerusalem did not understand the Greek language. Dr. Buchanan
admitted that the gospel of Matthew, according to the general belief, was written originally in Syriac, but the Greek being the more universal language, was more favourable to the general diffusion of the gospel.
In Rees' Cyclopædia, under the head, "Syriac Version," are the following observations:
"The learned who have examined this version [called by the Syrians, Peshito,' that is, The literal, though it is in fact much less so than the new Syriac Version, and ought to be carefully distinguished from those made in a later period] and compared it with the original, both of the Old and New Testaments, inform us, that of all the ancient versions, which are now consulted by Christians for the better understanding of the Holy Scriptures, as well of the New Testament as of the Old, none can better serve this end than this old Syriac version, when carefully consulted and well understood. And to this purpose the nature of the language itself very much assists; for as it had been the mother tongue of those who wrote the New Testament, and a dialect of that in which the Old was first given to us, many things in both are more happily expressed in this version than can well be done in any other language."
"The learned are much divided in their opinions respecting the antiquity of the Syriac Version; some referring it to the very earliest ages, and others taking all possible pains to prove it to be modern. Professor Michaelis is of opinion that it must have been made in the first century. * A very convincing argument for the antiquity of the Peshito is, its general reception among all the sects of the Syrian Christians, a circumstance which proves it to have been in general use before the Syrian Church was divided into Parties.
"Michaelis commends the Peshito as the best translation of the Greek Testament which he had ever read; its language being the most elegant and pure, not loaded with foreign words, bearing no marks of the stiffness of a translation, but written with the ease and fluency of an original." Thus far the Cyclopædia.
Locke, in his Essay for the Understanding of St. Paul's Epistles, makes the following observations:-"The language wherein these Epistles are writ, is no small occasion for their obscurity to us now. The words are Greek, a language dead many ages since; a language of a very witty volatile people, seekers after novelty, and abounding with a variety of notions and sects, to which they applied the terms of their common tongue with great liberty and variety; and yet this makes but one small part of the difficulty in the language of these Epistles; there is a pecu
liarity in it, that much more obscures and perplexes the meaning of these writings, than what can be occasioned by the looseness and variety of the Greek tongue. The terms are Greek, but the idiom or turn of the phrase may be truly said to be Hebrew or Syriac; the custom and familiarity of which_tongues do sometimes so far influence the expressions in these Epistles, that one may observe the force of the Hebrew conjugations, particuJarly that of Hiphil, given to Greek verbs in a way unknown to the Grecians themselves.??
It is generally supposed that the New Testament was first and originally written by the sacred penmen in the Greek language; the most refined language in the world; a language with which, if we except one or two, it may be supposed the writers of the New Testament, who were principally Syrian fishermen and rusticks, could not be acquainted, unless by inspiration. On comparing what is said above by Michaelis, with the observations of Locke, may we not be warranted in inferring that the Syrian Christians of India were correct in asserting that the New Testament was first and originally written in the Syriac language? SCRUTATOR.
Philadelphia, October 11th, 1821.
ON BELKNAP'S COLLECTION OF PSALMS AND HYMNS.
[We give place to the following remarks of an unknown correspondent, as we did to those of the writer to whom he alludes, who is also unknown to us,) not intending to pledge ourselves to support all the opinions of either, but simply to give place to a discussion which we think is needed, and may be useful. The review which appears in the latter part of this number, was prepared for the press before we had received this communication.]
TO THE EDITORS OF THE CHRISTIAN DISCIPLE.
A CORRESPONDENT in a late number of the Christian Disciple, has undertaken to show what are "the requisite qualities of a good collection of Hymns for public worship." His remarks were suggested by a recommendation which appeared in a previous number of the Disciple, of the collection lately published in New York, and are calculated, though not perhaps designedly, to prevent the introduction of that, or of any other now extant, as a substitute for those in general use in the Unitarian churches of New-England. To render any change expedient,