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It ought to be evident, however, with regard to the scriptures, as with respect to all other writings, that words have no intrinsic perspicuity; that their intelligibility will depend upon the power of language to express the thoughts, and the fitness or ability of the reader to receive them; and that the language of the Bible derives its power; its application; its point; its use, from the authority of Him who speaks; the nature of the commuication; and the circumstances of those to whom it is addressed.
We have, we trust, already sufficiently shown that the perspicuity of language is relative, depending as much upon the fitness of the mind to receive, as the suitableness of the words to convey the thoughts. In regard to the scriptures, as we before stated, it is not to be doubted that the most appropriate terms which language afforded, were employed by the sacred penmen. Any want of clearness in these writings must, consequently, be occasioned by the poverty of human speech, and the inadequacy of earthly imagery, compared with the grandeur and the spirituality of the subjects of which they treat. In such cases, it accordingly requires, not only all due preparation of mind on the part of the reader, but that he should dwell upon the thought which words thus imperfectly convey, and, by continued and concentrated effort, enter into the full spirit of the passage, so as to fill up the mere verbal sketch with the spiritual thought, and impart proper form and relief and color to the whole. Language is here but as a door that admits us into a spacious and magnificent apartment, of which it forms itself but an insignificant portion, while at the same time it is the only means of access.
With regard, however, to the preparation of mind required on the part of the reader, there are many things to consider, to some of which we have already briefly referred. There is a natural as well 29 en acquired fitness of the mind; a moral as well a spiritual preperation of the heart. There are gifts of perception and of intellect, as well as acquisitions of learning and experience; and capabilities of feeling, as well as habits of reflection, and these in all degrees o power and of activity. There are also the aids or the hindrances of time and circumstance, and the various influences of the modes in which a particular subject may be approached and examined.-Upon these we deem it unnecessary to expatiate, and shall merely present a few reflections upon some of the more important points.
As a general principle, then, we may state that in proportion as the mind of the reader is like that of the writer, 80, other things being equal, will be the facility with which the writing is understood.
This similarity may exist in the constitution of the mind itself; or in the state or condition of the mind at the particular time. It may consist in an equal amount of familiarity with the subject, or of interest in it; in a correspondence of habit or inclination, or in the equal measure of development or power. And by its means, one may at once enter into the thoughts and feelings of another; follow up with readiness his slightest intimations; and even anticipate and enlarge upon his thoughts. These are matters of personal experience and familiar observation. For instance, how much more quickly than the parent one child can understand the meaning or wishes of another! How often one child must interpret to the parent the broken sentences and imperfect language of his little playmate! How easily an individual of a mathematica! turn will comprehend the work of a mathematician! Thus Newton comprehended Euclid's Elements at a glance, and found nothing in them to detain him for an instant. So one, possessed of musical genius, will, at first sight, understand the most difficult combinations of musical characters, and perform the piece in the true spirit of the composer.
Not only, however, does a peculiar aptitude of mind thus confer ability to appreciate and comprehend the works of other minds similarly constituted, but a proper degree of familiarity with the particular subject of consideration, will, in every case, give facility of apprehension. The chemist perceives, at once, the nature of a chemical process, even from imperfect details. The geologist, upon a mere fragment of a decayed skeleton, can read the natural history of a creature belonging to a race which has been extinct for ages. Every one, in short, conversant with any department of science or art, is thereby, as every one knows, prepared to understand what may be further presented to him in relation to its subjects.
Again, the mood or frame of mind in which we investigate any matter, has much to do with attaining a just view of it. So various are the states of the mind at different periods and under different circumstances, that subjects which seem at one time difficult and obscure, will, at another, be mastered with perfect ease. Nor does the method of investigation exert an unimportant influence.Much depends upon commencing at the proper point, and pursuing the inquiry in a proper manner. One who attempts to pry into the deep mysteries of science, without the necessary acquaintance with its elements, will be foiled and disappointed. He who pursues a method of examination unsuited to the nature of the subject, must be led to false conclusions, and remain ignorant of truth. Neither frigid indifference nor rash enthusiasm; neither blind unbelief, nor stubborn prejudice, can be permitted to enter the divine temple of knowledge, or place an acceptable oblation upon its altar.
It is by no means difficult to apply these undeniable truths to the case of religion. It is here that a suitable inward preparation is especially required, since religion has particular relation to the mind and the affections. It is here that fitness on the part of the inquirer into divine truth is the great and essential point, since there is no question that the diction of the scripture is as well 'fitted as language will allow, to communicate the mind of the Spirit. All changes that are to be wrought, must be confined to him who seeks the truth; and that important preparation is demanded on his part, cannot justly be denied. He who imagines that the word itself is endued with such supernatural power as to render this preparation unnecessary, is not in greater error, than he, who, with bold irreverence and self-conceit, assumes the ready intelligibility, without any aid whatever, of all divine mysteries to the most casual and ordinary reader,
NEWTOWN, K. & Q., October 24. How is this? My dear sir! how is this?!--I find my communication of August 28th in the Harbinger for this month—followed by one from A. S. Broaddus, (my nephew,] of Sparta, Caroline; and (here lies the mystery,) in your reply, which is addressed to “Elder A. S. Broaddus”—who, (by the way,) is no Elder, but a Lawyer, and a member of Mount Calvary Church, you appear to be addressing me, as though I had written that letter, of which indeed I knew nothing!
After explaining your position, and defending yourself against the charge of inconsistency, contained in the letter of A. S. B., you close by expressing yourself obliged to me, still using the second person, (you,) for my contributions in aid of your efforts "against Christians becoming Free Masons, Odd Fellows, or Sons of Temperance:”—the only allusion, indeed, to my letter.
You seem, my dear sir, strangely to have confounded the two letters, and the two writers; but how you could have formed an amalgam of materials so heterogeneous-so antagonistic, indeed, I am at a loss to divine. There is a saying, you know, that “Homer sometines nods;" though this has been disputed. I cannot, however, apply this to you; for I' think you have hardly time to nod: and it is, indeed, from this very fact that I suspect this oversight to have
been committed—I mean, the want of time. Be this as it may, have considered it proper that the error should be corrected, and send you this expose accordingly; though so diseased and feeble, that I can get on with but a scanty portion at a time.
The writer of the second letter and myself are, on the question at issue, completely the antipodes of each other: He, a devoted admirer of this novel institution;-and I, a decided opposer of all fraternity, on the part of Christians, with any of those Moral Societies that carry on their operations in secret. I do impugn and reject them, with all their ad captandum trappings, as unworthy of Christian gravity and simplicity, and inconsistent with the genius of our religion. On matters of more importance this correspondent and myself are happily agreed. But connected with these secret doings, is a fact, objectionable in no slight degree, namely, that the unconverted, (who indeed may be the majority,) are taken into close and fraternal connexion with Christians, in religious-services, as well as in conference; while the exclusive proclamation goes forth, in effect, as from a heathen temple—“Procul! 0. procul este profani:"Hence! far hence, ye profane!
In simply becoming“Sons” (it seems) we have attained to the full measure of honors and excellencies. There are several grades within the sphere of the Sonship; and then comes Odd Fellowship. A late obituary notice of a preacher in the lower country-written by another preacher, among other highly wrought eulogies, lets us know that he was "a worthy member of the Society of Odd Fel. lows!" Well! and there is the ancient Order of "Free and Accepte ed Masons”-the “sons of light." Surely we nust not stop short of that. Aye, and I hear of another “Order”-that, namely, of the “Druids;” of the origin of which I only know that they were an "Order of heathen priests, long ago, in Great Britain and some neighboring countries.” Alas for the church for the ministry! when we must become debtors to the world for our brightest honors!
I conclude with. a question of serious import:. When a minister, or any Christian, shall thus have fully decked himself, and stands “with all his blushing honors thick upon him," will he be the better prepared to hear the plaudit of 'his Master-"Well done, good and. faithful servant”? With Christian regard, and very respectfully, yours;.
REPLY TO A. BROADDUS.
My dear Sir-This is just as great a mystery to me as to yourself.. The difference in your signature I noticed; but seeing no discrepancy in the communication with what you had said, and never hearing of another Andrew Broaddus, together with the intimation: that you employed an amanuensis, I imagined that the middle letter was inserted contrary to your usual manner, probably without your knowledge or consent. In some such way, though indistinctly re-membered, I explained to myself the mystery. But, as- nothing is. gained; or lost. by. it to you or me, we must place it amongst "the SERIES. III.1-VOL. VI.
eccentricities of genius," or "literary curiosities” of the nineteenth century.
The only mystery in modern times analogous to this one, or that will compare with it, in my opinion, is your singular position to myself and brethren. It is well known, from what you have written and said of us and of myself, tha: you and myself agree in all that you call "essential matters,” and in almost all the Baptist nonessentials; nay, that there is much more harmony in your faith and views and manners, than between yourself and a large body of your own Baptist ministry; and yet it is said you sometimes hear us traduced without remonstrance, and write of us and speak of us at times in a way infinitely more irreconcileable than the signature A. Broaddus with the signature A. S. Broaddus. You expect, I presume, in a short time to cross the Jordan, and to meet with your old friend and brother, Thomas M. Henley, in the land where there are no shadows nor mistakes, and where no doubt you will both remember his last letter to you as well as your correspondence for many years: I, therefore, suggest to your grave consideration whether it would not be to you and himself a mutual cause of congratulation that you had responded to his last requests, in the spirit and meaning of them, and that you had endeavored to soften rather than to countenance that false zeal and spirit of detraction which appears often amongst your ministering brethren, and especially at one of your late anniversaries, when we, as a denomination, were held up before an immense auditory in company with Mormons and the vilest heretics, which you as well know as the difference between A. Broaddus and A. S. Broaddus, is just as foul and unfounded a blasphemy or slander as was ever pronounced by a Baptist minister in Virginia. I would like much to hear îrom you before you depart hence on this subject. Very respectfully, your friend,
P. S. I thank you for your very full and unambiguous testimony against Christians becoming members of any secret societies, and aguinst their holding habitual converse and communion under oaths of secrecy or other religious formulas, with Turk, Jew, and Atheist, because of the aids likely to accrue to themselves or their fraternity in times of worldly destitution-motives as worldly and as selfish as insurance policies or any worldly copartnery or league offensive or defensive formed against a common foe.