Images de page
PDF
ePub

Christ above Moses. And for this reason, I suspect that the word is not rightly rendered, faithful, in the passage quoted from Numbers.

That I may discover, if possible, whether my suspicion is well founded, I shall first recur to the place in the version of the Seventy, where the expression, about which the doubt arises, is the same as in the epistle to the Hebrews ; ο θεράπων με Μωυσης εν öda ta orxa u8 TISOS E5Iv. Yet, there is here no comparative view of virtues, but only of honours and privileges; nothing is said tending to derogate from the faithfulness of any other prophet. Nor does ev óra tw Orxw us make the smallest addition in this respect; for, as our Lord hath said, “He who is faithful in little will be faithful also in much; and he who is unfaithful in little, will be unfaithful also in much.” Yet, if in our interpretations, we are to be determined solely by the classical use, it is hardly possible to conceive, how misos can be rendered otherwise into EngJish than by the term faithful.

I therefore find it necessary, in the last place, to recur to the Hebrew. There I find the word rendered, tisos, is neeman, which has not only the signification of faithful, but being the passive participle of the verb, aman, to believe, signifies also trusted, charged with, and thence also, firm, stable, &c. Now as the sense of Greek words in Hellenistic use is often affected by the Hebrew, the word, Tisos, has this meaning in several passages of the Septuagint. See for an example of this 1 Sam. iii. 20, where the words, ότι πισος Σαμgήλ εις προφητην τω κυριω, are rendered in the English translation, that Samuel was established, to be a prophet of the Lord. The translators have made a reference to the margin on the word established, adding there, or, faithful. The same term both in Hebrew and Greek is rendered Psal. Ixxxix. 28, by the English word fast. My covenant shall stand fast with him. The expression in Numbers, to which the Apostle to the Hebrews refers, is thus rightly rendered by Castalio. At cum Mose meo, non item, cui totius meæ domus fides habetur. And by Houbigant, Non ita servus meus Moyses. Ille universæ domus meæ minister est perpetuus. In his notes he adds, neeman, stabilis, non autem, fidelis. “Enimvero hic describitur Moyses ex perpetuitate prophetiæ, non ex morum fidelitate. Ita rein intelligebat Paulus Apost. ubi postquam testimonio hujus loci usus

est, addit continenter, amplioris enim gloriæ iste pre Moyse dignus habitus est ; gloriam gloriæ comparans; Christi Domini cum Moysis. Et claudicaret similitudo, si gloriam Christi cum Mosis fidelitate cumpararet.”

In order to give a more distinct view of the light, which the above mentioned alteration throws upon the passage, I shall offer an exact version of the whole paragraph, being the first six verses of the third chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. To take such a view of the whole in connexion, is often necessary, as much for the better explaining of the import of a criticism, as for evincing its solidity. Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the apostle and high priest of our religion, Jesus Christ, who, as well as Moses, was by him who raised him to that dignity, intrusted with all his house. But who hath attained honour as far superior to that of Moses, as the glory of the builder is greater than that of the house. For every house hath been built by some person ; but he who built all things is God. And Moses was indeed trusted as a servant, for publishing to all God's family whatever he had in charge : but Christ is trusted as a son over his own family; whose family we are, provided we maintain our profession and boasted hope, unshaken to the end." Nothing can be more evident than that it is the sole intention of this writer to compare the dignities of station, not the virtues, of Moses and Christ, the two founders of the only divine dispensations of religion, the Jewish and the Christian. He admits that Moses as well as Christ, may be justly said to have been entrusted, not with a part only, but with all God's house ; and that, in this respect, Moses had a very great pre-eminence above all the other prophets of that dispensation ; but in regard to Christ, though it might be said his charge was the same in point of extent, the whole house of God, the trust committed to him was in its nature greatly superior. Moses was trusted with the whole, but it was only as Jeputw, like a steward, who is no more than an upper servant in the family, but Jesus Christ as a son, who is the heir of all.

It may not be amiss here to take notice of the circumstances which first suggested to me the criticism now made, or rather, as I may justly say, which first occasioned my lighting upon the sense of this passage. By carefully retracing the steps in consequence whereof we have arrived at any discovery, we take the most probable means of suggesting to others a method by which future discoveries may be made. The faithfulness of Moses, as mentioned both here and in the Pentateuch, had often appeared to me foreign from the scope of the context, which related in both places solely, to the excellency of the office, not to the worthiness of the officer. At the same time I did not see how tisos could be translated otherwise than faithful. I found it so rendered in all the versions of the New Testament I had consulted, Castalio's not excepted. But then I had recourse to Castalio's version of the Old Testament, for the interpretation of the passage alluded to, I found the rendering totally different, and such as perfectly suited the scope of the argument. It implied solely, that to Moses had been committed the charge of all God's house ; a charge so weighty, as had never been committed to any prophet before him, nor indeed to any prophet after him under that dispensation. This led me to look into the Septuagint, where I found the term 71506 employed, as it was afterwards by the apostle, who (as usual) copied the words of that version. My next recourse was to the Hebrew, where I found the origin of the error lay in the ambiguity of a Hebrew participle, which even analogically should signify cui fides habetur, rather than qui fidelis est. Castalio, though sensible of this in translating the Hebrew word neeman, did not think he could render in the same manner the Greek misog. Yet it is one of the chief peculiarities of the idiom of the synagogue, that the Greek words have in it an extent of signification corresponding to that of the Hebrew words which they are employed to represent. I was not at that time acquainted with the translation of the Old Testament by Houbi. gant, who has signified in a note on the passage in the Pentateuch, that the words of the apostle ought to be understood and interpreted in the same manner. This, together with many other examples which might be brought, serves to confirm an observation I have made in another place, that to understand perfectly the language of the New Testament, the knowledge of Hebrew is almost as necessary as that of Greek.

[ocr errors]

LECTURE IV.

Directions for forming a System of Christian Morality. Advantages of the

Method recommended. IN

my last lecture, I made it my business to point out a proper method for conducting the study of holy writ, in such a manner, as that from it the student may form to himself, uninfluenced by the opinions of fallible men, a digest of the truth, as it is in Jesus. I purpose in the present discourse, to shew how he may proceed to form a system of christian morality. This, though properly first in intention, (for we seek knowledge to direct our practice) is last in execution ; it being that, to which every other part in this economy points, as to its ultimate end. The great and primary aim of the whole is to renew us again after the image of him that created us, in righteousness and true holiness; faith itself, and hope, however important, act in a subserviency to this.

It may indeed be thought, that as there are much fewer disputes concerning the duties required by our religion, than concerning the doctrines which it teaches, the examination of the former, as the easier task, ought to precede the examination of the latter. And indeed this remark would have so far weighed with me, that if I had judged it expedient to begin our inquiries into the christian theology by the study of systematic and controversial writers, I should have adopted this method, on account of its greater simplicity and easiness. But if, waving for a time all attentions to the comments, glosses, traditions, questions, and refinements of men, recourse is had only to the divine oracles, there is not the same necessity; the difference in point of difficulty, if any, will be found inconsiderable ; on the other hand, the progression from knowledge to faith, from faith to love, from love to obedience, is more conformable to the natural influence of things upon the human mind. Besides, the subject of christian morals is not without its difficulties nor its controversies, though they have been neither so great nor so many, as those which have been raised in relation to several points supposed to belong to the christian doctrine. But even this subject is not in all respects uncontroverted; witness the many differences in point of practice that not only subsist, but are warmly contested by the different sects in Christendom, one party thinking he doth God good service, by an action which another looks on with abhorrence, and justly stigmatizes as at once impious and inhuman. With how many still, aře matters of full as little account, as tithing mint, anise and cummin, exalted above the weightier matters of the law, justice, mercy and fidelity? It is sacrificed with some, which with others is accounted sacrilege; and in too many places of what is called the christian world, those absurd austerities and self-inflicted cruelties, which degrade human nature, dishonour religion, and could only become the worshippers of dæmons, such as Baal or Moloch, are extolled as the sublimity of christian perfection. I mention these things only by the way, in order to shew that the una

« PrécédentContinuer »