Images de page
[ocr errors]

they might perfect the holy, execute the work of the ministry,
form the body of Christ.'
The words used by St Paul are founded upon a passage

in Psalm lxviii. 18. He has been thought by Grotius, and many others, to have applied them in a mystical sense to Christ. But the supposition is unnecessary and improbable. Passing over all mere conjectures respecting the Psalm, it is obviously a hymn of praise to God for his protection of the Israelites, and for the favors which he had conferred upon them. The particular passage referred to, describes, in the Oriental style, God's ascending to heaven in triumph, after subduing his enemies. The words used by St Paul, He conferred gifts on men, do not answer to those of the Septuagint, and probably do not express the sense of the corresponding clause, as it stands connected, in the original. The verse quoted is obscure. Perhaps the following is the most probable rendering of it; Thou hast ascended on high, leading captive a multitude of captives, receiving gifts from men, even from the rebellious; ihere thou dwellest, Lord God.'

St Paul, it would seem, conceived that the words of the clause in question, would, when taken apart from their connexion, bear the sense which he has put upon them; and using them merely as a rhetorical quotation, he appears not to have been solicitous about their exact meaning in the original. Accommodating the passage to his purpose, he merely adduces this poetical description of the power of God, as presenting a striking picture of his power, as manifested in the establishment of Christianity, in subduing the opposition of its enemies, and in conferring upon men offices and benefits, connected with it. He simply expresses his own conceptions in the language of the Psalmist, giving, as is often done in rhetorical quotations, a turn to the words of one clause, so that they express a sense different from their meaning in the original.

The comment of the apostle upon the words in question, is, again, rhetorical, not argumentative. Now what is implied, he asks, in his ascending on high, but that he even descended to the lower region of the earth?'--that is, to the lower region of the universe, which is the earth. The meaning may be thus expressed; · When it is said, or when I say, that God ascended on high, it is implied in these words that God first descended to earth; that is, (according to the common meaning of this figure,) that the power of God himself was extraordinarily manifested upon earth. It was by the power of God that Christianity was established, and by him are its blessings conferred. The sen

[ocr errors]

tence is without any obvious purpose or connexion except in reference to God. Understand the words of Christ, and we make the apostle imply, that Christ's ascension to heaven proved a previous descent from it. But the premises would afford no support for this conclusion ; and the thought would be so foreign from the context, that its introduction would be incongruous. The offices and gifts spoken of in this passage, are in other places referred by St Paul to the appointment of God, not of Christ. See Romans, xii. 3. 1 Cor. xii. 6, 28.

In the Epistle to the Ephesians, there is another passage in which St Paul has been thought to give a mystical sense to the words of scripture. After speaking of the love of Christ to the church, of which he is the head, and which is his body, the apostle proceeds, ch. v. 28, 33; Thus ought husbands to love their wives, regarding them as their own bodies. He who loves his wife, loves himself. Now no man ever hated his own flesh, but fosters and cherishes it; even as Christ does the Church ; for we are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they two become one flesh. This new doctrine is of great worth ; I mean that respecting Christ and the church. But do you also, severally, every one love his own wife as himself.'

Instead of the words given above, This new doctrine is of great worth,' the Common Version renders, .This is a great mystery. The term pusęsov, rendered mystery, is in its primary signification best translated by the word secret. When used in the New Testament respecting any doctrine or truth, it means one which has been secret or unknown, but is now revealed. It never denotes one which is obscure or mysterious, because partially incomprehensible. The term new doctrine, in general, answers to its meaning as nearly as any which can be conveniently used.

Taking with us this explanation, we shall perceive upon recurring to the passage in Ephesians, that the apostle, in what has been quoted and in what precedes, is running a parallel between the union of husband and wife, and the union of Christ and the church, and between the love which Christ had manifested to the church, and the love which husbands ought to bear their wives. This parallel is founded upon figures familiar to him, of the church being the body of Christ, of which he is the head, and of Christians being members of Christ. After having by a very bold figure described the intimate union between Christ and the church in the words which Adam bad applied to Eve (“we areof his flesh and of his bones '), he passes to the subject of the union between man and wife, and observes that those words contain the reason which was assigned, why a man should leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife; the apostle's main object being to show, how intimate the connexion between them had been considered from the beginning. He then returns for a moment to the union between Christ and the church, and observes that this new doctrine, this doctrine before unknown, because no such union had existed, is of great worth. But perceiving that he had so blended his topics together as to occasion some obscurity, he adds; 'I speak with reference to Christ and the church;' or, ' I mean that doctrine respecting Christ and the church.'

In the remaining epistles of St Paul there are no passages which need particular explanation.

We have thus gone through those passages from St Paul, which we believe would be selected by a writer, whose object it was to show that he had given a mystical sense to words of the Old Testament. None of them, when properly understood, seem to afford any foundation for the opinion. But supposing it to have been proved that they do not, more has been proved than is necessary to the present argument. In order to establish a wide difference between St Paul and the writer to the Hebrews, it would be sufficient to show that the mind of the apostle, during that period of his life when he wrote his epistles, was but little affected by the prevalent errors of his age, respecting the interpretation of the Old Testament. This alone would be an important and characteristic feature of his writings.

Many of the passages which were quoted from the Epistle to the Hebrews, are clear instances of proper allegorical interpretation. The words alleged by the writer are evidently understood by him in a mystical, or, to express the fact according to modern conceptions, in a merely imaginary, sense. A portion only of the passages which bear this character, have been adduced. The clear examples of allegorical interpretation in the Epistle, exceed the whole number of passages which may be regarded as requiring some explanation in reference to this point, throughout the epistles of St Paul.

There is another view of the subject still more to the purpose. Admitting, for the sake of argument, that the words of the Old Testament, quoted by St Paul, are sometimes taken in a hidden sense; still this sense is not made the basis of any important reasoning; it is not required by the purpose of the epistle ; nor is it woven into its texture, so that any perceptible rent would be occasioned by its removal. It might be taken away, and nothing in its former context would give us notice of its loss. Its existence shows a mere momentary and unimportant acquiescence in, or accommodation to, the errors of the age. But in the Epistle to the Hebrews, the reasoning throughout is founded upon allegorical expositions. They are not accidents of the work, which might be removed without injury to it; they are essential parts of its structure. To attempt to remove the allegorical reasonings of the Epistle, and to leave any thing connected remaining, would be as idle, as to attempt to separate the veins from a slab of variegated marble, without destroying the stone. The writer to the Hebrews is an allegorical reasoner in the full meaning of the term. St Paul is not an allegorical reasoner. The intelligent reader, whose attention has been directed to the subject before us, in passing from the epistles of St Paul to the Epistle to the Hebrews, will soon perceive, that he is conversant with a writer of a different class from the apostle.

Educated as St Paul was, in a Rabbinical school, by one of the most distinguished of the Rabbis, Gamaliel, it is a most striking proof of the intellectual power of the apostle, that he so far, or entirely, disengaged himself from the errors of the learned of his nation, respecting the interpretation of the Old Testament. It is an illustration of his strength of mind, which has not, perhaps, been before remarked. Notwithstanding what must have been his former prejudices, and the conceptions with which he must have been familiar, he has nowhere in his epistles attempted to accommodate to Jesus, any of the allegorical expositions, by which so many passages were made by the Jews to refer, in a mystical sense, to their expected Messiah.

The reasoning of St Paul will not always bear a philosophical scrutiny. But in respect to this subject, there are various considerations to be attended to in order to save ourselves from error. His premises, as stated by him, do not always afford sufficient ground for his conclusions; but he has often stated but imperfectly those which must have existed in his own mind, and which would be readily understood by his immediate readers, though not formally announced. There is frequently a bearing upon the opinions of his time and of those whom he addressed, which will not, at the present day, be perceived, except by one who has studied his epistles intelligently, with the necessary aids. His reasoning, which, at first view, might seem unsatisfactory, will, in many cases, appear striking and forcible, when we have a correct notion of the opinions and sentiments of those for whom

it was designed. And it is further necessary to attend to the fact, that assertions, illustrations, and different modes of presenting the truth, may be, as they often have been, mistaken for arguments, and thus viewed under a wrong aspect. In proportion as we have a just comprehension of the writings of St Paul, we shall perceive throughout, the action of a strong mind, direct in its purposes, ardent in its feelings, occupied in maintaining those fundamental truths, on which the happiness and moral improvement of mankind depended, and raised as much by its moral superiority as by its intellectual powers, above the verbal subtilties, and the merely arbitrary, unfounded modes of reasoning of a particular school. The force of St Paul's reasoning, and the weakness of the reasoning of the writer to the Hebrews, will be most clearly perceived by him who best understands their writings.

From the argument which has now been stated, we conclude, therefore, that St Paul was not the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews.

This argument has extended to such a length, that we must still defer the remainder of the article to another number.

Art. III.- The Remains of Nathaniel Appleton Haven. With

a Memoir of his Life. By George TICKNOR. 1827.

This is an unpublished volume, designed only to preserve for the use of friends the written memorials of departed usefulness and genius. We are, however, permitted to avail ourselves of it in the course of our labors, that we may extend to a wider circle the knowledge and influence of an excellent example, and enable him who sought to do good while living, to continue to do good by speaking though dead. If indeed we were to treat this volume as critics, we should have nothing to say which would not gratify the nearest personal friend; for the purity of his heart and the spotless correctness of his principles, seem to have extended a purifying influence to his intellect and taste, and to have rendered the works of his pen as faultless as the tenor of his life. He was a good and ripe scholar; his writings give evidence of habitual carefulness; never slovenly, always neat, frequently beautiful. Even the editorial articles of a common newspaper became in his hands models of style; and the ephemeral discussions of a literary club appear to have been the subjects of careful thought and execution, to a degree that

« PrécédentContinuer »