« PreviousContinue »
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1842, by
GEORGE BUSH, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Massachusetts.
Allen, Morrill & Wardwell, Printers,
TO THE FIRST EDITION.
It is matter of deep regret that the popular vocabulary of Christian doctrine should contain so large a proportion of vague and undefined or ill-defined terms. That a religion based upon a revelation from heaven, designed not to confound, but to instruct its votaries,—à religion naturally to be regarded as the native element of Truth, the appropriate sphere of clear knowledge and unambiguous diction,—that such a religion, in the utterances of its disciples, should abound in terms and phrases, many of them of incessant recurrence, to which no precise ideas were ordinarily affixed, is certainly an infelicity never enough to be deplored. It cannot surely be doubted that the sacred volume was given to man in order to be understood. It would be at once a gross misnomer as to the book itself, and a foul reflection upon its Author, to denominate that a revelation which was at the same time so shrouded in triple mystery as to baffle the discernment of the unlettered, and to mock the prying researches of the curious and the learned. Not that we count upon the practicability of all classes of readers becoming equally well versed in its
contents; for as this revelation is couched in languages which have ceased to be vernacular to the people of any nation, a superior insight into its disclosures will ever accrue to those who make themselves familiar with the sacred original tongues; and as the facilities for this attainment are constantly increasing, and light is pouring in from numerous other sources upon the interpretation of the inspired writings, it is easily conceivable that each successive generation shall advance far beyond its immediate predecessor in every department of biblical science. In seeking, therefore, for the source of that blindness in part,' which hath happened to the religionists of every age, we cannot be mistaken in referring it, in great measure, to the neglect of the original languages of Scripture. Men have not been studious to ascertain with absolute precision the ideas attached hy the Holy Ghost to the words and phrases employed by the sacred penmen. Neglecting the canons of philology, heedless of investigating the usus loquendi in respect to leading words and phrases, and paying but slight attention to the sources of archæological illustration, they have too often imposed a construction upon the language of holy writ derived from the systems of the schools, the opinions of renowned doctors, or the dictation of ecclesiastical synods. Alas! how many venerable theories and darling dogmas in theology would be demolished, as by a magician's wand, by the simple touch of the finger of philological exegesis ! Here then, we re
peat it, in the failure to resort to the original fountainheads of truth, we find a large portion of the obscurity of religious language adequately accounted for ; and as we here find the bane, here also we come to the knowledge of the antidote.
Again, it must be admitted that there is, in the mass of men, an innate aversion to a rigid examination of the grounds of the opinions they have once adopted, or to a critical analysis of the terms by which they are ordinarily expressed. They do not like to have the quiet of their faith disturbed by an insinuation of the weakness of the grounds upon which it rests. The ancient and accredited technicalities of religion, hallowed as they are by long usage, and wedded to the heart by early association, are clung to with the most unyielding tenacity. We shrink from the rude process of investigation. Inquiry strikes us as little short of profanation, and we shudder at it as at the lifting up of axes against the carved work of the sanctuary. Although we may be in fact unable to substantiate our belief fully to our own minds, yet the bare thought of a change, as the result of canvassing our opinions anew, fills us with alarm, and binding our established persuasions still closer to our hearts, we say with Job, I will die in my nest,' admitting no treacherous doubts within the precincts of our faith for fear of a mental insurrection. Thus the dreary bird of night
-“ does to the moon complain
But surely it will be conceded that Truth is at all times to be preferred to error, though it should be supposed that the error were one of a comparatively slight and innoxious character. The rigid scrutiny of our opinions, therefore, is but the homage due to Truth ; and the man who aids us in disabusing ourselves even of an innocent error, may justly lay claim to some measure of the gratitude bestowed upon him who puts us in possession of a new truth. In natural husbandry the removal of tares is not indeed the same with the production of wheat, yet in mental and moral tillage the eradication of error is, in many cases, but another name for the implantation of truth.
The tenor of these remarks applies, if we mistake not, with peculiar pertinency, to the subject of the prevailing impressions—opinions they can scarcely be called—respecting the Millennium; a term denoting, in its popular sense, a future felicitous state of the church and the world of a thousand years' duration, of which, while every one has some vague anticipation, almost no one has any clear and welldefined conception. No phraseology in prayer, in preaching, in the religious essay, or in the monthlyconcert address, is more common than that of millennial state, millennial reign, millennial purity, millennial glory, etc.; all betokening the expectation of a coming condition in the affairs of the church infinitely transcending, in peace, piety, and bliss, the most favored epochs which have yet marked its annals. Now it may well be made a question, Upon