Page images
PDF
EPUB

different periods, are mainly the adopted elements of a literature whose genius will hold an important sway over the empire of mind till the end of time. Such men as Hooker, and Tillotson, and Burke, and a host of others, who glitter as resplendent stars in the galaxy of English literature, availed themselves largely of it, and thus ave to our language a power that will long withstand the shock of those revolutions which, in all ages, have swept over the world of letters.

It remains to consider the connection of Greek literature with other means which contribute to a knowledge of the Bible.

Hitherto our inquiry has been confined to those classes of writings which, more than any thing else, have given a striking national cha. racter to the people that cultivated them. In this respect, we have assigned to the literature of Greece some distinguishing peculiarities, on account of which it will compare well for itself with any other national literature. But there is a species of composition come down to us, which, with some deductions, may be said to be the literature of no country and of no age, but of all countries and of all ages. It is the literature of the Bible. This stands distinct and unique in the empire of letters. It opens up to us new sources and impulses of thought from eternity. It furnishes an additional set of means for fully perfecting, refining, and harmonizing the soul and the intellect. It introduces us to the very essence of all that is great and good in the natural and spiritual worlds--to all that is eloquent of mind and eloquent of God. The pre-eminent importance of Biblical knowledge leads men to employ every possible means and resource for its ac. quisition. Now we allege that a rigid investigation of the Grecian language, with its literature in general, its criticism, its philosophy, its mythical religion, and its archæology, may be so directed as to lead toʻvery important knowledge respecting some of the etymologies and antiquities of Hebrew literature. . It is not denied that the Greek language is almost universally derived from roots within itself; but the radical primitives to which Greek words are uniformly referred exhibit such a full resemblance to corresponding primitives in Hebrew, that their identity of origin cannot be doubted. It is also admitted that, in point of time, Hebrew antiquities justly claim precedence to the Grecian; but then it is certain that very many of the former could never have been brought to the view of the learned world except through the means by which the latter have been made so familiar. No instances of God's providence, in all the history of mankind, seem so manifest as those by which the Jewish nation were always attended. While, for the purpose of preserving the church in. corrupt, they were kept distinct and isolated, and shut out from the usual resources of human improvement; the wisdom of God is specially obvious in there being reared by the side of them a people, from whom should fall a literature so finely organized, so fully developed, as to become the means of almost universal civilization. The literature of Greece, therefore, pursued with a view to its connection with sacred antiquities, to the development of very many of the heathen customs and dogmas to which the Scriptures allude, and to the evident bearing of numerous events on the character and destiny of the Hebrew

nation, will amply reward the Biblical scholar, though he assign it as a portion of his study through his entire life.

As a motive to the pursuit of Greek learning, we might adduce, in this connection, the fact that the discipline, the taste, and the dis. criminating power it affords, are indispensable to a just appreciation of much that is valuable for Biblical purposes in oriental study. In respect to philosophical structure, it is impossible to institute a complete comparison of the Grecian with any one of the eastern languages; but there is always a uniformity of rhetorical principles, because they are founded in human nature. Hence, with the intel. lectual finish and power which a rigid study of Greek literature may give, it will always be easier to investigate with more delicacy and exactness the tropes, and style, and etymologies which have so often to be met in Biblical researches.

Another result of essential value to Biblical science from the study of Greek literature is the requisite scholarship it secures for the exegetical reading of the New Testament. So important is this object that years of labor, with special reference to it, cannot be a lost effort to the student of the Bible. It is not appropriate to discuss in any manner here the long contested question respecting the difference between classic and Helenistic Greek; it is sufficient merely to say, that so frequent and material are the deviations in regard to signification of particles, force of words, or character of style in the New Testament, from the usual condition of the same in classic writers, that a thorough knowledge of the whole range of Greek literature is necessary, from the age of Homer to the Christian era. A large list of words, perhaps, can be found in two different classic authors, to which each applies a shadow of meaning peculiar to his own apprehension of them. Thus a slight change of sense occurring to a word, even though its general signification be fixed, shows the difficulty of exegesis among so many writers of the New Testamenteach possessing a different temperament, and writing in a different style and idiom of language. Familiarity with Grecian modes of expression and special terms, in their classic use, is as necessary to a correct understanding of the word of God, as is any other pre. liminary means to a perfect knowledge of particular sciences. And whatever may be affirmed of requisites for a full acquaintance with the later Greek in which the New Testament was originally conveyed to man, may also be said of the Septuagint-the earliest and most learned translation of the Old Testament. At least, if there is any difference, it consists in there being incorporated into the Septuagint such peculiarities as belong to no age of Greek literature except the Alexandrian; and the necessity of extensive study with a view to this is obvious, as the Septuagint renders important service by generally introducing us to the correct meaning of the original Hebrew.

With much humility and respect for opinions of far more worth, let it be submitted whether it may not be profitable for the church to establish in all our higher literary institutions an additional department, embracing essentially the subject of study we have just con. sidered, for the benefit of those who, looking to the ministry prospect. ively, are pursuing an extended course of education.

We mean

something equivaleat to a department of sacred literature. We propose no plan, but indefinitely suggest the study of the Bible in its original language as a classic, with select classic authors which shall assist to learn the style, the imagery, and the antiquities of the Bible. To say nothing of the general influence of such a department on edu. cated men, were, it incorporated in every collegiate system—to say nothing of the dignity and authority it would universally secure to the Bible-nothing of the increased knowledge of the true character of religion-nothing of the polish and power of mind aequired by the cultivation of Greek learning with reference to Biblical literature; it certainly is not too much to aver, that the world would derive in. valuable blessings from the elevation of the ministry, by their increase of facilities and resources to infuse upon it the free and pure spirit of the Bible.

H. B. Cazenovia, N. Y., April, 1840.

ADDRESS OF THE BISHOPS TO THE GENERAL CONFERENCE.

Address of the Bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church to the General Conference, held in Baltimore, May, 1840.

DEAR BRETHREN,—The meeting of this solemn and constitutional body, just at the opening of the second century of Wesleyan Method. ism, is a peculiarly appropriate occasion for reviewing the rise and progress of that great and blessed revival of pure Christianity, which, commencing with the labors of that eminent man of God, the Rev. John Wesley, has, during the last centennial period, spread over large portions of our globe, conveying the blessings of the gospel salvation to millions of the human race. It is highly proper for us at such a period, and under such circumstances, to direct our careful attention to the measures and means, which, under God, have been accompanied with such auspicious results. It will appear, it is presumed, upon such an examination, that human policy has had less to do in the origin, progress, and final accomplishment of this great work, than in any other important and extensive enterprise since the days of the apostles. The rise, and progress, and ultimate success of Methodism, are marked with the special openings and interpositions of the providence of Almighty God. And although we are a hundred years removed from that era of precious memory when this great light first shone forth from Oxford, we look back through every successive period of its advancement, deeply impressed with this sentiment, “ Not unto us, O Lord; not unto us, but unto thy name give glory!” We have stood still to see the salvation of God, or moved forward as his providence opened the way.

In the progress of this great work on both sides of the Atlantic, many instruments have been successfully employed, who would never have been engaged in the enterprise had their selection depended merely on the wisdom of men.

In England, while a Wesley and Fletcher, with a few kindred spirits, were wielding the mighty artillery of gospel truth, with all the panoply of various and profound science and literature, made mighty

[ocr errors]

by the arm of God, to the pulling down of the strong holds of error and infidelity, a considerable number of unlettered men, taken from ordinary occupations, and with no pretensions to any extraordinary human qualifications, with such weapons as the Holy Spirit had supplied, were marching through the kingdom, attacking the citadel of the heart, and bringing thousands into a happy allegiance to the Captain of their salvation. The same order of things is observable from the commencement till the present time. It has pleased God from time to time to raise up men in different parts of these States who were endued with extraordinary intellectual powers, and those powers disciplined to sound argument by a thorough education. In these men the church has found able defenders of her doctrines and order, and although some of them have fallen asleep, they still speak, while others, in the order of providence, have been raised up in their stead. Thus we have a host of the venerable dead united with a succession of living witnesses, and all set for the defense of the gospel of Christ,

But had only such distinguished instruments been employed in preaching the gospel on this continent since the first Wesleyan missionaries crossed the Atlantic, and commenced their labors in the colonies, what, in all human probability, would have been the state of the church in these lands at the present day?

How many thousands and tens of thousands have been converted to God by the instrumentality of the preaching of men who have never explored the regions of science and literature, and who, having

fought their way through,” are now resting in Abraham's bosom! And what living multitudes bear witness to the efficiency of the same means, by the influence of the Holy Spirit, in turning them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God! Indeed, if we carefully examine the history of the church, from the days of the apostles to the present time, at what period of her progress shall we find her amply supplied with ministers combining in themselves a profound knowledge of science and literature and genuine piety, and giving proof, by the sanctity of their lives and the fruits of their labors, that they were truly called of God to the work of the ministry?

The probability is that one chief cause of the great deficiency of evangelical ministers in the church of Christ is, the neglect of that solemn command, “ Pray ye the Lord of the harvest that he would send forth more laborers."

Our venerable Wesley was fully convinced that the supreme autho. rity to constitute and perpetuate the gospel ministry belonged only to the Author of salvation; and that those who gave the Scriptural evidence of being moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon them the work of the ministry were not to be rejected on account of a supposed deficiency in human acquirements.

This truly evangelical sentiment, so strikingly illustrated in the his. tory of the last century, should deeply impress us on the present occasion; and we should continue to adhere to it as one of the first prin. ciples in that system which is destined to evangelize the world. Our blessed Redeemer, after he had settled the constitution of his kingdom among men-after he had accomplished the work of human redemp. tion-after he had risen from the dead in confirmation of his divine commission and authority, and in his last interview with his disciples, just before his ascension into heaven, said, “ All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth ; go ye therefore and teach all nations." All the attending circumstances conspire to render this one of the most solemn and important declarations ever made to the world. It asserts the exclusive authority of Jesus Christ to select, and commis. sion, and send forth the ministers of his gospel ; an authority which, by right of office and government, he carried with him to the right hand of the Father, to be possessed and exercised till the final issue of his mediatorial kingdom. In strict conformity with this declaration of their divine Master, the apostolic college claimed no right to con. stitute ministers in succession ; but sought with earnest prayer and diligent examination of spiritual gifts, connected with holiness of life and usefulness in labor, whom God had called to this sacred employment; and in this is involved, as we believe, the true doctrine of apostolic succession.

Keeping steadily in view this fundamental principle in the constitu. tion and perpetuity of the Christian ministry, and, in connection with it, the unity of the church of Christ, we, as your general superintendents, have thought it proper to invite your deliberate attention to several subjects which, in our opinion, have a special claim to your consideration ; earnestly praying that all things may be done, whether in word or deed, as in the immediate presence of God, and with an eye single to his glory.

To preserve and strengthen the unity and peace of that great and increasing body of Christians and Christian ministers which you represent in this General Conference, and to devise and adopt measures for the more extensive and efficient promotion of the work of God in these lands, and in foreign countries, are the primary and very im. portant objects of the institution of this body. . And in these objects your counsel, your acts, and your prayers should concentrate. The connection of Wesleyan Methodists in all parts of the world should remain one united household, keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace. One in doctrine, and in all the essential points of discipline, they should remain undivided in affection ; and no minor considerations, growing out of difference of country, civil government, or other circumstances, should ever separate us, or interrupt our Christian fellowship. Laborers together with our brethren in Europe, and in the provinces, in the same vineyard of our common Lord, we should avail ourselves of every favorable opportunity, and especially of the occasion of the meeting of this body, to convey to them our Christian salutations, and the expressions of our undiminished affection and esteem.

Although it may be safely admitted that every system, except that which has a just claim to inspiration, is capable of improvement, it is a wise and prudent maxim, as well in ecclesiastical as in civil jurisprudence, that principles and measures which have been long established and generally successful in their operations should be changed or modified with the utmost caution. The history of communities soffi. ciently proves that innovations upon such a settled order of things are very liable to result in consequences unfavorable to the peace and well being of society. This being the case, no ordinary considerations

« PreviousContinue »