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whole clause at once, and retaining the sense, but forgetting some of the precise words, substituted a synonymous word, and thus altered the text. Fourthly, a transcriber, casting his eye on a preceding line or word, would write over again what he had written already, and thus make an addition to the text. Fifthly, a transcriber, directing his eye to a word or line following the place which he was transcribing, might write from the subsequent place, and omit all that intervened. Sixthly, a person, having written one or more words from a wrong place, and not observing his mistake, or not choosing to correct it, lest he should spoil the appearance of the manuscript, might return to the proper place, and thus insert something into the text which did not belong to it. Lasily, when a transcriber had made an omission, and afterwards observed it, he then subjoined what he had omitted, and thus produced a transposition.

These are all instances of mistake. But some various readings may be traced to design. Critical transcribers sometimes transferred what they deemed a clearer or fuller expression, or added a circumstance to the narrative before them, from a parallel passage: and this liberty has been frequently taken in the gospels. They sometimes corrected the New Testament from the Greek version of the Old, with a view to make the quotations in the former agree with the passages in the latter. They are charged, also, with having sometimes altered it in conformity to the Vulgate. They made alterations in their copies, in order to correct some word which appeared to them faulty, or which they did not understand; they omitted words which they reckoned superfluous, or added words to illustrate what they judged defective or improper. Various readings have also been produced, by transferring to the text glosses or notes which had been written on the margin. Some have been attributed to wilful corruption, with a view to serve the purposes of a party. This crime has been charged upon the Jews, upon heretics, and even upon those who were called orthodox. The accusation may be true in some instances; but it has been justly remarked, that “mistaken zeal is forward to impute false readings to design in those whom it opposes; but we ought not to ascribe them to this principle rashly, when they might have naturally arisen from chance, or where there is no positive presumption or evidence of design."

No single manuscript can be supposed to exhibit the original text, without the slightest variation; it is to be presumed, that in all manuscripts, errors more or fewer in number are to be found. It is therefore by a collation of manuscripts, that we may hope to obtain a faithful representation of the sacred books, as they were delivered to the church by the inspired writers. In estimating the value of manuscripts, the preference is given to the most ancient, because they approach nearest to the time of the sacred writers, and in proportion to the less frequency of transcription, there is the less danger of error. The antiquity of a manuscript is ascertained by testimony, or by internal marks, and particularly by the form of the letters. Those which are written in uncial letters, as they are called, or capital letters, are supposed to be the oldest. Some, however, have considered this proof as not quite satisfactory, because copyists might, from choice or design, imitate more ancient writing, or give a fac simile of the manuscript before them, to display their dexterity, or to enhance the worth of their copy. Again, those manuscripts are most esteemed which appear to have been written with great care, not only because we may conclude that they are faithful copies of the older manuscripts, from which they are transcribed, but because, when a various reading occurs, we have reason to believe, that it was not introduced by the copyists, but was found in the manuscript before them.

Critics have divided the manuscripts of the New Testament, of which above five hundred have been consulted, into classes, assigning to each different degrees of authority. Griesbach has established three classes, the Alexandrine, the Occidental or Western, and the Oriental or Byzantine, and has given the highest rank to the first. He has distinguished them by the name of recensions, which signifies the same thing with a word more common and generally intelligible, editions. Scholz has found out five recensions, the Alexandrine, the Occidental, the Asiatic, the Byzantine, and the Cyprian. Matthæi has rejected all these divisions, and maintained that there is only one class of manuscripts containing, what others have called, the Byzantine text. The classification of Griesbach has been disputed by two learned men in this country, who have endeavoured to show that it is destitute of any solid foundation, and that some important alterations which he has made in the received text upon its authority, ought not to be admitted. I refer to Dr. Laurence, who has published remarks on the classification of manuscripts adopted by Griesbach in his edition of the New Testament; and to Mr. Nolan, the author of a work entitled, an Inquiry into the Integrity of the Greek Vulgate, or received text of the New Testament, in which he introduces a new classification, into the Egyptian, the Palestine, and the Byzantine, and gives the preference to the latter, on which the textus receptus is founded. From this short review of the different opinions entertained by learned men, it appears that some degree of uncertainty still rests upon the subject, and that after all that has been done, the field is still open to new inquirers.

There are other sources of various readings besides manuscripts. Some are collected from the writings of the Fathers, in the faith that they have accurately quoted from their copies. Here critics have shown how sensible they are of the necessity of caution, by laying down a variety of rules for judging in what cases the quotations may be considered as faithful. But after all, we tread upon slippery ground. We know how careless moderns often are in citing passages ; that they trust to their memories to save themselves the trouble of looking at the text, and that sometimes they are not solicitous to be exact, but intend only to give the sense, and throw in occasionally a word for the purpose of illustration. We have no reason to believe that the Fathers were at greater pains; and I should think it probable that they referred less frequently to the text than we do, from the form of their manuscripts, which required to be unrolled, and from the difficulty of finding a particular sentence, as they wanted those minute marks of reference which we possess in the division of the Scriptures into chapters and verses. I do not deny all authority to their quotations, but I should not be disposed to lay much stress upon them, except when they are brought forward on some occasion where accuracy was indispensable, or occur in commentaries which were professedly written to explain them.

Ancient versions of the Scriptures are also another source of various readings. But here, I think, greater caution, if possible, is necessary. For in the first place, we are not certain that those versions have come down to us in an uncorrupted state, or rather we are certain that they have suffered as much as the manuscripts of the Scriptures by transcription, so that we cannot be sure, in many cases, that where they differ now from the originals, they differed at first. In the second place, we never can know, that where they differ from the received text, there was a different reading in their copies, because it is possible that they misapprehended the sense. They may have mistranslated ; they may have substituted a term or phrase for another, supposing it to be equivalent, while it was not; they may have changed the meaning, in adapting to it the idiom of their own language; they may have been guilty of oversight, just as modern translators are. If a person were to read a variety of modern translations, and not to know that they were all made from the same text, I have no doubt that he would in some cases conclude

that they had been formed upon different texts. It is, therefore, with extreme hesitation that ancient versions should be admitted as authorities for various readings. There is one case where their testimony may be received, namely, “ when the original is absurd, or yields no sense, a single version may give probability to another reading, especially when from it the present reading might have naturally arisen.'

Conjectural criticism, which has supplied some readings, is a dangerous expedient, which should never be resorted to, except when emendation is manifestly required, and no assistance can be derived from any other quarter; and even then the proposed correction can rise no higher than probability. It is astonishing that some men have not been deterred by reverence for the word of God, from making too liberal a use of it.

Rules have been proposed for judging concerning various readings. The greater part of them are of no value, and possess no authority which entitles them to attention; but others are so evidently right, that they ought to be received into the text, although they should be found in no printed edition. The limits of this lecture will not permit me, as I intended, to give an account of the principles laid down by writers on sacred criticism, for estimating the value of readings with a view to the emendation of the received text; and I shall therefore content myself with referring you to some of the books in which they will be found; Horne's Introduction, Gerard's Institutes of Biblical Criticism, Institutio Interpretis Novi Testamenti by Ernesti, the Prolegomena of Mill, Wetstein, and Griesbach, the preface to the work of Bengelius entitled Gnomon Novi Testamenti, &c.

It remains to give a short account of the principal editions of the New Testament.

The first is the Complutensian, which was printed at Complutum or Alcala, in Spain, in A. D. 1514, but was not published till some years after, so that the edition of Erasmus, which was in fact posterior, appeared before it. It was prepared and published under the patronage of Cardinal Ximenes. The manuscripts used by the editors are lost, but although they are said to have been ancient, it is now generally understood that they were of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries, and consequently possessed little intrinsic value. They have also been charged with introducing some changes in conformity to the Vulgate.

The first edition of the New Testament by Erasmus, appeared in A. D. 1516, and was followed by several other editions. The first was drawn up in great haste, in the short space of five months, and on this account could not be of much value as a critical work. The manuscripts which he consulted were not many, nor of great antiquity. The editions which appeared after the publication of the Complutensian were corrected by it.

The next edition which demands attention is that of Robert Stephens, in A. D. 1546. He adhered closely to the Complutensian and Erasmian editions, but not servilely, for he has adopted various readings on the authority of manuscripts, which were consulted to the number of fifteen. But some of those manuscripts contained only a part of the New Testament; they were examined, not by Robert himself, but by his son Henry, who, although he proved one of the most learned men of his age, was then a youth of eighteen; and it is affirmed that not much critical skill was exercised in the formation of the text. Beza

gave his first edition to the world in a. D. 1565. But although he had access to a collection of various readings by Stephens, possessed an ancient manuscript of the Gospels and Acts, and another of the Epistles of Paul, and besides had an opportunity to consult the Syriac version, which had been recently published, he is said not to have made a full use of these advantages. He has corrected the edition of Stephens only in fifty places, and the alterations do not always rest upon sufficient authority.

In the year 1624, an edition was printed at the press of Elzevir without a name, and to this day it is not known by whose labour it was prepared. Whoever he was, he has formed the text upon the edition of Stephens and Beza, although in a few instances he has departed from both. This is called the textus receptus, because since that time it has been admitted into all common editions. How this edition acquired such authority as to seule the text, it is not easy to say. Griesbach ascribes it to the opinion, that the Elzevir editions were as distinguished by accuracy as they were by the beauty of the type. He justly observes, that a corrupt text might be printed without a single typographical error, but would not for this reason become genuine.

It is evidently ignorance and prejudice which would lead any person to consider the received text as so sacred that no alteration ought to be made in it. Its history shows that its claim is disputable, and that it may be superseded by a text more carefully compiled. Too little had yet been done to render the labours of subsequent critics unnecessary.

The learned world, or such of them at least as viewed the subject in a calm and impartial light, were prepared to receive the editions of Mill, Wetstein, and Griesbach, which appeared in the course of the last century, not to mention the editions of other distinguished men, who have contributed their part to exhibit the genuine text of the New Testament. No capable judge could object to the design, whatever faults he might find with the execution of it. As new manuscripts were discovered, it was fair to listen to their testimony, since those which were consulted by the earlier editors had no title alone to be heard ; and it is not a little surprising, that some celebrated men, as Dr. Owen in the seventeenth century, and Dr. Whitby in the beginning of the eighteenth, should have exclaimed against any attempt to new-model the text as presumptuous and dangerous. The report of thirty thousand various readings collected by Mill was no doubt alarming; and the numbers since collected by Wetstein and Griesbach is much more formidable; but the fears felt for the sacred writings have proved to be imaginary. Of the various readings many have no authority, being found only in one manuscript or two; others have only some degree of probability ; and those which appear to be well supported very often consists in the omission or insertion of the article, or some little word which does not affect the sense, in the order of words and phrases, in the spelling of proper names, and other matters equally insignificant. Important alterations have indeed been made, particularly in passages which relate to the divinity of Christ; but besides that their propriety is disputed, and strong reasons have been advanced for the common reading, the doctrine is so clearly taught in other passages, that the admission of them makes no change in our faith. The truth is, that by a hundred and fisty thousand various readings, no doctrine or duty of our holy religion is affected; and the labour of biblical critics have terminated in establishing, instead of weakening, the authority of the text. We are now fully satisfied, that we possess substantially the same text which was exhibited in the autographs of the evangelists and apostles ; and this is also the result of the critical labours which have been bestowed upon the Old Testament.

It is not expected that every minister of religion shall be a profound biblical critic. The talents which are necessary to success in this study do not fall to the lot of all, and comparatively few enjoy the aids and opportunities, without which talents will be of little avail. Books must not only be read, but possessed, for the purpose of frequent consultation, from which most are precluded by their situation and their limited means; and a proficiency in scholarship is indispensable, which can be attained only by deep and persevering study. We shall more easily find fifty good theologians, than one accomplished biblical critic. A man who is himself distinguished in this department, and is one of the most learned bishops of the church of England, has said, that to clergymen in general, criticism is rather a luxury than a necessary; and no person who understands the subject will dispute the assertion. But it would be well if every minister would endeavour to acquire some general knowledge of it, that he may be able to tell on what grounds he believes, not only that the Scriptures were divinely inspired, but that the books called Sacred, contain the genuine writings of the men who were moved by the Holy Ghost. The rapid sketch which has been now given is intended to excite you to inquire for yourselves.

LECTURE XIII.

THE STUDY AND INTERPRETATION OF THE SCRIPTURES.

An Acquaintance with the Original Languages a Prerequisite to the Study of the Scriptures

-Rules of interpreting Scripture stated--External Aids to Interpretation-Scripture the Standard of Faith-Lawfulness of Inferences from Scripture-Conduct of the Church of Rome.

In the preceding lecture, I directed your attention to that part of sacred criticism which is employed in ascertaining the genuine text of Scripture. As long as the autographs of the prophets and apostles were preserved, there was an easy method of settling it ; and by an appeal to them, any errors which might have been admitted into particular manuscripts.could be corrected. Their history is obscure. There is some reason to think that the original copy of the law of Moses existed in the days of Josiah, and that towards the close of the second century, the books of the New Testament still remained in the handwriting of the authors; but what became of them afterwards, no man can tell. It is probable that the copy of the law perished in the destruction of the first temple ; and that the manuscripts of the New Testament were lost amidst the troubles to which the church was exposed during the first three centuries. You see, then, that we possess only transcripts of the records of revelation, in general, no doubt, executed with great care, by persons who were influenced either by a principle of religious reverence, or by a regard to their own interest, being aware that their copies could not have been disposed of if they had been inaccurate, or would have been sold at an inferior price. But it should be considered, that the transcribers were men who might err through inadvertence or incompetence, and that as we have no security for the honesty of them all, some of them might be guilty of wilful corruptions, to serve the purposes of a party. It is not, therefore, upon the faith of a single manuscript that we should settle the text, but by the collation of many manuscripts, and by the assistance derived from other sources, which were mentioned in the preceding lecture.

To ascertain the genuine text is, however, only a preliminary step; the next office of criticism is to discover its meaning, since the Scriptures were given, not to be gazed at with distant reverence, or preserved as a literary curiosity, but to be perused, and understood, and believed. The languages in which they are found were vernacular to those into whose hands they were pri marily delivered, but they have long since ceased to be spoken. It is sup

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