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but they cannot easily distinguish the impressions they gather from the Scriptures, from those which they derive from other sources; the very counsel of God is darkened by the words without knowledge which they have been used to hear. Whoever will take up this subject and give it a thorough examination, will enlighten many minds which are now anxious and doubting, and would have the honor and satisfaction of rendering a good service to the Christian world.
ART. XII. - The Child's Book of the Soul. By T. H.
GALLAUDET. Hartford. Cook & Co. 1831. 16mo.
The object of this pleasing, well executed little work is to convince a child, though quite young, by a process of reasoning, level, as it is believed, to his apprehension, that he has something within him, distinct from the body, unlike it, wonderfully superior to it, and which will survive it after death, and live for ever. It is only by inquiries and investigations of this nature, we are told, that he can be led up to any just and precise conceptions of the Infinite One; -the elements of all our notions of the Father of our spirits being derived from what we know of the emotions, states, and operations of our own spirits. Whatever men may think on the general subject of the utility and effectiveness of such attempts, all will agree that the present one evinces throughout a careful and successful study of the human mind in its first and feeblest efforts, skill in awakening and directing the curiosity, and the command of a style at once clear, simple, and beautiful. The writer deserves commendation, too, for dealing fairly and frankly with the child's understanding, and for keeping himself entirely free from a sectarian spirit and bias. A second part of this publication has appeared, and more are promised, going more into the evidences and great practical principles of Christianity ; which, if executed in the same spirit, and with equal ability, we shall be among the readiest to welcome and recommend.
ART. I. — The Scriptural Interpreter. Published Monthly.
First Six Numbers. Boston. Leonard C. Bowles. 12mo.
We wish we could place at the head of this article a good translation of the Scriptures with a popular commentary. There is absolutely nothing now so much wanted, for the promotion of religious knowledge and improvement, as a work of this nature. Controversy enough we have had; and a great deal more, we are inclined to think, than has been well understood by the body of the people; though we are very well satisfied with the result, as far as their inquiries have gone.
But the more we are convinced of the unappropriateness of abstruse discussion for general reading, the higher value do we set upon simple exposition. Indeed an abstruse discussion upon the meaning of language, which is the ultimate resort of all Christian controversy, is the last task of hard reading, and requires, in fact, a degree, not commonly possessed, of learning and of mental accomplishment to do it justice. It is an investigation not of facts and principles only, not of thoughts only, but of the bearing and influence upon them of the most subtile and flexible instrument of thought. It is like the office of the judge, in not only summing up evidence, but in weighing the grains and scruples of the phraseology of the law that is applicable to it.
The translation, which we desire to see, should be accurate and simple, the result of much learning without making any parade of it, not afraid to depart from the languag of the received version when the sense requires it, and yet not
N. S. VOL. VII. NO. II.
ambitious of doing so without good reason. A happy example of this, we think, especially for the Old Testament, where less change is needed, is seen in Mr. Noyes's Translation of the Psalms, and of the Book of Job. The commentary should be the very reverse, in almost every thing, of Dr. Scott's,* – learned, impartial, acute, brief, - never covering up a plain text with a mass of verbiage, never interposing to belp the reader but when it is necesary, and then interposing in terms clear, explicit, and satisfactory. If Mr. Noyes will add to his translations a commentary equally acceptable, he will do what is needed for the old Testament. For the New, we earnestly hope that those labors are in progress, which will give, in an accurate and just translation accompanied by an acute and popular commentary, a more valuable present to the body of the Christian world, than it has yet received from priest or layman, from any university or private study.
Meanwhile as a proof of the growing interest that is felt in spreading just ideas of the Scriptures among the people, we welcome the little work which is named at the beginning of this article. We give all due praise to the editor, that amidst the many and well-known labors of a life devoted to his profession, he finds time for superintending, and, with the help of his friends, sustaining this useful publication. Much of the commentary and many of the discussions are of a very interesting character, and happily fitted to remove those mistakes and obscurities that have so long marred and darkened the holy page.
Like mists overhanging the fairest landscape, like earth overlaying the richest mine, popular misconceptions have hidden from most eyes, a world of beauty and wealth. It is, in truth, “a land where hidden beauty lies.
* The amazing success of this work seems to us to prove, more than it proves any thing else, the great want, the demand, there was in the public mind, for a popular commentary. We have known many, and presume there are thousands, very ill able to afford it, who have bought this diluted mass of second-hand criticism and Calvinistic speculation, because they were willing to go beyond their means to obtain the long and earnestly desired explanation of the book of books — the Bible. The disappointment of many, it need not be said, has been extreme; though a long and constantly lengthening advertisement of recommendations has sufficed to keep up the feeling that this is a great work. And a great work it certainly is !
Indeed, the interest with which the Scriptures should be regarded and read, is the subject on which we now propose to offer some remarks. We say both regarded and read; for although we intend to direct our observations chiefly to the latter point, the reading of the Bible, we would say something, in the first place, of the want of a due estimation of these writings.
There are those, doubtless, who think too much of the Bible as a mere book, who give their reverence too much to the very phraseology and form of the book, who forget that the letter killeth and that it is the spirit which maketh alive,
- that they should go beyond the form in this as in every thing else, beyond the form of words, as they should beyond the form of ceremonies and rites ; who forget that the love of the Scriptures is the means, in short, and not the end. A man should no more say, “How much I love the Scriptures !' and stop short, content with that, than he should be content with admiring a book upon husbandry, or upon any art or trade, which it is his business to pursue.
He should turn all he reads to account. He should go in the way to which the guide points, and not rest in admiration of the guide.
But admiration, barely so much as admiration, is, we fear, an unusual sentiment to be entertained about the Bible. The common feeling, it must be suspected, is one of considerable indifference, and would be one of much greater indifference, if it were not regarded with apprehension as a dark sign, in the experience of those who feel it. There are many who, but for this reason, would probably drop all reading of the Scriptures. There are some who do not read them, and who must defend their neglect on the ground, – to state it plainly, — that they do not think them worth reading. Their judgment, in fact, and a most ignorant and childish judgment it is, amounts to that. They have never given any intelligent attention to the Bible. They have no just comprehension of this most wonderful book, most wonderful, whether considered as inspired or not inspired. A book containing the most ancient and authentic history and literature in the world; a book, whose records,
the fragments, at least, of whose records, - have come down to us from the oldest homes of the human race; a book which lifted up, amidst the debasement of universal idolatry, such lofty strains of devotion as have fed the
piety of the most refined ages; a book which gives us an account of the freest institutions of ancient times; a book filled with the most sublime and beautiful poetry that has ever been given to the world ; a book in fine, marked, in its later records, with a moral grandeur, and sanctity, whose expression wrested from listening and even hostile anditories the exclamation, 'Never man spake like this man !' — such a book is the Bible ! And now what is the conception which many, and some, too, who think themselves very wise in the matter, entertain of it? Why, it is a book, we must speak with a freedom that pains our reverence for it, it is a book, they think, they venture perhaps to say, of sold wives' fables' and childish legends; a book about things long gone by, and dull, and indifferent ; a book not worth reading. They have a confused impression that it is all about a weary journey in the wilderness, and about useless ceremonies, and fighting kings perpetrating strange cruelties, and an obstinate people full of vulgar ideas and barbarous usages, and strange stories passing all belief, and half-crazed prophets performing eccentric deeds and uttering maledictions and mysteries. This, this, we say, is the sort of blind and blundering conception which not a few have of the ancient Scriptures. Whether it is that all this was read much in childhood, or whether the intellect has always remained in a sort of infantile state about it, or whether the simplicity of an ancient style has deceived the people, - why it is, we do not altogether see, but it is certain, that all the venerable and sublime features of this body of ancient history, law, poetry, and prophecy, are brought down to the measure of an amazing childishness. The dignity of these writings is nearly lost to the mass of the people. Nor can we allow that a much wiser judgment is formed of the New Testament. Many suppose that the whole wisdom and weight of it lie in the more abstruse and obscure parts of the book; which, as they do not understand, they cannot really and heartily admire and honor; while they just as falsely imagine, that the more simple and practical portions of the record, the teachings of our Saviour, are so obvious, and already so well understood, as not to need much of their attention. And thus it comes to pass,
one reason or another, that the whole book is by many, not only not attentively read, but not looked upon as intrinsically deserving such regard.