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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1860, by
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
University Press, Cambridge :
THE object of this work is to assist in the interpretation of the Gospels. It does not seek to go beyond the authority of Jesus. It does not undertake to show what the Evangelists ought to have said, and to force their language into accordance with it. If in any case it may seem to go beyond them, it has been only to meet the honest sceptic of our day on his own ground, and show either that he has misinterpreted the words and acts of Christ, or that those words and acts are in accordance with the great principles of reason, which reach alike through the realms of physical and moral being. The one all-sufficient answer to the unbelief of our age is still the same that Jesus addressed to the Sadducees, who represented the refined and philosophical scepticism of his day: “ Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.” A true understanding of the Scriptures, with the insight which is gained from them in the light of the highest philosophy into the ways and works and character of God, is the most effectual remedy for scepticism, whether it be a disease going on through moral infidelity to intellectual unbelief, or an honest antagonism to doctrines which falsely call themselves Christian or Evangelical.
The best antidote to scepticism and to a narrow religious dogmatism, is the same. Both believers and unbelievers read too much about the Gospels in the works of their favorite guides, and study the Gospels themselves too little. We have never known a diligent and thorough study of the New Testament to end either in bigotry or unbelief. There is a truthfulness breathing through its writings which cannot but affect the ingenuous mind that puts itself freely and constantly into communication with them, and there is a freedom, a breadth of moral purpose, a largeness of thought, a catholicity of sentiment, about them, which must give something of its own generous and liberal spirit to those who place themselves habitually and unreservedly within their influence.
In preparing this work I have sought to avail myself of such helps as have been furnished by the scholarship of past ages; to take advantage of the improved methods of investigation which have been recently adopted, and to borrow liberally from the varied stores of information which have been gained through the enterprise, the laborious researches, the intellectual culture, and the conscientious love of truth for which many of the Biblical scholars of our day have been so honorably distinguished. For example, the text which is here followed in all the variations which are of consequence enough to warrant a departure from the reading in our Common English Version, is Tischendorf's Stereotype Edition of the New Testament, published in 1850. This work, which, we believe, stands higher than any other edition of the New Testament in the estimation of those most competent to judge, was prepared by a careful comparison of all the most ancient manuscripts of the New Testament to which the editor could gain access. Many years were spent upon it, and no labor or expense was "spared which promised any useful results. In regard to the Geography of the Holy Land, and the topography of Jerusalem and its environs, so important in order to a correct understanding and a vivid perception of many incidents in our Saviour's life, almost everything that we know with clearness and certainty has been gained since Dr. Robinson began his Biblical Researches in Palestine, less than thirty years ago. Within less than forty years, since Winer first published his - Grammar of the New Testament Diction” in 1822, a revolution hardly less remarkable has taken place in this department of Biblical knowledge, and commentators have been called back from their freaks of utter lawlessness to the orderly rules and principles of grammatical construction. It is a matter of regret, that, in the only English version that we have of Winer's Grammar, the text, without any notice of the alterations being given, has been tampered with and changed by the translator for doctrinal reasons. But the promptness with which this act has been exposed and rebuked in this country, not only by the Christian
Examiner, but by the Bibliotheca Sacra, is a cheering evidence of the candor, as well as vigilance which guards the integrity of sacred learning. Indeed, within the lifetime of the present generation, à more generous spirit has been infused into these studies. They have been taken out from the darkened cell of monkish or sectarian exclusiveness, into the light of the world's advancing intelligence. Critical works, like those of Stanley, Jowett, Trench, and Alford, Schleiermacher, Olshausen, De Wette, Winer, and Meyer, Stuart, Norton, Noyes, Palfrey, Furness, Hackett, and Nichols, show that the finest artistic taste and moral sensibilities, the severest inductions of logic, the nicest discriminations of philological science, the most scholarly attainments and accomplishments, together with habits of profound and original thought, may be worthily employed in throwing light on the sacred writings, and in bringing out the great and momentous truths which they contain. This branch of learning is, therefore, indicating its liberal tendencies, and beginning once more to gain a hearing from classes of men who formerly looked upon it with indifference or contempt. A thorough knowledge of the Gospels is found to enrich the mind and enlarge the heart. While the most effective means of controlling a congregation, in or out of the church, — the arts of rhetoric, and the attractive but superficial attainments which go to furnish the intellectual wardrobe of a popular preacher, — tend towards bigotry and conceit, the study of the Bible, the habit of throwing one's self into the heart of one after another of its great subjects, with the intellectual helps which are essential to it, can hardly fail to quicken the intellect, refine the moral sentiments, and make one's sympathies wider and more generous. The study of the Gospels, pursued in such a spirit, must at least conduce to humility, and that is closely allied to charity. I think that we may see some evidence of this liberalizing tendency in theological seminaries, where the greatest attention is paid to Biblical studies, as well as in the tone of works, like the Bibliotheca Sacra, which treat such subjects most thoroughly. Ecclesiastical history, dogmatic theology, the speculative doctrines of metaphysics and of morals, may be enlisted in the service of a party; but the Gospels more than anything else refuse to be confined within a sect, to serve its exclusive purposes, or to do its work.
This volume was begun more than five years ago, at the sugges