Oldalképek
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

Art. IV. - A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans,

with a Translation and Various Excursus. By Moses STUART, Professor of Sacred Literature in the Theological Seminary at Andover. Andover. Flagg & Gould,

1832. 8vo. pp. 576. Those who are acquainted with the result of Professor Stuart's late exegetical labors on Cicero, will feel no surprise, when they are told, that in some quotations from the Latin classics, in the present volume, he has not been remarkably felicitous. The Preface contains a signal instance. The learned commentator intends, we presume, to give the often quoted scrap from Terence, “Homo sum ; humani nihil a me alienum puto ;" * which he has metamorphosed into “ Homo sum, et nihil ab hominibus me alienum puto. Perhaps the Professor has some manuscript authority for this, or he may be giving us a specimen of his skill in the art of conjectural criticism. But in all honest simplicity, we must say, that we do not consider the reading an improved one; nor, in our dulness of apprehension, do we exactly perceive how either grammar or sense is to be extracted from the sentence in its amended form. But let us see what the Professor makes of it.

"I do not profess,” says he, with very commendable modesty, “to be free from all prejudices of education and all attachment to system. “ Nor do I profess to be so illumina:ed in respect to divine things, and so skilled in the original language and criticism of the New Testament, as to be certain that all my conclusions respecting the meaning of the Epistle before us, are correct. · Homo sum, et nibil ab hominibus me alienum puto. That is,if the quotation has any pertinency, I am a man, and claim no exemption from human infirmity !

There really seems to be a fatality attending every attempt of the Professor to meddle with the classics, in so slight a matter as a quotation even.

In illustration of a remark of St. Paul, he quotes Horace as saying

“ Audax omnia perpeti,
Gens humanum ruit per vetitum nefas.”

Carm i. 3.

* Heauton. Act. I. Sc. I.

We have an old copy of Horace in which we read “Gens humana," instead of humanum. Nor do we see how the quotation illustrates the Professor's position, that we are inclined to do what is forbidden, simply because it is forbidden, in other words, that all law which attempts to impose restraint on the passions serves to excite and inflame them. * This, says the Professor, was a principle acknowledged by the heathen, and he appeals to Horace, but we do not perceive that Horace says any thing of this sort. He simply states the fact that mankind are presumptuos enough to attempt any thing, and violate all laws human and divine. Of the cause he says nothing.

But our present concern with the Professor, is in his character especially as a theological commentator. We cannot say that we think his views remarkably comprehensive or exact. Judging from the present performance merely, we should be tempted to pronounce him a very confused, loose, and inaccurate writer. Many remarks and statements occur in different parts of the volume, which will hardly be considered as evidence either of ripe scholarship, or habits of correct and patient thought. On some doctrinal points, the Professor, his quinquennial oath notwithstanding, has departed from the views, which, a few years ago, were generally regarded in New England, as essential ingredients of a sound faith. Still it is evident that his orthodoxy is occasionally a little embarrassing. The truth at times appears ready to burst from his pen. He seems about to adopt a natural and obvious mode of interpretation, but he suddenly relents, and as if startled with a view of his danger, begins

“ To tack about and steer another way.One would be almost led to imagine, at first glance, that his theological opinions generally were approaching a transition state. Such, however, we believe, is not the fact. We should rather say they were vague, inconstant, and fluctuating. We are not always sure, however, that we understand him. He is not accustomed very nicely to weigh and adjust his expressions, and we know not, in all instances, with what degree of rigor we are to interpret them. He is a little too fond of bold and sweeping assertions, and if we understand him according to the letter, it would be often difficult to de

* Page 290. N. S. VOL. X. NO. I.

VOL. XV.

6

fend him from the charge of inconsistency and extravagance.

The volume contains a good deal of minute grammatical criticism, occasionally of a trifling character, and not always expressed in perfectly correct taste. It is a work of no little pretension, and exhibits a show of erudition and research. The Professor especially bandies very familiarly the names of several modern German theologians, and is disposed, we think, to deal a little too much in second-hand learning, a circumstance which occasionally betrays him into errors. As a commentator, we by no means think him entitled to rank in the first class.

On going over the volume before us, we set out with the intention to mark such passages as seemed to us particularly to call for remark, but we soon found ourselves obliged to abandon our design. As we have pretty freely expressed our opinion of its defects, however, we feel bound to adduce some evidence of the correctness of our decision. We might take indiscriminately almost any half dozen pages in succession, in the volume, and we feel little hesitation in affirming, that a careful examination of them would show, that, in what we have just said of the merits of the work, we have not spoken with undue severity. It must be remembered that the performance professes to be thorough and critical, the fruit of long study, * and not a mere popular commentary, In such a performance, loose and superficial remark, illogical inferences, and assertion without proof, constitute, we conceive, a very capital defect.

As a specimen of the Professor's habitual inattention to the laws of correct interpretation, his rashness, and general inaccuracy, we will invite the attention of our readers to portions of his remarks on the first four verses of the Epistle. No part of his commentary is more minute and full, and seldom, we suspect, since the days of Occam and Duns Scotus, has so much labor been expended to so little purpose. We pass over the observations on the name of the Apostle, which stands at the head of the Epistle. In the course of some remarks not very definite or lucid, on the meaning of the next term, translated servant, the Professor says “the Apostle

*“I have been long engaged,” says the Professor, “in the exposition of the Epistle to the Romans, and have studied it much more than any other part of the Bible.” Preface, p. iv.

66 not

meant to call himself a servant of Christ in a special sense.” " If this were not the case, " the term, he says, "might be understood as meaning simply a worshipper of Christ or of God, one devoted to his service,and he refers to several passages in which, as he affirms, the word is so used. Does the Professor mean to say that “worshipper of Christ,” and

one devoted to his service as a Christian, are equivalent expressions ? If so, and we see not how his language is susceptible of any other meaning, we would ask for proof of the fact. Where, in the New Testament, we would ask, is the expression servant of Christ, used as synonymous with worshipper? Are christians called worshippers of Christ ? The name of Christ occurs in only one of the passages referred to by the Professor. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, servants are urged to be obedient to their masters, with eye-service as men-pleasers ; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart." But here is not one word of the worship of Christ. The Professor's references then utterly fail of establishing his point, and we must repeat our request, that he will tell us where in the New Testament, servant of Christ is used as meaning the same thing precisely as worshipper of Christ.

The Professor's comment on the next two words is too characteristic not to be given entire. It affords a fair speciinen, if we except its brevity, of his general manner.

«Ιησού Χριστού may mean, either that Christ has bestowed on him the office of Soūkos which he holds, i. e. it

may be Genitivus auctoris; or it may mean that the apostle's business or object as soūlos, is to promote the cause of Christ, or to forward his work. The sequel shows that the former sense is the one here meant.

It is somewhat difficult to extract any consistent meaning from the Professor's observations on the term servant, as applied to the Apostle, in the paragraph immediately preceding that just quoted. We should think, however, that the being “devoted to the special service of Christ in his Gospel, which he tells us at its close is what is meant by servant, as the term is there used, was substantially the same thing as the having it for one's “ business or object, to promote the cause of Christ, or to forward his work,” which he

P. 57.

* vi. 6.

now informs us, is not the sense in which Paul calls himself the servant of Christ.

We cannot assent to all the Professor's remarks on the word separated, separated or set apart for the gospel of God." “ The meaning,” he says, “is that God who foreknows all things, did set him apart, choose, select him for the work of the Gospel, even from the earliest period of his life.Now where does the Professor learn that this is the meaning? The original word conveys no such idea, nor does the connexion in which it stands furnish the least hint of it. Paul, we know was miraculously called and set apart to the work of the ministry. This is an historical fact, and it is all which he asserted. That he was set apart and chosen from the first moment of his existence, is an inference of the Professor, which, so far as this passage is concerned, may be true or not. The laws of philology and exegesis, to which he so frequently calls our attention, require us, as we have been accustomed to suppose, to distinguish between the meaning of a word or phrase, and an inference deduced from it. The meaning is one thing, and the inference or theory derived from, or founded upon it, another. Of this distinction the Professor loses sight. “So,” he continues, “it is said of Jeremiah, that he was set apart, selected for the prophetic office even before he was formed in his mother's womb; by all which expressions is meant, that God knows all persons and events before they exist or take place, and that he has a definite object in view which he intends to accomplish by

Here again the Professor confounds the meaning, with the inference. That God " set apart and selected Jeremiah, for the prophetic office” before his existence commenced, even admitting that the phrase is to be understood in its literal and strictest sense, can hardly be said to mean that he foreknows all persons and events and has a definite object to accomplish by them. The Professor may think this inference authorized by the expressions alluded to, but to give it as their meaning, is, we conceive, to violate the principles of correct exposition. It is in consequence of this loose way of interpreting Scripture that most of the errors by which Christianity is darkened are perpetuated.

How Professor Stuart can make the third and fourth verses ;

“ His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to

them.”

« ElőzőTovább »