« ZurückWeiter »
The following work is offered to the public with the view of supplying a want in English theological literature. Since the year 1856 the idea has gradually strengthened in the author's mind that there is room for an Introduction to the Old Testament, in which processes should be given as well as results. The space allotted to him in a volume published in that year was too limited to satisfy the necessary requirements. He did for the Old Testament then what appeared right and proper. But he felt that he had not done full justice either to the subject or himself. Longer time, deeper reflection, and repeated investigation were demanded, because difficult theines cannot be satisfactorily settled without protracted study. Accordingly since 1857 his mind has been occupied with the chief questions relating to the books of the Old Testament ; with the view of arriving at such results respecting them as the evidence seems to justify. The process has been slow and gradual, because he has often striven against new views and tried to uphold traditional sentiments as long as he could. He has thought it a duty to maintain conservative opinions whenever he could honestly do so. In cases where they could not stand the test of true criticism they had to be abandoned. Should any think that his handling of the subject has been occasionally free, they are reminded that there is a time to utter the conclusions of the
higher criticism; that superstition should not enslave the mind for ever; and that the Bible is far from being yet understood by the majority of readers in all its parts and bearings. indeed, a perilous thing at the present day to publish anything connected with the Scriptures that does not square with the narrow notions of noisy religionists. Scientific theologians have fallen on evil days and evil tongues. Persecution assails them if they do not repeat the only ideas and phrases which are supposed to accord with the honour of Scripture. They are maligned from pulpit and press for the glory of God. But the Almighty Father of mankind has given His servants talents to be used conscientiously as well as diligently in His service; and if in the exercise of these talents some arrive at results different from those of others, it is cowardly to suppress them should their dissemination tend to enlighten the mind or purify the heart. The writer does not profess to have made many discoveries in the departinent to which his volumes belong. Much novelty cannot be expected in it, though the field is not yet exhausted. He has not sought after the new because it is such ; nor has he repeated the opinions of others because they are theirs. He has simply tried to give his best explanation of the sacred books. Convinced that the most unworthy views of Jehovah's nature and perfections are current in the religious world, he will achieve something if he suggest better conceptions of His person and operations.
It need hardly be stated that he has taken all the pains he could, and all the time which seemed necessary, to examine the questions discussed. While availing himself of whatever help he could get, he has endeavoured to work out for himself the results presented, and believes that most of them will stand the severest test and abide. Having the fullest conviction of their
truth, he can wait calmly and patiently for their general acceptance, even though it come not in his own day. But it will come. He could scarcely have elaborated his views earlier. And if it had been practicable, the circumstances in which he was placed were averse to the free expression of thought. A man under the trammels of a sect in which religious liberty is but a name, is not favourably situated for the task of thoroughly investigating critical or theological subjects. Truth in its integrity is above sects, though they try to imprison it, each within its own Goshen; nor will they ever do it fitting homage till they get beyond the childishness of their little peculiarities, and breathe the free air of God's own church, Let it be borne
. in mind that personal religion does not lie in the reception of intellectual propositions or dogmas, but in the emotions of the heart towards God and man-in faith, hope, and charity. It is the life of God in the soul, manifested in a life of practical self-denial and benevolence, which human creeds and their defenders often succeed in choking. Strange that the many having yet to learn that fact decry the men whose critical studies go beyond or against their dogmatical prepossessions. Putting religion where the Bible does not, they misunderstand its nature and caricature its spirit, by fashioning God after their own image, and expecting that others will see Him as they do-a Being malignant and partial—the creature of a corrupt imagination.
It will be seen that the present work differs both in extent and substance from a volume originally published as the second of four labelled “Horne's Introduction,” tenth edition. The author regrets that he could not persuade the publishers of that work to suppress his volume after the first edition was exhausted, and to substitute the present in its place. He must
therefore say, that this “Introduction” is a new work, which must speedily supersede its brief precursor ; and that his opinions should always be quoted from it. The volume published in 1856, as he has reason to know, did good service in its day, though he had not then reached his present maturer views. He did what he could under the circumstances, and with the knowledge he had at the time. If he be blamed now, he can only adduce his motto, Dies diem docet. Harshmịnded theologians who have inherited a little system of infallible divinity out of which they may excommunicate their neighbours, will not understand such development. They do not know Hebrew, but are able to explain the Old Testament to their own satisfaction, and ready to denounce such as have a full
. knowledge of the difficult tongue in which it is written. They are wise in their own conceits, and can heartily blacken the characters of men who dare to differ from their dogmas. They can hold up old creeds as tests of orthodoxy, without comprehending them; and delight to make their own beliefs a standard of right and wrong for others. Every honest inquirer regards this conduct as degrading to the true man. Leaving sectaries to quarrel over their “principles," and cast stones at the unfortunate who do not choose to walk after their rule, he welcomes light from all quarters—the light which proceeds from God's revelation without, or His revelation within. With righteous abhorrence of malice and uncharitableness, he is ready to advance as far as he is assured of the correctness of his positions. God is his witness. Men thrust at him : he can bear their abuse in the strength of Him who said, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”
The author's sole ambition is to be an humble expositor of God's word in the Bible, and to cultivate in his Master's ser