"You will perceive, therefore, that I had no particular allusion to a revelation from God, when I spoke of translating the most valuable of ancient writings into English. No one will pretend that such translations could not be made sufficiently accurate to answer all the purposes, either of history or of the useful arts. It is admitted that the case is quite different, if there be a mystery in these writings, the truth of which depends on literary criticism, or grammatical exactness; but if these writings are nothing more than the bare opinions and discoveries of men, and of men too, as liable to error as ourselves, and if no one was to view them in a different light, I apprehend there would be all the confidence placed in a translation, that could with propriety be placed in the original itself. For, after all, we should try the facts by other corroborating testimony; and as to the opinions, we should judge of them only by the reasonableness and fitness of things. Although I have heard it objected to the translation of Seneca's Morals, that much of the beauty of the style is lost in the translation, yet I never heard it pretended but that the ideas are sufficiently clear; but the case would have been quite different if mankind had ever been taught to believe that their final and eternal salvation depended in the least degree on an exact observance of those moral principles. And I very much question whether there ever has been a translation of the bible, or even of any other work, in which the most important facts were not sufficiently apparent. If the fact can be supposed otherwise, it must be admitted that, comparatively speaking, but very few people at the present day are benefited by a revelation from God. For the great mass of mankind have to receive the bible altogether on the credit of others. And who are their guides in this case? Answer, Translators and Commentators! And as these men made no pretentions to inspiration, unless the translation is substantially correct, as to matters of fact, how are the common people benefited by a revelation from God!"
[Having adverted to the previous studies in the dead languages, which are required before an admittance can be obtained in our common colleges, the objector proceeds.]
"But I am off from my main subject. I will now endeavour to call up all my mental faculties, seriously to attend to a revelation from God. The idea suggested in these words is beyond all expression awfully sublime. Yea, not even the bursting of Vesuvius, not the aurora-borealis, not the forked lightning, not the tremendous earthquake, no, nor yet the greatest phenomenon in nature, of which the human mind can conceive, can afford such ideas of the truly sublime, as the truth, if it could be realized, of the above proposition. Let me not hastily reject without serious reflection, that, which of all truths, must be the most important. O help me, my dear friend, help me also, O thou who art the only source of truth, thoroughly to investigate this momentous subject! But let me not be deceived. Let me not receive for truth, that which cannot be made sufficiently clear to my understanding. There can be no more harm in doubting, than in believing, where the evidence is not clear. All that which appertains to eternal truth will remain, whether I now see it or not; and that which does not appertain to it will never be realized, although I may now be made to believe it. There can be no harm, therefore, in investigating this subject in the same way and on the same principles, as I would investigate all subjects. Although I cannot expect to offer any thing very new, yet I am disposed to examine the subject for myself, and that too, in my own way. I shall quote no authors, for I have not read but few on this subject which meet my approbation, and even them are not now by me. My own understanding is the only author to which I shall appeal. If that can be cleared of the difficulties which have fallen in its way, I am willing, yea I wish, still to believe in divine revelation.
"Here let me close my preamble, which is already made too lengthy, and come immediately to discourse 'ON DIVINE REVELATION.'
"In order to know the truth or falsity of any proposition, we must in the first place understand the terms by which the proposition is made; for without such previous knowledge, we cannot know what is meant either to be affirmed or denied. By divine revelation, I understand 'a communication of sacred truth,' made directly from God to man. In order for any man to know that a revelation has been made to him from God, it must be made in such a way, that neither his perception, nor his judgment or understanding, can possibly be mistaken. For, as man by his reason alone, never could have foreseen that a revelation would be made, therefore, unless it should have been made in such a way that he could not have been deceived, a rational man would be more likely to conclude that he was deceived, than that, which to him would seem more unlikely, should be true. It seems, therefore, that a revelation from God to all our conceptions of the fact, must be considered, if existing at all, as something supernatural; otherwise it could be nothing more than discovery, or a fortuitous event. Hence a revelation from God, however true, and however clear, to the person or persons to whom it was first communicated, must lose its evidence, in some degree, when it comes to be communicated by him or them to others; for, being communicated to others, although it is still revelation, yet not being received immediately from God, it cannot be accompanied with the same evidence which it was in the first place; therefore, to say the most of it, it is nothing more than the history of a revelation. It is made no less true than it was before; but its truth now rests upon very different testimony.
"The principles in nature all existed, before they were discovered by man. Their being discovered, neither changed their nature, nor made them any more true. What consternation a total eclipse of the sun, or of the moon must have produced, before their cause was known? They are now viewed, especially that of the latter, among the common occurrences of nature. Yea, many of the operations of nature, which are now perfectly understood by chemists, could they be viewed by the common people, who know not their causes, they would be inclined to believe they were supernatural. At least, it would not be difficult to make them believe so, especially when this knowledge was confined to a few, and those few were so disposed. These remarks are not designed to do away the force of any arguments which may be founded on miracles; for this is no proof that miracles may not exist; but then, how is a miracle a revelation of any thing more than what is contained in the miracle itself? This is what I cannot see, but I shall have occasion to say more on this subject hereafter. It will be needless for me to object to the inferences drawn from miracles until a miracle is proven.
"If a man absolutely knows something of which I am ignorant, and informs me of it, it makes no difference to me how he come by his knowledge -- it is revelation to me. It may not be divine revelation; but supposing it is, or is not, in either case, how am I to believe? Is it any thing that will admit of mathematical demonstration? If so, I shall take up with nothing short of being convinced in this way. Is it any thing which he has discovered? If so, he must give me evidence of such a discovery. Is it something to which he was an eye witness? Then the truth to me, depends for the present, entirely on his credibility. I must be convinced in the first place that he was not deceived himself, and secondly, that he has no motive in deceiving me. And evidence equally conclusive must accompany the truth of divine revelation, or it ought not, nay more, it cannot, rationally be believed. But supposing that I am convinced of the truth, and therefore believe; and I relate the same to a third person; is it equally revelation to him as it was to me? Yes, it may be so considered, in one sense, at least, for it informs him of something of which he was before ignorant, as much so as it did me, but then the truth of the fact does not rest with him on equal testimony, and therefore he is more excusable if he does not believe. If, however, he can believe all that I believe, and in addition to that, believe also in me, then, and not till then, he will become a believer in the same truth. But if he even suspects my veracity, it weakens in his mind, all the other testimony; and though he may still believe in the main proposition, yet he believes with less strength of evidence.
"Here a very important question arises in my mind. Is divine revelation something that rests entirely on matters of fact; or is the most essential part, which concerns us to know, a mere matter of opinion? On a few moments of reflection, however, it appears that this can hardly admit of a question. For all that relates to a future, and an eternal state, must be a mere matter of opinion only; and the facts recorded in the scriptures are supposed to corroborate and substantiate those opinions. Now, as they respect matters of fact, I believe the scriptures are substantially the same in all versions, and in all languages into which they have been translated. And if so, there is no need of learning the original languages in order to become acquainted with the matters of fact recorded in the bible. We never should have seen, nor even heard, of so much controversy and biblical criticism, if the disputes had been wholly relative to matters of fact. No, all the various readings, different translations, and interpolations, have little or nothing to do with a dispute of this kind. But if the facts can he disputed, they must be disputed upon other grounds than that of biblical criticism.
"Take, for instance, the 'death and resurrection of the man Christ Jesus,' which you have mentioned; can any one suppose that there ever was, or ever will be, a translation which makes any thing more or less in favour of this fact? This is not pretended. And if not, how does a knowledge of the Greek language help me to believe this fact?
"This brings me again to my main subject; and now two very important questions arise in my mind.
"1. In relation to the facts, as stated, respecting the life, death, and resurrection of the 'man Christ Jesus;' are they positively and absolutely true?
"2. Admitting the truth of the facts, does it necessarily follow, or is there any thing which renders it certain, that, in regard to other things, neither he, nor the apostles, so called, could be mistaken? And that, in all their writings, they have stated nothing which is incorrect? That is, what certain evidence have we that the writers of the books, which being compiled, are called the New Testament, were all honest men? That they could not have been mistaken relative to the things which they have written? And that in every instance, they have written the truth?
"Respecting the first proposition, I have already observed that the truth of it does not, neither can it, depend on biblical criticism. They are either facts, which are substantially correct, or they are fabrications. The circumstantial differences between the original copies themselves, as recorded by the four Evangelists, are much greater than what can be found in all the different versions, translations, &c. that have been collated. Hence no argument can be brought against the truth of those facts from either a real or supposed difference between the translation, and their respective originals. For even if not only the original copies, but the language also in which they were originally written, should be entirely lost, it would not militate, as I can see, against the truth of the facts therein recorded.
"The translation acknowledges and affirms itself to be a translation out of the 'original Greek,' together with former translations compared, &c. Now permit me to ask, is not this as good evidence of the existence of the original Greek, as the original Greek is of the facts intended to be proved thereby? I should consider the translation of any work, which was generally known at the time of its translation, better evidence of the existence of such a work, though the original should be entirely lost, than the work itself, even in the original, could be of the existence of facts, which, if they existed at all, were known at first to but very few.
"You have suggested, sir, that if the original of the scriptures were entirely lost, future ages would not know but they had been 'imposed upon.' I think, however, you will not insist on this point, lest you should destroy an argument, which, hereafter, you may very much need. I recall my words. For this seems to imply that we are already engaged in a controversy; whereas, I trust we are both candidly in search of truth. I suspect, however, there is too much truth in your suggestion; but then its truth, instead of relieving, only increases my difficulty.
"Every one must know that when the translation of the scriptures was first made, the original not only existed, but it must have been known to others, beside the translators, who were able to detect the fraud, if there had been any, as to substantial matter of fact. And, in a work of so great importance, this certainly would have been the case. Hence you will at once perceive, that when the copies were few in number, and before the art of printing was discovered, fabrications and interpolations might find their way into the original scriptures with much greater facility, than could any considerable variations by an intentionally erroneous translation; especially after the work become generally known, and so highly valued, as to require a translation of it.
"As you admit that 'reason is the eye by which we are to examine the evidences' which stand in support of the 'resurrection of the man Christ Jesus,' and of course, as I presume, by which we are to examine the evidences in support of all other subjects, I shall say no more upon this part of the subject until I hear your reasons for believing in the resurrection of Jesus; for this fact, as I conceive, must be considered the main hinge on which the whole Christian system rests, if it can be supported by any fact, on which it will finally turn.
2. "But after all, my greatest difficulty is with my second proposition. To relate facts substantially correct, which persons have either seen or heard, requires no degree of uncommon skill, or uncommon honesty; but to state things which will absolutely take place, which are yet future, requires something more than common skill; and to state things correctly, which will take place in eternity, must, as I conceive, require nothing short of divine wisdom. That the evangelists have stated nothing more than what is substantially correct, as it respects matters of fact, will be admitted by all: for every one knows there is a circumstantial difference in their writings, both as it respects the order of time, and in several instances, as it respects matters of fact.
"If the account given us of Jesus be even substantially correct, I think there can be no reasonable doubt but that he was capable of telling his disciples every thing which it concerns us to know relative to a future state of existence. -- But I have been often struck with astonishment, when reflecting on the subject, that Jesus said so little in regard to a future state! Notwithstanding he was long with his disciples, as we are told after his resurrection, and did eat and drink with them; yet, how silent he was upon the subject of eternity, and of a future and spiritual world! At the only time when we should rationally suppose that he could be a competent witness in the case, admitting his death and resurrection true, is the time when he is entirely silent as to the final and eternal state of man! Should we admit therefore that Jesus at this time was capable of declaring eternal truths, yet, as he testified nothing on the subject, nothing relative to the subject can be proved from his testimony.
"It may be said that Christ had plainly taught his disciples respecting this subject, previous to his death, and therefore it was not necessary for him to say any thing more respecting it. But a confirmation of what he had before taught, if it had been repeated after his resurrection, would have added great weight to his former testimony. We need not dwell however, upon these niceties, as the main question is not involved in them. Yet I am inclined to think that if all the words of Christ, which have been handed down to us, should be closely examined, they would be found to be much more silent on the subject of a future state than many have supposed. But the main question is, are we certain that he could not have been mistaken in the things whereof he affirmed? This question may be thought blasphemous: but I cannot see wherein the blasphemy consists; for I cannot help making the inquiry, in my own understanding, and as my object is to gain instruction, I put the inquiry on paper. You may say that Jesus was endowed with divine wisdom, and therefore could not err. That divine wisdom cannot err, I admit, but does divine wisdom secure man at all times, and under all circumstances, from mistake? If the man Christ Jesus was in fact man (and that he was man, even Trinitarians admit) notwithstanding he was endowed with divine wisdom, why might he not without any dishonour to the Deity, be sometimes left to exercise only the wisdom of man? And to say that the wisdom of man cannot err, would be saying contrary to daily experience. I have not contended that Jesus ever erred; but I contend that he must have been liable to error, or else he was not man. And the supposition that he did not err, not even in thought or opinion, ought not to be admitted without the most conclusive testimony.
"But whatever may be the conclusion on this subject, as it respects the 'man Christ Jesus -- a man approved of God,' yet what shall we say concerning the apostles? Were they also absolutely secured from error? These men, according to the confession of one of them at least, not only had been, but still were -- sinners. Paul, notwithstanding his apostleship, still acknowledges the plague of his own heart 'I am carnal, sold under sin -- when I would do good, evil is present with me -- O wretched man that I am!' &c. Are such men absolutely proof against even the error of opinion? It appears to me there are too many incidents of imperfection recorded in the lives of the apostles to admit all this. Peter once rebuked his master, at another time denied him. He once objected to the voice of the spirit, and was afterwards accused by his brethren for obeying it. Paul accused Peter to his face, and also disagreed with Barnabas. And other circumstances might be named, proving them to be destitute of intuitive knowledge. Considering, therefore, all these things, how do we know but that in their zeal to do good, (for I do not consider the apostles bad men; neither do I think any the worse of Paul for either acknowledging his own faults, or detecting the dissimulation of Peter,) I say therefore, in their zeal to do good, how do we know but that they stated things relative to another world, which were only inferences, which, as they supposed, were justly drawn from what they had either seen or heard, or else what their own fruitful imagination dictated? If we are at liberty to view the apostles in this light, however highly their opinions are to be valued and respected, yet I see no occasion of investigating their writings with the eye of biblical or grammatical criticism; for after all, they are but the opinions of men like ourselves.
"But if it can be demonstrated that the opinions of the writers of the New Testament can be relied on, as containing eternal truth, without any mixture of error, then it is very important for us to know the meaning of all the words they used, not only as it respects their general import, but also the exact and particular sense in which they used them. This however cannot be done without a thorough acquaintance, not only with the Greek, but also with the Hebrew language, for they used many Hebraisms, which, with a knowledge of the Greek only, we should not be likely fully to comprehend.
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Much esteemed friend, -- In replying to your second number, you will excuse me if I begin by finding some fault, in which, however, I will endeavour to be as sparing as the case will admit.
On the subject of the languages, after reading in your first number the following in its connexion: "If I understand the above proposition, it seems to be this; the only revelation of God to man, which was ever recorded on vellum or paper, was written partly in Greek and partly in Hebrew; hence the revealed will of God cannot be known only through the medium of these languages. If the truth of all this could be made to appear," &c. and after replying to your argument on this subject, I can hardly account for the insinuation in your second number, by which you suggest, that you had no particular allusion to a revelation from God when you spoke of translating the most valuable of ancient writings, &c. The subject of a revelation you acknowledge to be your main object; if this be the case, you have this object in view when you speak of the Greek and Hebrew, and also when you speak of the arts and sciences.
You contend in your second number, that the translation of the Scriptures out of the original languages is as good evidence of the existence of the original, as the original could be of the facts they relate, &c. And this I believe is the only acknowledgement you make in favour of the original's having been any benefit. You seem not willing to allow that the retaining of the original language is of any use in proving to after generations that the translation was correct, which seems not easy to account for. But I will give you no further trouble on the subject of this nature; nor will I occupy my time in investigating the question relative to the necessity of studying those languages, which you acknowledge is off from your main subject, and take some notice of your queries respecting a divine revelation. Although I am unable to trace the connexion of many of your remarks with which you call your main subject, yet I am not disposed to doubt that you comprehend such connexion -- I think I understand your statements so as to be able to discern the following particulars, as subjects of your inquiry.
"1st. Is it reasonable to suppose that God has ever made a special revelation to man? 2d. Is the resurrection of Jesus capable of being proved? And, 3d. If so, does it follow that this was designed by divine wisdom to give us any hope respecting a future state?"
It is not pretended that you have stated these questions just in this order, but these are the subjects which your second number suggests to my mind.
I shall take a much nearer road to come to a solution of these questions, than that which would lead me to follow you through all your remarks, because you have furnished me with the means to do so.
1st. You acknowledge that a divine revelation "if real," is of "all truths the most important." Here let the eye of reason examine. Why should a revelation from God be more important than those discoveries which our Creator has enabled us to make in the arts and sciences? Why should such revelation be more important than the use of the mariner's compass, or the art of printing? Even without contending that a divine revelation is of any greater importance than the arts and sciences, your allowing it any importance at all, is, in the eye of reason an argument in its support. Had you taken the other road, and contended that there was no necessity of a revelation, and had you been able to make this appear, you would have proved to the eye of reason, that a Being of infinite wisdom, who can never act without a just cause, had never made a revelation. But if reason admits of its importance, as long as this is the case, it will be looking not only with a fervent desire, but with expectation till it makes the discovery. You will, no doubt, allow that a divinely munificient Creator would not omit any thing which is of importance to his intelligent creatures.
Perhaps you will, (though I do not see why you should) call up a former query, which was answered in my first, which answer was not receipted in your second, and ask why this revelation was not made in every nation, in every language, and in every age? But you will be sensible that the same questions might be stated respecting the progress of science and the discovery of the arts useful to a refined state of society.
You will not think it strange that I am some disappointed that you took no notice of my remarks on the above query as I really attach importance to that little piece of reasoning. If reason has no reluctance in acknowledging that man is multiplied and continued here by a law which was not able to bring him into existence at first, why may not a revelation from God, be perpetuated by different means than those which first made it, and thereby the great object be even better secured than by a perpetual revelation, which would seem to render research unnecessary, and leave the reasoning powers without employ?
But it is time for me to inform you that I feel myself under no obligations to labour to prove what you and I and many thousands of others have considered sufficiently proved from ancient prophesy with which our heavenly Father has favoured so many ages and nations and languages. And furthermore, permit me to tell you, that if you are disposed to doubt and to disprove what you acknowledge to be of such vast importance, it is your province to bring forward your strong reasoning, if such you have, by which the prophesies of the old testament, those delivered by Christ and his apostles shall be made to appear either to have no just analogy with the events of which they speak, or that they were contrived by impostors since the events took place.
2d. You acknowledge the validity of the evidences in favor of the resurrection of Jesus. You say; "That the evangelists have stated nothing more than what is substantially correct, as it respects matters of fact, will be admitted by all." Again; "I do not consider the apostles bad men." Now the apostles are the deponents who solemnly testify the fact of the resurrection of Jesus. Why should you wish me to prove what you allow to be true? Why do you not take the other hand, and say the apostles were impostors, they were the opponents of the righteous rulers of the Jews who put their master to death? Why do you not avail yourself of the story put into the mouths of the guard who watched the sepulchre, and say that those timid disciples who all fled and left Jesus when they saw him bound, not only went to the sepulchre and stole the body of Jesus and hid it where no mortal could ever find it, but then went to Jerusalem and boldly affirmed he was alive, who was dead, and then had the boldness and audacity to accuse the rulers of having "denied the holy one and the just, and desired a murderer to be delivered unto them; and of having killed the prince of life, whom God had raised from the dead?" The reason is obvious, you see the impropriety of such argument. -- But:
3d. Allowing the resurrection of Jesus, the truth of divine revelation, the honesty of the apostles of Jesus, are we to rely on what they say respecting a future state? Answer, yes, most assuredly. For here let reason ask, whether a divine revelation founded on the resurrection of Jesus could have a more reasonable object, than the bringing to light, life and immortality? Again let reason ask whether the divine Being would endow Jesus and his apostles with the gift of miracles, by which the divinity of their missions was proved to the understanding of all who believed, and then suffer them to teach things of a moral, a religious, or of an eternal nature which were not true? By so doing, it would seem that God gave power to heal the sick and to raise the dead for no other purpose than to gain the attention of men to what was the mere guess work of men subject to error in the things which they pretended to teach.
For myself I am perfectly satisfied that infinite goodness would never do any thing so imperfectly. I am satisfied, being convinced of the truth of the facts which you acknowledge, that the testimony of Jesus and his apostles respecting this and the coming world, may be relied on with the utmost confidence and safety. You intimate that Jesus said but a little on the subject of a future state. I am entirely of your opinion. And yet I am persuaded that he and his apostles have said as much on the subject as is necessary for us to believe. They have given sufficient proof that the design of our Creator is a design of eternal goodness to our race of being. Jesus has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. The Christian is enabled to hope for existence with God in an eternal state, and this is as much as our present welfare requires. I have no doubt that many passages of scripture have been applied to a future world, by Christian expositors, which have no allusion to such a case -- but this harms not the glorious truths and divine realities of the religion of the blessed Saviour.
I have many reasons for not believing in the general sentiment that supposes the revelation contained in the scriptures was designed to prepare men in this world for happiness in another, and that a want of a correct knowledge of this revelation here, would subject the ignorant to inconveniences in a future state. Such a sentiment is an impeachment of the wisdom and goodness of God. For if this were the case, why was the gospel not early published to all people? Why were ages after ages suffered to pass away, and generations after generations permitted to sink into eternity without a ray of that light which was indispensable to their everlasting happiness? Was it not as easy for the eternal to send his son at the dawn of time as after so many ages had passed away? Was it not as easy for him to communicate to all nations as to one? But divine wisdom has seen fit to manifest itself by degrees in the system of the gospel as well as in the knowledge of science; and we have no more evidence to believe, that those who go from this state to another ignorant of the gospel of Christ, will, on that account, be rejected of God from his favour, than we have to believe that those who have died ignorant of the sciences, will, on that account be so rejected.
Every communication from God, whether relative to the moral or physical world is evidently designed for our profit in the state where such communication is made. This improvement of the moral and religious state of man was the evident design of the revelation of God, and to this agree all the prophets. "Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle-tree."
You seem to be opposed to biblical criticisms. So am I, if the object be to fix a creed to which all must conform on pain of being anathematized, but if the object be to get the right understanding of the sacred text all in humble submission to that CHARITY which is greater than a FAITH that could remove mountains, no harm can ever arise from it, but a benefit.
No one can more sincerely wish to have the frivolities of superstition and the endless multitude of nothings which arrogant creed-makers have impiously superadded to pure christianity removed from the church than I do; but wisdom must direct in this great and necessary work. It was those who had more zeal than discernment who asked if they should pluck up the tares from among the wheat? They were told that they would pluck up the wheat with the tares. -- Let us be careful, my brother, and in our zeal to cleanse, take care and not destroy.
If you are troubled with unbelief, if this plague have entered your heart, permit me to suggest a remedy. Humility is the first step, sincere piety towards God the second, let these be followed by that for which the Bereans were commended and the deadly virus of unbelief will soon be purged. Will you say; "physician heal thyself?" I reply, I think I have found relief by the use of the prescription, and am so much in favour of it, that I am determined to continue its application myself as well as recommend it to others. If you ask why I do not direct some arguments more cogently to prove divine revelation? I answer, in the first place, you have granted the validity of the evidences; and secondly, if I think of the attempt, the brilliant labours of better abilities argue the impropriety of it.
But if you think it necessary to labour this subject, I will propose the single instance of the conversion of St. Paul for investigation. By this means we shall be kept from rambling after different subjects. If you can give a reasonable account of this conversion without admitting the truth of christianity, I will acknowledge you have left me destitute of one evidence on which I now rely. On the other hand, if you fail in this, you may reasonably suppose that you would fail in any other case of equal moment in this general controversy.
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[The letter containing extracts No.1, having been laid before the Rev. EDWARD TURNER, of Charlestown, Mass. he saw fit to reply to it. The following are extracts from his letter.]
"Passing over the principal parts of your introduction, which generally embrace sentiments to which I readily subscribe, I will just notice what you say concerning the study of languages. I am not so tenacious of this kind of study, as to believe that too much time has not often been employed in it. I am also convinced with you, that 'the truth or falsity of every proposition must depend on the truth or falsity of the principles embraced in it.' But still I am not able to say that the study of Greek and Hebrew can be of no 'possible service to an American.' Neither, because those languages are not a perfect 'security' against falsehood, does it necessarily follow that they are no 'security' at all. For how shall we arrive at the knowledge of the 'principle embraced in a proposition' without the knowledge and use of language? We cannot in any other way. Now if it be a fact, that a proposition embracing certain principles may suffer by translation, and even its principles be perverted and misrepresented, then, an understanding of the original, in which the proposition was written, may, in my opinion, be very useful. It may assist a man to arrive at a true knowledge of the 'principles' upon which said proposition is founded.
"'It gives you pain to see what time and money, what labour and toil are expended in plodding over an old dead letter, to learn languages, which exist no where only on paper, barely for the sake of reading the opinions of other men, in other times; men who lived in other ages of the world, and under very different circumstances from ourselves, whose opinions (all of which are worth preserving) might be given in our own language, so as to answer every purpose,' &c. -- But if these 'opinions' should be given in our own language, there must be some to understand Greek and Hebrew, or the opinions of those ancient writers, let them be worth ever so much, would never find their way to us. And when we have gained those supposed opinions, through the translation, how do we know that the translators were faithful? Who can say they were not warped by system? not misled by preconceived ideas? Who can say they have not wilfully imposed upon us? Under such circumstances, the ability to detect any inaccuracies or imposition, would, in my view, be very desirable. You have, yourself, my brother, availed yourself of this ability, and very justly merited the gratitude of your readers, by rectifying the judgment, upon certain terms used in the scriptures, the former translation of which, you have disavowed. As I value those efforts of yours, and have been instructed and edified by them, I am proportionably sorry to find them treated in the language of disparagement.
"You observe that 'the learned are as much at variance with each other as the unlearned,' and this circumstance you say, 'weakens your confidence.' But upon what subject are they not at variance, even where Greek and Hebrew are not concerned? Have philosophers been always agreed, when they have discoursed in one language? Have chemists been always of one opinion, though the subjects of their investigations are material bodies? You will not reply affirmatively. And if not, and no system can be found which is not in some degree 'liable to misconstruction, disputation and deception,' -- what are we to do? Shall we depend upon nothing? Shall we remain immovable for fear we should fall? Shall we never attempt to walk for fear we should stumble? I must be allowed to express my concern, that, it should appear 'not a little extraordinary to you that God should make a revelation of his will in one age and not in another, to one nation and not to another, or in one language and not in another, and if a special revelation was ever necessary at all it is difficult for you to see, why it is not equally necessary, in all ages of the world, to all nations of the earth and in all languages ever spoken by man.' It is true, I may be unable to see why a revelation was not equally necessary to one nation as well as to another, and at the same time, but is this a proof that no revelation was ever made to any nation at any time? I know of no special reason why the laws of electricity were not developed to my grandfather as well as to Dr. Franklin, with whom he was contemporary; or why the great principles of civil liberty should not have been discovered to other nations as well as to our own, and at the same time, or to ALL nations, a thousand years before they were discovered to one. But all this is no discredit to those discoveries. But I find reason to doubt whether a revelation 'is equally necessary in all ages of the world.' I doubt whether a special revelation is NOW necessary; and for a very obvious reason; because a special revelation has already been made. And as this, though at first, really special, follows the general course of other things which are beneficial, and which commence with a few and diffuse themselves to many, it is a reason which precludes the necessity of a constant recurrence of miracles or any other special medium of revelation. You certainly will not deny, that, admitting there has been a revelation from God, it has been progressive like all things else, which involve the interests of man. If we admit these facts, they will go far to explain some of the difficulties, to which you allude; but if we do not, our disbelieving in a special revelation will not remove, but increase our difficulties.
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