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derangements of the earth's organism are, though under general laws, that operate under similar circumstances at all times in the earth's history, brought about so as to meet the special views of that provi. dential Creator, who still declares by his wrath as well as his mercies, “ all the earth is mine,"(Exod. xix. 5.) It may however, be mentioned here, that as the mouse was dedicated to Apollo (see a passage from Ælian further on,) it seems appropriately chosen that mice should infest a country where Apollo, (Baalzebub) was honoured ; and thus, as in the case of the greater visitation by sickness at Ekron, the mouse was an instrument of punishment, fitly adapted to bring the idolatry of the Philistines into contempt.
In order to simplify the illustration of the passage before us, I shall show, 1st, from the records of ancient and modern times, that mice have continually been employed as ministers of vengeance, and agents of destruction ; and 2dly, that the irruptions of mice generally occur at a time when the earth and elements are deranged; and reasoning from this, I shall next point out, that there is reason to conclude that the earth was shaken by the Lord throughout Philistia, at this time, in order to produce the desired effects ; justifying the conclusion by such arguments as may suggest themselves.
W. E. c.
DISSERTATION ON JOHN XX. 23, AND THE AUTHORITY OF
In the interpretation of Scripture, besides the knowledge of the ordinary acceptation of words, great regard is to be had to the peculiarities of the author's style, the genius of the language in the country where he lived, and to connect and compare one scripture passage with the others which relate the same facts or sayings, which we call parallel places. To these may be joined the judgment of the ancient doctors in the church, who, when they lived near the apostles' times, and do all agree in the sense of any text, and no reason appears why some few of the chief were biassed or erred, and misled the rest, it may be presumed, received their interpretation as a tradition from those that were best able to inform them.
By these rules we have been guided in our examination of the meaning of the 23d verse of the 20th chapter of the Gospel of St. John, “ Whose-soever sins you remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins you retain, they are retained.” And, upon mature deliberation, we consider Christ's meaning to be only this—" I give you, my apostles, authority to publish the gospel to all nations, and declare the terms and benefit of their repentance-faith, and remission of sins. To you, I say, I give this ministry of reconciliation, to gather disciples by baptism, to constitute a church, and instruct the members thereof in this and the other parts of Christianity; and they who accept these terms, and submit to your ministry, to them your labour shall not be in vain ; they shall certainly have their sins remitted, and receive the benefit in full of the pardon you do proclaim; they who withstand and reject these offers, shall remain in their sins, and all the judgment you
denounce against the impenitent shall be their portion.” To make this sense as clear to others as it appears to us, it may be well to remark, what learned men generally agree in, that the Jews, when they write in Greek, retain the idioms of their mother tongue; so that their books in the Greek language were looked upon as written in another dialect of Greek, which they call Hellenistic, of which the Greek, or Septuagint translation of the Bible, is a proof.
The Evangelists, being Jews, and illiterate men, and accustomed to the Greek Bible, naturally fell into this peculiar style; and studying to relate, as near as possible, in the Greek tongue, what Christ spoke in the common language of Jerusalem, their writings, of course, betray many instances of this peculiar idiom. As these are very obvious to every attentive reader of the Gospels in Greek, so especially are they apparent in St. John, whose style, from the circumstances of his situation in life, approaches least of all to the purity of true Greek.
Several instances of this might be adduced, but the remark of that excellent critic and profound scholar, Grotius, supersedes the necessity of multiplying examples. His words are, “Supra ceteros magna et in Johannis dictione simplicitas, et sermo Græcus quidem sed plane adumbratus ex Syriaco illius sæculi, hinc oratio adeo intercisa, tot copulativa conjunctiones, tot repetitiones vocum, quæ per relativa, minus frequentata Hebræis, et alia dicendi compendia vitari solent."
St. John's style thus bordering on the Hebrew, we must have recourse to that, whenever we meet with any obscure or harsh expressions in his writings. And by adopting this rule, we shall have, comparatively, little difficulty in explaining the text before us, since it will require little consideration to justify our interpretation by reference to the Hebrew language, and that dialect which the writers of the New Testament follow.
Now it is a common observation, of which every book in the Old Testament affords many instances, that verbs active in the Hebrew, in many cases, import no more than a declaration or notification of what is said to be done. Thus a prophet is said to effect what God by his mouth did only make known or foretell. Ezek. xliii. 3; the prophet says of himself, “ When I came to destroy the city;" upon which the margin observes, (taking it from Jonathan's Chaldee paraphrase,)“ when I came to prophesy that the city should be destroyed;" and referring to the time expressed, Ezek. ix. 2—7; x. 2. And when God commissions the prophet Jeremiah (i. 10) to be “over the nations, and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy—to build and to plant”-he gives him no more authority, than to pronounce what God spoke concerning kingdoms and nations, to pluck up and to plant, (xviii. 7–10.) For it was God that hewed them by his prophets, and slew them by the words of his mouth. (Hos. vi. 5.)
Thus the priest under the Law, to whom the charge of judging of every man's leprosy, whether it was infectious or not, was committed, is said to make him clean, whom he pronounces so, (Lev. xiii. 13–17;) and to pollute him, whom he pronounces unclean, (Lev. xii. 3, 44.) And in this case the expression is the more worthy of notice, because the leprosy was a type of the pollution of sin; and the actions of the priest under the Law, according to the early Fathers, represented, or were typical of, those of the priest under the Gospel.
The same figure of speech also was recognised in their judicial proceedings. The Hebrew word, for the judges acquitting any person, signifies, he made him just, or innocent; and for condemning any person, he made him wicked. Hence Absalom, (2 Sam. xv. 4,) “ Oh that I were made a judge in the land, that every man that has any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice. The Hebrew has it 19?D ??; and the Septuagint literally, ducaibow aŭrov, “I would make him just.' Hence Job, in his pleading with God, whom he describes as contending with him by suit, (x. 2,) says, “ I will say unto God, 1987W 58, do not make me wicked;" which appears to have misled the LXX. to render it un pè doeleiv didaoke, teach me not to be wicked ;' but the true sense is, do not condemn me.' And both these expressions occur in the same sense in the same sentence, Prov. xvii. 15 : “He that makes the wicked just, and he that makes the just wicked, both are an abomination." This is the verbal translation. But the LXX. gives us the true sense in these words, “ be that judges the righteous to be wicked, and the wicked to be righteous;' i. e. he that absolves the wicked, and condemns the righteous. So that Hooker* had reason to say, that to bless, to justify, and absolve, are as commonly used for judging or declaration, as of true and real efficacy.
Nor is this use of verbs active, for declaring or signifying, unknown to the New Testament writers. St. Luke, in recording the angel's words to Peter, (Acts x. 15,) has this expression-á ó Okos ékadápioe, ou un kolvov: 'what God has cleansed, or declared pure,' (for there was no other cleansing, than God's permission to eat such animals as he had forbidden under the Law,) 'that do not thou profane,'or“ call common," as St. Peter expounds the word, (ver. 28.) In like manner they use the word justify, Luke vii. 29; x. 29; xvi. 15. The publicans justified God, not surely by making God righteous, but by owning him to be so. And so St. Paul saith, “ Noah condemned the world,” (Heb. xi. 7 ;) imputing the event of the deluge to him, which, as a prophet, he foretold.
Now, suppose that Christ had commissioned his apostles in the same words, addressed by God to the prophet Jeremiah, “Behold, I have set thee over nations and kingdoms, to root out and pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant," i.e. 'whose kingdoms you root out shall be rooted out, and whose kingdoms you build shall be built ;' or, in the words of God to the priest, “ Whomsoever that has the plague of leprosy on him, thou shalt make clean, shall be clean; and whomsoever thou shalt pollute shall be polluted:" or, in the judicial phrase, “ whom thou makest innocent shall be innocent, and whom thou makest wicked shall be wicked ;" would not the Evangelist, in recounting these words of Christ, which he uttered in the vernacular tongue of Jerusalem, have used the same or like Greek words, which the LXX. translators adopted in the corresponding passages of the Old Testament? And would the Jews of their times have understood their Greek words in one sense, and those of the LXX. in another? Would they have conceived that the apostles were authorized to do and effect
• Eccles. Pol. lib. vi.
what the prophets and priests were only to declare and pronounce ? Would they think that the apostles' words were operative, and the others enunciative? No more then could they well mistake the words of Christ, with relation to remitting or retaining sins, recorded by St. John. Christ spoke them in the Syriac tongue, which admits verbs of doing to be interpreted by declaring. St. John writes them in Greek, and in accordance with the custom of other Jews when they made use of that language, he ascribes the same construction to Greek verbs of doing. The Jews of his age could not easily mistake his meaning: for besides this accustomed way of writing, they knew that God had promised remission of sins under the gospel by the Messias, that through him was to be preached unto the world forgiveness of sins, and it shocked their common notions of things that any beside God should pretend to it. “ Who is this that speaketh blasphemies ?" 5 Who is this that forgiveth sins ?" “ Who can forgive sins but God alone?” were questions at their tongues' end, as often as Christ, whom they looked upon as a mere man, said any thing which they desired to strain into a charge of blasphemy before the magistrate, or to misrepresent him for to the people.
It will not seem too low a construction of these words, to take them in the sense of publishing the gospel of pardon to the penitent, and wrath to the impenitent, if it be considered, that equally great things are spoken of the apostles, merely with respect of preaching the gospel, as are the remission or retaining of sins. For example, Can any thing higher be spoken of men than that they save souls--than that salvation, to which remission of sins is subservient, is wrought by them? And yet St. Paul scruples not to say this of himself and other gospel ministers (Rom. xi, 14), “ that I might save some of them." And again (1 Cor. ix. 22), “ I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." How so? How could St. Paul save them ? Did he die for them? Was he able to sanctify, or justify, or infuse any habitual grace? No. But as he tells us in the same Epistle, " By the GOSPEL ye are saved, if you keep in memory what I preached unto you." And he repeats it to Timothy (iv. 16), “ If thou take heed to thy doctrine, thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee."
Well might he say this, to whom Christ, when he called him to the apostleship, spake in as ample terms (Acts xxvi. 17, 18), Behold, I send thee to the Gentiles, “ to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." All this he did by preaching the gospel, which was light to them that were in darkness and error, and life and power to recover them out of the snare of the devil, whom sin had made his prisoners ; and peace to them that mourned for their offences, and carried the firmest assurance of eternal life to them that continued in well doing. Such is the efficacy of the gospel on many: so highly is their office magnified with whom the ministry thereof is entrusted.
Still, however, greater things on the same account (if greater can be) are spoken of them. They are, it is true, figuratively expressed, but the figures import a power truly astonishing, and even God-like.
(2 Cor. ii. 15, 16), “ We" (speaking of the apostles)" are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish.” Let the success of our ministry be as it will, our labours are acceptable to God through Christ, as the perfumes of the sacrifices were of old. “ To the one we are the savour of death unto death, and to the other the savour of life unto life." We are in a certain sense the dispensers of life and death wherever we come. We are like a mortal poison to those whose minds the god of this world has blinded ; and like a precions odour, that revives the faint and lowly hearts of them that are disposed to eternal life. So far the characters of the ministers of the gospel are very glorious. But if we are anxious to know in what regard the apostle affirms this, the same Epistle declares, “Thanks be to God, which always causes us to triumph in Christ, in manifesting the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. It is the knowledge of Christ, that has these two opposite qualities, according as it is received or not. And they who are the dispensers of this kuowledge by preaching, are therefore called “the savour of death unto death, and of life unto life.” Whoever seriously ponders these lofty epithets ascribed to the apostles, and that they belong to them for preaching the gospel, which alone produces the effects implied in those epithets, will not think it any diminution of authority, or of Christ's meaning, to say, the apostles did remit and retain sins, by publishing and applying the promises and threats contained in the gospel.
Since then the idiom of our Saviour's language, and St. John's version of it, allow this interpretation; and since there is no objection to our adopting this meaning; let us proceed to compare this text with the other Gospels, and to examine the context, in order to show that we ought to prefer this interpretation to any other.
To facilitate the comprehension of the subject, it will perhaps be desirable to place this portion of the Gospel at once before the reader, and then make the necessary reflections thereupon. John xx. Luke xxiv.
MARK xvi. 19 Then the same day 33 And they rose up the 14 Afterwards (cotepov, at evening [the day that same hour [Simon (v. 34) the last of his appearances Christ rose], being the and Cleophas (v. 18), whó that day, for he appeared first day of the week, when went to Emmaus the day first to Mary Magdalen the doors were shut, where of Christ's resurrection), early the first day of the the disciples were assem- and returned to Jerusalem, week (v. 9); again in bled for fear of the Jews, and found the eleven ga- another form unto two of came Jesus and stood in thered together, and them them, as they walked and the midst, and saith unto that were with them, went into the country, viz. them, Peace be unto you. 34 Saying, The Lord is Simon and Cleophas; and [Salutation at meeting.] risen indeed.
now, in the last place ] he 36 And as they thus appeared unto the eleven spake, Jesus himself stood as they sat at meat, and in the midst of them, and upbraided them with their saith unto them, Peace be unbelief and hardness of unto you.
heart, because they be37 But they were terri- lieved not them which had fied and affrighted, and seen him after he was supposed they had seen a risen. spirit.
38 And he said unto them, Why are ye trou
bled, and why do thoughts VOL. XX, NO, X.