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on the plan of this which it has been my lot to undertake, is much wanted at the present moment, must, I think, be universally acknowledged. When we recollect the very close and earnest attention which even scholars, trained up in all the habits of acute disputation, are obliged to bring with them to the study of the Epistles of the New Testament, before they can do sufficient justice to the profundity of reflection and the elaborate acuteness of argument which they contain, we surely cannot but feel that to a vast portion of the religious world they must, in the form in which they are most usually resorted to, present much which is liable to misconstruction, and much which must appear almost hopelessly obscure. What portion of that obscurity may be made clear to the understanding of common readers, by discarding the occasionally obsolete phraseology and constrained idioms of our established version, and by distending over a wider surface the closely compressed thoughts and deep argumentation of the original compositions, may admit of difference of opinion. Something in this Something in this way however may, at all events, be done. It is surely no derogation from the value of these, or of any other, portions of the sacred writings to assert of them, that, unless we suppose the same preternatural aid invariably to attend. the reader of them which we believe to have accompanied the original writers, the degree of their perspicuity must in all ages depend upon the same combinations of accidental circumstances which produce, or
diminish, that of all other literary compositions whatsoever. Allusions to the facts whether of sacred or of profane history can only, without a miracle, be understood by those persons who have in some degree made that department of history their study; and polemical discussions, whether on questions of philosophy or religion, must be deprived of their technicalities, and be more broadly and distinctly brought out in plain and familiar language, before they can be made as intelligible to the inexperienced and occasional student, as they are in their original shape to the exercised disputant. To assert therefore universally of Scripture, that, as being the revelation of Infinite Wisdom, it can need no explanation or comment whatsoever for the purpose of making it intelligible to all classes of readers, is evidently a mis-statement of the practical fact, from a misconception of the question. Our dispute is not so much with regard to the intrinsic clearness of the truths themselves, when fully and adequately announced, as with the imperfect mode and vehicle by which those momentous truths are necessarily conveyed to the parties for whose instruction we are solicitous. The most perfect revelation of the divine will can, after all, be transmitted to our minds only through the very uncertain medium of human language, the standard of which even in one and the same nation varies from age to age; and practical doctrines which were completely intelligible to the humblest capacities, so long as they bore upon existent and established usages
of society, must of necessity become to a certain degree obscure in proportion as those usages give place to, and are superseded by, others entirely dissimilar.
In alluding however to those difficulties which time and accident have introduced into the sacred volume, I am far from asserting that the original work itself is so entirely free from obscurity, as many truly good men, in their zeal for the cause of religion, have been disposed to maintain. Close and profound reasoning, such as we find in the Apostolical Epistles, and more especially in those of St. Paul, cannot be immediately pursued and assented to by the average understandings of mankind, even where the subject-matter embraces only the ordinary problems of human knowledge; much less can we expect that it will be uniformly intelligible where the points under discussion are the transcendental mysteries of God's providence; and where the inspired mind of the writer, itself perfectly familiarized with these profound topics, glances from one head of argument to another with a fluent rapidity of apprehension, with which the most highly gifted of his readers ineffectually strives to keep pace.
These impediments, however, to the due interpretation of Scripture are after all as nothing, when compared with those superadded difficulties which necessarily attend the substitution of modern translations in the place of the original text. The transfusion of the doctrines contained in the several inspired writings into a language such as ours, differing in its whole con
struction so entirely from those in which they were first conveyed, has been a source of fresh obscurity which, paradoxical as it may appear, has in some cases been increased in exact proportion to the caution and accuracy with which the various translators have performed their work. The total diversity of idiom which distinguishes one language from another, and more especially the ancient from the modern, presents an insuperable barrier against every attempt to translate literally any work of considerable length, so as to preserve at the same time actual identity of expression and that perspicuity of idea which is necessary to put us into complete possession of the sentiments of the original writer.
The remark which is clear as the light when conveyed in its own vernacular idiom, is often obscurity itself when harshly but closely rendered without accommodation to the peculiar phraseology of other nations. Every person who has been in the habit of referring to the original Greek for the explanation of those passages of the Apostolical Epistles which appear intricate and obscure in our English version, must have had continual occasion to observe the justness of this assertion. An expression may have been unexceptionably rendered word for word, yet for want of accordance with the structure and associations of our own language, it will often be nearly unintelligible in its English dress, where the Greek shall present no difficulty whatever. Examples to this effect may be collected in abundance from almost every page of the
compositions in question. Take, for instance, that part of the concluding paragraph of the second Epistle to the Thessalonians, in which St. Paul states, that his genuine letters may always be recognized as such, from the fact of the valedictory salutation being his own autograph, and written in a peculiar character, the form of which he begs may be attentively examined. Nothing can be clearer than the statement as conveyed in the original Greek, ̔Ο ἀσπασμὸς τῇ ἐμῇ χειρὶ Παύλου, ὅ ἐστι σημεῖον ἐν πάσῃ Ἐπιστολῇ· οὕτω γράφω. Yet the English version, though scrupulously exact in point of form, scarcely suggests any definite idea to a reader whose literature does not extend beyond our own language. "The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every Epistle: so I write." The defect here is evidently a too great attention to verbal accuracy; yet where the subject-matter of exposition is the inspired word of God, it is not very obvious what latitude of expression can be safely allowed to persons specially appointed to transmit it to the unlearned, pure from any admixture of human theory as they first received it.
The difficulty, accordingly, which attends the correct transmission of the sentiments of an author, and which may always be evaded or obviated in the case of the works of profane literature, by adopting at will other modes of expression more in accordance with the associations of the translator, and of the nation for whose benefit the version is intended, presses, on the contrary, heavily, because inevitably, wherever the object is to