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because he needs his services: but a godly man is a special blessing to society, and may be called the peculiar treasure of the Lord, "a city set on a hill, a light shining in a dark-place."
It is unnecessary to enlarge upon this topic. I would briefly improve the discourse, by reminding you that the Jews perverted their religion, degraded their law, and abused their privileges, by the exercise of the spirit of exclusion, and contending that their nation were the special favorites of heaven. No sin of theirs is more severely reprehended than this in all the Bible.. Christians are liable to the same error, and have frequently run into it. The excluding spirit has shown itself in their conduct. They should remember, that as God threatened Israel with sore judgements, if they observed not the spirit of his law, so he denounces evil upon his professing people, under the light of Christianity, if they oppose his benevolent purposes, and arrogate to themselves honors that he has not conferred. May God guard us against spiritual pride, and make us "a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
From the Introduction to the Improved Version of the NewTestament by a Society in England.
MEANS OF CORRECTING THE RECEIVED TEXT CONTINUED. VERSIONS-ECCLESIASTICAL WRITERS.
2. THE Received Text is corrected by the assistance of the ancient Versions.
The christian religion having been rapidly propagated through all nations, the writings of the Apostles and Evangelists were soon translated into different languages, and many of those versions are still extant.
Every new version became an additional security to the text. It is not to be imagined, whatever might be the inclinations of some individuals, or of particular
churches, to corrupt the Scriptures, that all churches of all nations would agree in the same interpolations or omissions. Some of the countries where christianity was professed were beyond the limits of the Roman empire and it is not to be believed that the christians of those countries would suffer their versions to be altered, to conform to the peculiarities of the church of Rome. The general agreement, therefore, of the ancient versions with the Greek copies which are now extant, forms a very strong presumption in favor of the genuineness of the books of the New-Testament. Nevertheless, as the received Text is not perfectly correct, the ancient versions are often of singular use in discovering the true reading of a doubtful passage. They are sometimes preferable, even to manuscripts themselves; for some of these versions were made from manuscripts, which were more ancient and more correct than any which are now extant. They are not all of equal value, some being of greater antiquity, and more correctly translated than others. Some indeed are not original versions, but are merely translations of preceding versions.
Of all the ancient versions, the Syriac is reckoned to be of the most remote antiquity and of the highest authority. There are two Syriac versions. The most ancient and valuable, called the Peshito, was brought into Europe A. D. 1552, and printed at Vienna at the expense of the Emperor Maximilian. It contains only those books which according to Eusebius were universally acknowledged; together with the Epistle of James and it is in general use among the Syrian christians of every sect. These are strong presumptive evidences of its great antiquity.
A later Syriac version, more literal, but less elegant,. was made in the sixth century under the inspection of Philoxenus, bishop of Hierapolis, from whom it is called the Philexenian Version. An edition of this was published at Oxford by Professor White, A. D. 1778.
Two very ancient versions of the New-Testament, of high reputation, in the old Egyptian language, for the use of the christians who abounded in Egypt, are still extant. One is called the Coptic, the other, the Sahidic. The former is the dialect of the Lower, the latter of the Upper Egypt. The Sahidic version has never yet been published. Two valuable manuscripts of it are in the British Museum, from which some curious readings were extracted by the late Dr. Woide, who conjectures that this version was made in the second century. The Coptic version is still read in the churches of Lower Egypt, though it is not understood. It is accompanied with an Arabic translation, which is more intelligible to the hearers.
The Ethiopic version is used in Abyssinia. It contains the whole of the New-Testament, and is supposed to have been made in the fourth century. It agrees with the Alexandrine edition. This version was first published at Rome, A. D. 1548, by three Ethiopian editors. They had a very imperfect copy of the book of the Acts; the chasms of which, (that is, as they acknowledged, the greater part of the book,) they supplied by translating from the Greek and Latin into the Ethiopic. Similar liberties have probably been taken with other books, which greatly impairs the credit of the version; of which if a genuine copy could be obtained, the authority would be very high. Mr. Bruce the celebrated traveller brought over a copy of the Old Testament, but he could not succeed in procuring the New.*
Many Arabic versions are extant, but it is believed that none of them is of greater antiquity than the seventh century. The Armenian version was made in the fifth century: it would be of great value if genuine copies could be procured, but those which we have are notoriously corrupted from the Latin.
* Marsh's Michaelis, vol. ii. chap. vii. sec. 47.
There are many Latin versions of the New Testament, some of which are of great antiquity, and some are full of barbarisms. By order of pope Benedict XIV. A. D. 1749, a magnificent edition of four of these versions was published at Rome in four folio volumes. These are sometimes called the Italic versions, to distinguish them from the Vulgate.
The Latin Vulgate version was made by Jerome in the fourth century, by order of pope Damasus. Jerome was well qualified for the office by his abilities, learning, and industry: he performed it with great care, and completed his undertaking A. D. 384. This translation was very generally received and read in the Latin churches. The Council of Trent pronounced it to be authentic, and ordered it to be used wherever the Bible was publicly read, and in all disputations, sermons, and expositions. In pursuance of an order of this council a pompous edition of the Vulgate was printed at Louvain, A. D. 1573. Sixtus V. published a new edition, A. D. 1590, which he declared to be the authentic Vulgate, and that it was to continue for ever: notwithstanding which his successor Clement VIII. published another edition very different from, and in some passages contradictory to, that of Sixtus: this he asserted to be the only authentic copy :-a difference of judgement, which exposed the pretentions of the popes to infallibility, to the sarcastic animadversions of the protestant writers.
The protestant divines of the sixteenth century underrated the value of the Vulgate version, from opposition to the papists, who were too blindly attached to it. The truth is, that the Vulgate is found, in its most important various readings, to agree with the most approved manuscripts, and with the ancient versions of the best authority: so that the character of this version has risen greatly in the estimation of modern critics.*
* See Michaelis, on N. T. with Marsh's Notes, vol. ii. c. vii.
3. The Received Text is corrected, by comparing it with quotations from the New Testament, which occur in the works of the ancient ecclesiastical writers.
These quotations are very numerous in the writings of the Fathers, from the second century downwards; and are of the greatest use in rectifying the text of the New Testament.
It ought, however, to be remembered, that these writers sometimes quoted from memory, and sometimes merely by way of accommodation; in which cases they often quote loosely and inaccurately, and their citations are of little use. These citations therefore are of the greatest value, when they profess to quote from manuscripts which lie before them, and especially if they criticize or comment upon the text itself. And in disputed passages this is sometimes the only criterion, by which we can judge how the text was read by the author who cites it. For the editors of the works of the Fathers have sometimes taken the liberty to alter the reading of the author whose works they publish, to make it correspond with the Received Text. Thus, in the works of Gregory Nyssen, the printed text reads 1 Tim. iii. 16, "God manifest in the flesh :" whereas it is evident from his comment, that the word God was not in his copy; nor is it found in any ecclesiastical writer till the sixth century.*
With these limitations, quotations from the New Testament, which occur in the works of ancient ecclesiastical writers, are of the highest value and authority: for they quoted from manuscripts of more remote antiquity than any which are now extant: so that their authority in favor of a various reading is sometimes paramount to every other.
The ecclesiastical writers sometimes cite as scripture, texts, which are not to be found in any manuscript
* Dr. Clarke on the Trinity, p. 76.