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ments. Indeed with us Protestants, the meanings in present use assigned to these two words, are so totally distinct, the one relating solely to doctrine, the other solely to positive institutions, that it may look a little oddly to bring them together, in the discussion of the same critical question. But to those who are acquainted with Christian antiquity, and foreign use in these matters, or have been accustomed to the Vulgate translation, there will be no occasion for an apology
13. BEFORE I finish this topic, it is proper to take notice of one passage wherein the word μυςηριον, ,
be plausibly urged, must have the same sense with that which present use gives to the English word mystery, and denotes something which, though revealed, is inexplicable, and, to human faculties, unintelligible. The words are, Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness : God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. I do not here inquire into the justness of this reading, though differing from that of the two most ancient versions, the Syriac and the Vulgate, and some of the oldest manuscripts. The words, as they stand, sufficiently answer my purpose. Admit then that some of the great articles enumerated may be justly called mysteries, in the ecclesiastical and present acceptation of the term ; it does not
25 1 Tim. iii. 16.
follow that this is the sense of the term here. When a word in a sentence of holy writ is susceptible of two interpretations, so that the sentence, whichso. ever of the two ways the word be interpreted, conveys a distinct meaning suitable to the scope of the place; and when one of these interpretations expresses the common import of the word in holy writ, and the other assigns it a meaning which it plainly has not in any other passage of Scripture, the rules of criticism manifestly require that we recur to the common acceptation of the term. Nothing can vindicate us in giving it a singular, or even a very uncommon, signification, but that all the more usual meanings would make the sentence involve some absurdity or nonsense. This is not the case here. The purport of the sentence plainly is, “Great unques
tionably is the divine secret, of which our religion, “ brings the discovery; God was manifest in the “flesh, &c.”
I PROPOSED, in the second place, to offer a few thoughts on the import of the word βλασφημια, frequently translated blasphemy. I am far from affirming that in the present use of the English word, there is such a departure from the import of the ori
ginal, as in that remarked in the preceding article, between uusaplov, and mystery: at the same time it is
, proper to observe, that in most cases there is not a perfect coincidence. Baaoonuia properly denotes
Βλασφημια calumny, detraction, reproachful or abusive language, against whomsoever it be vented. There does not seem, therefore, to have been any necessity for adopting the Greek word into our language, one or other of the English expressions above mentioned, being, in every case, sufficient for conveying the sense. Here, as in other instances, we have, with other moderns, implicitly followed the Latins, who had in this no more occasion than we, for a phraseology, not originally of their own growth. To have úniformly translated, and not transferred, the words βλασφημια and βλασφημειν, would have both contributed to perspicuity, and tended to detect the abuse of the terms when wrested from their proper meaning. That Baaoonuia and its conjugates are in the New Testament very often applied to reproaches not aimed against God, is evident from the passages referred to in the margin 20; in the much greater part of which the English translators, sensible that they could admit no such application, have not used the words blaspheme or blasphemy, but rail, revile, speak evil, &c. In one of the passages quoted, a reproachful charge brought even against the devil, is
26 Matth. xii. 31, 32. xxvii. 39. Mark, xv. 29. Luke, xxii, 65. xxiii. 39. Rom. iii. 8. xiv. 16. 1 Cor. iv. 13. x, 30. Eph. iv. 31. 1 Tim. vi. 4. Tit. iii. 2. 1 Pet, iv, 4. 14. Jude, 9, 10. Acts, vi. 11. 13. 2 Pet. ií. 10, 11. VOL. II.
called κρισις βλασφημίας 27, and rendered by them railing accusation. That the word in some other places ?ought to have been rendered in the same general terms, I shall afterwards show. But with respect to the principal point, that the word comprehends all verbal abuse, against whomsoever uttered, God, angel, man, or devil ; as it is universally admitted by the learned, it would be losing time to attempt to prove. The passages referred to will be more than sufficient to all who can read them in the original Greek
$ 2. Bur it deserves our notice, and it is principally for this reason, that I judged it proper to make some remarks on the word, that even when Braoonuca refers to reproachful speeches against God, and so comes nearer the meaning of our word blasphemy; still the primitive notion of this crime has undergone a considerable change in our way of conceiving it. The causes it would not perhaps be difficult to investigate, but the effect is undeniable. In theological disputes nothing is more common, to the great scandal of the Christian name, than the imputation of blasphemy thrown by each side upon the other. The injustice of the charge, on both sides, will be manifest on a little reflection, which it is the more necessary to bestow, as the commonness of the accusation, and the latent, but contagious, motives
27 Jude, 9. 28 Acts, xiii. 45. xii. 6. xxvi. 11. 13. 2 Tim, iii. 2.
Col. iii. 8.
1 Tim. i.
of employing it, have gradually perverted our con. ceptions of the thing.
§ 3. It has been remarked already, that the import of the word Braconuia is maledicentia, in the largest acceptation, comprehending all sorts of verbal abuse, imprecation, reviling, and calumny.
, Now let it be observed, that when such abuse is mentioned as uttered against God, there is properly no change made in the signification of the word;
i the change is only in the application, that is, in the reference to a different object. The idea conveyed in the explanation now given is always included, against whomsoever the crime be committed. In this manner every term is understood that is applicable to both God and man. Thus the meaning of the word disobey is the same, whether we speak of disobeying God or of disobeying man. The same may be said of believe, honour, fear, &c. As therefore the sense of the term is the same, though differently applied, what is essential to constitute the crime of detraction in the one case, is essential also in the other. But it is essential to this crime as commonly understood, when committed by one man against another, that there be in the injurious person the will or disposition to detract from the person abused. Mere mistake in regard to character, especially when the mistake is not conceived by him who entertains it to lessen the character, nay, is supposed, however erroneously, to exalt it, is never construed by any into the crime of defamation. Now, as blasphemy