Monday, January 24, 2011

peculiar care...

Longtime readers know that I love the Bible and take it seriously as a revelation and a guide. A ongoing project of mine has been to create a Commentary on the Gospels using the words of my beloved "Boston Unitarians" meaning, of course, the "founding generation" of American Unitarianism. That project continues. After a holiday blogging sabbatical I would like to start a series on how Unitarians changed Bible reading. As always, of course, I welcome any comments, expertise, etc...Though I have posted this before (I think) and though I will go backwards in time tomorrow, William Ellery Channing's "Unitarian Christianity" has to be the first word.

"I. We regard the Scriptures as the records of God's successive revelations to mankind, and particularly' of the last and most perfect revelation of his will by Jesus Christ. Whatever doctrines seem to us to be clearly taught in the Scriptures, we receive without reserve or exception...Jesus Christ is the only master of Christians, and whatever he taught, either during his personal ministry, or by his inspired Apostles, we regard as of divine authority, and profess to make the rule of our lives.

This authority, which we give to the Scriptures, is a reason, we conceive, for studying them with peculiar care, and for inquiring anxiously into the principles of interpretation, by which their true meaning may bo ascertained. The principles adopted by the class of Christians in whose name I speak, need to be explained, because they are often misunderstood. We are particularly accused of making an unwarrantable use of reason in the interpretation of Scripture. We are said to exalt reason above revelation, to prefer our own wisdom to God's. Loose and undefined charges of this kind are circulated so freely, that we think it due to ourselves, and to the cause of truth, to express our views with some particularity...

We profess not to know a book, which demands a more frequent exercise of reason than the Bible. In addition to the remarks now made on its infinite connexions, we may observe, that its style nowhere affects the precision of science, or the accuracy of definition. Its language is singularly glowing, bold, and figurative, demanding more frequent departures from the literal sense, than that of our own age and country, and consequently demanding more continual exercise of judgment. We find, too, that the different portions of this book, instead of being confined to general truths, refer perpetually to the times when they were written, to states of society, to modes of thinking, to controversies in the church, to feelings and usages which have passed away, and without the knowledge of which we are constantly in danger of extending to all times, and places, what was of temporary and local application. We find, too, that some of these books are strongly marked by the genius and character of their respective writers, that the Holy Spirit did not so guide the Apostles as to suspend the peculiarities of their minds, and that a knowledge of their feelings, and of the influences under which they were placed, is one of the preparations for understanding their writings. With these views of the Bible, we feel it our bounden duty to exercise our reason upon it perpetually, to compare, to infer, to look beyond the letter to the spirit, to seek in the nature of the subject, and the aim of the writer, his true meaning ; and, in general, to make use of what is known, for explaining what is difficult, and for discovering new truths."



Unknown said...

Thanks for linking to the image on our site. I wanted to let you know that the artist who created the illustration is Albrecht Dürer, a German from Nuremburg known for his incredible work with woodcuts and engravings. This piece is simply titled, "Hand Study, with Bible" and was created in 1506.

slt said...

Hi James,
I have often used Durer Illustations and usually give him credit. My apologies for not doing so today. Many thanks for writing and
Blessings, BU