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Addison tells us, that "he knew all the arts of affecting the mind."*

Bentley, in the Preface to his edition of the Paradise Lost, speaks of him thus:

"He could spatiate at large through the compass of the whole universe, and through all heaven beyond it; could survey all periods of time from before the creation to the consummation of all things."

"Milton's strong pinion now not heaven can bound," are the words of Pope.†

"He passed," says Gray, "the flaming bounds of place and time, and saw the living throne" of God.‡

In the age subsequent to his own, "he continued," says Aikin, "to stand alone, an insulated form of unrivalled greatness." §

Why do we not understand all this language strictly and to the letter? Why, without a moment's hesitation, do we put upon the expressions of all these different authors a sense so very remote from that which their words are adapted to convey, when viewed independently of any extrinsic consideration by which they may be explained? The answer is, because we are satisfied (no matter how) that all these writers believed Milton to be a man, and one not endued with supernatural powers. This consideration determines us at once to

# [Spectator, No. 333.]

[Imitations of Horace, Book II. Ep. I. 99.]

[Ode on the Progress of Poesy, III. 2.]

§ [Letters to a Young Lady on English Poetry, Letter XI.]

regard their language as figurative, or as requiring very great limitation of its verbal meaning.

Let us attend to another example of the application of those principles which have been laid down. Our Saviour says, "Whoever lives and has faith in me will never die"; and similar declarations, as every one must remember, were often repeated by him. I recollect to have met with a passage in an infidel writer, in which it was maintained that these declarations were to be understood literally; and that Christ meant to assure his disciples that they should not suffer the common lot of man. Why do we not understand them literally?, Because we are satisfied that our Saviour's character was such that he would not predict a falsehood. An infidel, likewise, might easily satisfy himself that his character was such that he would not predict what the next day's experience might prove to be a falsehood.

I will give one more example: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you have not life within you."† He who will turn to the context of the passage may see that this declaration is repeated and insisted upon by our Saviour, in a variety of phrases and in different relations. The Roman Catholics understand this passage, when viewed in connection with the words used in instituting our Lord's supper, as a decisive argument for the doctrine of transubstantiation. If either doctrine were capable of proof,

* John xi. 26.

↑ John vi. 53.

I should certainly think that there was no passage in Scripture which went so far to prove the doctrine of the Trinity, as this does to prove the doctrine of transubstantiation. Why, then, do we not understand the words in the sense of the Roman Catholics? Why do we suppose a figure so bold, and to our ears so harsh, as we are compelled to suppose, if we do not understand them literally? Solely because we have such notions of the character and doctrines of our Saviour, that we are satisfied that he would not teach anything irrational or absurd; and that the declaration in question would be very irrational, if understood literally without reference to the doctrine of transubstantiation; and altogether absurd, if supposed to imply the truth of this doctrine. It is upon the same principle that we interpret a very large proportion of all the figurative language which we meet with. We at once reject the literal meaning of the words, and understand them as figurative, because, if we did not do this, they would convey some meaning which contradicts common sense; and it would be inconsistent with our notions of the writer, to suppose him to intend such a meaning. But this principle, which is adopted unconsciously in the interpretation of all other writings, has been grossly disregarded in the interpretation of Scripture. If one should interpret any other writings (except those in the exact sciences) in the same manner in which the Scriptures have been explained, he might find as many absurdities in the former as there are pretended mysteries in the latter.

Upon the principle just stated, we may reject the literal meaning of a passage, when we cannot pronounce with confidence what is its true meaning. The words of our Saviour just quoted are an example in point. One may be fully justified in rejecting their literal meaning, who is wholly unable to determine their true meaning. To do this is certainly no easy matter. Similar difficulties, that is, passages about the true meaning of which we can feel no confidence, though we may confidently reject some particular meaning which the words will bear, are to be found in all other ancient writings as well as the Scriptures.

If the facts and principles respecting interpretation which have been stated are correct, any one who will examine what has been written concerning this subject may perceive how little it has been understood by a large proportion of those who have undertaken to lay down rules of exposition, and how much it has been involved in obscurity and error. There are many writers who appear, neither to have had any distinct conception of the truth, that sentences are continually occurring which may severally express very different senses when we attend only to the words of which they are composed, nor, of consequence, any just notions of the manner in which the actual meaning of such sentences is to be determined. Yet it is to such sentences that the art of interpretation is to be applied; and its purpose is, to teach us in what manner their ambiguity may be resolved.

We are now, then, prepared to answer the question formerly proposed. Certain passages are' adduced by Trinitarians in support of their opinions. We do not deny that there are expressions in some of these passages, which, the words alone being regarded, will bear a Trinitarian sense. How is it to be ascertained whether this sense, or some other, was intended by the writer?

Now this is a question which, as we have shown, is to be determined solely by extrinsic considerations; and all those considerations that have been brought into view in the former part of this discussion bear directly upon the point at issue. My purpose has been to prove that the Trinitarian doctrines were not taught by Christ and his Apostles. If this has been proved, it has been proved that they were not taught by them in any particular passage. All the considerations that have been brought forward apply directly to the interpretation of any words that may be adduced; and if these considerations are decisive, then it is certain that the Trinitarian exposition of every passage of the New Testament must be false. Their force can be avoided but in one way; not by proving, positively, that certain words will bear a Trinitarian meaning, that is conceded; but by proving, negatively, that it is impossible these words should be used in any other than a Trinitarian meaning,that they admit of but one sense, which, under all circumstances, they must be intended to express. But this no man of common information will maintain. If, then, there be not some gross error in the

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