« ForrigeFortsett »
ance with the oracles of God, and is supremely anxious to impress on the minds of others the same convictions.
After these preliminary remarks, Mr. W. vindicates the text, 1 John v. 20. which he hasa ffixed to each of the four discourses, from the critical misconstruction of it in the Socinian controversy.
• The whole verse runs thus :" And we know that the Son of God is “come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him, that “ is true; and we are in him that is true, even in his Son, Jesus Christ; “ this for he) is the true God, and eternal life.” I am quite aware of the ambiguity arising here from the appearance of a double antecedent. By “ him that is true,” it is said, we are to understand the Father and to this appellation, which is the remote antecedent, the expression, “ this is the true God” may refer, as well as to “his Son, Jesus Christ,” which is the immediate antecedent.
• On this subject let me request your attention to the following brief remarks. It is the established general rule, that the personal, or the demonstrative, should be considered as referring to the immediate antecedent. To this general rule there are two cases of exception: 1st. When obvious and indisputable necessity requires the contrary,* But in the instance, in our text, no such necessity can be pleaded, except on the
previous assumption of the certainty that Jesus Christ is not the true God. Were this antecedently demonstrated, it might justify a deviation from ordinary practice. But to proceed on such an assumption is to beg the question in dispute. 2d. When the immediate antecedent holds no prominent place in the sentence, but is introduced only incidentally, the remote being obviously the chief subject, having the entire, or greatly preponderating emphasis in the
* Thus, when Peter, addressing the Jewish Council respecting the man that had been cured of his lameness, says, “ Be it known unte
you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus « Christ of Nazareth, even by him, doth this man stand before you “ whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders,
which is now become the head of the corner. Acts iv. 10, 11. No one ever imagines that because the lame man is the immediate antecedent, “ This is the stone,” must be interpreted as referring to him. The same impossibility of mistake exists, as to the reference of the demonstrative pronoun, in the following verse of the Second Epistle of John: “For many deceivers are entered into the world, « who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a “ deceiver and an antichrist." In shewing that the pronoun in the words of our text should be understood as referring to the remote antecedent, Mr. Belsham introduces this latter
and he mentions no other as a " similar case !" Of the degree of parallelism, and of the candour evinced in such a reference, I may safely leave the reader to form his own judgement.--Belsham's Calm Inquiry into the Scriptural Doctrine concerning the Person of Christ.' pp. 232, 233.
mind of the writer. It requires only the reading of the verse to satisfy any candid mind, that this is not the case here ; and that no reas son exists on this ground for any departure from the general rule.'pp. 37-39.
Having proved that the text really refers to Jesus Christ, Mr. W. proceeds to shew by the citation of numerous passages, what is the current phraseology of the New Testament on this subject; and adverts to the improbability that they are either interpolated, mistranslated, or misinterpreted. He then introduces the following judicious remarks.
• But it may be alledged, that there are other passages of scripture which speak a very different language from those which have been quoted : passages, in which Jesus is spoken of as inferior to the Father ;--as sent by the Father ; as obeying and serving the Father :: as receiving a commission, and executing a work, given him to do. All this we at once admit, with the very same readiness and cordiality with which we admit his having been a man. I address myself to those who acknowledge the scriptures as the word of God, and who are consequently satisfied that they cannot in reality contradict themselves. To such, I propose the following simple question :—which, of the two views--that which asserts the mere humanity of Jesus Christ, or that which affirms the union of his humanity with true and proper divinity-affords the easiest and most complete reconciliation of these apparent contrarieties, and the fairest solution of the difficulty thence arising ?-On this principle, we cease to wonder at the seeming contrarieties. We perceive them to be merely apparent; nay, to be such as we had every reason previously to expeet. If then, this be a key which fits all the wards of this seemingly intricate lock, turning amongst them with hardly a touch of interruption, catching its bolts, and layng open to us in the easiest and completest man. ner, the treasures of divine truth ;-if this be a principle, which, in fact, does produce harmony and consistency, while the rejection of it gives rise to difficulties without number; is not this of itself a strong presumptive evidence, that the principle is correct and well founded? I shall probably have occasion, observes Mr. W. to touch again on the reasonableness of this principle-a principle which might be reduced into a general rule of interpretation : that of two contending systems, that one ought to be preferred which not only affords a natural explanation of those texts, by which it seems to be itself supported; but, at the same time, furnishes a satisfactory principle of harmony between them, and those other passages which have the appearance of countenancing its opposite.' pp. 45–47.
By this philosophical canon the true interpretation of nature is conducted. When apparently opposite facts are ascertained by experiment and observation, and are supported by equal amounts of evidence, the scientific inquirer does not reject either
class of phenomena ; he forms no anticipations ;* he has no antecedent conceptions; his conclusions rest on the authority of established facts, and are founded on a sufficiently extensive induction. He considers the opposition in question, as resulting solely from his limited and partial knowledge; and if, in his attempts to generalise and classify the subjects of his investigation, he discovers a principle which reconciles and harmo. nizes every seeming contrariety, he willingly adopts it. What well authenticated facts are to the philosopher, the assertions of Scripture are to the religious inquirer who has just views of the evidence and authority of revelation. Whether the one can satisfactorily explain the facts, or the other, the assertions, are questions which ought not to affect the admission of either. But in another part of this article we intend to enter more fully into the ultimate grounds of religious belief; we shall therefore proceed in our analysis of Mr. W.'s discourses on the Divinity of Christ.
Having stated the principle to which we have adverted, he illustrates, at some length, an argument founded on the general scope and tenour of scriptural language, and exhibiting an indirect, though powerful testimony on this subject. He considers,
• The views which are uniformly given in the scriptures, of the unparalleled and inexpressible love of God, in the gift of his only be gotten Son ;--the marvellous condescension and grace of Jesus Christ himself, which the strongest possible terms are employed to express ;-the depth of interest, the warmth of admiring transport and adoring gratitude, excited in the bosoms of the New Testament. writers, by the contemplation, and even by the passing thought of the love of Christ ;-the representations given of the height of glory and honour, dominion and power, to which Jesus is exalted, as the consequence and reward of the work finished by him when on earth ; -and, finally, the singular claims of Jesus on the love and obedience of all his followers.'
The language used on these subjects, Mr. W. proves to be utterly extravagant and unaccountable on the hypothesis that our blessed Redeemer was no more than a mere human prophet, commissioned, like other prophets, to impart to mankind the will of God. The more we contemplate this argument, the greater importance it acquires in our estimation.
* Rationem humanam, qua utimur ad Naturam; anticipationes Natura, (quia res temeraria est et præmatura); at illam rationem, quæ debitis modis elicitur a rebus interpretationem Nature, docendi gratia, vocare consuevimus. Nor. Org. xxvi.- How applicable is this Baconian aphorism to theological inquiries ! Ed. VOL. HI. N. S.
Incidental passages often assist us in forming a more accurate conception of a writer's feelings and sentiments, than formal and elaborate confessions. They are striking indications of the sincerity and ardour of those feelings; they prove them to be interwoven with all the texture of his thoughts ;- and by their connexion with subjects apparently remote from the train in which they might be systematically introduced, they are clearly cvinced to be in his view of predominant interest and importance. In such cases it is evident the feelings are not factitious, nor the sentiments merely professional ; and we can appreciate the honesty as well as the force of his convictions. While this criterion, had we leisure to expand and illustrate its principle, might apply to the evidence of Christian character in general and the true style and tone of Christian preaching in particular, it becomes peculiarly interesting in its application to the writings and discourses of inspired apostles. By enabling us to ascertain the fact in reference to them, we are instructed as to our individual duty, unless we deem the example and belief of primitive Christians of no consequence; and we can feel no hesitation in determining 'which class of sentiments is most consonant to the records of such example and belief that which this volume opposes, or that which it defends. The little use Socinianism makes of the New Testament the terms of depreciation which it applies to the epistolary parts of it in particular—the frequent necessity to which it is reduced of lowering the tone of apostolic feeling--and the absence and rejection of every thing like devotional sentiment in this frigid zone of nominal Christianity-leave us no cause for doubt in our conclusions.
In the third and fourthi. discourses, Mr. W. expatiates at large on the direct proof of the Divinity of Christ from the ascription to him of the names, the attributes, the works, and the worship, belonging exclusively to the only true God: and here the evidence is most satisfactory and complete. Every text which the piercing scrutiny of modern criticism renders ambiguous or doubtful, is cautiously omitted ; not because in each instance he admits the propriety of such doubts, but because he is anxious to prove that the authority of truth is not confined to a few insulated passages, and to adduce unques-tionable and decisive testimonies. Nor is Mr. W. contented with bare citations, and a dogmatic application of them ; he discusses each testimony
minutely; and his argument is critical as well as theological. He meets fairly and ingenuously the objections of the most subtle Socinians ; occasionally adopts even the reading of what they call the Improved Version;' and detects with admirable skill the latent sophistry of the most refined and complicated reasonings. We were particularly pleased with
the remarks on Rom. ix. 5; and as they afford an ordinary specimen of Mr. Wi's ability in refutation, we shall insert the whole of his observations on the text.
• Rom. ix. 5. “Of whom (the Israelites) as concerning the flesh, “ the Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever." (iš v o χριστός, το καλά σάρκα, ο ών επί πάντων θεός, ευλογήθος εις τες αιωνας. This seems abundantly plain; so plain, and so decisive, that if there were not another text in the whole Bible, directly affirming this great truth, I know not how I should satisfy myself in rejecting its explicit testimony.-It has accordingly been put upon the rack, to make it speak, by dint of torture, a different language.
• It might, perhaps, be enough to say, respecting this passage, that according to the order of the original words, the received translation is the most direct and natural rendering. This, so far as I know, no one has ventured to deny. All that has been affirmed is, that it is capable of bearing a different sense. And this accordingly has been attempted in no fewer than five different ways:
• Of whom, by natural descent, the Christ came. God, who is over all be blessed for ever. "*_Whose are the fathers, and of · whom—the Christ came, who is above them all (the Fathers). • God be blessed for ever! - Of whom the Christ came who is • over all things. God be blessed for ever!'+_ Of whom the • Christ came, who is as God, over all, blessed for ever!'I-And by a conjectural emendation, · Of whom the Christ came, (and) whose, • or of whom is the Supreme God, blessed for ever.'S
With regard to the last of these various modes of evading this troublesome text, the severest terms of reprobation are not too strong. Conjectural emendation of the original text, is an expedient which all critics are agreed, nothing but indispensable necessity can in any case justify. In the present instance, the alteration is not only a most unwarrantable liberty with the sacred text, but even if on this ground it were admissible, it is liable to other objections, on principles of syntax, and of propriety as to sense. These, however, it is needless to state; because the emendation itself, although still suggested, as in its nature 'most happy and plausible, and spoken of in terms that shew evident reluctance to part with itll
, is acknowledged to be unsupported by a single manuscript, version, or authority, and is not insisted on. I must be allowed, however, to add, without questioning the ingenuity of its inventor, that its plausibility can only be felt by a mind strongly prepossessed in favour of the meaning which it is designed to support.
The translation again, which qualities the meaning of the term God, and to mark its being used in an inferior sense, introduces a
* Placing the full stop after oapxa.
Sve is the conjectured reading here for é ür.