power of the flesh, which always mixes itself with the former. If we neglect this distinction we necessarily fall into the Romish error about Tradition ; but with this disadvantage in comparison with the Church of Rome—that at all events, by the supposition of an infallible and perpetual organ of tradition appointed by Christ, her system is consistent. The case is quite different with us : for, upon the ground taken by the Evangelical Church, where shall she find this infallible Oracle? Shall we say with the Review; 'for this purpose has the State its Divines ?' But this is begging the question : for, on the supposition that the Divines are divided on the very substance of the evangelical doctrine, we must ask which party of Divines is to be followed ?

“What the Review proposes would come to this: that, the progress of the Church would be, as in old times, at the mercy of that party of Divines who should succeed in obtaining as it were a patent of Orthodoxy according to the judgment of the political Rulers, who, as men, are exposed to the influence of partial views and erroneous notions.

[ocr errors]

66 NEANDER.” Berlin, March 7th 1830.



1. Letters to a Friend on the Doctrines of the Trinity and the

Atonement. By George Walker. 2. Four Discourses on the Sacrifice and Priesthood of Jesus

Christ. By John Pye Smith, D.D., F.R.S. 3. Letters to the Rev. John Pye Smith, D.D., occasioned by the

recent republication of his Four Discourses, &c. By George

Vance Smith, B.A. 4. Lectures on the Scripture Doctrine of Atonement or of

Reconciliation through our ord and Saviour Jesus Christ. By the late Lant Carpenter, LL.D.

The appearance of these works—all of which, excepting the second, have been published during the last year-indicates the attention which Unitarian controversialists are beginning to concentrate on what is unquestionably the most prominent and the most important feature of the religious system which they impugn. The Atonement, of all the doctrines of Orthodoxy, has most hold on the feelings of its professors, and most show of support in the phraseology of the Scriptures. It has in consequence been, (looking at it merely in a controversial point of view), the Trinitarian's strongest ground, and the Unitarian's weakest. We think that symptoms of the consciousness of this fact have not been wanting on either side. Arguments on the Trinity, original sin, eternal punishment, and other topics in the popular system of divinity, the Unitarian has offered us without number; but the atonement, it seems to us, has been less frequently discussed, and then with very inferior success. Not that the Unitarian has doubted, in the smallest degree, the entire falsehood of the doctrine, but that he has felt very sensibly the difficulty of discussing it on the popular grounds, namely, the feelings of the believer and the phraseology of the Scriptures; and, on the other hand, how many thousands of unpledged Trinitarians are there, who will cede point after point connected with the other doctrines, with comparative indifference, but hold to the doctrine of the atonement as the most precious if not the most unquestionable in their creed.

There might have been a time when the Atonement was an appendage doctrine of the Trinity, but we are very certain that the reverse is now rapidly taking place, and that the Trinity is becoming an appendage-doctrine to the Atonement.

We are

glad, therefore, to see this mustering of forces on the latter ground. We do not ourselves think that the argument is yet made out on the Unitarian side, with a sufficient agreement in first principles and general views of Scripture to produce any very profound impression on the Orthodox mind. But every fresh labourer seems to bring some additional contribution of value, and we do not despair of seeing the argument reduced ere long to a compact and available form. The two great points to be achieved are, first, to show that the Scripture phraseology, usually supposed to support the doctrine of atonement, has no genuine meaning at all favourable to it, and secondly, to show how the infinite mercy of God must be as sufficient a ground of trust as the infinite atonement of Christ could have ever appeared to be. At present the attempts to explain Scripture proceed upon so many different principles, and are often so subtle in their character, that they fail to leave an impression of the requisite depth and distinctness on the orthodox mind, which is habituated to a far more determined and palpable meaning. But we are persuaded that the various independent efforts now made to put this doctrine on its proper footing, will result in a view as cogent and satisfactory, as the process of arriving at it seems to be gradual and slow.

We take up Mr. Walker's book first, as having lain longest upon our table. The circumstances in which it originated are interesting.

During the author's residence in a retired village in France, it was his good fortune to make the acquaintance of three English ladies of highly liberal and cultivated minds, but strictly orthodox in all their religious opinions. In reply to an invitation to join them in the morning service of the Church of England, he urged his objections to its doctrines, particularly those of the Trinity and the Incarnation. He was then referred to the various texts on which these dogmas mainly depend, requesting his own explanation of them, as well as the grounds in general of his dissent. It was with no small distrust of his competency to the task, that he entered upon an examination of these passages ; for he confesses that his opinions upon these subjects were more the result of early association, and, he may say, of a kind of hereditary prejudice, than of any serious and candid inquiry. Under the circumstances also in which he was placed, deprived of every resource, he had no other means of information than what could be derived from a diligent study of the Scriptures, as the only book to which he could have access. The result of this, he hopes, impartial investigation, is contained in the following letters.”

And a very remarkable production, the circumstances of the case considered, these letters must be admitted to be. Some traces of that “hereditary" influence, of which the author speaks as having previously to this inquiry very much guided his convictions, we may be allowed to trace also in his manly understanding and his earnest and vigorous style. The fine old man of Nottingham and Manchester is often resuscitated to our imagination in these pages ; his bold and masculine spirit reappears in his descendant, and something too of that warmth of temperament, by which tradition says he was distinguished; for our author as he gets deeper in his argument becomes warmer in his language, and we have sometimes thought that his lady correspondents must have had firm nerves or most kindly spirits, if they did not become a little alarmed, or a little angry, with the occasional vehemence of his remonstrances. But, in truth, it is scarcely possible to enter for the first time thoroughly into the details of the popular doctrines, and laboriously to follow out their course with the pen, without at length feeling something of the indignation of the author, when he says, p. 91, speaking of the doctrine of satisfaction, “ God forgive me, if I err, but in all the records of cruelty and crime, in all the frightful exhibition of Pagan rites, in all the ferocious excesses of superstition and fanaticism, I know nothing that can be placed beside it.” And we have long thought so too, but a certain coolness, that grows upon us by use, prevents us now from often saying so.

Mr. Walker's Letters consist essentially of two parts: one, composed of the initiatory and concluding letters, in which he treats principally of the doctrines of the Incarnation and the Trinity: and the other, forming the body of the work, on the doctrine of the Atonement. The mode of handling the subjects is not, as was to be expected, strictly methodical, but such as would naturally arise from the character of a friendly discussion by correspondence. The author leaps into the heart of his subject by boldly grappling with the epistolary texts, and especially with the Epistle to the Hebrews as a whole. On the eighth, ninth, and greater part of the tenth chapters, he gives a commentary. He starts with the hypothesis, that the Priesthood of Christ was typified in the Priesthood of the Old Testament; at least he thinks it evident that St. Paul perceived and wished to demonstrate, that a strict analogy subsisted between the two. Of this there can be no doubt, (supposing for the moment that the Epistle to the Hebrews is St. Paul's,) but we are inclined to think the analogy was ex post facto, and developed by the writer for the better conviction of his Hebrew correspondents, and not originally designed, in the strict form of type and anti-type; though Mr. Walker seems to prefer the latter supposition, for he says,—“ All these ceremonies of the law were so many types of Christ; the direct application of which to him was therefore imperative; no longer a matter of choice, but of necessity; it was requisite to show that in him the law was completed, and all these ceremonies received their final accomplishment-what they were in appearance, he was in reality and supereminently.”—Letters, p. 42, 43.

Assuming that this correspondence as between type and antitype, or at least this close analogy, is essential to the Epistolary argument, he shows with great acuteness and variety of statement, that the Doctrine of Atonement commonly held, entirely destroys it. He shows, that the atonement, ordained by the law, was merely an act of purification; was often made for inevitable defilements, where no sin or disobedience could exist; that it was sometimes made by fine flour; that the ceremony was precisely the same, whether it was for objects and places of worship, or for voluntary or inevitable defilements, and therefore it is deprived altogether of the character of an atonement in the common sense of the word; that it was simply a figurative lustration; that it could not be an expiation for guilt where none existed, and therefore cannot be indicative of any such quality in Christ's blood. He shows how, with the common view of the atonement, the analogy between the High Priest's entrance into the Holy of Holies and Christ's entrance into the presence of God, entirely fails. The atonement makes the shedding of Christ's blood necessary for our entrance, but the analogy requires that it should be necessary for his own. “ By his own blood he, not we, entered in, having obtained for us eternal redemption; that is, his blood was essential to the perfecting of himself before he could enter in as the redeemer of others; if then it was an atonement for the latter, it was equally so for himself.” The writer's " object was to show the Jews, that the purification of the High Priest by blood, to enable him to act as a mediator, was figurative of the power with which Christ was invested, through the merits of his own blood” (or submission unto death) as the mediator of the world.” " It was for Christ himself that his blood and sacrifice were efficacious; it was to qualify himself, before he could present others to be the objects of God's favour." He was himself to be made perfect through the extreme of suffering, to prove that he was worthy of the stewardship to be assigned him.

Finally, our Author points out that the justification by faith and the justification by blood cannot mean different things, but must mean the same. The express doctrine of the Epistle to



« ForrigeFortsett »