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who are called serious Christians, a sort of leaning towards them; an idea that they are, if not true, at least good to be believed ; and that a salutary error is better than a dangerous truth."
Can it then be believed, that God can have directed the Scriptures to be so written that the true meaning of them in a case of this fundamental importance, a case in which mankind are in so imminent danger of becoming either impious, or idolatrous, is so obscure as to make plain men utterly unable to find it out, however honestly disposed ; and that the great body of religious men should, in all ages of the Church, have totally and infinitely mistaken their real intention? Can that mode of interpretation which leads of course to this conclusion, be the true one?
II. The Unitarians reject the doctrine, that Christ is God, and the obvious meaning of all those passages which teach it, because the doctrine is mysterious.
This I object to as a totally irrational ground of such rejection. There are two reasons which will effectually prove this irrationality.
1. All mankind readily admit, and, if they believe any thing, must every moment admit, mysteries, as the objects of their faith. This world is made up of atoms.
What are they? Dr. Priestley informs us, that they are “ centres of attraction and repulsion.” This definition, translated out of Latin English into Saxon English, is, that “ atoms are centres of drawing to, and driving from :" a definition which I believe it would puzzle Dr. Priestley himself to unriddle, and at least as applicable to points of space as to atoms. They are also defined to be “ solid extended somethings.” What is the something thus solid and extended? Here our inquiries are stopped, and an atom is found to be an absolute mystery. The world is made up of atoms.
What binds them together, so as to constitute a world? Attraction, it is answered. What is attraction ? To this there is no answer. The world, then, on which we tread, in which we live, and about which we think we have extensive knowledge, is wholly formed out of particles absolutely mysterious, bound together by a power equally mysterious. These atoms constitute vegetables. What is a vegetable ?
“An organized body," it is answered ; “ the subject of vegetable life.” What is vegetable life? To this question there is no satisfactory answer. In the same manner are we conducted to a speedy end in all our inquiries concerning tho mineral, vegetable, and rational worlds.
M tery meets us. at every step, and lies at the bottom of the whole. The power, by which this Discourse was thought, or written, or spoken, defies all human investigation.
If mysteries, then, are found everywhere in the works of God; can it be supposed, that they are not found in the character and being of the same God? There is nothing more mysterious, more absolutely inexplicable, in the doctrine of the Trinity, than in the power by which, and the manner in which, mind acts upon matter.
2. The Unitarians themselves, though professedly rejecting mysteries, admit them into their creed without number. That a creature created all things, upholds all things, possesses all t! vis, rules all things, and is the final cause of their existence ; that a creature should bo‘ the same yesterday, to-day, mi? for ever;' that he should be the final judge and rewarder of e just and the unjust; that he should sit on the throne of the heavens, and receive the prayers of inspired men in this world, and the everlasting praises of the heavenly host in the world to come; or that God, if these things are not so, should have caused or permitted them to be written in his word; are, to say the least, mysteries as entire and as inex plicable as any which have ever entered the thoughts of man. It ill becomes those, who admit these things, therefore, to reject any thing merely on account of its being mysterious.
III. The Unitarians take an unwarrantable license, with the language of the Scriptures.
I know not that I can express my own views of this subject, within the same compass, better than in the following words of a respectable writer, which are a part of some Observations concerning Dr. Priestley's Notes on the Scriptures. “ It is a leading and determined purpose of Dr. Priestley's Notes to serve the cause of what is arrogantly termed Unitarianism; and he has certainly kept this purpose in view. To say the least, he is a zealous and resolute advocate. His maxim seems to have been, to maintain his cause at all evonts.
Seldom is he at a loss for a gloss or an evasion, in aiming at the accomplishment of his object. If he meets with a passage whose indubitable reading, and whose obvious plain meaning are such as every unbiassed man would pronounce favourable to the diety and atonement of Christ, the Doctor is ready with ample stores of metaphorical, enigmatical, and idiomatical forms of interpretation; and stubborn must be that text which will not bend under one or other of his modes of treatment. In some cases a various reading, though'none of the best, is called in to his assistance. Should this aid fail, some learned critic, or other is at hand with a conjectural alteration. Or, if none of these means appear advisable, the philosophical commentator has in reserve a kind of logical alkali, which will at least neutralize a pungent passage; for example, the sage observation, About the interpretation of it critics differ muchi'
“ And lastly, in very desperate instances, a method is resorted to, the most simple and compendious imaginable; and that is, to say nothing at all about them!”,
One of the modes in which the Unitarians take unwariaatable license with the language of the Scriptures, is to pronounce passages to be interpolated, which are abun any evidenced by Manuscripts, ancient versions, and quotations in writings of the fathers, to be genuine parts of the Scriptures.
Another is, to declare, without warrant, words and phrases to be wanting ; and then to supply them; where they are supplied by no authority but their own. Thus Grotius and Dr. Clark supply the word sow in that remarkable text, Romans ix. 5; and then translate it, . Of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God' Be blessed for evermore,
This, it will be observed, does not aid them at all, because be' who is over all things,' is of course God.
Another mode is, to annex a meaning to some particular word, or phrase, which suits their own purpose, but which is entirely aside from all customary 18€. Thus Pierce interprets xx 2p7saylov nynoato TO EIYQI 194 Obw; 'He thought it no robbery to be equal with God;' to mean, He was not eager, or tenacious, to retain that likeness to God: a translation, which no criticism can justify, or satisfactorily explain.
Another mode of the same nature is, to suggest the.conjectural opinion of some other critic, or some learned friend ; which is introduced with so much gravity, as to give a kind of weight and speciousness to the peculiar interpretation proposed. Thus Dr. Priestley,* commenting on John xiv. 2, * In my Father's house are many mansions ;' says, “ Perhaps,
ny with a learned friend of mine, we may understand the mansions in his Father's-house, of which Jesus here speaks, to signify, not places of rest and happiness in heaven, but stations of trust and usefulness upon earth ; such as he was then about to quit,” &c. Here the house of God is made to mean earth, and mansions, stations ; and Christ, of course, was going away to prepare a place for his Apostles here, where he and they then were ; and was to come again, to receive them in the place whither he himself was going, that they might be with him’ there, by continuing here.
Another mode of the same nature is, an unbounded licence in making the scriptural language figurative.
That the language of the Scriptures is to a great extent and in a high degree figurative, is unquestionably true. But certainly there are limits to this character, not only in scriptural, but all other language. It must I think be admitted, that we are to consider the language of the Scriptures especially, and of all other good writings generally, as figurative, only in accordance with the following rules.
(1.) That the figure be agreeable to the state of the mind of him who uses it ; that is, to his views and feelings.
2.) That it be founded on some analogy or relation to the subject.
(3.) That it accord with the discourse, so far as to make
(4.) That in the Scriptures it violate no doctrine declared, at least by the writer.
(5.) That it be so obvious, as not to demand invention or contrivance in the reader.
(6.) That it be explicable according to the opinions, or other circumstances of those for whom it was written, so as to be capable of being understood by them.
(7.) That it suit the occasion and other circumstances of the discourse.
* Eolectic Review, No, ii, Vol. ii.
But how, according to these or any other rules of construing language, are we to interpret the declaration, For by him were created all things, that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers,' to mean, that Christ published the Gospel and constituted the Christian church? Is it the same thing to publish the Gospel, as to create? Is it the same thing to constitute the church, as to create? Are the Gospel and the church all things that are in heaven and that are in earth ? Are they all things visible and invisible ?' Who are the thrones,' the dominions,' the principalities,' and the powers ?' Are they bishops, elders, and deacons : the only officers ever supposed to belong to the church ?
The Holy Ghost is by Unitarians denied to be a person, and is commonly asserted to be no other than the power of God: the name Spirit being, in their view, always figurative. According to what rules of construction are we, on this plan, to interpret the following passages; in which I shall substitute the word power for Ghost, or Spirit ; always intending by it, however, the divine power.
All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven anto men ; but the blasphemy against the Holy' Power shall not be forgiven unto men. Matt. xii. 13. • Baptizing them in the
· name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy' Power. Matt. xxviii. 19. Why has Satan filled the heart, to lie unto the Holy' Power ? Acts v. 3. •God anointed Jesus with the Holy Power' and with power.' Acts x. 33. Romans xv. 13, • That ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy' Power. Romans xv. 19, · Through mighty signs, and wonders, by the power of the Power of God.' • In demonstration of the Power, and of power.' John
' xvi. 13, · Howbeit, when he, the Power of truth has come, be will guide you into all truth ; for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall be speak;' &c. &c. More instances cannot I think be peces
cessary to elucidate this part of the subject.
The last mode which I shall mention, a mode adopted when a passage is to stubborn to bend to any of the preceding, is, to leave it with such an observation as this : “ Critics are very much divided about the meaning of this pagsage ;” insinuating