Obrázky na stránke

with his own hypothesis concerning the homogenity of man, and knowing my friend's aversion to metaphysics, he declined entering into an argument to the detail of which he might possibly conceive that his opponent would not listen, or the force of which he might not comprehend.

Previous to the exhibition of what my friend calls the "grand arguments” for the doctrine of the pre-existence of Christ, he makes a very remarkable and important concession, which however creditable to his candour, is, I scruple not to say, fatal to Bis argument. " I shall readily acknowledge,” says he, p. 157, es that there is nothing decisive upon this subject in the three first evangelists." And again, p. 158, “ I do acknowledge that if there was no other part of the New Testament extant, but 'the three gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, I could not find sufficient evidence for the doctrine which I am now maintaining.

With much sang froid, my friend declines to answer the questions which, to say the least, very naturally offer themsclves upon the subject: “ Were these evangelists ignorant of

the pre-existence of Christ when they wrote ? or, if acquainted with the doctrine, why did they not insist upon it in their writings? These are questions,” says he, “ which-I am not solis crious to answer, let those answer them who maintain that a belief in this doctrine is necessary to salvation.” p. 159. Without, however, pretending to this qualification, I will take leave to volunteer an answer to both these important questions which my friend's modesty or prudence has left untouched. In the first place, I affirin without fear of contradiction, that if Christ was, as my friend maintains, "the grand agent employed by the Supreme Being in creating and governing the world, and the immediate dispenser of all things," the evangelists must have been well informed of this fact at the time they wrote their respective histories, Matthew was himself an aposile. Mark was the companion of Peter. · And Luke was the associate of Paul in all his missionary labours, and did not finish his beautiful history till after Paul's imprisonment at Rome. It will not then for a moment bear a question whether they knew of the pre-existent dignity of Christ if that doctrine were true. Nor has it ever been disputed by those who have believed the fact.

But is it possible that the evangelists could have known these amazing facts and yet that in their histories of the life and ministry of this extraordinary person they should pass them over in total silence. Is it possible that a historian, with the feelings of a man, should sit down expressly to write a circumstantial account of the transactions of the Creator and Governor of the world when he resided for thirty years upon earth in human shape, and at the same time never to let fall the slightest hint of his real essence and dignity, and never to say any thing more concerning him than they would have related of a mere human being in similar circumstances? Would not the mind of a Jew who had never heard of delegated creators and subordinate Jehovahs, have been overwhelmed with astonishinent when this new and strange doctrine was first discovered to him ? Would not his intellectual powers have been absorbed in amazement, when he was first informed that the person, whom he had perhaps seen a helpless infant in his mother's arms, whom he had known as a child, with whom he had conversed with all the familiarity of a friend, who was subject to all the incidents and infirmities of human nature, who was liable to hunger and thirst, and weariness, and pain, and sleep, was no less a being than the creator, sustainer and governor of the world, and the Lord of angels? Is it possible that a historian under such impressions, and sitting down to write the memoirs of such a personage, should introduce his history with a simple narrative of the genealogy of David and of Joseph ? An introduction than which nothing could be more proper, if our Lord was the legitimate son of Joseph, and the natural descendant of David and Abraham, agreeably to the predictions of the Jewish prophets; but which must be most unnatural and insipid, at the commencement of the memoirs of an incarnate Creator. How happens it that three out of four of the evangelical historians, writing at different places, and for the immediate use of different and distant churches, and professing to communicate all that was necessary to be known concerning their revered Master, should agree to pass over in silence, these extraordinary circumstances ? How could these evangelists answer it to their consciences and to their converts, or to their great Master bimself, to omit facts, the practical influence of which, is so eminently beneficial? I marvel not that my good friend deprecates all such interrogatories as these. Upon his system they must be absolutely unanswerable. If the evangelists had the feelings of men, they could not possibly be siTent, if they had known these facts: therefore they did not know them: and consequently it cannot be true that Jesus Christ is the maker and governor of the world, either supreme or subordinate.

To obviate the difficulty arising from the high importance of the facts omitted, my friend introduces a distinction unknown before in theology, as far as my information extends. He distinguishes between “ primary and secondary truths," p. 226; VOL. II.

4 B

and in the catalogue of secondary truths, he inserts the pre-exo istence of, and the making of all things by Jesus Christ, and the doctrine of atonement and of divine influences. What his Arian brethren will say to this new classification of their peculiar and favourite doctrines I know not. For my own part I ackowledge no such distinction. All revealed truth must be important truth. But that is not the whole of the present question. What I contend for is, that the incarnation, or rather the incarceration of the Creator and Governor of the world in a human body, is an idea so stupendous, and to the evangelists so perfectly new, that if they were men, with the feelings of men, it must have wholly occupied their inaginations, their memories, their tongues and their peus ; they could no more cease to thinki, to speak or to write upon the amazing subject, than they could cease to breathe. And to compose che history of this extraordinary personage without once alluding to, or even without principally insisting upon, his superangelic nature, dignity and offices, would be a moral impossibility very nearly bordering upon a physical one. And they who can believe this, ought not to reproach the Athanasians, or, the believers in transubstantiation, with credulity *.

* When it was believed at Lystra, Acts, xiv. in consequence of the miraculous cure of the cripple, that the gods had descended in the shape of men, the whole city was in a commotion, and Paul and Barnabas with dificulty prevented the priests and the people from offering sacrifices to them. All this was perfectly natural, and exactly what mighi be expected in such circumstances. But when the Maker and Supporter of all things actually descends into this world and appears in a human form, the men whom he chuses as his a sociates and disciples, knowing his cuperior rank and dignity, nevertheless eat and drink and converse with him with the greatest familiarity, they intcrrogate him, and at times reprove him, as if he had been an ordinary man. They even sit down to write his history, but take no more notice of his pre existent dignity, attributes and works, nor of his condes scension and humiliation in assuming human nature, than if no such event had ever taken place. And yet our Arian brethren sec nothing in all this but what is perfectly o tural ard credibe; nothing to excite tircir astonishment, or, to stager their faith? Tas ume that his dissip es while they conversed familiariy with him, knew at the same time the dignity of his person, from the stress which the Ariars lay upon " those strong and conclusive passages which acquire no comment," and which my friend has allered from the evangelit John. For either the disciples did know the superior dignity of Christ, and yet conversed with him upon terms of perfect familiarity, which is incredible, or, they were ixt, during his life time, apprized of his digiity, and then there texts, " the sen e of which is so very plain and obvious,” must have been understood by the persons to whom they were spoken in a sense very diffcrent from that which the Arians annex to them, ani perfectly compatible with the simple humanity of Christ. I !cave it to my friend to decide upon which of the horns of this fatul di emma he may chuse to fasten himself. I would only coserve with respect to that excellent prayer in which our Lord petitions to be received to the glory which he had with the Father before the world was, and wirich is thought by many to put the doctrine of his pre-existence beyord.Il contradiciion, thac the apo tle, do rct appear to have gained any new biomatun írom it. Immediately afterwards they sonierse with him tanularly,

But though my friend very candidly and fairly gives up the evidence of Matthew, Mark and Luke, he apprehends that he stands upon firm ground upon the authority of John and Paul. “The grand arguments for this doctrine of the pre-existence of Christ, are,” says be, p. 160,“ to be found in the writings of the apostle John, who wrote his gospel professeilly to supply what the other evangelists had omitted, and in the writings of the apostle Paul, who declares that he received the knowkalne of the gospel from Christ himself, and we cannot appeal to higher authority.” In this deference to the thority of these eminent missionaries of Christ, I am happy to agree with my worthy friend : at the same time, I confess that it would appear to me very unaccountable if they alone should be commissioned to reveal these extraordinary facts, concerning which three of the evangelists are totally silent. Surely then we have reason to expect that the testimony, which is produced from their writings should at least be explicit and unequivocal. Accordingly my worthy friend regards this testimony as clear and decisive. For, as to the gospel of John, he satisfies himself with produring a few detached texts as they stand in the English version, “ without any, or with very little comment, because,” says he, p. 167," they do not require it. If we take them in their plain and obvious sense they are sufficiently dear: and great ingenuity, with laboured criticism, must be used by those who understand them in a different sense.”

" O argument, O argument, the Lord rebuke thee,” was the exclamation of the honest quaker when he was puzzled to make a reply. But notwithstanding the quaker's obicetion to arguinent, and my worthy friend's dislike of criticisur, I musi sull believe that the diligent use both of reason and of scripture are essentially requisite to the honest and resolute inqnirer after truth. If indeed my friend can prove thai the public version of the New Testament is divinely inspired, and that he is himself the authorized interpreter of it, I must then bow to his authoritative decisions. Till then I must beg leave, with due defe. rence, both to his opinion, and to the learning and honesty of king James's translators, to judge for myself, which, out of the various interpretations of learned and inquisitive men, appears to be the most probable, and most agreeable to the connexion. therefore now proceed to examine the texts cited in the order in which they stand.

they walk with him to the garden, they desert him when he is arrested, Peter denies him in his presence, and when his disciples see him condemned and crucified, they renounce all further expectation from him. After his resurrection they converse with him almost with the same familiarity as before, and even after his a consion, and when they were endued with the holy spirit, they ssiil represent him in their discourses both to Jews and heathens, not as an incarcate Creator, but as a Man approved of God by signs and wonders, and gifts of the holy spirit, rai ed from the dead by the power of the Father, and appointed by him to judge the world. This is the conduct which the apo tle: mi ht will be supposed to have observed if they regarded Jesus as only a human being; but «urely, it is utterly inconsistent with the supposition that he was the creator, supporter and governor of the world, and that they were apprized of this amazing fact.

1. John í. 1.“ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

Here my friend himself condescends to comment, “ The Logos or Word is said to have existed in the beginning and to have been with God, which argues his pre-existence. p. 163. But I beg to know what proof can be produced that the expression, “ in the beginning,” must necessarily signify before the creation*, or even before the birth of Christ. I am not sure that the word agxn, is ever used in the former sense in the whole New Testament, and I am very confident that the sense in which it is commonly used by this writer is that of the beginning of Christ's ministry and of the gospel dispensation. John xv. 27. Ye have been with me from the beginning. See also John vi. 64. xvi. 14. 1 John i. 1. . 7.8. ii. 11. In this sense therefore, without any pretension to great ingenuity, or any laloured criticism, I shall take lave to understand it here: and upon this interpretation the declaration of the evangelist is, that at the beginning of his ministry, the Word, the teacher of truth, Jesus Christ, was with God, i.e. he had access to him to receive divine communications.

“ And the Word was God.” Crellius ingeniously conjectures that the reading should be €8: the Word was God's : the teacher was divine: he had his commision from God. I, however, have no objection to the common reading : the Word was God, or a God: for our Lord teaches us, John X. 35, that “ they are called gods, to whom the word of God came.' If therefore, the Jewish prophets are called gods, much more is Jesus, the greatest of the prophets, to whom the spirit was communicated without measure, entitled to that high and honourable appellation.

* Probably the principal reason why the words, " in the beginning," are so cura rently understood to signify “ before the creation, or, when time began," is that they happen to coincide with the words wiih which Moses begins his account of the creation, Gen. i. 1. Had proper attention being paid to the sense in which this evargeist almost uniformly uses the word asxn, this mistake could never have been committed, and had the words been translated “at the first,” as they might have bcen, the English reader would not have been so casily misled.

« PredošláPokračovať »