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till it shall please Divine Providence to overturn all these corrupt establishments of what is called Christianity, but which have long been the sure retreat of doctrines dis graceful to Christianity. For they only serve to make hypocrites of those who live by them, and infidels of those who, without looking farther, either mistake these corruptions of Christianity for the genuine doctrines of it, or, being apprized of the insincerity of the clergy in subscribing them, think that all religion is a farce, and has no hold of the consciences of those who make the greatest profession of it.'
On the first perusal of this paragraph, the reader might be disposed to think Dr. Priestly intended his severity only for the Church of England. But the next sentence removes the error, and shows us that he means all the Christian world except the followers of his own way of thinking. I cannot,' says he, p. 308, help making this general reflection at the close of these three parts of my work, which relates to those gross corruptions of Christianity which exist in their full force in all established Protestant Churches.'
But Dr. Priestly has left the field of theological speculation, for a state of being, in which truth is attained by a more direct process; and we have sometimes seen his sentiments disavowed by his successors. Yet, if we are not greatly deceived, we have before us, in the pages of the Christian Examiner for July, 1834. (Review of Hengstenberg's Christology,) statements quite as latitudinarian, and in some respects, more so. It will be remembered that this work, (the Christian Examiner,) is set forth in the American Encyclopædia as one of the organs of what is called Unitarian Christianity.
The statements to which we allude, are directed against
the Book of God. First, the prophecies relating to Christ are denied; and secondly, the inspiration of the Evangelists is brought into question. Our quotations follow.
Page 326. Now as no Prophet,' says the reviewer, 'when fairly expounded, seems to ascribe any thing miraculous to the Messiah, and as all of them seem to have spoken and written for the benefit of their contemporaries, we cannot but doubt whether Prophecy was ever intended to afford direct and positive evidence of the Divine mission of Jesus.'
Page 327. We are obliged to confess that we fail to receive satisfaction from the opponents of Collins, and we may add, from other writers, who have undertaken to prove the fulfilment in Jesus of predictions relating, or supposed to relate, to a Messiah.- -The Hebrew Prophecies do not add any thing to the strength of our conviction arising from the historical evidence, that Jesus was a teacher sent from God. We should be sorry to suppose that this evidence could be affected by any view which can be taken of the connexion between the Old Testament and the New even by that view, which supposes that there are no proper predictions relating to Jesus, as a person, in the Old Testament.'
Page 346. The object of the New Testament writers in making quotations from the Old, is to be learned from the circumstances of the case, and from what we know to have been the prevalent principles of interpretation at that time.' *
Now why might not the Evangelists and the Apostles adopt the hermeneutics and logic, as well as the rhetoric of their contemporaries? Why might they not make an application of a text of Scripture, which the established principles of interpretation now pronounce to be incorrect,
as well as an application of it which the established principles of rhetoric now pronounce to be nugatory.'
It may be said, that such was the rhetoric of the day. We reply, such was the interpretation of the day. However this may be, the case of Mat. i. 23, seems to be a decided one of incorrect interpretation on the part of the Evangelist, if, indeed, he be the writer of the first two chapters of the Gospel ascribed to him. He is an honest and capable historian of the life and doctrines of Jesus, and as such entirely worthy of our confidence. But it did not please God to make him an infallible interpreter.'
Again, after a long and critical discussion of the 16th Psalm, the writer concludes, p. 355, that the death or resurrection of no person is expressed or implied in this psalm.' But,' continues the reviewer, we have admitted that Peter and Paul found the death and resurrection of Jesus in this psalm. Consequently we admit that they were in error. And if so in this case, they may be so in other cases where they have used the language of the Old Testament.'
Again, p. 356. 'The truth is,' says this writer, 'that the Evangelists and the Apostles never claimed to be inspired reasoners and interpreters.'
Again, p. 357. We see not why they should have been inspired as reasoners and interpreters, rather than their successors from that time to this.'- -Again, same page, The commonly received doctrine of the inspiration of all the writings included in the Bible, is a millstone hung round its neck, sufficient to sink it.' And again, p. 364, the writer comes to the conclusion that the language of the Prophets, in the sense which we have reason to suppose they assigned to it, gives no intimations of a suffering, dying Messiah, or one who should rise from the dead,
and no clear and proper predictions which were fulfilled in Jesus' personally.'
Now to our simple apprehension, this is the climax of impiety. Take away the Prophecies-let the Evangelists and the Apostles be no longer infallible guides-bring Matthew, and Mark, and Luke, and John, and Peter, and Paul, up to the Christian Examiner,' that we may learn from his opinion, truly, when they are to be trusted, and when they are not-prostrate at one fell stroke, our confidence in the Bible, and To WHOM SHALL WE GO? Who will give us the WORDS OF ETERNAL LIFE, when the BOOK OF GOD deceives us ?
But this deluded author would fain persuade his readers that the essential truths of Christianity stand as firmly upon his theory, as upon that which acknowledges the perfect inspiration of the sacred writers. Let us try this absurdity by a little plain examination.
There is no truth in Christianity, unless the words of the Lord Jesus Christ be infallibly true, for he is the way, the TRUTH, and the life.'
But the words of Christ himself are positively contradicted by this theory, which we shall easily demonstrate, by a few passages of Scripture.
Mat. v. 17. Jesus Christ saith, 'Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the Prophets, I am not come to destroy, BUT TO FULFIL. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, TILL ALL BE FULFILLED.
Again, Mat. xiii. 14. Christ himself declares, ' In them is FULFILLED THE PROPHECY OF ESAIAS, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear and not understand, and seeing ye shall see and not perceive,' &c.
Again, Luke iv. 16. Christ came to Nazareth, went
into the Synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read.' And there was delivered unto him the book of the Prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, THIS DAY IS THIS SCRIPTURE FULFILLED IN YOUR EARS.'
Again, Mark xiii. 14. The Saviour verifies the Prophecy of Daniel in his own prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem by saying, 'When ye shall see the abomination of desolation SPOKEN OF BY DANIEL THE PROPHET, standing where it ought not, let him that readeth understand,) then let them which be in Judea flee to the mountains.' And again, Luke, xxi. 22. For these be the days of vengeance,' saith our Lord, that all things WHICH ARE WRITTEN MAY BE FULFILLED.'
Again, Luke, xxiv. 25. Christ, after his resurrection, upbraids the disciples on the way to Emmaus, because they did not apply the Prophecies to him. O fools,' saith he, and slow of heart to believe all that the PROPHETS HAVE SPOKEN! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at MOSES AND ALL THE PROPHETS, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures, THE THINGS CONCERNING HIMSELF.'
'But the modern Christian Examiner' has come to the cnclusion that the language of the Prophets, 'gives us no