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now in existence, and to be erected by men who think themselves the only fit architects of a Christian fabric, wor thy of the discoveries and improvements, and mental and moral progress of the age. O melancholy and alarming truth! that men calling themselves masters in Israel should have been so long employed in the work of demolition, without knowing, to this hour, what is to be the issue.
Against all this impious extravagance, and every other social and religious evil, there is but one safeguard,-the firm adherence, in all things, to the only infallible director, THE SCRIPTURES OF DIVINE TRUTH, AS THEY WERE
INTERPRETED BY THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH. The only true temple of God is not a new, but a very old structure, for it was built upon the Prophets and Apostles, Jesus Christ being the head corner stone. Let all serious and reflecting Christians, then, cherish a high and holy jealousy for the honor of the Book of God. Let them resist every assault which would deprive them of this, the only Palladium of Christianity. The Bible cannot be esteemed too sacred. Its inspiration cannot be esteemed too perfect. Its truth cannot be guarded with too much zeal. And the notion that its Divine doctrines are to be mutilated and distorted, until-according to Dr. Priestly and his followers, the unbeliever, and the Jew, and the Turk shall be satisfied with them, cannot be regarded with too absolute an abhorrence. Marvel not,' said the Celestial Guide, if the world hate you.' IF YE WERE OF THE WORLD, THE WORLD WOULD LOVE HIS OWN.'
Ir the dangerous views of the imperfection of the Scriptures which formed the subject of our last remarks, were confined to the pages of the 'Christian Examiner,' we should hardly have thought ourselves justified in allotting so much space to the task of opposing them. But the truth is, that unworthy and inadequate sentiments of the Scriptures have been propagated co-extensively with the anti-trinitarian heresy every where. In Germany, in England, and in our own land, the same errors in doctrine are found linked with the same false and degrading opinions of inspiration; and perhaps no fact could better prove to the orthodox believer the soundness of his faith, than the necessity which seems thus to compel his adversaries to charge the very oracles of God with imperfection.
We shall close our present undertaking by a brief notice of the latest assault against Trinitarian principles,-a work published by Prof. Norton, under the title of 'A Statement of Reasons for not believing the doctrines of Trinitarians,' &c. This book has been reviewed by Dr. Coit, of Cambridge, Mass. with a rare combination of learning, judgment, and wit; nor do we wish to cross the path which is so peculiarly his own. A few points, however, we consider ourselves bound to select for observation, as coming directly within the scope of our own humble volume,
For the sake of its connexion with the concluding topic of the preceding chapter, we shall first remark the proposition to which the appendix of Prof. Norton is mainly devoted, viz. that not only was the meaning of Christ sometimes misunderstood by the Apostles and Evangelists, but that Christ himself gave his designed sanction to what he knew to be erroneous, because it coincided with the popular belief among the Jews. But let us quote the words of the Professor at length, that we may not run the risk of misrepresenting him.
Page 313. On many subjects,' says our author, our Saviour refrained from entering into a full explanation, and correcting the errors of his hearers.' And after a long discussion on the necessity and expediency of this course, he gives us, in p. 319, the following illustration.
'Let us consider,' says he, another case. The Jews had adopted what is called the allegorical mode of interpreting their sacred books, and had found many supposed predictions and types of their expected Messiah in factitious senses which they ascribed to particular passages. This mode of interpretation was adopted by some of the Apostles. We find examples of it as used by them in the Gospels of both Matthew and John, and in the Acts of the Apostles. One is surprised, perhaps, that this mistake was not corrected by Christ. Nothing may seem more. simple, than that he should have indicated, that this whole system of interpretation, and this method of proof, so far as the supposed prophecies were applied to himself, were erroneous. But would you have had him, at the same time, teach the whole art of interpretation? If he had not done so, errors as great might have been committed from some other cause. If he had corrected some wrong conceptions only, and left others, the latter, from that very
circumstance, would have acquired new authority. But to have taught the art of interpretation only, would not have been sufficient to enable his hearers to become skilful expositors of the Old Testament; he must have settled the yet disputed questions concerning the age, the authorship, the authority, and what has been called the inspiration of the different writings that compose it: and whoever has studied these subjects with an unbiassed and enquiring mind, may, I think, be satisfied, that the truth concerning them is such, as no Jew was prepared to listen to, and few indeed would have listened to without astonishment and wrath.'
Again, p. 321. Expressions founded upon the concep tions of the Jews, and used by Christ, because no other modes of speech would have so powerfully affected their minds, have been misunderstood as intended to convey a doctrine taught by himself. This remark is applicable to those few passages in his discourses in which he speaks, according to the belief of the Jews, of Satan, as if he were a real being, such as the following: 'I saw Satan, falling as lightning from heaven: Ye are of your father the devil, and the will of your father ye will perform:'
The enemy who sowed the tares is the devil:' and particularly the figurative and parabolic narrative in which he represented himself as having been tempted by Satan.'
Again, the Professor advances this conclusion, the moral obliquity of which might have shewn him the error of his premises. Under circumstances', says he, in which it is impossible to explain the whole truth, or in which it is certain that the whole truth cannot be understood and felt, in addressing men who are unaccustomed to exercise their understandings, and who, from childhood, have incorporated false conceptions with right principles of action, we may
use their errors for their reformation-we may employ one wrong opinion to counteract others more pernicious, and in reasoning, exhortation or reproof, we may thus avail ourselves of their more innocent prejudices in opposition to their passions and vices. But in doing this, we are precluded from directly assailing these prejudices, though we may at the same time be establishing truths which will effect their gradual abolition. Such was, Ibelieve, in some particulars, the mode of teaching adopted by Christ.'
Here, then, we have the proposition, cautiously indeed, yet plainly enough announced, that Jesus Christ sanctioned the errors of the Jews, first, by falsely applying to himself, as prophecies, portions of the Old Testament which he knew had no such meaning.
Secondly, by falsely inculcating the belief in Satan and the apostate angels, which he knew to be an unfounded superstition.
Thirdly, by telling his disciples a pure fiction about his being personally tempted by Satan in the wilderness, not as a parable or figuratively, but as a simple matter of fact; because it is perfectly undeniable that the Evangelists understood his parables to be intended as parables, while the temptation is set forth as a part of the history.
And fourthly, as a general corollary, we have the true Jesuit's principle established on the pretended authority of Christ himself, viz. that it is lawful to use deceit for pious purposes-to do evil, that good may come-to sanction error, in order to enforce truth more effectually!
All this is revolting enough; but there are two inquiries suggested by the Professor's hypothesis, to which we confess we should like to see an answer.
He tells us that this accommodation of Christ to the popular error of his day was right.