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still a critic with a certain turn of mind may manage to elude its force; as does Leclerc, who thus ridiculously renders the first sentence of John's Gospel :“ In the beginning was reason, and reason was in God, " and reason was God.” But as a complete specimen of critical ingenuity attenuated into absurdity, I beg to present you with the late Mr. Theophilus Lindsey's translation of part of the 1st Chapter of this Gospel. Leclerc's version is not sufficiently unreasonable ; we are, therefore, now presented with it after this fashion :
“ In the beginning was Wisdom, and Wisdom was Go with God, and God was Wisdom. The same was in “ the beginning with God. All things were made by “it, and without it was nothing made. In it was life,
centered to constitute at once “ The Messenger of the Covenant ” and $ The Sun of Righteousness ?”
So again, when, in his First Epistle, John taught that Jesus Christ " is the Son of God," and that she came in the flesh,” he meant to oppose those who denied his divinity, at well as those who affirmed that his body was only a body in appearance. And hence, as Macknight and others have remarked, the opinions of the Docetæ or Phantasiastæ, on the one hand, and of the Cerinthians and Ebionites, on the other, ren. der it probable, if not certain, that the apostles taught, and the first Christians believed, Christ to be both God and man. For, if the Docetæ liad not been taught the divinity of Christ, they had no temptation to call in question his humanity. And if the Cerinthians had not been taught the humanity of Christ, they would, in like manner, have felt no temptation to deny his divinity. But regarding it as impossible that both parts of the apostolic doctrine concerning the Messiah could be true; one class of these heretics conceived themselves compelled to reject his humanity, that they might more purely maintain his divinity ; while the other, to maintain his divinity, thought it equally necessary to reject his divinity. Thus it is that men make shipwreck of faith when they are prepared only to receive the truth by halves.
" and the life was the light of men. And the light “ shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended “ it not.
“ It (Divine Wisdom) was in the world, and the 6 world was made by it, and the world knew it not. “ It came to its own land, and its own people received
it not. But as many as received it, to them it gave 6 power to become the sons of God, even to them who “believe on its name.
“ And Wisdom became man, and dwelt among us ; 66 and we beheld its glory, the glory as of the well" beloved of the Father, full of grace and truth.” - Now, in all this quotation, although as we are informed (s) its " sense is approved by Dr. Lardner, “ Dr. Priestley, Mr. Wakefield, and others,” there appears to be only one sentence accurately translated, 56 the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness s6 comprehended it not :” of the truth of which, considering it as a prediction, the translation itself, and the approbation of such truly learned men as Lardner, Priestley, and Wakefield, is a most lamentable proof. What a deplorable system of theology must that be, which requires such egregious trifling to support it?
But even this is not the whole of the ridiculous incumbrance that impedes the progress of the theological hypothesis, to which I now advert. It takes for granted, that uninspired men may, at the distance of eighteen hundred years, know more of " the mind of Christ,” and of the nature of his religion, than those who saw
(0) Notes to the New Socinian Version, p. 203.
and conversed with him in “ the days of his flesh,” and were chosen and inspired to communicate his doctrines, by their preaching and writings, to “ the end “ of the world.” It, therefore, cherishes a sentiment which is diametrically opposite to that humility and lowliness of mind which is essential to Christianity, and which is possessed by those to whom God has promised to “give grace.” But, more than all, it makes it the duty of teachers of the Gospel to be ever active in sinking the value, utility, and importance of the Gospel; and diminishing “ the riches of Divine mercy.” Ambassadors and ministers in general are proud to exalt the power, honour, and dignity of the monarch whom they represent and serve; but, according to the Socinian theory and practice, the chief employment of ministers and “ ambassadors of Christ” is to depreciate as far as possible the character of their Lord and King, and to show that he is not entitled to the honour, dignity, majesty, and power, which others usually ascribe to him. One of this class of Gospel ministers, Mr. Belsham, seems by no means persuaded of the purity of the life of Jesus. “ Whether (says he) the perfection 66 of Christ's character in public life (as recorded by 6 the evangelists) combined with the general declara6 tions of his freedom from sin, establish, or were in“ tended to establish, the fact, that Jesus through the 66 whole course of his PRIVATE life, was completely “ exempt from all the errors and failings of human “ nature, is a question of no great intrinsic moment, “ and concerning which we have no sufficient data to “ lead to a satisfactory answer ! !" In another work the same writer affirms that we are totally ignorant of the place where Christ resides, and of the occupations in which he is engaged! (t) These are notions which Thomas Paine, with all his hatred to Christianity, would probably have been ashamed to promulgate.
The scheme of theology which includes the divinity of Jesus Christ as an essential and fundamental part, is free from these puerilities, absurdities, anomalies, and, I could almost say, blasphemies. According to this scheme we believe that Jesus Christ is a man; that he is also GOD; yet we do not believe that the man Jesus is deified. We do not worship the man Jesus; but we believe his own declaration relative to the union of the Divine and human nature in his person, when conversing with Nicodemus, and therefore we do worship the God who dwells in the man; for 66 in him dwelleth all “ the fulness of the Deity, bodily ;” and “ through 66 him we have access, by one Spirit, unto the Fa6 ther." (0) We do not deny that there is something mysterious in this, for in our present state we do not expect to arrive at the full “ knowledge of the mystery 66 of God, in which are hidden all the treasures of “ wisdom and knowledge :” (w) nor do we forget that the Scriptures are intended rather to reveal what God is in relation to us, (x) than what he is in himself. In
(t) Belsham on the Divinity of Christ, p. 190. Belsham's Review of Mr. Wilberforce's Treatise, p. 85.
(v) See the original of John, iii. 13, where the ó WV EV TW ovpavy is peculiarly forcible : See also Col. ii. 9. Eph. ii. 18.
(w) Col. ii. 2, 3. (x) See Letter IV. vol. i. p. 78. Let it be remarked, too, that in point our system the difficulty is so transferred, that it lies in the object, not in the terms; and this is natural, because the object of worship is spiritual and infinite. In metaphysics we have many equal difficulties: and even in the spiritual part of our own nature. Thus, our soul has the three different faculties of understanding, memory, and will, proceeding in succession from each other; yet they are co-existent, and constitute not three souls, but one soul. Indeed, in the usual transactions of life we frequently, nay, commonly, know the use of objects, while we continue ignorant of their nature ; and, in like manner, it will be to our benefit, if we immediately endeavour to experience the use of religious truths, and not wait until we can perfectly comprehend them. According to our system, I say, the objects are sublime, the language and expression easy ; while in the sense of those who deny the Divinity of the Messiah, the objects are quite within the grasp of our comprehension, but the expression is obscure : and it is an obscurity which has none of the causes that occasion the obscurity of really difficult passages of Scripture: a circumstance which is very surprising and unaccountable, and sufficient of itself to produce long hesitation in reflecting men before they wander in the labyrinths of Socinianism.
Having premised thus much respecting the different modes of procedure of those who embrace, and those
of simplicity of explanation, the doctrine of the Divine unity has no advantage over that of the trinity. “That unity, which must be the foun" dation of all being, is itself of all things the most mysterious and in" comprehensible.” Read Horsley, p. 287, &c.