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"through the effectual working of the power of God." (Eph. iii. 7.)
Thus when Peter, by the power thus communicated to him, cured the paralytic man at Lydda, (Acts ix. 32.) he said, 66 Eneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole;" a mode of expres sion different from what we should have expected, if by the holy ghost which fell upon him on the day of Pentecost, was meant, not a power only, but a person, and a person distinct from Jesus Christ.
Whatever was meant (Acts ii. 33.) by the "promise of the holy ghost," fulfilled in what took place on the day of Pentecost, the same was meant (Luke iii. 22.) by the "holy ghost," which descended upon Jesus Christ himself at his baptism; and whatever was meant, when it was said (Acts ii. 4.) that the disciples were filled with the "holy ghost" on the former occasion, the same was meant, when on the latter, it is said, (Luke iv. 1.) that Jesus "was full of the holy ghost, when he returned from Jordan," after his baptism. But in this case, the supposition that a person was meant, and not a power or influence, will seem to imply, that the miracles of our Saviour were wrought, not by his own power, nor, as he himself asserted, (John xiv. 10.) by "the Father who dwelt in him;” but by another person.
3. If, in the third place, we compare the example under consideration with other acknowledged instances of personification in the Scriptures, do we find such a difference as to justify us in the conclusion, that while those are understood to refer only to a figurative person, this cannot be so understood?
Let the instances which have before been selected, be now brought again before the reader's view. Let him compare the discourse of our Saviour in John, relative to the comforter, the spirit of truth, the holy ghost, with Solomon's beautiful portrait of wisdom, and Paul's lively description of charity. Will he find personal attributes any where ascribed to the holy spirit in greater variety, or with more distinctness, than in these instances they are applied to wisdom and charity? Let him recur, also, to the personal epithets applied by Paul to sin and death. Death is, indeed, so constantly in the common language of life, represented in personal characters, that it never fails to present itself to us under that image; and though no one actually believes it to be a real person, the image has so fastened itself upon our minds, that it costs no small effort to correct the impression.
Other personifications less remarkable, will yet serve to illustrate the one in question. I will mention only one more, that of the word of God. Now, when we read (Heb. xi. 3. 2 Pet.
iii. 5.) that "the worlds were framed by the word of God;" that "by the word of God the heavens were of old :" we have no doubt that the agency of God himself is meant, in the same manner as in the expression, (Gen. i. 3.) "God said, let there be light and there was light." We perceive only a figurative, but far from unusual mode, of saying that God himself created the heavens, the worlds, and the light. The same is meant as when it is said of those, who call upon God in their afflictions, (Psl. cvii. 20.) "He sendeth his word and healeth them;" and of the ice and frosts of winter, (Psl. cxlvii. 18.) " He sendeth out his word and melteth them."
There is one other view of the subject, which it may not be useless just to suggest. It will be admitted by all, whatever their opinion respecting the personality of the spirit, that the terms spirit, spirit of God, &c. are commonly used in such a manner, as evidently not to mean a person. Now, let the experiment be made upon some other word, for the purpose of ascertaining whether another instance can be found of a term sometimes used as the name of a person, but more commonly employed in a different manner. No such example, it is presumed, can be produced. There are indeed instances, in which Christ is used, by a very common metonomy, for the religion, which he taught, and Moses for the law which he promulgated: the names of the prophets also, and of each separate prophet, for the books that bear their names. But this is so rare, compared with the literal use of the name to express the person himself, that no one was ever led to doubt, whether in their common use they did not refer to real persons. It would be impossible, by any ingenuity, to explain them as meaning nothing more than an allegorical personality. It never did, nor could enter into the mind of any reader of the bible, that Christ or Moses were not real, but only allegorical persons.
But in the case in question, on the commonly received opinion, the name of a most important person and powerful agent is usually employed to express a mere power or gift, or the influence or agency of another person. The presumption therefore is strong, that the opinion itself is without foundation; a presumption, which nothing but positive proof to the contrary can remove; and such proof we do not find.
From the whole view of the subject, we are brought to the following conclusion. That the phrase under consideration is used by the sacred writers in a variety of senses, and what is the true meaning is to be ascertained in each instance by the same rules of interpretation, which are applied in other similar cases. That, whenever it is used as a person, it is the person of the Father; as it is sometimes expressed, the spirit of the
Father; and that there is not sufficient reason for supposing, that it is ever used to mean a being, agent, or person distinct from God the Father.
Note. For a more thorough investigation of this subject, than could be brought within the limits of an essay of reasonable length for a periodical publication, the reader is referred to the first postscript of Dr. Lardner's Letter on the Logos,-and the translation of "Schleusner on the meanings of μ in the New Testament," in the first volume of the General Repository, for April, 1812. In one or the other of those tracts, he will find some explanation of every text, that is usually considered as having any relation to the subject.
ILLUSTRATION OF JOHN, xiv. 31.
"But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father hath given me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence."
The reader will instantly perceive that the first clause of this verse is defective. There is evidently something wanted to complete its meaning; and different translators have resorted to different expedients, for representing it fairly and fully. In most of our recent English translations, the words "this must be," or words of a similar import, are interposed, as if understood." But this must be that the world, &c." This method is certainly without any critical objections: for a similar ellipsis is found in other parts of the writings of this same apostle. We read in the 25th verse of the next chapter: "but this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law; they hated me without a cause:" and again, (1 John ii. 19.) "but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us."
Some critics have supposed the passage to be complete in itself, without the aid of any supplementary words; and render it thus: "but that the world may know that I love the Father, even as the Father hath given me commandment, so I do." Of this opinion, were the eminent Grotius, Bengel, and others but their construction is too forced a one to be readily admitted. Mr. Wakefield and Bishop Pearce agree in connecting the passage with the preceding verse as a part of it. There would be no objection to this, provided a natural and appropriate meaning could thus be obtained: for the punctuation of the Greek Testament is clearly without any authority. The
most ancient manuscripts are written in continuous lines, without any, division of the words, much less of the sentences. In the first printed editions the points were used arbitrarily; and Stephens is said to have varied them in every successive edition which he published. It was the same editor who divided the New Testament into its present order of verses; which is no older than the year 1551. Those learned men, however, were by no means happy in their emendation. Mr. Wakefield's translation is this: (30) "the ruler of this world is coming; and I have nothing to do (31) but to convince the world that I love the Father, &c." That of Bishop Pearce has still less to recommend it: "the Prince of this world cometh, and he shall find nothing in me, but that the world may know that I love the Father, &c."
It would present a very simple and beautiful meaning, merely to connect the passage in question with the remaining part of the verse: "but that the world may know that I love the Father, and do even as the Father has given me commandment, arise, let us go hence." They were to go, it will be remembered, to the garden of Gethsemane, where a most affecting proof was to be given of our Saviour's resignation to the whole will of his heavenly Father. We thus not only solve every difficulty, and perceive a very appropriate and touching allusion; but we relieve the abruptness, which the latter member of this verse would have, considered as an independent sentence. This abruptness is disguised in some measure by the arrangement of the chapters and verses; since most readers are accustomed to regard the end of a chapter as the end of a subject: but it will be immediately discerned, by reading the 31st verse of the 14th, and the 1st of the 15th chapter in continuation, as successive portions of the same discourse.
After these remarks were written, it was discovered, that this mode of reading the passage was adopted in Martin's edition of the French Bible, published in Amsterdam, in folio, 1707, and in 4to, 1722;-and is found in the German version of the celebrated Michaelis.
Our readers doubtless recollect that in a review of "Eddy's Reasons," which appeared in the first number of this work, it was said, that there is in this town a Society of professed Unitarian Baptists. The statement has occasioned a good deal of enquiry, and the truth of it has been publickly denied. We New Series.-vol. I.
perhaps have not been sufficiently anxious to justify ourselves in the assertion, and have delayed doing it longer than we ought. We, however, at length lay before the publick a letter from one of the Society alluded to, written in answer to enquiries upon this subject, from which it may be judged how far we were correct, and how far we erred.
The following is the letter of enquiry.
To Mr. HENRY EMMONS.
I trust you will excuse the freedom of the following enquiry, when you consider its importance.
In a number of the Christian Disciple, published last March, it was said, that "there is a society of professed Ungarian Baptists in Boston." The allusion was to the Society of which you are a member, and the writer supposed that his assertion was unquestionably correct.
But the Editors of the Baptist Missionary Magazine have denied it; and, if I understand them right, have asserted the contrary with regard to your church. It has also been denied in other ways. Now, Sir, if the Disciple has made an unfounded assertion, it ought to be retracted; if not, it ought to be defended. It was made upon the authority of a gentleman, who received his impression respecting the fact from a conversation with yourself. In order to give entire satisfaction, will you have the goodness to make explicit answer to the following questions?
Are the believers with whom you worship, rightly called Baptists?
Does the doctrine of three persons in the Godhead, usually called the Trinity, make a part of their belief? Or, is there a division of opinion among them in regard to it?
. My only object in this, as in other things, is, to know the truth, and tell the truth. Will you, therefore, write me an early reply, and believe me with christian salutations.
The following answer was returned.
Boston, 8th Month, 6, 1819.
When thy letter came I was not at home; but, with pleasure, freedom and correctness, I will answer it.