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known, were not among the universally received books in the primitive Christian church.* To reject the epistle of Jude, considering the obscurity, not to mention “ the fabulous legend, the contemptible story, found in the most ancient manuscripts,” cannot be considered presumptuous, but rather a proof of earnest desire not to receive for the Word of God, the mere word of man. Much the same may be said of the epistle of James, which even Luther, in the very infancy of biblical criticism, thought of doubtful authority; a fortiori, liberal interpreters must reject it. A doubtful book cannot be received as undoubtedly inspired. This is “ clearing the wreck” quite effectually. Whitfield is said to have told his hearers that, were they permitted to tear out, one by one, a leaf from the Bible, such as they individually disliked, they would leave him “ only the covers.” Whether the biblical critics in our ancient University, early dedicated to “ Christ and the Church,” are not in a fair way to leave us only the covers, let the intelligent reader decide. The appeal is here made to those capable of discrimination, who can distinguish between logic and rhetoric, between argument and assumption, who can trace the connexion, if it exist, between premises and conclusion, whether, allowing the evangelists to be allegorists, according to the concession of the essayist, and his argument, as he has contrived to present it, to be valid, the conclusion is not irresistible, that all the New Testament, excepting the epistles of James and Jude, is unworthy of credit, as of divine inspiration, and of infallible authority ? “ The intelligent reader" will bear in mind, that this question does not relate simply to the honest endeavors of the evangelists and apostles to tell the truth, “to the best of their knowledge,” but to their inspired, infallible authority. How the epistles of James and Jude could be proved inspired after the rejection of the rest of the New Testament, and whether the dispute about them would be a worth the candle,” I shall not stop to inquire.
The great importance of this subject warrants an extended and varied illustration. The essayist thinks the epistle to the Galatians, the first epistle written by Paul. p.53. His reasons for this opinion he has not stated. Among these he would probably put this, the manner of reasoning employed in this epistle bears a greater resemblance to that of the speech in the Acts, than that employed in his other epistles. Paul was a young man when that speech was delivered, in which he uses the allegorical mode of interpretation and reasoning. This epistle shows that he still cast a lingering look back to the favorite mode of argumentation, employed by the most learned of his countrymen. Though he had not as yet divested himself of every prejudice, he does not suffer his argument to be marred by it. After this, he manifests no trace of this error of his countrymen, as is apparent from his other epistles, in which “he nowhere attempts to accommodate to Jesus, any of the allegorical expositions, by which so many passages were made by the Jews to refer, in a mystical sense, to their expected Messiah.” p. 69. The essayist would argue, and with apparent logic, this epistle, more nearly resembling the allegorical argument, as given by St. Luke, than any other of Paul's epistles, though written “a considerable time” after that speech, was probably written before the other epistles. The whole force of this argument (the strongest I can imagine to support the essayist's extraordinary position) rests on the assumed state of the apostle's mind at different periods, as either disposed or not disposed to use the allegorical mode of reasoning from and appealing to the Old Testament. The apparent weight of this argument, which is all it possesses, may be soon made to disappear.
*To prevent misapprehension on the part of any, it may be stated, that of the twenty-seven books, which now compose the New Testament, twenty were received by all the early Christian churches with unanimous consent from the apostolic age. These are called universally received books. The remaining seven, were generally received by the churches, but not, at first, universally. About the first class, there was no doubt on the part of any. About the second, there was very little, resulting generally from circumstances easily understood. The latter class consists of the epistles to the Hebrews, of James, second of Peter, second and third of John, Jude, and the Revelation. As the attack has recently been commenced on the first named of this latter class, it may safely be presumed that is this but the opening of the campaign, a war of extermination having been resolved upon. At all events, when war begins, who can tell when and where it will end ?
Dr. Carpenter, no mean critic for a Unitarian, and the Unitarians and Orthodox generally, think it probable that the first epistle to the Thessalonians was the first epistle written by Paul, about A. D. 52. I assume the position, that the concurrent opinion of the great body of the Unitarian and Orthodox critics is quite as probable, as the opinion of this essayist, learned as he is. They generally think this epistle to the Thessalonians was written, at least five, and perhaps ten or even fifteen years before that to the Galatian churches. But in this epistle to the Thessalonians, as all allow, Paul does not employ the allegorical mode of reasoning; he does not quote nor even refer to the Old Testament. He was at least five and, perhaps, fifteen years (“a considerable time," this !) younger, than when he addressed the Galatian churches. How should this happen, that, in the epistle generally believed to have been the first he wrote, there is no trace of an allegorizing spirit, when in his epistles to the Galatians and others, written a considerable time later, there are many passages, which, the essayist allows, “ seem to require some explana
tion"? Is it not possible that his opinion and argument are alike without foundation? With the Orthodox, the explanation is easy and satisfactory. The Thessalonians were chiefly converts from paganism; few, perhaps none of them, knew any thing of the Old Testament. The allegorical interpretation would have been wholly out of place in an epistle to such converts, and the occasion did not so much call for argument as exhortation. The epistle to the Galatian churches, was occasioned by Judaizing teachers, who had crept in, corrupting the truth. In these churches there seems to have been a mixture of Jews and Gentiles, the latter, probably, much the most
us. This epistle was addressed to just such persons. Is there any thing wonderful in this, that an inspired and divinelyguided apostle, whether in the earlier or in the latter part of his min. istry, should adapt his speeches, letters, and arguments, to the character, condition, and capacity of those addressed ? That in addressing an Athenian audience on the Areopagus, he should appeal to a Grecian poet, in confirmation of his own sentiments, while Isaiah and David are left unnoticed ? That in addressing the “men of Israel” in their own synagogue at Antioch, he should appeal to the scriptures which were there read every Sabbath day, and with which he had been familiar from childhood ? That he should appeal to these scriptures in the very manner in which his auditors were wont to appeal to them? That in addressing the Thessalonians, he should write to them “as without the law”; while, in addressing the Hebrews, he should write to them as those who had been under the law, and knew all its rites, its ceremonies, and its observances ? That he, who at one time could claim his right by avowing, “I am a Roman,” should also at another, addressing “his kinsmen according to the flesh,” prove that he was “an Hebrew of the Hebrew.s”? If an author is not to be confined to one class of topics, and one mode of illustration, if he may adapt his mode of reasoning to the persons and the circumstances of the persons addressed, then the wide difference, on which the essayist reposes his argument, is a dream of his own imagination, and nothing else. For it is generally believed, that this difference is most wide between his speech as recorded in the Acts, and the first epistle he ever wrote ; and the argument, if it prove any thing, (I beg the reader to mark this,) will prove, either that he did not write the first epistle to the Thessalonians, or did not deliver the speech recorded in the thirteeenth of Acts. The essayist can take his choice, which he seems already to have done by implication, and necessary inference, rejecting the latter. Unless I greatly err, the unprejudiced reader will believe that he delivered the
one, and wrote the other, and that the essayist's elaborate argument is straw-built, and tumbles not so much through its weight, as its weakness; not so much through the strength of its assailant, as the insufficiency of its foundation, and the feebleness of its defence.*
In that state of things to which the essayist's argument would bring us, to whom, to what, can we go, “having the words of eternal life”? To this question, another writer in the same Examiner has, by rather a noticeable coincidence, unwittingly supplied an answer. I look upon this essayist and this reviewer, (whom I thus name for distinction sake,) as having given us the strength and the set of the Unitarian current, far more fully and unequivocally, than has before been done, and more so than they individually intended. But opinion, like murder, will out. In the review of Dick's Christian Philosopher, there is much truth, beautifully expressed, happily illustrated, and forcibly applied. There are also expressions symptomatic of a disquiet spirit, of a heart ill at ease, as yet all unconscious of the heights and the depths, the length and the breadth of the unsearchable riches in Christ Jesus, which break upon the soul that receives and loves the Saviour as participent of our nature, and “God manifest in the flesh,” at once “the root and the offspring of David,” a descendant of Abraham as to his humanity, and “God over all, blessed forever.".
Nature, without revelation, has always been considered “a sealed book.” But according to the argument of the essayist, just examined, we have little or no revelation, or at all events, we must be in great doubt as to what this revelation is. I do not wish to overcharge this statement. Is it not the truth, and is it any thing more than the truth, that a Unitarian, who adopts the opinions and the reasoning of the essayist, must be in great doubt as to what revelation is? In this state of darkness, into which one Unitarian writer leads and leaves us, another takes us. He says, page 24 of the same Examiner, we often need something more direct, and immediate, and palpable, than the feelings and sentiments, which we have derived from written knowledge, which, however sublime and glorious in itself, has been conveyed to us, through the fallible medium of written languages and translations of languages.” Let not this writer
* In replying to the argument of the essayist, and showing its fallacy, I have not thought it necessary to call in question his assertions relative to the allegorical use of the Old Testament, &e. by the writer to the Hebrews. Granting all that he assumes on this subject, his argument is still entirely without weight. The reader, desirous of understanding the manner in which passages are quoted from the Old Testament by the writers of the New Testament, will find much valuable information in the Commentary by Prof. Stuart, especially in the last Excursus. Consult also a Lecture delivered and published by Dr. Woods on this subject. See also The Spirit of the Pilgrims, Vol. I. No. 9. P. 478.
think that any objection is raised against the study of the works of God, while a solemn protest is entered against such a view of the Word of God. Chalmers would have written thus, when abroad on his botanical excursions, or engaged in his laboratory, for the first ten years of his ministry. During the last fifteen years, he has not forgotten his previous acquisitions, nor overlooked the obligations of science to Christianity, while he has found the Bible to be “a storehouse of unworked materials," from which to bring out, for the certain instruction of man, and the glory of God, “ things new and old.” Dwight, and Payson, men of no ordinary grade, in whom taste and learning and piety were happily blended, would have given their right hand to the flame, ere a sentence like that should have dropped from their pen.
What? Has it come to this? For the instruction of our ignorance, for the strengthening of our faith, for the consola. tion of our sorrows, for the support of our spirits when hovering over the unfathomable abyss, whence none return, are we to quit the written word of God, the eve ting gospel of his Son, which shall not fail though heaven and earth pass away, and take in its stead the hieroglyphics of nature, which the wisest and the best of heathen sages pronounced indecipherable ? No wonder this reviewer should elsewhere add,“ there are hours, we suspect, in the life of every man, in which it seems to him as if the foundations of truth and faith were breaking up around him, and his hopes were to be confounded and defeated.* These are indeed sad and gloomy hours, when all that we have believed, and all that we have hoped, seems fading away in dim and distant uncertainty. Yet he must be either a very firm and enlightened, or else a very thoughtless man, who does not sometimes experience feelings like these.” p. 19.
“ What can we reason but from what we know?" If such be Unitarianism, that it unsettles the canon of sacred books, and shakes the foundations of faith, and truth, and hope, as it would seem from the concurring testimony of the essayist and the reviewer, truly may the poor and ignorant, aye, and the wise and the wealthy, and the great of the world too, say, “O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honor, be not thou united!”
In concluding this note, I will only add, that whatever may be thought of the essayist's argument, of the analysis here given of it,
* It is necessary to state a distinction of great importance, which the Reviewer has not noticed. The truly pious man may, and often does tremble, lest, a promise being left, he should fail, through his own fault, of attaining to the heavenly rest. But the foundations of truth and faith remain unshaken, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail.