« PreviousContinue »
or of the reviewer's assertions, this is plain, the epistle to the Hebrews is no longer to be received by the Unitarians as a part of the inspired Word of God. It has been pronounced, ex cathedra, uncanonical, unintelligible, absurd. No Unitarian has yet whispered a surmise that the argument, so called, of the essayist, is not conclusive and satisfactory. The Orthodox, be it known, are not prepared to renounce this “ foundation of truth and hope”; they do not feel that it has been shaken; knowing the ground on which it rests, they have no fears that it ever will be. But, we may be permitted to ask, will Unitarian clergymen continue to read this apocryphal Bel-andDragon epistle from their pulpits, and in their families, without informing their hearers distinctly, that it is not properly a part of the Word of God, is not of inspired authority, and is read only as the Shepherd of Hermas might be, or any other merely human production ? After such an explanation, it might be read honestly. Can it be without it? Do Unitarians read 1 John, v. 7? If they do, are they not careful to tell their people that “it is an interpolation,” though something may be said in its behalf? Is it not required of them, if they would sustain a character for consistent honesty, to inform their hearers that the whole epistle to the Hebrews is of no more author. ity than this much disputed verse, since the Corypheus of the Unitarian chorus has informed a select literary audience that nothing can be said in favor of the Pauline origin or canonical authority of this epistle?
Why, it may be asked in sober earnestness, should not this epistle give place to Robinson Crusoe, “ the reasoning of which can be regarded as of great force by an intelligent reader of the present day"? “ It is, moreover,” not “ difficult so far to accommodate our minds to the conceptions and principles of the writer, as to perceive how it was adapted to produce great effect at the time it was written;" all of which is denied by the essayist in regard to this mystical, illogical misplaced epistle. Surely Unitarians, coinciding in the views of this writer, must allow that Robinson Crusoe or Gulliver's Travels have a better right, have a stronger and more rational claim, to be read from the pulpit, being written on rational principles and for intelligible purposes, than this incomprehensible jargon, so long and ignorantly revered as an inspired epistle to the Hebrews. In the next “Improved Version ” shall this epistle have a place? Will not Mr. Palfrey exclude it from his text according to Griesbach ? No matter for opposition from the ignorant, and the bigoted, and the irrational. Truth, truth will finally prevail. Let this be the course with those, who profess to hold in their hands the torch of science, and to gaze
with undazzled, eagle eye, on the Sun of Truth. Let not the modern Reformers, emulous of perfecting the work of Luther, shrink from the task.
We have now an entering wedge by which we may hope to obtain Unitarian notions of the inspiration and authority of the several books of the New Testament. Though, according to the argument of the learned essayist, the epistles of James and Jude compose the Unitarian canon, it may be doubted whether the latter of these will not be the very book first to follow the fate of that to the Hebrews. The reverence of English Unitarians for the epistle of Jude has been already seen. The Christian Examiner will not yield to the Monthly Repository in intelligence, and will not long continue more “illiberal,” or less “ rational.” It may be questioned whether any further benefit is to be obtained by the longer concealment of Unitarian views. Unitarians must feel that the time has come, when strength of argument and not ingenuity of artifice must decide where is truth and what is
This reflecting community requires reasons, and not prejudices ; arguments, and not assertions; proofs, and not assumptions of the points to be proved. It may be said, then, with propriety to all parties, bring forth your strong arguments plainly, fairly, and forcibly. If Unitarianism be true, let Unitarianism prevail ; if Orthodoxy be true, let Orthodoxy prevail; or if any intermediate system be true, let that prevail.' In the mean time, it need only be said, that Orthodoxy, like Revelation, does not fear examination of any kind. It invites, it has endured, and it can endure, the severest test.
It only asks that men will examine it, will do it justice without prejudice, without partiality, and without favour.
Fiat veritas, ruat cælum.
NOTE E. Page 64. The first step to become a “rational” believer would seem to be, to renounce reason ; after that, one can reason himself into the belief of any thing however absurd, and out of the belief of any truth however certain. The freethinkers of England, the atheists of France, and the philosophizing divines of Germany, would afford abundant evidence of this. Whether cis-atlantic rationalism has altered its character by changing its place, those who are competent
The philosophers of Germany are waiting, it is said, with an anxiety unusual to that meditative race, for a full developement of Schelling's philosophical system. In this vicinity, a somewhat similar anxiety is felt by many, to know what course “ rational” opinion is ultimately to take. The young divines are placed in a predicament, which they must, at times, feel to be awkward. To go back, they cannot; “ facilis descensus averni; sed revocare,” &c: to stand still is impossible, amid the increasing light of an improving age; to go forward is perilous. Many eyes are upon them. Hitherto the wind has been what the sailors call baffling ; whether, hereafter, we are to have “steady gales," setting from “ the frozen zone of Christianity,” on the icebergs of avowed rationalism or open infidelity, it were premature to say. Time will show.
NOTE F. Page 67.
PRIESTLEY, EICHHORN, CALVIN. The celebrated Cuvier pronounced the eulogy on Dr. Priestley before the National Institute. The following estimate of his character.is accurate, and, considering the person who made it, and the audience before which it was delivered, wonderfully so. “ In fact, his history will exhibit, if I may so speak, two men of distinct and almost opposite character. The first, a circumspect philosopher, he examines those objects alone which come within the limits of experience; employs only a strict and cautious mode of reasoning; fosters in his mind no prejudice, no love of system; seeks truth alone, whatever it may be, and seldom fails to discover truth, and to establish it in the most solid and lucid manner. The other, a daring theologian, rashly pries into the greatest mysteries; contemns the faith of ages; rejects the most revered authorities; commences disputant with preconceived ideas, which he endeavors to extend rather than to examine, and to support which, he falls into the most contradictory hypotheses.” The whole character is drawn in the same discriminating
Had it been Dr. Chalmers, instead of Cuvier, who gave this view of Dr. Priestley's character and efforts, it would have been branded as Calvinistic bigotry. As it is, we believe the admirers of Dr. Priestley are quite willing to forget the impartial estimate of the
French philosopher. The whole eulogy exhibits evidence that while Cuvier admired the talents, he understood the character of Priestley.
The following account of the life, labors, and death of a man not less distinguished, will be interesting to many readers. It is mostly from the Foreign Review and Continental Miscellany. J. G. Eichhorn was born 1752, in the principality of Hohenzollern Oehringen. His theory, as to the origin of the gospels, and the controversies springing out of it, it would be out of place to detail. His various and immense learning, and indefatigable labors, may be judged of by a partial enumeration of his works. History of Literature from the beginning to the latest times, 11 vols. General History of Cultivation and Literature of Modern Europe, 2 vols. History of Eloquence in the Modern Languages, 3 vols. History of the three last Centuries, 6 vols. General Library of Biblical Literature, 10 vols. Repertory of Biblical and Oriental Literature, 18 vols. Introduction to the Old Testament, 5 vols. ; and Introduction to the New Testament, 5 vols. The last two volumes of this Introduction were finished but a short time before his death. Besides these works, which he either wrote or edited, he also translated the Hebrew Prophets. In a proem prefixed to this translation, he ranks Isaiah, Jeremiah, &c. with Orpheus, Pythagoras, and other heathen vates. He died June 25, 1827, at Göttingen, where he had resided thirtynine years as a Professor. “ From the gradual decline of his strength, he felt the approach of death with the most imperturbable tranquillity; and he remarked in the last hour to his friend, the anatomist Languenbeck, and the celebrated Professor Blumenbach, as a point of physiological curiosity, how he felt by degrees the vital spirit withdrawing from the different parts of the body, and only a quarter of an hour before he breathed his last, he distinctly staiid that life was becoming extinct in the spina dorsi.” If Eichhorn did not survive his reputation, he lived long enough to see that it would be any thing but reputable, with a generation not far distant.
When a Unitarian writer wishes to blunt an argument, or an orator desires to awaken a prejudice, there is a standing illustration always ready, with which
« To point his moral and adorn his tale," Calvin burnt Servetus. How it will follow from this, that Socinus was born without any taint of original corruption; or that Davidies was not in the right to withhold worship from a being whom he deemed a creature merely, the gentleman, who visited Geneva and “reported progress” of rational Christianity among those, who sit in Calvin's
seat, did not inform the Unitarian Association. The following character of that champion of the reformation deserves attention.
“ Let Calvin's unimpeachable integrity; his exalted sanctity ; his firm stand for truth; the salutary and wide-spread influence of his personal labors, and his admirable writings ; let these be fairly estimated, and we shall hear rather less, than we have of late been accustomed to hear, ignorantly re-echoed, of the one deep blot on an else spotless name. The dreadful punishment inflicted on Servetus was in compliance with the notions of the time; but a man like Calvin, we admit, should have been superior to the errors of his age. It was defended by a mistaken application of scripture authority, but Calvin should have better known the character of his sanction. His act was in the stern spirit of the law, while his creed and his christian experience should have referred him to a more merciful dispensation. But let it not be forgotten, that he had no personal end to serve; that if there ever lived an individual above all imputation of priestcraft and hypocrisy, Calvin was the man; and that, although an act of unrelenting severity was perpetrated, it was not done in wantonness of cruelty, nor in the lust of power, but in erroneous deference to principles and prescriptions, which even in our own times and in enlightened countries, retain a strong grasp on the prejudices of men."
The conduct of Calvin in regard to Servetus, admits of no justification, and scarcely of apology. But why Unitarians should bestow all their sympathies upon Servetus, and “ remember to forget's Davidies, venting all their antipathies upon Calvin to the entire exclusion of Socinus and his friend Blandrata, is somewhat mysterious, if their object be, in so often producing this illustration, to express their hatred of persecution, and their love of liberal principles and free inquiry. To awaken prejudice is not to infix principle. Unitarian orators seem well aware of the fact, that most people reason with their ears. At least their arguments are built on this “ auricular confession.” If Unitarianism, whether in its larger or more limited sense, be true, it must be proved.so by some better argument than “ Calvin burnt Servetus.” It is unworthy the taste of Dr. Channing and the learning of Mr. Palfrey, to harangue in this style of bar-room declamation.
If Unitarians mean to insinuate that those, who are now called Calvinists in this country, are desirous of imitating the conduct of Calvin in this instance, without stopping to notice the enlarged “ liberality” of the insinuation, may we be permitted to ask whether Dr. Prince,