« PreviousContinue »
understands the original Greek in these passages answers, very easily, thus; the phrase, which, in various places, is translated,
those who call upon the name of Christ,’ is mis-translated; it should be rendered - those, who are called by the name of Christ;' i. e. this expression simply designates them, as Christians, followers of Christ, and must have been so understood by those, who first used this language. Those, who were called by the name of Christ were Christians, just as those, called by the name of Plato were Platonists; or of Calvin, Calvinists; or of Socinus, Socinians. This expression then, on which the Orthodox have so confidently relied to prove the divinity of Christ, from the fact that the primitive Christians addressed prayers to him, means nothing more than that the disciples were called Christians, no very strong argument, surely, unless it will also prove that the Unitarian Christians of Boston worship Christ.” I ask intelligent Unitarians if this is not a fair statement of their opinions on these disputed texts. It will not be denied that these passages mean either, to be called by the name, or, to call upon the name, of Christ. These are the only interpretations, which professed scholars will venture to produce. Should these words, then, be shown to mean simply Christians, without pointing them out as those that invoked Christ, though the Unitarian critics would effectually remove one class of texts on which the Orthodox_have placed some reliance to prove the divinity of Christ, they would deserve credit for presenting us with simply scriptural truth. This, certainly, is of higher importance than any mere support of party or sect. We should willingly follow where truth leads, come what of contempt, of odium, of persecution there may.
But how shall we know, in the present case, that the Unitarian interpretation is the true one in preference to the Orthodox and commonly received interpretation ? Each party claims Greek usage and Greek authorities. I am not disposed to enter into this discussion, whatever may be the truth. The reader of the English Testament merely, may stand in doubt, when Mr. A. affirms and Mr. B. denies. Let us grant, for sake of argument, that the case is doubtful, that the evidence for each interpretation is equal. The scales now hang in equilibrio. Is there any weight which may turn then ? What would Gesenius, and the whole class of consistent thorough-going rationalist scholars, say upon these passages ? Will Unitarians abide their decision ? But this would not help the English reader, who wishes for argument and not authority. Is there any way in which a plain common sense English reader can determine this much controverted question to his own satisfaction? Let us
see. Suppose we can fix by one and the same historian, upon the time and place when and where the disciples were first called Christians; and suppose, according to this historian, that this expression was in common use before the disciples were so called, will not the question be settled that whatever this controverted expression may mean, it does not simply designate the name Christian ? For this purpose compare Acts xi. 26 and ix. 14. “ The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” This was, according to the chronologists, between A. D. 42 and 44. Ananias answered, “ Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem; and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.” This was A. D. 34 or 35, i. e. from 7 to 10 years before the disciples were called by the name of their master. It should be borne in mind, that it is the same historian who relates both facts. Comment on these passages in this connexion is almost superfluous. Yet I will ask, whom did Ananias address by the word, Lord ? Not the Father, certainly, for Christians were not called by the name of the Father. “By thy name,” as Unitarians would render this passage, they themselves say, is to be understood the name of Christ. Here then is an explicit instance of an early disciple calling upon the name of Christ, or invoking or praying to Christ. Was Ana
Guilty of uttering in prayer a solemn falsehood to Christ, saving that the disciples were called by his name seven years before they were so called? Or did Luke forget in the eleventh chapter, what he related in the ninth? Or is this an instance in which he only related, according to the best of his knowledge, but certainly erred? To sum up all in one question, I ask the English reader of the New Testament and the most learned biblical critic, whether the disciples of Christ at Jerusalem and elsewhere, previous to the time when Barnabas and Saul assembled themselves with the church a whole year and taught much people at Antioch, where “ the disciples were first called Christians,” were not described as those that called upon the name of the Lord ? In the Improved Version these passages are rendered thus. “ The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.” “He hath authority to bind all, who are called by thy name.” Whatever system of chronology we adopt, it is admitted on all hands, that this latter assertion, made by Ananias in prayer to the Lord, must have preceded the other fact recorded by the same historian, that the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch, by some years. I ask if this testimony is not sufficiently explicit, of sufficient weight, to turn the scales, and decide the question forever? Is not the.practice of Ananias an intelligible comment on his words? If Ananias
might properly address Christ in prayer, why might he not describe others as accustomed to do the same? Had not Stephen just commended his departing spirit into the hands of the Lord Jesus? Will Unitarians still think it unscriptural, irrational, and idolatrous to imitate Stephen, Ananias, and the saints of the Lord ?
Other considerations strengthen this view of the subject. At the time of Paul's journey to Damascus, “the disciples” were not yet called Christians at Jerusalem. Ananias had never known such a name applied to “ the saints” of the “Lord;” or at least, without assuming the point in debate, there is no evidence that he ever had, and, if the historian is to be credited as to its subsequent origin and application, he never had. It is apparent from the narrative of Luke, that it was a new name, first given to the disciples at Antioch, before and elsewhere wholly unknown. At Jerusalem the name Christ was synonymous with Messiah, anointed of the Lord. The disciples would not take the name from reverence to their Lord.* The Jews would not give it because it would imply that the Messiah had come, and that these followers of the despised Nazarene were believers in the true Christ. At Antioch the case was different. The heathen converts had not the same reverence for the mere name, and those, who continued heathen might very naturally apply the term ag an opprobrious epithet, which would readily be adopied by those, who were spoken evil of " for the name ” of their master. These considerations, suggested on reflection, lend additional weight to the opinion, which is forced upon us by the comparison of the two passages already quoted from the Acts.
“ Those that called upon the name of Christ” means, then, those that invoked or prayed to Christ, and not merely those that were called by his name. Let liberal minds follow out their principles, and as they allow that invocation or prayer is a proper, and the most proper act of religious worship; and as the scriptures limit such religious worship to the one Supreme Jehovah ; let them not shrink from the conclusion that the Lord from heaven is, in some view of his character, truly and properly divine ; GOD OVER ALL, BLESSED
One word as to a name appropriate to the present Unitarians, and distinctive of their creed. What objection can there be to the term Humanitarian? In England, it is proposed by a writer in the Monthly Repository to substitute Philadelphian for Unitarian. By the extract before made from Socinus, it appears that Paleologus was
* Besides, why should they not be called after, or take their name from, Jesus? "Thou shalt call his name Jesus.”
the first and the chief standard bearer among those, who, after the Reformation, denied that Christ was to be worshipped, and yet “ had the effrontery to claim to be Christians.” In the view of Boston Unitarians, he must have been a most enlightened Christian, liberal and rational beyond his age, throwing all other of his contemporary reformers into the shade. Would not the name Paleologians be at once appropriate, definite, and distinctive for American Unitarians ? But we have no dispute about names. We are quite willing to be called Calvinists, (claiming the liberty of defining what we mean by the term,) than which, Unitarians being judges, no name can be less desirable or less honorable. Will Boston Humanitarians be afraid of the name of their “ standard-bearer”? Will Unitarians longer “ have the effrontery" not only “ to call themselves Christians,” but to insist upon the Orthodox calling and considering them such ? At all events, the Orthodox cannot be thought bigoted for agreeing with the Polish Socinians, that those who refuse to call upon the name of Christ, do not deserve to be called by his name.
It has been seen from the preceding Letters and Notes, that American Unitarians have at length reached the point where the canon is openly, and the inspiration and authority of the sacred volume are really, to be called in question. I do not believe that all, who bear the Unitarian name, or are claimed as of that sect, are willing to expunge the Epistle to the Hebrews from the sacred volume, or to adopt the sweeping process of reasoning by which the writer in the Christian Examiner would undermine its authority. Still the leaders of the party are committed to reject that Epistle, and we have already seen that the principle of reasoning by which it is rejected, goes to an entire subversion of the whole sacred volume. What ground the Unitarian critics will now take, and how far the party will follow the leaders, remains to be seen. To all who reflect and understand the subject, it is apparent that the same questions are soon to be debated here, that have long been discussed between the Supernaturalists and Rationalists of Europe. Professor Stuart, ten years ago, predicted this result. By his Commentary on
the Epistle to the Hebrews, he has compelled the Unitarians to show their colours. They must either acknowledge Orthodoxy to be the doctrine of inspiration, or reject the Epistle to the Hebrews, (which all well-read critics must allow to be Orthodox,) as part of the inspired volume. They have chosen the latter alternative. What ground will be taken by the Christian Examiner when the Epistle to the Romans shall be given to the public by the Professor, though matter of conjecture, is hardly a matter of rational doubt.
As this work may fall into the hands of some young or inquisitive minds, who have not yet examined the great subjects of revelation and inspiration, it may aid them in their investigations on these all-important topics to have a few of the best authors pointed out. The following list may all be studied to great advantage and, perhaps, in the order in which they here stand as well as in any other. Dr. Channing's Dudleian Lecture. This is a beautiful specimen of composition, having the writer's usual elegance, and an unusual share of logic. Leslie's Short and Easy Method with Deists ; an incontrovertible argument as Middleton, with his infidel prejudices, candidly acknowledged. Erskine's Internal Evidence; a scholar-like, philosophical and truly rational work, in which vital religion is divested of technicality, and presented in its own lineaments, colours and proportions. The last edition is the best. Paley's Hora Pauline ; the most original and masterly production of its author ; containing, not only an able defence of Christianity, but the most satisfactory proof of the genuineness of the documents of Christianity to be found in the English language. Bishop Marsh's Lectures contain the most scientific view of the evidences of Christianity accessible to the English scholar; though designed as a directory for theological students, they will richly reward the study of intelligent Jaymen. If but one book could be read, Paley's Evidences should probably be selected. In addition to the preceding list, Bogue's Essay on the New Testament, and Littleton's Conversion of St. Paul, might be studied with great profit. To remove difficulties and silence objections, Butler's Analogy is unequalled. It were easy to swell this list, but these works are among the best, and deserve to be first studied; and he, who has mastered these, will be master of the subject. In regard to the canon, inspiration and authority of the scriptures, Storr unquestionably holds the first place. Jahn's Introduc. tion to the Old Testament has recently been given to the public, for which the translators deserve many thanks; this, together with Hug's Introduction to the Writings of the New Covenant, which has recently been translated and published in England, supply a de