Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

nonsense.

also believe and tremble." What was the object of James in his epistle, especially in this assertion? Was it not to show that faith alone in accountable beings, i. e. mere belief without right affections and actions, could not justify ? In the passage just quoted, he allows that belief in the existence of God is “ well” enough in itself, but this alone can never justify and save. How does he prove this? Thus. Even the devils believe and, what is more, tremble, and thereby show the sincerity of their belief. What, to Unitarian conception, can this mean? Does a mythus or madness believe and tremble? Does “the evil principle” believe and tremble ? Of rational accountable beings, this may be said, but of what else can it be? Either of the liberal explanations applied to the word “ devils," in this connexion, makes the apostle's reasoning, instead of an argument, a mass of unintelligible

If language can express the conception, is not actual personal existence attributed to evil spirits here?

In an unornamented argumentative discussion, can “ belief and trembling" be predicated of disease or of the abstract principle of evil under the personal name of devils," while the only pertinent use of the word, while the whole drift of the argument, requires that it be taken in its personal sense? In the compass of language, inspired or uninspired, oriental or occidental, prosaic or poetical, can there be found a catachresis so harsh and craggy, as Unitarian interpreters would here thrust upon one of the simplest and most matter-of-fact writers in the New Testament? The expression itself, the context, the object of the writer, the general character of the epistle and of the apostle, are all for a simple natural meaning, which a child could not help understanding right; yet an unwillingness to believe an unpalatable fact, together with the prejudice of system, introduce and defend a figure

[ocr errors]

that, at once, bids defiance to all laws of language and rules of logic. If such be "rational” interpretation, what is irrational ? Let him, who believes the Bible to contain a revelation from heaven, and the epistle of James to be a part of that revelation, read the passage already quoted from that epistle, read it in its connexion, and then, in the presence of his maker and his judge, lay his hand upon his breast and say whether the passage does not seem to him to teach the actual existence of evil spirits, of “devils that believe and tremble." Is it irrational to interpret scripture, not only according to its literal and obvious meaning, but according to its only consistent meaning ?

The opinion of the apostle John, on this subject, has been already exhibited from his gospel. His first epistle abundantly confirms that opinion, as may be seen by quotations in note C.

In order to elicit the opinions of Peter and Jude, the second chapter of the second epistle of the former, may be compared with the epistle of the latter. These two passages are very similar, and designed to teach the same lesson. Let us examine them with some particularity. They both assert the fact that as there had been false prophets among the Israelites of old, so

“ false teachers," had already, even in the apostolic age, crept in unawares" to the Christian church, "privily bringing in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them.” It would be foreign to our purpose to inquire who these teachers were. The assertion “ that they denied the Lord that bought them," sufficiently indicates the cast and stamp of their theology. The apostles, seeing the danger to which the Christian church was thus early exposed, "gave all diligence in writing to those sanctified by God, the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, horting them to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints." They assure them at the same

ex

time, that, though "many should follow the pernicious ways of these false teachers, so that the way of truth should be evil spoken of, yet their judgment lingered not, and their damnation did not slumber.” In this case, both the teachers and the taught, “ following pernicious ways,” the apostles most plainly declare should speedily be involved in one common ruin, “ bringing upon themselves swift destruction.” Peter, well acquainted with the human heart and its readiness to deny or doubt the plainest and most unequivocal assertions of divine vengeance, immediately adduces other recorded examples of the terrible wrath of Almighty God against sinners, to show the certainty of the threatened punishment against these false teachers. “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; and spared not the old world, but saved Noah, the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly ; delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked....the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” How much of this is literal ? Was a whole “world of the ungodly” destroyed by a flood, or a figure ? Was Noah saved literally or figuratively? Were those that “ dwelt in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah burnt to ashes," and thus made “an ensample to those that should live ungodly," by figure or in fact ? Was there such a man as Lot, whom God delivered from this conflagration? Or is this a personification ? Were “ the angels that sinned,” real angels, who transgressed the divine laws, or the evil principle, or a mythus, or disease? Were

these angels, or this principle, disease, or mythus, "cast down to hell, and there delivered into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment”? What principle of interpretation, sanctioned by usage, common sense or consistency, could thus jump at once from the simple, self-evident meaning of language, to so harsh, crabbed, unmeaning and incredible an explanation as the self-styled rational theory forces upon this passage ? Does not the expression “ angels that sinned,” in this connexion presuppose their existence in a sinless state ? When was

the principle of evil” in this sinless state? How did

the principle of evil” sin ? Can any thing but voluntary agents be said to sin ? Is the principle of evil a voluntary agent? Or rather a multitude of such agents, "angels that sinned"? According to Jude, these angels “kept not their first estate.What was the first estate of the principle of evil? They left their own habitation. What was the original habitation of this principle? Innumerable questions like these might be asked on the different passages, which relate to this subject, that will admit of no conceivable answer, consistent with the Unitarian hypothesis; no answer, which would not carry absurdity on the face of it.

Even a “ rational” believer would hardly venture to predicate sin of disease, or of a mythological Jewish fancy. This would startle Dathe, who thinks Satan, in the book of Job, a good angel, though rather a rigid censor of morals; or even Brennecke, who believed that Christ remained twenty-seven years on earth after his resurrection.*

* See Note E. I regret to notice that Mr. Noyes, in his spirited, faithful and elegant translation of the Book of Job, rather countenances this absurd dream of Eichhorn, Dathe, &c. To mention such an hypothesis is to refute it.

LETTER VI.

Rev. and Dear Sir,

The sum of the argument is this. Christ himself was tempted and put to exquisite suffering by Satan. He also repeatedly, and explicitly taught the doctrine of personal diabolical existence. He taught this to the Jews as a people, to the Pharisees as a sect, and to his own disciples in private. Christ possessed and exerted the power of expelling devils from individuals tormented by them. This power he imparted to the twelve apostles and seventy disciples, which they also frequently exercised. Christ taught, concerning evil spirits, a continuity of agency, influence, and connexion, intelligible only on the supposition of personal existence.

Christ distinctly represents a mighty evil spirit as occupying a usurped dominion in this world. After his ascension to heaven he confirmed the same truth. The apostles Matthew, John, Paul, James, Peter, and Jude, together with the disciples Mark and Luke, understood their commission to mean that men were literally to be turned “from the power of Satan unto God.”

Hitherto the argument has been simply scriptural. The principles of interpretation applied, have been those of common sense ; just those principles which are in daily use when we decide on the meaning of language. Before closing the argument, I wish to present to the truly philosophical inquirer one train of thought, differing in a degree from those already suggested, though it has been hinted at, and would be perceived by a reader of the class now particularly addressed.

What is the evidence on which the Copernican theory rests, and by which it has supplanted all others ? Simply this, all known facts tally exactly with this the

« PreviousContinue »