Images de page

shaken the Roman empire, and involved it in civil war, the care and entreaty of the Jews was very reasonable, and Pilate could not well refuse it without exposing himself to serious responsibility." "Matt. xxviii. 2, And behold, there was a great earthquake. Thus it has been translated in the English and in Luther's translation. But there may be an error. An earthquake is very extensive; and it would be an extraordinary statement, if we were to say, 'there was a great earthquake; for an angel rolled back the stone from the sepulchre.' But if we translate it, a convulsive motion of the earth,' we should not give it the extensive and popular notion of an earthquake. I would thus state it: The ground about the grave was completely shaken, and something fell which was like lightning, and had the effect of driving the stone away from the door, to such a distance as to create this violent concussion.""

The verses of the 16th chapter of Mark, from 9th to 15th verses, present difficulties which it is not easy to harmonize with the accounts of the other Evangelists. But our author shows that their authenticity is very doubtful. "These verses," he informs us, "did not exist in the time of Jerome, 1400 years ago, in all the MSS. of the Latin translation, and, in general, in few Greek MSS."

John xx. 28, And Thomas answered and said unto him, my Lord and my God. "I will not go so far as to conclude from these words, that Thomas actually recognised at the time, the divine nature of Christ, of which we have no trace amongst the Apostles, previous to the effusion of the Holy Ghost; at least it was not the common doctrine of the Jewish Theology. But he rather names him in a figurative sense, as one risen from the dead. ‹His God,' whom he will always honour and adore, in the same way as Virgil in his first Eclogue, only still stronger, addresses Augustus: For he shall always be my god, the tender lamb from our folds shall often stain his altars.'


John xxi. 25, I suppose, that even the world itself could not contain the books which should be written. "An hyperbole much in the same way as Virgil: 'If I had an hundred tongues, and an hundred mouths, and an iron voice, capable of comprehending every species of crime, I could not describe the names of all the punishments,' with this difference, that this hyperbole, carried to a greater extreme, is common amongst the Jews in


their colloquial writings. Wetstein has shown several instances of it. Thus, If all the seas were ink, all the plants writing reeds, and every man a writer, I should be unable to write down.'


Mat. xxviii. 19, In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. "We know how frequently this passage is quoted as a proof of the doctrine of the Trinity, by many, indeed, who do not believe this doc trine, and wish, perhaps, to condemn it. I must confess I cannot see it in this view. The eternal divinity of the Son, is here not even mentioned, and it is impossible to understand from this passage, whether the Holy Ghost is a person. The meaning of Jesus may have been this, 'Those who were baptized, should, upon their baptism, confess that they believed in the Father, and in the Son, and in all the doctrines inculcated by the Holy Spirit.' In fact, I do not believe that the words in the form of baptism can signify more, because it was impossible for the majority of those who believed, to think more upon the subject at the time, for they were not regularly instructed in the mystery of the Trinity before baptism, and only received complete instruction in the doctrines of Christianity after baptism. Read only the second chapter of the Acts, where three thousand persons were baptized in one day. What did these persons know of the divinity of Christ, of which Peter, in his discourse, did not say a word? What did they know of the personality of the Holy Ghost? These were not doctrines of the Jewish Church. The oldest illustration of these words (that of Justin Martyr), coineides with what has been above stated."

Ver. 21, I am with you always, &c. "This is certainly not meant in a bodily sense, but implies the love, providence, assistance, and protection of Christ, upon which believers may rely as long as the world exists. I will here quote the language of a very rational and learned man, a Syrian (and Christ spoke Syriac) the great philosopher, physician, and historian, Gregory Bar Hebrieus, Primate of the Syrian Church, who was incontestably the most learned man of his day, in the 13th century. He said upon his death-bed to his scholars, If ye continue in love, I will be amongst you.' This sensible man did not contemplate any bodily presence, he merely had in view a sentiment of good and common feeling, and the natural harmony of virtuous minds." G. C. S.


No. 28.

DECEMBER, 1828. Vol. III.

Trinitarianism Self-condemned.

DR. WHATELY, the learned Principal of St. Alban's Hall, Oxford, and author, amongst other useful works, of an excellent Treatise on Logic, has, in the last mentioned work, some observations under the head Person, relatively to the effects of Trinitarianism as commonly taught, which, coming from one who is an avowed Trinitarian, contain admissions that are not a little remarkable.

The learned writer animadverts, at some length, on the ordinary and on the theological meaning of the term person. In the common acceptation, person signifies a numerically distinct substance: each man is one person, and can be but one. Very different, however, is the meaning of the word as used in the language from which it has come to us. In Latin, it primarily signified a mask which actors wore on the stage; but as each mask was painted, in each instance, suitably to the character to be supported, the word persona, came to mean the character itself which the actor played, and afterwards, any character, proper or assumed, which any one sustained. Thus, Cicero, in describing the process by which he composed his pleadings, viz. by imagining himself in the place of his opponent and of the judge, as well as his own, says, Tres persones unus suscipio:-though one being, I assume these three characters (persons.) In this classical sense, Dr. Whately contends it was understood by our creed-makers; and in such a sense it ought, he continues, to be understood by all theologians; and by the aid of this explanation, the Trinity should be taught to the people. The Trinitarianism of Dr. W. is, therefore, what has been aptly termed “Unitarianism in a mist;" and the three persons are no more three distinct intelligent minds, than was the ancient orator Cicero.

To the neglect of this classical meaning of the word person, Dr. W. moreover, ascribes serious evils: it leads, he assures us, to Tritheism. A hundred times have Unitarians contended that such was the natural and necessary



tendency of the commonly taught notions of the Trinity; and, for ourselves, we doubt not that the majority of avowed Trinitarians, are either Unitarians without knowing it, or sheer Tritheists. But let us hear Dr. Whately; Many who do understand, or, at least, have once understood, the ambiguity in question [i.e. arising from the two significations we have mentioned], are apt to sit down satisfied that they are safe from all danger in that quarter [i. e. Tritheism], not considering how much the thoughts are habitually influenced, through the force of association, by the recurrence of the ordinary sense of the word [i. e. person]. And hence the frequent use, in other subjects, of the word person, in its ordinary sense, causes them to slide insensibly into the unthought-of, but I fear too common heresy of Tritheism; from which they think themselves the more secure, because they always maintain the Unity of the Deity; though they gradually come to understand that Unity in a merely figurative sense; viz. as a unity of purpose-concert of action, just as one commonly says, 'My friend such-a-one and myself are one;' meaning that they pursue the same design." Such is the tendency of Trinitarianism, allowed by one who calls himself a Trinitarian; and if this process takes place, and goes forward so easily and rapidly in the case of those who "understand," how much more certainly, easily, rapidly, and extensively, must it take place in the minds of the ignorant and unwary!

The Doctor proceeds, "This error of Tritheism, thus introduced, is indeed one which can hardly be neglected as in itself trifling, if we reflect, that the maintenance of the doctrine of the strict Unity of God, was no small part of the great purpose for which one nation was, during so many ages, kept apart from the rest of the world." He adds, "Many are driven by this means into a perversion of the Gospel truth [i. e. we imagine, to Unitarianism], or a total rejection of it-[what Unitarians have iterated again and again; yes, here is the great cause of unbelief, the absurdity of prevailing dogmas]-but also a far greater number of well-intentioned Christians, are led to the practical neglect of a doctrine which is the corner-stone of our faith. They find their minds so perplexed and confused by the ordinary statements of the doctrine of the Trinity, and in such danger of sliding into Tritheism, that while they humbly yield their assent, they, at the same time" (I

say this, the Doctor remarks, in a great measure, not from conjecture, but from knowledge of the fact) "deliberately, and as a point of conscience, study to keep the doctrine out of their thoughts." So that, after all, poor abused Unitarianism, it seems, is the operating principle with these well-intentioned Christians. Where, then, is the utility of Trinitarianism? Utility!—the worthy Principal himself shows it has none. Its only use, according to him, is to perplex and confound, and to alienate men from the faith of the Gospel. Surely, that the Christian world were well and speedily rid of a doctrine-bordering so closely on a serious heresy-having a natural tendency to lapse into heresy and which, as held by the majority, is a heresy—a doctrine either discarded by the good, or confounding and perplexing, and making unbelievers-is a consummation devoutly to be wished. G. C. S.

[blocks in formation]

Additional Remarks on the Character of Napoleon Bonaparte, by Dr. Channing of Boston, North America. (Concluded from page 22.)

WE have spoken of the supreme importance which is attached to rulers and government, as a prejudice; and we think that something may be done towards abating the passion for power, by placing this thought in a clearer light. It seems to us not very difficult to show, that to govern men is not so high a sphere of action as has been commonly supposed, and that those who have obtained this dignity, have usurped a place beyond their due, in history and men's minds. We apprehend, indeed, that we are not alone in this opinion; that a change of sentiment on this subject has commenced and must go on; that men are learning that there are higher sources of happiness, and more important agents in human affairs, than political rule. It is one mark of the progress of society, that it brings down the public man, and raises the private one. It throws power into the hands of untitled individuals, and spreads it through all orders of the community. It multiplies and distributes freely means of extensive influence, and opens new channels, by which the gifted mind, in whatever rank or condition, may communicate itself far and wide. Through the diffusion of education and printing, a private man may now speak to multitudes, incomparably more numerous, than ancient or modern eloquence ever electrified in the popular assembly or the hall of legislation, By these instruments, truth is asserting her sovereignty over nations, without the help of rank, office, or sword; and her faithful ministers will become more and more the lawgivers of the world.

« PrécédentContinuer »