Images de page
PDF
ePub

he does right, “ for,” he adds, “whatever is not of “faith is sin;" whatever action is not accompanied with a belief of its lawfulness, is so far criminal, as it shows in him, who commits it, a presumptuous disposition to violate the rights of conscience. But this has not the least reference to the belief of the principles, tenets, or doctrines of christianity; but merely of the lawfulness or unlawfulness of certain actions. It deserves also to be remarked, that, in the matter discussed by the apostle, it is of no consequence, for rendering the action virtuous or vicious, whether the things believed be true or false, but barely that they be believed, and that our practice be conformable to our belief. To act against conviction or belief, he tells us, is a sin, to forbear acting in such a case is a duty, even though the thing believed be a falsehood. Nay it is, in fact, against what he himself acknowledgeth to be an erroneous faith, that he declares the man justly condemnable who acts. Now when such a perversion of the sacred text, as I have been illustrating, is made knowingly by the speaker against his better judgment, it is without doubt what the apostle calls “handling the word of God deceitfully," even though the sentiment, in support of which it is produced, be a true sentiment, and conformable to the doctrine of Holy Writ. There is a candour and simplicity, which ought ever to attend the ministry of religion, not only in regard to the ends pursued, but in regard to the means employed for the attainment of the ends. Castalio, in the defence of his Latin translation of the Bible against Beza, who had attacked him with a viralence which savours too much of what, not greatly to the honour of

polemic divinity, has been called the odium theologicum, amongst other things mentions an accusation for translating the third verse of the first chapter of Gerosis in this manner, “ Jussit Deus ut “existeret lux, et extitit lux-God commanded that light should be, and light was.”

And the reason of Beza's animadversion is, that in his opinion, Castalio had, by so doing, suppressed an important argument for the trinity.

“ Moses," says Beza, “purposely used the verb amar, said, that "he might indicate another person in the Godhead “ distinct from the person of the Father, and from “ the person of the Holy Ghost, namely the Son " of God, by whom the whole series of creation

was enunciated. The evangelist John, taking " occasion hence, calls him hoyos the word, and

proves him to be God, and to have been in the "beginning with God. But this man, (meaning

Castalio) excluding the verb said, in which the “greatest moment and principal weight is placed, "expresses only in his version the signification of " the verb ihi, fiat.Thus far Beza; in which remark if he was sincere, as we are bound in charity to believe, it is impossible, whatever his erudition and other talents might be, to think otherwise than meanly of his skill in criticism. I own at the same time that I like the common translation,

6 Dixit “ Deus, Fiat lux, et facta est lux;" much better than Castalio's, and that, not indeed for Beza's reason, which is no reason at all, but merely, because it is more conformable to the simplicity and dignity of the original. Castalio's answer to the above charge, though it would perhaps be thought too ludicrous for the seriousness of the subject, justly

exposes the absurdity of his antagonist.“ Hæc « sunt illius verba, quibus nihilo aptius argumen“tatur, quam si quis ita dicat: Moses in illis ver

bis, Dixit serpens feminæ, cur vobis dixit Deus, "&c. data opera usus est verbo amar, dixit, ut al“teram in diabolo personam distinctam a persona "patris, et a persona spiritus impuri, nempe filium “ diaboli insigniret; nam certe simillima est locu" tio." He subjoins this sentiment, in which every lover of truth will cordially agree with him. Ego “ veritatem velim veris argumentis defendi, non ita "" ridiculis, quibus deridenda propinetur adversa“ riis.” How much more modest, in this repect, was Calvin, whose zeal for the doctrine will not be questioned, than either Beza or Luther? This last had exclaimed with great vehemence against both Jews and antitrinitarians, for not admitting that in these words, in the first verse of Genesis, God created, bara Elohim, there is contained a proof of the trinity, because the noun, signifying God, in the Hebrew has a plural form though joined to a verb in the singular. Calvin on the contrary refutes this argument, or quibble rather, at some length, and adds judiciously, speaking of this expression, “ Monendi sunt lectores ut sibi a “violentis ejusmodi glossis caveant.” I remember once to have heard a sort of lecture, on the miraculous cure of Bartimeus's blindness, from perhaps the most popular preacher, I cannot add the most judicious, that has appeared in this island in the present century. From these words of the blind man, addressed to Jesus, who had asked him, what he would have done for him? “ Lord, that I may 5 receive my sight,” the preacher inferred not only

[ocr errors]

the divinity of Jesus Christ, but Bartimeus's faith in this article. “ He could not,” said he, “ have “ given him the appellation Lord, Kupie, had he not “believed him to be God." And yet Mary gave the same appellation, Kupi, to Jesus, when she took him for no higher person than a gardener. The same appellation was given by the jailor to Paul and Silas, the prisoners under his care, Kupios. In the first of these places our translators have rightly rendered it Sir, in the second Sirs. Indeed it is notorious, that both in the Greek version of the Old Testament and in the New, the word, like Dominus in Latin, or Signore, in Italian, is applied indiscriminately, as a term of respect to God or to man. I own I could not help concluding in my own mind from the remark, Either you must be exceedingly ignorant in regard to the book you pretend to explain, or you treat sacred writ with a freedom and artifice, that suit better the subtlety of the Jesuit, than the sincerity of the christian divine. If a man wanted to render truth suspicious to people of discernment, I know no better

way

he could take, than to recur to such cavils in order to support it.

But to return to the method of treating the proofs, from which, I am afraid, I shall be thought to have digressed too long. I observed on entering on this article, that when the controversy is reducible to one simple point, and when there is only one opposing sentiment to be refuted, the preacher might make the refutation of objections the first head of discourse, and the defence of the doctrine proposed the second. And if nothing can be said, in refutation, but what will naturally find a place in

treating his argument, there is no necessity that the discourse should be divided into separate heads. One conclusive argument in many cases, is as good as a great number; for every part does not admit variety. Nor ought a division into different heads to be considered as a thing indispensable. Sometimes indeed when there is but one argument, it will very properly admit a division, as the conclusion rests on two propositions called premises; when neither of these can be said to be self-evident, it may be made the subject of the first head, to support one of the premises, and of the second, to support the other. I shall borrow an instance from a late attempt of my own in this way, as no other at present occurs to my memory. The design was to evince the divinity of our religion from the success of its first publishers. The argument: 1 stood thus. “First, the natural means originally "employed in propagating the gospel, were utter“ly inadequate, and must have proved ineffectual, "if unaccompanied with the divine interposition.

Secondly, the means employed were however “eminently effectual beyond all example before or

since. Consequently they were accompanied “ with a divine interposition, and our religion is of “God.” But every argument does not admit this division; for often one of the premises is either self-evident, or which amounts to the same, received by those against whom we argue. On the contrary, when the subject is complex and the opinions of the adversaries various, it will be better not to make a separate head of refutation, for where there are many jarring sentiments to be set aside, there is a danger of distracting the mind by multiplicity.

66

[ocr errors]
« PrécédentContinuer »