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Men may incorporate their doctrines in creeds or articles of faith, and sing them in hymns; and this may be all both useful and edifying, if the doctrine be true: but, in every question which involves the eternal interests of man, the Holy Scriptures must be appealed to, in union with reason, their great commentator. He who forms his creed or confession of faith without these, may believe any thing or nothing, as the cunning of others or his own caprices may dictate. Human creeds and confessions of faith have been often put in the place of the Bible, to the disgrace both of revelation and reason.
Let those go away, let these be retained, whatever the consequence.
“ Fiat justitia : ruat coelum.” – DR. ADAM CLARKE: Commentary, vol. vi. last page.
Who would not shrink from asserting, that a heathen of virtuous life must without doubt perish everlastingly? Still more, who is there that in his heart pronounces endless punishment on the earnest and conscientious man who lives in the faith and love of Christ, but yet is intellectually unable to word his creed in the precise phraseology adopted by the Athanasian formula ? It is a public scandal, and very injurious to national morality, that such emphatic words should be solemnly used in our churches, and yet accepted by no one; for, though each man's conscience may be relieved by the consciousness that the dissent from the natural meaning is so universally understood as to deceive no one, the example of such vehement yet really disavowed assertion is grievously calculated to countenance the low morality which prevails regarding public professions. . . . Scripture never intended to reveal to us the real and absolute essence of the divine nature: it could not be grasped by the human understanding. North British Review for August, 1852; Amer. edit. vol. xii. P.
205. The writer of the preceding paragraph, however, says that “nowhere is the cardinal doctrine of the Trinity expounded with greater felicity and greater power than in the Athanasian Creed.” Might we not add, certainly not in the Sacred Scriptures ?
In respect to the original right of private judgment, — the right to call in question any human symbols or confessions, and to bring them all to the simple test of God's holy word, - why should it be thought, or even indirectly intimated, that it is presumption and wickedness for any individual now to question the correctness of some opinions defended by Luther and Melancthon, by Zuingle and Calvin, or by Turretin and Gomer ? Are there no Christians now who have as much knowledge of the Bible as these men ? Are there none who have as high a reverence for it, as much sincere attachment to it?
Is it not a matter of wonder, that, after so many experiments utterly unsuccessful, the churches should still continue to expect and demand the accomplishment of that from creeds and councils, and from authority, which never can be brought about except by scriptural reason and argument? Have the Thirty-nine Articles of the English church secured her uniform orthodoxy and evangelical spirit? History, from the time of Archbishop Laud, will answer this question. Have the church of Scotland been made uniform in sentiment by their creed ? Look through its history for the last century, and any one may easily learn. Have the Presbyterian churches in England and America been made uniform in their faith by reason of their creed ? and are they still of one mind? Alas! we are almost forced to the conclusion that their dissensions have been increased by their symbols; so much is surely true, viz., that, when dissensions have existed, they have been greatly aggravated by the very reason, that accusation for supposed departure from the standards has been rendered more intense and urgent, and has assumed more of the air of authority. ... Reason, argument —- rather, I should say, the Scriptures urged by reason and argument. only ultimate means to be relied on, so far as means employed by men are concerned.
MOSES STUART, in Biblical Repository for July, 1836; vol. viii. pp. 34, 67-8.
Dogmatical propositions, such as are commonly woven into creeds and catechisms of doctrine, have not the certainty they are commonly supposed to have. They only give us the seeing of the authors at the precise standpoint occupied by them at the time, and they are true only as seen from that point; not even there, save in a proximate
In the original formation of any creed, catechism, or system of divinity, there is always a latent element of figure, which probably the authors know not of, but without which it is neither true to them nor to anybody. But, in a long course of repetition, the figure dies out, and the formula settles into a literality, and then, if the repetition goes on, it is really an assent to what is not true; for that which was true at the beginning has now become untrue, and that, however paradoxical it may seem, by being assented to.... Considering the infirmities of language, therefore, all formularies of doctrine should be held in a certain spirit of accommodation. They cannot be pressed to the letter, for the very sufficient reason that the letter is never true. They can be regarded only as proximate representations, and should therefore be accepted, not as laws over belief or opinion, but more as badges of consent and good understanding. The moment we begin
to speak of them as guards and tests of purity, we confess that we have lost the sense of purity, and, with about equal certainty, the virtue itself. ... The greatest objection that I know to creeds that is, to creeds of a theoretic or dogmatic character - is, that they make 80 many appearances of division, where there really is none till the appearances make it. They are likely also, unless some debate or controversy sharpens the mind to them and keeps them alive, to die out of meaning, and be assented to at last as a mere jingle of words. Thus we have, in many of our orthodox formulas of Trinity, the phrase, “ the same in substance;” and yet how many are there, even of our theologians, to whom it will now seem a heresy to say this with a meaning! And the clause following, “ equal in power and glory," will be scarcely less supportable, when a view of Trinity is offered which gives the terms an earnest and real significance. -- DR. HORACE BUSHNELL: God in Christ, pp. 79–83.
Though creeds are understood neither by their authors nor by any one else, and whatever was true in them originally becomes by repetition untrue, and though they are quite useless as guards and tests of purity of doctrine, Dr. BUSHNELL says (p. 82) that he has been ready to accept as great a number of them as fell in his way.
Creeds fabricated by priestly craft constitute the heaviest and most corroding chain ever fastened on human minds. The inquirer after truth is drawn away from the words and example of the great Teacher, and confused by those who shout around him their own articles so violently, that the voice of the only infallible Master is nearly drowned. And what are these substitutes for the plain teachings of the New Testament but miserable skeletons, freezing abstractions, unintelligible dogmas, as dubious to the understanding as they are repugnant to the heart? The confessions of faith, books of discipline, and creedconcoctions, in general, adopted by most Protestant sects, embody the grand idea of infallibility, as truly as the decrees of Trent and the Vatican; and, if I were compelled to choose between the two, most assuredly would I prefer the despotism of Rome; for that has some historical dignity, if no other merit. - E. L. MAGOON: Republican Christianity, pp. 242–3.
So say all true Protestants, extracts from whom might occupy many volumes. But, alas ! how frequently amongst those who arrogate to themselves exclusively the title of “ Orthodox,” are the decisions of fallible councils and erring individuals made the rule of Christian faith and communion!
NEED OF REVISING THE AUTHORIZED VERSION OF THE
BIBLE, AND CORRECTING IT FROM A PURE TEXT.
The hold which the mistranslations of the authorized version (of the Bible] havo on the minds of men gives to some ecclesiastical errors a tenacity of life almost indestructible. - Eclectic Review for June, 1841. .
Depend on it, no truth, no matter of fact fairly laid open, can ever subvert true religion. - RICHARD BENTLEY.
Whenever it shall be thought proper to set forth the Holy Scriptures, for the public use of our church, to better advantage than as they appear in the present English translation, the expediency of which grows every day more and more evident, a revision or correction of that translation may perhaps be more advisable than to attempt an entirely new one. For, as to the style and language, it admits but of little improvement; but, in respect of the sense and the accuracy of interpretation, the improvements of which it is capable are great and numberless. - BISHOP LOWTH: Translation of Isaiah, Prel. Diss. p. li.
A new translation of the Scriptures. has long been devoutly wished by many of the best friends to religion and our established church, who, though not insensible of the merit of our present version in common use, and justly believing it to be equal to the very best that is now extant in any language, ancient or modern, sorrowfully confess that it is still far from being so perfect as it might and should be; that it often represents the errors of a faulty original with too exact a resemblance; whilst, on the other hand, it has mistaken the true sense of the Hebrew in not a few places; and sometimes substituted an interpretation so obscure and perplexed, that it becomes almost impossible to make out with it any sense at all. And, if this be the case, shall we not be solicitous to obtain a remedy for such glaring imperfections ? --- DR. BENJAMIN BLAYNEY: Translation of Jeremiah, Prel. Disc. p. ix.
As this collation was made by some of the most distinguished scholars in the age of James the First, it is probable that our authorized version is as faithful a representation of the original Scriptures as could have been formed at that period. But when we consider the immense accession which has been since made, both to our critical and to our philological apparatus; when we consider that the whole mass of literature, commencing with the London Polyglot and continued to Griesbach’s Greek Testament, was collected subsequently to that
period; when we consider that the most important sources of intelligence for the interpretation of the original Scriptures were likewise opened after that period, we cannot possibly pretend, that our authorized version does not require amendment. ... Dr. MACKNIGHT goes so far as to say of our authorized version, “It is by no means such a just representation of the inspired originals as merits to be implicitly relied on for determining the controverted articles of the Christian faith, and for quieting the dissensions which have rent the church.” — BISHOP MARSH: Lectures, pp. 295–6.
The warmest advocate of our translation cannot pronounce it free from faults, but must acknowledge that there still are in it some wrong interpretations, which either contradict the sense of the original, or obscure it. And can there be any inconvenience or danger in proposing to correct such errors ? Would it not be conducive to the advancement of the gospel to remove, if possible, and under just authority, every material error from our publicly received version, for the sake of those who do not understand the original ? --- BISHOP BURGESS: Tracts on the Divinity of Christ, pp. 241–2.
[The common version of the Bible, undertaken by the orders of King James the First, and first published in the year 1611] is level to the understanding of the cottager, and fit to meet the eye of the critic, the poet, and the philosopher. . . . No work has ever been so generally read, or more universally admired; and such is its complete possession of the public mind, that no translation differing materially from it can ever become acceptable in this country. ... It was [however] not made from corrected or critical texts of the originals, but from the Masoretic Hebrew text, and from the common printed Greek text of the New Testament. Consequently, whatever imperfections belonged to the originals at the time must be expected in the version. ... That it is capable of improvement will generally be admitted, and that we are in possession of the means by which that improvement could be made is equally unquestionable. WM. ORME: Bibliotheca Biblica,
That the text called the textus receptus, or received text, is far from supplying such a desideratum [as a new revision of the authorized version of the Bible] will be manifest in considering its origin and quality. That text is no other than the result of the various transcriptural errors, omissions, and additions, very partially and imperfectly corrected, which have accrued to the primitive text, during the thousand obscure ages that intervened between the age of the oldest