« AnteriorContinuar »
granted, yet nobody, I believe, who knows any thing about the matter, will grant the converse of the proposition, which is the ground upon which the compiler erects his edifice. No one who knows what the fathers were, especially the post-nicene fathers, and your friend has little to do with any others, will grant that because such men interpret the texts to which you apply your rule, in the same way as you do, that therefore your rule must be true.
The bias and bigotry of these fathers shine forth in every page of their works, and are well known to all readers of ecclesiastical history. They were sure to twist and turn every thing in which there was the smallest ambiguity, and even to strain and pervert many in which there was no ambiguity at all, towards that side which they called orthodox, that is, towards the side on which their own opinions, or rather their own temporal interests, lay. To try the cause by such men, is not to impannel fairly, but to pack most foully, a jury in your favour. .
By way of amusing us, and bribing our fancies in your behalf, your friend also gives us what he calls (page 9) - an ideal picture.' Suppose, says he, that
* “ Notre siécle, et la connoissance que nous avons d'une ins finité de personnes, ne nous apprennent que trop, que l'on “ fait souvent des livres, non pour soutenir ce que l'on croit “ véritablement ; mais parce qu'on se promet d'être avancé par “ là. Il ne faut pas douter que les hommes ne fussent faits au“ trefois, comme ils le sont aujourd'hui ; de sorte qu'en lisant “ les anciens comme les modernes, on doit prendre garde aux “ sentimens qu'ils avoient interêt de soutenir, et les distinguer « avec soin de ceux que l'on avance, sans en pouvoir espérer de “ l'avantage."-Le Clerc, Bibliothéque Universelle, vol. X. p. 371.
we had within our reach all that came from the hands of the christian greek writers for the first six centu. ries; and suppose that they all explained the texts in question as you do; and suppose that this explanation was never murmured at by those whose heresies were affected by it; and suppose that even the orthodox at one time wished to give a different interpretation ; and suppose that, notwithstanding this, they, and all other parties, perpetually used not only these very expressions, but others like them, in that one constant meaning pointed out by you ;-this, I imagine, says he, would be satisfactory.
But in this picture, which is indeed quite ideal, the painter has shewn himself to be very unskilful, both in composition and expression. The foregoing figures, comparatively insignificant, he places in the most conspicuous situations in the front of his canvass; and then thrusts into an obscure corner of the back ground that which is in reality the most important character in the whole piece, and ought to have stood most prominent in the group. “If,says he, we should see the philological peculiarity of your rule. appearing not only in a few texts, but
preserved through the whole language, we might then | boldly declare, that the idiom was not ambiguous.' So much for his composition! in which, however, he is not more defective than he is in expression. Though he calls his picture ideal, he means all his figures for real portraits ; for he says of it, at the beginning of his book, that though at present all is
merely ideal, it may be a subject of future conside* ration, whether or no he shall have been able to
é realize any of its features. Now, there is not the least resemblance, in a single feature, to any original upon the face of the earth. Not only have numbers of the christian writers of every description perished by the ravages of time, but almost all of those whom the bigotry, ignorance, and rage of orthodoxy deemed heretical, have been wilfully destroyed ; * the few who have survived, have been so mutilated and corrupted, as to be almost unintelligible ;t the expositions of texts, even in the orthodox, is far from being uniform; and so little has the whole language been consulted for your rule, that neither you nor your correspondent have produced a single example from any but ecclesiastical writers. To what purpose, then, this ideal picture, cujus, velut ægri somnia, vana finguntur species, but to make us laugh as soon as the curtain is drawn up?
But when we have paused a while, in order to allow you a little leisure for reviewing the ground over which we have passed, we will go on to our texts.
* See a letter of the Emperor Constantine's to the bishops and people, inserted in Socrat. Eccles. Hist. lib. I. cap. ix. p. 31. edit. Reading, 1720. Sandius also observes : Postquam a primitiva religione desciverant episcopi ac theologi, ut titulos hosce, catholicæ ac apostolicæ ecclesiæ, suo cætui arrogarent ac vendicaTent, summa.ope nitebantur, ne qua documenta, ne qua vestigia pristinæ rémanerent veritatis, seculari quoque brachio ad id abusi nefarie.--Pref. ad NUCLEUM, Hist. Eccles. See also DALLÆUS de usu Patrum, part 1. cap. iv. p. 99. edit. 1656.
† Erasmus, in his address to the reader, prefixed to his notes on Jerome's catalogue of ecclesiastical writers, says, no one who has the interest of literature at heart, can read the list with out grief, hinc intelligens, ex tot egregiis clarissimorum virorum monumentis vix paucula quædam superesse, atque ea sane mutila, depravata, contaminataque.
Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the
LORD [Heb. Jehovah] he is God; there is none else besides him. Deut. iv. 35.
These words spake Jesus; and lift up his eyes to heaven, and
said, FATHER, .. this is life eternal, that they might know THEE THE ONLY TRUE God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.' John xvii. 1. 3.
Jesus of Nazareth, a Man approved of God. Acts ii. 22.
which I am now about to examine, there lie two most important and decisive objections, which affect your interpretations of them all. The first is drawn from the context in which the words occur: a much better guide, in my opinion, to the true sense and meaning of an author's words, than any petty, minute, verbal criticisms about articles and conjunctions, strong as even these latter are, in all the present instances, against you. You tell us that you consider these texts as proofs of the divinity of Jesus. Now, in every one of them it is quite foreign to the business the writer has in hand to make him undertake the proof of any thing relating to the metaphysical nature and essence of Jesus. Were you to consider these texts merely as alluding to what had been proved and acknowledged before, the context would be violated by such an allusion, in the
first of the texts, if not in the others : but when you make them proofs, it is violated in all.
The second objection is drawn from the consequence deduceable from your interpretation, which, however you may be pleased with it, amounts, in my idea, to an absolute impossibility.
When you infer from these, or any other texts of scripture, that Jesus is God, you seem to forget that he was once really present upon earth, and conversed among mankind. Those who talk so familiarly of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, appear to me to do so without having any more impression of any thing real and substantial excited in their minds by the term which they use for the second person of their trinity, than by that which they use for the third person, or than they have when they use the word ghost to denote any other phantom of the imagination. They learn in their youth a theological language, just as they learn any other language, greek, latin, or french, for instance: and then, when they grow up, they repeat the words Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and conceive each' word to mean God, exactly in the same way, and with as much ease, as they do the three names for God, in the three languages I have mentioned.
But now, Sir, let any man seriously and deliberately ask himself, whether a real person now actually standing before him, in a human form, I do not say is, but can possibly be, God. But possibility and impossibility were the same things in the days of Jesus, as they are at this moment: and Jesus we know did actually converse and live among man