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conformed to the image of his Son " Rom viii. 29. See also Eph. i. 4-11. God hath not cast away his people, which he foreknew" Rom. xi. 2. "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father." 1 Pet. 1, 2.
It may seem almost a waste of time, after this, to say anything on the particular application of Mr Barker's theory to the person of Jesus Christ; namely, that God did not know, until he had tried him, whether he would answer the purpose of a Messiah, and consequently, that Jesus was never prophe sied of as an individual; especially as this is involved in both the two following subjects, the Miraculous Conception, and the Deity of Christ A few reflections however may be useful; in which we will endeavour not to trench on either of these points.
Now to bring forward all the particular prophecies concerning the Messiah, which met in so remarkable a manner in the person of Jesus Christ, would be quite unnecessary; we require nothing more than the general fact that a Messiah was promised by God to the world (which Mr. Barker admits); and it follows necessarily, that the Messiah must have been foreknown by God; for if God did not know who would be the Messiah, he could not possibly know, that there would be a Messiah at all. He might think it extremely probable, that among the millions of Adam's race, one would be found fit and willing to be the Saviour of the World ;* but if God does not foreknow the actions of free agents, he could not possibly know or be absolutely sure, that such a one would ever arise; unless indeed he had determined that, if no free agent would undertake the office, he would compel some one to undertake it against his will, Mr Barker contends, that God could not know whether Jesus would stand the test, until he had tried him; and suggests, that others may have been tried, and failed, before. Of course therefore it was quite possible, that Jesus himself might have failed; and then another would have to be tried; and if he failed, another and so on: in short every one might have failed, and there have been no Christ at all! Imagine the consternation of patriarchs and prophets in heaven, as centuries rolled on and no Saviour had appeared in the world; the multitude of promises and prophecies which they had always rested on as the sure word of God, still unfulfilled! And when they ask their heavenly Father about this seeming difficulty, he explains it by telling them, that all his prophecies, which depend on the future actions of free agents, must necessarily be conditional; that when he promised a Saviour to the world, the condition was of course implied-if he could find
* Of course I waive all questions here about the Atonement, &c. and argue on the ground, that any man good enough might answer the purpose of a Messiah.
one that the promises were indeed expressed very positively, because, all men being born upright and innocent, it was extremely improbable that not one would reach the standard required; but so it was; every trial had proved a failure, and he was disappointed in them all!!!-Need I " go any farther in my suppositions"? Or will this be set aside as an appeal to human reason? Well then, listen to "the teaching of Christ" himself, as you find it in John xviii 37. “Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came 1 into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth." Surely this must be enough for any ordinary mind. St. Paul at least seems to have had no doubt on the subject; for he writes to Timothy, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." 1 Tim. i. 15. And again to the Galations, ch. iv 4, "When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law." There was therefore a definite time fixed for the Messiah's appearance. And when we add to this, that he was to be born according to the prophecies at Bethlehem and of the family of David, and that our Saviour fulfilled all these requirements, we shall scarcely be able to agree with Mr. Barker, that Jesus was never prophesied of individually; but shall be perhaps more inclined to yield assent to the angel's saying, that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."
But we need not multiply passages or proofs. The denial of God's Foreknowledge, especially when applied to the Christhood of Jesus, must appear at a glance so perfectly irrational to every reflecting mind, and so palpably unscriptural to every enlightened mind, that I should scarcely have thought it worth devoting a page to, but for the sake of showing the depths into which we may sink, if we are once shaken from the rock of eternal truth, and are tempted to set our feet upon the quicksands of error. Dear Friends, these quicksands are much easier got on, than got off. Don't try any dangerous experiments; take heed that you be not uttering the prayer of hypocrisy, when you say, Lead us not into temptation.
At page 86, line 6, for "Is this enough" read "Is not this enough."
THE MIRACULOUS CONCEPTION.
God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. Rom. viii. 3.
ON reaching this subject the ground changes. For the words of scripture are so positive, that not only can there be no dispute about their meaning, but, what is a very different thing, there actually is none. I am not aware that any human being ever denied the fact of our Lord's conception by the Holy Ghost of the virgin Mary being taught in the two first chapters of St. Matthew and St. Luke. The only question is, Are these chapters genuine? If they are, the point is decided. But this some Unitarians doubt, and others deny. Let us examine on what grounds. The question is a simple matter of evidence, and must be tried as you would any other historical fact, Amongst the learned, who have opportunities of examining the evidence for themselves, the controversy has been settled long ago; indeed, no one in the present day, whether Unitarian or not, who has enough learning to make him care about risking the reputation of it, would venture to dispute their genuineness.* But as I am not writing for such, I know not how I can give the unlearned a better idea of the merits of the question, than by supposing the following case.
In the course of conversation with a stranger, I happen to mention the great victory gained by the English at the battle of Waterloo. S. Indeed you are very much mistaken: the English were completely routed in that battle. What could make you think the contrary? 1. Why every newspaper in Europe said so. S. Very true; but they were all paid to say So. You don't think I am going to be duped by a set of
The Unitarian Lardner, one of the most learned critics that ever lived decides positively in their favour; and pronounces the evidence to be indisputable. So does Socinus himself.
hireling editors. I. But all the soldiers, who had been at the battle themselves, said the same; and say so still. S. No doubt they do because they would lose their pensions, if they dared to tell the truth. I. But every history of the war, that has come from the press, states that Napoleon was beaten on that occasion. S. Perhaps so-because it flatters the vanity of the English, and makes their books sell. I. But the French writers confess it themselves. S. Because they are bribed to do so. I. But the government published official notices of it. S. Yes; and no doubt it answered some purpose of their own, to make the nation believe it. Probably it was to make them more willing to pay the immense additional taxes I. But how incredible that such a thing could be palmed upon the public without detection; and that it should always have been so universally believed! S. Why, you see, in those days, "complete emancipation" had not come in: people let their minds be held in bondage by "interested parties," instead of thinking for themselves. They are beginning now to throw off their fetters, and see through the deception that has been practised on them But you will find it was not so universally believed as you seem to think, when I state my authority for disbelieving it-which is this. A certain person told me, that he had in his possession an account of the battle, written by a soldier who was present; in which it was clearly shewn that Napoleon gained a splendid victory. I. But are you aware that your informant was branded as a deserter; that he was a notorious inventor of the most absurd and monstrous falsehoods conceivable; and that this very account, which he pretended to have received from an eye-witness, he was proved to have patched up himself from several others, leaving out, putting in, and altering just as he pleased? S. I know all this was said by his enemies; indeed I cannot altogether defend him myself, or believe all his statements. But, whatever he may be in other things, I am quite satisfied he is a credible witness in this particular point, and that his evidence is amply sufficient to overthrow all you have brought on the other side. Besides, it is so very unlikely that Napoleon should be beaten after conquering nearly all Europe; the reasons that are given to account for it are so very unsatisfactory; and the difference to be found in the various histories of it are so many, that the internal evidence alone is conclusive against the commonly received opinion. There are so many things too, that I cannot make out about the occurrence. I have examined all the accounts of it, and seen a plan of the locality; but still I cannot ascertain precisely where each particular regiment was placed, and how long it stayed there, and where it went to, and why it did this, and why it did not do that. Nor can any one give me satisfactory information as to the name of the first
soldier that fell, and whether he was shot through the head or through the heart. In fact the whole thing is involved in such mystery, that it is quite clear all the narratives of it are mere fictions.
Now every one, who has fairly investigated the subject before us, knows perfectly well, that such an argument as this would have just as much ground to rest on, as the argument against the authenticity of the two first chapters in Matthew and Luke. The evidence in their favour may be briefly stated under three heads. 1. There is not a single copy of the New Testament in the world, whether in manuscript or print, of whatever age, or in whatever language, that does not contain them. How utterly incredible (supposing the original gospels not to have contained them, which is Mr. Barker's theory) that not one single unadulterated copy should be in existence ! That amidst all the multitude of various readings, which abound in the different manuscripts and versions, not one should be found in any corner of the world, which disagrees with their unanimous verdict about these chapters, or gives the least hint of their being spurious!* 2. All the Fathers of the Christian Church, from Ignatius the companion of Peter and Paul downwards, assent to that article of the Apostle's Creed, "Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary ;" and nearly, if not quite, all of them refer to the disputed chapters, as the genuine writings of Matthew and Luke, and of inspired authority. We are not, observe, bringing forward the opinion of the Fathers to decide a matter of doctrine, but their evidence, as witnesses to decide a matter of fact; namely, that the disputed chapters have always formed part of the New Testament. Their evidence on this point is as conclusive as anything can possibly be: so that, if the chapters are spurious, they must have been forged, and received as part of the genuine gospels, in the very life-time of the Apostles. And how this could be accomplished, I leave for others to explain. 3. In all the controversies that took place between the early Christians and their heathen opponents, no doubt was ever raised on either side about the authenticity of these parts of the New Testament, nor any charge of forgery ever made against the Christians. "They stated many objections to particular circumstances in the narrative of the miraculous conception, but never entertained the most remote idea of treating the whole as spurious. They did not contend as our modern objectors do, that Matthew and Luke never wrote these accounts, but that, in writing them, they committed errors, or related falsehoods. To these decisive testimonies
• The Unitarian translation, published within the last half century, is of course excepted.