« ZurückWeiter »
these topics is needless. For many years the pages of the Evangelical Magazine have contained the honourable record, which should awaien our daily thankfulness, and infuse new vigour into our labours.
But if much is done, much still remains to be achieved. The adversaries of Jehovah's honour and man's best interest are perpetually active, and that in modes as perpetually diversificd. It is not, however, the design of the present paper to pursue those general observations, on a subject which every true Christian is bound to study for himself. It is only intended to call the attention of all the enlightened and active friends of our Lord Jesus Christ to a particular case, in which they ought to feel a deep interest. This case is the exertions for the propagation of their opinions, which are now made and projected by those who call themselves Unitarians *.
This party has, hitherto, been supposed to be employed chiefly in the way of inert speculation ; but they have published their determination no longer to lie under this opprobrium. Avowing great confidence of success, they are beginning to try the inHuence and efficacy of their principles in the adoption of means which have been so usefully employed by orthodox Christians.
1. They have, for some years, had a Tract Society in London, besides sone similar associations in the country. Recent circumstarces, it is apprehended, will excite new vigour in these societies.
2. They have a monthly publication, which has in succession assumed several forms of novelty, for the purpose of attracting public notice. This Magazine has been repeatedly held forth as "the only publication of the kind which is open to men of all persuasions and denominations.” How fallacious this pretension is, any one may learn from the severe, but merited, castigation of its publisher and quondam editor, inflicted in the Rev. C. Jerram's Letters to an Universalist. A marked characteristic of this periodical work is, the extreme unfairness and unrestrained virulence with which several of its contributors assauit the doctrines and characters of those who are called Cal. vinists.
3. The public sermons of many ministers among the class of persons referred to, have of late been much more doctrinal and controversial than has heretofore been customary among them.
* It is difficult to denominate this class of persons. The word Socinian is far from being an appropriate designation, since their sentiments are, in a variety of particulars, very different from those of Socinus. If the term T'nitarian vere mutually understood, as, the converse of Trinitarian, to refer merely to the notion of personality, we should have no diffculiy in giving them their favourite appellation. But since, in violation of all controversial justice, they in general pertinaciously maintain that they are exclusively believers in theirger i nily of the Godhead, they cannot be surprized at our refusal to call them Cnitarians, without premising the sense in which we psc the term.
. 4. In some of their congregations, peculiar pains are taken to confirm the young people in the Unitarian doctrines. It is well known, that, till of late, a large proportion of those who attend their meeting-houses were ignorant and unconcerned, to a rémarkable degree, about any religious sentiments.
5. Village and itinerant preaching are objects to which the Unitarians now give much attention, and which they are endeavouring to introduce and extend in their connexion. They have already obtained some itinerant preachers, who manifest both zeal and talents, and of whom iheir friends affirm, that “ they possess the true spirit of Missionaries."
6. To aid in the prosecution of these plans, a fund has been instituted ; and spirited exertions are made for its support and increase.
With what success these efforts will be followed, time and experience alone can shew. To those who recollect how readily the poison of infidelity was imbibed among the lower orders, on the publication of Paine's Age of Reason, it will not appear improbable, that many may be attracted by a plausible representaLion of the Unitarian opinions. Error is ever congenial to the corrupt and carnal heart ; and the errors in question are peculiarly flattering to its pride. To consider the Redeemer as a mere, fallible, and peccable man, – to represent the aposties as often misled by Jewish prejudices, and guilty of inconclusive and puerile reasoning, - to reject salvation by grace, the atonement of the Saviour, and the influences of the Spirit, - to affirm the merit of supposed virtue, while at the same time its standard is reduced extremely low, - to represent sin as an evil infinitely less, both in its guilt and its demerit, than serious Christians universally consider it, - to represent the future consequences of sin as inexpressibly less tremendous than the Scriptures at least seem to describe them, — cannot but.be most agreeable and welcome to the haughty, the self-enamoured, the worldly minded, the lover of a little decent dissipation, the man who is striving to soothe a disturbed conscience, the unfledged youth who is exquisitely delighted with his fancied superiority to common and vulgar prejudices, and the semi-infidel, who is too well instructed to be able to reject the argumentative evidences of Divine Revelation.
The principal object of this paper is to arouse the dormant, and to auld vigour to the active friends of truth, in their counteroperations, to flattering and destructive errors. The general means of defending the cause of immortal truth are, it is hoped, familiar to the minds of serious and intelligent Christians. But they will not disdain to accept a few hints on some particular objects of attention, from a sincere friend, whose opportunities have been somewhat fi vourable for observation on the different methods pursued by the foes and the advocates of true religion. They will, it is hoped, suffer the word of respectful exhortation.
1. As our opponents appear more and more resolved to observe no rules of fairness and polemical justice, in their present mode of assaulting “ the faith once delivered to the saints," nor even the measures of ordinary decency, let it be our punctilious endeavour to manifest an amiable contrast of temper, and to exercise the purest candoar, truth, and impartiality, in onr sermons, writings, or conversation for the defence of the gospel.
2. Let ministers, in particular, study to make themselves properly acquainted with the true nature, the proper grounds, and the due bearings of the points in controversy. Especially let the prime question, the capital turning point of each subject be carefully discovered, and diseritangled from all accessary, subordinate, or unnecessary matter. In these great points of attention, our adversaries, almost to a man, manifest gross ignorance or more disgiaceful disingenuousness. Let it be our constant concern to preserve and to increase our happy superiority in this respect.
3. Let us study the statements and arguments of our opponents in their own writings. It is not always safe or honourable to take them at the second hand. A very slight alteration in a citation, though there be no intention to deceive, will often materially alter the sense of the place; and a passage (however literally quoted) broken off from its connexion, will frequently present an aspect widely different from the design of the writer. Far be it from us to " speak deceitfully for God!" Truth loves the light, and never suffers so much as when her injudicious friends either maintain her cause, or oppose that of error,
by means that savour of artifice, obscurity, or timidity; but Error, the offspring of Darkness, can never endure the trial of a really free, complete, and honest investigation.
4. In the turn which the Unitarian controversy has taken during the last twenty years, it has become highly desirable to possess a more accurate knowledge of Ecclesiastical History than most persons, on either side, are at present furnished with.' Nor will it suffice to rely upon modern compilers. We must ascend to the true sources of authority and evidence.
5. There is another object, and that one of supreme importance, which is, most unhappily, very insufficiently attended to by many excellent friends of evangelical truth. This is Biblical Learning. In this department lies the principal strength of our adversaries; and some of them are incessantly pouring out their criticisins and emendations, with a parade and self-gratulation which seldom accompanies solid learning. Let us not be backward to acknowledge that, in this respect, we have suffered our. selves to lie at a serious disadvantage. Causes, not difficult to be assigned, have rendered many valuable ministers less attentive to keep pace with the progress of biblical criticism than, on every principle of duty and advantage, it became them to be. In the present advanced state of this branch of literature, it is not too
much to affirm, that no man is fit to be set for the defence of the gospel” who is not acquainted with the very important labours of the three Michaelises, John James Wetstein, Ridley, Woide, Kramer, Spohn, Ottius, Kennicott, De Rossi, Griesbach, Porson, White, &c. The writer of these lines has more than once felt the unutterable mortification of reading vindications of peculiar truths of the gospel, in which some passages of Scripture were adduced in a manner that exposed the most distressing and even ludicrous ignorance of all that ought to be known on the literary history of the scriptural text in general, and of those passages in particular. None can calculate the injuries done to the best of causes by these deplorable instances of critical ignorance. Works rich in argument, piety, and wisdom, are held up to the most contemptuous ridicule by our uncandid opponents, if but a few of these blemishes exist in them. A single gross failing of this kind affords a plausible excuse for disregarding the most substantial reasonings, or a train of irrefragable proofs from the divine word. Such an excuse is all that the enemy wishes. It feeds his vanity, -- it saves his labour, --and it enables him to beguile other unstable souls.
that these suggestions may have the gratifying effect of exciting the true friends to Christ and his blessed gospel, to a sedulous attention to this grand point! Is it not distressing that the enemies of the truth should be allowed, almost undisturbed, to usurp an armoury, which, when completely laid open, would be found decidedly opposite to their views. Surely no minister, or conscientious student for the ministry, ought to deem himself a “ faithful man," till he has acquired a satisfactory acquaintance with the state and history of the sacred text, – the proper method of ascertaining its purity, the sources and estimation of the various readings, and the character and utility of the ancient versions.
This last object is singularly important and inviting. The ancient versions are a mine which is far from being fully explored. Some of them have been but recently brought to light. No dependence can be certainly placed on the Latin translations which accompany any of them. Yet the majority of divines and critics have trusted to these dubious guides. It is true that an ability to read with accuracy all, or even most of them, is a talent which can fall to the lot of very few. But might not a very complete collation of all the known versions be accomplished by a judicious concert, and division of labour ? If six young men, of liberal education, of vigorous perseverance, and of sin.cere love to the word of God, were to partition the work, and steadily to pursue it for ten years, the end would probably be attained in a very satisfactory manner. Nor would this labour, thus distributed, be too much for each individual of so bonourable a coufederacy, though united with the ordinary cugagemen's of the Christian ministry.
It may, perhaps, be useful to some if it be observed that de cheap and excellent work, initiatory to the art of sacred criticism, is the Horæ Biblicæ of Charles Butler, Esq. a candid and learned Roman Catholic. It will also be gratifying to many to hear, that the long expected second volume of Dr. Griesbach's second edition of his Greek Testament is finished, and is safely arrived in London. Through the munificence of the noble pere son who supplied English scholars with the first volume, at a very reduced price, it is expected the second will shortly be announced for delivery on similar terins.
A SEVERE REPROOF IN SCRIPTURE-LANGUAGE.
Mr. Thomas Worts was ejected, in 1662, from the church of Burningham, Norfolk; and was afterwards pastor of a congregation at Guestwick, in the same county. He was brought from Burningham into Norwich, with a sort of brutal triumph, his legs being chained under the horse's belly. As he was cone ducted to the castle, a woman looking out of a chamber-window, near the gate through which he was brought in, which was St. Austin's, called out, in contempt and derision, " Worts, where's now your God?" The good confessor in bonds, desired her to turn to Micah vii. 10. She did so; and was so struck, that she was a kind friend to him in his long confinement. The words are, 66 Then she that is mine enemy shall see it; and shame shall cover her which said unto me, Wlicre is the Lord thy God? Mine eyes shall behold her; now shall she be trodden down as mire in the streets." Palmer's Nonconformist's Memoriul.
A Correspondent (Z.) wishes to see a brief History of thic Sufferings of the Jews in Christian Countries, apprehending that it would awaken in the minds of serious persons sentiments of commisseration, and more earnest endeavours for their conversion. Ile recommends suitable extracts from Basnage's Histoire des Juifs; and mentions the late outrage committed upon them in one of the tyrannical states of Barbary, as a specimen of what they have endured in many countries called Christian, since their dispersion.
A Gentleman's servant, who has left a good place because he was ordered to deny his master when actually at home, wishes something on this subject may be introduced into this work, that persons who are in the liabit of denying themselves in the above manner may be convinced of ils evil.