« FöregåendeFortsätt »
frank, undisguised, and fearless in the expression of their belief and of their disbelief, and of their reasons, while, in this Republic, with no religious establishment to fetter thought, or the utterance of thought, this birthplace and home of free opinion and free expression, the opinions of a large class of professedly religious teachers should be known only as they are wormed out? How loud a panegyric does Unitarian silence undesignedly pronounce upon the character and the influence of our Puritan Fathers ?
The wild speculations of continental dreamers the Christian Disciple and the Christian Examiner have often reprobated. There is allowed to be no blood-relationship, no fellow-feeling between the professors of Göttingen and of Cambridge ; while those of Andover are cordial fellow-laborers with those of Tubingen, and, recently, with those of Berlin. Insular writers, however, the good sound commonsense writers of England, are not thus recklessly thrown to the winds. True, the headlong Priestley, the daring Belsham, and even the Improved Version, embodying as it does, the results of Unitarian learning and the inventions of “ rational” ingenuity, are rather ungratefully regarded as questionable coadjutors, just yet. But what shall we say of Cappe, the most learned and the most critical of all the English Unitarians, not excepting Wakefield, and far the most cautious ? What shall we say of the Monthly Repository, the accredited organ of Unitarianism in Great Britain, especially of its first volumes, when the writers were desirous of “putting the best foot foremost ” ? Unitarians in this vicinity have recently expressed the desire of drawing closer the bonds between them and their brethren over the waters. By looking into the Christian Register, it will be seen, that the Monthly Repository is the Magazine from which most of its foreign articles are taken. Is it not fair to presume that Unitarians here adopt the same belief in regard to Satan, Diabolos, &c. as their English brethren, and, moreover, adopt the same mode of interpreting these words in the scriptures ? The English critics, with their characteristic bluntness, speak out what they believe, or disbelieve, with considerable fulness and precision. It can hardly admit of a doubt that their more wily younger brethren, will, ere long, be constrained, either from selfrespect, or a compliance with the reiterated call of public opinion, to take the same course.
The following quotations may serve to take off the bandage, already somewhat loosened, from Unitarian eyes, which their leaders of their own accord are quite unwilling to remove.
Cappe, in his critical notes on the temptation, is quite lean in his explanation, and evidently feels himself embarrassed. This is appa
rent, both from his remarks there, and when the same subject recurs in his Life of Christ, which, on this period, is for the most part, a repetition of what he had said in his Notes. He gives us the most approved “ rational” interpretation thus. “The case with the writer here, or with some one before him who first told the story or recorded it, seems to have been this, to wit; he was about to relate such things concerning Jesus, as to the precipitate, and to any who were not well disposed towards him, might appear to be a blemish on his character, and not to consist well with the appellation, Holy One of God. To preclude such disparaging conceptions concerning the character of Jesus ; to prevent any such effect of doubts and difficulties, the growth of his own mind, the result of impressions made on him by his present circumstances, and which tended, as it might seem, towards apostacy and unfaithfulness; the evangelist, going to relate them, does not choose to represent them in plain naked language, as the spontaneous produce of his thoughts, but rather as the suggestions of another. He avails himself of an idiom much in use among the Jews, figuratively ascribing to a being of evil character, any thing in the person and circumstances of any man that either was, or that tended to what was deemed, either naturally or morally evil.”
Cappe, in this explanation, has adopted a mode of expression somewhat analogous to that which he attributes to the evangelists. He was afraid to speak out, and yet he was unwilling to withhold, his opinion. In plain English, Cappe means that Christ had “ doubts and difficulties, the growth of his own mind” solely, misgivings as to the work on which he had entered, which tended to apostacy and unfaithfulness. These the evangelist knew would not,“ to the precipitate," consist well with the character of the Holy One of God. They must in some way be concealed or palliated, or so expressed, as to remove the offence that would be felt by those not well disposed towards him. The evangelist was unwilling to express the plain truth in naked language, that these doubts and difficulties were the spontaneous produce of Christ's own thoughts, and so he avails himself of the Jewish idiom of charging upon Satan, what wholly belongs to Christ himself; of charging upon the imaginary, fictitious Satan, the doubts and difficulties of the Holy One of God!
I will make only a remark or two, in passing, on such an explanation. If I mistake not, it has always been pointed out as a peculiar, prominent, and most distinguishing feature in the evangelists, that they told, and were disposed to tell, the whole, simple, undisguised, naked truth, for, and against, their master, and themselves, unsuspicious of criticism, and fearless of consequences. They drew no characters. They pronounced no eulogiums. They told the truth, and left it to make its own way, under the God of truth, believing, or at least acting as though they believed, that “unadorned, it was adorned the most.” Where else shall we look for any fears on the part of the disciples, that the character of “ their Lord and their God” would suffer from the plain statement of what he said, or did, or thought ? If Cappe's view be the true one, we must hereafter give up the artless, truthtelling character of the evangelists, and believe them artful and truth-concealing, if not Jesuitical. But again.
“ This was an idiom much in use." What was this idiom? Why, a general national belief in the actual existence of the devil and his angels. On consulting Cappe's references for this idiom, it will be found that he has referred to passages which prove this national belief. Suppose I should deny that Boston means a literal city; it is only an American idiomatic expression, much in use for the general idea of residence, and in proof of the assertion, should refer to New York, Philadelphia, Washington, &c.; would my logical and critical abilities be trumpeted forth as of the highest order? Yet this is precisely the reasoning of Cappe, who must be acknowledged by all, as among the most intelligent, critical, and cautious, not to say wily, of Unitarian writers. It is the system, and not the man, which is answerable for these absurdities. Let him have truth on his side, and he would be irresistible. As it is, to those but partially read in biblical criticism, and who are predisposed to follow a learned leader in rejecting Orthodoxy, I know few Unitarian writers more able “ to make the worse appear the better reason.”
I am about to extract some passages from the Monthly Repository, which will not only give us English Unitarian belief (or disbelief?) on this subject, but also, which is of great importance, the principles of interpretation by which they arrive at their conclusion. The essay, from which these extracts are taken, was continued through three numbers of that Magazine, for 1809. The writer begins by saying, that the word diabolos, translated devil, occurs thirty-eight times in the New Testament, and proceeds to consider these cases in detail. He does not advert to those passages in which the word Satan, tempter, wicked or evil one, god of this world, prince of this world, &c. &c. are used. These are left unnoticed. However, he had enough to do with the thirty-eight passages. In some of these, it is admitted on all hands, this word is properly translated, slanderer, in the common version. Let us see how he treats those translated devil.
Math. xiii. 39. This is the explanation of the parable quoted in the fourth letter under the third head of the second argument. “In this connexion, it may justly be doubted whether Jesus means positively to assert the existence of the devil, and his ascendancy over the human mind. It is far more probable that he uses the phrase in conformity to the prevailing notions of his countrymen. From a parable, nothing can be inferred but the doctrine or instruction which it is intended to inculcate ; the circumstances are to be overlooked, and every thing which is collateral is to be considered only as the ornament of the allegory.” The writer does not once advert to the fact that this is not a parable, but the interpretation of a parable, given by Christ himself, not to his countrymen at large, but to his own bosom friends in their retirement. It would seem that a Unitarian writer, is under an almost physical, a sort of “absque remedio” inability to state a difficulty fairly, to meet an argument logically, or to translate correctly.
To proceed with this writer. “ John viii. 44. "Ye are of your father the devil,' &c. Such is the influence of association and of long established habits of thinking, that it will not be easy to suggest any interpretation of this passage different from the common one, which will not appear to many very harsh and unsupported." True. Reader, how do you think he gets over or round this difficulty ? Tax your invention to the utmost, and you will be disappointed at last. This writer is not one of those, gravelled with a small or a sizeable difficulty. He thinks it most natural to suppose that Cain was the murderer, who abode not in the truth, referred to by Christ in this place. But should any of his readers have some “doubts and difficulties,” as to this allusion, he has still another bridge over which he can retreat. In that case, he says, “ Jesus need only be supposed to refer to the commonly received opinion of the origin of evil designs and wicked practices.” Any farther explanatory notice one would think a work of supererogation. However, he follows up these two rather startling propositions by a third, which is not far out of its proper place in capping such a climax. “ In the language of his reproaches and of his accusations against those who were seeking his life, we are not to look for his authorized instructions upon a subject incidentally introduced” !!! Incidentally introduced! Expressly introduced by himself, without any call or extraordinary occasion for it on the part of the Jews.-Such is the reverence of English Unitarians for what they allow to be the very declarations of Christ himself. No wonder after this, that the apostles should be treated quite cavalierly. “ Acts xiii. 10. O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child
of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness,' &c. Paul was a man of strong feelings and strong passions, and no doubt was greatly irritated and provoked by the conduct of Elymas. It seems there was just occasion for this resentment, for it is recorded that Elymas was struck blind by the instrumentality of Paul; but no argument for the existence and agency of the devil can be founded on the indignant language of the apostle.” Certainly not! If the language "of reproach and accusation” employed by Christ only confirmed his hearers in a long received error, what else could be expected from an “ indignant” apostle? It matters not that, in the ninth verse, Paul is said to have been “full of the Holy Ghost;" a circumstance thought too unimportant by this writer to deserve even a passing notice. The devil, who goes about as a roaring lion, is, according to this writer, none other than Nero.
We now come to a passage, to which, and this writer's remarks upon it, I do most earnestly invite the serious, inquiring, reflecting reader to give special attention. “ 1 John, iii. 8. 'He that committeth sin, is of the devil ; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Unquestionably the devil is here spoken of as the author of sin ; and as a being who himself sioned; in reference to which the apostle again says, verse 10, in this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil ; whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God.'» This writer allows, that in the 12th verse, the same allusion is made, “not as Cain, who was of that wicked one and slew his brother.” Even a rational understanding could not help seeing that “the wicked one," of whom Cain was, differed from this very Cain himself, who is said to be the devil in the eighth of John. It may however be questioned,” [what cannot be questioned by a sturdy, heartless skeptic?] “whether the apostle means to support the truth of this opinion, or only adopts it as the common and prevailing one.” Again. “ This may be only in allusion to the philosophy of that dark age, when the Jews incorpo. rated the mythology of the heathens with the pure doctrines of revelation. They on whom the Sun of Righteousness has arisen,” [what does this mean in the Unitarian vocabulary?] “have learnt that God isthe Creator and Maker of all, that all men are his offspring, and that it is only in a figurative sense that the vicious are the children of the wicked one, i. e. of the devil, or the being who is supposed to sustain that character, the author of every thing which is evil.” How they have learnt this last fact, he does not inform us. Christ and his apostles “unquestionably” taught a directly opposite doctrine. I