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minds might have created some jealousy; but still more, because there bad been a design of bringing him forward as a competitor with Mr. Lowth for the poetry professorship. Such competition, however, his modesty could not suffer; and the learned world will for ever be delighted and improved by the admirable prælections on Hebrew poetry ; a work, which if the correct judgment and taste of Mr. Townson could have equalled in point of manner and style, his more limited knowledge of the language, that is the subject of it, could not have supplied the matter,
This same year (1749) he resigned Hatfield ; and was presented to the rectory of Blithfield, by Sir Walter Wagstaffe Bagot, Bart. He was instituted Aug. 29th, by Bishop Smallbrook. It was the custom of this bishop, to examine the clergy who came to him for institution, by soleinn interrogatories, partly in English, partly in Latin, on theological subjects: and he was also commendably strict in enforcing the residence of his clergy.
Soon after he quitted the proctorship, he was admitted (June 15) to the degree of B. D. and the same summer accepted the lower mediety of Malpas offered him by Mr. Drake. He was instituted by Bishop Peploe, Jan. 2, 1751. At the close of the year (Dec. 19) he quitted Oxford, and resigned his fellowship the month following. It was afterwards matter of much satisfaction to him, as it was of sincere joy to the parish; that he did not agree to an exchange for Whitechapel in London, which was once (1756) proposed to him. He shortly resigned the living of Blithfield, and 1758, received a considerable ac. cession of fortune by the death of the Rev. William Barcroft, M. A.. rector of Fairsted, and vicar of Kilvedon in Essex. · The lower parsonage at Malpas, when he came into possession of it, was small and incommodious, and the house was separated from the garden by a farm-yard and barns. He removed the barns (1760) and threw the site of them into the garden, thus connecting it with the dwel. ling house, which he enlarged and altered, and rendered it a very pleasing compact and comfortable residence suitable to the living.
And now having established him at Malpas, his only preferment, and the seat of his constant residence; it will be proper to take a view of him in performing the important duties of his station ; and for that pur. pose a short account of the parish appears requisite.
[To be continued.]
REMARKS ON THE WORD MYSTERY.
TO THE EDITORS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCHMAN'S MAGAZINE.
CENTLEMEN, IT appears to me, that a mistaken application of the word mystery, has I been as convenient to the Anti-trinitarians, as that of the word chosen or elect has been to the Calvinists. I have thought it not amiss, therefore, in addition to my remarks on the latter word, already sent for insertion in your miscellany, to send you a few on the former.
The Anti-trinitarians seem to argue thus:-- You call upon us to 'assent to the doctrines of the Trinity and the Atonement ; and, when we ask for an explanation of these doctrines, you evade our demand, by sa yo ing that they are mysteries, and therefore incapable of explanation. To which we reply, that this is the very reason, why we cannot give our assent to them; for since mystery and revelation are opposite and incompatible terms, we cannot assent to those doctrines as revealed truths, 'which are confessedly of a mysterious nature.”
That this is a true representation of the mode of reasoning, which has been adopted by the Anti-trinitarians, appears from the following pas. sages of Mr. Evanson's recent publication, entitled, “ Reflections upon the state of religion in Christendom at the commencement of the 19th century :"-the object of which is to show, that the doctrines of the Trinity and the Atonement, as held by the generality of Christians, form the very essence of the spirit of Anti-Christ, and are the grand obstacle to the conversion of the Jews, and to the universal reception of christianity. Speaking of the Christian revelation, he says, “ Amongst its professors, even those, whose peculiar office it is to expound and teach it to the people at large, not one is able to give a rational, consistent explanation of the first and fundamental articles of the theological system, which they have adopted as the revealed religion of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, they readily avow their utter inability in this respect, by asserting, that the first article of their belief, which describes the object of their religious worship, and those of no less importance, which teach the intent and purpose of the Deity in the Christian revelation, are mysteries, which cannot be explained, because they are absolutely incomprehensible by the mind of man." p. 6. Again, speaking of the different religious sects, he mentions that, to which he has attached hima self, as “an inconsiderably small remnant of firm believers in, and ade herents to the new covenant proposed by the Deity to mankind through the mediation of Jesus Christ, who think it their duty to separate theme selves from every church, by whatever authority it may be established, which they see branded, in the very front, with the ominous pretext of · mystery, and whose fundamental doctrines and mode of worship appear
to the eye of reason, examining them according to the plain dictates of the best authenticated scriptures of both the revealed covenants, to be both blasphemous and idolatrous.” p. 9. Lastly, speaking of the Christian church, as now existing within the limits of the western Roman em. pire, he says, “ The Church herself, indeed, in conformity to the leading character, with which she is here stigmatized (i. e. in the Apocalypse), attempts to preclude all inquiry into the truth and tendency of her relie gious tenets under the plea of incomprehensible and impenetrable myse tery. But, if a man attends to the information given us in this prophetic revelation, that very plea will lead him to suspect, that those fundamental doctrines of her religion, which she would thus screen from the prying eye of reason, must be peculiarly the impious doctrines of the predicta ed apostate, anti-christian Church. For the gospel of Jesus Christ is a revelation of the will of God; but mystery and revelation are as oppo. site and incompatible in their very nature, as darkness is to light.” p. 119.
In order to determine on the justness of this reasoning, it will be necessary to consider the true meaning and proper application of the word mystery; for on that, it is pretty evident, the whole of the argument rests.
It has been rightly observed by the judicious Limborch (Theolog. Chris. v. 66.) and by our invaluable countryman, the no less judicious Dr. Balguy *, (Charge iv.) that the word mystery, from pua, claudo, to shut, properly signifies a thing secret or hidden, and that, in the New Testament, it is usually, if not always, applied to some secret counsel or purpose of God, The word occurs in the New Testament not less, I think, than twenty-eight times; and, if the studious reader will take the pains, by means of a concordance, to consider it, as it stands in context in these several places, he will find this account to be true. Hence, as it is the purpose of revelation to open or disclose, it has naturally enough been concluded, that mystery and revelation are opposite and incompatible terms, and that, according to an expression pretty generally received, though not always rightly applied or understood, where mystery begins religion (i. e. revealed religion, or revelation) ends."
Thus far, then, the argument of the Anti-trinitarians seems to be good, Their sense of the word mystery is the true one, and their objection against assenting to a mystery is reasonable and just. Their error, for in an error I think them to be, is in misupplying the word mystery, i.e. in applying it to things, which, though they were mysteries previously to the publication of the gospel did then cease to be mysteries. In this error, it must be acknowledged, they have been encouraged by many orthodox divines, who, in order to exalt the subjects, on which they were treating, or not duly attending to the nature of belief, have sometimes conferred the name of mysteries on revealed truths. “ The revelation of a 'mystery,” as Dr. Balguy very properly observes, “ destroys the very being of it. The moment it becomes an article of belief, it is mysterious no longer.” It is by no means essential to a mystery, that it should continue a mystery for ever, or at any time be a mystery to different intelligent beings. 'A'mystery was concealed under the command given to Abraham to slay his son ; but this niystery was explained, when it was declared, that Christ was made an offering for sin, and that the intention of his being made such was prefigured by that command. Many things were mysteries to heathens, which were not such to the
. * To the student in theology, who is desirous of obtaining clear ideas, and aca" curate knowledge, let me recommend a close attention to the works of Dr. Balguy, Dr. Powell, and the Messrs. Ludlams. Short as they are, they contain the fundamental principles of the several subjects on which they treat, and explain them in such a way, as to enable a discerning reader, to go on to the highest attainments. Were the study of them duly extended, it would, I doubt not, prove a great safeguard against the many erroneous opinions, whether tenda ing to infidelity or to fanaticism, which are now afloat, and which are supported by names of some distinction. It is their peculiar excellence, that they compre, hend, as in a nut-shell, so many important truths, expressed in the purest' lan. guage, with the intermixture of so small a portion of error:
Vos exemplaria ista
Jews; many things were mysteries to the. iJews, which are not such to ius; and many things are mysteries to us, which are not such to angels. At one period, the scheme of man's redemption through Christ was a mystery even to the angels; and though, in the fullness of time, it ceased to be a mystery, not only to them, but to many of the human race, it remains a mystery to some of the latter to this day, and is likely to remain such for ages yet to come. See 1 Pet. i. 12. Ephes, iii. 10. To those, who admit the divine authority of the scriptures, neither the doca -trine of the Trinity nor the doctrine of the Atonement is, in the proper sense of the word, a mystery. Both of them are sublime truths; which, after they had been shadowed out in various ways from the beginning of the world, were at length brought to light by the gospel. It is, therefore, no good defence of these doctrines to allege, that they are musteries. Such aji allegation gives the opposers of them an advantage; to which they are not entitled. For, whatever may be the case of Raman Catriolics, we cannot; as Protestants, be consistently called upon to assent to doctrines; any further than as they are revealed truths; i, e. any further than as they cease to be mysteries. If it cannot be shewn, that the doctrines of the Trinity and Atonement are clearly revealed in the New Testament, our assent to them ought not to be required; and, - if they are clearly revealed, they cannot be mysteries. . But, as we shall suon see, the fact is, in opposition to what Mr. Evanson supposes, we are called upon to assent to these doctrines, not as mysteries, but as rea vealed truths. : When I say, that the doctrine of the Trinity is not a mystery, I must · be understood as confining the assertion to this general proposition, that; in the unity of the Godhead, there are three Persons: If we proceed further than this, and attempt to explain the particular mode of this unity and distinction, we run into mystery, and consequently into the danger, not to say the certainty, of error. This would be no less than an attempt • to explain the nature of God; whereas; we cannot explain the nature of any inferior being: : We are apt, in the freedom of common discourse, to speak of many things, as if we knew their nature ; but, in strictness, we know only their properties. We know nothing, or next to nothing, of the nature or essence, from which those properties arise, or on wbich they depend. In the same manner, though it has pleased God, by the instrumentality of his works and his word, to make known to us many of his attributes, we have no positive knowledge, nor is it probable that we can attain to any, of that nature, from which those attributes arise, or on which they depend. Dr. Balguy has rightly laid it down as a maxim, that we may understand and believe a general proposition, without being • able to assign the particular mode of it. Now, this is exactly the case · with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity. The general proposition,
communicating information respecting the attributes of the Deity, partia cularly the attribute of unity, to which we could not attain by the light of nature, is revealed. To this, therefore, we are bound to give our assent. But as revelation is silent about the particular mode, i. e. enters into no explanation of the way, in which the unity of the divine nature is to be reconciled with its distinction, our belief of one way rather than - another is not required. This is a mystery, and a mystery of such a nature, that, in all probability, our faculties,' in their present state, are not
Vol. 1'. Cliurchm. Mag. July 1803.
capable capable of comprehending it. The demand of such a belief, it must be acknowledged, sometimes seems to be made by zealous and injudicious individuals; but it ought not lightly to be thought, that it has ever been made by any Christian Church. Even the Church of Rome, however blameable in many instances for demanding assent to mysteries, not to say plain impossibilities, does not, with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity, demand more than an essent to the general proposition,
By some it may be thought, that the far-famed and generally received Creed of St. Athanasius presents a direct contradiction to this assertion. This, however, is by no means the case. The several propositions, of which that Creed is composed, will be found, on a fair and candid examination, to be nothing more than particular statements of the general truths of the Trinity and the Incarnation, in opposition to so many prevailing erroneous statements of them, and not explanations of the particular mode. They are the several parts of what the general proposition is the whole; and the case is much the same as that of the Mosaic account of the creation, where the sacred historian, after stating generally, that God made the world, goes on to mention particularly the making of the several parts of the world, without attempting to explain the mode of making. In this account, for instance, we are told, as a fact, that “ God said, Let there be light, and there was light;" but we are not told how it was, that light was produced. Most of the clauses of the Athanasian Creed relating to the Trinity, are evidently intended against so understanding the general proposition, as if it meant to assert the existance of three Gods, or three Lords, &c. and not one of them attempts to explain the munner, in which the three Persons are so distinct from each other, as to be three Persons, or so united, as to be one God. The Creed only asserts the fact, that they are so ; but leaves the particular mode, as in all reason it ought to be left, undetermined. Whatever, therefore, may have been the indiscretion of particular persons in this matter, it is certain, that we are not called upon by the Athanasian Creed to assent to one mode rather than another; nor, consequently, does any Church, in adopting that Creed, require our belief in its doctrines as mysteries (for the mystery lies in the mode) but as revealed truths *.
* There is only one clause of the Athanasian Creed, as Dr. Hey and others have ohserved, which has any appearance of attempting to explain; and that clause relates, not to the Trinity, but to the Incarnation. Even that clause, when it comes to be considered, will be found to have the appearance of attempting to explain, rather than the reality. It is nothing more than an illustration by comparison, being a reference to a fact of a supposed similar nature (i, e, the union of the human soul and body) the mode of which is itself neither attempted to be explained, nor represented as capable of explanation; but an illustration by comparison is no explanation, unless the thing referred to is itself explained or supposed, and represented as explicable. Yet Mr. Gibbon speaks (I need not add ironically) of this Creed as “the famous Creed, which so clearly expounds the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation. Bishop Stillingfieet, it is true, had before said (not ironically) that the Athanasian Creed was “a just and true explication of the doctrine of the Trinity." But, to explain the doctrine of the Trinity, and to explain or expound the mystery of the Trinity, are very different things. To ex.. plain the doctrine, is only to state the general proposition in different ways or points of view, so as to guard against its being misunderstood; whereas, to ex