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They then repeat the passage in this father, which is, indeed, a very singular one:—“When,” says he, “ it is asked what are the three, the language of man fails, and terms are wanting to express
them. persons, has, however, been said, -not for the purpose of expressing anything, but in order to say something and not remain mute.”
“ Dictum est tres persona, non ut aliquid diceretur, sed ne taceretur."-DE TRINIT. lib. v. cap. 9– That modern theologians have cleared up
this matter no better
That, when they are asked what they understand by the word person, they explain themselves only by saying, that it is a certain incomprehensible distinction, by which are distinguished in one nature only, a Father, a Son, and a Holy Ghost
That the explanation which they give of the terms begetting and proceeding is no more satisfactory; since it reduces itself to saying, that these terms indicate certain incomprehensible relations existing among the three persons of the Trinity
That it may be hence gathered that the state of the question between them and the orthodox is, to know whether there are in God three distinctions, of which no one has any definite idea, and among which there are certain relations of which no one has any more idea.
From all this they conclude, that it would be wiser to abide by the testimony of the Apostles, who never spoke of the Trinity, and to banish from religion for ever all terms which are not in the Scriptures, -as Trinity, person, essence, hypostasis, hypostatic and personal union, incarnation, generation, proceeding, and many others of the same kind; which being absolutely devoid of meaning, since they are represented by no real existence in nature, can excite in the understanding none but false, vague, obscure and undefinable notions.
To this article, let us add what Calmet says in his Dissertation on the following passage of the Epistle of John the Evangelist: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one: and there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood : and these three are one. Calmet acknowledges that these two verses are not in any ancient Bible : indeed, it would be very strange if St. John had spoken of the Trinity in a letter, and said not a word about it in his Gospel. We find no trace of this dogma, either in the canonical or in the apocryphal gospels. All these reasons, and many others, might excuse the Anti-trinitarians, if the councils had not decided. But, as the heretics pay no regard to councils, we know not what measures to take to confound them. Let us content ourselves with believing, and wishing them to believe.*
[From the Greek word signifying Hidden.] It has been very well remarked, that the Divine writings might, at one and the same time, be sacred ·and apocryphal; sacred, because they had undoubtedly been dictated by God himself; apocryphal, because they were hidden from the nations, and even from the Jewish people.
That they were hidden from the nations before the translation executed at Alexandria, under the Ptolemies, is an acknowledged truth. Josephus declares itt in the answer to Appian, which he wrote after Appian's death; and his declaration has not the less weight because he seeks to strengthen it by a fable. He says, in his history, that the Jewish books being all-divine, no foreign historian or poet had ever dared to speak of them. And, immediately after assuring us that no one had ever dared to mention the Jewish laws, he adds, that the historian Theopompus, having only intended to insert something concerning them in his history, God struck him with madness for thirty days; but that, having been informed in a dream that he was mad only because he had wished to know divine things, and make them known to the profane, he asked pardon of God, who restored him to his senses.
* We need not inform our readers, that since the death of Voltaire, every future attempt to establish this flagrant interpolation has been effectua su seded by the labours of Porson and others.-T. + Book i. chap. iv.
Esok xii. chap. ii.
Josephus, in the same passage, also relates, that a poet, named Theodectes, having said a few words about the Jews in his tragedies, became blind, and that God did not restore his sight until he had done penance.
As for the Jewish people, it is certain that there was a time when they could not read the divine writing's ; for it is said in the second book of Kings,* and in the second book of Chronicles,t that in the reign of Josias they were unknown, and that a single copy was accidentally found in a chest, in the house of the highpriest Hilkiah.
The twelve tribes which were dispersed by Shalmanezer, have never re-appeared; and their books, if they had any, have been lost with them. The two tribes which were in slavery at Babylon, and allowed to re. turn at the end of seventy years, returned without their books, or at least they were very scarce and very defective, since Esdras was obliged to restore them. But, although, during the Babylonian captivity, these books were apocryphal—that is, hidden, or unknown to the people, they were constantly sacred,—they bore the stamp of divinity,—they were, as all the world agrees, the only monument of truth upon earth.
We now give the name of apocrypha to those books which are not worthy of belief; so subject are languages to change! Catholics and Protestants agree in regarding as apocryphal in this sense, and in rejecting
The prayer of Manasseh king of Judah, contained in the second book of Kings.
The third and fourth books of Maccabees.
The fourth book of Esdras ; although these books were incontestably written by Jews. But it is denied
Chap. xxii, ver. 8.
+ Chap. xxxiv, ver. 14.
that the authors were inspired by God, like the other Jews.
The other books, rejected by the Protestants only, and consequently considered by them as not inspired by God himself, are
The book of Wisdom, though it is written in the same style as the Proverbs. Ecclesiasticus, though the style is still the same.
The two first books of Maccabees, though written by a Jew. But they do not believe this Jew to have been inspired by God.
Tobit, although the story is edifying. The judicious and profound Calmet affirms, that a part of this book was written by Tobit the father, and a part by Tobit the son; and that a third author added the conclusion of the last chapter, which says that Tobit the younger expired at the age of one hundred and twenty-seven years, and that he died rejoicing over the destruction of Nineveh.
The same Calmet, at the end of his preface, has these words : “ Neither the story itself nor the manner in which it is told, bears any fabulous or fictitious character. If all Scripture histories, containing anything of the marvellous or extraordinary, were to be rejected, where is the sacred book which could be preserved ?”
Judith; although Luther himself declares that “this book is beautiful, good, holy, useful, the language of a holy poet and a prophet animated by the Holy Spirit, which had been his instructor,” &c.*
It is indeed hard to discover at what time Judith's adventure happened, or where the town of Bethulia
The degree of sanctity in Judith's action has also been much disputed; but the book having been declared canonical by the council of Trent, all disputes are at an end.
Baruch, although it is written in the style of all the other prophets. Esther.—The Protestants reject only some additions * Luther, in the German preface to the Book of Judith,
after the tenth chapter. They admit all the rest of the book; yet no one knows who king Ahasuerus was, although he is the principal person in the story.
Daniel.-The Protestants retrench Susannah's adventure, and that of the children in the furnace; but they retain Nebuchadnezzar's dream, and his grazing with the beasts.
On the Life of Moses, an apocryphal book of the highest
antiquity. The ancient book which contains the life and death of Moses, seems to have been written at the time of the Babylonian captivity. It was then that the Jews began to know the names given to the angels by the Chaldeans and Persians.*
Here we see the names of Zinguiel, Samael, Tsakon, Lakah, and many others, of which the Jews had made no mention.
The book of the death of Moses seems to have been posterior. It is known that the Jews had several very ancient lives of Moses and other books, independently of the Pentateuch. In them he was called Moni, not Moses; and it is asserted that mo signified water, and ni the particle of. He was called by the general name of Melk. He received those of Joakim, Adamosi, Thetmosi; and, especially, it has been thought that he was the same person whom Manethon calls Ozarziph.
Some of these old Hebrew manuscripts were withdrawn from their covering of dust in the cabinets of the Jews, about the year 1517. The learned Gilbert Gaumin, who was a perfect master of their language, translated them into Latin about the year 1535. They were afterwards printed, and dedicated to cardinal Bérule. The copies have become extremely scarce.
Never were rabbinism, the taste for the marvellous, and the imagination of the Orientals, displayed to greater excess.