« EelmineJätka »
manifested. Thus Philo calls Moses the divine Logos,* and the high priest, a Logos.f He uses the term as synonymous with prophet;f and applies it to angels, who, be says, were commonly called by this name.
If our view of the proem of St. John's Gospel be correct, it is remarkable enough, that it is now brought to support that very doctrine, the introduction of which it was intended to oppose.ll
The early Christian fathers, when, following Philo, they gave a personal existence to the Logos; applied to him, as Pbilo had done before, the title of God, though in a very inferior sense.
Upon the passage where St. John says, that “The Logos was God,” they remarked, that the term God is here used without the article ; and though, with it, it could denote only the Supreme Being, yet without it, it might be given to the Logos, as implying only an inferior degree of divinity. T
V. Another class of texts which has been adduced by Trinitarians, consists of passages in which the expressions are very bold and figurative, and which have been interpreted without regard to this character.
p. 401.-al. Opp. T. I. p. 449. Edit. Mangey. † lb. p. 404—al. I. 452.
| Deus Immut. p. 313—al. I. 293. & Migrat. Abrah. p. 415_al. I. 463. We are referred to these passages by Stephen Nye, in his Doctrine of the Holy Trinity, pp. 74, 75.
| The explanation, which we have given, is essentially the same with that of Le Clerc. See bis Commentary on the New Testament, and the 8th and 9th of bis Epistolæ Criticæ. Respecting the statements which we bave made, and the explanation of the passage in general, the following works may likewise he consulted. Bryant's Sentiments of Philo Judæus concerning the Argos, or Word of God. Bruckeri Hist. Phil. Tom. II. pp. 808– 811. Stephen Nye's Doctrine of the Holy Trinity, pp. 70–81. 12mo. Lond. 1701. Dr. Priestley's notes and paraphrase on the passage in bis Notes on Scripture; and his account of the opinions of Philo, in his History of Early Opinions concerning Christ, vol. II. Michaelis' Introduction to the New Testament by Marsh; the part which treats of St. John's Gospel. Souverain, Le Platonisme Devoilé. Eichhorn's Einleitung in das N. T. B. II. s. 158—181. We have referred to writers whose opinions are in many respects different from each other, and from our own; but we cannot help thinking that a fair comparison of them will result in establishing the essential correctpess of the explanation which we bave given.
It should be observed, however, that a very different interpretation of the passage has been proposed and ably defended by some Unitarian critics. For this, the reader may consult Cappe's Critical Remarks on Scripture, vol. I., and Simpson's Additional Essays on the Language of Scripture. Essay VII. TOrigen Comment. in Joan. Opp. T. iv. pp. 50. 51. Edit. Delaru. New Series-- vol. I.
The most remarkable is Colossians i. 15–17. where, speak. ing of Christ, the apostle says, that he is
"The image of the lovisible God, the first born of the whole creation; for by him were all things created, those in Heaven, and those upon earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or governments, or powers, all were created through him and for him; and he is over all; and all exist by bim ; (or, are bolden together by him.)”
The moral renovation of men by Christianity is repeatedly spoken of by St. Paul under the figure of a new creation, as in the following passages :
“If any man be in Christ, he is a new CREATURE; (or, there is a new creation. The old things have passed away ; behold all things have become new.” 2 Cor. v. 17.
“ For in Christ Jesus neither is circumcision any thing, por uncircumcision, but a new CREATURE;" (or, perhaps more properly, “but there is a new creation.)” Gal. vi. 15.
“For we are his (God's) workmanship, CREATED in Christ Jesus unto good works,” Eph. ii. 10.
“Put on the new man, who is CREATED according to the likeness of] God, in righteousness and true holiness." Ephes. iv. 24.
The language in the passage from Colossians, on which we are remarking, is to be explained, we conceive, conformably to that in the passages just quoted, and to other similar expres. sions in the New Testament. It has been conceived to declare, that the natural creation was the work of Christ. But it may be remarked at first sight, that the terms used are not such as properly designate the objects of the natural world ; and not such, therefore, as we should expect to be employed, if these were intended. * In speaking of the natural creation, the samne apostle refers it to God in different terms,-to "the Living God who made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them.”+
The words thrones, dominions, &c. undoubtedly mean, those who sit on thrones,' those who exercise dominion,' &c. whether the latter expressions are to be understood figuratively or literally. By a substitution then of these, and of some other expressions which we regard as perfectly equivalent to those of the original, but more conformable to our com
* Professor Stuart appears to have had some feeling of this; for he has given in his letters a very free rendering of the passage. See Letters, pp. 71, 72.
| Acts xiv. 15.
mon use of language, we may convey the sense, which we believe the apostle intended, in the following terms :
“For to him all things in the Christian world) owe their origin, the highest and the lowest,* what is seen, and what is not seen, those who sit on thrones, those who exercise dominion, those who have government, and those who have power. He is the author and master of all; he is over all, and all exist through him; (or, have a common relation to him.)”
But what is meant by those who sit on thrones, those who exercise dominion, &c.? We answer, those who hold the bighest offices and sustain the bigbest character in the new dispensation; all those most dignified and excellent among the followers of the new religion. The Christian dispensation is continually spoken of under the figure of a kingdom; and it is in reference to this figure, that these expressions are used. Thus Cbristians in general are called by St. Peter, “a royal priesthood.”
But further, it may help to reconcile us to this figure, to know that the titles, thrones, dominions, &c. were the same, or similar to those, which the Jews gave to their Rabbies or teachers. This fact is shown at length by Schoettgen, a critic very eminent for his knowledge of Rabbinical learning, and of unsuspected orthodoxyet St. Paul, therefore, in using this language, merely adopted and applied to the more eminent among Christians, modes of expression, commonly applied by bis countrymen to the more eminent among themselves. He elsewhere uses the terms, governments (uexo) and powers (azovori concerning Heathen rulers. I
But, in any case, this passage cannot be understood of the creation of the natural world. This is the work of God. But the person bere spoken of is not God, but “the image of God, and the first born of every creature.”
It is not of God that it is said (in the 18th verse) that “he is the first born from the dead;" or (in the 19th) “ that it pleased the Father that in bim should all fulness dwell.”
VI. But a large proportion of the passages adduced to support the doctrine of the Trinity, are passages misinterpreted through a disregard of the common style of expression
*“The things in heaven and the things on earth :" It is a common expression in the scriptures, as elsewhere, to speak of any thing being in heaven, or being exalted to heaven, to denote its being highly exalted.
† See Schoettgen's Notes on Matth. vii. 29. Ephes. i. 21. and Coloss. ii. 10. in his Horæ Hebraicæ et Talmudicæ.
| Tit. III. 1. Rom. xiii. 1, 2, 3.
in the scriptures. They are not of a character to present any difficulty to an intelligent and unprejudiced reader, who has made himself familiar with this style ; who has attended to its peculiarities; who is in the habit of comparing expressions used in one place with the same or similar expressions when they recur in another ; and who, availing himself of the best means in his power of interpreting the Sacred Books, reads them in the same exercise of his judgment with which he reads all other writings.
VII. But in the last place, many of the arguments of Trinitarians are founded upon passages understood without any regard to the most obvious characteristics of language, or the most common rules respecting its interpretation. Thus, for instance, we find in such books as Jones' Catholic Doctrine of the Trinity, arguments wbich really go upon the assumption that the same word is always used in the same sense; and which, if this assumption be not granted, fall at once to the ground.
We have thus explained our opinions on the subject in controversy. If these opinions be true, we have no doubt that they will finally prevail
. In our country especially, where truth bas nothing but error lo contend with, and is not borne down, as it has been almost every where else, by civil and ecclesiastical power, they must prevail. The great point is to impress those who hold correct opinions with a sense of their importance ;-of the importance of presenting Christianity to men such as it really is. He that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat ? saith the Lord. * We regard with the highest salisfaction the exertions, wbich have been made, and are making in our more southern cities; and consider the disinteresied and generous sacrifices of some individuals, with which we have become acquainted, as worthy of all praise. It is not an object of light value wbich they have in view, and they have given proof, that they feel it is not.
Before concluding, we wish to say a word or two respecting our general views of religion ; those views, the great characteristics of which Mr. Channing has so ably and eloquently explained and defended in the Sermon, which has given occasion to Professor Stuart's Letters. We are charged with depriving Christianity of all its value; of rejecting every thing but its name. Christianity, we BELIEVE, has taught the Uuity
* Jeremiah xxiii. 28. These words were prefixed by the Confessor Emlyn to one of his publications.
of God, and revealed him as the Father of his creatures. It has made known his infinite perfections, bis providence, and his moral government. It has directed us to look up to Him as the Being, on whom we and all things are entirely dependent, and to look up to Him with perfect confidence and love. It has made known to us that we are to live forever; it has brought life and immortality to light. Man was a creature of this earth, and it has raised him to a far nobler rank, and taught him to regard bimself as an immortal being, and the child of God. It has opened to the sinner the path of penitence and hope. It has afforded to virtue the highest possible sanctions. It gives to sorrow its best and often its only consolation. It has presented us in the life of our great Master with an example of that moral perfection, which is to be the constant object of our exertions. It has established the truths, which it teaches, upon
evidence the most satisfactory. It is a most glorious display of the benevolence of God, and of his care for his creatures of this earth. But all this, it seems, is nothing ;-unless it have also taught, that there are tbree persons who constitute the one God; or at least that there is some threefold distinction, we know not what, in the Divinity; and further, unless it also teach that one of these persons or distinctions was united in a most incomprehensible manner to the human nature of Christ, so that the sufferings of the latter were the sufferings of the former ; it being well understood, at the same time, that tbe former could not suffer. The religion of joy and consolation, THE GLORIOUS GOSPEL OF THE BLESSED GOD, will, it is thought, lose more than half its value, unless it have announced to us, that we are created under the wrath and curse of God ;* that it is impossible for us to perform bis will unless our moral natures be created anew; and that this is a favour denied to far the greater part of men, who are required to perform, what he has made it morally impossible they should perform, with the most unrelepting rigour, and under penalty of the most terrible and everlasting torments. Such intelligible and confortable doctrines as these are represented as the peculiar doctrines of Christianity; those from which it derives its value; and our opponents seem to think, that if nothing better was to be effected iban to make God known to men, to reveal to them his paternal character, to bring life and immortality to light, and to furnish the bighest motives to virtue, it was bardly worth while for the
* See the passages quoted from the Westminster Assembly's Larger Catechism in the present number of our work, p. 353.