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those who, after a thorough examination, have felt themselves compelled to receive these doctrines if the thing be possible as doctrines taught by Christ and his Apostles.
DIFFICULTIES THAT MAY REMAIN IN SOME MINDS RESPECTING THE PASSAGES OF SCRIPTURE ALLEGED BY TRINITARIANS.
As I have endeavored to express myself as concisely as possible, I shall not recapitulate what I have written. If any one should think the arguments that have been urged deserve consideration, but yet not be fully satisfied of their correctness, it will be but the labor of an hour or two to read them over again. The time will be well spent, should it contribute toward freeing his faith from an essential error, and giving him clearer, more correct, and consequently more ennobling and operative conceptions of Christianity.
Here, then, as I have had occasion to say before, I might close the discussion. But even if the truth for which I am contending be fully established, still difficulties may remain in some minds which it is desirable to remove. Like a great part of Scripture, the passages adduced in support of the Trinitarian doctrines have been interpreted upon no general principles, or upon none which can be defended. But many persons have been taught from their childhood to associate a false meaning with words and texts of the Bible. This
meaning, borrowed from the schools of technical theology, is that which immediately presents itself to their minds, when those words and texts occur. They can hardly avoid considering the expositions so familiar to them, as those alone that could be obvious to an unprejudiced reader. He who would break the associatious which they have between certain words and a certain meaning, and substitute the true sense for that to which they are accustomed, appears to them to be doing violence to the language of Scripture.
Now these prejudices, so far as they are capable of being removed, can be removed only by establishing correct principles of interpretation, applying them to the subject in hand, and pointing out the true or the probable meaning of the more important passages that have been misunderstood. This, therefore, I shall endeavor to do in the sections that follow.
ON THE PRINCIPLES OF THE INTERPRETATION OF LANGUAGE.
SUPPOSING the doctrines maintained by Trinitarians to be capable of proof, the state of the case between them and their opponents would be this. They quote certain texts, and explain them in a sense which, as they believe, supports their opinions. We maintain that the words were intended to express a very different meaning. How is the question to be decided? We do not deny that there are certain expressions in these texts, which, nakedly considered, will bear a Trinitarian sense; how is it then to be ascertained, whether this sense or some other was intended by the
In order to answer this question, it is necessary to enter into some explanation concerning the nature of language and the principles of its interpretation. The art of interpretation derives its origin from the intrinsic ambiguity of language. What I mean to express by this term is the fact, that a very large portion of sentences, considered in themselves, that is, if regard be had merely to the words of which they are composed, are capable of expressing not one meaning only, but two or more different meanings; or (to state this fact in
other terms) that in very many cases, the same sentence, like the same single word, may be used to express various and often very different senses. Now in a great part of what we find written concerning the interpretation of language, and in a large portion of the specimens of criticism which we meet with, especially upon the Scriptures, this fundamental truth, this fact which lies at the very bottom of the art of interpretation, has either been overlooked, or not regarded in its relations and consequences. It may be illustrated by a single example. St. John thus addresses the Christians to whom he was writing, in his First Epistle, ii. 20:"You have an anointing from the Holy One, and know all things."
If we consider these words in themselves merely, we shall perceive how uncertain is their signification, and how many different meanings they may be used to express. The first clause, "You have an anointing from the Holy One," may signify,
1. Through the favor of God, you have become Christians or believers in Christ; anointing being a ceremony of consecration, and Christians being considered as consecrated and set apart from the rest of mankind.
2. Or it may mean, You have been truly sanctified in heart and life: a figure borrowed from outward consecration being used to denote inward holiness.
3. Or, You have been endued with miraculous powers: consecrated as prophets and teachers in the Christian community.