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1 COR. i. 16. "And I baptized also, the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other."
The observations suggested by this verse, are offered with becoming deference, as supplementary to those of Paley, in his Hora Paulina, 1 Cor. No. viii.
That most valuable writer represents the propriety exhibited in the whole passage, 14-17; the proof of reality which it affords, and the undesigned coincidence between the few examples of the Apostle's personal administration of baptism, and his present notice of them. Perhaps, something may and ought to be added, concerning the way in which Paul mentions his having "baptized also the household of Stephanas." This strikes me, as being very natural and artless; exceedingly like an individual writing a letter, with the views, and under the circumstances, of our Apostle. The author's mind is full of his subject: he sets down his ideas just as they occur to him, and does not allow himself time to arrange them with the most exact method. In familiar conversation, in the negligent freedom, in the unavoidable haste, of epistolary correspondence, the same kind of thing perpetually takes place. On the other hand, we do not meet with it in studied compositions; and it seems beyond the reach of a sophist and a forger. Paul speaks first of two distinguished individuals, Crispus and Gaius, who had been baptized by himself. Of these persons he naturally thought much: and he proceeds to give the reason, why he so rarely performed the ordinance of baptism. No sooner has he stated the cause, than he recollects a family-the household of Stephanas-for whom he did the same office: and this family he mentions, accordingly, without being solicitous to remember or record other examples.* Such a mode of expression-such an eagerness to insert an afterthought, thus suggested-harmonizes, most evidently, with truth-with scenes and incidents that had an actual existence.
1 COR. xv. 32. "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die."
The Apostle, I think, does not use this language in his own character, but as the exclamation of a heathen voluptuary, whose situation, he intimates, would be happier than
* Singulorum memoriæ relinquit per quos sint baptizati.-BENGEL.
his own, and his conduct more prudent, if it be true, that "the dead rise not."
In desperate circumstances, and under the pressure, or the fear, of personal evils, men who had no knowledge— either speculative or practical—of religion, have generally been intent on the unrestrained gratification of their senses and appetites. To make the most of the few remaining hours of health and life, has been their sole object: and, unhappily, they were acquainted with no bliss superior to the enjoyment of some of the grossest pleasures. How different from this, was the situation-the conduct-of Paul, and of his companions, in the faith and ministry of the Gospel! Still, to speak conformably with human judgment, they had nothing for which to hope in this world, but altogether the reverse. Why, then, did they not adopt the Epicurean exclamation before us, and follow the course which it recommends? The answer is, because they possessed an assurance, at once enlightened and firm, of the resurrection of the dead.
J. J. Wetstein [N. T. in loc.] has made numerous citations from the classical writings of antiquity, in illustration of the words "let us eat," &c. I will produce an additional reference: it is to Thucyd. b. ii. § 53. In describing the effects of the plague at Athens, the historian observes, that numbers of the citizens, disdaining the control of religious principle, gave an unbounded licence to their love of sensual delights; and this, because they looked upon their lives and their estates as alike precarious-because they regarded both as the possessions of a day. Hence, these wretched men lost sight of moral distinctions, and had no rule of right, except their own feeling of temporary happiness. Nor would they exercise any self-denial, or encounter any difficulties, for even an honourable end; since they were quite uncertain, whether, on paying this price for it, they should survive long enough to make the acquisition.
REV. i. 10. "I was in the spirit on the Lord's day." The meaning is, 'I had a divine vision on the first day of the week-the day particularly appropriated by Christians, to social worship and religious instruction, because it was a memorial of their Lord's resurrection from the dead. There are other traces of it in the New Testament.*
Acts xx. 7.-1 Cor. xvi. 2.
The Sabbath of former covenants* has been abrogated by Christianity. Christianity knows nothing of a Sabbath, as one of its own institutions. It retains no part of the Mosaic ceremonial-none of the ordinances created or modified by the law. There is great incongruity in the words which compose the phrase, "the Christian Sabbath." Such terms ought to be no longer current: they are forbidden, by the letter and the spirit of all which Evangelists have recorded, and Apostles taught.
March 30, 1828.
Matthew the Evangelist, a Unitarian.
III. I remark in the next place, that we may reason from the general tenor and prevailing language of Matthew's Gospel, to his ignorance of the doctrine of the Trinity; if true, it would have entered deeply into the structure and sentiment of his Gospel.
It is obvious enough what is meant by the general tenor of a book. For example, throughout the whole Bible, God is spoken of and described as a Spirit. His spirituality is taught or implied every where. If two, or three, or more expressions should seem to contradict this truth, it is certain that the contradiction can only be an apparent one; and though we might not be able satisfactorily to interpret them in consistency with that truth, we still should not be justified in bending to them the universal doctrine of the Bible. In many places in Scripture, hands and arms, eyes and ears, and a bodily form, are ascribed to the Deity; yet we may not therefore believe that the Deity is clothed with flesh like ourselves, but we refer to the general tenor and prevailing doctrine of the Bible, and explain these expressions so as to harmonise with it. Similar illustrations might be abundantly multiplied. But I will only add generally, in this connexion, that were the doctrines of orthodoxy rigorously tried by this rule, and there cannot be a juster one, they could not stand the test. Who will not say, that the general doctrine of the Bible is, that man is able to do well or ill as he pleases? On this, are grounded the promises and threatenings of religion,
* Anti-patriarchal, Patriarchal, and Jewish.
which run through the whole Bible, and stand forth on every page, But what, then, becomes of the doctrine of Total Depravity, which rests for its support on a few insulated texts? What is more evidently the current language, and universal sense of the Bible than this, that the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him? But what, then, becomes of the Atonement? Orthodoxy rests on detached sentences, insulated texts, strong figures, and remote inferences and analogies. The current sense of Scripture, the spirit of its teachings, the broad and obvious meaning of its most plain and intelligible parts, are all fatal to it. The general tenor and prevailing language of Matthew's Gospel, show that he had no faith in the doctrine of the Trinity, or the Deity of Jesus Christ. No one can be found to deny, whether Orthodox or not, that the Unity of God, and the dependence of Jesus on him, are the doctrines that enter most deeply into the very texture of the Gospel. I am ready to affirm, and with little fear of contradiction by any intelligent believer in the doctrines I oppose, that the general tenor of Matthew's Gospel, is so decidedly hostile to those doctrines, that the individual cannot be found, of a mind unprepossessed in relation to them, or ignorant of them, who, after a diligent perusal and study of that Gospel, would even surmise their truth. Having learned the doctrines from other sources, from Catechisms and Confessions of Faith, then, indeed, texts may be found which will bear a meaning consistent with their truth, but not one to require it; still less, one that directly teaches them. The Catholic gathers a strong argument for the doctrine of the Real Presence, from this Gospel, far stronger than the Trinitarian gathers for the doctrine of the Trinity, from the whole Bible; for he finds it laid down in express terms, "Take, eat, this is my body." And why does not the Trinitarian Protestant receive this mystery? Not because it cannot boast the most express declarations of Scripture in its favour-all the Evangelists unite in teaching it, in definite, intelligible language-but because, among other reasons, it is contrary to the general tenor of the Gospels; it is not in keeping, not of a piece, with the rest; and, therefore, he understands the Evangelists in such places, to use figurative expressions, which he interprets so as to harmonize with the other plainer and undoubted doctrines
of religion. Now, the same principle of proceeding should lead him to interpret the few texts in this Gospel which. will bear a Trinitarian sense, in consistency with the tenet of the entire Unity of God, which every where pervades the book. The text containing the form of Baptism, is quite as insulated, and solitary in relation to the doctrine of the Trinity, as that which seems to teach the mystery of Transubstantiation is in relation to that doc trine; and yet, here the Trinitarian abandons his adopted principles of criticism, which had so kindly saved him from the dreaded faith of the Catholic Church, and most perversely-I am almost ready to say wickedly-contends, under circumstances as nearly similar as possible, that the whole Gospel, though diametrically opposed to it, shall bend to the meaning of one verse which is supposed to teach the doctrine of the Trinity!
IV. If the doctrine of the Trinity is one which Jesus taught, and Matthew learned, then is the Evangelist's fidelity as a historian brought into question; for he has not taught it with the clearness and frequency that became so important a doctrine, and which were necessary to its universal reception.
One of two things must be true, either our Lord did not, for some reason, teach the doctrine during his ministry, or Matthew has been culpably negligent in recording it-or rather, has altogether omitted to record it.
That our Saviour did not teach the whole of his religion to his immediate disciples, there is no good ground for believing. The fact that it was to be imparted to the Gentiles, was not indeed fully understood and admitted until after Peter's vision. But there is not a single doctrine to be found advanced by any of the Apostles, which is not contained in the recorded discourses of our Saviour himself. That he withheld the mysteries of the Trinity and Atonement, as some of the ancient fathers maintained, reserving them for later communications through John, is mere assumption, and a most unfortunate one too; as, of all the writers of the New Testament, John is the most distinct and emphatic in his testimony to the Unity and Supremacy of the Father. Not to add, that the advocates of the Trinity, by adopting the idea that John first taught it, lose whatever advantage is to be derived from the testimony of the other books of the New Testament, which were all, with the exception of his own Epistles, written before his Gospel.