« PreviousContinue »
that my excellent friend Mr. Vernon, while I was communicating to him the conviction that I had received, and my expectation of being ridiculed for such a change, observed to me, that I certainly must expect it, but he hoped that I was prepared to forgive it. I trust that I shall be enabled to do so.
Upon reviewing this last sentence, my dear sir, I feel myself bound to say, that, in stating this, I hope not to be understood as
from you, or from your venerable colleague. No! however you may pity my delusion, I feel assured, that you will do justice to my motives.
part is cut open), Dr. Lawrence's | in the views of another, than my. Critical Reflections, &c. on the self. Nor ought I to omit to add, Unitarian Version, (on which I will pause to observe, that they first settled my mind, as to the authenticity of the introductory chapters of St. Matthew, and St. Luke) a Sermon on the Atonement by Mr. Hull, Six Letters by Dr. Pye Smith to Mr. Belsham, and Notes taken down from two Sermons preached by Mr. (I believe now Dr.) Chal- | mers of Glasgow, upon the following texts.-Psal. Ixxxv. 10. and Rom, viii. 7. Yet these few helps to the better understanding of the holy scripture, though counteract-anticipating any thing of the sort ed by the volumes above cited, by long association, by frequent references to other Unitarian volumes in my collection, and by the various arguments on that side, which memory was constantly suggesting, have ultimately led me to the conclusions above stated. But I should grossly belie my own heart, and should think myself guilty of odious ingratitude to the Father of lights, from whom cometh down every good and perfect gift, if II did not avow my conviction, that, to these means, the teaching of his Holy Spirit has been superadded; for I can, in his presence, affirm, that during the latter part of the enquiry more particularly, the scriptures of truth were never opened by me without profound and fervent prayer for illumination; and almost always with reference to our Lord's promise in St. Luke, ch. xi. ver. 13. Indeed my dear sir, and friend, I was in earnest. A change so awful, so unexpected, I may add so improbable, which, four months ago only, I should myself have said was impossible, has deeply and solemnly impressed my mind.
That I must encounter much ridicule, in consequence of this change, I fully expect. I am sure that I well deserve it; for no person would have burst out more loudly against such an alteration
My dear Sir, I have extended this letter to a much greater length than I had any expectation of doing when I began it. I began it with alluding to my regard and my respect for you. Will it be deemed inconsistent with either, if
venture to conclude it with a most affectionate wish and prayer
that you and yours, and all who are near and dear to you may receive every earthly blessing, and may be brought to the knowledge of the truth? I feel it to be my duty to conclude thus, and I shall stand excused. And oh! how much is that wish enkindled when I recollect the seriousness and solemnity of your manner in prayer, and your impressiveness in preaching. How do I wish that endowments of such value, were consecrated to those views which I have received. But I feel myself getting upon tender ground. It is difficult to word such a wish without appearing arrogant, or impertinent, or presumptuous; and yet nothing is farther from my heart than either of these feelings. Believe me to be with sincere regard,
my dear Sir,
J. E. STOCK,
A Paraphrase and Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews. BY ARCHIBALD M'LEAN, late Pastor of the Baptist Church, Edinburgh, 2 vols. 8vo. pr. 16s. boards, or 12mo. 8s. boards. Oliphant and Co. Edinburgh, or W. Jones, Lovell's Court, Paternoster Row, London, 1816. THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS constitutes a most important part of the canon of divine revelation. It is, in the chain of divine truth, that particular link which connects the two dispensations, the law and the gospel; or, perhaps to speak more properly, it should be termed, the full disclosure or developement of the Levitical dispensation that system of types, shadows, carnal ordinances and ritual observances which, previous to the actual accomplishment of our redemption by the sufferings and death of the Son of God, divine wisdom appointed for the use of the Fathers; and the immediate object of which was to adumbrate or shadow forth those interesting facts and blessings that are now fully elucidated by the glorious gospel of the blessed God. It is therefore with propriety that it has been said of this Epistle, that it is as useful to the Christian church as the sun is to the natural world. As among its numerous excellencies, the revelation which it contains of the nature, the pre-eminence and the utility of the priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ deserves the principal place, inasmuch as the sacrifice which he offered, the atonement which he made for sin, and all the inestimable benefits that thus redound to believers, depend wholly and solely on the priesthood of Christ; so the unspeakable importance of this doctrine must be too manifest to require any laboured proofs. It is very true that the substance of it is delivered in several other passages of the books of the New Tetament, but it is done more sparingly than any other truth of corresponding importance. The Holy Spirit seems to have reserved the full, entire, and explicit statement of it, to the Epistle to the Hebrews, as its proper place.
It may be fairly admitted that what forms the grand and leading object
of this epistle, the doctrine concern ing the priesthood of Christ, and the sacrifice which he offered unto God for the sins of the guilty, is, on various accounts mysterious and sublime. The inspired apostle himself clearly intimated something of this kind concerning it, when he said to the Hebrews that the discourse on which he was about to enter was "hard to be uttered," Heb. v. 11. or rather, as the words in the original plainly import, "hard to be understood when uttered." Nor is it at all improbable, that Peter has this very doctrine in view when he tells us that there are in the writings of his beloved brother Paul, "some things hard to be understood." 2 Pet. iii. 16. for he evidently refers in that text to his epistle to the Hebrews, by the words" he hath written to you," viz. the believing Jews, or Hebrews. And hence we find Paul requiring of those who would attain to any tolerable comprehension of this sublime doctrine, that they should be advanced beyond the condition of those who live only on milk; that is, who content themselves with the first principles of religion; it is necessary that they be able to digest strong meat, Heb. v. 12-14. And when he is about to proceed to an explication of this grand subject, he declares that he is leading them on to perfec tion, ch. vi, 1. in other words, to the highest, and most perfect doctrines in the mystery of God and of the Father and of Christ.
Such being the manifest importance and excellency of this portion of the lively oracles, and such the difficulties attending an understanding of the subjects which are discussed in it; the writer who devotes his time and attention to the study of it, and who exerts all the powers and faculties of his mind, to illustrate, to explain, and to simplify it, is thereby conferring a lasting benefit upon his readers; and in proportion to the success which crowns his labours must the degree of our obligations to him arise. The subject has indeed occupied the pens of some of the ablest divines that the world ever produced; nor are there any talents
however eminent of which it is not worthy. It comprehends the whole economy of human redemption-a scene into which even the angels are represented as inquisitively prying and wherein they descry the manifold wisdom of God! There have long been in our language some entire Commentaries on this book, written with great judgment, and displaying extensive erudition. The great and elaborate work of Dr. Owen is well known. It originally appeared in four folio Volumes, and a new edition has lately been given of it, in seven volumes octavo-and it has been truly said that the publication of it "forms the colossal pedestal to his immortal fame. To his Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the studies of his life were more or less directed, and though it may be safely pronounced the most difficult of all the didactic books of Scripture, no part of the sacred writings has received so perfect an elucidation in the English, or perhaps in any other language." See Bogue and Bennett's History of the Dissenters, Vol. II. p. 235. Invaluable, however, as this work is acknowledged to be, it is so learned and so elaborate as to be in a great measure unfit for the use of ninety nine readers out of a hundred. An attempt was consequently made by the late Dr. Edward Williams to remedy this defect, by abridging the work, which he did in four Octavo volumes. But though the latter is said to merit the praise of fidelity and of general accuracy, it labours under the imperfections inseparable from all abridgments.
| Notes, which constitute by much the greater part of the work, exhibit an extraordinary fund of learning and of critical acumen. But independent of this, the author has been singularly successful in eliciting the apostle's meaning in some of the most difficult parts of this epistle; and though we would not have it understood that we are of Mr. Peirce's mind in all that he writes, we certainly feel no hesitation in strongly recommending his work to the attention of every student of the scriptures.
It would carry us far beyond our main design in this article, to notice all the valuable Illustrations of the Epistle to the Hebrews that have been hitherto published. But we may be allowed to say, that after all that had been done, the work before us is a striking proof how much still remained to be achieved, and how much too has really been effected, by a judicious and discriminating use of materials, partly indeed selected from the labours of former writers, but chiefly the fruit of the author's own profound investigation into the meaning of the inspired writer.
an acute reasoner
The volumes before us are evidently the produce of many years intense study, and of a series of persevering application to the subject which they are designed to illustrate. Few wri ters, it may be confidently affirmed, have appeared among us better qualified for the arduous undertaking than their author was. Fuller said of him truly, that he was and mighty in the Scriptures." So luminous were his conceptions that subjects which to others appeared Next in point of merit to Dr. recondite and abstruse became fami Owen's great work, the palm is cer- liar in his hands; and while he could tainly due to Mr. Peirce, of Exeter's unfold with clearness and perspicuity Paraphrase and Notes on the Epis- that which was involved in intricacy tle to the Hebrews"-which appeared and darkness, he excelled almost in a quarto volume, in 1727, but as the every other writer with whom we are author died when he had reached the acquainted in the happy talent of end of the tenth chapter, a continu-saying multum in parvo, in compressation of it to the close of the epistle ing and condensing his thoughts was published by Mr. Hallett, Jun. in upon whatever subject he undertook 1783. with a learned Preface intended to discuss. to settle the question, “by whom, and in what language, the epistle was originally written." This is unquestionably a work of great value, and it is deeply to be regretted that its excellency has been so little appreciated by biblical students, that in the course of nearly a century, a second edition of it has not been published: The
The nature of the work is such as scarcely to admit of our producing extracts from it, to justify the cha racter now given. But the reader will naturally expect from us some account of the plan and execution of it. Before each chapter, the author has placed copious Contents, giving also a view of the apostle's scope of
sins in his own body on the tree. God's holy law, as delivered to Israel, also manifested his holiness and justice, both in the manner of its delivery, the purity of its precepts, and in its awful sanction But never was the purity and extent of denouncing death upon the transgressors. the law, its eternal and indispensable obligation, or the awful nature of its curse, so fully and clearly manifested, as in the obedience and death of the Son of God, whereby the law was magnified and made honourable, and the holiness and
highest advantage. This, however, can only be seen by that faith whereby we
leading design throughout that particular chapter. This is followed by a Paraphrase, comprising a literal translation, distinguished by the Roman letter, and interspersed with connecting and explanatory supplements in Italics. Last of all comes the Commentary, the text of which is the common English translation, which, though divided into clauses to suit the commentary, is nevertheless inserted entire. At the end of the work, the author has given an Ap-justice of the Lawgiver displayed to the pendix, consisting of five Essays or Dissertations, the object of which is to illustrate more fully than could with propriety be done in the Commentary, some important subjects which had occurred. The following are their titles. No. 1. On the double sense of Prophecy. No. 2. On the administration of Angels anterior to Christ's resurrection and exaltation. No. 3. On the commencement of the exercise of Christ's Office as High Priest. No. 4. Illustration of Heb. xii. 6-11. and No. 5. Illustration of ch. xii. 28, 29.
As the excellent author of this treatise terminated his labours in the church militant with the writing of it, and died almost immediately on having put the finishing hand to the Manuscript, we shall lay before our readers, a few of the last pages of the work they become additionally interesting from the consideration that they were in all probability they very last efforts of his pen to subserve the cause of Christ in the world; and we beg their marked attention to them. The reader must bear in mind, that he is illustrating that remarkable text, "Let us have (or hold fast) the Grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and Godly fear, for our God is a consuming fire." Having explained the meaning of the word Grace, he thus proceeds.
hold fast grace. An unbeliever can see no more of divine holiness and justice in the obedience and death of Christ, than in that of any other good man; but when we perceive the dignity of the person who suffered his relation and dearness to the Father, being the supreme object of his love-with the nature and design of his sufferings, they being the punishment or curse due to our sins, and necessary to make an atonement unto divine justice for them; can any thing give us a deeper impression of the holiness and justice of God, and of his infinite opposition to sin ? Could a meaner sacrifice have answered the end, we have no reason to think that he who made the worlds should by him- } self have purged our sins. If the sufferings of any of his creatures could have made an atonement, and given a full display of his holiness and justice in forgiving it, we may well think that he would have spared his own only and well-beloved Son; but though the darling of his soul prays repeatedly with strong crying and tears that if it was possible the cup might pass from him, yet so inflexible is his justice, so untainted his holiness, and so infinite his hatred of sin, that he struck at it as it were through his own bowels, drink out the very last dreg of the cup of and made him in whom his soul delighted, sufferings due to it. When Israel saw the Lord's great work in redeeming them from Egypt, and destroying the Egyptians, it is said they 'feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and his servant Moses,' Exod. xiv. 31.; and upon that occasion they sang the song of Moses, "I. In the grace of the gospel, or plan saying, Who is like unto thee, O Jehoof salvation by Jesus Christ, we have the vah, among the gods? who is like unto clearest and most striking display of the thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in character of God, particularly his infinite praises, doing wonders?' ch. xv. 11. That justice, holiness, and opposition to sin. divine work of mercy and judgment was The wrath of God was formerly revealed so far from filling them with presumption from heaven against all unrighteousness and self-confidence, that it struck them and ungodliness of men in the awful judg-with a solemn awe of God's matchless ments inflicted upon both nations and individuals; but none of these, nor all of them put together, give such an awful display of his infinite opposition to sin, as the judgment inflicted upon his own Son when he stood in the room of the anjust, and bore the punishment of their
greatness, power, and holiness; and they acknowledged that he ought to be worshipped and praised with fear and reverence. But what was that typical redemption, and the display of divine power, justice, and holiness on Pharaoh and his host, to the redemption by Jesus
Christ, and the display of divine power, justice, and holiness, given in his death? In the former he punished his rebellious and audacious enemies; in the latter his own immaculate and well-beloved Son! How much more then ought this to impress our minds with reverence and godly fear? Accordingly the redeemed company apply the song of Moses to the great salvation, and the awful display of the divine character manifested therein, both in the way of mercy and judgment, Rev. xv. 3, 4, "Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy." When Isaiah got a view of the glory of the Lord, he was unable to abide his immediate presence on account of his unworthiness; even the seraphin covered their faces with their wings with the profoundest reverence, as unworthy to behold him, and cried one to another, “Holy, holy, holy | is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory," Isa. vi. 1-8. This was only a prophetic vision of the glory of the Lord which was afterwards to be clearly manifested in the face of Christ, who is the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person. If this visible emblematical glory of the Lord struck the holy man of God with such profound awe, reverence, and godly fear, how much more ought not the truth and spirit of it to have this effect, which now shines clearly in the gospel, and is the glory that ex
to punish them. Such views of grace, if followed out their full length, and held consistently, will in a great measure expel that reverence and godly fear enjoined in the text; but the scripture view of the grace of God will have a very opposite effect: for the apostle represents it as the great motive to reverence and godly fear. Does the gospel hold forth the grace of God's condescension in having spoken to us by his Son, by whom he made the worlds, and whom he bath appointed heir of all things? Heb. i. 2, 3; then he expects we should reverence his Son, and give the most earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip, and so incur a more dreadful punishment than the despisers of the word spoken by angels. chap.i.1-4. Did he deliver him up to the death for us, that he might in a consistency with his holiness forgive us our sins, and be just in justifying the ungodly? and does not the Psalmist tell us, that there is forgiveness with him for this very end, that he may be feared? Psal. cxxx. 4. The same is affirmed by Solomon, 1 Kings viii. 39, 40. The redeemed know that their sins are forgiven them, but at the same time they also well know, that this forgiveness flows to them in the channel of the blood and wounds of the Son of God's love! This must necessarily give them the deepest impressions of the evil nature of sin, and of the divine indignation against it; and must lead them to think that if these things were done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry! The gospel True, indeed, the gospel also holds forth | display of God's mercy and grace is guard. in the strongest light the glory of the divine ed with the most awful manifestation of mercy and grace towards the guilty chil- his justice, holiness, and infinite opposition dren of men; and this, as has been already to sin; so that we cannot be relieved by shown, delivers all who believe it from the one without being struck with the that spirit of bondage and slavish fear other. We cannot receive the sense of which so much prevailed under the former divine forgiveness into a fearless, irreve dispensation, and gives them a holy filial rent, stout and unbroken heart. Indeed confidence before him. But this is so far such can have no proper relish for the from expelling reverence and godly fear, blessedness of so divine a benefit, however that it affords the strongest motives to it, they may speculate about and boast of Many, indeed, have handled the doctrines their being justified. And though the of grace in such an unhappy manner as to Lord justifies no man on account of his exclude, in a great measure, this reverence humility and contrition; yet it and godly fear. They have taken such a such that he promises to comfort, Isa. partial view of the divine character, as Ivii. 15. "Thus saith the high and lofty being all love, tenderness, and indulgence, One, that inhabiteth eternity, whose name as in a great measure to have lost sight of is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy the awful majesty, holiness, and justice of place; with him also that is of a humble his grace; and so represent the Divine and contrite spirit, to revive the spirit of Majesty rather as a weak, indulgent, fond, the humble, and to revive the heart of and doating parent, than as the just God the contrite ones." Agreeably to this it and the Saviour. Self-love and self-indul- is said, Psal. xxxiv. 18. "The Lord is gence are ever apt to make men form nigh unto them that are of a broken such ideas of God as are most suited to heart; and saveth such as be of a con their own inclinations; and though they trite spirit." And Ps. cxxxviii. "Tho may not come the length to imagine he is the Lord be high, yet hath he respect altogether such an one as themselves; yet unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth they cannot help thinking that he respects afar off." See also James iv, 6. The their persons-that their sins are not so dis-gospel gives us the fullest display of the pleasing to him as the sins of the wicked divine goodness, and it is promised that and that at any rate he is engaged never when this goodness should be manifested