« PreviousContinue »
of the uninformed, and those not accustomed to much discrimination of thought. Not a little of it occurs in the Charge already repeatedly alluded to.
Why not, we hear it urged, believe in mysteries? We are surrounded by mysteries, man himself is a mystery, the growth of every blade of grass is a mystery. If we discard all we do not comprehend, we shall believe nothing. Such reasoning, if it deserve the name of reasoning, is extremely loose and inaccurate. That our faculties are finite, and we have an imperfect knowledge of surrounding nature, is true. But imperfection of knowledge is not indistinctness. There is a difference between knowing nothing relating to a particular subject, and not knowing all things. We may be acquainted with some of the attributes of that subject, we may have some distinct conceptions of it, so as to be able to believe and affirm something concerning it, though we may not be familiar with all its hidden properties.
Man, it is alleged, is a mystery. If by this observation be meant that we know nothing concerning him, it is not true; if any thing else be meant, the example is nothing to the purpose.
With regard to the growth of vegetables all is not unknown, though our knowledge concerning it is in several respects imperfect. When we use the proposition, grass grows,we state a fact, which every one understands. We have a precise and clear idea of what is meant by the proposition. With regard to the manner of its growth we know nothing, neither do we affirm anything concerning it,
When a man uses the proposition, God exists in three persons, he also means to state a fact. But, we may ask, does he understand what this fact is ? has he any definite notion of what is meant by the proposition he employs ? We all understand what is meant by the term person in its common and popular acceptation. A person is an intelligent agent. If we suppose the term employed in the same sense in the proposition, God exists in three persons, we make God three distinct beings, and fall into tritheism and absurdity. If we discard the term person, and affirm as some have, that there are three distinctions in the Deity, we only remove the difficulty one step further back. Still the proposition is unintelligible until we define what is meant by three distinctions, and all attempts to define render the proposition absurd.
Our knowledge of the doctrines and facts of Christianity is in many respects imperfect. There may be parts or adjuncts of those doctrines, which we are unable to comprehend, but we are not required to believe them on account of these parts, but on account of those we understand. We believe only what is intelligible in them.-Thus the future existence of man is a doctrine or fact of Christianity. All understand what is meant hy a future existence, but of the mode of it, and of the nature of our future employments, we are ignorant, neither do we believe nor affirm anything concerning them.
Difficulties may be started on almost all subjects connected with religion. But a doctrine may be incumbered with difficulties, yet be neither unintelligible, nor of such a nature as not to admit of being established by evidence. Such doctrines must never be confounded with those, which are in all their parts either unintelligible or absurd. The former may be received as articles of faith; the latter never can be.
But are not the doctrines alluded to, and pronounced incomprehensible, it may be asked, received and reverenced by a large class of Christians ? how then can it be said that they are incapable of becoming objects of faith?-A large class of Christians receive a form of words, but we are disposed to believe, we say it not in a tone of reproach, that they have no very distinct conception of the sense of those words, that their faith, therefore, amounts to nothing more than a sort of shadowy and vague sentiment, which may be described as haunting the imagination, rather than as having a hold on the intellect. They cannot be said to believe certain doctrines so much as to venerate certain modes of expression.
For ourselves, we are sometimes tempted to doubt whether among the great mass of Christians of plain and unsophisticated understandings, there is, or ever was, a genuine, thorough, practical Trinitarian, that is, any one to whose mind God and the Saviour, whenever they incidentally present themselves, do not present themselves as two distinct beings, the one sending, the other sent. We know that Unitarianism was the belief of the primitive church, and that it long retained its hold on the minds of simple and unlettered Christians, not
yet spoiled by the corrupt philosophy of the Gentiles. The more learned converts from Paganism, however, retaining a strong tincture of the doctrines of Plato, in the belief of which they had been educated, at length succeeded in rendering it unpopular. Still we are disposed to believe, that it has constituted the real faith of multitudes in all ages of the church, and that it is held by vast numbers at the present day, even of such as pass with the world, and with themselves, for trinitarians; that could their genuine sentiments be fully exposedlaid open to their own view—they would be surprised to find in them so strong a resemblance to what, under the name of Unitarianism, they have been taught to abhor.
ANNOTATIONS ON THE New TESTAMENT. Compiled from the
best Critical Authorities, and Designed for Popular Use. By J. P. Dabney.
The publication of this work in numbers was completed some months since, and we proceed to express, in few words, our opinion of its merit, as the only atonement in our power for omitting to notice it at an earlier date. Many of our readers are, no doubt, already acquainted with its contents; and those who have carefully examined it, we are confident,will admit that though a work of humble pretensions, it is calculated to be in
an eminent degree useful. The object of the book is thus stated in the preface. The Prospectus of the following work announced it as intended “for popular use;" a description, to which, it is presumed, in a good degree, it has well conformed. This form of speech was deemed equivalent to “mere English readers.” The design was to serve hereby, the ends of those who were unable to seek for scripture truth at its fountain head, or to derive directly the light, which foreign critics have shed upon its pages. But to insure this result, somewhat of cooperation is necessary in the reader. By the word popular, was not meant, a work level to the lowest measure of understanding or attainments; a book, which miglit, like any English volume, be read right onward, without interruption or delay; read, not studied; and in which, every thing was found prepared to the hands of the most indolent reader. This would certainly have been an egregious mistake. Those who cannot so far task their patience and industry, as to seek out and compare the scripture references with which this work abounds, will find it, not an unprofitable purchase, perhaps, wholly ; but certainly, abridged of half its value.'
The work might certainly have been executed in a style and manner better adapted to the great mass of readers. It might have been more copious and diffuse. But its price must-in that case have been proportionably increased, a circumstance, which would have greatly impeded its circulat on. One of its merits is its conciseness and its consequent cheapness. It contains in
VOL. I.-N0. III.