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Surely I ought to know the God whom I worship--whether he be one pure and simple being, or whether thou art a threefold Deity, consisting of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.-- Dr. Isaac Watts.
Profound learning and acute metaphysical subtilty are by no means necessary to settle the important question concerning the person of Christ. The inquiry is into a plain matter of fact, which is to be determined, like any other fact, by its specific evidence-the evidence of plain, unequivocal testimony; for judging of which, no other qualifications are requisite, than a sound understanding, and an honest mind.- Belsham.
Let us, then, inquire with care and impartiality. Let us profess the truth so far as we are acquainted with it, and candidly recommend it to others, with mildness, patience, and long-suffering.-Lardner.
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
The following Work was originally written in very small bounds, and adapted chiefly for the instruction and convenience of the Writer; being designed to exhibit an illustrative view of the real or supposed Scripture evidence for the leading doctrines of Unitarianism and Trinitarianism. In pursuance of this scheme, he divided the left-hand page of his little paper-book into two columns: the first of which was intended to contain the
passages of Scripture usually adduced in support of the doctrine of the Trinity and the Deity of Christ; and the second to include those texts which either establish the strict Unity of God - the absolute Supremacy of the Father, or which, on Unitarian principles, illustrate the texts supposed to countenance Trinitarianism. All these portions of the Bible were merely referred to; and the corresponding or right-hand page was reserved for a few very brief observations.
By the suggestion of a respected friend, who thought that a work published in that form would be serviceable to the cause of Christian truth, the Author undertook to extend his plan; and accordingly, instead of merely noting the texts, and making some unimportant remarks, he has quoted the principal passages, enlarged his observations, and extracted from the writings of various eminent men those explanations and critical remarks which he conceived to be the most appropriate or valuable, accompanied with various readings and different translations of disputed passages of Scripture; besides further extending his original plan, by the addition of an entirely new part, consisting of the Biblical evidence for the distinguishing doctrines of Unitarianism.
The various readings and different translations have been taken from whatever reputable sources the Author could procure them; but, though many of these are undoubtedly better supported than the corresponding passages of the Received Text or the Common Version, he has seldom, in his own observations, availed himself of their aid; some people conceiving - but with little charity, and with as little truth — that Unitarians are compelled, in vindication of their opinions, to alter such portions of the Sacred Volume as do not suit their own purpose. In Scripture passages cited throughout this work, the Author has enclosed within brackets those words which were supplied by our translators and put in Italic characters, from there not being any correspondent terms in the original; and the Italics he has reserved for expressions of an important kind. Thus, instead of transcribing 1 John iii. 16, as it stands in our Bible
-“ Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us," he has adopted this form --"Hereby perceive we the love [of God],
because," &c.; putting the words “ of God” within brackets, from their not being found in the original text, and “God” in Italic characters, to point it out as the term on account of which the passage has been adduced as a proof of the doctrine of Christ's Deity. The only verbal alterations which the Author has dared to make on the Public Version are few, and perhaps of little importance. The word LORD, when printed in small capitals in the Old Testament, he has changed to Jehovah, the Hebrew name for the only living and true God. The old English word ghost he has sometimes rendered spirit, by reason of the uncouth association of ideas attached to that phrase. And instead of the relative which, applied to persons, he has used the modern who, for considerations of a grammatical nature, known to every school-boy.
The figures prefixed to Scripture Passages, and to the Observations thereon, are employed more for the sake of mutual and easy reference, than for indicating the number of texts adduced to prove certain points of doctrine. Accordingly, those portions of the Bible which contain parallel expressions or epithets, are sometimes put into groups, and merely referred to, in order to save the space which would otherwise be necessarily occupied in the quoting of them individually and separately. To afford greater room, it also not unfrequently happens, that only part of a passage is printed; the omission being indicated by points (...), or by an et cetera (&c.) To do full justice to the subject, however, the investigator should take the Bible into his hand, and carefully peruse, not only the imperfectly quoted text, but the verses in connection.
The numerous extracts entered into this volume are not always in unison with the opinions of the Author, and are sometimes in direct opposition to them; but they have been carefully, and we trust accurately, copied from the works held in greatest repute by the different classes of Christians into which the world is divided. The various sentiments thus brought together are, it is conceived, peculiarly useful, by enabling the inquirer to choose that explanation which appears most consonant to the import of the text discussed, and which harmonises best with the prevalent doctrines of the Bible. It is, however, to be remarked, that, from the peculiar nature of the plan observed in the Second Part, a few words, and even sentences, have been occasionally omitted in the extracts; but the transcriber has uniformly endeavoured to avoid doing any injustice to the meaning of the writers. Their names he has appended to these passages, and would have gladly put, along with each quotation, the title of the work, and number of the page cited: but, with some hesitation, he has thought proper, except in a few instances, to dispense with this arrangement; as it would have occupied a great portion of room,
- more usefully, because more profitably, occupied by the insertion of other matter. At the end of the volume, however, he has put a list of the principal Works to which he had recourse; and any one desirous of ascertaining the correctness of an extract, or of acquiring further information on a particular subject, will have little difficulty in
finding out the required place, by examining the indexes, contents, or heads of chapters and sections, which generally pertain to such kind of writings.
In his explanations of similar texts, the Author, though sensible of the advantages of brevity, could not always avoid repeating some of his own remarks; but the recital will probably be excused, when it is considered that a Work of this nature may not only be perused, but occasionally consulted. The same observation is applicable also to the repetition of illustrative texts of Scripture.
7 It will probably be asked, why an obscure and comparatively unlearned individual should dare to enter into the discussion of subjects which have employed the energies of the richest and most profound intellects both of this and former times ;—subjects on which no new arguments can be offered, and nothing can be said which is not more beautifully and more eloquently expressed in the writings of others.
To the latter part of this interrogatory it is not difficult to reply, obviated as it is by the numerous passages which have been copied into the following work from the writings of eminent individuals. With respect to the former, the Author acknowledges that he is too conscious of the inferiority of his abilities and the paucity of his attainments, to put himself on a level with a CLARKE, a LARDNER, a Fox, or a CHANNING; and he is too strongly convinced of the power of prejudice over the best cultivated understandings to imagine, that he will destroy, as with a dash of his pen, what has been established by the infallible decisions of councils and synods, consecrated by creeds and confessions of faith, defended by the anathemas of ignorance and bigotry, and cherished and supported by many good and learned men belonging to the Trinitarian denomination. But he feels assured, that the great subject alluded to is not yet exhausted; that it is yet possible, if not to employ original arguments, at least to present the old in a different, and perhaps in a more striking aspect - and to divest this branch of biblical criticism of much of that air of pedantry and learning which is so unsuitable to the genius of the operative and middle classes of society. These objects the Writer of the following Work has endeavoured to promote. He does not, indeed, believe that he can with giant-strength apply the machinery of truth to the pulling down of the strongholds of error; but he does believe, that, feeble as his abilities may be, he has presented such a mass of Scripture evidence in favour of Christian Unitarianism, as is calculated in itself to remove the errors of reputed orthodoxy. But, even though the mite of the widow should not enrich the treasury of the poor, the humble offering may stimulate the wealthy to give according to the abundance of their riches; and though the undertaking and labours of a Unitarian layman should add little to the body of religious information, they may perhaps, in some unknown way, be the means of calling into action the zeal and abilities of men of greater genius or of more extensive learning.
But it may be further inquired, Why assume the character of a religious controversialist at all? Why disturb the public mind with discussing points which have a tendency to rouse bigotry, and excite the malevolent passions ? at a time, too, when Christians are so much disposed to content themselves with the opinions which they entertain ? The Author replies, that, if controversy here signify the attacking of individuals — the imputing of false motives to those who differ from us - the general use of the odium theologicum, or the employment of
persecution in any shape whatever, — he is not, and desires not, to be a controversialist; such a character being very unfavourable to the cause of truth, and directly inimical to the precepts and the example of Jesus Christ. He is fully persuaded, however, that when men are disposed, through supineness, to adopt the opinions of their forefathers, — then is the proper season for awakening them to a proper and manly exercise of their intellectual powers. Besides, the aim of the Author is not to attack individuals, but opinions; not to wage war with the moral characters of men, but with what he considers the grossly absurd tenets which have been amalgamated with the pure and simple doctrines of the Christian religion, and which have excited against it the bitter prejudices and unsparing attacks of credulous unbelievers. The wish of his heart is (under the blessing of Providence) to inculcate what he conceives to be two of the great doctrines of the Bible— the strict, undivided Unity of God, and the subordination of Christ to the universal Father. These doctrines he is anxious to promulgate-— not that he deems truth preferable to piety and virtue, or the knowledge of the meaning of revelation better than the performance of God's will; but because he believes, that proper and honourable conceptions of the object of the Christian's love and veneration are highly conducive to the growth and establishment of a more rational piety, of a greater degree of virtue, and of more solid and elevated enjoyments.
Thus convinced, as the Writer is, of the intimate connection subsisting between the attainment of religious truth and the exaltation of the human character, and anxious to promote these important objects as far as lies in his power, -he humbly submits his Work to the examination of an inquiring Public, under the expectation, that, ere they pronounce a sentence on his opinions, they will first ascertain whether these be or be not conformable to the contents of that blessed Volume from which he believes them to have been derived.
Belfast, August, 1833.