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The absurdities of the Cabalistical system of interpres tation, are next the object of censure; nor is the Hutchinsos nian discovery of divine truths in Hebrew words, spared by the ingenious preacher, though he admits that this is a less puerile pursuit than the former. But it is in his attack on the <- jinian mode of interpretation, that Dr. Laurence dife' plays' he greatest vigour of argument. This part of the Sermon we extract with great pleasure. ,
6 For ingenuity in compelling many a celebrated text to speak a language repugnant to its apparent signification, we may allow Socinus, and his followers as much credit as they require, if in. deed credit may be so obtained; but we cannot surely on that account, without violence to the epithet, denominate them, what they exclusively affect to be, rational expositors. What passage of Scripture can be clearer, than the Answer of our Saviour to the Jews, who, when they enquired of him, whether he, who was not then fifty years old, had seen Abraham, replied, “Before Abraham was, I am," plainly ascribing to himself an existence prior to that of Abraham. But the Socinians have invented a dif. ferent explication. They have observed that the aorist yeveoba may be taken (but certainly not in this instance with grammatical propriety) in a future sense, with respect to the time when the conversation took place, and that Abraham means not the person of the patriarch, but merely the import of his name, so that the words, ogir Abga olay yeveo cyw erlen, should be rendered,
Before he of whom you speak shall become Abraham," or what that name indicates, 66 the father of many nations,” (which is still further to be explained in a spiritual sense, and considered as have ing taken place, when the salvation of the Jews was extended to the Gentiles,) " I am,” I the light of the world appear ; that is, I the Messiah exist, before the Gentiles can approach my splendor, and hail the brightness of my rising. But can we suppose', that his indignant hearers, had they thus understood him, would have taken up stones to stone him for blasphemy; or that our Saviour · himself, instead of directly replying to the question proposed, would have completely avoided it, and that for the sole purpose of advancing an almost incontrovertible proposition, not less uninteresting than irrelevant, and only remarkable for a miserable ‘play upon words without point, and a lamentable dislocation of idea without example? To particularize such a comment, so intricate and involved, so injurious to the character of our Redeemer, as well as so much at war with the context, is indeed to refute it.
“ But their most frequent mode of perverting unambiguous phrases, is by a confident imputation of Hebraisms, to which they give a construction suitable to the particular 'object in their view, Thus they consider the denomination, “ Son of God," so often ascribed to our Saviour, as a kind of Hebrew idiom, which signikies no more than a person favoured by the Almighty, and which
is therefore destitute of characteristical emphasis, while they regard the other denomination usually ascribed to him, “Son of Man," 29 indeed of the same description, yet as distinctly and strongly em, phatical, purposely employed to prevent the possibility of conceiving him to be any thing more than a mere man. But this double and contradictory application of a similar idiom is perfectly untenable. For if the words “ Son of Man" emphatically signify one, who is truly and properly man, must it not follow by parity of reasoning, that the words “ Son of God” emphatically also sig. nify one, who is truly and properly God? The fact is, both are alike emphatical, although the first seems, generally at least, if not always, used in a sense wholly different from the Socinian. For as the appellation " Son of Man," which occurs in a well known prophecy of Daniel, was appropriated by the Jewish expositors in the time of Christ to the promised Messiah, a circumstànce which the Targum of Jonathan, still extant, puts beyond a doubt, we must immediately perceive the object of it, especially when we recollect, that our Saviour himself alludes to this identical prophecy, and speaks of his own advent in the very expressions of Daniel, as that of the Son of Man, or the Messiah, (terms understood to be equivalent to each other,) " coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." With respect to the appellation : 66 Son of God," it seems only necessary to observe, that, when St. Peter says to his divine Master, “ We believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," if the phrase meant no more than a mere man in high favour with God, the answer of our Lord would have been singular and unaccountable, who replied, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood have not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven;" because certainly, according to the Socinian explanation of the terms, a revelation from heaven would have been superfluous.
“ Nor is their frequent appeal to conjectural idiom attended with worse consequences, than their perpetual substitution of fan. cied metaphor, particularly when they endeavour by it to gloss away the meaning of almost every passage in Scripture, relating to the true nature of Christian redemption. They argue that when it is said, “The blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin," ar when any similar phrase is introduced, nothing more is intended, than that the blood of Christ, which was shed in testimony to the truth of his doctrines, enables us, by admitting that truth, and practising those doctrines, to cleanse ourselves from all sin ; so that the expressions “ blood of Christ,” are made, by a long chain of interme. diate reasoning, to stand figuratively for Christian morality. Such a perplexed and subtle style of interpretation may perhaps gratifv the vanity of writers, who deride the faith and despise the lalenis of all other commentators; but it must always be disapproved by those who prefer plain and unembarrassed to confused and iinplicated expositions, to expositions equally remote from Gospel truth as from Gospel simplicity;":
The conclusion of this discourse gives the following found advice, which cannot be too carefully regarded by all students in theology, and particularly by those who enter upon a critical inquiry into, and an elucidation of the sacred von lunie.
6From a retrospect then of what has been observed, we may conclude, that in traversing the wide field of philological specula. tion and biblical criticism, we cannot too accurately examine the solidity of the ground, upon which we tread. Various indeed are the modes, which a warm imagination may suggest, to render a good cause more alluring, and a bad one less obnoxious; but after all, plain, direct, and substantial argument is the only sure basis of rational conviction. In many cases we may indeed innocently amuse ourselves with the fond reveries of a favourite system ; but we should not forget that other minds may be more fastidious, and that truth is always admitted with reluctance, where fiction is only in part suspected. And if the propriety of keeping within due limits be apparent, when the theorist is solely anxious to illustrate points of general persuasion, what ought to be his caution, when he is proceeding in a contrary direction, when he is attempt. ing untried novelties, and hazarding uncertain conjectures! Let him at least reflect, that to venture on a precipice with indifference is folly, and without necessity a crime.”
There is an appendix of curious notes subjoined to this interesting sermon, which will afford much valuable infor. mation to every serious reader.
ON THE DESTRUCTION OF PHAROAH. [From Mr. Rollefton's Prize Poem, entitled “ Mofes under
the direction of Divine Providence, &c.” Oxford. 12mo,
D Her steeds, her çars, her thousands arm'd for fight?
Whelm'd all their hopes, and not a wreck is seen
And now, perchance, redeem'd of Heav'n, for you
What now avail their days, with wonders bleft,
Rolls its cool waves through bow'r or fertile plairi;
But must they die ? Will He, their Guardian Pow's,
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