« הקודםהמשך »
Those seeming blemishes, which appear on the pages of divine inspiration are only dark spots on the vision of the human mind. When the understanding is purged from moral darkness and corruptness, it will discover the perfections of our holy religion; the coincidence of its parts; the unity of its design, and the unity of its Author.
to be reconcilable and harmonious.
PLURALITY IN THE DIVINE NATURE.
AFTER the apostasy mankind were exceedingly prone to idolatry. The heathen, in every age, have paid their devotions to a variety of deities. Even the Hebrews, who were enlightened by divine revelation, and were taught the existence of only one God, often departed from this knowledge, and ascribed divine honors to objects of nature, and to works of men's hands. When God communicated to the world a system of religion, it might well be expected he would guard the human mind against this error; that he would distinguish himself from heathen gods; that he would communicate nothing which would give the least countenance to a multiplicity of deities, or to idolatry. When God wrote the moral law on tables of stone, he commanded first, that they should have no other gods before him. The distinguishing characteristic of Israel was, that they worshipped one God. Moses, who was under divine influence, and wrote agreeably to the pattern shewn him by the divine Being, guarded the doctrine of the divine unity with the greatest care, lest Israel should blend with surrounding nations; fall into idolatry; and lose the knowledge of the true God. His language is, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”. That these words might not depart from their minds, he required them to bind them upon their hands; and that they should be as frontlets between their eyes. The other prophets adopted similar language. Christ supported the same sentiment, and the apostles copied his example.
Notwithstanding the unity of God is a prominent doctrine in the Scriptures; yet both the Old and New Testament contain many terms and phrases, which evidently convey an idea of plurality in the divine nature. The original word in the Old Testament, for the name God, is used in the plural number. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” This is the first time the divine name is used in the Bible; and it is used in the plural number, connected with a singular verb. When God was about to form man, he said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." After the apostasy of our first parents, “The Lord God said, behold the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.” When God looked down from heaven and beheld the tower, which the children of men builded, he said, "Go to, let us go down and there confound their language.” God speaking by the mouth of his prophet inquires, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Other passages contain the name of God in the plural number.
God is jealous for the honor of his name. He will not give his glory to another. He will have no other gods before him. He has ever manifested the greatest abhorrence of idolatry. Why then did God reveal himself by a name of the plural number, when he knew that the heathen, and even his peculiar people were exceedingly prone to idolatry; and would greedily catch at every circumstance, which appeared to countenance their favorite worship? Why was the doctrine of one God guarded with such precision and circumspection; and the name of God expressed in the plural number, as if there were gods many? His name was first communicated in the plural number; and lest men should, from this circumstance, infer a multiplicity of gods, it was expressly declared that
the Lord God was one Lord; and that they should have no other gods. Moses was undoubtedly aware what use the people would make of the plurality contained in the divine name; and it is not probable he would have used this term excepting under the sanction of divine authority.
Some have attempted to explain away the meaning of the plurality in the divine name by considering it an imitation of the royal style. But there is no evidence that kings applied to themselves the plural number in the days of Moses. We find no instance, in the sacred scriptures, of this royal mode of expression till about a thousand years after Moses wrote his history. Artaxerxes, king of Persia, in answer to a letter sent to him by his chancellor, scribe and the rest of their companions, says, “The letter which
ye sent unto us, hath been plainly read before me." Is it probable that God borrowed his titles, Majesty, most High, Prince, Sovereign, King, from earthly potentates? Is it probable that the Author of language is indebted to marks of royal honor for the formation of his own name, or for the mode of his expression? Is it probable that the Creator copied the creature? When it is considered how prone people were to deify works of art, animals, and departed spirits, it is easy to account for the origin of the custom of giving divine titles and divine honors to men in the most elevated stations. Repeated instances are found in
story, in which men, who were distinguished for heroism, and more distinguished for vain conceit, pretended to be descendants of the gods; and assumed divine prerogatives. It was natural for them, when speaking in the first person, to use the plural number in imitation of the name of God. It is not a little surprising that Christian people should perpetuate this heathenish practice. But while it proves the power of example, it likewise proves that there is a certain plurality in the divine original, which gave rise to this custom.
In the New Testament the divine name is used in the singular number. When the individuity of divine plurality was distinctly revealed, the more obscure Hebrew mode of expressing the divine name ceased. If the name of God in the New Testament be not used in the plural number, a plurality of singulars is used, to which divine nature is ascribed. This gives a clearer view of plurality in God than the ancient Hebrew form of expression. The New Testament was to be circulated among the Jews for the purpose of converting them to Christianity. As they believed in only one God, no form of speech would unnecessarily be used by the writers of the Christian religion, which would convey to them the idea of a multiplicity of deities. As it was also to be circulated among heathen, it was necessary to use the greatest care in the choice of words, lest encouragement should be given to their idolatry. As the forms of speech used in the scriptures naturally suggest the idea of more gods than one, or of a plurality in the divine nature; and as the scriptures declare in the plainest and strongest terms that there is but one God, it follows that there is a plurality in his nature.
The Hebrew language is remarkable for its sim plicity, and for its significancy. Proper names, as well as the names of a genus and species, are often expressive of the nature or properties of the person or thing named. Various names are given to the Supreme Being; and each name is significant of his nature, office, or of some of his attributes. In the first verse in the Bible the Hebrew name of God is expressive of his power. When he is represented in the act of creation there is a striking propriety in giving him a name expressing his might. When God commissioned Moses to lead Israel out of bondage, he made himself known to him by a name signifying independent existence. At other times he revealed himself by names signifying government and excellence. From the peculiar significancy of Hebrew names,