« הקודםהמשך »
might happen: something must conquer, and whatever does conquer, is the crowned bowman. Let it be remembered, at all events, that the symbols and figures of the Scripture prophets (Daniel, Isaiah, and Zechariah,) are all explained, and consequently made literal. Not so with John; the writer of that book thought proper to leave it in symbol, in figure : one can hardly figure a case of which it might not be said to be a symbol.
“ Now it is perfectly clear, that the accomplishment of these and many other parallel prophecies would have been frustrated, if the conversion of the Gentiles had gone on equably and rapidly in proportion to its original progress ; for, had the whole Gentile world been converted in the course of the first nine or ten centuries; there would have been no room for the accomplishment of those numerous predictions, which fix their general conversion, upon a grand and national scale, to the latter ages. Hence every prediction of this nature involves an intimation, that a long stop would be put to the progress of the Gospel, during a middle intervening period : so that after a certain number of the pagan nations should have been converted during the first ages, a pause (as it were) would take place; and then at length, in the last ages, all those, which had hitherto remained in a state of moral darkness, would be happily and triumphantly brought within the pale of the .....ian church.
“ Thus explicitly is the fact itself recognised in Scripture. But it is more than recognised; the rationale of it (if I may so speak) is also most fully and lucidly explained; and upon this rationale, I have ever thought the importance of a Society for the express purpose of converting the house of Judah to be pre-eminently established.
“The truth is, that, whatever partial success may attend missionary exertions, in regard to individual Pagans or Mahommedans, the Gentiles will never be converted nationally and upon a large scale, until the Jews shall have been first converted : and the ground of this very important position is, that the converted Jews are destined, in the unsearchable wisdom of God, to be the only finally successful Missionaries to the Gentile world."
How, and in what manner, the conversion of the Gentile world to ......ianity had any thing to do with the above prophecies, or on the supposition that Mahomedanism had not gained so many converts as it has, and continues to gain ; on the supposition, I say, that this was otherwise, that all India and China, who have (we will say) not at all heard of the name of God, either through ......ian or Mahomedan missionaries, had all been converted to ......ianity; in what manner this would affect the prophecies above quoted, I cannot see. Would it at all, in the fulness of time, hinder the Messiah from coming ? Would it hinder the fourth kingdom in its last form from being overturned? or stop the universal dominion of the saints of the Most High? Would it put a stop to the increase of the knowledge of the Lord? or would it deter mankind, when they shall attain such knowledge, from acknowledging it, and saying with us, The Lord is ONE, and his name ONE? Neither can any one in his senses, in these prophecies see any promise of the Jews becoming itinerant missionaries of ......ianity, or even of Judaism, to the Gentile world. Is it not plainly foretold, that the Gentile world are to come to Zion and Jerusalem to serve the Lord and receive instruction? There is nothing that I can see, alluding to any such event as Jews becoming ......ian teachers. From all that has been said by the preacher, who can see any recognition, much less an EXPLICIT recognition, in scripture, of this rational, lucid explanation ? as the preacher styles his sophistry.
(To be continued.)
(Continued from p. 120.) Our next inquiry is, first, Who were the persons that met in council to establish a new canon. And, secondly, What authority they had for so doing. *
As to the first question, from the best authority we can collect, they plainly appear to have been a set of men entirely unqualified for such an undertaking; that a majority in these councils was always formed by faction and intrigue; that the members were led by interest, prejudice, and passion; that they were contentious, ambitious, ignorant, and wicked. The judicious Mr. Chandler gives such a character of the Fathers, such a description of all general councils, as must convince how improper they were, and what little authority their determinations ought to have. I shall therefore transcribe a few passages from him. “As to the Fathers, (says he) “it is infinite, it is endless labour to consult all that the Fathers have written; and when we have consulted them, what one controversy have they rationally decided ? how few texts of scripture have they critically settled the sense and meaning of? how often do they differ from one another? and in how many instances from themselves? those who read them, greatly differ in their interpretations of them, and men of the most contrary sentiments, all claim them for their own: Athanasians, and Arians, all appeal to the Fathers, and support their principles by quotations from them. And are these the venerable gentlemen, whose writings are to be set up in opposition to the Scriptures ? are creeds of their dictating to be submitted to as the only criterion of orthodoxy ? or esteemed as standards to distinguish between truth and error? away with this folly and superstition! the creeds of the Fathers and Councils are but human creeds, that have marks in them of hrman frailty and ignorance."*
* The council of Laodicea was the first that established the New Canon.--They convened towards the end of the fourth century.
Another eminent person declares himself thus : “ The Fathers, you say, (whom you regard as the propagators of the ......ian religion,) must necessarily have been men of true piety and knowledge ; but it has been mentioned and proved to you by a great number of instances, that the Fathers have not only fallen into very gross errors, and been most profoundly ignorant of many things which they ought to have known; but further, that most of them have more or less suffered themselves to be lead by passion : so that their conduct has been found frequently to be such as is neither regular or justifiable:” Again, “In the first ages of ......ianity, and those that followed after, the men most applauded, and who bore the greatest character in the church, were not always those that had the greatest share of good sense ; or were the most eminent for learning and virtue.”+ As to general councils, “I think it will evidently follow from this account,” (says Mr. Chandler) “ that the determinations of councils and decrees of synods, as to matters of faith, are of no manner of authority; and carry no obligation upon any ......ian whatsoever. I will mention here one reason, which will be itself sufficient if all others were wanting, namely, that they have no power given them in any part of the gospel revelations, to make these decisions in controverted points, and to oblige others to subscribe to them; and that therefore the pretence to it, is an usurpation of what belongs to the great God; who only hath a right to prescribe to the conscience of men. But to let this pass, what one council can be fixed upon that will appear to be composed of such persons, as upon impartial examination can be allowed to be fit for the work of settling the faith, and determining all controversies concerning it? I mean, in which the majority of the members may be supposed to be disinterested, wise, learned, peaceable and pious men? Will any man undertake to affirm this
* Introduction to History of the Inquisition; p. iii.
+ Barbin. Hist. and critical account of the Science of morality, ch. 10. See the whole ch. as likewise the 3th.
of the council of Nice ? Can any thing be more evident, than that the members of that venerable assembly came, many of them, full of passion and resentment; and others of them were crafty and wicked ; and others ignorant and weak. Did their meeting together in a synod immediately cure them of their desire of revenge? If not, their joint decree as a synod could really be of no more weight than their private opinions; nor perhaps of so much; because it is well known that the great transactions of such assemblies are generally managed and conducted by a few; and, that authority, persecution, prospect of interest, and other temporal motives, are commonly made use of to secure a majority. The second general council were plainly the creatures of the Emperor Theodosius; all of his party, and convened to do as he bid them. The third general council were the creatures of Cyril, who was their president, and the inveterate enemy of Nestorious, whom he condemned for heresy, and was himself condemned for rashness in this affair. The fourth met under the awe of Marcian; managed their debates with noise and tumult; were formed into a majority by the intrigues of the Ligates of Rome, and settled the faith by the opinions of Athanasius, Cyril and others. I need not mention more; the further they go, the worse they will appear : as their decision in matters of faith were arbitrary and unwarranted; and as the decisions themselves were owing to court practices, intriguing statesmen, the thirst for revenge, the management of a few crafty interested bishops, to noise and tumult, the prospects and hopes of promotions and translations, and other like causes, the reverence paid them by many ......ians is truly surprising.”*
“All the world saw" (says M. Burberyac, who quotes an author who cannot be suspected of any ill will towards the Fathers,) “the dreadful cruelties that were committed in the unhappy centuries: they maintained sieges in their monasteries: they battled in their councils : they treated with the utmost cruelty all whom they but suspected to favour opinions, which too often proved to be such as no body understood, not even those who defended them with the greatest zeal and obstinacy. These,” says he, "are the great lights of the church these are the holy Fathers which we must take for men of true piety and knowledge.t
* Introduction to Hist. of Inquisition, sec. iii. p. 100 to 102. + Historical Acc. of the Science of morality, secl x.
"One council,” says another historian, “was summoned to annul what another had done, and all things were managed with that faction, strife and contention, as if they lay bound to quench the spirit of meekness and brotherly love, so often recommended in the gospel. Some were banished—some were imprisoned—and against others they proceeded with more severity, even to the loss of their lives."*
As to the second inquiry, What authority they had to establish a new
No other appears to me but their own; which, considering what sort of men they were, will never be allowed to be any authority at all : They produced none from Jesus; none from the apostles; neither had they any given but those very writings. They had no criterion by which they could distinguish among the variety of books that were then in the world under the name of the apostles, (if any were truly theirs,) which were so, and which not: and we do not hear a word of the least pretensions to any extraordinary assistance or revelation to this council from God; so that the authority which they imposed on these writings appears to have been entirely accidental, and depended upon their having a majority in their favour. And this I think is most that can be said of them, and the same might have befallen any of those writings which were rejected as spurious, had the majority of the council consisted of a contrary party; but what authority the opinion of the majority of any council can have, acting under the influence and motives before mentioned, is what every person must determine for himself.
COMMUNICATED FOR THE JEW.
(Continued from page 98.) “He couched : he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion : who shall raise him up?" The meaning of this is, Israel will couch in those days as a lion, and the nations will fear to offend Israel, or raise him (Israel) up; as the former blessing has it, “Behold the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift himself up as a young lion.” The language is the same : Israel is always meant, whether the plural, them, or the singular, him, is used. The people, Israel, are always intended ; and indeed the sin
* Count of Echard; Rom. Hist. pol. iii. p. 57.