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Lord Herbert or Lord Bolingbroke now citizens of Boston, beyond question they would not allow themselves to be denomina
ied infidels. They would resent such an appellation as highly as • any of their peers. They would doubtless connect themselves with some Unitarian society, and might go to the sacrament at some Unitarian church. To be sure, they would not believe all that was in the Bible; they would pronounce some portions of it unreasonable, and throw them aside as no part of the revelation; and their religious teachers would do the same.
On the day of our publishing the communication on Infidelity, an article appeared in the Christian Examiner, entitled “ The Scriptures not a Revelation, but the Record of a Revelation.” Of this, we gave our readers some account in our number for February, pp. 95—101. In the Examiner for May, the subject was again introduced, in an article entitled “ Misapprehensions of Unitarianism.” A leading object of this article seems to have been to show, that, although Unitarians do deny the inspiration of the Scriptures, still, they are very serious in doing it, and are, on the whole, a very serious, religious people. From this article, some extracts were given in our last number, p. 370. In the article now under consideration, the conductors of the Examiner undertake to tell us, as they had done before, what they believe.
“ We lay our hand strongly upon the foundation-the Bible. We say, there is a communication from heaven. There is light supernaturally communicated and attested to those heaven-commissioned prophets and apostles, who, in their turn, lave simply, naturally, each after the manner of his own age, bis own style, his own peculiar habits of thought and feeling, imparted it to us. There are truths recorded, beyond the human reach of the men who delivered them, and they are truths dearer to us than life.-Right or wrong in our conviction, this is what we believe.”
Now all this is very well. A sense may be put upon these words which will make them express, perhaps, all that is necessary. A sense may also be put upon then which virtually nullifies them. And taken in connexion with all that has appeared in the Examiner on the subject, we are constrained, whether we will or no, to understand them in the latter sense. « There, is a communication from heaven.” Where? Contained in the Bible,—10 be called out at the discretion of the reader. “ There is light supernaturally communicated," &c. How much? How large a portion of the contents of the Bible was supernaturally communicated ? Only a part, as we shall presently see, and this part to be determined by the judgement of individuals; so that we have no standard, after all, except our own understandings. And to whom was this light supernaturally communicated ? To the prophets and apostles; and by them imparted to us, without any kind or degree of inspiration ; so that we have nothing on which to rely, in regard to the correctness of the record, except the unaided fidelity and ability of the writers.—That these
are the real views of the conductors of the Examiner, no one who has read their pages can entertain a doubt; and those who hold to the full inspiration of the Bible, and receive it as a perfect standard, can as little doubt whether views such as these go to nullify its declarations, and render the word of God of none effect.
The principal argument, in the several articles in the Examiner, to disprove the inspiration of the sacred writers, arises from the manner in which they wrote. Their “style is natural, and therefore is not supernatural.” “ The phraseology, the choice of words, the order of thought, the selection of figures, comparisons, arguments to enforce the communication, was altogether a human work."
-Now we admit that the different writers of Scripture exhibit their characteristic differences of style. They were left, to some extent certainly, each to follow the bent of his genius, and to express his thoughts in his own natural way. The language is that of the age and country in which the writers lived, and we discover in each somewhat of the peculiarities of his own mind. So far, there need be no dispute. But what does all this prove? That these writers were not guided and assisted in what they wrote by a directing, superintending, unerring Spirit ? Not at all. We are aware of no inconsistency, and we are confident that none can be made to appear, between the doctrine of inspiration, properly explained, and the fact that the sacred penmen communicated divine truth, each in that style and manner which to him was the most natural and agreeable. Admitting the fact of inspiration, we might expect beforehand that they would communicate aster this manner, since, to secure such a manner, seems to have been a principal reason why men were selected as the instruments by which God should reveal his truth. Why did he not utter responses from a brazen oracle; or speak in an audible manner from the clouds ? He saw it best, doubtless, that the communication should come to us through a human medium, and should possess, to our apprehension, the very property of naturalness which it does possess. And now shall we urge this intended and important quality to show that God had no concern in making the communication, and that men, the appointed instruments, were not inspired ?
The argument in the Examiner proceeds on the supposition, that what is supernaturally communicated must be presented in a style altogether unique and peculiar. There can be no appearance of naturalness, nothing seemingly human about it. If the style is natural, it cannot be supernatural; and, vice versa, if it is supernatural, it cannot be natural.—Now let us examine this assumption, on grounds which the conductors of the Examiner themselves admit. They admit that some “ portion of the Scriptures” was " written from express dictation"—the highest kind of inspiration possible. Let them, then, select these portions, and show us that the style of them is manifestly supernatural-altogeth
er unique and peculiar-discovering no traces of having passed through a human medium. This certainly is incumbent on them, or else their argument must lose all its force, even in their own estimation.
Again, these reviewers believe that Christ was a human being, possessing a human body and soul, with all the faculties and affections of human nature. They prosess also to believe that he was, in the highest degree, inspired—that the Spirit was given him without measure—so that whatever he spake was truly the word of God. Now, do they believe that the discourses of Christ were delivered in a style altogether superhuman-like the hollow responses of an oracle, or like a voice sounding from the skies? “A portion of the discourses of our Saviour," say these gentlemen, “ were [was] undoubtedly written from an exact remembrance of the words." Let us then have these discourses selected (for no doubt our opponents will be able to select them) and let it be shown that they are supernatural discourses, in such sense as to have lost all appearance of naturalness, in the phraseology, the choice of words, the order of thought, the selection of figures, comparisons, arguments,” &c.
There is no doubt, there can be none to those who admit the truth of the Bible, that no small part of it is literally the word of God. How very often is God represented as speaking—in the first person? How much of the Old Testament follows a . Thus saith the Lord'? These passages are numerous and long, embracing in some instances whole chapters, and they occur in every part of the Old Testament. Now if these passages are examined, they will be found to contain the same characteristic differences of style and manner, the same apparent ease and naturalness, which appear in other parts of our sacred books. The argument of these reviewers is therefore inconsistent, not only with their own concessions, but with facts. Consequently, it cannot be a valid argument. They may theorise as much as they will, and please themselves with the notion, that what is natural cannot be supernatural, and that what has the appearance of naturalness cannot be inspired; the facts in the case are against them, and inay be urged to brush away their cobweb reasonings as fast as they spin them. Large portions of the Bible (if true) are in fact the word of God, for God is represented as personally speaking; and yet these portions present no more superhuman appearances than some other portions. They exhibit the same degree of naturalness, and the same characteristic differences of style.
It is urged by the reviewers in the Examiner, to keep themselves in countenance, that others have rejected the doctrine of inspiration ; and several respectable authors are quoted as holding views similar to their own. But admitting that others have rejected the inspiration of the Scriptures; this will not prove that it is right VOL. III.-NO. VIII.
Atterbur and naturas nothing
or safe to do so. A question of this magnitude can never be decided on the authority of names,-and especially by those who prosess to care nothing about names.--But if we examine the quotations which are given, we shall find that, with few exceptions, they are nothing to the purpose. St. Jerome says, that the prophet Amos “ uses the terras of his own profession;" and so say we. And so does Jehovah, when speaking by the mouth of the prophet Amos, adopt the language of a shepherd. Bishops Atterbury and Marsh, and Mr. Locke, are quoted, as testifying to the free and natural manner of writing apparent in the Epistles; but that all this has nothing to do with the question of inspiration has been fully shown. Dr. Lightfoot is also quoted, speaking disparagingly of the Septuagint translation ; and Bishop Burnei, as laying down a scheme which goes " to settle the divine inspiration of the sacred writings”—not to disprove their inspiration; and Dr. Paley speaking of the quotations from the Old Testament into the New, much after the manner of Dr. Woods, in his recently published Lecture on the subject; and Dr. Durell, as intimating a doubt whether the imprecations of David had not better be omitted " in the daily service of our church ;" and the Quarterly Review, as saying " that the cause of revelation does not depend on" such ideas of inspiration as would condemn a judicious collation of manuscripts, and " collections of various readings ;"—but what has all this to do, in determining the questions now before us? Just nothing at all. Not one of these men, so far as appears in these quotations, denied the proper inspiration of the Scriptures, or refused to consider them as the word of God.
The conductors of the Examiner complain bitterly of the manner in which we have treated them, particularly in respect to the charge of infidelity. “Was anything ever heard of, in all the annals of theological extravagance, more monstrous, than to charge men, who devoutly and gratefully profess to receive the Bible in this supernatural character, with being infidels ?”—These writers are doubtless aware that we are not the first nor the only persons who have charged Socinians, Unitarians, those who reject the inspiration of the Scriptures, and refuse to receive them as a perfect standard of truth, with infidelity. Mr. Norton complained many years ago, and with as much reason then as now, that it was said of liberal Christians, “ There is no difference between them and a sober, rational infidel."* As long ago as the time of Eusebius, those who did " not believe that the Holy Spirit uttered the divine Scriptures,” were accounted “infidels.”+ The Earl of Shaftesbury says, in his characteristics, that “this great name of Deist cannot be too much respected. A number of celebrated writers have made open prosession of Deism ; and most of the Socinians
* General Repository, vol. i. p. 5.
Ecc. Hist. Lib. v. cap. 28.
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at Eny doing with respety, kind of revela ind reject for
have at length joined them. The great reproach against this numerous sect is, that they consult only reason, without any regard to faith, an indocility which a Christian can never forgive."* The French infidels represent Unitarians “ as a sect of philosophers who .... did not choose openly to avow pure Deism, and reject formally, and without reserve, every kind of revelation ; but who were continually doing with respect to the Old and New Testament, what Epicurus did with respect to the gods,-admitting them verbally, but destroying them really.t The following extract is from an Edict of the King of Prussia, dated Potsdam, July 9, 1788. “We have observed with regret, for some years before our accession to the crown, many of the Protestant clergy allowing themselves unbounded freedoms with the doctrines of their consessions." “ They are not ashamed to serve up again the wretched and often refuted errors of Socinians, Naturalists, Deists, and other sects, and with much boldness and imp'idence to spread them among the people, under the extremely abused name of en-, lightening ; to depreciate the authority of the Bible, as the revealed will of God; to corrupt, to explain away, or utterly to reject the sacred records; to represent faith in mysteries, and particularly in the Redeemer's atonement, as ill founded or superfluous, and thus to reproach our common Christianity."I This edict occasioned a warm controversy in Germany, in which the promoters of the new doctrines were commonly denominated Deists. " A Christian society is not unjust, which refuses to admit those who, in contradiction to the end of her institution, teach Socinian or Deistical principles.” “Protestant preachers have become Grst Arians, next Socinians, and at last Deists,”—still retaining their places as “ Protestant preachers."I The late Dr. Erskine, in the Preface to bis Sketches, (p. 6.) says, “ If rejecting the Scriptures as divinely inspired, and an infallible rule of faith and manners, is refined Deism, it will not be easy for Dr. Priestley, it will be impossible for some German writers, to prove this charge against them groundless." Mr. Wilberforce denominated Unitarianism (before its advocates had come out, as they since have done, on the subject of inspiration) the “ half-way house to infidelity ;" and the Quarterly Reviewers approve of the definition. Vol. iv. p. 485. Archbishop Magee, after describing the manner in which the English Unitarians interpret the Bible, adds, “ The word of revelation being thus pared down to the puny dimensions of human reason, how differs the Christian from the Deist ?” « Surely Mr. Belsham cannot reasonably be offended if he should be denied the appellation of a teacher of christianity. For what is christianity? Is it anything differing from the natural religion of the Deist ?"|| Dr.
* See Voltaire's General Hist: Nugent's Translation, vol. iv. pp. 243, 244. + See Encyclopedie, Art. Unitarians. See Erskine's Sketches of Church History, vol: i. pp. 94, 105, 123.
|| On Atonement and Sacrifice, pp. 26, 473.