« AnteriorContinuar »
it in a light worthy of its Divine Author, in harmony with the laws in Creation, consistent with enlightened reason, or the daily experience of mankind. He imagines that the bigotry and superstitious notions, with which the world is deluged, are in agreement with the principles contained in the Bible; and, not discriminating between the errors of men and the Truths of Scripture, he rejects the latter without due examination. The object therefore of this work is to stimulate men to examine their religious principles; and duly to consider whether they be really derived from the Bible, or so tinctured with the doctrines of men that the word of God is rendered "of none effect."
It must be admitted that the Bible is of all others the most interesting Book: it contains infinite treasures of divine wisdom, and wonderful displays of divine goodness; and in proportion as it is understood will, doubtless, afford us true and solid satisfaction, being our safest guide to present and eternal happiness. But all, who have paid any attention to it, will readily acknowledge that there are many passages not easily to be understood; it may therefore be reasonably expected, that a work, having for its sole object the elucidation of the sacred pages, will at least engage the serious attention of the well disposed, who are desirous of coming to the knowledge of the truth; especially when it is considered that we do not really believe what we cannot rationally understand.
Having the Bible in our hand, we ought to examine it for ourselves, and not trust to the mere ipse dixit of any man whatever. Nor should we exalt any human teacher, only so far as he conducts us to a clearer discernment of the Truths it contains. We ought to have no head but JESUS CHRIST, nor any principles of either faith or practice but what are purely scriptural. If the members in the different Sects gain no information from their favourite leaders, but what they can equally receive through the medium of the Bible; and if the different Leaders in religion procured all their evangelical tenets, mediately through Sacred Scripture, from God; if they can even point out the various texts that teach their several principles, why in this case do they hold under man, at second hand, what they acknowledge to belong primarily to God, and what they must shew to be His before they can expect their doctrine to be received as gospel truth? And why, as they all profess to believe every part of the Bible to be equally true, does each sect condemn every other for holding such tenets as square not with its own narrowed system? Is it not notorious, that whatever one
Sect maintains, another most avowedly opposes? They cannot all be right they are possibly, to a very considerable degree, all wrong; and it will hereafter be found, that Sectarianism is destructive of all true religion. It will be wise therefore to turn from erring man entirely to the Bible; to learn, profess and practise, under God, all its truths and precepts. And let every one, who professes the name of Christ, proclaim himself simply a "BIBLE-CHRISTIAN."
If it be asked whether the Bible be really different from the interpretations, put upon it by the various denominations of professing Christians, it may be answered;-Were it not so, how could all the sects find Scripture in direct refutation of each other's notions? And how could the Bible, consistent in itself, sanction all, and refute all; did they not, in different points, all, without exception, misunderstand it? If it be asked, whether there be any criterion, by which any misinterpretation of Scripture can be fairly detected? It may be answered;—If the Scriptures contain a revelation from God, who is necessarily good, wise, merciful, just and benevolent; that interpretation cannot be correct, which offends against the Divine Attributes by saying, That such revelation abounds with laws which man cannot keep, and yet he is positively doomed to death and hell for not keeping them; that the OMNISCIENT, discovering on trial that the penalties of his law, if duly and fully executed, would leave the heaven he had prepared without a single human soul, was graciously pleased, in his justice and in his mercy, to accept the violent death of innocent animals and the crucifixion of his own spotless Son, in lieu of the spiritual and eternal death of guilty man: and if any human being now living, rely not implicitly on such transfer to Christ of his own individual sins, before they were committed, that is, many hundred years before he himself existed; and if, in consequence, he should presume to quit sin under Divine direction, and to seek purification of soul under Divine influence, he is to be consigned to hell, for attempting to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling; whilst the supine believer in a creed is sent to heaven, for merely crying "I have no power; Christ must do, and has done, all for me."
Again, how irrational it is to suppose that the Patriarchs and Prophets, men inspired by the holy Spirit of God, were privileged at that day to tell lies, commit murder, adultery, incest and every crime that we, even in this degenerate age, consider as mean and detestable; when the Sacred Scriptures declare that they, who do such things, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. They could not
be the servants of God, and commit sin; for Jesus Christ declares that, "whosoever commits sin, is the servant of sin." To contend therefore, that such absurd and evil tenets are scriptural, is to interpret God's word in direct opposition to his acknowledged essence and attributes: consequently if the Bible be from God, such interpretations of it must be false.
On the other hand, if we consider the Bible as a religious book; as giving an account of the Revelations of God, the Laws of his divine Providence, Heaven, Hell, and the state of the soul after death, as well as of the institutions of the Church; and if we endeavour to shew the Facts, therein recorded, in a religious sense and in agreement with the Divine attributes and the Laws of Creation; such an interpretation will give to mankind a noble and reverential idea of God; an elevated and rational sense of His word: whilst all the objections of the Deist must vanish in a moment.
What perplexes the religious world, is the imagining that the Divine Authority of the Bible cannot be supported without admitting the ridiculous notion of the earth's being only about six thousand years old, and that the various species of human beings, which now inhabit it, have been derived from one pair. But the following Facts will clearly prove, that the truth of the Bible can be maintained, without embracing those absurdities, which are so offensive to common sense, and to the best feelings of mankind. And let no one fear that increase of knowledge will occasion decrease of piety; it will augment true religion, though it may indeed diminish superstition.
In explaining the Scriptures, consistency of sense and principles ought to be observed in every part; for if one part be so interpreted as to clash with any other, we may be sure such interpretation cannot be correct: but by faithfully comparing one passage with another, and bringing what may seem to be obscure into a consistency with what is plain and evident, the true sense may be ascertained. It should be recollected, however, that the scriptures are not to be considered as Revelations from God, but only the history of them: the Revelation itself is derived from God, but the history of it is the production of men; and therefore the truth of it is not in the least affected by their fallibility, but depends on the internal evidence of its own supernatural excellence.
Revelation consists of Facts: it is therefore evident, that the facts recorded in the Bible must be understood, before a correct Translation can be given; as it must be admitted, that no person can translate any book correctly if he do not understand it. In order to come at the true sense of sacred scripture, it is necessary carefully, impartially, and conscientiously, to attend to the evidence contained therein, to those eternal laws which God has established in His Works, and to the dictates of reason. But Commentators have hitherto busied themselves principally in dry disquisitions about words instead of attending to things, in the knowledge of which all real and useful learning consists.
When the principles of a science rest on the firm basis of facts, there can be no sects or parties among those who cultivate it: so when religious principles derived from the Word of God are grounded on the facts revealed therein and the established Laws of Creation, all the apparent contradictions in the Bible may be reconciled with those general principles, and thus unanimity of sentiment be produced among all denominations of professing Christians. It is the reasoning without evidence or on false evidence, that is the cause of all the error in the world; it is the narrowing of our sphere of usefulness that is the cause of all the evil, as when a man pursues the apparent present good of his body to the debasement of his mind, his individual good to the injury of his family; when a family-interest is preferred to the interest of the nation, or the national interest to the prejudice of other nations; whereas they might all co-operate for the mutual interest and happiness of each other, if kept in their proper order and degree.
It will be found that all the virtue, happiness, and harmony, which exist in the world, have had their source in true principles of Religion; and that all the vice, misery, and contentious wars have had their origin in idolatry, in separating from the true worship of God and setting up the doctrines and worship of men.
As the foundation of all true religion must be a right idea of God; the EDITOR begs leave to introduce, in the Author's own words, the true idea of the GOD OF REVELATION; whereby the Reader may be enabled to see how there is a Trinity in perfect Unity, and how the Atonement can be maintained under the idea of there being but ONE, unchangeable, GOD. The Trinitarian may see how there is a Trinity, and yet not Three Gods; the Socinian may see how there is but ONE GOD, without maintaining a duality, by admitting that His Spirit was
down in Jesus Christ; and the Swedenborgian may see how the Father dwells bodily in the Son, without confining God to the dimensions of a common man, and turning out the Holy Ghost as the only omnipresent Spirit throughout the Universe.
The DIVINE TRINITY consists not of three visible beings or personal subsistencies-somewhere localized in a heavenly "mansion," but of three combinations of Spirit in one united kingdom. In this GREAT SPIRIT of heaven, the inmost is the FATHER, or essential DIVINE SPIRIT; the second, effluxed by and every-where combining with the Father, is properly the SON OF GOD; and the third, assumed by the Father and the Son, in and around human or angelic individuals and societies, is as properly the SON OF MAN, - taken by the Son of God into union with the Father, when the atonement or "at-one-ment" between God and men was fully effected, according to the obvious meaning of the REDEEMER'S prayer: "As thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us!
"Accordingly, as God is "a Spirit" and as "all men should honour the Son as they honour the Father," the glorified REDEEMER, now constituting a place prepared" for Christians, is there the infinite HUMAN SPIRIT-the WORD that was "with God," the SON OF GOD "before all worlds," concentrating himself finitedly in an assumed human Spirit from our earth-the Son of Man "born in time;" displaying therein a "LIKENESS as the APPEARANCE OF A MAN-the LIKENESS of the GLORY OF THE LORD;" and beaming thence from the indwelling and embosoming Father (that fills also and embosoms the universe) a threefold HOLY SPIRIT, in which HE the TRUE OBJECT of all Christian worship, unitedly comes to men, according to promise, "in his own glory, in his Father's, and (in that) of the holy angels."
"This TRINITY of Spirit in any of the "Father's mansions," is, according to the Scriptures, OMNIPRESENT in miniature, both within and before the eyes of every angel or spirit of "just men made perfect," in what has been invariably called "the beatific vision."-Thus "it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. —No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared (or manifested) him. He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.