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its best members, through the clamour and rage of a few zealots, often treated as the worst. Every man's experience will furnish instances of the wretched fruits of this zeal, in the bigoted, vicious, and ignorant part both of the
Clergy and the Laity; who, poffed with the pride of an -- imaginary orthodoxy, and detesting all free inquiry as
dangerous to their ease and sure to expose their ignorance, take pleasure in defaming and insulting men of learning, candour, and probity, who happen to be touched with any scruples, or charged with any opinions which they think fit to call Heretical.
The very learned and pious bishop Tailor, speaking of this very story, says, It is a good precedent for us, when the case is equal. St. John could discern the spirit of Cerinthus; and his heresy was notorious, fundamental, and highly criminal; and the Apostle, a person assisted up to infallibility. It is this character then of infallibility, which alone can warrant us in copying the pretended act of the Apostle ; for unless we be possessed of this, the case can never be equal: and the sole inference which we can reasonably draw in the mean time from St. John's behaviour
towards Cerinthus, as well as towards the Thief abovetinentioned, is, that by his power of discerning spirits, he
knew the Heretic to be a profligate and determined enemy of the Christian faith; and the Thief to be a good-natured youth, who, through the giddiness of his age, and the contagion of bad company, had been drawn inconsiderately into a rash and desperate frolic. But to propose this case; as a test or standing proof of the superior iniquity of heresy, above the grossest immorality; of its being more abominable than robbery, or in some cases, as we are told, than even felony or treason, is certainly dangerous to society; tending to turn men's heads with fanaticism, and to introduce violent and sanguinary proceedings in the affair of religious differences.
For what else is it that has given birth to all those murthers and massacres which Heretics have so often suffered in all those countries where this doctrine has ever prevailed, and to which they stand exposed at this day, wherever it still prevails ? The effect is natural and unavoidable: for if robbery and treason be crimes so intolerable to society, that it is necessary to punish them with death, it follows of course, that crimes more odious still both to God and man, must deserve a severer treatment, by the addition of racks, tortures, and fires, which are all therefore actually applied in such cases, by every Christian nation, persuaded of the truth of this same principle.
Our divines indeed take pains to disclaim the charge of Popish cruelty, and profess to mean nothing more than the necessity of spiritual censures. They tell us that piety to God, charity to man, justice to ourselves, require the exercise of such censures : that it is fervent charity, though expressed in an harsher way; since palliating medicines would be cruel, where corrosives are the only means of cure. But all this is a mere fallacy, and the very cant of the Romish Inquisitors; who make the same pretence of piety, charity, and justice, without a grain of them in any of their proceedings, and in the very exercise of such barbarities as are shocking to humanity itself.
Dr. Waterland, however, says, That divines may still desire that such offenders may live to repent, rather than suffer death or civil penalties. But what if they should not repent? Why then, they perish, he says, with their eyes open, and may
take the blame to themselves. And in truth, all spiritual jurisdiction, whether in Popish or Protestant hands, must of course terminate in civil penalties, since iç would be contemptible without them, and unable to enforce its own censures. But since civil punishments for speculative opinions, if openly and professedly claimed, might be shocking to a free nation, it is artful to evade that odium, by begirining at the other end, and to establish the thing more securely, by seeming to disavow it. But it is certain, that there is very little difference between Protestant and Popish tyranny, if a liberty be not allowed to private judgment in all speculative opinions, without restraint, or fear of punishment on any other account, than of its being exercised unseasonably and intemperately to the disturbance of the state.
On the whole, it appears, I think, from what is said above, Ist, That this hearsay story concerning St. John and Cerinthus, is at the best of so uncertain and doubtful a credit, that we cannot reasonably lay any stress, or ground any point of duty upon it. 2ndly, That if we should grant it even to be true, it would be absurd and dangerous to the peace of the Church, in its present circumstances, to establish it as a rule of conduct to private and ordinary Christians.
Matt. xxi. 42 : “What think ye of Christ ?" a Discourse.
(Concluded from page 148.) 3. “ IVhat think ye of Christ ?" That he was the Son of Man. The term “Son of Man,” is repeatedly applied by Jesus to limself in the New Testament; but never would he have used such an expression in reference to himself, had he not been (as Trinitarians teach) a son of wan : and he could not have been a son of man, unless he had a man for his father. When Pbilip met with Na, thaniel, he said unto him, “ We have found him of whom Moses, in the law, and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, THE SON OF Joseph. This was the uniform opinion entertained by our Lord's contemporaries; nor is there any thing in the New Testament which militates against it, but the fictitious stories prefixed to the Gospels by Matthew and Luke, and these are at variance with the genealogies.
All the genealogies among the Jews were kept in the male line. One of these commences with Abraham, and terminates with Joseph; and the other begins with Joseph and ends with Adam : but of what use is this record of generations, unless Joseph was actually the father of Jesus? The object of the writers was to prove that Jesus was a lineal descendant from David, which however has not been done if Jesus had not a human father; for the historians might as well have inserted the genealogy of any other person instead of Joseph's, were he not the real father of Jesus. The genealogy of Mary, his mother, is wholly unknown ; so that we have not the slightest evidence of Jesus being a descendant of David through his mother ; consequently, there is no proof whatever that those prophecies are fulfilled which foretell the Messiah's being the legitimate offspring of David. The genealogy or the miraculous conception must, therefore, be false but if you reject the genealogy, you destroy an essential proof of the Messiahship of Jesus.
Those strange circumstances which are recorded in tho common version of the New Testament, between the 16th verse of the 1st, and the beginning of the 3rd chapter of Matthew, are entirely fabulous. They contain more difficolties than are to be found in all the Christian Scriptures. It is evident that they were not contained in the original Gospel, nor in those copies used by the Ebionites, who
formed a large proportion, if not the wbole body, of the early Hebrew Christians, for whose use this Gospel was written. When Jesus was born, Herod had been dead at least two YEARS, and therefore he could not bave given an order for massacreing all the children in Bethlehem, from two years old and under. This circunstance alone stamps falsehood on the whole story. Our Lord is no where styled Jesus of Bethlehem; whicb, had he been born in that place, would, according to the uniform custom of the Jews, have been his proper designation.
This absurd legend was either taken from the Apocryphal Gospels, which are supposed to have been written by some of the Gnostics, in order to throw discredit on Christianity, or else it is the production of a weak Gentile convert, who conceived that, by introducing it, he should elevate the dignity of Christ, and abate the odium under which his followers then laboured. The writer does not say from whence he had the story. Mary is the only person with whom it could originate; but her testimony is not any where adduced. Coming, therefore, in so questionable a shape ; contradicting as it does the prophecies relating to the Messiah ; being at variance with the testimony of our Lord's contemporaries, and opposed to his own declarations, the fiction of the miraculous conception, with all its concomitants, ought to be rejected by every friend to Christianity. It long has been, and ever will be, a formidable weapon in the hands of unbelievers; who, in consequence of this story being incorporated with the Gospels, are ever on the alert to condemn the whole as fabulous.
There are some persons who contend, that the doctrine of the miraculous conception is not taught in the introduction to Luke; but whether it is or not, there are other fabulous circumstances contained in it which impress the whole narrative with improbability; and as it is of no use whatever in the scheme of Christianity, it would be better to discard it, as well as the introduction to Matthew, especially as it was not contained in the earliest copies of this Gospel. From this brief statement, it is apparent that Jesus Christ was the Son of Man, and that Joseph was his real and legitimate father.
4. “What think ye of Christ ?" That he was the Son of God. This phrase is of frequent occurrence in the Scriptures; and nothing can be more evident than that
the Father and the Son must be two distinct beings; and that the Father is the senior, the Son the junior. God” and “ Christ” are synonymous terms: they both mean the same as Messiah," or Anointed ;" i. e. set apart for a special purpose. Nathaniel designated Jesus " the Son of God, the King of Israel.” When John the Baptist saw the Spirit descending on Jesus, he announced hiin as
the Son of God.” Peter, in reply to our Lord's question, “ Whom say ye that I am ?" answered, “ Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Now I will venture to assert, with the fullest confidence, that neither Nathaniel, nor John, nor Peter, had any idea of the person of whom they spoke being himself the ETERNAL God. There is not the slightest evidence in the Scriptures to this purpose. When the High Priest adjured Jesus by the living God to tell him whether he was
“ the Christ, the Son of God," he could not possibly imply that the terms living God," and " Son of God,” were of the same iinport. The most inarked distinction is always observed between Jehovah and his Messenger. John states it as a reason for composing his history,
" that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." Had } the beloved disciple believed his Master to be the Supreme
Being, he would have plainly said so; and would have stated, in the most explicit manner, that he wrote his narrative to prove, not, the Sonship of Jesus, but his Deity.
“ Son of God” is a term descriptive of character and office. It bears no relation whatever to the personal nature of our Lord. It is applied to him in consequence of his being raised to a state of peculiar privilege and dignity. The judges and rulers of Ísrael were designated "gods” and “ children of the Most High,” because they were raised by him to power and dominion; therefore the term “ Son of God” was truly applicable to Jesus of Nazareth, on account of his bigh office and superior dignity, and in consequence of the power and authority to which he was exalted by God. This appellation, then, instead of countenancing the popular notion of Christ's Deity, is entirely subversive of it ; and is in perfect accordance with the PROPER 'UNITY OF GOD-the basis of all true religion. What is ' denominated the " eternal sonship" of Jesus Christ, is a notion extremely absurd. Some authors have rendered themselves ridiculous in attempting to ex