« PreviousContinue »
be found, that where the same ideas recur, they lead to the same conclusions by a variety of reasoning and illustration ; the same plan having also been pursued by many eminent authors. Even if the various opinions and modes of reasoning by which different men have arrived at certain conclusions, with the inferences they drew from particular facts, and the diligent research they made, added little to our conviction on certain doctrines,--still, it must be of considerable importance to become acquainted with their writings on questions which have been so differently understood as those here discussed, and from these pages being intended not only for the learned, but also for the unlearned, each point of importance cannot be rendered too plain. I have not thought it necessary always to treat the subjects referred to, in the manner usually done, and with some readers this may be held wrong, but it may attract the attention of others who would have soon shut an uniformly grave and prosaic book : instruction, too, conveyed in verse, is sanctioned by high authority, and is generally best remembered.
In truly interpreting many passages of Holy Writ, there is a most extensive critical knowledge necessary, not only of their original languages, but also of the opinions, customs, and degree of knowledge which prevailed when our Sacred Records were first written. To become acquainted with all this, we must have recourse to those who have made these subjects the study of their lives. There are some self-sufficient Christians, who, with the English translation of the Bible in their hands, think there is nothing in it beyond their own capacities to understand ; and that they (with those who agree with them on disputed points) are the only people who see the truth, being greatly astonished at the blindness of all others on what to them seems so plain.
With such, I fear, it would be useless to argue, if we were of an opposite opinion, for it would be without the hope of convincing."
We are directed to “search the Scriptures,” and in doing so, we find some words and phrases which relate to a future state, on a proper understanding of which, the sense of very important passages entirely depends ; and yet it has been said to be of no practical consequence or profit to inquire into some of these matters, because we ought to rest satisfied with the general knowledge, that if we do well here, we shall be happy hereafter,—that we ought to leave every thing else uninvestigated,—that after death we shall know all which now we are in doubts of; and if the soul shall then sleep unconsciously until the last day, that we cannot prevent it by any study, but ought to be contented with implicitly entrusting our fate to the Almighty. I cannot agree that there are passages in the Bible which it is of no benefit for us to understand ; as when, for instance, the prophets make use of the Hebrew word Sheol ; when our Lord and his Apostles speak of a place which they denominate Hades, and of another which they call Gehenna,-whether they mean the same or different situations. Whether they considered Paradise or Abraham's bosom synonymous with the place which they designated the Highest Heaven, that now unseen Holy of Holies, where the accepted of God are to experience their eternal happiness,-or, as their countrymen the Jews did; who, by the two first names, referred to a place in the Middle State, where the disembodied spirits of the saints await the resurrection and judgment on the last day. Can it tend to no good end, our endeavouring to discover in some texts whether the inspired writers spoke of the immortal soul, or of the mere animal life of the body; or if in others, they used only metaphorical language, or intended their words to be taken literally? The ignorant are generally insensible of their own ignorance ; always, at least, of the extent of it; but the biblical scholar must be fully aware of the difficulty now in sometimes discovering the true meaning of the Sacred Writers, although it may have been perfectly plain to those with whom their mode of expressing themselves was familiar. “Searching the Scriptures,” does not merely imply a simple, straight-forward perusal, but also a comparison of different passages, in order to elucidate the meaning of what is obscure, or not at first clearly evident, and by using every means in our power for finding out the truth in reference to these writings.
* The translation of the Bible now in common use with us is about 220 years old. "From the mutability of language, the variation of customs, and the progress of knowledge, several passages in the Bible require to be newly translated, or to be materially corrected.”_"The correction of several passages would deprive Deists of many of their objections, prevent Christians from being misled into some absurd opinions, and be the means of making the Scriptures more intelligible, and consequently more beneficial to the world."
Brans' Sketch of the Denominations of the Christian World.
12th edition. Pp. 110, 111.
To those who have no curiosity or care for these things —who think themselves little interested in them at present, because they may come to know every thing hereafter, I shall only here say further, that many of the best and wisest Christians have shown themselves to be deeply concerned regarding them, holding no part of the inspired writings to be an unprofitable study—an opinion, humbly but strongly concurred in by
A PROTESTANT LAYMAN.
August 251h, 1832.
<< LISTEN, whilst I reveal to you the mysteries of spiritual natures; but I almost fear that with the mortal veil of your senses surrounding you, these mysteries can never be made perfectly intelligible to your mind.”—_“ But prepare your mind, and you shall at least catch a glimpse of these states which the highest intellectual beings that have belonged to the earth enjoy after death in their transition to new and more exalted natures."
Consolations in Travel-or Last Days of a Philosopher, by
The Creator of the world, and the formation of our first parents ;—their pri
meval state ;—the human soul;—its probable existence in a prior state ; -inferior animals in the garden of Eden liable to death ;-nature of beasts ;—the temptation, fall, and sentence ;-man not created immortal; -the trees of life and knowledge ;—the form of the Tempter ;-original sin ;-clothing unthought of in a state of innocence ;-inference.
"Great things, aud full of wonder in our ears."
In the Confession of Faith, entitled The Apostles' Creed, * the apparent distinction made between the Father Almighty and Him who is there called his only Son, leads some Christians to believe that the First alone created the world, as the Second alone suffered mental and bodily anguish on earth after he became a man, laying down to redeem us, the mortal life he had assumed ; and that He who thus became our Saviour, had no share in the creation described in the beginning of the Old Testament. The Son, however, is seemingly distinguished in this Creed, not so much as the Second Person in the Trinity, as in the new character of our Redeemer, and the Church believes that—“the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one.”+ That each is called God or Lord, at the same time that they are, along with the Holy Ghost, but one God or Lord. It must be
* We have no sure evidence of this Creed having been composed by any of the Apostles, but it was undoubtedly adopted by the Christian Church at a very early date.
† Athanasian Creed.