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being the religion of reason, common sense, and the Bible, it may be asked, why it has not been inore extensively diffused ? Our blessed Lord himself will furnish the answer : This is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.' It is among the ordinances of a probationary state, that virtue shall be opposed by vice, and truth by falsehood. Unitarianisın must expect, and should always be prepared to meet, the hostilities of Polytheistic creeds.It is passed by with contempt by the sanctimonious Pharisee, excluded by the wealthy synagogue of the lordly Sadducee, and branded with the names of leprosy, infidelity, deism, and enmity to God. But it has always possessed a mind conscious of its own rectitude, and a holy reliance on the Eternal One, whose name it delighteth to honour. Its spirit is immortal. It may
be repressed, but never extinguished; persecuted, but not forsaken ; 'cast down, but not destroyed. It may be silenced by clamour, never overcome by argument; harassed by Test and Corporation Acts, never deprived of communion with God. It is driven from courts, and finds an asylum in heaven.”—P. 56.
After pointing out the difficulties Unitarians have to encounter, and the worldly motives they have to forsake the principles of their profession, he adds,
“ Those who would proselyte Unitarians have every thing to assist then, except truth and the gospel. What but the strongest conviction can bind them to their unpopular belief? Overcome that conviction : prove to their satisfaction that they are in a wrong path, and they will join the many who bave entered by the broad gate, and are crowding along the royal highway. Shew them a religion, with credentials from heaven, more beautiful and easily comprehended than their own; more influential on human conduct ; and more adapted to the wants, the hopes, the wishes, and all the lofty and holy aspirings of the immortal soul, and be assured, they are not sucli enemies to their own good as to refuse its adoption. They stand on the right of private judgment, and this right with them is not a name, but a reality.”. P. 58.
ART. II.- Recensio Synoptica Annotationis Sacra, &c. &c. By the Rev.
S. T. Bloomfield, M. A., &c.
(Concluded from p. 601.) We cannot pass without remark the criticism on John viii. 58, because Mr. Bloomfield has observed that “the Socinians are, in the interpretation of this passage, driven to great straits, and, in order to evade the plain sense of the words, are compelled to do violence to every principle of sound criticism and legitimate interpretation." It certainly has always appeared to us that the interpretation we adopt, and which we believe to be most generally received amongst the Unitarians of the present day, is attended with fewer difficulties in itself, and considering this passage alone, than any other which has been proposed, besides that it seems to us best to harmonize with many plain declarations of Scripture, and with the general sense of the sacred writings; but one or two observations on what our learned annotator has brought forward, will enable our readers to judge for themselves whether liis triumph over the Socinians be not somewhat premature.
We cannot, indeed, undertake to defend the interpretation of Faustus Socinus, founded on the mystical sense of the name Abraham. It is inju
rious, and the play upon the word would not, perhaps, have seemed to an audience of Jews, as it is apt to do to us, beneath the dignity of the subject and occasion ; but we cannot think that a good connexion of the sentiment with the preceding discourse has been established; and though the words might be translated in the manner proposed, the proofs that they should be so seem to us to fail. If it was good Greek to use your at all in the sense of being born, it signifies little that so common a word has been employed by the writer of this text ninety times in its more usual sense. If we meet with the very expression mpv.... yeveras, in the sense, “ before a person named was born,” in other writers, the Apostle John's happening elsewhere to use apiv yever be for “ before it came to pass," does not render it unlikely that, with a proper name before the verb, he should mean by the phrase what others had meant by it. It signifies little to tell us that “ the form yeyeoles, generally throughout the New Testament, and always in St. John's writings, has a future signification,” when this form, being in its nature indeterminate as to time, depends on the connexion for its reference to the past or the future. The objections made to supposing syw eizes to refer to past time seem equally unfounded; after all, however, we think that this interpretation of Socinus, which has been ably defended by Dr. Carpenter, is generally treated much more severely than it deserves, and may safely be compared in reasonableness and probability with either of the orthodox interpretations.
In our remarks on Mr. Bloomfield we must begin at ver. 56: “ Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.” Having justly observed that jyadécato with iva expresses desire, “ greatly longed to see my day,” he proceeds to interpret," and he saw it and rejoiced,” i. e, in the seats of the blessed, in orcus, not in “heaven.” has seen, i. e. mentally has known, my advent, and has felt joy at it.” He mentions the explanation “saw, i. e. foresaw,” along with several others little worth our notice, which he thus dispatches : “ All these interpretations are too far-fetched, and are indeed at variance with the usus loquendi and the context.” We, nevertheless, take this explanation to be the most obvious and natural, and that which alone harmonizes well with the context. The purposes of God in the separation of the family of Abraham were but gradually made known to the Patriarch. He longed to see the grand result; at length he was permitted to see in prophetic vision how all the nations of the earth should be blessed in his seed, to form some imperfect anticipation of the glorious kingdom of the Saviour of the world, toe kai éxágn.“ He saw and was glad," Tópøw ay tas stanyerias idótes, Heb. xi. 13, quoted by Schleusner in verb., is a clear instance of a similar use of the word; it will, indeed, hardly be denied by any that it may bear such a meaning. What Mr. Bloomfield calls the common interpretation, besides assuming a theory respecting the state of the dead, which will hardly be proved to be scriptural, renders our Lord's observation trifling and inappropriate. He answers the query, “ Art thou greater than our Father Abraham ?” by shewing that it was a privilege to Abraham to be allowed to anticipate his coming-an indirect yet decisive assertion of his own superiority.
In the 57th verse, the Jews, either stupidly or maliciously misunderstanding our Lord's words, say to him, “ Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?” The answer to be expected must, of course, shew how the previous assertion might be true, notwithstanding that Jesus could not have been personally contemporary with Abraham, and this could certainly be done no better than by observing, as we understand our Lord's
answer, that as his mission was settled in the Divine counsels before Abraham's time, it might well have been prophetically made known to him. The interpretations which suppose Christ to assert bis eternal independent existence, or at least bis real and personal existence, before the time of Abraham, by no means so well suit the 56th verse, because it is not there said that Abraham saw or conversed with Christ, but that he saw his day, the circumstances of his coming, which, whether Christ existed previously or not, could only have been seen by the Patriarch prophetically and with the eye of faith. Thus strong in the connexion, we proceed to examine the words. In the translation of the first clause, mpiy’ABpaij yavég ors,
66 Before Abraham was born,” we agree with Mr. Bloomfield, and with most commentators, in opposition to Socinus and his followers, and we have already given our reasons. We pass to the important words fyó cius. Here there can be no allusion to Exod. iii. 14, “ I am that I am," as many suppose ; because in the Hebrew the verb is future, and the expression ought to be understoud as a declaration not of eternal existence but of faithfulness in the performance of what had been promised to the people of Israel. It seems to be an application of the name Jehovah, which may have been originally used to express eternal existence, to the particular circumstances of the people of Israel. The LXX, did, indeed, understand the expression of eternal independent existence, rendering it éryw eius o wv, whence it is nearly certain that if our Lord had intended to convey that sense, we should have found the same words in the Greek gospel. But the true sense of the words irá cip is sufficiently determined by their occurrence twice in the same chapter, and altogether nine times in the gospels, where it is universally agreed that there is an ellipsis, and that we must understand “the Christ.” Ch. viii. 24, “ If ye believe not that I am,” our translators supply he, meaning the Christ
, as the general sense suggests, though neither this nor any other title had been mentioned in the preceding verses: “ Ye shall die in your sins;" and in ver. 28, “When ye have lift up the Son of Man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself, but as my Father hath taught me I speak these things." There can be no possible reason for rendering sya cius in these places, and in ver. 58, differently. It, at least, cannot be denied, that to render the words in the same manner in both places is the most natural method, and not to be departed from without some strong and special grounds. We, therefore, assume that I am he, meaning the Messiah, is the correct translation of the words. As to the lime expressed by tits, Mr. Bloomfield justly remarks, "The present is often so put as to have the force of the imperfect, especially when the thing which is said some time to have been still continues to be," of which he gives examples. The application we should make of this remark is somewhat different from our author's. We understand “ before the birth of Abraham I have been appointed to that office which I am now filling-I have been as I now am, the Messiah.” Mr. Bloomfield refers to Is. xliii. 13, and it is an important passage, which might remove all doubt respecting the meaning of our Lord's words. We should keep in mind in this inquiry, as Dr. J. P. Smith has observed, “that Jesus, speaking in the dialect of his country, most probably used no verb at all
. “The idiom of the Hebraic languages would have required I HE, as it occurs in several passages of the Old Testament; MIN JX Deut. xxxii. 39; Is. xli. 4, xliii. 10, 13, xlvi. 4, xlvi. 12. In these passages the translation of the LXX. is the very phrase, dyú ciu, I am.” (Smith's Script. Test. Vol. II. p. 169, and note.) We add, that in all these places the common and unquestioned translation is, “I VOL. I.
am he;" the personal reference being evident from the context. Is. xliii. 13, “ before the day was I am He," meaning, I have always been God, is a clear instance of “ I am lie” referring to past time, and is in the form of expression very similar to our Lord's words, “ Before Abraham was born, I have been appointed to the office I am now filling." The word to be supplied is Messiah, anointed, which necessarily refers not to existence, but to designation to office, and this alone was necessary that Abraham might foresee his day. If any one, accustomed only to our modern modes of speech, should still think it strange that our Lord should thus assert his appointment before the time of Abraham, let him consider the following and similar expressions. Rev. xii. 8, “ The lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” i. e. appointed to be slain in the Divine counsels, which rendered the violent death of the Saviour essential to the accomplishment of the great ends of his mission. Rev. xvij. 8, “ Whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.” Ephes. i. 4, “ As he (God) hath chosen us in him (Christ) before the foundation of the world." We may add, from the Targum of Jonathan, “ Before the world was created, the Lord Jehovah created the law; be prepared the garden of Eden for the just.”
We shall only stop on ch. x. 30, (" I and my Father are one.") to express our surprise at finding Mr. Bloomfield taking part with those who contend for unity of nature and essence; whilst we acknowledge that, as he has fairly given the high authorities in favour of the other interpretation, and his own arguments are altogether ineffectual, there is little danger of his misleading any inquiring reader.
On ch. xvii. ver. 3, our author has a long and laboured annotation, chiefly from Tittman, designed to rescue this clear and important passage out of the hands of the Socinians, as he is pleased to call them, who are likely, nevertheless, still to assert their clainis to it. That our Lord in prayer addresses the Father as “the only true God," and designates himself as one sent by him, possessing authority only as his messenger, is a scriptural fact, which those who deify the Saviour have ever found it difficult to bring even into apparent accordance with their theory. It is one of those cases in which those who usually make it their boast to follow the obvious and natural meaning of the words of Seripture, that is to say, the meaning which is familiar to their prejudices, rejecting with scorn explanations the most cer, tainly required by Jewish idiom, by parallel passages, or by the scope of the context, are reduced to the necessity of trying the weapons they have so often despised, and of which in their difficulties they are far from shewing theniselves masters. On the present occasion what Mr. Bloomfield calls the masterly illustrations of the orthodox, learned and acute Tittman," however they may contribute to his reputation for orthodoxy, will not much advance his credit as an impartial inquirer or a sound reasoner. He first rather strangely infers that because Jesus asserts that “ God had GIVEN him power over all flesh,”. (Mr. Bloomfield properly explains it both Jews and Gentiles,) " that he might bestow eternal life on as many as God had GIVEN to him;" therefore he is the Son of God, equal to the Father and God kinself. He then proceeds to observe, that * this word gedoney, as is well known and universally admitted, here, as in many other passages of Scrip ture," (a convenient and sufficiently bold assumption !)" must denote not only to know but to worship. But this worship can be suitable only to the true God, and our Lord here expressly refers that worship not only to the Father but to himself, and he requires of all who would aspire to eternal life,
that they should worship Christ in the same manner as they worship the Father, " &c. Now, it is true that, though yıváraw could not with propriety have the sense of worshiping ascribed to it, it may sometimes from the connexion and by a Hebrew idiom imply worship, as LXX., 1 Chron. xxviii. 9, yvəd toy Edy Tõv TatépWe cou, “ acknowledge or worship the God of thy fathers ;" and there is one passage in the New Testament which may be supposed to be of this kind. John viii. 55, “ Ye say that he is your God, yet ye have not known, i. e. served him;" but even here there can be no reference to worship in a strict sense, since the Jews were not accused of departing from the worship of the true God, but of making his laws of none effect. We do not recollect any
in the New Testament in which the word can even be supposed to imply worship, and Schleusner only says, (in verb. No. 17,) “ agnosco aliquem meum esse et ad me pertinere, et ex adjuncto : magnifacio, revereor, amo,
beneficiis afficio.” Now, in the passage under consideration, the Father is expressly addressed as “the only true God,” whilst our Lord describes himself as “the Christ or anointed, i. e. the appointed person whoin God had sent," consequently, ex adjuncto, it is evident that the sense of worshiping is here inadmissible. It is farther observed, that in this whole passage
Christ speaks not as the Son of God, but as the legate of the Father.” We should reply by referring to the passages which prove that “Son of God,” and “ Christ, apprinted messenger, i. e. legate of God,” were, as understood by the Jews, equiralent phrases; but we cannot help remarking that this mode of evading a difficulty by representing our Lord as sometimes affirming in one character, what is not true in another character or nature, which he equally sustains at the same time, defends orthodoxy (so far as it can be thought by any to defend it) at the expense of our Lord's character for sincerity and honesty, and lowers him in our moral estimation in proportion as it raises his nature above our comprehension, and lessens the credibility of his history.
Mr. Bloomfield is nowhere more positive than in his interpretation of ch. xvii. 5, (“And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was,”) “ That these words are o be explained of the future felicity of Christ in heaven and of the beatiude which he had already enjoyed with the Father before the creation of the world, is so certain, that I do not see how it can be reasonably doubted by uy one.” Yet must we still presume to think the interpretation usually given by Unitarian commentators in every respect preferable, more agreeable to the context and the customary use of the phraseology, and more suitable to our Lord's character and circumstances. The first question is respecting the sort of glory for which our Lord prayed. Tittman (ap. Bloomfield) says, “8652, (Heb. 7137,) the Divine Majesty, embracing the whole compass of the Divine nature, attributes, counsels, and works ;"* but this is mere assumption. The whole language of Christ's prayer is against it. Ver. 1, " Father, glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee,” where Mr. Bloomfield acknowledges that the glory must be understood of the propagaion of Christ's doctrine. “I have glorified thee on earth,” by finishing he appointed work for the salvation of mankind. " And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self,” (napa Ceautâ opposed to étrà tñs yñs, a the heavenly state,) give me the glory of seeing in heaven, now that my arthly labour is finished, the result of what I have done-allow me to witress and enjoy the success of my mission as appointed by thee before the world was. Again, ver. 10, “ All mine are thine, and thine are mine, and