« ПредишнаНапред »
on the face of the narrative as Luke's purpose is seen to be fully and with precision accomplished. For the vindication of the evangelist in his particular statement it is not necessary to prove, as Zumpt endeavors to do,* that Cyrenius was governor at this
* I say "endeavors to do," for Zumpt "does not," as Alford remarks, "quite re. move our difficulty.” It may be suggested, as worthy of consideration, whether Cyrenius, however, might not have been in Judea at the time of Joseplı’s visit to Bethlehem, not as successor of Saturninus or Varus, but of Volumpius, the copartner of Saturninus, and whether his term of office did not begin before that of Saturninus ended, and continue after Varus came, thus covering the closing part of the term of Saturninus and the opening, or early part, of that of Varus—filling whatever length of time there was between the departure of Volumnius and the coming of Sabinus—thus in a secondary position, and yet, perhaps, with greater activity than his superior, being employed in Judaic affairs. It may be noted that Volumnius does not seem to have remained in Syria as long as Saturninus, and that no one is named by Josephus for the interval between Volumnius and Sabinus —the very period during which the birth of Jesus took place. May not, then, this interva! have been filled by Cyrenius, as immediate successor of Volumnius? May it not further be suggested as most probable, that the birth of Jesus occurred after, indeed, Varus had been appointed governor, but while Saturninus was still acting
– Varus not having yet reached the head-quarters of the Government, but was journeying through the province toward it, passing through Jerusalem, where he was in intercourse with Herod for a time? Might not this explain Patritius's assertion that Saturninus was governor, and Cyrenius legate extraordinary, and justify, 1. The statement of Justin Martyr that Cyrenius was governor at our Lord's birth? 2. That of Tertullian, that'Saturninus held that position; and, 3. The teaching of Josephus, who assigns this period to Varus—he holding it de jure, but Saturninus meanwhile holding over, and thus being governor de facto? It may also serve a purpose to inquire what may be the precise relation to this matter of the fact deducible from Josephus, that one named Joazer, the son of Boethus, was high priest at or near the time of Christ's birth, and also at the period when Cyrenius was making the taxing. May not that astute (?) historian have fallen into confusion as to time, or be guilty of a suppression of facts, and yet there be found enough in his narrative to afford an unwitting but somewhat obscure confirmation of Luke's statement, and of a first and second governorship—the first rather as subor. dinate, the second as chief, governor? For, writing of Cyrenius's coming to take account of their (the Jews) substance, and to dispose of Archelaus's money," he adds: "But the Jews, although at the beginning they took the report of a taxation heinously, yet did tliey leave off any further opposition to it by the persuasion of Joazer, who was the son of Boethus, and high priest; so they, being over-persuaded by Joazer's words, gave an account of their estates without any dispute about it." Ant., book xviii, c. i, § 1. Joazer was made high priest by Herod near the close of his life, and was deposed by Archelaus just after his accession to the throne. Ibid., book xvii, c. xiii, $ 1. Ten years later Cyrenius also deposed him, on account of some contention with the multitude. Ibid., book xviii, c. ii, $ 1. It is probable, therefore, that the "beginning" named by Josephus refers to Joazer's first high priesthood, and that nine years later a second installation into that office was given him by Cyrenius, as a grateful momento of his former services, and with the hope of
very period of the issuing of the decree, whether as the saccessor or co-partner of Varus. The fact may be, and possibly is, some what as he points out; but if further investigations prove his conclusions erroneous, the statement of Luke' will not thereby be contradicted or rendered truthless.
It remains simply to be said in conclusion, that the détour if such it be, by which the evangelists make the birth of Jesus to have taken place at Bethlehem, and not at Nazareth, is perfectly accounted for, and in precise agreement with all that is taught in the Gospels; that it is an essential part, as anthentic and proper for credence as any other part thereof; that it is not to be dismissed by a contemptuous unphilosophic-philosophic dilletanti's dictum, and that it may not be ignored with an irrational and reasonless sneer. It stands unshaken, and must so stand as irrefragible truth, or the foundations of our Christian system will be endangered or destroyed. But "the gates' of liell prevail against it” never!!
ART. IV.-PROPOSED NEW ARTICLES OF RELIGION.
Respectfully Submitted for Consideration to the General Conference
ARGUMENT. That onr Articles of Religion, as they now stand, contain a summary of our distinctive doctrines, or those by which we, as a Church, are distinguished from other denominations, will hardly be affirmed.
They were, as is well known, (except the Twenty-third,) abridged from those of the Church of England, which were a summary of doctrines adopted by Protestants dissenting from similar advantages to himself in the favor of the people. A result different from what he had expected made it expedient to remove liim. And now may it not be further suggested, that since at no other time than about A. U. C. 749—the closing year of Herod's reign-there could have occurred such a conjuncture of circumstances as have been here presented, explaining or removing the difficulties hitherto remain. ing, strong confirmation is thereby afforded to that hypothesis which assumes our Lord's birth to have taken place in the closing months of A. U. C. 749, ante A. D, 57
FOURTH SERIES, VOL. XXIV.--15
the Church of Rome, and we know of no Protestant Church that does not cordially accept them, as far as they go.
But other Churches, while they agree with our Articles, have also Articles by which they are distinguished from us in matters of faith ; and why should not our distinctive doctrines be also appropriately set forth ? Our hyinns contain more of our distinctive doctrines than do our Articles of Religion.
The primitive Church held councils and adopted new articles of faith and rules of moral discipline to meet the exigences of the times, in opposition to rising or established heresies ; and as new heresies arose, new articles of faith were adopted in opposition to them. Thus “the apostles and elders " settled the question of circumcision, Acts xv. Luther's Reformation led to the Augsburg Confession of Faith, the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, the Westminster and various other Confessions of Faith-each adhering to its distinctive views of theology--till every branch of the Christian Church (except ours) has its distinctive creed. Why should we remain thus singular?
About the year 1820 the Presbyterians on the Western Reserve, in Ohio, formed a Confession of Faith so abridged from their larger one as to omit their Calvinistic views. This they read to candidates on their admission to their Church. One article of this abridgment read thus: “Do you believe the doctrines of the Presbyterian Church, as set forth in her Confession of Faith ?” The candidate, supposing tlie Confession referred to was the one just read, of course answered in the affirmative. Not one in a hundred of them had ever seen the other ; but when it was shown them they repudiated it, and many declared they had been deceived and misled, and not a few left that Church on that account. This circumstance led to deep and serious thought on the necessity and propriety of having our distinctive doctrines properly set forth in our Discipline, or Articles of Religion, lest the charge of duplicity or deception be also laid at our door.
It is true that our early Disciplines contained our“ doctrinal tracts." That, of course, answered the purpose at that time. But those tracts have since been left out, and thongh printed in a separate volume are seldom found in company with the Discipline, and had not our preachers constantly declared our distinctive doctrines, and controverted their opposites, our people and the world would have been ignorant of them as a general thing
But times have changed. Doctrinal sermons are not now the order of the day. If now a stranger were to examine our Articles of Religion to ascertain wherein we differ from other Churches, he could not find it there. If he attended our ministry he would be but little wiser on the subject, for other people preach now as “the Methodists do”-no other doctrines being popular--and unless pointed to the proper books he would not be likely to gain the information songht for. Any intelligent mind would naturally look to the Articles of Religion, or Confession of Faith, to ascertain the creed of any Church. Hence the necessity and propriety of the measure herein proposed.
Being long convinced upon this subject, and having waited half a century in hopes that sone wiser head and abler pen would do the Church this service, but not seeing it done, at our General Conference in 1868 I ventured to present the subject, and the most of these new Articles, with the argument for their adoption, which were printed in the “Daily,” but at too late a date to be acted upon.
A president of one of our colleges passed me in the conference-room with the paper in his hand, saying in reference to the new articles, “ I think I shall join your Church,” indicating his assent to the proposition. A prominent official editor said to me, “I agree with you in the necessity and propriety of this measure, but we have not time now, at this late day, to discuss the matter. I had no idea that so much could be expressed in 80 few words. I think possibly I am a little more Calvinistic than you are, but I will examine the matter." Perhaps a dozen or twenty prominent men present spoke favorably of the proposition, but said, “We have not time now to discuss the matter." Only one, and he not a savan, indicated to me any dissent, and he seemied to do so only from a fear of any amendment, lest the old landmarks should be removed.
The doctrines of " the witness of the Spirit” to the justification, adoption, or sanctification of the believer; of perfect love to God and man; of the possibility and danger of the final apostasy of believers; of the free agency of man, in opposition to predestination, fore-ordination, or eternal decrees:; of the eternal punishment of the finally impenitent; that repentance precedes conversion--with others which we believe and teach, are doctrines by which we are distinguished from some, if not most, other Churches; and yet not one of these are distinctively set forth in our Articles of Religion, though all are taught in our standard works.
If a minister of our Church should be charged with “holding and disseminating, publiely or privately, doctrines which are contrary to our Articles of Religion,” and it should appear on the trial that he had denied or opposed one or more of these distinctive points, how could he be convicted, since none of them are in those Articles? What Article would he oppose, even if he preached Mormonism, including polygamy?
An important reason for the measure herein proposed is, the fact of the growth and extent of our Church even to other continents and hemispheres. If, as some think must be the case, our foreign missions should become independent Churches, iti would certainly be desirable that they should have our doctrines and moral discipline in full, whereby a fraternal union, at least, may be continued. But if, as others hope and pray, the unity : of the Church shall be preserved, like the apostolic, irrespective of national limits-if we adhere to the great commission, and “go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature." -our theological system should be applicable to the field we occupy to preserve our unity.
We believe and teach that Methodismn, under God, is to, and will, be greatly instrumental in introducing the millennium, and surely the signs of the times indicate as much ;, then our theo, logical system should be broad enough and deep enough to cover the ground we occupy.
Another very important reason for this measure is, the fact that already conflicting opinions exist among us on some minor points, and these divergences are growing wider and more numerous as time rolls on. To preserve our unity of faith, then, and hand it down to posterity unimpaired, is of paramount.importance. It is also very appropriate that this measure should be adopted at the first General Conference in which our laymen have a voice,