British and Foreign Unitarian Association.

A review of Dr. J.P. Smith's Scripture testimony to the Messiah online

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knowledging the authority of the person, or numbering ourselves as of his
party. It is true, that no precise mstance of this use of eTrivtaXeo.uaj can be
ibund in the ancient Greek version of the Old Testament, but there is an
analogous expression with a verb of the same form, and nearly the same
sense, where indeed this verb might be substituted without altering tlie
meaning, in Isa. xliv. 5. The words of the authorized translation are,
*' One shall say, I am the Lord's ; and another shall call himself by
the name of Jacob ; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the
Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel." Here, in the second
and last clauses, we have in the Hebrew ^<■*|p> in the unq'iesiionable sense
of calling oneself, and n33* as equivalent with it. Both these words are
expressed in the LXX. Greek by (Bo'^a-srai will call himself, or be called,
and in each case followed by d]/oi/,cc. This goes very tar towards justifying
the translation of the New-Testament phrase eTrmaX^/^Evo* to oyoi^a, calling
themselves by the name, in the sense of acknowledging the authority; but
there is one other circumstance : the phrase is found in the opening of the
1st epistle to the Corinthians : " Unto the church of God which is at

Corinth with all that in everyplace call upon the name of Jesus

Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours." Nov/, in the conclusion of his
1st epistle to the Corinthians, Clement of Rome lias evidently imitated
this apostolic phrase : " May the God who seeth all things, the sovereign
of spirits and lord of all flesh, who hath chosen the Lord Jesus Christ, and
us through him, to be a peculiar people, give to every soul that is called bij
his excellent and holy name, faith, fear, peace," &c. — vraV/j i'v^ri eViXE/cA'/j-
uievr\ TO (/.eyocXoTrpsTrei; /cat dyiov ovoi/.(x a.vT8, k. t. X. riere there IS nO ambi-
guity. The passive participle places the sense beyond doubt, but if Cle-
ment is imitating the apostle, he has expressed the same sense by an
equivalent form of words— and we are forcibly led to the translation called
themselves by the name — profess adherence to — in the passage of the
apostolic epistle, and, of course, in other similar places. To all this it is
replied in substance, that there is no certain example oUTViY-ccXsTa-Oai ro Qvofxa,
with the passive or reciprocal sense of the verb, signifying to call upon
oneself, or be called by the name, whilst there are many unquestionable
ones where the same phrase signities to call upon the name ; that the other
mode of expression referred to — having a name called upon a person or
thing, is the appropriate one in Scripture tor conveying the idea of assum-
ing a name; and that as Acts ii. 21, which cannot be denied to be a key
to the other instances in the New Testament, is a quotation from Joel,
where the sense certainly is call upon the name of the Lord, we cannot
fairly refuse to render the other examples in the same manner. We are
led by these arguments, though with some little hesitation, to prefer giving



80

an active sense to the word kiciKa'hkrjy.ai ; but we have aheady stated tliat this
by no means necessarily impUes religious supplication, and is not happily
rendered in EngHsh by call upon. The passage from Clement is abundant
evidence of the equivalence of the passive and active formulas, and there-
fore leads us to understand the latter, acknowledging the name of Christ,
viz. that he is our divine Master, deliverer, and instructor. Calling on
the name of the Lord, in the Old Testament, often means celebrating, not
praying to him, and this sense is ascribed by the best lexicographers to K"lp,
which I'KiKuXeoiA.ai represents: examples are, Psa. cv. 1, "O give thanks
unto the Lord, call upon, i. e. celebrate his name;" and Isa. xii. 4,
" Praise the Lord, celebrate his name, declare his doings," &c. From this
readily follows the sense o^ owning as a master, admitting the authority of,
addressing in acknowledgment of his power, which seems to be clearly found
in Psa. xiv. 4, '* Who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon
the Lord" — do not acknowledge him. Psa. Ixxx. 18, " Quicken us and
we will call upon thy name" — acknowledge ourselves thy servants, i^tr, x.
25, " Pour out thy fury upon the Heathen that know thee not, and upon
the families that call not on thy name" — that do not acknowledge thy
authority — address thee as their Lord. Zeph. iii. 9, " For then ""will J
change the language of the people to purity, that they may ail call upon
the nayne of the Lord" — acknowledge the authority of Jehovah — to serve
him with one consent. This is the sense most applicable to Joel ii. 31,
which is accommodated to his purpose by Peter, Acts ii. 21.

Li all these examples, it is true that the phrase is apphed to the Supreme
God himself, but there is nothing in its nature which should prevent its
equally proper application in such a case as that of our Lord ; and as the
occasions for the use of such a phrase could not be frequent, it is nothing
wonderful that we do not meet with more varied examples. We conclude
then confidently, that the periphrasis for Christians — *' those who call on
the name of the Lord," does not Imply the worship of Christ.

We proceed to the words of Stephen, upon which, however, we hardly
need detain our readers. 'E'KiKcc'koviA.ivov does not at all imply that he called
in prayer ; it is simply called upon., entreated; and the word God here in-
troduced in our common Bibles, being printed in italics, is understood by
all attentive readers to be introduced on the translator's own judgment, and
to have no authority whatever. Let it be considered, then, how, in the
first age, our Lord held constant communication with his church, ruling its
aflairs, and immediately directing the course and services of his principal
disciples; let due account be taken of the vision of the glorihed Jesus
which the martyr had just before enjoyed, which was probably continued to
him at the very time ; and let the marked ditierence be observed between
this address and the prayer immediately oftered by Stephen to God \\\m-
seU, when /ie/e/Z o?i /i«,s /i?iee5 and said, "Lord, lay not this sin to their
charge;" and we think the entire futility of any argument founded on this
passage for the religious worship of Christ, must be abundantly manifest.

Respecting the third of Dr. S.'s examples, the prayer of the apostles.
Acts i. 24, but one remark can be needful — that most assuredly this prayer
was addressed not to Christ, but to God himself, his Father and his God.
Dr. S. states the matter thus :

'* In the narrative of the proceedings of the eleven apostles, for supplying-
the vacancy in their numhcr occasioned by the defection of Judas, we find
that Peter, after uppAying to Jesus, in an emphatical manner, the epithet ' the



81

Lor,l,' proceeded to pray, ' Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts, shew
whom thou hast chosen.'"— iScript. Test. Vol. III. p. 52

Now, in fact, Peter, in his discourse, applied the epithet to him whom
all his followers call their Lore? in the accustomed manner, without any sign
of peculiar emphasis, and it is related that after he had concluded when in
consequence of his advice, two proper persons had been selected, Barnabas
and Matthias, which selection must have occupied some time, " they," the
assembled apostles, (it is not said, nor do we know, that Peter spoke for
them,) " prayed and said, ' Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all
men, siiew which of these two thou hast chosen ;' " using a title elsewhere
given only to the All-seeing God the Father himself, and which, as there is
evidently no ground in this passage, so there is none elsewhere, for apply-
ing to Christ. It is even observable that respectable orthodox writers da
not generally press for this application. With a candour, courtesy, and
kindness, which ought, for the sake of truth and justice, to be known and
duly estimated, Dr. S. has called the natural and, we think, just remarks of
some eminent Unitarian critics, that Stephen, witnessing the presence of
Christ, and knowing that the government of the Church, in its first period,
was immediately carried on by him, might entreat his aid in an awful
moment, without praying to him as God, or sanctioning religious addresses
to him, a childish and irnbecile subterfuge. We neither choose to retort in
any case such insulting and unwarrantable language, nor do we believe Dr.
S. capable of using a subterfuge ; but we do think that, if influenced by no
higher motive, he ought at least to have been more cautious respecting the
character of his own arguments, than he has shewn himself in the instance
we have just been noticing, before he ventured to make such reflections on
those of others.

There remains one other passage. Acts xiv. 23, " Having prayed, with
fasting, they commended them, the disciples, to the Lord on whom they
had believed." This is thought by Dr. S. to imply religious address to
Christ. Let it only be observed that Paul and Barnabas prayed first as a
distinct thing from commending the churches to the Lord, and that as the
word commend means to commit to the care and direction of another, if
Christ exercised controul and government over the churches, which is
stated in Scripture to have been the fact, nothing could be more proper
than, in taking leave, to wish that they might be under his special care, and
if he is elsewhere plainly stated to have exercised this controul by the ap-
pointment, and in fulfillmg the will of God his Father, then commending
to his care, cannot imply making him God, or worshiping him as such.
We have now gone through Dr. S.'s proofs that the book of Acts repre-
sents the first Christians as paying religious worship to the Lord Jesus
Christ, and offered to the judgment of our readers what we hope they will
esteem sufficient reasons for resisting his conclusion.

We must, in the next place, take a specimen from the chapter on the
testimony of the Apostle John. The elaborate dissertation on the intro-
duction to the gospel we must not touch, because we cannot now occupy
the space necessary for doing any thing like justice to the subject. Alter
all that has been written upon it, much may probably yet remain to reward
farther investigation. We acknowledge that there is difficulty, but we
sincerely think that the difficulty presses harder, on the whole, upon the
orthodox than the Unitarian methods of interpretation, and we feel no
doubt as to the general tendency of the passage.



82

But we turn at present to our author's remarks on a text in the 1st
Epistle of John v. 20 : " And we know that the Son of God is come, and
hath given us an understanding that we may know him that is true : and
we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true
God and eternal life." On the reference of the demonstrative pronoun thiSf
in the last clause, to its nearest possible antecedent, Jesus Christ, a favourite
argument for his deity is constructed. Our author commences by stating
that the interpretation of the words " is attended with considerable diffi-
culty." He, hov/ever, decides with sufficient confidence in favour of
orthodoxy.

We follow, without feeling that we have much ground for hesitation, the
interpretation usually given by Unitarians, and supported as being the
most natural and suitable construction by not a few writers of unquestioned
orthodoxy of sentiments. On the first part we adopt the paraphrase of
Dr. Bloomfield, who leaves the application of the pronoun in the last clause
doubtful, but clearly admitting the possibility and propriety of referring it to
the Father. " We, moreover, assuredly know that the Son of God (the
Messiah) is come, and hath given us this understanding that we may know
him that is true (i. e. the true God, and the most acceptable way of obeying
and worshiping him). And, indeed, we ^re m union with ihe ime God,
by means of his Son Jesus Christ." As to the remaining clause, since the
reference of the pronoun to the more remote antecedent is acknowledged
by all to be allowable ivhen necessary to the sense, and since our blessed
Lord himself, as recorded by the very apostle who writes this letter, ad-
dressed his Father as " the only true God," consequently, cannot him-
self be here so called without the most direct contradiction, we hardly need
seek any better authority for the only construction which frees us from the
contradiction. Dr. S. objects to the translation, " We are in (ev) the true
God, by or through (h) his Son Jesus Christ." He cannot say it is inad-
missible, but he likes the other best, and he thinks it " harsh to suppose
that a change" (of the sense of iv) " was intended in so close and con-
tinuous a clause." In truth, it hardly is a change of sense : it is a slight
modification of the same sense required by the connexion, which we
happen to express in English by a difi^erent word. Dr. Bloomfield says,
" 'Ihe ev in iv ra via is by most rendered in, as in the former clause. But
the best commentators, from Grotius to Rosenmiiller, assign to it the sense
per (through). And so Tyndal. Certainly this sense is more apt : and
Benson has shewn from several examples that kv may have two significa-
tions in the same sentence."

The expression eternal life is much relied upon as always belonging to
Jesus Christ. But Christ is spoken of as the communicator and establisher
of the doctrine of eternal life, not as the original author of the blessing.
Let Rom. vi. 23, be recoWecied— eternal life is *' the gift of God through
Jesus Christ ;" and in John xvii. 3, which the author probably had in his
mind when he wrote the words we are now examining, eternal life is said
to consist in knowing the onli/ true God and Jesus Christ whom he had
sent. What more natural, then, than for the apostle, after glorying in the
knowledge of the true God obtained through his Son, to exclami, " This
is the true God, and eternal life" — the Author and Source of that eternal
life, which is miade known to us by his Son ! It may now be sufficiently
apparent that the argument for the deity of Christ from this text might as
well have been abandoned by our author, as it has been by some of the
most learned and respectable supporters of the doctrine.



83

In the chapter on the " Testimonies of tlie Apos-tles Peter, Jiide, and
James," all the most important arguments are derived from the rule
respecting the use of the Greek article, to which public attention was first
called by Mr. Granville Sharpe, and which has been corrected, explained,
and illustrated, by the late Bishop Middleton.

Dr. S. employs very triumphant language on this subject, but it is asto-
nishing that he and others should venture on such slight grounds to assume
so confident a tone. Mr. Granville ^sharp applied to his purpose what he
observed to be a general fact, without very well understanding the nature
of the phenomenon, or noting the exceptions with sufficient nicely. Dr.
Middleton exhibited the rule as resulting from the true nature, origin, and
purpose cf the Greek article, and pointed out its limitations and exceptions,
accounting for them with great skill and general success ; but his previously
fixed theological opinions did not allow him to perceive that the texts to
which the rule is applied in the New Testament may be so considered as
to fall within his own exceptions, which are quite as certain and well esta-
blished as the rule itself.

If, indeed, it were not so, we should still remain unconvinced, because
a few clear examples have been brought forward of deviation from the ge-
neral rule which cannot be accounted for upon any known principle. Such
irregularities are most likely to be found in works written in a foreign
dialect. Even the learned Philo Judaeus is accused of not having in all
respects understood the proper use of the article, and it is much more pro-
bable, that there should be found in such works as the writings of the New
Testament departures from the niceties of Greek construction than from
self-contradictions, and assertions which, judging from what they have
elsewhere said, the authors must have considered as impious. Such would
be the state of our feelings if we could do no more than to point to the
unexplained exceptions to the rule referred to j but our case is a much
stronger one. Our position is, that the very principles of exception laid
down and illustrated by Dr. Middleton, will be found capable of being ap-
plied with the strictest propriety to the passages which are the subjects of
this inquiry.

It might, perhaps, be fairly said, that, explaining the general principles
both of the rule and its exceptions, his statements \\\ effect leave the parti-
cular cases to be determined by custom and authority ; but we will not
insist on this point. We shall give the rule in his own words, detail its
acknowledged limitations and exceptions, explain its application to the
class of passages in question, and shew on what grounds that application
may be denied.

The rule is, " When two or more Attributives, joined by a Copulative
or Copulatives, are assumed of the same person or thing, before the first
Attributive the Article is inserted; before the remaining ones it is omitted;''
of which it is taken for granted that the converse must be equally true :
that whenever the article is inserted before the first attributive, and omitted
before the remaining ones, they all belong to the same person or thing.
But exceptions are made for names of substances, considered as substances,
proper names, and names of abstract ideas : also for all such attributives,
both singular and plural, as hy their nature cannot be predicated of the
same subject without the most evident and direct contradiction. Dr. Mid-
dleton is content with stating that, in this latter case, the perspicuity of the
passage does not require the rule to be accurately observed ; we think it,
however, scarcely doubtful that the omission of the second article marks



84

some common relation of the objects, qualities, or persons, to the subject
in hand. Certainly it can never shew those persons, things, or ideas, to be
identical which are notoriously distinct, and this admission is all we re-
quire. Examples of the application of the rule in theological controversy-
are the following : Eph. v. 5, iv rf paa-iKeia TOT Xpia-Ta ^oci 0£8— " Jn the
kingdom of Christ and of God :" common translation. ** In the kingdom
of him who is Christ and God :" translation contended for by Middleton,
&C. Titus ii. 13, TOT y.tydXa ©es kcci a-corrj^oq 'fj^uv "IrjTS Xpicrrs— " Of the

Great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ :" common translation, which is
usually understood to make God and Christ distinct. " Of Jesus Christ
our great God and Saviour :" translation according to the rule. 2 Tliess.

1. 12, yiard tyjv %ap<y TOT @£8 '^[xuv Mai Kvpis'l'/jcrs XpiaTs — " According tO

the grace of our God, and the Lord Jesus Christ :" common translation.
*' According to the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ :" translation
according to the rule, the application of which, however, in this case, Dr.
Middleton considers as doubtful.

It will be seen that the construction contended for, in the first example,
makes being anointed and being God Wo attributes of one person, to whom
the kingdom belongs. But it must be noted that Christ is very frequently
used in Scripture (as it is familiarly by us) as a proper name of him who
was pre-emmently God's anointed. Dr. Middleton has very properly
limited his exception for names of substances to the case when considered
as substances, and pointed out that such names are not unfrequently used
to mark, not the object itself, but some quality which it eminently possesses,
in which case they are properly attributives and come within the rule. He
should have stated also that words which are, strictly speaking, attributives,
when frequently applied to an individual person or object, eminently pos-
sessing the attribute, may become truly of tlie nature of names of substances
and proper names, and so may be excluded from the operation of the rule.
We judge this to be the case with Xpicrro<; (Christ) here, and when joined
to the name Jesus, it is as to the construction a part of the proper name.
It is also true that 0£o? (God) without or with the article — God absolutely,
or He who is the God, i. e. the only true God, is continually used in Scrip-
ture as the name of the Supreme Being, and, so employed, is to all intents
and purposes a proper name. The translation, therefore, " in the king-
dom of Christ and of God," may be justified on the same principle as that

of the words >jv &yocr£ Kvpioq TO, 'A^^aaa Kcci 'la-aaK v.ai 'Iukcc^, " which the

Lord swore to Abraham, and to Isaac, and to Jacob," making them three
persons, not one ; and this translation is supported not only by the distinc-
tion constantly marked in Scripture between God and Christ, but by the
unambiguous parallel expression. Rev. xii. 10, " The kingdom of our God,
and the dominion of his Christ," both names of the same state of things,
but marking the relation of that state to two distinct beings— the great Ruler
of all things, and him whom he had appointed. It remains for us to ascer-
tain whether the principle here maintained is applicable to the other cases.
They are distinguished from that we have examined by the word God
(which in them comes first) being accompanied by an adjective or pronoun,
{2 Pet. i. 1,) and the word Christ being joined to Jesus and having before
it either Kvpis (Lord) or larrj^ot; (Saviour). The construction contended
for as required by the rule makes the being the great God or our God, and
being our Lord or our Saviour, attributes of the one person Jesus Christ ;
but either of the attributives Lore/ and Saviour being very frequently ap-
phed to Christ, and pre-eminently above all beings, God himself excepted.



85

both of them bein^ in fact recognized titles of Christ, the connected words
" Lord Jesus Christ," or *' our Saviour Jesus Christ," mav form too-ether
one personal appellation or proper name, and the *' Great God," or^" our
God," beinoj incapable of designating any being but one, is likewise of
the nature of a proper name, and tlius the rule is inapplicable in these
cases. No doubt the construction which makes God and Saviour or Lord
both attributes of Jesus Christ, is allowable as a construction, but if Jesus
was generally spoken of at the time as " the Lord Jesus Christ," or *' our
Saviour Jesus Christ," and his being entirely distinct from God was uni-
versally and without hesitation acknowledged, so that no ambiguity could
arise, which is what we maintain on the authority of the general tenor of
Scripture, and of numerous distinct testimonies ; then it is evident that Dr.
Tvliddleton's exception for proper i. e. personal names and other cases ivhere
the subjects of the attributes could not be confounded, exactly applies to
the texts under consideration ; so that the question as to the possibility/ of
the proposed new translation is to be settled by considerations arising, not
out of the words of these texts taken by themselves, but out of the study of
other parts of Scripture. Such expressions as follow where there is no
ambiguity in the construction, and where the terms " God the Father," or
" our Father," and " the Lord Jesus Christ," or " Jesus Christ our Sa-
viour," are manifestly complex personal appellations, render it, we fear-
lessly say, certain that the corresponding terms must be so considered in
the disputed texts, and shew the impossibility of their having been misun-
derstood or deemed ambiguous in the purest age of the church : " Favour
be to you, and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ,"
2 Cor. i. 2. " Favour, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and the
Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour," Titus i. 4. *' Favour and peace be multi-
plied unto you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus who is our
Lord," 2 Pet. i. 2, immediately following one of the contested texts, which
it therefore may be taken as explaining. Here the name Lord being spe^
daily attributed to Jesus, not used as a known and established title, is
placed after, with its own article ; but this passage is a clear example of God
having the nature of a proper name, and it shews the Being intended by
that term (not here characterized as the Father only, but including the
whole of what the term expresses) to be distinct from Jesus. Dr. S.
speaks as if the Unitarians rested their defence in this part of the contro-


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Online LibraryBritish and Foreign Unitarian AssociationA review of Dr. J.P. Smith's Scripture testimony to the Messiah → online text (page 13 of 15)