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

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versy entirely on the occurrence of unexplained exceptions to the rule, and
he says, " Dr. Middleton contends that all the exceptions are such in
appearance only, and may be accounted for on principles, not assumed to
serve the purpose, but rational and necessary." On the contrary. Dr. Mid-
dleton has himself produced a remarkable exception to the rule which he
acknowledges he cannot account for, (nor has he accounted for all those
produced by others,) and the Unitarians contend that the disputed texts,
properly considered, come within his own exceptions from the rule, and
therefore exhibit no irregularity when translated in the usual manner. In
reference to Dr. S.'s last paragraph on this subject, (Vol. IIL p. 207,) we
repeat that the difference between the expressions TOT GaS i'^Sv ^^ociKvpta
'I'/jo-s XpjcTTs and TOT wpts 4jiaSv -^cu (TUT-^j^oq'l'/jcrsX^ia-Ts is, that @aS being a
personal appellative is not in this instance an assumable attributive. His
being called our God, does not recognize any others as true gods, but marks
our sense of our relationship to him. He is still God pre-eminently, the
God recognized as having no equal, and therefore Lord is at once under-
stood as a title forming part of the name of Jesus Christ, as 2 Cor. i. 2 3


Titus i. 4, &c. On tlie contrary, in the second sentence, but one word
which can be the name of a person occurrins^, "the other words miist be
taken as attributes here specially ascribed to that person, and this appears
to us to be perfectly consistent with the much-boasted rule, as explained
and properly limited by Dr. Middleton, though not with that learned wf'i-
ter's own application of it.*

No doubt, one who thinks we have elsewhere s.n^c\eni proof of the deity
of Christ, may with propriety adopt the proposed translations, but it is
equally certain that one who believes that elsewhere God and Christ are
always distinguished, may with equal propriety resist them, and conse-
quently no independent argument in favour of the orthodox doctrine can
be derived from the passages.

We now come to the testimony of the Apostle Paul. Dr. S. begins
with a common rhetorical artifice. He calls our attention to all the enmity
against the Apostle of the Gentiles, which has existed in ancient or in
modern times, from the opposition of the first Juda^zers down to the *' Not
Paul but Jesus" of Gamaliel Smith, and, without takins; the slightest notice
of the very obvious circumstances which account for both the one and the
other — Jewish bigotry in the one case ; horror of the unnatural system of
Calvinism, commonly reputed to be especially contained in the writings of
Paul, in the other — by a quiet assumption of the very thing which he un-
dertakes to prove, he offers to explain the whole. Paul, according to his
account, was " the chosen vessel of the Divine Spirit for completing the
archives of Christian doctrine, by a clear and bold, a copious and uncom-
promising testimony to the Divive person and the redemption of Christ,
the reign of his grace, and the conformity of its subjects to his holiness.'^
Those who cannot, after the most patient investigation, see any thing of the
testimony here referred to, but who can readily account for the enmity
which has existed against the apostle, without at all recurring to it, have a
double objection to Dr. S.'s statement, as being neither true, nor even
apparently required for the explanation of the facts, which are detailed and
commented upon in a declamatory style, fitted to excite or foster prejudices,
and most unlike that of a calm inquirer after truth. A large portion of
what Dr. S. has been pleased to call the testimony of this apostle " con-
cerning the Person of the Redeemer and Saviour of men," does not really

* In Jude i. 5, the word God being a gloss and rejected from the text, we are
in this dilemma : either tlie term ^sa-iroTriq '* sovereign," was, as some think, pe-
culiarly and exclusively applied by the Jews of our Lord's time to the Deiiy, or it
was not : if it was, that peculiar use, by altogether forbidding its application to a
person recognized as distinct from Deity or to any other than the one being, made
it a personal appellation, and the text comes under the exception ; if it was not,
then Jesus Christ might with the most perfect propriety be called our only Sove-
reign and Lord, meaning to exclude all other pretenders to divine commission and
consequent authority over us in God's name, and the rule is applied, but does not
prove the Deiiy of Christ. Of course this argument assumes the decision of the
question, respecting whicli no Unitarian ft^els any doubt, whether God and Christ
are plainly and uniformly spoken of in Scripture as two distinct beings, but our
object is to shew that no independent proof of the Deity of Christ can be drawn
from the use of the article. In this passage of Jude, on either supposition, but
especially on the latter, religious obedience is, as Dr. S. observes, required to
Christ, " thus verifying his own word, that all may honour the Son, even as they
honour the Father," in its only admissible interpretation— honouring the Son be-
cause they wish to honour the Father, because in honouring the Son they do best
honour his Father who sent him. Vide Mon. Repos. Vol. I. New Series, p. 60.


relate to his person at all, but to the blessincrs of his roh>]jion, and, in a
controversial point of view, can be nothinpr to our author's purpose, inas-
much as it presents no difficulty whatever on the Unitarian scheme ; — thus
the first article states, that " the Lord Jesus Christ is constantly celebrated,
either by the mention of him alone, or in conjunction with the Divine
Father, as the author and bcstower of the greatest possible blessincrs, the
supreme good of everlasting possession and enjoyment." What is here
said is in the main true, and is acknowledged and felt to be so as
much by Unitarians as by any other class of professing Christians.

Of the blessings of the gospel we cannot think too highly, and Jesus
Christ is constantly celebrated as the communicator, in a verv proper sense
of the term, the bestower of these blessings. Taking, indeed, the word
author strictly as meaning the original source, it cannot be applied to
Christ ; but every reader surely must observe that not one of the texts
quoted justifies such an application, whilst the words of the same Apostle
afford the strongest and clearest evidence against it ; *' Christ Jesus, who
OF God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and re-
demption," 1 Cor. i. 30. " Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord
Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly
places in Christ Jesus," Eph. i. 3. " God, who is rich in mercy, for his
great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath
quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved,) and hath raised
us up together and made us to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus : that
in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace, in his
kindness towards us, through Christ Jesus." Who will pretend to recon-
cile these plain and positive declarations with the doctrine that Jesus was
the author of gospel blessings ? Let Dr. S.'s testimonies to *' parity of
power and influence with the Almighty Father" (which are no more than
the conjunction of the name of Jesus with that of God in respect to the
communication of those spiritual blessings which are elsewhere said to be
given through him) be compared with these, and what doubt can there be
as to the result ? It is, indeed, strange that the following passages could be
thought to afford proof of parity of power, even if that doctrine were not
excluded by express declarations to the contrary — yet they are all which
it has been thought expedient to produce : " Grace and peace be unto
you, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ !" Rom. i. 7.
" Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus
Christ our Saviour 1" Tit. i. 4. " Our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and our
God and Father, (who hath loved us and hath given everlasting consolation
and good hope by grace,) comfort your hearts and establish you in every
good word and work !" 2 Thess. ii. 16, 17. All that can be inferred from
these passages is, that God and Christ are two beings, from both of whom
something is to be expected respecting the desired gifts. He who believes
what is elsewhere abundantly declared, knows that from God all blessings
proceed, and that through Christ the inestimable blessings of the gospel
were communicated, in the first age at least, by his express intermediation.
To him, therefore, these passages present no difficulty ; and he wonders at
those who infer any thing from the distinction between the author and
communicator of the gift, so often clearly marked, and naturally so little
subject to doubt, not being repeated every time the blessing is thankfully
celebrated or earnestly desired.

We must here notice a most uncandid and unjust reflection on Mr.


Belsham, introduced in connexion with the article we have been ex-
amining :

" Mr. B ," says Dr. S , *' does indeed, (i. e. in his work on tlie Epistles,)
as his plan necessarily required, give his interpretation of the passag-es which
have been above quoted. He adopts various methods of aUering their
meaning or evuding their api)hcation." (This, reader, is said of a man of
known and tried integrity, respecting a work which professes to expound to
the best of his judgment the true meaning- of the Apostle, and in which he
was bound by the most solemn obligations of public duty and of personal
fidelity to the Master whom he professed to serve, to introduce nothing
which he did not conscientiously believe would conduce to that object !
But such accusations are easily made, and by the majority of Dr S.'s readers
will be readily believed, without much inquiry, as to their foundation.)
** In one place, he (Mr. B.) takes into his text a different reading, upon
evidence which Griesbach did not think amounted to even his lowest degree
of probability, and which Heinrichs, Knapp, and Vater, have not thought
worthy of noticing:" viz. as stated in a note. Col. iii. 13, " The Lord freely
forgave you," instead of Christ.

Now, it is intended here to insinuate that Mr. Belsham made this altera-
tion to serve a controversial purpose, whereas it is evident that no material
point is gained by the change, and that Mr. B. could not have felt at all
embarrassed by the reading of the received text. It is declared (Eph. iv.
32), that " God, through Christ, hath forgiven us." Whether, therefore,
God or Christ, at the suggestion of the context, is named as affording us
forgiveness, we know what is meant. But Mr. B. exercises his own judg-
ment freely. He does not profess to follow Griesbach's text ; he some-
times (and we regret it, as an incautious and unjustifiable course) even
adopts conjectures which have recommended themselves to his own mind.
In the present instance, he takes up as more suitable in his opinion to the
context, and as being, to the best of his judgment, most probably what the
Apostle wrote, a reading which certainly is in the situation which Dr. S.
describes ; but the inattention of even celebrated critics is no proof that a
reading deserves neglect. The authorities followed by Mr. Belsham are
the Alexandrian MS., which in the epistles exhibits pretty purely the Alex-
andrine recension of the sacred text, the Clermont, Augian, and Boerne-
rian — all remarkable copies of the Western recension, with one other MS.,
and the Latin versions. Kvpis u as then an ancient Western reading, not
completely excluded from early copies containing the Alexandrine text.
Griesbach probably thought that it was introduced to avoid something un-
usual, and that might be offensive in the expression " Christ forgave us ;"
and from comparison of the passage with Eph. iv. 32, or in consequence
of the compound reading, " the God of Christ," found in the Armenian
version, and " God in Christ," used by Augustine, in a seeming quotation
of the words. But is not Mr. Belsham right, as a critic, in judging that
XP<o-T8 was more likely to arise as an interpretation of Kvpis, than the con-
trary change, which would be to substitute the indefinite for the clear; that
the compound readings only shew the authors to have been acquainted
both with *' Lord" interpreted of God, and " Christ," and rather create
a presumption that the word Christ, coming after, had been taken in from
the margin ? To the discussion, however, we attach little importance :
what is important, is, that Mr. B. has been wantonly and without even a
plausible pretence, charged with wilfully corrupting the text of Scripture,
Yet Dr. S. has expressed himself so well on the duties of candour towards


opponents, and of maintaining a Christian spirit in controversy, that, sin-
cerely believing these passages to represent the genuine sentiments and
feelings of his mind when uninfluenced by peculiar prejudices, we cannot
but hope that he will, on reflection, regret and be anxious to recall charges
which are equally injurious and unfounded.

The 7ih article of this chapter relates to the name of Jesus, from which
we make the following extract :

" Here a very important passage may be considered, which not only gives
information on the honour proper to the name of Christ, but comprehends
a full v'leiv of a subject which has an intimate relation to our inquiry, the
Mediatorial kingdom of Christ. * Wherefore also God hath highly
exalted him, and hath bestowed upon him the nam a which is above every
name ; that in the name of Jesus every knee may bow, of heavenly and
earthly and infernal beings ; and that every tongue may confess that Jesus
Christ is the Lord, unto the glory of God the Father.' . . . The ohject or
thing bestowed, is the transcendant exaltation, tlie name of dignity and au-
thority above every created name. This object appears to compreliend
several important particulars : and the termination of the period of the
Messiah's humbled condition ... ii. The renewed manifestation of his
Divine Perfections and Majesty to holy intelligences : the name u'h'ich is
above every name, iii.^ The acknowledgment, on the part of the intelligent;
universe, celestial and'human, in the present state, and in the state of the
dead, of his supremacy and authority ... iv. In the respect which this
exaltation has to the human nature, faculties, and enjoyments of the Mes-
siah, it probably includes the following as principal circumstances : (1) His
resurrection from the dead, (2) His being locally translated to . . . heaven
... (3) The possession of the highest perfection, natural and moral, of
which created existence is susceptible. (4; The especial and unparalleled
dignity, happiness, and delight, resulting to the human nature, in all its ca-
pacities and feelings, from its conjunction with the Divine Nature of Christ;
a union immortal, unique, and intimate, beyong all created capacity to con-
ceive. V. The possession of a peculiar kingdom or reign." — Script. Test.
Vol. HI. pp. 250—253.

Now all this is little better than pure fancy ; and it is a most character-
istic specimen of that unjustifiable refinement on the words of Scripture, by
grafting upon them our own thoughts and opinions, for which Dr. S. is
remarkable as a commentator. It cannot be needful for us to point out
how many distinct particulars have nothing at ail answering to them in the
text, but in opposition to such strange perversion, it may be useful for us
to explain what we take to be the full, real, and simple meaning of the
Apostle. " Wherefore," i. e. as the reward of his humility and volun-
tary submission to suffering, " also God hath highly exalted him, and
bestowed upon him that name* which is above every name." Name
here stands for title, dignity, like the corresponding word in Hebrew
and Latin : examples of the usage are given by Wetstein, Schleusner,
and others. " That at the name of Jesus every knee may bow."
Dr. S., like Mr. Belsham, after Seeker, translates iv tS oi/o>aTi T/jcrs,
" in the name of Jesus," of which version we think Mr. Belsham 's note
expresses the true sense : " that men should be taught by Jesus the worship

* To ovo[A.oc TO, K. T. X. *' that name," which we here adopt from Grie-sbacli,
may be the true reading, though supported only by Alexandrine authorities and,
perhaps, just the sort of verbal nicety to have originated iu that recension. It does
not, however, alter the sense of the passage.



of the true God :" but surely £v, answering to the Hebrew 2, here signities
at, and the intention is not literally to require the act specified, the per-
formance of which in these times is absurd, if not idolatrous, but to express
the authority of Jesus over his church, by the mention of a usual sign
among oriental nations, of supreme authority, namely, bendino; the knee
as an act of homage on the name being proclaimed. (Vid. Bloomfield,
Rec. Syn. in loc.) " Of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things
under the earth ;" or better with Mr. B., according to the generally-ac-
knowledged sense, " of those who are in heaven, and upon the earth, and
under the earth," understood by most modern commentators " of angels,
of men now living, and of departed men ;" more probably, perhaps, signi-
fying " in whatever state they may hitherto have been with respect to re-
ligious privileges and knowledge." " And that every tongue may confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." These last
words teach plainly enough that whilst Christ was to be honoured and ac-
knowledoed as a Prince and a Saviour, he was not to be thought of as equal
with God his Father, by whom his dignity was conferred, and whose glory
was displayed in his elevation. In reading the whole passage, we find it
£0 strongly expressing those opinions which we receive as scriptural and
true — that the exaltation of Christ is derived from the Father's power, and
acknowledged to his glory — as to be led to inquire with some curiosity how
it could happen to be quoted in support of opposite doctrines, and the re-
sult of our reflection on the subject leads us to notice a very common fal-
lacy which we must attribute to Dr. S. He never appears to us to make it
his consideration, whether a text necessarily implies or directly teaches a
certain doctrine ; but, svpposing the truth of the doctrine, how it will
apply to the text. He sets out with a general conviction that his views
are scriptural, and then applies as certain truths to the interpretation o? each
passage what he supposes that he has found in a number of others, though
when distinct assertions are required, he is unable to produce them. His
general convictions, which 7nay not— for he is, like all men, liable to preju-
dice — have been originally derived from the study of the Scriptures, but
from education and the influences of those around him, constitute the
chief reason for the application he makes of each text, and suggest those
strained and fanciful philological criticisms, and those developments of the
supposed sense of a passage in which so many matters are introduced, un-
connected with the v\ords, that we wonder whence they were obtained, or
\Ahy they were placed where they stai.d rather than any where else, which
characterize his work. On the contrary, the true method of scriptuial in-
vestigation appears to be, as we read the successive portions of the Sacred
Volume, to observe what each book and each remarkable passage teaches,
considered in itself alone, or with reference only to other plainer uses of
the same phraseology, or expressions of the same thoughts, and having
thus arrived at a general conclusion, to interpret the ambiguous or difficult
passages in conformity wiih those which are liable to no misapprehension.
Hcd Dr. S. pursued this method, he would hardly, we presume to think,
either have thought so much to be derived from many passages he has
quoted, or, in what professts to be a collection of a// the testimonies of
Scripture respecting the person of Christ, have omitted so many of those
which are most intelligible and most decisive.

Conscious as we are of having already exceeded the limits which con-
venience would prescribe for this paper, we must say a few words on Dr.


S.'s mode of treating tliat celebrated text, considered as " the principal passage
in Paul's Epistles which treats on the Deity of Christ,"* (Rom. ix. 5,) and
which certainly appears to be valued in proportion to the rarity of such a sup-
posed testimony by all the defenders of the doctrine. Dr. S. has taken due
pains to guard against the supposition of the word God not being genuine,
as well as against the conjectural emendation of Slichtingius and' Taylor,
which we lament to see adopted by Mr. Belsham, of uv o "instead of 6 uv.
Thus far he has our entire concurrence, as well as that, we suppose, of
nearly the whole body of Unitarians in the present day. The question is,
whether the words in the text, as they now stand, clearly and unambiguously
express or teach the doctrine of the deity of Christ. The Unitarians con-
tend that the words maij indeed be so explained without gramrnatical im-
propriety, but that they may as well be explained differently, and that no
early Christian could have thought of so taking them as to make them ex-
press this doctrine. It is, and it must be to serve their purpose, insisted on
the other side that the words will properly admit of no other construction
than that which makes them expressive of the doctrine. We shall spend
no time in considering the plan adopted by Mr. Locke, of placing the point
after -navTuv, because, though he may have shewn his accustomed sagacity
in discovering the Apostle's general meaning in the passage, it is now
pretty well agreed that the construction he supposes would not be a good
one ; and the other being esteemed most plausible by our adversaries, we
may, with perfect fairness, confine our attention to it.

We translate the words then — " Whose are the fathers, and of whom is
Christ, as it respects the flesh," i. e, as to his descent. " God who is over
all be blessed for ever. Amen," To this it is objected by Dr. S,, first,
that *' it is an evasion to serve a purpose ; for every Greek scholar must
admit that the fair and just construction of the sentence is that which is
generally received." We admit nothing of the kind. Many of those
whose opinion we adopt are usually esteemed Greek scholars, and Wet-
stein's quotations seem to prove, beyond contradiction, that in the earliest
times our construction was generally followed. That the Fathers after-
wards, with the growing corruption of the Church, came to patronise the
construction now generally received, is nothing to the purpose, since we do
not deny it to be grammatically good, nor do we doubt the disposition of
those Fathers to find or make evidence for the deity of Christ ; but the
numerous testimonies against Christ having ever been called in scripture
" God over all," shew how the words were understood by those whose au-
thority is most valuable. Secondly, it is objected that our construction " is
contrary to grammatical propriety, for o &'j/ must refer to xhe foregoing noun
as the subject, while that which follows is the predicate ; except in cases in
which there is no preceding nominative, but the article contains the predi-
cate and becomes in effect a pronoun. To render the construction tenable,
the form of the sentence must have been considerably different;" either, it

is added in a note, 'O §£ 0£O? o av CTrt itdvTo^v fOXoyvjT^^ dq rovq alSvaq OF

EvXoyyjToi; o ©eo? o av c'tt* itoLvravy bU rovq alZvocq, whereas the present words

are 'O av eiii Ttdvrav &£oq £vXoyrjrh(; elq rovq aluvat;. It is supposed, then, that

another article is required, that Qeot; ought to be be placed before o in)
iravTuv, and that the o av coming as it does first, must necessarily refer to
the nominative in the preceding clause ; and, lastly, that svXoyvjThi; ought, on

* Michaelis, Aumerkungeii., apud Smith, Script. Test. Vo^ III. p. 377.


our supposition, to come first in the sentence. To prove that another
article is not required, (which indeed Dr. Middleton does not contend for,
only suggesting as the more probable expression of the sense we contend
for, EvXoyriThc, o ccv eit) itavrav @soq tlq rovi; alSvccc;,) we quote from Philo, p.
860, Ed. 1640, (apud Middleton,) rov ivoo^ dXyjQsiccv ovto? @eov • Clem. Rom.

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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 14 of 15)