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

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saw, (i. e. foresaw) the glory of Christ, just as Abraham saw (that is, foresaw)
his day, and was glad."— Clarke's Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity, No. 59/.

The reader will find some valuable observations in Dr. Carpenter's Uni-
tarianism the Doctrine of the Gospel, third edition, p. 133. It is highly
probable that the words, *' these things said Isaiah," refer to the passage
quoted from Isa. liii. The dogmatism of Dr. Smith admits of no reply.
The impartial inquirer will probably consider this as one of those passages,
the just interpretation of which must be determined by our convictions as to
the general tenor of Scripture, and which is too ambiguous to be safely ap-
pealed to as a proq/" of any doctrine respecting our Lord's person.

On Dr. S.'s xix'th section (Isaiah vii. 14) we need make no remark, as he
himself maintains, that, most probably, the original Hebrew word does not
necessarily denote virginity, but might be applied to a young woman lately
married; "that the definitive appellation, ' the Virgin,' was at the mo-
ment applied to a known individual, who, at the proper time afterwards,
became the mother of a distinguished child ;" and that the name Emanuel
is a " commemorative and descriptive title. It does not appear to have been
intended as a proper name." " In what I suppose," he says, " to have
been the primary and inferior reference, it would express no more than that,
in the existing distresses of Judea and Jerusalem, God would be with them
as their Almighty protector."

In this sense, no doubt, whether originally prophetic of him or not, it is

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applicable to the Messirtii, and therefore, in denying any inference from it
as to the divinity of his person, we are justified by Dr. S. himself.

The argument in the xxth section (on Isa. viii. 13, 14) is most extraor-
dinary :

** The evident design of this passage is to ])oint out the True and Eternal
God as the author of safety and deliverance from imminent danger ; that it
is the duty of men to honour him and rely upon him in this capacity; and
that those who refuse to do so will he the objects of his awful displeasure,
involved by their own unbelief and disobedience in the more terrible ruin.
The middle clauses are introduced by the Apostles Peter and Paul, (Rom. ix.
33, 1 Pet. ii. 8,) with an explicit ai)plication to Christ. There is also a con-
formity of sentiment well worthy of being observed, with other declarations
of the New Testament, on the opposite etFects of obedient dependence on
Jesus as the only Saviour and rejection of hhn."— »Vide Luke ii. 34 ; 1 Cor.
i. 23.

Hence Dr. S. infers that Christ must have been the Jehovah who was to
be the object of confidence and reverence to his people.
Isa. viii. 1 3, as he renders the words,

'* To Jehovah of hosts himself, pay holy homage.
Even him your fear, and him your dread."

The fact is, that the passage in Rom. ix. 33, is a mixed quotation, and
merely in the way of accommodation, from this place and Isa. xxviii. 16;
the form and chief substance being taken from the latter, but the expression
" stumbling-stone and rock of oflfence" derived from this. 1 Pet. ii. 6 is a
quotation of Isa. xxviii. 16, and vers. 7 and 8 contain an imperfect quotation
of the words in this place mixed w^ith Psa. cxviii. 22, and evidently only ac-
commodated. The other passages referred to merely contain similar figura-
tive language, which may have been suggested by what is here said, but will
not afford the slightest ground for supposing that the subjects must be the
same. In Isa. xxviii. 16, to which alone there is the appearance of appeal-
ing as an authority in the texts referred to, it is Jehovah who Imjs the stone,
and consequently the person so designated must be distinct from, and inferior
to, him.

We now come to a very important passage generally quoted by writers in
defence of the deity of Christ, and upon which the advocates of Unitarianism
have also frequently expressed their views, so that we may confine ourselves
to a few remarks on our author's mode of treating it. Section xxi. Isa. ix.
5,6:

" For a child is born to us :
A son is given to us :

And the sovereignty is upon his shoulder ;
And his name is called Wonderful, Counsellor,
God the mighty. Everlasting, Prince of peace :

To the extent of [his] sovereignty and to [his] peace [shall be] no end.
Upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom.
To fix it and to establish it, in judgment and in righteousness
From henceforth and for ever."

The important points are the epithets " God the mighty" and " Ever-
lasting." "Now we observe, that though Rosenmuller interprets the word
as meaning God, he gives, even in his second edition, /ortw as the proper
sense of Vk, (which seems to have been the way it was understood by Aquila,
Symmachus, and Theodotion,) noting also that the term is applied to
Nebuchadnezzar (Ezek. xxxi. 11) ; and Gesenius, as well as Bauer, trans-



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latcs nnj-^K '^ strong hero," for which Dr. S. acknowledges that he has
given a weighty reason^ though he thinks it is outweighed by another conside-
ration. But even not to press the argument from the use of the very same
words in the plural CDHnj */K hx inighty hemes (Ezek. xxxii. 21), and
admitting that the form ^K, when not used collectively, was appropriated to
express deity, yet as its primitive meaning is tlie mightij one or the ruler,
and it is not a pecuhar name of the true and only God, there would be
nothing at all surprising in its being used in poetry as an epithet of a mighty
prince, whose power and greatness the writer was prophetically celebrating.
Rosenmiiller gives the following extract from the letter of a Persian king of
a later age : " Chosroes, king of kings, sovereign of potentates, lord of the
nations, prince of peace, saviour of men, in the estimation of gods a man,
good, eternal ; in the estimation of men a god, most illustrious, inost glo-
rious ; conqueror rising with the sun, and lending his eyes to the night.'*
We may here make allowance, in the spirit of Rosenmiiller's caution" for
some progress of the fashion of employing such appellations, and yet find
enough to justify our interpreting all the titles in the text under considera-
tion as fit to be applied to a royal and distinguished personage, without any
reference to a nature different from that of other men, and this without
ahering the present Hebrew text or the generally-received construction of
the words.

Where Dr. S. has the epithet " Everlasting," there are in the Hebrew
two words which may be literally rendered " father of the age to come," as
they are by the LXX. He maintains, indeed, that 1^ signifies ** eternity ;'*
but this he cannot establish by any good evidence.

" Enjedin," says our author, speaking of the manner in which different
interpreters have treated this text, " observes deep silence on this whole pas~
sage,'* Truly he does so : to him Dr. S. might without any want of can-
dour have attributed in this instance " the silence of death,'* (Scrip. Test.
p. 185, second edit, and our remarks on that place,) as it is well known that
his work (which is posthumous) only wanted for its completion notes on the
Prophets, when death interrupted his labours. Dr. S. might have perceived
that not this text in particular, but all the prophetic books are passed by in
his notes, or he might have read in the dedication, *' Imperfectum quidem
opus. Quoniam absoluia locorum Novi Testamenti, ex quibus Trinitatis
dogma extruitur explicatione, cum Vetus Testamentum aggressus eo usque
processisset, ut solummodo prophetae restarent, in medio opere ceu servus
fidelis et vigilans, a Deo ad isetiora est avocatus, et antequam cursum absol-
visset bravio donatus ;" * but he wished it to appear that Enjedin was
unable by any contrivance to evade the force of the passage, and he did not
seek far for any other way of explaining his silence.f

* " An imperfect work indeed. For, when, having completed the explanation of
those passages of the New Testament from which the doctrine of the Trinity is
derived, he Imd applied himself to the Old Testament, and had proceeded so far
that only the prophets remained, in the midst of his labours, being found like a
faithful and watcliful servant, he was called away by God to a happier state, and
before he had finished the course, received the prize of victory." — Enjedini, Expli-
cationes locorum, Epistola dedicatoria.

t With respect to the primary or, perhaps, entire reference of the passage to
Hezekiah, the admission of which would put an end at once to any argument from
it respecting the nature of Christ, we would refer to the papers by the Rev. Robert
Wallace, of Chesterfield, in the Monthly Repository, (Old Series,) Vol. XIX. for
1824. This gentleman maintains, with nuich force of argument, that the prophecy
was fulfilled in Hezekiah.

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Section xxiii. Isaiah xl. 1 — 3, 9 — 11. What God, the Lord Jehovah, is
said to do in this passage is attributed by our author to Christ, because wliat
is said o^ preparing a way for Jkhovah, is in the New Testament applied
to John, the forerunner of our Lord. Matt. iii. 3 ; John i, 23 ; Luke i. 7Q,
16:

** To rebut this conclusion," (viz. that the ^lessiah is the Lord Jehovah,)
says Dr. S., " it is asserted that * John was the forerunner of the Lord their
God, by being- the forerunner of Jesus, the great messenger of God to man-
kind.' It must he confessed that this interpretation is not destitute of appa-
rent reasons, but after weio^hing* the arguments on each side, I acknowledge
that the evidence in favour of the other interpretation seems to me to pre-
ponderate."

It would seem, then, that in this instance Dr. S. does not consider his
own case very strong, and as he acknowledges that the prophecy in its pri-
mary sense predicted " the deliverance of the sons of Judah from their
mournful slavery in Chaldsea," consequently that it was, so far as con-
cerned that primary sense, " fulfilled in a series of providential occurrences,
without any thing properly miraculous," it is truly extraordinary that he
should not consider the manifestations of Divine power and goodness in the
miracles and doctrines of Christ as a sufficient accomplishment, without
looking for any reference to his person. The attempt to argue from our
Lord's application to himself of the same image of the good Shepherd, which
the prophet employs to represent the care of Jehovah for his chosen people,
is strange, and can hardly need refutation.

** Moses and David in the sacred writings," says our author, " and other
chieftains in the oldest records of Gentile language and manners, are called
the shepherds of their people. But it is to the distinguishing' and exalted
manner in which this appellation and its attributes are given to Christ, that
the attention of the serious reader is invited."

Our Lord applies the image somewhat particularly, beautifully repre-
senting it by means of his dying for the good of mankind, and hinting at the
call of the Gentiles, (" other sheep I have, which are not of this fold, them
also I must bring,") as well as indicating the grand doctrine which he came
to reveal in the words, " I give unto them eternal life." But Cyrus and the
Jewish princes and rulers, as well as Moses and David, are compared to
shepherds in the Old Testament, and the case of the bad as well as of the
good shepherd is minutely applied, nor could any image be more natural.
Any thing distinguishing and exalted in the manner in which the appellation
is given to Christ, either belongs of necessity to the character of his mission
or exists only in our author's fancy. His own note, where he suggests as a
possible objection, " that our Lord follows up this style of sovereignty with
expressions of subordination and dependency," is a sufficient answer to him ;
for the remark respecting official subordination united with the possession
of " Divine dignity and power," if it were not a mere quibble, would at
least be in its application to the present purpose a gross petitio principii.
What might we not prove if the use of the same image in two instances
were to be taken as a sign of the identity of the subjects !

Section xxv, Isa. xlv, 21—25. The pretence for supposing this passage
to relate to Christ, and hence that he is called Jehovah^ God, the Righteous,
the Saviour, is thus stated by Dr. S. :

" To urge the consideration that ' we shall all stand before the judgment-
seat of Christ,' the Apostle Paul undeniably cites and argues from this pas-



37

sag'e ; * It is written, As I live saith the Lord^ unto me everij hiee shall bow /
and every tongue shall render acknoivledgment to God ; so tlien every one of
us slmll ^ive account of himself to God.' (Rom. xiv. 4.) That here is an
intended application of the passage to Christ is at least corroborated by
another reference of the Apostle, '^That in the name of Jesus every knee may
bow, of beings in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and that every
tongue may acknoivledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the
Father:" (Phil. ii. 1(), II.)

From Dr. S.'s own pasjes we take the sufficient answer to this argument,
and we should have no fear, without saying a word more, of leaving the
matter " to the reflecting and candid reader:''

" The interpretation proposed by Faustus Socinus, an<l oenerally adopted
by his followers, is persi)icuously stated by Dr. Priestley. ' The judgment-
seat of Christ, and that of God, are the same, not because Christ is God, but
because he acts in the name and by the authority of God, wliich is fully
expressed when it is said, that God will judge all the world by Jesus Christ;
so that being judged by Christ and by God is in effect the same thing.'
(Priestley's Notes on Scripture, Vol. IV. p. 330.) By this gratuitous asser-
tion the difliculty is evaded ; but whether it is not advanced to serve the
purpose, whether it is not far-fetched, while the other sense is near and ob-
vious, and whether it duly comports with the terms and scope of the passage,
and with the argument of the citation — the reflecting and candid reader will
judge."

The Scriptures speak in some places of God judging the world, in others,
of our all appearing before the judgment-seat of Christ, and again of God
judging the world by that man whom he hath ordained. Passages of the
latter kind, preventing the possibility of the two former being taken as prov-
ing the identity of God and Christ, leave us no alternative but to say that
" the judgment of Christ and of God are the same, because Christ acts in
the name and by the authority of God." Yet this is called a gratuitous as-
sertion. The explanation, it seems, is advanced to serve a purpose : the
same may he said of every explanation as easily, and of none with more
appearance of justice than of those contained in Dr. S.'s volume : it is an
accusation of prejudice (for we will not suppose that artifice is insinuated) —
prejudice, from which every one thinks himself free, and which each attri-
butes to his opponent. Far-fetched often has reference only to the esta-
blished associations of the person using the term, as obvious may only sig-
nify what readily occurs to him, having his mind preoccupied with a theory.
It is clear that no one would have applied the original passage to our Lord,
but for the Apostle's quotation : let us inquire then what was his meaning.
He is urging those whom he addresses not to indulge in mutual censures,
from the consideration of the future judgment to which they would all
ecpally be called, and for which it would become them better to prepare,
" since we must all present ourselves before the tribunal of Christ ; for it is
written. As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every
tongue shall acknowledge God, So then every one of us must give an ac-
count of himself to God." The Apostle quotes the words of the prophet as
declaring that all should be judged. To shew that the judgment of God
and of Christ are the same, is necessary to the sense of the passage : this is
done satisfactorily by observing that God judges through Christ ; it is not
done satisfactorily by affirming that Christ is God, because that assertion is
inconsistent with the declaration that " God will judge the world by that
man ivhom he hath appointed:* But has Dr. S. never noticed, or does he
regard as insignificant, a various reading in Rom. xiv. 10, where, for " we



38

shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ,'^ a not inconsiderable
number of copies read — " of God:^' which, if admitted, would at once put
an end to his argument ? We are hardly prepared, as Mr. Belsham has done
in his Translation of the Epistles, to introduce this reading into the text, but
we cannot do less than pronounce it very probably true, and there ought to
be little importance attached to an argument whicli rests on the correctness
of one of two readings in so very doubtful a case. Our interpretation of
Paul's meaning suits equally well to either.*

The next Section (numbered, like the preceding, xxv. by an error conti-
nued from the first edition) relates to the expression Jer. xxiii. 5, 6, xxxiii.
15, 16, " Jehovah our righteousness." The Unitarian interpretation, also
adopted by some " who have no prepossession in favour of Antitrinitarian
doctrines,'* and by the best of the Jewish commentators, is, that the title is
given not as a personal appellative, but as a descriptive name, like Imma-
nuel, Isa. vii. 14; Maher-shalal-hash-baz, Isa. viii. 1 ; Ariel, Isa. xxix. 1 ;
Magor-Missabib, Jer. xx. 3 ; El-Eiohe-lsrael, God, the God of Israel, the
name of an altar. Gen. xxxiii. 20 ; Jehovah-nissi, Jehovah iny banner, Exod.
xvii. 15, an altar so called by Moses ; Jehovah-shalom, Jehovah of peace,
judges vi. 29, an altar so named by Gideon, because God said to him,
" Peace be to thee ;" and Jehovah-Shammah, Jehovah is there, Ezek. xlviii.
35, the name of the predicted city. Many personal appellatives among the
Hebrews were constructed on the same principle, as Elijah, my God Jah ;
Zedekiah, the righteousness of Jah; Hiel, the living God, 1 Kings xvi.
34, the name of a Bethelite who rebuilt Jericho. That the name Jehovah
our righteousness, meaning " Jehovah will give us justification through
him, or in his time," should be used as descriptive of the blessings of the
Messiah's kingdom, can seem strange to no one, whatever view of the na-
ture of those blessings, and the person of him through whom they were
bestowed, he may adopt. Dr. S., whilst acknowledging that " if the person
of the Messiah were indubitably ascertained to be only human," which we
think that it is by abundant evidence, *' this appellation would be merely
a descriptive proposition," maintains that *' there is a consideration which
especially belongs to the very phrase of this passage," corroborating the
evidence for considering the name as strictly expressing the nature of Christ,
which he supposes to be furnished by other parts of Scripture. This consi-
deration is, that "righteousness (or justification) is the capital blessing of
the gospel," and " is most definitively attributed to Jesus Christ. Every
other righteousness is disowned and rejected in comparison with his." We

^ * Griesbach places 0£8 in his inner margin with the secondary mark of proba-
bility (which he explains to mean that the reading is not to be despised, and is
worthy of farther examination, yet inferior to the received). It is found in the
principal MSS. of the Western recension, as well as in the Alexandrian MS., which,
in the epistles, more generally exhibits the Alexandrine recension. Griesbach pre-
fers the reading of the received text, as belonging both to the Alexandrine and By-
zantine recensions, and probably because he thought that 0£8 might have been
written for the sake of consistency with the following verse. We submit, with all
due respect for so acute and impartial a judge, that it is more probable Xoi^a was
written instead of Qes, in imitation of 2 Cor. v. 10, Tovi; yap '7:dvraq vjiAuq
^av£^u6'^vai hei ey-irpoa-Oev ra ^-^[xaTOi; ts Xpig-a ; that the VVestern recension,
however much to be distrusted respecting changes dependent on the mere substitu-
tion of letters, or respecting additions to the text, is less than either of the others
to be suspected of a critical change ; and that the Common or Byzantine text can in
a case of this kind add nothing to the authority of the Alexandrine recension, so
that tlie balance of probability rather inclines in favour of the reading See.



39

should think this the very reason wliy the promise of righteousness or justi-
fication from God through him should be expressed, as being of eminent
importance, by a descriptive name. But, perhaps, Dr. S. means by justifi-
cation beinoj definitively attributed to HIM, that it is attributed to him rather
than to God the Father, that it originated with him, and is his peculiar work.
Let us then see how far the passages to which he himself refers in the New
Testament agree with this notion : Philipp. iii. 9, *' And be found in him,
not having mine own rii^hteousness, which is of the law, but that which is
through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith."
1 Cor. i. 30, *' Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and
righteousness y and sanctification j" add 2 Cor. v. 21, " For he hath made
him to be sin (treated him as a sinner) for us, who knew no sin ; that we
might be made the righteousness of Got> in him," might obtain justification
from God through him. It is strange to say, in the face of these passages,
that the righteousness or justification belongs to Christ essentially as distin-
guished from the Father. To us they appear to agree most exactly with the
interpretation of " Jehovah our righteousness," as a descriptive name of the
Messiah given above. It may be added, that in the second passage, Jer.
xxxiii. 16, some have supposed, not without considerable probability in
their favour, that the epithet is given to Jerusalem, and that the learned Dr.
Blayney (whom Dr. S. does not condescend to notice) translates the words,
" Jehovah shall call his name * our righteousness.' "

The argument in Section xxvi., on Dan. vii. 9, 10, 13, 14, is so fanciful,
that even Dr. S. himself would hardly attribute to it much independent
value, and we are sure that none of our readers will think it needs refuta-
tion. In the book of Revelation, the visionary scenes of which are every
where expressed in language imitating, or borrowed from, the ancient pro-
phets, the account of the vision of our glorified Lord contains some of the
same words, and one descriptive circumstance, (" his head and his hair
were white like wool," of radiant brightness,) the same as Daniel has used
in representing " the Ancient of days," who is manifestly the Supreme
Being himself. This is called so definite and striking a coincidence, " that
the latter cannot but be regarded as designedly alluding to the former."
Hence it is expected we should be ready to beUeve the identity of Christ with
the Ancient of days. Now, when it is said (Dan. vii. 13) that " one like
to a Son of Man approached to the ancient of days, and was brought
near to his presence," Dr. S. thinks the word rendered ivas brought near,
though *' it does not necessarily imply more than a near approach, may be
justly extended to the expression of a personal union. Its radical idea is that
of very close contact ; and its difi"erent forms are applied to many instances
of conjunction, indwelling, and union, the most near and intimate that can
exist amongst men. Upon these grounds it is submitted as a fair and ra-
tional interpretation of the whole passage, to view it as declaring, in the
symbolical language of prophecy, an assumption of the frail and humble
nature of a child of man into an absolute union with the great Eternal."
The meaning of the Hebrew word is "to be, or be brought near."" It is
used equally of friendly and hostile approach, of nearness in place, time, re-
lationship, dignity, ox favour. By a very natural application of the idea of
nearness, it is used as a name for what is within us, in reference either to
the body or the mind. We can see nothing mysterious or abstruse in its
applications, and the idea of extorting from the words, " one like to a son
of man was brought near TO the PRESENCE of the Ancient of days," a



40

declaration of the " absolute union of a child of man with the GREAt
Eternal," is perfectly monstrous. Yet our author is one who is ever
ready to reproach Unitarians with far-fetched interpretations invented to


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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 6 of 15)