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Unitarian principles confirmed by Trinitarian testimonies : being selections from the works of eminent theologians belonging to orthodox churches online

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berless. — Bishop Lowth : Translation of Isaiah, Prel. Diss. p. li.

A nev>r translation of the Scriptures . . . has long been devoutly
wdshed by many of the best friends to religion and our estabhshed
church, who, though not insensible of the merit of om- present version
in common use, and justly believing it to be equal to the very best
that is now extant in any language, ancient or modern, sorrowfully
confess that it is still far from being so perfect as it might and should
be ; that it often represents the errors of a faulty original with too
exact a resemblance ; whilst, on the other hand, it has mistaken the
true sense of the Hebrew in not a few places ; and sometimes substi-
tuted an interpretation so obscure and perj)lexed, that it becomes
almost impossible to make out with it any sense at all. And, if this
be the case, shall we not be sohcitous to obtain a remedy for such
glaring imperfections ? — Dr. Benjamin Blayney : Translation of
Jeremiah, Prel. Disc. p. ix.

As this collation was made by some of the most distinguished
scholars in the age of James the Fu-st, it is probable that our author-
ized version is as faitliful a representation of the original Scriptures as
could have been formed at that period. But when we consider the
immense accession which has been since made, both to our critical and
to our philological appai'atus ; when we consider that the whole mass
of literature, commencing with the London Polyglot and continued
to Griesbach's Greek Testament, was collected subsequently to that



period ; "when v,-e consider that the most important soiu-ces of iiitelii-
gence for the interpretation of the original Scriptures were likewise
opened after that |)eriod, — we cannot possibly pretend, that om'
authorized version does not requh-e amendment. . . . Dr. j\Iackxight
goes so far as to say of our authorized version, " It is by no means
such a just representation of the insphed origuials as merits to be
impKcitly rehed on for determining the controverted articles of the
Clnistian faith, and for quieting the dissensions which have rent the
church." — Bishop Marsh : Lectures, pp. 295-6.

The warmest advocate of our translation camiot pronounce it frea
fi'om faults, but must acknowledge that there still are m it some
WTong mterpretations, wliich either contradict the sense of the origi-
nal, or obscure it. And can there be any inconvenience or danger m
proposing to correct such errors ? Would it not be conducive to the
advancement of the gospel to remove, if possible, and under just
authority, every material error from om' pubhcly received version, for
the salve of those who do not understand the original .f* — Bishop
Burgess : Tracts on the Divinity of Christ, pp. 241-2.

[The common version of the Bible, undertaken by the orders of
King James the First, and fii'st pubhshed in the year 16 1 1] is level
to the understanding of the cottager, and fit to meet the eye of the
critic, the poet, and the pliilosopher. . . . No work has ever been so
generally read, or more miiversally admu'ed ; and such is its complete
possession of the pubhc mind, that no translation differing materially
from it can ever become acceptable in this country. ... It Avas [however]
not made fi'om corrected or critical texts of the originals, but from the
Masoretic Hebrew text, and h'om the common printed Greek text of
the New Testament. Consequently, whatever imperfections belonged
to the originals at the time must be expected in the version. . . . That
it is capable of improvement wiU generally be admitted, and that we
are in possession of the means by which that improvement could be
made is equally unquestionable. — Wm. Orme : Bibliotheca Biblica,
13p. 37-9.

That the text called the textus receptus, or received text, is far
from supplying such a desideratum [as a new revision of the authorized
version of the Bible] will be manifest in considering its origin and
quahty. That text is no other than the result of the various transcrip-
tm'al errors, omissions, and additions, very partially and imperfectly
corrected, which have accrued to the primitive text, during the tliou-
Band obsniu'e ages that mtervened between the age of the oldest


surviving manuscript and the invention of jorinting Every

one who is very sensitive for the jDurity and integrity of the evangehcal
records will feel it to be of the fii'st importance that the Enghsh reader
should at length be put in possession of the text of the Sacred Volume^
purged from the heterogeneous incrustations which its sm'face has
contracted durmg its passage do^vn the stream of dark and turbid
ages. ... It is imperative that we should at length secure and com-
plete what Griesbach had begun, by throwing altogether out of the
text every thmg apocryphal and spmious, and thus attain to a con-
formity with primitive Christian antiquity. — Granville Penn :
Jlnnotations to tJie Book of the JVcw Covenant, pj). 18, 47-8.

Respectable and excellent as om* common version is, considering
the time and chcumstances mider which it was made, no person Avill
contend that it is incapable of important amendment. A temperate,
impartial, and careful revision would be an mvaluable benefit to the
cause of Clmstianity ; and the very laudable exertions which are now
made to cu'culate the Bible render such a revision, at the present time,
a matter of still more pressmg necessity. It is a failing of the same
kind, when the text of the common Hebrew and Greek editions is
adduced as indubitably and in every case the divine origmal, without
any 2jre\dous consideration or inqmry. . . . Every Christian who is
moderately informed on these subjects knows, that the early editions
of the original Scrij)tm*es could not possess a text so well ascertained
as those wliich the su|}erior means and the dihgent mdustry of modern
£ditors have been enabled to attain ; that from these early editions all
the estabhshed Protestant versions were made j and that an accm'ate
and impartial criticism of the pubHshed text, as weU as of any transla-
tion, must he at the foundation of all satisfactory deduction of theo-
logical doctrine from the words of Scripture. — Dr. John Pye Smith :
Scripture Testimony to the Messiah, pp. 29-41.

These extracts, which might easily have been increased by quotations
from Dr. David Dukell, Dr. John Symonds, Dr. George Campbell,
Arclibisliop Newcome, S. T. Coleridge, Dr. Thomas Arnold, and many
others, are given cliiefly for the purpose of showing, that the dissatisftiction
with the received text and common version of the Scriptures, so often- mani-
fested by Unitarians, does not involve any irreverence for the word of God ;
a species of impiety with which they have been often charged. Indeed,
none are more accustomed than learned and devout Trinitarians to change
the translation of certain passages in the Bible, notwithstanding the supersti-
tious reverence paid bv others to the authorized version



The law by Moses came ;
But peace and truth, and love
Were brought by Christ, a nobler name,
Descending from above.

Isaac Watts.

§ 1. The Dogma of the Verbal or the Plenary Inspiration op
THE Bible not Supported by Evidence.

If any man is of opinion, that ]Moses might "\mte the history of
those actions wliich he himself did or was present at, without an
immediate revelation of them; or that Solomon, by liis natm-al and
acqimed wisdom, might speak those "wise savings which are in his
Proverbs ; or the evangehsts might write wiiat they heard and saw, or
what they liad good assm-ance of from others, as St. Luke tells he
did; or that St. Paid might write for his cloak and parchments at
Troas, and salute by name his friends and brethren ; or that he might
ad\ise Timothy to druik a Httle w^hie, &c., without the immediate dic-
tate of the Spirit of God, — he seems to have reason on his side. For
that men may, without an immediate revelation, wiite those thmgs
wliich they tliink without a revelation, seems very plain. And that
they did so, there is this probable argument for it ; because we find
that the evangelists, in relating the discourses of Chiist, are very far
from agreeing in the particular expressions and words, though they do
agree in the substance of the discourses : but, if the words had been
dictated by the Sphit of God, they must have agreed in them. For
when St. Luke differs from St. ISIatthew in relating what our Sa\iour
said, it is impossible that they should both relate it right as to the very
words and form of expression ; but they both relate the substance of
what he said. And, if it had been of concernment that every thing
that they wrote should be dictated ad apicem, to a tittle, by the Spirit
of God, it is of the same concernment still, that the providence of God
should have secm-ed the Scriptm'es smce to a tittle from tlie least
alteration ; which that it is not done, appears by the various readings
both of the Old and New Testament, concerning which no man can
infaUibly say that this is right, and not the other. It seems sufficient
in this matter to assert, that the Spirit of God did reveal t9 the pen*



men of the Scriptures what was necessaiy to be revealed ; ani, as to
all. other thuigs, that he did superintend them in the ^^Titing of it, so
far as to secure them fi-om any material error or mistake in what they
have dehvered. — X^HCHBISHGP TiLLOTSON ; Sermon 2^2 ; in WorliSj
voL xi. pp. 185-6.

In the selection of then* arguments, Jesus and the apostles could
not at all times confine themselves to those truths which were most
convincing to themselves and other reaUy enlightened men ; but they
were also under the necessity of employing such reasonings as carried
most weight with then contemporaries, and certain of theh hearers or
readers. . . . Hence it is that many of those arguments which the
founders of Clnistianity made use of are not perfectly con\incing to
us; as, for example, Matt. xxii. 30-32. 2 Cor. iii. 7. 1 Cor. xi. 4-10.
Heb. V. — ix. ; which contain many arguments of this natm'e, which
Vt'ere adapted onlj^ to the modes of tlnnking of the Jews. Jesus and
the apostles adapted themselves to the modes of thinking chiefly
of the Jews, in theh citations and apphcations of passages of the Old
Testament, when propounding certain truths of the gospeL This is
designated the special accommodation of passages in the Old Testa-
ment to the expression of the truths and objects of the New. . . . Thus
Jesus appHed what had been said by David of Ahithophel to Judas
Iscariot, John xiii. 18. In this manner, in Matt. ii. 15-18, are several

passages of Scriptm-e appHed to Jesus and his history As the

four evangehsts narrate every thing either as they saw and heard it
themselves, or as they obtained it from credible eye-mtnesses ; but as
every individual regards an object from his o\\n standing j)oint ; so in
these narrations they very often vary from one another, so as, however,

to coincide in the main As to what especially relates to the

contradictions which exist between passages of the Old Testament,
when it is taken into consideration that the Bible consists of a collec-
tion of books, vmtten at various times through a com'se of many
centuries, some of them composed at the earhest periods of the
existence of the human race, and all continually transcribed by later
copyists, and frequently con-upted in many passages by the hands of
correctors, it could scarcely fail to contain contradictions. . . . The
rehgious notions of the primitive race of mankind were universally
sensuous and imperfect. They became gradually more pm-e and
perfect. This perfectibility of subjective rehgion v/as progressively
developed until the time of Chiist. When, in the course of time,
men had attained clearer and more correct views of divine fhings,


contradictions must naturally have taken* place between men's present
and past reKgious notions. For instance, in the books of Moses,
miclean animals are forbidden to be eaten. A voice proclaims to

Peter, " Eat of these unclean animals," Acts x A round number

is often put for a more definite one. Matt, x^ii. 1, Jesus took with
him his tlu:ee disciples up the momitam six days after the prediction
of liis sutferings ; but, accorduig to Luke, it happened eight days after
(ix. 28) : it amounts to one and the same thing. A writer is some-
tinges accustomed to ascribe to several mdividuals what took place
with respect to but one of them. Thus the tliieves on the cross,
according to Matthew, re\iled Jesus ; but, accorduig to LulvC, it was
only one. The sacred liistory must be judged of accorduig to the
genius of those times. It must be recollected, that then* authors were
not men of learrdng ; that they were but human beings, and might
therefore err ; and that it did not seem fit to Divine ^Wisdom to pre-
serve them by an extraordinary infiuence from harmless errors in
matters of secondary importance. . . . Luke and Mark were not pre-
sent to hear and see all that Jesus said or did. They therefore
narrate what they had received from eye-witnesses, or had read in
other histories of the life of Jesus then extant. When they subse-
quently T\TOte these down from memory only, this might have easily
given rise to a difference in the nan-ations. — George Frederic
Seiler : Biblical Hermeneutics, translated by Dr. WiUiam Wright,
§§ 267-8, 302, 323, 325-6.

AVe have made this large extract from Dr. Seilek, because, though a
Gennan, he was so good a man and so orthodox a divine as to receive
the highest encomiums of his translator and of Dr. John Pye Smith. These
writers say, that his theological publications, one of which was a work on
the Deity of Christ, " are distinguished by their candid and luminous method
of examining evidence and discussing difficulties, by their spirit of practical
piety, and by their tendency to show the harmony which ever subsists
between the highest exertions of reason in all the improvements of science
and literature, and the pure religion of the Bible." See Memoir of Seiler,
prefixed to Dr. Wright's translation of " Biblical Hermeneutics."

With a fidl persuasion of soul respecting all the articles of the
Christian faith, ... I receive ^^iUingly also the truth of the history j
namely, that the word of the Lord did come to Samuel, to Isaiah, to
others; and that the words which gave utterance to the same are
faithftdly recorded. But though the origin of the words, even as of
the mhaculous acts, be supernatural j yet, the former once uttered, the


latter once ha^dng taken their place among the phenomena of the senses,
the faithful recording of the same does not of itself imply, or seem to
require, any supernatural working, other than as all truth and goodness
are such. ... I believe the writer in whatever he himself relates of his
own authority, and of its origin ; but I camiot find any such claim, as
the doctrine in question [that all that exists in the Sacred Volume was
dictated by an infallible Intelligence] supposes, made by these writers,
exj)Hcitly or by impHcation. On the contrar}', they refer to other
documents, and in all points exj)ress themselves as sober-minded and

veracious writers under ordinary circumstances are kno"\^Ti to do

Say tliat the Book of Job throughout was dictated by an infallible Intel-
hgence. Then reperuse the book, and still, as you proceed, try to
ajjply the tenet : try if you can even attach any sense or semblance of
meaning to the speeches which you are reading. What! were the
hollow truisms, the unsufficing half-truths, the false assumptions, and
mahgnant insinuations of the supercilious bigots who corruptly de-
fended the truth ; — were the impressive facts, the piercing outcries,
the pathetic appeals, and the close and powerful reasoning \nth which
the poor sufferer — smarting at once from his wounds, and from the
oil of vitriol which the orthodox liars for God were dropping into
them — impatiently, but uprightly and hoHly, controverted this truth,
while in will and in spirit he clung to it ; — were both dictated by an
infallible Intelligence? Alas! if I may judge from the manner in
w^hich both indiscriminately are recited, quoted, appealed to, preached
upon, by the routiniers of desk and pulpit, I cannot doubt that they
think so, or rather, without thinking, take for granted that so they are

to think All the miracles which the legends of monk or rabbi

contain can scarcely be put in competition, on the score of compHca-
tion, inexplicableness, the absence of all intelligible use or purpose, and
of circuitous self-frustration, with those that must be assumed by the
maintainers of this doctrine, in order to give effect to the series of
miracles by which all the nominal composers of the Hebrew nation
before the time of Ezra, of whom there are any remains, were succes-
sively transformed into automaton compositors, so that the original text
should be in sentiment, image, word, syntax, and composition, an exact
impression of the divine cojsy ! — S. T. Coleridge : Cojifessions of
an Inquiring Spirit ; in Works, voL v. pp. 583-4, 593-4, 612.

We know that the Catholics look with as great horror on the con-
sequences of denying the infaUibihty of the church as you [the Rev.
John Tucker] can do on those of denying the entire inspiration of the


Scriptures ; and that, to corae nearer to the point, the inspiration of
the Scriptiu'es in points of physical science was once insisted on as

stoutly as it is now maintained with regard to history It is

strange to see how much of ancient history consists apjiarently of
patches put together from various quarters without any redaction. Is
not this largely the case in the Books of Samuel, Kings, and Chroni-
cles ? For instance, are not chap. xxiv. and xx^i. of 1 Samuel merely
different versions of the same event, just as we have two accounts of
the creation m the early chapiters of Genesis ? And must not chap-
ters xvi. and xxn. of the same book be also from different som-ces,
the accoimt of Da^id in the one being quite inconsistent "\^dth that
in the other? So, agam, in 2 Chron. xi. 20 and xiii. 2, there is a
decided difference in the parentage of Abijah's mother, which is curious

on any supposition I have long thought that the greater part

of the Book of Daniel is most certainly a very late work, of the time of
the ]Macaibees ; and the pretended prophecy about the Kings of Gre-
cia and Persia, and of the North and South, is mere history, like the
poetical prophecies in Vh'gil and elsewhere. In fact, you can trace
distmctly the date when it was written, because the events up to the
date are given with historical minuteness, totally unKke the character
of real prophecy ; and, beyond that date, all is imaginary. — Dn.
Thos. Arnold: Letters 20, 111, 222; in lAfe and Correspondence,
pp. 69, 255, 358.

In his " Tracts for the Times " (Miscellaneous Works, pp. 285-6), Dr.
Arnold, after stating his belief in the inspiration of the Scriptures, says that
it is an unwarranted interpretation of the term '"inspiration " to suppose it
equivalent to a communication of the divine perfections ; that many of our
words and actions are spoken and done b}' the inspiration of God's Spirit ;
that all inspiration does not destroy the human and fallible part in the nature
which it inspires; and that, though no merely human being ever enjoyed a
larger share of the Spirit of God than Paul, yet did he err in expecting, and
in leading the Coi'inthians and Thessalonians to expect, the end of the world
in the generation then existing.

"We have reason, from the whole tenor of Scripture, to beheve that
it is not the wiR of God to effect any end by a miracle which could be
as well effected by the estabhshed course and methods of his pro\i-
dence. Hence I infer, that the kind or degree of inspiration would
be according* to the nature of the object ; revelation and the highest
suggestion, where they were necessary; but, where they were not
necessary, that superintendence and dhection of divine power ipon


the mind, which were sufficient for the purpose There are

many passages in Scripture to which an origuial iaspu'ation could not
be attached. ... In Jeremiah, Jonah, and Rabakkuk, inspu'ed prophets,
we find occasionally the utterance of sinful infii'mity ; such as, in refer-
ence to Hab. i. 2, 3, the late Mr. Milnee, calls a " blamable mixtm-e
of impatience and imbehef." (Sermons, ed. by Dean M. p. 277.) . . . .
The three hiends of Job, and sometimes Job himself, advance many
positions which are not true in principle, nor right m practice, still less
mspired. . . . Will any considerate person say that Job's mistaken
friends were inspired, when God himself declared to them, " Ye have
not spoken concermng me what is right " ? or that the holy p9,triarch
himself was inspired, when he execrated the day of his birth ? . . . ,
In relations of fact, veracity and accuracy are all that we want. What
possessed these quahties, though the knowledge of it might be derived
from any of the common sources of hiformation, would be not less
true than that which was infused by the immediate operation of the
Holy Spuit. — Dr. John Pye Smith : Sciiphwe Testimony to tlie
Messiah, vol. i. pp. 25, 27-9.

In pp. 22-3, tliis powerful opponent of Unitarianism proposes the follow-
ing translation of 2 Tim. iii. 16, "Every writing divinely inspired (is) also
profitable for instruction," &c., and defends it by the authority of Calvin,
Beza, Diodati, J. D. MiCHAELis, De Wette, and Boothkoyd; of the
oldest versions, and also of the Geneva English and the Dutch. In pp. 34-8,
he assigns his reasons for believing that the Song of Solomon was not a
divinely inspired composition, and had no relation to any of the facts or
doctrines of either the Israelitish or the Christian economy. In p. 59, he
very properly says, that " that which is evinced to be true, whatever may
be the channel through which it has entered our minds, we are bound by
our relation to the system of God's moral government to believe; " and that
" those well-meaning persons who think that they have proved the divine
inspiration of a particular sentence (such as 1 Tim. v. 23, or 2 Tim. iv. 13),
because their pious fertility has been able to educe a great number of
uuportant religious reflections from the advice, the request, the motives, or
the implied circumstances, in the case, are committing an egregious folly."
In p. 6.0, he admits that " in the Gospels the same fact or discourse is often
related with differences, which, if a rigorous verbal conformity were insisted
upon, would be irreconcilable, but which can create no difficulty if only the
fair sense and meaning be regarded." And, in p. 62, he confesses, " that,
after long and serious examination, this hypothesis of a universal verbal
inspiration does appear" to him "to be clogged with innumerable difficul-
ties, and to be by no means required by the facts of the case and the state-
ments of the divine word." In support of his opinion, Dr. Smith quotes
the sentiments advanced by many eminent divines.



Nor again is there any reason to suppose that any of the apostles
■was in such a sense infallible as that he could not teach false doctrine.
They were, mdeed, so guided by the Spuit as to have the truth clearly
revealed to them, so that they always knew it themselves ; but it does
not ajDpear that they were compelled always to speak the truth. Their
infaUibilit}^ does not seem to have been like that which Roman Catho'
lies ascribe to their popes, whose decisions they are ready to follow,
even when they know them to be personally the worst of men, and
perhaps infidels in their hearts. The apostles Peter and Barnabas, for
example, were, in one instance, induced by false shame to dissemble
the truth which had been revealed to them, and, by the weight of their
example, to di'aw others also' into the same fault, Gal. ii. 11-13. Paul,
too, expressly tells the Galatians, that, if he liimseK were to preach
any other gospel to them than that which they had aheady received,
they should not listen to him ; so that, even m the case of the apostles,

Online LibraryJohn WilsonUnitarian principles confirmed by Trinitarian testimonies : being selections from the works of eminent theologians belonging to orthodox churches → online text (page 21 of 55)