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the most simple eary desperate instation of it critics in the sage
which will at least, neutralize a pungent passage; e. g. the sage observation, “ About the interpretation of it critics differ inuch.” And lastly, in very desperate instances, a method is resorted to, the most simple and compendious imaginable; and that is—to say nothing at all about them !
'In the first section of the Notes on the Gospels, occurs the sublime introduction of the evangelist John. Against the orthodox, and, we may add, the only rational interpretation, of this pas. sage, Dr. P. rouses his utmost vigour. The Logos, being a term in use among the Gnostics, is adopted by the Evangelist, but, as the Doctor supposes, to signify “ nothing more than that word, or power, of God by which all things were made, and therefore [it]was no distinct or inferior principle, but God himself.”
Now, let the sincere enquirer after truth take his New Testament, and read the first sixteen verses of John's Gospel; substituting for the Logos, or its corresponding pronoun, Dr. Priestley's synonym, the property, or attribute of divine power.--Will he not feel his understanding really shocked ? How will he digest such doctrines 'as these ?- The power of God was with God," that is, as Dr. P. tells us, “ was God's, or what belonged to him.” What then in the next member of the sentence we find that “the power of God, or that which “ was God's or what belonged to him," is God himself; The attribute of power in the Divine Being, which is what belongs to him, is the Divine Being himself !We proceed. “ The attribute of Divine Power came to its own, and its own did not receive it.” Here the Doctor seems to have felt some aukwardness in his scheme, and therefore tries to help it by the remark, “ At v. 11, where the personification is peculiarly strong, it will be proper to substitute the word God, whose power it was, for the power itself.” Thus we are supplied with two keys, and if one will not fit, surely the other may. We advance then to v. 12. But now we are entangled with a serious dilemma. If we“ substitute the word. God” we are carried fairly into a concession of the grand point itself, for, believing in the name of Jesus Christ is the acknowledged distinction of the christian character. Shall we, then, turn back to our former shift? “ As many as received this attri bute, to them it gave the right of becoming children of God, even to them who believe on its name.” With this strange construction, however, Dr. P. is contented to put up, explaining it, as Jewish phraseology, which “ only means believing in the person or thing whose name it was.” Our annotator certainly ought to have offered some proof of his assertion, or to have furnished us with an example of the pretended Jewish phrase of believing in the name of a property, a relation, or any thing which has no personal subsistance. From this he has, however, prudently abstained. To crown all,, we must read, that, “ The attribute of Divine Power became flesh [i. e. human nature and
tabernacled among us, full of grace and truth; and we beheld its glory, a glory as of the Only Begotten from the Father.” . And Dr. P. paraphrases the passage thus; “ The Logos, or the divine wisdom and power, appeared in a human form, and dwelt among us.”
Who does not see that, if such violent interpretations as these are to be admitted, there is no security in the plainest language; no means of attaining the assurance of truth; no sufficient guard against the wildest vagaries of error ?
That the Apostle John, in the composition of his Gospel, had for one of his objects the refutation of Gnostic errors, is a well-ascertained fact; and there is, also, good reason to believe that, in order more effectually to explode those errors, he used, in a sound sense, several of the terms which were current among the Gnostic sect. But these circumstances, when properly understood and rationally applied, are decisively favourable to the great christian doctrine of the RedEEMER'S PROPER DEITY. For instance, the Gnostics maintained that the Logos was an Æon, or created' Spirit, a kind of inferior deity: John affirms, that the Logos was not created, but existed“ in the beginning," a known phrase to denote, before all time; and that He was, not a created and inferior being, but truly God, The Gnostics maintained that a very different, and å malevolent being had made the material universe: John, on the contrary, teaches that the Divine Logos was the real Creator of all things without exception. The Gnostics considered Life and Light as two other Æons, distinct from the Logos: the Apostle counteracts this error, by asserting that life and light (or created existence, intellect, moral good, and happiness) were the gifts of the Logos. The Gnostics held the Jehovah of the Old Testament, the God of Israel, to have been a created and wicked being, a malevolent Æon: but John declares that the Logos " came to his own," the Jewish nation ; consequently, this Divine Person was the God of Israel. The Gnostics imagined that another of the Æons, called Christ, united himself with the man Jesus at his baptism, but left him on the approach of death: against this fiction, John plainly declares that the Logos really became man; “ the Word was made flesh.”
These examples will give an idea of what we conceive to be the just and rational use to be made of the Gnostic doctrines, in explaining the phraseology of this and other parts of the writings of John. It is, also, very necessary to be observed, that the Apostle had a much more extensive ground for the use of his principal term, than merely to oppose the heresy and correct the serminology of the Gnostics. The frequent mention of the Memra, or Word of God in the Chaldee paraphrases on the Old Testament, and the very remarkable language of Philo the
Jew, Jew, concerning the same Divine Person, whom he also denominates the Logos, the only begotten, and the Son of God; these circumstances supplied a very clear reason to the mind of the Evangelist for the use of his distinguishing expressions.
But, while, in order to elucidate the language of the sacred books, we admit the propriety of paying an adequate attention to the opinions, whether true or erroneous, current at the period when they were written; we enter our earnest protest against the custom unbappily prevalent, of considering such interpretations as giving the exclusive, or even the principal, design of the inspired writers. This has been the darling aim of many modern interpreters; and it is not difficult to perceive that their ultimate view is no other than to répresent the word of truth and salvation as a collection of obsolete records, furnishing some good moral precepts; but as to facts and doctrines, intelligible and interesting only to the man of learned leisure and critical curiosity. On the contrary, it was the merciful intention of God, in giving these holy writings to the world, to teach the whole doctrine of Christ to all the sons of men. The cordial reception of this doc. trine is enjoined, under denunciation of the most awful penalties, on all to whom the word of this salvation is sent. It is an impious contradiction to this benevolent purpose, and an insult to the Scriptures, to treat them as little more than an obscure refutation of recondite, and, to the bulk of mankind, absolutely uninteresting opinions.
We have extended our remarks on this passage, not merely for the sake of rescuing it from gross misinterpretation, but because it affords a specimen of that evasive manner in which Dr. P. tries to shake off the embarrassments of his theological system. Where the bias of that system could not operate, as in the explication of external circumstances and allusions to history and manners, or in occasional reflections on the character and probable motives of men, we are happy in being able to observe, that Dr. P's general information, and his attention to the philosophy of human nature, have given birth to much appropriate elucidation.
We have selected a few extracts, as an impartial specimen, by which our readers may form an opinion of the merits and demerits of Dr. P.'s notes and occasional paragraphs, on the historical books of the New Testament.
Mat. iv. 2. · It may be further conjectured (and in this case we are . avoidably left very much to our conjectures) that Jesus passing these forty days in a state of peculiar communion with God (in all which time he was without food and probably also without sleep) would imagine himself to be in what is commonly called heaven, where God is supposed to reside ; as Paul imagined that he was caught up into the third heaven during his vision or trance., On this easy hypothesis we may suppose
that it was to this being in heaven, and with God, that Jesus might allude (when he said that he had come down from heaven, and was to cscend up to where he had been lefore, though these phrases do not necessarily imply any thing more than his having received a mission from God. Vol. iii. p. 48. ..
This conjecture of Dr. P.'s will be welcome to the infidel. If Jesus, sucb a one may say, and bis chief Apostle were so grievously mistaken, in one capital instance, as to substitute the fantasies of their imagination for real facts; may they pot have been equally deluded in other respects? What claims can such persons have on the faith and obedience of the world?
Mat. iv. It is probable, that the sacred writers themselves (though there is no inconvenience in supposing that they had adopted the opinion of their neighbours concerning a great and malignant evil being, as they did the doctrine of Dæmons) use the term Satan or Devil, as expressive of the principle of evil in general, and that they had no idea of the real existence of such a being as the Devil is supposed to be. Nothing, indeed, can be more improbable than the existence of such a being as the Devil, who in the vulgar opinion is a kind of rival of the Supreme Being, present in every place at the same time, or in the quickest possible succes. sion, knowing every thing, even the thoughts of men's hearts, which, if any thing, is surely the prerogative of God only, and almost omnipotent.' p. 50.
These volumes frequently present us with the rational and modest insinuation, that Jesus and the sacred writers were, in many cases, so unfortunate as to stand in great need of having their vulgar errors corrected by the kind illuminations of modern Unitarians! But we wave this; and only remonstrate against the latter part of the preceding paragraph. How could Dr. P. deem it consistent with ingenuousness, to represent the gross conceptions of the ignorant and careless among nominal chris
tians, whose notions of the Deity himself are equally crude and · false, as coincidenţ with the views of well-informed orthodox
christians on the existence of wicked spirits? To the real existence and assiduous malignity of those beings, the scriptures contain frequent and solemn reference : but we ablıor the ascription to them of such powers as Dr. P. here represents; and, whatever be their ability and address, we consider them as creatures of mere impotence and folly, when compared with the infinite Jehovah.
John viii 56. ! It is not easy to say what this refers to. All that Abraham saw, ar desired to see, i. e. in vision, and as future, was the prosperity of his descendants in some distant period. And if the conversion of the Jews to christianity be any way connected with this future happy state of the Jewish nation, it may be called the day of the Messiah.'
p. 329. John xiv. i. "Perhaps, with a learned friend of mine, we may understand the mansions in his father's house, of which Jesus here speaks,
to signify not places of rest and happiness in heaven, but stations of trust, and usefulness upon earth, such as he was then about to quit, such a place in the house or family of God as Moses is said, Heb. iii. 15. to have been faithful in. p. 448.
We are glad to relieve our minds froin the view of such daring and unfounded assertions, by transcribing the following excellent observations on the Resurrection of Jesus.
The resurrection of Jesus is certainly the most important fact in the gospel history: and in proportion to its importance, the credibility of it is perhaps, when well considered, the greatest possible. I even think that it would not be difficult to shew, that no person has as yet suggested any new circumstance that would have made it so credible as it now is, at this distance of time. We may easily imagine that Jesus might have appeared so as to have made a greater impression upon the Jews, or the people of that generation in general; but it would, in consequence of that very circumstance, have appeared less credible to us at this time. For had the body of the Tewish nation been then convinced of it, and consea quently have embraced christianity, it would have been considered now and hereafter,' as a contrivance of the Jewish rulers; and had the Roman governor, and the Romans in general, been converted at that time, it would have borne a still more suspicious aspect at present. It was, on this account, therefore, far better that Jesus should satisfy a sufficient number of credible witnesses only, who were themselves indisposed to admit the fact; and this was the case even with the apostles themselves.
• As to the supposition of the disciples of Jesus carrying away his body, their consternation was so great that nothing of the kind could have occurred to them. If their minds had been at liberty for any such scheine, and if they could have carried it into execution, it could not have answered their purpose of making the people believe that he was risen from the dead. For the mere removal of the body would have been no proof of that; and how could they expect to succeed even in this. For what could they have done against the guard of Roman soldiers ?
In this, however, we may see the wisdom of that part of the plan of divine providence, which orderod that Jesus should continue in the sepulchre no longer than until the third day. Had this interval been much longer, it might have been said that the disciples might have recovered from their consternation; and that the watch becoming more remiss, they might have found an opportunity of executing their purpose.
i I have observed the extreme improbability of Jesus continuing alive during the time of the preparation for his sepulchre, and his continuing swathed with spices according to the Jewish custom, while he was in the sepulchre. Had he been found alive, he must have been in a very languishing state ; and yet he appeared with all the marks of perfect health several times in the course of the same day, which was the third from his death ; first to Mary, then to Peter (of the particulars of which we are not informed) and now, we shall see, to two disciples going to Emmaus ; and afterwards to all the disciples.” Vol. iii. pp. 529, 530.
(To be continued.)