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For JANUARY, 1806.
Art. 1. Notes on all the Books of Scripture, for the Use of the Pulpit
and Private Families: By Joseph Priestley, LL. D. F. R. S. &c. Four ., vols. 8vo. Printed at Northumbepland, America. pp. about 2,700.
Price 11. 16s L OWEVER justly, most of those who are qualified to 11 form an estimate of the literary character of Dr. P., have condemned his errors, and deplored that unhappy bias which appears to have been in a great measure the occasion of them; they have readily acknowledged the merit of his indefatigable activity, his frank integrity in the avowal of his sentiments, and the admirable perspicuity with which he expressed them. The perusal of the present work will confirm this opinion. We consider it, together with the author's comparison of the Institutions of Moses with those of the Hindoos, as by far the most valuable of his theological writings. The biblical student will here find many useful collections and original remarks, on the history, chronology, arts, manners, allusions, and phraseology of the Scriptures. We must, nevertheless, remember that it will be his duty to use these volumes with cautious deliberation. The advantages to be derived from the commentaries of the Polish brethren, of Grotius, of Le Clerc, and of Locke, will not be underrated by the christian scholar; because of those fundamental errors in theology which run through them. But he will profit by the remark which a learned and liberal French protestant, Professor Gaussen, used to make to his pupils. “ Quotus enim est qui Desiderio Erasmo et Hugoni Grotio, rerum scientiâ et judicandi prudentiâ præferri mereatur? At, qui eorum libros in manus sumpserit, sciat se incedere super ignes suppositus cineri doloso *.! Availing himself, therefore, of this admonition,
* " What commentator deserves the preference to Erasmus and Groa tius, for extent of knowledge, and soundness of judgement? But, whoeyer makes use of their writings, let him know that he treads
On fires with faithless ashes overspread.'”. Vol. II,
he he may obtain no contemptible accession to his stores of know. ledge, from the Notes of Dr. P."
From the dedication and the preface, we learn that this work is the substance, with subsequent enlargements, of the author's expositions formerly delivered from the pulpit. He, therefore, informs us, that, " if critics and scholars look into it for the solution of all such difficulties as they particularly wish to see discussed, they will be disappointed.” Direct philological criticism, it appears, was not intended, though much of it is given in the least ostentatious form. The doctrinal interpretations which occur, we have before suggested, ought to be viewed with the reader's vigilant caution, and subjected to his most attentive examination..
The following passage from the preface, we transcribe, not only as descriptive of that which we deem the most important, and the best executed part of Dr. P.'s plan; but as containing a sentiment, which we would earnestly recommend to those distant imitators, who fancy that they display superior vigour of intellect, by adding to the adoption of Dr. P.'s lamented errors, a contemptuous indifference, if not an avowed hostility to the divinity of the Mosaic religion.
It will be perceived that I have given very particular attention to the circunıstances, which prove the genuineness and divine authority of the books of scripture, especially those of the Old Testament, which are principally objected to by unbelievers, and which have appeared the most difficult to intelligent christians ; some of whom have been ready to reject them altogether, and the religion they contain, while they protess their belief of christianity. But the divine mission of Moses and that of Jesus are inseparably connected, and the religion of the Hebrew's and that of the christians are parts of the same scheme; so that the separation of them is absolutely impossible. That Dr. Geddes, and some others, should have been of a different opinion, appears to me most extraordinary.
- Independently of this consideration, the evidences of the divine mission of Moses appear to me as clear as those of Jesus himself. And I cannot help thinking that the same must appear to every person who gives due attention to the state of the world in the time of Moses, and to the circumstances of the Israelitish Nation in Egypt and in the wilderness. But these circumstances, remarkable as they are, seem to have been overlooked by all unbelievers. Judging of the state of things in that early agc, and that remote country, by what they see at present, and in a very distant part of the world, they must necessarily form a wrong judgment. In particular, they are disposed to think too favourably of the religion of those countries and times. Indeed the horrid and indecent rites of some of the antient religions have been so long unpractised, that without the most decisive evidence of history, it would not at this day have been credible that human nature could ever have been so far depraved, and the human understanding so greatly darkened, as that they could have taken place.'
Pref. pp. xi. xii. xiii.
We • We shall now offer some extracts, accompanied with observations, which, we hope, will enable our readers to form a faix and correct judgement of the merits of Dr. P's Notes on Scrip. ture.
The Mosaic account of the creation, the Doctor considers as “ a history of appearances;” but though, on that account, drawn up in language adapted to the conceptions of the ancient Israelites, and of mankind in general; he considers it as “communicated by revelation.”
Gen. i. 2. “ What are here called days may mean any periods of time, and even of a long duration, in which many of the changes that are here described, might take place according to the present laws of nature ; though these cannot be any thing more than the particular modes of the DIVINE AGENCY."
The following short note contains more geological truth than is to be found in many pompous works styled Theories of the Earth. The ideas are, indeed, borrowed from Dr. Kirwan, in whose Essays they may be seen more fully elucidated and confirmed. Perhaps, the note would have been still more satisfactory, if it had hinted at the circumstances, in the processes of combination and crystallization, which must have disengaged the immense body of heat supposed. To Dr. P., this fact, and the rationale of it were perfectly familiar ; but the unscientific reader would require some additional information.
V. 10. “ Supposing the whole mass of the earth to be in a fluid state, consisting of all the elements of which it is composed; the operation of the laws of chemical affinity would, in a course of time, form solid masses, in regular concentric strata. After this, subterraneous fires, producing volcanos, would break these strata, some of the fragments being elevated, and others subsiding, with the various degrees of inclination to the horizon which they are now observed to have. Thus, also, the inequalities which make the sea and the dry land would take place, the water occupying the lowest place." · The sentiment of the note on Gen. i. 25, will, to many, be novel, and may appear extraordinary. It manifestly renders more service to the orthodox doctrine of the primitive state of inan and the innoxious qualities of animals, before his fall, than it does to Dr. P.'s hypothesis.
25. “ It is highly probable that the creation of animals took place at different periods ; that of the carnivorous, for example, long after the world was stocked with those of the graminivorous kind. For otherwise if only one pair of each, (as is most probable) was created of the latter kind, those of the former would soon have devoured them, and then bave perished themselves. All birds of prey, fishes, , and many kinds of insects, must, for the same reason, have been created long after that of those on which they prey. If, therefore, creation was a work of time, it is not improbable, as Mr. Kirwan has suggested, that it may have been carried on in periods subsequent to the deluge ; and that America, which has many animals, as well as vegetables, peculiar to itself, may have been supplied with them as particular occasions made their creation seasonable with respect to the whole. This hypothesis is the more pleasing to a pious mind, as it gives us an idea of a constant attention being given by the great creator to the works of his hands, and of his constant agency in them; and likewise serves to make the supposition of occasional miracles not improbable. It also makes the account of the preservation of animals in the ark at the time of the deluge more probable, as there would be fewer to be preserved in it.” pp. 5, 6.
As might be expected, Dr. P. rejects the argument which many Trinitarians have brought from the use of the plural noun Elohim, as the name of Deity, in the writings of Moses and the prophets. There is, however, nothing new in his reasons, which are, that “ the verbs connected with it are singular,” that “ such words are found in most languages,” and that “ no Jew, ancient or modern," had ever “ so understood” the word in question. Let us look a little beneath the surface of these assertions.
That the plural term Elohim is generally used with pronouns and verbs of the singular number, is very certain : and this circumstance is so far from bearing unequivocally in favour of the Pseudo-Unitarian doctrine, that many divines, of cool understanding and sound learning have considered it as no slight intimation of the Trinity of persons in the ONE godhead. But ought not the annotator to have informed his “ unlearned, though liberal and intelligent christian," that “the verbs found agreeing with.” Elohim are not always singular, but that it is repeatedly used in reference to the only true God, in concord with pronouns, adjeca rives, and verbs of the plural number? *
Again;" words of the plural form, but expressing individuality, are found in most languages.” This is true, but it would not be
* Let those, says Mr. Parkhurst, who in these days of Arian and Socinian blasphemy, have any doubt whether onbX, when meaning the true God, Jehovah, be plural or not, consult the following passages, where they will find it joined with adjectives, verbs, and pronouns PLURAL.
Gen, i. 1, 26. iii. 22. xi. 7. xx.. 13. xxxi. 53. xxxv. 7. Deut. iv. 7, 23, or 26. Josh. xxiv, 19. 1 Sam. iv. 8. 2 Sam. vii. 23. Ps. lviii. 12. Isa. vi. 8. Jer. x. 10. xxiii. 36. So Chald. 10788. Dan. iv. 5, 6, 15, or 8, 9, 18. Prov. ix. 10. xxx. 3. Ps, cxlix. 2. Eccles. v.7. xii. 1. Job. v. 1. Isa. vi. 3. liv. 5. Hos. ix. 12, or xii. 1. Mal. i. 6. Dan. vii. 18, 22, 25. See his pamphlet against Dr. Priestley and Mr. Wakefield. p. 3-9. and p. 148; &€.
easy to assign an instance of that kind, in which the subject is not so far of an aggregate form as to include the conception of
,פנים, חיים some kind of plurality
and names of age: so it is with x Tipea, muda, capita, tenebræ, divitiæ, excubia, names of feasts, and of some cities, in Greek and Latin : and so with the English words scissars, tongs, bellows, lungs. When, therefore, we meet with Elohim, or other epithets of deity in a plural form, and with plural, as well as singular, constructions ; when, moreover, we know that the Hebrew language furnishes regular singulars of the same words, and those not obsolete, but in constant and established use; and when we consider that the inspired Hebrew writers, with the full choice before them of a singular or a plural form of the same word, preferred the plural: are there not some grounds for the conclusion that this phraseology had a designed reference to that great and important revealed truth, the doctrine of the Trinity?
Further; the Doctor roundly affirms that " no Jew, ancient or modern, knew any thing of the doctrine of three persons in the Godhead." Let this assertion be at once confronted with a passage taken from the Comment of R. Simeon ben Joachi. “ Come and see the mystery of the word 097778; there are THREE DEGREES, and each degree BY ITSELF ALONE; and yet THEY ARE ALL ONE, and joined together in ONE, and are not divided one from another.” Com. on the 6th sect. of Leviticus. What gloss also would Dr. P. have put upon the following passage from the Jewish book Zohar « Hear, 0 Israel, Jehovah our Elohim is One Jehovah. They must know that these Three are One; and that it is a secret which we learn by the mystery of the voice that is heard : the voice is one, but it contains three modes.” The acknowledgement in this passage is the more remarkable, as the rabbinical work from which it is taken, was written long after the extensive propagation of Christianity, and consequently its author, or authors, doubtless felt the malignant prejudices of modern Jews, against every resemblance to christian doctrines. The Chaldee Paraphrases, and writings of Philo, not having been composed under those guilty prepossessions, contain numerous and striking recognitions of the personality and deity of Memra, the Word, the only begotten Son of God. :
How does this sentence begin? “ Let us make man in QUR image, according to OUR likeness.” Dr. P. hazards the assertion “ That this phrase is equivalent to I will now make man; the writer ascribing to the Divine Being the style of a sovereign prince." Is it possible that an author so well informed as the late learned Doctor, could seriously attribute to the most simple, and certainly the most ancient, of known writers, that style of degenerate arrogance, which did not apB3