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OY THE FALLIBILITY OF JESUS.
TO “A Countryman.”
UNWILLING to enter into a contest, to see who can appear
the most crabbed, to your superior ability, in this line, I willingly yield the pre-eminence; and it to this disposition, you continue incorrigibly determined to put doubts and assertions for reasons, without requiring future deprecations of chastisement, I will leave you to your own way, and to the consequences, should you at any time prove to me un. intelligible.
The first passage you quote, to prove that the church has Scripture authority for being called the church of Christ, is Acts xx. 21. “ Feed the church of God which he has purchased with his own blood.” In most manuscripts it is “ feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with the blood of the Christ;” others read, “ feed the church of God which he pure, chased with blood :" and others read, “ with the blood of his own (evidently) son. I think it is Aratas, A. D. 544, reads "feed the church which the Christ purchased.” Various other ways has this passage been found ; and shall a passage which speaks of the blood of God-a disputed passagema passage no where supported by other Scripture evidence, have any weight, when it speaks language contrary to the whole tenor of Scripture, which invariably calls the church the church
Matt. xvi. 18. “On this rock will I build my church.” Your own quotations prove, that this passage does not coun- · tenance you, in calling the Christian church the church of Christ; for, if the Christ is the head, and the church is his body (Col. i. 18), then all Christians are the members of this one body, in the very same sense, that every man's own body belongs to his own head, i. e. both united together are one complete person ; but though this body belongs to this individual head by so close a union, that the individual person is destroyed by the absence of either, yet both when united in one person, may be the property of another person. Thus, though a slave's body belongs to his head, and the head to the body, and to no other head or body, yet hoth united in one person are the ins dividual property of the owner. So is the Christian church considered, and alone called in the New Testament the church of God. Founding, therefore, his church on this declaration of Peter, " thou art the Messiah, the son of the living God," he calls it his; not as being the builder, but as being the
foundation on which it shall be erected, to the glory of God.the Father.
It is certainly not quite correct, when you say “I have brought a charge of fallibility against Jesus." "I made no charge, but only an observation," that Jesus, from temptations, appears to have been a fallible man ;” and the observation appears to me to be scripturally correct. James (i. 13) says, “God cannot be tempted to evil.” Where there cannot be temptations, there cannot be fallibility. Jesus was tempted; he resisted; he conquered; he rose superior to his capability of falling; and therefore, was a conqueror. It follows, that his being capable of being tempted, proves him to have been a fallible man, and not an infallible God.
With you, I believe that Jesus had all power in heaven and in earth; that is, over the ecclesiastical and civil polity of the Jewish kingdom (see Heb. xii. 26–29). I have no objection to extend this power to all nations, and all religions being subjected beneath the footstool of his throne, but if you extend it to the sun, moon, and stars, I shall demand evidence. 'When
observe that if Christ was fallible, he was an improper person to have such a power committed to him, with your assertion you should have given scriptural evidence and argument, otherwise the assertion is very bold; and it would have been kind and instructive on your part, to have here answered that part of my argument which shewed, that though God alone was infallible, yet in their office, “ Jesus, his messengers, and the church, are each and all infallible whilst (and only whilst) they obey an infallible God.” And all the authority of infallibility the true church, the messengers of Jesus, or Jesus himself, lay claim to, is that which is derived from perfect and implicit obedience to Deity.
The words of the officers of the Pharisees, never man spake like this man, cannot have any thing to do with the fallibility or infallibility of Jesus. It is not God who says them, but human beings--men who spake of the manner in which Jesus taught, compared with the public teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees; as your quotation from Matthew proves. These men, like the whole of the Jewish nation, were astonished at the teaching of Jesus, as he taught the people with that authority, which shewed he had a right to instruct; not because he was infallible, but because he taught tliern only the truth he had received from an infallible God.
Adding a few letters to my former initial, I remain, &c. Deconber 3, 1811.
REMARKS ON THE PRECEPTS OF JESUS, WHICH INCULCATE.
TIE FORGIVENESS OF INJURIES: IN REPLY TO MR. BURDON.
To the Editor of the Freethinking Christians' Magazine.
have operated on the mind of Mr. Burdon, for the rejection of Christianity. Independently of his general axiom, that “there never was, nor ever will be, such a thing as a divine revelation," he has gone the length of asserting that the religion of Jesus is not only“ incomplete as a system of inorality," but that it “ contains many precepts totally impracticable and inapplicable to any situation of life, inasmuch as they are contrary to our nature." The precepts, the “ many precepts,
many precepts,” which Mr. Burdon in his first letter thus designated, have since appeared to be those in which Jesus, has impressed upon his followers the necessity of forbearance and forgiveness of injuries--such as love your enemies, resist not evil, &c.
At the same time that Mr. Burdon denies the probability, nay the possibility, of a divine revelation, he will not perhaps carry his scepticism quite so far, as to call in question either the necessity which has existed, or the advantages which would have resulted from such an event, had it by any possible chance bappened to have been in the power of Omnipotence to have brought it about.
From the earliest records of history it is indeed evident, that in almost every age, and under every climate, the human race has been uniformly in want of an instructor, who was capable of directing it to the mansions of virtue, and emancipating it from the dungeons of vice and misery-of extricating the per. secuted from the iron-handed grasp of oppression, and shedding the light of reason on the benighted yictims of error and sue perstition.
The necessity, or the advantages, which would probably result from such interference having been, for the sake of argument, allowed, let us next enquire what are the evils which, from their magnitude and ill consequences to mankind, would principally be supposed to draw the attention of a messenger of the Most High ; and what the means, which would most probably be recommended, or could most effectually be employed for their extinction.
First, then, let it be asked, whether there exists a principle more pregnant with mischief, or which has brought a greater degree of misery on individuals, and society at large, than has been produced by a spirit of revenge, and a desire of retalia
tion for instances of real or supposed “ insult, injury, and injustice."
Now whether we consider this passion, or principle, in the bosom of him who feels it, or the fate of him who is the victim of its fury,--whether we regard it in its causes, or pursue it in its consequences-it must appear to every resecting mind as a sentiment equally despicable and dangerous--a feeling totally destructive of human happiness, and a virtue of which demons might be proud. Nor is it more the nature, than the extent of the evil which is here to be dreaded this is no crime of rare occurrence, which, affecting the fortunes, the happiness, or the life of a solitary individual, may be suffered to continue unchecked without materially depreciating the general happiness of mankind; but it is a passion which appears to be the native of every buman breast, and to whose direful consequences every individual is without exception exposed. Such is revenge ! such are the circumstances attendant on that system of retaliation, and such the natural consequences of that spirit of resentment, which the world has been, and still continues to be, in the habit of indulging. The evil is indeed dreadful in its extent, and alarming in its nature : let us hear the reinedy prescribed by Jesus—the means which he advised for its alleviation, or the method which he has commanded for its extinction.
“If (says he) a man strike you on the one cheek, turn to him the other also.”—That this is no more than a figurative and highly beautiful mode of expressing the propriety of resignation and forgiveness of injuries, it is unnecessary for me to observe; it would indeed be an insult to the understanding of Mr. B.and your other readers, to suspect them of entertaining a contrary opinion. And, considered in this point of view, so far from operating to the increase of insults, and serving as the means of inviting a continuation of injuries, it must necessarily have a directly opposite effect; for who does not see, that by this means, the evil is effectually arrested in its progress--nay, crushed at its birth, nipped as it were in the very bud? one link of the rever-ending chain of retaliation is bros ken-one number in the infinite series is destroyed, and the remainder falls innoxious and unnoticed to the earth.
To this it may be, perhaps, replied, that the propriety of a spirit of revenge, and a desire of retaliation, was never designed to be contended for ; the precepts of Jesus being stigmatized as inperfect and impracticable, not because they opposed such evil propensities, but because they tended to generate a spirit of “ meanness" and "servility," and to expose their professors to the “ insults, injuries, and injustice" of mankind ; let us there'fore, for a moment, examine this part of the subject. And first, I would observe that it has been frequently, and with great appearance of justice, remarked, that in most religious contro.
versies, the charge of partiality has been as often deserved by the sceptic as by the enthusiast, and that bigotry has by no means been confined to the believer. How else, indeed, were not this the case, could we account for Mr. Burdon's depre. cating, as mean and contemptible in the Christian, that very line of conduct, which the whole world, and doubtless himself among the number, has joined to admire in the heathen, the hero, and the man of the world: To pardon the injuries and forget the insults, to pity tbe vindictive feelings, and rise superior to the unfounded resentments of our mistaken fellow-creatures, has ever been deemed the height of virtue, and the very acmé of magnanimous feeling. That it should be even yet more admired than it has been, it is only necessary that the practice should be more generally diffused, and the principle more frequently acted upon. To obtain, however, the admiration of such minds as Mr. Burdon's, it seems equally and indeed indispensably necessary, that those examples should not occur within the pale of the church, or that they should be derived from other principles of conduct than those contained in the “imperfect and inapplicable" precepts of Jesus. For, though they may admire as virtuous and magnanimous, the declaration ofone of our sovereigns( Elizabeth)who,on ascending the throne, declared that the insults offered to the princess, were unwor. thy the remembrance of the queen; yet would they consider as unworthy and contemptible the conduct of the individual, who, mounting the throne of reason to a dominion over himself and his passions, should declare that the injuries committed against the man, were un'worthy the resentment of the philosopher and the Christian.
And should too the plainness of these strictures draw on me the displeasure of Mr. Burdon, and subject me to the punishment of a reply, low, Sir, might I naturally expect to extricate myselffrom so dangerous and distressing a dilemma? Struck by him on the one chcek, 1 should but expose wyself, the object of his contempt and derision, were I to act up to the precepts of Jesus, and turn the other also; whereas, I might not 'only appeal with a probable degree of success to his forbearance, but even hope to lay claim to his admiration, if I addressed hiin with the somewhat similar sentiment of the hero of antiquity“Strike ! but hear me." The reason of this distinction is obyi. ous—Themistocles was not a Christian.
Spite, however, of the preference which is thus so frequently given to the examples of heathen magnanimity, over the precepts of Christian forbearance, I think that in reality they are (if' the expression may be allowed) infinitely inferior. In the first we see indeed the wild exuberations of, perhaps, a generous and exalted character; but, in the last we behold the admi. rably constructed principles of an enlightened and ameliorating