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the word of God a factitious fire from the false fervour of a previously heated spirit. The hearts of the inspired penmen, kindled from the altar of Jehovah, dictated “thoughts that “ breathe,” in 6 words that burn;" and are we to feel all fearful and apprehensive, lest we catch the flame, which the communication of these was intended—if any thing was intended by it at all—to excite in our bosoms? Mr. Yates will not deny, that if “the meaning which appears to me grand and “ interesting, and even obvious, may so strike my mind, on“ ly because it falls in with my preconceived opinions," it is possible, that his own preconceived opinions may occasion his being unawed by the grandeur, insensible to the interest, and blind to the obviousness, of that meaning. And, fully satisfied as I am, that the meanings which Mr. Yates and his friends are so anxious to explode, are the source of the purest, the happiest, the most elevated, and the most practical feelings of the renewed soul, even of all those feelings which are peculiarly Christian, I cannot but pity those, who immerse these passages of the Divine word in the freezing mixture of a cold and heartless philosophy, or who play upon them the ether of a refined and spurious criticism, till they have cooled them down to the very zero of infidelity.
Mr. Yates's Chapter on Mysteries appears to me a very mysterious chapter: I mean, it is something difficult to be accounted for, that he should have written it. In the first place, it contains a good deal of matter that is equally irrelevant and common-place:-2dly, It is full of the confounding of things that differ, and of consequent sophistical reasonings : and, lastly, it annuls itself, by containing admissions of all that we want.
I shall endeavour to make good each of these positions.
Ist. The chapter contains a good deal of matter that is equally irrelevant and common-place.
I refer here particularly to all that part of the chapter, in which Mr. • Yates “ explains the use of the term (mystery) in “ the New Testament:" of the whole of which it may well be said, “Who knoweth not such things as these ?”
The word “ Mystery,” says Mr. Yates, is “ there employed “ in a sense widely different from those given to it by mo“ dern Trinitarians.” P. 47. Such language is apt to produce a very false impression on the reader's mind-as if modern Trinitarians, aware that the peculiar acceptation of the term mystery, in the New Testament, was unfavourable to their system, had been disposed to set it aside, and to affix to it, as there used, a more convenient sense. But this is not true. There is no dispute about the ordinary sense of the word quotngiov, in the New Testament. The discussion of this point has not the slightest connexion with the argument; and, although I am far from saying that it has been introduced with that view, yet the only end it can answer, is, to dazzle and mislead the ignorant, by a useless show of learning. The thoughtless and
unwary reader is led to conclude, that Mr. Yates's opponent has intentionally kept out of view the New Testament meaning of Mystery; ~that this meaning must surely be the only right one in a Scripture controversy ;-and, consequently, that according to this meaning only, is it proper or incumbent to be lieve in mysteries. But this is entirely an illusion. There is no debate about the propriety, or the duty, of believing “ things “that were for a time unknown, but are now revealed." The
question is about the belief of mysteries, in the ordinary sense of the term. It is in this sense that the word is used, when Unitarians object to the articles of Trinitarian faith, on the ground of their mysteriousness. The controversy is not about names, but about things. Let the sense of mystery in the New Testament writings be what it may, will the particular use of the term there at all prove, that there actually is nothing in any of the doctrines revealed that is mysterious in the common acceptation of it? Is not the simple matter of inquiry, whether we are called to believe mysteries in this sense of the word, that is, to believe things that are “ difficult to be understood, or incomprehensible ?” If this be the simple state of the question, why perplex the minds of our readers, by a parade of common-place learning about uses of terms that are extraneous to the controversy ?-If I were to be told, that by something which I had said, Mr. Yates had been greatly offended, I should be apt to understand the word offended in its common acceptation, as meaning that my opponent was greatly displeased. Suppose, then, that, instead of humbly considering whether there existed any just ground for his displeasure, I should entertain my informer with a critical disquisition on the meaning of the terms offence and offend, in the New Testament, and insist upon it that Mr. Yates was not, and could not be, offended, unless he had been stumbled, and made to sin; might I not justly be told, “ This is drivelling: “ you know well enough that this is not the sense in which the 56 word was used by me.” I call by the same name all dissertations about terms, when we already know well enough their understood and established meaning on the subject under discussion. The meaning of terms cannot alter the nature of things.
It would be inconsistent with the spirit of these observations, to enter into any examination of what Mr. Yates has written on the New Testament use of the word mystery. I shall therefore dismiss this part of the chapter under review with one remark. “ The mysteries of the Christian religion,” he says,
are the secrets which were unknown to mankind until Jesus “ Christ came to reveal or discover them. But, being reveal66 ed, they are found to be plain and consistent truths, and “ contain nothing which is either difficult to be understood, or “ apparently absurd.” (P. 47.) How will this be made to comport with the declaration of the inspired apostle Peter, respecting the writings of his fellow-apostle Paul, and the other Scriptures ?—Even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given unto him, hath written unto you: As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which * are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction.” +
2dly. This chapter is full of the confounding of things which differ, and of consequent sophistical reasonings.
“ We believe in revelation,” says Mr. Yates, (P. 39.) “ be 66 cause the evidences which show it to be from God, far out
weigh the objections which may be brought to evince its 56 earthly origin. But supposing its doctrines to be irration“ al, this single circumstance would annul the whole body of “ evidence in its favour, and prove that it is not revelation.” The truth of this, as a hypothetical proposition, (which the expression “ supposing its doctrines to be irrational” implies it
* Rather, perhaps,“ among which :” įv ois is the received reading, and the reading preferred by Griesbach, although wis is marked by him in the margin with a strong note of probability. If the received reading be retained, ois cannot agree with imiotoaAUS, but with TOUTW; in which case, it seems more natural to render is, among
+ 2 Pet, iii, 15, 16.
to be), I am not disposed to question. The inquiry, however, immediately suggests itself, How are the doctrines of any pretended revelation to be proved irrational ? It is very manifest, that the reason of any
individual man can never be assumed as the standard of reason for mankind in general, and still less of reason in the abstract.-" The term mystery hath “ a relative sense, and implies a respect to that person's un“ derstanding to whom a thing is mysterious. It will appear “ from hence, that a doctrine is so far to any man mysterious,
as he cannot, or does not, comprehend it. And if a mys6 terious doctrine be therefore false, these consequences will “ follow :-That the knowledge of the most ignorant person 6 is the standard of truth;---that there can be no real dif« ference in men's intellectual attainments ;-and no real pro
gress made in knowledge. For if every mysterious doctrine “ be false, and if every doctrine not comprehended by the “ most ignorant person be to him mysterious ; then every such “ doctrine is false. It follows, that all truth is by him com“prehended, i. e. that his understanding is the measure of “ truth ; that no one man can be really more knowing than “ another; and no man really more knowing at one time than “ another.-So fruitful is one absurdity of many more." * That, then, may be pronounced irrational by a Socinian, which may not appear so to a Trinitarian : who, in this case, is to decide? Could we ourselves construct brain that should concentrate all the individual rationalities of the species, we might then possess an oracular standard of the reason of mankind. Yet, even if we had within the reach of our appeal this extracted essence of all human minds, there might still be articles of
* The Mysteries of the Christian Religion credible-a Sermon preached before the University of Oxford, at St. Mary's, on Sunday, October 21st. 1722. By John Conybeare, M. A. &c.