« 上一頁繼續 »
Christian system. I have already had occasion to observe, that the four evangelists are wholly silent on the subject of such doctrines ;-that, far from countenancing them, they, on the contrary, uniformly represent Jesus Christ as one of the human race, only distinguished from the rest by prophetic gifts and miraculous powers;—that where they have been supposed to hold a different language, it has arisen from taking literally what ought to be understood metaphorically, or from judging by the mere sound of words, without regard to sense or connexion. The same observation is suggested by the history which is just closed, where the apostles and first preachers speak of their Master as of a man, “proved to be from God by signs and wonders which God wrought by him." and mention no other terms of acceptance with God than those of fearing him and working righteousness. The obvious conclusion hence is, that these doctrines form no part of the Christian system; since it is impossible to suppose that writers, whose professed object is to give an account of the principles as well as the actions of Christ and his apostles, should omit to mention what is deemed so important a part of their commission. That the essential doctrines of Christianity should be found only in the epistles is in the highest degree improbable, and if true, would be no small reflection upon the character of the evangelists.
2. I observe, that Christianity loses nothing of its practical efficacy or value by the absence of these doctrines. The great principles of piety and morality remain unimpaired: it still enjoins, with irresistible authority, industry, temperance, and chastity, with respect to ourselves; justice, truth, and benevolence, in regard to others; humble reverence and cheerful submission, in regard to God. It raises man to the most exalted virtue, and supplies him with the purest enjoyment. This I have endeavoured to show by the reflections which have been suggested, throughout the course of the employment in which I have been engaged. But the tendency of pure Christianity to produce these effects is much more happily illustrated by the lives and characters of the first disciples, than by any thing which can be said upon this subject. Here we see the conclusions of reason verified by experience. In the book of Acts, in particular, we behold the noblest acts of fortitude and benevolence performed by those who had nothing to support or animate them, but the belief of a doctrine which represented Christ in no higher view than one of the human race. If the same faith produces not the same effects at the present day, the cause is to be sought for in men, and not in their principles.
3. This exposition is sufficient to show, I apprehend, the propriety of a new translation of the New Testament. To the general fidelity of the present version, I have more than once borne my testimony. But it is easy to show, that it has many inaccuracies and errors, which render it but an imperfect transcript of the original. It is highly desirable, that a more complete version should be made from the Greek language, after the original itself has been corrected by the assistance of various manuscripts and versions; for there is no reason why we should be satisfied with secondary excellence, when we are capable of attaining the first. This opinion is entertained by persons of the highest eminence for judgment and learning, both in the established church, and among protestant dissenters, who have expressed a wish that a new version should be made by the joint labours of several learned men. I hope that the time is not far distant, when these wishes will be accomplished. In the mean time, it will be proper for Christians, who desire to understand the Scriptures, to avail themselves of such translations as have been produced by the industry of private individuals. In this view I will recommend to your perusal the translation of the New Testament, by Mr. Wakefield, as excelling in perspicuity and accuracy any which has yet appeared in our language.*
* At the time when this sentence was written, the excellent version of the late Archbishop Newcome had not appeared.-Editor.
END OF THE EXPOSITION.
As the author of this Exposition adopted Dr. Priestley's opinion respecting the duration of our Lord's ministry and the succession of its events, it has been judged proper to exhibit the Chronology of the Gospels according to that writer's scheme. See his Greek Harmony.
N. B. The days distinguished by an asterisk are Jewish Sabbaths.
Before the Passover, Jesus had passed forty days in
the wilderness; had preached in Judæa, and
The precise time of his baptism is not known. .. .. .. .. " "
Matt. iii. iv. 1-11. Marki. 1–13.
Luke iii. iv. 1–13. John i. 19- ji. 1-12.