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other men," and that his prophetic office, miracles, and resurrection, do not necessarily imply his superiori y of nature, “ it follows, that in this inquiry the whole burden of proof lies upon those who assert the pre-existence, the original dignity, and the divinity of Jesus Christ.” The Unitarian finds nothing more in the Scriptures than what all acknowledge to be there others imagine that much more is to be found it is their business to bring forward their proofs : we establish our own doctrine, if we only shew those alleged proofs to be insufficient.
“ In this controversy, therefore,” continues Mr. B., “ the proper province of the Arian and Trinitarian is to propose the evidence of their respective bypotheses; that is, to state those passages of Scripture which they conceive to be conclusive in favour of their doctrines. The sole concern of the Unitarian is, to shew that these arguments are inconclusive."'-(Calm Inquiry, p. 2.)
It would hardly seem possible to extract from these words any other meaning than that the Unitarian, himself fully convinced that his own is the doctrine of Scripture, will have done every thing required for convincing his opponents when he has shewn the inconclusiveness of the texts brought forward by them, since by general confession what remains, after the peculiar evidence for reputed orthodoxy is taken away, is Unitarianism. Yet upon this observation, perfectly just as a logical position, and, one might have thought, altogether inoffensive in its mode of expression, Dr. Smith has the following remarks :
« This might be proper, if controvertists had no love to truth, nor sense of its value; if they were theological prize-fighters, who cared for nothing but victory or the semblance of victory. But ill do such expressions comport with the mind and motives of a sincere and serious and calm inquirer after an object so momentous as SACRED AND ETERNAL TRUTH. To obtain that object ought to be the sole concern of Unitarians, and of all other men ; and it solemnly behoves those who are pleased with this consequential flippancy of assertion, to examine well the state of their own hearts before him who will not be mocked."
It is a strange misapprehension of Mr. B.'s meaning, which has given occasion to this vituperative language. We need not point out the dispositions to which the error may be traced.
Another very important caution of Mr. B., which has also excited Dr. Smith's wrath, is the following:
“ Impartial and sincere inquirers after truth must be particularly upon their guard against what is called the natural signification of words and phrases. The connexion between words and ideas is perfectly arbitrary : so that the natural sense of any word to any person means nothing more than the sense in which he has been accustomed to understand it. But it is very possible that men who lived two thousand years ago might annex very different ideas to the same words and phrases; so that the sense which appears most foreign to us might be most natural to them.”
“If,” says Dr. S., “ the Calm Inquirer means only to assert that the interpretation of a language must proceed on an enlightened acquaintance with its idioms, he has said no more than a school-boy knows and practises every day. But it is doing no service to the improvement of reason or the investigation of truth to represent the phrases natural signification,' and 'natural sense,' as if they were properly or usually applied to the bald and blundering methods of translation, which betray those who use them to be ignorant of the principles of language. I am greatly mistaken if the established use of those expressions, with correct speakers, is not to denote that sense of a word or phrase which it would carry, at the time, and under all the circumstances, in the minds of the persons to whom it was originally addressed."
The author goes on to shew that the connexion between words and ideas depends on the laws of association, and that we are possessed of means by which a moral certainty may be attained as to the true meaning of words and phrases in ancient writings, all which is in perfect agreement with Mr. B.'s principles : indeed, it is acknowledged in a note “ that the Calm Inquirer has, in another of his observations, recognized the principal rules of interpretation.”
Mr. B. warns the impartial inquirer against " what is called the natural signification of words and phrases.”
We read the Bible daily from childhood upwards, and it may be hoped that we do not read it without attaching some meaning to the words. The sense in which we first take its various parts must either be that which is suggested by parents and instructors, or that which occurs to ourselves at a time when neither our knowledge nor judgment is much to be relied upon. This sense is by frequent perusal strongly associated with the words and phrases, and immediately occurs to us as belonging to them whenever we consider them; it is what is called their natural sense, and is in general, to a great degree, the sense ascribed to them by those amongst whom we live : but if we are serious inquirers after divine truth, we shall examine and correct it by a faithful application of the just principles of interpretation, which will often shew us that the sense which seemed natural to us, has little pretensions to be accounted the true one. Now, there is nothing more common than to object to the best-founded and most valuable explanations of Scripture, that they are unnatural, that they give to the words a forced and unnatural sense, when nothing is really intended but that they are not familiar to us, and are opposed to our established associations. Dr. S. must, on reflection, be well aware that feelings of this kind are among the most formidable obstacles to the right understanding of Scripture, and he will hardly say that they do not furnish the most common answers to Unitarian expositions of Scripture: he certainly will not maintain that an answer founded on them is sufficient : let him then be ashamed of his angry declamation, and acknowledge that the Calm Inquirer's remark is neither " a mere truism," nor “ a denial of all certainty in philological studies," but a useful practical caution of which most readers who are not critical scholars, and not a few who are, stand greatly in need.
Dr. S, is greatly scandalized at the expression, “ the incarceration of the Creator of the world in the body of a helpless, puling infant,” employed by Mr. B. in describing the orthodox doctrine. We do not wish to defend any thing which needlessly burts the feelings of others, but as Dr. S. talks of misrepresentation, we must remind him that the language is justified by that seriously used by very orthodox writers. What is to be thought of the following language from Bacon?
“ The Christian believes a Virgin to be the mother of a Son; and that very Son of hers her Maker. He believes him to have been shut up in a narrvio cell, whom heaven and earth could not contain. He believes hiin to have been born in time, who was and is from eternity. He believes him to have been a weak child and carried in arms, who is Almighty; and him once to have died, who alone has life and immortality."
When such is the language of orthodox piety, the Unitarian may surely be excused some little strength of expression on the subject.
Dr. S. concludes his observations on Mr. B.'s introduction, and with them the first great division of his work, in these words :
“ It would have been no disparagement to the writer of the Calm Inquiry, had he urged the duty of cherishing impartiality, sincerity, and the love of truth, by the means of assiduous PRAYER to the Author of truth, a recollection of our amenableness to his tribunal, and a holy state of our mental feelings, in reference to his presence and perfections. Without these moral cautions, can it be expected that our inquiries will be really impartial or will terminate successfully? The principles of human nature and the righteousness of the Divine government equally forbid the expectation. Happy will those be who realize the devotion and faith of him who said, “ With THEE is the fountain of life; in the light we shall see light !' But on such subjects the Calm Inquiry observes the silence of death."
Mr. B. recommends impartiality, and the sincere, disinterested love of truth; he does not enter on the means of attaining and cultivating these qualities, because those means are not unknown or much disputed: he was writing a controversial, not a practical work, and he meant to confine himself to one volume of moderate size, where he could not, like Dr. S., give 200 pages to introductory considerations. Nothing can be found in his book unfavourable to habits of devotion or feelings of piety. The impartiality which he recommends - the love of truth, without regard to external advantages, sensual pleasures, or the gratification of ambition and vanity—is itself a holy state of the mental feelings, and it is hard to reproach him with the silence of death when he speaks learnedly and ably on the subject he undertakes to discuss, because he does not digress into a practical treatise on devotion and faith. Sincere devotion, and prayer, its noblest exercise and best excitement, are most valuable means of producing the dispositions which aid us in the search for truth; but it must be remembered, that there is a sort of prayer often employed in what is called religious inquiry, which is no more than a mustering of fears and prejudices against the admission of any new light, or an attempt to overpower the resistance of reason to popular opinions by an accumulation of distempered and enthusiastic feelings. There are many also who pray indeed for help from God in the understanding of his word, but, entertaining the unfounded expectation of that help being afforded in the form of immediate and supernatural assistance, instead of improving by their pious exercises in the humble and diligent application of the means of knowledge, are puffed up with a vain conceit of their infallibility, and led to ascribe to their own crudest conceptions the authority of divine communication. As these are faults into which those who agree with Dr. S. are peculiarly apt to fall, we have at least as good reason for wondering that he did not guard against such common and dangerous abuses of what he justly recommends, as he had for reproaching Mr. B. with his silence on a subject which his plan did not oblige him to introduce.
We have been able to notice but a few of the more important passages in that portion of Dr. Smith's work which has now engaged our attention. There is hardly a page in which something does not call for animadversion, and there are some subjects of very high interest, as the Unitarian views of the perfections of God, and the inspiration of the Scriptures, which demand distinct essays to do them any jusiice. We hope, however, that what we have done may be sufficient to make known the true character of what is represented as a formidable atiаck on our opinions, to expose the treatment which Mr. Belsbam has received from one who would willingly be thought
a candid adversary, and to repel some charges which, though glaringly, Lire VOL. V Á
incim, Eiche stai, hre
false, may be said to be admitted, because Unitarians have not thought it needful to give them a distinct denial--because, in short, no one has yet undertaken the labour of a reply, which must occupy at least three volumes, and when finished, might probably be neglected-by our friends, because they are already fully satisfied—by our opponents, because very few of them desire to know any thing of our side of the question,
ON DIVINE JUSTICE.
Θεος δε ου τιμωρείται εςι γαρ η τιμωρια κακα ανταποδοσις-κολαζει μενται προς το χρησιμον και κοινη και ιδια της κολαζομενες.
IN p. 66 of Bishop Butler's Analogy, I find the following words: “ Some men seem to think the sole character of the Author of Nature to be that of simple, absolute benevolence. And supposing this to be the only character of God, veracity and justice in him would be nothing but benevolence conducted by wisdom. Now, surely this ought not to be asserted unless it can be proved, for we should speak with cautious reverence upon such a subject.” I quite agree with this able and excellent author that we ought to treat the question with cautious reverence. But upon the first view of the subject, it is manifest that not less temerity would be shewn by affirming that justice and veracity in God are independent of benevolence, than by affirming that they are included in it. And that they are included in it, several considerations may be brought forward to shew; while, for the contrary proposition, no probable argument can be advanced. I shall confine my remarks to the attribute of justice. If justice, then, in God be not a modification of benevolence, it is not analogous to that principle which we otherwise denominale justice, and it is in vain for us to reason concerning it. Justice in man, or that to which alone we give the name of justice, is evi. dently a branch of general benevolence, and even when it assumes its severest form, and is employed in awarding the punishment of guilt, it has a view to nothing but utility ; and, however it may miss of its object from a defect of wisdom, the object itself is always what benevolence approves, or rather what benevolence suggests. If punishment were inflicted with any other view than that of doing good either to the offender or to others, we should no longer consider justice as the principle which ordained such infliction, but should refer it without hesitation to the wantonness of cruelty or the maliguity of revenge. To say, then, that justice in God may be altogether distinct from benevolence, is only to say that justice in God may not be justice; and to affirm that it is distinct from benevolence, would be to affirm that there is no attribute in the Divine Nature to which the term justice can with propriety be applied.
But it will be said that there is something in moral evil which calls for suffering as its consequence, without any regard to utility, and that Divine Justice is the principle by which this suffering is inflicted. On the concluding remark of this proposition, I need scarcely observe, that it is a mere abuse of language to call ihat justice which is supposed to do what justice never does. But the proposition that there is a demerit in vice which calls' for suffering, even though the suffering should be in every sense useless, pre-. sents a fair subject of inquiry. Do we then perceive any thing in vice, considered in itself, which makes it necessary that pain should follow it, eren though this pain should be useless both to the sufferer and to others? It is in vain to reply, that, according to the constitution of nature, suffering is the consequence of vice, and therefore that to suppose the fact to be different from what it is, is to suppose an impossibility. That guilt and pain are connected by a law of nature, is admitted. But the present inquiry is, whether we see any reason, exclusive of utility, why they should be thus connected. And I conceive that we do not. For the sake of brevity I shall occasionally use the term punishment for suffering by which neither the sufferer himself nor others would be benefited. Will it, then, be said, that the fitness of things requires that punishment should follow guilt? To speak of the fitness of things, without stating to what that fitness relates, is only to employ words instead of ideas, and to use a relative term as though it had an absolute sense. And granting all that has been said respecting the fitness of things, the question may still be asked, do we see that the fitness of things demands what it is now supposed to require ? Perhaps it may be alleged that the human mind intuitively perceives that guilt ought to be followed by punishment. For other minds I cannot answer, but I have pot this intuitive perception. I can, indeed, perceive clearly enough that punishment which shall be productive of good may be inflicted from a principle of benevolence, but beyond this I perceive nothing. But vice or sin, considered as an offence against the perfect law of God, may justly be visited with what has been termed vindictive punishment. I answer, that the perfection of the divine law, when considered, as it ought to be, in connexion with the frailty of man, does not appear to supply a reason for the infiction of punishment which should do no good; and that the perfection of the Divine character forbids the supposition that such punishment will be inflicted. But the honour of the Divine government, it may perhaps be said, requires that guilt should be followed by punishment. When it shall be shewn that the honour of the Divine government consists in something distinct from the good of the creation, this proposition will deserve to be considered. In the mean time it is sufficient to ask, how the honour of any government can be sustained by punishments which should have no beneficial influence on the subjects of this government. But does not the ordinary language of mankind seem to be founded on the supposition that guilt deserves punishment for its own sake? Do we not say of an atrocious criminal, a brutal murderer for example, that he deserves to suffer something worse than death? In reply, I observe, first, that the indignation which we feel at certain crimes, though a useful principle in our constitution, may sometimes mislead our judgment; secondly, that the ideas of guilt and punishment are so closely associated in our minds that we are apt to overlook the link by which the things themselves are connected ; thirdly, that were we to analyze our ideas when we use the above language, we should ind our meaning to be, that while death is the legal punishment for lighter offences, the atrocious criminal, if punished according to the enormity of his crime, might justly experience a severer doom. But let us be convinced that no good whatever would follow this severer punishment, and we should immediately acknowledge that to inflict it would only be to add one evil to another.