图书图片
PDF
ePub

The fountain of bitter waters wasteth continually. When it shall be dried up, I will break mine urn.”

* And my lyre,” said his sister; “ shall it not be hushed by mightier music from on high ?”

“ Nay, my sister, not then, nor ever. No mightier music sball make men cease to love thine. They shall gather together to hear thee in their cities, and shall seek thee in wildernesses and by the sea-shore. The aged sball hear thee chaunt among the tombs, and the young shall dance unto thy Jay. Unto the simple shall thy melodies breathe from amidst the flowers of the meadows; and the wise shall they entrance as they go to and fro among the stars."

Then the messenger sighed, saying,
“ When shall these things be ?"

“When thou art queen among men. Knowest thou not that such is thy destiny? Thou art now our messenger, but we shall at length be thy servants. Yea, when yonder sun shall wander away into the depths, and the earth shall melt like the morning cloud, it shall be thine to lead the myriads of thy people to the threshold whence the armies of heaven come forth. It shall be thine to open to them the portals which I may not pass."

CONFESSIONS OF A MEMBER OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND.*

In the perusal of this work we have received no ordinary gratification. W batever conclusion the writer had come to respecting the doctrine which be has subjected to examination, that of the Trinity, we could not have been otherwise than pleased at the spirit in which the book is written. Throughout there prevails an attachment to truth, a deep interest in divine things, a deference to the authority of Scripture, and a rejection of every other test of revealed doctrine; a patience of inquiry, a candour of judgment, and a sense of responsibility, which bespeak the piety of the writer, secure the favourable regards of the reader, and point the work out as a model of controversial writing. But, believing as we do, that of all the corruptions of Christianity, the doctrine of the Trinity is, with the exception of Transubstantiation, the greatest, we feel our gratification enhanced that the long and serious and disinterested inquiries of Mr. Shaw have led him to renounce Athanasius, and to cleave to Jesus Christ.

There are passages in the book in which, as we think, error is mingled with truth. On some occasions we like the conclusion better than the premises whence Mr. Shaw deduces it. But these and other things we pass over, at least at present. The only object we have now in view is, to lay before the reader the process through which the confessor's mind has gone, and the state in which it now is.

“I am a member of the Church of England-because, take it for all in all, I believe it to be the best church of the present day. I am, however, of Williain Law's opinion, that the purest church now existing is only the vestige of a

. The Confessions of a Member of the Church of England, occasioned by a Laborious Examination of the celebrated Work of the late Rev. W. Jones, entitled, 64 The Catholic Doctrine of a Trinity," and also au Essay on Socinianism. Lune don, Marsh and Miller.

better thing. Still, it is natural to a person of a serious turn of mind to wish that he might rightly understand and entirely believe every important article of doctrine professed by the church of which he is a member: it was decidedly the case with me. I had been in the habit of reading the Holy Scriptures the greater part of my life, and I seldom opened the book without meeting some passages which appeared to me to be directly opposed to the doctrine of the Trinity, in the way in which that doctrine is set forth in the Athanasian and Nicene Creeds. This was a cause of grief to me for many years. I eagerly read every book I could meet with written in defence of These creeds, and most scrupulously shunned the uritings of those who controverted them. In the course of my researches I sometimes met with arguments managed with such address and ability as made a strong impression on my mind in favour of the doctrine; but on my return to the Bible these impressions were instantly effuced. For one text or erpression from which the doctrine could in any possible way be inferred, I met with tеn which, in my humble judgment, pointedly and unequivocully denied it. I was at length informed that the Rev. Mr. Jones, of Nayland, had published a work which set the matter at rest; that he had incontrovertibly proved the doctrine to be scriptural. I immediately procured his · Catholic Doctrine of a Trinity,' and read it with attention. It did not appear to me to be by any means satisfactory : I could not but suspect that he dealt unfairly with the Holy Scriptures. I resolved to take the first convenient opportunity of setting about a minute examination of every text he had quoted, and every argument he had advanced. I foresaw that this would be a laborious task, requiring much time, and as far as possible an abstraction from every other pursuit. Many years passed over before I found a fit opportunity for the undertaking : it was not till the winter of 1825, when confined by ill-health, that I commenced my task. I considered the matter to be of so much importance to my own peace of inind, that for more than two years it was principally, I may almost say exclusively, the subject of my meditations, and the object of my inquiry. I made the Scriptures my guide, and wholly unassisted (excepting only by the comments of writers deemed orthodox) I laboured through the work. No one can hesitate to give Mr. Jones the credit of sincerity and good intentions; yet I cannot but think he has injured rather than supported his cause. This appeared to me so obviously the case, that when I had gone through bis work I doubted if it were proper to give my Confessions in the form of a review of it; for it might be said that the doctrine must not be condemned because it had been injudiciously stated and weakly defended by Mr. Jones. But on further con. sideration, as the book has strangely obtained a considerable degree of celebrity, and, moreover, as it afforded me the opportunity of bringing forward a powerful body of scriptural evidence, I thought it might as well remain in that forin. That the sentiments of an individual, who has no pretensions to the character of a man of learniny, will be considered only contemptible by writers esteemed orthodox, may be fully expected at the present time; yet I confidently predict that before hulf a century passes over, the doctrine stated in these pages will be generally, if not unanimously, confessed throughout the kingdom. It may fairly be asked, upon what grounds I hazard so bold a prediction? In the first place, a surprising expansion of the human intellect within the last thirty years (especially in our own country) has been noticed by every discerning person. Men are beginning to emancipate their minds from the trammels imposed upon them by great names, and are disposed to compare authorities, and to judge for themselves. Secondly, though we have frequent proof of great depravity and impiety among the very ignorant classes, Christianity is more seriously and more generally inquired into by the better informed part than it has hitherto been ; we may, therefore, hope for a rapid progress in true Christian knowledge. Thirdly, the (reek language is now more generally studied than it had bech in former times. This is very important; for it has been admitted by many orthodox divines, that our present translation of the New Testament (though probably the best extant) is incor

rect in several places, and not a few of the inaccuracies will be found to affect the awful subject I bave ventured to discuss. Lastly, I feel perfectly satisfied that the doctrine here stated is that which was taught by our blessed Lord and bis apostles.”

Mr. Shaw then proceeds to examine the passages adduced by Mr. Jones in proof of the Deity of Christ. In the course of his remarks, he very properly reprobates as mischievous the practice (which Mr. Jones and some other writers constantly adopt) of bringing detached sentences from distant parts of the Scripture and joining them together : the most absurd doctrines may appear to be proved by it; and the Bible is brought into contempt by frequently making it seem to contradict itself. Of this mode of imagined proof, ibe following, amongst others, is one on which Mr. Shaw animadverts.

Isaiab li. 11, compared with 2 Pet. jii. 18: “ 1, even I, am the Lord, and besides me there is no Saviour.” “ Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."

The words Lord and Saviour occur in both of these texts. In the first, they are applied to the Father, and in the second, to the Son, and therefore Mr. Jones conceives that the doctrine of co-equality is established. “ Jesus Christ is a Saviour, therefore he is Jehovah the Lord : Jesus Christ is Jehovah, therefore he is the Saviour.” On this Mr. Sbaw observes,

“ If we follow Mr. Jones's system, we shall need to be extremely circumspect in our mode of expression. No orthodox writer would deny that Jehovah is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet if we say Jehovah is Christ, and Christ is Jehovah, it is orthodox; but if we say the Father is the Son, and the Son is the Father, which is in truth the very same, it is heresy and nonsense.

“ The two texts quoted by Mr. Jones are easily understood, if we read them in simplicity ; but his notions make the Bible unintelligible. The Almighty Father is declared to be the Creator of the world, yet it is said that the world was made by Christ. Again, the Father hath said, “Thou shalt know that I, the Lord, am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer.' Yet of Christ it is said, that he is the Saviour of the world, and that he hath redeemed us to God by bis blood.' Both originated in the power and love of God, and were accomplisbed through the ministration of his ever-blessed Son.

“ It is distressing to find a man of Mr. Jones's learning and piety closing his comments upon these two texts with a garbled and misapplied quotation from Phil. ii. 9. The text, if he had quoted fairly, would have been decidedly against bim, for it runs thus:- Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name, which is above every name. The Apostle conclades with these words, “That every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.' How either eo.equality or underived power can be proved from this passage is to me inconceivable.”

Most frequent are the complaints which Mr. Shaw has to make of the manner in which Mr. Jones wrests the Scriptures to his purpose,

“ The manner in which Mr. Jones uses the Holy Scriptures, makes it a distressing task to follow him through his arguments," "He continually perplexes himself and his readers with incomplete or unfair quotations."

The following contains an important truth : “ We seldom meet with a text in the Bible which seems to give any countenance to this doctrine of the co-equality of our Lord with the Almighty Fatber, but is preceded or immediately followed by a plain denial of it.”

Confessions of a Member of the Church of England. We had thought the day for talking about the blood of God was passed. It seems not.

“ The manner in which this doctrine of the co-equality or identity (for it often amounts to the latter) of the Father and the Son is frequently stated, cannot but be greatly injurious to Christianity. Mr. Jones, in the conclusion of his work, speaking of our Lord, says, “Though he suffered, died, and was pierced upon the cross, and redeemed us by his blood, yet that blood was the blood of God, and upon his cross Jehovah was pierced. Can it be a matter of wonder that we have Deists among us?”

At the conclusion of his examination, Mr. Shaw remarks, • “I have now gone through the first head of Mr. Jones's work, and truly I have found it a distressing task ; for the manner in which he has inade use of the Holy Scriptures, and the method of his reasoning, compelled me to meet Juim with arguments which seemed as if I were labouring to lower the dignity of our blessed Lord. Far be it from my heart to conceive a thought deroga. tory to the character of that ever-blessed Being, through whose intinite ine. ‘rits, sufferings, and intercession, I entirely look with humble hope for the forgiveness of my sins, and for acceptance at the awful day of account. Yet I dare not confess my assent to the doctrine which pronounces the equality of the Son with the Almighty Father, because our Lord himself, as well as bis Apostles, have repeatedly, and in the most clear and express terins, taught a different doctrine."

In reference to the third person in the Trinity, Mr. Shaw observes,

“I searched the Scriptures many years for a proof of this (the Spirit's) personality, and that, too, with an earnest desire to discover it; but without success. My researches, though aided by orthodox commentators, have led me to believe that the notion is erroneous.”

On the baptismal form in Matt. xxviii. 19, Mr. Shaw says,

“ This is certainly the strongest, I believe I may say the only genuine, text that can be fairly advanced in defence of the doctrine of a Trinity of persons. If our Lord had added the words, “Three persons and one God, as does our Church, I should bow with perfect submission, though in opposition to so many other texts. Long, very loug, did this passage dwell with me, though I continually met with passages in the Bible which seemed to be directly opposed to the use that is made of it. What can a poor, frail mortal, conscious of his lack of wisdom, do, but carefully to examine the word of God, to compare one part with another, to meditate deeply upon it with an earnest desire to arrive at the truth, and to implore the Father of lights to guide him by his Holy Spirit in the inquiry? This method I have endeavoured for many years most anxiously and devoutly to pursue: the result has been a clear conviction, that the words in the text were not intended to be an initiation into the doctrine of a Trinity of persons in the Godhead”

Mr. Shaw is not led to reject the doctrine of the Trinity from the teachings of his reason, but because it wants, to his mind, scriptural evidence,

“ I again declare, that if the Athanasian doctrine were clearly set forth in any part of the Holy Scriptures, I would not allow my reason to have any influence over my faith; I would receive it as a truth, which it would be presumptuous to investigate too curiously with the limited powers of the human intellect; but I conceive I have shewn that it is denied in those Scriptures. and therefore I dare not confess it upon human authority."

The change of which Mr. Shaw spoke in the commencement of bis Confessions, from a corrupt to a pure form of Christianity, seems to be making progress even in the Church.

I am satisfied that an immense majority of the laity, especially of the educated part, and I have reason to believe not a few even of the clergy, most heartily regret the admission of any other creed into the Liturgy of our Church than that called the Apostles'--the great antiquity of which is universally acknowledged."

Again, “ From many conversations which have occasionally passed in my hearing, I am persuaded that nine in ten of the educated part of the laity look upon the Athanasian Creed just as men of education in the Romish religion do upon Transubstantiation that is, as a gross absurdity. The clergy are not avrare how widely this kind of scepticisin prevails at the present day. The truth is, that this Athanasian Creed is a canker-worm, gnawing the vitals of Christianity."

What a relief of mind must Mr. Shaw have felt in becoming a believer in the scriptural doctrine of one God the Father !

" I would ask any candid man this simple question, Supposing that he had never beard of this doctrine (the Trinity), could he have discovered it in the Bible? For myself I can confidently say, that I might have devoted my whole life to the study of that blessed book without ever making the discovery. I know not how the ininds of other persons may be affected in their religious exercises; but, speaking from my own experience, I declare, that during several years while I endeavoured to bring my inind into assent with the doc. trine confessed in the Athanasian Creed, I felt an inexpressible unhappiness and distraction. All the ingenious arguments I heard or read failed of afford. ing me complete satisfaction, especially when I turned to the Bible. But nore, when I endeavour to raise my soul to the Father of mercies through the mediation of his beloved Son, I feel a confort and ease of conscience that were strangers to me in the former case."

Though fully convinced of the unscripturalness of the Trinity, the writer has not closed his mind to fresh evidence.

“Having now delivered my sentiments, I avow myself open to conviction, if it can be shewn from the Holy Scriptures that I have erred; but I enter my protest against any other kind of authority.”

He ihus terminates his strictures on the Trinity :

“ I now conclude by quoting a passage from the serion of that pious prelate, Bishop Taylor-' He who goes about to speak of the mystery of the Trinity, and does it by words and names of man's invention; talking of essences and existences, hypostases and personalities, priority in co-equalities, and unity in pluralities, may amuse himself, and build a tabernacle in his head, and talk something, be knows not what : but the good man who feels the power of the Father, and to whom the Son is become wisdom, sanctification, and redemption, in whose heart the love of the spirit of God is shed abroad ; tbis man, though he understands nothing of what is unintelligible, yet be alone truly understands the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Is it possible for the pen or tongue of man to express a more severe censure upon the Athanasian Creed ? To Bishop Taylor's Trinity I would subscribe with all my heart ; but I do not scruple to affirm, that the kind of Trinity described in this men-mocking creed is altogether unsupported by the Holy Seriptures."

To the Confessions is appended an Essay on Socinianism. On this we shall content ourselves by remarking, that Mr. Shaw has written without a

« 上一页继续 »