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tinction has been often pointed out by learned and judicious divines. Thus Bishop Burnet:
When divine writers argue upon any point, we are always bound to beliere the conclusions that their reasonings end in, as parts of divine revelation; but we are not bound to be able to make out, or even to assent to, all the premises made use of by them in their whole extent; unless it appears plainly that they affirm the premises expressly as they do the conclusions proved by them.”
“ In reading the apostolic writings we should carefully distinguish between their doctrines and their arguments. Their doctrines came to them by revelation, properly so called; yet in propounding these doctrines in their writ. ings or discourses, they were wont to illustrate, support, and enforce them by such analogies, arguments, and considerations, as their own thoughts suggested.”
“ St. Paul, I am apt to believe, has been sometimes accused of inconclusive reasoning, by our mistaking that for reasoning which was only intended for illustration. He is not to be read as a man whose own persuasion of the truth of what he taught always or solely depended on the views under which he represents it in his writings. Taking for granted the certainty of his doctrine as resting upon the revelation that had been imparted to him, he exhibits it frequently to the conceptions of his readers under images and alle. gories, in which if an analogy may be perceived, or even sometimes a poetic resemblance be found, it is all, perhaps, that is required.”
Now, there is no part of the New Testament where considerations such as these are so much required as in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and there is no subject which demands more caution and care, if we wish not to be greatly misled, and to pervert the authorities to which we appeal, than the use made of passages from the Old Testament. The Jews, in our Lord's time, considered the greatest part of their Scriptures as applicable in a secondary and mystical sense to their expected Messiah. The Christian writers often argued with them from their own concessions, or illustrated and recommended what they taught by expressing it in the words of the Old Testament. The Epistle to the Hebrews is altogether an attempt to render the gospel interesting to Jews by an application to its truths (much in the manner of the applications of Scripture which are now so common among most sects) of the words of the ancient sacred books, and by finding analogies between them and the principles or ceremonies of the law.
In this light it has been considered by some of the most distinguished theologians, and thus only it appears to us that we can obtain an intelligible and rational view of its character and purpose.
“ Long before our Saviour's time,” says Dr. Hey, late Norrisian Professor of Divinity in the University of Cambridge, “it seems probable that the Jews had some sort of traditions; traditional narratives, prophecies, or modes of interpreting prophecies; modes of arranging, construing, and applying the Psalms, and other parts of Holy Writ; methods of allegorizing ; all these our Saviour and his apostles seem to have so far adopted as to make use of them in reasoning with the Jews.”
Le Clerc, in his edition of Hammond's Paraphrase and Notes, says, (Heb. ix. 16,) “ All the principles of Christian doctrine which the author of this Epistle
defends, are most true, and may be proved from other parts of Scripture; but the method by which he illustrates them, is manifestly conformed to the custom of thiose times, as we see it in Philo, whose works abound in this sort • of accommodations of passages of Scripture, and in reasonings derived from them, in which there is no regard paid to the grammatical sense, nor is any thing else attended to but the truth of the principle thus illustrated.”
This passage is quoted with approbation by Rosenmüller; the same principle is defended by Sykes; and Paley's opinion may be gathered from what he says of the epistle of Barnabas :
“ It is in its subject, and general composition, much like the Epistle to the Hebrews; an allegorical application of divers passages of the Jewish history, of their law and ritual, to those parts of the Christian dispensation in which the author perceived u resemblance."-(Evidences of Christianity, B. iii. Ch. v.)
But although we do not admit the Epistle to the Hebrews as an authority with respect to the original sense or prophetic character of the portions of ancient Scripture which it quotes, it should still, according to the principles we have laid down, be authoritative in favour of the Christian doctrines which by means of these quotations it conveys, and if it applies unreservedly to Christ the names God and Lord, (representing Jehovah,) there is at least the testimony of the Christian writer, if not of the passages from the Old Testament, to the deity of our Saviour. This is readily granted: but the very means which the writer employed to attract and conciliate those whom he immediately addressed have thrown such obscurity over his style that, perhaps unavoidably, we, in these distant times, are influenced in our mode of understanding him by the opinions we have formed on the great subjects of Christian doctrine from the study of other parts of Scripture. We have endeavoured to the utmost of our power to divest ourselves of prejudice, and to consider what is the most natural, consistent, and suitable sense : we are ourselves well satisfied that we have chosen the right interpretation, but we have little hope of convincing those who come to the subject impressed with a firm belief of doctrines which we do not find in Scripture, but which the ambiguity of some of the language here employed may naturally enough seem to them to favour.
The first proposition of the writer seems to be the superiority of Christ's office to that of all previous messengers of God's will to his creatures, which he illustrates by fanciful applications of passages from the Old Testament, availing himself for this purpose of the double meaning of the word “angel," sometimes applied to human, sometimes to spiritual messengers; sometimes to the elements executing the purposes of the Almighty; sometimes 10 an order of superior intelligences ever ready to fulfil his commands. We shall give what we apprehend to be the sense of the passage (ch i. 44 ] 4) which contains the quotations now under our consideration. “ Being made so much better than those messengers," (the prophets by whom God had previously spoken,) " inasmuch as he hath by inheritance obtained" (acquired, as belonging naturally to his office) “a more excellent name than they" (they being only called messengers or servants, his superiority being marked by the name of Son). “ For unto which of those messengers, said he, at any time, • Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee?" And again, I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a Son."'-(An appeal to the prevalent Jewish opinion that these words, taken from Ps. ii. and 2 Sam. vii. 14, were applicable in their highest sense to the Messiah, an opinion which, so far as relates to the last-mentioned passage, we can have no difficulty in pronouncing to be erroneous.) “And when he introduces again
the first-begotten into the world,” (a reference to the resurrection,) “he saith, Let all the angels of God worship him'" (rather, “do homage to him.” It is somewhat doubtful whence these words are taken. Dr. S. considers them as a loose quotation from Ps. xcvii. 7. “ The difference of the words," he says, “is immaterial to the sense, and is not greater than occurs in some instances of passages from the Old Testament introduced into the New.” It is possible he may be right. The literal translation from the Hebrew in that passage is, “ Worship him, all ye Gods ;" but the LXX. render it anythai, angels. It is not certain whether the original here intends by “Gods,” princes, magistrates, or prophets ; but there is little reason to suppose that it can mean angels in our sense of that word. Whoever they are, it is clear that they are called upon to praise Jehovah, and there is no pretence for supposing any reference of the Psalm to the Messiah; nor will the opinion of certain Jews, at a period when they were disposed to refer every thing in their Scriptures to this expected prince, and which applies equally to all the neighbouring Psalms, be thought of much importance. Our author's attempt to explain the introduction of the first-begotten into the world, as implied in the Psalm, is, we should think, too far-fetched and fanciful to satisfy even those who are most willing to be led by him. But it is upon the whole the most probable supposition, adopted by Mr. Belsham after Sykes, that the words in ihe Epistle are taken from the LXX. version of Deut. xxxii. 43, where they are found exactly, though there is nothing corresponding in the purest Hebrew copies, or in the other ancient versions; and if we suppose the clause not to be genuine as a part of the passage in Deuteronomy, that is no reason why it may not have been quoted and applied by the author of the epistle, finding it, as we have no reason to doubt that he did, in his Greek copy, from whence he has drawn all his quotations. * Mr. Belsham agrees with Dr. Sykes in supposing that the homage from all the messengers of God, is, in the passage of Deut., required to be paid to the chosen people, whose father God is called in this very chapter, and who are elsewhere in the book of Exodus collectively spoken of as God's first-born son; that the introducing again into the world is the restoration of their prosperity after their afflictions, which is the subject of this part of the Song of Moses, and that the application of the words to the resurrection of Christ is an accommodation. Our doubt is, whether the writer of the epistle makes any reference at all to the original connexion of the words he quotes. He may mean merely, that by the resurrection of Christ he was so gloriously exalted, that those words of Scripture might well be applied to him, “Let all the messengers of God do homage to him.” When he introduceth again the first-begotten (from the dead) into the world, he saith, the Scripture saith, i. e. we may apply the words of Scripture, “Let all the messengers of God do homage to him”). “And concerning these messengers the Scripture saith, - Who maketh his messengers winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.'" (It represents them as mere servants fulfilling his commands, like the winds
• Dr. Smith thinks “its variations in the different MSS. of the LXX. itself afford a presumption against its genuineness" (i. e. as a part of the original LXX.). May it not be more justly said, looking at Dr. S.'s own comparison of the present Hebrew with the Aldine, Vatican, and Alexandrive editions of the LXX., that the parallelism between the two first sentences, one of which is retained in the Hebrew, the other in the Aldive Greek, is favourable to the genuineness of both, the same sort of paratlelism being found in the following clauses, and that the difference between the Yatican and Alexandrive-“ be strong in hin"-"strengthen them," proves the existence of an origival iu another language, of which both these are translations ?
and the lightning. The quotation is from the LXX. version of the 104th Ps. The proper translation of the Hebrew seems to be," who maketh the winds his messengers, and flames of fire, i. e. lightnings, his servants.” The author of the epistle means no more than that the condition of previous messengers, as compared with that of the Son, might be expressed in these words of Scrip. ture.). But concerning the Son it saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever,'" &c., (whichever construction of the words we adopt, the person referred to is spoken of as of exalted rank, and as distinguished by the favour of his God, treated not as a servant, but with distinguished honour, the passage being reputed among the Jews as a prophecy of the Messiah, and capable of being really so understood, though originally applied to Solomon, was the more to the writer's purpose,) “ and Thou, Lord, in the beginning, hast laid the foundations of the earth,'" &c. (The 102nd Ps., from which this passage is taken, cannot, without extreme violence, be considered as applicable to Christ, and no authority possessed by the writer of this epistle could cause those who are not blinded by prejudice to understand it so. Some have supposed the words to be by accommodation employed to express, still more strongly than the preceding quotation had done, the permanence and glory of Christ's kingdom, and to ascribe to him a new and moral creation; but this is forced; and besides it is very unlikely, as Mr. Belsham justly observes, that any writer, addressing himself to Jews, should " presume to hold that language concerning a prophet, however dignified, which, in their sacred writings, was uniformly appropriated to the Deity.” Much more probable is the interpretation of Emlyn and others, that “the immutability of God is here declared as a pledge of the immutability of the kingdom of Christ.” “ The God last mentioned,” says Emlyn, “ was Christ's God, who had anointed him; and the author thereupon, addressing himself to this God, breaks out into the celebration of his power, and especially his unchangeable duration ; which he dwells upon as what he principally cites the text for; in order, I conceive, to prove the stability of the Son's kingdom before spoken of.”—Emlyn's Works, Vol. II. p. 340. This deserves attention, but we are disposed to think that this passage should rather be connected with what follows than with what precedes it. The writer quotes a remarkable declaration of the power, majesty, and immutability of God, and then argues in confirmation of what he had before said, that this great Being condescended to place the Son at his right hand, to exalt him and cause bim to triumph, whilst oiher messengers were but ministers of his will for the service of those who were “to become heirs of salvation,”-to be admitted to enjoy the blessings of the Gospel.) “But to which of those messengers, said he, at any time, . Sit thou on my right hand till I make thine enemies thy footstool'?” (Applying a clause from the 2nd Ps., which, though originally relating to David, was believed to have a secondary application to the Messiah.) “ Are not they all ministering spirits" (probably ministering winds --servants swift as winds, in allusion to ver. 7) sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?”.
We have given what we consider as the most consistent and satisfactory interpretation of the passage : respecting the author's mode of quoting and applying texts from the Old Testament, we feel no hesitation. With somewhat less confidence, though upon the whole with a feeling that the evidence for it decidedly preponderates, we follow Wakefield, Simson, and Belsham, in explaining “angels" as here meaning the ancient prophets. Dr. S.'s objection to this, from the change in the sense of the word in ch. ii. 5, we do not think of much weight as regards such a writer as the author of this epistle; but the comparison of Heb. ii, 2 with Gal. iii. 19 and (which reference he omits) Acts vii. 53, if those passages are to be understood according to the general opinion of commentators, apparently supported by Jewish traditions, is much more to the purpose ; and as we have doubts on the subject, we request our readers to observe, that admitting, throughout, the translation "angels," and understanding the passage to affirm the superiority of Christ to spiritual beings employed in accomplishing the Divine purposes under the former dispensations, it is still the superiority of Christ's office, and the dignity to which God has exalted him, which are spoken of, and no inference can be thence fairly drawn respecting his nature.
Undoubtedly, if the New Testament distinctly teaches the Deity of Christ, the allusions of the writer to the Hebrews will be understood as confirming that doctrine. But the present question is, whether the doctrine is taught in the Old Testament, and what we hope we have proved is, that the passages treated of in Dr. S.'s xivth, xvth, and xvith sections, neither in themselves appear to teach it, nor are proved to contain it by the use made of them in the Epistle to the Hebrews.
The xviith section is on Ps. cx., usually regarded as prophetic of the Messiah, and quoted by our Lord himself, to confound the Jews by the acknowledgment here made by David of his superiority. We cannot, however, perceive that this Psalm contains any thing which exalts the Messiah in any other sense than as all Christians believe that he is exalted. That, although the descendant of David, he was much greater than David, and might properly in prophetic vision be called by him Lord, and be represented as his superior, his sovereign, is universally acknowledged. Even the Jews would not have denied this. But the difficulty proposed was, how could David address, as his Lord, one not then existing, his own descendant in distant times? The Jews had no answer ready; the Orthodox now answer, because Christ, being God, then existed in heaven, as was well known to David. In opposition to them is Mr. Belsham's judicious note: “ The proper answer seems to be, that the Psalmist was transported in vision to the age of the Messiah, and speaks as though he were contemporary with Christ. This mode of writing was not unusual with the prophets." The Calm Inquirer's note does not then “proceed on a wrong assumption of the point under consideration,” but is a solid answer to the argument usually drawn from our Lord's question in favour of his superiority of nature, and we do not see that Dr. Smith has made the case any stronger. The priesthood, according to the order of Melchisedek, of course refers to the office and work, not to the nature of the Messiah, and as explained by the writer to the Hebrews, implies nothing which Unitarians do not fully believe. It only remains for us to notice Dr. Smith's gloss on the fifth verse of the Psalm :
“ The Lord (Adonai, which he afterwards observes is the name appropriated to the living and true God') is on thy right hand : (the address is now tarned to Jehovah :) He sioiteth kings in the day of his wrath,” &c.
He would have us understand, that “the Lord” here is the same person spoken of by the Psalmist as “my Lord” in ver. 1st, and that he is here distinguished by a name peculiarly appropriated to the Supreme God. The reason, we presume, for this construction is, that “the Lord" is here said to be " on the right hand;" whereas in the first verse we find “ Jehovah said to my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand." “ The Lord,” therefore, in the second place, must signify the same person who was before placed at God's right hand, and the words addressed to Jehovah who called him there.