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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 tbat blood was the blood of God, and upon his cross Jehovah wonls 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 bas inade use of the Holy Scriptures, and the method of his reasoning, compelled mne to meet him 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 derogatory to the character of that ever-blessed Being, through whose intinite inerits, 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 Liis Apostles, have repeatedly, and in the most clear and express terms, taught a different doctrine.”
In reference to the third person in the Trinity, Mr. Shaw observes,
“I searched the Scriptures inany 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 long, 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 his 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.”
“From many conversations which have occasionally passed in my bearing, 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 aware 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 heard 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 minds 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 mind into assent with the doctrine confessed in the Athanasian Creed, I felt an inexpressible unhappiness and distraction. All the ingenious arguments I heard or read failed of affording me complete satisfaction, especially when I turned to the Bible. But more, when I endeavour to raise my soul to the Father of mercies through the mediation of his beloved Son, I feel a comfort 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 inyself open to conviction, if it can be shewn from the Holy Scriptures that I have erred; but I enter iny protest against any other kind of authority."
He thus terminates his strictures on the Trinity : “ I now conclude by quoting a passage from the sermon 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, he 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; this man, though he understands nothing of what is unintelligible, yet he 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 Scriptures."
To the Confessions is appended an Essay on Socinianism. On this we shall content ourselves by remarking, that Mr. Shaw has written without a sufficient knowledge of his subject. All Unitarians do not deny, as he affirms, the pre-existence of Christ, and none deny, as he affirms of all, “ the offered propitiation through faith in his blood.'” Disagreeing as we do from many of his remarks on what he terms Socinianism, and disagreeing because we know more of what Unitarians really believe than Mr. Shaw, we are glad to be able to express our warmest approbation of the concluding sentences in his “ Essay.”
“ I have allowed myself to run into this digression (on ‘Socinianism') from my main object, in the hope of shewing the danger of yielding up our understandings in inatters of religion to the direction of any man, lowever eminent he may be accounted for skill in particular branches of human science, unless his opinions be supported by the Holy Scriptures. Philosophy, under the guidance of a sound and unprejudiced mind, tends to a conviction of the truth of our holy religion ; yet men, who devote their time and attention chiefly to experiments upon matter, frequently go astray when they treat of spiritual affairs. It cannot be denied that Dr. Priestley was an acute and laborious philosopher; but that philosophers are not always good theologians is obvious from the glaring contradictions of each other which we continually meet with in their writings. Mr. Jones, of Nayland, was also an able philosopher; yet no two men were ever more directly opposed to each other in their religious opinions than he and Dr. Priestley. Let us then not say, • I am of Jones,' and 'I am of Priestley.' Let us seek instruction at the fountain head-the Holy Scriptures : let us say with Peter, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.""
LETTERS FROM GERMANY.
Heidelberg. MENDELSSOHN's treatise on the Immateriality of the Soul of Man was first published at Vienna, in 1785. The Editor then informed the public, that they were indebted to his Prussian Majesty for the production of the essay, and that a condescending discretion on the part of the author had hitherto withheld it from publication. Perhaps the great Frederick constituted himself partner, and wished to have the lion's share. A Latin translation of the tract had appeared before, and the translator having been informed by a friend, that it was not disapproved by the author, he ventured to publish the German original. I do not know if it has ever appeared in English. If it has not, you may be willing to give a place to some extracts from it in your Repository. Many of the acutest reasoners of the last century were Spiritualists : some of the nineteenth century are so too : could they do it a greater service,-and in Republican France, (for it is and must be substantially that,) could they do their country a greater service,than by promoting an alliance between liberalism and spiritualism
The treatise is not long. It consists of answers to ihree questions, and some added remarks on D'Alembert's Thoughts upon the Spirituality of the Soul.
Quest. 1. Can matter have in itself the power to think?
Q. 2. If matter in its proper nature is incapable of thinking, cannot the Almighty communicate to it this property ?
Q. 3. Must not the soul perish with the body? It grows up with the body, suffers with it, shares all its changes, and in age becomes feebler as the body gradually decays. A hard blow upon the head can reduce the greatest genius into idiocy : must not the power to think cease when the body is no more?
“ Quest. I. Can matter have in itself the power to think?
“ I believe that this has been demonstrated to be impossible ; and that the objections against the arguments, which have been offered, reach the terms only in which they are expressed, which cannot be chosen so as to exclude every objection, because language itself is not flexible enough for the subtilty of the inquiry. Among other methods of proof, the following has appeared to me very convincing. It will be granted, that the objects in nature, or the things which are external to the thinking power, have each its own proper subsistence. Their conjunction depends upon mutual relations and proportions, which are not found in the objects alone, but in order to exist must first be thought of. For example, a house taken solely as an object, is not different from a pile of stones : but when the thinking power comes in, compares the parts, and perceives their relation to a whole, the pile is then irregular; but symmetry and order are observed in the building. In what do a well-ordered state and a promiscuous multitude differ from one another? Only in the proportion of the parts, and their relation to a whole; and these are not found in the citizens, as they exist objectively and severally, but in the comparison of each with all the rest. Father and son, stem and fruit, are in themselves isolated existences; but considered in their relation as cause and effect, they are conjoined.
“ Suppose an object to be impressed on a certain part of a thinking ma. terial system; the impression as well as the external object must exist indivi. dually. Let A, B, C, D, be external objects, and a, b, c, d, parts of the percipient matter. Then will the percipient particle (a) have, as its immediate object, the impression upon it of the external object (A) which it represents ; and all the other sentient atoms the same. But where will the proportion or relatiun of the objects be perceived ? Not in any one of the percipient particles; for each notices only its own object, and things are seen to be related only by comparison : neither is it perceived in all the particles taken toge. ther, for the being taken together presupposes the perception of proportion or relation between them, without which each atom remains for ever individual, and never, in conjunction with the rest, composes a whole. In order to perceive relation, which supposes comparison, besides the thinking parti. cles a, b, c, d, we inust have a central particle (e), to which this office belongs. This particle must retain the impressions of all the objects A, B, C, D, that it may be able to compare them with one another. Since the central particle (e) is composed of parts, either the impressions must be again dispersed, or each of the parts which compose it must receive them all. In the first case, to compare them with one another is impossible; and in the latter case, we must come at last to what is indivisible, an atom, uniting the impressions of all the objects, and capable also of comparing them with one another, and perceiving their mutual relation. This indivisible, simple exist. ence, which receives all the impressions, and is able to discern, combine, compare them, is essentially different from matter, which is, in its nature, divisible and aggregational. We distinguish it by the name of soul. I may leave to my opponent the choice, whether he will have the material substance consisting of such percipient atoms or indivisible particles; or will admit but one single, indivisille thinking substance, which receives and compares the impressions of all objects. In both cases it is not matter, or what is aggregated, which thinks, but what is simple and indivisible; only that in the first case, instead of making the soul to be a corporeal being, with the Materialist, he changes the body itself into an aggregate of souls. In a word, to perception or thinking it is necessary that what is multifold as an object, should become one, or a unity, in the thinking subject; but matter is not, and cannot be, an absolute unity, because it consists of divisible parts, of which each one has its own individual subsistence”
I suppose that chemists of the present century will not adnit our author's proof of the negative to be complete. Since, according to the latest chemical doctrine, there are ultimate particles of matter which are indivisible, that is, there are atoms; and since the reasoning of our philosopher has not proved it impossible that the soul of man should be one of them, it seems to fall short of a demonstration, that it is impossible the soul should be material. His reasoning in this place only proves the soul to be one and indivisible, and that it cannot be an aggregate or a system of parts. That gravity and the power to think co-existing in the same substance involves a contradiction, requires a separate proof.
“ Quest 2. If matter in its proper nature is incapable of thinking, cannot the Alinighty communicate to it this property?
“ This notion is usually supported by the authority of a great man, John Locke, who has suggested it in some part of his works. Since his time it has been repeated by many with a sort of triumph, as being unanswerable ; but I believe the English philosopher bimself never considered it so. The Cartesians taught, that if body were capable of thinking, the nature of thought must be found in the conceptions of extension and motion : but thought and extension, motion and perception, or our notice of motion, are unlike in nature, and belong to disparate properties; for join and transpose the corporeal parts as you will, there results no idea of the transposition, no perception of the change effected by it. Hence they concluded, that motion only belongs to what is extended, and that thought belongs to what is unextended and incapable of motion. As it seemed to be proved in this way that perception is not in the nature of matter, Locke asked properly, whether the Almighty could not impart to matter a power which it does not possess in itself. But if what has been said under the preceding question be true; if, in order to perception, what is manifold in the object must become indivi. dual in the idea of it by the percipient subject, since matter is always compounded of parts; perception is as absolutely impossible to matter, as it is impossible that a square should be a circle. To resort in such a case to Omnipotence is to imitate the good woman, who hoped to get the first prize in a lottery without putting into it, because nothing is impossible to God. I do not, however, deny that the doubt suggested by Locke is removed in a very plain way by the Cartesian method. It is proved, that properties are not communicable, and that infinite power cannot impart to a substance a property which is not in its nature. Here I will insert a dialogue which passed between Hylas and Philonous, in which the latter has illustrated this thought by an example which brings it before the eyes.
“ Hyl. If matter in itself cannot think, may not the power to think be communicated to it by the Almighty ?
“ Phil. We will inquire. The Almighty causes the rose to grow upon the thorn. How is this done? Is a new rose-bud created out of nothing every year at the season of roses, and set into the stein ?
“ Hyl. That is not done. The germ rather is contained in the thorn, from which the bud shoots out in its proper season.
“ Phil. If any man should dissect the germ, and examine its structure through the microscope, will he not plainly perceive that the rose is developed out of the finely organized germ?
“ Hyl. Certainly, if the instrument magnifies sufficiently.
“ Phil. But if the Almighty would cause the citron to grow on the rosestem, which now bears only the rose, must not this fruit, which is not natural to the plant, be created, and set into the stalk?