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hunted worshippers when the persecutors broke in upon their secret assemblies, and were surrendered only with life. Yet the successors, the contemporaries of Apostles, and even the private Christians of their times, felt that they had a word of testimony to utter, and an experience of life to disclose. Even if they were well taught in the rudiments of this world's wisdom, they must needs use unfamiliar words to declare new sentiments and duties. Visions and prayers, letters and exhortations would be the form in which they would express their feelings. As we follow down the line of ages we trace the gradual process by which the literature of the world has been christianized. It has indeed been the work of ages to set the work in progress. Yet it has steadily advanced, until biographies, and essays, and poems, and histories, to say nothing of sermons and commentaries, have shown that in the necessary commingling of divine and human wisdom, human thoughts and counsels have been transfigured by the light which has come into the world. To suppose that this illumination of thought, this sanctification of language, this christianizing of literature, should have at once followed the first preaching of our faith, so that the New Testament should come to us attended by contemporaneous records scarcely distinguished from it in style, subject, and character, or in authenticity and purity, would be to allow the imagination to run wild at the expense of reason.
Even the title of “ A postolical Fathers ” has no other ground of justice than what is found in the time when those who bore it lived, and the fellowship which they were permitted to share. It is without meaning or propriety when applied to writings.
G. E. E.
INTERESTING DOCUMENTS FROM THE SEPTENARIAN
hak In a manuscript recently discovered the following facts were found recorded as of ancient date.
Alpha, the philosopher, lived in one of the kingdoms of the East in the seventh century. After spending many years in the study of natural theology and all the Sacred Books of that country, he advanced the following doctrine:
“That there are seven distinct persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Word and Spirit, Light and Truth, Wisdom and
these seven are one God, the same in substance and equal in power and glory.”
The doctrine of Alpha occasioned much controversy. He became so excited and confident, that he ventured to declare a belief in his doctrine to be essential to salvation. He was abundant in his labors, and obtained many disciples, some of whom were men of reputation and influence. At the same time there was living another philosopher of great eminence in a neighboring province, whose name was Olio. To gain Olio as a proselyte was the ardent desire of Alpha. To accomplish this object he was at the expense of a long journey. On his arrival at the house of Olio, Alpha was received with much respect and hospitality. He soon made known the object of his visit ; and Olio freely consented to an interview. After Alpha had stated his proposition, and some arguments in its support, the following dialogue occurred.
* This article was placed by the author, the venerable Noah Worcester, in the hands of the late editors of the Examiner, some time before his death. At the time it was received from them by the present editor little interest secmed to be generally taken in the subject on which it bears, or, more truly speaking, it was one hardly tolerated, and it was still withheld. At present, it is believed, many will be gratified by its publication, not only because it is an original paper by one of our most distinguished theologians, but because there is a reviving desire and demand for argument and illustration on the most important doctrine of revealed religion. - ED.
Olio. Be assured, my friend, that truth is the object of my pursuit. Your doctrine is new to me, yet it may be true; if so, I hope I shall embrace it with a ready mind. At present, however, I do not clearly understand your meaning. It may be very different from anything which now occurs to my mind. It would be improper for me to say that I believe in the truth of a proposition which I do not understand. With your consent I would inquire respecting the meaning of some of the principal words and phrases which you have adopted.
Alpha. I shall listen with interest to your queries; but you will bear in mind that the doctrine relates to a high and mysterious subject. We must expect mysteries in the divine nature, which are above our feeble intellects. Even in our own nature we find mysteries, which we cannot comprehend.
0. It is not the explanation of a mystery that I am about to request, but an explanation of words, which you have adopted to express a doctrine which you deem essential. The more important the doctrine, the greater is the importance of a clear understanding of its import.
A. You will proceed, and ask such questions as you shall
0. What then do you mean by the phrases “the Godhead," and “ One God ?"
A. By “the Godhead” I mean the Deity, or the Divine Nature ; and by the “ One God” I mean One supreme intelligent Being, to the exclusion of more Gods than one.
0. To these explanations I cannot object. Still I need to be informed what you mean by “ seven distinct persons.”
A. I am aware of some difficulty in explaining this phrase as applied to the Divine nature, so as to be clearly understood ; because in the common acceptation of the word persons as applied to men, seven distinct persons mean seven distinct beinys. this cannot be the meaning in the present case; because the seven distinct persons are supposed to be but one intelligent Being. Yet, as I before intimated, the doctrine is a mystery, and we cannot clearly explain what is in its own nature mysterious. However, you are aware that distinct agency, and works truly divine, are ascribed to each of the seven ; and it hence appears to be a duty to believe the doctrine though it is incomprehensible.
0. Do you find it clearly said in any of the Sacred Books, that “ there are seven distinct persons in the Godhead?”
A. I do not; but distinct agency is understood as implying distinct personality and distinct agents, when to more than one, such
agency and works are ascribed. O. It appears then that the phrase “ seven distinct persons in the Godhead” was selected by you without any example in the Sacred Books. You doubtless thought you had some meaning attached to the words. That meaning I wished to ascertain, to enable me to judge of the propriety or meaning of the doctrine. It may be that the passages denoting distinct
agency do not warrant your conclusion. For the properties or attributes of a real person are frequently personified ; agency and effects are ascribed to them as though they were persons. But I would here ask, Do all Septenarians agree in their explanations of the seven distinct persons ?
A. They do not; and this is deemed one evidence that the doctrine is a mystery; and a reason for the exercise of candor one towards another, in respect to all who adopt the article as an essential doctrine, though they differ in their explanations. Some of our number are pretty confident that the seven persons are properly seven distinct beings, or agents; and that the mystery is, how seven distinct agents can be but ONE God.
O. Admitting the doctrine to be true in this sense, the mystery might perhaps be solved or removed by saying, the phrase "one God” is of plural import, the same as one senate, or one family. But there might still be a difficulty in reconciling this view of the subject with the manner in which the one God speaks of himself. He says, “ I am God, and there is none besides me - not, we are God, and there is none besides us.'
A. Some Septenarians are aware of this difficulty, and to avoid it they say, that the seven distinct persons mean seven distinct offices sustained by the one God. Others again say they understand the seven persons to be seven distinct attributes: while others say seven distinct modes of divine operation. Some choose rather to say the seven persons are seven “ distinctions,” or seven “somewhats,” avoiding a more definite explanation.
0. I can form some idea of God's acting in several distinct offices or relations; of bis possessing various attributes, and operating in various modes. I can also conceive that there may be several “ distinctions” “ somewhats” in the divine
nature, which cannot be clearly explained or comprehended by us. But I do not see why the phrase seven PERSONS should be applied to any of these supposed septenaries, or
A. Many intelligent men, who were not Septenarians, have regarded seven as a sacred number, much used in the Sacred Books, as denoting perfection; and you will grant that all perfection is to be ascribed to God. Besides, in one of the Sacred Books we several times read of the " seven spirits of God." These surely may be regarded as so many persons, or what so much resembles persons, that we may be justified in applying to them this term. But if you are not satisfied with the explanation, which represents the seven distinct persons as so many distinct agents or beings, you see that we have several other explanations, which are admitted as Orthodox. Besides, there are many who receive the doctrine just as it is stated, believing that it might be true in some sense of the phrase, of which they do not venture to give any explanation. Some of these say, that, as the doctrine is a mystery, it behooves them to be silent as to any explanation. In this way of receiving the doctrine they think they express becoming humility, and unquestionable regard for divine truth. On either of the grounds which have been exhibited, you may become a regular and respected member of a Septenarian church ;and be assured, Sir, the accession of such a member will be hailed with unseigned gratitude.
0. The grounds of admission seem indeed to be liberal, and sufficiently broad ; and such is my desire to gratify you, that I shall do anything for that purpose, which I can do with a good conscience. I wish, however, for time for more reflection ; and should we be spared till to-morrow, and favored with good health, I shall wish for a second interview. Perhaps I shall then need some further explanations.
THE SECOND CONFERENCE.
Alpha. I rejoice to see you this morning with a smiling countenance. I hope that by reflection you have become prepared to be my coadjutor in promoting the Septenarian cause.
Olio. I have thought seriously on the subject; but I need further light to satisfy me that I may safely subscribe your creed.