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UNITARIAN & UNIVERSALIST
BY HENRY WILLIAMSON,
"And Jesus answered him, The first of all the Commandments is,
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that the first is a very early addition, because it is quoted in another place; while the second is a very late edition. These passages are enough to explain to our readers this interesting question about the Jehovistic and Elohistic passages in the Bible, and the manner in which the enquiry is carried on.
EVE AND THE SERPENT.
O greater mistake in Biblical exposition was ever committed than that which represents the serpent which is alleged to have tempted
Eve, not as a simple reptile, but, moreover, as tenanted by an almost omnipotent and omniscient evil spirit, called Satan. Now, it is a fact which cannot be disputed, that, while the word Satan does occasionally present itself in the Old Testament, it only occurs as its original meaning of adversary, and is never, in the earlier books especially, applied to any being at all resembling the comparatively modern Devil, but is used to designate ordinary human beings, as in 2 Sam. xix. 22; or angels, as in Numbers xxii. 22, 32, and Job i. 6; and, once at least, Jehovah himself, as in 1 Chron. xxi. 1, compared with 2 Sam. xxiv. 1. The fact is, that the Hebrews knew nothing of an Evil Spirit contending with Jehovah for the government of the universe till after the Babylonish captivity (say nine hundred years subsequent to the death of Moses), and that they imported it into their own religion from that of their Persian masters. being the case, the author, whoever he was, of the account of what is called the Temptation and Fall of our first parents, being ignorant, as he must have been, of the very existence of a personal Devil, cannot possibly have intended his readers to understand that such a being inhabited the body of the serpent, and spoke and acted through that body. Our conclusion is, accordingly, that it was simply a serpent, and nothing more or less than a serpent, which the writer himself intended to represent as soliciting our primeval mother to transgression.
Nor does it militate against this conclusion that the writer believed the serpent to possess the power of speech; for the Hebrews, down even to the time of Christ
(as may be seen in Josephus, where treating of this very transaction), held that all the lower animals were originally gifted with the same faculty. It requires no appeal to comparative anatomy to convince any modern enquirer that, in this matter, not only Josephus, but the author of this portion of Genesis, was unquestionably mistaken.
Another proof that an actual reptile, and not an evil spirit in the form of a reptile, was considered by the writer to be the tempter of Eve, is afforded by the special punishment which was inflicted upon him;
"Upon thy belly shalt thou go
all the days of thy life." Here we find stated the notion of the author, that the serpent originally walked erect; for, if he did not, how could it be a punishment to be compelled for the future to go wriggling and grovelling along the ground? As before, no appeal to comparative anatomy can, in these days and lands, be needed to convince us that in this particular also, the writer was mistaken.
As it is impossible, then, to accept the idea of a serpent speaking and walking erect (suppositions which may have presented no difficulty in the infancy of our race), we are compelled to regard the whole of the account in Genesis, of the Temptation and Fall of Man as unhistorical; as not a relation of actual occurrence; as no more than the attempt of some unknown speculator among the early Hebrews to account, in a highly-figurative, and perhaps allegorical manner, for the introduction of moral evil into the world. We are not warranted in attaching to it any importance in matters of doctrine; and certainly not in making it the support of such dark theological figments as those of original sin and innate depravity,—figments which are subversive, not only of the Divine mercy, but even of the Divine justice.
R. E. B. MACLELLAN.
"Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power."-2 Thess. i. 6-10.
NQUIRY into the import of this passage may be comprehended in four particulars,-namely: Who? When? Where? What?—that is, 1st, Who are the persons to whom the judgment of the text applies? 2d, When was that judgment to take place? 3d, Where was it to be inflicted? 4th, In what was it to consist?
I. Who are the persons to whom the judgment of the text applies? This question is answered by the context, in which three (and only three) classes are mentioned or alluded to:
1st, Paul, Sylvanus and Timotheusthe first of whom wrote the epistle, in which he was joined by the other two.
2d, The believers in the Christian church at Thessalonica, to whom the epistle was addressed; and
3d, Those who troubled and persecuted the believers referred to. Proved by the following citations-but the reader will do well to peruse the entire connexion:
"Paul and Sylvanus and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians
we ourselves glory in you for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations, that ye endure Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation TO THEM THAT TROUBLE YOU," &c.
Here we have the three classes; and it is perfectly plain that the judgment of the text had specific application to the third class, namely, those who persecuted and troubled the believing Christians in the church at Thessalonica.
In inquiring, Who were those persecutors? the fact is immediately suggested, that the principal and most virulent opponents of Christianity were the unbelieving Jews. When Paul visited Thessalonica, he had personal experience of their hostility; and they followed him to Berea in their fierce persecuting zeal, Acts xvii. 1-13. And the Thessalonians are reminded of the sufferings experienced at the hands of their Jewish countrymen, who were akin in spirit and life to those
"who both killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets," and had persecuted the Christians in Judea, 1 Thess. ii. 14, 15.
II. When was the judgment of the text to take place? This question is also answered by the context-namely, "When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels."
Consult Luke xvii 30, 31: "Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed, [namely, from heaven.] In that day, he which shall be on the house-top, and his staff in the house, let him not come to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back." If any one doubts that this relates to the siege and overthrow of Jerusalem, as predicted by our Saviour, let him read corresponding and parallel descriptions in Matthew xxiv. 15-21.
Pursuing the latter quotation, verses 29 to 35 included, treat of the Son of man in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory, and with his angels; and all this is expressly restricted to the then existing generation. See also Matthew xvi. 27, 28: "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here who shall not taste of death till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom."
Let it not here be objected that no event occurred corresponding to this description during the lifetime of any who heard Christ utter those words. The prediction is clear, and the time positively determined; and the objector should rather abandon his false notion of what Christ meant, than to charge the Divine Teacher with prophesying what did not come to pass.
There is another circumstance worthy of note connected with the text. treats of the Thessalonian Christians obtaining rest from tribulation at the very time that tribulation was visited upon their persecutors,—see verses 6 and 7. Will any one pretend that those believers are still suffering the tribulations and persecutions
under which they manifested the patience and faith for which the apostle commended them?
III. Where was the judgment of the text to be inflicted? The answer is ready : "From the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power."
In one sense the presence of the Lord is universal as may be seen in Ps. cxxxix. 7: "Whither shall I go from thy spirit, or whither shall I flee from thy presence,' &c. But this is evidently not the sense of the phrase in the text.
When Cain was sentenced to be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth, he "went out from the presence of the Lord." Genesis iv. 16. There is here a located sense of the phrase in question; and that located sense was, by the later Jews, appropriated to the land of Canaan, especially to Judea. Accordingly we find that "Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa." There he took shipping for "Tarshish, from the presence of the Lord," Jonah i. 3. Subsequently, he prayed unto God, and said, "I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple,”—for there he supposed the presence of the Lord to abide, chap. ii. 4.
Conformably to this usage of language, the Lord declared that he would cast the Jews out of his sight, as he had already cast out all their brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim, Jeremiah vii. 15. This entire chapter denounces destruction to Jerusalem, the desolation of the whole land, and the captivity of the people. And this, in Scriptural phraseology, was destruction from the presence of the Lord.
See, for example, 2 Kings xiii. 23: "The Lord had compassion on them
and would not destroy them, neither cast he them out from his presence as yet." Nevertheless, they persisted in evil, and that very judgment was inflicted. 2 Kings xxiv. 20: "For through the anger of the Lord it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon."
During the 70 years' captivity in Babylon, the Jews were destroyed from the presence of the Lord, and from his glorious power. And a similar fate was denounced in Jeremiah xxiii. 39, 40: "I will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave unto your fathers,
and cast you out of my presence; and I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten."
IV. In what was that judgment to consist? The plain answer is, In everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord. The judgment was national as the instrument of individual retribution.
Jesus said to his disciples, "In your patience possess ye your souls. And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them that be in Judea flee into the mountains
for these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. They shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations." The disciples were told to watch closely for the signs of these events at the coming of the Son of "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." Luke xxi. 19-33.
The redemption here mentioned is the rest promised to the Thessalonian believers. That redemption, that rest, was obtained when the power of the persecutor was overwhelmed by the desolation of Jerusalem, the destruction of the nation, and the captivity into which such of the people were led as escaped the edge of the sword. And thus the persecuting Jews were banished from that presence of the Lord from which Jonah desired to flee; and, like that disobedient prophet, their descendants say, "We are cast out of thy sight; but we will look toward thy holy temple."
If it be objected that the Jews at Thessalonica could have had no part in the judgment on Jerusalem, and that therefore the text could not apply to them -this is our reply:
1. Josephus informs us that the siege and overthrow of Jerusalem transpired at the annual feast-at which time multitudes of the Jews, from all parts of the world, were congregated in "the holy city.' Eleven hundred thousand perished, and the remainder were led away captive. The principal persecutors resident at Thessalonica were doubtless present at this feast, and were involved in one or other of these calamities.
2. The ruin of Jerusalem and the utter
Faith-Its Nature and Value.
destruction of the national polity, was an event in which every Jew throughout the earth was interested. Theirs was a religious government. All power was concentrated in, and all authority derived from, Jerusalem. The rod of the oppressor was broken by the extinction of all this
glory and dominion; and they who aforetime persecuted and troubled the Christians, at Thessalonica and elsewhere, were visited with a tribulation which shall terminate only when blindness shall be removed from the house of Jacob.
FAITH-ITS NATURE AND VALUE.
SAITH is a Biblical term, and represents a Biblical reality. To such an extent does the reality pervade the Bible, that it may be considered one of its essentials. Other human states of mind are mentioned in the Bible. No one occurs so often as faith. Moreover, to faith is ascribed in Scripture the highest spiritual results. Hence, a right idea of faith is necessary to a correct understanding of the Bible. Now, the Bible, from first to last, is a religious book. I speak of religion here in contradistinction to dogma. They are essentially different. Religion is God's voice in conscience and in history. Springing up in our instinctive sentiments, it is intuitional in character, spontaneous in operation; and having God for its object as well as its source, it grows with our growth, and strengthens with our strength, under the co-working of God's providence; and filling the soul with childlike awe and child-like love, makes God's will supreme, and God's law and aims its law and aims. Consequently, it has eyes to see with, and power to work with; and, when well instructed and duly controled by knowledge and reason, it bestows spiritual power alike sanctifying, enriching, and ennobling. Such is religion. Dogma is something very different. The word dogma signifies a determination, a decision, a decree. In its nature, therefore, dogma implicates what is indeterminate, undecided, undeclared. It is, in consequence, an alternative opinion. Between this and that, it concludes that the one is false or heretical, the other true or orthodox. Historically regarded, dogmas are simply ecclesiastical opinions arrived at by one man or men in presence of this view of a subject entertained by him or them and that view of a subject entertained by others. Dogma, then, is an affair of the head. It is an outcome of a process of reasoning. Now, every process of reason
A. C. THOMAS.
ing is open to all the mistakes, errors, and false conclusions which are inherent as in language itself, so in its perpetually evanescent and shifting character, which is sometimes so marked that the final decision ensues from a logical condition totally different to that with which you began. Moreover, the chances of error are multiplied by the fact that dogmas have to do with topics of the darkest kind, such as fate, free-will, original sin, &c., and are perpetually engaged in trying to solve the insolvable by determining the How, why, and wherefore of the invisible world. Dogma, then, instead of being religion, is simply something about religion, and that something about religion which in its nature is indeterminable.
Since, then, the Bible is a thoroughly religious book, it is without dogma. This is so as a matter of fact. The Bible is not a repertory of human opinions or ecclesiastical decisions. It is essentially a revelation. It is God unveiled to the religious principle of his intelligent child. It is God speaking in man's spiritual nature. Of those disclosures and those words it is a human record. Consequently, the Bible has a human as well as a divine side. Instructive and impressive as coming from God, it is fallible as passing through a human channel; but inasmuch as it deals incessantly with moral qualities—and moral qualities are, of all human things, the most clear and certain,-so the Bible is the one sure guide to God, duty, life, and blessedness. In brief, the Bible is the Book of Christian Life" the life" that is, the true and everlasting life of man here and hereafter. This it is in virtue of its bringing the teaching Father into contact with the teachable child.
The point of union is faith. Faith is the hand which lays hold of the offered bread and water of life, and lifts it to the thirsty lip and the hungry palate. As performing this office, faith is a faculty.