Imatges de pÓgina
[blocks in formation]

4 Who

gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver Thessalo

faith revealed for the first time in any one of the Epistles?
What are the articles of faith, what is the solitary article, on
which any one of the Epistles throws such additional light, as
in any degree to warrant an assertion, even with any ordinary
benefit of hyperbole, that the Epistle imparts a religious doc-
trine not previously and clearly revealed in the Gospels, nor in
the antecedent Scriptures of the Old Testament, which are
continually receiving in the Gospels the plainest and the strong-
est sanction of our Lord?

Is it the doctrine of the unity of God? A claim will not be
advanced as to that article.

Is it the doctrine of the union of three divine persons in one Godhead? Has the Old Testament then maintained silence on that article of faith? Have the Gospels maintained silence? I mean not to multiply testimonies. But is there no passage in the writings of Isaiah, which styles the predicted Saviour "the mighty God, God with us?" Is there no passage in the Gospels which avers, that "in the beginning was the Word, that the Word was with God, that the Word was God?" Is there no passage in which our Lord affirms concerning himself, "Before Abraham was, I am; I and my Father are one?" Does no Gospel pronounce blasphemy against the Holy Ghost unpardonable or unite that Divine Spirit with the Father and the Son, as the God to whom we are dedicated in baptism?

Is it the agency of our Lord in creating the universe? The first chapter of St. John's Gospel answers the question.

Is it the propitiatory sacrifice of our Saviour? Have our copies, then, of the Old Testament lost the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah? Do our copies of the Gospels no longer speak of "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world:" of "the good Shepherd who came to lay down his life for the sheep, to give his life a ransom for many;" of one who "came down from heaven to give his flesh for the life of the world?”

Is it the universality of the offer of redemption? If the references in the preceding paragraph have not rendered an answer superfluous; does no Gospel instruct us that Christ "was lifted up" on the cross, "that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life?" Is there no Gospel still recording his final command to his apostles to "go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature?" Is there no Gospel still recording his accompanying assurance: "He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved?"

Is it our Lord's exaltation in his human nature to glory? He replies by his Evangelists, "I ascend to my Father: all power is given unto me iu heaven and in earth."

Is the deficient article the corruption of human nature? Not while the Old Testament emphatically records, that after the fall the sons of Adam were born in his image, no longer that of God. Not while it records the declarations of the Most High, before the deluge and after it, that "the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth;" or his averment by the lips of Jeremiah, that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." Not while the fifteenth chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel, or the seventh chapter of that of St. Mark, retains the catalogue of sins pronounced by our Saviour to be the offspring of the beart. Not while another Gospel produces his words: "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me: without me ye can do nothing?"


[blocks in formation]



us from this present evil world, according to the will of ThessaloGod and our Father :

Is it the necessity of the entire renewal of the heart by the Holy Spirit? Not if the third chapter of St. John's Gospel be part of the canon of Scripture.

Is it justification by faith in the blood of Christ? Not while the corruption of human nature, and the necessity of a complete renewal of the heart by the Holy Spirit, are doctrines of the Old Testament and of the Gospels. Not while the Old Testament continues to exhibit the example of the father of the faithful, who believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness; who saw by faith the day of Christ, and rejoiced to see it. Not while the Almighty proclaims by the prophet Habakkuk, that "the just shall live by his faith." Not while the passages already noticed respecting the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God, and the consequences of believing in Him, shall be found in the Old Testament and the Gospels.

Is it the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment, the glory of heaven, the damnation of hell? On each of these points the Gospels are acknowledged to speak with decisive clearness.

Can it be necessary to pursue the inquiry further? There is yet a topic, the omission of which would expose me to the charge of keeping out of sight the example, held in the estimation of many pious men to be the most adverse to my present argument. By certain of our brethren, the Calvinistic tenets are deemed to be signally developed in parts of the Epistles. And it is natural that persons regarding those tenets not merely as religious verities, but as the basis of Christian comfort and of Christian usefulness, should be led to think and to speak of the Epistles as containing the previously undisplayed perfection of Christianity. A deliberate, and, as I would humbly hope, an honest comparison of "things spiritual with spiritual,” (1 Cor. ii. 13.) has not discovered to me Calvinistic tenets in any part of the sacred volume. But our brethren, who have formed an opposite conclusion concerning the divine plan of redemption, may be the more easily induced to an exact appreciation of the Epistles, when they recollect that there are various passages in the Old Testament and in the Gospels which the Calvinistic divines consider as satisfactory proofs of their own system.

"I have yet many things to say unto you; but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth," (John xvi. 12, 13.) This address of our Lord to his apostles is commonly alleged in support of the assertion, that additional doctrines were to bo propounded in the Epistles. That such cannot be the meaning of the passage, the preceding inquiry as to the several articles of Christian belief has proved. If the Epistles do not contain any new article of faith, to new articles our Saviour did not allude. Nor in the articles of faith stated in the Epistles does there appear to be any point, which would be offensive to the known prepossessions and inclinations of the disciples. To what particulars then did our Saviour allude? To truths not indeed new, for the Scriptures of the Old Testament had announced them, for repeatedly had he inculcated them himself; truths which, like his predictions of his own sufferings, and death, and resurrection, the apostles had frequently heard from him and still disbelieved; truths in the highest degree offensive to their prejudices and their desires: that Christ was to be a light to lighten the Gentiles, no less than the glory of the people of Israel: that the peculiar privileges of the Jews were at an


Julian Period, 4762. Vulgar Æra,


5 To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.


end: that the Samaritan, the Greek, and the Barbarian, were
to stand on a level with the Israelite in the Christian Church,
in the grace of the Gospel, in the kingdom of God. Allusion
appears also to be intended to other very unexpected and un-
welcome facts: that Christ did not purpose to enthrone himself
in worldly sovereignty, and to constitute bis apostles the great
men of the earth: that it was not His will to restore at that time
the kingdom to Israel. On the subject of the former class of
particulars the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles proves how
great was the need of the instructive interposition of the Holy
Ghost; and with what energy the instruction was imparted.
When the persecution, commencing with the death of Stephen,
scattered the Christians from Judea as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus,
and Antioch, they "went every where preaching the word, to
none (however, as it is emphatically added) but unto the Jews
only." (Acts viii. 1. 4. xi. 19.) When the Ethiopian was to be
converted, it was the Spirit that said unto Philip, Go near, and
join thyself to this chariot. (Acts viii. 29.) When the messen-
gers of Cornelius came for Peter, "the Spirit said unto him,
Go with them, doubting nothing, for I have sent them." (Acts x.
20.) The language of Peter to Cornelius was that of a man re-
cently overruled and enlightened. "God hath shewed me that
I should not call any man unclean. Of a truth 1 perceive that
God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that
feareth him and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”
(Acts x. 28. 34, 35.) On his return to Jerusalem, when the
Jewish converts reproved him for having associated with_the
household of a Gentile, how did he vindicate himself?" The
Spirit bade me go with them. What was I that I could with-
stand God?" (Acts xi. 12. 17.) When the hearers confessed the
decisiveness of the authority, their expressions of submission
were equally those of surprize: "Then hath God also to the
Gentiles granted repentance unto life." (Acts xi. 18.) With
respect to the speedy restoration of the kingdom to Israel, an
event connected in the mind of the apostles with an earthly
sovereignty on the part of Christ, and with earthly aggrandize-
ment on their own; though they pressed our Lord on the point
to the very time of his ascension, and then received from Him a
reply which, while it denied precise information, left them in
suspense (Acts i. 6, 7.): yet after the descent of the Holy
Ghost on the day of Pentecost, we hear no more of the expecta-
tion. On the contrary, we hear the Holy Ghost negativing it
by the inspired writings of the apostles. St. James, in his con-
cluding chapter, apparently alludes to the impending destruc-
tion of Jerusalem. St. Paul anticipates the downfall, when he
describes the Jews as "filling up their sins ;" and the wrath of
God as "come upon them to the uttermost." (1 Thess. ii. 16.)
And the same apostle, when led by his argument to dilate on
their approaching dispersion and their subsequent restoration,
treats of the two events in a manner which implies, that it was
by a long interval that they were to be separated. (Rom. xi.)

The post then which the Epistles occupy in the sacred depo-
sitory of revelation, is not that of communications of new doc-
trines. They fill their station as additional records, as inspired
corroborations, as argumentative concentrations, as instructive
expositions, of truths already revealed, of commandments al-
ready promulgated. In some few instances a new circum-
stance, collateral to an established doctrine, is added: as when
St. Paul, in applying to the consolation of the Thessalonians

Jalian Pe riod, 4762. Vulgar Era,



§ 2. ver. 6-11.

St. Paul reproves the Galatians for their departure from
his Gospel.

6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that
called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel :

the future resurrection of their departed friends, subjoins the
intelligence, that the dead in Christ shall rise first to meet the
Lord in the air, before the generation alive at the coming of our
Saviour shall exchange mortal life for immortality. In the ex-
plication of moral precepts, the Epistles frequently enter into
large and highly beneficial details. And as one of their princi-
pal objects at the time of their publication was to settle contro-
versial dissensions, to refute heresies, and to expose perversions
of scriptural truth, they in consequence abound in discussions
illustrating the nature and the scope of sound doctrine; and
guarding it against the false and mischievous interpretations of
the ignorant, of the subtle, of the unholy. So he who rejects
one portion of Scripture rejects all, for "all Scripture is given
by inspiration of God."

The New Testament contains twenty-one Epistles, which
are generally divided into two classes, those of St. Paul, and the
Catholic Epistles. The latter are seven in number, and consist
of the letters of St. James, Peter, John, and Jude; these, as
their name implies, were addressed to Christians in general.
The remaining fourteen were written by the great apostle of
the Gentiles; and they have been religiously preserved and
enrolled from the earliest periods among the number of the
sacred writings. It has been a matter of doubt, whether St.
Paul be the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews; but there
are so many forcible reasons for attributing it to this apostle, at
least the matter of it, that its authenticity seems to be fully
substantiated. With respect to the other thirteen, they are in-
contestibly acknowledged as St. Paul's.

It is true they have been rejected by various ancient heretics, by the Cerinthians (b), and particularly by the Ebionites, who looked upon this apostle as an apostate and forsaker of the law; but this is not surprizing, as they were the disciples of some false teachers, who maintained the necessity of the ceremonial law. Marcion (c) received only ten epistles of St. Paul, and destroyed many passages of them that overturned his impiety. The Gnostics rejected the two Epistles to Timothy (d), because the apostle evidently alluded to these teachers in these words "That they had erred concerning the faith.” (1 Tim. vi. 20, 21.) But although each of these heretics have rejected the Epistles of St. Paul, either wholly or in part, they have not ventured to deny that they were his, so that their testimony is united to that of the whole Church, in attributing them to this apostle. Moreover the same style, the same doctrine, the same spirit, though they have been written after the space of fifteen or sixteen years, are throughout perceivable.

Antiquity has made mention of some other works attributed to St. Paul. Eusebius speaks of a book entitled, "The Acts of St. Paul," which in one place he ranks among the doubtful (e) Scriptures, and in another among the supposed (f) Scriptures. There was likewise an "Epistle to the Laodiceans," which was in existence in St. Jerom's time, and which he affirms to be rejected by every one (g). Marcion had one of them of the same title; but there is no doubt but that was the Epistle to the



Juhan Pe

7 Which is not another: but there be some that trou- Thessaloriod, 4762. ble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. nica. Vulgar Era,


Ephesians, which was inscribed to the Laodiceans, in his Apos-
tolic, that is to say, in his collection of St. Paul's Epistles.
There has also been brought from Asia, in these (h) latter ages,
a "Letter from the Church of Corinth to St. Paul," and an
Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians. But the Armenians,
tbrough whom these two compositions have come down to us (i),
acknowledge themselves that they are Apocryphal. There are
also the Epistles of St. Paul to Seneca, and of Seneca to St.
Paul, which St. Jerom (k), contrary to his usual discrimination,
seems willing to receive, although they are generally deemed
spurious, and are without any marks of veracity. Eusebius
was either not acquainted with them, or it is imagined did not
consider them as worthy of mention. But with respect to the
Epistles of St. Paul (1), the same historian testifies, that they
were universally acknowledged to be the work of that apostle.

The Epistles of St. Paul are addressed to some Churches
or to some individuals with the view of instruction and edifi-
cation, as Providence furnished the occasion, or the subjects.
They record the doctrine the apostles preached; the first
heresies that arose in the Church; the decision of various
questions proposed to St. Paul; some prophecies relative to
future events; excellent precepts of morality; a sublime system
of divinity; the government of the apostolic Church; the pro-
gress of the Gospel throughout the world; the gifts that the
Holy Ghost infused on its ministers, or rather on the faithful;
lastly, fine examples of zeal, courage, patience, disinterested-
ness, humility, charity, hope, and faith. It must also be re-
marked, that the Epistles of St. Paul, as Dr. Paley has proved
at large, serve to authenticate the history of the Acts, as the
history of the Acts in their turn corroborate the Epistles; which
is of no trifling consequence in establishing the veracity and
authority of these sacred writings.

The excellent Epistles of St. Paul have been preserved for us with great integrity, as may be seen by comparing the ancient versions, and the quotations of the old fathers, with the original text. The several readings or variations that have been collected from different manuscripts, are not by any means so numerous as those that are found in the manuscripts of the Gospels; which perhaps may be attributed to the copyists, who having in mind the expressions of a different Evangelist, might easily refer them to that which they were transcribing. They seem indeed to have done it sometimes designedly, in order to clear one passage by another. This has less frequently happened in St. Paul's Epistles; and among these various readings that remain, we dare assert, that there are none of them that can do any injury, either to the authenticity of those divine writings, or to the apostolic doctrine which they inculcate.

These Epistles have been long ranked in the order in which they at present stand. Epiphanius (m), who censures Marcion for having overturned this order, informs us that in his time the Epistle to the Romans was the first in all the authentic copies. He remarks only, that the Epistle to Philemon, which was the last in most of the manuscripts, was placed the thirteenth in some others; and that in some the Epistle to the Hebrews was the tenth, and preceded the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. It is certain that the Epistles are not chrono. Jogically arranged (n). The Epistle to the Galatians appears to

« AnteriorContinua »