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tament. On the other hand, to authorize the admission of any opinion as Christian doctrine, the following conditions are requisite : first, that the words on which the doctrine is founded, be contained in a book written by an Apostle, or by one who was a competent evidence as to the words which he relates as the words of Jesus or an Apostle ;-secondly, that there be no reasonable ground for believing that the words in question did not really proceed from the writer of the book ;--thirdly, that the words be the words of Jesus himself, or of one acting under his immediate authority and direction ;--fourthly, that it should be sufficiently clear, that in using these words, our Lord (or the Apostle) used them in the sense affixed to them;--and fifthly, that the speaker was declaring a truth in order to reveal or sanction it.* For instance, (1) If it cannot be satisfactorily shown that the Epistle to the Hebrews was written by an Apostle, no opinion which depends for its authority on that book alone, ought to be admitted as Christian doctrine: (2) If any opinion rest for its authority solely upon the common reading of Acts xx. 28, the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood,' it is not Christian doctrine, because the true reading is,
the church of the Lord,' &c. : (3) Agreeably to the third position, the assertion that Jesus
The reader is requested to bear in mind, that this is said in reference to doctrines, not to precepts of duty.
being a man made himself God,* affords no adequate ground for admitting the hypothesis of two natures in the person of Jesus to be Christian docrine, because it was a mere assertion of the Jews, in justification of their mali, cious attack upon his life: (4) Agreeably to the fourth, Rom. ix. 5, affords, of itself, no anthority for receiving as Christian doctrine, the position that Jesus is the Supreme God; and the words of our Lord, John viji. 58, afford, in no way, any proof that he was the being called in the Old Testament I AM: (5) Aud lastly, demoniacal possession, and the vulgar opinion respecting the motion of the sun round the earth, are not to be regarded as Christian doctrines, upon the ground that our Saviour uses language founded on the opinions of the age and country ou those points.
The foregoing principles may all be comprised in one, vizi that in order to authorize the admission of any doctrine as Christian doctrine, it must be shown to have been declared by Jesus, either immediately, or through his Apostles. To this must be added, that in proportion to the antecedent improbability of such doctrine, must be the strength of the evidence that it was really taught by Jesus.
As these things lie at the foundation of our inquiries as to Cbristian, doctrine, I beg leave
• John X. 23.-In the following verse our Lord shows that if he had inade himself God, he should have been justified in so doing by the Scriptures.
farther to observe, 1. That if it could be shown, that the Apostles advanced any principles inconsistent with what was taught by Jesus himself, I should not regard those principles as of any authority, because I consider him as the Word, the Son of God, by whom all things relative to the Christian dispensation were done, who was the medium of all the extraordinary communications to the Apostles, and in the strictest sense their instructor: besides, I cannot conceive it possible, that the Supreme Being should make two inconsistent communications to His creatures. 2. Though I see no reason to believe, that all which the Apostles wrote, they wrote under the present influence of immediate communication from God; yet I cannot but deem it highly probable, that their minds were so fully and accurately impressed with the Gospelscheme, as to preclude the danger of departing from its principles. Hence 3, in proportion as any doctrine is inconsistent with the words of Jesus, in so far it becomes improbable that it should have any real foundation in the words of the Apostles. 4. Where a doctrine not only seems to be inconsistent with reason, but can be strictly proved to be inconsistent with reason or matter of fact, it cannot be admitted as a doctrine of divine revelation by those who see the force of the argument; because it is impossible that the Supreme Being could reveal an absurdity or a falsehood.
One other observation it is desirable to pre
mise. The opponents of Unitarianism say a great deal respecting the plain and obvious sense of Scripture. We are of opinion, that the plain and obvious sense of the words of Scripture, is not that which, from long habit, may have become familiar to the mind, and which, from its general diffusion, may now appear to be the simple and obvious sense even to the poor and unlearned,—but that in which they would be readily understood by those persons who, from native use, without any particular cultivation of mind, were conversant with the phraseology of the languages in which they were written, and who had, from the same cause, the turns of thought and habits of imagination that would enable them without hesitation to understand the force of expressions, which, when literally rendered into our language and referred to our modes of thinking and feeling, are either dark (if not incomprehensible,) or excite ideas widely different from the meaning of the author. And in order to ascertain this plain and obvious sense, in cases where there is ground for doubt, the only reasonable method is, to place ourselves as much as possible in the situations of the individuals for whose use the work was intended, to acquire an accurate acquaintance with their phraseology, with their habits of thinking, with the customs of the age, I do certainly think that without all this, the grand practical truths of the Gospel may be understood by every serious thoughtful reader of the New Testament;
but I never can admit that, without it, the Scriptures can be fully understood, or their plain and obvious sense, in various cases, properly ascertained.
The foregoing observations, together with the rules of interpretation which will be found in Chap. IV., are the critical principles by which I wish ever to be guided, when examining the New Testament with a view to ascertain what are its doctrines; and it appears to me that they lead inevitably to the conclusion, that Unitarianism is the doctrine of the Gospel.
My belief as a Unitarian, as far as it respects the person and office of our Saviour, is, that God appointed the man Christ Jesus to declare to mankind His mind and will respecting their duty and expectations; in other words, to reveal the doctrine of free pardon and everlasting life, to point out the conditions by which these blessings are to be acquired, and to declare the consequences of impenitence and disobedience ;that to prove the divine authority of Jesus, God empowered him to work miracles, and in other ways manifested His sanction of that authority;
- that in the execution of the all-important commission with which he was entrusted, Jesus voluntarily submitted to a painful and ignominious death, and thus completed his part in the Gospel-scheme of redemption, or deliverance from the power of sin and death ;—that God raised him from the dead by His mighty power, as a proof of his divine authority, as a pledge to