Page images
PDF
EPUB

written, &C. God is said to do what he does not prevent, in the passages quoted. To expose the dangerous nature of the errors which the christian Jews ran into, in the use they made of Paul's expressions, and to guard the faithful against them, the Apostles Peter, and James, and John, and Jude, wrote the seven Epistles which are called Catholic. So Augustine informs us, in his treatise of faith, and good works. Heobserves,“A wicked opinion having sprung up, even in the "apostles days, by misunderstanding Paul's arguments, Pe“ter, John, James, and Jude, aimed in their Epistles princi“pally to this end, to vindicate the doctrine of Paul from "the false consequences charged upon it, and to show, that "faith without works is nothing worth; but indeed, Paul "does not speak of faith at large, but only of that living, “fruitful, and evangelical faith, which he himself saith, work“eth by love. As for that faith void of good works, which (these men thought sufficient to salvation, he declareth pos“itively against it.” And having mentioned, that Peter says some passages of his brother Paul's epistles had been wrested by unlearned men, Augustine observes, “that Peter calls “it wresting, because Paul was in truth of the same opinion “with the other apostles, and held eternal life impossible to "be obtained by any faith which had not the attestation of "a holy life.”

The decrees of God about which we ought to feel concerned, and with which we have an interest to be acquainted, and which we are in duty bound to learn, are those which are written, leaving the secret things of God with him, accommodating our mind to the circumstances, and condition under which we are placed in respect to the knowledge of divine things, and learning those things which God has revealed. In consequence of a restless, and an overcurious disposition to pry into the things of God beyond the limits which he has seen fit to prescribe, we overlook, and misapprehend many of the most important truths which he has revealed. This licentiousness of freedom of which men are guilty in their speculations about unrevealed divine things has led them, (to be consistent in inconsistency) to adopt a three pound ten plan of atonement. By curtailing the death of Jesus Christ, of its infinite merit in the mediatorial govern

merit, and connecting with it their particular notions of de crees, together with the immediate physical agency of the Spirit in order to faith, they have destroyed every thing which appertains to God as a moral governor, and man as the subject of a moral government. According tothese notions, the word of God has no suitableness for producing the faith of the Gospel, only as it sustains the character of a mechanical in. strument. This plan by a natural, and moral necessity denies that man is in a state of gracious probation that the offers of salvation are, in reality, made to any by God, except those who, by the immediate physical power of the Spirit, are made to receive it; and that there is in fact no such a thing as Gospel condemnation, or accountability upon moral principles, by reason of an utter destitution of moral ability from the necessity of things under the means of grace. A wonderful Gospel this, to be sure! Such strange absurdities could never have assumed the name of christianity or been called Gospel truths, had it not have been for speculations into the divine mind, and economy beyond what is written. This extreme doctrine of physical fatalism, is thought to favor the idea of salvation being more entirely of grace than any other—that opinion, however, is not true-every thing which appertains to man's salvation is of grace according to the opposite opinion. It appears to me, that no theory of decrees can be just, or fall short of impiety unless it embraces the three following propositions; viz. that God is not the author of sin, either by post itive agency or connivance—that he is in truth, and in deed sincere in offering the Gospel to man, and who, for the rejection of it will be condeinned by it, "in the day (as Paul says,) when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my Gospel.” Rom. 2. 16.

I concludethis section by observing that I believe in the deerees of God, the operations of his Spirit, and the extent of the atonement of Jesus Christ, in such a way as neither to make God the author of sin by positive agency, or by permissive acquiessence, or connivance; or to destroy the freedom of the human will under the dispensation of grace in which man is placed, nor to make God insincere either on account of natural or moral inability under the means of grace; and

in such a way is to subject the rejectors of the Gospel when faithfully administered, to a Gospel condemnation; and finally, so as not to exclude the operation, and agency of second causes, but rather to establish them. God is the supreme governor, and has prescribed limits to the capacities, and powers of all inferior beings whom he has made, and governs. The intellectual, and moral powers of man are restricted to those propositions, and rules of action which are submitted to him, and to which they are accommodated. The human mind cannot investigate a subject which is out of the reach of its apprehension, either by perception or deduction, and it may neglect to investigate those which are submitted to it, and thereby avoid the apprehension of those truths, by the authority of which the moral conduct of men ought to be governed. The freedom of the human will consists, perhaps more in the investigation of subjects, and in inquiring after truth, than in obeying the influence of motives. The greatest apparent good is the governing influence. This is, however, entirely relative; it takes its character in the view of the mind from the enjoyments, and the desires consequential upon it. The mind is, however, capable of acquiring such knowledge; and attaining such views of truths before unknown, as on account of the greatest apparent good, to place those things which had been previously thought of paramount importance, upon an inferior grade. This is the case when men pass from the savage to the civilized state; and from idolatry to the worship of the true God through Jesus Christ, &C. For this improvement in the human character, and its assimilation to the divine nature, is the Gospel designed, and suited.

To theorise, and guess about the decrees of God, beyond what is written, is, to say the least of it, treading upon for. bidden ground. I would rather prostrate myself before the incomprehensible Jehovah, and exclaim with Paul, “Oh! the depths of the riches both of the wisdom, and knowledge of God, how unsearchable are his judgments, and his way past finding out; for who hath known the mind of the Lord, and who hath been his counsellor?than speculate beyond his revelations.

CHAPTER V.

The origin of the division of the Scriptures into chapters

and verses, and their effects, &c.

I have thought it not uninteresting to the reader to exhibit a view of the origin of the division of the scriptures into chapters, and verses. For this purpose, I shall insert an extract from the “British Critic," containing the obser.. vations of the great biblical historian, Mr. Reeves:

“The subdivision of the matter of a book into small verses is peculiar to the bible; and it is the abuse of a contrivance that was designed for another purpose, the history and progress of which is worth considering.

“The sacred books, whether Hebrew or Greek, came from the pen of their writers, and were in the hands of those for whom they were originally composed, without any division of this sort. The first need of any thing like such a division was after the Babylonish captivity; the Jews had then mostly forgotten the original Hebrew; and when it was read in the Synagogue, it was found necessary to have an interpretation in the Chaldee, for the use of the common people. To make this interpretation intelligible and useful, the reader of the Hebrew used to pause at short distances, while the interpreter pronounced the saine passage in Chaldee; such pauses became established, and were marked in the manuscript, forming a set of verses like those in our present Bibles. This division into verses was confined to the Hebrew Scriptures, and to the people for whose use it was contrived; no such division was made in the translation of the SEVENTY, nor in the Latin version; so that the Bible used in the Greek and the Western Churches was without any such division, either in the Old or New Tes. tament,

Nn

“It was, however, found necessary in after times, to make a division and subdivision of the sacred books; but it was for a very different purpose; it was for the sake of referring to them with more ease and certainty. We are told, that Cardinal Hugo, in the 13th century, made a concordance to the whole of the Latin Bible, and that for this purpose of reference he divided both the Old and New Testaments into chapters, being the same that we now have. These chapters he subdivided into smaller portions, distinguishing them by the letters of the alphabet; and, by those means, he was enabled to make references from his concordance to the text of the Bible. The utility of such a concordance brought it into high repute; and the division into chapters, upon which it depended, was adopted along with it, by the divines of Europe.

“This division into chapters was afterwards, in the 15th century, adopted by a learned Jew, for the same purpose of reference, in making a concordance to the Hebrew Bible. This was RABBI MORDECAI NATHAN, who carried the contrivance a step further; for, instead of adhering to the subdivisions of Cardinal Hugo, he made others, much smaller, and distinguished thein, not by letters, but by numbers. This invention was received into the Latin Bibles, and they make the present verses of the Old Testament. In doing this, he might possibly have proceeded upon the old subdivisions, long before used for the interpretation into Chaldee. We see, therefore, that the present division of the Old Testament into chapter and verse, was an invention partlv Christian and partly Jewish, and that it was for the sole purpose of reference, and not primarily with a view to any natural division of the several subjects contained in it.

"The New Testament still remained without any subdivision into verses, till one was at length made, for the very same purpose of a concordance, about the middle of the 16th century. The author of this was RoBERT STEPHENS, the celebrated printer at Paris. He followed the example of RABBI NATHAN, in subdividing the chapters into small verses, and numbering them; and he printed an edition of the Greek Testament so marked. This division soon came into general use, like the former one of the Old

« PreviousContinue »