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Mr. Marsom on the Pre-existence of Jesus Christ.
75 life. I hope," he adds, “ I shall not should have taken place “ so late in give offence by requesting your bigh- life.” I reply that I never made any ly respected friend to point out the pretensions to infallibility ; I have path in which he has recently trodden often changed my opinions, and I dare in order to attain his present view of not say that I am nok in possession things." And further, he requests of all truth, or that I shall not underthat he would favour the readers of go some future change of inind with your interesting Miscellany with an respect to religious truth: 1 bope I illustration of certain passages of scrip- shall never be too old to learn, or'unture which he particularly mentions. willing to attend to any evirience that
The circumstances of the case, I ad- shall be presented to ine. mit, sufficiently warrant such a re Before I proceed to give an account quest. I have appeared in the above of the steps that led to my recent mentioned volume as the advocate of change of sentiment it may be proper the doctrine alluded to by your cor to state what were my former views. respondent, and it was natural for In defending the pre-existence of Jeone who candidly ackuowledges that sus Christ I never supposed that in he felt the force of my reasoning,” to his pre-existent state, or in any stage wish to be informed of the means by of his existence he was any more which I was led to renounce a senti- than a man. That be was a divine ment which I had so strenuously la person truly and properly God, and boured to defend ; and it is but right became man; that he was a superthat I should endeavour to shew, that angelic being and took upon him huI have not adopted my present views mau nature; or that he pre-cxisted without such reasons as were fully as a human soul or spirit which in the sufficient to carry conviction to my fulness of time assumed a human bomind. I cannot, however, admit that dy in the womb of the virgin, and so I have been either recently or instan. became a proper man ; neither of these taneously converted to the Unitarian idens former any part of my creed; faith ; because I have been an Unita- I considered them all as unscriptural rian, (in the proper sense of that term, and indefensible. In my letters in as much so as I am at present) more reply to Mr. Belsham I have not, in than fifty years, nor have my views any instance, adverted to the nature undergone any material alteration ei- of Christ's pre-existence, to what he ther respecting the unity of God, or was in that state, or to the nature of the nature of the person of Cbrist du. the change which took place in him ring that period. My recent change in his humiliation ; but have confined of sentiment has no relation to the myself to the plain matter of fact, nature of Jesus Christ, but simply to whether or not the pre-existence of the time when he began to exist : Jesus Christ is a doctrine contained whether that existence commenced in the scriptures. Those who wish when he came in the flesh, or whe to see what my views were on those ther be existed from the foundation of subjects may see them fully stated in the world.
the third volume of the Protestant As to the “ almost instantaneous" Dissenters' Magazinc for 1796, pp. nature of my conversiou, your corres 130-135, and 172-177. With repondent should recollect that it is now spect to the steps that have led to my seven years since my replies to Mr. present views, I observe, Belsban appeared in the Repository. First, that Mr. Belsham's arguThere is a certain process which takes ments, in his Letters to Mr. Carpenplace in the mind in order to a con- ter, on my first perusal, appeared to viction of the truth or falsehood of me to possess considerable weight, any doctrine ; that process may be and for some time made a deep imJong or short ; it may be attended pression on my mind, which led me to with many difficulties and struggles re-consider them with close attention; arising from a variety of causes; but upon doing so, I discovered at least a change of sentiment, the result of I thought I discovered that in some that process by which the mind is instances he had made use of declamade up upon the subject, is proba mation instead of argument ; that in bly almost always instantaneous. But other instances his arguments were what adds to the surprise of your inconclusive; that he had laid himself correspondent is, that such a change open to considerable animadversion,
Mr. Marsom on the Pre-existence of Jesus Christ. and that much of his declamation and miraculous conception, although lia argument derived their whole force miraculous conception does not nefrom the supposition that the doc- cessarily imply his pre-existence ; betrine of the pre-existence of Jesus cause bad he pre-existed his concepChrist necessarily included in it that tiou must have been preternatural ; of his possessing a super-human or but it might have been preternatural super-angelic nature; that he was a if he had not existed before ; as was being of extraordinary powers, a sub- the case respecting Isaac and Samuel. ordinate Jehovah, a delegated Crea- if then it should appear that his contor, under God the maker and up- ception was not miraculous, I was holder of all things. Upon the dis- fully convinced that the doctrine of covery of such
amazing facts," his pre-existence must necessarily be “ Would not the mind of a Jew,” ex- given up. Under these impressions claims Mr. Belsham, “who had never a work published in 1813,* fell into heard of delegated Creators and subor. my hands, in which, I think, the audinate Jehovahs, have been thor has proved that the accounts of whelmed with astonislıment when the miraculous conception, as they this new and strange doctrine was now stand in the beginning of Matfirst discovered to him?" These ideas thew and Luke, are spurious; and opened to him a wide field for decla- be has stated some facts as taking mation, but to me, believing they place, not at Bethlehem, but at Rome, had no foundation in scripture or from which the stories, recorded in any connexion with the pre-existence the two first chapters of Matthew and of Jesus Christ, they furnished strong Luke, probably originated. These ohjections to bis hypothesis, and laid circumstances, together with the inihim open to much animadversion, probability of their truth which apand this gave rise to the following pears upon the face of the accounts interrogations in my first letter, M. themselves, led me to conclude that Rep. Vol. iii. p. 381:-" Is not Mr. they were not the genuine producB. guilty of the same fault which tions of those Evangelists to whom he would be ready enough to charge they are ascribed. on the opposers of Christianity, that Thirdly. The inconsistency of those they attack its corruptions and not accounts with each other with hisChristianity itself as left in the New torical fact-and with the current Testament? Will be say in reply, language of the New Testament, fur. that he finds this new and strange nish additional evidence that those doctrine maintained as a doctrine of accounts were not written by Matthew scripture by his learned friend to and Luke. With respect to their whom he is writing? So may they inconsistency I shall mention but one say, that these corruptions, as we call circumstance. The flight into Egypt them, are maintained as Christianity recorded by Matthew, is not only unby its advocates."
noticed by Luke, but his account eviThese considerations determined dently, as I conceive, contradicts it. me, by a reply to Mr. Belsham, to He tells us, ch. ii. 22, that, “ When bring the subject before the public the days of her (i. e. Mary's) purifiin order to obtain some further light cation according to the law of Moses, upon it, and to settle my own mind were accomplished (that is when Jewhich had been in a measure unset sus was forty days old) they brought tled by Mr. B.'s Letters.
him to Jerusalem, to present him to Mr. Belsham, however, for reasons the Lord.” And after relating what best known to himself, did not think passed in the temple, he says, 39th proper to take any notice of my argue and following verses, “And when ments in reply to him, leaving me in they had performed all things accordpossession of the field. He probably ing to the law of the Lord, they re. thought my arguments too contemp- turned into Galilee to their own city," tible to merit any notice, and his own not Bethlehem, but “Nazareth. And so perfectly clear, conclusive and con- the child grew and. waxed strong in : vincing as to stand in no need of cor- spirit, filled with wisdom and the rection, explanation or defence. grace of God, was upon him. Now.
Secondly. I considered the doctrine of Christ's pre-existence as ne Jones's Sequel to his Ecclesiastical cessarily involving in it that of his Researches.
Mr. Marsom on the Pre-existence of Jesus Christ.
77 his parents went to Jerusalem every Nazareth. Had Jesus been indeed year at the feast of the passover ; and born at Bethlehem is it possible that when he was twelve years old they the sacred writers should so invariably went up to Jerusalem, after the cus. speak of him as being of Nazareth? tom of the feast." The writer here from any thing recorded in the New represents Jesus when he was forty Testament it does not appear that Jesus days old as being carried by his pa- himself, his apostles, or bis historians rents from Nazareth, their own city, knew any thing of his miraculous up to Jerusalem, and returning to conception and birth at Bethlehem ; Nazareth, and from thence, annually, there is not any where in the preachfor twelve successive years, going up ing or letters of the apostles the most to Jerusalem to the passover ; aud in distant allusion to them; and this is chap. iv. 14, 16, Luke tells us that the more extraordinary if they were Jesus returned from the wilderness attended with such singular circuminto Galilee, “and he came to Naza- stances, and were the fulfilment of reth, where he had been brought up.” prophecies respecting him, as they We have h're therefore, the whole are said to be by the writer of the of the life of Jesus, for the first twelve two first chapters of Matthew's Gosyears, accounted for as spent with his pel. parents at Nazareth, leaving no pos It is true, the Jews seem to have sible period for the flight into Egypt; had a tradition amongst them, that whereas the writer of the story in the Christ was to come out of BethMatthew states, that he was born at lehem, and his enemies, who dis.' Bethlehem, that from thence they went puted his claims, are represented as into Egypt, and continued there till saying, Joho vii. 41, 42, “Shall after the death of Herod, who sought Christ come out of Galilee? Hath his life. Now two stories, so incon- not the scripture said, “That Christ sistent with each other, cannot possi- cometh of the seed of David, and out bly he, both of them, true.
of the town of Bethlehem where DaI might add, that if the massacre vid was?"" And in another place, of the children of Bethlehem by the “Out of Galilee ariseth no prophetdirection of Herod had been a fact, it Can any good thing come out of Nais extremely improbable that neither zareth ?" Is it not strange, if Jesus Josephus, who wrote the Life of He and his historians kuew that he was rod,' nor any other contemporary born at Bethlehem, that they should writer should mention so remarkable in no instance have corrected this a circumstance.
mistaken idea, that he was a GaliWith respect to historic fact. If lean, and refuted the argument foundit be sufficiently ascertained, as I think ed on it to prove that he could not it is, by incontrovertible testimony, be the Christ, by stating, that in fact that Jesus was not born till after the he was not of Nazareth in Galilee; death of Herod, then the whole of the but that he did indeed come out of stories related in the two first chap- Bethlehem? On the contrary, they ters of Matthew must be false and every where assert, that he was of spurious.
Nazareth. Again, the birth of Jesus with the The above passage, I believe, is the circumstances attending it, as record.. only one in the New Testament in ed in the beginning of Matthew's which Bethlehem is so much as menGospel, are inconsistent with the lan- tioned, excepting those in the beginguage of the New Testament, which ning of Matthew and Luke where it represents Jesus as being of Nazareth, repeatedly occurs. But but never of Bethlehem. He is called Fourthly. This matter is put beJesus of Nazareth about twenty times yond all possible doubt, if Mr. Jones in the New Testament. Peter on is right (as I think he is), in his transthe day of Pentecost, speaking as the lation of Luke iii. 23," And Jesus Holy Spirit gave him utterance, calls himself began to be about thirty years him Jesus of Nazareth. The angels of age, being (really) as he was at his sepulchre eall him Jesus of Na- thought to be, the son of Joseph." zareth. He calls himself so when he I shall not transcribe his criticisms on appeared to Paul as he was going to the construction of the Greek of this Damascus, and his apostles wrought passage, but only the conclusion he their miracles in the name of Jesus of draws from them. “ It is therefore a
fact," says he, “ beyond reasonable which Franklin translates, contradiction, that Luke here asserts; The happiest fate of man is not to be ; that Jesus was thought to be the son And next in bliss is be who soon as born, of Joseph, and was so in truth; and from the vain world and all its sorrows thus by one single unequivocal ex. free, pression, he has set aside the story Shall whence he came with speediest foot of his miraculous birth as false, and the two disputed chapters as a forgery With which may be compared Potter's of a subsequent period." See Sequel, version :p. 241. Note.
Not to be born is Heav'n's first grace, Thus, Sir, I have laid before you if born, extinguish'd soon the vital flame; the steps by which I have arrived at
Back to return from whence it came, my present views, and hope they will Is heav'n's next blessing to man's wretchbe as satisfactory to your correspond ed race. ent as they are to myself,
I am here reminded of a note in
Wakefield's Matthew, 4to. 367, on
the Case of Judas (xxv. 24). That
rious learning, as a glad offering to St. Ardleon, Oct. 30, 1815. the Sanctuary of Religion, remarks
on the expression had not been born, Sir,
that it is “ a proverbial sentence, THE following lines, in Prior's ineaning in general that this action
Solomon, (B. iii.) have, I believe, would be attended by very calamitous been much oftener admired than ex
consequences to the criminal." He amined, as to the justness of the sentiments they express :
adds, citing a couplet from the Greek
Epigrams, that “it is common for Happy the mortal man, who now at last
unhappy people to wish that they Has through this doleful rale of mis'ry had never been born;" and subjoins past,
from Maimonides (Mor. Nev. i 32, Who to his destin'd stage bas carried on The tedious load, and laid his burden Buxtorf ) this Jewish sentence, “Who
ever does not spare the glory of his Whom the cut brass and wounded marble Creator, it were better for him not to shows
have come into the world." Victor o'er life and all her train of woes.
It is remarkable that Mr. WakeHe happier yet who privileg'd by fate field, who has here qualified the force To shorter labour and a lighter weight, of the phrase, had not been born, apReceiv'd but yesterday the gift of breath, pears to have forgotten that at p. 361, Order'd to-inorrow to return to death.
of the same work, (on Matt. xxv. 46) But O! beyond description happiest he, he had taken it strictly as an arguWho ne'er must roll on life's tempestuous ment against the hypothesis of the Who with blest freedom from the gene
final happiness of the wicked," which
he, with evident reluctance, conral doom Exempt, must never force the teeming
cludes to be “ unscriptural, because womb,
then, in no instance, can it be better Nor see the sun, nor sink into the tomb. for a man never to have been born: a Who breathes must suffer, and who thinks case, which the N. T. not only supmust inourn:
poses, but exemplifies" - aliquando And he alone is blest who ne'er was born. bonns dormitat. Gilbert Wakefield
I am not aware that the Pagan ori- (of whom I had some knowledge) had gin of these lines has ever been con
considered the divine attributes and jectured. Prior appears to have had the perfectability of man with too in his recollection not so much the much attention to have casily become passage in Ecclesiastes (iv. 2, 3) as the a consistent advocate for the dreary following verse of Sophocles in his doctrine of human destruction. Edipus Coloneus :
R. B. Μη φύναι τον άπαντα νι
American Proclamation of a Fast-Day. κά λόγον το δ', επεί φανή, Βήναι κε "θεν όθεν περ ήκει,
[It is perhaps to be regretted that
, Πολύ δεύτερον, ως τάχιςα.
in any country, Religion should be associated with War, which is seldom
American Proclamation of a Put-Day. on any side justifiable. The different the will and authority of the whole manner, however, in which governo people, and guaranteeing to each inments appeal, in their quarrels, to the dividual security, not only of his Lord of Hosts, is characteristic of the person and his property, but of those spirit of their institutions. In this sacred rights of conscience, so essenview, we have been considerably im- tial to his present happiness and so pressed with the following Proclama- dear to his future hopes :--that with tion of a Day of Humiliation by the those expressions of devout thankfulPresident of the United States, during ness be joined supplications to the the late uubappy contest with this same Almighty Power, that he would country; and venture to insert it in look down with compassion on our our Repository, wishing it to be read, infirmities, that he would pardon our as it surely may, now that the two manifold transgressions, and awaken countries are at peace, not as a po- and strengthen in all the wholesome litical manifesto, but as a State Cu- purposes of repentance and amendriosity. Ed.)
ment; that in this season of trial and
calamity, he would preside in a parUnited States, by a joint re- cils, and inspire all citizens with a solution of the two houses, have sig- love of their country, and with those nified a request that a day may be re- fraternal affections, and that mutual commended, to be observed by the confidence, which have so happy a people of the United States with reli- tendency to make us safe at home gious solemnity, as a day of Public and respected abroad ; and that, as Humiliation and Prayer ; and where he was graciously pleased, heretofore, as in times of public calamity, such to smile on our struggles against the as that of the war, brought on the attempts of the government of the United States by the injustice of a empire of which these states then foreign government, it is especially made a part, to wrest from them the becoming, that the hearts of all should rights and privileges to which they be touched with the same, and the were entitled in common with every eyes of all be turned to that Almighty other part, and to raise them to the Power, in whose hand are the wel- station of an independent and sovefare and destiny of nations : Ido, there- reign people ; so he would now be fore, issue this my proclamation, re- pleased, in like manner, to bestow commending to all who shall be his blessing on our arms in resisting piously disposed, to unite their hearts the hostile and persevering efforts of and voices in addressing, at one and the same power to degrade us on the the same time, their vows and adora- ocean, the common inheritance of all, tious to the great Parent and Sove- from rights and immunities, belong. reign of the Universe, that they as. ing and essential to the American semble on the second Thursday of people, as a co-equal member of the September vext, iu their respective great community of independent nareligious congregations, to render him tions; and that, inspiring our enethanks for the many blessings he has mies with moderation, with justice, bestowed on the people of the United and with that spirit of reasonable acStates ; that he has blessed them with commodation, which our country has a land capable of yielding all the ne- continued to manifest, we may be cessaries and requisites of human life, enabled to beat our swords into with ample means for convenient ex- ploughshares, and to cujoy in peace, changes with foreigo countries ; that every man,the fruits of his honestindus. he has blessed the labours employed try and the rewards of his lawful enterin its cultivation and improvement; prise. If the public homage of a peothat he is now blessing the exertions ple can ever be worthy the favourato extend and establish the arts and ble regard of the holy and omniscient manufactures, which will secure with. Being to whom it is addressed, it in ourselves supplies too important to must be that in which those who remain dependent on the precarious join in it are guided only by their policy, or the peaceable dispositions free choice, by the impulse of their of other nations; and particularly that hearts and the dictates of their couhe bas blessed the United States with sciences, and such a spectacle must e political constitution, founded on be interesting to all Christian nations;