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If so, why -does not the Professor follow the example? The belief in the Prophecies—in the perfect inspiration of the Bible—and in the existence of evil spirits, was as universal amongst Christians when the writers of the Professor's school began their labors, as ever it was among the ancient Jews. Upon his own argument, therefore, he stands charged with a direct opposition to the Saviour's example; because Christ allowed and encouraged opinions which the Professor has labored to destroy. Does this gentleman think his wisdom greater than the wisdom of Christ? Does he ask that his book and such as his, shall be esteemed correctives of the errors of the Redeemer's teaching, and be taken for an amended publication of the Gospel? If the Christian can hardly write these questions without a thrill of horror, what should be the sensations of that mind which prompts the inquisition?
But again: the Professor tells the world that the Redeemer was right in giving his sanction to the popular errors of his day in reference to the Prophecies, the inspiration of the Scriptures, the existence of evil spirits, &tc. Nevertheless we all know that there was a strong party in Judea who disbelieved all this, namely, the Sadducees, and very probably the Herodians. We grant, however, that the majority did then believe these things, and hence the proposition stands thus: that it was right in the Redeemer to give the full weight of his authority to these errors, because they were the optnions of the majority.
Now we ask leave to apply this novel morality to the case of the Professor himself. The opinions of his book are supposed to be the opinions of the majority around him; and how, upon his own hypothesis, can we know whether he is sincere? How do we know whether he is not in reality pursuing the plan, which he sacrilegiously, as we believe, imputes to the immaculate Redeemer? How do we know that he is not teaching what he supposes to be popular falsehood, for the purpose of subserving what he esteems to be higher and more important ends?
Far be it from us to impute such baseness to this respectable Professor, or to any other man. But we do distinctly say, that if we did place this foul aspersion upon Professor Norton, we should offer no greater insult to his character than he has cast upon the character of Jesus Christ.
Away, then, with such impiety. Let no man believe that the Son of God descended to a meanness which would be contemptible in a mortal instructor. But let us turn from such perversion to the testimony of the inspired Apostle, who declares, as if in anticipation of this very error, 'I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.'
We pass on to the second topic which we had marked for observation in the book of the Professor. In pages 33, 34, 35, we find an elaborate attempt to prove that Christ could not have been the Deity incarnate, because the Apostles do not appear to have felt sufficient awe in his presence. The whole argument is drawn from the Professor's imagining how men ought to have felt in the 'immediate presence of God. And he talks about 'the agony of incredulity, and doubt, and amazement, and consternation, and unspeakable astonishment, and extreme awe, and entire prostration of every faculty in approaching and contemplating such a being,' &c.
It is surely strange to see the labored effort made to gainsay the doctrine of Christ's Divinity, on such a ground as this. We would.only ask where the intercourse of God with Abraham, and Lot, and Jacob, and Moses, seems to have been attended with all the awful effects which the Professor describes? When the Jewish High Priest entered into the visible Shechinah of the mercy seat once a year, where do we read of the ' entire prostration of his faculties?' Tnie indeed, on many occasions we find that these effects did attend the Divine communications, as doubtless they would in all, if the powers of the, servants of God were not supernaturally strengthened, or the glories of his immediate presence shrouded from sensible observation. But the fact that in so many instances met* were enabled to sustain a continued intercourse with the God of Israel, during the preparatory dispensation, is a sufficient answer to the supposed difficulty of approaching him, during the period of his incarnation, when his outward appearance presented nothing alarming to the senses of the observer.
In truth, however, the Professor is utterly mistaken in saying that the presence of our Saviour did not inspire awe. The very contrary appears in many parts of the sacred history, as the fears and wonder of the disciples, and the common attitude of worship adopted by those who approached him, abundantly testify. But if it had been otherwise—if his presence had not inspired as much awe as we may think it should have done, what is there in this, more strange than the insensibility which Christians themselves frequently manifest in the acknowledged presence of God? Will the Professor plead exemption from a degree of dulness and carelessness of heart which too often characterises the hours of prayer to the Almighty—ever present Deity? Why should the belief that we are standing in the presence of God, manifest in the flesh, affect us more than the belief that we are before the same God, equally present in the Spirit? Has the Professor never heard men address the Lord in language of irreverent familiarity? Has he never seen or felt a perfect apathy of indifference in the house of worship and in the very act of worship? | If he has—and who has not ?—his own experience should have furnished a sufficient answer to all these imaginary difficulties in the Gospel history.
This, then, is truly a trivial argument; and worse, if possible, is the difficulty supposed to exist in the narrative of Christ washing his disciples' feet. The Professor thinks it (p. 36.) too shocking a question to be asked in plain words, whether the disciples could conceive that their Master was the incarnate Deity when het stooped to this act of condescension. Yet why? Has this author never read that God is about our bed, and about our paths, and spieth out all our ways? Does he not believe that the sparrow cannot fall to the ground without our heavenly Father, and that the hairs of our heads are all numbered? Or does he reckon these passages also amongst the cases of accommodation to prevailing error? Is our Lord's washing his disciples' feet a more astonishing act of condescension, than his clothing the grass of the field on which they trod, or his constructing the almost invisible frame of an ephemeron? Nay, is it not the very character of love, to count no service mean which affects the personal accommodation of our brethren? And did not Christ set forth this very instance as an example of fraternal affection?
But, enough of this. It is chiefly worthy of notice to the orthodox believer, because it shews so clearly where lies the fountain head of heresy. Philosophic men, in the pride of their superior intellect, bring the Scriptures to the bar of their imagination, and then talk of what God ought to have done, rather than humbly learn from the testimony of his word what he has been graciously pleased to do; thus constructing their Bible, as the heathen do their deities, to suit themselves. And we learn from each fresh example of the kind, the necessity of resisting every attempt to lower the claims of the Book of God, since we see the self-confidence of men leading even to this result: viz. that prophets, evangelists, apostles, and Christ himself cannot be trusted in all respects—that errors, and those of no small importance, occur in the teaching of the very Redeemer; and that our best preservative, now that the infallibility of the Church of Rome is done away, is to have recourse to the art of interpretation, as practised by the school of Professor Norton! Hard would it be to say whether this proposition is marked most strongly by absurdity, impiety or presumption.