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lent an exertion of critical power, succeeding objectors to our faith have rested in another interpretation of the passage, but equally adverse to its fair and literal construction. They argue, that Christ does not mean to say, he was before Abraham, in point of time, but that as Messiah he was before him in dignity and importance. This may possibly pass, though not without some difficulty, upon an English reader, because, in our language, one thing may be said to be before another, if it excel it; but the Greek words will bear no such meaning giv invariably relates to priority of time, and syw eigi, standing as they do in the present, with that which was past, can be spoken with propriety only in one case, to which the whole world does not afford a second.*
Page 40, line 13 Will he allow their scriptures to bear witness
of Jesus, and the redemption of mankind through him, and doubt their veracity, when they prove the necessity of this rich display of mercy, by being witness also of the fall
of man, and the state from which he fell? I must here beg leave to notice some theological opinions, which, though never weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, pass current in the world under the stamp of
* Not to repeat my own words, vide these objections answered in “ Scriptural Revision of Socinian Arguments,” p. II z. &c.
Christianity, and are thus received and circulated by many, who are either unable to examine and appreciate their due value, or are deceived by their resemblance to the Christian image and superscription. My allusion is intended more particularly to point at a work of abundant research and ingenuity, and which, sent into the world with all the merit that attaches to the correct and amiable manners of its author, only serves to lead the judgement more astray, and to spread the delusion wider.
“ With an unfeigned sincerity,” says Mr. Sullivan, in his View of Nature, “ I am proud to declare it, I " honour and reverence the sacred scriptures; but I am « not in consequence bound to honour and reverence all 6 the rust and refuse which they may have collected in « their long and perilous voyage, and during the disas“ ters of their captivity. Neither am I to suppose, from " the Hebrew phraseology, that God talked with Abra“ ham and others mouth to mouth, and with an audible 66 voice, as one man would with another, or that men were « almost as familiar with Angels as with their fellow6 men. These are things not to be believed, for they are “ contrary to nature and reason, and to all the general “ laws and harmony of the world; but figuratively and “allegorically, I must allow, they are to bear an inter“pretation, especially when we know there are passages es which give the most sublime ideas of the majesty of « the Supreme Being, the glory of his works, and the “ incomprehensible methods of his Providence.”
Thus, instead of searching for the truth in figure, Mr. Sullivan, for the better interpretation of the scriptures, would read them backwards, (for I know no better expression for it) and search for figure in truth. How far this mode of reasoning has caused him to deviate from the true sense of them, he soon allows us to determine; for speaking of the fall of man, a few pages afterwards, he tells us, “ that it has ever been the received doctrine, - that this guilt has been transferred to the whole of “ Adam's posterity, and that on his account alone we “ are obnoxious to the Divine wrath. But whoever could 66 consider guilt otherwise than as a personal thing, or “any more to be transferred, than one man's being can “ be transferred to another?” After pursuing the subject farther, “ How are we to conceive,” says he, “ that “ God Almighty himself should be so unmerciful, as to 66 call us to an account for the crime of an old forefather,
committed nearly six thousand years ago ? I would “ not willingly offend in speaking of original sin; but I or can no more be persuaded that sin can descend in the “ blood, than I can that a man's knowledge and abilities 6 can run in the veins; for I believe a man may be as “ easily born a ready-made philosopher or divine, as he “ can be born a ready-made profligate or sinner. · But “ supposing there was such traductive guilt, the child, “ surely, could no more deserve punishment for it than 66 he could for inheriting his father's distempers; which, 6 in charity, one would suppose would deserve pity rather
6 than punishment. Nay, it would seem altogether in“ consistent with Divine justice and mercy, because the “guilt must have been infused into the soul by God, “ when he originally made it, which would argue a double “ degree of pravity; first, to implant sin in man, and “ then to punish him for it. How tremendous! to ima“gine God inflicting conscious misery, and that eternally, “ on millions and millions for a single sin committed be“ fore they were brought into existence. How frightful " to suppose, that he takes the sweet infant by death from o the affectionate mother's breast, almost as soon as it “ becomes capable of casting its innocent smiles in her “ face, and the still more advanced little prattler from the “ father's knee, and cast them both into hell, to suffer “ conscious misery without end, for they know not what.”
Far be it from me to mean the smallest disrespect to Mr. Sullivan, but really this language of the nursery, this lullaby sort of reasoning, puts at defiance all serious' refutation. It first creates a frightful image, and then tells those, whom it might fill with apprehension, not to be afraid. If Christ died for all; if as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive; and if, moreover, our Saviour himself took little children and blessed them, and even declared, (with an emblem borrowed from their simplicity) that of such was the kingdom of heaven; there is surely more consolation to be derived from these words than from any arguments Mr. Sullivan could supply. But from what page of the holy scriptures does
he draw his terrific imagery? They plainly tell us, that man fell from his primitive state, and that through Christ he was to be restored; that he had become subject to sin and death, and from that bondage he was to be released. Granting, therefore, the child could not personally sin, he must personally die, and the resurrection unto eternal life was to be the free gift of God through Jesus Christ.
In the personal offences, which Mr. S. justly applies to every individual, the child could not be implicated; but these were the consequences of a corrupted nature, of which he equally partook, and which was only to be purified through Him who was to redeem, to regenerate, and to restore.
We beseech Mr. Sullivan, therefore, to consider, that with this rust and refuse he is sweeping away all the doctrines of Christianity. That the whole of them depend upon man's lost and helpless condition, and look to his recovery and pardon. But upon his own assumption, also, and according to his own measure of faith, what defence of revelation (and he professes to undertake it) has he left? He may, and indeed does, stand up as an advocate for the necessity and dignity of religion; but then he is only an advocate for his own religious system, and which the doubts and cavils of others may claim a right to cleanse of many of its corruptions, till at last the book, which the pilgrim, just escaped from atheism, saw with joy in the hands of rational Christianity, because apparently so like his own, shall appear with half its leaves