« ElőzőTovább »
St. Pour Loránd histhe who
notion, that St. Peter, upon this occasion, spake or was spoken to as the representative of the apostles, is groundless and erroneous.' pp. 316_7.
Vastly as this sounds like the tone of the Vatican, we soon resumed our complacency towards the Bishop, on finding him a very orthodox and consistent protestant, and, after all his apparent concessions, making the passage before us completely hostile to every papal claim. He proves, most satisfactorily, that the power of the keys, entrusted to St. Peter, was not a perpetual but a temporary authority,'. and differed materially from that subsequent grant of authority given to all the apostles without distinction. By referring to the sacred records he shows, that St. Peter opened the kingdom of heaven, applied the key, pushed back the bolt of the lock, and threw the gates of the city open for the admission of the whole gentile world, in the instance of Cornelius and his family ;' and that to this, and to this only, our Lord prophetically alluded, when he promised to St. Peter the custody of the keys. p. 320.
The binding and loosing" he considers as illustrated in the confirmation of the moral, and the abrogation of the ceremonial law; and refers to the decision of the council at Jerusalem, on the appeal of the church of Antioch, as formed by the special suggestion and persuasion of St. Peter. Here, however, we think the Bishop's idea of exclusive reference to this apostle, is contradicted by the narrative. The apostle James, as must appear to any impartial reader of the account, appears the sole framer of the resolution which was transmitted to the gentile churches,--and the authoritative preamble to that resolution unites all the Apostles together, without any distinction : "it seemed good s to the Holy Ghost and to us." By the rock in the text, his lordship understands the truth of that memorable confession, for which the Apostle was so highly rewarded. Adverting to the phrase "gates of hell," he considers it as a periphrastic description of death; and views the promise as securing the continuance of the church, notwithstanding the successive mortality of its members. This, we think, is evidently included in the declaration : but we hesitate in admitting it to be the whole import of the passage. We are aware that Whitby and Campbell are authorities for the opinion: still we are disposed to imagine, that the gates of hell refer to the councils and projects of invisible enemies against the church; and that there is an obvious allusion to the practice of the courts of judicature and deliberative assemblies being held at the gate of the city.” * The sermon concludes with two observations; that the church is a building raised by Christ himself, founded on his truth alone; and that the promise of perpetual stability is only to the church catholic, and affords no security to any particular church, if her faith, or her works, should not be found perfect before God. From this last remark the Bishop is led to a strain of solemn and affecting admonition, peculiarly applicable to the clergy of our establishment, and adapted to arouse them to the inore vigilant discharge of their duties. It is an adniirable specimen of hortatory eloquence.
We can only just mention the next sermon on 1 Cor, ii. 2, which contains many ingenious remarks on apostolic gifts, and the necessity of learning in a christian teacher, (a subject by the bye, on which the sectaries as they are generally called, are much more enlightened than most bishops are aware of,) in order to hasten to the first four sermons of the second volume, on the important topic of prophecy, its nature and design, and the principles on which the scriptural interpretation of it should be founded. The text of these discourses is in 2 Peter, 1. 20, 21: the English rendering of which he amends by a translation much more intelligible in itself, and much more accordant with the scope and connection of the passage. "The precise meaning of the original may be thus expressed : Not any prophecy of scripture is of self interpretation-or, is its own interpreter.' Having established this s improved version,' he remarks, that the maxim contained in it is to be
6 applied both to every single text of prophecy, and to the whole. Of any single text it is true, that it cannot be its own interpreter; for this reason, because the scripture prophecies are pot detached predictions of separate independent events, but are united in a regular and entire system, all terminating in one great object-the promu'gation of the gospel, and the complete establishment of the Messiah's l.ingdom. Of this system, every particular prophecy makes a part, and bears a more immediate, or a more remote relation to that which is the object of the whole. It is therefore very unlikely, that the true signification of any particular text of prophecy, should be discovered from the bare attention to the terms of the single prediction, taken by itself, without considering it as a part of that system to which it unquestionably belongs, and without observing how it may stand connected with earlier and later prophecies, especially with those which might more immediately precede or follow it.
* See Harmer's Observations--Burnet on the articles-and Beza in loc.
Again, of the whole of the scripture prophecies, it is true that it cannot be its own interpreter. Its meaning can never be discovered, without a general knowledge of the principal events to which it alludes : for prophecy was not given to enable curious men to pry into futurity, but to enable the serious and considerate to discern in past events the hand of providence. Thus you see, the apostle, while he seems only to guard against a manner of interpretation which would perpetually mislead, in effect directs us to that which will seldom fail. Every particular prophecy is to be referred to the system, and to be understood in that sense, which may most aptly connect it with the whole ; and the sense of prophecy in general is to be sought in the events which have actually taken place ;-the history of mankind, especially in the article of their religious improvement, being the public infallible interpreter of the oracles of God.” Vol. II, pp. 15, 16.
This explanation of the passage is afterwards illustrated by the first promise respecting the seed of the woman, the basis of all subsequent predictions--the original germ, out of which the whole expansion of truth has been unfolded. His lordship then proceeds to elucidate other prophecies, particularly that concerning the descendants of Japhet and Shem, aud in the course of his elucidations discusses the question respecting the double sense of prophecy, on which we find the following interesting and luminous remarks.
"I shall not scruple to confess, that time was, when I was inclined to think that every prophecy, were it rightly understood, would be found to carry a precise and single meaning, and that wherever the double sense appears, it was because the one true sense had not yet been detected. I said, “ Either the images of the prophetic style have constant and proper relations to the events of the world, as the words. of common speech have proper and constant meanings, or they have not. If they have, then it seems no less difficult to conceive that many events should be shadowed under the images of one and the same prophecy, than that several likenesses should be expressed in a single portrait. But, if the prophetic images have no sucb appropriate relations to things, but that the same image may stand for many things, and various events be included in a single prediction, then it should seem that prophecy, thus indefinite in its meaning can afford no procf of providence: for it should seem possible that a prophecy of this sort, by whatever principle the world were governed, whether by providence, nature, or necessity, might owe a seeming completion to mere accident." Thus I reasoned, till a patient in vestigation of the subject, brought me, by God's blessing to a better mind. I stand clearly, and unanswerably confuted by the instance of Noah's prophecy concerning the families of Japhet; which hath actually received various accomplishments in events of various kinds, in various ages of the world, in the settlements of European and Tartarian conquerors in the Lower Asia, in the settlements of European traders on the coast of India, and in the early and plentiful conversion of the families of Japhet's stock to the faith of Christ. The application of the prophecy to any one of these events bears all the characteristic of a true interpretation consistence with the terms of the prophecy, consistence with the truth of history, consistence with the prophetic system. Every one of these events must therefore pass with every believer for a true completion. pp. 73, 75.
The remainder of these discourses is employed in obviating, with great acuteness and refinement of reasoning, some subtle objections which the adversaries of Christianity might raise against the evidence of prophecy.
In the nineteenth Serinon we are presented with a metaphysical dissertation on
« Providence, foreknowledge, will and fate,
“ Fix'd fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute.” The passage suggesting this train of thought is Matt. xvi. 21. in which the pre-determined necessity of our Lord's crucifixion is asserted. From this subject, his lordship takes occasion to deliver his sentiments on the doctrines of divine foreknowledge, buman liberty, and philosophical necessity. In speaking of the Calvinistic predestinarians, he appears to us unwarranted in asserting, that they do not hesitate to deny the freedom of human actions. Some extravagant fatalists, under that name, may have thus destroyed the foundation of human responsibility, but no respectable writers of that class authorise such an opinion.
We cannot, however, too highly commend the candour and urbanity with which, in this discourse, the learned prelate speaks of a sect every where calumniated. Some modern dignitaries, “not worthy to unloose the latchet” of Horsley, would do well to remember, that he almost inva': riably gives to the despised Calvin, the appellation of venerable; and that the very errors of his system, (assuming them to be errors) are ascribed not to a morose severity of temper, much less to spiritual pride, but to nobler principleseven to the natural sense and feelings of a virtuous mind.' In another place, he traces the plan of arbitrary pre.. destination, to a huinble spirit of resigned devotion;' asserting, on the other hand, that the anticalvinistic system sets op such a liberty of created beings, as necessarily precludes the i divine foreknowledge of human actions, takes the government of the moral world out of the hands of God, and leaves him nothing to do with the noblest part of his creation'which is, the Bishop adds, perhaps the worst error of some who have opposed the Calvinists. p. 135. · A critical exposition of the third article, concerning the
descent of Christ into bell,' is the subject of the twentieth discourse. His lordship's text is 1 Peter iii. 18, 19, 20. That the spirit of Christ existed in the invisible world, while his body remained in the grave, is, we think, abundantly evident from several passages in the sacred volume: but we are compelled to differ from the explanation of the test before us, though supported by his accustomed ingenuity and felicity of illustration. The spirits in prison' he considers as a phrase, descriptive of the righteous Antediluvians in the separate, intermediate and disembodied state. A prophecy in Isaiah (xlix. 8, 9.) is introduced, by a most unnatural construction, to support this idea, though obviously referring to the moral emancipation enjoyed under the gospel. By Christ's preaching' he understands, his annunciation, to those spirits, of the completion of his mediatorial work on earth. Both parts of this commentary appear to us unauthorized by the connection of the text, and void of support from any other part of scripture. The opinion of Doddridge and Macknight seems much more natural and intelligible; that “ Christ was quickened by that spirit, by which he preached to the spirits now in prison, when they were disobedient in the days of Noah." The apostles had spoken of the “ Spirit of Christ in the prophets ;” and we may easily conceive, that by the same spirit, he spake in the ministrations of Noah, expressly called “ a preacher of righteousness.”
The sanctity and obligation of the sabbath are next discussed, in three sermons on Mark ii. 27. We were surprised to find, in the last discourse on this subject, some observations, bordering on the ludicrous and sarcastic, that ill comport with that awful profanation of the day, which his lordship professes to deplore : and we were more than surprised to find the following apology for one of the most daring and unprincipled measures which ever disgraced a nominally Christian government. The present humour of the common people leads, perhaps, more to a profanation of the day, than to a superstitious rigour in the observance of it; but, in the attempt to reform, we shall do well to remember, that the thanks for this are chiefly due to the base spirit of puritanical hypocrisy, which in the last century opposed and defeated the wise attempts of government, to regulate the recreations of the day by authority, and prevent the excesses which have actually taken place, by a national indulgence.'. p. 272. • It is obvious that his lordship here alludes to the 6. Book