« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
in heaven;"* evidently intending to affirm, that he did not derive his information from men, but from God.“ Immediately,” says Paul, “ I consulted not with flesh and blood;” of that is, he consulted no human authorities; “nor did I go up to Jerusalem," he adds, “ to those that were apostles before me.” The first part of the apostle's proposition then evidently is, that the opposition he had chiefly to sustain was not from men, nor from adversaries of the human rank and order. The question naturally arises, from what then ? He adds, “ From principalities and powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world,” or, according to Griesbach,“ of this darkness ;” that is, say the unitarians, from Jewish rulers and priests. We must perceive in a moment the absurdity of the proposition thus interpreted, where that is denied at the beginning which is affirmed at the close; and human nature, expressed by a general term which can signify nothing else, is formally excluded from the context, to make way for a class of adversaries who are of that very nature, and no other.
It is equally impossible to put the other construction on the passage, that of the principle of evil; because that cannot admit of the plural number. It will surely be allowed, that no intelligent writer, who was desirous of personifying the principle of evil, abstractedly considered, would speak of it in the plural form, under the figure of * Matt. xvi. 17.
+ Gal. i. 16.
“ principalities and powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world,” since such a mode of speaking could be productive of nothing but mental confusion. This passage, therefore, affords an irrefragable proof of the existence and agency of Satan.
Let us proceed to apply the principle of our opponents to another passage, and inquire, whether it be possible to elicit from it a sense worthy of the wisdom of inspiration. The passage to which I refer is in the first Epistle of John, the third chapter: “ My little children, let no man deceive you; he that doeth righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous: he who committeth sin is of the devil, for the devil hath sinned from the beginning: for this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” Let us for a moment suppose, with the unitarians, that the devil is here put for a personification of the principle of evil, or of sin. And what, let me ask, can be more trite, futile, and ridiculous, than gravely to assert, that the principle of evil, or sin, sinned from the beginning ? Who needed to be informed of this? and what sense can we affix to the phrase, “ from the beginning ?” which, if it conveys any idea at all, must be intended to instruct us, that the principle of sin did not begin to be sinful from a late or recent, but from a certain very distant epoch, denoted by the words, “ the beginning." But is not this more like the babbling of an infant, than the dictates of divine inspiration ?
The following passage of John is [beset] with precisely the same difficulties. “ Ye,” said our Lord, addressing the unbelieving Jews, “are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own, for he is a liar, and the father of it.”* Here, on the hypothesis of our opponents, we find our Saviour labouring to convince his hearers that the principle of evil, or sin, has been guilty of certain specific enormities, such as murder and lying; that it did not continue in a state of moral rectitude, because there is no rectitude in it. Nothing can be more trifling ; since, when the very principle of evil in the abstract is under contemplation, every partial kind of evil is, ipso facto, included. Had our Lord discoursed in this manner, it might very properly have been said of him, in a sense very different from that which was originally intended, “ never man spake like this man.”
The legitimate employment of a prosopopcia, or personification, requires that the literal term, expressive of the passion or principle personified, be strictly adhered to. He who wishes to personify piety, patriotism, or benevolence, is never accustomed to drop the literal term by which these principles are respectively denoted. He gives sex, sentiment, and language to each, but on no occasion shall we find him substituting an unusual name for the things which he intends to personify. To change the very terms themselves for certain symbolical appellations, would have the effect of involving his discourse in incomprehensible mystery: it would be introducing an enigma, not a personification. Where shall we find a parallel in the whole compass of the Bible for such a licentious abuse of personification ? Besides, allowing that this absurd kind of personification could be at all tolerated, the symbolical name ought, at least, to have a determinate meaning; it should invariably stand for one and the same thing. The change of the proper term, for the name of a symbolical personage, could be justified on no other principle than that it was universally understood to be the substitute of some one object; but in the present case, the word Satan has no precise or definite idea attached to it; it is sometimes the principle of evil, sometimes the Jewish priests and rulers, at others, the pagan magistrates. How [repugnant to every sound principle of interpretation!7
* John viii, 44.
ON THE EXTREME CORRUPTION OF MANKIND
BEFORE THE GENERAL DELUGE. Gen. vi. 11.—The earth was corrupt before God, and was filled
with violence. The account in the Scriptures of the history of the world before [the flood] is extremely concise, but, at the same time, extremely interesting. Of
the celebrated personages that then flourished, the names are seldom mentioned, and the transactions in which they were engaged, are not specified with any detail of circumstances. The inhabitants of the old world are involved in [obscurity); they are made to pass before us like the shade of departed greatness, with an infallible judgement only passed by their Creator on their characters, and a distant declaration of their doom; as though it were the determination of God's providence to bury their memory in oblivion, and to make nothing distinctly legible but their destruction. Of the violences they committed, of the impiety they uttered, and of the miseries they mutually inflicted upon each other, the Holy Ghost condescends to give no particulars, but only stigmatizes them as atrocious criminals and rebels, whose enormous guilt exhausted the patience of their Maker, and rendered them unfit to live.
The same history informs us of a most atrocious murder, committed by the first-born man upon his brother, for no other reason than that he was wicked and his brother righteous. Such an event affords a view of human nature, in the early stage of its existence, which prepares us for the description given of human depravity in the context, “and the Lord looked, and beheld that every thought of the imagination of man's heart was evil, and that continually."* It was necessary explicitly to state the extreme degeneracy into which mankind
· * Gen. vi. 5.