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Art. II. An Essay on the Equity of Divine Government, and the Sovereignty of Divine Grace. By Edward Williams, D.D. 8yo. pp. 502. Price 12s. Black, York-street, Covent-garden, 1813. THAT there are certain topics of theology and moral

science, by no means to be considered as matters of mere speculative curiosity, about which men equally eminent for ability, study of the Scriptures, and exemplary devotion, have entertained opinions apparently opposite, is a fact too notorious to require the adduction of proof. As this circumstance has afforded to the friends of Revelation just occasion of regret, so to its enemies it has supplied a kind of asylum from the alarms of conscience. Until, say they, you can agree among yourselves about the meaning of the Bible, we may be excused from the trouble of examining your arguments for its authority. Now, though in an affair of so great moment, this conduct is the height of folly, yet it is certainly desirable that the reproach, and with it the delusive pretence, should be removed. Considering the remote extent to which Divines of both classes (for we refer chiefly to the controversies respecting Divine purpose and free will), have carried their sentiments, and the exclusive manner in which they have contended for them, it is certain that both cannot be wholly right; and from the industrious research, the vigour of mind, the genuine piety displayed by each, it may reasonably and indeed must fairly be inferred, that both cannot be altogether wrong. Unprejudiced persons, therefore, even before particular investigation, would assume it as a just supposition, that a correct statement of the controverted doctrines will be found to occupy the medium-will embrace much that characterizes the system of each, and reject something from the creeds of both.

But how are the boundaries of that medium to be ascertained, and so defined as to cut off the retreat of scepticism, to reconcile good men to each other, and, by disuniting the influence of error, to elicit the full effect of truth? On all subjects of a sacred nature, the first appeal is doubtless to Revelation: for when by appropriate evidences we arrive at a full conviction that "holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," we know that the true sense of what they declare must be decisive of every question to which it applies. Hence controversialists have referred us to chapter and verse until those passages of the sacred volume which relate to the points in dispute, have been so often selected and marshalled against each other, that almost every student of the respective schools

has them all by heart. This mode, however, from which, prospectively, so much might have been expected, has hitherto served only to protect and keep both parties in the field, until, each equally despairing of undisputed victory, and neither sustaining acknowledged defeat, both seemed to wish, and tacitly to conclude, an armistice. And, if a fair and honourable peace is never to be obtained, perhaps this suspension of polemic hostilities is mutually desirable. But why should not the candid and impartial indulge the hope that reconciliation may be yet effected? When from an infallible standard of truth results so opposite to each other are derived, it is plain that mistake must attach to the interpreters of that standard. And yet the frequency and perpetuity of mistake by men differently circumstanced, and against whom there cannot rest any general charge of incompetency, must suggest, that there is ambiguity in the terms by which the revealed facts are communicated. To impute the whole diversity to the mere force of prejudice on either side, would be manifestly unjust. It is far more consistent to allow that the same expressions are capable of being understood with considerable latitude of meaning. As all language partakes of the imperfections of man for whose use it was constituted, perhaps such an inconvenience necessarily attaches to the vehicle by which divine truth is imparted. But, independently of this, if we consider that the scriptures were originally written in tongues with which we are but imperfectly acquainted; and that the idioms of those tongues are connected with circumstances peculiar to the people who used them, the times when they lived, and the countries where they resided, (circumstances of which our information is but partial) it will cease to be a matter of surprise that there should be occasional incorrectness in our interpretations. Translations have only multiplied the liabilities to err: for it is obvious that many sentences when literally rendered will convey ideas considerably altered in their force and tendency from those which the original terms would suggest. Nor will a recourse to those primary sources completely correct this evil; since our habits of first becoming acquainted with these writings in our native tongue will naturally occasion a greater or less degree of prepos



From these and many other considerations, it is no wonder if the mere apparent force of phraseology should be indecisive of many controverted points of doctrine. prevent the possibility of this consequence, was no part of the divine purpose. Such an intention, it is obvious, would

ill accord with the exercise of moral government. He that when on earth so often spake in parables could not design to preclude every occasion of mistake. Truths absolutely essential, indeed, are so revealed as to elude the observation of no sincere inquirer: they are not to be disguised by changes of dress or vicissitudes of time. But those which, though important, are not essential to safety, are frequently involved in some degree of obscurity, and demand attentive and patient investigation, For the right understanding of these comparatively minor, and yet very interesting parts of the sacred record, it is not enough that we can enumerate the senses which the words will bear: we must discover some method of ascertaining what they are exclusively designed to express. Hence, besides an ample collation of passages, with all the usual aids of criticism, it becomes expedient, and indeed necessary, in order to settle differences, that we have recourse to something fixed; in other words to science. We are aware that, in the exposition of scripture, a reference to dogmas dignified with the name of philosophy, and to assumed principles honoured with the appellation of metaphysics, has been injurious in the extreme; and therefore the person who appeals to reason ought to be vigilantly watched lest he corrupt, instead of elucidating, what he professes to explain. His principles must either commend themselves to every man's consciousness, or else be derived from those parts of holy writ, the meaning of which is beyond the range of doubt. With such limitation, reason asserts no claims in contravention of scripture, but only offers her aid to the inquirer into its import. She presumes not to sit in judgment on what is explicitly and clearly revealed, but submissively employs her powers to try positions which profess to be inadequate interpretations of the scriptures. It is obvious, that it requires something more than merely to ascertain the meaning of words: the senses which we deduce must be mutually consistent, and accord with truths derived from other indubitable sources of information. The Romanist, for instance, asserts that the bread in the sacrament is the actual body of Christ and supports his assertion by the words of our Saviour: "this is my body." The Protestant denies this statement. Why? Not because the language, verbally construed, would not sustain that interpretation, but because his reason assures him that the thing supposed is impossible. While, however, he who renounces the aid of this faculty in ascertaining the mind of the Spirit, must be driven to the adoption of endless absurdities; it is incumbent on him who invokes its aid,

to take especial care that he accept not the offers of a substitute;-that he do not rely on passion or prejudice, instead of sound principles, and legitimate deductions. Discordant interpretations must be tried by different kinds of proof, and their claims adjusted by the application of acknowledged principles. It must be shewn that there are important reasons why one explanation must be right, and others inadmissible. Science, therefore, no less than criticism, must contribute its aid to the divine in his study of the holy records, and especially to settle the due medium between those extremes of opinion, to which we have already adverted.

But if scientific discussions are useful in reference to theological controversies; they are indispensable to carry on a successful conflict with infidelity. Since it is admitted that right reason and a revelation from God cannot disagree, the unbeliever objects that the Bible ought not to be accredited as such, because its doctrines are unreasonable. To refer him to scripture in answer to his objections would be to assume the question. He must be encountered on his own ground, and it must be shewn that his tenets are irrational as well as unscriptural;' that when he argues correctly his principles are false; or that when his principles are admissible, his reasoning is inconclusive.'

'To make use of the term "metaphysics," observes our author, as a watch-word, in order to avoid every thing defended by the science, as if faith in the pure gospel were in danger, is a weakness, to which a reflecting mind might be thought to rise superior. If reputed metaphysical writers reproach evangelical religion as an irrational system, it is clearly the more incumbent on its friends,-who exult in its unrivalled excellency, though clothed in the simplest dress, to evince, that it is perfectly consistent with the first principles of reason, and that the various hypotheses of its opposers cannot stand the test of close investigation. To shrink from enquiry under such a charge, would be virtually to confess the weak. ness of our cause, to confess that faith and sound philosophy, religion and right reason are incompatible, to confess, either that we are believers of an irrational creed, or ignorant of its true import. That science falsely so called,' has been the means of perverting the simple truths of the gospel, is but too evident in every page of ecclesiastical history: but it is also an undeniable fact, that false interpretations of scripture have corrupted the school of moral philosophy. The influence, indeed, is reciprocal; defection in the one, producing deterioration in the other.' pp. 29-31.

By science, however, is not to be understood that knowledge, exclusively, which is derived from sources distinct from revelation, but all knowledge systematically arranged and harmonized, which is founded on appropriate evidence whether natural or revealed. Physical science is built on

experiments, and accurately observed facts; analogous to which in theology and morals, are the unequivocal declarations of scripture. From these, in addition to other primary truths, are deduced general principles, which cannot be legitimately controverted, and by the aid of which, difficulties may be explained, obscurities elucidated, and apparent contradictions reconciled. Nor is it to be supposed that the term science in reference to theology, implies an entire comprehension of all its objects. Even natural philosophy does not profess to teach the essences of things, or their intimate modes of operation, but only arranges facts and ascertains general laws. Every work of Deity has its mysteries, when contemplated by finite minds, and nothing can be more unphilosophical than the notion that Revelation should be without them. Hence the radical fallacy of that system of interpretation adopted by those who, with a self-complacency not to be envied by the wise, call themselves rational divines. Theological science is as far from excluding mystery, as it is from admitting contradictions.

These observations, we trust, are sufficient to evince the utility of science both to repel the attacks of sceptics, and to establish controverted expositions of scripture. We have now to inquire how it has been employed in the work before us. And here, we trust, we shall be forgiven if we pause a moment, to pay a merited tribute of esteem to the memory of its lamented author. To the voice of human praise or censure he is now alike insensible; but it is dea lightful to live even in retrospect with the great and good -with those whose talents we have admired, and whose virtues we have loved. We have not now to speak of the mild and attractive graces, the "daily beauty," the unspotted purity of his life and conversation: but it is strictly within our province to say that few men have appeared better qualified than Dr. Williams, to excel in the arduous and important pursuits to which he attached himself. With a mind singularly penetrating, capable of forming the clearest conceptions, uninfluenced by mere human authority, ever employed in research, inflexibly attached to truth, unruffled by passion, and not to be diverted from his object by extraneous circumstances, he could pursue a train of reasoning to its remotest extent, with little hazard of failure in logical accuracy. Unfitted, perhaps, to wander in the fields of fancy, and contemplate unreal objects, his great delight was to study actual existences, and to form correct notions of their properties, relations, causes, and effects. So purely intellectual was his taste, that he derived unspeakably more

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