Page images

an Unitarian. We should meet with a Catholic as the Rector of one Parish-and with a Presbyterian as the Vicar of a second. The death of every incumbent could not fail to introduce additional change and confusion. A Protestant Rector might, and, in many cases, no doubt, would be succeeded by a Catholic incumbent, who, in his turn, would make way for a Presbyterian successor. And every change in the principles of the teacher would infallibly introduce a corresponding change of the individuals who would attend his instructions. For it is in the nature of things impossible to suppose, that a protestant could long attend a place of worship where he should bear doctrines advanced and supported, which he considered false and even impious. He would discontinue his attendance, and surrender his place to others of opposite principles. Those, therefore, who are not prepared to think, that a constant succession of ministers holding the most dissimilar and irreconcileable opinions would produce endless and irremediable confusion will, we are persuaded, never wish that individuals should be admitted to ecclesiastical offices without subscribing human articles of faith, as the only efficient barrier against the constant recurrence of debate and contention.

While on the subject of the inadequacy of a declaration of belief in the Scriptures as of divine inspiration, as a substitate for subscription to human articles of faith, we must be permitted to remind our readers, that there is already in existence a translation of the Bible in which all the passages which have a direct reference to the divinity of our Saviour and the personality and office of the Holy Ghost have been sedulously altered or expunged ; nor must our readers forget that there is now living a certain ingenious gentleman ycleped John Bellamy, who assures us that the version of the sacred writings, on the fidelity of which we have been accustomed to rely, abounds in gross and palpable errors--that it is full

passages utterly at variance with the original, and which be characterises as impious and absurd; and that he, the said John Bellamy, is the only translator who fully understood and correctly rendered into English, the Hebrew text which he is dishonest enough to assert, or stupid enough to believe, had not been even consulted or examined by the translators of the authorised version. We have neither space nor inclination at present, to add any observations on the labour bestowed by this modest person on what be facetiously terms an improved version of the Scriptures, but wbich bas been proved over and over again to be, nearly in all the instances where he deviates from the authorised translation, either a wanton perversion or a stupid misconception of the meaning of the original. Whether our estimate of the merits of Mr. John Bellamy's version be or be not correct, must be left to the judgment of the reader; but we confess that every thing wbich he bas written upon the subject since our attention was first directed to his undertaking, bas strengthened and .confirmed the opinion we had formed of his presumption and incapacity.

In the mouth of a dignitary of our own church we have, to our surprise, heard the following language : “ Articles of Churches are not of divine authority; have done with them ; for this may be true, this may be false; and appeal to the þook itself.” Biskop Watson having thus summarily disposed of the articles of churches,is followed all through haud passibus equis,” by Mr. John Bellamy, who asserts that • the book” to which the Bishop commands us to appeal, and which the English reader has been taught to consider as the revealed will of the Deity, does not convey the import of the original: but that it is a wretched imposition palmed upon the credulity of the public by the ignorance and ineapacity of former translators. We imagine, therefore, that the advocates of“ liberty from religions tests” would by ng means be satisfied with the abolition of articles of faith. They would in addition to this, and, as we think, without inconsistency, claim the right of using any translation of the Scriptures which might best suit their purposes. However incredible it may at first sight appear, some individuals might still be found, who would consider the absurd “perversions” of Mr. John Bellamy an improvement of the authorised translation : and, for aught we can see to the contrary, another star may arise from Hackney of greater magnitude than even Mr. John Bellamy himself : and the disciple, being · thus above his Master, might favour the world with a translation of the Scriptures suitable to the wishes and opinions of “all Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Heretics," who would all readily make a declaration of belief in such a translation: Nay, were this great philologist himself to revise attentively the work of his own hands, “we are persuaded that even he might thus improve his own improvement,” and produce an English version of the Hebrew text, which might fully effect this object.

Our readers must instantly perceive that the most malignant enemy of revelation cannot deyise a plan more feasible or more eficient to destroy its authority. Revelation itself might then be easily converted into an engine to sap the whole foundation of religion and morality. The Deist, at present, denies the authority of the Scriptureshe denies that they contain the revealed will of the Deity: grant him the liberty of using Mr. John Bellamy's philological " eye, which sees the wind,” in extracting from these Scriptures any meaning which his imagination can suggest as the correct sense of the original, it will be his interest to uphold rather than destroy their authority: as he might, by degrees, prevail upon the multitude to adopt, under the cloak of revelation, opinions and practices which he might advocate in vain without the recommendation of such a sanction.

If the perversion and misrepresentation of the sale of the original, under the guise of a new and improved translation, should even fail to answer the purposes of the infidel, recourse may be bad to bolder and more efficient means : If he cannot prevail upon the public to swallow his emendations of the received version, he may endeavour to destroy the authority of the text from which the translation is made; and, as might have been naturally anticipated by those who attend to the progressive descent of a corrupt mind from bad to worse, such an attempt has been already projected. An ignorant and needy man, who lives, as some of our readers may possibly know, somewhere about the purlieus of the Fleet, and gains a precarious and scanty livelihood by vending seditious and blasphemous trash to gratify the corrupt appetites of the refuse of human society, has lately pablished an edition of the spurious Gospels, with the professed view of leading the unwary to consider these palpablo and clumsy forgeries as equally genuine and authentic with the gospels which the scriptural canon embraces. If this speculation should realize the golden hopes of needy and profligate adventure, we would recommend this concocter and vender of literary poison' to employ Mr. John Bellamy in retranslating his English version into Hebrew, and attempt to palm it upon the public as a genuine text, in which, among various other improvements, it may easily be made to appear, that the twelve Patriarchs are merely allegorical representations of the twelve signs of the Zodiac.

We cannot help embracing this opportunity of observing, that a fundamental and unaccountable error seems to pervade the whole reasoning of the late Bishop of Llandaff, when touching upon articles of faith. Whenever he approaches this subject, he is evidently deserted by that logical precision in argument which his mathematical studies might bave led us to expect. He lays it down as ap incontrovertible axiom that no church has a right to require of its members an explicit assent to articles of faith which cannot be proved to be of Divine authority. Having laid down this maxim, which appeared to bim indisputable, we are not surprised that he should, on all occasions, reprobate subscription to human articles of faith : but we acknowledge ourselves not a little surprised, that he did not, with the consistency of a practised logician, follow up his axiom as far as it would lead him. “ Have done with articles of faith,” says the Bishop: “They may be true, they may be false; believe only, that the Bible contains the revealed will of the Deity." No, respond Paine, Carlile, and Co. “ have done with all articles of faith, without any exception or reservation;" —"that the Scriptures contain the revealed will of the Deity is a moral conviction”-“it is only a belief"-" an article of faith which is not capable of absolute demonstration :" " it may be true : it may be false : on your own principles, therefore, we maintain that no church has a right to require assent to such a proposition.” It really appears to us, that these “unprejudiced" persons have rather the better of the argument against his lordship: they are entitled to the praise of consistency, at least, to which, in this instance, the Bishop can establish no claim. It could, we think, hardly have escaped bim that a declaration of belief that the Scriptures contain the revealed will of the Deity is, in fact, the adoption of an article of faith: by what train of reasoning be exempted this favourite dogma from the operation of his general principle of abolishing all such articles he has not, as far as we know, condescended to explain : nor would it be worth wbile to fill our pages with an attempt to conjecture.

When defining the principle by which he was guided as Professor of Divinity, he proceeds thus: “I reduced the study of Divinity into as narrow a compass as I could, for I determined to study nothing but my Bible, being much unconcerned about the opinions of councils, fathers, churches, bishops, and other men, as little inspired as myself.” On the part of a private individual scrutinizing the tenets of different churches, in order to ascertain which held the opinions which he considered most consonant to Scripture, such a resolution might have merited the highest praise: but we shall not, we trust, expose ourselves deservedly to the charge of dogmatical intolerance, if we declare that such a determination, on the part of a Professor of Divinity, in one of our Universities, does not appear to us to merit the commendation which the learned Prelate seems willing to claim for it. When he became a minister of the Church of England, he had, we take it for granted, examined the Articles of that Church, bad

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

found them consonant to the Scriptures, and as such bad declared his belief in their truth. As this, we presume, must have been the case, we confess it appears to us at least rather irregular, that while filling the divinity chair, he should have felt no concern for opinions to which he had given a formal and solemn assent, and wbich he must have known to be the opinions of the Church, of which he was a member. “I never trouble myself,” adds he, “ with answering any of the objections which the opponents in the divinity schools brought against the Articles of the Church ; nor ever admitted their authority as decisive of a difficulty ; but I used, on such occasions, to say to them, holding the New Testament in my hand, er sacrum codicem! Here is the fountain of truth, why do you follow the streams derived from it by the sophistry, or polluted by the passions of men? If you can bring proofs against any thing delivered in this book, I shall think it my duty to reply to it.”

The most careless reader must, we think, instantly detect the shallow and sophistical reasoning which pervades the above passage, and into which the learned Prelate was bew trayed by his anxiety to appear liberal and free from prejudice.

To render the fallacy of the rule which he bad laid down for himself, as Divinity Professor, still more glaring, let us suppose our opponent, in the Divinity Schools, taking the Unitarian side of the question, respecting our Lord's Divinity : we should have felt much curiosity to ascertain how the learned Prelate would have managed the debate. The opponent, like the party whose opinions he advocated, would of course, have denied, that the Divinity of our Saviour was a doctrine delivered in the Bible: it would, we conceive, have been then necessary for the Professor, as respondent, to convince his antagonist, that this doctrine was a thing delivered in this book :” And till this conviction bad been acknowledged, the respondent could not, on his principles, have felt it his duty to reply to the arguments of the opponent. " The divinity of Christ,” says the opponent, “is not a doctrine delivered in the Scriptures." Then,” answers the Divinity Professor, (as respondent,) " it is not my duty to reply to your arguments against it ; for I am not concerned to defend any thing wbich is not delivered in this book.”

Every opponent, therefore, who denied that any doctrine wbich be attacked, was delivered " in this Book," would simply, by that denial, have absolutely silenced his antagonist, and put him fairly out of the field. It is not improbable, that the learned Prelate would have said, that he considered the


« PreviousContinue »