« PreviousContinue »
proof of this he denies at once. " that any satisfactory: arguments can be drawn froin testimony for any of these purposes, (Lett. p. 6 to 9,) and asserts that even the miracles, said to have been wrought at the first preaching of christianity, cannot now be admitted in evidence of the veracity of the scriptures, and of the divine origin of our religion.” (Lett. p. 9. Disson. p. 6.)
Having attempted to prove that the accomplishment of predicted events is the only permanent and satisfactory evidence of the truth of Christianity, he proceeds to con-. sider and interpret those prophecies of the New Testament which relate to Antichrist; from these he, often, selects only such parts as he thinks may best be accommodated to the support of his own prejudices against our Protestant reformation and the Orthodox Faith, omitting, or not noticing, many particulars which cannot be bent to favour his hypothesis, and yet are most important to enable us to trace out the true sense of the prophecy The sum and substance of his interposition is this; That Antichrist is the state supporting or establishing the Orthodor Church. (See Lett. passim, especially p. 23, 24.) That the creed of Antichrist is entirely composed of fables and
solely and entirely upon the prophets of the Old Testament, and that properly speaking the Old Testament is the sole true canon of christians. See Lelund's Deistical Writers, vol. I. Lett. 7. p. 90, 91, 3d. Edit. compare this also with what Mr. E. says. Lett. p. 114, 145. Mr. E. upon another occasion has even descended so low as to borrow his witticisms from this writer, for bis Orthoptic Spectacles in the address to the King, prefixed to his book upon the Holy Trinity, are only Collins's Free seeing and Confession of Eye-sight Faith, a little varied in the expression, See his Discourse on Freethinking quoted in Dr. Bentley's Phileleuth. Lips. p. 34, 35, 8th Edit.
*E.G. in his interpretation of Revel. xiii. 1. (Lett. p. 39, &c.) he pays no attention to one of the most prominent features of the bcast that rose out of the sea, which, if duly weighed, entirely overturns liis whole hypothesis, namely, that when this beast appeared the crowns were not upon the seven heads, (as was the case with the dragon in the preceding vision c. xii.) but upon the ten' horns, which circumstance obviously signifies that the ten kingdoms were in being when this beast arose from the abyss of waters. Mr. E. also affirms that by the sea in this prophecy Europe is meant (Lett. p. 39, 53.) but, to use his own words on this occasion, “ Figurative language, to be intelligible, must have some one fixed and certain signification,” (ibid. 53.) consequently the Prophet Daniel and our Apostle would not employ the same figure to signify different things; but the former, in his vision of the four beasts representing the four great empires, describes them all as coming out of the sea (Dan, vii. 2, 3.) now of these the Babyloniun and Persian were Asia atic; therefore the sea cannot signify Europe. The scriptures inform us
falsehood, without so much as the intermixture of the truth and sound doctrine of the Gospel*. (Lett. p. 37.) That the blasphemy and idolatry of Antichrist are the doctrines of the Holy Trinity and Incarnation, and the worship of Jesus Christ. (ibid. p. 43–52.) That this idolatry is more monstrous and wicked than any species of Paganism + (ibid. p. 124, 5.) That the prophetic cycle of 1260 years, or the time assigned for the reign of Antichrist, began in the vear 325, when Constantine gave the sanction of his imperial authority to the decrees of the first Nicene council, and ended in the year 1585, when according to him the man of sin began to decline. (ibid. p. 64, 5.)
Having thus explained his prophetic criterion of revealed truth, and given his odia ettiauois (2. Pet. 1. 20) of those predictions of the New Testament which relate to Antichrist; he proceeds to inform us that several of the books of that part of the scriptural canon are forgeries, and that in some of the best authenticated very material additions and alterations have been made since their first publication. To remedy this inconvenience he proposes the application of his norma prophetica with the assistance of which, he thinks, we should soon trace out the truth, and be enabled to distinguish the wheat of the scriptural canon from the chaff. (Lett. p. 83, 4.)
In his next work, entitled Arguments against and for the sabbatical observance of Sunday, he represents the command to observe and sanctify a seventh day of rest,
that by the sea the Heathen Nations are meant (comp. Ps. xlvi. 2, 3, lxv. 7. Isai. xvii. 12, 13, lx. 3-5. Ezek. xxvi. 3. The earth, which is opposed to the sea, in my opinion, means the church of God whether Jewish or Christian. Mr. E. also omits to notice that part of the Angel's interpretation of the vision of the woman sitting upon a scarlet coloured beast, (Revel. xvii.) in which he says of the ten horns that “ they should receive power as kings the same time with the beast," for 'so the best interpreters explain ular wpay. (v. 12.)
* This assertion, if true, would prove too much, for every Church professing to be Christian, even the most corrupt, holds some of the truth and sound doctrine of the Gospel, even according to Mr. E's. conception of it: e. g. that Jesus is the Messiah. In his Dissonance. (p. 9, 10.) he qualifies somewhat this self-confuting assertion, and speaks of fables and falsehoods being, at least, intermixed with disregarded truth.
+ He seems also to prefer Popery, Mahometanism, and more especially Deism to the Reformed Orthodox Churches (Disson. p. 80-1, 94, 217. Lett. p. 122, 135.)
merely merely as a part of the ceremonial law, and binding only npon the Jews, and derives the observation of it amongst Christians from an imperial edict; for he says "that no such observance was enjoined before the reign of Constantine ; who, by the interposition of bis civil power, established, not the religion of Jesus Christ, but that idolatrous and blasphemous superstition of his civil power, the very apostacy from the true religion of the gospel, which is the peculiar object of almost all the prophecies of the New Testament. (Arguments, &c. pp. 82, 89, 121, 128, 167, 173.)
In his next work the Dissonance of the four generally received Evangelists, he draws up, in imitation of the council of Trem, his Inder expurgatorius, and endeavours to distinguish, as he had proposed in his letter (p. 84.), the wheat of the scriptural canon from the chaff *. Here he informs the world what books of the New Testament are spurious, what additions have been made to the most authentic, and what interpolations lurk here and there in the text. Treading in the steps of his forerunner Marciont, he is not afraid to assert that the following scriptures are forgeries, viz. The Gospel of St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. John, St. Paul's Epistles to the Romans, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians; Titus and Philemon; the Epistle to the Hebrews ; the Epistles of St. James, St. Peter, St. John, St. Jude, und several chapters of St. Luke's Gospel and of the Apocalypse !!! To prove these assertiops, he heaps together various arguments, and some of a most extraordinary complexion, upon which this is not the place to enlarge. I shall only ob, serve that he has by no means conducted his inquiry with that humility, modesty, sobriety, caution, temper, and above all impartiality, which a subject so momentous and venerable indispensably required; for if ever any one was under the influence of studium partium, to use old J. Medes expression, if ever any one was seeking to
Quo facilius ipsa possit varias et peregriras doctrinas tanquam zizania a Christianæ veritatis triticu separare. L'oncil Trident. Sess. 18.
# Unde et Marcion, et qui ab eo sunt, ad intercidendas conversi suut scripturas, quasdam quidem in totum non cognosccntes, secundum Lucum autem Evangeliuin, et epistolas Pauli decurtantes, hæc sola legitima esse dicunt, quæ ipsi minoraverunt. Iren. adv. Heres. 1. 3. c. 12. p. 231. Ed. Grab.
. 193 establish opinion rather than truth, (from an attentive consideration of the above works I boldly aver it) Mr. E. is the man. It flames out perpetually in his publications, and bis desire and design to discard from scripture every verse that agrees not with his own prejudices, meets you almost without a mask, in every page. I shall select a few passages which will prove this point with all clearness. The first confession, of this kind, that he makes, is to be met with in his letter to the Bishop of Worcester (p. 48.) Speaking of the doctrine of the incarnation, &c. he asserts, “That even if any scripture could be procured wherein it was expressly warranted, it would afford much stronger reasons for rejecting such scripture, than the best authenticated scripturc could
for admitting so blasphemous a doctrine.” His Dissonance will furnish some passages equally extraordinary with this. " And should there,” says he, “hereafter appear satisfactory proof of the interpolation of the genealogy (in St. Luke) and of the story of the temptation which immediately follows it, and also of the baptism and tranfiguration of Jesus, no rational christian would have reason to be either sorry or displeased *.” (p.55,56.) Speaking of the murder of the innocents he uses the following strong expression. “ Under such circumstances, if my eternal happiness depended upori it, I could not believe it true,” (ibid. p. 126, see also p. 181, 240-1.) This conclusion of his book (p. 287,) is too long to insert here, but in it he insinuates that those scriptures which he rejects alone contain the doctrines against which he has shewn such an inveterate dislike.
I must not conclude without inserting one more most extraordinary passage, which wears very much the air of undermining our Lord's miracles, inasmuch, as it insinuates that similar effects are not produced by natural means, as he wrought by supernatural. These are his words (p. 247), “Of all the instances of dead persons restored to life again, related either in the Old or New Testainent, this of Lazarus is by far the most wonderful miracle; for in all the other cases, the renovation of life so soon followed the expiration of the deceased, that they appear to have been instances of suspended respiration restored; and the supernatural influence of Divine Power had only to cause
* Ile adds here, by way of qualifying this observation. “ It must be owned however that suspicion alone is not a sufficient warrant for rejecting any generally received scripture;" and therefore he brings no are gument in the text against these passages but only in the notes!!!
Vol VIII, Churchm. Mag. March 1805. Cc the the same renewal of the vital motion of the fluids, whereon sense and animation depend, which in the cases of drowned or suffocated persons is frequently produced in our times by esarmth, persevering friction, and the application of stimulating Medicines, &c. This passage speaks for itself, it needs no comment.
T'he Socinians, I imagine, will not think their cause under very weighty obligations to Mr E. for giving up the point for which they have so long and so earnestly contended; I mean the sense of scripture; since all that he has written in derogation of the authenticity and integrity of our present canon of the New Testament ainounts to no more than a confession that it does deliver the doctrines in dispute between us and them.
Such are some of those peculiar opinions by which Mr. Evanson has endeavoured to leave far behind him all his competitors in the race of heterodoxy; whether hc be entitled to so much deference, and smooth language, and all but “the right hand of fellowship,” from orthodox divines in return for his blasphemies against our God and his Christ, his word, his day, his church, and its members, let others determine, for my part I think he is painted in much juster colours in the following words of the venerable Bishop of Lyons, 'with which I shall conclude my observations. “ Cum enim ex scripturis arguunter (says he) in accusationem convertuntur ipsarum scripturarum, quasi non rectè habeant, neque sint ex authoritate, et quia rarid sint dictæ.” And again “ Unusquisque enim ipsorum omnimodo perversus ; semetipsum, regulam veritatis depravans, predicare non confunditur. Cum autem ad eam iterum traditionem, quæ est ab Apostolis, quæ per successiones Presbyterorum in ecclesiis custoditur provocamus eos; adversantur traditioni, dicentes se non solum Presbyteris, sed etiam Apostolis existentes sapientiores, sinceram intenisse veritater." Iren. adv. Hæres. 1. 3. c. 2. p. 199, - 200