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An Examination of Bishop Pearson’s Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed.


Mr. Editor,—Never having entertained any doubt as to the truth of our holy religion, I felt a strong desire to study the theory of Christianity, to discover, if possible, the reasons and proofs <<497>>which have induced so many learned and pious men to believe in the doctrine therein taught; to become acquainted with the several dogmas, to be able to give my reasons for rejecting them, and to account for what is called “the perverse disbelief and willful blindness of the Jews.” In the course of my inquiries, and a lengthened discussion with a learned minister of the Church of England, I was referred to Bishop Pearson’s Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed, which was said to contain an ample exposition and unanswerable arguments in support of the fundamental articles of the Christian religion, which must be considered to be the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Atonement. The latter two dogmas depend on the truth of the first being established without the shadow of a doubt, upon unexceptionable evidence, and in as unequivocal a manner, as the Unity of God is revealed in the law, and by the mouths of the prophets. For it is evident that unless the existence of the Son is proved, there could not be an incarnation, nor could he become a sacrifice in expiation of the sins of the human race.

The Bishop treats each clause separately, beginning with “I believe in God the Father;” he expresses his assurance of the existence of an infinite and independent Being, and that it is impossible that there should be more Infinites than one. After stating this proposition, in which we all agree, he assumes that this Only One is the father of an only begotten son, begotten of the blessed virgin by the holy ghost, whom he raised from the dead; but previous to his being begotten of the virgin, he was begotten by the way of eternal generation by the Father, in the same Deity and majesty as himself. This assumption he supports by quotations from the Old and New Testaments; in the former, taking advantage of the figurative language often used by the prophets. He refers to Malachi, 1:6, where God asks by the mouth of the prophet: “If I then be a father, where is my honour?” We all address God as our Father, but not in the sense that Christians receive the expression when applied to Jesus. The quotations from the Gospels and the Epistles, are of no value; since the Bishop would not have had us believe in Mahomet on the authority of the Koran. In the first note to his profession of God being the Maker of heaven and earth, he says: “The ancient Hebrews seem to have had no word in use among <<498>>them, which, singly of itself, did signify the world;” he seems to have overlooked תבל, 2 Sam. 22:16, חלד, Ps. 49:2, which both have that meaning (see Lingua Sacra), as well as עולם, Genesis, 21. In a following note, the Bishop says, he is persuaded of “an eternal generation, by which that God is a father.” I looked in vain among the notes appended to this section, for any explanation of the term “eternal generation,” taking generation, the object of which is fulfilled in the production of the thing or person generated. Generation and creation both indicate acts performed and accomplished; and although in our gratitude for the mercy of God, in the preservation of what He hath created, we say figuratively in our morning prayersהמחדש טובו בכל יום תמיד מעשה בראשית, “Who reneweth with his goodness every day continually the works of the creation;” yet we read in Genesis,ויכל אלהים ביום השביעי מלאכתו אשר עשה , “And God had finished on the seventh day the work which he had made;” that act of creation was therefore completed, and cannot be called an eternal creation, any more than the asserted generation of the son can be called an eternal generation.

In the following article, the Bishop professes his belief, “that there was and is a man,” “called Jesus,” who “is the Saviour of the world,” “by virtue of his blood obtaining remission for sinners;” the next section affirms his belief, “that there was a man promised by God, foretold by the prophets to be the Messiah, the redeemer of Israel, and the expectation of the nations; and that the man born in the days of Herod, of the Virgin Mary, and by an angel from heaven, called Jesus, is that true Messiah.” It must be observed, that in these two sections he states his belief in the man Jesus as the Saviour of the world, without making any allusion to any divinity said to be inherent in him. He also confesses that God promised a man to be the redeemer of Israel. That such Messiah was “the expectation of the nations,” is a mere assertion of the Bishop’s, which he has not strengthened by any authority in his notes; and though it appears from the prophecies, that many people shall be gathered to Israel, and worship God in Jerusalem when they shall have witnessed the wonders of our redemption, there is no evidence to show that they expected the Messiah in the days of Herod.

In note 4, alluding, to Malachi, 1:12, he says: “That all nat<<499>>ions did come into the doctrine preached by Jesus cannot be denied.” Now what proof have we that the nations did embrace the doctrine of Jesus, or that the apostles preached it? The “Acts” certainly tell us that Peter assumed to himself the mission to the Jews; and Paul says, as he was not received by them, he turned to the gentiles. (Acts, 18: 6.) It would also appear, that from the beginning there were great divisions among the Christians. Among the Corinthians there were those who received the doctrine of Paul, of Apollos, of Cephas, and of Christ. (1 Corinth., 1:13.) At Antioch, Paul reproved Peter for having eaten with the gentiles whilst he professed Judaism, and having only refrained occasionally for fear of the apostles and believers who kept the law. (Gal. 2:11, 12.) The progress of conversion is allowed to have been, for a long time, confined principally to women, children, and slaves. Women seem to have formed a great proportion of Paul’s converts.

(To be continued.)