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Observations on the intended Sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham.


The intended sacrifice of Isaac, is never represented in the Scriptures as typical of the death of Christ. On a subject of this nature conjecture must not be opposed to facts: nor must imas gination gain ascendancy over the understanding.

excellence of his personal character, could not be so perverted excepting by subserved the interests of even his re-individuals whom either enthusiasm mote descendants. or vice has rendered absolutely insane. Thus, the only question which remains to be considered is, whether the patriarch had rational evidence of the command being addressed to him by God? And that it proceeded from no inferior authority, is amply proved by previous and by subsequent events in the life of Abraham. He had already been favoured with many important communications from the Deity, and was able to distinguish between these and the suggestions of his own mind. The substantial benefit of obeying these communications he had also experienced; and therefore he would not be less disposed to exercise a similar obedience at present. I add that he actually reaped the advantage of his readiness to make this costly sacrifice to the Divine Will. The remainder of his life, was eminently peaceful and happy: the faith thus tried was invigorated by the trial; and the men of that age and country, and distant generations, would receive important lessons from the event.

It has been asked, whether God did not require Abraham to commit an aggravated murder, to slay, with his own hands, a tenderly beloved child? Now that a voice from heaven called on the patriarch to make this sacrifice, is undeniable. Yet, before we pronounce it murder in intention, we should attend to the circumstances of the case, to the situation, the prerogative, the motives of the parties. The Sovereign Lord of life, may doubtless revoke this grant, when and how he pleases. In fact however it was not his design that human blood should be shed in the present instance, Consequently, no murder was authorized by the Divine decree, which ought to govern our interpretation of the language here employed. And though Abraham was on the point, of sacrificing his son, no malignant feelings prompted him to the action. The crime of murder, which has different shades of guilt, essentially consists in " taking away life unlawfully." What, nevertheless, if, under circumstances so peculiar that they are not likely to befal any other individual, or to occur in any other age, a father's devout confidence and attachment be tried by the injunction himself to slay his child? If murder be estimated by the existence of the wicked mind and principle which dictates it, I maintain that the deed represented is not murder.

Some men, it is certain, are fond of appealing to precedents, real or supposed, in justification of their own views and conduct. Nor shall I shrink from granting the possibility that a particular description of persons may be disposed to seek in the example before us a defence of actions from which our nature shudders. Still, I cannot recollect a single case of this abuse of Abraham's history and every thinking man will be sensible that it

Abraham was specially educated by God, for purposes of infinite moment to all mankind. To form a just opinion of his history and character, we should go back, in our thoughts, to other tinies and regions than our own, to the infancy of the world, to a period when the sun of Divine Truth was far indeed from having reached it's perfect day. And if any person be still inclined to exclaim respecting the command of which I am treating, "It is a hard saying : who can bear it?" I may be permitted to illustrate this language by Solomon's, on a memorable occasion: he ordered that a living child should be divided in two; not designing however that the order should be execu ted, because it was not fit to be exe cuted and yet, remarks the author ↑ to whom I am indebted for the illus tration," the success of this method shewed the command to be very fit and expedient."


* 1 Kings iii. 16. + Grove, in a Sermon on this part Abraham's History.


**Still pleased to praise, yet not afraid to blame."—POPE.

ART. IA Letter to the Unitarian
Christians in South Wales, occasioned
by the Animadversions of the Right
Reverend the Lord Bishop of St.
David's. To which are annexed
1. Letters, before published in The
Gentleman's Magazine, in Reply to
his Lordship's Letters to the Unita-
rians. 2. A Brief Review of his
Lordship's Treatise, entitled "The
Bible, and Nothing but the Bible,
the Religion of the Church of En-
3. An Estimate of his
Lordship's Character and Qualifica-
tions as a Theological Polemic. By
Thomas Belshain. 8vo. pp. 144.


Tis said that some animals counteract their venom by the repetition of their own bite. Certainly, bigoted and angry polemie's become in a little time perfectly harmless. Their power of hifiting is derived from public opinion, which, however it may be misled for a moment, will not finally lend it self to prejudice and passion.

Bishop Burgess has found in Mr. Belsham a champion whom he cannot alarm by his vauntings, terrify by his menaces, or worry and vex and weaken by his continual attacks. Secure in his argument, steady to his point and conscious of his powers, Mr. Belsham enters the arena with firm and intrepid step, maintains the conflict according to the rules of honourable warfare, detects and foils his antagonist when ever he takes up unlawful weapons, and retires when the contest is fairly ended, cheerfully awaiting the decision of the intelligent and learned public, the only proper judges, but expecting, not presumptuously nor unreasonably, that to him the palin will be awarded."

Mr. Belsham explains in an Advertisement that he addresses the Unitarian Christians in South Wales, because they are a numerous and rapidly increasing body because that district being the principal seat of Bishop Burgess's residence, it is there that his Lordship's works are most likely to be read and to make impression; and because he has been actually called upon by some persons of consideration among the Unitarians there to take notice of his Lordship's animadversions:

To the Advertisement is annexed the
Letter which Mr. Belsham inserted in,
our last Volume [X.746], on some
passages in Dr. Estlin's late publication
in reply to Bishop Burgess, reviewed
in a recent Number (p. 544). The Re-
solutions of the South Wales Unitarian
Book Society, at their last meeting, an
account of which is given in this Vo-
lume of our Magazine (p. 427), shew
that Dr. Estlin was mistaken in sup-
posing that any disservice had been
done to the Unitarian cause in the
Principality by any of Mr. Belsham's,
writings.. There are points on which
the Unitarians amicably divide; but
there can be but one opinion amongst
them concerning the merits of Mr.
Belsham as the defender of their great
and good cause.

The question between Mr. Belsham
and the Bishop of St. David's is a his
torical and learned one; but Mr. Bel-
sham has we think made it intelligible
to every English reader. Why, indeed,
should not any controversy, excepting
only such as are verbal and gramina
tical, which cannot be of the first im
portance, be intelligible to all men of
understanding and general reading, or,
in words which we flatter ourselves
are of the same meaning as these last,
In the Letter, Mr. Belsham makes a
to Unitarians in the humbler ranks?
He puts the
happy use of the philosophical argu
ment for Unitarianism.
following case with regard to the silence
of the New Testament on the Deity of

"If Bishop Burgess had undertaken to write a history of Jesus Christ for the instruction of early and uuinformed converts, would he, like Matthew, Mark, and Luke, have passed over his Divine nature in absolute silence, or with an incidental, distant, and ambiguous állusion to it? If this learned prelate had continued the history of the apostles' preaching and doctrine for thirty years after our Lord's Ascension, would he, is it possible that he could, have forborne to record a single instance in which the aposties taught, or the first disciples professed, the sublime doctrine of our Lord's divipity? Would the venerable Bishop of paternal charge, to his younger clergy St. David's, when dictating a pastoral and

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Review-Belsham's Letter to the Unitarians of South Wales.

e express design of which was to direct them in what manner they were to act, and upon what topics to insist in their ministerial instructions, forget to mention, or at best, but obscurely bint at those sublime mysteries, the belief and profession of which are essential to salvation? I am confident that the learned prelate, lukewarm and indifferent as his feelings must be upon these subjects in comparison with those of the early believers, would never have been guilty of so important an omission. How then can this omission be accounted for in the apostles of Christ and in the writers of the New Testament!"-Pp. 10, 11.

He argues also very conclusively upon the necessary effect of the revelation of the divinity of Christ upon the minds of the apostles:

"Their whole souls would have been absorbed in this unexpected and overwhelming discovery. Their imaginations would have been wholly occupied with the stupendous idea. Their minds could have thought, and their tongues could have spoken of nothing but the Divine glories of their great Master, of the amazing condescension of the Almighty Creator in becoming incarnate, and in submitting to he rocked in a cradle and suspended on a cross. This wondrous theme would have been the first and the last, the Alpha and Omega, of their discourse, the unceasing topic of their public harangues, and the darling subject of their social conversation. Their writings would have been filled with it from beginning to end. Nor would it have been possible for Matthew, Mark, and Luke, for Paul, and Peter, and James, to have left it to the Apostle John, many years after their decease, to have dicclosed this great mystery to the astonished world."-Pp. 16, 17.

We are much pleased with the following hint to the Bible Society, by which, if its judgment and honesty be equal to its resources and zeal, it will not fail to profit: the passage refers to the notorious forgery of the text relating to the Three Heavenly Witnesses, 1 John v. 7:

"This spurious text is wanting in the Syriac manuscripts which have been found among the native Christians in the Peninsula of India. It is said the Bible Society are printing the New Testament in Syriac for the use of these Christians. It is to he hoped that they will not presume to insert this exploded text into the printed copies, and thus pollute and debase their great and honourable work by a wilful adulteration of the sacred text. See Dr.

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Buchanan's interesting Account of the State of Christianity in India.'"—Note, p. 22.

It is fortunate for the cause of truth that Bishop Burgess provoked a discussion concerning the merits of Dr. Priestley's celebrated argument with Dr. Horsley, in the Gentleman's Magazine; for by dragging Mr. Belsham uto a correspondence in that work, he has forced a number of clerical and other readers to understand a dispute of which they would otherwise probably have gone down to their graves in utter ignorance. Mr. Belsham has proved that Dr. Horsley was completely vanquished by Dre Priestley, usual able manner, he himself has and in exhibiting this proof in his satisfactorily confuted the present Bishop of St. David's. The argoment is of so much consequence that we shall extract Mr. Belshani's statement of it:"

"Your attentive readers will recollect

that the Emperor Adrian razed the city upon the same site he built a new city, of Jerusalem to the ground; that nearly which be called Elia; which he colonized with Gentiles, to which he granted many privileges, and from which he excluded all Jews under pain of death: also that a Christian Church was formed in the new city, of which Marcus, a Gentile, was the first Bishop. Mosheim, in his Commentaries, states his opinion, that this church consisted chiefly of believing Hebrews, who abandoned the rites of Moses for the sake of being admitted to the privileges of the Elian colony. In support of this hypothesis, Mosheim appeals to the testimony of Sulpitius and Epiphanius; and to his judgment Bishop Horsley accedes. Dr. Priestley opposes Mosheim's supposition. He makes light of that learned writer's authorities; and with Tillemont, Fleury, and the great body of modern ecclesiastical writers, he maintains that all Jews, without exception, were excluded from Elia by Adrian's de


in the following words (Tracts, p. 409) :— "Bishop Horsley pursues the argument

"To convict my adversary of shameful precipitance, absolves not me of the imputation, that I have related, upon the authority of Mosheim, what Mosheim related upon none. I will therefore briefly state the principles which determine me to abide by Mosheim's account of the transactions in question. I take for granted then these things:

«1. A Church of Hebrew Christians, adhering to the observance of the Mosaic law, subsisted for a time at Jerusalem,

Review.-Belsham's Letter to the Unitarians of South Wales.

and for some time at Pella, from the beginuing of Christianity until the final dispersion of the Jews by Adrian.

2. Upon this event a Christian Church arose at Ælia.

"3. The Church of Elia, often, but improperly, called the Church of Jerusalem, (for Jerusalem was no more in its external form, that is, in its doctrine and its discipline,) was a Greek Church, and it was governed by Bishops of the uncircumcision. In this I and my adversary are agreed. The point in dispute between us is, of what numbers the church of Elia was composed., He says, of converts of Gentile extraction. I say, of Hebrews of the very same persons, in the greater part, who were members of the antient Hebrew Church, at the time when the Jews were subdued by Adrian. For again I take for granted,

4. That the observation of the Mosaic law in the primitive Church of Jerusalem was a matter of mere babit and national prejudice, not of conscience. Again, I take for granted,

5. That with good Christians, such as I believe the primitive church at Jerusalem to have been, motives of worldly in terest, which would not overcome, couscience, would overcome mere habit.

6. That the desire of partaking in the privileges of the Alian colony, from which Jews were excluded, would accordingly be a motive that would prevail with the Hebrew Christians of Jerusalem, and other parts of Palestine, to divest themselves of the form of Judaism by laying aside their antient customs.

"It may seem,' adds Bishop Horsley, p. 419, 'that my six positions go no further than to account for the disuse of the Mosaic law among the Christians of Palestine, upon the supposition that the thing > took place; and that they amount not to a proof that a church of Hebrew Christians, not adhering to the rites of Judaism, actually existed at Elia. To complete the proof, therefore, I might appeal to Epi:phanius.But I will rather derive the proof from a fact which I think still more convincing. I affirm then,

*** 7. That a body of orthodox Christians of the Hebrews were actually existing in the world much later than in the time of Adrian.

I will rest the credit of my seventh proposition upon the mention which occurs in St. Jerome's Commentary upon Isaiah, of llebrews believing in Christ, as distinct from the Nazarenes. These were orthodox believers,—and were not observers of the Mosaic law, and actually existing somewhere in the world from the reign of Adrian' to the days of St. Jerome, if they were not members of the church at Ælia, dwelling at Elia. Dr. Priestley,


if he be so pleased, may seek their settlement

"For,' as Bishop Burgess pertinently adds, in confirmation of this most novel and satisfactory demonstration, where should we seek but at Jerusalem, the primitive seat of Hebrew Christianity ?

"In his sixth disquisition (Tracts, p. 549), Bishop Horsley states,

That the proof of his proposition rests in part only upon St. Jerome's evidence. The entire preof rests upon the seveu positions. And St. Jerome's evidence goes barely to the proof of the last of those positions, the seventh; namely, that a body of orthodox Christians of the ' Hebrews was actually existing in the world much later than the time of Adrian. St. Jerome's evidence is brought for the proof of this position singly, and this, proved by St. Jerome's evidence, in conjunction with six other principles previously laid down, makes the whole cvidence of the main fact which I affirm, that a Church of orthodox Christians of the Hebrews existed at Elia, from the final dispersion of the Jews by Adrian, to a much later period.'

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"These are Bishop Horsley's own words. He expressly asserts that the seven positions make the whole evidence of the main fact-that of these positions, the six first go no further than to account for the disuse of the Mosaic law among the Christians in Palestine in Adrian's reign, upon the supposition that the thing took place; and that St. Jerome's evidence goes singly and barely to the proof of the seventh position, namely, that a body of orthodox Christians of Hebrews was actually existing in the world much later than the time of Adrian ;' that is, in the days of Jerome, more than two hundred and fifty years after the reign of Adrian. But it is evident that this fact proves nothing as to the actual state of things in Adrian's time. This cypher, therefore, added to the other six, constitutes, by Bishop Horsley's own concession, the whole of his proof that the Church of Elia, in the time of Adrian, consisted chiefly of orthodox Hebrew Christians, who had renounced the rites of Moses to obtain the privileges of the Elian colony.

"Being thus in possession of the whole of the case, your intelligent readers will be enabled to form a correct judgment of the question at issue between Bishop Burgess and your present correspondent, and of the arguments alleged by each, which otherwise it would be impossible to understand."—Pp. 60-65.

There is much sprightliness and humour as well as sound argument and manly and Christian expostulation in the "Brief Review," following the


Review-Belsham's Letter to the Unitarians of South Wales.

Letters, extracted from the Gentle man's Magazine. The Bishop's mode of argument would provoke a smile on the most woeful countenance.

"And last, though not the least remarkable, in p. 54, figures a goodly train of Trinitarian physicians. But I fear that the profane reader will hardly preserve a becoming gravity of countenance when be reads that such men as Dr. Young, and evea Dr. Baillie, have condescended to suspend the labours and the duties of the profession for which they are so justly celebrated, and of which they constitute such distinguished ornaments, in order to extract from the neglected volumes of the dark ages a few venerable names to eke

out the deficient catalogue of medical orthodoxy, Still, however, these learned gentlemen owe some obligation to the courtesy of his Lordship, that he did not impose upon them the much harder task of making out a list of orthodox physicians in modern times.-In a note, p. 150, the Bishop says,For the following additions of medical names I am indebted to Dr. Baillie and, Dr. Young.' Then follow the illustrious names of Solenander, Schenkius, Plater, Sennert, Hildanus, and Bartholin. Wepfer also, a judicious. Swiss physician, uses the expression Deus ter optimus Maximus,' which affords great reason to hope that he also was of the true faith."-Pp. 86, 87.

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mean time it may be remarked, that if Bishop Burgess bad read and digested that last corrected and improved edition of Bishop Law's admirable work, he might have spared the sarcasm upon the venerable prelate's advanced age, as though it indicated decline of intellect. Nor would it disgrace the clergy of the present day, if they should condescend to take a lesson from the mild and candid Bishop of Carlisle as to the style and spirit with which theological controversy should be conducted. In Bishop Law the urbanity of the gentleman was combined with the accuracy of the scholar, the impartiality of an ardent lover of truth, the erudition of a theologian, the sound judgment of a lo gician, and the candour and piety of a Christian. Unfettered in his inquiries, and fixed in the principles which from conviction he had embraced, he defended those principles with firmness and dignity, and disclaimed all weapons but those of calm discussion and fair argument. ‚' He did not affect to bear down an adversary with hard words and bitter reproaches: be did not impute motives to his opponent which that opponent disavowed, nor cllarge him with consequences which he distinctly denied: he did not magnify inadvertencies into crinies, nor repeat charges again and again after they had been completely refuted. It was not his method to defame his opponents instead of answering their arguments, to misstate their sentiments in order to confute them more easily, and to invent calúmnies for the sake of rousing the indignation of the public. Never did it enter into the heart of this venerable and pious prelate to deny the appellation of Christian to those who, equally with himself, looked for the mercy of God through the Lord Jesus Christ unto eter

Mr. Belsham has been censured for publishing the private letters of the Bishops of Elphin and Carlisle: we extract his vindication of himself, which we- believe has proved satisfactory to almost the only person who was entitled to complain. The passage is particularly valuable for the character which it exhibits, by contrast, of the anthornal life, much less to brand them with the of" The Considerations."

In page 16, Mr. B. is upbraided in no courtly style, with violating private coufidence in publishing the Bishop of Elphin's Jetter to Mr. Lindsey, which contained a draft for a hundred pounds for Dr. Priestley, and another, letter from Dr. Edmund Law, Bishop of Carlisle, the Bishop of preElphin's father, which accompanied a sent of the last edition of his celebrated Theory of Religion “corrected and much enlarged?' and 'purged,' as the learned predate expresses it in his letter to bis friend, of some antient prejudices relating preto the pre-existence of Christ.' The sent respectable Bishop of Chester like wise alleges the same charge of violated confidence, in publishing his father's and his brother's letters, without leave being requested of the surviving family. The suine answer will apply to both. In the

infamous epithets of miscreants, infidels, blasphemers, and God-denying apostates,* because they differed from him in some mysterious points, which neither he nor they pretended either to explain or to understand. And as to invoking the ter rors of the law upon those who had the misfortune to differ from him in articles of faith, it is an idea from which the feelings of this truly Christian prelate would have recoiled with horror.

"Prepossessed with the conviction that nothing but what indicates an enlightened

"The Bible, &c. p. 18. His Lordship of St. David's seeins to plume himself upon having discovered in the late learned work of Dr. Routh, that Unitarians, in very early times, were branded by their ignorant and malignant enemies with this odious epithet, and the charitable prelate is determined it shall not be lost."

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