« PreviousContinue »
Antiquity, and the faith of the primitive Hebrew Church. In the last series of " Letters” to which Dr. Horsley condescended to make any reply, such was the ground on which it was exclu. şively placed. And this it was which induced his opponent, then Bishop of St. David's, to set the question upon the true and broad basis; on which his sentiments were formally stated in seven distinct propositions. As a further specimen of Mr. Belsham's discernment, we shall give them according to his reporting;
“ And as his argument lies in a narrow compass, and is worthy of being recorded as a curious specimen of what learning and logic are able to accomplish, the several steps of his demonstration shall be set down in his own words. Tracts. P. 409.
“ I take for granted (says Bishop H.) these things."
1. " A Church of Hebrew Christians, adhering to the observance of the Mosaic law, subsisted for a time at Jerusalem, and for some time at Pella, from the beginning of Christianity until the final dispersion of the Jerus by Adrian.
2. “ Upon this event a Christian Church arose at Ælia.
3. “ The Church at Ælia, often, but improperly called the Church of Jerusalem, for Jerusalem was no more: the Church of Ælia, in its external form, in its doctrines and its discipline, was a Greek Church ; and it was governed by a bishop of the uneircumcision.--Again, I take for granted
4. “That the observation of the Mosaic law in the Primitive Church at Jerusalem was a matter of mere habit, and national prejudice, not of conscience.-St. Paul in all his Epistles, maintains the total insignificance of the Mosaic law,--the notion that Paul could be mistaken in a point which is the principal subject of a great part of his writings, is an impiety which I cannot impute to our holy brethren the saints of the Primitive Church of Jerusalem, Again, I take for granted
5. “ That with good Christians, such as I believe the Primitive Church of Jerusalem to have been, motives of worldly interest, which would not overcome conscience, would nevertheless overcome mere habit.
6. “ That the desire of partaking in the privileges of the Ælian colony-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. I affirnam
7. “ That a body of orthodox Christians of the Hebrews, were actually existing in the world much later than the time of Adrian," P. 57.
To any person, not wilfully blind to the truth, or in utter darkness, respecting the great question on which Dr. H ley and Dr. Priestley were engaged, it must be palpable, that the
main strength of the ground, thus occupied by the Bishop of St. David's lies in the first four propositions together with the last; such being the invincible position, pre-occupied by his great predecessor, the incoinparable Bishop Bull*, For it must be obvious to the shallowest observer, that, if,“ from the beginning," an orthodox Hebrew Church existed at Jerusalem, and continued until the times of Hadrian, it is of no consequence where it afterwards existed, provided it remained as an evidence of the existence of the original orthodox Hebrews. The vigorous and indefatigable Dr. Priestley, however, resolved at least to perpetuate the quarrel, as he was unable to support the contest, again returned to the charge: with a becoming contempt for humbler considerations, overlooking the original question, lie enters into a vindication of his own candour and originality; reiterates two tremendous objections which had been started on the testimony of Clement and Tertullian: and brings up, as his reserve, the old and edifying discussion on the testimony and evidence of Origen, and the existence of the Ælian Church. All consideration of the original question, and grounds of Bishop Horsley's defence, being thus judiciously suppressed, the necessity and even the pretext for rejoining by an observation, was thus taken from the Bishop of St. David's, and the controversy of necessity died a natural death.
Such was the situation of matters when Mr. Thomas Bel. sham, itching witli the desire of being known--as the friend of Dr. Priestley, and the adversary of Bishop Horsley, pricked forward with a flourish, and made, his entry into the field. Prudently reserving his attack, however, until the moment of danger was over, he then courageously demonstrated his prowess by insulting a dead adversary, at whom he trembled when alive. From the hero who advanced thus briskly to the contest, we had some right to expect at least an effort, to recover the ground from which his predecessor had been driven, or had judiciously retired. But how does Mr. Belsham acquit himself in the character which he assumed? Those who do not know, by experience, how shallow in knowledge and discernment the foundation is laid on which an Unitarian's confidence is usually built, will find a difficulty in bringing themselves to believe. Incredible however as it may appear, it is notwithstanding a fact, that the several positions which Dr. Horsley had “ taken as granted,” from being proved without controversion t, Mr.
* D. Bull. Jud. Eccl. Cath. cap. ii. $ 10. sqq. p. 298. Prim. Apost. Trad. cap. i. $ 5.899. p. 363. # Vid. D. Bull ut supr. n. *,
Belsham literally imagined so many gratuitous assumptions, which rested upon his word. And in a tone of insult and exultation over an enemy whom he saw vanquished in idea, he beliered the victory, in order to be decided needed only to be claimed.
« The whole fabric of the famous church of orthodox christians at Ælia, who abandoned at once the institutions of Moses--rests solely upon the testimony of Jerome, more than two hundred and fifty years afterward, to this single fact, that in his time there were
Hebrews who believed in Christ." And by the learned writers own frank and liberal confession, all the rest is taken for granted." P. 62.
After this observation, we may dismiss Mr. Belsham and his vindication, without further ceremony. An empty and confident declaimer may, we are conscious, impose upon that enlightened auditory who look up to him for illumination in a conventicle ; but upon an adversary so grossly deficient in the commonest in. formation and discernment, upon the topics to which he pretends *, “ the wise men of the British Critic” must be pardoned, if they waste not another word, even of contempt.
With respect to the claims of Bp. Horsley, which have been called in question, it remains not for us to offer any thing in their justification. The public has been long made up in its opinion on his character, as a polemical writer, and, when it has acquired time for judging, it seldom errs from the truth. On his force of mind, his copiousness and energy of language, his profound and various attainments, it has been lavish in its praise; nor has it praised beyond what has been merited. But as infallibility is not the lot of mani, Bishop Horsley, we fear, has suffered himself to be led into error. Deserting the footsteps of Bishop Bull, who marshalled his way with a steady and unerring light, for the conjectural wanderings of Dr. Mosheim, who, on many subjects of primitive antiquity, is not merely a blind, but a treacherous guide, he made a false step at the outset, which, with all his ability, he was unable to reclaim.
Such, we are inclined to be of opinion, was the case, in his attack upon the veracity of Origen; who liad asserted, that the Jews who believed in Jesus had not deserted their paternal
* As it may be a matter of curiosity to Mr. Belsham, to hear how the several propositions taken as granted by Bp. Horsley have been established; we subjoin a few of the most obvious authorities on which they respectively rest. (1) Euseb. Lib. IV. cap. v. p. 143. 1. 22. seq. (2) Id. ibid. cap. vi. p. 146. 1: 1: 899. (3) Id. ibid. 146. 1. 4. sqq. (4) Orig. contr. Cels. II. сар. .
iij, p. 388. f. (7) S. Heir. Ep. LxxxIx. ad Aug. Tom. I. p. 317.
law * »
But surely on this point we may venture to dissent even from the high authority of Bishop Horsley, as this fact seems to be not merely historically but necessarily true: since in desert. ing their paternal laws, they must have become exclusively Christiaus and have consequently ceased to be Jews. Indeed the assumption of a Hebrew Church at Ælia, which had abandoned the rites of the Mosuic law, carries to our ears something incon. gruous even in the sound 4. And as one false step generally occasions another, the unsoundness thus introduced into his theory, prevented him from employing those arguments to establish a position, virtually true, which his reading would have easily supplied. Such we take to be the vulnerable points in his Biode of defence.
Let us however abandon an unfortunate expression which has no relevancy to a question which turns on the doctrine, not the ceremonies of the Primitive Church; let us assert generally, with Bishop Horsley, that there was a Hebrew Church established at Ælia,' which acknowledged the divinity of our Lord; at the same time allowing full credit to the veracity of Origen, that as Hebrews,' they had not (wholly) deserted their paternal law;' and the antecedent proposition, which is alone worth the pains of contesting, may be easily proved. In the first place, we have the positive testimony of St. Jesynagogues
of orthodox Hebrews were, in his own age, prevalent in many parts of the East. In the next place, we have the positive authority of St. Epiphanius, that seven synagogues existed in the times of Hadrian at Jerusalem, one of which remained until the time of Constantine the Great ş. And on this subject, both those witnesses are above all exception; as they visited Jerusalem, and resided in the East for a considerable period. Now the synagogue, which continued for this period,
nest in. je prea doned
* Vid. supr.
in his a the
+ Orig. contr. Cels. Lib. II. cap. iii. p. 388. d.
I St. Hier. Epist. Ixxxix. ad August. Tom. I. p. 317. - Usque hodie per totas Orientis Synagogas, inter Judæos heresis est, quæ dicitur Minæorum, et a Pharasæis nunc usque damnatur, quos vulgo Nazaræos nuncupant, qui credunt in Christum, Filium Dei.”
Ś S. Epiph. de Mens. & Pond. Tom. II, p. 170. C.-Yy ÉTTÀ συναγωγαι, αι έν, τη Σιών μόναι εσήκεσαν, ως καλύβαι, εξ ών μία περιελείφθη, έως χρόνο Μαξιμωνά το Επισκόπο, και Κωνσαντίνα TË Bacinews. It may be observed in illustration of this account, that Constantine had been at considerable pains to erect Churches in the East; and to consecrate the places of worship used by the infidels to the purposes of the Christian Religion. S. Epiph. Här. xxx. Tom. I. p. 136. a. b.
must have been erected when the city of Ælia rose out of the ruins of Jerusalem ; for the remains of the old city, which had been partly renewed after its demolition under Titus, were destroyed under Hadrian*; and all the synagogues in Judæa, including those which have been inentioned by Epiphanius, were burned to the ground. This solitary synagogue, however, which remained till the
age of Constantine, could not have been erected by, unbelieving Jews; as they were interdicted, under pain of death, from setting a foot upon the Holy Land 1. Nor could it have been erected by the believing Gentiles; for, according to the express distinction of St. Ephiphanius, on whose testimony we reason, these places of Worship were denominated churches, in contradistiction from synagogues §. Neither could it have been erected by Ebionitrs, or Unitarian believers ; for, according even to Dr. Priestley's admission |, they were not essentially distiguished from the Hebrews, and were thus excluded by the edict. which banished the Jews. Of consequence, as the question admits of no alternative, they must have been Nazarenes, or Orthodox Hebrew believers, who differed from their brethren of the Gentiles (, probably in their attachment to the letter of Scripture, in their strict observance of the Sabbath, and some cereinonies of the synagogue, from whence their place of worship derived its name.
Leaving the argument therefore of Bishop Horsley to stand in proof of the position which he laid down; we add these observations, in support of the conclusion which he maintained. While we are inforined, on the testimouy of the ecclesiastical historians, that a church of Gentile converts was established at Ælia, under à bishop of the uncircumcision; we conceive with Bishop Horsley, that it is morally certain, this Church admitted into its bosom numberless Hebrew believers, who of consequence
* S. Hier. Ep. cxxix. ad Dard. Tom. III. p. 371. + Lib. Machzor P. I. fol. 182. col. 1. (ap. Seld. de Synedr. Vet. Ebr. Lib. II. cap. vii. p. 190. ed. 1679.)
זכור או מה היה לנו ארוואנוס על וישרוף ארבע מאות ושמונים בתי כנסיות
Recordare Domine, qualis fuerit nobis Adrianus
Sustulit combussitque quadringentas & octoginta Synagogas.
1162. I Arist. Pellæus, 'ap, Euseb. H. E. Lib. IV. cap.
145. 1. 5. Conf. S. Epiphan. Hær. xxx. pp. 128. a. 142. a. # Tract, p. 418. ed. Lond. 1815. 9 Orig. contr. Cels. Lib. II. cap. ii. p.