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10. Probably the term would be first applied only to what was called in the primitive church the eucharist, which we call the Lord's supper, and afterwards extended to baptism and other sacred ceremonies. In regard to the first-mentioned ordinance, it cannot be denied that in the article of concealment there was a pretty close analogy. Not only were all infidels, both Jews and Gentiles, excluded from witnessing the commemoration of the death of Christ, but even many believers, particularly the catechumens and the penitents : the former, because not yet initiated by baptisın into the church; the latter, because not yet restored to the communion of Christians, after having fallen into some scandalous sin. Besides, the secrecy that Christians were often, on account of the persecutions to which they were exposed, obliged to observe, which made them meet for social worship in the night-time, or very early in the morning, would naturally draw on their ceremonies from the Gentiles the name of mysteries. And it is not unreasonable to think, that a name which bad its rise among their enemies might afterwards be adopted by themselves. The name Christians, first used at Antioch, seemis, from the manner wherein it is mentioned in Acts 11: 26, to have been at first given contemptuously to the disciples by infidels, and not assumed by themselves. The common titles by which, for many years after that period, they continued to distinguish those of their own society, as we learn both from the Acts and from Paul's Epistles, were, the faithful or believers, the disciples, and the brethren. Yet, before the expiration of the apostolic age, they adopted the name Christian, and gloried in it. The apostle Peter uses it in one place, (1 Ep. 4: 16), the only place in Scripture wherein it is used by one of themselves. Some other words and phrases which became fashionable ainongst ecclesiastic writers, might naturally enough be accounted for in the same manner.
11. But how the Greek uvornocov came first to be translated into Latin sacramentum, it is not easy to conjecture. None of the classical significations of the Latin word seems to have any affinity to the Greek term. For whether we understand it simply for a sacred ceremony, sacramentum from sacrare, as juramentum from jurare), or for the pledge deposited by the litigants in a process to ensure obedience to the award of the judge, or for the military oath of fidelity-none of these conveys to us either of the senses of the word uvotnolov explained above. At the same time it is not denied, that in the classical import the Latin word may admit an allusive application to the more solemn ordinances of religion, as implying in the participants a sacred engagement equivalent to an oath. All that I here contend for is, that the Latin word sacramentum does not, in any of these senses, convey exactly the meaning of the Greek name uvoznorov, whose place it occupies in the Vulgate. Houbigant, a Romish priest, has, in his Latiu translation of the Old Testament, used neither sacramentum nor mysterium; but, where either of these terms had been employed in the Vulgate, he substitutes secretum, arcanum, or absconditum. Erasmus, though he wrote at an earlier period, has only once admitted sacramentum into his version of the New Testament, and said with the Vulgate sacramentum septem stellarum.
Now it is to this practice, not easily accounted for, in the old Latin translators, that we owe the ecclesiastical term sacrament, which, though properly not scriptural, even Protestants have not thought fit to reject; they have only confined it a little in the application, using it solely of the two primary institutions of the gospel, baptism and the Lord's supper ; whereas the Romanists apply it also to five other ceremonies, in all seven. Yet even this application is not of equal latitude with that wherein it is used in the Vulgate. The sacrament of God's will,* the sacrament of piety,t the sacrament of a dream, I the sacrament of the seven stars,y and the sacrament of the woman,|| are phrases which sound very strangely in our ears.
12. So much for the introduction of the term sacrament into the Christian theology, which (however convenient it may be for expressing some important rites in our religion) has, in none of the places where it occurs in the Vulgate, a reference to any ceremony whatever, but is always the version of the Greek word uvornocov, or the corresponding term in Hebrew or Chaldee. Now the term uvornocov, as has been shown, is always predicated of some doctrine, or of some matter of fact, wherein it is the intention of the writer to denote, that the information he gives either was a secret formerly, or is the latent meaning of some type, allegory, figurative description, dream, vision, or fact referred to. No religion abounded more in pompous
rites and ordinances than the Jewish, yet they are never in Scripture (any more than the ceremonies of the New Testament) denominated either mysteries or sacraments. Indeed with us Protestants, the meanings in present use assigned to these two words are so totally distinct, the one relating solely to doctrine the other solely to positive institutions, that it may look a little oddly to bring them together in the discussion of the same critical question. But to those who are acquainted with Christian antiquity, and foreign use in these matters, or have been accustomed to the Vulgate translation, there will be no occasion for an apology.
13. Before I finish this topic, it is proper to take notice of one passage, wherein the word avoinucov, it may be plausibly urged, must have the same sense with that which present use gives to the
| Dan. 2: 18, 30, 47.
Eph. 1: 9. ģ Rev. 1: 20.
#1 Tim. 3: 16.
English word mystery, and denote something which, though revealed, is inexplicable, and to human faculties unintelligible. The words are, “ Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness : God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory," i Tim. 3: 16. I do not here inquire into the justness of this reading, though differing from that of the two most ancient versions, the Syriac and the Vulgate, and some of the oldest manuscripts. The words, as they stand, sufficiently answer my purpose. Admit, then, that some of the great articles enumerated may be justly called mysteries in the ecclesiastical and present acceptation of the term, it does not follow that this is the sense of the term here. When a word in a sentence of holy writ is susceptible of two interpretations, so that the sentence, whichsoever of the two ways the word be interpreted, conveys a distinct meaning suitable to the scope of the place—and when one of these interpretations expresses the common import of the word in holy writ, and the other assigns it a meaning which it plainly has not in any other passage of Scripture—the rules of criticism manifestly require that we recur to the common acceptation of the term. Nothing can vindicate us in giving it a singular, or even a very uncommon signification, but that all the more usual meanings would make the sentence involve some absurdity or nonsense. This is not the case here : The purport of the sentence plainly is," Great unquestionably is the divine secret, of which our religion brings the discovery: God was manifest in the flesh," etc.
I PROPOSED, in the second place, to offer a few thoughts on the import of the word Bhaognuia, frequently translated blasphemy. I am far from affirming, that in the present use of the English word there is such a departure from the import of the original, as in that remarked in the preceding article between uvoirjocov and mystery; at the same time it is proper to observe, that in most cases there is not a perfect coincidence. Blaognuia properly denotes calumny, detraction, reproachful or abusive langunge, against whomsoever it be vented. There does not seem, therefore, to have been any necessity for adopting the Greek word into our language, one or other of the English expressions above mentioned being in every case sufficient for conveying the sense. Here, as in other instances, we have, with other moderns, implicitly followed the Latins, who had in this no more occasion than we for a phraseology not originally of their own growth. To have uniformly translated, and not transferred, the words Bloopnuia and Bhuoqručiv, would have both contributed to perspicuity, and tended to detect the abuse of the terms when wrested from their proper meaning. That Bhaoq nuia and its conjugates are in the New Testament very often applied to reproaches not aimed against God, is evident from the passages referred to in the margin ;* in the much greater part of which the English translators, sensible that they could admit no such application, have not used the words blaspheme or blasphemy, but rail, revile, speak evil, etc. In one of the passages quoted, (Jude 9), a reproachsul charge brought even against the devil is called κρίσις βλασφημίας, and rendered by them railing accusation. That the word in some other placest ought to have been rendered in the same general terms, I shall afterwards show. But with respect to the principal point, that the word comprehends all verbal abuse, against whomsoever uttered, God, angel, man, or devil, as it is universally admitted by the learned, it would be losing time to attempt to prove. The passages referred to will be more than sufficient to all who can read them in the original Greek.
2. But it deserves our notice, and it is principally for this reason that I judged it proper 10 make reinarks on the word, that even when Baoqnuia refers to reproachful speeches against God, and so comes nearer the meaning of our word blasphemy, still the primitive notion of this crime has undergone a considerable change in our way of conceiving it. The causes it would not perhaps be difficult to investigate, but the effect is undeniable. In theological disputes, nothing is more common, to the great scandal of the Christian name, ihan the imputation of blasphemy thrown by each side upon the other. The injustice of the charge on both sides, will be manifest on a little reflection, which it is the more necessary to bestow, as the commonness of the accusation, and the latent but contagious motives of employing it, have gradually perverted our conceptions of the thing.
3. It has been remarked already, that the import of the word piaoq nuia is maledicentia, in the largest acceptation, comprehending all sorts of verbal abuse, imprecation, reviling, and calumny. Now let it be observed, that when such abuse is mentioned as uttered against God, there is properly no change made on the signification of the word—the change is only in the application, that is, in the reserence to a different object. The idea conveyed in the explanation now given is always included, against whomsoever the crime be committed. In this manner every term is understood that is applicable to both God and man. Thus the meaning of the word to disobey is the same, whether we speak of disobeying God or of disobeying man. The same may be said of believe, honor, fear, etc. As therefore the sense of the term is the same, though differently applied, what is essential to constitute the crime of detraction in the one case, is essential also in the other. But it is essential to this crime, as commonly understood, when committed by one man against another, that there be in the injurious person the will or disposition to detract from the person abused. Mere mistake in regard to character, especially when the mistake is not conceived, by him who entertains it, to lessen the character, nay, is supposed, however erroneously, to exalt it, is never construed by any into the crime of defamation. Now, as blasphemy is, in its essence, the same crime, but immensely aggravated, by being committed against an object infinitely superior to man, what is fundamental to the existence of the crime will be found in this, as in every other species which comes under the general name. There can be no blasphemy, therefore, where there is not an impious purpose to derogate from the Divine Majesty, and to alienate the minds of others from the love and reverence of God.
* Matt. 12:31, 32. 27: 39. Mark 15: 29. Like 22: 65. 23: 39. Rom. 3: 8. 14: 16. I Cor. 4: 13. 10: 30. Eph. 4: 31. 1 Tim. 6: 4. Tit. 3: 2. 1 Pet. 4: 4, 14. Jude 9, 10. Acts 6:11, 13. 2 Pet. 2: 10, 11.
* Acto 13: 45. 18: 6. 26. 11. Col. 3: 8. 1 Tim. 1: 13. 2 Tim. 3:2.
4. Hence, we must be sensible of the injustice of so frequently using the odious epithet blasphemous in our controversial writings; an evil imputable solely to the malignity of temper which a habit of such disputation rarely fails to produce. Hence it is, that the Arminian and the Calvinist, the Arian and the Athanasian, the Protestant and the Papist, the Jesuit and the Jansenist, throw and retort on each other the unchristian reproach. Yet it is no more than justice to say, that each of the disputants is so far from intending to diminish, in the opinion of others, the honor of the Almighty, that he is, on the contrary, fully convinced that his own principles are better adapted to raise it than those of his antagonist, and for that very reason he is so strenuous in maintaining them. But to blacken as much as possible the designs of an adversary, in order the more effectually to render his opinions hateful, is one of the many common, but detestable, resources of theological controvertists. It is to be hoped that the sense, not only of the injustice of this measure, but of its inefficacy for producing conviction in the mind of a reasonable antagonist, and of the bad impression it tends to make on the impartial and judicious in regard both to the arguers and the argument, will at length induce men to adopt more candid methods of managing their disputes; and, even when provoked by the calumnious and angry epithets of an opposer, not to think of retaliating, but to remember, that they will derive more honor from imitating, as is their duty, the conduct of Him who, when he was reviled, reviled not again.