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LAURENCE

ON THE

Unitarian Version of the 1. Testament,

CHAP. I.

Introductory Remarks.

When a work appears under the singular title of “ The New Testament in an improved Version, upon the basis of Archbishop Newcome's new Translation, with a corrected Text, and Notes Critical and Explanatory, published by a Society for promoting Christian Knowledge and the practice of Virtue, by the distribution of Books ;" it seems natural to enquire into the religious persuasion of the authors. This indeed is not explicitly avowed either in the Title Page or the Introduction ; but the translation itself in every part, and the uniform tenor of the notes, sufficiently display it. The improved Version is nothing more than a new version so improved as to be rendered conformable with the tenets of Unitarianism. In proof of this assertion, it is unnecessary to quote more than the following passage, from the comment on 1 John, i. 1. “ It is to the unwearied and successful labours of this pious and learned person, (the venerable Theophilus Lind

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say,) whose life and doctrine have exhibited the most perfect model in modern times of the purity and simplicity of apostolical Christianity, in conjunction with those of his able coadjutor, Jebb, Priestly, Wakefield, and others, that the Christian world is indebted for that clear and discriminating light, which has of late years been diffused over the obscurities of the sacred Scriptures, and which promises, at no very distant period, to purify the Christian religion from those numerous and enormous corruptions, which have so long disfigured its doctrines, and impeded its progress.

Hence the nature of that elucidation, which is diffused over the obscurities of Scripture in this version may be distinctly perei ved.

Nor will the Unitarians, I presume disown the production; and if in their justification they simply allege the propriety of their possessing a translation of the New Testament, more consonant, in their own judgment, with the sense of Scripture than that of the Establishment, they certainly advance a position'which few will be disposed to controvert. But is it quite consistent with that open and manly conduct, upon which they peculiarly pride themselves, to sink their characteristical denomination, and simply to describe themselves as "a Society for the promtion of Chrisian knowledge and the practice of virtue by the distribution of books ; who, in order " to supply the English reader with a more correct text of the New Testament than has yet appeared,"* had tixed its choice and founded its improvement “upon the excellent translation of the late most reverend Dr. William Newcome, Archbishop of Armagh, and primate of all Irelend, a worthy successor of the venerable and learned Archbishop Usher ;"to enter the combat in disguise, and advance to the attack in an archiepiscopal coat of mail? And is it true to the extent apparently professed both in the Title Page and Introduction,

* Introduction, p: 5.

of Ibid. p. 4.

that Archbishop Newcome's version really forms the groundwork of this ? The translators indeed say, that they have assumed it as a principle not to deviate from the Archbishop's version “but where it appeared to be necessary to the correction of error or inaccuracy in the text, the language, the construction, or the sense."* But instances of such an exception unfortunately so often occur, that there is scarcely a single page without one or more, and not many without numerous deviations from it. Nor are these deviations simply confined to mere verbal errors or inaccu racies, but extend to the most important doctrines, so as uniformly to divest the Archbishop's translation of every expression hostile to the Unitarian Creed ; deviations, which could not have incidentally taken place, but must have been originally projected. For we are expressly told, that the design of the Translators, as well as of the Society, was, to supply the English reader with a more correct text of the New Testament than has yet appeared : as also, by divesting the sacred volume of the technical phrases of a systematic theology which has no foundation in the scriptures themselves, to render the New Testament more generally intelligible, or at least to preclude many sources of error : and by the assistance of the notes, to enable the judicious and attentive reader to understand Scripture phraseology, and to form a just idea of true and uncorrupted Christianity.+ What Unitarians mean, when they allude to a systematic theology, which has no foundation in the Scriptures and also to true and uncorrupted Christianity, no man can for a moment doubt, who has but slightly glanced his eye upon any of their avowed publications. Instead therefore of being that which at first view it may appear to the general reader, a Version undertaken from no party motives, and conducted upon no party principles, the very reverse seems to be the fact.

* Introduction, p. 4,

$ Introduetion, p. 5, 6.

The text from which this translation is professedly made, is the amended one of Griesbach : a text which is too well known, and too highly respected, to require more than a simple notice of its excellency, and the superior correctness of which is universally acknowledged. But why in an English translation so long a history is given of the received Greek text, and its critical improvements, of Greek manuscripts, and of the different editions of the Greek Testament, it seems difficult, to conjecture. Could it possibly be to take the chance of impressing an idea, that the established translation, which confessedly follows the received text, is too corrupt to be used as a rule of faith? This however it would be more easy to insinuate than to prove.

Among the various modes which have been adopted for the improvement of the received text, attempts, it is observed, have been made to correct it by critical conjecture. Upon this subject the following remarks occur ; " This is a remedy which ought never to be applied but with the utmost caution, especially as we are furnished with so many helps for correcting the tsxt from manuscripts, versions, and ecclesiastical writers. This caution is doubly necessary when the proposed emendation affects a text which is of great importance in theological controversy, as the judgment of the critic will naturally be biassed in favour of his own opinions. It ought perhaps to be laid down as a general rule, that the received text is in no case to be altered by critical or at least by theological conjecture, how ingenious and plausible soever.” So far the reasoning is correct, and perfectly conformable with the established maxims of the most eminent critics : but what follows? “Nevertheless (it is added) there is no reason why critical conjectures should be entirely excluded from the New Testament, any more than from the works of any other ancient Author; and some very plausible conjectures of no inconsiderable importance have been suggested

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