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Vol. II.—JANUARY, 1862.—No. 7.
THE TWO TAYLORS.
It is a curious work which we now enter upon, that of sewing together a coat, the parts of which were “cut and tried " by two different and eminent professors of the same science, living a century apart. It will be seen to be quite symmetrical and good of its kind, but we do not wish any of our readers to wear it if they do not find themselves pretty well fitted after fairly trying it on.
It may be thought, upon first sight, that the coat is considerably longer upon one side than upon the other. This was unavoidable, since there is a marked difference in the manner of cutting by the same measure.
The older Taylor cuts with a bold hand, frankly and squarely, up to lines clearly and straightly drawn. He never hesitates or wavers or stops to make various allowances, on this side and on that, for the inevitable strains and rents which it must experience whenever it is tried upon a full-grown man. The other Taylor, as though conscious of a well-nigh impossible task, puts in many a gore and gather, and cuts by very wavy and finely drawn lines, often by several interwoven and tangled ones, which, however, his unusually keen sight follows round to the same point at last.
It will be found by those who can wear it, that, notwithstanding its one-sided appearance when held up to view, upon
putting it on it hangs exactly even, with the decided advantage (thanks to the spirit of modern improvement and Tayloring in particular) that upon this side the coat will bear a good many extra jerks and pulls without falling permanently out of place or to pieces, so saving from sudden exposure those who are taken with such a passion for wearing tight clothes.
But it is time we give some little account of the two Taylors from whose cuttings we are about to stitch inseparably a few short but important selections. They are, John Taylor, D. D., of Norwich, England, and Nathaniel W. Taylor, D. D., of New Haven, Connecticut. John was an eminent Unitarian clergyman and Professor of Theology. He was born in Lancashire, in 1694, educated at Whitehaven, and after officiating some years to a congregation at Norwich, he was appointed to the office of Divinity Tutor in the newly founded Academy of Warrington. His principal works are at hand, which consist of “ The Scripture Doctrine of Original Sin,” “ The Scripture Doctrine of Atonement,” “ A Paraphrase upon the Epistle to the Romans,” and “A Key to the Apostolic Writings." He was a contemporary with President Edwards, being born nine years earlier and dying three years later. The first, third, and fourth of the above-mentioned works were thoroughly reviewed by Edwards in two hundred pages of the second volume of his works, under the title, “ The Doctrine of Original Sin Defended.” And we warmly commend these two hundred pages to the reperusal of such as dream that Taylorism, ancient or modern, is “ Edwardean,” unless they mean to use this word like one of those Latin diminutive nouns which signify a small thing of the kind denoted by the primitive, as adolescentulus and homunculus.
Nathaniel W. Taylor has so lately passed away from earth that we need only say of him that he was for ten years pastor of the “Centre (Congregationalist) Church” in New Haven, after which he became the eminent Professor of Divinity in the Theological Seminary of the same town. His theological writings, as now published, are very incomplete and somewhat equivocal ; and if any persons find themselves disappointed in the vagueness and endless qualifications of the specimen extracts which we are about to take from his works, let them
notice that it is confessed in the Introduction to the fourth and last volume, that “ Dr. Taylor did not leave a fully written system or course of theological lectures. .. The matter is somewhat different from that which Dr. Taylor was accustomed to read to his students in his earlier years. ... The scriptural argument was so far unfinished that it is deemed unwise to publish any part of it. The paper on Human Sinfulness comprises all the lectures which the author was accustomed to read on this subject, with some additional matter."
We will begin with THE SCRIPTURES, for in the liberty which is allowed in their interpretation all errors take their departure, like the branching roads from a great city,
John Taylor. — “ All truth necessary to salvation is revealed in the Holy Scriptures ; and the Scriptures, not the opinions of men, not of learned men, no, not of good men, no, not of many learned and good men, are the rule of our faith. ... But it is the word and revelation of God alone upon
my faith is to be founded ; . . in the interpreting of which we ought not to admit anything contradictory to the common sense and understanding of mankind : for the Scriptures can be no rule to us, if the understanding God hath given us is not a rule in judging of their sense and meaning: nothing ought to pass for Divine Revelation which is inconsistent with any of the known perfections of the Divine Nature."
Nathaniel W. Taylor. — “ This theory concerning the origin of human volitions, considered as a philosophical theory, I have already examined, and have attempted to show that it is both unphilosophical and contrary to the decisions of common sense. If this be so, and if the language of the Scriptures, which is supposed to teach this theory or doctrine, will hear any other meaning, then this is not its true one; since we must not do violence to both common sense and sound philosophy, by giving to the language of the Scriptures a meaning which both forbid. . . . The language of the Scriptures is the language of common use, and is to be interpreted as such. ... These are enough to show that the mere form of expression decides nothing on the point before us, and that we are left to the decisions of common sense and sound reason. If these decide against the doctrine, and we have shown that they do, the point is settled. The language of the Bible does not teach this doctrine. ... Nor is such a use of language either unusual among men in like cases, nor in any respect unjustifiable or to
be wondered at. The known nature of the whole subject, what God is and what he is not, as a providential and moral Governor, what holiness and sin are, what men are as free moral agents, together with common sense and common honesty, are sufficient to prevent a false interpretation of the language in either case. . . Language, words, are nothing; they may be, according even to the best usage, contradictory in the most palpable form, provided the meaning be plain and consistent." ...
“ The question then is one on which diversity of opinion is obviously the result of adopting different principles of interpretation. .. I have long believed that the grand source of error and of diversity of religious belief lies in this -- that the interpreters of the sacred
volume have no settled and controlling laws of interpretation. The language of the Bible is to be interpreted, not to the letter in defiance of the plain dictates of sound reason and common sense ; not with the minute accuracy of philosophic statement or verbal exactness; but only with that degree of precision which pertains to all popular speech and writing, and which the nature of the subject, the connection, and other circumstances determine. ... For the most part the sacred writers are even careless of everything, except so to exhibit truth as to secure its influence on the popular mind. Provided their general meaning, or, more correctly, some general comprehensive truth, be clearly and impressively presented, it betrays no concern to guard against captious objections, subtle misconstructions, nor even verbal incongruities. Words, so to speak with them, are nothing."
One is tempted to stop here and inquire, if this is to be the grand controlling law of interpretation, what becomes of the doctrines of the Trinity, of Atonement, and of Eternal Punishment, and even that of the creation out of nothing? And why have reason and common sense led the different nations, and the great minds of the different ages, to such widely different conclusions, even in regard to such great questions as that of one God or many? But our aim in this connection is merely to call attention to this as a marked feature of this theologian. It is ever recurring like a man's shadow. Whenever any disputed question arises, this is the keen blade that cuts the Gordian knot; e. g., under the head of “ The Consequences of Adain's Sin to his Posterity,” this significant sentence paves