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CHAPTER III.  Theological Views of the Author.


CHAPTER III. Theological Views of the Author.

James Dodson

The Author’s opinions on the subject which he professes to discuss, will in a suitable place, receive that attention to which they are thought to be entitled. My object in the present chapter is to pass a few remarks on such peculiar doctrines as may be incidentally inculcated in the work under review. And this is the more needful, because many who examine with care and attention an author’s views on the question which forms the main subject of his work, are often less disposed to investigate the truth or falsehood of doctrines inculcated in a more incidental way.

Far be it from me, to charge Mr. Morton with denying the divinity of Christ. The following passages in his work on Psalmody, sufficiently vindicate him from any such imputation "God has many sons; yet he has but one only begotten son, which signifies, a son possessing the same divine nature with himself, (p. 19.)—"Now this explains to us very clearly what psalms they were, which Paul (of Samosata, the Arian,) put a stop to—Psalms composed by faithful Christians from the beginning, in honor of Jesus Christ, speaking of him as no other than Christ indeed," (p. 221.)—"But Jews who hate Jesus could not unite in singing the Psalms—commended by the Apostle,—Psalms in which they spoke of Jesus—maintaining that he was a divine person, the Son of God," (p. 98.)—These three passages, which I have discovered by diligent search, I take pleasure in laying before the charitable reader; who will rejoice in being convinced from them, that our illustrious author is not a Socinian. Nor is this defence of his orthodoxy unneeded. All great men are at times unfortunate; and Mr. M’s. misfortune is, so to have expressed himself, as very distinctly to convey the idea that Christ is but a mere man;—and that in more places than one. On p. 165, he says, "Here" (Rev. 5,) "the man Jesus, the son of Joseph and Mary, is represented as a Lamb; but there is no such idea in the Book of Psalms." The reader will perceive at once, that to assert that Christ is the son of Joseph and Mary, is unequivocally to assert that he his a mere man. Such a form of speech, is precisely in accordance with the phraseology of the unbelieving Jews of our Saviour’s time; Luke 4:22, "Is not this Joseph’s son?" Jno. 6:42, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?"—And charity would constrain us to pronounce the use of it by our author, a mere accident, were it not that he repeats it again and again.—"The Old Testament Scriptures tell us everywhere and in various ways, that the Messiah shall [1.] come. But the New Testament Scriptures tell us, that he is come, and point us to him, saying, This man, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph and Mary, is he of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets did write."—"Peter says, ‘Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.’ The grand object of all this testimony, which is so abundant in the New Testament is to bring the people to believe and confess, that Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph and Mary, is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament Scriptures," (pp. 189, 190.)—"When could we learn from the Psalms, that the son of Joseph and Mary attested his Messiahship by raising Lazarus from the dead," And when, Bro. Morton, could we learn from any book in the Bible that the son of Joseph and Mary attested his Messiahship by raising Lazarus from the dead: or in any other way; that he had a Messiahship to attest; or indeed, that Joseph or Mary ever had a son? In perfect consistency with the passages quoted above, is the following, p. 96; "The Psalms contain a great deal concerning the Messiah; but they do not tell us who the Messiah is; they do not tell us that Jesus who was born of Mary, is that Messiah." Now, it is certain that the Psalms do tell us,—Ps. 2:7—that the Messiah is the Son of God; nor has this, as we have already seen, escaped our author’s notice. And if Christ be a divine person, then informing us that he is the Son of God, is telling us who he is; while informing us that he is the son of Mary, is only telling us one of the things that he has done;viz: that he has assumed our nature, in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Representing him as the son of Mary, never identifies his person, or tells us who he is; unless, as the Socinians maintain, he is a human person, a mere man. It cannot have escaped the notice of the observant reader, that our author, throughout the paragraph from which the last two quotations are taken, seems to have a special care to keep our Saviour’s manhood before our minds;—as, "when the man Jesus was baptized"—"testified that this man was the Messiah"—"the man who journeyed from place to place through the land of Judea"—"that this very same man is now exalted to the fight! and of God." Now the most captious can find no fault with him for applying the term man to Christ; for man he certainly was. But his apparently studious use of this phraseology, even when it mars rather than helps the force, perspicuity and beauty of his sentence, may draw upon him, from some quarters, suspicion as to his soundness in the faith; especially as he does not in the meantime take any pains to insist on our Saviour’s divinity. And such a suspicion will not be likely to be in any measure removed by the recollection that in four different places he calls the Messiah the Son of Joseph and Mary; and that he represents such a designation of Him as the only method of telling who he is. After all, I must be allowed to assure the reader that Mr. M. cannot be a consistent Socinian; for even in that paragraph which would seem the most objectionable, as expressing, both directly and indirectly, Socinian views, he says, (p. 98,) that the Psalms sung by the Colossians, with the approbation of the apostle, were such as taught that ‘Jesus was a Divine person.’ Perhaps he has some new theory of his own (akin to that of the ancient Nestorians,) according to which he views our Saviour as being a divine, and yet a human person; subsisting in two persons, as well as possessing two natures; being the Son of God by eternal and ineffable generation, and at the same time, by ordinary human generation, the Son of Joseph and Mary. And (by the way,) if such be the Saviour in whom he believes, it is not to be wondered at that he advocates the use of a new and uninspired psalmody; since neither the Book of Psalms nor any other Book in the Bible, knows anything of such a Christ, Probably his mind is so deep, that he himself cannot see to the bottom of it, and of course does not know very well what he does believe; or so capacious, that he is able at the same time to entertain two opposite beliefs. It may be that, as on the subject of Psalmody he makes common cause with all Socinians, he wishes, by inculcating their views of other subjects, to give them the full benefit of his alliance with them. Or, finally, is it not possible that in order the more effectually to avoid being dogmatical, he makes it a matter of conscience to contradict every important statement which he makes? Certainly this last supposition is much favored by the complexion, and I might say complexity of his whole work on Psalmody.

Mr. M.’s twofold view of the person of Christ, will help us to account for his teaching two ways of salvation, which he certainly does, in very plain terms. On pp. 191: 2, he favors us with the following strictures upon a sentiment of Dr. Pressly: ‘And then look at the bottom of p. 95;’ (of Pressly on Psalmody;) ‘you say, ever since the first promise of a Saviour was given to our lost world, Jesus Christ has been the only hope of sinful man. By faith in Him, as exhibited to them upon the infallible testimony of God, believers were saved under the Old Testament.’ Yes, Doctor, but Jesus Christ was never exhibited until he was born at Bethlehem; and how could men have faith in Him before they heard of Him? They had faith in a promised Messiah; but before they could have faith in Jesus, they must learn that Jesus is that Messiah; and this they could never learn until Jesus came. And my dear Doctor !will you allow me respectfully to tell you that noman ever believed in Jesus before he was born. And even none believed in Him until they had sufficient evidence that He was the Messiah, the promised Saviour.’ ‘You see, Doctor, it is not true. That ever since the first promise of it Saviour, Jesus Christ was the only hope of sinful man. Because he was not the hope of any man until he came into the world, and was made known to men as that Redeemer who was promised. And all that is written in the New Testament; and all the miracles wrought by our Saviour and by his apostles; and all the miraculous events connected with his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension, were designed to convince men that this Jesus was the Redeemer, and to persuade them to put their trust in Him. And if men always trusted in Jesus before he came, what was the use of all this to lead them to do what they were doing already? Why, my dear Doctor! your representation is most exquisite foolery.’

The reader will perceive that I have given Mr. M. ample space to speak for himself. And it will be observed that, like every other good Christian, he believes that men are saved by faith in Christ Jesus, ever since his coming in the flesh. For he says that Jesus Christ ‘was not the hope of any man until He came into the world;’ plainly implying that since that time, He has been the hope of men.’ That this is his view of the present way of salvation, is still made evident from what immediately follows in the same connection: ‘And all that is written in the New Testament, and all the miracles wrought by our ,Saviour and by his apostles,’ &c., ‘were designed to convince men that this Jesus was the Redeemer; and to persuade them to put their trust in Him.’ Now, this opinion of his, that men are now saved by faith in Christ, is unquestionably correct, for it is perfectly Scriptural; but the soundness of his other doctrine, that sinners were saved in some other way under the Old Testament dispensation, might well be called in question, if it had been advanced by any other than the infallible George Morton. That he holds the opinion is certain. His words are, ‘Before they could have faith in Jesus, they must learn that Jesus is the Messiah; anti this they could not learn until Jesus came. And, my dear Doctor! will you allow me respectfully to tell you that no man ever believed in Jesus before he was born.’ And if they did not, could not have faith in Christ Jesus the Mediator, they were not saved by faith in Christ; and if saved at all, they must have been saved in some way altogether different. But it is not merely by just inference that this sentiment is contained in his words; he has expressed it in the plainest form. Speaking of Simeon, he says, ‘He had saving faith, long before he believed in Jesus as the Redeemer; for he never believed in Jesus until Jesus came.’

With regard to the orthodoxy of our author’s views on this subject, I will not hazard an opinion; but content myself with observing that the Prophet Isaiah and the Apostle Peter are plainly at war with him: for Mr. M. says, ‘Jesus Christ was never exhibited until he was born in Bethlehem;’ whereas Isaiah says, (Chap. 42:1,) ‘Behold my servant whom I uphold, mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth;’ and Peter says, (Acts 10:38, 43) ‘How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power. To Him give the prophets witness,’ &c. Now when Isaiah calls upon the men of his day to behold the Saviour, he certainly insinuates very strongly that he was then exhibited; (for how else could they behold Him?) and when Peter asserts that to Jesus of Nazareth all the prophets gave witness, it is certainly implied that he was exhibited; for it is not easy to conceive how they could give testimony to one who was not exhibited. Again, our author says, ‘no man ever believed in Jesus before he was born;’ but the Apostle cited above, says (Acts, 2:22, 32,) ‘Ye men of Israel, hear these words. Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you, by miracles, and wonders, and signs;—ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain. David speaketh concerning him, ‘I foresaw the Lord always before my thee; for he is on my right hand that I should not be moved.’ Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David; being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit upon his throne; he seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ; that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption; this Jesus hath God raised up, to which we are alt witnesses.’ From this it is evident that Peter thought that at least one of the Old Testament saints believed in Jesus Christ before he was born; and there is certainly some foundation for such an opinion, in David’s own enlightened confession. But it must not be thought strange that Prophets and Apostles do at some points differ from our author, since even the Rev. George Morton, Dr. Pressly’s learned Reviewer, is at open war with him on the same point. This discrepancy between Rev. Morton and Rev. Morton, appears very strikingly in what he says about Simeon, p. 72: ‘The devout Simeon believed in Jesus; but not until it was revealed to him by the Holy Ghost that the child Jesus was that promised Messiah in whom he had been trusting all his life.’ Simeon never believed in Jesus till it was revealed to him that he had been believing in him all his life! He had been believing in him all his life; and yet he never believed in him until ‘Jesus came, and it was divinely revealed to him that he was the Saviour in whom he had trusted’!!

If inspired prophets and apostles oppose the view of Mr. M. on this subject, they do no more than is done by their Divine Lord; who very clearly represents himself to have been both exhibited and believed in, under the Old Testament dispensation. In proof of this, I refer the reader to Jno. 5:35: ‘Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me.’ What Scriptures? Those of the Old Testament, of course; for there were then none else. And of whom do they testify? ‘Of me,’ says Jesus. Again; v. 46; ‘For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.’ Moses then wrote of Jesus Christ; and yet Mr. M. declared that ‘he was not exhibited till he was born in Bethlehem!’ To the same purpose, is Jno. 8:54. ‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.’ And how did Abraham see Christ’s day, if it was not by believing on his name?

All must grant that there is a sense in which Christ was never exhibited till the fulness of time; viz: that never till then was he visibly exhibited in our nature. But this is not the sense in which the word ‘exhibited’ is used in this connection, by Dr. Pressly and his Reviewer;—the Dr’s words, on which Mr. M. comments, are ‘By faith in him as exhibited to them upon the infallible testimony of God, &c.’ Now it will be borne in mind that faith, which is ‘the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,’ (Heb. 11:1,) does not require the visible exhibition of its object, before it can be exercised. And it is most likely, that those who wish to rest their opinions upon ‘the foundation of Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone,’ will not hesitate to believe that ‘the one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,’ was by divine revelation exhibited in various ways, before as well as since his advent in the flesh; and that God’s elect, under the former dispensation, embraced him for salvation, by the like precious faith to that by which we are now saved. And this view of matters, if it be correct, may help to reconcile good men now, to the exclusive use of that collection of Psalms, which so well served the purpose of God’s people under the Old Testament dispensation.—But this by the way.

One feature of our author’s Old Testament way of salvation, I am free to say I do not like. He represents the faith of Old Testament saints, as meriting their justification. His words are, ‘He (i.e., Simeon) had saving faith; he was justified on account of his faith in a promised Redeemer.’ Now all those churches which confine themselves to the use of the Book of Psalms in the celebration of God’s praise, are Calvinistic in their views of the way of salvation; and maintain with the Apostle of the Gentiles, (Rom. 3:21,) that sinners are ‘justified freely by God’s grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; and by consequence, that they are not justified on account of their faith, or any other good thing ‘wrought in them or done by them;’ and with the same inspired writer they ‘conclude that a man is justified,’—not on account of faith as a deed of the law, but—‘by faith, without the deeds of the law.’ And indeed, with the Bible in their hands, it is not easy for them to believe that any sinner is justified on account of his faith; especially if it be such a defective faith, as Mr. M. would make out the faith of Old Testament believers to have been,—a faith which had no respect to Jesus Christ the one Mediator; or such a bungling faith, as is professed by some in New Testament times, which sometimes looks upon our Saviour as a divine person, the only begotten Son of God, and anon regards him as a human person, the Son of Joseph and Mary.

There is something in the manner in which our author expresses himself with regard to the two ways of salvation, which would almost lead us to believe that, in his opinion, the difference between the two, is, that the saving faith of Old Testament saints rested upon the Saviour himself; whereas the saving faith of New Testament saints rests upon the name Jesus. Whether he entertains the opinion that the name Jesus is a proper object of religious faith or not, it is certainly, much akin to one which he clearly does hold, and which he maintains at great length; viz: that the name Jesus ought to be worshipped.—Not merely that our Saviour himself ought to be worshipped;—in this all good christians would concur with him;—but that the word Jesus, one of his names, is entitled to religious worship. This doctrine he inculcates at large, pp. 182-188. He delivers himself as follows:—Again; ‘thou shalt call his name JESUS; for he shall save his people from their sins.’ But this sacred name of the Redeemer is not found once in the Book of Psalms. And must the name of Jesus, be excluded from the Psalmody of his own Church? How can the Christian Church engage in the worship of God without using the name of Jesus? It is impossible: and why banish this name from one important part of that worship?—Did the foolish mind of man ever invent a greater absurdity? That the church redeemed by the blood of Jesus, when she lifts up her voice to bless him for salvation, must not dare to name his name? That name so dear in heaven and upon earth: which the eternal Jehovah has proclaimed above every name—‘therefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name, which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and every tongue should confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.’ But Psalmonistic Churches in their songs of praise can never make this confession. When they lift up their voices in a song of praise, they can never glorify God the Father by confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord of all. And why not? Do not the psalms speak of the ‘Son of God,’ of the ‘Redeemer,’ of the King of Glory?’ Are not the 2nd and 110 Psalms, for example, beautifully descriptive of the kingdom and power and glory of our Saviour? True; but all this does not amount to what our author means, when he speaks of using ‘the name of Jesus.’ To be plain; when he uses the phrase, ‘the name of Jesus,’ he means simply the word Jesus. But if we follow him a little further, we will find him to explain himself;—‘They need not point us,’ he adds, ‘to such psalms as the 2nd and 110th, for this exalted name Jesus, is not in the whole book of Psalms.’ This puts it beyond all doubt, that when he says ‘the name of Jesus,’ he means neither more nor less than the name Jesus. Now mark what he says about this name. ‘And they (Psalmonists) will teach us, that this name,’ (the name Jesus,) ‘which God has proclaimed from his throne, as the most exalted and glorious, at which the inhabitants of heaven, and of the earth, and of those under [2.] the earth, bow in submission, must never once be named in the church, in any of her songs of praise! A name which is the theme of constant adoration by the church in heaven, and the church on earth; but it must never be heard upon the voice of her songs!’—Observe, it is not Jesus himself, but the word ‘Jesus,’ one of his names, that Mr. M. represents as being the theme of the Church’s adoration. Further on, he says, ‘Yes, indeed, the man who feels that he is redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus will praise his name,’—that is, the name Jesus—‘in a song,’ or, in other words, will worship it. Again; "But when the church shall be visited with the full blaze of that millennial light and [3.] purity, and truth, such a doctrine will be heard no more at all in her. There will be no hesitation then to praise the name of Jesus,’—that is, by Mr. M.’s own explanation, the name Jesus,—in a song.’—In the millennium, it would appear, the church will make it a prominent part of her religion, to worship the word Jesus, praising it in a song. Further; ‘Yes then, and now, and till then, ever and always, will the church of Jesus Christ raise the loud songs of glory and gladness, and thanksgiving, to the exalted name of Jesus:’—that is, to the name Jesus. And again; ‘Dr. Pressly might as well think to stem the ocean’s tide, or stay the rolling thunder in its pathway cross the heavens, as that he will prevent those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb from praising, in their songs, the precious name of Jesus,’—that is, recollect, as he himself explains it, the word Jesus which is one of the names of ‘their gloriously exalted Saviour and King.’ But it is not necessary to multiply quotations; in those given above, there is a superabundance of evidence that he deifies the word Jesus, and claims for it divine honors;—nothing less than that, like Christ himself, to whom it belongs as one of his names, it be worshipped with songs of adoration and praise! or rather, he seems to care but little whether Christ be worshipped at all, or not; provided, due homage be paid to the name Jesus. He has not told us why this name is more worthy of worship than the terms, Lord, Christ, Messiah, Saviour, Redeemer, Shiloh, &c.; but perhaps their apotheosis will take place when he is ready to favor the world with a book upon some other subject; and then, if he and his ‘Neodistic’ brethren do not worship enough, it will not be for want of plenty of gods.

That our Rev. author inculcates the worship of a word of two syllables, viz: ‘the name Jesus, it is impossible to deny. Whether in this he is right or wrong, I leave entirely to the judgment of the reflecting reader. But lest any one should be disposed to censure him too harshly, as teaching idolatry, allow me to turn the reader’s attention to the fact, that if he has demanded for one of our Saviour’s names, divine worship, he has on the other hand, effectually counteracted the operation of his teaching, by the contrary influence of his example: for from p. 183, to p. 188, as well as in sundry other places, he has used the name Jesus, (which, like all other divine names, should never be taken in vain,) with a needless frequency, which—were I not a reviewer, and of course bound to be favorable to my author—I would not hesitate to characterize as profane.


[1.] Quere:—Do the Old Testament Scriptures tell us (believer of the 19th century,) that Christ shall yet come?—But this by the way.

[2.] Who are the inhabitants "of those under" the earth?

[3.] What appearance does a "blaze of purity" present?