Newcombe Cappe

J.P. Dabney Annotations on the New Testament: Compiled from the Best Critical Authorities (1829)

Preterist Universalist | Socinian, Unitarian | Educated by Dr. Doddridge

“He also quoted Newcome Cappe as a writer on our side, who concedes the correctness of the Universalist exposition of the passage under consideration. Now what will the audience think, when I inform them, that this Newcome Cappe was a Restorationist — a Universalist of the old school! No wonder he made concessions favorable to Mr. Pingree’s doctrine!  Mr. Paige himself, the author from whom Mr. Pingree quoted, admits the fact that Cappe was a Restorationist. He says, “Before exhibiting the following testimony, it seems proper to remark, once more, that the Rev. Newcome Cappe believed, most firmly, in a, future retribution, or, in other words, misery in the future life. Whether he believed that misery will be endless, or not, is of no consequence, so far as the present question is concerned.” — Selec. pp. 174, 175. The Restorationists, of whom Cappe was one, are quite willing, no doubt, to make concessions favorable to Universalism.” (A Debate on the Doctrine of Universal Salvation, p. 81)

Preterist Commentaries from Modern Preterism

Dividing Line Between Destruction of Jerusalem and General Judgment – Matthew 25:3146

(On Matthew 3:12)
“Thus, to the prediction of the appearing and manifestation of the Messiah, this part of the Baptist’s testimony adds also the prediction of a discrimination to be made among the people of the Jews ; to those who should receive him, a promise of the Holy Spirit, with security amidst the calamities which were impending over Judea ; to those who should reject him, the denunciation of a fatal share in the general desolation of that coming of the Son of man.” (Crit. Rem. vol. ii. p. 142)

(On Matthew 7:21-23)
“This is a figurative description of the vanity of those hopes, which in the day of those calamities that were impending on Judea, should be built upon any other ground than that of a sincere reception and faithful improvement of the gospel.   To enter into the kingdom of heaven in this connexion, is to escape the ruin in which hypocrites and unbelievers should be overwhelmed, and to obtain admission into that state of security and comfort, which was to be prepared for the reception of those who cordially received the truth, and steadfastly professed and practised it.” (Crit. Rem. i. 181)

(On Matthew 13:37-43)
“All the terms of this parable determine  it to relate to the catastrophe of the Jewish state: the sower is the Son of man; the period of the event that is spoken of, is the accomplishment of the age, which in scripture language relates, uniformly, I believe, to the end of the Mosaic economy, and the solemn admonition with which the parable is closed, “who hath ears to hear, let him hear,” does itself yield a presumption, that the parable was particularly interesting to the people of that generation; and it is upon such occasions only, as were nearly interesting to the hearers of our Lord, that it is commonly or indeed ever applied in his discourses. The sense therefore is this: Then, when the son of man, by his messengers, in the end of this age, shall have destroyed the tares, the children of the wicked one, who disgrace the profession, or debase the purity, or obstruct the progress of his truth, when he shall have put down authority and power, subdued his enemies under him, he shall reign; and the children of the kingdom, they who are faithful to practice and to teach what they have learnt of me, delivered out of the general desolation, shall be served and exalted by that which has been the fall and the destruction of the Judaizing persecutors, hypocrites, and unbelievers. They shall shine as the lights of the world ” a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle,” holding forth the word of life, and rejoicing in the patronage of God, and the deliverance he has wrought for them.” (Crit. Rem. i. 179, 180. )

(On Matthew 16:27-28)
“The desolation of Judea, Matt. xvi. 27, is called the coming of the Son of man in the glory of his Father, with his angels.” (Crit. Rem. i. 150)

(On Matthew 25:31)
“‘Here, and in ver. 46, Jesus seems, at length, to have had the day of general judgment in his thoughts.”

(On Mark 16:15)
“The truth is, that the salvation here spoken of is not the salvation of a future life, the final recompense of virtue, but exemption and preservation from the wrath to come upon a large part of that present generation of the Jewish people, for their unbelief. It has no relation to moral merit, and is addressed to the people of that age, and of that religion only. It was a dispensation of the Mosaic economy. That condemnation to which this salvation has reference, was a temporal and national punishment for the violation of the law of Moses, and of the positive requisitions of God, made by the prophets of that institution. It is to faith that this salvation is promised ; on unbelief, that this condemnation is denounced.” (Crit. Hem. ii. 106.)

(Paraphrase of John 5:25-29)
25.) ‘ Verily I say unto you, the period is approaching, and is not far off, when, after my exaltation, they who are now insensible and inattentive to the teachings, and warnings, and ministry, of the Son of man, of me, in my present humble circumstances, will hear my voice, when, being constituted the Son of God, I shall speak from heaven by the Holy Spirit sent to my apostles and they that hear shall live. Though you now despise me, and misinterpret my deeds and words, and meditate designs against my life, I mean you no ill, and am intended to be a blessing to you. Though you despise the Son of man, the Son of God you will not despise ; and hearing him, he will be the means to save your lives, whose life you are seeking to destroy.

(26.) ‘For as the Father hath life in himself, and hath the power of giving life unto the dead, so hath he given to the Son the like power. He will enable him, by means of the Holy Spirit, accompanying the witnesses of his resurrection, to quicken, to give apprehension, sensibility, and discernment, to many who seem now to have them not — who are figuratively and spiritually dead. He will enable him to endue the converts to his gospel with the gifts of the Spirit, and thus to raise them from the dead, in imparting to them new principles of life ; and besides this, he will enable them to preserve their natural lives in the approaching desolations of their country: thus will the Father honor him whom ye calumniate and reject.

27.) ‘ Nevertheless it is not for such gracious purposes alone that I am ordained unto a kingdom ; though I am a Son of man, low as I now am, and undistinguished from among the common of mankind, I am appointed also to judge, and to execute judgment upon this untoward generation.

28, 29.) ‘Let not what I say amaze you; suffer not yourselves to be lost in groundless hesitating and unprofitable wonder: believe me, for it is true, not only that the hour is very near at hand, when some, who are now perfectly inattentive and insensible to my call, shall hear the voice in which I will address them from my approaching state of exaltation, and, being obedient thereto, shall live ; but it is alike true, that though yet farther off, yet the time is at no great distance, within the compass of this present generation, when all that are now in the graves, who at present sit in darkness and the shadow of death — the whole body of the Jewish people — shall hear the voice of the Son of God, summoning them to judgment; and being then at length all awakened to perceive who and what he is, shall come forth out of their present state of darkness and ignorance, to a new state of mind — to a resurrection, which, to those who have been obedient to the calls of Providence, shall issue in the preservation of their lives, amidst the calamities which shall overwhelm their country — to those who have refused to hearken to them, shall issue in their condemnation, to fall among them that fall, and to take their share in all the bitterness of the calamities that are hastening to involve this country ; Matt. xxv. 10—13 ; Luke xiii. 25—30.” (Crit. Hem. i. 322—325.)

(On Acts 17:30-31)
“Here the term judge signifies to rule. The connection leads to this idea : God overlooking, so as not to punish, by withholding greater advantages from those who had made so little use of less, overlooking the times of ignorance, superstition, and idolatry, (see vs. 23, 25, 27, 29,) now no longer leaves men to seek after him in his works, (see ver. 27,) but addressing himself to them more directly, and instructing them in a more perfect and efficacious manner, calls not only, as formerly, upon the Jews, when he brought them up out of the land of Egypt, and gave them a peculiar law, but upon all men, every where, to turn themselves from ritual observances, from superstition and idolatry, to serve him, the living and true God, in spirit and in truth, (see vs. 24, 25, 29, and also chap. xiv. 15, and 1 Thess. i. 9, and John iv. 21, &c.) ; for which purpose he appointed a season, and it is now come, during which he will rule the world in righteousness ; he will, according to the truth and mercy which constitute his character, fulfil his promises in the revelation of himself, and of his will unto mankind, by the gospel preached to them, with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, presenting unto all men sufficient ground of faith in the Man whom he foreordained to be the light of the world, and whose character was predescribed by him, inasmuch as, by the Holy Ghost accompanying the witnesses of his doctrine, and of his resurrection, he avows himself to be well pleased in him, and testifies it to be an indubitable fact, that after he had laid down his life, in attestation of his doctrine, he raised him from the dead.” (Crit. Rem. vol. i. pp. 207—211.)

(On Romans 2:3-5)
“Here repentance manifestly signifies that which was to save from the wrath to come, and ought to be compared with the second epistle of Peter, third chapter, which undoubtedly refers to the dissolution of the Jewish state, &c.” (Crit. Rem. vol. i. pp. 136, 137.)

(On Hebrews 10:39)
“Many passages in this epistle to the Hebrews relate solely, as I think, to the visitation of the Jews, foretold in Matt. xxiv. Or, however, if not solely, yet to that catastrophe in conjunction with other events that were conceived to be contiguous to it in point of time. However, beyond that time, these passages do not look ; neither those in St. Paul’s undoubted epistles, nor those in this epistle to the Hebrews. In chap. ix. ver. 26, which we have been considering, the author evidently speaks of that age, the sunteleia ton aionon, (conclusion of the age or ages.) In chap. x. ver. 25, he speaks of the day approaching, that great and terrible day of the Lord, when he was to fulfil his promises of deliverance to his faithful servants from their persecutors, (comp. ver. 23,) and to take vengeance on their enemies, ver. 27 and 30 ; when he was to judge his people, i. e., the Jews, at the time near approaching, (ver. 37,) when this epistle was composed. The whole of chap. x., to me, manifestly speaks of that visitation, and in terms which, though they are different from those in which. St. Paul speaks of that event in the 2d of Thessalonians, at the beginning, have yet a considerable resemblance thereto.” (Crit. Rem. vol. ii. p. 319.)

(On Jude 14)
“The Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints to execute judgment, which is the language of very ancient times, relating, probably, to some signal judgment of God upon unbelievers and scoffers, and applied by this writer to those of his own day.” (Crit. Rem. i. 152.)


J.P. Dabney
“This narrative (Temptation in the wilderness), in the view of others, imports simply, an internal or mental conflict.

Jesus, emaciated in body, as from his severe and abstemious liviug, he may well be supposed ; pondering on the late extraordinary scene (at his Baptism) ; his thoughts, in consequence, anxiously turned to the future; his mind tends not unnaturally, under the influence of a solitude so deep, silent, and romantic, to doubt and despondence.

Thus circumstanced, the obstacles and trials with which he would have to contend, and doubts as to the evidence of his own Messiahship, spread themselves out in formidable array before his mind, which after the Jewish modes of thought and expression, are described by an adversary coming and making to him successive propositions. The faith and piety of Jesus, though severely exercised, surmounted these trials, and they, who were to succeed him as preachers of his religion, were taught under this parable, a lesson of constancy, and of confidence in God.

This is the view taken by Cappe. By most rational christans, perhaps, it has been preferred, as giving a more natural and consistent solution of this difficult portion of the N. T., than any other. Other explications there are of this scene, but which have too limited a currency to require being stated at length.” (Annotations, p. 7)

John Kenrick
“It is mentioned in his biography that, when a student at Northampton, he had entertained doubts of the truths of Christianity, and had subjected its evidences to a most rigid scrutiny. Whether, even then, he had shadowed out to himself the mode of interpretation which he afterwards elaborated into a system, we are not told; but it was his firm conviction, in which Mr. Wellbeloved shared, that only by such means could the Gospel be defended against the  objections of unbelievers. The most marked peculiarity of this system was the interpretation given to that passage in the Gospel of St. Matthew (xxv. v. 31-46), in which the second coming of our Lord appears to be connected, on the one hand with the destruction of Jerusalem, on the other hand with a general judgment and  retribution. The passage had been a serious difficulty to enlightened expositors, and a handle to the enemies of Revelation. If a second coming of Christ in the clouds of Heaven, to judge the world to bring the present system of things to an end, and make an eternal separation between the righteous and the wicked, had been really predicted, as an event to be witnessed by the generation in which our Saviour lived (Matt. xvi. 28), it would be difficult to escape the edge of Mr. Gibbon’s sarcasm, who, in assigning the secondary causes of the rapid diffusion of the Gospel says, ” In the primitive church the influence of truth was very powerfully strengthened by an opinion, which, however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity, has not been found agreeable to experience. It was,” he says, ” universally believed, that the end of the world and the kingdom of Heaven were at hand. The near approach of this wonderful event had been predicted by the Apostles; the tradition of it was preserved by their earliest disciples, and those who  understood, in their literal sense, the discourses of Christ himself were obliged to expect the second and glorious coming of the Son of Man in the clouds before that generation was totally extinguished which had beheld his humble condition upon earth. The revolution of seventeen centuries, however, has taught us not to press too closely the mysterious language of prophecy and revelation.” 

The majority of interpreters admitted, what could not indeed be well denied, that the predictions in Mark and Luke referred to the destruction of Jerusalem, but thought that in Matthew predictions of the end of the world and the general judgment were mixed together: the nearer event being, in our Lord’s mind, a type of the more remote. In opposition to these views, Dr. Hammond, in his Commentary, had suggested that the whole of the prophecy had reference solely to the destruction of Jerusalem; and the same view had been maintained even more broadly by Mr. Nisbett, a Kentish clergyman, in his ” Attempt to illustrate Various Passages in the New Testament,” published in 1787.

In his view, the end of the world was only the end of the age, the Jewish dispensation, brought to a close by the destruction of Jerusalem ; the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds of Heaven was only this signal manifestation of divine power, confirming the truth of his predictions ; the darkening of the sun, the shaking of the powers of the heavens, were a symbolical description of great political revolutions; the angels who gather the elect, are the preachers of the Gospel, who gathered believers into the church ; the salvation promised to faith was the safety enjoyed by those who, believing the predictions of Christ, separated from Judaism and escaped the destruction which fell on its obstinate adherents ; the goats and the sheep were respectively the unbelievers and the believers; the everlasting punishment of the one, the everlasting life of the other, were the respective states of suffering or happiness which resulted from unbelief or belief, in the aion, the age or dispensation of Christianity, which succeeded to the abolished system of Judaism. The Apostles did not misunderstand their Master’s meaning; but when they speak of his coming, always refer to the destruction of Jerusalem, and its effects on these two classes of persons.

In the application of Scriptural language, commonly understood to refer to a future life and general judgment, to the destruction of Jerusalem, and its effects as regarded unbelievers and Christians, Mr. Cappe, however, went far beyond Hammond and Nisbett. Thus, John v. 28, ” Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming in the which all that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of Man, and shall come forth, they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of condemnation,” is paraphrased by him, ” The time is at no great distance, when all who are now in their graves, who at present sit in darkness and the shadow of death, shall hear the voice of the Son of God summoning them to judgment, and shall come forth out of their present state of darkness and ignorance, to a new state of mind, to a resurrection which, to those who have been obedient to the calls of Providence, shall issue in the preservation of their lives, amidst the calamities which will overwhelm their country; to those who have refused to hearken to them, shall issue in their condemnation,” Diss. vol. i. p. 325. In John vi. 40, ” And this is the will of Him that sent me, that every one who seeth the Son and believeth on him may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day,” the concluding words are rendered, ” and that I should exalt him hereafter.”

In St. Paul’s address to the Thessalonians (1. iv. 13), “I would not have you be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not even as others which have no hope;” those who are asleep are explained by Mr. Cappe to be those who are not yet awakened to receive Jesus and his Gospel; and the declaration that “we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent those who are asleep ” is said to mean, that ” we who are already Christians, waiting for His coming, shall not, in respect of any pleasures or benefits to be derived from His actual presence, or any personal communication with Him, be beforehand with those who are yet unawakened, if in the end they be brought to the acknowledgment of the truth,” vol. i. p. 263. There are other points in which Mr. Cappe differed widely from commentators in general, as in referring the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer and the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount, exclusively to the Apostles, and considering the Kingdom of Heaven or Kingdom of Christ to be his dispensation of miraculous powers to his disciples, beginning with the day of Pentecost and ending with the destruction of Jerusalem. The repentance which the Baptist preached was, according to Mr. Cappe, only a change of mind from worldly to spiritual conceptions of the Kingdom of Heaven. Mr. Cappe, and Mr Wellbeloved after him, rejecting the common interpretation of the passages supposed to refer to a general resurrection and day of judgment, believed that the state of reward and punishment began to each individual at his death —a belief which involves that of an immaterial principle in man. A hearer of Mr. Wellbeloved could hardly fail to observe, that he carefully avoided the usual phraseology, and instead of it employed that of a “future retributory scene.”

He regarded the Resurrection not as an example of the future life which awaits all mankind (in which view the analogy must be acknowledged to be very imperfect), but as a miracle, confirming the truth of our Saviour’s teaching, which everywhere assumes the doctrine of a future life of retribution, though it does not teach it in most of the passages which have been supposed to bear this meaning. His conception of Revelation generally was, that it did not so much bring new truths to light, as confirm them by miracles; or, as he sometimes expressed it, ” Christianity is a republication of the law of nature with miraculous sanctions.” It is not my purpose to examine the soundness of these interpretations; but the circumstance of their being adopted, as I believe they were in all leading points by Mr. Wellbeloved, is too important to be passed over in his biography.” (Biography of Wellbeloved, pp. 105-110)

It is mentioned in his biography that, when a
student at Northampton, he had entertained doubts
of the truths of Christianity, and had subjected its
evidences to a most rigid scrutiny. Whether, even
then, he had shadowed out to himself the mode of
interpretation which he afterwards elaborated into a
system, we are not told ; but it was his firm convic-
tion, in which Mr. Wellbeloved shared, that only by
such means could the Grospel be defended against the
objections of unbelievers. The most marked pecu-
liarity of this system, though not its germ,* was
the interpretation given to that passage in the Gos-
pel of St. Matthew (xxv. v. 31-46), in which the
second coming of our Lord appears to be connected,
on the one hand with the destruction of Jerusalem,
on the other hand with a general judgment and
retribution. The passage had been a serious diffi-
culty to enlightened expositors, and a handle to the
enemies of Revelation. If a second coming of
Christ in the clouds of Heaven, to judge the world,

From Unitarian Archive

CAPPE, NEWCOME (1733-1800), unitarian divine, eldest son of the Rev. Joseph Cappe, minister of the nonconformist congregation at Millhill Chapel, Leeds, who married the daughter and coheiress of Mr. Newcome of Waddington, Lincolnshire, was born at Leeds 21 Feb. 1733. He was an ardent student when young, and was educated with great care for the dissenting ministry. For a year (1748-9) he was with Dr. Aikin at Kibworth, Leicestershire ; the succeeding three years he studied with Doddridge at Northampton, and for another space of three years (1752-5) he lived at Glasgow, profiting by the instruction of Dr. William Leechman. When he was sufficiently qualified by this lengthened course of tuition for his profession, he was chosen in November 1755 co-pastor with the Rev. John Hotham of the dissenting chapel at St. Saviourgate, York, and after remaining in this position until Mr. Hotham’s death in the following May became on that event sole pastor to the congregation, and so continued until his own decease in 1800. York was at this time the centre of much greater literary and political life than it is at present, and Cappe took a prominent place among its citizens. The large old mansion in which he lived is described by Mr. Robert Davies, in his ‘Walks through York,’ as situate in Upper Ousegate, and in it he gathered together many students of letters. A literary club which he founded in 1771 existed with unimpaired life for nearly twenty years. In October 1759 he married Sarah, the eldest daughter of William Turner, a merchant of  Hull. She died of consumption in the spring of 1773, leaving six children behind her. His second wife, an ardent promoter of education and of Unitarian principles, was Catharine, daughter of the Rev. Jeremiah Harrison, vicar of Catterick, and they were married at Bar- wick-in-Elmet on 19 Feb. 1788. Cappe was frequently ill, and in 1791 he was seized by a paralytic stroke. This was followed by several other attacks of the same kind until his strength failed, and he died at York on 24 Dec. 1800. His eldest son, Joseph Cappe, M.D., died in February 1791 ; his youngest son, Robert Cappe, M.D., died on 16 Nov. 1802 while on a voyage to Leghorn.

 The writings of Cappe which appeared during his lifetime were comparatively unimportant. Among them were sermons preached on the days ‘ of national humiliation ‘ in 1776, 1780, 1781, 1782, and 1784. An earlier sermon delivered 27 Nov. 1757, after the victory of Frederick the Great at Rossbach on 5 Nov. 1757, was of a very rhetorical character; it passed through numerous editions, a copy of the sixth impression being in the British Museum. In 1770 he published a sermon in memory of the Rev. Edward Sandercock, and in 1785 he edited that minister’s sermons in two volumes. In 1783 he printed a pamphlet of ‘ Remarks in Vindication of Dr. Priestley ‘ in answer to the ‘ Monthly Reviewers.’ ‘ A Selection of Psalms for Social Worship ‘ and ‘ An Alphabetical Explication of some Terms and Phrases in Scripture,’the first an anonymous publication, and the second ‘ by a warm well-wisher to the interests of genuine Christianity,’ were printed at York in 1786, and are known to have been compiled by Cappe. The second of them, it may be added, was reissued at Boston, U.S., in 1818. A work of a more elaborate character, entitled ‘ Discourses on the Providence and Government of God,’ was published by him in 1795 ; a second edition appeared in 1811, and a third in 1818. After his death his widow, in her regard for his memory, collected and edited many volumes of his discourses, consisting of ( 1 ) ‘ Critical Remarks on many important Passages of Scripture,’ 1802, 2 vols. ; (2) ‘ Discourses chiefly on Devotional Subjects,’ 1805; (3) ‘Connected History of the Life and Di vine Mission of Jesus Christ,’1809; (4) ‘ Discourses chiefly on Practical Subjects,’ 1815. To the first and second of these publications she prefixed memoirs of his life by herself, and the second contained an appendix of a sermon on his interment by the Rev. William Wood, and a memoir from the ‘ Monthly Review,’ February 1801, pp. 81-4, by the Rev. C. Wellbeloved. His widow, whose biography of Cappe is full of interest, died suddenly 27 July 1821, aged 78.  She was the author of several tracts on charity schools (Dict. of Living Authors,. p. 54)  (Dictionary of National Biography, p. 24)

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