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acquaintance, or at least a very good man and a prophet, was in reality God, or the maker of the world. Let us consider, then, how we should feel, how we should behave towards such a person, and how we should speak of him afterwards. No one, I am confident, would ever call that being a man, after he was convinced that he was God. He would always speak of him in a manner suitable to his proper rank.
Suppose that any two men of our acquaintance should appear, on examination, to be the angels Michael and Gabriel, should we ever after this call them men? Certainly not. But we should naturally say to our friends, "Those two persons whom we took to be men, are not men, but angels in disguise." This language would be natural. Had Christ, therefore, been any thing more than man, before he came into the world, and especially had he been God, or the maker of the world, he never could have been, or have been considered as being a man while he was in it; for he could not divest himself of his superior and proper nature. However disguised, he would always, in fact, have been whatever he had been before, and would have been so styled by all who truly knew him.
Least of all would Christ have been considered as a man in reasoning and argumentation, though his external appearance should have so far put men off their guard as to lead them to give him that appellation. Had the apostle Paul considered Christ as being any thing more than a man with respect to his nature, he could never have urged, with the least propriety or effect, [1 Cor. xv. 21,] that, "Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead." For it might have been unanswerably replied, "This is not the case for indeed by man comes death; but not by man, but by God, or the creator of man under God, comes the resurrection of the dead."
VIII. There is also another consideration which I would recommend to you who maintain that Christ was either God or the maker of the world under God. It is this: the manner in which our Lord speaks of himself, and of the power by which he worked miracles, is inconsistent, according to the common construction of language, with the idea of his being possessed of any proper power of his own, more than other men had.
If Christ was the maker of the world, and if in the creation he exerted no power but what properly belonged to himself, and what was as much his own as the power of speaking or walking belongs to man, (though depending
ultimately upon that Supreme Power in which we all live, and move, and have our being,) he could not with any propriety, and without knowing that he must be misunderstood, have said, that, Of himself, he could do nothing; that the words which he spake were not his own; and that the Father within him did the works. For, if any ordinary man, doing what other men usually do, should apply this language to himself, and say that it was not he that spake or acted, but God who spake and acted by him, and that otherwise he was not capable of so speaking or acting at all, we should not scruple to say, that his language was either sophistical, or else downright false or blasphemous.
If this conclusion would be just, upon the supposition that Christ had created all things, working miracles by a power properly his own, though derived ultimately from God, much more force has it on the supposition of his working miracles by a power not derived from any being whatever, but as much originally in himself as the power of the Father.t
It would also be a shocking abuse of language, and would warrant any kind of deception and imposition, if Christ could be supposed to say, thas his Father was greater than he, and at the same time secretly mean only his human nature, whereas his divine nature was at the same time fully equal to that of the Father. Upon the same principle, a man might say that Christ never suffered, that he never died, or rose again from the dead, meaning his divine nature only, and not his human. Indeed, Sir, there is no use in language, nor any guard against deception, if such liberties as these are to be allowed.
IX. You must, Sir, be much at a loss indeed for arguments in support of your doctrine of the Trinity, when you look for any thing like it in Heathen antiquity." The notion of a Trinity," you say, "more or less removed from the purity of the Christian faith, is found to be a leading principle in all the ancient schools of philosophy, and in the religions of almost all nations; and traces of an early popular
* John v. 30; xiv. 10, 24. See Vol. XIII. pp. 169, 314, 315.
+ That Christ was not the real maker of the world, but God the Father, only, without the aid or instrumentality of any other being whatever, is abundantly evident from the Scriptures. For a most satisfactory proof of this, I refer my readers to Mr. Lindsey's Sequel to his Apology (Ch. ix.), pp. 451-454.
If it be said that this great pre-existent being was divested of his former powers when he became man, it may be asked, what use was there of such a being? Why might not a mere man have answered the purpose, if this superior being must be reduced to the state of man, in order to act his part on earth with propriety? (P.) See, on John xiv. 28, Vol. XIII. p. 316,
belief of it appear even in the abominable rites of idolatrous worship. Their information" concerning it, you say, "could only be drawn from traditions, founded upon earlier revelations," (meaning than those of Moses,)" from scattered fragments of the ancient patriarchal creed; that creed which was universal before the defection of the first idolaters, which the corruptions of idolatry, gross and enormous as they were, could never totally obliterate. Thus the doctrine of the Trinity is rather confirmed than discredited by the suffrage of the Heathen sages; since the resemblance of the Christian faith and the Pagan philosophy in this article, when fairly interpreted, appears to be nothing less than the consent of the latest and the earliest revelations."t
Without troubling you with any remarks upon the "joint worship of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, the triad," as you call them, "of the Roman capitol," or "the THREE MIGHTY ONES, in Samothrace," to which you say they may be "traced," and the worship of which in that place you suppose, with Eusebius, to "be earlier than the days of Abraham;" I say, without troubling you with any remarks upon this most obscure part of Heathen mythology, concerning which there are many opinions, and yours, I think, the least probable of them all, I will only ask you three questions, to which I beg your explicit answer:
First; if there be so many traces of the doctrine of the Trinity in the Heathen philosophy, and in the Heathen worship, why are there no more of them to be found in the Jewish Scriptures and in the Jewish worship? Secondly; if there be such traces of the doctrine of the Trinity in the Jewish writings and worship, how came the Jews in our Saviour's time, and also the body of the Jewish nation to this day, not to discover these traces? Thirdly; if the Jews had been once in the possession of this knowledge, but had lost it in the time of our Saviour, why did not he, who rectified other abuses, rectify this, the most important of them all? Tertullian was so far from imagining that the worship of the Trinity was known to the Jews, that, as I have observed, § he makes the knowledge of the Trinity peculiar to the Christian dispensation. The same was the opinion of Athanasius, and, I believe, of the fathers in general.
As to the Trinity of Plato, whatever you or I may know, or may not know, concerning it, it was certainly a thing
* Charge, p. 44. (P.)
Tracts, pp. 44, 45.
§ Vol. V. p. 43.
very unlike your Athanasian doctrine; for it was never imagined that the three component members of that Trinity were either equal to each other, or, strictly speaking, one.
Every attempt that has yet been made to explain the doctrine of the Trinity I scruple not to call an insult on the common sense of mankind. When I read that of yours mentioned above, viz. that the Father is the fountain of deity, and that the second person in the Trinity was produced by the first person contemplating his own perfections, I can hardly help fancying that I am got back into the very darkest of the dark ages, or at least, that I am reading Peter Lombard, Thomas Aquinas, or Duns Scotus.
You speak of the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity. There is also, Sir, a Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation; and if you would try your skill, you would find that, with the same kind of arguments, from reason and scripture, you would be just as able an advocate for the one as you are for the other. The learned Catholics, at the time of the Reformation, thought that they trod on as firm and as sure ground in defending the latter, as you now do in defending the former. The two doctrines are so nearly akin, that they cannot bear a long separation. They differ only in this, that the doctrine of Transubstantiation implies a physical impossibility, whereas that of the Trinity, as unfolded in the Athanasian Creed, implies a mathematical one; and to this only we usually give the name of contradiction.
I am truly concerned to find by your Charge, published at the request of the respectable body of clergy to whom it was delivered,* that the doctrine of a Trinity, in its most objectionable form, must be maintained at all events by the proper members of the Church of England as its most sacred palladium. Other divines of your church have attempted to explain and palliate it, so that it might be hoped that, in time, it would have been explained away and lost, and at length have been struck out of your articles and forms of worship; whereas now, it seems, it is to be maintained in all its rigour; and as you recommend the writings of Bishop Bull, without exception,† I presume you approve of his defence of the damnatory clause in the Athanasian Creed,‡ (indeed you mention this among his most valuable works,) and this, in my opinion, is going back into all the darkness. and horror of Popery. But as you cannot bring back those
+ Ibid. pp. 65, 66.
See Tracts, p. v. Mistated for "the anathema annexed to the Nicene Creed." See Part ii. Let. xvi.
times, your damnatory clauses and excommunications will now have little effect. Yet, as there are liberal sentiments in your performance, I am willing to hope that, on reconsideration, you will, at least, retract your recommendation of that piece of your favourite author.
However, next to the church's reforming itself in this important article, it is to be wished by all the true friends of reformation, that your terms of communion may be universally understood and adhered to; for then I am confident that a majority of the thinking clergy, whose sentiments on this subject are in general, I believe, those of Dr. Clarke, or Arian, and many of them Socinian, would quit your communion at once. And in that case I have little doubt but that the characters and abilities of those ejected clergy would be found to be such as you could not now bear the want of; and then either a reformation, invitâ ecclesiá, or a total dissolution of the hierarchy, would immediately follow.
I am, &c.
I. To vindicate Eusebius, or his author, in asserting that Theodotus was the first who advanced the doctrine of Christ being a mere man, you say, "that Theodotus in this article so far surpassed the earlier heresiarchs, that the merit of being the inventor of the meer humanity, in the precise and full meaning of the words, is, with great propriety and truth, ascribed to him. When the Cerinthians and the Ebionites affirmed that Jesus had no existence previous to Mary's conception, and that he was literally and physically the carpenter's son, it might justly be said of them, that they asserted the meer humanity of the Redeemer; especially as it could not be foreseen that the impiety would ever go a greater length than this, of ascribing to him an origin meerly human. These heretics, however, went no further, as I conceive, than to deny our Lord's original divinity: they admitted I know not what unintelligible exaltation of his nature, which took place, as they conceived, upon his ascension, by which he
Charge, p. 71. (P.) "It is a maxim of Dr. Priestley's," says Dr. Horsley, "that every man, who, in his conscience, dissents from the Established Church, is obliged in conscience to be a declared Dissenter. I honour the generosity of the sentiment." Tracts, pp. 71, 72.