Page images

tion to the Christians that the later Rabins abandoned the notions of their forefathers. The Unitarian scheme of Christianity is the last, therefore, to which the Jews are likely to be converted, as it is the most at emnity with their ancient faith."*

So different, Sir, are your ideas and mine on this subject, that one would think we had never read the same authors, or lived in the same world. Our different views of things must have arisen from the different iufluences to which our minds have been exposed; but where you have been, or with whom you have lived, I cannot trace. Who those later Rabins were who abandoned the notion of their fathers, and from expecting the Messiah to be God, adopted the idea of his being a mere man, (a process which I should think not very natural,) I cannot find. Late as they are, they must have been earlier than Justin Martyr; and, indeed, of this memorable change of opinion, on so fundamental a subject, I find no trace whatever. Really, Sir, one cannot read such a shameful perversion and absolute making of ancient history, with respect to this doctrine concerning the Messiah, as well as to the church of Jerusalem, without a mixture of contempt and indignation.

I shall content myself on this subject with appealing to two testimonies; one of them is that of Basnage, and the other of later date.

Basnage, I suppose, you will allow, had sufficiently studied the history and opinions of the Jews. He has written largely on the subject; and yet, though a Trinitarian himself, he has exploded all the pretences of Cudworth and others to find the doctrine of the Trinity either among the ancient or the modern Jews.

"The Christians and the Jews," he says, "separate at the second step in religion; for, after having adored together one God absolutely perfect, they find the moment after the abyss of the Trinity, which entirely separates them. The Jew con siders three persons as three Gods, and this tritheism shocks him. The Christian who believes the unity of one God, thinks that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, should all be called God, and have the same worship. It is impossible to reconcile opinions so contrary. There are, however, divines bold enough to attempt it."t You, Sir, are one of

Letters, p. 151. (P.) Tracts, p. 265.

+ “Les Chrétiens s'écartent des Juifs des le second pas qu'ils font dans la reli gion. Car apres avoir adoré ensemble un Dieu, souverainement, parfait, ils trouvent un moment apres l'abîme de la trinité, qui les sépare, et les éloigne souverainement. Le Juif regarde trois personnes comme trois dieux, et ce trithéisme lui fait horreur.

those bold divines, or, if not bold yourself, at least a follower of the bold.

This writer also says, that the "Jews consider themselves as bearing their testimony to the unity of God among all the nations of the world." Deny these facts if you can. What ought, or ought not to offend the Jews, is not the question. The doctrine of the Trinity does, in fact, and from the time that it was started always did offend the whole body of the Jews, and is, no doubt, one of the greatest obstacles to their conversion.

My second testimony I shall give in the Postscript of a Letter from a correspondent in the West of England,† in the year 1774, containing the opinion of a learned Jew, whom we may presume to be now living, and in this country. At that time he must have been in the neighbourhood of Barnstable, in Devonshire. An event which then gave me much concern, occasioned the discontinuance of my correspondence with the writer of that letter; and though desirous of knowing the issue of the business, I have not learned it. If this publication should be the means of bringing me acquainted with it, I shall think myself happy. If the learned Jew himself should meet with these letters, I shall be very glad to hear from him, whatever may be his present thoughts on the subject. In the mean time I would recommend it to you, Mr. Archdeacon, to inquire of any Jews now living, and not to argue from suppositions, when facts are within your reach.

My correspondent's Postscript is as follows: "I have lent your Institutes to a sensible and religious Rabbi, bred at the university of Halle. He has read them with great care, and taken curious extracts from them. The clergyman of this parish warned him of the danger of your works, and abused me for lending them to a Jew. The latter had

Le Chrétien, qui croit l'unité d'un Dieu, veut à même tems qu'on donne ce titre au Père, au Fils, au Saint Esprit, et qu'on les adore. Il est impossible de concilier des opinions si contraires; cependant il y a des theologiens hardis, qui ont tenté de le faire." Hist. des Juifs. L. iv. C. iii. Sect. i. (P.)

Dr. Addison describes the Jews as "malitious and blind in the utter denyal of the blessed Trinity," which, says he, "they look upon as an hypocondriacal imagination of the Christians." Present State of the Jews, 1675, p. 26.

"Les témoins de l'unité de Dieu dans toutes les nations du monde." Hist. des Juifs, L. vii. C. xxxiii. Sect. xv. (P.)

"When we have clothed," says Dr. Addison," their present infidelity, with the most aggravating circumstances, yet we must confess ourselves beholden to them for the preservation of that inestimable jewel, the knowledge of the one true God, when the rest of mankind was involved in the belief and adoration of many false deities." Present State, p. 4.

↑ Mr. Badcock. See Familiar Letters, 1790, No. XXII. P, S. ....

sense enough to despise him, and told him, that as long as, Christianity was thought contradictory to the first law of Judaism, the conversion of his brethren would be impossible. The parson wanted to baptize him. The Rabbi said, religion was a serious matter, and he would be a convert in reality before he would be one in profession. He has been much with me. I hope to be able to send you a pleasing

[ocr errors]

account of him."


I am, &c.

Of the Personification of the Logos.


You still deny that the Christian fathers were acquainted with any such thing as the personification, that is, the making a real intelligent person of the Logos, or wisdom of God; whereas, absurd as I acknowledge the notion to be, it was most indisputably the real doctrine both of Philo, the platonizing Jew, and of those who were called orthodox Christians, who platonized likewise. I speak within compass when I say, that I can produce hundreds of passages which prove in the clearest manner that the divinity which they ascribed to Christ was the very same principle which had constituted the wisdom and other powers of God the Father; and that the generation of the Son was the commencement of the state of actual personality of the Logos, whether in time, as some thought, or from all eternity, as others, which latter was afterwards received as the established doctrine.

This was evidently agreeable to the principles of those Platonists, from whom Philo and those Christian fathers derived their opinion; and if you deny this, "a child," as you call me, "in Platonism,"* "* (which, however, does not, I hope, prevent me from being a man in Christianity,) I shall be able, as you will see in my larger work,† to teach you what you are at present ignorant of, with respect to it. If this kind of literature be your home, I must say, that you have been a considerable time from home, and that you are at present unacquainted with several apartments in your

* Letters, p. 15. (P.) Tracts, p. 101.

+ See supra, pp. 143-145, 152.

Letters, p. 163. (P.) Dr. Horsley says, “ I was much at home in the Greek language; I had redde the Ecclesiastical Historians, and I had been many years in the habit of thinking for myself, upon a variety of subjects." Tracts, p. 282.

[blocks in formation]

own house. I shall then wait upon you at this house of yours, and endeavour to point them out to you.

With respect to my quotation from Athenagoras, and my account of his meaning, you are pleased to say, it "only finishes the proof, if it was before defective, of your incompetency in the subject. It shews that you are so little acquainted with Platonism, that your mind cannot readily apprehend a Platonic notion, when it is clearly set before you. What you take for my meer conjecture," viz. that the external display of power is the thing that is called generation," is the express assertion of Athenagoras, in the very passage which you have quoted."+

On the contrary, I maintain that, if your external display of power be any thing different from what I have called the personification of the Logos, or his becoming a proper person, so as to be God, in himself considered, it is contradicted by Athenagoras in this very passage, as well as by all the Christian writers who treat of the subject. In this passage he calls the Son" the first production of the Father, not that he was ever properly made;" (that is, out of nothing ;) "for God being an eternal mind, had logos always in himself, being always 20yxos;" that is, being always a reasonable, intelligent being. Now, Sir, what could any man mean by this expression, but that before this circumstance or event (which I call the personification of the Logos, and you the external display of his powers) took place, there was no more a proper Trinity of persons in God than there is in man? For God, like man, was then simply hoyxos, an intelligent being; wisdom or intelligence being one of his attributes. Many of the fathers use this comparison, supposing the logos in God to have been originally exactly similar to logos, or reason in man. Now are there, think you, or was it ever imagined that there were, proper distinct persons in the mind of man, merely because that mind was λoyixos, rational ? The very expression excludes this idea, and must have been intended to exclude it.

But according to all the orthodox fathers, after this gene ration of the Son, (who before was nothing more with respect to the Father than reason is with respect to man,) he assumed a proper distinct personality; and this generation was with a view to the production of material beings, and not

• See Vol. V. p. 31; supra, p. 87.

+ Letters, p. 124. (P.) Tracts, p. 283.

the production itself, or the display of powers in that production; for this generation was represented as the proper act of the eternal Father, whereas the display of powers in the production of material beings (if I must adopt your quaint language) was, according to them, the proper act of the Son. According to them it certainly was the Son, and not the Father, who was the immediate maker of all things. In my opinion, Athenagoras's notion was, that this generation of the Son took place in time, and not from all eternity; because he says, that from the beginning, or from eternity, God was simply vous, a mind, having logos in himself, as being always 2oyixos, reasonable, or intelligent.

Athenagoras, however, as appears from this very passage, the beginning of which I quoted, was very far from having a notion of three distinct persons in the Trinity. For, though he thought with Justin Martyr, that the Logos, from the time of his generation, assumed a permanent personality, the Holy Spirit did not, but was like a beam of the sun, sometimes emitted from the Father, and sometimes drawn into him again, agreeably to the philosophy of those times concerning the sun and his light. This was also the kind of personal existence that Justin Martyr said that some persons in his time ascribed to the Son, and which was also said to have been the doctrine of Marcellus of Ancyra.

You say, that "Tertullian, to prevent the very conclusion which you draw from this analogy, that the Logos was at some time or another a mere attribute, remarks, that nothing empty or unsubstantial can proceed from God; for the Divine nature admitting neither quality nor accident, every thing belonging to it must be substance. This argument," you add," is ably stated in the Dialogues of the learned Dr. Leslie."

This indeed, Sir, is an argument that requires both an able stating and an able defence; for, in itself, nothing can be more weak. What, think you, could the fathers mean by saying that, after the emission of the Logos, the original Divine Mind was not destitute of logos? Did they not mean that he was not destitute of reason or understanding? Is there not, then, necessarily implied an identity of nature between the logos emitted and logos retained ? Does it not follow from hence, and from its being said that the Father was still 2oyixos, rational, that they were both originally what we call reason? Nay, do not some of the fathers

⚫ Letters, p. 123. (P.) Tracts, p. 232.

« PreviousContinue »