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year 80, is it at all probable, that it could have ceased to have been the prevailing doctrine before the time of Victor, about the year 200? Causes which tended to produce the opinion of the deity of Christ operated, no doubt, very powerfully; but still it cannot be thought probable, that they could have produced so great an effect in the space of little more than one century.
Another, and no inconsiderable argument in favour of the antiquity of the proper Unitarian doctrine among Christians, may be drawn from the rank and condition of those who held it in the time of Tertullian, who lived about the time of Victor. He calls them simplices et idiotæ, that is, common or unlearned people, and such persons are certainly most likely to retain old opinions, and are always far less apt to innovate than the learned; because they are far less apt to speculate. Whenever we endeavour to trace the oldest opinions in any country, we always inquire among the idiota, the common people; and if they believe one thing, and the learned another, we may conclude with certainty, that, which ever of them be true, or the more probable, those of the common people were the more ancient, and those of the learned and speculative the more novel of the two.
In most cases the more novel opinions are more likely to be true, considering the gradual spread of knowledge, and the general prevalence of prejudice and error; but in some cases the probability is on the side of the more ancient opinions; and it is evidently so in this. The true doctrine concerning the person of Christ must be allowed to have been held by the apostles. They, no doubt, knew whether their Master was only a man like themselves, or their Maker. Their immediate disciples would receive and maintain the same doctrine that they held; and it must have been some time before any other could have been introduced, and have spread to any extent, and especially before it could have. become the prevailing opinion. We naturally, therefore, look for the genuine doctrine of Christianity concerning the person of Christ, among those who, from their condition and circumstances, were most likely to maintain the old opinion, rather than those who were most apt to receive a new one. Surely, then, we have a better chance of finding the truth on this subject among these idiota, the common and unlearned people, than with such men as Justin Martyr,
• Sec supra, p. 12.
who had been a Heathen philosopher, Irenæus, or any other of the learned and speculative Christians of the same age.
On the contrary, supposing the Christian religion to have been gradually corrupted, and that, in a long course of time, the corrupt doctrine should become the most prevalent among the common people, the reformation of it by the recovery of the genuine doctrine is naturally to be looked for among the learned and the inquisitive, who in all cases will be the innovators. This is remarkably the case in the present state of things. The common people in the Roman Catholic countries are bigots to the old established faith, while the learned are moderate, and almost Protestants. In Protestant countries the common people still adhere most strongly to the doctrines of their ancestors, or those which prevailed about the time of the Reformation, while the learned are every where receding farther from them; they being more inquisitive, and more enlightened than the uninquiring vulgar. But still, if any man should propose simply to inquire what were the opinions most generally received in this country a century ago, (which was about the space that intervened between Victor and the time of the apostles,) we should think him very absurd, if he should look for them among the learned, rather than among the common people. We have experience enough of the difficulty with which the bulk of the common people are brought to relinquish the faith of their ancestors.
Is it, then, at all probable that when the doctrine of the simple humanity of Christ is acknowledged to have been held by the idiotæ, or common people, and who are expressly said to have been the greater part of the believers, (major credentium pars,) this should not have been the general opinion a century before that time, but, on the contrary, that of the deity of Christ, which was held by Tertullian, and other learned Christians; and who speak of the common people as being shocked (expavescunt) at their doctrine ? Sufficient cause may be assigned why the learned in that age should be inclined to adopt any opinion which would advance the personal dignity of their Master, and the same cause would produce the same effect among the common people, but it would be more slowly, and require more time, as appears to have been the fact.
Let any person of common sense then judge between
See Vol. V. p. 41, Note †.
these ancient Unitarians, with respect to the probable account of their origin and antiquity, and Eusebius, or his author.
That Eusebius himself should take so violent a part as he always does against these ancient Unitarians, is not difficult to be accounted for. He himself was strongly suspected of Arianism, at a time in which the Athanasian doctrine was most prevalent, and though a learned man, he was not of the firmest tone of mind. In these circumstances, he would naturally make the most of such pretensions to orthodoxy as he had, and would be inclined to shew his zeal by invectives against those who were more heretical than himself. This we see illustrated every day. This was the cause why many of the Reformers from Popery joined with the Papists in the persecution of those who were desirous of carrying the Reformation a little farther than themselves. This might in some measure contribute to produce the zeal of the Calvinists against the Arminians, that of the Arminians against the Arians, that of the Arians against the Socinians, and that of Socinus himself against Francis David.*
Of my being charged with advancing that Justin Martyr was the first who started the Notion of Christ's Pre-existence.
ANOTHER heavy charge advanced against me is, that I have asserted that "the notion of the pre-existence of Christ cannot be traced any higher" than "Justin Martyr."+ Now this is to all intents and purposes a mis-quotation; that part of the sentence which was necessary to give the true sense of what is quoted being omitted. It must, therefore, necessarily mislead the reader; and, independently of that, it is a manifest misrepresentation of my opinion, not only simply mentioned, but frequently urged, and enlarged upon in the course of the work.
I have nowhere said that simple pre-existence was never ascribed to Jesus Christ before Justin Martyr. I must have been a child in ecclesiastical history, and shamefully inconsistent with myself, if I had said any such thing. The doctrine of the pre-existence was certainly that of the Gnostics in the time of the apostles themselves, and is always represented
• See Vol. X. pp. 355-357.
† Mon. Rev. LXVIII. p. 524. (P.)
by me as such. What I say is, that "we find nothing like divinity ascribed to Christ before Justin Martyr;" and though, in one particular sentence, I mentioned pre-existence, as what we cannot with certainty trace any higher, it is in conjunction with divinity and not separately, as it is here exhibited. The whole sentence is as follows: " Whether Justin Martyr was the very first who started the notion of the pre-existence of Christ, and of his super-angelic or divine nature, is not certain, but we are not able to trace it any higher." Had the disjunctive or been used instead of and, (which would have implied that neither the opinion of the divinity, nor that of the pre-existence of Christ, was prior to Justin,) a reader of common sense and candour would have seen that it must have been misprinted. My reference to both the opinions by the pronoun it, which is in the singular number, sufficiently shews that, however improper and unguarded the expression may happen to be, I could not really mean to consider the two opinions separately.
But my criticiser, instead of making any allowance for a casual ungrammatical construction, and of ascertaining my meaning by comparing one expression with another, has absolutely tortured my language, in order to make me contradict myself; and has even employed more than one page out of six only of his own composing, to confute an opinion of which my history itself is a much fuller refutation. This conduct admits of no apology even in a professed answerer of a book, and much less in a reviewer, who should exhibit a fair and impartial account of the work before him.
In another passage which this writer has not overlooked, for he has quoted it, though without any particular notice,+ I have evidently considered Justin Martyr's idea of preexistence as one species of a genus. It is as follows: "This writer even speaks of his own opinion of the pre-existence of Christ (and he is the first that we certainly know to have maintained it on the principles on which it was generally received afterwards) as a doubtful one, and by no means a necessary article of Christian faith."§ Here I evidently refer to his idea of the personification of the Logos of the Father, which was a kind of pre-existence, quite distinct from that of the Gnostics, who preceded him. Let any one prove this opinion of the personification of the Logos to have been
§ Vol. V.
Vol. V. p. 29.
held by any person before Justin Martyr. If he can, (and I have not expressed myself positively on the subject,) he will still be far from proving that it was the doctrine of the apostles; and whether the innovation took place a little earlier, or a little later, it will make no difference with respect to my principal object.
As this misrepresentation affects one principal part of the great outline of my work, I shall take this opportunity of drawing it more distinctly, for the benefit of my readers in general.
What I have maintained in my late History of Opinions concerning Christ, and what I do not find to have been much, if at all, insisted upon before, is, that the exaltation of the person of Jesus Christ began with the Gnostics, who maintained the doctrine of the pre-existence of all human souls, as independent, created spirits, capable of animating human bodies. This error began in the time of the apostles, and is known to be referred to by John. When this notion was exploded, another, which I cannot trace any higher than Justin Martyr, was adopted, and this was the personification of the Logos of the Father, which was a thing quite distinct from the doctrine of the Gnostics, so that the patrons of each were continually combating one another. The preexistent spirits, or Eons, of the Gnostics, were supposed to have existed an indefinite time before the creation of the world; whereas the personification of the Logos was represented, by the first advocates of it, as a thing that took place immediately before that event, and with a view to it. The peculiar doctrine of Arius was, in my opinion, clearly subsequent to this; and it was after them all, that the personification of the Logos, being carried farther back, namely, to all eternity, led to the present doctrine of the Trinity, consisting of three persons in the Godhead, perfectly equal with respect to eternity and all divine attributes.
Instead of holding out to the view of the readers this great outline of the first part of my work, on which alone he has descanted, my critic charges me with asserting that the simple pre-existence of Christ was not known before Justin Martyr; which shews that he never once formed a right conception of what he undertook to exhibit.
As to the epistles of Ignatius, I consider them all, the less as well as the greater, as being either wholly spurious, or so corrupted as not to be quoted with safety; and I am far from being original or singular in this opinion.
Dr. Lardner, who thinks that the smaller epistles are