Page images

in the main genuine, says, "If there be only some few sentiments and expressions which seem inconsistent with the true age of Ignatius, it is more reasonable to suppose them to be additions, than to reject the epistles themselves en- tirely; especially in this scarcity of copies which we labour under. As the interpolations of the larger epistles are plainly the work of some Arian, so even the smaller epistles may have been tampered with by the Arians, or the orthodox, or both, though I do not affirm that there are in them any considerable corruptions or alterations."*

Salmasius, Blondel, and Daillé, are decided that all the epistles are spurious; and Le Sueur, after giving an account of the whole matter,† says, that the last of them, viz. M. Daillé, has clearly proved that the first, or small collection of Ignatius's epistles, was forged about the beginning of the fourth century, or 200 years after the death of Ignatius, and that the second, or larger collection, was made at the beginning of the sixth century. §

Is this, then, an authority to be quoted so decisively against me, as to be preceded by, "We will endeavour to answer | Dr. Priestley upon grounds less liable to be questioned," (meaning, than that of the hymns used by Christians in early times,)" by the positive testimony of writings which he will hardly assert were penned after those of Justin Martyr." I am not ashamed, however, to assert this after such respectable authorities as I have mentioned above; and I challenge this writer to prove that the passage he has quoted from Ignatius was not penned after the time of Justin Martyr.

If any passage in these epistles be spurious, I should not hesitate to pronounce this to be one. Such language as "fleshly and spiritual, made and not made, God incarnate, real life in death, begotten of Mary and of God, in one respect liable to suffering, and in another incapable of it,"** savours strongly of a much later age than that of Ignatius. It is nothing but controversy that teaches such definite and

* Credibility, Pt. ii. I. p. 151. (P.) Works, II. p. 69. + In his Histoire de l'Eglise et de l'Empire.

Le Sueur, A. D. 107. (P.)

In his work De Usu Patrum. || The reader will easily perceive that these animadversions on my work are very improperly called a review. They are a professed answer, and yet the writer does not so much as mention the arguments on which I lay the greatest stress. Can any thing be more evidently calculated to injure a work, and to mislead the reader with respect to it? It is pluming himself on the victory, before he has even ventured to make the attack; having only, as it were, skirmished at a distance, and even that without gaining any real advantage. (P.) ** Ibid. p. 525.

Mon. Rev. LXVIII. p. 524. (P.)

guarded language as this. It could not, I think, precede the Arian controversy; and this agrees very well with the date assigned to those epistles by M. Daillé, which is after the Council of Nice. I should almost as soon think that Ignatius composed the Athanasian Creed, as this quaint sentence. They are much in the same style. My critic adds, "There are other passages in the writings of this most ancient father, which are equally expressive of the two natures of Christ; but we think this fully sufficient to confute Dr. Priestley's assertion, without troubling the reader with any more quotations."*

Ignatius, not being quoted by Eusebius, or his author, among ancient authorities for the doctrine of the divinity of Christ, is alone a sufficient proof that no such passage as this was to be found in the epistles of Ignatius in his time. If this writer did not know that the genuineness of these epistles of Ignatius was questioned, he ought not to write. on these subjects, and if he did know it, it was disingenuous not to mention it.

As to the passage which my critic quotes from Barnabas, he himself acknowledges, (but in an ironical manner, unworthy of the seriousness of the argument,) that it may be explained in a sense consistent with the Socinian doctrine, as well as some passages of Scripture.† I, however, am a Socinian, and I scruple not to say, that, in my opinion, the interpretations of Scripture which he ridicules are the only just and natural ones; but this is not a place for that argument.

It is true that I have quoted the epistle of Barnabas § without saying any thing about its authenticity. In reality, I do not know what to think of it, and my critic must know that the genuineness of it has been much disputed. The passage, however, which he quotes is from that part of it, of which we have only an old Latin version, and this he has not rightly translated. It is die ante constitutionem seculi, which is not properly before the beginning of the world, but on the day before the beginning of the world. Now the notion of the Father speaking to the Son on the very day before the creation, savours, I think, of a later age than that of Barnabas. Let any thing like this be produced from the Scriptures. If this be a plain, it is, I think, a suspicious declaration of the pre-existence of Christ.

* Mon. Rev. LXVIII. p. 524.

"We acknowledge it may be allegorized away by those who have dexterity enough to use the same method of interpretation with some plain declarations of the holy Scriptures." Ibid.

"Commonly called." See supra, p. 9.,

§ Vol. V. p. 26.


Of the Doctrine of the Miraculous Conception.

IN expressing my opinion concerning the prevalence of the doctrine of the simple humanity of Christ, I make a limitation, saying, "This language has all the appearance of an apology for an opinion contrary to the general and prevailing one; as that of the humanity of Christ (at least with the belief of the miraculous conception) probably was in his time." This my criticiser calls "a very great inconsistency. "The Doctor," he says, " has no right to assert his at least with the belief of a miraculous conception. The insertion is entirely arbitrary, and those who know less of the author's character than we do, and may not have the same well-grounded assurance of his integrity, may possibly be led to imagine that he introduced those words only to give some colourable pretext to his own principles."†


In all that I have read of controversial writing, I hardly recollect any instance of a more groundless and perverse misrepresentation of a writer's obvious meaning than this, on which so loud an exclamation is founded. For, what can be more evident than that I do not use these words as those of Justin Martyr, but only as expressive of an opinion of my own, formed from all the circumstances put together? And certainly I have a full right to introduce whatever clause I please into any sentence of my own, provided that, as in this case, I make myself only answerable for the propriety of it.

The reason why I was inclined to think that the doctrine of the miraculous conception was pretty generally received by the Ebionites, in the time of Justin, was, that Irenæus passes no censure on any that believed that doctrine. But it may, perhaps, with more probability be inferred, that because neither Justin Martyr nor Irenæus speaks of any other Ebionites than those who maintained that Christ was the proper son of Joseph, the doctrine of the miraculous conception had not gained any ground even among them till a later period. I find no mention of two kinds of Ebionites, before Origen. I repeat it, however, as my real opinion, that the doctrine of the humanity of Christ (at least with the belief of the miraculous conception) was the more general faith of Christians in the time of Justin Martyr.

Vol. V. p. 22.

+ Mon. Rev. LXVIII. p. 522. (P.)

Now let the reader judge what occasion there was for the severe strictures on this passage that I have quoted above. In general, I believe it is thought that I express myself so as to be understood; at least I endeavour to do so; but I can never undertake to guard my meaning from such unaccountable constructions as these.

As to the doctrine of the miraculous conception itself, it is not, in fact, of any more consequence to the Socinian, than it is to the Arian or the Athanasian hypothesis; for it is no impediment to the union of the Arian, or the Athanasian Logos, to the human nature of Christ, that his body was derived from Joseph. For any thing that we can judge, a man produced in the natural way was just as proper for the residence of this heavenly inhabitant, as one made on purpose; and if it was fit that Christ should have a human nature at all, it may be supposed to have been equally fit that he should have a proper human nature; differing as little as possible from that of his brethren, as we are called. There is, therefore, no more reason why the Arians or Athanasians should be more attached to the belief of the miraculous conception, than the Socinians. The doctrine itself connects equally well, or equally ill, with any particular hypothesis concerning the nature of Christ.

But it is an objection which affects the Arian hypothesis only, that, upon their scheme, Christ is properly, and with respect to his person, an unique in the creation; there being. no class or species of such beings, at least as far as we are informed of; a being created on purpose to be the maker of all things under God, or the medium of all his communications to mankind. Whereas, upon the Socinian hypothesis, Christ, with respect to his person, is no proper unique, though produced in a supernatural way; because, when produced, he was precisely of the same class and rank with other men, who, in themselves considered, were fully equal to him in all respects. Was Adam less properly a man, and an unique, merely because the manner of his duction was so? It is, therefore, a very unfair representation that the Reviewer gives of this business in his note.* He might as well say that Enoch and Elijah were uniques, because there was something peculiar in their manner of going out of the world, as that Christ was so, because there was something peculiar in his manner of coming into it.

* Mon. Rev. LXVIII, p. 523. (P.).


Should I have any controversy with a Jew, I should not feel myself at all embarrassed with this circumstance of the miraculous conception; as I should not hesitate to follow the example of the candid Justin Martyr with respect to it; telling him, that he was at full liberty to think as he should see reason to do on that subject; and that he might be as good a Christian as the Ebionites were before him, though he should believe no more of the miraculous conception than they had done.


Miscellaneous Articles.

I. I Do acknowledge that I have inadvertently made Victor the successor of Zephyrinus, † but it is certainly of little consequence, and the mistake may be rectified without any injury to my argument. I remember that the passage stood right when it was first printed, but was altered, I cannot recollect how, or why, in the proof sheet. Men of much business, and of a very little candour, will easily excuse a slip of this kind.

II. I also cannot now account for my saying that Hermas "is not quoted by Irenæus," when it was a thing that I could not but have observed, or read of. This, however, is of little moment. And, in fact, the mistake is not so great as it seems to be; for Hermas is not quoted by name in Irenæus, and, when all the circumstances are considered, I even think it may admit of some doubt whether the short passage that Irenæus does cite was intended by him for a quotation from Hermas. The whole passage is as follows: "The Scripture, therefore, well says, In the first place believe that there is one God, who created and established all things, making them out of nothing;"§ and that passage is found in the Pastor of Hermas, || but we have only a Latin translation of Hermas, and therefore cannot be quite sure that the words were the very same, and the sense of them is certainly found in what is properly called the Scripture; and I do not know that Irenæus ever quotes any other

* See Mon. Rev. LXVIII. p. 528.

† Vol. V. p. 23; now predecessor, according to the corrections at the end of this Reply.

See Mon. Rev. LXVIII, p. 525. The passage is amended from the corrections, Vol. V. pp. 29, 30.

§ L. iv. C. xxxvii. p. 330. (P.)

L. ii. Mand. i. (P.) See Wake, p. 231.

« PreviousContinue »