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you suppose me to have borrowed my principal arguments from Daniel Zwicker or Episcopius* I do assure you, Sir, I do not recollect that I ever met with the name of Zwicker before I saw it in this publication of yours; for Episcopius I have the highest reverence; and I thank you for informing me that, though an Arian himself, he was convinced that the Christian church was originally what is now called Socinian.t
On the other hand, by your recommending Bishop Bull's Defence of the Nicene Faith so very strongly, and not mentioning any other modern writers, § you seem to have overlooked, or to have undervalued, several works which may certainly be very useful to those who wish to form an impartial judgment on the subject of this controversy; especially Whitby's Disquisitiones Modesta, in answer to Bishop Bull, and his Replies to Waterland, with several pieces in the Socinian Tracts, in three small volumes 4to. But I am more particularly surprised that you should not have mentioned Dr. Clarke's celebrated Treatise on the Trinity, which is calculated to be of the greatest use to those who would study this subject; containing all the texts that relate to it, most advantageously arranged for the purpose, together with some very useful references to the Christian fathers. There are several parts of that work which I would take the liberty to recommend to your own particular attention.
You charge me with arguing in a circle; saying, "It is the professed object of his undertaking to exhibit a view of the gradual changes of opinions, in order to ascertain the faith of the first ages: and he would ascertain the faith of the first ages in order to settle the sense of the Scriptures in disputed points. He is, therefore, not at liberty to assume
* Tracts, pp. 6, 7. On Zwicker, see Vol. VI. p. 10.
+ This is not quite correct. Dr. Horsley says, "Episcopius, though himself no Socinian, very indiscreetly concurred with the Socinians of his time, in maintaining, that the opinion of the mere humanity of Christ had prevailed very generally in the first ages; and was never deemed heretical by the Fathers of the Orthodox persuasion; at least not in such degree as to exclude from the communion of the Church." Tracts, p. 7.
Episcopius, had he been an Arian, could scarcely have become a party to the Confession of the Remonstrants, 1621; in which his name appears, first, among the signatures. He is also said to have written in Latin the large Preface in defence of Confessions. See Chap. iii. “Of the Holy and Sacred Trinity" in "The Confession -translated into English," pp. 98-96; Brandt's Hist. Reform. IV. pp. 217, 218, 324, 325; De La Roche's Abridgment, 1725, pp. 684-688.
See Biog. Brit. II. pp. 702, 703, Notes.
Published 1718 and 1720.
any sense of the Scriptures, which, because it is his own, he may be pleased to call the clear sense, for a proof that the original faith was such as would confirm the sense he wishes to establish."*
"So long," you say, "as the sixth page of the first volume of Dr. Priestley's History shall be extant, the masters of the dialectic art will be at no loss for an example of the circulating syllogism." But unless they be provided with one. already, you must look out for them elsewhere, as this you have now pitched upon will not answer their purpose, if they be really masters of the dialectic art.
Had I produced no other proof of the Unitarianism of the Scriptures besides that of the primitive church, and also no other proof of the Unitarianism of the primitive church besides that of the Scriptures, I should have argued in a circle. But you will find that I have been far from doing this.
Is it not usual with all writers who wish to prove two things, which mutually prove each other, to observe that they do prove each other; and, therefore, that whatever evidence can be alleged for either of them is fully in point with respect to the other? Now this is all that I have done with respect to the Unitarianism of the Scriptures, and of the primitive church, which prove each other; only that, in my History, I do not profess to enter into the separate proof of the Unitarian doctrine, from the Scriptures.
This I there take for granted had been sufficiently done already by myself and others; and I therefore proceed to prove the Unitarianism of the primitive church from inde pendent evidence; only observing that the Unitarian doctrine having been taught by the apostles is likewise a proof of the same thing. But this I could not suppose would have any weight with those who are Trinitarians, though it was not improper to mention it with respect to others with whom it would have weight.
I might have urged another kind of argument against both the divinity and the pre-existence of Christ, viz. from the doctrine of the materiality of man, which I presume has been sufficiently proved in my Disquisitions on Matter and Spirit. I maintain that there is no more reason why a man should be supposed to have an immaterial principle within him, than that a dog, a plant, or a magnet, should have one; because, in all these cases, there is just the same difficulty
Charge, p. 12. (P.) Tracts, pp. 11, 12.
† Ibid. p. 12.
in imagining any connexion between the visible matter of which they consist, and the invisible powers of which they are possessed. If universal concomitance be the foundation of all our reasoning concerning causes and effects, the organized brain of a man must be deemed to be the proper seat and immediate cause of his sensation and thinking, as much as the inward structure of a magnet, whatever that be, is the cause of its power of attracting iron.
This is a very short and plain argument, perfectly consonant to all our reasoning in philosophy: and it is conclusive against the doctrine of a soul, and consequently against the whole system of pre-existence. If then Peter, James and John had no pre-existent state, it must be contrary to all analogy to suppose Jesus to have pre-existed. His being a prophet, and having a power of working miracles, can make no just exception in his favour; for then every preceding prophet must have pre-existed.
I think I have also proved in my Disquisitions that the doctrine of a soul, as a substance distinct from the body, and capable of being happy or miserable when the body is in the grave, was borrowed from Pagan philosophy, is totally repugnant to the system of revelation, and unknown in the Scriptures, which speak of no reward for the righteous, or punishment for the wicked, before the general resurrection, and the coming of Christ to judge the world.
I might therefore have urged that, since the doctrine of Christ's pre-existence is contrary to reason, and was never taught by Christ or his apostles, it could not have been the faith of their immediate disciples in the first ages of Christianity. This argument will have its weight with those who reject the doctrine of a soul, and make them look with suspicion upon any pretended proof of the doctrine of Christ's pre-existence, and of its having been the faith of the apostolical age, as well as their previous persuasion that such is not the doctrine of the Scriptures. And since all the three positions are capable of independent proof, the urging of them would not have been arguing in a circle, but the adducing a proper collateral evidence.
I am, &c.
"Those noble pair of physicians, Hippocrates and Galen," says Hakewill, "have made it evident, by experimental proofs, that those divine powers of reasoning and discourse are seated in the brain." Apologie, 1630, p. 5. "The evidences that cogitation and all other rational acts in men, depend upon the brain, and are performed in it and by it, seem to me," says Layton, so clear and undeniable, as that it may pass for a strong proof that the brain of man is cogitative matter, or very like it." Observations on Bentley, 1693, p. 16.
+ See Vol. III. pp. 404–416.
Of the Argument from the Writings of the Apostles and the Apostolical Fathers.
BEFORE I consider what you have said with respect to the apostolical fathers, I must take some notice of what you have advanced with respect to the argument from scripture; though, in this Charge, you do not professedly go upon that ground.
You take it for granted that the logos, mentioned in the introduction to the gospel of John, must be a person, and not a mere attribute, because it is referred to by the pronoun οὗτος. "This person," you say, (for this is the natural force of the Greek pronoun ouros) this person was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him," &c.* Whereas, this pronoun may refer to any thing that is of the same gender in the Greek language, whether it be a person or not; and it requires but a moderate acquaintance with the New Testament to observe instances of it even there; "This is the law,' as in Matt. vii. 12, OUTOS EOTIV O νόμος, and Rev. xx. 14, οὗτος εστιν ὁ δευτερος θάνατος, « This is the second death.'
The same pronoun refers to the temple, vaos, John ii. 20 to bread, apros, John vi. 50; to stones, 2001, Matt. iv. 3; Acts iv. 11; a salutation, aσñaoμos, Luke i. 29, and not less than eight times to λoyos, where it certainly means nothing more than speech, as Matt. xxviii. 15, &c. To satisfy yourself, only look into any Concordance of the Greek Testament.
The logos of John, therefore, may be a mere attribute of the Father, though it be the antecedent to the pronoun oυTOS ; for you will hardly say that the law, or death, or the temple, &c. &c. is a real person capable of intention and action. Besides, I do suppose that John uses a figurative personification, which would require the same forms of speech as if he had intended to speak of a real person.
You also find a reference to the pre-existent state of our Saviour in 1 John iv. 2, where it is said "every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God;" by which you say, the opinion that Christ" was
* Tracts, p. 12. See Appendix, No. III.
truly a man, if he was nothing more than man, is very awkwardly and unnaturally expressed. The turn of the expression," you add, "seems to lead to the notion of a being who had his choice of different ways of coming."
On the other hand, I think the phrase sufficiently similar to other Jewish phrases, of which we find various examples in the Scriptures, and that it may be explained by the phrase partakers of flesh and blood," Heb. ii. 14. If the word coming must necessarily mean coming from heaven, and imply a pre-existent state, John the Baptist must have preexisted for our Saviour uses that expression concerning him, as well as concerning himself, Matt. xi. 18, 19: “John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say he hath a dæmon. The Son of Man came eating and drinking," &c. It may also be asserted with more certainty still concerning all the apostles that they pre-existed; for our Saviour, in his prayer for them, respecting their mission, makes use of the term world, which is not found in 1 John iv. 2, where he says, John xvii. 18, "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world."
The phrase coming in the flesh, in my opinion, refers very naturally to the doctrine of the Gnostics, who supposed Christ to be a super-angelic spirit, which descended from heaven, and entered into the body of Jesus. The phrase he that should come, or who was to come, (his coming having been foretold by the prophets,) appears to have been familiar to the Jews, to denote the Messiah: but with them it certainly did not imply any coming down from heaven, because they had no such idea concerning their Messiah.
I see no trace, therefore, in the epistle of John, of any more than one heresy. He neither expressly says nor hints that there were two; and part of his description of this one heresy evidently points to that of the Gnostics, as is acknowledged by yourself; and this heresy was as different as possible from that of the Ebionites. The early writers who speak of them, mention them as two opposite heresies, existing in the same early period; so that it is very improbable à priori, that the same expression, as you say, should be equally levelled at them both.† Gnosticism being certainly condemned therefore by the apostle, and not the doctrine of the Ebionites, I conclude that in the latter, which is allowed to have existed in his time, he saw nothing worthy