תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

heresies. I was the more astonished at this intelligence, as it was well known there that the most prominent features in my discourses during both the last and preceding session of Congress, had been a strenuous vindication of the divinity of Christ or the proper deity of the Son of God; exposing with all my powers the dangerous errors of the Socinians and Arians, endeavouring to prove that their doctrines had a direct tendency to subvert the chief corner-stone of the plan of salvation, destroy the Christian hope, and render abortive the whole doctrine of the atonement. That my decided sentiments might be known on that head, the very second sermon I preached before Congress, after my first election, was upon this subject: and gave so much offence to one or two members from the eastward, who were professed Socinians, that they declared they would not hear me again, as I had made Christ to be God; and I believe they kept their word, as I do not recollect having seen them attend divine service afterwards, on the Lord's day.

Upon perusing the article in your Review, I found your animadversions were upon a sentiment respecting the preexistence of Christ's human Soul, introduced into one of my sermons during the last session; and although you have not expressly charged me with Socinianism or Arianism, yet it is so far implied, and a dangerous heresy so unequivocally imputed to me, that several who have read the remarks were led to believe that I must have greatly apostatized from the faith, by embracing some such principles.

So far, indeed, did I consider the sentiment alluded to from encouraging the Socinian or Arian heresy, that I actually introduced it into the discourse, with a view of enforcing the doctrine of the proper deity of the Son of God, as well as that of illustrating my text. I do not mean to enter into an argument respecting the truth of that position, but simply to say that I cannot see how it can affect the orthodox principle of the proper deity of the Son of God, or the doctrine of the Trinity, to believe that the union between the divine nature and the human Soul of Christ took place before the union between that Soul and his body, or that the Soul was formed before the body. Indeed Sir, it would be difficult, for you, or any other person, to prove that the souls of all mankind were not created before the formation of the body, even as early as the creation of the soul of Adam: provided you allow the fact, that God did create any of them; since there are some who hold that the souls of men are generated with the body! Whether the human soul of Christ was created before that of Adam and clothed with a body at the time of

of quickening in the womb of the Virgin, or was formed at that instant, and united to it, cannot affect the question of his divine nature, since it would have been as easy for the divine nature of the Son of God to create the Soul of the Messiah, and to take it into union with himself millions of

before the world existed, as at any subsequent period, nor would either in any measure militate against the Orthodox doctrines of the Church. In the discourse which is the subject of your censure, I took particular pains to show that the Soul of Christ was a part of his real humanity and quite distinct from his divinity, though intimately united with it. It is true I mentioned Dr. Watts as holding the sentiment of the pre-existence of Christ's human Soul, but not, as you affirm, as the father of the sentiment: for I also quoted Mr. Hussey, upon the same subject, as mentioned in his treatise, called the Glory of Christ Unveiled, which was written long before Dr. Watts's work, and from which it is probable the Dr. took the title of his book on the Glory of Christ. You say, Sir, that the Socinians claimed Dr. Watts as belonging to them: should this be a fact, I am not to answer for it, nor can I see on what ground they could claim him, but should suppose they could do so with about as much propriety as the Hopkinsians can claim you! The doctor expressly avows his adherence to the orthodox sentiments of Christ's divinity, notwithstanding his belief in the pre-existence of his human Soul, and shows that a defection from the former would be, by no means, a consequence of adherence to the latter. I freely acknowledge that my sentiments on this point have not been recently or hastily taken up, and remember to have told a member of Congress so. That this was my belief has been long known to most of my brethren of the ministry, and I am pleased to add, that a number of them unite with me therein; and yet, neither they, nor I have been suspected, much less charged with holding peculiar errors, or dangerous heresies. Our preaching has constantly born testimony to the contrary, though we have never concealed our sentiments on that head. You say (speaking of me) “it is to be regretted that he did not publish it before, that had he been then elected chaplain, the reputation of his distinguishing error might have gone with him to Washington.” Permit me, Sir, to inform you that in the second sermon after my first election, alluded to above, I did mention this very sentiment, though I spoke of it as a theological speculation, rather than as an article of faith, and yet I was re-elected the following session, notwithstanding I perfectly recollect that so far from the sermon, containing the peculiar sentiment delivered last winter, being considered as heretical, several pious members of Congress came to me after the ser vice was closed, and expressed the high satisfaction they had experienced in hearing the discourse; amongst whom was a member from Connecticut, and I think, an elder of a Presbyterian or Congregational Church, and said he thought that amongst

ages

the best discourses I had delivered, and though there were some new sentiments, he considered the sermon as perfectly orthodox. On Monday morning another, who has been a member of Congress most of the time for upwards of twenty years, who is a pious man, a deacon of a Baptist Church, and who has for several years past in succession, been moderator of one of our Associations; came to me and said that he with several other members had been so much gratified with the discourse of the preceding day, that they had agreed to re. quest a copy if it, for the press. I do not wish to be guilty of egotism, or to sound my own praises, and should never have mentioned the circumstances; but to show that the members of Congress who were professors of religion did not consider the sentiment as a heresy which I had delivered. Neither did the members of the religious communities at Washington view me as a heretic, as I constantly received, and complied with invitations from them, when my official duty did not confine me to the Capitol, and can refer you to the elders of the Prese byterian congregation there for the kind of doctrine preached by me in their place of worship.

Permit me, Sir, in my turn, to express my regret that you did not suspend your criticism on my sermon until you had an opportunity of conversing with me on the subject, especially as an unwritten sermon received second-hand, cannot be a proper subject of review. As my character may be greatly injured, where I am personally unknown, through the extensive circulation your work will probably obtain; I cannot but feel persuaded that you will give a place to this statement in your next number, that the injurious effects of the first may be remedied, and the cure be as extensive as the wound.

With sentiments of respect,
I am your fellow labourer in the Gospel,

B. ALLISON. Rev. Ezra Stiles Ely, D. D.

If we have wronged Dr. Allison, (of which we are by no means convinced) we have now given him an opportunity of doing himself justice. For him we feel no sentiments but those of respect; for his doctrine, concerning the pre-existence of Christ's human soul, we have no friendship.

It is our design in this article, to refute the principal

arguments of Dr. Watts, for our limits will not permit of minute details. Dr. W. lays down five propositions: 1. That “it is evident from many places of scripture, that Christ had an existence before he took Aesh upon him, and came into this world:” which is true of his di. vine nature, for he was a divine person, before he became the God-man: 2. That, “among those expressions of scripture which discover the pre-existence of Christ, there are several from whence we may derive a certain proof that he has the divine nature in him, and is true God;" which we admit: 3. That “there are other scriptures which denote the pre-existence of Christ, and may also perhaps include a reference to his divine nature, but carry not with them such a full and convincing evidence of his Godhead, as utterly to exclude all other interpretations;” which is true of some that relate to his me. diatorial character: 4. That “there are some texts which insinuate the existence of Christ before he came in the flesh, which in their most natural, obvious and evident sense seem to refer to some intelligent nature belonging to our Lord Jesus Christ, which is inferior to God. head;" a proposition not true: and 5. That “whatsover scriptures represent Christ as existent before his incar. nation in a nature inferior to Godhcad, do most naturally lead us to the belief of the pre-existence of his human soul;” which would perhaps be true, if any such passages of scripture could be adduced.

That Jesus Christ is a divine person, who once had only a divine nature, but since his incarnation, has both a human and divine nature, so united as to constitute the same person a complex, who was before a simple, being, we are persuaded is a scriptural doctrine. That no other nature is predicable of Christ is by us affirmed; so that if the passages adduced by Dr. Watts cannot be applied to some of the offices of Christ, or to his divine nature, we will admit them to be applicable to his human soul, and so give up the controversy, rather than adınit the fiction of a third, a super-angelic nature.

Let us take up the arguments of Dr. W.; feel their weight, and examine their texture. He observes,

“ The first set of arguments I shall use arises from several things ascribed to Christ before and at his incarnation, which seem to be of too low a nature for pure Godhead. Consideration 1. Christ is represented as his Father's messenger, minister, or angel, that was a distinct being from his father, sent by his Father to perform such actions and such services for his people long before his incarnation, some of which seem too low for the dignity of pure

Godhead.'” p. 585. Before all worlds, the Godhead subsisted as the Fa. ther, Son and Holy Ghost; and from everlasting the covenant of redemption was established in the divine counsels. In and by this covenant, the Son was anointed a covenant head of his people; was set up, in the office of a Mediator, and covenanted to perform in the economy

of redemption the duties of a messenger, an angel, a servant, a son. In office, Christ became, by covenant, inferior to the Father, while he was in nature equal; and all the passages of the Bible which represent him to be the servant, the elect, the messenger, the angel of the Lord, refer not to his nature, but to his office as Me. diator, Redeemer, Prophet, Priest and King. Indeed, the terms themselves are such as describe official relation, and not the nature of the person who sustains it. Dr. W. himself has said, “ the word angel doth not signify originally the name of a nature, but of an office.” 587. It was the everlasting covenant not the nature which the Messiah had before or after his incarnation, which rendered him the Sent, the Servant of the Godhead, in the work of man's instruction, redemption and complete sal. vation. Before Christ became man and dwelt among us, by virtue of his covenant to become Immanuel, to be born of a woman, and thus to assume a human body and soul into union with his uncreated divine nature and person, he performed the service appertaining to the office of a Mediator. These passages, " which seem too low for the dignity of pure Godhead,” are so far from proving that the human nature of Jesus pre-existed, that they merely evince his official agency before 7. body was pre. pared for him, and his official inferiority to the Father.

In fulfilling his work as Mediator, this divine person of a divine nature, repeatedly assumed the visible form of an angel or of a man, that he might instruct his

[ocr errors]
« הקודםהמשך »