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5thly. That it be so obvious, as not to demand invention or contrivance, in the reader.
6thly. That it be explicable according to the opinions, or other circumstances, of those, for whom it was written, so as to be capable of being understood by them.
7thly. That it suit the occasion, and other circumstances, of the discourse.
But how, according to these, or any other, rules of construing language, are we to interpret the declaration, For by him, were created all things, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, to mean, that Christ published the Gospel and constituted the Christian Church? Is it the same thing to publish the Gospel, as to create ? Is it the same thing to constitute the church, as to create ?
Are the Gospel and the Church all things that are in Heaven and that are in Earth? Are they all things visible and invisible? Who are the thrones, the dominions, the principalities, and the powers ? Are they Bishops, Elders, and Deacons : the only officers, ever supposed to belong to the Church ?
The Holy Ghost is by Unitarians denied to be a person, and is commonly asserted to be no other than the power of God: The name Spirit being, in their view, always figurative. According to what rules of construction are we, on this plan, to interpret the following passages; in which I shall substitute the word power for Ghost, or Spirit ; always intending by it, however, the divine power.
All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Power shall not be forgiven "ento men, Matt. xii. 31. Baptizing them in the name of the Faiher, and of the Son, and of the Holy Power, Matt. xxviii. 19. Why has Satan filled thy heart, lo lie unto the Holy Power ? Acts v. 3. God anointed Jesus with the Holy Power and with power, Acts x. 33. Romans xv. 13, That ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Power. Romans xv. 19, Through mighty signs, and wonders, by the Power of the Power of God. In demonstration of the Power, and of Power. John xvi. 13, Howbeit, when he, the Power of truth has come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak, &c. &c.
More instances cannot, I think, be necessary to elucidate this part of the subject.
The last mode, which I shall mention, a mode adopted when a passage is too stubborn to bend to any of the preceding, is, to leave it with such an observation as this : “ Critics are very much divided about the meaning of this passage;" insinuating to the reader, that the passage is so obscure and perplexed, that he is to despair of any explanation.
In this manner, it seems to me, the Scriptures must soon become such as the Prophet Isaiah declared they would become to the Jews, at a certain future period. The vision of all, says that Prophet, chapter xxix. 11, is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed; which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee; And he saith, I cannot, for it is sealed, and the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee ; and he saith, I am not learned.
IV. I object to the Unitarians direct unfairness in their conduct towards Trinitarians.
The unfairness, here intended, respects two particulars.
1st. They treat the Trinitarians, as if they were Tritheists, or held the existence of three Gods.
This they do in several methods, particularly, the name Unitarian, as I formerly observed, is designed to denote, that they, among Christians, exclusively hold the existence of one God. The very name itself, therefore, is intended to declare, that Trinitarians hold the existence of more Gods than one. An imputation, which, they well know, every Trinitarian rejects with abhorrence.
Again, in arguing with Trinitarians, they customarily undertake to prove, that the Scriptures in a great variety of passages, assert that there is but one God; as if this were the very point, or at least one point, in debate between them and Trinitarians. Accordingly, when they have proved this point, which a child can easily do, they commonly triumph, and appear to consider the dispute as ended, and their antagonists overthrown. In this way they insinuate to their readers that Trinitarians hold the existence of more Gods than one; and that all their arguments are intend.
ed to support this doctrine. Whereas every Unitarian perfectly well knows, that the unity of God is as entirely, and as professedly, holden by Trinitarians as himself; that none of their arguments are directed against it; and that this point has never been, and never can be, in debate between him and them. That the doctrine of the Trinity involves, or infers, the existence of more Gods than one, every Unitarian has a right to prove; and may with perfect fairness prove, if he can. But to insinuate, that Trinitarians believe the existence of more Gods than one, and to treat them as if they thus believed, when it is perfectly well known that every Trinitarian disclaims such belief with indignation ; is conduct, which, in my view, admits of no justification.
2dly. The Unitarians customarily undertake to prove that Christ is a man; and thence triumph also, as if they had refuted the doctrine of their opposers. Now it is well known to every Unitarian, that the Trinitarians with one voice acknowledge Christ to be a man; and that this point, therefore, is not in controversy between him and them.
It is wholly disingenuous, therefore, to insinuate that it is in debate; or to attempt to make it a part of the controversy, when they know, that Trinitarians as uniformly hold it as themselves. Of these facts, however, they usually take not the least notice, but appear to consider both points as the principal topics in debate. Such conduct in their antagonists the Unitarians would censure with severity.
I shall conclude this discussion with two observations.
The first is, that the Unitarians are extensively disagreed concerning the person of Christ. The Arians consider him as a super-angelic being: The Socinians partly as a man, in whom dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and partly as a man, differing from other men only by being wiser and better : The Sabel. lians, as God manifested in one manner. The Patripassians, as the Father living, and suffering, in the man Jesus Christ. Some of the Unitarians hold, that he created the Universe; some, that he made an atonement for sin; some that he ought to be worshipped; and some deny all these doctrines. This difference is derived from two sources: one is, that their reason, or philosophy, dictates nothing concerning Christ, in which they can harmonize. The other is, that the Scriptures in no very satisfactory manner support either of their opinions. But it ought to be observed, that this very difference is of such a nature, as strongly to indicate, that the Scriptures exhibit Christ as God.
The second observation is, that Unitarianism has an evident tendency to infidelity.
This is strongly evident in the manner, in which the Unitarians speak of the Scriptures; the insufficiency which they attribute to them for settling religious doctrines; and the superior sufficiency, which they attribute to Reason. It is evident, also, in the laxness of their ideas concerning what genuine religion is; their want of veneration for the sabbath; their want of attendance on the public worship of God; and their devotion to the pleasures and amusements of life.
Dr. Priestley acknowledges, that “ the Unitarian Societies do not flourish; that their members have but a slight attachment to them, and easily desert them."
Voltaire also says, “ that down to his own time, only a very small number of those, called Unitarians, had held any religious meetings."
Dr. Priestley also says, that “ many Unitarians have become more indifferent to religion in general, than they were before; and to all the modes and doctrines of religion.” Concerning himself, he says, “ that he was once a Calvinist, and that of the straitest sect;
then a high Arian; next a low Arian; then a Socinian; and in a little time a Socinian of the lowest kind, in which Jesus Christ is considered as a mere man, the son of Joseph and Mary, and naturally as fallible and peccable as Moses, or any other Prophet.” He also says, “ he does not know when his creed will be fixed." This I consider as the true progress, nature, and tendency, of Unitarianism. The end of this progress in most men is easily foreseen. Let him, therefore, who finds himself inclined to think favourably of these opinions, consider well, before he embraces them, what will probably be the final termination of his religious system.
INCARNATION OF CHRIST.
ROMANS viii. 3.
God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful fesh.
I HAVE, in several preceding discourses, endeavoured to settle the meaning of the phrase, God's own Son, used in this passage of the Scriptures. This was indispensably necessary, at the opening of all the observations, intended to be made concerning the doctrines of the Christian system. As these doctrines are truths partly unfolding to us the character and conduct of this wonderful person, and partly disclosing to us the consequences of his interference in the behalf of mankind; as his character, in a greater or less degree, affects every doctrine of what is appropriately called the Christian Religion; and as those, who set out with different views of his character, proceed farther and farther asunder, so as to form in the end entirely different systems of religious doctrine; it became indispensable, that this great point should, as far as possible, be fixed at the beginning. If the attempt to do this has been successful, in the degree which I have hoped, it will contribute not a little to settle on a firm foundation most of the doctrines, which remain to be investigated. My own views concerning them, it will, at least, contribute to explain.
In this passage we are informed, that God sent his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. The meaning of this phrase, (the likeness