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with perhaps even more surprise, than the doctrine of God himself having made his appearance in human form. In the Old Testament, there is no account of God having em. ployed any such being as Christ in the making of the world, and he spake to the patriarchs either by angels or some temporary appearance, which may sometimes have been in the form of man.
It is really something extraordinary, that this opinion that Christ was the medium of all the divine communications to mankind under the Old Testament dispensation, should have been so readily received, and have spread so generally as it did among Christians, when it not only has no countenance from scripture, but is expressly contradicted by the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, in Heb. i. 1, 2: “ God who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.” Again, chap. ii. 2, 3: “ If the word spoken by angels was stedfast, &c.; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord ?" What can be more evident than that the writer of this epistle had no idea of God having spoken to mankind by his Son, before the time of the gospel ?
To the Jews, however, the Arian doctrine must have been more novel than that of the orthodox Christians in the time of Justin Martyr, and therefore would probably have been received with more surprise. It was that kind of orthodoxy which was advanced by Justin Martyr, that prepared the way for the Arian doctrine, as will be seen in its proper place.
SECTION III. An Argument against the Divinity of Christ, from his not
being the Object of Prayer. It must be acknowledged that the proper object of prayer is God the Father, who is called the first Person in the Trinity. Indeed, we cannot find in the Scriptures either any precept that will authorize us to address ourselves to any other person, or any proper example of it. Every thing that can be alleged to this purpose, as Stephen's short ejaculatory address to Christ, whom he had just before seen in vision, &c., is very inconsiderable. Our Saviour himself always prayed to his father, and with as much humility
and resignation as the most dependent being in the universe could possibly do; always addressing him as his Father, or the author of his being ; and he directs his disciples to pray to the same great Being, whom only, he says, we ought to serve.
Had he intended to guard against all mistake on this subject, by speaking of God as the author of his being, in the same sense in which he is the author of being to all men, he could not have done it more expressly than he has, by calling him his Father and our Father, his God and our God. At the same time he calls his disciples his brethren (John xx. 17): “Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God. ” Can any person read this, and say that the Unitarians wrest the Scriptures, and are not guided by the plain sense of them?
Accordingly, the practice of praying to the Father only, was long universal in the Christian church: the short addresses to Christ, as those in the Litany, Lord have mercy upon us, Christ have mercy upon us, being comparatively of late date. In the Clementine liturgy, the oldest that is extant, contained in the Apostolical Constitutions, which were probably composed about the fourth century, there is no trace of any such thing. Origen, in a large treatise on the subject of prayer, urges very forcibly the propriety of praying to the Father only, and not to Christ; and as he gives no hint that the public forms of prayer had any thing reprehensible in them in that respect, we are naturally led to conclude that, in his time, such petitions to Christ were unknown in the public assemblies of Christians. And such hold have early established customs, on the minds of men, that, excepting the Moravians only, whose prayers are always addressed to Christ, the general practice of Trinitarians themselves is, to pray to the Father only.
Now on what principle could this early and universal practice have been founded ? What is there in the doctrine of a Trinity consisting of three equal persons, to entitle the Father to that distinction, in preference to the Son or the Spirit? I doubt not but that, considering the thing ab initio, a proper Trinitarian would have thought that, since, of these three persons, it is the second that was the maker of the world, and that is the immediate governor of it, he is that person of the three with whom we have most to do; and therefore he is that person to whom our prayers ought to be addressed. This, I should think, would have been a natural Conclusion, even if Christ had not been thought to be equal to the Father, but only the maker and the governor of the world under him ; supposing him to have had power originally given him equal to the making and governing of it, as I have shewn in my Disquisitions on Matter and Spirit.* For we should naturally look up to that being on whom we immediately depend, knowing that it must be his proper province to attend to us.
If there should have been any reason in the nature of things, though undiscoverable and incomprehensible by us, why the world should have been made and supported, by some being of communicated and delegated authority, rather than by the self-existent and Supreme Being himself, (and if the fact be so, there must have been some good reason for it,) that unknown reason, whatever it be, naturally presents this derived being to us, as the proper object of our prayers.
But supposing this second person in the Trinity to be out independent maker, governor and final judge, the propriety of praying to him, and to him exclusively, is so obvious, that no consideration whatever could have prevented the practice, if such had been the real belief of the Christian world from the beginning. That Christians did not do so at first, but prayed habitually to the Father only, is, therefore, with me almost a demonstration, that they did not consider Christ in that light. Whatever they might think of him, they did not regard him as being a proper object of worship, and consequently not as possessed of the attributes that are proper to constitute him one, and therefore not as truly God.
The persuasion that he was truly God, and that God on whom we immediately depend, would unavoidably have drawn after it the habitual practice of praying to him, as it has at length effected with respect to the Moravians; and in spite of ancient custom, and against all scripture precept and example, the practice has more or less prevailed with all Trinitarians. Petrarch, we find by his
letters, generally prayed to Christ. That pious treatise of Thomas à Kempis, on the imitation of Christ, consists of nothing besides addresses to him, and they compose the greater part of the litany of the church of England.
When I was niyself a Trinitarian, I remember praying conscientiously to all the three persons without distinction, only beginning with the Father; and what I myself did in
. See Vol. III. pp. 492, 435.
the serious simplicity of my heart, when young, would, I doubt not, have been done by all Christians from the beginning, if their minds had then been impressed, as mine was, with the firm persuasion that all the three persons were fully equal in power, wisdom, goodness, omnipresence, and all divine attributes. This argument I recommend to the serious consideration of all Trinitarians, as it is with me a sufficient proof, that originally Christ was not considered as a proper object of worship by Christians, and consequently neither as God, nor as the maker and governor of the world, under God.
As this is a thing that relates to practice, I should have imagined that if each of the three persons had been to be addressed separately, we should have been distinctly informed concerning the circumstances in which we were to pray to any one of them, and not to the others; considering how difficult it must be, from the nature of the thing, for mere men to distinguish the separate rights of three divine persons.
It has been said by some, that Christ is the proper object of prayer, in the time of external persecution. But let us consider how the supposition, or theory, corresponds to the fact. For if it be not supported by corresponding facts, how ingenious, or probable soever it may seem to be à priori, it must fall to the ground. The apostles and primitive Christians certainly knew whether the Father, or the Son, was the more proper object of prayer in the time of persecution. Let us see, then, both what directions they gave, and also what they themselves actually did in this case.
The apostle James, writing to Christians in a state of persecution, says, chap. i. 2, 5, “ My brethren, count it all joy when
ye fall into divers temptations," or trials. “ If any of
you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.” It can hardly be said that, in this he advises them to apply to Christ or to the Trinity for direction in these circumstances. This hypothesis has no countenance either in the Scriptures or in any Christian writer before the Council of Nice : for they all understood the Father alone to be intended, whenever mention is made of God absolutely.
Peter, writing to Christians in the same situation, says, 1 Pet. iv. 19, “ Wherefore, let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” This is certainly meant of God the Father ; but more evidently must we so interpret i Pet, v. 10: “ The God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory, by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.” I do not find here, or any where else in the Scriptures, any direction to pray to Christ in time of persecution, or, indeed, in any other circumstances.
Let us now attend to some particulars in the history of the apostles. When Herod had put to death James, the brother of John, and imprisoned Peter, we read, Acts xii. 5, that "
prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God,” not to Christ, “ for him.” When Paul and Silas were in prison at Philippi, we read, Acts xvi. 25, that they
sang praises unto God,” not to Christ. And when Paul was warned of what would befal him if he went to Jerusalem, Acts xxi. 14, he said, “ the will of the Lord be done.” This, it must be supposed, was meant of God the Father, because Christ himself used the same language in this sense, when, praying to the Father, he said, Not my will, but thine, be done.
These, it may perhaps be said, are only incidental circumstances, on which no great stress is to be laid. But in Acts iv. 24-30, we have a prayer of some length addressed to God the Father, at the very beginning of the persecution of Christians, when Peter and John had been examined before the high-priest and his court, and had been threatened by them. The whole of it is as follows: " And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is : who, by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, “Why did the Heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Christ.' For of a truth, against thy holy child (or servant) Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings, and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child (or servant) Jesus.' ”
We have now examined some particulars both of the instructions and the examples of Scripture, with regard to the proper object of
prayer in time of persecution ; from which appears, that, even in this case, we have no authority to