תמונות בעמוד
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

upon the mind will hardly be distinguished in the two cases, and the resistance to assent shall be, in a manner, as great in the one as in the other. Consequently, though the doctrine be not incapable of proof by miracles, yet it will be neccs. sary that the proposition which contains it be very clearly expressed, that the miracles alleged in support of it be well authenticated, and that the connexion between the miracles and the proposition be very particularly established. Let us now consider whether this be the case with respect to the Arian doctrine.

1. There is something in the doctrine itself, which, if we were not accustomed to it, would appear exceedingly revolting. Such, certainly, is the idea of any being in human form, who was born, grew up, and died like other men; requiring the refreshments of food, rest and sleep, &c., having been the maker, and, while on earth and asleep, the supporter and governor of the world. Had such an opinion been first proposed in the present state of philosophy, it would have been rejected without farther examination.

That Christ emptied himself of his former glory and power, and did not sustain the world during his abode on earth, is quite a modern opinion; and, on that account only, can never be received as the original and genuine doctrine of Christianity. Besides, this hypothesis is of itself as improbable as the other. For it may reasonably be asked, Who supplied the place of Christ in the government of the world, when his office was suspended ? If the Supreme Being himself undertook it, what reason can there be imagined why he should not himself have always done it? And yet, if there was a reason, in the nature of things, why this work should be done by another, and not by the Supreine Being himself, that reason must have subsisted while Christ was on earth as well as before. But the Arian hypothesis provides no other created being, of rank and power equal to that of Christ, to undertake his office when he should be disabled from discharging it. A contradiction is hardly more revolting to the mind than the improbabilities attending such a scheme as this.

2. It is obvious to remark, that the Arian hypothesis is no where clearly expressed in the Scriptures, and much less is it repeated so often, and so much stress laid upon it, as its uatural magnitude required. The Old Testament, it is allowed, contains no such doctrine as that of God having made the world by the instrumentality of any

intermediate being ; and yet, as we liave there the history of the creation,

and as the doctrine of one God having made the heavens and the earth is frequently repeated in the several books of it, it might have been expected that, if there had been such a being as the Arians suppose Christ to be, and he had made the world by the direction of the Supreme Being, some inention would have been made of it there, that being its natural and proper place,

3. The doetrine of Christ having made the world, has no connexion with the great and obvious design of the mission of any of the prophets in general, or that of Christ and the apostles in particular. The great object of the whole scheme of revelation was to teach men how to live here, so as to be happy hereafter, and the particular doctrines which we are taught, as having a connexion with this great object, are those of the unity of God, his universal presence and inspection, his placability to repenting sinners, and the certainty of a resurrection to a life of retribution after death. These doctrines occur perpetually in the discourses and writings of the prophets, of the evangelists, and of the apostles; and the miracles which they wrought have so evident a connexion with these doctrines, that it is impossible to admit their divine mission without receiving them.

On the other hand, the doctrine of there being such a super-angelic spirit as the Arian logos, the maker and governor of all things under the Supreme God, has no connexion with the doctrines above-mentioned. It may be true or false, altogether independent of them. It does not, therefore, follow that, admitting that such had been the private opinion of those persons who were divinely inspired, and impowered to work miracles, that their inspiration, or their miracles, could give any sanction to this particular doctrine ; their inspiration and miraeles relating to another distinct object, and not to this. And it must be acknowledged, that a prophet who has received no instruction froin God relating to any particular subject, may be as much mistaken with respect to it as any other person whatever.

Now, considering that no such doctrine as that of there being a subordinate maker of the world was taught by Moses, or any of the ancient prophets, and that Christ himself, as it must be allowed, taught no such doctrine, (though he him. self be supposed to have been that very person,) had it been advajiced by the apostles, their auditors, who admitted their authority in other things, might very reasonably have demanded a distinct proof of an additional doctrine, so very new and strange, and so unconnected with their other teaching, as this was. They might have said,--We admit that Jesus is the Messiah ; we acknowledge that he rose from the dead, and we believe that he will come again to raise all the dead, and to judge the world ; but this doctrine of Christ having made the world is quite another thing. It was not taught by Moses, or by Christ, and therefore, we cannot receive it except upon new and independent evidence. What miracles do you work in order to shew that you are commissioned to teach this doctrine ?-Now, as it is not pretended that there are any miracles particularly adapted to prove that Christ made and supports the world, I do not see that we are under any obligation to believe, it merely because it was an opinion held by an apostle.

4. The doctrine of Christ having made the world, is not expressed by any of the apostles in a manner so definite and clear, or so repeatedly, as its magnitude naturally required. For the passages in their writings from which it has been inferred that they held this opinion, are very few, and by no means clear and express to the purpose. Had this doctrine been true, being of so extraordinary a nature, and so much unlike to any thing that Jews or Christians had been taught before, it would, no doubt, when it was first promulgated, have been delivered with the greatest distinctness, so as to leave no uncertainty with respect to it; and unless it had been urged by the apostles, again and again, and with peculiar force and emphasis, their auditors would naturally have imagined that they only made use of some figurative forms of speech, and did not seriously mean to advance a doctrine so very remote from their former apprehensions of things.

But in all the writings of the apostles, there are only four passages from which it has been pretended that, in their opinion, Christ was the maker of the world ; and in one of them no mention is made of Christ. As they are so very few, I shall recite them all, that my reader may have the whole evidence of this extraordinary doctrine fairly before him.

No mention is made of this doctrine in any book, in the New Testament, which was written before the imprisonment of Paul at Rome, A.D. 61 and 62, and then by this one apostle only. Writing to the Ephesians, ch. iii. 9, he says, “ to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world has been hidin God, who created all things by Jesus Christ." This is only an incidental expression at the close of a sentence, the object of which was to teach something else ; also both the terms

creation, and all things, are of very uncertain signification, and therefore, may well be supposed to refer to what is figu. ratively called the new creation, or the reformation of the world.

The same apostle, in the epistle to the Colossians, ch. i. 15 -18, says of Christ, “ who is the image of the invisible God, the first born of every creature. For by him were all things created, that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions, or principalities or powers. All things were created by him and for bin, and he is before all things, and by him all things consist; and he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.” On this passage it is obvious to remark, that the things which Christ is said to have made, are not the heavens or the earth, but some things that were in the heavens and in the earth ; and these were not natural objects, such as stars or planets, trees or animals, &c. But the creation, or establishment, of such things as thrones and dominions may naturally be interpreted as referring to some exercise of that power in heaven and in earth, which Christ says was given to him after his resurrection. Also, as his being the head of the body, the church, is mentioned after all the other particulars; it is most probable that this power, whatever it was, related only to his church, and that it had nothing to do with the creation of the heavens or the earth. It is acknowledged that these two passages, viz. from the epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, correspond to each other, and that they are to be interpreted on the same principles. Now if the phraseology in the epistle to the Ephesians be attended to, it will be clearly seen, that the writer explains his own meaning with respect to what he calls creation. In the second chapter, he represents the Gentiles as being in a state of death, and quickened, or brought to life, by the gospel. Consequently they might be said to be created again, as he says, ch. ii. 10, “ We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works.' Does not this sufficiently explain what he meant, ch. iii. 9, hy God having created all things by Jesus Christ”? With the same idea he calls the heathen state of the Ephesians the old man, and their christian state, the new man, ch. iv. 22-24: “ That ye put off concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is cortupt, according to the deceitful lusts : and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness,"

In the idea of the apostle, the preaching of Christianity made a new and distinguished æra in the history of the world, from which things might be said to have a new origin, and this he terms creation, as he says, 2 Cor. v. 17, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.” And this language is countenanced by, and was perhaps adopted from Isaiah ; who, looking into future times, says, ch. Ixv. 17, 18, “ Behold I create new heavens, and a new earth, and the former shall not be remembered nor come into mind. But be ye glad, and rejoice for ever in that which I create. For behold I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.” By this language the prophet only meant to describe a glorious revolution in favour of the Jews.

Iu the epistle to the Hebrews, the apostle says, ch. i. 1-3, “ God, who, at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in times past unto the fathers, by the prophets, hath, in these last days spoken unto us by his Son; whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds, who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.

In this passage it is evident, that it was not the object of the writer to make an express assertion concerning the making of the world by Christ, so as to exhibit it as an arti. cle of any consequence. He was asserting something else; and what he is thought to say on the subject is only one incidental circumstance, among several others. · And is it to be supposed that a doctrine of this importance would never be laid down but in such a manner as this? Besides, nothing is here said, or intimated, about Christ making the material worlds, for it is only said that he made the ages (aiwas); and the all things here mentioned evidently means all things relating to a particular object, viz. the mission of Christ, and not all the works of nature.

Lastly, in the introduction to the gospel of John, we read, “ In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. All things were inade by him (or rather by it) and without him (it) was not any thing made that was made.". In this celebrated passage, there is no mention, as I observed before, of Christ, and that the word

« הקודםהמשך »