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from the whole tenor of the passage, that he must have meant the believing Jews principally, and, in some respects, the believing Jews only, exclusive of the unbelieving ones. And in this construction of the passage, I am by no means singular, but have the sanction of Trinitarians themselves, * that of the Latin translator and Beausobre.

The Latin translator of Athanasius, a Catholic, † and certainly no Unitarian, had so little suspicion of any other meaning, that he renders Xprotoy in this place by Jesum. The learned Beausobre, a Trinitarian, and therefore an unexceptionable judge in this case, quoting this very passage, does not hesitate to pronounce, that they were believing Jews who were intended by the writer, “ Ces Juifs,” he says, ne sont pas les Juifs incrédules, mais ceux qui fasoient profession du Christianisme.” I But admitting that the Jews here meant were unbelieving Jews, they were such as the apostles wished to convert to Christianity, and many of them soon became Christians.

But the circumstance which decisively proves that the Jews Athanasius is speaking of were Christian Jews, is their drawing the Gentiles into the belief of the simple humanity of Christ. For certainly the Gospel was preached to the Gentiles by the believing, and not by the unbelieving Jews. If it be supposed that the doctrine Athanasius speaks of was not concerning Jesus, but the Messiah in general, how could it interest the Gentiles? The doctrine, therefore, must have been that concerning Jesus, and consequently, the preachers must have been Christian Jews, and their proselytes Christian Gentiles. It is ridiculous to suppose that the question could be interesting to any others.

Supposing, however, the whole body of the Gentiles, (little as they were concerned in the question,) to have been previously taught by the Jews, that their Messiah, whenever he should come, would be nothing more than a man; if this was an opinion that they were as fully persuaded of as Athanasius represents the Jews, their teachers, to have been, the same caution must have been as necessary with respect to them, as with respect to the Jews themselves, and for the

same reason.

It has been said, that Athanasius says nothing about the caution of the apostles, but only speaks of their prudence, in

*

+ Montfaucon, Bénédictin de St. Maur. He published Alhanasius in 1698, and died in 1741, aged 87. See Vol. XVIII. p. 73.

I See ibid. p. 72.

teaching what was more easy and necessary, before that which was more difficult and less necessary. But the term ournois, in the connexion in which it stands, can bear no other sense than caution, and great caution, jeta moaans ons OUVNO EWS, and it appears from the whole tenor of the discourse, that Athanasius could have intended nothing else than to describe the prudence, or extreme caution of the apostles, and to account for it. He evidently does not represent them as deferring the communication of the doctrine of the divinity of Christ, on account of its being more conveniently taught afterwards as part of a system of faith ; but only lest it should have given offence to the Jews. If skill, or prudence, in these circumstances, be not the same thing with caution, I do not know what is meant by caution.

It has been said that Athanasius speaks of the rapidity with which Peter proceeded to teach the doctrine of the divinity of Christ. On the other hand, I find no trace of rapidity in this account of the apostle's conduct. All that approaches to it is, that, immediately after any mention of the humanity of Christ, (which he speaks of as necessary on account of the Jewish prejudices,) he says the apostles subjoin some expressions which might have led their hearers to the knowledge of his divinity; but the instances he produces are such as plainly confute any pretensions to their being a distinct and full declaration of that doctrine.

The first instance he gives us is from the speech of Peter to the Jews on the day of Pentecost, in which he says, ( Acts ii. 22,) “ Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you, by miracles and wonders, and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know.” In this, Athanasius acknowledges, that Peter preached the proper humanity of Christ, but says that, immediately afterwards, (referring to bis discourse on the cure of the lame man in the Temple,) be called him the prince of life: Acts iii. 15: “And killed the prince of life whom God hath raised from the dead.”

Had the apostle meant that his audience should have understood him as referring to the divinity of Christ by that expression, his prudence must have lasted but a very short time indeed ; probably not many days. If, therefore, his intention was, as Athanasius represents it, to preach the doctrine of the humanity of Christ in the first place, and not to divulge the doctrine of his divinity till they were firmly persuaded of his Messiahship, he could not mean to allude to his divinity in this speech, which was addressed not to the believing, but to the unbelieving Jews. At least, he could only have thought of doing it in such a manner as that his hearers might afterwards infer the doctrine from it; and it must have required great ingenuity, and even a strong prepossession in favour of the divinity of Christ, (the reverse of which this writer acknowledges,) to imagine that this expression of prince of life, which so easily admits of another interpretation, had any such reference. Moreover, in all the instances which Athanasius produces concerning the conduct of the apostles in this respect, from the Book of Acts, he does not pretend to find one in which the divinity of Christ is distinctly preached, though he quotes four passages in which his humanity is plainly spoken of. *

Besides, had Athanasius thought that the apostle had preached the doctrine of the divinity of Christ with much effect, it is probable that he would have added this circumstance to his narrative; as, from the object of the work in which the passage is introduced, it may be inferred, that he could not but have thought that it would have been sufficiently to his purpose. For, certainly, if he could have added that, notwithstanding their caution in preaching this extraordinary doctrine, (against which he acknowledges the Jews had the strongest prejudices,) the apostles nevertheless did preach it with effect, and that it was the general belief of the Jewish Christians in their time, he would have done it. It would certainly have favoured his great object in writing the piece, viz. the vindication of Dionysius, in using a like caution with respect to the Sabellians, to have added, that this prudence, or caution, was not, in either of the two cases, finally detrimental to the cause of truth. I therefore consider the silence of Athanasius on this head as a negative argument of some weight; and, upon the whole, I think that Athanasius must have supposed that both the Jewish and Gentile Churches were Uniturian in the time of the apostles. At least, be enables us to infer that it must have been so, which is quite sufficient for my argument.

Now, if this caution was requisite in the first instance, and with respect to the first converts that the apostles made, it was equally requisite with respect to the rest, at least for the sake of others who were not yet converted, unless the first should have been enjoined secrecy on that head. For whenever it had been known that the apostles were preaching not such a Messiah as they expected, viz. a man like

See Vol. XVIII. pp. 74, 75.

themselves, but the eternal God, the difference was so great, that a general alarm would have been spread, and the conversion of the rest of the Jews, (to a doctrine which must have appeared so highly improbable to them,) would have been impeded. We may, therefore, presume that the apostles must have connived at this state of ignorance concerning the divinity of Christ, in the Jewish Christians, till there was little hope of making any further converts among the Jews, and till the gospel began to be preached to the Gentiles.

Indeed, this must have been the case according to Athanasius's own account; for he says, that these Jews, being in error themselves, led the Gentiles into the same error. * He must, therefore, be understood to say, that the Jewish converts, while, (through the caution of the apostles,) they were ignorant of the divinity of Christ, preached the gospel in that state to the Gentiles. And as he speaks of Gentiles in general, and without any respect to time, and also of their being actually brought over to that belief, it is impossible not to understand him of this caution being continued till the gospel had been fully preached to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews. +

If, according to Athanasius, the apostolical reserve with respect to the doctrine of the divinity of Christ continued till this time, and he says nothing concerning the termination of it) we may presume that this great doctrine, supposing it to have been known to the apostles, had not been publicly taught by them, till very near the time of their dispersion and death; and then I think it must have come too late, even from them. For it appears from the Book of Acts, that their mere authority was not sufficient to overbear the prejudices of their countrymen. At least, the communication of a doctrine of so extraordinary a nature, of which they had no conception, must have occasioned such an alarm and consternation, as we must have found some traces of in the history of the Acts of the Apostles. It could not have been received without hesitation and debate.

If we can suppose that the apostles, some time before their death, did communicate this great and unexpected doctrine, the effects of such communication must have been very transient. For, presently after the death of the apostles, we find all the Jewish Christians distinguished by the name of

See Vol. XVIII. p. 72. † See ibid. p. 73. The conclusion of the paragraph to be found there, Dr. Priestley, in his Appendix to the Early Opinions, directed to be omitted “as not being sufficiently to the purpose."

Nazarenes, or Ebionites, and no trace of the doctrine of the divinity of Christ among them. *

When all these things are considered, viz. that Athanasius acknowledged that it required great caution in the apostles to divulge the doctrine of the divinity of Christ, and that the gospel was preached with success among the Gentiles, while the Jews were ignorant of it, it can hardly be doubted, but that he must himself have considered the Christian church in general as Unitarian in the time of the apostles, at least till near the time of their dispersion and death. +

According to Athanasius, the Jews were to be well grounded in the belief of Jesus being the Christ, before they could be taught the doctrine of his divinity. Now, if we look into the Book of Acts, we shall clearly see, that they had not got beyond the first lesson in the apostolic age, the great burden of the preaching of the apostles being to persuade the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. That he was likewise God they evidently left to their successors, who, indeed, did it most effectually, though it required a long course of time to succeed in it. I

CHAPTER V. Of the concurrent Testimony of other Fathers to the Caution

of the Apostles, in teaching the Doctrines of the Pre-existence and Divinity of Christ.

I have no great occasion to lay much stress on the testimony of Athanasius, as there is that of others of the fathers sufficiently full and clear to the same purpose.

Chrysostom having said, that Christ taught his divinity by his works only, says, that “ Peter also, in the beginning, used the same method. For that, in his first discourse to the Jews, he taught nothing clearly concerning his divinity; and because they were then incapable of learning any thing clearly concerning it, he dwelt upon his humanity; that, being accustomed to this, they might be prepared for what they were to be taught afterwards. And if any person,” he says,

“ will attend to the whole of his discourse, he will see what I say very clearly ; for he calls him a man, and dwells

+ See ibid. pp. 75, 76.

* See Vol. XVIII. pp. 73, 74. 1 See ibid. p. 76, Note

VOL. VI.

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