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and day, in England and in China, throughout the habitable globe? Surely omnipresence and omniscience, at least, yea, and omnipotence too, are necessary to the character of a complete mediator—a mediator between God and all mankind. And such is the mediator in whom we trust: "Where two or three (says he) are met in my name, I am there in the midst of them. Lo! I am with you always, even unto the end of the world: behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me: all the Churches shall know that I am he that searcheth the reins and the heart."
14. Not that his human nature (for he is "perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting") can be thus present in all places, and acquainted with all things. This is not supposed, I believe, by any. No: these manifestly Divine perfections are ascribed to the "eternal Word" of the Father, the indwelling Deity, to which his humanity is joined by a close and indissoluble union, and by which alone he is every where present, acquainted with every thing, has all power in heaven and earth, and will judge men and angels at the last day.
15. Accordingly, those that^deny this perfect, everlasting union of Deity with manhood, do, in general, also deny his mediation, and consider him merely in the character of a "Teacher sent from God," who, by his doctrine and example, directs us in the will of God, and in the way to his kingdom, but who neither made any atonement for our sins, nor intercedes for our souls. Nay, and if they follow Dr. Priestley, they will not put any great confidence in him, even in the character of a Prophet, persuaded that he was liable to err, even in that respect. Thus every ground of hope being withdrawn, even the hope of a sure guide to heaven, and all intercourse cut off between God and man, they naturally disbelieve all visitations of supernatural grace, all influences of the Spirit of God upon the soul, and therefore deny the Father, Son, and Spirit, in every sense in which they could be profited by them, having, in fact, neither God, nor Saviour, nor Comforter.
16. It being, therefore, manifestly necessary that we should believe Christ to be "Immanuel, God with us," God "manifest in the flesh," omnipresent, and omniscient, I have the more willingly suffered myself to be prevailed upon to revise the following sheets, and make such additions to them as may afford sufficient proof of that important point of Christian doctrine. I wish the difficult task had been committed to an abler hand. But Mrs. Fletcher and her friends having assigned it to me, I have endeavoured, to the utmost of my power, that the work might not be entirely unworthy of the public eye. As I have made it my care fairly to represent Mr. Fletcher's sentiments on the weighty subject under consideration, so I have in general retained his language; rather choosing to let some expressions pass, which probably, had he lived to put the
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flnishing hand to this work, he would have corrected himself, than to alter what he might design to stand. Mr. Fletcher's friends, I knew, would prefer what was his to any thing I could substitute in the place of it: and, as I should have thought it a crime to misrepresent his sentiments, so I did not think I could mend his style, which, in general, is most pure and excellent. I have not, indeed, thought myself under any obligation to publish all the papers he hath left on this part of the sub. ject, some of them being loose and unconnected paragraphs, and not capable of being introduced here: but what I have been able to bring into any proper connection with the rest, and what seemed calculated to prove or illustrate the doctrine under consideration, I have published; and the public may be sure they are not mistaken in receiving as Mr. Fletcher's what is presented to them as his.
J. Bkksox. Hull, November 15, 1788.
1. THE catholic Church is openly attacked, in our day, by enemies so much the more dangerous as they are friends to some of her doctrines, and, as to many things, highly commendable in their moral conduct, putting to the blush the loose livers who acknowledge a trinity. Thus they persuade the world, that their incessant attacks upon the distinguishing doctrines of Christianity are directed by virtue itself.
2. Those who cordially believe in the Father, in the Son, and in the Holy Ghost, are publicly treated as gross idolaters, because "at the name of Jesus they bow the knee, and call for salvation upon the only name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved," Phil. ii, 10, and Acts iv, 12. We are even invited to come out of the Church of England, as if she were mystic Babylon, because she directs us to call upon the Son, as we do upon the Father; an act of worship which the enemies of our Lord's divinity consider as "idolizing" Christ, if we may judge of them by their learned champion, who says, in his Appeal to the Professors of Christianity, "If the Trinitarians think a point of conscience not to go to mass in Popish Churches, because m their opinion it is idolizing a piece of bread, you ought to make a point of conscience not to worship with them, because, in your opinion, it is idolizing a man, who is just as improper an object of worship, as a piece of bread." Thus "the Lord of glory" is put on a level with a piece of bread; and doing the chief work of a Christian, "calling upon the Lord Jesus" for salvation, is compared to the worshipping of an idol, which hath not so much life and sense as a dog.
3. So incessant have these onsets been of late, that we might fear for the catholic Church, if the Lord had not promised that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against her," and that "all things shall work together for good to them that love him." But, comforted and encouraged by these promises, we may be confident, that even the repeated attacks of Dr. Priestley against our Lord's divinity will show the strength of "the Rock of ages," as billows, which incessantly beat upon a rock that breaks them all, show their own weakness, and the solidity of the rock against which they foam and dash themselves.
4. In the meantime, new modes of attack will render new methods of defence necessary; for God forbid that Christ's worshippers should be less ready to confess him as their Lord and their God, than the despisers of his divinity are to degrade him into a mere man! The learned, archdeacon of St. Alban's, the Monthly Reviewers, the Rev. Messrs. Ryland and Shepard, &c, have already stood forth in defence of the catholic faith: and, in the author's judgment, they have done it so effectually, that when he saw their publications, he laid these papers aside as needless: and if he now resumes them at the desire of some friends, it is merely upon considering that Dr. Horsley and his judicious allies having chiefly written for the learned, some farther remarks, suited to persons of all ranks and capacities, might have their use also.
5. The Lord needs no man's pen to support his divinity, which supports the pillars of earth and heaven: nevertheless, as he once used the voice of an ass to check a prophet's madness, and that of a cock to stop an apostle's imprecations, he may, (if he condescend to bless these sheets,) soften, by them, the prejudices of a philosopher. But the principal end, which the author proposes, by sending them to the press, is to confirm his own faith, and that of the unprejudiced reader, by scattering the mists of some growing errors, and by collecting the beams of Christ's divine glory, which lie diffused in the sacred pages.
6. It is humbly hoped that the friends of the pure Gospel will not (under pretence that they hate controversy) be afraid to increase their light, and to warm their devotion, at a fire made up of coals taken from the altar of sacred truth. No man's time was ever lost, no believer's love was ever injured, by reading St. John's Gospel or his epistles, in which our Lord himself, and his loving disciple, carry on against the scribes and the Pharisees, against the Jews and the Gnostics, the very same controversy which we now maintain against the Unitarians and the philosophers of the present age.
7. In the meantime, let no one be surprised that men, noted for their learning and virtue, should be permitted to enforce their errors so publicly, and with such apparent sincerity. Providence has its wise ends. There must be heresies among us, that they who are approved may be made manifest. Light and darkness, truth and error, the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge, must be set before us, that we may stretch out our hand, according to our choice, and be judged according to the works of our faith, or those of our unbelief. Add to this, that, by God's overruling providence, error often whets the edge of truth, manifests its solidity, and makes its sparkling glories break forth with greater advantage: thus, in a picture, the shades heighten the surprising effect of the lights; and truth never appears so transcendently bright, as when the blackness of error, like a foil, sets it off in our sight. What is chaff to the wheat, before the winnowing fan? And what are thorns to the fire?
8. Truth is a devouring flame, and will one day consume all the bulwarks of wood, hay, and stubble, which are raised to stop its progress. Dr. Priestley pictures out this power of truth, in the fine frontispiece of his Disquisitions. There he sets before us wooden scaffolds all on fire, while a temple of marble, adorned with pillars of silver, gold, and precious stones, stands the conflagration. "The application of this scene (says he) is sufficiently obvious :" for he fondly supposes that his philosophical and historical Disquisitions are the fire of truth, burning up the doctrine of the soul's immortality, of the divinity of Christ, and of the trinity; which doctrines he compares to wood, hay, and stubble. Far from thinking, as he does, about his frontispiece, to us "it is sufficiently obvious," that the catholic faith is the fire, which, sooner or later, will burn up Materialism, Socinianism, and antichristian philosophy, like thorns, briers, and chaff.
9. Judicious reader, come and see who mistakes in a point of such vast importance. Providence has given you two lights, reason and revelation: take the hint of the doctor's frontispiece; bring them near, and use them instead of touch-stones. Touch the adamantine pillars of truth, and they shall shine. Touch the mountains of error, which bear the Socinian temple, and they shall smoke. Touch the stately doom, and it shall blaze. Nor let a mistaken respect for the learned architect make you spare the wall, if it be daubed with untempered mortar. When the whole shall come down, the builder shall gain more than tongue can tell: for if he lose a little of his reputation, he will get a soul and a Saviour, yea, an immortal soul, and a Divine Saviour, to whom, with the rapturous joy of St. Matthew, St. Thomas, and St. Stephen, he will say, "Emmanuel, God with us, My Lord, and my God!" I shall not die like a brute; I have a soul! Lord, save it to the uttermost, save it for ever!" Into thy hands I commit it, for thou hast redeemed it, O Lord, thou God of truth." May it be the sincere wish of the reader, as it is of the author, that all who name the name of Christ, may soon agree in such an evangelical confession; and that the names of Unitarian, and Trinitarian, may for ever be lost in the sweeter names of Christian and brother!