« AnteriorContinuar »
Bear, dear sir, with the plainness of this application. Did you err only in the less important truths of the Gospel, we would pass over in silence your theological mistakes, as resulting almost necessarily from your numerous avocations, and from the intenseness of your philosophical studies. But is this the case? Do you not bend yourself against the fundamentals of Christianity, against those very doctrines which (exceptiug Mohammed's mission) most peculiarly distinguish the Bible from the Koran? Mohammed forbids us to pay Divine honours to any but the Father; whereas our Lord teaches us to honour the Son as we honour the Father, and to honour the Holy Ghost as we do the Son; enjoining us to be equally "baptized in the name [equally consecrated to the service] of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;" commanding us to receive, with the same reverential awe, the testimony of the "Three who bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit;" and directing us to pray and wait equally for "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, for the love of God the Father, and for the fellowship of the Holy Ghost." But, endeavouring to break the sacred bonds of this adorable trinity, you indirectly exhort us to make void the covenant of our baptism; urging us to renounce the adoration of the Son, together with all dependence on his merits, and to disclaim all expectation of the influences of the Holy Spirit. And if he that "honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father;" and if we have liberty of access to the Father only "through the Son and by the Spirit," Eph. ii, 18, then, it appears, if we follow you, we shall not even worship the Father, but shall in truth be afcoi Ev Xoo>u, Atheists in the world, rejecting altogether the one true God, who, from the first step of our Christian race, manifests a trinity to us, as the grand object of our religious confidence. Nor do we advance a groundless charge, when we complain, that you weaken or destroy the foundations of Christianity: for when you assert that the Son is a mere man, you indirectly tell us, that he is as improperly joined with the Father to be the great object of our faith in baptism, as a taper would improperly be joined with the sun to enlighten the universe. And when you represent the Holy Ghost as a senseless power, and a power whereby we must not now hope to be influenced, you might as well tell us, that he is as unfit to have a place among the " Three who bear record in heaven," as your power of motion, or the energy of your mind, would be absurdly mentioned as parties in a contract, where your name and person are particularly specified. Thus, you take from us the two Comforters, with whom we are particularly blessed under the Gospel. If we believe you, the one is a mere man, who cannot hear us; and the other is a mere property, or an unconscious energy, by which we shall be no way benefited, and as insensible to our faith as to our unbelief. And when our Lord bids all nations to be "baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," (if the word Son do not mean the proper Son of God; if it mean only the son of the carpenter Joseph, and if the Holy Ghost be only the Father's energy, and an energy whereby we can neither be quickened nor comforted,) this Gospel charter is far more extraordinary, than would be the royal patents, by which gentlemen are
created lords, if-they all began thus, "Be it enacted in the name, or by the supreme authority, of King George the Third, of Joseph the carpenter's son, and of the royal power or energy, that A. B. Esq., be numbered among peers of the realm." Such is the wisdom displayed by the philosophers, who call the divinity of the Son the leading corruption of Christianity, and who pretend to reform all the Reformed Churches t
Permit me, sir, to say one word more upon your last grand publication. Our Reformers had sufficiently proved, that the worshipping the Virgin Mary, saints, and angels, is an antichristian practice; and we English Protestants, for whom you chiefly write, had no need to be reclaimed from that idolatry. If, then, you spend so much time and paper in exposing the Christian idolatry, it is evident, that your chief design is to attack the Divine honours which we pay to the Lord Jesus; and that your account of the Popish errors, &c, comes in only, by the by, to mask the battery, from which you think you can attack our faith more decently, and with greater advantage. Hence, through nine hundred pages, you chiefly labour to prove, that our Saviour is a mere creature, and that the blood of the Son of God hath no more atoning virtue than the blood of the sons of Zebedee.
Had you been as open as you are prudent, you would at once have called your History of Corruptions, "an attempt to prove that all Christiaus are cursed idolaters, if they trust in Christ for salvation;" for it is written, " Cursed is the man that trusteth in man" for that salvation which God alone can bestow.
Your friend, Mr. Lindsey, to whom you dedicate your work, may praise you for it; but will you, sir, have any thanks from HIM, who said on the banks of Jordan, and upon the holy mount, "This is my beloved Son, hear ye him" with a believing confidence? Will you have any thanks from HIM, who said, "Ye believe in God [the Father,] believe also in me?" Will you be praised by St. Paul, who gloried in his being of the number of those "who first trusted in Christ?" Will you even be exculpated by one of those martyrs, confessors, or believers, who, for 1700 years, have said to Christ, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life!"
But how do you prove, sir, that this cloud of godly witnesses is a company of idolaters, who trusted in a mere arm of flesh, when they believed in Christ? Truly, by three assertions, as paradoxical as the arguments by which you would prove that we have no souls, or only such as turn to a mephitic vapour when we die. The first of those assertions is, that the doctrine of the trinity is irrational; the second is, that the doctrine of our Lord's divinity has no proper foundation in the Old Testament; the prophets speaking of the Messiah only as of a man like themselves; and the third is, that Christ's Deity is likewise unsupported by the New Testament—the apostles never giving our Lord any higher title than that of a man approved of God.
In opposition to the first of these assertions, I here present you, sir, with a rational, as well as Scriptural, vindication of the doctrine of our Lord's divinity; and in opposition to the two last, (as my health shall permit,) I design to prepare a work which shall, I trust, fully rescue the prophets and apostles from the antichristian service to which you continue to press them.
In reply to the History, where you try to prove from the fathers that "the doctrines of the divinity of Christ, and of his being any more than a man, are an innovation, and the dreadful corruption of Christianity, which has been the fruitful source of many others,"* I designed to add a fourth part; but considering that you have already refuted your own error, (witness your quotations from Tertullian, p. 60,) I shall spare myself the trouble of doing it otherwise than indirectly.
Though I am conscious that all the fathers are, upon the whole, against you, with regard to the charge of innovation, I choose to meet you chiefly upon Scripture ground, (1.) Because, having chosen it yourself, you nobly defend it against Deists and Atheists. (2.) Because, being firm and holy ground, it can be fully trusted. (3.) Because it is a ground open to all our readers: the Bible is in every house, but the fathers are in few libraries. (4.) Because this field hath proper limits, and a strong inclosure. The works of the sacred writers are short and concise, but those of the fathers are so voluminous and diffuse, that an unfair disputant may turn, wind, and hide himself in them, as a fox in a great forest full of dens and lurking holes. (5.) Because the fathers themselves, by their constant appeals to Scripture, invite us to make choice of that solid and Divine ground. And, lastly, because Dr. Horsley, and the Monthly Reviewers, who have entered the lists against you, have already sufficiently exposed your mistake, with respect to the fathers.
If this little work, which I inscribe to you, sir, because you have been the occasion of it, do not soften your prejudices against what appears to me the capital doctrine of Christianity, I hope it will confirm some wavering professors of the Christian faith, and settle the thoughts of candid inquirers after truth. It will at least give me an opportunity of thanking you for the service you have done to religion, by taking the part of revelation against some classes of unbelievers; and of testifying my esteem for you as a humane moralist, and a wise, indefatigable inquirer into the secrets of nature. And although I greatly difler from you with regard to the fundamental principles of Christianity, yet as 1 hope that, like Saul of Tarsus, you sin against the Son and Holy Ghost out of a well-meant, but dreadfully mistaken zeal for the Majesty of the Father, I am glad of an opportunity to assure you publicly, that, till we meet in the fulness and unity of the faith taught by our Lord; in reference to that part of it which you have defended against some bare-faced infidels, I have the honour to be, with great truth, reverend sir, your affectionate brother, and obedient servant, John Fletcher,
* Corruption, p. 13, and Disquisitions, p. 51.
A general view of the Catholic faith concerning the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and of the great question in debate, between the Catholics and the Deists of every description.
THAT there is a supreme, infinite, and eternal Mind, by which the world was made, is evident from the works of creation and providence. Those works every where confirm David's observation, " The heavens declare the glory [the glorious existence] of God." The firmament magnificently displays his wisdom, power, and love. Every leaf of the trees, which cover a thousand hills; every spire of the grass, which clothes a thousand vales, echoes back the same ravishing truth, "There is a God!" But the peculiar mode of his existence is far above our reach. Of this we only know what he plainly reveals to us, and what we may infer from what he hath plainly revealed. For sooner shall the vilest insect find out the nature of man, than the brightest man shall, of himself, discover the nature of God.
But if this adorable Being hath been pleased to declare something concerning himself, it is arrogancy in the most exalted creatures to quarrel with such a declaration, under a pretence that, in their conception, he must have a different mode of existence. For common sense tells us, that God hath a clearer knowledge of himself, than the deepest philosophers, and the highest angels, can possibly have.
It is agreed on all hands that the Supreme Being, compared with all other beings, is one. One Creator over numberless creatures: one infinite Being over myriads of finite beings: one eternal Intelligence over millions of temporary intelligences. The distance between the things made, and him that made them, being boundless, the living God must stand for ever, far higher above all that lives, than the sun stands superior to all the beams it emits, and to all the tapers lighted at its fire. In this sense, true Christians are all Unitarians. God having plainly revealed his unity by the prophets, by the apostles, and by our Lord himself, there is no doubt about this point. And may the hand which writes these sheets, wither a thousand times over, rather than it should designedly write one word against this glorious and ever adorable unity.
But although the Supreme Being is one, when he is compared to all created beings, shall we quarrel with him, when he informs us, that, notwithstanding he hath no second in the universe of creatures, yet, in him. self, he exists after a wonderful manner, insomuch that his one eternal and perfect essence subsists, without division or separation, under three
A RATIONAL VINDICATION OF THE CATHOLIC FAITH. 399
adorable distinctions, which are called sometimes the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and sometimes the Father, the Word, and the Spirit t "Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?" or, Why dost thou exist after such a manner?
According to the catholic faith, three sorts of people in our day capitally err in this matter.
1. Thi-theists, or the worshippers of three gods, who so unscripturally distinguish the Divine persons, as to divide and separate them into three Deities; and who, by these means, run into Polytheism, or the belief of many gods.
2. DI-THEISTS, or the worshippers of two gods. They are generally called Arians from Arius, their chief leader, who maintained, that there is one eternal God; namely, the Father, and one who is not eternal; namely, the Son, who was made some time or other before the foundation of the world. Thus they worshipped two gods, a great god and a little god; the former uncreate, the latter created; the former, God by nature; and the latter, only by courtesy.
3. DEISTS, who so unscripturally maintain the unity of the Divine essence, as to admit but one Divine subsistence; namely, that of the Father; thus excluding both the Word and the Holy Ghost from their place in the Divine nature.
There are three sorts of these Deists, beside the Mohammedans. (1.) Those who reject and scoff at all the Bible, as Voltaire, Hume, and the like infidels. (2.) Those who reject the New Testament, and explain away those parts of the Old which do not suit their notions of the Messiah, as the modem Jews: and (3.) Those who profess to receive the New Testament, but reject or explain away what they dislike of it. Of this sort are the Socinians, so called from Socinus, an Italian, who, at the time of the Reformation, revived the ancient heresy of some Judaizing Christians, concerning the mere humanity of our Lord. And to this class belongs the learned Dr. Priestley, who says, in his letters to Dr. Horsley, "I have frequently avowed myself not to be a believer in the inspiration of the evangelists and apostles, as writers: I therefore hold the subject of the miraculous conception to be one, with respect to which any person is fully at liberty to think as the evidence shall appear to him." And, consistently with this profession, he does not scruple to say in his History of Corruptions, vol. ii, p. 370, "The Apostle Paul often reasons inconclusively, and therefore wrote as any other person, of his turn of mind and thinking, and in his situation, would have written, without any particular inspiration."
Detesting the Di-theism of the Arians, and equally distant from the error of Deists, and that of Tri-theists, the faithful maintainers of the catholic faith worship the one Supreme Being, according to the threefold display which he hath made of himself. Did we worship three gods, as some Deists suppose we do, we should worship three separate beings. But, abhorring Polytheism, we say with the Scripture, Although " there are three that bear record in heaven," yet ouroi oi rpsig ev siii, Hi tres Unum sunt, "These three [Divine subsistences] are one" substance. These three Divine persons are one Jehovah. And we believe and affirm it, for the solid reasons which shall soon be produced.
Never did we say or think, either that three persons are one person,