« AnteriorContinuar »
admirers be still so inattentive, as not to see, that your capital objections against the trinity are sufficiently answered by applying to them the short reply you make on another occasion: "This is an argument, which derives all its force from our ignorance?" (See Disquisitions, p. 82.)
But if the philosophers, who attack the catholic faith, cannot overthrow the doctrine of the trinity by the arguments they draw from their avowed ignorance of the Divine nature, they seem determined to make us give up the point by arguments drawn from fear and from shame. Availing himself of our dread of Popery, and of our contempt for the Popish error of transubstantiation, the learned doctor loses no opportunity to compare that pretended mystery, that despicable absurdity, with the awful mystery of the trinity; exhorting us to reject them both, as equally contrary to reason and common sense. Thus, in his Appeal to the Professors of Christianity, speaking of the divinity of Christ, he says, "The prevalence of so impious a doctrine can be ascribed to nothing but that mystery of iniquity which began to work in the times of the apostles themselves. This, among other shocking corruptions of Christianity, grew up with the system of Popery. After exalting a man into a God, a creature into a Creator, men made a piece of bread into one also, and then bowed down to, and worshipped the work of their own hands." And in the Preface to his Disquisitions, he writes, "Most Protestants will avow they have made up their minds with respect to the Popish doctrine of transubstantiation, so as to be justified in refusing even to lose their time in reading what may be addressed to them on it; and I avow it with respect to the doctrine of the trinity."
As these comparisons are the second store house, whence the learned doctor draws his arguments against our supposed idolatry, it is proper to show the unreasonableness of his method. For this, three remarks will, I hope, be sufficient.
1. The question between Dr. Priestley and us is, Whether there are three Divine subsistences in the one Divine essence? Now it is plain, that to deny this proposition, as reasonably as we deny that bread is flesh, and that wine is human blood, we must be as well acquainted with the nature of the Divine essence, and of Divine personality, as we are with the taste of bread and wine. But how widely different is the case, the doctor himself being judge! Do not his Disquisitions assert, that "the Divine essence hath properties most essentially different from every thing else,—that of God's substance we have no idea at all—and that he must for ever remain the incomprehensible?" Therefore, if God hath revealed, that he exists with the three personal distinctions of Father, Word, and Holy Ghost, the learned doctor, after his concessions, can never deny it, without exposing at once his piety, his philosophy, his logic, and his common sense; unless he should make it appear, that he is the first man who can pertinently speak of what he has no idea at all, and who perfectly comprehends what must for ever remain incomprehensible. But,
2. The question between the popes and us, with respect to transub. stantiation, is quite within our reach; since it is only whether bread be flesh and bones; whether wine be human blood; whether the same identical body can be wholly in heaven, and in a million of places on earth,
S at the same time; and whether a thin round wafer, an inch in diameter, is the real person of a man five or six feet high. Here we only decide about things known to us from the cradle, and concerning which our experience, and our five senses, help us to form a right judgment, agreeable to the tenor of the Scriptures. Therefore,
3. Considering that the two cases are diametrically contrary, and differ as much as the depths of the Divine nature differ from a piece of bread; as much as the most incomprehensible thing in heaven differs from the things we know best upon earth,—we are bold to say, that, when the learned doctor involves the Protestant worshippers of the trinity, and the Popish worshippers of a bit of bread, in the same charge of absurd idolatry, he betrays as great a degree of unphilosophical prejudice, and illogical reasoning, as ever a learned and wise man was driven to in the height of a disputation for a favourite error.
"Do what you can," replies the learned doctor, "you must either sacrifice the unity to the trinity, or the trinity to the unity; for they are incompatible." But who says it? Certainly not our Lord who commands all nations to be baptized into the one name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; and if Dr. Priestley say it, then he says it without knowing it; for, speaking like a judicious philosopher, he has just told us, that "probably the Divine nature, beside being simply unknown to us, more essentially differs from the human in many circumstances of which we have no knowledge at all." To this sufficient answer we beg leave to add an illustration which may throw some light upon the doctor's unphilosophical positiveness.
Modern physicians justly maintain the circulation of the blood, which being carried from the heart through the arteries, flows back to it by the veins. But a learned doctor, very fond of unity, availing himself of the connection which the arteries have with the veins in all the extremities of the body, insists that one set of vessels is more agreeable to the simplicity of the human frame. What! says he, arteries! veins! and lymphatic vessels too! I pronounce that one set of uniform, circular vessels is quite sufficient. You must, therefore, sacrifice the arteries to the veins, or the veins to the arteries; for they are quite incompatible. This dogmatical positiveness of the Unitarian anatomist would surprise us the more, if we had just heard him say that there are many things in anatomy of which he has no knowledge at all, and assert that the minute ramifications, and delicate connections of the vessels which compose the human frame are, and must for ever remain incomprehensible to those who have such feeble and imperfect organs.
From this simile, which, we hope, is not improper, we infer, that if positiveness on this anatomical question would not become the learning and modesty of a doctor in physic, a like degree of peremptoriness and assurance, in a matter infinitely more out of our reach, is as unsuitable to the humble candour of a doctor in divinity, and to the cautious wisdom of a philosopher.
Having thus taken a general view of the principal sources whence the philosophers of the age draw their popular arguments against the catholic faith: and having, we hope, by this means removed some prejudices out of the way, the cautious reader will more candidly consider the main question which is proposed in the next chapter.
That, according to the Scriptures, God the Father has a proper Son, by whom he made, governs, and will judge the world.
We cannot read the Divine oracles without finding out this capital truth, that God, considered as Father, has an only begotten Son, called the Logos or the Word, whom "he loved before the foundation of the world," John xvii, 24; "who is the express image of his person," Heb. i, 3; "by whom he made the worlds, who was in the beginning with God, and was God," John i, 1.
We need only to consider the first verse of Genesis, to find an intimation of this capital truth. "In the beginning," says Moses, "Ei.mmi, the gods, [in the plural number, or God considered in the distinctions peculiar to his nature,] he created the heaven and the earth." The learned know that Elohim is a word in the plural number, signifying more exactly gods than God; and accordingly it is sometimes so translated in our Bible: "Thou shalt have no other Elohim [no other gods] but me," Exod. xx. "The Elohim doth know, that ye shall be as the Elohim;" which is rendered by the Septuagint, and in our version, "God doth know, that ye shall be as gods" Gen. iii, 5; a proof this, even to an illiterate reader, that the very first line of the Bible gives us some notice of the mysterious distinctions in the Divine nature, one of which is called the Spirit in the very next verse: "and the SPIRIT of the Elohim moved on the face of the waters."
"In the beginning was the Word," the Son the second of the distinctions in the Godhead, says St. John, "and the Word was with God" the Father, "and was God," partaking of the Divine nature in union with the Father, John i, 1.
Is man to be created? these Divine subsistences consult together: the Elohim says, "Let us make man in OUR image, and after our likeness:" and when man is fallen in attempting to be like the Elohim, God says, "Behold, he is become like one of us—to know good and evil!"
Light is thrown upon this mysterious language, where David, speaking of the Son manifested in the flesh, introduces Jehovah as saying to the Messiah, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." Struck with the awfulness of this decree, or Divine declaration, the psalmist cries out, "Serve Jehovah with fear, kiss the Son," give him the kiss of adoration by trusting in him as Jehovah Saviour, "kiss him, lest ye perish out of the way" of saving faith, if his " wrath" (the terrible wrath of the Lamb, described Rev. vi, 16,) "be kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him," Psalm ii, 7, 11, 12. And to prove that this Son of Jehovah, whom we are to " trust in " under pain of destruction, is not a mere man, as Dr. Priestley supposes, but the proper Son of God, we need only compare with the above these two scriptures: "Trust ye in the Lord Jehovah, for in him is everlasting strength. Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and whose heart departeth from Jehovah," Isa. xxvi, 4, and Jer. xvii, 5.
Agur had a sight of the mystery revealed in the second Psalm, when he asks, "Who hath established the earth? What is his name, and what is his Son's name?" Prov. xxx, 4. And that this everlasting Son was, at times, the object of the religious addresses of prophets and kings, appears from these words of the psalmist: "All kings shall fall down before him, and all nations shall serve him," Psalm lxxii, 11. "And worship him, all ye gods," Psalm xcvii, 7, the very passage to which St. Paul alludes, where he writes, "When God bringeth in his first begotten into the world, he saith, Let all the angels of God worship him," Hebrews i, 6.
But what was only on particular occasions taught the prophets, was continually held out to view by the apostles. God the Son, or "the Son of God," or "God manifested in the flesh," is the sum of the New Testament. He plainly spoke of God the Father; and with the blood of the human nature, which he assumed for our salvation, he publicly sealed this great truth, "I am the Son of God: before Abraham was, I am."
He speaks of his eternal Father, as of his proper and natural Father, with whom he shared Divine honours before he appeared upon earth. "And now, O Father," says he, "glorify thou me, [in my complex nature,] with thine own self, [at thy right hand,] with the glory which I had with thee before the world was," John xvii, 5. Speaking of his appearance as Son of man, he calls himself both "the Son of God," and "the Son of man, whom God the Father hath sealed," John x, 36, and vi, 27. St. Paul speaks the same language when he mentions "the Church in God the Father, and in the Lord Jesus Christ," 1 Thess. i, 1. If he wishes " peace to the Ephesians," it is "from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ," Eph. vi, 23. If he prays that Titus and Timothy may be filled with grace, he looks up to " God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour," Titus i, 4. St. Jude salutes those who are "sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ," Jude 1. St. Peter, full of the glorious idea of the trinity, writes to them that "are elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit," unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of "Jesus Christ," 1 Peter i, 2. In his second epistle, he adds, "We were eye witnesses of his Majesty; for he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased," 2 Peter i, 17. And St. John, who declares, "the Son of God is come, the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father;" St. John, I say, salutes the elect lady, by wishing her "mercy from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father," 2 John 3; John i, 1, 14; 1 John v, 20.
It is not possible that an unprejudiced person should read the Scriptures without being struck with this thought, If the Gospel teaches us that there is in the Godhead one who is called God the Father, it teaches us, at least indirectly, that there is another who may with propriety be called the only begotten, or proper Son of God—a Son by nature, and not barely a Son by creation, as Adam, or by adoption, as St. Paul and St. John, or by the resurrection from the dead, as those saints who came out of their graves when our great High Priest died and rose again to overcome death and the grave. And, therefore, unless the Gospel sets before us the most strange temptation to idolatry, (the bare supposition of which is not to be allowed for a moment,) there is in the Godhead a Son, who was in the beginning with God the Father, and who was as truly God with him, as Isaac, the proper son of the man Abraham, was truly man, like his father.
This will appear beyond all doubt, if the reader weigh the following Scriptural remarks upon our Lord's Sonship.
t (1.) Some are the created sons of God, whether they are supernaturally formed out of nothing, as angels, or of pre-existent matter, as our first parents. (2.) Others are the reputed sons of God, as all those who profess to serve him with filial reverence. (3.) Others are titular sons of God, as all those to whom a share of God's supreme authority has been delegated. (4.) Others are (in one sense) the adopted sons of God, as St. John, and all those who, receiving by faith the proper Son, and being led by the Spirit, receive the initial adoption—namely, "the redemption of their soul." And (5.) Others, (as Enoch, Elijah, and the saints who now share in the first resurrection,) being sons of the resurrection, are the adopted sons of God in the full sense of the word; for they have received the full "adoption, namely, the redemption of their body," Luke xx, 36, and Rom. viii, 14, 23.
The first and last of these five degrees of sonship are the most extraordinary: but neither is peculiar to our Lord. For if with respect to his humanity, he was miraculously and supernaturally formed of the substance of his virgin mother, Mary, Adam was thus formed of the substance of our then virgin mother, the earth; and if our Lord burst triumphantly out of the womb of the grave, on the day of his resurrection, so did several of the saints, their graves three days before being opened miraculously, when he entered as Prince of Life into the territories of death; for, when " he gave up the ghost, the earth did quake, the rocks rent, the graves were opened, and many bodies of saints which slept, arose and came out of their graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many." It could not be said, therefore, that, as Son of the resurrection, he is God's "only begotten Son," seeing many rose with or immediately after him, even the multitude of rescued prisoners, who graced his triumph when "he ascended up on high, leading captivity captive." It follows, then, that our Lord hath a peculiar and incommunicable Sonship, of which these are some of the principal characters.
1. Though he is a created Son of God, as well as Adam, with respect to his humanity; yet, with regard to his superior nature, he is such a Son "by whom the Father made the worlds," Heb. i, 2. "The world was made by him: for by him all things were made, and without him was not any thing made that was made," John i, 3, 10. Hence St. Paul, speaking of Adam and of Christ, says, "The first man, Adam, was made a living soul; the last Adam a quickening Spirit. The first man is of the earth, earthy: but the second man is the Lord from heaven," 1 Cor. xv, 4, 5, 47.
2. Hence our Lord spake in the most positive manner of his coming from heaven: "I proceeded forth and came from God," John viii, 42. "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again I leave the world and go to the Father," John xvi, 28. "I came down from heaven to do the will of him that sent me. This is my Father's will that sent me, that every one who seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have eternal life: and I will raise him up at the last day."