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equal with God) are very extraordinary, and not to be reconciled with sound reason or common sense, any more than with inspiration or piety.
I proceed now to the Epistle to the Colossians, which will also furnish us with a variety of examples of a similar kind. Having informed us, ver. 14, that "we have redemption through his blood, [that is, if we may believe Dr. Priestley, through the blood of a mere man!] even the forgiveness of sins," he adds, "who is the image of the invisible God, the first born of every creature, for by him [though a mere man, born in the days of Augustus Cesar] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions, principalities or powers: all things were created by him [this mere man] and for him, [the same mere man!] and he [though he had no existence till about sixty years ago*] is before all things, and by him [a mere man!] all things consist. And he is the head of his body the Church: the beginning, the first born from the dead: that in all things he [a mere man!] might have the pre-eminence. For it pleased the Father that in him [a mere man !] should all fulness dwell, and having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things to himself: by him, [a mere man!] I say, whether they be things on earth, or in heaven." Surely this is unparalleled! No nonsense that ever was uttered, can equal it! The apostle proceeds: "And you who were sometime alienated and enemies in your minds by wicked works, yet now hath he [a mere man!] reconciled in the body of his flesh, through death, to present you holy and unblamable, and unreprovable in his sight [the sight of the same mere man!] The mystery, ver. 26, hid from ages, and from generations, is now made manifest to his saints, to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery, among the Gentiles, which is Christ [a mere man!] in you the hope of glory; whom [a mere man though he be!] we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man, in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus [the same mere man.] Whereunto I also labour according to his workmg, [that is, the working of a mere man!] which worketh in me mightily."
Now is not this strange doctrine? A mere man hath reconciled to God those that were alienated and enemies in their minds by wicked works! A mere man is in them, many thousands and myriads as they are, the hope of glory, that is, the foundation and source of their hope! A mere man works mightily in and by his apostle. The Gospel, chap, ii, 2, is the mystery of the eternal God and of a mere man! And in a mere man, verse 3, are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge! He goes on: "And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, [the mere man I speak of,] so walk ye in him, rooted and built up in him, [the same mere man !] and established in the faith. Beware then lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ, [a mere man !] For in him, [mere man as he is!] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; and ye are complete in him, who [though but a man] is the head of all principality and power." Observe, sir, "All the
* St. Paul is supposed tojiave written this epistle, as also that to the Ephesian), about the year of our Lord 63.
fulness of the Godhead bodily" (or substantially) dwells in a mere man! and a mere man is the head of " all principality and power!"
The apostle mentions afterward the "worshipping of angels," and opposes it to holding the head, "from which (adds he) all the body, [the Church universal, with every member thereof,] with joints and bands, having nourishment ministered and knit together, increaseth with all the increase of God." So that it seems, this mere man ministers spiritual nourishment to every true member of his mystical body, that is, to every true believer in every part of the world, and causeth them all to increase with all the increase of God! I hope, if Dr. Priestley cannot show how this is done, he can at least prove that it is possible; and that this same mere man is capable also of being our life, as the apostle observes in the next chapter, verse 4, and our all, verse 11, and even in all that believe!
Many are the passages in the remaining part of this epistle, in which the apostle affirms of Christ, or ascribes to him what common sense will pronounce cannot belong to a mere man. For example: "Forgiving one another, if any man have a complaint against any; even as Christ [a mere man] forgave you, so also do ye—and whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, [that is, in the name of a mere man!] giving thanks to God, even the Father, by him. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord [a mere man.] Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, and whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, [a mere man !] and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance, for ye serve [a mere man !] the Lord Christ! Chapter iv, Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal, knowing that ye also have a Master, [viz. a mere man!] in heaven. (12.) Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, [that is, of a mere man!] saluteth you. (17.) Say to Archippus, take heed of the ministry which thou hast received of the Lord [a mere man!] to fulfil it. Grace be with you! Amen'"
Methinks, reverend sir, it must be impossible for any one to pay the slightest attention to the above texts, quoted from the Epistle to the Colossians, and here interpreted according to Dr. Priestley's hypothesis, without being convinced that his doctrine, and that of St. Paul, concerning the person and offices of Christ, are absolutely irreconcilable on the principles of common sense. Would any man, who was not absolutely an idiot or lunatic, if he believed Jesus Christ to be no more than a man, have held him up to view as the person, "by whom all things were created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible;" nay, as the person for whom, as well as by whom, they were created, and who, of consequence, existed "before all things, and by whom all things consist" and are upheld? Would he have represented him as a person "in whom all fulness dwells," yea, "all the fulness of the Godhead bodily," and as "the head of his body, the Church," and not a head of guidance or government only, but of vital influence also? Would he have taught it as a great and important mystery, hid from ages and generations of old, but now made manifest to the saints, that this mere man was in real Christians "their hope of glory," working mightily in and by his apostles and servants?
Farther, would he, in speaking of the mystery of the Gospel, (which, by the by, on the doctor's principles, can hardly be termed a mystery at all,) have denominated it the "mystery of God the Father and of Christ," thus joining a mere man with the eternal God, and making him, together with the self-existent Jehovah, the author of the Gospel? Would he have represented him as a person "in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," and the "head of all principality and power?" Would he have spoken of "receiving him, walking in him," and being "rooted and built up, and complete in him," or as s» avlu WE*Xr)pco|/,svoi rather signifies, filled with or by him? Would he, in guarding them against the vain deceits of philosophy, (those deceits which are after the rudiments of the world, and the tradition of men, and not after Christ,) have cautioned them against the worship of angels, and opposed it to "holding the head," Christ; an expression which, in this connection, manifestly implies the worshipping him, which we have had already sufficient, and shall yet have much more abundant proof, that the apostles and first Christians did? Would he have termed this mere man, as the doctor thinks him, the life of true believers, and their all in all, exhorting them to "forgive one another, as he had forgiven them?" Would he have opposed him to men, and urged servants, whatsoever they did, to do it heartily as to him, [a mere man !] and not to men, "knowing that of him they should receive the reward of the inheritance, for that they served the Lord Christ?" These inquiries, reverend sir, are of deep importance, and such as, on the Socinian principles, I am well convinced Dr. Priestley will never be able to answer to the satisfaction of those who pay any deference to the authority of St. Paul.
I am, reverend sir, yours, &c.
Rev. Sir,—Dr. Priestley would fain persuade us that St. Paul's idea of the person of Christ was the same with that which he entertains. But, were there no other, there is at least one insurmountable objection to this, and that is, the different conduct of the apostle from that of the doctor, with regard to Divine worship. The doctor confines this entirely to the Father. He never, in any instance, addresses it to the Son. He judges it would be idolatry so to do. But we have already seen, in many undeniable instances, that St. Paul worshipped Jesus Christ. To say nothing of the many other passages which have occurred in the epistles already reviewed, the benedictions wherewith he has begun and ended these epistles, are incontrovertible proofs of it. For in these he asks grace, or grace and peace, of Jesus Christ, as well as of the supreme and eternal Father. We have already met with so many instances of this kind, that I am ashamed to trouble you with any more. I shall therefore pass over those occurring in the two next epistles, viz. the Epistles to the Thessalonians; and I shall also omit mentioning divers texts in those epistles concerning Christ, which, if understood as spoken of a mere man, appear equally absurd with those quoted in the four preceding letters.
But two passages I must refer to, as affording a plain and evident demonstration, that the apostle viewed the Lord Jesus Christ in a different light from that in which Dr. Priestley beholds him. The one passage is in the first epistle, chap, iii, 11; and, according to the doctor's hypothesis, must be interpreted as follows:—" Now God himself, even our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, [a mere man!] direct our way unto you. And the Lord [the same mere man!] make you to increase in love one toward another and toward all men; to the end he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints:" a manifest and undeniable instance this, of a formal and solemn prayer, addressed to the Lord Jesus, that is, as Dr. Priestley will have it, to a mere man! and by one who, he says, believed him to be a mere man! Surely it behooves him to consider how, on his principles, he can acquit the apostle of the gross crime of idolatry! The other passage, second epistle, chap, ii, 16, must, on the same hypothesis, be understood in the same manner. "Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, [a mere man!] and God, even our Father, who hath loved us, and given us everlasting consolation, and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and establish you in every good word and work." Here again we have a plain instance of the apostle's praying to Christ, and that at the very time and in the very manner in which he prays to the Father.
The doctor may pass these things over slightly. But you will agree with me, dear sir, that reason requires him either to allow that the apostle held a different sentiment concerning the Lord Jesus, from that which he entertains, or to give us proof that he can imitate the apostle, and worship Christ as he did. While, then, he informs his people, in the language of St. Paul in these epistles, that Jesus Christ "delivers them from the wrath to come," first epistle, chap. i, 10, and that they " obtain salvation through him," chap. v, 9: that he is "that Lord that shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God; who, second epistle, i, 7, shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,"— the person from whose presence and from the "glory of whose power" such shall be "punished with everlasting destruction," when he [a mere man] shall come to be "glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe:" and while he prays to the Father for his flock, "that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in them, according to the grace of our God, and Jesus our Lord:" let him approach also the Lord Jesus Christ in prayer, after the example of St. Paul. Though this might a little astonish some of his hearers, as being a procedure that they had not been accustomed to, yet it would have more weight than any thing he has yet said or done to convince the public that he does not differ so widely from St. Paul, as the generality of mankind in this kingdom suppose him to do. But if he cannot conscientiously do this, as believing it would be gross idolatry to worship a mere man in this manner, or speak of him in this exalted strain, then let him acknowledge that St. Paul and he differ widely in their views of the Lord Jesus.
Methinks, Rev. sir, on the Socinian principles, the remarkable passage contained in the second chapter of the latter epistle to this people, which has generally been applied by Protestants to the^pope of Rome, might with much greater propriety be applied to Jesus Christ. He, you know, has been worshipped as God for 1700 years at least, by the generality of Christians; and he, as God, hath sat and still sits in the temple, or Church of God, "showing himself that he is God;" proclaiming himself the root as well as oflspring of David; the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last; and declaring that all men ought to "honour him, the Son, even as they honour the Father; and that he that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father." Now if he be no such being, but only a mere man, and therefore no proper object of Divine worship, it seems it would be no difficult matter, for so great a master of the art of reasoning as Dr. Priestley, to prove that he is the great impostor and usurper, primarily meant by St. Paul in this passage, the grand idol (as indeed he must think him) of professing Christians; an impostor and usurper, by so much greater than the pope, or any other that hath arisen in the Church of God, claiming Divine honours, and exercising dominion over men's consciences; by how much he hath been obeyed more unreservedly and implicitly, and hath been worshipped more devoutly and universally than they.
You know, sir, it is generally supposed that all the most remarkable apostasies from faith in and piety toward God, which have occurred or shall occur in his Church, have been distinctly foretold in the Holy Scriptures. Now, if Jesus Christ be a mere man, the worship of him so generally practised, all over Christendom, for so long a run of ages, must be the greatest corruption of true religion, and the most remarkable defection from the service of the one living and true God, that ever took place in the visible Church. And it would be strange, indeed, and what many would consider as an insuperable objection to the doctor's whole scheme, if this greatest of all apostasies should no where be foretold in the oracles of God, when apostasies, far less criminal and general, are constantly found to have been predicted there. But if it must be supposed to be prophesied of somewhere, it may be worth the doctor's while to consider, whether this passage is not as likely to foretel it as any other.
It describes a great and general falling away from the worship and service of the true God, a grand and universally spreading idolatry, supported by miracles, real or pretended. This, according to his hypothesis, must be very applicable to that apostasy from the worship of one God only, which the doctor and his friends deplore; which they are using all possible means to remedy, and which he somewhere calls the idolizing of Jesus Christ. And however it might shock the prejudices of some half-thinking zealots to find, that, according to this interpretation, epithets are given to Jesus Christ, such as they have not been accustomed to hear him characterized by, and such as they may deem blasphemous; yet this can no way stagger the doctor. For how can he think any appellation too severe which is given to one, who, though a mere man, weak, fallible, and peccable like others, for so many centuries has been worshipped as God, and has been the grand idol of so great a part of the known world, and has so manifestly, by word and deed, countenanced and encouraged, nay, and commanded that idolatry!