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Now, sir, when the doctor has once proved this point, he will have done his business effectually indeed. He will have brought Jesus Christ as low as he could wish him. He then, instead of being the Lord of glory, and Son of God, is discovered to be the man of sin, and son of
. But I must check myself: the whole truth must not be spoken at
once, for indeed it would not be borne. And at present there is among us an almost universally prevailing opinion that Jesus Christ, so far from being the person described by St. Paul in this passage, "whose coming is after the working of Satan; with all power and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish," is in reality that Lord who "shall consume that wicked one with the spirit of his mouth, and destroy him with the brightness of his coming." If this opinion should have any foundation in truth, I fear Dr. Priestley will be found to have entertained and taught a great error, and may be in danger of meeting with a severe rebuke, if nothing more dreadful, in that day, from him he has thus degraded.
Praying that we, reverend sir, and all professing Christians, may be so endowed with that Spirit of truth, whose office it is to reveal the Lord Jesus, that we may both form proper conceptions of his wonderful person, and pay him the honour due unto his name, I break off here, and subscribe myself your obedient servant in him, even in Christ Jesus, &c.
Rev. Sir,—Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, you know, were particular and intimate friends of St. Paul. In the epistles inscribed to them, therefore, at least we may expect to find his sentiments concerning Jesus Christ, the grand subject of all his letters, naked and without disguise. Let us then narrowly examine these epistles, and see whether they comport with Dr. Priestley's doctrine. In order hitherto, let us adopt the method pursued above, and see whether those passages which speak of Christ appear to contain good sense and sound divinity, when understood according to the doctor's hypothesis. Chap, i, 1: "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Saviour, [the infinite, eternal, and supreme Jehovah,] and the Lord Jesus Christ, [a mere man, weak, fallible, and peccable, who, mere man though he be, is nevertheless] our hope: unto Timothy, my son in the faith; grace, mercy, and peace [from both these persons] from God our Father, [the Supreme Being,] and Jesus Christ our Lord," a mere man!
Verse 12: "I thank [this mere man!] Jesus Christ our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, who was before a blasphemer, and persecutor, and injurious. But I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of [this mere man!] our Lord was exceeding abundant, with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus, [the same mere man!] This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ [a mere man, who was not till he was born in Bethlehem!] came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. Howbeit, for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first [this same mere man!] Jesus Christ might show forth all long suffering, for a pattern to them who should hereafter believe on him [that is, believe on a mere man!] to everlasting life," for everlasting life is obtained by believing on him, though a mere man t
What a multitude of proofs, undeniable proofs, have we in these few verses, either that St. Paul was devoid of common sense, or that he viewed Jesus Christ in a very different light from that in which Dr. Priestley considers him. To term the Lord Jesus our hope, and represent himself as made an apostle by his commandment, as well as by the commandment of God the Father; to look up to him as well as to the Father for grace, mercy, and peace, to be conferred upon Timothy; to thank him for putting him into the ministry, and enabling him to be faithful; to speak of him as exercising toward him all long suffering, and conferring upon him "exceeding abundant grace;" to glory in it as a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that he came into the world (an expression which plainly implies his having existed before he so came) to save sinners; and to represent everlasting life as being obtained by believing in him;—surely any, and much more all of these particulars, demonstrate, that if St. Paul possessed, not to say the inspiration of an apostle, but the reason of a man, he must have considered Jesus Christ as being more than a man.
And that he did, is yet farther certain from what he says of him toward the conclusion of the third chapter, where he terms him "God manifest in the flesh," which is giving him a character as far above that of a mere man, as the Creator is above one of his creatures. The apostle goes on: "Justified in the Spirit," "whose extraordinary communication (says an eminent divine) in the midst of all the meanness of human nature in its suffering state, vindicated his high claim, and marked him out, in the most illustrious manner, for the Divine person he professed himself to be:" "seen of angels," who attentively beheld, adored, and worshipped him, Heb. i, 6; "preached among the Gentiles," as the great foundation of their faith and hope, and object of their love; "believed on in the world," as their Redeemer and Saviour; "received up into glory, far above all principalities and powers, and every name that is named." "If thou put the brethren (chap, iv, 6) in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of [the mere man!] Jesus Christ; nourished up in the words of faith, and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. And (chap. v, 21) I charge thee, before God [the omnipresent and omniscient Jehovah] and the Lord Jesus Christ, [a mere man!] that thou observe these things!" Again, chap. vi, 13: "I give thee charge in the sight of God, [that infinite, omnipresent, and omnipotent Being,] who quickeneth all things, and before Jesus Christ, [a mere man, local in his presence, and limited in his power,] that thou keep the commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of [this mere man] our Lord Jesus Christ.
The second Epistle to Timothy is similar to the first. The same strain of absurdity runs through it also, on the supposition that its author held the doctrine of Christ's mere humanity. A few passages I shall quote and read according to that hypothesis.
Chap, i, 1 : "Paul, an apostle of [the mere man] Jesus Christ, by the will of God, according to the promise of life, which is in [this mere man] Christ Jesus: to Timothy, my beloved son, grace, mercy, and peace, from God the [infinite and eternal] Father, and from the Lord
Jesus Christ, [a mere man of yesterday, weak and dependent!] Ver. 8: Be not thou ashamed of the testimony of [this mere man] our Lord, nor of me his prisoner; but be thou a partaker of the afflictions of the Gospel, according to the power of God; who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, [though this Christ Jesus be a mere man, who had no existence till the world was at least four thousand years old!] but is now made manifest by the appearing of this [mere man] our Saviour Jesus Christ, who [mere man as he is!] hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel." Observe, reverend sir, a mere man hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light!" For which cause," adds he, "I also sufler these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that [though a mere man!] he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." I think, sir, they that believe him to be a mere man, must have many doubts respecting his ability to keep what they may commit unto him.
The apostle proceeds, chap. ii, 1: "Thou, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in [this mere man!] Christ Jesus! Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, [the same mere man.] No man that warreth, entangleth himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him that hath chosen him to be a soldier." See that thou then (he might have added, as indeed is implied) make it thy care to please the mere man Jesus Christ, who hath chosen thee! For thy encouragement let me remind thee that (verse 10) "I endure all things for the elect's sake, that they may obtain the salvation which is in [this mere man] Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. It is a faithful saying, If we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: if we sufler with him, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he will also deny us: if we believe not, he abideth faithful, he [though a mere man!] cannot deny himself. Of these things put them in remembrance;" that is, put them in remembrance that a mere man cannot deny himself! Some will think that it is an assertion that requires proof, rather than repetition.
As in the words last quoted, the apostle ascribes immutability to this mere man, so, verse 19, he ascribes omniscience to him. "The foundation of God," says he, " standi -t 1» sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his [according to what Jesus himself had testified, John x, I know my sheep, and am known of mine,] and let him that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." The same attribute is also, in eflect, ascribed to him, chap. iv, 1. But on the Socinian hypothesis it must be interpreted as follows: "I charge thee before God, [that infinite and eternal Being, who filleth heaven and earth, and therefore has his eye upon us both,] and the Lord Jesus Christ, [that mere man, who, being now in heaven, and immensely removed from our world, is an utter stranger to us, and perfectly unacquainted with our behaviour, but] who will, however, judge the quick and the dead, at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word. (5.) Watch in all things; for, verse6, I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand: I have fought the good fight; and there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge [I mean the mere man!] will give me at that day, and not to me only, but to all them also that love his appearing, [viz. the appearing of the same mere man.] (18.) At my first answer no man stood with me, but the Lord [how strange soever it may appear, since he is a mere man!] stood with me and strengthened me; and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord, [the same mere man!] shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom [mere man though he be] be glory for ever and ever! [This mere man!] the Lord Jesus Christ, be with thy spirit!"
The Epistle to Titus being very similar to the two Epistles to Timothy, I shall pass it over, referring only to one passage, which, according to Dr. Priestley's plan of doctrine, must be understood thus: "Looking for the blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of [a mere man! who, however, is] our great God and Saviour, <rx (isyaXx Ssx xat durripog »jfMjv, Jesus Christ, who [mere man as he is !] gave himself for us, that he, [a mere man, by his laying down a temporal life!] might redeem us, [many myriads as we are,] from all iniquity, and purify to HIMSELF [that is, says Dr. Priestley, to a mere man!] a peculiar people, zealous of good works! These things [are of deep importance, therefore,] speak and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee" for terming a mere man the great God our Saviour!
The Epistle to Philemon affords several instances of the same kind with those quoted above. "Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, [that is, a prisoner for his attachment to a mere man!] grace to you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ; [that is, from the eternal God and a mere man!] I thank my God, hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward [that mere man] the Lord Jesus: that the communication of thy faith may become effectual," or that thy faith may be effectually communicated to others, "by the acknowledging [that is, by their acknowledging] of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus, [that same mere man !] Wherefore, though I might be bold in [this mere man] Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient, yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such a man as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of [a mere man, the man] Jesus Christ. I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, a brother beloved, especially to me, and how much more to thee, both in the flesh and in the Lord. Yea, brother, let me have joy in thee, in [this mere man, which I term] the Lord: refresh my bowels in him. Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in [this same mere man] Christ Jesus, saluteth thee. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, [that is, the grace of a mere man!] be with your spirit! Amen."
May these blessed words, so often repeated, be at length so considered by Dr. Priestley and other Socinians, that they too may see their need of Divine grace, and begin to apply to Christ for it, though at present they may judge it would be idolatry so to do! Surely, reverend sir, if the sundry passages, produced in this letter, were attended to, they must convince all candid and unprejudiced persons that, whether St. Paul was right or wrong in his views of the Messiah, he certainly had a much higher idea of him, than that of a mere man.
To appeal to the Lord Jesus as omnipresent, and give Timothy repeated charges as in his sight, as well as in the sight of God the Father; to represent him as "abolishing death, and bringing life and immortality to light by the Gospel," and as being able to "keep what we commit unto him safe unto that day;" to exhort Timothy to be strong "in his grace, to endure hardness as a good soldier of his," and make it his chief care to please him in all things, as the captain of his salvation who had called him; to represent salvation in all its branches, and eternal glory, as being in him, and to be attained only by those who " die with him," that they "may live with him," and "suffer with him," that they may "reign with him;" to view him as unchangeable and omniscient, as one that abideth faithful and "cannot deny himself," as the Lord who "knoweth them that are his," and as the "righteous Judge" who, at the day of his final and glorious coming, will give the crown of righteousness to all that love his appearing; to speak of this Jesus as "standing by him, strengthening and delivering him" when all men forsook him, and to express an entire confidence in him for deliverance from every evil work, and preservation to his heavenly kingdom; and lastly, to pray that he would "be with Timothy" also, and to ascribe "glory to him forever and ever;"—surely these particulars demonstrate that St. Paul was as far from believing the doctrine of Christ's mere humanity, as he was from being guilty of gross idolatry himself, or from persuading others to the commission of that dreadful crime. I am, reverend sir, yours, dsc.
Rev. Sir,—Though it be not certain that St. Paul wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews, yet, you know, it was the most prevailing opinion of the ancients, as it is still of the moderns, that he was the author of that invaluable work. I shall therefore take this for granted. But on the supposition that he was a Unitarian, in Dr. Priestley's sense of the word, he seems to have paid still less regard to common sense, to say nothing of piety or sound reasoning, in this, than in any of his other epistles. We need not read far to find instances of the truth of this observation. We meet with them in the very beginning of the epistle. According to the Socinian doctrine, he must be interpreted to mean as follows:—
"God, who, at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, [that is, by mere men,] hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, [another mere man,] whom [however] he hath appointed heir of all things, [viz. of all his works, of all creatures visible and invisible! | by whom also he made the worlds, [though this his Son had no existence till the worlds had been made at least four thousand years!] who [mere man as he was, yet] being the effulgence of his [the Father's] glory, and the express image [or exact delineation] of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, [even the things that had been created and upheld some thousands of years before he, a mere man, existed!] when he had, by himself, [viz. by laying down his mere temporal life,] purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. Being [though a mere man, ignorant in many things, weak and peccable] so much better than the