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Chap. xii: The apostle exhorts us to "look to this [mere man] Jesus," and terms him [though a mere man] "the author and finisher of our faith;" and tells us, "he is set down on the right hand of the throne of God:" and, verse 25, bids us see that we refuse him not, for, adds he, "if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, [the mere man, Moses,] much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him, who [though he] speaketh from heaven, [is however but another mere man!] whose voice then [viz. two thousand years before he had any being!] shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but heaven also!" This mere man, chap, xiii, 8, "Jesus Christ, is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever;" for, though a mere man, he is immutable! and, verse 12, "that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, he suffered without the gate: let us go forth, therefore, unto him, without the camp, bearing his reproach, and by him [mere man as he is!] let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually: that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name. Now the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, [who, though but a mere man, is however] the great Shepherd of the sheep, [omniscient to know, and omnipresent to oversee and protect them all!] through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will; working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, [the same mere man,] to whom [mere man as he is] be glory for ever and ever! Amen!" I hope, reverend sir, if Dr. Priestley deem this to be good sense, and sound doctrine, he will have no objection to join with the apostle in this doxology, and add his hearty amen to St. Paul's, ascribing glory to this mere man for ever and ever! I am, reverend sir, yours, &c.
Rkv. Sir,—However difficult a task Dr. Priestley may find it to reconcile the epistles of St. Paul with common sense, on the supposition of that apostle's holding the doctrine of Christ's mere humanity, I am persuaded he will find it equally difficult to reconcile therewith the epistles of the other apostles, supposing them also to have been of the same opinion. In proof of this, I shall lay before you a few passages, extracted from their writings also, referring you to the original epistles for farther satisfaction. St. James, it is true, speaks but little of Christ; but nevertheless, what he does speak shows, either that he was not a Unitarian in the doctor's sense of the word, or that he had little regard to common sense in writing his epistle, lie not only styles himself a servant of God, but also of the Lord Jesus Christ, that is, as the doctor will have it, of a mere man! And the next time he mentions his name, which is in the beginning of the second chapter, he assures us he is the "Lord of glory;" that is, on the doctor's hypothesis, a mere man is the Lord of glory! "Be patient, brethren, (says he, chap, v, 7,) unto the coming of the Lord; [that is, the coming of a mere man!] stablish your hearts: the coming of the Lord [the same mere man] draweth nigh. And grudge not one against another, lest ye be condemned: bohold, tho Judge [a mere man] standeth at the door"
St. Peter furnishes us with many more examples than St. James, either of the erroneousness of the Socinian doctrine, or of his own absurdity. "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, [that is, says Dr. Priestley, an apostle of a mere man!] to the strangers,—elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus," that is, the blood of a mere man! Here St. Peter speaks like a Trinitarian. He both names the three that bear record in heaven, and attributes unto each his proper office and work in the economy of our redemption. He ascribes our election to God the Father, who, in his Divine foreknowledge, marks from the beginning who will accept of salvation in the only way in which it can be accepted, the way of repentance and faith, and elects or chooses such for his children. He imputes our redemption to the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whose body, offered up upon the cross as a sacrifice for sin, makes atonement, and the sprinkling of whose blood gives at once peace with God, and peace of conscience to the truly penitent and believing soul. And he attributes our sanctification to the Holy Spirit, whose heavenly influence upon the mind both breaks the power, and purges away the defilement of sin, at the same time that he inspires us with love, joy, and peace, with holiness and happiness, and gives us to know that his genuine fruit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.
The second of these persons, against whom Dr. Priestley seems to have a peculiar enmity, and who, he thinks, is far too much exalted, when " advanced to the high rank of the first and principal emanation of the Deity, the wus or Xoyoj of the Platonists, and the Sriiuovpyos, under God, in making the world,"—as being, he believes, a mere man: this person, I say, even Jesus, the Son of God, is represented by St. Peter, a few verses after, as the great object of the faith and love of the saints, and the source of unspeakable joy to them. "Whom having not seen, ye love, (ver. 8,) in whom, though now you see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls." And is HE a mere man whom they thus love, though they have not seen him, and in whom they "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory V Is HE a mere man whose Spirit, as the apostle observes in the following verses, "was in the ancient prophets," and spoke by them, and who hath "redeemed us, not with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, but with his own precious blood, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot, who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for us V Surely, if he be, St. Peter must have mistaken his character, and have viewed him in a very different light.
This appears still more manifest from the next chapter: "As newborn babes," says he, "desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby; if so be that ye have tasted that the Lord [a mere man, shall I say?] is gracious." That he means Christ, is plain from the following words:—"To whom coming as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious; ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God, by Jesus Christ," that is, says Dr. Priestley, by a mere man!" Wherefore, also, it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious, and he that believeth on him [that believeth on a mere man!] shall not be confounded. Unto you, therefore, that believe, he [this mere man] is precious; but unto them that be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same [mere man] is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, to them who, disobeying the word, stumble." I ask again, Can it be supposed that St. Peter considered the person of whom he spake in these words, as being a mere man? The person whom he thus represents as the one foundation of the Church, and of every member thereof? To whom he applies the words of Isaiah, in the eighth chapter of his prophecy, manifestly meant of Jehovah? The Lord, whom true believers "taste to be gracious," to whom they come, as to a living stone, upon whom they are built up, and trusting in whom they shall never be confounded? I ask, farther: Is HE a mere man who, as we learn ver. 24, &c, " his own self bore our sins in his own body, on the tree, heals us by his stripes," and undertakes to be the "Shepherd and Bishop of all our souls," many thousands and myriads as we are, dispersed over the whole world? Methinks he who will affirm this, may as well affirm St. Peter to be an idiot, or beside himself. '
But there is no end of the absurdity of supposing the New Testament writers to hold the doctrine of Christ's mere humanity. We have only to read a few verses farther, and we are informed of this mere man preaching in the days of Noah, by his Spirit, to those who, indeed, are now in prison, but were formerly disobedient, when once the long suffering of God waited for the repentance of the old world. And, a verse or two after, are assured that he "is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God, angels, and authorities, and powers, being made subject unto him," that is, subject to a mere man! and, chap. v, 11, find the apostle ascribing to him " praise and dominion for ever and ever," confirming his doxology by a solemn and hearty Amen!
The second Epistle of St. Peter is exactly of a piece with the first. It also contains divers passages utterly irreconcilable with common sense, on the supposition that the author of it believed the Lord Jesus Christ to be a mere man. The following, which I shall barely quote and interpret, according to the Socinian hypothesis, leaving it to the reader to make his observations upon them, seem very remarkable:— "Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ," that is, of a mere man; "to them that have obtained like precious faith with us, through the righteousness of God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ;" that is, of the infinite Jehovah, and a mere man! or rather, according to the Greek, through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who, however, is a mere man!" Grace and peace be multiplied unto you, through the knowledge of God, [self existent, independent, supreme, and eternal,] and of Jesus our Lord," a weak, peccable, and mortal
For, ver. 16, "We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of [this mere man] our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye witnesses of his majesty," ((/.syaXeiolrflog,) the majesty of a mere man! For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice from the excellent glory, "This [mere man!] is my beloved Son, in whom [though he be weak and peccable] I am well pleased. And this voice, which came from heaven, we heard when we were with him in the holy mount."
Let the reader observe the following prediction. How applicable to the doctrine we oppose! Chap, ii: "But there were false prophets among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways, by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of." Would not one suppose that the apostle was describing the present times here? For, ver. 20: "If after they have escaped the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, [that is, the knowledge of a mere man!] they are again entangled therein and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning."
Chapter iii: "This second epistle, beloved, I write unto you, that ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandments of us, the apostles of the Lord and Saviour, [that is, the apostles of a mere man!] knowing that there shall come, in the last days, scoffers walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming?" that is, the coming of a mere man. "But the Lord [viz. the same mere man!] is not slack concerning his promise, [to fulfil it,] but is long suffering to us ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord [that is, the day of a mere man!] will come, as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise. Nevertheless we, according to promise, [the promise of the same mere man!] look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent, that ye may be found of him [that is, found of a mere man!] in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the long suffering of our Lord [viz. the long suffering of a mere man!] is salvation. And grow m grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, [that is, in the knowledge of a mere man!] To him, [that is, to a more man !] be glory, both now and for ever!"
Methinks, reverend sir, were there no other arguments to prove that the Lord Jesus Christ is more than a mere man, these doxologies are sufficient to evince it. For if it be not idolatry to ascribe glory to a mere man or mere creature, I confess I know not what is. Leaving you to adore with me the wisdom and goodness of God, in furnishing us with so many and such incontestable proofs of the falsity of a doctrine, which, of all others, is the most inimical to our peace and our best interests, in time and in eternity, I remain, reverend sir, yours, die.
Rbv. Sir,—We come now to the Epistles of St. John. I think Dr. Priestley has not pronounced him to be an "inconclusive reasoner." But if, as he supposes, that apostle considered our Lord as a mere man, he is certainly as much entitled to that character as St. Paul himselt He begins his first epistle, by terming the Lord Jesus the "word of life," the "life," and the "eternal life," appellations whicn certainly but ill agree with the character of a mere man. He informs us that ho was "with the Father from the beginning," though it was only in these latter ages that he was "manifested" in the flesh to us, and assures us, notwithstanding he was now returned to the Father from whom he came, and was no longer visible among his disciples as formerly, yet that they had still fellowship with him as well as with the infinite and eternal Father. "That which was from the beginning," says he, "which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life: for the life was manifested, and we have seen it and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested to us: that which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." Now, is it of a mere man that all this is spoken? Is a mere man the word of life, the life, the eternal life? Was a mere man with the Father before his manifestation in the flesh? Yea, from the beginning? Can a mere man, while with God, in the third heaven, be nevertheless present with men on earth, so that his true followers may have union and communion with him 1 And can the blood of a mere man, as he affirms, verse 7, "cleanse from all sin?" Or can a mere man be a" propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world ?" Chap. ii, 2. Surely, to suppose these things is most ridiculous.
In the following verses he repeatedly calls the commandments of God his [Christ's] commandments, and the word of God his word; and, verse 12, assures the children of God, that their sins are forgiven for "his name's sake;" that is, as Dr. Priestley will have it, for the name's sake of a mere man! And, verse 22, associating him with the eternal Father, he testifies that "he is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son: [that is, according to the doctor's hypothesis, that denieth the eternal God and a mere man !] Whosoever," proceeds he, "denieth the Son, [denieth a mere man!] the same hath not the Father. If that which ye have heard from the beginning remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son and the Father, [that is, in a mere man, and in the eternal God!] These things have I written unto you, concerning them that seduce you. And now, little children, abide in him, [the same mere man!] that when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not bo ashamed before him [a mere man!] at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him;" viz. of a mere man! »
It appears from the last words, that, according to St. John, on the Sociniau principles, a mere man is the author of our regeneration! We are born of the spirit of a mere man! An extraordinary doctrine indeed! And yet not more extraordinary than the doctrine taught us by the same apostle, in the following chapter, concerning Christ's being "manifested to take away our sins," and to "destroy the works of the devil;" a doctrine which never can be reconciled with the notion of Christ's mere humanity, on the principles of common sense. For as the expression," He was manifested," plainly implies that he existed before such manifest*