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Of the Nature and antecedent Probability of the Arian Hypothesis, with the Causes of Attachment to it.
BEFORE I Consider any of the arguments that you have produced in support of your hypothesis, I must take the liberty to consider what it is, and make some observations respecting its antecedent probability. For, to this must correspond the number and weight of the arguments that are necessary to support it. The Arianism that you maintain is not that of Dr. Clarke, but of a much lower kind; for you give it as your opinion, that by Christ" God made this world only, with its connexions and dependencies."* “Those learned men, therefore," you say, "seem to me to have gone much too far, who (though they deny Christ's equality to his God and our God) yet speak of him as a being who existed before all worlds, and as at the head of all worlds. This seems almost as little warranted by reason and Scripture as the doctrine which makes him the ONE SUPREME; and it makes the doctrine of his having humbled himself to death, even the death of the cross, to save this world, almost equally incredible."+
But whether we attend to the words of Scripture, which lead you to conclude that Christ made this world, or whether we attend to the necessary connexions and dependencies of this world, which you justly suppose to have had the same maker with it, it appears to me that we cannot help concluding that, if Christ made this world, he must also have made the sun, moon and stars, and, consequently, all worlds. For the apostle says, (Col. i. 16,) “"By him were ALL things created,-visible and invisible ;" and certainly there are not more conspicuous objects in nature than the sun, moon, and stars. If, therefore, the apostle included, in his idea of things visible, the earth on which we live, he could not have excluded those heavenly bodies which are equally visible. Besides, what can be more express and definite in this respect, than that which John says of the Logos, which you suppose to be the same with Christ, John i. 3: "All things
* Sermons, p. 95. (P.)
↑ See Vol. XIV. p. 326.
+ Ibid. p. 96. (P.)
were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made" ?*
"This earth, with its inhabitants and connexions, includes all of nature that we have any concern with. This observation is applicable to the account of the creation in the first chapter of Genesis; that account, most probably, being an account only of the creation of this earth, with its immediate dependencies." But in that account, the most express mention is made of the creation of the sun, moon, and stars. Indeed, if we consider the connexions and dependencies of the earth, which you suppose to have been made by Christ, we must admit that the moon, at least, was also made by him, on account of its intimate connexion with, and dependence upon the earth; and if the moon, surely the sun also, on which they both depend for light and heat; and if the sun, the whole of the planetary system, including the newly-discovered Georgium Sidus, and all the comets which belong to the sun. And if the sun, with all that is connected with it, and depends upon it, was created by Christ, why should we not suppose that he made all that cluster, or system of stars, of which our sun is one; and if those stars, all the habitable worlds belonging to them?
In this manner I do not see how we can consistently stop till we include the whole universe, be the extent of it ever so great, or even infinite. So great is the uniformity in the system of nature, that we must pronounce it to be one work, and of course conclude that the author of it is one. This, indeed, is the proper argument for the unity of God on the light of nature, and this argument respects the immediate maker of the world, whoever that Being be. !
Though you think that all the ancient Arians, and Dr. Clarke and others among the moderns, made too much of the rank that Christ holds in the creation, when they sup posed him to have existed before all worlds, and to be at the head of all worlds, you do not seem to agree with those of the modern Arians, who maintain, that on his incarnation he was divested of all that power by which he made and governed the world; for you make his wisdom and his miracles to be proofs of his superior nature, which was also one of the arguments of the primitive fathers.
I cannot say but I wish you had been a little more explicit in giving us your sentiments on this subject; for whether he was thus divested or not, is a question that must be deSermons, p. 144. (P.)
* See Vol. XIII. pp. 10, 11.
cided one way or the other; and to me it appears that you have only the choice of Scylla or Charybdis. If you say, as the Arians in general now do, that while Christ was on earth he was divested of all his former power, it will follow, that, in the interval between his incarnation and resurrection, the whole system of the government of the world was changed; and besides, it will not be easy to conceive how, being reduced to the condition of a mere man, he could do any thing more than another mere man might have done.
On the other hand, if, as you seem to suppose, Christ retained all his original power, and by that power worked miracles, and raised himself from the dead, his humiliation, and especially his extreme dejection of mind during his agony in the garden, will be thought to be as extraordinary ; for who can suppose that he, who was at that very time supporting all things by the word of his power, could not support himself, but needed the support of an angel, an angel that (as pertaining to this world) he himself had made, and was then supporting?
These things may not be properly contradictions, but they are things at which my mind revolts with no less force; so that I cannot help thinking, that it is for want of giving due attention to them that the minds of all men do not equally revolt at them.
That mere divines should talk so lightly as they sometimes do concerning creation, and the possibility of its falling within the province of an inferior being, I do not wonder; because they have no proper idea of what creation is, or implies. They have no conception of the magnitude of it, or of the wonderful extent of the laws by which the mundane system is governed. But you, Sir, are not a mere divine; you rank high in the class of mathematicians and natural philosophers, who are daily contemplating and making farther inquiries into the laws of nature; who are filled with astonishment at what they do see of them, and who are at the same time well satisfied that all they see bears no sensible proportion to that which is unknown.
Now, that a being possessing the profound wisdom and astonishing power that must have been necessary to the construction of such a system as this, (even allowing the matter out of which it was made to have been prepared for him,) should become a child in the womb of a woman, be born, be brought up from infancy to manhood, be subject to all the
pains and infirmities of men, be delivered into the hands of his enemies, be crucified, and die, appears to me to be, in reality, no less incredible, than it does to you that the Creator of all worlds should be so degraded.
For, between that power which is equal to the construction of such a world as this, with all its connexions and dependencies, and that power which is equal to the formation of all worlds, we are not able to perceive any real difference. With respect to our comprehension, that difference must be merely nominal. The less is, to our perception, infinite; and after that, if we say that the other is infinito-infinite, the idea is the same; as in our ideas, an eternity a parte post makes no addition to the idea of eternity à parte ante; each of them exceeds any definite quantity, how great soever.
That you, Sir, therefore, who enter into these ideas much more readily than I can pretend to do, should so easily admit that of so great a degradation of your Maker, and for a purpose for which, as you must allow, it is impossible for us to conceive that it should be necessary, really astonishes me; and yet you are no less astonished that I should not adopt your views of this subject. Our readers must decide between us, and as to ourselves, our mutual wonder will only produce a friendly smile.
Your attachment to the Arian hypothesis is evidently owing, in a great measure, to your supposing it to have valuable practical uses. You admire the condescension of so great a Being as the Maker of the world and of all its dependencies, in becoming man, suffering and dying for us. "I often," you say, "feel myself deeply impressed by this consideration."+ This I cannot call in question. But many pious Trinitarians are, I doubt not, more deeply impressed with the consideration of the supreme God becoming man, and then suffering and dying for us; and the consideration of Dr. Clarke's Logos, (before whom your diminutive Logos shrinks into nothing,) the great created Being who existed from all eternity, and who created not only this world, but all worlds, would, no doubt, impress his mind more forcibly and more favourably than your doctrine can impress yours.
*I do not say other men, for such a being as this, however degraded, would never be called a man, by any person who was acquainted with his natural rank. (P.)
+ Sermons, p. 155. (P.)
"On other accounts, it" (viz. the example of Christ) " is more forcible in proportion to his superiority; and this is true in particular of his condescension, humi
There is not, indeed, any doctrine in the Calvinistic or the Popish system, but what the advocates for them will maintain to have excellent practical uses. With what unspeakable reverence and devotion do the Catholics eat their Maker! But is this any reason why we Protestants should embrace their opinions?
We find sufficient sources of gratitude and devotion in a purer system of Christianity, and so shall we do in passing from Trinitarianism to high Arianism, from this to your low Arianism, and from this to Socinianism, even of the lowest kind, in which Christ is considered as a mere man, the son of Joseph and Mary, and naturally as fallible and peccable as Moses, or any other prophet. I have myself gone through all these changes, and I think I may assure you, that you have nothing to apprehend from any part of the progress. In every stage of it you have that consideration on which the Scriptures always lay the greatest stress, as a motive to gratitude and obedience, viz. the love of God, the almighty Parent, in giving his son to die for us. And whether this son be man, angel, or of a superangelic nature, every thing that he has done is to be referred to the love of God, the original author of all, and to him all our gratitude and obedience is ultimately due.
Far would I be from detracting from the merit of Christ, or the value of his example, which I would endeavour to keep in view; but, as a veneration for him should be checked when it would lead us to ascribe to him divine honours, so, in any other respect, should we be careful how we give to him any part of that glory which his God and Father will not give to another.
Now Arians, besides placing Christ in a department which belongs to God only, when they make him the creator of the world, ascribe too much to him when they suppose, or seem to suppose, that it was in consequence of his own proposal that he became incarnate, and undertook the scheme of our redemption. You, Sir, have not asserted this; but what you say on the subject has little force on any other idea. Having spoken of the "pre-existent diguity" of Christ, and of his "degrading himself to the condition of a mortal man,' you say, "This is an instance of benevolence to which we can conceive no parallel; which is probably the admiration of angels," &c. *
lity, meekness, and patience under sufferings. The greater he was, the more we are obliged to admire these virtues in him, and the more we must be excited to practise them." Sermons, p. 153. (P.)
Thid on 158 154 (P\