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Whatever might be the degradation of this exalted Being, if it was done at the express command of God, which he must have been sensible he had no right or power to disobey, there could be no greater merit in it than in the obedience of a man to the known command of the same Lord of all. To do this readily and cheerfully, is all the merit that created beings can pretend to.
Our Saviour's own language never gives us any idea of his services to mankind, but as what he undertook in consequence of the command of God; as John vii. 28: "Then cried Jesus in the Temple, as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am :* and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not.' Such is the uniform language of our Saviour, whenever he speaks of his mission; and it suggests no other idea than that of any prophet having received a commission from God, and cheerfully undertaking the execution of it.
In the idea of the merit of Christ's incarnation, as well as in other respects, there is too much of the proper Trinitarian doctrine in the scheme of Arianism, which rose after it, and out of it. In ancient Arianism there was no difference in the two systems but that between a created and an uncreated logos. The office assigned to them was the very same. Modern Arians are by degrees dropping many articles in the ancient Arian creed; but it appears to me that, in doing this, they make a scheme much less consistent with itself, with reason, or with the Scriptures.
I am, &c.
Of the Creation of Matter by the Father, and the Formation of it by the Son; and other Considerations attending the Idea of a finite and imperfect Creator.
IT is another part of your hypothesis that creation out of nothing is the prerogative of the Supreme Being, and that Christ only employed the matter which he found already produced, in the construction of the world. "The formation of this world by Christ does not," you say, "imply creation from nothing; that probably being peculiar to Almighty Power, but only an arrangement of things into
Rather interrogatively. See Vol. XIII. pp. 212, 218.
their present order, and the establishment of that course of nature to which we are witnesses."*
Now I do not see why we should distinguish the provinces of the created creator, and of the uncreated creator, in this manner. What could matter be when it was first produced out of nothing? If it had the necessary properties of matter, you must suppose it to have been extended and impenetrable. For you will say that without these properties, matter would be nothing at all; and if it had impenetrability, it must have had a firm cohesion of its parts, which implies a power of attraction in the particles of which it consists; and if this fresh created matter did not immediately coalesce into one mass, or if there were any pores in it, the particles of it must have been endued with a repulsive, as well as an attractive power.
Again, if matter, as first produced, had necessarily the powers of attraction and repulsion, why not all that variety of attractions and repulsions which constitute all the different kinds of bodies? But if simple attraction and repulsion only be admitted, we must admit some form and arrangement, and therefore we cannot confine the exertions of the Supreme Being to the mere creation of matter.
Besides, can any reason be imagined why the same great Being, who with infinite ease produced matter itself, should not, with the same ease, have produced it with all that variety, and all that arrangement, which constitute the visible system of the universe? The whole must have been equally easy to Almighty Power; and the uniformity of the system would certainly be better secured in this manner, than by committing it to the discretion, and consequently to the indiscretion, of inferior, and therefore imperfect, agents. To me, I own, there appears something so strange in the supposition of the Supreme Being having created mere matter, and of Christ having made this mere matter into a world, or worlds; it is so destitute of all probability either from appearances in nature, or the language of Scripture, that I can hardly think it deserves a serious refutation.
As to the language of the Scriptures, it seems to me to be absolutely inconsistent with this hypothesis. According to Moses, the same great Being who made the heavens and the earth, made also the light, separated the waters from the earth, and made all the plants and animals with which they
* Sermons, p. 144.' (P.) "
are both furnished; and no mention is made of any other, being concerned in the production of any thing, or in the government of the world, when it was made.
According to your hypothesis, the Supreme Being made nothing more than the earth, or dust of the ground, as it is called, (if his province extended even so far as that,) but the person who actually formed man, and who made the dif ference of sexes, was Christ. But how does this agree with what Christ himself says, Mark x. 6, "From the beginning of the creation, God made them, male and female"? You do not suppose that by the term God, he here meant himself; nor will you say, with Chrysostom, that Christ did not choose to intimate that himself was the maker of man, lest it should give offence to the Jews. You must, therefore, admit, that the Supreme Being is here spoken of as the Maker of the human race; and similar to this is the uniform language of Scripture, so that nothing can authorize us to depart from the plain sense of it.
The Psalmist had no idea of any intermediate governor of the world when he said, (Psalm civ. 21,) "The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God;" or our Saviour, when he said, (Matt. vi. 26,) "Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feedeth them."
There is another puzzling circumstance attending your hypothesis of a proper creation by the Father, and of the formation of things only by the Son, which is that part of the scheme which relates to spirit. For, besides material substance, of which the earth, &c. consists, you suppose that there is also a derived immaterial substance. Was this, as well as the former, created by the almighty power of the Father, and afterwards formed into angels, and the souls of men, by Christ? This is a question that arises from your general hypothesis, which requires to be considered; and the discussion of which may occasion some embarrassment to your scheme.
If the instrumentality of Christ in making the world was of the same nature with that by which he raised the dead, and worked his other miracles, (as to which we are assured, that not himself, but the Father within him, did the works,) there could be no occasion for a Being of power superior even to that of man. In this sense Adam, immediately after being created himself, might have been as good a creator as either your Logos, or that of Dr. Clarke. But then this would be no proper instrumentality at all.
This kind of an intermediate creator cannot, therefore, be supposed. He must have had powers equal to the work; and if, as you justly observe, all finite beings attain perfection by degrees,* the Maker of this world must first have produced something less perfect. But what evidence is there of the existence of any such less perfect production? Shall we look for this first essay at creation in a state of the earth prior to that of which Moses gives us an account? And when this earth shall be destroyed, will the Maker of it be so far improved by experience, as to be able to newmodel it into a better form, so that the evils which, through want of skill in the Creator, could not be excluded at present, will be excluded hereafter.
But though this finite creator should be ever so much improved by observation and experience, still his work, being the production of an imperfect being, must be imperfect; and while the reign of Christ continues, we can never hope to be under the conduct of a Being of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, as long as we exist.
Is it possible that such a notion as this, perfectly consonant to the Arian hypothesis, should be contemplated with pleasure? It gives me unspeakably more satisfaction to consider the present system as the best possible; being the immediate production of a Being of infinite wisdom, and that even the evils of which we complain are necessary parts of this best possible constitution of things.
LETTER IV. }
I am, &c.
Considerations relating to the Origin and History of the Arian Doctrine. Of Christ not being the Object of Prayer, and of the Claim of Arians to the Appellation of Unitarians.
You cannot say that Christ himself ever dropped any hint that he was either the maker or the governor of the world; and, as I have argued at large, in my controversy with Dr. Horsley,† and in my " History of Early Opinions concerning Christ," if the apostles had, at any time, been informed of the truth of a doctrine, which they could never
"Do not all beings rise gradually, one acquisition laying the foundation of another, and preparing for higher acquisitions?" Sermons, p. 147. `(P.) Supra, p. 372, Note, ad fin.
+ Supra, pp. 213–221.
have learned from the Scriptures of the Old Tetsament, (in which nothing is said of the Messiah being the maker of the world,) a doctrine of which they could have had no suspicion from any thing that they observed while they lived and conversed with Christ, we must have perceived some traces of it in their history. It was a new idea, and of such great magnitude, and so distinguishingly honourable to their Master, compared with Moses, or any of the preceding prophets, as must have excited the greatest astonishment in both the friends and the enemies of Christianity.
It was an opinion at which the minds of all Jews must have exceedingly revolted, and therefore would have required to have been largely insisted upon, and copiously defended, even much more than the doctrine of the admission of Gentile converts into the Christian church, without conformity to the institutions of Moses; so that we should not have been left, as we now are, to infer this extraordinary doctrine from two or three expressions in casual epistles.
I have also shewn that the doctrine of the simple humanity of Christ, how incredible soever you may think it makes the gospel to be, was that alone which was received by the great body of the primitive Christians, both Jews and Gentiles. They were in possession of the books of the New Testament, and for their use they were written, and yet they saw in them no such doctrine as that of the creation of the world by Christ, or even that of his pre-existence. I have also proved, (as I must be allowed to say till I see it disproved,) that the doctrine of the world being made by a created being was (if we except the Gnostics) absolutely unknown in the Christian church till the time of Arius. Also, the acknowledgments of Athanasius, † and of all the orthodox fathers of the church, imply nothing less than the general prevalence of the doctrine of the simple humanity of Christ, and by no means that of his pre-existence, or superangelic nature. How, then, can that be received as the doctrine of the Scriptures which was never understood to be so for so long a period?
I have likewise shewn that, till the same period, all the learned Christians supposed that Christ had a proper human soul, besides the Logos that was united to him, and that this Logos (by which they supposed the world to have been made) had been an essential attribute of God the Father, a system fundamentally different from that of Arianism. It
* Supra, pp. 200—203, 221, 222.
↑ Ibid. pp. 70-77, 200, 205.