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opposition between the Arians and Trinitarians, as they do not profess to defend the same ground.
I am singularly happy in having an opportunity of addressing a few more letters to Dr. Price, in consequence of the Appendix to the second edition of his Sermons, and I more particularly congratulate our readers on the acquisition of such a controversial writer as Dr. Geddes. I feel a satisfaction that I cannot express in discussing this important question with such men as these. It would even give me pleasure to have an opportunity of acknowledging any mistake they should point out to me. Why is it that, excepting only the Dean of Canterbury, the members of the Church of England cannot write with the same liberality, such as becomes gentlemen, scholars and Christians? When the history of this controversy shall be written by an impartial hand, (and such a one, I doubt not, will, in due time, be found,) the champions of the Established Church will not appear to the most advantage, either with respect to the condition of their arms, or their temper and skill in the use of them.
How long this controversy will last, or in what form I shall continue my part in it, is impossible for me to say. My present intention is to proceed with writing Letters to the Candidates for Orders in the Two Universities, and, at a proper time, to close the whole with a serious address to the bench of bishops, and the legislature; after which, I shall have done all that I apprehend to be in my power to promote an important and desirable reformation.
THE REV. DR. GEDDES.
Of the Doctrine of the Scriptures, and that of the Apostolical Fathers.
I HAVE seldom received more satisfaction than I have done from the perusal of the Letter you have been so oblig
* The Letters to the Bishops will appear in Vol. XIX.
ing as to address to me, in order "to prove," as you say, by one prescriptive argument, that the divinity of Jesus Christ was a primitive tenet of Christianity.' You write with a candour becoming a Christian and a Catholic, not in name only, but in reality; while others, whose general system of Christianity is more nearly the same with my own, have engaged in the same controversy with a spirit highly unbecoming the character they professed.
Different as your opinions are from mine, you say, "I grant that you are a Christian as well as I, and embrace you as my fellow-disciple in Jesus. And if you were not a disciple of Jesus, still I would embrace you as my fellowman." In return, I can do no less than embrace you in both characters. I do it from my heart; and I hope that nothing in my address to you will give the lie to my profession. We are fellow-christians, fellow-men, and joint inquirers after truth; willing, I doubt not, to assist each other in our inquiries, as justly esteeming truth to be the most valuable of all acquisitions, by whomsoever it be found.
In one circumstance relating to this controversy, I, however, differ from you. You expect the ablest defenders of the doctrine of the divinity of Christ, in the Church of England. On the contrary, I expect them in your Church of Rome, in which it originated. It is a doctrine which the Church of England only received from you, and without any alteration whatever. It is, therefore, still your proper tenet, and what you should consider yourselves as peculiarly bound to defend. The members of the Church of England will naturally look up to you for the defence of that tenet which, without any particular examination, they received from you; and they may perhaps abandon it if its proper parent should be unable to maintain it; for their sakes, therefore, as well as your own, it behoves the members of your church to exert themselves on this occasion.
Besides the superior liberality of your sentiments in general, there is a frankness and candour in your concessions, that I have not found in any of my numerous opponents. You acknowledge that you do not find the doctrine of the divinity of Christ in the Old Testament; you are not very confident that you find it even in the New; and you make no difficulty at all of giving up the argument, so much insisted
* See Mr. Good's "Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Rev. Alexander Geddes, LL. D.," 1803, pp. 168-175. Ibid. p. 35. (P.)
↑ Letter, p. 5. (P.)
on by Dr. Horsley, from the writings of the apostolical fathers. "The figures," you say, "the allusions, and the prophecies of the Old Testament, by themselves, present to the unprejudiced reader no explicit idea of the absolute divinity of the promised Messiah-and I must confess, if we had no other clue to guide us, I should be inclined to conclude the Messiah to be a mere man, though endowed with privileges above the rest of mankind. On New Testament ground I think I could make a firmer stand, and fight with you at least on equal terms. Among many ambiguous texts that may be urged against your system, there are certainly three or four, the force of which cannot easily be eluded. Witness the hard strainings that have been made by yourself and your party, to give them a plausible Socinian interpretation; whilst they seem, at the very first sight, expressly calculated to justify the doctrine of your adversaries."*
I wish that, in the prosecution of this argument, you would mention the three or four texts on which you lay so much stress. In the mean time I would ask, whether there be not many more than three or four, or even than three or four score texts which teach the great doctrine of the sole divinity of the Father, much more unequivocally than any of your three or four unnamed texts do that of the divinity of the Son? I shall on this occasion call to your recollection only a few of them, Matt. xix. 17: " Why callest thou me, good? There is none good but one, that is God.”† Mark xii. 32: "There is one God, and there is none other but he." John xvii. 3: "That they might know thee, the only true God." Rom. xvi. 27: "To God only wise-through Jesus Christ." 1 Cor. viii. 6: "To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him ; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him."§ Eph. iv. 5, 6: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God, and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." || 1 Tim. ii. 5: "There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." Jude 4: "Denying the only Lord God,** and our Lord Jesus Christ."
How often do we read of the God, as well as the Father, of our Lord Jesus Christ! And is it not the uniform custom of the writers of the New Testament to name God and
Letter, p. 67. (P.)
+ See Vol. XIII. p. 258.
§ See ibid. p. 80.
See ibid. p. 276. ** See ibid. p. 439, Note ||.
Christ as contradistinguished from each other? What hard straining, Sir, must it not require to give to any of the above-mentioned texts, which have not so much as the appearance of ambiguity in them, a plausible Trinitarian interpretation!
You rest this great controversy, as far as it is to be decided by the Scriptures, on three or four texts, and what appears to be their sense at first sight only. But you know, Sir, that the true sense of many passages of scripture, as well as of other writings, is by no means what it seems to be at first sight, especially when the language is figurative; and that a comparison of them with other passages is often necessary to explain them. There cannot, therefore, appear even to yourself to be any great ground of confidence here; and I might well ask you, whether it be not extraordinary, that a doctrine of so great magnitude as that of the divinity of Christ, and which draws after it consequences of so much importance in practice, as well as theory, (especially the worshipping of him as the supreme God; and which, at first sight, you must acknowledge directly militates against the doctrine of the sole divinity of the one God and Father of all, expressly called the God ond Father of Jesus Christ himself,) should rest on three or four texts, of which you can only say that, at first sight, they appear to be in your favour.
The doctrine of the Unity of God is unquestionably that of a thousand texts, and is implied in the whole tenor of scripture. This no person ever did, or can deny. And did not the doctrine of three persons in this godhead, if it be a truth, require to be declared in as explicit a manner, if it was meant to be inculcated at all? As to the divinity of Christ, an ingenious man would easily find as many plausible arguments for the divinity of Moses.
If the doctrine of the Trinity be clearly taught in the Scriptures, how comes it that yourself, "after reading the best Athanasian, Arian, and Socinian glossarists," could be, as you say, "Athanasian, Arian, and Socinian, by turns?" This, Sir, is not my case. The Athanasian and Arian glossarists only make me a more confirmed Unitarian.
If adoration be really due to Christ from his followers, as you say, why have we so little of either precept or example of it in the Scriptures? Could Origen have written so expressly as he has done against praying to Christ, if it had been the practice of Christians from the earliest
* Letter, p. 11. (P.)
See Lindsey's Apol. Ed. 4, 1782, p. 157.
+ Ibid. p. 4. (P.)
Of the writings of the apostolical fathers, you frankly and justly say, "some are lost, others imperfect, and others interpolated, and, together, afford but an ambiguous commentary on an ambiguous text."*
I am, &c.
Of the Nicene Council.
ON what, then, do you fix your foot, and what is the real ground of your faith in the doctrine for which you contend? When I had read the title page of your pamphlet, I for some time proceeded no farther, but amused myself with conjecturing what your great prescriptive argument, that argument which rendered all others unnecessary, might be ; but really, Sir, all my conjectures were wide of the truth, for I own I should least of all have expected it where you imagine you have found it. But my readers shall hear yourself on the subject.
"In this dubiety," you say, "I look about for something more explicitly satisfactory, and this I think I find in the formal decision of the Nicæan Council." When I had discovered this, I was no less at a loss in conjecturing how any decision of such a council as that, called for such a purpose as that was, by such a person as Constantine, and especially at so great a distance of time from the age of the apostles, could at all answer, or even seem to answer, your
On this subject you say, "I ask you whether you think it in the smallest degree probable, that three hundred and eighteen of the principal pastors in the Christian church, convoked from the three parts of the then known world, could possibly combine to establish a doctrine different from that which they had hitherto taught their respective flocks, and which they had themselves received from their predecessors in the ministry?-You must then, I think, allow that, at this period, the belief of the divinity of Jesus was the universal belief of the Christian churches of Asia, Africa and Europe."+
This then, Sir, is, what you call your "invincible, prescriptive proof of the divinity of Christ,"§ and much elo
⚫ Letter, p. 11. (P.)
Ibid. p. 14. (P.)
† Ibid. p. 12. (P.) § Ibid. p. 19. (P.)