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gods, but of no inferior kind of true God. We read of God, and of creatures; but of nothing of an intermediate nature. Moses, indeed, and magistrates in general, are called gods, but it is only by way of figure. There was nothing divine in their natures; and in this sense all men may be termed gods, with respect to brute creatures. If this be all the divinity that you ascribe to Christ, I shall certainly have no objection to it. Being my Lord and Master, he is, in this sense, also my God; but in no other. But as he is never, in any sense, called God in the Scriptures, I do not think myself authorized to use that language.
If, therefore, Christ be God at all, in the sense in which the sacred writers use the term God, he must have every essential attribute of divinity. He must be self-existent, eternal, omnipresent, omniscient, and almighty, the maker and constant preserver of all things. Nay more, if more can be said, he must be the one God and Father of all, even the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the Scriptures know no other God besides this.
The whole doctrine of inferior gods, such as the Platonizing fathers made Christ to be, is downright Heathen, and a manifest departure from the faith originally delivered to the saints. According to this true faith, there is but one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man (not the inferior God) Christ Jesus. But from being an inferior God, in the space of about two centuries, (for it required that time to advance such a step,) this inferior God became, in the imagination of Christians, to be God equal to the Father.
Shocked at this sentiment, learned Christians seem now to be very generally endeavouring to get back to the doctrine of an inferior God, and for this purpose some become Arians, and others endeavour to make out kinds and degrees in divinity, as there are kinds and degrees among creatures. But reason and common sense revolt at the supposition; and be assured, the Christian world will not be able to find any rest, till they go back to the primitive doctrine of one God, and of men approved of God, by signs and wonders which God did by them. I believe Christ to be a prophet mighty in word and deed, a man whom God sent, by whom God spake, whom God raised from the dead, and who will come again in the glory and power of God his Father, to raise the dead, to judge the world, and to give to every man according to his works.
This, Sir, is the Christianity which I profess, and it is a religion as plain as it is practical. It is worthy of God, and
approves itself to the reason of man. And why should we be fond of a faith with which reason is at variance, and to which it must be sacrificed? Is this a sacrifice pleasing to God? Can we wonder at the number of sensible unbelievers in the Christian world, when they find that they must abandon their reason before they can adopt religion, which is the case when such doctrines as the Trinity, (that of three divine persons in one God,) are held out to them, and they are told that they cannot be Christians without receiving them? While this is our conduct, with one hand we invite men to come within the pale of the church, while with the other we shut the door against them. This door, I wish to throw fairly open, and therefore I invite men to bring their reason with them when they become Christians, and by no means to leave it behind them.
Far would I be from drawing off your attention from the great work in which you are engaged, and from which I have the greatest expectations, in consequence of believing you to be singularly qualified for it. Your Prospectus, which I read with wonder and delight, is a pledge of it. But if you could find leisure, I could wish that you would at least attempt the execution of what you suppose may be done, when you say, "It would not, I imagine, be a very difficult, though it would be a tedious task, to refute all the arguments and answer all the objections which your party have been long employed in collecting, from those store-houses, (the Christian fathers,) and which you, Sir, have summed up in so masterly a manner in your last great work. With abilities far inferior to yours, I could, if at leisure, erect, from the same materials out of which you have reared so specious an edifice, a fabric of a different order, as plausible, I trust, and compact as yours, without being under the suspicious necessity of garbling and rejecting as you have done."†
This language, Sir, is by no means of a piece with the liberality of the rest of your letter, and should not have been
"Prospectus of a new Translation of the Holy Bible, from connected Texts of the Originals, compared with the ancient Versions: with various Readings, explanatory Notes, and critical Observations,” 4to. 1786. See Mem. of Geddes, pp.
Of this translation Dr. Geddes finished and published, in 2 volumes 4to., 1793 and 1797, the Old Testament to the end of Ruth, with "the prayer of Manasseh." Ju 1800, he added, in one volume 4to., "Critical Remarks on the Hebrew Scriptures-containing the Pentateuch." In 1801, "the Translator died, in the midst of his version of the Psalms," which have since been published. See ibid. pp. xiii -xv., 330–396. In Vol. XI. are numerous references to Dr. Geddes's Translation and Critical Remarks.
+ Letter, p. 34. (P.)
used without proof. Many a tedious volume as I have looked through, at least a hundred folios, Greek or Latin, without counting those of smaller size, I am not conscious of having, in any proper sense of the word, garbled any of them, or of having rejected any thing that could throw light on my subject, whether it made for or against me; though I may have overlooked passages of both kinds. On this account, I most sincerely wish that others may go over the same ground after me, and with more discerning eyes.
As you think, however, that, without taking so much trouble, the materials that I have collected would serve to construct a fabric of a different nature, I wish you would try to make them answer the purpose you mention. But I am confident you might as soon take down the elegant cylindrical monument in Gracechurch Street, and with the same stones erect a parallelopepidon. If you should not be able to command sufficient leisure yourself, I wish you would persuade some other learned person of your communion to undertake the work, and assist him with your counsel.
As I believe you to be a man of a truly candid and ingenuous mind, and that you really write as I do, for the sake of promoting truth, I flatter myself that you will not fail to let me, and the public, hear from you again on the subject. If you feel any force in my reply, have the honest courage to acknowledge it. If not, let us know what armour it is that defends you. In this I ask no more than I hold myself ready to give to you, or any other of my opponents. It is what all writers owe to that most respectable tribunal, before which we are pleading, the Christian world. We ought, therefore, to acknowledge our cause to be untenable, if we think it to be so, as well as to defend it while we think it defensible. As for myself, like an honest general, successful or unsuccessful, I will give as fair an account of my killed and wounded, as of the trophies I may gain, or the prisoners I may take.
With the truest respect,
Birmingham, December, 1787.
As appears by the following conclusion: a passage quoted by Dr. Geddes's biographer:
"I cannot allow myself to believe that the divinity of Jesus will ever be without defenders, or that its ablest defenders will not be Englishmen; but let its defeuders be mild and moderate; let them imitate the conduct of him whose cause they undertake to plead; let not their zeal, however fervent, transport them beyond
THE REV. DR. PRICE.
Of the Influence of the Doctrine of Philosophical Necessity on that concerning the Person of Christ.
I CANNOT forbear acknowledging the satisfaction I have received from the perusal of the Appendix to your late Sermons, in which, with a candour that does you the greatest honour, you have, as you say, stated "some of the most important" of Dr. Priestley's arguments," that our readers may be better able to form their judgment on the points about which we differ."t
the bounds of decency and decorum. Their style will not be the less nervous, because it is void of asperity; nor their arguments the less conclusive, because unmixt with injuries. To discover Truth is professedly the aim of us all: let us pursue the path that seems the most likely to lead us to her abode, with ardour but not with animosity; and if we be convinced that we have been happy enough to find it out, let us not insult those who, in our estimation, may have been less successful. Non contumeliis et probris vexemus alii alios; sed honestè positisque præjudiciis, causam disceptemus." See Mem. of Geddes, pp. 174, 175.
Containing Notes occasioned by Dr. Priestley's Letters to Dr. Price."
+ Sermons (Appendix), 1787, p. 871. (P.) This passage forms part of the following Address which Dr. Price prefixed to his Appendix.
"I am happy in the opportunity which the republication of my Sermons gives me to express my gratitude to you for the notice you have taken of them in your letters to me, lately published. I have considered your remarks with the attention due to all you write. I feel most sensibly the affection with which you have offered them; and I think myself particularly obliged to you for allowing me to keep the resolution I have formed not to engage in a controversy. My intention, therefore, in the following Notes, is, not to answer your arguments, but chiefly to state some of the most important of them, that our readers may be better able to form their judgments on the points about which we differ.
"You, Sir, are in various respects so distinguished as to be above any competition of which I am capable. There is, however, a merit in which I can claim an equal share with you: and that is the merit of giving the public an example (little known among religious men) of two friends who, considering nothing as essential but a sincere desire to know and follow truth, preserve an invariable respect for one another, notwithstanding very great differences of opinion on religious subjects.
It is, I believe, our joint and earnest wish, that the public may form a right judgment in the case; and, therefore, I shall, without any apology, make a few remarks upon the view that you have given of my arguments. On several of the heads you have contented yourself with simply reciting them, and, with an almost unexampled generosity, have left them, without making any reply, to make what impression they may upon our readers. In other cases you have been led, perhaps unintentionally, farther into the controversy, and in these I shall take the liberty to accompany you.
You say, that you and I "cannot agree" on the subject of the creation of all things by Christ, because I suppose that there is but one proper agent in nature; the whole being a piece of machinery depending upon the sole will of that great Being who framed the whole and put it in motion.* This I do indeed acknowledge, and I consider it as a great and glorious truth, without which all would be darkness, confusion and despair. But it appears to me that this has nothing at all to do with our present discussion; because, as Arians or Unitarians, the question between us is simply whether the volitions of Christ (originating in himself or in another) gave birth to the universe.
You may as well say that you and I can never agree about the author of any particular book, your own Sermons, for instance; for that, if there be but one agent in the universe, he was the only proper author of them. But upon this principle, he was also the author of my remarks upon them. Admitting that there is a sense in which God is the author of every thing, good and evil, there is likewise a certain and definite sense, in which there are other, and very different agents, and which will allow us to say, that your Sermons were written by you, and my Remarks on them by me.
Now, it is only in this sense that we are to consider whether Christ made the world; and I may as well say that he did not make it, believing that it existed before he himself was made, as you that he did make it, believing as you do, that he existed before it was made, and that his volitions and exertions were, in some way or other, instrumental in making it. Here, therefore, is a clear ground of argument and discussion between us, and my being an advocate for
Appendix, p. 374. (P.) Dr. Price's words are, "He," (Dr. Priestley,) "believing the intelligent creation to be nothing but a machinery consisting of matter so arranged as to think and reason, will not allow that there is a proper agent in nature, except the Deity himself." Ibid. For this opinion Dr. Price refers to the Free Discussion which has appeared in Vol. IV.