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and also concerning our love to him, the ground of it is never said to be that with which you feel yourself so "deeply impressed." This writer examines every text in which mention is made of the love of Christ, through the whole of the New Testament, and he no where finds any mention of, or allusion to, a greater ground for it than his love to us, manifested by his suffering and dying for us.† Could the greater ground that strikes your imagination so much, viz. his condescension to become incarnate for us, have been overlooked by all these writers, if, in their idea, this great event had ever taken place? Your own feelings and conduct demonstrate it to be impossible.
In one single passage indeed, 2 Cor. viii. 9, we read, "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich." But the phrases being rich, and being poor, are not synonymous to a state of pre-existent glory on the one hand, and a voluntary abdication of it on the other, though such an interpretation suits your hypothesis. Unitarians, you know, think the passage admits of a different and more natural interpretation, agreeable to their principles. At any rate, however, you would never rest a doctrine of this magnitude on the supposed meaning of a single expression, manifestly figurative.
Consider, also, the near connexion there is between the supposed miraculous conception of Christ and his incarnation, and say whether it be at all probable, that any person professing to write the history of the former, as Luke does, and Matthew is supposed to do, should relate the particulars of it, and not mention the latter, if they had known any thing of it? Do any Arians, even now, (without writing a regular history of Christ, but only incidentally mentioning the subject, as in sermons and other discourses,) ever speak of this body miraculously prepared for him, without mentioning the dignity of the inhabitant for whom it was prepared? If you attend to the subject, the silence of these two evangelists concerning the doctrine of incarnation cannot but appear extraordinary, even to yourself. In my opinion, Mark could not have failed to have mentioned the miracu
* Sermons, p. 155. (P.)
See "An Essay on the grounds of Love to Christ," Theol. Repos. VI. pp. 284-302. The writer, Dr. Toulmin, republished this Essay as an Appendix to his "Practical Efficacy of the Unitarian Doctrine," Ed. 2, 1801, pp. 103-127.
See Vol. XIV. pp. 177, 178.
lous conception in his history of Christ, had he ever heard of that, and much less would any of the evangelists have suppressed the mention of so much more wonderful a circumstance relating to their Master, as that of his incarnation, if they had known any thing about it.
"How important," you also very naturally say, "must the service be which Christ," as a being of a very superior nature to man, "came to perform!"* And yet it is never described in terms that give us an idea of its being more than any other man might have performed. He preached, he declared the will of God, and performed miracles in his name, (at the same time expressly declaring what, according to your system, must have been an equivocation, that he could do nothing of himself, and that the Father within him did the works,) and lastly he died, and, by the power of God his Father, he was raised from the dead. Now is not all this predicable of a man, and does it not best suit the character of a man, a "man," as Peter calls him, " approved of Godby wonders and signs, which God did by him"?†
Permit me now to make use of another argument, and though you may think it has no great weight, yet appears to me to have much more than the literal interpretation of a hundred such particular texts as those on which you lay so much stress. It is well known that ideas frequently recurring to the mind will soon find proper corresponding terms. This was the case with the doctrine of the Trinity, that of transubstantiation, and many others. Here you agree with me that the doctrines, and the corresponding terms, made their appearance about the same time, and that this circumstance is a proof of the novelty of those doctrines with respect to the age of the apostles? Now is not the argument just as good when applied to the doctrine of incarnation in general? If John's phraseology of the word becoming flesh had been generally understood to mean the assumption of a human body by a superangelic spirit, it would not have long remained in that state of circumlocution. Had the idea been on the minds of Christians in the whole of the apostolic age, as much as it was in the third and fourth centuries, and as it is upon your own mind at present, it could not have failed, in my opinion, very soon to have produced the more concise and expressive term incarnation. It would soon have been the burden of the song with both the enemies and
Sermons, p. 155. (P.)
↑ Acts ii. 22. See Vol. XIII. pp. 393, 394.
the friends of Christianity. But no such thing appears, though we find it immediately on the Platonizing fathers having got the notion of a personified logos.
No such terms as personified logos, or incarnation, are to be found in the writings of the apostles. Whenever they speak of Christ they always call him a man; and certainly the term superangelic Being, or some equivalent expression, would have escaped them some time or other, if they had conceived it to be applicable to him. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews speaks of him as, in his nature, "a little lower than the angels," (quoting from the Psalmist an expression applied to men in general,) though he speaks of him as in dignity advanced far above them. Now would he not as readily have said that he was in nature, as well as in rank and pre-eminence, by divine appointment, superior to angels, if he had really thought him to be so? Some of Paul's epistles were written near thirty years after he had devoted his whole time to the propagation of the gospel, and there are other writings in the New Testament of a still later date; and yet in none of them do you find the proper term by which you now express the most wonderful, and the most important doctrine of the Christian system. Is there nothing extraordinary in this, if the doctrine be really true?
But the argument to which I wish more particularly to draw the attention of learned Christians, is that which I derive from the state of things in the age immediately succeeding that of the apostles; considering the opinion of the great body of Christians, in that early age, as one good method of ascertaining what was the doctrine of the apostles, and consequently the true sense of their writings. Now I maintain, that no such opinion as that for which you contend had any existence till the beginning of the fourth century. Before that time, viz. about the beginning of the second century, the Platonizing Christians had adopted the idea of the divinity of Christ, as the personified, but uncreated, logos of the Father, united to a human body and a human soul, while the common people held the original doctrine of the simple humanity of Christ; but I assert that your opinion, viz. that the intelligent principle in Christ was of a superangelic nature, and yet created out of nothing, that it superseded the use of a proper human soul, and that such a created being was the creator of the world under God, was not adopted by any sect of Christians whatever, learned or
unlearned, till about the time of Arius. And, could the true doctrine of the apostles have been immediately lost, and have remained unknown to all the Christian world, from their time till so late a period? In all this time were there no Christians who understood the true sense of the Scriptures on a subject which was the universal topic of discussion, as it has been from that age to this day? On this topic, I have long called for the reply of learned Arians, of this and other countries, but hitherto I have called in vain. I am, &c.
Of Arguments from particular Texts, and those drawn from the Reason of Things; and of the Connexion between any Opinion concerning the Person of Christ and the Belief of Christianity in general.
You are pleased to say, that mine is "the only Socinian doctrine" which you "could adopt," if you were to leave your" present sentiments, without rejecting Christianity."* I cannot wonder at this, because it appears to me to be by far the most rational system of Christianity, and being the most defensible, it is such as those who hold it, are the least likely to give up. But I see nothing of the "superior sense in discerning," or the "superior candour in acknowledging" it, which you ascribe to me.† It is only discerning and acknowledging that a man is a man, that without divine illumination one man could not know more than any other man, and that without supernatural assistance he could not do more than another man.
So far am I from thinking that it requires any " torturing the Scriptures," to make them speak this language concerning Christ, that I think it is the only sense that can be put upon them without torture. It is the only one that is agreeable to the uniform tenor of them. On the contrary, your opinion of one man being the maker of the world, and of all other men, though I once believed it myself, now appears to me a most extravagant hypothesis, answering no purpose but that of giving a literal interpretation to a very few texts, which much more naturally admit a different construction.
• Appendix. pp. 301. 302. (P.)
+ Ibid. p. 302.
For you must know that, in many cases, the literal interpretation of an expression is, of all others, the most unnatural.
If you look off from those few texts, and attend to the reason of things, which is better than a hundred commentators, you cannot so much as imagine any reason why the redemption of mankind from superstition and sin, with its attendant death (which is the only redemption that is spoken of in the Scriptures) should require the incarnation of such a being as your Logos; and you give up many advantages which arise from the idea of a man like ourselves being employed as a messenger from God to man. In my opinion, the Trinitarian doctrine is much more plausibly supported both by passages of scripture (for its advocates quote ten for your one) and by reason; as they allege that sin, being of an infinite magnitude, requires an infinite satisfaction; so that your Logos, or even Dr. Clarke's, the eternal creator of the whole universe, was unequal to it.
To you, I know, I need to make no apology for this freedom; and I am persuaded you will bear with me if I say farther, that as the Arian hypothesis rose considerably later than the Trinitarian, so I doubt not it will vanish before it. I do not expect to see the extinction of the Trinitarian doctrine, because it has got such hold of the common people, and has also the support of the civil powers; but, according to the course of nature, I may hope to see an Arian considered as a rare phenomenon.
You have done me justice, and yourself credit, by producing at length my arguments for supposing that by the power given to Christ, of raising the dead and judging the world, nothing more was meant than such a power as might have been imparted to any other man. But I wish you had offered something in reply to them before you had pro
nounced, as you do, that my scheme is such as cannot be admitted" without either torturing the Scriptures, or renouncing their authority."t
In my opinion, and that of many others, what you have quoted from my Letters is an easy and natural account of the phraseology on which you build so much, and an illustration of it by its actual use on different occasions. For this I appeal to our common readers; as also, whether the insinuation of any danger of renouncing the authority of the Scriptures ought to have been thrown out so lightly.
• See supra, pp. 399-403, quoted by Dr. Price in Appendix, pp. 386–390. + Appendix. D. 392. (P.)