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without any laboured effort, at once discovers that many things are spoken of Christ which could never be true of God, it cannot avoid the conclusion that Christ is not God, for had he been God such things could no more be true of him than they are of the one God, the Father of all. God could not be born, could not increase in wisdom, could not have a mother and brethren, could not be circumcised, baptized, and tempted, could not be exceeding sorrowful even unto death, could not be bound and beaten with stripes, could not be crucified and slain, could not be buried and raised from the dead; but all these things are related of Jesus Christ, and, if we believe the gospel history, we ought to admit they are strictly true of the very Christ, the son of the living God: but then it will unavoidably follow that Christ is not, cannot be the very God. This then is the decision of common sense: i. e. the long-continued controversy respecting our Lord's divinity may be decided by plain illiterate men, simply by a sober attention to the plain facts recorded in the New Testament, and the exercise of reason upon them. If these facts be true, Christ could not be God, for if he had been God he could not have been born, he could not have died, he could not have been raised from the dead. In the view of common sense the asserting that Christ is very God involves a denial of the great facts which are at the foundation of christianity, though I suppose those who so often make that assertion do not perceive it.
To drive me from my ground, as an advocate for the use of reason and common sense in matters of religion, I have been told a great deal about carnal reason, and the danger of listening to carnal reasoning; but I have never been able to comprehend what this meant, though I think I have perceived the design of the persons who talked so: for reason is certainly the gift of God, and he would hardly have given us reason, had he not intended we should use it; nor can I see how we can judge of any thing but by the use of reason; nor have I been able to discover how reason can be carnal. I have indeed seen many persons who were carnal and sensual, evidently because they did not make a proper use of their reason; besides, I find that those who cry out the most against reason, make use of reason whenever it suits their purpose, and never say any thing against it only when it seems to militate against their notions, and even then they attempt to reason against the use of reason, which is very absurd. I have been led strongly to suspect, that when they talk against reason they wish us to believe what is unreasonable, and to lead us imperceptibly to what I have been told was once a popish maxim, “that ignorance is the mother of devotion."
To convince me of the fallacy of my conclusions, I have been told, what has appeared to me altogether a riddle, about two natures in Christ; that some things are spoken of him as God, and others as man; and that the same things are true of him and not true of him at the same time: but
this is so contrary to common sense that I have never been able to comprehend it; in fact, it seems to make nonsense of the scriptures; for how can the very same person be incapable of being born or of dying, as God must ever be, and yet be actually born and actually die? I have been told indeed that this is a great mystery*, and that I must believe it without understanding it. That it is a great mystery I have never denied, and that, if believed at all, it must be believed without being understood I readily admit; but if a mystery, I know not what we have to do with it, for I read in the scriptures that secret things belong unto the Lord, and revealed things to us; and a revealed mystery is a secret told, or a thing before mysterious opened and made intelligible; nor have I ever been able to find out how to believe what I do not understand.
After all, I have been warned of the danger of denying the godhead of Christ, but, not being
* 1 Tim. iii, 16, "He who was manifested in the flesh." This is the reading in the text of Griesbach's second edition of the Greek Testament. "All the old versions (says Dr. Clarke) have who or which." And all the ancient fathers, though the copies of many of them have it now in the text itself, os God; yet, from the tenor of their comments upon it, and from their never citing it in the Arian controversy, it appears that they always read it"s who, or which." As the ancient way of writing EOE was by the abbreviation ☺Σ, it is apparent that there needed no more than the interpolation of the central mark of the theta to change the sense in conformity with the opinion of those who were determined to make the scripture bend to their doctrines.
able to perceive how any danger can attend the denial of what is incompatible with the plainest facts and declarations of scripture, as well as contrary to common sense; and being resolved not to be frightened out of the use of that reason which God hath given me, I go on, resolved to bring every thing in religion to the test of common sense.
A View of Unitarianism,
AS CONNECTED WITH
WHATEVER may be thought sublime in theory ought to be scrutinized as to its real utility, and the utility of religious doctrines is in exact proportion to their tendency to promote vital godliness, i. e. to generate true piety, solid virtue, and unassuming goodness. Unitarianism, though it derives no sublimity from obscurity, though it awes not by the mysteriousness of its appearance, but is confessedly the most simple and comprehensible system of religion ever maintained under the christian or any other name, is eminently calculated to influence the heart and life; in other words, to promote vital godliness. This is what I undertake to show in this paper.
When it is proved that the unitarian doctrine is clearly the uniform doctrine of divine revelation,
which has been done by many able writers, it must necessarily follow that it is closely connected with vital godliness; for what comes from, and is the truth of God, must lead to him, tend to fill the mind with pious sentiments and dispositions, to produce the image of God in man, and stimulate to an undeviating course of obedience. Various causes may obstruct the production of these effects for a time; but when the doctrine is clearly conceived, and its influence deeply felt, in all its bearings and tendencies, I am persuaded the result will ever be found most favourable to experimental and practical christianity.
Did I not wish to avoid whatever bears the least resemblance to Pharisaical boasting, I might mention many instances which I have witnessed of the holy and happy effects of unitarianism, not only in arresting the progress of, and turning to the divine testimony those who were in the road from reputed orthodoxy to scepticism, and in recovering those who were actually caught in the vortex of infidelity, but also in improving the character, and increasing the happiness of persons, who, though steady believers, had their minds constantly embarrassed, and the influence of the gospel upon their hearts much weakened, by the admission of the inexplicable dogmas of popular sys
I might also insist on the wonderful effects in the hearts and lives of men of various classes in society, produced by the preaching of the apostles, which was strictly unitarian, according to the ac