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to these declarations of God himself, they hold, that the soul which sinneth shall not die; and that he is not cursed who does not continue in all things, written in the law, to do them: while he who doeth not these things shall yet, according to their scheme, live. Thus, although God has declared, That heaven and earth shall pass away, sooner than one jot, or tittle, of the law shall fail ; their doctrine teaches us, that the whole law, so far as its penalty is concerned, shall fail, with respect to every person who repents. Not even an entire, unmingled repentance is demanded; nor a pure, uncontaminated future obedience. Both are professedly left imperfect. All the former sins are imperfectly repented of; and all the future obedience is mixed with sin. On the ground of this repentance, and this obedience, God is expected to justify man, still placed under a legal dispensation.
3dly. Another Doctrine of the same nature is the doctrine of Christ's Atonement.
The Unitarians, to whom I referred under the last head, as not holding the doctrines opposed to it, are those who admit the Doc. trine of Christ's Atonement. This I suppose to be true of some of the Socinians, and some of the Arians. Some of the Socinians hold, that the fulness of the Godhead dwells, and will through eternity dwell, in Christ, bodily. What is supposed by them to be the proper import of this declaration, I know not that they have explained; and therefore may probably be unable to divine. So far as I can conjecture their intention, I should believe, with Dr. Price, that they really make Christ God; and therefore may not unnatur
; ally suppose, that he accomplished an expiation for the sins of men. If this conjecture be just, they harmonize substantially with Praxeas, because, as they deny a distinction of persons in the Godhead, ihey must suppose the Father, by a mysterious union, to have dwelt in the man Christ Jesus; and, thus influencing and directing all his conduct, to have accomplished, through him, an atonement to himself: a Doctrine on account of which Praxeas and his followers were called Patripassians ; as believing, that the Father himself suffered. Some of the Arians, also, have acknowledged, that Christ made an atonement for the sins of men.
In what manner this was done, or can be done, by a creature, a subject of law and government, all whose obedience is due to the utmost extent of his powers, and circumstances, and through every moment of his existence, for himself; for his own justification; I know not, that they have attempted to explain. I rather suppose, that, though professed enemies to mystery, they choose to leave this, as a mystery which allows of no investigation. How an Atonement can be made by such a being, and how it can be accepted by God, in accordance with the Doctrines taught in the Scriptures, I confess myself unable to discern. Still it is but just to observe, that an Atonement is believed by a number of both Socinians and Arians to have been made by Christ. Dr. Priestly, and most, if not all
the modern Socinians, and many of the Arians, though I am not able to say how many, utterly deny, so far as my knowledge ex. tends, any Atonement at all; and thus take away from the Christian system what the great body of the Church has in every age esteemed the Capital Doctrine in the scheme of Redemption, and from mankind every rational hope of escape from future punishment. The only encouraging declaration to sinners, exclusive of
. those which are founded on it, which I can find in the Gospel, is this : that Christ has redeemed us from under the curse of the law, by being made a curse for us. Accordingly, this declaration, repeated in very numerous forms, is every where insisted on in the Gospel, as the commanding theme, and as the only consolation to apostate men. If the doctrine, contained in this declaration, be taken out of the Gospel; mankind are left wholly under the dominion of Law; and must necessarily suffer its penalty.
In my own view, Dr. Priestly, and those who accord with him in denying an atonement, are more consistent with themselves, or with the other parts of their system, than the rest of the Unitarians. He, who denies the Deity of Christ, appears to me to cut off the possibility of any vicarious interference in the behalf of sinners. At the same time, the atonement of Christ is so plainly, so frequently, and so unequivocally, asserted in the Scaptures; and the whole system of divine dispensations is made to depend upon it so extensively, and essentially; that to deny it appears to me to be the same thing, as to deny the Scriptures themselves. So necessary also, and so consolatory, is the doctrine of an atonement for sin to such beings, as we are, as well as so abundantly asserted in the Scriptures, that I can scarcely suppose any man willingly to deny it, unless compelled by something entirely different from the Scriptures themselves; and from the nature of the doctrine.
One error infers another. The error of denying the Deity of Christ has, 1 apprehend, compelled those, who have adopted it, to deny, also, all the doctrines, which have been here mentioned; and particularly the atonement; notwithstanding they were opposed in this denial by so many express declarations of the Sacred Volume.
4thly. The Doctrine of Justification by faith in Christ, is also of the same nature. As mankind cannot be justified by their own righteousness; it
; is absolutely necessary, if they are justified at all, that they should be justified by the righteousness of another. Accordingly the Scriptures assert in the most direct, and abundant, manner, that we are justified by mere grace, or favour, on account of the righteousness of Christ, through that faith in him, in the exercise of which we give up ourselves to him, to be his here and for ever. As this doctrine is not only asserted in very many instances, and in the most express manner, but is also repeatedly proved in form, especially in the Epistles to the Romans and the Gallatians; it would seem incredible, that it should be denied by any man, who believ
ed in divine Revelation. Still, it is abundantly denied by Unitarians. Nor do they only deny the doctrine generally, but all the particulars, also, of which it is made up. Beside rejecting the atonement of Christ, and the justification, supposed to be accomplished by means of it, and the influence, which faith is supposed to have in securing such justification to us, they deny, also, the very nature of the Faith, to which this influence is ascribed. The faith of the Gospel is an affection of the heart, being no other than Trust, or Confidence. With the heart, says St. Paul, man believeth unto righteousness. In direct opposition to this and many other passages of the Scriptures, the Unitarians, generally at least, consider faith as a mere assent of the understanding to probable evidence: the same, which is called a speculative, or historical faith. By this opinion they strip faith of the moral nature, every where attributed to it in the Gospel. Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. But surely no exercise of the understanding was ever counted for righteousness to any man; or can possess any moral nature whatever. Thou believest, that there is one God; says St. James ; Thou dost well. The Devils, also, believe, and tremble. Certainly that affection of the mind, of which devils are the subjects, cannot possess moral excellence. Without faith it is impossible to please God. But surely the faith, which pleases God, must be essentially different from the faith of devils.
5thly. Another doctrine, of the same nature, is the Regeneration of the human soul, by the Spirit of God.
That without holiness, or moral excellence, no man shall see the Lord, is, I think, the irresistible dictate of Reason; as well as the express declaration of the Scriptures: for it cannot be supposed that the infinitely holy God can be pleased with creatures, who are wholly destitute of such excellence; and who, being wholly sinful, have nothing in them, which he can approve, or with which he can be pleased. That in us, that is, in our flesh, or original nature, dwelleth no good thing ; no holiness; no moral excellence; is, as you well know, a declaration contained in the Scriptures. From these two doctrines, thus declared, arises indispensably, the necessity of such a change in our character, as will make us the subjects of holiness. This change is in the Scriptures termed Regeneration; being born again; being created anew; becoming new creatures; being renewed; and is expressed by other similar phraseology, and declared to be indispensable to our entrance into the divine kingdom. Except a man be born again, said our Saviour to Nicodemus, he cannot see the kingdom of God. The production of this change is in the Scriptures ascribed, as his peculiar work, to the Spirit of God. Except a man, says our Saviour again, Except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God: that is, except a man have his mind purified by the Spirit of God, as the body is purified by water, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Not by works of righteousness which we have
done, says St. Paul, but according to his mercy he saved us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. Accordingly, those persons, who experience this change of character, are said to be born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God; that is, they derive this change of character not from their parents, nor from their own efforts, nor from the efforts of any man, but from God.
But this change the Unitarians deny, and the agency of the Holy Spirit in effectuating it in the mind of man. Nay, they deny the existence of the Holy Spirit as a person, or agent. As a substitute for regeneration they declare mankind to become better in a gradual manner, by their own will, or efforts, and the efforts, or will, of their fellow-men, to such a degree, that God will accept them. In this manner they make the immense splendour of apparatus for our Redemption and Sanctification; and all the magnificent exhibitions of Christ and the Holy Spirit, terminate in this : that Christ came to declare divine truth to mankind, and to prove it to be divine truth ; and that men, assenting to it with the understanding, change themselves by the ordinary efforts of a sinful mind into such a character, as is denoted in the Scriptures by being born again, and created anew. Such, it would seem, was not, however, the opinion of St. Paul, when he said, The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them; for they are spiritually discerned.
The present occasion will not permit me particularly to follow this subject any further. It will be sufficient to mention, summarily, several other doctrines, which have been denied by Dr. Priestly and his followers.
Our Saviour says, A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. Dr. Priestly, on the contrary, informs us, that the human spirit is constituted only of organized Matter: that is, of flesh and bones. St. Paul tells
us, that, when he is absent from the body, he shall be present with the Lord. Dr. Priestly holds, that Paul was nothing but body; and therefore could not be absent from the body, unless the body could be absent from itself. When the body dies, the soul, according to Dr. Priestly, terminates both its operations, and its being, until the resurrection, then to be created again; and therefore is not, and cannot be, present with the Lord, until after that period. The Scriptures assert the existence of Angels, of various orders, both good and evil; and delineate their characters, stations, actions, and enjoyments. Dr. Priestly utterly denies, and even ridicules, the doctrine, that evil angels exist; and labours very hard to disprove the existence of good angels. I do not remember, that he expressly denies it; and am not in possession of the volume, in which his opinions on this subject are expressed, but he says all, that is short of such an explicit denial; and plainly indicates, that he does not believe them to exist.
Beyond all this; he denies the plenary inspiration of the Apostles; and declares, that we are to acknowledge them inspired, only when they say they are inspired : and this, he says, we are to do, because the Apostles were honest men; and are io be believed in this, and all their other declarations. Dr. Priestly says expressly, that he does not consider the books of Scripture as inspired, but as authentic records of the dispensations of God to mankind; with every particular of which we cannot be too well acquainted. The writers of the books of Scripture, he says, were men, and therefore fallible. But all, that we have to do with them, is in the character of historians, and witnesses, of what they heard and saw; like all other historians, they were liable to mistakes. “ Neither 1,” says he to Dr. Price," nor, I presume, yourself, believe implicitly every thing, which is advanced by any writer in the Old or New Testament. I believe them," that is, the writers, “ to have been men, and therefore fallible.” And again; “ That the books of Scripture were written by particular divine inspiration is a thing, to which the writers themselves make no pretensions. It is a notion destitute of all proof, and that has done great injury to the evidence of Christianity." The reasonings of the divine writers, he declares, we are fully at liberty to judge of, as we are those of other men. Accordingly, he asserts St. Paul in a particular instance to have reasoned fallaciously; and maintains that Christ was both fallible and peccable. Other English Socinians unite with Dr. Priestly in these sentiments : while Socinians of other nations proceed so far, as to treat the writers themselves, and their books, with marked contempt. In these several things there is plainly an utter denial, that the Scriptures are a Revelation from God. To all these opinions Dr. Priestly was once directly opposed : for he was once a Trinitarian, and a Calvinist. The inference seems, therefore, to be necessary, that he was led to them all by his denial of the Deity of Christ. A similar transformation appears to have been undergone by many other Socinians; and something very like it by no small number of Arians. The observation of Mr. Wilberforce, therefore, seems to be but too well founded, when he says; “ In the course, which we lately traced from nominal orthodoxy to absolute Infidelity, Unitarianism is, indeed, a sort of half-way house, if the expression may be pardoned; a stage on the journey, where sometimes a person, indeed, finally stops ; but where, not unfrequently, he only pauses for a while; and then pursues his progress.”
IV. The last objection, which I shall make at the present time against the doctrine of the Unitarians, is its Immoral Influence.
Mr. Belsham says, “ Rational Christians are often represented as indifferent to practical religion." Dr. Priestly says, " A great number of the Unitarians, of the present age, are only men of good sense, and without much practical religion: and there is a greater apparent conformity to the world in them, than is observable in Vol. II.