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it, and without it was not any thing made, that was made. In it was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. It was in the world, and the world was made by it, and the world knew it not. It came unto its own, and its own received it not. But as many as received it, to them gave it power to become the sons of God; even to them that believe on its name, and the power was made flesh, and dwelt among us ; (and we beheld its glory, the glory as of the only begolten of the Father) full of grace and truth. John bare witness of it, and cried, saying, This was it of which I spake : It that cometh after me is preferred before me, for it was before me.
And of its fulness have we all received, and grace for grace. For the Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
Dr. Priestly says the Power was God; St. John says, It was made flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. According to his comment, therefore, God became flesh, and dwelt among us. According to his comment, also, this Power was Christ ; for he says it dwelt among us, full of grace and truth : but St. John immediately subjoins, grace and truth came (that is, into this world) by Jesus Christ. Therefore, Jesus Christ is God.
This passage, formed in the very manner prescribed by Dr. Priestly himself, in his explanation, certainly can need no comment from me. I shall only say, that if there is a Socinian in the world, who can make the parts of it, taken together, mean any intelligible thing, I think I may safely yield him the point in controversy.
Let us now make the trial with the other term, God. In the beginning was God, and God was with God, and God was God. Two verses more will suffice. And God was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, (the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth. No one hath seen God at any time, but the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
Once more, let us try the same experiment with the Super-angelic being of the Arians. In the beginning was a super-angelic creature, named the Word, and this super-angelic creature was with God, and this super-angelic creature was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things mere made by this super-angelic creature, and without him was not any thing made that was made. I presume, I need proceed no farther. That interpretation of a passage can need nothing added to it, which makes God himself say, that a creature was in the beginning with God, and was God; and that, although he was himself created, or made; yet he made every thing that was made; and of course made himself. I had designed to subjoin two or three more specimens ; but the time will not permit me to recite them. That, which I have recited, will serve to show to what lengths the interpretation of the Scriptures, according to our pre-conceived opinions, will lead men of superior learning and abilities. At the reading of this only, how
can we avoid exclaiming, Who is this, that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge ? On this plan of interpretation at large 1 ask, Can it, in any re
I spect, consist with what the Scriptures say of themselves? The prophet Isaiah, (chapter viii. 29) says, To the law, and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
All Scripture, says St. Paul, is given by inspiration of God; and is profitable for docirine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness; That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work. No prophecy, says St. Peter, is of private interpretation : for never at any time was prophecy brought by the will of man; but the holy men of God spake, being moved by the Holy Ghost.* We, says St. Paul, speaking of himself, and his fellow-apostles, have the mind of Christ. And again ; For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our heart, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. And again, I certify you, brethren, that the Gospel, which was preached of me, was not after man ; for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ,
In perfect harmony with these, and the like declarations, Moses, the first of the inspired writers, says, Ye shall not add unto the word, which I command you; neither shall ye diminish aught from it. St. John, the last of them, says at the close of his writings, For I testify unto every man, that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues, that are written in this book. And, if any man shall take away from the words of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life. From these passages it is evident that the character, which the Scriptures attribute to themselves, is altogether opposite to that, which has been mentioned in the former part of this discourse, as given to them by Unitarian writers: That ihey are in fact revealed by God, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost : That no man, therefore, can add to them, or diminish aught from them, without exposing himself to the plagues which they denounce, and to the loss of his part in the book of life. If we speak not according to them it is declared that there is no light in us. In our interpretations of them, we are directed in the most solemn manner to receive the things which they declare. Let God be true, says the Apostle, but every man a liar. See, says Agur, that thou add not to his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. If we, says St. Paul, or an Angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel than that which we have preached, let him be accursed. Who, with these solemn commands, and awful denunciations before him, can think, for a moment, of rejecting the obvious meaning of the
Scriptures, and substituting a meaning, not contained in the words, but contrived by himself ?
Nor are these gentlemen less unfortunate in another important particular. The Scriptures were written for mankind at large. Of these, ninety-nine hundredths, to say the least, are plain, uninformed men, incapable of understanding language in any other manner, than the known, customary one. If, then, the obvious meaning is not the true one; they are absolutely unable ever to find the true one; and so far the Scriptures were written in vain. But it cannot be supposed, that God would do any thing in vain; and still less, that He would disregard the salvation, and the souls, of ninety-nine hundredths of his creatures, when publishing his word; and cause it to be so written, that this great number could not, if ever so sincerely disposed, possibly find out its meaning, nor of course, the way to eternal life: while at the same time, He made provision for the remaining one hundredth. It will not, I suppose, be pretended, that the soul of a learned man is of more value in the sight of God, than that of an unlearned man.
But if the meaning of the Scriptures is to be discovered, not by the words, but by a contrived accordance with pre-conceived philosophical opinions, no unlearned man can find out this meaning at all.
But the Scriptures themselves have decided this point. In Prov. visi. 8, 9, Christ says, All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse, in them. They are all plain to him that understandeth ; (that is, to him that hath understanding; or, in other words, to him that departeth from evil) and right to them that find knowledge. In John vii. 16, 17, the same glorious Person says, My doctrine (that is, the scheme of doctrine which I teach) is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his Will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God. Now it will not be pretended, that plain men do not depart from evil, as truly, and as often in proportion to their number, as learned men. Of course, it must be confessed, that plain men find a plain meaning in the words of Christ, or of the Scriptures. It will be acknowledged, that unlearned men, in many instances at least, do the will of God: and therefore, unless Christ has erred in this point, know of his doctrine, whether it is of God.
One more passage will be amply sufficient to cut off even cavilling on this point. The prophet Isaiah (chapter xxxv. and 8th) says, An highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; and the way-faring men, though fools, shall not err therein. It will hardly be necessary to observe that this highway, this way of holiness, is no other than the Gospel. But it is evidently impossible, that plain men should ever find the meaning, attached by Unitarians to the numerous passages, which speak of Christ as God. No such man would ever mistrust, that a Super-angelic
. creature was called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the Father of the everlasting age, the Prince of peace: That of the in
crease of his Government and peace there should be no end, Isaiah ix. 6. That his goings forth were from of old, from everlasting: or, as in the original, from the days of eternity: or that this creature was in the beginning, with God, and was God. That all things were made by him, and that without him was not any thing made that was made. Or that he was over all things, God blessed for
No such man would ever have thought of reading, In the beginning was divine power, and this power was with God, and this power was God. That it was in the world; that the world was made by it; and the world knew it not. That as many as received it, to them gave it power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on its name. That this power became flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld its glory, the glory as of ihe only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth. Joản bare witness of it, and cried, saying, this was it of which I spake. It that cometh after me is preferred before me, for it was before me. No plain man would ever have thought of reading, In the beginning was God, and God was with God, and God was God.
Should it be said in opposition to the observations, which I have made concerning the intelligibleness of the Scriptures, that my antagonists will grant, that the Scriptures are thus plain, in points of essential importance to our duty and salvation; but need not be supposed to be so in mere speculative opinions ; I answer, that no doctrine is of more importance, whether speculative or practical, than that, which teaches the character of Christ; except that, which teaches the existence and perfections of God. If Christ be a creature; all the worship, and all other regard, rendered to him as the Creator, is unquestionably mere Idolatry: the sin, which of all sins is the most strongly threatened, and reproved, in the Scriptures. If Christ is God; then a denial that he is God, is all that is meant by impiety. It is a denial of his primary and essential Character; of the Attributes, which in this character belong to him ; of the Relations, which he sustains to the Universe, and will for ever sustain ; of the actions, which he has performed, and will perform throughout eternity; and of the essential glory, which he had with the Father before ever the world was. Man is a being, made up of an animal body and a rational mind. Should I deny, that a particular person possessed a rational mind; would it not be justly said, that I denied him to be a man, and refused to acknowledge his primary and most essential character ? If Christ is God-man; and I deny him to be God; do I not, at least as entirely, deny his primary and most essential character? In other words, do I not plainly deny the Lord that bought me? It is evidently impossible for him, who makes this denial, to render to Christ those regards; that confidence, love, reverence, and obedience; which a man, who believed Christ to be God, would feel himself indispensably bound to render. Indeed were it possible, he would necessarily, and in the very act of rendering them, condemn himself as guilty of Idol
atry. On the other hand, he, who believes Christ to be God, cannot refuse to render them, without condemning himself as guilty, and without being actually guilty, of the plainest and grossest im. piety; because he withholds from the true God, the homage and obedience, due to his character. The Unitarians censure the sys tem of the Trinitarians as being idolatrous, and them as being Idolaters. If the Unilarian scheme is true, the censure is just. We, on the other hand, and with equal justice, if our scheme is true, declare them to be guilty of direct and gross impiety; because they worship not the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; the Jehovah of the Scriptures; the JEHOVAH ALEIM, who is one Jehovah; but another and very different God.
The admission of the Deity of Christ, therefore, if he be really God, is a fundamental doctrine of Christianity; mistakes about which are altogether dangerous and dreadful. This is plainly felt to be the case by the plain people, even among the Socinians. For Mrs. Barbauld informs us, that although the errors of the Trinitarians “are losing ground among thinking people, yet there is in that class, (among the Socinians) who are called serious Christians, a sort of leaning towards them; an idea that they are, if not true, at least good to be believed; and that a salutary error is better than a dangerous truth.”
Can it then be believed, that God can have directed the Scriptures to be so written, that the true meaning of them in a case of this fundamental importance; a case, in which mankind are in so imminent danger of becoming either impious, or idolatrous; is so obscure, as to make plain men utterly unable to find it out, however honestly disposed; and that the great body of religious men should in all ages of the Church, have totally and infinitely mista- . ken their real intention? Can that mode of interpretation, which leads of course to this conclusion, be the true one ?
II. The Unitarians reject the doctrine, that Christ is God, and the obvious meaning of all those passages which teach it, because the doctrine is mysterious.
This I object to as a totally irrational ground of such rejection. There are two reasons, which will effectually prove this irrationality.
ist. All mankind readily admit, and, if they believe any thing, must every moment admit, mysteries, as the objects of their faith. This world is made up of atoms. What are they? Dr, Priestly informs us, that they are centres of attraction and repulsion. This definition, translated out of Latin English into Saxon English, is, that atoms are centres of drawing to, and driving from : a definition, which, I believe, it would puzzle Dr. Priestly himself to unriddle, and at least as applicable to points of space as to atoms. They are also defined to be solid extended somethings. What is the something thus solid and extended? Here our inquiries are stopped, and an atom is found to be an absolute mystery. The world