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UNITARIANISM DEFENDED:
 

A SERIES OF LECTURES

BY
THREE PROTESTANT DISSENTING MINISTERS
OF LIVERPOOL:
IN REPLY TO
A COURSE OF LECTURES, ENTITLED “UNITARIANISM
CONFUTED,” BY THIRTEEN CLERGYMEN OF
THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND.

Would to Heaven that Christians had their own ‘vail’ of orthodox words taken away from their minds; that, limiting Orthodoxy to the acceptance of the Christ as the Spirit (‘the Lord is that Spirit,’ says St. Paul), i.e., the meaning, the end of all revelation, they would not allow a new letter, consisting of abstract doctrines, to involve their minds in a ‘vail’ which obstructs the view of the Gospel, even more than the old letter, which kept the Jews in “bondage.”—Heresy and Orthodoxy by Rev. J. Blanco White, p. 53, 2nd edition.


LIVERPOOL:
WILLMER AND SMITH, 32, CHURCH STREET.
LONDON:
JOHN GREEN, 121, NEWGATE STREET.

1839.

LONDON:
PRINTED BY RICHARD KINDER,
GREEN ARBOUR COURT, OLD BAILEY.

GENERAL PREFACE.

In this Preface, and in all the other contents of this volume, we have occupied the position of an assailed party, lending our best consideration to whatever a leagued body of resolute and unsparing adversaries could say against us. We have stood upon the defensive, not lamenting that such an occasion had occurred of exposing our views of Christianity to so severe a scrutiny, and of displaying to the world whether our position was tenable. We did not provoke this Controversy. It was of our opponents’ choosing. They entered into combination, and arranged their method of attack, and invited the public attentively to look on while they performed upon us the work of destruction. With respectful attention, as men whose system of Christianity was about to be subjected to a powerful analysis by those who believed the main ingredients to be poisonous,—but with quiet hearts, as men who had no interest in this world but to discover Truth,—we have interfered no further than was necessary to make this examination, by carefulness, impartiality, and accuracy, productive of a true result. We have struck out whatever was untrue, and we have supplied whatever was wanting, to exhibit a full statement of the respective Evidences of Unitarianism and of Trinitarianism. Lecture qualifies lecture; and Preface corrects Preface. We are satisfied to have thus placed, side by side, the contrasted views of Man and God, and to await the issues.

To return upon the “thirteen Clergymen of the Church of England” the words of their General Preface, (p. xi.) “it is no uncommon practice in modern criticism to neglect the statements” of an opponent’s case, as if they never had been made, and the corrections passed upon one’s own as if they never had been experienced. It is the policy of the “thirteen Clergymen” to reiterate, nothing daunted, arguments, our careful replies to which are not even noticed, and misrepresentations whose injustice had solemnly been protested against. By these resolute repetitions some are seduced to believe, and attention is withdrawn from the overthrow of an error or a calumny by the hardihood with which it rises from its fall, and reasserts itself. Strike them down;—they get up, and coolly offer themselves to be struck down again. Great ought to be the power of Truth; for great is the vitality and the power of effrontery in a popular error. It is only in the long combat of years and generations that the Real manifests at last its imperishable quality. The “General Preface” quietly gathers up all the “disjecta membra” of error and misstatement, and without a word of answer to our analysis of their character, presents them again to have sentence and execution passed upon them. It is a careful redintegration of the broken particles, which in our simplicity we had hoped would not so readily reunite. We are obliged, therefore, by way at once of Preface and of Protest, to repeat our solemn contradiction of some most strenuous misrepresentations, and to attempt again the exposure of some fallacies most tenacious of life.

I. It was distinctly stated by us in the course of this Controversy, that not upon any grounds of literary evidence did we discredit those prefaces which relate to the miraculous (or as, in insult to the purest and holiest human feelings, our opponents are not ashamed to call it, the immaculate) conception; and that our estimate of them was formed solely upon grounds of inherent incredibility, and of proved inconsistencies both with themselves and with the general statements of the New Testament. Yet in total disregard of this our denial, the Preface (p. xiii.) reasserts the charge, as if it never had been contradicted. We also distinctly stated that the miraculous conception in no way interfered with Unitarianism,—that many Humanitarians believed in it; yet it is the policy of Trinitarianism to repeat, that we pervert these portions of Scripture, for the sake of evading a fact fatal to our system. Unitarianism is so little concerned to evade the fact of a miraculous conception, that many Unitarians themselves adopt it. It is the “tactics” of the “thirteen Clergymen,” their system “of holy war,” (see Preface to Mr. Ould’s Lecture) to ignore whatever we may say on our own behalf, either in way of correction or of defence, and to reassert the false statement.

II. The “Unitarian Creed” is described by our reverend opponents as “a mere code of unbelief” (p. xiv.) it being the policy of the “thirteen Clergymen,” not only to pay no regard to our most solemn assertion of our faith in Christianity, as God’s full and perfect revelation to man, but also to assume to themselves the functions of infallible judges of what is Christianity, and what is not; and so, again to return upon them their own language, to “deify their own fallible” (p. xii.) interpretations and inferences. Yet they can impose upon the simplicity of the world, by charging others with the “pride of reason.” Infallible themselves, to differ from their infallibility can of course be nothing else than the pride of reason.

III. It is stated (p. xv.), that we “utterly deny” “the eternity of punishments,” without adding what we have added, that the moral consequences of actions are eternal, and that in its influence on character and progress, the retribution of every evil thought or deed is everlasting. What we do deny, as the blackest misrepresentation that can be conceived of the God of Providence, whose glory it is to lead his children to Himself, is the horribly distinct statement of their own “General Preface”—“that the sufferings of the lost are not intended for their amendment, but as a satisfaction to divine justice, when the hour of pardon shall have passed away.” (p. xv.) Is this the Religion, and this the God, of Love? These are the men who make the Unbelief of which they afterwards so blindly and bitterly complain. If such was Christianity, unbelief would be a virtue, a prompting of devotion, a protest on behalf of God.

IV. Our doubt as to the existence of, or necessity for, an external Devil, permitted by God to ruin the souls of men, has been converted to two uses in this Preface;—first, as manifesting that we are ourselves under the power of the subtlest device of Satan, who has concealed from us his existence, that he might lead us captive at his will; and, secondly, that though denying the existence of Satan, we are yet ourselves the emissaries of Satan; for that as the Devil tempted Eve, and our Lord himself, by perversions of the Word of God, so Unitarianism, by its interpretations, is his present instrument,—in fact, Satan himself tempting the world by the word of God, as of old he tempted Eve and Christ. (pp. xv. xvi.) We leave this matter to the judgment of men whose sense of propriety and decency has not been borrowed exclusively from the influences of a dogmatic Theology.

V. It is said of us (p. xvi.), contrary to our own most distinct averment in this very Controversy, that “according to the theologians of this unhappy school, it seems to be almost a fundamental rule, that no doctrine ought to be acknowledged as true in its nature, or divine in its origin, of which all the parts are not level to human understanding: and that whatever the Scriptures teach concerning the counsels of Jehovah, and the plan of his salvation, must be modified, curtailed, and attenuated, in such a manner, by the transforming power of art and argument, as to correspond with the poor and narrow capacities of our intelligence.”

Where are the simplicity, the sincerity, the love of Truth, which alone can make Controversy fruitful of good results, when such a representation of the spirit of our Theology can be given by “thirteen Clergymen” after we had published the following words in our fifth Lecture (p. 9), for their special instruction:—“Let me guard myself from the imputation of rejecting this doctrine because it is mysterious; or of supporting a system which insists on banishing all mysteries from religion. On any such system I should look with unqualified aversion, as excluding from faith one of its primary elements; as obliterating the distinction between logic and devotion, and tending only to produce an irreverent and narrow-minded dogmatism. ‘Religion without mystery’ is a combination of terms, than which the Athanasian Creed contains nothing more contradictory; and the sentiment of which it is the motto, I take to be a fatal caricature of rationalism, tending to bring all piety into contempt. Until we touch upon the mysterious, we are not in contact with religion; nor are any objects reverently regarded by us, except such as, from their nature or their vastness, are felt to transcend our comprehension.” Nay, it is not a little remarkable, that the very illustration employed by the “thirteen Clergymen” to exhibit our absurdity in rejecting the incomprehensible, had been previously employed by ourselves to exhibit the necessity of admitting the incomprehensible:—

Trinitarian Preface, p. xviii. Unitarian Lecture, No. V. p. 9.
“Much of the great mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh, with all the firmament of saving truth and love, whereof it is the radiant centre, must remain inexplicable to our present capacities. But to argue from thence, that this mystery is a cunningly-devised fable, is as illogical as it would be to maintain that there is no bottom to the sea, because we have no plumb-line with which it may be fathomed.” “The sense of what we do not know is as essential to our religion, as the impression of what we do know; the thought of the boundless, the incomprehensible, must blend in our mind with the perception of the clear and true; the little knowledge we have must be clung to, as the margin of an invisible immensity; and all our positive ideas be regarded as the mere float to show the surface of the infinite deep.”

This is bold misrepresentation; a consistent hardihood in the “tactics of holy war.” To persevere, against all remonstrance, in the repetition of a misstatement injurious to an opponent, and to do this so coolly as to use almost his own words in imputing to him the very opposite of what he has said, is at least a convenient, if not an honourable nor yet a formidable policy.

In the same spirit of neither honourable nor yet formidable policy, is the attempt (p. xvii.) to identify Mahometanism and Unitarianism, by the help of a literary forgery, which even if it was authentic, would prove nothing except that the early Unitarians of England, in the reign of Charles the Second, amid the corruptions of Christianity, rejoiced in the testimony borne by Mahometanism to the great doctrine of revealed religion, the Unity of God. It is said that there is, among the MSS. in the Lambeth Library, a “Socinian Epistle (to this effect) to Ameth Ben Ameth, Ambassador from the Emperor of Morocco to Charles II.” Leslie, in the Preface to his “Socinian Controversy Discussed,” was the first who made use of this supposed letter, and not without the suspicion, that he had first forged it himself.[1] “I will here,” says Leslie, “present the reader with a rarity, which I take to be so, because of the difficulty I had to obtain it.” “It is in my mind,” says Mr. Aspland, “decisive of the question, that immediately after Leslie had published the Epistle, Emlyn, who answered the tract to which it was prefixed, stated it as his belief, upon inquiry, that no such epistle had ever been presented by any one ‘deputed’ from the Unitarians, and insinuated that no credit was to be given to a document published by Leslie, unless vouched by some other authority than his own; and that Leslie, in replying to this answer, though he dwells, for pages, upon the passages before and after this, relating to the epistle, says not a syllable about his ‘rarity’ or in defence of his veracity.” “Leslie,” continues Mr. Aspland, “is convicted (by Emlyn) of quoting passages from Archbishop Tillotson’s Sermons, which had been published in the name of their eminent author, as if they were the work of an avowed ‘Socinian.’ And if you will consult his reply, you will find this theological braggart completely humbled, and reduced to the necessity of using the wretched plea, that he had omitted the name of the ‘great Prelate,’ out of tenderness.—Is it uncharitable to suspect, under all these circumstances, that he who was proved to have resorted to one trick, might have had recourse to another?”

“As to your ‘rarity,’” says Emlyn in his reply to Leslie, “of the address to the Morocco ambassador, I see not what it amounts to, more than a complaint of the corruption of the Christian faith, in the article of one God, which the Mahometans have kept, by consent of all sides. Yet, forasmuch as I can learn nothing from any Unitarians of any such address from them, nor do you produce any subscribers’ names,[2] I conclude no such address was ever made, by any deputed from them, whatever any single person might do. I suppose you conclude from the matter of it, that it must be from some Unitarian, and perhaps so; yet you may remember that so you concluded from the matter of Dr. Tillotson’s Sermons, that they were a Socinian’s.”[3]

For our own part, when we read this amusing attempt to identify us with Mahometans, by the help of an unknown letter, bearing no subscription, and addressed, by nobody knows whom, to the Ambassador of Morocco, in the reign of Charles II., we were forcibly reminded of two passages in Ecclesiastical History, in whose pages all tricks and absurdities can be paralleled, and whose exhibition of gratuitous follies and distortions has left the possibility of “nothing new under the sun,” of this description, for our modern days. Hildebrand himself, yes, Gregory the Seventh, like our poor selves, was suspected of a leaning to “Islamism,” (General Preface, p. xvii.) because he wrote a letter, not to the Ambassador, as in our case but, as became his greater dignity, to the Emperor of Morocco, thanking him for the liberation of some Christian captives, and expressing his conviction, so much was there of the spirit of God and goodness in this act, “that they both worshipped the same spirit, though the modes of their adoration and faith were different.” It also appears that the Emperor Manuel Comnenus exposed himself to the same imputation of “Islamism,” because he wished to correct an error in the ritual of the Greek Church, which by a laughable misunderstanding of an Arabic word, signifying eternal, “contained a standing anathema against the God of Mahomet,” as being “solid and spherical.”

“Solventur risu tabulæ; tu missus abibis.”

We confess our unmixed astonishment at finding the “thirteen Clergymen” avowing the most undisguised Tritheism. We do not recollect in modern times so bold and unwary an admission of Polytheism as the following: “Our inability, therefore, to explain the Triunity of his Essence, can be no reason for rejecting the revelation of it contained in his Word; even if we were deprived of those shadows and resemblances of this divine truth, which may be seen in the one nature of man, communicating itself to many individuals of the species. There is one human nature, but many human persons.” (p. xix.) Is this then the Unity of God which the “thirteen” maintain, viz., such a unity as subsists between three individual men? Is it their meaning that the Divine Nature is a Species containing under it three Individuals, as human nature is a species containing under it as many individuals as there are men? Do they mean to contend, with some of the Fathers, that three men are only “abusively” called three, being in reality only one? What mercy would Dr. Whately have for such unskilful controversialists? Is this however the deliberate view of the whole thirteen, or is it only the rashness of one of them?—for it is very important to have so definite a statement of what is meant by the Trinity in Unity.

VI. It is most incorrectly stated (Preface, p. xx.) that “Dr. Priestley, Mr. Lindsey, Mr. Belsham, not to mention earlier writers, have laboured hard to show that the Fathers of the first three centuries were Unitarians, and believers in the simple humanity of Jesus Christ.” Such a labour was never undertaken by these writers, nor by any one else. It is capable of proof that the Fathers of the three first centuries were not Trinitarian in the Athanasian sense; but that they were believers in the simple humanity of the Christ, no one maintains, from the time that Platonism first began to transform Christianity into harmony with its own peculiar ideas. That Unitarians have supported this view by “hardy misquotations,” is, to say the least of it, an unwise provocation from men who have in the course of this Controversy been convicted of the most careless misquotations both in their own case (see especially preface to the Seventh Unitarian Lecture), and in that of their favourite Champion (see the Appendix to the Sixth Unitarian Lecture). That the substantial statements of Unitarians as to the Unitarianism of the primitive Church have been overturned by Bull, &c., (Trinitarian preface, p. xxi.) is a hardy assertion in the face of the following quotations from Bull himself: “In the FIRST and BEST ages, the Churches of Christ directed all their prayers according to the scriptures, to God only, through the alone mediation of Jesus Christ.”—Answer to a Query of the Bishop of Meaux, p. 295.

“The Father is rightly styled The Whole, as he is the fountain of divinity: For the divinity which is in the Son and in the Holy Ghost, is the Father’s, because it is derived from the Father.”—Defence, sect. ii. 8.

For another quotation from Bishop Bull, see also preface, p. vi., to the Seventh Unitarian Lecture.

VII. The “thirteen Clergymen,” finding that Mr. Belsham’s “Improved Version” was not a Standard with us, and knowing perhaps that in our rejection of it as such we have been borne out by the Unitarian Association at its recent general meeting in London, yet determined to find a standard for us somewhere, have (p. xxvi.) put into our mouths, with marvellous naïveté, an appeal to Mr. Belsham’s Translation of St. Paul’s Epistles. We have already given up the Mr. Belsham of the Improved Version, and they, for their own easy purposes, represent us as making an appeal to the Mr. Belsham of “the Epistles.” We will yield to our reverend opponents whatever consolation they may be able to derive from their imaginary triumph, in case we made this imaginary appeal. The Trinitarians cannot divest their minds of the idea that we must have an Authority somewhere. They cannot understand what is meant by deferring to principles alone; by having no external judge of Controversies, no shorter road to conclusions, than to submit every question to the fullest light that Knowledge and Inquiry have provided, or may yet provide. The Cæsar to whom we appeal from Mr. Belsham is not some other Mr. Belsham, or the same man in a different book, but the great principles of Criticism and of Interpretation, as recognized by competent judges of all parties.

VIII. For the faith of the Church of England, the “thirteen Clergymen” declare, that “it is alike their privilege and obligation to contend in that spirit of charity which becomes a believer in Jesus.” (Preface, p. xxviii.) We shall not open former wounds, but look simply to some of their last manifestations of “Charity” in their General Preface.

1. They say of us (p. xxiii.), that “Unitarians have borne some such proportion to the Christian Church, as monsters bear to the species of which they are unhappy distortions.”

2. They “decline to receive us as brethren, and to give us the right hand of fellowship” partly because our doctrinal views of Christianity are different from their own, and partly because, as they aver, we maintain our views in dishonesty, using language hypocritically. We “cannot be Christian brethren,” say they, “for we cannot tread the same road, even for an instant. They use the language of Christianity, without believing its mysteries. How, then, can we bid them God speed, while they are influenced by this spirit of unfairness? ‘The words of their mouth are smoother than butter, but war is in their heart: their words are softer than oil, yet are they drawn swords.’” (pp. xxiv. xxv.)

3. We are charged with deliberately opposing our own minds to the mind of God. “That such unwearied hostility,” say they, “is waged by Unitarians against the mind of God, as expressed in his word, all their publications unequivocally and mournfully attest.” (p. xxv.)

4. They describe us as “blasphemers against the Son of Man,” and they close this peculiar exhibition of “Charity” by offering up for us the following prayer:—

“O merciful God, who hast made all men, and hatest nothing that thou hast made, nor wouldest the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted, and live, have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Heretics, and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy word,” &c. (p. xxix.)

If such is their “Charity,” may we be permitted to ask, what form would their uncharitableness take?

Such is the “General Preface,” which the “thirteen Clergymen” are deliberately of opinion that the issues of this Controversy, and our mutual relations to each other, justified them in writing. We confess that we had prepared ourselves for a careful attempt, on their part, at repairing whatever further inquiry, and, we may say without presumption, the close scrutiny of an opponent, had shown to be weak or imperfect in their previous labours,—a last effort to present again the edifice of their faith in what they deemed its most favourable lights, accompanied by a corresponding attempt to shake the foundations of Unitarian Christianity. They have thought themselves, however, sufficiently strong already to be able to throw away this last opportunity. They deem the work already done, and that they have earned the right, without further addition or defence, to entitle their Lectures “Unitarianism Confuted.”

By their own act they entered with us into this Controversy; they repeatedly recognized us during its continuance as the persons whom they were opposing, and whose Theology they had undertaken to refute;—yet our careful and respectful examination of their views, and statement of our own, have not been able to win from them one word either of notice or reply. However low their opinion may be of us, as of antagonists beneath their consideration, yet surely in an attack on Unitarianism in Liverpool, we are the persons whose views and influence they had most occasion to correct; and if no more respectful feeling, mere expediency, a regard for their own designs against Unitarianism, would seem to require some examination of the arguments and doctrines of those who are its Ministers and interpreters in the place where this attempt at its overthrow has been made.

In abandoning this last occasion of a careful and elaborately strengthened restatement of their case, we confess they have disappointed us. Nor do we believe that even that part of the public which has most sympathies with them, and would most rejoice in their success, will contemplate the omission without surprise.

The origin and history of this Controversy is sufficiently detailed in the annexed Correspondence. It will there be seen how our desire for a really close and decisive examination of the several points at issue between us has been evaded: our reverend opponents would not admit of any controversy of which declamation was not to be the instrument.

We have already stated at the opening of this Controversy, that we did not enter into this discussion for the sake of a Sectarian triumph, but in the more Christian hope of exposing and checking the Sectarian Spirit. To exalt the spiritual character of Faith above the verbal and metaphysical,—to unite mankind through their common love and acceptance of Christ’s goodness and of Christ’s God,—to make his Church one by their participation of one spirit, even the spirit of the life of Jesus,—has been our highest aim, not only on this particular occasion, but throughout all our Ministry. We acknowledge it to be an aim that, indirectly at least, is destructive of “Orthodoxy,” that is, of “the supposed attainableness of Salvation only by one particular set of Opinions,” for if the love of Christ’s God, and the prayerful seeking after Christ’s goodness are sufficient to place us on the way of everlasting Safety, then the question is virtually decided, for no man will follow Orthodoxy gratuitously. It is necessary to set it forth as the only escape from Hell,—else no man would burden himself with it. And thus Orthodoxy is condemned to be damnatory. Intolerance is the very condition of its existence. Cursing is its breath of life. Let it acknowledge that the pure heart, and the pure life, and the spirit of faith in God, may save a soul from death, and Orthodoxy will have dissolved itself, for nothing but the last necessity, the attainableness of safety by no other means, could justify its existence. A damnatory creed must be an essential of Salvation;—else it is the greatest impiety possible to conceive. Was it, then, the intention of Jesus to establish a certain Creed breathing curses against all who do not think[4] alike,—however they may love and live? Alas! why, then, was not that merciful being as distinct as the Athanasian Creed? If Jesus had been charged with the delivery of an exclusive Creed, as the only instrument of Salvation, would he have veiled it from the eyes of those he came to save? Need we pursue the argument further? Orthodoxy is not Christianity;—yet that in Orthodox bosoms the Spirit of Christ may dwell, we are not the persons to deny.

What interest or value can these disputations have for beings whose main business in this world is, in the prospect of a coming world, to conform their souls to the image of the heavenly model, to Jesus the pattern of citizenship in the new Heavens and the new Earth wherein dwelleth righteousness! “Whilst we are wrangling here in the dark,” says Baxter, “we are dying, and passing to the world that will decide all our Controversies, and the safest passage thither is by peaceable holiness.” Whilst we are struggling for points, of which we know little or nothing, hearts are dead or perishing. Whilst we are battling for our conceits, we are all of us unsound within, not right with God, and falling away from the true service of our great master. Whilst proclaiming in Sectarian eagerness, “Lo, Christ is here,” and “Lo, Christ is not there,”—none of us are sitting at his feet, and submitting our souls and passions to his yoke. Whilst we are falling out by the way, in vain his heavenly invitation is addressed to our unquiet hearts—“Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

1.  See “A Plea for Unitarian Dissenters,” pp. 88-9, published in 1813, by the Rev. Robert Aspland, from whom we take the exposure of this forgery now brought forth again; for in Trinitarian Controversy falsehood seems immortal, and there is no work for us modern advocates, except to “slay the slain.”

2.  â€œThere is internal evidence of its being written in the way of banter. No subscription appears to it, and no person is named as concerned in it, but a Monsieur Verze, a Frenchman, who might be employed as an agent, and yet not be a ‘Socinian’ agent.”—Aspland.

3.  Plea for Unitarian Dissenters, p. 137.

“My Lords, if your Lordships attended to the manner in which that quotation is introduced into Leslie, you might see that it bore internal evidence of being something of the nature of a jeu d’esprit.... My Lords, this Leslie was a general maligner.... I really think that this is raking into a dunghill to produce this address to the Ambassador of the Emperor of Morocco.”—The Attorney-General before the House of Lords in the Lady Hewley Appeal, June 28th, 1839.

4.  â€œHe therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity.”—Athanasian Creed.


CONTENTS.

THE PRACTICAL IMPORTANCE OF THE UNITARIAN CONTROVERSY.
BY REV. JOHN HAMILTON THOM.

“Christ in you, the hope of glory: whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”—Colossians i. 27, 28.

“And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage; to whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.”—Galatians ii. 4, 5.

THE BIBLE: WHAT IT IS, AND WHAT IT IS NOT.
BY REV. JAMES MARTINEAU.

“And the word 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.”—John i. 14.

CHRISTIANITY NOT THE PROPERTY OF CRITICS AND SCHOLARS; BUT THE GIFT OF GOD TO ALL MEN.
BY REV. JOHN HAMILTON THOM.

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”—2 Cor. iv. 6.

“THERE IS ONE GOD, AND ONE MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MEN, THE MAN CHRIST JESUS.”
BY REV. HENRY GILES.

“There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”—1 Tim. ii. 5.

THE PROPOSITION “THAT CHRIST IS GOD,” PROVED TO BE FALSE FROM THE JEWISH AND THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES.
BY REV. JAMES MARTINEAU.

“For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth (as there be gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom all are things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.”—1 Cor. viii. 5, 6.

THE SCHEME OF VICARIOUS REDEMPTION INCONSISTENT WITH ITSELF, AND THE CHRISTIAN IDEA OF SALVATION.
BY REV. JAMES MARTINEAU.

“Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”—Acts iv. 12.

THE UNSCRIPTURAL ORIGIN AND ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY.
BY REV. JOHN HAMILTON THOM.

“The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.”—John xiv. 10.

MAN, THE IMAGE OF GOD.
BY REV. HENRY GILES.

“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God.”—1 Cor. xi. 7.

“And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him,—Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants.”—Luke xv. 17-19.

THE COMFORTER, EVEN THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH, WHO DWELLETH IN US, AND TEACHETH ALL THINGS.
BY REV. JOHN HAMILTON THOM.

“If ye love me, keep my commandments: and I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you.”—John xiv. 15-18.

CREEDS THE FOES OF HEAVENLY FAITH; THE ALLIES OF WORLDLY POLICY.
BY REV. HENRY GILES.

“Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”—Rom. xiv. 5.

THE CHRISTIAN VIEW OF MORAL EVIL.
BY REV. JAMES MARTINEAU.

“Woe unto them that say, ... let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it; woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.”—Isaiah v. 18-20.

THE CHRISTIAN VIEW OF RETRIBUTION HEREAFTER.
BY REV. HENRY GILES.

“And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death. Then said the Lord, Thou hast pity on the gourd for which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand?”—Jonah iv. 9, 10, 11.

CHRISTIANITY WITHOUT PRIEST, AND WITHOUT RITUAL.
BY REV. JAMES MARTINEAU.

“To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”—1 Pet. ii. 4, 5.

EXPLAINED OR REFERRED TO IN LECTURES II. V. VI. XI. XIII.

CORRESPONDENCE
 
ON THE
 
TRINITARIAN AND UNITARIAN CONTROVERSY
 
AT
 
LIVERPOOL.


To all who call themselves Unitarians in the town
and neighbourhood of Liverpool.

“And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.”—Acts xxviii. 23.

Men and Brethren,—I am aware that the term “Religious Controversy,” is a phrase peculiarly revolting to many minds; that it presents to them nothing in its aspect but that which has been sarcastically called the “Acetum Theologicum,” a something bitter and distasteful, of more than common offensiveness and asperity. It is for this reason that, in proposing a course of lectures on the subjects in controversy between the Church of England and those who call themselves Unitarians, and who, by that very term, seem to impute to the great majority of professing Christians, of almost all denominations, a polytheistic creed, and in requesting your attendance on these lectures, and inviting your most solemn attention to those subjects, I wish, antecedently, to remove from myself every suspicion of unkindness towards you, and to take away any supposition of unchristian asperity in my feelings, or of a desire to inflict upon the humblest individual amongst you unnecessary pain. That no mere political difference of opinion, much less that any apprehension of danger to the Established Church, have originated this movement, will be sufficiently evident from the fact, that while we are surrounded by many other classes of dissenters, equally opposed to the principle of our establishment, and much more likely to draw away the members of our flocks to their communion, I and my reverend brethren, who were associated with me, on the present occasion, have limited ourselves exclusively to an inquiry into, and an endeavour to expose, the false philosophy and dangerous unsoundness of the Unitarian System.

Now, what is the cause of this distinction? It is simply this, that while we believe the other dissenting bodies to have arranged an ecclesiastical system, in our judgment not clearly Scriptural, and deficient in those particulars which constitute the perfection, though they may not affect the essence of a church, we do at the same time acknowledge that they generally hold, as articles of faith, those great fundamental Gospel truths which are the substance of the safety of souls; truths which, while so held, give them a part in that gracious covenant in Christ, within which God has revealed a way of salvation for all and out of which he has not revealed a way of mercy to any. These fundamental truths are the very doctrines which are controverted between us and those whom we call in courtesy, but not as of right, Unitarians: viz., the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the atoning sacrifice, the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit, the fall of our nature, and the gracious renovation of the human soul, through his supernatural operation. Assured as I am that these truths (which, without a desperate mutilation, or an awful tampering with the plain language of the Word of God, it seems impossible to exclude from that divine record) are of the essence of our souls’ safety, I ask you, men and brethren, I put it to your consciences, is it not of the nature of the tenderest charity, of the purest love, of the most affectionate sympathy with those in the extreme of peril, and that an eternal peril, to supplicate to these doctrines the attention of such as have not yet received them, to pray them to come and “search with us the Scriptures, whether these things be so?”—Acts xvii. 11. Shall he who, unwittingly, totters blindfold on the edge of a precipice, deem it a rude or an uncharitable violence which would snatch him with a strong and a venturous hand, or even it may be with a painful grasp, from the fearful ruin over which he impends? Is it not to your own judgment a strong antecedent ground of presumption, that you are alarmingly and perilously mistaken in this matter, when you see such numbers of highly-gifted and intellectual men, men of study—of general information and of prayer,—holy men, men who “count not their lives dear unto them,” so that they may honour God and preach this gospel, and that not in one particular place, but over the whole surface of the church; who yet account these truths, which you reject, as the essential truths of salvation; truths built, you will remember, in their minds, not on the traditions or authority of men, but on the lively oracles of God?

Seeing, then, men and brethren,

1. That the points of difference between us are of the very highest possible importance, and not matters of mere theoretical speculation, as some of your writers have striven vainly to make appear; that, in short, if Unitarians be sound interpreters of Holy Scripture, we Trinitarians are guilty of the most heinous of all sins—idolatry; and if, on the other hand, ours be the creed of the apostles, saints, and martyrs, Unitarians are sunk in the most blasphemous and deadly error, and are wholly unworthy of being considered Christians, in any proper sense of the word. And seeing,

2. That considerable numbers, it is apprehended, especially among the middling and lower classes, who outwardly profess Unitarian principles, are in total ignorance of the unscriptural nature and dangerous character of those principles. And seeing,

3. That the controversial discussion of disputed points was unquestionably the practice of the apostolic and primitive, as well as of all other ages of religious revival, and is calculated as a means, under the good blessing of Almighty God, to “open men’s eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light;”—We invite and beseech you, by the mercies of God in Christ, to come and give us at least a patient hearing, while we endeavour to “persuade you concerning Jesus,” and “by all means to win some of you.” It is impossible that we can have any base or worldly motive in thus addressing you—any other motive, indeed, besides that which is here avouched, viz., our solemn impression of the value of souls, and of the peril to which the false philosophy of Unitarianism exposes them.

Surely it is a sweet and a pleasant thing,—a thing not to divide and sever, but to unite and to gather into the bonds of dearest affection—thus to tell and to hear together of the great things which our God has done for our souls; of His love to us, when He, “Who thought it not robbery to be equal with God, did take upon him the form of a servant, and, being found in fashion as a man, did humble himself, and become obedient unto death, even the death of a cross.”—Phil. ii. 6-8.

It is the intention of my reverend brethren and myself to meet together on the morning of Tuesday, the 5th of February, (the day immediately preceding the commencement of the course,) for the purpose of solemn humiliation before God, and earnest prayer for the blessing of our Heavenly Father, upon the work in which we are about to engage, that we may be enabled to exhibit and preserve “the mind of Christ,” while employed in “contending for the faith,” and that we may have great success in our endeavours to be instrumental in enlightening the eyes which we believe to have been blinded by “the god of this world,” and causing “the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, to shine unto them.”—2 Cor. iv. 4.

And now, men and brethren, humbly and affectionately praying your serious attention to these things, I commend you to the protection and blessing of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I remain your friend and servant in the gospel, for the Lord’s sake,

Fielding Ould,
Christ Church, Jan. 21, 1839. Minister of Christ Church.

To the Rev. Fielding Ould, and the other Clergymen about to lecture
on the Unitarian Controversy in Christ Church.

Reverend Sirs,—A paper has been put into our hands, and an advertisement has appeared in the public journals, containing a “Syllabus of a Course of Lectures on the Controversy between the Protestant Churches and the (so called) Unitarians,” &c. As individual inquirers after truth, and disciples of Jesus, we deliberately hold the characteristic doctrines of Unitarian Christianity; and, as ministers among a class of Protestants, who, binding themselves and their pastors by no human creed or interpretation, encourage us to seek for ourselves and expound for them the uncorrupted Gospel, we publicly preach the faith which we privately hold. We feel, therefore, a natural interest in the determination of yourself and brother clergymen to call attention to the Unitarian Controversy, and a desire that the occasion may be made conducive to the promotion of candid research, the diminution of sectarian prejudice, and the diffusion of the true faith, and the spirit of our great Master.

We are not of opinion that a miscellaneous audience, assembled in a place of worship, constitutes the best tribunal to which to submit abstruse theological questions, respecting the canon, the text, the translation of Scripture—questions which cannot be answered by any “defective scholarship.” You however, who hold that mistakes upon these points may forfeit salvation, have consistently appealed to such tribunal; and nothing is left to us but to hope that its decision may be formed after just attention to the evidence. This end can be attained only by popular advocacy on neither side, or popular advocacy on both; and, as you have preferred the latter, we shall esteem it a duty to co-operate with you, and contribute our portion of truth and argument towards the correction of public sentiment on the great questions at issue between us. Deeply aware of our human liability to form and to convey false impressions of views and systems from which we dissent, we shall be anxious to pay a calm and respectful attention to your defence of the doctrines of your church. We will give notice of your lectures, as they succeed each other, to our congregations, and exhort them to hear you in the spirit of Christian justice and affection; presuming that, in a like spirit, you will recommend your hearers to listen to such reply as we may think it right to offer. We are not conscious of any fear, any interest, any attachment to system, which should interfere with the sincere fulfilment of our part in such an understanding; and, for the performance of yours, we rely on your avowed zeal for that Protestantism which boldly confides the interpretation of Scripture to individual judgment, and to that sense of justice which, in Christian minds, is the fruit of cultivation and sound knowledge. As you think it the duty of Unitarians to judge of your doctrines, not from our objections, but from your vindication, you cannot question the duty of Trinitarians to take their impressions of our faith from us, rather than from you.

We rejoice to hear that the Christ Church lectures will be published. Should they issue from the press within a week after delivery, we should desire to postpone our reply till we had enjoyed the opportunity of reading them, persuaded that thus we shall best preserve that calmness and precision of statement, without which, controversial discussions tend rather to the increase of prejudice than the ascertainment of truth. Should the publication be deferred for a longer time, the necessity of treating each subject, while its interest is fresh, will oblige us to forego this advantage; and we shall, in such case, deliver, each week, an evening lecture in answer to that preached in Christ Church on the preceding Wednesday. Permit us to ask, how early an appearance of your printed lectures may be expected; and whether you will recommend your congregations to attend with candour to our replies.

We fear, however, that neither from the pulpit nor the press will your statements and ours obtain access extensively to the same persons; your discourses will, perhaps, obtain readers, too exclusively, among Trinitarians; ours, certainly, among Unitarians. In order to place your views and ours fairly side by side, allow us to propose the following arrangements; that an epitome of each lecture, and another of the reply, furnished by the respective authors, shall appear weekly in the columns of one and the same newspaper; the newspaper being selected, and the length of the communications prescribed, by previous agreement. Or should you be willing, we should prefer making some public journal the vehicle of a discussion altogether independent of the lectures, conducted in the form of a weekly correspondence, and having for its matter such topics as the first letter of the series may open for consideration. In this case you will perceive the propriety of conceding to us the commencement of the correspondence, as you have pre-occupied the pulpit controversy; have selected the points of comparison between your idea of Christianity and ours; and introduced among them some subjects to which we do not attach the greatest interest and importance. On this priority, however, we do not insist. You will oblige us by stating whether you assent to this proposal.

While we are willing to hope for a prevailing spirit of equity in this controversy, we are grieved to have to complain of injustice, and of a disregard to the true meaning of words, at its very opening. We must protest against the exclusive usurpation of the title “Protestant Churches,” by a class of religionists who practically disown the principle of Protestantism: who only make the Church (or themselves), instead of the Pope, the arbiter of truth; who hold error (that is, an opinion different from their own,) to be fatal to salvation: and who allow the right of individual judgment only with the penalty of everlasting condemnation upon all whose individual judgment is not the judgment of their Church. We take objection also to the spirit that creeps out in the expression, “(so called) Unitarians,” maintaining that the word does not “impute to others ‘a polytheistic creed;’” but that as “Trinitarian” denotes one who worships the Godhead in three “persons,” Unitarian fitly describes one who worships the Godhead in one person. And, above all, we protest against the resolution of our case into “dishonest or uncandid criticism;” that is the wilful maintenance of error, knowing it to be such, the Charybdis which one of your lecturers proposes for us, if we should be fortunate enough to escape the Scylla of “defective scholarship.” We are deeply concerned that so much of the “acetum theologicum” has mixed thus early in an invitation, characterized by the chief inviter as “a sweet and pleasant thing;” and this, too, after a public announcement of having purged the mind of every feeling but the pure love of the pure truth.

And to you, reverend sir, in whose letter to the Unitarians of this town and neighbourhood the announcement in question occurs, it is incumbent on us to address a few remarks, with a special view to acquaint you with the feelings awakened by your earnest invitation.

The anxiety which that letter manifests to convince us that, in seeking our conversion, you are actuated by no “base and worldly motive,” is, we can assure you, altogether superfluous. Of the purity and disinterestedness of your intention we entertain no doubt; and we regard it with such unaffected respect, as may be due to every suggestion of conscience, however unwise and fanatical. If, with the ecclesiastics and philosophers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, you esteemed the denial of witchcraft as perilous a heresy as Atheism itself, we should feel neither wonder nor anger at the zeal with which you might become apostles of the doctrine of sorcery. Any one who can convince himself that his faith, his hope, his idea of the meaning of Scripture, afford the only cure for the sins and sorrows and dangers of the world, is certainly right in spending his resources and himself in diffusing his own private views. But we are astonished that he can feel himself so lifted up in superiority above other men, as to imagine that Heaven depends on their assimilation to himself,—that, in self-multiplication, in the universal reproduction of his own state of mind, lies the solitary hope of human salvation. We think that, if we were possessed by such a belief, our affections towards men would lose all Christian meekness, our sympathies cease to be those of equal with equal, the respectful mercy of a kindred sufferer; and that, however much we might indulge a Pharisaic compassion for the heretic, we should feel no more the Christian “honour” unto “all men.”

You ask us, reverend sir, whether it is not “a sweet and pleasant thing,” “to tell and hear together of the great things which God has done for our souls.” Doubtless, there are conditions under which such communion may be most “sweet and pleasant.” When they who hold it agree in mind on the high subjects of their conference, it is “sweet and pleasant” to speak mutually of “joys with which no stranger intermeddleth,” and to knit together the human affections, with the bands of that heavenly “charity,” which, springing from one faith and one hope, is yet greater than them both. Nay, when good men differ from each other, it is still “sweet and pleasant” to reason together, and prove all things, and whatsoever things are pure, and true and lovely, to think on these things, provided that both parties are conscious of their liability to error, and are anxious to learn as well as to teach: that each confides in the integrity, ingenuousness, and ability of the other; that each applies himself with reasons to the understanding, not with terrors to the will. But such conference is not “sweet and pleasant” where, fallibility being confessed on one side, infallibility is assumed on the other; where one has nothing to learn and everything to teach; where the arguments of an equal are propounded as a message of inspiration; where presumed error is treated as unpardonable guilt, and on the fruits of laborious and truth-loving inquiry, terms of reprobation and menaces of everlasting perdition are unscrupulously poured.

You announce your intention to set apart, on our behalf, a day of humiliation and prayer. To supplicate the Eternal Father, as you propose, to turn the heart and faith of others into the likeness of your own may appear to you fitting as an act of prayer; it seems to us extraordinary as an act of humiliation. Permit us to say, that we could join you in that day’s prayer, if, instead of assuming before God what doctrines his Spirit should enforce, you would, with us, implore him to have pity on the ignorance of us all: to take us all by the hand and lead us into the truth and love, though it should be by ways most heretical and strange; to wrest us from the dearest reliances and most assured convictions of our hearts, if they hinder our approach to his great realities. A blessed day would that be for the peace, brotherhood, and piety of this Christian community, if the “humiliation” would lead to a recognition of Christian equality, and the “prayer,” to a recognition of that spiritual God whose love is moral in its character, spiritual, not doctrinal in its conditions, and who accepts from all his children the spirit and the truth of worship.

We fear that you will consider it as a mark of great obduracy, that we are not more affected by that “purest love” for “those in the extreme of peril,” which your letter expresses. Let us again assure you that we by no means doubt the sincerity of that affection. However pure in its source, it is ineffectual in its result, simply because no one can feel his heart softened by a commiseration which he is wholly unconscious of requiring. The pity that feels with me is, of all things, the most delicious to the heart; the pity that only feels for me, is, perhaps, of all things, the most insulting.

And, if the tenderness of your message does not subdue us, we trust its terrors will prevail still less. We are not ignorant, indeed, that, in dealing with weak minds whose solicitude for their personal security is greater than their generous faith in truth and God, you enjoy an advantage over us. We avow that we have no alarms whereby to urge men into our Church; that we know of no “terrors of the Lord” by which to “persuade men,” except against sin; nor do we esteem ourselves exclusive administrators of any salvation, except that best salvation, which consists in a free mind and emancipated heart; reverencing Christ as the perfect image of the Father, listening to the accents of reason and conscience, as to the breathings of God’s spirit, loving all men as his children, and having hope in death, of a transference from this outer court into the interior mansions of His house. For this reason, imbecile souls, without Christian trust and courage, may think it safer, at all events, to seek a place within your Church; but we wonder that you can feel satisfied, retaining your Protestantism, to appeal thus to fear and devout policy, rather than to conviction, and that you cannot discern the mockery of first placing us on the brink of hell and lifting up the veil, and then bidding us stand there, with cool and unembarrassed judgment to inquire. Over converts, won by such means, you would surely have as little reason to rejoice as had the priests of Rome to exult on the recantation of Galileo. Our fellow worshippers have learned, we trust, a nobler faith; and will listen to your arguments with more open and tranquil mind than your invitation, had it attained its end of fear, would have allowed. They will hold fast, till they see reason to abandon it, their filial faith in a Divine Father, of whom Jesus, the merciful and just, is indeed the image; and who, therefore, can have neither curse nor condemnation for “unwitting” error, no delight in self-confident pretensions, no wrath and scorn for any “honest and good heart,” which “brings forth its fruit with patience.”

To this God of truth and love, commending our high controversy, and all whose welfare it concerns, we remain your fellow-labourers in the Gospel,

James Martineau,
Minister of Paradise-street Chapel.
John Hamilton Thom,
Minister of Renshaw-street Chapel.
Henry Giles,
Minister of the Ancient Chapel, Toxteth Park.
Liverpool, Jan. 26, 1839.

To the Reverend James Martineau, J. H. Thom, and Henry Giles.

Gentlemen,—As Christian courtesy seems to require a reply to your address, published in the Albion of this day, I hasten to furnish it, though unwilling, for many reasons, to enter into a newspaper discussion with you on the important subjects which just now engage our attention. I shall, therefore, (without intending any disrespect,) pass by unnoticed your critical remarks on certain portions of my recently published invitation to the members of your body to attend and give a patient hearing to the lectures about to be delivered at Christ Church, and confine myself altogether to those points of inquiry to which it is but reasonable that you should receive an answer. And,

1. You ask, whether I will recommend my congregation to attend (I presume, in your respective chapels) to hear the replies which you intend making to our proposed lectures. To this I am compelled to reply in the negative. Were I to consent to this proposal, I should thereby admit that we stood on the terms of a religious equality, which is, in limine, denied. As men, citizens, and subjects, we are doubtless equal, and will also stand on a footing of equality before the bar of final judgment; I therefore use the term “religious equality” in order to convey to you the distinction between our relative position as members of the community and as religionists. Being unable (you will excuse my necessary plainness of speech) to recognize you as Christians, I cannot consent to meet you in a way which would imply that we occupy the same religious level. To you there will be no sacrifice of principle or compromise of feeling, in entering our churches; to us, there would be such a surrender of both in entering yours, as would peremptorily prohibit any such engagement.

2. You next inquire how early an appearance of our printed lectures may be expected. In answer to this I have only to say, that arrangements have been made for publishing each lecture as soon after its delivery as may be practicable. Within what time this practicability may be found to coincide, it is of course impossible precisely to determine. It will be obvious, that I cannot answer for my brethren upon this point; but shall only observe for myself, that I should hope a week or ten days will be sufficient for the necessary revisal of proofs, arrangement of authorities, and other business connected with a careful and correct publication.

3. Your third inquiry respects a proposal to have an epitome of each lecture, and its reply, published weekly in the columns of some previously selected newspaper. Not having as yet had the opportunity of collecting the sentiments of my reverend brethren, I can only, as before, give the view which suggests itself to my own mind. I am inclined to think it would be unfair to the respectable bookseller, who has undertaken to publish the course at his own risk, to expect him to concur in a proposal which could not but materially injure his sale. As it is our intention to publish each lecture separately, as well as the whole collectively, at the close of their delivery, and that in the cheapest possible form, with a view to the most extensive circulation, I cannot but hope and believe that our united object will be equally, if not better, answered, than by resorting to a process which should necessarily so condense and curtail the matter as to present a very meagre and insufficient exhibition of the arguments, reasonings, references, and authorities, on which so much of the value of the lectures will depend.

4. And, finally, as to your proposal of making some public journal the vehicle of a discussion independent of the lectures, I regret that I feel again obliged to decline pledging myself to concur in it. While I reserve to myself the right of noticing and replying to any communication which may appear, in a duly authenticated form, in any of the public journals, I must at the same time express my conviction, that a newspaper is not the most desirable medium for disquisition on the deep and awful subjects which must pass under review in a controversy like that in which we are about to engage. The ordinary class of newspaper readers, including too frequently the ignorant scoffer, the sceptical, and the profane, is not precisely that whose attention we desire to solicit to our high inquiry into the laws of Scriptural Exegesis, and our application of these laws to the elucidation of the profound mysteries of the Book of Revelation. I feel no doubt that all who feel interested on the subject, will contrive to hear or read what we shall preach and publish; and will thus be furnished with more solid and suitable materials for forming a correct judgment, than could be afforded by the casual study of the ephemeral pages of the public press.

Having thus distinctly replied to the several points of your letter, on which you may have reasonably expected to hear from me; and trusting that you will not attribute to any want of respect to you the omission of all notice of the remainder; and congratulating you with all sincerity on your avowed intention of coming, with your respective congregations, to hear the exposition which we are about to give of what we believe to be fatally false in your system, as contrasted with what we think savingly true in our own; and praying with all fervency, to the great Head of the Church, to bless and prosper the effort about to be made for the promotion of his glory, through the instruction of those who are “ignorant and out of the way,”

I remain, Gentlemen,

Yours for the Lord’s sake,

January 28, 1839. Fielding Ould.

To the Rev. James Martineau, J. H. Thom, and Henry Giles.

Gentlemen,--I owe it to you and to myself to state, that no offence was intended, either by me, or, as I conscientiously believe, by my clerical brethren, in the title of the subject to which my name stands affixed in the Syllabus of the Lectures on the Unitarian Controversy. I am also bound to acknowledge, that your letter, on the subject of the lecture, is written in a style of calmness and courtesy, of which, I trust, you will have no reason to complain of the absence in the statements which I shall have to submit to your attention. Of course, this is not the time for the vindication of the view which I adopt on the great question: I content myself, therefore, with this public disclaimer of any desire to substitute irritating language for sound argument.

I remain, Gentlemen,

Yours, with all due respect,

Thos. Byrth.

To the Reverend Fielding Ould.

Rev. Sir,—We beg to offer you our thanks for your prompt and distinct reply, in the Liverpool Courier of yesterday, to the proposals submitted to you in our letter of Monday. We are as little anxious as yourself for the prolongation of this preliminary newspaper correspondence; and however much we may regret the negative character of your answers to our questions, we should have reserved all comment upon them for notice elsewhere, if you did not appear to us to have left still open to consideration the proposed discussion (independent of the lectures) through the press. That the pulpit controversy should be on unequal terms, is, we perceive, a matter of conscience with you; but your objections to a newspaper controversy seem to arise, not from any desire to withhold your readers from our writings, as you would your hearers from our preaching, but from the unfitness of a political journal to be the vehicle of religious argument. Permit us, then, to say, that we have no preference for this particular medium of discussion; that we are wholly indifferent as to its form, provided the substantial end be gained of bringing your arguments and ours before the attention of the same parties, and that any plan which you may suggest, affording promise of the attainment of this end, whether it be the joint publication of the lectures in your church and those in our chapels, or the appearance in the pages of a religious journal (either already established, or called into existence for the occasion, and limited to this single object), will receive our welcome acceptance.

Had we any desire to see a theological opponent in the wrong, we should leave the case between us in its present position, and should not persevere thus in opening the way towards a fair adjudication of it; but our reverence for the religion of which you are a representative and symbol before the world, transcends all paltry controversial feelings, and we should see, with grave sorrow, the honour of Christianity compromised by the rejection, on the part of its authorized ministers, of the acknowledged principles of argumentative justice. You will not, we trust, incur the reproach of inviting a discussion with us, and then changing it into an indictment against us. You have originated the appeal to the great tribunal of public opinion in this Christian community; you are plaintiff in this controversy; you will not, we feel assured, so trifle, in things most sacred, with the rules of evidence, as to insist that your case shall be heard in one court, and before one jury, while your defendant’s case is banished to another, and the verdict pronounced without balancing the attestation and comparing the pleadings. Should you, moreover, succeed in convincing your readers, that this is a discussion not (as we submit) between church and church, but (as you contend) between Christianity and No-Christianity, the effect will be yet more to be deplored, for, in such case, Christianity will appear to claim from its votaries the advantage of an exclusive hearing for itself, and, while challenging, by the very act of controversy, the appeal to argument, to leave, for those who are stigmatized as unbelievers, the honour of demanding that open field which, usually, truth is found to seek, and falsehood to avoid. We trust that you will not thus inflict a wound on a religion which, in all its forms, we deeply venerate.

You deny our religious equality with you. Is it as a matter of opinion, or as a matter of certainty, that such equality is denied? If it is only as an opinion, then this will not absolve you from fair and equal discussion on the grounds of such opinion. If it is with you not an opinion, but a certainty, then, Sir, this is Popery. Popery we can understand,—we know, at least, what it is,—but Protestantism erecting itself into Romish infallibility, yet still claiming to be Protestantism, is to us a sad and humiliating spectacle, showing what deep roots Roman Catholicism has in the weaker parts of our common nature.

We confess ourselves at a loss to comprehend your distinction between civil equality and religious equality. We claim equally as fellow-men, as partakers of a common nature; of that nature the religious elements are to us incomparably dearer and more elevating than the elements that make us merely citizens; and the equality that is conceded in regard to all our lower attributes, but denied in regard to those that are spiritual and immortal, is such an equality as you might concede to the brutes, on the ground of their animal nature, without injury to the maintenance of your religious superiority. What is meant by our equality at the bar of final judgment, as citizens, but not as religionists, we do not know; or, if we can detect a meaning in it, it is one which we should have supposed belonged to our faith rather than to yours.

In reference to your repugnance to enter our chapels we say no more, reserving our right of future appeal in this matter to those members of your church who may be unable to see the force of your distinction between religious and social equality. But we are surprised that you should conceive it so easy a thing for us to enter your churches: and should suppose it “no sacrifice of principle and compromise of feeling” in us to unite in a worship which you assure us, must constitute in our eyes “the most heinous of all sins—Idolatry.” Either you must have known that we did not consider your worship to be idolatry, or have regarded our resort to it as a most guilty “compromise of feeling;” to which, nevertheless, you gave us a solemn invitation; adding now, on our compliance, a congratulation no less singular.

We thought you had been aware, that, while our services must be, in a religious view, painfully deficient to you, those of your church are positively revolting to us. Still as our presence, on such passing occasions as the present, does not, in our opinion, involve any “sacrifice of principle,” we shall set the example to our friends of attending; not making our desire that they should be just dependent on the willingness of others to be so too. And we shall have this satisfaction, that, whether you “win” them, or whether we retain them, the result will be a faith held, not on the precarious tenure of ignorance or submission, but in the security of intelligent conviction, and the peace of a just and enlightened conscience.

We remain, reverend Sir,

Yours, with Christian regard,

James Martineau.
John Hamilton Thom.
Liverpool, January 31st, 1839. Henry Giles.

To the Trinitarians of this Town and Neighbourhood who may feel
interested in the approaching Unitarian Controversy.

Christian Brethren,—A letter of public invitation has been addressed to the Unitarians of this town and neighbourhood, by the Rev. Fielding Ould, on behalf of himself and twelve other gentlemen associated with him, urging us, with the earnestness of Christian anxiety, to bend our minds to their expositions of our errors and our dangers. We naturally interpreted this to be an invitation to discuss the most momentous questions as equal with equal. We thought, indeed, that we saw an assumption of superiority, if not of infallibility, perhaps inseparable from minds so trained: still we supposed, that this superiority was to be maintained by argument and fair discussion: and this was all that we desired. It never occurred to us, that the reverend gentleman might possibly expect us to accept him as a divinely appointed judge of truth, whose teachings were to be received in submission and silence; or that he could suppose that convictions like ours, convictions that have resisted all the persuasions of worldly ease and interest, that have removed from us the charities and sympathies of men like him, and held in simple fidelity to truth and God, could be so lightly shaken that nothing more was required to blow them away than a course of ex parte lectures without answer or discussion. If the object had been to confirm Trinitarians in their views, this kind of proceeding we should have understood; but surely something more was required when Unitarians were publicly invited to the controversy. Much less could we anticipate that the reverend gentleman, holding himself to be upon a “religious level” far above us, to belong to a different order of spirits, could yet be so far removed from the Christian and Apostolical spirit as to refuse to bring his “light” into direct conflict with our “darkness.” With these expectations of controversy, and having no bonds with anything but truth, we unfeignedly rejoiced, that, for the first time in this community, both sides of the great question were about to appear together before the solemn tribunal of public attention.

In all these things we have been quickly undeceived. In our simplicity, we believed that discussion was really invited and desired. We now find that we were invited to hear, but not to argue; that to lecture us is of the nature of “dearest affection;” but that to hear what we may have to urge in reply would be to “recognize us” as “Christians,” to admit that we stood on the terms of a religious equality, which is, in limine, denied. We now find that all reciprocity is refused to us; that it never was intended to treat us as equals; that the method of discussing the Unitarian controversy, about to be adopted, is to hear only the Trinitarian advocates—to call us around the Christ Church pulpit to be taught to listen and believe. Clergymen may be so blinded by ecclesiastical feelings as not to perceive the extreme offensiveness of all that is assumed in this mode of treating their fellow-men; but we turn to you, the freer laity of the Church, in generous confidence, that such conduct will not be found to accord with your spirit of justice—with the nobler ideas which you have gathered, from the intercourse of life, of equitable dealing between man and man.

We proposed to the clergymen about to lecture at Christ Church, that since they had appealed to public opinion, through a popular advocacy, the pleadings should be on both sides, and, as far as possible, before the same parties. This is refused to us, because we are not Christians. Is this in the spirit of the Saviour? It is also refused to us, because it is asserted, that Trinitarians cannot enter our places of worship without a sacrifice of principle, whilst we may enter theirs without pain or compromise. Now the very opposite of this, though not the truth, would have been nearer to it. In our worship there would be the inoffensive absence of some views dear to you: in your worship there would be the actual presence of some views most painful to us. In our worship, you would hear addressed that Great Spirit whom you, too, adore and seek: in your worship, we should hear addressed, as God, him whom we revere and follow, as the image of God, the man Christ Jesus. In our worship, you would find deficiencies only; in yours, we should find what, to us, is positively objectionable, religion materialized and the Deity distributed into persons. The Rev. Fielding Ould, in one of his letters, represents us as looking upon you to be Polytheists, which we do not; and, in another of his letters, tells us, that we may enter your temples without pain or compromise of feeling. It will be evident to you, Trinitarian laymen, that the Lecturers at Christ Church cannot retire, upon such reasoning as this, from the full, public, and impartial discussion which we propose to them, without making it manifest to the public, that they are determined upon doing so.

We proposed to them discussion through the press, as well as from the pulpit: and this also is denied to us, on the ground, that newspapers are read by the sceptical, the scoffing, and the profane. Now, not in newspapers alone, but in any journal whatever, was the controversy offered by us; yet we could not have anticipated the objection, when we recollect the use made of the newspapers by the religious party to which the reverend gentlemen belong. Again have we tendered discussion, through the press, in any form whatever, with the single condition, that the views of both parties shall be presented to the same readers—in the hope, not as yet gratified, of an answer in a juster spirit.

Nothing now remains for us but to appeal from ecclesiastics to minds more generally influenced, to minds that, taught in the great schools of humanity, have learned mutual respect, and that have dropt, in the free and noble intercourses of man with man, the monkish and cloistered sentiment of spiritual as of civil superiority. To you, then, the Trinitarian laity, we make our appeal; from the exclusiveness and assumed infallibility of clergymen, to men who, from familiarity with wider influences, have formed different conceptions of Christian brotherhood and of Christian justice. We should not have held ourselves authorized in thus addressing you had we supposed, that your cause or yourselves, your ideas of justice, had been worthily supported by your ecclesiastical representatives, who, we firmly believe you will agree with us in feeling, have openly betrayed both you and it.

We appeal to you, not without confidence, to give us that equal audience which your clergymen have refused; that those of you who, through interest in the great question, are led to hear the Trinitarian statements, will, in the love of the truth, and in the spirit of equitable inquiry, hear also the Unitarian replies. We seek not to make you Unitarians: that, at least, is not our chief desire and aim. But would to God that we could do something to spread that true Christianity which holds the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, and deems charity dearer and more heavenly than doctrinal faith! Would to God that this controversy might have some effect, not in building up any one creed, or swelling any one sect, but in destroying the delusive and separating ideas that lie at the roots of creeds, and are the nourishers of bigotry, uncharitableness, and heresies! We should deserve well of this great community, if we could remove from it this cause of strife and bitterness,—if we could exhibit the God of Jesus requiring from us, not speculative opinions, but the heart, the temper, and the life of Christ!—if we could expose the unchristian idea of men preparing themselves for a moral heaven by a metaphysical creed, and unite those who now consume their energies, their temper, and their time, in contending for abstruse and uncertain dogmas in the deeds of mercy and of brotherhood which flow out of our common Christianity, and which, in the wide wastes of sin, of ignorance, and of misery, that surround us, are the moral debts of man to man, and constitute the religion which, before God, even our Father, is pure and undefiled.

Respectfully directing your attention to our advertisement of a syllabus of Lectures on the Unitarian Controversy, presenting both sides of the question—our portion of which will be delivered in Paradise Street Chapel, on successive Tuesdays,

We are, Christian brethren,

Yours, in the spirit of Christian brotherhood,

John Hamilton Thom.
Liverpool, Feb. 2, 1839. Henry Giles.
James Martineau.

TRINITARIAN LECTURE,

ON WEDNESDAY EVENINGS IN CHRIST CHURCH.

1839.—February 6.

1. Introductory. The practical importance of the Controversy with Unitarians.

Rev. F. Ould.

February 13.

2. The Integrity of the Canon of Holy Scripture maintained against Unitarian Objections.

Rev. Dr. Tattershall.

February 20.

3. The Unitarian Interpretation of the New Testament based upon defective Scholarship, or on dishonest or uncandid Criticism.

Rev. T. Byrth.

February 27.

4. The proper Humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Rev. J. Jones.

March 6.

5. The proper Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ proved from Prophecies, Types, and Jewish Ordinances.

Rev. J. H. Stewart.

March 13.

6. The proper Deity of our Lord the only ground of Consistency in the Work of Redemption.

Rev. H. M‘Neile.

March 20.

7. The Doctrine of the Trinity proved as a consequence from the Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Rev. D. James.

March 27.

8. The Atonement indispensable to the Necessities of Fallen Man, and shown to stand or fall with the Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Rev. R. P. Buddicom.

April 3.

9. The Deity, Personality, and Operations of the Holy Ghost.

Rev. J. E. Bates.

April 10.

10. The Sacraments practically rejected by Unitarians.

Rev. H. W. M‘Grath.

April 17.

11. The Nicene and Athanasian Creeds explained and defended.

Rev. R. Davies.

April 24.

12. The Personality and Agency of Satan.

Rev. H. Stowell.

May 1.

13. The Eternity of future Rewards and Punishments.

Rev. W. Dalton.

UNITARIAN LECTURE,

ON TUESDAY EVENINGS IN PARADISE STREET CHAPEL.

1839.—February 12.

1. The practical importance of the Unitarian Controversy.

Rev. J. H. Thom.

February 19.

2. The Bible; what it is, and what it is not.

Rev. J. Martineau.

February 26.

3. Christianity not the property of Critics and Scholars, but the gift of God to all men.

Rev. J. H. Thom.

March 5.

4. “There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.”

Rev. H. Giles.

March 12.

5. The proposition ‘That Christ is God,’ proved to be false from the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures.

Rev. J. Martineau.

March 19.

6. The scheme of Vicarious Redemption inconsistent with itself, and with the Christian idea of Salvation.

Rev. J. Martineau.

March 26.

7. The unscriptural Origin and Ecclesiastical History of the Doctrine of the Trinity.

Rev. J. H. Thom.

April 2.

8. Man, the Image of God.

Rev. H. Giles.

April 9.

9. The Comforter, even the Spirit of Truth, who dwelleth in us, and teacheth all things.

Rev. J. H. Thom.

April 16.

10. Christianity without Priest, and without Ritual.

Rev. J. Martineau.

April 23.

11. Creeds the foes of Heavenly Faith; the allies of worldly Policy.

Rev. H. Giles.

April 30.

12. The Christian view of Moral Evil here.

Rev. J. Martineau.

May 7.

13. The Christian view of Retribution hereafter.

Rev. H. Giles.

To the (so-called) Unitarians of Liverpool.

Men and Brethren,—Before the commencement of the lectures, on which I have taken the liberty of inviting your attendance, I am anxious respectfully to address to you a few observations in reference to the letters which have appeared in the public journals under the signature of your ministers.

It would appear that these gentlemen have been desirous to produce upon the public mind an unfavourable impression, à priori, of my reverend brethren, and of myself in particular, because of our having declined, on their proposal, to enter upon a course different from that which we had originally contemplated. “You will not, we trust,” say Messrs. Martineau, Thom, and Giles, “incur the reproach of inviting a discussion with us, and then changing it into an indictment against us.” Now, we never invited any discussion with these gentlemen; if we had, we should have addressed ourselves to them personally. But, while we would not, and do not, shrink from any discussion with them into which we can consistently enter, we cannot allow ourselves to be diverted from the pursuit of our original purpose, viz., to deliver a course of lectures upon the various points of Unitarian doctrine, which we believe, and think we can prove, to be not only unscriptural, but fatal to the souls of those who embrace them, and which cannot be maintained (as appears from the published works of the most learned Unitarians) without a virtual surrender of the inspiration of the Bible. Believing, as I do, that your best interests for time and for eternity are involved in the momentous questions at issue—questions affecting the very vitality of true religion—I inserted a letter in the daily prints, expressed, as I had hoped, in terms of courtesy and affection, inviting your presence and soliciting your attention. I also caused a notice to be published of our intention to print the lectures, separately and in a collective form, for extensive and immediate circulation, so that the amplest opportunity might be afforded for replying to our arguments on the part of any who might feel disposed to the task. That is, we proposed to employ the instrumentality of the pulpit and the press, (an instrumentality, be it observed, equally at the service of those who differed from us,) in order to promote the best interests of a portion of our countrymen, whom we believe to be “perishing for the lack of knowledge.”

Where is there to be found here aught of arrogance, or uncharitableness, or “assumed infallibility”? Where is there aught of unfairness, or “any rejection on our parts of the acknowledged principles of argumentative justice?” It is true we refuse to advise our respective congregations to attend at Unitarian chapels, to hear such answers as your ministers may think it right to offer in refutation of our reasonings. Our principles and our consciences alike forbid our concurrence in such a proposal. We cannot go ourselves, nor recommend our people to go and have their ears wounded, their hearts pained, and their Christian sensibilities shocked, by the iteration of such, in our view, blasphemous statements, as we find spread in painful profusion over the pages of Unitarian theology. And why, then, it is asked, do we invite or expect your attendance upon what are called “the painfully revolting” services of our church? For this reason, that, as appears from the works of all their principal writers, Unitarians do not attach the same importance to religious doctrines and opinion that we do. It seems to be with them a matter of comparative indifference what dogmas a man holds, provided he be sincere in his profession; while with us sincerity is no criterion of truth, being persuaded that as a man’s religious opinions are, so will his conduct be in time, and his destiny through eternity. Being of opinion, then, that our people would suffer by being brought into contact with error, in the same way that the human body would be endangered by accepting an invitation to feed at a table where poison was mingled with bread, we feel obliged to decline recommending the proposed arrangement to their adoption. But, feeling that there would be neither danger nor risk to those who are represented as having a moral appetite for poison as well as bread, and as looking upon all theological opinions if not as equally harmless in their bearing on their eternal interests, we ventured to invite you to come, that we might “persuade you concerning Jesus.” If there be any of you whose conscience revolts against a participation in Trinitarian worship, we invite not his attendance: we would be not intentionally accessory to the wounding of the weakest conscience among you.

You will thus, men and brethren, perceive what was intended by the assertion that our “religious level” was different. We meant not to arrogate to ourselves any undue superiority, but simply to state a fact. And while we think it both unreasonable and unjust that we should be expected to become the auditors of what we deem blasphemous error, or pledge ourselves to the joint circulation of what we call truth and falsehood, and thus be “partakers of other men’s sins,”—we cannot but be of opinion that there is some ground for these charges in reference to the conduct of those who, on this ground, attempt to prejudice the public mind against us, as if we were declining a battle which we had invited and provoked.

We are convinced that the attempt will not succeed. The public will have eyes to see with sufficient clearness the real merits of the case, and will condemn the efforts made to blind its vision, or at least incline it to take a distorted view of our relative position.

Again repeating my invitation to all who can conscientiously accept it, to attend our lectures, and leaving cheerfully to others the free use of the only weapons we employ—the Bible—the Pulpit—and the Press—and praying the Lord to guide all his inquiring people, by the teaching of his Holy Spirit, into all truth, even the “truth as it is in Jesus,” I remain, men and brethren, yours in the bonds of love,

Christ Church, Feb. 5, 1839. Fielding Ould.

To the Rev. J. Martineau, J. H. Thom, and Henry Giles.

Gentlemen,—Having hitherto corresponded with you on my own individual responsibility, I have to request that you will consider me as alone answerable for what has hitherto appeared under my signature. I had this morning, for the first time, the opportunity of personal conference with my reverend brethren collectively at the expected meeting which took place at my house. I have now to address you upon the result.

All that we had originally contemplated was, the delivery of a course of lectures upon the principal doctrines in controversy between Unitarians and ourselves. It now appears that my invitation to the Unitarian laity to come and hear us, while we brought their avowed principles to the test of the Word of God, has been taken advantage of by you, and led to a series of proposals on your part, which I took upon myself to decline. I have this day addressed a letter to the members of your body generally, which I trust will have the effect of setting that part of the subject in its proper point of view.

It is, however, indispensable to distinguish carefully between this particular invitation of yours, and discussion generally. Your letter to the Trinitarian laity invites discussion in any shape which shall effectually bring the statements of both parties before the same individuals. We are now prepared to gratify your desire, and WE ACCEPT YOUR INVITATION. Our lectures, however, shall be first delivered; on this we are determined. Then, in the name of all, and in dependence upon our blessed Lord and Master, three of our body will be ready to meet you three before a public audience in this town; all preliminaries to be, of course, arranged by mutual conference. We propose, if you please, to take the three great subjects into which the controversy obviously divides itself, viz.,

1. Evidence of the genuineness, authenticity, and inspiration of those parts of our authorized version of the Holy Scriptures which you deny.

2. Translation of those parts which you alter, and in our judgment misrepresent.

3. Theology, involving those principles of vicarious sacrifice which we deem vital, and which you discard.

Our proposal, then, is to meet you either one day on each subject, as you please; or one week on each subject, as you please: the discussion to be conducted in speeches of one hour or half an hour each, as you please.

And now, trusting that this proposed arrangement may prove satisfactory to you, and to all who take an interest in this controversy, and fervently praying the great Head of the Church to overrule our purposes to the advancement of His kingdom and the promotion of His glory,

I remain, Gentlemen,

Yours for the Lord’s sake,

February 5, 1839. Fielding Ould.

To the Reverend Fielding Ould.

Reverend Sir,—It would have been gratifying to us to receive from you an answer to our offer of a discussion, through the press, before being called upon to consider a proposal, altogether new, for a platform controversy.

You give us an invitation to talk, and call this an acceptance of our offer to write. The two proposals are so distinct, that it is not easy to see how the one could be transformed into the other; nor is the mistake explained on turning to the words of our invitation, appealed to by you, and contained in our letter to the Trinitarian laity. They are these:—“We have tendered discussion through the press, in any form whatever, with the single condition that the statements of both parties shall be presented to the same readers.” You leave the impression, that an oral debate is comprised within the terms of this offer; but, in doing so, you widen its scope, by striking out the phrases which restrict it to printing and publication, and describe it thus; “Your letter to the Trinitarian laity invites discussion in any shape which shall effectually bring the statements of both parties before the same individuals.” You will at once perceive the misrepresentation; will acknowledge that the idea of settling historical and philological controversies, by popular debate, has neither origin nor sanction from us;—and will permit us to recal you to our first proposal of discussion through the press,—a proposal to which, though now made for the third time, we have yet received no answer.

Meanwhile, we will not delay the reply which is due to this new suggestion of a platform controversy. We decline it altogether; and for this answer you must have been prepared, by the sentiment we expressed in an early stage of this correspondence: “We are not of opinion that a miscellaneous audience, assembled in a place of worship, constitutes the best tribunal to which to submit abstruse theological questions respecting the canon, the text, the translation of Scripture,—questions which cannot be answered by any defective scholarship.” To assemble a similar audience in an amphitheatre, where the sanctities of worship are not present to calm and solemnize the mind, is evidently not to improve the tribunal. The scholar knows that such exhibitions are a mockery of critical theology: the devout, that they are an injury to personal religion. We are surprised that any serious and cultivated man can think so lightly of the vast contents of the questions on which we differ, as to be able to dispense with calm reflection on the evidence adduced, and to answer off-hand all possible arguments against him, within the range of biblical and ecclesiastical literature. We are not accustomed to treat your system with such contempt, however trivial an achievement it may seem to you to subvert ours. In reverence for truth, in a spirit of caution inseparable from our desire to discharge our trust with circumspect fidelity, and from a belief that, to think deeply, is the needful pre-requisite to speaking boldly, we offered you the most responsible method of discussion, in which we might present to each other, and fix ineffaceably before the world, the fruits of thought and study. To this offer we adhere; but cannot join you, on an occasion thus solemn, in an appeal to the least temperate of all tribunals. We recollect that one of the clergymen associated with you refused an oral discussion of the Roman Catholic controversy. We approved of his decision; and, in like circumstances, adopt it.

Will you allow us to correct a mistake which appears in your enumeration of the three topics most fit for discussion? We do not, as Unitarians, deny the genuineness, or alter the translation, of any part of the authorized version of the holy Scriptures. The Unitarians have neither canon nor version of their own, different from those recognized by other churches. As biblical critics, we do indeed, neither more nor less than others, exercise the best judgment we can on texts of doubtful authority, (as did Bishop Marsh, in rejecting the “heavenly witnesses,” 1 John v. 7,) and on the accuracy of translations (as did Archbishop Newcome, when he published his version of the New Testament); but no opinions on these matters belong to us as a class, or are needful to the defence of our theology. If you allude to the Improved Version, we would state, that it contains the private criticism of one or two individuals; that it has never been used in our churches, nor even much referred to in our studies, and is utterly devoid of all authority with us; and that, for ourselves, we greatly prefer, for general fidelity as well as beauty, the authorized translation, which we always employ.

In your letter to the Unitarians, published in the Courier of Wednesday, you state that you never invited discussion with us (the ministers) personally. We never imagined or affirmed that you did. But surely you invited discussion with the class of persons called Unitarians; and as a class has no voice except through its representatives, and no discussion can take place without two parties, you cannot think that we are departing from our proper sphere in answering to your call. Did you not invite us (the Unitarians) to you, “to tell and hear together the great things which God has done for our souls?” And did this mean that all the “telling” was to be on one side, and all the “hearing” on the other? Did you not press upon our admiration the primitive practice of “controversial discussion of disputed points?” And did this mean that there was to be neither “controversy,” “discussion,” nor “dispute,” but authoritative teaching on one side, and obedient listening on the other? In one of two relations you must conceive yourself to stand to us;—that of a superior, who instructs with superhuman authority, or that of an equal, who “discusses” with human and fallible reasonings. Between these two conditions, there is no third; nor can you, with justice, take sometimes the one and sometimes the other, according as the occasion may require the language of dignity or that of meekness. We certainly addressed you as an equal, and did not pay you the disrespect of imagining that your invitation to “discussion” meant nothing at all.

We are sorry that you ascribe to us any intention to divert you from your contemplated course of lectures. Be assured nothing could be further from our design. We simply desired that, having invited us, you should have recognized us when we presented ourselves, as parties in the “discussion.”

We remain, reverend Sir,

Yours, with Christian regard,

Henry Giles.
John Hamilton Thom.
Liverpool, February 7th. James Martineau.

To the Revs. J. Martineau, J. H. Thom, and H. Giles.

Gentlemen,—I think it due to the cause of truth, as well as to the interest awakened in the public mind by this controversy, to address to you a few observations on your last letter, as published in the Mercury of Friday. Though still strongly of opinion that the columns of a newspaper present a most undesirable medium of communication upon subjects such as those we are now engaged in discussing, I am unwilling in the absence of any other accessible instrumentality, to lose the opportunity it affords of impressing upon the attention of all reflecting men the actual position which we relatively occupy.

1.—Being aware of the sincere anxiety which you have already manifested for “discussion in any shape which should bring the statements on both sides before the same parties,” it is not without considerable surprise that I perceive that you “decline altogether” my proposal of a “platform controversy.” Now, while you say I invited you to “talk,” and I answer I invited you to argue, I cannot but think it will appear evident to most, that by the subsequent publication, in an authentic form, of our oral debate, you would have gained all that you could have desired in the assistance of the press, while a select auditory, equally composed of the respective friends of both parties, would have been able to judge of your ability, not intellectually, but morally, to meet the case we could have made out against your system. I cannot but hope that a secret consciousness of the weakness of your cause has prompted your determination, and am of opinion that while a discerning public will approve the discretion of your resolve, they will not be slow to appreciate its motive, or the precise measure of your zeal for a candid impartial hearing.

But the “settling of historical and philological controversies by popular debate has neither origin nor sanction from you.” Perhaps not: but you cannot say that such a course is altogether without precedent. You have doubtless heard of the protracted debate upon these same controversies which were held in the north of Ireland a few years ago between Mr. Bagot and Mr. Porter. May I ask whether it was the result of that discussion that induced you to withhold your sanction from all future controversies so conducted? Mr. Porter did not consider it inconsistent with the principles of Unitarianism to debate his creed before “a miscellaneous audience.” Are you wiser than he in your generation? Again:—the proposed tribunal is not the best “to which to submit abstruse theological questions respecting the canon, the text, the translation of scripture.” But do you not apprise us a little lower down, that you, as Unitarians, do not deny the genuineness, or alter the translation of any part of the authorized version of the holy scriptures? Why, then, there is no ground for the above apprehension. As these are not points which the tribunal will have to try, why question its competence on their account? You are surprised that I would “dispense with calm reflection on the evidence adduced.” I am, in my turn, surprised that you should suppose I have any such intention. When the “evidence adduced” has been taken down and published, what is there to prevent its being “calmly” weighed and estimated at its proper value? And then it is hard “to answer off-hand all possible arguments” advanced. So it is; but not harder for you than for us. Here at least we should stand on a footing of perfect equality. It was hardly to be expected that you should object to this.

2.—I now come to the mistake into which you say I have fallen, and which you offer, obligingly, to correct. “We do not, as Unitarians, deny the genuineness or alter the translation of any part of the authorized version of the holy scriptures. The Unitarians have neither canon nor version of their own different from those recognized by other churches.” If this be true I certainly have been mistaken; but have the satisfaction of knowing that this mistake has been shared by a host of abler critics and more learned scholars than I can pretend to be. I had always thought that I read of the liberties taken with the received text by the Priestleys and Belshams—the Wakefields and Channings, when they were of opinion that they spoke too strongly the language of Trinitarians. I had also understood that the Bruces, the Drummonds, and the Armstrongs of Ireland had performed achievements in the same line, at which many not a little wondered. I had further imagined that the unanswered—because unanswerable—volumes of Archbishop Magee presented evidence on this behalf, with which few were unacquainted. Now, if you mean to say that you, the ministers and representatives of Liverpool Unitarianism have never “questioned the genuineness, nor altered the translation of any part of the authorized version,” I can understand the assertion, and willingly take your own word for its truth. But if you mean to affirm that this has not been done, and to a very prodigious extent, by Unitarians, both domestic and foreign, you will excuse me if I positively deny the allegation, as being totally without foundation, and I refer in proof to the notorious lucubrations of the above-named doctors of Unitarian divinity, as well as to the severe exposures of their semi-infidel tampering with the Bible which they have called forth.

But while you do not “deny the genuineness or alter the translation of any part,” perhaps you question the inspiration of certain portions of the sacred volume. You will remember that this was one of the branches of evidence that we proposed to discuss with you, and that not the least in importance. Why are you silent on this head? Is it not of any moment, think ye, to admit the genuineness and confess the authenticity of a book or a chapter or a verse of scripture, if you withhold your conviction of its inspiration? Is it not a fact that you might hold the genuineness of the two first chapters of St. Matthew and St. Luke, and feel no disposition to alter the translation of a word, and, at the same time, boldly deny that they were “given by inspiration of God?” If I am mistaken here too, I pray to be set right. If not, then the public will decide upon the candour and fairness of your profession to remove the necessity of any controversy with you on the score of EVIDENCE, because of your admission of the genuineness and your satisfaction with the accuracy of the authorized version, while by an expressive but momentous silence, you acknowledge that the greatest of testimonial questions is by you disputed, and you at the same time refuse to come forward boldly, and debate it fairly before the church.

Again—“Unitarians have neither canon nor version of their own different from those recognised by,” &c. You anticipate here a reference to “the improved version,” and tell us that “it contains only the private criticism of one or two individuals—that it has never been used in your churches, and is utterly devoid of all authority with you.” Will you excuse me for expressing my doubts of the accuracy of this statement, for these reasons: —1. That work was the joint production of some of the ablest men and best scholars that the Unitarian sect has ever been able to boast of; and that the shades of Belsham, Lindsey, Jebb, Priestley, Wakefield, &c.,[5] might well be astonished to hear their learned labours so contemptuously spoken of by three modern disciples of their school. 2. That, in the year 1819, (the date of the edition which I possess,) the improved version had gone through no fewer than five editions—a tolerable criterion of the extent of its circulation in little more than twenty years. How many it may have passed through since, I have been as yet unable to ascertain. 3. That so far from its being “devoid of all authority,” it professes, in the title page, to have been “published by the Unitarian Society for promoting Christian Knowledge and the practice of virtue by the distribution of Books.” That it may “never have been used in your churches” I can well believe, as it is probable that the feelings of your people would have revolted too strongly against its introduction, to make the experiment advisable: the food which it furnishes may have proved too coarse even for the digestive organs of popular Unitarianism itself. It is also possible that the modern professors of your theology may be somewhat ashamed of this awful specimen of “rational and liberal criticism,” and may secretly wish that it had never seen the light. But the existence of it, at least, cannot be denied; and there it stands, a painful memorial and a living witness, of what is “in the heart” of a system that exalts reason into a dominion over revelation, and that, unwarned by the solemn admonitions contained in the book itself against the presumptuous additions or detractions of human pride or folly, has dared sacrilegiously to lay its unhallowed hands on the sacred ark, and to attempt the mutilation and misrepresentation of the great magna charta of the spiritual liberties of man.

3.—At the close of your letter, you say, “Surely you invited discussion, with the class of persons called Unitarians.” I again repeat I did not. I determined to have a course of lectures delivered in my church on the points at issue between us and the professors of what we call your “heresy.” And I invited the persons whom I was and am sincerely anxious to benefit, to come and hear our well considered convictions of their errors and their consequent danger, as well as our faithful exhibitions of what we think “a more excellent way.” It will not be denied that a clergyman of any denomination, in a free country, and more especially a clergyman of the national church, has a right to preach, or authorize others to preach, in his pulpit, according to his own discretion, and invite whom he pleases to come and hear, without its being understood that he challenges either the parties so invited, or their representatives, to enter with him the lists of controversial discussion. I absolutely protest against any such understanding. I did not seek to compel the attendance of any of your body, nor yet to deny to you or them, in reply, the use of the same weapons that I had employed in the attack. I did mean that those who pleased should come and hear us “tell” them a gospel which they were not told by those upon whom we looked as “blind leaders of the blind;” and that they should be prepared to “learn” whatever should commend itself to their consciences, under our teaching, as the truth of God. We did not, and do not, expect to be able to bring demonstration home to the hearts of any by the strength of our arguments, or by the force of our appeals; but we anticipated that, in answer to our earnest prayers, the power of the Holy Ghost would accompany our teaching of His truth, and make it effectual to the conversion of souls “from darkness to light.” We propose to stand before the congregations that might assemble, neither as “superiors to instruct with superhuman authority,” nor as “equals to discuss (if you mean by that dispute) with human and fallible reasonings;” but simply as “ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech them by us, that we might pray them in Christ’s stead—be ye reconciled to God.”[6] This is the middle position in which we stand, the mean between your two extremes; and by God’s blessing, we will continue to occupy it, until we shall have delivered our consciences, and discharged our duty to a numerous, respectable, but, in our judgment, blinded and deluded class of our fellow-countrymen.

And now, gentlemen, having taken such notice of certain allegations in your letter as it seemed impossible to pass by, and with the full purpose of continuing in the course on which I have entered, until, through the blessing of God, the grand object which I have proposed to myself shall have been accomplished,

I remain, yours, for the truth’s sake,

Fielding Ould.

February 11, 1839.


5.  See “Improved Version,” note on 1 John, i. 1.

6.  2 Cor. v. 20.


To the Revs. J. Martineau, J. H. Thom, and H. Giles.

Gentlemen,—You state, in your letter of the 7th ult., that “your proposal of discussion through the press, though made for the third time, has as yet received no answer.” It was thought by ourselves and our clerical brethren, that as our lectures were to be printed and published, every facility was afforded you of replying to them through the same channel, and that thus the whole subject would be fairly brought before the public.

In addition to this, we have offered to meet you in oral discussion; you decline the proposal.

Anxiously desirous to bring the whole matter before this great community, so as to prove that we not only entertain no apprehensions as to the result, but are convinced that, by such an exposition, great good will be effected, we, the undersigned, on our own responsibility, ACCEPT YOUR TERMS of discussing the momentous question between us, in the form of a correspondence in some public journal or periodical, altogether independent of the lectures.

We remain, Gentlemen,

Yours, for the sake of the Gospel,

Thomas Byrth.
Fielding Ould.
Liverpool, February 11. Hugh M‘Neile.

To the Rev. Fielding Ould.

Rev. Sir,—The tone of your last letter makes us rejoice that, by the acceptance on your parts of discussion through the press, this correspondence may now be brought to a close.

Let us, Rev. Sir, place before you your own language, and ask, in solemn sadness, are the feelings it betrays worthy of the occasion, or deserved by us, or edifying to the public mind? These are your words:—“I cannot but hope that a secret consciousness of the weakness of your cause has prompted your determination, and am of opinion, that while a discerning public will approve the discretion of your resolve, they will not be slow to appreciate its motive, or the precise measure of your zeal for a candid and impartial hearing.” Sir, it is not a little mournful to find a Christian Minister expressing his hope that other men are hypocrites,—that they are secretly conscious of the weakness of the cause which they publicly defend. To hope that we secretly know our errors, whilst publicly preaching them as truth, is, indeed, strange preference of faith before works. Let us assure you, Sir, that if we could think of you as this language shows you think of us, we should decline all discussion with you,—we should regard you as an opponent too discreditable to be identified with a great question, or to be considered as an honourable representative of your own party.

We apprehend, Rev. Sir, that nobody but yourself would think of attributing to conscious weakness our preference of the most perfect and searching method of discussion, to the most flimsy, insufficient, and unscholarlike that could by possibility be selected. Had we wished to catch the ear of a popular assembly, or to turn away attention from weak points by oratorical artifices, we should have proposed this platform controversy, instead of, as we did, carefully and purposely wording our invitation and our enumeration of the modes in which the controversy might be conducted, so as to exclude the idea of oral discussion.

We observe with sorrow, and with diminished hope of benefit from controversy, that you can so sink the interests of truth in personal championship, as to meet our solemn unwillingness to entrust the gravest questions to extempore dexterity and accidental recollection, with the reply that in this respect we should be at least equally situated. Doubtless, Sir, if a display of personal prowess was our object, this would be conclusive; but TRUTH is our object, and we dare not offer it such worthless advocacy.

With respect to the instance alluded to by us, of a decision similar to our own, our impression had been that reasons also similar to our own were given at the time; and we can only regret, since this impression seems to be false, that we quoted the case.

With regard to the “Improved Version,” we shall only say here, that it has been raised to an importance in this discussion which is entirely factitious. The differences between us must be settled upon principles of interpretation and criticism recognized by all scholars; and if these principles can be shown, in any respects, to condemn the “Improved Version,” in those respects we shall be the first to abandon it, feeling ourselves to be in nothing bound by it. When we said that, as Unitarians, we had no canon or version of our own, we meant that we are quite willing to accept the text as fixed by scholars, most of them Trinitarians, on critical principles. We most cheerfully recognize the fundamental principles of Scriptural inquiry, so clearly and soundly stated yesterday evening by Dr. Tattershall; and although agreeing with many of your ablest scholars, in thinking the received translation to require corrections, and not approving of the morality of taking up a position in defence of truth unnecessarily unfavourable; yet, were our only object to display the ampler and superior Scriptural evidence for Unitarianism than for Trinitarianism, the received translation would be quite sufficient for our purpose.

Again reminding you that the word “discussion” was introduced into your original invitation, which contained also reference to the controversial practice of primitive times, and set forth the advantages of “hearing” and “telling” together,

We remain,

Your fellow-labourers and fellow-Christians,

James Martineau.
John Hamilton Thom.
Feb. 14, 1839. Henry Giles.

To the Revs. Thomas Byrth, Fielding Ould, and Hugh M‘Neile.

Gentlemen,—Your willingness to discuss the Unitarian and Trinitarian controversy in the most satisfactory mode, has given us sincere pleasure; and if we have seemed to press this matter upon your acceptance, we assure you it was with the single desire that the statements of both views, in their most accurate and perfect forms, might be presented to the same minds through an unbiassing medium; an object which could be obtained neither by the unequal distribution of separate lectures, nor by means so necessarily imperfect as oral discussion.

We shall be happy to arrange with you, at the earliest possible period, the manner and conditions of our proposed discussion.

We shall be ready to conform ourselves to your wishes upon the subject; but we would suggest the desirableness of the discussion being entered on at once—partly because attention to it might now be secured, and partly because in the seriousness and number of our mutual engagements, this controversy should not be allowed to interfere with our other duties and responsibilities longer than is necessary.

We are, Gentlemen,

Yours, with respect,

John Hamilton Thom.
James Martineau.
Feb. 14, 1839. Henry Giles.

To the Revs. J. Martineau, J. H. Thom, and H. Giles.

Gentlemen,—I cannot permit our correspondence to terminate without a few remarks on your letter, as published in the Mercury of Friday last.

1. I regret that the “tone” of my last address should have given you any offence, while I am wholly unconscious of any intention unnecessarily to wound the feelings of those who, I am free to admit, have hitherto written at least courteously, if not very candidly, upon the subjects which have been recently submitted to the attention of the public. Allow me distinctly to disclaim any attempt to charge you with hypocrisy, or make it appear that you “secretly know as errors what you publicly preach as truths.” I took occasion merely to express my surprise that persons who seemed so anxious for an impartial hearing of their defence, should “altogether decline” a proposal by which, as it appeared, and still appears to me, that object might have been so satisfactorily attained; and in the exercise of a charity that “hopeth all things,” I sought to attribute your refusal to a latent and half-formed conviction within you, that your principles, in whatsoever sincerity entertained and professed, might not bear the light of such an investigation as that to which they would have been subjected in a public vivá voce discussion. Where is there any charge of hypocrisy here? May not a man be perfectly sincere in the maintenance of an opinion, which he would nevertheless be very unwilling to defend in oral debate, from a proper apprehension of the force of argument with which it might be encountered, and a secret consciousness of his own slender materials for its support? Be assured it is not necessary for us to brand you with hypocrisy, in order to convict you of heresy. We are willing to give you every credit for honesty of intention and integrity of purpose, while we cannot but suspect that you are fully aware of the difficulty of maintaining the principles of Unitarianism on the ground of an unmutilated and “unimproved” Bible.

Were I equally disposed with you to take offence, I too might inquire, “in solemn sadness, whether it be deserved by us, or edifying to the public mind,” that you should more than insinuate, though of course in very polished phrases, that “we have proposed a platform controversy, in order to catch the ear of a popular assembly, and to turn away attention from weak points by oratorical artifices.” Is this your opinion of us? If we thought so, “we should decline all discussion with you as opponents too discreditable to be identified with a great question, or to be considered as honourable representatives of your own party.” But we are not offended. We look upon your language as simply intended to convey an admission that your system is unpopular; one that, from its cold, and cheerless, and unimpassioned character, would seek in vain to enlist on its behalf any measure of popular sympathy, or conciliate any favour unless from those whom it had imbued with its own proud spirit, and accustomed to the low temperature of its own frigid zone.

2. But, gentlemen, while I cheerfully receive the admonition on the “tone” of my address which your letter does contain, I have to complain respecting the answer to a very simple question I had proposed, which your letter does not contain. As I am unwilling to incur the hazard of again offending, I will forbear from more than hinting at the semblance of rhetorical dexterity that appears in your perhaps undesigned turning away of attention from the PRINCIPAL POINT which I had submitted for your consideration, in order to fasten upon me a groundless charge, and so challenge public sympathy in your favour, as men branded with the character of hypocrites, and secretly cognizant of errors which were openly preached as truths. We proposed to discuss with you “the evidence of the genuineness, authenticity, and inspiration of the holy scriptures.” You replied that you do not “deny the genuineness” and seek not “to alter the translation of any part of the authorized version,” which you prefer to the abandoned version of Mr. Belsham and his associates. You were silent, however, about the INSPIRATION. I ventured to inquire whether I was mistaken in supposing you denied the plenary inspiration of the authorized version? My words were, “If I am mistaken here too, I pray to be set right.” In your letter now before me there is not a word upon the subject; no answer to my all-important inquiry. There is a little further disparagement of the “improved version,” which, we are told, has been raised into a “factitious importance in this controversy;” you will be the first to “abandon it,” if it should be condemned by the ordinary principles of critical interpretation—so far so good. But what of the INSPIRATION? Are you either afraid or ashamed to speak out what you think on this subject? I would not that you should be offended at the “tone” of my interrogations; but again I must ask, what are your opinions upon the quality and extent of scripture inspiration? The public are anxiously expecting an answer to this solemn query, and our present correspondence cannot close until it is answered. The way will then be clear for our approaching discussion through the press; we shall then understand each other, and shall have reconnoitred and appreciated the character of the field upon which we are to take up our respective positions. You say that “truth is your object,” and not “personal championship.” Well, then, let us have the truth upon Unitarian views of SCRIPTURAL INSPIRATION. All other argument can be only an unmeaning play of words until this point is settled.

We are rejoiced to learn that you are satisfied with “the authorized version,” and “the received translation,” for the purposes of our present inquiry; and when you shall satisfy us that you admit the full inspiration of all and every part of that volume, we shall be in a condition to inquire whether it presents “ampler and superior Scriptural evidence for Unitarianism than for Trinitarianism.” We remember that Mr. Belsham, in his Review of Mr. Wilberforce’s Treatise, has said, speaking of the texts usually quoted by Trinitarians in proof of the proper deity of Christ, that “Unitarians pledge themselves to show that they are all either interpolated, corrupted, or misunderstood.”—Review, pp. 270, 272. They engage to get clearly rid of them altogether. You, it would appear, have given up the interpolations and corruptions; the misunderstandings, we presume, still remain chargeable against us; but whether on the ground of ignorance, or of mistaken confidence in the inspiration of the texts in question, we have yet to be informed.

You will pardon my anxiety for an answer upon this head, bearing in mind that we regard it as opening wide a door for the introduction of infidelity, so to give up any portion of the sacred volume as being not of inspired authority, as to render it doubtful whether any portion does possess that authority, and thus entirely neutralize the effect of God’s message of mercy to the minds and hearts of men.

I remain, Gentlemen,

Yours, for the sake of the Gospel,

February 18, 1839. Fielding Ould.

To the Rev. Fielding Ould.

Reverend Sir,—You proposed (in your letter of the 5th February) a certain series of subjects as proper topics for the discussion between us, and submitted the list to our notice for acceptance or rejection. From this enumeration we struck out two particulars, viz., the authenticity of certain parts of the New Testament writings, on the ground that we did not deny your postulates under that head; and the translation of certain other parts of the Scriptures, on the grounds that, with yourself, we prefer, on the whole, the authorized version to all others; that we would not be responsible for any new rendering proposed in the Improved Version; and that, as we have nothing so absurd as a system of translation capable of systematic treatment, any special instances, in which we may think the common translation inaccurate, had better be discussed in connection with the theological doctrines affected by the texts in question.

These subjects being excluded from the list, the rest, comprising the question of inspiration, and the doctrines of your theology, of course stand over for discussion. We said nothing of these, because we had no exception to take against them. As our notice of the others was to effect their removal, our “silence” about these was to secure their admission.

The plenary inspiration of the Scriptures, or, if you really prefer it, (as your phraseology seems to imply,) “the plenary inspiration of the authorized version” remains then as an essential part of our approaching controversy. Why you should complain that we do not step aside with you individually, to render you an account of our belief in this matter, we cannot divine, unless you think that, by tempting us into your confessional by appeals to our conscience, you could impose upon the “heretics” your penance at discretion. If it should be, that this subject is likely to be committed to your hands in this controversy, and you are merely anxious to know betimes what precisely are the positions which you may be called upon to meet, a private communication of your wish would be sufficient. The second lecture of our series will be speedily published, and will furnish the information which you desire.

We are sorry that you discover any want of “candour” in our last letter; and surprised that, this being the case, you can esteem it “courteous.” We regard a violation of “candour” as the greatest outrage upon “courtesy;” and despise, above all things, the hollow and superficial manners, which are empty of all guileless affections and Christian sentiments. In saying that you charged us with hypocrisy, we committed no breach of candour, but only the mistake, which we are now happy to correct, of supposing that your language faithfully represented your meaning. That you did not think of the word “hypocrite” when you wrote to us, we cheerfully believe; but that you thought of us as doing that which makes a hypocrite, your own explanation renders more evident than it was before. You attribute to us “a latent and half-formed conviction,” that “our principles might not bear the light of investigation,” and “a consciousness” of “the difficulty of maintaining them.” Now there can be no “difficulty,” where the tribunal is wisely chosen, in maintaining any set of opinions, except from the superior force of the antagonist considerations; there can be no “consciousness” of such “difficulty,” except from consciousness of this opposing superiority;—to be conscious of a preponderant evidence in favour of any system, is at heart to believe it; and he who believes one system, and publicly upholds another, is, as we interpret the word, a hypocrite. We perceive, however, that you made this charge without precisely meaning it; and we think no more of it.

We disclaim any intention of hinting that you “proposed a platform controversy, in order to catch the ear of a popular assembly, and to turn away attention from weak points by oratorical artifices.” We simply affirmed, that oral discussion would have afforded a better refuge for our imputed “weakness” than the press. But surely it does not follow that, because the consciously weak might prefer such a method, therefore all who prefer it must be consciously weak. It would, indeed, be a strange mistake of all the symptoms by which the characters of men can be known, if we attributed to you any suspicion that you could be mistaken. You are quite aware that your earnestness appears to us perfectly sincere, and even to transgress the bounds of a modest confidence.

We remain, Reverend Sir,

Yours, with Christian regard,

Henry Giles.
John Hamilton Thom.
February 21, 1839. James Martineau.

To the Revs. J. Martineau, J. H. Thom, and H. Giles.

Gentlemen,—Before we proceed with our proposed discussion, it is necessary to determine, with a little more of accuracy than has been hitherto stated, what our controversy is to be about.

We thought that you, in common with Unitarians generally, acknowledged the Scriptures of the New Testament, as contained in what is commonly called “The Unitarian or Improved Version,” to be inspired of God, and consequently of infallible truth.

This however you, as individuals, have disclaimed; and, therefore, we are compelled to ask what you do acknowledge Inspired Revelation?

Is our discussion to be,

1. Upon the meaning of a mutually-acknowledged standard of truth? Or,

2. Upon the question, Is there any such standard? And if so, what is it?

We affirm the inspiration by God of the Holy Scriptures, as contained in our authorized canon, and are willing to refer every question for decision to their ascertained meaning.

Do you agree in this?

Our standard being known, it is a matter of obvious fairness that we should ask to have yours stated.

Either you admit the divine inspiration, and consequent infallible truth, of the Bible, or you do not.

Or, you so admit a part, and reject a part. You will be so good as to state clearly how this matter stands.

Are you believers in a WRITTEN and infallibly-accurate Revelation from God to man?

If so, what is that Revelation?

If you admit only parts of our Bible as inspired, you will oblige us by stating what parts.

The character of the discussion must obviously depend upon this: is it to be a discussion upon EVIDENCE or upon INTERPRETATION? It would be manifestly a waste of time in us to enter upon the interpretation of what you might afterwards get rid of, (so far, at least, as you are concerned,) by declaring it only the opinion of a fallible man.

We remain, Gentlemen,

Yours, for the sake of truth,

Hugh M‘Neile,
Fielding Ould,
March 4th, 1839. Thomas Byrth.

To the Revs. H. M‘Neile, F. Ould, and T. Byrth.

Gentlemen,—You ask us, Is our discussion to be,

1. “Upon the meaning of a mutually-acknowledged standard of TRUTH?” Or,

2. “Upon the question, Is there any such standard? And if so, what is it?”

We answer, distinctly, that our controversy is upon the meaning, ascertained by INTERPRETATION, of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. Should any questions of criticism arise respecting what is the text to be interpreted, these must, of course, be argued separately, upon purely critical grounds.

We conceive that the real controversy between us respects the nature of Christianity itself;—you holding the Revelation to consist in doctrines deducible from the written words; we holding the Revelation to be expressed in the character and person of Jesus Christ, and to be conveyed to us through a faithful and authentic record. Which of these two ideas is Scriptural?—that is our controversy.

Of course, “the standard” by which we must test “the truth” of these ideas is the New Testament, and the Hebrew Scriptures, so far as they throw light on its contents. Whichever view of Christianity is supported by the meaning of this standard, is the true one. The method of ascertaining the meaning of any writings is the same, whether those writings are of natural or supernatural origin; so that the process of interpretation may go on, undisturbed by any reference to the theory of verbal inspiration. The admission of an “infallible truth” in the Bible (which, however, is known with certainty only to God; for you, after admitting it, are disputing with heretics of your own communion what it is), cannot alter, in any respect, the true grounds of our controversy. It is a controversy of interpretation, and no theory of verbal inspiration can make it anything else.

This theory, however, we conceive to be altogether fallacious, both in its principles and its results; and if you wish to make it the subject of our controversy, we have no objection. We leave it to your choice, whether we are to discuss the theory of verbal inspiration, or whether we are to discuss the meaning of the original Scriptures, as ascertained by the acknowledged principles of interpretation.

We confess to not a little surprise that three clergymen, coming forward to discuss Unitarianism, should be found to express themselves so inaccurately, or from such defective information, as to speak of “the Unitarian or Improved Version,” and to represent the work, thus falsely described, as acknowledged by Unitarians generally to contain the New Testament as inspired by God. The theory of verbal inspiration, which we deny altogether, we are not likely to claim in favour of a Unitarian translator. We have repeatedly stated, that the “Improved Version,” is not the “Unitarian Version;” nor is it “commonly” so “called.” And now we say, once more, that our controversy is not about the Improved Version, but about the Greek Testament.

When you accepted our invitation, with its terms, it was understood that all the preliminaries of our controversy were to be arranged by mutual agreement. You were aware, and we have in our letters distinctly stated, that the theory of verbal inspiration stood as a part of that controversy; you knew, also, that in a few days a distinct statement of our opinions upon the nature of the Bible, in the form of a printed lecture, would be before the public. We therefore look upon your letter, in the Courier of Wednesday last, as altogether unnecessary; and we answer, thus publicly, what ought to have been matter of private communication, only because we are resolved not to allow any informalities, on your parts, to prevent our coming to a public discussion of our respective views of Christianity.

We are, Gentlemen,

Yours respectfully,

James Martineau.
John H. Thom.
March 11, 1839. Henry Giles.

To the Revs. J. Martineau, J. H. Thom, and H. Giles.

Gentlemen,—In our last letter we gave up the “Improved Version,” so far as you, as individuals, are concerned, because, as individuals, you disclaimed it. We are surprised, therefore, that you should revert to it, and the more so, because you have now ventured to say, not only that you disclaim it, but also, in the face of known facts, that it is not “the Unitarian version,” nor is it “commonly so called.” When you disclaimed it for yourselves, we did not demur. But when you go on to disclaim it for the Unitarian body, (for which, by the way, you have no authority,) we strenuously deny your assertion, and call in evidence the language of all the best writers upon the controversy.

You have misstated our question. We did not ask, “Is our discussion to be upon the meaning of a mutually-acknowledged standard of Scripture?” We did ask, “Is it to be upon the meaning of a mutually-acknowledged standard of truth?” We receive the Scripture as a standard of truth. The substitution of the one word for the other, in this question, has mystified your whole letter.

We collect, however, from your letter, and from Mr. Martineau’s sermon, to which you refer us, (and which we consequently conclude contains the sentiments of you all,)

1. That you do not believe in a written and infallibly-accurate Revelation from God to man.

2. That Paul the apostle may have “reasoned inaccurately,” and “speculated falsely.”[7]

3. And that, consequently, you feel yourselves at liberty to judge his statements (and all the statements of Scripture) as you do those of any other books.

You seem to think that this is of little consequence, and say that “the process of interpretation may go on, undisturbed by any reference to the theory of verbal inspiration.”

We reply that such a process can lead to nothing but waste of time. For when we shall have proved some great truth, or condemned some fatal error, upon the authority of Paul, or some other inspired writer, you have kept an open door for yourselves to escape from the whole force of our demonstration, by saying that, in the words on which we rely, the sacred writers “reasoned inaccurately,” or “speculated falsely,”—while, if any passages in those writers seem to favour your views, you have adroitly retained the privilege of ascribing to them a sort of inspiration.[8]

No, gentlemen, we are not to be deceived so, into an attempt to fix the chameleon’s colour. If the apostles may “reason inaccurately,” and “speculate falsely;” if the inspiration under which they wrote did not infallibly preserve them from error, then there is no standard of truth upon earth. Of what avail is it, then, to refer to the Greek Testament, or the Hebrew Scriptures? The Scripture, instead of being (what David called it, speaking as he was moved by the Holy Ghost) “a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path,” degenerates into a mixture of light and darkness, which we dare not implicitly follow, but of which we must judge by some superior light in ourselves.

We observe, further, that, according to the light that is in you, historical proof of miracles having been wrought in attestation of what the writers of Scripture say, would NOT be proof against inaccuracy in their reasonings, or falsehood in their speculations.

This notable conclusion you come to, by elevating nature into the miraculous, and thus depressing the miraculous into the natural; since you say that the whole force of the impression made by proofs from miracles arises from a “SUPPOSED contrast” between miracle and nature.[9]

You have thus advanced a step beyond common Deism, and rendered yourselves inaccessible even by miracles. This is conclusive, and demands the serious attention of all who have hitherto been disposed to receive instruction from you. We confess that we can go no further! for, if there be only a supposed contrast between miracles and nature, we cannot prove the attesting interposition of God on behalf of the statements of Scripture, and must give up as worthless the appeal which Jesus makes to his miracles, in answer to the inquiry of John’s disciples: “Go,” said he, “and show John again those things which ye do see and hear; the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.”—Luke vii, 22. Upon your principles, gentlemen, this appeal is worthless; for even if the wonderful things here stated be established as historical facts, still they contain no proof, because between these wonders and the course of nature there is only “a supposed contrast.”

Thus then, by your avowal, that even miracles cannot prove inspiration, you are left in undisputed possession of the field of infidelity. We have no common property of reason with you, and without determining whether men who reject the evidence of miracles are of an order of beings above or below ourselves, we feel that discussion with them is impracticable.

While, therefore, we shall continue to use all lawful methods of argument and persuasion, in the hope of being useful to those who, though called Unitarians, are not so entirely separated from our common humanity as you seem to be, we have no hesitation in saying that, with regard to yourselves as individuals, there appears to be a more insurmountable obstacle in the way of discussion than would be offered by ignorance of one another’s language; because the want of a common medium of language could be supplied by an interpreter, but the want of a common medium of reason cannot be supplied at all.

We remain, Gentlemen, yours respectfully,

Hugh M‘Neile.
Fielding Ould.
March 18th, 1839. Thomas Byrth.

7.  To grant that Paul reasons, and be startled at the idea that he may reason incorrectly—to admit that he speculates, and yet be shocked at the surmise that he may speculate falsely,—to praise his skill in illustration, yet shrink in horror when something less apposite is pointed out,—is an obvious inconsistency. The human understanding cannot perform its functions without taking its share of the chances of error; nor can a critic of its productions have any perception of their truth and excellence, without conceding the possibility of fallacies and faults. We must give up our admiration of the apostles as men, if we are to listen to them always as oracles of God.—Martineau’s Sermon, pp. 34, 35.

8.  I believe St. Matthew to have been inspired; but I do not believe him to have been infallible.—Sermon, p. 27.

9.  All peculiar consecration of miracle is obtained by a precisely proportioned desecration of nature; it is out of a supposed contrast between the two, that the whole force of the impression arises.—Sermon, p. 24.


To the Revs. H. M‘Neile, F. Ould, and T. Byrth.

Gentlemen,—We regret the misstatement of your question, which appeared at the commencement of our letter of the 13th instant. We regret still more that it did not occur to you to attribute it to its real cause,—the carelessness of a printer or transcriber. In the autograph manuscript which remains in our hands, your question is correctly stated thus—“Is our discussion to be upon a mutually-acknowledged standard of truth?” How the word “truth” became changed into “scripture,” we cannot tell; and not having read our letter after it was in print, we were unaware of the mistake until you pointed it out. Whatever “mystification” it introduced, you will consider as now removed.

Your letter announces your retirement from the promised controversy. Knowing that in taking this step you could not put yourselves in the right, it is only natural perhaps that you should resolve to set your opponents in the wrong, and to cover your own retreat by throwing scorn on their religious character. Theology appears in this instance to have borrowed a hint from the “laws of honour;” and as in the world a “passage of arms” is sometimes evaded, under the pretence that the antagonist is too little of a gentleman, so in the church a polemical collision may be declined, because the opponent is too little of a believer.

You refuse to fulfil your pledge to the public and ourselves on two grounds:—

I. Because we do not acknowledge the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures.

II. Because we think it impossible to infer from miracles the mental infallibility of the performer. It is of no use, you say, to argue about divine truth with those who do not believe in “a written and infallibly accurate revelation from God to man.”

We will concede, for the moment, and under protest, your narrow meaning of the words “inspiration” and “revelation;” and without disturbing your usage of them, we submit that the reasons advanced by you afford not even a plausible pretext for having violated your pledge. First, as to the plea that we are put out of the controversy by our unexpected denial of the intellectual infallibility of the sacred writers; and that to argue about the meaning of the Bible is a waste of time, till its verbal inspiration is established. We reply,—

I. That it was you yourselves who started this very question of inspiration for argument between us. In his letter of February 18th, Mr. Ould gives this account of our projected controversy: “We proposed to discuss with you the EVIDENCE of the genuineness, authenticity, and inspiration of the Holy Scriptures;” he taunts us with reluctance to take up this “greatest of testimonial questions,” with “refusing to come forward boldly, and debate it fairly before the church.”[10] We have come forward boldly, and this is now the alleged reason why there is to be no debate at all before the church. Moreover, at the time when you said “we accept your terms,” you regarded us as holding the very opinions which are now made the excuse for a retreat; in your first lecture they are made a chief ground of indictment against us, and pages are crowded with citations from Unitarian writers, expressing those same sentiments, which, when avowed by your own opponents, are to make them unfit to be addressed, and to exempt you from the duty of reply. Of the spirit of this proceeding, observers of honourable mind must judge; they, as well as you, are well aware, that to pronounce men unworthy of attack, is itself an attack of the last degree of bitterness.

II. Your refusal to settle with us the meaning of Scripture till the plenary inspiration is acknowledged, is in plain contradiction to your own principles. You fix the imputation of deception on our statement, that “the process of interpretation may go on undisturbed by any reference to the theory of verbal inspiration.” Yet is this only a repetition of what Mr. Byrth himself says, “In whatever light the Christian Scriptures are regarded, whether as the result of plenary inspiration, as we Trinitarians believe, or as the uninspired productions of the first teachers of Christianity, or even as the forgeries of imposture, the meaning of their contents is a question apart from all others.”[11]

Dr. Tattershall, in common with all sound divines, makes it the first step of scriptural inquiry to “examine the contents” of the books under the guidance of the following principle: that “any message coming from God must be consistent with the character of the same holy being, as exhibited in his works,” and must have “consistency with itself:”[12] and he justly states, that whether we ought to take the last step, of admitting the divine authority of the doctrines, must still be contingent on those doctrines, “being themselves wise and holy,”—“lessons worthy of God.”[13] These principles are violated, unless our investigation into your doctrines is taken in the following order:—

I. Are your doctrines true to the sense of Scripture? If not, the controversy ends here; if they are, then,

II. Are they self-consistent; reconcilable with the teachings of God’s works, pure and holy? If not, the controversy ends here; if they are, then,

III. Do they come to us clothed with divine authority, and conveyed in the language of plenary inspiration?

Your system, then, must establish its existence in the Bible (which is a matter of interpretation), and its credibility in itself (which we presume there must be some criterion to determine), before the question of inspiration is capable of being discussed. We deny both these preliminaries; protesting that we cannot find your system in the Scriptures; and that if we could, it appears to us so far from “self-consistent,” “wise and holy,” and “worthy of God,” as exceedingly to embarrass the claims to divine authority, of any writings which contain it. It was then in implicit obedience to your own rules that we proposed to let the question of interpretation take the lead; and no less so, that we presume to form a judgment respecting the internal character of doctrines professing to be scriptural. Permit us to ask how, but by some “light in ourselves,” we are to determine whether doctrines are “wise and holy,” “self-consistent,” and “worthy of God?”

Secondly. You plead that we have forfeited our claim on the fulfilment of your engagement, by a statement of opinion in our second lecture, to this effect: that miracles do not enable us to infer the intellectual infallibility of the performer. This, it seems, is an unexpected heresy, and cancels all promises. You appear to be affected by the Popish tendencies of the age; and to have adopted the notion, that no faith is to be kept with heretics. On this point we remark as follows:—

1st. We are astonished at your assertion, that this idea about miracles deprives us of any “common medium of reason” with you. Did you not “propose to discuss with us” the “evidence of the plenary inspiration of the holy Scriptures,” under the persuasion that we should take the negative side? In such discussion, would you not have argued from the miracles to the inspiration? And how did you suppose that we should reply? You were well aware that we should admit the miracles; and equally well aware that we should deny the plenary inspiration of those that wrought them. It cannot be supposed that, at this point, you would have had no more to say; but you would have proceeded, as many able writers have already done, to seek some “common medium of reason,”—some considerations, that is, having force with both parties; by which you might hope to fasten the disputed connection between your premises and your conclusion.

2nd. We are still more astonished to hear that this sentiment puts us “a step beyond common Deism,” “in undisputed possession of the field of infidelity,” and even in “separation from our common humanity;” seeing that the opinion has been held by

Bishop Sherlock:—Who says, “Miracles cannot prove the truth of any doctrine; and men do not speak accurately when they say the doctrines are proved by the miracles; for, in truth, there is no connection between miracles and doctrines.”[14]

John Locke:—“Even in those books which have the greatest proof of Revelation from God, and the attestation of miracles to confirm their being so, the miracles are to be judged by the doctrine, not the doctrine by the miracles.”[15]

Dr. Samuel Clarke:—“We can hardly affirm, with any certainty, that any particular effect, how great or miraculous soever it may seem to us, is beyond the power of all created beings (whom he explains further to be, ‘subordinate intelligences, good or evil angels,’) in the universe to produce.” He believes the Devil to “be able, by reason of his invisibility, to work true and real miracles;” and “whether such (i.e. miraculous) interposition be the immediate work of God, or of some good or evil angel, can hardly be discovered merely by the work itself.”

He accordingly lays down the conditions under which the miracles will prove the doctrine.[16]

Bishop Fleetwood:—“Spirits may perform most strange and astonishing things,—may convey men through the air, or throw a mountain two miles at a cast.”[17]

The notions expressed by the last two writers, respecting the superhuman agency of good and evil spirits, evidently destroy, no less than the more philosophical principle of Sherlock and Locke, all power of reasoning from miracles, as such, to the divine authority and inspiration of the performers. You cannot be ignorant of the fact, that these notions prevailed among all the Fathers of both the Greek and Latin churches; that they were almost universal among Christians till very recent times; and that your own church lodges with the Bishop of the Diocese a discretionary power to license clergymen to cast out devils.[18]

Nor need we remind you that, by yet another process of thought, the Society of Friends assigns to miracles the rank which you think so profane. “We know,” says Barclay on this subject, “that the devil can form a sound of words, and convey it to the outward ear; that he can easily deceive the outward senses, by making things appear which are not. Yea, do we not see that the Jugglers and Mountebanks can do as much as all that, by their legerdemain? God forbid then that the saint’s faith should be founded on so fallacious a foundation as man’s outward and fallible senses.”[19] And he urges, “that there must be other ways of ascertaining divine truth; for as to miracles, John the Baptist and divers of the Prophets wrought none that we hear of, and yet were both immediately and extraordinarily sent.”[20] By different modes of thinking, all these (Christians?) have arrived at the sentiment in question, so that we occupy “the field of infidelity,” without being “separated from” at least a goodly portion of “our humanity.” That this sentiment should be of so deep a dye of Deism is the more remarkable, because it is advanced and vindicated as a scriptural sentiment,—a plea which, however foolish, can be shown to be so, only by discussing the interpretation of the New Testament. You have proposed no explanation of the state of the Apostles’ minds before the day of Pentecost. On that day they either did, or they did not, become more enlightened than before. If they did not, the gift of the Holy Spirit conferred no illumination; if they did, they were deficient in light before; and the miraculous powers they had possessed and exercised did not imply infallibility. We thought, indeed, that the comparative narrowness of their views before this period had been universally admitted. With respect to the appeal which in the presence of the Baptist’s disciples our Lord makes to his miraculous acts, you are quite aware that we do not regard it as “worthless,” though you say we “must” do so. These acts (the climax of which, however, was no miracle at all,—“the poor have the Gospel preached to them,”) fully answered the purpose for which they were appealed to, viz., to determine whether Jesus was “He that should come,” or whether John was “to look for another;” for as Bishop Sherlock remarks though miracles may not (he says “cannot) prove the truth of any doctrine,” they “prove the commission of the person who does them to proceed from God.”[21] We repeat, then, that we have started no topic which you did not invite; we have taken up no method of discussion which your own rules did not prescribe; we have advanced no idea for which your own Church should be unprepared. You have quitted this controversy without any justification from the unexpected nature of our sentiments, and we are persuaded that you can plead no discourtesy in our proposals respecting the mechanical arrangements. On this point we think it right to state thus publicly the overtures which we made to you, through the excellent clergyman who communicated with us as your representative. An objection having been urged by Mr. Ould to discussion through the newspapers, on the ground that they are read by “the ignorant scoffer, the sceptical, the profane,” we proposed the following plan:—That for twelve or any limited number of weeks, a joint weekly pamphlet of thirty-two pages should be published, each party furnishing sixteen pages; that the first number of the series should contain a positive statement, from each party, of its fundamental principles in religion, of that which it undertook to assail, and that which it undertook to defend; and that within the limits of this programme, the replies in the subsequent numbers should confine themselves. Thus each party would have chosen its own ground, at first; and both would have disappeared from the public view together, at last. This proposal was rejected without any reason being assigned, except that there were “too many difficulties in the way;” and though all preliminaries were to be settled “by previous agreement,” we were told that in the following Courier we should find a letter addressed to us, which we might answer in whatever way we thought proper. The public who have watched the proceedings in this matter will bear witness, with our consciences, that we were not the first to enter this controversy; that we have not been the first to leave it; and that, in its progress, we have departed from no pledge, and been guilty of no evasion.

And now, Gentlemen, accept from us in conclusion, our solemn protest against the language of unmeasured insult, in which, under the cover of sanctity, the associated clergymen whom you represent, have thought proper to speak of our religion; against the accusations personally addressed to us, in the presence of 3,000 people, by the Lecturers in Christ Church, of “mean subterfuges,” “of sneering,” of “savage grins,” of “damnable blasphemy,” of “the greatest imaginable guilt,” of “doing despite to the Spirit of Grace,” of “the most odious of crimes against the Majesty of Heaven,” and in common with all Unitarians of forming our belief, from “the blindness of graceless hearts,” too bad “to have been touched by any spirit of God,” and against the visible glee, fierce as Tertullian’s, with which “the faithful” are reminded that ere long, we must and shall bow our proud knees, whether we like it or not, to the object of their peculiar worship;—so that they are sure of their triumph in heaven, however questionable it may be on earth. You began the controversy by ascribing to us one shade of “infidelity;” you end it by ascribing to us a blacker. Beneath “the lowest deep,” there is it seems “a lower still.” We have sat quietly under all this, bearing the rude friction upon everything that is most dear to us, assured that if anything in heaven or earth be certain, it is this;—that no spirit of God ever spake thus, or thus administered the poison of human passions, falsely labelled as the medicine of a divine love. What is the difference between your religion and ours, that this high tone (than which, to a pure moral taste, nothing surely can be lower) should be assumed against us? We believe, no less than you, in an infallible Revelation (though had we the misfortune to doubt it, we might be, in the sight of God, neither worse nor better than yourselves); you in a Revelation of an unintelligible Creed to the understanding; we in a Revelation of moral perfection, and the spirit of duty to the heart; you in a Revelation of the metaphysics of Deity; we in a Revelation of the character and providence of the Infinite Father; you in a Redemption which saves the few, and leaves with Hell the triumph after all; we in a Redemption which shall restore to all at length the image and the immortality of God: we do reserve, as you suggest, “a sort of inspiration” for the founders of Christianity, “a sort” as much higher than your cold, dogmatical, scientific inspiration, as the intuitions of conscience are higher than the predications of logic, and the free spirit of God, than the petty precision of men. We believe in a spiritual and moral Revelation, most awakening, most sanctifying, most holy; which words, being the signs of hard and definite ideas, could never express, and which is therefore pourtrayed in a mind divinely finished for the purpose, acting awhile on Earth and publicly transferred to Heaven. All men may see that such a Revelation corresponds well with the medium which conveys it; but a set of scholastic propositions, like Articles and Creeds, might as well have been written on the sky; and many a bitter doubt and bitterer controversy might have been spared.

We believe, Gentlemen, that the minds of serious and considerate persons are weary of the aggressions of Churches upon the private and secret faith of the individual heart; that they will not long be forced to live on the dry husks of Creeds which have lost the kernel of true life; nor accept mere puzzles as divine mysteries. It is at the peril of all religion that its illimitable truths are embalmed in definite formulas, and the abyss of God confidently measured by thrusting out the foot-rule of ecclesiastical wisdom. The things most holy cannot without injury be thus turned from the contemplation of the affections, to the small criticism of the intellect; and the acute and polished dividing-knife of dialectics, when applied to cut theology into propositions, is apt to leave scarce a shred of faith.

That all professing ministers of the Gospel may speedily turn from their divisions of belief to a hearty union of spirit, is the desire and prayer of

Us, who in this temper, and in better times, might have been owned as

Your fellow-labourers,

James Martineau.
John Hamilton Thom.
March 25th, 1839. Henry Giles.

10.  Rev. F. Ould’s Letter of February 11.

11.  Rev. T. Byrth’s Lecture, Part I. p. 114.

12.  Rev. Dr. Tattershall’s Lecture on the Integrity of the Canon, p. 69.

13.  â€œWhatever lessons of instruction or doctrines they teach us, these doctrines being themselves wise and holy, must have been delivered under a divine sanction, and therefore possess divine authority.

“If he (that is, the person who performs miracles) also teaches lessons,—lessons worthy of God,—these lessons undoubtedly come to us clothed with divine authority.”—Dr. Tattershall’s Lecture, pp. 70, 71.

14.  Sherlock’s Discourses, No. 10, Hughes’s edition, Vol. I. p. 197, and No. 15, Vol. I. p. 278.

15.  Lord King’s Life of Locke, p. 125.

16.  Sermons at the Boyle Lecture, Prop. xiv.

17.  Essay on Miracles, p. 99, seq., as quoted by Farmer in his Dissertation on Miracles, chap. i. § 3.

18.  â€œNo minister or ministers shall, without the licence and direction of the Bishop of the Diocese, first obtained and had under his hand and seal, ... attempt, upon any pretence whatsoever, either of possession or obsession, by fasting and prayer, to cast out any devil or devils, under pain of the imputation of imposture or cozenage, and deposition from the ministry.”—Constitutions and Canons Ecclesiastical, lxxii.

19.  Apology for the True Christian Divinity, Prop. ii, pp. 35, 36.

20.  Ibid. Prop. x. p. 296.

21.  Discourses, No. 10, Hughes’s edition, vol. i. p. 197.


THE
 
PRACTICAL IMPORTANCE
 
OF THE
 
UNITARIAN CONTROVERSY.

An attempt has been made, in a preface to the Lecture to which the following pages are a reply, to break the force, by anticipation, of the statements they contain. The Answerer, however, evidently did not hear the statements; and the preface proceeds upon some rumour of what was said. If Clergymen are conscientiously prevented from going to hear Unitarians, they ought also to be conscientiously prevented from answering what they did not hear. I am represented as saying that Trinitarians do not gather, but lecture: I said Trinitarianism does not gather, but scatters. I am represented as arguing the tendency of Trinitarianism to Popery from the recent movement of the Oxford Tract divines in that direction: I argued the tendency of Trinitarianism to Popery from its fundamental principles, and I referred to the Oxford movement as one of the visible manifestations of the demonstrated tendency.

I shall notice the instances in which the Preface proceeds upon anything like a true apprehension of what was said—

1. Page vii. viii.—“When men tell us that Jesus did not weep over errors of opinion, we maintain that it was the ‘error of opinion’ which led them to reject him as the Messiah over which he lamented.” Now, 1. Is the unbelief of the Jews in the Christ, when he was exhibiting his divine credentials in his Character and in his Miracles before their eyes and to their hearts, in any respect similar to our unbelief in the doctrine of the Trinity, which we, accepting both the Scriptures and Christ, declare we cannot find to be authorized by either? And 2. Is it not evident that Jesus attributed the unbelief of the Jews to Moral Causes, and that therefore, and only therefore, he condemned it? “This is the Condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” John iii. 19.

2. Page viii.—“But these principles involve a violation of unity.” And what if they do? Did not our Saviour emphatically declare, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace but a sword.” 1. Christ is here not describing the final purpose of his Mission nor the natural operation of his Spirit, but the immediate opposition and contention which his religion would excite both in Jew and Gentile before it rooted out the old Faiths: And 2. The Christ is not here alluding to differences between Christians themselves, between those who did accept him; but to the necessary conflict of the Spirit of Jesus with the Antagonist spirits of Judaism and Heathenism. This also is the great subject of the Book of Revelations.

3. Page xi.—“But it is a priestly spirit which says, ‘you must believe.’” This ought to be reckoned with the instances in which the answer proceeds upon an incorrect rumour of what was said; which was to this effect,—“that it is the priestly spirit, whose constant cry is, unless you believe this doctrine, and unless you believe that doctrine, you cannot be saved.” Belief in Jesus, entire spiritual Trust in him, as, for all providential purposes, one with God, we have explicitly stated as our view of the essentials of Christianity.

Page xxi.—We do not know how far the Author extends his approval of “the tactics of holy war.” For ourselves we disapprove of all such tactics, especially the tactics of substituting a mere illustration or practical verification of an argument, for the argument itself, and then dealing with the illustration as if there was no general principle behind it, as if the illustration was represented as the grounds of the principle, when it is only represented as one of its outward operations. And yet this “argumentum a particulari ad universale,” is one which the author employs in his description of Unitarianism in almost every page of his Lecture.

J. H. T.

THE
 
PRACTICAL IMPORTANCE
 
OF THE
 
UNITARIAN CONTROVERSY.


Colossians I. 27, 28.—Christ in you, the hope of glory: whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.

Galatians II. 4, 5.—And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage; to whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.

Were some stranger to our religion inquiring what it is to be a Christian, there are two quarters from which he might derive his ideas of that character. He might draw near to him who is the only perfect expression of Christianity, and when he had sat at the feet of Jesus, listening with hushed heart, and then arisen and joined himself to the meek Prophet of Mercy on his way of Love, he might receive from Christ his impressions of Christianity and catch from the living Master the type of a disciple: or he might turn for information to the Christians of the day, selecting for examination the largest and most prominent classes, and so gather from the common specimen his impressions of their temper, their spirit, and their faith. Each of these modes of inquiry would produce a result of Truth; but the one would be a Truth of reality, and the other only a Truth of description; the one would present to us what we were seeking, the true idea of a Christian; the other would show with what degree of faithfulness Christians had preserved the spirit of the original, or whether in the copy, in the distant reflection, the features had been faded, marred, distorted; the one would furnish us with the great Master’s idea of a Disciple, the other would exhibit the Disciple as a representative of the Master, and assuming to be his Image to the world; in a word, the one would be Christ’s idea of a Christian; the other would be only a Christian’s idea of Christ. Oh, thanks be to God for the written Gospel, for the Epistles written on men’s hearts, the living transcripts, give us no worthy ideas of Christ; and were it not for those silent witnesses which speak from a passionless page, and cannot be made to wear the garb of party, which reflect Christ’s realities, and not man’s ideas, the Image of Jesus had long since been irrecoverably lost!

Let us then for a moment place ourselves beside Jesus, and learn from the Christ what it is to be a Christian. I hear him inviting the weary and the heavy laden to come and find rest unto their souls. I listen for that doctrine of rest, the faith that gives the sin-bound peace. I hear him speak of God, and they are indeed healing words of peace, intended to quell a superstition and a controversy: “God is a spirit: the hour cometh and now is when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.”[22] I hear him speak of Duty: “The Lord our God is one Lord, and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: This is the first Commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. This do and thou shalt live.” I hear him speak of Heaven: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation, neither shall they say lo here, or lo there, for behold the kingdom of God is within you.”[23] I hear him speak of Sin, melted, and transformed into penitence: “To whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. Thy faith hath saved thee. Go in peace. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon thee.” I hear him speak of Discipleship: “He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”[24] “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. If ye keep my commandments ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in His love. Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth: but I have called you friends: for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another.”[25]

We turn now from the words to the life of the great Teacher, in the endeavour to get a more definite idea of Duty, Discipleship, and Faith. The character of Jesus is the best, fullest, and truest interpretation of the words of Jesus. His life is his own translation of his own precepts into the language of action. We surely cannot be far from the true sources of Christianity when we first drink his words into our hearts, and then follow him with reverent steps and with gazing eyes, to watch his own illustrations of those words, to behold the spirit breathing in the life, and from the fulness of his character to learn the fulness of his precepts. Surely Christ embodied and impersonated his own teachings. Surely the life of Christ is undoubted Christianity. Surely his character is Christian Duty; and his destiny Christian Faith. Surely he knew and exhibited the practical tendencies of his own doctrines; and surely to set him up at the fountain-head of our moral being, as God’s image to the conscience, and to strive in all things to be like unto him, “whom we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus,”—cannot be to preach “another gospel,” or to mistake fatally the essentials of Discipleship. “If a man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”[26] The definition of a Christian, when deduced from the words and the life of the Christ himself, thus comes out to be—one who TRUSTS himself in all things to that God of whom Jesus was the image; and who CONFORMS himself in all things to that will of God of which Jesus was the perfect expression. “This is life eternal that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.”[27]

Turn we now to a different quarter for an answer to our inquiry what it is to be a Christian; from the one Master to the multitude of professors; from the original image, distinct and bright, to the transmitted reflections, all claiming to be genuine copies; from the single voice, sweet and clear, to the confusion of jarring tongues; from the pure fountain to the impure streams; from Christ to Christians. I am entirely guiltless of the intention of satire, but it is quite impossible to avoid the appearance of it in any attempt to give the features of Christianity as they appear in the Christians of the day, in those, that is, who claim to be Christians exclusively; for the tamest truth of description excites ideas of the true Christ, so contrasted, that it has without intention all the effect of sarcasm. Surely a stranger to the only true source of our religion, examining its actual forms as they exist in the world, and selecting its characteristics from that which is largest and most prominent, would not be guilty of misrepresentation, if he described a Christian as one who was shut up within the narrowest circle of religious ideas; who identified himself and his opinions with absolute Truth; who idolized himself and his sect as the only friends of God; who was so unconscious of a liability to err, that he breathed, unknowingly, an atmosphere of infallibility, and insulted the Rights of other men, not more fallible than himself, without perceiving the invasion;—one so used to arrogate to himself and to his own party, all excellence and all truth, that he starts in surprise, innocent of what can be meant, when he is told that he is pressing on the liberties of other minds, who, with as deep an interest as he can have in their own salvation, have searched into these things and read differently the mind of God;—as one who regards a few metaphysical propositions, confessedly unintelligible, as the only hope of human salvation, and who, in the confidence of this faith, speaks to his fellow men as if he had secret council with God; assumes to be on “a religious level” nearer to the spirit of the Most High, who, on that more elevated standing, drops more readily into his heart communications from Heaven;—and who, when he pays any regard to other men at all, looks down upon them from an eminence; assumes as proved their ignorance, their errors, and their sins; insults their opinions; treats with no brotherly respect the convictions of Truth and the dictates of Conscience which to them are Voices from the living God; denies that they have equal zeal for truth, or equal ability to discover it; scoffs at the idea of religious equality, and looks amazed when others tell him, though it be in apostolic words, that they will not “give place by subjection, no, not for an hour;” and finally adds mockery to insult and wrong, by telling the men whom he so treats, that all this is Christian affection, and an interest in their souls.

It is painful to put last in order, not the true, but the untrue idea of a Christian, and therefore to set us right, I will present the original picture again in apostolic words. “Hereby we do know that we know him if we keep his commandments.” “Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” “If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.” “Let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.”[28]

There is still another way of bringing into comparison the spirit of Christ and the character of that Christianity which assumes to itself to be the only fruit of his spirit. We can compare the existing state of the Christian world with the expectations of Jesus, with that state of things to which he looked forward as the Reign of his spirit, the Kingdom of the true Gospel upon earth. If the Christianity that prevails has not realized the expectations of Christ, then its practical tendency is evidently not in the direction of the true Gospel; it is, to the extent of the failure, a departure from the power and character of the original spirit. Christ could not be mistaken about the proper operations of his own spirit; and the system whose operations do not fulfil his promises cannot contain a full and perfect ministration of his spirit. And this argument will amount to something like a demonstration, if we can show, first, that this system which has failed to realize the expectations of Jesus as to the condition of his Church, has, for large tracts both of time and space, been the prevailing influence of the Christian world, with nothing to obstruct it, so that it has had full and free scope to work its own works, and to manifest its own spirit; and secondly, if we can point to the something in that system, which manifestly has caused it to be destructive of those hopes, and to work counter to this expectation of Christ.

There is no sublimer idea of Christianity than its delightful vision of a Universal Church; the kingdom of the Gospel becoming a kingdom of Heaven on earth; uniting the nations by a spiritual bond; in every heart among the families of men kindling the same solemn ideas, and opening the same living springs; subduing the differences of class and country by the affinities of worship, by kindred images of Hope, of Duty, and of God, becoming a meeting place for the thoughts of men; including every form and variety of mind within that spiritual faith which leads onwards to the infinite, yet presents distinct ideas to the heart of childhood, and feeds the sources of an infant’s prayer; assembling in their countless homes the Brotherhood of man around the spiritual altar of one Father and one God, whose presence is a Temple wherein all are gathered, and whose Spirit, dwelling in each heart, meets and returns the seekings of all his children.

Such was the Christian vision of the Church Universal, of the union of all good men in the worship of one God under the leadership of his Image, growing up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.

Such was the sublime idea that filled the mind of Jesus when he looked forward in heavenly faith to the reign of his spirit, the kingdom of his Gospel in the world. “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.”[29] “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” Such also was the magnificent and healing view that filled the hearts of the Apostles when they protested against burdens being laid upon Christ’s freemen; rebuked the first manifestations of a sectarian Christianity; and would acknowledge no distinctions between those who were walking in the steps of the same master, and moulding their souls into the same similitude of Christ. “There is one body, and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one is given grace, according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, unto the edifying of itself in love.”[30] “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same spirit. And there are differences of administration, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.” “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one spirit.” “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular.”[31]

Such is the Christian and Apostolic view of the Church of Christ on earth. Turn we now to the actual Church. Is it a realization of this divine image of the mind of Jesus? Is there in it a unity of spirit in the bond of peace? Do the branches abide in the Vine? Do the scattered and warring members make one spirit in one body? Alas! could there be a sadder mockery, than to pretend to seek in our prevalent Christianity any features corresponding to this divine conception?

Trinitarian Christianity is founded upon a principle directly opposed to the realization of this prospect and vision of Jesus. It declares that there shall be no unity but a doctrinal unity. It rejects that moral and spiritual union which is the bond of peace, and which, as subsisting among his followers, Christ looked forward to as the great proof to the world that God had sent him;—and it declares that there shall be no bonds but the bonds of Creeds. It breaks up the Christian world into distinct and mutually repulsive parties; each claiming—not to be disciples of the life of Christ—not to be one with him as he was one with God, in will, aspiration, and purpose of soul, but—to be in possession of the exact doctrinal ideas which constitute a saving faith, of a certain intellectual process of belief, through which alone God conducts the sinner into Heaven, and without which no soul, whatever may be its spiritual oneness with Jesus and his Father, can be saved. Now it is clear that a system such as this, requiring not a unity of spirit, but a unity of opinion, cannot be that primitive Gospel, which, according to the expectation of the Saviour, was to gather all the believers under Heaven into a universal Church. Trinitarianism, as a system, does not, and cannot, work out these fruits of the spirit of Christ. It does not gather, but scatters; it does not collect into one; but disunites, severs, and casts out. It disowns all harmony but the harmony of metaphysical conceptions. It has no wider way of salvation, no broader bond of peace, no more open road to Heaven, than a coincidence of ideas, on the essence of the Deity, the mysterious modes of the divine existence; a person in whom there are two natures; and then, again, a nature in which there are three persons; and this as preparatory to a moral process, in which a penalty is paid by substitution for a guilt incurred by substitution. I ask not now whether these ideas are true; whether they are realities of God’s mind; but I ask, Have they ever been, or can they ever be, bonds of union for a Church Universal? Are these the grand affinities towards which all hearts shall be drawn; and which, breaking down our minor distinctions into less than nothing, shall bind together the families of man in the fellowship of one spirit? You all know, every man knows, that a uniformity of opinion is an impossibility; that God has nowhere provided the means for producing it; that nowhere does it exist; no—not in that closely-fenced and strictly-articled Church, whose bosom at this very hour is rent by heresies, even as, throughout all her history, they shattered the unity and split the bosom even of infallible Rome; and seeing, therefore, that there is no such doctrinal unity on earth, if Jesus understood his own gospel, this cannot be the oneness with his Father and himself, to which he looked forward as the Reign of his Spirit in the world. And yet the Trinitarian Church of England, one of whose Ministers when, on a late occasion, denouncing Unitarian heresies, took the opportunity to give the relief of expression to his horror of other heresies in the bosom of his own communion, and openly denounced as heretics ordained clergymen and dignitaries of his own Church,—this Church of England, notwithstanding all this, still claims to be the great bulwark, among Protestants, of the unity of the Faith, the dignified rebuker of schisms and sects; and still offers to the harassed and distracted, to the rent and divided body of Christ, a creed—and what a creed!—as the only bond of agreement and of peace.

Either, then, Christ miscalculated the workings of his own spirit, when he contemplated a Universal Church as its natural fruit; or Trinitarianism, when it destroys the spiritual union of the Church, a moral oneness with Jesus and with his Father, by its demand for a doctrinal conformity, is, to the extent of this operation, an Antichrist, a departure from the healing and uniting spirit of the true Gospel. Let me, for the sake of distinctness, put you in possession of the exact difference between the fundamental principles of Unitarian and Trinitarian Christianity. To a Unitarian the essentials of Christianity are; that a man takes into his heart the moral image of Jesus, and loves it supremely, and trusts it absolutely as his example of perfection, and his leader up to God. If I was asked to define a Christian, I would say that he was one who took Jesus Christ as he is presented in the gospels, as his best idea of Duty, and his best programme of Heaven; the very ideal of the religious spirit and life; the perfect image of God; and the perfect model for man. These are a Unitarian’s essentials of Christianity. To a Trinitarian the essentials of a Christian are these: not that he receive Jesus as his image of God, his model of Duty, and his type of Heaven,—but that he receive a certain metaphysical Creed, certain doctrinal ideas, which “except he keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.” Now, a union of all hearts, under the leadership of one Christ, and in the love and reverence of one moral Spirit, is a possible thing; but a union of all minds in the reception of certain metaphysical ideas which the minds of Milton, of Newton, and of Locke, could not find, either in Reason or in Scripture, is not a possible thing: and therefore my first assertion of the “practical importance” of the Unitarian Controversy is to this effect:—that Trinitarianism, by its fundamental principle of a doctrinal conformity, a principle not known to the true gospel, is the originating cause of all religious disunion and strife; the creator of all schisms, sects, and heresies; the great and effectual antagonist of any realization of that sublimest and most heavenly conception of the Saviour—a Universal Church, cherishing the same Hopes, studying the same Models, trusting to the same Image of God to guide us to His presence,—a union of all hearts, seeking to be one, even as God and Christ were one, in the fellowship of the same spirit. This is my heaviest indictment against the practice of Trinitarianism, that it destroys Christ’s delightful image of his Spirit’s Reign on earth, and creates in its place—what shall I say?—the strife and disunion, the fears of the weak and the arrogance of the coarse; the wranglings of creeds and the absence of love; the heat of controversy and the chill of religion, through the midst of which we are now passing.[32]

Trinitarianism has long been the prevailing influence of the Christian world; it holds all the religious power of these countries in its own hands; there is nothing external to prevent its carrying into existence its own ideas; and if in the day of its power it has not wrought the works and realized the hopes of Christ, it must be because it has worked in another spirit, and preached another gospel; adding to the primitive “glad tidings” of “repentance and remission of sins,” other conditions which are not glad tidings, and which are not Christ’s. Now not only can we point to the actual failure in proof of the absence of the true spirit, but we can lay our finger upon the element of mischief, and demonstrate it to be the parent of the evils we deplore, the frustrator of the hope of Christ. Trinitarianism, by demanding a doctrinal assimilation, an intellectual instead of a spiritual union, and wielding, as it does, the prevailing influences of religion, has, in the day of its power, forcibly prevented the formation of that universal Church which Christ contemplated. And until it drops from its essentials the doctrinal oneness, and substitutes in its place a spiritual oneness derived from obedience to God as he is manifested in Jesus, it cannot gather into one fold, and constitute the kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

Now let us suppose, for a moment, that this doctrinal conformity is required by Christianity, and that not TRUST in Christ, but belief of Creeds, constitutes acceptance of the gospel. Then comes the question, and a most perplexing one it would be, how can any one be sure that the creed he trusts to contains exactly the ideas to which God has annexed safety? Supposing creeds to be the essentials of Christianity, then how can any Christian be sure that he has got the true creed? I can easily conceive with what fear, with what apprehensions of mind, with what a paralyzed intellect, and unconfiding heart, sinking the love of truth in selfish terrors, a man trembling under the conviction that his everlasting safety depended upon his reception of a doctrine, would come to the examination of the Scriptures; I can well conceive how his judgment would be gradually bereft of all calm and trustful independence; how his fears and passions would slavishly draw him over to whatever party predominated in intolerance, and in the confidence of their assumptions, frightening him into the belief that safety was with them, for that if creeds were the essentials of salvation, the more of creed the more of certainty;—but after all this sacrifice has been submitted to, after terror has wrought its work, and the intellect has surrendered to the passions—after the man in the pursuit of selfish safety has given up his Reason and his free mind, and stooped his neck to the yoke,—I cannot see how in any way he has altered or bettered his position; I cannot see how he has attained the end for which he has paid such degrading wages; how he can be certain that he has got the creed which ensures salvation;—and after having sold his birthright, parted with his free soul for the sake of a safety built upon doctrines, he discovers at last, unless he is a Roman Catholic, that he has no absolute certainty of these doctrines being the true ones; he is still left in doubt whether after all he is in possession of the particular creed that works salvation—whether, after all, he has not bowed down his soul for nothing. If God requires from men certain doctrinal convictions as necessary to salvation, then how can any man be sure that he has got the true convictions? Even the verbal and plenary inspiration of the Bible, if we believed in it, which we do not, would not relieve a Protestant Trinitarian of this difficulty: for those who agree in believing the Bible in every word inspired, can draw from it very different meanings, as none have reason to know better than the divines of the English Church.

I am tempted to give a few specimens of the differences between existing divines of the Church of England on the very points of accusation against Unitarianism. You are aware of the place that the Atonement holds in Evangelical preaching. Listen then to the new party in the Church, the leaders of which are, one of them, the Oxford Professor of Hebrew and a Canon of Christ Church, and the others distinguished both in the Church and in the University. These are their words:—“We now proceed to the consideration of a subject most important in this point of view,—the prevailing notion of bringing forward the Atonement explicitly and prominently on all occasions. It is evidently quite opposed to what we consider the teaching of Scripture, nor do we find any sanction for it in the gospels. If the Epistles of St. Paul appear to favour it, it is only at first sight.”[33] Again, you are aware of the importance attached to the doctrine of Justification by Faith, that test, as it is described, of a rising or a falling church. Listen then once more to one of the heads of the Oxford party:—“The instrument of our righteousness, I would maintain, is holy baptism. Our Church considers it to be the Sacrament of Baptism; they (the Reformers) consider it to be Faith. ***Christians are justified by the communication of an inward, most sacred, and most mysterious gift. From the very time of baptism they are temples of the Holy Ghost.*** Faith, then, being the appointed representative of baptism, derives its authority and virtue from that which it represents. It is justifying because of baptism; it is the faith of the baptized, of the regenerate, of the justified. Faith does not precede justification; but justification precedes faith, and makes it justifying.”[34] I must quote one other sentiment of this Oxford section of the English Protestant Church, respecting the Mass:—“At the time of the Reformation, we, in common with all the West, possessed the rite of the Roman Church, or St. Peter’s Liturgy. This sacred, and most precious monument, then of the Apostles, our reformers received whole and entire from their predecessors, and they mutilated the tradition of 1500 years.”[35] Now it only bears out my argument that this movement of Trinitarianism is in the direction of Popery.

Such being the doctrinal uniformity of the Church of England, where then is the infallible authority that is to put me in possession of those doctrinal ideas, that absolute truth, without which I cannot be saved? Having got an inspired Bible, I still want an inspired Interpreter, who, out of all the possible meanings that the words will bear, will set aside all the wrong ones, and select that one interpretation which, in the shape of doctrine, God has made the source of safety. Where is this Interpreter to be found? Where am I to look for this infallible authority, which is to explain to me the exact sense of the Bible, without which I cannot be saved, and to acquaint me with the very ideas of God? Is it the Church of England that is to do me this important service; to be my infallible guide through the possible meanings of words; and to present me with the one creed that will operate as a charm for my salvation? Oh no! for the Church is Protestant, and recognizes the sufficiency of Scripture, and the right of free inquiry, and rails at the Pope because he denies these things. But still I ask, if I cannot be saved without this doctrinal truth, where am I to find it, and how can I feel certain that I have it? A Roman Catholic would relieve me of my difficulties. He would treat me more kindly, and with an ampler provision for my security, than do the divines of the English Church. They tell me that my salvation depends upon my having the true creed, and then they leave me in the dark, without any means of ascertaining what the true creed is, and whether I have it or not. The Roman Catholics, on the other hand, seeing that exact truth is necessary, take care to provide for me an infallible Judge of truth. They are merciful in the accuracy of their provisions for relieving my fears, when compared with the worse than Egyptian inconsistency, the contradictory tyranny of my Protestant taskmasters. The Egyptians asked for bricks, and provided no straw. The Church of England asks for absolute Truth, and provides no judge of Truth. And this it does in the face of the fact that, not even to its own clergymen is the inspired Bible a source of certainty: that three distinctly marked divisions now constitute the Unity of the Church, and dwell, not peaceably, together.

To any man, then, who believes that doctrinal convictions are the essentials of Christianity, there is no escape from Popery. Out of Popery, there is no Church that professes to have interpreted Scripture with infallible certainty. If I am to be saved by a true creed, show me the divinely appointed tribunal, and let me bow down before it. But do not tell me, unless you are a Roman Catholic, that I must be saved by Truth, and that your Truth is the one to which I must bow down my soul, or perish everlastingly. One man’s Truth is as good as another man’s Truth, unless there is a divinely appointed tribunal to judge between them.[36] Where is this tribunal? I know it is supposed to be in the Roman Catholic Church; and I know that the English Church, if it possessed such a tribunal, could not speak with a whit more confidence than it does. I enter it then as my second indictment against the practice of Trinitarianism, that by building the Church of Christ upon the foundation of a doctrinal uniformity, it is an ally of Popery; that if it was consistent with itself, it would be Popish altogether; and that this is not a mere tendency but actually taking effect, is manifested in that Church which is most open to the temptations of spiritual ambition, by its gradual and lately accelerating movements in the direction of Roman Catholicism. I know that the Evangelicals denounce the Oxford modification of Popery, but they are both of one spirit, and neither will find their natural issues until they fall into the arms of the infallible Church, and leave whatever Protestantism still remains in the land, unencumbered by their presence.

Listen to some of the Clergymen of the Church of England, and tell me, can you distinguish their tones from the tones of Popery? I have lately done so. I heard this language, I mean language to this effect: “Unitarians think our pity insulting, because they are not conscious of requiring of it: but when Jesus wept over Jerusalem, was his pity an insult to those who had no sympathy with the sources of his tears?” So that we are left to infer, first, that he who uses this language knows our need as fully as Jesus did, when amid the brief acclaim of his followers, he forgot the momentary triumph, and his sympathy gushed out in tears wept over the doomed city—and, secondly, that the speculative errors of Unitarians, supposing them to be such, require tears of the same description as did the crimes of Jerusalem. Did Jesus ever weep for errors of opinion; over Samaritan heresies for instance? “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. The Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives; but to save them.”

Again I heard, in substance, this language, and could not distinguish it from Popery. “Christianity must have its essentials; these to us are the Deity of Christ; the corruption of human nature; and the remedy of a vicarious sacrifice. The Unitarians who deny these points we therefore do not hold to be Christians, and not believing them to be so, we plainly tell them so.” And accordingly they treat us as if we were not. Now I acknowledge that this is entirely consistent upon their part. They make the essentials of Christianity to consist in doctrinal ideas, and consequently, whether they choose it or not, and almost without knowing it, they are forced to assume the tones of Popish Infallibility, and to decide authoritatively, by their metaphysical standard, who are Christians and who are not. I am quite aware that this is not intentional arrogance on their part, but a necessity in which their first principles involve them. They cannot begin with a Salvation through creeds, without ending in Popery; and of all the forms of Popery, that which professes Protestantism, is the most offensive.

It was a fresh proof to me of the authoritative character which Trinitarianism by necessity assumes, when I heard naturally and unconsciously the same kind of doctrinal compactness ascribed to ourselves, as if a church could not exist without a fixed creed; and quotations from all sorts of minds brought forward, without a suspicion, but they were all received among us as recognized standards of opinion. There were Arians and Humanitarians, Necessarians and Libertarians, and one foreign writer, who, as I am informed, was no Christian at all—and all these were appealed to as standards of Unitarianism. Now we certainly glory in it that our religion does not destroy our individuality; that in consistency with the great principle of Christ being our Leader, we tolerate freely intellectual differences, and encourage the virtues of free thought and speech; but it is a little unfortunate, and a little unfair, if the fundamental principles of Unitarian Theology and Religion are to be answerable, with their life, for all the sayings of all the Unitarians from Marcion and the Ebionites down to the present day. Take one form of Unitarianism as it is represented by Priestley; or take another and better form of it as it is represented by Channing; but do not confuse in one two minds so radically different, and call a combination which never had existence, the Unitarian Faith. It was owing to this Popish idea that all Religions must have a doctrinal compactness, that I heard a sentiment of Priestley’s, which I entirely disown, imputing idolatry to Trinitarians, ascribed to all Unitarians. If Unitarians worshipped Christ not believing him to be God they would be idolaters: but Trinitarians worshipping one God in three persons, and still believing him to be one, are as certainly not Polytheists. Again I heard the Improved Version stated to be the Unitarian Bible: and that the Unitarians not finding their favourite doctrines in the actual Bible made a Bible for themselves. Now let it be known that this new Bible is simply an English Version of the New Testament having for its basis or model a translation made by an Archbishop of the United Church of England and Ireland, a circumstance which we were not told; that it is founded upon the translation of Archbishop Newcome; that it is not used in Unitarian worship and possesses no authority amongst us except such as it may derive from its just merits, which are not generally rated by us as very high: and lastly, that no one is answerable for it except its editors,[37] and not even they any longer than they choose. And yet, one would suppose, that the Church of England divines might be sufficiently conversant with varieties of opinion, even in a church more strictly bound than ours, and ought not to fall into the error of taking any book whatever, or any man whatever, as the standards of a faith. With all our differences I am not aware that our bond of union covers wider varieties of opinion on the great questions of Theology and Criticism, than those which separate Bishop Marsh, Bishop Butler of Durham, Archdeacon Paley, to say nothing of the older and nobler school of Sherlock and Barrow,[38] Tillotson and Taylor, from the modern Evangelical Divines; and both from the Oxford approach to Popery, a late movement in the direction which we have now endeavoured to show is the destined path of Creeds.

But I shall be asked, has Christianity no essentials, and may a man believe anything he likes, and yet be a Christian? I answer that the essential belief of a Christian is the belief that Jesus Christ is the moral image of God; that to be one with him is to be one with his Father and become fitted for that Heaven in harmony with which his mind was made; and that any doctrinal ideas which a man can hold in consistency with this act of spiritual allegiance, he may hold, and yet be a Christian.

And yet we do not hold that all doctrines are indifferent, for we think that some are nearer than others to the great realities of God; that some, more than others, are in harmony with the mind of Christ; that some more than others give us solemn and inspiring views of the infinite Spirit; worthy conceptions of the mission and offices of Jesus, and elevating sympathies with his character; sublime and true ideas of Duty; peaceful yet awful convictions of the retributions of God; and therefore are more effectual to build us up in the oneness with his Father and with himself, which is the sublimest aim of Christ. Other views may operate powerfully on those who hold them; but as long as they do not accord with our best ideas of perfection, with our noblest views of the character of Jesus and of God, they cannot confer upon us that salvation which we take to be the essence of the Gospel, assimilation to the infinite Spirit as we know him through his Image, perfect Trust in our heavenly Father, as he is manifested in Christ.

I warn you against an imposture that is practised upon you, not knowingly but ignorantly, in the use that is made of such expressions as, “salvation by faith and not by works,” and St. Paul’s anathema on those who preached another gospel, which he declared was not another gospel, that is, that it did not contain “glad tidings,” and was therefore no gospel at all. Now salvation by “faith” does not mean salvation by doctrines, but by Trust in Jesus Christ as our spiritual Master, God’s representative to man; and exemption from “works” does not mean exemption from moral excellence, but exemption from all the works and conditions of the Jewish Law, from which, with all the bondage of its sacrifices, services and exactions, the Gospel, as offered by Christ, was the glad tidings of deliverance. It is on this account that St. Paul denounces any man who preaches another gospel, that is, who adds to it unspiritual conditions which would bring men again under the yoke of the Law, and change the glad tidings of Liberty into the burdens of a woeful superstition. “Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.” To go back to the bondage of the law, is to make the spiritual liberty of Christ’s freemen of no avail. Now the scriptural knowledge that is necessary for these explanations is of the scantiest measure; that Faith means moral Trust, spiritual acceptance and confidence; that works frequently mean, when used by Paul, not Christian holiness but Jewish Ceremonies; and that the Gospel means not a scheme of doctrines but the glad Message of deliverance from every yoke of bondage: and yet the false meanings that lurk under these words, are again and again thrust forward as Scripture evidence for doctrines entirely alien to their spirit. Elsewhere, would the anathema of the noble-minded Apostle be ready to descend upon all other additions as well as Jewish ones, to Christ’s gospel of spiritual liberty?[39]

I have contrasted the fundamental principles of Trinitarian and Unitarian Christianity, and, without entering into their peculiar tenets, I have shown that the practical tendency of Trinitarianism is to disunite the Church of Christ; to lead to Popery as the only known provision for doctrinal certainty; and to preach “another gospel,” which, to us at least, is no gospel at all, and has defaced the grace and glory of the original message. I have now to proceed to the particular views in which these principles respectively issue when applied to the examination of the Scriptures, and to contrast the practical tendencies of the distinguishing doctrines of Unitarian and Trinitarian Christianity. The Unitarians think that Trinitarianism, with all its dependent ideas, is not a system which the Scriptures would of their own accord naturally suggest to a free mind, examining them without prejudice or fear, in a spirit of confidingness in God and in truth; and that its peculiar set of notions are chiefly arrived at by inferences drawn from the Scriptures in the spirit of preconceived theories, and under the intimidation of priest-taught fears. We recognize nothing but the priestly spirit in all those systems whose cry is, “unless you believe this and unless you believe that, you cannot be saved;” and acknowledging no salvation but that of a spirit morally one with God and with his Christ, salvation from superstition, and salvation from sin, and salvation from unconfiding fears; and believing that all truth is one and from God, we confidently appeal, in confirmation of our scriptural soundness, to that great and independent test of Truth which is furnished by the moral tendencies of doctrines. I shall aim to show that Unitarianism has more power both with the understanding and the heart; that the Intellect which Trinitarianism has no resource but to disparage, and the Reason at which I lately heard, doubtless not without good reasons, such melancholy scoffs (for what can be more melancholy than to hear a man scoffing at Reason, and attempting to reason men into a contempt for Reason?), that this Reason, our ray of the divine mind, we enlist on the side of our religion and of our souls;—that the spiritual nature which Trinitarianism insults and scorns we contemplate with trembling reverence as made for holiness and for God;—and that the personal holiness and love, the Christ-like spirit and the Christ-like life to which Trinitarianism assigns a secondary place, and in disparagement of which it can stumble, as happened on a late occasion, on a condemnation of the Scripture law, that every man shall be judged according to his works[40]—this holy living and dying we set forth as the very salvation of the sons of God, the very way of spiritual safety trodden by the Forerunner and the Saviour, even Christ the righteous.

I desire to be understood to affirm nothing about the actual characters of those who hold views which I think unfriendly to the soul. The tendencies of opinions may be counteracted: but still wherever there is error, that is, wherever there is anything not conformed to the mind of God, there there is, to the extent of its agency, a principle of evil, or at least of misdirection, at the fountain of our life, though there may also be sweetening influences which are strong enough to neutralize its power. Trinitarianism does not produce all its natural fruits, though it produces some that are sufficiently deplorable, because it is kept in check by the better principles of our nature, with which it is not in alliance. It is vain to pretend that a man’s belief has no influence upon his life and upon his soul. The belief of a man is that which animates his sentiments, and peoples his imagination, and provides objects for his heart;—and if he bears no impress of it upon his character, it is only because it forms no real part of his spiritual existence, it is not written upon the living tablets of the mind. Believing then that our views of Truth, when they become a part of our living thoughts, woven into the spiritual frame and the daily food of the mind, do exercise a controlling influence over the whole being, it is our ardent desire to discover those views of the Gospel which put forth most mightily this power over the heart, and we openly confess, that it is because we believe it possesses an unrivalled efficacy to save the soul, by bringing it into a holy and trustful union with God and Christ, that we value unspeakably, and adhere to through all temptation and scorn, the faith that is in us. To us it is the light, as it is the gift of God, and we will not abandon it, so long as it points Conscience to the things that are before; leads us up to God through the love and imitation of his Christ; speaks with heavenly serenity of grand and tranquillizing truths in moments of trial: and true to our spiritual connections with Heaven, suffers our sins to have no peace, and our virtues no fears.

I shall endeavour, briefly but distinctly, to bring out the prominent points of difference between Unitarian and Trinitarian Christianity, in their moral aspects.

And, first, Unitarianism alone puts forth the great view that the moral and spiritual character of the mind itself is its own recompense, its own glory, its own heaven; and that this harmony with God and with his Christ is not the means of salvation only, but salvation itself. Unitarianism alone receives the spiritual view of Christ that the kingdom of Heaven is within us; and works not for outward wages, but to make the inward soul a holy temple for the Spirit of God; that through its purified affections Jesus, our best type of Heaven, may shed his own peace, and that he and his Father may be able to love us, and come unto us, and make their abode with us. Now you are aware that this qualifying of ourselves for Heaven through heavenly frames of mind, is so prominent a part of our faith, that it is actually converted into a charge against us. I heard the Unitarians charged with a want of gospel humility for regarding holy affections and a Christ-like life as the substance of the hope of Heaven; and I thought on the words of the Apostle—“The kingdom of God is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”[41] This is not the salvation so loudly vaunted by Trinitarianism. It assigns another office to Christ than that of leading men to God through a resemblance to himself. Jesus stands to Trinitarians not principally as the Inspirer of virtue, the quickener of holiest affections, the guide of the heaven-bound spirit; but as bearing on his own person the punishment due to their sins, and as performing in his own person the righteousness that is imputed to them, and being transferred, by an act of faith, makes good their claim to Heaven. Now these notions of Heaven regard it as so much property, which one person may purchase and transfer to another. Christ, by an act of self-sacrifice, becomes the purchaser of Heaven, and gives a right of settlement in the blessed land to every one who consents to regard his death as a substitution for his own punishment, and his righteousness as a substitution for his own virtues. There is no flattering unction that could be laid to the soul, no drug to stupefy its life, that could more thoroughly turn it away from the spiritual purposes of Jesus.[42] He lived that men might know their own nature, and work out its glory for themselves. He lived that he might rescue that nature from low views of its duties and its powers, by showing humanity in the image of God. He bore his cross that men might look to Calvary and behold the moral heroism of the meekest heart when it trusts in God; with what serenity a filial faith can pass through the vicissitudes of severest trial, and take the cup from the hand of a Father, though he presents it from out the darkest cloud of his providence. He died, because Death crossed his path of Duty, and not to turn aside was part of his loyalty to the Spirit of Truth, “for this cause was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth;”—he died that earth and heaven might unite their influences on the human soul treading an uninterrupted path to God, that its light might come from beyond the grave, and its hope from the peace of a world that is never troubled; and yet, alas! for the perversion—men are found to stand beneath the cross, and so far to mistake the spirit of the celestial sufferer, as to appropriate, to transfer to themselves, by an act of faith, its moral character, and to call themselves the redeemed of Christ. Surely there is a “practical importance” in the Unitarian controversy, if it warns men against these notions of substitution, these unspiritual views of Heaven and Christ. The worst of all delusions is that which turns us away from inward holiness, inward qualifications for Heaven, and holds out to our too ready grasp some foreign, some adventitious, and extrinsic hope. It is right that we should rely on God, for his strength is our strength, and his mercy our supporting hope; it is right that we should love and look unto Jesus, for his influences are our spiritual wealth, and his path our bright and beaming way;—but where in Heaven or earth are we to rest at last, but in what God and Christ do for us, in the formed character of our own souls?

And now shall I be told, that this is claiming Heaven on the ground of our own merits? And how often shall we have to repel that false accusation? If by this is meant, that we deem our virtues to be deserving of Heaven, the charge of insanity might as well be laid against us, as that infinite presumption; but if it is meant that, to a holy spirit, and to a holy life, to a supreme love for the Right, the True, the Good, and to these alone, God, with a love that is infinite, has attached something of the blessedness of his own nature;—then we do hold this as the first and brightest of Truths, the very substance of the Gospel, the sublimest lesson of the Saviour’s life, shadowed by his death, only to be authenticated and glorified by his resurrection and ascension. I know of nothing so deeply sad as to witness the ministers of Christ appealing for support to the lowest parts of human nature—the fishers of men casting out their nets, that they may take into the drag the most selfish passions and fears—bribing over to their side the terrors and the weaknesses, to which, except through penitence and restoration, Unitarian Christianity dare not offer peace. Trinitarianism will not deal so justly and so strictly with sin. We are speaking of its tendencies; not of the forms it sometimes, nay we will say often, assumes in the higher and purer order of minds. It is true to the weaknesses of men; but false to their strength. It seems to many to save them in their low condition, not from it. It will not meet the soul, and tell it that there is no substitute for holiness, and that to move guilt from its punishment would be to move God from his throne. It takes that guilty soul, and instead of dealing with it truly, cleansing from sin, and pouring in the spirit of the life of Christ, leans it against the Atoning Sacrifice, and the Righteousness that cometh by imputation, an unhallowed and unnatural alliance, to make that glorious virtue an easy retreat for guilt, and the holy Jesus a “Minister of Sin.”[43] “They have healed the hurt of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace, where there is no peace.”[44]

And if we value Unitarianism for what we feel to be the efficacy of its views in regard to the offices of Christ, we value it even more, for its views of God, and for the connections it gives us with his spirit. Piety is the noblest distinction, the richest happiness, the purest fountain of the soul; and we love, without measure, the faith that nurtures it most strongly. We feel our affections to be drawn towards one God and Father with a singleness and intensity, that we believe would be impossible, if the heart was to be distributed among three objects, or distracted by a confused conception of a tripersonal God. We boast an undivided worship, and an undivided Temple, where all the soul’s devotion centres upon one Father. His spirit was with us when we knew not the power that was exciting our irrepressible joy; and though He has led us through his ways of discipline, we knew it was the same hand that had guided our early steps; He has met our souls when they were abroad through Nature, and touched them with his breathing Spirit; He has pursued us into our solitudes, and, in our more solemn moments of penitence and suffering, He has made us to see light in darkness, mercy in trial, and to drink of the deepest fountains of life; His compassion has mercifully cooled the burning shame of our guiltiest confessions, and saved us through fear and weakness by heavenly hope; His peace has descended upon all our aspirations, and shielded their feebleness from blight and death;—and, throughout this varied experience, there was but one voice speaking to the heart; the pressure of one hand on the pulses of life; one God revealing himself to the spirits of his children. Whatever is delightful in the Universe, whatever is pure in earthly joy, whatever is touching in Jesus, whatever is profoundly peaceful in a holy spirit, are to us the splendours of one God, the gifts of one Father; bonds upon the heart, uniting it to one spiritual and everlasting Friend. We do not profess that our Piety has glowed with the intensity of these mingling fires, but we feel that there is a power of motive drawing us to the love of one God, which no other Theology may lay claim to.

But the “practical importance” of our views of God consists not merely in that Unity of being, through which all the devotion of the soul is poured into one central affection; it affects also the unity of his Character, the moral perfections of the source of Piety. We reject that faith which represents the moral government of God as a system of favouritism. We meet with nothing in nature to impeach the Impartiality of our Heavenly Father. We believe that the same God who sends his sun and his rain upon the evil and upon the just, is willing to shed the dew of his blessing upon the hearts of all his children. We rejoice to overlook the vain and perishable distinctions of time; to believe that all the human family, partakers of one spirit, meet in the love of the universal Father; that God in heaven is no respecter of persons; and that the humblest and most neglected of his children may rise into hallowed intercourse with the infinite spirit. We protest with a strong abhorrence against the dreadful views which are given of God’s inability to forgive, of the Justice of the Father horribly satisfied by the substitution of the innocent for the sins of the guilty. We profess to have no hope either in time or in eternity, but in the unclouded goodness of Him who sitteth on Heaven’s throne and reigneth overall—and if these things may be, and yet God be good, it is a goodness we do not understand and cannot calculate upon, and the pillars of our faith are shaken in all the reliances of futurity. We do not enter now into the scriptural evidence for or against these doctrines—that will be done in other parts of this course; our present concern is with the question, which of these views is the most calculated to nourish piety, to kindle within us a warm, unselfish, and intelligible love of God. We meet in the world the children of one Parent, with the same souls, the same hopes, the same capacities for joy; with the same God to comfort their sorrows and to guard their happiness; breathing on them the same holy and inspiring influences; leading them to the same Saviour, and beckoning them to the same Heaven; and our love for God and our fellowship with man thus mingle intimately in the same heart and shed through it the serene and blissful light of a full, radiant, and unclouded Piety. The spiritual influences of Unitarianism thus lead to a supreme love and veneration for God by exhibiting the Holiness, the Forgivingness, and the all-embracing Impartiality of the Divine Character, without a stain upon their brightness and their purity.

We believe that there is in the spirit of these views a peculiar power to excite an interest in the souls of our brethren; to give an expansive spirit of humanity; to make us feel that we are bound by the holiest of ties; united in the purposes of one Father; children of the same God, and educating for the same destinies. Wherever we cast our eyes they fall upon God’s everlasting ones. In the humblest we see the future immortal; and in the proudest we can see no more. We believe that God made every living soul that it might become pure, virtuous and blessed; we believe that his eye of watchful care is never removed from it; we believe that He never abandons it, that He accompanies it in all its wanderings, and that he will ultimately lead it by his own awful yet merciful discipline, in this world or in the next, in safety to Himself—and we dare not to scorn the spirit which God is tending and which He purposes ultimately to save.

And with this belief at our hearts, we wonder that there is not more heroism in the cause of the human soul; we wonder that the noblest of all philanthropy, that which seeks the realization of Christian states of character, is so rare among men; that there is so little of a strong and yearning love drawing us towards sinning and suffering man; that souls are permitted to slumber and die without an awakening voice; that our hearts are not stirred within us when we look to the awful and neglected wastes of human ignorance and sin, and reflect that through each guilty bosom, and each polluted home there might breathe the purity and the peace of Christ. We despair of none. We believe that the guiltiest may be turned from their iniquities and saved. We believe that God works by human means and expects our aid. We believe that the fire of heaven is still smouldering, and that a spark might light it into undying flame; and we are sure that the end of this faith is love unwearied, which ought to assume more earnest forms of interest for our nature, and to vent itself in purer efforts for its highest good. Others may defend themselves by casting the whole burden upon God; may point in despair to the hopeless condition of man’s heart; wait for fire from heaven to come down and stir the sinner’s soul; and having thus “looked upon” the moral sufferer may pass by upon the other side; but with us there is but one duty; to go to him, to pour the spirit of Jesus into his wounded heart, to lay upon ourselves his burdens, and to toil for his restitution as a brother immortal. The “practical importance,” then, of Unitarianism as contrasted with Trinitarianism is in this—that it tends to penetrate our hearts with a deeper spirit of Christian love; to give us hope and interest in our nature; to call out the highest efforts of the spirit of humanity; and to supply us with lofty motive for emulating the self-sacrifice of Jesus.

We think, further, that in our views of God, of Christ, and of human nature, we have a peculiar encouragement for the personal virtues, a peculiar demand for individual holiness. We have already alluded to the force and distinctness with which we teach that the greatest work of Christ is in giving inward power, strength of purpose to the soul; and that there is no salvation except where the purity, the freedom, and the love of Heaven are growing in the heaven-bound heart; but we also recognize peculiar claims upon us in the conviction which we hold so sacred that our righteous Father has created us with a nature capable of knowing and of doing His Will. Others may cast the odium of human sins upon human inability, and thus at last throw down their burdens at the door of their God; but as for us, we can only bow our heads in sorrow and ask the forgiveness of Heaven. We believe that God has united us by no necessity with sin; we deny altogether the incapacity of man to do the will of God; we feel that there are energies within us which, if but called out into the living strife, would overcome all the resistance of temptation; we hear a deep voice issuing from the soul and witnessed to by Christ, calling us to holiness and promising us peace;—and with God’s seal thus set upon our nature, and God’s voice thus calling to the kindred spirit within, why are we not found farther upon the path of Christ, and brightening unto the perfect man?

For, alas! there is not only energy and holy motive in this lofty conviction, there are also the elements of a true and deep humility. If the glory of our souls is marred it is our own work. If the spirit of God is quenched within us, we have ourselves extinguished it. If we have gained but little advancement upon Heaven’s way, we have wasted and misdirected immortal powers. Elevation of purpose, and true humility of mind, the humility that looks upwards to Christ and God, and bows in shame, are thus brought together in the Unitarian’s faith, as they are by no other form of Christianity. I know it is said, with a strange blindness, that this doctrine of the incapacity of man to know and to do the will of God is rejected by Unitarianism because it rebukes our pride; but no—it suffers man to be a sinner without hurting his pride; it transfers the disgrace from the individual to the race; and that, on the other hand, is the humbling picture which represents our sins not of our inheritance but of our choice, the voluntary agent of evil degrading a spirit made in the image of God, pouring the burning waters of corruption into a frail though noble nature, until the crystal vessel is stained and shattered. “Preach unto me smooth things, and prophesy deceits,” is the demand of the less spiritual parts of man, and Trinitarianism is certainly the Preacher whose views of sin fall softly on enervated souls.

We cannot conclude without alluding, however generally, to the practical importance of our views of the future life. We believe that the fitness of the soul for Heaven, its oneness with God and Christ, will form the measure of its joy; and that the thousand varieties of goodness will each be consigned to its appropriate place in the allotments of happiness. We believe that the glory of Heaven will brighten for ever as the character is perfected under the influences of Heaven, and that to this growing excellence there is no limit or end. We believe that even in the future there is discipline for the soul; that even for the guiltiest there may be processes of redemption; and that the stained spirit may be cleansed as by fire. We believe that this view of a strict and graduated retribution exerts a more quickening, personal, realizing power than that of Eternal torments which no heart believes, which no man trembles to conceive; where the iniquity which is to be visited with such an awful punishment becomes a shifting line which every sinner moves beyond himself; until Heaven itself is profaned, and all its sacredness violated and encroached upon by those who feel that it would be infinite injustice to plunge them into an Eternity so unutterably dreadful, but who have been taught to believe that to escape this Hell is to be sure of Heaven.

Now our present objection to this doctrine of eternal punishment is the practical one that it has no moral power. It does not come close enough to truth and justice to take a hold upon the conscience, and so instead of binding and constraining, it is inoperative and lax. The fact is, it is not practically believed. It is too monstrous to be realized. Where, we ask, are the fruits of this appalling doctrine, which is everywhere preached? One would suppose that its dreadfulness would keep the tempted spirit in constant alarm. I know that it occasions misery to the timid, to the sensitive, to the feeble of nerve, that is just to those who require the purer and gentler influences of religion to give them trust in God: but what sinner has it alarmed? what guilty heart has it made curdle with terror? what seared conscience has been scared from evil by the shriek of woe coming up from the depths of the everlasting torture? No; these are not the influences that convert sin. They are not believed or realized, and yet they displace from the thoughts those definite views of the future which would have power to move and save the soul. The righteous allotments with which God will award the joys and sorrows of the future; the character of the individual mind when it first appears for judgment; the value of every moment of present time in assigning us our first station in immortality; the exact righteousness in which every variety of character shall have its graduated place on the scale of recompense; the appalling thought of every separate spirit standing before God just as the last effort of convulsed nature dismissed it from the body;—the trifler in his levity, the drunkard with his idiot look, the murderer with the blood-stains on his soul—and the sainted spirit passing on the breath of prayer from the outer to the inner Court of God’s presence;—these, the solemn distinctions of that awful world, are all lost, because of that common Hell into whose abyss unawed Conscience hurls her fears, and then forgets the infinite gradations of punishment that still remain to pour dread recompense on evil at the award of a retributive God.

There are some objections urged against these views of the practical importance of Unitarianism to which I must now give brief and emphatic answer.

1. It is said that Unitarianism generates no love to Christ: and the reason assigned is, that as we reject the primal curse of original sin, we have not so much to be forgiven, and consequently not equal obligation to love; for to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. Now in our view forgiveness is of God, in whom Trinitarians find no forgiveness, and Christ is the image of our Father in Heaven, and we love him who leads us into that pure and blissful presence, and in whose face we have the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, full of grace and truth. We love Jesus for what he is to our souls, and not for the theological fiction, that he took off a disqualification which our God laid on. We love all holy and good beings for the same reasons, that they strengthen in our own nature the springs of goodness and unselfish love, and lift us into fellowship with themselves; and therefore we love God supremely, and next to God, him who through self-devotion and perfect filial trust preserved the moral lineaments of Heaven, of a mind harmonized with providence, against the weaknesses and through the temptations of this humanity, whose tremblings we know so well, and whose fallings away in ourselves from the higher impulses of God have taught us the love of veneration for him who made it bear the likeness of Heaven, and, through its trials and its shrinkings, realized perfection. The moral estimate that would proportion our love to Christ, not to his own fitness to inspire love, to the heavenly benevolence that breathed through his own life and death, but to the selfish measure of the outward benefits received, can be equalled in the confusion and impurity of its moral ideas only by another moral judgment pronounced upon the same occasion—that the guilt of the Jews, when they crucified Jesus, must be estimated and measured in proportion as Jesus was man or God. This certainly is quite consistent with the Trinitarian scheme, that guilt can be contracted unknowingly; but who will set right this utter ignorance of the primitive ideas of morality? What spectres of the thirteenth century rise before us when we listen to these conceptions—of God dying under the hands of his creatures; and of their guilt, by some process, (not moral, but metaphysical,) becoming infinite because the sufferer was infinite, though they knew it not, and believed themselves to be crucifying the man Jesus! It is only further proof that the Atonement and its allied ideas tends to confuse in the minds that receive it the fundamental perceptions of Right and Wrong.[45]

2. It is said that Unitarianism leads to infidelity: and the proof assigned is that those whom Trinitarianism makes sceptics, find with us ideas of Christ and Christianity with which they have sympathies. We intercept the minds whom they have driven from Belief; we present our serene and perfect image of Duty and of God to minds wearied and perplexed with views of Religion which are felt to be too coarse for their own nature and therefore infinitely unworthy of the spirit of God; but because they leave the Church, that Christian Jerusalem, and come to sit at the feet of Jesus in our humble Bethany, where at least he is loved purely and for himself;—then this is Infidelity, and we who stay the wanderer, and retain him within the fold, are called producers of unbelief. The spirit of Jesus said, “he that is not against us is for us.” The spirit of Trinitarianism says, “he that is not for us is against us.” It was said that the spirit of infidelity is the spirit of this age. I only ask, if this is so, could there be a more practical condemnation of that system, and of that Church, which sways all the religious influences of the country; and whose representations of Christ and of Christianity, the universally prevailing ones, have produced the religious character of these times? If there is Infidelity in the land, it is mainly the recoil from Orthodoxy.[46]

3. It is said that Unitarianism encourages the pride of human Reason. Now I shall answer this very briefly, because any lengthened exposure would necessarily take the form of sarcasm. Whose Reason is it that we oppose when we reject Trinitarianism? Trinitarians say that it is the Reason of God. But how do they know this? Because they are sure that they know the Mind of God as it is revealed in the Scriptures; and they are sure that we are in error. Infallibility again! So that to oppose their interpretation of the Scriptures, is to set up our own Reason against the Reason of God. Now I ask, in all simplicity, Can they who say these things have taken the trouble to clear their own ideas? If there is any pride of Reason, on which side does it lie? They first identify their own sense of the Scriptures with God’s sense, and then they charge other men with the pride of Reason, for not bowing down their minds to God, having first taken it for granted that their Reason and God’s Reason are one and the same. Look again to the uncertain doctrines which they deduce from the Scriptures by processes of inference, sometimes technical and sometimes mystical, and say, does the world afford a more marked exemplification of the pride of human Reason, than the absolute confidence with which these doubtful conclusions are received, and not only that, but pressed upon men, as the exact meaning of God, at the peril of their eternal Salvation? What do these divines rest upon when they deduce from the Scriptures their essentials of Christianity? Their own reasonings. And yet they will tell you, that to differ from them, is to oppose your own Reason to the mind of God. I ask, hereafter in this controversy, Should not this matter of the pride of human reason be a weapon of attack in our hands, an accusation against Trinitarians, instead of a charge which Unitarians are to answer? We have too long, in this and many other matters, stood upon the defensive.[47]

And now, in conclusion, let me say once more, that though we think Trinitarian views of man’s connections with God injurious to Christian perfection, inasmuch as they throw the minds which receive them out of harmony with the realities of God, and must therefore undergo future correction and re-adjustment, still our strongest objection to the Trinitarian scheme is the fundamental one that it is based upon principles of exclusiveness, upon the indispensable conditions of a narrow and technical creed, and that thus it is the parent and fomenter of all those dissensions and practical evils in religion which these times witness and deplore. How many has orthodoxy persecuted into a hatred for the very name of religion? In how many minds has it darkened, or mixed up with the most incongruous associations, the beautiful image of Christ, destroying its healing and persuasive power? O! why should it be, except for this Trinitarian scheme of an Exclusive Salvation, that Religion should be directing her whole energies to the support of creeds, instead of going about doing good, and with her heavenly spirit entering into conflict with the moral evils that afflict society, and degrade man, and rebel against God? Why is it, that instead of this, we have a distinct class of sufferings, that go under the name of religious evils? Why is it that we are here holding controversy with our fellow-Christians, instead of uniting our spirit and our strength to work the works of Christ? We wage not this controversy for the purpose of aiding a sect; but we wage it, to do what we can to expose and put down universally the sectarian spirit. The great evils of society, the crying wrongs of Man, are mainly owing to this diversion of Religion from spiritual and practical objects to the strife of tongues and Salvation by creeds. What is the Religion of this country doing? Contending for creeds. What ought it to be doing? Spreading the spirit of the life of Christ through the hearts of men and the institutions of society. How long are these things to be? How long are the spiritual influences of this country to be all consumed in striving with heresies instead of striving with sins; leaving untouched the bad heart of society, whilst wrangling for a metaphysical faith? Look to the religious apparatus of this country. Look to the number of pulpits that should send forth the spiritual influences of righteousness and peace; and the number of men that should move through society apostles of the beneficence of Christ.

Suppose all this strength directed to practical and spiritual objects, and could the things that are, remain as they are, if the religious forces of the country, instead of being exclusive, doctrinal, controversial, were full of the love of Jesus, and sought simply to establish the kingdom of Heaven upon Earth! Could Religion excite the angry passions that she does, if her aims were spiritual and not doctrinal? Could Religion be divorced as she is from practical life, and confined to a class kept under powerful stimulants, and called the “religious public,” if her aims were spiritual and not doctrinal? Could Religion leave the people neglected and without education, practical Heathens, while she is settling her creeds, if her aims were spiritual and not doctrinal? Could Religion have left unpurified the streams and sources of public morality, if her aims were spiritual and not doctrinal? Could she have suffered War still to disgrace the world, and not long since have extinguished the Earthborn passion by the Heavenly spirit and the moral instrument, if the direction of her energies had been spiritual and not controversial? Could she have shown so little interest in the great mass of the people? Could she have abandoned them to ignorance and grinding oppressions and not raised her omnipotent voice on their behalf? Could she have so separated herself from the real business of life and left the moralities of intercourse unsanctified whilst she remained unsympathizing and cloistered? Every friend to practical religion has an interest in destroying this exclusive Theology, which turns away from the works of love to the war of creeds.

If then we preach Unitarianism, it is that we may win men’s hearts to the one Spirit who pervades all things, and harmonizes all things, and sends all blessings, and sanctifies all thoughts, all duties, and all times. If we preach the man Christ Jesus, the word made flesh, it is that we too may sanctify our nature, and make it a temple for the living God, and grow up into him in all things who is our head, even Christ. If we preach Salvation, not by creeds, but by the spirit of Christ in us, the hope of glory, it is that our fitness for Heaven may commence on Earth; that we may live now as those who when they have slept the brief sleep of death shall awake in the presence of Christ and God, and find themselves in that Heaven wherein dwelleth righteousness. And if we preach not indiscriminate happiness and indiscriminate tortures in futurity, but the just retributions of God, it is that we may redeem the time, remembering that each moment lost throws us back on the heavenly way, that there is an infinite perfection before us, providing work for our infinite capacities through an immortal life; that God is faithful and inflexible in his retributions; that no virtue shall be without its reward, no sin without its woe; that we shall be judged according to our works, and reap what we have sown.

To sum up, the two great principles of Unitarianism are these:—

I. Spiritual allegiance to Christ as the image of God. “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”

II. Spiritual liberty from ought besides; Creeds, Traditions, Rituals, or Priests. “False brethren, unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: to whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.”

APPENDIX.


Note 1, page 14.

“The free and unprejudiced mind dwells with delight on the image of the universal church or convocation of Christ, as it would naturally have grown ‘into the fulness of the body’ of its glorious founder * * * *

“And what (let me earnestly and solemnly ask) has hitherto turned this view into a mocking dream,—a dream that deludes by images which are the very reverse of the sad realities which surround us? Orthodoxy;—the notion that the eternal happiness or misery of individuals is intimately connected with the acceptance or rejection of a most obscure system of metaphysics; a system perplexing in the extreme to those who are best acquainted with its former technical, now obsolete language, and perfectly unintelligible to the rest of the Christian world: a system which, to say the least, seems to contradict the simplest and most primitive notions of the human mind concerning the unity, the justice, and the goodness of the Supreme Being; a system which, if it be contained in the Scriptures, has been laid under so thick and impenetrable a veil, that thousands who have sought to discover it, with the most eager desire of finding it, whose happiness in this world would have been greatly increased by that discovery, and who, at all events, would have escaped much misery had they been able to attest it, even on the grounds of probability sufficient to acquit themselves before their own conscience, have been compelled, by truth, to confess their want of success. Yet Orthodoxy declares this very system identical with Christianity—with that Gospel which was ‘preached to the poor,’ and ‘revealed unto babes;’ such a system, we are told, is that faith which, ‘except every one keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.’”—Heresy and Orthodoxy, by Rev. J. Blanco White.

Note 2, page 18.

“What do divines understand by Christian Truth? The answer, at first, appears obvious. ‘Christian truth (it will be said) is what Christ and his apostles knew and taught concerning Salvation under the Gospel.’ Thus far we find no difficulty; but (let me ask, again) where does this exist as an object external to our minds? The answer appears no less obvious than the former: ‘In the Bible.’ Still I must ask, Is the Material Bible the Christian truth about which Christians dispute? No: it will be readily said not the Material Bible, but the Sense of the Bible. Now (I beg to know) is the Sense of the Bible an object external to our minds? Does any Sense of the Bible, accessible to man, exist anywhere but in the mind of each man who receives it from the words he reads? The Divine mind certainly knows in what sense those words were used; but as we cannot compare our mental impressions with that model and original of all truth, it is clear that by the Sense of the Bible we must mean our own sense of its meaning. When therefore any man declares his intention to defend Christian truth, he only expresses his determination to defend his own notions, as produced by the words of the Bible. No other Christian truth exists for us in our present state.”—Heresy and Orthodoxy.

Note 3, page 22.

“If different men in carefully and conscientiously examining the Scriptures, should arrive at different conclusions, even on points of the last importance, we trust that God, who alone knows what every man is capable of, will be merciful to him that is in error. We trust that He will pardon the Unitarian, if he be in error, because he has fallen into it from the dread of becoming an idolater—of giving that glory to another which he conceives to be due to God alone. If the worshipper of Jesus Christ be in error, we trust that God will pardon his mistake, because he has fallen into it from the dread of disobeying what he conceives to be revealed concerning the nature of the Son, or commanded concerning the honor to be given him. Both are actuated by the same principle—the fear of God; and though that principle impels them into different roads, it is our hope and belief, that if they add to their faith charity, they will meet in Heaven.”—Watson.

“We should learn to be cautious, lest we charge God foolishly, by ascribing that to him, or the Nature he has given us, which is owing wholly to our own abuse of it. Men may speak of the degeneracy and corruption of the world, according to the experience they have had of it; but human nature, considered as the divine workmanship, should, methinks, be treated as sacred: for in the image of God made he man.”—Bishop Butler.

Note 4, page 24.

“But, if Orthodoxy cannot be the principle of union among Christians, upon what are men to agree in order to belong to the Convocation, or people of Christ? I believe that the Apostle Paul has said enough to answer this question. When by using the word anathema, he rejects from his spiritual society even an angel from Heaven, were it possible that such a being should “preach another gospel,” he lays down the only principle, without which there can be no communion among Christians. Unhappily the word Gospel, like the word Faith, is constantly understood as expressing a certain number of dogmatical articles. Owing to this perversion of the original meaning, these very passages of Paul are conceived to support the long-established notion that Orthodoxy is the only condition of Christian communion; and want of it, a sufficient cause for anathema. I have, however, already proved, that Orthodoxy, without a supreme judge of religious opinions, is a phantom; and since it is demonstrable that no such judge has been appointed, it clearly follows that the Apostle Paul, by the name of Gospel, could not mean a string of dogmatic assertions. It is necessary, therefore, to ascend to the original signification of the word Gospel, if we are not to misunderstand the reason of the anathema pronounced by Paul. Let such as wish to rise above the clouds of theological prejudice, remember that the whole mystery of godliness is described by the expression ‘glad tidings.’ Sad, not glad tidings, indeed, would have been the Apostles’ preaching, if they had announced a salvation depending on Orthodoxy, for (as I have said before) it would have been a salvation depending on chance. But salvation promised on condition of a change of mind from the love of sin to the love of God (which is repentance); on a surrender of the individual will to the will of God, according to the view of that divine will which is obtained by trust in Christ’s example and teaching, which is faith; a pardon of sins independent of harassing religious practices, sacrifices, and ascetic privations—these were ‘glad tidings of great joy,’ indeed, to all who, caring for their souls, felt bewildered between atheism and superstition.”—Heresy and Orthodoxy.

Note 5, page 27.

“Men want an object of worship like themselves, and the great secret of idolatry lies in this propensity. A God, clothed in our form, and feeling our wants and sorrows, speaks to our weak nature more strongly, than a Father in Heaven, a pure spirit, invisible and unapproachable, save by the reflecting and purified mind. We think, too, that the peculiar offices ascribed to Jesus by the popular theology, make him the most attractive person in the Godhead. The Father is the depositary of the justice, the vindicator of the rights, the avenger of the laws of the Divinity. On the other hand, the Son, the brightness of the divine mercy, stands between the incensed Deity and guilty humanity, exposes his meek head to the storms, and his compassionate breast to the sword of the divine justice, bears our whole load of punishment, and purchases with his blood every blessing which descends from Heaven. Need we state the effect of these representations, especially on common minds, for whom Christianity was chiefly designed, and whom it seeks to bring to the Father as the loveliest being? We do believe, that the worship of a bleeding, suffering God, tends strongly to absorb the mind, and to draw it from other objects, just as the human tenderness of the Virgin Mary has given her so conspicuous a place in the devotions of the Church of Rome. We believe, too, that this worship, though attractive, is not most fitted to spiritualize the mind, that it awakens human transports, rather than that deep veneration of the moral perfections of God, which is the essence of piety.

“We are told, also, that Christ is a more interesting object, that his love and mercy are more felt, when he is viewed as the Supreme God, who left his glory to take humanity and to suffer for men. That Trinitarians are strongly moved by this representation, we do not mean to deny; but we think their emotions altogether founded on a misapprehension of their own doctrines. They talk of the second person of the Trinity’s leaving his glory and his Father’s bosom to visit and save the world. But this second person being the unchangeable and infinite God, was evidently incapable of parting with the least degree of his perfection and felicity. At the moment of his taking flesh, he was as intimately present with his Father as before, and equally with his Father filled heaven, and earth, and immensity. This Trinitarians acknowledge; and still they profess to be touched and overwhelmed by the amazing humiliation of this immutable being! But not only does their doctrine, when fully explained, reduce Christ’s humiliation to a fiction, it almost wholly destroys the impressions with which his cross ought to be viewed. According to their doctrine, Christ was, comparatively, no sufferer at all. It is true his human mind suffered; but this, they tell us, was an infinitely small part of Jesus, bearing no more proportion to his whole nature, than a single hair of our heads to the whole body, or than a drop to the ocean. The divine mind of Christ, that which was more properly himself, was infinitely happy, at the very moment of the suffering of his humanity; whilst hanging on the cross, he was the happiest being in the universe, as happy as the infinite Father; so that his pains, compared with his felicity, were nothing. This Trinitarians do, and must acknowledge. It follows necessarily from the immutableness of the divine nature, which they ascribe to Christ; so that their system justly viewed, robs his death of interest, weakens our sympathy with his sufferings, and is, of all others, most unfavourable to a love of Christ, founded on a sense of his sacrifices for mankind. We esteem our own views to be vastly more affecting. It is our belief, that Christ’s humiliation was real and entire, that the whole Saviour and not a part of him suffered, that his crucifixion was a scene of deep and unmixed agony. As we stand round his cross, our minds are not distracted, nor our sensibility weakened by contemplating him as composed of incongruous and infinitely differing minds, and as having a balance of infinite felicity. We recognize in the dying Jesus but one mind. This, we think, renders his sufferings, and his patience, and love, in bearing them; incomparably more impressive and affecting, than the system we oppose.”—Channing.

Note 6, Page 29.

“We believe, too, that this system is unfavourable to the character. It naturally leads men to think that Christ came to change God’s mind, rather than their own; that the highest object of his mission was to avert punishment rather than to communicate holiness; and that a large part of religion consists in disparaging good works and human virtue, for the purpose of magnifying the value of Christ’s vicarious sufferings. In this way, a sense of the infinite importance and indispensable necessity of personal improvement is weakened, and high sounding praises of Christ’s cross seem often to be substituted for obedience to his precepts. For ourselves, we have not so learned Jesus. Whilst we gratefully acknowledge that he came to rescue us from punishment, we believe that he was sent on a still nobler errand, namely, to deliver us from sin itself, and to form us to a sublime and heavenly virtue. We regard him as a Saviour, chiefly as he is the light, physician, and guide of the dark, diseased, and wandering mind. No influence in the universe seems to us so glorious as that over the character; and no redemption so worthy of thankfulness as the restoration of the soul to purity. Without this, pardon, if it were possible, would be of little value. Why pluck the sinner from hell, if a hell be left to burn in his own breast? Why raise him to heaven, if he remain a stranger to its sanctity and love? With these impressions, we are accustomed to value the gospel chiefly as it abounds in effectual aids, motives, excitements to a generous and divine virtue. In this virtue, as in a common centre, we see all its doctrines, precepts, promises meet; and we believe that faith in this religion is of no worth, and contributes nothing to salvation, any further than as it uses these doctrines, precepts, promises, and the whole life, character, sufferings and triumphs of Jesus, as the means of purifying the mind, of changing it into the likeness of his celestial excellence.”—Channing.

Note 7, page 37.

“I can direct you to nothing in Christ more important than his tried, and victorious, and perfect goodness. Others may love Christ for his mysterious attributes; I love him for the rectitude of his soul and life. I love him for that benevolence which went through Judea, instructing the ignorant, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind. I love him for that universal charity which comprehended the despised publican, the hated Samaritan, the benighted heathen, and sought to bring a world to God and to happiness. I love him for that gentle, mild, forbearing spirit, which no insult, outrage, injury, could overpower; and which desired as earnestly the repentance and happiness of its foes as the happiness of its friends. I love him for the spirit of magnanimity, constancy, and fearless rectitude with which, amid peril and opposition, he devoted himself to the work which God gave him to do. I love him for the wise and enlightened zeal with which he espoused the true, the spiritual interests of mankind, and through which he lived and died to redeem them from every sin, to frame them after his own God-like virtue. I love him, I have said, for his moral excellence; I know nothing else to love. I know nothing so glorious in the Creator or his creatures. This is the greatest gift which God bestows, the greatest to be derived from his Son. You see why I call you to cherish the love of Christ. This love I do not recommend as a luxury of feeling, as an exstasy bringing immediate and overflowing joy. I view it in a nobler light; I call you to love Jesus, that you may bring yourselves into contact and communion with perfect virtue, and may become what you love. I know no sincere, enduring good, but the moral excellence that shines forth in Jesus Christ. Your health, your outward comforts and distinctions, are poor, mean, contemptible, compared with this; and to prefer them to this is self-debasement, self-destruction. May this great truth penetrate our souls; and may we bear witness in our common lives, and especially in trial, in sore temptation, that nothing is so dear to us as the virtue of Christ! * * *

“Thus Jesus lived with men; with the consciousness of unutterable majesty he joined a lowliness, gentleness, humanity, and sympathy, which have no example in human history. I ask you to contemplate this wonderful union. In proportion to the superiority of Jesus to all around him was the intimacy, the brotherly love, with which he bound himself to them. I maintain, that this is a character wholly remote from human conception. To imagine it to be the production of imposture or enthusiasm, shows a strange unsoundness of mind. I contemplate it with a veneration second only to the profound awe with which I look up to God. It bears no mark of human invention. It was real. It belonged to, and it manifested, the beloved Son of God.

“But I have not done. May I ask your attention a few moments more? We have not yet reached the depth of Christ’s character. We have not touched the great principle on which his wonderful sympathy was founded, and which endeared him to his office of universal Saviour. Do you ask what this deep principle was? I answer, it was his conviction of the greatness of the human soul. He saw in man the impress and image of the Divinity, and therefore thirsted for his redemption; and took the tenderest interest in him, whatever might be the rank, character, or condition in which he was found. This spiritual view of man pervades and distinguishes the teaching of Christ. Jesus looked on men with an eye which pierced beneath the material frame. The body vanished before him. The trappings of the rich, the rags of the poor, were nothing to him. He looked through them, as though they did not exist, to the soul; and there, amidst clouds of ignorance and plague-spots of sin, he recognized a spiritual and immortal nature, and the germs of power and perfection which might be unfolded for ever. In the most fallen and depraved man, he saw a being who might become an angel of light. Still more, he felt that there was nothing in himself to which men might not ascend. His own lofty consciousness did not sever him from the multitude; for he saw, in his own greatness, the model of what men might become. So deeply was he thus impressed, that again and again, in speaking of his future glories, he announced that in these his true followers were to share. They were to sit on his throne, and partake of his beneficent power. Here I pause; and I know not, indeed, what can be added to heighten the wonder, reverence, and love which are due to Jesus. When I consider him not only as possessed with the consciousness of an unexampled and unbounded majesty, but as recognizing a kindred nature in all human beings, and living and dying to raise them to an anticipation of his divine glories; and when I see him, under these views, allying himself to men by the tenderest ties, embracing them with a spirit of humanity, which no insult, injury, or pain could for a moment repel or overpower, I am filled with wonder, as well as reverence and love. I feel that this character is not of human invention, that it was not assumed through fraud, or struck out by enthusiasm; for it is infinitely above their reach. When I add this character of Jesus to the other evidences of his religion, it gives to what before seemed so strong a new and vast accession of strength; I feel as if I could not be deceived. The Gospels must be true; they were drawn from a living original; they were founded on reality. The character of Christ is not fiction; he was what he claimed to be, and what his followers attested. Nor is this all. Jesus not only was, he is still, the Son of God,—the Saviour of the world. He exists now; he has entered that Heaven to which he always looked forward on earth. There he lives and reigns. With a clear, calm faith, I see him in that state of glory; and I confidently expect, at no distant period, to see him face to face. We have, indeed, no absent friend whom we shall so surely meet. Let us then, by imitations of his virtues, and obedience to his word, prepare ourselves to join him in those pure mansions where he is surrounding himself with the good and pure of our race, and will communicate to them for ever his own spirit, power, and joy.”—Channing.

Note 8, Page 38.

“At the present moment I would ask, whether it is a vice to doubt the truth of Christianity as it is manifested in Spain and Portugal. When a patriot in those benighted countries, who knows Christianity only as a bulwark of despotism, as a rearer of inquisitions, as a stern jailer immuring wretched women in the convent, as an executioner stained and reeking with the blood of the friends of freedom,—I say when the patriot, who sees in our religion the instruments of these crimes and woes, believes and affirms that it is not from God, are we authorized to charge his unbelief on dishonesty and corruption of mind, and to brand him as a culprit? May it not be that the spirit of Christianity in his heart emboldens him to protest with his lips against what bears the name? And if he thus protest, through a deep sympathy with the oppression and sufferings of his race, is he not nearer the kingdom of God than the priest and the inquisitor who boastingly and exclusively assume the Christian name? Jesus Christ has told us that ‘this is the condemnation’ of the unbelieving, ‘that they love darkness rather than light;’ and who does not see that this ground of condemnation is removed, just in proportion as the light is quenched, or Christian truth is buried in darkness and debasing error?”—Channing.


“I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is True. It is true; and its truth is to break forth more and more gloriously. Of this I have not a doubt. I know that our religion has been questioned even by intelligent and good men; but this does not shake my faith in its divine original or in its ultimate triumphs. Such men have questioned it, because they have known it chiefly by its corruptions. In proportion as its original simplicity shall be restored, the doubts of the well-disposed will yield. I have no fears from infidelity; especially from that form of it which some are at this moment labouring to spread through our country (America). I mean, that insane, desperate unbelief, which strives to quench the light of nature as well as of revelation, and to leave us, not only without Christ, but without God. This I dread no more than I should fear the efforts of men to pluck the sun from his sphere; or to storm the skies with the artillery of the earth. We were made for religion; and unless the enemies of our faith can change our nature, they will leave the foundation of religion unshaken. The human soul was created to look above material nature. It wants a Deity for its love and trust, an Immortality for its hope. It wants consolations not found in philosophy, wants strength in temptation, sorrow, and death, which human wisdom cannot minister; and knowing, as I do, that Christianity meets these deep wants of men, I have no fear or doubts as to its triumphs. Men cannot long live without religion. In France there is a spreading dissatisfaction with the sceptical spirit of the past generation. A philosopher in that country would now blush to quote Voltaire as an authority in religion. Already atheism is dumb where once it seemed to bear sway. The greatest minds in France are working back their way to the light of truth. Many of them cannot indeed yet be called Christians; but their path, like that of the wise men of old, who came star-guided from the East, is towards Christ. I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. It has an immortal life, and will gather strength from the violence of its foes. It is equal to all the wants of men. The greatest minds have found in it the light which they most anxiously desired. The most sorrowful and broken spirits have found in it a healing balm for their woes. It has inspired the sublimest virtues and the loftiest hopes. For the corruptions of such a religion I weep, and I should blush to be their advocate; but of the Gospel itself I can never be ashamed.”—Channing.

Note 9, page 39.

“Having found that pride of reason is an aggression upon other men’s reason, arising from an over-estimate of the worth of the aggressor’s own, we may now proceed in our inquiry, who are justly chargeable with pride of reason? Is it those who, having examined the Scriptures, propose their own collective sense of those books to the acceptance of others, but blame them not for rejecting it? or those who positively assert, that their own sense of the Scriptures is the only one which an honest man, not under diabolical delusion, can find there? The answer is so plain, that a child, who could understand the terms of the question, might give it. And yet experience has taught me that there is no chance of unravelling the confused ideas which prevent many a well-meaning Christian from perceiving that the charge of the pride of reason falls upon the Orthodox. Their own sense of the Scripture (such is the dizzy whirl which their excited feelings produce) must be the word of God, because THEY cannot find another. My sense of the Scripture must, (for instance,) on the contrary, be a damnable error, because it is the work of my reason, which opposes the word of God, i.e., THEIR sense of the Scriptures: hence the conclusion that I am guilty of pride of reason. ‘Renounce that pride, (they say,) and you will see in the Scriptures what we propose to you:’ which is to say, surrender your reason to ours, and you will agree with us. * * *

“It is remarkable that Christians are accused of Pride of reason in proportion as their view of Christianity contains fewer doctrines of inference than that of the accusers. Compare the creed of the Trinitarian with that of the Unitarian. The former may be true, and the latter erroneous, though I adhere to the latter; but unquestionably the Trinitarian Creed is nearly made up of inferences, it is almost entirely a work of reason, though, in my eyes, sadly misapplied. Why, then, is the Unitarian accused of pride of reason, when he only employs it to show that the Trinitarian has not any sound reason to draw those inferences? which of the two is guilty of encroaching upon another man’s rights of reason? Is it not he who claims for his inferences—the work of his own reason—an authority above human reason?

“It is not, however, to inferences alone (the work of logical reason) that the Trinitarian creed owes its existence, and, more than its existence, its popularity. My observation has shown me, and that of every competent judge will find, that the strongest hold which that creed has on the minds of its supporters, consists in preconceived theories concerning the nature of God and of sin, and of some necessity which places the Divine Nature in a state of difficulty in regard to the pardon of sin. The work of saving the race of man from a most horrible fate depends (according to this theory) not only on a very mysterious method of overcoming the difficulty which prevents pardon by an act of mercy, on repentance, but also on the acknowledgment of the mystery by the sinner. The remedy prepared by the wisdom of God is (according to this theory) totally powerless, unless we believe a certain explanation of the manner in which it acts.

“Now people who cordially embrace this view very naturally work themselves into a state of the most agonizing excitement: for if the whole world is to perish because it does not know how the saving remedy acts, or because its activity is explained in a wrong way, benevolent men, who think themselves in possession of that important secret, must burn with zeal to spread it, and with indignation against those who propagate an explanation which deprives the remedy of all its power. ‘Believing,’ says an orthodox writer, though a dissenter from the orthodoxy of the Church of England, ‘the doctrine (of the divinity of Christ) to comprehend within itself the hopes of a guilty and perishing world, while I would contend meekly, I must be pardoned if, at the same time, I contend earnestly.’ It is this preconceived theory (one of the strangest that was ever founded on reasonings à priori) that guides most Christians in the exposition of the New Testament, and even in that of many passages of the Hebrew Scriptures. The notion that sin could not be pardoned unless a person equal to God suffered for it, is the deeply-coloured glass through which the orthodox read the Scriptures. I do not blame them for this extraordinary conception. What I earnestly wish is, that their religious fears may allow them to perceive that this theory of redemption is made up of preconceived notions and inferences. Even if that theory were true, it would unquestionably be a work of reason working by inference. Can, then, the attempt to make it the very soul of the Gospel be acquitted of the charge which is constantly in the mouth of the orthodox? Are they not guilty of the pride of reason?”—Heresy and Orthodoxy.


Comments on Rev. F. Ould’s Lecture on the practical
importance of the Controversy with Unitarians.

Page 5.—It is here argued that the error, if an error, of denying Unitarians to be Christians is as innocent, as the error, if one, of denying Jesus to be God. Certainly, if equally involuntary and the pure conclusion of a truthful mind. But, if an error, it involves two errors,—first, the mistake as to the nature and offices of Jesus, and second, the mistake of making essentials which Jesus did not make, and of passing judgments which Jesus did not pass. It is also essentially Anti-Protestant.

Page 6.—“But if it be a characteristic of true Christianity so to trust in Christ, as to commit the salvation of our souls into his hands, how can we conceive of those as true Christians who consider him only a fellow-creature, and consequently repose in him no such trust?” Trust is a moral act of the mind. We trust Jesus spiritually. Our souls feel him to be the Image of God: and we confide ourselves with a perfect trust to the God of Love whom Jesus imaged. “Let not your hearts be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” Our hearts are not troubled because our faith rests upon the God whom Jesus has made known to us. This is the only intelligible meaning of Trust as a spiritual act. We trust him whom we believe God to have trusted and sent.

Page 8.—“We maintain that the Bible is alone safely interpreted by its Author and Inspirer, the Holy Ghost.” Do the Trinitarians mean that their interpretations of the Bible are the interpretations of the Holy Spirit? If so, we can have no controversy with them. If they are inspired to interpret, what the Apostles were inspired to write, nothing is required but that this should be proved.

Pages 11, 12.—“The New Testament writers also assert their own inspiration in language equally strong. ‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable,’ &c. St. Paul does not here assert his own inspiration, but the inspiration of the Jewish Prophets, the study of whom had made Timothy wise unto salvation through faith in Christ. The Christian Scriptures were not in existence when the words were written. It is also very doubtful whether the word translated, ‘given by inspiration of God,’ signifies ‘breathing of God,’ or ‘breathed from God.’

“‘No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation,’ &c. The inspiration of Prophecy is not denied. But can anything be more idle than to prove the inspiration of all the books of the Old Testament by such a quotation as this: ‘Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper’?”

Page 16.—“So then, it appears, that if these ‘rational and liberal’ critics are not allowed to Unitarianize the Bible, they are prepared to deny its divine authority, and to give it up to its enemies!” Dr. Channing does not say so. What he says is, that he cannot defend the Scriptures unless he is allowed to interpret them by the same principles which are applied to all other works. And this principle of interpretation we understood Dr. Tattershall freely to admit. The use that is made of the extract from Dr. Channing, exhibits the temptations of controversy. There is nothing in the extract that Trinitarians themselves would not say upon occasion. Why is it thought worthy of being marked in italics that the dispensation of Moses is imperfect when compared with that of Jesus? Is this denied? Why is the word seems italicized, when the connected word is not rejects, but only distrusts? Yet the author praises the candour of Dr. Channing.

Pages 20, 21.—“The improved Version.” It is a curious fact that most of the Trinitarian objections to the Improved Version have been provided for them by an Unitarian Critic and Reviewer. Dr. Carpenter in his reply to Archbishop Magee states, “I furnished to the opponents of the Improved Version some of the most powerful weapons against it.” Again, “At my request a young friend undertook to draw up the table I wished. This led him to collate the two Versions, which he did with great patience and fidelity. He discovered some variations from the basis which were not noticed; and I thought it right to point them out. It is not too much to say that, but for this, neither Bishop Magee, nor any others who have censured the Improved Version, would have been aware of their existence.”—pp. 308, 309. Whatever becomes of the Improved Version, the Controversy between Unitarianism and Trinitarianism remains just where it was, to be settled upon independent principles, critical and exegetical. So far, the whole indictment against the Improved Version relates to the introductory chapters of Matthew and Luke. Suppose those chapters authentic and genuine, and what follows from them? The doctrine of the Miraculous Conception, which most Unitarians believe. Professor Norton, the ablest, perhaps, of American Unitarian Critics, defends this doctrine. The introductory chapters of Matthew he rejects, chiefly on account of their inconsistencies with those of Luke, the authenticity of which he does not doubt. Dr. Carpenter also critically dissents from the Notes in the Improved Version on the introductions of Matthew and Luke. Reply to Dr. Magee, p. 299. It is not then such a new thing among Unitarians, to question the authority of the Improved Version. Will the Author inform us where he got his knowledge respecting Ebion, his existence and opinions?

Page 25.—In an introductory Lecture on the “practical” tendencies of views, we labour under the disadvantage of being obliged to allow scriptural language to be quoted in a sense which we do not admit. It would be evidently quite out of place to enter here into the textual controversy. This will be done abundantly in the course of these Lectures.

Page 37.—Does the Author deny that Free Inquiry generates a degree of scepticism—that is, not of unbelief, but of the examining and questioning spirit? Or does he mean to object to all free inquiry on account of this tendency? It is extraordinary reasoning to take Dr. Channing’s caution against a sceptical spirit, proceeding from the very constitution of mind, as a proof of the tendency of Unitarianism to infidelity. If Unitarianism leads to unbelief, it is strange that so many Unitarians should defend the Evidences of Christianity, and that one of them, Dr. Lardner, is the great authority from which Trinitarians themselves draw their knowledge of the external testimonies.

Page 39.—“Another leading principle, common to both systems, (Unitarianism and Infidelity,) is the non-importance of principle itself to the enjoyment of the Divine favour.” Let it be known, that by principle here, the Author means opinions.

Page 41.—“Does the Deist reject the Bible because God is represented as a being who takes vengeance? So does the Unitarian for the very same reason reject the Gospel. Does the Deist reject the Bible because it contains the doctrine of atonement and of divine sovereignty? For the very same reason the Unitarian rejects the Gospel.” It is melancholy to have to remark upon this passage. The Unitarian does not reject the Gospel, unless the Gospel means Trinitarianism, a use of words which, in controversy, cannot be justified. The Unitarian does not deny that God takes vengeance, if by vengeance is meant the infliction of retribution. The Unitarian accepts the Gospel, but does not find in it the doctrine of Atonement.

Page 46.—“How, on Unitarian principles, this reasoning can be answered, is more than I can tell.” Jesus did refer to God both his words and his works. But Unitarians do not regard the mission of Jesus as similar to that of any of the Prophets. It was essentially different. He was himself the Revelation: a man in the image of God. By the Prophets, God taught the Jews certain lessons, and inspired certain expectations. By Jesus, in whom was the spirit without measure, God exhibited a perfect revelation both of human perfection and of human destinies. God’s word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us. The purposes of the Deity were impersonated. He was consequently the life, and the way, as well as the truth.

Page 59.—Does the Author mean to contend that Thomas was an INSPIRED MAN when he refused to believe in the risen Jesus? We had thought the Trinitarian view was, that the day of Pentecost dated the inspiration of the apostles. But it appears the Author believes Thomas to be inspired when refusing to believe in the resurrection of Christ.

Page 60.—Is not the Author aware of the doubtful authenticity of the second epistle of Peter, from which he quotes twice, contrary to the judgment of Lardner, who decides that the doubtful Epistles, so stated by Eusebius, should not be used as authority for doctrines?

There are other passages in this Lecture on which we might comment. But we refrain. We wished to remark upon those passages which affect the cause, and not more than was unavoidable upon those which affect only the advocate.


Footnotes for Lecture I.

22.  John iv. 23, 24.

23.  Luke xvii. 20, 21.

24.  John xiv. 21; xv. 8, 9, 10.

25.  John xiii. 35.

26.  John xiv. 28.

27.  John xvii. 3.

28.  1 John ii. 3, 5, 29; iii. 7.

29.  John x. 16; xvii. 20, 21.

30.  Ephes. iv.

31.  1 Cor. xii.

32.  Note 1.

33.  The Oxford Tracts, No. 80, as quoted in “Dr. Hook’s ‘Call to Union,’ answered.”

34.  Newman on Justification.

35.  Newman.

36.  Note 2.

37.  It is absurd to say that a work becomes a standard authority, because a Book Society admits it into its Catalogue, or thinks its objects of sufficient importance to aid in its publication. Doubtless the Unitarian Society thought the “Improved Version” valuable as a Scriptural aid.

38.  Note 3.

39.  Note 4.

40.  See Rev. F. Ould’s Lecture, page 35.

41.  Rom. xiv. 17.

42.  Note 5.

43.  Gal. ii. 17.

44.  Note 6.

45.  Note 7.

46.  Note 8.

47.  Note 9.


THE BIBLE:
 
WHAT IT IS, AND WHAT IT IS NOT.


LECTURE II.

THE BIBLE: WHAT IT IS, AND WHAT IT IS NOT.
BY REV. JAMES MARTINEAU.

“AND THE WORD 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.”—John i. 14.

The Bible is the great autobiography of human nature, from its infancy to its perfection. Whatever man has seen and felt and done on the theatre of this earth, is expressed therein with the simplicity and vividness of personal consciousness. The first wondering impressions of the new-created being, just dropt upon a scene quite strange;—the hardened heart and daring crimes of the long-resident here, forgetting that he dwells in a hospice of the Lord, and not a property of his own;—the recalled and penitent spirit, awakened by the voice of Christ, when, to a world grown old and dead in custom, he brought back the living presence of God, and to the first reverence added the maturest love;—all this is recorded there, written down in the happiest moments of inspiration which have fallen upon our race during the lapse of sixteen centuries. The volume stations us on a spot, well selected as a watch-tower, from which we may overlook the history of the world;—an angle of coast between the ancient continents of Africa and Asia, subtended by the newer line of European civilization. Thence have we a neighbouring view of every form of human life, and every variety of human character. The solitary shepherd on the slopes of Chaldæa, watching the changing heavens till he worships them; the patriarch pitching his tent in the nearer plain of Mamre; the Arab, half merchant, half marauder, hurrying his fleet dromedaries across the sunny desert; the Phœnician commerce gladdening the Levant with its sails, or, on its way from India, spreading its wares in the streets of Jerusalem; the urban magnificence of Babylonia, and the sacerdotal grandeur of Egypt; all are spread beneath our eye, in colours vivid, but with passage swift. Even the echo of Grecian revolutions, and the tramp of Roman armies, and the incipient rush of Eastern nations, that will overwhelm them both, may be distinctly heard; brief agents, every one, on this stage of Providence, beckoned forward by the finger of Omnipotence, and waved off again by the signals of mercy ever new.

The interest of this wide and various scriptural scene, gradually gathers itself in towards a single point. There is One who stands at the place where its converging lines all meet; and we are led over the expanse of world-history, that we may rest at length beneath the eye of the Prophet of Nazareth. He is the central object, around whom all the ages and events of the Bible are but an outlying circumference; and when they have brought us to this place of repose, to return upon them again would be an idle wandering. They are all preliminaries, that accomplish their end in leading us hither.—“The law,” aye, and the prophets too, we esteem “our schoolmasters to bring us to Christ:”[48] and though, like grateful pupils, we may look back on them with true-hearted respect, and even think their labours not thrown away on such as may still be children in the Lord, we have no idea of acknowledging any more the authority of the task, the threat, the rod. To sit at the feet of Jesus we take to be the only proper position for the true disciple; to listen to his voice “the one thing needful;” and however much others, notwithstanding that he is come, may make themselves “anxious and troubled about many things” besides, and fret themselves still about the preparations for his entertainment, we choose to quit all else, and keep close to him, as that better “part, which shall not be taken from” us. Whatever holy influences of the Divine Word may be found in the old Scriptures, are all collected into one at length; “the Word hath been made Flesh,” and in a living form hath “dwelt among us;” and from its fulness of “grace and truth” we will not be torn away.

If the ultimate ends of Scripture are attained in Christ, that portion of the Bible which makes us most intimate with him, must be of paramount interest. Compelled then as I am, by my limits, to narrow our inquiry into the proper treatment of Scripture, I take up the New Testament exclusively, and especially the Gospels, for examination and comment to-night.

Suppose then that these books are put into our hands for the first time;—disinterred, if you please, from a chamber in Pompeii;—without title, name, date, or other external description; and that with unembarrassed mind and fresh heart, we go apart with these treasures to examine them.

It is not long before their extraordinary character becomes evident. All minds are known by their works,—the human quite as distinctly as the Divine: and if “the invisible things of God” “are clearly seen” “by the things that are made,” and on the material structures of the universe the moral attributes of his nature may be discerned,—with much greater certainty do the secret qualities of a man’s soul,—his honesty or cunning, his truthfulness or fraud,—impress themselves on his speech and writings. To a clear eye his moral nature will unerringly betray itself, even in a disquisition; more, in a fiction; more still, in a history; and most of all, in a biography of a personal companion and teacher, drawing forth in turns his friendship and grief, his pity and terror, his love and doubt and trust, his feelings to country, to duty, to God, to heaven. Accordingly in these Gospels, and in the Journal of travels and Collection of letters, which carry out and illustrate the development of a new religion, I find myself in the presence of honest and earnest men, who are plainly strangers to fiction and philosophy, and lead me through realities fairer and diviner than either. They take me to actual places, and tell the events of a known and definite time. They conduct me through villages, and streets, and markets; to frequented resorts of worship, and hostile halls of justice, and the tribunals of Roman rulers, and the theatres of Asiatic cities, and the concourse of Mars’ hill at Athens: so that there is no denying their appeal, these things were “not done in a corner.”[49] Yet their frank delineation of public life is less impressive, than their true and tender touches of private history. Following in the steps of the world’s domestic prophet, they entered, evening and morning, the homes of men,—especially of men in watching and in grief, the wasted in body or the sick in soul: and the unconsciousness with which the most genuine traits of nature gleam through the narrative, the infantile simplicity with which every one’s emotions, of sorrow, of repentance, of affection, give themselves to utterance, indicate that, with One who bare the key of hearts, the writers had been into the deep places of our humanity. The infants in his arms look up in the face of Jesus as we read; the Pharisee mutters in our ear his sceptic discontent at that loving “woman who was a sinner” kneeling at the Teacher’s feet; and the voice of the bereaved sisters of Lazarus trembles upon the page.

But, above all, these writings introduce me to a Being so unimaginable, except by the great Inventor of beauty and Architect of nature himself, that I embrace him at once, as having all the reality of man and the divinest inspiration of God. Gentle and unconstrained as he is, ever standing, even on the brink of the most stupendous miracles, in the easiest attitudes of our humanity, so that we are drawn to him as to one of like nature, we yet cannot enter his presence without feeling our souls transformed. Their greatness, first recognized by him, becomes manifest to ourselves: the death of conscience is broken by his tones; the sense of accountability takes life within the deep; new thoughts of duty, shed from his lips, shame us for the past, and kindle us for the future with hope and faith unknown before. His promise[50] fulfils itself, whilst he utters it; and whenever we truly love him, God comes, and “makes his abode with” us. He has this peculiarity: that he plunges us into the feeling, that God acts not there, but here; not was once, but is now; dwells, not without us, like a dreadful sentinel, but within us as a heavenly spirit, befriending us in weakness, and bracing us for conflict. The inspiration of Christ is not any solitary, barren, incommunicable prodigy; but diffusive, creative, vivifying as the energy of God:—not gathered up and concentrated in himself, as an object of distant wonder; but reproducing itself, though in fainter forms, in the faithful hearts to which it spreads. While in him it had no human origin, but was spontaneous and primitive, flowing directly from the perception and affinity of God, it enters our souls as a gift from his nearer spirit, making us one with him, as he is one with the Eternal Father. Children of God indeed we all are: nor is there any mind without his image: but in this Man of Sorrows the divine lineaments are so distinct, the filial resemblance to the Parent-spirit is so full of grace and truth, that in its presence all other similitude fades away, and we behold his “glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” It is the very spirit of Deity visible on the scale of humanity. The colours of his mind, projected on the surface of Infinitude, form there the all-perfect God. The mere fact of his consciousness of the alliance with the Creator, and his tranquil announcement of it, without the slightest inflation, and amid the exercise of the meekest sympathies, appears to me all-persuasive. From whom else could we hear such claims without disgust? In a moment they would turn respect into aversion, and we should pity them as insanity, or resent them as impiety. But to him they seem only level and natural; we hear them with assent and awe, prepared by such a transcendent veneration as only a being truly God-like could excite. This is one of those statements which refutes or proves itself. Whoever, calmly affirming himself the Son and express similitude of God, can thereby draw to him, instead of driving from him, the affections of the wise and good, proclaims a thing self-evident; requiring, however, to be stated, in order to be tested.

Of such self-evidence as this, the gospels appear to me to be full. Whenever men shall learn to prefer a religious to a theological appreciation of Christ, and esteem his mind greater than his rank, much more of this kind of internal proof will present itself. It has the advantage of requiring no impracticable learning, and being open, on internal study of the books, to all men of pure mind and genuine heart; it is moral, not literary; addressing itself to the intuitions of conscience, not to the critical faculties. It makes us disciples, on the same principles with the first followers of Christ, who troubled themselves about no books, and forged no chains of scholastic logic to tie them to the faith; but watched the Prophet, beheld his deeds of power, felt his heavenly spirit, heard his word, found it glad tidings, and believed. In short, it is identical with the evidence to which our Lord was so fond of appealing when he said, “No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him;”[51] “every one that is of the truth heareth my voice;”[52] “if I do not the works of my Father, believe me not;”[53] “my sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me;”[54] “if any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”[55] This spiritual attraction to Christ, arising out of mere contemplation and study of the interior of his life, is enough to bring us reverently to his feet,—to accept him as the divinely-sent image of Deity, and the appointed representative of God. If this be not discipleship, allow me to ask, “What is it?”

I consider, then, this internal or self-evidence of the New Testament, as incomparably the most powerful that can be adduced; as securing for Christianity an eternal seat in human nature, so as to throw ridicule on the idea of its subversion; and as the only evidence suitable, from its universality, to a religion intended for the majority of men, rather than for an oligarchy of literati.

But though the divine perfection and authority of Christ may thus be made manifest to our moral and spiritual nature, what is called the plenary inspiration of the whole Bible is by no means a thing equally self-evident. By the term plenary inspiration is denoted the doctrine,—That every idea which a just interpretation may discover in the Scriptures, is infallibly true, and that even every word employed in its expression is dictated by the unerring spirit of God; so that every statement, from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelations, must be implicitly received, “as though from the lips of the Almighty himself.” We are first assured that whoever denies this, shall have his name cancelled from the Book of life; and then we are called upon to come forward, and say plainly whether we believe it. The invitation sounds terrible enough. Nevertheless, having a faith in God, which takes the awe out of Church thunders, I say distinctly, this doctrine we do not believe; and ere I have done, I hope to show that no man who can weigh evidence, ought to believe it.

It is clear that, by no interior marks, can a book prove this sort of inspiration to belong to itself. Accordingly, the advocates for it are obliged to quit the intrinsic evidence, of which I have hitherto spoken, and to seek external and foreign testimony on behalf of the Biblical writings, and of the New Testament in the first instance. The course of the reasoning is thus adverted to by Bishop Marsh: “The arguments which are used,” he says, “for divine inspiration, are all founded on the previous supposition that the Bible is true; for we appeal to the contents of the Bible in proof of inspiration. Consequently, these arguments can have no force till the authenticity and credibility of the Bible have been already established,”[56] “Suppose,” observes the same author, “that a professor of Divinity begins his course of lectures with the doctrine of divine inspiration; this doctrine, however true in itself, or however certain the arguments by which it may be established, cannot possibly, in that stage of his enquiry, be proved to the satisfaction of his audience; because he has not yet established other truths, from which this must be deduced. For whether he appeals to the promises of Christ to his Apostles, or to the declarations of the Apostles themselves, he must take for granted that these promises and declarations were really made; i.e., he must take for granted the authenticity of the writings in which these promises and declarations are recorded. But how is it possible that conviction should be the consequence of postulating, instead of proving, a fact of such importance?” “If (as is too often the case in theological works) we undertake to prove a proposition by the aid of another which is hereafter to be proved, the inevitable consequence is, that the proposition in question becomes a link in the chain by which we establish that very proposition, which at first was taken for granted. Thus we prove premises from inferences, as well as inferences from premises; or, in other words, we prove—nothing.”[57]

In perfect consistency with these remarks, was the lucid exposition of the true method of theological enquiry, which I had the privilege of hearing in Christ Church, on Wednesday last: to every word of which (limiting it, however, to the external evidences of Christianity) I entirely assent. It was then stated that we must

(1st.) Ascertain that the books under examination are self-consistent, and that they contain nothing at variance with the character of God impressed upon his works.

(2ndly.) Enquire whether the writings are really the productions of the authors whose names they bear; or, in other words, determine their authenticity.

(3dly.) Whether the writers were in circumstances to know what they relate, and were persons of character and veracity.

(4thly.) Whether we have the works in an unmutilated state, and as they came from the pens of the authors.

If all these researches should have an issue favourable to the writings, the Lecturer conceives, for reasons which I think very inconclusive, that the following inferences may be drawn:—

(1.) That the whole contents of the Bible have divine authority, because they truly report the fulfilment of prophecy, and the performance of miracles; and all the doctrines and lessons of a person who works miracles must have divine authority.

(2.) That the writers were so inspired, that their writings are, in all respects, infallibly correct; for, among the facts narrated (and which we admit to be true), is this one; that the Holy Ghost was promised to the Apostles, and actually descended on the disciples assembled on the day of Pentecost, and was so extensively communicated through them to the early church, that no New Testament writer could be without it. So that these books are as strictly the Word of God, as if all their statements proceeded at once and immediately from the lips of the Almighty himself.

As “the Word of God” is a beautiful Scriptural phrase, which I must refuse to give up to this most unscriptural idea, I shall replace it, when I wish to speak of verbal inspiration, by the more appropriate expression, the Words of God. I discern in the Bible the Word of God, but by no means the Words of God.

For the sake of brevity, I may be allowed to compress this elaborate system of external evidence into two successive divisions; and, taking up the first Gospel as an example, I should say, we have to enquire respecting it,

(1.) Whether we have the words of St. Matthew. And if this be determined in the affirmative,

(2.) Whether we have the words of God.

(1.) Our first attempt then must be, to establish the origin of these books from Apostles or Apostolic men,—which is the sole ground for affirming their infallibility. The method by which their origin must be ascertained is admitted to be similar to that which would be employed in the case of any work not sacred. It is an enquiry altogether historical or antiquarian;—a process of literary identification. We must collect, and dispose along an ascending chronological line, the various writers who have quoted and mentioned the New Testament writings; call each, in turn, into the court of criticism, to speak to the identity of the work he cites with that which we possess; and if the series of witnesses be complete,—if, in following into antiquity the steps of their attestation, we find ourselves in contact with the Apostolic age, and near the seats of Apostolic labours, we justly conclude that we have the genuine and original productions. By the help of this foreign testimony, almost all the books of the New Testament may be traced perhaps to the middle of the second century; the remaining fifty or sixty years to the death of St. John, and eighty or ninety to that of the Apostle of the Gentiles, must be filled up by arguments showing, that this chasm is too small for the possibilities of forgery and mistake to take effect. The results of this process are not fit matter for detailed criticism here; I will simply state, in general, that they yield a preponderating probability in favour of the general reception, in the second age of the church, of all the New Testament writings, under the names of their reputed authors; and that it would be unreasonable to expect more precise external evidence of authenticity than this. It is indeed much easier to prove in this way the origin, from the founders of our religion, of the books which we receive, than to disprove a like authority with respect to others which we disown, or whose memory (for many of them are lost) we dishonour. The equal antiquity of some of these repudiated works, it is scarcely possible to deny; their inferior authority we are obliged either to conclude from their intrinsic character, (a reason, often abundantly satisfactory,) or to assume on the word of a set of ecclesiastical writers, not generally distinguished for sound judgment or tranquil passions, nor always trustworthy, even in matters of fact; and who notoriously formed their estimate of Christian books, less from enquiry into their genuineness, than from the supposed orthodoxy of their contents. The Christian Fathers, on whose statement the whole case rests, were undoubtedly guilty of that which, at all events, with far less justice, is charged on Unitarian authors: they threw away many a writing as spurious, because they did not like its doctrines; testing the work by their own belief, instead of their own belief by the work. The zone of proof which encircles the books within the canon, and separates them from the apocryphal tribe without, appears to me less sacred, and more faint, than it is common for theologians to allow. And even when the selection has been made, and we have agreed to accept the canon as it is, it is impossible, until it is shown that one uniform inspiration produced the whole, to acknowledge the equal value of every part. It is usual to urge the “authenticity” upon us as a kind of technical quantity which we must take or reject, an indivisible theological unit admitting of no variation, but that of positive or negative. But it would surely be extraordinary, if all the twenty-seven books of the New Testament should have precisely the same amount of historical attestation in their favour; and it is undeniable that they have not. The probabilities are much stronger in behalf of some books than in that of others, though preponderant in all. There is a gradation of evidence, arranging the writings along at least five separate steps in the descent of proof; in effecting this division, however, let it be clearly understood, that I refer solely to the literary question of personal authorship, not to that of religious worth and authority; and that, for the moment, I take into account the internal as well as external considerations bearing upon this single point.

1. The letters of St. Paul (excepting Hebrews) occupy the highest station of evidence.

2. The remaining letters, excepting 2nd Peter and Hebrews again, I should place next.

3. The Gospel of St. John is more certainly authentic than the other three; which, however, would follow in the

4th place with the book of Acts. And the list will be closed by

5. The Apocalypse, 2 Peter, and the Epistle to the Hebrews.

This arrangement might be justified, if it were necessary, in detail. But my sole purpose in stating it now, is to convey a distinct idea of the kind of graduated scale of proof which, from the very nature of the enquiry, must be applied to the authenticity of the Christian records; and to give force to the protest, which truth compels me to enter against the indiscriminate coercion of assent attempted by theologians in this argument. With this qualification then, we approve the general decision of the Protestant Churches, and adopt as authentic the canon as it stands. “Unitarians,” we repeat, “have neither canon nor version of their own.”

“What! not the Improved Version?” I shall be asked:—that favourite achievement of your most renowned Unitarian champions;—published by a Unitarian society;—circulated among your laity in three simultaneous editions; when assailed successively by Dr. Nares and Archbishop Magee, repeatedly defended by your ablest critics in your own Journals; containing moreover all the standard heresies of your sect; using all your received methods of getting rid of troublesome texts; and especially relieving you of the doctrine of the miraculous conception by the liberal application of Jehoiakim’s pen-knife to the initial chapters of Matthew and Luke?[58] “The shades of Belsham, Lindsey, Jebb, Priestley, Wakefield, &c., might well be astonished to hear their learned labours so contemptuously spoken of by” the “modern disciples of their school.”[59]

Now it so happens, that, excepting two, all these good men were dead before the commencement of that work. Of the two survivors, Mr. Lindsey was disabled, by the infirmities of age, from any participation in it, and scarcely lived to see it published.[60] The remaining divine, Mr. Belsham, was the real editor of this translation; and alone, among Unitarians, must have the whole honour or dishonour of the work. The funds for the publication were doubtless furnished by a society, whose members hoped thus to present the theologian with a valuable contribution to Biblical literature; but had neither power nor wish to bind themselves or others to an approval of its criticisms, or a maintenance of its interpretations. That “all the ministers belonging to this Society” were enrolled in the Committee for preparing the Work, is itself a proof of the small proportion which the Association bore to the whole body of Unitarians; and is well known to have been an inoperative form, which had no practical effect in dividing the chief Editor’s responsibility. The Version adopts, as a basis, the “Attempt towards revising our English Translation of the Greek Scriptures,” by Archbishop Newcome, Primate of Ireland; from which, including the smallest verbal variations, there are not, on an average, more than two deviations in a page; and it is a principle with the Editors, that these departures shall be noticed in the margin; so that any one, having the Improved Version in his hand, has the Archbishop’s Revision also before him. How far this translation has authority with Unitarians, may perhaps be judged of from one fact. The clergymen who are holding up this work to the pious horror of their hearers are repeating charges against it, long ago preferred by Archbishop Magee; who, in his time, reproduced them from Dr. Nares, the Regius Professor of modern history in the University of Oxford; who, again, borrowed no small part of his materials from a Review of the Version, in the Monthly Repository for 1809, by Dr. Carpenter, a distinguished Unitarian Divine. I do not mean that there was nothing but reproduction of the original Reviewer’s materials throughout all these steps; if it were so, I should be ashamed to call that venerable man my friend: fresh objections were added at every stage; and, by Archbishop Magee, a mass of abuse the most coarse, and misrepresentation the most black; repeated still by unsuspecting and unlearned admirers, who find it easier to acquire from him his aptitudes for calumny than his acuteness in criticism. But the principal objections to the Improved Version were certainly anticipated by Dr. Carpenter, who furnished a list of unacknowledged deviations from Newcome’s revision, and from Griesbach’s and the Received Texts;—who censured the whole system of departure from that text, which seemed to be adopted as a standard; the license allowed to conjectural emendation; the preference of Newcome’s to the authorized version as a basis; the introduction of any doctrinal notes; and, what is especially to our present purpose, who vindicated, from the suspicion of spuriousness, the initial chapters of St. Luke’s Gospel, and consented to part with those of St. Matthew’s, only because at variance with the authority of the third Evangelist. From the armoury, therefore, of our own church, are stolen the very weapons, wherewith now, amid taunts of sacerdotal derision, we are to be driven as intruders from the fair fields of learning. For myself, when the learned labours of Dissenters are ridiculed, and the “defective scholarship” of heretics affirmed, by the privileged clergy of the established church, I always think of the Universities,—those venerable seats of instruction, from which Nonconformists must be excluded. The precious food of knowledge is first locked up; the key is hung beyond our reach; and then the starvelings must be laughed at, when they sink and fall. But so is it always with unjust power; the habit of injury begets the propensity to scorn.[61]

But we are called upon to say, whether we really mean to repudiate the Improved Version. If by “repudiate” be meant, confess the truth of all the accusations brought against it, or reject it from our libraries as unworthy of consultation, we do not repudiate it. But we do refuse to be held responsible, directly or indirectly, for any portion of its criticisms; with which we have no more concern, than have our Reverend assailants with the Translation of Luther or the Institutes of Calvin. If we are pressed with the personal inquiry, “but, what portion of its peculiarities, especially in relation to the narrative of the miraculous conception, do you as a matter of fact, approve?” I can answer for no one but myself, for we have no theological standards, nor any restriction on the exercise of private judgment, on such subjects. But, individually, I have no objection to state, that I consider Mr. Belsham as having brought over the threshold of his conversion so much of his original orthodoxy, that, like all who insist upon finding a uniform doctrinal system prevading the various records of Christianity, he is justly open to the charge of having accommodated both his criticism and his interpretations to his belief; that his objections to the authenticity of both accounts of the miraculous conception, appear to me altogether inconclusive; that I therefore leave these histories as integral parts of the gospels they introduce.[62] Whether I receive all their statements as unerringly true, is a question altogether different; nor can the Lecturer who calls on us to satisfy him on this point, link together in one query our reception of these chapters as authentic and as true, without falling into Mr. Belsham’s own error of mixing these two things so obviously distinct. It no more follows, because these chapters are Matthew’s, that they must be reconcilable with Luke, and so, free from objection to their truth; than, because they are inconsistent with Luke, therefore they cannot be Matthew’s. This part of the enquiry belongs to the second portion of our discussion respecting the New Testament; whether, granting that we have the veritable words of the reputed authors, we have, in consequence, the ipsissima verba of God. To this topic let us now proceed.

(2.) The advocate of plenary inspiration, having obtained our assent to the authenticity of the Christian Scriptures, proceeds to show their truth. He reminds us that the depositions are no longer anonymous; and that, the testimony having been duly signed, we may examine the character of the witnesses. We call them therefore before us. They are plain, plebeian, hard-handed men of toil, who have laboured in the fields and olive-grounds of Judæa, or held an oar on the Galilean Lake; who nevertheless have been not without the cottage and the home, the parent, wife and child; belonging, moreover, to a country having something to remember, and more to expect. Addressed by a solitary and houseless wanderer from Nazareth, won by some undefinable attraction that makes them think him a man of God, they follow him awhile, hoping for promotion, if he should prove, as they suspect, to be some great one. Daily this hope declines, but hourly the love increases. They hang upon his words; their passions sink abashed before his look; they blindly follow his steps, knowing nothing but that they will be the steps of mercy; they rebuke the blind beggar who cries; but he calls him groping to him, and sends him dazzled away; they go to help the cripple, and ere they reach him, at a word he leaps up in strength; they fly at the shriek of the maniac from the tombs, when lo! he lapses into silence, and sits at the feet of the Nazarene in the tears of a right and grateful mind. How can they leave him? yet why precisely do they stay? If they depart, it is but to return with joy; and so they linger still, for they learn to trust him better than themselves. They go with him sorrowing; with occasional flashes of brilliant ambition, but with longer darkness between; with lowering hopes, but deepening love; to the farewell meal; to the moonlit garden, its anguished solitude, its tranquil surrender to the multitude, making the seeming captive the real conqueror; a few of them to the trial; one, to the cross; the women, even to the sepulchre; and all, agitated and unbelieving, were recalled in breathless haste from their despair by the third day’s tidings, the Lord has risen indeed! Thenceforth, they too are risen from the dead; the bandages, as of the grave, drop from their souls; the spirit of God, which is the spirit of truth, comes to loose them and let go. Not higher did the Lord ascend to the heaven which holds him now, than did they rise above the level of their former life. They understand it all, and can proclaim it; the things that were to come,—that dreadful cross, that third day, so darkly hidden from their eyes,—are shown them now; a thousand things which he had said unto them, rush, by the help of this new spirit, to their remembrance. And forth they go, to tell the things which they have seen and heard. They most of them perished, not without joy, in the attempt; but they did tell them, with a voice that could summon nations and ages to the audience; which things are this day sounded in our ears.

But I suppose we must endeavour to speak coolly of these venerable men, if we are to save them from being deprived of their manhood, and turned into the petrified images and empty vessels of a physical or intellectual inspiration. Why will the extravagance of Churches compel us to freeze down our religion into logic, to prevent it blazing into an unsocial fanaticism? If, however, we must weigh the Apostles’ claims with nice precision, we must say (at this stage of our enquiry we can say only) that they were honest personal witnesses of visible and audible facts; deserving therefore of all the reliance to which veracity, severely tested, is entitled. To everything then which comes under the description of personal testimony, their demand on our confidence extends; their own impressions we believe to have been as they record. But their inferences, their arguments, their interpretations of ancient writings, their speculations on future events, however just and perfect in themselves, are no part of the report which they give in evidence, and cannot be established by appeal to their integrity.

Nor, in this limitation of testimony to its proper province, is there anything in the slightest degree dishonourable to these “chosen witnesses.” “Is the judgment of the writers of the New Testament,” says Archdeacon Paley, “in interpreting passages of the Old, or, sometimes perhaps in receiving established interpretations, so connected either with their veracity, or with their means of information concerning what was passing in their own times, as that a critical mistake, even were it clearly made out, should overthrow their historical credit? Does it diminish it? Has it any thing to do with it?” “We do not usually question the credit of a writer, by reason of an opinion he may have delivered upon subjects unconnected with his evidence; and even upon subjects connected with his account, or mixed with it in the same discourse or writing, we naturally separate facts from opinions, testimony from observation, narrative from argument.”[63] Moreover, our dependence upon a faithful witness, besides being restricted to matters of fact, is measured by his opportunities of observation; and it would be absurd to insist on his being heard with precisely equal belief, whether he relates, to the best of his knowledge, that which happened before he was born, or tells an occurrence that passed under his eyes. If this distinction be not well founded, then has personal contact with events no advantage; the stranger is on a footing with the observer; and all the defensive reasonings which theologians have thrown round Christianity, from the station which the Apostles occupied as eye-witnesses, are destitute of meaning; supported though they are by the sanction of the Apostles themselves, whose constant claim to belief, when they preached, was this only, “and we are witnesses of these things.” And if this distinction be well founded, there is just ground for discriminating between the different parts of an historian’s narrative, and giving the highest place of credit to that which he had the best means of knowing; nor is it possible to admit the rule which I heard laid down on Wednesday evening, that if we discover in an Evangelist a single incorrect statement, the whole book must be repudiated,—selection being wholly out of the question. Of the birth of Christ, for example, St. Matthew was not a witness; of his ministry he was; and has the report of the latter no higher claim upon belief than the history of the former,—seen as it was only in retrospect, at the distance of from thirty to sixty years, and through the colours of a subsequent life so great, so marvellous, so solemn? Hence, with relation to the initial chapters of the first and third Evangelists, while I leave them on an equality with the rest of the Gospels, in respect of authenticity, I place them in an inferior rank of credibility; especially since I find it impossible to reconcile them with each other. To justify this opinion, I will point out two inconsistencies between them, one chronological, the other geographical. I heard it affirmed on Wednesday evening, that the former of these difficulties was only apparent, and arose from the mistaken calculation of our Christian era, the commencement of whose year, 1, does not really strike, as it ought, the hour of the nativity. Well, then, we will throw this era aside for the moment, and employ another mode of reckoning, prevalent among the historians of those times, dating from the building of Rome. St. Luke tells us that in the fifteenth year of Tiberius, our Lord was about thirty years of age; this would assign the birth of Christ, at the earliest, to Jan. 1 of the year of Rome 751. According to St. Matthew, he was born full one year before the death of King Herod, whose massacre of the innocents included all under two years; the latest date that can be fixed for the death of Herod is Feb. or March 751, so that the nativity falls, according to one Evangelist not later than 750, according to the other not earlier than 751.[64] The geographical discrepancy between the two Evangelists has reference to the habitual residence of the Virgin Mary; St. Matthew supposes Bethlehem to have been Joseph’s usual dwelling place; and “nothing can be more evident than that, according to the account of St. Luke, Joseph was a total stranger at Bethlehem.” I quote the opinion of the Rev. Connop Thirlwall, a divine whose distinguished philological attainments have given him a European reputation, without at present raising him to that station in his own church, which would best suit his merits and her dignity.[65]

The variance between two narratives is no sufficient reason for rejecting both, though it compels the disbelief of one. In the present instance, the probabilities appear to preponderate in favour of St. Luke’s. And, returning from the particular case to the general rule, I conclude this topic by repeating, respecting the “credibility” of any set of historical works, the remark formerly made respecting their “authenticity.” I protest against its being urged upon us as an indissoluble magnitude, without fractional parts, incapable of increment or decrement, analysis or composition, which must be taken whole, or rejected whole; and I claim the right, till it can be shown not to belong to me, of reducing the recorded events of Scripture into classes, according to their decree of probability and their force of testimony. With this qualification, we maintain, with all other Christians, the ample credibility and the actual truth of the Gospel records, making no divorce between the natural and the miraculous, but taking both as inseparably woven together into the texture of the same faithful narrative.

But this step in the argument, I am reminded, cannot be taken without another, which brings us directly to the intellectual infallibility of the Apostles. Among the primary and undisputed facts which they record from personal experience, are the miracles which they wrought; and miracles, being an interposition of God, establish the divine authority of the performer; so that all the lessons and sentiments propounded by a person so endowed, must be received as immediate communications from the Unerring Spirit.

To this argument, if somewhat limited in the extent of its conclusion, I believe that most Unitarians would yield their assent. Certain it is that their best writers constantly reason from the miraculous acts, to the doctrinal inspiration of the first preachers of Christianity; and Dr. Priestley calls it “egregious trifling”[66] to question the soundness of the proof. Yet it is surely difficult to reconcile it with fact and Scripture; and not less so to state it logically in words. In whatever form it is expressed, it rests upon a postulate which I hold to be false and irreligious; viz., that the supernatural is Divine, the natural not Divine; that God did the miracles, and since the creation has done nothing else; that Heaven gave a mission to those whom it thus endowed, and has given no mission to those who are otherwise endowed. All peculiar consecration of miracle is obtained by a precisely proportioned desecration of nature; it is out of a supposed contrast between the two, that the whole force of the impression arises. The imagination which overlooks and forgets all that is sacred in the common earth and sky, that gives itself over to the dream, that all is dead mechanism,—downright clock-work, wound up, perhaps at creation, but running down of itself till doom; the heart that feels nothing divine in life, and nothing holy in man; that has lost, from Epicurean sloth and sickness of soul, the healthy faculty of spontaneous wonder, and worship ever fresh,—are the pupils most ripe for this tutelage. The Deity must be thrust from the universe, or else benumbed there, in order to concentrate his energies in the preternatural. The speculative convert to miracles, is the practical Atheist of nature.

I need not remind any reader of the Gospels, of the accordance of this view with the general temper of our Lord’s mind. His miracles, surely, sprung from compassionate, not proselytizing impulses; had a practical, not a didactic air; were not formally wrought as preliminaries to a discourse, but spontaneously issued from the quietude of pity; they were not syllogisms, but mercies. Nay, where conviction was most needed, what is said of him? “He did not many mighty works there, because of their unbelief;”[67] unless he wished them to continue in unbelief, he must have regarded miracles as an improper instrument of overcoming it. And can we forget his language of rebuke, “except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe,”[68] When he appeals to his “works,” it is to his “many good works;”[69] to the benevolence of his acts, not their marvellousness chiefly, to their being “the works of his Father,”[70] conceived in the spirit of God, and bearing the impress of his character.

This estimate of the logical force of miracles (the moral power of those which belong to Christianity is incalculable) appears to be consonant with experience. I conceive that, in fact, unbelievers are very seldom convinced by the appeal to the supernatural; that the avenues of admission to Christianity lie usually in quite a different direction; and that the reason and affections surrender to Christ’s spirit, and thus comprehend the thing signified, before they can receive and interpret “the sign.” Nay, let me put the case home to your own experience. Would you, by this instrumentality, become convinced of that which you before held false? If, before your eyes, a person were to multiply five loaves into five hundred, and then say, “this is to prove the doctrines which I teach, that God is malignant, and that there is no heaven after death,”—should you be converted, and follow him as his disciple? Certainly not; the statement being incredible, the miracle would be powerless. And the inference I would draw is this: that the primitive force of persuasion lies in the moral doctrine as estimated by our reason and conscience, not in the preternatural act displayed before our senses; for, the moment you test their forces, by bringing them into collision, the original convictions of the reason obtain the mastery. It is no answer to say, that such a case is of impossible occurrence. For the purpose to which I apply it, viz., to try an experiment with our own minds, respecting the real argumentative capabilities of miracles, an imaginary case is not only as good as an actual one, but a great deal better: for so long as a good truth and a good miracle are linked together, and move in the same direction, we rest confusedly in the joint support of physical and moral evidence, and are unable to determine which is the ascendant power.

The statements and examples of Scripture tend to the same conclusion. The personal disciples of our Lord returned from a mission on which he had sent them; exclaiming, “Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name,”[71] Yet, though they were possessed of these miraculous powers, their views of the very kingdom which they had gone forth to preach were at this time exceedingly narrow and erroneous,—leading them into acts and desires ambitious, passionate, and false.

Miracles, then, are simply awakening facts: demanding and securing reverential and watchful regard to something, or to everything, in the persons performing them; but not specifically singling out any portion of their doctrinal ideas, and affording them infallible proof. Is it not competent to God thus to draw human attention to a person, as well as a truth;—to a character, as well as a doctrine? At all events, it is an unwarrantable presumption in us to select for the All-wise the particular motive with which exclusively he ought to create a miracle; instead of humbly noting the actual results, and judging thence of his divine purposes.

But, it will now be urged, whatever sentiments may be entertained respecting the proper inference from miracles in general, there is one in particular which directly establishes the plenary inspiration of the apostles and first disciples. It is recorded in the book of Acts, that on the day of Pentecost, when they were with one accord in one place, the Holy Ghost descended upon all.[72] The two Evangelists, St. Matthew and St. John, were present; so were St. Peter and St. James; for all these were Apostles. And we know that, by the laying on of the hands of the Apostles, the same power passed into all disciples on whom they might choose to confer the privilege. We cannot suppose any of the New Testament authors to have been excluded from this class; and must therefore believe, that every word of the Christian canon was composed under the influence of the Unerring Spirit. This argument is proposed in the following words, by Dr. Tattershall, in his published sermon on the “Nature and Extent of the Right of Private Judgment.”

“The Scriptures have been already proved” ... “to be a true and authentic history; one of the principal facts of which history is, the outpouring of the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ. I take, therefore, as an example, the Gospel of St. Matthew, and reason as follows:—I learn, from the history, that Christ’s disciples were inspired by the Holy Ghost; among this number was St. Matthew; therefore St. Matthew was inspired; and, consequently, that which he wrote, under this influence of inspiration, is to be regarded as the Word of God. Whereas, on the other hand, if St. Matthew was not inspired, the history relates that which is not true, and the credibility of the whole sacred history is at once destroyed: and, with it, both the Church, and also Christianity itself, must fall to the ground.”[73]

Now to convey, at the outset, a distinct idea of the reason why this argument does not convince me, let me say, that I believe St. Matthew to have been inspired; but I do not believe him to have been infallible. I am sure that he nowhere puts forth any such claim: and if he does not affirm it himself, I know not who can affirm it for him. Indeed, to the advocates of this doctrine it must seem strange, that even St. John the Divine, instead of bearing down all doubt by this overwhelming claim, should so modestly and carefully conciliate the belief of his readers, by appealing to his own human opportunities of information: “and he that saw it bare record, and his record is true:”[74] “this is the disciple that testifieth of these things, and wrote these things:”[75] and that St. Luke should content himself with saying, at the commencement of his Gospel, that its materials were furnished by those who “from the beginning were eye-witnesses.”[76]

Everything in this argument clearly depends on the meaning which we are to attach to the phrases “Holy Ghost,”—“Inspiration,”—“Spirit of God,”—and other forms of expression employed to denote this peculiar influence. What, according to the Scriptures, were the appropriate functions of this Divine Agent? and are we to include among them an exemption of those on whom its power fell from all possibilities of error, in narration, in reasoning, in expectation, in speculative and practical doctrine? In short, do the sacred writers represent this Holy Spirit as conferring intellectual infallibility?

Now the original account of the descent of the Holy Spirit certainly implies nothing of the kind.[77] The gift of tongues, which St. Paul, though possessed of it in the highest degree,[78] places in the lowest rank of spiritual gifts,[79] and which he expressly discriminates from “the word of wisdom,” and “the word of knowledge,”[80] is the only preternatural effect there ascribed to this new influence. Other passages descriptive of this agency equally fall short of this claim of infallibility. We read, for example,[81] that by the direction of the Apostles, seven persons were to be selected from the general body of believers, who were to be men “full of the Holy Ghost, and wisdom,”—the two attributes being distinguished. It must be supposed, too, that the qualifications demanded of these officers had some proportionate reference to the duties assigned. These duties were simply the management of the society’s financial accounts, and the distribution of its eleemosynary funds. When it is said that John the Baptist should “be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb,”[82] are we to understand, that from earliest infancy he was infallible?—he who, in the very midst of his ministry, sent to Jesus for information on this question, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?”[83]—a question, be it observed, which implies doubt on the great subject-matter of the Baptist’s whole mission. Perhaps, however, it will be admitted that there are inferior degrees of this inspiration; so that passages like this may be found, in which the phrases denoting it are used in a lower sense. But, it will be said, in its highest intensity it cannot be so restricted, and is even distinctly affirmed to involve infallibility. The operations of the spirit of God are distributed by theologians into two classes,—the extraordinary, experienced by the apostles, and exempting them from liability to error,—the ordinary, which are assured to all true disciples, and whose office implies no further illumination of the understanding, than is needful for the sanctification of the heart. Now if this statement and division be really true and scriptural, we shall doubtless find Christ and his Apostles separating their promises of divine influence into two corresponding sets; keeping things so different, clear of all confusion; and fully as exact in this “discerning of spirits,” as their modern disciples. But so far is this from being the case, that between the greater spirit of the twelve apostles, and the less spirit of the general church, no distinction whatever is drawn; nor any between the intellectual infallibility which was to await the apostles, and the spiritual sanctification promised to the faithful multitude of all ages. Nay, it so happens, that the most unlimited expressions relating to the subject occur in such connections, that they cannot be confined to the apostles, but obviously apply to all private Christians. For instance, shall we say that our Lord’s promise of the “Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost,” explained by the remarkable synonym which he appended, “the spirit of truth” which should “teach them all things,” and “lead them into all truth”—implies universal illumination of the understanding? Close at hand is a clause forbidding the interpretation, by spreading the promise over all ages of the church; “I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever, even the spirit of truth;”[84] and the expression is accordingly quoted by Dr. Wardlaw, as descriptive of the common operations of the spirit.[85] Again, St. John in his first General Epistle (addressed of course to the whole church) says, “Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.”[86] Take then the strongest and most unqualified expressions on this subject, and if they prove the infallibility of the apostles, they prove the same of all private Christians. Or, take those which show sanctification to be the characteristic office of the Holy Spirit with respect to the general church, and you show that this also was its agency on the Apostles.

One or two texts are occasionally adduced in defence of this doctrine; their paucity and inapplicability show how slight is the scripture foundation on which it rests. By far the most remarkable of these is found in 2 Tim. iii. 16. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Now observe,

1. That the verb is, which constitutes the whole affirmation here, has nothing corresponding to it in the Greek, and is put in by the English translators. Of course the sentence requires a verb somewhere, but the place of its insertion depends on the discretion of the translator. Baxter, Grotius, and other critics, accordingly render the passage thus: “All scripture, given by inspiration of God, is also profitable,” &c. The Apostle has already been reminding Timothy of the importance of those scriptures with which he had been acquainted from his youth, to his personal faith: and he now adds, that they are also useful for his public teaching. He therefore simply says that whatever scriptures are given by inspiration of God, are thus profitable.

2. Since Paul first speaks generally of those scriptures with which Timothy had been familiar from his youth, and then proceeds to select from these a certain class, as given by inspiration of God, his description extends to no portion of the New Testament, and only to some writings of the Old. The purpose for which he recommends them, indicates what books were in his thoughts. As they were to aid Timothy in his public duty of convincing his countrymen that Jesus was the Messiah, he refers to those books which had sustained the expectation of a Messiah,—the Jewish Prophets. “The whole extent of his doctrine, I conceive to have been expressed by the Apostle Peter thus: ‘prophecy came not in old time by the will of men; but holy men of God spake, moved by the Holy Spirit;’[87]—that those also who recorded these speeches, wrote by the Holy Spirit; that, in addition to the superhuman message, there was a superhuman report of it, is a notion which no trace can be found in the apostolic writings. The whole amount, therefore, of the Apostle’s doctrine is this; that the prophets had a preternatural knowledge of future events; and that their communications were recorded in the prophetic books. By the admission of these points, the theory of inspired composition obviously gains nothing.”[88]

No appeal can be more unfortunate for the advocate of plenary inspiration, than to the writings of the great apostle of the Gentiles. Not a trace can be found in them of the cold, oracular dignity,—the bold, authoritative enunciation,—the transcendental exposition, equally above argument and passion, in which conscious and confessed infallibility would deliver its decisions. All the natural faculties of the man are shed forth, with most vehement precipitation, on every page. He pleads with his disciples, as if kneeling at their feet. He withstands Peter to the face,—though no less inspired than himself,—because he was to be blamed for unsound sentiments and inconsistent conduct. He hurries so eagerly, and sinks so deep into an illustration, that scarcely can he make a timely retreat. He too quickly seizes an analogy to apply it with exactitude and precision. And above all, he is incessantly engaged in reasoning: and by that very act, he selects as his own the common human level of address,—generously submits his statements to the verdict of our judgment, and leaves that judgment free to accept or to reject them. Nor is it on mere subordinate points that he contents himself with this method, which, by challenging search, abandons infallibility. The great controversies of the infant church, which involved the whole future character of Christianity, which decided how far it should conciliate Polytheism, and how much preserve of Judaism, the apostle of the Gentiles boldly confides to reasoning: and his writings are composed chiefly of arguments, protective of the Gospel from compromise with Idolatry on the one hand, and slavery to the Law on the other.

Nor is this denied by any instructed divine of any church. In insisting “upon the duty of professed Christians to abstain from all compliance with the idolatrous practices of the heathens around them,” says Dr. Tattershall, “St. Paul, even though an inspired Apostle, does not proceed upon the mere dictum of authority, but appeals to the reason of those to whom he writes; and calls upon them to reflect upon the inconsistency of such conduct, with the nature of their Christian profession. In fact, he produces arguments, and desires them to weigh the reasons which he assigns, and see whether they do not fully sustain the conclusion which he draws from them. ‘I speak,’ says he, ‘as to wise men, JUDGE YE what I say.’”[89]

If then the Apostle wrote his letters under inspiration, have we not here direct authority to sit in judgment on the productions of inspiration, or the contents of the word of God; not merely to learn what is said, but to consider its inherent reasonableness and truth? No one, indeed, can state more forcibly than Dr. Tattershall himself the principle, of which this conclusion is only a particular case. “When I reason with an opponent,” says he, “I do not invade his acknowledged right of private judgment, nor do I require of him to surrender that judgment to me. I am, in fact, doing the precise contrary of this. I am, by the very act of reasoning, both acknowledging his right of judgment, and making an appeal to it.”[90]

To acknowledge the right of judgment, is to forego the claim of infallibility, and to concede the privilege of dissent; and thus frankly does St. Paul deal with me. Vainly do his modern expounders attempt to make him the instrument of their own assumptions. To appeal to my reason, and then, if I cannot see the force of the proof, to hold me up as a blasphemer and a rebel against the word of God, is an inconsistency, of which only the degenerate followers of the great Apostle could be guilty. His writings disown, in every page, the injurious claims which would confer on them an artificial authority, to the ruin of their true power and beauty. In order to show the absolute divine truth of all that may be written by an inspired man, it is not enough to establish the presence of inspiration, you must prove also the absence of everything else. And this can never be done with any writings made up, like the Apostle’s, of a scarce-broken tissue of argument and illustration. It is clear that he was not forbidden to reason and expound, to speculate and refute, to seek access, by every method of persuasion, to the minds he was sent to evangelize; to appeal, at one time to his interpretation of prophecy, at another to the visible glories of creation, and again to the analogies of history. Where could have been his zeal, his freshness, his versatility of address, his self-abandonment, his various success, if his natural faculties had not been left to unembarassed action? And the moment you allow free action to his intelligence and conscience, you inevitably admit the possibilities of error, which are inseparable from the operations of the human mind. To grant that Paul reasons, and be startled at the idea that he may reason incorrectly,—to admit that he speculates, and yet be shocked at the surmise that he may speculate falsely,—to praise his skill in illustration, yet shrink in horror when something less apposite is pointed out, is an obvious inconsistency. The human understanding cannot perform its functions without taking its share of the chances of error; nor can a critic of its productions have any perception of their truth and excellence, without conceding the possibility of fallacies and faults. We must give up our admiration of the Apostles as men, if we are to listen to them always as oracles of God.

But I must proceed to my last argument, which is a plain one, founded upon facts, open to every one who can read his Bible. I state it in the words of Mr. Thirlwall: “the discrepancies found in the Gospels compel us to admit that the superintending control of the Spirit was not exerted to exempt the sacred writings altogether from errors and inadvertencies;”[91] nay, he speaks of “the more rigid theory of inspiration” having been so long “abandoned by the learned on account of the insuperable difficulties opposed to it by the discrepancies found in the Gospels, that it would now be a waste of time to attack it.”[92]

I heard it affirmed on Wednesday evening, that, in the sacred writings, no case can possibly occur of self-contradiction or erroneous statement; that the very idea of inspiration is utterly opposed to all supposition of the presence of error; that the occurrence of such a blemish would prove, that the writer was not so under the immediate teaching and superintendence of Almighty God as to be preserved from error; or, in other words, that he was not inspired; that the erroneous passage must indeed be rejected, but, with it, the whole work in which it is found, as destitute of divine authority. I have brought Mr. Thirlwall to confront the question of fact; let me quote Dr. Paley in relation to this statement of principle. “I know not,” he says, “a more rash or unphilosophical conduct of the understanding, than to reject the substance of a story, by reason of some diversities in the circumstances with which it is related. The usual character of human testimony (Dr. Paley is discussing the discrepancies between the several Gospels), is, substantial truth under circumstantial variety.” “On the contrary, a close and minute agreement induces the suspicion of confederacy and fraud.”[93] If both these statements be true, the phenomena of inspiration would be identical with those of confederacy and fraud. I estimate the Scriptures far too highly to hesitate, for a moment, about pointing out to your notice certain small variations and inconsistencies, utterly destructive of the doctrine of plenary inspiration; but absolutely confirmatory, in some instances, of the veracity of the historians, and, in all, compatible with it. Our faith scorns the insinuation, that these sacred writings require “any forbearance from the boasted understanding of man.”

1. The different Evangelists are at variance with each other, with respect to the calling of the first Apostles. They differ with respect to the time, the place, the order; e.g.:

First, as to time; Matthew[94] represents the imprisonment of John the Baptist as the occasion of our Lord’s beginning to preach, and as preceding the call of any Apostles.

John[95] represents Andrew and Simon, Philip and Nathanael, as called,—the miracle at Cana as wrought, a Passover as attended at Jerusalem,—a residence of Jesus and his disciples in the rural district of Judæa, as going on; and then adds, “for John was not yet cast into prison.”

Next, as to place; according to Matthew and Mark,[96] Andrew and Peter are called by the Lake of Galilee; according to John, in Judæa.

And as to order; Matthew and Mark represent the two pairs of brothers, as successively called: first, Andrew and Peter; then, after a short interval, James and John.

Luke,[97] making no mention of Andrew, represents the others as simultaneously called.

John represents Andrew as called with himself; and Peter, as subsequently called, through the instrumentality of his brother Andrew. Of James (though affirmed by the other Evangelists to have been his own companion in the call), he is silent.

The three first writers not being present, it is nothing wonderful that they are less accurate than the fourth, who was.

2. The three denials of Peter, as recorded by the first, third, and fourth Evangelists, will be found inconsistent in their minute circumstances. The denials are uttered,

{ 1. to a maid.
according to Matthew,[98] { 2. to another maid.
{ 3. to those who stood by.
 
{ 1. to a maid.
according to Luke,[99] { 2. to a man.
{ 3. to another man.
 
{ 1. to the maid who admitted him.
according to John,[100] { 2. to the officers of the palace.
{ 3. to a man (a relation of Malchus).

3. Matthew[101] and Luke[102] state, that one Simon bore our Lord’s cross to Calvary; John,[103] that Jesus bore it himself.

4. The inscription annexed by Pilate to the cross is given differently by every one of the Evangelists.

Matthew:[104] “This is Jesus the king of the Jews.”
Mark:[105]    “The king of the Jews.”
Luke:[106]    “This is the king of the Jews.”
John:[107]     “Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.”

5. Matthew[108] and Mark[109]; state that our Lord on the cross was reviled by both the malefactors; but Luke[110] affirms that when one of them was guilty of this shocking mockery, he was rebuked by the other; and that the latter received the well-known assurance, “this day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.”

6. The last discrepancy which I shall mention, has reference to the final Passover, and its relation to the day of crucifixion. But in order to understand the case, and indeed to read with intelligence the whole series of events connected with the crucifixion and resurrection, it is necessary to bear in mind the following facts:—

(a.) That the Jewish day commenced in the evening, and was reckoned from sunset to sunset.

(b.) That the Jewish Sabbath was the seventh day of the week, and extended from six o’clock on Friday evening, to the same time on Saturday.

(c.) That at the Passover, the paschal lamb was slain at the end of one Jewish day, and eaten immediately, i.e., at the commencement of the next, or about six or seven in the evening. The three hours before sunset, during which it was prepared, were called preparation of the Passover, and belonged to the fourteenth of the month; while the hours after sunset, during which it was eaten, belonged to the fifteenth. The phrase, preparation of the Sabbath, was used in like manner, to denote the three hours before sunset every Friday.

(d.) The Passover being fixed to the fifteenth of the month, and that a lunar month, necessarily moved over all the days of the week; and might fall, of course, into coincidence with the weekly Sabbath.

(e.) The feast of unleavened bread was a festival of seven days’ duration, the first day of which coincided with that on which the Passover was eaten, following of course that on which it was killed.

These things being premised, we are prepared to notice the points on which the Evangelists agree, and those in which they disagree, in their accounts of the crucifixion, and its connected events. They all agree in assigning the same distinguishing incidents of our Lord’s personal history to the four great days of the week most interesting to Christians, viz., to the Thursday the last supper; to the Friday, the crucifixion; to the Saturday, the sleep in the sepulchre; to the Sunday, the resurrection. But about the position of the Jewish Passover upon these days, they singularly differ; St. John fixing it on the Friday evening, and making it therefore coincide with the weekly Sabbath; the other three fixing it on the Thursday evening, and so following it up by the Sabbath. The variance is the more interesting from its influence on our views of the last supper; which, according to the three first Evangelists was the Passover, according to the fourth, was not the Passover. The institution of the Communion, as a Christian transformation of the Jewish Festival rests entirely on the former of these narratives; St. John is altogether silent respecting it. Yet it was he who leaned on Jesus’ bosom, and stood beneath his cross.

Now what is the just inference from such discrepancies? Is it that the writers were incompetent reporters of the main facts? Not so; for there are few biographers, however well-informed, whose testimony, produced in circumstances at all parallel, would not yield, on the application of as severe a test, inconsistencies more considerable. Is it that they are not veracious? Not so; for not a trace of self-interest is discernible in these cases. Is it that they were not inspired? Not so; for the transition they underwent from peasants to apostles, from dragging the lake to regenerating the world, is the sublimest case of inspiration (except one) with which God has refreshed the nations. But it is this; that they were not intellectually infallible.

I have now endeavoured to give some idea of two different ways of regarding the Christian records.

I. They possess an internal and self-evidence, in their own moral beauty and consistency, and the unimaginable perfection of the great Son of God, whom they bring to life before us. With this evidence, which is open to every pure mind and true heart,—which speaks to the conscience like a voice of God without, conversing with the spirit of God within, all those may be content, who think that, to accept Christ as the image of Deity, and the authoritative model of Duty, is to be a Christian.

II. Those, however, who think that, in order to be Christians, we must hold one only doctrinal creed, containing many things hard to understand, and harder to believe, are aware that nothing short of a divine infallibility can prevail with us to receive a system so repugnant to our nature. And as this is incapable of self-proof, they appeal chiefly to the external evidence and foreign attestation which belong to the Christian records; beginning with the historical method, they endeavour to show,

(1.) That we have the original words of the Gospel witnesses (authenticity):

(2.) That, this being the case, we have the very Words of God (plenary inspiration).

Now let me detain you by one reflection on these two methods. Suppose each, in turn, to prove insufficient, as a basis of Christianity, the other remaining firm; and consider what consequences will result.

If the internal or self-evidence be inadequate, (which our objectors must suppose, for it cannot, they admit, prove their creeds,) then every one must seek a foundation for his faith in the other. He must satisfy himself, in limine, of the personal authorship of the books in the Canon; a purely literary inquiry, and one of extraordinary labour, even to those who enjoy every advantage for its prosecution. In order to be saved, doctrines must be embraced, requiring for their proof an inspiration, which does not exist in the New Testament writings, except on the supposition of their apostolic origin. The ascertainment, then, of this point, is the necessary prelude to all saving faith; this duty lies on the outermost threshold of our acceptance with the Giver of salvation. So that God hangs the eternal welfare of every man on an investigation so critical and elaborate, that a whole life of research is not too much to understand it, and the most familiar with its details are, by no means, the most uniformly confident of its results; an investigation which assigns a certain date to each book, as the lowest limit of security; and says, if you dare to fix this letter or that Gospel upon a time later by half a century, you are lost for ever.

But may not the young and the ignorant trust in the guidance of a teacher? In his sermon on private judgment, Dr. Tattershall treats of this question, and lays down the following rule:—“In the case of adults, such reliance is justifiable so far, and no farther, than it is unavoidable. So far as God has not given the ability, or the opportunity of investigation, so far he will not require it; but in whatever degree any person has the power and opportunity of examining the will of God for himself,—in that degree,—whether he exercise his privilege or not,—God will hold him responsible. As to the liability to fall into error;—beyond all doubt, such liability exists, whether we submit to the guidance of any teacher, or exercise our own private judgment.”[111] How, let me ask, can we avoid drawing the following inferences?

(1.) That the greater part of mankind must be held to be in a condition rendering this reliance on a teacher “unavoidable.”

(2.) For this reliance, then, such portion of mankind must be held justified in the sight of God.

(3.) But such dependence makes them liable to err; and must, in fact, have led countless multitudes into error.

(4.) If these errors are fatal to salvation, then God inflicts eternal torments for the inevitable results of a justifiable act.

(5.) If these errors are not fatal to salvation, then there is salvation out of the faith.

The result, then, of this external system is, that you may be saved on either of two conditions; that you belong to the orthodox literary sect, and hold the antiquarian opinions of the priests; or, that you belong to the ignorant, and can find out the right persons to whom to say, “I will believe, as you believe.”

Reverse the supposition. Conceive that in the process, becoming ever more searching, of historical inquiry, the other and external method should be found to be inadequate to the maintenance of its superstructure; what would be the fate of Christianity, trusted solely to its self-evidence? I will imagine even the worst: and suppose that the first three Gospels are shown to be not personally authentic, not the independent productions of three apostolic men; but a compilation of very composite structure, consisting of (we will say) some thirty fragments, obviously from different hands, and all of anonymous origin. In such case, the individual testimony of eye-witnesses being gone, the whole edifice of external proof which supports a dogmatic Christianity, must fall. But the self-evidence of a moral and spiritual Christianity, of a Christianity that clings to the person and spirit of Christ, is not only unharmed, but even incalculably increased. For how often, and how truly, has it been argued, that the mere inspection of the four Gospels is enough to prove the reality of Christ; that the invention, and consistent maintenance of a character so unapproachable, so destitute of all archetype beneath the skies, so transcending the fictions of the noblest genius, and so unlike them, are things utterly incredible, were they supposed even of one writer: and that, for the same divine image to gleam forth with coincident perfection from four, belongs to the highest order of impossibilities. What then should we say, if these four were resolved into thirty? The coalescence of so many fragmentary records, could no more make a Christ, than the upsetting of an artist’s colours could paint a Raffaelle. Whatever then becomes of Church Christianity, that which lives in Christ, and has the power of love in man, is everlasting as the soul.

We are warned that “the Bible is not a shifting, mutable, uncertain thing.” We echo the warning, with this addition, that Christianity is a progressive thing; not a doctrine dead, and embalmed in creeds, but a spirit living and impersonated in Christ. Two things are necessary to a revelation: its record, which is permanent; its readers, who perpetually change. From the collision of the lesson and the mind on which it drops, starts up the living religion that saves the soul within, and acts on the theatre of the world without. Each eye sees what it can, and what it needs; each age develops a new and nobler idea from the immortal page. We are like children, who, in reading a book above their years, pass innocently and unconsciously over that which is not suited to their state. In this divine tale of Christ, every class and every period seizes, in succession, the views and emotions which most meet its wants. It is with Scripture as with nature. The everlasting heavens spread above the gaze of Herschel, as they did over that of Abraham; yet the latter saw but a spangled dome, the former a forest of innumerable worlds. To the mind of this profound observer, there was as much a new creation, as if those heavens had been, at the time, called up and spread before his sight. And thus it is with the Word of God. As its power and beauty develop themselves continually, it is as if Heaven were writing it now, and leaf after leaf dropped directly from the skies. Nor is there any heresy like that, which denies this progressive unfolding of divine wisdom, shuts up the spirit of heaven in the verbal metaphysics and scholastic creeds of a half-barbarous period,—treats the inspiration of God as a dry piece of antiquity, and cannot see that it communes afresh with the soul of every age; and sheds, from the living Fount of truth, a guidance ever new.

NOTES.


A.
 
On the Improved Version.

Great allowance must perhaps be made for the clergymen who persist, after repeated expostulation, in their assumption that the Improved Version is an authoritative exposition of Unitarian theology. The convenience of limiting their studies, for the most part, to a single work, and the inconvenience of dispensing with the previous labours of Dr. Nares, and Archbishop Magee, whose hostile criticisms furnish the orthodox divine with invaluable prolegomena to the book, ought to diminish our surprise at the tenacious adherence to this ground of attack. The advantage too of giving fresh currency to the popular notion, that some dreadful production exists, containing unmentionable impieties, and constituting the “Unitarian Bible,” is undeniable. It is evident that the utility of fostering this impression is by no means overlooked: for after strong assertion and contemptuous comments have given to a very few passages of the Improved Version the appearance, to an unlearned audience, of falsification of the word of God, I have heard it said, that these cases are but a small sample of a system, which might be illustrated to an indefinite extent from every page. As there are not, on an average, more than two variations in a page from Archbishop Newcome, the charge must, in an incalculable majority of instances, fall on him.

I am at a loss, however, to perceive even any controversial advantage to be gained by the rash statement of Mr. Byrth; that every Unitarian minister is as much bound to uphold the criticism and interpretation of the Improved Version, as the Established Clergy to maintain the Thirty-nine Articles. A clergyman, it is known, signs the articles, and solemnly contracts to preach in conformity with them; a minister among Unitarians may never see the Improved Version, or hear its name. During a five years’ course of study at the college where I received my education for the ministry, I do not remember any mention of it in the theological classes, and only two in the Greek classes: both of which were condemnatory; one, of the introduction of the English indefinite article to indicate, in certain cases, the absence of the definite article in the original; the other, of the rendering of the preposition διά, with the genitive, by the word “for.” The fact that most ministers of our persuasion subscribe to the British and Foreign Unitarian Association, which has succeeded to the property in the Improved Version, and continues to circulate it, no more makes them responsible for its criticisms than a contribution to the Bible Society makes a clergyman accountable for the forgery of the “heavenly witnesses.” The one aids in distributing a possibly defective, the other a certainly interpolated, copy of the Christian records. Let us apply another test to this imprudent parallel between the established clergy, and the Unitarian ministers. In the United States of America, no one, I presume, could take holy orders in the Episcopal church, without pledging his assent to the Thirty-nine Articles; and should he cease to approve of them, his ordination vow would require him to resign his preferment. But in that country are hundreds of Unitarian ministers, who know nothing of the Improved Version; and would be as much astonished to be told that they were bound by it, as would Dr. Tattershall to hear that he must answer for the Oxford Tracts.

But the mere fact, that within a year after the publication of this work, a Unitarian divine, a subscriber to the Unitarian society, in a Unitarian periodical, submitted it to a criticism far more searching and elaborate than that which an acumen sharpened by theological hostility is now able to produce, is sufficient to set in its true light the statement which I have quoted. I beg to call the attention of our Reverend opponents to the following enumeration of the points, to which the censures of the Reviewer (Dr. Carpenter) are directed.

(1.) The selection of Newcome’s Revision, instead of the authorized version, as the basis.

(2.) The departure, and without any intelligible rule, from Griesbach’s text, which, in the introduction, had been mentioned in a way to excite the expectation of its invariable adoption. Of these departures, a complete table is given.

(3.) The neglect of proper acknowledgment and defence of these departures.

(4.) The professed employment of brackets for one purpose, (to indicate words which, according to Griesbach, were probably, though not certainly, to be expunged,) and the actual use of them for another; as, for example, in the introduction of St. Matthew’s Gospel, which is thus enclosed.

(5.) The use of italics (intended to indicate doubtful authority) without adequate evidence of doubtful authority, and in violation of the apparent intention to repudiate critical conjecture. And in particular, the use of this type in the introduction to St. Luke’s gospel; which “the evidence is far too little to justify;” and in the introduction to St. Matthew’s gospel. Both these examples are considered by the reviewer as instances of conjectural criticism.

(6.) The unwarrantable license allowed in general to conjectural emendation of the text; of which particular cases are adduced; as the transposition of verses, John i. 15, 18; and, in a lower sense of the word conjecture, the omission of διὰ τῆς πίστεως, Rom. iii. 25; and the καὶ in 2 Tim. iii. 16.

(7.) The departures from the received text without notice. Of these departures, a complete table is given.

(8.) The departures from Newcome’s Revision, without sufficient notice; of these, a list was given, and a synoptical table has since been published in the appendix to Dr. Carpenter’s reply to the “unanswered” Archbishop Magee.

(9.) The use of the English indefinite article, in certain cases, where there is no Greek definite article. For example, the Centurion’s exclamation at the crucifixion, Matt. xxvii. 54; in his remarks on which, Mr. Byrth will perceive that he has been anticipated by the reviewer.

(10.) The introduction of doctrinal notes, which the reviewer thinks ought to have been entirely excluded.[112]

The culpable omission of the epithet, “Unitarian,” from the description of the “Society for promoting Christian Knowledge,” in the title-page of the first edition, has since received the censure of the same friendly but just critic.[113]

If then, all that is original and “orthodox,” in the recent assaults on the Improved Version, be the sarcasm and extravagance; and all that is “candid” and “scholar-like” was long ago anticipated by a Unitarian divine, (to whom Dr. Nares awards the praise of being “the very learned and dispassionate reviewer,”) with what propriety can we be held responsible, as Unitarian ministers, for the peculiarities of the work, and called upon to defend it from strictures, produced at second-hand in Christ Church, and originally published among ourselves. If Dr. Carpenter had been minister in Liverpool, instead of Bristol, would he have been bound to come forward and answer himself?

I by no means intend to charge the clergymen engaged in this controversy with plagiarism. Their great authority, Archbishop Magee, so completely withheld in his postscript, all notice of his obligations to the Unitarian Reviewer, that a reader may well be excused for not knowing that there was such a person. Nor do I at all doubt the competency of our respected opponents to originate whatever they have advanced, without the aid of any one’s previous researches. I simply affirm that they have been anticipated, in a quarter, and to an extent, which disprove their assertions respecting the acceptance and influence of the Improved Version among Unitarians.

For the very same reason, however, that we are not bound to praise this work when faults are fairly attributed to it, neither are we bound to be silent, when merit is unjustly denied it. With the corrections introduced in the fourth and fifth Editions, it has the exclusive honour of accomplishing the following important ends:

(1.) It exhibits the text of the New Testament in the most perfect state, being conformed to Griesbach’s second Edition.

(2.) It enables the English reader to compare this critical with the Received text, all their variations being noticed.

(3.) It places before its possessors Archbishop Newcome’s Revision, which otherwise would have passed into unmerited oblivion. Wherever it departs from its basis, and advances any new translation, the Primate’s rendering is given also; so that the whole extent of the innovation is seen, and free choice afforded to the reader.

When the advocates of the common version shall exert themselves to bring it into accordance with the true text, they will attack the Improved Version, from a safer position. But so long as they leave with this heretical work the sole praise, among British translations, of showing what the Evangelists and Apostles really wrote, and content themselves with circulating a version containing words and passages, without mark or warning, which they know to be spurious, and in more than one case, to be ancient theological allies of their creed, they are too much open to the charge of availing themselves of detected forgeries, to be entitled to read lectures to others, about reverence for the text. Dr. Tattershall enforces well “the duty of preserving the Canon of Scripture in its integrity.” Will he permit me to remind him of the duty of preserving it in its simplicity: or is there, in the bare proposal of curtailment of the volume, a sinfulness which does not exist in the practical and persevering maintenance of known interpolation?


B.
 
On the Ebionites and their Gospel.

The argument of Mr. Belsham against the authenticity of Matthew’s account of the miraculous conception appears to me very unsound: but Dr. Tattershall’s criticism upon it, I must think to be altogether unsuccessful; if at least, amid its intricate construction, I have really apprehended the points to which its force is applied. In rejecting this portion of Scripture, Mr. Belsham relies on the authority of the Nazarenes and Ebionites, or early Hebrew Christians: who are affirmed by Epiphanius and Jerome, to have used copies of Matthew’s Gospel, without the introductory passages in question.

As the value of this argument depends altogether on the character of the attesting parties and documents, Dr. Tattershall calls in question the respectability of them all; and disparages, first, the ancient Nazarenes and Ebionites themselves; secondly, the testimony, in this matter, of Epiphanius and Jerome; thirdly, the Hebrew gospel or record, which they describe. The positions advanced under every one of these heads, appear to me to be erroneous.

I. Nothing, it is said, can be more incorrect than to admit the claim of the Nazarenes and Ebionites to be regarded as the original, or main body of Hebrew Christians. They were a sect, at first united, then divided into two; successors of the Judaizing Christians; and after Adrian’s destruction of Jerusalem (A. D. 132), they separated from the general community of the Christian Church.

I certainly had conceived that this quæstio vexata of ecclesiastical history, might be considered as set at rest, since the controversy respecting it between Bishop Horsley and Dr. Priestley; and still more, since the production of many additional loca probantia from the Fathers, by Eichhorn, Olshausen, Bertholdt and others, who have engaged in the inquiry respecting the origin of the three first gospels. If, however, the subject is still open to agitation, the principle on which it must be discussed is evident. If, as Dr. Tattershall states, the Nazarenes and Ebionites did not embrace in extent, the main body, and in time, the original societies, of Jewish believers, it is incumbent on him to find some clear traces of other or earlier Hebrew Christians, denominated by some different term, or at all events excluded from these. Until such persons are discovered, in the primitive history of the church, the Nazarenes and Ebionites must remain in undisturbed possession of their title as “The early Hebrew Christians.” Meanwhile, in direct proof of their claim to be so regarded, I submit the following considerations:

(1.) Their name is applied, in a direct definition, to the whole of the Jewish Christians. Origen says, “Those from among the Jews who received Jesus as the Christ,” were called Ebionites.[114]

(2.) The characteristic sentiments of this “sect,” are ascribed to the early Hebrew Christians generally. These were, the persuasion of the continued obligation of the Mosaic law, on persons of Jewish birth, and the belief that Christ was a creature, some considering him as simply human, others as pre-existent.[115] Origen says, “Those from among the Jews who have faith in Jesus, have not abandoned their ancient law; for they live in conformity with it, deriving even their name (according to the true interpretation of the word,) from the poverty of the law; for Ebion, among the Jews, means poor.”[116] Origen again says, “And when you observe the belief respecting the Saviour, held by those from among the Jews who have faith in Jesus, some supposing that he was of Mary and Joseph, and others that he was of Mary alone and the Holy Spirit, but still without the notion of his Deity, &c.”[117]

(3.) The characteristic Gospel of the sect (under its frequent title “Gospel according to the Hebrews”) was used by the Hebrew Christians generally. Eusebius says: “In this number, some have placed the Gospel according to the Hebrews, which is a favourite especially with the Hebrews who receive Christ.”[118] The gospel here given to “the Hebrews who received Christ,” is given in the following to the “Ebionites,” by the same author. “They (the Ebionites) made use only of that which is called ‘the Gospel according to the Hebrews;’ the rest they made small account of.”[119]

If these passages be thought sufficient to identify the Ebionites and Nazarenes with the “main body of Hebrew Christians,” perhaps the following may be held to prove their early existence; as it states that they presented the Apostle John with a motive for composing his Gospel: Epiphanius says, “When therefore the blessed John comes and finds men speculating about the human nature of Christ,—the Ebionites going astray respecting the genealogy of Christ in the flesh, deduced from Abraham, and by Luke from Adam; and when he finds the Cerinthians and Merinthians affirming his natural birth as a mere man; the Nazarenes too, and many other heresies; coming as he did, fourth, or in the rear of the Evangelists, he began, if I may say so, to recall the wanderers, and those who speculated about the human nature of Christ, and to say to them, when from his station in the rear, he beheld some declining into rugged paths, and quitting, as it were, the straight and true one, ‘whither are you tending, whither are you going, you who are treading a path rugged and obstructed, conducting, moreover, to a precipice? Return, it is not so; the God, Logos, who was begotten of the Father from the beginning, is not from Mary only.’”[120]

That the Nazarenes and Ebionites were truly “the early Hebrew Christians,” must be considered as a fact established by such evidence as the foregoing, till some testimony to the contrary can be produced. That they were the successors of the Judaizing Christians reproved by St. Paul is an assertion destitute of support; for the opponents who troubled the Apostle of the Gentiles were distinguished by their pertinacious attempts, as Hebrews, to force the Mosaic Law on Gentile converts; whereas, respecting the Nazarenes, Lardner observes, “Divers learned moderns are now convinced of this, and readily allow, that the Jewish believers, who were called Nazarenes, did not impose the ordinances of the law upon others, though they observed them as the descendants of Israel and Abraham.”[121]

The application by Epiphanius of the words “sect” and “heretics” to these believers, does not prove that he was speaking of a different class from the early Hebrew Christians; but only that this same class began, in his time, to be spoken of in a different and more disparaging way. He is the first writer, so far as I can discover, who describes them in such reproachful language. On this point Dr. Wall observes: “He styles them heretics, for no other reason that I can see, but that they, together with their Christian faith, continued the use of circumcision and of the Jewish rites; which things St. Paul never blamed in a Jewish Christian, though, in the Gentile Christian, he did: and Epiphanius with the same propriety, as far as I can perceive, might have blamed St. James, bishop of Jerusalem, and those thousands of Jewish Christians with him, concerning whom James said to Paul, ‘Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe, and they are all zealous for the law.’”[122]

And as to the Nazarenes and Ebionites separating from the general community of the Christian church, after the second destruction of Jerusalem by Adrian, and thus bringing upon themselves the opprobrium of heresy, the fact, stated in this form, cannot be proved. From the first, the Hebrew Christians had formed a separate body from the Gentile Christians. But their proportion to the whole body of believers seems to have been for some time too considerable to admit of their being spoken of in contemptuous language. When the Gentile portion of the Church became altogether ascendant, and especially when it furnished all the ecclesiastical writers, (one of whose chief functions it has been, in every age, to call names,) the Jewish brethren, destitute of all pretensions to philosophy, and free from that ambitious speculative spirit out of which orthodox theology arose, were naturally treated with less respect, and regarded as exceptions to that general union which had consolidated itself independently of them, and at last completely left them out. It does not appear that any further change was wrought by Adrian’s destruction of Jerusalem, than necessarily followed from his resolution to exclude, from the new colony which he founded there, all who practised Jewish rites. This imperial determination compelled the withdrawal of the Hebrew Christians to the North of Palestine; and they were replaced by a new church, whose Gentile origin and customs qualified its members (under the Emperor’s decree) for settlement on the ancient site.

II. Dr. Tattershall disparages the testimony of the witnesses cited in this cause,—Epiphanius and Jerome; and not without good reason, if there should be sufficient proof, when the whole case is before us, of his two allegations, viz.:

First, That Epiphanius contradicts himself; affirming now the completeness, and then the mutilation, of the Gospel in question.

Secondly, That Epiphanius contradicts Jerome; in asserting, what “Jerome does not admit,” the identity of the Ebionite Gospel with that of St. Matthew.

Premising that one and the same work is to be understood as described, by the several titles, “Nazarene Gospel,” “Ebionite Gospel,” “Gospel according to the Hebrews,” “Gospel according to the Twelve Apostles,” I would submit that the first of these allegations is more plausible than true, and that the second is wholly untenable.

The contradictory statements of Epiphanius are the following:

(a.) “They (i.e. the Nazarenes) have the Gospel of Matthew most entire in the Hebrew language among them; for this, truly, is still preserved among them, as it was at first, in Hebrew characters. But I know not whether they have taken away the genealogy from Abraham to Christ.”[123]

(b.) “In that Gospel which they (i.e. the Ebionites) have called the Gospel according to St. Matthew, which is not entire and perfect, but corrupted and curtailed, and which they call the Hebrew Gospel,” &c.[124]

The verbal contradiction between these two passages, is no doubt manifest enough; and in a writer of more accuracy than Epiphanius, might have justified the proposal of Casaubon (approved by Jones) to effect a violent reconciliation, by the conjectural insertion of the negative adverb in the former sentence, which would then describe the document as not wholly perfect. But the looseness of this author’s style appears to me sufficient to explain the opposition between the statements; which seem indeed, to look defiance at each other, when brought by force, face to face; but which at the intervals of separate composition, may be, by no means, irreconcilable. That in the first, Epiphanius designed the phrase “most entire,” to be understood with considerable latitude, is evident from the expression of suspicion which instantly follows, that the genealogy might probably be absent. And if the work in question contained a quantity of matter additional to Matthew’s Gospel, whilst it also omitted some of its integral parts; it seems not unnatural that the same writer, who with his thoughts running on its redundancies, had at one time called it a most full copy, should at another, when dwelling on its deficiencies, style it an incomplete edition of the first Evangelist. But it is more important to observe, that on the points for which the Editors of the Improved Version adduce the testimony of Epiphanius, viz., to identify the Gospel of Matthew with that of the Nazarenes and Ebionites, and to attest the absence from this book of the story of the miraculous conception, there is here no contradiction whatever. In both passages he states the work to be Matthew’s, and in neither, according to Dr. Tattershall, does he say that the first two chapters were wanting. The harmony then, on these, the only points in dispute, is complete.

(2.) “Jerome,” it is said, “does not admit the work in question to be the Gospel of St. Matthew;” which puts him at issue with Epiphanius. Will Dr. Tattershall permit me to lay before him a passage of Jerome, which has been under his eye recently, for he has quoted a sentence from Jones which occurs on the adjacent page; it runs thus. “Matthew, also called Levi, who became from a publican an Apostle, was the first who composed a gospel of Christ; and for the sake of those who believed in Christ among the Jews, wrote it in the Hebrew language and letters; but it is uncertain who it was that translated it into Greek. Moreover the Hebrew (copy) itself is to this time preserved in the library of Cæsarea, which Pamphilus, the martyr, with much diligence collected. The Nazarenes, who live in Beræa, a city of Syria, and make use of this volume, granted me the favour of writing it out; in which (Gospel) there is this observable, that wherever the Evangelist either himself cites, or introduces our Saviour as citing, any passage out of the Old Testament, he does not follow the translation of the Seventy, but the Hebrew copies: of which there are these two instances, viz., that ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son;’[125] and that, ‘He[126] shall be called a Nazarene.’”[127]

Here Jerome, I presume, does admit the Nazarene Gospel to be that of Matthew; and the harmony on this point, between him and Epiphanius, is complete.

Besides alleging the above contradiction, Dr. Tattershall notices a supposed variance (not amounting to inconsistency) between these two Fathers on another point. From a statement of Jerome, he “thinks it may be fairly inferred,” that he knew the first two chapters of Matthew’s Gospel to be wanting in the Nazarene record. But it is denied that Epiphanius gives any countenance to the notion of their absence. Now I conceive that if this statement be precisely reversed, we shall have the true state of the case before us. Epiphanius gives us testimony to the absence, Jerome to the presence, of these chapters in the Nazarene Gospel.

First, as to Epiphanius: he makes the following statements bearing on this point:

(1.) He says that “the beginning of their (the Ebionites’) Gospel was this: ‘It came to pass in the days of Herod, the king of Judæa, that John came baptizing with the baptism of repentance in the river Jordan.’”[128] Is it not evident from this, that the initial event of this narrative was the advent of the Baptist, and that the previous account of the birth of Christ was absent? So, at least, it has been hitherto supposed.

(2.) He says in positive terms, “They have taken away the genealogy from Matthew, and accordingly begin their Gospel, as I have above said, with these words; ‘It came to pass,’ &c.”[129] It cannot be imagined that this will bear any but the common interpretation, that the Gospel began with the substance of our third chapter. The introduction of the miraculous conception, after John’s mission, would be an incredible disturbance of arrangement.[130]

(3.) He says, “That Cerinthus and Carpocrates, using this same Gospel of theirs, would prove from the beginning of that Gospel according to Matthew, viz. by its genealogy, that Christ proceeded from the seed of Joseph and Mary.” But to what purpose would these heretics have put this construction upon the genealogy, and argued from it the mere humanity of Christ’s origin, if it was immediately followed by a section, flatly contradicting what they had been labouring to prove? It is impossible then to get rid of Epiphanius’s testimony to the absence of these chapters.

Secondly, let us turn to Jerome. Dr. Tattershall conceives that because this author speaks of certain men without the spirit and grace of God, as having had some concern in the composition of this gospel, we may conclude that the introductory chapters were wanting from the copy which he used. The inference is not very obvious; and is at once destroyed by the fact, that Jerome’s quotations from the Nazarene Gospel, contain passages of Matthew’s introductory chapters. In a passage, e.g., which I have adduced above, occur two instances; “Out of Egypt I have called my son;” and, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

This discrepancy between these two fathers would have furnished Dr. Tattershall with a more powerful argument against the Editor’s note, than any which he has adduced; and have enabled him to show that Jerome, being cited for one purpose, establishes precisely the reverse.

III. Dr. Tattershall adduces in evidence against the worth of the Nazarene Gospel, the absurd chronological mistake in its first sentence, which assigns the Baptist’s appearance to the days of Herod, king of Judæa.

On this I have only to observe, that it might have been well to state, that the blunder is commonly attributed to Epiphanius himself, rather than to the Gospel which he cites. Whatever that work may have been, it was produced near the spot where the Herods lived, in times when the remembrance of them was fresh, for the people over whom they reigned; so that a mistake of that magnitude, in its first verse, must be regarded as of improbable occurrence. On the other hand, Epiphanius, it is admitted, had never seen this Gospel, and therefore cited it from hearsay; he wrote in the latter part of the fourth century, and is remarkable for inaccuracy of every kind, and especially with regard to time. There is then no improbability in the supposition that Epiphanius confounded Herod the king, with Herod the tetrarch, and with the purpose of explanation, inserted a mistake, by adding the words, “King of Judæa.” Eichhorn says, “Two different Herods are confounded together,—the King Herod under whom John was born, and Herod Antipas, under whom the Baptist publicly appeared;—an evident mark of a later annotating or correcting hand, unguided by a knowledge of the true chronology, as contained in Luke, and so substituting one Herod for another.”[131] For the foregoing reasons, it appears to me that Dr. Tattershall has not, by making his strictures sound, earned the right to render them severe.

The evidence bearing upon the introduction of Luke’s Gospel, is much simpler and less confused; and to Dr. Tattershall’s estimate of it, no valid objection, I think, can be urged.


C.
 
On the Chronological Inconsistency between the
introductory chapters of Matthew, and those of Luke.

In his note on this subject, Dr. Tattershall points out, as an example of carelessness in the Editors of the Improved Version, the following discrepancy between two of their statements. In their note on Matthew i. 16, they say, “If it be true, as Luke relates, that ‘Jesus was entering upon his thirtieth year, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius;’” and in their note on Luke i. 4, they say, “The Evangelist (Luke) expressly affirms that Jesus had completed his thirtieth year,” &c. It would have been only just to add, that in the more recent editions of the Improved Version, this inconsistency does not exist. The fourth edition (1817) lies before me; and in it the latter note stands thus: “The Evangelist expressly affirms that Jesus had entered upon, or, as Grotius understands it, had completed his thirtieth year,” &c.

To all the other strictures contained in Dr. Tattershall’s note, “the Unitarian Editors” appear to me to be justly liable.[132] The inaccuracy of their chronology was long ago perceived, by more friendly critics than their present assailants; and sounder calculations of the dates of our Lord’s birth, and ministry, were instituted and published by Dr. Carpenter, in the admirable dissertation prefixed to his “Apostolical Harmony of the Gospels.” Not being aware of any method, at all satisfactory, by which the notes in the “Improved Version,” referring to this point, can be defended, I do not profess to understand why they appear again and again without remark or correction, in the successive editions of that work.

Dr. Tattershall, I perceive, adopts the usual mode of reconciling the chronology of Matthew and Luke; and supposes that the reign of Tiberius must be reckoned, not from his succession to the dignity of Emperor, on the death of Augustus, but from his previous association with Augustus, in the tribunitial authority. Widely as this explanation has been adopted, it cannot be denied that it has been invented to suit the case; that such a mode of reckoning would never have been thought of, had it not been for this discrepancy between the two Evangelists; and that it has nothing to support it but the evidence which belongs to all hypotheses, viz., that if true, it removes the difficulty which it was designed to explain. Even the industry of Lardner has failed to present us with any instance in which a Roman historian has reckoned the reign of Tiberius, from this association with his predecessor; or with any distinct trace that such a mode of computation was ever employed. And it is notorious that all the Christian Fathers calculated the fifteenth year of Tiberius from the death of Augustus. Should Dr. Tattershall be in possession of any evidence in support of this mode of reckoning, more satisfactory than that which has hitherto been adduced, he would render an important service to biblical literature by producing it.


D.

It is so universally understood that we are indebted to Mr. Thirlwall for the admirable translation of Schleiermacher’s Essay, that I conceive there can be no impropriety in speaking of the work as his; though his name does not appear in the title-page;—a circumstance of which I was not aware, till making this extract for the press. The whole note from which are taken the words in the Lecture, is as follows:—“The arguments by which Hug attempted to reconcile the two Evangelists on the residence of Joseph, are extremely slight and unsatisfactory. He admits that St. Matthew supposes Bethlehem to have been Joseph’s usual dwelling-place. But, he asks, was St. Matthew wrong? This, however, is not the question, but only whether he is consistent with St. Luke. Now, nothing can be more evident than that, according to the account of the latter, Joseph was a total stranger at Bethlehem. Bethlehem was indeed, as Hug remarks, in one sense his own city, but clearly not in the sense that Matthew’s account supposes. Here too, therefore, Schleiermacher’s position seems to remain unshaken.”—(See note on p. 44, of Translation of Schleiermacher’s Critical Essay on St. Luke’s Gospel.)


Footnotes for Lecture II.

48.  Galatians iii. 24.

49.  Acts xxvi. 26.

50.  John xiv. 23.

51.  John vi. 44.

52.  John xviii. 37.

53.  John x. 37.

54.  John x. 27.

55.  John vii. 17.

56.  Lectures on the Criticism and Interpretation of the Bible. Preliminary Lecture II. p. 35.

57.  Preliminary Lecture I., pp. 4, 5.

58.  Jer. xxxvi. 23. See Rev. Dr. Tattershall’s Lecture on the Integrity of the Canon. Introduction.

59.  Rev. F. Ould’s Letter of February 11, 1839.

60.  The Improved Version was published in August, 1808. Rev. T. Lindsey, who had been labouring under the effects of paralysis ever since 1801, died November 3rd, the same year.

61.  See Note A.

62.  See Note B.

63.  Evidence of Christianity, part III, chapter 2.

64.  See Note C.

65.  See Note D.

66.  Institutes of Natural and Revealed Religion, part II. ch. ii. § 1.

67.  Matt. xiii. 58.

68.  John iv. 18.

69.  John x. 32.

70.  John x. 37.

71.  Luke x. 17.

72.  Acts ii. 1-4.

73.  Pp. 236, 237.

74.  John xix. 35.

75.  xxi. 24.

76.  Luke i. 2.

77.  Acts ii. 1-4.

78.  1 Cor. xiv. 18.

79.  1 Cor. xiv. passim: especially 4, 5, 13, 19, 23.

80.  1 Cor. xii. 8, 10.

81.  Acts vi. 1-4.

82.  Luke i. 15.

83.  Matt. xii. 3.

84.  John xiv. 16, 17, 26.

85.  Discourses on the principal Points of the Socinian Controversy, p. 341. Disc. xi.

86.  1 John ii. 20.

87.  2 Pet. i. 21.

88.  Unwilling to repeat what I have already said, in a former publication, I have contented myself with a brief and slight notice of this celebrated text. It is discussed in a less cursory manner in the notes to the first Lecture in the “Rationale of Religious Inquiry.” I would only add, that Schleusner considers the word θεὀπνευστος, as belonging, not to the predicate, but to the subject, of the sentence. See his Lexicon in Nov. Test. in verb. “In N. T. semel legitur 2 Tim. iii. 16. πᾶσα γραφὴ θεόπνευστος, omnis scriptura divinitus inspirata, seu, quæ est originis divinæ.”

89.  Sermon on the Nature and Extent of the Right of Private Judgment p. 238.

90.  P. 249.

91.  Schleiermacher’s Critical Essay on the Gospel of St. Luke. Introduction by the Translator, p. xv.

92.  Pp. xv. and xi.

93.  Evidences of Christianity, part III. ch. i.

94.  Matt. iv. 12-22.

95.  John i. 35-51.

96.  Mark i. 16-20.

97.  Luke v. 10, 11.

98.  Matt. xxvi. 69-end.

99.  Luke xxii. 56-62.

100.  John xviii. 15-25.

101.  xxvii. 32.

102.  xxiii. 26.

103.  xix. 17.

104.  xxvii. 37.

105.  xv. 26.

106.  xxiii. 38.

107.  xix. 19.

108.  xxvii. 44.

109.  xv. 32.

110.  xxiii. 39-43.

111.  Pp. 243, 244.

112.  See Monthly Repository of Theology and General Literature, 1809, pp. 97, seqq.; 152, seqq.; 274, seqq.; 384, seqq.

113.  Reply to Magee, p. 302.

114.  ÎšÎ±á½¶ Ἐβιωναῖοι χρηματίζουσιν οἱ ἀπὸ Ἰουδαίων τὸν Ἰησοῦν ὡς Χριστὸν παραδεξάμενοι.—Contr. Cels., lib. ii. c. 1. Op. tom. i. pp. 385 C. 386 A. Ed. Delarue. Paris. 1733.

115.  ÎŸá½—τοι δε εἰσὶν οἱ διττοὶ Ἐβιωναῖοι, ἤτοι ἐκ παρθένου ὁμολογοῦντες ὁμοίως ἡμῖν τὸν Ἰμσοῦν, ἤ οὐχ οὕτω γεγεννῆσθαι, ἀλλ’ ὡς τοὶς ἀνθρώποις.—Contr. Cels., lib. v. c. 61. Op. tom. i. p. 625 A.

116.  ÎŸá¼± ἀπὸ Ἰουδαίων εἰς τὸν Ἰησοῦν πιστεύοντες οὐ καταλελοίπασι τὸν πάτριον νόμον· βιοῦσι γὰρ κατ’ αὐτὸν, ἐπώνυμοί τε κατὰ τὴν ἐκδοχὴν πτωχείας τοῦ νόμου γεγενημένοι. Ἐβίων τε γὰρ ὁ πτωχὸς παρὰ Ἰουδαίοις καλεῖται.—Contr. Cels., lib. ii. c. 1. Op. tom. i. p. 385.

117.  ÎšÎ±á½¶ ἐπὰν ἴδῃς τῶν ἀπὸ Ιουδαίων πιστευόντων εἰς τὸν Ἰησοῦν τὴν περὶ τοῦ σωτῆρος πίστιν, ὅτε μὲν ἐκ Μαρίας καὶ τοῦ Ἰωσὴφ οἰομένων αὐτὸν εἶναι, ὅτε δὲ ἐκ Μαρίας μὲν μόνης καὶ τοῦ θείου πνεύματος, οὐ μὴν καὶ μετὰ τῆς περὶ αὐτοῦ θεολογίας, ὄψει πῶς οὗτος ὁ Ï„Ï… φλός λέγι &c.—Comment. in Matt., tom. xvi. c. 12. Op. tom. iii. p. 733 A.

118.  á¼¬Î´Î· δ’ ἐν τούτοις τινὲς καὶ τὸ καθ’ Ἑβραίους εὐαγγέλιον κατέλεξαν, ᾧ μάλιστα Ἑβραίων οἱ τὸν παραδεξάμενοι χαίρουσι.—Hist. Eccles., lib. iii. c. 25. vol. i. pp. 246, 247. Heinichen Lips. 1827.

119.  Î•á½Î±Î³Î³ÎµÎ»Î¯á¿³ δὲ μόνῳ Ï„á¿· καθ’ Ἑβραίους λεγομένῳ χρώμενοι, τῶν λοιπῶν σμικρὸν ἐποιοῦντο λόγον.—Lib. iii. c. 27. vol. i. p. 252. Both passages are in Jones, Pt. II. ch. 25.

120.  Î”ιό καὶ ὁ Ιωάννης ἐλθὼν ὁ μακάριος, καὶ εὑρὼν τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ἠσχολημένους περὶ τὴν κάτω Χριστοῦ παρουσίαν, καὶ τῶν μὲν Ἐβιωναίων πλανηθέντων διὰ τὴν ἔνσαρκον Χριστοῦ γενεαλογίαν, ἀπὸ Ἀβραὰμ καταγομένην, καὶ Λουκᾶ ἀναγομένην ἄχρι τοῦ Ἀδὰμ· εὑρὼν δὲ τοὺς Κηρινθιανοὺς καὶ Μηρινθιανοὺς ἐκ παρατριβῆς αὐτὸν λέγοντας εἶναι ψιλὸν ἄνθρωπον, καὶ τοὺς Ναζωραίους, καὶ ἄλλας πολλὰς αἱρέσεις, ὡς κατόπιν ἐλθὼν, τέταρτος γὰρ οὗτος εὐαγγελίζεται, ἄρχεται ἀνακαλεῖσθαι, ὡς εἰπεῖν, τοὺς πλανηθέντας καὶ ἠσχολημένους περὶ τὴν κάτω Χριστοῦ παρουσίαν, καὶ λέγειν αὐτοῖς (ὡς κατόπιν βαίνων, καὶ ὁρῶν τινὰς εἰς τραχείας ὁδοὺς κεκλικότας καὶ ἀφέντας τὴν εὐθεῖαν καὶ ἀληθινὴν, ὡς εἰπεῖν) Ποῖ φέρεσθε, ποῖ βαδίζετε, οἱ τὴν τραχείαν ὁδὸν καὶ σκανδαλώδη καὶ εἰς χάσμα φέρουσαν βαδίζοντες; ἀνακάμψατε. Οὐκ ἔστιν οὕτως, οὐκ ἔστιν ἀπὸ Μαρίας μόνον ὁ Θεὸς λόγος, ὁ ἐκ πατρὸς ἄνωθεν γεγεννημένος.—Epiphan. adv. Hæreses, Hær. 49 vel 69. § 23. Op. Petav. Colon. 1682, vol. ii. pp. 746, 747.

121.  Jewish Testimonies, I., Works: Kippis’s ed. 4to. vol. iii. p. 484.

122.  Acts xxi. 20. Wall’s Preface to Critical Notes on the N. T. p. 12.

123.  Hæres. 29, § 9, as cited by Jones, Part II., ch. 25, and by Dr. Tattershall, p. 89.

124.  Hæres. 30, § 13, as cited by Jones, Part II. ch. 25, and by Dr. Tattershall, p. 89.

125.  Matt. ii. 15.

126.  Matt. ii. 23.

127.  Catal. vir. illust. in Matth. Giving Jones’s translation, I do not think it necessary to quote the original Latin. See Jones on the Canon, Part II. ch. 25.

128.  Hær. 30, § 13, quoted by Jones, Part II. ch. 25.

129.  Ibid.

130.  See Eichhorn’s Einleitung in das N. T. I., § 8; Leipzig, 1820.

131.  Einleitung in das N. T., I., § 8, 31; Leipzig, 1820. See also Evidences of the Genuineness of the Gospels, by Andrews Norton, Note A. sec. V. i. Boston, U. S., 1837.

132.  There is a misprint in Dr. T.’s note, p. 104. The sentence at the end of the third paragraph should close thus: “nine months after that event, on one calculation, or three months before it, on the other.”


LECTURE III.

CHRISTIANITY NOT THE PROPERTY OF CRITICS AND SCHOLARS;
BUT THE GIFT OF GOD TO ALL MEN.
BY REV. JOHN HAMILTON THOM.

“FOR GOD WHO COMMANDED THE LIGHT TO SHINE OUT OF DARKNESS, HATH SHINED IN OUR HEARTS, TO GIVE THE LIGHT OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE GLORY OF GOD IN THE FACE OF JESUS CHRIST.”

2 Cor. iv. 6.

No fact can be more extraordinary than that a Revelation from God should give rise to endless disputes among men, that “light” should produce the effects of “darkness,” causing confusion and doubt. A Revelation in which nothing is revealed! A Revelation that occasions the most bitter controversies upon every question and interest it embraces! A Revelation that perplexes mankind with the most uncertain speculations, and splits the body of believers into sects and divisions too numerous to be told! A Revelation in which nothing is fixed, in which every point is debated and disputed from the character of God to the character of sin! A Revelation which is so little of a Revelation, that after nearly two thousand years the world is wrangling about what it means: this surely is a fact that demands an explanation, which should make the Believer pause and ask whether he may not be guilty, by some dogmatism about what he calls essentials, of casting this discredit upon Revelation, making the very word a mockery to the Unbeliever, who inquires in simplicity “what is revealed? I find you disputing about everything and agreeing about nothing;” and to whom the Believer is certainly bound to render an account of this strange state of things, before he condemns his infidelity. Can any two ideas be more opposed, more directly inconsistent, than Christianity considered as a Revelation, a gift of LIGHT from God, and Christianity as it exists in the world—the most dark and perplexed, the most vexed and agitated of all subjects, no two parties agreeing where the light is, or what the light is, or who has it? Surely if Christianity is a Revelation, the things it has revealed must constitute the essence of the Revelation, and not the things which it has left unrevealed. Surely the illumination from God must be in the clear Truths communicated, and not in the doubtful controversies excited. Surely it is a mockery of words to call that a Revelation upon which there is no agreement even among those who accept the Revelation. A Revelation is a certainty, and not an uncertainty: and therefore we must strike out of the class of revealed truths every doctrine that is disputed among Christians. Many of these doctrines we may possess other and natural means of determining; but it is clear that that which is so far unrevealed as to be constantly debated among believers themselves, cannot yet be revealed by God. Now the Unity of God is not one of these debated points. All Christians regard it as revealed; and therefore it remains as a part of the Revelation. But the doctrine of the Trinity, an addition to the Unity, and as some think a mode of the divine Unity, is a disputed point; it does not manifest itself to all believers; it does not make a part of the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ; Christ’s life would teach no man that there are three persons in the Godhead—neither would Christ’s words; the doctrine is not anywhere stated in Scripture; it is deduced by a process of fallible reasonings from a number of unconnected texts, doubtful both in their criticism and in their interpretation; it is not a declaration made by God, but an inference drawn by man, and, as many think, incorrectly drawn; the doctrine of the Trinity therefore, whether true or not, cannot be regarded as a revealed Truth; what is still a subject of controversy cannot be a portion of Revelation. If then, turning away from our disputes, we could ascertain the universal ideas which Christianity implants in all minds which receive it; the images of God, of Duty, and of Hope, which it deposits in all hearts; the impression of Christ taken off by every spirit of man from the Image and Son of God;—these would be the essentials of the Revelation, for since these are the only uniform impressions that Christianity has actually made upon those who believe it, we must suppose that these were the chief impressions which God intended it to make. This alone can be “the light which, coming into the world, lighteth every man.”

But I may be answered here, that Christianity itself is a matter of debate, and that if doubtful things cannot be revealed, then Christianity itself is not a Revelation. To this I reply, that Christianity is a matter of debate chiefly because Christ himself is not offered to the hearts of men, because controversialists thrust forward their own doctrinal conceptions as the essentials of Christianity, presenting themselves, and not Jesus to make his own impression on the heart. If not creeds, but Jesus the Christ was offered spiritually to the souls of men, unbelief would be soon no more. No earnest and pure mind would reject from its love and faith the serene and perfect image of the living Jesus. Men can deny metaphysical doctrines: but they could not deny the spiritual Christ. The spirit of God in every man would bear witness to him who was the fulness of that spirit, and would recognize the heavenly leadership of the Son of God. If the essentials of Christianity had not been made by Divines and Theologians to consist in disputed doctrines, if it had been offered to faith on the ground of its inherent excellence, its ample attractions for our spiritual nature, how readily, how universally would it have been received by all who felt that it had echoes within the soul, and that Jesus was indeed the brightest image of God, and the very ideal of humanity! Who would not be a Christian, if to be a Christian required faith only in such truths as these:—that the holy and affectionate Jesus was the human image of the mind of God, and that the Universal Father is more perfect and more tender than his holy and gentle child, by as much as Deity transcends humanity; that the character of the Christ is God’s aim and purpose for us all, the result at which He desires each of us to arrive through the discipline and sufferings of earth;—that traces of Immortality were upon that heavenly mind; that his profound sympathy with the Spirit of God, the surrender of his own immediate interests for the sake of the purposes and drift of providence, the identification of himself with the will of God, the constant manifestation of a style of thought and action drawn on a wider scale than this present life, and that placed him in harmony with better worlds,—that these marked him out as a being whose nature was adjusted to more glorious scenes, whose soul was out of proportion to his merely earthly and external lot, and whose appropriate home must be the pure Heaven of God? Would any one refuse admission to these spiritual views as they are given off to our souls from the pure life of Jesus, if he was permitted to receive them from Christ himself, and not obliged on his way to that Heavenly Image of grace, liberty, and truth, to stoop his free neck to the yoke of Churches and of Creeds? But men preach themselves, not Christ. They embody their own conceptions of Christianity in formulas, and pronounce these to be essentials, instead of suffering Jesus to make his way to the heart, and stamp there his own impression. Hence the origin of unbelief. I quote the words of an eminent Unitarian, himself converted from orthodoxy chiefly by the force of the argument I am about to state: “Settle your disputes (says the unbeliever), and then I will listen to your arguments in defence of Christianity. Both of you, Romanists and Protestants, offer me salvation on condition that I embrace the Christian faith. You offer me a sovereign remedy, which is to preserve me alive in happiness through all eternity; but I hear you accusing each other of recommending to the world, not a remedy but a poison; a poison, indeed, which, instead of securing eternal happiness, must add bitterness to eternal punishment. You both agree that it is of the essence of Christianity to accept certain doctrines concerning the manner in which the Divine Nature exists; the moral and intellectual condition in which man was created; our present degradation through the misconduct of our first parents: the nature of sin, and the impossibility of its being pardoned except by pain inflicted on an innocent person; the existence or non-existence of living representatives of Christ and his apostles; a church which enjoys, collectively, some extraordinary privileges in regard to the visible and invisible world; the presence of Christ among us by means of transubstantiation, or the denial of such presence; all this, and much more, some of you declare to be contained in, and others to be opposed to, the Scriptures; and even here, there is a fierce contention as to whether those Scriptures embrace the whole of that Christianity which is necessary for salvation, or whether tradition is to fill up a certain gap. I am, therefore, at a loss how to account for the invitation you give me. To me (the unbeliever might continue) it is quite evident that the ablest opponents of Christianity never discovered a more convincing argument against Revelation in general, than that which inevitably arises from your own statements, and from the controversies of your churches. God (you both agree), pitying mankind, has disregarded the natural laws fixed by himself, and for a space of four thousand years, and more, has multiplied miracles for the purpose of acquainting men with the means of obtaining salvation, and avoiding eternal death, eternal death signifying almost universally, among you, unending torments. But when I turn to examine the result of this (as you deem it) miraculous and all-wise plan, I find it absolutely incomplete; for the whole Christian world has been eighteen centuries in a perpetual warfare (not without great shedding of blood), because Christians cannot settle what is that faith which alone can save us. Have you not thus demonstrated that the revelation of which you boast cannot be from God? Do you believe, and do you wish me to believe, that when God had decreed to make a saving truth known to the world, he failed of that object, or wished to make Revelation a snare?”[133]

Now not believing that Revelation has failed of its object, or that it is a snare, and believing that under all the so-called Essentials, which we regard as mere human additions, there is yet a true and universal impression received from the spirit of Jesus, believing, in fact, that our Controversies are about accidentals, and that under all our differences there is, deeper down, the untroubled well of Christ springing up into everlasting life, I would proceed to expose those errors in the Trinitarian conception of Revelation which have laid it open to the charge of not being a Revelation, of dividing mankind by Controversies instead of uniting them by moral Certainty,—and to contrast this Trinitarian Conception of Revelation with what, for the following reasons, we hold to be the true one; because it represents God as accomplishing what, from the very nature of a Revelation, he must have intended to accomplish, namely, the communication of moral and spiritual knowledge: because it removes the materials for doctrinal strife and controversial rancour which never could have been God’s object in sending a Revelation, but which are inseparable from Trinitarian ideas of Revelation; and because it would realize that union for which Christ prayed and Apostles intreated, a moral oneness with God as revealed in Jesus, a unity of spirit in the bond of peace.

Let us suppose, then, God having the design to send a Revelation to Mankind. There are two methods, either of which He might adopt in the execution of that intention. He might send them a written Revelation in the form of a Book: or He might send them a living Revelation in the form of a Man. He might announce to them His Will through words: or He might send to them one of like nature with themselves, who would actually work the Will of God before their eyes; one who, passing through their circumstances of life and death, would show them in his own person the character which God intended this present discipline to create; and who, appearing again after death, morally unchanged, and passing into the Heavens, would reveal to them, by these his own destinies, the unbroken spiritual connection of the present with the future, and the immortal home which God has with Himself for the spirits of those holy ones who are no more on Earth. In the first case, then, we suppose God to send a verbal Message to men, a communication by words teaching doctrines, spoken first, and afterwards committed to writing: in the second case we suppose that a pure and heavenly being, manifesting the will and purposes of God through his own nature, which is also our nature, is himself the divine Message from our Father; one who walks this earth amidst our sorrows and our sins,—transfiguring the one and reclaiming the other—and gathering up into his own soul the strength that is to be derived from both; who enters our dwellings, sheds through them the divine light of heavenly love, plants the hope of immortality in the midst of trembling, because loving and dying, beings, and binds together the perishing children of Earth in the godlike Trust of imperishable affections which Death can glorify but cannot kill; who places himself in our circumstances of severest trial, and shows us the energy of a filial heart, and the unquenchable brightness of a spirit in prayerful communion with the God of Providence; who, that he might be a revelation of a heavenly mind amidst every variety of temptation, passed on his way to death through rudest insults, and showed how awful a thing is moral greatness, how calm, how majestic, how inaccessible, how it shines out through aggressive coarseness, a mental and ineffaceable serenity, a spirit that has its glory in itself, and cannot be touched;—who, having showed man how to live and to suffer, next showed him how to die;—who in the spirit and power of Duty subdued this garment of throbbing flesh to the will of God, and in the death agonies was self-forgetful enough to look down from the cross in the tenderest foresight for those he left behind, and to look up to Heaven, presenting for his murderers the only excuse that heavenly pity could suggest,—“Father forgive them! they know not what they do;”—and who having thus glorified God upon the earth, and finished the work given him to do, was himself glorified by God; taken to that Heaven which is the home of goodness;—thus showing the issues to which God conducts the tried and perfected spirit, that His Faithfulness is bound up with the destinies of those that trust Him, and that His providence is the recompense of the just, who live now by Faith.

Now the first thing that will strike you in comparing these two possible methods of a Revelation is, that the written communication containing doctrines is cold, formal, indistinct and distant, when contrasted with the living presence of a pure and heavenly being, who places himself at our side, enters into our joys and sorrows, shows us in action and in suffering the will of God reflected on every form of life, and works out before our eyes the vast idea of perfection. No message, no written document, no form of words, could leave such distinct impressions or quicken such sympathy and love, as the warm and breathing spirit who entered into communication with us, whose influences we felt upon our trembling souls, whose eye penetrated and whose voice melted us, and who took us by the hand and showed us how children of God should prove their filial claim, and through the vicissitudes of a Father’s providence pass meekly to their Home.

Such a living Revelation could of course be preserved for posterity only through the medium of written records, but then these records would be chiefly descriptive; and their grand purpose would be faithfully to convey to the men of other times the true image of that heavenly being; to re-create him, from age to age, in the heart of life; to introduce the Son of God with the power of reality into the business and the bosoms of men; to impress upon the silent page such graphic characters that they give off to the mind animated scenes, and bring the living Christ before the gazing eye; and the written Revelation would perfectly fulfil its mission, when by vivid and faithful narrative, without comment or reflection of its own, it had placed us in the presence of Jesus, and left us, like the disciples of old, to collect our impressions of the Christ as we waited upon his steps, and watched the spirit working into life, and caught the tones of living emotion; when we walked with him through the villages of Galilee, and saw him arrest the mourners, and touch the bier, and restore the only son of the widowed mother; when we retired with him to the lone mountain, and witnessed how the spirit ascended to God before it entered into the conflicts of temptation; when we stood with him in the Temple Court, and beheld how much more noble than the Temple is the Spirit that sanctifies the Temple, and how the Priest in his strong hold quailed and trembled under the thrilling tones and simple majesty of Truth; when we followed him to his home, not neglecting to observe how his eye, that was never cold to goodness, fell upon the widow and her mite as he left the Temple; when we leaned with the loved disciple on his bosom, and watched his last offices, and listened, with hushed hearts, for his last words; when we saw him kneel at the disciples’ feet, that the spirit of equality and brotherhood might enter into their hearts; and break the bread of remembrance and distribute the parting cup,—that bound up with such symbols of self-sacrifice, he, the living Christ, might come back in moments of severe Duty, and pour his own spirit of self-denial through deathless memories; when we listened to his last prayers and consolations, and observed that, in that awful pause between life and death, he was the comforter; when we watched with him in Gethsemane’s garden, and beheld the tears of nature, the holy one and the just, beneath the awe of his mission, trembling and melted before God; when we stood by him in Pilate’s hall, and saw the moral greatness of the unassailable spirit unobscured by bitterest humiliation; when we drew nigh to his cross, and witnessed the crown placed upon a glory that in mortal form could rise no higher—“It is finished.” To place us by its vivid descriptions in such communication with Jesus himself, is the great purpose of the historical record of Christianity; and in proportion as it makes this intercourse real and intimate, does the New Testament become to us the instrument and vehicle of a Revelation. Without this reproduction in our hearts of Jesus, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, the Scriptures are but a dead letter, barren symbols, perverted to mere verbal and logical uses, that awake no life, and serve no spiritual purpose.

The next observation that could not fail to strike you in contrasting the two methods of Revelation which I have supposed, a written communication containing doctrines, and a living character representing the will of God, is the great uncertainty and liability to various interpretations of the written method of Revelation when compared with the acted Revelation, the will of God embodied in Christ Jesus. Nothing is so unfixed as the meaning of words; nothing is so fixed as the meaning of actions. Nothing is so vague as language; nothing is so definite as character. You may fail to collect the exact ideas of a written communication; but you cannot fail to understand a living, feeling, acting, suffering, and dying man, who, on his own person, works out the will of God before your eyes; and, instead of communicating with you through writing, communicates with you through a character that can have no two meanings, and that requires no doubtful application of scientific rules of interpretation to make it plain. Place me in the presence of Christ, and the Revelation is impressing itself on my answering heart, and exhibiting itself before my living eyes. Place me before some lengthened statement in words, and I may draw from them a variety of senses, and perhaps fix upon, as their true sense, one that their Author did not intend. Who will protect me from error in all my applications of the difficult science of interpreting words? How, for instance, shall I be certain that I do not impress my own limited conceptions upon the most solemn and inspired language? How shall I rise through words, which are mere symbols, to conceptions, which, not being in my own soul, mere words do not suggest? If I saw a living being embodying these sublime conceptions before me, or read a description of him that brought him vividly before the soul, then the words would be no longer clothed with my poor meanings, but would bring before me the living forms of goodness and of greatness into which they expanded when represented by that heavenly mind. To illustrate my meaning by a single instance: Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” Now how poor would be my conception of that duty, if I had only these words, if I had not his own acted interpretations of their fulness, if I could not stand by his cross, and witness his own exhibition of this heavenly spirit. The precept would be narrowed to my own littleness if I had not the illustration of the living Christ. It is possible to put a limitation upon the revelation of mercy as it is written in the dead words: it is not possible to put any limitation on “the word made flesh,” the Revelation of Mercy breathing from the dying Jesus. Such then is the greater clearness, and freedom from uncertainty, of the meaning of God, when that meaning is revealed on the person of a living being, than when it is a statement of Doctrines expressed through a medium so indefinite, so susceptible of a variety of interpretations, as written language.

That there is a distinct branch of study called the Art of Interpretation; that its principles are derived from the profoundest acquaintance with the Mind; that it is in fact a practical Metaphysics, which even, when most fully understood, requires, for its correct application to ancient writings, the most varied and extensive knowledge, and the utmost natural acuteness, disciplined by long practice,—these things, which every one knows, scholar or no scholar, are standing and undeniable proofs of the inherent ambiguity of language, of the variety of meanings, which no skill in the use of words can possibly prevent, and out of which we have to make a selection of some one, when we apply ourselves to interpret a document. Now were I to enter into a full enumeration of the considerations that should determine an interpreter of the New Testament, and out of all the possible meanings direct his selection of that one which he adopts, I should have to present you with a disquisition on perhaps the most profound and difficult department of literary inquiry. I should have to speak of Archæology and original languages, themselves even in their most general character, the study of a life; I should have to speak of one form of those original languages, peculiar and a study in itself, the Hellenistic Greek, in which the New Testament is written, and in the interpretation of which we are left without the aid that is derived from the usages of language by other authors: I should have to speak of the particular writer whose words we were examining, of the character of his mind, of the peculiarities of his style, whether he wrote oratorically or scientifically, whether we were to tame down his metaphors, or whether we were to regard them as literally descriptive; I should have to speak of the age and country in which he lived, of the state of opinion and philosophy in his times, of the colourings which his words or thoughts were likely to adopt from the then prevailing theories, of the particular purpose for which he was writing, and of the particular minds, their circumstances and states of knowledge to which the writing was addressed; and after all this I could not allow any man, however erudite, to be a competent Interpreter who was not richly endowed with that noble but most rare Faculty which can re-create the past and place us in the heart of a by-gone world, that Historic Imagination which throws itself into the sympathies of Antiquity and re-produces the living forms of Society that kindled the very thoughts and modified the very language now submitted to our minds; and in addition to all this I should demand, also, as an essential requisite for an Interpreter, a mind emptied of all prejudice, a calm and sound judgment.

Now it is most evident that a result depending on so many qualifications will be necessarily uncertain; that in every separate man who comes to the study of the New Testament, according as these instruments of interpretation exist in different degrees of perfection will they derive various meanings from the written document; and that consequently, since nowhere do these requisites for a perfect interpretation exist in perfection, there is no one of the contested meanings that can be relied upon with an absolute confidence. It is also to be noticed, that this uncertainty attending the meaning of words does not attach to the narrative or historical portion of a document, but is very much confined to that portion of it which contains doctrinal ideas, philosophical theories, or metaphysical statements. The descriptive portion of an ancient writing (and especially when, as in the case of Christ, the description is of a moral nature, and is addressed to the affections and the soul, which are the same in all ages,) will convey a uniform and universal impression, whilst the didactic portion of the very same writing will suggest as many meanings as there are varieties of intellectual texture and complexion in the minds that read it. The character of Jesus shines out from the Gospels to be seen of all men, full of grace and truth. No one mistakes that. It does not depend upon the skilful application of the science of Interpretation. The symbols of language that reveal the living Jesus are of universal significance, and finding their way at once to every heart, stamp upon it a faithful image of the Christ. But doctrinal conceptions cannot be conveyed in this way: there is no universal and unchanging language for metaphysical ideas—and consequently it is impossible that any written communication on such subjects should be free from a variety of interpretations. And especially must this be so, when, as is the case with the Trinity, the doctrine is nowhere expressly stated in the document, but is only inferred by connecting together into a system a number of ideas which it seems to contain. Let me give you an illustration that was lately brought before me of the impossibility of a Revelation of doctrines being made to man, by means of written language, upon such subjects as the Trinity, the modes in which the essence of the Deity enables him personally to subsist. I heard it stated on a late occasion by Dr. Tattershall, that the Trinity existed as one nature in three personalities; and that to ask how three could be one and one three, was to ask an unmeaning and irrelevant question, because that the Trinity was three and one in different senses, three in Person but one in Essence. I turn now to Dr. Sherlock, and I find these words: “To say,” says Dr. William Sherlock, “that there are three divine persons, and not three distinct infinite minds, is both heresy and nonsense.” “The distinction of persons cannot be more truly and aptly represented than by the distinction between three men; for Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are as really distinct persons as Peter, James, and John.” Here then we have Dr. Tattershall charging Sherlock with polytheism; and we have Sherlock charging Dr. Tattershall with Heresy and nonsense. That is, neither of these Trinitarians regards the other as having the true faith. Is it not evident then, that the doctrine of the Trinity, seeing how Trinitarians themselves charge one another with heresy, cannot be a doctrine of Revelation, cannot be a part of that universal Gospel which was preached to the poor, and revealed unto babes?

It was stated in Christ Church, by the Rev. Mr. Byrth, that the controversy between us was solely a question of Interpretation. It is so, because in the case cited, our dispute is about doctrines. The question of Unitarianism or Trinitarianism must be decided by Interpretation after Criticism has fixed the Text to be interpreted; but I deny, altogether, that the question of Christianity or No-Christianity is to be decided by any such imperfect and doubtful instrument. Though no one honours Scholarship more, or has a profounder veneration for its noble functions, and altogether renouncing the vulgarity of depreciating its high offices, and maintaining, wherever I have influence, especially for our own Church and in our own day, the necessity for a learned Ministry, able to refresh their souls at the original wells and unfrighted by confident dogmatism to give a reason for the faith that is in them, I yet declare, that Christianity is a religion for the people; that the Gospel was originally preached to the poor; that Christ is manifested to the heart and soul of every man whom he attracts by heavenly sympathy; that when not many wise, not many learned were called, the lowly but honest in heart, recognized the divine brightness, and sat at the feet of Jesus docile and rejoicing; and I protest altogether against any learned Aristocracy, any literary Hierarchy, any priestly Mediators, having more of the true light that lighteth every man than the humblest of their brethren, who has taken to his heart the free gift of God, and loves the Lord Jesus with sincerity.

Now, strange to say this principle was broadly admitted. It was broadly admitted that Christianity is not the property of scholars or critics, but the gift of God to all men; and yet, with a remarkable inconsistency, it was added, that “the all men” to whom Christianity is the gift of God, must find in it the doctrine of the Trinity, else they are no Christians at all. That is, Christianity is the gift of God to those who, by the aids of interpretation and criticism, become Trinitarians, and to all those who, following their leaders, accept this doctrine; but is not the gift of God to Unitarians, who, though loving Jesus as their Light on Earth and their Forerunner amid the skies, cannot so read either the written Gospel or the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, as to collect from them the doctrine of a Trinity. If Trinitarianism is Christianity exclusively, then Christianity is not the gift of God to all men; for many, in all ages of the Church and in the first century, perhaps, without exception, have accepted Christ, but knew no Trinity. If Trinitarianism is Christianity exclusively, then Christianity is the property of critics and scholars, for that doctrine is not a self-evidencing Truth, it does not shine out from the Gospels so that no honest mind and pure heart can fail to receive it, and, if capable of being proved at all, it can only be proved by a most technical and subtle logic, by far-fetched inferences from disconnected texts, every one of which is open to a hostile criticism, and by a most scholastic and indirect system of interpretation, which is a task, and that a most painful one, for plain men to comprehend. My audience will be enabled to judge of this matter for themselves when I tell them that one of the strongest reliances of modern Trinitarians, until proved to be completely fallacious, was the power of the Greek article; and that one of the texts long used in this controversy, and still used,[134] owes its whole importance to an accident so minute as this, whether the letter O was written with a central dot, or without the dot; so that the chance touch of a transcriber might put in or put out one of the principal proofs of the doctrine of the Trinity. Now I further declare, that all the strongest evidence for the doctrine of the Trinity is exactly of the same critical nature—that the only text of the slightest difficulty, cited in Christ Church on Wednesday evening, owes its whole force to a question of punctuation; and that the best critics and scholars, and they Trinitarians, for true scholars never degrade their high calling, nor enter the solemn sanctuary open to them alone, to falsify the oracle, give many authorities against the Trinitarian, and in favour of the Unitarian, Interpretation.[135] Now will any man tell me that the doctrine of the Trinity, which, if true, is the most awful Truth that ever bowed down the heart, that the God of Heaven walked this earth, a partaker of our sufferings and our sorrows, and lived our life, and died our death, would be left to be proved by evidence of this nature, by a controversy nearly two thousand years after the Revelation, about the force of the Greek article and the punctuation of a Greek manuscript? Is this the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world? There could have been no difficulty in revealing this doctrine, in words at least, if it was intended to be revealed. The Athanasian Creed is at least explicit enough, and leaves us in no doubt of the purpose of its Author. Now I conclude that if Trinitarianism alone is Christianity, and if such are the processes of criticism and interpretation by which alone that doctrine can be proved, then Trinitarianism is the property of Critics and Scholars, and those who implicitly trust them; and Christianity requiring us either to be Critics or to prostrate ourselves before Critics, not agreed among themselves, is not the free “gift of God to all men.” The rightful privileges of critics and scholars are large enough, and let no man disown them; but I do disown this literary Hierarchy arrogating to themselves sole access to the oracles of God, and limiting Christ’s free approach to the souls of the people to long processes of inferential reasoning and the winding ways of a syllogism. I entreat them to stand aside, and let the living Jesus come into communication with the living heart, and not place themselves, like the multitude who threatened the blind beside the way, between the ready mercy of the Heavenly Teacher and the humblest follower who seeks his face, that a ray of the light that shineth there may fall upon eager and wistful, though dimmed and earth-stained, eyes. “And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way-side begging. And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. And he cried, saying, Jesus thou son of David, have mercy on me. And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near he asked him, saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.”

I trust that you will perceive now the essential distinction between a Revelation by words, of doctrines, and a Revelation by a living being; between the uncertain meaning that is arrived at by the interpretation of language, and the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shining on the face of Jesus Christ. In the one case we have a statement of doubtful doctrines in written words; in the other we have a living Character. In the one case we have the dead letter; in the other we have the “word made flesh.” In the one case we have the Mind of God stated in propositions; in the other we have the Image of God set up in our hearts, and the purposes of God for man, both while on earth and beyond the grave, realized before us, to be seen of all men. If Christianity is a scheme of doctrines in a written communication from God, then of course it is subject to all the necessary ambiguities of language; and expositors will be busy upon it, to draw out of it all the meanings it can possibly contain; and every fresh interpretation will be regarded by some as part of the Revelation from Heaven, and never will men rest lest there should be some lurking sense in it that they have not reached, and every interpreter will thrust in the face of the world, as the essential and saving meaning, his own reading of the document. And as language is a thing that is never fixed, but is always gathering fresh imports from the developments of Time, this is a process that must go on for ever, and the document will speak a new Message to the men of every age, and the Doctrines that constitute Salvation will be always the subject matter of a controversy. But if Christianity, instead of a form of written words, is a character sent to us by God, to manifest his will in the flesh, and to reveal living Truth in a living being; if Jesus himself is the record we are to study; if it is not an inspired Book but an inspired Life that is the gift of God; if his works of Power and Love, his actions and his sufferings, his holy living and dying, are the full and spiritual Scriptures imprinted on humanity by God’s own hand, then the whole work of a Christian is to understand and love that Character,—then is the Revelation like a light shining in a dark place, “a salvation prepared before the face of all people,” “a light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of his people Israel,” a ray of God’s light shining into the heart of man, touching the mountain tops of humanity and piercing the deep valleys, that all flesh may see it together.

It is in remarkable consistency with these views that very little is said in the popular systems of Christ’s character. The doctrinal ideas respecting Jesus are all in all: the moral and spiritual ideas are looked upon as not peculiarly Christian. A vast deal is said about his Rank, his Merits, his Mediatorial Distinction: very little is said about his Life, his Example, his Revelations of Duty and of Destiny. The Trinitarians taunt us with having no use for Christ in our system. Certainly we believe in a God who does not require their Christ. We do not speak of Atonement therefore. But we might retort, that if we neglect their metaphysical Christ, they neglect our moral and spiritual Christ. They speak little of his character, his life, his example, as a model for humanity: nor could they in consistency with their system. Jesus, as God and man, is powerless as an exhibition of what man may be. He is no revelation of Humanity to Humanity. Humanity with Deity attached to it, or indwelling, is Humanity no more.

If Christianity is a system of doctrines to be deduced from words, and if our salvation depends upon the certainty of our deductions, then is it not clear that God would be requiring an absolute Truth of Interpretation which he has not given us the means of attaining, and that the Revelation, even to “Critics and Scholars,” would be an uncertain property? But if Christianity is an inspired Life, the Duties and the Destinies of Man shown forth on the Son of God, the word made flesh, the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ, a character perfectly reflecting the purposes of Providence, and preserved for us, in faithful narratives that still enable us to have the image of Jesus formed within us, then is it not clear that the Revelation is perpetuated in our hearts, and that the Christ with us still, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever, is the gift of God to all men? “Lo, I am with you always, to the end of the world.” Now this is Christ’s own account of himself as a Revelation. “I am the Light of the world.” “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” “I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him and have seen him.”[136] “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.”[137] “Whoso hath seen me hath seen the Father also.” And to crown all this scriptural evidence, this is God’s own account of his Christ as a Revelation, authenticating him at the opening of his Mission, and repeated again as His seal upon its close, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

I have shown that there is no doctrinal certainty in Christianity considered as a written Revelation: but neither is there any moral certainty as to the Will of God and his practical requirements conveyed by mere words. When God tells me in words to love Him and to love my neighbour, I do not know what practical forms these feelings are to assume, neither do I know how all the influences of my present life are to control me in the exercise of these affections. But I understand what God means when I see Jesus interpreting for me this will of God by his own character, and combining in his own life, through all circumstances, the perfect love of God and Man. Now I maintain, that no system of Doctrine could be a Revelation to me of the purposes and ends of life. It is a practical question, and practically must it be solved. He who will work out for me on this scene of things the great designs of my being, and show to me, in action and in suffering, in sympathy and in struggle, in the throbbings of life and in the hushed sublimities of death, the right attitudes of my nature, the fitting dignities of enlightened and heaven-bound man,—he who is not the Prophet merely of divine Truth but the Impersonator of his own views, who stands successively in each practical position and robes himself in the living glories of duty,—he alone can pretend to be a Revelation of character, as God wills it, having stamped upon his views illustrations of Reality. And he alone can pretend to have unravelled the mystery of our Discipline, who himself passes through our trials, and transmutes them into the nurseries of Power, the pregnant schools of Character—who shows us the outward circumstance, as a torch to the Spirit, lighting up the energies of Duty’s inviolable will,—who moves amid the evil that is in the world, and is not overcome by it, but overcomes it with good,—who encounters sin and sinners, and treats them with the pity of a brother, yet with the holiness of one whose Father is the spiritual God,—who stands amid baffled purposes of good, the broken projects of benevolence in the unquelled trusts of Faith, seeing, though afar off, the Harvest of this unpromising Spring,—in whom the worst aspects of Humanity only draw out the unselfishness of Charity; and the clouded countenance of God, veiled to sight though not to Faith, the perfect peace of a filial Spirit. He who passes for us through all this variety of mortal circumstance, and exhibits each, even the most dark and unpromising, as full of the materials of our Education, contributing to the formation of that perfect mind which is the end and heaven of our being, is indeed a perfect Revelation, “unimproved and unimprovable,” though improving us to the end of Time, an embodied Scripture, the word made flesh and dwelling amongst us.

Christianity will be a matter of controversy so long as men look to it for what they are to think, and not for what they are to trust in and be. Creeds will divide the world, so long as Christianity is regarded as a Revelation of Doctrines, and not as a Revelation of Character, of Practical Interests, of Destinies and of Duties. In the one case it will be the “property of Critics and Scholars,” held by an uncertain tenure; in the other case, it will be “the gift of God to all men.” Strange that all Protestants do not feel the force of this argument! And as for Roman Catholics, if we had any controversy with them, the argument has only to take another step to hold them too in its grasp.

And now I shall be obliged to speak of Critics and Scholars in a way that Critics and Scholars should never expose themselves to be spoken of. I have a most painful duty before me, very different from the one I had been led to expect,—which I had hoped would have been to answer calm, learned, judicious reasonings, instead of simply to resist pretension, a task, which if much easier, is yet one that neither elevates nor instructs. Nothing could justify me in using in this place the language of grave remonstrance, but the consciousness that thereby instead of indulging I am wounding my own feelings, and the conviction that, in this case, Duty to Truth and to the Public requires it from me. Every one must have felt that the declaration before the world, of “the Unitarian Interpretation of the New Testament, based upon defective Scholarship, or on dishonest or uncandid criticism,” ought to have been amply supported, or never made. To fail in the proof was to pass not only intellectual but the severest moral condemnation on such a statement. I know of no abuse of Power and Place more immoral, than when a Scholar uses his Scholarship to libel others before the unlearned, than when a Preacher uses his sacred and elevated standing to make assertions that are taken upon his word, but which are not correct, and of which nothing but the certainty that they were correct could justify the utterance. If I cannot take example from what I witnessed in Christ Church on Wednesday evening, let me at least take warning. I will not pray to be preserved meek and truthful, and then regard my prayer as an indemnity for unlicensed speech. I will not commit here the disrespectful impropriety of quoting Greek. Neither will I pay this audience the false compliment of pretending to make such subjects intelligible and interesting to them, but I will make some statements that shall go forth to the world, and there find fitting judgment. There are some points, however, to which I shall have to advert, of which every one may judge.

1. It was stated by the Preacher that he could not himself believe the mysterious statements of the New Testament unless he first believed in their inspiration, and that this alone could command his faith. Now there was great candour in this, but no Scholarship. You cannot prove the Inspiration of the Bible except by first proving the truth of the Bible, for there are no proofs of Inspiration except what the Bible itself contains. To believe in the truth of the Bible, because it is inspired, and then to prove it inspired because it is true, is an error in reasoning inexcusable in the divines of the Church of England, for an eminent Bishop of their own Church, Bishop Marsh, has abundantly exposed it.

2. It was stated that every Unitarian Minister in England was as much bound by the Improved Version, as every Clergyman of the Establishment was by the Articles of the Church. The Preacher has written his name beneath those Articles; as long as he remains in the Church he has, to use Milton’s expression, to those Articles subscribed “Slave;” he has entered into a vow to preach nothing contrary to them; he belongs to a body of men organized to prevent all dissent from those Articles, and pledged to oppose and avenge every attempt to break up the dogmatical principle of their Church Union, and yet he stated solemnly before an assembled multitude that no Clergyman of the Church was more bound by the Articles of the Church than was every Unitarian Minister by a Book which one man edited on his sole literary responsibility, and which other men contributed to publish, simply because they expected from it some valuable scriptural aid. Now when a man is capable of making such a statement, when his judgment will allow him to do so, his credibility as a witness to facts I do not dispute, but his opinion on any question, merely as coming from him, I cannot feel deserving of my confidence. I might quote passages of contemporary Unitarian criticism reflecting on the Improved Version; I might quote Dr. Carpenter in his answer to Archbishop Magee, ascribing the whole responsibility to Mr. Belsham; I might quote Mr. Yates in his able answer to Mr. Wardlaw, exposing the false impression made by Dr. Magee, that the Improved Version was the Unitarian Version: but I cannot so misuse your time. The Unitarians, most of whom never saw the work, and whose pride it is that their Ministers study the Scriptures freely, and lay before them the results, will smile at the idea of these Ministers being as much bound by the Improved Version as the Clergy by the Articles of the Church, though in a graver spirit they must morally condemn an assertion so recklessly made. It was stated that all Protestant Christians were satisfied with the received Version up to the time of the Improved Version, and, to advance no other proof of the ignorance displayed by such a statement, in the next breath it was declared that the Improved Version was on the basis of Archbishop Newcome’s Translation, the title of which is this, “An Attempt towards revising our English Translation of the Greek Scriptures.” But what means this attempt to fasten us down to the Improved Version? Is it not clear that these clergymen wish us to fight the battle upon a disadvantageous ground? Is it not clear that they wish us to take up some weak position, and defend that, rather than meet us in the strongest positions that criticism and scholarship enable us to assume and to maintain? Is not our controversy between Unitarianism and Trinitarianism, and what can be more unworthy of critics and scholars than to conduct that controversy on any ground but that of the original Scriptures? We do not think of fixing them down to any particular critic of their own church, many of whom we could advance who abandon almost every position they maintain; we freely give them advantage of the best criticism and the best scholarship they can anywhere obtain; and we do confess that we hold it very uncandid towards us, and very unconfiding in their own strength, and very disloyal towards Truth, to tell opponents, I wish I could say fellow inquirers, that they are not to defend their cause by the best arguments known to them, but by a certain set of arguments published in a certain book more than thirty years ago, and before some of us now engaged in this controversy were born. Our controversy is not about the Improved Version, but about the Greek Testament; and I must certainly regard any attempt to intercept us in our appeal to the original Scripture, by thrusting any other Version in our faces, as a sign either of great weakness or of great unfairness. Where would the Lecturers at Christ Church have got matter of indictment against us, if it had not been for this Improved Version?

3. It was stated that minute examination of the Scripture Evidence for Trinitarianism hardly influenced the result, for so thoroughly were the Scriptures imbued with its doctrines, that if but a fragment of them remained, the mysterious truths that pervade the whole would be found in that fragment. Now I doubt not that men can say these things sincerely, and yet methinks they ought to ask themselves before they mislead a multitude, is there Reality in these statements? Now I can not only mention fragments, but whole books, in which Trinitarians themselves will confess that there is not a trace of these doctrines; the whole Gospel of St. Mark; the whole Gospel of St. Luke, for the portions respecting the miraculous generation cannot be proof of the Deity of the person so generated; the whole of the book of Acts; and very many of the Epistles. We have the Gospel which the Apostle Peter delivered to the Gentiles, when he gave them his exposition of Christianity, and we find from it that Cornelius and the Gentiles might have believed all that the Apostle taught them, and yet, according to the Trinitarians, be lost everlastingly from the scantiness of their faith. Here then is the Gospel which Peter delivered to the Gentiles, containing the whole account he gave them of the doctrine of Christ: “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judæa, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed by the devil; for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem: whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly: not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”[138] Now you will know what weight, what measure of calm and considerate truth attach to the assertions made at Christ Church, when you compare this account of Christianity by the Apostle Peter, with the bold statement that if only a fragment of the New Testament remained, it would contain and show forth the mysterious doctrines of Trinitarianism.

4. It was stated that a slight degree of evidence might affect the introductory chapters of Matthew and Luke, if the statements they contain were not supported by the rest of the Gospels, but that so full were the Gospels of the peculiarities of these chapters, to remove them would be like removing the Portico from a Temple. The only evidence brought to support this large declaration was the last verse of the Gospel of St. Matthew, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Now I am not concerned in the correctness or the incorrectness of the Improved Version’s translation of this passage, Lo, I am with you alway, to the end of the age, or dispensation, that is, till the new dispensation was fully established: for in the first place I have no difficulty in believing that the spirit and power of Jesus was with his followers when in the strength of love and trust they lived and died for him and for his truth, and that thus spiritually he still is with all who give him a place in their hearts, even unto the end of the world; and, in the second place, translate this passage in any way you will, and it contains no assertion of the Deity of Jesus, and no confirmation of the miraculous conception. But when I hear it confidently asserted in the presence of a crowd ready to take the Preacher’s word for anything he chooses to assert about Greek, that any scholarship is utterly contemptible that interprets the “end of the world” to mean “the end of the era or age,” or that puts any other interpretation on these words than that of the received version, I confess I am amazed at the boldness with which men not habitually under correction will make rash statements, even at times when they must know that watchful eyes are upon them. I turn to Schleusner’s Lexicon of the New Testament, I look for the word in question, and I find from that authority that the word signifies primarily, an undefined period of considerable extent, and, secondarily, the state of things existing within that period; I find him quoting the very passage in question which we are told every scholar would translate “to the end of the world,” and explaining it to mean “to the end of the lives” of the Apostles; I find that in other cases where this word is used, a limit is put upon its meaning, restricting it to the signification of “age or dispensation,” and rendering it impossible it should mean the “end of the world,” in our sense, by such a clause as this, “Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass until all these things be fulfilled;”[139] I find in our common version the plural[140] of this word translated exactly as the singular, where if “dispensations” was substituted for “world,”[141] all difficulty would disappear; I find the interpretation of the Improved Version given by such scholars as Hammond and Le Clerc, and adopted consistently and throughout by Bishop Pearce, who argues for it against the common rendering, and whether it is true or not, which is really a matter of no importance, I do calmly but solemnly protest against any man so abusing his actual place and his reputation for learning, as to proclaim to a multitude that no scholar would countenance such a translation, and that no interpreter would adopt it, except for the sake of an à priori meaning. No man who understood the dignity and the privileges of scholars would in this way forfeit them.[142]

5. It was stated that no scholar would translate the first verse of the Gospel of St. John thus: “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was a God.”[143] Now for myself I do not agree with this translation. I think that the Logos, or Word, is a very usual personification of the Power and Wisdom of God. (See Prov. viii.) I think that this verse has no reference to Jesus whatsoever; that in the first place God alone is spoken of; his Power and Wisdom are described as belonging to and dwelling with him; that He is described as purposing to communicate or reveal these to men, for of course it is not God himself, but only a portion of his Knowledge and Will that can be revealed to us; and then for the first time in the fourteenth verse is Jesus introduced, as the person through whose character these attributes are to be communicated, “the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us.” I dissent therefore from the translation which Mr. Byrth condemned; but when I am told that NO SCHOLAR would tolerate such a translation, I turn to my books, and I find Origen and Eusebius not only tolerating but actually adopting and insisting upon this very translation. I recollect that Greek was the vernacular tongue of these eminent men; and when I am told by an Englishman, in this nineteenth century, that no Greek Scholar would do what Origen and Eusebius have done, I think it is not disrespectful to decline his authority in all matters that require calmness and accuracy.

6. It was stated that no scholar could translate the fifth verse of the ninth chapter of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans thus: “Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came: God who is over all be blessed for ever.” Perhaps the more correct rendering would be, “whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came (i.e. from among whom the Messiah was to be born); he who was over all, was God blessed for ever:” or with more fidelity, because with more rapidity, our language not admitting, like the Greek, the ellipsis of the substantive verb—“He who was over all, being God blessed for ever.” With regard to the ellipsis of the substantive verb, nothing can be more common. It occurs again and again in the verses that lie on each side of the text in question. And in ascriptions of praise it is almost uniform. And nothing can be more natural than that the Apostle should state as the closing distinction of the Jews, that over all their dispensations it was God who presided, the God of their signal Theocracy. Now when I am told that no scholar would so translate, let me simply name to you some of the Scholars who do adopt this translation: Erasmus, Bucer, Le Clerc, Grotius, and Wetstein; the first three most learned Trinitarians, and the last two, if not of unquestioned orthodoxy, only of suspected Heresy. Let me now give you some quotations from other Scholars of an earlier date, from the Christian Fathers, even when adopting the received translation of this passage. Tertullian, whose temper rather than his learning has been preserved in controversy, says, “We never speak of two Gods or two Lords; but following the Apostle, if the Father and the Son are to be named together, we call the Father, God, and Jesus Christ, Lord.” “But when speaking of Christ alone, I may call him God, as does the same Apostle; of whom is Christ, who is God over all blessed for ever. For speaking of a ray of the sun by itself,” continues Tertullian, “I may call it the sun; but when I mention at the same time the sun, from which this ray proceeds, I do not then give that name to the latter.” “Some of the earlier Greek Fathers,” who I suppose it will be admitted knew Greek, “expressly denied that Christ is ‘the God over all.’” “Supposing,” says Origen, “that some among the multitude of believers, likely as they are to have differences of opinion, rashly suppose that the Saviour is God over all; yet we do not, for we believe him when he said, ‘The Father who sent me is greater than I.’” Even after the Nicene Council, Eusebius, in writing against Marcellus, says: “As Marcellus thinks, He who was born of the holy virgin, and clothed in flesh, who dwelt among men, and suffered what had been foretold, and died for our sins, was the very God over all; for daring to say which, the Church of God numbered Sabellius among Atheists and Blasphemers.”[144]

I have one other observation to make upon this verse. The translation of the passage depends very much on a question of punctuation, and, so far, is a question for Critics and Scholars. Now we have seen already the high authorities that give the punctuation in favour of the Unitarian rendering.[145] I say nothing of the conjectural readings of these two passages, because, though brought by the Preacher as instances of unlicensed Conjecture, he treated them chiefly as mistranslations, with the view, I suppose, of introducing the same passages over and over again, to multiply the instances of Unitarian alterations. The conjecture is not adopted by the improved version; and yet, for allowing some little weight to the authority of Dr. Whitby in the latter case, for it allows none whatever to the conjecture of Crellius in the former, it is charged with two sins: first, the sin of adopting the conjecture; and secondly, the sin of mistranslation after rejecting the conjecture. This is a method of multiplying sins, or rather charges. Indeed, if I understood the Preacher, he admitted that Crellius and Slichtingius, in the then state of Biblical knowledge, might very justifiably have made the conjectures, for they were Scholars: but that now, with all our new lights, such a conjecture is inadmissible; that is to say, Biblical Literature was not far enough advanced in their day to enable them to discover in these texts, what yet if they did not discover there, or somewhere else, they must perish everlastingly. And yet we were told that Christianity was not the property of critics and scholars, but the gift of God to all men.[146]

Now when I examine into these things, my duty to scholarship, my reverence for its high functions, my duty to Truth, my duty to the public, who ought not, in matters not of opinion but of knowledge, to be misled by their Teachers, and my duty to the Pulpit, which suffers in power and credit by every unwarrantable statement that proceeds from it, all oblige me to declare that the impression which I carried away from Christ Church, that the supposed ignorance of a vast assembly was sported with, and their confidence abused, has been more than confirmed.

So much for scholarship and candour together. I have now to speak of “candour” alone.

1. A sentiment was quoted from Coleridge, expressing his belief, that if Jesus was not God, he was a deceiver: and then the Preacher asked his audience, “Can the advocates of a system that makes Jesus a deceiver be Christians?” thus identifying Unitarians with the sentiment of Coleridge. How long will controversalists condescend to such practices? From any controversy so conducted no good can come: but great scandal to Religionists, and deep pain to all who love Religion and Truth better than their own party.

2. Advantage was taken of some words of my Colleague, the Minister of this Chapel, to produce the impression that Unitarianism, as a religious faith, was merely negative. Now the words themselves not only bear no such meaning, but guard against it; and the whole speech from which they were extracted is rich in the overflowings of the true, working, onward spirit of our faith, as you who have the privilege of worshipping here, well know everything from the same mind must necessarily be. The words quoted were these: “I conceive that, controversially, our system is correctly described as purely negative;” and the whole object of the speech was to enforce the peaceful and fruitful view that the power of our religion proceeds not from what we disbelieve, but from what we believe. No man who read the speech could be ignorant of this; and it is remarkable, that the very next words, containing a passage quoted by Mr. Byrth, are these: “Let us place the utmost reliance upon positive religious principles; and especially let us act on our own internal convictions.” My valued friend is abundantly equal to the task of defending himself, and not often should I do him the disservice of appearing for him, but as this statement was made in a lecture which it was my duty to answer, and as I am always confirmed in any view of my own that I can identify with him, I shall, to show that the present is no forced advocacy,[147] extract a few sentences from an Article, which nearly at the time he was speaking, it happened to be my duty to be writing. “We are not devotional, we are not practical, in our combative aspects. We are on preliminary, not on Christian ground. We are not improving, we have not a Religion, until we have ceased contending and commenced cultivating. Moral progress proceeds from cultivation of the faith we rest in, producing its fruits in the warmth of love. We must pursue what is our own, and forget our controversial attitudes. They never will nourish the inner life of a Congregation, nor keep its interest alive. They give us no character of our own. They feed no intense yearnings. They make no devoted disciples. We must proceed upon our own views, not defending them, but loving them and studying them. We must pursue a more independent course of Developement. We must understand our own mission, which is not to battle but to advance; not to be dogmatists of any kind, but cherishers of Spirit and of Truth. Our Union must be a moral one, a sympathy of Spirit. We can have no intellectual or doctrinal union. We must give up therefore the idea of aggregate life, as a Body devoted to a uniform Belief, and held together by the forms of an uniform Ecclesiastical Government. The whole body can flourish only by the members having each life in himself. Our union must be one of sentiment and first principles; our life one of individualities.” And again, speaking of Unitarian Ministers: “They should present a Christianity qualified by its energy to meet both the strength and the weakness of the spiritual being, to inspire a devoted love, and to lead souls captive. They should take their stand upon no combative ground. They should eschew a religion of negations. Faith should be their great power; a faith that appeals to the faith of their hearers, nourishing it where it is, creating it where it is not. With no other bond of union than this power to satisfy the deep spiritual wants of those to whom they minister, they above all others should cultivate a Christianity that has positive attractions for the spirit of man, a Christianity that is fitted to draw upon itself the warmest and purest affections; a Christianity that engages to do for us what it did for Christ, to elevate the diviner tendencies, whilst it supports the weakness of our frail yet noble nature. From the absence of creeds, and its want of a mystical or fanatical interest, no sect, so much as Unitarianism, requires a sympathetic, generous, deep-hearted faith, an affirmative and nutritive Christianity, to lay hold upon the religious affections, and feed the religious life of its Churches. There is no other sect to which coldness in Religion could be so fatal.”[148]

I have now gone through all the evidence adduced on Wednesday evening, in support of the allegation, “The Unitarian interpretation of the New Testament based upon defective Scholarship, or on dishonest or uncandid Criticism.” Such a declaration, again I say, should never have been made, or should have been adequately sustained. To fail in the proof is to pass upon the statement not intellectual only, but moral condemnation. We were told by the preacher that when the time came to support the allegation, he would not use irritating language, but sound argument. I grieve to say that pledge was not redeemed. And the moral condemnation of advancing such a charge, and leaving it unproved, falls upon him. I understand that the lecture was continued yesterday evening; when the press puts it into my hands I shall have an opportunity of seeing what additional comments it may require. But when I was told by the preacher himself, on Wednesday evening, that on the evidence then adduced, and which I have now presented to you, he regarded his charge made out not only in one but in both its clauses, that in short he had been too forbearing, for that instead of the disjunctive he might have used the copulative conjunction, and made his accusation to be this, “The Unitarian Interpretation of the New Testament based upon defective scholarship, and on dishonest and uncandid Criticism,”—I held myself discharged from all further duty of attention.

And now, after the “expostulations” to which you have been subjected elsewhere, your convictions treated as sins, and the exercise of your conscientious judgment represented as exposing you to the wrath of a holy God, (strange combination of ideas, wrath and holiness!) I may, perhaps, not unbecomingly address a few words to you my fellow-believers. Trinitarians have the power to deny you the name of Christians; but they have not the power to deny you the Reality. They cannot prevent you being Christians; and it is a light thing for you to be judged by man’s judgment, provided only you can disprove the judgment by preserving your Christianity unprovoked, by retaining your Christian love towards those who deny you the Christian name. The worst operation of persecution and fanaticism is its tendency to produce a reaction. The worst working of an Evil Spirit is that it calls up other evil spirits to oppose it. The temper we complain of has a tendency to provoke the same temper in ourselves. And yet an evil spirit cannot be conquered by an evil spirit. This is one of the divine prerogatives of the spirit of goodness. You must overcome evil with good. You must be prepared to expect that men who deem themselves your religious superiors, will comport themselves accordingly. You must regard it as only natural that men who hold themselves to be the favourites of God, and never expect to meet you in heaven, should treat you with little respect on earth. Nay, you must even have some tenderness for the feelings of irritation which this very faith cannot fail to generate in the kindlier nature of those who hold it. Holding you to be lost, and having human hearts, how can they avoid assailing you with eager, anxious, and even persecuting aggression? I blame them not for this: I only wonder there is so little of it: that they leave us to our fate, with so little effort, to use their own favourite figure, to pluck the brands from the burning. Nay, my friends, more than this, their confidence in their own salvation depending on the dogmatical assurance with which they hold certain doctrinal ideas, they are naturally alarmed lest this essential faith should in any way be disturbed in their bosoms, and they come to look upon every freer mind as a tempter and an enemy. And as their Faith is by their own boast not a rational Faith, as it has no roots in their intellectual nature, they feel that their danger is all the greater, and that their caution must be all the more. They are not happy in their exclusive faith. How can they if they have Christian hearts? It rests upon an evidence out of themselves, so that they cannot, at all times, be confident in it. It presents to them many unhappy images, a vindictive God,[149] an exclusive Heaven, a condemned world, fellow-beings against whom their religious feelings are embittered, but towards whom their hearts still yearn. All these are reasons why you should exercise forbearance. You have an easier part. You have a faith that supports you in meek Hope and Trust for all. Your hearts are at peace both with Man and God. You can wait in patience until Heaven does justice unto all. Having this more blessed and peaceful faith, you must also make it more fruitful, and thus be enabled to meet the question, “What do ye more than others?”

For ourselves, let us pursue our own way, and love our own Christ in meek faith and trust. Doctrines are uncertain: but the spirit of Jesus is not uncertain. You know what that is; and that its fruits are, “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” Love, venerate, obey in all things, the Heaven-sent and Heaven-marked Christ; cherish the growth of his spirit in your souls; place him before you in moments of trying duty; and in all times of nature’s languishing see him at the open gate of Heaven, inviting you to be faithful to the end, that you may join him at the resurrection of the just. Do this and your souls shall live. To be this is to be Christians. Others may hold a different language; but you owe no allegiance save to God in Christ. One is your master, and all ye are brethren.


APPENDIX.


See pp. 30, 31.

συντελειαν του αιωνος—the end of the age.

“Hanc ob causam Judæi universum tempus in duas magnas periodos dispescere consueverunt, alteram Messiæ adventum antecedentem (αιων οὑτος vel ὁ νυν αιων), alteram consequentem (αιων μελλων vel ερχομενος vel εκεινος). Postremam illius (αιωνος τουτου) partem, ævo Messiano annexam, nominarunt ὑστερους καιρους, καιρον εσχατον, εσχατα των χρονων, εσχατας ἡμερας, exitumque ejus τα τελη των αιωνων vel συντελειαν του αιωνος.”—Bertholdt. Christologia Judæorum Jesu Apostolorumque ætate. pp. 38, 39.


“On this account the Jews were accustomed to divide Time into two great Periods, one preceding the advent of the Messiah, and called ‘this world,’ ‘this age,’ or, ‘the world that now is,’ ‘the age that now is;’ the other subsequent to the advent, and called ‘the world to come,’ ‘the age to come,’ ‘that world,’ ‘that age.’ The latter portion of the former Period, that immediately adjoining the Messianic Age, they called ‘the latter times,’ ‘the last time,’ ‘these last days,’—and its close (that is, the close of the Ante-Messianic Period), ‘the ends of the world,’ or, ‘the end of the world,’ ‘the end of the age.’”


The Introduction of St. John’s Gospel.

See pp. 31, 32.

“In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.”

“There is no word in English answering to the Greek word Logos, as here used. It was employed to denote a mode of conception concerning the Deity, familiar at the time when St. John wrote, and intimately blended with the philosophy of his age, but long since obsolete, and so foreign from our habits of thinking, that it is not easy for us to conform our minds to its apprehension. The Greek word Logos, in one of its primary senses, answered nearly to our word Reason. It denoted that faculty by which the mind disposes its ideas in their proper relations to each other: the Disposing Power, if I may so speak, of the mind. In reference to this primary sense, it was applied to the Deity, but in a wider significance. The Logos of God was regarded, not in its strictest sense, as merely the Reason of God, but under certain aspects, as the Wisdom, the Mind, the Intellect of God. To this the Creation of all things was especially ascribed. The conception may seem obvious in itself; but the Cause why the creation was primarily referred to the Logos, or Intellect of God, rather than to his goodness or omnipotence, is to be found in the Platonic Philosophy, as it existed about the time of Christ, and particularly as taught by the eminent Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria.

“According to this philosophy, there existed an archetypal world of Ideas, formed by God, the perfect model of the Sensible Universe; corresponding, so far as what is divine may be compared with what is human, to the plan of a building or city, which an architect forms in his own mind before commencing its erection. The faculty by which God disposed and arranged the world of Ideas was his Logos, Reason, or Intellect. This world, according to one representation, was supposed to have its seat in the Logos or Mind of God; according to another, it was identified with the Logos. The Platonic philosophy further taught, that the Ideas of God were not merely the archetypes, but, in scholastic language, the essential forms of all created things. In this philosophy, matter in its primary state, primitive matter, if I may so speak, was regarded merely as the substratum of attributes, being in itself devoid of all. Attributes, it is conceived, were impressed upon it by the Ideas of God, which Philo often speaks of under the figure of seals. These Ideas, indeed, constituted those attributes, becoming connected with primitive matter in an incomprehensible manner, and thus giving form and being to all things sensible. But the seat of these ideas, these formative principles, being the Logos, or intellect of God; or, according to the other representations mentioned, these Ideas constituting the Logos, the Logos was, in consequence, represented as the great agent in creation. This doctrine being settled, the meaning of the Term gradually extended itself by a natural process, and came at last to comprehend all the attributes of God manifested in the creation and government of the Universe. These attributes, abstractly from God himself, were made an object of thought under the name of the Logos. The Logos thus conceived, was necessarily personified or spoken of figuratively as a person. In our own language, in describing its agency,—agency, in its nature personal, and to be ultimately referred to God,—we might indeed avoid attaching a personal character to the Logos considered abstractly from God, by the use of the neuter pronoun it. Thus we might say, All things were made by it. But the Greek language afforded no such resource, the relative pronoun, in concord with Logos, being necessarily masculine. Thus the Logos or Intellect of God came to be, figuratively or literally, conceived of as an intermediate being between God and his creatures, the great agent in the creation and government of the universe.” * * *

“The conception and the name of the Logos were familiar at the time when St. John wrote. They occur in the Apocryphal book of the Wisdom of Solomon. The writer, speaking of the destruction of the first-born of the Egyptians, says (xviii. 15):

“‘Thine almighty Logos leapt down from heaven, from his royal throne, a fierce warrior, into the midst of a land of destruction.’”

In another passage, likewise, in the prayer ascribed to Solomon, he is represented as thus addressing God (ix. 1, 2):

“God of our fathers, and Lord of mercy,
Who hast made all things by thy Logos,
And fashioned man by thy Wisdom. * * *

“St. John, writing in Asia Minor, where many, for whom he intended his Gospel, were familiar with the conception of the Logos, has probably, for this reason, adopted the term Logos, in the proem of his Gospel, to express that manifestation of God by Christ, which is elsewhere referred to the spirit of God.”

“But to return: the conception that has been described having been formed of the Logos, and the Logos being, as I have said, necessarily personified, or spoken of figuratively as a person, it soon followed, as a natural consequence, that the Logos was by many hypostatized, or conceived of as a proper person. When the corrective of experience and actual knowledge cannot be applied, what is strongly imagined is very likely to be regarded as having a real existence; and the philosophy of the ancients was composed in great part of such imaginations. The Logos, it is to be recollected, was that power by which God disposed in order the Ideas of the archetypal world. But in particular reference to the creation of the material universe, the Logos came in time to be conceived of by many as hypostatized, as a proper person going forth, as it were, from God in order to execute the plan prepared, to dispose and arrange all things conformably to it, and to give sensible forms to primitive matter, by impressing it with the ideas of the archetypal world. In many cases in which the term ‘Logos’ occurs, if we understand by it the Disposing Power of God in a sense conformable to the notions explained, we may have a clearer idea of its meaning than if we render it by the term ‘Reason,’ or ‘Wisdom,’ or any other which our language offers.” * * *

“From the explanations which have been given of the conceptions concerning the Logos of God, it will appear that this term properly denoted an attribute or attributes of God; and that upon the notion of an attribute or attributes, the idea of personality was superinduced.” * * *

“It was his (St. John’s) purpose in the introduction of his Gospel, to declare that Christianity had the same divine origin as the Universe itself; that it was to be considered as proceeding from the same power of God. Writing in Asia Minor, for readers, by many of whom the term ‘Logos’ was more familiarly used than any other, to express the attributes of God viewed in relation to his creatures, he adopted this term to convey his meaning, because from their associations with it, it was fitted particularly to impress and affect their minds; thus connecting the great truths which he taught with their former modes of thinking and speaking. But upon the idea primarily expressed by this term, a new Conception, the Conception of the proper personality of those attributes, had been superinduced. This doctrine, then, the doctrine of an hypostatized Logos, it appears to have been his purpose to set aside. He would guard himself, I think, against being understood to countenance it. The Logos, he teaches, was not the agent of God, but God himself. Using the term merely to denote the attributes of God as manifested in his works, he teaches that the operations of the Logos are the operations of God; that all conceived of under that name is to be referred immediately to God; that in speaking of the Logos we speak of God, ‘That the Logos is God.’

“The Platonic Conception of a personal Logos, distinct from God, was the Embryo form of the Christian Trinity. If, therefore, the view just given of the purpose of St. John be correct, it is a remarkable fact, that his language has been alleged as a main support of that very doctrine the rudiments of which it was intended to oppose.”—Norton on the Trinity.

I shall now give a paraphrase of the Introduction of St. John’s Gospel in harmony with the Conception that the Logos is described first as dwelling in God—and afterwards as manifested through Christ—the Logos made flesh—“God manifest in the flesh,” an expression which is so far from implying Trinitarianism, that it exactly expresses the Unitarian idea of Christianity as a revelation of God—of Deity imaged perfectly on the human scale—of the light of the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ.

Proem of St. John’s Gospel.

“In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God. It was in the beginning with God. By it all things were made, and without it was not any thing made, that was made. It was life (the source of life)—and the source of life or blessedness was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God. This man came as a witness to bear testimony concerning the light; that all men through him might believe. He was not the Light, but he was sent to bear testimony concerning the Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. 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 to as many as received it, it gave power to become the Sons of God (Logoi)—being born, not of favoured races, nor through the will of the flesh, nor through the will of man, but being children of God. And the Logos became flesh (was manifested through a man, the Mind or Spirit[150] of God shown on the human Image), and dwelt amongst us, and we beheld his glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”


Romans. ix. 5, page 32.

“Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came; God who is over all be blessed for ever.” Amen.

Ὧν οἱ πατέρες, καὶ ἐξ ὧν ὁ Χριστὸς τὸ κατὰ σάρκα· ὁ ὢν ἐπὶ πάντων θεὸς εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας. Ἀμήν.

The objections made to our rendering of this passage are these:—

1. That ὁ ὠν coming first in the sentence must refer to the nominative (χριστὸς). But there is no grammatical rule to prevent ὁ ὠν commencing a sentence and referring to a subsequent nominative; so that to say it must refer to the preceding χριστὸς is only to take the desired interpretation for granted.

2. That another article is required before θεος, and the position of the words to be Ὁ δε θεος ὁ ὠν ἐπὶ πάντων, κ. τ. λ. If θεος had been placed first in the sentence the article would have been used, but the qualifying expression ὁ ἐπὶ πάντων more than supplies its place. A passage from Philo exactly parallel is cited by the Rev. W. Hincks in his very able Review of Dr. J. P. Smith’s Scripture Testimony to the Messiah του προς ἀληθειαν οντος θεου. Ed. 1610, (apud Middleton,) p. 860. Also Clem. Rom. ad Cor. cap. xxxii. ὁ παντοκρατωρ θεος, where παντοκρατωρ is equivalent to ὁ ὠν ἐπὶ πάντων. Eusebius has this passage, τὸ τῆς φυχῆς ὄμμα πρὸς τὸν ἐπὶ πάντων θεὸν καθαρῶς τείναντες. See Jortin. Eccles. Hist. vol. ii. 235.

3. That εὐλογητὸς ought to come first in the sentence. But the words “for ever,” εἰς τοὺς αιῶνας, whenever used, are placed at the end of the sentence, and this naturally draws εὐλογητος to the same position, to avoid awkwardness or ambiguity. In the cases where θεος has dependent words, then ευλογητος comes first, that the words connected by construction may not be awkwardly separated: in the case of ευλογητος having dependent words, as here, then θεος would naturally come first.

In the only three cases in which εὐλογητὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας occur in the New Testament they follow one another in this fixed order.

In the Septuagint, contrary to the statement of Whitby, there is one clear instance of a similar construction: Κυριος ὁ θεος ευλογητος, Ps. lxviii. 19.

Finally, ευλογητος is nowhere in the New Testament applied to Jesus.

4. That our rendering requires another substantive verb. Of such ellipsis examples might be given without number. See Rom. x. 12. 2 Cor. v. 5. Ephes. iv. 6, a case exactly in point. Rev. xiv. 13.

5. That there is an antithesis intended by St. Paul between “as concerning the flesh,” and “God over all”. But the sentence is not an antithesis but a climax closed by Christ, as the consummation: and at the close of a climax of blessings and privileges, acknowledgment almost spontaneously bursts out to God.


Comments on the Rev. Mr. Byrth’s Lecture entitled “The Unitarian Interpretation of the New Testament based upon defective Scholarship, or on dishonest or uncandid Criticism.”

Page 108.—“It does appear to me extraordinary, that my opponents should appear to complain of the introduction of critical and scholastic considerations into this discussion.” We make no such complaint. We complain that the essence of Christianity should be derived from the Criticism and Interpretation of controverted passages. Will my reverend opponent state a single argument for Trinitarianism, or adduce a single scriptural evidence, not fairly open to hostile Criticism or Interpretation? To us the Revelation is not derived from any thing doubtful; it is derived from those impressions of Jesus the Christ which Trinitarianism itself receives. To us the Revelation is the Person, (in which we include his Life, Character, Destinies,) of the man Christ Jesus. We know our God when we know that he who was as full of grace as of truth was the Image of our Father’s Mind: we know God’s will for man when we look upon him who was perfected human nature: we know the connections of Heaven with Duty when we see the crucified made the glorified, and taken to the bosom of his Father.


Page 115.—“It does not, however, follow that, because the Unitarian interpretation of the New Testament bears this character, all Unitarians are defective Scholars, or uncandid or dishonest Critics. Many of them may have received their opinions through the channel of traditional education; and may never have deemed it obligatory upon them to examine the matter for themselves.” So, we have the choice of any one of three characters, viz., Bad Scholars, Dishonest Critics, or So-called Christians, who know nothing and care nothing about the matter. Does Mr. Byrth really think that this last refuge removes the insult of his Title, or softens its indictment? Some of us, confined to a choice among these three descriptions, preach Christianity, and are therefore certainly bound to “examine the matter” for ourselves; nor is it to us that the suspicion usually attaches of receiving our “opinions through the channels of a traditional education.”

“The dogmata are too few, too general, too unimportant, to elicit inquiry, or to excite anxiety as to their truth.” There is some truth in this, though not exactly of the kind the author contemplated. The interest of Trinitarianism depends greatly on the number of its dogmata, their intricacy, their supposed necessity to salvation, the exactness of their right mutual positions. There is much in a saving Theology, having an intricate scheme, and whose main principles and evidences are external to the mind of the believer, and therefore constantly agitating him with apprehension as to whether he has disposed them according to the precise conditions of orthodoxy, to occupy and sometimes oppress minds that have little affinities with a saving Religion, a simple spirit of Worship, Duty, and Trust immortal. But is it true that these Unitarian doctrines are “unimportant”—The Fatherhood of God—the Brotherhood of Man—the relations of Jesus to God as His Image, and to Man as his Model—the retributions of Eternity—the Heaven of Duty?


Page 119.—See the Note.—Surely Mr. Byrth will perceive the unfairness of concluding a Book to be our Standard, merely because some other parties, very unfavourably disposed towards us, choose to represent it as such.


Page 124.—See the Note.—“I have been charged with almost or altogether suppressing, in the delivery of this Discourse, the word ‘controversially.’” I eagerly assure Mr. Byrth that no such charge was ever made, nor could be made with truth, and I am much grieved that any rumour has conveyed to him the pain of such an impression. Though using hard words to his opponents, and giving them the choice of any one of three bad characters, I believe him perfectly incapable of “dishonesty.” Believing me to have made such a charge, whilst I do not excuse him for so believing upon hearsay, I feel obliged by his forbearance, and for a courtesy in denying the charge, which if made I should not have deserved. I complained that the “controversial” attitudes of Unitarianism were confounded with its own peaceful and positive ones, two things that were most carefully separated in the speeches from which Mr. Byrth took extracts; and that he represented as a description of Unitarianism, what was distinctly stated to be Unitarianism, “controversially” described. Mr. Byrth, though giving the word “controversially,” overlooked its meaning.


Page 132.—“Epiphanius asserts that the Ebionites,” &c.: also the note marked †.

As it is exceedingly inconvenient to repeat subjects and answers, and so never to get rid of a topic, I refer Mr. Byrth and my readers to note B, on the Ebionites and their Gospel, in the Appendix to the Second Lecture of our Course.


Page 140.—See the Note.—“I cannot but express my satisfaction that in the very place where this book was thus regarded as an authority, and thus earnestly recommended, it is now renounced and disclaimed.”

I do not know what Mr. Byrth includes in “renouncing” and “disclaiming.” If these words mean “rejecting as a standard authority,” then in the place alluded to was the Improved Version always renounced and disclaimed.

The praise quoted in the note certainly requires much qualification. Nevertheless the Improved Version is neither renounced nor disclaimed. We have no predilection for the rude principle of taking things in the mass, or leaving them in the mass, without discrimination. And I fancy that if our opponents were in these matters as much at liberty as ourselves, there are some of their standards which would soon be thoroughly sifted.


Page 143.—“For even they would scarcely think highly of the scholarship of Bishop Pearce.”

I have quoted Bishop Pearce, not for his learning, though unquestionably that was respectable, but for the sake of stating that the acceptance by a Bishop of the English Church of a certain interpretation ought to have screened “a reputed heretic” from the charge of accepting the same interpretation solely for the sake of an a priori meaning.


Page 146.—“Epiphanius has little authority with any one else.” Mr. Byrth is quite right in his estimate of Epiphanius. But it is hardly wise for those who, like Mr. Byrth, rest their faith upon external testimonies, to look too closely into the characters of the witnesses, or raise doubts respecting them in the public mind. We know how much of the weight of these testimonies rests upon Eusebius—and I doubt not Mr. Byrth knows very well that he is clearly convicted of having interpolated one passage in Josephus, and corrupted another. How can we tell how far this process of reconciliation was carried? Why is it that we have not the works of the Heretics, of whose names ecclesiastical History is so full?


Page 147.—See the Note.—Mr. Byrth seems to think it impossible to have worded the Title of his Lecture so as not to have insulted some one. Will he allow me to suggest what the Title might have been without offence, though not with exact truth of description—“Some of the interpretations of the Improved Version of the New Testament based upon defective Scholarship.” To attribute “dishonesty” and want of “candour,” Mr. Byrth will I am sure feel to be too vulgar to be altogether worthy of his character as a Critic and a Scholar. In the text of his Lecture (p. 122), he indeed states his belief that Unitarian Interpretation, of every kind, wants scholarship, or wants honesty—and it was to the proof of this statement that he ought to have applied himself, or else to have altered the Title of his Lecture.


Page 148.—Luke iii. 23.—“And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph.”

This passage was not introduced into the first part of Mr. Byrth’s Lecture as originally delivered. I state this only to excuse myself for having taken no notice of it in the body of my Lecture. This is the case also with some other passages. There were also expressions and sentiments of Mr. Byrth spoken, but not printed. I would not state this were it not necessary to justify some passages in my own Lecture. I refer especially to an oratorical use that was made of a most objectionable and irreverent sentiment of Coleridge’s, full of the very spirit of dogmatism and presumption. P. 161.

With regard to Luke iii. 23. The rendering of the Improved Version is that of Bishop Pearce, who I suppose had no heretical reason for preferring it. I confess it does not seem natural. Dr. Carpenter thinks the words “as he was supposed,” put in to guard against some Gnostic or Platonic error, and for the purpose of stating distinctly that he was the son of Joseph, as he was supposed to be. The same writer acutely remarks that it is most improbable, indeed next to impossible, that any writer should trace our Lord’s descent from David through Joseph, and then declare that Joseph was only supposed to be his father, thus nullifying his own genealogy. Kuinoel gives a suggestion of Boltenius, to which he evidently inclines that ὡς ἐνομίζετο applies not to the supposed descent of Jesus from Joseph but to the whole genealogy. I annex his note.

“Boltenius ad h. l. suspicatus est, verba ὡς ἐνομίζετο, non tantum eo referenda esse, quod Judæi falso putaverint, Josephum esse Christi parentem, sed spectari quoque his verbis genealogiam ipsam h. l. exhibitam, eaque reddenda esse: hanc putabant esse Jesu genealogiam, erat pater ejus Josephus, hujus pater Eli, etc., ut adeo Lucas professus sit, se inseruisse genealogiam, prouti ea in manus ipsius venisset, seque authentiam illius acrius defendere nolle. Hac ratione admissa, explicari forte etiam posset, quî factum sit, ut Lucas genealogiam ipsi suspectam, in Evangelio infantiæ Jesu propositam, ad calcem illius fortasse adjectam, h. l. inseruerit, quod nempe aliquamdiu dubius hæsisset, an eam reciperet. Alii opinati sunt, hanc genealogiam, cum diversa sit ab ea quæ in Matthæi commentariis reperitur, cum laxiori vinculo superioribus annexa sit, non a Luca ipso, sed serius additam esse.”


Page 149.—See the Note.—“Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary: of whom (Mary) was born (or was begotten) Jesus who is called the Christ.” “Now is it possible to declare, in plainer terms, that, though Jesus was born of Mary, who was married to Joseph, yet that Joseph did not beget him.”—Magee. Great is the ingenuity here, wonderfully misapplied. Is it not clear that St. Matthew was tracing the descent of Jesus from David, and that he brings down the chain to the very last link, namely Joseph, that is, the very Joseph necessary to be included, the husband of the mother of Jesus? That Joseph, the very husband of Mary, from whom Christ was born, being thus shown to be a lineal descendant of David, the Evangelist stops. What could he do more? His object being to trace the descent of Jesus from David, what could be more natural than, when he arrived at Joseph, to say—here is the unbroken succession, for this is the very man who was the husband of that Mary from whom Jesus was born. Of course the writer could not alter the form of expression until he arrived at the very man whom he wished to identify as the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus—and the reason for altering it then is very obvious.

If Joseph was not the father of Jesus, the genealogy is vitiated, for it is through Joseph that the descent is traced.


Pages 157, 158.—“He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.” “He was in the world, and the world was enlightened by him, and yet the world knew him not.”—I. V. This interpretation cannot, I think, be defended. I am sorry it was ever given. Yet Mr. Byrth’s sarcasm is quite powerless against it, “what kind of light is that which blinds the eyes which it was intended to illuminate?” in the face of the text—“the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not;” unless he adopts the interpretation of some of the Fathers,—“And the darkness did not insinuate itself into the light, interpenetrate and quench it.”


Page 161.—The liberality of Robert Hall. We desire to speak with respect of this great and good man. But perhaps it would be impossible to name a man more illiberal as a controversialist, and who allowed himself such an unmeasured use of uncharitable language. It was only the other day I learned an anecdote of him from the person to whom the words were spoken, descriptive at once of his vigour and his rancour: speaking of the Unitarians he said—“they are inspired from beneath,”—with a look, said my informant, never to be forgotten. Many passages might be brought from his writings, especially his Reviews, demonstrative of this temper,—but the passage given by Mr. Byrth himself, in which he is satisfied to rest conclusions so momentous and fearful upon reasonings so arbitrary and vague, is quite enough. When any man acquainted with the state of Theological opinion in the world, and with the impossibility of uniformity, can fix upon his own opinions as essential, and run a doctrinal line between Heaven and Hell, we require no further tests of his “liberality,” unless indeed he is, what Mr. Hall was not, only a traditional believer.


I have already remarked that some of my observations apply more to the spoken than to the printed lecture. Were it possible to efface the impressions made by the speaker, and which required to be counteracted, gladly would I efface every word of personal reference from my pages. Even now, with the recollection fresh upon my mind, of the unsparing contempt, both literary and moral, expressed by words and tones, not conveyed by the printed page, when the speaker, feeling that the sympathies of his audience were with him to the full, and that their knowledge of the subject required from him the broadest statements, to render it intelligible, gave himself to the excitement of the moment,—I have more than doubted whether it would not have been better to have avoided every personal allusion. I believe that I have in no case overstated or misrepresented what was said. I deeply grieve to fix upon my pages the suggestions, perhaps, of momentary excitement, which Mr. Byrth’s better feeling has, in some instances, refused to record—and that the obligation I was under to remove an impression actually made, does not permit me to give full effect to this working of a kinder spirit, the manifestations of which, in other ways, I have respectfully to acknowledge.


Footnotes for Lecture III.

133.  â€œHeresy and Orthodoxy,” by Rev. J. B. White, pp. 8, 9.

134.  Scholz retains θεος.

135.  See Griesbach. Chrysostom omits “who is God over all.” Clement, in a passage evidently imitated from this, omits the doxology, which he is not likely to have done if he understood it as referring to Christ. In addition to other authorities for pointing the passage in consistency with the Unitarian Interpretation, Griesbach quotes “Many Fathers who denied that Christ could be called ‘the God over all.’ Multi patres, qui Christum τὸν ἐπὶ πάντων θεὸν appellari posse negant.” In an edition of Griesbach, printed by Taylor and Walton in 1837, this punctuation is given, and is stated also to be the pointing of Scholz.

136.  John xiv. 6, 7.

137.  John v. 19.

138.  Acts x. 34-43.

139.  Matt. xxiv. 3, 34.

140.  â€œThe mistranslation of the word αἰῶνες, by the English word ‘worlds,’ in the commencement of the Epistle to the Hebrews. For giving this sense to the original term, there is not, I think, any authority to be found either in Hellenistic or classic Greek.”—Norton on the Trinity.

141.  Heb. ix. 26.

142.  Whitby, from whose armoury I find so many weapons have been taken, contends also for “the end of the world,” on the ground that Christ’s miraculous assistance was continued sensibly till the beginning of the fourth century.

143.  John x. 34, 35, 36.

144.  Wetstein, quoted by Norton.

145.  See note, page 19. I have no access to the text of Scholz, except in the edition published by Taylor and Walton. This places a period after σάρκα, flesh; which, however, it also gives in the text as the pointing of Griesbach, contrary to the only other edition I have at present the opportunity of examining.

146.  See Appendix for a fuller examination of these two passages, viz., the Proem of St. John’s Gospel, and Rom. ix. 5.

147.  And especially since Mr. Byrth has alluded to the disapprobation with which the sentiment was received.

148.  Christian Teacher, New Series, No. I, pp. 31, 32.

149.  By this I mean a God who cannot forgive except by one process—advantage of which must be taken by an act of faith—it being always uncertain whether the faith is right or sufficient.

150.  We find in the first beginnings of the Trinity, the Logos and the Holy Spirit identified. This is even angrily contended for by Tertullian. “What! when John said that the Logos was made flesh, and the angel” (respecting the miraculous conception) “that the Spirit was made flesh, did they mean any thing different?”—Tertullian, Advers. Praxeam. Cap. xxvi.


LECTURE IV.

“THERE IS ONE GOD, AND ONE MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MEN,
THE MAN CHRIST JESUS.”
BY REV. HENRY GILES.
“THERE IS ONE GOD, AND ONE MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MEN, THE MAN CHRIST JESUS.”—1 Tim. ii. 5.

The passage I have read suggests the subject of my lecture, the position in which we stand to our opponents will suggest the tendency of the commentary. The text announces the two great truths on which our entire system of Christianity is based, and ours in all essential points, we think, coincides with simple, with evangelical Christianity. The truths propounded in the text are, the Unity of God, and the Unity of Christ.—A unity in each case absolute and perfect, without division of nature or distinction of person. We believe that God is one,—that he is one being, one mind, one person, one agent. And this belief, and no other, we can deduce from the works of creation, and the teachings of the Scriptures.

That God is one universally and absolutely, we have impressed upon us from the order of creation; that he is great, we learn from the magnitude of his works; and that he is good, we learn from their blessedness and beauty. This sublime truth is illustrated in every region of existence, so far as we know it, and every illustration is an argument. It is written on the broad and immortal heavens in characters of glory and light; it is manifested in that mighty law which binds atom to atom into a world, and world to world in a system, and system to system, until from that wonderful universe which science can traverse, we arise to him, whom no knowledge can fathom, whom no limits can bound, and in contemplating whom science must give place to faith.

The heavens declare the glory of God, the firmament showeth his handy-work. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge—and that God is one, is proclaimed in this speech, and manifested in this knowledge. It gleams in the light, it breathes in the air, it moves in the life of all created nature; it is the harmony of creation, and the spirit of providence, the inspiration of reason, and the consistency of wisdom. The existence of one Supreme Intelligence is the Testimony of Nature, and to the same import are the testimonies of Scripture. We are told, and told it in every variety of tone, that to believe one God in three persons is absolutely needful to Salvation, yet we may read from Genesis to Revelations without finding such a doctrine either as a statement of truth, or a means of sanctity: but the simple and unqualified declaration that God is one, without any of these dogmatical distinctions which men of later ages have invented, I need not tell a Bible-reading audience, are interwoven with the whole texture of revelation. It was that for which Abraham left his home, and went forth a wanderer from his family and his nation; it was that for which Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and for which he chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God; it was that over which he had long thought in his shepherd-life in an Arabian wilderness; it was that with which he was more deeply inspired in the solemn retirements of Mount Horeb; it was that to which all his laws and institutions pointed. Our Saviour took the doctrine as a known maxim—and in this his disciples followed him. We have then the truth brought down to us through Scripture, in patriarchal tradition, in Mosaic legislation, in the poetry of prophets, in the words of Christ, in the preaching of apostles,—and we have it brought down to us without one of those distinctions with which it has been since surrounded by theological ingenuity. We are zealous in the assertion of it, not for its mere metaphysical correctness, but for its moral power and its moral consistency. It does not divide our hearts, and it does not confuse our heads. It leads our minds up to one spirit, infinite in power, infinite in wisdom, and infinite in goodness. Without confusion or perplexity we can trace God in all and all in God: in the atom that trembles in a sunbeam, as in the planet that moves in boundless light, from the blush of a flower to the glory of the heavens—from the throb of an insect to the life of an immortal. The Unitarian faith in the universal father is clear, simple, and defined; inflicting no violence on our understandings, and raising no conflicts in our affections. One, and one in the strictest sense, is our parent, one is our sovereign, one is our highest benefactor, one is our protector and our guide, one is our deliverer and sanctifier; one has bestowed all we possess, one alone can give all we hope for; one is holy who demands our obedience; one is merciful who pities our repentance; one is eternal in whose presence we are to live, and therefore whether we present our adorations in dependence, or bow down in submission, or send forth our praises in gratitude, there is one, and but one, to whom our aspirations can ascend, and to whom our hearts can be devoted. Thus impressed, we must feel united to one Father in filial obedience, and to all men in a common and fraternal relationship; we cannot look upon some as selected, and upon others as outcasts; we cannot look upon some as purchased, and upon others as reprobate; we cannot look upon some as sealed with the spirit of grace for ever unto glory everlasting, and upon others as abandoned, unpitied, and unprotected, the victims of an everlasting malediction. We regard men as bound in a community of good, consequently as bound in a community of praise; we regard them as struggling in like trials, and therefore indebted to each other for mutual sympathy; we regard them as heirs of the same glory, and on the level of their heavenly hopes, standing on a basis of sacred and eternal equality. If these sentiments are false, they are at least generous, and it is not often that generosity is found in company with falsehood. Alas, how many heart-burning enmities, how many deadly persecutions have been caused by different apprehension of God’s nature or God’s worship; how often have these differences broken all the fraternal bonds of humanity, made man the greatest enemy to man,—more savage and cruel than the beast, yea, and cruel in proportion to the zeal he pretended for his God. But never could this have been, had men believed in God, had men believed in Christ—had they believed in God as an impartial and universal Father, had they believed in Christ as an equal and universal brother.—Then we could have all sent our mingled prayers to the skies, and with a Christianity as broad as our earth, and as ample as our race, and generous as the soul of Jesus, we could have taken all mankind to our heart. We maintain it not in mere abstract speculation, but because we consider it a positive and a vital truth. Were the point metaphysical and not moral, we conceive it would be little worthy of dispute—and in that sense I for one would have small anxiety, whether God existed in three persons or in three thousand. In like manner we hold the simple and absolute unity of Christ; a unity of nature, a unity of person, and a unity of character. But as this topic is to occupy so large a space in the present lecture, I shall here forbear from further comments.

The statement of our subject in a text, was alluded to by the Christ Church Lecturer, in a tone that at least approached to censure. But we consider it amongst our privileges, that we can express our main principles in the simple and obvious language of Scripture; and if in this case deep scholarship and acute criticism be needed to give it to common minds a meaning different from that in which we understand it, the fault certainly is not ours.—Neither, indeed, is ours the blame, if a similar phraseology pervades the whole Christian Scriptures; that in every page we read of God and Christ, and never of God in three persons, or of Christ in two natures. To find out such distinctions, we leave to Scholastic ingenuity; to give them definition and perpetuity, we consign to the framers of creeds and articles—and to receive and reverence them we turn over to the admirers of Athanasian perspicuity. We take the New Testament as the best formulary; we are satisfied with a religion direct and simple in its principles, and we long not for a religion of deducibles. We have been accused of tortuous criticism; and although we desire not to retort the accusation on our opponents, so far I mean, as it implies moral delinquency, we cannot forbear observing that the intellectual sinuosities by which some of these deductions have been drawn from the New Testament is to us, certainly, a subject of not a little admiration. Our motive in selecting this text was the best of all which governs men in the use of language, simply that with greatest brevity and greatest perspicuity, it enunciates our opinions. Our opponents, however, have no right to complain; the advantage of being first in the field was on their side, and the struggle was not provoked on our part but on theirs: they of course selected their own subjects, and they suggested ours. They could, therefore, have had no uncertainty either as to our views or interpretation of the text. I would not allude to a matter so small, were it not for the contradictory delinquencies with which Unitarians are accused—one time they are charged with dreading an appeal to Scripture, and when by the very title of their subject, they tacitly appeal to Scripture, there is wanting still no occasion to blame.

What, in Unitarian views, is Christ the Man, and what is Christ the Mediator, shall make the subject of the present Lecture.

I.—First, I beg your attention to the enquiry as to what we believe of Christ as man. To this we answer, that in his nature we think him simply and undividedly human; that in his character we regard him morally perfect. We cannot recognize in Christ a mixture of natures, and we wonder that any who read the gospel’s records can. That he was simply and merely human, is a conclusion which meditation on these Records but fixes more profoundly on our understandings, and makes more precious to our faith. We derive the conclusion from Christ’s own language—“Ye seek to kill me,” he says, “a man—which hath told you the truth, which I heard of God.”—Again, when a worldly and ambitious individual, mistaking the true nature of this kingdom, desired to become his disciple: “The foxes, said Jesus, have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not whereon to lay his head.” Instances, too many to repeat, might be enumerated; but the only other I shall adduce is that in which Christ’s human nature speaks from its deepest sorrows, and its strongest love: when Jesus, as he hung upon the Cross, saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing by, he saith unto his mother, “Woman, behold thy son.” It is vain to tell us of an infinite God veiled behind this suffering and sweetness, the mind repels it, despite of all the efforts of theology.[151]

The impression of a simple humanity was that which he left on the mind of his countrymen. What other impression could they have of one whom they daily saw amongst them as of themselves? who came weary to rest in their habitations; who came hungry to sit at their boards; whom they met in their streets sinking with fatigue; whom they might see upon their wayside asking drink from a well; one whom they saw weep over their troubles and rejoice in their gladness. Nay, the very intenseness of his humanity became a matter of accusation. To many it seemed subversive of religion. That spirit which sympathized with human beings, in their joys and woes, which not only loved the best, but would not cast out the worst, was what those of strait and narrow hearts could not understand. He came eating and drinking, and they called him a man gluttonous and a wine-bibber. Had he said long prayers at the corners of their streets, and been zealous for the traditions of the fathers, they would have revered him as a saint. Those who were panoplied in their own spiritual sufficiency knew not how he could be the friend of sinners; how he could associate with the deserted and the excommunicated; how he could take to his compassion the weary and the heavy-laden. The pharisee who proudly asked him to his house, but gave him no salute, no oil for his stiffened joints, and no water for his parched feet, had nothing within him whereby to interpret the feeling of Jesus towards her who anointed his head with ointment, washed his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Yes, it was this truth and fulness of humanity which made Jesus hateful to the pharisees, but loved and blessed by the poor; it was this that made the common people hear him gladly, and gave his voice a power which they never felt in the teachings of the scribes; which drew crowds around him, in wilderness and mountain, that hung raptured on the glad tidings which he preached. The flatterers of Herod on a particular occasion cried out, “It is the voice of a god and not of a man;” but no one ever thought of insulting Jesus with such an exclamation.

The guilt of the Jews in crucifying Christ has been alluded to in the present controversy. But this is only an additional proof that Jesus left no other conviction on the minds of his countrymen than that he was simply a man. That our views diminish this guilt has been urged as a powerful objection against us; but, with reverence I say it, the objection turns more against Christ himself. Either then he was simply man, or being Deity, he suppressed the evidence which would prove it, and allowed this people to contract the awful guilt of killing a God-man. If the first be true, the guilt asserted has no existence; if the second, I leave you to judge in what light it places the sincerity and veracity of an incarnate Deity. There is neither declaration nor evidence afforded by Christ by which the Jews could think him more than man. On the contrary he disclaims expressly the far lower honour at which they thought his presumption aimed, by a quotation from their own Scriptures: “It is written in your law” he observes, “I said ye are Gods. If he called them Gods, unto whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), say ye of him whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world, thou blasphemest, because I said I am the Son of God.”[152] There is then no declaration, nor yet is there evidence. Miracles were not such: for the Jewish mind and memory were filled with instances of these, and to the performers of which they never thought of attributing a nature above humanity. If Christ was more, the fact should have been plainly manifested, for the idea of a God in a clothing of flesh was one not only foreign but repugnant to every Jewish imagination. The difference between the Jews and pagans in this particular is not a little striking. Jesus raised the dead before their eyes, and yet they thought him but a man having great power from the Creator. Paul, in company with Barnabas, healed a cripple at Lystra, and the populace cried out, “The Gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.” When Paul in Melita shook without harm the viper from his hand, the spectators who at first considered him a murderer, changed their minds, and said that he was a God. In proportion then to the natural and religious repugnance which the Jews had to humanize the divinity, should there have been clearness in the proof of it on the part of Jesus. No such proof was given.

The greatest miracles of Jesus disturbed not the conviction of the Jews in his simple human nature. The woman of Samaria, wondering at once at his charity and his knowledge, called her neighbours to see a man who told her all things whatsoever she did. She asked them, then is not this the Christ? The blind man awakened by his touch from thick darkness into the marvellous light of God’s creation describes him but as a man who anointed his eyes. The Jewish officers struck dumb before his wisdom, declare that never man spake like this man. The Jews who stood around him and saw Lazarus, whose body had been already dissolving, come forth quickened from the grave, beheld in him but the powerful and the loving friend. The multitudes of Judea, who in desert and city were amazed at his wonderful works, simply “glorified God who had given such power unto men.”

Similar was the impression which he left upon his intimate friends. What would have been their emotions had they a belief that continually they were in the bodily presence of the incarnate God? How would they not have bowed themselves in the dust, and stopped the familiar word as it trembled on their lips? Instead of approaching with unfearing hearts, how would they not have stood afar off and apart, and gazed with awe upon a being who was pacing a fragment of the world he created, instead of clinging to him as one of themselves? Whenever they saw his mysterious appearance, would they not call on the mountains to fall upon them, and the hills to cover them? But not so was it. The lowly, the humble, and the poor rejoiced to see him, and were glad when he entered their habitations. They were consoled by the benediction of peace with which he sanctified his approach and his departure. For him was the gratulations of loving friends, and for him were the smiles of little children. In Bethany, Martha, when he came, was busy in much serving, and the meek and gentle Mary sat at his feet to drink in his heavenly wisdom. At the last supper John leaned upon his bosom. At the cross, when the head of Jesus bent heavily in anguish, and solitary torture was wearing away his life, there again we meet the same disciple, there also we meet the mother of Jesus and the grateful Magdalene, all three oppressed with darkest affliction and despair. Some of them we again behold at the sepulchre in utmost alarm. Now this grief at the cross and this perplexity at the tomb is consistent with no other supposition than that they regarded him simply as a man. Why else should they have been afflicted? What though his enemies were strong, if knowing him to be God, they must also have known that his power was boundless and his triumph certain. This sorrow and uncertainty, I repeat, can have no other foundation than a belief in his simple humanity. And surely if his mother had only such impression, it is hard to expect that the Jews at the time, and many Christians since, could have had any other.

I anticipate the objection that the glories of his deity were concealed, and that this concealment was necessary to his mediatorial work. I answer then, that when he had departed, and when such a secresy was no longer needful, his apostles on some of the most solemn occasions merely asserted his humanity, on occasions, too, when, if he were God as well as man, the whole truth were to be expected. Paul,[153] in announcing him as the great and final judge of the world, calls him no more than man. Nor does his language assume a higher import when he speaks of him as the pattern and pledge of immortality.[154] No other conclusion is to be drawn from the address of Peter to Cornelius; and if a belief of Christ’s deity be necessary to salvation, the centurion might, for anything Peter asserted, have gone direct to perdition.[155] Still more remarkable is it, that in this apostle’s first public address after the departure of his master to the skies, we have nothing more than the same declaration. The occasion and the circumstances not only justified, but demanded the highest announcement that could be made respecting Christ. The disciples had just seen him taken up into heaven, and the awe of the ascension was yet upon their hearts. He who had trod this weary earth in many sorrows was taken from their sight. They who had recently seen his blood streaming warmly on Calvary, had come fresh from the glory of Olivet. He who had been their suffering companion and instructor was now their blessed and triumphant master. Alone in the midst of a gainsaying and persecuting world, with gladness solemnized by reverence, and victory tempered by grief, they had assembled to await the promised Comforter. After that event they were to be separated, and each was to take his own path in the moral wilderness that stretched far and desolately before him. The Spirit of Promise came. The cloven tongues of fire fell upon them: that beautiful emblem of the eloquent spirit of the gospel that was to carry light and heat to the hearts of all generations, and through every language of earth; that beautiful emblem of a Christianity which might exist in many forms, but be at the same time enlightened and enflamed by the soul of a common charity. Multitudes from all nations were collected in the Holy City;—under the influence of recent and solemn events Peter rises to address them. The tragedy of Calvary was yet fresh in the general imagination, the stain of a slave and malefactor’s death was still dark on the forehead of Christianity. This surely was the time to cover the ignominy that lay on the humanity of Jesus by proclaiming the resplendent glory of his godhead. This was especially to be expected from Peter. He had on a preceding occasion spurned the idea of such a shameful death, though coming from Christ’s own lips; now was the time to pour the glory of the God over the humiliation of the man; he too, who in an hour of weakness denied his master, was the one who in the time of his strength and repentance would be most ready to vindicate and assert his highest honour. It is said that the apostles were not thoroughly inspired, and did not fully know Christ before the day of Pentecost. But this was the day of Pentecost. If, besides, it was the speaker’s object—as indeed it must have been—that Christ should be rightly and widely known, now was the opportunity to send forth his name and nature through every kingdom and in every tongue. If, according to the doctrine some time since propounded in Christ Church, the sin of the Jews was dark in proportion to the grade of being in which we place the Saviour, now was the time, while the event was recent, to strike their hearts with terror and compunction. Contrast, then, these natural, these fair and unexaggerated expectations, with the actual speech of Peter, and without a word of comment the contrast is itself the strongest argument. “Ye men of Israel hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles, and wonders, and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves know: him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.” (Acts ii. 22, 24.) Had you been listeners to this address, I ask your candour, I ask your intellect, could you conceive that the apostle was speaking, not of a glorified man, but of an incarnate Deity? No, certainly.

The testimony of Peter thus clearly given, is more and more confirmed as we look upon the life of Jesus. In every stage of that life we see him human, and though in all moral purity and moral grandeur, yet simply human. We are not ashamed of our belief. No, we glory in it, and we rejoice in it. We glory in it, for it is the proof that the elements of our nature can be moulded into such beauty; and we rejoice in it, for it is the proof that he who left a religion for the immortal heart of man was himself purely and simply of the nature he would sanctify. We see him as the infant cradled in Bethlehem, the nurseling hanging on a mother’s care, and we escape the moral and intellectual confusion of joining the omnipotence of a God with the feebleness of a babe. We see him in maturer years in his social relations and social intercourse casting a holy light around him, and spreading the influence of all that is most blessed in human affections. We destroy not the virtue of the man by absorbing it in the glory of the God. Human, and only human, we see him in goodness, in duty, and in suffering. Even in his most marvellous works of mercy, so harmonious is his power with our common nature, that we feel as if they were merely ordinary acts of kindness. When he compassionated the widow’s anguish and restored her son; when pitying the blind, he opened their eyes to the joy and beauty of light; when to the ears of the deaf he gave an inlet to the music of nature and the voice of friendship; when he cast out the dumb spirit and unclosed sealed lips in hymns of gratitude and praise; when he fed multitudes on the mountain’s brow; when lepers went clean from his presence to their fellows and their homes; when parents clung to their restored children, and friends who had separated in despair met again in hope,—wonderful as are all these events, we connect them with the man Christ Jesus, the real, simple, holy, and perfect man.

The lecturer in Christ Church stated three peculiarities which distinguished the Unitarian from the orthodox belief in Christ’s humanity. The third of these was his pre-existence. The Lecturer defined with admirable accuracy the essentials of humanity, one of which, as would be universally admitted, was to be born. I was therefore not prepared to hear the proper humanity of Christ before he was born most zealously defended. I look upon it, however, as a mere oversight, and no doubt it will be corrected in the printed lecture.

The main point is, however, that of Christ’s pre-existence, which independently of mistake in arrangement or expression is a fair topic of argument and discussion. The Lecturer quoted a number of texts from the evangelist John,—from any other of the gospel-writers he could not have taken the shadow of a proof: these he seemed to think invincible evidence. Good scholars, however, and candid critics, aye, and honest Christians, have found such explanations of these expressions as satisfied both their intellects and their conscience. Orthodox commentators are aware that the idiom of the New Testament frequently uses the tense grammatically past to signify events which are actually future. I ask those critics what they have urged, what they usually urge, against Roman Catholic controversialists, who, in proving the doctrine of transubstantiation, quote the text, “This is my body which is broken for you.” What says the Protestant opponent? Oh, it is a mere idiomatic expression, by which an event is represented as complete which is yet to be accomplished. In like manner and with a like interpretation, we hear the orthodox use the phrase, “The lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” They have in this case no scruple to speak of that as actually existing which was merely contemplated in eternal foreknowledge. If it be said that all events are present to the mind of God, so we answer are all persons; and so was Christ. This view of the subject has satisfied many reflective, and whatever our opponents may think, many able and honest minds. But I avail myself of this opportunity to state distinctly and plainly, that though challenged by our opponents in the title of their subject to discuss this point, it is one on which Unitarians have great differences of opinion, but one which would not disturb a moment’s harmony in Unitarian Churches. Personally the Lecturers in the present controversy, on our side, do not believe the pre-existence of Christ; but there are congregations and individuals amongst us, with whom we hold, and wish to hold, kindly, brotherly, and Christian communion, who cling to this doctrine most sacredly and most reverently. We all agree in maintaining the absolute unity of God, and if I may so speak, the CREATURESHIP of Christ. We desire to bind our charity to no dogmas, and we simply say, with the Apostle, “Let every man be persuaded in his own mind.”

On this point, and indeed in this discussion generally, I have observed with great pain a disposition on the part of our opponents to connect the venerable name of Priestley with odium. It is an unworthy office for men of education in the nineteenth century. We take not the authority of Priestley, nor of any other, except Jesus. One is our Master, even Christ: and all we are brethren. But in venerating Priestley, yea, and in loving his memory, we are guilty of no Sectarianism, we but agree with the generous, the excellent, the enlightened of the earth: we but agree with Robert Hall, a stern but eloquent Trinitarian, who in allusion to the Birmingham riots, deprecated in glowing language the insults offered to philosophy in “the first of her sons.” Both his critical and his religious opinions are fair subjects for investigation and opposition. But great sacrifices and honourable consistency should render his moral character sacred, if any thing could melt the stony heart of polemical austerity. When we hear, as lately we did hear, that Priestley sought not for truth, but for arguments to sustain a system, we are not only impelled to ask, with Pilate, “What is truth?” but also to inquire, “Who are those who seek it?” One thing we do know, that if he gave himself to a system, it was a devotion to one which had little wherewith to recompense him; and we know also that as far as the good things of this world is concerned, that he might have turned his devotion to a far better purpose. Instead of having his home and his all shattered in the storm of popular turbulence, instead of being left houseless in the land of his nativity, he might have been great amongst the heads of colleges, or first upon the bench of Bishops; instead of being expatriated amidst vulgar execration, he might have spent his life fairing sumptuously every day, clothed in purple and fine linen, with a dignified hypocrisy; instead of burying his later sorrows in a foreign land, and dropping there his last and most bitter tears, and leaving there his venerable dust, and his still more venerable memory, to the shame of England, and to the immortal honour of his most generous and hospitable entertainers, we might now have had proposals for a national monument to him, long lists of subscribers’ names, and loud clamours of exulting praise. One consolation at least was left: his right hand was clean, and had he been dragged to the stake he need never have thrust it in the flame for having been the instrument to give signature to a lie, from a beggarly, a dastardly, and a cowardly fear of death. If he could look from where he lives in heaven, he would have a still nobler consolation, in being aware that, despite of bigots, his name is treasured in venerated recollection with the pious and philosophical of all sects and parties—that to give him due and most beautiful praise[156] was amongst the last earthly acts of a kindred spirit, but of another soil, that fanatics may rant and rage, but the good will love.—That when this, with such controversies in general, sink into the common and oblivious grave to which all polemical divinity is doomed, the good his invention have given to mankind will survive, and the witness he has left of an upright conscience will be an everlasting example.

The conviction of his reason, it is true, was so strong against the pre-existence of Christ, that he would suppose the apostle misunderstood the Saviour’s words, or the amanuensis mistranscribed the apostle’s language. This was urged as a mighty accusation, as a most blasphemous transgression. There are here an opinion and an alternative. The opinion is the belief in Christ’s simple humanity; the alternative is merely to suppose the want of memory in an evangelist, or the want of accuracy in a copyist. Place in contrast to this Coleridge as quoted by our opponents. He has also an opinion and an alternative—his opinion is, that Christ was God, and his alternative is, that if not God he was a deceiver. If Dr. Priestley was wrong, he left not only Christ but his apostles morally blameless—if Coleridge mistook, he attributed directly and without compromise the want of even common honesty to the Author of our religion: I leave you to judge between the two cases. I do not wish to disparage erring and departed genius; but when the name of Coleridge is called up in my mind in connection with that of Priestley, it is not in human nature to avoid comparison. The one steeped the best part of his life in opium, the other spent it in honourable toil; the one squandered his brilliant and most beautiful genius in discursive efforts and magical conversations, the other with heroic self denial shut himself up in dry and laborious studies for the physical good, and the moral wants of mankind; the one wrote sweet and wild and polished poesy for their pleasure, the other has left discoveries for their endless improvement. Yet orthodoxy builds for one the shrine of a saint, but like those who in other days dug up the bones of Wickliff to be burned, drags forth the memory of the other from the peaceful and forgiving past, to inflict an execution of which we might have supposed his lifetime had a sufficient endurance. Tranquil in the far-off and quiet grave be the ashes of the Saint and Sage: his soul is beyond the turmoils and battles of this fighting world. When these who are now in strife shall be at last in union, his will not be the spirit to whom that blessed consummation will give least enjoyment.

The preacher in Christ Church made some lengthened observations on the two-fold nature of Jesus. This topic will more properly be included in another lecture. I only mention it here for the purpose of making a passing remark. The preacher’s language implied that among our reasons for rejecting the doctrine is, that it is a mystery. Now we maintain that a mystery is properly no doctrine, for it can be neither affirmed or denied. The lecturer observed that there are mysteries in life and nature. If by such he meant facts which we do not fully comprehend, or ultimate facts beyond which we cannot penetrate, he is right. But of these we assert nothing, of these we deny nothing. Intellectually or spiritually they are in no sense subjects of contemplation. The preacher, if my memory deceives me not, maintained that philosophy has also mysteries. The principles or phenomena of Philosophy are not mysteries—and so far as they are mysteries they are not philosophy. We reject not the doctrine proposed to us on any such ground. We reject it, not because we do not understand the terms in which it is expressed, but because we do understand them, and find them equally repugnant to reason and to Scripture. We reject it because it does equal violence to faith and intellect; we reject it, not only from the want of consistency, but the want of evidence.

The apology for mystery made by the defenders of the incarnation has been as often, as ably, and as successfully used by the advocates of Transubstantiation. Among other questions, we are asked by both parties—it is a favourite illustration—if we know how a grain of wheat germinates and fructifies! Without hesitation we reply—no. And not only do we not understand this how, but many others which might seem very much simpler. But where, I ask, is the analogy? A grain of wheat is buried in the earth, and the spirit of Universal Life prepares it for reproduction, and in the harvest it comes forth abundantly multiplied, to make glad the hearts of men. On this point I am equally willing to confess my ignorance and my gratitude. All the facts are not known to me, but such as I do know are perfectly consistent with each other. If I am told that I know not how a grain of wheat germinates, I admit it without hesitation; but I should certainly be startled if I were also told, that besides being a grain of wheat it was also, by a mysterious compound of natures, the Planet Herschel, or the archangel Michael. And yet this does not amount by infinite degrees of self-contradiction to the assertion, that the same being is God and man; that one part of the nature is weary, and hungry, and thirsty, bowed down by every want and grief, while the other is resting in peace and blessedness—that in the same person there is one mind which is ignorant of that which is to come in a day, and another in which reside the secrets of the universe, of time, and of eternity.

The preacher, in speaking to Unitarians specially, commenced his address to us in a tone of exhortation, and closed it in that of rebuke. And what was the ground and subject of rebuke? Why, the smallness of our numbers. He exhorted us on our want of humility, of modesty, in opposing the whole Christian world. I wondered, if I were in a place of Protestant worship, or if I heard an advocate for the right of private judgment. My mind, as by a spell, was thrown back upon the early and infant history of Christianity; I saw the disciples going forth on that opposing world, of which their master had given them no enticing picture; I saw Peter at Antioch, and Paul harassed and toil-worn at Rome and Athens; I heard the cry of the vulgar, and the sarcasms of the philosophical, going forth in prolonged utterance in condemnation of the strange doctrine; I visioned before me the little knots of Christians, bound to each other in love, holding their own faith, despite of multitudes and despite of antiquity, fronting the world’s scorn and the world’s persecution. I thought of Luther, standing, as he confessed, against the world, an admission which was made one of the strongest arguments against him,—an argument that there are piles of divinity to maintain on the one side, and to repel on the other. I thought on the persecution of the Waldenses and the Albigenses; I saw them, few, and scattered, and shivering, and dying, in their Alpine solitudes: for persecution, like the sun, enters into every nook. I thought of the early struggle of Protestantism in this country,—of Latimer, of Cranmer, and of Ridley; I thought of these honest and right-noble beings given, by a barbarous bigotry, to a death of infamy; delivered over to the fires of Smithfield; perishing amidst vulgar yells; not only abandoned, but condemned, by episcopal domination. I remembered having read, in the Life of Saint Francis Xavier, precisely similar objections made against him by the bonzas of Japan. I also considered how many societies at present send missionaries to the Heathen. I considered that, amidst the populousness of India, the Brahmins might make a similar objection with much greater force. Our fathers, they might say, never heard these things; our people repudiate them.

But notwithstanding such general objections, we do not withhold our admiration from Xavier and such self-denying men who were willing to spend and be spent so that they might make known the glory of Christ; we rejoice in seeing men thus forget their persons in love to their principles, and in Doctor Carey standing alone, preaching under a tree opposite to Juggernaut—we recognize with joy the impersonation of Christian sincerity and Christian philanthrophy. If numbers were the proof of truth, what changeful shapes might not truth assume to meet the humour of the multitude! And we hear the immortal Chillingworth—the first of logicians, the most charitable of polemics—thus replying to one of his assailants: “You obtrude upon us,” says he, “that when Luther began, he being yet but one, opposed himself to all, as well subjects as superiors. If he did so in the cause of God it was heroically done of him. This had been without hyperbolizing, Mundus contra Athanasium et Athanasius contra mundum. Neither is it so impossible that the whole world should so far lie in wickedness (as St. John speaks,) that it may be lawful and noble for one man to oppose the world. But yet were we put to our oaths, we should not surely testify any such thing for you; for how can we say properly that he opposed himself to all unless we could say also that all opposed themselves to him?” The same noble writer goes on to say “that though no man before him lifted up his voice as Luther did, yet who can assure us but that many before him both thought and spake in the lower voice of petitions and remonstrances in many points as he did?”—One fact at least must be conceded, and we are entitled to any advantage it implies, that it is more painful and self-sacrificing to be of the few than of the many, that there is far more to endure in being a little flock, than of the great multitude; and that in maintaining with all honesty our opinions in the face of the world’s odium and the world’s revilings, in despite of popular outcry and theological accusation, if no other virtues, we can surely claim those of sincerity and fortitude, of moral courage and moral consistency.

The preacher alluded to the ransom which Christ paid for sinners, and compared it to that which anciently was given in exchange for slaves. The question is, to whom were mankind slaves? To whom or what was the purchase-ransom to be paid? Was this slavery to sin, to Satan, or to God? Whosoever or whatsoever held the captive, must, of course, receive the price of redemption. To which of these was it due, and how holds the analogy? I leave the subject with the lecturer.

I now turn to what is greatly more agreeable in this discussion, the statement that we hold Christ to have been morally perfect. To this we assent with all our conscience, with all our hope, and with all our hearts. We regard him as pure and perfect in every thought and word. We see him with a holy piety illuminating his whole character and conduct. We see him, in solitude and society, holding communion with his Father and our Father, his God and our God. We see him in darkest moments, in periods of deepest anguish, maintaining a hopeful and a trustful spirit; in every affliction holding true to his love for God and man. We see him with a patience that toiled for all, and never tired. We see him plodding through every thankless labour, which here can find no recompense, except it be that wherein the act itself is a blessing to the Spirit. We see him in vexation and sorrow; and, whilst we gaze upon his tranquil brow, we feel our stormy passions silenced into peace. We see him in his struggles and temptations, and we feel how poor and pitiful are our deepest griefs or sorest trials compared with his. We regard him in the greatness of his benevolence, and we hear from his lips such words as never man spake before. We behold him, whose soul was never tainted with sin, turn most mercifully on the repentant sinner, striking the heart with rending anguish, yet filling the eye with sweetest and most hopeful tears. We see him with a bosom throbbing with all human charities, and an ear open to every cry of woe and wretchedness. We see him in all unselfish sacrifices, and all generous labours; and regarding our nature in him as most lovely, most glorious, and most triumphant, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. We see him as the most perfect image of his Father; and the first, among all his brethren, filled with the inspiration of God, and spreading it forth abundantly on the souls of men.

Amongst other wrongs to Christ, we are accused of taking away all motives of love to him. It may be fair, then, to ask, for what do Trinitarians love him? And it may be also fair to ask, what is it in him that moves their affections which may not equally move ours? They cannot love Christ the God in the same sense or on the same grounds on which they love Christ the man. For what, then, do they love Christ the man, or Christ the mediator, for which, in that aspect, we may not love him as deeply and as truly? Is it for his many and great labours? On even the orthodox doctrine, these were the toils of the manhood and not of the godhead. Is it for his sufferings? The God could not suffer, could not be weary, could not be persecuted, could not die, could neither be hooted nor crucified; if, therefore, all the strongest motives of love to Christ be founded in his humanity, then I assert we have all these motives. On any supposition, it was not the second person of the godhead that bent his bleeding head on Calvary, it was the man Christ Jesus. If it be said that Unitarian views do not move the heart, we have only with sorrow to confess, that no views of Christ’s nature or character move us practically as they ought; and for the small results which his doctrines have produced amongst us, we, with others, have reason to bend down our heads in deepest humiliation: but we solemnly deny that our convictions about Christ have any tendency to produce such an effect. In the case of wrong, the fault is in ourselves, and not in our doctrines.

II. Having thus explained our views on Christ as a man, I shall occupy the remaining part of this discourse by stating, as briefly as I can, the difference between Trinitarians and ourselves on his character as a mediator.

What are the religious needs of man? says the Trinitarian. Consequently, What is the office of the Messiah? If we take the Calvinistic scheme, and at present that is the most popular, the reply would be, or should be, thus:—There is a decree of eternal election and reprobation by which millions, before the foundation of the world, were destined to be saved or lost. The numbers were fixed, and could neither be enlarged or diminished. For the salvation of the elect, and these only, the second person in the godhead became incarnate: them he purchased with his blood, and the rest were left to perish. The elect entered into life with the seal of predestination on their birth, redeemed, to be justified, to be sanctified, and finally to be glorified. The remainder came into the same life burdened with the imputation of a sin committed centuries previous to their existence. Foredoomed to perdition, overpassed by the Father, and disregarded by the Son, and unvisited by the Holy Spirit, they die in their sins, enter on their predetermined destiny, and, to use the tremendous language of the Athanasian Creed, “perish everlastingly.”

In this statement, I do no wrong to Calvinism, and scarcely justice. It might easily be made more dark, and without a whit of controversial exaggeration. But if this be a true idea of Christianity, it is a system of terror and not of mercy, an anathema and not a blessing, the fiat of universal wrath and not the words of universal mercy, the proclamation from an austere and angry Deity and not a remedy for a weak and erring humanity. Orthodoxy in this scheme, instead of endearing Christ to the human heart, alienates and removes him from it; instead of making him an encouragement, renders him a terror; instead of placing him before us as the impersonation of almighty clemency, through him proclaims an almighty vindictiveness; places Jesus out of the sphere of human affections, and wrenches him from the worn and suffering heart of man. On the orthodox principle, he is out from us, and not of us. He is alone in his own mysterious nature. Our affections are perplexed, and our heads are bewildered. To offer our sympathy, or to look for his, would be the very climax of presumption. He is in no proper sense identified with us, or allied to us. His example is more an accident than an essential of his work. The substance of his work, on the orthodox scheme, might have taken place in the most secret recesses of the universe; and God would be satisfied, and the elect would be redeemed.[157]

What, says Unitarianism, are the moral wants of man? Consequently, what is the mediator he requires?

Religion, we maintain, was made for man, and not man for religion. The mediator, therefore, which we require, is one who would guide and not confound our nature; who would ennoble but not perplex it. We would look for a mediator by whom we should receive the light and truth of God and heaven to our souls. We need to see the capacities, the duties, and the destinies of our kind, in one who is perfectly, but yet simply, of ourselves. Our sorrows, our sufferings, and our darkness, we regard as but so many reasons why our Redeemer and Saviour should be entirely of our own kind. We require one who would manifest to all that God is really interested in us. We require one who would show that we are not shut out from communion with the infinite, the invisible, and the future. We require one who would correct our evils, and yet resolve our doubts. We require one who could sympathize with our weakness. We require one who would show us of what our nature is capable, and thus flash upon us the guilt of our deficiencies, or inspire us with the hope of advancement. We are feeble, and need strength; we are tempted, and need support. Jesus proves to us that the strength is in us, if we use it; and that the support is at hand, if we choose to apply it. In our transgressions, we are but too much inclined to yield to, or justify ourselves with, a guilty sophistry; but our views of Jesus leave us no room for such delusion. Whilst Trinitarianism places most of our religious wants afar off and outside us, Unitarianism fixes them within us. Whilst Trinitarianism demands a Christ which shall reconcile God to us, Unitarianism holds a Christ which shall conform us to God:—to us his word and work is a spirit of life, his word and work to them but dogma or mystery.

Upon our views, Christ is properly a mediator; on those of orthodoxy, he can bear no such character: compounded of Deity and humanity, he is truly of neither. It is said that we have no need of Christ; that, in fact, he has no purpose in our system; that he might be taken from it without creating any loss. We maintain the contrary. We maintain that Christ is our all in all; that he is the impersonation of our religion, that he is bodily our Christianity. Whilst others principally regard him in the retrospect, we have him as a present and a living reality. Whilst others trust him for what he has done, we love him for what he was. Whilst others make his nature the subject of hard and abstruse dogmas, we hold it forth as the subject of affectionate contemplation. Whilst others propose faith, we propose imitation as the greatest virtue. We look upon him as the Instructor in our moral doubts; the enlightener of our ignorance, which, in so many cases, press down our hearts respecting the general course of Providence and our future destiny; of our ignorance respecting God, and all that belongs to the future, the Past, and the Invisible.

The Past, yea, and the present also, is filled, we confess, with difficulties that alarm our fears, and call forth our sorrows. And it is only when we look to Christ as really and simply human that we have any tangible consolation, or any solid support. The trials or temptations or sufferings of a God are not only repugnant to our reasons, but foreign to our hearts. Such ideas can create no confidence, and therefore can afford no ground of sympathy—and no ground of hope, of strength, or of consolation. If one who is a God—were temptation to such a being possible—overcomes temptation, on what grounds can any other conclude he can resist it?—If one who is a God resists indignity with quietude and calmness, on what ground can another make such conduct an example?—If one who is a God meets agony and death with confident and fearless mind—knowing that his life is safe in eternal beatitude—on what possible principles of reason or expectation can this be a consolation or hope to feeble mortals?—If a God by his own inherent power rise from the dead, by what logic of faith or intellect are we to conclude man as man is to live for ever? It is only then upon our principles that I think he can properly fulfil the offices that pertain to his character as Mediator, that he can be our Teacher, that he can be our Exemplar, that he can be the Discloser of our duties and our destinies, that he can be at the same time a revealer and a revelation, that he can be the foundation of our hope and the source of our strength:—that he can, I say, be our Teacher; for what is necessary to the position of a moral instructor? not merely to be able to announce truth, but to announce it with living effect. The being who suffered no pain would have no power in preaching fortitude. Sympathy is necessary to confidence, and confidence is necessary to moral influence. Christ in his simple humanity has a power which we could not give to him, supposing he was of a compound constitution. Without this belief that he was simply and naturally man, his instructions have small effect, and his actions have no reality.—Moreover, I assert it is only in this view he can be our exemplar, I mean the ideal, or representative of what we ought to be, or of what in a more perfect condition we will be: for it is utterly and outrageously absurd to propose as the pattern of human conduct or human hopes, one who had in the same person the might and security of a Deity with the dangers and the trials of a man: and in truth it is outrageously absurd to say he could have such dangers and trials at all,—it would not be a mystery but a mockery:—and, lastly, I contend, that it is our views—weakly I have expressed them—which bring to the human spirit most of strength and most of comfort. They give consistency and sublimity to his communion with God, and to his revealings of another world. They give immeasurable value to his miracles. They put the seal of divine confirmation on his resurrection as the pledge of human immortality. He is then our Instructor in every doubt; our Consolation in every sorrow; our Strength in the griefs of life, and our Support in the fears of death. We see him in his own ennobling and sanctifying human nature, and by his impressive and vital energy sending out from him the power for its redemption.

The character of God, as revealed in Christ’s teaching, and manifested by Christ’s life, in the Unitarian faith, is not only discerned with a clearer light, but commands a more sacred reverence, as well as a more willing love. He that hath seen me, says the Saviour, hath seen the Father. Now we believe this expression to be full of profoundest truth, if we receive it as a moral revelation; but orthodoxy reduces it to a mystical enigma, and robs it of meaning and of value. We discern God through Christ as a Father, universal, merciful, good, holy, and all-powerful. This we collect from the teachings of Christ; we could never deduce it from the teachings of Calvinism. If we turn to the teachings of Christ, we hear of a Father impartial and unbounded; if we turn to the teachings of Calvinism, we read of a God that, in any benignant sense, is but father to a few, and these few purchased by the agonies of innocence; if we turn to the teachings of Christ, we are instructed of a Father who is merciful, and that mercy is proposed to us as the most perfect object of imitation; if we turn to the teachings of Calvinism, we are told of a Father who properly cannot be merciful at all, for the good he gives has been purchased, and is the equivalent of a price; a Father, I repeat, whose good-will is paid for; the primary element in whose character, as drawn in many popular creeds and formularies, is a stern wrath, falsely called justice; the imitation of which, in the creature, would turn earth into a darker hell than ever theology visioned. If we turn to the teachings of Christ, we find in them a Father supremely good, holding towards all his creatures a benignant aspect; who, when his children ask for bread will not give them a stone,—who casts with equal hand the shower and the sun-shine; who rules in the heavens with glory, and in earth with bounty; who hears the raven’s cry as well as the Seraph’s song. If we turn to Calvinism we are informed of a Deity who has seen the ruin and the wreck of his own workmanship, and pronounced a curse over that which he did not choose to prevent; we are told that all creatures sicken under that original curse; that earth feels it to her centre; that it spreads a frown over heaven, and roars with a voice of destruction in the thunder and the tempest; that living creatures throughout all their countless tribes, suffer by it; that it pursues man from the first tears of infancy to the last pang of death. If we turn to the teachings of Jesus, we are taught that God is most holy; we are placed before that invisible Being who searches the heart, and sees it in its last recesses. Thus piercing to the very source of action, Christ makes guilt and holiness inward and personal, inflicts on the criminal the full penalty, and secures to rectitude its great reward: covering the one with moral hideousness, and the other with exceeding beauty. If we turn to the teachings of Calvinism, sin is contracted by imputation, and righteousness is acquired by imputation also. The lost endure the penalty of guilt in their own persons, the elect endure it by substitution, in the person of another. If we turn to the teachings of Jesus, we have a Father whose power is infinite as his goodness, in which we trust for the redemption and perfection of the universe. If we turn to the teachings of Calvinism, we see God consigning a vast portion of his rational creation to eternal sin and misery, and therefore, if we would save his benevolence we are constrained to sacrifice his power. Christ, Saint Paul declares, is the image of God; but if the Father be the avenger, and Christ the victim, he is not his image, but his contrast, and then our souls, instead of ascending to God in love, turn from him, and fix all their sympathies on Christ. As Unitarians apprehend him, we conceive him in perfect union with the Father, imaging, with resplendent sweetness, the attributes of his Father’s character. In the compassion, in the benevolence, in the purity, and in the miracles of Christ, we have revealed to us the goodness, the holiness, and the power of God; upon the calm and gracious countenance of Jesus we may read the glory of God, and, as in a stainless mirror, behold the scheme of his providence.

Place these views side by side with common experience and human feeling, and which, I ask, is the most consistent? Who, in a healthy state of mind, has any compunction because Adam sinned—but who, with his moral emotions awakened, is not anxious to know what is the duty of man here, and what his destiny hereafter? By which scheme, I inquire, are these momentous problems best resolved? Testing these views by the common experience to which I have appealed, taking its ordinary convictions as the standard, I may fairly inquire, whether our principles are not consistent in their hopes, and high and pure in their consolations? Comparing each with the history and life of Christ, I have no doubt of what would be the result, if system or dogmatism did not interfere with our convictions. Regarding Christ as our perfect, immortal, but human Brother, we have the living evidence that God is our Father, and Heaven is our Home.—Our views of Christ makes his history of most precious value to us—his life, his death, his crucifixion and his resurrection—Christ becomes to us the great interpreter of Providence, equally of its fears and hopes. He becomes to us the symbol of humanity, equally of its grief and glory—near his cross we weep over death, and at his tomb we rejoice in the certainty of life. In Christ crucified, we see our nature in its earthly humiliation; in Christ glorified, we behold it in its immortal triumph. As Jesus on the cross sets forth our sorrow, so Jesus from the tomb sets forth our hope. Identified with Jesus in the one, we are also identified with him in the other. We behold “the man,” and in that man we behold the two solemn stages of our nature, the struggle of affliction and the glory of success.—We see the man of sorrow and the man of joy—the man of earth, and the man of heaven—the man of death and the man of immortality. We are made more assured of that doctrine to which we fly in every painful turn of life—and in which we seek a deeper and kinder refuge as years and troubles gather over us. Without this persuasion we feel ourselves creatures weak and desolate; when our pleasures here have sunk, when our hopes here have long since died, how much would we, in this wilderness, desire to lay our heads, as Jacob did, on a cold stone, if like Jacob we beheld an opened heaven; but how much more sweetly may we look upon the risen and the living face of Jesus. He was of ourselves. He was identified with us. I see then in Jesus, not the illustration of an argument or of a theory. I see in him the embodiment of human goodness, human affections, and human hopes, and human capacities, and human destinies. When, especially, I think of human suffering, some necessary and some blameless,—when I behold the ignorant and the vicious, the ignorant and the wretched pining away in a crowded solitude,—when I see the man of weary years and many adversities, seeking at last but some spot in which to die,—when I see a sickened wretch, tired of existence, poor, indigent, cold and naked, the victim of almost every want and grief, toiling through life and shivering into death,—when I see laborious age, after few enjoyments of either soul or sense, lying at last on the bed where the weary are at rest, where at last the still small voice of Christ is more desired than all the logic of polemics,—when I see multitudes with dead, or dormant, or perverted energies—benevolent ardour wasted, or most honourable philanthropy defeated,—when I consider the thousands, and the tens of thousands of human beings chained to a dark fatality in the destiny of moral and physical circumstances—the ignorance, the bondage, the cruelties, the unrevealed wretchedness without a name heaped on the heads of myriads, generation after generation,—when I think of unspeaking and unspeakable agonies lurking in every corner of civilized society—hereditary penury, unavoidable ruin, unforeseen misfortune, the pangs of noble minds struggling in vain against dependence; the writhings of dying hearts, concealing their last sighs from watching friends, the stifled laments of honest virtue cast forth on over-grown cities and populations, where sufferer after sufferer sink unheard in the noise of indifferent millions,—when I remember unrewarded toil, fine spirits crushed, and fair names blighted,—when I see the enjoyment of the worthless and the prosperity of the vicious, the success of the worst passions, and the basest plans, the triumph of wickedness over truth and virtue,—when I reflect seriously and solemnly on the strange sights which this world has seen—the persecutor on the throne and the martyr at the stake, the patriot on the scaffold and the tyrant on the bench—the honest man ruined, and the villain the gainer,—I have before me, I admit, a dark and startling problem. In the dying Christ I have the difficulties: in the risen Christ I have their solution. In Christ on the cross I see our crucified humanity—in Christ risen and ascending I see the same humanity glorified; at the cross of Jesus my heart would sink, but at his empty grave my hope is settled and my soul at ease. I go to that vacant tomb, and there I am shown that the bands of death are loosed, and the gates of glory are lifted up. Near Jesus on the cross, I have but thick clouds and darkness; in Jesus risen the shadows are melted, and the gloom is lost in brightness, and the sun which burst it shines forth more resplendent—the blackness of the sky breaks forth into light, and the wrath of the ocean softens into peace, the curtain of mist is folded up, and a lovely world bursts upon my gaze. When I stand at the cross I have man imaged in fears, in struggles and in death. I have around me our nature in its crimes and passions; but when I see the ascending and glorified Christ, I behold humanity in its most triumphant hopes:—When I stand over the silent tomb of Jesus, and would weep, as if all beneath and beyond the skies were hopeless, a light shines out from the darkness, and throws a halo of peace about the desponding soul. In Christ crucified, believing him human, simply human, I feel around me the right of man—in Christ risen, believing him also human, I exult in unclouded and unsetting light:—near Christ crucified, I tremble with exceeding fear; near Christ glorified, I am comforted with exceeding joy—and in each case because I feel he is truly and simply human.

In both parts of his life and history we have opposing aspects of Providence. But if in his sufferings we have the pillar of cloud, in his glory we have the pillar of fire; and in this wilderness pilgrimage we are saddened and solemnized by the one,—enlightened and guided by the other. Christ crucified and Christ glorified, united in our faith and feelings, identified with our nature, our history, and our race, opens views to the Christian’s soul, not only of consolation but of triumph, that defy expression. It pours light and hope and dignity on universal destiny and on every individual condition. In analogy with God’s material creation in its workings, it shows glory arising out of humiliation, and renovated beauty from apparent destruction—it shows in man as in nature—the world of grandeur, of purity, and of softness—born in the throes of chaotic formation; the streams of spring filled with the year’s rejoicing gushing out of the frozen fountains of winter; the fresh, and bright, and peaceful morning generated in the midnight storm. If these views of Christ are seated in our hearts and faith: if we truly identify ourselves with one as with the other: feeling that in each case Christ is simply and perfectly our brother,—what can deaden our hope, and what can sever us from duty? Though friends be absent and enemies be fierce, and pain wreck our frames and poverty lay bare our dwellings, and disappointment wait on our struggles, and grief thicken heavily on our souls, in Christ suffering there is our worst extremity; in Christ glorified there is that worst extremity redeemed into the fulness of salvation; in Christ we see personified our entire humanity, except its sins; in him we behold its subjection and its triumph. View its pains in his humiliation, and its future prospects in his victory, and what a glory does it not spread upon our race? Is there a single track of the past on which it does not rain showers of light—on which it does not leave the persuasion of immortal and universal existence? By Christ’s doctrines and his life we are led to the conclusion that no human existence has been ever spent in vain; that of all the vast ocean of intelligent beings with which generations have flooded the earth; that in that vast universe of life, one heart has never panted without a purpose; that no thought ever started into being, not a throb of misery, not a solitary charity, not a silent prayer, not an honest effort, not a fervent wish or desire, not a single good intention, not a single instance of sacrifice or worth, ever existed to be destroyed, but that on the contrary they have been transferred to more genial scenes in another world, and left seeds for better fruits in this. Believing on Christ the crucified and the glorified, and still regarding him as the image of God, it is pleasant to dwell equally upon the past and upon the future; to think of the good and true who suffered here for virtue, collected hereafter in all the unity of peace, having escaped the fightings of earth, settled in the joys of heaven. But why confine ourselves to the excellent and the great? The glory of Christ proclaims life to all; it attracts to itself whosoever lived or suffered on earth, all that ever will live or suffer. Into what a glory has Christ then not entered: go to the most seclusive church-yard: worlds there moulder in the smallest space; within its range as many sleep as might have peopled an empire, and in a few steps we may walk over millions. Beneath those pacings what parents and children, and companions, have mouldered? What friendships, and hopes, and energies have melted in this simple dust?

But why say a Church-yard? All earth is a grave. The world is sown with bodies: is futurity as filled with souls? Is this spot on which we breathe for a moment a mere speck between two eternities of infinite nothingness? Have the generations as they vanished, sunk into eternal sleep, so that “It is finished,” should be the proper epitaph of all departed humanity? Christ alone gives the full solution of this awful problem; and this solution is clear and consolatory, as we feel him to be of ourselves. He is thus the great type of our death and of our life, throwing light over the grave, and opening to our faith a growing and everlasting future,—where all exist, the great and good to more perfect, and the evil to be redeemed,—and where every stream that flows on to eternity will bear along with it a fresh burden of joy and beauty. Jesus the crucified, and Jesus the glorified, of simple but holy humanity, is the great interpreter of the past and the future, and by him interpreted, how glorious are the words, all our memories on earth and our hopes in heaven.


APPENDIX.

I think it right to state here that one or two passages are printed in the lecture, which, as time was failing, I passed over in the delivery. They affect in nowise the general import or argument. I thought it possible that one sentence in reference to Mr. Jones’s lecture would require to be expunged; but having now read the lecture in print, I see the sentence may stand. Mr. Jones defined with clearness and accuracy his belief in Christ’s humanity—that Christ was really a man, “that he had a corporeal and mental existence like our own,” “that he possessed a body of flesh and blood, such as is common to our race,” “that in that body dwelt a rational soul, to whose volitions it was subject,” “that he was conceived in the womb, and born a helpless infant, and dependent on the care of his parents through the whole of his childhood and youth.”[158] Here, then, we have a set of qualities in the man Christ Jesus, which from their very nature must have commenced with his earthly life. Thus defined, the lecturer afterwards goes on to say that “though there was nothing in his corporeal or mental powers essentially different from other men, yet were there certain peculiarities connected with his perfect manhood, which it is of momentous consequence that we should know and believe.”[159] “First, he possessed moral perfection.” On this all Unitarians are agreed. Secondly, the lecturer noticed the miraculous conception. On this we have differences amongst us. Now a third peculiarity was also marked, which by the order of the lecturer’s argument we are entitled to rank with the others as belonging to the manhood of Christ. Mr. Jones is still speaking of the man Christ Jesus, and yet the third peculiarity is alleged to be his pre-existence. But if to have been born of a woman, if to have had a corporeal and mental existence like our own, were essentials of his humanity, then this is a flat contradiction; if this attribute were meant to apply to him as God, we should have been told so; and even then, the distinction would be wholly powerless, for no one thinks of comparing other men with Jesus as God. Mr. Jones does not introduce that portion of his subject until we have passed over several pages.[160] The analogy of body and soul in man is incessantly used to illustrate a two-fold nature in Christ. Nothing can be more fallacious. It breaks down at every step; for if it be used to signify the possible union of two different elements in one being, then Christ is not two-fold but three-fold, there are in his person the divine soul and the human soul, and in addition to all, the human body. If it be used to signify the union of two natures in one person, the soul and body are not two distinct natures, in the sense required, and therefore can neither illustrate nor prove the dogmatical complexity ascribed to Christ. Every nature that we know is composite, but it is one thing to be compounded of various qualities, and another to be a union of irreconcileable ones. If man had two souls in one body, so perfectly united as to make a single person, and yet that one should be ignorant of what the other knew, then we should have an illustration that would be correct and intelligible. Mr. Jones uses the following illustration, to shew that we distinguish between the body and the soul when we do not express the distinction in words. “If we say,” he observes, “that a neighbour is sick, or in pain, or hungry, or thirsty, or in want, we mean that his body is sick, or in pain, or hungry, or thirsty, or in want, and no one for a moment supposes that we refer to his soul. And if, on the other hand, we say that a man is learned, or ignorant, wise or unwise, happy or miserable, humble or proud, it is equally obvious that we refer to the soul, and not to the body.”[161] No such distinction is known either in grammar or philosophy, and the laws of thought as well as those of language equally repudiate it. A man may be healthy or sick by means of the excellence or defect of his body, but the assertion is made of the man as a person. He may in like manner be wise or ignorant by means of the excellence or defects of the faculties of his soul; but again, the assertion is of the person. And, indeed, if we were to speak with severe and metaphysical precision, every instance which the preacher has adduced should be predicated of the Soul, for so far as they are sensations, they belong properly to the soul; and the body is but their medium or instrument. By the laws, then, both of thought and language, whatever Christ affirms of himself, he affirms of his person, be the elements what they may that enter into its constitution. But how are we to think of the dogma for which such hair-splitting distinctions are adduced; distinctions which, had not the solemnity of the subject forbidden the use of ridicule, might be shown by all forms of speech to be as incongruous as they are puerile, and as ridiculous as they are false.

Note on John xii. See page 8.

On the supposition of our Lord’s simple humanity, this chapter exhibits a most sublime revelation of his nature. On any other hypothesis it loses all its moral beauty, and leaves us nothing but inconsistency. The belief of his simple human nature gives a more sacred awe to the circumstances in which he was placed, explains to us those struggles and workings of his inmost soul, which were deepening the bitterness of his hour of travail. We can then appreciate the grandeur with which, in the spirit of duty, he arose to meet the approaching storm; and we can also appreciate the tenderness and sensibility with which he shrunk for a moment from the anguish that awaited him. To say that the godhead withdrew its support from him is a solution unintelligible in any sense. For through every moment of his existence he must have been conscious of his proper Deity, or he was not; if he was, why tremble? if not, then during that period his godhead was virtually extinguished, and he remained simply man. But every utterance of his in this profound chapter is truly human,—breathings of that nature from its inmost recesses, strong in duty, but struggling with fear and grief.

There is no period of our Lord’s mission in which we see so profound a solemnity around him. He had come from the quiet and hospitable home of his friends in Bethany, had made his public and triumphant entry into Jerusalem, but the awful close and consummation was at hand; he knew that these hosannahs would scarcely have died on the ear, before their change into hootings and revilings; and the hands which spread the palm were ready to drag him to the cross. The next day was big with sorrows and tortures. The mysteries of death and the grave were to be resolved; and it is no dishonour to our Lord to suppose such a prospect should fill his heart with trouble; for the most finely constituted nature is ever the most sensitive, and those who perceive clearly and vividly, apprehend circumstances which it never enters into coarser minds to discern. In proportion as our personal sensations are acute, is the victory of duty noble that overcomes them, in the same proportion also is the strength of submission, or the beauty of patience. With these views, we can well interpret for our consolation and example the anguished exclamation of Christ,—“Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour; but for this cause came I to this hour.”

If Christ were God as well as man, words like these are absolutely unaccountable; and as we cannot be so profane as to think that Christ spoke for mere effect, we have only to conclude that it was the fervent and simple exclamation of a being who felt he needed help from Heaven. This were impiety of the darkest die, if Jesus in one portion of his own person was infinite and omnipotent.

Note 1, see page 18.

“Priestley, loaded with glory, was modest enough to be astonished at his good fortune, and at the multitude of beautiful facts which nature seemed to reveal to him alone. He forgot that her favours were not gratuitous, and that if she had so well explained herself, it was because he had known how to constrain her by his indefatigable perseverance in questioning her, and by a thousand ingenious means of wresting from her her answers. Others carefully conceal what they owe to accident. Priestley seemed to wish to ascribe to it all his merit. He records, with unexampled candour, how many times he had profited by it without knowing it, how many times he was in possession of new substances without having perceived them; and he never concealed the erroneous views which sometimes directed his efforts, and which he renounced only from experience. These confessions did honour to his modesty, without disarming jealousy. Those whose views and methods had never led them to discovery, called him a mere maker of experiments, without method, and without an object:—“It is not astonishing,” they added, “that among so many trials and combinations he should find some that were successful. But real natural Philosophers were not duped by these selfish criticisms.”—After some remarks on Priestley’s changes in religious opinions, and tracing rapidly his progress from fiercest Calvinism to simple humanitarianism, he thus beautifully describes the close of his laborious life:—“His last moments were full of those feelings of piety which animated his whole life, and the improper controul of which had been the foundation of all his errors. He caused the gospel to be read to him, and thanked God for having allowed him to lead an useful life, and granted him a peaceful death. Among the list of the principal blessings, he ranked that of having personally known almost all his contemporaries. ‘I am going to sleep as you do,’ said he to his grand-children, who were brought to him, ‘but we shall wake again together, and, I hope, to eternal happiness;’ thus evincing in what belief he died. These were his last words. Such was the end of that man, whom his enemies accused of wishing to overthrow all morality and religion, and yet whose greatest error was to mistake his vocation, and to attach too much importance to his individual sentiments in matters when the most important of all feelings ought to be the love of peace.”[162]

The Edinburgh Review,[163] from which this extract is taken, introduces it with the following liberal and generous remarks:—

“We cannot pass unnoticed the Eloge of Dr. Priestley, which brought his biographer into the field of theological discussion, and which deserves to be studied in a country where the Character of that extraordinary man, both as a Philosopher and a Christian, has been so greatly misrepresented.”

The conclusion of the following extract is earnestly recommended to the consideration of those pious men who have been misled by the intolerant spirit of the day; and who, on lending their aid, without being conscious of what they are doing, to break the cords of affection which ought to unite the professors of our common Christianity.

Note 2, see page 26.

A great mass of the religious world, in the orthodox meaning of that phrase, is now called evangelical, and although that term, I admit, does not necessarily imply absolute Calvinism, yet, in point of fact, the greater number of those whom it designates are Calvinists. The opponents of Calvinism are often accused of misrepresenting it. For this reason I have endeavoured here to make it speak for itself—by some of its principal formularies, by one or two of its popular writers, and by the author of it himself, in his own words,—Many will say they hold no such sentiments: for the sake of human nature I sincerely believe them; if I thought such a faith (the terms being understood) could be extensively entertained, confidence in my species would be turned into fear. But, notwithstanding, many opinions which they do hold, logically pursued, lead directly to the conclusions contained in the extracts, the writers of which were perfectly consistent with their system. Numbers who are called Calvinists, I am aware, not only do not believe its worst doctrines, but do not understand them. In the statement, however, of opinions, we cannot be guided by individual feelings, except in cases where we have individual protest to the contrary. The members of the Church of England may object to the Westminster confession of Faith, not being a formulary of their Church: it is, however, the sworn authority of a large body of clergy with whom, when purpose needs, they refuse not to hold friendly communion. It is, however, an accurate digest of Calvinism: in that relation I have used it,—to such of the English clergy as are not Calvinists it can have no reference. I wish to quote it as a theological, and not as an ecclesical authority. But the seventeenth article of the English Church, though softened in expression, is the same in sense. Burnet I know has made the unsuccessful effort to suit it to both sides for the sake of tender consciences; but that must be a most convenient and comprehensive latitude of phraseology which can sound all the notes of the theological scale, from high Calvinism down to low Arminianism. That the meaning of the article is properly Calvinistic, is plain from the times in which it was composed, from the opinions of the men who drew it up, and from the terms in which it is expressed. Yet many thousand ministers with all varieties and shades of opinions, solemnly affirm they believe it, although the law demands that the articles shall be taken in their plain and grammatical sense. This is one proof of the consistency of creeds. I quote one author, Boston, who seems actually to feast and luxuriate amidst the dark monstrocities which he pictures; his spirit appears to bound, and his heart to exult within him, at the sound of the dreadful trumpet which calls the wicked to their final doom; and one can almost imagine the rapture of his eye, as in fancy he saw the flame kindling, and the smoke of torment arising in which they were to burn for ever. In his description of hell he displays no ordinary degree of graphic and geographical talent, and when he comes to paint the sufferings of damned bodies, he is so accurate and anatomical, that as Paley at 60 learned anatomy, to write on natural theology, you would suppose that Boston learned it to enlarge with correctness on the physical tortures of the lost. I wish not to fix his opinions upon any man or body of men; substantially, however, they are no more than Calvinism, though some might object to his mode of expressing them. This I may fairly say to any of those who do not agree with Boston in their Calvinism, and would yet fix the Improved Version on us, that they are as bound to receive the one as we the other. Nay, more so, inasmuch as Boston’s work is in a wider circulation, and with the evidence of most extensive approval. It is published by the London Tract Society, and I have an edition before me as late as 1838; it is sold by every evangelical bookseller, and it is to be found on the shelves of every evangelical circulating library. We are accused of rebellion against God and Christ; but let any one read dispassionately the extracts contained in this, and reflect on the sentiments to be deduced from their collective testimony, and then let him say whether deeper injury was ever done to God, or Christ, or man, than is inflicted by these repulsive dogmas. By these descriptions, if God is a being of love or justice, then language has no meaning, or we are to interpret the terms by their contradictories. If you were only to disguise the words, but preserve the sentiments, and attribute the character implied in them to the parent of the most zealous of Calvinists, he would spurn the aspersion with honest indignation. And, if we mean not by goodness in God, something analogous to goodness in man, what is it that we can mean? The abstractions in which these dogmas are involved by scholastic mysticism, blinds the mind to their ordinary import. But let us suppose an illustration. Take the case of a human father, who, granting he had the power, should pre-ordain his child to misery; should attribute a guilt to him, he never knew; should require from him what he had no power to accomplish, and condemn him because he had not fulfilled it; should place him in circumstances in which he was sure to grow worse, and yet withhold the help that could make him better; should, as the son sunk deeper in iniquity, heap heavier malediction on the wretch he abandoned; should see without pity the ruin that continually grew darker, and gaze ruthlessly on the suffering that was finally to be consummated in despair.—Suppose further, and you render the picture complete, that such conduct was defined as the vindication of parental dignity, the very glory of justice; and he who practised it as a father of exceeding love. But we will go further, and suppose this father has the power to cast his child into misery everlasting, and that he does it; must we close the analogy here? No: we can carry it one step higher: swell out this being into infinite existence, make him omnipotent and omniscient, place him on the throne of the universe, and put all creatures within his boundless control, he is then the God of Calvin’s theology. This view I give not rashly, nor without foundation; it is more than justified by the quotations that I bring forward. Our faith is characterized as a blasphemous heresy: we employ no epithet, but we are not afraid to have it contrasted with Calvinistic orthodoxy.

Character of God.

“Predestination is the everlasting purpose of God; whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel, secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour.”—From the 17th Article of the Church of England.

“By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestined unto everlasting life, and others fore-ordained to everlasting death. These angels and men, thus predestined and fore-ordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.”

“The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will; whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice.”

“As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as a righteous judge, for former sins doth blind and harden, from them he not only withholdeth his grace, whereby they might have been enlightened in their understandings, and wrought upon in their hearts, but sometimes also withdraweth the gifts which they had, and exposeth them to such objects as their conception makes occasion of sin; and withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan; whereby it cometh to pass, that they harden themselves, even under those means which God useth for the softening of others.”—Westminster Confession of Faith, ch. iii, § 3, 4, 7; ch. v, § 6.

“God, in his providence, permitted some angels wilfully and irrecoverably to fall into sin and damnation, limiting and ordering that and all their sins to his own glory; and established the rest in holiness and happiness, employing them all, at his pleasure, in the administrations of his power, wisdom, and justice.”—Larger Catechism, q. 19.

“I grant, indeed,” says Calvin, “that all the children of Adam fell, by the will of God, into that misery of state whereby they be now bound; and this is it that I said at the beginning, that at length we must alway return to the determination of the will of God, the cause whereof is hidden in himself. The angels which stood fast in their uprightness, Paul calleth the elect. If their steadfastness was grounded on the good pleasure of God, the falling away of the others proveth that they were forsaken; of which thing there can be no other cause alleged than reprobation, which is hidden in the secret counsel of God.”—Inst. note, b. iii, ch. 23, § 4.

“Predestination, whereby God adopteth some into the hope of life, and adjudgeth some to eternal death, no man, that would be accounted godly, dare deny.” “Predestination we call the eternal decree of God: he had it determined with himself what he willed to become of every man. For all are not created to like estate; but to some eternal life, and to some eternal damnation, is fore-appointed. Therefore every man is created to one or the other end. So we say he is predestinated to life or to death.”—Ibid. b. iii, ch. 21, § 5.

“The Scripture crieth out that all men were in the person of one man made bound to eternal death. Since this cannot be imputed to nature, it is plain it proceeded from the wondrous counsel of God. But it is too much absurdity that these, the good patrons of the righteousness of God, do so stumble at a straw and leap over beams. Again I ask, how came it that the fall of Adam did wrap up in eternal death so many nations, with their children, being infants, without remedy, but because it so pleased God? Here their tongues, which are otherwise so prattling, must be dumb. It is a terrible decree, I grant; yet no man shall be able to deny but that God foreknew what end man should have ere he created him, and therefore foreknew because he had so ordained by his decree.”—Ibid. b. iii, ch. 23, § 7.

These quotations, did space permit, or the patience of my readers, might be multiplied to a much greater extent; and might do something, perhaps, to illustrate the character of the persecutor of Servetus. His actions, as a man, were not inconsistent with his ideas of God as a theologian.

“Who can fully describe,” asks Boston, “the wrath of an angry God? None can do it.” “Wrath,” he says, “is a fire in the affections of man, tormenting the man himself; but there is no perturbation in God. His wrath does not in the least mar that infinite repose which he hath in himself.” Then, speaking of man generally, he says, “There is a wrath in the heart of God against him; there is a wrath in the word of God against him; there is a wrath in the hand of God against him.” We have here his statement of wrath in God as an agent; and, through pages of gloomiest description, he makes man its unsheltered object. “There is a wrath on his body. It is a piece of accursed clay, which wrath is sinking into, by virtue of the first covenant. There is a wrath on the natural man’s enjoyments. Wrath is on all he has: on the bread he eats, the liquor he drinks, and the clothes he wears.”—Boston’s Fourfold State.

Character and Condition of Man.

“With such bondage of sin then as will is detained, it cannot move itself to goodness, much less apply itself.”—Calvin Inst., b. ii, ch. 3, § 5, London Edition, 634.

“Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands, and of good use both to themselves and others, yet because they proceed not from a heart purified by faith, nor are done in a right manner, according to the word, nor to a right end, the glory of God, they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God: and yet their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God.”—Westminster Confession of Faith, ch. xvi. § 7.

“Man in his depraved state is under an utter inability to do anything truly good.”—Boston.

The same doctrine is taught more leniently in the 13th article of the Church of England, so that amongst the theologians, “the natural man,” as they call him, is in a sad condition, for act as he will he cannot but sin: if he does good works, he commits sin, and if he neglects them he is guilty of still greater sins. Quotations in the spirit of those already adduced might be swelled into volumes from the vast treasures of Calvinistic divinity. But I shall close these by an extract from the author I have before mentioned and quoted from, an author, as I have said, highly popular and largely circulated; and here is a passage of his on Christ and the last judgment.—“The judge will pronounce the sentence of damnation on the ungodly multitude. Then shall he say also to them on the left hand, ‘Depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:’ ... The Lamb of God shall roar as a lion against them; he shall excommunicate and cast them out of his presence for ever, by a sentence from the throne, saying, ‘Depart from me, ye cursed.’ He shall adjudge them to everlasting fire, and to the society of devils for evermore. And this sentence also we suppose, will be pronounced with an audible voice by the man Christ. And all the saints shall cry, ‘Hallelujah! true and righteous are his judgments!’ None were so compassionate as the saints when on earth, during the time of God’s patience: but now that time is at an end; their compassion for the ungodly is swallowed up in joy in the Mediator’s glory, and his executing of just judgment, by which his enemies are made his footstool. Though when on earth the righteous man wept in secret places for their pride, and because they would not hear, yet he shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance; he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked (Ps. lviii. 10). No pity shall then be shown them from their nearest relations. The godly wife shall applaud the justice of the judge in the condemnation of her ungodly husband: the godly husband shall say Amen to the condemnation of her who lay in his bosom; the godly parent shall say Hallelujah at the passing of the sentence against their ungodly child; and the godly child shall, from the bottom of his heart, approve the condemnation of his wicked parents,—the father who begat him, and the mother who bore him. The sentence is just, they are judged according to their work.”—Rev. xx. 12.

It were surely preferable to labour under the blindest mistakes concerning the essence of God, or the person of Christ, than be guilty of believing such atrocious representations as these of their moral character. The zealous may scout us if they choose, as infidels; but if Calvinism and Christianity were identical, infidelity would be virtue, it would be but the righteous rebellion of human nature against creeds, in vindication of the truth of its own affections, and the rectitude of its God.


Footnotes for Lecture IV.

151.  See Note on John xii.

152.  John x. 34-36.

153.  Acts xvii. 30, 31.

154.  1 Cor. xv. 21, 47.

155.  Acts. x.

156.  Cuvier. See Note 1.

157.  See Note 2.

158.  Lect. pp. 219, 220.

159.  Lect. p. 222.

160.  Lecture, p. 233.

161.  Lecture, p. 244.

162.  Cuvier’s Eloge on Priestley.

163.  No. 126, 1836.


THE PROPOSITION
 
“THAT CHRIST IS GOD,”
 
PROVED TO BE FALSE FROM THE JEWISH
AND THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES.


PREFACE.

The length of the following Discourse rendered it necessary to omit large portions of it in the delivery; the remainder has undergone no alteration in preparing the Lecture for the press.

It is one of the duties of the controversialist to drop each subject of debate so soon as everything materially affecting it has been advanced; and to seize the time for silence, as promptly as the time for speech. This consideration would have led me to abstain from any further remarks respecting the Improved Version, did it not appear that it is considered disrespectful to pass without notice any argument adduced by our opponents. In briefly adverting to Mr. Byrth’s strictures on my former Lecture, contained in the preface to his own, I am more anxious to avert from myself the imputation of discourtesy to him than to disprove his charge of “Pitiful Evasion;” which even the accuser himself, I imagine, cannot permanently esteem just.

Notwithstanding the criticisms of my respected opponent, I still maintain that a Subscriber to the British and Foreign Unitarian Association is no more responsible for the alleged delinquencies of the Improved Version, than is a Subscriber to the British and Foreign Bible Society for the known departures from the true standard of the text which its funds are employed to circulate. Mr. Byrth appears to enumerate three particulars, in which he thinks that the parallelism between these two cases fails:

First; “The Authorised Version does not profess to be a systematic Interpretation. It is not, in one word, a Creed and an Exposition. It is only a literal translation, without note or comment.” So much the worse, must we not say? Whatever deception a false text can produce, is thus wholly concealed and undiscoverable; the counterfeit passes into circulation, undistinguished from the pure gold of the Divine Word, bearing on its front the very same image and superscription. Did this version “profess to be a systematic Interpretation,” readers would be on their guard; but while professing to be “without note or comment,” it inserts “a note” or gloss (in the case of the Heavenly Witnesses) into the text itself. The doctrinal bearing of this and other readings, in which Griesbach’s differs from the Received Text, makes the Authorised Version, quoad hoc, a creed, while it disclaims this character.

Secondly; To constitute the Parallelism, the Bible Society ought to be, “The Trinitarian Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge,” avowedly publishing an “Improved Version of the Scriptures,” &c. So long, then, as Churchmen abstain from proposing “an Improved Version,” and designate their societies by neutral names, they may be acquitted, “in foro conscientiæ,” for retaining any corruptions which may happen to exist in the un-improved Translation. It is easy to conjecture that, on this principle, it will be long before the Church incurs the needless guilt of an “Improved Version.” Surely the frank avowal, by the words “Trinitarian Society,” of a party purpose, would rather abate than augment the culpability of retaining a Trinitarian gloss; since the reader would have fair warning that the work was edited under Theological bias. And one of the most serious charges against “the Improved Version” was precisely this: that its first edition was without party badge (the word Unitarian not appearing in the title); so that it might possibly deceive the unwary.

Thirdly; The parallelism is said to fail in extent; the peculiarities of the Improved Version being much more numerous, and sustained by less evidence, than the false readings of the Authorized Translation. I cannot concur in this remark, so far as it affects the evidence against 1 John v. 7. But I pass by this matter of opinion, to protest against the unjust exaggeration of a matter of fact, contained in Mr. Byrth’s supposition of a Trinitarian counterpart to the Improved Version. He speaks of “a text corrected on the principle of” “Theological criticism and conjecture:”—he knows that not one text is so corrected; that Griesbach’s second edition is followed without variation; that any proposed deviations from it are only typographically indicated, or suggested and defended in the notes. He speaks of the retention of “questionable passages,” without “notice that their authenticity had ever been doubted;” and the expunging of as many perplexing doctrinal texts as possible:—he knows that not one word of the most approved text is expunged, or of any less perfect text retained; and that notice is given of every deviation on the part of the Editors, in questions either of authenticity or of translation, from their standards, Griesbach and Newcome, and from the Received Text. Mr. Byrth is aware that his opponents in this controversy do not altogether admire the Improved Version; but it is not fit that advantage should be taken of this to publish extravagant descriptions of it, in which the accuracy of the scholar, and even the justice of the Christian, are for the moment lost in the vehemence of the partisan.

It is desirable to add, that the Society which originally published the Improved Version, has long since been merged in the British and Foreign Unitarian Association. In this larger body three other societies (of which one, at least, surpassed in scale and influence the unfortunate object of our opponent’s hostility) are consolidated; and its subscription list contains the names of those who previously supported any of the constituent elements of the Association. Hence it can, with no propriety, be called “The Society instituted for the circulation” of the Improved Version. It cannot be alleged that a subscriber is bound to anything more than a general and preponderant approbation of the complex objects of the Association; nor does he, by retaining his name on the list of its supporters, forego his right of dissenting from particular modes of action which its Directors may adopt.

May I assure Mr. Byrth, that I did not intend to insinuate, that his strictures were produced “second-hand:” except in the sense that many of them had, in fact, been anticipated. I expressly guarded myself against any construction reflecting on the originality and literary honour of our opponents.

The remaining animadversions of Mr Byrth, involving no public interest, and having merely personal reference to myself, I willingly pass by; knowing that they can have no power but in their truth; and in that case I should be sorry to weaken them.


LECTURE V.

THE PROPOSITION “THAT CHRIST IS GOD,” PROVED
TO BE FALSE FROM THE JEWISH AND THE
CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES.
BY REV. JAMES MARTINEAU.

“FOR THOUGH THERE BE THAT ARE CALLED GODS, WHETHER IN HEAVEN OR IN EARTH (AS THERE BE GODS MANY, AND LORDS MANY), BUT TO US THERE IS BUT ONE GOD, THE FATHER, OF WHOM ARE ALL THINGS, AND WE IN HIM; AND ONE LORD JESUS CHRIST, BY WHOM ARE ALL THINGS, AND WE BY HIM.”—1 Cor. viii. 5, 6.

Scarcely had Christ retired from our world, before his influence began to be felt by mankind in two different ways. He transformed their Worship, and purified their interpretation of Duty. They have ever since adored a holier God, and obeyed a more exalted rule of right. Looking upward, they have discerned in heaven a Providence more true and tender than they had believed; looking around, they have seen on earth a service allotted to their conscience, nobler and more responsible than they had thought before. Watched from above by an object of infinite trust and veneration, they have found below a work of life most sacred, to be performed by obedient wills beneath his sight. Faith has flown to its rest there, and conscience has toiled in its task here, with a tranquil energy never seen in a world not yet evangelized.

To suppose that a set of moral precepts, however wise and authoritative, could ever have produced, in either of these respects, the effects which have flowed from Christianity, seems to me altogether unreasonable. Had Christ done no more than leave in the world a sound code of ethics, his work would probably have expired in a few centuries, and have been very imperfect while it endured. A few prudential and dispassionate minds would have profited by its excellence; but never would it have trained the affections of childhood, or overawed the energy of guilt, or refined the rugged heart of ignorance, or consecrated the vigils of grief.

The power of Christ’s religion is not in his precepts, but in his person; not in the memory of his maxims, but in the image of Himself. He is his own system; and, apart from him, his teachings do but take their place with the sublimest efforts of speculation, to be admired and forgotten with the colloquies of Socrates, and the meditations of Plato. Himself first, and his lessons afterwards, have the hearts of the people ever loved: his doctrines, indeed, have been obscured, his sayings perverted, his commands neglected, the distinctive features of his instructions obliterated, but he himself has been venerated still; his unmistakable spirit has corrected the ill-construed letter of the Gospel; and preserved some unity of life amid the various, and even opposing developments of Christian civilization.

The person of Christ may be contemplated as an object of religious reverence, or as an object of moral imitation. He may appear to our minds as the representative of Deity, or as the model of humanity; teaching us, in the one case, what we should believe, and trust, and adore in heaven; in the other, what we should do on earth:—the rule of faith in the one relation, the rule of life in the other.

Did his office extend only to the latter, were he simply an example to us, displaying to us merely what manhood ought to be, he might indeed constitute the centre of our morality; but he would not properly belong to our religion: he would be the object of affections equal and social, not devout; he would take a place among things human, not divine; would be the symbol of visible and definite duties, not of unseen and everlasting realities. A Christianity which should reduce him to this relation, would indeed be a step removed above the mere cold preceptive system, which depresses him into a law-giver; but it would no more be entitled to the name of a religion, than the Ethics of Aristotle, or the Offices of Cicero.

It is then as the type of God, the human image of the everlasting Mind, that Christ becomes an object of our Faith. Once did a dark and doubting world cry, like Philip on the evening of Gethsemane, “Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us:” but now has Christ “been so long with us” that we, “who have seen him, have seen the Father.” This I conceive to have been the peculiar office of Jesus; to show us, not to tell us, the spirit of that Being who spreads round us in Infinitude, and leads us through Eternity. The universe had prepared before us the scale of Deity; Christ has filled it with his own spirit; and we worship now, not the cold intellectual deity of natural religion; not the distant majesty, the bleak immensity, the mechanical omnipotence, the immutable stillness, of the speculative Theist’s God: but One far nearer to our worn and wearied hearts; One whose likeness is seen in Jesus of Nazareth, and whose portraiture, suffused with the tints of that soul, is impressed upon creation; One, therefore, who concerns himself with our humblest humanities, and views our world with a domestic eye, whose sanctity pierces the guilty mind with repentance, and then shelters the penitent from rebuke; who hath mercy for the victims of infirmity, and a recall for the sleepers in the grave. Let Messiah’s mind pass forth to fill all time and space; and you behold the Father, to whom we render a loving worship.

In order to fulfil this office of revealing, in his own person, the character of the Father, Christ possessed and manifested all the moral attributes of Deity. His absolute holiness; his ineffable perceptions of right; his majestic rebuke of sin; his profound insight into the corrupt core of worldly and hypocritical natures, and to the central point of life in the affectionate and genuine soul; his well-proportioned mercies and disinterested love, fill the whole meaning of the word Divine: God can have no other, and no more, perfection of character intelligible to us.

These moral attributes of God, we conceive to have been compressed, in Christ, within the physical and intellectual limits of humanity; to have been unfolded and displayed amid the infirmities of a suffering and tempted nature; and, during the brevity of a mortal life, swiftly hurried to its close. And this immersion of divine perfection in the darkness of weakness and sorrow, so far from forfeiting our appreciation of him, incalculably deepens it. The addition of infinite force, mechanical or mental, would contribute no new ingredient to our veneration, since force is not an object of reverence; and it would take away the wonder and grandeur of his soul, by rendering temptation impossible, and conflict a pretence. Since God cannot be pious, or submissive to his own providence, or cast down in doubt of his own future, or agonized by the insults of his own creatures, such a combination seems to confuse and destroy all the grounds of veneration, and to cause the perfection of Christ to pass in unreality away.

To this view, however, of the person of Christ, Trinitarians object as defective; and proceed to add one other ingredient to the conception, viz., that he possessed the physical and intellectual attributes of Deity;—that he is to be esteemed no less eternal, omnipotent and omnipresent, than the Infinite Father; the actual creator of the visible universe, of the very world into which he was born and of the mother who bare him, of the disciples who followed and of the enemies who destroyed him. These essential properties of Deity by no means, we are assured, interfered with the completeness of his humanity; so that he had the body, the soul, the consciousness, of a man; and, in union with these, the infinite mind of God. But in a question of mere words, in which the guidance of ideas is altogether lost, I dare not trust myself to my own language. To disturb the juxtaposition of charmed sounds, is to endanger orthodoxy; and, in describing the true doctrine, I therefore present you with a portion of that unexampled congeries of luminous phrases, commonly called the Athanasian Creed. “The Catholic faith is this: that we worship One God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost: ... the Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal; and yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal.... So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God; and yet they are not three Gods, but one God.... So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And, in this Trinity, none is afore or after other; none is greater or less than another; but the whole three persons are co-eternal together and co-equal.”

Of the second of these three persons, the second article of the Church of England gives the following account:—

“The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance; so that two whole and perfect natures,—that is to say, the Godhead and the Manhood,—were joined together in one Person, never to be divided; whereof is One Christ, very God and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us.”

In opposition to this theory, we maintain the Personal Unity of God, and the simplicity of nature in Christ. It is my duty at present to submit these contrasted schemes to the test of Scripture. In order to effect this, I advance these three positions:

(1.) That if the Athanasian doctrine be found in Scripture, then, on our opponents’ own principles, Scripture does not contain a revelation from God.

(2.) That if it be really in the Bible, certain definable traces of it there may justly be demanded; and, before opening the record, we should settle what these traces must be.

(3.) That such traces cannot be found in Scripture.

I. “If,” says Bishop Butler, “a supposed revelation contain clear immoralities or contradictions, either of these would prove it false.”[164] This principle, generally recognized by competent reasoners, has been distinctly admitted in the present discussion; and Dr. Tattershall, in particular, has employed much ingenuity to prove that the doctrine of the Trinity, containing no absurdity or contradiction, involves in no danger the authority of the writings supposed to teach it. But no subtlety can avail to remove the inherent incredibility of this tenet, which even its believers cannot, without uneasiness, distinctly and steadily contemplate. Long usage and Church authority alone prevent men from perceiving that the propositions, announcing it, are either simple contradictions, or statements empty of all meaning. The same remark is applicable to the notion of the two natures in Christ.

Before proceeding to justify this assertion, let me guard myself from the imputation of rejecting this doctrine because it is mysterious; or of supporting a system which insists on banishing all mysteries from religion. On any such system I should look with unqualified aversion, as excluding from faith one of its primary elements; as obliterating the distinction between logic and devotion, and tending only to produce an irreverent and narrow-minded dogmatism. “Religion without mystery” is a combination of terms, than which the Athanasian Creed contains nothing more contradictory; and the sentiment of which it is the motto, I take to be a fatal caricature of rationalism, tending to bring all piety into contempt. Until we touch upon the mysterious, we are not in contact with religion; nor are any objects reverently regarded by us, except such as, from their nature or their vastness, are felt to transcend our comprehension. God, of whose inscrutable immensity creation is but the superficial film; Christ, the love of whom surpasseth knowledge; futurity, veiled in awful shadows, yet illumined by a point or two of light; these, which are slightly known, and greatly unknown, with something definite, representing a vast indefinite, are the peculiar objects of trust and veneration. And the station which the soul occupies, when its devout affections are awakened, is always this: on the twilight, between immeasurable darkness and refreshing light; on the confines, between the seen and the unseen; where a little is discerned, and an infinitude concealed; where a few distinct conceptions stand, in confessed inadequacy, as symbols of ineffable realities: and we say, “Lo! these are part of his ways; but the thunder of his power, who can understand?” And if this be true, the sense of what we do not know is as essential to our religion as the impression of what we do know: the thought of the boundless, the incomprehensible, must blend in our mind with the perception of the clear and true; the little knowledge we have must be clung to, as the margin of an invisible immensity; and all our positive ideas be regarded as the mere float to show the surface of the infinite deep.

But mystery, thus represented, offers anything but objects of belief: it presents nothing to be appreciated by the understanding; but a realm of possibilities to be explored by a reverential imagination; and a darkness that may be felt to the centre of the heart. Being, by its very nature, the blank and privative space, offered to our contemplation, nothing affirmative can be derived thence; and to shape into definite words the things indefinite that dwell there is to forget its character. We can no more delineate anything within it than an artist, stationed at midnight on an Alpine precipice can paint the rayless scene beneath him.

There cannot, however, be a greater abuse of words, than to call the doctrine of the Trinity a mystery; and all the analogies by which it is attempted to give it this appearance, will instantly vanish on near inspection. It does not follow, because a mystery is something which we cannot understand, that everything unintelligible is a mystery; and we must discriminate between that which is denied admittance to our reason, from its fulness of ideas, and that which is excluded by its emptiness; between a verbal puzzle and a symbolical and finite statement of an infinite truth. If I were to say of a triangle, each of the sides of this figure has an angle opposite to it, yet are there not three angles but one angle, I should be unable to shelter myself, under the plea of mystery, from the charge of bald absurdity; and the reply would be obviously this: ‘Never was anything less mysterious put into words; all your terms are precise and sharp, of definable meaning, and suggestive of nothing beyond: the difficulty is, not in understanding your propositions separately, but in reconciling them together; and this difficulty is so palpable, that either you have affirmed a direct contradiction, or you are playing tricks with words, and using them in a way which, being unknown to me, turns them into mere nonsense.’ If to this I should answer, that the contradiction was only apparent, for that the three and the one were affirmed in different senses; and that it would be very unfair to expect, in so deep a mystery, the word angle to be restrained to its usual signification; I should no doubt be called upon to explain in what novel sense this familiar term was here employed, since, in the interval between the expulsion of the old meaning and the introduction of the new, it is mere worthless vacancy. And if, then, I should confess that the strange meaning was some inscrutable and superhuman idea, which it would be impossible to reach, and presumption to conjecture, I should not be surprised to hear the following rejoinder; ‘you are talking of human language as if it were something more than an implement of human thought, and were like the works of nature, full of unfathomable wonders and unsuspected relations; hidden properties of things there doubtless are, but occult meanings of words there cannot be. Words are simply the signs of ideas, the media of exchange, invented to carry on the commerce of minds,—the counters, either stamped with thought, or worthless counterfeits. Nay more, in this monetary system of the intellectual world, there are no coins of precious metal that retain an intrinsic value of their own, when the image and superscription imprinted by the royalty of intelligence are gone; but mere paper-currency, whose whole value is conventional, and dependent on the mental credit of those who issue it: and to urge propositions on my acceptance, with the assurance that they have some invisible and mystic force, is as direct a cheat, as to pay me a debt with a bill palpably marked as of trivial value, but, in the illegible types of your imagination, printed to be worth the wealth of Crœsus.’

“Verbal mysteries,” then, cannot exist, and the phrase is but a fine name for a contradiction or a riddle. The metaphysics which are invoked to palliate their absurdity, are fundamentally fallacious; and equally vain is it to attempt to press natural science into the service of defence. In the case of a Theological mystery, we are asked to assent to two ideas, the one of which excludes the other; in the case of a natural mystery, we assent to two ideas, one of which does not imply the other. In the one case, conceptions which destroy each other are forced into conjunction; in the other, conceptions which had never suggested each other, are found to be related. When, for example, we say that the union, in our own constitution, of body and mind is perfectly mysterious, what do we really mean? Simply, that in the properties of body there is nothing which would lead us, antecedently, to expect any combination with the properties of mind; that we might have entertained for ever the notions of solidity, extension, colour, organization, without the remotest suspicion of such things as sensation, thought, volition, affection, being associated with them. The relation is unanticipated and surprising; for thought does not imply solidity: but then neither does it exclude it; the two notions stand altogether apart, nor does the one comprise any element inconsistent with the other. It is evident that it is far otherwise with the union of the two natures in Christ; the properties of the Divine nature, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, directly exclude the properties of the human nature,—weakness, fallibility, local movement and position; to affirm the one is the only method we have of denying the other; and to say of any Being, that besides having the omniscience of God, he had the partial knowledge of man, is to say that in addition to having all ideas, he possessed some ideas. All the natural analogies at which theologians hint in self-justification, fail in the same point. They tell me truly that it is a mystery to me how the grass grows. But by this is meant only, that from the causes which produce this phenomenon, I could not have antecendently predicted it; that if I had been a fresh comer on the globe, the meteorological conditions of the earth in spring might have been perceived by me without my suspecting, as a sequence, the development of a green substance from the soil. We have again an example of an unforeseen relation; but between the members of that relation there is not even a seeming contradiction. Nor do I know of any other signification of the word mystery, as applied to our knowledge or belief, except in its usage to express magnitudes too great to be filled by our imaginations; as when we speak of the mysterious vastness of space, or duration of time: or, viewing these as the attributes of a Being, stand in awe of the immensity and eternity of God. But neither in this case is there any approach to the admission of ideas which exclude each other; on the contrary, our minds think of a small portion,—take into consideration a representative sample, of those immeasurable magnitudes, and necessarily conceive of all that is left behind, as perfectly similar, and believe the unknown to be an endless repetition of the known.

It is constantly affirmed that the doctrines of the Trinity, and of the two natures in Christ, comprise no contradiction; that it is not stated in the former that there are three Gods, but that God is three in one sense, and one in another; and in the latter, that Christ is two in one sense, and one in another.

I repeat and proceed to justify my statement, that if, in the enunciation of these tenets, language is used with any appreciable meaning, they are contradictions; and if not, they are senseless. I enter upon this miserable logomachy with the utmost repugnance; and am ashamed that in vindication of the simplicity of Christ, we should be dragged back into the barren conflicts of the schools.

“If,” says Dr. Tattershall, “it had been said that He is ONE GOD and also THREE GODS, then the statement would have been self-contradictory, and no evidence could have established the truth of such a proposition.”[165] Now I take it as admitted that this being is called ONE GOD; and that there are THREE GODS, is undoubtedly affirmed distributively, though not collectively; each of the three persons being separately announced as God. In the successive instances, which we are warned to keep distinct, and not confound, of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, proper Deity is affirmed; in three separate cases, all that is requisite to constitute the proper notion of God, is said to exist; and this is exactly what is meant, and all that can be meant, by the statement, that there are three Gods. I submit then that the same creed teaches that there are three Gods, and also that there are not three Gods.

From this contradiction there is but one escape, and that is, by declaring that the word God is used in different senses; being applied to the triad in one meaning, and to the persons in another. If this be alleged, I wait to be informed of the new signification which is to be attached to this title, hitherto expressive of all the ideas I can form of intellectual and moral perfection. More than this, which exhausts all the resources of my thought, it cannot mean; and if it is to mean less, then it withholds from Him to whom it is applied something which I have hitherto esteemed as essential to God. Meanwhile, a word with an occult meaning is a word with no meaning; and the proposition containing it is altogether senseless.

But the favourite way of propounding this doctrine is the following: that God is three in one sense, and one in another; Three in Person, but only One Individual, Subsistence, or Being. The sense, then, if I understand aright, of the word Person, is different from the sense of the words Individual, Being, or Subsistence; and if so, I may ask what the respective senses are, and wherein they differ from each other. In reply I am assured, that by person is to be understood “a subject in which resides” “an entire set or series of those properties which are understood to constitute personality; viz. the property of Life, that of Intelligence, that of Volition, and that of Activity, or power of Action.”[166] Very well; this is distinct and satisfactory; and now for the other sense, viz. of the words Individual, Being, and Subsistence. About this an ominous silence is observed; and all information is withheld respecting the quite different meaning which these terms contain. Now I say, that their signification is the very same with that of the word Person, as above defined; that when you have enumerated to me a complete “set of personal attributes,” you have called up the idea of an Individual, Being, or Subsistence; and that when you have mentioned to me these phrases, you have made me think of a complete set of personal attributes; that if you introduce me to two or three series of personal attributes, you force me to conceive of two or three beings; that a complete set of properties makes up an entire subsistence, and that an entire subsistence contains nothing else than its aggregate of properties. To take, for example, from Dr. Tattershall’s list of qualities which are essential to personality; tell me of two lives, and I cannot but think of two individuals; of two intelligences, and I am necessitated to conceive of two intelligent beings; of two wills or powers of action, and it is impossible to restrain me from the idea of two Agents; and if each of these lives, intelligences, and volitions, be divine, of two Gods. The word substance, in fact, will hold no more than the word person; and to the mind, though not to the ear, the announcement in question really is, that there are three persons, and yet only one person. Thus men “slide insensibly,” to use the words of Archbishop Whately, “into the unthought-of, but, I fear, not uncommon, error of Tritheism; from which they think themselves the more secure, because they always maintain the Unity of the Deity; though they gradually come to understand that Unity in a merely figurative sense; viz. as a Unity of substance,—a Unity of purpose, concert of action, &c.; just as any one commonly says, ‘My friend such-an-one and myself are one;’ meaning that they pursue the same designs with entire mutual confidence, and perfect co-operation, and have that exact agreement in opinions, views, tastes, &c., which is often denoted by the expression one mind.”[167]

No doubt this excellent writer is correct in his impression, that the belief in three Gods is prevalent in this country, and kept alive by the creeds of his own church. And how does he avoid this consequence himself? By understanding the word Persons, not in Dr. Tattershall’s, which is the ordinary English sense, but in the Latin signification, to denote the relations, or capacities, or characters, which an individual may sustain, the several parts which he may perform; so that the doctrine of the Trinity amounts only to this, that the One Infinite Deity bears three relations to us. This is plain Unitarianism, veiled behind the thinnest disguise of speech. Between this and Tritheism, it is vain to seek for any third estate.[168]

The contradiction involved in the doctrine of the two natures of Christ is of precisely the same nature and extent. We are assured that he had a perfect human constitution, consisting of the growing body and progressing mind of a man; and also a proper divine personality, comprising all the attributes of God. Now, during this conjunction, either the human mind within him was, or it was not, conscious of the co-existence and operation of the divine. If it was not, if the earthly and celestial intelligence dwelt together in the same body without mutual recognition, like two persons enclosed in the same dark chamber, in ignorance of each other, then were there two distinct beings, whom it is a mockery to call “one Christ;” the humanity of our Lord was unaffected by his Deity, and in all respects the same as if disjoined from it; and his person was but a movable sign, indicating the place and presence of a God, who was as much foreign to him as to any other human being. If the human nature had a joint consciousness with the divine, then nothing can be affirmed of his humanity separately; and from his sorrows, his doubts, his prayers, his temptations, his death, every trace of reality vanish away. If he were conscious, in any sense, of omnipotence, nothing but duplicity could make him say, “of mine own self I can do nothing;” if of omniscience, it was mere deception to affirm that he was ignorant of the time of his second advent; if of his equality with the Father, it was a quibble to say, “my Father is greater than I.” I reject this hypothesis with unmitigated abhorrence, as involving in utter ruin the character of the most perfect of created beings.

The intrinsic incredibility then of these doctrines, involving, as they do, “clear immoralities and self contradictions,” would throw discredit on the claims of any work professing to reveal them on the authority of God. And whether we listen to the demands of Scripture on our reverential attention, must depend on this:—whether these tenets are found there or not. And to this enquiry let us now proceed.

One remark I would make in passing, on the supposed value of the theory of the two natures, as a key to unlock certain difficult passages of the Bible, and to reconcile their apparent contradictions. Christ, it is affirmed, is sometimes spoken of as possessing human qualities, sometimes as possessing divine; on the supposition of his being simply man, one class of these passages contradicts us; on the assumption of his being simply God, another. Let us then pronounce him both, and everything is set right; every part of the document becomes clear and intelligible.[169]

Now which, let me ask, is the greater difficulty: the obscure language, which we wish to make consistent, or the prodigious hypothesis, devised for the reconcilement of its parts? The sole perplexity in these portions of Scripture consists in this,—that the divine and the human nature are felt to be incompatible, and not to be predicable of the same being: if we did not feel this, we should be conscious of no opposition; and the ingenious device for relieving the bewilderment, is to deny the incompatibility, and boldly to affirm the union. If you will but believe both sides of the contradiction, you will find the contradiction disappear! What would be thought of such a principle of interpretation applied to similar cases of verbal discrepancy? It is stated, for example, in the Book of Genesis, that Abraham and Lot received a divine communication respecting the destruction of Sodom; and the bearers of the message are spoken of, in one place, as Jehovah himself; in another, as angels; in a third, as men.[170] What attention would be given to any interpreter who should say; ‘it is clear that these persons could not be simply God, for they are called men; nor simply men, for they are called angels; nor simply angels, for they are called God: they must have had a triple nature, and been at the same time perfect God, perfect angel, and perfect man?’ Would such an explanation be felt to solve anything? Or take one other case, in which Moses is called God with a distinctness which cannot be equalled in the case of Christ: “Moses called together all Israel, and said to them: ... I have led you forty years in the wilderness; your clothes have not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot. Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink; that ye might know that I am the Lord your God.”[171] What relief, let me ask, should we obtain from the difficulty of this passage, by being told that Moses had two natures in one person, and must be received as God-man? Who would accept “a key” like this, and not feel that in loosening one difficulty, it locked fast another, and left us in labyrinthine darkness?

II. When a Trinitarian, and a Unitarian, agree to consult Scripture together, and to bring their respective systems to this written standard, it is essential that they should determine beforehand what it is that they must look for: what internal characters of the books are to be admitted in evidence; what kind and degree of proof each is entitled to expect. Each should say to the other before the Bible is opened, “Tell me now, distinctly, what are the marks and indications in these records, which you admit would disprove your scheme: what must I succeed in establishing, in order to convince you that you are mistaken?” The mutual exchange of some such tests is indispensable to all useful discussion. I am not aware that any rules of this kind have ever been laid down, or I would willingly adopt them. Meanwhile I will propose a few; and state the phenomena which I think a Unitarian has a right to expect in the Bible, if the Athanasian doctrine[172] be revealed there, and its reception made a condition of salvation. If the criteria be in any respect unreasonable, let it be shown where they are erroneous or unfair. I am not conscious of making any extravagant or immodest petition for evidence.

If, then, the existence of three Persons, each God, in the One Infinite Deity,—and the temporary union of the second of these Persons, with a perfect man, so as to constitute One Christ,—be among the prominent facts communicated in the written Revelation of the Bible, we may expect to find there the following characters:

(1.) That somewhere or other, among its thousand pages, these doctrines so easily and compendiously expressed, will be plainly stated.

(2.) That as it is important not to confound the three persons in the Godhead, they will be kept distinct, having some discriminative and not interchangeable titles; and, moreover, since each has precisely the same claim to be called God, that word will be assigned to them with something like an impartial distribution.

(3.) That as, in consistency with the Unity, the term God will always be restricted to one only being or substance; so, in consistency with the Trinity, it will never be limited to ONE PERSON to the exclusion of the OTHER TWO.

(4.) That when the PERSONS are named by their distinctive divine titles, their equality will be observed, nor any one of them be represented as subordinate to any other.

(5.) That since the MANHOOD of Christ commenced, and its peculiar functions ceased, with his incarnation, it will never be found ascribed to him in relation to events, before or after this period.

All these phenomena, I submit, are essential to make scripture consistent with Athanasianism; and not one of these phenomena does scripture contain. This it is now my business to show.

III. (1.) Is then our expectation realized, of finding somewhere within the limits of the Bible, a plain, unequivocal statement of these doctrines? Confessedly not; and notions which, in one breath, are pronounced to be indispensable to salvation, are in another admitted to be no matters of revelation at all, but rather left to be gathered by human deduction from the sacred writings. “The doctrine of the Trinity,” says a respectable Calvinistic writer, Mr. Carlile of Dublin, “is rather a doctrine of inference and of indirect intimation, deduced from what is revealed respecting the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and intimated in the notices of a plurality of persons in the Godhead, than a doctrine directly and explicitly declared.” And elsewhere the same author says, “A doctrine of inference ought never to be placed on a footing of equality with a doctrine of direct and explicit revelation.”[173] If this be so (and the method of successive steps by which it is attempted, in this very controversy, to establish the doctrine of the Trinity, proves Mr. Carlile to be right), then to deny this mere inference is not to deny a revelation. But why, we may be permitted to enquire, this shyness and hesitancy in the scriptures in communicating such cardinal truths? Whence this reserve in the Holy Spirit about matters so momentous?[174] What is the source of this strange contrast between the formularies of the Church of England, and those of the primitive Church of Christ? The Prayer-book would seem to have greatly the advantage over the Bible; for it removes all doubts at once, and makes the essentials most satisfactorily plain; compensating, shall we say, by “frequent repetitions,” for the defects and ambiguities of Holy Writ? Nay, it is a singular fact, that in the original languages of the Old and New Testaments, no phraseology exists in which it is possible to express the creeds of the Church. We give to the most learned of our opponents the whole vocabulary of the Hebrew and the Greek Scriptures, and we say, “with these materials translate for us into either language, or any mixture of both, your own Athanasian Creed,” They well know, that it cannot be done: and ought not then this question to be well weighed? if the terms indispensable for the expression of certain ideas are absent from the Bible, how can the ideas themselves be present? Scarcely can men have any important notions without the corresponding words,—which the mind coins as fast as it feels the need; and most assuredly they cannot reveal them. Let us hear no more the rash assertion that these tenets may be proved from any page of scripture; we frankly offer every page, with unrestricted liberty to rewrite the whole; and we say, with all this, they cannot be expressed.

(2.) Let us proceed to apply our second criterion, and ascertain whether the divine persons, whom it is essential to distinguish, are so distinguished by characteristic titles in scripture; and share among them, with any approach to equality, the name of God.

It is self-evident, that a verbal revelation can make known distinctions only by distinctive words; that if two or more objects of thought receive interchangeable names, and the term which had seemed to be appropriated to the one is transferred to the other, those objects are not discriminated, but confounded. We require, then, separate words in scripture to denote the following notions; of the One Divine Substance, or Triune Being; of the First, of the Second, of the Third person, in this infinite existence;—of the Divine Nature and of the Human Nature of Christ. For the Trinity, it is acknowledged, there is no scripture name; unless, indeed, the plural form of the word God in the Hebrew language is to be claimed for this purpose; and thus an attempt be still made to confirm our faith by argument which an orthodox commentator calls “weak and vain, not to say silly and absurd.”[175] “From the plural sense of the word Elohim,” says the great Calvin, “it is usual to infer that there are three persons in the Godhead. But as this proof of so important a point appears to me by no means solid, I will not insist upon the word. Let me then warn my readers against such VIOLENT INTERPRETATIONS.”[176] “I must be allowed,” says Dr. Lee, Arabic Professor in the University of Cambridge, “to object to such methods of supporting an article of faith, which stands in need of no such support.”[177] Of the first person in the Trinity, the word “Father,” it is to be presumed, may be considered as the distinctive name; of the Second person, the terms Son, Son of God, and the Word or Logos; of the Third person, the phrase Holy Ghost, Spirit, Paraclete; and of the human nature of Christ, as distinguished from the Second distinction in the Trinity, the names Jesus of Nazareth, Son of Man, the Man Christ Jesus. If these names be not distinctive, there certainly are no others; and if there be none at all, then the distinctions themselves are not impressed upon the record; they are altogether destitute of signs and expressions, and must be pronounced purely imaginary. Meanwhile we will assume the titles, which I have just enumerated, to be appropriated to the purposes which have been assigned. To the use of the words Father and Son I shall have particular occasion to revert.

The usage of the word God, in the New Testament, presents us with some remarkable phenomena. The Athanasian doctrine offers to our belief four objects of thought, to which this word is equally and indifferently applicable; the Triune Divine Being; and each of the three Persons; and its advocates profess to have learned from Scripture the well-adjusted equipoise of these claims upon the great and sacred name. We are hardly then prepared by its instructions, distinct and emphatic as they are, for the following fact; allowing every one of the Trinitarian interpretations to be correct, the word God is used in the New Testament TEN times of Christ; and of some other object, upwards of THIRTEEN HUNDRED times.[178] Whence this astonishing disproportion? Some cause,—something corresponding to it in the minds of the writers, it must have had; nor is it easy to understand, how an equal disposition of the Divine Persons in the habitual conceptions of the Authors, could lead to so unequal an award of the grand expression of Divinity.

Even the few instances, which for the moment I have allowed, will disappear on a nearer examination. This appears to be the proper place to pass under review the most remarkable passages, which, under Trinitarian exposition, appear to sanction the doctrine of the proper Deity of Christ.

(a.) The evangelist Matthew applies to Christ[179] the following words of the prophet Isaiah, which, in order to give the truest impression of the original, I will quote from the translation of Bishop Lowth: “Behold the Virgin conceiveth, and beareth a son; and she shall call his name Emmanuel.”[180] As this name is significant, and means “God with us,” it is argued, that it could not be assigned to any one who was not properly God.

Now even if this name were really assigned by the prophet to Christ, the most superficial Hebraist must be aware that it teaches us nothing respecting the nature and person of our Lord. “The fact is unquestionable,” says Dr. Pye Smith, “that the gratitude or hope of individuals, in the ancient scriptural times, was often expressed by the imposition of significant appellations on persons or other objects, in the composition of which Divine names and titles were frequently employed; these are, therefore, nothing but short sentences, declarative of some blessing possessed or expected.”[181] Thus the name Lemuel means God with them; Elijah, God the Lord; Elihu, God is he. So that to use the words of one of the ablest of living Trinitarian writers, “to maintain that the name Immanuel proves the doctrine in question is a fallacious argument.”[182]

But, in truth, this name is not given to the Messiah by the prophet; and the citation of it in this connection by the evangelist is an example of those loose accommodations, or even misapplications, of passages in the Old Testament by writers in the New, which the most resolute orthodoxy is unable to deny; and which (though utterly destructive of the theory of verbal inspiration) the real dignity of the Gospel in no way requires us to deny. Turning to the original prophecy, and not neglecting the context and historical facts which illustrate it, we find that Jerusalem was threatened with instant destruction by the confederated kings of Syria and Samaria; that, to the terrified Jewish monarch Ahaz, the prophet is commissioned to promise the deliverance of his metropolis and ruin to his enemies; that he even fixes the date of this happy reverse; and that he does this, not in a direct way, by telling the number of months or years that shall elapse, but by stating that ere a certain child, either already born, or about to be born within a year, shall be old enough to distinguish between good and evil, the foe shall be overthrown; and that this same child, whose infancy is thus chronologically used, shall eat the honey of a land peaceful and fertile once more. Nor is this interpretation any piece of mere heretical ingenuity. Dr. Pye Smith observes: “It seems to be as clear as words can make it, that the Son promised was born within a year after the giving of the prediction; that his being so born at the assigned period, was the sign or pledge that the political deliverance announced to Ahaz should certainly take place.”[183] Without assenting to the latter part of this remark, I quote it simply to show that, in the opinion of this excellent and learned Divine, the Emmanuel could not have been born later than a year after the delivery of the prophecy. It will immediately appear that there is nothing to preclude the supposition of his being already born, at the very time when it was uttered.

Who this child, and who his mother, really were, are questions wholly unconnected with the present argument. As the date, and not the person, was the chief subject of the Prophet’s declaration, any son of Jerusalem, arriving at years of discretion within the stated time, would fulfil the main conditions of the announcement; and as a sign of Divine deliverance, might receive the name Emmanuel. In fact, however, the child, in the view of Isaiah, seems to have been no other than the King’s own son, Hezekiah; and the Virgin Mother to have been, in conformity with a phraseology familiar to every careful reader of the Old Testament, the royal and holy city of Jerusalem. Amos, speaking of the city, says, “The virgin of Israel is fallen,”[184] Jeremiah, lamenting over its desolation, exclaims, “Let mine eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease; for the virgin daughter of my people is broken, with a great breach, with a very grievous blow.”[185] Micah, apostrophizing the citadel, bursts out, “O tower,”—“stronghold of the daughter of Zion,”—“is there no king in thee? Is thy counsellor perished? For pangs have taken thee, as a woman in travail.”[186] The fact that Hezekiah was already born, seems to confirm rather than to invalidate this interpretation. A living child to his parents, he was yet the city’s embryo king. What sign more fitted to reassure the terrified and faithless monarch than this; that, ere his own first-born should reach the years of judgment, his twofold enemy should be cast down? What language, indeed, could be more natural respecting an heir to the throne, of whom great expectations were excited in grievous times? The royal city dreamt of his promised life with gladness; he was the child of Jerusalem, in the hour of her anguish given to her hopes; in after years of peace fulfilling them.[187]

(b.) This prince appears evidently to have been the person described also in another passage, from which, though never cited in the New Testament as applicable to Christ at all, modern theologians are accustomed to infer his Deity. It is as follows: “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and his name shall be called wonderful; counsellor; the mighty God; the everlasting Father; the Prince of Peace.”[188] We have only to look at the terms in which this great one’s dominion is described, and the characters that are to mark his reign, in order to assure ourselves that he is some person very different from Christ; the Northern district of Palestine is to be delivered by him from the sufferings of an Assyrian invasion; he is to break the yoke which Tiglath-Pileser had imposed on the land of Gennesareth; to destroy the rod of the oppressor; to make a conflagration of the spoils of the battle-field, and burn the greaves and blood-stained garments of his country’s enemies.[189] It seems to me impossible to imagine a more violent distortion of Scripture than the application of this passage to Christ. But, be it even otherwise, there are only two of these titles which can be thought of any avail in this argument. One is, the “everlasting Father;” which if it proves anything, establishes that the second person in the Trinity is the first person, or else that the word Father must be given up as a distinctive name, a concession destructive of the whole doctrine. The other is the phrase, “the mighty God,” or by inversion, “God the mighty;” on which I presume no stress would have been laid if, instead of being presented to us in a translation, it had been given in the original, and called Gabriel. For the word God, Martin Luther substitutes (Held) hero, as the juster rendering.[190] But, in truth, it is sad trifling thus to crumble Hebrew names to pieces, in order to yield a few scarce visible atoms of argument to replenish the precarious pile of church orthodoxy, wasted by the attrition of reason, the healthful dews of nature, and the sunshine and the air of God.[191]

(c.) Let us turn to the Proem of St. John’s Gospel; that most venerable and beautiful of all the delineations which Scripture furnishes, of the twofold relation of Christ’s spirit, to the Father who gave it its illumination, and to the brethren who were blessed by its light. To our cold understandings, indeed, this passage must inevitably be obscure; for it deals with some of the characteristic conceptions of that lofty speculative reason, which, blending the refinements of Platonism with the imaginative license of the oriental schools, assumed in early times the intellectual empire of the church, and has kept the world ever since in deliberation on its creations. I do not mean that the Apostle was a Platonist, or a disciple of any philosophical system. But he wrote in Asia Minor, where he was surrounded by the influences, in constant familiarity with the terms, and accustomed to the modes of thought, peculiar to the sects of speculative religionists most prevalent in his time. At all events, it is a fact that he uses language nowhere employed by the other Evangelists or Apostles; and that this language is the very same which is the common stock, and technical vocabulary of Philo, the Platonizing Jew, and several Christian writers of the same or a kindred school. Before, however, endeavouring to suggest the idea which the Apostle did mean to convey, let me call your attention to that which he did not.

There cannot be a more misplaced confidence, than that with which the introductory verses of St. John’s Gospel are appealed to by the holders of the Athanasian doctrine. Whatever explanation is adopted, which does not throw contempt upon the composition of the Evangelist, is at all events subversive of their system: and I do not hesitate to say, that this is the only thing which I can regard as certain respecting this passage; that it never could have been written by an Athanasian. In order to test this assertion, it is not necessary to look beyond the first verse; and before we read it, let us allow the Trinitarian to choose any sense he pleases of the word God, which is its leading term. Let us suppose that he accepts it as meaning here “the Father,” and that the Word or Logos means God the Son. With these substitutions the verse reads thus:—

In the beginning was the Son; and the Son was with the Father; and the Son was the Father. This surely is to “confound the persons.”

Let us then suppose the meaning different, and the whole Godhead or Trinity to be denoted by the word God. The verse would then read thus:—

In the beginning was the Son; and the Son was with the Trinity, and the Son was the Trinity.

We are no nearer to consistency than before: and it is evident that before the Trinitarian can find in the passage any distinct enunciation, the term God must be conceived to bear two different meanings in this short verse,—a verse so symmetrical in its construction as to put the reader altogether off his guard against such a change. He must read it thus:—

In the beginning was the second person in the Trinity; and the second person was with the first; and the second person was possessed of divine attributes as such.

We might surely ask, without unreasonableness, why, when the society or personal affinity of the Son in the Godhead, is mentioned in the middle clause, the companionship of the Father only is noticed, and silence observed respecting the Holy Spirit; who at that moment could not possibly have been absent from the conceptions of any Athanasian writer. But independently of this, the awkwardness of the construction, the violence of the leading transition of meaning, render the interpretation altogether untenable. If it be true, never surely was there a form of speech worse devised for the conveyance of the intended ideas.

In order to give the passage its true force, there is no occasion to assign to the word God any but its usual signification; as the name of the One infinite Person or Being who created and rules the universe. But it is less easy to embrace and exhibit with any distinctness, the notion implied in the phrase Word or Logos. The ancient speculative schools, seeing that the Deity had existed from eternity, and therefore in a long solitude before the origin of creation, distinguished between his intrinsic nature,—deep, remote, primeval, unfathomable,[192]—and that portion of his mind which put itself forth, or expressed itself by works, so as to come into voluntary and intelligible relations to men.[193] This section of the Divine Mind, to which was attributable the authorship of the divine works, they called the Logos, or the Image of God; both terms denoting the expression or power which outwardly reveals internal qualities; the one taking its metaphor from the ear, through which we make known our sentiments by speech; the other from the eye, to which is addressed the natural language of feature and lineament. If I might venture on an illustration which may sound strangely to modern hearers, I should say that the Logos was conceived of in relation to God, much as with us Genius is, in relation to the soul of its possessor; to denote that peculiar combination of intellectual and moral attributes, which produces great, original, creative works,—works which let you into the spirit and affections, as well as the understanding, of the Author. Any one who can so possess himself with the speculative temper of Christian antiquity, as to use with reverence the phrase genius of God, would find it, I am persuaded, a useful English substitute (though I am well aware, not a perfect equivalent) for the word Logos. Dwelling within the blank immensity of God, was this illuminated region of Divine ideas; in which, as in the fancy and the studio of an artist, the formative conceptions, the original sketches and designs, the inventive projects of beauty and good, shaped and perfected themselves; and from which they issued forth, to imprint themselves upon matter and life, and pass into executed and visible realities. From the energy of this creative spirit, or blessed genius of God, two very different orders of results were conceived to flow:—the forms and symmetrical arrangements of the material universe, by which, as by the engraving of a seal, Deity stamped his perfections into vision: and the intuitions of pure reason and conscience in the human soul, by which, as by a heavenly tone or vibration, Deity thrilled himself into consciousness. And when I say Deity, I mean the Logos of Deity; for this alone, it was conceived, stood in any relation to us; the rest was an unexpressed and unfathomable Essence.

This portion of the Divine Infinitude was incessantly and vividly personified; so as to assume, even in the writings of the Jew and undoubted Monotheist Philo, the frequent aspect of a second God: though scarcely have you taken up this idea from one series of passages, before you are recalled and corrected by others, clearly showing that this is a false impression, too hastily derived from the intensity of the imagery and language. Indeed the distinction between a mere personification and a positive mythological personage is very faint. When a writer personifies an abstraction, for the moment he conceives of this object of thought as a person; and were this state of mind perpetuated, he would believe it to be a person. But his mental attitude changes; and in a less excited hour, that which had constructed and painted itself almost into a being, fades away again into an attribute. Hence the fluctuation of writers, at once imaginative and speculative, like Philo and some of the early Christian Fathers, between the logical and the mythical method of speaking of the properties of the Divine nature. And it may be remarked, that the Apostle John partook, though in a very slight degree, of the same tendency. He was fond of abstract words: calling our Saviour the way, rather than the guide; the truth, rather than the teacher; the light, rather than the illuminator; and so I conceive, in the commencement of his Gospel, the inspiration, rather than the inspired of God. And then, as if to remedy the indistinctness of this mode of representation, he resorts to personification: thus, at the dictation of his reverence, first reducing the living person to an abstraction; and afterwards, at the bidding of his imagination, recreating the abstraction into a person. The extent to which this personification may be carried, by an author who certainly had no notion but of One personal God, may be estimated from a few sentences, referring to this very conception of the Logos, from the Jewish Philo. The invisible and intellectual Logos, he says, is the image of God, by whom the world was fashioned; his first-born son, his vicegerent in the government of the world; the mediator between God and his creatures; the healer of ills; God’s divine Son, whose mother is wisdom. In another place, the Logos is the very same with the wisdom of God; the most ancient angel, the first-born of God; to the resemblance of whom every one, who would be a son of God, must fashion himself. He is even the “second God,” “To the Archangel, and most ancient Logos,” says this writer, “God granted this distinguished office, that he should stand on the confines of creation, and separate between it and its Creator. With the incorruptible being he is the suppliant for perishable mortality. He is the ambassador of the Supreme to the subject creation. He announces the will of the Ruler to his subjects. And he delights in the office, and boasts of it, saying; I had stood between you and the Lord as mediator; being neither unbegotten as God, nor begotten as you, but between the two extremes, and acting as hostage to both,”[194] All this sounds very mysterious; the important thing to bear in mind is, that the writer is certainly speaking not of any separate divine person, but of the impersonated attributes of One Sole Supreme.

St. John then, I conceive, does the very same; only he carefully warns us against thinking of his personification as otherwise than identical with the Supreme, by saying outright, that the Logos is God; and therefore that whatever he may say about the former, is really to be understood as spoken of the latter. The whole proem divides itself into two ideas: that from the Genius or Logos of God have proceeded two sets of divine works; the material world; and the soul and inspiration of heaven shed upon the world through Christ. His object, I believe, is to link together these two effects as successive and analogous results, physical in one case, spiritual in the other, of the same divine and holy energy. Having warned us, as I have said, in the very first verse, that this energy is not really a person distinct from the Supreme, he abandons himself without reserve to the beautiful personification which follows; assuring us that thereby were all things made at first, and thereby were all men being enlightened now; that our very world, which felt that forming hand of old, had not discerned the blessed influence which again descended to regenerate it: ungrateful treatment! as of one who came unto his own, and his own received him not. Yet were there some of more perceptive conscience and better hearts; and they, be they Jew or Gentile, whose spirits sprung to the divine embrace, were permitted to become, by reflected similitude, the Sons of God.

Thus far, that is, to the end of the thirteenth verse, there is no mention of Jesus Christ as an individual; there is only the unembodied personification of the abstract energy of God in the original design, and the newer regeneration of the world. Nor should there be any difficulty in this separation of the Divine Spirit from its positive and personal results. Of the Creative Mind of God we can easily think, as not only prior to the act of creation, but still apart from the forms of matter; and so can we of the illuminating or regenerative Mind of God, as not only prior to its manifestation in Christ, but apart from its embodiment in his person. In the next verse, however, the heavenly personification is dropped upon the man Jesus; the mystic divine light is permitted to sink into the deeps of his humanity; it vanishes from separate sight: and there comes before us, and henceforth lives within our view throughout the Gospel, the Man of Sorrows, the Child of God, with the tears and infirmities of our mortal nature, and the moral perfection of the Divine. “And the Word 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.”[195]

(d.) The spirit of this exposition is directly applicable to another passage, adduced to prove the deity of Christ: “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”[196] It is well known that in the most approved text, the word God does not exist, and the passage reads, “He who was manifest in the flesh,” &c. Were it permitted to indulge personal wishes in such matters, I could desire that the common rendering were the true one. I know of no more exact description of Christ, than that he was a living and human manifestation of the character of God.[197]

(e.) Let us now turn to the introductory verses of the Epistle to the Hebrews; a passage which is claimed as the clearest disclosure of the Deity of Christ; for no discoverable reason, except that from its great obscurity, it reveals less, perhaps, than any other portion of Scripture, except the Revelations. From the earliest times it has been justly regarded as exceedingly doubtful whether the Apostle Paul was the author of this letter; the difficulties and darkness of which are of a very different character from those which embarrass us in his noble writings, and arise from mental habits far more artificial and less healthy than his. But whatever be the authority of this work, and whatever the doctrine of its introductory portion, it is so far from giving any support to the Trinitarian sentiments, that it affords, even in its most exalted language, arguments sufficient to disprove them. The first verses of the epistle, altered slightly from the common translation, in order to exhibit more faithfully the meaning of the original, are as follows:—

“God who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath, at the close of these days, spoken unto us by his Son; whom he hath appointed heir of all things; through whom also he made the ages of the world; who, being the brightness of his glory, and the image of his nature, and ruling all things by the word of his power, having by himself made purification of our sins, sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high; being become so much greater than the angels, as he hath obtained by inheritance a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, ‘thou art my son; I have this day begotten thee?’ And again, ‘I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son.’ And when ever he may again introduce his first-born into the world, it (i.e. the Scripture) saith, ‘let all the angels of God pay homage to him.’ And with reference to the angels, it saith, ‘who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.’ But with reference to the son, it saith, ‘thy throne, O God! is for ever and ever, a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom; thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore, O God! thy God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.’”

I terminate the quotation here, because I do not believe that the following words have any relation to Christ. The writer’s argument not only admits, but requires, that they should be referred to the supreme God and Father of all.

Now observe with what distinctness the most lofty phrases applied to our Lord in this passage, affirm his subordination, and deny his equality with the infinite Father. At the very moment when he is addressed as God, he is said to have fellows, and to be set above them as a reward for his goodness; in the same breath which declares his throne to be for ever and ever, he is described as having a God who anoints him with the oil of gladness. He is greater than the angels, not by nature, but by the gift of a better inheritance. He is not the original divine effulgence, but an emanation of that glory, an image of that perfection; and in constituting the worlds, or rather the great æras of its appointed history, he is not the designer of its revolutions, but the instrument of God in effecting them.[198] If this teaches the supreme Deity of Christ, in what language is it possible to disclaim and to deny supremacy?

With respect to the peculiar terms of dignity applied in this passage to Christ, I would observe as follows:—

The words “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever,” were originally addressed by a poetical courtier to Solomon or some other Hebrew monarch, on his accession and marriage;[199] nor can the slightest reason be assigned for supposing that the ode in which the words occur had any reference more remote than the immediate occasion of its composition. The first half of the Psalm[200] is addressed to the prince; the remainder to his bride,[201] who is exhorted to give her undivided affection to the new relation which she has formed; to “forget her own people, and the house of her father;” and who is consoled with the hope, that “instead of her fathers she shall have her sons, whom she shall make princes through all the land.” Those who can satisfy themselves with the theological conceit, that this is a prophetic allegory, descriptive of the relation between Christ and his Church, appear to have placed themselves so far beyond the reach of all the rules of interpretation, that argument becomes fruitless; no possible media of refutation exist. They must belong to the class who have succeeded in spiritualizing the Song of Solomon; to whom therefore it has ceased to be a matter of the smallest consequence, what words are presented to them in Scripture, as they have attained the faculty of seeing one set of ideas, wherever they look, and an incapacity to see anything else. Bishop Young, convinced that the prophetic claims of this Psalm must be relinquished, and that the term God in it is addressed merely to the Hebrew monarch, and therefore used in an inferior sense, renders the passage thus; “thy throne O mighty prince, is for ever and ever.”[202] And surely, even those who can persuade themselves that scripture can have two intended meanings, and who imagine the poem in question to have referred primarily to Solomon, and remotely to the Messiah, must perceive that a word by which the Jewish prince might be accosted, cannot imply the supreme deity of Christ. Christ is said, in the common translation, to have made the worlds; but it is generally admitted that the phrase does not denote the construction of the material universe, and is even incapable of bearing this meaning. It describes Jesus as the agent of God in bringing about the successive states of our social world; in introducing the preluding revolutions, and the final catastrophe of human affairs. If it be asked, what ages, what revolutions, are thus attributed to the instrumentality of Christ? the answer must be sought in the fact, that the author was a Hebrew, writing to Hebrews. He seized on the grand Jewish division of time and Providence into two portions—the period before, and the period after, the coming of the Messiah; and these were the two AGES, frequently called “the present world,” and “the world to come,” which Christ is said to have constituted. Does any one inquire, in what way our Lord, if he were not at least pre-existent, could administer the arrangements of Providence in the former of these periods, that is, before his own mission to mankind? I submit, in answer, a suggestion which seems to me essential to the clear understanding of all the Christian records, and especially of those which relate to the years after the ascension. The advent of the Messiah was represented, during those years, not as past, but as still future;[203] they were regarded as the close of the old and earthly epoch, not the commencement of the new and heavenly; so that all that Jesus of Nazareth had already done, the mighty changes which he had set in operation,—were an action upon the former of the two great ages; nor would the latter be introduced till he returned from heaven; to rule, for a period vast or even indefinite, as the personal vicegerent of God over his faithful children here. This event, which in our own days Millenarians are expecting soon, and which the early Christians expected sooner, was regarded as the true coming of the Messiah—the point of demarcation between the ages—the introduction of “the new heaven and the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.”[204] Meanwhile the old world was drawing to a close, of which a warning (like that given to Noah before the flood)[205] had been given by the preliminary visit, with unmistakable credentials, of him who was to be the Messiah; he had come in the flesh, and retired in the spirit; and was leaving time for the tidings of his appointment and his approach to spread, by the voice of witnesses and preachers who published the pledges of his power. Of those pledges, which marked him out as the future prince of life and earth, none were so distinguished as his resurrection and ascension, by which God had given assurance that he would one day judge or rule the world in righteousness;[206] by which he was declared to be the son of God with power;[207] and on the very day of which he became the first-born or the begotten child of God;[208] and sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high.[209] Invested with his office, he yet abstained from immediately coming to claim its prerogatives; he continued sequestered in the heavens, allowing to the world a time of preparation, a solemn pause before judgment;[210] repressing the impatient moment of the great revolution, and by his powerful word, bearing a while and upholding all things as they are.[211] If this were really the conception of the apostles, it follows, no doubt, that they prematurely expected the return of their Lord; but that they did so, is no new assumption; and in adopting it I protect myself by the authority of Mr. Locke, who says in a note on a passage of the Epistle to the Romans, “It seems, by these two verses, as if St. Paul looked upon Christ’s coming as not far off; to which there are several other occurrent passages in his epistles.”[212]

If the foregoing interpretation of the introduction to this epistle be true, it follows that all the power and dignity there ascribed to Christ are described as acquisition after his ascension; that not till then was he accosted with the title of divinity previously applied to Solomon; not till then did he become greater than the angels, or receive an anointment of gladness above his fellows; not till then did he receive his heirship, his filiation, his vicegerency of God. Of his supreme Deity scarcely could any more emphatic denial be conceived.[213]

(f.) The following passage is sometimes quoted as affirmative of the Deity of Christ: “We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true; and we are in him that is true, in (or by) his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.”[214] But it is surely evident that with Calvin, Newcome, Dr. Adam Clarke,[215] we must consider the concluding pair of epithets as parallel respectively with the two penultimates. “By him that is true,” says the Apostle, “I mean the true God,” “and this Jesus Christ is eternal life.”[216] As to the pretence of over-nice grammarians, that the pronoun “this” must refer to Jesus Christ as the nearest antecedent, the Apostle John himself dismisses it with this one sentence: “Many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This (not Jesus Christ, it is to be presumed) is a deceiver and an antichrist.”[217] The antecedent, in this case, is not only remote, but plural.

(g.) I know of only one other set of passages requiring explanation from a Unitarian; and of these I take the following as an example; giving, you will observe, a translation slightly differing from the authorized version, but to which no competent judge will probably object:—“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; who, being in the form of God, never thought his equality with God a thing to be eagerly retained; but divested himself of it, and took on him the form of a servant, and assumed the likeness of men; and being in the common condition of man, still humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, aye, and the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him &c.”[218] Elsewhere Paul briefly expresses this sentiment thus: being rich, for your sakes he became poor.[219]

Now, in order to appreciate the striking beauty of this passage, it is necessary to remember that the Apostle is writing to Gentiles; and to enter into his remarkable conception respecting the relation of the Messiah to them. This great object of promise was, according to the original idea of him, a mere national appropriation of the Jews; made their own by birth and lineage as well as by office. So long as these peculiarities belonged to him, he could not, without breaking through all the restraints of the sacred Mosaic law, stand in any friendly connection with the Gentiles; nor did our Lord, during his mortal life, ever extend his ministry beyond his native land. Moreover, there was nothing, Paul conceived, to prevent his realizing at once, had he willed it, all the splendid anticipations of the Hebrews; nothing to obstruct his seizing, from the hills of Galilee, or the heights of Jerusalem, the promised royal sceptre, and making himself, without delay, the Lord of all below; nothing but his holy resolve to be no mere Jewish Messiah, and his desire to embrace the Gentiles, too, within the blessings of his sway. And how could this be accomplished? Never, so long as the personal characteristics of the Israelite attached to him. He determined then to lay these aside, which could be done by death alone. On the cross, or in the ascension, he parted from the coil of mortality, in which were enveloped all the distinctions that made him national rather than human; the lineage, the blood, the locality, the alliance, passed away; the immortal spirit alone remained, and departed to the rest of God; and this his soul was not Hebrew, but was human; and so his relations expanded, and the princely Son of David became, through death, the divine Messiah of humanity. Writing then to Gentiles, the Apostle reminds them of this; tells them of what attainable splendours Jesus had deprived himself, what rightful glories he had resigned, what anguish he had endured, to what death he had submitted, in order to drop his mortal peculiarities which had excluded the nations from the peace of his dominion, and to assume that spiritual state to which they might stand related. It was not his Godhead, not the application of his miracles to his personal advantage, but the dignities of the Prince of Israel, the prerogatives and triumphs of God’s vicegerent, of which he emptied himself, and for the Gentiles’ sakes became poor. He whose office made him as God, became, by his pure will, a servant; he who, without the slightest strain of his rights, might have assumed an equivalence to Providence on earth, and administered at once the promised theocracy of heaven, was in no eager haste to seize the privilege; but, that he might call in those who else had been the exile and the outcast people, entered first the shadow of suffering and shame; he who might have been exempt from death, took the humiliation of the cross; showing a divine and self-forgetful love, which disregards his own rights to pity others’ privations; and which gave a resistless force to the exhortation, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”[220]

(h.) In direct contrast with this past humiliation of Christ, is the present glory and future dominion with which, in the verses immediately following, the Apostle describes him as invested by the rewarding complacency of God. And here the passage enters the same class with three others,[221] of which the introduction of the Epistle to the Hebrews is one, but the most remarkable is the following: “Christ, ... who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature; for by him were all things created, that are in Heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, all things, were created through him and for him; and he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church; who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; that in all things he might have pre-eminence; for it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell.”[222]

Calvin himself warns us that “the circumstances of this place require us to understand it as spoken,” not of the original formation of the universe, but “of the renovation which is included in the benefit of Redemption.”[223] Indeed a very superficial acquaintance with the phraseology of the Apostle, is sufficient to convince us that the language which we have here is very unlike that in which he speaks of the construction of the material system of things and very like that in which he describes the regeneration of the world by the faith of Christ. Describing the natural creation, he makes no such strange selection of objects as thrones, principalities, dominions, powers, with unintelligible avoidance of everything palpable: but says plainly, “The living God, who made Heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them.”[224] And characterizing, on the other hand, the effects of the Gospel, he says, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works;”[225] and “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away, behold all things have become new.”[226] Nor does the language of this passage appear so violently figurative as commentators have usually supposed. Apply to it the Apostle’s conception respecting the return of his Lord from Heaven, to reign visibly upon earth, over a community holy and immortal, and the obscurity will no longer be felt. That advent, introducing the future age or world to come, would be attended by a revolution which could be called no less than a “new creation.” No term less emphatic would adequately describe the superseding of all existing arrangements, the extinction of earthly rule, authority, and power;[227] the recal to earth of the spirits of the just;[228] the immortalizing of the saints who had not slept;[229] the gathering together the whole family of the holy in Heaven or earth;[230] the everlasting destruction of the faithless from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power;[231] the bowing of every knee before the Prince of Life;[232] the opening of the kingdom that cannot be moved;[233] and the award of recompense to those who, having suffered, should reign with him.[234]

Already were the elements of this blessed society drawing themselves together, some in Heaven, others upon earth; the investiture with immortality had commenced. Christ was the beginning, the first-born from the dead: and the departed saints sharing his heavenly rest, and ready for the Lord to bring with him;[235] the afflicted Church below, in earnest expectation of the manifestation of those Sons of God, and though waiting for the redemption of the body, yet risen together with Christ to that spiritual mind which is life and peace;[236] all these were kept by the power of God unto the salvation, which was ready to be revealed in the last time.[237] The multitude of the holy was thronging in, showing that no scant dominion was forming; but that it pleased the Father that, in his vicegerent, all fulness should dwell, and whatever is perfect be united. Lifted above the hostile reach of human might and dominion, above all mean comparison with earthly names of dignity, he sees all things already beneath his feet in the world as it is, and all things prospectively submissive in the world as it is to be.[238] Nor was Jesus, in his retirement above, unoccupied with the glories of his commission, or indifferent to the recompense of his followers; rather is he preparing and allotting to the glorified there, and the toiling here, the privileges and powers of the everlasting age which shall take place of the thrones and principalities of this. Over both portions of the community of Saints, the seen and the unseen, the Heavenly and the earthly, he is the living head, and his spirit filleth all.[239]

This vision of the Advent, with all the magnificent ideas which gathered round it, seems to me to have given rise to the glorious “rapture” of this passage; to have thrown in, at first, its light and darkness, and when applied now to its interpretation, to disclose the dim outline of its plan. And though, in form, the anticipation itself was at least premature, in spirit it receives, in the providence of the Gospel, one prolonged fulfilment; and many of its accompanying conceptions realize themselves perpetually. Though as yet Christ comes not back to us, yet do the faithful go to him, and there, not here, are for ever with the Lord. Though with no visible sway he dwells on earth, he more and more rules it from afar; wins and blesses the hearts of its people, bends their wills, sends his image to be their conscience; and long has he had a might and name among us, far above our principalities and powers, and made the cross superior to the crown. And who can deny that he hath united in one the family in heaven and earth, compelled death to fasten innumerable ties of love between the kindred spheres, and trained our rejoicing sympathies to see in creation but one society of the good, whether they toil in service and exile here, or have joined the colony above of the emancipated sons of God.

What then is the result of our inquiry into the scriptural use of the word God? That it is once applied, by way of transference, to Christ, in a passage of whose honours Solomon was the first proprietor. The views of the writer, and the purpose of his letter, might make this secondary application of the Hebrew poem right and useful. But now, how miserably barren must be that religion, how unspeakably poor that appreciation of Christ, which thinks to glorify him, by throwing around him the cast-off dignities of a Jewish prince! All these convulsive efforts to lift up the rank of Jesus, do but turn men from that greatness in him which is truly divine. And after all they utterly fail—except in turning into caricature the image of perfect holiness, and into a riddle the statement of the grandest truths: for the scanty evidence will not bear the strain that is put upon it. Nothing short of centuries of indoctrination could empower so small a testimony to sustain so enormous a scheme, and enable ecclesiastics, by sleight of words, to metamorphose the simplicity of the Bible into the contradictions of the Athanasian creed.

Our remaining criteria may be very briefly applied.

(3.) Our next demand from a Trinitarian Bible is this; that as there are three persons equally entitled to the name of God, that word must never be limited to One of these, to the exclusion of the other two.

Yet do the Scriptures repeatedly restrict this title to the Father so positively, that no more emphatic language remains, by which it would be possible to exclude all other persons from the Godhead. If the texts we shall adduce of this class do not teach the personal unity of God, let it be stated what terms would teach it; or whether we are to consider it as a doctrine incapable of being revealed at all, however true in itself. Meanwhile, I would ask, whether the most skilful logician could propose a form of speech, closing the Godhead against all but the Father, more absolutely than these passages; “There is but One God, the Father.”[240] “Father! ... this is life eternal, to know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.”[241] “The true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; the Father seeketh such to worship him; God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”[242] “There is one God and Father of all.”[243]

If such passages as these do not deny the Deity of all persons but One, it must be because the word “Father” is used in them to denote the whole Trinity; and if this be so, then this name ceases to be distinctive of the first person in the Godhead; no discriminative title of that person remains; it becomes impossible for language to characterize him; and the whole mechanism of speech, by which alone a verbal revelation could disclose the distinctions in the divine nature, vanishes away. You must either confess absence of the distinctions themselves, or show the presence of distinctive names.

(4.) Our next demand from a Trinitarian Bible would be this; that when the persons are named, by their distinctive Divine titles, their equality will be recognized, nor any one of them be represented as subordinate to another.

If an Athanasian received a divine commission to prepare a Gospel,—a statement of the essentials of Christianity,—for the use of some unevangelized nation, he would not, we may presume, habitually represent the Son, in his very highest offices, as inferior to the Father, as destitute of independent power, as without underived knowledge, and possessed only of a secondary and awarded glory. At all events, these representations would not be made without instant explanation; and the writer would accuse himself of rashly periling the mysteries of God, if he committed himself to such statements without guard or qualification, in broad unlimited propositions. Yet these are precisely the phenomena of Scripture. It is perpetually maintained by Trinitarians, that the miracles of Christ were acts of power, inexplicable except by proper Deity, united with his humanity; and that his superhuman wisdom was an expression of that Divine Nature which blended itself with his mortal constitution. If so, his miracles were wrought and his teachings dictated by that element of his personality which was God,—that is, by GOD THE SON;[244] but this, our Lord unequivocally denies; “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do;” “I can of mine own self do nothing.”[245] “The words which I speak unto you, I speak not of myself; but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works;”[246] “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father;”[247] “The works which the Father hath given me to perform.”[248] These passages declare, with all the precision of which language admits, that the wisdom and the might which dwelt in Christ, were not those of the Son, but those of the Father; the incarnate God had no concern with them, for they are ascribed exclusively to him who never became incarnate. Indeed we ask, and we ask in vain, for any one divine act or inspiration ascribed by our Lord to this humanized Deity with whom his mortal nature was united: his teachings are one prolonged declaration that the divinity that dwelleth within him was THE FATHER. If he felt within him a co-equal Godhead, how could he make the unqualified affirmation, “My Father is greater than all?”[249] Or can a more specific disclaimer of Omniscience be framed than this; “Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels who are in Heaven, NEITHER THE SON, but the Father?”[250] Dr. Adam Clarke, unable to resist this overpowering text, expresses his suspicion that it is not altogether genuine, and that the words, “neither the Son,” should be expunged. It would appear that the temptations to “mutilation” are felt by other parties than the Editors of the Improved Version. If it be said, that in the passages which have been cited, the subordination alleged of Christ, refers to his human nature, and his mediatorial office, then it follows that his highest title may become the name of what is called his lowest capacity; and if this be so, no medium of verbal proof remains by which to establish any higher nature.[251] But can any supposition be more monstrous than this; that whenever our Lord used the familiar language of personality, and discoursed with the peasants of Galilee, and the populace of Jerusalem, he was perpetually performing a metaphysical resolution of himself into natures, characters, and offices, and putting forth, now a phrase from the divine, now another from the human capacity; here a sentence from the pre-existent, and there another from the mediatorial compartment of his individuality? And the absurdity is crowned, when writings, crowded thus with mental reservations, are handed over to us as a Revelation.

(5.) Our last expectation from a Trinitarian Bible is this; that, since with the incarnation began and ended the peculiar office of Christ’s humanity, he will not be spoken of as man, in relation to the events before or after this period.

The glory which our Lord is thought to have possessed before his entrance into this world, was the essential, underived, inalienable glory, which belonged to his Divinity; nor was his highest nature yet blended with the suffering elements, or capable of being described by the inferior titles, of his mediatorial office, or his mortal existence. Yet is it under the designation of SON OF MAN that he is described, according to the prevalent interpretation, as pre-existent; it is the SON OF MAN who “was before,” in that state, whither he was to “ascend up again;”[252] it was, “He that came down from Heaven,—even the SON OF MAN, who is in Heaven.”[253] Whatever doubt there may be respecting the precise import of this title, it certainly cannot be thought to denote the separate divine nature of Christ, as it existed before the incarnation. In perfect consistency with this language, it appears that for the restoration of this original glory, Jesus declares himself wholly dependent on the Father; “And now, O Father, glorify me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.”[254] Here, if there be truth in the Trinitarian hypothesis, it was the man that prayed for a re-bestowal of that which the man never possessed, and which the God never lost or could receive from another. It must be admitted that no expression of dependence can be more solemn and absolute, than that which pours itself forth in prayer; and if our Lord was able to resume his former state, by the energy of his own Omnipotence, this act of supplication loses all semblance of sincerity. Yet, if here his dependence on the Father is acknowledged to be implied, with what consistency can another passage, relating also to his departure from earth to Heaven, be seized upon to prove that he raised himself from the dead, by that inextinguishable and glorious power, which, nevertheless, he entreats the Father to restore? If his proper Deity brought back to life the crucified humanity, it was a mockery for his manhood to concern itself in prayer, for the restoration of the proper Deity. That his resurrection is not ascribed to inherent power of his own, is evident, not merely from the habitual language of the preachers of this great miracle, who declare without reserve that “this Jesus hath God raised up;”[255] nor from the words of Paul, who calls himself “an Apostle by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;”[256] but even from the very text (when read without curtailment) which is adduced to prove the contrary; “No man taketh it (my life) from me, but I lay it down of myself; I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this commandment have I received of my Father.”[257] “The Messiah is privileged to be immortal; and my seeming fall by hostile hands will neither disprove my claim to the office, nor deprive it of this peculiar feature; my mission gives me a right to live, which will not be forfeited, though I exercise the right to die. Let no one think that my life is forced from me without consent of my own will; you can no more take it from me, than you can restore it to me. It is by the arrangement of the Father, whose will is also mine, that I take my Messianic immortality, not at once, but through a process of suffering and death.”

If we pass forward beyond the mortal life, to the final exaltation of Christ, he is still presented to us undivested of his humanity. Listen to the modern preachers of Orthodoxy, and they will tell you that the judicial capacity of the Saviour could be filled by Deity alone; that to pass judgment on an assembled world, to read the secrets of all hearts, and allot their final doom, are offices demanding nothing less than Omniscience, Omnipotence, Independence.[258] But from the Apostle Paul we learn, that “God will judge the world in righteousness by that MAN whom he hath ordained;”[259] and our Lord himself says, “I can of mine own self do nothing; as I hear I judge;”[260] “The Father hath given him authority to execute judgment also, BECAUSE HE IS THE SON OF MAN.”[261] Nor is it the presumption of heresy alone that esteems it possible for God to confer on a human being the requisites for so august an office; for it is Archbishop Tillotson who says, “We may promise to ourselves a fair and equal trial at the judgment of the Great Day, because we shall then be judged by a man like ourselves. Our Saviour and judge himself hath told us, that for this reason God hath committed all judgment to the Son, because he is the Son of man. And this in human judgments is accounted a great privilege, to be judged by those who are of the same rank and condition with ourselves, and who are likely to understand best, and most carefully to examine and consider all our circumstances, and to render our case as if it were their own. So equitably doth God deal with us, that we shall be acquitted or condemned by such a judge as, according to human measures, we ourselves should have chosen, by one in our own nature, who was made in all things like unto us, that only excepted which would have rendered him incapable of being our judge, because it would have made him a criminal like ourselves. And therefore the Apostle offers this as a firm ground of assurance to us that God will judge the world in righteousness, because this judgment shall be administered by a man like ourselves; He hath, saith he, appointed a day wherein he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained,” &c.[262]

It is, then, in his humanity, that this high prerogative belongs to Jesus. Yet are our opponents right in their assertion that, if there be any office attributed to him, requiring divine perfection, it is this; no higher exaltation remains, no superior glory is referred to him from which, with any better reason, we can conclude his equality with the Father. Human in this, he is human in all things.

Not one then of the proper characteristics of a Trinitarian Bible can be found in the Scriptures; and it is vain for the Athanasian system to claim their support. This conclusion can be subverted only in two ways; either by showing, that the criteria which I have laid down, for ascertaining the theology of the sacred writings, are unreasonable and incorrect; or by showing, that the application of them does not yield any of the results which I have stated. I say any of the results; for if all the phenomena which I have assumed as tests, would be necessary to give a Trinitarian complexion to the Scriptures, the absence of even a portion of them would decide the controversy against our opponents’ scheme, whatever difficulties might remain to embarrass our own. If the list of criteria be thought materially wrong, let it be shown where and why; let it be explained how there can be a verbal revelation of “distinctions,” without any distinctive names; how, without such discriminative words, we are to know, unless we assume the whole doctrine to be proved, when the human nature of Christ speaks, or is spoken of, when the divine; how the poor, who first had the gospel preached to them, ascertained this with the requisite degree of nicety; and above all, we would request to be furnished with a better set of criteria; and to be distinctly informed, what scriptural phenomena would be required, in order to disprove the Trinitarian scheme. If, on the other hand, I have erred in the application of my tests, let it be shown how far into the substance of the argument the error extends. I cannot hope that the exposition which I have given will be found free from mistake and inaccuracy; and let these be exposed with such severity as they may deserve. Only let it be remembered, that the real question is not about the skill of the advocate, but respecting the truth of the scheme; and when all the errors of the one have been cleared away, let it be still asked, in what condition stands the evidence of the other. I have purposely taken my principal station on the least favourable ground of the Unitarian argument; I have exhausted the strongest passages adduced against our theology: and I have done this the more readily, because these portions of scripture appear to possess an excellence and beauty, which are obscured by their unresisted controversial repetition, and marred by the lacerations of Orthodoxy.

And may we not, without immodesty, ask any candid Trinitarian, are these passages so very plain and easy, are they so numerous, are our interpretations so irrational and ignorant, as to justify the imputation of deceit, of blasphemy, of wilful mutilation of the word of God, which we are condemned perpetually to hear? As to that excellent man, who on Wednesday last, treated in this way our most cherished convictions, and our most innocent actions, I have said nothing in reply to his accusations; for I well know them to have failed in benevolence, only from excess of mistaken piety. Had he a little more power of imagination, to put himself into the feelings and ideas of others, doubtless he would understand both his Bible and his fellow-disciples better than he does. Meanwhile, I would not stir, with the breath of disrespect, one of his grey hairs; or by any severity of expostulation disturb the peace of an old age, so affectionate and good as his. He and we must ere long pass to a world, where the film will fall from the eye of error, and we shall know, even as we are known.[263]

In conclusion, then, I revert with freshened persuasion, to the statement with which I commenced. Jesus Christ of Nazareth, God hath presented to us simply in his inspired humanity. Him we accept, not indeed as very God, but as the true image of God, commissioned to show what no written doctrinal record could declare, the entire moral perfections of Deity. We accept,—not indeed his body, not the struggles of his sensitive nature, not the travail of his soul, but his purity, his tenderness, his absolute devotion to the great idea of right, his patient and compassionate warfare against misery and guilt, as the most distinct and beautiful expression of the Divine mind. The peculiar office of Christ is to supply a new moral image of Providence; and everything therefore except the moral complexion of his mind, we leave behind as human and historical merely, and apply to no religious use. I have already stated in what way nature and the gospel combine to bring before us the great object of our trust and worship. The universe gives us the scale of God, and Christ his Spirit. We climb to the Infinitude of his nature by the awful pathway of the stars, where whole forests of worlds silently quiver here and there, like a small leaf of light. We dive into his Eternity, through the ocean waves of Time, that roll and solemnly break on the imagination, as we trace the wrecks of departed things upon our present globe. The scope of his Intellect, and the majesty of his Rule, are seen in the tranquil order and everlasting silence that reign through the fields of his volition. And the Spirit that animates the whole is like that of the Prophet of Nazareth; the thoughts that fly upon the swift light throughout creation, charged with fates unnumbered, are like the healing mercies of One that passed no sorrow by. The government of this world, its mysterious allotments of good and ill, its successions of birth and death, its hopes of progress and of peace, each life of individual or nation, is under the administration of One, of whose rectitude and benevolence, whose sympathy with all the holiest aspirations of our virtue and our love, Christ is the appointed emblem. A faith that spreads around and within the mind a Deity thus sublime and holy, feeds the light of every pure affection, and presses with Omnipotent power on the conscience; and our only prayer is, that we may walk as children of such light.


NOTES.


A.
 
On Impossibility, Physical and Logical.

In order to break the force of all reasonings respecting the inherent incredibility of the Trinitarian doctrine, the principle has been frequently advanced, that a statement which would be contradictory, if made respecting an object within reach of our knowledge, cannot be affirmed to be so, if applied to an object beyond our knowledge; since in the one case we have, in the other we have not, some experience to guide our judgment, and serve as a criterion of truth. Thus, it is said, to affirm of man, that his nature comprises more than one personality, might, without presumption, be pronounced a contradiction; because we are familiar with his constitution; but knowing nothing of the mode of God’s existence, except what he is pleased to reveal, we cannot prove the same statement to be contradictory, when made respecting his essence.

This rule, like all the Trinitarian reasonings on this subject, derives its plausibility from an ambiguous use of terms. It has one sense in which it is true, but inapplicable to this subject; and another, in which it is applicable, but false. The rule is sound or unsound, according to the meaning which we assign to the word contradiction; a word which, in other arguments besides this, has made dupes of men’s understandings. There are obviously two kinds of contradiction:—one relating to questions of fact, as when we say, it is contradictory to experience that ice should continue solid in the fire; the other, relating to questions of mere thought, as when we say, it is contradictory to affirm that force is inert, or that the diameters of a circle are unequal. The former of these suggests something at variance with the established order of causes and effects, and constitutes a natural or physical impossibility; the latter suggests a combination of irreconcileable ideas, constituting a logical or metaphysical impossibility, or more properly, a self-contradiction.

It is almost self-evident that, in order to pronounce upon a physical impossibility, we must possess experience, and have a knowledge of the properties of objects and successions of events external to us; and that to pronounce on a metaphysical impossibility, we require only to have the ideas to which it refers; of the coincidence or incompatibility of which with each other, our own consciousness is the sole judge. When I deny that ice will remain frozen in the fire, I do so after frequent observation of the effect of heat in reducing bodies, especially water, from the solid to the liquid form; and in reliance on the intuitive expectation which all men entertain, of like results from like causes. Experience is the only justification of this denial; and à priori, no belief could be held on the subject; a person introduced for the first time to a piece of ice and to fire, could form no conjecture about the changes which would follow on their juxtaposition. And as our judgment in such cases has its origin, so does it find its limits, in experience; and should it be affirmed that, in a distant planet, ice did not melt on the application of fire, the right of denial would not extend to this statement, because, our knowledge does not extend to the world to which the phenomenon is referred. The natural state of mind, on hearing such an announcement, might be expressed as follows; “If what you affirm be true, either some new cause must be called into operation, counteracting the result which else would follow; or, some of the causes existing here are withheld: the sequence, I am compelled to believe, would be the same, unless the antecedents were somehow different. Were the fact even a miracle, this would still be true; for the introduction of a new or different divine volition would be in itself a change in the previous causes. But I am not authorized to pronounce the alleged fact impossible; its variance from all the analogies of experience, justifies me in demanding extraordinary evidence in its favour; but I do not say that, in the infinite receptacle of causes unknown to the human understanding, there cannot exist any from which such an effect might arise.”

There is then, I conceive, no physical impossibility, which might not be rendered credible by adequate evidence; there is nothing, in the constitution of our minds, to forbid its reception under certain conditions of proof sufficiently cogent. It simply violates an expectation which, though necessary and intuitive before the fact, is not incapable of correction by the fact; it presents two successive phenomena, dissimilar instead of similar; and between two occurrences, allocated on different points of time, however much analogy may fail, there can be no proper contradiction. The improbability that both should be true, may attain a force almost, but never altogether infinite; a force, therefore, surmountable by a greater. The thoughts can at least entertain the conception of them both; nor is it more difficult to form the mental image of a piece of ice unmelted on the fire, than of the same substance melting away.

It is quite otherwise with a metaphysical impossibility or proper contradiction. The variance is, in this case, not between successive phenomena, but between synchronous ideas. We deny that the diameters of a circle are unequal, without experience, without measurement, and just as confidently respecting a circle in the remotest space, as respecting one before our eyes. As soon as we have the ideas of “circle,” “diameter,” “equality,” this judgment necessarily follows. Our own consciousness makes us aware of the incompatibility between the idea expressed by the word “circle,” and that expressed by the phrase “unequal diameters;” the former word being simply the name of a curve having equal diameters. The variance, in this case, is not between two external occurrences, but between two notions within our own minds; and simply to have the notions is to perceive their disagreement. It would be vain to urge upon us that, possibly, in regions of knowledge beyond our reach, circles with unequal diameters might exist: we should reply, that the words employed were merely the symbols of ideas in our consciousness, between which we felt agreement to be out of the question; that so long as the words meant what they now mean, this must continue to be the case; and that if there were any one, to whom the same sound of speech suggested a truth instead of a falsehood, this would only show, that the terms did not stand for the same things with him as with us. It will be observed that, in this case, we cannot even attain any conception of the thing affirmed; no mental image can be formed of a circle with unequal diameters; make the diameters unequal, and it is a circle no more.

A further analysis might, I believe, reduce more nearly under the same class a physical and a metaphysical impossibility; and might show that some of the language in which I have endeavoured to contrast them, is not strictly correct. But the main difference, which the present argument requires, (viz., that no experience can reconcile the terms of a logical contradiction,) would only be brought out more clearly than ever. I am aware, for instance, that the distinction which I have drawn between my two examples,—that the latter deals with ideas within us, the former with facts without us,—does not penetrate to the roots of the question; that external phenomena are nothing to us, till they become internal; nothing, except through the perceptions and notions we form of them; and that the variance therefore, even in the case of a physical impossibility, must lie between our own ideas. I may accordingly be reminded, that the notion of “melting with fire” is as essentially a part of our idea of “ice,” as the notion of “equal diameters” is of our idea of a “circle;” so that the final appeal might, with as much reason, be made to our own consciousness in the one case as in the other. Might it not be said, “so long as the word ice retains its meaning, the proposition in question is a self-contradiction; for that word signifies a certain substance that will melt on the application of heat?” This is true; and resolves the distinction which I have endeavoured to explain into this form; the word “ice” may be kept open to modifications of meaning, the word “circle” cannot. And the reason is obvious. The idea of the material substance is a highly complex idea, comprising the notion of many independent properties, introduced to us through several of our senses: such as solidity, crystalline form, transparency, coldness, smoothness, whiteness, &c.; the quality of fusion by heat is only one among many of the ingredients composing the conception; and should this even be found to be accidental, and be withdrawn, the idea would still retain so vast a majority of its elements, that its identity would not be lost, nor its name undergo dismissal. But the notion of the circle is perfectly simple; being wholly made up of the idea of equal diameters, and of other properties dependent on this; so that if this be removed, the whole conception disappears, and nothing remains to be denoted by the word. Hence, a physical contradiction proposes to exclude from our notion of an object or event one out of many of its constituents,—an alteration perfectly akin to that which further experience itself often makes; a metaphysical contradiction denies of a term all, or the essential part, of the ideas attached to it. The materials for some sort of conception remain in the one case, vanish in the other.

Now the terms employed in the statement of the doctrine of the Trinity are abstract words; “person,” “substance,” “being:” and the numerical words “One” and “Three,” are all names for very simple ideas; not indeed (except the two last) having the precision of quantitative and mathematical terms; but having none of that complexity which would allow them to lose any meaning, and yet keep any; to change their sense without forfeiting their identity. The ideas which we have of these words are as much within ourselves, and as capable of comparison by our own consciousness, as the ideas belonging to the words angle and triangle; and when, on hearing the assertion that there are three persons in one mind or being, I proceed to compare them, I find the word “person” so far synonymous with the word “mind” or “being,” that the self-contradiction would not be greater, were it affirmed that there are three angles in one γωνία—the mere form of speech being varied to hide the absurdity from eye and ear. To say that our ideas of the words are wrong, is vain; for the words were invented on purpose to denote these ideas: and if they are used to denote other ideas, which we have not, they are vacant sounds. To assert that higher beings perceive this proposition to be true, really amounts to this; that higher beings speak English, (or at all events not Hebrew, or Hellenistic Greek,) but have recast the meaning of these terms; and to say that we shall hereafter find them to be true, is to say that our vocabulary will undergo a revolution; and words used now to express one set of ideas, will hereafter express some other. Meanwhile, to our present minds all these future notions are nonentities; and using the words in question in the only sense they have, they declare a plain logical contradiction. Hence, every attempt to give consistency to the statement of the Trinity, has broken out into a heresy; and the Indwelling and the Swedenborgian schemes, the model Trinity of Wallis and Whately, the tritheistic doctrine of Dr. W. Sherlock, are so many results of the rash propensity to seek for clear ideas in a form of unintelligible or contradictory speech. Σαφὴς ἔλεγχος ἀπιστίας τὸ πῶς περὶ Θεοῦ λέγειν.


B.

On the Hebrew Plural Elohim.

The perseverance with which this argument from the Hebrew plural is repeated, only proves the extent to which learning may be degraded into the service of a system. The use of a noun, plural in form, but singular in sense, and the subject of a singular verb, to denote the dignity of the person named by the noun, is known to be an idiom common to all the Semitic languages. Every one who can read a Hebrew Bible is aware that this peculiarity is not confined to the name of God; and that it occurs in many passages, which render absurd the inference deduced from it. For instance, from Ezek. xxix. 3, it would follow that there is a plurality of natures or “distinctions” in the crocodile, the name of which is there found in the plural, with a singular adjective and singular verb;—התנים הגדול הרבץ בתוך יאריו, “The great crocodile that lieth in the midst of his rivers.” So in Gen. xxiv. 51, the plural form אדונים, Lord, so constantly used of a human individual, is applied to Abraham: ותחי אשה לבו אדוניך, “And she shall be a wife to the son of thy masters,” i.e., thy master Abraham. It is unnecessary to multiply instances, which any Hebrew Concordance will supply in abundance. I subjoin one or two additional authorities from eminent Hebraists, whose theological impartiality is above suspicion.

Schroeder says, “Hebræi sermonis proprietas, quâ Pluralis, tam masculinus, quam femininus, usurpari potest de unâ re, quæ in suo genere magna est et quodammodo excellens; ut ימים, maria, pro mari magno; תנים, dracones, pro dracone prægrandi; אדונים, domini, pro domino magno et potente; אלהים, numina, pro numine admodum colendo; קדשׁים, sancti, pro deo sanctissimo; בהמות, bestiæ, pro bestiâ grandi, qualis est elephas; מכות plagæ, pro plagâ gravi; נחרותּ, flumina, pro flumine magno.” N. G. Schroederi Institutiones ad fundamm. ling. Hebr. Reg. 100. not. i.

Simonis. “Plur. adhibetur de Deo vero; ad insinuandam, ut multis visum est, personarum divinarum pluralitatem; quod etiam alii, maxime Judæi rectè negant: quoniam vel ibi in plurali ponitur, ubi ex mente Theologorum de unâ modo triadis sacræ personâ sermo est, velut Ps. xlv. 7, adeoque gentium unus aliquis deus pluraliter אלהים dicitur, ut Astarte 1 Reg. xi. 33; Baal muscarum et quidem is, qui Ekronæ colebatur 2, Reg. i. 2, 3. Denique sanctam triadem si אלהים significasset, multo notior usuque adeo linguæ quotidiano tritior sub prisco fœdere hæc doctrina fuisset, quam sub novo. Ex nostrâ sententiâ hic plur. indicio est, linguam Hebræam sub Polytheismo adolevisse; eo vero profligato plur. hic in sensum abiit majestatis et dignitatis.” Eichhorn’s Joh. Simonis’ Lexicon Hebr. in verb. אלה, p. 120.

Buxtorf. אלהים, plurale pro singulari: Lex Chaldaicum, Talmudicum et Rabbinicum; in verb.

Gesenius. אלהים pluralis excellentiæ: Gott, von der Einheit; wie בעלים, אדנים. Hebr. und Chald. Handwörterbuch: in verb.

Even Lewis Capel, in his defence of this verbal indication of the Trinity, admits the absurdity of using the argument with Anti-trinitarians: “Siquis ergo vellet adversus Judæos, Samosatenianos, aliosque sanctissimæ Trinitatis præfractos hostes, urgere hoc argumentum, eoque uno et nudo uti, frustra omnino esset: ni prius demonstraret falsam esse quam illi causantur phraseos istius rationem, evinceretque eam in voce istâ אלהים locum habere non posse: quod forte non usque adeo facile demonstrari posset. Atque eatenus tantùm jure possunt suggillari Theologi, si argumento illo nudo, et solo, non aliâ ratione fulto, utantur ad Judæos et Samosatenianos coarguendos et convincendos; non vero si eo utantur ad piorum fidem jam ante aliunde stabilitam, porro augendam atque fovendam.” Lud. Cappelli Critica Sacra. De nom. אלהים Diatriba. c. vii. Ed. 1650, p. 676.

May we ask of our learned opponents, how long the mysterious contents of this plural have been ascertained? Who was the discoverer, forgotten now by the ingratitude of Learning, but doubtless living still in the more faithful memory of Orthodoxy? And why those of the Christian Fathers, who devoted themselves to Hebrew literature, were not permitted to discern the Trinitarianism of the Israelitish syntax? They had not usually so dull an eye for verbal wonders.

The celebrated Brahmin, Rammohun Roy, whose knowledge of oriental languages can be as little disputed, I presume, as the singular greatness and simplicity of his mind, says: “It could scarcely be believed, if the fact were not too notorious, that such eminent scholars ... could be liable to such a mistake, as to rely on this verse (Gen. i. 26. And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness,) as a ground of argument in support of the Trinity. It shows how easily prejudice, in favour of an already acquired opinion, gets the better of learning.” And he proceeds to argue on “the idiom of the Hebrew, Arabic, and of almost all Asiatic languages, in which the plural number is often used for the singular to express the respect due to the person denoted by the noun.” Rammohun Roy was, I believe, the first to call attention to the fact, obvious to any one who will read a few pages of the Koran, that Mohammed, whose belief in the strict personal Unity of the Divine Nature gave the leading feature to his religion, constantly represents God as speaking in these plural forms. I extract a few instances from Sale’s Koran. Lond. 1734:

“God said; when we said unto the angels, worship Adam,” &c.

“God said; and we said, O Adam, dwell thou,” &c.—Ch. ii. p. 31.

“We formerly created man of a finer sort of clay; ... and we have created over you seven heavens; and we are not negligent of what we have created: and we send down rain from heaven by measure; and we cause it to remain on the earth,” &c. “And we revealed our orders unto him, saying; ... speak not unto me in behalf of those who have been unjust.” “God will say, did ye think that we had created you in sport,” &c.—Ch. xxiv. pp. 281, 282, 287.

In the very passages in which Mohammed condemns the doctrine of the Trinity, the same form abounds: “We have prepared for such of them as are unbelievers a painful punishment.” “We have revealed our will unto thee.” “We have given thee the Koran, as we gave the psalms to David.” “O ye who have received the Scriptures, exceed not the just bounds in your religion; neither say of God any other than the truth. Verily Christ Jesus, the Son of Mary, is the apostle of God, and his Word, which he conveyed into Mary, and a spirit proceeding from him. Believe therefore in God and his apostles, and say not, There are three Gods: forbear this; it will be better for you. God is but one God. Far be it from him that he should have a Son! Unto him belongeth whatsoever is in heaven and on earth.”—Ch. iv. pp. 80, 81.


C.

On the Prophecy of an “Immanuel.”

For the Interpretation which identifies “the Virgin” with the city of Jerusalem, I am indebted to Rammohun Roy, who has justified it by reasons which appear to me satisfactory. See his Second Appeal to the Christian Public. Appendix II. Calcutta, 1821, p. 128 seqq. The use of the definite article with the word (העלמה) points out the Virgin as some known object, who would be recognized by King Ahaz, without further description. It will hardly be maintained that this prince was so familiar with evangelical futurities, as to understand the phrase of Mary of Nazareth. Nor does it seem at all likely that either the prophet’s wife, or any other person not previously the subject of discourse, should be thus obscurely and abruptly described. But if “the Virgin” was a well-understood mode of speaking of Jerusalem, Ahaz would be at no loss to interpret the allusion. And that this metaphor was one of the common-places of Hebrew speech, in the time of the prophets, might be shown from every part of their writings. “Thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel; thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry.”[264] “Then shall the Virgin rejoice in the dance.”[265] “The Lord hath trodden the Virgin, the daughter of Judah, as in a wine-press.”[266] And Isaiah himself uses this expression respecting a foreign city: “Thou shalt no more rejoice, O thou oppressed Virgin, daughter of Sidon.”[267] And expressing to the invader Sennacherib, the contempt which God authorized Jerusalem to entertain for his threats, he says, “The Virgin, the daughter of Zion, hath despised thee and laughed thee to scorn.”[268]

It should he remembered, however, that the establishment of this interpretation is by no means necessary to the proof of invalidity in the Trinitarian application of the prophecy. The reasons which I have adduced, together with the use in a neighbouring passage, of the phrase “over the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel,”[269] appear to me to point out some prince as the Virgin’s Son. But many eminent interpreters consider him as only one of the Prophet’s own children, “whom the Lord had given him, for signs and for wonders in Israel.”[270] And the first four verses of the next chapter certainly speak of Isaiah’s son in a manner so strikingly similar, as to give a strong support to this interpretation. But whatever obscurity there may be in the passage, the one clear certainty in it is this: that it does not refer to any person to be born seven or eight hundred years after the delivery of the prediction. And it is surely unworthy of any educated Theologian, possessing a full knowledge of the embarrassments attending the Trinitarian appeal to such texts, still to reiterate that appeal, without any specification of the mode in which he proposes to sustain it. Is it maintained that Jesus of Nazareth was the primary object of the prophecy? Or will any one be found deliberately to defend the hypothesis of a double sense? Or must we fear, that a lax and unscrupulous use is often made of allusions which sound well in the popular ear, without any distinct estimate of their real argumentative value?

It is no doubt convenient to cut the knot of every difficulty by the appeal to inspiration; to say, e.g., that Matthew applies the word Emmanuel to Christ, and with a correctness which his infallibility forbids us to impeach. But are our opponents prepared to abide by this rule, to prove its truth, to apply it, without qualification, to the New Testament citations from the Hebrew Scriptures? Will they, for instance, find and expound, for the benefit of the church, the prophecy stated by Matthew to have been fulfilled in Jesus, “He shall be called a Nazarene?”[271] The words are declared to have been “spoken by the prophets.” But they are not discoverable in any of the canonical prophecies: so that either the Evangelist took them from some inspired work now lost,—in which case the canon is imperfect, and Christianity is deprived of the benefit of certain predictions intended for its support; or, he has cited them so incorrectly from our existing Scriptures, that the quotation cannot be identified. I cannot refrain from expressing my amazement, that those, whose constant duty it is to expound the New Testament writings should be conscious of no danger to their authority, when it is strained so far as to include an infallible interpretation of the Older Scriptures.


D.

On Isaiah ix. 6.

The translation of this passage is not unattended with difficulties: and many of the versions which learned men have proposed leave nothing on which the Trinitarian argument can rest. It is clear that divines ought to establish the meaning of the verse, before they reason from its theology. I subjoin a few of the most remarkable translations.

The Septuagint; “And his name shall be called ‘Messenger of a great counsel;’ for I will bring peace upon the rulers, and health to him.”

The Targum of Jonathan; “And by the Wonderful in counsel, by the Mighty God who endureth for ever, his name shall be called the Messiah (the anointed), in whose days peace shall be multiplied upon us.” The following allusion to the titles in this passage from Talmud Sanhedrim, 11 ch., will show to whom they were applied by Jewish commentators: “God said, let Hezekiah, who has five names, take vengeance on the king of Assyria, who has taken on himself five names also.”

Grotius; “Wonderful; Counsellor of the Mighty God; Father of the future age; Prince of Peace.”

Editor of Calmet; “Admirable, Counsellor, Divine Interpreter, Mighty, Father of Future time, Prince of Peace.”

Bishop Lowth; “Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Father of the everlasting age, the Prince of Peace.”

Many other translations might be added: and even if the prophecy were not obviously spoken of Hezekiah, we might reasonably ask, what doctrinal certainty can be found in so uncertain an announcement? And how is the fact accounted for that, important as it was to the apostles’ success to make the largest possible use of their ancient scriptures, not one of them ever alludes to this prediction?


E.

On the Proem of John.

The objection which is most commonly entertained to the foregoing interpretation of the Proem of St. John’s Gospel, arises from the strength and vividness of the personification of the Logos. A real personality, it is said, must be assumed, in order to satisfy the terms of the description, which could never have been applied by the apostle to a mere mental creation.

I am by no means insensible to the force of this objection: though I think it of less weight than the difficulties which beset every other explanation. And it appears to be greatly relieved by two considerations; first, that a considerable part of the difficulty arises from a want of correspondence between the Greek and the English usage of language; secondly, that this personification did not originate with the apostle, but had become, by slow and definable gradations, an established formula of speech.

1. The first of these considerations I will introduce to my readers in the words of Archbishop Whately: “Our language possesses one remarkable advantage, with a view to this kind of Energy, in the constitution of its genders. All nouns in English, which express objects that are really neuter, are considered as strictly of the neuter gender; the Greek and Latin, though possessing the advantage (which is wanting in the languages derived from them) of having a neuter gender, yet lose the benefit of it, by fixing the masculine or feminine genders upon many nouns denoting things inanimate; whereas in English, when we speak of any such object in the masculine or feminine gender, that form of expression at once confers personality upon it. When ‘Virtue,’ e.g. or our ‘Country’ are spoken of as females, or ‘Ocean’ as a male, &c., they are, by that very circumstance, personified; and a stimulus is thus given to the imagination, from the very circumstance that in calm discussion or description, all of these would be neuter; whereas in Greek or Latin, as in French or Italian, no such distinction could be made. The employment of ‘Virtus,’ and Ἀρετὴ in the feminine gender, can contribute, accordingly, no animation to the style, when they could not, without a solecism, be employed otherwise.”[272]

Now let any one read the English Proem of John, and ask himself, how much of the appearance of personality is due to the occurrence, again and again, of the pronouns “he,” “him,” “his,” applied to the Logos; let him remember that this much is a mere imposition practised unavoidably upon him by the idiom of our language, and “gives no animation to the style” in the original; and I am persuaded that the violence of the personification will be tamed down to the apprehension of a very moderate imagination. It is true that the Logos does not, by this allowance, become impersonal; other parts of the personal conception remain, in the acts of creation and of illumination, attributed to this Divine Power: and hence the substitution of the neuter pronouns “it” and “its;” for the masculines “he,” “him,” “his,” though useful, provisionally, for shaking off the English illusion to which I have referred, cannot be allowed to represent the sentiment of the passage faithfully.

There appears to be another peculiarity of our language and modes of thought, as contrasted with the Greek, which exaggerates, in the Common Translation, the force of the personification. The English language leaves to an author a free choice of either gender for his personifications: and the practical effect of this has been, that the feminine prosopopeia has been selected as most appropriate to abstract qualities and attributes of the mind; and although instances are not wanting of masculine representations of several of the human passions, the figure is felt, in such cases, to be much more vehement and more entirely beyond the limits of prose, than the employment of the other gender. What imagination would naturally think of Pity, of Fear, of Joy, of Genius, of Hope, as male beings? It may be doubted whether our most imaginative prose writers present any example of a male personification of an attribute: I can call to mind instances in the writings of Milton and Jeremy Taylor, of this figure so applied to certain material objects, as the Sun, the Ocean, but not to abstract qualities or modes, unless when a conception is borrowed (as of “Old Time”) from the ancient mythology. And accordingly, to an English reader, such a style of representation must always appear forced and strange. But a writer in a language like the Greek cannot choose the sex of his personifications; it is decided for him, by the gender already assigned to the abstraction, about which he is occupied; and both he and his readers must accommodate their conceptions to this idiomatic necessity. In the German, the Moon is masculine; the Sun feminine; and every reader of that language knows the strange incongruities which, to English perceptions, this peculiarity introduces into its poetical imagery. For example, there is a German translation of Mrs. Barbauld’s Hymns in prose; a passage of which, rendered literally into English would read thus: “I will show you what is glorious. The Sun is glorious. When She shineth in the clear sky, when She sitteth on the bright throne in the heavens, and looketh abroad over all the earth, She is the most excellent and glorious creature the eye can behold. The Sun is glorious; but He that made the Sun is more glorious than She.” Again; “There is the Moon, bending His bright horns, like a silver bow, and shedding His mild light, like liquid silver, over the blue firmament.” In the Greek literature, accordingly, the masculine personification of abstractions is as easy and common as the feminine; and the former occurs in many instances in which an English author, having free choice, would prefer the latter: thus in Homer, Fear is a son of Mars:

Οἷος δὲ βροτολοιγὸς Ἄρης πόλεμόνδε μέτεισι,
Τῷ δὲ Φόβος, φίλος υἱὸς, ἅμα κρατερὸς καὶ ἀταρβὴς,
Ἕσπετο.[273]

But in Collins, a nymph:

“O Fear! ...
Thou who such weary lengths hast past,
Where wilt thou rest, mad nymph! at last?”[274]

And so in Coleridge:

“Black Horror screamed, and all her goblin rout
Diminish’d shrunk from the more withering scene.”[275]

Pindar must make Envy a masculine power:

“Μὴ βαλέτω με λίθῳ τραχεῖ φθόνος.”[276]

Coleridge thus describes the same feeling, giving itself speech:

“... Shall Slander squatting near,
Spit her cold venom in a dead man’s ear?”[277]

And common as it is for English writers to give a feminine personification to Wisdom and Genius, Philo expressly says they are of the masculine gender (τῆς ἄῤῥενος γενεᾶς νοῦς καὶ λογισμὸς);[278] and the husband of the other faculties of the soul.

The divine attributes are, I think, uniformly represented by the pronoun she, in imaginative religious writers, like Bishop Taylor; mercy, justice, goodness, thus assume, in the works of that great man, the same form as Wisdom in the book of Proverbs; and it may be doubted whether, if the apostle John had written in the English language and with English feelings, the personification in his proem might not have presented itself in the same shape. Any one who will read over the passage, with this idea, will find, I think, that the figure, thus modified, appears by no means inconceivable. Have we not, in the peculiarity of our language to which I have alluded, one reason why English theologians appear to have felt more difficulty than foreign divines in seizing the true idea of the Logos; and why the disposition to consider it as an objective and absolute Person has been much more prevalent among all parties here, than on the Continent?

2. But a more important consideration, for the understanding of this Proem, is this: that the Apostle is not the originator of the conception respecting the Logos, but simply adopted it in the shape, towards which it had been organizing itself for centuries. Three successive states of the idea can be traced; in the Old Testament, it appears (in Prov. viii.) as a mere transient personification of Divine Wisdom; in the Apocryphal Books of Ecclesiasticus and of Wisdom, it presents itself in a more permanent and mythical character; and, in the writings of Philo, it assumes so embodied and hypostatized a form, as to perplex the simplicity of his Monotheism. From his writings, the whole Proem of his contemporary John (except where the Baptist and Jesus are mentioned by name) might be constructed. This coincidence in phraseology so remarkable, cannot be considered as accidental. Is it thought impossible that John should say of an attribute of God, that it was with him from the first? We reply, Philo does say so; calling Goodness the most ancient of God’s qualities; Wisdom older than the universe; Logos, the Assessor (πάρεδρος and ὀπαδὸς) of God prior to all creations, a needful companion of Deity, as the joint originator with him of all things.[279] And the Son of Sirach says, in his personification of Wisdom: “I am come out of the mouth of the most High, first-born before all creatures:” “He created me from the beginning, and before the world.”[280] Is it said that such a statement is unworthy of Revelation? We reply, it occurs in the writings of Solomon: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old;” “then I was by him as one brought up with him:”[281] where the feminine form (vv. 2, 3) totally excludes the idea of Wisdom being anything more than a personification. Is it thought impossible that an attribute of God should be called the only-begotten Son of God? We turn to Philo, and find this same Logos entitled the most Ancient Son of God (ὁ πρεσβύτατος υἱὸς θεοῦ), the First-begotten (ὁ πρωτόγονος). Is it inconceivable that, through this transforming energy of God, those who received it should be said to become Sons of God? Philo says, “If you are not yet worthy to be denominated a Son of God, be earnest to put on the graces of his First-begotten Logos,—the most ancient angel, and, we may say, an archangel of various titles:” “for if we are not prepared to be esteemed children of God, we may at all events be thus related to the most Holy Logos, his eternal Image; for the most Ancient Logos is the Image of God.”[282]

As all Theological considerations, suggested by heretics, are apt to be dismissed with mere expressions of surprise and contempt, I am happy to refer, in confirmation of the foregoing views, in the most essential particulars, to an Orthodox Writer, whose accurate and various learning, and sound and grave judgment, have given him a merited pre-eminence among the Commentators on the Gospel of John. I allude to Professor Lücke, whose “Commentar über das Evangelium des Johannes” I have had the opportunity, since the delivery of this Lecture, of consulting. I wish that I could lay before my readers the whole of his admirable history of the rise and progress of the idea of the Logos; but I must content myself with translating a few brief extracts.[283]

“The origin and germ,” he says, “of the theological Formula of the Logos, are furnished in the Canonical Hebrew Books (alluding to certain passages, especially Prov. viii. which he has been showing to be mere poetical personifications of Divine Attributes). It obtained its full development in the Jewish Theology, in the writings of the Alexandrine Philo. And, in an intermediate state of formation, we find it in the Greek Apocryphal books of the Old Testament.”

Lücke examines the conception in all these stages; and, from his analysis of Philo’s mode of thought, I extract the following:

“According to Philo, God, in his interior Essence, is inconceivable, occult, solitary (das absolute), self-comprised, and without relations to any other existence.... Although the absolute cause of all that is, God cannot, in his own essence, and immediately, operate on the universe, either in the way of creation, preservation, or government. Concealed in his absolute separation, God is manifest and an object of knowledge in the world, only through his Powers (δυνάμεις): these, external forces of God in the universe, apart from his absolute essence, are the necessary media of his presence in the universe.... These divine δυνάμεις Philo calls sometimes Ideas, sometimes Angels, sometimes Logoi. This identification of notions, powers, ideas, angels, logoi, which is frequent in the writings of Philo, is of great importance for the right apprehension of his doctrine of the Divine Logos. This Logos he considers in a twofold relation. Sometimes he regards it as inherent (immanent), and refers it to him as a capacity (facultativ); when it is the Divine νοῦς, analogous to the human. But this attributive conception gives way to that of the λόγος ἐνδιάθετος, as a living, energetic δύναμις, which tends to external action. Of this, Philo, in the spirit of Platonism, conceives as ἰδέα ἰδεῶν, the Ideal of things, the archetypal Idea, the pattern World, the νοητὸς κόσμος, which is extant in God as a reality, before all outward creations of the actual universe. In this sense the λόγος is the primary energy of God,—the ἐννόησις, the λογισμὸς θεοῦ λογιζομένου.

But, at the same time, the λόγος is also προφορικός; and, as a forming activity, goes forth out of God. But as this is only another relation of the Divine Logos, viz., relation to the world, so is it the product of the former; yet essentially one with it, like the οἶκος of the inherent Logos,—as human speech is the resident point of the idea, its form of manifestation. All living, active relations of God to the world, all his objective manifestations, are comprised in this emanated Logos. He forms the world or creates it, imprinting himself on matter as a Divine seal (σφραγὶς). And as he has created the world (or otherwise, God through him, δι’ αὐτοῦ,) so he preserves it; he is the indwelling and sustaining power, full of light and life, and filling everything with Divine light and life. So in the human world, he is both the natural divine power of every soul, the pure intellect, the conscience; and the bestower of wisdom, and the watch of virtue. He is the same with the Wisdom of God, the Holy Spirit of God in his objective manifestation in the world; partly because animating and inspiring men, particularly in the capacity of Prophetic Spirit.

“Hence the Logos is the eldest Creation of God, the Eternal Father’s eldest Son, God’s Image, Mediator between God and the World, the Highest Angel, the Second God, the High-priest, the Reconciler, Intercessor for the World and Men, whose manifestation is especially visible in the history of the Jewish people.”[284]

It ought to be added, that some able writers, as Grossman and Gfrörer, conceive that Philo invested his Logos with a real personality. The reasons for this opinion do not appear to me to be satisfactory. Even those who adopt it assign to this hypostasis a rank wholly subordinate, in Philo’s estimation, to the Supreme God: and Lücke strenuously maintains that both the Alexandrine philosopher and the apostle John apply the name God to the Logos only in a figurative sense (ἐν καταχρήσει). He considers the clause “the Word was God,” merely incidental, and unimportant compared with the preceding clause, “the Word was with God.” “John,” he observes, “sums up the purpose of the first verse in the words of the second; οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεὸν. From his not taking up again the idea θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος, we must conclude, that he considered this position only an accessory. Thus the πρὸς τὸν θεὸν is evidently to be the more prominently marked assertion.” “John would say, the primeval Logos is πρὸς τὸν θεὸν; that is, is in such communion with God, stands in such relation to him, that he may be called θεός. Looking at the historical connection between the mode of expression in Philo and in John, there is no room for doubt, that θεὸς is to be taken in the sense in which Philo applies the name θεός to the ποιητικὴ δύναμις τοῦ θεοῦ,—and explicitly calls the λόγος God—ὁ δεύτερος θεός ; but to prevent misunderstanding, expressly subjoins that this is only ἐν καταχρήσει. Though John, as we have seen, understands by the Logos, a real Divine Person, he yet, as a Christian Apostle, held the monotheistic conception of God in a still higher degree, and an incomparably purer form (xvii. 3; 1 John v. 20) than Philo: and are we then at liberty to suppose, that by him, less than by Philo, the position θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος is meant simply ἐν καταχρήσει? It is true that the substitution for θεὸς of the adjective θεῖος is at variance with the analogy of New Testament diction: but must we not, with the Alexandrine Fathers, especially Origen, conclude that θεὸς without the article, is to be taken as marking the difference between the indefinite sense of ‘Divine nature,’ and the definite, absolute, conception of God, expressed by ὁ θεὸς? Thus would John’s θεὸς correspond with Paul’s εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ. Such an accordance between the manner of Paul and of John is an advantage which must appear an equally desirable result of exegesis, whether we consider it in its dogmatical or its historical relations.”[285]

From this extract it appears, that if the author does not approve of the old Socinian interpretation, which considers the Logos as synonymous from the first with Jesus Christ; it is not because he knows, that θεὸς in the predicate cannot signify a god; or slights Origen’s opinion on the usage of N. T. and Hellenistic Greek. We have here an authority, than which no higher can be produced from among the living or the dead, in favour of a meaning which, to the fastidious scholarship of Liverpool theologians, is absolutely intolerable. Lücke of course admits the general rule, respecting the omission of the article with the predicative noun; but he conceives (greatly to the horror, no doubt, of those whose soul resides in syntax) that the good old Apostle would even have committed a solecism in respect of a Greek article, for the sake of clearing a great truth in respect of God. “If there had been any intention to express the substantial unity of the Logos and God, we should have expected the Apostle to write ὁ θεός. On account of the equivocal meaning of θεὸς without the article, the article could not possibly have been absent.”[286] It is vain to say that such corrupt Greek as this cannot be ascribed to the Apostles. Here are examples from John; ἡ ἁμαρτία ἐστὶν ἡ ἀνομία; [287] Τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν ἡ ἀλήθεια: [288] and here are others from Paul; ὁ κύριος τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν: [289] Παντὸς ἀνδρὸς ἡ κεφαλὴ ὁ Χριστός ἐστιν. [290] Nay, we have an example in the following text, of a total inversion of the rule, the article being attached to the predicate, and not to the subject; εἰ ἔστι Κύριος (יהוה) ὁ Θεὸς.[291]

It will be perceived by the text of this Lecture that I do not adopt the rendering of the Alexandrine Fathers; but I am anxious, in rejecting it, to pass no slight on the learning of those who maintain it; and to show that, out of England, orthodoxy can afford to be wise and just.

I think it right to add, that to the view which has been given of the Proem, an objection of some weight occurs in the twelfth verse. The clause ‘to them that believe on his name’ presents the question, ‘who is denoted by the pronoun his,—the Logos or Jesus Christ personally?’ According to the interpretation which I have recommended, it should mean the former; according to the analogy of Scriptural diction, certainly the latter. Feeling the force of the difficulty, I yet think it less serious than those which attend every other hypothesis: and incline to think, that the clause is an anticipation of the personal introduction of the Incarnate Logos which immediately follows; a point of transition from the personification to the history.

In conclusion, may I take occasion to correct an erroneous statement in Mr. Byrth’s Lecture;—that Samuel Crell was a convert to Trinitarianism before his death. “He died,” we are told, “a believer in the Supreme Divinity of Christ, and the efficacy of his atoning sacrifice.”[292] I have before me the most authentic collection of Socinian Memoirs which has been published, by Dr. F. S. Bock, Greek Professor, and Royal Librarian at Königsberg. The work is principally from original sources; and the testimony of the following passage will probably be received as unimpeachable. It appears that a vague statement in the Hamburgh Literary News gave rise to the report of Crell’s conversion: “Obiit Crellius Amstelodami, a. 1747. d. 12. Maii, anno æt. 87. In novis litterariis Hamburg. 1747, p. 703, narratur, quod circa vitæ finem errorum suorum ipsum pœnituerit, hujusque pœnitentiæ non simulatæ haud obscura dederit documenta, quod Paulo Burgero, Archidiacono Herspruccensi in iisdem novis publicis Hamb. 1748, p. 345, eam ob caussam veri haud absimile videtur, quia sibi Amstelodami degenti Crellius, a. 1731, oretenus testatus fuerit, in colloquiis cum Celeb. Schaffio Lugdunensi institutis, quædam placita, jam sibi dubia reddita esse, adeo ut jam anceps circa eadem hæreat. Sed in iisdem novis 1749, p. 92, et p. 480, certiores reddimur: Crellium ad ultimum vitæ suæ halitum perstitisse Unitarium, quod etiam frater ipsius, Paulus, mihi coram pluribus vicibus testatus est.”[293]


F.

In the rendering which I have given to this passage the word ἁρπαγμὸς is considered as equivalent to ἅρπαγμα. The interpretation, however, in no way requires this; and if it should be thought necessary to maintain the distinction between them, to which the analogy of Greek formation, in the case of verbal nouns, undoubtedly points, and to limit the former to the active sense of the “operation of seizing,” the latter to the passive sense of “the object seized;” the general meaning will remain wholly unaffected. The only difference will be this; that the whole of the sixth verse must, in that case, be considered as descriptive of the rightful glory of Christ; and the transition to his voluntary afflictions will not commence till the 7th. The signification of this doubtful word simply determines, whether the clause in which it stands shall be the last in the account of our Lord’s dignity, or the first in the notice of his humiliation. The rendering, however, which I have adopted, is confirmed by the use made of this passage in the most ancient citation from this epistle. In the letter of the churches of Vienne and Lyons, the 6th verse is quoted, without the sequel, and the fact that Christ thought it not ἁρπαγμὸν to be equal with God, is adduced as an example of humility; “who showed themselves so far emulators and imitators of Christ; who being in the form of God thought not his equality with God, a thing to be eagerly seized.”—Euseb. Eccl. Hist. Lib. V. § 2. Heinichen, vol. ii. p. 36.

With considerable variation of expression, the same idea occurs in the (1st) Epistle of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians. “Christ is theirs who are humble. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the sceptre of the majesty of God, came not in the show of pride and pre-eminence, though he could have done so; but in humility. Ye see, beloved, what is the model which has been given us.” C. xvi. If the Trinitarian view of the mediatorial office of Christ be correct, it is not easy to perceive how he could have come in the show of pride and pre-eminence; had he not laid aside the glories of his Deity, and clothed himself with a suffering humanity, his mission, as commonly conceived, could have had no existence, nor any one purpose of it have been answered. But he might have been the great Hebrew Messiah, had he not chosen rather, by a process of suffering and death, to put himself into universal and spiritual relations to all men.


Footnotes for Lecture V.

164.  Analogy of Religion, part ii. ch. 3.

165.  Sermon on the Integrity of the Canon, p. 80.

166.  Dr. Tattershall’s Sermon on the Integrity of the Canon, p. 81.

167.  Elements of Logic. Appendix, in verb. Person.

168.  See Note A.

169.  See Mr. Jones’s Lecture on the Proper Humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ, pp. 241, 242.

170.  Genesis, xviii. 1, 2, 22; xix. 1, 10, 15.

171.  Deut. xxix. 2, 5, 6.

172.  It is hardly necessary to observe, that I use the word “Athanasian” to denote the doctrine of the Creed so called; not of St. Athanasius himself, who is known to have had no hand in the composition of that formula.

173.  Jesus Christ, the great God our Saviour, pp. 81, 369.

174.  It is orthodox, at the present day, to affirm that the mysteries of the Godhead and Incarnation of our Lord were explicitly taught by himself throughout his ministry, as well as by his apostles afterwards; and Mr. Jones (Lecture, p. 237) assures us that he “received divine homage, whilst on earth, from inspired men and angelic spirits.” This shows how much more clear-sighted is modern orthodoxy than was ancient: for the Fathers thought that a great part of the “mystery” of these doctrines consisted in the secrecy in which they were long wrapped. “In the silence of God,” Ignatius assures us, were the Incarnation and the Lord’s death accomplished; and the ecclesiastical writers of the first six centuries seem not only to have admitted that our Lord concealed his divinity from his disciples, and enjoined on his apostles great caution in this matter, but to have discerned in this suppression a profound wisdom, of which they frequently express their admiration. They urge that the Jews could never have been brought round to the faith, if these doctrines had not been kept back for a while,—a strange thing, by the way, if the whole ritual and Scriptures of this people were created to prefigure these mysteries. But Ignatius threw out a suggestion, which, from the eagerness wherewith it was caught up by succeeding writers, was evidently thought a happy discovery: it was necessary to conceal these mysteries from the Devil, or he would have been on his guard, and defeated everything. The hint of the venerable saint is brief: “The Virginity of Mary, and the Birth and Death of the Lord were hidden from the Prince of this world.” But the idea is variously enlarged upon by the later Fathers; for, as Cotelier observes, “Res ipsa quam Ignatius exprimit, passim apud sanctos Patres invenitur.” Jerome adds, that the vigilance of the Devil, who expected the Messiah to be born in some Jewish family, was thus eluded; and the Author of an anonymous fragment of the same age, cited by Isaac Vos, suggests that, if Satan had known, he would never have put it into men’s hearts to crucify Jesus. And Jobius, a monk of the sixth century, quoted by Photius in his Bibliotheca, and complimented by the learned Patriarch as τῶν ἱερῶν γραφῶν μελέτης οὐκ ἄπειρος, says, “It was necessary to keep in the shade the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, both for the sake of conciliating the hearers, and in order to escape the notice of the Prince of Darkness.”—See S. Ignat. Ep. ad Magnes. ch. xix.; Patr. Apost. Le Clerc’s Ed. Notes; and Priestley’s Early Opinions, b. iii, ch. 3, 4.

175.  Lambertus Danaus, cited by Drusius, in his Diss. de nom. Elohim. Crit. Sacr. Tractatt. t. 1. See also Drus. de quæsitis per Epist. 66.

176.  Comment. in Gen. i. 1. Calvin adds, “Imagining that they have here a proof against the Arians, they involve themselves in the Sabellian error: because Moses afterwards subjoins that Elohim spake, and that the Spirit of Elohim brooded over the waters. If we are to understand that the three Persons are indicated, there will be no distinction among them: for it will follow that the Son was self-generated, and that the Spirit is not of the Father, but of himself.” For further notice of this point see Note B.

177.  Grammar of the Hebrew Language, art. 228, 6. Note.

178.  See Scripture Proofs and Scriptural Illustrations of Unitarianism, by John Wilson, second edition, 1837, p. 33, where will be found a curious table, exhibiting the usage of the word God, in every book of the New Testament. Mr. Wilson has collected his materials with great industry, and arranged them with skill.

179.  Matt. i. 23.

180.  Isaiah vii. 14. The whole passage is as follows:

“Behold the virgin conceiveth, and beareth a son;
And she shall call his name Emmanuel.
Butter and honey shall he eat,
When he shall know to refuse what is evil,
and to choose what is good:
For before this child shall know
To refuse the evil, and to choose the good;
The land shall become desolate,
By whose two kings thou art distressed.”

181.  Quoted from Wilson’s Illustrations, p. 117.

182.  Letters on the Trinity, by Moses Stuart, Professor of Sacred Literature in the Theological Seminary, Andover, U.S. Belf. ed. p. 161.

183.  Scripture Testimony to the Messiah, 2nd edit. vol. i. p. 382.

184.  Amos v. 2.

185.  Jeremiah xiv. 17.

186.  Micah iv. 8, 9. See the whole context.

187.  See Note C.

188.  Isaiah ix. 5, 6.

189.  Isaiah viii. 23-ix. 4. Compare 2 Kings xv. 29; 1 Chronicles v. 26.

190.  Martin Luther’s Version, in loc.

191.  See Note D.

192.  Î›ÏŒÎ³Î¿Ï‚ ἐνδιάθετος.

193.  Î›ÏŒÎ³Î¿Ï‚ προφορικός.

194.  Phil. Jud. Op. Schrey et H. J. Meyer. Francof. 1691. De Mundi opific. p. 5. C. p. 6. C. Leg. Alleg. p. 93. B, C, D. De somniis, pp. 574. E. 575. C. E. 576. E. De confus. Ling. p. 341. B. C. Quis rer. div. hæres. p. 509. B. C. Euseb. Prep. Evang. VII. 13.

195.  See Note E.

196.  1 Tim. iii. 16.

197.  Î•á¼·Ï‚ θεός ἐστιν, ὁ φανερώσας ἑαυτὸν διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ.—S. Ignatii Epist. ad Magnes. c. viii.

198.  Î”ι’ οὗ, not ὑφ’ οὗ.

199.  Psalm xlv.

200.  v. 1-9.

201.  v. 10-17.

202.  New Translation of the Psalms, by Dr. M. Young, Bishop of Clonfert; in loc. Comp. Preface.—When resident in Dublin, I enjoyed the advantage of consulting this posthumous work, suppressed before its publication, for reasons sufficiently obvious to those who know the work, and have noticed the reception which orthodoxy gives to honest and impartial biblical criticism and exegesis. See Mr. Wellbeloved’s Bible in loc. where Bishop Young’s translation is cited. May I venture to refer our learned opponents to the last-mentioned work, whenever they think proper to examine what kind of Old Testament theology a Unitarian may hold? It would be curious to know, probably perplexing even to “ordained clergymen” to determine, on which horn of the dilemma the Rev. Hebraists in Christ Church must fix Mr. Wellbeloved;—“defective scholarship?”—or “uncandid and dishonest criticism?”

203.  See Acts iii. 19-21; xiii. 33-37; xxvi. 6-8. Hebrews ii. 5. Titus ii. 12, 13. 1 Tim. iv. 1. James v. 3, 7, 8. 1 Cor. x. 11. Phil. iv. 5. 2 Thess. ii. 2.

204.  2 Pet. iii. 13.

205.  1 Pet. iii. 20.

206.  Acts xvii. 31.

207.  Rom. i. 4.

208.  Acts xiii. 30-34. comp. Heb. i. 5.

209.  Heb. i. 3.

210.  2 Pet. iii. 9.

211.  Heb. i. 3.

212.  Paraphrase on the Epistles; Rom. xiii. 11, 12. Note.

213.  From the word God, supposed to be addressed to Christ, in the clause “Thy throne, O God, &c.,” the Deity of our Lord, as a second person in the Trinity, is inferred. Yet this word, in the original, is Elohim, whose plural form, we are told, is intended to prevent our thinking of only One Person, and which cannot mean less than the whole Trinity.

214.  1 John v. 20.

215.  Notes in loc.

216.  Newcome.

217.  2 John 7.

218.  Phil. ii. 5-8.

219.  2 Cor. viii. 9.

220.  See Note F.

221.  These texts naturally arrange themselves thus:

Condescension.
Philippians ii. 5-8.
2 Corinthians viii. 9.
Exaltation.
Phil. ii. 9-11.
Eph. i. 20-23.
Col. i. 15-19.
Heb. i.

222.  Col. i. 15-19. Comp. Eph. iii. 19; where the apostle desires that the Ephesians may “be filled with all the fulness of God.”

223.  Note in loc.

224.  Acts xiv. 15.

225.  Eph. ii. 10.

226.  2 Cor. v. 17.

227.  1 Cor. xv. 24.

228.  1 Thess. iv. 14.

229.  1 Cor. xv. 51. 1 Thess. iv. 17; v. 10.

230.  Eph. i. 10.

231.  2 Thess. i. 9.

232.  Heb. i. 6; Phil. ii. 10.

233.  Heb. xii. 28.

234.  2 Tim. ii. 12.

235.  1 Thess. iv. 14.

236.  Rom. viii. 19, 23, 6.

237.  1 Pet. i. 5.

238.  Eph. ii. 21, 22.

239.  Eph. ii. 23.

240.  1 Cor. viii. 6.

241.  John xvii. 3.

242.  John iv. 23, 24.

243.  Eph. iv. 6.

244.  This is the source to which our opponents in the present controversy have explicitly referred the divine wisdom of Christ. Mr. Jones says, “Unaided by the fulness of the Godhead which dwelt within him bodily,” (did the Father, according to the Creeds, dwell in him bodily?) “his human soul was, necessarily, finite in its operations.” And again, “Nor could he, as we have already intimated, know anything beyond the ken of a finite intelligence, except it were revealed to him by the ETERNAL WORD, with which he was mysteriously united.” Christ says, “as My father hath taught me, I speak these things.” Was his “Father” “the eternal Word?”—See Lect. on the Proper Humanity, &c. pp. 221, 243.

245.  John v. 19, 30.

246.  Ib. xiv. 10.

247.  Ib. vi. 57.

248.  Ib. v. 36.

249.  Ib. x. 29.

250.  Mark xiii. 32.

251.  With respect to the meaning of the name, “THE SON,” our opponents appear to vary their statements in a way which serves the ends of controversy more than those of truth. Mr. Jones says that in the passages which I have adduced, the Trinitarian hypothesis “finds no hindrance whatever,” because the word SON denotes in them our Lord’s human and Mediatorial character. Mr. Bates denies that the word can have any such meaning. In defending the supreme Divinity of Christ, as well as of the Holy Spirit, from what is incorrectly called the Baptismal Form, (“baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,”) he begs us to observe that it is not into the name of Christ the Mediator that converts are to be baptized. “Our Saviour’s words,” he affirms, “not only fail to sanction, but expressly exclude, such a construction; for he does not say, ‘the name of the Father and of myself,’ but ‘of THE SON,’ that is, of THE ETERNAL WORD.” Mr. Bates’s Lecture is not published; but he is aware that this statement is correct. Since this name “the Son” “expressly excludes” the Mediatorial character, and must mean the Eternal Word, may we ask Mr. Bates, how it is the Eternal Word did not know the day and the hour, and could do nothing of himself?—Mr. Jones’s Lect. p. 242.

252.  John vi. 62.

253.  Ib. iii. 13.

254.  John xvii. 5.

255.  Acts ii. 32.

256.  Gal. i. 1.

257.  John x. 18.

258.  Wardlaw’s Discourses, iv. p. 117.

259.  Acts xvii. 31.

260.  John v. 30.

261.  John v. 29. It is very difficult to determine whether this class of passages is rightly interpreted as referring to a final and collective judgment of mankind. The discussion of this point does not properly belong to our present subject; and the assumption, for the sake of brevity of argument, of the usual interpretation, does not imply assent to it.

262.  Tillotson’s Sermons, xlvi. Lond. 1704. pp. 549, 550.

I am aware that the name of this admirable writer is not likely to have much weight with our opponents; for in speaking of Socinian writers he has indulged in a spirit of justice, which the modern Orthodoxy of his Church appears to consider altogether old-fashioned. The Archbishop gives the following character of the school which took its name from the Socini; “And yet to do right to the writers on that side, I must own, that generally they are a pattern of the fair way of disputing, and of debating matters of religion without heat and unseemly reflections upon their adversaries, in the number of whom I did not expect that the Primitive Fathers of the Christian Church would have been reckoned by them. They generally argue matters with that temper and gravity, and with that freedom from passion and transport, which becomes a serious and weighty argument; and for the most part they reason closely and clearly, with extraordinary guard and caution, with great dexterity and decency, and yet with smartness and subtilty enough; with a very gentle heat, and few hard words;—virtues to be praised wherever they are found, yea even in an enemy, and very worthy our imitation.” Yet the Archbishop, as if aware that his candour might, by a very natural process, excite suspicion of his Orthodoxy, raises himself above imputation by adding, “In a word, they are the strongest managers of a weak cause, and which is ill-founded at the bottom, that perhaps ever yet meddled with controversy; insomuch that some of the Protestants and the generality of the Popish writers, and even of the Jesuits themselves, who pretend to all the reason and subtilty in the world, are in comparison of them but mere scolds and bunglers; upon the whole matter, they have but this one great defect, that they want a good cause and truth on their side; which if they had, they have reason and wit and temper enough to defend it.”—Sermon xliv. p. 521.

263.  Mr. Stewart recommends to our imitation the conduct of a Jewish child who became anxious to pray, like his companions, to Jesus Christ, not, apparently, from any impulse of the affections, or any convictions of duty; but from a prudent desire to run no risk of offending any possible power. “When I go to heaven and see Jesus Christ, if he is God,” calculates the boy, “I shall be ashamed to look him in the face.” Is it possible that this principle of making sure of one’s self-interest without regard to sincerity and truth, can be published without a blush, from a Christian pulpit? And is Christ so little known as yet, that such hollow worship is thought to be a passport to his favour, instead of winning from him a rebuke that, in truth, must make ashamed? Is the Infinite hearer of prayer,—whatever be his name or names,—one who will turn away from a contrite and trustful supplication of the soul, unless his titles are all set right upon the lips? What then would become of the millions of entreaties and of cries that daily rise from the grieving earth to the blessed God? Impossible! ’twould make Heaven a vast Dead-letter Office, for returning petitions on account of a wrong address.

264.  Jer. xxxi. 4.

265.  Jer. xxxi. 13.

266.  Lam. i. 15.

267.  Is. xxiii. 12.

268.  2 Kings xix. 21.

269.  Is. viii. 8.

270.  Is. viii. 18.

271.  Matt. ii. 23.

272.  Elements of Rhetoric, part iii. ch. ii. § 3.

273.  Il. xiii. 298.

274.  Ode to Fear.

275.  Sonnet xii.

276.  Olymp. viii. 73.

277.  Juvenile Poems, p. 59.

278.  De vict. p. 838. D.

279.  Quod Deus sit immut. p. 309. A. De charit. p. 609. A. De Temul. p. 244. D. Leg. Alleg. p. 93. B.

280.  Ecclesiasticus xxiv. 5, 12.

281.  Prov. viii. 22, 30.

282.  Îšá¾‚ν μηδέπω μέντοι τυγχάνῃ τὶς ἀξιόχρεως ὢν υἱὸς θεοῦ προσαγορεύεσθαι, σπούδαζε κοσμεῖσθαι κατὰ τὸν πρωτόγονον αὐτοῦ λόγον, τὸν ἄγγελον πρεσβύτατον, ὡς ἀρχάγγελον πολυώνυμον ὑπάρχοντα.... Καὶ γὰρ εἰ μήπω ἱκανοὶ θεοῦ παῖδες νομίζεσθαι γεγόναμεν, ἀλλά τοι τῆς ἀϊδίου εἰκόνος αὐτοῦ λόγου τοῦ ἱερωτάτου· θεοῦ γὰρ εἰκὼν, λόγος ὁ πρεσβύτατος. De conf. ling. p. 341. B. C.

283.  I have an impression of having seen advertised an English translation of this work; but I have no means of ascertaining the fact.

284.  For the sake of brevity I have given rather an abstract than a translation. Commentar. üb. das Evang. des Johan. von Dr. Friedrich Lücke. Band. i. p. 232-p. 238. Bonn. 1833. It is possible that Professor Lücke’s Orthodoxy, which, in conformity with the prevailing estimate of his countrymen, I have ventured to assume, may be called in question. It is always difficult to take the “regula fidei,” recognized in one Country, and apply it, with any exactitude, to the sentiments of another, especially when the one is remarkable for the hard and literal character of its theological conceptions; and the other, for the excessive refinements by which it has discriminated the shades of religious belief. If tried by the only German standard which has any near correspondence with English Evangelicism, I mean the severe school of Guerike, Tholuck, Hahn, Olshausen, Lücke would, no doubt, be pronounced deficient in the faith. But he belongs to the class which approaches most nearly to them, both in the interpretation of Scripture, and in the estimate of its authority. He does not, with them, refuse to compare the doctrines of Scripture with the conclusions of Reason, and insist that the authority of the former supersedes all recourse to the latter; but having ascertained first the fact and the meaning of Revelation, he then permits the comparison with philosophy, and declares their entire consistency. He thus belongs to the Scriptural section of what is called the Philosophical School of German Theology. He is decidedly Trinitarian and Anti-rationalist; and his orthodoxy has never been suspected, as has that of Schleiermacher, the father of his school. He was Professor of Theology in Göttingen before the recent political divisions in Hanover.

285.  Pp. 263, 266, 267.

286.  P. 265.

287.  1 John iii. 4.

288.  1 John v. 6.

289.  2 Cor. iii. 17.

290.  1 Cor. xi. 3.

291.  1 Kings xviii. 21. There would be no difficulty in increasing the number of instances exemplifying this solecism.

292.  P. 157.

293.  Historia Antitrinitariorum, maximè Socinianismi et Socinianorum; Fred. Sam. Bock, Tom. I. P. i. pp. 167, 168.


THE
 
SCHEME OF VICARIOUS REDEMPTION
 
INCONSISTENT WITH ITSELF,
 

AND WITH
 

THE CHRISTIAN IDEA OF SALVATION.


PREFACE.

It will be apparent, from the unusual length of the following discourse, that its limits have been much extended since its delivery. The additional portions furnish, in detail, the interpretation which appears to me to reach the true meaning of the New Testament language, respecting the death of Christ. Few passages, I believe, relating to this subject, will be found unnoticed: and it is probable that, in the desire to avoid omission, I have been guilty of some prolixity and repetition.

The friendly diversity of opinion, which prevails among Unitarian Christians, is perhaps more considerable in reference to the subject of this Lecture, than to any other of the leading topics of theological belief. The reader will do justice to all parties, by bearing this in mind, while attending to the following pages; and by regarding every statement which he disapproves, as the mere expression of individual opinion.

It is impossible for me to leave unnoticed the charge of uncharitable violence and “vulgar personality,” which Mr. M‘Neile has preferred against me, on the ground of certain strong expressions, contained in my first Lecture, respecting the late Archbishop Magee. I readily acknowledge that the instances are rare, which can justify the language which I employed; and I would never employ such, did I not feel that it was not simply justified, but demanded. He must be an unworthy controversialist, who has no generous delight in admiring and respecting a doctrinal adversary; no concern and shame at the moral obliquities which prove an opponent wrong, without proving himself to be right. If Mr. M‘Neile could enable me to look with his eyes of confidence and regard on “the illustrious Prelate,” I should esteem it a privilege to recal every word which I have put on record respecting him. But a careful study of his Treatise on the Atonement, with the habit of testing his citations, has revealed to me a system of controversy which, before, I should have esteemed incredible; and which no terms of censure can too severely describe. Polemical discipline, it has been observed with too much truth, is, of all influences, the most dangerous to the moral sense.

It seems to have been thought wrong in me, by my respected opponents, to state my general impression of Archbishop Magee’s controversial character, without justifying it by specific arguments. And so it would have been, if this work had really been “unanswered:” but every quality which I ascribed to it, has been shown to belong to it, by Dr. Carpenter; his work has received no reply; and surely a bystander may express a judgment on the merits of a controversy, and the polemical characters of its conductors, without the slightest obligation to lay open the contents of the discussion in self-justification. This appears to be Mr. Buddicom’s opinion, if we may judge from the pungent sentence in which he has characterized, without proof, one of Mr. Harris’s Discourses.[294] In the present publication, however, I have supplied the deficiency which is the subject of complaint; and have shown, not only that the late Archbishop of Dublin dealt in terms of insult, which, if spoken instead of written, no cultivated and Christian society would endure; but that, with a shocking eagerness to blast the character of his opponents, he corrupted the text of their writings, and drew his arguments from garbled quotations. If any one can convince me of mistake in what I have advanced, I shall most unfeignedly rejoice and retract. But till then I cannot qualify any expressions, however strong, which I have employed; for they are not the utterance of passion, but the measured language of conviction. Most unwillingly would I ever incur the risk of wounding “the feelings of the living,” by animadversions on the character of the dead. But, surely, personal attachments to the man must not be allowed to silence all public estimate of the author; and against the attempt, on this ground, to hold me up as the assailant of private affections, and the insincere professor of charity, I protest, as cruel and unjust. It is not true that I attacked “the name and memory” rather than “the book,” of the late Archbishop: the words which I used described nothing but his work: and that they were words of moral reprehension, arose necessarily from the nature of the complaint which we have to prefer against its contents. I do not understand the diplomatic arts by which a man may be analyzed into a plurality of characters, and permitted to do wrong in one capacity, while his reputation takes a quiet shelter among the rest: nor have I the ingenuity to rebuke falsehood in a book, yet save the veracity of the author. If the “outrage” consisted in publishing an impression, unsustained by evidence, I only fear, that the addition of the proof will be found to bring no mitigation of the pain.

Let me add, that I entirely acquit our Rev. opponents of any approbation of the controversial arts employed by the Prelate whom they defend. Their admiration of his book arises, I am aware, from ignorance of its real character; to understand which requires a much greater acquaintance with Unitarian literature than they appear, in any instance, to possess.

Lest it should be thought disrespectful in me to pass without notice the strictures on my last published Discourse, contained in the Ninth Lecture of the Trinitarian series, I will ask the indulgence of my readers for a few moments more.

Mr. Bates accuses me of making a mutilated quotation from Deut. xxix. 1-6. The whole passage stands thus; the part which I did not cite being included in brackets: [“1. These are the words of the covenant, which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant, which he made with them in Horeb. 2. And] Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, [ye have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; 3. The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles: 4. Yet the Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day. 5. And] I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot. 6. Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine, or strong drink; that ye might know that I am the Lord your God.”

My object was to show, that, if no latitude is to be allowed in the application of mere grammatical principles of interpretation, we must admit “that Moses is called God with a distinctness which cannot be equalled in the case of Christ.” For this purpose, I had no occasion to quote more than the 5th and 6th verses, containing the phrase, “I am the Lord your God;” the only question being, who is the speaker, grammatically denoted by the first personal pronoun “I.” To make this evident, I went back to the opening of the sentence, which determined this point: “Moses called together all Israel, AND SAID to them.” The omitted clauses of his speech have no relation whatever to the matter in debate, and have no effect, but to separate the parts, without altering the nature, of the grammatical construction. So far from proving that Moses speaks, as if personally identified with the Lord, because teaching in his name, they prove just the reverse; for Jehovah is introduced in them in the third person, not the first; “ye have seen all that the Lord (not ‘I’) did before your eyes,” &c. The first verse I did not quote, because it seems to belong to the preceding chapter, and to have no reference to the words cited. The only delinquency in this matter which I have to confess is, that I wrote by mistake, “Moses called TOGETHER,” instead of “UNTO, all Israel.” Mr. Bates draws attention to this by Roman capitals, as if to hint at something very remarkable in the error. I can only say, that after repeated examination of the word “UNTO,” I can discover no mysterious significance in it; if it be an orthodox tetragrammaton, my disregard of its claims was wholly inadvertent. As to the argument itself which this passage was adduced to enforce, I cannot perceive that it is in any way affected by the Lecturer’s remarks: nor can any one reasonably doubt that if the New Testament had contained such a passage as this, “The Lord Jesus called unto the multitudes and said, ... I have led you into a desert place, and fed you with the five loaves; that ye might know that I am the Lord your God;” Trinitarians would have appealed to it as a triumphant proof of the Deity of Christ, whatever number of clauses might have severed the beginning from the end of the sentence, and however often the name of the Lord, in the third person, might have occurred in the interval.

Nor have I been successful in discovering in what way I have misapprehended Mr. Bates’s meaning respecting the word “SON,” in the following verse; “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” I may doubtless have misstated his words; and if in his eyes the misstatement has any “serious inaccuracy,” I sincerely regret its occurrence. Nothing but the constant habit of short-hand writing, enabling me to take verbatim reports of public addresses, would have given me confidence enough in my correctness to found an argument on an unpublished verbal criticism. Even short-hand, however, being fallible, I relinquish the words: and the more willingly, because Mr. Bates’s own report appears to me absolutely identical in meaning with my own. He says, that the baptism enjoined in the verse just cited cannot, so far as our Lord is concerned, be “baptism in the name of a Mediator;” “our Lord’s words prevent such misapprehension: he says not ‘In the name of the Father and in my name’ (my mediatorial name); but ‘In the name of the Father and of the Son,’—the only begotten, co-essential, co-eternal, and co-equal, with the Father and the Holy Ghost.” I represented him as saying, that our Saviour’s words “expressly exclude such a construction; for he does not say, the name of the Father, and of myself, but of the Son, that is the Eternal Word.” The difference between “preventing such misapprehension” and “excluding such construction” is not very obvious. I understand the argument to be, that there is something in the form of expression in the second clause, forbidding us to think of anything less exalted than our Lord’s Divine Nature; the only expression contained in the clause is “the Son;” this term then, I imagined, was limited by the Lecturer to Christ’s Divine Nature; and must have been replaced by some other phrase, if his mediatorial character had been the subject of discourse. In drawing a general conclusion from this particular statement, I only gave the Lecturer credit for understanding the bearing of his own argument; for of course, all reasoning from the intrinsic force of an expression must be co-extensive with the occurrence of that expression. If I have not correctly explained Mr. Bates’s argument, it evades my apprehension altogether.


LECTURE VI.

THE SCHEME OF VICARIOUS REDEMPTION INCONSISTENT WITH ITSELF,
AND WITH THE CHRISTIAN IDEA OF SALVATION.
BY REV. JAMES MARTINEAU.

“NEITHER IS THERE SALVATION IN ANY OTHER; FOR THERE IS NONE OTHER NAME UNDER HEAVEN GIVEN AMONG MEN, WHEREBY WE MUST BE SAVED.”—Acts iv. 12.

The scene which we have this evening to visit and explore, is separated from us by the space of eighteen centuries; yet of nothing on this earth has Providence left, within the shadows of the past, so vivid and divine an image. Gently rising above the mighty “field of the world,” Calvary’s mournful hill appears, covered with silence now, but distinctly showing the heavenly light that struggled there through the stormiest elements of guilt. Nor need we only gaze, as on a motionless picture that closes the vista of Christian ages. Permitting history to take us by the hand, we may pace back in pilgrimage to the hour, till its groups stand around us, and pass by us, and its voices of passion and of grief mock and wail upon our ear. As we mingle with the crowd which, amid noise and dust, follows the condemned prisoners to the place of execution, and fix our eye on the faint and panting figure of one that bears his cross, could we but whisper to the sleek priests close by, how might we startle them, by telling them the future fate of this brief tragedy,—brief in act, in blessing everlasting; that this Galilean convict shall be the world’s confessed deliverer, while they that have brought him to this, shall be the scorn and by-word of the nations; that that vile instrument of torture, now so abject that it makes the dying slave more servile, shall be made, by this victim and this hour, the symbol of whatever is holy and sublime; the emblem of hope and love; pressed to the lips of ages; consecrated by a veneration which makes the sceptre seem trivial as an infant’s toy. Meanwhile the sacerdotal hypocrites, unconscious of the part they play, watch to the end the public murder which they have privately suborned; stealing a phrase from Scripture, that they may mock with holy lips; and leaving to the plebeian soldiers the mutual jest and brutal laugh, that serve to beguile the hired but hated work of agony, and that draw forth from the sufferer that burst of forgiving prayer, which sunk at least into their centurion’s heart. One there is, who should have been spared the hearing of these scoffs; and perhaps she heard them not; for before his nature was exhausted more, his eye detects and his voice addresses her, and twines round her the filial arm of that disciple who had been ever the most loving as well as most beloved. She at least lost the religion of that hour in its humanity, and beheld not the prophet but the son:—had not her own hands wrought that seamless robe for which the soldiers’ lot is cast; and her own lips taught him that strain of sacred poetry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” but never had she thought to hear it thus. As the cries became fainter and fainter, scarcely do they reach Peter standing afar off. The last notice of him had been the rebuking look that sent him to weep bitterly; and now the voice that can alone tell him his forgiveness, will soon be gone! Broken hardly less, though without remorse, is the youthful John, to see that head, lately resting on his bosom, drooping passively in death; and to hear the involuntary shriek of Mary, as the spear struck upon the lifeless body, moving now only as it is moved;—whence he alone, on whom she leaned, records the fact. Well might the Galilean friends stand at a distance gazing; unable to depart, yet not daring to approach; well might the multitudes that had cried “crucify him” in the morning, shudder at the thought of that clamour ere night; “beholding the things that had come to pass, they smote their breasts and returned.”

This is the scene of which we have to seek the interpretation. Our first natural impression is, that it requires no interpretation, but speaks for itself; that it has no mystery, except that which belongs to the triumphs of deep guilt, and the sanctities of disinterested love. To raise our eye to that serene countenance, to listen to that submissive voice, to note the subjects of its utterance, would give us no idea of any mystic horror concealed behind the human features of the scene; of any invisible contortions, as from the lash of demons, in the soul of that holy victim; of any sympathetic connection of that cross with the bottomless pit on the one hand, and the highest Heaven on the other; of any moral revolution throughout our portion of the universe, of which this public execution is but the outward signal. The historians drop no hint that its sufferings, its affections, its relations, were more than human,—raised indeed to distinction by miraculous accompaniments; but intrinsically, however signally, human. They mention, as if bearing some appreciable proportion to the whole series of incidents, particulars so slight, as to vanish before any other than the obvious historical view of the transaction; the thirst, the sponge, the rent clothes, the mingled drink. They ascribe no sentiment to the crucified, except such as might be expressed by one of like nature with ourselves, in the consciousness of a finished work of duty, and a fidelity never broken under the strain of heaviest trial. The narrative is clearly the production of minds filled, not with theological anticipations, but with historical recollections.

With this view of Christ’s death, which is such as might be entertained by any of the primitive Churches, having one of the gospels only, without any of the epistles, we are content. I conceive of it, then, as manifesting the last degree of moral perfection in the Holy One of God; and believe that in thus being an expression of character, it has its primary and everlasting value. I conceive of it as the needful preliminary to his resurrection and ascension, by which the severest difficulties in the theory of Providence, life, and duty, are alleviated or solved. I conceive of it as immediately procuring the universality and spirituality of the Gospel; by dissolving those corporeal ties which give nationality to Jesus, and making him, in his heavenly and immortal form, the Messiah of humanity; blessing, sanctifying, regenerating, not a people from the centre of Jerusalem, but a world from his station in the Heavens. And these views, under unimportant modifications, I submit, are the only ones of which Scripture contains a trace.

All this, however, we are assured, is the mere outside aspect of the crucifixion; and wholly insignificant compared with the invisible character and relations of the scene; which, localized only on earth, has its chief effect in Hell; and though presenting itself among the occurrences of time, is a repeal of the decretals of Eternity. The being who hangs upon that cross is not man alone; but also the everlasting God, who created and upholds all things, even the sun that now darkens its face upon him, and the murderers who are waiting for his expiring cry. The anguish he endures is not chiefly that which falls so poignantly on the eye and ear of the spectator; the injured human affections, the dreadful momentary doubt; the pulses of physical torture, doubling on him with full and broken wave, till driven back by the overwhelming power of love disinterested and divine. But he is judicially abandoned by the Infinite Father; who expends on him the immeasurable wrath due to an apostate race, gathers up into an hour the lightnings of Eternity, and lets them loose upon that bended head. It is the moment of retributive justice; the expiation of all human guilt; that open brow hides beneath it the despair of millions of men; and to the intensity of agony there, no human wail could give expression. Meanwhile, the future brightens on the Elect; the tempests that hung over their horizon are spent. The vengeance of the lawgiver having had its way, the sunshine of a Father’s grace breaks forth, and lights up, with hope and beauty, the earth, which had been a desert of despair and sin. According to this theory, Christ, in his death, was a proper expiatory sacrifice; he turned aside, by enduring it for them, the infinite punishment of sin from all past or future believers in this efficacy of the cross; and transferred to them the natural rewards of his own righteousness. An acceptance of this doctrine is declared to be the prime condition of the divine forgiveness; for no one who does not see the pardon, can have it. And this pardon again, this clear score for the past, is a necessary preliminary to all sanctification; to all practical opening of a disinterested heart towards our Creator and man. Pardon, and the perception of it, are the needful preludes to that conforming love to God and men, which is the true Christian salvation.

The evidence in support of this theory is derived partly from natural appearances, partly from scriptural announcements. Involving, as it does, statements respecting the actual condition of human nature, and the world in which we live, some appeal to experience, and to the rational interpretation of life and Providence, is inevitable; and hence certain propositions, affecting to be of a philosophical character, are laid down as fundamental by the advocates of this system. Yet it is admitted, that direct revelation only could have acquainted us, either with our lost condition, or our vicarious recovery; and that all we can expect to accomplish with nature, is to harmonize what we observe there, with what we read in the written records of God’s will; so that the main stress of the argument rests on the interpretation of Scripture. The principles deduced from the nature of things, and laid down as a basis for this doctrine, may be thus represented:

That man needs a Redeemer; having obviously fallen, by some disaster, into a state of misery and guilt, from which the worst penal consequences must be apprehended; and were it not for the probability of such lapse from the condition in which it was fashioned, it would be impossible to reconcile the phenomena of the world with the justice and benevolence of its Creator.

That Deity only can redeem; since, to preserve veracity, the penalty of sin must be inflicted; and the diversion only, not the annihilation, of it, is possible. To let it fall on angels, would fail of the desired end; because human sin, having been directed against an infinite Being, has incurred an infinitude of punishment; which, on no created beings, could be exhausted in any period short of eternity. Only a nature strictly infinite can compress within itself, in the compass of an hour, the woes distributed over the immortality of mankind. Hence, were God personally One, like man, no redemption could be effected; for there would be no Deity to suffer, except the very One who must punish. But the triplicity of the Godhead relieves all difficulty; for, while one Infinite inflicts, another Infinite endures; and resources are furnished for the atonement.

Amid a great variety of forms in which the theory of atonement exists, I have selected the foregoing; which, if I understand aright, is that which is vindicated in the present controversy. I am not aware that I have added anything to the language in which it is stated by its powerful advocate, unless it be a few phrases, leaving its essential meaning the same, but needful to render it compact and clear.

The scriptural evidence is found principally in certain of the apostolical epistles; and this circumstance will render it necessary to conduct a separate search into the historical writings of the New Testament, that we may ascertain how they express the corresponding set of ideas. Taking up successively these two branches of the subject, the natural and the biblical, I propose to show, first, that this doctrine is inconsistent with itself; secondly, that it is inconsistent with the Christian idea of Salvation.

I. It is inconsistent with itself.

(1.) In its manner of treating the principles of natural religion.

Our faith in the infinite benevolence of God is represented as destitute of adequate support from the testimony of nature.[295] It requires, we are assured, the suppression of a mass of appearances, that would scare it away in an instant, were it to venture into their presence; and is a dream of sickly and effeminate minds, whose belief is the inward growth of amiable sentimentality, rather than a genuine production from God’s own facts. The appeal to the order and magnificence of creation, to the structures and relations of the inorganic, the vegetable, the animal, the spiritual forms, that fill the ascending ranks of this visible and conscious universe;—to the arrangements which make it a blessing to be born, far more than a suffering to die,—which enable us to extract the relish of life from its toils, the affections of our nature from its sufferings, the triumphs of goodness from its temptations;—to the seeming plan of general progress, which elicits truth by the self-destruction of error, and by the extinction of generations gives perpetual rejuveniscence to the world; this appeal, which is another name for the scheme of natural religion, is dismissed with scorn; and sin and sorrow and death are flung in defiance across our path;—barriers which we must remove, ere we can reach the presence of a benignant God. Come with us, it is said, and listen to the wail of the sick infant; look into the dingy haunts where poverty moans its life away; bend down your ear to the accursed hum that strays from the busy hives of guilt; spy into the hold of the slave-ship; from the factory follow the wasted child to the gin-shop first, and then to the cellar called its home; or look even at your own tempted and sin-bound souls, and your own perishing race, snatched off into the dark by handfuls through the activity of a destroying God; and tell us, did our benevolent Creator make a creature and a world like this? A Calvinist who puts this question is playing with fire. But I answer the question explicitly: all these things we have met steadily and face to face; in full view of them, we have taken up our faith in the goodness of God; and in full view of them we will hold fast that faith. Nor is it just or true to affirm, that our system hides these evils, or that our practice refuses to grapple with them. And if you confess, that these ills of life would be too much for your natural piety; if you declare, that these rugged foundations and tempestuous elements of Providence would starve and crush your confidence in God, while ours strikes its roots in the rock, and throws out its branches to brave the storm, are you entitled to taunt us with a faith of puny growth? Meanwhile, we willingly assent to the principle which this appeal to evil is designed to establish; that, with much apparent order, there is some apparent disorder in the phenomena of the world; that from the latter, by itself, we should be unable to infer any goodness and benevolence in God; and that were not the former clearly the predominant result of natural laws, the character of the Great Cause of all things would be involved in agonizing gloom. The mass of physical and moral evil we do not profess fully to explain; we think that in no system whatever is there any approach to an explanation; and we are accustomed to touch on that dread subject with the humility of filial trust, not with the confidence of dogmatic elucidation.

Surely the fall of our first parents, I shall be reminded, gives the requisite solution. The disaster which then befell the human race, has changed the primeval constitution of things; introduced mortality, and all the infirmities of which it is the result; introduced sin, and all the seeds of vile affections which it compels us to inherit; introduced also the penalties of sin, visible in part on this scene of life, and developing themselves in another in anguish everlasting. Fresh from the hand of his Creator, man was innocent, happy and holy; and he it is, not God, who has deformed the world with guilt and grief.

Now, as a statement of fact, all this may or may not be true. Of this I say nothing. But who does not see that, as an explanation, it is inconsistent with itself, partial in its application, and leaves matters incomparably worse than it found them? It is inconsistent with itself; for Adam, perfectly pure and holy as he is reputed to have been, gave the only proof that could exist of his being neither, by succumbing to the first temptation that came in his way; and though finding no enjoyment but in the contemplation of God, gave himself up to the first advances of the devil. Never surely was a reputation for sanctity so cheaply won. The canonizations of the Romish Calendar have been curiously bestowed, on beings sufficiently remote from just ideas of excellence; but, usually, there is something to be affirmed of them, legendary or otherwise, which, if true, might justify a momentary admiration. But our first parent was not laid even under this necessity, to obtain a glory greater than canonization; he had simply to do nothing, except to fall, in order to be esteemed the most perfectly holy of created minds. Most partial, too, is this theory in its application; for disease and hardship, and death unmerited as the infant’s, afflict the lower animal creation. Is this, too, the result of the fall? If so, it is an unredeemed effect; if not, it presses on the benevolence of the Maker; and by the physical analogies which connect man with the inferior creatures, force on us the impression, that his corporeal sufferings have an original source not dissimilar from theirs. And again, this explanation only serves to make matters worse than before. For how puerile is it to suppose, that men will rest satisfied with tracing back their ills to Adam, and refrain from asking, who was Adam’s cause! And then comes upon us at once the ancient dilemma about evil; was it mistake, or was it malignity, that created so poor a creature as our progenitor, and staked on so precarious a will the blessedness of a race and the well-being of a world? So far, this theory, falsely and injuriously ascribed to Christianity, would leave us where we were: but it carries us into deeper and gratuitous difficulties, of which natural religion knows nothing, by appending eternal consequences to Adam’s transgression; a large portion of which, after the most sanguine extension of the efficacy of the atonement, must remain unredeemed. So that if, under the eye of naturalism, the world, with its generations dropping into the grave, must appear (as we heard it recently described)[296] like the populous precincts of some castle, whose governor called his servants, after a brief indulgence of liberty and peace, into a dark and inscrutable dungeon, never to return or be seen again: the only new feature which this theory introduces into the prospect is this; that the interior of that cavernous prison-house is disclosed; and while a few of the departed are seen to have emerged into a fairer light, and to be traversing greener fields, and sharing a more blessed liberty than they knew before, the vast multitude are discerned in the gripe of everlasting chains, and the twist of unimaginable torture. And all this infliction is a penal consequence of a first ancestor’s transgression! Singular spectacle to be offered in vindication of the character of God!

We are warned, however, not to start back from this representation, or to indulge in any rash expression at the view which it gives of the justice of the Most High; for that, beyond all doubt, parallel instances occur in the operations of nature; and that if the system deduced from Scripture accords with that which is in action in the creation, there arises a strong presumption that both are from the same Author. The arrangement which is the prime subject of objection in the foregoing theory, viz., the vicarious transmission of consequences from acts of vice and virtue, is said to be familiar to our observation as a fact; and ought, therefore, to present no difficulties in the way of the admission of a doctrine. Is it not obvious, for example, that the guilt of a parent may entail disease and premature death on his child, or even remoter descendants? And if it be consistent with the divine perfections, that the innocent should suffer for others’ sins at the distance of one generation, why not at the distance of a thousand? The guiltless victim is not more completely severed from identity with Adam, than he is from identity with his own father. My reply is brief: I admit both the fact and the analogy; but the fact is of the exceptional kind, from which, by itself, I could not infer the justice or the benevolence of the Creator; and which, were it of large and prevalent amount, I could not even reconcile with these perfections. If then you take it out of the list of exceptions and difficulties, and erect it into a cardinal rule, if you interpret by it the whole invisible portion of God’s government, you turn the scale at once against the character of the Supreme, and plant creation under a tyrant’s sway. And this is the fatal principle pervading all analogical arguments in defence of Trinitarian Christianity. No resemblances to the system can be found in the universe, except in those anomalies and seeming deformities which perplex the student of Providence, and which would undermine his faith, were they not lost in the vast spectacle of beauty and of good. These disorders are selected and spread out to view, as specimens of the divine government of nature; the mysteries and horrors which offend us in the popular theology are extended by their side; the comparison is made, point by point, till the similitude is undeniably made out; and when the argument is closed, it amounts to this: do you doubt whether God could break mens’ limbs? You mistake his strength of character; only see how he puts out their eyes! What kind of impression this reasoning may have, seems to me doubtful even to agony. Both Trinitarian theology and nature, it is triumphantly urged, must proceed from the same Author; aye, but what sort of Author is that? You have led me in your quest after analogies, through the great infirmary of God’s creation! and so haunted am I by the sights and sounds of the lazar-house, that scarce can I believe in anything but pestilence; so sick of soul have I become, that the mountain breeze has lost its scent of health; and you say, it is all the same in the other world, and wherever the same rule extends: then I know my fate, that in this Universe Justice has no throne. And thus, my friends, it comes to pass, that these reasoners often gain indeed their victory; but it is known only to the Searcher of Hearts, whether it is a victory against natural religion, or in favour of revealed. For this reason, I consider the “Analogy” of Bishop Butler (one of the profoundest of thinkers, and on purely moral subjects one of the justest too,) as containing, with a design directly contrary, the most terrible persuasives to Atheism that have ever been produced. The essential error consists in selecting the difficulties,—which are the rare, exceptional phenomena of nature,—as the basis of analogy and argument. In the comprehensive and generous study of Providence, the mind may, indeed, already have overcome the difficulties, and with the lights recently gained from the harmony, design, and order of creation, have made those shadows pass imperceptibly away; but when forced again into their very centre, compelled to adopt them as a fixed station and point of mental vision, they deepen round the heart again, and, instead of illustrating anything, become solid darkness themselves.

I cannot quit this topic without observing, however, that there appears to be nothing in nature and life, at all analogous to the vicarious principle attributed to God in the Trinitarian scheme of redemption. There is nowhere to be found any proper transfer or exchange, either of the qualities, or of the consequences, of vice and virtue. The good and evil acts of men do indeed affect others as well as themselves; the innocent suffer with the guilty, as in the case before adduced, of a child suffering in health by the excesses of a parent. But there is here no endurance for another, similar to Christ’s alleged endurance in the place of men; the infliction on the child is not deducted from the parent; it does nothing to lighten his load, or make it less than it would have been, had he been without descendants; nor does any one suppose his guilt alleviated by the existence of this innocent fellow-sufferer. There is a nearer approach to analogy in those cases of crime where the perpetrator seems to escape, and to leave the consequences of his act to descend on others; as when the successful cheat eludes pursuit, and from the stolen gains of neighbours constructs a life of luxury for himself; or when a spendthrift government, forgetful of its high trust, turning the professions of patriotism into a lie, is permitted to run a prosperous career for one generation, and is personally gone before the popular retribution falls, in the next, on innocent successors. Here no doubt the harmless suffer by the guilty, in a certain sense in the place of the guilty; but not in the sense which the analogy requires. For there is still no substitution; the distress of the unoffending party is not struck out of the offender’s punishment; does not lessen, but rather aggravates his guilt; and instead of fitting him for pardon, tempts the natural sentiments of justice to follow him with severer condemnation. Nor does the scheme receive any better illustration from the fact, that whoever attempts the cure of misery must himself suffer; must have the shadows of ill cast upon his spirit from every sadness he alleviates; and interpose himself to stay the plague which, in a world diseased, threatens to pass to the living from the dead. The parallel fails, because there is still no transference: the appropriate sufferings of sin are not given to the philanthropist; and the noble pains of goodness in him, the glorious strife of his self-sacrifice, are no part of the penal consequences of others’ guilt; they do not cancel one iota of those consequences, or make the crimes which have demanded them, in any way, more ready for forgiveness. Indeed, it is not in the good man’s sufferings, considered as such, that any efficacy resides; but in his efforts, which may be made with great sacrifice or without it, as the case may be. Nor, at best, is there any proper annihilation of consequences at all, accruing from his toils; the past acts of wrong which call up his resisting energies, are irrevocable, the guilt incurred, the penalty indestructible; the series of effects, foreign to the mind of the perpetrator, may be abbreviated; prevention may be applied to new ills which threaten to arise; but, by all this, the personal fitness of the delinquent for forgiveness is wholly unaffected; the volition of sin has gone forth; and on it, flies, as surely as sound on a vibration of the air, the verdict of judgment.

Those who are affected by slight and failing analogies like these, would do well to consider one, sufficiently obvious, which seems to throw doubt upon their scheme. The atonement is thought to be, in respect to all believers, a reversal of the fall: the effects of the fall are partly visible and temporal, partly invisible and eternal; linked, however, together as inseparable portions of the same penal system. Now it is evident, that the supposed redemption on the cross has left precisely where they were, all the visible effects of the first transgression: sorrow and toil are the lot of all, as they have been from of old; the baptized infant utters a cry as sad as the unbaptized; and between the holiness of the true believer and the worth of the devout heretic, there is not discernible such a difference as there must have been between Adam pure and perfect, and Adam lapsed and lost. And is it presumptuous to reason from the seen to the unseen, from the part which we experience to that which we can only conceive? If the known effects are unredeemed, the suspicion is not unnatural, that so are the unknown.

I sum up, then, this part of my subject by observing, that besides many inconclusive appeals to nature, the advocates of the vicarious scheme are chargeable with this fundamental inconsistency. They appear to deny that the justice and benevolence of God can be reconciled with the phenomena of nature; and say that the evidence must be helped out by resort to their interpretation of scripture. When, having heard this auxiliary system, we protest that it renders the case sadder than before, they assure us that it is all benevolent and just, because it has its parallel in creation. They renounce and adopt, in the same breath, the religious appeal to the universe of God.

(2.) Another inconsistency appears, in the view which this theory gives of the character of God.

It is assumed that, at the æra of creation, the Maker of mankind had announced the infinite penalties which must follow the violation of his law; and that their amount did not exceed the measure which his abhorrence of wrong required. “And that which he saith, he would not be God if he did not perform: that which he perceived right, he would be unworthy of our trust, did he not fulfil. His veracity and justice, therefore, were pledged to adhere to the word that had gone forth: and excluded the possibility of any free and unconditional forgiveness.” Now I would note in passing, that this announcement to Adam of an eternal punishment impending over his first sin, is simply a fiction; for the warning to him is stated thus; “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die;”[297] from which our progenitor must have been as ingenious as a theologian, to extract the idea of endless life in Hell. But to say no more of this, what notions of veracity have we here? When a sentence is proclaimed against crime, is it indifferent to judicial truth, upon whom it falls? Personally addressed to the guilty, may it descend without a lie upon the guiltless? Provided there is the suffering, is it no matter where? Is this the sense in which God is no respecter of persons? Oh! what deplorable reflection of human artifice is this, that Heaven is too veracious to abandon its proclamation of menace against transgressors; yet is content to vent it on goodness the most perfect. No darker deed can be imagined, than is thus ascribed to the Source of all perfection, under the insulted names of truth and holiness. What reliance could we have on the faithfulness of such a Being? If it be consistent with his nature to punish by substitution, what security is there that he will not reward vicariously? All must be loose and unsettled, the sentiments of reverence confused, the perceptions of conscience indistinct, where the terms expressive of those great moral qualities which render God himself most venerable, are thus sported with and profaned.

The same extraordinary departure from all intelligible meaning of words is apparent, when our charge of vindictiveness against the doctrine of sacrifice is repelled as a slander. If the rigorous refusal of pardon, till the whole penalty has been inflicted (when, indeed, it is no pardon at all) be not vindictive, we may ask to be furnished with some better definition. And though it is said, that God’s love was manifested to us by the gift of his Son, this does but change the object on which this quality is exercised, without removing the quality itself; putting us indeed into the sunshine of his grace, but the Saviour into the tempest of his wrath. Did we desire to sketch the most dreadful form of character, what more emphatic combination could we invent than this; rigour in the exaction of penal suffering; and indifference as to the person on whom it falls?

But in truth this system, in its delineations of the Great Ruler of creation, bids defiance to all the analogies by which Christ and the Christian heart have delighted to illustrate his nature. A God who could accept the spontaneously returning sinner, and restore him by corrective discipline, is pronounced not worth serving, and an object of contempt.[298] If so, Jesus sketched an object of contempt when he drew the father of the prodigal son, opening his arms to the poor penitent, and needing only the sight of his misery to fall on his neck with the kiss of welcome home. Let the assertions be true, that sacrifice and satisfaction are needful preliminaries to pardon, that to pay any attention to repentance without these is mere weakness, and that it is a perilous deception to teach the doctrine of mercy apart from the atonement; and this parable of our Saviour’s becomes the most pernicious instrument of delusion; a statement, absolute and unqualified, of a feeble and sentimental heresy. Who does not see what follows from this scornful exclusion of corrective punishment? Suppose the infliction not to be corrective, that is, not to be designed for any good, what then remains as the cause of the Divine retribution? The sense of insult offered to a law. And thus we are virtually told, that God must be regarded with a mixture of contempt, unless he be susceptible of personal affront.[299]

(3.) The last inconsistency with itself which I shall point out in this doctrine, will be found in the view which it gives of the work of Christ. Sin, we are assured, is necessarily infinite. Its infinitude arises from its reference to an Infinite Being; and involves as a consequence the necessity of redemption by Deity himself.

The position, that guilt be estimated not by its amount or its motive, but by the dignity of the being against whom it is directed, is illustrated by the case of an insubordinate soldier, whose punishment is increased, according as his rebellion assails an equal, or any of the many grades amongst his superiors. It is evident, however, that it is not the dignity of the person, but the magnitude of the effect, which determines the severity of the sanction by which, in such an instance, law enforces order. Insult to a monarch is more sternly treated than injury to a subject, because it incurs the risk of wider and more disastrous consequences, and superadds to the personal injury a peril to an official power which, not resting on individual superiority, but on conventional arrangement, is always precarious. It is not indeed easy to form a distinct notion of an infinite act in a finite agent; and still less is it easy to evade the inference, that if an immoral deed against God be an infinite demerit, a moral deed towards him must be an infinite merit.

Passing by an assertion so unmeaning, and conceding it for the sake of progress in our argument, I would inquire what is intended by that other statement, that only Deity can redeem, and that by Deity the sacrifice was made? The union of the divine and human natures in Christ is said to have made his sufferings meritorious in an infinite degree. Yet we are repeatedly assured, that it was in his manhood only that he endured and died. If the divine nature in our Lord had a joint consciousness with the human, then did God suffer and perish; if not, then did the man only die, Deity being no more affected by his anguish, than by that of the malefactors on either side. In the one case the perfections of God, in the other the reality of the atonement, must be relinquished. No doubt, the popular belief is, that the Creator literally expired; the hymns in common use declare it; the language of pulpits sanctions it; the consistency of creeds requires it; but professed theologians repudiate the idea with indignation. Yet by silence or ambiguous speech, they encourage, in those whom they are bound to enlighten, this degrading humanization of Deity; which renders it impossible for common minds to avoid ascribing to him emotions and infirmities, totally irreconcileable with the serene perfections of the Universal Mind. In his influence on the worshipper, He is no Spirit, who can be invoked by his agony and bloody sweat, his cross and passion. And the piety that is thus taught to bring its incense, however sincere, before the mental image of a being with convulsed features and expiring cry, has little left of that which makes Christian devotion characteristically venerable.

II. I proceed to notice the inconsistency of the doctrine under review with the Christian idea of salvation.

There is one significant scriptural fact, which suggests to us the best mode of treating this part of our subject. It is this; that the language supposed to teach the atoning efficacy of the cross, does not appear in the New Testament till the Gentile controversy commences, nor ever occurs apart from the treatment of that subject, under some of its relations. The cause of this phenomenon will presently appear; meanwhile I state it, in the place of an assertion sometimes incorrectly made, viz., that the phraseology in question is confined to the epistles. Even this mechanical limitation of sacrificial passages is indeed nearly true, as not above three or four have strayed beyond the epistolary boundary, into the Gospels and the book of Acts: but the restriction in respect of subject, which I have stated, will be found, I believe, to be absolutely exact, and to furnish the real interpretation to the whole system of language.

(1.) Let us then first test the vicarious scheme by reference to the sentiments of Scripture generally, and of our Lord and his apostles especially, where this controversy is out of the way. Are their ideas respecting human character, the forgiveness of sins, the terms of everlasting life, accordant with the cardinal notions of a believer in the atonement? Do they, or do they not, insist on the necessity of a sacrifice for human sin, as a preliminary to pardon, to sanctification, to the love of God? Do they, or do they not, direct a marked and almost exclusive attention to the cross, as the object to which, far more than to the life and resurrection of our Lord, all faithful eyes should be directed?

(a.) Now to the fundamental assertion of the vicarious system, that the Deity cannot, without inconsistency and imperfection, pardon on simple repentance, the whole tenor of the Bible is one protracted and unequivocal contradiction. So copious is its testimony on this head, that if the passages containing it were removed, scarcely a shred of Scripture relating to the subject would remain. “Pardon, I beseech thee,” said Moses, pleading for the Israelites, “the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now; and the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word.”[300] Will it be affirmed, that this chosen people had their eyes perpetually fixed in faith on the great propitiation, which was to close their dispensation, and of which their own ceremonial was a type?—that whenever penitence and pardon are named amongst them, this reference is implied, and that as this faith was called to mind and expressed in the shedding of blood at the altar, such sacrificial offerings take the place, in Judaism, of the atoning trust in Christianity? Well then, let us quit the chosen nation altogether, and go to a heathen people, who were aliens to their laws, their blood, their hopes, and their religion; to whom no sacrifice was appointed, and no Messiah promised. If we can discover the dealings of God with such a people, the case, I presume, must be deemed conclusive. Hear then, what happened on the banks of the Tigris. “Jonah began to enter into the city,” (Nineveh,) “and he cried and said, yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even unto the least of them.” “Who can tell,” (said the decree of the king ordaining the fast), “if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil that he had said he would do unto them; and he did it not.”[301] And when the prophet was offended, first at this clemency to Nineveh, and afterwards that the canker was sent to destroy his own favourite plant, beneath whose shadow he sat, what did Jehovah say? “Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night and perished in a night; and should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six-score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand?”[302] —and who are not likely, one would think, to have discerned the future merits of the Redeemer.

In truth, if even the Israelites had any such prospective views to Calvary, if their sacrifices conveyed the idea of the cross erected there, and were established for this purpose, the fact must have been privately revealed to modern theologians; for not a trace of it can be found in the Hebrew writings. It must be thought strange, that a prophetic reference so habitual, should be always a secret reference; that a faith so fundamental should be so mysteriously suppressed; that the uppermost idea of a nation’s mind should never have found its way to lips or pen. “But if it were not so,” we are reminded, “if the Jewish ritual prefigured nothing ulterior, it was revolting, trifling, savage; its worship a butchery, and the temple courts no better than a slaughter house.” And were they not equally so, though the theory of types be true? If neither priest nor people could see at the time the very thing which the ceremonial was constructed to reveal, what advantage is it that divines can see it now? And even if the notion was conveyed to the Jewish mind, (which the whole history shows not to have been the fact,) was it necessary that hecatombs should be slain, age after age, to intimate obscurely an idea, which one brief sentence might have lucidly expressed? The idea, however, it is evident, slipped through after all; for when Messiah actually came, the one great thing which the Jews did not know and believe about him was, that he could die at all. So much for the preparatory discipline of fifteen centuries!

There is no reason then why anything should be supplied in our thoughts, to alter the plain meaning of the announcements of prophets and holy men, of God’s unconditional forgiveness on repentance. “Thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it; thou delightest not in burnt offering; the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”[303] “Wash you, make you clean,” says the prophet Isaiah in the name of the Lord; “put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes, cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”[304] Once more, “When I say unto the wicked, thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right; if the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die.”[305] Nor are the teachings of the Gospel at all less explicit. Our Lord treats largely and expressly on the doctrine of forgiveness in several parables, and especially that of the prodigal son; and omits all allusion to the propitiation for the past. He furnishes an express definition of the terms of eternal life; “Good master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, why callest thou me good; there is none good save one, that is God; but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” And Jesus adds, “if thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”[306] This silence on the prime condition of pardon cannot be explained by the fact, that the crucifixion had not yet taken place, and could not safely be alluded to, before the course of events had brought it into prominent notice. For we have the preaching of the Apostles, after the ascension, recorded at great length, and under very various circumstances, in the book of Acts. We have the very “words whereby,” according to the testimony of an angel, “Cornelius and all his house shall be saved;” these, one would think, would be worth hearing in this cause: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost, and with power; who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did, both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree; him God raised up the third day, and showed openly; not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify, that it is he who was ordained of God to be the judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that, through his name, whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”[307] Did an Evangelical missionary dare to preach in this style now, he would be immediately disowned by his employers, and dismissed as a disguised Socinian, who kept back all the “peculiar doctrines of the Gospel.”

(b.) The emphatic mention of the resurrection by the apostle Peter in this address, is only a particular instance of a system which pervades the whole preaching of the first missionaries of Christ. This, and not the cross, with its supposed effects, is the grand object to which they call the attention and the faith of their hearers. I cannot quote to you the whole book of Acts; but every reader knows, that “Jesus and the resurrection” constitutes the leading theme, the central combination of ideas in all its discourses. This truth was shed, from Peter’s tongue of fire, on the multitudes that heard amazed the inspiration of the day of Pentecost.[308] Again, it was his text, when passing beneath the beautiful gate, he made the cripple leap for joy; and then, with the flush of this deed still fresh upon him, leaned against a pillar in Solomon’s porch, and spake in explanation to the awe-struck people, thronging in at the hour of prayer.[309] Before priests and rulers, before Sanhedrim and populace, the same tale is told again, to the utter exclusion, be it observed, of the essential doctrine of the cross.[310] The authorities of the temple, we are told, were galled and terrified at the apostle’s preaching; “naturally enough,” it will be said, “since, the real sacrifice having been offered, their vocation, which was to make the prefatory and typical oblation, was threatened with destruction.” But no, this is not the reason given: “They were grieved because they preached, through Jesus, the resurrection from the dead.”[311] Paul, too, while his preaching was spontaneous and free, and until he had to argue certain controversies which have long ago become obselete, manifested a no less remarkable predilection for this topic. Before Felix, he declares what was the grand indictment of his countrymen against him; “touching the resurrection of the dead, I am called in question of you this day.”[312] Follow him far away from his own land; and, with foreigners, he harps upon the same subject, as if he were a man of one idea; which, indeed, according to our opponents’ scheme, he ought to have been, only it should have been another idea. Seldom, however, can we meet with a more exuberant mind than Paul’s; yet the resurrection obviously haunts him wherever he goes: in the synagogue of Antioch, you hear him dwelling on it with all the energy of his inspiration;[313] and, at Athens, it was this on which the scepticism of Epicureans and Stoics fastened for a scoff.[314] In his epistles, too, where he enlarges so much on justification by faith, when we inquire what precisely is this faith, and what the object it is to contemplate and embrace, this remarkable fact presents itself: that the one only important thing respecting Christ, which is never once mentioned as the object of justifying faith is his death, and blood, and cross. “Faith” by itself, the “faith of Jesus Christ,” “faith of the Gospel,” “faith of the Son of God,” are expressions of constant occurrence; and wherever this general description is replaced by a more specific account of this justifying state of mind, it is faith in the resurrection on which attention is fastened. “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again.”[315] “He was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification.”[316] “Faith shall be imputed to us for righteousness, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.”[317] Hear too, the Apostle’s definition of saving faith: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”[318] The only instance, in which the writings of St. Paul appear to associate the word faith with the death of Christ, is the following text: “whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood;”[319] and in this case the Apostle’s meaning would, I conceive, be more faithfully given by destroying this conjunction, and disposing the words thus: “whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation by his blood, through faith.” The idea of his blood, or death, belongs to the word ‘propitiation,’ not to the word ‘faith.’ To this translation no Trinitarian scholar, I am persuaded, can object;[320] and when the true meaning of the writer’s sacrificial language is explained, the distinction will appear to be not unimportant. At present I am concerned only with the defence of my position, that the death of Christ is never mentioned as the object of saving faith; but that his resurrection unquestionably is. This phenomenon in Scripture phraseology is so extraordinary, so utterly repugnant to everything which a hearer of orthodox preaching would expect, that I hardly expect my affirmation of it to be believed. The two ideas of faith, and of our Lord’s death, are so naturally and perpetually united in the mind of every believer in the atonement, that it must appear to him incredible, that they should never fall together in the writings of the Apostles. However, I have stated my fact; and it is for you to bring it to the test of Scripture.

(c.) Independently of all written testimony, moral reasons, we are assured, exist, which render an absolute remission for the past essential to a regenerated life for the future. Our human nature is said to be so constituted, that the burden of sin, on the conscience once awakened, is intolerable: our spirit cries aloud for mercy; yet is so straitened by the bands of sin, so conscious of the sad alliance lingering still, so full of hesitancy and shame when seeking the relief of prayer, so blinded by its tears when scanning the heavens for an opening of light and hope, that there is no freedom, no unrestrained and happy love to God; but a pinched and anxious mind, bereft of power, striving to work with bandaged or paralytic will, instead of trusting itself to loosened and self-oblivious affections. Hence it is thought, that the sin of the past must be cancelled, before the holiness of the future can be commenced; that it is a false order to represent repentance as leading to pardon; because to be forgiven is the pre-requisite to love. We cannot forget, however, how distinctly and emphatically he who, after God, best knew what is in man, has contradicted this sentiment; for when that sinful woman, whose presence in the house shocked the sanctimonious Pharisee, stood at his feet as he reclined, washing them with her tears, and kissing them with reverential lips; Jesus turned to her and said, “her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much.”[321] From him, then, we learn what our own hearts would almost teach, that love may be the prelude to forgiveness, as well as forgiveness the preparative for love.

At the same time let me acknowledge, that this statement respecting the moral effects of conscious pardon, to which I have invoked Jesus to reply, is by no means an unmixed error. It touches upon a very profound and important truth; and I can never bring myself to regard that assurance of divine forgiveness, which the doctrine of atonement imparts, as a demoralizing state of mind, encouraging laxity of conscience and a continuance in sin. The sense of pardon doubtless reaches the secret springs of gratitude, presents the soul with an object, strange before, of new and divine affection; and binds the child of redemption, by all generous and filial obligations, to serve with free and willing heart the God who hath gone forth to meet him. That the motives of self-interest are diminished in such a case, is a trifle that need occasion small anxiety. For the human heart is no labourer for hire; and, where there is opportunity afforded for true and noble love, will thrust away the proffered wages, and toil rather in a free and thankful spirit. If we are to compare, as a source of duty, the grateful with the merely prudential temper, rather may we trust the first, as not the worthier only, but the stronger too; and till we obtain emancipation from the latter,—forget the computations of hope and fear, and precipitate ourselves for better for worse on some object of divine love and trust,—our nature will be puny and weak, our wills will turn in sickness from their duty, and our affections shrink in aversion from their heaven. But though personal gratitude is better than prudence, there is a higher service still. A more disinterested love may spring from the contemplation of what God is in himself, than from the recollection of what he has done for us; and when this mingles most largely as an element among our springs of action; when, humbled indeed by a knowledge of dangers that await us, and thankful, too, for the blessings spread around us, we yet desire chiefly to be fitting children of the everlasting Father and the holy God; when we venerate him for the graciousness and purity and majesty of his spirit, impersonated in Jesus; and resolve to serve him truly, before he has granted the desire of our heart, and because he is of a nature so sublime and merciful and good; then are we in the condition of her who bent over the feet of Christ; and we are forgiven, because we have loved much.

(2.) Let us now, in conclusion, turn our attention to those portions of the New Testament, which speak of the death of Christ as the means of redemption.

I have said, that these are to be found exclusively in passages of the sacred writings which treat of the Gentile controversy, or of topics immediately connected with it. This controversy arose naturally out of the design of Providence to make the narrow, exclusive, ceremonial system of Judaism, give birth to the universal and spiritual religion of the Gospel; from God’s method of expanding the Hebrew Messiah into the Saviour of humanity. For this the nation was not prepared; to this even the Hebrew Christians could not easily conform their faith; and in the achievement of this, or in persuading the world that it was achieved, did Paul spend his noble life, and write his astonishing epistles. The Jews knew that the Deliverer was to be of their peculiar stock, and their royal lineage; they believed that he would gather upon himself all the singularities of their race, and be a Hebrew to intensity; that he would literally restore the kingdom to Israel; aye, and extend it too, immeasurably beyond the bounds of its former greatness; till, in fact, it swallowed up all existing principalities and powers, and thrones, and dominions, and became co-extensive with the earth. Then in Jerusalem, as the centre of the vanquished nations,—before the temple, as the altar of a humbled world, did they expect the Messiah to erect his throne; and when he had taken the seat of judgment, to summon all the tribes before his tribunal, and pass on the Gentiles, excepting the few who might submit to the law, a sentence of perpetual exclusion from his realm; while his own people would be invited to the seats of honour, occupy the place of authority and sit down with him (the greatest at his right hand and his left) at his table in his kingdom. The holy men of old were to come on earth again to see this day. And many thought that every part of the realm thus constituted, and all its inhabitants, would never die: but like the Messiah himself, and the patriarchs whom he was to call to life, would be invested with immortality. None were to be admitted to these golden days except themselves; all else to be left in outer darkness from this region of light, and there to perish and be seen no more. The grand title to admission was conformity with the Mosaic law; the most ritually scrupulous were the most secure; and the careless Israelite, who forgot or omitted an offering, a tithe, a Sabbath duty, might incur the penalty of exclusion and death: the law prescribed such mortal punishment for the smallest offence; and no one, therefore, could feel himself ready with his claim, if he had not yielded a perfect obedience. If God were to admit him on any other plea, it would be of pure grace and goodness, and not in fulfilment of any promise.

The Jews, being scattered over the civilized world, and having synagogues in every city, came into perpetual contact with other people. Nor was it possible that the Gentiles, among whom they lived, should notice the singular purity and simplicity of the Israelitish Theism, without some of them being struck with its spirit, attracted by its sublime principles, and disposed to place themselves in religious relations with that singular people. Having been led into admiration and even profession of the nation’s theology, they could not but desire to share their hopes; which indeed were an integral part of their religion, and, at the Christian era, the one element in it to which they were most passionately attached. But this was a stretch of charity too great for any Hebrew; or, at all events, if such admission were ever to be thought of, it must only be on condition of absolute submission to the requirements of the law. The Gentile would naturally plead, that as God had not made him of the chosen nation, he had given him no law, except that of conscience; that, being without the law, he must be a law unto himself; and that if he had lived according to his light, he could not be justly excluded on the ground of accidental disqualification. Possibly, in the provocation of dispute, the Gentile might sometimes become froward and insolent in his assertion of claim; and, in the pride of his heart, demand as a right that which, at most, could only be humbly hoped for as a privilege and a free gift.

Thus were the parties mutually placed to whom the Deliverer came. Thus dense and complicated was the web of prejudice which clung round the early steps of the Gospel; and which must be burst or disentangled ere the glad tidings could have free course and be glorified. How did Providence develop from such elements the divine and everlasting truth? Not by neglecting them, and speaking to mankind as if they had no such ideas; not by forbidding his messengers and teachers to have any patience with them; but, on the contrary, by using these very notions as temporary means to his everlasting ends; by touching this and that with light before the eyes of apostles, as if to say, there are good capabilities in these; the truth may be educed from them so gently and so wisely, that the world will find itself in light, without perceiving how it has been quitting the darkness.

So long as Christ remained on earth, he necessarily confined his ministry to his nation. He would not have been the Messiah had he done otherwise. By birth, by lineage, by locality, by habit, he was altogether theirs. Whoever then, of his own people, during his mortal life, believed in him and followed him, became a subject of the Messiah; ready, it was supposed even by the apostles themselves, to enter the glory of his kingdom, whenever it should please him to assume it; qualified at once, by the combination of pedigree and of belief, to enter into life, to become a member of the kingdom of God, to take a place among the elect; for, by all these phrases, was described the admission to the expected realm. If, then, Jesus had never suffered and died, if he had never retired from this world, but stayed to fulfil the anticipations of his first followers, his Messianic kingdom might have included all the converts of the Israelitish stock. From the exclusion which fell on others, they would have obtained salvation. Hence, it is never in connection with the first Jewish Christians that the death of Christ is mentioned.

It was otherwise, however, with the Gentiles. They could not become his followers in his mortal lifetime; and had a Messianic reign then been set up, they must have been excluded; no missionary would have been justified in addressing them with invitation; they could not, as it was said, have entered into life. The Messiah must cease to be Jewish, before he could become universal; and this implied his death by which alone the personal relations, which made him the property of a nation, could be annihilated. To this he submitted; he disrobed himself of his corporeality, he became an immortal spirit; thereby instantly burst his religion open to the dimensions of the world; and, as he ascended to the skies, sent it forth to scatter the seeds of blessing over the field of the world, long ploughed with cares, and moist with griefs, and softened now to nourish in its bosom the tree of Life.

Now, how would the effect of this great revolution be described to the proselyte Gentiles, so long vainly praying for admission to the Israelitish hope. At once it destroyed their exclusion; put away as valueless the Jewish claims of circumcision and law; nailed the hand-writing of ordinances to the cross; reconciled them that had been afar off; redeemed them to God by his blood, out of every tongue, and kindred, and people, and nation; washed them in his blood; justified them by his resurrection and ascension; an expression, I would remark, unmeaning on any other explanation.

Even during our Lord’s personal ministry, his approaching death is mentioned, as the means of introducing the Gentiles into his Messianic kingdom. He adverts repeatedly to his cross, as designed to widen, by their admission, the extent of his sway: and according to Scripture phrase, to yield to him “much fruit.” He was already on his last fatal visit to Jerusalem, when, taking the hint from the visit of some Greeks to him, he exclaimed: “The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” He adds, in allusion to the death he should die; “and I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”[322] It is for this end that he resigns for awhile his life,—that he may bring in the wanderers who are not of the commonwealth of Israel: “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd: therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again.”[323] Many a parable did Jesus utter, proclaiming his Father’s intended mercy to the uncovenanted nations: but for himself personally he declared, “I am not sent, but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”[324] His advent was a promise of their economy; his office, the traditionary hope of their fathers; his birth, his life, his person, were under the Law, and excluded him from relations to those who were beyond its obligations. On the cross, all the connate peculiarities of the Nazarene ceased to exist: when, the seal of the sepulchre gave way, the seal of the law was broken too; the nationality of his person passed away; for how can an immortal be a Jew? This then was the time to open wide the scope of his mission, and to invite to God’s acceptance those that fear him in every nation. Though, before, the disciple might “have known Christ after the flesh,” and followed his steps as the Hebrew Messiah, “yet now henceforth was he to know him so no more;” these “old things had passed away,” since he had “died for all,”—died to become universal,—to drop all exclusive relations, and “reconcile the world,” the Gentile world, to God.[325] Observe to whom this “ministry of reconciliation” is especially confided. As if to show that it is exclusively the risen Christ who belongs to all men, and that his death was the instrument of the Gentiles’ admission, their great Apostle was one Paul, who had not known the Saviour in his mortal life; who never listened to his voice, till it spake from heaven; who himself was the convert of his ascension; and bore to him the relation, not of subject to the person of a Hebrew king, but of spirit to spirit, unembarrassed by anything earthly, legal, or historical. Well did Paul understand the freedom and the sanctity of this relation; and around the idea of the Heavenly Messiah gathered all his conceptions of the spirituality of the gospel, of its power over the unconscious affections, rather than a reluctant will. His believing countrymen were afraid to disregard the observances of the law, lest it should be a disloyalty to God, and disqualify them for the Messiah’s welcome, when he came to take his power and reign. Paul tells them, that while their Lord remained in this mortal state, they were right; as representative of the law, and filling an office created by the religion of Judaism, he could not but have held them then to its obligations; nor could they, without infidelity, have neglected its claims, any more than a wife can innocently separate herself from a living husband. But as the death of the man sets the woman free, and makes null the law of their union, so the decease of Christ’s body emancipates his followers from all legal relations to him; and they are at liberty to wed themselves anew to the risen Christ, who dwells where no ordinance is needful, no tie permitted but of the spirit, and all are as the angels of God.[326] Surely, then, this mode of conception explains, why the death of Jesus constitutes a great date in the Christian economy, especially as expounded by the friend and apostle of those who were not “Jews by nature, but sinners of the Gentiles.”[327] Had he never died, they must have remained aliens from his sway; the enemies against whom his power must be directed; without hope in the day of his might; strangers to God and his vicegerent.

But, while thus they “were yet without strength, Christ died for” these “ungodly;”[328] died to put himself into connection with them, else impossible; and rising from death drew them after him into spiritual existence on earth, analogous to that which he passed in heaven. “You,” says their Apostle, “being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him;” giving you, as “risen with him,” a life above the world and its law of exclusion,—a life not “subject to ordinances,” but of secret love and heavenly faith, “hid with Christ in God;” “blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and taking it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.”[329] God had never intended to perpetuate the division between Israel and the world, receiving the one as the sons, and shutting out the other as the slaves of his household. If there had been an appearance of such partiality, he had always designed to set these bondmen free, and to make them “heirs of God through Christ;”[330] “in whom they had redemption through his blood” from their servile state, the forgiveness of disqualifying sins, according to the riches of his grace.[331] Though the Hebrews boasted that “theirs was the adoption,”[332] and till Messiah’s death had boasted truly; yet in that event, God “before the foundation of the world,” had “blessed us” (Gentiles) “with all spiritual blessings, in heavenly places;” “having predestinated us unto the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ, according” (not indeed to any right or promise, but) “to the good pleasure of his will,”[333] “and when we were enemies, having reconciled us, by the death of his son;”[334] “that in the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ;”[335] “by whom we” (Gentiles) “have now received this atonement” (reconciliation);[336] that he might have no partial empire, but that “in him might all fulness dwell.”[337] “Wherefore,” says their Apostle, “remember that ye, Gentiles in the flesh, were in time past without Messiah, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenant of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world; but now in Christ Jesus, ye, who sometime were afar off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (not between God and man, but between Jew and Gentile); “having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments, contained in ordinances; for to make in himself, of twain, one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God, in one body, by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby; and came and preached peace to you who were afar off, as well as to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one spirit unto the Father.”[338]

The way, then, is clear and intelligible, in which the death and ascension of the Messiah rendered him universal, by giving spirituality to his rule; and, on the simple condition of faith, added the uncovenanted nations to his dominion, so far as they were willing to receive him. This idea, and this only, will be found in almost every passage of the New Testament (excepting the Epistle to the Hebrews) usually adduced to prove the doctrine of the Atonement. Some of the strongest of these I have already quoted; and my readers must judge whether they have received a satisfactory meaning. There are others, in which the Gentiles are not so distinctly stated to be the sole objects of the redemption of the cross: but with scarcely an exception, so far as I can discover, this limitation is implied; and either creeps out through some adjacent expression in the context; or betrays itself, when we recur to the general course of the Apostle’s argument, or to the character and circumstances of his correspondents. Thus Paul says, that Christ “gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time;” the next verse shows what is in his mind, when he adds, “whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity:” and the whole sentiment of the context is the Universality of the Gospel, and the duty of praying for Gentile kings and people, as not abandoned to a foreign God and another Mediator; for since Messiah’s death, to us all “there is but One God, and One Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus:” wherefore the Apostle wills, that for all, “men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath, and doubting,”—without wrath at their admission, or doubt of their adoption.[339] And wherever emphasis is laid on the vast number benefited by the cross, a contrast is implied with the few (only the Jews) who could have been his subjects, had he not died: and when it is said, “he gave his life a ransom for many;”[340] his blood was “shed for many, for the remission of sins;”[341] “thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth;”[342] “behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world;”[343] —by all these expressions is still denoted the efficacy of Christ’s death in removing the Gentile disqualification, and making his dispensation spiritual as his celestial existence, and universal as the Fatherhood of God. Does Paul exhort certain of his disciples, “to feed the church of the Lord, which he hath purchased with his own blood?”[344] We find that he is speaking of the Gentile church of Ephesus, whose elders he is instructing in the management of their charge, and to which he afterwards wrote the well-known epistle, on their Gentile freedom and adoption obtained by the Messiah’s death. When Peter says, “ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation, received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot,”[345] we must inquire to whom he is addressing these words. If it be to the Jews, the interpretation which I have hitherto given of such language will not apply, and we must seek an explanation altogether different. But the whole manner of this epistle, the complexion of its phraseology throughout, convinces me that it was addressed especially to the Gentile converts of Asia Minor; and that the redemption of which it speaks is no other than that which is the frequent theme of their own apostle.

In the passage just quoted, the form of expression itself suggests the idea, that Peter is addressing a class which did not include himself; “YE were not redeemed, &c.:” further on in the same epistle the same sentiment occurs, however, without any such visible restriction. Exhorting to patient suffering for conscience sake, he appeals to the example of Christ; “who, when he suffered, threatened not, but committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously: who, his own self, bare our sins in his own body on the tree; that we, being dead to sin, should live unto righteousness:” yet, with instant change in the expression, revealing his correspondents to us, the Apostle adds, “by whose stripes YE were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the shepherd and bishop of your souls.”[346] With the instinct of a gentle and generous heart, the writer, treating in plain terms of the former sins of those whom he addresses, puts himself in with them; and avoids every appearance of that spiritual pride, by which the Jew constantly rendered himself offensive to the Gentile.

Again, in this letter, he recommends the duty of patient endurance, by appeal to the same consideration of Christ’s disinterested self-sacrifice. “It is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing than for evil doing: for Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” And who are these “unjust” that are thus brought to God? The Apostle instantly explains, by describing how the “Jews by nature” lost possession of Messiah by the death of his person, and “sinners of the Gentiles” gained him by the resurrection of his immortal nature; “being put to death in flesh, but quickened in spirit; and thereby he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, who formerly were without faith.” This is clearly a description of the Heathen world, ere it was brought into relation to the Messianic promises. Still further confirmation, however, follows. The Apostle adds: “forasmuch, then, as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind; for the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles; when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquettings, and abominable idolatries.”[347] If we cannot admit this to be a just description of the holy Apostle’s former life, we must perceive that, writing to Pagans of whom it was all true, he beautifully withholds from his language every trace of invidious distinction, puts himself for the moment into the same class, and seems to take his share of the distressing recollection.

The habitual delicacy with which Paul, likewise, classed himself with every order of persons in turn, to whom he had any thing painful to say, is known to every intelligent reader of his epistles. Hence, in his writings too, we have often to consider with whom it is that he is holding his dialogue, and to make our interpretation dependent on the answer. When, for example, he says, that Jesus “was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification;” I ask, “for whose?—was it for every body’s?—or for the Jews’, since Paul was a Hebrew?” On looking closely into the argument, I find it beyond doubt that neither of these answers is correct; and that the Apostle, in conformity with his frequent practice, is certainly identifying himself, Israelite though he was, with the Gentiles, to whom, at that moment, his reasoning applies itself. The neighbouring verses have expressions which clearly enough declare this; “when we were yet without strength,” and “while we were yet sinners,” Christ died for us. It is to the Gentile Church at Corinth, and while expatiating on their privileges and relations as such, that Paul speaks of the disqualifications and legal unholiness of the Heathen, as vanishing in the death of the Messiah; as the recovered leper’s uncleanness was removed, and his banishment reversed, and his exclusion from the temple ended, when the lamb without blemish, which the law prescribed as his sin-offering, bled beneath the knife, so did God provide, in Jesus, a lamb without blemish for the exiled and unsanctified Gentiles, to bring them from their far dwelling in the leprous haunts of this world’s wilderness, and admit them to the sanctuary of spiritual health and worship: “He hath made him to be a sin-offering for us (Gentiles), who knew no sin; that we might be made the justified of God in him;”[348] entering, under the Messiah, the community of saints. That, in this sacrificial allusion, the Gentile adoption is still the Apostle’s only theme, is evident hence; that twice in this very passage, he declares that he is speaking of that peculiar “reconciliation,” the word and ministry of which have been committed to himself; he is dwelling on the topic most natural to one who “magnified his office,” as “Apostle of the Gentiles.”

To the same parties was Paul writing, when he said, “Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us.”[349] Frequently as this sentence is cited in evidence of the doctrine of Atonement, there is hardly a verse in Scripture more utterly inapplicable; nor, if the doctrine were true, could anything be more inept than an allusion to it in this place. I do not dwell on the fact that the paschal lamb was neither sin-offering nor proper sacrifice at all: for the elucidation of the death of Jesus by sacrificial analogies is as easy and welcome, as any other mode of representing it. But I turn to the whole context, and seek for the leading idea before multiplying inferences from a subordinate illustration. I find the author treating, not of the deliverance of believers from curse or exclusion, but of their duty to keep the churches cleansed, by the expulsion of notoriously profligate members. Such persons they are to cast from them, as the Jews, at the passover, swept from their houses all the leaven they contained; and as, for eight days at that season, only pure unleavened bread was allowed for use, so the church must keep the Gospel-festival, free from the ferment of malice and wickedness, and tasting nothing but sincerity and truth. This comparison is the primary sentiment of the whole passage; under cover of which, the Apostle is urging the Corinthians to expel a certain licentious offender: and only because the feast of unleavened bread, on which his fancy has alighted, set in with the day of passover, does he allude to this in completion of the figure. As his correspondents were Gentiles, their Christianity first became possible with the death of Christ; with him, as an immortal, their spiritual relations commenced; when he rose, they rose with him, as by a divine attraction, from an earthly to a heavenly state; their old and corrupt man had been buried together with him, and, with the human infirmities of his person left behind for ever in his sepulchre; and it became them, “to seek those things which are above,” and to “yield themselves to God, as those that are alive from the dead.” This period of the Lord’s sequestration in the heavens, Paul represents as a festival of purity to the disciples on earth, ushered in by the self-sacrifice of Christ. The time is come, he says; cast away the leaven, for the passover is slain, blessed bread of heaven to them that taste it! let nothing now be seen in all the household of the church, but the unleavened cake of simplicity and love.

Paul again appears as the advocate of the Gentiles, when he protests that now between them and the Jews “there is no difference; since all have sinned and come short of the glory of God:” that the Hebrew has lost all claim to the Messianic adoption, and can have no hope but in that free grace of God, which has a sovereign right to embrace the Heathen too; and which, in fact, has compassed the Gentiles within its redemption, by causing Jesus the Messiah to die; “by whose blood God hath set forth a propitiation, through faith; to evince his justice, while overlooking, with the forbearance of God, transgressions past;—to evince his justice in the arrangements of the present crisis; which preserve his justice (to the Israelite), yet justify on mere discipleship to Jesus.”[350] The great question which the Apostle discusses throughout this epistle, is this: “on what terms is a man now admitted as a subject to the Messiah, so as to be acknowledged by him, when he comes to erect his kingdom?” “He must be one of the circumcised, to whom alone the holy law and promises are given,” says the Jew. “That is well,” replies Paul: “only the promises, you remember, are conditional on obedience; and he who claims by the law must stand the judgment of the law. Can your nation abide this test, and will you stake your hopes upon the issue? Or is there on record against you a violation of every condition of your boasted covenant; wholesale and national transgression, which your favourite code itself menaces with ‘cutting off?’ Have you even rejected and crucified the very Messiah, who was tendered to you in due fulfilment of the promises? Take your trial by the principles of your law, and you must be cast off, and perish, as certainly as the Heathen whom you despise; and whose rebellion against the natural law, gross as it is, does not surpass your own offences against the tables of Moses. You must abandon the claim of right, the high talk of God’s Justice and plighted faith;—which are alike ill-suited to you both. The rules of law are out of the question, and would admit nobody; and we must ascend again to the sovereign will and free mercy of him, who is the source of law; and who, to bestow a blessing which its resources cannot confer, may devise new methods of beneficence. God has violated no pledge. Messiah came to Israel, and never went beyond its bounds; the uncircumcised had no part in him; and every Hebrew who desired it, was received as his subject. But when the people would not have him, and threw away their ancient title, was God either to abandon his vicegerent, or to force him on the unwilling? No: rather did it befit him to say; ‘if they will reject and crucify my servant,—why, let him die, and then he is Israelite no more; I will raise him, and take him apart in his immortality; where his blood of David is lost; and the holiness of his humanity is glorified; and all shall be his, who will believe, and love him, as he there exists, spiritually and truly.’” Thus, according to Paul, does God provide a new method of adoption or justification, without violating any promises of the old. Thus he makes Faith in Jesus,—a moral act instead of a genealogical accident,—the single condition of reception into the Divine kingdom upon earth. Thus, after the passage of Christ from this world to another, Jew and Gentile are on an equality in relation to the Messiah; the one gaining nothing by his past privileges; the other, not visited with exclusion for past idolatry and sins; but assured, in Messiah’s death, that these are to be overlooked, and treated as if cleansed away. He finds himself invited into the very penetralia of that sanctuary of pure faith and hope, from which before he had been repelled as an unclean thing; as if its ark of mercy had been purified for ever from his unworthy touch, or he himself had been sprinkled by some sudden consecration. And all this was the inevitable and instant effect of that death on Calvary; which took Messiah from the Jews, and gave him to the world.

With emphasis, not less earnest than that of Paul, does the apostle John repudiate the notion of any claim on the Divine admission by law or righteousness; and insist on humble and unqualified acceptance of God’s free grace and remission for the past, as the sole avenue of entrance to the kingdom. This avenue was open, however, to all “who confessed that Jesus the Messiah had come in the flesh;”[351] in other words, that, during his mortal life, Jesus had been indicated as this future Prince; and that his ministry was the Messiah’s preliminary visit to that earth on which shortly he would re-appear to reign. The great object of that visit was to prepare the world for his real coming; for as yet it was very unfit for so great a crisis; and especially to open, by his death, a way of admission for the Gentiles, and frame, on their behalf, an act of oblivion for the past. “If,” says the apostle to them, “we walk in the light, as he is in the light” (of love and heaven), “we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin:”[352] the Israelite will embrace the Gentiles in fraternal relations, knowing that the cross has removed their past unholiness. Nor let the Hebrew rely on anything now but the divine forbearance; to appeal to rights will serve no longer: “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”[353] Nor let any one despair of a reception, or even a restoration, because he has been an idolater and sinner: “Jesus Christ the righteous” is “an advocate with the Father” for admitting all who are willing to be his; “and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only (not merely for our small portion of Gentiles, already converted); but also for the whole world,”[354] if they will but accept him. He died to become universal; to make all his own; to spread an oblivion, wide as the earth, over all that had embarrassed the relations to the Messiah, and made men aliens, instead of Sons of God. Yet did no spontaneous movement of their good affections solicit this change. It was “not that we (Gentiles) loved God; but that he loved us, and sent his Son, the propitiation for our sins;” “he sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.”[355] That this epistle was addressed to Gentiles, and is therefore occupied with the same leading idea respecting the cross, which pervades the writings of Paul, is rendered probable by its concluding words, which could hardly be appropriate to Jews: “keep yourselves from idols.”[356] How little the apostle associated any vicarious idea even with a form of phrase most constantly employed by modern theology to express it, is evident from the parallel which he draws, in the following words, between the death of our Lord and that of the Christian martyrs; “hereby perceive we love, because Christ laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”[357]

Are then the Gentiles alone beneficially affected by the death of Christ; and is no wider efficacy ever assigned to it in Scripture? The great number of passages to which I have already applied this single interpretation, will show that I consider it as comprising the great leading idea of the apostolic theology on this subject; nor do I think that there is (out of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which I shall soon notice) a single doctrinal allusion to the cross, from which this conception is wholly absent. At the s