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evidence of every record of Judaism, both sacred and profane ; and the writer can be vindicated from the charge of a deliberate intention to deceive, only upon the supposition that either he had never read, or that he had entirely forgotten those records. But so unhappy is this writer, that he contradicts, when he forgets himself, his former declaration, and endeavours to account for the Apostles so often speaking of expiatory sacrifices in this manner, “ The Apostles were Jews, and consequently represented Christianity in a Jewish dress in the business of sacrifices.”* The fact which formerly he contradicted is, therefore, by his own confession, established. But the law of the Jews had God for its author, and was intend. ed to be an introduction to the Christian dispensation. According to him, therefore, God introduced into the Jewish system those principles of corruption, which have been transferred into Christianity, through the necessary mistakes of Jewish writers, whose works form the only authentic record of the Gospel !!
How strongly the ancient Heathens felt their want of something more than repentance and a good life, to conciliate the favour of their gods, two circumstances connected with their history, sufficiently show. The first is, the universal practice of offering sacrifices to these deities. The second is, the almost universal custom of offering human sacrifices, in times of peculiar danger and distress. Such bloody sacrifices, Dr. Priestley well knew, were presented to the gods of their country by the Egyptians, by the Greeks, and by the Romans, so late as the time of Trajan; by the Carthaginians, by the Britons, by the Gauls,
· P. 426.
and many others. Now, if these nations had no sense of their want of any expedient of satisfaction for sin, besides repentance and a good life, a question arises, to which we hope some Unitarian will give us a satisfactory answer. Why then did they offer such sacrifices? In many heathen countries, in modern times, the same sanguinary rites are still practised. There appears to be in the nature of things, no necessary connexion between the sufferings of one being, and the pardon of another. So far we are willing to agree with the Socinians. There seems therefore to be no rational way of accounting for the universal practice of vicarious sacrifices, but supposition that it has prevailed in consequence of a general tradition, corrupted indeed, but still retained in some degree, of its having been a Divine institution.
The Sects who have rejected the doctrines of the Trini. ty and the Atonement, are three: the Socinians, the Arians, and the Sabellians.
OF THE SOCINIANS.
OUR Lord compares the state of his Church in this world, together with the doctrines taught by himself and by his Apostles, to a field, in which a man sowed good seed. He accounts for the errors and heresies that afterwards sprang up in it, by telling us, that when man slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat. He, who, from the beginning knew the progress that his Gospel would make, and the false doctrines which it would have
to combat, thus warned his servants of the discouraging circumstances that were to present themselves to their view, soon after they had disseminated the truths of his religion. In the days of the Apostles themselves we accordingly find, that many bitter roots sprang up to choke, or to contaminate the seed they scattered. St. Paul saw, in his days, the malignant influence of what he calls the mystery of iniquity,” already at work, though probably it escaped the notice of men less penetrating, because it was diffused among the professors of Christianity, in secrecy and in silence. The Apostie John, who many years outlived the Apostle of the Gentiles, observed, with pain, that in his time many deceivers had entered into the world. His Gospel appears to have been written by him, towards the evening of his life. It bears on its face a marked design to establish, in the fullest manner, the personality and the divinity of the Logos. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”-i. 1. Besides the intrinsic evidence which his Gospel gives of his design in writing it, we have the testimony of two of the Fathers of the Christian Church, that it was written for the express purpose of confuting the doctrine of Cerinthus and Ebion, which had begun to spread in the Church. These two men prosessed Christianity, though they both denied the Divinity of Christ. Some small shades of difference, indeed, distinguished them. Ebion allowed the pre-existence of Christ, but Cerinthus considered him as a mere man; the son of Joseph, as well as of Mary, and as having no existence previous to his coming into the world. The former was in sentiment an Arian ; the latter, a Socinian. Irenacus, who was the disciple of Polycarp, who was the disciple of the vener. able Apostle John, has left his testimony that “ John designed, by his Gospel, to remove that error which was sown among men by Cerinthus.”* The other testimony is that of Jerome, who indeed represents, in opposition to the declaration of some other authors, that Ebion was as much a Socinian as Cerinthus. “ Last of all,” says he, “at the request of the Bishop of Asia, he wrote his Gospel against Cerinthus and other heretics, and especially against the doctrine of the Ebionites, then beginning to appear, who say that Christ did not appear before Mary.”+
With the resurrection of the great truths of Christianity, which marked the beginning and the progress of the Reformation, the heresies of Cerinthus and Ebion also revi. ved. John Campanus, and Michael Servitus, were among the first Protestants who embraced and propagated the Antitrinitarian system. But the sect derives its name from Faustus Socinus, who sprang from a noble family of Sene, in Italy. His uncle, Lelius Socinus, adopted the same opinions, and disseminated them with the same zeal. The doctrines they taught were, that Christ was nothing more than a man of our own order, and that he began to exist when he was born of the virgin. They allow him to have been the greatest of prophets, and to have possessed an extraordinary share of wisdom and goodness. They also allow him to have enjoyed the singular honour, of being the most distinguished Minister of the purest and best dispensation of religion, that the world ever saw. The great end of his mission was, they say, to teach that repen. tance, without any Atonement or propitiatory sacrifice, is sufficient to procure the forgiveness of our sins, and the
• Lib. in, c. 2. VOL. 1.
+ Catalog. Script. Eccles. in Joan
blessings of the Divine favour ; to furnish us with a most noble example of the active and passive virtues; and, by sealing his doctrine with his blood, to teach us that no sacrifice is too great for his followers to make, at the call of truth and duty. From his resurrection from the dead, as an authenticated fact, they tell us, we derive a firm hope of our own resurrection, at the last day. All divine influence, for the productions of holy dispositions and tempers, they absolutely deny; and acknowledge no supernatural interpositions, except for the purpose of working those miracles, which, in the Apostolic age, gave credence to Christianity. According to their system, God neither works in men to will, nor to do, except by that power, which, continuing our existence, leaves us to will, and to do of ourselves. By denying the personality of the Holy Ghost, and reducing Him to a quality or attribute, they entirely isolate man from every hope of sanctification, which does not originate from his own powers.
With this creed, which entirely excludes the doctrine of our Saviour's Divinity, the followers of Socinus associated a belief, which Mr. Belsham justly enough, upon their common principles, calls “an incredible notion,” that our Saviour, since his resurrection, has been advanced to the government of the universe. How the feebleness of an arm, merely human, should wield a sceptre so ponderous; how an intellect, created and limited, should be able to direct and govern, with unerring wisdom, a system so multifarious and complicated, so as to secure the harmony of the universe, is a subject, it must be confessed, of no easy comprehension; and requires a much greater degree of faith in him who trusts to it, than any dogma of pure Christianity demands. In such hands, there is much reason to fear, that a commission so ample and extensive,