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Again, our author admits that the tradition of the four quarters of the globe, plainly declares the doctrine of the Trinity. Instead of attempting to account for these most remarkable facts, that the doctrine of a Triad has been so generally received by the nations of the earth; that it was expressed in such a variety of forms of language and symbol; that the representations are perfectly harmonious; and that the doctrine was never contradicted; he gives as one of his main reasons for rejecting it, the fact that it is found among the traditions of the heathen. We are told that "it is heathenism grafted upon the Christian system," and surely cannot be true. If we admit the heathen doctrine of a Triad, it is said, we must admit also the heathen doctrine of transmigration of souls, as well as other like absurdities. This is rare logic surely. The fact is, many of the traditions of the heathen are but dim records of truth fully revealed in the bible. They have traditions of the existence of God, of a mediator, of a flood, of the fall of man, and of future retributions. And are we to reject these doctrines, because, forsooth, they are found among the traditions of the heathen? If the Alexandrian library could be restored to the world, we venture to presume some truths might be gleaned from these immense "heathen" volumes. The logic of our author is hardly Whatelyan. If you believe one doctrine held by the heathen, or any class of men, you must believe all their doctrines. This must be his major premise-You believe in the existence af God in common with the heathen and all other men, (for atheists are but speculative unbelievers,) therefore you are bound to believe all the contradictory dogmas, and ridiculous absurdities, and lying fables, that have ever found credence in the world. You must believe in Christianity and against it; in a future punishment and against it; in a future judgment and against it; in the bible as a revelation from God, and as the work of priestcraft; that the soul is both mortal and immortal. Surely, it is a very singular position that a sentiment is certainly false, because the heathen have believed it. Are all the beliefs of the heathen world false? Was truth wholly unknown in enlightened Egypt, and in classic Greece and Rome? If not, why raise the cry of "heathenism" against this or any other doctrine? But Unitarians must have an appearance of argument, and as Juvenal says of that the love of which is the root of all evil,
"Unde habeas quærit nemo, sed oportet habere," they seem not to be particular where they get it.
Our author makes his strongest effort to overthrow the supreme divinity of Christ. He doubtless realizes that if this doctrine be established, that of the Trinity cannot be successfully resisted. We propose now to notice some of his arguments on this topic.
The first and most confident of these is drawn from his Sonship. "Christ was the Son of God, and how could He then be God himself-that God whose Son He was." "He that was begotten of the Most High could not have been the Most High by whom He was begotten." "He could not have been his own Son." "A father and a son are not the same being." These statements are made with a peculiar air of triumph, as though the issue must unquestionably be settled by them. To many minds there is plausibility in this kind of argument: but never was a fallacy clearer to our mind than in this case. The whole reasoning is based upon the fact that the title Son of God, or Son of the Highest was given to Christ. Suppose I wished to establish the apostleship of Paul previous to his conversion, while he was yet Saul of Tarsus persecuting the saints of Christ; and to prove that he was an apostle then, I should refer to the fact that in all his epistles he calls himself "an apostle." You would reply very justly and logically to my argument, that he received this title subsequently to his conversion, and would call for proof that Paul was an apostle before that time. I should make myself ridiculous by using such an argument. In like manner we answer the famous argument of our author from the Sonship of Christ. This title, Son of God, did not belong to Him in his pre-existent state. Our author admits that Christ existed before the incarnation. We assert, and will show from the Bible, that this title was given to Christ for the express reason, that He was begotten miraculously by the Holy Ghost of his human mother, and did not belong to Him previous to that event, or for any other reason. If now Christ was the Son of God only as having been begotten thus by the Holy Ghost, the argument from the Sonship is utterly worthless; for the question would still be, who was Christ in his pre-existent state? Who was He when He was not the Son of God? The Bible settles this in the plainest language possible. Says the angel to Mary, (Luke 1: 35,) in answer to her question, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the highest shall overshadow thee; THEREFORE also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." It was when and be
cause He was God-begotten of his human mother. The title belonged not to him before. Christ was the only being ever begotten in like manner on earth or in heaven. When He is called the only begotten and first begotten; evidently reference is had to this same event, and there is no allusion in the Bible to any other begetting in consequence of which He was called the Son of God. Jno. 1: 14-" 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." Plainly it was Christ in the flesh they beheld, who was the only begotten of the Father. The passage in Prov. 8th, in which wisdom is impersonated and said to have been brought forth before the mountains were settled, connot prove a previous begetting of Christ. In the first place there is not the least evidence that it was the writer's object to give an account of the origin of Christ. Poetry and metaphor would not have been employed for such a purpose. The passage has been popularly applied to Christ, not at all because it has been supposed by critics to give an authoritative account of his being, but because he so truly possessed the wisdom which it was the object of the Proverbial poet to magnify, and which had been so abundantly displayed in the works of creation.
Our author does not attempt an explanation of Luke 1: 35, to suit his theory, but quotes two or three passages which he thinks prove that Christ was a Son in his pre-existent state. The first is Col. 1: 15—“Who is the image of the invisible God, the first born of every creature." There are two senses in which the words "first born" may be used in this passage. The first is the literal sense; the second, heir, lord or ruler of creation. The first-born under the Jewish economy was lord of his brethren, who were his servants; he was heir to his father's estate and to the throne of the kingdom. Hence the terms, "first-born" and "lord,” “ruler” and “heir" were used synonymously by the Hebrews. That the term first-born is used in the second sense any one can see by consulting Psa. 89: 27, Rom. 8: 29, Heb. 12: 23, Rev. 1: 4 and Job 18: 13.
Which of these senses belongs to the word in this passage? This we can learn by consulting the context. There is not a word in the connection which looks toward the first sense. Paul proceeds "For by Him were all things created that are in heaven and in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by 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 the pre-eminence."
Thus the context goes on to treat of Christ, not as the first made creature, telling when and how he was born, before a mother existed of whom he could be born; but as the Creator, Lord and Ruler of the universe; as the Head or Lord of the Church; as existing antecedently to all creation, which is impossible, if He is a part of that creation; as the Lord of those who should rise from the dead; and as in all things having the pre-eminence. When it is said Christ was the firstborn from the dead, evidently the word is used as in the former part of the verse; for He was not the first-born literally from the dead. Others rose before Him; but still He was the first-born from the dead, in the sense of being the Lord of those who had risen, or should arise.
We conclude then that this passage utterly fails to prove that Christ was ever known as the Son of God, for any other reason than that He was miraculously begotten in the flesh by the Holy Ghost.
Heb. 1: 6 is also quoted. "When He bringeth in the first begotten into the world He saith," &c. Here the term firstbegotten may be used literally, for Christ was the first-begotten of the Holy Ghost as well as the only begotten; or it may be used in the sense given it in Col. 1: 15. Certainly the passage has no force to prove that any other than the incarnate Savior was meant by the first-begotten. He certainly was meant, and there is nothing in the passage to fix the first-begotten back of the circumstance recorded in Luke 1:35. The inference from this passage is a perfect non sequitur.
We are referred also to Jno. 17: 1, 5-Father, the hour is come, glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.” "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.' The argument is, that because Christ prayed the Father to glorify his Son with the glory which He had before the world was, He must therefore have been a Son before the world was. It is sufficient to say in answer, that these two petitions are some distance apart, and that in the petition in which He asks for the glory which He had before the world was, He does not call himself a son. When it is proved that Christ could not speak of Himself to his Father as He was in his pre-existent state, then this passage might have some force; but until that is done it were just as well to quote Rev. 23: 1.
There is not the least possible shadow of reason, then, for
our author's broad assertion, that the acknowledged fact that Christ is the Son of God, affords "incontestible evidence against the eternity of our blessed Lord."
We might say farther in favor of our position, that the title Son of God belonged to Christ only in his incarnation, that that title is not given Him under the Old Testament dispensation, He, as the word of God, was doubtless the Head of the Church previous to his appearance in the flesh, as well as subsequently, but He is never addressed as the Son of God. Jehovah addresses Jehovah, and Jehovah of hosts addresses' Jehovah of hosts. He is called the angel of Jehovah and the angel of the covenant. The titles Father and Son do not appear in Old Testament history. After the birth of Christ they are of frequent use. It is true that in the prediction of his birth, He is styled the Son of God, but in such cases the title Son is used in view of the birth which was foretold, and not because He had been already born. One appeared in vision with the three Jews who were thrown into the furnace in Babylon, and he was said to be "like the Son of God." It was doubtless a vision of the future Messiah, and not of the great Leader of the Church as He was then known and revealed.
Our author admits that Christ possessed "a common nature" with the Father, which we think necessitates the doctrine of two supreme Gods. He possessed a common nature with the Father, as a human son possesses the common nature of his father. Elder Barr nevertheless ascribes to Christ finite attributes. But how like substances can have radically different attributes, we know not. We are equally ignorant how it can be shown that substances are alike, except by the fact that their attributes are alike. If the natures of the Father and the Son are equal, we will assume that the attributes of the Father are finite, instead of Christ's, and defy our author, on his principles, to show that our assumption is false. We think our author's argument from the Sonship will cost more than a Unitarian can afford to pay.
A second argument of our author, which he expands into a dozen or more, against the Deity of Christ, is drawn from quotations and statements of which the following are a specimen. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me." "He came out from God." "He was with God." "God wrought by Him." "He was in the presence of God," and therefore not God. "He was an advocate with God." was God's chosen," "God's annointed," "God's appointed,"