« AnteriorContinuar »
Subsistence alone, in which, Christ, as the Word or ungenerated Essence, had also been, and which the Spirit could not give up absolutely but only relatively. And that he was a property of the Son is very evident : since the power of Christ to lay down his life and take it again, which is ascribed to the Spirit, Rom. viii. 11; 1 Pet. iii. 18; Heb. ix. 14, the Son expressly ascribes to bimself, of which circumstance Bishop Heber has made a wonderful MYSTERY, in his Bampton Lectures, Lect. iv. p. 230, according to the practice of that Babylonish class of divines, who, forgetting the simplicity as it is in Jesus, darken counsel with learning without common sense. No man toketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to luy it down, and have power to take it again, John X. 18. Why? Because the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. 1 Cor. xv. 45. For the Lord is that spirit : and wherever the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty and no mental slavery. But what is plainer than the words, the Spirit of God,' the Spirit of Christ'?
if the church at any time has possessed God in other than his moral perfections, as instanceri in the third_class of texts, we must attribute ber possession of them to the Father and the Son, from whom the Spirit received them in addition to his own, according to John xvi, 14, 15. The all things which the Spirit in the church searched must have been very limited in number, since the disciples who saw but in part are said to bave known these all things, wbich can mean nothing more than all the doctrines of Christianity.
From the fourth class of texts, the Paraclete will appear to be nothing more than a relative state, of God in the first and second subsistences, both being in one sense or other spirit, and both holy.
VII. The TRIFORM God, a title more conformable to the Word of God, simpler, and more correct, than the word Trinity.
And he had a name written, that no man knew but he himselt-and his name is called the Word of God. Rev. xix. 12, 13. (The genders are ambiguous in the original, Comp. Heb.
The above text, indeed, is a severe satire upon the church : to say that after seventeen centuries of theological warfare, after councils of Nice and of Trent, and confessions of Augsburg, and Thirty-Nine Articles, and Long and Short Catechisms, Christ should at last be exbibited to the world in bis true nature, only by the Word of Gooi itself. No one knew the Word of God but the Word of God itself !—But the objections of the orthodox to my scriptural and not traditional faith may be summed up in the words of Mr. Faber, and thus one answer may serve them all.
So far as I can understand you,' says he, “I can see no warrant for your opinion in scripture : and there certainly is no evidence, that it was the received cloctrine of the primitive church as in. structed by the Apostles and their immediate successors. The Apostles must have both written and orally taught the same system of doctrine. Had your doctrine been their doctrine, it would have been the universally received doctrine of the early Catholic Church in all its branches. This, however, is so far from being the case, that no doctrine, save that which is called the doctrine of the Trinity, viz. the existence of three consul. stantial persons in one Numen, appears in the primitive documents of Christianity. I have read nearly all the Ante-Nicene Fathers
iv. 12, 13.)
from beginning to end, and every one of the earliest of them. I speak therefore from the testimony of my own eye-sight. The primitive church, which invariably professed to receive ber doctrine from the Apostles themselves, held and taugbt no such opinion, as you in the nineteenth century, would deduce from scripture. I believe I may say, that every litigated text between Trinitarians and Anti-trinitarians was interpreted by the primitive Christians precisely as Trinitarians still interpret such texts. The commencement of St. John's gospel is again and again interpreted by the early theologians : but they never give your exposition, On the contrary, they invariably give that which is still received by the Catholic Church. In the face of such evidence, what proof have I, that your exposition is the true one? I do not perceive any proof save your own assertion, that you interpret aright: and I discern no reason why I should prefer your exposition to that of Ireneus, who professed to receive his doctrine from St. John through the single intervening link of his master Polycarp.” Leaving out of the question that my doctrine, as Mr. Faber calls it, has been more clearly evolved since Mr. Faber's letter to me, and that it is substantially the same with that of the orthodox, only with less rhetoric in it, and more logic, Mr. Faber has three, if not four, points against bim. Ist. He takes for granted that the Apostles explained all they knew about the doctrines of Christianity, which is far from being clear. There must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you, says St. Paul, 1 Cor. xi. 19, an obscurity being necessary in some things, as Luke viii. 9, 10; 2 Cor. xii. 4; Rev. x. 4, evince, that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand, an argument Warburton has employed in Book VI. of his Divine Legation.-Or, be takes for granted that the Apostles tbemselves accurately understood all that they wrote, wbich is also far from being clear, as Peter himself conlesses, that in Paul's epistles there are some things hard to be understood, 2 Pet. iii. 16. 2ndly. He takes for granted that the oldest opinion is the true opinion, which is far from being clear, since the Apocalypse re. presents the oldest Propbet or teacher to be a false Teacher, and the oldest church to be a false and mystical church, and that no one knoweth the Word of God to the last, but the Word of God itself. 3dly. He takes for granted that what is true in one sense is true in another. An eternally begotten Son is true figuratively, in as much as God calleth those things which be not, as though they were, Rom. iv. 17, but not literally. I do not deny that the early Christians had the right faith, but when they began to apply the rules of logic to rhetorical expressions, they darkened counsel by words without knowledge. They may have had the right faith without having a right understanding of that faith. I cao believe that the Son is an eternally begotten being in the same sense, that I believe the body and blood of Christ verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's supper. 4thly. Mr. Faber, must excuse me, if I consider my exposition of St. John, of just as good authority as that of Ireneus, who for what I know, might have mistaken his master Polycarp as Polycarp might have mistaken his master John, unless Mr. Faber can shew any Scriptural proof that the immediate successors of the Apostles were to be exempted from the general liability of falling into error; which if be can, he will, to be consistent, accept the epistles of the Apos. tolic fathers as canonical in addition to those already enrolled into the canon of Scripture, and for a similar reason the theological writings next to these, and so on, down to those of the present age. But really I am surprised that Mr. Faber does not see how the case stands. When there had not been as yet any nice distinctions made between the persons of the Trinity, the church was satisfied with general statements of the doctrine ; and how easy was it for the servants of that blessed Master who had himselt not much regarded nice distinctions in his simple unaffected teaching, to fall into the same popular 10ethod of expressing themselves as he bad employed. When the Gospel could maintain that Jesus Christ, a term properly restricted to Christ in his human nature, had created the worlds, how easy was it for the church to proceed one step further and teach that the Son created the worlds, without any great impropriety in the sight of those who would bave regarded as over-wise, and as abhorrent to the simplicity of the faith, such technical accuracy as we are obliged now to introduce in order to rescue the truth from the absurdities by which it has so long been desecrated. The early Christians were satisfied that the Son was eternal somehow, though they perhaps did not exactly comprehend the nature of that eternity; and therefore without entering into much criticism on the subject, for fear of transgressing the bounds of decorum on so sacred a matter, they were contented with broadly laying it down, that Christ was the eternal Son of God, clapping all the difficult parts of the tenet to the account of faith. The system of Plato soon came to their airl by the conversion of some of the Greek philo. sophers; and desiring to illustrate their subject from it, they represented the Son as Plato's eternal EMANATION of the Logos or Word from God, and therefore as the eternally BEGOTTEN Sou of the Christian Scheme. But from the time of the completion of the canon of the New Testament, there have been always some men, superior to tbeir age, who bave, from an attentive perusal of the inspired volume, never been satisfied with the popular acceptation of it, who have seen that there was something wrong in the general conclusions deduced froin that book, though they have never given a satisfactory representation of its contents on the matter themselves ; and hence we bear of the names of Praxeas, Noetus, Sabellius, Beryllus, men of more than ordinary acuteness, living in the second and third centuries, and Arius, between whose creed and that of Athanasius there was in early times a perpetual war.-Can. Mr. Faber shew from the Scriptures that the dominant creed was to be the true creed ? If he can, the point is settled in his favour. But I think he cannot. On the contrary, I believe the Scriptures represent the popular belief as a mixture of truth and error to tbe last, a light neither clear nor dark,' and that ' at evening time' alone 'it shall be light,' Zech. xiv. 6,7. Indeed the very circumstance of the Nicene Creed being the creed of the Pope, of the False Teacher, of Antichrist, is sufficient to condemn it. For so far is John from maintaining that the ascendant ecclesiastical power should preserve the true faith, that he distinctly states it, that Antichrist, who is always represented in Scripture as a churchman, sitting in the temple of God,' the church, the spiritual wickedness in heavenly places, should fall into some lying heresy concerning the Father and the Son by denying them. Ånd is not this the case? The Scriptures say that “ Jesus is the Son of God,” “who came by water and blood." (See the texts under Article III. ii.). No-says the Nicene Creed, Jesus is not the Son of God, nor did the Son of God come hy water and blood; for the Son of God was begotten before all worlds" and was Light of Light," whereas Jesus was a man, and the Son of Man. The Nicene Creed therefore denies Jesus to be the Son of God, and consequently God to be the Father of Jesus, and it therefore denies the Father and Son ; having a Father and Son of its own invention, or a Father and Son adopted from the Platonic Pagan System. This Nicene Creed was established by the fire and sword of the Roman Emperors, and these also I bave shewn to be Antichrist. St. John also says, that the Spirit of Antichrist was already in the world in bis days. Is Mr. Faber certain that bis Rabbi Ireneus escaped the contagiou ? Daniel says that those of understanding are the fallen ones for a long period of time; but Ireneus has kept his ground to the present day. St. John says that the heresy of Antichrist was to be a lie. And what lie can be greater than that two beings of the same age are Father and Son? Or what a greater lie, than that one can be derived from the other and yet be eternal, i.e. without derivation? Or what a greater lie, than that the all perfect, immutable, infinite God, can experience an iucrease by the procreation of a being of exactly the same on. mixed substance with himself? Or what a greater lie, tban that three infinite beings of exactly the same substance can occupy only one intinite space ? Light of Light'!!! as if he who is perfect could admit of an increase of light ! Undoubtedly then he could admit of a diminution, and may have once been nothing at all! But surely the Bible takes it for granted that we should use our reason in the interpretation of it; else why does St. Jobu lay it down as
a criterion of Gospel truth, that “ no lie is of the truth?" I John, ii. 21. The orthoclox are sagacious enough to discover what is monstrous in practice, if taken literally in the Gospel : but they have not so much difficulty in swallowing all the speculative absurdities which others bave catered for their not over-pice appetites. Sticklers are they for doctrine which costs them nothing ; but when you talk to them of discipline, the infamous alliance of Church and State, their prostitution to, their fornication with, kings and lords, the iniquity of tithing “ those that are witho’ıt” their pale, they hush the matter up. But let them know that God always visits those with false doctrine, who have been so little watchful as to let a false discipline creep in, and that BABYLON The Great is not only the Mother Of HÁRLOTS but that MYSTERY is the leading delusion of her creed.
The Word of God then bas a name which no man knows to the last but the Word of God itself; and this is true in more senses than one. If my explanation of the text Philip. ii. 6, 7, in Article IV. be attentively examined, it will be found that Form is the name which more accurately expresses a personality of the Deity, and that consequently the Trifurm God is the Scriptural expression. Trinity relates only to the ideal state of the three Subsistences, when God is three in one, as the term means; but Triform God relates to the real and practical state of the three Subsistences, when God is one in three. But the name may more particularly mean the New Name of the Word, Son of God, as before shewi.