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ESSA Y VII.
The doctrine of Christ's Deity shown to be essential
to Christianity: and some objections to the doctrine briefly answered.
We are not in all cases capable of determining exactly what things are essential to our holy religion, and what are not: yet the Scriptures most evidently declare some particulars to be so; and I cannot but consider the doctrine of our Lord's Deity as one of these essentials, nor do I hesitate to say that Christianity itself must stand or fall with it. The greater decision is proper on this subject, as our opponents seem lately to have shifted their ground. They used to maintain, that Christ's divinity was the master-piece of absurdities ;—directly contrary to every part of natu'ral and revealed religion, and to all the rational ' faculties God has given us;' that by making more gods than one, it was a breach of the first commandment;' and much more to the same purpose. This was a direct charge of gross idolatry, which surely must be a mortal sin: and as the defenders of the doctrine denied, and even
retorted, the charge, showing that another god is substituted by Socinians in the place of the God of the Bible; the cause was fairly at issue, allowed to be of the greatest possible importance, and entitled to the most careful, serious, and impartial investigation. But at present men are generally put off their guard by the plausible and indolent sentiment, that speculative opinions are of little consequence; and that those, who are sincere and lead good lives, will not be condemned for doctrinal errors.
And an attempt has lately been made, by a champion of the party,' to persuade a very large body of men, who universally profess the doctrine of Christ's Deity, that there is no essential difference between them and the Socinians! On the other hand, some able defenders of the doctrine seem disposed to allow, that, supposing it true, the belief of it is not necessary to salvation, or essential to Christianity; nay, that they who most strenuously oppose it, and not always in the most unexceptionable manner, may notwithstanding be accepted by God as sincere believers. Thus the subject, which used to be considered as of the utmost importance, is now generally thought to be rather a matter of doubtful disputation among christians, than immediately connected with our eternal interests: and the cause has more to fear from the indolent and contemptuous indifference of mankind, as to theological questions which are not supposed essential to salyation, than from the most strenuous and ingenious efforts of its very able and learned opponents.
. Dr. Priestley. Address to the Methodists in his preface to
the Letters of the Wesleys.
I shall therefore endeavour, in this place, to show that the doctrine of our Lord's Deity is essential to the faith and hope of a Christian; and this will lead our attention to many arguments in proof of it, which were not produced in the former Essay.
I. There are several texts of Scripture which are decisive on the subject. Jesus Christ himself declares, that “the Father hath committed all “ judgment to the Son; and all men should ho
nour the Son, even as they honour the Father: “ He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not “the Father that sent him.” If the very end of his mediatorial authority, as the Son of man, were this, " that all men should honour him” with the same kind and degree of honour that is shown to the Father, (and this must be the case if our doctrine be true,) then such persons, as deny his Deity; refuse to worship him; and spend their lives, with all their ability, influence, and diligence, to draw men off from this faith and worship; do not honour him at all, but greatly degrade him; and therefore by the verdict of their future Judge, they " do not honour the Father that sent him." So that the doctrine of Christ's Deity, if true, must be essential to Christianity.
* John v. 22, 23.
It appears from Scriptures already referred, to, that they have no true knowledge of the Father, who do not receive it from the revelation made of him by the Son: but how can that man be thought to learn the knowledge of the Father from the Son, who disregards his express declarations, that ." He and the Father are One,” and that, “ He " that hath seen him hath seen the Father?” If these words do indeed imply the Deity of the Son, as One with the Father; the knowledge of God, which they who deny his. Deity possess, cannot accord to the revelation made by the Son, but must be entirely of another nature.—The apostle likewise expressly says,' “ Whosoever denieth " the Son, the same hath not the Father:" and can any man suppose this related only to a denial, that Jesus was the Messiah? If this were all that was meant, then nove but avowed unbelievers were concerned in the warning: whereas it is evident, that the apostle spoke of those who seduced, not those who opposed, bis Christian brethren; and who, by denying Jesus to be the Son of God, drew them off from the true doctrine in that
particular. As, therefore, they, " who denied the “Son, had not the Father;" the inference is unavoidable, that they, who deny the scriptural doctrine concerning the Son of God, whatever that
:Matt. xi. 27. Luke x. 22.
: 1 John ii. 22, 23.
doctrine be, have not the Father for their God and Portion. Many errors relate to different parts of the structure, the removal of which though ill spared, may not wholly subvert it: but this concerns the foundation, and is of fatal consequence: “ for other foundation can no man lay.""
The same apostle gives it as a rule, that the truth might be known, by its agreement with the doctrine delivered by him and his brethren; and that every tenet, however supported, must be a doctrine of Antichrist, which accorded not with what they had taught concerning Christ. “ Here
by know ye the spirit of God: every spirit " that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in “the flesh is of God. And every spirit that con« fesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the “ flesh is not of God—and this is that spirit of “ Antichrist. We are of God; he that knoweth “ God, heareth us; he that is not of God heareth
not us—hereby know we the Spirit of truth, and " the spirit of error.?” According to this rule, all pretences to new revelations, and every philosophical reasoning, must be wholly disregarded as
springing from the spirit of error,” if they contradict the testimony of the apostles, as recorded in the Scriptures; and if this error relate to the Person of Christ, it is of Antichrist. It may be allowed, that “ by coming in the flesh," the reality of our Lord's human nature was maintained: but
1 Cor. ii. 10-15.
: 1 John iv. 2-6.