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Also, notwithstanding, if they be asked, they wilf not hesitate to say, that Christ is God, the supremacy of the Father, even with respect to the Son, is, at the fame time, the real sentiment of their minds; and when they lift up their hearts to God, it is only God the Father that is the proper object of their adoration. The constant tenor of the scriptures is so contrary to> th°ir prosessed creed, that though they dare not call it in question, it is not able to counteract the plainer, the more consistent, and the better principles whicftwill force themselves upon their minds from conversing with the bible.
Besides, it requires more subtlety and resinement to enter into the principles above-mentioned, than the common people are masters of. They cannot conceive how one man should sin, and another person, six thousand years after, be guilty of that sin, atid punishable for it; how one person's righteousness stiould be considered as the righteousness of another; or that three distinct persons should each of them be God, and yet that there shall be no more Gods than one.
Men of plain understandings, in fact, never do believe any such thing; nor can it be supposed that the gospel, which was intended to be the solid foundation of the faith, hope, and joy of common people, should require so much acuteness, as is necessary to give even . a plausible colour to these strange assertions. The attempt to explain them (and, 'till they be explained,
£hey can no more be believed than a proposition in an unknown tongue) can lead to nothing but endless and unprofitable controversy. It is happy, therefore, that so many persons make a better use of the gospel than their tenets would lead them to do, and that they consider it chiefly as a rule os life, and the foundation of hspe after death. But, as sar as the principles I have been arguing against are believed, they cannot but do harm to those who entertain them, as well as bring disgrace upon the christian name; both which every lover of the gospel should endeavour to prevent.
A CONCISE HISTORY OF THE ABOVEMENTIONED DOCTRINES.
L A CONCISE HISTORY OF OPINIONS CONCERNING JESUS CHRIST.
You will fey, if Christ be not really God, but merely a man, though inspired and assisted by God, how came the christian world to sall into so great an error? In return, I might ask, how, if Christ be truly God, equal to the Father, so many christians, and especially the Jewish christians, and many others in the very early ages of the christian church, came to think him to be merely a man; when it may be easily conceived that, on many accounts, christians, who were continually reproached with the meanness of their master, would be disposed to add to, rather than to take from his dignity? But it is not difficult to
shew by what means, and by what Jieps, christians* came to think as the generality of them now do.
It was the universal opinion of philosophers, at the time of the promulgation of christianity, that the fouls of all men had existed before they were sent to animate the bodies that were provided for them here, and also that all souls were emanations, or parts detached from the deity. For at that time there was n6 idea of any substance being properly immaterial, and indivisible. When these philosophers became christians, and yet were ashamed of being the disciples of a man who had been crucified, they naturally gave a distinguished rank to the soul of-Christ before he came into the world. They even went one step farther, and maintained that Christ had a body in appearance only, and not in reality, and therefore that he suffered nothing at all when he was scourged and crucified.
This opinion the apostle John reprobates with great severity, and even calls it Antichristian, I John iv. 3. whereas though it is acknowledged that the other opinion, viz, that of Christ being merely a mant existed in the times of the apostles, it is remarkable that this apostle takes no notice of it. It was plainly the doctrine of those only who maintained that Christ was not truly a man that gave this apostle any disturbance, or he would never have said as he does, 1 John iv. 2. Every spirit that consefseth that Jesus Chrsi is tome in the flesh (that is, was truly a man) is of God.
After this, philosophizing christians began to add to the pre-existent dignity of Christ in another way, and at length, carried it much higher than those upon whom this apostle animadverted with so much severity. They said that Christ was originally in God, being his reason, or logos which came out of kirn, and was personified before the creation of the world, in which he was the immediate agent, and that this new personage was henceforth the medium of all the divine communications to mankind, having been the person who spake to Adam in paradise, to Noah, to Abraham, and all the patriarchs, who delivered the law from mount Sinai, and lastly inhabited the body of Jesus of Nazareth.
On this principle they explained many passages in the Old Testament, in which the woyd of God is spoken of, as that of the psalmist, By the word of the Lord were the heavens made., &c. making this word to be a person,- distinct from God, whose word it was; whereas nothing can be more plain, than that by the word of God in this place is meant the power of God, exerted with as much ease as men utter words.
These philosophizing christians took great pains to explain how the reason or wisdom of God could thus become a person, distinct from God, and yet God continue a reasonable being; but their account of it is too trifling to be recited in this place. However, it was far from being pretended, in general, that the doctrine of the divinity of Christ was such D a mystery
a mystery as could not be explained. For by mystery they only meant something of a solemn nature, which was unknown 'till it was revealed or explained. And indeed this is plainly the use of the word mystery in the New Testament; and it was also the usual meaning of the word when the present translation of the bible was made; the mysteries of any particular trade being the secrets of that trade, which yet every master taugh* his apprentices.
In this state the doctrine continued 'till after the council of Nice in the year of our Lord 325; but in all this time a real superiority was always acknowledged in the Father, as the only source of divinity; and it was even explicitly acknowledged that there was a time when the son of God had no separate existence; being only the reason of God, just -as the reason of man is a part, or a property of man. One of the most eminent of the christian sathers fays, "There was a time when God was neither a father, "nor a judge; for he could not be a father before "he had a son, nor a judge before there was sin."
So far were they from supposing the son of God to be equal to the Father, that when they were charged> as they frequently were, with making two Gods* they generally replied, that the son was only God of God, as having proceeded from a superior God, which •s the language of the Nicene creed; whereas the Father was Gad of himself (aili$i&) by which they