Page images
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

the Dutch church.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

community, which he proposes to render superior in sanc-
tity and perfection to all other Christian churches, make a
considerable noise in England, and are not altogether des-
titute of success. If there is any consistency in this man's
theological system, and he is not to be looked upon as an
enthusiast, who follows no rule but the blind impulse of
an irregular fancy, his doctrine seems to amount to these
two propositions ; “ That true religion consists alone in
holy affections, and in a certain inward feeling, which it
is impossible to explain ; and that Christians ought not to
seek truth by the dictates of reason, or by the aids of learn-
ing, but by laying their minds open to the direction and
influence of divine illumination."
xxv. The Dutch church is still divided by the contro-

versies that arose from the philosophy of Des The state of Cartes and the theology of Cocceius; though

these controversies be carried on with less bitterness and animosity at present than in formertimes. It is even to be hoped that these contests will soon be totally extinguished; since it is well known that the Newtonian philosophy has expelled Cartesianism from almost all the academies and schools of learning in the United Provinces. We have already mentioned the debates that were occasioned by the opinions of Roell. In the year 1703, Fre, deric Van Leenhof was suspected of a propensity toward the system of Spinoza, and drew upon him a multitude of adversaries, on account of a remarkable book, entitled Heaven upon Earth ; in which he maintained literally, that it was the duty of Christians to rejoice always, and to suffer no feelings of affliction and sorrow to interrupt their gayety. The same accusations were brought against an illiterate man, named William Deurhoff, who, in some treatises composed in the Dutch language, represented the Divine Nature under the idea of a certain force, or energy, that is diffused throughout the whole universe, and acts in every part of the great fabric. The most recent contro. versies that have made a noise in Holland, were those that sprung from the opinions of Mr. James Saurin, and Mr. Paul Maty, on two very different subjects. The former, who was minister of the French in the Hague, and acquired a shining reputation by his genius and eloquence, fell into an error, which, if it may be called such, was at least an error of a very pardonable kind. For, if we ex

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

cept some inaccurate and unwary expressions, his only deviation from the received opinions consisted in his maintaiping, that it was sometimes lawful to swerve from truth, and to deceive men by our speech in order to the attainment of some great and important good. This sentiment was not relished, as the most considerable part of the reformed churches adopt the doctrine of Augustine, “ That a lie or a violation of the truth can never be allowable in it self, or advantageous in the issue.” The conduct of Maty was much more worthy of condemnation; for, in order to explain the mystery of the Trinity, he invented the following unsatisfactory hypothesis; “That the Son and the Holy Ghost were two fioite Beings, that had been created by God, and at a certain time were united to the Divine nature."

XXVI. The particular confession of faith, that we have already had occasion to mention under the denomination of the Formulary of Agreement or in Switzer Concord, has, since the commencement of this ing the fora century, produced warm and vehement contests mus, or Form in Switzerland, and more especially in the canton of Berne. In the year 1718, the magistrates of Berne published an order, by wbich all professors and pastors, particularly those of the university and church of Lausanne, who were suspected of entertaining any erroneous opinions, were obliged to declare their assent to this For

The disputes

mes De om

of Agreement.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Trı See Saurin's Discours Historiques, Theologiques, Critiques, el Moraur, sur les erenemens les plus memorables du Vieux et du Nouveau Tesiament, tom. i. of the folio edition.

Ty Dr. Mosheim, in another of his learned productions, has explained in a more accurate and circumstantial manner the hypothesis of Maty, which amounts to the following propositions ; “ That the Father is the pure Deity; and that the Son and the Holy Ghost are two other persons, in each of whom there are two nalures; one divine wbich is the same in all the three persons, and with respect to which they are one and the same God, having the same numerical divine essence ; and the other a finite and dependent nature, which is united to the divine nature in the same manner in which the orthodox say, that Jesus Christ is God and Man." See Moshemi

Dissertationes ad Historiam Ecclesiasticam pertinentes,' published at Altena, in the year 1743, vol.ii. p. 498. But principally the original work of Mr. Maty, which was published at the Hague, in the year 1729, under the following title; Lettre d'un Theologien a un autre Theologien sur le Mystere de Trinite. The publication of this hypothesis was unnecessary, as it was really destitute even of the merit of novelly, being very little more than a repetition of wbat Dr. Thomas Burnet, prebendary of Sarum, and rector of West Kingston in Wiltshire, bad said, about ten years before, upon this mysterious subject, which nothing but presumption can make any man attempt to render intelligible. See a treatise published, without bis name, by Dr. Burnet, in the year 1720, under the following title; • The Scripture Trinity inteldigibly explained; or, An Essay toward the Demonstration of a Trinity in Unity from Reason and Scripture, in 8 Chain of Consequences of certain Principles,

&c. by a divine of the Church of England.' See also the same author's 'Scripture Doc. frine of the Redemption of the World by Christ, intelligibly explained,' &c. VOL. IV.



[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]


anulary, and to adopt it as the rule of their faith. This
injunction was so much the more grievous, as no demand
of that kind had been made for some time before this pe-
riod; and the custom of requiring subscription to this fa-
mous confession had been suspended in the case of several,
who were promoted in the academy, or bad entered into
the church. Accordingly, many pastors and candidates
for holy orders refused the assent that was demanded by
the magistrates, and some of them were punished for this
refusal. Hence arose warm contests and heavy com-
plaints, which engaged the king of Great Britain, and the
States General of the United Provinces, to offer their inter-
cession, in order to terminate these unhappy divisions;
and hence the Formulary under consideration lost much
of its credit and authority. Nothing memorable happened
during this period in the German churches. The reformed
church that was established in the Palatinate, and had
formerly been in such a flourishing state, suffered greatly
from the persecuting spirit and the malignant counsels of
the votaries of Rome.
xxvii. The Socinians, who are dispersed through the

different countries of Europe, have never bitherto

been able to form a separate congregation, or to celebrate publicly divine worship, in a manner conformable to the institutions of their sect; though it is well known that, in several places, they hold clandestine meetings of a religious kind. The person that made the principal figure arnong them in this century, was the learned Samuel Crellius, who died in an advanced age at Anisterdam; he indeed preferred the denomination of Artemonite before that of Socinian, and really departed, in many points, from the received doctrines of that sect.

The Arians found a learned and resolute patron in Wil. liam Whiston, professor of mathematics in the university of Cambridge, who defended their doctrine in various productions, and chose rather to resign his chair, than to renounce his opinions. He was followed in these opinions, as is commonly supposed, by Dr. Samuel Clarke, a man of great abilities, judgment, and learning, who, in the year 1724, was charged with altering and modifying the ancient and orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. But it must argue

z It is but too evident, that few controversies have so lit!le augmented the sum of knowledge, and so much hurt the spirit of charity, as the controversies that have


[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

a great want of equity and candour, to rank this eminent man in the class of Arians, taking that term in its proper and natural signification ; for he only maintained what is

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

been carried on in the Christian Church in relation to the doctrine of the Trinity. Mr. Whiskon was one of the first divines who revived this controversy in the eighteenth century. Alout the year 1706, he began to entertain some doubts about the proper eternity and onniscience of Christ. This led him to review ibe popular doctrine of the Trinity; and, in order to execute this review with a degree of diligence and circumspection suitable to its importance, he read the New Testament twice over, and also all tbe ancient genuine monuments of the Christian religion till near the conclusion of the second century. By this inquiry, he was led to think, that at the incarnation of Christ, the Logos, or Eternal Wisdom, supplied the place of the ralional soul or ayeu us : that the eternity of the Son of God was not a real distinct esistence, as of a son properly co-eternal with his father by a true eternal generation, but rather a metaphysical existence in potentia, or in some sublimer manner in the father, as his wisdom or word ; that Christ's real creation or gencration, for both these terms are used by the earliest writers, took place some time before the creation of the world: that the council of Nice itself established no other eternity of Christ; and, finally, that the Arian doctrine in these points was the original doctrine of Christ himself, of his holy apostles, and of the most primitive Christians. Mr. Whiston was confirmed in these sentiments by reading Novatian's Treatise concerning the Trinity; but more especially by the perusal of the Apostolical Constitutions, the antiquity and authenticity of which he endeavoured, with more zeal iban precision and prudence, to prove, in the third part of bis Primitive Christianity Rerived.

This learned visionary, and upright man, was a considerable sufferer by his opi. nions. He was not only removed from bis theological and pastoral functions, but also from his mathematical professorship, as if Arianisen had extended its babeful influence even to the science of lines, angles, and surfaces. This measure was undoubtedly singular, and it appeared rigid and severe to all those, of both parties, who were dispassionate enough to see ihings in their true point of light. And indeed, though we should grant that the good man's mathematics might, by erroneous conclusions, have corrupted his orthodoxy, yet it will still remain extremely difficult to comprehend, how his heterodoxy could hurt his mathematics. It was not therefore consistent, either with clemency or good sense, to turn Mr. Whiston out of his mathematical chair, because he did not believe the explication of the Trinity that is given in the Athanasian creed ; and I mention this as an instance of the unfair proceedings of immoderate zeal, which often confounds the plainest distinctions, and deals its punishments without measure or proportion.

Dr. Samuel Clarke stepped also aside from the notions commonly received concerning the Trinity; but his modification of this doctrine was not so remote from the popular and orthodox hypothesis, as the sentiment of Whiston. His method of inquiring into that incomprehensible subject was modest, and at least, promised fair as a guide to truth. For he did not begin by abstract and metaphysical reasonings in his illustrations of this doctrine, but turned his first researches to the word and to the testimony, persuaded that, as the doctrine of the Trinity was a matter of mere revelation, all human explications of it must be tried by the declarations of the New Testament, interpreted by the rules of grammar, and the principles of souod criti. cism. It was this persuasion that produced the doctor's famous book, entitled, The Scripture Doctrine of ihe Trinnly, wherein erery Test in the New Testament relating to that Doctrine is distinctly considered, and the Divinity of our blessed Sariour, according to the Scriptures, proved and explained. The doctrine which this learned divine drew from his researches, was comprebended in lv propositions, which, with the proper illustrations, form the second part of this work. The reader will find them there at full length We shall only observe here, that Dr. Clarke, if he was careful in searcbing after the true meaning of those Scripture expressions, that relale to the divinity of ihe Sun and the Holy Ghost, was equally circumspect in avoiding the accusation of heterodoxy, as appears by the series of propositions now referred to, There are three great rocks of heresy, on which many bold adventurers on this an. lipacific ocean have been seen to split violently. These rocks are Trilheism, Sabellian ism and Arianism. Dr.Clarke got evidently clear of the first, by denying the self e.ristence of the Son and the Holy Ghost, and by maintaining their derivation from, and subordination to the Father. He laboured hard to avoid the second, by acknowledging the personality and distinct agency of the Son and the Holy Ghost; and he flattered him.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

commonly called the Arminian subordination, which has
heen, and is still adopted by some of the greatest men in
England, and even by some of the most learned bishops of
that nation. This doctrine he illustrated with greater care
and perspicuity than any before him had done, and taught
self with having escaped from the dangers of the third, by his asserting the eternity,
for the doctor believed the possibility of an eternal production, which Whiston could
not digest, of the two divine subordinate persons. But with all his circumspection,
Dr. Clarke did not escape opposition and censure. He was abused and answered, and
heresy was subdivided and mouified, in order to give him an opprobrious title, even
that of semiariun. The convocation threatened, and the doctor calmed by his pru.
dence the apprehension and fears which his Scripture doctrine of the Trinity had ex-
cited in that learned and reverend assembly. An authentic account of the proceedings
of the two houses of convocation upon this occasion, and of Dr. Clarke's conduct in
consequence of the complaints that were made against his book, may be seen in a
piece supposed to have been written by the Rev. Mr. John Lawrence, and published
at London in 8vo. in the year 1714, under the following title ; • An Apology for Dr.
Clarke, containing an account of the late Proceedings in Convocation upon his
Writings concerning the Trinity.' The true copies of all the original papers relating
» this affair are published in this apology.

If Dr. Clarke was attacked by authority, he was also combatted by argument. The
learned Dr. Waterland was one of his principal adversaries, and stands at the head
of a polemical body composed of eminent divines, such as Gastrel, Wells, Nelson,
Mayo, Knight, and others, who appeared in this controversy. Against these, Dr.
Clarke, unawed by their numbers, defended himself with great spirit and perseve.
rance, in several letters and replies. This prolonged a controversy, which may often
be suspended through the fatigue of the combatants, or the change of the mode in
theological researches, but which will probably never be terminated; for nothing
affords such an endless subject of debate, as a doctrine above the reach of human un-
derstanding, and expressed in the ambiguous and improper terms of human language,
such as persons, generation, substance, &c. which in this controversy either convey no
ideas at all, or false ones, The inconveniences, accordingly, of departing from the
divine simplicity of the Scripture language on this subject, and of making a matter of
mere revelation an object of human reasoning, were palpable in the writings of both
the contending parties. For if Dr. Clarke was accused of verging toward Arianism,
by maintaining the derived and caused existence of the Son and the Holy Ghost, it
seemed no less evident that Dr. Waterland was verging toward tritheism, by main-
taining the self-existence and independence of these divine persons, and by asserting
That the subordination of the Son to the Father is only a subordination of OFFICE, and
not of nature. Su that if the former divine was deservedly called a semiarian, the
latter might, with equal justice, be denominated a semitritheist. The difference
between these two learned men lay in this, that Dr. Clarke, after making a faithful
collection of the texts in Scripture that relate to the Trinity, thought proper to inter.
pret them by the maxims and rules of right reasoning, that are used on other subject:
whereas Dr. Waterland denied that this method of reasoning was to be admitted in
illu-trating the doctrine of the Trinity, which was far exalted above the sphere of
human reason, and therefore he took the texts of Scripture, in their direct, literal

, and grammatical sense. Dr. Waterland, however, employed the words persons, subsistence, &c. as useful for fixing the notion of distinction; the words uncreated, eternal, and immulable, for ascertaining the divinity of each person; and the words interior generation and procession, to indicate their union. This was departing from his gram. matical method, which ought to have led him to this plain conclusion, that the Son and the Holy Ghost, to whom dvine attributes are ascribed in Scripture, and even the denomination of God to the former, possess these attributes in a manner which it is impossible for us to understand in this present state, and the understanding of which is consequently unessential to our salvation and happiness. The doctor, indeed, apologizes in his queries, p. 321, for the use of these metaphysical terms, by observing; that they are not designed to enlarge our views, or to add any thing to our stock of ideas, but to secure the plain fundamental truth, That Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are all strielly divine, and uncreated; and yel are not three Gods, but one God." It is, however, difficult to comprehend how terms, that neither enlarge our vieros, nor give

[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »