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body of Chrift confifted of, it was fomething that only paffed through the body of his mother, like water through a pipe, and that it did not perform any of the proper functions of a human body, or really fuffer upon the crofs. Thefe doctrines gave offence to the Apoftles, and are frequently cenfured in their writings, particularly in thofe of John. The Gnoftics were regarded as beretics by the general body of Chriftians, and formed separate focieties. They were the only perfons fpoken of as heretics for two or three centuries after Chrift. Ignatius, Polycarp, Juftin Martyr, Hegefippus, Irenæus, mention none, under this appellation, but different fects of Gnoftics. The cafe is the fame with respect to Clemens Alexandrinus, Tertullian, Origen, and Firmilian. The Apofties Creed was intended as a guard against Gnofticifm. The doctrine of the Divinity of Chrift made its first appearance among the Gnoftic Chriftians.
The Platonic philofophy taught, that there are three great principles in nature, the Supreme Being, or the Good, his mind or reafon (nous or logos), and the foul of the world. The later Platonifts (chiefly of the Alexandrian fchool) froke very obfcurely concerning God and nature; but we neither find in their writings, nor in thofe of Plato himfelf, any explicit perfonification of the divine Nous or Logos, as a diftinct intelligence. But Philo, and other Jewith philofophers who had embraced the Platonic doctrine, went to far as to maintain, that the Logos, though not a permanent intelligent perfon, was an emanation from the Supreme Being, and the vifible medium of all the communications of God to man, that by which he made the world, and converfed with the Patriarchs; and they called this power, the image of God, his fon, his first begotten fon, and a god.
Many of the Chriftian Fathers (as Dr. Prieffley obferves in the fecond Part of the work, which contains the Hiftory of the doctrine of the Trinity) adopting, in part, the philofophy of Plato, and particularly the doctrine concerning the divine intellect, or logos, that they might reprefent their Mafter in a more reputable light than that of a mere man, they fuppofed this logos to have been united to the man Chrift Jefus. Not contented with perfonifying the logos in a mere figure of speech, as the Platomills had done, they confidered it as a fubftantial perfon, a fecond God, the fon of the first. This attribute of the Father, which according to the Jewish philofophers had affumed an occafional perfonality, in the creation of the world, and the communications from heaven related in the Old Teftament, they conceived as acquiring a permanent perfonality, when united to the man Chrift Jefus. It appears from many paffages in the writings of Justin Martyr, Irenæus, Theophilus, Athenagoras, Tertullian, Origen, &c. that the logos, or the fan, was, in their apprehenfion, originally nothing more than an attribute of the
Father, but that, at length, a ftate of actual perfonality took place, which they called the generation of the Son.
To explain this generation, in a manner which fhould neither imply a diminution of the fubftance of the Father, by the production of à fon from himself, nor the entire feparation of the fon, they had recourfe to analogy. Sometimes they explained the generation of the Son by the iffuing of words from men, and fometimes by the flowing of a river from a fpring, or the prolation of a branch from a root, or the lighting one lamp at another. On this fubject many curious queftions arofe, fuch as, Why only one Son was generated? Whether generation neceffarily implied paffion? Why the Son and Holy Spirit did not generate? Whether this generation was in time? Whether it was a voluntary or involuntary act? &c. Many ingenious fpeculations on thefe, and other fimilar queftions, are found in the writings of the Fathers.
All the Ante-nicene Fathers, though they held, that the Son derived his being from the fubftance of the Father, and before his generation was his own proper wifdom, yet afferted that he was inferior to the Father, and fubject to him. This can only be accounted for upon the fuppofition, that while they hesitated to pursue their principle to its proper extent, they were reftrained by the fear of popular prejudices, which would not have borne the doctrine of the equality of the Son with the Father.
After the Logos came to be confidered as a proper person, Chrift was looked upon as a threefold being, confifting of the divine Logos, a human foul, and a human body. All the orthodox Fathers before the Council of Nice, held, that Chrift had a human foul, which fuffered, but that the Logos could not fuffer. Several curious queftions confequently arofe, with respect to the union between the Logos and the foul and body of Chrift, and their feparate properties, fuch as, Whether the divine nature could feel pain? Whether it fill retained all its peculiar powers, and particularly its omniprefence? Whether the foul of Chrift knew every thing from its union with the Logos? How Chrift could fay, that he was ignorant of the day of judgment? Whether the body of Chrift was impaffible, and incorruptible? &c.
The Logos was now reprefented as having been eternally generated from the Father, fo that each had always exifted diftinctly in these relations. At the fame time the Holy Spirit (concerning whom no controverfy had arifen before the Council of Nice), which had hitherto been spoken of either as a communicated power, or inferior perfon, was maintained to be a third divine perfon, confubftantial with the Father and the Son. The perfect equality of all the perfons in the Trinity was afferted. To reconcile this doctrine with that of the Divine Unity, new diftinctions were invented, new terms used, and many analogical illufREV. Jan. 1787. с trations
trations were employed, all of which failed, by leaning too much either towards Unitarianifm or Tritheifm. Much ingenuity was exercifed in drawing arguments both from the Old Teftament and the New, in fupport of the doctrine of the Trinity, and in refuting the objections made to this doctrine; and the fyftem, thus framed, enjoyed the countenance and protection of the civil power.
Having brought a long feries of quotations to illuftrate and confirm this reprefentation of facts refpecting the rife and progrefs of the doctrine of the Trinity; Dr. Prieftley proceeds, in the third Part of his work, to relate the hiftory of the Unitarian doctrine; the fum of which is as follows:
The Jews, in all ages, were believers in the Divine Unity, on the authority of their facred books. This the Chriftian Fathers allowed; and acknowledged that the doctrine of the Trinity was fo obfcurely delivered in the Old Teftament, that it was unknown to the bulk of the Jewish nation. They plead, that the Jews were not inftructed in this doctrine, left it thould afford them a pretence for relapfing into Polytheism; and that it was fit, that fo fublime a mystery fhould be gradually revealed. The Jews have always expreffed great indignation against this doctrine; and never expected their Meffiah to be more than man. The orthodox Fathers allow, that Chrift did not teach his own divinity, and that this doctrine was not fully discovered till the publication of the Gospel of John. They account for this by faying, that great caution was neceffary in introducing doctrines fo fublime and difficult, and fo revolting to the minds of the Jews; they add, that the knowledge of our Lord's divinity was concealed, to deceive the Devil, left he fhould otherwise have been prevented from affaulting him. Athanafius was of opinion, that the Apoftles acted with great prudence, and like wife mafter-builders, in firft teaching what related to the humanity of Chrift, and deferring the difcovery of fo offenfive a doctrine as that of his Divinity; and he allows that, whilst the Jews were ignorant of this doctrine, they preached the Gospel with fuccefs among the Gentiles. Chryfoftom, Theodoret, and others, impute the Apoftle's filence on thefe fubjects to the fame motive; and affert, that the fame caution was neceflary with refpect to the Gentiles. The plain inference from which is, that the orthodox Fathers must have fuppofed, that the Chriftian church, in general, was at firft Unitarian; efpecially as they thought that John was the first who clearly and boldly taught the doctrines of the Pre-existence and Divinity of Christ.
Notwithstanding the opinion which Athanafius, and other orthodox Fathers, entertained concerning the Gospel of John,, it does not appear, that it produced any change of fentiment, upon its publication. All the Jewish Chriftians remained be
lievers in the fimple humanity of Chrift; and the Gentile Chriftians, in general, continued long in the fame ftate. It appears, from many authorities, that the former were diftinguished by the name of Ebionites or Nazarenes; that both Ebionites and Nazarenes were exifting in the time of the Apoftles; and that the difference between them was only nominal, both believing the fimple humanity of Chrift, and obferving the Mofaic ritual. No traces are to be found of any Nazarenes, who were believers in the pre-existence or divinity of Chrift. Irenæus, in his treatife on Herely, never confounds the Ebionites with the heretics: they were anathematifed merely on account of their adherence to the Jewish law. If the Apoftles taught the divinity, or preexiftence of Chrift, how came thefe Ebionites, or Nazarenes, to believe nothing of either of thefe doctrines? They made ufe only of the Gospel of Matthew, exclufive of the two firft chapters. Though they were in general poor (as the name Ebionite expreffes), they had men of eminence among them: Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus, tranflated the Old Teftament into Greek. Hegefippus was probably an Ebionite, as in his lift of herefies, he makes no mention of the Ebionites, and as Eufebius does not cite him as an authority against their opinions.
That the majority of Gentile Chriftians in the early ages were Unitarians, we have the following prefumptive proofs: that there was no creed or formulary of faith in the Catholic church to exclude them; that the firft excommunication of a Unitarian which is recorded, was of Theodotus, about the year 200, and the firft certain account of a separate fociety, is upon the excommunication of Paulus Samofatenfis, about A. D. 250; that the Gentile Unitarians had no feparate name, except that upon the rife of the controverfies refpecting the perfon of Chrift, they were called Monarchists, and that the appellation of Alogi was given them on the pretence of their having denied the authenticity of the writings of the Apoftle John; that the Unitarian doctrine, and its profeffors, were treated with great respect and mildness, by thofe to whom it must have appeared exceedingly offenfive; that it was held by the common people; that no treatifes were written against them before Tertullian's against Praxeas; and that the Clementine Homilies and Recognitions represent the firft Chriftians as Unitarian. The fame point is fupported by the direct teftimony of Tertullian, Origen, and Athanafius, who speak of the multitude of believers, the Simplices and Idicta, and the perfons of low underflanding, as uninftructed in the true doctrine of the Logos and the Trinity: for, fince the doctrine of the fimple humanity of Chrift was held by the com mon people in their time, it may be concluded with certainty, that it was the doctrine which they had received from their anceftors, and that it originated with the Apoftles themfeives. The
cautious and timid manner in which the contrary doctrines were introduced, is alfo a ftrong proof of their novelty.
Eufebius's affertion of the novelty of the Unitarian doctrine, made by an enemy to the doctrine without any proof, and contrary to all other evidence, is not to be regarded. The excommunication of Theodotus is no proof againft the early prevalence of Unitarianism, as it is probable he was excommunicated on fome other account. None of the laity were excommunicated for their Unitarian principles. Through the whole period, from the Council of Nice to the Reformation, as well as fince that time, there have been confiderable numbers of Unitarians either avowed or concealed.
The opinion, held in early times, that the Logos, an efflux or ray from the Divinity, was attached to the perfon of Chrift, as an energy, but that he was nevertheless a mere man, might be called philofophical Unitarianifm. The ancient Unitarians fupported their doctrine by arguments from Reason and Scrip
To this hiftory of Unitarianifm (fupported by authorities at large) Dr. Priestley adds his view of the rife of Arianifm, which taught that the Logos, which animated the body of Chrift, was a pre-exiftent fpirit, created out of nothing, the Maker of the world, and the inftrument of divine communications to the Jews. He maintains, that there is no trace of this doctrine prior to the age of Arius; that, though in defcribing the generation of the Son, they had ufed language equivalent to that of proper crea tion, the early Fathers really confidered him as the uncreated Wisdom of God; but that from this incautious language, and the affertion of the orthodox against the Sabellians, that the Father and the Son differed effentially from each other, arose the Arian doctrine. He then ftates,-the arguments used by the an cient Arians, who allowed no difference between generation and creation, and faid that if the Father generated the Son voluntarily, and if, with refpect to his perfonality, there had been a time when the Son was not (as the orthodox acknowledged), he muft have been created ;-and the defence of the orthodox, chiefly taken from the confubftantiality of the Father and the Son. He adds a brief account of the Neftorians, Prifcellianifts, and Paulicians, who were nearly allied to the Unitarians.
In the way of epifode, Dr. Prieftley difcuffes the question concerning the doctrine of the Miraculous Conception; and, though he acknowledges that the hiftory of this event is fupported by the teftimony of Matthew and Luke, and was believed by Juftin Martyr, and many other early Chriftians, yet he apprehends there are fufficient reafons for rejecting it. Thefe, he fays, are, that, except in the introduction to Matthew and Luke, there is no mention made of it, nor allufion to it, in the New Teftament;