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I shall consider another of your curious arguments. You say, “ I shall particularly desire them” (that is, your gentle flock above-mentioned) “ to remark, that it is said of our Lord Jesus, that it was not possible that he should be bolden of death.' The expressions clearly imply a physical impossibility.”* But as we read that it is impossible for God to lie, it may be said that as God had foretold the resurrection of Christ, it was impossible but that it must take place. As to a proper natural impossibility, the fact is clearly against you; for if it had been naturally impossible for him to be holden of death, it must certainly have been naturally impossible for him to have died at all, and if death could hold him three days, it might, for any thing which appears in nature, have held him for ever, if the Divine power, a power foreign to himself, had not interposed. Accordingly we read, not that he raised himself, but that God raised him from the dead. Use, no doubt, will reconcile the minds of men to strange conceptions of things, and strange language; or I should wonder that you should not be shocked at the idea of God's dying. For when you speak of the natural impossibility of Christ's being holden of death, you must certainly have an idea of something more than the death of his body.
You, Sir, suppose that our Lord's disciples' might have conversed with him as familiarly as they did, and have taken the liberties with him which they sometimes did (as when Peter rebuked him for complaining of being touched in a crowd, &c. &c.,t) and yet have considered him as their God and Maker. You say, “ The most that could be inferred, were the assumption true, would be something strange in their conduct; and even this might be a hasty inference. The singularity of their conduct might disappear if the accounts which they had left of our Lord's life on earth, and of their attendance upon him, were more circumstantial. But the truth is, that the foundations of this argument are unsound.” After mentioning instances in which you think “ they invoke him as a Deity," you say, “ If the angels Michael or Gabriel should come and live among us in the manner which you suppose, 1 I think we should soon lose our habitual recollection of their angelic nature. It would be only occasionally awakened by extraordinary incidents. This, at least, would be the case if they mixed with us upon an even footing, without assuming any badges of distinction,
• Letters, p. 101. (P.) Tracts, p. 207.
See supra, p. 103.
wearing a common garh, partaking of our lodging, and of our board, suffering in the same degree with ourselves from hunger and fatigue, and seeking the same refreshments. The wonder would be if angels, in this disguise, met with any other respect than that which dignity of character commands, and something of occasional homage when their miraculous help was needed. This was the respect, which our Lord met with from his followers."
To this, I can only say, that I am really astonished how you can entertain the idea of any number of persons living on this even footing, as you call it, with a being whom they actually believed to be the Maker of themselves, and of all things, even the eternal God himself. Certainly, Sir, you never attempted to realize the idea, or even thought of putting yourself in their place, so as to have imagined yourself introduced into the actual presence of your Maker, in the form of man, or any other form whatever. You must have been overwhelmed with the very thought of it; or if you should have had the courage and unparalleled self-possession to bear such a thing, must there not have been numbers who would have been filled with consternation at the very idea, or the mere suspicion, of the person they were speaking to being really God? And yet we perceive no trace of any such consternation and alarm in the gospel history, no mark of astonishment in the disciples of our Lord in consequence of the belief of it, and no marks of indignation or exclamation of blasphemy, &c., against those who disbelieved it.
I am surprised to find how very differently you think from your holy father Athanasius on this subject. He says, “I will venture to say, that the blessed disciples themselves had no perfect persuasion concerning his divinity, till the descent of the spirit at Pentecost.” |
Chrysostom frequently observes that Christ only intimated his divinity obscurely, and left the full discovery of it to his apostles. Thus, he says, that he himself never said plainly that he made the heavens and the earth, and the sea, and all things visible and invisible. And why," says he,“ do you wonder that others should have said greater things of him than he has said of himself, when he explained many things by actions, but never clearly in words? That he made man, he shewed clearly enough, as by the blind man; but when he was discoursing about the formation of the first man, he did not say, I made them, but he that made them, made them male and female. And that he made the world he signified by the fishes, by the wine, by the loaves, &c., but never clearly in words.”* He even says, " it was more necessary to be concealed from his disciples, because they would immediately have told every thing through an excess of joy.”+
Letters, p. 149. (P.) Tracts, pp. 256—258. * Τολμω γαρ λεγειν οτι ουδε αυτοι οι μακαριοι αυτε μαθηται το τελειον περι της αυτα θεοτητος ειχαν φρόνημα, έως το πνευμα το άγιον αυτοις τη πεντακοστη επεφοιτησεν. Communi Essentia." Opera, I. p. 237. (P.)
1 “Οτι ουρανον, και γην, και θαλατταν αυτος εποιησε, και τα δρωμενα, και τα αορατα karta, autos fuey ovdaje oopws eignkey. In Matt. Cap. v. Hom. 16. Opera, VII. p. 154. (P.) See Vol. XIII. p. 99, Note +.
“ Christ,” he says, “ did not reveal his divinity immedi. ately; but was first thought to be a prophet, and the Christ, simply a man; and it afterwards appeared by his works and his sayings what he really was." I
There is one important circumstance relating to this subject, of which you have taken no notice at all, which is this: If the apostles had really preached the doctrine of the divi. nity of Christ from the first, and, consequently, it had always been the belief of the Christian church, the unbelieving Jews must have heard of it. Would they not, therefore, have objected to it as loudly as they did in the times of the Christian fathers, and as they do at this day? How is it, then, that neither in the Acts of the Apostles, nor in any of the Epistles, we find the least trace of any such objection, the least notice of it, or the most distant reference to it, by those who were concerned to answer it? The most probable conclusion from this fact is, that no such offence had been given to the Jews, the apostles not having preached any such doctrine.
With respect to the time when our Saviour's disciples began to consider him as God, you say, that I am the person most concerned to find the solution.|| I told you in my former letters that I had solved the difficulty to my own
* Και τι θαυμαζεις ει έτεροι μειζονα περι αυτε είρηκασιν εν αυτος ειρηκεν οπα γε πολλα δια των πραγματων επιδεικνυμενος δια των δηματων σαφως ουκ ελεγεν και ότι γαρ τον ανθρωπον αυτος εποιησεν εδειξε σφαως και δια το τυφλε ηνικα δε περι της εν αρχη πλασεως ο λογος ην αυτω, ουκ ειπεν ότι εγω εποιησα, αλλ' ο ποιησας αρσεν και θηλύ εποιησεν αυτες. Παλιν, ότι τον κοσμον εδημιουργησε και τα εν αυτω, δια των ιχθυων, δια τα οινε, δια των αρτωνσημασι ουδαμε τοτο σαφως ειπεν. In Matt. C. v. Hom. 16. Opera, VII. p. 154. (P.)
+ Εδει γαρ τεως λανθανειν, και μαλιςα επι των μαθητών και γαρ εκ πολλης ηδονης παντα ay ekmpugay.' In Matt. C. viii. Hom. 28. Opera, VII. p. 274. (P.)
1 Ου γαρ ευθεως ημιν εαυτα την θεοτητα εξεκαλυψεν αλλα πρωτον μεν ενομιζετο ειναι προφητης, και Χριςος, απλως ανθρωπος, ύςερον δε εφανη, δια των εργων και των δηματων, T870 ÓTep ny. In Johan. C. i. Hom. 2. Opera, VIII. p. 20. (P.) See Watts, (while a Trinitarian,) quoted in Vol. XIII. pp. 97,
99, Notes t. Il Letters, p. 99. (P.) “It is your concern, not mine," says Dr. Horsley,“ to. seek the solution.” Tracts, p. 205.
perfect satisfaction in my History of the Corruptions of Christianily; where I shewed by what steps the idea of the divinity of Christ was introduced. I did it upon my own hypothesis, of its not being an original doctrine, but a corruption of Christianity; and I challenged you to give as probable an account of its introduction, on the idea of its being no corruption, but a genuine doctrine, revealed at some time or other by Christ to the apostles, and by the apostles to the body of Christians. But, according to you, it required no revelation at all. The whole Jewish nation were prepared to receive their Messiah, as their God, and immediately to worship him accordingly.
I have no doubt, however, but that the Jews in our Saviour's time expected a man in the character of the Messiah. Mary, his mother, evidently expected that he would even be born in the usual way of two human parents; for when the angel informed her, ( Luke i. 31,) that she should “ conceive--and bring forth a son,” who should " be called the son of the Highest,” to whom God would“ give the throne of his father David,” she replied, “ How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?”* The apostles evidently appear to me to have considered him as no other than a man, and they taught no other doctrine after our Saviour's death. We perceive no trace of it in the book of Acts; and Athanasius, Chrysostom, and others of the fathers, only pretend that they taught it with caution, so as not to give much alarm, till John published it in his gospel.
Upon the whole, it appears, that the Jews who led the Gentiles into the belief of the doctrine of the simple humanity of Christ, were, according to Athanasius, Christian Jews, and that their proselytes were Christian Gentiles. It is perfectly ridiculous to suppose that the question could be interesting to any others. It also must have been the certain knowledge of great bodies of Unitarians, Jews and Gentiles, in the earliest times, that led these fathers to this hypothesis, to account for the fact. But that the great body of Jewish Christians should be Unitarians in the time of the apostles, without their having learned that doctrine from the apostles, is a thing that I cannot conceive. Moreover, it does not appear that the apostles took any umbrage at the prevailing doctrine, but connived at it; and all the indignation they expressed against any opinions, was against those of the Judaizing teachers and the Gnostics.
• Luke i, 34. See Vol. XIII. p. 17.
If the apostles did themselves really believe the doctrine of the Trinity, they must at least have had no high idea of its importance, or they could never have been such tame spectators of the spread of the Unitarian doctrine among their countrymen, and from them, according to Athanasius, among the Gentiles. How would Bishop Bull and the Archdeacon of St. Alban's have written if they had been in the situation in which Epiphanius and all the fathers place the apostle John when he wrote his epistle? Would they have contented themselves with condemning the dangerous tenets of the Unitarians in no more than one clause of a single sentence, which likewise contains the condemnation of the Gnostics? Would they not have thought the Unitarian the more dangerous heresy of the two; and therefore have bent their chief force against it?
It is remarkable, however, and really curious, that before the Unitarians were considered as heretics, we find a very different account of the reasons that induced John to write both his epistles and his gospel; Ignatius says it was solely with a view to the Gnostics, and so does Irenæus, again and again. This, therefore, was the more ancient opinion on the subject; and I doubt not, the true one.
And it was not till long after this, (Tertullian, I believe, is the first in whom it occurs,) that it was imagined that the apostle had any view to the Unitarians in any of his writings. This is a circumstance that well deserves to be attended to:
You imagine, Sir, what appears very extraordinary indeed to me, that the Jews will be easily reconciled to the doctrine of the Trinity, and will even more readily embrace Christianity on the Trinitarian than on the Unitarian principle. " For the Jews,” you say, “whenever they begin to open their eyes to the evidences of our Saviour's mission, they will still be apt to consider the New Testament in connexion with the Old. They will look for an agreement in principle, at least, betweeu the gospel and the law. When they accept the Christian doctrine, it will be as a later and a fuller discovery. They will reject it if they consider it to be contradictory to the patriarchal and the Mosaic revelations. Successive discoveries of divine truth may differ, they will say, in fulness and perspicuity, but in principle they must harmonize, as parts of one system. They will retain some veneration for their traditional doctrines; and in their most ancient Targums, as well as in allusions in their sacred books, they will find the notion of one godhead in a Trinity of persons, and they will perceive that it was in contradic