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You acknowledge that these writers platonized, and this you say was common to Athenagoras and them all. "If any thing," you say, “ be justly reprehensible in the notions of the Platonic Christians, it is this conceit, which seems to be common to Athenagoras, with them all, and is a key to the meaning of many obscure passages in their writings, that the external display of the powers of the Son in the business of the creation, is the thing intended in the scripture language under the figure of his generation ; a conceit which seems to have no certain foundation in holy writ, and no authority in the opinions and the doctrines of the preceding age; and it seems to have betrayed some of those who were the most wedded to it into the use of a very improper language ; as if a new relation had taken place between the first and the second person, when the creative powers were first exerted."*
You add, after apologizing for the conduct of the plato. nizing fathers, “the conversion of an attribute into a person, whatever Dr. Priestley may imagine, is a notion to which they were entire strangers.”t. I answer that it is not possible, either by the use of plain words or figures, to express this notion, to which you say they were entire strangers, more clearly than they do ; for, according to the most definite language a man can use, the Logos, as existing in the Father, prior to the creation, was, according to them, the same thing in him that reason is in man, which is certainly no proper person distinguishable from the man himself. Will you say that the man is one person or thing, and his reason another, not comprehended in the man? In like manner it is impossible not to infer from the uniform language of these writers, that, according to their ideas, there was nothing in or belonging to the Son, originally, but what was necessarily contained in what they express by the term Father. I will add, that if this was not the orthodoxy of the
there was no orthodoxy in it.
That the Logos of the Father, the same that constituted the second person in the Trinity, exactly corresponded to the Logos, or reason, or word of man, was the idea of Athanasius himself. Having spoken of the Father, as called the only God, because he only is unbegotten, ayevntOS, and the fountain of Deity, anyn EOTYTOS, and of the Son as only God of God, eos ex Ocou, he says, in answer to the question how this Logos can become a person in God when it does not so in man, “ The word conceived in the mind of man does not become man of man, since it does not live or subsist, but is only the motion of a living and subsisting heart. When it is pronounced it has no continuance, and being often uttered, does not remain. Whereas the Psalmist says, the Word of the Lord remaineth for ever, and the evangelist agrees with him, &c.' *
• Charge, p. 56. (P.) Tracts, pp. 57, 58.
Ibid. p. 58.
“ On this subject,” you say, “it is but justice to Dr. Priestley to acknowledge, what indeed he ought to have acknowledged for himself, that in this misinterpretation of the Platonic fathers, he is not original; that he hath upon his side the respectable authority of two very eminent divines of the Roman church, Petavius and Huetius.”+ Of this, I assure you, Sir, I was quite ignorant; but I see no reason to be ashamed of such company, or of any company, in the cause of truth.
That any mere eiternal display of powers, as you say, should ever be termed generation, I is so improbable, from its manifest want of analogy to any thing that ever was called generation before or since, that such an abuse of words is not to be supposed of these writers, or of any person, without very positive proof; and in this case you advance nothing but a mere conjecture, destitute of any thing that can give it a colour of probability,
If the Logos had had an actual personal eristence with all its proper and separate powers, from all eternity, how could he be said to be generated, when he only exerted those powers in a particular way? For since, according to your hypothesis, he was always an intelligent person from the beginning, he must have exerted his intellectual faculties in some way or other from all eternity, as much as the Father himself; and was the exertion of the faculties of the Father in the creation of the world ever called a generation of the Father, by those who supposed creation to be a work of his, performed in time, after the lapse of an eternity in which nothing had been created? And yet, according to you, this language must have been equally proper with respect to the Father as with respect to the Son, both having been intelligent persons from all eternity.
Ου γαρ ο λογος τα ανθρωπε ανθρωπος εςι προς ανθρωπον επει μητε ζων εςι, μητε ύφεςως, αλλα ζωσης καρδιας και υφεςωσης κινημα μονον και λεγεται παρα χρημα, και ουκ εςι' και πολλακις καλομενος, ουδε ποτε διαμενει το δε το Θεο λογον ανωθεν, ο ψαλμωδος κεκραγει λεγων, Εις τον αιώνα και λογος σε διαμενει εν τω ουρανό και συμφωνος αυτω ο Θεον ειναι τον λογον ομολογων Ευαγγελισης, &c. “ De Æterna Substantia Filii, &c. contra Sabellii Gregales," Opera, 1. p. 651. (P.) + Charge, p. 58. (P.) Tracts, p. 59.
Ibid. pp. 57, 58.
“ After all that Dr. Priestley hath written about the resemblance between the ecclesiastical and the Platonic Trinity, he hath yet, it seems, to learn, that a created Logos, a Logos which had ever not existed, was no less an absurdity in the academy, than it is an impiety in the church. The converts from Platonism must have renounced their philosophy, before they could be the authors of this absurd, this monstrous opinion. As the notion that this doctrine took its rise with them betrays a total ignorance of the genuine principles of their school, it is easy to foresee that the arguments brought in support of it can only be founded in gross misconstruction of their language.
To this I can only say, that you discover a total ignorance of what I have asserted, and I do not know how to express myself more intellibly than I have done. I have no where said or supposed that either the Platonists, or the platonizing Christians, held that the Logos was created, or that it had ever not existed; but only that, whereas it was originally nothing more than a property of the Divine Mind, it assumed a separate personal character, in time. The Logos of the Platonists had, in their opinion, always had a personal existence, because Plato supposed creation to have been eternal; but this was not the opinion of the platonizing Christians, who held that the world was not eternal; and therefore, retaining as much of Platonism as was consistent with that doctrine, they held that there was a time when the Father was alone, and without a son; his Logos, or reason, being in all that time the same thing in him that reason now is in man; and of this I have produced abundant evidence,
I cannot close this letter on the personification of the Logos without making some observations relating to the first account we have of it.
That Christ had a proper permanent pre-existence as the Logos of the Father, first distinctly appears in the writings of Justin Martyr; and from his labouring the point so much as he does, and especially from his providing a retreat in case he should not be able to prove it, it is most probable that he was the first who started it. However, he also mentions a different opinion on the subject, which probably preceded his own, and paved the way for it; and this was not very remote from the Unitarian doctrine.
It was, that the emission of the Logos, as a person, was an occasional thing, and intended to answer particular pur
Charge, p. 52. (P.) Tracts, pp. 52, 53.
poses only; after which it was absorbed into the Divine essence again. On this scheme, the Logos might have been a real person first at the creation of the world, and again when it was employed in the Divine intercourse with the patriarchs and the children of Israel, in the intervals of which it might have been deprived of its personality; and, lastly, have recovered it at the birth of Christ, and have retained it ever after. Whereas, the opinion of Justin was, that, after the first emission of the Logos at the creation of the world, it was never again absorbed into the Divine essence.
“ There are,” says he, (to abridge what he says on this subject) “I know, who are of opinion, that the power, duvapis, which proceeded from the Father of all, and appeared to Moses, or to Abraham, or to Jacob; and which, in different circumstances, was called an angel, a glory, or a man, remained a power inseparable from the Father, just as a beam of light is inseparable from the sun, † which is in the heavens, and which, when it sets, it carries along with it. Thus the Father, whenever he pleases, they say, makes this power to come out of him, apornoav; and whenever he wills, he calls it back into himself again ; and in the same manner they say he makes angels. But that angels are permanent beings, I have already shewn; and that this power, which prophets call God, and an angel, is not like a beam of light, but remains numerically distinct from its source, I have shewn at large; observing that this power, duvapesy, is produced by the power and will of the Father, but not so as that the Father loses any thing by its emission, but as one fire is lighted by another. It is called Lord in the history of the destruction of Sodom, and rained fire from that Lord who was in heaven, and who was the Lord of that Lord who was on earth, as his Father and God; being the cause of his being, of his being powerful, and of his being Lord and God.”
We see in this passage in how plausible a manner, and how little likely to alarm men of plain understandings, was the doctrine of the divinity of Christ as it was first proposed.
. At first it was nothing more than the divine power, occasionally personified, (a small step indeed, if any, from
pure * Ατμητον δε και αχωρισον το Πατρoς ταυτην την δυναμιν υπαρχειν. .
Dialogi pars secunda, ed. Thirlby, p. 412. (P.)
† A beam of light was then imagined to be something connected with the sun, and not matter emitted from him, and pot returning to him. (P.)
1 Ος και τα επι γης Κυριε Κυριος εςιν, ως Πατηρ και Θεος αιτοις τε αυτά τα ειναι και δυνατα reu Kupare rau @£q. Dialogi pars spouw, ed. Thirlby, p. 413. (P.)
Unitarianism,) and afterwards acquiring permanent personality ; * but still dependent upon the will of God, from whence it proceeded, and entirely subservient to him ; which was very different from what is now conceived concerning the second person in the Trinity.
I am, &c.
DEAR SIR, I cannot help, in this place, making a few remarks on some of your observations with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity, your ideas of which appear to be those which are commonly termed Athanasian; implying a perfect equality in all the three persons. Indeed, as a strenuous advocate for the Church of England, they can be no other.
I. “ The advantage,” you say, “ to be expected from these deep researches, is not any insight into the manner in which the three divine persons are united; a knowledge which is indeed too high for a man, perhaps for angels ; which in our present condition at least is not to be attained, and ought not to be sought; but that just apprehension of the Christian doctrine which will shew that it is not one of those things that no miracles can prove,' † will be the certain fruit of the studies recommended. They will lead us to see the scripture doctrine in its true light; that it is an imperfect discovery, not a contradiction.”I
I have given a good deal of attention to this subject, and from a careful perusal of a considerable part of Justin Martyr's writings, I think it very probable that he was either the first, or one of the first, who advanced the doctrine of the permanent personality of the Logos. I think he writes as if this was the case; but I wish that some other person would give his works a more careful perusal with that particular view. He was probably the oldest of the authorities quoted by the anonymous writer referred to by Eusebius, as the Clemens mentioned along with him, was probably not Clemens Romanus but Clemens Alexandrinus, who was later than Justin Martyr. Had there been any pretence for quoting Hegesippus as a maintainer of the divinity of Christ, he would certainly have been mentioned in prefer. ence to Justin Martyr, or any others in the list; not only because he was an earlier writer, but chiefly because he was one of the Jewish Christians, who are well known not to have favoured that opinion.
As to the hymns used by Christians, and said to have been from the beginning (atayxns) by those who were friends to the supposed doctrine of them, no inference can safely be drawn from them; because divinity may be ascribed to persons in very different senses, and some of them very innocent ones; and as to their antiquity, it is very possible, for any thing that appears to the contrary, that they might have been those very hymns which were rejected by Paulus Samosatensis on account of their novelty. (P.) Postscript to Letters, 1783. + See Vol. V. p. 492.
Charge, p. 69. (P.) Tracts, pp. 69, 70.