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I conclude the preface with one request to my readers of every kind, whether Arian or Athanasian; and that is, that they would not make all their former, nor their present opinions an everlasting standard of truth, and a test whereby to judge of every thing they read: And that they would not suddenly pronounce nonsense or heresy upon every sentence that differs from their former belief.
I entreat them on one side, that they would search and examine honestly, whether it be not possible that such a sublime and mysterious doctrine as the deity of Christ, may be true, when some of the more indefensible appendages of it are lopped off; which doctrine, when mingled with these appendages, was very hard to be believed or defended: And on the other hand, I desire that my readers would consider impartially, whether so difficult a doctrine as this of the Sacred Trinity may not be better defended in itself, and more effectually let into the mind of disbelievers, by granting those things which seem to be the obvious sense of some scriptures, and removing other things which scripture does not assert, and which were some of the chief bars against their belief of it.
In the mean time, while we all employ a diligent and impartial search after these sacred truths, and are seeking to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord, let us with daily and importunate requests implore the assistances of the blessed Spirit, since our Saviour has promised to send him as a guide into those very truths which relate to himself. John xvi. 14. "He shall glorify me: For he shall receive of mine and shew it unto you."
ARIAN INVITED TO THE ORTHODOX FAITH:
A plain and easy Method to lead such as deny the proper Deity of Christ, into the Belief of that great Article.
WHEN christians are divided in their sentiments, and break out into party quarrels, the names of their opinions will be tossed to and fro, as terms of reproach and scandal. Arian is made a word of infamy, and orthodox on the other hand is turned into a jest, a matter of mere ridicule. But I have no inclination either to rail or laugh; nor would I use one of these words in a reproachful sense, nor the other in a ridiculous one; and therefore it is proper that I should here explain my meaning, that wheresoever these words occur in the following papers, the reader may have just ideas of them.
I do not love to affix such names to any party of men as they themselves utterly disown: This has a tendency to irritate the spirits of those whom we design to enlighten, and reduce to the faith and profession of our own sentiments, and therefore it should be avoided as much as we can. Yet it often so happens in the affairs of mankind, that it is hardly possible to describe the followers of any particular sect or opinion, when it is necessary to speak of them, without using the same names which the world generally gives them: And the world generally gives them the name of those who have been the most famous assertors or professors of such kind of doctrines,
As it is therefore my design in the present essay to address those who may have entertained scruples or doubts about this great dootrine of the Deity of Christ," or have departed from their former principles, I would eat them with all gentleness: And I freely declare, that I believe the name of Arian hath been often of late given to such as have by no means deserved it, and are no abettors of the old principles of Arius.
An ancient Arian is one who believes the Son and Holy Spirit to be mere creatures: He believes our Lord Jesus Christ to be a glorious person, but still as much inférior to the true and
eternal God, as a creature differs from the Creator; for he believes his human soul, or that spirit which supplies the place of it, to be his highest or divinest nature, and that it was produced by the power and arbitrary will of God the Father, some time before the world was made, and thus he believes it to be properly a creature, utterly denying the true and proper godhead of Christ; yet he owns him to be sometimes called God in scrip ture, on the account of his great likeness to God, his acting in the name of God, and his government of the world. And thus by changing and diminishing the idea of the word God, and reducing it to an inferior sense, he allows an inferior godhead to belong to Christ. He believes also this glorious spirit did take upon him a human body, was born of the Virgin Mary, and thus became a complete man, in the fulness of time appointed by the Father. This is usually represented as the general sense of the ancient followers of Arius.
Now it is evident that the modern disbelievers of the divinity of Christ, or most of them at least, have refined the ancient doc. trines of Arius, and thereby, perhaps, rendered their sentiments more defensible, at least in their own opinion: But if through divine assistance I shall become so happy as to lead any that believe even these ancient Arian principles, into the doctrine of the divinity of Christ, by natural and easy steps, I would fain persuade myself that some of the moderns will not shut their eyes against the evidence of light, nor resist the force of such attraction, but yield to it with greater ease.
But if this expectation be too presuming, and no disbeliever be recovered to the common faith of the deity of Christ, yet I must indulge my hope thus far at least, that some wavering, doubtful, and unsettled christians may be established in their faith by some of these attempts.
Before I proceed, it is necessary also that I should tell what I mean by the word " orthodoxy." For several centuries past, this word has been applied to that explication of the doctrine of the Trinity, which supposes the divine nature to be but onenumerical or individual essence or being; and that this essence is the same in the Father, the Word, and the Spirit. That these three are so far distinct as to lay a foundation for the scripture to speak of them in a personal manner, as I, Thou, and He; and upon this account they are called three persons: But that they are not so distinct as to have three distinct consciousnesses, for they are only supposed to be three incomprehensible differences in one and the same numerical essence of God, or in one and the same individual spirit. That in the person of Christ two distinct natures are united, God and man; whence it comes to pass that Some proper divine characters, and some human, are attributed to the same person.
Now I ask leave to try whether it is not possible to lead one who has favoured the Arian sentiments toward a belief of the chief parts of this doctrine, which for some ages past has obtained the name of orthodoxy, though I confess there are some other parts of it which are not so defensible.
SECT. II. The method which I shall pursue in my present attempt, is to propose these following queries:
Query F. Is it not a principle of natural religion, and universally confirmed by reason and scripture, that there is but one God, one true and living God, one eternal and Almighty Creator and supreme Governor of all things, one infinite being, who is the first cause and last end of all?
II. Have you not always believed this God to be one Spirit, one single Spirit, one conscious mind, and not made up of two or three conscious minds or spirits? Nor am I going to lead you into any other idea of the great and blessed God, or to give you any occasion to imagine that we believe two or three Gods.
III. Has not this great and blessed God assumed to himself in his word some peculiar names, titles, characters and prerogatives, whereby he will distinguish himself from every thing which is beside and beneath him, that he might give his people a distinct knowledge of himself, and secure them from the danger of paying divine honours to any thing that is not God? See "Christian Doctrine of the Trinity," Propositions iv. v. vi.
IV. Are not Jehovah the true God, the great God, the mighty God, and God blessed for ever, the God of Abraham, the Lord of Hosts, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the first and the last, some of these distinguishing names and titles of God?
Are not the searching of the heart of man, omnipresence, omnipotence, and the works of creation, and the conservation of all things, some of these divine characters or prerogatives? See "Christian Doctrine," Propositions vii. viii. which propositions, with the greatest part of their explication, may be vindicated against all reasonable objections.
Let it be observed, that the enquiry here is not, how far, or in what degree some of these titles, characters, powers, and operations may possibly belong to an exalted creature, in the abstracted nature of things, or by the favour of God? But whether God in his word has not made these titles, operations, and characters, his own appropriate prerogatives, to distinguish himself from inferior beings? And has he not expressed himself with a divine solicitude and sacred jealousy in this matter, that Jehovah is his name, and he will not give his glory to another?
V. Are not these names, titles, and prerogatives ascribed to our Lord Jesus Christ, in several places of scripture, in such a manner as would naturally lead the unlearned and common christian into a belief that they are the very same characters whereby the great and blessed God has distinguished himself; are they not often attributed to our Lord Jesus Christ, without any such evident limitations or restrictions as to distinguish them from the prerogatives of the one true God?
Nay, let me add further, are they not expressed in such a manner, and so applied to Christ, that would lead even the wise, the learned, and the cautious reader, into the same sentiments, if he had not imbibed some other opinion, and upon that account endeavoured to evade this sense? See "Christian Doctrine of the Trinity," Propositions viii. and ix. The multitudes of pious christians, learned and unlearned, that in all ages of the church have honestly read their bibles, and have fallen into this sentiment of things, after the strictest search to find the truth, are a sufficient answer to this query, and a proof of the affirmative.
VI. Is here not then the appearance of a very considerable difficulty, how to reconcile these ascriptions of divine titles and prerogatives both to God the Father and to Jesus Christ, without breaking in upon the sacred doctrine of the unity of God, which is established both by reason and scripture? And how shall this difficulty be removed, but by a consultation of those sacred writings wherein we find the same divine characters asscribed both to Christ and to the Father.
VII. Does not the scripture give us a very natural and evident solution of this difficulty, when it assures us that there is a' most peculiar and intimate union, or oneness, between the great God and his Son Jesus Christ? Col. ii. 9. In him dwelleth all the fulness of the godhead bodily. John x. 30. I and my Father are one. John xiv. 10. I am in the Father, and the Father is in me. John xiv. 9. He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. John xiv. 10. I speak not of myself,the Father that dwelleth in me doeth the works. I John v. 7. There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, and these three are one. Exod. xxiii. 20. I will send an angel before thee, beware of him, provoke him not, &c. for my name is in him..
VIII. Are there not other scriptures that express evidently both a divine and a human nature in our Lord Jesus; as Rom. ix. 5. Christ of the seed of David after the flesh, and yet he his over all God blessed for ever? 1 Tim. iii. 16. God manifest in the flesh, who was seen of angels, and received up into glory. Rev. xxii. 13, 16. The beginning and the end, the first and the last, the root and the offspring of David.