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by them to subjects of a like nature, but not at all by them intended as arguments and demonstrations.
Nothing can be more injurious to the writings of the New Testament, than such a supposition: and there can hardly be an opinion more apt to overthrow the authority of Christ and his Apostles, and to expose the Christian religion to the scorn both of Jews and heathens. For the bare accommodation of a place of Scripture cannot suppose that the Holy Ghost had any design in it to intimate any thing sounding that way; and consequently the sense of that Scripture so accommodated is of no authority. Whereas it is a most certain truth, that Christ and his Apostles did design, by many of those quotations, to prove that which was in dispute between them and the Jews.
To what purpose should Christ exhort the Jews to search the Scriptures of the Old Testament, because they testified of him, John v. 39. if those Scriptures could only give a false notion of him, by intimating that the Messias promised was the God of Israel? This were to suppose that Christ and his Apostles went about to prove a thing by that which had no strength and no authority to prove it: and that the citations out of the Old Testament are like the works of the Empress Eudoxia, who writ the history of Christ in verses put together and borrowed from Homer, under the name of 'Oμnpókevτpa; or that of Proba Falconia, who did the same in verses and words taken out of Virgil.
It follows at least from such a position, that in the Gospel God gave a revelation so very new, that it has no manner of affinity to the Old, although he
caused this old revelation to be carefully written by the Prophets, and as carefully preserved by the Jews to be the standard of their faith, and the ground of their hopes, till he should fulfil his promises contained in it; and although Christ and his Apostles bid the Jews have recourse to it, to know what they were to expect of God's promises,
The Christian Church ever rejected this pernicious opinion. And although her first champions against the ancient heretics did acknowledge that the new revelation, brought in by Christ and his Apostles, had made the doctrines much clearer than they were before, (which the Jews themselves do acknowledge, when they affirm that hidden things are to be made plain to all by the Messias,) yet they ever maintained that those doctrines were so clearly set down in the books of the Old Testament, that they could not be opposed by them, who acknowledge those books to come from God; especially since the Jews are therein told, that the Messias, when he came, should explain them, and make them clearer.
This observation is particularly of force against those who formerly opposed the doctrine of the blessed Trinity, and that of our Saviour's being God. These heretics thought they followed the opinion of the ancient Jews. Therefore they that confuted them, undertook to satisfy them that the Christian Church had received nothing from Christ and his Apostles, about those two articles, but what God had formerly taught the Jews, and what necessarily followed from the writings of Moses and the Prophets; so that those doctrines could not be rejected,
without accusing the Divine Spirit, the author of those books, of shortness of thought, in not foreseeing what naturally follows from those principles so often laid down and repeated by him.
These old writers solidly proved to those heretics, that God did teach the Jews the unity of his essence, yet so as to establish at the same time a distinction in his nature, which, according to the notion which himself gives of it, we call Trinity of Persons and that when he promised that the Messias to come was to be man, at the very same time he expressly told the Jews, that he was withal to be God blessed for ever.
The force and evidence of the proofs of those doctrines is so great, and the proofs themselves so numerous, that heretics could not avoid them, but by setting up opinions directly opposite to the Scriptures. On the other side, the heretics were so gravelled, that they broke into opinions quite contrary one to another, which greatly contributed to confirm the faith of them whom they opposed in those articles, so that it still subsisted; whereas the opposite heresies perished in a manner as soon as broached.
The meanness of Christ, and his shameful death, moved the Ebionites, in the very first age after him, to look upon him as a mere man, though exalted by God's grace to the dignity of a prophet. But the Cerinthians, another sort of heretics, maintained that the Word did operate in him, though at the same time they denied the personal and inseparable union of that Word with this human nature.
In the beginning of the third century, some had
much ado to receive the doctrine of the Trinity, by reason that they could not reconcile it with that of the unity of God. But Praxeas, Noetus, and Sabellius, who opposed that doctrine, were soon obliged to recant: and then from one extremity they shortly fell into another. For being satisfied that the Scripture does attribute to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, the Divine nature, which is constantly in the Old Testament expressed by the name Jehovah; they undertook, contrary to the plain tions of Scripture, to maintain, that there was but one Person in God, which had appeared the same under three differing names. Whereas some others did so plainly see the distinction which the Scripture makes between the Persons, that they chose rather to own three distinct Essences, than to deny that there are three Persons in God, as the Scripture does invincibly prove.
Two sorts of heretics did formerly oppose the Divinity of Christ. Some did acknowledge, that, as to his Divine nature, he was before the world, and that by it he had made the world; though himself, as to that nature, was created before the world: and these afterwards formed the Arian sect. Others, but very few, such as Artemas and Theodotus, denied that Christ was before he was born of the Virgin: they acknowledged in him no other besides the human nature, which, said they, God had raised to a very high dignity, by giving to it a power almost infinite: and in this they made his Godhead to consist.
But these two sorts of heretics were happily destroyed one by the other; for the Arians on the one side did confound Artemas's disciples, by proving
from places of Scripture, that Christ was before the Virgin, nay before the world. And on the other side, absurdity and idolatry were proved upon the Arians, both because they acknowledged more than one Divine nature, and because they worshipped creature; whereas by the Christian religion, God alone ought to be worshipped.
Artemas's disciples were so few, and so severely condemned, even whilst the Church laboured under persecutions, that their name is hardly remembered at this day; which clearly shews how strange their doctrine appeared to them who examined it by the books of the Old and the New Testament.
As for the Arians, they made, it is true, more noise in the world, by the help of two or three of Constantine's successors, who by violent methods endeavoured to spread their opinion. But that very thing made their sect odious, and in a little time quite ruined the credit of it. Within a hundred and fifty years, or thereabouts, after their first rise, there hardly remained any professors of it; which plainly shews, that they could not answer those arguments from Scripture which were urged against them.
I observe this last thing, that Arius's heresy was destroyed by proofs from Scripture for the eternal Divinity of our Saviour, (though it was a long time countenanced by the Roman emperors, by the Vandal kings in Afric, and by the kings of the Goths both in Spain and in Italy;) lest any should fancy it was extinguished only by imperial laws and temporal punishments. Besides, that the first inventors of that heresy had spread it before such time as Constantine, by vanquishing Licinius, became mas