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more obvious than the unsteadiness of many Protestant writers, when they write against the Papists and the Unitarians. How do they go backwards and forwards ? And when they have triumphantly and fully beaten off the vain assaults and objections of the Papists, they take up their bafiled arguments, and urge them the same way, as others did against them, against the Unitarians; and what they have maintained against
; the former, as good argument, notwithstanding Romish evasions, these arguments they oppose, when the Unitarians turn them against themselves, in the point of the Trinity; and they betake themselves to like shifts and evasions.
Thus let the Papists object to them the novelty of the Protestant religion, and ask them where was their religion and church before Luther? They think it a weak cavil, and can tell them their religion was in the Bible, and their church among the primitive christians, however it lay hid in the time of common apostacy; and yet to the Unitarians they can make the same objection. Where has any christian church, for so many ages, held that Christ was not God ? Against the Papist they will prove, that the Fathers did not hold the elements to be Christ's real body and blood, because they oft call them the images thereof; but let the Unitarians argue that Christ is not the supreme God, because the Scripture styles him the image of God, and therefore not the God whose image only he is; then the thing itself and its image must be the same thing. *
Against the Papist they can prove St Peter was inferior to the church, and the rest of the Apostles, (though not singly to each,) because he was sent up and down by them. This Baronius takes hold of, and tells them, by the same reason they must grant the Arians' argument to be good, viz. that the Father is greater than the Son, because the Son is sent by him. But let an Unitarian argue thus, and then, though the Father sends, and the Son be sent by him, yet they shall both be equal, and this shall make no difference.
Against the Papists they will boast, that they do not hoodwink the people in ignorance; but bid them inquire and examine, and the more the better, while it is ground of suspicion, that the Papists cheat men, by their keeping them from the light ; but now having to do with the Unitarians, they tack about, and bid beware of reading and disputing; they are for an implicit faith, without examining into deep mysteries; they bid us believe, not pry into them; though we only desire to examine whether the Scriptures do reveal any such mysteries at all; the rest we will believe, if we could see that, and desire no other liberty in interpreting Scripture, than they take so justly in interpreting Christ's words,“ This is my body.” Upon Protestant principles the Unitarians think they can stand their ground, and defend themselves in these matters, as easily as the Protestant can against the Papists.
* Euseb, cont. Marcel. p. 25.
As to primitive antiquity, so many inquirers, both among the Romish and Reformed writers, have given their impartial testimony, that it runs for Arius's doctrine; and have made such poor apologies for those Fathers, as though they knew not, or were not careful of their fundamental articles of faith, till they came to be banded about in general Councils, that I think it not needful' to say more here. Only one thing I would suggest; that allowing the primitive writers to speak in different places with great, at least seeming discord, which any ingenuous man must grant, sometimes plainly declaring Jesus Christ inferior to, and the servant of the Father, before his incarnation ; at other times giving him high titles, as of one equal with God; yet it is far more reasonable to suppose the higher expressions should be expounded according to the other, than the contrary ; because in discoursing of, and pleading for a beloved admired object, as the Lord Jesus deserves to be, it is very easy and natural to run out into strains of eloquence, and losty flights of praise, which must be interpreted not with strict rigour, but with great abatements, as is to be observed in some of their high encomiums on the venerable mystery of the eucharist, as though with the Papists they took the elements for Christ's real Body, wh yet they evidently did deny. But on the contrary,
men are wont ever to speak diminutively on such occasions; they could not have a thought to lessen their master's glory; and therefore if they ever represent him as not the supreme God, nor equal to him, we have all reason to think, they then spake the words of truth and soberness, and what the exact matter required.
For my own part, as I write this under the serious impressions of those great relations in which the blessed Jesus stands to me, whom I credit as my great teacher ; whom I desire to admire and love as my gracious endeared benefactor, beyond father and mother, or friends; whom I reverence as my Lord and ruler, and solemnly expect as my final glorious judge, who is to come in his own, and in his Father's glory; and in the mean time deal with God through him, as my only Mediator and Intercessor ; so I earnestly profess, that it is not without grievous and bitter resentments, that I should be employed in writing things, which by so many well meaning Christians will be misinterpreted, to be derogatory to the honour of this great Redeemer. But I know he loves nothing but truth in his cause, and will never be offended, I hope, with any who stand by his own words, viz. “The Father is greater than I.” John xiv. 28. I think it a dangerous thing to say, God is not greater than he, or is not the head of Christ; for, “ whom will ye equal to me, saith the Holy One?” Isa. xl. 25. I am persuaded it is truth I plead for, and that supports me.
The Conclusion, exhorting Christians to Moderation
and Temper in their Management of this controversy.
However, I wish they who are adversaries to my persuasion, would learn at least the modesty of one of the earliest writers for Christianity since the Apostles, that we have, I mean Justin Martyr, disputing with a Jew, and pleading for the honour of Jesus Christ, whom he calls “God by the will of the Father," and one who “ministered to his will,” before his incarnation. This person attempts to shew, that Jesus Christ did preexist of old, as a God, (in his sense,) and was born afterwards of a virgin ; but be
; cause, as he says, there were some who confessed him to be Christ, and yet denied those points of his preexistence and his miraculous birth of a virgin, that Father calmly says to his adversary, “If I shall not demonstrate these things, that he did preexist, and was born of a virgin ; yet still the cause is not lost, as to his being the Christ of God; if I do not prove that he did preexist, &c. it is just to say that I am mistaken in this thing only, and not to deny that he is the Christ; for whosoever he be, that is every way demonstrated, that he is the Christ.' for those Christians, who denied the above said things, and held him to be only a man, born in the ordinary way, he only says of them, to whom I accord not.