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being before the world began. That there is a real relationship between his humanity and ours, whereby he can sympathise with the infirmities of his people, is a doctrine which we think the scriptures plainly teach -- thus he is our “elder brother," "he was made in all things like unto his brethren," whereby“ he that sanctifies and they that are sanctified” become “ all of one" — and as these statements are at variance with Dr. Watts's hypothesis, it must be discarded as a mere human fancy.
A second edition of the “Sober Appeal to a Turk or an Indian" appeared in the year 1748, with considerable enlargements; but Dr. Watts had now done with controversy, and was about to exchange a state of doubt and uncertainty, for the full and unclouded revelations of truth. It is probable, therefore, that the work of his old antagonist was not allowed to intrude into the chamber of death. His occasional notices of Mr. Tomkins's performance are here replied to; his later publications are also animadverted on in the notes; and some remarks upon his three first Dissertations are added at the close. A passage in the postscript contains an error of some importance, as it makes him give up his former opinions as to a modal distinction in the essence of Deity:-“Dr. Watts," it is observed, “in his late treatise,* gives up the more common notion of three modes, relations, or the like, called three persons, in the one individual, self-existing essence; as also the notion of three distinct intelligent beings, however, necessarily united together; and seems persuaded, that there is no other way of accounting for the ascribing of supreme Deity to Christ, but by making the one self-existing essence and the man Christ Jesus one complex person, a notion as should seem lately devised by himself.”+ However true the middle section of this sentence may be, the former and the
“Useful and Important Questions," &c.
+ Sober Appeal,” &c. p. 289.
latter parts are certainly incorrect: after a careful examination of the work referred to, I can find no authority for either statement. He expressly speaks of such distinctions existing in the divine nature, as lay a foundation for the revelation of the Deity under three personal characters, and of one of these distinctions, a denomination, or relation, or principle, being made manifest in the flesh. Strictly speaking, then, he did not altogether fall in with the indwelling scheme — he did not, as that scheme supposes, found the divinity of Christ upon the indwelling of the whole Godhead in the humanityhe well knew the consequences charged by the orthodox upon the doctrine of the Patripassians in this respect — and, hence, to avoid them, he struck out into the middle path opened by Sabellius, that one of the mysterious and indefinable distinctions in the divine essence, an emanation, or principle, or virtue, was united to our human nature. I know that a correct theologian will see at once that he does not escape from the difficulty ; that he admits a distinction without a difference; that his notion is substantially the same as that which makes the Father to become incarnate, to suffer and die—for he acknowledges no subsistance in the Deity separate from the Father; but Dr. Watts did not see this result so inevitable, as some of those who have opposed his scheme, and justice to his sentiments requires that this should be stated. It is certainly surprising that Mr. Palmer of Hackney, his admirer and able apologist, should fall into the same mistake as Mr. Tomkins, and represent him as maintaining no distinctions in the Deity, a circumstance which may, perhaps, be accounted for by his misinterpreting some obscure phrases, and in some measure by the fact, that the opinion itself coincided with his own theological views.
The whole of Dr. Watts's publications, with reference to the Trinity, have now been noticed; and we may concisely state the scheme which he proposed and advocated. He supposes the term person, in its philosophical sense, to be strictly
applicable to the Father, an intelligent, voluntary agentthat in a figurative sense alone it is applicable to the Son and to the Spirit, who may more appropriately be styled powers or properties — that the Word is a cognoscitive, or an intelligent volitive power, and the Spirit an active or an intelligent effective power - that the Deity, therefore, consists of one philosophical person and two divine properties, analogous to the mind and will in man- that a trinity in the essence of deity exists, but that the distinction is merely modal that the Godhead of Christ is founded upon his union to some particular power of the divine nature, and not to a distinct person in that nature — and that this union commenced previous to his appearance on earth, his buman soul having been preexistent, and having had communion with divinity before the foundation of the world. Such is the scheme elaborated with no little care, and patience, and erudition, which its author fondly thought would remove all difficulties, overthrow the barrier between the Athanasian and the Arian, heal the contentions of the church, and still the strife of ages. In its general outline it is closely allied to the doctrine taught in the early ages by the Patripassians, who allowed only a nominal distinction to exist in the divine nature, or, as the Sabellians explained it, three denominations in one hypostasis; thus denying the personality of the Word and the Spirit, and holding them to be mere functions, virtues, or emanations. The conclusion to which this notion inevitably leads is, that incarnation, suffering, and death, may as properly be predicated of the Father as the Son; nay, upon the assumption of a nominal distinction only, all the acts of the Son become the acts of the Father; and, hence, he sends himself into the world, he prays to himself, he satisfies himself, he mediates and intercedes with himself - a conclusion fatal to the scheme, but necessarily deduced from it, whether it appears under the auspices of Sabellius or in the pages of Watts. I cannot dismiss this subject without remarking upon the li
berties taken with the sacred page in these speculations, and the dangerous principles of interpretation adopted. If the ascription of personal acts to the Son in his divine nature, and the use of personal pronouns, in the gravest and most solemn history in the world, may be explained away by the prosopopæia, language loses its significancy, and may be pressed into the service of any figment. An objector might readily prove the impersonality of the Father, resorting to the same license. It is acutely remarked by Dr. Abraham Taylor, “ It is a very strong and convincing evidence of the Father's real personality, that the scripture represents him as a person, and ascribes personal acts to him; but if any one should take it into his head to deny that the Father is a real person, and should only allow him a figurative personality, I cannot see how he can be confuted upon Mr. Watts's hypothesis ; for as the Son and Spirit are not real but figurative persons, according to him, notwithstanding they are represented under personal characters, I know not how the Father's having personal actions ascribed to him, can prove him to be a real person, any more than the other two."
We have now traced Dr. Watts through his various writings, "sounding on a dim and perilous way,” to the close of the year 1746. This was but a short time prior to his death; so that the sentiments which have been recapitulated, were those which his maturity of intellect sanctioned, and which he carried to his grave. It has indeed been asserted, that at the close of life his opinions underwent a change; that his last thoughts were completely Unitarian; and his full conversion has been introduced with no little parade in Socinian works and periodicals. That the writers considered this as an undoubted fact I do not question ; that the zeal of party rendered them not over-scrupulous as to its evidence may be assumed: but that rumour, with her hundred tongues, has in this instance calumniated the memory of the great and good, sufficiently appears from the preceding review. The fact is,
that his sentiments remained fixed after first publishing, in 1725, his views of the indwelling scheme; that for the last twenty-three years of his life, they experienced no alteration; and that the preceding pages exhibit to its full amount his departure from the orthodox faith. To pronounce him, therefore, an Unitarian, in the sense in which the term is commonly understood, is unwarrantable and unjust. Dr. Lardner, with whom this allegation originated, might regard it as a legitimate inference from his views; but it is not a fair and equitable principle, to determine the sentiments of an individual by what party prejudice is pleased to infer. With equal propriety might every Athanasian be proclaimed a polytheist; and those who approve the modal definition of the word person in the Trinity, be held up as Unitarians likewise. But would not such men as Dr. Wallis, Baxter, Dr. South, the authors of the Oxford decree, which pronounced the system of the latter to be the orthodox doctrine of the church of England, Tillotson, Doddridge, and the late Dr. Williams, who all favoured the idea of a modal personality, have rejected the title with indignation ?*
The writings of Dr. Watts upon the trinitarian controversy illustrate his mental activity, his boundless desire after truth, his resolution to grapple with the most tremendous difficulties in its attainment, while his expectation of seeing this “
“glory of the Lord" with "open face" in the present state, evidences a singular defect of judgment. He seems to have interpreted the Saviour's promise of the Spirit, to “guide into all truth,” in the most absolute and unqualified sense, as referring not only to all saving knowledge, but to every topic of theological and philosophical inquiry. But it is obviously only his office here, to make us “wise unto salvation," and to reveal no more of the ways of God than what is necessary for that purpose. Hence, the disclosures of holy writ, full and ample as they are upon all those subjects which involve our personal
* Appendix I.