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saved ; before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled ; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.” Thus this celebrated creed begins. About the middle we find the following clauses: “ He therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity. Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Lastly, it closes with this sentence: “ This is the Catholic faith, which, except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.”
Do not these anathemas, or damnatory clauses, contain real propositions ; and does not the person who pronounces them affirm the truth of those propositions? Can any person seriously say, that they who do not believe all the articles of this creed shall without doubt perish everlastingly, without believing that they will perish everlastingly for their disbelief? Could any plainer terms have been contrived for the purpose? How, then, are these celebrated damnatory clauses, as your Lordship says, no part of the creed, when every person who professes to believe the whole, of course receives these parts?
Had the word anathema only been used, it is possible that the force of it might not have been attended to by the composer; it being too common to make use of words, especially in learned and foreign languages, without attend. ing to their strict meaning; and your Lordship says it is so used in your Ecclesiastical Canons, when it is applied to those who speak disrespectfully of the Book of Common Prayer; (tliough I would not answer, as your Lordship does, for the compilers of those canons not intending eternal damnation by it ;) but where the words perish everlastingly are expressly and repeatedly used, there can be no doubt with respect to the nature of the anathema. The damnatory clause so expressed is most unquestionably an article of faith, and certainly of a most serious and alarming kind. Indeed, my Lord, it is trifling with your readers, and an insult on common sense, to talk of any real difference between this damnatory clause and the other parts of the Athanasian Creed.
Whatever profession, therefore, your Lordship may inconsistently make of your charity, and, notwithstanding your idle parade about meeting me in heaven,* when I believe
Dr. Horsley thus concludes his Letters, 1784: “ Still looking forward to the time, when, after all that is past, we shall mutually forgive, and be ourselves forgiven, I remain, dear Sir, &c." Tracts, p. 295.
you would be sorry to meet me any where, and are not very fond of meeting me in this controversy ; unless my everlasting damnation be an article in your creed, you have subscribed the most solemn form of words that can be devised by man, without meaning any thing at all by them; and why then may you not have subscribed every thing else with as little truth? Many, no doubt, do subscribe in this light and careless manner, which shews the dreadful effect of the habit of subscribing. It leads to the utter perversion of the plainest meaning of words, and opens a door to every kind of insincerity. By your Lordship’s own confession, you yourself no more believe what you have subscribed with respect to this creed, than you do the Koran.
Indeed, your Lordship's account of the Trinity is a very different thing from the doctrine of this creed. For you suppose a manifest superiority in the Father, and yet in repeating this creed you can say of the three persons, that “ none is afore or after other, none is greater or less than another." Were you, my Lord, perfectly ingenuous, and were your mind perfectly unbiassed, you could not but see, and would certainly shudder at, the absurdities and contradictions in your declarations, and feel the same horror at subscribing, that I do.
If your Lordship defends these damnatory clauses on the principle of meaning nothing at all by them, you vindicate the common cursing and swearing that we every day hear in our streets ; where profane persons are continually sending their own souls, and the souls of other people, to hell, with as little meaning as your Lordship pretends to. If the phrase perish everlastingly does not mean perish everlastingly, your Lordship should have informed us what it does mean. It is certainly no blessing, but a curse, of some kind or other.
I do not wonder that men of enlightened and ingenuous minds, such as Archbishop Tillotson, should express a wish that they were well rid of this creed. But others, I fear, (now, my Lord, mark my uncharitableness,) would not be sorry if the language of it would be still more harsh, that by the obligation to subscribe it there might be fewer competitors for those emoluments which may be obtained by subscription. For all your subscriptions do not exclude unbelievers in all religion, natural and revealed; persons who, on such terms as you offer, will subscribe any thing that is tendered to them. If you would have fewer of these, either in the church, or out of it, you must throw out every thing from your creeds and subscriptions which any sincere Christian, or believer in the divine mission of Christ, cannot conscientiously assent to. Thus, however, you may say, Socinians might enter; and you may prefer the society of Unbelievers to theirs ; because, whether in or out of the church, they will give you much less trouble.
Indeed, my Lord, the opposers of all reformation will always have trouble from the zealous friends of it. We think it our duty to cry aloud and not spare, when we see such abominations in the public worship of Almighty God as are to be found in all the civil establishments of Christianity in the world; corruptions borrowed from Heathen Polytheism, and which, in their nature and effects, are very similar to it.
I am, &c.
LETTER V. Of the Phrase, Coming in the Flesh. My LORD, Your Lordship maintained at large that the phrase coming in the flesh, applied by the apostle John to Christ, necessarily implies a pre-existent state. I think it a sufficient answer, that the Jews, by whom the phrase was used, had no such idea; since it is well known that they characterized the Messiah by the phrase he that is to come; when, at the same time, it is so well known, that I shall not trouble myself to repeat the proof of it, that no Jews ever expected any other than a mere man for their Messiah. By him that was to come they meant the person who had been promised them, as to make his appearance in due time.
When, therefore, the Messiah was come, and a question arose concerning his nature, whether he had real flesh or not, it was certainly not unnatural for a Jew, who believed that Christ, or he that was to come was a real man, and had real flesh, to express his opinion by saying, that Christ was come in the flesh, and yet your Lordship says, that“ no reason can be devised why they” (the Jews) “ should make choice of such uncouth, mysterious words for the enunciation of so simple a proposition ; which they might easily have stated in plain terms, incapable of misconstruction." Now, considering the phraseology to which the Jews had been long accustomed, in speaking of the Messiah, I appeal to
• Tracts, p. 421. (P.)
our readers whether there be any thing peculiarly uncouth, mysterious, or unnatural in it.
I alleged a passage in the epistle of Polycarp, in which I thought, and still think, that the same phrase, (evidently borrowed by him from the apostle John,) indicates nothing more than simple humanity in opposition to those Gnostics who maintained that Christ had not real flesh; because in the very same sentence, he gives two other characters, which evidently apply to the Gnostics only. I therefore concluded that the former clause was only another part of the description of the same class of men. Had he meant to describe the Gnostics by enumerating their most distinguishing tenets, he could not well have expressed himself otherwise. This, however, I shall argue no farther, but submit to the judgment of our readers.
Your Lordship now alleges a passage from the epistle of Barnabas, which you say, is “ very decisive, in which the allusion to a prior condition of our Lord-is manifest, and is so necessary to the writer's purpose, that if the phrase be understood without such allusion, the whole sentence is nonsense. It is as follows: 6 For if he had not come in the flesh, how should we mortals, seeing him, have been preserved? When they who behold the sun, which is to perish, (and is the work of his hands,) are unable to look directly against its rays !” I shall continue the quotation a little farther.f “Wherefore the Son of God came in the flesh for this cause, that he might fill up the measure of their iniquity, who have persecuted his prophets unto death. And for the same reason also he suffered. For God hath said of the stripes of his flesh, that they were from them ; and I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep of ihe flock shall be scattered. Thus he would suffer, because it behoved him to suffer upon the cross,” &c.
Now, though the writer of this epistle might believe that Christ pre-existed, and made the world, it does not follow that he considered this phrase coming in the flesh as necessarily implying so much; and the general obvious sense of the passage is complete without supposing any reference to a pre-existent state at all. For it is only this, that he could not have been the object of our senses, and could not have suffered upon the cross, as was foretold concerning him, if he had not had a body that was capable of being seen and of suffering. Since the reasoning of this writer is so clear, without any allusion to a pre-existent state, it adds greatly to the probability of the clause, (which is the works of his hands,) which is omitted in the old Latin translation, being an interpolation; and it is not doubted by any men of learning that there are evident marks of interpolation in all the remains of the writings of this age.
* Tracts, p. 422, (P.)
+ From Wake's translation, p. 167. (P.)
Besides, if Christ be a compound being, consisting of soul and body, besides the divinity; and if Christ came from heaven, this ought to apply to the whole and not to any part of him only; and then his flesh and his human soul must have pre-existed, and have come down from heaven as well as the Divine Logos. I am satisfied, however, that both Polycarp, and the author of this epistle, in its original state, whoever he was, alluded to nothing more than the opinion of those Gnostics who held that Christ had no real body, and therefore that, though he was come according to the prophecies concerning him, he was not come in the flesh.
I am, &c.
LETTER VI. Of the Meaning of the Word Idiota in Tertullian. MY LORD, Your Lordship still maintains that the word idiota, which Tertullian applies to the major pars credentium, means idiot in English; and with great labour, no doubt, you have at length made out no less than ten significations of this word, and one of them is “stupid, dull, and—dunce, booby,” &c.* But for this, which is the only one to your Lordship’s purpose, you produce no authority from any writer whatever ; except some dictionary makers, whom the learned Bentley would have called very idiots in Greek and Latin for their pains; the only synonyms that he allows, being “illiteratus,
• Tracts, pp. 427, 428. (P.) Wakefield, speaking of the “ sturdy polemic Dr. Horsley, and his antagonist Dr. Priestley,” says, “ One day, whilst I was waiting in a library alone, I opened our prelate's book in that part of it in which he descants on the Greek word darns. I smiled within me to observe the craft with which this pretender to philological precision had ramified the significations of this poor word in all the ostentation of technical parade.
“ The term has two senses only, and is incapable of more. Its primary meaning is, a man in a private station; its secondary, that character which a man in a private station usually exhibits.
“ In such displays as these, the object of our artificer of disputation was, (I should suppose,) after cannonading the castle of these nonconformist idiots with a volley of shot from his pedantic battery, to advance under the cover of the smoke, and take the fastnesses by storm, without the tediousness of a regular approach by the mines of argument or the lodgments of confutation." Mem. of Wakefield, 1. pp. 287, 288, Note.