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i necessarily from the Divine intellect exerted on itself; from del tbe Father's contemplation of his own perfections. But as th the Father ever was, his perfections have ever been, and his di intellect hath been ever active. But perfections which have en ever been the ever-active intellect, must ever have contemi plated ; and the contemplation which hath ever been, must ever have been accompanied with its just effect, the personal existence of the Son."*
Such, my Lord, was the original text, which is now shrunk up into a very small com pass, viz. “ that the exis. - tence of the Son flows necessarily from the Divine intellect
exerted on itself,"t and which not being dilated, as it was so curiously done in your Lordship's first publication, might have escaped my notice. Accompanied with your former illustration, it struck me, and I believe most of your readers who gave any attention to it, as something uncommonly ridiculous; and I maintained that it was also most notoriously false in point of fact, and betrayed an utter unacquaintedness with every thing of primitive antiquity on the subject. And this opinion, notwithstanding your Lordship's elaborate vindication of yourself, I still maintain; for, according to the most obvious construction of the passage, the production of the Son was absolutely necessary, and did not at all depend upon the will of the Father; whereas, according to all the Platonic fathers before the Council of Nice, the generation of the Son was the voluntary act of the Father, and an act not exerted from all eternity, (which if it had been necessary, it could not but have been,) but which took place in time, viz. just before the creation of the world, and for the purpose of that creation. In the work which your Lordship has not read, and which it is therefore more necessary for me to quote, is the following evidence of this :
Tatian represents the Father as having been alone before the creation of the world, that at his will the Logos came out of him. Theophilus says, thats according to John, God was at first alone, and the Logos in him.” Clemens Alexan. drinus says, that “ the Father was God before he was a Creator, but, being good, he chose to be a Creator and a Father; and he speaks of the Son as deriving his origin from the will of the Father.” “ Do you inquire about the generation of the Logos?” says Hippolytus; “God the Father generated whom he pleased, and as he pleased.”I
* Tracts, pp. 55, 56. (P.)
+ Ibid. p. 460. (P.) Hist. E. O. B. ii. Ch. ii. See Vol. VI.
Tertullian expressly says, that “ God was not always a father, or a judge; since he could not be a father before he had a son, nor a judge before there was sin ; and there was a time when both sin and the Son, which made God to be a judge and a father, were not.”*
Novatian (or rather Novatus) says, nothing was before Christ but the Father, and that the Son was generated from God when he chose. " God,” says Lactantius, “ before he undertook the construction of this world, generated an incorruptible spirit, which he called his Son." Eusebius, speaking of God's intending to form the material world, says, “ He thought of making one to govern and direct the whole.” He also says, “ Light is emitted from the sun necessarily, but the Son became the image of the Father from his knowledge and intention; and that when he pleased, he became the Father of a Son.” “We believe,” says Athanasius, 66 that God generated the Son spontaneously aud volun. tarily." +
Were not these writers, my Lord, Platonic fathers, according to all of whom your Lordships says, that the generation of the Son was necessary. If these be not Platonic fathers, please to inform us who were. And yet you have the assurance to say, “ To me it is matter of astonishment that any one can read some of the passages which Dr. Priestley himself hath produced from Athenagoras, Tatian, Tertullian and others, and not perceive that this notion was common to all those writers, and is the principle upon which all they have said upon the subject rests.”I
In a later period, when the idea of the equality of the Son to the Father was advanced, the orthodox divines were obliged to give up their opinion of the voluntary generation of the Son, and to make his existence as necessary as that of the Father himself; but still their idea was not the same with your Lordship's, viz. that it was the necessary result of the Father contemplating, that is viewing, himself. This is a peculiar mode of necessary origination, for which your Lordship finds no colour till you come to a much later period than that of the Platonic fathers; and after all, it is no more than a colour that you find in the writings of any theologians for this curious and singular notion. Basil, you find, says, that the Son came forth from intellect, as no doubt he must, if he came from the Deity, who is generally
* Ad Hermogenem, C. iii. Opera, p. 234. (P.) Vol. VI.
† Hist. E. O. B. ii. Ch. iii. See Vol. VI.
Hist. E.O. B. ii. Ch, iii. See
Tracts, pp. 464, 465. (P.) represented as pure intellect; but he does not say that this coming forth was a necessary consequence of the Father's contemplating himself.
" From the fathers” you " pass to the schoolmen ;" but from none of them do you produce any quotation at all ; nor does your Lordship's general account of their opinions, even in your own words, imply that any of them had that precise idea which you have given out; for “ generationby intellect or by will,”* is not sufficiently definite for your purpose.
Coming down lower, in your laborious search after nonsense, than the Council of Trent, you do, I acknowledge, find a similarity to your opinion in words; for in the Cate. chismus ad Parochos, you find mention made of “ a wonderful fecundity of God the Father, that, contemplating and ererting his intelligence upon himself, he should beget a Son, the exact counterpart and equal of himself.” † But here the word contemplating means only thinking, and not a mere viewing of himself, which is the idea that your Lordship’s language suggests ; nor is this exerting of intelligence upon itself, by which the Son was begotten, said, or intimated to be necessary, which your Lordship makes it to have been. The other passages which you quote I are all of them from writers subsequent to the Council of Trent, (which I own I was not much acquainted with, and which it is probable your Lordship knew as little of as myself, till you found it necessary to look out for sonie authority or other, modern, if not ancient, for your curious imagination,) express no more than this, and, therefore, none of them are at all to your purpose.
But supposing that these writers should have had the same idea with your Lordship, my ignorance of this circumstance would not, as you say, evince my “ignorance of the religious opinions of every age, and shew how much the oldest things are novelties to me ;"$ but only my ignorance of such things as I inagine our readers will think to be hardly worth knowing. In all Christian antiquity, to which my inquiries have been chiefly confined, no such idea as yours occurs. Your Lordship is obliged to go even beyond the age of the schoolmen for something only like it ; so that I was abundantly justified in saying that, on reading your account, I fancied myself “ got back into the very darkest
Tracts, p. 466. § Ibid. p. 464. (P.)
+ Ibid. p. 467. (P.)
Ibid. pp. 168—472.
of the dark ages, or at least that I was reading Peter Lombard, Thomas Aquinas, or Duns Scotus."*
You do very well, my Lord, to forbear quoting any of those texts of scripture (though you say, “ many phrases of holy writ seem to me to allude to it") on which you are of opinion that this curious notion " seems to be founded.”+ You might well suppose that you had already afforded the profane too much matter for their diversion.
I also cannot help commending your prudence in saying, “ about the truth of the opinion, I have declared that I will not dispute ; and I shall keep my word.” It is much bet. ter to acknowledge an error tacilly, by giving up the defence of it where it is most necessary, than not to acknowledge it at all.
As your Lordship, however, has thought proper to bring this curious subject once more before the public, I wish you had not contented yourself with endeavouring to find authorities for your opinion among authors which, if they could be found, would only be treated with ridicule, but have answered my other queries necessarily arising from it. A reductio ad absurdum is always deemed a sufficient refu. tation of any proposition. Now, among other things, I observed that, if the Father's contemplation of his per. fections necessarily produced a Son, this Son, being in all respects equal to the Father, and consequently having the same perfections to contemplate, and of course the same power of contemplation, must have produced another Son.
That you may the more distinctly perceive the force of this reasoning, I shall repeat, concerning the Son, what you say of the Father ; since you must allow that, mutatis mu. tandis, it must be equally just in one case as the other. 6. As the Son ever was, his perfections have ever been, and his intellect hath been ever active. But perfections which have ever been, the ever active intellect must ever have contemplated; and the contemplation which bath ever been, must ever have been accompanied with its just effect, the personal existence of a Son,”f which, in this case, will be a grandson.
The same reasoning will equally apply to the Holy Spirit; so that this divine person also, by the contemplation of his perfections, must produce a son ; and the same being true of all the sons and grandsons, and great-grandsons, &c. &c.
• Vol. XVIII. p. 100. 1 Ibid. p. 476. (P.)
† Tracts, p. 460.
&c., of these divine persons, (to say nothing of the necessary repetition of the same process with respect to them all,) we have here a source of multiplication of divine persons ad infinitum ; and what expedient can you apply to stop the progress of this wonderful fecundity, when there is danger of its exceeding its just bounds, your Lordship does not say. This, you will say, is burlesquing a grave subject. But, my Lord, it is yourself who have burlesqued it, and not I; and your Lordship alone is answerable for all the ridicule which your officious explanation has brought upon the doctrine and upon yourself. If a man will say ridiculous things, he must be content to be the subject of ridicule. This I hope will be a caution to you in future, especially if you should feel yourself tempted to enter into any similar explanation of the miraculous conception.
Your Lordship had done much better to have kept to the original idea of the Platonic fathers, which was, not that the generation of the Son was the necessary or voluntary effect of any exertion of the Father's intellect, but that he was that intellect, or his reason itself. This appears to have been very nearly the idea of Bishop Sherlock, who says, 6 that the Son is a person, because he is the Father's reflex knowledge;" so that lie understood the doctrine of the Platonic fathers much better than your Lordship. To this, however, one of his answerers in the Unitarian Tracts, makes a very pertinent reply, similar to what I have just observed with respect to your Lordship's peculiar idea." But the Son,” says he, “ being an infinite and most perfect mind, is undoubtedly able to reflect upon his own wisdom and knowledge ; and thus (as well as the Father) to beget a son. And this second son in the Trinity may, by the same means and reason, beget another, and so onwards to infinity. Thus, according to this maxim, that what are faculties in us, are persons in God, there may be, nay, there must be, an infinite number of persons in God. Apage!"*
If I could suppose that your Lordship had ever looked into such books as these Unitarian Tracts, which have been published about a century, I could almost think that you had borrowed your idea from this anonymous answerer of Bishop Sherlock, who puts that construction upon his words, though they do not appear to me necessarily to imply what he deduces from them ; for he supposes, with your Lord
• “A Defence of the brief History of the Unitarians, against Dr. Sherlock's An. swer in his Viodication of the Holy Trinity," 1691, p. 28. (P.) See Vol, XVIII. P. 535.