« FöregåendeFortsätt »
I have“ a farther design in my writings than appears upon the face of them.”* For, that I may have doubts, and by putting Trinitarians upon defending their principles, may wish to get those doubts removed. If this be the case, I may not be “ far from the kingdom of God.” It is a much more favourable supposition than most of my antagonists will allow. But indeed, Sir, I must own that they are nearer the truth than you; for I really have not the doubts that you charitably ascribe to me.
I am, &c.
Of Mr. Barnard's Arguments from the Scriptures.
Rev. SIR, You think it extraordinary that I should have recourse to such guides as the fathers to settle my opinion concerning the doctrine of the Trinity it thinking, I suppose, that the study of the Scriptures might render all other helps unnecessary. Now I have more than once given my reasons for this conduct. It is, in short, this : Christians are not agreed in the interpretation of scripture language : but as all men are agreed with respect to the nature of historical evi. dence, I thought that we might perhaps better determine by history what was the faith of Christians in early times, independently of any aid from the Scriptures; and it appeared to be no unnatural presumption, that whatever that should appear to be, such was the doctrine of the apostles, from whom their faith was derived ; and that by this means we should be possessed of a pretty good guide for discovering the true sense of the Scriptures. Even
you and Dr. Geddes, though belonging to the same communion, and one which seems better calculated than any other to secure uniformity of opinion, are by no means agreed in your interpretation of the Scriptures. He, for example, finds no authority whatever for the doctrine of the Trinity in the Old Testament, and but little in the New ;! whereas you find abundant evidence of it in both. surprised, you say,
" that he should make such an acknowledgement, as it is contrary to the universal opinion of divines.” But indeed, Sir, your own arguments from the
* Letters, p. 332. (P.)
See Vol. XVIII, p. 429.
+ Ibid. p. 334. (P.)
Letters, p. 11. (P.)
Scriptures are of such a nature, as, I dare say, will not induce him to recede from his concession.
You say that Christ must be God, because he is called Jehovah our righteousness.*
But for the same reason the city of Jerusalem must be God also, because the same prophet, viz. Jeremiah, gives to that city the very same appellation.t You also say, that Christ must be God equal to the Father, because he is said to be one with him ;f whereas Christ himself expressly prays that his disciples may be one with himself and his Father, even as they two are one. And when you say, as you somewhere do, that this is necessarily to be understood of such an union as men are capable of with respect to God, which is an union of will and affection only, and not of nature; I answer, that the text, in its plain and obvious sense (for which in this controversy you always contend) absolutely excludes the idea of any union between Christ and the Father, besides such an one as his disciples are capable of, and is therefore decisive against an union of nature. Now I really think that it would be much better to acknowledge, with Dr. Geddes, that nothing is to be inferred from the Old Testament, and but little from the New, in favour of the doctrine of the Trinity, than urge such arguments as these, or any others that you have produced from the Scriptures.
Indeed, what you and all Trinitarians are obliged to acknowledge, viz. that, though Jesus Christ be God, as well as man, he cannot be said to be the first principle and origin of the divinity, as you say, " This being the prerogative of the Father,”g is inconsistent with any proper equality of the persons in the Trinity, such as is asserted in the Athanasian Creed, viz. that “ in this Trinity none is afore or after other: none is greater or less than another.” For certainly that which is the principle and origin to another, if there be any meaning in the words at all, must be superior to that with respect to which it is the principle or origin.
I am, &c.
• Letters, p. 11. (P.)
A learned friend suggests, that the proper rendering of the original is," and this is the name by which they shall call Jebovah, viz. OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." (P.) See, on Jer. xxiii
. 6, Dr. Blayney's vindication of his rendering, “This is the name by which JEHOVAH shall call him, Our Righteousness," Vol. XII. p. 230, 1 Leiters, p.31. (P.)
Ibid. p. 92. (P.)
Of Mr. Barnard's Historical Arguments of a prescriptive
Kind, in favour of the Doctrine of the Trinity. Rev. Sir, In this letter I shall consider your prescriptive arguments, or such as are better known by the name of arguments à priori, in favour of the general prevalence of the doctrine of the Trinity in the primitive times,
As a proof that the common people in the primitive church must have been Trinitarians, you say, that the bishops being such, the common people who learned of them, must have been so too. Suspecting, however, that there might be something in the evidence that I produced to prove that the common people were not Trinitarians, you say, it would afford no evidence (though this is inconsistent with what you said before) of what it was that the apostles taught; since it was not to the common people, but to the bishops and clergy, their spiritual guides, that the doctrine of Christ was committed.
“ If,” you say, “ he had given the common people a share of administration in spiritual matters ; if he had made them the repositories, or trustees, of his doctrine, &c., your argument would have infinite weight; but it was to the apostles and their successors, that he committed the government of the church."* As to the common people, you say,
" He commanded them to follow the faith of their pastors, Heb. xiii. 7, to be obedient to the pastors who should have the rule over them, and to submit themselves to them, as they were to give an account to God for the souls of all who should be coinmitted to their care, ver. 17. He delares that they who hear them, hear him, and whosoever despises them, despises him, Luke x. 16; and he commands the pastors of his church to look upon all disobedient and refractory persons as Heathens and publicans, Matt. xviii. 17.”+ Presuming, then, that the common people well understood and practised this implicit obedience to their teachers, you say, “ As those bishops taught their flocks the doctrines of the divinity of Christ, and the Trinity of persons in God, so it cannot be doubted but that the people believed and professed the doctrine
* Letters, p. 141. (P.)
+ Ibid. p. 143. (P.)
taught them by their pastors, whom they believed to have been appointed by the Holy Ghost to feed and govern them."
Now, Sir, you should have argued with a Protestant on Protestant principles. We say, that the teaching of Christ and of the apostles was not delivered, even in the first instance, to any body of men called clergy; but that they taught all persons indiscriminately, having nothing to conceal from any man ; and there being nothing mysterious, or hard to be understood, in the doctrines of the gospel, the common people, or the laity, were as good judges of them as the bishops. We also think it the duty of every man to think and judge for himself in all matters of religion ; and, in an affair of so much personal importance, to submit his faith to no person as his spiritual guide ; for what would it avail any man who should be led astray in the paths of ruin and destruction, that his spiritual guide, to whom, you say, his soul was committed, accompanied him thither? We think it very evident, from the book of Acts, and the epistles of Paul, that the common people among Christians knew nothing of this passive obedience to spiritual guides; and that in matters of opinion, the authority even of an apostle had no weight with them, independently of the reasons by which it was supported.
I therefore say, that the common people, having received the doctrine of the gospel from the purest original sources, and having been less subject to foreign influences, would retain them better than any other class of men ; and, consequently, that the opinions of the common people among Christians in the second and third centuries, (in which we have the means of ascertaining them,) affords a much better indication of the doctrine of the apostles than the opinions of their teachers; because their teachers, being then learned, and having imbibed the principles of the Heathen philosophy, had been subject to an influence from which the common people were exempt. I have farther observed, and universal experience proves the truth of the observation, that in all cases, ancient opinions are most firmly retained by the common people; whereas, the learned and the speculative are most apt to innovate ; and it is only after some time that they are able to draw the common people after them.
As another argument that the majority of the common
* Letters, p. 190. (P.)
people among the Christians in early times were not Unitarians, you say, that“ the expressions contained in the liturgies are a demonstrative proof against it.”* But where, Šir, are those ancient liturgies? None that are now extant are prior to the Council of Nice, as is acknowledged by all the learned of your own church. We are well satisfied, that in those early times, no liturgies whatever were in use ; but that all those who conducted the public worship of Christians, prayed, as well as preached, according to their ability. This we think to be most evident from all that we know of the state of things in the primitive times.
You think it a proof that there were no Unitarians in early times, because there were no persons who were distinguished by that name. But how could they be so disa tinguished, when all Christians were Unitarians ? They were only called Unitarians when there were Trinitarians to oppose to them, On the same extraordinary principle, you say,
" There is not the least reason to wonder that neither Irenæus nor Clement of Alexandria should take any notice of a sect that never existed till after they had finished their works.”+ They certainly existed, but not as heretics, persons out of the church, or distinguished by the appellation of Unitarians. And what you say is far from being true, “ that the Unitarians, whether of the clergy or laity, were excommunicated as soon as their obstinate maintaining of their Unitarian principles was known, is a fact so well attested by the his. tory of those times, that it cannot be called in question." I have certainly called it in question, and you should have considered my arguments,
I am, &c.
the Doctrine of the Trinity.
* Letters, p. 135. (P.)
+ Ibid. p. 255. (P.)
1 Ibid. p. 285. (P.)