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I cannot mision of any I have said by all the
even in its first and most qualified sense, was unknown in the early ages. To this, to my great surprise, you say, “ The Clementine Homilies were probably a forgery of Photinus, or of some other person, who, not before, but long after the time of Justin, wrote in defence of Unitarianism."* But could a work mentioned by Eusebius, and several other early writers, have been written by Photinus, who, it is well known, lived long after them?
I am not so much surprised at this gross anachronism as at your ascribing to me an opinion which I have repeatedly mentioned not as mine, but as held by those whose opinions I am professedly refuting, and which I allege as a principal argument in my refutation of them. “ You yourself,” you say, and you repeat it, “implicitly acknowledge that the doctrine of Christ's divinity was clearly taught when John published his gospel.”+ And you somewhere add, that though John alone should have taught this doctrine, it was sufficient; because John was an apostle.
I cannot say that I ever remember a more extraordinary misapprehension of any writer's meaning than this of yours concerning me. What I have said, and have abundantly proved, is, that it was acknowledged by all the defenders of the doctrine of the Trinity, before and after the Council of Nice, that the pre-existence and divinity of Christ had not been taught with clearness and effect before the publication of the gospel of John; and this acknowledgment I have said they would never have made if it had not been extorted from them, by such a well-known state of things in their own times, and those preceding them, as they could not account for on any other hypothesis, miserably weak and insufficient as it is; for no Trinitarian is disposed to make the same acknowledgment at present, and they are evidently mortified and confounded that it should have been made in times past. And no wonder ; for it furnishes the clearest of all proofs, that before the publication of this gospel, which is supposed to have been after the death of all the other apostles, the Christian Church consisted almost wholly of Unitarians; and they could not have been considered as heretics, because they were in the church, and indeed had never been taught any other doctrine than the Unitarian.
That this hypothesis of the Trinitarian fathers is absurd and insufficient, is evident from there being no evidence whatever of any change having been produced in the senti
• Letters, p. 371. (P.)
† Ibid. pp. 167, 885. (P.)
ments of the Christian world concerning the person of Christ by the publication of this gospel. In a period much later than this the majority of Christians were still Uni. tarians; and in their opinion the gospel of John contained no other doctrine.
Another curious mistake of yours concerning my meaning is that which occurs where you suppose that I contradict myself when I say, that the ancient Unitarians were not considered as heretics, and yet quote Austin and others, as saying that in the age of the apostles there were two kinds of heretics, the Gnostics and the Unitarians.* But, Sir, you should have considered in how late a period Austin, and those other writers, lived. In their time, no doubt, the Unitarians were considered as heretics, and therefore it is no wonder that they should represent them as having been heretics in all ages; though, as I have shewn, it is manifestly inconsistent with their own acknowledgments.
You ask why, if the Unitarians were at any time the great body of Christians, they did not excommunicate the Trini. tarians.t To this I have more than once made what I deem to be a sufficient reply. The doctrine of the Trinity, as it was first advanced, did not appear to infringe so much upon the doctrine of the unity of God as it did afterwards ; and this infringement was absolutely disclaimed by those who held it. As those who introduced this doctrine were men of learning and character, and zealous Christians, it is no wonder that their brethren bore with them; and when these learned Trinitarians came to be the body of the clergy, and had gradually drawn over to them most Christians of education, of rank and fortune, any attempt to excommuni. cate them would have been ineffectual. But I have shewn that notwithstanding these great advantages on the side of the Trinitarians, the common people, who were Unitarians, were greatly offended at the innovation, plausibly as it was introduced, and respectably as it was supported; and that they expressed their dislike of it in very strong terms.
I do not wonder that you, and other Trinitarians, are puzzled with Tertullian's saying that the major pars cre. dentium, or the majority of the Christians in his time, reprobated the doctrine of the Trinity, and that you should use every endeavour to elude the force of my argument from the passage. But your mode of reply to it is singular. In the first place you say, that Tertullian being an heretic, his
evidence is not to be regarded.* But he was no heretic in this respect, being as much a believer in the doctrine of the Trinity as any person of his age, and therefore as little disposed to make a concession in favour of the Unitarians. And why might not a Montanist have been an honest man, and one who would not assert a known falsehood? You admit the evidence even of Heathen writers with respect to matters of fact of which they were competent witnesses ; and why reject that of a Montanist, especially as those of this sect pretended to greater strictness of morals than other Christians ?
But, what is perhaps still more extraordinary, you say that “ by the simple and unlearned, Tertullian did not mean the members of the Catholic Church,” though he expressly calls them the major pars credentium, “but all, whether learned or unlearned, who held the simple or foolish doctrine of Praxeas," of that is, that of the Unitarians. To this I think I need to make no reply, as he is evidently speaking of the credentes, or Christians in general; and with them, though at that time a Montanist, he was probably as well acquainted as any other person of his age.
You think it is a sufficient objection against my supposition of the Antenicene fathers having borrowed their doctrine of the Trinity froin Platonism, that " they profess never to have looked upon the doctrines of Plato as constituting any part of the faith of the Christian Church.” But my argument is not that they considered or acknowledged that their doctrine was borrowed from Platonism, but that it was so in fact, though they should have denied it. This I prove from the great resemblance between their doctrine of the Trinity and the principles of Platonism; a resem. blance pointed out, and even greatly magnified, by themselves; from their known attachment to the doctrines of Plato, and from their natural wish to avail themselves of the new idea they hereby got concerning the person of Christ, to make their religion appear to more advantage in the eyes of Heathen philosophers, and persons of distinction in their time. It cannot be expected that any persons should introduce into Christianity the doctrines of Plato, or of any other philosopher, which they themselves should acknowledge to be foreign to Christianity, and discordant with it.
You seem, Sir, to be aware, though you do not explicitly acknowledge it, that the Antenicene fathers did not teach
• Letlers p. 292. (P.)
+ Ibid. p. 298. (P.)
Ibid. p. 166. (P.) such a doctrine of the Trinity as was professed in a later period ; but you apologize for them by saying, “ The Antenicene fathers did not speak plainly on the mystery of the Trinity, the sacraments, and other mysterious truths and institutions of the Christian religion, in their Apologies and several other of their writings; because they either ad. dressed themselves to Pagans, or at least knew that their works might fall into their hands. And certainly it would be highly improper to expound these articles to persons who had not been previously prepared for receiving these sublime truths in the same manner, and with the same clearness, as they expounded them to the faithful in their private and catechistical instructions. For holy and revealed truths are not to be exposed to derision."*
Now, it is evident from the tenor of their writings, that the Antenicene fathers had no design or wish to disguise their opinions from any class of readers, and least of all from the Heathens. On the contrary, with respect to their notions of the Trinity, they eagerly brought them forward, and enlarged upon them, imagining that they would recommend them to the Heathens, by their resemblance to those philosophical doctrines which were held in the highest esteem by them. And yet, in the most express and unequivocal language in the world, they asserted what was disclaimed by the orthodox of a later period, viz. that the Son was greatly inferior to the Father, and even that there was a time when he did not exist.
All that the Christians of the third and fourth centuries affected to conceal as a mystery, were the plainest things belonging to Christianity, viz. the Baptismal (or as it is commonly called the Apostles') Creed, and the administra. tion of the Lord's Supper. This affectation of mystery or secrecy, in things which could not be any secret at all, was in imitation of the Heathen initiations. It was altogether unknown in primitive times, and was always unworthy of Christians. Indeed, Sir, you certainly and most egregiously impose upon yourself in imagining the orthodoxy of the present day to be the same with that of the Antenicene fathers.
I am, &c.
• Letters, p. 88. (P.)
established by it. Rev. Sir, You are particularly desirous of vindicating Dr. Geddes* in his account of the Council of Nice, and supporting his prescriptive argument from the opinions of the fathers who composed it, that Unitarianism was not the faith of the primitive church; but you have strangely misapprehended both the doctrine of Arius, which was condemned in that council, and the doctrine that was settled in it. « The Arians," you say, “ contended that Christ was not equal to the Father," + and “ the things defined by the Council of Nice were, that the Son was coeternal, coequal, and consub. stantial with his Father; and this doctrine never was, neither soon after, nor is it to this day, abandoned by any divines of our church.” 1
Now, if there be any truth in history, no person before the Council of Nice said or imagined that the Son was.equal to the Father, nor did Arius deny it. This was no part of the controversy with Arius, whom the Nicene fathers met to condemn; and the Nicene Creed, which is in every common prayer book, expresses nothing of the Son being coeternal or coequal with the Father, but only of bis being consubstantial or of the same nature with him. And though the philosophers of those times thought that a beam of light was of the same nature or substance with the sun, (from which the Christian philosophers borrowed their idea of the Logos being of the same substance with the Father;) they at the same time held that it was not equal to the sun, but greatly inferior to it.
In confirmation of the equality of the persons in the Trinity having been held before the Council of Nice, you quote, from the Bibliotheca Patrum, the epistle of Dionysius 'of. Alexandria to the Council of Antioch, in which he says, “ there is one Christ, who is in the Father,; being his coeternal word,” &c. S .
I am surprised that you should quote this epistle, when there can be no doubt of its being spurious. Fleury himself
to the Fatherrsy with Arius, wa. Creed, which is so
• See the title of Mr. Barnard's Letters, supra, p. 52, Note 1......
Letters, p. 192. (P.) Ibid. p. 183. *(P.) 's Ibid. p. 110, (P.) VOL. XIX.