Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

says, that “ of all the writings of Dionysius, the only one that remains entire and unquestionable, is the canonical epistle to Basilides, the bishop) who had consulted him upon several points of discipline." There is, however, in Eusebius a small epistle of his to Novatus, which Fleury might think too inconsiderable for him to mention.

Besides, Dionysius, in his controversy with the Sabellians, had been led to express himself in such a manner, as, in a later period, made him suspected of holding the opinion which was afterwards advanced by Arius; insomuch that Athanasius thought proper to write a treatise in his defence. The Sabellians being charged with confounding the personis of the Father and the Son, their adversaries maintained that they were so far different as to be of a different nature; and the fathers of the Council of Antioch expressly disclaimed the term consubstantial as applied to the Son with respect to the Father; though, in opposition to the Arians, the fathers of the Council of Nice adopted that very term themselves. Now, it is very improbable that Dionysius should express himself so differently, as this epistle represents him to have done, from the custom of the orthodox in his time.

With respect to the Council of Nice, it is in vain for you to contend for the freedom of it, as you do. * Nothing is more evident than that, by some means or other, probably the influence of Hosius, and other Trinitarians, Constantine had taken his part before the meeting of that assembly. + The harshness of his address to Arius in the conference that he had with him sufficiently proves it, & to say nothing of his circular letter mentioned by Epiphanius, and given at length by Baronius, full of the most outrageous abuse of him ; and Sozomen, you know, acknowledges that, from the time that the emperors became Christians, the decrees of all the councils were framed according to their wishes. Of the Arian Council of Milan || you say, that “ it could not have been free, because it was held in the very palace of the emperor.” And was not the same, in effect, the case with the Council of Nice, the debates of which the emperor him. self attended ?

Besides, I have abundantly shewn, in my “ Letters to Dr. Geddes," that the decision of three hundred and eighteen learned bishops, assembled so late as the year 325, affords a very insufficient rule for judging concerning the faith of the

• Letters, p. 148.

+ See Vol. VIII. p. 298. : lll See Vol. VIII. pp. 354, 355.

See ibid.

See ibid.

majority of unlearned Christians, even in that very age, and much less two centuries before. By that time the learned had made great advances in aggrandizing the person of Christ, as they made another great advance between that time and the Council of Constantinople, held A.D. 381, when the doctrine of the perfect equality of the three persons in the Trinity was established.

As to the conduct of the Unitarians in the Council of Nice, which you think so reproachful to them, neither you nor I are able to give any account of it. I do not suppose that there were many Unitarian bishops in that council, or in that age. But as the very term consubstantial, which was agreed to be used with respect to the Son at this council, was the very term which the ancient Sabellians had contended for at the Council of Antioch, whatever were their reasons (which it is probable I should not approve) for adopting it before, the same would lead them to approve of

itdopting it beforeit is probable Antioch, whatevens had con

I am, &c.

LETTER VI.

The Conclusion. Rev. Sir, You see that I have complied with your request, t in not closing this controversy till I had considered and replied to what you, with the best intentions, I doubt not, have been able to allege in defence of those principles which I have attacked. That I have not been convinced by your arguments, I acknowledge; but I have not decided without giviug my reasons, of the strength of which you and the public may judge; but, being as well satisfied with my opinion as you can be with yours, I certainly stand justified to my own mind, and I hope to yours also, in persisting to use my utmost endeavours to promote the general reception of what I consider to be an important truth, and to bring to a conclusion the long reign of a fundamental error. I am happy to find that I have not written in vain, and that you, Sir, and all my other opponents, have been, in reality, labouring in concurrence with me,

I wish I could lessen your fears with respect to the consequences of the spread of Unitarianism. You say that “ Infidelity, Deism, neglect and contempt of all religion,

• See Vol. XVIII. pp. 4920-436.

Preface, p. 17. (P.)

both in belief and practice, either keeps pace with, or fol. lows close at the heels of, Unitarianism ; and that the general corruption of morals, so much complained of in this nation, flows, and must be expected to flow, from the jotroduction and propagation of such baneful novelties."*

Now, Sir, I should think that a very little reflection might convince you that the persons of whose violence you complain, and in consequence of which you say, that " the peaceful inhabitants of this nation can scarcely sleep quietly in their houses, or walk the streets with safety; and that the most vigilant father of a family can scarce preserve his children from seduction, or his property from being plundered,"'t never heard of Unitarianism. · However, let the judges in their circuits examine into the matter, and report the faith of all those who are condemned for capital crimes. The usual last dying speeches and confessions of those wretches do not, I believe, throw any light upon the subject; but perhaps you will say that we bribe them all to be silent. It is a fact, however, 'that, I imagine, may be ascertained ; and let not the vices of the age be imputed to Unitarians, or any other class of men, till they have been proved to be guilty. In my opinion, you may just as well ascribe the increase of vice and profaneness to the increase of books, the increase of turnpike roads, or the increase of navigable canals.

On the contrary, it is my firm opinion that the consequence of the increase of knowledge, and especially the prevalence of rational sentiments, will be the increase of virtue; that Unitarianism will be the only cure of Infidelity; and that it will, by this means, prevent the evils of which Infidelity is the cause. .

. . ; In the mean time, we Unitarians think ourselves some of the most quiet and peaceable subjects in the realm ; that we are very orderly ourselves, and promoters of good order in the places where we reside. As to myself, I wish, you would inquire of our common friend, Mr. Berington. He will be able to give an account of me, and I believe a favour. able one ; and if you would do us the favour to make us a visit, and spend a few days with us, I should not doubt of soon leading you to think more favourably of myself, and of Unitarians in general, than you now do. I arn, Reverend Sir, your very humble Servant,

.';.'J. PRIESTLEY.'

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

A LETTER TO THE Rev. Dr. KNOWLES,

PREBENDARY OF ELY.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Magna petis, Phaëton ; et quæ non viribus istis
Munera conveniant.

1. Ovid.

Rev. Sir, in: You are pleased to say, in your Tract entitled Primitive Christianity, * that you wrote without any view or design of entering into controversy ;, which you openly disclaim, whatever may be said or written against you.” + Yet, as I cannot persuade myself that you really wished to pass unnoticed, and as any thing advanced by a dignitary of the Church of England will have weight with some, I shall make a few observations on what you have advanced, chiefly to apprize you that, whether young or old in point of years, of which I am wholly ignorant, you are very young in this controversy, and that it would have been more advisable for you to have read a little more before you had attempted to write ; your arguments for the divinity and worship of Christ are so very stale and superficial,

You would prove that " Christ was the object of worship while he was on earth,” contrary to the opinion of all the orthodox Cbristian fathers, and to what appears upon the very face of the gospel history, because in our English translation he is said to have received worship. You were not aware, I presume, that in the Scriptures the same term is applied to men, and that, therefore, by this argument, you might prove them also to be objects of divine worship. You do not even consider what was the meaning of that English word at the time in which this translation of ours was made, when even a court of aldermen was styled the worshipful, and persons in other inferior offices were all addressed by the style of your worship. ..

You also say that “ Christ must be God because baptism is said to have been administered in his name,” without reflecting that Paul speaks of persons being baptized unto Moses ; * so that, according to this argument, the Jewish lawgiver must have been God, as well as the Christian.

'

* See supra, pp. 4, 5, Note 8. I Prim. Christ. p. 3." (P.)

+ Preface, p. l. (P.). 5 Ibid. p. 6. (P.)

You farther say, that Jesus must be God because he is called the Son of God, and, that “ the Jews all understood the phrase as of the same nature with God.” But was not the apostle John a Jew, and does not he call all Christians the sons of God?

Your arguments from the fathers of the first century shew either an utter unacquaintedness with the state of the writings that are ascribed to them, or great unfairness in your representations of them, and, therefore, I suppose the former. You quote Ignatius, as upon all occasions, calling Christ God, without ever informing your readers that this perpetual addition of the term God to the word Christ, in his epistles, is generally considered as an interpolation. It is, indeed, a manifest and absurd one, such a phraseology not resembling any thing in that age, or, indeed, in any subsequent one. Like Mr. Barnard, you quote the epistle of Dionysius of Alexandria, as unquestionably genuine, I when it is manifestly spurious; and, like him, you speak of the equality of the Son with the Father as “ defined by the Council of Nice,''s when the Nicene creed says nothing of that equality, and the writings of that age shew that the idea had not even occurred to the most zealous Trinitarians in that period.

You quote Justin Martyr as pleading for the worship of Christ as God, || when the term that he uses (786exy) is far from necessarily implying prayer, or any proper religious worship; and in the very same sentence it is applied to the holy angels; and you only think that you can exclude them by a punctuation, for which there is no authority or probability.

'That Justin Martyr, and others of the Platonizing fathers, maintained that Christ was God, is universally acknowledged; but it is evident that they did not consider him as equal to the Father. Among others you quote Novatian; but this writer, in the most express terms, disclaims all idea of the equality of the Son to the Father, as, if you had read him at all, you must have known. He says, “ The Father only is the only good God. The rule of truth teaches us to believe, after the Father, in the Son of God, Christ Jesus,

• 1 Cor. x. 2. See Vol. XIV. pp. 90, 91.
+ Prim. Christ. p. 27. (P.) i lbid. p. 80. (P.)

Toid. p. 98. (P.) || Ibid. p. 36. (P.)

Ibid. p. 68. (P.)

« FöregåendeFortsätt »