Imágenes de páginas

the Jews, it, at least, may be regarded as forming one head of evidence, to show that, in the latter days, they had lost, if they ever possessed, all correct notions respecting the nature and person of the Messiah. And it should be recollected that no less a commentator than Lightfoot has gravely produced this tradition in illustration of St. John. His words are "non dubitarunt eum in Bethlehemo primò manifestandum; sed occultandum et post aliquod spatium appariturum iterum, sed ignotum unde.""Fatentur Christum ante sua tempora fuisse natum in Bethlehemo, sed illico abreptum nescio quî, et absconditum et non inveniendum."-Hieros. Beracoth. fol. 5, 1. Midras Echah. fol. 68, 3.-" Concipiunt duplicem manifestationem Messiæ; primam in Bethlehemo; et eum illinc occultandum et latiturum; sed tandem se iterùm manifestaturum, non noto, unde et quomodo advenerit. In comparitione sua primâ, a Bethlehemo, nihil memorabile ab eo agendum: in secundâ, gentis expectatio. Jam ergo, hi Judæi, quorum hoc verba tractamus, noverint ejus nativitatem, necne, ex actis ejus miraculosis concipiunt, hanc esse secundam ejus manifestationem: atque ideo dubitant an ille sit verus Messias, quia norunt locum (Naza retham) unde processit, edocti a traditionibus suis Messiam secundò proventurum è loco penitùs omnibus ignoto."-Hor. Hebr. vol. iii. p. 120. Ed. 1671.

It may, however, be remarked that, if the Jews believed this strange fiction, they must also have believed that the Messiah, if not God or Angel, was an Immortal Man, or, at least a man of most miraculous longevity. According to one version of the legend, coined after the destruction of the Temple, the Messiah was born on the very day of that calamitous event; and, five years after, was suddenly caught away to the great sea, there to remain 400 years. After that, he was to pass 80 years with the sons of Korah in the Ascent of Smoke; and then, 80 years more in the Gates of Rome. At the expiration of this period of 560 years, he was to appear suddenly, and to rule to the time of the end. This, it is true, would not prove that the Jews expected a Divinity in their Messiah. But it would show that they expected a Being invested with more superhuman qualities than any Humanitarian has ever dreamed of assigning to the Son of Joseph and Mary.

That Trypho may have believed in some such humanity of Christ as the Jewish legend ascribes to him, and that he may have expected his appearance from some unknown region of earth, ocean, or sky, appears highly probable from his words, as

See Fab. vol. ii. p. 341, who refers to Raym. Martin, pug, fid. par. ii. c. 7.


cited by Mr. Faber—Χρισὸς δὲ, ει καὶ γεγένηται, καὶ ἔςι που, ἄγνωςός εςι, καὶ οὐδε αυτός πω ἑαυτὸν ἐπίςαται· οὔδε ἔχει δύναμίν τινα, μέχρις ἂν ἔλθὼν Ηλίας, χρίση αυτὸν, καὶ φάνερον πᾶσι ποιήσῃ. (Just. Dial. Tryph.) It should further be remembered, that nothing but the pressure of their own prophecies, when forcibly urged against them, could extort from the Jews of that day any thing like an admission that the Messiah was to be a divine person.* And, lastly, it seems irresistibly clear, from the very tenor of Justin's argument, that Trypho and his brethren were not treated by Justin as believers in the Divinity of Christ. reasoning appears to us to be manifestly to this effect:-"There are some among our own people who confess that Jesus was the Christ, but affirm that he was a man born of human parents. With such persons I cannot agree; nor could I, even if it were affirmed by great numbers of those who now actually think as I do. But, at any rate, if you contend for the mere humanity of the Christ, you can be in no condition to resist my arguments, even if they should fail to prove the Divinity of Jesus, provided they are sufficient to establish his Messiahship, on every other ground. If divinity is, in truth, no attribute of the Messiah, it can be no objection to my reasonings, that they leave you still unshaken in your belief of his mere humanity. In that case, nothing more can be required of me than to show, that Jesus was distinguished by all the other marks which indicate the office and person of the Messiah."+

And now, finally, is it possible to look back upon all this wilderness of disputation, without having forced upon our remembrance the saying, that verily the Sun doth look upon nothing that is new. In the eighteenth century the creed of Dr. Priestley runneth much after the same form as the Symbol of Islam-God is one God, and Jesus is his Prophet: and he telleth us, that this was no other than the creed of all the aboriginal churches. Now, much the same thing was asserted by the Artemonites (at the end of the second century, or the beginning of the third,) with respect to the doctrine of Theodotus the tanner of Byzantium. Theodotus, be it remembered, was one of those who took fright at the Oxovouía. But he fled from it in a direction exactly opposite to that which was taken by Praxeas, and the champions of the divine Movapxía. His city of refuge was, not the divine identity of the Father and the Son, but the sole divinity of the Father, and the mere humanity of the Son. And the followers of Artemon had the hardihood to affirm, that no other doctrine but this was known till the days of Zephyrinus, * The reader should, by all means, consult Bishop Kaye's Account of Justin, p. 25 -30. + Ibid. 28-50.

Bishop of Rome, A.D. 198; and this they did, with the fact staring them in the face, that Theodotus had been excommunicated for this very doctrine by Victor, who was the predecessor of Zephyrinus. After this, is it possible to imagine that any adventure should be too hard for the descendants of the same school?

[ocr errors]

Dr. Lindsey,--for example,—is among those who are for deciding every thing by a direct appeal to Scripture; and this, to the utter rejection of all human commentaries and expositions. Not that he shrinks from an appeal to Christian antiquity. He is not afraid—not he-of "putting the matter as it were to the vote;" confident that it will be found undeniably true that " all Christian people, for upwards of 300 years after Christ, till the Council of Nice, were generally Unitarians:"* and under this comprehensive description, he, very gravely, numbers “what are now called Arians, or Socinians." He allows, too, in another place, that Irenæus and Justin Martyr,-Clement of Alexandria and Origen, had, long before the Council of Nice, contributed to bring into Christianity the Platonic doctrine of a second God, and various other mixtures of Gentile philosophy. So that, according to his own statement, the primitive Unitarian faith was, in comparatively early days, disfigured by the interpolation of a secondary Deity. But why should trifling inconsistencies disturb an advocate of the pure, aboriginal, humanitarian faith? The Arians-it is true-were willing to speak of Christ as God of God; they did not object to say that he was begotten of the Father (not indeed of his substance but of his will)-before all worlds, or ages; and though they affirmed that he was produced, in time, they shuddered at the thought of ranking him as a mere creature. They, therefore, would, most infallibly, have ejected Dr. Lindsey and all his tribe from their assemblies, with contempt and aversion. But what then? The word Unitarian is Lindsey's Apology, pp. 23, 24, ed. 1774.

Ib. pp. 158, 159.

Burt. Ante-Nic. Fathers, p. 403.

Burt. Ante-Nic. Fathers, p. 451. The creeds of Arianism, it is well known, were manifold. One of these may be seen in Socr. lib. ii. c. 41: another in c. 10 of the same book; respecting which, Sozom. lib. ii. c. 5, mentions, that it was ascribed to Lucianus, a Presbyter of Antioch, who suffered martyrdom A.D. 311; though, with what truth it was so ascribed, the historian declares himself unable to pronounce. This Creed was put forth at the Council held at Antioch A. D. 341, which was composed chiefly of persons inclined to Arianism. But their Arianism must have been of a very lofty character, indeed, if this form was really adopted by them from Lucianus, or forged by them in his name. See Burt. Ante Nicene Fathers, pp. 402, 403. Another Arianizing Ecthesis was presented by Eunomius to the Emperor Theodosius, and is printed by Valesius, in his notes to Socr. lib. v. c. 10. The Creed presented to Constantine, by Arius himself, together with Euzoïus, is in Socr. lib. i. c. 26. It would be curious enough to watch the countenance of Mr. Belsham, or Mr. Lant Carpenter, or any other modern Socinian, if any one of these Unitarian creeds should be recited in their meeting!

a-word of excellently convenient compass: and under its protection, why should not Socinians combine with the believers in one Supreme God, (and two subordinate ones,) so long as the battle is against the great Tritheistic heresy? When that conflict is over, it will be time enough for the high contracting parties to settle their mutual differences. So that, here, we have a masterpiece of theological diplomacy, which unites the innocence of the dove, and the wisdom of the serpent, and the courage of the eagle; and is therefore well worthy of the best ages of the Christian church!

Such is the enterprise and hardihood of Dr, Lindsey. But what is this compared with the intrepidity of Dr. Channing, the great oracle of Transatlantic Unitarianism? This gentleman, it seems, has published a discourse, on the superior tendency of his own persuasion to form an elevated religious character. In the execution of his work, he produces a vile and distorted caricature of the Trinitarian doctrine, which we have not, ourselves, had an opportunity of seeing, but which Mr. Faber-(who, with all his depth of piety and soundness of belief, seems entirely free from any approach to dragon-like religious prudery)-professes himself unable to look upon without shuddering. * Having completed this portrait, Dr. Channing does not hesitate to say of the original, that," instead of teaching an intelligible God, it offers to the mind a monstrous compound of hostile attributes, bearing plain marks of those ages of darkness, when Christianity shed but a faint ray, and when the diseased fancy teemed with prodigies and unnatural creations." Now, if it had been the pleasure of Dr. Channing to affirm, that this hideous monster had burst forth, full-grown and ready armed, from the head of Constantine, with the obstetrical assistance of the three hundred old women assembled at Nice, we should, at least, have known how to deal with the proposition. For he then would have said little more than has, in effect, been asserted, or insinuated, by divers of the Unitarian Illuminati before him, But that, with this monster before eyes, roaming over Christendom for full fifteen hundred years, and making havoc of the pure Unitarian faith,—he should venture to pronounce that it had its origin in the Cimmerian depths of the middle ages, all this does really imply such a magnanimous contempt for historical facts, that we are almost compelled to recall our former exclamation, and to confess that, at last, the Sun hath looked upon something new! At all events, we are im pelled to ask, what is it that the preacher means when he speaks of the dark ages? How far, backward, according to his powers

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

*Fab. vol. i. pp. 289. 293.

of vision, does the reign of darkness extend? Is its commencement anterior to that ill-omened hour, when the three hundred evil ones of Nice performed their fatal incantations? Of one thing Dr. Channing may be fully assured,—that the readers and the hearers of this popular discourse* will, for the most part, carry away the impression, that the doctrine of the Trinity is a prodigy engendered during the owl-light of those ages, when the intellect of Europe was under the joint spell of legendary fiction and scholastic subtlety. It is not to be expected that ordinary readers, whose pursuits are remote from ecclesiastical inquiry, should be in full possession of the history of religious opinions. When they hear of the dark ages, they will naturally think of some period between the sixth and the fourteenth centuries; and, on the authority of their eloquent, learned, and venerated teacher, they will rest in the persuasion, that the doctrine in question was never heard of, till the moral and intellectual degradation of Europe was completed. And if so, we may surely ask, with Mr. Faber, whether the acquisition, or the preservation, of proselytes, by the help of such an assertion, is likely to afford the preacher much comfort on his death bed?

With regard to the dreadful doctrine itself-which drove Mr. Lindsey from the church-which impelled Dr. Priestley to protest that, if it could be found in Scripture, he would cast Scripture away-which has led Dr. Channing to seek for its nativity in the ages of Stygian darkness,—with regard to the abstract merits of this doctrine, we have only one or two questions to suggest. Does it very materially augment the difficulties which throng around us, at every step of our attempt to comprehend that inscrutable mystery, the essence of God, and the manner of his agency and subsistence? This is a question which, of course, every man must answer for himself. For our parts, we can honestly declare, that a triad of persons, with an entire unity both of nature and of will, exhibits an aspect under which we are just as well able metaphysically to contemplate the Supreme Being, as any other--neither more nor less. If we are asked to explain all the difficulties and perplexities which attend it, we must, undoubtedly, lay our finger on our lips. But, if Deism itself were our Creed, we should still find ourselves open to a multitude of inquiries, which would impose upon us precisely the same necessity. The subject, as it must present itself to any class of believers, is a fathomless abyss, in which metaphysical science is utterly lost. And then, with respect to the mystery of the Incarnation, does

* It was preached before a congregation at New York, and has since been cheaply printed for popular circulation in England. The fourth Liverpool edition is dated


« AnteriorContinuar »