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ter of the world. Whoever shall consider that the Christian religion had, before Arius, already suffered ten persecutions without shrinking under them, will easily see that all the power of Constantine, and of his orthodox successors, who punished the Arian professors, had never been great enough to suppress their opinion, if it had been a Gospel-doctrine; not to say that these laws, and their authority, extended no further than the Roman empire.
What had happened in those ancient times, soon after the Christian Church was established, happened likewise again in the last century, at the reformation of the western Church. As in those early days there arose many heresies entirely opposite one to the other; so in these latter times the very same was seen among us. For when God raised up many great men to reform the Church in this and our neighbouring kingdoms, there appeared soon after some men, who being weary of the Popish tyranny, both in doctrine and worship, did fancy that they might make a more perfect reformation, if they could remove out of the Christian religion those things which human reason was apt to stumble at. And the Roman Church having obtruded upon her votaries such mysteries as were directly repugnant to reason, they imagined that the doctrines of the Trinity, and of Christ's Divinity, were of that number; and thus used all their endeavours to prove that they were absurd and contradictory.
Had not these doctrines been grounded on the authority of the books of the Old and the New Testament, they might easily enough have confuted them. But being forced to own the authority of
those books, which they durst not attack for fear of being detested by all Christians, they fell into the same opposite extremes, into which those heretics of old had fallen, when they opposed these fundamental doctrines of Christianity; and thus were as divided in opinions about those matters, as the ancient heretics had been before them.
For whilst some of them, as Lælius Socinus, and his nephew Faustus, denied the Divinity of Christ, and thus revived the opinion of Artemas and his disciples; others seeing how absurd the answers were that Socinus and his followers gave to those places of Scripture, which assert the Trinity, and the Divinity of Christ, run so far to the contrary of this Socinian heresy, that they acknowledged three Gods. And not only the adversaries of Socinus, but even some of his disciples did oppose his opinion, moved thereto by the authority of Scripture. For he held it a fundamental article of the Christian faith, that Christ is to be adored; in which he was a downright idolater, in adoring Christ as true God, when he believed Christ to be a mere creature. But his disciples building upon this firm maxim of Scripture, that God alone is to be adored, justly concluded against him, that he was not to be adored, since strictly speaking he was but a creature, and no God.
This division was plainly occasioned by the strength of Scripture-proofs, which on the one hand clearly shew, that none can be a Christian without adoring Christ; and on the other positively affirm, that none but the true God ought to be adored. Thus these two opposite parties did unwillingly do
the business of the true Church, which ever opposed to the enemies of the Trinity, and of the Godhead of Christ, the authority of the holy Scripture, which teaches that Christ ought to be adored, and withal convinces the Arians of idolatry, who adored Christ without owning him to be the true God, though they bestowed on him a kind of a Godhead inferior to that of the Father.
I cannot but admire, that they who within these few years have in this kingdom embraced Socinus's opinions, should consider no better how little success they have had elsewhere against the truth, and that upon the score of their divisions, which will unavoidably follow, till they can agree in unanimously rejecting the authority of Scripture. Neither doth it avail them any thing to use quibbles and evasions, and weak conjectures, since they are often unanswerably confuted, even by some of their brethren, who are more dexterous than they in expounding of Scriptures.
But being resolved by all means to defend their tenents, some chief men amongst them have undertaken to set aside the authority of Scriptures, which is so troublesome to them: and the author of a late book, entitled Considerations, maintains that the Gospels have been corrupted by the orthodox party, and suspects that of St. John to be the work of Cerinthus.
It is no very easy task to dispute against men whose principles are so uncertain, and who in a manner have no regard to the authority of Scripture. It was much less difficult to undertake Socinus himself, because he owned however the au
thority of Scripture, and that it had not been corrupted. But one knows not how to deal with his disciples, who in their opinion seem to be so contrary to him, and one another.
They do now affirm the adoration which is paid to Christ is idolatrous, thus renouncing Socinus's principles, who looked upon it as an essential piece of Christianity. So that they can no longer be called Socinians, and themselves affect the name of Unitarians and as their chief business seems to be to accuse the sincerity of Scripture writers, so the main work of them who undertake to confute them, must be the establishing both the sincerity and authority of it, which is no very hard task: for even Mahometans, though they take some of the same objections, that the Socinians are so full of, against the Divinity of Christ, yet are so far from accusing Christians of having corrupted the Scripture, that they furnish us with weapons against the Unitarians of this kingdom, as the reader will find at the end of this following book.
And although there be but small hopes of bringing to right again men of so strange dispositions and notions, yet they ought by no means to be left to themselves. They have been often confuted by them that argued from the bare principles of Christianity, that is, the authority of Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, which are the very word of God. And it has been plainly shewed them that what alterations soever they have made in Socinus's opinions, yet their new conceits are neither more rational than his, nor more agreeable to Divine revelation.
I that their opinions are not more agreeable than his to right reason. For when all is done, to affirm, that Christ received from God an infinite power to govern the world, without being essentially God, is to affirm a downright contradiction, viz. that without partaking of the Divine essence he received one of the attributes which are essential to God.
It is true, some Popish Divines allow the soul of Christ to be all-knowing, by reason of its immediate union to the Divine nature; wherein they do much service to the Socinians, in holding as they do that a creature is capable of receiving such attributes. But Protestant Divines reject this notion as altogether false, as false as many of the Schoolmen's speculations, even the absurdest of them that are exploded by the Socinians.
They have been also further refuted as to what they aver, that Justin Martyr was the first that taught the doctrines of the Trinity, of Christ's eternal Godhead, and of his Incarnation.
And at last, that learned divine Dr. Bull having observed, that the Jewish tradition was favourable to those doctrines of which the Socinians make Justin to have been the first broacher; howsoever M. N. treats him for this, neither like a scholar, nor a Christian, I shall venture his displeasure in making out this observation, without meddling at all with his arguments drawn from the Fathers, to shew clearly, that the like exceptions of M. N. against Philo, as being a Platonic, and against the ancient Jews, and their tradition, can help him no way in the cause he has taken in hand.
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