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mean no more than to call Jesus the great being God, God who is great; which, in whatever way we understand the word God, whether as spoken metaphysically of the nature of Jesus, or metaphorically of his virtues, would amount to nothing more, on either supposition, than calling him simply God. But the stride which
your argument, when you go, at one step, from the premises, of a person's being called God, to the conclusion that he is really Jehovah, and one, in nature and essence, with the God and father of Jesus (page 22), is indeed immense; reaching not merely to climes beyond the solar road, but even far beyond all that I can conceive of the utmost bounds, and possible capacities, of universal nature; though you and your sound divines, so gigantic are your conceptions, seem to think no more of it than if you were crossing a kennel to go from one side of the street to the other.
Oh! the credulity of human nature! Do but begin with it in infancy, and you may so debase the gift of God to man, as scarcely to leave a trace of any thing, but his outward form, to distinguish between him and the beasts of the field.. You may degrade the human mind till it will swallow any thing. You may make it believe that a piece of bread is the body of a man who was buried near eighteen hundred years ago! Nay more; that the son of a galilean carpenter, who died upon the cross, , is the omnipotent Jehovah, who can neither die nor change, “ the blessed and only potentate, the king “ of kings, and lord of lords, who only hath im. ► mortality, dwelling in the light which no man
s can approach unto, whom no man hath seen, nor ^ can see !” (1 Tim. vi. 16.) And all this upon no other ground than a mere incidental metaphor dropt in a book, the whole stream of which runs clear, and full, and strong, against all such monstrous conceptions !*
Surely, Sir, you, and your orthodox brethren, can never allow yourselves to reflect seriously and deliberately upon the magnitude of the point to be proved, or you never would be the dupes of such frivolous reasoning. When I compare the enormity of your conclusions with the weakness of your pre, mises, I have no other alternative but to suppose either such a total want of reflection as I have just mentioned, or else that the early and repeated incul, cating of the tenet, coupled with the habitual
persuasion of its being profane to call the truth of it in question, has so subdued your judgments, that, as to inquiries of this sort, they are like the consciences
* « It is no wonder if men can accommodate scripture-expres$6 sions to their own dreams and fancies. For when men's fan. şi cies are so possessed with schemes and ideas of religion, $ whatever they look on appears of the same shape and colour “ wherewith their minds are already tinctured, like a man sick “ of the jaundice, or that looks through a painted glass, who “ seeth every thing of the same colour that his eye or glass gives
it. All the metaphors, and similitudes, and allegories of “ scripture, are easily applied to their purpose; and if any word « sound like the tinkling of their own fancies, it is no less than $6 a demonstration that that is the meaning of the spirit of God; *and every little shadow and appearance doth mightily confirm ss them in their pre-conceived opinions.” Dean SHERLOCK's Discourse on the Knowledge of Jesus Christ, page 69. 2d edit. 1674,
Paul speaks of, perfectly seared with a hot iron, and have lost all sense of feeling for any thing but your own prepossessions upon the subject.* .? That doctrine which makes man to be God, nay more, both god and man at the same time, is so contradictory, I do not say to the probabilities, but to every thing we know of the possibilities of reason and nature, and, in addition to this, so at variance with the general voice of all revelation, that a free and unbiassed mind, arrived at maturity, feels it a less violent measure to admit the truth of almost any supposition sooner than this. Were it true, which is very
far from being the case, that the scriptures had called Jesus God in such a way, as that it could be understood no otherwise than as an assertion of his divine nature, it would be much more easy and natural to suppose (harsh as the supposition, with
* « Chacun qui lit l'Ecriture Sainte après avoir jugé, avant
que de l'avoir jamais lue, qu'elle contient ce qu'on lui a en“ seigné, et qui croit qu'en douter un moment est un pêché qui “ mérite les flammes de l'enfer, y trouve infailliblement tous les « dogmes de son parti ; et si quelque expression paroît peu favor. "able à ces dogmes, on l'interprete par rapport à ce qu'on * pense, malgré toutes les régles de la critique, parce qu'on suppose que cela doit-être nécessairement ainsi."
LE CLERC, Bibliothéque Universelle, vol. x. p. 377. : “ This is enough to shew you how dangerous it is to pres possess our fancies with some arbitrary notions in religion, 56 which naturally force men to pervert the scriptures to make * them speak the orthodox language. To this we owe all those s nice and subtle distinctions, which constitute the body of sys. * tematical divinity, which commonly have no other design, " than to evade the force of scripture, or to bribe it to speak on " their side.” Dean SHERLOCK, ubi supra, p. 93,
out something else to corroborate it, would certainly be) that the words were interpolated, than that the doctrine was that of the scriptures.
But as the fact stands, there is no occasion for this, nor for any supposition, that has the smallest harshness in it whatever. All the harshness is on the side of those who maintain, and not of those who deny, the doctrine. For such is the context and connection, such the object and aim of the writer, in all those places of scripture (even of your own texts, with your own interpretation of them) in which the title of God is applied to Jesus, that it cannot possibly be supposed to have any
reference or allusion to the metaphysical nature and essence of our Saviour, without supposing that the writer has lugged in head and shoulders, as the phrase is, that which is quite foreign to the subject he has in hand. The whole design and drift of the author, all his views and purposes, together with the relations and dependencies that subsist between the surrounding words and the word God, conspire to point out its figurative meaning: *
* Not only in these places, but in many other parts of scripture, the common orthodox interpretations (to say nothing of the absurd consequences and contradictions which follow from such interpretations), are much more harsh and unnatural in themselves, than those given of the same passages by the Unitarians. Was ever any interpretation in this world half so harsh and unna. tural, for instance, as that commonly given of the beginning of John's Gospel? What could ever possess any writer to begin a book, without any preface or previous explanation of his meaning, with: “ In the beginning was the word,” if he meaned to say by that expression, “ In the beginning was Jesus Christ ?!? And get, from the mere effect of habit, the orthodox are grown quite
To suppose that the sacred writers, in these pasa sages, thought of any other meaning, is just as nainsensible to the harshness of this explanation. “ Every one w knows," says an othodox writer, “ that Christ is more fre
quently stiled the word in the uncontested writings of St. John u than elsewhere." .“ But,” says Lardner,“
though Mr. és Twells says every one knows this; I must entreat him to make “ an exception for me, till somebody has shewn me the several « texts of St. John's uncontested writings, where Christ is so $6 called ; for at present I do not know of one.” LARDNER'S Works, vol. iii. p. 122. edit. 1788; or Credibility, part ii. vol. iv. p. 711. edit. 1740.
the Unitarian interpretations hitherto given of this introduction to John's gospel, it has been said that they are harsh, forced and unnatural. Perhaps they may be so ; but certainly not in an equal degree with the orthodox. interpretation. A Unitarian writer in the old Unitarian Tracts, 4to. 1692, vol. i. tract vii. p. 8, “ frankly confesses” (to his credit), “that he * does not well understand this dark and difficult” passage, and adds, that he is not satisfied with either the Arian or Socinian
explications of it; but least of all with the Trinitarian sense." This is a sensible and manly acknowledgment, and I wish the commentators, both sacred and prophane, would oftener make these acknowledgments than they do.
With regard to this or that interpretation appearing natural or unnatural, it is a judicious and philosophical remark of Dr. Priestley, that impressions of this sort may often“ arise from * nothing more than former fixed associations of ideas, which
may have no foundation in truth.” “ A papist thinks - any other interpretation of the words, This is my body, than “ the most literal one, or that which implies the doctrine of s transubstantiation, to be exceedingly unnatural.” Preface to his English Harmony of the Gospels, page v. See also Preface to his “ Familiar illustration of certain passages of Scripture,”! an excellent little tract republished in Tracts by the Unitarian Society, 1791. 12mo. vol. i. p. 80 and 81. See also some good observations on this subject, in the old Unitarian Tracts, 4to, 1691. vol. i. tract. Thoughts on Sherlock's Vindication, p. 17 and 18, and tract, Brief Hist. p. 23.