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After this, philofophizing christians began to add to the pre-existent dignity of Christ in another way, and at length, carried it much higher than those upon whom this apostle animadverted with so much feverity. They said that Christ was originally in Goch being his reason, or logos which came out of him, and was personified before the creation of the world, in which he was the immediate agent, and that this new personage was henceforth the medium of all the divine communications to mankind, having been the person who spake to Adam in paradise, to Noah, to Abraham, and all the patriarchs, who delivered the law from mount Sinai, and lastly inhabited the body of Jesus of Nazareth.
On this principle they explained many passages in the Old Testament, in which the word of God is fpoken of, as that of the psalmist, By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, &c. making this word to be a person, distinct from God, whose word it was ; whereas nothing can be more plain, than that by the word of God in this place is meant the power of God, exerted with as much ease as men utter words.
These philosophizing christians took great pains to explain how the reason or wisdom of God could thus become a person, distinct from God, and yet God continue a reasonable being; but their account of it is too trilling to be recited in this place. However, it was far from being pretended, in gereral, that the doctrine of the divinity of Christ was such
a mystery as could not be explained. For by mystery they only meant something of a solemn nature, which was unknown ’till it was revealed or explained. And indeed this is plainly the use of the word mystery in the New Testament; and it was also the usual meaning of the word when the present translation of the bible was made; the mysteries of any particular trade being the secrets of that trade, which yet every master taught his apprentices.
In this state the doctrine continued 'till after the council of Nice in the year of our Lord 325; but in all this time a real superiority was always acknowledged in the Father, as the only source of divinity; and it was even explicitly acknowledged that there was a time when the son of God had no separate existence, being only the reason of God, just as the reason of man is a part, or a property of man. One of the most eminent of the christian fathers says, « There was a time when God was neither a father, " nor a judge; for he could not be a father before « he had a son, nor a judge before there was sin.”
So far were they from supposing the son of God to be equal to the Father, that when they were charged, as they frequently were, with making two Gods they generally replied, that the son was only God of God, as having proceeded from a superior God, which is the language of the Nicene creed; whereas the Father was God of himself (avlodio) by which they
meant underived, which they held to be the prerogative of the Father only.
In all this time the jewish cliristians, who were not tainted with the heathen philofophy, maintained the doctrine of the proper and simple humanity of Christ. Athanafius himself was so far from being able to deny this, that he says all the jews were fo fully persuaded that their Messiah was to be a ma! like themselves, that the apostles were obliged to use great caution in divulging the doctrine of the divinity of Christ. He says, that the reason why Peter Acts ii. 22. only calls him a man approved sjf God, and why, on other occasions in the courie of that book and other parts of the New Testament, he is simply called a man, was, that at first the apostles did not think proper to do more than prove that Jesus was. the Chrift, or Meffiah, and that they thought it prudent to divulge the doctrine of the divinity of Christ by degrees. He likewise fays, that the jews of those times, meaning the jewish christians, being in this error themselves drew the gentiles into it. Athanafius greatly commends the apostles for this address in their circumstances. But what the apostles fcrupled to teach, we should be scrupulous in believing. Chrysostom gives the same account of the situation of the apostles with respect to the jews.
It also clearly appears from ecclesiastical history that the unlearned among the christians were exceedingly averse to the doctrine of the divinity of Christ, D 2
even in the qualified sense above mentioned, opposing, what they called, the supreme monarchy of the Father, to the novel doctrine of the divinity of the son ; and the philosophizing christians were obliged to make laboured apologies to these early unitarians, acknowledging the perfect inferiority of the son to the Father. But at length these unitarians, 'who are expressly faid to have been the majority of christians in the third century, were overborne by the superior influence and popularity of their adverfaries, who, from believing Christ to be God in an inferior qualified sense of the word, came, in the natural course of things, to believe him to be God equal to the Father himself, and to have existed from all eternity independently of him. But it was several centuries before this do-trine was fully established. And the holy spirit was generally considered either as the same thing with the power of God, that is, God hiinselt (just as the spirit of a man is a man) or else a 'superangelic being, inferior both to the Father and the son, 'till after the council of Nice.
In the mean time, Arius and his followers, shocked at the doctrine of Christ being of the fume substance with the Father, maintained that, though he had preexisted, and had been the medium of all the dispensations of God to mankind, he was, like all other derived beings, created out of nothing ; the opinion of all souls having been emanations from the supreme mind being then generally denied by chrisians.
Thus did it please God, for reasons unknown to us, to permit'the rise and general spread of the trinitarian and Arian opinions, as he permitted the rise and amazing power of the man of fin, and many corruptions and abuses of christianity utterly subversive of the genuine purity of the gospel, 'till the full time for the reformation of this and other gross corruptions of christianity was come.
II. A CONCISE NISTORY OF THE DOCTRINES
OF GRACE, ORIGINAL SIN, AND PREDESTI-
It was a controversy about the nature and use of baptism that occasioned the starting of the doctrine of the natural impotence of man to do what God requires of him, of the imputation of the fin of Adam to all, his posterity, and of the arbitrary predestination of certain individuals of the human race to everlasting life, while the rest of mankind were left in a state of reprobation; and this was so late as four hundred years after Christ. Before that time it had been the universal opinion of christians, and of Austin him
self, who first advanced the doctrines above-mentioned, • that every man has the power of obeying or disobey
ing the laws of God, that all men may be saved if they will, and that no decrees of God will be the least obstruction in the way of any man's falvation.