« PreviousContinue »
in order to prove it"? Let those who consider this as a presumption against Unitarianism, remember, that though a suffering Messiah was foretold by the Jewish prophets, and though Jesus gave such proof that he was the Messiah, yet the Jews found the cross to be a stumbling block.
I was led to this digression by the prospect of what I have undertaken ; for the Unitarian in defending his own opinions, generally finds it necessary to do it with reference to the opinions of others. He is now in the situation in which I imagine that his opponents would have been, had they lived within the first thirty years after the ascension of our Lord; and though the whole weight of proof really lies with those who adopt the opinion that Jesus was not a man in the common sense of the term, yet as they consider that point as proved, we are obliged to assume the offensive as well as defensive part of the argumenta
How simple is the position that the sun is the centre of the solar system, and how accordant is it with the most obvious phenomena! yet, at first, the doctrine of Copernicus was rejected with contempt, by the wise and learned, as well as by the vulgar; and it was long before it gained the ascendancy over old opinions, which accorded with common phenomena, and were therefore supposed to be supported by them. That ascendancy it has at last fully acquired; and he who proposes to disprove the Copernican system has difficulties in his way, which to any one who can calculate them justly, must appear insuperable. Such I
wil] ere long be the case with respect to the doctrine of the proper unity of God, and, at a period somewhat more remote, with respect to its nearly related but not necessarily connecta ed doctrine, the proper humanity of our Saviour.
In pursuance of my object, I shall first point out what appear to myself completely satisfactory grounds for the conviction, that Unitarianism is the doctrine of the Gospel. I shall next consider the chief of those objections against the Unitarian doctrine concerning the person of Christ, which are derived from the Scriptures. And I shall lastly offer some considerations on the Scripture doctrine, respecting the redemption of man by Jesus Christ.
GROUNDS FOR THE CONVICTION THAT UNITA
RIANISM IS THE DOCTRINE OF THE GOSPEL.
Evidence of each Book of the New Testament, re
specting the Nature of our Saviour.
The chief opinions respecting the nature of Jesus Christ, which oppose the Unitarian doctrine are the following, 1. That he is the only God ;-2. That he is the very and eternal God, of one substance, power, and eternity with the Father ;-3: That he is inferior to the Father, yet properly God, and the creator and governor of at least this world ; -4. That he existed before his human birth, but without any agency in the creation or government of the world. There are many shades of difference between these leading opinions; but these are the prominent differences, and the division is suffici. ently accurate for my purpose.
It must, I should suppose, be admitted on all, hands, that at the time when the books of the New Testament were written, all was known by the
Apostles, whieh can now be known respecting the nature of our Saviour; and that no one of the writers of the New Testament, could be ignorant of what was then known. Again, it appears to me equally clear, that the writers of the New Testament did not compose their respective books with reference to each other, so that all might together form one whole; but that each wrote what was requisite for his particular purpose, without reference to what might in future be written by others. From these positions I infer as a natural consequence, that if either of the first three opinions above stated concerning the nature of Jesus, be accordant with the matter of fact, we may reasonably expect to find in every book in which he is expressly spoken of, sufficient reason to believe that the writer was acquainted with it and believed it. The circumstance must have been so astonishing in every point of view, that one who for more than thirty years was to all outward appearance a.
o The Gospel of John seems to imply an acquaintance with one or more of the first three Gospels, or with the basis of them; and it appears to me very probable that the writer had in view, among other things, to supply deficiencies in the previous narrations, particularly with respect to those transactions which displayed the great criminality of the Jews in rejecting Jesus. That it was not his purpose to. supply defects respecting the nature of Christ, I infer from his own statement in ch. xx. 31. But though it is probable that John's Gospel would not have been written, if the other Evangelists had recorded the events and discourses which he relates, yet there is no room whatever to one of the other Evangelists was influenced in his silence as to the supposed superior nature of Christ, by the knowledge or expectation that John would supply his defects on that point
[CH. II. man, who experienced all the wants and sufferings incident to human nature,—who, manifesting indeed thė possession of divine powers, spoke of them as the gift of God, and while employing them lived with his disciples, and was regarded by his followers at large, as a mang-who, at last, though holy and innocent, after experiencing intense distress of mind and acute pain of body, died as a malefactor on the cross,--and who, though raised from the dead by the power of God, and exalted to power and great glory, before his ascension was occasionally with his apostles as a man with his fellow-men?, and for some time after was spoken of by them without any reference to the superiority of his nature9,--it must, I say, be so astonishing in every point of view, that this person should have been himself the supreme Jehovah, or a being of one substance, power, and eternity with the Father, and himself the very and eternal God, or even the highest of created beings and the creator and governor of the world, that it appears to me next to impossible, that any to whom this stupendous event had been communicated, could, after such communication, write or speak of him in terms which could lead their readers or hearers to suppose that they were ignorant of it, or even leave them in doubt whether they fully believed it. Now most competent judges agree, that the earliest of the Gospels was not written, in its present form at least, till
p Luke xxiv. John xxi,
& See Acts i. 21. jj. 22, 23, 36. iii. 13. v. 30. 7. 38. xiii. 23, &c. &c.