Page images
PDF
EPUB

may be

proper to

one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the god• head of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one, the glory equal, the majesty

coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.-- The Father • eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet there are not three eternals, • but one eternal. As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated, but one: • uncreated, and one incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, • and the Holy Ghost almighty. And yet there are not three Almighties, but one Almighty. • So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet there are not three Gods, but one God.'

According to this creed, there are “not three eternals, but one eternal, not three Almighties, but one Almighty.” So this seems to me. However, let every man judge for himself. And let every man who thinks himself orthodox, examine himself by this creed; whether he be so, or not. For it is not impossible that many well meaning people, of lower rank, may believe a real Trinity of distinct intelligent beings. "Yea it is likely, that this is indeed the firm belief and persuasion of great numbers of the vulgar sort among Christians. It may be also the sentiment of some who make no snall figure in the learned world.

Nevertheless, I do not think that to be what is called the commonly received doctrine of the church. This appears to me evident from the forecited creed.

Before we proceed to apply this doctrine to the words of the text, it observe still more distinctly the received doctrine concerning the Son. The second article of the Church of England is thus. • The Son, which is the word of the Father, begotten from • everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father, took

man's nature in the womb of the blessed virgin, of her substance :: so that two whole and • perfect natures, that is, the godhead and manhood were joined together in one person, never • to be divided. Whereof is one Christ, very God, and very man; who truly suffered, was dead. and buried.'

I have taken the words of that article, that I may be sure to avoid all misrepresentation, and that there may be no suspicion of it.

Let us now observe the explication of the text, agreeably to this scheme; which I shall take in the words of a pious annotator.“ • « Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ • Jesus.” As Christ denied himself for you, so should you for others. “Who being in the form • of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:” that is, who being the essential image of • the Father, and enjoying the divine essence and nature with all its glory, knew that it was no • usurpation in him, to account himself so, and carry himself as such.“ But made himself of no : • reputation.” Yet he emptied himself of that divine glory and majesty, by hiding it in the vail • of his flesh: “and took upon him the form of a servant:" that is, the quality and condition of a mean person, not of some great man. “ And was made in the likeness of men :” that is, subject to all the frailties and infirmities of human nature, sin only excepted. “And being • found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself.” By what appeared to all

, and by the whole .tenour of his carriage, he was found to be a true man. And became obedient unto death, • even unto the death of the cross." He manifested his obedience, as in all other particulars, so: • in resigning up himself to death, the death of the cross, the most cruel, contemptible, and • accursed death. “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name, which is above every name.” Wherefore God advanced his human nature to the highest degree of • glory, and has given him honour, authority and majesty above all created excellence.?

Upon this interpretation it is easy to remark, that it does not seem exactly to answer the apostle's expressions. It supposes two things to be spoken of, first the Deity, then the humanity of Jesus. I ,

say, it is supposed, that the apostle first speaks of Christ's being “ of the divine nature and essence," and therein humbling himself. And the human nature is exalted. Whereas: the apostle seems to speak all along of one thing or person. “ Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who made himself of no reputation- Wherefore God also has highly exalted him, and given him a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow." He who had humbled himself is exalted. Nor can true Deity either be abased or rewarded.

* Mr. Samuel Clark's Annotations upon the place.

There is therefore no small difficulty in applying the commonly received opinion concerning Christ, as God, of the same substance, and equal with the Father, to this text. Or, it is not easy to reconcile the doctrine of the apostle in this place, and the commonly received opinion concerning the Trinity.

I shall now conclude with these two remarks.

I. The commonly received doctrine of the Trinity, which is reckoned orthodox, and the doctrine of the Church, is obscure. Indeed it is generally acknowledged to be very mysterious. And it appears to be so from the authentic accounts which have been now given of it. For it is said that there are “ three persons.in the godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost :” and they are said to be “ equal in power and glory.” Which expressions seem to intimate, that there are three distinct beings, and minds. But yet, on the other hand, it is as plainly said, that there is “ but one eternal, and one Almighty.”

These expressions must be allowed to represent an obscure doctrine. Some have said, that it is contradictory.

All I affirm is, that it is obscure, and difficult to be conceived and understood, if it be not absolutely incomprehensible.

II. Secondly, I would observe, that obscure doctrines ought not to be made necessary to salvation. They who consider the general tenour, and great design of the preaching of Christ and his apostles, to all sorts of men, in order to bring them to repentance and holiness, and thereby to everlasting happiness, by the good-will and appointment of God, will be easily led to think that there should not be any doctrines, necessary to be believed, which are of such a nature, that the most metaphysical and philosophical minds can scarcely know what they are, or reconcile them to reason. Therefore the commonly received doctrine of the Trinity, if it be obscure, should not be made a necessary article of a Christian's faith. And yet this is the introduction to the Athanasian Creed: · Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary, * that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith, except every one do keep whole and undefiled, * without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one • God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity :' and the rest. And the more fully to enforce the necessity of this doctrine, it is repeated again at the end : • This is the catholic faith. Which . except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.'

This, and other like creeds, are inserted in almost all the established articles and liturgies in Christendom.

But is not this teaching uncharitableness by authority? And, if any join in such offices of religion, whilst they believe not the creeds which they recite, or are supposed to recite, they are made to pass sentences of condemnation upon themselves.

How great then is the privilege to be at liberty to choose our religion, and that way of worship, which upon a serious consideration, and after careful and impartial examination, we bink to be reasonable, scriptural, and edifying !

DISCOURSE II.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.-Philip. ii. 5–11. And what follows. In a late discourse on this text, I stated and considered the commonly received opinion concerning the Trinity, and the person of Christ in particular.

I now intend to consider another sentiment concerning the person of Christ, and consequently also concerning the Trinity.

Some then suppose the Son to be a spirit, or intelligent agent, subordinate and inferior to the Father. They think that this is what is meant by the Word, spoken of by St. John at the beginning of his gospel. “ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God:” or a God, as they would translate : not the same with the Father, or equal to him, or of the same nature and essence: but said to be God, on account of his great excellence and power, derived to him by the will of the Father. “ All things were made by him, that is, by him under the Father, as his instrument, and by his appointment. 6. And without him was not any thing made that was made.”

To the like purpose they understand and explain Col. i. 15, 16. “Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature. For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible; whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers. All things were created by him, and for him.”

Which words are thus paraphrased by an ingenious and learned commentator, of the sentiment, which I am now endeavouring to represent as fairly as may be-Since he is the most

lively visible image of the Father who is the invisible God, and is the first being that was derived • from him. And that he must be the first derived from him, is from hence evident, that all other beings were derived from God the primary and supreme cause of all, through this his Son, by ! whom, as their immediate Author, all things were created, that are in heaven, or that are in

earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers. • All things were created by him, and to be in subjection to him. He therefore must be before • all things. And by him all things are preserved.' And he is the head of the church, which is • is his body.'

Heb. i. 1, 2. “God hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.” In his notes upon these last words, the same learned expositor says: “As from other places it appears, that Christ was employed in,

making the world, so this seems most agreeable to the scope of the writer of the epistle to the · Hebrews. His intention appears to be, to give the loftiest and most noble account of his

greatness and dignity, abstractedly from what he proceeds to afterwards, the honour conferred •

upon him at his resurrection. Now since he so expressly mentions that which may seem a less • instance of his greatness, that “he upholds all things;" it is not probable, that he would omit that which was greater, God's creating the worlds by him.'

Of the Word, or Son of God, these learned men do also generally understand Prov. viii. 22-Si.

Well, then, the Son being, according to this scheme, the first derived being, and God having made the world by him: what was the station, what the employment, what the dignity of the Son of God before his incarnation ?

The learned annotator before quoted, in his notes upon Philip. ii. 9, says: “The scriptures • seem to represent this to have been the state of things antecedently to our Saviour's coming • into the world: that God allotted to the angels provinces and dominions, one being appointed • to preside over one country, and another over another. The places as evidences of this, are • all taken out of Dan. x; where is related a vision of an angel sent to Daniel in the third year

of Cyrus king of Persia. Thus he speaks, ver. 13. “ The prince of the kingdom of Persia · withstood me one and twenty days: but lo, Michael, one,” or the first “ of the chief princes, • came to help me.”. Afterwards, in the two last verses of that chapter, the same angel says: « « Now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia. And when I am gone forth, lo, the • prince of Græcia shall come. But I will shew thee what is noted in the scripture of truth. • And there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince.” So that, • as this learned writer proceeds, we have here the prince of Persia, the prince of Græcia, and • the prince of the Jews, spoken of. And what reason can we have to question, whether the • like was not the case of the other countries, that they had in like manner their respective pre•sidents or princes? This leads us farther to consider the state of our Saviour himself before • his incarnation--As the heathen nations were committed to other angels, the Israelites were * committed to Christ, who was the angel of the covenant, or of God's covenanted people.' So that learned writer.

There may be different conceptions concerning Christ, among those who must be allowed to be in the main of this opinion. They all suppose the Word, or Son of God, to be a being distinct from God the Father, subordinate and inferior to him. But some may ascribe to him higher dignity than others. [And] we have just now seen, that one and the saine person, who thinks

* Mr. James Peirce.

[blocks in formation]

that all things were made by the Son, supposeth him before his incarnation to have had only, or chiefly, the care and government of the Jewish people allotted to him: whilst other angels were appointed presidents or princes of other nations and countries.

One thing ought to be added here. They who are of this sentiment do generally suppose, that this great being, the Word, the Son of God, upon our Saviour's conception and birth, ani. mated the body prepared for him. So that our Saviour had not, properly, a human soul. But the Word, the Son of God, supplied the place of a soul.

The Spirit, or Holy Ghost, the learned men of this sentiment, I presume, take to be a being, or intelligent agent, inferior in power and perfection, not only to God the Father, but likewise to the Son of God.

According to these therefore the Father is the one supreme God over all, absolutely eternal, underived, unchangeable, independent.

The Son is the first derived being from the Father, and under him employed in creating, and also preserving and upholding the world, with, as some say, an especial allotment of the president. ship

over the people of Israel.

The Spirit is a third person, also derived from the Father, and of power and perfection inferior to the Son.

I have endeavoured to give here, as well as elsewhere, a true representation. If I have niistaken, it is not done willingly and designedly. And I shall be ready to be better informed.

Let us now apply this scheme to the text: ör see, how it is explained by the favourers of this sentiment. And I hope to have here again the assistance of the same learned divine and commentator, who has been quoted already several times.

Ver. 5, 6. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal wiih God.” Ye ought to be of such a kind and * beneficent, of such a humble and condescending disposition, as Christ Jesus himself was: who • being in the form or likeness of God, was not eager in retaining that likeness to God.'

The “form of God” is farther explained in this manner, p. 26. He was in the form or • likeness of God, upon account of that authority, dominion, and power, with which he was in• trusted, and which he exercised antecedently to his coming into the world.-Our Saviour ante* cedently to his incarnation, having the Jews committed to him of God, and being prince of that people, or the King of Israel, was in the form and likeness of God.

• Who being in the form or likeness of God, was not eager in retaining that likeness to God; • but on the contrary he emptied himself of that form of God, taking upon him a very different • form or likeness, even that of a servant, when he was made in the likeness of men.'

And for explaining this last particular it is added by the same interpreter in his notes: • If • it be here inquired, why does St. Paul say, “he was in the likeness of men ?” Was he not “truly and properly a man? The answer is easy, that “men” signifies such animated bodies as ours are, inhabited each by a rational soul. And so, as to his body, he was in all respects a man, just as we are, he having taken part with us in flesh and blood, and having a body prepared • for him. The “ likeness” therefore belongs not to that, but to the other part of man, the ti

MyEuovinov, the rational spirit: wherein he was vastly more than man, the Word, or Logos, that • was in the form of God, being so transcendently superior to the most noble soul that ever inha• bited any other human flesh.

s“ And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross.' And though his becoming man was a great instance of humility • and condescension, yet he did not stop at that: but when he was (actually) in the same con• dition and state with men, he humbled himself yet farther by becoming obedient to God unto • death, and that too the death of the cross, which was attended with the greatest reproach as « well as torment.'

Ver. 9, 10, 11. "«Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name, which * is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess, that Jesus

Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”. And upon this account God has advanced • him higher than before, and freely bestowed on him an authority that is superior to what he

ever granted to any other : that by virtue of the authority of Jesus all should be constrained to • submit to God; whether they are heavenly or earthly [beings], or such as are under the carth : • and that every tongue should acknowledge that Jesus Christ is, by this gift of God, Lord of all, * to the glory of God the Father.' This

exaltation, or superior exaltation of Christ above what he had before, is illustrated by the same learned expositor in his notes after this manner: “When our Lord came into the world, • he laid aside that form of God he was in before, and was made for a little time, that is, till his • resurrection, lower than the angels, they still continuing their dominion, while he parted with • his. At our Lord's resurrection an entire change was made in this state of things, and an end was put to this rule of angels: they themselves, together with all nations, were put under one head, even Christ, whose authority and power was then so highly advanced above what it was • before; he being intrusted with an universal dominion, and all that were rulers and governors • before being made his subjects and ministers.'

I have been the longer in representing this scheme, that I might shew. it to as much advan. tage as possible. And now I shall propose some objections to it.

One observation, which I mention in the first place, relates to a particular article in this scheme.

It is not reasonable that the Word, the Son of God, the first derived being who had been employed under God the Father in making all things, should, some time after the world was made, have so limited dominion and authority, as to be the president and governor of the Jewish people only: whilst other angels had like power and dominion over other people and countries.

What reason can be assigned, why the being, who under God the Father had been creator of all things, visible and invisible, should be put quite, or well nigh, upon a level with his creatures ? There is no ground, from reason or scripture,, to believe any voluntary or imposed humiliation of the Son of God before his incarnation.

I might likewise ask what reason can be assigned, why any good angels should, after our Lord's resurrection and ascension,, be deprived of any advantages which they before enjoyed ? For it may be well supposed, that if they were acquainted with our Lord's transactions here on earth, by the will of the Father, for the good of mankind, they approved, admired, and applauded them. And some of the angels may have been, yea, were employed in. attending upon, and ministering to Jesus, whilst he dwelt on this earth..

However this may be reckoned by some to be an exception only to the scheme of the learned commentator before cited : I therefore place these observations here by themselves.

But for the present, setting that aside, all, I think, who are in this scheme, that the Word, the Son of God, is a distinct being; inferior to God the Father, suppose, that he was employed under God the Father, in creating the heavens and the earth, and all things that are therein: that afterwards he was incarnate, humbled himself, suffered and died, and was exalted.

Against this scheme then, as distinguished from the foregoing particular (though that has been introduced as a plausible supposition)

I object as follows. 1. The Lord Jesus, in the New Testament, is often spoken of as “a man;" which means a being with a reasonable soul and human body. But, if the Word, a transcendently great and excellent spirit, far superior to human souls, animated the body of Jesus, as a soul, then our Lord was not, properly speaking, a man: though this be often said in seripture, and spoken of as a thing of importance. I do not now alledge any texts by way of proof. There may be occasion to produce them distinctly in another place.

2. It appears to be an impropriety, and incongruity, that any spirit, except a human soul, should animate a human body. It would, I apprehend, be an incongruity not parallelled in any of the works of God, of which we have any knowledge.

3. Jesus Christ, as we evidently know from his history in the gospels, had all the innocent, sinless infirmities of the human nature. He was weary with journeyings, he hungred, and had thirst, he needed the refreshment of food, and of rest, or sleep: and he endured pain, and at some times piercing affliction and grief, and at last died..

But this could not have been, supposing the body of Jesus to have been animated by so transcendently powerful and active a spirit as the Word, or the Son of God, in this scheme is supposed to be. He could not have been diminished or weakened thereby. Supposing such an union of so great a spirit with a human body, it would swallow it up. I mean, that spirit would not be straitened and confined, or diminished by the body, but would infuse vigour and activity into the body: so that it would be no longer liable to the weaknesses to which human bodies actuated

« PreviousContinue »