Page images
PDF
EPUB

account of the scripture-doctrine concerning God and Christ: men of unquestioned piety, and eminent for natural and acquired abilities. And though their schemes have not been exactly the same, and they have not all had equal success and acceptance, it must be acknowledged, that their writings have been very usefui. They have kept up, and cherished a spirit of inquiry and thoughtfulness in things of religion. And they have promoted knowledge, moderation, candour and equity among Christians. And may such excellent dispositions prevail among us yet more and more.

Saith the venerable Dr. Sherlock, Bishop of London, in the fourth volume * of his Discourses, lately published, p. 321, 322. • From these things laid together it is evident, that the apostles

were witnesses and teachers of the faith, and had no authority to add any thing to the doc(trine of Christ, or to declare new articles of faith.

• Now if the apostles, commissioned directly by Christ himself, and supported by miraculous gifts of the spirit, had not this power, can any of their successors in the government of the church, without great impiety, pretend to it? Did the bishops and clergy of the ninth and tenth "centuries know the articles of the faith better than the apostles did? Or were they more power* fully assisted by the Holy Spirit? No Christian can think it, or say it. Whence is it then that

the church of Rome has received the power they pretend to, of making new articles of faith, and dooming all to eternal destruction who receive them not? Can any sober, serious Christian “trust himself to such guides, and not tremble, when he reads the woe denounced by St. Paul : • « Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel-let him be accursed?”. « Gal. i. 8.'

Certainly, that is a noble declaration, and well deserving the regard of all Christians.

His lordship here allows, or even asserts the rights of private judgment. He supposes, that common Christians, who have no share in the government of the church, are able to understand the doctrine delivered by the apostles, and the determinations of bishops, and to compare them together, and to discern wherein they differ. And he allows us to reject new articles, not deli--vered and taught by Christ's apostles. And strongly represents to us the great hazard of trusting to such assuming guides, as make and impose new articles of faith.

If we may judge of articles, taught by the bishops and clergy of the ninth and tenth centuries; we may for the same reason judge concerning those decreed by the bishops and clergy of the fourth and fifth centuries--For neither were they apostles, but at the utinost no more than successors of the apostles. And if it should appear, that they taught and recommended any articles, which are no part of “ the faith, once delivered to the saints” by Christ's apostles, such articles may be rejected by us.

And since it is allowed, that the bishops and clergy of the ninth and tenth centuries have assumed an authority to decide new articles, to which they had no right: should not this put Christians upon their guard, and induce them to examine the doctrine proposed to them, and consider, whether it is the faith once delivered to the saints, or somewhat added to it? For what has been done, or attempted, in some ages, may have been attempted in others.

His lordship blames the church of Rome for making new articles of faith, and dooming all to eternal destruction, who receive them not.

We should be impartial. If any others do the like, are not they blameable also ? It is well known, that there is a creed, in great authority with many, beside the church of Rome,, containing an abstruse doctrine, very hard to be believed. And it would be a very difficult under. taking to show, that it adds not any thing to the doctrine of Christ, as taught and testified by his faithful apostles. And yet it is there said: “This is the catholic faith, which except a man . • believe faithfully he cannot be saved.' And which faith, except every man do keep whole • and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. Can this be justified? And does.not the bishop's argument just recited, oblige me to add, though unwillingly: may it not deserve to be considered by every sober and serious Christian, who solemnly recites that creed: on whom those anathemas may fall, if God should treat men according to strict justice!

But I forbear enlarging: For I have been desirous, if possible, not to say any thing offen. sive. Therefore I do not indulge myself in grievous complaints, and severe reprehensions of such things, as by many have been thought to be wrong.

• It is the twelfth discourse in that volume. The text is the epistle of St. Jude, ver. 3. latter part.

But, if I might be permitted to do it, I would take notice of one thing, because it has a connection with the subject of this postscript.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost: as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen."

Doubtless, this is said by many very frequently, and with great devotion. But can it be said truly? Does not that deserve consideration? Is there any such doxology in the New Testament? If not, how can it be said, to have been in the beginning ? Are not the books of the New Testament the most ancient, and the most authentic Christian writings in all the world? It matters not much to inquire when this doxology was first used, or how long it has been in use, if it be not in the New Testament. And whether it is there, or not, may be known by those, who are pleased to read it with care: as all may, in Protestant countries, where the Bible lies open to be seen and read by all men.

I would therefore, after many others, recommend the diligent study of the scriptures, and the making use of all proper means for gaining the true sense of them. If we had the knowledge of the Christian religion, as contained in the scriptures, the advantages would be great and manifold. Jesus would be unspeakably amiable: and the gospel would appear to be a pearl of great price: Christians would be no longer wavering and unsettled, but would be firmly established in a faith, that is throughout reasonable and excellent, and well attested to be of divine original. As our Lord says to the woman of Samaria. John iv. 14. “ Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst.” He will be fully satisfied. He will desire no other instruction concerning the right way of worshipping and serving God, or obtaining true happiness. “ But the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life.”

If we would sincerely study, heartily embrace, and openly profess the Christian doctrine in its purity, and would diligently recoinmend it to others, upon the ground of that evidence, with which God hath clothed it, we should gain upon deists and infidels of all sorts. For a religion, reasonable and excellent in all its principles, promulged by a teacher of an unspotted character, with a commission from heaven, confirmed by many mighty works, which could be performed by God only, has an evidence, which cannot be easily withstood and gainsayed. But no authority can recommend falsehood and absurdity to rational beings, who think and consider. Every one therefore, who loves the Lord Jesus in sincerity, must be willing to reform abuses and corruptions, which have been introduced into the Christian profession, and are matter of offence to heathens and infidels.

When the religion professed by Christians shall be in all things agreeable to the scriptures, the only standard of religious truth; the advantages just mentioned, are very likely: as also divers others, which may be readily apprehended by every one. For then the papal power and tyranny, which for many ages has been a heavy weight upon Christendom, will sink, and fall to the ground: impositions upon conscience, which undermine religion at the very foundation, and prevail at present to a great degree in almost all Christian countries, will be abolished. The consequence of which will be, that true piety and virtue will be more general in all ranks and orders of men.

The great diversity of opinions, and fierce contentions among Christians, which are now so great an offence and scandal to by-standers, will cease: Christians will live in har. mony, and will love one another as brethren. And the Church of Christ will be the joy and the praise of the whole earth.

As an unbiassed and disinterested love, and pursuit of truth are of great importance, and would mightily conduce to the good ends and purposes which are so desirable; I cannot but wish, that we did all of us less mind our own things, the things of our own worldly wealth and credit, our own church and party, and more the things of Jesus Christ. To whom be glory and dominion now and ever.

Amen.

END OF THE FIRST POSTSCRIPT.

THE SECOND POSTSCRIPT.

CONTAINING REMARKS UPON THE THIRD PART OF THE LATE BISHOP OF CLOGHER'S

VINDICATION OF THE HISTORIES OF THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT..

Lett. iv, p. 59, or 425." But, my lord, supposing we should allow, that there were more • Gods than one concerned in the creation of the world, as manifestly appears that there were • from Gen. i. 26, and ch. iii. 22. where it is said: “ Let us make man in our image." And, 6 66 behold the man is become as one of us.

Is then creative power a property communicable to many or several? St. Paul speaks of one Creator only, Rom. i. 25. and blames the heathens, “who worshipped, and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.". What then would be the consequences, if Christians should come to believe, that there are more creators than one?

It is hard, that we should be put to prove, what is so very evident, as that there is one God creator. However, I shall here prove it from the Old, and New Testament.

Ex. xx. 1. “ And God spake all these words, saying-Ver. 3. Thou shalt have no other Gods before me." Ver. 10, 11. “ But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God-For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is.”

Ps. cxxxvi. « O, give thanks to the Lord, to him, who alone doth great wonders, to him that by wisdom made the heavens, to him that stretched out the earth above the waters: to him that made great lights, the sun to rule by day, the moon and stars to rule by night,” &c.

Is. xlii. 5. “ Thus saith God the Lord, he that created the heavens and stretched them out: he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it: he that giveth breath to the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein."

Is. xl. 28. “ Hast thou not known, hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, nor is weary?”

Ch. xliv. 24. “ Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb: I am the Lord, that maketh all things, that stretcheth forth the heavens alone, that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself.” See also ch. xlv. 11, 12. ch. li. 12, 13. Jer. x. 12. ch. li. 15. and elsewhere.

Let us now consider the words of Gen. i. 26. “ And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness."

Some Christians have said that here is a proof of a trinity of persons in the unity of the Godhead. The learned writer, now before us, argues hence for several creators, one supreme, another, or several subordinate. But it is easy to answer, that the Jewish people never understood these expressions after that manner; for they always believed one God and Creator, and that God to be one person. And many learned interpreters among Christians have said, that “ the style, common with princes, and other great men, who often speak in the plural num

· When I was preparing these remarks in March last 1758, vertently misrepresented them, I presume, they have friends we received the tidings of the death of the Right Reverend who are able to vindicate them. And, if my argument does Dr. Robert Clayton, Lord Bishop of Clogher, who departed not appear conclusive, I wish that they, or some others may this life the preceding month; which gave me much concern show wherein it fails. Jan. 25, 1759: upon divers accounts. In particular, I was in hopes, that b The author, in composing these remarks upon the third these remarks, such as they are, might be perused by his part of the bishop's Vindication, made use of that edition, lordship. I could wish likewise, that Mr. Whiston were which was printed at London in 1758. But another edition still living. But they are both removed out of this world, as of the whole Vindication, with all the three parts, having I likewise shall be in a short time. And certainly, it behoves been published here on the twenty-third day of this instant us all to improve diligently the season of life whilst it lasts, January, 1759, just as these sheets were going to the press, and to serve God and man according to the ability which le has taken care to add the pages of this new edition to God has given us, and the station in which we have been those of the former. placed, that we may give up an account of our stewardship • Faciamus.'] Mos est Hebræis de Deo, ut de Rege, with joy, and not with grief. Though those eminent and loqui. Reges res magnas agunt de consilio primorum. 1 Reg: useful men are now no more in this world, their writings re- xii

. 6. 2 Paral. x. 9. Sic et Deus 1 Reg. xxii. 20. Grot. ad main. It is with these that I am concerned. If I have inad. Gen, i. 26.

ber, is here ascribed to God. Nor needs the consultation, here represented, be supposed to be between equals. But God may be rather understood to declare his mind to the angels, as his counsellors.

But indeed we need not suppose any discourse, or consultation at all. The meaning is no more than this. · All other things being made, God proceeded to the creation of man: or, he

now proposed, at the conclusion, to inake man.' And it may be reckoned probable, that Moses introduces God, in this peculiar manner, deliberating and consulting upon the creation of man, to intimate thereby, that he is the chief of the works of God. Or, in other words, according to Patrick, God not only reserved man for the last of his works, but does, as it were, advise, • and consult, and deliberate about his production: the better to represent the dignity of man, and that he was made with admirable wisdom and prudence.'

We may be confirmed in the reasonableness of this way of thinking by observing the style made use of in speaking of all the other parts of the creation, which is to this effect. 6 God said, Let there be light, and there was light. God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of 'the waterswaters And God

And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind.' There is another like instance ch. ii. 18. “ And the Lord God, [Jehovah, Elohim,] said, It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him an' help meet for him.' The design of the other expressions, as before observed, was to intimate the great dignity and superior excellence of man above the other creatures, whose formation has been already related. In like manner, when God proceeds to the making of the woman, he is represented as consulting, and resolving what to do: that the man might be the more sensible of the goodness of the Creator in providing for him so suitable a help.

Moreover, though in Gen. i. 26. the words are: “ And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness:” the execution of that purpose, as related in ver. 27. is in these words: “ So God created man in his own image: in the image of God created he him: male and female created us them.” And when the formation of man is mentioned in other places of scripture, no intimation is given that more than one had a hand in his creation. See particu. larly Matt. xix. 3—6. Mark x. 249. where our blessed Lord himself says: “ From the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.” And “what God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” For certain therefore man, as well as the other creatures, was made by God himself.

If more than one being had been concerned in the creation of man, or any other parts of the world, we ought to have been acquainted with it, that due respect might be paid to them by us. As scripture is here silent, no man has a right to ascribe that to another which the scripture ascribes to God alone. And wherein, as in Ps. cxlviii. all beings, of every rank, in heaven and on earth, are required to praise God for the wonders of their formation. « Praise ye the Lord: praise him from the heavens: praise him all ye his angels: praise ye him all his hosts: praise ye him sun and moon: praise him all ye stars of light Let them praise the name of the Lord. For he commanded, and they were createdKings of the earth, and all people : princes, and all judges of the earth-Let them praise the name of the Lord; for his name alone is excellent; and his glory is above the earth and heaven."

Ecc. xii. 1. “ Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth.” In the Hebrew the word is plural, Creators. Nevertheless, not only our own, but all other versions translate, and rightly, Creator. Και μνησθητι τε κτισαντος σε εν ημε ραις νεοτητος σε.

Gr. Memento Creatoris tui in diebus juventutis tuæ. Lat.

Is. liv. 5. “ For thy maker is thy husband.” In the Hebrew, literally, “ for thy makers are thy husbands.” Nevertheless the words are always understood as singular. And what follows, shows that one person is only intended : “ the Lord of hosts is his name.”

Calvin's remark upon Gen. iii. 22. is to this purpose: Whereas,' says he, • from this place draw the doctrine of a Trinity of persons in the Deity; I fear their argument * is not solid.' Quod autem eliciunt ex hoc loco christiani doctrinam de tribus in Deo personis, vereor ne satis firmuin sit argumentum.

But Patrick says: • Those words plainly insinuate a plurality of persons. And all other • interpretations seem forced and unnatural.' And he particularly rejects what Calvin says.

he, 'many

many Christians

man.

For my part, so far as I am able to judge, if those words implied more Divine Persons than one, or more Creators than one; it would not be worth while to dispute, whether they are equal, or not.

But, as before intimated, I rather think, that here, and in some other like texts, there is a reference to the angelic order of beings, supposed to be more perfect, and more knowing than

For though Moses gives no particular account of the creation of angels, their existence is supposed in divers parts of his history. And they may be considered as counsellors only, or witnesses and attendants.

And I cannot help being of opinion, that those Christians, who endeavour to prove, from the Old Testament, a Trinity of Divine Persons, or more Creators than one, whether co-equal or subordinate, expose themselves to the unbelieving part of the Jewish people, whom they are desirous to gain. For the Divine unity is with them a fundamental article of religion. Remarkable are the words of Lord King, in his Critical History of the Apostles' Creed, upon the first article of it, p. 55, 56. • As for the persons, who were condemned by this clause, it will be readily granted, that they were not the Jews, seeing the unity of the Godhead is every where inculcated in the Mosaical law, and the body of that people have been so immoveably fixed and confirmed in the belief thereof, that now, throughout their sixteen hundred years captivity and dispersion, they have never quitted or deserted that principle, that God is one: as is evident from their thirteen articles of faith, composed by Maimonides, the second whereof is the Unity of the Blessed God. Which is there explained to be in such a peculiar and transcendent manner, as that nothing like it can be found. And in their liturgy, according to the use of the Sepharadim, or the Spaniards, which is read in those parts of the world, in their synagogues, in the very first hymn, which is an admiring declaration of the excellences of the Divine Nature, the repeated chorus is this : All creatures, both above and below, testify and witness, all of them as one, that the Lord is one, and his name one.'

And if we would but read the New Testament with care, and then consider what we have read and seen therein; we might know, that one object of worship is there recommended by Christ and his apostles, and that he is the everlasting God, the Creator of the world, and all things therein, and the same who was worshipped by the Jewish people, and their ancestors.

Our Lord himself says, that he came in his Father's name, and acted by his authority, even his, who, the Jews said, was their God. And he styles him • Lord of heaven and earth, and the only true God.' And he referred them to their scriptures, as testifying of him.

The apostles of Christ after his ascension, preaching to Jews, say: “ The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers has glorified his son Jesus,” Acts iii. 13. “ the God of our fathers raised up Jesus, chap. v. 3. And requesting special assistance from heaven in their work, and under their many difficulties, “ they lift up their voice to God, and said: Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is. Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said”-chap. iv. 24, 25.

Paul, writing to the Jewish believers, says: “God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has, in these last days, spoken unto us by his Son,” Heb. i. 1, 2. He and Barnabas, teaching Gentiles, say; that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, who made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein.” Acts xiv. 15. And at Athens, says Paul: “ God that made the world, and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands.” chap. xvii. 29.

I think I have now proved, both from the Old and the New Testament, that there is one God, creator of man and all things in the world. *

Accordingly, the first article in the apostle's creed, which ought never to be diminished, or enervated, is this: • I believe in God the Father, almighty, maker of heaven and earth.'

Lett. vii. p. 128, or 479. • Now upon examination into the scriptures, it will appear, that • this Messiah, or Christ, was the same person with the great archangel Michael, who was the guardian angel of Israel.'

For which the learned author alleges, 1 Cor. x. 4 and 9. and Heb. xi. 26. But as none of

• More texts to the like purpose may be seen alleged above at p. 380, note a

VOL. V.

3 1

« PreviousContinue »