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Prince saw that his admonitions were without effect, and that troubles and commotions, which the passions of men too often mingle with religious disputes, were spreading and increasing daily throughout the empire, he assembled at length, in the year 325, the famous Council of Nice, in Bithynia, wherein the deputies of the Church Universal were summoned to put an end to this controversy. In this general council, after many keen debates and violent efforts of the two parties, the doctrine of Arius was condemned ; Christ declared consubstantial or of the same essence with the Father; the vanquished Presbyter banished among the Illyrians, and his followers compelled to give their assent to the creed or confession of faith which was composed by this council.” |It InuSt not escape the notice of my readers, that so late as the year 314, the doctrine of the Son being of the same nature with the Father was supposed to be a matter of small importance, and little connected with the fundamental and essential doctrines of religion.
# The reason for the majority being in favour of the three persons of the Godhead at the Council of Nice may be easily accounted for, as I noticed before. More than nine tenths of the Christians of that age, including the emperor and princes, were Gentile converts, to whom the idea of a plurality of Gods was most familiar and acceptable, and to whose reason as well as practice the worship of a deity in the human shape was perfectly consonant, as appears from the following quotation, as well as
from the Roman and Grecian histories, Mosheim, Vol. I. p. 25: “The deities of almost all nations were either ancient heroes renowned for noble exploits and worthy deeds, or kings and generals who had founded empires, or women become illustrious by remarkable actions or useful inventions: the merit of these distinguished and eminent persons, contemplated by their posterity with an enthusiastic gratitude, was the reason of their being exalted to celestial honours.” We find also in the Acts of the Apostles, Paul declared to be God by the people of Melita, and both Paul and Barnabas regarded as gods by the inhabitants of Lystra; and the Saviour was ranked in the number of false gods even by professed Heathens. Acts, ch. xxviii. ver. 6: “Howbeit, they looked when he (Paul) should have swollen or fallen down dead suddenly; but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said he was a God.” Ch. xiv. ver. 11 : “The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.” Mosheim, Vol. I. p. 65: “Many who were not willing to adopt the whole of the doctrines of Christianity were nevertheless, as appears from undoubted records, so struck with the account of his life and actions, and so charmed with the sublime purity of his precepts, that they numbered him (Jesus) among the greatest heroes, may even among the gods themselves.” Page 66: “So illustrious was the fame of Christ’s power grown after his resurrection from the dead, and the miraculous gifts shed from on high upon his apostles, that the Emperor Tiberius is said to have proposed his being enrolled among the gods of Rome, which the opposition of the Senate hindered from taking effect.” | f some of the Heathens from the nature of their superstitions could rank Jesus among their false gods, it is no wonder if others, when nominally converted to Christianity, should have placed him on an equality with the true God, and should have passed a decree, constituting him one of the persons of the Godhead. These facts coincide entirely with my own firm persuasion of the impossibility, that a doctrine so inconsistent with the evidence of the senses as that of three persons in one being, should ever gain the sincere assent of any one, into whose mind it has not been instilled in early education. Early impressions alone can induce a Christian to believe that three are one, and one is three ; just as by the same means a Hindoo is made to believe that millions are one, and one is millions; and to imagine that an inanimate idol is a living substance, and capable of assuming various forms. As I have sought to attain the truths of Christianity from the words of the author of this religion, and from the undisputed instructions of his holy apostles, and not from a parent or tutor, I cannot help refusing my assent to any doctrine which I do not find scriptural.’s Before concluding, I beg to revert to one or two arguments respecting the nature of Jesus Christ, which have been already partly touched upon. It is maintained that his nature was double, being divine as Son of God, and human- as Son of Man —that in the former capacity he performed mira
cles and exercised authority over the wind and the sea, and as man was subject to, and experienced human feelings—joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain. Is it possible to consider a being in the human shape, acting daily in a manner required by the nature of the human race as the invisible God, above mortality and all the feelings of mortal beings, from a mere figurative application of the terms “Son of God” or “God” to him, and from the circumstance of his performing wonderful works contrary to the usual course of nature ? If so, what can prevent one from esteeming Moses and others, as possessed of both divine and human nature ? since Moses, likewise, is called God distinctly. (Eaodus, ch. vii. ver. 1 : “I have made thee a God to Pharaoh ;”) and he is also called man, (“wherewith Moses, the man of God, blessed Israel,” Deut. ch. xxiii. ver. I ;) and consequently it may be alleged, that in his divine capacity, Moses performed miracles, and commanded the heavens and the earth, (“Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth,” Deut. ch, xxxii. ver. 1; “For it (the word of Moses) is not a vain thing for you, because it is your life,” ver. 47;) and that in his human capacity, he suffered death and other miseries. Neither Jesus nor Moses ever declared, “I say so, and perform this as God; and I say so, and perform that as man.” If we give so great a latitude to the modes of reasoning employed to justify the idea of one being possessed of two sorts of consciousness, as God and man; two sorts of minds, divine and human ; and two sets of souls, eternal and perishable; then we shall not only be at a loss to know what is rational and what is absurd, but shall find our senses and experience of little or no use to us. The mode of interpreting the Scriptures which is universally adopted is this, that when two terms, seemingly contradictory, are applied to one person, then that which is most consistent with reason and with the context, should be taken in a literal, and the other in a figurative sense. Thus God is declared to be immaterial, and yet to have hands, eyes, &c. The latter expressions taken literally, being inconsistent with reason, and with other passages of the Scriptures, are understood as metaphorically implying his power and knowledge, while the former is interpreted in its strict and literal sense: in like manner the term “Lord God,” &c., applied to any other than the Supreme Being, must be figuratively understood. Were any one, in defiance of this general mode of interpretation, to insist that the term “God,” applied to Jesus, should be taken in its literal sense, and that, consequently, Jesus should be actually considered God in the human shape, he would not only acknowledge the same intimate connexion of matter with God, that exists between matter and the human soul, but also would necessarily justify the application of such phrases as “Mother of God” to the Virgin Mary, and “ Brother of God” to James and others, which are highly derogatory to the character of the Supreme Author of the universe; and it is the use of phrases similar to