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error* , “ Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh," that is, that he is properly a man, " is of God. And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh," that is, that denieth him to be a man, " is not of God. This is that spirit of antichrist, whereof you have heard that it should come.” Nor can your correspondent object to this interpretation of the term flesh, because to support his sense of the passage it must refer to what he calls the humanity of Christ in distinction from his divinity. Now what is this spirit of antichrist but trinitarianism ? Those who maintain that doctrine have all the marks of antichrist given us by this apostle. By asserting that Jesus Christ is the very God, or that he is a mysterious being in whose nature divinity and humanity are so united, mixed, and confounded, as to constitute an heterogeneous person, neither God nor man, they deny him to be man, or that he is come in flesh; for though they ascribe humanity to him, yet they affirm that humanity not to be a person, but a mere nature, and consequently not a man.
John is supposed to have written what he says of antichrist in: opposition to the doctrine of Cerinthus, who maintained that Jesus was not the Christ, but that the Christ was a divine person that descended into Jesus at his baptism and Aed from him to heaven at his crucifixion; hence John says, 1. Epis. ii. 22. “ Who is a liar, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.” And what is trinitarianism but the doctrine of Cerinthus obscured by the pretended hypostatical union of the two natures in one person ? Arailing themselves of this device, they can affirm or deny any thing of Jesus Christ, either that he was the Christ, or that he was not the Christ; that he was God, or that he was not God; that he was inmutable and impassible, and yet that he was capable of sufferings and of death; thus denying him to be a man,' and consequently denying him to be the Christ, the anointed of God.
The doctrine of the trinity is the most prominent feature in that grand apostacy and corruption of Christianity predicted in the New Testament; it is, as John expresses it, the very spirit of antichrist; upon it is built the doctrine of transubstantiationthe deification of the Virgin Mary, and almost every other branch of that monstrous and abominable superstition, which has sa long prevailed under the name of christianity to the almost total subversion of christianity itself.
But to return. This whole passage is thus rendered by the late Mr. Wakefield. “ And confessedly great is this mystery of godliness, which was manifested in flesh, vindicated by the spirit, seen by messengers (that is apostles), proclaimed among gentiles, believed on in the world, taken up with glory.”
But supposing the word laos not to be an interpolation but the genuine reading, still the passage has no relation to any fancied mystery in the person of Christ, which never formed any part of Apostolic preaching, (if we havea faithful account of their ministry,) as this mystery is said to do, but only to the manifestation of God in, or by the doctrine and miracles of Jesus Christ; for this is that which was preached to the gentiles and believed on in the world.
His next pretended assertion of the New Testament, “ that Christ is God,” is in these words, “ God who hath purchased the Church with his own blood.” Acts xx. 28. If the person who is here represented as shedding his blood to purchase the Church be properly God, it will involve in it the idea that the divine being is material, and capable of suffering and death, which is so repugnant to all our notions of God, so gross and absurd as not to be admitted by any rational being. If by his own blood we understand the blood which was by him appointed to be shed for that purpose, and on that account called his own blood, it will relieve the passage from that preposterous idea ;, but then it will be destructive of the end for which it is brought bvthis writer. We are certain, however, from the correct language of the New Testament, that the blood here spoken of is not the blood of God, but of Jesus Christ; an ellipsis must therefore be supposed, and that the pronoun he is to be understood as having Christ for its antecedent though not expressed, which is no un. usual thing in the New Testament; so John iii. 5. “ Ye know that he was manifest to take away our sins," where there is no antecedent to the pronoun he but the Father, yet he cannot be intended, and we are under the necessity of understanding the words of Jesus Christ, though he is not mentioned in the context : so verse 16th of the same chapter, “ hereby perceive we the love of God, in that he (Christ) laid down his life for us.''
Besides, some of the ancient versions read, “ the Church of the Lord,” and the Syriac, which is of the highest antiquity and authority, reads," the Church of the Messiah which he hath purchased with his own blood.” So far therefore is the passage from asserting that, “ Christ is God," that it cannot rationally be interpreted consistently with such an idea.
But to proceed, this writer adds concerning Jesus Christ that the New Testament asserts him to be " the pre-existent Creator of the universe, equal with God the Father.” Where are such assertions to be found in that book ? As to the first of them the passage referred to, Col. i. 15–17, has neither the term pre-existent, Creator, nor universe in it. How then can it assert that Jesus Christ is the pre-existent Creator of the uni. verse? Nor is it asserted in any other passage in the sacred writings.
As to the other assertion that Christ is God,“ equal with God the Father," there is not any thing like it in the New Testament. In Phil. ii. 6. (the passage referred to) he is neither said to be God, nor to be equal with God the Father. The words in the common translation are, " Who being in the form · of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God." That. this is not, however, a just rendering of the original will appear from the following considerations, 1.-It opposes the design of the Apostle, who had before said, “ Look not every man on liis own things, but every man also on the things of others, let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” and then, in the words under consideration, he informs them what that mind was that he inight stimulate the Philippians to an imitation of it. Now is it possible to suppose that the apostle meant to exhort them to think themselves equal with God, and to esteem it no robbery to think so ? Yet this must be his meaning if this be a true rendering of the words. 2.-If there be but one God, to say that he is equal with himself is unmeaning and absurd; but if there be a God, and there is another being who is also God equal with him, then there are two Gods, and the position that God is one is not true. 3. - Jesus Christ positively asserts bis inferiority to the Father, John xiv. 28. “My Fa. ther is greater than 1.” When the Jews charred him with " making himself God,” he answered them saving, 6 I said, I am the Son of God.” John X. 33. 36. Now this was either a direct denial of the fact, or an unjustifiable evasion of it. The true rendering, probably, is, " Who though he were in the forma of God, was not tenacious of retaining that likeness to God, but emptied himself.” The word apnayur does not mean roba bery, but a prize, something in a person's possession that is esteemed valuable and not readily to be parted with. Such was the form of God to Jesus, yet when for the salvation of mankind it was necessary to part with it, he did not contemplate his own glory, he did not, in the words of the apostle, look on his oi'n Things, he was not tenacious of retaining that likeness,
but he emptied himself and took upon him the form of a ser..
We may observe that, so far as we have gone, in his references to the New Testament, in no one instance has he cited the real expressions of it, as they stand even in the common translation, but has imposed upon us as its assertions what it no where contains. Does that man act uprightly, who, professing to give me the assertions of a writer whose works are in a language which I am unacquainted with, but which is familiar to him, instead of giving a fair translation of his words, not only cites a corrupt translation of them, but also alters and misrepresents that translation, in order to make it speak a language, and support a sentiment, wi ich ihe author never intended? Yet such is the conduct of the author of the Remarks on Mr. Stone's Visitation Sermon.
There are, however, two remaining passages of the New Testament which are indeed its real language ; but then they do not either of them contain any thing like an assertion that “ Christ is God.” Those passages are, “ King of kings, and Lord of Jords, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the lasi." As to the first of these neither Mr. Stone nor any other Cnitarian would, I presume, hesitate in applying it to Jesus Christ, who is “ the Prince of the kings of the earth, and Lord of all.”
The other, though applied to the Divine Being in an absolute sense, may be applied to Jesus Christ in a relative one, without asserting ihat he is God. Thus it is evidently applied to hiin, as we learn from the addition made to this siile by himself, “ [ am the first and the last; I am he that liveth and was dead; and behold, I am alive forevermore; amen.” Rev. i. 17, 18. But when it is applied to the Divine Being, it is with ile addition of “ Saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty." Rev. i. 4. 8. Now with the former addition the terms 6 Alpha and Omega, the first and the last,” cannot be descriptive of the Divine Being, nor with the latter addition can they be a description of Jesus Christ, nor are they ever so applied to bim. Epithets peculiar to the Divine Being alone in the absolute sense of them, are also applied in a relative sense to men; so nasters are called deguotas, Tii.ii.9. whereas the
.. • Divine Being, to express his absolute sovereignty, is said to be
Hovox DEOWOTNY Ozov. Jude, v. 4. • Thus we see how futile the attempts of this writer are by any appeals to the New Testament to support what he called the divinity of Jesus Christ, and how little reason Mr. Stone has to reject any part of the New Testament on account of its asserting that doctrine.
But here I must conclude, reserving, with your leave, Sir, some further observations on this writer for another Letter.
- J: M,
CIIRISTIAN CHURCHES, To the Editor of the Monthly lepository: .. Sir, . . . . .
I see a great deal in your Repository about Trinitarian Churches and Unitarian Churches, but not a word about any Church founded upon what I esteem to be the only true principle or basis on which a Church can be settled, which is RELIGIOUS VIRTUE, of which no peculiar opinions shall be the mark of distinction, and the service of which shall be free from all expressions, but such as must be acceptable to all who admit the existence of a God, the Father of the universe. This cradle of truth and clarity, into which nothing could enter which is noxious, would draw around it whatever is intelligent and worthy in the composition of human society. . All the mischiefs which the name of religion has brought upon the world, and they are not to be measured by the simple deaths of ten millions of martyrs, but to be traced by the daily disturbances of almost every nation and every family, of a magnitude and extent beyond the conception of the bighest genius, are ihe monstrous production of the principle, which establishes Churches to declarc and hold up to view, THEOLOGICAL OPINIONS. And were this practice even liarmless, the absurdity of it is as striking and as childish, as would be the estabiishment of an universiu', in which nothing should be taught but some crude uotions in science, to be received without examination, and admitted without research.
I acknowledge the utility of Unitarian Churches, whilst other Church's shall remain of a character which now disa graces all Churches; because they are more conieriea tian others with ENQUIRY and REASON, which by unuerimning priestcraft, are leading the way to that fclicity, which pure les Tigion must produse, .