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“ him the form of a servant,” seeing he must always have been a servant of his Maker?
The apostle, speaking of the patriarchs, said, “ Of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, “ who is over all, God blessed for ever.
Amen.” To evade this decisive testimony, it has been proposed to render the latter clause, “ God be blessed “ for ever, Amen.” But where then is the meaning of the preceding expression, “as concerning " the flesh ?" Did ever a sensible writer use such language in speaking of the descent of any prince or hero? Does not the energy and propriety of the passage depend on the contrast between the clauses, “ Of whom as concerning the flesh Christ “ came," and, “Who is over all God blessed for ever?”
And does not such a change in the version render the passage unmeaning, or absurd ?
Stephen's dying address to Christ has lately been considered, ' as the words of a man in an ecstacy of devotion, or in the agonies of death, and therefore not of much weight in the argument: as if modern reasoners could better direct our faith and worship, than this protomartyr, when “ full of the
Holy Ghost,” favoured with the visions of God, and replete with the light of Heaven !—“ Ye know “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; that though “ he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor."2 What shall we say to these words of Paul ? Could he, who was born in a stable, who had not where to lay his head, and who died on a cross, be rich before he was poor, if he did not exist before he became man? --The words of Christ, which his
1 Rom. ix. 5.
* 2 Cor. viii. 9,
disciples thought so plain," I came forth from the
Father, and am come into the world; again I " leave the world and go to the Father;"l and many other declarations which he made," that he
came down from heaven;" so pressed the ancient Socinians, as to induce them to feign that Jesus went to heaven to receive his instructions, previously to his entrance on his ministry, as Mohammed afterwards pretended that he did. But modern Socinians have given up this figment; they seem conscious of their inability to maintain their old ground; and therefore they now intimate that apostles and evangelists were mistaken, and that several books or parts of the scriptures are not authentic, or not divinely inspired. Thus they save themselves much trouble, by answering all our witnesses at once: and doubtless they act prudently in imitating the church of Rome; constituting themselves judges of the scripture, determining what parts of it are divine, and making their own scheme the standard by which it is to be interpreted : for neither of these systems can be supported, but by disregard to the word of God, or degradation of it.
I feel a confidence that each of the arguments here adduced is separately conclusive: how great then must be their únited force! Yet only a small part of the evidence can be contained in so brief an Essay. I would therefore conclude with observing, that the scriptures were written to recover men from idolatry to the worship of the true God : and that idolatry consists in worshipping such as “ by nature are no gods." What then shall we think of all the texts here adduced, if Christ be not God? or what shall we say to John's conclusion of his first Epistle, when, having mentioned Jesus Christ, he adds, “ This person (outos) is the “ true God, and eternal Life. Little children, “ keep yourselves from idols ?”I
i John xvi. 28-30.
THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST's DEITY SHEWN TO BE
ESSENTIAL TO CHRISTIANITY : AND SOME OBJECTIONS TO THE DOCTRINE BRIEFLY ANSWERED.
We are not in all cases capable of determining exactly what things are essential to our holy religion, and what are not: yet the scriptures most evidently declare some particulars to be so; and I cannot but consider the doctrine of our Lord's Deity as one of these essentials ; nor do I hesitate to say that Christianity itself must stand or fall with it. The greater decision is proper on this subject, as our opponents seem lately to have shifted their ground. They used to maintain, * that Christ's divinity was the master-piece of absurdities; directly contrary to. every part of natural and revealed religion, and to all the rational faculties God has given us :' that by making more gods than one, it was a breach of the first commandment:' and much more to the same purpose. This was a direct charge of gross idolatry, which surely must be a mortal sin: and, as the defenders of the doctrine denied, and even retorted, the charge, shewing that another god is substituted by Socinians in the place of the God of the Bible; the cause was fairly at issue, allowed to be of the greatest possible importance, and entitled to the most careful, serious, and impartial investigation. But at present men are generally put off their guard by the plausible and indolent sentiment, that speculative opinions are of little consequence; and that those who are sincere and lead good lives will not be condemned for doctrinal errors. And an attempt has lately been made, by a champion of the party, to persuade a very large body of men, who universally profess the doctrine of Christ's Deity, that there is no essential difference between them and the Socinians! On the other hand, some able defenders of the doctrine seem disposed to allow, that, supposing it true, the belief of it is not necessary to salvation, or essential to Christianity; nay, that they who most strenuously oppose it, and not always in the most unexceptionable manner, may notwithstanding be accepted by God as sincere believers. Thus the subject, which used to be considered as of the utmost importance, is now generally thought to be rather a matter of doubtful disputation among professed Christians, than immediately connected with our eternal interests : and the cause has more to fear from the indolent and contemptuous indifference of mankind, as to theological questions which are not supposed essential to salvation, than from the most strenuous and ingenious efforts of its most able and learned opponents.