« PoprzedniaDalej »
ments. Of these, however, we shall only produce three : Mr. Evanson, who is represented by Mr. Belsham, as an able commentator, asserts that “ the evangelical histories contain gross and irreconcilable contradictions.”* He accordingly discards three out of the four; retaining the Gospel by St. Luke only, and rejecting as much, even of this, as he does not like.—Dr. Priestley, when contending against the pre-existence of Christ, wishing to escape from the force of the argument taken from John, vi. 62, “What, and if you shall see the Son of Man ascend up, where he was before ?”—and finding all his subterfuges fail him, declares, " that he would not build an article of faith, of such magnitude, on the correctness of John's recollection of our Lord's language—that sooner than admit it, he would suppose the whole verse to be an interpolation ; or, that the old Apostle dictated one thing, and that his amanuensis wrote another.”+-Mr. Belsham evades the argument for our Saviours's intercession, taken from Rom. viii. 34,—“He is now at the right hand of God, making intercession for us,” and that from Heb, vii. 25,4" He ever liveth to make intercession,” by observing, that “the exact import of the phrase is difficult to be ascertained.” The reason he assigns is, that probably " the writers themselves annexed to it no very distinct idea.” Then he tells us, that “ God has no right hand, at which Jesus can stand to intercede."! To argue with these writers from Scripture, is therefore, a fruitless attempt, for either the passages from which you reason, are interpolated, or corrupted, or misunderstood, or the Apostles dictated one thing, and the amanuensis set down another; or the former had
formed no distinct ideas on the subject, and, in consequence, are utterly incompetent judges !
Mr. Wilberforce represents the religion of this party, as a “ sort of half-way house from nominal orthodoxy, to absolute infidelity.” It is indeed no wonder, that the in habitants of this frigid zone of Christianity, as Mrs. Barbauld, before she was naturalized to the soil, called it, should so often imperceptibly pass its scarcely marked limits, into the wilds, and wastes, and eternal snows of infidelity, and unqualified atheism. Need we be surprised, that in the chill atmosphere of this torpid and dreary region, even the eloquence of a Priestley and of a Belsham, could not raise the minds of the young students in the Academy of Hackney, above the freezing point of absolute scepticism, or strike out in this icy mansion, a spark, of genial warmth, to melt the congelation of the cheerless habitation ? The most celebrated advocates of Unitarianism are, Dr. Landner, Dr. Toulman, in his Life of So. cinus ; Dr. Priestley in his History of the Corruptions of Christianity; and in his Early Opinions, &c.; Mr. Lind. say, in his Historical View of Unitarianism ; and Mr. Belsham, in his Review of Mr. Wilberforce's Inquiry. The Writers on the other side are, Bishop Horsley; and Dr. Jamieson of Edinburgh, in his Vindication of the Doctrine of Scripture, and of the Primitive Faith concerning the Deity of Christ, in reply to Dr. Priestley's History of Early Opinions. This was written, in consequence of a public challenge, given by Dr. Priestley to the Orthodox World, stating, that if, within a limited time, no answer was given to that work, he would consider it as an acknowledgment that it was unanswerable. It is written with great learning and ability, and is, by much, the most complete performance on the subject. Dr. Priestley never ventured to reply. Dr. Magee, in his Discourses on the Scriptural Doctrine of Atonement and Sacrifice, particularly in the Notes and Appendix, gives a learned and masterly reply to the objections of Unitarians; and particularly to those of Mr. Belsham. Mr. Fuller has done essential service to the Christian world, by a powerful and luminous exposure of the immoral tendency of the Socinian system, in his work called The Calvinistic and Socinian Systems Compared.* Whoever desires to see a full catalogue of the Writers on both sides, will find one in Mr. Adam's Religious World Displayed.--Vol.2, Art. Unitarianism and Unitarians.
OF THE ARIANS.
THE Arians take their name from Arius, a Presbyter of the church of Alexandria. He was a man of erudition, and of blameless manners, a subtle and an acute disputant. About the year 320, of the Christian era, he began to disseminate those doctrines which have obtained the name of Arianism. He taught that the Son of God was not eternal; that he had a beginning; and that he was only
• As the greatest, and by much the most important part of this work, regards rather those doctrines, without which Christianity cannot exist at all, than the peculiarities of Calvinism, the Author cannot but, with many others, regret that another title was not chosen. The question at issue between Orthodoxy and Socinianism was certainly the first, and, in an Appendix, Mr. F.might have tricd the other on the peculiarities of Calvinism.
the most excellent of all creatures, and created before all other beings. Arius admitted that our Saviour was the Logos, or the Word, of whom the Apostle John speaks in the beginning of his Gospel; and he allowed him to be, in a subordinate sense, God. He considered Christ as the most glorious of created intelligences; as an Angel of the highest and noblest order. This angelic spirit, existing before the creation of the world, he supposed to be the soul which became united to the body of Christ, and which animated it after that union took place. These tenets occasioned the most violent disputes in his own times; and the controversy continues to be agitated in our days. Arius was expelled from the Church by the Bishop of Alexandria, but was afterwards restored. Alexander afterwards summoned a council of one hundred Bishops of Egypt and Lybia, who excommunicated both him and his followers. To compose the violent disputes occasioned by the doctrines of Arius, Constantine, the first Christian emperor, convoked the famous Council of Nice. This first General Council consisted of three hundred and eighteen Bishops, who were collected from all parts of the empire; besides a great number of other Ministers of Christianity. Some Bishops from Britain were members of the Council. By this assembly Arianism was condemned, and the sentence of excommunication formerly pronounced against Arius, was confirmed. The emperor enforced this sentence by a decree, which excluded him and his followers from all offices in the Church, and from all places of trust in the State. To this punishment, perpetual banishment was superadded. The injustice of this part of the sentence will be readily acknowledged by every friend of religious liberty. Arius was afterwards summoned by Constantine, to appear at court; and in the presence of the emperor, he subscribed the Nicene Creed. To this act of abominable duplicity, he is said to have added another crime, still more atrocious. His sincerity being questioned, he was required to confirm his subscription by his oath. Having committed to writing his own heretical opinions, he put the paper into his bosom, and solemnly swore that he believed as he had written. The death of Arius, which took place the same day, is said to have been attended with circumstances, too shocking to be here related. In the reign of Constantius, the doctrines of Arius were embraced by the emperor and his courtiers; and through their influence, contaminating almost the whole Christian Church, were rendered triumphant by the most violent persecution of all who opposed them. The opposers of Arianism, when in the possession of power, were, in their turn, equally tyrannical and unrelenting; and though the one party retained the doctrines, both of them had lost the spirit of the Gospel.
In the reign of Queen Anne, Mr. Whiston, Professor of Mathematics, in the university of Cambridge, revived this controversy. “He found,” says Bishop Burnet, “his notions favoured by the Apostolical Constitutions; so he reckoned them a part, and the chief part, of the canon of the Scriptures.”_" He published a large work in four volumes, in octavo, justifyivg his doctrine, and maintaining the canonicalness of the Apostolical Constitutions; preferring their authority not only to the Epistles, but even to the Gospels.”* For these tenets he was censured at Cambridge, and expelled the university. Several pro
• History of His Own Times, Vol. 11, p. p. 342, 343.