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(7) Cbrist not in possession of Omniscience, or of Underived Know-
OF DIFFERENT OPINIONS CONCERNING GOD, CHRIST, AND THE
WITH BRIEF REMARKS ON THE MISAPPLICATION OF CERTAIN TERMS.
So many and so conflicting have been the opinions entertained by the Christian church respecting the essence of the Godhead and the person of Jesus Christ, that it would be altogether impracticable to state them in a few pages with sufficient accuracy and precision. To some individuals, however, it may not be uninstructive to ascertain the principal points of difference that subsist among the leading sects; and for all who honour the following treatise with a perusal, it will be necessary to know in what sense the Author uses appellations which are designed to indicate the peculiar notions of the disciples of Jesus, but which are, unhappily, too often employed as epithets of ridicule or of intolerance.
The commonly-received opinion is, that the Supreme Being consists of three persons, to each of whom belong the essential attributes of Deity; and that these three persons constitute only one God. Of those who adhere to this hypothesis, some consider that the terms Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are merely relative;~that the persons in the Trinity did not exist under these characters from all eternity ;-that there is no precedence amongst them, either in time, order, or dignity. Others believe that the Father, whom they designate the first person in the Godhead, is alone the Source or Fountain of Deity; that the Son, who is the second person, was begotten of the Father; and that the Holy Ghost, the third person, proceeded from the Father and the Son: and yet that these three persons are co-equal, co-essential, and co-eternal. Some, again, have been of opinion, that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are not three persons, but three modes, characters, or relations; and that only one person is uniformly meant by the sacred writers, when treating of the Father, the Son, or the Spirit: while some, on the other hand, have employed language concerning the three persons in the Godhead, unequivocally expressing the notion of three distinct Gods. The supporters of these different opinions agree, that Christ was perfect man, as well as perfect God; and they are generally distinguished by the appellation of TRINITARIANS; but are sometimes called, according to their peculiar views, Athanasians, Sabellians, or Tritheists.
In this statement of the belief of Trinitarians, we employ the word person agreeably to their own usage; at the same time remarking, that the only conception we can form of its meaning is that of a mind, or an intelligent being. The precise import of the term, as used by Trinitarians, it is difficult to ascertain: some of them defining it as “a mode or attribute;" some, as an infinite mind;" others, as “an intelligent or absolute substance”_“ a distinct subsistence"_“a real distinction”—“ a perfect hypostasis.” On this point the more modern advocates of the Trinity are comparatively silent; making use of the word person without professing to employ it as the representative of any definite idea.
Another denomination of Christians, termed Arians, profess to believe that God is one person only; that his Son Jesus Christ is distinct from and inferior to him; and that the Holy Spirit is either a being inferior to them both, or merely an attribute or a gift of God. Respecting Christ, some of them hold that he was begotten of the Father before all ages, being a subordinate Deity, but superior to all other intelligences; and that, under the self-existent God, he created the universe, and supports and governs it. Others believe, that he was a superangelic being, employed by the Almighty in forming the solar system, or “in reducing this globe out of a chaotic state to its present habitable form.” Others, again, affirm that he was a pre-existent spirit, but deny that he had any concern in the making of the universe, or in the formation of any world or system of worlds. All Arians, however, concur in opinion, that Jesus Christ came down from heaven, clothed himself with human flesh, and lived and died as a man, to accomplish the important ends for which he was sent by the Father into the world. Few Arians, if any at the present day, consider either the Son or the Spirit as an object of address in prayer.
The Socinians, while they admitted the strict unity of God, and the simple humanity of Christ, conceived that, on account of Jesus' exaltation to the right hand of the Father, he is entitled to religious homage both from angels and from men.
Those Christians who assume the name of Proper Unitarians, but who are not unfrequently styled Humanitarians, believe that God is one, in the strictest sense of the word; that he alone is entitled to religious worship; and that his Son and Servant, Jesus Christ, was only a human being, but superior to all other divinely-commissioned Teachers, because his mission was of a much higher character–because he was the Messiah, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, the great medium of communication from God to men, and the appointed of his Father to be the Judge of all mankind. Some Humanitarians admit the doctrine of Christ's miraculous conception; others reject it, believing Jesus to have been the
* Dr. Price: who, in his “Sermons on the Christian Doctrine," seems to consider Christ as having been the instrumental agent in the formation only of this world.