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First. We give up St. Athanasius. We plead for the divinity of Jesus Christ, and not for that explication of it, which is contained in a creed commonly attributed to him. The damnatory clauses in that creed savour of the violent spirit of his times, and have generally been thought harsh and uncharitable.
Secondly. We do not propose a distinct address in prayer to one divine person exclusive of another divine person. The three persons in the deity may be distinguished; but cannot be divided. God is one undivided essence, and to him, the one God, is our worship addressed, through the mediator Jesus Christ.
Thirdly. We do not justify any of those similitudes, which either ancient or modern writers have used in attempting to explain the nature of God. God, we think, is a being without parallel, and therefore inexplicable. There is not a nature like his in all the universe. Were an intelligent being to comprehend the nature of every created being in our system; were he to pass millions of ages in passing from system to system, in studying and comprehending the natures of other created intelligences ; there would still remain one nature, that of the Supreme Being, in possession of some peerless peculiarity, which had not its likeness in all the Creator's unbounded empire, so that it would never be in the power of this intelligent being, with all his knowledge, to select a creature, and to say of it -This being subsists exactly as the Supreme Being subsists. Now, according to our notion, as all our
knowledge of invisible objects is obtained by analogy, that is, by the resemblance, which they bear to visible objects; and as there is in nature no exact resemblance of the nature of God; an attempt to explain the divine nature seems absurd and impracticable.
Fourthly. We do not think it necessary to enter on learned arguments. A doctrine supported only by criticisms, the understanding of which requires much literary skill, is certainly not a doctrine intended for the bulk of mankind. All truths, which fall under the notice of both the learned and unlearned part of mankind, are subject to learned objections and to popular objections ; and consequently, they are to be defended by learned and by popular arguments. christian ought to propose his own doubts, if he have any, about the truth of a doctrine; but, when his own doubts are removed by the force of plain, popular reasoning, he ought not to suffer his mind to be bewildered in greek and hebrew characters, the reasonings on which he does not understand. It is the glory of all the doctrines of christianity, and particularly of that of Christ's divinity, to give evidence to common observation, and to plain good sense.
Fifthly. We renounce every notion of a right to persecute those, who disbelieve the doctrine of Christ's divinity. You, my brethren, have borne a noble testimony against guarding the doctrines of christianity by penal sanctions, by joining above pine hundred of your sister churches in a petition to parliament for relief in the matter of subscription to human articles of faith. We have nothing to wish for you on this article, but that your churchrecord may ever remain unsullied with one act of expulsion for conscience sake. Love is the law of your society, truth the judge to explain it.
Sixthly. We disown what, we think, our opponents incautiously imply. We are, say they, Unitarians. We reply, so are we.
Our dispute is not, whether there be one God, or three Gods; but whether the divinity of Jesus Christ be incompatible with the unity of God, which unity both sides believe. There are difficulties on both sides. It must, however, be allowed, that on our side the difficulty lies in the object, which is not at all wonderful. On the opposite side the difficulty lies in the terms, as we shall observe presently, which, were the matter as our opponents think, would be astonishing indeed.
Finally. We go on the ground, which St. Paul hath marked out, on which he went of old against the philosophers of his day, and on which only, in our opinion, the subject is defensible. We walk by FAITH, and not by sight; that is to say, the course of our lives is directed by the belief of certain principles, which we could not have discovered, which we cannot comprehend; but whioh we believe on the testimony of the revealer. You cannot be ignorant, my brethren, that St. Paul opposed the WISDOM OF GOD, against PHILOSOPHY, which he called the WISDOM OF THIS WORLD, and which, he said, the Greeks sought after.
The philosophy of the Greeks was that science of God, and of the chief good, which was grounded not on the testimony of any superior intelligence, but on the speculations and discoveries of their own reason. He, who understood this, was termed a wise man. A believer, on the contrary, was one, who, convinced of the imperfection of his own reason, derived his religious ideas from the testimony of that superior intelligence Jesus Christ. In this wise plan, capacity, learning, accuracy of sentiment, were not essentially necessary. The exercise of a little plain common reasoning to obtain evidence of the credibility of the teacher was sufficient.
We go on the same ground. Having experienced the imperfection of our own reason, and being perplexed with the numerous and dissonant reasonings of philosophers on the nature of God, we turn to Jesus Christ, and, perceiving evidences of the truth of his mission, we give credit to his propositions, although, we confess, there are several of them, which we cannot comprehend. This very idea of christianity is a strong argument for its divinity; for no religion can be divine, which doth not adapt itself to the illiterate, that is, to the bulk of mankind. Indeed, on this article, there is very little difference between wisdom and folly ; and we might as well expect to see a smaller cir; cle contain a greater, as to see a finite intelligence comprehend the idea of an infinite God. The homely peasant is an insect crawling on the earth; the most polished son of science is an insect on the
wing: at what an inconceivable distance are both from the matchless majesty of God!
Our question, then, reduced to its true size, is this; what idea does the new testament mean to convey of the NATURE of Jesus Christ? The proper answer, I humbly conceive, is, the writers of the new testament meant to inform their readers that JESUS CHRIST IS TRULY AND PROPERLY GOD.
In proof of this, my brethren, let me exhort you to attend to the following directions.
I. Consult the language of the new testament, and compare it with the state of the pagan world at the time of its publication. If Jesus Christ were not God, the writers of the new testament discovered great injudiciousness in the choice of their words, and adopted a very incautious and dangerous style. From whatever cause it proceeded, mankind have always discovered a strong propensity to idolatry. The whole world, except the small kingdom of Judea, worshipped idols at the time of Jesus Christ's appearance. Jesus Christ; the evangelists, who wrote his history; and the apostles, who wrote epistles to various classes of men; proposed to destroy idolatry, and to establish the worship of one only living and true God. To effect this purpose, it was absolutely necessary for these founders of christianity to avoid confusion and obscurity of language, and to express their ideas in cool and cautious style. That distance, which is between the supreme, independent, first cause, and the most eleyated creature, being infinite, every word that tended to diminish it, would