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the pre-existence or divinity of Christ, it may with certainty be concluded, that the Gentile converts were also universally Unitarians in the age of the apostles, and that, of course, the great majority of the common people must have continued to be so for a very considerable time. There is no maxim, the truth of which is more fully verified by observation and experience, than that great bodies of men do not soon, or without great causes, change their opinions. ** And the common people among Christians, having no recollection of the apostles having taught the pre-existence or divinity of Christ, would not soon receive such strange doctrines from any other quarter.
I'n what manner the speculative and philosophizing Christians came to receive these doctrines, and what plausible arguments they used to recommend them, I have fully explained. But such causes would affect the learned long before they reached the unlearned; though, in time, the opinions of those who are respected for their knowledge, never fail to diffuse themselves among the common people, as we see to be the case in matters of philosophy, and speculation in general. " Actual phenomena, I shall undertake to shew, correspond to this hypothesis, viz. that the Gentile Christians were at first universally Unitarians; that for a long time a majority of the common people continued to be so, being, till after the Council of Nice, pretty generally in communion with the Trinitarians, without abandoning their own opinion. It will also appear, from the most indisputable evidence, that the Arian hypothesis, wbich makes Christ to have been a great pre-existent spirit, the maker of the world, and the giver of the law of Moses, was equally unknown to the learned and to the unlearned, till the age of Arius himself, As to the opinion of Christ having been a pre-existent spirit, but either not the maker of world, or not the giver of the law, it is quite modern, being entirely unknown to any thing that can be called antiquity.
Christians in the Early Ages were Unitarians. Both the strongest presumptions, and the inost direct posilive evidence, shew that the common people among the
See Vol. XVIII. D. 204.
Gentile Christians, were Unitarians, at least between two and three hundred years after the promulgation of Christianity.
1. That Unitarians must have been in communion with what was in early times called the Catholic Church, is evident from there being no creed, or formulary of faith, that could exclude them. And we have seen (p. 145], that a creed was formed for the express purpose of excluding the Gnostics, who, of course, could not, and we find did not, join the public assemblies of Christians, but formed assemblies among themselves, entirely distinct from those of the Catholics.
There was no creed used in the Christian church, besides that which was commonly called the Apostles', before the Council of Nice, and even after that there was no other generally used at baptism. This creed, as has been seen, [p. 148,] contains no article that could exclude Unitarians; and there was nothing in the public services that was calculated to exclude them. The bishops and the principal clergy, zealous for the doctrine of the Trinity, might, of their own accord, harangue their audiences on the subject, or they might pray as Trinitarians; but if the Unitarians could bear with it, they might still continue in communion with them, there being no law or rule to exclude them.
Accordingly, we find that all the Unitarians continued in communion with the Catholic Church till the time of Theo. dotus, about the year 200, when it is possible that, upon his excommunication, some of his more zealous followers might form themselves into separate societies. But we have no certain account of any separate societies of Unitarians till the excommunication of Paulus Samosatensis, about the year 250, when, after him, they were called Paulians, or Paulianists. Others also, about the same time, or rather after that time, formed separate societies in Africa, on the excommunication of Sabellius, being, after him, called Sa. bellians.
2. The very circumstance of the Unitarian Gentiles hav. ing no separate name, is, of itselt, a proof that they had no separate assemblies, and were not distinguished from the common mass of Christians. Had the Unitarians been considered as heretics, and of course formed separate societies, they would as certainly have been distinguished by some particular name, as the Gnostics were, who were in that situation. But the Gentile Unitarians had no name given them till the time of Epiphanius, who ineffectually endea
voured to impose upon them that of Alogi. * As to the terms Paulians, Sabellians, Noetians, or Artemonites, they were only names given them in particular places from local circumstances.
When bodies of men are formed, distinguished from others by their opinions, manners, or customs, they necessarily become the subjects of conversation and writing ; and it being extremely inconvenient to make frequent use of periphrases, or descriptions, particular names will be given to them. This is so well known, that there can hardly be a more certain proof of men not having been formed into separate bodies, whether they were considered in a favourable or an unfavourable light, than their never having bad any separate name given them ; and this was indisputably the case with the Gentile Unitarians for the space of more than two hundred years after the promulgation of Christianity. The Jewish Unitarians using a different language, and living in a part of the world remote from other Christians, had little communication with the Gentiles, and therefore, of course, had assemblies separate from theirs ; but for that reason they had a particular name, being called Ebionites.
The name by which the Gentile Unitarians were sometimes distinguished before the separation of any of them from the Catholic church, was that of Monarchists, which was probably assumed by themselves, from their asserting the monarchy of the Father, in opposition to the novel doctrine of the divinity of the Son. Had it been a name given them by their enemies, it would probably have been of a different kind, and have inplied some reproach.
As to the term Alogi, given to the Unitarians by Epiphanius, it may be safely concluded, that it was imposed on a false pretence, viz. their denying the authenticity of the writings of the apostle John, and their ascribing them to Cerinthus, for which there is no evidence besides his own; and he does not pretend to have had it from the Unitarians themselves. It is sufficiently evident that there could not have been any Christians who rejected all the writings of John before the time of Eusebius, who considers very parti. cularly the objections that had been made to the genuineness of all the books of the New Testament. And that the same people should reject these books after the time of Eusebius,
Φασκεσι τοινυν οι Αλογοι ταυτην γαρ αυτοις τιθημι την επωνυμιαν απο γαρ της δευρο SING KÀmno ovlan. Hær. li. Opera, I. p. 423. (P.)
and not before, is highly improbable. Epiphanius himself ascribes this rejection to the Alogi in general, and not to those of his time only; and he supposes “the heresy of Alogi to have been an old one, of which that of Theodoius was a branch.”
The proof that Origen, Chrysostom, and the Fathers in general, give of their not being heretics, is, that they had no particular name, besides that of Christians. . All, therefore, that Chrysostom and others could allege, as a proof that themselves and their friends were of the orthodox faith, and no heretics, might have been alleged by the whole body of Unitarians before the time of Theodotus.
3. This argument will have double force, if we consider how exceedingly obnoxious the sentiinents of the Unilarians must have appeared, if they had been different from those of the generality of Christians at that time. In what light they would have been regarded then, may be easily judged of by the treatment which they receive at present, wherever the Trinitarian doctrine is established, and that of the Unitarians is professed by the smaller number. In these circumstances, it is a fact which no person can deny, that Unitarians have, in all countries, been regarded with the greatest possible abhorrence, and treated as impious blasphemers. It is considered as a great stretch of moderation to tolerate them at all. There are many instances in which even Arians would not allow that the Unitarians were Christians. This now would certainly have been the case in the primitive times, if the Unitarians had been in the same situation; that is, if they had been the minority, and Trinitarians, or even Arians, the majority. For, human nature being the same, the influence of the same circumstances will likewise be the same, as universal experience shews. For no sooner were the Trinitarians the majority, and had the favour of government, than they took the severest measures against those who openly avowed themselves to be Unitarians. The same also was their treatment from the Arians, when they were in power, as the history of Photinus testifies.
It is well known with what severity Calvin proceeded against Servetus, † when the doctrine which he defended
Aνες η παλιν ΘεοδοτG- τις αποσπασμα υπαρχων εκ της προειρημενης Αλογα αιρεσεως. Hær. liv. Opera, I. p
462. (P.) + See Vol. X. pp. 269–272. Eight years after the death of Servetus, his mis. judging persecutor still gloried in this severity. Voltaire quotes Calvin's " letter, written with his own hand," and " still preserved in the Castle of Bastie Roland, near Moutelimar. It is directed to the Marquis de Poet, high-chamberlain of the king
was far from being novel, and Calvin himself was exposed to persecution. Even in these circumstances he thought that to write against the doctrine of the Trinity was a crime for which burning alive was no more than an adequate punishment; and almost all the Christian world, not excepting even the meek Melancthon, justified his proceedings. Now, since the minds of men are in all ages similarly affected in similar circumstances, we may conclude, that the Unitarian doctrine, which was treated with so much respect when it was first mentioned, was in a very different predicament then, from what it was at the time of the Reformation. The difference of majority and minority, and nothing else, can account for this difference of treatment.
4. Another, and no inconsiderable argument in favour of the antiquity of the proper Unitarian doctrine among Christians, may be drawn from the rank and condition of those who held it in the time of Tertullian. He calls them simplices et idiota, that is, common or unlearned people; and such persons are certainly most likely to retain old opinions, and are always far less apt to inno. vate than the learned, because they are far less apt to speculate. Whenever we endeavour to trace the oldest opinions in any country, we always inquire among the idiote, the common people; and if they believe one thing, and the learned another, we may conclude with certainty, that whichever of them be true, or the more probable, those of the common people were the more ancient, and those of the learned and speculative the more novel of the two. *
In most cases the more novel opinions are most likely to be true, considering the gradual spread of knowledge, and the general prevalence of prejudice and error ; but in some cases the probability is on the side of the more ancient opinions ; and it is evidently so in this. The true doctrine concerning the person of Christ must be allowed to have been held by the apostles. They, no doubt, knew wbether their Master was only a man like themselves, or their Maker. Their immediate disciples would receive and maintain the same doctrine that they held, and it must have been some time before any other could have been introduced, and have spread to any extent, and especially before it could have become the
of Navarre." Speaking of “ zealous scoundrels who stir up the people to revolt,"
“ Such monsters should be exterminated, as I have exterminated Michael Servetus, the Spaniard." See Wright's Apology for Servetus, 1806, p. 256.
* See Vol. XVIII. p. 23; Belsham's Calm Inquiry, 1814, pp. 419, 420.