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ment. It is made, in different modes, by several of the fathers, even later than the age of Tertullian. *
Some of my friends think that the evidence I have produced, in order to prove that the bulk of common Christians in the early ages were simply Unitarians, is not sufficient for the purpose. They think that " the passage from Tertullian (quoted p. 487) proves only that the major part of Christians in his time were offended with the new and unintelligible notions then introduced, not of Christ's pre-exist. ence, but of an economy and trinity, which they could not reconcile to the supermacy and unity of the Deity. The like," they say, “is true of the passages from Origen, in pp. 485, 486.
But, with respect to this, I would observe, that if there was any evidence whatever, presumptive or positive, of any Christians in those ages believing the pre-existence of Christ, and not believing either with the Gnostics that he was a pre-existent spirit superior to the creator of the world, or with the Platonizing fathers, that he was the uncreated logos of the Father, their objection might have some weight. But there is no trace of any such thing, either among the learned or the unlearned.
As to the common people of Tertullian and Origen, they certainly were not Gnostics, but of a character the very reverse of them; the one rude in their conceptions, and the other too refined. On the other hand, they certainly did not relish the notion of Christ being the uncrealed logos; for that was part of the same system with the economy and trinity, at which they were so much shocked ; and there is no mention whatever of any intermediate kind of pre-existence, such as that of a . created logos, till a much later period.
As to the writers that have come down to us, (if we omit the author of the Clementies, who was an Unitarian,) they were all, without exception, from Justin Martyr to Athanasius, Platonizing Trinitarians.
In the whole of that period, all who held the pre-existence of Christ either believed hiin to be the creator of the world, or a being superior to the creator of it. But the rude and simple faith, which the learned complained of, was evidently that which they were supposed to have derived from the primitive Jewish converts, which was merely founded on the consideration of the miracles and resurrection of Christ, by which he was only declared to be “a man approved of God, by wonders and signs, and mighty deeds which God did by him."
The pre-existence, no less than the divinity of Christ, was an article of faith which all the fathers say, the first Christian converts were not prepared to receive, which it required much caution to teach, and the enforcing of which was not seriously at. tempted by any of the apostles before the writing of John's Gospel, in the very latest period of the apostolic age. According to this, the idea that the Jewish Christians must necessarily have had of Christ, was the same that they had been taught to entertain con cerning the Messiah, which never went beyond that of his being d man. The first Gentile converts would naturally adopt the same opinion; and, considering how numerous the Christians were, and how they were dispersed over all the Roman empire, before the publication of John's Gospel, can it be supposed that they should have passed in the time of Tertullian and Origen, from this simple faith, to the doctrine of Christ having been the creator of the world; and so completely as that this opinion should have been universal even among the common people, without our being able to trace the progress of this prodigious change?
Besides, it cannot be doubted but that the simple and ignorant people of Tertul. lian and Origen, were the same with those that were complained of by Athanasius, as persons of low understanding; and these were the disciples of Paulus Samosatensis, or proper Unitarians. They must also have been the same with the grex fidelium of Facundus, in a much later period; who are represented by him as having no higher opinion of Christ than that of Martha, Mary, and others of his disciples at that time, who, he says, were imperfect in faith, but not heretics. From the nature of the thing, the case could not have been otherwise.
Moreover, Artemon, Theudotus, and Praxeas, against whom Tertullian wrote the very treatise in which he speaks of the majority of the common Christians, were contemporary with him, as Beryllus was with Origen; and Noetus, Sabellius, and Paulus Samosatensis followed within twenty years. As the disciples of all these
That Tertullian considered the more simple and unlearned people as those among whom the Unitarian doctrine was the most popular, is evident from his saying, that “the tares of Praxeas grew up, while many slept in the simplicity of doctrine.'
That the word idiota in Latin, or omins in Greek, signifies a man simply unlearned, and not a fool, would be an affront to the literature of my readers to attempt to prove. +
Athanasius also, like Tertullian, acknowledged that the Unitarian doctrine was very prevalent among the lower class of people in his time. He calls them the oi ao2201, the many, and describes them as persons of low understanding. “It grieves,” he says, “those who stand up for the holy faith, that the multitude, and especially persons of low understanding, should be infected with those blasphemies. Things that are sublime and difficult are not to be apprehended, except by faith ; and ignorant people must fall, if they cannot be persuaded to rest in faith, and avoid curious questions." I
This being the language of complaint, as well as that of Tertullian, it may be the more depended on for exhibiting a state of things very unfavourable to what was called the orthodoxy of that age. And it was not the doctrine of Arius, but that of Paulus Samosatensis, that Athanasius is here complaining of.
These humble Christians of Origen, who got no farther than the shadow of the logos, the simplices and idiotæ of Tertullian, and the persons of low understanding of Athanasius, were probably the simplices credentium of Jerome, who, he says, “ did not understand the Scriptures as became their majesty.” For had these simple Christians (within the pale of the church) inferred from what John says of the logos, and from what Christ says of himself, that he was, personally considered, equal to the Father, Jerome would hardly have said, that “they did not understand the Scriptures according to their majesty,” for he himself would not pretend to a perfect knowledge of the mystery of the Trinity. “ For these simple Christians," he says, “the earth of the people of God brought forth hay, as for the heretics it brought forth thorns.”* For the intelligent, no doubt, it yielded richer fruits. +
persons were proper Unitarians, it is morally impossible that Tertullian or Origen should refer to any other. These must have been considered as far more simple and ignorant than those held the doctrine of pre-existence.
The acknowledgments that John was the only apostle who taught with clearness and effect the difficult and sublime doctrines (as they were then called) of the preexistence and divinity of Christ, began with Origen, and continued without interruption to the latest period. And if these writers had not made these acknowledge ments, (which they certainly would not have done without very good reason, the Scripture History alone would prove the fact, on the supposition that a sight of the miracles and resurrection of Christ could teach nothing more than that he was “a man approved of God," and the Messiah. For neither in the Gospels, nor in the book of Acts, are there any traces of higher doctrines being taught. (P.) Appendix, 1786.
“ Fructicaverant avenæ Praxeanæ hic quoque superseminatæ, dormientibus multis in simplicitate doctrinæ." Ad Praxcam, L. i. p. 511. (P.)
+ See Vol. XVIII. pp. 191, 192. Η Λυπει δε και νυν τους αντεχομενος της αγιας πιστεως, η σερι των αυτων βλασφημιων βλαπτεσα τους πολλους: μαλιστα τους ηλατίωμενους περι την συνεσιν. Τα γαρ μεγαλα και δυσκαταληπία των πραγμαίων πιςει τη προς τον Θεον λαμβανεθαι. "Οθεν οι περι την γνωσιν αδυνατονίες αποπιπλασιν, ει μη πεισθειεν εμμενειν τη σπιςει, και τας περιεργος SYTYTELS EKT PETEOS4s. De lacarnatione Verbi, contra Paulum Samosatensem, Opera, I, p. 591. (P.)
From all these passages, and others quoted before, I cannot help inferring, that the doctrine of Christ being any thing more than a man, the whole doctrine of the eternal logos, who was in God, and who was God, was long considered as a more abstruse and refined principle, with which there was no occasion to trouble the common people ; and that the doctrine of the simple humanity of Christ continued to be held by the common people till after the time of Athanasius, or after the Council of Nice. And if this was the case then, we may safely conclude, that the Unitarians were much more numerous in a more early period, as it is well known that they kept losing, and not gaining ground, for several centuries.
An Argument for the Novelty of the Doctrine of the Trinity,
from the Manner in which it was taught and received in early Times.
The subject of this chapter properly belongs to the Twelfth, as it relates to a circumstance from which it may be inferred, that the Unitarian doctrine was held by the majority of Christians in the early ages; but I reserved it for a distinct consideration in this place, because it requires a more particular discussion, and will receive much light from
# “Quod dicitur super terram populi mei, spinæ et fænum ascendent, referre potest et ad hæreticos, et ad simplices quosque credentium, qui non ita scripturam intelligunt ut illius convenit majestati. Unde singula singulis coaptavimus, ut terra populi Dei hæreticis spinas, imperitis quibusque ecclesiæ fænum afferat." Jerome, in Isaiah xxxii. 20, Opera, IV. p. 118. (P.)
+ See Vol. XVIII. p. 199.
what was advanced both in the Twelfth and Thirteenth chapters.
One proof of the antiquity of a doctrine is its being found among the common people, in preference to the learned ; the former being the least, and the latter the most apt to innovate; so that from the doctrine of the simple humanity of Christ being held by the common people in the time of Tertullian, Origen, and Athanasius, it may be concluded with certainty, that it was the doctrine which they had received from their ancestors, and that it originated with the apostles themselves.
There is also another mark by which we may distinguish what opinions are new, and what are old, whenever they are apprehended to be of much consequence; and that is by the manner in which they are advanced by the patrons of them, and that in which they are received by those who disapprove of them. The innovator will be timid and modest, and the asserter of an old opinion will be bold and confident. A new opinion will alarm and terrify; but an old one will be treated with respect. This maxim we see exemplified every day, and in no case more remarkably than with respect to these very doctrines of the pre-existence and divinity of Christ.
If we look back into the state of things in this country about a century, or half a century ago, we shall find the Trinitarians shocked at the doctrine of the humanity of Christ, and endeavouring to bear it down with the greatest confidence and violence. * On the other hand, all the defences of what is called the Socinian doctrine, were written with the greatest modesty, and with the air and manner of an apology. Let us now, by this maxim, judge how things stood with respect to this very doctrine in the time of Justin Martyr, Origen, and Tertullian.
As the doctrine of the humanity of Christ was then chiefly held by the common people, who were not writers, and as no work of any Unitarian, written after the controversy was started, has been preserved to us, we labour under great disadvantages in this respect. But notwithstanding this, circumstances enow may be collected from the writings of the Trinitarians, to enable us to judge how both themselves, and the Unitarians, thought and felt with respect to it; and circumstances furnished in this indirect manner by adversaries, are often the least suspicious intimations of the real state of things.
On this principle, it will, I think, sufficiently appear, that it was with great difficulty that the generality of Christians were reconciled to the doctrine of the deity of Christ, and that of the Trinity in any form. It is evident, that the lower class of Christians was much staggered by it, and exceedingly offended when they did hear of it; which could never have been the case if it had then been supposed to have been the doctrine of the apostles, and to have been delivered by them as the most essential article of Christian faith, in which light it is now represented. Such terms as scandalizare, expavescere, &c., used by Tertullian, Novatian, &c., and tapao oel, &c., by Origen, can only apply to the case of some novel and alarming doctrine, something that men had not been accus. tomed to. We may, therefore, take it for granted, that it had not been much heard of among the common people at least; and if so, that it had never been taught by the apostles.
Admitting that the apostles had taught any doctrines of a peculiarly sublime nature, (which the fathers pretend to have been the case with respect to the pre-existence and divinity of Christ,) yet, as all their teaching was in public, and there were no secrets among them, (Paul, for instance, having solemnly assured “the elders” of Ephesus, [Acts xx. 27,] that he had “ not shunned to declare unto them all the counsel of God,") the common people must at least have heard of these sublime doctrines, and have been accustomed to the sound of the language in which they were expressed. And had they known that those doctrines had been taught by the apostles to any of their body, though not to them. selves, they would have learned to respect what they did not understand, and was not meant for their use. They could never have been offended and staggered at things which they and their fathers before them had always been in the hearing of.
I shall not recite in this place all the passages which shew how much the common people were offended at the doctrines of the pre-existence and divinity of Christ. Many of them have already passed before the eye of the reader, and many others will be produced in different connexions. It will be found, that even at and after the Council of Nice, the Unitarians continued to speak their sentiments with the greatest freedom, and always exclaimed against the prevailing doctrines, as no less new than absurd. Little were those writers who have inadvertently recorded these circumstance aware of the value of the information which they were hereby giving
Hnd Tertullian. Origen and others. thonjoht