Page images
PDF
EPUB

why even of yourselves, judge ye not that which is right ? .I speak as unto wise men, judge ye what I say." Here let our opponents decide.

They have decided. Are they not continually accusing us of levelling every thing to our own comprehension; of spoiling Christianity of its mysteries ; of not prostrating the understanding ; of demanding explanation where it cannot be given; of being only rational believers ? Could such appeals as those quoted, have been ever made by Christ and the apostles, had they taught the paradoxes of modern Orthodoxy? 3. Christianity was gospel or glad tidings. This was description, before it became a proper name. Does the Trinitarian or Calvinistic preacher obey the command of Christ to “preach glad tidings to every creature”? Will it make men glad to tell them they are born in sin, so as to be wholly de-, praved; condemned for Adam's guilt; damned without repentance, and incapable of repenting without supernatural interference; many, if not most of them, abandoned without remedy to endless misery? The Saviour was incapable of this barbarous and insulting irony. It is as unlikely that such a system should be the gospel, as that he should sport with the miseries of man,

Not only is the gospel characterized, but the leading features of its great corruption are delineated. We have shewn how closely these apply

to modern orthodoxy. Mystery, alliance with the State, spiritual domination, multiplying the objects of worship,- all agree with the terms in which an Unitarian would speak of that system. But to the Trinitarian, Unitarianism is the grossest apostacy from the gospel which has yet taken place. To his mind it is more appalling than Popery itself. And this would have required a description exactly opposite : that which delineates the gospel would be transferred to the corruption, and the prophetic picture of the corruption, would become the correct likeness of the truth.

If proofs like these be insufficient; if this weight of authority and variety of evidence, is to be balanced by a few figurative passages, or even by a few texts of difficult explication; where are we to find conviction, or where is the doctrine that can be shewn to be scriptural? What mode of proof can be employed, which does not support Unitarianism? It has legitimate inference, direct implication, positive assertion. What source of evidence can be discovered, from which it is not amply supplied ? It is traced in nature, runs through the Old Testament, blazes forth in the New, and is confirmed by the early history of the Christian Church. What is the authority that it wants? It was believed by Abraham, established by Moses, enforced by the prophets, adopted by Christ, preached by the apostles, and sanctioned repeatedly by the voice of God himself. It agrees with the original descriptions of the gospel, and is irreconcileable with the prophetic delineation of its corrruptions. If this fail to command credence, I will not say, “ neither would they believe though one rose from the dead,” for mightier miracles than that have been wrought for its proof; and it has been proclaimed by a more awful voice, the voice, not of reanimated dust, but of the everliving God of heaven !

That this great truth was perverted and obscured, is, if we consider all the circumstances productive of fresh corroborations of its identity with genuine Christianity. According to the prediction of Paul, the revelation of the man of sin, the full development and maturity of the antichristian apostacy, was to take place in connexion with some change in the Roman Empire. Such, at least, was the interpretation assigned by the general voice of antiquity; nor has a more consistent one been given by moderns, to the expression, “ He that now letteth, will let, until he be taken out of the way.” Under Constantine, who embraced nominal Christianity, and removed the seat of government to the East, orthodoxy attained its portentous growth. Unless this was the fulfilment of the prophecy, it never has been, and now never can be accomplished.

Certain indications of danger and apostacy were

noticed by the apostles in the primitive church. They were such as might lead from Unitarianism towards Trinitarianism; but could not possibly conduct in the opposite direction. They were, in fact, the causes whose results we see in ecclesiastical history. The principal of these deserve mention. 1. Temporizing with that mythology, in the belief of which the Gentile converts had been educated. “ Flee from idolatry--the cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? Ye cannot drink of the cup of the Lord, and the cup of demons ;" (the deities of Heathenism;) “ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of demons.” To partake of the sacrificial feasts of the popular gods; to confound with these feasts, as to its nature and design, the eucharistic commemoration of Jesus; to transform his supper into a sacrifice, and him into a god; and to elevate him from a god in the Pagan, to God, in the Christian sense of the term; these are gradations of a progress in error, which is very conceivable and probable in itself, and which, by combining Scripture with history, may be discerned with tolerable distinctness. The Gentiles would with difficulty divest themselves of the notion of subordinate deities. They had been accustomed to gods of various powers and pro

ceni

vinces ; who were corporeal and of human shape; and whom they honoured by feasts on sacrificed animals in their temples. How natural to identify with such ceremonies the Lord's Supper, and to place in such a rank the Founder of their new religion! He who healed the lame and blind, chained the winds and waves, raised the dead, and himself ascended to heaven, would, in their native phraseology, be of course a god. When Paul and Barnabas wrought a miracle at Lystra, the people said, “ The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.” They would have formed a similar opinion of Christ, had they seen or heard of him ; and where apostolic authority did not reach, or as soon as the first race of believers was dead, it would be difficult to oppose the notion. This tendency must have operated through the whole body of Gentile converts; and to them the belief in the divinity of Christ was for some time peculiar. .. 2. False shame, at obeying a Teacher who lived in mean circumstances, and died the death of a slave and a malefactor. Feelings of contempt and abhorrence were associated with the cross, and it became a fertile subject of reproach and ridicule. Paul rose superior to these taunts. He resolved “ to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified,” and not to “glory, save in the cross ;” but the energy and frequency with

« PreviousContinue »