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which these feelings are displayed, prove that he foresaw the danger of some apostacy, in faith or practice, from the misplaced shame of many. And accordingly, one of the first uses of the divinity of Christ was, to get rid of the debasing circumstances of his sufferings; to prove that he did not really die, but that a phantom was crucified in his stead; and thus to throw a mystic veil over the obnoxious part of Christianity.
3. The love of mystery and of apparent greatness. The beautiful simplicity of the gospel was not likely to charm either the philosophers or the vulgar. The one class would desire 'something more intricate; and the other, something more marvellous.' “ The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom.” The doctrines of the Trinity, Incarnation, &c., even in their first, imperfect forms, had so much of the intricate and the marvellous, as strongly to recommend them to those whose appetites were craving for such food. They are well adapted to minister to the gratification both of those who are, and of those who are not, addicted to abstruse speculation. The former they provide with a thousand metaphysical questions for the exercise of their subtile wits; and by the appeals, for which they furnish materials, to the passions of the latter, they nourish that enthusiasm which
is too often substituted for “ pure and undefiled religion.” ; 4. A corrupt philosophy. “ Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudi- / ments of the world, and not after Christ." The speculations of the Gnostics were very soon mingled with divine truth. At a subsequent period, the rapid advance of Trinitarian opinions was much owing to the accession of the Platonic philosophers, who had some obscure reveries about the nature of the Deity, to which they were determined to find something correspondent in Christianity; or which its advocates found there, in order to conciliate them.
For whatever opinions, bearing a resemblance to modern orthodoxy, are to be found in the early periods of ecclesiastical history, we can therefore readily account, from the operation of causes 'whose existence rests, not upon inference or conjecture, but apostolic testimony. Scripture certifies their reality, and pronounces their condemnation. They furnish the only satisfactory clue to the state of the Church during the first three centuries; and which, to a Trinitarian, must be wholly unaccountable. They coincide with, and explain facts, which in their turn, justify the apprehensions of the sacred writers ; apprehensions exceedingly misplaced, if Unitarianism was a corruption and a heresy.
It is admitted by Mosheim, and similar writers, that there were, in the first century, those who denied the miraculous birth of Christ, and held that he became superior to other men at his baptism, when the powers necessary for the purposes of this mission were bestowed; and that they were not a distinct body till the second century. This fact is important. If not a distinet body from other Christians, they must have been the great body of Christians; for if the divinity of Christ was the original doctrine, and the worship of Christ the original practice, those who denied the one and withheld the other, could not have remained in fellowship with others. They must have been promptly expelled, as they in. variably have been, since Trinitarianism gained the ascendancy. That they continued so long in the Church, is alone a demonstration of their superiority in point of numbers ;, of the antiquity of their faith, and the novelty of the tenets to which it was opposed. Justin Martyr, in the second century, advances his notion of the superhumanity of Christ, with the tone and manner of an inno, vator. Tertullian describes the greater part of believers in his time, as dreading the doctrine of the Trinity, and adhering strictly to the sole monarchy of God. Origen speaks of the multitude of Christians as not knowing the mystery of the Logos. Priestley observes, “So popular was
Unitarianism in this age, (the third century,) that, according to Epiphanius, when the Unitarians met with any of the plainer Christians, they would say,
Well, friend, what doctrine shall we hold; shall we acknowledge one God, or three?'” The fierce disputes of the fourth century, when Athanasius and Arius divided the Christian world, were caused, not by the introduction of Arianism, as a novelty, but by a strong public expression of Trinitarian sentiments, which even yet had not arrived at that systematic perfection which they finally attained. Can there be a doubt, then, who were the innovators, or which way the stream was flowing ? Every thing indicates a progression, of which the starting point was simple Unitarianism, and - the final reach, the Athanasian Trinitarianism of the creed. As we travel up the pages of history, we must successively deposit with different ages, their inventions, till the Trinitarian system vanishes altogether. We cannot find the complete system even in the writings of Athanasius, nor his in Tertullian and Origen, nor theirs in Justin Martyr. Error retires as it advanced. If we are not yet surrounded with the blaze of day, still the darkness is breaking, the shadows of night are fitting away, and the horizon begins to be illumined. We trace in the past the dim twilight that preceded the long night of ignorance and error, when the fair forms
of truth and simplicity were lost, and all was *gloomy incertitude, or shapeless horror; and if, in our age, the state of religious knowledge again resemble the twilight, we rejoice that the night is past, and it harbingers not now the blackness of darkness but the dawn of day, the rising of the sun, the dispersion of every baleful mist, the gladdening song of animated nature, the revived beauties of earth, and the unveiled glories of the serene and majestic heavens.
We commonly speak of Unitarianism as a subdivision of Christianity, and call ourselves Unitarian Christians. We might also speak of Christianity as a species of Unitarianism, and call ourselves Christian Unitarians. The contest has been tried on other principles than those of the gospel ; and it may not be amiss just to notice five different classes of Unitarians, who are out of the pale of Christianity. • 1. The wisest and best philosophers of Greece and Rome rose above the superstition of their age and country, and held sublime ideas of the Deity. Thus God was defined as the living, eternal, best Being. He was spoken of as the Father of gods and men, King of the gods, most high, most great, most excellent. There are many popular gods, said Antisthenes, but one natural one. Others affirm that God, being really one, hath many names, according to the several affections he dis