« ZurückWeiter »
with other notions, in the intellect. It is in the highest degree practical, grounding itself in the deepest feelings of the heart, and incorporating itself with the very constitution of our moral nature, It pervades and animates religion, not so much in the objective form of it, when it is contemplated only as a science to be studied, as in its subjective form, when it lives, and puts forth its living power, in the soul of the christian himself. It is a doctrine to be apprehended by the heart, more than by the understanding-a thing of feeling, far more than of pure intellection. It may indeed be held only as a notion; and no doubt it is so held by many, whose characters and lives are never affected at all by what they call their faith. But the doctrine itself is not really apprehended in such cases. This takes place only when it begins to live in the soul itself; and then it can bear no separation from the religion which is there at work. The soul feels that it is vital, and that the absence of it would be spiritual death.
4. In accordance with the view of the matter just given, we hold, that a temper of mind correspondent with the character of the interest involved in the investigation, is a primary requisite for coming to the knowledge of the truth. In all moral and religious inquiries, in which as a matter of course the principles of evidence lie ultimately in the moral constitution of our nature, as much depends at all times upon the state of our feelings as upon the strength of our intellectual powers. As a man who is destitute of all proper sense of natural beauty or order, can never speculate with certainty or security on questions of mere taste, however wide and grand may be the range of argument they embrace; so neither may the man be trusted at all in speculations upon religious truth, who shows himself wanting in the sensibilities that lie at the foundation of all true religious character. It is enough to stamp damnation upon the whole argument of infidelity, that it has been conducted in every age, and in every country, with a manifest absence of every thing like a proper tone of moral feeling on the part of its friends. Voltaire, and Volney, and Gibbon, and Hume, and Paine--and they may stand fairly representative of the entire sect--had no seriousness upon their spirits, when they put them. selves forth to try the merits of christianity. The soul of the men still lives and speaks in their works, and it is found wanting in every disposition, which became the unutterable interest of the subject, and the high solemnity of the office which they undertook when they stood up to set men right in their views of it. We look in vain for that soberness of mind, that subdued and reverential frame of spirit, that deep sense of the value of truth, that earnest, ness to be found in the way of God, that docility, and candor, and prayerfulness, which are befitting the magnitude of such an inqui. ry. They came up to the christian argument, in a spirit of levity, and pride, and profanity, and scorn; and is it any wonder, that they did not come under the force of its evidence? And is it to be
imagined, that men of this description are worthy to be trusted as spiritual guides? There is mockery in the very thought.*
* But if a right condition of soul be needed, for trying the general argument of christianity itself, it is no less necessary for every subsequent inquiry about the peculiar doctrines of christianity. The necessity lies, as already remarked, in the constitution of our nature, and cannot fail to be acknowledged wherever that constitution is rightly understood. It is affirmed also in the most solemn manner by the voice of inspiration. It is writtenThe meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way. And again-The scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not; but knowledge is easy to him that understandeth. And again-Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall in no wise enter therein. And again-If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God. It is vain, then, to expect that much good will come of any inquiry on the particular subject we are now considering, if it be not accompanied and actuated by such a spirit. The subject we have seen to be of fundamental importance, and pre-eminently practical in its relations and bearings. It enters vitally into the very constitution of christianity itself, and stretches its interest throughout the entire range of all that is to be feared or hoped for by men, in that dread eternity to which they are going. Is the mind on such a subject unassured in its belief? Then what, I ask, should be the temper with which it addresses itself to the work of satisfying its doubts? Manifestly, there should be great seriousness, and a deep feeling of the importance of the question to be solved, and an anxious earnestness to be saved from mistake, and a fervent desire to be brought into subjection to the truth, and a childlike simplicity of intention in the pursuit of instruction, and an importunate looking up in prayer to the Father of Lights for that illumination which he has promised to bestow upon the lowly in heart. Without this frame of mind, all inquiry here will prove idle and unprofitable speculation. Should it even issue in a conviction according to truth, such a conviction would be comparatively unimportant, as contributing only a notion to the repository of the mind's knowledge, when it ought to have lodged a living, active principle in the moral framework of the soul itself. And should it issue in the adoption of the most destructive error, it would be only what might have been expected as the result of such an experiment an experiment found disastrous in unnumbered instances before, to all light, and hope, and peace, in the unhappy souls who have embarked their faith upon it.
* See this subject well touched in “The Evidences of Christianity," by DANIEL WILSON, of Islington in England. I take this opportunity to recommend that work to all who feel an interest in the great subject of which it treats. As a popular and practical argument for the truth of the christian revelation, I know of none better. No honest sceptic can read it, in my opinion, without profit; and the convictions of such as have already assented to the truth, cannot fail to be strengthened, or at least refreshed, by its pages.
5. The last remark I have to make under this head of my dis course, is, that the manner in which the trinitarian doctrine is supposed to be taught in the scriptures, is in accordance with what we have stated to be its moral character, and cannot therefore seem an objection to it in the view of the candid. It is sometimes said by those who oppose the doctrine, that in consideration of its being so strange, so high, and so important, it ought to be taught, if taught at all, in the most direct and formal manner, and so as to preclude all possibility of mistake about the meaning of the revelation; and because it is not taught just in this way, they hold themselves justified in believing that it is not taught at all. I might remark here on the presumption of men's undertaking to decide in their own wisdom, in this way, on the particular plan which God ought to pursue in giving his revelations, and then proceeding to make this preconceived opinion a standard of judgment for trying what he actually has revealed. I might show, in the light of all our experience of the ways of God, as displayed in the constitution and course of nature, how incompetent we are to pronounce beforehand upon the proper mode of proceeding for him to adopt in any case; and how it is our duty always to take things as they are, on their proper evidence, instead of being offended with them for not falling in exactly with our own imaginations.* But I am not left in the present case to such a reply, however just and sufficient I believe it to be. A satisfactory reason for the course which God has taken in the revelation of the doctrine under consideration, is found, as we have intimated, in the character of the doctrine itself, and in the relation which it bears to the grand design which that revelation contemplates the resuscitation of the soul of man to a holy and happy life.
The doctrine, as we have already seen, stands intimately con. nected with the interior life of christianity, as it dwells in a believer's heart. It is not important so much as a speculative truth, to be contemplated by the intellectual eye, as it is in the character of a practical and felt reality, to be brought into immediate contact with the experience of the soul itself. The whole worth and power of it to man as a sinner, lie in its being felt as a fact, in all its relations to his moral wants. To be apprehended aright,it must be first incorporated as it were with the very life of his spirit. Is it strange, then, that it should be exhibited in the scriptures in its practical, rather than in its speculative form- in its moral energies, and its bearings upon the life of christianity, rather than in its naked and abstract idea, as a thing of mere intellectual conception? We do not admit, indeed, that there is any want of clear and positive instruction in the scriptures on the subject. Their testimony, as we shall presently see, is unequivocal and full. We are ready, however, to allow, that this instruction is not communicated in the formal and didactic manner of the schools. It is not stated in abstract propositions. And this, we say, is just what, from the nature of the case, might be expected. Facts are exhibited, in their practical relation to the great reality of that life of God in the soul, which christianity aims to accomplish the only relation, in which they can have interest or importance to a ruined world—the only relation, in which they can be apprehended or understood by the human mind.
* Those who wish to see this topic of argument ably handled, may consult Bur. LER'S Analogy-a book, that contains perhaps more wisdom than any book of its size that ever came from man-especially in the 3d and 6th chapters of the Second Part. The argument, as conducted by him, has regard to the general subject of christianity, as liable to objections in its evidence, and not falling in with men's notions of fitness conceived beforehand; but it applies in all its force to the present case,
And is not this the plan, allow me to ask, on which all the instructions of the bible are communicated? Is the bible wrought up like a system of doctrinal theology, in which truths are presented to the eye of the understanding in their abstract form, and in the relationship by which they are bound together as parts of one general science? Had it been so, it had been a comparatively powerless book. Its power lies pre-eminently in the practical form of its instructions. Truth is put forth in embodied action. Doctrines are exhibited in their living force. The science of Christianity is represented only as a great fact taking place in the experience of the soul. It lies in the bible, just as it lies in the regenerated heart; and it lies in both, just as the science of physiology lies in the human body, or as the science of natural philosophy lies in that world of material nature with whose substantial forms and living energies we are brought into contact from day to day.
II. I NOW PROCEED TO STATE AND ENFORCE THE DIRECT ARGUMENT, BY WHICH THE TRINITARIAN DOCTRINE IN REGARD TO THE PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST IS SUPPORTED. And here we are shut up entirely to the testimony of revelation. The only question is, What do the scriptures teach on this subject? My limits do not allow me to quote their testimony at large. I can only state it in general propositions, and refer to particular passages for the necessary proof. The passages referred to will be but a selection out of many witnessing to the same truth; but if seriously considered, they will be enough, and more than enough, to answer the purpose for which they are appealed to.
Jesus Christ is affirmed in the scriptures to have two NATURES. That he was possessed of a real human nature, is not disputed. A multitude of texts are continually dwelt upon by Unitarians themselves in proof of this point, and in support of their own doctrine; as if by proving Christ to have been a man, they could settle the question about his divinity. But the scriptures clearly attribute to him another nature, of a higher and more excellent kind. In proof of this, consult John in his Gospel, 1:14.18. 3:13. 6:184.108.40.206,51.62. 8:14.23. 16:28. 17:5. Aso, 1 Cor. 15:47–49. I Tim. 3:16. Rom. 1:3,4. Gal. 1:1.11,12.
Christ is affirmed to have existed BEFORE HIS APPEARANCE IN THE FLESH. This is asserted, or implied, in most of the passages already referred to. See besides, Jolin 1:15. and 8:58.
ETERNITY is ascribed to him. John 1:1. 17:5. The phrases, In the beginning, and, Before the world was, are used to describe eternity, as may be seen by referring to Ps. 90:2. and John 17:24. In proof of Christ's eternity, see also Heb. 1:10—12. and Rev. 22: 13. compared with Rev. 1:8.
The scriptures ascribe to Christ also, the attribute of OMNIPOTENCE, Phil. 3:21. The attribute of INDEPENDENCE, John 1:4. In him was life, as in its own fountain. Compare John 5:26. and 10: 18. The attribute of OMNISCIENCE, Matt. 11:27. John 6:46. John 2:24,25. 6:64. Acts 1:24. I Cor. 4:5. Rev. 2:23. also John 21:17. The attribute of OMNIPRESENCE, Matt. 18:20. The attribute of IMMUTABILITY, Heb. 1:11,12. compared with Ps. 102:25—27.
The scriptures ascribe divine works to Christ. He is represented as the CREATOR and PRESERVER of the world, John 1:1-3.10. Col. 1:15–17. Heb. 1:3.10. He is represented as accomplishing REDEMPTION and SALVATION for men by himself-the Light of the world—the Fountain of life. This is the grand testimony that runs throughout the sacred volume. He is represented as administering the GOVERNMENT of the world. See Matt. 28:18. Acts 10: 36. Rom. 14:9. Eph. 1:20-22. The last JUDGMENT, it is said, shall be conducted by him. He will raise the dead, and bring to light the secrets of all hearts, and award to the unnumbered millions of the human race the sentence of righteousness, by which the honor and truth of Jehovah himself are to be sustained in the sight of the universe. John 5:22,23,27-29. Acts 10:42. 17:31. Rom. 14:10. 2 Cor. 5:10. 2 Tim. 4:1. Matt. 25:31-46.*
* The argument for the divine character of Christ, drawn from the works which are ascribed to him, is one with which the enemies of the trinitarian doctrine have always been much perplexed; and the most desperate expedients have been resorted to, to get clear of its force. At one time, the difficulty was thought to be surmounted by resolving all into mere delegation. In performing these works, it was said, Christ is to be regarded as fulfilling a commission received from God, and as exercising extraordinary powers conferred upon him by God for the purpose. It was admitted, at the same time, that these powers were made really and truly to reside in him for the timebeing; so that his agency in accomplishing his works was altogether different from that of Moses, and other messengers of God, in the miracles which they wrought; for they only announced the fact that a miracle was about to take place, but employed no agency of their own for bringing it about, whereas the mighty works of Christ are constantly referred to his own immediate power. This was a theory, however, which could not long endure examination.
That Christ, in his mediatorial character acted in the capacity of a Servant and with delegated authority, is a truth clearly taught in the Scriptures, and perfectly consistent with the view that is taken of his person by those who hold the doctrine of his divinity; but the notion of ability to accomplish divine works being conferred by delegation, is contrary to all reason. Delegation may bestow title and right; but it can communicate no capacity. It cannot qualify for the discharge of the functions of the office delegated. It supposes, in the very nature of the case, that the necessary qualifications are already possessed. In this case, moreover, the qualifications required are of such a kind that they are altogether unsusceptible of such a communication from one being to another as is here supposed. They must