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this argument on pp. 132, 133. The reader will see if he will recur to it, that its whole strength lies in the philosophical principle, that difference of properties, acts and consciousness is proof of different beings. Now let it be conceded that the representation which Mr. C. has made of the doctrine of the Trinity is just; viz. that the properties, acts and consciousness of one of the sacred persons of the Trinity are not those of another. Let it be also conceded, that difference of properties, acts and consciousness is, in all other cases, satisfactory proof of different beings. The argument then is merely analogical, i.e. since it is admitted that difference of properties &c. proves difference of being with respect to creatures, therefore difference of properties &c. in the persons of the Godhead proves that there are different beings in the Trinity. This is the whole force of Mr. C's, argument, and it lies in the assumption that what we believe of the mode of created existence, must be true of the mode of God’s existence. We feel constrained to ask can any man of ordinary intelligence and uprightness rely on a conclusion which rests solely on the assumption, that nothing more substantially pertains to the nature of the self-existent God, than what pertains to the nature of man? But this assumption is all the proof that Mr. C. has furnished that the doctrine of the Trinity is absurd. But we will further concede that from the mere light of nature, or from what we know of the mode of created existence generally, we should have probable evidence that God does not exist in three persons. Such evidence however as we have seen, (especially if we reflect that it would consist merely in the want of evidence to support the contrary opinion) may be easily and wholly set aside by opposing evidence. Thus in reasoning merely from what we know of the tendency of the human body to dissolution, we should conclude that it would never be resuscitated from the dust to which it returns. ow stands our belief on this point
when God, in a well attested revelation, affirms that it shall be raised incorruptible. So, reasoning from the commonly received principles of philosophy, we should never come to the belief of a Trinity. But what are we to believe should God in a well attested revelation and according to the only true principles of interpreting language, deny the soundness of our reasonings, and declare the personal plurality of the Godhead. But says Mr. C. “if these things do not imply and constitute threebeings we are utterly at a loss to know how three—beings are to be formed.” We have no doubt of the truth of his confession. And what if Mr. C. and his brethren are utterly at a loss to know how three beings are to be formed in any other way than that here supposed. We have no doubt of their ignorance on this point and we are glad to hear them confess it; and what does their ignorance prove?— The fact that Unitarians are “at a loss” on this subject, is just what we are attempting to shew, a fact which surely is entitled to no weight in an argument, which is to set aside the otherwise acknowledged import of the words of God. Does Mr. C. know what constitutes a being? What if God should declare something to be true on this subject, which no philosopher has hitherto thought of, or that something, contrary to what Mr. C. supposes, besides properties, acts and consciousness, enters into the constitution of a being. What, then, becomes of Mr. C.’s philosophy, and the confident conclusions founded upon it? What does reason now say? Does it say that he is authorized to argue from what he does not know, against what God declares P Does it tell him still to rely on the decisions of his philosophy, or rather on his acknowledged ignorance, and, on such authority, to reject what would otherwise be the plain import of the divine declarations? Or does reason say, nothing can be more true than the declarations of the God of truth, and nothing more rational than to believe what he reveals? Is man to place unhesitating confidence in the decisions of his own reason, and that in a case of absolute ignorance, when the omniscient God decides against him —Certainly not, says the Uuitarian, but you are supposing a case which cannot possibly exist. There are things which God cannot declare to be false. He cannot declare it to be false that a part is less than the whole, nor that difference of properties, &c. does not imply difference of beings.-We readily admit that God cannot declare things to be false which are true. But the question is, whether it be invariably true, that difference of properties constitutes different beings. If the Unitarian affirms this, as he must, in order to preserve plausibility to his argument, he must affirm it, either on the ground of intuition, or on that of reasoning. That he has no intuitive knowledge on the subject, we have already shown. That he can prove the assertion to be true is impossible, because he has no materials for an argument respecting the mode in which any thing exists. Take a portion of matter—what is it You say it is something to which pertains extension, solidity, &c. I ask, are these properties the whole thing? If you say they are, you affirm what you do not know, and what I am at liberty to disbelieve. If you say they are not the whole thing, I ask what is there beside its properties? If you say the substratum, substance or essence of the thing, meaning that in which the properties of the thing subsist,-still, of the nature of this substratum or essence, you have not, nor can you form the remotest conception, except that it is something in which certain properties inhere. Of the truth or falsehood, therefore, of many propositions which might be made concerning it, you have no means of judging. Again: I ask, what is the soul of man? You say it is something which thinks, wills and acts. But are the properties of the soul, the soul itself? If you affirm this, you affirm what you do not know, and what I have as good
reason to deny as you to affirm. If you say the properties of the soul are not the soul, I ask again, what is the soul? If you say it is that something to which the above attributes belong, I ask again, what is that something? No man can answer. Of the truth or falsehood of manythings that might be affirmed of the soul, you have ne means of deciding. Here, then, we come to the application of a principle too undeniable to be questioned, viz.: that the decisions of reason, when we are confessedly in utter ignorance, are entitled to no authority in determining our faith. Suppose one should declare of three separate portions of matter, or of three distinct minds, that, in their essence, or in their mode of existence, the three were in a sense one; could any man, from the treasures of his ignorance, derive arguments to prove the thing to be impossible, and the assertion to be false P. Were the assertion to come from God, could we allege the least reason for doubting its truth for a moment P Could we reject the revelation, with the reply “we are at a loss” on the subject? We adduce these examples simply to show that, concerning the mode of existence, either of matter or mind, Unitarians, and all other men, are totally in the dark, and, by reasoning, cannot advance a single step. Mr. C. and the Reviewer have virtually confessed it, by assigning limits to their own knowledge. Now here we plant our feet, and say that no man can prove the doctrine of the Trinity to be absurd. He can derive no materials for an analogical argument from the mode of created existence, and he is shut out absolutely from all acquaintance with the mode of God’s existence. According to the concessions of both Mr. C. and the Reviewer, we know nothing of any being beside his attributes; all beyond is a region of darkness; and is God is pleased to shed light upon it, shall we, on the authority of our previous ignorance, deny the discoveries made by such a revelation? Are the doubtful glimmerings of human reason adequate to extinguish the beam imparted from the throne of omniscience P Surely it is a strange principle of reasoning, if God instructs us in a matter, in which we are confessedly in the profoundest ignorance, that this ignorance proves the obvious meaning of the declarations of God to be absurd. Such, as we suppose, is the ground on which that doctrine is presented to our faith in the Scripture, which is pronounced, by Unitarians, to be “intrinsically incapable of any proof whatever;” and which, as they say, can make no part of a revelation from God, because a revelation from God cannot teach absurdities. We readily grant, were this doctrine known to be absurd, or could it be proved to be absurd, that it could be no part of revelation. In that case, did any portion of the Scriptures clearly teach the doctrine, we might rely on our superior mastership in logic, and reject the inspiration of the writer, or, if the evidence of inspiration should be found too unyielding, we might drown our sciuples by an impeachment of the divine perfection. But how stands the case, when the matter of fact is, that the doctrine is not known to be absurd, and cannot be proved to be absurd P What authority is due to the decisions of reason, in a case in which reason knows nothing, and can decide nothing? and what are we to say of those who rely on such decisions of reason, as having a measure of infallibility which precludes contradiction from the omniscient God? Yet such is the course adopted by Unitarians. Solely on the authority of human reason, in a case in which reason knows nothing and can prove nothing, they pronounce the doctrine of the Trinity to be absurd, and reject it as an impossible part of a divine revelation. Nay more, they reject it, when, aside from the fact that ignorance sees fit to charge it with absurdity, it must be acknowledged to be a part of the revelation of God. Now we maintain, that, to yield to the au
thority of reason in such a case, a case in which man is in the profoundest ignorance of the nature of the subject whereof he affirms, and, simply on that authority, to set aside the otherwise acknowledged import of the inspired volume, is a most presumptuous reliance on human reason. This is to exalt reason above revelation; and with this offence, we charge Mr. Channing and the Reviewer. They may not predicate absurdity of what they believe God has revealed. This would imply a hardihood of which we do not think them capable. But they do predicate absurdity of that import of divine revelation which they neither know nor can prove to be absurd; and which, aside from the supposed absurdity, must be acknowledged to be the true import. In other words, they discard what God has actually revealed, solely on the authority of their own reason. That they do this ignorantly, is not denied, but such ignorance admits of no vindication. They may persuade themselves that they perceive real absurdity in this doctrine; but such a persuasion, on a subject which, as they know, involves so much that lies beyond their comprehension, must be presumptuous, and cannot be associated with candour and honesty in the investigation of truth. Are we too severe in our allegations? Is not the highest human intellect baffled in every inquiry into the mode of universal existence P is man qualified to go abroad, with an exploring eye, even into the material creation, and to uncover its mysteries? And is there no irreverence in the thought, that the infinite God must so bring himself within the grasp of our comprehension, that the truth or falsehood of his declarations concerning himself may be tested by the independent scrutiny of reason, e'er we will believe those declarations P Is reason competent to denounce, as absurd, and as essentially incredible, the obvious import of God's declarations, on a subject, concerning which reason knows nothing and can prove nothing? and is the doctrine of the Trinity to be rejected on such authority ?
“ In poin reasoning pride, the error les.
“Canst thou by searching find out God P canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven, what canst thou do? deeper than hell, what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.” Can such a God reveal nothing concerning himself to human ignorance, and be worthy of the confidence of man? We cannot tell how others may regard this part of the subject, but we frankly confess that we view it of high practical importance and are shocked by that irreverence with which many seem to approach it. The incomprehensibility of the divinenature is inseparable from what we regard as the justest conceptions of the Deity, and essential to the best feelings of devotion with which man can approach him. Never do we lift the adoring eye with such intense emotion before his throne, never do we bow with such deep humiliation in his presence, never do we derive such a constraining power from his high authority and never do we cherish such a cheerful acquiescence in his universal government, as when baffled and lost in the height and depth of that mystery in which God hides himself. We should feel it to be a degradation of the Being whom we worship, the overthrow of all our accustomed conceptions of him, to know that Mr. C. or the Reviewer had so comprehended his nature as to be able to pronounce with infallibility the things concerning him which in their ignorance they have ventured to pronounce. The God whose existence in its very nature precludes all cause and all derivation, whose duration retires into the immeasurable depths of a past eternity, and the immensity of whose every attribute mocks all created thought, is the God, in whom we believe. In our contemplations of him, when la
bouring with the utmost comprehension of thought of which we are capable, instead of grasping the mysterious and ineffable idea, we know that we have formed but a faint and shaded image of him, whom no man can see and live. It is the thought of what eye hath not seen nor ear heard, nor hath entered the heart of man to conceive that enthrones the object of our adoration in the grandeur and glories of divinity. Reduce him to the limits of human comprehension, bring him down to that insignificance which shall enable man to fathom and unfold his mode of existence, and we should feel that the sanctuary of the Eternal, were emptied of its glories and ourselves left without God and without hope in the world. We shall now make some remarks on what seems to us the unfairness and dishonesty, with which Mr. C. and the Reviewer have conducted the controversy on their part. First, they constantly misrepresent the doctrine of the Trinity. It has been affirmed again and again by Trinitarians, that they use the word person when applied to the Godhead, out of its ordinary acceptation. But the fact has already appeared that neither Mr. C. nor the Reviewer notices the Trinitarian explanations of the termin his argument. They still affix to it their own meaning, and regardless of our denials and explanations, they still hold themselves the only authorized interpreters of our language, and boldly maintain that “a person is a being.” This single position is the pillar of all their reasoning. Without it they have not even a pretence to argument, and throughout the review there is not a reason given for rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity, which does not derive all its force from the unauthorized assumption that in the language of Trinitarians “a person is a being.” Is it fair, is it honest ? Just as fair, just as honest, as it would be to affirm that a triangle is a circle, and thence proceed to prove that the former is a figure without angles. Secondly, Unitarians represent the
inferior nature of Christ, as proof that he is not God. Scarcely a text adduced by Trinitarians in proof of the divinity of Christ is rejected by Mr. C. or the Reviewer except on the ground that the divinity of the Saviour is inconsistent with his inferior uature. The arguments of the Reviewer professedly derived from the scriptures to prove that Christ is not divine, are extended through several pages, but in no one of them can we discover the shadow of plausibility, unless the apparent or real inconsistency of the humanity and divinity of Christ be assumed. But it happens again that we have the Reviewer’s consession on the point which we wish to substantiate. He says “if this be a fact, (that Christ was man) then the only question that need be examined is, whether it be possible for Christ to have been at once God and man, &c.” It is the only question; and why does the Reviewer assume the very point in debate, as if there were no question concerning it The scriptures unequivocally teach that Christ was man ; but this is no proof that they do not also teach that he was God, unless it be proved that his humanity was inconsistent with his divinity. Nor even then; for in that case the proof is furnished by the inconsistency of the doctrines, and not by the Bible. Only concede that it is as reasonable to believe on scriptural authority that Christ was God manifest in the flesh, as to believe that he was a mere man, and all this scriptural argumentation, of the Reviewer comes to naught. If Unitarians are able, let them prove a priori that it is impossible that Christ should be both God and man, but let them not attempt to palm the mere assumption of the fact upon their readers as a scriptural argument. This, Mr. C. and the Reviewer have done. Is it fair, is it honest ? But the reviewer is not satisfied without imputing to us the grossest irreverence and impiety.
Will you, at the present day, shock our feelings and understandings to the utter.
most, by telling us, that Almighty God was incarnate in this infant, and wrapt in swaddling clothes —p. 388.
Here the assumption is, that Trinitarians hold that the Lord Jesus was merely God and that they predicate that concerning the divine Being, which could be true only of a mere human being; in other words we are made to say that the Almighty was a mere human being. For if it be admitted that Christ was both God and man, what can there be so shocking to Unitariansensibilities, instating on the one hand his divinity, and on the other those facts which respect his humanity. Do we in such a statement affirm, that which implies that the Almighty was a mere human being? Will the Reviewer say, that this is our creed 2 If not what do we maintain that produces such a revolt of feeling and of intellect? The plain fact is that the Reviewer imputes to us the monstrous and shocking impiety of predicating that of divinity, which could be true only of mere humanity." Taking our creed then, as it is, we with no less propriety and no less emotion than the Reviewer, might ask will you shock our feelings and our understandings to the uttermost by telling us that but we refuse to repeat the language of the writer. The sentiment and the argument might be expected from the infidel. The “bad eminence” of being willing to express them in terms of such irreverent vulgarity and with the implication intended we concede to the Reviewer and his compeers.t
*We can regard it as no vindication of such an unrestricted charge that some few Trinitarians have used unguarded language on this subject. The devout Dr. Watts has we think, sometimes fallen into this error. It consists in not sufficiently ..o.o. circumstances and properties which belong to one nature of Christ from those which belong to the other; or in supposing that what may be predicated of his complex person as mediator, may be predicated either of his human or divine nature indiscriminately.
f “The incarceration of the Creator of the world in the body of a helpless, potting infant is &c."--Belsham