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there are the same reasons for supposing the term to be figurative in the one case, which there are for supposing it to be so in the other. This they have not attempted. The whole shew of argument lies in the assumption, that merely because the term God is sometimes used in an inserior sense, therefore it may be supposed to be used in an inferior sense when applied to Christ. We readily concede that sofar as authority or exaltation is concerned, there would be the same propriety in applying the term to Christ, in this sense, as to mere men orangels. And so, for aught we know, there might be propriety in applying the term to Christ, in some other figurative sense. But this does not decide that the word is, or that we have the least warrant for supposing that it is, thus applied to Christ. Indeed if we may say as Unitarians do, that words may be supposed to be used figuratively in any particular case with no other evidence of the fact than that the same words are “sometimes” used figuratively and that a literal meaning is absurd, there is an end to all precision of language. From the charge of uttering absurdities, every writer has complete exemption in the figurative and consequent indeterminate meaning of terms. Nor can it be proved, admitting this principle, at least in a great majority of the declarations of the fact, that any Trinitarian has ever literally asserted that the Son is God; nor that Mr. C. or the Reviewer has literally denied that he is God. Unitarians must either abandon this principle of interpreting language, or in all candour and fairness must say that Trinitarians never intended literally to assert the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, but as the literal meaning of their language is absurd and as they may be supposed to possess a common share of intelligence and honesty, it is to be concluded that Trinitarians have only written and spoken figurAtively on this subject.
But the real question is, have we the same evidence that the word God is used in an inferior sense when ap
plied to Christ which we have of its figurative use in other cases. . To answer this question, we enquire what is the true reason, for the opinion that in the declaration, “I said ye are gods” (Elohim) the terun is not used literally and that it was not the design of the speaker to assert the real divinity of those of whom he speaks. If our preceding remarks be just, then from the fact that language is “sometimes” used figuratively, or from the infallibility of the speaker, or from the absurdity of a literal meaning, nothing appears to decide that the term (Elohim) gods is used in the passage before us in a figurative sense. Hence it follows that from these sources of argument, the Unitarian cannot make out a single instance of the figurative application of the term by an inspired writer, to men or angels. We hesitate not indeed to pronounce with the Unitarian, that the word is used in a figurative sense in the 82d Psalm. But it is of vital importance to ascertain the reason which authorizes this interpretation. Now this we maintain is not the authority of the speaker in connexion with the absurdity of a literal import; but lies in the fact that the meaning of the writer, figuratively interpreted, is definite and undeniably apparent. His design is to exalt Jehovah above all other beings however exalted ; see verse 1st. in which the declaration was made. “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty, he judgeth anong the gods.” The speaker applies the term gods to earthly magistrates or princes, strongly to designate their exaltatiou, that thus still higher supremacy may be seen to belong to the true God, as “higher than the highest.” The language is used in such a manner as to evince its figurative use, beyond a moment’s doubt, by giving us the meaning of the speaker as definitely as had he used the most literal terms. The very language itself precludes the possibility of a literal import, and requires a figurative interpretation. The only question is, are there not passages of scripture which assert the divin
ity of Christ without this mark of figurative phraseology P Let the Reviewer answer. “There are a few texts which will bear a Trinitarian meaning throughout.” p. 415. Now we ask, will the text which is supposed to furnish the parallel, bear a literal meaning throughout P Does not every passage adduced by Unitarians as an example of the inferior use of the word God, mark the inferiority of the beings spoken of to God, as explicitly as language can mark it, and therefore require a figurative interpretation. If not, it is to no purpose that the passage is adduced as an example. Js it does, then the question is, does every passage in which the word is applied to Christ mark with the same precision his inferiority ? “There are a few texts which will bear a Trinitarian meaning throughout;” of course the alleged parallelism utterly sails In the oue case the inferiority of the beings called gods is distinctly asserted, and therefore the texts will not bear a literal interpretation. In the other there is not an intimation of the inferiority of the being called God, and of course the text will not bear a figurative meaning. Thus we have shown, if we are not deceived, that the first principle of Unitarian interpretation is wholly irrational in itself, and that it is equally irrational to apply the second to the interpretation of Trinitarian texts. In these texts there is not according to the concessions of Unitarians themselves, an intimation that the term God is used figuratively. They must therefore concede that the Trinitarian meaning if rejected at all, must be rejected solely on the ground of its absurdity. But what greater absurdity than this 2 Who will say that God in revealing to us the character of the Saviour of the world, has not used language which is intelligible in every age Has he then left us to reject the “obvious sense” of that language when it is capable of no other sense P Is that language literally interpreted, absurd, and figuratively interpreted, without meaning 7 Is the only sense
which the words of inspiration will bear an absurd one? To this, we think the Unitarian is driven. A revelation from heaven has made known to us a great Deliverer from sin and misery, the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him. “Who is he then that we may believe on him P” The Unitarian cannot tell. The most important declarations concerning this exalted person, regarded as figurative are without meaning, and regarded as literal, are absurd and incredible. Is this then the revelation which God has given of his Son; or are Unitarians in the interpretation of the sacred oracles chargeable with a perversion of reason P We are now prepared to consider the third principle which the Reviewer has laid down respecting the interpretation of Trinitarian texts; viz. that Trinitarians are bound “to prove negatively, that it is impossible they should have been used in any other than a Trinitarian meaning; that the words will bear but one sense, and that this is the only sense which they could have been used to express.” We readily accept the task assigned us, and affirm the impossibility demanded by the Reviewer. We maintain it on two grounds; first, that there is not in the passage in question the least legitimate evidence, that the term God is used in a figurative sense, and that the want of such evidence is decisive that the term is not used figuratively; and secondly, that the term is applied to Christ, with such adjuncts, that it can have no other than a literal meaning. As to the point whether the term “will bear but one sense,” if the enquiry were simply whether like other terms, it be capable of a figurative use in certain cases, there can be no diversity of opinion. But this fact, as we have shewn, does not affect at all the real point at issue. The true and only question is whether the term will bear a figurative sense when applied to Christ, according to the principles by which we determine it to have a figurative meaning in other cases? This question we have already answered, and if rightly, then this door is effectually shut against the Unitarian; for in some instances the term God is applied to Christ, when it will bear no other than the Trinitarian sense. It is no more possible that it should have any other sense, than it is that the inspired writers should have adopted a method of writing which no other writer, who intended to teach truth intelligibly, ever adopted; a method which deprives language of all definiteness and precision of meaning, and thus renders it no longer the vehicle of thought. The other ground is that the term God is applied to Christ with such adjuncts, that it is impossible it should have any other than a literal meaning. We here come on to ground already successfully occupied by Professor Stuart, and fully unite with him in saying; That the very reason above all other reasons, why I believe Christ to be truly divine, is because the conne.cion, when he is called God, ascribes to him such attributes and works, as leave me no room to doubt,
that the New Testament writers meant to assert his proper dirinity.—pp. 109, 110.
It is impossible to do justice to this part of Mr. S's. argument, without transcribing the whole of his able letter. This however our limits forbid, nor does equity of argumentation demand it, since neither Mr. C. nor the Reviewer has attempted to meet the Professor on this ground. The presumption is warranted, when they have not even professed to assail the main argument of their opponent, that it is unassailable. We shall therefore only recur to its general structure, referring our readers, who are willing to see a most luminous and decisive array of testimony in support of the divinity of the Saviour, to the whole of Mr. S's third letter.
Mr. Stuart's object is to shew, that the New Testament bestows upon Christ the appellation of God, accompanied by such adjuncts as unavoidably to lead the honest interpreter of
the scriptures, to understand the term when thus applied in its highest sense. In prosecuting this object, he has shewn, that the New Testament attributes to Christ equality with God; represents him as the Creator, the Preserver, and Governor of the universe; declares his omniscience, his omnipotence, his eternity, and exhibits him both by precepts and examples, as the object of prayer and divine worship, by the church in heaven and on earth. He alludes also to that multitude of texts, which require us to love him, to obey him, to confide in him and to commit ourselves to him, in a manner which could not be required were he not God. We now ask what mode of speaking could be devised which should teach the divinity of the Lord Jesus? If to call a being God, if to ascribe to him every attribute of God, if to exhibit him as performing the works which God only can perform, if to represent him as the object of that worship which is due only to God, and of all those acts of holy obedience which God only can claim, does not designate that being as really God, and render every ether meaning of the term impossible, we ask how can the meaning of language be made certain? How do we learn from the Bible that there is a God? How is he described, how is he distinguished from all other beings? Let it be told in what manner this is done which will not decide that the Lord Jesus Christ is God. And now, notwithstanding Christ is called God again and again, and after finding every thing said of him to designate him as God which we find said of the Father, and when inspiration thus comments on its own declarations, are we to be told that these declarations may possibly have another meaning 2 Is this the manner in which the inspired writers use language? Adopt the same principle and ask what is the doctrine of Trinitarians—they assert Christ to be God, they ascribe to him divine attributes, and render to him divine wor
ship, but possibly they intend not to affirm that he is God. And here let Unitarians say on what principles they ascribe to us the doctrine of Christ's divinity, which do not oblige them to ascribe it to the inspired writers.-They may say, it is credible that we should hold absurdities, but not that they should. True, but if such language is absurd in our mouths, why not in theirs? Are not they as responsible for the intelligigible use of language as we, and can we safely rely on that as a revelation from God, while we exempt the writers of it from the obligation to use language intelligibly P. Would it be a revelation ? Unitarians may pronounce the doctrine absurd and contradictory, but let them not be so absurd themselves as to tell us, that that is a revelation from God which reveals nothing; may rather let them not tell us that God has inspired men to teach us the truth concerning his Son; and left them to use language in a manner, that could have but one possible meaning in the mouths of all other men and yet that it has another possible meaning, in theirs Is such a principle authorized by reason P Such a principle is indeed as powerful and plastic as scepticism and speculation and unbelief can desire. It cannot fail to blot from the sacred page every doctrine, which the corruption of the heart, the exigencies of theory, or the pride of false philosophy may demand. If any language and all language may be pronounced figurative, and that without a single distinctive mark of its being so, if language be capable in its most perfect actual use, of many possible meanings, if there be no way of determining it to have any definite and certain import, and if any what-you-please, interpretations may be given of it, of what real value are the eternal oracles to man? What is a book from God himself worth, which conveys by no laws of interpretation, the least definite meaning P And what are the laws of interpretation by which the voice of God is thus silenced, and the
meaning of God confounded and lost in a chaos of wanton conjectures 7 Men may adopt such principles, if they will, but let us not be insulted with hearing the mockery of calling it criticism, sound rational criticism. But the charge which we haye ventured to bring against Unitarians, rests on another fact, of a still more decisive nature. They reject the “obvious sense” of the divine declarations, because their reason pronounces that sense to be absurd, and this in a case, in which reason knows nothing and can prove nothing. Whether the doctrine of the Trinity be absurd is a question of mere philosophy or reason. Such at the same time is the capacity of the human mind, that if the absurdity of the doctrine be as palpable as Unitarians represent it to be, viz. as that three Gods are one God, we should expect at least that a majority of minds would perceive the absurdity. How then has it happened that ninety nine hundredths of the professed followers of Christ have embraced as truth such palpable absurdity? How is it that Unitarians so clearly discern what the rest of the world cannot discover? We know not that they can make any indisputable claim to superiority in natural or acquired capacity, or to any distinguished honesty or diligence in research, which enables them to see absurdity to which the rest of the world are blind. We know not that public opinion has awarded them this preeminence, nor in short that their confident assertions of absurdity are entitled to any more authority over the faith of men, that the equally confident denial of the orthodox. Still it is simply on the authority of their reason that we are called upon to believe that the doctrine of the Trinity is absurd. Before we do this, we shall be free to enquire how much Unitarians infallibly know on the subject and also how much they can prove. 1. Do Unitarians infallibly know that the doctrine of the Trinity is absurd. Mere assertion in argument, unless it contain a self-evident truth is entitled to no weight. The point then is whether the doctrine be a selfevident absurdity, i.e. is it seen by the mind to be absurd, with the same intuition that we see that a part is not equal to the whole, or that two and two are not five. We grant, if the doctrine were,that God is one and three in the same sense; or that he is one in every possible sense, and yet three in some other sense, it would be a selfevident absurdity. But such is not the doctrine. Trinitarians hold no such ideas; they utterly disclaim them. Unitarians in all their attempts to prove such a doctrine to be absurd, (and we never knew them attempt to prove absurdity on any other) have all the glory of a triumph. But they touch not the doctrine of the Trinity. This doctrine is that God is one in some sense and three in some other sense. Now we affirm that absurdity can no more be charged on the doctrine thus stated, than on the proposition that husband and wife are one in some sense and two in some other sense. We adduce this example simply to shew that when we affirm that God is one in some sense, we do not contradict the affirmation that he is three in some other sense; “the terms being used in senses not really opposed to each other.” We “bring together no ideas which are incompatible with each other.” And we say that nothing but absolute stupidity can fail to see that such is the fact, and nothing but wilful perverseness can refuse to confess it. The Reviewer has as we have seen virtually made this confession. Again if the statement of the doctrine involves no absurdity, there is but one other way in which the doctrine can be known to be absurd; viz. by actual knowledge that God is one in every possible sense. This discovery if Unitarians have made it, and can prove that they have made it, is to their purpose. On the contrary, if they have not made it, then they do not know that God is not three in some sense to which their
knowledge does not extend. Suppose then that we should affirm, that in the essence of God there is a threefold distinction, which constitutes distinct personality. This affirmation concerning the essence of God, the Reviewer does not know to be false according to his own confession; for he says “of the nature of any being we can know nothing but by the properties or attributes of that being.”— Does the Unitarian then possess such infallible knowledge respecting what constitutes the whole nature of the infinite Being, that no evidence of miracles could convince him, that there is a threefold mode of existence in the Godhead, which is a foundation for a threefold personal distinction? Has he sent his penetrating glance around and through the essence and attributes of the self-existent and infinite God, and so exactly surveyed the lines and limits and nature and mode of his existence, as to know by such discoveries that God is one in every possible sense? Has Mr. C. done this P. Has the Reviewer done it? Why then do they talk as if they had Why do they affirm what can, and what cannot be true of the mode of the divine existence, with the same boldness and confidence as had they actually found out the Almighty to perfection ? It is presumption, daring presumption; nor shall we hesitate to pronounce it such, until they prove to us that they have the same knowledge of God, which God has of himself. It is to no purpose to tell us that the doctrine of the Trinity seems to them to be a contradiction that they think it is a contradiction. Of what authority are the opinions and conjectures of mere ignorance? Do they know it to be a contradiction? We put this question to the conscience, and claim an answer without equivocation. 2. We enquire whether Unitarians can prove the doctrine of the Trinity to be absurd. This Mr. C. has attempted, and has we fully believe given to the argument all its plausibility and force. We have already given