« PreviousContinue »
A SCRIPTURAL PROOF
OF THE ONE SUPREME DEITY,
GOD AND FATHER OF ALL;
AND OF THE SUBORDINATE CHARACTER
AND INFERIO NATURE OF
OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST:
I CONFUTATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF A CO-EQUAL AND
CONSUBSTANTIAL TRINITY IN UNITY ;
AND A FULL REPLY
TO THE OBJECTIONS OF TRINITARIANS.
By WILLIAM CHRISTIE,
LATE A MEMBER OF THE SOCIETY OF UNITARIAN CHRISTIANS,
TIIE THIRD EDITION.
PRINTED FOR D. EATON, 187, HIGH IIOLEORY,
By C, Stower, 32, Parcrnester Ruse,
The Christian religion as delivered to mankind by Christ and his apostles, and exhibited in the sacred books of the New Testament, is a plain intelligible system of doctrines, easy to be believed, and calculated to produce piety and holiness of life. But this pure and rational institution did not long remain uncorrupted. In the very time of the apostles the mystery of iniquity began to work; and became still more visible after their decease. For the three first centuries however, the belief of one God the Father, supreme over all, was in a great measure preserved among Christians. The ecclesiastical writers of those ages, although they used some unscriptural and unjustifiable expressions concerning Jesus Christ the Son of God, did yet observe a great and remarkable distinction betwixt him and the God and Father of all. Upon the whole, their testiinony is not favourable to the modern plan of orthodoxy; as some learned Trinitarian writers themselves have acknowledged. * The doctrine of a co-equal and consubstantial Trinity, grew up only by degrees ; and it was the work of ages to bring it to its present pitch of absurdity. That ancient and venerable creed, commonly called the Apostle's Creed, which with no material variation was received in all the primitive churches, is strictly
Petavius, the learned jesuit, and Huetius equally learned, to which may be added Cotelerius, have made this acknowledgment : all three Roman Catholic divines, and eminently acquainted with ecclesiastical antiquity.
On the other hand, Bp. Bull, Dr. Waterland, and some later writers, have endeavoured to shew the contrary. But the fact is undeniable. Mr. Biddle near 150 years ago produced testimonies from Irenæus, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Novatian, Theophilus, Arnobius, Eusebius, Lactantius, &c., which abundantly make good this assertion; and Mr. Whiston in his Primitive Christianity revived, Dr. Clark in his Scripture doctrine of the Trinity, and Dr. Whitby in his Disquisi
Unitarian, and is an undeniable proof of what the sentiments of Christians originally were, concerning God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. In this form of sound words, the Father Almighty alone has the title of God. Jesus Christ is styled his only Son, but no characters of divinity whatever are applied to him. The Holy Spirit is mentioned, together with the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection of the body, &c.; and there is nothing in this creed that implies the personality of the Holy Spirit. Happy would it have been for the Christian world, if this simple profession of faith had been always adhered to. How much rancour, strife, contention, schism and persecution, might have been prevented. The first council of Nice, however, thought proper to make another; and introduced several absurd and unscriptural phrases, which had never before been imposed upon Christians. These Nicene fathers not. withstanding, either durst not, or did not incline to depart from the ancient doctrine altogether. They began their creed therefore in the usual invariable form, “ I believe in one God the Father, &c.” for the notion of a triune deity was not yet so generally received, as to obtain a place in a creed. And even the decisions of the council of Nice itself gave offence to many; and were overthrown by the Arians in several succeeding councils. The largest general council that ever met in the world, viz. that of Ariminum, and many others besides, decided clearly in favour of Arianism; and for a considerable time the Christian world was divided betwixt the Homoousian and Arian parties; and either the one or the other prevailed, just as the reigning emperor happened to be affected. At last the church of Rome having espoused the cause of the former; and a succession of Trinitarian emperors having followed one another, the Arians, and every other species of Unitarians were effectually crushed; and by dint of penal edicts, fines, impri
tiones modestæ in clarissimi Bulli Defensionem Fidei Nicenæ, have fully confirmed the same. And after all that has been advanced by these learned pens, Dr. Priestley has opened to us new avenues of information, and thrown a prodigious light upon ecclesiastical antiquity, in a work, which will be a lasting monument of his genius and literary industry, entitled, the History of Early Opinions concerning Christ; in 4 vols. 8vo. Lond. 1786.
sonments and executions, the present glorious system of orthodoxy was established.
The faith of the church however did not arrive at the last summit of perfection all at once. It was improved and amended in various councils; the council of Constantinople enlarged the creed of that of Nice; and other clerical assemblies added still farther embellishments.* The opinions of Apollinarius, Nese torius, and Eutyches, gave occasion for several more articles; until at last, (probably about the end of the fifth century) some unknown author put all these admirable improvements together, by forging a creed under the name of Athanasius; which surpassed every thing the world ever saw; and although buried in obscurity for a long time after its birth, became at length the standard of orthodoxy and sound faith. $ This creed is so completely absurd, and contradictory, and displays such a manifest renunciation of the faith of Christ, that the acute and metaphysical geniuses of the schoolmen, of the tenth, eleventh, and succeeding centuries, were hardly able to improve it. They have however, if possible, darkened the subject still farther, and made it more unintelligible. In the mean time the Papal power increased, and bore down all opposition; free inquiry was prohibited, the Latin became a dead language, understood only by the learned, and the scriptures were not permite ted to be translated into any of the new vulgar tongues; the worship of the Virgin Mary, the invocation of saints and angels, the use of images, relics, &c. and endless superstitions too tedious.to name, every where prevailed. And that nothing might be left to complete the ruin of Christianity, they made a god out of a piece of bread, and abjectly worshipped the baker's work. During this long period of popish delusion, and
The article in the Nicene Creed relative to the Holy Ghost, stood originally thus: “ I believe in the Holy Ghost ;" without any thing more. The council of Constantinople added the words.-" The Lord and giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, &c." And the words, " and the Son,” were afterwards inserted in it.
Vigilius Thapsensis is supposed by some to have been the author of the Athanasian creed: but whoever was the author of it, it has been clearly proved by learned men that it was not the composition of Athapasius; and Dr. Waterland himself fairly owns it.