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ART. V. Some Remarks on the Unitarian method of inter
preting the Scriptures, as lately exhibited in a publication under the assumed title of an IMPROVED Version of the New Testament : to which are added Considerations on the manner in which the Gospel should be preached to be rendered effectual to its intended purpose. Partly delivered in a Charge, in June, 1815. By the Rev. CHARLES DAUBENY, Archdeacon
of Sarum. 8vo. Rivingtons, 1815. pp. 65. This tract furnishes an antidote to two very opposite, although common and dangerous errors-Unitarianism and Calvinism. The first teaches a sort of philosophical infidelity, which tends to destroy all the peculiar doctrines of Christianity: the second inculcates a species of heartless quietism, which in reality exempts men from the absolute duty of endeavouring to perform their part of the conditions, which the Almighty has been pleased to hold out, as the terms on which he will impart to us justification through the merits of him by whose name alone man can be saved.
The circumstances which have given rise to this book of Mr. Daubenyʻs, are these. The present Bishop of London had, in his primary charge, given a brief, but very comprehensive sketch of the present circumstances of the church, in which, among other things, the great increase of Unitarianism drew his attention: reviewing the principal peculiarities of their tenets he maintained, that they bore a strong analogy to those of Deism. This charge was of course denied by the Unitarians : and the bishop was assailed in a large pamphlet of “ Letters” by Mr. Belsham; if not a distinguished, yet a zealous writer, in favor of Unitarianism. This was not done in the most ingenuous manner, for, as Mr. Daubeny has demonstrated, the « Letters” are replete with evasions of the point at issue ; nor yet in the most respectful manner, as is apparent from the motto, TONOV TOV uubov ESITAS; which, when translated into plain English, means, “ what sort of a lie have you been telling ?”. May we be permitted to advise Mr. B. in the next edition of his « Letters," to translate his motto for the benefit of such of his Unitarian brethren as may not have made the Greek language their study.
If the Unitarians be wise, they will suffer the controversy to remain in its present state ; since every endeavour they use to relieve themselves from the weighty charges brought against them, only seems to involve them in greater difficulties. They have already been laid in the dust of the literary arena, where they had expected to receive doctarum hederas præmia frontium.
The question is thus stated by Mr. Daubeny :
“ If the doctrine of Unitarianism be Christianity, the doctrine of the Church of England most certainly is not. One side of the other then must necessarily give way; for the Unitarian God of reason and the Christian God of Revelation, cannot both stand on the ground of the same divinc word. ilf,' as a Unitarian' has justly observed, 'the proper humanity of Christ be once established, the commonly received doctrine of atonement falls to the ground.'”
With regard to the doctrine of Christ's divinity, of course we cannot, in treating with an Unitarian, content ourselves with simply asserting that it is scriptural, and therefore true, because he denies the position altogether : but we may content ourselve with challenging him on two texts, which, even according to the Unitarian exposition, must prove the doctrine. The first is John, v. 23. “ all men shall honor the Son even as they honor the Father.” “ He that honoreth not the Son, honoreth not the Father which hath sent him.” The question here to be asked is, how are we to honor the Father ? Let Christ answer the question ; " thou shalt worship (apor XUINTEIS) the Lord thy God," ? « pray to thy Father which is in secret. But he also says, “ him only shalt thou serve." * Still, however, are we to honor the Son in a similar manner : Christ, therefore, can be no other than God. It is in vain to urge, as has been sometimes done in reference to other passages, where Christ is called o vios Tou cou, or vios Osov, that here Christ is said to be the Son (of God) in the same sense in which virtuous men are sometimes called the children of God; because it is said, that “the Father hath committed all judgment unto the Son,"S which he hath not done to virtuous men; and because it never could, as the Socinians themselves will maintain, have been commanded, to honor virtuous men, even as we honor God. The other passage is John, x. 30. “I and my Father are one, or as the Greek words should be rendered, "I and the Father are one.” Even if this passage be explained of unity of consent, as has been done by Schleusner, it will still prove the divinity of Christ. Mr. Belsham has, in a former work,' represented
· Mr. Belsham. Mr. Daubeny has not given any reference to the part of Mr. B.'s works where this passage is to be found: this we particularly mention, because accuracy and minuteness of reference, is the only point in which Mr. D.'s admirable work is deficient: owing to which we have not been able to find passages in Mr. Belsham's works, which are voluminous. But this is among writers in general a very common fault. 2 Matt. iv. 10. 3 Ib. vi. 6.
* Ib. iv. 10. S John, v. 24. & Lexicon Gr. Lat. in Nov. Test. Lips. 1808. voc. Eis. ? Calm Enquiry into the person of Christ, p. 447.
the « promised Messiah as a man constituted in all respects like other men, subject to the same infirmities, the same ignorance, prejudices, and FRAILTIES;" he elsewhere doubts whether Jesus was through life wholly exempt from the errors and FAILINGS of human nature.” 1 This very doctrine, which, while it attempts to degrades the character of our Lord, admits that human nature is corrupt, furnishes us with an application of our argument. If Jesus Christ were such as he is represented above, his purposes and his will could not be the same with those of God : because God is a being infinitely wise, while the spirit of man is ignorant; because God is holy, while man is corrupt; because God hates iniquity, while man loves it. But Christ and God are here said to be one in consent: it therefore follows that Christ is not a mere man, but God.
We do not here appeal, as we might, to St. John, who says that the word was God;" ? that “God gave his only begotten son;" 3 or to St. Paul, who tells the Hebrews, that “God hath spoken unto us by his Son, by whom he made the worlds : 4 that “ he saith," of him, “let all the Angels of God worship (TCOCXUINO ATWQv) him.”. Nor do we cite Ignatius, a cotemporary of the Apostles, who must have known what their doctrine was, and who says,' dočağw Ing Guy XpOTOV TOV Osov: 0 θεος ημων Ιησους ο Χρ. εκυοφορηθη υπο Μαριας: 1 and who entreats the Romans 3 to permit him, μιμητης ειναι του παθους του θεου. Eusebius tells us that the first person who denied the divinity of Christ, was one Théodutus, a tanner, who seems to have done it from the basest motives ; ;0' and was in consequence TAUTS TNS apribou ATOOTarias, excommunicated by Victor ; he also in forms us that Justin, and Miltiades, and Tatian, and Clemens, all believed in the divinity of Christ."
On the doctrine of Atonement, we might perhaps assume the
· Daubeny's Remarks, p. 42. 2 John, i. 1. 3 lb. jäi. 16.
4 Heb. i. 1, 2. 5 Ib. i. 6. For some able remarks on this subject, see Pretyman's Elements of Christian Theology, vol. ii. p. 116. sqq. ed. 1800.,
6 Epist. ad Smyrn. §. 2. p. 20. edit. Oxon. 1708. 7 Ad Ephes. $ 19. p. 52.
8 Ad Roman. $ 7. p. 96. 9 Hist. Ecclesiast. I. v. c. 28. p. 252. ed. Reading.
10 Note b. 10 Euseb. p. 252. or Tertuliian de præscr. adv. Hæret. c. 53. p. 405. ed. Paris, 1598.
"For more testimonies concerning the faith of the Primitive Church, see Knowles's Primitive Christianity, Bishop Horsley's Tracts in Controversy with Dr. Priestley, passim; and Pretyman's Elements of Christian Theology, vol, ii. p. 134.
reverse of Mr. Belsham's argument; and say, that if the proper divinity of Christ be once established, the doctrine of Atonement follows of course: but as the subject has been of late admirably treated, we content ourselves with referring the reader to Pretyman's Christian Theology,' and Dr. Magee's Discourses on Atonement and Sacrifice, besides Bishop Pearson's inestimable work on the Creed. On the importance of the doctrine of the Atonement, we may perhaps be permitted to transcribe a passage of the late Bishop Horsley's Sermon on Rom. iv. 25. in which, however, we have been anticipated by the Archdeacon.
“ This doctrine of Atonement, by which the repenting, sinner may recover, as it were, his lost character and innocence, and by which the involuntary deficiencies are supplied of his renewed obedience, is so full of comfort to the godly, so soothing to the natural fears of the awakened sinner's conscience, that it may be deemed a dreadful indiration of the great obduracy of men, that a discovery of a scheme of mercy, which might have been expected to have been the great recommendation of the Gospel to a world lust and dead in trespasses and sios; the means of procuring it an easy and favorable reception, should itself have been made the ground of cavil and objection. And it is a still worse symptom of the hardened hearts of men, if among those who profess theniselves disciples of a crucified Saviour, any may be found who allow do real efficacy to that blood which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel.”-pp. 17, 18.
To return to the charge of infidelity which has given rise to this discussion : Mr. Belsham, in his fourth Letter to the Bishop of London, has the following words. « There are three of the criteria which your Lordship mentions, of which, to whomsoever they may apply, I should without hesitation admit that they are certain marks of unbelief in the Christian Revelation. These are, "bold, and your Lordship must no doubt mean, wilful, perversions of the Christian Scriptures”-“ indecent insinuations against the veracity of the inspired writers,”—and disrespectful reflections on the person and actions of their Saviour." « Persons who are really liable to these charges, and against whom they may be proved, are not Christians.”
To perceive that the Unitarians must, in the fullest extent, plead guilty to these charges, the reader_need only turn to a very ingenious and learned work of Dr. Laurence's, the present Regius Professor of Hebrew in the University of Oxford ;' to Mr. Daubeny's Remarks ; ; and to Mr. Belsham's own Calm
1. Vol.ii. p. 146. sqq. 2 Critical Reflections on some important Misrepresentations contained in the Unitarian Version of the New Testament, 8vo. Oxford, 1811.
3 p. 43–59.
Enquiry.' He will find that they reject the account of our Saviour's miraculous birth, for no better reason, than because it was omitted in the copies of certain early heretics, against whose opinions it directly militated, and who were proverbial for rejecting what did not fall in with their peculiar opinions; they having, like the Unitarians, formed a system of theology of their own-in aid of which the Bible was brought only when it could be done successfully. In this manner, and for this reason, some rejected the Epistles of St. Paul, and others the whole Old Testament, besides interpolating innumerable sages of what they retained. Dr. Marsh, however, has given complete proofs that these passages are genuine.
Now « faith and infidelity are correlative terms. By faith we understand, the belief of things revealed on the testimony of the divine word. By infidelity consequently must be understood, the rejection of such belief on such testimony." 3—The premises being thus established, the consequence follows of course,
But while we oppose those, who reject the doctrine of salvation by the merits of Christ, unassisted by our own efforts and works; we must equally resist those who deny the necessity of our working together with God, by performing our part of the conditions of the Christian Covenant. Here, however, we must request not to be misunderstood. When we speak of performing our part of the Conditions, we do not mean to convey the idea of the absolute merit of good works; and when we talk of our working together with God, we do not intend to say, that our working is the cause of our salvation. We merely maintain the scriptural doctrine, that " not every one that saith, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of the Father which is in heaven."
The scriptural doctrine appears to be this: that we are saved or justified solely through the grace of God, for the merits of our Lord, and not for our own works or deserts. But at the same time there are certain Conditions proposed to us, namely, repentance, faith, and obedience, which if we accept and conform to (and not otherwise) God will justify us, by making us
i Pp. 447. 451.
2 Notes to his Translation of Michaelis's Introduction to the New Testament, vol. iii. pt. ii. pp. 130. 137. 140. and Lectures in Divinity, pt. ii. p. 55. 8vo. Cambridge, 1811.-See also Professor Rau's Symbolæ ad quæstionein de authentia i. et ii. cap. Evang. Matthæi discutiendam. Erlanga, 1793.
3 Daubeny's Remarks, p. 39.
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