« PreviousContinue »
to promote infidelity? I remember reading, somewhere, that lord Shaftesbury once asked bishop Burnet if his religion taught the doctrine of endless punishment ? and, being answered in the affirmative, replied, “ then it is no religion for me." Is it not probable that many others are of the same opinion with his lordship? And why should not men be as cautious of entertaining opinions derogatory to the moral perfections of God, as they are of calling in question the truth of the scriptures? Not that they must necessarily be reduced to such a dilemma, but that it is a point of the first importance to form just and honourable notions of the divine Being, and of all his dispensations.
To the Editor of the Monthly Repository.
IT has been very justly remarked, that the scriptures know no such compound being as the God-man Jesus Christ. And your correspondent on the Decisions of Common Sense (see page 148) has shown the absurdity to which the scripture will be often reduced, if we apply the notion of Christ being “ very
God” to various passages of the New 'Testament: yet, in defiance of such ab
surdity, the God-man, in all orthodox creeds and catechisms, continues to usurp the honours so justly due, and which I trust unitarian christians are behind none in affectionately paying to Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God by wonders and signs which God did by him.
The church of England, in her second article, declares, “ that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the godhead and the manhood, were joined together in one person never to be divided, where. of is one Christ, very God and very man.” It has been a favourite employment of orthodox di. vines, to enlarge upon this notion, which has been considered of such easy digestion as to be even " milk for babes." The " Assembly's Shorter Catechism” was designed for the instruction of children, and I remember to have been taught it by very pious and affectionate parents as soon as I could learn any thing. This “ form of sound words” as the orthodox often call it, declares, that “ Jesus Christ being the eternal son of God, became man, and so was, and continues to be, God and man in two distinct natures and one person for ever." But I have now before me a manuscript upon this subject, saved from the destruction of many things more valuable, the curious contents of which you may be willing to preserve as a theological rarity. It is a translation from the Latin, as a school-exercise, in my own hand-writing, when I was not more than eleven years of age, and is as follows:
“ The astonishing extremes or unparalleled opposites in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, by J. R. (John Ryland), Northampton.
I. The eternal Jehovah once an infant of an hour old.
III. The omnipresent God, filling all worlds, yet lying in a manger.
IV. The Creator of all things once a creature.
V. The Lord of all worlds, once a servant to poor man and washed his feet.
VI. The true God is reputed a deceiver of the people and
VII. The mighty God, once weak as a worm, and, as no man, unable to bear his cross.
VIII. The only wise God is blindfolded and buffeted as a fool.
IX. He that is God and none else is treated as less than nothing.
X. The holy God reckoned a confederate with the devil.
XI. God above all (Rom. ix. 5. in the original) is sunk into the dust of death.
XII. God blessed for ever is made a curse.
XIII. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is murdered by Jacob's children, the Jews.
XIV. The Lord of hosts is forsook by every being, upon the cross, and hath not one out of all his armies to attend and comfort him.
XV. The King of kings sold for 31. 158., the price of a slave among the Jews.
XVI. The God of the whole earth becomes as poor as a beggar. 2 Cor. viii. 9. (in the original).
XVII. The God of absolute dominion over all worlds is made subject to his own law, both in its commands and curses.
XVIII. The Supreme Judge of men and angels is arraigned as a criminal at Pilate's bar, and condemned by his own creatures, his own guilty and wretched creatures.
XIX. The great Giver of eternal life suffers death; the Author of all pardons himself condemned to death for guilt.
XX. The Author of all resurrections in the vegetable and human world sinks down and dies.
XXI. The best beloved son of God dreadfully punished by his own father."
Such was the manner in which his school-boys were initiated into the greater mysteries of orthodoxy by the late Rev. John Ryland, to whose preaching I have seen crowds resort as to that of an eminently sound divine, whose doctrine interested, while his occasional excentricities amused them. Should the paper which I have transcribed be charged to eccentricity, I might safely challenge any of your orthodox readers (and I hope you have many such) to allow the premises that Jesus Christ is God and man, and then justly to reject my quondam preceptor's twenty-one stupendous conclusions.
But this well-intending and in many respects ingenious man was by no means singular in a fondness for “ astonishing extremes or unparalleled opposites.” I well remember to have read, not many years ago, a sermon on the passage, Is not this the carpenter's son ? in which the author, a respectable minister now deceased, was transported into a pious rapture on this subject. Adopt. ing the ancient tradition that Jesus had worked at his father's trade, he described the angels as paying him divine worship, and at the same time shouting through the empyreal-—" The Carpenter! The Carpenter !"
It would, however, be unjust to the divines I have mentioned not to connect them with persons of extraordinary reputation, among whom they may be fairly classed upon this occasion. It was, I believe, an eminent father of the church who ut. tered that edifying exclamation, Credo quia impossibile est-I believe because it is impossible; and I think there is a similar sentiment somewhere in the “ Private Thoughts” of bishop Beveridge. Christians have often pitied the deluded worshipers of an infant-lama; and critics have deemed the wounded gods of Homer an extravagance beyond the licence even of poetic fiction. Yet the pious and accomplished Watts, before he had put away such childish things, could discover “ the mighty God in a babe at the mother's breast.” During the same days of his “ younger assurance” he deplored Mr. Locke's deficiency of faith, because, after applying his mature judgment to a serious investigation of the scriptures, that great and good man could not“ bear the infant Deity," and found “ a bleeding God” one of the “ themes too pain. ful to be understood."
But I cannot forbear to quote, upon this subject, that ornament of our country and our race, whom, excepting an unhappy stain upon his judicial purity, both poetry and prose have designated not only “ the greatest” but also “ the wisest of mankind.” Lord Bacon, in his theological works, to a very orthodox “ confession of faith,” in which he declares that “ the blessed virgin may be truly and catholicly called Deipara, the mother