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to reafon and scripture; I have no doubt, they will be discerned and admitted by you, and no farther. Free, ferious, diligent, unbiaffed inquiry, is the enemy of falsehood, but the fure friend of truth. The perplexity and embarrassment and all the disagreeable controverfies upon this fubject we are confidering, have arisen from a supposed pre-existence of our bleffed Saviour. The question is, whether this be or be not the doctrine of fcripture: for it is matter of pure revelation: and with regard to this point, First, I have obfeved, that if it were true; it does not merit the stress, that has been laid upon it: it would be a matter only of curious fpeculation, having no neceffary connection with the regard due to Chrift, with that faith in him, and obedience to him, required in the gofpel.

It is very evident that perfons may disbelieve this particular, and yet retain every principle of love, gratitude and obedience towards the lord Jefus, every inftance of chriftian faith, difpofition, conduct, and hope. The denying of our Saviour's pre-existence, therefore, is in no degree, prejudicial to true christianity, nor has any, the leaft tendency, to diminish our veneration for the character of Chrift, leffen our fenfe of chriftian obligations, or weaken any one motive to chriftian faith and obedience. But the admitting of it, has actually occafioned the greateft confufion, produced intricate, perplexing schemes, and much hindered Ꭰ

both

both the spread and influence of the gofpel in the world.

Secondly, I have observed, that it is not a clear doctrine of Scripture. I do not know of one fcripture paffage, either directly affirming, or neceffarily implying it. If we give up this point; our idea of the person and character of our bleffed Saviour, may be easily formed, in a manner fatisfactory to reafon, agreeable to the nature of things, confiftent with the analogy of Providence, and with the whole ftrain of the evangelical narration, and tending to fecure the highest and most rational love, efteem, and veneration for our bleffed lord. However, as feveral paffages of scripture have been generally thought to affirm, imply, refer to, or represent the existence and state of Christ, previous to his appearance among men; I have thought it proper to produce, and lay before you, what appears to me the real meaning of fuch paffages. Having fuggefted what may be fufficient at prefent, with respect to the pre-existence of Chrift; let us now proceed, to reprefent more directly, the positive and genuine fcripture idea of the perfon and character of our glorious Redeemer, during his ftate on earth and his confequent exaltation.

It is on this and what is connected with it, that all just regard to him is to be built. Now St. Peter in a few words here expreffes the true character, A MAN APPROYED OF GOD, by miracles, figns and

wonders,

wonders, which God did by him.

Hence we may perceive, that the first thing that is to be admitted into our idea of Chrift, is that he had the real human nature, that he was ftrictly and properly man. There was a ftrange fentiment arofe among the chriftians of Afia, after the death of St. Peter, but during the life of St. John, who lived almost through a whole century; a fentiment which St. John moft earneftly oppofes in his firft epiftle efpecially it was this, that our Saviour was not a real man, but a mere phantom, that his ministry was a vifionary fcene, that he was only an human appearance, effected by the extraordinary power of God, that he had not a real body, that he did not really, fuffer and die, but only feemed fo to do. They could not allow a divine perfon to be united to the human nature, and therefore they pretended, that our lord had only the appearance of flesh without the reality. It is with reference to this grofs error St. John

• A&ts ii. 22.

†The leading principle of the fect, to which our author here refers, was, that matter is the fource of all evil. Hence, they would not allow that the man Jefus was the Chrift; but they either fuppofed that he was man only in appearance, having nothing more than the femblance of a body: or, that if he had a real body; it was fome celeftial intelligence, fome principal emanation from the Supreme Being, that was properly the Chrift. The Chrift, they faid, entered into him at his baptifm, and quitted him at his death, The object of their strange notions was undoubtedly

D 2

John fays, every spirit that confefleth that Jefus Chrift is come in the flesh, is of God: and every fpirit that confeffeth not that Jefus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God.* This opinion was, afterwards, maintained by those corrupt chriftians the Manicheans. They affirmed, that our Saviour's body was an apparition only, a mere impofition upon the fenfes of those who beheld him, and no real

doubtedly to do honour to Chrift, the defire of which has been the fource of other deviations from the fimple doctrine of the gofpel. The writings of the apoftles, however, are evidently unfavourable to the fentiments of thefe early heretics: and Chryfoftom reprefents it as "the first and principal reason why Christ is "exhibited with all the weaknesses and infirmities of human "nature, to prove that he had real flesh."

The moft ferious objection to this opinion (obferves Dr. Priestley) "is that, if Christ had not properly flesh and blood, and there"fore was not properly a man he had not the feelings of a man, "and therefore he is no proper example to us, especially in his "fufferings and death, with respect to which his example is more "particularly proposed to us, and, in time of perfecution, this con"fideration was of the greatest consequence." It was probably under this impreffion that the apoftle John faid, "Who is he that “overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the son of "God?" (1 John v. 5). All the support and encouragement which a regard to his example afforded, must have been destroyed, by the idea that Jefus and the Chrift were different perfons. And must not the power of his example be weakened by every doctrine which afcribes to him a nature fuperior to the human? How can we enter into the feelings of a being whofe views and feelings do not correfpond to those which are produced merely by fuch influences as we are expofed to in this world? Ed.

1 John iv. 2, 3.

fubftance.

fubftance. This was a ftrange fentiment indeed, concerning our Saviour's perfon, utterly fubverfive of all genuine regard to Chrift, and destroying the whole doctrine of mediation. No wonder St. John fo earnestly oppofed it. Thus, the first great error in the chriftian church, was departing from a just persuasion that our Saviour was a real man. The Arian notion, though different, has a confiderable refemblance to this. It is however, abfolutely inconfiftent with our Saviour's real humanity for furely a great being from the invifible world, a fecond perfon in the trinity, affuming human flesh only, can with no propriety, be called a man: the more proper term would be, an embodied Deity.

A defire of rendering the doctrine of Chrift more acceptable to heathen people, I make no doubt was the fource of the Arian, and the Arian was the occafion of the Athanafian doctrine concerning the person of Chrift.* And methinks christians fhould not be fond of retaining an opinion concerning the perfon of Chrift, which had no better

A more full and accurate account of the tenets of ancient fects, and a particular inquiry into the origin of the Athanafian and the Arian hypothefis, will be found in Dr. Priestley's History of Early Opinions concerning Jefus Chrift. Dr. Priestley maintains that the Arian doctrine was first advanced in the time of Arius (who flourished in the former part of the fourth century) and that it was, in a great measure, occafioned by the conceffions which the orthodox were led to make in their controverfies with the unitarians.

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