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Person only; or whether one might not have been as good as three, and the like. These are difficiles nugæ, mostly verbal, or vain inquiries; and do not concern common Christians, any farther than to be upon their guard, that they be not imposed on by these subtilties, invented to puzzle and perplex a plain Scripture truth, which is easily perceived and understood in the general, that is, as far as required to be believed, Minute particulars about the modus, may be left to the disputers of this “ world, as a trial of their good sense, their piety, modesty, and humility.
We do not take it well to be reproached, as running too far into metaphysical subtilties, by men whose peculiar talent it is, to play their metaphysics (that is, their presumptions about the nature of a thing whereof they know little) against Scripture and antiquity, the best guides in those searches. If the Catholics have, sometimes gone farther than was necessary, in particular explications, it should be remembered for whose sake they did it; and that it was chiefly with a view to satisfy such as would not be contented with the general truth laid down in Scripture, I shall show, by an instance or two, how that matter is. The nepixugnois, and interior generation, are two specialities taught by the Catholics, and heavily complained of by your friend n Dr. Whitby, as, unscriptural definitions. Now, these are but appendages to our prime (and, as we think, scriptural) positions, and we are no farther concerned for them, than as they are conceived to hang upon the other; so that your quarrel with us for these, is really finding fault with our leading and fundamental doctrine of one God in three Persons. But to show you how unequal you are in censuring us for unseriptural terms, observe the course and method of dispute which draws us first into them. You argue, supposé, that the Son cannot be God, in the strict sense, without making two Gods: we answer, that Father and Son, by a most
Disquisit. Modest. Præf. p. 26.
intimate and ineffable union of substance, will, power, presence, operation, &c. (which we call megszúgnois) may be one God. You argue again, that if the Son be a Son, in our sense, there must be a division and separate existence: we say, No; alleging that he may be a Son in a proper sense, and in our sense, without division, and without a separate existence; and the name for this is interior generation. After we are come thus far, pursuing your wanderings into the philosophy of the thing; you step back again, and tell us, that Scripture says nothing of this wepsycápois, or interior generation. Supposing (not granting) your pretence true ; did you set out upon the foot of Scripture ? Does Scripture any where tell you that two divine Persons cannot be one God? or that Father and Son must have a separate existence? You argue only from the nature and reason of the thing itself, of which you have no adequate idea ; and we answer what is sufficient, and more than sufficient, to confute mere conjectures in matters above your reach. Lay you aside your unscriptural objections, and we shall have no occasion for unscriptural answers.
I shall just take notice of an artificial turn of Mr. Emlyn's, relating to this subject; and then put an end to this long, but, I hope, useful digression. His words are as follow : 666 The pride of reason, which hindered (the “ Pagan philosophers) from believing in Christ, did not lie “in refusing to submit their faith to mysterious specula“tions, which puzzled their reason: but, on the con“trary, it lay in a proud affectation of swelling words “ and philosophic mysteries, and not humbling their un“ derstandings to receive a plain Gospel, and familiar doc“ trine:”
The thought is ingenious, and might pass well, if history, like metaphysical arguments, were to be made merely by strength of wit. He forgets that the mystery of the resurrection was one of those plain familiar things,
• Exam. of Dr. Bennet, &c. p. 5. Introduct,
which the pride of their reason refused to submit to. He considers not that the Jews, and the earliest heretics, (much of the same temper with the Pagan philosophers,) were offended at nothing more than at the mystery of God incarnate; which we learn from Ignatius, Justin, p Irenæus, I Tertullian, and rother ancient writers : and he need but look into Justin, Tatian, and Origen, to find that the Pagans, in particular, were in the same sentiments, and joined in the same common charge against the Christian doctrine. Nay, it may farther appear from other s evidences, that the very mystery of the Trinity, which is the “rock of offence” to some even at this time, gave very early offence to the Pagan wits; and was much disrelished by them: so averse were they to the receiving of mysteries : and the pride of reason wrought, at that time, much after the same manner as it does at this day; human nature being always the same. But it is now high time to proceed.
Query XXII. Whether his (the Doctor's) whole performance, whenever
he differs from us, be any thing more than a repetition of this assertion, that being and person are the same, or that there is no medium between Tritheism and Sabellianism? Which is removing the cause from Scripture to natural reason, not very consistently with the title of his book.
IT is of small importance to observe how the Doctor has proved such points, as he and we both agree in. He might have spared the unnecessary pains, and have took a shorter way with us, had his cause been such as could be served by close argument. He need not have told us so often that the Father is eminently styled the one God, or that the Son is subordinate. We allow all that: the consequence which he draws from it, and covertly insinuates to his reader, is the thing we doubt of. This was the point which should have been laboured, for the conviction of wise and considering men. He has a deal to say in defence of what nobody opposes; and may there triumph securely without an adversary: but when he comes to the point of difference, the pinch of the question, there it is that he discovers his want of proof, and how little he has to depend on, besides that one precarious principle intimated in the Query; which indeed runs through his whole performance, and is often supposed, but never proved.
P Secundum nullam sententiam hæreticorum Verbum Dei caro factum est. Iren. 1. iii. c. 11. p. 189. . 9 Incredibile præsumpserant Deum carnem. Tertull. contr. Marc. 1. iii. c. 8.
* Alii quoque hæretici usque adeo Christi manifestam amplexati sunt divinitatem, ut dixerint illum fuisse sine carne; et totum illi susceptum detraxerint hominem, ne decoquerint in illo divini nominis potestatem si humanam illi' sociassent, ut arbitrabantur, nativitatem. Novat. c. 18.
• Lucian. Philopatr. Athan. Orat. p. 564.
By this principle he teludes the force of the first chapter of St. John's Gospel: and he refers to it again upon u Acts xx. 28. x 1 Tim. iii. i6. John v. 18. By the same principle he evades the force of y John viii. 58. z xii. 41. a v. 23. And so he might have done with any number of texts, however full and express for the received doctrine : for, by the same b maxim, he draws over the Nicene Creed, and does not despair of bringing in the
Athanasian also. From hence it is visible, wherein the strength of his performance lies; and what it is that he chiefly trusts to: It is not Scripture, it is not antiquity, but a philosophical principle; to which Scripture, Fathers, Councils, Creeds, every thing, must yield. And indeed had it been a principle of true and sound philosophy, every reasonable man would be willing to pay the utmost deference to it : but it appears, at length, to be that kind of vain philosophy, which is often intruding where it has nothing to do. The subject is sublime, and above comprehension. We have no intrinsic evidence, no ideas, to build any thing certainly upon. Extrinsic evidence, divine revelation, is here all in all; and the only proper use of our rational faculties, is to inquire into the true and genuine sense of it. To philosophize here from the nature and reason of the thing itself, of which we know little, is choosing to be still in the dark, when we have light before us; and is not, properly, following our reason, but our conceits, fancies, and fond conjectures. You are pleased to say, in defence of the learned Doctor, that “if “ he had done no more than proved intelligent being and “person to be the same, it must for ever remain an un56 answerable difficulty,” &c. Right, if he had proved what he has not, something might be said. I have a before observed to you, that the word being bears two senses; and that you yourselves will not call any thing a being, but a separate being. Excuse the Trinitarians for being reserved, after your example, in so tender a point; and for endeavouring to speak properly, as well as to think justly, in things pertaining unto God. All that the Doctor hath proved, or can prove, is only this ; that separate persons are so many intelligent beings; which we readily adinit: but united persons, or persons having no separate existence, may be one Being, one Substance, one God, notwithstanding. And that you may not think that I screen myself under dark words, or obscure distinctions, I will tell you frankly the meaning of what I have now said. It is little more than this, that persons so united as to make one Being, may be one Being. I suppose the affirmative, that they may be so united; having sufficient grounds for it in Scripture, and in Catholic antiquity. It lies upon you, in this case, to prove the negative, viz. that no union whatever can make two persons one Being, one tò Oelov, one God: you are to show the supposition to be impossible, in the nature of the thing: that is, (as I
+ Script. Doctr. p. 86.
v Id. p. 87.
* Id. p. 88, 97. 2 P. 102.
a P. 132. e P. 428, 430, 435, &c. first ed.