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Doctor has taken to grace and set off many of his propoșitions ; the 9, 11, 12, 17, 34, 35, 36, 39, 43, &c. The concessions there cited come not up to the points in dispute betwixt us, being mostly such general things as may be admitted on either side ; and such as would not have been suspected to favour the Doctor's cause, in opposition to us, but by appearing in the Doctor's book. To make them suit the better, the Doctor has formed his proposta tions, for the most part, in general, or ambiguous terms; content to scatter intimations of his meaning here and there, as he saw proper ;. and to trust the rest to the sagacity, should I say, or weakness of his readers. And now, what is the result of the method of citing, or what does it really prove? I will tell you frankly and plainly. First, it proves that general expressions are capable of being put into different views, and may be made to look this way or that, (taken separately,) by men of wit. Secondly, it proves that when pertinent authorities cannot be had, writers in a cause will be content with any: this is all. Having seen what the learned Doctor's evidence from antiquity amounts to, I shall next attend to what you have to say in defence of him.. . .
You persist in it, that " the Ante-Nicene Fathers and “ Councils—-agree with the Doctor in every interpreta« tion of Scripture, wherein he disagrees with the school“ notions.” By school-notions (a term of art) I am to understand the Catholic prevailing notions of the blessed Trinity. And will you pretend to say that the AnteNicene writers agree with the Doctor in every text? How strangely you deceive yourself? Do the Ante-Nicene writers interpret the first of St. John, so as to make the Father one God supreme; the Word another God, an inferior God besides him? This is the Doctor's real and intended interpretation of it; and yours too, however carefully you disguise it. Did the Ante-Nicene writers interpret the Doctor's 300 texts, or any one of them, so as to exclude the Son from being one God with the Father ? No certainly: they declare the contrary, and proclaim
Father and Son to be one God. Is it possible that the Ante-Nicene writers (who understood all the texts to be consistent with the Son's consubstantiality and coeternity, which the Doctor cites in opposition to both) should interpret the texts as he does ? It is too great an affront to common sense to pretend it. But the way is this: when the Doctor produces the texts, he expresses but part of his sentiments; and in such general words as Catholics and Arians may both agree in: and so far he and his authorities go on together. Afterwards he comes out of generals, bringing the words down to a particular reserved meaning, before concealed, (and which the ancients would have rejected with abhorrence,) and still he appeals to the ancients, as agreeing with him in his interpretations. Thus, for instance; in interpreting the texts which speak of the Father as the one God, he finds some of the ancients say, the Father is autóteos, the Son second only, or subordinate, God of God. Very well: so says the Doctor too: and now, who can make any doubt whether the ancients agreed with him in his interpretations? But observe the sequel : when the learned Doctor comes to explain his own meaning of atrádeos, and subordinate, it appears, from many broad hints scattered here and there, to be this ; that the Father only is necessarily existing and strictly divine; the Son another Being, inferior in kind, (or, what comes to the same, a creature,) directly contrary to all the ancients. Thus you see, while the Doctor keeps in generals, and speaks his mind but by halves, he and the ancients may agree together; as he and we also do: but as soon as ever he comes to particulars, and discovers his real and full sentiments, there the ancients desert him; as well as he us. But besides this general answer, give me leave to observe that, as to several particular texts, the Doctor has no reason to pretend that the Ante-Nicene writers, in general, were on his side. Rev. i. 8. is one of the Doctor's texts, which he interprets of the Father; and insists much upon it, that the ancients applied the title of Tavtoxpátwp, the Almighty, to the Father only. And yet nothing more certain than that that very text was understood, by the Ante-Nicene writers, in general, of God the Son: Catholics and Heretics both agreed in it. The text was urged against the Catholics, in the Sabellian controversy; and was as plausible a text as any in the New Testament, on the Sabellian side: yet the Catholics admitted that it was to be understood of God the Son; and readily allowed, in consequence of that text, that the Son was Ó TANTOXpátup, the Almighty, as well as the Father. See cTertullian, Hippolytus, and, probably, Origen, agreeing in this : the Doctor has not pretended to cite any Ante-Nicene, or any ancient writer, who understood the text otherwise; though he makes a show of having the ancients in general on his side, in this very particular, (Script. Doctr. p. 63-) without proving any thing more than that the Father was ordinarily or emphatically styled ó taytoxgátwp, which is true, but not pertinent; nor is it giving us the sentiments of the ancients, with regard to this text; but his own. Joh. xii. 41. is another noted text, which the Doctor endeavours (Script. Doctr. p. 102.) to interpret in favour of his own hypothesis ; and makes a show of authorities as countenancing him in it. But none of his authorities come up to this point: so far from it, that they are all against him; as I have sufficiently proved under Query the second, and elsewhere. The like may be observed of the authorities which he produces (p. 114, 115.) to confirm his interpretation of Acts vii. 30, 31, 32. And I have, above, shown you as much of Joh. X. 30. and other the like texts; where you pretend to have some countenance from the ancients, for your interpretation. In short, there is not a text which the Doctor can pretend to urge in favour of his main doctrine, and against ours; and at the
• Tert. contr. Prax. c. 17. Hippol. contr. Noët. c. vi. p. 10. Orig. 'Aex. I. i. c. 2. Vid. et Athan. p. 554, 684, 762. ed. Bened. Greg. Naz. Orat. xxxv. p.573. Andreas Cæsar. in loc. Hieron. in Zech. c. ii. p. 1718. Epiph. vol. i. p. 488. That the Son is navToxoátwe might be shown from other texts. Ps. xxiv. 10. Is. vi. 5. Zech. ii. 8. See Euseb. Dem. Ev. 1. vi. c. 16. Just. Mart. Dial. p. 107. Jeb. Hieron. vol. iii. p. 519, 1718. ed. Bened. See my Sermons, p. 228, &c.
same time show that the ancients agree with him. As soon as ever you interpret any text directly against the divinity of Christ, as understood by us in the strict sense, you go off entirely from the ancients, and go on by yourselves. But enough of this. • In answer to the latter part of the Query, you observe,
that the reason why the Doctor doth not admit the testimonies of the Fathers as proofs, “is not because they are “ against him; but because, though they are clearly for “ him, yet, in matters of faith, he allows of no other 66 proof than the infallible testimony of the Word of 6 God.”
One might be willing to believe this to have been the reason, why he would not admit them as proofs, if there were not another very plain one, why he could not; could not, without inevitable ruin and destruction to his whole hypothesis. An adversary need not desire any fairer advantage of the learned Doctor, than to have the issue of the cause put upon the Doctor's citations; taking in no more than is absolutely necessary to clear the sense of the authors in those very passages. But waving this, let me ask you farther, why the testimonies of Fathers may not be admitted as proofs, inferior or collateral proofs? If I can know from Church-writers, and from Scripture too, what was believed by the Church in sundry articles) from the beginning; I have then two proofs of the same thing, though not both equally strong, or equally authentic. The proof from Church-writers is an additional, inferior proof; but still a proof it is, probable at least, of something, as to fact; and not barely an illustration of a dogma, or doctrine. Are we able to prove what were the opinions of several sects of philosophers from the books which are extant; and may we not also prove what was the faith of Christians, in the same way, from the books which they have left us? You add, “ The authority of “ the Fathers, could it be proved to be unanimous against “ Dr. Clarke, ought not to determine any article of faith." No; but it is a strong presumptive proof, that his inter
pretation of Scripture is not the true one: a proof so considerable, that I know not whether any thing less than clear and evident demonstration ought to overrule it. For you must remember, that Dr. Clarke, or any moderns, as well as the ancients, are fallible men; and have only the same human reason to work with, which others had sixteen hundred years ago, in an age of miracles, and near to the days of inspiration. Moderns, at so great a distance off, may, at least, as easily mistake, in interpreting Scripture, as you suppose the ancient and universal Church to have done, in a momentous article of faith. Well then; supposing that we had been for some time debating this very point of the blessed Trinity, on the foot of Scripture: men's wits are so various, that several interpretations may be invented of the same texts; and perhaps none of them so manifestly absurd, but that they possibly may be true; nor so manifestly right, but that they possibly may be wrong. What can we do better, in such a case, than to appeal to those who lived nearest the times of the inspired writers? Their judgment, their decisions, and consequent practice, are at length the safest rule to go by; at least till you can show us a better. Scripture, you will say, is the rule; and so say I. You bring your Scripture proofs; and I produce mine. You have your solutions of such difficulties as I press you with; I have solutions too, and such, as I think sounder, better, and juster than yours : you think the very contrary. Thus far, it is combating text with text, criticism with criticism, reason with reason; and each side will think his own superior. Now, suppose I can farther produce a cloud of witnesses, a nu. merous company of primitive saints and martyrs, confirming my interpretation, concurring in my sentiments, and corroborating ny reasons; and suppose I find also that those who took your side of the question were condemned by the generality as heretics, and corrupters of the faith of Christ; this will add such weight, strength, and force to my pretensions, that impartial men will soon perceive which is the most probable, which the safer side,