Page images
PDF
EPUB

primitive and Catholic; and I do not know that the Schoolmen were heretics in this article. If they were ; so far, you may depend upon it, our notion is not scholastic. As to your doctrine being justly called Arianism, I hope, without offence, I may say, I have made it plain to a demonstration, (excepting only that, in some particulars, you fall below Arianism,) and I should advise

you

hereafter, for your own sake, to dispute so clear a point no farther. But let us go on. You add : “ If it be impossi“ble, by the rule of Scripture and reason, and the sense " of the most ancient writers and councils of the Church, " that the scholastic notion should be true; and if there “ be no medium betwixt (the scholastic notion) and the “notion of Dr. Clarke, (that is, Arianism,) then it will be “ demonstrated that (Arianism) is the true doctrine of Je

sus Christ and his Apostles, as revealed in Scripture, " and the true sense of Scripture interpreted by right rea

son, and as understood by the best and most ancient “ Christian writers.” This is your demonstration; only I have thrown in a word or two, by way of parenthesis, to make it the clearer to the reader. The sum of it is this

s ; if the scholastic notion (by which you mean Sabellianism) be not true; and if there be no medium between Sabellianism and Arianism; then Arianism is the true doctrine, &c. That is, if suppasing be proving, and if begging the question be the same thing with determining it; then something will be demonstrated which is not demonstrated. You do well to refer us to your Appendix for proof, and to shift it off as far as possible. Demonstrations are good things, but sometimes very hard to come at; as you will find in the present instance. You may take as much time longer, as you think proper, to consider of it. Give me a demonstration, justly so called ; a chain of clear reasoning, beginning from some plain and undoubted axiom, and regularly descending by necessary deductions, or close connection of ideas, till you come at your conclusion. Till you can do this, it will be but labour lost, to endeavour to shake the received doctrine of the

ever blessed Trinity. For, unless you can give us something really solid and substantial, in an article of so great importance, the reasons which we have, on our side of the question, are so many, so plain, and so forcible, that they must, and will, and ought to sway the minds of modest, reasonable, and conscientious men, while the Church stands, or the world lasts. Any man that duly considers what we have to plead from holy Scripture, and what from the concurring judgment and practice of the primitive and Catholic Church; and reflects farther upon the natural tenderness which every pious and grateful mind must have for the honour of his blessed Lord and Saviour, the dread and horror of blasphemy, and how shocking a thing it must appear to begin now to abridge him of that respect, service, and supreme adoration, which has been so long and so universally paid him, and by the blessed saints and martyrs now crowned in heaven; I say, any man that duly considers this, will easily perceive how impossible it is for Arianism ever to prevail generally, except it be upon one or other of these suppositions : either that the age becomes so very ignorant or corrupt, that they know not, or care not, what they do; or that some new light spring up, on the side of Arianism, some hidden reserve of extraordinary evidences, such as, in 1400 years' time, the wit of man has not been able to discover. As to the latter, neither yourself nor yet the learned Doctor has been pleased to favour us with any such discovery: as to the former, I have too good an opinion of you to suspect that you can either hope or wish for it. You will have a mind to try what you can do; and so give me leave to represent to you a short summary of what we are to expect of you.

I. You are to prove, either that the Son is not Creator; or that there are two Creators, and one of them a creature.

2. You are to show, either that the Son is not to be worshipped at all; or that there are two objects of worship, and one of them a creature,

3. You are to prove, either that the Son is not God; or that there are two Gods, and one of them a creature.

4. You are to show, that your hypothesis is high enough to take in all the high titles and attributes ascribed to the Son in holy Scripture; and, at the same time, low enough to account for his “ increasing in wis“dom, not knowing the day of judgment,” his being “ exceeding sorrowful, troubled, crying out in his ago“nies,” and the like. You are to make all to meet in the one Abyos, or Word; or else to mend your scheme by borrowing from ours.

5. I must add, that, whatever you undertake, you are either to prove it with such strength, force, and evidence, as may be sufficient to bear up against the stream of antiquity, full and strong against you; or else to show that antiquity has been much misunderstood, and is not full and strong against you.

Now you see, what you have to do; and our readers, perhaps, may understand what we are talking about, the dust being, I hope, in some measure thrown off, and the cause opened. Now proceed as you think proper : only dispute fair; drop ambiguous terms, or define them; put not gross things upon us; contemn every thing but truth in the search after truth; and keep close to the question : and then it will soon be seen, whether Arianism or Catholicism is the Scripture doctrine of the Trinity.

There remain only two Queries, which I have any concern in; and I hardly think it needful to take farther notice of them, the substance of them being contained in the former: besides that this Defence being drawn out into a length beyond what I expected, I am willing to come to a conclusion. You will excuse me for not rea turning a particular answer to your Queries, having obviated all that is of weight in them, in this Defence of my own. Besides, you have now had some years to consider this subject, and may probably see reason to alter some things; to contract your Queries into a shorter compass, and to put them closer and stronger; though that part, I think, should come, after you have made a defence of your own principles : otherwise, you know, it is nothing but finding faults, without proposing any way to mend them; which is only a work of fancy, and is both fruitless and endless. My design chiefly was to be upon the offensive: the defensive part, on our side, has been handled over and over, in books well known, and easy to be had. What was most wanting was, to point out the particular defects of Dr. Clarke's scheme, which was thought to contain something new; and was certainly set forth in a very new method.

In conclusion, give me leave to tell you, that I have entered into this cause (after a competent weighing what I could meet with, on either side) under a full conviction both of the truth and importance of it; and with a resolution (by God's assistance) to maintain it; till I see reason (which I despair of) to alter my judgment of it. Make you the best you can of your side of the question, in a rational and fair manner. Truth is what I sincerely aim at, whether it be on your side or on mine. But I may be allowed to speak with the greater confidence in this cause, since the controversy is not new, but has been exhausted long ago; and all had been done on your side, that the wit of man could do, long before either you or Dr. Clarke appeared in it. You may, if you please, traverse over again Scripture, antiquity, and reason. As to the first; all the texts you can pretend to bring against us have been weighed and considered; and we have soļutions ready for them; while you are yet to seek how to give a tolerable account of several texts; those, especially, which declare the unity of God, and proclaim the Son to be God, Creator, and object of worship and adoration. If you proceed to Fathers, they stand pointed against you;

and you are certain to expose your cause, as often as you

any

relief or succour from them. If, lastly, (which you think your strongest hold,) you retire to philosophy and metaphysics, I humbly conceive, you will still be able to do nothing. It will be only falling to conjecture, after you

hope for

fail of proof ; and giving the world your wishes, when they looked for demonstrations. I do not expect you should believe one word of what I have now said; neither

say

I it to discourage any rational inquiries ; let truth have its utmost trial, that it may afterwards shine out with greater lustre: only let 'not your zeal outrun your proofs. If your arguments have weight sufficient to carry the point with men of sense, let us have them in their full strength; all reasonable men will thank you for them. But if, failing in proof, you should condescend (which yet I am persuaded you will not) to wile and stratagem, to colours and disguises, to misrepresentation and sophistry, in hopes to work your way through the unlearned and unthinking part of the world; then let me assure you beforehand, that that method will not do. Every man, that has a spark of generous fire left, will rise up against such practices; and be filled with disdain to see parts and learning so prostituted, and readers so used.

I am, Sir,

Your Friend and Servant.

« PreviousContinue »