Page images
PDF
EPUB

God unto Pharaoh; and Christ is God; and therefore this cannot be literally true. It can only mean, that he is emphatically God, in some respect or other; perhaps as being God of our system; or God of the Jews and Christians, his peculium. It is true, he has called himself. Jehovah; which if it signified necessary existence and independence, it would be an irrefragable proof of his being the eternal God. But it unfortunately happens that Jehovah signifies no more than a person of honour and integrity, who is true to his word, and performs his promises, (p. 19.) He has farther declared himself to be Creator of the world : but this “ exercise of creating, “ being finite, does not necessarily infer an infinite sub“ject,” (p. 48.) Besides “ that this office and character, “ relative to us, presupposes not, nor is at all more per“fect for, the eternal past duration of his being,” (see p. 50.) What shall I think of next? I must ingenuously own, I am utterly nonplused; and therefore must desire you, whenever you favour me with a reply, to make out your demonstration. But let us proceed.

Having given us a reason, why it was not necessary that the supposed eternity of the Father should be revealed, you go on to acquaint us, why it was not needful to declare the supposed eternity of the Son. And here you give either two 'reasons, or one; I hardly know whether. "His office and character," you say, “relative “ to us, does not presuppose it.”. I know that very wise and judicious men have thought, that it does presuppose it. Bishop Bull, for instance, has spoke admirably well upon that head: but the passage being too long to transcribe, I shall only refer to y it. How you come to take for granted a thing which you know nothing of, and which it is impossible either for you or any man else to "prove, I know not. It is very manifest that, unless you have a full idea of the whole work of redemption, and can tell as well what belongs to a Redeemer, and a

y Judic. Eccl. p. 12.

Judge of the whole universe, as you can what belongs to a rector of a parish, you can pass no certain judgment. No man can certainly define the utmost of what was needful in the case; because no man can dive into the utmost depth of it. There may be more than you, or I, or perhaps angels, can see in that mysterious dispensation; and therefore it is the height of presumption to pronounce, that any power, less than infinite, might be equal to it. I do not say that the argument for Christ's Divinity, drawn from the greatness of the work of Redemption, and the honours consequent upon it, amounts to a perfect demonstration : but this I say, and am very clear in what I say, that it is much surer arguing for the affirmative, from what we know; than for the negative, from what we know not. It is possible our proof may not be sufficient: but it is, a priori, impossible that yours should. Whether we can maintain our point may perhaps be a question: but it is out of all question, that you cannot maintain yours.

Having answered this your first reason, why it was not necessary to reveal the Son's eternity, I proceed to the remaining words; which if I perfectly understood, I might know whether they are a distinct reason, or only an appendage to the former. They are these : “Nor is “ it” (Christ's office and character) “at all more perfect 6 for the eternal past duration of his being,” (p. 50.) I have been considering why that word past was inserted, and what it can mean, in that place. It seems to be opposed either to present, or else to, to come, tacitly understood. At first, I thought thus: that it might be put in to prevent our imagining that Christ's office might not be at all more perfect for the eternal duration of his being to come. But considering again, that if he does but continue till the office is completed and perfected, it is all one, in respect of that office, whether his duration hold longer or no, I thought, that could not be the meaning. Reflecting again, I conceived that past might possibly have relation to the office considered as present, or commencing at such a time; suppose six thousand years ago : and you might think, what could it signify to date his being higher? If he did but exist soon enough for the office, it is sufficient. All the time run out before is of no consideration, having no relation to an office which was to commence after, and would still be but the selfsame temporal office, commencing at such a time. If I have hit your thought at length, I assure you it has cost me some pains; and I wish you would express yourself more clearly hereafter.

Now then let us apply this manner of reasoning to another purpose : by parity of reason we may argue, that the office of God the Father, commencing at the creation; I say, the office of sustaining, preserving, and governing the world, has no relation to the time past, being but just what it is, whether a longer or a shorter, or no time at all be allowed for any prior existence; nor is it at all more perfect for the eternal past duration of his being. But does not this argument suppose that the office is such as may be discharged by a finite creature, or one that began in time? Certainly. And is not that the very thing in question in this, and in the other case too? Undoubtedly. How then comes it to be taken for granted ? Besides, is not a person of unlimited, that is, eternal powers and perfections, more capable of discharging an office, than any creature? Well then, by necessary consequence, the past duration of the person is of great moment in the case; and the office must be thought as much more perfect, for the eternal past duration of his being, as God's perfections excel those of his creatures ; and that is infinitely.

ERY

QUERY VIII. Whether eternity does not imply necessary existence of the

Son; which is inconsistent with the Doctor's Scheme ? And whether the a Doctor hath not made an elusive, equi

a Reply, p. 227.

vocating answer to the objection, since the Son may be a necessary emanation from the Father, by the will and power of the Father, without any contradiction? Will is one thing, and arbitrary will another.

TO the former part of the Query you answer, that “simple and absolute eternity is the same with necessary or self-existence; which is no where supposed of the Son,

“by Dr. Clarke.” Here are several mistakes: for, first, the .. idea of simple eternity is not the same with that of neces

sary existence. Nor, secondly, is it the same with both necessary existence and self-existence, supposing it were the same with the former; because these two are not the same. The idea of eternity is neither more nor less than duration without beginning, and without end. Some have supposed it possible for God to have created ihe world from all eternity; and they use this argument for it; that whatever he could once do, he could always do. Not that I think there is much weight in the argument; but it is sufficient to show, that the ideas are distinct; and that, though eternity may, in sound reasoning, infer or imply necessary existence, as is intimated in the Query; yet the ideas are not the same: for if they were, it would be nonsense to talk of one inferring or implying the other. Then for the second point; it is very manifest that the ideas of necessary existence and self-existence (however they may be imagined with or without reason to imply each other) are not the same ideas. b Aristotle and the later Platonists supposed the world and all the inferior Gods (as Plato and the Pythagoreans, some supramundane deities) to proceed, by way of emanation, without any temporary production, from a superior cause: that is, they believed them to be necessary, but not self-existent. Something like this has been constantly believed by the Christian Church, in respect of the Sóyos: which shows, at least, that the ideas are different: and not only

b See Cudworth. Intellect. System, p. 250, &c.

so, but that, in the opinion of a great part of mankind, they do not so much as infer and imply each other; one may be conceived without the other. However, that is not the point I insist on now. All that I affirm at present is, that the ideas are distinct; and not the very same. After you had laboured to confound these things together, you proceed to argue against the Son's being eternal. But what is that to the Query? I supposed Dr. Clarke (Reply, p. 227.) to understand the word eternal, as I or any other man should; and objected the inconsistency of acknowledging the eternity of the Son, and yet denying his necessary existence ; which, eternity, I thought, inferred and implied. You admit my reasoning to be just, if the Doctor meant the same, by eternal, as I do. But if he meant by eternal, temporary, then my argument fails; as most certainly it must. But why are we thus imposed on with so manifest an abuse of words ? What occasion is there for putting the epithets of simple, absolute, or metaphysical to the word eternal ; which every one, that knows English, understands better without ? Unless you suppose that there is an unlimited and a limited eternity, which is, in reality, an eternity, and no eternity. You proceed to dispute against the eternity of the Son; which though it be something foreign to the purport of the Query, yet being pertinent to the cause in hand, I shall here consider it. You argue that, if the Son be eternal, he is necessarily existing ; which I allow: and if necessarily existing, then self-existent; which I c deny;

• 'Αλλά μή τις, το αεί, προς υπόνοιαν αγεννήτου λαμβανέτω, ώς οϊονται οι τα ψυχής αισθητήρια σεπηρωμένοι: ούτι γαρ το ήν, ούτε το αει, ούτε το προ αιώνων, ταύróv isı tū leyerútq. Alex. Ep. upud Theod. 1. i. c. iv. p. 17. This was said in opposition to the Arians, who were willing to confound the idea of eternity and of necessary existence with self-existence. The learned Doctor cites this passage directly against himself. (Script. Doctr. p. 283. alias 250.) It was intended, and is diametrically opposite to the Doctor's leading principle, or rather fallacy, which runs through his performance, viz. That the Son cannot be strictly and essentially God, unless he be self-existent, or unoriginate in every sense.

« PreviousContinue »