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you have for it, except it be to anticipate the charge, as being conscious to yourselves how notoriously you offend in this kind. Any man, that is acquainted with the history of Arianism, knows that its main strength lay in logical and metaphysical subtilties. The faith of the Church was at first, and might be still, a plain, easy, simple thing; did not its adversaries endeavour to perplex and puzzle it with philosophical niceties, and minute inquiries into the modus of what they cannot comprehend. The first Christians easily believed that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in whose name they were baptized, and whom they worshipped, were equally divine; without troubling themselves about the manner of it, or the reconciling it with their belief in one God. As men generally believe that God foreknows every thing, and that man notwithstanding is a free agent, (scarce one perhaps in a thousand concerning himself how to reconcile these two positions, or being at all apprehensive of any difficulty in it;) so, probably, the plain honest Christians believed every Person to be God, and all but one God; and troubled nat their heads with any nice speculations about the modus of it. This seems to have been the artless simplicity of the primitive Christians, till prying and pretending men came to start difficulties, and raise scruples, and make disturbance; and then it was necessary to guard the faith of the Church against such cavils and impertinencies as began to threaten it. Philosophy and metaphysics were called in to its assistance; but not till heretics had shown the way, and made it in a manner necessary for the Catholics to encounter them with their own weapons.
Some new terms and particular explications came in by this means; that such as had a mind to corrupt or destroy the faith, might be defeated in their purposes. It was needless to say that generation was without division, while nobody suspected or thought of any division in the case: but after heretics had invidiously represented the Catholics as asserting division, it was high time for the Catholics to resent the injury, and to deny the charge. There was no occasion for the mentioning of three Hypostases, till such as Praxeas, Noëtus, and Sabellius, had pretended to make one Hypostasis an article of faith; drawing many very novel and dangerous consequences from their prime position. The ouoououo itself might have been spared, at least out of the creeds, had not a fraudulent abuse of good words brought matters to that pass, that the Catholic faith was in danger of being lost, even under Catholic language. To return to our point: there would be no occasion now for distinguishing between subordination of order and of nature, were it not manifest how much the Catholic faith may be endangered by the endeavours of some, to slip one upon us for the other. Such as know any thing of fair controversy, may justly expect of you, that you support your cause, not by repeating and inculcating the word subordinate, (as if there was a charm in syllables, or men were to be led away by sounds,) but by proving, in a rational manner, that all subordination implies such an inferiority as you contend for. If this can be done, the Doctor's 300 texts (which are very good texts, and have undoubtedly an excellent meaning) may appear also to be pertinent to the cause in hand.
Query XXI. Whether he be not forced to supply his want of Scripture
proof by very strained and remote inferences, and very uncertain reasonings from the nature of a thing confessedly obscure and above comprehension; and yet not more so than God's eternity, ubiquity, prescience, or other attributes, which we are obliged to acknowledge for certain truths ?
TO the former part of the Query, you“ answer directly “ in the negative.” To which I rejoin, that I still maintain the affirmative, and can readily make it good. The Doctor's insinuating from the 300 texts (which style the Father God absolutely, or the one God) that the Son is not strictly and essentially God, not one God with the Father,
is a strained and remote inference of his own; not warranted by Scripture, nor countenanced by Catholic antiquity; but contradictory to both. Besides this, I must observe to you, that the main strength of the Doctor's cause lies, first, in his giving either a c Sabellian or Tritheistic turn (admitting d no medium) to the Catholic doctrine; and then charging it with confusion of Persons, polytheism, nonsense, or contradiction. Take away that, to which his constant resort is, whenever he comes to the pinch of the question, and there will be little left considerable. He shows his reader Tritheism, and he shows him Sabellianism, (keeping the Catholic doctrine, which is neither, out of sight,) and then recommends Arianism (disguised) to him, as the best of the three. Now, since the Catholic doctrine has been generally thought different from any of the three, and more followed than all the rest put together, it ought to have been fairly presented, in company with the other; that so the reader, having all the four before him, might be the more able to pass a right judgment of them. You will frequently find the learned Doctor combating the Catholic faith under the disguise of Sabellianism, as if there was no difference between them: or if it be at all distinguished from Sabellianism, it immediately commences Tritheism; and a plurality of coordinate Persons is inevitable with the learned Doctor: this is the sum of his performance. Scripture, indeed, is brought in, and Fathers too, which is still more surprising: but the whole, in a manner, is this one syllogism.
If the Son be consubstantial with God the Father, he must be either individually or specifically so: but the former is Sabellianism, the latter Tritheism, both absurd : therefore, &c.
The learned Doctor very well knows, how easy it
· See instances, Script. Doctr. p. 99, 102, 293, 426, 465. first ed. Reply, p. 35, 38, 51, 53, 93, 121.
Script. Doctr. p. 86, 132, 415, 430, 435, 437, 441, 447, 455, 465. first ed.
would be to match this syllogism, or sophism, with others of the like kind, against omnipresence, eternity, prescience, and even self-existence : which, in reverence to the subject, and for prudential reasons, I forbear; sorry to find the cause put upon such a way of reasoning, as tends to undermine something more than the doctrine of the Trinity. But I proceed.
To give the better colour to his charge of Tritheism, the Doctor e every where takes it for granted (which was the only way, when it could not be proved) that God the Son cannot be really distinct, and strictly divine too, unless he be coordinate, in all respects, with the Father; which would be contrary to the supposition of his being a Son, and second Person. Two coordinate Persons, it seems, they must be; or else one of them must inevitably be a creature: this is plainly his meaning, however studiously he avoids the word creature; choosing rather to insinuate covertly, what is too gross to appear in broad terms. The whole, you see, terminates in a philosophical question: And what occasion have we for Scripture or Fathers, (except it be to amuse our readers,) if philosophy can so easily end the dispute? For it is very certain that neither Scripture nor Fathers can add force to, if concurring; nor, if reclaiming, be able to stand against clear and evident demonstration. But demonstration is the thing wanting: as to presumptions and conjectures, we are in no pain about them. I shall have a farther occasion to consider the charge of Tritheism hereafter; and therefore, dismissing it for the present, shall return to the business of the Query
To the latter part of it you answer, that “ God's attri“ butes are so far from being above comprehension, that
they are all strictly demonstrable by reason.” You was sensible this was wide; and therefore very justly corrected it, in the words immediately following. “But I “ am willing to suppose” (how could you make any
Script. Doctr. p. 86, 415, 430, 437, 441, 447, 455, 465. first ed.
doubt of it?) " that the author meant, that the MANNER 56 of their existence in the divine nature is above compre“ hension; and so indeed it is.” Very well; and yet you believe the reality of those attributes. Why then so unequal and partial, with respect to the Trinity, the case being exactly the same? why may not the thing be true, though the MANNER, or modus of it, be above comprehension? You add, “ Though the manner of the Son's “ derivation is above comprehension, yet his real subordi“nation is strictly demonstrable," p. 99.
Tantamne rem tam negligenter? Here the argument was, in a manner, brought to a head; and the fate of the controversy depended on this article. Here you
had a fair opportunity given you of laying on your charge of contradiction, if you had any you could depend on; and of clearing God's attributes (particularly the three mentioned) from being liable to the same or the like charge. But, instead of this, you walk calmly off with one sentence; in which, to be plain with you,
it will be hard to find either weight or pertinency. If you mean, by real subordination, the subordination of a creature to God; or of one Person inferior in nature to another of a higher, superior, or more perfect nature; it is not demonstrable from Scripture; nor can it any way be proved: if you mean any thing else, it is not pertinent.
You are so kind as to allow the manner of the Son's derivation, or generation, to be above comprehension. The Eunomians, your predecessors in this controversy, fthought (and they thought right) that, in order to support their cause, it would be necessary to affirm the nature of God to be comprehensible, or not above human comprehension; and therefore it is, that & Philostorgius censures Eusebius
Epiph. Hæres. Ixxvi. p. 916. Socrat. E. H. 1. iv. c. 7. p. 176. Theodoret. Hæret. Fab. I. iv. c. 3. Cyril. Alex. Thesaur. p. 260. ed. Paris. Chrysostom. Hom. xxvii. tom. i. p. 307.
8 Philostorg. lib. i. p. 468. ed. Vales.