John Wilson.

Unitarian principles confirmed by Trinitarian testimonies : being selections from the works of eminent theologians belonging to orthodox churches online

. (page 48 of 55)
Online LibraryJohn WilsonUnitarian principles confirmed by Trinitarian testimonies : being selections from the works of eminent theologians belonging to orthodox churches → online text (page 48 of 55)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


answers to " the image of God " of Paul, Col. i. 15. — Abridged from
F. LiiCKE's Dissertation on the Logos, as translated in the Christian
Examiner for May, 1849.

John xx. 28.

This has generally been considered an exclamation, and the words
geem to admit it ; but to me the sense appears to be, " Yes ! he is
truly my Lord and my God." The exclamation is a recognition of
Jesus. I will not go so far as to conclude from these words, that he
actually recognized, at the time, the divine nature of Christ, of which
We have no trace amongst the apostles, previous to the efi'usion of the
Holy Ghost ; at least, it was not the common doctrine of the Jewish
theology. But he rather names him in a figurative sense — as one
risen from the dead — his god, whom he will alw^ays honor and adore ;
in the same way as Virgil, in his first Eclogue, .only stiR stronger,
addresses Augustus : " For he shall always be my god : the tender
lamb from our folds shall often stain his altar." — J. D. MiCHAELIS :
The Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, pp. 272-3.



CHRIST NOT GOD IN THE HIGHEST SENSE. 429

It may be justly doubted whether the so lately incredulous, because
prejudiced and unenlightened, disciple had then, or at any time before
the illumination of the Holy Spmt at Pentecost, any complete notion
of the divine nature of Jesus, as forming part of the Godhead ; yet
there is reason to think that the Jews held in a certain sense the
Divinity of the Messiah, though they had no adequate conception of
the true natm^e of it. — Dn. S. T. Bloomfield on John xx. 28 ; in
R&censio Synoptica.

Acts xx. 28.

The true reading seems to be tov Kvptov, " of the Lord." ... In the
Nestorian controversy, many affirmed that nowhere in Sacred Scripture
occurs the expression, " blood of God." The reading ■&£ov, " of God,"
rests chiefly on the authority of the Latin Vulgate. The author of
the ancient Syriac version reads tov Xpcarov, " of Christ. The manu-
scripts which have d-eov kol Kvptov, " of Lord and God," are recent,
and of very little value. — J. G. Rosenmuller in loc.

Acts XX. 28, where ■&eov ["God"] is the common reading, and
Kvpiov [" Lord "] is the one more recently preferred by most critics,
... I would gladly view as a textus emendandus, and cheerfully sub-
stitute Kvplov for ■&eov, inasmuch as alfia ■&eov [" blood of God "], which
the common reading would imply, is an expressiqn utterly foreign
to the Bible. A God whose blood was shed must surely be a -dedg
devTspog [" secondary God "], as the Arians would have it, and not the
impassible and eternal God, which I believe the Logos to be. — Moses
Stuart, in the Biblical Repository for April, 1838 ; vol. xi. p. 315.

It would appear, then, that, notwithstanding the many thousand times
that this passage has been appealed to as containing decisive proof for the
essential and eternal Divinity of Christ, the reading on which the argument
rests is more favorable to the old Arian than to the Trinitarian view of our
Lord's nature.

EoM. ix. 5.

It need not surprise us, that Christ in the flesh is called " God over
all blessed for ever," since "God hath highly exalted him" in the
human nature, "and given him a name above every name," &c., Phil,
ii. 9; and "hath put all things under his feet," 1 Cor. xv. 27; "and
will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath
ordained," Acts xvii. 31. — Dr. James Macknight on Rom. ix. 5.

The only w^ay in Avhich any avoiding of its force [the force of this
text] is practicable, seems to be, to assert that 6 uv etiI navruv deo^



4:30 CHRIST NOT GOD IN TELE HIGHEST SENSE.

is meant to designate merely the supremacy of Clmst as Mediator,
in which capacity he is quasi Deus, and in the hke capacity is styled
f^n'^J!^ [" God "] in Ps. xlv. In pursuing this course, more probability
than is now exhibited in the various evasions that I have above noticed,
and also more ingenuousness, might be shown. But still, &c. —
Moses Stuart, in Commentaivj on the Epistle to the Romans.

With the aid of other learned Trinitarians, we mean to show, in the
proper place, that the words rendered, in the common version, " Christ
came, who is over all, God blessed for ever," may be translated, in accord-
ance with Paul's usual sentiments, as a doxology to the Father: " Christ
came. God, who is over all, be blessed for ever."

1 TiH. iii. 16.

In reference to the Arian hypothesis, this place can scarcely be
mged as decisive against it, unless in connection with others. Ai'ians
do not deny that the title " God " is given to Jesus Christ in the New
Testament, though they are far from thinking him to be true or
supreme God. His manifestation in the flesh has, accordingly, been
sometimes explained by them of the Word, or Logos, miiting himself
to the man Chiist Jesus, and supplying in him the place of a human
soul. If -Qeog be interpreted of a divine nature simply, as some take
it, it is eas}> say they, to perceive how a divine nature was exhibited
by Jesus in the precepts he delivered, the actions he performed, tlie
pure doctrines he inculcated, and the patience in suffering he evinced.
Such is the way in Avhich some Arians reason ; and to refute them
from the present reading, iJeof, is difficult. Other considerations must
be urged against them ; for I cannot see that i^eof is of overwhelming
weight, in opposition to then' particular opinions. — Dr. Samuel
Davidson : Lectures on Biblical Criticism, pp. 160-1.

The passage here cited from Dr. Davidson is omitted in the last edition
of his work ; or, to speak with greater accuracy, it does not appear in that
entitled "^ Treatise on Biblical Criticism." so much altered that he calls it
in his Preface " a new book," containing his " latest and most mature judg-
ments." But in the latter work he says (vol. ii. p. 403), what is equally to
our purpose, that the text " is by no means decisive either for or against the
proper Divinity of Christ; " and that " too much stress has been laid upon
it in doctrinal controversies respecting the person of the Eedeemer ; " closing
with an acknowledgment, that he "fully agi-ees" with Professor Stuart
in the remarks made by him in the Biblical Eepository for January, 1832
(vol. ii. p. 79); and which, because of their appropriateness, we intend to
quote in a future volume.



CHRIST NOT GOD IN THE HIGHEST SENSE. 431

Titus ii. 13.

Why is he [Jesus Chi-ist] here called " the great God " ? Thg
reason may be, because in Jesus Christ the Father displays his good-
ness, the greatness of his wisdom, truth, grace, John i. ; the greatness
and " fulness of his Godhead bodily," Col. ii. 9. — Dr. Robert Gell :
Remains, vol. ii. p. 418.

Granting for a moment, what we think is improbable, that the title
" great God," as well as " Saviour," were here attributed to Christ, would
not Dr. Gell's interpretation be demanded by a regard to the practice of
St. Paul, whose usual manner is to speak of the Father as the original Source
of all pre-eminence and greatness, and the Son as the agent, representative,
or image of the Most High ? — In passing, we may notice that Gell does
not interpret the phrase, " fulness of the Godhead bodily," of what is called
the hypostatical union or the incarnation of God the Son, but of the Father's
displaying his greatness and fulness in Christ.

"The glorious appearing of the great God, and of our Sa\iour
Jesus Christ." . . . The 6 fieyuXog -debg. Kal (Torr/p rjiiuv, of St. Paul in
this place, denote the two persons whom our Lord expressed in the
words, 6 TzaTTip fiet^uv fiov [" The Father greater than I "]. Some
eminently pious and learned scholars of the last and present century
have so far overstretched the argument founded on the presence or
absence of the article, as to have run it into a fallacious sojihistry ,
and, in the intensity of their zeal to maintain the " honor of the Son,"
were not sensible that they were rather engaged in " dishonoring
the Father." . . . Though our blessed Lord is indeed Deity, yet he
is such by generation and communication of the paternal nature of his
heavenly Father ; as he himself was always earnest to impress on the
minds of his disciples. These observations are to be apphed also to
2 Pet. i. 1. — Granyille Penn : Supplemental Annotations to the
Book of the JVew Covenant, p. 145.

Heb. iii. 4.

Most commentators, from Whitby to Stuart, suppose the words
to be an argument to show the superiority of Christ over Moses, by
showing that Jesus is God ; but that requires us to supply at the end,
"And Christ is God." " The argument, too, would be brought forv/ard
with an abruptness very unlike any other in the Epistle. The sense
of the whole passage is, I think, well represented by Ai'chbishop
Newcome in the foilowmg paraphrase : " He who constituted, or set
in order, any society, hath greater honor than that society, or any part



432 CHRIST NOT GOD IN TEE HiaHEST SENSE.

of it. But Christ conducted the Mosaic dispensation as the visible
Hepref.entative of .God, John i. 18. I say, ' He who framed the
household.' For every religious or ci^dl body has some head, —
the Israelites, for instance, ^hen they "svere miraculously conducted
out of Egj'pt, and received the law at Mount Sinai ; but the sujjreme
and ultimate Head of all thmgs is God." This -view of the sense is
confirmed by the learned researches of Dindorf and Kuinol, and
leaves no real difficulty, except to account for the apostle's ha^•ing
subjoined this. — Dr. S. T. Blooifield on Heb. iii. 4 ; in Greek
Testament, fifth American, from the second London, edition.

After a few more remarks, Dr. Bloomfield adds, tliat thus far he had
written in the first edition of his work ; but that, although tliere was only a
change of difficulties, he was half inclined to adopt the opinion of Professor
Stuakt, who interprets the Avord " God " here as applied to Christ.

1 JOHX V. 20.

It might be a question, whether the word " this " refers here to
God, or to the incarnate Son, in whom he has revealed himself. In
either case, the practical import of the words is the same. The con-
nection, however, leads us to regard the reference to God as the
prominent one, since God is afterwards contrasted with idols. The
apostle has just been contemplating Christ as the Mediator of this
fellowship with God. Hence we must suppose that in conclusion he
sets forth this one prominent thought : Tliis God, mth whom behevers
thus stand in fellowship thi'ough Christ, is the only true God, and
hence is the primal Source of eternal life : through him alone, there-
fore, we can become partakers of eternal life, in which is contained the
sum of all good, as the highest good for the God-related spirit. In
him, therefore, we have all which we need for time and eternity. It
is true, indeed, as we have seen, that Christ, as the only-begotten Son
of God, is called by John the eternal Life which was with the Father,
and Avhich has appeared on earth in order to impart itself to man.
With these words he commenced this Epistle. But it is also appro-
priate, that, in closing, he should point to the primal Source, to Him
who is himself that eternal Life whii.'h has pom-ed itself forth into the
only-begotten Son, and through him into humanity. — Augustus
Neander: The First Epistle of John 'practically explained, pp. 317.

The reason assigned by Neander for attributing to the Father the
phrase " eternal life " va^y be regarded as a sufficient answer to Ward law,
Stuart, and others, who lay the chief stress on it for applying to Jesus
Christ the whole clause, " This is the true God, and eternal life."



CHRIST NOT GOD IN THE HIGHEST SENSE. 433

JUDE 4.

The translation in our English Bible ... I have adopted, not onl)
because, according to it, two persons are spoken of as denied, -
namely, " the only Lord God," and " our Lord Jesus Christ," — but
because it represents Jude's sentiment as precisely the same with
John's, 1 Epist. ii. 22, " He is the antichrist who denieth the Father
and the Son." . . . Because the article is prefixed only to iiovov i}edv
["the only God"], and not repeated before Kvptov TjfLuv 'Itjcovv XptoTov
[" our Lord Jesus Christ "], Beza is of opinion that these epithets,
isa-oTTjv, '&ebv, and Kvpcov [" Sovereign," " God," and " Lord "], belong
all to Jesus Christ. But the want of the article is too slight a founda-
tion to build so important a doctrine on. For, in the following
passages, John xvii. 3 ; Eph. v. 5 ; 1 Tim. v. 21, %d. 13 ; 2 Pet. i. 1, 2,
"God" and "Jesus Christ" are mentioned jointly, with the article
prefixed to one of them only ; yet every reader must be sensible that
they are not one, but two distinct persons. Besides, iSeairoTTjg is a title
not commonly given to Jesus Christ, whose proper title is 6 nvpioc. —
Dr. James Macknight : Translation of the Epistles.

eebv, " God," is omitted by A [the Alexandrian MS.], B [the Vati-
can], C [the Ephrem], sixteen others, with Erpen's Arabic, the Coptic,
^thiopic, Armenian, and Vulgate, and by many of the fathers. — Dr.
Adam Clarke, in his Covimentary.

Rev. 1. 8.

The alteration made in this text by Griesbach, \iz., the omission
of the clause, apxv nal reXog [" the beginning and the ending "], and
the insertion of the word ■&ebg [" God "] after KvpLog [" Lord "], appears
to rest upon ample authority. . . . Since the description, " which is,
and which was, and which is to come," is the same as that by which,
almost immediately before, the Father is characterized, and distin-
guished from the Spirit and the Son, it must, I think, be allowed,
especially if Griesbach's text be taken for our guide, that these
are the words of God, even the Father. — - Joseph John Gurnet :
Biblical JVotcs, pp. 85-6.

All the texts here slightly treated of will be discussed more at length in
our future volumes, according to the order in which they occur in the Bible;
and numerous other orthodox writers, of the highest standing, appealed to
in support of the expositions which have been adopted by Unitarians.

See " Scripture Proofs and Scriptural Illustrations of Unitarianism,'*
part i. chap. 1, sect. 9, on the use of the word " God " as applied to Christ.

37



434 CHRIST TRAINED AND QUALEFIED BY GOD



SECT. V. — CHRIST TRAINED BY DIVINE PROVIDENCE TO ACT AS

THE MESSIAH.



Christ is bom, the great Anointed ;

Heaven and earth his praises sing :
Oh, receive whom God appointed

For your Prophet, Priest, and King!



Cawood.



Dhine Providence bad formed Jesus himself to be the supreme
universal Teacher of mankind in such manner as was agreeable to his
individual nature, his education, and the modes of thinking peculiar
to his country and his time. It prepared him for his important work
by means of the religious knowledge which was aheady contained in
the Old Testament, and excited in his lofty mind the noble resolution
to devote himself for the benefit of the whole human race ; so that
Jesus had a hvely assurance that he was appointed by the Deity to lay
down his life for mankind, and that he had received power from God
to raise again his dead body from the grave, in order thus to found a
new religion for the human race, and to deliver from the punishment
of sin those who were not rendered unworthy of salvation by their
ovm voluntary guilt. . . . God has at all times, in the revelations which
he has vouchsafed, made this condescension to mankind [an accommo-
dation to human weakness], in order to communicate to them all
necessaiy knovvledge concerning himself; and has therefore provided,
as the Teacher of the human race, a man, in whom was exhibited, as
it were, a \isible image of his o"\vn highest perfections, John xiv. 9.
Heb. i. 3. — G. F. Seiler : Biblical Hermeneutics, §§ 264, 266.

His whole history proves, that, even as a man, he [Christ] was not
of the common and ordinary class, but one of those great and extra-
ordinary persons of whom the world has seen but few ; but he was
like other men in this respect, that his talents and intellectual faculties
did not unfold themselves at once, but gradually, and were capable of
progressive improvement. Hence Luke records (ii. 52), that he
TcpoEKOTcre ao<j)La [" increased in wisdom "]. Hence, too, he learned
and practised obedience to the divine command, and submission to
the divine will, Heb. v. 8 ; he prepared himself for his office, &c. . . .
Jesus was also learned in the Jewish law and all Jewish literature,
although he had not studied at the common Jewish schools, nor with
the lawyers : vide John vii. 15 ; . . cf. Matt. xiii. 54. Probably, divine



TO ACT AS THE MESSIAH. 435

Providence made use, in part, of natural means, in furnishing Jesus
with this human knowledge. Mary was a relative of Elizabeth, the
pious mother of John the Baptist, and a guest at her house, Luke i.
36, 40. We may imagine, then, that Jesus received good mstruction
in his youth from some one of this pious, sacerdotal family. We see,
from the first chapters of Luke, that Joseph and Mary belonged to a
large circle of pious male and female friends, in whose profitable
society Jesus passed his youth, and who contributed much to his
education as a man, especially as they expected something great from
him from his very birth, as appears fr-om Simeon. — G. C. Knapp :
Christian Theology, sect, xciii.

At a tender age, he [Christ] studied the Old Testament, and
obtained a better knowledge of its rehgious value by the fight that
was within him than any human instruction could have imparted.
Nor was this beaming forth of an immediate consciousness of divine
things in the mind of the child, in advance of the development of his
powers of discm^sive reason, at all afien to the character and progress

of human nature, but entirely in harmony with it Although so

many years of our Sa\iour's life are veiled in obscurity, we cannot
befieve that the full consciousness of a divine call which he displayed
in his later years was of sudden growth. If a great man accomplishes,
within a very brief period, labors of paramount importance to the
world, and which he himself regards as the task of his fife, we must
presume that the strength and energies of his previous years were
concentrated into that limited period, and that the former only consti-
tuted a time of preparation for the latter. Most of aU must this be
true of the labors of Christ, the greatest and most important that the
world has kno\\Ti. We have the right to presume that He who
assumed as his task the salvation of the human race made his whole
previous existence to bear upon this mighty labor. The idea of the
Messiah, as Redeemer and King, streamed forth in divine fight, from
the com-se of the theocracy and the scattered intimations of the Old
Testament, in full extent and clearness ; and in divine light he recog-
nized this Messiahship as his own, and this consciousness of God within
him harmonized with the extraordinary phenomena that occurred at
his birth. But the negative side of the Messiahship, namely, its
relation to sin, he could not learn from self-contemplation. . . Although
his personal experience could not unfold this pecufiar modification of
the Messianic consciousness, many of its essential features were con-
linuaUy suggested by his intercourse with the outer world. . . . We



436 CHRIST TRAINED AND QUALIFIED BY GOD

may assume, that when he reached liis thirtieth year, fully assured of
his call to the jSIessiahship, he waited only for a sign fi-om God to
emerge from liis obscurity, and enter upon his work. This sign was
to be given him by means of the last of God's witnesses under the
old dispensation, whose calling it was to prepare the M'ay for the new
development of the kuigdom of God, — by John the Baptist, the
last representative of the prophetic spirit of the Old Testament. —
Augustus Ne^vnder: Life of Jesiis Christ, pp. 31, 41-2.

In the New Testament, we learn that the great Captain of our
salvation did not encounter the powers of darkness, or enter upon his
work, till he was anointed by the Spirit of God : " The Sjjirit of the
Lord God is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gos-
pel to the poor : he hath sent me to. . . ." He, though a personage of
such a divine and extraordinary character, yet, considered as an instru-
ment in this work (with reverence be it spoken), was not qualified for
it till the Spu'it had descended upon him ; and, when he went into
the wilderness, he was .filled with the Spirit. — Robert Hall: The
Success of Missions ; in f Forks, vol. iii. p. 402.

The sacred writers do not seem to have ever felt any dread in stating the
same sentiment, that the Messiah was an instrument or agent in the hands
of his Almighty Father to accomplish the salvation of man.

It is from his [Christ's] discourses themselves that we are chiefly
instructed in his pre-eminence as the great Prophet of God. . . Richly
was he endowed, and abundantly quahfied to be an instructive preacher.
He did not rush into the ministry until his mind was thoroughly fur-
nished for his work. For a long time he dwelt at Nazareth, diligently
preparing himself for this high service ; and so well had he studied
the Sacred Scri^Dtures, that at twelve years of age he astonished the
doctors of the temple, " both hearing them and asking them ques-
tions." It was not till after his severe trial in the wilderness, where
his faith and knowledge were put to the test of the most artful ar.d
severe of all opposers, nor until he was about thirty years of age, that
he began his wonderful career. — Dr. Gardiner Spring : Glory of
ChrLH, vol. i. pp. 136-7.

The writer of this passage very needlessly adds, that, " besides this,
Jesus was God as well as man; " for surely he could not be the infinite and
underived Source of all knowledge who " diligently prepared himself," by
the study of the Old Testament, for entering on and pursuing that ministry
of love with which God intrusted him.



TO ACT AS THE MESSIAH. 437

The years of his life which were most veiled in obscurity were full
of preparatory discipline, wisely adapted to the sublimest ends. The
lowly circumstances of his infancy, the severe toils of his youth, and
the varied experience of his early manhood, were doubtless designed
gradually to awaken the full consciousness of that di\ine call, and
fortify him with that perfect mastery over adverse powers which he
displayed on entering upon his pubHc life. From an infinite diversity
of sources, sublunary and celestial, Jesus imbibed energies of every
kind, which, with iiTCsistible concentrativeness, were at length em-
ployed to redeem and renovate the world He was diviner

than they [than the heralds of the ancient theocracy], — had more
character, and therefore was habitually more majestic and calm. He
was equally private in his habits of hfe, was even more conversant with
nature than his predecessors on the heights of inspiration ; but he was
imbued with Deity more than any man, rehed incessantly on himself
for augmented force, and exerted the greatest public energ}^, for the
very reason probably that he threw abroad Ills heavenly grandeur from
the shadows of the most humble sphere. ... At the outset, oppressed
as he was by toil and exclusiveness, he strove to stand the first among
our race, an independent thinker, struggHng for the suffering of every
class, with head, hands, and heart disinthralled. . . . All that was
needed to make liim a tender Friend, a perfect Teacher, and a mighty
Redeemer, he acquired by experience on earth, and transmitted for its
hope. — E. L. Magoon : Republican Chrlstianiti), or True Liberty,
pp. 48, 63-4.

If Jesus ^'^ gradually awakened to the consciousness of his divine call;"
if the energies which he exerted for the redemption of the world were
'•Hmbibed from an infinite diversity of sources," both of heaven and earth;
if he was superior to the old Jewish prophets, or more divine than they,
because he was " more conversant with nature than his predecessors on the
heights of inspiration ; if he was "imbued with Deity more than any man,"
and thus endowed, "relied incessantly on himself for augmented force; " if,
at the commencement of his ministry, " he strove to stand the first among
our race, an independent thinker;" and if "all that was needed to make
him a tender Friend, a perfect Teacher, and a mighty Redeemer, he acquired
by exjjenence on earth,'''' — surely, unless corrupted by an absurd hypothesis,
common sense and universal reason will both exclaim, that this struggling,
striving; suffering personage, who obtained by inspiration and experience



Online LibraryJohn WilsonUnitarian principles confirmed by Trinitarian testimonies : being selections from the works of eminent theologians belonging to orthodox churches → online text (page 48 of 55)