John Wilson.

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

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xvii. In the pains of suffering that are pressing upon him, he jorays,
" Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me." But this feel-
ing could not for a moment shake his submission to the divine will.
All other feelings are absorbed in the fundamental longing, " Thy
will be done." The Divinity is distinguished from the Humanity;
and, by this distinction, their unity, in the subordination of the one to
the other, was to be made prominent. As a man, he might wish
to be spared the sufferings that awaited him, even though from a
higher point of %iew he saw their necessity ; just as a Christian may
be convinced that he ought to make a certain sacrifice in the service
of God, and yet, in darker moments, his purely human feelings may
rise against it, until his conviction, and his will guided by his convic-
tion, at last prevail. It was not merely that Christ's physical nature
had to struggle with death, and such a death ; but his soul had to be
moved to its depths by sympathy with the sufferings of mankind on
account of sin. Thus the wish might arise within him, as a man, to
be spared that bitter cup ; only on condition, however, that the will
of God could be done in some other way. But the conviction that
this could not be, immediately followed. — AUGUSTUS Neander : Life
of Jesus Christ, pp. 407-8.


The extracts we have made m this section, as to the profound piety of
Jesus and his constant obedience to the divine -will, seem, with but few
exceptions, to be quite in unison with the simple and iriteresting narratives
of the New Testament. They represent the character of our Lord, not as
that of a person absolutely perfect, the primary Possessor and the infinite
Source of all excellence, but as the best of God's children, the highest model
of human virtue, the rarest, the only type of a future and a godlike humanity.
They speak of him as drawing all his moral and spiritual life from a greater
Being than himself, — from the bosom of the supreme and universal Father;
as referring all his possessions, his instructions, and his works, not to him-
self, the original and uncontrolled Proprietor, Teacher, and Agent, — an
infinite and eternal hypostasis in a Triune Deity, which became united to a
finite and mortal nature, — but to the power, the wisdom, and. the goodness
of his Father and his God. They exhibit him neither as the blessed and
only Potentate, nor as one of three Almighty Persons, who left the throne
of his co-equals to dwell in a world, and live with and on behalf of men, the
products of his own creative skill; and who, conscious of powers belonging
only to an absolute and independent Being, never bent his knee, or pros-
trated his soul, before any God in heaven or on earth ; but as a man, who,
bearing a relation to the Supreme and Paternal Spirit higher and more inti-
mate than that vouchsafed to an}^ other holy personage or divine messenger,
consecrated himself — all that he had and said and did — to the service and
glory of God; devoting the affections of his childhood, the growing strength
of his youth, the maturity of his powers, the excellence of his gifts, the
inspirations of his Heaven-taught mind, and the throbbings of his human
heart, — all his thoughts and words and works, his trials and his sufferings,
his life and his death, — to the worship and praise, not of thi^ee co-equal and
co-eternal persons, of whom he was the second, but of the One Eternal, Im-
mortal, and Invisible, the true and the only God, who sent him into the world
to be the Teacher, the Exemplar, and the Saviour of the human race.

Some Trinitarians speak of the sinlessness of Jesus as a proof that he
was truly and essentially divine. We, on the contrary, regard it as affording
the strongest evidence for his unqualified subordination to God, and are
confirmed in our opinion b}^ the mode in which it is presented by the ortho-
dox writers whom we have quoted. It seems, indeed, amazing that any
one can read with care the records of the evangelists, or the discourses and
letters of the apostles, and at the same time believe that the moral perfec-
tions of their Master, which they represent as tranacendent only because
he was a more faithful follower of God than others, and was more obedient
and resigned to his will, were the perfections of the ever-blessed and abso-
lute Being. The argument, as Dr. Pond (in his Review of Bushnell's
'*■ God in Christ," p. 17) well observes, " is obviously defective. An incarnate
angel might be sinless ; nor is there any thing impossible in the supposition
of a perfectly sinless man; " for " man once was sinless," and " ought to be
sinless now."

See p. 411 for Dr. Bloomfield's note on Matt. xix. 17.




Thon, Lord, by mortal eyes unseen,
And by thine offspring here unknown,
To manifest thyself to men,

Hast set thine image in thy Son.


Whatever of the falsely or the superstitiously fearful imagination
conjures up, because of God being at a distance, can only be disjDelled
by God brought nigh unto us. The spmtual must become sensible :
the veil which hides the unseen God from the eye of mortals must
be somehow withdrawn. Now, all this has been done once, and done
only, in the incarnation of Jesus Christ ; he being the brightness of
his Father's glory, and the express image of his person. The God-
head became palpable to human senses ; and man could behold, as in
a picture or in distinct personification, the very characteristics of the
Being who made liim. Then truly did men hold converse with
Immanuel; which is, being interpreted, God with us. They saw his
glory in the face of Jesus Christ ; and the very characteristics of the
Divinity himself may be said to have appeared in authentic represen-
tation before them, when God manifest in the flesh descended on
Judea, and sojourned among its earthly tabernacles. By this mys-
terious movement from heaven to earth, the dark, the untrodden
interval, which separates the corporeal from the spiritual, was at
length overcome. The King eternal and invisible was then placed
within the ken of mortals. They saw the Son, and in him saw the
Father also ; so that, while contemplating the person and the history
of a man, they could make a study of the Godhead. ... In no way
could a more palpable exhibition have been made, than when the
eternal Son, shrined m humanity, stepped forth on the platform of
visible things, and on the proclaimed errand to seek and to save us.
We can now read the character of God in the human looks and in
the human language of him who is the very image and visible repre-
sentation of the Deity. We see it in the tears of sympathy which he
shed. We hear it in the accents of tenderness which fell from hlra.
Even his very remonstrances were those of a meek and gentle nature;
for they are remonstrances of deepest pathos, the complaints of a
longing and affectionate spuit, against tlie sad perversity of men bent


on their own undoing. "When visited with the fear that God looks
hardly and adversely towards us, let us think of him who had com-
passion on the famishing multitudes ; of him who mourned with the
sisters of Lazarus; of him who, when he approached the city of
Jerusalem, wept over it at the thought of its coming desolation.
And, knowing that the Son is hke unto the Father, let us re-assm-e
our hopes with the certamty that God is love. — Dr. T. Chalmers :
Select Works j vol. iii. pp. 161-2.

If we do u.ot misunderstand the import of this extract, Dr. Chalmers,
thjugh he \xxyis some expi-essions which are of an uuscriptural character,
means to affirm that Jesus was the image of the Father, and the manifesta
tion of God in the flesh, not because he was or represented God the Son
(who, according to this divine, was the Jehovah who appeared visibly to
the patriarchs and others), but because he imaged forth the moral character
of the Deity, of the Invisible One, the Father, who became visible in the
person, the offices, and the life of the Son of God, the man Christ Jesus.
Such a sentiment is surely more in unison with the teachings of the New
Testament than with the dicta of human creeds or the dogmas of a meta-
physical orthodoxy.

Let us observe again, and be thankful for, the perfect wisdom of
God. Even while presenting to us God in Christ, that is to say, God
with all those attributes which we can understand and fear and love ;
and without those which throw us, as it were, to an infinite distance,
overwhelming our minds and baffling all our conceptions, — even
then the utmost care is taken to make us remember that God in
himself is really that infinite and incomprehensible Being to whom
we cannot, in our present state, approach ; that even his manifestation
of himself in Christ Jesus is one less perfect than we shall be permitted
to see hereafter; that Christ stands at the right hand of the Majesty
on high ; that he has received from the Father all his kingdom and
his glory ; finally, that the Father is greater than he, inasmuch as any
other nature added to the pure and perfect essence of God must, in a
certain measure, if I may venture so to speak, be a coming down to
a lower point from the very and unmixed Divinity. ... It was very
necessary, especially at a time when men were so accustomed to
worship then' highest gods under the form of men, that, whilst the
gospel was itself holding out the man Christ Jesus as the object of
rehgious faith and fear and love, and teaching that all power was
given to him in heaven and in earth, it should also guard us against
supposing that it meant to represent God as, in himself, wearing a
human form, or having a nature partaking of our infirmities j and


therefore it always speaks of there being something in God higher
and more perfect than could possibly be revealed to man; and for
this eternal and infinite and inconceivable Being it claims the reserve
of our highest thoughts, or rather it commands us to believe that
they who shall hereafter see God face to face shall be allowed to sep
something still greater than is now^ revealed to us, even in Him who
is the express image of God, and the brightness of his glory. — Dr.
Thomas Arnold : Sernwns on the Christian lAfe, pp. 238-40.

Whatever opinion may be entertained of some of the views presented in
this extract, we think it unquestionable that the eternal and infinite Being
who was pleased to manifest himself to the world in and through Christ,
and who was the Source of all the kingdom, power, and glory, of which
Christ was and is in possession, is greater than the recipient of his bountj';
and that, however worthy his holy Son, Messenger, Eepresentative, and
Image may be of receiving our reverential regards and heartfelt obedience,
God claims for himself our highest thoughts and profoundest veneration .
This is the unifoi-m lesson of the New Testament, and seems to be incul
Gated here by Dr. Arnold.

No doubt, the benevolence of the Creator had awakened grateful
feelings, and kindled the most exquisite poetry of expression, in the
hearts and from the lips of many before the coming of Christ ; no
doubt, general humanity had been impressed upon mankind in the
most vivid tmd earnest language. But the gospel first placed these
two great principles as the main pillars of the new moral structure :
God the universal Father, mankind one brotherhood ; God made
kno\A'n through the mediation of his Son, the image and humanized
type and exemplar of his goodness; mankind of one kindred, and
therefore of equal rank in the sight of the Creator, and to be united
in one spiritual commonwealth. — Henry H. MiLMAN : History of
Christianity, vol. i. p. 207.

Here Christ is beautifully and scripturally spoken of, not as God the
Son, but as the Son of God, " the image and humanized type of God's good-
ness; " one who, through his mediation, makes God known to mankind, not
as a Triune Being, but as the universal Father.

Almighty God has revealed himself as the proper object of religion,
as the one only Power on whom we are to feel om'selves continually
dejjendcint for all things, and the one only Being whose favor we are
continually to seek; and, lest we should complain that an infinite
Being is an object too remote and incomprehensible for our minds to
dwell upon, he has manifested himself in his Son, the man Jesus


Christ, whose history and character are largely described to us in the
Gospels ; so that to love, fear, honor, and serve Jesus Christ, is to love,
fear, honor, and serve Almighty God ; Jesus Christ being " one with
the Father," and " all the fulness of the Godhead " dwelKng in him. —
Archbishop Whately: Cautions to the Times, p. 71.

Whatever shade of meaning the Archbishop of Dublin may attach to the
scriptural expressions with which this paragraph closes, the main sentiment
he inculcates is unequivocally Unitarian; namely, that "the only Being
whose favor Ave are continually to seek," the Infinite and Incomprehensible
One, " manifested himself in his Son, the man Jesus Christ." This sentiment
is, we think, in perfect unison with the teachings of the New Testament, and
in total opposition to the notion, either that three infinite persons manifested
themselves, or that the second of these infinite persons manifested himself,
in what is termed the human nature of our Lord.

We accept the fact of the incarnation, because we feel that it is
impossible to know the absolute and invisible God, as man needs to

know him and craves to know him, without an incarnation

You cannot beheve the words [" We beheld his giory as of the only-
begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth," John i. 14], however
habitual and famihar they may be to you, if there is that in them
which contradicts the spirit of a man that is in you ; which does not
addi'ess that with demonstration and power. What we say is, that
these words have not contradicted that spirit, but have entered it
with the demonstration of the spirit and of power. Men have declared,
" The actual creatures of our race do tell us of something which must
belong to us, must be most needful for us. A gentle human being
does give us the hint of a higher gentleness : a brave man makes us
think of a courage far greater than he can exhibit. Friendships,
sadly and continually interrupted, suggest the belief of an unalterable
friendship. Every brother awakens the hope of a love stronger than
any affinity in nature, and disappoints it. Every father demands a
love and reverence and obedience which we know is his due, and
which something in him, as well as in us, hinders us from paying.
Every man who suffers and dies, rather than lie, bears witness of a
truth beyond his life and death, of which he has a ghmpse." Men
have asked, "Are all these delusions? Is this goodness we have
dreamed of, all a dream ? — this truth a fiction of ours ? Is there no
Brother, no Father, beneath those who have taught us to beheve
there must be such ? Who v/ill tell us ? " — What St. John answers
is this : " No, they are not delusions. It has pleased the Father to



show us what he is. A man did dwell among us, — an actual man
like om'selves, — who told us that he had come from this Father ;
that he knew him. And we believed him : we could not help be-
lieving him. There did shine forth, in his words, looks, acts, that
which we felt to be the grace and the truth we were wanting to see.
We were sure they were not of tliis eartli ; that they did not spring
from that body which was such as om's is. We should have been
ready enough to call them his. But he did not : he said they were
his Father's ; that he could do nothing of himself, only what he saw
his Father do [John v. 19]. That was the most wonderful token to
us of all. We never saw any man before who took nothing to him-
self, who would glorify himself in nothing. Therefore, when we
beheld him, we felt that he was a Son, an only-begotten Son ; and
that the glory of One whom no man had seen, or could see, was
shining forth in him, and through him upon us." — F. D. Maurice :
Theological Essays, No. VL pp. 79, 81-2.

This passage may not be consistent with the other portions of the Essay
from which it is talven; but we regard it as containing a beautiful sum-
mary of what John in his Gospel has recorded of his divine Master. It
is not improbable that Unitarians may have felt too gi-eat a dislike to the
word " incarnation," on account of the gross ideas which it has been so
often made to express ; but the term is not the less fitted to convey the
truly scriptural doctrine, that the Absolute, the Infinite, the Invisible One,
tlie Maker of the universe, and the Parent of all intelligences, has exhibited
himself to mankind in a clearer and more afiectionate manner by his well-
beloved Son, than by any other teacher or agent, whether animate or
inanimate, physical, intellectual, or moral; and that his union with Jesus,
the Nazarean Llan, was more real, intimate, transcendent, than any which
has ever subsisted between the same Father and the best and greatest of his
human children. But this doctrine is, we think, very different fi'om that
which regards Jesus as a second hypostasis in the Godhead, or as God him-
self, assuming human flesh, in order either to manifest his own divine nature,
or to exhibit the character and will of a Triune Being; or as a single pei'son
uniting in himself the contradictory properties of Divinity and Humanity.

He [God] brings out the purity and spotlessness and moral glory
of the Divinity, through the workings of a human mind called into
existence for this purpose, and stationed in a most conspicuous attitude
among men. . . . The moral perfections of Divinity show themselves
to us in the only way by which, so far as we can see, it is possible
directly to show them, by coming out in action, in the very field of
human duty, by a mysterious union with a human intellect and human
powers. It is God manifest in the flesh; the visible moral image


of an all-pervading moral Deity, Himself for ever invisible

God manifests himself in the blazing sun, the fiery comet, and in the
verdure and bloom of the boundless regions of the earth;' but these
are not the avenues through which a soul burdened with its sins would
desire to approach its Maker. The gospel solves the difficulty. " It
is by Jesus Christ that we have access to the Father." This viAdd
exhibition of his character, this personification of his moral attributes,
opens to us the way. Here we see a manifestation of Divinity, an
image of the inN-isible God, which comes as it were down to us : it
meets our feeble faculties with a personification exactly adapted to
their wants ; so that the soul — when pressed by the trials and diffi-
culties of its condition, when overwhelmed with sorrow, or bowed
down by remorse, or earnestly longing for hoHness — will pass by all
the other outward exhibitions of the Deity, and approach the invisible
Supreme through that manifestation of himself which he has mad©
in the person of Jesus Christ, his Son, our Saviour. — Jacob Abbott s-
The Corner-stone, pp. 25-6, 48.

Here, again, Christ is spoken of, not as manifesting any essentially divine
nature and attributes of his own, but rather the moral glory and perfections
of the Deity; of the invisible Supreme; of that paternal Being to whom he
stood in the relation of only-begotten or best-beloved Son.

The reality of Christ is what he expresses of God, not what he is
in his physical conditions, or under his human Umitations. He is here
to express the absolute Being, especially His feeling. His love to man,
His placableness, conversableness, and His real union to the race ; in
a word, to communicate his own fife to the race, and graft Himself
historically into it. Therefore, when we see him thus under the con-
ditions of increase, obedience, worship, suffering, we have nothing to do
but to ask what is here expressed ; and, as long as we do that, we shall
have no difficulty. — Horace Bushnell : God in Christ, p. 156.

This passage occurs as an explanation of Dr. Bushnell' s view of the
person of Christ, in opposition to the common one that Christ had a human
soul distinct from a divine nature. We introduce it here merely to illustrate
our position, that Jesus Christ was not the Being whom he represented, any
more than the external world is the Creator whose goodness and glory it

All the texts of Scripture which speak of the indwelling of God in Christ,
of Christ's union with God, of his acting as the representative, or his being
the image, of God, will be explained more fully in their resp(^ctive places
in the sequel of the present work.



To Jesus' new commands
Be strict obedience paid :
O'er aU his Father's house he stands
The Sovereign and the Head.

Isaac "Watts.

There was some kind of lordship given or bestowed on Clirist,
whose very miction proves no less than an imparted dominion ; as St.
Peter tells us that he was " made both Lord and Christ," Acts ii. 36.
What Da"vid spake of man, the apostle hath applied peculiarly unto
him : " Thou crownedst him with glory and honor, and didst set him
over the works of thy hands ; thou hast put all things in subjection
under his feet," Heb. ii. 7, 8. Now, a dominion thus imparted, given,
derived, or bestowed, cannot be that which belongeth unto God as
God, founded in the di"sine natm*e, because whatsoever is such is
absolute and independent. Wherefore, this lordshijD thus imparted
or acquired appertaineth to the human nature, and belongeth to our
Saviour as the Son of man. The right of judicature is part of this
power ; and Christ himself hath told us that the Father *' hath given
him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man "
(John V. 27) ; and, by virtue of this delegated authority, the " Son
of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and
reward every man according to his Avorks," ]Matt. xvi. 27. Part of
the same dominion is the power of forgiving sins ; as pardoning, no
less than pmiishing, is a branch of the supreme magistracy j and
Christ did therefore say to the sick of the palsy, " Thy sins be forgiven
thee, that we might know that the Son of man had power on earth
to forgive sins," Matt. ix. 2, 6. Another branch of that power is the
alteration of the law, there being the same authority required to
abrogate or alter, which is to make a law ; and Christ asserted himself
to be " greater than the temple," showing that the " Son of man was
Lord even of the sabbath-day," Matt. xii. 6, 8. This dominion thus
given unto Christ m his human nature was a direct and plenary power
over all things, but was not actually given him at once, but part while
he hved on earth, part after his death and resurrection. For though
it be true that " Jesus knew," before his death, " that the Father had


given all things into his hands " (John xiii, 3), yet it is observable
that in the same place it is written, that he likewise knew " that he
was come from God, and went to God ; " and part of that power
he received when he came from God, mth part he was invested
when he went to God, — the first to enable him ; the second, not only
so, but also to reward him. " For to this end Christ both died, rose,
and re^ived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living,"
Rom. xiv. 9. After his resm-rection, he said to his disciples, "AH
power is given unto me in heaven and in earth," Matt, xxviii. 18.
" lie drank of the brook in the way ; therefore he hath lift up his
head, ' Ps. ex. 7. Because " he humbled himself, and became obe-
dient unto death, even the death of the cross, therefore God hath
also highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every
name ; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in
heaven, and earth, and thmgs under the earth; and that
every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of
God the Father," Phil. ii. 8-11. Thus for and after his death he was
instated in a full power and dominion over all thmgs, even as the Son

Online LibraryJohn WilsonUnitarian principles confirmed by Trinitarian testimonies : being selections from the works of eminent theologians belonging to orthodox churches → online text (page 51 of 55)