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Discourses on the principal points of the Socinian controversy online

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to whom, in his own practice, he uniformly ascribed them.

3. 2 Cor. xii. 8, 9. " For this thing I besought the Lord
thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto
me, My grace is sufficient for thee ; for my strength is
m ide perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I
rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ
)i?ay rest upon me."

It requires only the reading of tliese verses, to ^liow


that the Lord, in the 8th, to wliom Paul presented his sup-
plication for deliverance from trouble, is the same with
Christy in the 9th, in whose promised strength he confides
and triumphs. This is as plain as language can make it.
"^ 1 besought THE Lord,'*' says he : — " He," that is the
Lord, " said unto me, my strength is made perfect in
weakness :" — " I will, therefore, glory in my infirmities,
that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

4. In addition to these passages, might be adduced, the
forms of benediction with which the Epistles generally
open or conclude, and which cannot be viewed in any
other light than as brief prayers for the Divine blessing
on the churches and individuals to whom they are ad-
dressed : — Ephes. vi. 23. " Peace be to the brethren, and
love with fjiith, from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus
Christ !'* — 2 Cor. xiii. 14. " The grace of our Lord Jesus
Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the
Holy Spirit, be with you all ! Amen !" — 2 John 3. "Grace
be witli you, mercy and peace, from God the Father, and
from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth
and love !"

;7. We have before seen, that the Christians were early
distinguished, both among themselves, and in the world,
by the description of *' thnae that called on the name of Je-
sus Christ.^' — Paul then did not stand alone, as a wor-
shipper of Jesus. — We have a remarkable and affecting
instance of anotlier saint's practice in Acts vii. 59, 60.
"xind they stoned Stephen, calling upon (God) and saying,
Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and
cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their
charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep." —
The name of God, in the first of these verses, is supple-
mentary. Tlie supplement is improper ; nor does it, in
the slightest degree, affect the argument afforded l)y the
passage. The prayers were addressed to Jesus : and


Jesus should have been the supplementary word. It is
needless here to prove the fact : it is not denied ; nor does
it admit of any question.

But with regard to this, and similar passages, it has been
said, in the form of a general objection : — " This address
of Stephen to Jesus, when he actually saw him, does not
authorize us to offer prayers to him, now that he is invisi-

This is truly strange ground. It is the ground, how-
ever, w liich is taken ; and we must give it a few moments'

Observe, then, in the first place : — There is no sufficient
evidence of the supposed fact of actual vision. — Even the
vision described as seen by Stephen in the Council Hall
(verses 55, 56,) 1 think there is every reason to believe, was
only a vision of strong faith: — a mental vision, imparted by
the powerful energy of the Holy Spirit, with which at the
time he was filled. f But at any rate, whether this opin-

* Improved Version of the New Testament : Note on the place. —
In this solution, with some slight variations, Unitarian expositors seem
universally to agree.

t Thus Ezekiel describes a vision of the glory of Jehovah, which
was seen by him, while he sat in his house, and the elders of Judah sat
before him. See Ezek. viii. 1 — 4. A variety of similar examples
might be produced.

In the following most singular passage, Dr. Priestley seems to fa-
vour the idea of Stephen's vision having been only a supernatural
impression on his mind ; while yet he draws from it the same infer-
ence against the prayer's being pleaded as a precedent : " To con-
clude as some have done, from the single instance of Stephen, (the
single instance .') that all Christians are authorized to pray to Christ,
is like concluding that all matter has a tendency to go upward, be-
cause a needle will do so when a magnet is held over it. When they
shall be in the same circumstances with Stephen, having their minds
strongly impressed with a vision of Christ sitting at the right hand of
- God, they may then, perhaps," — (perhaps! j^ — even although suppos-
ed in the same circumstances: — is it, then, doubtful, after all, whether


ion be well or ill founded, that vision was seen in the place
of assemldy. It was now at an end : nor is there the
slij^htest evidence that it v/as at this time repeated.

%dl}j. Suppose it to have hecn a real occiilar vision ;
and suppose it also to have been repeated: — of what was it
a vision? of Jesus Christ at hand? — within reach of an im-
mediate application by the voice ? — " He saw,'^ the record
says, ^' the heavens opened, and Jesus standing on the
right hand of God." It was a vision, then, of the glory
of Jesus in the place of his exaltation, in the third heavens.
But how, at this immense distance, was the voice of the
expiring martyr to reach a human ear ? Surely the voice
could enter no ear there, but the ear of him who hears, at
the same moment, ^^ all that in every place call upon his
name ;'' and to w hose audience immeasurable distance is
no interruption. But it may perhaps be said, that as there
was a miracle in the vision, there might be a miracle also
in the hearing of the prayer. I remark, therefore,

3rf/?/. It seems passing strange, that the circumstance of
actual vision should be considered by any, as at all alter-
ing the nature of the case. Are we to conclude, then, that
a creature, a mere man, may, in particular circumstances,
be a j)ropcr object of prayer and religious worship? — that
when spcn he may l)e prayed to ; but when \inseen, the
prayer must be withheld as idolatry ! Does the mere cir-
cumstance of his being visible impart a transient Divinity,
and a momentary title to the honours of Godhead — a Di-
vinity and a tille, lasting only while the vision lasts? — Can

Stephen m as right in praying to Jesus :') — " they may then, perhaps,
he authorized to address themselves lo him as he did : hut the rrhnfe
tennr of the Scriptures shows, that otherwise we have no authoritij at
all for any sueh practice." Hist, of Early Opinions, Vol. i. p. -iT. The

Online LibraryRalph WardlawDiscourses on the principal points of the Socinian controversy → online text (page 11 of 36)