Copyright
Ralph Wardlaw.

Discourses on the principal points of the Socinian controversy online

. (page 13 of 36)
Online LibraryRalph WardlawDiscourses on the principal points of the Socinian controversy → online text (page 13 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


it. I only remark that it is language quite as fairly ap-
plicable to the doctrine under our consideration : and that,
upon the principle of judging doctrines, according to the
number of passages in which they are stated, (stated, I
mean, not incidentally and casually, but as the direct and
formal object of the writer) even this '* summary of the
Christian faith " would hardly, I fear, itself abide the ap-
plication of this novel and singular test of truth.

The sole question, on all subjects of this nature, with
which we have to do, — let it be constantly impressed on
our remembrance, and uniformly recognized in our prac-
tice,— is simply this ; — not "In what manner, or with
what degree of frequency, is this, or any other doctrine re-
vealed ?'' but, " Is it revealed ? Is it, according to the or-
dinary meaning of words, clearly made known in this book?"
That the Divinity of Jesus Christ is plainly and unequiv-
ocally taught in our received translation, at least, of the
New Testament, cannot admit of a moment's question : —
and of the faithfulness of this translation, in the various
passages referred to, I must, after the observations which
have been made upon them, leave every one to form his
own judgment.

But the Received Text, we are often reminded, from

*• Tntrodiiction to Improved Version of the New Testament, pa^e 38.
19



i46 ON THE SUPKEME DIVINITY

which our Eiii^lish translation of the New Testament was
made, is far from beini; perfect. It is of considerable an-
tiquity ; and hundreds of additional manuscripts have been
discovered and collated, since it was completed. — I wish
to avoid here any show of such biblical learnins;, as I am
conscious to myself I do not possess. Happily, indeed,
there does not exist the slightest occasion for extensive
critical discussion. A single observation will be perfectly
sufficient to enable you to a])preciate the value of the im-
provements upon the received text, with regard to the par-
ticular subject in hand :-4or with their ^ewej'a/ importance
as to other subjects we have at present no concern. — Of
all the texts, then, in the Nev/ Testament, to which I have
directed your attention on this interesting topic, how many
are there, do you suppose, which undergo any alteration
in the text of Grieshach, the most recent, and, on all hands,
acknowledged the most perfect? — You will be suri)riscd,
perhaps, especially any of you who may have been in the
way of hearing Griesbach so often and so triumphantly
appealed to, as he usually is by our opponents, — wlien I
assure you that there is not one : — that not a single text
of all that have been quoted is in the sliglitest degree touch-
ed by this higli and vaunted authority !

The fact as to this matter stands as follows. — There are
three tcxta connected with the present subject which this
eminent critic sets aside : namely, 1 John v. 7- "For
there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the.
"Word ,and the Holy Giiost ; and these three arc one :■' —
Acts XX. 28. ^' Feed the church of God, which lie halli
purchased with his own blood :'' — and 1 Tim. iii. 10.
^* Great is the mystery of Godliness, God was manifest in
the ilesh.'' — Tiie fust of these texts is rejected as entirely
an interpolation. In the seccmd, tlie reading •• the church
oi the Lord'' is preferred, on a pre[)onderance of autliori-
ties, to the reading of the received text, *• the churcii of



OP JESUS CHRIST, 147

irod."* In the third, " God was manifest in the flesh"
gives place to " He who was manifested in the flesh, was
justified by the Spirit, &c.''t Now to no one of these three
passages have I referred, in proof of the doctrine which it
has been ray object to establish ; nor is it now my inten-
tion to enter into any discussion of the merits of the contro-
versy, respecting the spuriousness of the first, or the vari-
ous readings of the second and third. I feel not the small-
est necessity for pressing even these texts, however impor-
tant they may seem, into the service. The cause does
not require it. An anxious defence of disputed passages
has the appearance of an acknowledgment, that the doc*
trine which they are brought to support cannot be success-
fully maintained without them. Even if the passages in
question had been less doubtful than they are, I should
have been disposed to decline insisting upon them, for the

* Kv^uv for eov. While the Editors of the Improved Version
adopt this reading, and are supported in it by the authority of Gries-
bach, and by the concurrence also of some Trinitarian critics ; (see
Eclectic Rev. vol. V. page 246.) the reading of the received text is
not universally given up even by Socinian Expositors. " Mr. Wake-
field contends sjrenuously for ©e«v, and afterwards eflfeets his escape
from the consequence, by proposing two of the most extraordinary
criticisms that were ever ventured by a Greek scholar. Tov t^tev uif^x-
T«?, he renders, not his oivn blood, but his own son, because truly a
man's son may be said to be his own blood : and therefore, the Son of
God may be expressed by God's own blood, — an expression, which,
if it had been used of God the Father by a Trinitarian in defence
of his doctrine, would have subjected him to Mr. Wakefield's ineffable
contempt. Mr. W. supplies also another way of getting rid of the
difficulty, (that is, the difficulty of acknowledging the Divinity of our
Lord) viz. that of translating the words — " by the blood of his^ own,"
(supplying the word Son. J— This observe is the rendering of Six rev
sSiov ceiu.xToi;.^^ — Magee's Discourses and Dissertations on the Scrip-
tural Doctrines of Atonement and Sacrifice. Appendix, vol. ii. page
463. Note.

t See Note C.



148 ON THE SUPREME DIVIMTV

express purpose of making it apparent, that the cause if«
independent of their aid ; and that so far as respects the
foundation on which my belief in the Divinity of my Sa-
viour rests, I could, without hesitation, relinquish them all,
and still retain my conviction unshaken, and unimpaired.
It is not on the genuineness or accuracy of one or two in-
sulated texts, that this important article of ftiith depends.
If language have any consistent and intelligible meaning;
— if the writers of the sacred books at all understood what
they wrote; — the Divinity of Jesus Christ, in inseparable
connexion with his atonement, forms a fundamental article
in that system of truth, which they were inspired to com-
municate to mankind. It is an integral part of an harmo-
nious and magnificent whole. And now that we have seen
the full amount of those alterations on the Received Text
which have any relation to this subject, I think we may
adopt, with emj)hasis, the language quoted a little ago :-
^^ This doctrine beams forth, with unclouded splendour,
from every page of the New Testament, ivhatever becomes
of the correctness and accuracy, of the Received Text. —
It is impossible that any translation, deserving the name
of a translation, can be made, which does not jilainly tes-
tify the doctrine in question. Even in the Improved Ver-
sion itself, it ^^ beams forth f^^ in spite of every attempt to
quench or to cover its light. From the translation it has
been found impossible to exclude it : and the object of
those notes, which are, with a few exceptions, appended
to all the passages relating to the subject, is, to explain
away what the translation cannot conceal ; not to show,
like other commentaries, what the meaning is, l)ut what it
is not. And specimens of criticism more purely arbitrary
and licentious, I may safely venture to say, are no where
else to be found, except in those writings from which, in
general, they are selected.

I shall now close the discussion of this subject, by iux-



OF JESUS CHRIST. 149

pressing a little further on your attention, as a grand prac-
tical deduction from what has been said, a text to which
I briefly alluded in a former discourse : "^ Ye know tlie
grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich,
yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his
poverty might be made rich."* From the proofs and il-
lustrations which have been laid before you, of the Divine
dignity of our blessed Redeemer, these words will be un-
derstood in all their greatness of meaning, and felt in all
their force of tender and impressive appeal.

I formerly stated the interpretation put upon these words
by the adversaries of the Divinity and pre-existence of
Christ. They affirm, that the word rendered " he became-
jpoor^^ does not mean a transition from a previous state of
riches to a subsequent state of poverty, but describes the
two states as contemporaneous , — that " although rich, he
lived in poverty :" and the sense affixed by them to the
words, when thus translated, is, that he was rich in mi-
raculous powers, which it was at his option to employ for
his own advantage, yet denied himself, and chose, for the
good of others, to live a life of poverty and dependence.

On this view of the passage, permit me to offer a few
additional observations.

ist. It is at once admitted, that the word signifies to he

poor, as well as to become poor : — but that the former of

these is its only or exclusive signification, is far from being

true.f No argument is founded on the mere etymological

* 3 Cor. viii. 9.

t The following note on this text, is taken from the Eclectic Rc'
view of the Improved Version of the New Testament ; a Review dis-
tinguished for its ability, and in which there certainly is no ground
- given for any complaint of deficiency of candour. — ^" 2 Cor. viii. 9.
eTFTu^evtrc^ ' he lived in poverty.' In the note we are told, that ' the
word properly signifies an actual state, not a change of state.' This
observation is not correct. TItux^"*; and its cognates, certainly denote
an ai^ual state, and assert nothing necessarily on the cause or occa-



150 ON THE SOPREME DIVINITY

import of the verb, as if, in itself, it uccessaril}^ expressed
the idea of transition from riches to poverty ; — it is enough,
that it will, with equal fairness, bear this meaning ; and
that other considerations, of sense and connexion, deter-
mine it to be the acceptation in wliich it is here used.

2rf///. Supposing the criticism were correct, and the
translation, '' altliough rich, he lived in poverty," were
adopted, this would not, l)y any means, ascertain the just-
ness of their interpretation, or necessarily exclude the idea
of our Lord'^s Divinity : for the words, it is obvious, might
still mean, that, as he possessed, during his life upon earth,
the Divine nature in union with the human, and consequent-.
ly continued, as God, the creator and proprietor of the uni-
verse, although thus rich, he condescended to live in pov-
erty.

Sdbj. The interpretation of our opponents is liable, as I
stated in a former discourse, to a decisive objection, from
its supposing a mere human prophet possessing miraculous
powers at his oicn disposal. This supposition, I endea-
voured to show, is utterly inadmissible; as being complete-
ly subversive of our confidence in the evidence of miracles.
The power by which these were wrought did not, and
could not, in whole or in part, reside in tlie creature ; —

«ion of that state. But from a curious passage in Ariatoplianes (Plu-
tus, 546 — 5.13) and the remarks of the scholiast, it appears abnost
certain, that these words Mere, very often at least, understood by the
Attics as implying a fall from better circumstances : fur Trraxfi* is
applied to Dioiiysius, the exiled Tyrant of Syracuse. — Plutarch (Wyt-
tenb. t. 1. y;jy.) has /ttx,»i' — o" iKTrcTTTUKtii tov cx^'*' than which
nothill^ could be more express. The A'tic, next to the common Greek,
furnishes our best guide for the «iT«| >i£7«;m.£v« of the New Testament
M'hen the LXX are silent : but in this case their testimony is abundant.
nrtuyjveo occurs six tiuics in the Old Testament and Apocrypha; and
Hluays in the sense of transition IVom comfort or opulence to poverty."
—Eclectic Review, vol. V. page 340.



OF JESUS CHRIST. i5i

ill the "' holy men of God" who were commissioned to ini-
piirt to the world the knowledge of the Divine will. They,
in truth, did nothing — and could do nothing. " The Lord
wrought with them, and confirmed the word by signs foL
lowing :"* and the miracle, or rather the evidence of the
truth arising from the miracle, consisted in the immediate
and visible concurrence of the Divine will, with the expres-
sed will of the prophet, at whose command the effect took
place. t In this, indeed, lies the very nature of a miraclcj
as aDivine attestation to the truth of the prophet's preten-
sions, or of the particular testimony which he delivei'ed :

* Mark xvi. 20. The Lord, by whose power the miracles of the
apostles are here represented as having been effected, is evidently the
Lord Jesus, the exalted Redeemer. Tliis is clear, from the connexion
of the verse quoted with that which precedes ; — " So then, after t/te
Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat
on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every
where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by signs
following."

t Dr. Priestley states this sentiment most explicitly in the follow-
ing short extract. Writing against the Arian notion of the creation of
the world by the instrumentality of the liOgos, he says : — "Some mav
possibly say, ' It is not necessary, that Christ should of himself have
wisdom and power sufliciont for the work of creation j but that nev-
ertheless fiod might work by him in that business, as he did in his
miracles on earth ; Ciu'lst speaking the word, or using some indififer-
ent action, (such as anointing the eyes of the blind man) and God
producing, the effect.^ — Tlie two eases, however, are essentially dift'er-
ent. That Christ or any other prophet should be able to foretell what
God would do, (which in fact is all that they pretended to) was neces-
sary as a proof of their divine mission, whenever there was a pro}M'i-
ety in God's having intercourse with men by means of a man like
themselves, &e.-'— .While Dr. Priestley thus correctly describes the
true nature of miraculous power, as being simply the ability to foretell
the immediate interposition of Divine agency at any particular junc-
ture, he at the same time, very consistently with his view of the per-
son of Christ, places him, as to the nature of the power with which
he was invested, on the same level with other prophets.



152 ox THE SUPREME DIVINITY

— " God bare them witness, by signs and wonders, and
divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to
his own will.'**

^thly. According to the interpretation of our opponents,
the language of Paul, in the passage before us, was not at
all peculiarly applicable to Jesus; but was equally true of
Paul himself, and of his fellow-apostles. They too pos-
sessed miraculous powers, and tliat in a very eminent de-
gree. To allege that the absolute command of such powers
was entrusted to Jesus, and not to them, is a mere gratuitous
assumption, and an assumption, which, on the supposition
that Jesus was a mere man, the son of Joseph and Mary,
possessing the same nature with the apostles themselves,
and that nature only, is destitute of any reasonable foun-
dation. I argue only on supposition. The transference
of miraculous power, so as that it should reside in the
creature is, as I have already noticed, a thing in its own
nature impossible. But suppose for a moment it were
possible ; if one mere man, " fallible and peccable," could
have this power committed to him, at his absolute dispos-
al, it is difficult to conceive why otliers, who arc denomi-
nated " holy men of God,*' should not have had it in the
same way. The apostles, then, were rich in miraculous
powers, and yet thcij too lived a life of poverty. And Paul
might have adduced his own example, in tlie same terms,
and witli the same force : " Ye know my gracious good-
ness, iliat though I am rich, I live in poverty, that ye
through my poverty may be rich.*' — Would this apostle,
think you, have relished such a translation and exposition
of his w ords, as would have placed himself and his Mas-
ter on a level ?

5thly. There is an obvious and pointed antithesis in the
verse, which ouglit not to be overlooked, and which con-
curs with other considerations, to decide its true meaning.
* Hcb. ii. 4y



OF JESUS CHRIST. 153

The expression in the end of the verse, " that ye, through
his poverty might be made rich," which declares the gra-
cious design of the Saviour's condescension, with regard
to sinners, implies, beyond all question, a transition from
poverty to riches : — " that ye, through his poverty, might
be enriched.^^ If so, let not the sentence be robbed of one of
its chief beauties. A transition is expressed, on the part
of Jesus, a voluntary transition, from a state of infinite
glory and riches, to a state of debasement and poverty ;
in order to a transition, on the part of his people, from a
state of wretched degradation and poverty, to the posses-
sion of true honour, and of excellent and durable riches.

Ye know, then, my Christian brethren, this marvellous
grace. And what effect ought the contemplation of it to
produce on your dispositions and conduct ? — I answer, in
the w ords of the apostle, ^^ Let this mind be in you, which
was also in Christ Jesus.''* — Imitate the noble spirit of
henevolence, displayed in this wonderful example. Study
to promote the benefit — the temporal, but above all the
spiritual and eternal benefit of your fellow-men ; and be
ready, with all cheerfulness and promptitude, to make
every sacrifice for the accomplishment of this most valua-
ble end. It was to quicken the spirit, and to rouse to the
practice, of disinterested and enlarged beneficence, that
the apostle introduced the example of the Redeemer's
grace. And surely every true disciple of the Redeemer,
as an undeserving partaker of this grace, must feel his
heart touched by the appeal ; — touched in all its finest
and noblest affections ; thrilled with holy delight ; ani-
mated by fervent gratitude ; glowing with emotions of
kindred generosity ; " ready to every good work ;" and
prepared, with resolute self-denial, to " suffer the loss of
all things."

- If you believe the doctrine which I have been endeav-

* Phil. ii. 5.

30



i54i ON THE SUPREME DIVINITY

curing to establish, " your hearts will burn within you"^
with loi-e to the Divine Saviour : and while the glow of
grateful attachment combines with admiration of all the
excellencies of his pure and spotless character, — the feel-
ing will constrain you to cheerful, unreserved, and univer-
sal obedience to his will; — " to live, not unto yourselves,
but to him who died for you, and rose again." — It will
excite you also to fervent prayers, liberal contributions,
and active and persevering exertions, for the advancement
of his glory in the world. — Inlluenced by concern for this
object, and for the salvation of sinners, with which it i»
inseparably connected ; and convinced, that error is sub-
versive of both, dishonouring to the Saviour, and destruc-
tive to mankind ; you will feel the duty of " contending
earnestly for the faith once delivered unto the saints ;" of
maintaining its purity, and promoting its diifusion.

Of this faith 1 do consider the doctrine in question as an
essential and fundamental article. To my eyes, if you re-
move this truth, the Sun of righteousness is covered with
" dire eclipse," and the bright prospects of futurity over-
spread with " tlie blackness of darkness." Take away
this truth, and tlie doctrine of atonement connected with
it, and you replace at the gate of paradise the dread sen-
tinel stationed tliere at the fall, with his flaming sword,
that turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of
life : — nay, you root out the iree of life itself from the
midst of the paradise of God.

Believing the doctrine to be thus important, to compre-
hend within itself all the hopes of a guilty and perishing
world, — while I would contend meekhj, I must be par-
doned if, at the same time, I contend earnestly. It is not
a subject for that speculative, cold-hearted indiflference,
which is falsely esteemed by some essential to freedom
from prejudice. Men may speak lightly of sentiment and
of faith. The Bible certainly does not. Salvation, in



OF JESUS CHRIST. i^^

both of its great branches — salvation from the guilt of sin,
and salvation from its power — is in it continually repre-
sented, as connected inseparably with the faith of the gos-
pel. The truth as it is in Jesus, while it is, to him who
believes it, tlie ground of his justification, and the firm
foundation of his hope, is, at the same time, the means of
subduing the enmity of his heart against God, and the
great principle of his progressive sanctification. He " lives
by the faith of the Son of God." This faith '' purifies iiis
heart," and^^ works by love." It produces in the soul
the principles of obedience ; and the practice follows m
the life. Like the prophet's cruse of salt, by healing the
fountain it rectifies the streams.

" May God, who commanded the light to shine out of
darkness, shine in your hearts, giving you the light of the
knowledge of his glory, in the face of Jesus Christ :"— t©-
whom be glory forever and ever. Amen I



DISCOURSE VL



ON TFIE TEST OF TRUTH, IN MATTERS OF
RELIGION.



1 Thessalonians v. 21.

*' prove all things hold fast that which is good.'*

A DISCOURSE, of which it is the object to ascertain the
test of truth in matters of religion, and to explain the pro-
per principles of its application, it may appear to some of
you, would have been more naturally introduced as first in
the proposed series. One consideration has induced me
to delay it till now. The previous discussion, it occurred
to me, of one at least of the principal points of controver-
sy, might furnish to your minds ready and appropriate
illustrations of the principles which are now to be laid
down ; — illustrations which could not otherwise have been
easily obtained, without awkward and embarrassing an-
ticipation. In this way, the argument which has already
been closed, will afford means of elucidating the princi-
ples on which it has itself been conducted, and of demon-
strating the rectitude of these principles, so that we may
apply them, with the greater confidence, to the topics of
future consideration.

The text which I have read contains a most important
precept ; or rather t\^ o precepts, closely connected with
each other. " Prove all things : — hold fast that which is
good. "

The command to " prove all things," ought to be applied



ON THE TEST OF TRUTH, &e. 157

both to doctrines and to duties : — we ave to maintain with
steadfastness what we have first ascertained to be good ; —
what is true in doctrine ; what is right in conduct.

But the injunction to " prove all things," supposes some
fixed standard by which all things are to be tried ; and
the proper meaning of the injunction is — ^'^ Bring all things
to the test.^^

What then is the test to which all things are to be
brought? Is it Reason ? — or is it Revelation ?

On the supposition of our having a revelation from God,
there can be but one answer, surely, to this question,
among all who ^^ think soberly." — The test must, without
conti'oversy, be, not JReason, but Revelation. To affirm
the contrary, would be to exalt reason, in the certainty of
its decisions, above Divine authority, and the claims of
Natural Religion above those of the Word of God.

What then is, on such subjects, the proper province of
Reason ? — To this inquiry an answer was briefly given in
a former discourse. — There are two points which we not
only may with propriety, but ought in duty, to employ
our reason to determine. The first is, Whether the Scrip-
tures he a revelation from God : — and when this has been
satisfactorily Settled, the second is. What is the true mean-
ing of the various parts of this revelation ? — what does it
contain ? — what does it really teach us to believe, and to
do ? — Reason, then, is not the test itself : — it is only the
instrument by which we ascertain the test, and by which
we aip]ply it to use. If this be to renounce the free exer-
cise of our reason, we plead guilty. But to assign to rea-



Online LibraryRalph WardlawDiscourses on the principal points of the Socinian controversy → online text (page 13 of 36)