Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

truth, neither of them are so, in that rigorous sense : but both are highly important, and, I conceive, equally so; because one implies the other, and they stand or fall together. God must foreknow future contingents, if he forms decrees long beforehand about them. If he decreed and foretold long before, that Judas should be permitted voluntarily to betray Christ; he must have foreseen likewise that Judas would voluntarily do it, and how he would do it. There is no accounting for numerous prophecies, without the supposition of God's foreknowing future contingents; and since God makes this the distinguishing character of the true God; it is in effect disowning the truth of Scripture, and denying the true Godf, to deny the divine prescience. How then can the Socinians be excused in that matter, especially considering how presumptuous they are in it, going upon this proud principle, that they are able to search the Almighty to perfection, or that nothing is to be believed but what they can comprehend? Let but the modus of the divine knowledge be admitted as inscrutable to weak mortals, and then all difficulties are over with us at once: the infinite perfections of the divine Mind ought in this case to silence all objections. But if men will think too meanly of God, and too highly of themselves, and from thence proceed to teach such doctrines as undermine the Scripture prophecies, and the divine perfections, and sap the foundations both of natural and revealed religion; can there be any just excuse made for such a wanton abuse of liberty, and such unwarrantable conduct in affairs of the last consequence to the salvation of mankind? But enough hath been said to show, that Episcopius's famed rule for judging of

Mr. Lobb, in few words, well represents the case as follows : “ From “ this notion of theirs, revealed religion receives a wound: for if God doth “ not know future contingents, how can be foretell them ? And if he cannot foretell them, of what use is the prophetical part of the holy Scriptures ? “ And if they must be rejected as useless, will not the Deists be abundantly “ gratified? Or if it be yielded that God doth not foreknow future contin“ gents, it will necessarily follow, that his knowledge is not infinite, and be " cannot be God." Growth of Error, p. 188.

necessaries is fallacious and wrong, and such as he himself did not proceed by in condemning the Calvinists ; though he was disposed to make use of it for favouring the Socinians. The importance of any doctrine is not to be judged of merely from the declarations of Scripture concerning its necessity, but from the nature and quality of the doctrine itself, and the relation it bears to the other parts of revealed religion, and from the mischiefs likely to follow upon opposing it.

II. From Episcopius, the chief leader, I pass on to his kinsman and follower, the learned Limborch; of whose principles in this cause I shall treat the more briefly, because they are the same in the main with what have been mentioned under the preceding article. His acknowledgment of the truth of the common doctrine of the Trinity may be inferred from his admitting the common Confession of the Remonstrants, and from what he has asserted in his own works6: wherein he sufficiently expresses the main doctrine, (if we are to judge him an honest man,) and proves it too, though not to advantage. It is true, he afterwards drops a suspicious expression", which requires a candid interpretation to make it bear; and he meanly talks of Petavius's ingenuously confessingi that some of the Ante-Nicene Fathers disowned the coeternity and coequality of the Son. He did not understand the subtilty of the Jesuit, nor consider that pro

ex

& Restat jam ut explicemus, quisnam ille sit Deus cui divinam hanc naturam competere sacræ literæ docent; Pater nimirum et Filius et Spiritus Sanctus. Limborch. Theol. Christ. lib. ii. c. xvii. p. 97. Tribus hisce tribunntur divinæ perfectiones : unde concludimus Deitatem tribus hisce esse communem. (Ibid. p. 98.) Ea de Jesu Christo Filio Dei enuntiantur, quibus liquet ipsum per veram, attamen arcanam et ineffabilem generationem, Filium Dei extitisse- -ante omnia sæcula, et per eam naturæ divine consortem fuisse, p. 99. Ex hisce colligimus, essentiam divinam et Filio et Spiritui Sancto esse communem, p. 102.

h Sed et est quædam supereminentia Patris respectu Filii, et Patris ac Filii respectu Spiritus Sancti, ratione dignitatis et potestatis : dignius siquidem est generare quam generari, spirare quam spirari, p. 102.

i Sufficiat hic nobis ingenua Dionysii Petavii, doctoris inter Jesuitas celeberrimi ac doctissimi. Confessio, &c. p. 102.

bably it was not so much an ingenuous confession of that great man, as a disingenuous misrepresentation of his to serve the interest of the modern Church of Romek. His pretences have been abundantly confuted by Bishop Bull, and several other learned hands.

However, as I said, Limborch has sufficiently expressed the main doctrine, and asserted its truth: we are next to observe what he thought of the necessity of believing it, or of the importance of it. He begins with declaring his scruples against asserting the necessity of believing the eternal filiation and Divinity of God the Son!, while he admits the truth. He conceives it not so necessary, as the owning Jesus to be the Messiah. Supposing it be not, yet it may be necessary notwithstanding. But if it can be proved that the Messiah predicted in the Old Testament, is there described under such characters as can belong only to God, (as certainly it may,) then it will be as necessary to believe him to be God, as to believe him to be the Messiah, because he cannot be the Messiah, unless he be also Godm. However, as I before said, admitting that one of these doctrines is more necessary or more important than the other, (though they are in just consequence inseparable,) yet both may be fundamentals notwithstanding. He goes on to speak of the obscurity of the doctrine, which is abusing it; because though the thing is mysterious, and the manner obscure, yet the main doctrine is as clear as can be desired, as clear as any doctrines concerning the divine nature or attributes; clear in the general, clear so far as we are bound to believe. See above. He was aware of this answer; and therefore he endeavours next to evade the force of it. He owns the plea, with respect to some other fundamental doctrines, that the main substance of them may be clear, while the circumstantials only are obscure: and he instances in that of the resurrection of the dead, which he says is clear, and necessary to be believed; but whether the bodies will be numerically the same, he thinks is not clear, nor a necessary article of faith. This is a point which I need not here debate; we may admit the instance for argument sake, and now let us apply it, and see how far the same reasoning will bear. We receive the doctrine of the resurrection, considered in a general undeterminate view; we define not the precise manner; and we admit the eternal Divinity of God the Son, and the union of all three in one Godhead, not defining the manner of the union or distinction: so far the cases appear parallel: only indeed the resurrection is a matter that falls under imagination, the other belongs only to pure intellect. But now comes on the stress of the question: he asserts, that the obscurity lies not in the circumstantials of the doctrine of the Trinity, but in the very substance of it. That we deny; and Episcopius himself denied it, (unless he greatly prevaricated) as observed above. And how will the assertion be proved? The Professor attempts it, by throwing our main doctrine into scholastic terms“, that so it may instantly carry the face of obscurity in the very words: this is not dealing fairly with us. He does not choose to express it so himself in other places, where he admits the verity of the doctrine, and where he declares his own faith ; neither did Episcopius, or the common Confession of the Remonstrants so express it. Why then must they choose one way of expression for declaring the truth of the doctrine, and another for rejecting the necessity of it, except it be to serve a turn? The learned Professor, instead of saying one Jehovah, or one God, or one Godhead, here chooses the phrase of one numerical essence : which is a late scholastic phrase, and faulty more ways than one: first, because the terms themselves are technical terms, and no way necessary to the Christian faith; and next, because they carry an equivocation in them; and the proposition can neither be admitted nor rejected, till it be carefully distinguished. Numerical essence in a Sabellian sense is heresy: in another sense, it is a truth darkly expressed. That the Persons are one God, one Jehovah, is of the substance of the doctrine; but that they should be denominated one numerical essence, is not. For, first, it is a question, whether the divine Unity ought to be brought under our distinctions about numerical and specific, contrived for expressing things finite: and if it should, it is still another question, in what precise sense of the word numerical (which is an equivocal term) the proposition can be allowed. Both these questions are circumstantials, and furnishing matter for strife about words and names, not at all affecting the main thingo: and the obscurity here complained of lies not in the doctrine itself, but in the unfair manner of expressing it, to give some colour for the complaint : if any person, instead of such a plain expression, as God's presence every where, should call it, the infinite expansion or diffusion of the divine essence, it would be unfair and wrong in two views; first, as the terms are scholastic, when plainer words would better serve the purposes of truth; and next, as it is running the reader into an obscure speculation about expansion, what it means, and in what sense it may be admitted. Any doctrines whatever may thus be involved in obscurities, by clothing them in dark and equivocal terms, or by so contriving them as to bring in something of the modus into the main doctrine, when it ought to be entirely left

* See preface to my Second Defence, vol. iii. Bull. Proem. sect. viii. p. 6. Grab. Præfat. ad Bulli Opp. Nelson's Life of Bull, p. 287.

1 Credimus nos, alibi doceri Personam hanc esse Filium Dei respectu naturæ divinæ ac filiationis æternæ. Quandiu nobis ea Scripturæ loca non occurrunt quibus naturæ divinæ cum humana unio perinde fidei salutaris objectum necessarium statuitur atque officium Christi de Jesu credendum est, nos, licet veritatem illam amplectamur, eam tamen ut creditu ad salutem necessariam definire non audemus. Limborch, lib. v. cap. 9. p. 413.

m Vid. Bull. Judic. Eccl. Cathol. cap. vii. sect. 5, and Second Letter to Mr. Nation, by P. C. p. 9.

n Alia vero est ratio eorum dogmatum quæ non in circumstantiis quibusdam, sed in seipsis suaque substantia, obscuritatem involvunt: quale est dogma de SS. Trinitate, quod tres distinctæ Personæ, una generans, altera genita, tertia spirata sint unica numero essentia. Quod statim primo suo couceptu varias involvit difficultates quæ a dogmate ipso separari nullatenus possint. Limborch, lib. . cap. 9. p. 414.

• See my Second Defence, vol. iii. Qu. xxiii. p. 411, &c.

« AnteriorContinua »