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The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, [that is, the grace of a mere man !] be with your spirit! Amen.'
May these blessed words, 30 often repeated, be at length so considered by Dr. Priestley and other Socinians, that they too may see their need of divine grace, and begin to apply to Christ for it, though at present they may judge it would be idolatry so to do! -Surely, Rev. Sir, if the sundry passages, produced in this letter, were attended to, they must convince all candid and unprejudiced persons that, whether St. Paul was right or wrong in his views of the Messiah, he certainly had a much higher idea of him, than that of
a mere man.
To appeal to the Lord Jesus as omnipresent, and give Timothy repeated charges as in his sight, as well as in the sight of God the Father, to represent him as 'abolishing death, and bringing life and immortality to light by the gospel,' and as being able to keep what we commit unto him safe unto that day;'-to exhort Timothy to be strong in his grace, to endure hardness as a good soldier of his,' and make it his chief care to please him in all things, as the captain of his salvation who had called him; to represent salvation, in all its branches, and eternal glory, as being in him, and to be attained only by those who die with him,' that they may live with him,' and suffer with him,' that they may "reign with him ;'-to view him as unchangeable and omniscient, as one that abideth faithful and cannot deny himself,' as the Lord who 'knoweth them that are his,' and as the righteous Judge' who, at the day of his final and glorious coming, will give the crown of righteousness to all that love his appearing; to speak of this Jesus as standing by him, strengthening and delivering him' when all men forsook him, and to express an entire confidence in him for deliverance from every evil work, and preservation to his heavenly kingdom;—and lastly, to pray that he would be with Timothy' also, and to ascribe 'glory to him for ever and ever:'-Surely these particulars demonstrate that St. Paul was as far from
believing the doctrine of Christ's mere humanity, as he was from being guilty of gross idolatry himself, or from persuading others to the commission of that dreadful crime.
THOUGH it be not certain that St. Paul wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews, yet, you know, it was the most prevailing opinion of the ancients, as it is still of the moderns, that he was the author of that invaluable work. I shall therefore take this for granted. But on the supposition that he was an Unitarian, in Dr. Priestley's sense of the word, he seems to have paid still less regard to common sense, to say nothing of piety or sound reasoning, in this, than in any of his other Epistles. We need not read far to find instances of the truth of this observation. We meet with them in the very beginning of the Epistle. According to the Socinian doctrine, he must be interpreted to mean as follows:
'God, who, at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, [that is, by mere men,] hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, [another mere man,] whom [however] he hath appointed heir of all things, [viz., of all his works, of all creatures visible and invisible !] by whom also he made the worlds [though this his Son had no existence till the worlds had been made at least 4000 years!] who [mere man as he was, yet] being the effulgence of his [the Father's] glory, and the
express image [or exact delineation] of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, [even the things that had beer created and upheld some thousands of years before he, a mere man, existed!] when he had, by himself, [viz by laying down his mere temporal life,] purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. Being [though a mere man, ignorant in many things, weak and peccable] so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said he [the Father] at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be unto me a Son. And again, when he bringeth his first begotten into the world [not that he had any prior existence] he saith, Let all the angels of God [be guilty of idolatry, and] worship him [a mere man !] -Of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son [a mere man !] he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated wickedness, therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. And thou, Lord, [a mere man! born in the days of Augustus,] in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and [though weak and helpless] the heavens are the work of thine hands: They shall perish, but thou remainest; yea, they shall all wax old as a garment, and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed; but thou [though no more than a man!] art the same, and thy years fail not. And to which of the angels said he at any time, [as he hath said to this mere man,] Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?'
Such, if we believe Dr. Priestley, is the doctrine of the Apostle in the very beginning of this epistle, an epistle written manifestly with a design either to bring over the Jews, those great advocates for the unity of
God, and the purity of divine worship, to the Christian religion, or to preserve those that were brought over. Even here, and to this people, averse above all others from the very appearance of idolatry, does he hold forth, according to the Doctor, a mere creature, yea, a mere man, as the object of religious worship even to angels; nay, and what is, if not more impious, yet more absurd and ridiculous, proclaims this mere creature, this mere man, to be the Maker, Upholder, and Lord of the universe. Surely a man must do greater violence to his understanding to entertain error, than to admit the truth.
But to proceed. The apostle goes on in exactly the same strain of irrational argument, as distant from common sense as from piety: Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip: For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at first began to be spoken by [a mere man! whom I term] the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by those [other mere men] that heard him!' Again, (verse 5,) For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak, [as he hath to that mere man whom we call the Son!]-We see Jesus, who was made a little lower' than the angels, [not that he ever was higher, being only a mere man!] for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour, that he, [though a mere man] by the grace of God, should taste death for every man ;' his single and temporal life, though he was of no higher nature or origin than others, being an adequate price for the redemption of the innumerable and eternal lives of all men! And, (verse 14,) Forasmuch, then, as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself [a mere man!] likewise took part of the same: Not that it was possible he should have had it in his choice, whether he would take part thereof or not, having had no existence till he was formed in the
womb, and grew up in flesh! That through death he [a mere man!] might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver those who, through fear of death, were all their life-time subject to bondage. For verily he [a mere man!] took not on him the nature of angels, [or did not take hold on and assume their nature into union with himself,] but he [the same mere man] took on him, [that is, assumed into union with himself,] the seed of Abraham, [viz., that particular seed born of Mary and descended from the patriarch Abraham: In other words, he, a mere man, became a mere man !] wherefore, in all things it behoved him [a mere man, begotten by Joseph and conceived and born of Mary,] to be made like to his brethren, that he [the same mere man] might be a merciful and faithful High Priest, in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself suffered being tempted, he is able, [though a mere man, and of consequence immensely removed from his followers, and entirely unacquainted with them,] to succour them that are tempted!'
Now, what strange unintelligible jargon is this! how unworthy, I will not say of the tongue, or of the pen of an apostle divinely inspired, but of a human creature endowed with common sense! How absurd, as well as false, was it to represent it as a much greater crime, and therefore, as a behaviour that would meet with much more exemplary punishment, to neglect the salvation revealed by a mere man, than to disobey the word spoken by glorious angels !-to speak of this mere man as made a little lower than the angels, (an expression which plainly implies that he was once higher, in order that, by the grace of God, he might taste death to redeem every man!-as partaking of flesh and blood, because we were partakers thereof, a manner of speaking, from which it is natural to infer that he had it in his choice whether he would partake of them or not, and that he acted voluntarily in so doing, and therefore that he pre-existed :-To magnify