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An Examination of Bishop Pearson’s Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed.

(Concluded from page 132.)

In treating of matters which are beyond the limits of our knowledge, those who are sceptical with regard to the truth of revelation must still feel the necessity of believing in a self-existing first Cause; those who acknowledge the truth revealed in our holy books, will receive with implicit faith what they find there; but when men attempt to form a doctrine of religion which is not unequivocally expressed in Holy Scripture, they must be prepared to show that the whole scheme is necessarily true, and that the parts agree one with the other. Now, supposing the union of the two natures, and that the humanity was assumed for the purpose of suffering the torments of death, which are said to have been required for the forgiveness of the sins of men; after that consummation and the dissolution of the union by the death of the man Jesus, there is no reason given for the fact asserted, that he divinity, “by his infinite power did raise and revive himself by reuniting the same soul which was separated from the same body, which was buried, and so rose the same man.” In the notes it said, that the Messiah should sit on the right hand of God, was both prefigured and foretold; prefigured <<180>>in the exaltation of Joseph, Gen. 41., and foretold, Psalm 110:2.

What are called types are among the strong proofs which Christians give of the truth of Christianity; they do not base it on the sole authority of the Gospels, but have ransacked the whole of the Old Testament for passages, which, though they naturally have not any connexion with the subject, are brought forward as predictions and types of events and dogmas which they wish to establish; as in the instance above, where the elevation of Joseph is said to have prefigured the exaltation of Jesus Christ to sit on the right hand of God. The Old Testament contains notices of events which occurred in the space of many hundred years, and it would be strange if some event there related did not resemble some other event totally unconnected with it, which occurred at a period which it is proposed to illustrate; but it cannot be said that the first prefigured or is typical of the second. As well might we say that the revolt of the ten tribes from Rehoboam prefigured the separation of the North American Colonies from the mother country, or that Ishbosheth, who was beheaded, (2 Sam., 4:7,) typified the decollation of the Duke of Monmouth.

It is sickening to have to repeat the objections against the application of Psalm 110.; objections never yet answered or removed. The second verse still continues a favourite argument in the support of the existence of two persons in one God. Accordingly, the evangelists and the writers of the epistles, have rung their changes on it, and the several forms in which they are given are all brought forward to support the Bishop’s assertion, that it was foretold by David that Jesus Christ should sit on the right hand of God. What provability is there that the psalm was written by David, and not addressed to David by some other writer? In the first verse the author says, the Lord said unto my Lord; the former “Lord” is the Tetragrammaton, יהוה, the peculiar name of our God, the Eternal and only God; the second “Lord” is a translation of the word אדני, a title sometimes applied to God as the Supreme Lord of all, and sometimes applied to monarchs, parents, and other eminent persons. Christians have applied the words to what they gall the Son, and as addressed to him by the Father. If such a communication took place, it could only come to the knowledge of David by revelation from God; this revela<<181>>tion could not be understood by David unless he was informed at the same time to whom the words “Sit thou on my right, hand” were addressed; but there is not the least shadow of evidence to prove that David had any knowledge of another Being coexistent with יהוה equal to Him in power and glory. All his psalms, or songs of praise, supplication, or thanksgiving, are addressed to the Only One; had he had any knowledge of another, would he not have addressed that other sometimes, or at least addressed the two jointly? There are, perhaps, three or four passages in the Psalms which Christians have tortured into an intimation of more than one Almighty God; but all their ingenuity and research have not been able to discover one express declaration to that effect.

In the seventh article, the Bishop expresses his belief that “The Eternal Son of God in that human nature in which he died and rose again, and ascended into heaven, shall certainly come from that heaven into which he ascended; to judge the quick and the dead.” Of a final judgment by God we are assured by the Prophet; but as the existence of any “Eternal Son of God” has never been revealed to us, of course we cannot believe it is he who will judge the world. The Bishop having brought his Eternal Son of God down again to earth, in the body of Jesus, gives the reason why the Son is to be the judge and not the Father, or the whole Triad, as follows:

“We most distinguish between the original and supreme justiciary power, and the justiciary power delegated and derived and given by commission. Christ as God has the first together with the Father and the Holy Ghost; as man, he has the second from the Father explicitly, from the Holy Ghost concomitantly.” Here the Bishop says, Christ as God has the supreme and original justiciary power, and has the second from the Father and the Holy Ghost. Now, it does not appear how, if Christ as God has the original and supreme Justiciary power, there was any possibility or necessity for him to receive any farther increase of power, or if it were, he did not before possess the supreme power. “The Father judgeth no man, he has committed all judgment to the Son.” This delegated authority is said to have been chosen as more appropriate because he only is man. But he was not man, the Bishop allows that there was a union of the two natures, <<182>>but distinct and without confusion; therefore he was not man. Even supposing the existence of the Son, there is not any proof that the Father has delegated to him the office of judging the world; but the dogma was invented in the attempt to magnify the being whom they erected into the Son, and equal to God.

All the proofs which are offered are quotations from the New Testament. The description of the Holy Ghost follows: it is “a particular and peculiar spirit, who is truly and properly a person of a true and real and personal subsistence, not a created but an uncreated person, and so the true and one Eternal God; that though he be that God, he is not the Father nor the Son, but the spirit of the Father and the Son, the third person in the Blessed Trinity proceeding from the Father and the Son.” Now, I might be well excused from examining this point, since there is very little said about it in the Gospels, and it would seem that the doctrine was not generally received by the first converts; for the Ephesians, when Paul asked whether they had received the Holy Ghost, replied: “We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.”  Indeed, the existence of such a personage seems to have been a favourite dogma with Paul; and it is in his Epistles that the Holy Ghost is mostly spoken of. The principal object of the Bishop seems to be to establish that the Holy Ghost is really and truly a person distinct from the Father and the Son, that he is the true and one Eternal God. It has already been shown that the phrase, true and one Eternal God, is not used by the Bishop in the natural meaning of the words, but that the word one means a Triad, one of which three persons he now declares as the true and one Eternal. It is as impossible that the one God should be three persons, as it is that one of them should be the one God, that is to say, the Triad. The assertion that the Holy Ghost is an uncreated person, is a mere quibble on the word. It pleases the Bishop to say, “That it proceeded from the Father and the Son” in the same manner as it is said the Father begat the Son, and therefore neither the Son nor the Holy Ghost were created. Christians must allow there is but one self-existent Being. All others were called into existence by his will and power; and it is of no consequence whether we say they were made, begot, created by, or proceeded from Him. The Holy Ghost is “the spirit of the Father and the Son.” Now the spirit of a subsistency is its individuality; one individual cannot com<<183>>prise in itself the individuality of two others; an individual cannot be another; the statement of the case involves an impossibility.

The remaining articles of the Creed under the heads of the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting, do not require much observation, being principally supported by quotations from the Gospels and Epistles.

The objections which the Bishop combats are urged by dissenting Christians, whom the Bishop would therefore consider heretical, but being Christians, they did not contest the real existence of the Holy Ghost.

One of the proofs of the personality of the Holy Ghost is the denunciation of blasphemy against it, which would not be forgiven, but that sin against the Father and Son of man shall be forgiven; arguing, that if it were not a person, the sin committed against it could not be distinct from others committed against those whose spirit he is. Were he a created person, it would receive no such degree of guilt and aggravation beyond those others. In the passage quoted it says: “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto man, but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.” All manner of sin and blasphemy, includes blasphemy against the Father and the Son, therefore the holy Ghost is superior to them both, as one against whom sins pardonable against them would not be forgiven.

Surely the dogma of the unity in the Triad is the most astonishing instance on record of an attempt to impose on the mind of man a doctrine not only repugnant to reason, but involving in itself a contradiction, and this on a subject on which it is impossible for the teachers or even the first promulgatorsto have had any cognisance. The Christian Theogony declares the fact of a self-existing Being, the first Cause, the only God. This Being called into existence another Being which did not before exist, which Being is called “The proper and natural Son of God, begotten of the substance of the Father, which being incapable of division or multiplication, was so really and totally communicated to him that he is of the same essence.” The two words, substance and essence, must be understood in this passage as indicating the same object. What, in speaking of created things, we should call the material, this substance is declared to be incapable of multiplication or <<183>>division, and is the identity of the Deity. It is stated to be really and totally communicated to the Son; but if the Son, in virtue of that communication, became the same essence as the Father, and that essence is not divisible: the Father, deprived of that essence, could no longer have existed. The Father had transformed himself into the Son; therefore, either the Father must have created a new essence when he begat the Son, or he must have communicated to him a part of his own essence, but not totally; neither of which cases the Christian will admit, as it would involve the existence of two distinct Gods. These two Beings, the Father and the Son, produce a third, the Holy Ghost, or rather, as the Creed expresses it, the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son, and is described as the spirit of the Father and the Son. How a spirit can be two other spirits, is also not explained; but these two supposed Beings, the Son and the Holy Ghost together with God, compose the Trinity, and constitute the One God. This is the Christian Theology.

Now, as to the doctrine of Christianity. The fact of the existence of three Beings or persons in the Deity being assumed, it is asserted, that the Son, the second person of the Trinity, became incarnate in the frame of a child, who was born of a virgin, who conceived by the agency of the Holy Ghost; that this child grew up to manhood, and assumed the character of the Messiah, was accused of blasphemy by the Jews, for asserting that he was the Son of God, was put to death on the cross; that with the mortal, the Deity which was incarnated in his frame, also suffered, died, and was buried; after three days the two natures returned to life, ascended to Heaven, and will come again to judge the world. That the Deity offered himself as a sacrifice in expiation of the sins of the world, and by his death obtained remission for those sins. This is the doctrinal scheme of Christianity, as set forth in the Creed, and we have seen how the Bishop explains and elucidates it.

One would have supposed that the impossible and absurd assertion of a God dying, would have been represented as being only a figurative expression, or have been referred to the humanity which was united to the Divinity; but on the contrary, the Bishop affirms as a truth, beyond all possibility of contradiction, that the Eternal Son of God did suffer for the sins of <<184>>men; that in the form of a servant he was crucified; that he did truly and really die; his soul was actually separated from his body which was buried; that the Eternal Son of God who was crucified and died, did reunite the soul which was separated from the body by death and rose again. This is all maintained as an incontestable truth, and from this we must infer that the Christian’s belief is, that the Eternal Son of God, equal to the Father in power, and of the same essence, did really and truly die.

But as the death of a Divinity was an idea too absurd to be entertained for a moment by any person possessing any reasoning powers, he confesses that though in compliance with the Creed, he professes that the Son of God did suffer and die, he is far from thinking that the Divine nature could suffer and die, but the sufferings of the humanity were the sufferings of the Deity; not that the Deity suffered, which it was incapable of, but the humanity suffered, as being subject to it; for, although the two natures were united, the humanity suffered as much, and the Divinity as little, as if they had not been united, each nature keeping its respective properties without the least mixture or confusion.

The Bishop here offers a splendid example of prevarication and contradiction; he says the Divinity did truly die and could not die. He says that the Divinity suffered in the sufferings of the humanity, to which it was united, and that the Divinity suffered no more from that union than if it had not been united; each nature keeping its respective property distinct. These objections to the theology and doctrine of Christianity, are based on the explanation of their mysteries by one of the greatest modern champions of the church, and not calumnies invented by the opponents of Christianity; the Bishop’s work is very diffuse, and I have only been able to touch the leading arguments. But I have done enough to show on what the faith is built which our brethren are entreated to embrace as the only means of salvation.

I remain, Mr. Editor,
Yours, respectfully,
J. R. P.