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To those who interest themselves in the subject of this Inquiry, the order pursued in the following investigation may appear not altogether natural; and the Analytic method might perhaps be thought preferable to the Synthetic. And that method would unquestionably have been adopted, had the original design with which this Inquiry was instituted been to disprove the commonlyreceived doctrine concerning the deity of Jesus Christ.
But the truth is, that at the time when this Inquiry was begun the author was himself a firm believer in the pre-existence of Christ; and was fully persuaded that the spirit which animated the body of Christ was the eternal Logos asserted by Dr. Clarke; nor had he then altogether renounced the plausible hypothesis of Dr. T. Burnet and Dr. Doddridge, that the Son is God by the indwelling deity of the Father. He had been at that time, A. D. 1781, recently appointed to the Theological chair in Mr. Coward's Academy at Daventry, and Unitarianism being then “the great controversy of the age,” he was dissatisfied with the slight notice taken of this controversy
in Dr. Doddridge's Lectures, which was the textbook of the Institution, and regarded it as an imperative professional duty to enter more fully into this important discussion, which had of late risen into increased celebrity, partly, by the controversial writings of Dr. Priestley, but chiefly, by the meritorious sacrifice which the venerable Theophilus Lindsey had made not many years before to the dictates of an enlightened conscience, and by the new and singular phænomenon of a flourishing congregation of Christians, avowedly Unitarian, having been formed under his auspices in Essex Street.
Now the plan, which to the author appeared most eligible for conducting the minds of his
pupils in this Inquiry, was to form a collection of all the texts in the New Testament which in
any way related to the person of Christ, and to arrange them under different heads, beginning with simple pre-existence, and advancing through the various intermediate steps to the doctrine of the proper deity of Christ. Under each text was introduced the comment of one or more learned and approved Trinitarian, Arian, or Unitarian expositors, in the commentator's own words, and in general without any additional, or at least doctrinal, comment of the compiler's own, as it was his wish to leave the texts thus expounded to make
their proper impression upon the minds of his pupils. Nor did he at that time entertain a doubt, that in the judgement of every serious and impartial inquirer, the result would be a clear discernment of what he then thought the superficial texture of the Unitarian arguments, and a confirmed conviction of the pre-existence, and superior nature and dignity, if not of the proper deity, of Jesus Christ.
The first consequence of this mode of conducting the lectures was to himself very unexpected, and not a little painful and mortifying. Many of his pupils, and among those some of the best talents, the closest application, and the most serious dispositions, who had also been educated in all the habits and prepossessions of Trinitarian doctrine, to his great surprise became Unitarians. This, however, he was disposed to attribute to the fickleness of youth, and to the caprice of fashion. As to himself, though he was at first struck with the small number of passages which he could discover, which explicitly taught the doctrine of our Lord's pre-existence, yet, being satisfied in his judgement that they were decisive upon
question, it was some time before the arguments of the Unitarians inade
any considerable impression upon his mind : and his early opinions were too deeply rooted, and too intimately associated with
the whole system of his religious feelings, to be easily abandoned. But being under the necessity of reviewing the subject from year to year, and at every review finding himself obliged to give up some posts as untenable, which were once deemed impregnable, he was at last compelled, though with great reluctance, to an entire surrender of the faith in which he had been educated concerning the person of Christ, and to the adoption of those opinions to which he certainly had no previous attachment, and the erroneousness of which he had once flattered himself he should easily have detected. Then, at length, he regarded it as his duty to speak out: and being no longer able to fulfill the design of his appointment, he resigned his office in January 1789 into the hands of Mr. Coward's Trustees, took leave of an affectionate congregation, and of a flourishing seminary of estimable pupils, and retired with no other expectation or prospect at the time, but that of passing the remainder of life in obscurity and silence.
Divine providence however ordained otherwise: and having, after a previous connexion with the New College, been chosen to succeed Dr. Priestley in the congregation at Hackney, in the year 1794, he drew up the Lectures in a more popular form, still, however, retaining the original ar
rangement, and delivered them to the young people of that congregation, and afterwards to those who attended the chapel in Essex Street, to which he was appointed in the spring of 1805. Many in both these respectable societies expressed a desire of seeing them in print; with which request the author was the rather induced to comply, hoping that a review of the principal arguments upon the question might revive and confirm the impression made at the time. When, however, he came to revise the Lectures for the press, it occurred to him that the mere popular form into which the Lectures had been cast, in order to be delivered to a mixed audience, would hardly do justice to the subject; while that form in which they had been originally compiled for the use of professed theological students, would be too voluminous, and not adapted for common readers. He has therefore been at the trouble of recomposing the work, and of reducing it to such a form as he trusts will be generally intelligible to the unlearned reader, and not wholly unacceptable to the learned. Such as it is, he commends it to the candour of his readers and to the divine blessing. In the testimony of his conscience to the sincerity and impartiality with which he has himself sought after truth, and in the fidelity with which he has endeavoured to communicate infor