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of Installation by Rev. Dr. Holmes, of Cambridge; Charge by Rev. Dr. Ripley, of Concord; Fellowship of the Churches by Rev. James Walker, of Charlestown; Concluding Prayer by Rev. Convers Francis, of Wa. tertown.
A work has just been published by Wells and Lilly, Boston, entitled An Inquiry into the Comparative moral Tendency of Trinitarian and Unitarian Doc. trines. By JARED SPARKS. This work comprises the substance of the letters to Dr. Miller, published from time to time in the Unitarian Miscellany. The following is an extract from the preface. “In preparing these letters for separate publication, the author deemed it advisable to omit some parts, to write others anew, to interweave occasional additions, and, by removing as far as possible local and personal allusions, to clothe them with a general interest, and cause them to harmonize in illustrating the point which he aims to discuss." Five new letters are added, making about one third of the whole, and many important additions are made to nearly all the original letters; especially to those on the christian name, the trinity, the doctrines of restoration and annihilation, the calvinistic scheme, and the sentiments of Newton, Locke, and Watts. In its present form the work contains four hundred and eighteen pages, and embraces an extended view of the comparative moral influence of unitarian and orthodox opinions.
Christ in the Form of God. A PASSAGE in Paul's Epistle to the Philippians is quoted by trinitarians, and frequently with much confidence, in support of their doctrine. It is that in which Christ is said to have been in the form of God. This phrase, and one or two others connected with it, are supposed to imply, that the Apostle intended to represent Christ the Son to be the same as God the Father. We will quote the passage, and then endeavour to ascertain its meaning. The Apostle is enjoining love, concord, and humility on the Philippians, and to encourage them in these virtues, and especially, the last, he calls their attention to the example of their divine master.
“Let this mind, be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Philip. ii. 6–9.
These words are often adduced as teaching the deity of Christ, and affording an argument in favour of the trinity. Before we proceed to investigate the actual sense of the passage, let us see with what show of consistency, when taken literally as it stands, it can be imagined to inculcate the notion of the equality and identity of the Father and Son.
First, it is an unheard of use of language to speak of a person being in the form of himself. If Christ were truly the Supreme God, the same in essence and substance, the Apostle would have called him God. One thing, or person, may be said to have the form of another, when there is a general resemblance between them; but to say, that a person, or thing, is in the form of itself, is to use words without import, a species of trifling with which the Apostle can hardly be charged.
Secondly, to assert the existence of any being in the universe, who is equal to the Supreme God, is plainly to assert a plurality of Gods. To whatever degree of power and excellence you may elevate the Supreme Being, whenever you make another being equal to him, this being must be equally exalted, equally perfect. Hence, if the text actually teach, that Christ is in all respects equal to the Almighty Father, it teaches the doctrine of two Gods.
Thirdly, nor can this consequence be evaded by the supposition, that these two equal Gods are one and the same God, for such a supposition itself involves an absurdity. Two supreme beings cannot be one, any more than two men can be one. Besides, a being cannot be
said to be equal to itself; equality necessarily implies more than one; and the very form of expression, that Christ is equal to God, indicates that he is not the same being.
Fourthly, suppose it to be true, that he were equal to God, with what propriety could it be called robbery to assume this equality? There can be no meaning in such language. God possesses all perfections and cannot rob himself of any thing; and, if Christ be truly God, what is here said about robbery is equally futile in sense, and derogatory to his character.
Fifthly, if to be in the form of God means, that Christ was truly God, it must be inferred from his being in the form of a servant, that he was literally a servant. The two expressions have the same import, and ought to be taken in the same extent. That is, the God of all things is made to resign the government of the universe, and descend to the degrading condition of a servant or slave among men.
What mind does not revolt at such a representation? Are we told of two natures? This is a convenient subterfuge and nothing
Where is any thing said of two natures? What is more evident in the present passage, than that Christ is spoken of throughout as one and the same being, possessed of one and the same nature? Moreover, in whatever nature it was that he humbled himself, it was in that nature, which made him in the form of God; but if in this nature he were truly God, how could he humble himself? God is infinite in every perfection; these perfections cannot be diminished or humbled, without destroying his character as God. It follows, that the nature of Christ was not the nature of God in any sense; and that the notion of two natures is not less inconsistent with the sense of the text, than absurd in itself.
Sixthly, the trinitarian interpretation of this passage is at variance with the spirit and purpose of the context. The Apostle is inculcating humility, and cites the example of Christ. But does it imply any humility in Christ to say, that he thought it not robbery to be equal with God? On the contrary, could any thing be farther removed from the true characteristics of hu. mility? What could argue a higher presumption and self consequence, than to claim equality with God?
From these considerations, two things are manifest. The first is, that, whatever may be the meaning of the passage, the trinitarian interpretation is erroneous; and the second, that the passage itself in the common trans-lation is inconsistent in its parts.
This will be more: obvious by' a further examination.
As to the phrase, form of God, we have already seen, that it cannot signify the essence, or nature of God. Except in this passage the word here rendered form occurs only once in the New Testament. “After that, he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked and went into the country.” Mark, xvi. 12. No one will suppose from these words, that he came in another nature, or as another being. He only as. sumed a different external appearance from that in which he had previously appeared to Mary Magdalene, who took him for a gardner. So in the present instance, the word must mean a resemblance of some sort, either real or figurative, and not an identity, of nature. In this respect it has an appropriate signification, and one illustrative of the character of the Saviour.