Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Trial of William Whiston, Part 4

(Continuation of Part 3

Mr. Whiston - As your Lordship has heard the opinions of the chief of the apostles, I shall beg leave to call in the evangelists in their order, who must necessarily agree with the apostles, or the Christian religion itself will fall to the ground.

Judge - Mr. Matthew, the question is very short: Do you believe Jesus Christ to be the supreme God?

Matthew - My Lord, I shall be as short in my answer. I do affirm it to be impossible for that being to be the supreme God that ascribes every act to, and derives every power from, the supreme God. And this Jesus Christ frequently acknowledges, in regard to himself, and said in express words, "The Father is greater than me." Oh, but says the learned gentleman, this was spoken in relation to his human capacity. I wonder he does not tell me that it was spoken in his childish capacity, and that he meant his father Joseph. Though to say the truth, this is so silly a speech, in the sense the Church has taken it, that even a child could not be weak enough to have made it. What a pretty compliment then do they make Christ and his followers, by imagining that any of them could have been so profoundly stupid as not to know that the supreme God was greater than a man?

Dr. Tr—p - Give me leave to tell you Sir, that there is a finesse in that passage which is too delicate for a gentleman of your cast. However, I will do you the honour to explain it to you. And, in order to it, I must acquaint you that your master had a threefold manner of conveying his instructions, which was many times by parables, sometimes by paradoxes, and, upon certain emergencies, by equivocation and double entendre, as in the case before us. For he being composed of two distinct natures, it was entirely at his election to call which of them he pleased "Me," by virtue of which he might always have two different answers ready upon any extraordinary occasion. For example, suppose now that such a wicked rogue as Judas had a mind to betray him, and should ask him whether he were the supreme God? Why, Sir, he might very safely have taken his oath upon it that he was not, only by mentally reserving quatenus the human nature. On the other hand, if the same question were to be put to a disciple that he could trust, he might just as honestly own himself to be the supreme God. And we are credibly informed that he never made the least secret of it to his particular friends. For (notwithstanding that the enemies of religion have robbed us of the privilege of pleading tradition) they have not deprived us of the liberty of founding our doctrines upon it, or of making such interpretations of the Scriptures as shall be most beneficial to the Church. And as it is highly reasonable that we should pay a great regard to her authority than to a few unguarded expressions of Peter and Paul, so we have unanimously agreed, to maintain her mysteries to the last drop of our blood.

Mr. Whiston - My Lord, Mr. Mark the evangelist being absent at the beginning of the trial, I desire that he may have Dr. Tr—p's Trinity read to him.

Judge - Mr. Mark, you are cited here upon a very solemn occasion, and the reason of this creed's being read to you is to know whether you do in your conscience believe what is in it to be true?

Mark - My Lord, as I am a perfect stranger to this dispute, I should be very glad to be informed of the nature of a creed, to know whence it is taken, by whom it is made, and to what intent and purpose it is published.

Mr. Whiston - If your Lordship will give me leave, I will give him that satisfaction in a very few words. Sir, a creed is a particular system of faith, composed of the particular opinions of a club of parsons, and it is pretended to be drawn out of the holy Scriptures. This is what the people are obliged to profess, or submit to lose their employments, and to be put in jail, and be starved. And it is only for want of compliance to this that you see me here in bonds.

Mark - Can the Church be so wicked and barbarous! And does it pretend to have authority from the Scriptures to persecute? And do the people tamely sit still and suffer it? But let your tyranny be ever so cruel and extensive, it shall not deter me from speaking truth. And I defy you to shew the least syllable in my writings that favours your blasphemous nonsense. But on the contrary shall bring you such a proof that Jesus Christ is not the supreme God, that Impudence itself would almost blush to oppose it.

Dr. Tr—p - You dog! How dare you treat the spouse of Christ thus irreverently! Sirrah you deserve — &c.

Mark - You mistake, Sir, it is the whore of Babylon that I chastise, whose prostitution, impudence, cruelty, covetousness, corruption, treachery, insolence, and ambition were never equaled on this side of hell. And certainly, if any villains ever deserved eternal tortures, they are those that corrupt and delude the very people they take upon them to instruct and preserve. They are those that rob, tyrannise, and murder under a pretense of religion, humility, and charity. In fine, it is those rapacious, hypocritical, lecherous gluttons that have changed a plain and reasonable institution into mysterious nonsense and juggling absurdities, placing the essence of religion in quirks and pricks, cheating the people, oppressing the poor, trampling upon the laws, and treading upon the necks of princes.

My Lord, I should beg pardon for this severe reply if the provocation had not extorted it, and truth had not justified it. However, I shall now go on with my proof. Our savior has often declared himself inferior to the Father. And the instance, by which I am going to prove that he is so, is so very remarkable, that I shall consider it in as distinct and particular a manner as possible. Speaking of the Day of Judgment, says he: "Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no not the angels which are in heaven, neither the son, but the Father only." Who can cast his eye upon this assertion of our savior, without taking notice of the regular gradation manifestly formed with an intent to exclude all other beings whatsoever, and to confine the foreknowledge of the Day of Judgment to the Father only. And since the reverends and right reverends have thought fit to say that Christ is a composition of a divine and human nature, and that this want of knowledge is asserted of his human nature only, I shall prove the contrary of it beyond all exception. For the very first proposition excludes Christ as to his human nature, by saying that "no man knows that day." And the next proposition excludes the next superior degree of intelligent beings, by adding, in a most emphatical manner, that even "the angels that are in heaven" did not know it. After which he rises still higher, and declares that even the Son (in that capacity which he is in, superior to the angels) did not know it, but the Father only. So that nothing in nature can be more evident, than that all other persons, even of the Trinity itself, as well as all other beings, are excluded, and that he has limited that knowledge to the person of the Father only. For whatever was not the Father, he positively affirms, was ignorant of that day. Now it is certain that the Son was not the Father in any sense, therefore could not know that day. Jesus Christ therefore, being inferior in knowledge to the supreme God, cannot possibly be the supreme God. 

Judge - You are called here, Mr. Luke, upon the occasion of a learned divine's being accused of heresy in having denied Jesus Christ to be the supreme God, and as you are one of the inspired writers, the court desires your opinion upon that point.

Luke - Your Lordship does me too much honor in calling me inspired. I pretend to no more than that of being an honest and diligent collector, and claim no other merit but that of having faithfully recorded what appeared most agreeable to reason, or had the best evidence to support it. If it had been the doctrine of the apostles, or the established opinion of the age I wrote in, that Jesus Christ was the supreme God, is it to be imagined that I should not have declared it clearly and fully to all the world? But I do affirm the fact to be directly contrary, and if your creed-makers are in the right, I must be in the wrong. For I must acknowledge that I have distinguished the great God from Jesus Christ in a great many parts of my history, which I could not have done unless I had been a fool, or a villain, if I had thought that Jesus Christ and the great God of heaven had been the same omnipotent, coequal, and co-eternal God. My expressions are these: "The Lord God shall give unto Christ the Throne of his Father David; the Christ of God; the Chosen of God." Though this description of Christ is manifestly incompatible with the character of the great God, yet since it is in the power of prejudice to hinder men from seeing apparent truths, and that whole bodies of men, for their interest, can be hardy enough to deny them, I shall beg the favor of you to observe how those passages will appear if we were to suppose Christ to be the omnipotent God, and to be described as such. Those passages then must run thus: "The only, eternal omnipotent God, shall give unto the only, eternal, omnipotent God, the throne of the only omnipotent God's Father, Abraham." And again: "The only omnipotent God is the chosen of the only omnipotent God." These absurdities and contradictions are so palpable that as they that cannot perceive them can see nothing. So they, that will not acknowledge them, will acknowledge nothing.

Judge - What do you say, John, to Dr. Tr—p's Trinity?

John - Verily, I am at a loss what to say to that which I cannot possibly understand; but thus much I may venture to affirm, that the gospel I wrote, and the faith I preached, was to enlighten mankind. But that the inventions of these men have not only put out that light, which the gospel brought into the world, but have extinguished the light of nature itself, and put the world into a much worse condition than it was in when it had no other guide but reason to direct it. For reason will not act against itself, advise us to abandon it, or deliver it up to those who make it their study to deceive us. My account of our blessed saviour is uniform, clear, rational, and plain, as will evidently appear from the following passages:

"Oh Father, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." 

And again, "I proceeded forth, and came from God, neither came I of myself, but he sent me." 

"I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, and unto my God, and your God." 

"The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do, that doth the Son also." 

"They accused him of blasphemy, 'Because thou, being a man, make thyself God.' Jesus answered them, 'Is it not written in your Law, If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came; say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, thou blasphemest, because I said, "I am the Son of God?" ' " 

"Jesus, a man approved by miracles, which God did by him: God hath made the same Jesus both Lord and Christ." 

"The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself, but the Father that dwells in me, he doth the works." 

"The Father is greater than I." 

The passages are so plain, so full, and so conclusive, that, I protest, the strongest thing I can say, in justification of that which I have already wrote, is that I cannot possibly express myself clearer, even upon the occasion of the present controversy. But what can words do if men will be impudent and wicked enough to pervert them? Nay, men that have front enough to deny the common obvious settled sense of words would even deny that there were any such words at all, if it served for their purpose. There is an end of the use of words, if in expressing ourselves absolutely of any being whatsoever, you may mean it partially, or totally, or take this part or that. For at this rate, you may say your own creeds backwards, and affirm that Christ (in his divine nature, by tacit reserve) was neither born, suffered, died, or rose again, and you may be just as orthodox in affirming the contrary, if you are at liberty to mean which nature you please. Such prevarications and quibblings may become priests and Jesuits, but it is monstrous to charge the messenger of God with them.

What will destroy the credit and authority of the gospel, if this will not? Or I should more properly have said what has brought it to the weak and despicable state it is in at present, but these infamous practices of the clergy? If any man can shew me that the whole tenor of what I have wrote is not strictly conformable to those parts which I have just now cited, I will not only confess myself to be unworthy of the name of an evangelist, but submit to be called a traitor to my master, and a deceiver of mankind. For whoever shall affirm that I have described Jesus Christ as equal with the Father does not only endeavour to prove my doctrine to be repugnant to itself, but makes the Scriptures of no authority. Are these the men that contend so vehemently for their being inspired! These, that have the assurance to pervert or contradict the whole tenor of them! If this honest gentleman, Mr. Whiston, were to assert that the Son is inferior to the Father, could he do it in stronger terms, or in a more plain and positive manner, than I have done? Could he say any thing stronger, than that the Father is greater than the Son, that he sent him, commanded him, and performed every operation in him? Let every impartial man judge, whether he would look upon such a character as this, to be the character of the great God of heaven, or to be that of an inferior being.

Judge - Mr. James, what do you say to the reverend doctor's Trinity? Do you understand it?

James - The greatest part of what I do understand is false, and what I do not, I humbly conceive to be nonsense. I am not for three Gods, I assure you, for I have said, "Thou believest that God is one, thou doest well." I have professed myself a servant of God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, which is distinction enough, to shew that there are two distinct beings. But if the Father be God, and the Son is God, God is not one. I write as I think, and I flatter myself that I have wrote so as to be understood. For certainly, nothing can be plainer than that I affirm that the eternal Godhead no more consists of three somethings than it does of thirty somethings. And consequently, that this new-fangled Trinity must be a gross imposition upon mankind.

Judge - What do you think, Mr. Jude, of the doctor's Trinity?

Jude - lt is impossible that my thoughts can differ from my brethrens,' and your Lordship shall judge whether my writings do or no. For I have certainly distinguished Jesus Christ from the great God, if language can distinguish things. I have expressed myself thus: "Turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, denying God, the only supreme Governor; and denying our Lord Jesus Christ." And again, "To them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved by our Lord Jesus Christ." Is it possible to imagine that all the divine writers should constantly distinguish Jesus Christ from the supreme God, and yet know him to be the supreme God. What sort of apostles would these gentlemen make of us? Had not we sense enough to declare it, or was it a revelation reserved for later times? We are always ready to give Jesus Christ all the honor that is due to his character. But to the only wise God, we say, be glory, majesty, dominion, and power.

Judge - Gentlemen of the jury, the unanimous concurrence of every writer in the New Testament, against this doctrine of the Trinity, being the strongest proof that can possibly be added to the absurdity of it, common sense, and common honesty, will sufficiently direct you to bring in such a verdict as may be expected from you.

Jury - We believe the evangelists and apostles to be very honest men, and to have declared the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And that vicious and corrupted priests have invented these absurdities, with a villainous intent to confound the understandings, and to destroy the liberties of mankind.

Judge - You gentlemen of the clergy, since the jury has acquitted the prisoner, and brought you in guilty, I shall pass that just sentence, which is established by that law, which requires an eye for an eye. May the laity shew you the same mercy they have ever received from you. 

End of the Trial.

No comments:

Post a Comment