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ON THE SPIRIT OF SOCINIANISM. Psalm xix. 7.—-The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the
soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
I. It is a peculiar characteristic of this system, that, as far as it is distinguished from the orthodox, it consists entirely of negations, and is marked by its possessing nothing of all, or nearly all, of those doctrines which the other parts of the professed disciples of Jesus Christ consider most precious and most saving.
II. Unitarianism has a close affinity to deism.
III. Another feature in this system is its antidevotional character.
IV. A remarkable feature in the system of the socinians, is their mixture along with their doctrine of metaphysical speculation, which is more replete with danger than any of the errors before-mentioned.
V. Another feature in this system, is the tame submission to human authority, which seems to distinguish, above all other persons, those who compose the class styled Modern Unitarians.
VI. The last feature which I shall mention, in the system of the socinians, is their zeal for proselytism.
Phil. ii. 5—9.—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.*
THAT species of excellence to which such language can be applied with sobriety, must be carried to a height and perfection which requires no ingenuity to discover it; it must strike all eyes, and ravish all hearts.
But since it is benevolence, not in the general idea of it, but under the specific form of condescension, that we are seeking after, we are under the necessity of looking, in the passage before us, for some obvious and striking contrast or opposition between the dignity of the Saviour, and those instances in which he appeared to depart from that dignity. A visible disparity must subsist betwixt what he did, and what he might, from his preeminent elevation, have been expected to do.
A part of the Saviour's character, to which the inspired writers are continually adverting, and on which they dwell with impassioned energy, must unquestionably present itself in a very conspicuous light, so that no interpretation can for a moment be admitted, which requires much ingenuity to discover the very existence of that virtue it is adduced to illustrate.
* Mr. Hall's notes, here given, do not present an outline of the whole sermon, but merely a statement of the principal part of the argument. A tolerably full account of the entire sermon, as it was preached in London, in June 1813, will be inserted in the sixth volume.-ED.
There are two opposite opinions entertained respecting the person of Christ, to which, without adverting to the intermediate ones, we shall at present confine our attention, with a view to determine which of these accords best with the professed design of the apostle in introducing it, which is, to illustrate the wonderful condescension of the Son.
The first of these opinions involves the divinity of Christ, supposing him to be the proper Son of God, who assumed our nature into a personal union with himself; and, having in that nature lived a life of poverty and humiliation, expired on the cross for human redemption. The second considers him as a mere man, who had no existence whatever till he came into our world.
Now, let us consider which of these two opposite views best accords with the passage under consideration, contemplated as a professed illustration of his marvellous condescension, “ Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” We are willing to admit the correction of the common version, suggested by our opponents, and consider the meaning of the latter clause, that he “ did not eagerly retain the likeness of God.” The force of the adverb which introduces the subsequent clause, and the general structure of the passage, appear to me to justify such an alteration; nor are we aware of any advantage occurring to the system we oppose by such a rendering. The socinians suppose that the purport of this member of the sentence is to assert, that though our Lord was possessed of miraculous power, by which he might have drawn to himself that homage which is only due to the Supreme Being, yet he declined making such a use of these powers. The first instance of his matchless humility and condescension, on their hypothesis, is in his not impiously turning the weapons with which he was armed, against their Author, thus employing himself to establish, in his own person, that which it was one great end of his mission to subvert. That humility with which the apostle was so much enraptured [consisted, then,] in not being guilty of the grossest ingratitude and impiety; in not betraying his trust by advancing his own honour and interest on the ruins of his from whom he derived his commission. That our Saviour could not have acted the part which he is supposed to have declined in this instance will surely be admitted; but what a preposterous illustration is that of matchless condescension, which is placed in a mere abstinence from impiety and rebellion !
From the preliminary remarks we have made, I trust it must be sufficiently evident, that this cannot be the illustration which St. Paul designed to furnish of unparalleled lowliness and conde
scension. It deserves to be remarked too, that in this sense, “the form of God” belongs equally to every person who has possessed miraculous powers to an extent not inferior to those exerted by our Saviour, which, as we learn both from the Acts of the Apostles, and from the express language of the Saviour himself, was the case with his apostles. In consequence of those powers, St. Paul was, on one occasion, made an object of idolatry, which he disclaimed with the utmost vehemence and abhorrence; so far was he from assuming any extraordinary merit on account of declining so impious a distinction. Besides, let me ask, would such a use of the supernatural succours afforded our Saviour, as to suffer them to be the occasion of his being worshipped, have produced their withdrawment ? If they would not, there must be some legitimate ground for his being worshipped, inapplicable to every other case. If they would, what is there admirable in his declining to convert them to a purpose which he knew would issue in their extinction ? Can the inspired writer be supposed for a moment to introduce, with so much pomp and solemnity, a branch of our Lord's conduct which the smallest portion of prudence sufficiently accounts for ?
“ He made himself of no reputation," or, more literally, “ he emptied himself,” “ he divested himself,” the writer most unquestionably means, of somewhat which he heretofore possessed. But of what, on the hypothesis of the simple humanity