In which some of the most important branches of the Christian theology are illustrated, and proved by plain Scripture evidence, and defended against impugners.
There is every assurance given in the word of God, that truth shall triumph over error; and that Christ shall destroy anti-christ. With these assurances, the christian in looking forward to the promised epoch, when the present mists and fogs, which have long darkened the religious hemisphere, shall pass away, and the true light shall shine with a splendour convincing to the gain-sayer and transporting to the truly pious soul; but while we are waiting as the expectants of such a day as this, we should employ every laudable mean in our power to propagate those truths which are calculated to confirm the pilgrims to Zion in the right understanding of the scriptures, and remove from their minds every clog and tradition, which is calculated to intercept their enjoyments of the truth. The press is the greatest vehicle by which useful knowledge can be conveyed to men, and therefore, I venture to employ its service in giving publicity to the following sheets, which I hope may be profitable to some of the lambs of Christ's fold. I am not altogether a stranger to the common lot of authors, and especially one who appears under all the disadvantages which I am placed under, and in opposition to some of the most popular traditions which have riveted themselves to the mind of the public, and knowing that many of my readers are prepared to look over the following sheets with a criticizing eye, instead of a prayerful heart, with a design to magnify faults rather than extenuate, or pardon my imperfections; but to such I can say, if imperfections are what you look for, no doubt but that you will find enough of them to reward you for your trouble, and gratify your spleeny spirit. No book that ever was written, has passed without censure. The scriptures, written by inspiration of God, have been disbelieved, reproached, and ridiculed by the captiousness of men; and the writers of that holy oracle treated as knaves and impostors! No wonder then if fallible writers should meet with impugners in this divided state of the world. In 1821, I published a small work, which was well received by many of the most pious and orthodox christians, but others found fault with some things which appeared in it; particularly in those places where I opposed the tri-personal scheme of the Trinity, and the covenant of redemption under the notion of a bargain made before the foundation of the world between two divine persons in the Godhead, and where I have spoken of the pre-existence of the human soul of Jesus Christ. I have been convinced that most of these objections have arisen from a misunderstanding of my writings, and from the industry of some designing men, who have warned their people against my books and represented them as being full of Arianism, Sabellianism, Socinianism, Deism, Bramanism, Mohammadism, &c., and by these means many have never read my book, and these have generally found the most fault with it, others were prepared to read it with a strong prepossession against it, and some of these have embraced it, and others have rejected it. I have never repented publishing that work, for I have had the humbling assurances of many, that it has been profitable to them, some have professed its usefulness in clearing their minds of many difficulties with which they had been long laboring, while others have been lead by reading it, to serious concern which has terminated in a cordial and comfortable reception of the truth; these tokens of divine approbation, is to me a humbling and copious reward for all my trouble and expense.
In the following discourse on the Trinity, I have used the word Trinity, Triune, &c., not because they are found in scripture, for they are not; but because they are words in common use, and give a correct idea of three in one, or that the three that bear record in heaven are one. I have opposed the notion of three distinct persons, because -1st. It destroys the notion of the unity of God. -2nd. It is not scriptural, nor reasonable. -3rd. It is of Antichrist and is dangerous. -4th. It is conjecturing on the mode of God's existence further than he has seen fit to reveal it. -5th. It is distinguishing the only object of worship, into three several objects, individuals, or persons, each of them distinctly considered as an object of worship, each of them to be distinctly loved as a God, and feared as a divine sovereign. How this can be done, I cannot tell, are these persons finite? Then three finite persons cannot make one infinite God. Are these three persons divine and infinite? Then every divine infinite person must be a God; and if there be three distinct divine infinities, there must be three distinct Gods; for what is God but a divine infinite being? And as many such beings, or persons as exist distinct from each other, so many Gods must exist, or else I cannot understand words. Where the three that bear record in heaven are personified, and personal pronouns, personal acts, and personal properties are ascribed to each of them, I understood it in a figure of speech, used not to teach us that three real divine persons exist in the divine essence, or nature, but that this divine essence, or nature is manifested in those several ministrations, or Trinity; and by personification in a figure of speech these are severally expressed in the delineation of the system of salvation by grace, and each of these divine characters are to be understood as the agent accomplishing the work ascribed to it, not as a real person, distinct from the other two as persons, but the same divine Being or God, in whatever character he may be revealed, or however diversely personified, or figuratively spoken of. I pretend not to understand the mode of God's existence, I can know nothing of God, or of his existence, only by revelation, and as he has revealed to us, that "there are three that bear record in heaven, " I believe the fact, as he has told us that these are "the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, " I believe the fact; and as he has never said these three are persons, I cannot make it an article of my faith, but as it is said, "These three are one," I believe the fact; so I have a scripture warrant for my faith, and so my faith stands not in the words which men's wisdom hath devised, but in the words which the Holy Ghost has used; and in this I feel safe; and if I be asked what these three are? I answer, The Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and further than this God has not revealed, and I have no warrant to go any further, but confess myself ignorant of the mode of God's existence, further than he has revealed it.
In the following discourse on the mediatory nature of Christ as pre-existing, I believe that fact because I find it revealed in the scripture, that the one mediator between God and men is the Man Christ Jesus, and I read of his early appearances to the Patriarchs and Prophets, in the form of a man, conversing as a man, declared to be a man, and confessing himself to be a man. He was some times called an angel, or messenger, which are synonymous words, and signify, one sent with a message, which evidently cannot apply to the divinity; the first was visible to the eyes of men, the last is invisible, and was never seen by man; the first was man, the last was God; the first was a messenger, the last sent him; the man was heard to speak, but no man hath heard the voice of God at any time. Now that he who appeared to the Patriarchs was man, is a fact declared positively in the word of God, and that it was not his flesh is equally evident, for according to the flesh he came from the lines of Judah and David, he took on him flesh, was made flesh &c., so in his early appearances, he was man, but not in the flesh; so in my former work, I have spoke of it under the name, soul or spirit, but as some of my critical readers, took the advantage of these terms, as not being scriptural, I have in this work used the terms man, mediator, &c. That he who appeared to the patriarchs was not a common angel, is evident from his receiving divine titles, such as God, the LORD, Jehovah, I AM THAT I AM, &c.; and from his receiving the worship and adoration of those who saw him, which common angels always refused, but which Christ, when he appeared in the isle of Patmos to John received, although he appeared as a man, or an angel as he formerly had done to the patriarchs, all which go to prove that God was united to the man; that when the man appeared, he was the visible form of the invisible God, and being the mediator in whom God was reconciled, and was manifesting himself, he was both God and man, and of course the proper object of all praise and worship, the same as he was in his incarnate state, or is now in his glorified or exalted state. The Man is the mediator, and in him as such, God chose his people before the world was, and gave them grace, all the great and precious promises, and every spiritual blessing; when man was made it was in his image, when the first promise was given to man after the fall, he in whom all the promises were yea and amen, appeared and revealed it to man in a threat to the serpent. He often appeared to the prophets; he spoke to Moses out of the burning bush; he sent him to Egypt to deliver Israel; he went with them through the wilderness; he gave the law on Sinai; he conducted the affairs of the ancient church; he appeared glorious at the door of the tabernacle, in the temple, and on the mercy seat, &c. &c. Many of his appearances were in visible human form, or shape, and at other times concealed in a light, or blaze of the divine glory, from which his voice was heard; but this glory he laid aside when he became incarnate, and clothed himself with a body of flesh, prepared for him, in which he made satisfaction for sin; and as he approached to the close of his life of suffering he prays for the same glory he had with the Father, before the world was. This the disciples had seen in the holy mount, when he was transfigured before them, and his garments were white as the light; and in answer to his prayer, at his ascension into heaven, they saw a bright cloud receive, or invest him; this brightness was that glory in which he afterward appeared to John, as recorded in Rev.l:13, and this was perhaps, the same brightness, or light, which often appeared at the door of the tabernacle, and fixed its abode on the ark, between the cherubims, which was called by the Jews, the Shekinah, or the habitation of God. God is described as dwelling in light, and being clothed with light as with a garment. In the midst of this brightness, there often appeared a human shape, or figure, which was called man, but when Christ became incarnate, and had laid aside this glory, it no more appeared in the temple, on the ark, or at the door of the tabernacle; and was only seen on the mount when the man Christ was transfigured; and at the time of his ascension, when the same form was invested with the same glory; and in that brightness, he afterward appeared to John in the Isle. All of which prove that the man Christ Jesus, as mediator, was in existence when he appeared to the patriarchs and prophets, before his incarnation; as incontestably, as his appearance to the apostles after his death, prove his resurrection; for if God appeared as a man and was known as a man, before Christ as man had any actual existence, then his appearing to the apostles, or John in the Isle, is no proof that he was then in actual existence, but if by frequent interviews which he had with the apostles, we are assured that he did actually exist after his passion, so by the frequent interviews which he had with the patriarchs and prophets we are equally assured, he did actually exist before his incarnation. These truths are settled in scripture language, and of great importance to the public who can read and judge.
In the following work, I have made no pretensions to embellishment of style, and no doubt the grammarian may find many imperfections, and I do suppose that no man ever has written a book, under greater disadvantages, as I have been engaged in preaching to several Churches, at a distance from each other, besides traveling a great deal in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky; and have had to write at intervals, as I could catch a day or an hour, from other engagements; but as to the substance of what I have written, I make no apology, believing it to be according to the word of God.
He that looks for a book without a fault, will never find it in human production, but as all our works must bear the print of a man's hand, I hope I shall share in the clemency of my readers, and my prayer is, that God may make this little work, a blessing to his people, and the glory shall be his. I hope nothing in the following sheets, will be so construed, as to look like a want of fellowship in me, with any of my brethren who do not see with me in those points, for this is not my meaning.
While myself alone am accountable for any thing erroneous in this work, and my God and Saviour be praised for all that good which is in it, or may be done by it; I dedicate it to his cause, and the Baptist community, which I believe to be his Church, into whose hands I now submit it, and subscribe myself your servant for Jesus' sake.