Unitarianism: The Negation of the Christian Faith
Solomon, the wisest of men, wrote, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is NO NEW THING under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). Unitarian doctrines are no new thing. They were held in various forms as far back as the 3rd century. Sabellius taught there is only one God, the Father; the titles, Son and Holy Spirit, he said, being different designations of the one God. This heresy was condemned at a council held in Rome in 260 A.D.
In the sixteenth century in Italy such writers, as Denck, Hetzer, Castellio, Gribaldi, Servetus, were prominent in teaching similar views, viz., that there is only one God, the Father; that Jesus was wholly human; that His death was not an atoning sacrifice. The last-named of these, Servetus (1511-1553), in 1551 published a treatise, The Errors of Trinitarian Beliefs—the chief Trinitarian belief attacked being, that the Godhead embraces Three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One in Three, and Three in One, ONE GOD.
The heretical views of Servetus and others were stoutly denounced by Lutherans, Zwinglians, Calvinists, as well as by the Romish Church. So strong was the feeling that these views were subversive of salvation itself, and destructive of the Christian Faith, that when Servetus set foot in Geneva, where John Calvin at the time was wielding a very powerful influence, he was arrested and arraigned for blasphemy. His trial lasted from August 1st to October 26th, 1553. The next day he was burnt to death. In England between 1548 to 1612 seven men were put to death for similar views.
Faustus Socinus (1559-1604), an Italian nobleman, was the leader of an anti-Trinitarian movement in Poland, which lasted about one hundred years, and was then stamped out by bitter persecution on the part of the Jesuits. He taught there was only one God, God the Father; that our Lord was not Divine; that He was not a Mediator; that hell would endure for a time, after which the souls and bodies of the unregenerate would be annihilated and cease to exist. We do not condone the persecuting spirit that prevailed in those days, but we draw attention to this, because their doctrines were similar to those of the Unitarians, so much so that Unitarians have sometimes been called Socinians.
The term, Unitarianism, was first used in 1600 to describe a religious association, marked by the heretical views we have mentioned. In 1774 Theophilus Lindsey resigned his living in the Church of England, and hiring an auction room, opened the first Unitarian Church in Essex Street, Strand, London. About that time the most influential name in the history of English Unitarianism was that of Joseph Priestley (1733-1804). He was very famous as a scientist. His discoveries in physics, electricity, and chemistry, especially his discovery of oxygen, gained him great prestige. But great and outstanding as his scientific achievements were, he was far more deeply interested in theology. He was an immensely voluminous writer, responsible for at least twenty-four large volumes. His influence attracted many to embrace Unitarian beliefs. One of their writers tells us that Priestley was in some respects in advance of his time. “He denied the miraculous birth of Jesus, and thought He was born in Nazareth with the same physical, mental and moral imperfections as other human beings. . . He regarded the doctrines of the Trinity and the Atonement as corruptions of primitive Christianity” (The Unitarians, pp. 88-89).
One hundred years ago these heretical views were confined mainly to Unitarian Chapels, but now, under the more widely known name of MODERNISM, they have permeated the professing Church of God. This has operated in the direction of weakening Unitarianism as a separate body. At first, if any one took the position of believing that there is only one God, the Father; that our Lord was only human; that His death was not of a sacrificial character, he would, generally speaking, be refused membership by the place of worship with which he was associated; and in that case would be likely to join himself to a Unitarian Congregation. But now, alas! these Unitarian views are widely spread and tolerated in many sections in Christendom under the name of Modernism. In this way the tendency would seem to be in the direction of lessening the size of Unitarian Congregations, whilst their views are held by an ever increasing circle.
UNITARIANS TEACH THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD, THE FATHER
Unitarians are fond of quoting the well-known affirmation of the Oneness of God, “Hear O Israel; the LORD our God is one LORD” (Deut. 6:4). But do the Unitarians take care to give the real meaning of this Scripture? Do they inform us of a most remarkable feature in the Hebrew language? It possesses no less than THREE numbers:—
SINGULAR, one only;
DUAL, two only;
PLURAL, three or more.
This is a most arresting feature of Hebrew grammar. God, who gave speech to our first parents, must have designed this special plural for a very definite purpose. We can trace this most plainly in the verse we have just quoted. Bearing this in mind the verse reads thus: “Hear O Israel: The LORD [Jehovah, singular] our God [Elohim, plural] is one LORD [Jehovah, singular].” Here is an arresting statement of the Oneness of God, yet along with it care is equally taken to give a very clear and unmistakable intimation of the truth of the Holy Trinity,—Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One in Three, and Three in One, ONE GOD.
Indeed in the very first verse in the Bible the name for God is in the plural. We read, “In the beginning God [Elohim, plural] created [Bara, singular] the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Does the Unitarian explain why the plural noun is followed by a singular verb, if it is not to convey the thought of plural unity—One in Three, and Three in One, ONE GOD?
There are two words in the Hebrew language which render the name of God in the plural:—
EL, singular; ELOHIM, plural, meaning Supremacy. ADON, singular; ADONAI, plural, meaning Lordship.
These two names for God in the plural are employed many hundreds of times throughout the Old Testament, and many more times than their corresponding words in the singular. Why are the eyes of Jews and Unitarians closed to the meaning of God’s name being found so plentifully on the sacred page in the plural, sometimes followed by a singular verb, giving so unmistakably the thought of plural unity? Is it that “they willingly are ignorant” (2 Pet. 3:5)?
The Prophet Isaiah employs Adonai, the second name for God in the plural, in a very striking way. It presents the fullest testimony found in the Old Testament to the truth of the Trinity of Divine Persons, yet ONE GOD. We read, “Come ye near unto Me, hear ye this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there AM I; and now the LORD [Jehovah, singular] God [Adonai, plural], and His Spirit, hath sent Me.” (Isa. 48:16). Here we have One presented to us as “from the beginning,” a clear assertion of Deity, seeing that God alone has neither beginning nor end. Again, this One introduces Himself as the “I AM,” the self-existent One, the Jehovah of the Old Testament, the One, who was, and is, and ever will be, THE ETERNAL. The plural here embraces Three Persons, yet one God—(1) The LORD God; (2) His Spirit; (3) The Sent One. It surely cannot be a chance coincidence that our Lord when here on earth spoke of Himself repeatedly as
THE SENT ONE OF THE FATHER.
No less than twenty-seven times as recorded in the Gospel of John, thrice within the compass of three verses (John 6:38-40), does the Lord refer to Himself as the Sent One of the Father. How intensely precious must this thought have been to Him, when the announcement of it was so often on His lips. What a testimony! Could prophecy and fulfilment more strikingly meet?
When John the Baptist, forerunner of our Lord (Isa. 40:3-5) was baptizing our Lord in the waters of the Jordan, he heard the voice of the Father from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17); and saw the Holy Spirit of God descending like a dove upon Him, the Sent One of the Father. Here we have a most beautiful presentation of the truth of the blessed Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit, ONE GOD.
And why should the formula used in Christian baptism be in the Threefold name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost (Matt. 28:19)? If God the Father were alone God, would you expect Him to share His ineffablie glory with any of His creatures? How understandable and harmonious, however, it is when there is presented to us the name of the Threefold God—Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Three in One, and One in Three, ONE GOD.
And why should the beautiful benediction link together the same three names. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all, Amen” (2 Cor. 13:14)?
And why should the Apostle Peter link up the same three names when we read, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:2)? Is there not set before us the truth of the Holy Trinity? Blind must be the person, who fails to see this.
UNITARIANISM TEACHES THAT OUR LORD WAS ONLY HUMAN
At this point it would be well to introduce to our readers the name of a Unitarian writer, whom we shall have to quote more than once. James Martineau (1805-1900) stands out as the most prominent speaker and writer of Unitarianism. One of their writers describes him as, “The best representative of modern Unitarianism in that his free criticism of the Bible was united with an intense reverence for Jesus and a profound faith in God. His sermons are classic in their beauty of expression, and in their depth of spiritual experience. They interpret the life and teaching of Jesus in terms of modem thought and modern needs. They appeal to the best in human nature, and they are filled with the sense of the infinite value of life and the goodness of God. On the other hand this confident religious faith was united with a complete repudiation of the Bible as an ultimate authority” (The Unitarians, p. 117).
James Martineau was just the kind of agent the enemy would like to use, intellectual, educated, cultured, earnest in his beliefs, however false they might be.
Hear what he said about the Lord being only human. “The Christ of the Unitarians, being wholly man, carries in himself the alienated nature, and lies under the disqualification he is needed to remove. He may be an example upon the human level, but cannot, it is said, lift us to the Divine” (Freedom and Truth, p. 27).
In these intensely solemn words not only is there the denial that the Lord was Divine, but also the affirmation that our Lord’s humanity was sinful, and that He needed a Saviour like the rest of us. Could so few words contain more deadly poison, though much he wrote was sugar-coated with “beauty of expression”? But here we fail to see Martineau’s “intense reverence for Jesus.” How highly inconsistent to write in glowing terms of our Lord, and yet to deny the truth of His Holy Person, as the SON, in the Unity of the Godhead, the Sent One of the Father to be the Saviour of the world (1 John 4:14). Did not our Lord say, “If ye believe not that I AM He, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24)? To show the meaning and importance of the Divine title, I AM, we refer you to our Lord’s own claim as to it in these words. Please note the word, He, in our Bibles, is in italics, showing it is not in the original Greek, which simply stands as “I AM.” When Moses was commissioned by God to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, and was backward in accepting this commission, he asked the Lord, “Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you: and they shall say to me, What is His name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel. I AM hath sent me unto you” (Ex. 3:13-14). If the Lord’s words were true, that He was the I AM (and they were and are for ever true), what a terrible future for any man, denying the truth of the Lord’s Holy Person.
If the Lord were not more than human, why did the Prophet Isaiah, seven long centuries before our Lord was born into this world, write, “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, THE MIGHTY GOD, THE EVERLASTING FATHER, the Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6)? Would any writer in his wildest dreams have written that a Child of days should be the everlasting Father; and that the Son given should be the mighty God? And yet the Prophet was inspired of God to put on record that which no man could have guessed at, a prophecy, which by no means could man’s reason have arrived at, yet in complete harmony with Scripture throughout, viz., that our Lord should be God and Man, one blessed Person—God from all eternity, yet, blessed be God, Man in time to meet by His atoning death on the cross of Calvary the sinner’s deep need.
The same Prophet wrote, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name IMMANUEL” (Isa. 7:14). Here we have the same truth, the virgin’s Son, HUMANITY (sin apart); and yet IMMANUEL, “God with us” (Matt. 1:23), DEITY.
And why did the Prophet Micah, writing seven centuries before our Lord was born into this world, tell us that the promised Messiah to be born at Bethlehem Ephratah would be “FROM EVERLASTING”? (Mic. 5:2). The only Being, who is “from everlasting,” who has neither beginning nor end, is GOD. What uninspired writer would have dared to connect One born into this world as being “from everlasting”? Why should prophet after prophet unite, and that without each other’s knowledge in most cases, if not all, in testifying that the Saviour to come should be God and Man, One Blessed Person?
And when we come to the New Testament we find the same truth enunciated. Why does the Apostle John, referring plainly to our Lord Jesus Christ, tell us that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:1-3); and that, “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The meaning of this profound passage is most manifest. The Word was GOD—Deity. The Word became flesh—Humanity (sin apart). In the simplest language, and yet in a most profound and blessed way, we have presented to us the mystery of the Person of our Lord, and that in fulfilment of the prophecies of the Old Testament many centuries before. Could there be a grander and clearer presentation of the Lord’s Godhead and Manhood as presented to us in John’s Gospel? Do not the cold negations of Unitarianism stand utterly condemned in the presence of this glorious truth? Unitarianism has no Saviour, no atoning sacrifice to meet God’s holy demands as to sin, nothing but barren sterility in the things of God, nothing to offer a poor needy sinner.
And why did the Apostle Paul, referring to his fellow-countrymen, the Jews, write, “Of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, GOD blessed for ever, Amen” (Rom. 9:5)? In plainest language we are here told that Christ was God. Again the same writer tells us, “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: GOD WAS MANIFEST IN THE FLESH” (1 Tim. 3:16). Could language be more explicit? God, DEITY; manifest in flesh, HUMANITY (sin apart).
A Unitarian minister invited an orthodox minister to preach in his Church. In the vestry before the service the Unitarian minister was concerned lest the orthodox minister should proclaim Trinitarian views. He said to the orthodox minister, “Remember, there must be no controversy.”
“Yes,” replied the orthodox minister, “there shall be no controversy.” Judge of the surprise and dismay of the Unitarian minister when the orthodox minister announced his text in the very words of Holy Scripture, “WITHOUT CONTROVERSY God was manifest in the flesh.”
How cold are the negations of Unitarianism as compared with the Divine love, that tells us of such a wonderful Saviour as being none the less than “The Word made flesh.”
The Apostle Paul also wrote, “In Him [Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). Amazing words! too profound for any mortal to grasp the fulness of their meaning. How could there be the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in a body, unless it were in Christ—God and Man—One Blessed Person. How do the Unitarians explain such explicit Scriptures, that leave no doubt as to their meaning? They get out of the difficulty by simply denying the Scriptures.
Again the Apostle John wrote, “We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).
All this most clearly teaches that our Lord was God and Man, yet One Person, a mystery no man shall ever know. Hear the words of the Lord Jesus Himself, “All things are delivered unto Me of My Father: and no man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father save, the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him” (Matt. 11:27). This is a verse of which to take very particular notice. As to knowing the Father there are two statements made: (1) The Son knows the Father; (2) The Son is pleased to reveal the Father to whomsoever He will, most evidently to believers on the Lord Jesus Christ. We read, “And because ye [believers] are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba, FATHER” (Gal. 4:6). But when we come to the knowledge of the Son we have our Lord’s own most emphatic words, “NO MAN KNOWETH THE SON BUT THE FATHER,” and note carefully, there it stops. There is no knowledge of the Son outside the Father. We must take special notice of this.
But you may ask, Do not we, believers, know the Lord as our Saviour, and are we not privileged to have communion with Him? Surely this is so, thank God, again and again. Believers are all welcome to enjoy the place in the affections of our Lord that John of old enjoyed (John 13:23). But none of us shall ever know or can know, the unfathomable depths of the Lord’s Person; that is, we can never fathom the mystery of the union of God and Man in one Person, our Lord Jesus Christ. That knowledge is only shared between the Father and the Son.
The writer has often looked at an ant-hill, and watched its busy denizens, and thought how impossible it would be for an ant to understand the being of a man. Yet man and ant are both creatures. They can be compared, though the ant is very tiny, and the man very great in comparison. And then his mind passed to higher themes. How can one compare God with man, the Infinite with the finite? Impossible for finite minds! It is by not paying strict attention to this statement of our Lord, that “no man knoweth the Son but the Father,” that has led to many unholy and dangerous speculations as to this sacred mystery, resulting alas! in great schisms, which rent the Church of God soon after apostolic days and lasting to this present time. Let us pay particular attention to this, and refrain from the folly and worse of speculating on that, which is for ever beyond the comprehension of human understanding.
UNITARIANISM DENIES THE VIRGIN BIRTH OF OUR LORD
It is very evident that Unitarians, denying the Deity of our Lord, must of necessity deny the virgin birth. One evil leads to another. Take away the keystone of an arch, and the whole structure falls to the ground. A Unitarian writer tells us, “We cannot be absolutely certain that Jesus was the best man that ever lived, or that he was supremely good: still less that he was God. His supernatural birth is certainly not self-evident, nor his supernatural resurrection. For the Unitarian, then, Jesus was not born of a virgin” (Freedom and Truth, p. 226).
Thus the Unitarian denies
THE PROPHECY UTTERED BY GOD HIMSELF,
on the very day of man’s sin and fall, that He would put enmity between the serpent (Satan) and the woman, between the serpent’s seed and the woman’s seed (Gen. 3:15). The seed of THE WOMAN! Whoever heard of the seed of the woman? Not the seed of the man, the ordinary way of nature, but the seed of the woman, a statement emanating from God Himself. The Unitarian dares to contradict God. It was plainly the first intimation by God Himself of the virgin birth of our Lord, that in Him should be the salvation of the human race. No other explanation is possible.
Isaiah, too, centuries before our Lord was born into this world, wrote plainly, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a SON, and shall call His name IMMANUEL” (Isa. 7:14). Here we get fuller light on Genesis 3:15, inasmuch that the virgin’s seed was to be a SON, and His name was to be IMMANUEL, meaning “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). Here we get presented to us the SON, humanity (sin apart); IMMANUEL, Deity—One Blessed Person our Lord Jesus Christ.
Lastly the Apostle Paul wrote, “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, MADE OF A WOMAN, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4). “Made of a woman” refers clearly to the virgin birth of our Lord. If the mighty creatorial power of God decreed that children should come into the world in a certain way, is it not equally within His power, if He chooses, to depart from the normal and make an exception?
An infidel doctor once said to a Christian doctor, that he could not understand the virgin birth. The reply was, “Do you understand your own birth?” The infidel doctor had to acknowledge that he did not. How simple when God is brought in! How impossible when He is not! Life, whether natural or spiritual, is ever the secret of God, and outside of Him will never be known. We know that we live, that we have certain powers, a response to certain environments, but life itself in its creation and essence remains a secret locked up for ever in the mind of the Creator.
The virgin birth was chosen as the means of our Lord’s entrance into this world for two reasons at least. One was to declare His sinlessness, His pure and holy humanity. In proclaiming that high honour that was to be put upon Mary in being chosen as a virgin to be the mother of our Lord according to the flesh, the angel was met by the modest and maidenly question, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” The angel replied, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that HOLY THING which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). Our Lord had no sinful paternity. He was sinless in conception as a Man. Second, it narrowed the identification of the promised Messiah to ONE INDIVIDUAL of all the millions of the human race, even our blessed Lord Jesus Christ.
THE UNITARIANS MAKE LIGHT OF OUR LORD’S MIRACLES
A Unitarian author, Henry Gow, writes that “Jesus was not born of a virgin, he did not work miracles over Nature, or raise the dead. In so far as he healed the sick, it was in consequence of human powers of love and faith which are not yet fully understood, but which, so far as He really possessed them, must be regarded as entirely human” (Freedom and Truth, p. 226).
If this writer read the four Gospels with their ample record of the miracles our Lord performed, with his views he must deny that our Lord turned water into wine in a moment of time (John 2:1-11). That was surely a miracle beyond the reach of human powers. He must also deny that our Lord multiplied five loaves and two small fishes, thereby satisfying the hunger of five thousand men, besides women and children (Matt. 14:21). In all the history of mankind was it ever heard that a mere handful of food could be so multiplied? Was this not above nature?
Among the miracles, the Unitarian writer says our Lord did not do, was that of raising the dead. He must deny then the story of the Roman Centurion’s daughter being raised to life again (Matt. 9:18, 22-26). He must likewise deny that the widow of Nain’s son, as he was being carried to his burial, was at the word of our Lord restored to life again (Luke 7:12-17). Above all, take the case of the raising of Lazarus, dead already four days, and putrefaction setting in, He must deny that our Lord restored him to life again to the great joy of his sorrowing sisters (John 11:1-46). We wonder at the bold effrontery, that tells us that our Lord did not raise the dead.
We are told that the miracles our Lord performed were “entirely human.” This is most evidently not true. The writer has often said, that when so-called Divine Healers, Christian Scientists, Mormons, Pentecostalists, Roman Catholics at Lourdes, etc., can give proof of their claims of divine healing by restoring a severed limb in a moment of time, leaving no trace of the operation, even if it were so small a part of the human body as an ear, he will immediately recognise their claims. Malchus’ ear is a test case, not yet emulated by any of our present-day so-called Divine Healers. Our Lord performed this miracle (Luke 22:50-51). Was that miracle “entirely human”? We have not heard of these self-named Divine Healers rushing to the battlefields, and restoring severed limbs to the mutilated.
UNITARIANS TEACH THAT OUR LORD’S DEATH WAS NOT SACRIFICIAL
A Unitarian writer says, “The orthodox scheme of salvation, expressed in the old doctrine of the Atonement and the Incarnation, is not accepted” (The Unitarians, p. 166). Another writer says, that Unitarianism, “denies orthodox doctrines of the Atonement, not because they are un-Biblical, but because they are immoral” (The Unitarians, p. 119). Martineau writes, “So long as you contemplate the Redeemer as a detached person . . . the difficulty will remain insuperable of making his moral acts avail for other human individuals, unless by a fictitious transference against which conscience protests. Punishment by substitute, righteousness by deputy, vicarious repentance, are notions at variance with the fundamental postulates of the common sense” (Studies of Christianity, p. 172).
Here we have in plain language the spurning of the amazing offer of salvation by a God of infinite love, who has HIMSELF provided the Sacrifice, even His well-beloved Son, a sacrifice which justice and righteousness demanded, if Divine love were to flow righteously to sinful men.
Let us see what Scripture teaches. There is one striking verse woven into the very web and woof of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. We read,
“WITHOUT SHEDDING OF BLOOD IS NO REMISSION” (Heb. 9:22).
Whether in the Old Testament by prophecy or type, or in the New Testament by fulfilment, the atoning sacrifice of our Lord is ever held up as the sinner’s only hope. We may well ask, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” (Heb. 2:3). The line of redemption by blood starts very early in the history of mankind. Abel offered up the firstlings of his flock in sacrifice upon the altar, and thereby was accounted righteous before God. His act, we are told, was of faith (Heb. 11:4). In Abel’s offering was typified a vicarious salvation, pointing to the one and only efficacious sacrifice of God’s only begotten Son.
On the Passover night in Egypt, God commanded that the lintel and door posts of the houses, where the children of Israel were, should be sprinkled by the blood of the lamb without blemish. God said, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Ex. 12:13). We get the fulfilment of this definitely stated in the New Testament when we read, “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us [believers]” (1 Cor. 5:7). The Old Testament and the New Testament here link hands, the Old Testament giving the prophecy, the New Testament the fulfilment.
Behold the ceaseless flow of blood from Jewish altars, the endless succession of sacrifices, Burnt Offerings, Peace Offerings, Sin Offerings, Trespass Offerings—all devised and commanded by God. Had they no special significance? Was there no Divine teaching to be learned? The great Epistle to the Hebrews clearly answers our questions. It shows that these sacrifices were typical and symbolical of the one great and effectual sacrifice of our Lord when He wrought atonement at the cross of Calvary (Heb. 9:14). We read, “Christ being come an High Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect, tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Heb. 9:11-12).
Indeed the whole of Christian fellowship is based upon the righteous foundation of the atoning work of our Lord on the cross. We read, “If we [believers] walk in the light as God is in the light we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). The very worship of heaven is ascribed to “THE LAMB THAT WAS SLAIN, worthy to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” (Rev. 5:12). Alas! the cold heart of the Unitarian is totally unresponsive to such heavenly strains. All he can do is to rob the Christian of his only hope, and put the feet of his dupes on the treadmill of earning their own salvation, a hopeless task, that can only end in an eternity of woe.
UNITARIANS DENY WORSHIP TO THE SON OF GOD
One of their writers, Sydney Herbert Mellone, says, “The ‘worship of Jesus’ is a difficult subject to handle, because ‘worship’ may mean various and very different things. It may mean liturgical adoration of Christ, and petitionary prayer addressed to him. Unitarians believe that such worship in relation to Jesus is as much IDOLATRY as it would be in relation to Socrates or Isaiah” (Freedom and Truth, p. 61).
How did our Lord respond to those, who are recorded as having worshipped Him? Did He accept their worship, or did He rebuke this as “idolatry”? A leper came to Him, worshipping Him, saying, “If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean” (Matt. 8:1-4). Did our Lord rebuke him? Nay, He answered His petition by cleansing him from the foul leprosy that afflicted him. When the disciples saw our Lord walking on the boisterous waters of the Sea of Galilee, and were afraid; and our Lord calmed their fears, and joined them in their ship, we read that “the wind ceased.” Thereupon the astonished disciples worshipped Him, saying, “Of a truth Thou art the Son of God” (Matt. 14:33). Did our Lord rebuke them? Was it idolatry, which should have been sternly rebuked? No, He accepted their worship.
When the Lord told doubting Thomas to reach hither his finger, and behold His hands with the marks of the nail-prints, and to reach hither his hand, and thrust it into His side, and be not faithless but believing, Thomas at last convinced that the Lord was indeed risen from the dead, replied, “My Lord and my GOD” (John 20:28). That surely was the moment to have rebuked Thomas, if his worship had been “idolatry.” The rebuke was not forthcoming. The worship was accepted. And when our Lord rose from the Mount of Olives to heaven we read that the disciples worshipped Him with great joy (Luke 24:52). What do the Unitarians say to this, except to denounce it?
WHO AND WHAT IS THE UNITARIAN “FATHER”?
How does the Unitarian explain the use of the word, Father, when he affirms that the only God is “God, THE FATHER”? The Scriptures teach that the Lord Jesus was from all eternity the unique Son of God, that is, as being THE ETERNAL SON along with the Holy Father, Son and Holy Spirit—in the unity of the Godhead. This the Unitarians deny, affirming that our Lord was “wholly man.” In relation to believers on the Lord Jesus Christ Scripture teaches us that they have received the adoption of sons (Gal. 4:5), not as altering their relation to the Creator as creatures, not as lifting them to the level of Deity, that were impossible, but as being “partakers of the Divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4), that is they have the moral qualities of that Divine nature, such as love, holiness, truth, tenderness, compassion—graces seen in all their loveliness in our Lord when here among men.
How then does the Unitarian explain the Fatherhood of God? One of their authors, Sydney Herbert Mellone, writes, “The very essence of the Unitarian gospel, the foundation on which the whole structure is built, the only binding force which alone gives it whatever cohesion it possesses, is the Fatherhood of God: not as an object of lip-service, not as a comfortable generalization to be listened to, or a vague theme of merely emotional assent; but as a great Ideal, whose meaning demands realization alike in personal, social, national and international life: carrying with it, spiritually and even logically, the Divine Sonship and Brotherhood of MAN—and this, once more, not merely as a Truth to be assented to, but as an Ideal to be realized, a task to be achieved” (Freedom and Truth, p. 56). The same writer says plainly, “The sonship of every human soul to God is an eternal fact. Nothing that can come to pass in time can destroy it” (Freedom and Truth, p. 76).
But what does Scripture tell us is the condition of man before God? Are they all sons of God? How does Scripture describe them? Unbelievers are said to be “children of disobedience” and “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:2-3). “ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Did not our Lord tell the Pharisees plainly who boasted of being Abraham’s seed, and in bondage to no man, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” (John 8:44)?
The Unitarian tells us that all men are sons of God, using the expressions, “Divine Sonship and Brotherhood of Man.” He refers to this as “a great Ideal.” Ideal is a word, meaning, existing only in the imagination, and Idealist, as an unpractical person (Chamber’s 20th Century Dictionary). We notice in this Unitarian definition there is no sort of explanation how this idea is arrived at. It is merely stated in high-sounding language without any attempt at proof, surely to be expected on such a momentous theme.
The well-known expressions, The Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man, with the popular meaning attached to them, ignore the ruin of man by sin, and the need of the atoning death of our Lord for sinful man’s salvation. They are unscriptural, based on utterly false premises, and blasphemous in their implications. In the hands of the devil they are opiates to lull multitudes to a fatal spiritual slumber, only alas! to wake up when too late to discover how cruelly they have been deceived. Such will have eternity in which to regret the terrible delusion, that has robbed them of the inestimable gift of God’s pardon and love.
Whilst the Unitarians teach that all men are sons of God, they go to the other extreme of teaching the “DIVINE Sonship of all men,” whatever that may mean. We read, “When the brilliant young Welshman, Henry Jones, fresh from the lecture-room of Edward Caird in Glasgow, began to preach near Bangor (where he held a professor’s chair), he soon earned the reputation of a heretic. ‘We are told,’ said a colleague, ‘that you deny the divinity of Christ!’ ‘I deny the divinity of Christ!’ said Jones; ‘I do not deny the divinity of any man’” (Freedom and Truth, p. 11). To such straits of explanation are these purveyors of evil doctrine reduced.
UNITARIANISM EXALTS HUMAN REASON ABOVE THE SCRIPTURES
Mantineau wrote, “No seeming inspiration can establish anything contrary to reason; that the last appeal, in all researches into religious truth, must be to the judgments of the human mind; that against these judgments Scripture cannot have any authority, for upon its authority they themselves decide” (Freedom and Truth, p. 7).
It has been abundantly seen in our brief review of Unitarianism there must be the necessity of the denial of the inspiration of Scripture. This falls in line with all anti-Christian religions. With them Scripture is either set at naught, or praised—set at naught when its teaching is contrary to their beliefs; praised when they think it supports their peculiar views. Of course Scripture never supports views that are not in accordance with God’s revelation to man.
In view of what has been already put forward in this pamphlet, it will be seen in what an illogical and utterly foolish position Unitarian beliefs places its followers. Our Lord claimed to be God when He said to the Pharisees, “Before Abraham was I AM” (John 8:58), thus asserting His Godhead. (See Exodus 3:14). Again He said, “Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD” (John 17:24). The Unitarians say these claims are false.
If false, they would constitute blasphemy of the very worst kind. If false, our Lord could rightly be branded as the most contemptible deceiver the world has ever known. If false, and presented in apparently pious language, the greater the deception. “The poison of heretical doctrine is never more dangerous than when served in clean cups and washed dishes.” So wrote Fuller of Bartholomew Legate, the last anti-Trinitarian to be burnt at Smithfield in the reign of King James I in 1612. With one breath the Unitarian makes our Lord to be a blasphemer, and with another exalts Him as a great moral teacher. Is this not inconsistency of a most glaring nature? Whether Martineau was ever aware of his inconsistency we cannot say. Conscious or unconscious, he was in the hands of Satan responsible for the spiritual destruction of multitudes. To present poison in a wrapping of piety is ever Satan’s plan. So attacking the true Being of the Godhead brought with it in its train the denial of our Lord’s Deity, of the Deity of the Holy Spirit, of the fall, of the atoning character of the death of our Lord, of Scripture as inspired of God, and with that the exaltation of human reason above God’s revelation to man, the Scriptures of truth. What of vital Christianity is left? Nothing! We are bereft of the solid foundation of God’s revelation to man, and offered in exchange the shifting sands of man’s human reason. To accept Unitarian teaching we should have to throw overboard our Bibles, a bitter price to pay. The ship of our soul, journeying through the stormy waters of this tempestuous life, would be without captain, rudder and compass were we to listen to human reason. What would be the end of such a journey, but to be wrecked on the shores of a Christless eternity in utter despair, without God and without hope.
UNITARIANISM, THE NEGATION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
The following slashing attack on the Christian position clearly shows how Unitarianism is the complete negation of the Christian faith. We quote from James Martineau’s The Seat of Authority. He writes, “The conclusion is forced upon me, on which I cannot dwell without pain, viz., that Christianity, as defined or understood in all the Churches which formulate it, has been mainly evolved from what is transient and perishable in its sources, from what is unhistorical in its traditions, mythological in its preconceptions, and misapprehended in the oracles of its prophets. From the fable of Eden to the imagination of the last trumpet, the whole story of the Divine order of the world is dislocated and deformed. The blight of birth-sin with its involuntary perdition, the scheme of expiatory redemption with its vicarious salvation, the incarnation with its low postulates of the relation between God and man and its unworkable doctrine of two natures in one person . . . all are the growths of mythical literature, a Messianic dream, a Pharisaic theology, a sacramental superstition, a popular apotheosis” (The Unitarians, pp. 121-122).
The first reaction to the reading of this attack on the Christian faith is that its manifest weakness lies in its affirming over much. It reminds one of the advice to the lawyer who had a bad case to defend, that his best plan would be to abuse the plaintiff. Martineau tells us that the Christian faith is evolved from “transient and perishable sources.” If that were so, it ought to have passed away many centuries ago. Today the Bible, the oldest book in the world, has evidently more than a quality “transient and perishable,” when it has been translated in whole or in part over 1,000 times, and today is the world’s best seller. No, “the Word of God . . . liveth and abideth FOR EVER” (1 Pet. 1:23). These words were written over nineteen centuries ago, and still they live.
We are told that Martineau had “an intense reverence for Jesus, and a profound faith in God,” but we fail to see either of these qualities in this bitter outburst against all that goes to make up the Christian faith. If a tithe of what Martineau writes were true of the Word of God, it would have perished long ago, and been consigned to the limbo of utter forgetfulness. Only lunatics and mental defectives could be hoodwinked by “a mythological literature, a Messianic dream, a Pharisaic theology.” You have only to read the four Gospels to see how wide of the mark Martineau was as to the last item he mentions. There you read how the Lord gave the Pharisees no quarter, called them “blind leaders of the blind” (Matt. 15:14), addressing them sternly, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how shall ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matt. 23:33).
In this slashing attack on the Christian faith we see Unitarianism in its true colours. Are Unitarians with their vaunted human reason the only sane people outside of a universal madhouse? Do they know better than all the prophets and apostles, nay, than even our Lord Himself? How much of the Bible have the Unitarians left us? ONLY THE COVERS. How tragic! It is easy to pull down, to destroy, but, thank God, the truth will prevail.
The late Colonel Ingersoll, noted for his eloquence, enhanced by a very handsome presence, lectured for many years on infidelity in the U.S.A. On one occasion he spoke brilliantly, setting forth his infidel ideas. The well-known minister, Henry Ward Beecher, was present, and was expected to defend Christianity. But he said not a word. Colonel Ingersoll remarked, “Mr. Beecher, have you nothing to say on this question?”
The old man slowly lifted himself up, and replied, “Nothing, in fact you will excuse my changing the conversation. I will say that while you gentlemen were talking my mind was bent on a most deplorable spectacle, which I witnessed today.”
“What was it?” at once enquired Colonel Ingersoll, who, notwithstanding his peculiar views about the hereafter, was noted for his kindness of heart.
“Why,” said Mr. Beecher, “as I was walking down town today I saw a poor lame man with crutches slowly and painfully picking his way through a cesspool of mud in his endeavour to cross the street. He had just reached the middle of the filth, when a big burly ruffian, himself all bespattered, rushed up to him, jerked the crutches from under the unfortunate man, and left him, sprawling and helpless, in the pool of liquid dirt, which almost engulfed him.”
“What a brute he was,” said the Colonel.
“What a brute he was,” they all echoed.
“Yes,” said the old man, rising from his chair, and brushing back his long white hair, while his eyes glistened with their old-time fire, as he bent them on Ingersoll. “Yes, Colonel Ingersoll, and you are the man. The human soul is lame, but Christianity gives it crutches to enable it to pass along the pathway of life. It is your teaching that knocks these crutches from under it, and leaves it a rudderless wreck in the slough of despond. If robbing the human soul of its only support on this earth—religion—be your profession, why, ply it to your heart’s content. It requires an architect to erect a building; an incendiary may reduce it to ashes.”
The old man sat down. Silence brooded over the scene. Colonel Ingersoll found that he had a master in his own power of illustration, and said nothing. The company departed in silence.
Does not this incident vividly illustrate the position of Unitarianism in relation to the Christian faith? Unitarianism would take from us the Bible, the Holy Scriptures, and leave us nothing in their place. It is not a question of choosing between two sets of views, as if that were a matter that concerned only this life, but the solemn issues of eternity, of heaven and hell, are at stake. This being so we can give no quarter whatever to Unitarian views, destructive of Christianity, the complete negation of the Christian faith.
There is one very noticeable feature in all attacks on the Christian faith, and that of Unitarianism is no exception. The prophecies of Scripture are either altogether ignored, or an attempt is made to explain them away, as for instance, when they tell us that the very striking prophecies of the Book of Daniel were written after the events had happened, and were merely history, and not prophecies at all. But there is one very definite and helpful fixing of dates. In B.C. 277 Ptolemy Philadelphus, King of Egypt, gathered seventy-two learned Jews, six from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, to Alexandria in order to translate the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. This translation is commonly called the Septuagint, because it was the work of seventy translators. It is reputed that the King gave a million sterling for a single copy of the Old Testament, and half a million sterling to the translators for their translation. There can be no fixing of Old Testament prophecies after that date. Of course the books of the Old Testament were much older than B.C. 277, as the Jews, the custodians of the Old Testament, could testify.
Why do the attackers of the Christian faith endeavour to explain away these prophecies? It cannot be denied, that the Bible is the ONLY Book in all the literature in the world, that has prophesied future events of a world magnitude, and that these prophecies have been fulfilled. No person can deny this. Is this not a staggering fact, proving without a doubt that the Bible is inspired of God, for such prophecies are clearly beyond the power of mortal man? When prophet after prophet foretells future events, unknown to each other, living in different centuries, and sometimes in different countries, and yet not contradicting each other, but prophesying in one harmonious whole, the one and only conclusion that can be arrived at, is that one Master Mind inspired them to write what they did. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim. 3:16). “Prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1:21). It is beyond contradiction that there are prophecies in the Bible which have been most strikingly fulfilled. Take two or three outstanding examples. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, dreamed a dream, interpreted by the Prophet Daniel as being revealed to him by God. He tells us, “There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known . . . what shall be in the latter days” (Dan. 2:28). Four great empires were to arise, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Grecian, Roman. Three world empires rose and passed into history, whilst the last, the Roman empire, was at the height of its power when our Lord was born into this world. Rome was founded in B.C. 753, and its empire continued till its break-up through the invasion of the Huns and Goths in A.D. 410, a matter of over eleven hundred years. There is nothing in all the literature of the world remotely like this remarkable prophecy, outside of the Word of God. Should this not afford the Unitarian food for thought? If he really understood what this means, and its implications, it would shatter once and for ever his Unitarian beliefs.
Scripture presents undeniable prophecies of our Lord’s incarnation, as we have shown in this pamphlet. We ask, Is it likely, or even possible, that prophets not knowing what each other wrote, living in different centuries, and sometimes in different countries, should tell the most horrible lies on sacred subjects, and that these lies should have a consistency about them, as if they had been concocted around one table in collaboration one with another. It takes very clever rogues to tell lies. Lies are generally found out. It is easily discovered where one statement is inconsistent with another statement, and even contradictory. But in the case of prophets not knowing what each other wrote, the possibility of successful lying is ruled out. Does it commend itself to the Unitarian mind to charge the prophets with lying in the circumstances we have described? No, the Bible is not built up on lies. It has commanded respect and trust of the best of mankind all down all centuries. “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart” (Jer. 15:16). So said the Prophet Jeremiah.
A final example. Our Lord when on earth uttered a most notable prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem and its gorgeous Temple, and the scattering of the Jews among the nations. It is a matter of history, as described so graphically by Josephus, an eye witness of the siege of Jerusalem under Titus, the son of the Emperor Vespasion, that it was completely destroyed and the Temple razed to the ground, leaving not one stone upon another. This took place in A.D. 70, about thirty-seven years after our Lord prophesied that it would take place. Nearly a hundred years after the siege of Jerusalem, our Lord’s prophecy of the scattering of the Jews among the nations was fulfilled. About the year A.D. 135 this scattering took place. The occasion was the rebellion of the Jews against the Roman power, headed by a leader, Bar-chobab by name, who gave himself out to be the Messiah, come to deliver the Jews from the Roman yoke. The Romans were so tired of these recurring rebellions, that to end them once and for all they drove the Jews from their ancient land, and dispersed them among the Gentile nations. For over eighteen hundred years this prophecy has been most strikingly fulfilled, and still continues to be fulfilled under our very eyes today. This is an outstanding prophecy that could only, and in no other way, emanate from the Divine mind.
Verily, the deniers of the Scriptures are called upon to believe more than the Christian, for the deniers believe great results flow from utterly inadequate causes; whereas the Christian ever has a sufficient Cause, even an Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient, All-wise God, from whom comes the ordering of everything in its final issue, whether it be in grace or in government.
Spite of themselves the Bible colours the thoughts of the Unitarians far more than they would like to acknowledge. Their literature proves this. They cannot get away from the influence of the Book, however much they may deny its truths to their own utter loss. If only the Unitarian and the Modernist would face the one question of prophecy honestly, they would find their disbeliefs rudely shaken and fall like a pack of cards.
One thing is certain, Christians must refuse to give the slightest quarter for a single moment to Unitarian and Modernist disbeliefs, so completely are they the absolute negation of the Christian faith. We may well pay heed to the Scripture, “Of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 22-23).
How vastly different is the wonderfully beautiful and triumphant doxology closing the Book of Jude, each Christian heart responding to it with rejoicing and worshipping spirit:—
“Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).