After the Reformation came the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, Science, and Religious inquirey.
As the little horn’s reign was coming to an end, a burst of light flooded the world from the printing of God’s Word. Bibles were treasured and read by all. The thoughts of learned men were published, the Great Reformation shook the foundations of the Christian World, and Science came of age. At this time there were yet a “few names even in Sardis that had not defiled their garments” with idolatry. (Rev 3:4) These men made great strides in coming forth from the darkness of the Middle Ages.
Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was one such. He turned his attention toward the heavens and formulated gravity, celestial mechanics, the science of optics and refractive light. To describe these concepts he invented calculus. But Newton was also deeply religious. His study of the Bible led to a view of God which he placed in the middle between two extremes: the atheists who were guilty of subtracting from God’s truth, and Trinitarians whom he blamed for adding to it.
For decades Newton searched through the annals of church history and concluded that the primitive Christian church had a faith that believed in the One True God of the Bible. He insisted that through the introduction of an unbiblical word homoousia, Greek philosophy, and metaphysics corrupted the original primitive Christian teachings. Newton rejected both the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds but accepted the Apostles’ Creed because he believed it most closely conformed to the language of Scripture.
Around 1710 he wrote his own confession of faith entitled “Twelve Articles on Religion” relying strongly on the language of the Bible.
Artic. 1. There is one God the Father eternal, everliving, omnipresent, omniscient, almighty, the maker of heaven & earth, & one Mediator between God & Man the Man Christ Jesus [1Tim 2:5]
Newton discovered that 1John 5:7, known as the comma Johanneum and one of the main supports for the Trinity, was a “textual corruption” introduced into Greek manuscripts only two centuries earlier. He wrote a treatise on it first in French and had it published in France to avoid being identified. In it He noted, “The human race is prone to mysteries, and holds nothing so holy and perfect as that which cannot be understood…& for that reason to like best what they understand the least.” “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, & not in the multiplicity & confusion of things.”
In the 1726 edition of his Principia, his famous treatise on gravity and the laws of thermodynamics, Newton expanded on his view of the One True God in a section called the General Scholium. By analogy he compared the “most beautiful System of the Sun, Planets, and Comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being.”
“This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all: And on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God” “God the Father” was “King of kings, Lord of the dominant, Lord of hosts, God of gods, and finally God and head of Christ himself. [1Cor 11:3] It is said, he [Christ] is himself King of kings and Lord of lords, head of all principality and power, God of all things, or all beings, in this blessed age, seeing that he is lifted up by God himself over all things.”
It was a surprising discourse on his personal theology in the closing hours of his life.
William Whiston (1667-1752), Sir Isaac’s associate, became Newton’s successor at Cambridge. Whiston is, however, best known for his translation of the works of Josephus. Less known, but no less important, is his impressive collection of scripture and actual source documents in Greek and Latin and his use of the literal rule of interpretation.
His 1711 “Account of the Faith of the First Two Centuries,” Begins with the first of 22 Articles modeled closely after Newton’s 12:
“There is but One, Supreme, Living, Eternal, Infinite, Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Invisible God; the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; The origin of all Beings, and the Creator of all Creatures.”
Whiston, like Newton, observed that “Almighty is an Epithet only belonging to God the Father” and provided the following 8 texts to support his finding: 2Cor 6:18; Rev 1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:14; 19:6; 21:22.
Commenting on 1John 5:20 he wrote,
“I interpret this Verse, whether as commonly read, or whether as here from the Alexandrian and sixteen other Copies, not of the Son, but of the Father, that He and none else is the true God of the Christians, because, (1.) This is the constant, original, primitive Style of the Church; that the Father alone is the true God; [John 17:3; 1Thes 1:9,10]…” p. 20, 21
In Article 6 he addressed the begotten Son of God.
“Jesus Christ is the Logos Theou, [the word of God] The first begotten of all Creatures, the beginning of the Creation of God, i.e., a Divine Being or Person created or begotten by the Father before all Ages; or, before all subordinate Creatures, visible and invisible.”
Though Whiston’s use of the word “created” was treated as equivalent to “begotten, the language of the Bible, it nonetheless earned him censure and dismissal from his academic position. Whiston, like Newton, preferred the words of scriptural over philosophical language.
“I shall desire any one to shew me the least syllable in the first Ages, concerning this Mystery of the Trinity, till Philosophy crept into the Church, and Men became so foolish as to leave the wholesome Words of sound Doctrine, deriv’d from Revelation, for the vain Jangling, and metaphysical Jargon of weak and bewildered Philosophers.…and sufficient to make Men doubt of every thing, and to dispose them to reject the plainness of the Duties, on account of the absurdity of the Doctrines of Christianity. God have Mercy upon his Church, and in his due time restore us our old, plain, practical Christianity again.”
Whiston’s prayer was soon answered.
The English Baptist-Calvinist minister, John Gill (1697-1771) wrote in his commentary on Hebrews chapter 1 verse 5: “Christ is the Son of God, not by Creation, nor by adoption, nor by office, but by nature; he is the true, proper, natural, and eternal Son of God; and as such is owned and declared by Jehovah the Father, in these words; the foundation of which relation lies in the begetting of him”
Not an incarnational Son of God since Bethlehem, but the eternal Son of God by nature, owned by Jehovah “in the begetting of him.”
Chemist Joseph Priestley also identified the one true God of the Bible. In 1787 He produced a 4 volume “History of Early Opinions Concerning Jesus Christ Compiled From Original Writers Proving That The Christian Church Was At First Unitarian.” But Priestley, though famous for discovering the element oxygen, failed to discover “the Son of God in truth” 2John 3. He saw God as only an adoptive Father and His Son but a mere man, and not the Word in the beginning with God [John 1:1], or having the glory of the Father “before the world was” John 17:5, nor the Jesus Christ by whom God created all things. Eph 3:9.
Two years later, John William Fletcher, a retired college superintendent for the Methodist cause, appealed to Priestley to consider divine inheritance as the basis for the Son’s equality.
“From this common, equal, and full participation of the highest titles, and most distinguishing perfections of the Supreme Being, it follows, that the Son (with respect to Deity) is as perfectly equal to the Father, though all the Son’s Deity came from his Divine Father; as Isaac (with respect to humanity) was equal to Abraham, though all the humanity of Isaac came from his human parent.”
The age of enlightenment and discovery included the inquiring minds of men like Newton, Whiston, Gill, Priestley, and Fletcher. Fertile soil was being ploughed for a 19th century harvest of belief in the begotten Son of God, based on the plain words of the Bible, revealing his divine birth in eternity, and inheriting all things from His Father, the one true God.