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The life and ministry of Joshua Marshman—a sestercentennial appreciation. Part IV


Outside of the Bristol Cathedral in England, on Bristol’s College Green, there is a life-size bronze statue of a remarkable man by the name of Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1772–1833), who had died in England and who is buried in Bristol. Roy had been on friendly terms with the Serampore Trio in India, but in the late 1810s he had turned against them and attacked their Trinitarianism in print and advocated a form of Unitarianism. It is long forgotten that battles over the nature of the Trinity were a major part of the theological scene of the long eighteenth century. Little did the Serampore Trio expect to find themselves battling Unitarian thinking, though, in India, and that from the pen of one for who had they much esteem.

It fell to Marshman to author a defence. Marshman’s A Defence of the Deity and Atonement of Jesus Christ (1822) is a great example of Marshman’s tenacious advocacy of such core Christian doctrines as the atoning work of Christ and his deity. After defending both the atonement and deity of the Lord Jesus at length, Marshman spent a final chapter dealing with the personhood of the Holy Spirit and the Trinity. He found abundant evidence for the distinct personhood of the Spirit in passages like John 14:13 and 26.

He then turned briefly to examine “the doctrine of the Ever-blessed Trinity.” He cited three Trinitarian texts—Isaiah 48:13 and 16, Matthew 28:19 and 2 Corinthians 13:14—and then stated with regard to the last of these three texts:

Had the Lord Jesus been a creature, his grace, his free favour, sought for the Churches by the apostles equally with the Father’s, could have been of no value to them. Of what value to any one on earth is the grace or favour of anyone in heaven who is not omniscient and omnipresent?—the grace of Moses? of Abraham? or of the highest archangel?  Communion includes intercourse and fellowship. But how can we have fellowship and intercourse with one who has no being, no existence?—or with one who is not omniscient and omnipresent?

Marshman observed that Roy had abandoned his Hindu idolatry, but he asked, “has he found the religion of the Apostles and primitive believers?” Marshman went on to describe the nature of the Apostles’ faith:

Did they not trust in Christ, pray to him in all their sorrows, and through him continually seek access to the Father? Did they not adore him as the Omniscient Searcher of hearts, and as their Intercessor presenting their supplications to the Father united with his own all-prevalent intercession? And did not the consciousness of his being ever present with them, support them under every trial, and continually purify their hearts? In like manner, the humble Christian at the present day, who has perhaps never heard a single argument formally advanced in support of his Deity, lives almost intuitively on his Saviour as God over all blessed for evermore.

There is no evidence that Roy was won over by this argument, though it is a powerful defence of the truth about Jesus.


Michael A. G. Haykin©2018