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ON THE FELLOWSHIP AND COMMUNION OF BELIEVERS.
In this discussion we have assumed that the Scriptures are the inspired word of God. By this we understand that the Scriptures were so far forth the words of "Holy men of God who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" as to convey with infallible accuracy what God would have us to know concerning Him, ourselves and everlasting things. This is the essential truth included under the terms verbal or plenary inspiration-the doctrine in regard to Scripture which was universal amongst the Jews—and general amongst the primitive christians and early fathers and of the church generally.
From this doctrine it follows that the Scriptures being "written for our instruction, reproof, correction and wisdom unto salvation," its statements, and especially in reference to God, will be given forth carefully, deliberately, with a foreknowledge of and adaptation to all future time adapted to the comprehension and use of mankind generally, to be understood therefore according to the meaning which these words and phrases usually bear-and when so understood to be the final and authoritative standard of what is to be believed and obeyed.
It will also follow from this view of Scripture that it will be found consistent in all its statements and that any system of Doctrine which does not harmonize all the teaching of Scripture, however apparently contradictory, but requires the suppression or perversion of its contents cannot be Scripture.
It is on these principles the doctrine of the Trinity is received as the simple expression of the unsophisticated teaching of Holy Scripture without any attempt being made to lessen or to explain its mystery. "How can this be," asks the objector now just as he did in the time of Athanasius, “according to* custom," says that Father; "as if that could not be, which they cannot understand." This doctrine is without controversy a mystery, "the mystery of the gospel;"-"the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ: or, of God even the Father,
See Hagenbach's Hist. of Doctr., § 32, vol. 1, p. 74. *Calamy, p. 374. †Do., p. 102.
and of Christ His Son. So that God's being a Father, and having Christ for His Son; the mutual relation which there is in this respect between the Two; the Foundation of this Relation, the purposes thereby served, and the several parts of the economy of our Redemption which depends upon it, have so much of a mystery in them, notwithstanding all that is revealed concerning them, that we must not pretend to be free of difficulty about them, or able fully to account for them."
But this doctrine is not a mere barren, speculative mystery. In it *"are hid all the Treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge," and to understand it is to have become possessed off "the riches of a full assurance of understanding of the mystery of the gospel."
As the Bible was only "given for our instruction," and all its "truth is in order to goodness," this doctrine was revealed not as an abstract or transcendental dogma but on account of its relation to our practical belief and duty. It makes no pretension to speculative significance, but is imparted only so far as it bears upon the economy of the divine nature in its relations to our world, our race and our sinful and ruined condition.
As affecting the object of our faith-the nature of divine worship the ground of faith and hope for pardon, purification, acceptance, confidence and peace towards God-this doctrine is the foundation of all religion, of all faith and of all hope for salvation and eternal life. The source as well as every blessing of the gospel is derived from the trinity in the Godhead.
The foundation of the scheme of salvation is his equally in the nature of man and in the nature of that God of whose moral government man is a subject, man is conscious of intelligence, of capacities to know the true, to choose the right, to approve and enjoy the good,-of acting freely, voluntarily, -of passing unavoidable judgment upon himself and his own free acts-and of a desire to obtain happiness and escape misery. In the exercise of these faculties every man is now conscious of evil in his disposition, thoughts, feelings and actions. He passes a similar judgment upon every one of his fellow men, spiritual religion; and the love and service of God are distasteful to him. He prefers the material to the immaterial, the carnal to the spiritual, the present to the future, the specu
*Calamy, p. 103. † Do., p. 102.
lative to the practical, the sentimental to the divine, the honor that cometh from man to the honor that cometh from God. This character of man must arise from his own inward and spontaneous predisposition to choose and to do what is evil. Such is man's present character and condition. But such was not man's original condition. God made man upright. He enjoyed the blessing of God. He was holy, harmless and undefiled. Peace reigned in his own heart and the peace of God which passeth all understanding was shed abroad abundantly upon him. The same triune God who brought him into existence saying, "let us make man," now irradiated him with some beams of their incomprehensible light and joy and social society which the Father, Son and Holy Ghost had from all eternity enjoyed among themselves in the unity of the Godhead. The Father revealed to him his infinite love, complacency and delight. The Son as Jehovah visible and preincarnate, accompanied, talked, and communed with him, and the ever blessed spirit moved upon the heaving sea of his unquiet heart saying "peace be still."
But man disobeyed his merciful God and Saviour and grieved the Holy Spirit. He continued not in honor but made shipwreck of faith and fell into the condemnation of the Devil. The way of the tree of life was guarded against his approach. Arraigned before God, he was adjudged to be guilty, condemned and sentenced. The favor of God was changed into a frown and His smile into angry displeasure. Sin like a venemous disease spread itself over all the powers both of soul and body and into all the branches of his numerous posterity.
Hence that present character of man, of whose sad and sorrowful and sinful condition the Scriptures are so full.
But God so loved the world as not to be willing that they should perish. Though he spared not the angels, who of their own accord sinned against Him and then maliciously drew man into their guilt and condemnation, God shewed favor to Adam and his posterity. A fresh council of the Triune Jehovah was held. "And the Lord God, that is God the Elohim, said, behold the man is become as one of us." (See Gen. 3, 22-24.) Then was commenced the practical manifestation of that scheme of salvation, the mystery hid for ages, which was ordained before the foundations of the world in the councils of eternity. No wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel could prevail against Him, but His own counsel did stand for ever and the thoughts of his heart throughout all ages. Then hav
ing asked who will go for us and the covenant of grace having been entered into between the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the decree was fixed though not declared that apostate men lying in their own blood polluted should live and that He would redeem them from the power of the grave and deliver them from death.
*"This grace was the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God had fore determined before the world, unto our glory; but it was hid from the eyes of all the living, and hid from the fowls of the heaven. None of the princes of this world knew it. No eye had seen it, nor ear heard it, neither came it unto man's heart. Only God understood the way thereof, and from the beginning of the world it was kept secret and hid in Him, and still He hideth it from the wise, and men of understanding. Neither can natural man perceive it, until He revealeth it unto them by His Spirit, which Spirit searcheth all things, even the deep things of God."
The religion of God, that is the religion of the Bible, is founded on the doctrine of the Trinity, which we find interwoven with every part of the system and becoming more and more apparent as that system is more and more fully developed. God's nature involves social relations within itself-and thus implies the necessity of perfect holiness, justice, truth and love in order to comply with His own ineffable and eternal blessedness. Hence the origin of law, moral obligations, moral government and the immutable sanctions of law, all found in the very nature of Deity. And hence also as it regards man, as the law or covenant he had broken was the law of the triune Jehovah, any plan of deliverance, could be effected only by the concurrence, co-operation and vindicated glory of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, since the obligation to maintain the honour and vindicate the sanction of the divine law was as immutable as the divine existence itself. It pleased the Father therefore of His own grace and incomprehensible love before the foundation of this world to save a people from their sins and deliver them from the wrath to come, and thus to reconcile all things to Himself-both the things in heaven, and the things on earth by the mediation of the Son and the sanctification of the Holy Spirit.
And as this work of redemption could only be accomplished in a way which does no violence to man's free and active nature -to man's personal accountability and sense of guilt, and to the *Ainsworth, p. 36.
relations in which he stands to God's moral government-it is evident that nothing short of divine wisdom could devise, and divine omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence execute the wondrous plan. And here we are brought to the manifest proof that the salvation revealed in the glorious gospel of the blessed God could only have originated and been achieved by the triune persons of the Godhead. It is therefore every where represented in Scripture, that our redemption was contrived by the Father, purchased by the Son, and is applied by the Spirit, through whose assistance, in the name of Christ, we are to make our approaches to the Father. Hence it appears that correspondent regards are due to each, which are accordingly required in many passages of Scripture. John v. 23; 1 Cor. v. 16, 22; Eph. 4, 30.
*"The grace then by which the christian is consoled, or the salvation in which he rejoices, is not derived simply from God or the Father; but, first, simply from the Lord, as for example at the commencement of all the Pauline Epistles and lastly and thirdly, in a threefold divine manner, and this in such a way, that in the last case the Spirit is added to the Lord and Father, or to God and the Lord as for example, 2 Cor. 13, 14."
We are thus led to perceive the wise and merciful purpose of God in revealing to us this mystery of godliness. The truth of a divine trinity in Unity, is eminently disclosed to human faith in order to goodness. It is good every way. To it we owe our highest conceptions both of the nature and counsels of God, both of the law, and the gospel.
By it we attain to a correct knowledge of God Himself.† "It is the doctrine of the Trinty alone," says Nitzsch, "that affords a perfect protection against atheism, polytheism, pantheism, or dualism. For the absolute distinction between the Divine essence and the world is more securely and firmly maintained by those who worship the Trinity, than by those who do not reverence the same. It is precisely these systems of monotheism, which have, in the highest degree, excluded the doctrine of the Trinity, and have prided themselves on that very account, the Jewish and Mahometan for example, that have led, on account of their barrenness and vacuity, to the grossest pantheism. With the doctrine that the Word, which was God,
*See also 1 Cor. 12, 4-6; 1 Pet. 1, 2; 1 Cor. 12, 4-6; Eph. 4, 6. Nitzsch's System of Christian Doctrine, p. 177.
Netrch., p. 181.