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This is spoken of the Son.
is for ever and ever."* Now if on, Elohim, signified the Trinity, it could not be properly used of one Divine person, as distinguished from the other two. It could not be said, the Father is the Trinity, the Son is the Trinity, the Holy Ghost is the Trinity. They object again, that this name, in the plural number, is given to other individuals in whom there is no Trinity or plurality, as to the Golden Calf, and to the heathen gods, Dagon of the Philistines, Ashteroth of the Sidonians, Chemos of the Moabites, Milcom of the Ammonites. What Trinity or plurality can it denote in these cases? If this holy mystery is implied in it, is it probable that it would have been employed to designate vile and contemptible idols? Farther, if this name is significant of a Trinity of persons, as Jehovah is of unity, propriety would have required, not only that it should be appropriated to God, but that it should have been always expressed in the plural number; whereas in several places it occurs in the singular, when the three persons must be understood. Lastly, it is objected, that while the name is sometimes joined with plural adjectives and verbs where an individual is evidently spoken of, it is also construed with verbs and adjectives singular when the true God is spoken of; and that from all this it appears, that nothing can be inferred but a peculiar idiom of the Hebrew, which admitted the plural and singular indifferently.
To these objections answers have been returned. It has been shewn that there is ground to call in question the grammatical rule of the Rabbies, “that substantives of dignity, honour, and dominion, are put in the plural form, although denoting only a singular object, and are joined in agreement with verbs or adjectives in the singular.' The plural noun, baghalim, Lords or Masters, is used to signify the proprietor of an ass or a well, in which case the idea of dignity and majesty is ridiculous. It is not a little remarkable," it has been said, "that such a circumstance" (the use of the plural noun Elohim, to denote the true God) "should exist in the sacred books of a people who were separated from all other nations for this express object, that they should bear a public and continual protest against polytheism; a people whose whole system of religious, political, and domestic usages was calculated, with consummate prudence and wisdom, to be a perpetual preservative from polytheistic notions; a people who are charged by the Eternal God to destroy every statue, structure, and grove that might recall the memory of idolatrous rites, and to extirpate every thing that could be extirpated, which had been associated with idolatry, or might be converted into an instrument of its revival or of its slightest palliation; who were enjoined to abolish every name of city, village, or place, which was compounded with the name of a heathen deity, and to substitute new appellations; who were not even to pronounce those names unless necessity compelled;-is it not, we may well say, a little remarkable that, in the sacred books of such a people, books whose very words, in many cases at least, were selected and dictated by the inspiration of Jehovah, the ordinary name and style of the Only Living and True God should be in a plural form? Did some strange and insuperable necessity lie in the way? Was the language so poor, that it could furnish no other term? Or if so, could not the wisdom of inspiration have suggested a new appellative, and have for ever abolished the hazardous word? None of these reasons existed. The language was rich and copious. The names of the Deity in general and constant use were more numerous than in either of the beautiful languages of classical antiquity, or in the most cultivated tongues of modern Europe. Besides "that glorious and fearful name JEHOVAH," the appropriated and unique style of the true God, and besides other unexceptionable terms, there was the singular form, Eloah, of the very word in question. There was no shadow of necessity, difficulty, or even inducement, for the adoption of a phraseology,
Psalm xlv. 6.
which on Unitarian principles every candid mind must confess, can with difficulty, if at all, be defended from the charge of pernicious example, and very dangerous tendency."* It cannot be denied, that there is considerable force in these observations; but as the arguments are strong on both sides, it is best to pass over this proof of a plurality in the Godhead, and to proceed to others which are less liable to objection.
There are several passages of the Old Testament in which God speaks of himself as more than one: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." "Behold the man is become as one of us." "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" "Let us go down, and there confound their tongue." They are certainly remarkable, when taken in connexion with the uniform doctrine of Scripture, that there is no God but one. The reasoning which we have lately heard concerning the plural name of God, is applicable here in all its force. If the use of a plural name to denote an individual was a peculiarity of the Hebrew language, it would be understood, and no danger would arise from it; but it is quite a different thing to introduce a person speaking of himself as more than one, using plural pronouns to designate himself. We have no example in Scripture of such phraseology in reference to any being but God, although plural names are used of other individuals; and we are necessarily led to suppose that there is a reason for this usage which does not exist in any other case. God might have accommodated himself to the idiom of the people whom he addressed, and have allowed himself to be called by a plural name; but we cannot conceive him to have spoken of himself in a manner which would suggest the idea of plurality, although it was his express purpose to teach them his unity. Why should he have said, without any cause, "Let us make?" Would it not have been as easy, more correct, and better adapted to his design, to say, "Let me make?" It is vain to tell us, that on these occasions the Almighty adopted the style of monarchs, who say "We" and "Us." We have no reason to think, that this style was known in the days of Moses; there are no examples of it among the nations of antiquity; it seems to be a modern invention. It is vain to pretend that he addressed angels, or included inferior beings. This is a figment of the Jews, so absurd, and even impious, that Christians should have been ashamed to make it their own; and we venture to affirm that not one of them would have done so, had he not been disposed to grasp at any thing which would help him to evade this argument for a plurality of persons in the Godhead.
Another proof has been drawn from the blessing which Aaron was commanded to pronounce upon the children of Israel. "The Lord bless thee, and keep thee; the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace."‡ The proof is founded on the three-fold repetition of the name JEHOVAH, and the correspondence of the whole with the Christian benediction, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all."§
We may put the same construction on the three-fold ascription of holiness to God by the seraphim whom Isaiah saw in the temple::— Holy, holy, holy is JEHOVAH God of Hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." We may the more readily refer it to a plurality of persons in the Godhead, when we consider that on this occasion the Lord said, Who shall go for us?" and observe that in the New Testament, the Son and the Spirit are represented as having been concerned in this vision. The Evangelist John says, that Isaiah saw the glory of Christ at this time;¶ and Paul, that it was the Holy Ghost
* Dr. Pye Smith's Scripture Testimony to the Messiah, b. ii. ch. iv. § 34.
† Gen. i. 26. iii. 22. Isaiah vi. 8. Gen. xi. 7. $2 Cor. xiii. 14, Isaiah vi, 3.
Numb. vi. 24-26. ¶ John xii. 41.
who spake these words:-"Go and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not."*
The following passages have been considered as giving indications of a plurality of persons: Then JEHOVAH rained fire and brimstone from JEHO. VAH out of heaven." "I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by JEHOVAH their God." Now, therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord's sake." In all these passages there seems to be a distinct reference to two persons: in the first, to one who from another, or in concurrence with him, destroyed the cities of the plain; in the second, to one who would save the Israelites by the agency of another; in the third, to one who is intreated by Daniel to hear his prayers for the sake of another; and in all these cases, both are spoken of as Divine.
In the forty-fifth Psalm, we find these words addressed by one divine person to another: " Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever." We have the authority of an inspired commentator for saying that the speaker is the Father, and the person spoken to is the Son; and it is worthy of attention, that the Father gives him the appellation of God in a sense in which it never was given to creatures of the highest order. Must we not infer, that, although the Divine nature is one, there is some mysterious distinction in it, by which only such language can be satisfactorily explained?
"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 God, and his Spirit, hath sent me;' or more correctly, "the Lord God hath sent me and his Spirit." There is mention made in this passage of three persons, one who sends, and two who are sent. The speaker is God; for he assumes the name, and titles, and works of God, calling himself the First and the Last, the Creator of heaven and earth; but at the same time he says that he was sent by God; not surely sent by himself, for such language would have no meaning, but by a distinct person. That person is represented as having sent also another, who is called his Spirit; which is not a name for an influence, energy, or operation, but for a living intelligent agent, as will afterwards appear when we come to speak of him particularly, and is plain to every candid reader of the Scriptures. It was he who in the beginning moved upon the face of the waters; it was he who garnished the heavens; it was he who spoke by the prophets, and gave them the knowledge of future events; and to him the Psalmist ascribes the attribute of omnipresence: "Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?"¶
In a word, the Messiah is represented as a distinct person from Him who promised to send him, and the Jews never entertained any doubt of his personality. Yet the manner in which he is spoken of, renders it absolutely certain that he was superior to all the prophets, higher than the kings of the earth, and possessed of proper divinity. He is called the Son of God,** and if we believe an apostle, in a sense which excludes all creatures from a claim to the same relation. He is called "the Mighty God," and dignified with the incommunicable name, the name expressive of self-existence, independence, and eternal duration: "In those days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is the name whereby he shall be called, JEHOVAH OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS."§§ It is remarkable, that in a passage which evidently refers to him, and is applied in the New Testament to the treachery of Judas, it is JEHOVAH who speaks: "And JEHOVAH said unto me, Cast it unto the potter:
• Acts xxviii. 25, 26. § Heb. i. 8.
t Heb. i. 5.
† Gen. xix. 24. Hos. i. 7. Dan. ix. 17.
++ Isaiah ix. 6.
Ps. cxxxix. 7. §§ Jer. xxiii. 6.
Ps. xlv. 6. ** Ps. ii. 7.
a goodly price that I was prized at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord.”*
These are some of the notices of the plurality in the Godhead, which we find in the Jewish Scriptures; but we may expect clearer manifestations of the doctrine in the New Testament, which is the completion of the Old. "The darkness is past, and the true light now shineth." In this manner the Evangelist expresses the superiority of the present to the former dispensation.
I proceed to lay before you the evidence for the doctrine of the Trinity, which is furnished by the Christian Scriptures. I begin with the celebrated passage in the fifth chapter of the first Epistle of John, verse 7. "There are Three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one." Three persons are mentioned as distinct witnesses, and at the same time are affirmed to be one; although some think that the apostle refers not to a unity of essence, but of testimony, or that nothing more is meant than that, like the three earthly witnesses, they agree in one. Ĭ need not tell you that the genuineness of this passage has been disputed; the controversy is so important, and has engaged so much attention, that none of you can be ignorant of it. It is now generally acknowledged by critics to be spurious; and in doing so, they proceed upon the following grounds. In the first place, it is affirmed by Griesbach, that in no library of Europe does there exist any Greek manuscript in which this verse is found. He qualifies this assertion, however, by referring to one or two manuscripts in which it does appear; and it ought to be observed, that he can be understood to speak only of manuscripts which have been collated, for there are many hundreds which have not been examined. There are three in which it occurs, the Codex Guelpherbytanus, the Codex Ravianus, or Berolinensis, and the Codex Britannicus, or Montfortianus, or Dublinensis, for it is known by all these names. But they are of no authority. The first is a manuscript of the seventeenth century, for it contains the Latin translation of Beza; the second is a transcript of the Complutensian edition of the New Testament, with some various readings from Stephen's third edition, and cannot therefore be older than the sixteenth century; and the last was written, according to some, in the twelfth or thirteenth century, or according to others, in the fifteenth or sixteenth. It is therefore of very little value, and its testimony is as nothing when opposed to the silence of all other manuscripts. In the second place, it was not admitted into the earliest printed editions of Erasmus, nor into the version of Luther. It first appeared in the edition of Complutum, and is said to have been translated from Latin into Greek; from that edition it was afterwards adopted by Erasmus, and thence found its way into the editions of Stephens and Beza, and last of all into the Elzevir edition of A. D. 1624, after which all our common editions are printed. In the third place, the verse is omitted by all the Greek Fathers, although they quote the words which precede and follow it, collect proofs of the Trinity from all quarters, and even apply to this subject the next verse concerning the earthly witnesses, endeavouring to deduce from it and the context the divinity of the Spirit. Two or three passages have been produced which seem to refer to this text; but they are supposed to be taken from ecclesiastical formularies, or the technical language of the church; and although it were certain that they are quotations, nothing more could be justly inferred, than that in the days of the authors the text was not altogether unknown, but was generally considered as spurious, and hence, with an exception or two, no person appealed to it. In the fourth place, it was wanting in the ancient versions, the Syriac, the Arabic, the Coptic, the Ethiopic, the Armenian, the Sahidic, and the Slavonic. It was wanting originally in all these, although it now appears in some of them, having • Zech. xi. 13, Matt. xxvii. 9. † 1 John ii. 8.
been inserted by modern editors; but this interpolation does not weaken the argument in the slightest degree. It was not in the copies from which those translations were made; and some of them are of very high antiquity. We must except the Latin version, in most manuscripts of which the text is found, but not in them all. It is wanting in all the manuscripts written before the ninth century, and in most of those which are ancient though posterior to that date. Where it has found a place, it stands on the margin, or is interlined by a different hand; or if originally belonging to the text, it differs in words and position in different manuscripts. In a word, it is omitted by several of the Latin Fathers on occasions when it would have been pertinent to their design, and they might have been expected to quote it. But on the other hand, it is cited by many of them, who seem to have entertained no doubt of its genuineness. This, however, only proves, that it was in their copies; but we should remember, that they used a translation, which might be interpolated; and they cannot be admitted as witnesses of equal authority with the Greek Fathers, who knew and quoted from the original.
For the reasons now stated, the verse is considered by most learned men to be an interpolation, and accordingly is excluded from the text in the edition of Griesbach. There are some however, who are disposed to think it genuine on the ground, not only of its being quoted, perhaps by one or two of the Greek, and by so many of the Latin Fathers, but because it appears to them that there is internal evidence in its favour. It seems necessary to complete the sense, by giving the witnesses in heaven as well as the witnesses on earth. Two arguments are founded on the grammatical construction. If we leave out the disputed passage, and read only-"There are three that bear witness on earth, the Spirit, the water, and the blood," we have sμTupoutes in the masculine gender, agreeing with three neuter nouns, το πνευμα, το ύδωρ, και το αίμα, contrary to one of the common rules of syntax; while concord is preserved, if we admit after them, ὁ πατηρ, ὁ λόγος, και το άγιον πνεύμα, because the first and second are masculine, and the adjectives or participles agreeing with them must be of the same gender. It may be objected, that the same difficulty occurs, if we retain the disputed passage; for the apostle repeats Tus μαρτυρουντες, before το πνεύμα, το ύδωρ, και το αίμα. It is replied, that if Ts and μαρτυρούντες were first used with ὁ πατηρ and ὁ λόγος, they might be used again in the next verse although the nouns in concord were neuter, without any violation of syntax, according to the figure called attraction, which made them agree with the nouns which preceded, instead of those which followed; whereas, when the passage is corrected by the omission of the seventh verse, pas and μapTupoutes are ungrammatical, there being no masculine nouns with which they may be construed. To take away the force of this argument, it has been said, that the nouns wμa, idap, and aqua are personified, being represented as witnesses, and consequently, that Tes and μapTupouvres are properly used, as they refer not to their gender but to their import. Another argument, or rather doubt, arises from the use of the article in the end of the verse which speaks of the earthly witnesses, xi Truss us to ev voir. The article, according to the laws of the Greek language, refers to a former mention of the subject, and could be easily accounted for, if the seventh verse were genuine; but if it be rejected, there is a reference in the article, but no antecedent. If in the seventh verse be excluded, we cannot understand how it appears for the first time, accompanied with the article T. The doubt has been proposed by Dr. Middleton, who concludes by saying:-"I am not ignorant, that in the rejection of the controverted passage, learned and good men are now, for the most part, agreed; and I contemplate with admiration and delight the gigantic exertions of intellect, which have established this acquiescence; the objection, however, which has given rise to this discussion, I could not consistently with