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my plan suppress. On the whole, I am led to suspect, that though so much labour and critical acuteness have been bestowed on these celebrated verses, more is yet to be done, before the mystery in which they are involved can be wholly developed."* It is evident, that in the present state of the controversy respecting this text, we can make no use of it, to prove the doctrine of the Trinity.
The transaction at our Saviour's baptism has been appealed to as a proof of the Trinity, because the three persons were then manifested; the Son who came to be baptized, the Holy Ghost who descended like a dove and lighted upon him, and the Father who spoke with an audible voice. But before this proof could be admitted, we must know who Christ was, and what was the import of the title, Son, by which he was designated, and likewise who the Spirit was, and whether the emblem signified a person or an influence. This information is gathered from other passages; and therefore the transaction itself is not a proper proof of a Trinity in the Godhead, although it may be an illustration of it.
A more satisfactory argument is founded upon the institution of baptism, and the form of administration :—“Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”+ Baptism is a religious ordinance, which it would be contrary to all our ideas of religion derived from reason and Scripture, to suppose administered in any name but that of the object of worship. It is a dedication to the service of God; and according to the Unitarian hypothesis, we are dedicated at the same time to the Creator and to two of his creatures, or to a man like ourselves, and a Divine influence or operation! The initiatory rite of Christianity is evidently intended to teach us, that while there is one God, there are three persons of equal dignity and authority, who are severally concerned in the work of our salvation, and to whose glory we are bound to consecrate our bodies and our souls.
Another proof of a Trinity is furnished by the apostolical benediction. “ The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all." } This is evidently a prayer, which it would be impiety and idolatry to address to any other but God. Yet three persons are distinctly addressed, and consequently are recognized as possessed of Divine perfections; as knowing our wants and hearing our requests, and able to do what we ask; as the fountain of all the blessedness implied in the terms, grace, love, and communion.
The Book of Revelation commences with these words :-"Grace be unto you, and peace, from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before the throne ; and from Jesus Christ who is the faithful witness." S This also is a prayer to the Father and the Son. But who is meant by the seven Spirits ? I presume that no Protestant will say that they are created spirits. There is reason to believe, that agreeably to a Hebrew idiom which uses the number seven to express what is perfect, the seven Spirits before the throne signify the Holy Spirit in the fulness and variety of his gists and influences; and if so, all the three persons are acknowledged to be Divine, separately and conjunctly the object of worship, the source of grace and peace, of spiritual and heavenly blessings.
I shall quote only one passage more. “ Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all." || The subject of discourse is the dispensation of grace, in which there are three distinct agents, obviously exercising equal authority, the Spirit, the Lord, and God or the Father. • Middleton on the Greek article, p. 652. edit. 1808.
+ Matt. xxviii. 19. # 2 Cor. xii, 14,
§ Rev. i. 4, 5.
| I Cor. xii, 4-6.
There is a general argument, upon which I cannot enter fully at present, lest I should anticipate what will be more properly introduced in another place. It is this, that in the New Testament, two persons besides the Father are mentioned in innumerable places, and mentioned in such terms as elevate them above the condition of creatures, and import their proper Divinity. Not only is the one called the Son, and the other the Spirit of the Father, to denote their intimate relation to him, but both receive the names of God and Lord without qualification, are invested with Divine attributes, have works ascribed to them which finite power could not have performed, and as we have seen, are conjoined with the Father as objects of religious worship and obedience. Shall we say that the sacred writers have indulged in a figurative and ornamented style; that instead of words of truth and soberness, they have given us highly coloured descriptions, and that too in treating a subject of the greatest importance, which demanded the utmost precision of sentiment and expression ? They may say so who deny their inspiration, and looking upon them as common men, do not hesitate to accuse them of prejudices, mistakes, and illogical reasoning. But if we believe that they were moved by the Holy Ghost, we will also believe that they were in no danger of being misled by imagination, but rigidly adhered to the simple truth; and that if they had felt any inclination to wander into the regions of fancy, it would have been controlled. They have represented two persons besides the Father as Divine; and as, at the same time, they maintain the unity of God, the necessary inference is, that in their judgment this unity is consistent with personal distinctions. In other words, they have taught the doctrine of the Trinity.
ON THE TRINITY.
Particular Statement of the Doctrine of the Trinity—The Unity of the Divine Essence-Dis
tinctions between the Persons-Opinions respecting a Subordination of Persons considered Nature of the Sonship—Heresies opposed to this Doctrine: Sabellianism; Arianism; Tritheism-Notice of some Objections.
I have already stated the doctrine in the words of our Confession of Faith, which it is unnecessary to repeat. I shall add in this place the words of the Athanasian Creed, after observing, that it was composed long after the age of Athanasius, but goes under his name because it is understood to teach the doctrine, which he held and strenuously maintained against the heretics of his time, and particularly the Arians, who were then the predominant party. It has been ascribed to Vigilius, an African Bishop in the sixth century, or to Hilary of Arles in France in a. D. 450. “ The Catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance: for there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.”—“The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God; and yet there are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise, the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord; and yet not three Lords, but one Lord. For, like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every person by himself to be God and Lord, so we are forbidden by the Catholic religion to say that there be three Gods, or three Lords."
In the first place, we assert that there is only one essence of the Father, the Sou, and the Holy Ghost; that they have the same numerical, and not merely the same specific essence. It may be proper to explain the difference between these two words as they are used in speaking of this subject. Numerical signifies one in number, and specific, of the same species.
When we say that the essence is numerically one, we mean that the same essence belongs to all the persons in common; but were we to attribute to them the same specific essence, we should mean nothing more than what we affirm of three men, when we say that they have all a nature of the same species, or are all partakers of human nature. In the former case, we maintain that there is only one God, although there are more Divine persons than one; in the latter, we should maintain that there are three Gods. To express the unity of the essence, the word ópe covoide was employed by the Council of Nice, A. D. 325, and the Son was declared to be one cousios or consubstantial with the Father. It had been used in the same sense by some writers before the meeting of the Council. It is remarkable, however, that it had been rejected by the Council of Antioch, A. D. 263, on account of the inference which Paul of Samosata pretended to draw from it, namely, that if Christ and the Spirit were consubstantial with the Father, it followed that there were three substances, one prior and two posterior derived from it. To guard against this inference, the Council declared that the Son was not óscurtos te latp. Paul seems to have explained the term as signifying specific, or of the same species ; and it is certain that this sense had sometimes been given to it. Thus Aristotle calls the stars ópecurity meaning that they were all of the same nature. But in the Creed of Nice it is expressive of unity of essence, and was adopted after considerable discussion, as proper to be opposed to the Arians, who affirmed that the essence of the Son was different and separate from that of the Father. Thus the unity of substance was established as an article of faith in the Catholic church; and the doctrine was confirmed by subsequent councils. The Council of Constantinople, A. D. 381, says in an epistle addressed to the bishops assembled in Rome:
-" The faith of the Nicene fathers ought to be approved by us, and by you, and by all who do not pervert the word of truth, which is the most ancient, and is agreeable to our baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, namely, that there is one divinity, power, and essence of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, that they have equal dignity and co-eternal dominion, and that they co-exist in three perfect hypostases or persons."
In the second place, we assert that in this one essence there is a three-fold distinction, which we express by saying, that there are three persons. This word is derived from the Latin terin persona, but the Greeks used ÜRCOTAJES and Apcoater. The first occurs in the beginning of the Epistle to the Hebrews, where the Son is called, xxpartnp ÚTOSTACES of the Father. * In our version it is rendered person, but some think that it should be translated substance. We might ask them in what sense Christ could be the image of the Father's substance, unless his own substance were different? and then we must concur with the Arians, who objected to the term occuoros, but were willing to admit époscuotes, of a similar substance, and might plead the authority of the apostle. He who is the image of another's substance, does not certainly possess that substance, and is therefore a separate being. Necessity seems to require, that whatever may have been the original meaning of incoTuck, it should here be translated person. At the same time, it must be acknowledged, that it was understood by many of the ancients to signify substance. It was frequently used in the sense of cuore or essence ; and the application of it to designate a distinction in the Godhead was objected to, as leading to the unscriptural conclusion of three substances, and consequently three Gods. The objection was made by
Heb. i. 3.
some of the Greeks, and by the Latins, who translated in Taois, substantia. Still, however, the word was retained to express a distinction in the one Divine nature, and the use afterwards became general. The Synod of Alexandria, A. D. 362, decreed, “ that any person was at liberty to maintain, that there was only one hypostasis in the Godhead, provided that a three-fold distinction in it was preserved, or to maintain that there were three hypostases, provided that only one substance was meant.” The Greeks employed another term to denote this distinction. Ilpcowe toy properly signifies the face, and occurs in this sense in several passages, as TOTE de TPOOWTOV Apos iporumov, “but then face to face."* But it is used also both in the New Testament, and by profane writers, to signify a person, and hence was preferred by some to footaois as less ambiguous. “When we speak of God,” says Gregory Nazianzen, “we are surrounded with a light which is one and three-fold; three-fold in respect of the properties, or the incordous, if any one chooses to use this term, or the #pound, for we do not contend about the names if they agree in meaning ; but one in respect of the essence or divinity.”
In the common acceptation of person, it denotes a separate and independent being, whose existence and actions have no necessary connexion with the existence and actions of any other being. It has been defined to be a thinking substance which can act by itself, or an intelligent agent who is neither a part of, nor sustained by another. We must be cautious in transferring to the Deity, definitions which originate in the state and circumstances of created beings. The cases are totally dissimilar, Three human persons have the same specific nature, but three Divine persons have the same numerical nature. Antitrinitarians affirm, that by holding three Divine persons we necessarily make three Gods, because they most unfairly maintain, in the face of our solemn protestations, that we affix the same idea to the word person, which it bears when used in reference to men. But we deny that it has this meaning. We do not teach, that there are three distinct essences mysteriously conjoined; that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit possess, each of them separately from the others, a Divine nature, and Divine perfections. What we believe is this, that there is a distinction in the Godhead, to which there is nothing similar in creatures, who are one in every sense of the term; and we employ the word person, to express that distinction. It may be objectionable, because being applied to other beings, it is apt to suggest an idea which is inconsistent with the unity of God; but this is the unavoidable consequence of the imperfection of human language; and we endeavour to guard against the abuse by declaring that, in this application, it must be qualified so as to exclude a separate existence. We must cease to speak of God, if we wait till we find terms and phrases adequate to the subject. We are obliged to take common words, and if they are not exactly suitable to the subject, we are surely at liberty to define them, to fix the sense in which we intend to make use of them, to enlarge or restrict it as the case shall require. Now when we say that there are three persons in the Godhead, the word person, signifies a distinction which we do not pretend to explain, but which does not intrench upon the unity of essence. I shall quote a few sentences from a recent work on the Trinity and the Divinity of Christ, by Professor Stuart of Andover in America. “What, you will doubtless ask, is that distinction in the Godhead, which the word person is meant to designate? I answer without hesitation, that I do not know. The fact that a distinction exists, is what we aver: the definition of that distinction is what I shall by no means attempt. By what shall I, or can I, define it? What simile drawn from created objects, which are necessarily derived and dependent, can illustrate the mode of existence in that Being, who is underived, independent, unchangeable, infinite, eternal? I confess myself unable
• 1 Cor. xii. 12. Vol. 1.-38
to advance a single step here in explaining what the distinction is. I receive the fact that it exists, simply because I believe that the Scriptures reveal the
And if the Scriptures do reveal the fact, that there are three persons in the Godhead; that there is a distinction which affords ground for the appellations of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; which lays the foundation for the application of the personal pronouns I, thou, he ; which renders it proper to speak of sending and being sent; of Christ being with God, being in his bosom, and other things of the like nature; and yet, that the Divine nature belongs to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; then it is, like every other fact revealed, to be received simply on the credit of Divine revelation.''*
Some have attempted to give us an idea of this distinction, but the success of the experiment is extremely questionable. Dr. Chauncey, a celebrated divine of the last century, proposes this question, “ How may this great mystery be a little illustrated to our understandings, so as to have a glimpse of a little part of it?" and gives the following answer :-" The first Being living a most perfect life of fruition in communion, and being but one infinitely pure act, doth most transcendently comprehend and conceive himself, beholding his own most glorious image by his infinite understanding, reflecting on himself as the chiefest good, which he enjoys in the highest mutual love and delight.” This, I confess, is not very intelligible; but he goes on :-"God reflecting upon and conceiving himself, is God in the person of the Father; God conceived as his own most glorious image, is God in the person of the Son; God enjoying himself as his own chiefest good in relation of Father and Son, with ineffable love and delight, is the third person, the Holy Ghost.” It is surprising that this worthy man did not perceive that this is a metaphysical Trinity, for the Son is an idea, and the Spirit is joy or love. There is no other distinction here than what exists between the mind and its thoughts and emotions. There is nothing which corresponds to personality. I presume that no man will be made wiser by this pretended explanation, which tends rather to confound, and to make us think, that if this is really the Trinity of the Scriptures, it amounts to nothing, and God is still one in every sense of the term. Such is the fate of attempts to go beyond our limit, to intrude into things which we have not seen. We are either utterly lost, and amused with words in the room of ideas, or we are involved in obscurity and heresy. Dr. Chauncey is not the only person who has been led away by this strange speculation. It is as ancient as the days of the Fathers, and has been adopted by persons of high name in modern times. Dr. Horsley, who in learning and talent had few equals, has pursued it, as we see from the manner in which he states the sentiments of Athenagoras :—"The Logos hath existed from eternity in union with the Father; • because God, being eternally rational, ever had the Logos in himself.' The sense is, that the personal subsistence of a Divine Logos is implied in the very idea of a God. And the argument rests on a principle which was common to all the Platonic fathers, and seems to be founded in Scripture, that the existence of the Son flows necessarily from the Divine Intellect exerted on itself, from the Father's contemplation of his own perfections. But as the Father ever was, his perfections have ever been, and his intellect hath been ever active. But perfections which have ever been, the ever active Intellect must ever have contemplated; and the contemplation which hath ever been, must ever have been accompanied with its just effect, the personal existence of the Son.”This fanciful theory, for it deserves no . better name,
has found patrons and advocates among Protestants and Papists, and among the latter has received the sanction of the Church. I
• Stuart on the Trinity and Divinity of Christ, in answer to Channing, letter iii. + Horsley's Tracts in controversy with Dr. Priestley, p. 61. Edit. 1812.
Ibid. Disquisition fourth.