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Seriptures refer when they speak of the one God, or God by way of eminence. The Son has existed with him from the beginning, but is not self-existent, because he derived his being and perfections from the Father. He derived them, too, not necessarily, but by an act of the will and power of the Father. The same account is given of the existence of the Holy Spirit

. It is evident, that although he carefully avoids saying that the Son was made out of nothing, it follows from his system that he might not have existed; for, if he was begotten by the will of the Father, and yet not necessarily, the Father might not have willed his existence, and might have remained for ever alone. The difference between Dr. Clarke, and those Trinitarians who explain generation by a communication of essence, is this, that they believe this generation or communication to have been necessary, and consequently, although agreeable to the will of the Father, yet not dependent upon it. Although Dr. Clarke has not explicitly stated, whether or not he considered the essence of the Son and the Spirit to be numerically the same with that of the Father, the train of his reasonings leads us to conclude, that he believed it to be different.

The last heresy opposed to this doctrine is Tritheism, or the doctrine of three Gods. Mention is made of it in the sixth century. It is ascribed to a person called John Ascusnage, a Syrian philosopher; and it was supported by John Philoponus, a philosopher and grammarian of Alexandria. They imagined in the Deity, three natures or substances, equal in all respects, and therefore held in reality that there were three Gods. I find this doctrine revived, or at least proposed as a theory well worthy of attention, in a Calm and Sober Inquiry concerning the possibility of a Trinity in the Godhead, published anonymously in the end of the seventeenth century.* The substance of it is, that the three persons in the Godhead are three distinct uncreated Spirits mys. teriously conjoined so as to be one. “There is a spiritual created Being," says the author, “an human soul confessed to be in hypostatical union with the uncreated Spiritual Being of God in the person of the Son. Why shall it be thought less possible, that three uncreated Spiritual Beings may be in so near an union with each other as to be one God, as that a created spirit (and body too) should be in so near union with one of the persons in the Godhead only, as therewith to be one person? Will it not hereby be much more easily apprehensible, how one of the persons (as the common way of speaking is) should be incarnate, and not the other two? Will not the notion of person itself be much more unexceptionable, when it shall be supposed to have its own individual nature ? And why is a natural, eternal union of uncreated natures (with continuing distinction, or without confusion) sufficient unto the unity of the Godhead, less supposable than a temporal contracted union with a created nature (without confusion too) that shall be sufficient to the unity of a person? Will it be any thing more contrary to such simplicity of the Divine nature as is necessarily to be ascribed thereto ? or will it be Tritheism, and inconsistent with the acknowledged inviolable unity of the Godhead? It is unnecessary to examine this passage ; but it must be obvious to you all, that the charge of Tritheism, to which it is liable, is not repelled by asserting that the union is so close as to constitute the three natures, one ; for three Divine natures, however intimately conjoined in counsel and operation, retain their individuality, and consequently are three Gods.

It would be tedious to enter into a minute detail of the objections to the doctrine of the Trinity, and to give answers to them. I shall content myself with adverting to two or three of a general nature.

First, the great argument of the opponents of this doctrine is, that it is inconsistent with the unity of God, which is so clearly taught in the Scrip

The Author was the celebrated non-conformist, John Howe. See the edition of his whole Works by Hunt, 1822, vol. iv.

tures. But, while passages are collected which declare that God is one, it should not be forgotten that there are other passages which point out a plurality of persons, and in particular, give the name of God to the Son, and the Holy Spirit, without qualifying its meaning, and ascribe to them Divine perfections, and Divine works. Hence we are reduced to this alternative, either that the Scriptures contradict themselves, and therefore are not inspired, or that there is some mode of reconciling their different statements, that God is one, and yet is more than one. The only mode of reconciling them is the doctrine which has been illustrated; the doctrine of one Divine essence with personal distinctions. Deny it, and the Bible is one of the strangest books in the world, at perpetual variance with itself, establishing one thing in one page, and another thing in another, affirming and retracting with the same breath. Admit the doctrine in question, and the appearance of discordance vanishes ; the Bible is a consistent, but mysterious, revelation of the incomprehensible JEHOVAH. If you ask what is the nexus, the connecting link of the two doctrines in question? I confess my utter inability to point it out, any farther than by saying that the essence is one; but I add, that my ignorance, or the ignorance of any other man, is not a proof that to harmonize them is impossible, till it is proved that his understanding, or mine, is the measure of truth, or that a thing cannot be unless we perceive how it is.

This leads me to a second objection against the doctrine of the Trinity, that it is contrary to reason; for what can be more repugnant to its clearest dictates, than to affirm that the same Being is one and three? This objection proceeds, in some cases, from a designed, and in others, from an unintentional, misrepresentation of the doctrine. If we should assert that God is one and three in the same respect; that he has one nature and three natures, or one person and three persons, it would be impossible to utter a more palpable contradiction. But when we say that God is one in respect of his essence, but three in respect of some unknown distinction in his essence, I do not see that we can be justly charged with maintaining a contradictory proposition. There is but one God, because there is but one Divine essence; but there may be three distinctions in his essence of whieh we can form no conception, and to which there is nothing analogous in our nature, or in that of any other creature. Some men do not hesitate to pronounce that this is impossible; but I appeal to you—Who have reason on their side, those who determine what is, or is not, in God by their own ideas, or those who humbly think that the perfect knowledge of an infinite Being is too high for them? As the eye has its prescribed range, and although adequate to the purposes of life, cannot discern objects in the moon and stars ; so reason is able to discover the existence of God, but was not intended to scrutinize the mysteries of his nature. To maintain that a doctrine is contrary to reason, because it is above it, is to forget its limited capacity ; it is to constitute it the standard of all truths, while it ought to judge of those alone to which its power is commensurate. It is to place God and man upon a level. What man can comprehend, God may posa sess, but nothing more ; no property, no act, no counsel, must be ascribed to him, which man had not previously conceived, or cannot now understand. We comprehend nothing, not the generation of an animal, the growth of a plant, the cohesion of a pebble ; and yet there are disputers who cavil at the Trinity, and other dogmas of revelation, because they are not shaped according to the rule and square of reason.

In the last place, it is objected that the doctrine of the Trinity is a speculative point, which has no influence upon practical religion, and is, therefore, unworthy of attention. This senseless cant we often hear in reference to several of the peculiar doctrines of the gospel, which the ill-affected endeavour to bring into discredit, by representing them as useless. But, from those VOL. 1.-39

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who so freely indulge in this style, we have a right to demand proof instead of confident assertions. Can they shew that the doctrine of the Trinity is a mere speculation? It serves one good purpose by reminding us of the weakness of our faculties, and thus promoting a spirit of hunniliiy. Here is a fact reniote from human apprehension, at which reason is confounded, and yet it is true. It increases our reverence for God, as a Being infinitely exalted above our conceptions, to whom none can be compared in heaven or in earth, and the mode of whose existence is enveloped in impenetrable darkness. To these considerations it must be added, that, without the knowledge of this doctrine, it is impossible to understand the grandest of the works of God, Redemption, in which the three persons act distinct and conspicuous parts. We are called to contemplate the love of the Father, the condescension of the Son, and the gracious operations of the Spirit. Redemption is not the work of a solitary agent, but of three, all concurring in the salvation of our perishing race. Hence we owe gratitude to each of the persons of the Godhead distinctly, and are bound to give, to each, the glory to which he is entitled. We are baptized in their name, and consecrated to their service; and our prayers are addressed, not to God absolutely considered, but to the Father, through the Son, and by the assistance of the Holy Ghost. It appears, therefore, that the Christian system of duty is founded upon this doctrine, and that without the belief of it there can be no acceptable religion. So far is it from being useless, that it is the very foundation of practical piety. In a word, this doctrine furnishes an argument for union among the disciples of Christ. Reflecting that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are one in essence, one in love, one in counsel, one in working, how strongly they are incited to cultivate peace, and friendship, and brotherly communion! And then the prayer of their great Master will be answered, “ that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may

believe that thou hast sent me,

LECTURE XXX.

ON THE DIVINITY OF CHRIST.

Introductory Remarks Observations on the general Language of Scripture respecting Christ

Evidence of his Pre-existence-His Divinity inferred from the ascription to him of the title, God; Instances.

The result of our observations on the doctrine of the Trinity, is that there are three persons in the Divine essence, or that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are the same in substance, and equal in power and glory. The inference is so obvious as not to require to be pointed out to any person of common capacity, that each of them is truly and properly God; for it is evident from the oneness of their nature, that, in this respect, there can be no difference. If we have succeeded in the proof that a Trinity is revealed in the Scriptures, we might proceed without delay to other subjects; fully assured that he who redeemed us with his blood, and he who is the Author of our holiness and consolation, are not to be ranked among creatures, but are entitled to the same religious honour which, by the consent of all, is due to the Father. But there are various considerations which point out the propriety of suspending our

• John xvii. 21.

progress, and engaging in a more minute inquiry into the divinity of the Son and the Spirit. The deity of our Saviour will be the subject of this and some other lectures; and I request your attention to the following preliminary remarks.

First, The divinity of Christ is a fundamental article of our religion. No question which may come under our notice is of greater importance and interest than this, whether the founder of Christianity is God or man, the Creator or a creature ? It does not relate to a subordinate circumstance, but to the very essence of the religion, and the whole system is affected in whatsoever way it is decided. Those who believe Jesus Christ to be God, and those who maintain that he is only a human being, profess two religions totally different, as it were easy to show by a detail of particulars; they disagree in every thing, even in those articles which both verbally acknowledge, because they do not entertain the same views of them, and they hold them upon different grounds. The adversaries of his divinity are more allied to Jews and Mahometans, than to those who are usually denominated Christians; and to give them this name, is a misapplication of it equally gross as it would be to call him a Newtonian, who denied gravitation, or him a Cartesian, who laughed at the doctrine of vortices. Dr. Priestley was highly offended at David Levi, the Jew, for telling him, that when he looked into the New Testament, he clearly saw that Jesus of Nazareth was represented there as God, and that, for this reason, he could not consider the Doctor as a Christian. But Levi was right, and the reply of Priestley, that every man is a Christian who acknowledges Jesus to be the Messiah, was feeble and ineffectual; for the Evangelists and Apostles teach that he was not only the Messiah, but the Son of the Living God.

Secondly, The divinity of Christ is a doctrine of great practical influence. Nothing is more common with some men, than to represent certain doctrines as speculative points, as subjects merely of curious and unprofitable inquiry, with a view to lessen our respect for them, and to prepare the way for the easy reception of the opposite errors. We might say to them, If they are only speculations, why are you so eager to refute them? Why do you not allow us quietly to hold our harmless belief? Their zeal betrays them, and shews that they regard these points as much more important than they find it expedient to confess. But, besides the irreverence and impiety of such language, when used in reference to any thing which is contained in revelation, it is obviously false, although it may produce the intended effect upon such persons as suffer themselves to be imposed upon by confident assertion and vague declamation. No man can call the divinity of Christ a speculative point, who does not use words at random, without attending to their meaning, or whose understanding is raised but a few degrees above that of a child. If Jesus Christ was only a man, it may be our duty to remember his works with admiration, and his benevolent labours for the good of mankind with gratitude; but how feeble are these emotions, in comparison of the high and holy affections which will be excited by the belief of his Godhead! On the supposition that he is God, he is entitled to our supreme regard, to love not inferior in strength to that of which the Father is the object: we ought to repose unreserved and unshaken confidence upon him, committing to his care, for time and eternity, our bodies and our souls ; we owe a respect to him which no prophet could claim, and are bound to receive his doctrines upon his own testimony, and to obey his commands solely in consideration of his authority. In a word, upon the question of his divinity it depends, whether we shall honour him with religious worship, or merely with civil respect; for nothing higher is due to the person of a created being, with whatever office he is invested, and with whatever qualifications he is furnished. To a Saviour who is God, we may offer up prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings; but if he is only a man, the worship which he has received from his followers in every age since the days of the apostles is idolatry, and thousands of the best and holiest men whom the world ever saw, have gone down into the grave under the guilt of this damnable sin.

Lastly, the divinity of our Saviour is a controverted point; although admitted by the great body of Christians, it has been impugned by various individuals and sects. It would be tedious to enumerate the opinions respecting the person of Christ, which were propagated in the early ages of the Church. Truth is one, but error is infinite; for, having no fixed standard to regulate its conclusions, it runs into as many wild and fantastic forms as the imaginations and wayward reasonings of men of corrupt minds may devise. The heretics of former times, disputed among themselves concerning the rank and dignity which ought to be assigned to Jesus Christ; but in one thing they all agreed, that he was inferior to the Father, and could be called God only in a subordinate sense. His divinity is still denied by the Jews, who have renounced the faith of their ancestors, and maintain, that as there is one God, so there is but one person in the Godhead. It is denied by Mahometans, who acknowledge him to be a prophet, but nothing more, inferring from the doctrine of the Unity, which they lay down as the fundamental article of their religion, that there is no distinction in the Divine Essence, and that God reigns without an equal or a Son. It is denied by those among ourselves who were formerly called Socinians, from Socinus the founder of their sect, one of the boldest blasphemers that ever appeared, but who now assume the name of Unitarians, to express the nature of their doctrine. It signifies believers in one God, and in this sense they mean it to be understood ; but it is unjust and arrogant to appropriate this name to themselves, since they well know that, on this head, our creed is equally precise. Their design is to exhibit Trinitarians as holding a plurality of Gods, although the latter disavow the charge; and to persuade the world, that, of all Christians, they alone adhere to the first principle of natural and revealed religion. But we are all Unitarians, and assent 10 the truth solemnly inculcated upon the peculiar people, “ Hear, O Israel, Jehovah thy God is one JEHOVAH.” The only condition on which we will agree to call the followers of Socinus exclusively Unitarians is, that the name shall be understood by all parties, to denote believers in only one person in the Godhead. The doctrine of those who lay claim to it is, that Jesus Christ was a mere man, the Son of Joseph and Mary, who was commissioned by God to teach morality, and to reveal clearly a future state, and that, having sealed his testimony with his blood, he rose from the grave to give us the hope of immortality. This is the sum of their Christianity; and as it differs little from what is called Natural Religion, it seems to be a matter of no importance whether a man be a Unitarian or an infidel. There is reason to suspect that this pernicious doctrine has spread beyond the boundaries of the sect by which it is openly avowed; that it has found its way into churches professedly orthodox, and is taught by unprincipled men, who have solemnly pledged themselves to preach a different faith. To these adversaries of our Saviour's Divinity I might add Arians, who allow that he is more than a man, but maintain, that he is a creature, notwithstanding the magnificent titles with which they honour him, and the high functions which they represent him as performing. This sect was once predominant, but it gradually declined, and is now almost extinct. It has still adherents, but they are few in number; the grcater part of those who had rejected the proper Deity of Christ, having sunk into the lowest depths of Socinianism.

In opposition to these heresies, we affirm that our Saviour is a Divine Person in the strict sense of the term; that he is God by nature, and not merely by title or office; that in the words of Paul, he is “God over all, blessed for

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