Christian Theology

By Adam Clarke

Chapter 4


In Genesis i, 1, the original word Elohim, "God," is certainly the plural form of El, or Eloah, and has long been supposed, by the most eminently learned and pious men, to imply a plurality of persons in the divine nature. As this plurality appears in so many parts of the sacred writings to be confined to three persons, hence the doctrine of the TRINITY, which has formed a part of the creed of all those who have been deemed sound in the faith, from the earliest ages of Christianity. Nor are the Christians singular in receiving this doctrine, and in deriving it from the first words of divine revelation. An eminent Jewish rabbin, Simeon ben Joachi, has these remarkable words: "Come and see the mystery of the word Elohim; there are three degrees, and each degree by itself alone, and yet, notwithstanding, they are all one, and joined together in one, and are not divided from each other." In the ever blessed Trinity, from the infinite and indivisible unity of the persons, there can be but one will, one purpose, and one infinite and uncontrollable energy.


In God there are found three persons, not separately existing, but in one infinite unity; who are termed Father, Son, and Spirit; or GOD the FATHER, GOD the SON, and GOD the HOLY GHOST, all existing in the one infinite and eternal GODHEAD ; neither being before or after the other, none being greater or less than the other. These three divine persons are frequently termed among Christians THE TRINITY .

This passage, Matt. iii, 16, 17 affords no mean proof of the doctrine of the Trinity. That three distinct persons are here represented, there can be no dispute:

1. The person of Jesus Christ baptized by John in Jordan. 2. The person of the Holy Ghost in a bodily shape, like a dove. 3. The person of the Father; a voice came out of heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son," &c. The voice is here represented as proceeding from a different place to that in which the persons of the Son and the Holy Spirit were manifested; and merely, I think, more forcibly to mark this divine personality.

The apostles were commissioned to teach and proselyte all the nations, and baptize them in the name of the holy Trinity, Matt. xxviii, 19. Baptism, properly speaking, whether administered by dipping, or sprinkling, signifies a full and eternal consecration of the person to the service and honour of that Being in whose name it is administered; but this consecration can never be made to a creature; therefore the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not creatures. Again: baptism is not made in the name of a quality or attribute of the divine nature; therefore the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not qualities or attributes of the divine nature. The orthodox, as they are termed, have generally considered this text a decisive proof of the doctrine of the holy Trinity: and what else can they draw from it? Is it possible for words to convey a plainer sense than these do? And do they not direct every reader to consider the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as three distinct persons? "But this I can never believe." I cannot help that. You shall not be persecuted by me for differing from my opinion. I cannot go over to you; I must abide by what I believe to be the meaning of the Scriptures.

Eph. ii, 18: "For through him," Christ Jesus, "we both," Jews and Gentiles, "have access by one Spirit," through the influence of the Holy Ghost, "unto the Father," God Almighty. This text is a plain proof of the holy Trinity. Jews and Gentiles are to be presented to God the Father; and the Spirit of God works in their hearts, and prepares them for this presentation: and Jesus Christ himself introduces them. No one can have access to God but by Jesus Christ, and he introduces none but such as receive his Holy Spirit.

Even the doctrine of the eternal Trinity in unity may be collected from numberless appearances in nature. A consideration of the herb trefoil is said to have been the means of fully convincing the learned Erasmus of the truth of the assertion, "These three are one;" and yet three distinct. He saw the same root, the same fibres, the same pulpy substance, the same membraneous covering, the same colour, the same taste, the same smell, in every part; and yet the three leaves distinct; but each and all a continuation of the stem, and proceeding from the same root. Such a fact as this may at least illustrate the doctrine. An intelligent shepherd, whom he met upon the mountains, is said to have exhibited the herb and the illustration, while discoursing on certain difficulties in the Christian faith. When a child I heard a learned man relate this fact.

May God the Father adopt me fully for his child! May God the Son dwell in my heart by faith! May God the Holy Spirit purge my conscience from dead works, and purify my soul from all unrighteousness! May the holy, blessed, and glorious TRINITY take me and mine, and seal us for his own in time and in eternity!

O thou incomprehensible Jehovah, thou eternal Word, thou ever during and all- pervading Spirit;—Father! Son! and Holy Ghost! in the plenitude of thy eternal Godhead, in thy light, I, in a measure see thee; and in thy condescending nearness to my nature I can love thee, for thou hast loved me. In thy strength may I begin, continue, and end every design and every work, so as to glorify thee by showing how much thou lovest man, and how much man may be ennobled and beatified by loving thee! Here am I fixed, here am I lost, and here I find my GOD, and here I find myself!