By William Burt Pope, D.D.,
THE TRIUNE NAME
The perfect revelation of the Divine Name or Essence is that which is given by our Lord Himself in the Baptismal Formula of dedication to God and admission into His kingdom.
This final testimony of the Revealer declares that the supreme Object of Christian Faith is one, yet existing in a threefold internal personality. As a testimony, it closes a long series of progressive developments of doctrine, all pointing to a Trinity of personal subsistences in the Godhead; and commences a revelation of God which connects Three Divine Persons with the creation of all things, the redemption of the world, and the administration of grace in the Church. Hence, a doctrinal distinction may be suggested between the Absolute or Immanent Trinity and the Trinity Economical or Redemptional.
The latter must be reserved for a future stage. It is with the former that we have now to do; and it will be sufficient to establish from Scripture the essential Unity, the essential Trinity, and the essential Triunity of the Divine Being. This will lead finally to a further illustration of the doctrine by a reference to the controversies through which it has passed, and the dogmatic definitions to which these have given rise.
It is impossible to define the Unity of God: the word unity in human language gives no adequate notion, barely serving to defend the doctrine from every opposite error. Hence it is our wisdom to study it in the light of its exhibition in Scripture: marking the uses to which the doctrine is applied, the Scriptural method of stating it, and the confirmations of the truths which may be everywhere found in the one and uniform economy of nature.
DOCTRINE OF SCRIPTURE.
Consulting God's own revelation of His unity it is very instructive to observe the forms the doctrine assumes there.
1. It is set forth as the basis of all worship: of devotion and obedience and fear. Hear, 0 Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.1 This demands a perfect consecration which by the very terms only One Object can claim. Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord He is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else. Thou shalt keep therefore His statutes. 2 Here supreme obedience is exacted to one sole Authority which can have no rival. There is no God with Me: I kill, and I make alive: I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of My hand. For I lift up My hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever. 3 There is only one Judge to be reverenced and feared for time and for eternity.
1 Deu. 6:4,5; 2 Deu. 4:39,40; 3 Deu. 32:39,40.
2. It is often urged as the protest of the Supreme against false views of His nature; especially in those parts of Scripture where Divine revelation comes into collision with heathenism. Against the polytheistic creed and idolatrous practice of the nations the one God appeals: Is there a God beside Me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.1 Everywhere, down to St. Paul's testimony, We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but One, 2 the One Being, Who asserts, but does not prove, His own existence, asserts without proving His absolute unity. Against Dualism, the belief, not known by name in Scripture, which has taken refuge in the notion of two co-eternal elements of being, passively co-existent or struggling for mastery, the Eternal more than once commands His prophets to deliver His own testimony. Having its origin in Persia, this notion passed through later Judaism into the heretical sects of Gnosticism, and spent itself out in Manichaeism. The God of Israel condescends to utter His protest against this, perhaps the most natural and widespread of all errors: I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness. 3 Here the very terminology of earlier and later Dualism is used; but it is only to declare that no independent origin of evil must be conceived. It may be impossible for the human mind to understand how He in whom there is no darkness at all 4 could nevertheless create darkness. The only answer is, there is none else. But darkness and light are also to be under-stood by what follows, I make peace, and create evil. 5 The One God is the Abolisher of sin by His peace, and its Punisher by His evil. Against Pantheism, which perverts the doctrine of the Divine unity by making God the sum of all personalities and forces, but not Himself a distinct personality, the Supreme testified: He that planted the ear, shall He not hear? He that formed the eye, shall He not see? 6 This is an apostrophe to the ungodly in the form of an appeal to the One Judge; but it is the Lord's own refutation of Pantheism in all its future or possible forms. Still more expressly, however, is the true unity of God opposed to this system of false unity in all those passages which speak of the, One Creator of all things: I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretch-eth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by Myself. 7
1Isa. 44:8; 2 1 Cor. 8:4; 3 Isa. 14:6,7; 4 1 John 1:5; 5 Isa 14:6,7; 6 Psa. 94:9; 7 Isa. 44:24.
3. In real consistency with all this, though in seeming discord, is the undeniable fact that in many references to the Divine unity there is an undertone of mysterious allusion to a plurality of Persons within the Godhead. St. Paul, in the Epistle which declares the mystery of God manifest in the flesh, proclaims that: there is One God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, or Jesus Christ, man.1 And, in the final revelations of our Lord, He asserts His Divinity in the very words which bespeak in the Old Testament the unity of God: I am the First and I am the Last: 2 we may add here also, Beside Me, there is no God. This is more fully seen when we go back to the ancient words: Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and His Redeemer the Lord of Hosts; I am the First, and I am the Last; and beside Me there is no God. 3 That the oneness or soleness of the Divine essence is consistent with an interior intercommunion of persons is a truth which faith must receive. Human reason is unable to grasp it. It is the mystery of God, 4 parallel with the mystery of Christ. 5 Christianity is not in conflict with Judaism in this essential principle of the earliest revelation. Even in this it is Monotheistic.
1 1 Tim. 3:16; 2:5; 2 Rev. 1:17; Isa. 44:6; 3 Col. 2:2; 4 Eph. 3:4.
4. Lastly, it is asserted in connection with the doctrine of the Trinity, a combination of the utmost importance. When our Lord has unfolded in His paschal discourse the relations of the Three Persons, and immediately before He asks for the glory which I had with Thee before the world was,1 He declares This is life eternal, to know Thee, the only true God.2 He gives the abiding formula of the Faith in Three Persons as baptism into the ONE NAME.
1 John 17:3-5; 2 Mat. 28:19.
It might seem, after what has been said, superfluous to appeal for confirmation to arguments extra-Biblical: especially as it is almost impossible to abstract ourselves for a moment from the prepossessions which the Scripture has interwoven into all our habitual notions of the Divine Being.
1. The human mind is so constituted as to be unable to conceive of more than one Absolute Being. The same sure instinct of manor constitution of his nature, which prepares him for the disclosure of God is unable to endure more gods than one: the foundation or source of all being cannot, without contradiction, be multiplied. Unity is not an attribute of Deity, not a quality of essence so much as a condition of relation: the Supreme is related to His interior Self, and to His creatures, but as God, is unrelated. The primary law of thought that predicates the Infinite and the Absolute of the Divine Being demands His eternal unity as a necessary postulate.
2. The term is used only by analogy. Though there is one Divine nature, the unity of God is not a unity of kind, because there are not individuals of the same species; and, therefore, as for other reasons, the word is inapplicable to the Divinity. Of all other objects of thought we can imagine fellows or reproductions. But in God there is absolute soleness,SOLEITAS; though what lies hidden in the mystery of this essential ONENESS we know but partially. It is wrong to dogmatise upon the nature of a unity to which we have no parallel, and which we cannot define by comparison or illustration.
3. The constitution of nature, both physical and moral, confirms this doctrine by innumerable evidences. Unity is stamped upon the entire creation: so clearly that the whole system of science is based upon this presupposition; its latest conclusions pointing to some one primitive and central force, which some in their blind enthusiasm almost deify as the unknown God. And, as it is in earthly things, so it is in things spiritual and heavenly. There is one conscience in man, suggesting one law and one Lawgiver. There is evil, as there is good; but they both pay homage to the supreme Will behind them, which is their equal standard. Hence, the erring philosophy of the world, in the better tendencies of its error, has seldom been Polytheistic or Dualistic: its universal tendency towards Pantheism declares its indestructible conviction of the Unity of God. This has been its snare, to carry the principle to the extreme of denying all personality or creaturely existence outside of the One and the All.
THE TRINITY OF THE GODHEAD.
The Christian faith receives and adores the mystery that the One Divine Essence exists in a Trinity of coequal, personal Subsistence: related as the Father, the eternal Son of the Father, and the Holy Spirit eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.
In the baptismal formula our Lord has presented to Faith the name and nature of God in its perfect revelation. The commission of the Apostles was to convert all nations from idolatry, and to bring them to the Gospel salvation: that salvation was to be obtained in the economy of redemption, through faith in the One Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost,1 to which all worship must henceforth be offered. Christian baptism is to be administered into the Name, eis to onoma, into the NEW NAME: not names as of many, but Name as of one. Yet the repeated kai, and of, declares a spiritual distinction in the Godhead as the Object of faith, trust, hope and full devotion: for baptism meant all this and nothing less. Men were not to be called to believe in God and two subordinate gods: that would have been only the introduction of a new form of Polytheism. Yet not in God, and a Mediator, and an Influence: the names Son and Holy Ghost are not, the former especially, simply names of office. But this great text, though central and fundamental, does not stand alone. It must be viewed as the consummation of preliminary and imperfect disclosures; as involving and sealing the Scriptural doctrine, otherwise revealed, of the Deity of the Two Persons called the Son and the Holy Spirit; and as the standard for the interpretation of later Trinitarian passages in the New Testament: that is, it must be viewed first as looking backward to a long development, then in itself and its own meaning, and finally as looking forward to the later Apostolical Scriptures.
1 Mat. 28:19.
The doctrine of the Trinity, like every other, had, in the mystery of the Divine education of the Church, its slow development. Remembering the law that the progress of Old- Testament doctrine must be traced in the light of the New Testament, we can discern throughout the ancient records a pre-intimation of the Three-One, ready to be revealed in the last time.1 No word in the ancient records is to be studied as standing alone; but according to the analogy of faith, which is no other than the one truth that reigns in the organic whole of Scripture.
1 Pet. 1:5.
1. The first distant hint of plurality, Let Us make man,1 is the plurality of Three: God, and the Word by Whom all things were made, 2 and the Spirit of God Who moved on the face of the waters, 3 brooding over the Chaos. The occasional triple manifestations to the Patriarchs, as when the Lord appeared unto Abraham, and, lo, three men stood by him, 4 also yield their suggestions, if no more.
1 Gen. 1:26; 2 John 1:3; 3 Gen. 1:1.2; 4 Gen. 18:1,2.
2. But there is more than mere suggestion in the Benediction and the Doxology of the ancient Temple: the former literal, the latter symbolical, both belonging to God alone by the very terms. Blessing may be bestowed by a creature as the agent or instrument of Him Who alone can bless; but whenever the word is thus used in Scripture there is plain indication that it is only ministerial. It is the highest prerogative of the Supreme to pronounce blessings upon His people. So also tributes of honor may be paid to exalted creatures; but God alone is the object of doxology. The former of these distinctions is illustrated by the Levitical office of benediction. The priests were commanded to putTHE NAME of Jehovah upon the people and bless them, 1 in the utterance of a three-one benediction which, as we shall see, the Apostolic form echoes in the New Temple and expounds. 2 So the response of the Doxology in the mystical temple, by the angelic choir if not by man, cries Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts! 3 Behind the veil the Divine glory disparts into three, while all the disparted rays blend again into one.
1 Num. 6:27; 2 2 Cor. 8:14; 3 Isa. 6:3.
3. The prophecies concerning the Mediatorial Ministry assume a form explicable only by the New-Testament doctrine: My mouth it hath commanded, and His Spirit it hath gathered them.1 He who proclaimed Hear, 0 Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord, 2 cries once more: Hear ye this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning, 3 — though My full Name hath not been known—from the time that it was, there am I: and now— anticipating the fullness of time—the LORD GOD and His SPIRIT hath sent ME. Of Whom doth the Prophet, or rather the voice of God Himself, speak this? Prophecy could not retain its veiled and mystic character, and speak more plainly than in such terms as these.
The same mysterious Trinity may be traced elsewhere in the prophets.
1 Isa. 39:16; 2 Deu. 6:4; 3 Isa 48:16.
4. When the Old Testament blends with the New in the preliminaries of the Incarnation, both the songs that herald it and the Incarnation itself declare the Triune God: the Holy Ghost Who is the Power of the Highest1 overshadows the mother of our Lord; and His Incarnation-name is Immanuel, God with us, 2 Who should be, and should be called the Son of God.
1 Luke 1:35; 2 Mat. 1:23.
5. Until the Resurrection permitted the full unsealing of the revelation of our Lord's relations to His Father, His teaching generally was intermediate between the two Testaments: a principle that is not enough remembered in Biblical theology. His exposition of every doctrine which was afterwards distinctive in the New Faith illustrates this. We must, however, limit our view to that of the Holy Trinity. This Jesus taught by degrees most fully and clearly: partly as manifested in His personal history, and partly by His express words. At the beginning of His ministry the Sacred Three are revealed around His own Person in connection with His Baptism; and in His farewell discourse on the eve of His passion He expanded the full significance of that revelation of which He had been the centre. The former introduces the Father, acknowledging the Son and sealing Him by the Spirit symbolically, preluding the baptism ordained for His people.
The latter is the Savior’s complete doctrine of the Trinity, showing that the future Presence of God in His Church, collectively and in its individual members, would be the inhabitation of the Father, His Son, and His personal Spirit. This was the final preparation for the baptismal formula.
THE BAPTISMAL FORMULA.
This fundamental text, which knows of no variations of reading, unites two Persons with the Father in a manner of which there is no example elsewhere in Scripture. It is unique and alone: a dignity becoming the Revealer of the new Name, the revelation of the mystery itself, and the transcendent solemnity of its relation to the Christian economy.
This, therefore, is the place for the consideration of what these names import in relation to the Holy Trinity. It must be shown briefly that these Three Persons, or rather the Second and Third, are in this Formula truly Divine; and the best method of accomplishing this will be once more to regard these words as dividing between a past imperfect revelation and the fuller revelation given in Christ concerning Himself and His Spirit in the unity of the Father.
THE SECOND AND THIRD PERSONS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT.
The Older Revelation contains references to the Son and the Spirit of God which, when the light of the New Testament is shed upon them, plainly declare the distinct Divine personality of both in the unity of the Godhead. We need not pause to ask why the name Father is not given to the Deity in the Old Testament. It is not unknown there. Almost the last appeal of Jehovah against His people—His son whom He called out of Egypt1 —was: If I then be a Father, where is Mine honor? 2 But it was reserved to be brought out in its depth and fullness by His Eternal Son.
1 Hos. 9:1; 2 Mal. 1:6.
1. The Second Person is almost as familiar a Presence in the Old Testament as in the New: that is, when it is searched in the light of His own testimony concerning its witness to Himself. At sundry times and in divers manners1 He appeared; but always in such a form as rejects every interpretation but that of His equality with Jehovah, as being God and not a creation of God. His manifestations were precisely consistent with His twofold relation, pretemporal and incarnate, to the Trinity. As the Eternal Image of His Father's Person, He is Jehovah Himself, yet distinct from Jehovah: in sublime consistency with His true nature. But, as anticipating His mediatorial character, He is the ANGEL OF JEHOVAH, or the ANGEL OF ELOHIM, from the earliest dawn down to Malachi, where He is the ANGEL OF THE COVENANT. By Myself have I sworn, saith Jehovah . . . that in blessing I will bless thee. JEHOVAH-JIREH who gave to Abraham the great Benediction was the Angel of the Lord. The Angel who wrestled with Jacob was to him God face to face;2 as He was also to Hosea: He found him in Bethel, and there He spake with us; even Jehovah, God of Hosts; Jehovah is His memorial. 3 One other testimony must stand for a long series: Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of Him, and obey His voice, provoke Him not: for He will not pardon your transgressions; for MY NAME is IN HIM. 4 Who can fail to think of the Coming Redeemer, so like this Old-Testament Joshua, and as the New-Testament Jesus so unlike! Throughout the Gospels, from Gabriel's testimony to the Angel greater than he downwards, there is no question that the Jehovah-Angel is Jehovah Himself, and that Jehovah Himself reappears in the name LORD, very often though not exclusively. Not Esaias alone, but all the Old-Testament writers, saw His glory and spake of Him. 5 But the uncreated Minister of Jehovah's will is not generally in the Old Testament foreannounced as the Son, any more than Jehovah is revealed as the Father.
This, however, is not quite wanting. The link that connects theANGEL OF THE FACE in the ancient with THE SON in the later Scripture is threefold. He is in Psalms 6 and Prophecy 7 termed THE SON expressly, the WORD or ORACLE of God or hypostatised WISDOM; and He is called ADONAI or LORD, 8 the MIGHTY GOD. 9 But these more occasional testimonies flow into a general representation of the future Messiah; and as such they must be reserved for the fuller exhibition of the Mediatorial Trinity, and the Person of Christ.
1 Heb. 1:1; 2 Gen. 32:30; 3 Hos. 12:4,5; 4 Exo. 23:20,21; 5 John 12:41; 6 Psa. 2:7; 7 Pro. 8:23; 8 Psa. 110:5; 9 Isa. 7:14; 9:6.
2. The presence of the Third Person equally pervades the Old Testament, as one with God and yet personally distinct in the mystery of the Divine essence. The Spirit of God1 is active with the Word in creation: By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made: and all the host of them by the Breath of His mouth. 2 The Spirit of God hath made me, and the Breath of the Almighty hath given me life.3 He is no less active in providence: My Spirit shall not always strive with [or rule in] man; 4 in whose renewed heart he dwells: take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.5 His energy was felt in the inspiration of the prophets.
Joseph was, by Pharaoh's testimony, a man in whom the Spirit of God is.6 And when the Spirit of God rested upon them they prophesied. 7 Upon Samson, and many others, it is said that the Spirit of the Lord came mightily. 8 David bore witness: The Spirit of the Lord spake by me. 9 He is omnipresent and omniscient: Whither shall I go from, Thy Spirit? 10 The presence of God is the presence of the Holy Ghost. And yet He is distinguished from the Lord Himself, as One whom He hath sent and will send to man. Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened? The Lord God, and His Spirit, hath sent Me. As the Messiah is promised to the world, so also is the Spirit. I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh. 11 And in the New Testament, the fulfillment of the Promise of the Father is an event equal in glory with the Incarnation. As the Angel of the past becomes now the Incarnate Son, so the Spirit of the past becomes the personal Holy Ghost. The hour of Both Persons is fully come.
1 Gen. 1:2; 2 Psa. 33:4; 3 Job 33:4; 4 Gen. 41:38; 5 Num. 11:25; 6 Jud. 14:6; 7 2 Sam. 23:2; 8 Psa. 139:7; 9 Mic. 2:7; 10 Isa. 49:16; 11 Joel 2:28.
THE SON AND THE SPIRIT IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.
In the New-Testament testimonies to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, these, the names of Divine and eternal Persons, are so related to each other and to the Father as to establish, by the fullest and most abundant evidence, the doctrine which has received the dogmatic definition ofTHE HOLY TRINITY.
1. There is nothing in the Savior’s revelation more clear, nothing more interwoven with all His teaching, than His annunciation of the new name ofFATHER as related to Himself in a sense unshared: unto MY FATHER, and your Father. 1 This has its highest expression in the baptismal formula where He is eternally related to the Father as His Son. He is the ONLY-BEGOTTEN, toú monogenoús Huioú, This is first declared by St. John, in express relation to His absolute existence in THE FATHER: ho oón eis tón kólpon toú Patrós, which is in the bosom of the Father, and pará toú Patrós, of or from the Father, to be compared with prós tón Theón, said of the Son as the WORD or LOGOS. 2 These three prepositions, pros, para, eis, are one in their only true meaning: a trinity of particles carefully chosen to express an unfathomable mystery, which they cannot explain, though they may serve to protect it from perversion. Afterwards our Lord proves to us that this eternal name, though retained in His incarnation, was not derived from His incarnation: God GAVE His Only-begotten Son, 3 which, in the only other instance of the use of the term, is strengthened by the express connection with it of apéstalken; God SENT His Only begotten Son. 4 The Jews understood Jesus to be making Himself equal with God when He said that God was His proper and peculiar Father, Patéra ídion. 5 The Holy Spirit gave this same word to St. Paul: He spared not His own Son, toú idíou Huioú. 6 Of this Son, the Son of His love, it is said that He is the Image of the invisible God, the Firstborn before every creature, prootótokos, not prootoktiotos, not first-created but first-begotten: before all things, and by Him all things consist. 7 He is the Effulgence of His glory, and the Very Image of His substance. 8 Our Lord's last prayer sums up the whole argument: And now, 0 Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own Self—pará seautoó, 9 in express contradistinction from the world or earth in which His mission was—with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was, pará soi. Here are all the elements of the doctrine of the ETERNAL SONSHIP, which is sufficient to establish the relation of the Son to the Father as the Second Person in the Holy Trinity.
1 John 20:17; 2 John 1:14; 3 John 3:16; 4 1 John 4:9; 5 John 5:9; 6 Rom. 8:32; 7 Col. 1:13,16,17; 8 Heb. 1:3; 9 John 17:5.
2.THE HOLY GHOST is a DIVINE PERSON, distinct from the Father and the Son. To establish this, we need only to examine our Lord's words, and collate with them the ample and various testimonies of the entire New Testament.
(1.) The Son is the Revealer of the Third Person, as well as of the Father. His final Trinitarian Discourse—for such is the character of the Paschal Farewell—has left no question on this subject unsolved: before He was glorified by the Spirit, He glorified the Spirit Himself, by establishing the first principles of His personality, Divinity, and eternal relations in the Godhead. The pronounHE, EKEÍNOS, is applied to One who is another Comforter. 1 The PERSONALITY of the Holy Ghost governs the Lord's entire strain, and must interpret those many passages in which by metonymy the influences of the Spirit's operation are identified with Himself. It is impossible to read carefully in their context these sayings concerning the Coming Spirit without feeling that the idea of a personification is a most hopeless expedient. Whether Divine or not, a Person was foreannounced, as certainly as it was a Person whom Moses predicted as the coming prophet. But the DEITY of the Third Person is declared as that of an eternal procession from the Father. When the Comforter is come WHOM I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father HE SHALL TESTIFY of Me. 2 Here the TEMPORAL MISSION is clearly distinguished from the ETERNAL PROCESSION.
Between the two futures, marked byWHOM and HE, the pronoun which enters as a parenthetical reference to the essential eternal relation, hó pará toú Patrós ekporeúetai: PROCEEDETH, not shall proceed, in an ETERNAL PRESENT, the pará being precisely the same as the pará Patrós of the Only-begotten, 3 while the neuter hó is parallel with Hó eén ap archeés, spoken of the Eternal Son, that Which was from the beginning. 4 These parallels must not be passed lightly over, but carefully pondered. The Savior does not say that this procession is from the Son as well as from the Father. But, reading on, we mark these memorable words: All things that the Father hath are Mine: therefore said I, that He shall take of Mine, and shall show it unto you. 5 The Spirit's glorification of Christ extends to His Person as well as to His work, indeed, rather to His Person than His work; and it was from His sacred Person that the Lord breathed on 6 the Apostles the Holy Ghost. Hence this supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ 7 is imparted in the symbol of a personal spiration or breathing; and the name SPIRIT may be regarded as sanctioning the faith that the Third Person PROCEEDETH FROM THE FATHER AND THE SON, —to anticipate the language of the early Creeds and later Confessions of Christendom—though the Son in His humiliation mentions only the Father. But on this topic more hereafter.
1 John 16:13; 19:16,17; 2 John 15:26; 3 John 1:14; 4 1 John 1:1; 5 John 16:15; 6 John 20:22; 7 Phil. 1:19.
(2.) Reserving for a future section the operations and influences of the Holy Ghost, we have only to indicate that the whole of the New Testament is true to the Revealer's teaching on this subject. The Personality and Deity of the Spirit shine everywhere through the veil of the Mediatorial work, which to a certain extent hides the Trinitarian relations of the Second and the Third Persons alike. The humiliation of the Son Incarnate has its parallel, though after another manner, in the humiliation of the Holy Ghost, While we hear, He hath shed forthTHIS, 1 we read also that the Holy Ghost said, Separate ME Barnabas and Saul. 2 The first hypocrites in the Acts are said to have lied to the Holy Ghost, and therefore to have lied not unto men but to God. 3 In the Epistles to the Corinthians, which dwell so much on the dispensation of the Spirit, St. Paul declares that we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God: 4 where ek toú Theoú, varies the phrase in a very significant manner, as it were expressly distinguishing between the evil spiritual influence breathed by the world and the Substantial Spirit coming out from the Deity. That same Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God; 5 thus being essentially personal and Divine. These testimonies are enough for our present purpose, which is to show the relation of the Third, as well as of the Second Person, to the ONE NAME into which Christians are baptised.
1 Acts 2:33; 2 Acts 13:2; 3 Acts 5:3,4; 4 1 Cor. 2:12; 5 1 Cor 2:10.
The later testimonies to the Holy Trinity literally pervade the New Testament. They will require to be considered when we come to the Mediatorial Ministry, and the peculiar aspect in which it places our doctrine. Meanwhile, it is sufficient to indicate generally the bearing of these testimonies, illustrating them by leading examples. It must be premised, however, first, that here also there is a certain development in the revelation, and, secondly, that they are introduced not so much to explain the Trinity Economical as to point out the proof of an Absolute Trinity underlying this as its necessary foundation.
1. In the Acts the publication of the Gospel is connected with the Holy Trinity, though under an aspect suited to the times of preparation. For, there is still evidence after Pentecost of the same law of gradual development which reigned before. The doctrine in this historical book is not fully revealed to those who were not yet prepared to receive it: at least, not until they were fully prepared. When we read St. Peter's testimony before the Council,1 and St. Paul's in his several missionary discourses, 2 we must remember that the Three Persons whom they invariably introduce are the same of Whom the Lord had spoken before He departed, and of Whom these Preachers afterwards more clearly wrote in their Epistles.
1 Acts 5; 2 Acts 8.
2. The Mediatorial Economy, that is, the entire system of man's return to fellowship with God, is always described in harmony with this doctrine. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father:1 this great word is the key to the general strain of the Epistles, and, if pursued into its consequences, is sufficient to establish the Divinity of each Person. It is utterly inconceivable that admission to the presence and knowledge and acceptance of God could be given by any creatures as such. But this will be made more emphatic when we consider that the mediatorial economy leads to union with the Deity, which, whether regarded as our being in God, or God being in us, is the highest blessedness of the creature. To be filled unto all the fullness of God is in the Ephesian prayer the result of being strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith. 2 Here, to the believing eye at least, is the INDWELLING TRINITY. Nor can any candid mind resist this conclusion when other passages which do not unite the Three Persons are collated: those namely which speak of Christ in you, the hope of glory; 3 of our body as being a temple of the Holy Ghost Which is in you; 4 and many others which will be referred to more fully when the Economical Trinity is the subject. Suffice now to observe that it is the prerogative of God alone to dwell in His creatures; that to the Father, the Son, and the Spirit distinctively and equally this prerogative is assigned; and that to no other beings or persons is it ascribed throughout the Scriptures. No principle is more universal than this.
1 Eph. 2:18; 2 Eph. 3:16-19; 3 Col. 1:27; 4 1 Cor. 6:19.
3. The impartation of the Divine influences on which personal salvation and the work of the Gospel depend is invariably connected with the Three Persons. Generally it is invoked from God in the unity of this Trinity: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.1 This clearly answers to the priestly benediction, with its general blessing, the grace of mercy and the effect of peace; though the order is changed under the dispensation of the Son and Spirit.
But all benediction, like all power,IS OF GOD. 2 More particularly we see the same relation to the Trinity in the dispensation of the special gifts: their diversities are of the same Spirit; their administration is of the same Lord; their operation of the same God. 3 It must be remembered that the graces and gifts of the Gospel are besought in prayer; and are, especially throughout St. Paul's prayers, so besought as to show that the appeal is to each Person in the Trinity in the unity of the Godhead. These examples introduce the Three Persons; but they may be confirmed by some others, though their number is not great, which seek grace from each Person respectively.
1 2 Cor. 13:14; 2 Rom. 13:1; 3 1 Cor. 12:4-6.
4. The Apocalypse in its symbolical imagery closes the New Testament with its peculiar but evident tribute to the Holy Trinity. The Incarnate Son, Whose grace is invoked, is the First and the Last, and the Lamb in the midst of the throne:1 there is no honor paid the Eternal which He does not share. The Seven Spirits before, His throne, 2 in the midst of which is the Incarnate Lamb—like no other among the ministering sevens—are or is invoked also as the Giver of Grace. The unity of the Holy Trinity has no clearer expression in Scripture. This Sevenfold or all-holy Spirit is distinct from the Lamb, 3 yet one with Him; and one also with God. And the perfect homage of this book, disguised as it is in symbols, returns in its form and language to the mystical worship of the ancient Temple.
It is the adoration of the Triune God: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Which was, and is, and is to come;4 and thus indicates the profound truth that the supreme praise of Paradise, though not forgetting the distinction of Persons, needs no mention of their Personal names. And here we have an illustration of the great saying of the Apostle, used in relation to the end of the Mediatorial ministry, but inexhaustible in its meaning, that God may be all in all.5
1Rev. 22:13; 7:17; 2 Rev. 1:4; 3 Rev. 5:6; 4 Rev. 4:8; 5 1 Cor. 15: 28.
THE DIVINE TRIUNITY.
Neither the term Trinity, nor any that expresses the notion of Triunity, is contained in Scripture. But the mysterious truth that these words represent is stamped upon the entire revelation of God, which, implicitly in the Old Testament, and explicitly in the New, bears witness to a Divine Triad. The Lord our God is one Lord; yet there are Three that bear witness in heaven, and these Three are One: words which we can use for purpose, though they may be excluded from the text of Holy Scripture. The term Triunity we might make the verbal symbol of our faith. It guards us—and in this case there is no more that words can do—against the perversions to which the true doctrine is liable. These perversions are manifold. The unity may be so emphasized as to reduce the Trinity to three manifestations of the One God, successive but in different modes. Or the Trinity may be so incautiously apprehended as to commit the thought to the notion of three independent Divine Beings. Or, the Godhead being wrongly regarded as the unknown essence behind the Persons, four Gods may be the consequence. Or a compromise may be effected by introducing the notion of One God, the Fountain of Deity, and two beings of the same nature derived from Him. The transition is then easy to the notion of two inferior beings issuing from the Divinity, with not only a derived and subordinate, but also a created, Deity. These various errors are known in theology by the names of Sabellianism, Tritheism, Tetratheism, Subordinationism, and Arianism respectively. They will be exhibited briefly in the following historical review; but it may be premised that the first and the last are the two salient forms of heresy or of heretical speculation on this subject; that is, concerning the Godhead regarded as a Trinity. It may be added, moreover, that they do not occur in modern systems always with these names: being often disguised, and that in the most subtle manner. The first especially enters into many modes of theological thought which know nothing of the name Sabellian. The second colors much theology which is not conscious of its own tendency. The third, Tetratheism, has hardly ever existed, save as the logical inference from other errors. Subordinationism may be made consistent with the truth.
It may be said that the history of all human opinion concerning the Supreme has been, in some sense, a record of the struggles of speculation towards this adorable mystery, or of its endeavors to grasp and formulate it as revealed. Pantheism and Dualism both tended towards it in the East; and no form of Polytheism has been altogether without some trace of it. But this is emphatically true of the history of the doctrine concerning God as developed in the Christian Church.
The ante-Nicene Church held the doctrine of the Divine Trinity, though in an undogmatic form. The advocates of a permanent ecclesiastical authority deciding the doctrines of the Faith, whether by tradition or development, have joined the Rationalists and antiTrinitarians in exaggerating the indefiniteness of the early statements of this truth. But the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, and of the Apologists, at least faithfully reproduce the tone of the New Testament; and a catena of their testimonies may be given which will prove that they made a large advance towards later definitions. All forms of the early Creeds direct Christian faith to Three Persons. Their doxologies bear clear witness: as that of Polycarp, "I glorify Thee, through the Eternal High Priest, Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son, through Whom be glory to Thee with Him in the Holy Ghost, both now and for ever." Athenagoras asks, "Why are we called atheists, speaking as we do of the Father as God, and the Holy Ghost; showing both Their power in unity and Their distinction in order?" and says again, "The Father and the Son are One: the Son is in the Father, and the Father in the Son, by the unity and power of the Spirit." Theophilus of Antioch gives us the term " Triad, God, His Word, and His Wisdom," a term used after him by Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Hippolytus, and by Tertullian and Novatian changed into Trinitas.
Tertullian's language is very expressive: " All Three are One by unity of substance, and the unity is developed into a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost;" and " We never suffer 'Two Gods' or 'Two Lords' to pass our lips, though the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God, and. Each is God." Many more might be given; but we may close with Origen, whose relation to the subsequent development of the doctrine is very important. His testimony also is worthy to close: " When I speak of the omnipotence of God, of His invisibility and eternity, my words are lofty; when I speak of the coeternity of His Only-begotten Son, and His other mysteries, my words are lofty; when I deal with the mightiness of the Holy Ghost, my words are lofty: as to these only it is allowed to use lofty words. After these Three, henceforth speak nothing loftily; for all things are mean and low, compared with the height of the Trinity. Let not then your high words be many, except concerning Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." It is clearly an error to date the unfolded dogma of the Trinity from the fourth century. It is found throughout the ante-Nicene age. But it cannot be denied that the germ, and gradual growth, of these tendencies towards error are soon apparent after the departure of the Apostles. All sprang from a vain attempt humanly to reconcile the Trinity with the essential unity of the Godhead; and what may be calledMONARCHIANISM was the watchword of each.
The first class rejected the distinction of Divine Hypostases or Persons. Their watchword was the eternal supremacy of the Monas, or the hidden God; it admitted, in the term Trias, that God was revealed in three prosopon, or faces or semblances, according to the dispensations of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit; As this doctrine was taught by Praxeas (160—180) and others, it was at once rejected as abolishing the distinction between the Father and the Son Who suffered; and they who held it were on that account namedPATRIPASSIANS. But Sabellius of Ptolemais, A.D. 250, more fully developed the error, which from him has taken the name of SABELLIANISM; and from his peculiar theory, that of MODALISM or the manifestation of the Deity in three personal Modes. Its philosophical principle was Pantheistic; the same God who is the Father evolving Himself in the Son and Spirit. Modern speculations have constantly reproduced this conception. More popularly stated, the doctrine simply assumes that the One God appeared first as Jehovah, then more clearly to the creature as the Son, then more fully and spiritually as the Holy Ghost.
SUBORDINATIONISM AND THE PRINCIPATUS OF THE FATHER.
The general idea ofSUBORDINATIONISM, or the introduction of a gradation in the Three Persons, took various forms. Its beginnings were simply the result of indistinctness in phrase. So Justin writes of the Son as en deutera chora, and of the Spirit as en trith tazei.
It was aided by the gradual development of a Logos-doctrine, which distinguished between the Logos endiathetos, eternal but impersonal reason in God, and the Logos prophorikos, a personal existence begotten in the Divine essence as the Firstborn of Creation and its Archetype. Opposition to Sabellianism stimulated speculation of this kind to the utmost. Clement of Alexandria, and still more Origen, did much to displace from the controversy the theological term Logos, and to substitute that of the Son: a change which was pregnant with important consequences. Origen established the Eternal Sonship: est namque ita aeterna, ac sempiterna generatio, sicut splendor generativa a luce, almost the very language of the Nicene Creed. It has been said that he laid too much stress upon the origination of the Hypostases in the Eternal will. But this is hardly consistent with his constant affirmation that "the Onlybegotten was ever coexisting with God," and his interpretation of the day in which the Son was begotten as the everpresent Now of eternity, and his protest against the Arian formula " Once the Son was not" by anticipation. His followers certainly perverted his words, and have done much to connect his name with that error. On the whole, both the ante-Nicene and post-Nicene teachers labored with all their skill to preserve the Monarchia, or Unity of the Divine essence, by representing the Father as the Fountain of the Deity and its representative: so interpreting the eternal Gift of life in Himself to the Son, and the Eternal Procession of the Spirit.
They laid great stress on the mystery of the derived but eternally derived Divinity of the Son and the Holy Ghost, as rendering easy the descent of thought to the subordination of Both Persons in redemption. But the term Subordination came into use at a later time, as also that of the Principatus of the Father. The latter is not quite unobjectionable: the former is obviously perilous, from the difficulty of admitting a subordination in any sense which does not include inferiority. But of this more hereafter when Arminianism is before us.
It was the doctrine of Arius that the Son was a pure creature, and Son only by adoption, the perfection and origin of creation; made out of nothing, produced before all worlds: the link or medium between God and the universe. This heresy was condemned by the first (Ecumenical Council at Nicaea, A.D, 325. But a modification known as Semi- Arianism arose and obtained prevalence as the result of a certain indefiniteness in the language of the Nicene Council. The orthodox watchword, omoonsios, OF THESAME SUBSTANCE, was opposed, even by some of the orthodox, as tending to Sabellianism.
Changing it into omoiousios, OFLIKE SUBSTANCE, some attempted to effect a compromise; but in vain, as between consubstantiality with God and mere likeness to the Divine nature there is an immeasurable gulf. The undue subordination of the Spirit had not been taught by the earlier Fathers; though they were sometimes lax in the figures they used, following a certain freedom in the Scripture. It has been represented that they sometimes identified Him with the Son; but it must be remembered that Theophilus, who is charged with this, speaks of the Trias, preceding Tertullian's Latinised Trnitas in the second century. Origen's teaching had erred more against the Spirit than it had against the Son. Arius, of necessity, having reduced the Son to a Divine creature, taught that the Spirit was the first creation of that Firstborn creature; though he maintained that the Son and the Holy Ghost, both persons, were much more intimately near to God than to the created universe. Semi-Arianism, which had gone as far as it could in making the Son the unchangeable Image of the Father, was not quite so solicitous to maintain the dignity of the Spirit. Macedonius, one of that party, has connected his name with the sect called that of the Pneumatomachoi or Enemies of the Spirit, which, after much private controversy, was condemned at the second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople, A.D. 381. But this council, though it established or defended the Personality and Deity of the Holy Ghost, did not determine His specific relation to the Father and the Son. It was not until A.D.
594. at a synod held in Toledo, that the termFILIOQUE was added to the Nicene Creed, defining that the Spirit proceeded from the Father AND THE SON by an Eternal Spiration corresponding to the Eternal Generation. The assertion of this conjunction of the Son with the Father as the Eternal Origin of the Spirit was one main cause of the permanent rupture between the Western Church which held, and the Eastern Church which rejected, the Double Procession of the Third Person of the Trinity.
DECISIONS AND CREEDS.
The ecumenical definition of the doctrine, as against heresy, was the chief theological labor of the fourth century. The decisions expressed in the Creeds gave birth to a discussion that settled the leading theological terms which protect them.
The CouncilsOF NICAEA, A.D. 325, and of CONSTANTINOPLE, A.D. 381—the first universal or ecumenical—vindicated for ever the doctrine of the Trinity: the former in relation to the Son, the latter in relation to the Holy Ghost. The former, the history of which should be carefully studied, was summoned mainly for the condemnation of Arius, who maintained that the Son, " before He was begotten or created, had no being; that He was brought into existence by the will of God before the world: hon pote ote ouk hn ez ouk onton estin, there was a time when He was not, and He was produced from nothing; being not of the same substance with the Father, but as a creature mutable," and of course therefore liable to fall. The answer of the Synod determined that the Son was ek ths ousias tou patros, gennhtheis ou poihtheis, omoousios yo patri. This last term, the Homousion, became the watchword of orthodoxy: the Son was of the same essence or substance with the Father. After the honor of the Second Person was vindicated, occasion soon arose for the like vindication of the Holy Ghost, The teaching of Macedonius was to the Third Person what that of Arius was to the Second. He called Him diakonos KAI UPHRETHS, but not in the sense of the New Testament. The second or Constantinopolitan Council asserted that He was " the Lord, the zoopoion, or Lifegiver, worshipped and glorified, with the Father and the Son." His ekporeusis, or Procession, was from the Father; but, as we have seen, two centuries later FILIOQUE, from the Son, was added.
THE THREE CREEDS.
TheTHREE CREEDS may be regarded as the final and permanent expression of these ecumenical decisions.
1. TheNICENE, or, as enlarged at Constantinople, the NICAENO-CONSTANTINOPOLITAN symbol, is the chief of these, as having a more definite theological character than the Apostles', and, unlike the Athanasian, being accepted by universal Christendom, the Greek Church excepting only one clause. It defines, as including the Toledan Filioque, the eternal generation of the Son, GOD OF GOD, and the eternal Procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son: thus establishing the true doctrine of Sub-ordination against Tritheism and Arianism. It declares the equal worship due to the Three: thus establishing the true doctrine of the Unity against Sabellianism.
2. TheAPOSTLES' CREED, or Symbolum Apostolicum, was not finished in its present form until after the Nicene; but, so far as concerns the doctrine of the Three Persons, was the earliest, being simply an expansion of the Baptismal Formula. The assertion of the Triune Name is limited to its historical revelation in the creating and the redeeming work. The dogmatic definition of the Trinity, whether absolute or economical, is absent.
3. TheATHANASIAN CREED, or Symbolum Quicunque; from its first word, was never ecumenically adopted, being a private document of unknown origin: probably of the sixth century, and of the school of Augustine. It contains the most elaborate statement of the dogmatic relations of the One Divine Nature and the Three Persons of the Triad, as well as of the Two Natures and the One Person in Christ, that is to be found, and is an exquisite study of orthodox logical distinctions. But its damnatory clauses are alien to the spirit of a profession of faith; and, moreover, its doctrine of the Trinity, like that of the other two, does not give due prominence to its redemptional aspect.
There can be no doubt that the Holy Spirit watched over these decisions; but it would be presumptuous to assert the same special Providence for the endless dogmatic controversies that followed. It is impossible to summarize the history, but the result may be given in the conventional application of a certain Vocabulary which has had a fixed place in subsequent theology.
1. The terms Ousia in the Greek, and Essentia or Substantia in the Latin, with Theotos, were reserved for the essential Godhead, or what may be called the Nature of Deity. The terms upostasis, idiotos, and prosopon, were limited to the distinction of the Persons: the first, which really means substantial reality, was adopted in preference to the last, which, as meaning a form or presentation, might bear a Sabellian construction. Persona in the Latin, was exposed to the same objection; but it has triumphed, and has ever since shared with the Latinised term Hypostasis the function of expressing the reality of the Godhead of each Suppositum Intelligens, or self conscious Agent, in the Holy Trinity. While the Modalist or Sabellian danger was thus avoided—allos kai allos, not allo kai allo, —the Fathers of that age, of whom Athanasius was the leader in the East, and afterwards Augustine in the West, did not teach that the Three Persons represented a common nature as three men represent the common humanity. They held that the unity was numerical; and that, in a sense unsearchable, the entire Godhead is in each Person. To express this, they used the word perixorhsis, which is sufficiently explained by the Latin equivalents, Interactio, or Interexistentia, or Intercommunio.
2. The question of Subordination was at the heart of every discussion; but neither Greek nor Latin gave a watchword for this. The same divines, however, who laid stress on the numerical unity of the Divine essence, zealously maintained the eternal derivation of the Son, quoad Son, from the Father: thus teaching a subordination of relation, without involving inferiority of essence. The following words of Augustine express the thought of antiquity on this subject, which, nevertheless, as he admits, passeth knowledge: "Pater quod est a nullo est: quod autem Pater est, propter Filium est. Filius vero et quod Filius est, propter Patrem est; et quod est, a Patre est." But another sentence, following hard on the former, shows the poverty of all thinking on this dread mystery: "Filius non tantum ut sit Filius, quod relative dicitur, sed omnino ut sit, ipsam substantiam nascendo habet." In one sentence the Person only of the Son is of the Father; in the other the essence, as well as the Filial Property, is begotten. The latter seems to have been the general strain of antiquity in its method of treating this inscrutable question.
The Mediaeval Schoolmen exhausted their subtlety on this profound subject; but added nothing of permanent value.
1. Their speculations tended to Tritheism or Sabellianism in the measure of their leaning towardsNOMINALISM or REALISM respectively. The Nominalist philosophy, which allowed nothing but nominal existence to the essence or general nature represented by the individual as a specimen, obviously though unintentionally led to Tritheism. The Realist philosophy, which asserted the reality of the nature behind the individual, was more faithful to the Trinity in Unity. The controversy between Roscellinus the Nominalist, and Anselm the Realist, was an important chapter in the history of an endless controversy, which spread into a number of side-issues, embracing almost every point that has over been raised. It will be at once perceived that the opposite extremes would naturally suggest to some minds a compromise: the realist Essence and the nominalist Three Persons, each both essence and individual, would naturally lead to TETRATHEISM, Damian of Alexandria, and some others, fell into the snare of a fourfold Divinity. But the general soundness of the Schoolmen may be gathered from the terminology they established in their analysis: they introduced into the expression of the dogma those distinctions of paternity, filiation, community of nature, and relations, and properties which we shall find reasserted in a better form by the Reformation divines.
2. Both the mysticism and the dialectics of the Middle Ages freely explored the analogies by which the mystery of the doctrine might be reconciled with human reason. This style of argument or meditation they inherited from the early Fathers, and transmitted to modern philosophy after exhausting it themselves. Analogies were derived from many regions. The light, radiance, and heat of the sun, which is neither of the three alone, but one in their trinity; the fountain, flux, and stream; the root, the stem, the flower; the intellect, will, and feeling of human nature, as also its body, soul, spirit; thesis, analysis, synthesis in the order of the one thought, or the subject, object, and identity of the two: — all these were then brought into the service of an un-conscious Rationalism and are in its service still.
3. The last of these trios suggests the modern semi-philosophical, semi-Christian, views of the Trinity, which have lately carried the circle of human thinking back to the speculations of the earliest Pantheism. The so-called Science of Religion shows and proves that most if not all of the Theistic conceptions of antiquity took the form of a Pantheistic Triad; feeling after if haply they might find the Trinity, and so paying an important though unintentional tribute to eternal truth. Thus the Hondo Brahm was the essential Being; Vishnu, as revealed in the universe; Siva, as returning into being again.
Buddhism wanders from this in the direction of the Persian Dualism. Greek philosophy, as represented by Plato, was cast in the same mould; so much so that the Christian doctrine has been represented as a Neo-Platonist importation into Christianity of Plato's three Principia, derived from Parmenides: the first, to on, the Cause of all things; the second, the Logos, the Reason and Ruler of all things produced into existence; the third, the psuche kosmos, or the soul of the world. Nothing can be more certain than that the Trinity of personal hypostases glimmered in the writings of Plato; and that his speculations exerted much influence upon ante-Nicene Christian thought and language, as they were interpreted by the aid of Philo, and formed into a system by Ammonius Saccas. But it requires only a very slight comparison to show that the doctrine of the Trinity which the New Testament most clearly contains is in its very fundamental principles a new revelation, and not merely an ancient speculation disencumbered of some of its tributaries. Modern Pantheism has reproduced the old thoughts in a new phraseology which is as baffling to the under-standing as it is opposed to Scripture. It is impossible to put into other words than their own their speculations. . But they are all variations on the notion of Hegel that the Trinity is the formal expression of the movement of the Absolute Spirit, Who becomes another in the universe and as Spirit knows Himself and returns into His own being. Whatever change modern Pantheism has introduced into the older system of thought is altogether in favor of the Christian doctrine, though the Christian doctrine must utterly disavow its method of presenting it.
The communities of the Reformation retained the Three Creeds of antiquity, and were generally faithful to the doctrine of the Trinity, as in its absolute so also and especially in its Redemption or Evangelical aspect.
1. The Lutheran and Reformed formularies contain nothing entirely new, but their dogmatic standards in particular abound in careful analysis, the sum of which is as follows. One Divine Essence subsists in Three Persons: the unity is numerical, the plurality is hypostatical. The distinction is connected and harmonized with the unity by the term Perixorosis (Circulation or Inter-action), which signifies generally that in the Eternal Trinity the whole Godhead must be regarded as in each Person, whether it respects nature or operation. The hypostatic character of each Person may be referred to the essence or the relation to each other. The internal properties of the Persons are five: to the Father belong the words unbegotten (agennosia) and paternity, to the Father and the Son, spiration; to the Son, filiation; to the Spirit, procession. The internal Acts are two: generation and spiration. These are distinctive; but the external acts are three, creation, redemption, sanctification, and these are common to the Three Persons. All the elements of the dogmatic study of the doctrine are here: the legitimate extension of the Athanasian Creed. But there is this difference in favor of the dogmatics of the Reformation: their exhibition of the Absolute Trinity has always interwoven with it an Evangelical reference to the Redemptional aspect of the doctrine.
2. After the Reformation most of the ancient types of error reappeared in various forms adapted to altered circumstances. Christian theology, which then took a new departure, had to pursue its way through the same course of controversy. But it may be said that the doctrine of the Trinity was now not so much directly opposed as indirectly. It was not at first the object of curious speculation in itself. Its enemies were now more pronounced; and, departing from the truth in every form, appeared as Socinian Unitarians: denying the Divinity of Christ with the Personality of the Holy Ghost, and thus reviving a form of error which had long been unknown. The theological ground shifts to that of the Person of Christ. But, in process of time; the ancient Sabellianism returned in a tone of speculation and phraseology which has infected many communities, but never formed a distinct community for itself. Modern Sabellianism assumed its philosophical and mystical character in Schleiermacher's theology; its almost equally influential and scarcely less mystical expression in Swedenborgianism.
(1.) The fundamental principle of the philosophy of Emmanuel Swedenborg was the unity of all things in the duality of physical and spiritual existence: these two being, as it were, conjugates or counterparts, in perfect correspondence with each other and eternally related. Pantheism reduced all to the unity of matter and spirit; but Swedenborg, who was no Pantheist, simply made the phenomenal universe the visible expression of spiritual realities, man being in communion with the other world, or capable of communion with it, through a certain spiritual body belonging to his nature which religion reveals to him though religion does not create it. The theology based on this principle, which Swedenborg professed to receive as a new revelation, affects every point of Christian doctrine, and of course that of the Trinity. The Supreme Being also has form as well as spirit, and His form is that which we know in ourselves as human. In Him is a trinity of principles, but not of personal subsistences. As the twofold body of man is one body with a spirit energizing outwardly, so the distinction popularly called that of Father and Son is only the distinction of the Eternal God-man and the Same taking a human body in the Virgin to make it operative through the Holy Ghost. "Before the creation of the world this Trinity did not exist, but it was provided and made since the creation, when God became incarnate, and then centered in the Lord God." In Jesus this outward body was, unlike ours, glorified into an infinite spirituality. Swedenborg's speculations, the most remarkable of modern times, are, as touching our present doctrine, Sabellian. And every argument against that ancient system of thought is valid against this modern representative of it.
(2.) The system of Schleiermacher is more Pantheistic than this, but it is a Sabellianised Pantheism. Like Swedenborg, though on different principles, he held Christ to be the only God: the Father in Himself or in the universe is the Son in Jesus, the Ideal or Pattern man, and the Spirit is the same God in Nature and in the Church. The introduction of the Divine life into humanity in or through Christ makes God man and man God. There is no preexistence of the Son or of the Holy Ghost. Translating all this into the language of philosophy, Deity as the Absolute Being is the Father, He comes to consciousness of Himself in the Son, and returns to Himself in the Spirit. In its simplest form this runs back into the speculations of the Schoolmen and indeed of most deep thinkers from the beginning: from Augustine and Anselm to Melanchthon, Leibnitz and Martensen. On the ground that man is created in the image of God this style of thought conceives of the Supreme according to the analogy of human nature, God cannot, any more than man, be eternally self-conscious without being objective to Himself and 'knowing the identity. In man the objective Ego is ideal, and the same person as the subjective. But in the infinity of the Divine Essence this analogy fails: He must as Trinity be Three Persons. But it is plain that whatever service the analogy renders—and it has satisfied or seemed to satisfy some of the profoundest intellects—it leads to a Sabellian conception.
(3.) It enters here only because the early Arian and Semi-Arian teachers laid so much stress on the Theiotos or Divinity of the two subordinate Beings. They were regarded as the bond, or rather the intermediary links, between the Absolute and the conditioned, the Infinite and the finite: looking toward the creature they were firstborn or rather first created before the worlds; but looking Godward they were more directly emanations of the Monad than the creature. The doctrine was a speculative substitution for the Gnostic errors of aeonic emanation. It was and is wherever held a refuge in which philosophical thought, always striving to reach unity, concinnity, and the solution of mystery, dreams of explaining a God with triple gradation linking continuously the Finite and the infinite, the Absolute and the conditioned.
3. The early Arianism also has been sporadic. It has molded opinion very extensively in later Christendom: never shaping a formulary or founding a sect, but; influencing the thoughts of many thinkers and coloring the sentiments of poetry, and infusing itself into the devotions of many who are almost unconscious of their error. The history of Arian tendency in England is an important and instructive one: it brings in some great names in our philosophical and theological literature; but it shows that the healthy common sense of readers of the Scripture has never and never will accept this compromise. Either the New Testament must be rejected as a final authority and the Deistic Rationalism of Unitarianism accepted, or, the Scriptures being received as the Rule of Faith, theFULNESS OF THE GODHEAD must be adored in the incarnate Son. 1 This subject also belongs rather to Christology or the Person of Christ.
1 Col. 2:9.
4. Subordinationism was exaggerated by the Remonstrant divines, especially those of the later age of Arminianism. The difference between the true doctrine on this subject, as already exhibited, and the error into which it easily declines, may be marked in the following words of Episcopius: "Patri soli proprie divinitatis perfectionem seu akmon competere, quod eam a se ipso, hoc est, a nullo alio habeat. Unde consequitur, Patrem sic esse primum ut etiam summus sit,TUM ORDINE, TUM DIGNITATE, TUM POTESTATE." And, with less offence, in those of Limborch "Dignius siquidem est generare quam generari, spirare quam spirari." It is well known that the tone of Arminian thought on this incomprehensible subject glided downwards by sure though imperceptible degrees towards Unitarianism.
A close study of the variations in opinion on this topic, following the bare outlines thus given, will lead to some important practical conclusions.
1. The doctrine of the ever-blessed Trinity is essential to Christianity: there is no Theology, there is no Christology without it. That the one Divine essence exists in three eternal, coequal, personal subsistences is the foundation of the Christian Faith. This has been the catholic belief, as the catholic interpretation of Scripture. Whatever exception may be taken to dogmatic definitions, the eternal underlying truth is the life of the Christian revelation. What will be hereafter exhibited as the Mediatorial Trinity is only the mystery of the Absolute Trinity as revealed in the salvation of man.
2. Again, it cannot be denied that the best and purest teaching on this subject has laid emphasis on the mystery of an eternal subordination, in the Scriptural sense of the term, in the interior relations of the Two Persons of the Trinity to the First, The simple statement of the Nicene Creed which assertsONE GOD at the outset, and that the Eternal Son is GOD OF GOD, expresses the faith of the Church. But it is difficult to draw the line, either in thought or by word, between truth and error here. Our Lord gives us a revelation in words which suggests its defense, though they cannot reveal to the human intellect the full conception of the truth. As the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to THE SON to have life in Himself. 1 These words refer to the Eternal Son. His authority in time and human things follows with a change in the expression: and hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is THE SON OF MAN. And these together constitute the ground of an equal Divine reverence: That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honored not the Son honored not the Father which hath sent Him. 2 This subject, however, must be remitted to the doctrine of the Person of Christ, where it will be seen that the Eternal Generation of the Second Person is the sacred though most incomprehensible link connecting Him with the Incarnation and our new sonship derived from that. We may object to the language of earlier theology which ventured to speak of the Father as the Autotheos, the Fons, Origo, and Principium of the Divinity; as well as to that interpretation of My Father is greater than I, 3 assigning an inferiority to the Eternal Son, which Hilary thus expresses: " Et quis non Patrem potiorem confitebitur, ut ingenitum a genito, ut patrem a filio, ut eum qui miserit ab eo qui missus est, ut volentem ab ipso qui obediat? Et ipse nobis erit testis: Pater major me est. Haec ita ut sunt, intelligenda sunt, sed cavendum est, ne apud imperitos gloriam Filii honor Patris infirmet." This last clause is the sheet-anchor of our security. And, always remembering this, we may give the ETERNAL SONSHIP and the ETERNAL PROCESSION their place in our silent thought as an infinite solution of what is still an infinite mystery, and accept the words of Bishop Pearson: " It is no diminution to the Son, to say He is from Another, for His very name imports as much; but it were a diminution to the Father to speak so of Him; and there must be some preeminence, where there is no place for derogation. What the Father is He is from None; what the Son is, He is from Him; what the first is He giveth; what the second is, He receiveth. The first is Father indeed by reason of His Son, but He is not God by reason of Him; whereas the Son is not so only in regard of the Father, but also God by reason of the same."
1 John 5:26,27:
John 14: 28.
3. While it is obvious, on the one hand, that no human language
can utter this mystery,
Theology, both scientific and practical, demands that the
Trinitarian phraseology should
be ordered with careful precision as at least guarding the truth
against the approach of
error. After all that may be said as to the inadequacy of human
words, and the absence of
definitions from Scripture, it still remains true that many
others besides those of the New
Testament must be used both in teaching and in worship.
3. While it is obvious, on the one hand, that no human language can utter this mystery, Theology, both scientific and practical, demands that the Trinitarian phraseology should be ordered with careful precision as at least guarding the truth against the approach of error. After all that may be said as to the inadequacy of human words, and the absence of definitions from Scripture, it still remains true that many others besides those of the New Testament must be used both in teaching and in worship.AS it regards the scientific terminology of the doctrine it is well to be familiar with the terms that express the relations of the One to the Three-in-One. No thoughtful student will either discard or undervalue them. The Deity is the Divine ESSENCE or SUBSTANCE or NATURE; the Three are SUBSISTENCES, HYPOSTASES, and PERSONS: the, last words of these counterpart series are philosophically the least exact, but they are the conventional and sacred language of the teaching, preaching, and worshipping Church. So also with regard to our practical and ordinary language. Nowhere is precision more necessary than in the ordering of the phraseology of worship. The mind and the tongue must be so educated as to recoil from such language as is tinctured with either the Tritheistic, or the Sabellian, or the Arian error. One of the results of careful and reverent study will be the discipline that shall make every word faithful to the equal honor of each of the Three Adorable Persons in the unity of the Other Two, and in the unity of the Godhead: adoring and praying to each with this sacred reservation. But, after all, we must remember what the ancient Church was never weary of enforcing in relation to this subject: the Nature of God is arrhtos, INEFFABILIS unsearchable and unspeakable; the Godhead can be known only by him who is hodidaktos, taught of God: and that knowledge itself is and will eternally be only ek merouss, IN PART.