Theological Institutes

Part Second - Doctrines of the Holy Scriptures

By Richard Watson

Chapter 8

GOD.-The Trinity in Unity.

WE now approach this great mystery of our faith, for the declaration of which we are so exclusively indebted to the Scriptures that not only is it incapable of proof a priori; but it derives no direct confirmatory evidence from the existence, and wise and orderly arrangement, of the works of God. It stands, however, on the unshaken foundation of his own word; that testimony which he has given of himself in both Testaments; and if we see no traces of it, as of his simple being and ope­rative perfections, in the works of his creative power and wisdom, the reason is that creation in itself could not be the medium of manifesting, or of illustrating it. Some, it is true, have thought the trinity of Divine persons in the unity of the Godhead demonstrable by natural reason. Poiret and others, formerly, and Professor Kidd, recently, have all attempted to prove, not that this doctrine implies a contradiction, but that it cannot be denied without a contradiction; and that it is impossi­ble but that the Divine nature should so exist. The former endeavours to prove that neither creation, nor indeed any action in the Deity was possible, but from this tri-unity. But his arguments, were they adduced, would scarcely be considered satisfactory, even by those whose belief in the doctrine is most settled. The latter argues from notions of dura­tion and space, which themselves have not hitherto been satisfactorily established, and if they had, would yield but slight assistance in such an investigation. This, however, may be said respecting such attempts, that they at least show, that men, quite as eminent for strength of understanding, and logical acuteness, as any who have decried the doc trine of the trinity as irrational and contradictory, find no such opposition in it to the reason, or to the nature of things, as the latter pretend to be almost self evident. The very opposite conclusions reached by the parties, when they reason the matter by the light of their own intel­lect only, is a circumstance, it is true, which lessens our confidence in pretended rational demonstrations; but it gives neither party a right to assume any thing at the expense of the other. Such failures ought, indeed, to produce in us a proper sense of the inadequacy of human powers to search the deep things of God; and they forcibly exhibit the necessity of Divine teaching in every thing which relates to such subjects, and demand from us an entire docility of mind, where God him­self has condescended to become our instructer.

More objectionable than the attempts which have been made to prove this mystery by mere argument, are pretensions to explain it; whether, by what logicians call immanent acts of Deity upon himself from whence arise the relations of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; or by assuming that the trinity is the same as the three "essential primalities, or active powers in the Divine essence, power, intellect, and will,"[1] for which they invent a kind of personification; or, by alleging that the three persons are "Deus seipsum intelligens, Dews a seipso intellectus, et Deus a seipso amatus." All such hypotheses either darken the counsel they would explain, by "words without knowledge," or assume principles, which, when expanded into their full import, are wholly inconsistent with the doctrine as it is announced in the Scripture, and which their advocates have professed to receive.

It is a more innocent theory, that types and symbols of the mystery of the trinity are found in various natural objects. From the fathers, many have illustrated the trinity of persons in the same Divine nature by the analogy of three or more men having each the same human nature; by the union of two natures of man in one person; by the trinity of intellectual primary faculties in the soul, power, intellect, and will, "posse, scire, velle," which they say are not three parts of the soul, "it being the whole soul quae potest, quae intelligit, et quae vult ;" by motion, light, and heat in the sun, with many others. Of these instances, however, we may observe, that even granting them all to be philoso­phically true, they cannot be proofs; they are seldom, or very inapplicably illustrations; and the best use to which they have ever been put, or of which they are indeed capable, is to silence the absurd objections which are sometimes drawn from things merely natural and finite, by answers which natural and finite things supply; though both the objections and the answers often prove, that the subject in question is too elevated and peculiar to be approached by such analogies. Of these illustrations, as they have been sometimes called, Baxter, though inclined to make too much of them, well enough observes,-" It is one thing to show in the creatures a clear demonstration of this trinity of persons, by showing an effect that fully answereth it, and another thing to show such vestigia, adumbration, or image of it, as hath those dissimilitudes which must be allowed in any created image of God. This is it which I am to do." (Christian Religion.) This excellent man has been charged, perhaps a little too hastily, with adopting one of the theories given above, as his own view of the trinity, a trinity of personified attributes, rather than of real persons. It must, however, be acknowledged, that he has given some occasion for the allegation, but his conclusion is worthy of himself, and instructive to all: -" But for my own part, as I unfeignedly account the doctrine of the trinity the very sum and kernel of the Christian religion, (as exprest in our bap­tism,) and Athanasius his creed, the best explication of it that ever I read; so I think it very unmeet in these tremendous mysteries to go farther than we have God's own light to guide us." (Christ. Religion.)

The term person has been variously taken. It signifies in ordinary language an individual substance of a rational or intelligent nature.[2] In the strict philosophical sense, it has been said, two or more persons would be two or more distinct beings. If the term person were so applied to the trinity in the Godhead, a plurality of Gods would follow while if taken in what has been called a political sense, personality would be no more than relation, arising out of office. Personality in God is, therefore, not to be understood in either of the above senses, if respect be paid to the testimony of Scripture. God is one being; this is admitted on both sides. But he is more than one being in three rela­tions; for personal acts, that is, such acts as we are used to ascribe to distinct persons, and which we take most unequivocally to characterize personality, are ascribed to each. The Scripture doctrine therefore is that the persons are not separate, but distinct; that they "are united' persons, or persons having no separate existence, and that they are so united as to be but one being, one God." In other words, that the one Divine nature exists tinder the personal distinction of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

"The word person," Howe remarks, "must not be taken to signify the same thing, when spoken of God and of ourselves." That is, not in all respects. Nevertheless it is the only word which can express the sense of those passages, in which personal acts are unequivocally ascribed to each of the Divine subsistences in the Godhead. Perhaps, however, one may be allowed to doubt whether, in all respects, the term person may not be taken to signify "the same thing" in us and in God. It is true, as before observed, that three persons among men or angels, would convey the idea of three different and separate beings; but it may be questioned whether this arises from any thing necessarily conveyed in the idea of personality. We have been accustomed to observe personality only in connection with separate beings; but this separation seems to be but a circumstance connected with personality, and not any thing which arises out of personality itself. Dr. Waterland clearly defines the term person, as it must be understood in this contro­versy, to be "an intelligent agent, having the distinct characters, I, THOU, LIE." That one being should necessarily conclude one person only, is, however, what none can prove from the nature of things; and all that can be affirmed on the subject is, that it is so in fact among all intelligent creatures with which we are acquainted. Among them, dis tinct persons are only seen in separate beings, but this separation of being is clearly an accident of personality; for the circumstance of separation forms no part of the idea of personality itself, which is con­fined to a capability of performing personal acts. In God, the distinct persons are represented as having a common foundation in one being: but this union also forms no part of the idea of personality, nor can be proved inconsistent with it. The manner of the union, it is granted, is incomprehensible, and so is Deity himself, and every essential attribute with which his nature is invested.

It has been said, that the term person is not used in Scripture, and some who believe the doctrine it expresses, have objected to its use. To such it may be sufficient to reply, that provided that which is clearly stated in Scripture, be compendiously expressed by this term, and cannot so well be expressed, except by an inconvenient periphrasis, it ought to be retained. They who believe such a distinction in the Godhead as amounts to a personal distinction, will not generally be disposed to sur­render a word which keeps up the force of the Scriptural idea; and they who do not, object not to the term, but to the doctrine which it conveys. It is not, however, so clear, that there is not Scripture warrant for the term itself. Our translators so concluded, when in Heb. i, 3, they call the Son, "the express image" of the "person" of the Father. The ori­ginal word is hypostasis; which was understood by the Greek fathers to signify a person, though not, it is true, exclusively so used.[3] The sense of upostasi~ in this passage, must, however, be considered as fixed by the apostle's argument, by all who allow the Divinity of the Son of God. For the Son being called "the express image" of the Father, a distinction between the Son and the Father is thus unquestionably expressed; but if there be but one God, and the Son be Divine, the distinction here expressed cannot be a distinction of essence, and must therefore be a personal one. Nat from the Father's essence, but from the Father's hypostasis or person, can he be distinguished. This seems sufficient to have warranted the use of hypostasis in the sense of person in the early Church, and to authorize the latter term in our own lan­guage. In fact, it was by the adoption of the two great theological terms omocsio~ and upostasi~ that the early Church at length reared up impregnable barriers against the two leading heresies into which almost every modification of error as to the person of Christ may be resolved. The former, which is compounded of the same, and substance, stood opposed to the Arians, who denied that Christ was of the substance of the Father, that is, that he was truly God; the latter, when fixed in the sense of person, resisted the Sabellian scheme, which allowed the Divinity of the Son and Spirit, but denied their proper personality.

Among the leading writers in defence of the trinity, there are some shades of difference in opinion, as to what constitutes the unity of the three persons in the Godhead. Doddridge thus expresses these leading differences among the orthodox: - "Mr. Howe seems to suppose, that there are three distinct, eternal spirits, or distinct intelligent hypostases, each having his own distinct, singular, intelligent nature, united in such an inexplicable manner, as that upon account of their perfect harmony, consent, and affection, to which he adds their mutual self consciousness, they may be called the one God, as properly as the different corporeal, sensitive, and intellectual natures united may be called one man.

"Dr. Waterland, Dr. A. Taylor, with the rest of the Athanasians assert three proper distinct persons, entirely equal to, and independent upon each other, yet making up one and the same being; and that, though there may appear many things inexplicable in the scheme, it is to be charged to the weakness of our understanding, and not to the absurdity of the doctrine itself.

"Bishop Pearson, with whom Bishop Bull also agrees, is of opinion that though God the Father is the fountain of the Deity, the whole Di­vine nature is communicated from the Father to the Son, and from both to the Spirit, yet so as that the Father and the Son are not separate, nor separable from the Divinity, but do still exist in it, and are most intimately united to it. This was also Dr. Owen's scheme." (Lectures.)

The last view appears to comport most exactly with the testimony of Scripture, which shall be presently adduced.

Before we enter upon the examination of the Scriptural proofs of the trinity, it may be necessary to impress the reader with a sense of the importance of this revealed doctrine; and the mote so as it has been a part of the subtle warfare of the enemies of this fundamental branch of the common faith, to represent it as of little consequence, or as a matter of useless speculation. Thus Dr. Priestley, "All that can be said for it is, that the doctrine, however improbable in itself, is necessary to explain home particular texts of Scripture; and that, if it had not been for those particular texts we should have found no want of it, for there is neither any tact in nature, nor any one purpose of morals, which are the object and end of all religion, that requires it." (History of Early Opinions.)

The non importance of the doctrine has been a favourite subject with its opposers in all ages, that by allaying all fears in the minds of the unwary, as to the consequences of the opposite errors, they might be put off their guard, and be the more easily persuaded to part with "the faith delivered to the saints." The answer is, however, obvious.

1. The knowledge of God is fundamental to religion; and as we know nothing of him but what he has been pleased to reveal, and as these revelations have all moral ends, and are designed to promote piety and not to gratify curiosity, all that he has revealed of himself in par­ticular, must partake of that character of fundamental importance, which belongs to the knowledge of God in the aggregate. "This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." Nothing, therefore, can disprove the fundamental im­portance of the trinity in unity, but that which will disprove it to be a doctrine of Scripture.

2. Dr. Priestley allows, that this doctrine "is necessary to explain some particular texts of Scripture." This alone is sufficient to mark its importance; especially as it can be shown, that these " particular texts of Scripture" comprehend a very large portion of the sacred volume; that they are scattered throughout almost all the books of both Testa­ments; that they are not incidentally introduced only, but solemnly laid down as revelations of the nature of God; and that they manifestly give the tone both to the thinking and the phrase of the sacred writers on many other weighty subjects. That which is necessary to explain so many passages of holy writ, and without which, they are so incorrigibly unmeaning, that the Socinians have felt themselves obliged to submit to their evidence, or to expunge them from the inspired record, carries with it an importance of the highest character. So important, indeed, is it, upon the showing of these opposers of the truth themselves, that we can only preserve the Scriptures by admitting it; for they, first by excepting to the genuineness of certain passages, then by questioning the inspiration of whole books, and, finally, of the greater part, if not the whole New Testament, have nearly left themselves as destitute of a revelation from God as infidels themselves. No homage more ex­pressive has ever been paid to this doctrine, as the doctrine of the Scriptures, than the liberties thus taken with the Bible, by those who have denied it; no stronger proof can be offered of its importance, than that the Bible cannot be interpreted upon any substituted theory, they them-solves being the judges.

3. It essentially affects our views of God as the object of our worship, whether we regard him as one in essence, and one in person, or admit that in the unity of this Godhead there are three equally Divine persons. These are two very different conceptions. Both cannot be true. The God of those who deny the trinity, is not the God of those who worship the trinity in unity, nor on the contrary; so that one or the other worships what is "nothing in the world;" and, for any reality in the object of worship, might as well worship a pagan idol, which also, says St. Paul, "is nothing in the world." "If God be Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the duties owing to God will be duties owing to that triune distinction, which must be paid accordingly; and whoever leaves any of them out of his idea of God, conies so far short of honouring God perfectly, and of serving him in proportion to the manifestations he has made of himself." (Waterland.)

As the object of our worship is affected by our respective views on this great subject, so also its character. We are between the extremes of pure and acceptable devotion, and of gross and offensive idolatry, and must run to one or the other. . If the doctrine of the trinity be true, then those who deny it do not worship the God of the Scriptures, but a fiction of their own framing; if it be false, the trinitarian, by paying Divine honours to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, is equally guilty of idolatry, though in another mode.

Now it is surely important to determine this; and which is the most likely to have fallen into this false and corrupt worship, the very prima facie evidence may determine: -the trinitarian, who has the letter, and plain, common-sense interpretation of Scripture for his warrant; -or he who confesses that he must resort to all the artifices of criticism, and boldly challenge the inspiration of an authenticated volume, to get rid of the evidence which it exhibits against him, if taken in its first and most obvious meaning.[4] It is not now attempted to prove the Socinian heresy from the Scriptures; this has long been given up, and the main effort of all modem writers on that side has been directed to cavil at the adduced proofs of the opposite doctrine. They are as to Scripture argument, wholly on the defensive, and thus allow, at least, that they have no direct warrant for their opinions. We acknowledge, indeed, that the charge of idolatry would lie against us, could we be proved in error; but they seem to forget, that it lies against them, should they be in error; and that they are in this error, they themselves tacitly acknowledge, if the Scriptures, which they now in great measure reject, must determine the question. On that authority, we may unhesitatingly account them idolaters, worshippers of what "is nothing in the world;" and not of the God revealed in the Bible.[5] Thus, the only hope which is left to the Socinian, is hold on the same tenure as the hope of the Deist,-the forlorn hope that the Scriptures, which he rejects, are not true; for if those texts they reject, and those books which they hold of no autho­rity be established, then this whole charge, and its consequences, lie full against them.

4. Dr. Priestley objects, "that no fact in nature, nor any one purpose of morals, requires this doctrine." The first part of the objection is futile and trifling, if he meant that the facts of nature do not require this doctrine for their philosophical illustration; for who seeks the ex­plication of natural phenomena in theological doctrines? But there is one view in which even right views of the facts of nature depend upon proper views of the Godhead. All nature has a theological reason, and a theological end; and its interpretation in these respects, rests. wholh upon the person and office of our Lord. All things were made by the Son and for him; a theological view of the natural world, which is large or contracted, emphatic or spiritless, according to the conceptions which we form of time Son of God, "by whom, and for whom" it was built, and is preserved. The reason why the present circumstances of the natural world are, as before shown, neither wholly perfect, nor without large remains of original perfection; neither accordant with the condition of condemned, nor of innocent creatures; but adapted only to such a state of man as the redeeming scheme supposes; cannot, on the Socinian hypothesis, be discovered; for that redeeming scheme depends for its character upon our views of the person of Christ. Without a settled opinion on these points, we are therefore, in this respect also, without the key to a just and full explanation of the theological character of our present residence, the World.

Another relation of the natural world to theology, lies in its duration. It was made for Christ; and the reason which determines that it shall be burned up centres in him. He is appointed judge, and shall termi­nate the present scene of things, by destroying the frame of the visible universe, when the probation of its inhabitants shall have expired I beg time reader to turn to the remarks before made on the reason of a general judgment being found in the fact, that man is under grace, and not strict law; and the argument offered to show, that if we were under a covenant of mere obedience, no cause for such an appointment, as that of a general judgment, would be obvious. If those views be cor­rect, then the reason, both of a general judgment and the final destruc­tion of the world, is to be found in the system of redemption, arid consequently in such views of the person of Christ, as are not found in the Socinian scheme. The conclusion therefore is, that as "to facts in nature," even they are intimately connected, in several very important respects, which no wise man can overlook, with the doctrine of the trinity. Socinianism cannot explain the peculiar physical state of the world as connected with a state of trial; and the general judgment, and the "end of all things," bear no relation to its theology.

The connection of the orthodox doctrine with morals is, of course, still more direct and striking; and dim must have been that intellectual eye which could not discern that, granting to the believers in the trinity their own principles, its relation to morals is vital and essential. Whe­ther those principles are supported by the Scripture, is another con­sideration. If they could be disproved, then the doctrine ought to be rejected on a higher ground than that here urged; but to attempt to push it aside, on the pretence of its having no connection with morals, was but a very unworthy mode of veiling the case. For what are morals," but conformity to a Divine law, which law must take its cha­racter from its author? The trinitarian scheme is essentially connected with the doctrine of atonement; and what is called time unitarian theory necessarily excludes atonement. From this arise opposite views of God, as the Governor of the world; of the law under which we are placed; of the nature and consequences of sin, time violation of that law; points which have an essential relation to morals, because they affect the nature of the sanctions which accompany time law of God. He who denies the doctrine of time trinity, and its necessary adjunct, the atonement, makes sin a matter of comparatively trifling moment: God is not strict to punish it; and if punishment follow, it is riot eternal. Whether, under these soft arid easy views of the law of God, and of its transgression by sin, morals can have arm equal sanction, or human conduct be equally restrained, are points too obvious to be argued; but a subject which involves views of the judicial character of God so opposite, and of the evil and penalty of offence, must be considered as standing in time most intimate relation with every question of morals.! It is presumed, too, in the objection, that faith, or, in other words, a firm belief in the testimony of God, is no part of morality. It is, however, sufficient to place this matter in a very different light if we recollect, that to believe is so much a command that the highest sanction is connected with it. "He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned." Nothing, therefore, can be more important to us than to examine, with­out captiousness and the spirit of unbelief, what God hath revealed as the object of our faith, since the rejection of any revealed truth, under the influence of pride, whether of the reason or the heart; or through affectation of independence; or love of the world; or any other corrupt motive; must be certainly visited with punishment: the law of faith having the same authority, and the same sanction as the law of works. It is, therefore, a point of duty to believe, because it is a point of obedi­ence, and hence St. Paul speaks of "the obedience of faith." For as it has been well observed, "As to the nature of faith, it is a matter of obligation, as being that natural homage which the understanding or will pays to God in receiving and assenting to what he reveals upon his bare word or authority. It is a humiliation of ourselves, and a glorification of God." (Norris on Christian Prudence.) It may be added, too, that faith, which implies a submission to God, is an important branch also of discipline.

The objection, that there can be no faith where there is not sufficient evidence to command it, will not affect this conclusion. For when once the evidence of a Divine revelation is admitted, our duty to receive its doctrines does not rest upon the rational evidence we may have of their truth; but upon the much easier and plainer evidence, that they are among the things actually revealed, lie, therefore, who admits a Divine revelation, and rejects its doctrines, because he has not a satisfactory rational evidence of them, is more obviously criminal in his unbelief than he who rejects the revelation itself; for he openly debates the case with his Maker, a circumstance which indicates, in the most striking manner, a corrupt habit of mind. It is, indeed, often pretended, that such truths are rejected, not so much on this account, as that they do not appear to he the sense of the revelation itself. But this cannot be urged by those who openly lay it down as a principle, that a true revelation can contain nothing which to them appears unreasonable ; or that if it does, they are bound by the law of their nature not to admit it. N or will it appear to be any other than an unworthy and dishonest pre­tence in all cases where such kinds of criticism are resorted to, to alter the sense of a text, or to disprove its authority, as they would not allow in the case of texts supposed, by a partial construction, to favour their own opinion; or such as would be condemned by all learned and sober persons as hypercritical and violent, if applied to any other writings. It may also be added, that should any of the great qualities required in a serious and honest inquirer after truth have been uncultivated and unapplied, though a sincere conviction of the truth of an erroneous con­clusion may exist, the guilt of unbelief would not be removed by such kind of sincerity. If there has been no anxiety to be right; no prayer, earnest and devout, offered to God, to be kept from error; if an humble sense of human liability to err has not been maintained; if diligence in looking out for proofs, and patience and perseverance in inquiry, have not been exerted; if honesty in balancing evidence, and a firm resolution to embrace the truth, whatever prejudices or interests it may contradict or oppose, have not been felt; even sincerity in believing that to be true which in the present state of a judgment determined, probably, before all the means of information have been resorted to, and, perhaps, under the perverting influences of a worldly or carnal state of mind, may appear to be so, will be no excuse. We are under "a law of faith," and that law cannot be supposed to be so pliable and nugatory, as they who con. tend for the right of believing only what they please, would make it.

These observations will show the connection of the doctrine of the trinity with morals, the point denied by Dr. Priestley.

But, to leave this objection for views of a larger extent; our love to God, which is the sum of every duty, its sanctifying motive, and consequently a compendium of all true religion, is most intimately and even essentially connected with the doctrine in question. God's love to us is the ground of our love to him; and by our views of that, it must be heightened or diminished. The love of God to man in the gift of his Son is that manifestation of it on which the Scriptures most emphatically and frequently dwell, and on which they establish our duty of loving God and one another. Now the estimate which we are to take of the love of God, must be the value of his gifts to us. His greatest gift is the gift of his Son, through whom alone we have the promise of ever. lasting life; but our estimate of the love which gives must be widely different, according as we regard the gift bestowed,-as a creature, or as a Divine person,-as merely a Son of man, or as the Son of God. If the former only, it is difficult to conceive in what this love, constantly represented as "unspeakable" and astonishing, could consist. Indeed, if we suppose Christ to be a man only, on the Socinian scheme, or as an exalted creature, according to the Arians, God might be rather said to have "so loved his Son" than us, as to send him into the world, on a service so honourable, and which was to be followed by so high and vast a reward, that he, a creature, should be advanced to universal dominion and receive universal homage as the price only of temporary sufferings, which, upon either the Socinian or Arian scheme, were not greater than those which many of his disciples endured after him, and, in many instances, not so great.[6]

For the same reason, the doctrine which denies our Lord's Divinity diminishes the love of Christ himself, takes away its generosity and devotedness, presents it under views infinitely below those contained in the New Testament, and weakens the motives which are drawn from it to excite our gratitude and obedience. "If Christ was in the form of God, equal with God, and very God, it was then an act of infinite love and condescension in him to become man; but if he was no more than a creature, it was no surprising condescension to embark in a work so glorious; such as being the Saviour of mankind, and such as would advance him to be Lord and Judge of the world, to be admired, reverenced, and adored, both by men and angels." (Waterland's Importance.) To this it may be added, that the idea of disinterested generous hove, such as the love of Christ is represented to be by the evangelists and the apostles, cannot be supported upon any supposition but that he was properly a Divine person. As a man and as a creature only, how­ever exalted, he would have profited by his exaltation; but, considered as Divine, Christ gained nothing. God is full and perfect-he is exalted "above blessing and praise :" and, therefore, our Lord, in that Divine nature, prays that he might be glorified with the Father, with the glory he had BEFORE. Not a glory which was new to him; not a glory heightened in its degree; but the glory which he had with the Father "before the world was." In a manner mysterious to us, even as to his Divine nature, "he emptied himself-he humbled himself;" but in that nature he returned to a glory which he had before the world was. The whole, therefore, was in him generous disinterested love, ineffable and affecting condescension. The heresy of the Socinians and Arians totally annihilates, therefore, the true character of the love of Christ, "so that," as Dr. Sherlock well observes, "to deny the Divinity of Christ, alters the very foundations of Christianity, and destroys all the powerful arguments of the love, humility, and condescension of our Lord, which are the peculiar motives of the Gospel." (Defence of Stilling­fleet)

But it is not only in this view that the denial of the Divinity of our Lord would alter the foundation of the Christian scheme, but in others equally essential: For,

1. The doctrine of satisfaction or atonement depends upon his Divi­nity; and it is, therefore, consistently denied by those who reject the former. So important, however, is the decision of this case, that the very terms of our salvation, and the ground of our hope, are affected by it.

The Arians, now however nearly extinct, admitted the doctrine of atonement, though inconsistently. "No creature could merit from God, or do works of supererogation. If it be said that God might accept it as he pleased, it may be said upon the same principle, that lie might accept the blood of bulls and of goats. Yet the apostle tells that it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin; which words resolve the satisfaction, not merely into God's free accept­ance, but into the intrinsic value of the sacrifice." (Waterland's import ance.) Hence the Scriptures so constantly connect the atonement with the character,-the very Divinity of the person suffering. It was Jeho­vah who was pierced, Zecli. xii, 11; God who purchased the Church with his own blood, Acts xx, 28. It was o Despoth~ the high Lord, that bought us, 2 Pet. ii, 1. It was the Lord of glory that was crucified, 1 Cor. ii, 8.

It is no small presumption of the impossibility of holding, with any support from the common sense of mankind, the doctrine of atonement with that of an inferior Divinity, that these opinions have so uniformly slided down into a total denial of it, and by almost all persons, except those who have retained the pure faith of the Gospel, Christ is regarded as a man only; and no atonement, in any sense, is allowed to have been made by his death. The terms, then, of human salvation are entirely different on one scheme and on the other; and with respect to their advocates, one is "under law," the other "under grace ;" one takes the cause of his own salvation into his own hands to manage it as he is able, and to plead with God, either that he is just, or that he may be justified by his own penitence and acts of obedient virtue; the other pleads the meritorious death and intercession of his Saviour, in his name and mediation makes his requests known unto God, and asks a justifi­cation by faith, and a renewal of heart by the Holy Ghost. One stands with all his offences before his Maker, and in his own person, without a mediator and advocate; the other avails himself of both. A question which involves such consequences is surely not a speculative one; but deeply practical and vital, and must be found to be so in its final issue.

2. The manner in which the evil of sin is estimated must be very dif­ferent, on these views of the Divine nature respectively; and this is a consequence of a directly practical nature. Whatever lowers in men a sense of what an apostle calls "the exceeding sinfulness of sin," weakens the hatred and horror of it among men, and by consequence encourages it. In the Socinian view, transgressions of the Divine law are all regarded as venial, or, at most, to be subjected to slight and temporary punishment. In the orthodox doctrine, sin is an evil so great in itself, so hateful to God, so injurious in its effects, so necessary to be restrained by punishment, that it dooms the offender to eternal exclusion from God, and to positive endless punishment, and could only be forgiven through a sacrifice of atonement, so extraordinary as that of the death of the Divine Son of God. By these means, forgiveness only could be promised; and the neglect of them, in order to pardon and sanctification too, aggravates the punishment, and makes the final visitation of justice the more terrible.

3. It totally changes the character of Christian experience. Those strong and painful emotions of sorrow and alarm, which characterize the descriptions and example of REPENTANCE in the Scriptures, are totally incongruous and uncalled for, upon the theory which denies man's lost condition, amid his salvation by a process of redemption. FAITH, too, undergoes an essential change. It is no longer faith in Christ. His doctrine or his mission are its objects; but not, as the New Testament states it, his person as a surety, a sacrifice, a mediator; and much less than any thing else can it be called, in the language of Scripture, "faith in his BLOOD," a phrase utterly incapable of an interpre­tation by Socinians. Nor is it possible to offer up PRAYER to God in the name of Christ, though expressly enjoined upon his disciples, in any sense which would not justify all the idolatry of the Roman Church, in availing themselves of the names, the interests, and the merits of saints. In a Socinian, this would even be more inconsistent, because he denies the doctrine of mediation in any sense which would intimate, that a benevolent God may not be immediately approached by his guilty but penitent creatures. LOVE to Christ, which is made so eminent a grace in internal and experimental Christianity, changes also its character. It cannot be supreme, for that would be to break the first and great command, "Thou shalt love the Lord the God with all thy heart," if Christ himself be not that Lord our God. It must be love of the same kind we feel to creatures from whom we have received any benefit, and a passion, therefore, to be guarded and restrained, lest it should become excessive and wean our hearts and thoughts from God. But surely it is not under such views that love to Christ is represented in the Scriptures; and against its excess, as against creaturely attachments, we have certainly no admonition, no cautions. The love of Christ to us also as a motive to generous service, sufferings, and death, for the sake of others, loses all its force and application. "The love of Christ con­straineth us; for we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead." That love of Christ which constrained the apostle was a love which led him to die for men. St. John makes the duty of dying for our brother obligatory upon all Christians, if called to it, and grounds it upon the same fact. "He laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brethren." The meaning, doubtless, is in order to save them; and though men are saved by Christ's dying for them, in a very different sense from that in which they can be saved by our dying in the cause of instructing, and thus instrumentally saving each other; yet the argument is founded upon the necessary connection which there is between the death of Christ and the salvation of men.  But, on the Socinian scheme, Christ did, in no sense, die for men, no, not in their general mode of interpreting such passages, "for the benefit of men :" for what benefit, independent of propitation, which Socinians deny, do men derive from the voluntary death of Christ, considered as a mere human instructer? If it be said his death was an example, it was not specially and peculiarly so; for both prophets and apostles have died with resignation and fortitude. If it be alleged, that it was to con­firm his doctrine, the answer is, that, in this; view, it was nugatory, because it had been confirmed by undoubted miracles. If that he might confirm his mission by his resurrection, this might as well have followed from a natural as from a violent death; and beside the benefit which men derive from him, is, by this notion, placed in his resurrection, and not in his death, which is always exhibited in the New Testament with marked and striking emphasis. Thee motive to generous sacrifices of ease and life, in behalf of mere, drawn from the death of Christ, have, therefore, no existence whenever his Godhead and sacrifice are denied.

4. The general and habitual exercises of the affections of TRUST, HOPE, JOY, &c, toward Christ, are all interfered with by the Socinian doctrine. This has, in part, been stated; but "if the Redeemer were not omnipresent and omniscient, could we be certain that he always hears our prayers, and knows the source and remedy of all our miseries? If he were not all-merciful, could we be certain he must always be willing to pardon and relieve us? If he were not all powerful, could we be sure that be must always be able to support and strengthen, to enlighten and direct us? Of any being less than God, we might suspect that his purposes might waver, his promises fail, his existence itself, perhaps, terminate; for of every created being, the existence must be dependent and terminable." (Dr. Graves's Scriptural Proofs of the Trinity.)

The language too, I say not of the Church of Christ in all ages, for that has been formed upon her faith, but of the Scriptures themselves, must be altered and brought down to these inferior views. No dying saint can say, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit," if he be a man like our­selves; and the redeemed neither in heaven nor in earth, can dare to associate a creature so with God in Divine honours and solemn worship, as to unite in the chorus, "Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto HIM that sitteth upon tine throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever!"

The same essential changes must be made in the doctrine of Divine agency, in the heart of man, and in the Church, and the same confusion introduced into the language of Scripture. "Our salvation by Christ does not consist only in the expiation of our sins, &c, but in communication of Divine grace and power, to renew and sanctify us: and this is every where in Scripture attributed to the Holy Spirit, as his peculiar office in the economy of man's salvation: it must therefore make a fundamental change in the doctrine of Divine grace and assistance, to deny the Divinity of the Holy Spirit. For can a creature be the universal spring and fountain of DIVINE grace and life? Can a finite creature be a kind of universal soul to the whole Christian Church, and to every sincere member of it? Can a creature make such close application to our minds, know our thoughts, set bounds to our passions, inspire us with new affec­tions and desires, and be more intimate to us than we mire to ourselves? if a creature be the only instrument and principle of grace, we shall soon be tempted either to deny the grace of God, or to make it only an external thing, and entertain very mean conceits of it. All those miraculous gifts which were bestowed upon the apostles and primitive Christians, for the edification of the Church; all the graces office Christian life, are the fruits of the Spirit. The Divine Spirit is the principle of immortality in us, which first gave life to our souls, and will, at the last day, raise our dead bodies out of the dust; works which sufficiently proclaim him to be God, and which we cannot heartily believe, in the Gospel notion, if he not." (Sherlock's Vindication.) All this has been felt so forcibly by the deniers of the Divinity of the Holy Spirit, that they have escaped only by taking another leap down the gulf of error; and, at present, the Socinians deny that there is any Holy Ghost, and resolve the whole into a figure of speech.

But the importance of the doctrine of the holy trinity may be finally argued from the manner in which the denial of it would affect the credit of the Holy Scriptures themselves; for if this doctrine be not contained in them, their tendency to mislead is obvious. Then constant language is so adapted to deceive, and even to compel the belief of falsehood, even in fundamental points, and to lead to the practice of idolatry itself, that they would lose all claim to be regarded as a revelation from the God of truth, arid ought rather to be shunned than to be studied. A great part of the Scriptures is directed against idolatry, which is declared to be "that abominable thing which the Lord hateth ;" and in pursuance of this design, the doctrine that there is bait one God is laid down in the most explicit terms, and constantly confirmed by appeals to his works. The very first command in the decalogue is, "Thou shalt leave no other Gods before me ;" and the sum of the law, as to our duty to God, is that we love Him "with all our heart, and mind, and soul, and strength." If the doctrine of a trinity of Divine persons in the unity of time Godhead be consistent with all this, then the style and manner of the Scriptures are in perfect accordance with the moral ends they propose, and the truths in which they would instruct mankind; but if the Son and the Holy Spirit are creatures, themai is the language of the sacred books most deceptive and dangerous. For how is it to be accounted for, in that case, that, in the Old Testament, God should be spoken of in plural terms, and that this plurality should be restricted to three? How is it that the very name Jehovah should be given to each of them, and that re­peatedly and on the most solemn occasions? How is it that the promised, incarnate Messiah should be invested, in the prophecies of his advent, with the loftiest attributes of God, and that works infinitely superhuman and Divine honours should be predicted of him? and that acts and cha­racters of unequivocal Divinity, according to the common apprehension of mankind, should be ascribed to the Spirit also? How is it, that, in the New Testament, the name of God should be given to both, and that without any intimation that it is to be taken in an inferior sense? That the creation and conservation of all things should be ascribed to Christ; that he should be worshipped by angels and by men; that he should be represented as seated on the throne of the universe, to receive the adora­tions of all creatures; and that in the very form of initiation by baptism into his Church, itself a public and solemn profession of faith, the bap­tism is enjoined to be performed in the one name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? One God and two creatures! As though the very door of entrance into the Christian Church should have been purposely made the gate of the worst and most corrupting error ever introduced among mankind,-trust and worship in creatures as God; the error which has spread darkness and moral desolation over the whole pagan world!

And here it cannot be said that the question is begged, that more is taken for granted than the Socinians will allow; for this argument does not rest at all upon what the deniers of our Lord's Divinity understand by all these terms, and what interpretations may be put upon them. This is the popular view of the subject which has just been drawn from the Scriptures; and they themselves acknowledge it by resorting to the arts and labours of far-fetched criticism, in order to attach to these pas­sages of Scripture a sense different to the obvious and popular one. But it is not merely the popular sense of Scripture. It is so taken, and has been taken in all ages, by the wisest men and most competent critics, to be the only consistent sense of the sacred volume; a circumstance which still more strongly proves, that if the Scriptures were written on Socinian principles, they are more unfortunately expressed than any book in the world; and they can, on no account, be considered a Divine revela­tion, not because of their obscurity, for they are not obscure, but because terms are used in them which convey a sense different from what the Writers intended, if indeed they were Socinians. But their evidences prove them to be a revelation of truth from the God of truth, and they cannot therefore lie so written as to lead men, who use only ordinary Care, into fundamental error; and the conclusion therefore must inevita­bly be, that if we must admit either on the one hand what is so derogatory to the Scriptures, and so subversive of all confidence in them, or, on the other, that the doctrine of the Divinity of the Son and Holy Spirit is there explicitly taught, there is no medium between absolute infidelity and the acknowledgment of our Lord's Divinity; and indeed, to adopt the representation of a great divine, it is rather to rave than to reason, to suppose, that he whom the Scriptures teach us to regard as the Saviour of our souls, and as our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; he who hears our prayers, and is always present with his Church throughout the world, who sits at the right hand of God, in the glory of his Father, and who shall come at the last day in glory and majesty, accompanied with ministering angels, to judge all mankind and to bring to light the very secrets of their hearts, should be a mere man or a created being of any kind.[7]

I close this view of the importance of the doctrine of the trinity by the observations of Dr. Waterland: - "While we consider the doctrine of the trinity as interwoven with the very frame and texture of the Christian religion, it appears to me natural to conceive that the whole scheme and economy of man's redemption was laid with a principal view to it, in order to bring man­kind gradually into an acquaintance with the three Divine persons, one God blessed for ever. I would speak with all due modesty, caution, and reverence, as becomes us always in what concerns the unsearchable councils of Heaven: but I say, there appears to me none so natural, or so probable an account of the Divine dispensations, from first to last, as what I have just mentioned, namely, that such a redemption was provided, such an expiation for sins required, such a method of sanctification appointed, and then revealed, that so men might know that there are three Divine persons, might be apprized how infinitely the world is indebted to them, and might accordingly be both instructed and inclined to love, honour, and adore them here, because that must be a considerable part of their employment and happiness hereafter." (Importance of the Doctrine of the Trinity.)

In order to bring this great controversy in such an order before the reader, as may assist him to enter with advantage into it, I shall first carefully collect the leading testimonies of Scripture on the doctrine of the trinity and the Divinity of the Son and Holy Spirit,-adduce the opinions of the Jewish and Christian Churches,-answer objections,-explain the chief modern heresies on this subject, and give their Scriptural con­futation. An observation or two on the difficulties in which the doctrine of a trinity of persons in the unity of one undivided Godhead is said to involve us, may properly close this chapter.

Mere difficulty in conceiving of what is wholly proper and peculiar to God, forms no objection to a doctrine. It is more rationally to be considered as a presumption of its truth, since in the nature of God there must be mysteries far above the reach of the human mind. All his natural attributes, though of some of them we have images in our. selves, are utterly incomprehensible; and the manner of his existence cannot be less so. All attempts, however, to show that this great doctrine implies a contradiction, have failed. A contradiction is only where two contraries are predicated of the same thing, and in the same respect. Let this be kept in view, and the sophisms resorted to on this point by the adversaries of the faith, will be easily detected. They urge, that the same thing cannot be three and one, that is, if the proposition has any meaning at all, not in the same respect; the three persons are not one person, and the one God is not three Gods. But it is no contradiction to say, that in different respects the three may be one ; that is, that in respect of persons, they shall be three, and in respect of Go head, essence, or nature, they shall be one. The manner of the thing is a perfectly distinct question, and its incomprehensibility proves nothing but that we are finite creatures, and not God. As for difficulties, we shall certainly not he relieved by running either to the Arian or the Socinian hypothesis. The one ascribes the first formation and the perpetual government of the universe, not to the Deity, but to the wisdom and power of a creature; for, however exalted the Arian inferior Deity may be, he is a creature still. The other makes a mere man the creator of all things. For whatever is meant by "the Word in St. John's Gospel, it is the same Word of which the evangelist says, that all things were made by it, and that itself was made flesh. If this Word be the Divine attribute wisdom, then that attribute in the degree which was equal to the formation of the universe, in this view of the Scripture doctrine, was conveyed entire into the mind of a mere man, the son of a Jewish carpenter! A much greater difficulty, in my appre­hension, than any that is to be found in the catholic faith." (Horsley's Letters.)


[1] "Potentia, Intellectus, et Voluntas," or "Potentia, Sapientia, et Amor."- (Campanella, Richardus, and others.)

[2] It is defined by Occam, "Suppositum intellectuale."

[3] "Nonnunquam uposasi~ pro eo quod nos ousian dicimus et vise versa vox ousia pro eo quod nos uposasin appellamus, ab ipsis accepta fuit."-Bishop Bull. upusasis, it ought, however, to be observed, was used in the sense of person before the council of Nice, by many Christian writers, and, in the ancient Greek Lexi­cons, it is explained by wroswpon, and rendered by the Latins persona.

[4] St. Paul says, that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God; but Dr. Priestley tells us, that this signifies nothing more than that the books were written by good men, with the best views and designs.

[5] To this purpose, Witsius, who shows that there can be neither religion nor worship, unless the trinity be acknowledged. "NulIa etiam religio est, nisi quis verum Deum colat; non colit verum Deum. sed cerebri sui figmentum, qui non adorat in aequali divinitatis majestate Patrem, Filium, et Spiritum Sanctum. I nunc, et doctrinam eam ad praxin inutilem esse clama, sine qua nulla Fidel aut, Pietatia Christianw praxis esse potest."

[6] "Equidem rem attentius perpendenti liquebit, ex hypothesi sive Sociniana, sive Ariana, Deum in hoc negotio amorem et dilectionem suam potius in ilium ipsum filium, quam erga nos homines ostendisse. Quit! enim? Is qui Christus dicitur, ex mera Dei sudokia et beneplacito in earn gratiam electus est, ut post brevem hic in terris Deo praestitam obedientiam, ex puro puto homine juxta Soci, nistas, sive ex mera et mutabihi creatura, at Ario.manita dicunt, Deus ipse fieret, as divinos honores, non modo a nobis hominibus sed etiam ab ipsis angelis atque archangelis sibi tribuendos assequeretur, adeoque in alias creaturas omnes domi nium atque imperium obtineret." (Bull. Jud. Ecel. Cathol.)

[7] Oikonwmia, quae ipsi tribuitur, qeologian necessario supponit, ipsumque omnino statuit. Quid enim? Messiam sive Christwn praedicant sacrae nostrw literse et credere nos profiternur omnes, qui sit animarum sospitator, qui nobis sit sapientia, justitia, sanctificatio at redemptio-qui preces suorum, ubivis sacrosanc turn ejus nomen invocantium, illico exaudiat-qui ecelesim suae per universum terrarum orbém disseminatae, semper prtesto sit-qui Deo Patri, sunqrono~, et in eadem sede collocatus sit-qui denique, in exitu mundi, immensa gloria et majestate refulgens, angelis ministris stipatus, veniet orbem judicaturus, non modo facta omnia, sed et cordis secreta omnium quotquot fuere hominum in lucem proditurus, &c. Haeccine omnia in purum hominem, aut creaturam aliquam competere? Fidenter dico, qui ita sentiat, non modo contra Fidem, sod et rationem ipsam insanire.

(Bull. Judic. Eccl. Cath.)