By Amos Binney and Daniel Steele
By the Trinity is meant the union of three persons in one Godhead; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Matt. 3:16,17; 28:19, John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; II Cor. 13:14; Eph. 2:18; Heb. 9:14; I Pet. 1:2.
Nearly all the pagan nations of antiquity acknowledged a trinity, which is no mean evidence in favor of the truth of this doctrine.
Almost the whole Christian world agree here, however they may differ in other points-the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Independents, Congregationalists, Moravians, Waldenses, and many other smaller sects, together with the extensive Churches of Greece and Rome.
The chief, if not the only, objection brought against this doctrine is, that it is absurd and contradictory. But it is not so, any more than the doctrine is which teaches His eternal existence.
It is, indeed, a mystery, and must necessarily remain such to us. Its incomprehensibility, however, proves nothing but that we are finite beings, and not God. (73. What is meant by the Trinity? What is no mean evidence of this? How do Christians agree here? The objection? Is this doctrine a mystery? What does it prove?)
The doctrine involves no absurdity or contradiction; for, independent of the Scriptures, it has reason and analogy on its side.
Take, for instance, the sun in the firmament, and you will find that it is three in one. There is the round orb, the light, and the heat. Each of these we call the sun.
When you say the sun is almost nine hundred thousand miles in diameter, you speak of the round orb; when you say that the sun is bright, you mean the light; when you say that the sun is warm, you mean the heat.
The orb is the sun, the light is the sun, and the heat is the sun; they all mean different things, and still there is but one sun.
Again, let us look into ourselves, and we shall find further illustration of the same truth. Every man living is an example of a trinity and unity in his own person. He has a soul, a rational mind, and a body, and we call each by the same name, man.
When we say man is immortal, we mean his soul; when we say the man is learned, we mean his mind; when we say the man is sick, or dead, we mean his body. Each of these we call the man. They are all different from each other, and yet there are not three men, but one man. (74. Has it any analogy? Repeat a few of these.)
Even in the very mind itself we discover a kind of trinity. There is the judgment, the memory, and the imagination; three faculties, each of which we call mind. The office of each is distinct; the imagination invents ideas , the memory retains them, and the judgment compares and decides. Now each is called mind, yet there are not three minds, but one mind.
Further proof of the Trinity is to be found in a remarkable peculiarity in the Hebrew language, which peculiarity has not its parallel in any other language.
The very first and most usual appellation of Deity in the original Scriptures is Elohim. That this word is plural is certain not only from its form, but also by its being often joined with other words in the plural number.
The first instance occurs in the very first sentence of the Bible, and in at least two thousand five hundred other places.
This peculiarity of idiom is supposed to have originated in a design to intimate a plurality in the nature of Deity, and thus excite and prepare the minds of men for the full declaration of this mystery which God intended to make. (75. What further proof? What of the word Elohim? Where does this word occur? In what is this peculiar idiom supposed to have originated?)
No other reason of this peculiarity can be given; and, although it is not relied on as sufficient proof, yet, as the doctrine appears elsewhere, it is at least an important auxiliary.
Although the strongest temptation of the patriarchs and of the Hebrews was to embrace the prevailing polytheism, yet God revealed himself to them by a plural name, when the singular name JEHOVAH was better befitting monotheism. Hence we infer that the plural name was chosen in order to foreshadow the future revelation of the Trinity, of which Jehovah is one of the persons. There must have been some weighty reason for so great a risk to faith in the unity of the Godhead.
The form of the priestly blessing (Num. 6:24-26) is threefold, like the apostolic benediction. II Cor. 13:14.
The three persons in the Godhead, though distinct, are not separate. This is the case with the body and soul of man while he lives in this world, as it is also with the faculties of the mind.
As in the material sun, the light and the heat (76. Is this sufficient proof of the doctrine? What is said of the priestly blessing? Are the Three persons in the Godhead both distinct and separate? How do you illustrate?) proceed from the orb, yet the three are of the same duration; so in the Deity, the Son and the Spirit proceed from the Father, yet they are all of the same duration.
The same ATTRIBUTES and ACTS, in the Scriptures, are ascribed to each of the three persons, without distinction. ETERNITY. Deut. 33:27; Heb. 1:8; 9:14. OMNIPRESENCE. Jer. 23:24; Ps. 139:7; Matt. 18:20. OMNISCIENCE. Acts 15:18; John 21:17; I Cor. 2:10. OMNIPOTENCE. Gen. 17:1; Matt. 28:18; Rev. 11:11. WISDOM. Dan. 2:20; Col. 2:3; Eph. 1: 17. INSPIRATION. II Tim. 3:16; I Pet. 1:11; II Pet. 1:21. SANCTIFICATION. I Thess. 5:23; Heb. 13:12; I Pet. 1:2. The act of CREATION. Gen. 1:27; Job 33:4; John 1:3. GIFT OF LIFE. Acts 17:25; II Cor. 3:6; Col. 3:4.
In a word, all divine operations are attributed to the same adorable Trinity. See I Cor. 12: 6; Col. 3:11.
The word "trinity" does not occur in the Scriptures any more than the words omnipresence, ubiquity, etc. The doctrines, however, (77. Are the same things in Scripture attributed to the several persons? What texts attribute eternity to each? Omnipresence? Omniscience? Omnipotence? Wisdom? Are not all attributed to the three? Does the word trinity occur in the Bible?) which these terms express are none the less scriptural on this account.
In theology, the five books of Moses are called the Pentateuch, and the ten commandments the Decalogue. These books and laws are no less real because the terms by which they are known are not scriptural.
The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch, A. D. 42 or 43. But they were certainly as real Christians long before this name was given them as they were afterward.
The principal errors respecting the Trinity are:
a. SABELLIANISM, that there is but one Person manifesting himself in three influences, operations or offices. This doctrine preserves the divinity of the Son and the Holy Ghost at the expense of their personality.
b. SWEDENBORGIANISM, that there are three essences in one Person-Jesus Christ. This asserts the Supreme Deity of the Son at the expense of the personality of the Father and the Spirit.
c. ARIANISM denies the Trinity by making the Son and Spirit exalted creatures of God. Their personality is preserved at the expense (78. Is it then proper to use the term? Illustrate. What three errors respecting the Trinity?) of their divinity. Modern Unitarianism, or so-called liberal Christianity, regards the Holy Spirit as an influence, and Jesus Christ as a mere man, the son of Joseph, of high moral excellence, which it is possible for us to equal, or even excel.