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ly used ? You cannot justly accuse me of differing more in real opinion from those who have adopted this article, than they differ from each other. And I would suggest it for your serious consideration, whether your departure from the ancient orthodox faith is not infinitely greater than mine—yea, greater by two infinities 2 You suppose three self-existent, infinite Agents; I suppose but one; and if Dr. Watts fairly stated the explication of the Trinity, which had “been long and universally received,” as orthodox, the ancient orthodoxy implied but one infinite Agent. And with his statement agrees all but one of the several explanations which have been enumerated; the personality was evidently understood as figurative. The evidence we have before us, that great and good men have been greatly divided on the subject of the personality of the Trinity, may serve to evince the propriety of the caution given by Mr. Baxter against indu'ging a censorious spirit one towards another. The more deep and mysterious the subject, the more occasion we have for selfdisfidence, and the more room for the exercise of Christian candor towards those who may differ from usin opinion. The experience I have had of my own fallibility may be considered as an admonition to me against indulging a selfconfident spirit respecting the correctness of my present views. I have indeed been long searching and laboring, by night and by day, to ascertain the truth, and to bring my views to harmonize with the meaning of the word of God. But I am yet far from any claim to infallibility. I can hardly expect that I shal be free from m stakes in explaining the numerous passages of Scripture which will naturally come under consideration. But this I know, that I have no interest to serve by perverting or misapplying the Scriptures. It is, I hope, my aim, to act faithfully for Christ in attempting to explain his word; and with him I may safely leave the event. I am not insensible that I expose to peril the little share of reputation which I have hitherto possessed, by taking ground so singular and unpopular. Nor am I at all indifferent as to the esteem and good will of my fathers and brethren with whom I have been in fellowship. My esteem for them is not at all abated by any change in my own sentiments; and it is my wish to give them no occasion of of: jence in my manner of writing. It will be my duty to expose what I esteem to be erroneous in their sentiments; but I hope to do it in the spirit of meekness, of candor, and of love. My dissenting from them in opinion is surely no reason why I should be offended with them; and I am not sensible that it is a reason why they should be offended with me. But should they view my dissent as ground of offence, I hope they will deal with me in a Gospel temper, and on Gospel principles, duly bearing in mind that bitter revilings and sound reasonings are things of a very different nature. Thee principal propositions I shall attempt to illustrate and support, in the course of my Letters to you—viz. I. That the self-ex stent God is only one Person. II. That Jesus Christ is God’s own SoN, his only BEGOTT EN. III. That by the Holy Ghost is intended the fulness of God, or the efficient, productive emanations of Divine fulIn esse In support of the first proposition, I shall, in my next Letter, distinctly consider what is meant by the word Person.
—oLETTER II. Personality defined and illustrated.
IT has been supposed to be a very difficult thing to ascertain in what personality consists, or what constitutes personality. It may, however, be found an easy thing to tell what is meant by the word Person, as it is used in Scripture, and in common discourse. I will exhibit a few instances of the use of the term in the Scriptures.
“Noah the eighth Person.” “Joseph was a goodly Person.” “No uncircumcised Person shall eat thereof.” “Whosoever hath killed any Person.” “Goest to battle in thine own Person.” “A righteous Person.” “A wicked Person.” “Thy Person.” “His Person.”
Such a manner of using the term is common in all writings with which I am acquainted. We apply the term Person to any man, or woman, to an Angel, to Jesus Christ, and to God. But we do not apply it to any class of beings below the human race. Personal pronouns, as he or she,
&c. we apply to the brutal creation; but it would be thought an impropriety of speech to apply the term Person to the most sagacious horse or dog. By careful observation, it will be found that we use the personal pronouns in referance to any beings which are supposed to possess animal life; but the word Person is properly applied only to intelJigent Beings. Inanimate objects, in figurative language, are often personified; but the very idea and mode of personification implies what is intended by the word Person, viz. an INTELLIGENT BEING. What is meant by the word Person, is just as obvious to common people as what is meant by the moon. And we have no more occasion to inquire what constitutes personality in order to tell what is meant by the word Person, than we have to ascertain the essence of the moon in order to tell what object is called by that name. And it is no more difficult to ascertain what constitutes personality, than to ascertain what constitutes intelligent existence. It may be objected, that there is no part or property of a man but what is spoken of in the possessive case, as though it were something distinct from personality. We say, his hands, his feet, his head, his intellects, his heart, his body, his soul, as though personality were something distinct from any of these. This is all granted; but in the same manner we use the word Person itself; we say his Person. And thus the term is used in the Bible, “the express image of his Person.” But it does not hence follow, that personality consists in something distinct from Person. As one Person is one intelligent Being, so two or three Persons are two or three intelligent Beings. So obvious is this to the common sense of mankind, that it may be doubt. ed whether any man can form any other idea of two Persons than that of two intelligent Beings. If it be understood, that we are speaking of human Beings, and mention is made of two Persons, it as elearly conveys the idea of two intelligent Beings, as if we should say two men. The same observation will apply to angels. i Some writers of eminence have suggested, or asserted, that Person and Being are not terms of the same import; and, therefore, it may imply no contradiction to say three Persons in one Being or one God. But I have not found thot they have attempted to explain the difference between
Person and Being. I shall not pretend that these terms are uniformly cf synonymous import, for the term Being may be applied to any object which exists, but the term Person is applicable only to intelligent existence. But the phrases, an intelligent Person and an intelligent Being, may properly be considered as synonymous. If you think othcrwise, be pleased to explain the difference. Io writing on Divinity, it is highly important that we should use language according to its common acceptation. To make use of terms, of which we can give no intelligible explanation, has no tendency to communicate light. Those who make use of terms in relation to God, or to Christ, ought, at least, to be able and willing to tell their own meaning in the use of those terms. If I say that the Father and the Son are two distinct Persons, I .. to be willing to tell what I mean by the word Person. And if I have any definite meaning to the term, it may be expected that, in some way, I gan make it known. But if I have no definite meaning to the term, how is it possible that another person can tell whether he agrees or disagrees with me in sentiment? If I only state, that I believe that the Father and the Soo are two distinct Persons, there is, perhaps, no Christian but will say he believes the same. But as soon as I explain what I mean by the word Person, many will dissent and avow their disagreement. Having thus, exposed myself to their disapprobation, by explaining my meaning, may I not be permitted to ask what they mean by the term, that I may be able to compare the two opinions? And ought I to receive it as a satisfactory answer, if I am told that Person and Being are not the same, and that personality is something which cannot be defined: As you, Sir, profess to believe that the Father and the Son are two Persons, and yet but one intelligent Being, I would ask whether the Father is not o'e intelligent Being 2 And is not the Son also an intelligent Being : Was he not an intelligent Being who came into the world to die for our sins : And was he who came and he who sent him one and the same intelligent Being: As you also deny the human personality of Christ, or that, as a derived Being, he was a Person, and still admit that he was, in respect to his human nature, truly a Man, I would ask what addition would have been necessary to On the Unity of God. 45
constitute that Man a proper Person 2 If we deny that, as a derived Intelligence, he was a Person, will it not be difficult to make it appear that there is any such thing as personality in Man? Sin excepted, what do we find in ourselves which was not found in the Man Christ Jesus? If we take ground respecting personality, on which it cannot be proved that there is any such thing as a human Person, how shall we be able to show that there is any propriety in applying the term Person to the Godhead : It is a clear case, that so long as we remain ignorant of the import of the term, we can never be sure that it is properly applied. I have not, Sir, pursued this inquiry with any desire to perplex the minds of others, or to multiply or widen the ireaches which exist among professed Christians, but, if possible, to do something which may contribute to greater unanimity. Nothing, perhaps, has contributed more to Keep the subject of the Trinity involved in obscurity, than an indefinite and unmeaning use of the term Person. I will not affirm, that the definition I have given is perfect; but I will hope, that by frankly avowing my own views, and exposing myself to the censure of others, I may, at least, be the occasion of further inquiry and further light on the subject. Permit me now, Sir, to appeal from your theory to your enlightened common sense. Did you ever conceive of the Father and the Son as one and the same intelligent Being? When you thank God for the gift of his SoN to die for us, do you not uniformly conceive of the Father as one intelligent Being, and of the Son as another: From my own past experience, I may presume, that, according to your common sense, the Father and the Son are as distinctly two intelligent Beings, as Abraham and Isaac. Of what importance then can it be to Christianity, to attempt to support a theory of personality which is undefinable and ineffable, which does not accord with the common acceptation of the term Person, nor with the practical views even of those who adopt it? Scarcely any thing is more obvious to the common understanding of men, than what is usually intended by the word Person; but where the term is applied to the Godhead, they must be told that it means something which cannot be explained. But if the explai nation I have given of the meaning of the word Person shall be found to accord with the common sense of mankind,