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considered as an intelligent Being truly derived from God before the worlds, in one view properly distinct from the Father, and in another view perfectly united by the indwelling of Divine fulness
Let the STREAM, proceeding from the Fountain through the Medium, represent the Holy Spirit, which proceedeth from the Father, through the Son, and operates through the universe.
Does not this illustration preserve the most perfect unity in God, exalt the Son as Lord of all, and help us to an easy and natural construction of all that is said in the Scriptures of the Holy Spirit ?
In this view of the Trinity, may we not properly ascribe the attributes of Deity either to the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit, and yet avoid even the appearance of having more Gods than one, or more than one self-existent Person? The Father who is God in the Fountain, is God in the Medium, and God in the Stream; or to drop the metaphor, God the Father is God in the Son and God in the Holy Ghost.
This view of the subject will readily account for what has been noted by many writers, viz. that the self-same works are, in Scripture, attributed to God, to the Son of God, and to the Holy Ghost. God creates, governs, and judges by his Son; and the Son creates, governs, and judges by the fulness of God or the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps, Sir, the above simile may be justified by St. John's vision, [Rev. xxii. i.] “And he shewed me a pure River of Water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the Throne of God and of the LAMB."
Here you will observe, that distinct mention is made of the Throne of God and of the Lamb; but no mention of the Throne of the Holy Spirit. We have, however, an account of a River of water of life which proceedeth out of the Throne, first of God, then of the Lamb And what is this River, but a stream emanating from the Fountain of living waters, or those abundant effusions of the Divine fulness which proceed from God through Christ, and give life and felicity to the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem ? And what are these effusions, different from that Holy Spirit which“ proceedeth from the Father?” The River's proceeding from God, and from the Lamb, perfectly accords with our Savior's account of the Comforter.
Here it may not be amiss to suggest some serious questions for your consideration, with a request that you would weigh them in an even balar.ce.
1. If the Holy Spirit be a distinct Person, co-equal with the Father, is he not in the Scriptures exhibited in a manner which appears degrading, and truly unaccountahle ; as bearing the same relation to God as an attribute ; or as the hand or finger of God; as being constantly subject to the control or the will of another Person ; never exhibited as a distinct object of worship or of love ; never addressed in prayer as a Person, either by the saints, or by Jesus Christ, though the Father was often addressed?
2. If you, and those with you in sentiment, do really view the Holy Spirit as a distinct Person equal with the Father, are you not justly chargeable with want of respect, yea with disrespect, towards the Holy Spirit? How seldom do we hear the Spirit mentioned in prayer, otherwise than as something which is subordinate to the will of God, which may be given, sent, or poured out, for our benefit? At the close of your prayers, you often mention the Spirit, as though you thought it to be a Person ; but this is frea quently the only instance in which, through the whole course of a prayer, there is the least intimation that the Spirit is viewed as a Person. But if, in your view, the Scriptures do really authcrize the belief that the Holy Spirit is a distinct Person, and of equal dignity with the Father, how will you be able to answer for your inconsistency in treating the Father with so much more respect than you do the Holy Ghost? Has not the Holy Spirit reason to accuse you of partiality? But in vindication of your conduct, you may say, and that with great propriety, that the Holy Spirit is not so much as named as a person in any prayer recorded in the Bible ; and that we are not required to address prayers to the Spirit as a distinct Person. But, Sir, if you have such ample ground on wbich you may justify your apparent neglect of the Spirit, have you not
on to examine the grounds of your faith? Does not the very ground on which you would justify your conduct, afford reason to doubt the correctness of your theory?
3. Do not your habitual, practical, and devotional views of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, harmonize much better with my present theory, than they do with your
own? This may seem to you an extraordinary question ; but it is proposed, Sir, with considerable confidence, that, on due reflection, if you answer it at all, it must be in the affirmative. My confidence in this matter results partly from experience, and partly from observation. When you approach the Throne of grace, and pour out your heart before God without any studied respect to theory, do you not address God as one Person only? Do you not use the terms God, and Father, as perfectly synonymous ? When you thank God for the manifestation of his love, in sending his dear Son to die for our offences, do you not naturally consider the Son as a Being properly distinct from the Father, naturally subordinate to the Father, but exalted with the Father's right hand? When you pray to God that he would pour out his HOLY SPIRIT, is not this your real prayer, that God would make a disp'ay of his power, wisdom, and love, for the production of some desirable effect? Do you not mean to ask for some efficient, productive émanation of his fulness? If, in your habitual and devotional views, the Spirit were a distinct Person, co-equal with the Father, would it not be more natural for you, in praying for the Spirit, to address your petitions directly to the Holy Ghost, than to pray the Father to send or pour out his SPIRIT ? Does it not then
your devotional and habitual views are conformable to the theory I have adopted, and in opposition to your own?
How then will you be able to vindicate your conduct before God, from a charge of inconsistency, in supporting a theory which is repugnant to your own habitual and devotional views or, in indu!g ng habitual and devo, tional views which are repugnant to the theory which you profess to believe? And permit me to ask, which does God consider the real sentiments of your heart, those which you express in advocating your theory, or those which you habitually and naturally express in your daily prayers to him ?
It is, Sir, most sensibly felt, that the thenries, prepossessions, and learning, of the Christian world, are at present not on my side. But no small consolation is derived, by considering the general tenor and natural import of Bible language very clearly in favor of each part of the theory set forth in the foregoing Letters. It is also consoling to consider the language of Christian devotion in such agree
ment with my views, that whatever may be objected against them, may, with equal propriety, be objected against the most devout feelings and language of my Brethren. And so long as these things shall appear so much on my side, nothing can deprive me of the pleasing expectation that the theory, now exposed to public view, will be found substantially correct, approved of God, and that which the whole family of Christ will ultimately receive, and rejoice in forever.
AN EXAMINATION OF DIFFICULT PASSAGES
Rules of Interpretation stated and applied.
IN the preceding Letters, my views of many passages of Scripture, which have been supposed to favor the Athanasian theory, have been occasionally. given. But there are others to which no distinct attention has been paid. It is my wish to have error detected, if there be any in my views. Suffer me, therefore, to lay before you my adopted Rules of interpretation, and give you a specimen of their application.
Rule I. “The Scriptures were inspired, to instruct common readers, by using words according to their common acceptation, and not to confound them by an abuse of language."
The language in which this Rule is expressed, is bora rowed from Dr. Spring's sermon on the self-existence of Christ, and is applied to the many thousands of texts in which personal pronouns of the singular number are used as substitutes for the nouns GOD, LORD God, &c. and the inference is, that God is one Person only.
The same Rule is applied to the numerous texts in which Christ is represented as the Son of God, God's own and ONLY SON ; and the inference is, that Christ is not the selfexistent God, but the Son of the self-existent God.
Rule II. The terins used in Revelation must be understood in a sense corresponding with some analogy known to men.