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I will next bring into view a text, in which the FATHER, the SoN, and the Holy Ghost, are exhibited, that you may see to what the representation in the text would amount on your hypothesis.
The text we find, Acts,x. 38. “How GoD anointed JESUs of NAzARETH with the Holy Ghost and with Power ; who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil: for God was with him.”
Here, Sir, we have the Trinity fairly exhibited. But what would be the representation, if by the THREE be intended three infinite Agents * Would not the representation be distinctly this, that the first IN FIN ite Ace Nt gave the THIRD INFINITA AGF Nt to enable the second INFINI, E 4G, NT to perform miracles 2
The Language of good Writers in favor of what they mean - to deny. REV. SIR,
FOR the support of the doctrine, that the self-existent God is but one self-existent Person, my reliance is placed , on the most obvious and natural import of Scripture language. It is, however, hoped, that it will not be deemed improper or unfriendly, should I avail myself of the reasonings, concessions, and language, of Athanasian writers, for a farther illustration and confirmation of what I esteem to be the truth. The authors, whose writings I shall quote, are, in my opinion, deservedly in high estimation, as learned, discerning, and correct writers. And no author will be quoted or named with the least desire to provoke controversy, or in any respect to detract from his reputation. I would now solicit your attention to some passages from Dr. Hopkins. In his chapter on the Unity of God, and the Trinity, to prove the Unity of God, or that there is but one GoD, he has made use of some arguments, which, if I mistake not, are of the same weight against the doctrine of a plurality of self-existent Persons, that they are against the doctrine of a plurality of self-existent Gods,Thus he reasons....
& There can be but one First Cause who exists necessaroly, and without beginning ; for there can be but one infinite Being. To suppose another, or a second, necessarily excludes the first ; and to suppose the first, necessarily excludes the second, and any other infinite Being. The same is evident from the consideration of the Divine perfections. God is infinite Po er, infinite Wisdom. But there cannot be two infinite Wisdoms, &c. for this implies a contradiction.” Yet, Sir, your theory supposes that there are three distinct self-existent and independent Persons, which, if I mistake not, as fully implies three “infinite Wisdoms,” &c. as the supposition of three infinite Beings. The Doctor proceeds....“ Moreover, if we make the impossible supposition that there are two or more infinite Beings, they must be perfectly alike in all respects, or not. If not perfectly alike, and without any difference, in any respect, then one or the other must be imperfect ; for absolute infinite perfection admits of no variation or difference: so that if any two Beings differ in any respect, they cannot be both absolutely perfect; therefore cannot both be God. But if they are perfectly alike in every respect and every thing, then they are perfectly one and the same ; and the supposition destroys itself, being a direct contradiction.” If this reasoning be conclusive, will it not apply, in the most direct manner, to invalidate the theory of three selfexistent and infinite Persons 2 The three Persons must be perfectly alike in all respects, or not. If not perfectly alike, one or the other must be imperfect, and therefore cannot be God: “But if perfectly alike in every respect, then they are perfectly one and the same.” Those who admit the Doctor’s reasoning as conclusive against three infinite Beings, must, I suspect, to be consistent, reject the theory of three infinite, independent Persons. Dr. Emmons, in his Discourse on the Trinity, has made this concession....“Did the Scripture do trine of the Trinity imply that three Persons are one Person, or three Gods one God, it would necessarily involve a contradiction.”— Yet this correct writer has adoped forms of speech which evidently imply that one Person is three Persons. Such are the following....“GoD can, with propriety, say, I, Thou, and He, and mean only HIMs ELF.”—“Nothing short of three distinct Persons in the one undivided DEITY, can render it proper for HIM to speak of HIMs LF in the first, second, and third Persons, I, Thou, and He.”—“And so there is a certain somethING in the Divine Being, which renders it equaly nevessary that HE should exist in THREE PERsons.” - f . In these passages, Ho, HIM, and HIMs ELF, are used as pronouns for God or Deity. And each of these pronouns strictly conveys the idea of one Person only. Yet the Doctor supposed that this one HE, or HIM, might speak of HIM self as THREE D1st INCT PERSONs. Dr. Spring, in his Sermon on the self-existence of Christ, gives the following exhortation....“Let us then not deny the self-existence of God, nor the universality of His existence, nor that His indivisible essence comprises THREE IISTINCT PERsons.” By the pronoun His, God is, in the first place, clearly considered as but one Person; vet we are fervently exhort. ed not to deny that “HIs indivisible essence comprises THREE DISTINCT PERsons.” Mr. Jones stands on similar ground. He says, “No sensible reason can be given, why GoD, should speak of HIMsFLF in the plural number, unless HE consists of MoRE PERson's THAN on E.” And thus says Dr. Hopkins, “If there be a GoD, HE does exist without beginning or succession ; and this is as much above our comprehension, as that He exists in THREE JPERsons.” To what, Sir, are we to attribute these solecisms ? Not to the want of mental energy ; nor to the want of piety ; nor to the want of scientific or grammatical knowledge. But these worthy men had been conversant with the Bible, and from that source had insensibly formed the babit of usually speaking of God as only one Person ; but this being contrary to the doctrine which they wished to support, they naturally involved inconsistency in their forms of speech. A volume, probably, might be filled with such solecisms from Athanasian writers. And indeed, Sir, I very much doubt whether you ever preached a Gospel sermon, or ever prayed five minutes, without using pronouns in direct contradiction to your theory. —- so*
REV. SIR, *
IN a former Letter, I observed to you, that Mr. Jones considered the term God as of “plural comprehension.” I therefore classed the noun God with other nouns of “plural comprehension,” such as, Council, Senate, Triumvirate, &c.—But since that time I again perused Mr. Jones’ performance, and find that I did not fully comprehend his meaning. As I was reading his remarks on 1 Cor. viii. 6. “But to us there is but one God, the Father,” I noticed this idea, “ the one God, the Father, is the name of a nature under which Christ, as God, is comprehended.” I was at first wholly at a loss for his meaning ; it however soon occurred to me, that he considered the term God, in this case, as a general or generic term, comprehending a plurality of Persons, of one common nature ; as MAN is sometimes used for all mankind. I therefore pursued the inquiry, to ascertain, if possible, his real meaning. When I came to the part of his book, entitled, the “Conclusion,” my apprehension was fully confirmed. In page 80, he says, “That the Persons of God are three in number, precisely distinguished, on some occasions, by the personal names Father, the Word or Son, and Holy Spirit; and also by different offices. That the same term is not always peculiar and proper to the same Person; because the words God, Lord, jehovah, and Father, are sometimes applied to one Person and sometimes to another; while at other times they are not personal, but general names of the Divine nature.” In page 81, he observes, “There can be no real Unity in God but that of his nature, essence, or substance, all of which are synonymous terms.” That the three Persons are of the same nature or essence, he considers as proved on this ground, “Because they partake in common of the name jehovah, which being interpreted, means the Divine essence ; and what it signifies in one, Person it must also signify in the others, as truly as the singular name Adam, in its appellative capacity, expresses the common nature of all mankind.”
If this be the true Athanasian theory of the Trinity, it is not so mysterious as has been generally supposed; and I suspect, it will be a much less difficult task to explain it, than it will to reconcile it to the sacred Scriptures. It is obvious, from the passages quoted, that Mr. Jones considers the term GoD, as sometimes used, as a general or generic name, comprising a plurality of Persons of one common n ture, just as we use the term Man, as comprising the whole species. And he also supposes, that GoD is used in this sense as meaning the Divine nature, when it is said, * But to us there is but one God.” And as he has given us plainly to understand, that “there can be no real Unity in God but that of his nature,” it is manifest that, on this theory, the Unity of God is the same as the unity of Man. Mr. Jones supposes, that the three Persons in the Godhead are all of one nature, that is, of a IDivine nature. So all the individual Persons of the human race are, in the same sense, one, they are of one nature, that is, human nature. The whole mystery of the Trinity in Unity, according to this theory, results from the ambiguous use of the terms God, Lord, Jehovah, &c. these terms being “sometimes applied to one Person, and sometimes to another; while at other times they are not personal, but general names of the Divine nature.” When it is said, there are three Persons in one God, the word God is used “as the name of a nature;” and the import is simply this, that there are three Persons of the same Divine nature. On this theory of the Trinity in Unity, I would suggest the following inquiries:.... 1. Whether there can be any reasonable objections to the proposition, which affirms that there are as many selfexistent Beings as there are self-existent Persons : While it has been maintained that there are three self-existent Persons, it has been affirmed that there is but one self-existent Being. But if the Unity is no more than a unity of ziature, why may not each of the Persons be considered as a distinct intelligent Being, according to the natural im: port of the word Person 2 When the word MAN is used “as the name of a nature,” it comprises many intelligent Beings; as many as it does of intelligent Persons. Why is it not thus with regard to that or DER of PERSONs included under the “general name" GoD 3