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THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY.
Feng Bo Hanuitoru decase
THE UNSCRIPTURAL ORIGIN AND ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY OF
THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY.
BY REV. JOHN HAMILTON THOM.
"THE PATHER THAT DWELLETH IN ME, HE DOETH THE WORKS."
John xiv. 10.
It is a profound observation of Professor Dugald Stewart, that you never destroy an error until you have traced it to its sources, until you have accounted for its origin. A popular doctrine, full of life in the strong faith of those who hold it, cannot be encountered at the height of its power, and struck down at once by an argument; the world is apt to take for granted that whatever is widely believed must have some roots in truth, and you must go up the stream of opinion, if you would gradually remove this idea so supporting to error, of its strength and fulness, stripping away the impressions of magnitude as you ascend, until at last you have left all the strength behind you, and have come to where you can contemplate, undeceived, the weak and miserable beginnings of the turbid food. Were some Grecian idolater to have followed the gliding steps of his river God, until his majestic movements were shortened into the tricklings of the mountain spring, if the deity did not entirely disappear, it would at least have changed its form, and melted into the minor nymph of the Fountain.
Whenever we encounter the doctrine of the Trinity, as it is received at the present day, and attempt to arrest it by the
strength of Reason and the strength of Scripture, the flood is too strong for us, the faith of the world flows upon the current, and we are swept aside as things that had vainly interposed to intercept the rushings of some mighty tide. We must travel up to the first droppings if we would demonstrate the derived nature of this now full stream of faith. If the ascent terminates before it reaches Christ and the Apostles, then its origin is not Scriptural but Ecclesiastical; its fountain is not in the depths of the nature of God, but in the airy speculations of the vain philosophy of man.
My subject is entitled “ The unscriptural Origin and Ecclesiastical History of the Doctrine of the Trinity.” 1 shall invert the order of these topics. I shall show first where it has its origin, that we may be saved the unnecessary toil of straining and distorting our vision, in searching for it where it is not to be found. If I can exhibit its birth in Ecclesiastical history, this will so far be a proof that it had no previous birth in Evangelical History. If I can cut it off from the living fountain of Revelation, and show it proceeding from other springs, this will so far be a proof that it is human and not divine. The positive assertion contained in my title, if established, will establish also the negative portion of it :-for the Ecclesiastical rise and progress of the Trinity are the negation of its Scriptural origin.
Christianity was originally delivered to Jews; and the question naturally arises, how could their pure theism ever assume the Trinitarian modification of Unity; how, to use the early language of this Controversy, could the MONARCHY ever be diluted into the ECONOMY, if it had not been constrained to adopt this form by the overpowering distinctness of a Revelation ? Now we are able to prove that the Jewish Christians never did accept the doctrine of the deity of Christ; that on this account they are classed with Heretics by the Greek and Latin Fathers, under the names of Nazarenes and Ebionites; and that not until after the Gospel passed
out of the keeping of the Apostles, and, cut off from its Jewish spring, was cast into the midst of the Gentile world, to modify and to be modified, did it come into contact with Heathen Philosophy, and slowly take the impress of its spirit.
There were two very marked divisions of the Jewish people, under widely different influences of Religion and Philosophy, and not acquainted, perhaps, with the same language, the Jews of Palestine, and the Jews of Egypt. The Jews of Palestine, sheltered from commerce with the world, more by their unsocial Faith, than by the deep and quiet vallies of their sequestered land, partook little of the spirit of the Times, and imparted to it nothing; and though after the Babylonish Captivity, Gentile Philosophy had tinctured and in some sense expanded their religious views, yet when they returned again to their homes that influence was cut off, the living connection was no longer maintained, and its effects were rather traditionary mixtures, than seeds of progress.
In contrast with the insulated life of the Jews of Palestine, the Jews of Alexandria lived in the very centre of the world's freshest ideas—their dwelling was the mart of nations—and Grecian and Oriental Philosophy met together in their farfamed Schools, and mingled their Wisdom. “The arms of the Macedonians," says Gibbon, “ diffused over Asia and Egypt the language and learning of Greece; and the theological system of Plato (before Christ, 360) was taught, with less reserve, and perhaps with some improvements, in the celebrated School of Alexandria. A numerous colony of Jews had been invited, by the favour of the Ptolemies, to settle in their new capital. While the bulk of the nation practised their legal ceremonies, and pursued the lucrative operations of Commerce, a few Hebrews, of a more liberal spirit, devoted their lives to religious and philosophical contemplation. They cultivated with diligence, and embraced