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LECTURE IX.

THE COMFORTER, EVEN THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH, WHO DWELLETH

IN US, AND TEACHETH ALL THINGS.

BY REV. JOHN HAMILTON THOM

"IF YE LOVE ME, KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS: AND I WILL PRAY THE

PATHER, AND HE SHALL GIVE YOU ANOTHER COMPORTER, THAT HE
MAY ABIDE WITH YOU FOR EVER; EVEN THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH; WHOM
THE WORLD CANNOT RECEIVE, BECAUSE IT SEETH HIM NOT, NEITHER
XNOWETH HIM: BUT YE KNOW HIM, FOR HE DWELLETH WITH YOU, AND
OnALL BE IN YOU. I WILL NOT LEAVE YOU COMFORTLESS: I WILL COME
TO YOU."-John xiv. 15—18.

It is very remarkable that whenever the doctrine of the Trinity is discussed, the debate is almost always exclusively occupied by the single question of the deity of the Christ, and if that can be established, the controversy is considered at an end. Controversialists glide from the doctrine of the deity of the Son to the separate deity of the Holy Spirit, in a way which plainly shows that one inroad being effected on the personal unity of God, and the principle once loosened, another division of it is conceded upon much easier terms, without fear: without caution, without reverence. Why in

wld men scruple to admit three persons into the he Godhead after having got over the first great

admitting two? A third person adds nothing to w of a second person, and if we cannot maintain

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deed should men scru unity of the Godhead difficulty of admitting two the difficulty of a second per unbroken the principle of ness, then the extent to which ther

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ice. Having admitted that there is in the godhead, it would be very absurd

ther by three persons, or any other number, is too of a very minor importance. Having admitted may be two persons in the godhead, it would to take an objection against there being three; logy of unity, in the only sense we are acquainte the unity of a human being, having once failed us, we never plead it again. The principle that admits two in the being of one God will equally admit any whatever, provided Scripture accords to them the algm.cy and our struggle and reluctance will be felt most strongly the first of these invasions of our own idea of unity, and will yield more and more readily at each successive one.

This is the only explanation I can conceive, and a very natural one it is, of the weak and unguarded state in v Trinitarians have left the separate personality and the Holy Ghost. I do not wonder at their preference to that word, Ghost, in this connection. It materializes ... word Spirit, puts the true idea out of immediate sight, and is so far a preparation for introducing the conception of a th person, which never would naturally have arisen from the use of the more intelligible expression “ the Holy Spirit," Spirit of God.” I apprehend that all minds, though 10118 familiarized with the idea of a plurality of persons 11 godhead, would be greatly shocked, if that plurality was com ceived to be either more or less than the mystic num three. A multitude of deities, discharging different of but partaking of the one Essence of the godhead, would thought a completely Heathen conception—and a reduction of the present orthodox idea, so as to represent only two persons in the one God, would strike a Christian mina do scarcely less pagan. Yet upon Trinitarian principles this is evidently a mere prejudice of Custom. There is no more reason, so far as our understanding is concerned, for being three persons in the godhead than for there be only two, and whether there be one, two, three, or

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countless number, is a question to which our Reason ought to be entirely indifferent, having no a priori opinion or principle of its own upon the subject : and submitting to the letter of the Revelation with equal readiness, whether it distributes the Essence of the Deity among a Trinity, or among any other plurality of minds. Now I would ask Trinitarians whether they have schooled themselves into submission to this principle—whether they would receive four persons in the Godhead as readily as they receive three, provided the same mode of inferential interpretation which now establishes the Trinity, succeeded in showing that a further distribution of the essence of the godhead was required, in order to make our Theology consistent with the exact wording of the Scriptures. I apprehend that most minds amongst us would revolt at the idea of four persons in one God, contemplated as a mere possibility. Yet surely in a Trinitarian this would be very unreasonable. As a Scripture doctrine he might reasonably. discard it as unfounded—but as a possibility, as a subject on which, previous to Revelation, he ought to have no prejudice whatever, he must on his own principles have no objection to the plurality of divine persons extending to any number, and be as prompt, to submit his faith to five as to three, provided five can be shown to be the proper inference from the words of Scripture. A consistent Trinitarian must feel no a priori objection to any number of divine persons united together. Having conceded that on this subject his Reason is no guide, and his Nature no analogy, there is but one ques. tion he has a right to ask,—“ Is it so written?”

And even if it should be granted that Scripture reveals three divine persons and reveals no more, yet upon his own principles, a consistent Trinitarian should be cautious in asserting that there are no more. Scripture nowhere asserts that there are only three persons in the godhead--and surely it is being wise above what is written, for a Trinitarian to confine God's essence within the limits in which He has been

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pleased to reveal Himself, and to make the communications He has opened upon us the measures of the infinite possibilities of His being. A Trinitarian reverently and with becoming modesty stating his own doctrine, and not presuming to know more of God than is revealed, ought to content himself with saying—that Scripture discloses three divine minds in one Deity, but that whether there are any more than three, Scripture does not declare, and he would hold it arrogant to assert. If the Unitarian is wise contrary to what is written in confining the unity of God to one person; the Trinitarian is wise above what is written in confining it to three persons, and with less excuse, for that one is neither more nor less than one is at least a natural supposition—but after having admitted that one may be three, there is nothing but precipitancy and dogmatism in determining that it can be only three. A consistent and scripturally modest Trinitarian should simply state, that God his Father, God his Redeemer, and God his Sanctifier, contained all the revelation that was required for the salvation of his soul—but as to whether there might not be other divine persons in the plurality of the godhead, he held it to be a high mystery, which he did not presume to speak upon—that only these were revealed, and therefore he knew no more, but yet he did not dare to assert that his necessities, the requirements of a being so feeble, comprised and exhausted the whole capabilities and personalities of the godhead. But Trinitarians are not so modest. They charge the Unitarian with presumption for limiting the divine essence to one Person—and then they proceed themselves, with no warrant from Scripture, and none they assert from Reason, to limit it to Three.

If two not three had been the favourite mythological number, if a Duality and not a Trinity had been the Platonic conception, then, I am satisfied, that the Christian world, though it might have witnessed the deification of the Christ, would never have heard of the separate deity of the Holy

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Spirit. And this assertion is amply borne out by the historical fact, that the deification of the Spirit followed afterwards as a consequence from the deification of the Son, and that the earliest form of the charge made against the Platonizing Christians by stricter believers in the unity of the · Deity, states the whole extent of their heresy to be that of introducing a second God,-nothing as yet being said about third.

It is well known to all in whom duty has so far prevailed over distaste, as to make them turn in sorrow the heavy pages of Ecclesiastical History, that there was no discussion respecting the divinity of the third person in the Trinity until nearly the end of the fourth century. Nothing can surpass the cool and easy confidence which sets aside this undeniable fact by boldly asserting that up to this time the doctrine was never disputed—and that the absence of evi. dence in support of this doctrine only arises from the absence of doubt, that nobody stated what nobody denied. What the separate deity and personality of the Holy Ghost never doubted, and yet not one prayer addressed to Him in Scrinture, not one ascription of praise, not one doxology in which his name is introduced, so that when the Church desired to associate the third person in the honours of Christian worship it could find no Scripture formula, and had to make one for the occasion ;—not one debate for nearly four hundred years upon the deity of the Holy Ghost, although the deity of the Second Person, to whom the Third Person even after his deification was held to be subordinate, was constantly debated, and yet the doctrine never doubted nor denied! Now if the doctrine was never doubted or denied, since the doctrine of the deity of the Son was most certainly both doubted and denied, why is it that the Holy Spirit does not appear as the Second person in the Trinity instead of the Third—why is it that the Council of Nice previous to this time, when the doctrine began to be doubted and denied, asserts the deity of the

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