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We know it is said, however, that the whole is a mystery; and that a doctrine is not to be rejected merely because it is incomprehensible. In the latter opinion we fully agree. Many things are incomprehensible to us which are unquestionably true. The union of the soul with the body is an incomprehensible matter to us, yet we should never think of denying it. The fact of such a union is unquestionable. To explain it is above our reason, but there is nothing in the statement of it to contradict our reason. But it is very different, as we have seen, in the statement of the Trinity. There is a line of distinction to be drawn between that which is above reason and that which is contrary to it. If we lose sight of this line, there can be no end to the absurdities which may be presented in the name of religion. Under the much abused plea of mystery, the Roman Catholic finds what he conceives a sufficient shelter for the doctrine of Transubstantiation. It should always be observed that the Unitarians do not reject the doctrine of the Trinity because it is incomprehensible, but because it is defective in rational and Scriptural proof.
3. The argument from plain Scripture is against it. Every reader of the Bible knows that the general tenor of that sacred book is in harmony with the declaration of Moses when he said, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord." We read in the Bible that there is one God. We read, likewise, that "God is one.' But it is nowhere stated that "God is three." And until such a statement is produced we do not see (and we say it with all respect) how Trinitarianism can be said to stand upon the same distinct and definite Scriptural ground as Unita
rianism. Roman Catholic controversialists insist that the doctrine of the Trinity cannot be proved from the Scriptures alone.* To the same effect speak the Tractarians of the Anglican Church.† These parties hold the Trinity,
* In a discussion held at Castlebar, Ireland, in January, 1837, between the Rev. Mr. Hughes, a Roman Catholic priest, and the Rev. Mr. Stoney, Protestant rector, the former gentleman thus expressed himself: "I believe the doctrine of the Trinity on the authority of the Church; and though he (Mr. Stoney) rejects Church authority, he would be glad to base his creed upon a splice of it. My belief in the Trinity is based on the authority of the Church; · no other authority is sufficient."
+ The following extract from the writings of the "Oxford Doctors" is worthy of attention in this connection:
"What shall we say when we consider that a case of doctrine necessary doctrine, the very highest and most sacred- may be produced, where the argument lies as little on the surface of Scripture, where the proof, though most conclusive, is as indirect and circuitous, as that for Episcopacy, namely, the doctrine of the Trinity? Where is this solemn and comfortable mystery formally stated in Scripture, as we find it in the Creeds? Why is it not? Let a man consider whether all the objections which he urges against the Scripture argument for Episcopacy may not be turned against his own belief in the Trinity. It is a happy thing for themselves that men are inconsistent; yet it is miserable to advocate and establish a principle which, not in his own case indeed, but in the case of others who learn it, leads to Socinianism [meaning Unitarianism]. A person who denies the Apostolical succession of the ministry, because it is not clearly taught in the Scripture, ought, I conceive, if consistent, to deny the Godhead of the Holy Ghost, which is nowhere literally stated in Scripture... If the Lord's Supper is never distinctly called a sacrifice, or Christian ministers are never called priests, still, let me ask, is the Holy Ghost ever expressly called God in Scripture? Nowhere. We infer it from what is said; we compare parallel passages." - Tracts for the Times, Vol. I., No. 45, Vol. V., No. 85, pp. 4, 11.
but they maintain that the authoritative tradition, or teaching of the Church, is necessary, as well as the Scriptures, to establish it. The Unitarians likewise maintain that it is not sustained by the Bible, and, as they discard the authority of tradition, they discard the doctrine of the Trinity likewise. Thus it appears that although the doctrine of a tri-personal God is the faith of the great multitude of Christian believers, yet it is at the same time maintained, by the large majority, that that doctrine cannot be legitimately drawn from the Scriptures alone. This consideration should surely have some weight with the careful inquirer.
The Trinitarian controversialist does not pretend to say that the doctrine in question is expressly revealed in the Bible. The most that is claimed for it is, that it is a doctrine fairly deducible therefrom by a process of inferential reasoning.* But wherever human reason is employed, the element of fallibility is introduced, and its deductions should not be arrayed against the utterance of the infallible Word, when that utterance is plainly, distinctly, and incontrovertibly spoken. The Bible teaches that there is "one God." All who admit the teaching of
* A Trinitarian writer, the Rev. J. Carlile, in his work called Jesus Christ the Great God our Saviour, thus states the matter: "The doctrine of the Trinity is rather a doctrine of inference, and of indirect intimation, deduced from what is revealed respecting the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and intimated in the notices of a plurality of persons in the Godhead, in the form of baptism and in some of the Apostolic benedictions, than a doctrine directly and explicitly declared. We have now come to the limit of explicit revelation, and are entering upon the region of reasoning and inference.”
the Bible acknowledge this truth. This is the unity of the Deity which is held by Unitarians and Trinitarians alike. But the Unitarians maintain that the one God" acknowledged by both parties is simply one; they hold his simple unity, and for this opinion they quote a Scripture declaration, "God is one." The Trinitarians, on the other hand, are not satisfied with this doctrine of the simple unity; they hold a compound unity, called at trinity in unity. Now, to make their ground as strong as that of the Unitarians, they should be able to quote a Scripture declaration that "God is three." But they cannot do this. Their peculiar doctrine of the Godhead stands not on an express Scripture testimony, but on a process of inferential reasoning.
Even though their process of inferential reasoning could not be at once shown to be false, we should be obliged to reject its result when we discover its discrepancy with so plain a declaration of God's word. But it can be shown to be false. This is not the place, however, to enter on a discussion of such a nature. Our aim in these remarks is only to submit a few reasons in justification of Unitarians for departing from the popular doctrine of a triune Deity. The Trinitarians are very apt to speak of the Unitarians as relying too much on human reason. Such a charge, whenever made, is improper and unjust, and might be forcibly retorted. The doctrine of the Unitarian rests directly on Scripture, and can be stated in the very language of Scripture. The doctrine of the Trinitarian cannot be so stated. It is constructed by an exercise of human reason, and can only be stated in the language of human creeds.
Their conduct in this respect seems to us very inconsistent and extraordinary. To borrow the words of a late distinguished convert from the Trinitarian to the Unitarian faith, "they first construct the doctrine upon inference and human reason, and then prostrate reason to receive it."
The only text in the Bible where the three terms, Father, Word (or Son), and Holy Spirit, are mentioned together and called one, is 1 John v. 7:-"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one. But what man, who values his character as a Biblical scholar, would say that this text is genuine Scripture ? That it is an interpolation is now admitted by eminent critics of every denomination. Yet it was clung to as a proof for the Trinity, by many parties, long after the critical evidence had spoken decisively against its genuineness.* And even yet it is offered as the first prooftext for that doctrine in the Westminster Confession of Faith.
The Scriptures plainly teach God's simple unity. The Deity is always spoken of as one. He is never styled three. Our Saviour repeats the declaration of Moses already referred to as the first of all the commandments. "Jesus answered him, The first of all the command
* “We have some wranglers in theology," says the eminent Bish op Lowth, "sworn to follow their master, who are prepared to defend any thing, however absurd, should there be occasion. But I believe there is no one among us in the least degree conversant with sacred criticism, and having the use of his understanding, who would be willing to contend for the genuineness of the verse 1 John v. 7."