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If, with Dr. Waterland, and others who are reckoned the strictest Athanasians, (though their opinions were not known in the time of Athanasius himself,) it be supposed that there are three persons properly equal, and that no one of them has any sort of superiority over the rest, they are, to all intents and purposes, three distinct Gods. For if each of them, separately considered, be possessed of all divine perfections, so that nothing is wanting to complete divinity, each of them must be as properly a God as any being possessed of all the properties of man must be a man, and therefore three persons possessed of all the attributes of divinity must be as properly three Gods, as three persons possessed of all human attributes must be three men. These three persons, therefore, must be incapable of any strict or numerical unity. It must be universally true, that three things to which the same definition applies, can never make only one thing to which the same definition applies. And when by the words thing, being or person, we mean nothing more than, logically speaking, the subject, or substratum of properties or attributes, it is a matter of indifference which of them we make use of.
Each of these three persons may have other properties, but they must be numerically three in that respect in which the same definition applies to them. If, therefore, the three persons agree in this circumstance, that they are each of them perfect God, though they may differ in other respects, and have peculiar relations to each other, and to us, they must still be three Gods; and to say that they are only one God is as much a contradiction, as to say that three men, though they differ from one another as much as three men can do, are not three men, but only one man.
If it be said, with the Antenicene fathers, and with Bishops Pearson and Bull, among the modern English writers, that the Father is the fountain of Deity, and that the Son is derived from him, whether necessarily or voluntarily, whether in time or from eternity, they cannot be of the same rank; but the Father will be possessed of an original, a real, and proper superiority to the Son; who will be no more than an effect, upon the Father's exertion of his powers, which is, to all intents and purposes, making the Son to be a production or creature of the Father; even though it should be supposed with the ancients that he was created out of the substance of the Father, and without taking any thing from him. Moreover, as upon this scheme the Son was never capable of giving birth to another person like himself, be must have been originally inferior in power to the Father, the source from which he himself sprang. On this scheme, therefore, there is no proper equality between these divine persons; and the Antenicene fathers did not pretend that there was, but distinguished the Father by the epithet of AUTOES, God of himself, and the Son by the inferior title of EOS EX E8, God of God, or a derived God.
If it be said that there is only one Intelligent Supreme Mind, but that it exerts itself three different ways, and has three different modes of action or operation, (which was the opinion of Dr. Wallis, and that which was generally ascribed to the ancient Sabellians,) with respect to one of which the same divine Being was called the Father, to another the Son, and another the Holy Spirit; there is no proper
Trinity at all. For on the same principle one man, bearing three different offices, or having three different relations or capacities, as those of magistrate, father, son, &c., would be three different men.
Some represent themselves as believing the doctrine of the Trinity by asserting with Dr. Doddridge, that "God is so united to the derived nature of Christ, and does so dwell in it, that, by virtue of that union, Christ may be properly called God, and such regards become due to him, as are not due to any created nature, or mere creature, be it in itself ever so excellent."
What this union is, in consequence of which any creature can be entitled to the attributes and honours of his Creator, is not pretended to be explained; but as we cannot possibly have any idea of an union between God and a creature, besides that of God being present with that creature, and acting by him, which is the same thing that is asserted by the Arians or Socinians, these nominal Trinitarians must necessarily belong to one or other of these two classes. This is so evident, that it is hardly possible not to suppose but that they must have been much assisted at least in deceiving themselves into a belief that they were Trinitarians, by the influence which a dread of the odium and other inconveniences attending the Arian or Socinian doctrine had on their minds. The presence of God the Father with any creature, whether it be called an union with him, or it be expressed in any other manner whatever, can be nothing more than the unity of the Father in that creature; and whatever it be that God voluntarily imparts, he may withdraw again at pleasure. And what kind of divinity must that be, which is dependent upon the will of another?
Upon none of the modifications, therefore, which have been mentioned, (and all others may be reduced to these,) can the doctrine of the Trinity, or of three divine persons in one God, be supported. In most of them the doctrine itself is lost, and where it remains, it is inconsistent with reason and common sense.
II. ARGUMENTS FROM REASON AGAINST THE ARIAN
The Arian doctrine, of the world having been made and governed not by the Supreme God himself, but by Christ, the Son of God, though no contradiction in itself, is, on several accounts, highly improbable.
Our reasoning from effects to causes carries us no farther than to the immediate Creator of the visible universe: for if we can suppose that Being to have had a cause or author, we may suppose that his cause or author had a higher cause, and so on ad infinitum. According to the light of nature, therefore, the immediate cause or author of the visible universe is the self-existent First Cause, and not any being acting under him, as his instrument. However, the scheme itself is not naturally impossible, since a being possessed of power sufficient to produce the visible universe, which is a limited production, may be finite, and therefore may derive his
* See his Lectures, 1763, Proposition 128, p. 392. (P.)
power and his being from one who is superior to him. But though the Arian scheme cannot be said to be in itself impossible, it is, on several accounts, extremely improbable à priori, and therefore ought not to be admitted without very strong and clear evidence.
If this great derived Being, the supposed maker and governor of the world, was united to a human body, he must either have retained and have exercised his extraordinary powers during this union, or have been divested of them; and either supposition has its peculiar difficulties and improbabilities.
If this great Being retained his proper powers during this union, he must have been sustaining the whole universe, and superintending all the laws of nature, while he was an infant at the breast of his mother, and while he hung upon the cross. And to imagine the Creator of the world to have been in those circumstances, is an idea at which the mind revolts, almost as much as at that of the Supreme God himself being reduced to them.
Besides, if Christ retained and exercised all his former powers in this state of apparent humiliation, he must have wrought all his miracles by a power properly his own, a power naturally belonging to him, as much as the power of speaking and walking belongs to any other man. But this was expressly disclaimed by our Saviour, when he said, that of himself he could do nothing, and that it was the Father within him who did the works. Also, on this supposition, it must have been this super-angelic being, united to the body of Jesus, that raised him from the dead; whereas this is an effect which is always ascribed to God the Father only.
If, on the other hand, Christ was divested of his original powers, or emptied himself of them upon his incarnation, the whole system of the government of the universe must have been changed during his residence upon earth. Either some other derived being, (which this scheme does not provide) must have taken his place, or the Supreme Being himself must have condescended to do that which the scheme supposes there was an impropriety in his doing. For, certainly, the making and the governing of the world would not have been delegated to another, if there had not been some good reason in the nature of things (though it be unknown to us, and may be undiscoverable by us) why the world should have been made and governed by a derived being, and not by the Supreme Being himself. And this reason, whatever it was, must, as far as we can judge, have operated during the time that Christ was upon the earth, as well as before.
If Christ was degraded to the state of a mere man during his humiliation on earth, reason will ask, why might not a mere man have been sufficient; since, notwithstanding his original powers, nothing was, in fact, done by him more than any other man, aided and assisted by God as he was, might have been equal to?
If we consider the object of Christ's mission, and the beings whom it respected, viz. the race of man, we cannot but think that there must have been a greater propriety and use in the appointment of a mere man to that office. What occasion was there for any being superior to man for the purpose of communicating the
will of God to man? And as an example of a resurrection to an immortal life, (to enforce which was the great object of his mission,) the death and resurrection of one who was properly and simply a man was certainly far better adapted to give men satisfaction concerning their own future resurrection, than the seeming death (for it could be nothing more) of such a Being as the maker of the world, and the resurrection of a body to which he had been united. For, as he was a being of so much higher rank, it might be said, that the laws of his nature might be very different from those of ours; and therefore he might have privileges to which we could not pretend, and to which we ought not to aspire.
If the world was created and governed by a derived being, this being, on whom we immediately depended, would be that to whom all men would naturally look. He would necessarily become the object of their prayers, in consequence of which the Supreme Being would be overlooked, and become a mere cypher in the universe.
As modern philosophy supposes that there are innumerable worlds inhabited by rational and imperfect beings, (for all creatures must be finite and imperfect,) besides this of ours, it cannot be supposed but that many of them must have stood in as much need of the interposition of the Maker of the universe as we have done. And can we suppose either that this should be the only spot in the universe so highly distinguished, or that the maker of it should undergo as many degradations as this scheme may require ?
The doctrine of Christ's pre-existence goes upon the idea of the possibility, at least, of the pre-existence of other men, and supposes an immaterial soul in man, altogether independent of the body; so that it must have been capable of thinking and acting before his birth, as well as it will be after his death. But these are suppositions which no appearance in nature favours.
The Arian hypothesis, therefore, though it implies no proper contradiction, is, on several accounts, highly improbable à priori, and therefore ought not to be admitted without very clear and strong evidence.
III. ARGUMENTS AGAINST THE TRINITARIAN AND THE ARIAN HYPOTHESIS FROM THE SCRIPTURES.
I SHALL now shew, in as concise a manner as I can, that the doctrine of the Trinity, and also the Arian hypothesis, have as little countenance from the Scriptures as they have from reason. The Scriptures teach us that there is but one God, who is himself the maker and the governor of all things; that this one God is the sole object of worship, and that he sent Jesus Christ to instruct mankind, empowered him to work miracles, raised him from the dead, and gave him all the power that he ever was, or is now possessed of.
1. The Scriptures contain the clearest and most express declarations, that there is but one God, without ever mentioning any exception in favour of a Trinity, or guarding us against being led into any mistake by such general and unlimited expressions. Exod. xx. 3: "Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.' Deut. vi. 4: "Hear,
O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord." Mark xii. 29: "The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord." 1 Cor. viii. 6: "To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him." Eph. iv. 5, 6 : "One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." 1 Tim. ii. 5: “ For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."
On the other hand, not only does the word Trinity never occur in the Scriptures, but it is no where said that there are three persons in this one God: nor is the doctrine explicitly laid down in any other direct proposition whatever. Christ indeed says, (John x. 30,)“ [ and my Father are one;" but he sufficiently explains himself, by praying that his disciples might be one with him in the same sense in which he was one with the Father. John xvii. 21, 22: “That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us;-and the glory which thou gavest to me, I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are one."
2. This one God is said to have created all things; and no intimation is given of his having employed any inferior agent or instrument in the work of creation. Gen. i. 1: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."-Ver. 3: "God said, Let there be light, and there was light," &c. Psalm xxxiii. 6: "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth."-Ver. 9: "He spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast." Isaiah xliv. 24: "Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the Lord that maketh all things, that stretcheth forth the heavens alone, that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself."
3. This one God is called the Father, that is, the author of all beings; and he is called God and Father with respect to Christ, as well as all other persons. John vi. 27: "Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you; for him hath God the Father sealed." xvii. 3: "That they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." xx. 17: "Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God." Eph. i. 17: “ That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him." Col. i. 3: "We give thanks to God, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
4. Christ is said expressly to be inferior to the Father, all his power is said to have been given him by the Father, and he could do nothing without the Father. John xiv. 28: "My Father is greater than I." 1 Cor. iii. 23: "Ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." xi.3: "The head of Christ is God." John v. 19: " Verily, verily, I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of himself." xiv. 10: "The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself, but the Father, that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works." Matt. xxviii. 18: “ All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." 2 Peter i. 17: