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cluding all, which have been originally devised by man, and which have existed long enough to be thoroughly examined, have been successively exploded; and, as objects of belief, forgotten. Those, which have been devised for the purpose of amending
, the Scriptural system, have been generally of the same frail and perishing character. Some of them, however, under the wing of that divine authority, which by their abettors was supposed to shelter them; and under the garb of sacredness which was lent them by their inventors; have lasted longer, and been more frequently revived. New forms have in the latter case been given to them; new arguments suggested in their behalf; and the splendour of new and respectable names has been employed to recommend them to mankind. After all, their existence and their influence, have been generally limited by bounds comparatively
From the nature of the subject the same truth is completely evident. Theology is the science of the will of God concerning the duty, and destination, of man. What the will of God is concerning these subjects cannot possibly be known, unless he is pleased to disclose it. That it is disclosed by him in the works of Creation and Providence in a very imperfect degree, and that it cannot be discovered by man beyond that degree, must be admitted by every one, who would make even a plausible pretension to good sense, or candour. All, that remains undiscovered in this way, must be unknown, unless revealed by the good pleasure of God. When thus revealed, it can never be safely added to, diminished, nor otherwise in any manner altered, by man. To him, whatever God is pleased to withhold must be unknown. By him, whatever God is pleased to reveal must be unalterable, either as to form or substance; for no authority, less than infinite, can change that, which infinite authority has been pleased to establish. As, therefore, the Scriptural System of Theology could not have been invented by man; so neither can it possibly be amended by man. In the strong, but accurately just, language of St. Paul on this subject, Let God be acknowledged to be true ; but let every man, who denies, or opposes, what he has revealed, be accounted a liar. Or in the still stronger language of the same Apostle, Though an angel from heaven preach any other Gospel, let him be anathema.
Among the various denominations of men, denoted in the text by the wise, whose reasonings are vain, are included, so far as I can discern, the Arians and Socinians; or, as both sometimes choose to term themselves, Unitarians. I feel myself obliged to warn my audience, that this name however, contains in itself an error; and appears to have been formed with a design to deceive. It was professedly assumed for the purpose of challenging to those, who assumed it, the exclusive character, among Christians, of believing in the Unity of God; and of denying particularly, that Trinitarians entertain this belief: whereas Trinitarians believe in the Unity of God as entirely, and absolutely, as their opposers. That every Trinitarian asserts this of himself, every Unitarian, possessing a very moderate share of information, knows; and he knows also, that the charge of admitting more Gods than one cannot be fastened upon the Trinitarian; except by consequences, professedly derived from his doctrine, which he utterly disclaims. To prove, that such consequences do indeed follow from it, is, if it can be done, altogether fair, and unobjectionable ; but to charge him with admitting them, while he utterly disclaims them, is unworthy of a disputant, assuming the character of a Christian.
For the assertion, which I have made above, concerning the Unitarians, generally, I am bound to give my reasons. This I intend to do without disguise, or softening; but at the same time with moderation and candour. My observations I shall distribute under two heads : Answers to the Objections of the Unitarians against the doctrine of the Trinity; and Objections to the Doctrine of Unitarians, and to their Conduct in managing the controversy. It will not be supposed, that under either of these heads very numerous, or very minute, articles can find a place in such a system of discourses. All, that can be attempted, is to exhibit a summary view of such particulars, as are plainly of serious importance.
In the present discourse, it is my design to answer the principal objections of Unitarians against the doctrine of the Trinity. Of hese the
1st. And, as I conceive, the fundamental one, on which their chief reliance is placed, is, That the doctrine of the Trinity, or of Three Persons in One God, is self-contradictory.
This objection, therefore, merits a particular answer.
Those, who make this objection to the public, express themselves in such language as the following: The Father, according to the Trinitarian doctrine, is God; The Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. Here are three, each of whom is God. Three cannot be One, three units cannot be one unit. Were this objection made professedly, as it is actually, against the inconsistency of Tritheism with the unity of God, it would be valid and unanswerable. Equally valid would it be against the Trinitarians, if they admitted the existence of three Gods; or if their doctrine involyed this as a consequence.
But the former of these is not true; and the latter has not been, and, it is presumed, cannot be, shown. Until it shall be shown; every Trinitarian must necessarily feel, that this objection is altogether inapplicable to his own case; and, although intended against his faith is really aimed against another, and very distant object. Until this be shown, this objection will, I apprehend, be completely avoided in the following
1st. The admission of three infinitely perfect Beings does not at all imply the existence of more Gods than one.
This proposition may, perhaps, startle such persons, on both sides of the question, as have not turned their attention to the subject; but can, I apprehend, be nevertheless, shown to be true. It is clearly certain that the nature, the attributes, the views, the volitions, and the agency of three Beings, infinitely perfect, must be exactly the same. They would, alike, be self-existent, eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, and possessed of the same boundless moral excellence. Of course, they would think exactly the same things, choose the same things, and do the same things. There would, therefore, be a perfect oneness of character and conduct in the three; and to the universe of creatures they would sustain but one and the same Relation; and be absolutely but one Creator, Preserver, Benefactor, Ruler, and Final Cause. In other words they would be absolutely One God. This radical objection, therefore, is, even in this sense, of no validity.
2dly. The Doctrine of the Trinity does not involve the existence of Three Infinite Beings; and therefore this objection does not affect it.
The Scriptural account of Jehovah as received by every Trinitarian, is, that He is one perfect Existence, underived and unlimited; and that this one perfect Existence is in the Scriptures declar. ed to be, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. These, in the usual language of Trinitarians, are styled Persons, because, in the Scriptures, the three personal pronouns, I, Thou, and He, are on every proper occasion applied to them. As this is done by the Father and the Son, speaking to each other, and of the Holy Ghost; and by the Holy Ghost, speaking of the Father and of the Son; we are perfectly assured, that this language is in the strictest sense proper. Still, no Trinitarian supposes, that the word, Person, conveys an adequate idea of the thing here intended :much less that, when it is applied to God, it denotes the same thing, as when applied to created beings. As the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are distinguished; some lerm, generally expressing this distinction, seems necessary, to those, who would mark it, when speaking of the Three together. This term, therefore, warranted in the manner above mentioned, has been chosen by Trinitarians, as answering this purpose, so far as it can be answered by human language.
If I am asked, as I probably shall be, what is the exact mean. ing of the word Person in this case; I answer, that I do not know. Here the Unitarian usually triumphs over his antagonist.
But the triumph is without foundation, or reason.
If I ask in return, “What is the human Soul ?" or " the human Body ?" He is obliged to answer, that he does not know. If he says, that the soul is Organized Matter, endowed with the powers of thinking and acting. I ask again, what is that Organization ? and, What is that Matter? To these questions he is utterly unable to furnish any answer.
Should he ask again, to what purpose is the admission of the term, if its signification is unknown? I answer; To what purpose is the admission of the word Matter, if its signification is unknown! I further answer, that the term in dispute serves to convey, briefly and conveniently, the things intended by the doctrine; Vol. II.
viz, that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God; that these are Three in one sense, and One in another. The sense, in which they are three, and yet one, we do not, and cannot, understand. Still we understand the fact; and on this fact depends the truth, and meaning, of the whole Scriptural system. If Christ be God, he is also a Saviour; if not, there is no intelligible sense, in which he can sustain this title, or the character, which it denotes.
In addition to this, He is asserted in the Scriptures to be God, in every form of expression, and implication; from the beginning to the end; as plainly as language can admit; and so fully, and variously, that, if we deny these assertions their proper force, by denying that he is God, we must, by the same mode of construction, deny any thing, and every, thing, which the Scriptures contain. If the declarations, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word wus with God, and the Word was God; and Christ, who is over all things, God, blessed for ever; do not prove Christ to be God: the declaration, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, does not prove, that there was a Creation; or that the Creator is God. The declaration, All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made which is made, is as full a proof, that Christ is the Creator, as that, just quoted from Genesis is, that the Creator is God. An admission, or de. nial, of the one ought, therefore, if we would treat the several parts of the Bible alike, and preserve any consistency of construction, to be accompanied by a similar admission, or denial, of the other. Here, then, is a reason for acknowledging Christ to be God, of the highest kind; viz. that God has declared this truth in the most explicit manner.
The Mysteriousness of the truth, thus declared, furnishes not even a shadow of Reason for either denial, or doubt. That God can be One in one sense, and Three in another, is unquestionable. Whatever that sense is, if the declaration be true; and one, which God has thought it proper to make in the Scriptures; and one, therefore, to which he has required our belief; it is, of course, a declaration, incalculably important to mankind, and worthy of all acceptation.
The futility and emptiness of this fundamental objection of