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Unitarians, as applied to the doctrine of the Trinity, is susceptible of an absolute and easy demonstration; notwithstanding the objection itself claims the character of intuitive certainty. It is intuitively certain, or in other language, self-evident, that no proposition can be seen to be either true, or false, unless the mind possess the ideas, out of which it is formed, so far as to discern whether they agree, or disagree. The proposition, asserted by Trinitarians, and denied by Unitarians, is, that God is Tri-personal. The ideas, intended by the words God, here denoting the infinite Existence; and Tri-personal ; are not, and cannot be, possessed by any man. Neither Trinitarians nor Unitarians therefore, can, by any possible effort of the understanding, discern whether this proposition be true, or false; or whether the ideas, denoted by the words God and Tri-personal, agree, or disagree. Until this can be done, it is perfectly nugatory, either to assert, or deny, this proposition, as an object of intellectual discernient, or Philosophical inquiry. Where the mind has not ideas, it cannot compare them; where it cannot compare them, it cannot discern their agreement or disagreement; and of course it can form out of them, no proposition, whose truth, or falsehood, it can at all perceive. Thus this boasted objection is so far from being conclusive, or even formidable; that it is wholly without force, or application.
After all that has been said, it may still be asked ; " this proposition be thus unintelligible, do Trinitarians adopt it as an essential part of their creed?" I answer, “ Because God has declared it.” Should it be asked, “ Of what use is a proposition, thus unintelligible ?” I answer, “ Of inestimable use :" and this answer I explain in the following manner. The unintelligibleness of this doctrine lies in the nature of the thing, which it declares, and not in the fact declared. The nature of the thing declared is absolutely unintelligible; but the fact is, in a certain degree, understood without difficulty. What God is, as One, or as Three in One, is perfectly undiscernable by us. Of the existence, thus described, we have no conception. But the assertions, that He is One, and that He is Three in One, are easily comprehended. The propositions, that the Father is God, that the Son is God, that the Holy Chost is God; and that these
Why, if Three are One God; are equally intelligible with the proposition, that there is One God. On these propositions, understood as . facts, and received on the credit of the divine Witness, and not as discerned by mental speculation, is dependent the whole system of Christianity. The importance of the doctrine is there.
The utmost amount of all, that can be said against the doctrine of the Trinity, is, that it is mysterious, or inexplicable. A mystery, and a mystery as to its nature wholly inexplicable, it is cheerfully acknowledged to be by every Trinitarian : but no Trinitarian will, on that account, admit, that it ought to be less an object of his belief. Were the faith, or even the knowledge, of man usually conversant about objects, which are not mysterious; mysteriousness might, with a better face, be objected against the doctrine of the Trinity. But mystery envelopes almost all the objects of both. We believe, nay, wc know, the existence of one God; and are able to prove him self-existent, omnipresent, omniscient, almighty, unchangeable, and eternal. But no more absolute mysteries exist, than in the being, nature, and attributes, of God. The Soul of Man, the Body of Man, a Vegetable, an Atom, are all subjects filled with mysteries ; and about them all a Child may ask questions, which no Philosopher can answer. That God, therefore, should in his existence involve many mysteries, inexplicable by us, is so far from violating, or stumbling, a rational faith, that it ought to be presumed. The contrary doctrine would be still more mysterious, and far more shock a rational mind.
“ As to the doctrine of the Trinity," says a Writer * of distinguished abilities and eloquence, “ it is even more amazing, than that of the Incarnation : yet, prodigious and amazing as it is, such is the incomprehensible nature of God, that I believe it will be extremely difficult to prove from thence, that it cannot possibly be true. The point seems to be above the reach of Reason, and too wide for the grasp of human understanding. However, I have often observed, in thinking of the eternity and immensity of God; of his remaining from eternity to the production of the
* Skelton. Deism Revealed; Dia). 6.
first creature, without a world to govern, or a single being to mani. fest his goodness to; of the motives that determined him to call his creatures into being ; why they operated when they did, aud not before; of his raising up iutelligent beings, whose wickedness and misery he foresaw; of the state in which his relative attributes, justice, bounty, and mercy, remained through an immense space of duration, before he had produced any creatures, to exercise them towards ; in thinking, I say, of these unfathomable matters, and of his raising so many myriads of spirits, and such prodigious masses of matter, out of nothing; I am lost, and astonished, as much as in the contemplation of the 'Trinity. There is but a small distance in the scale of being between a mite and me : although that which is food to me is a world to him, we mess, notwithstanding, on the same cl.eese, breathe the same air, and are generated much in the same manner; yet how incomprehensible must my nature and actions be to him! He can take but a small part of me with his eye at once; and it would be the work of his life to make the tour of my arm; I can eat up his world, immense as it seems to him, at a few meals: he, poor reptile! cannot tell, but there may be a thousand distinct beings, or persons, such as mites can conceive, in so great a being. By this comparison !
a find myself vastly capacious and comprehensive; and begin to swell still bigger with pride and high thoughts; but the moment I lift up my mind to God, between whom and me there is an infinite distance; then I myself become a mite, or something infinitely less; I shrink almost into nothing. I can follow him but one or two steps in his lowest and plainest works, till all becomes mystery, and matter of amazement, to me. How, then, shall I comprehend himself ? How shall I understand his nature; or account for his actions? In these, he plans for a boundless scheme of things; whereas I can see but an inch before me. In that he contains what is infinitely more inconceivable, than all the wonders of his creation, put together; and I am plunged in astonishment and blindness, when I attempt to stretch my wretched inch of line along the Immensity of his Nature. Were my body so large, that I could sweep all the fixed stars, visible from this world in a clear night, and grasp them in the hollow of my hand; and were my soul capacious in proportion to so vast a body; I
should, notwithstanding, be infinitely too narrow-minded to conceive his wisdom, when he forms a fly: and how then should I think of conceiving of Himself! No; this is the highest of all impossibilities. His very lowest work checks and represses my vain contemplations; and holds them down at an infinite distance from him. When we think of God in this light, we can easily conceive it possible, that there may be a Trinity of Persons in his nature."
II. It is asserted by Unitarians, that the doctrine of the Trinity is Anti-scriptural.
It has undoubtedly been observed, that in this discourse I have considered objections against the Deity of Christ, and the Trinity, as being commensurate. The reason, is that, so far as my knowledge extends, those, who deny one of these doctrines, deny also the other. Although it is not strictly true, therefore, that every objection against the Trinity must of course be an objection against the Deity of Christ; yet, as this is the ultimate aim of almost all such objections, actually made; I have not thought any
; distinction concerning them necessary in this discourse.
As this objection is designed to be extensive, and is capable of being indefinitely diversified; it will not be possible for me to take notice of all the forms, in which it may appear. It will be my intention, however, to dwell upon those particular applications of it, on which the authors of the objection seem to have laid the greatest stress.
The general import of this objection, is, that Christ is exhibited in the Scriptures, as inferior to the Father. All the alleged exhibitions of this nature, may be advantageously ranged under two heads.
Those made by Himself ; and,
An answer to the principal of these will, it is believed, be an answer to the rest.
1st. Christ, as the Unitarians assert, exhibits himself as inferior to the Father, and therefore declares in unequivocal language, that He is not truly God.
Particularly, 1st. He declares, that He is not Omnipotent.
Verily, I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of himself. And again, in the 30th verse, I can of mine own-self do nothing. And again, John viii. 28, Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the son of man, then shall ye know, that I am He, and that I do nothing of myself; but, as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.
It will not, I presume, be pretended, that these words, in either of the passages, are used in the strict and absolute sense. That Christ would literally do nothing of himself will not be asserted, in the sense, that he had no power at all, and could not act to any purpose whatever. Whoever Christ was, he doubtless possessed some degree of inherent power, or power which was his own; and by it could do, at least, some such things, as are done by men generally. What, then, is intended? Undoubtedly, either, that Christ could do nothing, compared with what the Father can do; or that Christ could do nothing, except what was directed by the Father, according to the Commission, given to him by the Father, to act in the Mediatorial character.
That the latter is the true interpretation is, in my view, unanswerably evident from the following considerations.
1. The subject of a comparison between the power of Christ and that of the Father is not even alluded to in any preceding part of the Chapter, either by himself, or by the Jews.
The only debate between Christ and the Jews, was concerning the rectitude, or lawfulness, of his conduct. As the Jews were about to kill him for having acted unlawfully, both in healing a man on the sabbath day, and in saying, that God was his Father; it is incredible, (because it is imputing to him a gross absurdity) that Christ should here, instead of replying to the accusation of the Jews, and justifying his conduct as lawful, enter on a comparison between his ability, and that of the Father. This would have been a total desertion of the important subject in controversy; and could not have been of the least use, either for the purpose of justifying himself, or of repressing the violence of the Jews. On the contrary, it would have been the assumption of a subject totally foreign; totally unconnected with the case in hand; without any thing to lead to it; incapable of being ur derstood by those, to whom it was addressed, and a species of con