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A DISSERTATION,

On the kind and degree of evidence necessary to es

tablish the Doctrine of the Trinity, and by which we might expect the Doctrine of the Trinity would be supported in the Scriptures.

It will easily be acknowledged, that in all inquiries which depend on moral evidence, the correctness of our conclusions will be very much affected by the standard of proof by which we try them. If this standard is either too high or too low, if we require either too much or too little evidence, we may disbelieve where we ought to be convinced, or be convinced where we ought to disbelieve. The sceptic, who demands a kind and degree of proof inconsistent with our moral nature, our state of probation, and the analogy of the divine

government, is led to throw away the inestimable aids, and motives, and consolations, and hopes of christianity. The believer in Transubstantiation, on the other hand, who is satisfied with evidence insufficient both in its measure and its nature, is led to embrace a faith, which makes the gospel itself incredible, by making it responsible for a doctrine contradictory to nature, to reason, and to other parts of the scriptures themselves. It is evidently very important, therefore, that we should guard against the danger of requiring too much, or of be ing contented with too little proof of our religious opinions. For this reason it seems to be proper, that one, who has never critically examined the proofs of the doctrine of the Trinity, should inquire, by what sort of evidence we may justly expect such a doctrine would be accompanied. Mr. Yates, in his · Vindication of Unitarianism,' has touched on this subject; but its importance may be thought to justify a more ample consideration.

A doctrine may, a priori, or previously to a minute inquiry into its proofs, have a presumption either in its favour, or against it. A proposition which is at once perceived to be consonant to reason and the general tenor of the scriptures, will have a previous presumption in its favour, and may be believed to be a true doctrine of christianity, with little hesitation. On the contrary, a proposition, which is apparently both irrational and unscriptural, will have a previous presumption against it, and requires a more scrupulous examination, and a fuller and more unequivocal evidence, before it can be embraced.' There is a previous probability, for example, that the doctrine of a providence will be found in the New Testament, and a previous improbability, that the doctrine of transubstantiation will be found there.

In applying this general principle, we may safely say, that there is a strong presumption that the scriptures will not be found to contain any doctrine apparently inconsistent with the unity of God. There is no truth of greater clearness or higher authority, than that there is but one God. Both philosophy and revelation unite in confirming it. The systematical unity and harmony of design conspicuous throughout the universe, extending to the moral as well as the physical world,* lead us to the conclusion that the cause of all is One, All the arguments, which demonstrate the existence of God, lead us to the same conclusion. They all result in this, that the non-existence of an infinite, original, eternal mind, implies an absurdity, a contradiction, an impossibility. But this reasoning can hold of only one such mind. For, since one such mind is adequate to every effect, if it could be maintained that more than one could exist, it might be said of each of them, separately, that its nonexistence is possible; and necessary existence, therefore, could be proved of neither of them. That therefore, which is the essence of every argument for the being of a God, would lose all its force, and Atheism would be established on the ruins of all religion. But, indeed, the existence of one infinite mind excludes, by the very definition of infinity, the possibility that there should be more than one. attempt to form the supposition of a second infinite Being, we at once see, that it must in every particular be entirely coincident with the first; that is to say, as to all our ideas, it will necessarily be one and the same.*

If we

* Stewart's Philosophy of the Mind, Vol. II. p. 324.7. Boston ed.

To this great truth, that there is but one God, both the Jewish and Christian revelations lend all the weight of their divine authority. Nothing can be more full and express than their testimony to this point. It was the great object of Judaism to preserve this truth amidst the polytheism of the ancient world. So sacred was it esteemed by the Jews, that it was a custom of theirs even till modern times, to repeat every morning and evening the passage of Deuteronomy; Hear, O Israel, JEHOVAH OUR GOD, JEHOVAH IS ONE. It is needless, however, to multiply proofs of this point, since it is one of those primary principles, quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus creditum. All christians, of every name, with whatever inconsistency it may sometimes be done, are compelled by the force of scripture testimony to acknowledge, that there is one God, and that there is none other, but He. We are authorized by this universal concession to take this doctrine as an axiom in all our reasonings on this subject, and to say, that whatever else may be false, this must be true.

*" For if we suppose more than one, it is plain, since the attributes of infinite power, knowledge and goodness include all possible perfection, that they must be entirely alike to each other without the least possible variation. They will therefore entirely coalesce in our idea, i. e. be one to us. Since they fill all time and space, and are all independent, omnipotent, omniscient, and infinitely benevolent, their ideas cannot be separated, but will have a numerical as well as a generical identity. When we suppose other beings generically the same, and yet numerically different, we do, at the same time, suppose, that they exist in different portions of time and space ; which circumstances cannot have place in respect of the supposed plurality of infinite beings. We conclude therefore, that there is but one infinite being, or God.” Hartley on Man, Vol. II, p. 30, 4th edition,

As therefore the unity of God stands on the highest possible evidence, we are sure, that all other truths of religion will be really consistent with it, and of course there is a high probability that they will all be apparently consistent with it. We ought to view every proposition, which seems to contradict it, with doubt and suspicion ; for we are certain, that such a proposition must either be false, or else that we do not understand it. We are justified therefore in saying, that there is, a priori, a strong presumption against any proposition which apparently interferes with the doctrine of the Unity of God. We do not say that this presumption is so strong that no evidence can remove it. But we must all admit, that till the compatibility of such a doctrine with this primary truth is rendered manifest, every thing must be presumed against it, and nothing in its favour.

Now there is scarcely any one who will deny that the doctrine of the Trinity is apparently inconsistent with the unity of God. There is a strong apparent discordance, we must all own, between the two propositions, that God is One, and that God is Three. It is not till after many subtile and metaphysical distinctions are made, that any one

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