Page images
PDF
EPUB

that is, they do not so properly act, as are acted upon. This is very true of all finite necessary agents; for all their necessary or natural acts proceed not so properly from them, as from God the author of their natures. But does it therefore follow, that if God acts by a necessity of nature in some instances, he is therein acted upon likewise? or that all the acts of the divine nature are voluntary and free; none natural and necessary? This should not be said by one who, elsewhere, speaks so much of God's being 6 infinitely wise,” and “ infinitely good, 6 infinitely happy,” &c. by an “absolute necessity of 6 nature;” unless he could be certain that knowing, loving, contemplating, and enjoying himself, do not imply perpetual acting, or that an infinitely active being can ever cease to act. I shall not scruple to assert, that by the same absolute necessity of nature that the Father exists, he exists as a Father; and coexists with his coessential Son proceeding from him. If you say, this supposes the Son self-existent, or unoriginate ; I desire it may not be said only, but proved. b In the interim, I take leave to suppose, that unbegotten and begotten, unoriginate and proceeding, are different ideas. Again, (p. 228.) che finds fault with “ the author of some 56 Considerations," for supposing that “the Son is some“ thing more than a mere name, and yet not a real dis“ tinct being:" and upon this lays down another aphorism; that there is no medium between a being, and not a being: which indeed is a very true one, if being, and being, are taken in the same sense, but not otherwise. For let me mention almost a parallel case. Upon the Doctor's hypothesis, that God's substance is extended every where;

και ούτε δύο αγέννητοι, ούτε δύο μονογενείς, αλλ' εις εσι πατήρ αγέννησος (αγέννητος gég iso é natiga pesn l zwr) xaà sis iso viòs, äidiws ix Fargos yeyevumjetvos. Cyril. Catech. x. p. 141. Ox.

< To avoid this consequence, he is forced to suppose (p. 29.) that the Son is something more than a mere name, and yet not a real distinct being; that is to say, that he is something between a being, and not a being. Cl. Reply, p. 228.

and that the same is the substratum of space; we may imagine two substratą, one pervading the sun, and the other the moon, which are both distinct and distant. Will you please to tell us, whether these two are real distinct beings, or no? If they are, you may leave it to others to prove them intelligent beings, that is, persons : and, perhaps, the very next consequence will make them two Gods, upon the Doctor's own principles. If they are not real distinct beings, then here is something admitted “between a being and not a being;” contrary to the Doctor's maxim : unless he makes them nothing; and supposes two spaces, without any substratum at all; two extensions, without any thing extended.

But let us consider, whether something may not be thought on, to help both the learned Doctor and us out of these difficulties. The truth of this matter, so far as I apprehend, is, that being may signify, either simply what exists, or what exists separately. This distinction seems to be just and necessary; and such as you will the more readily come into, having occasion for it, as well as we. I hope none are so weak, as to deny the Persons to exist in reality. The very schoolmen themselves never scruple to call them tres res, tres entes, or the like, in that sense; though at the same time, in the other sense of being, they are all but one being, una summa res, and una res numero; which comes much to the same with Tertullian's una (indivisa) substantia in tribus cohærentibus, (only setting aside his particular manner of explication,) and is the sense of all antiquity. Upon the foot of this distinction, you may readily apprehend those words of Gregory Nazianzen, spoken of the three Persons. Zwa's και ζωήν, φώτα και φως, αγαθά και αγαθόν, δόξας και δόξανΘεόν έκαςον, αν θεωρήται μόνον, του νου χωρίζοντας τα αχώρισα α. By the same distinction, you may probably understand a very noted Creed, which seems to have cost the learned Doctor some pains in explaining. To return to our instance of the two substrata. I suppose the Doctor, or yourself, will be content to allow, that this is substance, and that substance; and yet not substances, but one substance. In like manner also, this is being, and that being; and yet not two beings, but one being: this eternal, and that eternal; and yet not two eternals, but one eternal. I might go on almost the length of an Athanasian Creed. This must be your manner of speaking, if you come to particulars; and that because the substrata are supposed to have no separate existence independent on each other, but to be united by some common ligaments, which perhaps you will call personal attributes. And why then should you be severe upon us, for using the like language, and upon better reasons ? We believe the three Persons to have no separate existence independent on each other; we suppose them more united in some respects, than the substrata are supposed in your Scheme, because equally present every where: we admit some common ties or bands of union, which we call essential attributes and perfections. Either therefore allow us our way of speaking, which we think decent and proper; suitable to the idea we have, and to the circumstances of the case; founded in the very nature and reason of things : or else find out a better for your own, that we may, at length, learn from you how we ought to speak in this matter.

d Orat. xiii. p. 211. Paris. ed.

You will say, it may be, that the instance I have chosen is not exactly parallel in every circumstance. No; God forbid it should. But it agrees so far as is sufficient for my purpose. There is this manifest difference, that you suppose the several substrata so many parts of God; though every one of them infinitely wise, infinitely good, infinitely powerful, infinitely every thing, but extended. We, more consistently, suppose three Persons equal, in all respects; none of them singly part of God; but every one perfect God.

A second difference is, that you suppose all the finite

parts, making one infinite, to be one being, one God, and one Person ; by continuity, I presume, and a personal union of the parts. We suppose three Persons to be one God, by their inseparability and the essential union of the Persons : which, I humbly conceive, we are as able to explain, as you are to explain the other; and, I hope, more able to prove it.

A third difference permit me to mention, that you suffer your imaginations to wander, where you can find no footing; we are content to understand only, and that imperfectly, without imagining at all.

In fine, you have philosophized so far in these high and deep matters, that you really want all the same favourable allowances, which we are thought to do. Others may object several things to us, which would bear equally hard upon us both. The simplicity of the divine nature, for instance, is one of the strongest and most popular objections: but the learned Doctor has broke through it; and has contrived a solution, a very good one, both for himself and use. I have often thought no hands so proper to be employed against the doctrine of the blessed Trinity, as those which are good only at pulling down, and not at building up. If once you come to settling and determining points of a mysterious nature, there will be as fair a plea for this also : and I doubt not, but the same thread of reasoning, which first brought you to question it, will, when carefully pursued, and as soon as you perceive the like difficulties almost in every thing, bring you to make less scruple of it. But lest others should imagine, from what hath been said, that they may have some advantage over us, let me add these few considerations farther.

1. That what hath been urged is not purely arguing ad hominem ; but it is appealing to what good sense and impartial reason dictates equally to you or us, on such or such suppositions. 2. That if we come to reason minutely on any other

• Answer to the Sixth Letter, p. 39, 40.

matter, alike incomprehensible as this of the holy Trinity, we may soon lose ourselves in inextricable mazes.

3. That if they please to take any other hypothesis of the omnipresence, they may meet with difficulties there also, perhaps not inferior to the former. · 4. That if they choose to rest in generals, without any hypothesis at all, and without descending to the modus and minutiæ of it: this is the very thing which we desire and contend for, in regard to the blessed Trinity, (which ought certainly to be equally dealt with,) and then we may soon come to a good agreement.

By pursuing this point, I had almost neglected the learned Doctor's third aphorism; “ That nothing indi“ vidual can be communicated.” Here is as great a fallacy and ambiguity in the word individual, as before in the word being. I shall make this plain to you. That particular substance, which is supposed to pervade, and to be commensurate to the sun, is an individual being, in some sense; unless there be a medium between a being and not a being, which the learned Doctor admits not: the whole substance likewise is one individual being, and Person too, upon the Doctor's hypothesis : and we say farther, that three Persons may be one individual being; having, we think, a very good meaning in it. So here are plainly three senses of the word individual; and till you can fix a certain principle of individuation, (a thing much wanted, and by which you might oblige the learned world,) any one of these senses appears as just and reasonable as another. Now the Doctor's maxim, rightly understood, may be true, in all these senses. For, in respect of the first, what is peculiar and proper to one part, is not communicated or common to other parts : in respect of the second, what is proper to one Person, is not common to other persons: and so, in respect of the third, what is proper to one essence or substance, is not common to other essences or substances. All this is very true : but to what purpose is it, or whom does the learned Doctor contradict? This is only telling us, that so far, or in such

« PreviousContinue »