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from the tone of high pretension with which they are urged, we have a clear right to reject them, and in place of them to adopt such views of the nature and existence of the Deity, as may be more reconcilable with reason, and at the same time more consistent with the plain and intelligible language of sacred writ.
Having for the sake of truth, and by no means for my personal gratification, struggled so far through this sea of perplexities, this slough of despair, in which so many have made shipwreck, not of a good conscience, but of their peace of mind, I propose, in my next to examine the Scripture authorities upon which the doctrine of the Trinity rests, as well as the doctrine intimately connected with it, of the proper Deity or Godhead of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I cannot close this Letter better than by recommending to your attentive perusal " the solemn address to the great and blessed God” of Dr. Isaac Watts on this subject, of which I annex some considerable extracts for your use * ; remaining,
With sincere affection,
* See Note B.
IN regard to the arguments drawn from Scripture in support of the doctrine of the Trinity, and which it shall be a chief object of this Letter to examine, one general observation may be made; which is, that it is necessary to assume that it was. so generally known and assented to in the apostolic age, as to render unnecessary an express mention, or a clear statement of it by the sacred writers. Upon this supposition, the texts I shall quote may be considered as having reference to such a doctrine; but upon any other it is not easy to account for the marked silence of the Scriptures in regard to it. But, to assume that it was generally known and believed in the apostolic age, is to assume it to be true ; for, if there had been any differences of opinion in regard to it, the apostles must necessarily have taken the one side or the other; they could not have been indifferent spectators of the controversy. If belief was necessary, or even conducive to salvation, we should doubtless be able to find both the doctrine and the corresponding duty of faith in this article
clearly enjoined, and no other authority can we now have for it. In order to get rid of this embarrassing objection, it has been alleged, that the mystery of the Trinity was privately disclosed to the apostles, lest an abrupt mention of it should offend the
prejudices of the Jews, who were firmly rooted in an opinion of the strict unity of the Godhead; and that, for this reason, it was never openly commented upon until some years after the apostles had been removed from the scene of their labours. But, in this case, the doctrine does not rest upon Scripture, but upon oral tradition, and tradition is too liable to error to be trusted at this late period in a matter of so great importance. Setting aside tradition, therefore, let us imagine, if we can, that we have never heard of a
persons in the Godhead: let us examine the Scriptures with the sole view of extracting from them such information as they afford in regard to this great question; and let us try how far they will bear us out in our unreserved admission of the several points, which, according to the definition given in my last Letter, make up the doctrine of the Trinity.
The text, which of all others is thought to afford the most unequivocal proof of the doctrine of three persons in the Godhead, is Matt., xxviii, 19.“ Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing thenı in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost" -a text of which Cyprian, a writer of the third century, is reported to say, that “ by it Christ delivered the doctrine of the Trinity, unto which mystery or sacrament the nations were to be
baptized.” Now, if it was into this mystery, and not into the doctrine of repentance, that the nations were to be baptized, as an unlearned reader might be led to infer from a perusal of the third chapter of Matthew and other portions of the New Testament, we ought to find, in every allusion to the form of baptism, the letter of this text most rigidly adhered to; for, although we may suppose that in the third century a wide departure might have taken place from primitive orthodoxy, we can hardly imagine that the apostles themselves, as if watching for the departure of their master, should instantly adopt another practice, and begin to baptize into his name only, who had expressly commanded them to use, in that rite, the names of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Nevertheless, we learn from Acts viii, 16, that Peter and John, in the short interval between the day of Pentecost and the conversion of St. Paul, having been sent by the apostles from Jerusalem to Samaria, which city had received the word of God, and had been baptized into the name of Jesus, so far from finding fault with this irregular proceeding, laid their bands on those converts, who immediately received the Holy Ghost; but by no means baptized them anew, or the historian could hardly have onitted to record a reproof of their contumacy so pointed and deserved.
Other texts are not wanting which lead to a belief, that however positive the precept may be, the practice of the apostles and first teachers (as many of them at least as thought fit to baptize) was very
different; and it is not unreasonable to suppose, that if the converts to the gospel were in baptism reminded of any name, or, in other words, if they were baptized into any name, it would be into that of the founder of the religion under whose laws and institutions they were in future to live. In this sense the Jews are said to have been baptized into Moses, or into the religion of Moses, by passing through the Red Sea (1 Cor., X, 2), and Christians, by faith in Christ, to be baptized into Christ (Gal., iii, 26 and 27). That, in this ceremony, a single name was commonly used, appears farther probable from St. Paul's expostulation with the church at Corinth upon the divisions that had arisen among them, owing to their preference for particular teachers ;“ Every one of you saith, I am of Paul, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ. Is Cbrist divided ? Was Paul crucified for you, or were ye baptized into the name of Paul ? I thank God I baptized none of you—lest any should
that I baptized into mine own name.” As a precept for the form of baptism, the text in question not only stands alone, but is controverted by every other place of Scripture which touches upon the subject. In all probability, the passage has been interpolated; for the words which convey the injunction intervene in the midst of a command of our Lord to his disciples, to teach all nations to observe whatsoever things he had commanded them; and by the omission of them, both the sense and construction of the passage are materially improved. As an argument for the Trinity, it can only be considered, at the best, as an