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The Trinity.




[Translated from the Theological Lectures of Dr. A. D. C. Twesten, Professor of Theology in the University of Berlin, by Rev. H. B. Smith, West Amesbury, Mass. Concluded from No. XII. p. 774.]

6. Character hypostaticus. (1) Notae internae.

Now that we have considered the doctrine of the Trinity as a whole, and have become acquainted with the doctrinal formulas of the church upon the relation of the divine essence to the three Persons of the Godhead, it still remains for us to examine more closely the relations of the Persons to one another, and the peculiar attributes or characteristics belonging to them individually, the sum of which we call their hypostatic or personal character. These are, as we have already signified,1 of two kinds: they have reference, partly, to the internal relations of the Persons in their mode of subsistence (7оóлos vлάožews), and, partly, to the mode in which the Father, the Son and the Spirit are revealed in the world (roozos anoxαhúyews). Accordingly, we distinguish the internal and external characteristics (notae internae et externae), or the internal and external character (character ad intra et ad extra), of the three Persons. The first of these, the internal characteristics, we will consider in this section; and the external characteristics, in the following.

Under internal characteristics we comprise both the order and the manner of subsistence (ordo subsistendi, ratio subsistendi). By the former is meant that the Father is unchangeably the first, the Son the second, and the Holy Spirit the third Person in the Godhead; by the manner of subsistence, which is the necessary condition of the order, is meant that the second Person has the ground of its subsistence in the first, and the third in the first and second. This last rests upon two acts immanent in the divine (opera ad intra, actus personales), from which we derive, on the one hand, those three peculiar properties which constitute the notion of the three Persons (proprietates personales); and, on the other hand, some other characteristics (called notiones personales), which also serve to distinguish them. We will then proceed to consider the internal characteristics of the Persons of


'Conf. Bibl. Sacra, Aug. 1846, p. 520. VOL. IV. No. 13.


the Trinity under these four heads: personal acts, personal attributes, personal conceptions, and order of subsistence. Since our later divines are not wholly agreed in their application of this terminology, we will hold fast to the older and stricter usage, from which it will be easier to understand the deviations, and without regard to which we shall hardly be able to appreciate the sense and purport of this whole mode of exhibiting the subject.1

1. The personal acts. Since God is pure action and life (actus purissimus), since, in virtue of his absolute self-causation and spontaneity, there is in him nothing dead, nothing independent of his action, nothing produced by an external necessity; it follows, also, that those relations, by which the divine Persons are distinguished, are to be referred to the divine efficiency. To speak more definitely, they are to be referred to the two absolutely immanent acts of generation and of procession, which are called opera ad intra, because they have nothing else than God himself for their object; and they are called personal acts, because the divine nature is conceived of as the author of them, not so far as it is common to the three Persons, but so far as it subsists in each one of them under peculiar modifications. From this it of course results, that they are not to be looked upon as actions common to all three, but as the actions of particular persons, as the Father or the Son, or both, (opera ad intra esse divisa). More important, however, than these generic statements would it be, if we were able to make clear to ourselves in what these two actions consist, and how they are connected with the nature of God. Those theologians who believed that they might, after the precedence

1 Bretschneider (Entwickelung d. dogm. Begr, § 68. S. 408; Handb. § 66. S. 461), Wegscheider (instit. § 77), ar.d Hase (Hutterus rediv.), would have us believe that the distinction between the personal acts, properties and notions rests only upon this, that the internal relations of the persons are considered either as acts, or as attributes, or as abstract notions; if this were so, then the distinction would be really only a grammatical, hardly a logical one, and would be scarcely worth the trouble of a moment's consideration. But whoever compares the development of this doctrine among the Scholastics, (whom, and especially Aquinas, our Evangelical theologians have, for substance, followed,) will see, that it is to this very point that the scientific deduction of the whole doctrine of the Trinity is attached.

* Conf. Quenstedt, P. 1. cp. X. Sect. 1. eo. 1-4. But it is to be considered that all opera interna are not opera ad intra, nor all opera ad intra also actus personales: e. g. the divine purpose to redeem the world by Christ is, as a purpose, an internal act, but it has the world as its object, and is so far not absolutely immanent; the omniscience and will of God are, referred to himself, opera ad intra, but they belong to the essence of God, and hence must be designated as essentialia.


Scholastic View.

of the Scholastics, develop the doctrine in a speculative way, answered: Since we attribute to God, as the highest intelligence, the immanent powers of understanding and of will, and since these do not act upon the world alone, but also upon God himself as their object, and hence must be conceived of as true opera ad intra; and, further, since they must be conceived as operations by means of which, in consequence of their reflexive character, certain distinctions are established in God himself; there would result from this a twofold procession (emanatio, neopoly, by which is understood nothing else than the establishment of certain distinctions in the mode of subsistence of the divine nature); viz. per modum intellectus, the procession of the Word, which is called generation,-and, per modum voluntatis, the procession of love, which is called spiratio, or procession in the narrower sense. To such a deduction it were a sufficient objection, that the divine knowledge and will are essential, and not personal operations, and hence cannot be classed among the opera divisa. The Fathers of the church, for the most part, insist repeatedly and pressingly upon the unfathomableness of these divine acts.2 The greater portion of our Evangelical theologians, considered such a


Other objections are not so pertinent; e. g. when it is said that on the same grounds, since the Son and Spirit are also intelligent beings, we must also make in them a distinction of three persons, and so on to infinity; it may be replied, that the intelligence of the Son and Spirit is not a separate one from that of the Father, but the same numerical divine intelligence, only represented under the hypostatic character of the Son and Spirit. The meaning, too, is not, that the personal acts of generation and procession are identical with the essential acts of knowing and willing, but only that they are connected with one another.

1E. g. Athanasius; (Orat. III. contr. Arian.) "It is not fitting to seek to know how the Logos is from God... and what is the mode of the generation of God; any one daring this were mad; because it is an ineffable act, and peculiar to the nature of God, known to him alone and to the Son." Gregory of Nat. (Orat. 35); “let the generation of God be reverenced in silence: for you, it is a great thing to learn that there is a generation; but the how, it is not permitted to angels, much less to you to comprehend." Rufinus, in his Exposition of the Creed, warns against the curiosity which would scan these profound mysteries, "lest while one attempts to scrutinize the brightness of inaccessible light, he lose the little vision which divine goodness has granted to mortals." Hilary (1. II. de Trin.) declares, "the archangels knew it not, the angels have not heard it, the ages do not hold it, prophets perceived it not, apostles did not inquire, the Son himself did not reveal it." Augustine (in Joh, tr. 99) says, "it would be a long work to discuss the difference between procession and generation, and a rash thing, after all discussion, to define it:" and contr. Max. III. 14, "I know not, I avail not, I suffice not to distinguish between that generation and this procession."

derivation as objectionable or inadmissible, and appealed to the constantly acknowledged unfathomableness of the acts. There remained, then, nothing for them, but to make out the reality and the difference of these processes, as facts, revealed by the Holy Scriptures, and to be adopted on their testimony; and then, to restrict themselves in the explanation of them, to mere definitions of the terms, considered as indicating certain relations, and as compared with other relations.

Accordingly, they distinguish the generation of the Son and the procession of the Holy Ghost, on the one hand, from creation, and on the other hand, from each other. In creation the divine essence is the cause of something different from itself, which is made from nothing; but in the generation of the Son, the Father is the ground, and in the procession of the Spirit, the Father and Son are the ground (ratio),1 of the subsistence of the divine essence in another roónos vnάožews: hence, it is said, the Son and Spirit are not created or made from nothing, but generated and proceeding from the substance of the Father, as God from God, light from light.2 These two processes, now, are distinguished from one another, ratione principii, since the generation is from the Father alone, but the procession is from the Father and Son; ratione termini, since it is said of the Son only that he is generated, while the Spirit is breathed forth (spiratio); ratione ordinis, since the generation is the first internal personal act, which is preceded by no other but is necessarily followed by a second, while the procession of the Spirit is the second act, which is preceded by the generation, but followed by no third process. Such dis

The words ratio and principium, rather than the word causa, are used to designate these acts; for the effect is a something distinct from its cause, while the ground of anything is not separated from that of which it is the ground, but is in it.

2 In the concrete notion of a divine person there are two elements, the notion of the divine essence and also of a particular mode of its subsistence; these personal acts, then, must be referred to both. Hence it is equally erroneous to speak of generation as the production of a second divine nature, or of a second subsistence not having the same nature. In the usual definitions of generatio and spiratio, sufficient care has not always been used to express both points equally we have e. g. the definition "a communication of the divine essence," which would be easily misunderstood as conveying the meaning, that the communication of the divine attributes was the chief thing, whence we have almost inevitably an incorrect conception of the personal subsistence. It were better to define generation, as that act of the Father by which he is the ground of the subsistence of the divine nature under the hypostatic character of the Son; and to define procession in an analogous way.


Views of the Greek Church.

tinctions as these have been urged, but it need not be shown that they are merely external ones, and necessarily must be so, if, for want of an adequate philosophical view, we cannot or will not make the analogy of our own self-consciousness the basis of our illustrations. Since these distinctions were so formal, one would think that there was the less need of so zealous a discussion of the question, whether the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son, or from the Father alone, as we find in the controversies of the Greek and Roman churches.

The motives which originally led the Greek church to hold with exactitude to the Nicene formula, "who proceeded from the Father," and the Western church, particularly the Spanish, to add "and the Son," were not at all opposite to one another; and nei. ther could justly reproach the other with molesting the truth. The Greeks were led to their view, partly by the way in which they were accustomed to maintain the divine monarchy in consistence with the triplicity, since the Father was regarded as "the original, the root and the fountain of divinity,” (dopýr, þíçav xai πη. The The DeоTYTOS); partly by their opposition to the Pneumatomachists, since the latter seemed to exhibit the Spirit as created by the Son and subordinate to him. On the other hand, the Western church, in respect to the divine unity were satisfied by the notion of one identical divine nature in the three Persons; and sought to counteract the Arian subordination of the Son to the Father, by making him equal with the Father also in his relation to the Holy Ghost. Assuredly, neither could the Occidental church accuse the Greeks of not sufficiently acknowledging the consubstantiality and the divinity of the Son; nor on the other hand could the Eastern church accuse the Western of not holding to the monarchy, and to the divinity of the Spirit. Upon a question, therefore, which, however it might be answered, would endanger no article of faith, and which was decided by no direct


'Conf. Neander's Kirchengesch. Bd. II. Abth. II. S. 896–901.

* That the Father is the fountain and original of the whole of deity is a formula always recognized in the Western church: conf, the decretum unionis of the Florentine council, A. D. 1439, in the introduction: "The Latins affirm that they do not say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son with the design of excluding the Father from being the fountain and original (fons ac principium) of the whole of deity, even of the Son and Holy Spirit." On the other hand no one will doubt the perfect congruity of the Greek view with that given in the Athanasian creed, which was originally more occidental if he but read the passages bearing upon it in the ěkdoσis of John of Damascus (L. 1. ep. 8 seq.).

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