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THE MOST HOLY TRINITY:
THE DOCTRINE ILLUSTRATED,
PROVED FROM THE SCRIPTURES.
TO WHICH 18 ANNEXED,
STRIKING TESTIMONIES FROM THE LIVES OF EMINENT APOSTOLIC, AND EARLY CHRISTIAN
PATHERS, AND VARIOUS NOTABLE PRIMITIVE HERESIZS RELATING THERETO,
DURING THE FIRST FOUR CENTURIES OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
BY EBENEZER SOPER.
“The acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ.”
Coloss. ü. 2.
In placing the following Essay before the public, the author does not aim to emulate the writings of celebrated scholars and divines on the same subject, which, from their classical composition, are eminently calculated to edify the more learned ; but he is very desirous to be well received among the multitude of ordinary Christians, who may be disposed to listen to a plain, simple, and intelligent discourse, by one of their own order--not as the representative of a class or denomination, but of the primary principles of our common Faith, which, for the most part, the generality of the Christian world agree in believing to be of essential importance to their present and everlasting welfare.
The book is earnestly and affectionately recommended to young, and inquiring Christians ; especially if they happen to be labouring with doubts and misgivings, concerning the important doctrine on which it is founded—from the circumstance that its chief arguments and topics once convinced the mind of the author of their vital importance, after it had well nigh been captivated by an opposing creed: which was upheld with intense interest and zeal by some sincere but mistaken Christian friends, who had espoused the opinions of their warm-hearted, but mistaken pastor ; who, however, having subsequently renounced his errors, maintained for many years the position of a distinguished and beloved preacher in this Metropolis, and lately departed hence to his everlasting rest. This was the principal motive that first induced me to undertake the task.
I am quite sensible that the subject is still very imperfectly handled, and that I may have committed errors ; but, amidst the pressing cares of life, I have executed the design according to the best of my judgment and intention.
INDEX TO LEADING SUBJECTS.
The doctrinal premises and exposition,
. . . . . . 52
THE MOST HOLY TRINITY.
Our present design is not to search with the vanity of an inquisitive temper, or presumptuously to pry into the hidden elements of the nature and existence of the Divine Majesty, who fills infinity and eternity : but only to attempt to elucidate and explain what He, in his wisdom, has been pleased to reveal for his own wise purposes, in promoting the wants and welfare of his creatures.
The Scripture doctrine of The Most HOLY TRINITY, or the Being of THREE DIVINE PERSONS IN ONE ESSENTIAL GODHEAD, is a mystery infinitely beyond the limited powers of finite capacities to explore and describe which no mortal eye can behold, nor mere natural understanding comprehend. “ The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him ; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. ii. 14). Nevertheless, the doctrine involves no contradiction to human reason and natural principles; and if it can be proved to be founded in the Scriptures of divine truth, we must, at once, dismiss all the arguments of worldly wisdom against it, and rely implicitly upon the inspired records, however incomprehensible they may appear to our poor, grovelling, benighted, finite capacities.
The groundwork for all we have to advance consists in the proposition that God, in essence, is ONE, infinitely, glorious, almighty, everlasting Maker and Ruler of all things. “Hear, O Israel : the Lord our God is ONE LORD” (Deut. vi. 4). “I am the LORD, and there is none else : there is no God beside me” (Isa. xlv. 5). “ One God, and Father of all" (Eph. iv. 6). And that, in this essential unity of the Divine elements, there are THREE adorable personal subsistencies—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. In order the better to portray our thoughts concerning this most important truth-the Threefold distinction of the Supreme Essence-we beg here to present a few sentences in the words of other choice authorities. Bishop Bull (“Defensio Fidei Nicænæ ”), discussing an historical fact, lays down the following hypothesis as a primary proposition : although we cannot but regard it as an attempt to explain what is infinite and inscrutable to the human mind, yet it is nevertheless the scriptural view and interpretation of the doctrine inculcated, as far as human wisdom can penetrate. “The Catholic doctors," he says, “ both those who preceded and those who lived after the Council of Nice, say, that God the Father, even in respect to his divinity, is greater