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dwells with us, affording us clearer evidence about Himself, . . . that by gradual additions, and flights, as David says, and by advancing and progressing from glory to glory, the radiance of the Trinity might shine out on those who are illuminated”.”
Now from this peculiar method in which the doctrine is unfolded to us in Scripture, we learn so much as this in our contemplation of it; viz. the absurdity, as well as the presumption, of inquiring minutely about the actual relations subsisting between God and His Son and Spirit, and drawing large inferences from what is told us of Them. Whether They are equal to Him or unequal, whether posterior to Him in existence or coeval, such inquiries (though often they must be answered when once started) are in their origin as superfluous as similar questions concerning the Almighty's relation to His own attributes (which still we answer as far as we can, when asked); for the Son and the Spirit are one with Him, the ideas of number and comparison being excluded. Yet this statement must be qualified from the evidence of Scripture, by two additional remarks. On the one hand, the Son and Spirit are represented to us in the Economy of Revelation, as ministering to God, and as, so far, personally subordinate to Him; and on the other hand, in spite of this personal inequality, yet, as being partakers of the fulness of the Father, they are equal to Him in nature, and in Their claims upon our faith and obedience, as is sufficiently proved by the form of baptism.
2 Greg. Naz. Orat. xxxvii. p. 608 ; [xxxi. 26.]
The mysteriousness of the doctrine evidently lies in our inability to conceive a sense of the word person, such, as to be more than a mere character, yet less than an individual intelligent being; our own notions, as gathered from our experience of human agents, leading us to consider personality as equivalent, in its very idea, to the unity and independence of the immaterial substance of which it is predicated.
THE ECCLESIASTICAL DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY.
This being the general Scripture view of the Holy Trinity, it follows to describe the Ecclesiastical Doctrine, chiefly in relation to our Lord, as contained in the writings of the Fathers, especially the Ante-Nicene'.
Scripture is express in declaring both the divinity of Him who in due time became man for us, and also His personal distinction from God in His pre-existent state. This is sufficiently clear from the opening of St. John's Gospel, which states the mystery as distinctly as an ecclesiastical comment can propound it. On these two truths the whole doctrine turns, viz. that our Lord is one with, yet personally separate from God. Now there are two appellations given to Him in Scripture, enforcing respectively these two essentials of the true doctrine; appellations imperfect and open to misconception by themselves, but qualifying and completing each other. The title of the Son marks His derivation
i The examples cited are principally borrowed from the elaborate catalogues furnished by Petavius, Bishop Bull, and Suicer, in his Thesaurus and his Comment on the Nicene Creed.
and distinction from the Father, that of the Word (i. e. Reason) denotes His inseparable inherence in the Divine Unity; and while the former taken by itself, might lead the mind to conceive of Him as a second being, and the latter as no real being at all, both together witness to the mystery, that He is at once from, and yet in, the Immaterial, Incomprehensible God. Whether or not these titles contain the proof of this statement, (which, it is presumed, they actually do, at least, they will enable us to classify our ideas; and we have authority for so using them. “The Son," says Athanasius, “is the Word and Wisdom of the Father: from which titles we infer His impassive and indivisible derivation from the Father, inasmuch as the word (or reason) of a man is no mere part of him, nor when exercised, goes forth from him by a passion; much less, therefore, is it so with the Word of God. On the other hand, the Father calls Him His Son, lest, from hearing only that He was the Word, we should consider Him such as the word of man, impersonal, whereas the title of Son, designates Him as a Word which exists, and a substantial Wisdom ?."
Availing ourselves of this division, let us first dwell on the appellation of Son, and then on that of Word or Reason.
Athan. de Syn. 41. In the same way the Semi-Arian Basil (of Ancyra), speaking of such heretics as argued that the Son has no existence separate from the Father, because He is called the Word, says, “ For this reason our predecessors, in order to signify that the Son has a reality, and is in being, and not a mere word which comes and goes, were obliged to call Him a substance. ... For a word has no real existence, and cannot be a Son of God, else were there many sons.” Epiph. Hær. lxxiii. 12.
Nothing can be plainer to the attentive student of Scripture, than that our Lord is there called the Son of God, not only in respect of His human nature, but of His pre-existent state also. And if this be so, the very fact of the revelation of Him as such, implies that we are to gather something from it, and attach in consequence of it some ideas to our notion of Him, which otherwise we should not have attached ; else would it not have been made. Taking then the word in its most vague sense, so as to admit as little risk as possible of forcing the analogy, we seem to gain the notion of derivation from God, and therefore, of the utter dissimilarity and distance existing between Him and all beings except God His Father, as if He partook of that unapproachable, incommunicable Divine Nature, which is increate and imperishable.
But Scripture does not leave us here: in order to fix us in this view, lest we should be perplexed with another notion of the analogy, derived from that adopted sonship, which is ascribed therein to created beings, it attaches a characteristic epithet to His Name, as descriptive of the peculiar relation of Him who bears it to the Father. It designates Him as the Only-begotten or the own 3 Son of God, terms evidently referring, where they occur, to His heavenly nature, and thus becoming the inspired comment on the more general title. It is true that the term generation is also applied to certain events in our Lord's mediatorial history: to His resur3 [John i. 1. 14. 18; iii. 16; v. 18. Rom. viii. 32. Heb. i. 1–14.]