« PreviousContinue »
of the incarnate Redeemer, at his baptism and transfiguration a "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."--The second witness is the Word. It is remarkable, that the term Word, is most frequently employed by St. John, when he would express the Son of God, or the second person in the Godhead. Hence he says, "The word," that is the eternal son of God, "was made flesh, and dwelt among us." "In the beginning was "the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God." Thus the second witness is God, the son of God, the uncreated word who testified, "That he and his father are one." "Thou "father art in me, and I in thee." He proved himself to be the mighty God, the true Mesiah, the son of the highest, the Saviour of the world, by the stupendous miracles which he wrought, especially raising himself from the dead, and his ascension to heaven, in the presence of many spectators.-The third of these heavenly witnesses, is the Holy Ghost, who gave abundant attestation to our blessed Lord, as the only Saviour, by the miracu lous production of his human nature, descending upon him at his baptism, in the form of a dove, &c.
It is here observable, that these three who bear record, are said to be one : "And these three are one." They are not said merely to agree in one testimony, as the other three witnesses are, but they are one in heaven, in a high, eminent, and peculiar manner, they are declared one; they are one thing, one being or essence. It is probable that this oneness is beyond the cons ception of any created intelligence, therefore, we have no description or explanation of it in the divine oracles. Hence, for any to attempt to investigate, unfold, or illustrate this matter, must always injure the cause of truth; to endeavour to say wherein this unity consists, and wherein the distinction of three are placed is indeed to pretend to wisdom above what is written, and to be come vain in their own imaginations. It is enough for us to be assured, that it is a mystery hidden from men, and far transcending rational investigation, there is nothing in it contradictory to
sound reason. The mode of the divine existence itself, and the manner in which there are three subsistences in a unity of being or essence, will remain forever inscrutable to a created mind. "Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the "Almighty to perfection?" There are innumerable declarations in the scriptures of this sublime doctrine, that there are three persons in one simple, undivided, and eternal Godhead.
When in this case we use the word person, it is not to be taken in a vulgar or common sense. Men and angels have all their distinct personal beings, unconnected one with another; but the Trinity is three glorious subsistences, inseparably united in one and the same essence. The word person is employed in this busimess, because it is the best term our language affords, and because the scriptures use it for this purpose. Hence Christ is described as "The brightness of his glory, and the express image of his "person," that is, the person of God. We read also," of the "person of Christ; of the light of the knowledge of the glory of "God in the person of Jesus Christ." For the word which is here translated face, ought to have been rendered person. Thus we find the term person, used to express the person of the Father, the person of the Son, and, therefore, in perfect propriety, it is used to express the person of the Holy Ghost.
All I shall say upon this subject, will be reduced to these two propositions, of which the holy scriptures every where assure us, to wit: That there is but one only living and true God :—And that there are three persons in one Godhead, equal in substance, power and glory.
First, There is one simple undivided Godhead or essence. When God is spoken of as one, we are plainly to understand it, 1st. In opposition to the innumerable deities among the heathen, who have Gods many, and Lords many, and whose vanities are not Gods. 2d. In opposition to all titular Gods, as magistrates and civil rulers are sometimes thus termed in the bible: "I have
said ye are Gods, but ye shall die like men." 3d. As exclus sive of all composition of parts. A man is but one individual, yet he is compounded of parts: but God is one, as opposed to all such composition. 4th. God is one in distinction from a oneness of species, which admits of a great variety of individuals of the • same nature, and of the same name. But Jehovah is one by a peculiar, essential, and transcendent excellency of being, whereby he is undivided in himself, and absolutely indivisible in any respect.
He is the first, greatest, and best of beings-therefore, he can possibly be but one. For, to say there are many, who can be first, greatest and best, is a solecism in language, as well as in ideas.
Reason proclaims that God is infinite, that he is infinite in all his perfections, that infinitude is an essential property of his nature, and as it is impossible there should be two or more infinite beings, therefore, God can be but one, incomprehensible in his existence, and in all his attributes.
And this, which is the great dictate of the light of nature, is also the uniform doctrine of divine revelation. "Hear O Israel, "the Lord our God is one Lord. Before me there was no God "formed, neither shall there be after me. Is there a God besides me ? Yea, there is no God, I know not any. I am the Lord "and there is none else, there is no God besides me. God is one. "One God and father of all, who is above all." These, and a multitude of other authorities from the sacred oracles, demonstrate that there is but one, only living and true God.
I proceed now, to the
Second proposition, That there are three persons in one Godhead, equal in substance, power and glory. The sacred three have such distinguishing personalties, both of character and conduct ascribed to them, that it is impossible that the actions of the
one person, can be attributed to either of the others. There are such things ascribed to the Father, which cannot be ascribed to the Son or Spirit; and there are such things ascribed to the Son, as cannot be attributed to the Spirit or Father, so likewise there are such properties ascribed to the Spirit, as are never given to the other two.
The Father is declared to beget the Son. Thus speaks the Psalmist: "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." This is repeatedly applied to Jesus Christ in the New Testament, and he is often stiled the only begotten of the Father. Neither of these personal characters can be applied to the Spirit. "The "Father sent the Son into the world to take flesh upon him, and "to be born of a woman. The Son became flesh, and dwelt "among us." But neither the Father or the Spirit ever became flesh. The Spirit is said to be given or sent by the Father and the Son, and to proceed from them; but the Father or Son are never said to be sent by the Spirit, nor to proceed from him. This is sufficient to show that there are properties, operations, and couduct ascribed to each of those divine persons, and not common to all, and in these they stand distinguished one from another.
I shall now go on to bring forth the more direct proofs in favor of the doctrine of the Trinity, both from the old testament and the new. The old testament was, in many respects, a dark dispensation; but the saints were saved under it, by that grace and mercy which it revealed. They had not those full, clear, and spiritual discoveries of divine things, which are afforded to the people of God under the new. And among other things revealed to them more darkly than to us, was the doctrine of the Trini ty. However, they believed in the mercy of God, through a Mesiah who was to come, and to whom the ends of the earth were to look for salvation. And this manifested that they had some knowledge of a plurality of subsistences in God. They daily read in their scriptures, that the name which we translate God, is, in the Hebrew, in the plural number, and this must
have given to the serious and attentive mind, some glimmering apprehensions of some distinctions in the Godhead; especially when they met with the terms creators, makers, &c. frequently in the plural in such places as these : "Remember thy Creators, "in the day of thy youth. Let Israel rejoice in his Makers; "one saith, where is God my Makers ?" Thy " Makers is thy « Husbands,” and various other places, to the same effect.
But a plurality of persons in one God was fully intimated to the ancient saints, when God says, "Let us make man." And after the fall," The Lord God said, behold the man is become " as one of us." This is a very strong and distinguishing expression in favor of there being more persons in the Godhead than one. Remarkable is that sentence recorded by the prophet Isaiah : "Also I heard the voice of the Lord saying, whom shall I send, "and who will go for us?" Here Father, Son, and Spirit seem evidently to be denoted, I as one God, and us as three persons. The same prophet elsewhere says, "The Lord God and his "Spirit hath sent me." Whether saith David, "Shall I go from "thy Spirit?" And "God, thy God, hath anointed thee with "the oil of gladness above thy fellows." This is particularly applied to Christ in the epistle to the Hebrews. Here we find God anointing, and Christ Jesus receiving the same. Job seemed to have a clear understanding of this doctrine, when he declares, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the "latter day upon the earth; whom I shall see for myself, and "my eyes shall behold, and not another."
But we proceed to the more full and perfect display of this, as well as most other spiritual things in the new testament. Here we are plainly taught the doctrine of a Trinity in an unity of Godhead. "I came not of myself," says Christ, "but of my Father who "sent me." Here is one coming, and another sending him. It would be contrary to all propriety of speech, and even to truth itself, for one to say that he sent himself, and that he came not