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pensable to salvation the acceptance of any human creed on subjects, on " which we are in the midst of darkness, and can only lisp like children.”
When we tell our Orthodox brother that we cannot receive his creed, he replies, “This is the pride of human reason: remember how much mystery there must be connected with so transcendent a subject as the divine nature: we must approach it with fear and trembling in order to believe aright.” But, if it be proper, as it undoubtedly is, that we should bear in mind how great God is, and how little we are, this should make us humble as to our own opinions, and prevent us from attempting to impose them on others, and should not be used to deter others from freely bringing our human theories to the test. But I have selected the motto to my present chapter in order to indicate the spirit in which I would speak of the mysteries of the divine nature.
The plain doctrine of the Trinity is, that not only is the Father God, but the Son and the Holy Spirit are also God. They are each God in such that though they are distinct, yet not one of them is greater or less than either of the other two, and all are still one, and as one, neither greater nor less than each separately. No attempt is made to explain this doctrine; it is received as a divine mystery upon the ground that it is supposed to be taught by Scripture.
Practically a difference between the three is recognized. The Father is looked up to most with respect to natural providence, the Son with respect to salvation from sin, and the Holy Spirit with respect to sanctification.
It is believed that the sacred Scriptures teach not only that Christ is God, but also that he is man: and therefore it is believed that he has two natures, one human and one divine; one by which he is Almighty God, the other by which he is like one
Such appears to me to be the doctrine which the Trinitarian formularies now express to plain men of good understanding. There are other forms of Trini. tarian belief, for instance, the Sabellian, according to which the one God manifests himself in three characters, viz., as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Again, Mr. Robertson finds a Trinity in every one of us, viz., an animal, an immortal, and a spiritual nature. So, he says, God becomes known to us by three consciousnesses; he adds: “ we do not dare to limit God; we do not presume to say
that there are in God only three personalities-only three consciousnesses; all that we dare presume to say is this, that there are three in reference to us, and only three; that a fourth there is not; that perchance in the present state a fourth you cannot add to theseCreator, Redeemer, Sanctifier."* Others understand by the Trinity I know not what, for in a collection of Litanies translated into German from the aldest Latin sources, I find this prayer : “ Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Holy Trinity, pray for us ; Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Holy and Wonderful Unity, pray for us.”+
* Sermons, 3rd vol.
† “ Jesus, Maria, und Joseph, heilige Dreieinigkeit, Bitt für uns ! Jesus, Maria und Joseph, heilige und bewunderungswürdige Einigkeit ; Bitt für uns ! (Vollständigste Sammlung von Litanien
I would not breathe a whisper of suspicion as to the conscientiousness of those clergymen, who hold not what seems to me to be the plain doctrine of the Trinity, and who yet rank among Trinitarians. Though, however, I would not question their sincerity, I cannot help feeling that non-natural interpretation is always a temptation to insincere profession, and therefore should be guarded against as one of the greatest dangers. The first thing in religion is to be simple and true.
Attempts have been made to illustrate the doctrine of the Trinity by analogy, but almost invariably, I think, without success. Mr. Bickersteth says, “ If, as we gaze on the sun shining in the firmament, we see any faint adumbration of the doctrine of the Trinity in the fontal orb, the light ever generated, and the heat proceeding from the sun and its beams, threefold and yet one-the sun, its light, and its heat,” etc. But the sun is greater than its light or heat; and though the sun diffuses these, no one would call light or heat the sun itself, or co-equal with it. In truth, the sun is one object with two properties, and these properties have a parallel, not in the second and third persons of the Trinity, but in the attributes of Deity. Another exemplification given is that of the white light of the sun consisting of three constituent lights, red, yellow, and blue. But is each one equal to all three ? And can
zum Gebrauche für Kirche, Schule und Haus. Aus den ältesten lateinischen Werken in's Deutsche übersetzt von F. Mössmer. Schaffhausen, Verlag der Friedr. Hurterschen Buchhandlung. 1858.)
either be added to another without increase of
quantity as well as change of quality ? Dr. Manning has the following remarks on the difficulty and danger of illustrating the Trinity by analogy : “It is observed that the nature of man is one, and common to the whole race : all partake in it, and all are therefore consubstantial : but this unity is consistent with an all but infinite multitude of persons. This seems to be a direct confirmation of the mystery of the Holy Trinity. It need not be said that this analogy, if pressed too far, would establish Tritheism. Suppose, to escape this, the analogy of the perfect unity of powers in the individual soul be assumed, it then issues in Sabellianism. The analogy of human paternity, and human sonship, directly proves the Arian doctrine."*
Before I proceed to state what appears to me the Christian doctrine, let me make two or three remarks. It is no sufficient reason for rejecting a fact, that the method in which it exists is mysterious. The operation of my will on my arm is to me no less mysterious than the operation of God's spirit on my heart. If a truth be revealed in Scripture without explanation, it may remain a mystery to us till we enter the heavenly kingdom. But a contradiction is
a valid hindrance to belief. It cannot, surely, be presumption for us to feel this, for it lies at the basis of our intelligent nature. If, for instance, it be said, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three and yet one, we can receive the statement, for they may be three in a different sense from that in which they are one—three in person and one in spirit, or one in person and threefold in manifestation ; but if the plain doctrine of the Trinity seem to require us to believe that three are one in the same sense in which they are three, I know not how we can yield our
* Manning's Sermons, vol. iv., p. 160.
Whether any such contradiction is involved must be left to individual judgment. The Athanasian Creed says, the unity is in substance, the distinction in person. I have tried to ascertain what these terms are supposed to mean, but can get only in answer, substance is that in which God, and Christ, and the Holy Spirit are one; and person is that in which they are three. If I take substance to mean essential nature, I am met by the fact that all mankind are of the same substance, but the various members of the human family are separate beings. I am therefore asked to use the term substance in a new sense, and no one can tell me what it is.
So with regard to person. With us personality involves distinctness of consciousness, will, responsibility, in short, the idea of a separate being, yet we are not to think of God as three, but as one.* Bishop Bull says, “ Tepixópnous, (circumincession), which is, properly speaking, the union of those things which mutually enter into each other throughout, is a mystery which we ought rather religiously to adore, than
* “Person, in its ordinary use at present,” says Archbishop Whately, “invariably implies a numerically distinct substance.”
“ The bare use of the name (person)” says Baxter," by one who knoweth not what that word signifieth, doth prove no man orthodox; but only that he useth orthodox words.” (Quoted in Barling On the Trinity, p. 53 and 166.)