Skeletons of a Course of
By Charles G. Finney
Trinity Or Tri Unity Of God.
First. State the doctrine.
1. That there is one only living and true God.
2. That he subsists in three persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
3. That there are three divine, distinct, though not separate moral agents, in the Godhead.
4. That they exist in one essence, or substratum of being.
Second. The point now under consideration.
1. Not the unity of God, or that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are one. The divine unity has been already established. But:
2. The point of inquiry before us respects the distinct personality and divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Third. The sources of evidence.
1. We are not to expect to gather clear evidence of the doctrine of the Trinity or Tri Unity of God, from the works of creation, as the perfect moral and essential unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, would preclude all possibility of discrepancy of views or operations in the creation or government of the universe. Every thing, therefore, in the creation and government of the material universe, may be expected to indicate only the existence of one God, without distinct notices of a Trinity of persons.
2. The only source from which we can expect proof, is that of direct revelation, oral or inspired.
Fourth. The amount of evidence to be expected, if the doctrine is true.
1. We are not to expect that the quo modo, or mode of the divine existence will be, by revelation, made intelligible to, or brought so within the comprehension of our minds, that we shall be able fully to understand it. All that we can know of infinite is, that it exists; but whether an infinite mind subsists in one or many persons in one substratum of being, we cannot know but by a divine revelation. And by revelation we can only know the fact, without a possibility of comprehending the quo modo.
2. We are not to expect such a formal and metaphysical statement of the doctrine as has been common in polemic theology; for this is not the manner in which revelation is given upon any subject.
3. We may reasonably expect evidence, direct, inferential, incidental, full, and conclusive, or otherwise, as the knowledge and belief of it is more or less essential to salvation.
4. If it be a fundamental doctrine, or a doctrine the belief of which is essential to salvation, it is reasonable to expect traditionary notices of it, where there are traditionary notices in heathen nations of other fundamental truths of revelation.
5. We may expect to find the traditionary notices such as we have of other important truths, such as images, medals, oral or written statements, more or less obscure, in proportion as other fundamental truths are known and preserved among men.
6. If the doctrine of the Trinity in the God head be a fundamental doctrine, we may expect its announcement at the commencement of revelation, to be more or less full, in proportion as other fundamental doctrines are there revealed.
7. We might expect the revelation of this truth in its fuller and fuller development, to keep pace with the fuller revelation of other fundamental doctrines.
8. We might suppose, that before revelation closed, it would be revealed with such fullness, as to satisfy an honest mind, that was disposed to rest in the naked testimony of God.
9. But we should expect this and every other fundamental doctrine, to be so left by revelation as not to preclude all cavil, evasion, or gainsaying. This might be expected, from the nature of probation, moral agency, and the existence and design of moral government.
10. It would not be unreasonable to expect some intimation of the doctrine in the name of God.
11. It would not be unreasonable to suppose, that their common or collective name, should be plural, and when action is ascribed to them, that the verb should be singular.
12. Beside this, it would not be unreasonable to expect each person to have a singular name, or appellation peculiar to himself, as Father, Son or Word, and Holy Ghost.
13. We should expect the unity of God as opposed to Dualism, Tritheism, and Polytheism, to be fully and strongly revealed.
14. We might reasonably expect also, a full revelation of the distinct personality of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; but in such a way as not to contradict the essential unity of God.
15. If the doctrine of the Trinity be a doctrine of revelation, we may expect the absolute Deity of the three persons to be fully revealed.
16. We might expect that the common or collective name, or names of the God head, would be given to each and either of the three persons indiscriminately.
17. We might expect that divine attributes should be ascribed to each and all of them.
18. We might expect the works of God to be ascribed to either and each of them indiscriminately; for if they subsist in one substratum of being; what one does, they all do by him.
19. It might be expected that what one of the persons did or does, would be represented either as his act, or as the act of the whole God-head.
20. We might expect a perfect moral unity, to be plainly asserted or implied in revelation.
21. We might expect that each person, would be represented as filling a distinct office, as exercising peculiar functions, and as sustaining peculiar relations to the universe.
22. We might expect that they would speak of each other as distinct persons.
23. It might be expected they would speak of themselves altogether as one.
24. That they would all claim and receive divine honors.
25. We might expect that when any official act or relation demanded it, they would claim superiority, or acknowledge inferiority and dependence, as their official relations and functions might require.
26. If the official work or relations of either person to creatures, were such as might obscure the evidences of his divinity, we might expect a correspondingly full revelation of the divinity of that particular person. See Christ.
27. So if for these or for other reasons, the distinct personality of either required special proof, we might expect to find it in revelation. It is not pretended that the proof would not be sufficient, if in all the above named particulars it was not complete. Yet when the importance of the doctrine is considered, in connection with the infinite benevolence of God, and his great desire to enlighten and save mankind, it is not unreasonable to expect those intimations of it which have been above noticed.
Fifth. Adduce the proof.
Here I will premise the following remarks:
1. The full proof of this doctrine includes the proof of the Divinity of Christ, and of the personality and Divinity of the Holy Ghost. In the present skeleton I shall not examine those subjects extensively, but defer their proof to a future occasion.
2. I remark, that many seem to have come to the examination of this subject, with a determination not to receive this doctrine, unless it is so unequivocally taught in the Bible as that it can by no possibility be explained away or evaded.
3. Many of the German and other critics have practically adopted this as a sound rule of Biblical interpretation, that every text is to be so explained as to evade this doctrine, if it possibly can be evaded.
4. They have manifestly set aside, in practice, what all Biblical scholars admit in theory--that the Bible is to be received in its plain, natural, and common sense import, unless there be some obvious reasons for resorting to another mode of interpreting a particular passage.
5. The opposers of this doctrine, and not a few of its advocates, have manifestly adopted the principle, that, judging a priori, the doctrine of the Trinity or Tri Unity of God, is highly improbable, and unreasonable, and therefore, that no text is to be received as teaching this doctrine, if it will by any possibility admit of any other construction.
6. I feel bound to protest against this assumption, and the practical adoption of this rule of Biblical interpretation, either by the enemies or friends of this doctrine.
7. I insist that the doctrine of a Trinity in the God head is so far as we can see, as consistent with reason as any other view of the subject whatever. And that we are to come to the Bible, in examining this question, with this plain and simple rule of interpretation before us--that every passage, as read in the original, is to be taken in its plain and obvious import, entirely irrespective of the difficulty or mysteriousness of the doctrine of the Trinity of God.
8. In referring to the different texts, especially in the Old Testament, I shall follow very much the order in which Knapp has considered them.
9. It will not be expected in this skeleton form, that I should enter into a critical examination of the opinions of learned divines upon them; but leave you to consider them according to their obvious import.
10. It is not generally pretended by the friends of this doctrine, nor do I contend that the doctrine of the Trinity in the God head is formally and unequivocally taught in the Old Testament; but it is contended that it is so plainly intimated in different passages, when viewed in their connections and relations to each other, as fully to account for the fact of the extensive understanding and reception of this doctrine by the Jews.
11. I propose now to consider only some of those passages that treat in a more general manner of the doctrine of the Trinity, leaving, as I have already intimated, the particular examination of the personality and divinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for future occasions.
12. This doctrine, like all other fundamental doctrines of the Bible, is revealed with greater and greater fullness and distinctness as revelation progresses, and is brought out in connection with the Atonement, and by the New Testament writers, as might be expected, in a much fuller and more satisfactory manner than in the Old Testament.
I come now to the examination of scripture testimony.
I. The plural names of God, Eloheim, Adonai, etc. It is said that these forms may be regarded as the pluralis excellentiæ of the oriental languages. To this I answer,
1. That they may be, but that this proves nothing.
2. The plural form of the name of God is, as might be expected, if the doctrine of the Trinity were true.
3. We are to give this circumstance no greater or less weight than belongs to it, and by itself, it would prove nothing satisfactory. Yet taken in connection with the other and abundant proofs of this doctrine, the plural forms of the divine name are to be regarded as a circumstance of importance.
II. Those passages that speak of God as more than one.
1. Genesis 1:26: "And God said, let us make man after OUR image."
Of this passage it has been suggested, that God addressed the angels, when he said, Let us make man. To this I reply:
(1.) It is mere conjecture.
(2.) Those whom he addressed were not mere witnesses, but actually concerned in the creation of man, and must therefore have possessed divine power.
(3.) There is no instance, unless this is one, in which God is represented as consulting creatures in respect to what he should do, not even in cases where they are co workers with him.
2. Genesis 3:22: "And the Lord God said, Behold the man is become as one of us."
This passage is remarkable. Here God says of Adam, "Behold the man is become as one of us." This seems as plainly to imply a plurality in the God head, as any form of expression could.
3. Genesis 11:7: "Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech."
Here again God is represented as consulting other divine personages, and saying, "Let us go down," etc. To these passages it has also been replied, that they may be only the pluralis excellentiæ, such language as kings are in the habit of using when speaking of themselves. To this I reply:
(1.) God is represented as using this language before any kings existed.
(2.) The fact that such language might have been in use when Moses wrote, does not seem sufficiently to account for the plural form of the divine name; and,
(3.) As Polytheism was the great sin of the world, in making a revelation to man, we should expect all such language to be avoided, as might convey the idea of a plurality in the God head, unless that were really the fact.
III. I refer to those texts in which there seems to be more than one Jehovah, and more than one Eloheim.
1. Genesis 19:24: "Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven."
Here it is said Jehovah rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Jehovah out of heaven. The Jehovah were mentioned as raining upon Sodom, appears to be the same person who the day before had visited Abraham, and to whom Abraham had presented several petitions, which were granted. It appears that Lot prayed to him to spare Zoar, which request also was granted. He said to Lot respecting Zoar, "Haste thee, for I can do nothing till thou be come hither." This Jehovah, to whom Abraham and Lot prayed, is the identical Jehovah that rained fire and brimstone from Jehovah out of heaven, as if one Jehovah were in heaven and another on earth.
2. Daniel 9:17: "Now therefore, O God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord's sake."
Here Daniel is represented as praying to God in the name of the Lord. To this it has been said, that it may mean nothing more than that God would answer his prayer for his own sake. To this I answer:
The inquiry is not what it might by some possibility mean. But what does such language, in its obvious import seem to imply? "Hear, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant for the Lord's sake." This, taken in connection with the many passages where God is besought to do things for the Lord's and Christ's sake, appears to be a parallel passage and to mean the same thing.
3. Zechariah 10:12: "And I will strengthen them in the Lord and they shall walk up and down in his name saith the Lord."
Here Jehovah speaks of another Jehovah, in whose name they shall walk up and down.
4. Zechariah 2:8, 9: "For thus saith the Lord of hosts, After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you; for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. For, behold, I will shake mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants; and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me."
Here Jehovah of hosts speaks of a Jehovah of hosts that had sent him, and declares that they that touch Zion touch the apple of that Jehovah's eye who had sent him. Again in the 11th verse, Jehovah of hosts speaks of himself as having been sent by Jehovah of hosts. And continuing to the 13th verse, he speaks of Jehovah as one distinct from himself, and as raised up out of his holy habitation."
5. Psalms 45:7: "Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows."
Here God, or Eloheim, addresses another Eloheim.
IV. I refer to those texts where God is spoken of as three.
1. Isaiah 48:16: "Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord God, and his Spirit hath sent me."
It is contended by some that this passage should be rendered, "The Lord God hath sent me and his Spirit." Which ever rendering is preferred, it cannot reasonably be denied that three distinct persons are recognized in this text as divine. The person spoken of as being sent declares that he had not spoken in secret from the beginning, or from eternity. It is plain beyond all reasonable debate, that in this text the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are spoken of.
2. Numbers 6:24 26: "The Lord bless thee, and keep thee; the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace."
The repetition of the divine name, Jehovah, three times in this passage is very remarkable, and, as we shall by and by see, was understood by the Jews to intimate the doctrine of a divine Trinity.
3. Matthew 28:19: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
Here the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are spoken of in connection, and in such a manner as that no one of them is represented as divine any more than the other.
Deuteronomy 6:24: "And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day."
4. John 14:23: "Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."
Here Christ promises that himself and his Father will come and make their abode with those who love him. Other passages abundantly teach that they come in the person of the Holy Spirit.
5. 2 Corinthians 13:14: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen."
This benediction appears to be a prayer addressed to the three persons of the God head.
V. I refer to those passages where the Son of God is spoken of in the Old Testament.
1. Psalms 2:7: "I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee."
That the Son of God, or the Messiah, is here spoken of, is attested by the Apostles.
Acts 13:33: "God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again: as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee."
2. Psalms 72:1: "Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king's Son," compared with,
Psalms 89:27: "Also I will make him my first born, higher than the kings of the earth."
These passages have always been understood as relating to the Son of God as Messiah. They do not indeed prove the divinity of the Son; but speak of him as distinct from the Father.
With respect to the Holy Spirit, I observe that he is so often spoken of throughout the Bible as distinct from the Father, that I will not here enter into an examination of any of the texts.
I will now close the examination of scripture testimony upon this question, reminding you that the principal scripture proofs of this doctrine are to be examined in considering the personality and divinity of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
I will next refer you:
1. To intimations of this doctrine among ancient heathen nations, which I shall borrow from Dwight's Theology, vol. 2, page 390:
(1.) "The Hindoos have, from the most remote antiquity, holden a Triad in the Divine nature.
The name of the Godhead among these people is Brahme. The names of the three persons in the Godhead are Brahma, Veeshnu, and Seeva. Brahma they considered as the Father, or Supreme Source; Veeshnu as the Mediator, whom they assert to have been incarnate; and Seeva as the Destroyer, and Regenerator: destruction being in their view nothing but the dissolution of preceding forms, for the purpose of reviving the same being in new ones.
The three faces of Brahma, Veeshnu, and Seeva, they always formed on one body, having six hands; or two to each person. This method of delineating the Godhead is ancient beyond tradition, universal, uncontroverted, and carved every where in their places of worship; particularly in the celebrated cavern in the Island of Elephanta.
(2.) Equally well known is the Persian Triad, the names of which were Ormusd, Mithr, AND Ahriman; called by the Greeks Oromasdes, Mithras, and Arimanius. Mithras was commonly styled Triplasios. Among them, as well as among the Hindoos, the second person in the Triad was called the Mediator, and regarded as the great Agent in the present world.
In the Oracles ascribed to Zerdusht, or Zoroaster, the famous Persian Philosopher, are the following declarations:
'Where the Eternal Monad is, it amplifies itself, and generates a Duality.'
'A Triad of Deity shines forth throughout the whole world, of which a Monad is the head.'
'For the mind of the Father said, that all things should be divided into Three; whose will assented, and all things were divided.'
'And there appeared in this Triad, Virtue, Wisdom, and Truth, who knew all things.'
'The Father performed all things, and delivered them over to the Second mind, whom the nations of men commonly suppose to be the First.'
The third Person, speaking of himself, says, 'I Psyche, or Soul, dwell next to the Paternal mind, animating all things.'
(3.) The Egyptians, also, acknowledge a Triad, from the earliest antiquity, whom they named originally Osiris, Cneph, and Phtha; and afterwards Osiris, Isis, and Typhon. These Persons they denoted by the symbols Light, Fire, and Spirit. They represented them, also, on the doors, and other parts of their sacred buildings, in the three figures of a Globe, a Wing, and a Serpent. Abenephius, an Arabian writer, says, that; 'by these the Egyptians shadowed Theon trimorphon, or God in three forms.'
One of the Egyptian fundamental axioms of Theology, as given by Damascius, and cited by Cudworth, is, 'There is one Principle of all things, praised under the name of the Unknown Darkness, and this thrice repeated.'
In the Books, attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, is the following passage:
'There hath ever been one great, intelligent Light, which has always illumined the Mind; and their union is nothing else but the Spirit, which is the Bond of all things.'
Here light and mind are spoken of as two Persons, and the Spirit as the third; all declared to be eternal.
Jamblichus, a Platonic Philosopher, styled by Proclus the Divine, declares, that 'Hermes speaks of Eicton as the first of intelligences, and the first intelligible; and of Cneph, or Emeph, as the Prince of the Celestial Gods; and of the Demiurgic, or creating Mind, as a third to these. Jamblichus calls these the Demiurgic Mind, the Guardian of Truth, and Wisdom.
(4.) The Orphic Theology, the most ancient recorded in Grecian history, taught the same doctrine.
In the abridgment of this Theology by Timotheus, the Chronographer, are found its most important and characteristical doctrines. Of these the fundamental one is, that an Eternal, Incomprehensible Being exists, who is the Creator of all things. This supreme and eternal Being is styled in this Theology, Phos, Boule, Zoe; Light, Counsel, Life.
Suidas, speaking of these three, says, 'they express only one and the same power.' Timotheus says further, that Orpheus declared, 'All things to have been made by One Godhead in three names; or rather by these names of One Godhead; and that this Godhead is all things.'
Proclus, a Platonic Philosopher, already mentioned, says, that Orpheus taught 'the existence of One God, who is the ruler over all things; and that this One God is three Minds, three Kings; He who is; He who has, or possesses; and He who beholds. These three Minds he declares to be the same with the Triad of Orpheus; viz: Phanes, Uranus, and Chronus.
(5.) The Greek Philosophers, also, extensively acknowledged a Triad.
Particularly, Pythagoras styled God to hen, or the Unity; and monas, or that which is alone; and also to agathon, or the good.
'From this Eternal Monad,' says Pythagoras; there sprang an infinite Duality; that is from Him, who existed alone, two proceeded, who were infinite.'
Plato also held a Triad; and named them to Agathon, the Good; Nous, or Logos, Mind, or Word; and Psuche kosmou, the Soul of the World. The to Agathon he also calls protos Theos, and megistos Theos.
Parmenides, the founder of the Eleatic Philosophy, says, The Deity is hen kai polla; one and many. Simplicius, commenting on Plato's exhibition of the doctrine of Parmenides, says, that 'these words were a description of the autou Ontos,' the true or original existence; and Plotinas says, that Parmenides acknowledged three Divine Unities subordinated. The first Unity he calls the most perfectly and properly One; the second, One many; and the third, One and many. Plotinus further says, that Parmenides acknowledged a Triad of original Persons. Plotinus speaks of God as being; 'the One, the Mind, and the Soul;' which he calls the original or principal persons. Amelius calls these Persons three Kings, and three Creators.
Numenius, a famous Pythagorean, acknowledged a Triad. The second Person he calls the Son of the first; and the third he speaks of, as proceeding also from the first.
(6.) In the Empires of Thibet and Tangut, a Triune God is constantly acknowledged in the popular religion. Medals, having the image of such a God stamped on them, are given to the people by the Delai Lama, to be suspended, as holy, around their necks, or otherwise used in their worship. These people also worshipped an idol, which was the representation of a three fold God.
(7.) A medal, now in the Cabinet of the Emperor of Russia, was found near the River Kemptschyk, a branch of the Jenisea, in Siberia, of the following description:
A human figure is formed on one side, having one body and three heads. This person sits upon the cup of the Lotos; the common accompaniment of the Godhead in various Eastern countries; and on a sofa, in the manner of Eastern Kings. On the other side is the following inscription: 'The bright and sacred image of the Deity, conspicuous in three figures. Gather the holy purpose of God from them: love him.' A heathen could not more justly or strongly describe a Trinity.
(8.) The ancient Scandinavians acknowledged a Triad, whom they styled Odin, Frea, and Thor.
In the Edda, the most remarkable monument of Scandinavian Theology, Gangler, a Prince of Sweden is exhibited as being introduced into the hall or palace, of the gods. Here he saw three thrones raised one above another, and on each throne a sacred person. These persons were thus described to him by his guide: 'He, who sits on the lowest throne, is Har, or the Lofty One. The second is Jafn Har, or Equal to the Lofty One. He, who sits on the highest throne, is Thridi, or the Third.'
(9.) The Romans, Germans, Gauls, acknowledged a Triad, and worshipped a Triad, in various manners.
The Romans and Germans worshipped the Mairiæ; three goddesses inseparable, and always united in their worship, temples, and honors.
The Romans also, together with the Greeks and Egyptians, worshipped the Cabiri, or Three Mighty Ones.
The Diana of the Romans is stamped on a medal, as having three faces or three distinct heads, united to one form. On the reverse is the image of a man, holding his hand to his lips; under whom is this inscription: 'Be silent; it is a mystery.'
The German goddess Trygla, was drawn in the same manner.
The Gauls also, united their gods in triple groups, in a manner generally similar, as is evident from sculptures, either now or lately remaining.
(10.) The Japanese and Chinese anciently acknowledged a Triad.
The great image of the Japanese is one form, with three heads; generally resembling that of Brahma, Veeshnu, and Seeva, already described as worshipped by the Hindoos. The Chinese worshipped in ancient times one Supreme God, without images, or symbols of any kind. This worship lasted until after the death of Confucius, about 500 years before the birth of Christ.
Lao Kiun, the celebrated founder of one of the philosophical, or religious sects, in China, delivered this, as the great leading doctrine of his philosophy: 'That the Eternal Reason produced One; One produced Two; Two produced Three; and Three produced All things.'
(11.) The American Nations also, have in several instances acknowledged a Triad.
The Iroquois hold, that before the creation, three Spirits existed; all of whom were employed in creating mankind.
The Peruvians adored a Triad, whom they styled the Father and Lord Sun, the Son Sun, and the Brother Sun.
In Cuquisaco, a province of Peru, the inhabitants worshipped an image, named Tangatanga; which in their language signifies "One in Three, and Three in One."
2. I will refer you to the testimony of the ancient Jewish Church, which I shall borrow from the same source: Vol. 2, p. 386:
"Philo, the celebrated Jew of Alexandria, who lived before the birth of our Saviour, calls the Logos the Eternal Logos or Word; and says, that; 'he is necessarily eternal, and the image of the invisible God.'
Further, he says, 'He, who is, is on each side attended by his nearest Powers; of which one is Creative, and the other Kingly. The Creative is God, by which he founded and adorned the Universe. The Kingly is Lord. He who is in the middle, being thus attended by both his Powers, exhibits to the discerning mind, the appearance, sometimes of One, and sometimes of Three.'
Of the Logos he says, 'He, who is the begotten, imitating the ways of his Father, and observing his archetypal patterns, produces forms; that is, material things. He often calls the Logos, the Divine Logos; and represents him as the Manager, or Ruler of the world. He further says, that God governs all things according to the strictest justice, having set over them his righteous Logos, his first begotten Son.' The duration of created things he ascribes to this cause; that they were framed by Him, who remains; and who is never in any respect changed; the Divine Logos.' Finally, he calls the Logos an Angel; the name of God; a man; the beginning; the eternal image; the most ancient Angel; the Archangel, of many names; and the high priest of this world; and says, 'His head is anointed with oil.'
The Chaldee Paraphrasts, and other Jewish commentators, speak of this subject in a similar manner.
They speak of the Mimra, the Hebrew term, rendered in the Greek Logos, and in the English Word, as 'the Word from before the Lord,' or which is before the Lord; as a Redeemer; as only begotten; as the Creator. They say, 'the Word of the Lord' said, 'Behold Adam, whom I have created, is the only begotten in the world; as I am the only begotten in the highest heavens.' They paraphrased the text, Genesis 3: 8: And they heard the voice of the Lord God, walking in the garden, thus: 'They heard the Word of the Lord God,' etc.
Several Jewish commentators say, that 'it was the Voice which was walking.'
One of them says, that 'Our first parents, before their sin, saw the Glory of God speaking to them; but after their sin, they only heard the Voice walking.'
Philo and Jonathan both say, that 'it was the Word of God, which appeared unto Hagar.'
Jonathan says, 'God will receive the prayer of Israel by his Word.' Paraphrasing Jeremiah 29:14: he says, 'will be sought by you in my Word.'
The Jerusalem Targum, or Paraphrase, says, 'Abraham prayed in the name of the Word of the Lord, the God of the world.'
Jonathan says also, 'God will atone by his Word for his land, and for his people; even a people saved by the Word of the Lord.'
Psalm 110:1: They paraphrase, 'The Lord said unto his Word,' instead of 'My Lord,' as in the original.
The Jewish commentators say, 'here are three Degrees in the Mystery of Aleim, or Elohiem; and these degrees they call persons. They say, 'They are all one, and cannot be separated.'
Deuteronomy 6:4: Hear, O Israel! Jehovah, our Aleim is one Jehovah, is thus rendered by the author of the Jewish Book Zohar: 'The Lord, and our God, and the Lord, are One.' In his comment on this passage the author says, 'the Lord, or Jehovah, is the beginning of all things, and the perfection of all things; and he is called the Father. The other, or our God, is the depth or the fountain of sciences; and is called the Son. The other, or Lord, he is the Holy Ghost, who proceeds from them both, etc. Therefore he says, Hear, O Israel! that is, join together this Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and make him One Essence; One Substance; for whatever is in the one is in the other. He hath been the whole; he is the whole; and he will be the whole.'
Again: 'What is the name of King Messiah? Rabbi Akiba hath said, Jehovah is his name. As it is declared, Jeremiah 23:6: And this is his name, by which they shall call him, Jehovah our Righteousness.'
These commentators, also, call him the Branch; the Comforter; Gracious; Luminous; etc.
And again: 'The Holy Ghost calls the King Messiah by his name: Jehovah is his name: for it is said, Exodus 8:1: The Lord is a man of war; Jehovah is his name.'
3. The testimony of the early Christian fathers. Vol. 2, p. 183:
(1.) "To the Pre existence of Christ the following testimonies must, I think, be regarded as complete.
a. Justin Martyr, who flourished in the year 140, and was born about the close of the first century, declares Christ to have been the person who appeared to Abraham, under the Oak of Mamre; and asserts that the person, here called Lord or Jehovah, to whom Abraham prays for Sodom, and who in the next chapter, is said to rain fire and brimstone on the Cities of the Plain, was no other than Christ. He also asserts, that Christ appeared to Moses in the bush.
b. Irenæus, who flourished in the year 178, declares, that Christ, as God, was adored by the Prophets; was the God of the living, and the living God; that he spoke to Moses in the bush; and that afterwards the same person refuted the doctrine of the Sadducees, concerning the resurrection of the dead. He further says, that Abraham learned divine truth from the Logos, or Word of God.
c. Theophilus of Antioch, who flourished in the year 181, declares, that Christ, assuming to prosopon tou patros, the character of the Father, that is, the Divine character, came to Paradise in the appearance of God, and conversed with Adam.
d. Clemens Alexandrinus, who flourished in the year 194, exhibits Christ as the Author of the former precepts, and of the latter; that is, of the scriptures of the Old Testament, and of the New; deriving both from one fountain.
e. Tertullian declares, that it was the Son of God who spoke to Moses, and who appeared, that is, as God, at all times; that he overthrew the Tower of Babel; confounded the languages of men; and rained fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah. He calls him Dominus a Domino; and says, that he only, and alway, conversed with men, from Adam down to the Patriarchs and Prophets, in visions and dreams; and that no other God conversed with men, beside the Word who was afterward to be made flesh.
(2.) That Christ was the Creator of the world, in the view of the ancient Church, the following testimonies satisfactorily prove:
a. Barnabas, who, as you well know, was a companion of the Apostles, and could not but know their views of this subject, says, in an epistle of his, yet remaining, 'The Sun in the heavens was the work of the Son of God.'
b. Hermas, also a companion of the Apostles, says, that 'the Son of God was more ancient than any creature; seeing he was present with the Father at the creation of the world.'
c. Athenagoras, who flourished in the year 178, says, that 'by Christ, and through Christ, all things were created; since the Father and the Son are hen; one thing; one substance.'
d. Justin Martyr declares, that 'more than one Divine person is denoted by the phrase, The man is become as one of us; and that one of these is Christ.'
e. Clemens Alexandrinus says, 'The Logos is the universal Architect;' that is, the Maker of all things. He further says, 'The Logos is the Creator of men and of the world.' He also speaks of the Logos as the universal Ruler, and Instructor.
(3.) That Christ was truly God, in the view of the ancient Church, will fully appear from the following testimonies:
a. Clement of Rome, who was a companion of the Apostles, calls Christ 'the sceptre of the greatness of God,' and says, 'he had it in his power to have come with pomp and magnificence, but would not.'
b. Polycarp, a disciple of St. John, when at the stake, addressed a prayer to God, which he concluded in this manner: 'For all things I praise thee; I bless thee; I glorify thee; together with the eternal and heavenly Jesus Christ; with whom, unto thee, and the Holy Spirit, be glory, both now and forever, world without end Amen.'
c. Justin Martyr declares, that 'Christ the first born Word of God, existed as God; that he is Lord and God, as being the Son of God; and that he was the God of Israel.'
He also says, 'We adore and love the Word of the unbegotten and invisible God.' And again: 'Him (the Father of righteousness) and that Son who hath proceeded from him, and the Prophetical Spirit, (that is, the Spirit of Inspiration) we worship and adore.'
This doctrine, also, Trypho, his Jewish antagonist, admits as the doctrine of the Gentile Christians, generally.
d. The Church of Smyrna, in their Epistle to the other churches concerning the martyrdom of Polycarp, in which the above mentioned doxology is quoted, says, 'We can never forsake Christ, nor worship any other; for we worship him as being the Son of God.'
e. Athenagoras says, 'The Nous kai Logos, Mind and Word of God, is the Son of God;' and, 'We who preach God, preach God the Father, God the Son, and Holy Ghost; and the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are ONE.'
f. Tatian, Bishop of Antioch, who flourished in the year 172, says, 'We declare that God was born in human form.'
g. Melito, Bishop of Sardis, who flourished in the year 177, says, 'We are worshippers of one God, who is before all, and in all, in his Christ, who is truly God the Eternal Word.'
h. Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch, says, 'The three days before the creation of the heavenly luminaries, represent the Trinity; God, and his Word, and his Wisdom.'
i. Clemens Alexandrinus prays to Christ to be propitious, and says, 'Son and Father, both one Lord, grant, that we may praise the Son and the Father, with the Holy Ghost, all in ONE; in whom are all things, through whom are all things in ONE, through whom is Eternity, of whom we are all members, to him, who is in all things good, in all things beautiful, universally wise and just, to whom be glory, both now and forever. Amen.' He also says, 'Gather together thy children, to praise in a holy manner, to celebrate without guile, Christ, Eternal Logos, infinite age, Eternal Light, Fountain of Mercy.'
k. Tertullian says, 'The name of Christ is everywhere believed, and every where worshipped, by all the nations mentioned above. He reigns every where, and is every where adored. He is alike to all a King, and to all a Judge, and to all a God and a Lord.'
Again: 'Behold all nations henceforth emerging from the gulf of error, to the Lord God the Creator, and to God his Christ.'
Tertullian also declares, that 'Tiberias received accounts from Palestine, of the things, which manifested the truth of Christ's Divinity.'
To these Christian testimonies, all of the two first centuries, I shall subjoin a few others, out of multitudes, which belong to a later period.
The testimony of Origen, in his comment on the text, has been already seen. He, also, says, 'We (Christians) worship ONE God, the Father and the Son.'
He further says, 'Now, that you may know the omnipotence of the Father and the Son to be one and the same, as He is one and the same God and Lord with the Father; hear what St. John hath said in the Revelation: These things saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. For who is the Almighty that is to come, but Christ?'
He, also, mentions the Christians, as saying, 'that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are ONE God; and speaks of this as a difficult, and perplexing doctrine, to such as hear not with faith, or are not Christians.'
Again, he says: 'When we come to the grace of Baptism, we acknowledge ONE God only, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.'
Origen flourished in the year 230.
Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, who flourished in the year 248, says, 'Christ is our God; that is, not of all, but of the faithful, and believing.'
The Council of Antioch, which sat about the year 264, in their Epistle, say, 'In the whole Church, he is believed to be God, who emptied himself, indeed, of a state of equality with God; and man, of the seed of David, according to the flesh.'
Eusebius, the celebrated ecclesiastical historian, who flourished in the year 315, declares, that Pilate, in his letter to Tiberias, concerning the miracles of Christ, says, that 'he was raised from the dead; and that he was already believed by the body of the people to be God.'"
4. The representation of heathen nations concerning the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Same: Vol. 2, p. 386:
"Pliny the Younger, in his letter to the Emperor Trajan, from the province of Bithynia, whither he went with proconsular authority, writes, that 'certain Christians, whom he had examined, affirmed, that they were wont to meet together on a stated day, before it was light, and sing among themselves, alternately, a hymn to Christ, as to some God.' This letter is, with the highest probability, placed in the year 107.
Celsus, an eminent Epicurean Philosopher and adversary of the Christians, charges them with worshipping Christ, 'who,' he says, 'has appeared of late;' and whom he calls, 'The Minister of God.' Celsus flourished in the year 176.
At the same time flourished Lucian, the celebrated writer of Dialogues, and a philosopher of the same sect. In the Philopatris, a dialogue frequently attributed to him, Triphon represents the Christians as 'swearing by the Most High God; the Great, Immortal, Celestial Son of the Father; the Spirit, proceeding from the Father; ONE of three, and three of ONE.'
Hierocles, who flourished about the year 303, a heathen philosopher also, says that 'the Christians, on account of a few miracles, proclaim Christ to be God.'
On these testimonies I shall only ask a single question. Can any person, who has them before him, doubt for a moment, that the Christian Church, in its earliest ages, acknowledged and worshipped, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, as the only living and true God?"
Sixth. Answer Objections.
Obj. I. It is objected, that the doctrine of a Trinity in Unity is a contradiction. To this I reply:
It is no contradiction, because it is not affirmed, nor was it ever supposed, that God is three and one, in the same sense.
Obj. II. This doctrine is said to be unreasonable.
Ans. It is only above reason.
Obj. III. It is said to be absurd, to make what is incomprehensible an article of faith.
Ans. 1. Then it is absurd to make the infinity or spirituality of God articles of faith; for they are certainly incomprehensible.
2. If this objection be good, it is absurd to believe our own existence, or the existence of any thing else, as the modus existendi is in every case altogether incomprehensible.
3. The fact, and not the quo modo, is the thing to be believed. And this is no more incomprehensible than millions of facts which all receive.
Obj. IV. It is objected, that a Trinity in Unity is inconceivable.
Ans. It is not more so than the fact of our own existence, and the union of body and soul.
Obj. V. It is objected that this doctrine embarrasses and confounds the mind.
Ans. 1. It is not the fact, but the philosophy, or quo modo, that embarrasses the mind. You may as well confound yourself with the philosophy of your own existence, and maintain the materiality of mind to escape the union of two natures, as to confound yourself with the philosophy of this doctrine, and reject because you cannot comprehend it.
To avoid incomprehensibilities, some explain away the essential Unity, and others the Trinity of God; but no more relieve the difficulty, than materialists do, when they attempt to get rid of mystery by maintaining the intelligence of matter. The fact is, that we know nothing of infinity, only that it exists; and for ought we can know, an infinite mind may as well exist in ten thousand persons as one.
2. It is most remarkable, that many of those who have thought it highly unreasonable to affirm that God could exist in three persons, each possessing the powers of moral agency, are now adopting the Pantheistic philosophy, and maintaining that the Universe is God.
This is not only admitting but maintaining, that there are myriads of moral agents in one God. Not only so; but vegetables, trees, and animals, are so many parts of God. Marvelous consistency this!
To get rid of the doctrine of a Trinity, there must be a most manifest wresting of scripture, and a practical and total disregard of some of the most universally confessed rules of Biblical interpretation.