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The Trinity—-Fall of Man—-Plan of Redemption—-Christ suffered in Divine as well as in Human Nature.
THAT there is a God above us, “all Nature cries aloud through all her works.“ To this voice of Nature, Revelation adds her imperative voice from heaven, proclaiming the existence and government of a wise, gracious, and universal Sovereign. The Bible informs us, too, that the Deity whom we worship is a triune God. “There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one.” -l John, 5. 7. We quote this passage from the beloved disciple with the knowledge that its genuineness has been questioned; but, if expunged from the Bible, it would subtract only a single grain, from the overflowing measure of scriptural proof that there are three persons in the Godhead. The Bible also teaches us that the Trinity consists of three distinct persons; united, not commingled, Three in One, and One in Three.
A celebrated Unitarian preacher now deceased, whose simplicity, pathos, and eloquence have seldom been surpassed, has laid it down as a fundamental objection to the doctrine of the Trinity, that the plurality of its persons tends to divide and distract devotional love and worship.* But had this distinguished man, with feelings so true to nature, forgotten, when he uttered the sentiment just stated, the blissful days of youth, when his gladdened eyes beheld, and his bounding heart leaped forth to greet, at the domestic altar, two distinct, yet united personages, who both claimed and received his undivided and undiminished reverence, and gratitude, and love? Was his filial piety distracted by the plurality of its objects? Did his heart yield a less true and fervent homage to his father, because the angel form of his mother was hovering around him, arrayed in the lovely habiliments of her own meekness, and gentleness, and grace? Did he find it needful, for the full concentration and development of filial devotion, that one “of his parents should be forever banished from the domestic hearth, leaving the other in cheerless solitude? Did his youthful heart yearn for an amendment of the laws of Nature, so that each family of earth should have, instead of two, but one solitary, lonely progenitor?
The objection, that the plurality of the persons of the Godhead tends to divide and distract devotional love and worship, has as little foundation in nature as it has in truth. If St. Paul, when caught up into the third heaven, was permitted to gaze, with adoring and melting eyes, on the glory and benignity of the Highest, his rapt vision was neither divided nor distracted by seeing, on the right-hand seat of the celestial throne, that Saviour who had died to redeem him, and, on the left-hand seat, that Holy Spirit who had regenerated, sanctified, and imbued with the balm of comfort his persecuted and earth-wounded soul. The three who “bear record in heaven” are a triple cord of divine texture, to bind the believing soul faster, and yet more fast to the footstool of its triune God.
*Channings Works,vol.3. p. 73, 74. Sermon on Ordination of Rev. Jared Sparks.
The social principle is a controlling element of the visible universe. In the humblest gradations of nature we see its prevalence and power. The fishes in shoals swim the sea; the birds in flocks skim the air; the cattle in herds graze on the plains. The subjects of the vegetablevegtable kingdom are gregarious. The rose,
"“Born to blush unseen, And waste its sweetness on the desert air,” is yet encompassed by sister flowers. Even the weed of the deserted field is not alone. When our attention is recalled to man, we shall find the social principle an elemental law of his being. Even of him in paradise it was said, by unerring lips, “It is not good that man should be alone.” If we ascend to the next highest grade in the scale of being, we may confidently presume that the social principle pervades angelic natures. Heaven would cease to be heaven to the angels if each was secluded in his solitary cell. The strains of the lonely harp would become feeble and plaintive, though stricken by the hand of a seraph.
May we not, then, without irreverence, venture to presume that the social principle reaches even to the Godhead; that he who made man in his own image, and after his own likeness, “and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” from the redundant fountain of his own ethereal essence, retained in himself, in infinite fulness, that social element, with whose infusion he has so copiously imbued the rational tenants of this lower world, and whose sprinklings have pervaded every part of its animal and vegetable provinces? If we may, indeed, regard this as a great truth of heaven, which mortality may contemplate without profanation; if
“Those thoughts that wander through eternity” may sometimes soar, with no unholy flight, to the pavilion of the triune Jehovah, what a theme of meditation, vast as the universe, unsatiating as the flow of a blessed eternity, may piety derive from dwelling on the beatific fellowship, with each other, of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost! Infinite wisdom holds high converse with infinite wisdom; infinite holiness commingles with infinite holiness; infinite love takes sweet counsel of infinite love.
In that temple of the highest heavens, consecrated as the abode of the Godhead, each of its divine persons enjoys blissful and untiring communion with his two other glorious selves. Into this holiest of temples no discrepancy of views, no collision of sentiment ever enters. To the most perfect unity of action, thought, and feeling, the infinite persons who make it their dwelling -place, are impelled by the elemental and immutable laws of their own being. Thus flow on, in high and incommunicable blessedness, the successive and cloyless ages of the triune God. It must be an iron-hearted theory which would seek to. banish from the dwelling -place of the Highest the delights of social and equal intercourse, and to consign to lonely solitude the eternity of the Sovereign of the universe. The doctrine of the Trinity is, doubtless, above the reach of reason; but, when revealed, reason perceives and approves its fitness. The infinite Father can find no companion among the children of men; they are worms of the dust. Even the hierarchies of heaven are but his ministering spirits. He must have dwelt in solitary grandeur, but for his holy and rapturous communion with his august brethren of the Trinity. What desolation would pervade the courts of heaven, reaching even to the sanctuary of Him “that sitteth upon the throne,” could a ruthless arm of flesh pluck from his right hand and his left the beloved fellows of his eternal reign!
Let it not be alleged that our views lead to Tritheism, or, in other words, to the belief in three Gods. Such heresy is equally strange to our head and to our heart. We hold sacred the truth that there is but one God; we hold equally sacred the sister truth that the one God subsists in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Nor can we find any authority in Revelation or reason, which interdicts or checks the delightful conception of social communion between the illustrious persons of the Trinity.
On the contrary, the very first chapter in our Bible intimates such high and holy communion. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, and after our likeness.”—-Genesis 1. 26. This passage, coeval with creation, not only proves the plurality of the persons in the Godhead, but also implies their joint resolution, resulting from deliberative consultation. And if such consultation between the Sacred Three attended the formation of man, how much profounder must have been their reciprocated deliberation when his redemption was the absorbing theme! What holy transports must have pervaded the pavilion of the Godhead at the triumphant return of its second glorious person from terrestrial humiliation and suffering, crowned with the laurels of a world redeemed!
Nor are the following passages less indicative of the plurality of the persons in the Godhead, and of their social and sacred converse with each other. “And the Lord God said, Behold the man has become as one of us.” Genesis 3. 22. “Go to, let us go down and there confound their language.” Genesis 11. 7. “And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, whom shall I send, and who will go for us.”—-Isaiah 6. 8. The plural number is thus used, not in anticipated conformity to the style of modern royalty, but as suited to shadow forth the co-existence and holy fellowship of the Sacred Three in One. The learned and pious Emmons affirmed that the plural number is used to express the Deity more than one hundred times in Scripture.11*Emmons’ Sermons, p. 90.
It is not however, our object to demonstrate, by a regular argument, the doctrine of the Trinity. Not that we should think its demonstration difficult, with the Bible open before us. But those into whose hands these sheets will be likely to fill need no confirmation of their faith in this fundamental article of our holy religion. We may, then, for the purposes of our argument, adopt it as a settled truth, that there are three distinct persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and that these three persons are equal in all their infinite attributes and perfections; forming by their blessed union the only true God. The fall of man was an astounding event in the history of the universe. A world, just created in all the freshness and loveliness of innocence, and pronounced by its Creator to have been “very good,” was seduced from its allegiance by the prince of the powers of the air. The forgiveness of this apostacy without satisfaction would have violated the fundamental laws of the empire of the Godhead. The “angels who kept not their first estate,” though their voices had so long helped to swell the harmony of the heavens; though they had been ministering spirits around the throne of the Most High; though, ere this world sprang out of chaos, they had shone as morning stars; though they had been foremost among the shouting sons of God, had yet been cast out, and were confined in everlasting chains of darkness. Had rebel man been forgiven without satisfaction, the purity of divine justice must have been tarnished forever more.
But how was rebel man, poor and utterly destitute, to yield satisfaction? The title to his new dominion had been cancelled by sin. If burnt offerings would have sufficed, “the cattle upon a thousand hills” were no longer his. He stood polluted, confounded, seemingly abandoned and lost. But pity had entered the heart of One, whose divine compassion was infinite as his omnipotence. A voice issued forth from the innermost sanctuary of the Godhead: “Deliver him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom.”—-Job 33. 24. The ransom for delinquents, justly doomed to eternal suffering, was to be paid, in the suffering of their great Deliverer. The development of this plan of grace, so surprising to the heavens, must needs overwhelm with astonishment the dwellers upon the earth. It was the mighty movement of a God, and all its mysterious and progressive footsteps were to be the footsteps of a God.
Had it been decreed in the council of the Trinity that its second person should have suffered in the celestial court, at the very footstool of the throne of justice, human reason would have had no ground to interpose her speculative cavils. But infinite wisdom deemed it most fitting that the great Deliverer should suffer in the vestments of that fallen nature which he had so condescendingly and graciously undertaken to redeem; and that the new made world, which Satan had fondly claimed as a permanent province of his own kingdom, should become the scene of the glorious triumphs of the cross. That this great atonement was not an illusion, but a solemn reality; that the second person of the Trinity, clothed in the habiliments of flesh, suffered in very truth for the redemption of our race in his divine as well as in his human nature, it will be the object of these pages to establish by scriptural proofs.
*Emmons’ Sermons, p. 90.
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