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CONCERNING THE UNITY OF GOD; AND THE TRINITY.
THAT there is but one God, the scriptures every where assert; and this is agreeable to reason, and the works of creation and providence, which we behold. And the contrary supposition is most absurd, and undesirable, and really involves in it infinite evil. God must be a self existent being; which is the same with existing necessarily: But necessary existence must be infinite, as has been shewn. Therefore there can be but one 77 first cause, who exists necessarily, and without beginning, for there can be but one infinite being. To suppose another, or a second, necessarily excludes the first, and to suppose the first, necessarily excludes the second, and any other infinite being. The same is evident from the consideration of the divine perfections: God is infinite power, infinite wisdom: But there cannot be two or more infinite wisdoms, &c. because this is a contradiction. Infinite power is all the power there is, or can be, and is clearly inconsistent with another power distinct from that, which is also infinite. Moreover, if we make the impossible supposition that there are two or more infinite beings, they must be perfectly alike in all respects, or not. If not perfectly alike and without any difference in any respect, then one or the other must be imperfect; for absolutely infinite perfection admits of no variation, or difference: so that if any two beings differ in any respect, they cannot both be absolutely perfect; therefore cannot both be God. But if they are perfectly alike in every respect and every thing, then they are perfectly one and the same; and the supposition destroys itself, being a direct contradiction. And there can be no possible need of more than one God; and therefore were this possible, it is not desirable. There can really be no more existence than one infinite being, or any addition to infinite perfection and excellence; therefore no more can be desired; and nothing can be effected or done, more than he can do. In a word, he is all-sufficient, and no addition can be made to this, or even conceived.
Yea, it is so far from being desirable, that there should be more gods than one, were it possible, that it is most undesirable, and would be the greatest evil. Such a supposition would only tend to perplex the pious mind, not knowing which of the gods he did worship, or what god to love and adore, or in which to put his trust. There have been those in the christian world, who have supposed two gods, a good and an evil one. The former the author of all good, the latter of all evil. Were it so, there must be infinite variance and opposition between these beings, and it is impossible that the votaries of either should be happy. Such a belief, as the acknowledgment 78of more gods than one, is even worse than atheism itself; or rather is the worst sort of atheism; for such are really without any God.
The scriptures teach us that there are three in this one God. Not three Gods; for this would be a contradiction; but that this infinite being exists in such a manner, as to be three distinct subsistencies or persons, and yet but one God. The most express declaration of this is by the apostle John. He says, “There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: And these are One.”3030 1 John v. 7. This is also clearly asserted by Christ himself, when he directs his disciples to baptize all the proselytes to Christianity, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”3131 Matthew xxviii. 19. Baptism being a covenant transaction between God and the creature, and a solemn act of worship, it would be idolatry to administer it in any other name but that of the only true God. Therefore these words warrant us to believe that the Father, the Son, and the holy Ghost, are God, and but one God, agreeable to what is said by the apostle John in the above cited passage, the Word and the Son meaning the same. This is also expressed by the apostle Paul, in his benediction or prayer, with which he concludes his second epistle to the Corinthians. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.”3232 2 Corinthians xiii. 14. Hereby God must be meant, the Father, mentioned in the above cited passages; and this is therefore parallel to them. And divinity is ascribed to each of these; by his blessing in each of these names, and making them the object of prayer.
There are many passages in the Old Testament, which are agreeable to those in the New Testament, which have been mentioned, and represent a plurality or Trinity, as comprehended in the One true God: The following are some of them. It is remarkable that the Hebrew word, which is generally used for God, and is so translated, is commonly put in the plural, and not in the singular number. There is an instance of it the first time it is used in the Bible. “In the beginning God 79created the heaven and the earth.” And agreeable to this it is said, “Remember thy Creators.”3333 Eccles. xii. i. 2. It is translated Creator, but the Hebrew word is plural. And the reason and propriety of it is discovered and best explained, by observing that a plurality, or Trinity, is included in the Creator of all things: for it is expressly and repeatedly asserted, that Jesus Christ created the world and all things in it. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made, that was made.”3434 John i. 1, 3. “For by him (the Son of God) were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth.”3535 Col. i. 16. And creation is also ascribed to the Holy Spirit. “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”3636 Gen. i. 2. “By his Spirit he hath garnished the heavens. The Spirit of God hath made me.”3737 Job xxvi. 13.—xxxiii. 4.
Agreeable to this, God uses words in the plural number, when he is about to create man, and speaks as if there were a plurality of persons to do it. “And God said. Let us make man, in our image, after our likeness.”3838 Gen. i. 26. And this form of speech is repeatedly used. “And the Lord God said. Behold, the man is become like one of us. And the Lord said—Let us go down, and there confound their language.”3939 Gen.iii.22.—xi. 6, 7.
There is a remarkable passage in the prophecy of Isaiah, which represents a plurality, or three in Jehovah, or the Lord of Hosts. The Seraphims “cried one unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”4040 Chap. vi. 3, 8. The plurality is here expressed by the plural pronoun, us. “Who will go for us?” And the Trinity is expressed by using the word holy three times successively; of which there is no instance of the kind in the Bible, when a single person, which is in no sense plural, is addressed. There is an instance of the same, indeed, when the same Being is addressed by the living creatures which John saw and heard. “And they rest not day and night, 80 saying, Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.”4141 Rev. iv. 8. But that a plurality and a Trinity, comprehended in Jehovah, is designed to be expressed here by these words, is confirmed and made certain, by the reference which is made to this passage, in the New Testament. All will grant that he who is called the Father, in the New Testament, when joined with the Son or Word, and the Holy Ghost, is intended or included in the word Jehovah, or the Lord of Hosts, in this passage in Isaiah. And the apostle John, referring to it, says, “These things said Isaiah, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.” That is, of Jesus Christ.4242 John xii. 41. The apostle Paul, when he quotes some of the words of this same passage in Isaiah, says, “Well spake the Holy Ghost, by Isaiah the Prophet, unto our fathers.”4343 Acts xxviii. 25. So that the glory of Jehovah was the glory of the Son, or Jesus Christ; and what was spoken of the Lord of Hosts, was spoken of Christ the Son of God. And what the Lord of Hosts said by Isaiah, the Holy Ghost said. It is hence certain, that these three, the Father, the Son, or the Word, and the Holy Ghost, into whose name christians are baptized, and in whose name the Apostles blessed, and who bear record in heaven, were included in the vision which Isaiah had of the Lord of Hosts. And who that attends to this scriptural view of the case, can doubt when it is said. Who will go for us? the plurality of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost is intended; and that when the Seraphim adored the Lord of Hosts, and cried, saying, Holy, holy, holy, there is reference to those three.
From the passages of scripture which have been now mentioned, to prove there is a plurality or Trinity in the one true God, it is also proved that the Word, the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, is God, and as really, and as much included in the Deity, in Jehovah, as is the Father: And that this is equally true of the Holy Ghost. But the evidence of the real divinity of Jesus Christ, will appear yet more clear and strong, by examining the scripture more particularly on this point. But as this will be done in a more proper place in a following section, 81 it is omitted here. And the divinity of the Holy Ghost will now be more particularly considered.
In addition to the evidence of this, from the scriptures, which have been produced above, a number of other passages of scripture will now be mentioned, from which it appears, that the Holy Ghost is God, and included in the Godhead.
Christ says, “Except a man be born of the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God. What is born of the Spirit, is spirit.”4444 John iii. 5, 6. And the apostle Paul says, “christians are saved by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”4545 Titus iii. 5. The apostle John speaks often of the same change, and renovation, common to all christians, as being born of God.4646 John i. 13—1 John iii. 9. iv. 7. v. 1, 4, 18. The inference is, that the Holy Spirit is God; since to be born of the Spirit, and to be born of God, is precisely the same thing. This renovation, by which men are born of God, and born of the Spirit, is called in scripture the new creature, or new creation. And it is indeed a greater work than the creation of the world; therefore the Spirit who thus renews men must be God.
“Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.”4747 Acts v. 3, 4. Here God and the Holy Ghost are synonymous, and mean the same thing; as much as if it had been said, thou hast lied unto God the Holy Ghost. “The things of God knoweth no man. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them.”4848 1 Cor. ii. 11, 4. From these two sentences compared, it appears that the things of God, and the things of the Spirit of God, express the same thing. But if the things of the Spirit of God are the things of God, does it not follow that the Spirit of God is God? “All scripture is given by inspiration of God. Holy men spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”4949 2 Tim. iii. 16—1 Pet. i. 21. To be inspired by God, and moved by the Holy Ghost, is the same; therefore the Holy Ghost is God.5050 Many more passages of scripture, of the same tenor, might be mentioned, were it needful. They may be seen in a small book entitled, “The Catholic Doctrine of a Trinity.” By William Jones.82
These three are spoken of, or addressed, in the scriptures, in such terms as are used to denote a distinct personality, such as I, thou, he, or him. Thus the Father speaks of himself, and the Son; and thus the Son speaks to the Father, and of him, and of the Holy Spirit; of which there are many instances, which must have been observed by those who read the Bible.
It is thought that the use of the above mentioned personal epithets, is a sufficient warrant to distinguish the three in the divine Trinity, by the word person. But it must be carefully observed, that when this word is applied to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as three distinct persons, it does not import the same distinction which is expressed by it when applied to men. It means nothing inconsistent with the highest perfection, or with these three being really and most perfectly one God. Nor is it pretended that this word, when used in this instance, can be so defined as to give any clear and adequate idea of a subject so mysterious and infinitely incomprehensible. They who object to the word person, and will not use it because not applicable to the three who are one, may doubtless, with equal reason, object to any word which can be used, even the word Trinity, or three, which the apostle John uses, and to the personal words so often mentioned in scripture. However, if they who object to the word person, will allow that, according to the scripture, the one only true God does subsist in such a manner, and so infinitely above our comprehension, that there are three, viz. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in this one jehovah; and that this distinction and manner of existence is peculiar and essential to the infinite eternal Being as the most perfect, happy and glorious mode of existence, independent of any divine operations ad extra, and the proper foundation of these: If they will grant this, it is presumed none will contend with them about the word person.
It is acknowledged, that this is incomprehensible by us, we not being able to form any precise or adequate idea of three persons in one God, but as there is no inconsistence or contradiction in this, our not being able to comprehend it, is no reason why we should not believe 83it, when it is revealed; for if we will not believe any thing respecting God, which we cannot comprehend and is therefore above our reason, we shall not believe there is a God. If there be a God, he does exist without beginning or succession; but this is as much above our comprehension, as that he subsists in three persons; and we cannot have a more clear understanding of the former, than of the latter. God, who is infinitely great; and infinitely above us, exists in a manner infinitely above our conception: And if we will not believe what God has revealed of himself, because it is above our reason, and incomprehensible by us, we shall act a most unreasonable part; for reason teaches us, that God is incomprehensible in more respects than one; and in how many we know not. God has been pleased, for wise reasons, to reveal one instance of this, which we otherwise could not have known; and there can be no reason against believing it: and therefore to reject it, is most unreasonable and absurd.
There may be innumerable truths respecting this infinitely incomprehensible Being, which would be as much above the reach of our understanding and reason, as this is, were they revealed; for but a very small portion is yet known of him. This truth, respecting a Trinity of persons in the one God, is revealed, because it was necessary to be known and believed, in order to understand the gospel, revealing a way for the salvation of sinners, in which each of those Three are concerned, in different respects and views, and distinct from each other: For had there not been this distinction of persons in God, there would have been no foundation or sufficiency in him for the exercise of mercy, in the recovery of apostate man. In this view, the doctrine of the Trinity, one God subsisting in three persons, appears to be an important and essential doctrine of christianity.
There have been many attempts to explain this doctrine, and shew the particular manner of the distinct subsistence of the three persons in the divine Trinity; but these have often been so far from giving any light and satisfaction on the subject, that they have only darkened counsel, by words without knowledge; and rather given 84advantage to the opposers of the doctrine, and increased their prejudices. Therefore nothing of this kind will be attempted here. It may however be observed, that this manner of subsistence in three persons, though incomprehensible to us, may be essential to the infinitely perfect Being, and that otherwise he would not be absolutely perfect, all-sufficient, and infinitely blessed. Have we not reason to conclude that this distinction of three in one, is that in which the most perfect and happy society consists, in which love and friendship is exercised to the highest perfection, and with infinite enjoyment, and felicity? And that the most perfect and happy society of creatures, united together forever, in the kingdom of God, in the strongest, sweetest love and friendship, is an emanation from this infinite three one, as the fountain and pattern of all happy society and friendship; and the highest possible resemblance and imitation of it? This idea seems to be suggested, if not necessarily implied, in what Christ says in his prayer to the Father. “That they all may be one. as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us. That they may be one, even as we are one. I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one. That the love wherewith thou hast loved me, may be in them, and I in them.”
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