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For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the
Son, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one. HAVING produced a few arguments for the proof of the di.. vinity of the holy scriptures, I proceed now to consider and esta. blish one of the most solemn and fundamental doctrines revealed therein, to wit, the mysterious and important doctrine of the Trinity, or that there are three persons in the Godhead. A belief of this branch of divine revelation is, doubtless, of high moment in the christian religion. It is hard to conceive how any person can be a real christian, who denies this doctrine, because it seems to lie at the foundation of the schense of redemption, and the salvation of sinners. It is here plainly and strongly asserted in this text. I shall not waste your time, by leading your attention to a learned discussion of the genuineness of this passage, which would very little promote your edification or comfort. Although it has been omitted in some ancient copies of the Greek testament, and found in others of equal antiquity and authority, yet it would be very uncharitable to attribute this to the wickedness of transcribers either in the omission or interpolation. It could serve no useful purpose in one case or the other. This text, with great certainty, could be made appear to be genuine from the context, from the nature of the Apostle's discourse, from the propriety of its introduction in this place, from what precedes ity
and what follows after it. The very dust of gold is precious, therefore, we ought not easily to surrender one passage of sacred writ. It is but one among a multitude of authorities, to confirm our faith in the doctrine of the holy Trinity. If this text were expunged from our bibles, it could be of no service to the cause of our adversaries, for we have a variety of other texts as full and explicit in support of the doctrine of three persons in ons divine essence or Godhead as this..
The apostle John is here evidently establishing the faith of christians in this great truth, that Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified without the gates of Jerusalem, is the son of God, the promised Mesich, the only Saviour of the world. This faitli, as it is essential to the being, comfort and salvation of the christian, it is of the utmost consequence, that it be evinced by the most ample testimony. For this purpose, he produces six witnesses, each of whose testimony is infallible, and cannot be denied, nor evaded. Three of these witnesses are in heaven, and three upon earth. The former three are said to be one, and the latter three are said to agree in one. Waving the apostle's design and mode of argumentation, we shall endeavour to attend to the text in a disconnected and independent view, as it repre. sents to us the doctrine of the ever glorious Trinity. We have here a Trinity plainly and fully declared, mention being explicit. ly made of three, and an express distinction of names ascribed to them. “ There are three that bear record in heaven, the Fa. “ ther, the word and the Holy Ghost.” The matter of the testimony of these wonderful persons is, that Jesus is the Son of God and the Saviour of sinners, as has been already observed. By the words in heaven, no doubt is meant the grandeur and exalted truth of their testimony, as well as the dignified place from whence it proceeds. The sacred Three bear witness in a majestic, glorious and celestial manner, the habitation of whose transcendent excellency is in heaven, from whence this extraordinary evia dence comes. The first is God the Father, who testified in favor of the incarnate Redeemet, at his baptism and transáguration : “ This is any 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 Sa. viour 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 miraculous 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 meres ly 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 conception of any created intelligence, therefore, we liave 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 ; tn endeavour to gay where in 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 transcenda ing 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 busiRess, 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, Ist. 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
which admitha God is one God is one,.
* said ye are Gods, but ye shall die like men.” 3d. As excluza 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 Tespect.
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 solecisın in language, as well as in
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 tow, 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