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this derivation in his very address to a Platonic philosopher whom he wished to draw to the true faith? And it is further to be considered, what indeed Professor Norton asserts (p. 17,) that the doctrine of the Hypostatic Union, or the incarnation of the Son of God, was always connected with that of the Trinity as held by Christians, but we see in the above extract that this doctrine was utterly rejected by the Platonic Trinitarian.
It is plain, therefore, that before a Platonist could become a Christian, it was necessary that he should adopt some superior guide to Plato—some master and teacher of far higher authority—some books of far more celestial descent than the writings of this philosopher. It would avail him nothing that he held the Platonic Trinity, which was currently styled three Gods. He must learn that the sacred Three was but one God, and specially must he learn the Divine economy of man's redemption through the incarnation, obedience, and passion of the eternal Logos, and he must be penitent and believing: and renouncing the pride of philosophy, and the pomps and vanities of the world, he must enter the Church of God through the solemn ordinance of baptism, before he could be called a Christian. How absurd, then, to imagine that a Platonic philosopher, converted to the faith, and entering the fold of Christ in the only appointed way, could afterwards go back to Plato and take his books instead of the Bible as 'the source' of the Trinitarian or any other Christian doctrine? That he might continue to admire the works of Plato, and use his phraseology, and even sometimes appeal to it as an argument of confirmation among philosophers, would indeed be reasonable and natural: but that a Christian could originally receive any important doctrine of Divine truth on the authority of a heathen philosopher, is a proposition as unwarrantable and preposterous as ever was suggested by the spirit of infidelity to the intellect of man. J
The truth, therefore, on this point, is well stated in many parts of the learned Cudworth's work, whom no author ever exceeded in his partiality fo« Plato. Those passages Professor Norton does not quote, although he selects a few sentences from that celebrated author, which we presume were supposed to suit him. Let us supply the deficiency.
'Since it cannot well be conceived,' says Cud worth, (True Intel. Syst. Universe, London ed. of 1678, p. 547.) 'how such a Trinity of Divine Hypostases should be first discovered by human wit and reason, though there be nothing in it, (if rightly understood,) that is repugnant to reason, and since there are in the writings of the Old Testament, certain significations of a Plurality in the Deity, or of more than one Hypostasis, we may reasonably conclude, that which Proclus asserteth of this Trinity, as it was contained in the Chaldaic Oracles, to be true, that it was at first a Theology of Divine Tradition or Revelation, or a Divine Cabala, viz. among the Hebrews first, and from them aflerwards communicated to the Egyptians and other nations. Neither ought it to be thought any considerable objection to the contrary, because the Platonists, Pythagoreans, and other pagan theologers did not express this their Trinity in the very words of the Athanasian Creed, nor according to the form of the Nicene Council. Forasmuch as this mystery was gradually imparted to the world, and that first, but sparingly, to the Hebrews themselves, either in their written or oral Cabala; but afterwards more fully under Christianity, the whole frame whereof was built thereupon.'
Again, p. 579, after a long examination of the error of Petavius who had asserted that the heretic Arius was a Platonist, Cudworth states his conclusion in these words: 'From all Which it appears that Arius did not so much Platonize, as the Nicene Fathers and Athanasius; who. notwithstanding, made not Plato, but the Scripture, together with reason, deducing natural consequences therefrom, their foundation'
We trust that enough has been shown to demonstrate the total error of the Professor's confident assertion, that 'we can trace the history of the Trinitarian doctrine and discover its source, not in the Christian Revelation, but in the Platonic philosophy.' A proposition which we hold to be a libel on the Primitive Church, perfectly in character, however, with those expounders of Scripture, who do not scruple to charge error, and intentional allowance of error, on the instructions of Evangelists, and Apostles, and even of Christ himself.
We cannot close our humble volume without a few remarks on the diversity of sentiment charged on orthodox Christians by their adversaries, in relation to the doctrine of the Trinity, and on the spirit of dangerous concession which many admirable writers have unhappily exhibited in their mode of conducting the controversy.
The doctrine of the Trinity asserts the Unity of God, and in perfect consistence with this Unity, the Threefold distinction, called Persons, by which each Divine Person is known under a peculiar appellation, as the Father, the Son, or the Holy Ghost.
All trinitarians agree in this statement.
They all hold the Unity of the Divine essence.
They all hold the equality of the Divine Persons, in nature, eternity, power and glory.
They all render the highest acts of worship to this sacred Trinity.
They all allow the relative subordination of the Son to the Father, and of the Holy Ghost to both the Father and the Son.
They all hold that the Son became incarnate for the work of man's redemption, and that the Holy Spirit is the Divine Agent in all those secret influences, and sacred ordinances, and acts of holy obedience, by which the sinner is made a new creature, and fitted for the inheritance of the saints in light.
They all agree that Scripture is the only Rule of faith, with the exception of the Church of Rome, which adds the unwritten instructions of the Apostles, held by them, as they suppose, under the term Apostolical Tradition.
Agreeing in all these points, in what do Trinitarians differ? In nothing but the individual methods by which certain writers have explained their own ideas of the modal relations of the subject. Doubtless there are differences here, but none which disturb the universal concurrence in the great characteristics of the system. We willingly admit that much has been written in this way which the best interests of the Church could well have spared. But still, so long as a Scriptural union of sentiment exists on all the particulars above stated, it is as idle as it is unjust to impugn the orthodoxy of the Catholic or Universal Church, on account of those minor varieties of opinion, which must necessarily be expected on all subjects in the imperfect condition of mortal intellect. And this accusation comes with an especially bad grace from a class of men who have hitherto only agreed in what the Christian Examiner so truly calls the work of destruction. When that writer's new temple is erected—when anti-trinitarians convene together, and try whether they do agree or can agree—when 'the atoms' of this 'new moral and religious world gravitate round their nucleus,' we shall see how much Unity there is in that which would fain be called the only Unitarianism.
If these gentlemen, however, are wise in their generation, they will never attempt to unite in a 'positive work,' they will continue to agree only in the effort to disturb and demolish the old temple of religious faith, they will continue to be, each man a nucleus to himself, and they will go on in the autocracy of self-confidence, to dictate,