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Trinitarians have agreed. They have agreed, that there are three Persons in one God, in some mysterious sense ; not three Gods ; nor three in the same sense, in which they are one; but in some mysterious sense three Persons in one God: and that this is the key stone to the arch of gospel salvation. Though some among the orthodox have said different things relative to the Sonship of Christ; viewing it as relating to his divine nature j and as denoting an eternal mode of existence between the two first Persons of the Trinity ; yet all (1 believe) have agreed, that Christ is not posterior, nor inferior to the Father; that he never had a beginning ; that he is really God.
T.o take an occasion then, from the minor differences among Trinitarians, to justify the infinitely wider difference, of denying the eternal and real Deity of Jesus Christ, is very unchristian. To insinuate, that because Trinitarians differ in some things, relative to the Trinity; therefore with equal propriety a man may .take the liberty so far to differ from them all, as to deny the doctrine of the Trinity, and the proper Deity of Christ, looks like using artifice to conceal, or extenuate gross error. It does not follow, that because Christians say different circumstantial things, concerning Christ; therefore another may, with no greater danger, deny him. There is an infinite difference between having some different conceptions, relative to the mode of the existence of the three Persons in the Godhead ; and denying that there are three Persons in the Godhead. The Trinitarian differences are all within the bounds of the great gospel truth, that there are, in some mysterious sense, three divine and equal Persons in the one God. But t» deny the real Deity of Christ, and the personality of the Holy Ghost, is (in the opinion of Trinitarians) not only to leap these bounds, but to sap the foundation of gospel grace.
I shall now adduce some testimonies of the aneients, in favor of the doctrine of the Trinity, and the real Deity of Jesus Christ. My quotations will be from Mosheim, Milner's Church History, Bishop Horsley's Tracts, and from Doctor M'Farland's View of Heresies; a prime authority in which is" Dr. Jamieson's excellent vindication of the doctrine—of the primitive faith concerning the Deity of Jesus Christ.'' Bishop Horsley has shown,* that all who denied the Divi.;;.ty of Christ, were, in the first ages, treated as heretics.
Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, who immediately succeeded the apostles, in his epistle to the Ephesians, warns them, " to beware of heresies ; to believe that Jesus Christ is God, who was incarnate; that Christ is impassible, as he is God, and passible,as he is man.''t Ignatius was "a pious,a venerable man, (says Mosheim,) who was the disciple and familiar friend of the apostles." We may conclude then, that he could not have mistaken "the sentiments of the apostles, relative to the Deity of Christ. And according to Ignatius, Christ had two natures. He was really God, incapable of suffering; And he was really man, capable of suffering. And to disbeheve this, with him was heresy. Ignatius called Christ, "the eternal Word." Did he then believe that Christ was derived, and began to exist? To the faithful he said, "Being stones of the Temple of your Father, prepared for the building of God, lifted up in heavenly places, by the engine of Jesus Christ, which is his cross; using the Holy Spirit as a cord."t Here is Trinity in unity. His comparing the Holy Ghost to a cord, was a mere figure. But it does not indicate his belief, that the work of sanctification, in the hearts of Christians, which places them in God's temple, is wrought without the personal agency of the Holy Ghost. It must be* lame cause, that would suggest such a thing. Ignatius*knew that Christians are " raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." And he well knew, that this resurrection was produced by an almighty Agent; and not by * thing. His figure of the cord must have related to the stipulated part of the Holy Spirit, in the scheme of grace, sanctifying God's chosen. Let the writers of the martyrdom of Ignatius, who must have known and approved of his sentiments of the Trinity, as well as those of the apostles, testify. They close their narrative thus; "Christ Jesus, our Lord; by whom, and with whom all glory and power be to the Father, with the blessed Spirit forever. Amen." Here, at so early a period, is a complete Doxology of equal and undivided praise to each person in the triune God. There can be no fair evasion of such testimony as this.
* Tracts, page 184. t View of Heresies, p. 69.
t Milaer, vol. i. page 159.
Justin Martyr, of the second century, in his book against Trypho the Jew, asserted the Divinity of Christ! And Trypho replied; "That Christ should be God, before the world began, and afterward be born, though not as other men, seemed to him, not only a paradox, but foolish.''* In the View of Heresies, we are informed again of Justin Martyr, that he " acknowledged the Christians of his day worshipped three Persons, (in God,) but asserted that this was the common faith, 'and
* View of Heresies, p. 69.
had been so from the apostles' days. He said also, that a belief of the Trinity was required of the most rude aind illiterate, in order to their admission into the Church." Justin Martyr (Bishop Horsley informs) " expressly alludes to the Unitarians, as blasphemers of Christ:" And he speaks of Christ as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Clement, bishop of Alexandria, says, "He, (the Word,) is both God and man." And speaking of God.and the Word, he says, " They are both one, that is to say, one God.''* Here he seems to distinguish between their being one Person, and one God. They are two Persons; but one God.
Du Pin informs, that Irenasus, of the second. century, wrote against heresies ; in which work, "almost as often as he speaks of the Word, he establishes his divinity, eternity, and equality with the Father."t Irenaeus exhibited a creed, of the general belief of the Christians of that age; in. which the doctrine of the Trinity is as fully contained, as in the Nicene creed. In it Christ is called" our God.'' And much more is said in this creed upon the personality of the Holy Ghost,than is said in the Nicene creed.f Irenasus again says; "Man was formed in the beginning by the hands of God, i. e. of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." With him then, the Son was God ; and the Holy Ghost was God; who with the Father make three Persons in one God.
Doctor Priestley himself acknowledges, that from the time of Justin, in the second century, to Athauasias in the fourth, all the authors, one only excepted, were what he was pleased to style* "Platonizing Trinitarians." A testimony fullj in our favor.*
* View of Heresies, p. 69. t Ibid. p. 79.
i S«e the creed in View of Heresies, p. 78.
Melito, bishop of Sardis, says, " We are worshippers of one God, who is before all, and in all in his Christ, who is truly God, the eternal Woid."
* Doctor Priestley and others have often insinuated, that the primitive Christians derived their views, coneeming a Trinity in the Godhead, from the philosophy of Plato. It is indeed 'worthy of remark, that while those Christians derived their sentnnunts of the divine Trinity from the sacred oracles, the ancient schools of heathen philosophy held something^ which resembled this doctrine. But this is so far from being to the discredit of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity; that, rightly •onsiUered, itis much in its favor. Ti.e highest probability is, thai the above idea in those heathen school? was derived and transmitted from ancient revelation made to the patriarchs; thai il was a tradition corrupted, and more or less combined •wit. idolatry; but originating from heaven, in early days, 'while men hud the true knowledge oi God.
Tul: three divine principles, held in the schools of Plato, before the Christian en, did not originate with that philosopher. The Platonists held themselves to be only expounders of ancient doctrines. Their triad, or doctrine of three, (T'agathon, Goodness, Nous, Intelligence, und Pseuche, Vitality,) was traced from Plato to Parmedides; from lam to the masters of the Pythagorsean sect; from thorn to Orpheus, the first of the Grecian mystagogues; and from him to the Egyptian priest?, where was the foundation of the Orphic Theology.t In the Theology of ancient Persia and Chaldea were similar ideas of a triple principle; as were also, in after date, among the Romans. This sentiment was transmitted to Rome from their Trojan ancestors. It was brought into Italy from Phrygia. Into the latter place it had been introduced by Dardarrus, about nine centuries after the flood. Dardanus received it from Samothrace. There the persons, constituting the three to be •worshipped, were known by the Hebrew word Cabirim,Mighty Ones; from the very root of the word used in the Hebrew Bible for God, in Gen. xlix. 24 ; and Ps cxxxii. 2. This old tradition therefore, it is most highly probable, was derived from divine revelation made to the patriarchs, in most ancient times. The Latin Penates was of similar import, or probably from the same origin;—an idolatrous corruption of ancient glorious truth, relative to the divine Persons in the Godhead.—At als»
t Bifhop Horsley's Tracts, p. 43.