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Athenagoras against the charge of the pagans, A. D. 177, says, " Who is not filled with admiration, that we, who declare God the Father, and God the Son, and the Holy Ghost, showing both the power of their unity, and the distinction of their order, should be called perverse atheists." This remark is found in an apology for the Christians. It therefore must be viewed as containing the sense of the Christians of that day. And what more, than is contained in this sentence, do present Trinitarians wish to say? Again: This author, speaking of the contemplations of the people of God, at that age, says, they contemplated " What union the Son hath with the Father; what communion the Father hath with the Son ; what the Spirit is; and what the union and distinction are
the worship paid in Rome to the triad, Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. This sentiment probably had its origin from that of the primitive three Mighty Ones, in Samothrace ; the worship of whom was, according to Eusebius, established in that island, before the days of Abraham.
Bishop Horsley has shown, that some traces of the notion of a Trinity did indeed appear in all the ancient schools of philosophy; and in many of the abominable rites of paganism. The Platouists called this sentiment Theoparadotos Theologia; a Theology given from God. Now, how came such a notion, (relative to an original Three to be worshipped) to be entertained so extensively, among ancient heathen? The most probable conjecture is, that they received it by tradition from Noah and his sons, (relative to the divine Trinity) who received it from God. A considerable part of the heathen mythology may be traced back, through the bewildered imaginations of idolaters, to doctrines, rites, and events, divinely directed; and afterward corrupted by wicked men. The triad principle running through so great a part of the ancient pagan theologies, is an indication of no inconsiderable moment, that the doctrine of the Trinity in God was taught in express revelation from heaven, previous to the writings of Moses. This is not to be viewed (as too many heretical writers have laboured to represent it) to the discredit of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Christians never learned the doctrine of the Trinity from pagans'. Bat pagans learned it from ancient divine rerelativn.
of such so united, the Spirit, the Son, and the Father." Is it not here evident, that the Christians of the second century viewed the three in the Godhead as Persons, divine and equal? Those Christians studied, what was the union in the Godhead? what their communion? and what was the distinction of such so united? Surely then, the Holy Ghost, in their view, as well as each of the others, was a Person. And their queries were the very same, which Trinitarian sentiments do occasion. But had the sentiments of those Christians been such concerning the Three in one God, as some now call on us to believe, they would have occasioned no such researches. For these Christians might have comprehended the ideas of one God the Father, of his natural dependent Son, and of his fulness or energy personified, as easily as they rright a sum in plain addition.. But the above account given of the Church, in the second century, and while they did retain their primitive purity, clearly shows, that Trinity in Unity in God, did constitute a prime article in their creed.
Pliny, in his well known letter to Trajan, declared, that the Christians—sung hymns to Christ, as to God. Hierocles, a heathen, charged the Christians, that " because of a few miracles, they proclaimed Jesus to be God." This was a common charge of the heathen against the Christians, that they worshipped Christ as the true God.
Du Pin, the celebrated writer upon the primitive ages, in his summary of the doctrines of the Church, in the three first centuries, says, "They acknowledged a Trinity of Persons in the Godhead, the eternity of the Word, and the Holy Ghost. They maintained, that the Word was from all eternity in God, as a Person distinct from the Father; that he made himself man to save the
world, which was lost by sin in the first Adam.— All the fathers (he adds) of whom we have spoken, make profession of this faith, and assure us, that this was the doctrine, which all the churches in the world have received from the apostles; and that it was necessary to believe it, in order to become a Christian."*
Of Novation, who lived A. D. 250, Milnersays, "The Christian faith heis allowed to have preserved in soundness. In truth there is extant a treatise of his, on the Trinity, one of the most regular and accurate, that is to be. found among the ancients. It is astonishing (he adds) that any should ascribe the ideas of the Trinity mainly to the Nicene fathers. We have repeatedly seen proofs of the doctrine from the apostles' days, being held distinctly in all its parts. This treatise of Novation may be added to the list. I do not know (continues this author) how to abridge it better. than to refer the reader to the Athanasian creed. The Trinity in Unity; and the Godhead and manhood of Christ, in one Person, is not more plainly to be found in that creed, than in this cotemporary of Cyprian."t
Of Tertullian, in the second century, writing against Praxias, an Anti-trinitarian, Milner observes, " He appears to have had very sound views of the doctrine of the Trinity. He speaks of the Trinity in Unity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, yet one God. He speaks of the Lord Jesus, as both God and man; Son of man ; and Son of God; and called Jesus Christ. He speaks also of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Sanctificr of the faith of those, who belief e in the Father, Son. and Holy Ghost. He observes, that this rule of faith
* View of Heresies, p. 77. t Vol. 1. p. 337.
had obtained from the beginning of the gospel, antecedent to any former heretics; much more to Praxiasr who was of yesterday."* For myself, I should be very loath to espouse a cause, which required, that such testimony as this should be destroyed. We learn from it, that the very views of present Trinitarians were maintained by the whole church in the second century, as having been received from Christ, and his apostles; and that to deny these views, with them was heresy. Tertullian again says, (as Bishop Horsley has quoted him,) " Simple persons, (not to call them ignorant and idiots,) who always make the majority of (nominal) believers;—because the rule of faith itself carries us away from the many gods of the heathen, to the one true God, not understanding that the one God is indeed to be believed, but with an economy of a Godhead, startle at the economy. They lake it for granted, that the number and disposition of the Trinity is a division of the Unity. They pretend that two, and even three (Gods) are preached by us; and imagine that they themselves are the worshippers of one God" The sense of the above passage is this. Some people, very ignorant and stupid, as to divine things, (such as are a great part, who pretend to believe the gospel) stumble at the doctrine of the Trinity. They are not ready to admit, that the one God of the Bible is to be received as having an economy of three Persons. This looks to them like holding to a plurality of Gods. They even pretend that we preach three Gods: while they hold to but one. Truly the case in the days of . Tertullian, or in the second century, was not very dissimilar to that of the present day.
* Vol. i. p. 271.
Clement, bishop of Rome, cotemporary witk the apostles, and whose name, Taul assures us, was "in the book of life;" said, "Have we not all one God, one Christ, one Spirit of grace poured upon us ?'•'
The noted Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria, in the middle of the third century, says, "Thus we understand the indivisible Unity of the Trinity; and we comprehend the Trinity in the Unity, without any diminution.''*
Theophilus, the celebrated bishop of Antioch, on the passage of God saying, "Let us make man," says, "It was to no other, that he (God) said, Let us make, than to his own Word, and his own Wisdom." "In the language of Theophilus (says bishop Horsley) and of the best writers of the age, the Word and the Wisdom here, are used as proper names of the second and third Person in the Trinity. This assertion of Theophilus, that G od spake to no other person, than to his Word and his Spirit; is an assertion that God spake to persons of no less dignity, than the Son, and the Holy Ghost." The Jewish expositors of that age contended, that God spake those words, ("Let us make man,") to Angels. And Theophilus contended, that God did not speak them to1 Angels; but to the other two Persons in the Trinity.t
Origin, in the third century, was a most noted character. And after all that has been said by some to the contrary, it is evident to my mind, that he was a real Trinitarian. Some inform, that Origin held to only an allegorical Trinity; or that the Son is in God, what reason is in man; and that the Holy Ghost is nothing more, than the divine energy, or active force, personified. And it has
* Milner, Vol. 1. p. 451. tTraots, p. 49.