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sinuated ?-«-Which is a scheme, which takes only the soul of man, to illustrate the Trinity, instead of of man's soul and body, as did the Sabellians; and which equally, with the Sabellians, holds to but one real Person in God! The one must have been as great, and as offensive an error, as was the other. And from the alarm in the Church at Sabellianism, we may safely infer, that no such ideas of an allegorical Trinity did prevail among the body of the followers of Christ, in those days.
The truth of the above deduction is established, in the following account. Paul, of Samosata, in the third century, advanced the following sentiment: "that the Son and the Holy Ghost exist in God in the same manner, as the faculties of reason and activity do in man."* This is the very scheme, which has been imputed to Origin, and his followers, as afore noted. A council was assembled, A. D. 2G9, who condemned Paul of Samosata, and degraded him from his office. This decides, that the insinuations of some in these days, relative to an allegorical Trinity, are not found'ed in truth.
In the fourth century, Macedonicus, bishop of Constantinople, was tried and banished for his heresy. It was the following: He taught, that the Holy Ghost was only "a divine energy, diffused through the universe; and not a Person distinct from the Father and the Son.5' "This opinion (adds Mosheim) had many partizans in the Asiatic provinces; but the council assembled by Theodosius, A. D. 381, at Constantinople, (to which the second rank among the general council is attributed,) put a stop, by its authority, to the growing evil.
* Mosheim, vol. i. p. 248.
This treatment of Macedonicus, clearly shows, that the afore noted allegorical Trinity, was not the sentiment of any considerable part (if it were of any individuals) of the ministers of Christ at that period: and also, that a distinct personality was generally, if not universally, ascribed to the Holy Ghost. For the great crime of Macedonicus was a denial of this; and an idea, that the Holy Ghost was only the energy of God personified; the very thing, which some now with confidence call on us to believe!
The council of Constantinople might be the first, who by authority fixed the name of Person to each in the holy Trinity. But the idea was clearly understood from the days of the apostles. And what are the /, Ihou, he, and us, in the Godhead, known through the Bible, but representations of different Persons? Nothing is found in Mosheim, which appears like his viewing this doctrine, as the work of man! He speaks of it as having received its " finishing touch," as to the manner of expression, in the council of Constantinople. At the time of this council, errors were prevailing, and the Church was in a decline. But this council was a collection of the best characters then on earth. It has been esteemed, in point of abilities, piety and weight of character, second to no council of the Christian period, after the apostolic age,except the Nicene. A hint then, that perhaps there never was a worse cha'ractergiven to any council, bearing the Christian name, than has been given to this council, is utterly unfounded, and very injudicious! Before such a hint can be given, a man must forget, or never have known, the numerous corrupt councils under Roman Catholic jurisdiction; as well as forget the respect, that is due to the united wisdom and piety of the followers of Christ on earth at that period! And the agreement of the above named council, how they would express their views more definitely upon the doctrine of the Trinity, was far from giving their sanction to new doctrines, or doing any thing worthy of censure. The orthodox were compelled, by the subterfuges and equivocations of heretics, to the use of more definite language. But they formed no new doctrine, as some have basely insinuated.
Thus 1 have endeavoured to ascertain, what was the great question concerning Jesus Christ, after he entered his public ministry on earth ; that it did not relate to a derivation of his divine Person from God; but to the truth of his Messiahship; the Messiah being understood to be God: in what sense Jesus Christ is the Son of God : in what sense he was begotten of the Father: that no benefit results from a supposed derivation of Christ's Divinity: that proper Divinity is infinitely incapable of being derived: that Jesus Christ is God underived: that Christ has a human soul and body: that the Godhead consists of a Trinity in Unity: and that the fathers of the three first centuries, after Christ, clearly testify in favor of the Trinity, and of the proper Divinity of Christ, essentially as now held by Trinitarians.
A Hat of the fatal errors, which it is believed are the legitimate offspring of the denial of the Trinity in God, and of the proper Divinity of Christ, might be furnished. Among these errors are the following: either that man is not fallen and depraved ; or no atonement was necessary for the pardon of sin. Or if some atonement were necessary, a finite one was sufficient. It follows that sin does not deserve an eternal punishment; and all men must eventually be saved. Hence God is not so angry with sinners, and their danger is by no means so great, as has been represented. Nor is it so great a thing for God to pardon and save the children of Adam. The law and government of God are not so terrible to transgressors, as has been supposed. Men need not feel as though it were so vast a crime to trample them under foot. Nor need they fear eternal damnation.
If men—denying the Trinity and the proper Divinity of Christ—are unwilling, through the impressions of a better education, to admit the above, and similar errors, as naturally resulting from their scheme ;—yet it is believed that their followers, who will come forward destitute of their better impressions, and who will reason more correctly from their own premises, will admit and embrace these errors; and will deny the true scheme of the gospel.
When the numerous attempts, which have been made by human wisdom, to reduce the doctrine of the
Trinity to a level with our familiar conceptions, are considered ; we must be convinced of the futility of the attempt. And the divine precept recurs with emphasis, " Beware, lest any man spoil •you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ; for in him dwelleth the fulness of the Godhead bodily.''
When the wits of men have done their best upon this subject, and we see many string men, of different schemes in it, have been in times past cast down wounded; shall we not, with adoring humility, submit to the divine interrogation, " Canst thou by searching, find out God?" May we not be convinced, that neither human philosophy, nor analogy, can afford much aid, relative to this mysterious doctrine? For probably nothing in creation resembles the Triune God. "To whom then will ye liken me,saith Jehovah?'' "Ye heard the voice of the words; but ye saw no similitude.'' And all similitudes, invented by men, to give light in this case, have failed.
The Bible is clear, that there are Three in one God. This, with their divine names, and offices, is revealed for us, and for our children. But the particular modeof their existence, what constitutes the personality of each, what is their distinction, and what their union, God has not revealed. And to pry into these things is worse, than in vain. It is impious. It is infinitely worse, than for prisoners, under sentence of death, who have a commissioner of peace, of high authority, sent, tendering them pardon ;—to demand his connexion with the government; to criticise on the internal economy of the government that sent him; and finally, to insist on handling his limbs, and body, to learn the formation of his person.