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pray to any other than that one God, to whom Christ himself prayed in his affliction; and if we be not authorized to pray to Christ in time of persecution, there is, it is acknowledged, less propriety in praying to him on any other occasion.
As many profess a great regard for those who are called apostolical Fathers, let us attend to the prayer of Polycarp, when he was tied to the stake, ready to be burned alive. Now this prayer, which is a pretty remarkable one, is addressed to God the Father, and not to Christ; so that this disciple of the apostle John did not think the example of Stephen any precedent for him. The prayer begins as follows: “O Lord God Almighty, the Father of thy wellbeloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of thee, the God of angels and powers, and of every creature, and especially of the whole race of just men, who live in thy presence.
We see, then, how greatly men may be misled by specu. lative theology, by an attention to particular texts, single incidents and imaginary proprieties, without attending to the general tenour of Scripture, the plain directions that are there given for our conduct, and the constant practice of the apostles, which supply the best interpretation of their doctrine. To conclude, as some have done, from the single case of Stephen, that all Christians are authorized to pray to Christ, is like concluding that all matter has a tendency to go upwards, because a needle will do so when a magnet is held over it. When they shall be in the same circumstances with Stephen, having their minds strongly impressed with a vision of Christ sitting at the right hand of God, they may then, perhaps, be authorized to address themselves to him, as he did; but the whole tenour of the Scriptures proves that, otherwise, we have no authority at all for any such practice. And if Christ be not the object of prayer, he cannot be either God, or the maker and governor of the world under God.
SECTION IV. Of the Arguments against the Doctrine of the Trinity, as
implying a Contradiction. It has been shewn, that there is no such doctrine as that of the Trinity in the Scriptures, but I will now add that, it it had been found there, it would have been impossible for
• Wake's Gen. Epist. Ed. 4, pp. 147, 148.
a reasonable man to believe it, as it implies a contradiction, which no miracles can prove.
I ask, then, wherein does the Athanasian doctrine of the Trinity differ from a contradiction? It asserts, in effect, that nothing is wanting to either the Father, the Son, or the Spirit, to constitute each of them truly and properly God, each of them being equal in eternity, and all divine perfections ; and yet that these three are not three Gods, but only one God. They are therefore both one and many in the same respect, viz. in each being perfect God. This is certainly as much a contradiction, as to say that Peter, James and John, having each of them every thing that is requisite to constitute a complete man, are yet altogether not three men, but only one man. For the ideas annexed to the words God, or man, cannot make any difference in the nature of the two propositions. After the Council of Nice, there are instances of the doctrine of the Trinity being explained in this very manner. The Fathers of that age being particularly intent on preserving the full equality of the three persons, entirely lost sight of their proper unity. And in what manner soever this doctrine be explained, one of these must ever be sacrificed to the other.
As persons are apt to confound themselves with the use of the words person and being, I shall endeavour to give a plain account of them.
The term being, may be predicated of every thing, and therefore of each of the three persons in the Trinity. For, to say that Christ, for instance, is God, but that there is no being, no substance, to which his attributes may be referred, were manifestly absurd; and, therefore, when it is said that each of these persons is by himself, God, the meaning must be, that the Father, separately considered, has a being, that the Son, separately considered, has a being, and, likewise, that the Holy Spirit, separately considered, has a being. Here then are no less than three beings, as well as three persons, and what can these three beings be, but three Gods, without supposing that there are “ three co-ordinate persons, or three Fathers, three Sons, or three Holy Ghosts ?”
By the words being, substance, substratum, &c. we can mean nothing more than the foundation, as it were, of properties, or something to which, in our idea, we refer all the particular attributes of whatever exists. In fact, they are terms that may be predicated of every thing that is the subject of thought or discourse, all the discrimination of things depending upon their peculiar properties. So that, when
ever the properties differ, we say that there is a corresponding difference in the things, beings, or substances themselves. Consequently, if the Father, Son and Spirit differ in any respect, so as to have different properties, either in relation to themselves, or to other beings, we must, according to the analogy of all language, say that they are three different beings or substances.
Supposing, again, that there is an identity of attributes in each of them, so that, being considered one after the other, no difference should be perceived in them, even in idea (as may be supposed to be the case of three men who should perfectly resemble-one another in all external and internal properties), and supposing, moreover, that there should be a perfect coincidence in all their thoughts and actions ; though there might be a perfect harmony among them, and this might be called unity, they would still be numerically three. Consequently, though the Father, Son and Spirit had no real differences, but, as has been said, they had “ the most perfect identity of nature, the most entire unity of will and consent of intellect, and an incessant co-operation in the exertion of common powers to a common purpose,” yet would they, according to the analogy of language, not be one God, but three Gods; or, which is the same thing, they would be tbree beings with equal divine natures, just as the three men would be three beings with equal human natures.
The term being, as I have observed, may be predicated of every thing without distinction; but the term person is limited to intelligent beings. Thrce men, therefore, are not only three beings, but likewise three persons; the former is the genus, and the latter the species. But a person is not the less a being, on this account; for each man may be said to be a being, as well as a person. Consequently, though the word person be properly applied to each of the three component parts of the Trinity, yet as person is a species, comprehended under the genus, being, they must be three beings, as well as three persons.
The term God is a sub-division under the term person, because we define God to be “an intelligent being, possessed of all possible perfections.” Consequently, if the Father, Son and Spirit be each of them possessed of all possible perfections, which is not denied, they are each of them a person, each of them a being, and each of them a God; and what is this but making three Gods ? Let any Trinitarian avoid this conclusion from these principles, or assume other principles inore just and natural, if he can.
This definition of the word person, as applied to the doctrine of the Trinity, will perhaps be objected to; but if any other definition be given, I will venture to assert, that it might as well be said that the Father, Son and Spirit are three Abracadabras, as three persons. They will be equally words without meaning.
It has been said, that “ the personal subsistence of a divine logos is implied in the very idea of a God," and that “ the argument rests on a principle which was common to all the Platonic fathers, and seems to be founded in Scripture, that the existence of the Son flows necessarily from the divine intellect exerted on itself, from the Father's contemplation of his own perfections. But as the Father ever was, his perfections have ever been, and his intellect has ever been active. But perfections which have ever been, the ever active intellect must ever have contemplated ; and the contemplation which has ever been, must ever have been accompanied with its just effect, the personal existence of the Son.”
But there is nothing in the Scriptures, or indeed in the fathers, that gives any countenance to this reasoning. As we cannot pretend to draw any conclusions from the necessary operations of one mind, but from their supposed analogy to those of other minds, that is, our own, those who maintain this hypothesis must explain to us how it comes to pass, that if the contemplation of the divine perfections of the Father necessarily produced a distinct person in him, fully equal to himself, a man's contemplation of such perfections or powers, as he is possessed of, should not produce another intelligent person fully equal to himself.
It will perhaps be said (though there is nothing to authorize it), that the impossibility of producing this in man, is the imperfection of his faculties, or his limited power of contemplating them. But to cut off that subterfuge, I will ask why the contemplation of the Son's perfections, which are supposed to be fully equal to those of the Father, and whose energy of contemplation must likewise be supposed equal to that of the Father, does not produce another intelligent being equal to himself; and why are not persons in the Godhead in this manner multiplied ad infinitum ?
If, for any incomprehensible reason, this mysterious power of generation be peculiar to the Father, why does it not still operate? Is he not an unchangeable being, the same now
Horsley, as " the sense of Athenagoras." Sce Letters, Pt. iv. Let. viii.
that he was from the beginning, his perfections the same, and his power of contemplating them the same? Why then are not more sons produced? Is he become ayovos, incapable of this generation, as the orthodox fathers used to ask, or does it depend upon his will and pleasure whether he will exert this power of generation? If so, is not the Son as much a creature, depending on the will of the Creator, as any thing else produced by him, though in another manner; and this whether he be of the same substance (6uo89 105) with him, 'or not?
I should also like to know in what manner the third person in the Trinity was produced. Was it by the joint exertion of the two first, in the contemplation of their respective perfections? If so, why does not the same operation in thew produce a fourth, &c. &c. &c.?.
Admitting, however, this strange account of the generation of the Trinity (equal in absurdity to any thing in the Jewish cabala) viz. that the personal existence of the Son necessarily flows from the intellect of the Father exerted on itself, it certainly implies a virtual priority or superiority in the Father with respect to the Son; and no being can be properly God, who has any superior. In short, this scheme effectually overturns the doctrine of the proper equality, as well as the unity of the three persons in the Tripity.
SECTION V. Of the Nature of the Arian Hypothesis, and of the Proof
which is necessary to make it credible. The doctrine of the Trinity may be reduced, as has been shewn, to a proper contradiction, or a mathematical impos. sibility, which is incapable of proof, even by miracles. This cannot be said of the Arian hypothesis. Because, for any thing that we certainly know, God might have created one being of such extraordinary power, as should make it unnecessary for him to exert any more creative power; so that all that remained of creation might be delegated to that great derived being. But it is highly improbable that this should have been the case. And the more improbable, à priori, any proposition is, on account of its want of analogy to other propositions, the truth of which is admitted, the clearer and stronger evidence we require before we give our assent lo it. This improbability may be so great, as to approach very nearly to an impossibility. At least, the impression made