Page images

I shall recite in order all the distinct modifications of this doctrine, and show that, upon any of them, there is either no proper unity in the divine nature, or no proper trinity.

If, with Dr. Waterland, and pthers who are reckoned the strictest Athanasians, (though their opinions were not known in the time of Athanasius himself,) it be supposed that there are three persons properly equal, and that no one of them has any sort of superiority over the rest, they are, to all intents and purposes, three distinct Gods. For if each of them, separately considered, be possessed of all divine perfections, so that nothing is wanting to complete divinity, each of thein must be as properly a God as any being possessed of all the properties of man must be a man, and therefore three persons possessed of all the attributes of divinity must be as properly three Gods as three persons possessed of all human attributes must be three men. These three persons, therefore, must be incapable of any strict or numerical unity. It must be universally true, that three things to which the same definition applies can never make only one thing to which the same de finition applies. And when by the words thing, being, or person, we mean nothing more than, logically speaking, the subject or substratum of properties or attributes, it is a matter of indifference which of them we make use of. Each of these three persons may have other pro.


perlies, but they must be numerically three in that respect in which the same definition applies to them. If, therefore, the three persons agree in this cir. eumistance, that they are each of them perfect God, though they may differ in other respects, and have peculiar relations to each other, and to us, they must still be three Gods; and to say that they are only one God is as inuch a contradiction, as to say that three men, though they differ from one another as much as three men can do, are not three men, but only one man.

If it be said, with the Antenicene fathers, and with bishops Pearson and Bull, among the modern English writers, that the Father is the fountain of deity, and that the Son is derived from him, whether necessarily or voluntarily, whether in time or from eternity, they cannot be of the same rank : but the Father will be possessed of an original, a real, and proper superiority to the Son; who will be no more than an effect upon the Father's exertion of his powers, which is, to all intents and purposes, making the Son to be a production or creature of the Father; even though it should be supposed with the ancients that he was created out of the substance of the Father, and without taking any thing from him. Moreover, as upon this scheme the Son was never capable of giving birth to another person like himself, he must have been originally inferior in power to the Father, the source from which he himself sprang. On this scheme, therefore, there is no proper equality between these divine persons; and the Antenicene fathers did not pretend that there was, but distinguished the Father by the epithet of autolsos, God of himself, and the Son by the inferior title of SEOS EX Jer, God of God, or a derived God.

himself * See his Lectures, proposition 128, p. 392.

If it be said that there is only one intelligent supreme mind, but that it exerts itself three different ways, and has three different modes of action, or opera:ion, (which was the opinion of Dr. Wallis, and that which was generally ascribed to the ancient Sabellians,) with respect to one of which the same divine Being was called the Father, to another the Son, and another the Holy Spirit; there is no proper trinity at all. For on the same principle one man, bearing three different offices, or having three different relations or capacities, as those of magistrate, father, son, &c. would be three different men.

Some represent themselves as believing the doctrine of the Trinity by asserting with Dr. Doddridge*, that “ God is so united to the derived nature of Christ, and does so dwell in it, that, by virtue of that union, Christ may be properly called God, and such regards become due to him, as are not due to any created nature, or mere creature, be it in itself ever so excellent."


What this union is, in consequence of which any creature can be entitled to the attributes and honours of his creator, is not pretended to be explained ; but as we cannot possibly have any idea of an union between God and a creature, besides that of God being present with that creature, and acting by him, which is the same thing that is asserted by the Ariansor Socinians, these nominal Trinitarians must necessarily belong to one or other of these two classes. This is so evident, that it is hardly possible not to suppose but that they must have been much assisted at least in deceiving themselves into a belief that they were Trinitarians, by the influence which a dread of the odium and other inconveniences attending the Arian or Socinian doctrine bad on their minds. The presence of God the Father with any creature, whether it be calleil an union with him, or it be expressed in any other inanner whatever, can be nothing more than the unity of the Father in that creature; and whatever it be that God voluntarily imparts, he may withdraw again at pleasure. And what kind of divinity must that be, which is dependent upon the will of another?

Upon none of the modifications, therefore, which have been mentioned (and all others may be reduced to these) can the doctrine of the Trinity, or of three divine persons in one God, be supported. In most of them the doctrine itself is lost, and where


it remains it is inconsistent with reason and com

mon sense.



The Arian doctrine, of the world having been made and governed not by the supreme God himself, but by Christ, the Son of God, though no contradiction in itself, is, on several accounts, highly improbable.

Our reasoning from effects to causes carries us no fur:her than to the immediate creator of the visible universe. For if we can suppose that being to have had a cause, or author, we may suppose that his cause or author had a higher cause, and so on ad infinitum. According to the light of nature, therefore, the immediate cause or author of the visible universe is the self-existent first cause, and not any being acting under him, as his instrument. However, the scheme itself is not naturally impossible, since a being possessed of power sufficient to produce the visible universe, which is a limited production, may be finite, and therefore may derive his power, and his being, from one who is superior to him. But though the Arian scheme cannot be said to be in itself impossible, it is, on several accounts, extremely improbable a priori, and there


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »