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arguments in favor of it; and endeavor, as I go along, to cast some further light upon the economical names or characters of FATHER, Son, and HOLY GHOST.
I SHALL begin with the terms FIRST, SECOND, and THIRD, which are commonly applied to the divine three, as characters natural and essential to the manner of their subsistence in Deity: but upon what authority (tradition excepted) I know not. The scriptures no where teach that the Father is First in subsistence in Deity, the Son SECOND, and the Holy Ghost THIRD. It is written “there are three, and these three are one,” and more we know not; for there is not one expression in the bible which speaks of the Father, that calls him the FIRST. The Lord Jesus Christ, saith of himself, “ I am alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” No, say the supporters of this scheme, thou art the second, the person of the Father is the first: is not this teaching him to speak who gave a mouth to man? Or rather giving the lie to the God of truth?
The only reason I ever heard advanced for this part of the scheme is, that the persons are mentioned in that order in scripture.' It must be granted, that in some places the Father is first mentioned, the Son next, and the Holy Ghost last, but not under the terms first, second, and third: and if the order of mentioning them so in some texts, had been to teach us in what manner they subsisted in Deity, then certainly the same order would always have been observed: but that order is frequently inverted, and in some texts the Lord Jesus Christ is mentioned first, and in others, the Holy Ghost.* Therefore it may be justly concluded, that this order of mentioning them in some texts, is not to teach us any thing concerning the manner of their subsistence in Deity.
Yet this order of mentioning them may be improved to edification, if considered as expressive of the order of operation in the divine economy of man's redemption, in which the Father is represented as sustaining the majesty of Deity, choosing and sending the Son; and exacting from him satisfaction for the sin of the elect company he was sent to redeem. The Son in undertaking and giving that satisfaction: the Holy Ghost in applying the blessings, which Christ's satisfaction hath made an egress for, to the chosen objects of divine love. I say, in the order of divine operation, the terms first, second, and third, may have some meaning, but no way'infer that they subsist in this manner in the divine nature.
It is indeed pressed as an argument in favor of those terms, “ That the order of operation among the divine persons, is intended to teach the internal order of their subsistence in Deity.” But this is gratis dictum, for no such thing is revealed; how then came men by the knowledge of it? As God has not revealed the manner of his being and subsistence, it must be the most daring presumption for mortals to pretend to know, or attempt to explain it.
Besides, if this proposition could be granted, then those called arians have always been right in maintaining that Christ is an inferior, subordinate
* 2 Cor. xiii. 14. 2 Thess. ii, 16. and üi. 5.
Deity; for they argue thus,
“ As the divine persons are represented in going through the work of man's salvation, so they are in the divine nature; but Christ is represented in that work to be the Father's servant, inferior to, and depending upon the will of the Father: therefore he is inferior and subordinate to the Father in the divine nature.” If the premises are good, the consequence is undeniable. Let the supporters of such a proposition answer for giving such an advantage to the adversaries of the Deity of the Son and SPI, RIT, for the same consequence holds with respect to both: and it is evident, if the proposition is maintained, the proper Deity of both must be given up.
But in fact, the terms first, second, and third, will admit of no sense, but what import either priority and posteriority, or superiority and inferiority. For I know no other sense the word first will bear as applied to a person, but the following, viz. him that is earliest in existence: him who is before all other in some order: him who is noblest in dignity: or him who exceeds in excellency. And if the term first be applied to any one in the Trinity, with respect to the other two in any of these senses, it will necessarily conclude against their equality, or eternity, if not both. Though the Lord Jesus Christ calls himself the First, he is not then comparing himself with the Father or Holy Ghost, and so does not suppose any of them a SECOND, in that sense in which he calls himself the FIRST; for in the same sense that he is the FIRST, so are the other two; therefore there can be no second and THIRD, with respect to the Deity of the three who are one.
These terms, so applied, lead even friends to the doctrine of the Trinity, into low and unsuit
able conceptions of one in Deity being before, and another after, which are the natural ideas the terms convey: and at the same time furnish enemies with arguments against the co-eternity and equality, or sameness of the divine three. Were it not for these consequences, which natively flow from the use of the terms so applied, I should not hesitate to use them, were they intended merely for distinction's sake in speaking of the divine three: but yet I think it is safest to speak of them under the distinguishing characters which the divine word hath given them, viz. FATHER, WORD, or Son, and Holy Ghost, or SPIRIT.
2. Again, I observe in general, that the supporters of this scheme allow, " That the three divine persons are one in the divine essence or nature; and that each divine person hath the whole of the divine essence.” Yet in the same scheme, there is not only a distinction among the persons, (which must be admitted, because the scripture calls them THREE) but there is a very different manner of subsisting in the same essence assigned to each person. Now, if this different manner of subsisting is internal, natural, or necessary, as is asserted, how then is it possible that the same perfections in the same respect can be in each divine person?
Is it a truth that the divine three exist naturally, necessarily, and eternally? but there are many things in the human scheme evidently contrary to this. “That one divine person is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; but hath his being and subsistence of himself." All this is true; but ‘are not the other two the same? No, saith the scheme, but the direct contrary.” A first person communicates the divine essence, and a second and third receive the essence by communication." Can there be a more absolute difference supposed, than is here affirmed among the divine three? What can differ more than unoriginated, self-existence, and derived, communicated existence? Is it not affirming in the plainest terms, that one person is self-sufficient for his own existence and perfections; but the other two are not so; but depend upon the communication of them from another? Doth it not degrade them to the level of creatures, whose distinguishing character is, that they have all communicated to them: but cannot say they have their being, or any thing they enjoy of themselves? Does it not make the divine three differ as much as mutability and time differ from immutability and eternity? For he who is self-existent, and hath his being and perfections of himself, must be eternal and immutable. But on the contrary, he who hath his personality and perfections communicated to him, must be mutable, because he is a dependent being in having that communicated to him, which is necessary to his existence, and which he had not originally of himself.
And as to eternity, he can have no claim to it consistent with common sense; for it is a contradiction in terms to say, a being is eternal, who hath his personality and perfections communicated to him from another,
It is the distinguishing characteristic betwixt supreme Deity and created existence, that the one is self-sufficient for his own existence and perfections, and the other is not, but depends upon the will of apother for the communication of them. The communication of them from one to another, as I hinted just now, is a flat contradiction to the eternity and immutability of him to whom they are communicated: for as soon as the self-existent ber ing did communicate any kind of perfection from himself
, to another distinct from him, time commenced with that communication, and he to whom it was made, is declared mutable, inasmuch as that