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Doctrine of the Trinity,
AS IT APPEARS TO A PLAIN UNDERSTANDING.
IT is somewhat remarkable, that among the first dissenters from the establishment, though many of them objected to the damnatory clauses in the Athanasian creed, few or none objected to the main substance of it. In the year 1695, warm debates arose within the pale of the established church itself, concerning the doctrine of the trinity. It was vehemently contended, on one side, for three distinct persons in the godhead; on another, for three distinct characters or modes of acting at length, a considerable number of dissenters adopted the latter of these opinions; but, to this day, the majority of dissenters seem to be as zealous in defence of the former, and denounce against their opponents the same penalties, temporal and eternal, as St. Athanasius himself did, or whoever personated that popular saint. What could induce any one, at first, to impose a numerical paradox as an article of religion, and attempt to terrify those, whom he could not hope to argue ⚫into a persuasion of it, 'tis hard to say; but it is still more difficult to account for the tenacity with which this mysterious article of faith is still main
tained, where neither church authority nor church emoluments can have any influence.
To think that the Creator of all worlds, the Omnipresent Deity, whose glory, whose providence, and whose attributes, are co-extended with the remotest stars-to whom this world is but a point, an atom, infinitely less than we are able to conceive-should divest himself of this boundless majesty-crowd all his wonderful attributes into a human body-languish, suffer, and die—yet remain immortal, omnipotent, immutable—and throughout the infinity of space continually act, with undiminished energy, as the great source of life and happiness to all, himself the infinitely blessed, ever-living, and only true God: to believe all this, perhaps requires as wide a stretch of human credulity, as to maintain (with the Roman catholics) that the Omnipotent, having first shrunk into the form and state of man, is still further contracted into their consecrated wafer, yet all the while retains all the fulness of the attributes, all the immensity of the nature of the godhead! If there should be found in the holy scriptures (besides mistranslations and interpolations, &c.) any obscure text, that seems to clothe the ambassador of God with some of the attributes of God himself, or to claim equal reverence for him who declares himself sent, as for the being who sent him; is it not manifest injustice to the scriptures, and to ourselves, to strain such expressions into a meaning directly opposite to the plainest declarations of Jesus Christ himself, instead of interpret
ing them by the general tenor of the history, and by the maxims of common sense ?—When Jesus, taking a piece of bread, breaks it, and gives to his disciples-saying, "This is my body," we are not, I hope, at this day, required to believe that he was then holding, not the bread, but his own body in his hand. When, again, he says, that, "he and his father are one," are we to understand him as asserting that he was his own father? and when, immediately afterwards, he tells us that he and his disciples are one, does he mean that he had but one disciple, and that this disciple was himself? If we could be reconciled to the self-contradiction and bad arithmetic of the trinitarian system, we should find, after all, that it is a mere question of arithmetic; for three beings exactly similar in essence, and agreeing in action, necessarily coincide in our imagination into one, and therefore the moral effect of this creed would be but nugatory, were not the attributes, as well as the person of the Deity divided, and some unamiable views associated with the first person of the trinity, which have lessened the comforts of social life, and produced gloom and austerity in the minds of individuals: witness Calvin himself.
Decisions of Common Sense.
To the Editor, &c.
I AM a plain man, one of those who consider the great doctrines of christianity to be plain and easy to comprehend, and take common sense for my guide in matters of religion. To me it appears that many of the controversies which have so long agitated the christian world might be easily settled by the exercise of a little plain good sense on the facts and declarations of scripture. Permit me, as a specimen, to present your readers with a sample of what may be done in this way in reference to the different opinions which obtain respecting the person of Christ.
I take for granted that christians of all parties will fully admit, at least in words, that there is but one God. On the ground of this admission, taking common sense for my guide, I go to the examination of the controverted point whether Christ be properly God; and the following easy solution of the matter naturally presents itself. If Christ be God, whatever is said of him must be true of God: for common sense dictates that what is true of him must be true of his proper person; indeed the two parts of this position seem identical: therefore, if his proper person be divine, very God, nothing can be true of him but what is true of a divine person—of the very God. To deny this is in fact to say that that may be true of Christ which is not true of him. Such self-contra
diction may be admissible by those who would build faith upon the ruins of reason, but can never be admitted by those who choose to retain the use of common sense. On the ground just stated it follows, that if Christ be very God, wherever he is mentioned in the New Testament the word God may be substituted; for it can be no departure from truth to substitute one name in the place of another, when both are equally applicable to the person spoken of: yet such a change of terms would make an alteration that would perhaps startle the advocates for his proper godhead, though perfectly accordant with their avowed opinions. We should then read Matt. i, 18, "Now the birth of God was on this wise; when as his mother Mary, &c." Chap. iii, 13, "Then cometh God from Gallilee to Jordan unto John to be baptized of him." Chap. iv, 1," Then was God led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil." John iv, 6, "God therefore being wearied with his journey sat thus on the well." Chap. xviii, 12, "Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took God and bound him." Chap. xxi, 20,"The place where God was crucified was nigh unto the city." 1 Cor. i, 23, "We preach God crucified." These are a few out of the many specimens which might be given of the manner in which the New Testament would read if the word God was supplied where Christ is mentioned : however absurd such phraseology may appear, I repeat, if Jesus Christ be God, the adoption of it can be no departure from truth. As common sense,