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rejected the plurality of persons in the Godhead, and charged the orthodox, with Tritheism, or the worship of Three Gods.
That the Deity existing in three Hypoftafes, and yet One God, is a mystery, and an incomprehenfible one too, is the lefs to be wondered at, when we reflect upon the scanty limits of the human understanding; and if all around us, if all within us, is so, how infinitely more inconceiveable muft He be, a very small part of whom the highest Seraphim can understand.
The Incarnation of the Son of God is a mystery never to be comprehended. There are some seeming not real repugnancies in it. Self-existence is another mystery, of which we know little; for we can conceive very imperfectly of an uncaused cause of all things. Eternity is so vast a mystery, as we are utterly lost in the contemplation of it. Eternity past, confounds the most acute understandings.
So the belief of three perfons, every one singly God, and altogether one God, is a case where the terms of
6 In the beginning of all things, before ever the earth or the world
was made, there existed a very glorious and excellent creature (fince “ called the Word) the Oracle of God, and Revealer of his Will. $. That excellent person, the first whom God of his good pleasure and “ free choice, gave being to, was with God the Father; and he was “ God, another God, an inferior God, infinitely inferior, but, yet truly “ God, as being truly partaker of Divine Glory then, and fore-ordained “ to have true dominion and authority in God's own time. God em“ ployed him as an Instrument, or under-Agent, in framing and fashion« ing the world of inferior creatures; and approved of his services so “ well, as to do nothing without Him.”
The sum of the opinions of the Arians are these : viz. Jesus Christ was a very glorious Creature, deriving his Being by the Will of God from the Father ; existed infinite ages, before all worlds, yet not eternal ; was of consequence inferior to the Father, in his existence, substance, and perfections, being mutable as a creature, though rendered unchangeable, by the decree of God. Yet as deriving from, and partaking of his Father's Divinity, he was entitled to a degree of worship, not supreme, but subordinate; not absolute, but relative, &c.
N. B. I have drawn my information respecting the tenets of these Herefarchs, from the purest sources. See Molheim's Ecclefiaftical History, with Mc Lean's Notes.
the proposition carry ideas with them seemingly, but not plainly, repugnant. Another instance of this may appear in God's foreknowing events depending on uncertain causes : Ahab was expressly foretold by the inspired prophet, that he should fall at Ramoth Gilead, and dogs should lick his blood ; but this event depended on a man, spontaneously discharging án arrow, from seemingly no motive, and apparently having no object in view: yet he mortally wounded the devoted Prince.-- That Jezebel, should be eaten by dogs, in the middle of a crowded city; and that her ignominious death should arise from her ill-timed sarcasm upon Jehu; and yet that such was to be her end, seemingly depending on the capricious will of that furious Captain, is altogether unaccountable by us.Still more so is that, where the whole councils of God, respecting the redemption of mankind, were laid in prospect of Adam's fall, when his honour, interest, and moral powers, all conspired to secure perpetuity in his happy state. So is it with our belief in the Holy Trinity; we know what we mean when we say every one, as clearly as if we said any one is God; a person having such and such efsential perfections. We see not perfectly how this is reconciled with the belief of one God, as we see not how the divine prescience is reconciled with future contingents. Yet we believe both, not doubting but that there is a connexion of the ideas, though our faculties cannot fully ascertain that connexion a.
But I am still asked, if we worship a Trinity of perfons, are we not chargeable with Tritheism ; I say no, and our defence is as follows: by comparing Scripture with Scripture, we plainly find that the divine Unity is not an Unity of Person ; we observe that there are more persons than one,
diga See Dr Waterland's Defence of the Divinity of Christ, p. 314. A work that never was answered, and likely never will.
dignified with the same high titles of Lord, God, &c. as I observed before. Yet the Scripture never tells us of three true Gods; but constantly asserts that God is One. We read that the Father is Jehovah, the Son is Jehovah, and the Holy Ghost is Jehovah, and yet the Lord Jehovah is one Jehovah. The Father creates, the Son creates, the Holy Ghost creates, and yet there are not three Creators.
We worship the Father, Son, and Spirit; and yet there are not three objects of worship. The obvious conclusion from these premises is, that these three divine Per. fons are one God; and thus the Scripture notion of Unity is of more persons than One, in the same Godhead. Yes, there is a medium between Sabellianism and Tritheism. We assert not three absolute, original, co-ordinate Divinities, like the Marcionites of old; we bold a distinction, and even a subordination in the offices of the Persons, not in nature. We separate not the Persons from each other, with the Arians ; if we did any of these, there might be fome colour for the charge of Tritheism. But we acknowledge with the Scriptures one God, the Father with his co-effential Son and Spirit, one head and fountain of all, the three Divine Persons being one in nature, one in knowledge, in presence, in operation and energy; never separate, never asunder, distinct without division, united without confosion. If this be Tritheism, it is what the Scripture has taught us, and what the Blessed God, who best knows his own nature, has recommended to us. Such too were the sentiments of the wiseft and best of men in every age of the Church. And it is remarkable that Divine Providence has carefully upheld this doctrine, though all imaginable artifices have been from the beginning employed to overthrow it; and God has visibly blasted all attempts against the Eternal Godhead of his Blessed Son.
tremenduous and sublime doctrine, it would be but fair and candid in its opponents to propose to us a better a. This equitable requisition was made by the Philosopher b to his opponents, in his belief of the immortality of the Soul; but all the comfort they gave him was, that “when he “ died, he would cease to be." So I am afraid that these subtile disputers of this world would act by us, as when Shishack King of Egypt, took away all Solomon's golden shields, Reboboam, that wise man, (as Hales of Eaton ironically calls him) put in their room, fields of brass; and that the charge they bring against Trinitarians, of Tritheism, will, from their own principles, recoil upon themselves.
a I presume my readers will not be displeased with the following anecdote, which is not more surprising than it was true.-A society of Gentlemen, moft of them pofleffed of a liberal education, and polithed manners, but, unhappily, had been reduced from a belief in the Sacred Scriptures, used to affemble alternately in each other's houses, on the banks of the Tweed, for the purpose of ridiculing Revelation, and hardening one another in their infidelity. At laft they unanimously formed a resolution, folemnly to burn the Bible, and so to be troubled no more with a book which was so hostile to their principles, and disquieting to their consciences. The day fixed upon came, a large fire was prepared, a Bible was laid on the table, and a flowing bowl stood ready, to drink its dirge. For the execution of their plan, they fixed upon a young Gentleman, of high birth, brilliant vivacity, and elegance of manners; but whose name I conceal from a regard to his honourable and truly worthy family. He undertook the talk; and, after a few enlivening glasses, amidst the applauses of his jovial compeers, he approached the table, took up the Bible, and was walking resolutely forward to put it in the fire. He happened to give it a look. All at once, he was feized with trembling, paleness overspread his countenance, and his whole frame seemed convulsed. He returned to the table, and laying down the Bible, faid, with a strong asseveration, “ We will not 66 burn that Book, 'till we get a better.” But
YOUNG'S NIGHT THOUGHTS. I have only to add, that this fame gay, and lively young Gentleman, came to die; and, on his death-bed, got fincere repentance, deriving unshaken hopes of forgiveness, and of future blessedness, from that Book he was once going to burn.-This anecdote I had from several Minifters, who attended him during his dying moments.
b Cicero de Senectute.
The disciples of Arius, uniformly maintained that the Father was the Alone Supreme God; that the Son was God too, very God, God by nature; but deriving his existence from the Father must be inferior to him: so also is the Holy Spirit, being derived from both. They held that One divine person is equivalent to One God, and Two to Two Gods, and Three to Three Gods. The case is plain, the consequence unavoidable. One Supreme, and two Inferior Gods, is their avowed doctrine; and certainly, the asserting Three Gods (whether co-ordinate, or otherwise) is Tritheism, against the First Commandment, against the whole tenor of scripture, and the principles of the primitive church a.
And as their religious tenets were, so was their worship“ absolute, supreme honour, is plainly appropriated “ to the person of the Father only, as the absolute supreme “ being, or the one God.” This was a leading tenet from which the Arians, antient and modern, never swerved b. They held that ultimate, absolute, fupreme, sovereign Worship is due to the Father only; Mediate, relative, inferior worship may be paid to creatures. The Father therefore being considered as alone supreme; supreme, absolute, sovereign. worship is due to Him only; Christ, being a Creature, (according to them) derived, inferior, dependant, yet is to be worshipped, but with a proportionable degree of veneration and honour, which must be inferior, relative worship. As the Object and Nature of divine worship, (for I exclude the idea of civil respect, which may be paid to creatures) are of the last consequence for us to know, let us for a moment look into the scriptures, and see if there is the least vefige of foundation for this distinction in religious Adoration.
Prayer a Dr Waterland's Defence, page 336. See Dr Clarke's Scripture Do&rine of the Trinity-Modef Plea, &c.