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Unitarian principles confirmed by Trinitarian testimonies : being selections from the works of eminent theologians belonging to orthodox churches online

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being one and the same substance numerically with the Son and Spi-
rit, could have the attribute of ayevvrjcla [mibegottenness], while the
Son and Spirit have it not ? Do not attributes, at least according to
tlie usual methods of thinkuig and reasonmg, arise from the natm'8


,nd essence of substances ? And^Jf-^tKe Soii and Spirit possess the
same substance "in aiir^speefes (which must I:^ true if the substance of
the Godhead is numerically one), then how ckn it be shown that the
second and third persons are dependent for tho^mode of theii- existence
on the first? The same causes produce the same e^ffects. . If the very
same substance belongs to the Father which belongs"~El>4lae Son and
Spirit, and, as possessing this, the Father has ayevvTjGca, how can it be
sho'mi that the attributes attached to this substance must not m each
case be the same ? ... To be the author of the proper substance of
the Godhead of Son and Spirit, according to the patristical creed ; or to
be the author of the modus exisiendi of the Son and Spirit, accord-
ing to the modern creed, — both seem to involve the idea of a power
and glor}' in the Father immeasm-ably above that of the Son and
Spirit. — jSIoses Stuart, in Biblical Repositoinj for April, 1835 ;
vol V. pp. 303-4.

Between the fathers and the modern Trinitarians we mark this
difference of opinion: The fathers held the communication of the
substance (rTjg ovalag) of the Father to the Son ; while the modern
formula represents the Father as begetting only the personality
{y-oaracLg) of the Son, and the Father and Son begetting only the
'personality {vTroaraatg) of the Sphit. All these formulae, however,
make this radical distmction between the Father and the Son ; namely,
that the Father is unbegotten, and that the Son is begotten. . . . Tiiis
symbol, " eternal generation," has been handed down through every
succeeding age. . . . But how can they [these statements] consist with
the absolute equality of the persons in the Godhead ? This we freely
confess we do not see, nor have we ever been able to comprehend.
The representation is, that the Father is unbegotten, but begets ; the
Son is begotten, but never begets. Here a capacity — that of beget-
ting — is predicated of the Father, w^hich is not predicable of the
Son. How, then, can the Son in every respect be equal with the
Father ? and how can one be begotten without dependence, in that
respect, upon him that begets ? Is the essence of the superhuman in
Cluist begotten by the Father ? Then is the Son dependent for that
essence upon his Father, and the Father has this one prerogative
above the Son. Or is the personality only of the Son — according
to the refinements of modern scholastics — begotten by the Father ?
Then — leaving out of the question the difficulty of apprehending
how. a personality independent of essence can be begotten — is the
Son dependent for his personality upon the Father ; so that very little


is gained. Nor is the difficulty removed by eternal gent, ation. This
may remove an incidental difficulty as to time : but the iuct of o-ene-
ration, and the consequences deducible from it, remam. Now, self-
existence and independence are essential elements of DiAinity ; but
derivation, whether by generation, procession, or emanation, impKes
dependence. . . . But there is still another objection to the doctrine,
that the substance or essence of the Son and Holy Spirit is derived
from the Father. It is inconsistent with the unity of the Godhead.
K there be three substances {ovaiai), each divine, then have we three
Gods, or Tritheism in reahty. But if the Father produced the sub-
stance of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and they are " of one
substance with the Father," then has the Father produced or begotten
himself. — Dr. D. AY. Clark, in Methodist Quarterly Review for
January, 1851; fom'th series, vol. iii. pjj. 119-21.


Probably no writers have unintentionally done so much in behalf of the
simple Oneness of God, as those Trinitarians who have contended against
the dogma of the eternal emanation of the Son and the Holy Ghost ; and
for his services, in this respect, the late Professor Stuart stands pre-eminent.
Of all the theories of a Triune God, that which regards the Son and Spirit
as persons or hypostases who derived their existence from the Father, seems
to be most compatible Avith the notion of a Trinity in Unity; for, however
absurd that doctrine may be when connected with the idea of an eternal
origin and of an equality of divine perfections, it preserves untouched the
Supremacy and Self-existence of the Father, — the absolute Unity of that
Being from whom all others take their origin. When, therefore, writers so
acute as Stuart point out the total unreasonableness and the antiscriptu-
rahty of the dogma of eternal generation and procession, they clear at once
the polemic field of much of that rubbish \yhich has been brought down
from the Nicene fathers; and, by their labors, the question of a simple Unity,
or of a Trinity in Unity, assumes a more intelligible aspect. Occasionally,
indeed, they may treat of the divine pei'sons, so called, as relations or
distinctions in the Deity, to which they do not profess to attach any clear
or definite meaning; but, generally speaking, they treat of them as distinct,
intelhgent agents; and, this being the only rational sense in which the word
"person" can be used of those who have communications one with another,
and who speak and act in different capacities, the qiiestion at issue between
Unitarians and Trinitarians will simply be, Whether it is more rational and
scriptural to believe that the- Supreme Being, the Underived Intelligence
whose existence and attributes are displayed in the Avorks of nature and on
the pages of revelation, is one, and only one, person or being; or whether
he — the one only true and self-existent God — consists of three self-existen<


persons, equal to each other in power and glory, and each of them a self-
existent God.

Our opinion as to the value of Stuart's services, and their tendency to
promote Unitarian views of God, is confirmed by the following remarks of
a celebrated divine: —

There are some who tliink that the Sonship of the Redeemer
consists in an miion of the second person of the Trinity, or tiie Word,
with the human nature ; and that he became the Son of God by be-
coming man ; and therefore, before the mcarnation, there was no Son
of God, though there were a Trinity of persons in the Godhead. This
opinion seems to be rather gaining ground and spreading of late. . . .
It is worthy of consideration, whether this doctrine of the Fihation of
Jesus Clirist does not tend to reject the doctrine of the Trinity, as it
has been held by those who have been called the Orthodox in the
Christian church, and leads to what is called Sabelhanism, which con-
siders the Deity as but one person, and to be three only out of respect
to the different manner or kind of liis ojDerations. This notion of the
Sonship of Christ leads to suppose, that the Deity is the Father of
the Mediator, without distinction of persons ; and that by " Father,"
so often mentioned in the New Testament, and generally in relation
to the Son, is commonly, if not always, meant Deity, without distinc-
tion of persons. If this be so, it tends to exclude all distmction of
persons in God, and to make the personality of the Redeemer to
consist wholly in the human nature ; and, fuially, to make his union
with Deity no more, but the same wliich Arians and Socinians admit,
viz., the same which takes place between God and good men in gene-
ral, but in a higher and peculiar degree. . . . They who do not believe
the eternal Sonship of Jesus Christ, because it is m}-sterious and incom-
prehensible (and to some it appears to be full of contradiction), will,
if they be consistent wdth themselves, for the same reason reject the
doctrme of a Trinity of persons in one God. — Dr. Samuel Hopkixs :
System of Dodnnes, chap. 10 ; in Works, vol. i. pp. 299, 306, 308.

^ 7. The Tei^'ity of Self-existext and Ixdepexdext Persons.

The whole nature is in each hypostasis, and each has something
peculiar to himself. The Father is entirely in the Son, and the Son
entirely in the Father. . . . When we speak simply of the Son witliout
reference to the Father, w^e truly and properly assert him to be self-
existent, and therefore call him the sole first cause : but, when we



distinctly treat of the relation between him and the Father, "we justly

rejDresent him as originating from the Father We say that

the Deity is absolutely self-existent : whence we confess also, that the
Son, as God, independently of the consideration of person, is self-
existent ; - but, as the Son, we say that he is of the Father. Thus his
essence is unoriginated ; but the origin of liis person is God himself. —
John Cal"\in : Institutes, book i. cliap. xiii. 19, 25.

That is to say, the Son is both an originated or dependent and a self-
existent being. The Son and (according to the same reasoning) the Spirit
derived each his personahty from the Father; but this personality contains
within itself, besides that "something" which is "peculiar" to it, all that
constitutes Deity; for "the whole nature is in each hypostasis," or person.
But the nature or essence of Deity is unoriginated: it is self-existent. The
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are therefore, in one sense, three supreme,
self-existent Gods; for each hypostasis is in possession of the "whole"
divine nature : but, in another sense, they are — one of them, the first, an
infinite and absolute being ; the others, finite and dependent; for the latter
received from the former each his " peculiar something," but not the former
from the latter.

I cannot but conclude, that the divine personahty, not only of th?.
Father, but of the Son and Sphit, is as much independent and unde-
rived as the di\ine essence. — Dr. Thomas Ridgley ; Body of
Divinity, voh i. jd. 263.

If the Scriptures do reveal the fact, that there are three persons in
the Godhead ; that there is a distinction which affords grounds for the
respective appellations of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost ; which lays
the foundation for the appKcation of the personal pronouns, /, Thou,
He ; which renders it proper to speak of " sending " and " being sent j "
to speak of Chiist as " being with God," " bemg in his bosom^" and
of other tilings of the like nature in the lilve way, and jet to hold that
the divine natm-e equally belongs to each, — then it is, like every other
fact revealed, to be received simply on the credit of di^4ne revelation.
. . . Instructed as I have been in respect to the natm-e of true Godhead,
it is impossible for me to predicate tliis quahty of any being who is
neither self-existent nor independent. These are the ultimate, highest,
plainest, and most certain of all the discretive attributes of Godhead,
i.e. attributes which separate the Divine Being from all other possible
beings. If the Son possess not these attributes, then he can be only
a God of secondary rank. — Moses Stuart : LeMers to Channing ;
in Miscellanies, pp. 23, 30


According to these representations, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are
three distinct persons; one of the persons — the Son — has the nature of
true Godhead, that is, he is a self-existent and independent being; but each
of the persons possesses the same divine nature; and, therefore, the Father,
the Son, and the Holy Ghost are three self-existent and independent beings
or Gods. Such seems to be the just and necessary inference arising from
the statements made by Stuaet in the most popular of his works. We do
not, however, mean to conceal the fact, that, while admitting the word
" person " to designate " a real distinction in the Godhead," this learned
theologian denies that it describes " independent, conscious beings, possess-
ing separate and equal essences and perfections " (p. 21); and that he even
concedes the Unitarian principle, that there is in God " only one intelligent
agent" (p. 42). But we cannot help thinking, that his own language, as
quoted from pp. 23 and 30, leads to tritheistic results as certainly as that
employed by many other Trinitarians, against whose theories he reasons
with so much force. At such inconsistencies and contradictions, we, how-
ever, utter no surprise; for we feel none. They abound perhaps in the
works of all who have written at any length in favor of the dogma of a
Triune God; and it is natural that they should, Avhen speculations are
entered, into, z'especting the divine essence, far removed from the sublimely
simple teachings of that Book, which, through its various contents of Gospel
and Epistle, pronounces eternal life to consist, not in an acquaintance with
the metaphysical jargon either of eternal emanations or of self-existent per-
sons, but in a practical knowledge of the only true God, the Father;
and of nis great Messenger a^sD Eepresentative, the Lord Jesus


From such an opinion as this [the opinion of the younger Trel-
CATIUS, that the Son of God is autotheos, God of himself, or in his own
right] necessarily follows the two mutually conflicting errors, Tritheism
and SabeUianism ; that is, (1.) It would ensue, as a necessary conse-
quence from these premises, that there are thi'ee Gods, who have
together and collaterally the divine essence. . . . Yet the jjroceeding
of the origin of one person from another is the only foundation that
has ever been used for defending the Unity of the divine essence in
the Trinity of persons. (2.) It would likewise follow^, as another
consequence, that the Son would himself be the Father, because he
would differ from the Father in nothing but m regard to name, which
was the opinion of Sabelhus. For — since it is pecuhar to the Father
to derive liis Deity from himself, or (to speak more correctly) to derive
it from no one — if, in the sense of being " God of himself," the Son
be called autotheos, it follows that he is the Father. — Ahminius, in
Dr. Bangs' s Life of Arminius, pp. 231-2.


That the Holy Spirit is not from himself, as the Father is, is plain }
for, that bemg supposed, there would be more first principles than one,
and consequently more Gods than one ; which is contrary to the whole
tenor of Scripture. — Dr. Isa.\c. Barrow : Tlie Christian Faith
Explained, Sermon 34 ; in Works, vol. ii. p. 554.

In his " Exposition of the Creed" (Works, vol. ii. p. 635), Dr. Barrow,
with the same consistency of sentiment, says of our Saviour, tliat he hath
not the divine essence of himself, but by communication from the Father.
This great man evidently regarded the doctrine which Professor Stuart,
long after his time, professed, as leading to the conclusion that there are
more Supreme Gods than one. We cannot help thinking that he is right;
unless the absurdity of the inference points to a mor^ sublime, a more
simple, a more rational, and a more scriptural doctrine, — that, to the total
exclusion of all Gods, whether derived or underived, there is but one
God. the Father.

^ 8. The Trinity of Distinct, Eternal, and Infinite Minds

OR Beings.

[1] A " person" is an indivisible, intelligent, incommunicable
being or subsistence, who is not sustained or does not subsist in or
by another. — Melancthon. [2] The word " person " signifies a
being in itself; that which understands, and acts with intelligence. —

The followmg are these definitions in the original: [1] " Persona est sub
stantia individua, intelligens, incoramunicabilis, non sustenta in alia natura."
[2] " Persona significat ens per se, quod intelligit, et cum intellectu agit."
They are taken from Professor Stuart, who repeatedly quotes them with

We affirm the Holy Spirit to be a person. By a person we under-
stand a singular, subsistent, intellectual being ; or, as Boethius defines
it, an individual substance of a rational nature. — Dr. Isaac Barrow :
The Christian Faith Explained ; in Works, vol. ii. p. 546.

Because some philosophers have asserted, though erroneously, both
the whole world's eternity, and its being a necessary emanation also
from the Deity, and consequently that it is undestroyable, — we shall
therefore further add, that these second and third hypostases or per-
sons of the Holy Trinity are not only therefore uncreated, because
they were both eternal and necessary emanations, and likewise are
unannihilable ; but also because they are universal, each of them


comprehending the whole world, and all created things under it ;
which universahty of theirs is the same thing with infinity ; whereas
all other beings, besides this Holy Trinit}^, are jjarticular and finite.
Now, we say, that no intellectual being, which is not only eternal and
necessarily existent, or undestroyable, but also universal or infinite, can
be a creature. . . . These three hypostases, or persons, are truly and
really one God ; not only because they have all essentially one and the
same will, . . . but also because they are physically (if we may so speak)
one also, and have a mutual TzepLxC}pr]GL^ and evvTzap^ig, inexistence and
permeation of one another. — Dr. Ralph Cudwohth : Intellectual
System of the Universe, vol. i. pp. 736-7.

That the three di\dne persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are
three infinite minds, really distinct from each other ; that the Father
is not the Son, nor the Holy Ghost either the Father or the Son, —
is so very plain in Scripture, that I shall not spend time to prove it,

especially since it is supposed in this controversy It is plain the

persons are perfectly distinct, for they are three distinct and infinite
minds, and therefore three distinct persons ; for a person is an intelli-
gent being ; and to say they are three divine persons, and not three
distinct infinite minds, is both heresy and nonsense. The Scripture,
I'm sure, represents Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as three intelligent
beings, not as thi*ee powers or faculties of the same being, which ia
downright Sabellianism ; for faculties are not persons, no more than
memory, will, and understanding are three persons in one man ... It
would be very strange that we should own three persons, each of
which persons is truly and properly God, and not own three infinite

minds, as if any thing could be a God but an infinite mind An

infinite being signifies a being absolutely perfect, or which has all

possible perfections I j)lainly assert, that, as the Father is an

eternal and infinite mind, so the Son is an eternal and infinite mindj
distinct from the Father ; and the Holy Ghost is an eternal and

infinite mind, distinct both from Father and Son The distinction

of persons . . . cannot be more truly and aptly represented than by
the distinction between three men ; for Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

are as really distinct persons as Peter, James, and John Three

minds and spirits, which have no other difference, are yet distinguished

by self-consciousness, and are three distinct spirits I grant

that they [the three persons] are three holy spirits. ... As there is
but one God, so he is a holy being and a pure mind and spuit, as
spirit is opposed to matter j and thus all three divine persons are holy



minds and spirits, essentially united into one infinite mind and spirit;
but the Holy Ghost, who is the Spirit of the Father and the Son, aiid
a distinct person in the Trinity, is but one. — Dr. Wm. Sherlock :
Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity, pp. 51, 66-7, 78, 101,
105, 119, 258-9.

We fear that the doctrine above inculcated, though abhorrent to right
reason and Sacred Scripture, is yet unconsciouslv" entertained by not a tew
professed Trinitarians; and in this opinion we are supported by the follow-
ing remarks of Dr. Knatp, in his Christian Theology, sect, xvi.: "Chris-
tians in general have been charged by Jews and ]\Ialiommedans Avith
believing in a Tritheism; and it must be confessed, that too much ground
for this charge has been afforded by the incautious expressions, with regard
to the doctruie of the Trinity, which were common, especially among the
ancient teachers of Christianity. And, even at the present day, there are
many common and unenlightened Christians who fall into the same error.
They make profession Avith their mouth of their faith in one God; while,
at the same time, they conceive of him in their minds as three." Proba-
bly, however, the majority of Trinitarians incline more to a Tritheism of
unequal Gods than to the sentiments held by Dean Sherlock, and regard
the Son and Holy Spirit as possessing each a derived divine nature, but the
Father only as the self-existent and independent God.

We make a few other extracts from this celebrated writer; so number-
ing them that Colekidge's notes, which will afterwards be introduced as
strictures, may be understood by the reader.

[1] We know not what the substance of an infinite mind is, nor
how such substances as have no parts or extension can touch each
other, or be thus externally united ; but we know the unity of a mind
or spirit reaches as far as its self-consciousness does, — for that is one
spirit wliich knows and feels itself, and its own thoughts and motions ;
and, if we mean this by circumincession, three persons thus intimate
to each other are numerically one. ... [2] As the self-consciousness
of every person to itself makes them distinct persons, so the mutual
consciousness of all three di%ine persons to each other makes them
all but one infinite God. As far as consciousness reaches, so far the
unity of a spirit extends ; for we know no other unity of a mind or
spirit but consciousness. ... [3] This one supreme God is Father,
Son, and Holy Ghost, a Trinity in Unity, three persons and one God.
Now, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, with all their divine attributes
and perfections (excepting their personal properties, which the schools
call the modi suhsistendi, — that one is the Father, the other the Son,
a\id the other the Holy Ghost, — which cannot be communicated to
each other), are whole and entire in each person by a mutual 'con-


scioiisness. Each jDerson feels the other persons iii himself, all theif
essential wisdom, power, goodness, justice, as he feels liimself j and
this makes them essentially one. ... [4] I leave any man to judge
whether this one single motion of will, which is in the same instant
in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, can signify any thing else but a
mutual consciousness, which makes them numerically one, and as
intimate to each other as every man is to himself. . . . [5] You'll say,
that there should be three persons, each of which is God, and yet but
one God, is a contradiction ; but v/hat principle of natural reason does
it contradict ? . . . [6] It is demonstrable, that, if there be three
persons and one God, each person must be God ; and yet there can-
not be three distinct Gods, but one. For, if each person be not God,
all three cannot be God, unless the Godhead have persons in it which
are not God. — De,. Willmm Sherlock : Vindication of the Doc-
trine of the Trinity, pp. 50, 68, 99, 117, 147-9.

If here it shall be urged to me, that one individual, necessarily
existent, spiritual being alone is God, and is all that is signified by the
name of God ; and therefore that three distmct, mdi\idual, necessarily
existent, spiritual beings must unavoidably be three distinct Gods, —
I would say, if by one individual, necessarily existent, spiritual being,
you mean one such being, comprehending Father, Son, and Holy
Ghost taken together, I grant it. But if by one individual, necessarily
existent, spiritual being, you mean either the Father, Son, or Holy
Ghost taken sejunctly, I deny it ; for both the other are truly signified
by the name of God too, as well as that one. . . . We Christians are
taught to conceive, under the notion of God, a necessary, spuitual
being, in which Father, Son, and Spirit do so necessarily co-exist as to
constitute that being ; and that, when we conceive any one of them
to be God, that is but an inadequate, not an entire and full, conception
of the Godhead. . . . Upon the whole, let such an union be conceived

Online LibraryJohn WilsonUnitarian principles confirmed by Trinitarian testimonies : being selections from the works of eminent theologians belonging to orthodox churches → online text (page 31 of 55)