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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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Holy Ghost, it certainly is not true that they are three distinct con-
sciousnesses, wills, and understandings. — Dr. Horace Bushnell :
God in Christ, pp. 136, 176-7.

The first portion of this extract we think perfectly sustained both by
reason and revelation ; but, iu reference to the latter, we do not hesitate to



A FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE OF TRUE RELIGION. 383

say, in opposition to the eloquent and liighly gifted writer, that, if the Bible
be interpreted as any other book which is designed for the comprehension
of men, — that is, interpreted in conformity with the universal nsage of
language, — no doctrine can be found to pervade the Scriptures more plainly
than this : that the Father and the Son, the Sender and the Sent, the Lord
and his Christ, the Almighty One prayed to and the dependent devout
Petitioner, were and are distinct, separate intelligences, having each his
own consciousness, will, and understanding, though morally united, — har-
monious in aflfection, plan, and purpose; and it is because they are thus
characterized in the New Testament, because they are clearly spoken of as
distinct persons, agents, or beings, that we deem it inimical to the truth of
revelation to represent these two as one and the same God. Dr. Bushnell,
however, seems to us to be perfectly justified in intimating, that, as it is a
first truth that God is, in the most rigid sense, one Being, it cannot be true
that three distinct persons or intelligences, having separate consciousnesses
and wills, — in other words, three beings, — are only one God.

The first and most prominent thought, connected witl the great
word " God," is, that he possesses existence which is miderived and
eternal. This is what natural and revealed religion mean by God.
The idea of an eternal, independent Being is the most exalted con-
ception the human mind can receive of the all-perfect Deity. He is
one who exists prior to every other being, and derives his existence
from no other. He is self-existent, and has the principle of life in
himself. — Dr. G.irdiner Spring : The Glory of Christ, vol. i.
page 39.

Dr. Spring's sentiments will, we suppose, recommend themselves to the
mind of every intelligent man ; and yet they will be found perfectly incom-
patible with the orthodox dogma of three co-equal persons in one God. If,
as the creeds assert, and as probably most Trinitarians believe, the Son and
the Holy Ghost derived their existence and their attributes from the Father,
— no matter in what way this derivation may be conceived and expressed,
whether by the notion of Sonship or Spiration, of being begotten or having
proceeded, in time or from eternity, by the will of the Father or by the con-
templation of his own perfections, — the conclusion will irresistibly follow,
that the two dependent persons are not, and cannot be, each God in the
highest, the absolute, sense of the term, — cannot either be equal to Him,
the self-existent Father, from whom they had their origin, or be one and the
very same Being as that underived Cause of all things. If, according to
anotlier view of the Trinitarian mystery, the three divine persons — Father,
Son, and Holy Ghost — are each a self-existent Being, and therefore each
God in the most exalted sense of the word, they must, to all intents and
purposes, be three Supreme and Infinite Gods ; which is an absurdity,
and inconsistent alike with the dictates of reason, and with the whole tenor
of the Patriarchal, the Jewish, and the Christian revelations.



384 THE UNITY OF GOD

4 2. The (Jjsity of God proved by KexVso>', a^s'd manifested in the
WoEivS of Ckeatiox.

An evident and most natural consequence of this universal and
necessary idea of a God, is liis unity. All that mention the term
" God " intend to convey by it the idea of the first, most exalted,
necessarily existent, and infinitely perfect Being ; and it is plain there
can be but one Being endued with all these perfections. — Archbishop
Leightox: Theological Lectures, Lect. 7; in Works, p. 571.

God is a being absolutely perfect, unmade, or self-origmated, and
necessaiily existing. ... It evidently appears that there can be but one
such Being, and that unity, onehness, or singularity, is essential to it ;
forasmuch as there cannot possibly be more than one supreme, more
than one omnipotent, or infinitely powerful Behig, and more than one
Cause of all things besides itself. — Dr. E.. Cudworth : Intellectual
System of the Universe, vol. i. p. 282.

It hath been alleged by divines and 23hllosophers, Avith great judg-
ment, that indeed the existence of a God is manifested to mankind in
the high wisdom and the admirable contrivance that is seen in the
•whole and parts of the world. . . . There are a thousand significations,
in the works of creation, that God is ; but not the least intimation by
them, or any other ways, that there are more Gods than one. Seeing,
therefore, the works of God Avere made to display liis perfections to
the rational part of the creation, we rightly infer, that, because those
\rorks discover to us only this, that there is a God, we ought to believe
no farther than is declared to us, namely, that a God, or one God, there
certainly is. . . . Of one such Mind or Sphit, the works of creation, so
full of beauty, order, and design, are a clear demonstration ; but they
show us not the least footsteps or track of more such spirits and
minds. — Dr. Robert South : The Judgment of a Disinterested
Person, pp. 50-1.

The unity of the Godhead is a truth enstamped on the very nature
of man, and may be as plainly proved from the light of nature as
that there is a God. There can be no more than one Being who
is without beginning, and who gave being to all other things : which
appears from the very nature of the thing ; for if there are more Gods,
then they must derive their being from him, and then they are a part
of his creation, and consequently not Gods, for God and the creature
are infinitely opposed to each other ; and since there is but one inde-
pendent Being, who is in and of himself, and derives his perfections



PROVED FROM THE LIGHT OF NATURE. 385

from no other, therefore there can be but one God. . . Infinite perfec-
tion being implied in the idea of a God, it is certain that it cannot
belong to more than one; for, as it impKes that this perfection is
bomidless, so it denotes that he sets bounds to the perfections of all
others : therefore, if there are more Gods than one, their perfections
must be Hmited, and consequently that which is not infinite is not
God. And as irifinite perfection implies in it all perfection, so it
cannot be divided among many ; for then no being, that has only a
part thereof, could be said to be thus perfect : therefore, since there is
but one that is so, it follows that there is no other God besides him. . .
There is but one Being who is, as God is often said to be, the best and
the greatest : therefore, if there were more Gods than one, either one
must be supposed to be more excellent than another, or both equally
excellent. If we suppose the former of these, then he who is not the
most excellent is not God ; and if the latter, that their excellences are
equal, then infinite perfection would be divided ; which is contrary to
the idea thereof, as well as to what is expressly said by God, " To
whom will ye liken me, or shall I be equal ? saith the Holy One," Isa.
xl. 25. — Abridged from Dr. Thomas Ridgley : Body of Divinity ^
vol. L pp. 194-6.

If there were any other self-existent Being besides that whose
existence we have demonstrated, he must in all respects be equal to
him ; for otherwise it would be natural to suppose some derivation or
dependency, inconsistent with self-existence, and consequently with the
hypothesis. To suppose such another Being is to limit the omnipo-
tence of God ; for ... it seems he would be imable to act without his
consent, at least tacitly implied ; and, if their volitions should in any
respect contradict each other, which in things indifferent they might
at least very possibly do, the one would be a restraint upon the other,
and so neither would be omnipotent. . . . The unity of design, which
seem.s to prevail in the works of nature, makes it reasonable to believe
it had but one author, and that he operated in an imcontroUed manner.
There is no reason from the light of nature to conclude that there are
any more Deities than one, or indeed to imagine there are any more ;
since one almighty and all-wise Being can do as much as a thousand
such beings can do. — Dr. Philip Doddridge : Course of Lectures,
part ii. prop, xxxix., or vol. i. pp. 132-3.

As authorities for these sentiments, the lecturer or his editors refer to
WiLKiJfs, Bishop Burnet, Le Clerc, John Howe and Gkotius, as well
as to several eminent Unitarians.

33



386 THE UNITY OF GOD

So far as I know, all who have acknowledged one infinite God have
regarded the acknowledgment of more as an absurdity. In this senti-
ment have concurred the Patriarchs, Jews, Christians, Mohammedans,
and all those modem infidels who have not denied the existence of
such a God. These classes of men have, with one voice, renounced
the idea of more than one such God. Such a general accordance, in
men difiering in other respects so widely, clearly indicates that the
admission of one infinite God brings with it, to the human mind,
serious difficulties against the admission of more ; and plainly impHes
that more cannot be admitted by the mind, without violence done to
the understanding. . . . Although the proofs of the existence of God
are complete, yet there is no proof of the existence of more than one
God. The argument for the bemg of God, which I mentioned as*
exhibited in the happiest manner by Mr. Locke, proves unanswerably
the bemg of one eternal, self-existent Cause, possessed of sufficient
intelligence to contrive, and sufficient power to create, the universe of
worlds, and all which it contains. The existence of one such Cause
completely removes from the mind every difficulty, and satisfactorily

accounts for every thing The unity of design and agency in

creation and providence furnishes another argument in jjroof of the
existence of but one God. So far as we are able to understand the
works of creation and providence, we discern a general simplicity and
harmony in the nature and operations of all things. Amid the im-
mense comphcation which surrounds us, we perceive one set of laws,
in accordance with which all things proceed in their course. The
same causes produce uniformly the same effects in every place and
period. Vegetables spring from the same seed, germinate by the same
means, assume the same form, sustain the same qualities, exist through
the same duration, and coiae to the same end. Animals also are
born in one manner, and exhibit the same life, powers, and tendencies.
Man has one origin, form, life, system of faculties, character, and
termination. All things in this world are, in one regular manner,
made subservient to his use and happiness ; and are plainly fitted by
one design, and conducted by one agency, to this end. Day and night
anilbrmly return by a single power, and with exact regularity. With
the same regularity and simplicity, the seasons pursue their circuit.
The sun shines, illuminates, warms, and moves the planets by a single
law, and with exact uniformity. By one law, the planets keep their
orbits and perform their revolutions. The face of the heavens is but
one, and the oldest spliere which is known presents to our view the



PROVED FROM THE LIGHT OF NATURE. 387

same constellations which we now behold in the nightly firmament.
Thus all things, so far as our knowledge extends, present to our view
a single design, regularly executed by a single agency. But unity of
design is a proof of one designer ; and unity of agency, of one agent. —
Dr. Timothy Dwight : Sermon 4 ; in Hieology Explained, vol. i.
pp. 115-16, 119.

To prove the miity of tliis great Being, in opposition to a plurality
of Gods, it is not necessary to have recourse to metaphysical abstrac-
tions. It is sufficient to observe, that the notion of more than one
Author of nature is inconsistent with that harmony of design which
pervades her works ; that it explains no appearances, is supported by
no evidence, and serves no purpose but to embarrass and perplex our

conceptions There is but one such Being. To affirm there

is more than one, without reason, must, by the very terms, be unrea-
sonable. But no shadow of reason can be assigned for beheving in a
plurality of such beings ; because the supposition of one accounts for
all that we see, as well, and even much better than the supposition of
more. That there must be one miderived, self-existent, eternal, and
intelKgent Cause, must of necessity be allowed, in order to account for
what we know to exist ; but no reason can be assigned for supposing
more. It is with the utmost propriety established as an axiom, that
we ought in no case to assign more causes than ^^i^\ account for the
effects. — Robert Hall : Modern Infidelitij considered, and JVotes
of Sermons ; in JVorlcs, vol. i. p. 26 ; iii. pp. 14, 15.

It has been urged that unity of plan [in the laws of physical action]
might result from the co-operation of several minds, powers, or agen-
cies. But to suppose many causes, when one will suffice, is clearly
unphilosophical ; and, besides this, the objection, however plausible
when stated merely in an abstract form, will vanish the moment we
reflect on the actual case of the material creation. When we consider
. . . the immense multiphcity of physical arrangements, all so admirably
harmonizing together; the infinite combination of adjustments, each
arranged in exact relation to the other, as well as complete witliin
itself, — we cannot but feel overwhelmed with the conviction, that to
One Omniscient Mind alone can be correctly attributed such infinite
forethought, and such boundless comprehensiveness of arrangement. — •
Baden Powell : The Connection of JVatural and Divine Truthf
pp. 188-9.

Stuart (in Miscellanies, p. 42) well remarks, that the proposition, " God
is one," means " that there is in him only one intelligent agent."



388 THE UNITY OF GOD

§ 3. The XJ^'ITY of God revealed in the Scriptures of the
Old and the New Testament.

" Unto thee it was showed," ..." that thou mightest know that the
Lord he is God : there is none else beside him," Deut. iv. 35. And,
as the law, so the gospel teacheth us the same : " We know that an
idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but
one," 1 Cor. viii. 4. This unity of the Godhead will easily appear as
necessary as the existence; so that it must be as impossible there
should be more Gods than one, as that there should be none. . . . The
nature of God consists in this, that he is the prime and original cause
of all things, as an independent Being upon which all things else
depend, and likewise the ultimate end or final cause of all : but in this
sense two prime causes are unimaginable ; and for all things to depend
of one, and to be more independent Beings than one, is a clear con-
tradiction. This primity God requires to be attributed to himself:
" Hearken unto me, O Jacob, and Israel my called ! I am he ; I am
the first, I also am the last," Isa. xlviii. 12. And from this primity
he challengeth his unity : " Thus saith the Lord, the King of Israel,
and his Redeemer the Lord of hosts, I am the first, and I am the
last ; and beside me there is no God," Isa. xliv. 6. ... If there were
more Gods than one, then were not all perfections in one. ..." He
doth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the
inhabitants of the earth" (Dan. iv. 35), said Nebuchadnezzar out of
his experience ; and St. Paul expresseth him as " worketh all things
after the counsel of his own will." If, then, there were more supreme
Governors of the world than one, each of them absolute and free, they
might have contrary determinations concerning the same thing ; than
which nothing can be more prejudicial imto government. God is a
God of order, not confusion ; and therefore of unity, not admitting
multiplication. If it be better that the universe should be governed
by one than many, we may be assured that it is so j because nothing
must be conceived of God but what is best. . . . Nom'', God is not only
one, but hath a unity peculiar to himself, by which he is the only God ;
and that not only by way of actuality, but also of possibility. Every
indiiidual man is one, but so as there is a second and a thu'd ; and
consequently every one is part of a number, and concurring to a mul-
titude ; . . . whereas in the divine nature there is an intrinsical and
essential singularity, because no other being can have any existence but
from that ; and whatsoever essence hath its existence from another ia



REVEALED IN TBDE3 HOLT SCaiPTTJRES. 389

not God. " I am the Lord," saith he, " and there is none else ; there
is no God besides me : that they may know, from the rising of the
&m and from the west, that there is none besides me. I am tlie Lord,
and there is none else," Isa. xlv. 5, 6. Deut. iv. 35, and xxxii. 39.
Ps. xviii. 31. He who hath infinite knowledge knoweth no other God
beside himself. " Is there a God besides me ? yea, there is no God ; I
know not any," Isa. xlv. 18, 21, 22, and xKv. 8. And we who believe
in him, and desire to enjoy him, need for tliat end to know no other
God but him. " For this is life eternal, that they might know thee
the only true God " (John xvii. 3), — as certainly one as God. . . .
If we should apprehend more Gods than one, I know not what could
determine us, in any instant, to the actual adoration of any one ; for
where no difference doth appear (as, if there were many, and all by
nature Gods, there could be none), what incHnation could we have,
what reason could we imagine, to priefer or elect any one before the
rest for the object of our devotions ? . . . Without this acknowledg-
ment [of the unity of God], we cannot give unto God the things which
are God's ; it being part of the worship and honor due unto God to
accept of no compartner with him. When the law was given, in the
observance whereof the rehgion of the IsraeHtes consisted, the first
precept was this prohibition, " Thou shalt have no other Gods before
me " (Exod. xx. 3) ; and whosoever violateth this, denieth the foun-
dation on which all the rest depend. . . This is the true reason of that
strict precept by which all are commanded to give divine worship to
God only : " Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only
shalt thou serve," Matt. iv. 10. . . . Upon this foundation the whole
heart of man is entirely reqmi-ed of him, and engaged to him : " Hear,
O Israel ! the Lord our God is one God : therefore thou shalt love the
Lord thy God -with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all
thy might," Deut. vi. 4, 5. ... If there were more Gods than one, our
love must necessarily be terminated unto more than one, and conse-
quently divided between them. — Bishop Peabson : Exposition of
the Creed, Art. I. pp. 32-5.

There is one God, that is, but one ; as St. Paul elsewhere expresseth
it, " There is none other God but one," 1 Cor. viii. 4. And Moses
lays this as the foundation of the natural law, as well as of the Jewish
rehgion, " The Lord he is one God, and there is none besides him "
(Deut. iv. 35).; that is, besides Jehovah, whom the people of Israel did
worship as the only true God. And this the prophet Isaiah perpetually
declares, in opposition to the polytheism and variety of gods among

33*



390 THE UNITY OF GOD

the heathen, " I am the first and I am the last ; and besides me there
is no God," Isa. xliv. 6. And again, ver. 8, " Is there any God besides
me ? There is no God ; I know not any : " He who hath an infinite
knowledge, and knows all things, knows no other God. And our
blessed Sa\dom' makes this the fundamental article of all rehgion, and
the knowledge of it necessary to every man's salvation. " This," says
he, " is life eternal, to know thee the only true God." — Archbishop
Tn^LOTSON : Sermon 48 ; in Works, vol. iii. pp. 279-80.

The unity of the Godhead is a truth not barely founded on a few
places of Scripture that expressly assert it, but it may be deduced from
every part thereof. — De, Thomas Ridgley : Body of Diviniti/,
voh L p. 194.

That there is one Supreme God, the Scriptures uniformly teach. . , .
No one at aU familiar with the books of the Old Testament can be
ignorant, that Moses and the other prophets proposed it as the end of
aU their ministrations to impress indehbly upon the hearts and under-
standings of the Jews a proper conception of the one true God,
Jeho^-ah ; and that the same essential truth, which lay at the founda-
tion of the Jewish faith, was fully sanctioned and confii-med by Christ
and his apostles, is e\ident as well from their acknowledging, in general
terms, the di\ine legation of the ancient prophets, as from theu' more
expKcit declarations on this very point in various parts of the New
Testament. — J. F. Flatt : Dissertation on the Deity of Christ ; in
Biblical Repertory, new series, vol. i. pp. 35-6.

The doctrine of the unity of God is taught in the most clear and
explicit manner in the Old and New Testaments. " Jehovah is God,
Jehovah is one," i.e. one God, Deut. \i. 4 ; iv. 35, 39 ; xxxii. 39. " I
am God, and there is none else," Isa. xlv. 5, 21, 22; Ps. Lxxx\i. 10.
The doctrine of the unity of God was at the foimdation of the whole
Mosaic religion and institute, and also of the Christian religion. "And
this is eternal life, that they might know thee," tov [xovqv a>jr^Lvov ^ebv
[" the only true God "], John xvii. 3. 'H//iv elg ■&sdc 6 Trar^p, " "We
believe in one God," 1 Cor. viii. 4—6 ; James ii. 19, seq. — Dr. G. C.
Knapp : Christian Theology, sect. xvi. I.

The theology of Judaism was pure, sublime, and devotional. The
belief of one supreme, self-existent, and all-perfect Being, the Creator
of the heavens and the earth, was the basis of all the rehgious institu-
tions of the Israehties ; the sole object of their hopes, fears, and
worship. ... It was the avowed design of that law [the law of Moses]
to teach the IsraeHtes that there is only one God, and to secure them



REVEAIiED IN THE HOLY SCRIPTURES. 391

from that polytheism and idolatry wliich prevailed among all the

nations romid about them Jesus Christ and his apostles . . .

retain all that is excellent in the Old-Testament revelation ; for Christ
came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfil them, and
to carr}'^ the scheme of rehgion there laid down to a still higher degree
of excellency. — T. HAiirsvELL Horne : Introduction to the Critical
Study of the Holy Scinptitres, vol i. pp. 143, 149.

If we follow the guidance of Scripture, we are to conceive of God
as one ; one Being or existence ; one Mind, creating, directing, con-
trolling, all things ; possessing the faculties and attributes essential to
all m.ental or spiritual existence, as consciousness, understanding, will,
affections, &c. — Joseph Haven, Jun., in JVew Englander for Feb.
1850 ; vol. 'V'iil. (new series, vol. ii.) p. 17.

In the Old Testament, God is distinctly announced as the one living

and true God The unity of God is made especially prominent, and

contrasted strongly and variously with the idolatrous notions prevalent
among men. It is a pure system of Theism, allowing not the shghtest
departure from the strict idea of one God only, supreme on earth and
In heaven, and alone entitled to the homage and adoration of men,
God is distinctly an individual, not an abstract power. — Dr. Seth
SWEETSER, in Bibliotheca Sacra for January, 1854 ; voL xi. p. 88.



These extracts are given, not as implying that any Trinitarian profess-
edly believes in a plurality of Gods, but as pointing out the immense weight
of evidence in favor of the Divine Unity over that for a Trinity of persons in
the Godhead, — evidence so strong and irres'istible that scarcely any Chris-
tian can deny the existence of only one underived, self-existent, and eternal
Cause. It is, however, for the believer in the perfect equality of three
divine persons seriously to consider, whether this doctrine does not infringe
on the unity of God ; and for him who advocates the derivation of the Sou
and Holy Spirit from the Father to reflect, whether this notion is not entirely
incompatible with that of eternity and self-existence, which are acknow-
ledged attributes of Deity. To adopt the language of MosES Stuart (in



Online LibraryJohn WilsonUnitarian principles confirmed by Trinitarian testimonies : being selections from the works of eminent theologians belonging to orthodox churches → online text (page 43 of 55)