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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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Bibhcal Repository for July, 1835, vol. vi. p. 113), we would ask, " To what
good purpose can it be that Christians strenuously assert their belief in the
unity of God, while they continue to make representations which, when
strictly examined, prove to be altogether inconsistent, in a theoretical point
of view, with numerical unity of substance and essential attributes ? I am
filled with unwelcome apprehension, whenever I perceive that a far greater
proportion of zeal is maintained, in any metaphysical school of theology,
for the personality than for the unity of the Godhead, — just as though
' Hear, Israel ! Jehovah our God is one Jehovah,' were expunged from
the Sacred Eecord, or put in the background! This should not be so."



How immeasurably exalted must the Father be above the Son and Spirit, if he is
the ground or cause of their being, the fo7is ct principium of Godhead itself I — MoSEj

By the gift of eternal generation, Christ hath received of the Father
one and in number the self-same substance, which the Father hath of
himself um'eceived from any other. For every beginning is a Father
unto that which cometh of it, and every ojSsprmg is a Son unto that
cut of which it groweth. Seeing, therefore, the Father alone is
originally that Deity which Christ originally is not (for Christ is God
by being of God, Light by issuing out of Light), it followeth hereupon,
that whatsoever Christ hath common unto him with his heavenly
Father, the same of necessity must be given him, but naturally and
eternally given. — Richard Hooker : Ecclesiastical Polity, book v.
chap. Hv. 2 J in Works, vol. i. pp. 395-6.

According to the second section of the present chapter (pp. 381-91),
nature and revelation proclaim the existence of only one God, — of only one
Being who is self-originated, absolutely perfect, and unequalled by any other
intelligence in heaven or on earth. Here it is admitted by Hooker, —
though in terms and with notions which are taken from the creed of a
metaphysical age, but Avhich, to do justice to the main idea, may be put
in the simpler language of the New Testament, — that that Being is the
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This holy Son of God, however
divine may have been his nature and however great his powers, is obviously
difierent from and inferior to Him who is the one God, the Parent of his
existence, and the Giver of " whatsoever Christ hath." His nature and
his powers, not less than those of the humblest and most obscure of the
human family, were alike derived from the Infinite Source of life and light.

As I am assured that there is an infinite and independent Being,
which we call a God, and that it is impossible there should be more
Lniinities than one ; so I assure myself that this one God is the Father
of all things, especially of all men and angels, so far as the mere act of
creation may be styled generation ; that he is, farther yet, and in a
more pecuHar manner, the Father of all those whom he regenerated
by his Spu'it, whom he adopteth in his Son, as heirs and coheirs with
him. . . . But beyond and far above all this, ... I believe him the
Father, in a more eminent and transcendent manner, of one singular


and proper Son, his own, his beloved, his only-begotten Son ; whom
he hath not only begotten of the blessed Virgin, by the coming of the
Holy Ghost, and the overshadowing of his power ; not only sent with
special authority as the King of Israel ; not only raised from the dead,
and made heir of all things in his house ; but, antecedently to all this,
hath begotten him by way of eternal generation in the same Divinity
and Majesty with himself: by which paternity, co-eval to the Deity,
I acknowledge him always Father, as much as always God. And, in
this relation, I profess that eminency and priority, that as he is the
original Cause of all tlungs as created by him, so is he the Fountain
of the Son begotten of him, and of the Holy Ghost proceeding from
hun. — Bishop Peaeson : Exposition of the Creed, Art. I. pp. 58-9.

See another passage from this learned writer, quoted in the present
work, p. 265.

If the hiiman mind is capable of entertaining the dogma, that two per-
sons who received their essence, all that they are, and all that they have,
from another Being tliat was prior to them and is pre-eminent over them,
are either co-equal and co-eternal in power and glory with their Paternal
Benefactor, or are one and the same Being, with the self-same conscious-
ness, as he, — or are both equal to and identical with him, — there seems to
be no good reason for supposing, that it may not also entertain any notion,
however gross, absm'd, or contradictory, which, under the name or the plea
of a holy mystery, may be presented for its belief.

Not only the name and title of God, but the most incommunicable
properties and perfections of the Deity, are in Scriptm'e frequently
ascribed to the Son and the Holy Ghost ; one property only excepted,
which is pecuKar to the Father, as he is the Principle and Fountain
of the Deity, — that he is of himself, and of no other ; which is
not, nor can be, said of the Son and Holy Ghost. — Archbishop
Tillotson: Sermon 44; in Works, vol. iii. pp. 215-16.

According to this excellent prelate, the Son and the Holy Ghost are
devoid of at least one of the properties or perfections of Deity, — underived
existence. The Father, therefore, is alone God ; for he only has this perfec-
tion ; he only is absolutely perfect. To use the words of the same writer,
in his forty-eighth Sermon: " Absolute perfection, which we ascribe to God
as the most essential notion which mankind hath always had concerning
him, does necessarily suppose Unity ; because this is essential to the notion
of a Being that is absolutely perfect, that all perfection meets and is united
in such a Being. But to imagine more Gods, and some perfections to be in
one, and some in another, does destroy the most essential notion which men
have of God ; namely, that he is a Being absolutely perfect, that is, as per-
fect as possible."


The Father is the first person in the following respects : 1st, In the
order of subsistence. The hypostasis is ascribed to the Father. The
Son is called " the express, image of his person," the character of his
hj'postasis. The Father, therefore, is the archetype ; the Son, the
resemblance : but the archetype is prior to that which is conformed to

it. . . Wliilst [however], &c 2dly, Li the order of operation.

Since the Father works by the Son, it necessarily follows, that, in
relation to the other persons, he works originally and from himself,
and has in himself the prmciple of operation, as well personally as
essentially. — Herm.\n WiTSius : Dissertations on the Apostles'
Creed, Diss. vii. 6, 7.

When the Son is called second to the Father, or a minister to the
Father, this denotes the subordination of persons, inasmuch as the one
derives his origin from the other, but does not im])ly any inequality of
nature in these di\dne persons. The Father, as the Father, is the first
person in the Holy Trinity; the Son, the second after the Father.
In all divine operations, the Son is the minister of the Father, inasmuch
as he ever operates from the Father, who is the Source and Origin
of all his divine operations as well as of his being, and God the Father
operates through him ; but the Father is never said to operate from
the Son, or the Son through the Father. — Bishop Bull : Defensio
Fidei JViceufE, sect. iv. cap. 2, § 2.

This extract is quoted and approved by W. D. Conybeare in his Theo-
logical Lectures, pp. 457-8.

Notwithstanding the learned bishop's attempt to evade the consequences
resulting from his own sentiments, when he says that the Son's derivation
from the Father " does not imply any inequality of nature," we have no
hesitation in affirming that uo Unitarian could frame language more plainly
expressive of the infinite disparity and the unqualified distinction which
exist between the Supreme Being, or universal Pai-ent, and his best-beloved
Son. The First of all fathers and of all intelligences, here unscripturally
called " the first person in the Holy Trinity," is, according to Bishop Bull,,
and in perfect agreement with the declarations of the New Testament, the
" Source and Origin of all the divine operations of the Son, as well as of his
being." In proof of this position, we would refer to the numerous texts
quoted in the first part of " Scripture Proofs and Scriptural Illustrations of

God the Father alone is, in reference to his manner of existehce,
an absolutely perfect Being, because he alone is self-existent. He
alone, consequently, is absolutely perfect in reference to those per-
fections which do presuppose self-existence. Those perfections are


absolute independence, and being the first Original of all other beings ;
in which the Son and the Holy Ghost are comprehended. ... It is,
therefore, a flat contradiction to say that the second and third persona
are self-existent ; and therefore it is alike contradictious to affirm them
to be beings absolutely perfect in reference to their manner of existence,
and to say that they have the perfections of absolute independence, and
of being the first Originals of all things. Since the Father alone is a
Being of the most absolute perfection, he having those perfections
which the other two persons are uncapable of having, he alone is God
in the absolutely highest sense. — Edward Fowler, Bishop of
Gloucester : CeHain Propositions, pp. 3-5, Lond. 17 19.

These sentiments yield up, in the clearest manner, the great principle
for which Unitarians have always contended; but that they were not penned
by a Unitarian is evident from the fact, that, in the same small pamphlet,
the writer professes to oppose both Arianism and Socinianism, by asserting
that the Son and Holy Spirit have all the perfections of the Godhead, such
as eternal existence and unlimited power, with the exception of those that
must of necessity be peculiar to the Father, and " that there is an uncon-
ceivably close and inseparable union both in will and nature between them "
and the Father. (See pp. 7-10.) A defender of the Niceue fathers, and an
admirer, if not a disciple, of Cudworth and Bull, he only carries out their
principles to a more legitimate extent.

The Father is, as it were, the top of Unity, the Head and Foun-
tain of alL He is fii'st in our conception of God; and therefore,
whether we speak of the Almighty God, or the eternal God, or the
all-knowing God (and the reason is the same for the only God, xmity
being an attribute of the Godhead, like omnipotence, eternity, &c,),
we primarily and principally mean the Father, tacitly including the
other two persons It is very certain that the Son has his know-
ledge, and every other perfection, from the Father, in the same sense
as he hath also his nature or substance from the Father. — Dr. Daniel
Waterland: Eight Sermons, pp. 141, 267.

But this writer adds, that the Son's knowledge is one and the same, it
extent and degree, with the Father's.

In those verses [of the Athanasian Creed], the Father is asserted
to be the Fountain and Origin of Divuiity, and of course the Fountain
and Origin of aU divine power. The Nicene Creed, which corresponds
H'ith the creed under consideration, intimates the same, when it styles
our Lord " God of, i. e. from God, Light of Light, very God cf very
God." And the most learned writer on this subject [Bishop Bull]


has shown that the primitive Christians before the Council of Nice, as
well as after that council, held this doctrine. Uno ore docuerunt are
his words, " they taught it with one voice," so unanimous were they in
this ophiion. — Bishop Huntingford : Thoughts on the Trinity ;
in Theological Works, p. 90.

The whole doctrine of the Scriptm-es . . . holds forth to us an
estabhshment of divine wisdom, righteousness, and goodness, for the
recovery of lapsed mankind to holiness and happiness. In this con-
stitution, the Almighty Father is the First Cause and the Supreme
Object of the whole, sustaining the legislative honors of the divine
character : and therefore he is peculiarly denominated God, " of whom
are all things," in the creation and sustentation of the universe, and in
the redemption and salvation of the church, " and we to him," as our
highest end ; " the God of our Lord Jesus Christ ; " also " the one
God," " the only God," and " the true God," in opposition to the ficti-
tious deities of the world. On the other hand, the Son of God is the
Mediator, Saviour, Redeemer, and Lord, in the actual execution of
the eternal and gracious purposes, by his humiliation in assuming our
nature, by his exaltation in that nature and in his official capacity, and
by the works of his Holy Spirit. Thus the Father is glorified in the
Son, the Spirit of Truth glorifies the Lord Jesus, and God is all in
all. — Dr. J. P. Smith : Scripture Testimony, vol. ii. p. 392.

See LiMBORCH and Holden, as quoted in p. 266; with remarks by
Calvix, Le Clekc, and SxuAiiT, on this mode of explaining the Trinity in
Unity, pp. 266-8. See also Stuart and Dr. D. W. Clark on eternal gene-
ration and procession, pp. 274-6.

With the exception of such Trinitarians as believe in a nominal or
relative Trinity of persons in the Godhead, and those who deny the eternal
generation of the Son and the procession of the Holy Ghost, — whose opi-
nions, when definitely explained, are, as we before observed, either a kind
of obscure Unitarianism, or an unconscious Tritheism, — perhaps a gi-eat
majority of those who are professedly orthodox on the subject agree with
the eminent writers from whom we have made extracts in this section.
The sentiments here propounded, however, when separated from the anti-
scriptural dogmas with which they are combined, are evidently nothing
else than Unitarianism ; namely, that God the Father is the only Being who
is self-existent or unoriginated and independent; that the Son, and the Holy
Spirit (as signifying a person distinct from the Father), received their
existence, their capacities, and their powers from Him who is called " the
Fountain of Deity;" or, in other words, that Jesus Christ, and every other
person or being in the universe, are infinitely subordinate or inferior to the
one Supreme God, the Almighty Father.



God! we praise thee, and confess

That thou the only Lord
And everlasting Father art,

By all the earth adored.

Bishop Pateick.

§ 1. The Worship of a Trinity Unscriptural and Improper.—
God to be addressed as One.

I dislike this vulgar prayer, " Holy Trinity, one God ! have mercy
on us," as altogether savoring of barbarism. "We repudiate such
expressions, as being not only insipid, but profane. — Abridged from
John Calvin : Tradatus Theologici, p. 796.

In reference to this remark, Dr. South (in Judgment of a Disinterested
Person, p. 29) says: " As to that prayer [in the Liturgy of the Church of
England], ' God the Father! have mercy on us; God the Son! have
mercy on us ; God the Holy Ghost ! have mercy on us,' — it hath been
disliked by divers learned men, particularly by Mr. Calvin. But 'tis cer-
tain, 'tis not the church's intention to own hereby three spirits, or three
objects of worship ; the object of worship being incontestably, and I think
confessedly, but one. The church, by this form of prayer, means only to
invocate God by the three distinctions which she owneth to be in him. . . .
' Fathei',' when said of God, is original intellect; 'Son' is reflex wisdom;
and ' Holy Spirit ' is divine love."

We quote the whole passage, in the Litany, that the reader may compare
it with any of the prayers recorded in the Bible as having been presented
to God by Jesus Christ and the apostles, especially with that most simple
and sublime of all liturgical forms, — the Lord's Prayer. " God the Fa-
ther of heaven ! have mercy upon us miserable sinners. God the Son,
Eedeemer of the world! have mercy upon us miserable sinners. God the
Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son ! have mercy upon us
miserable sinners. holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three persons and
one God! have mercy upon us miserable sinners."

Whatever may have been " the church's intention," we think it " incon-
testable " that no terms could more clearly express belief in the existence
of three separate objects of worship, or three Gods, than the prayer to which
the Genevan Reformer objects. And South himself seems to have felt
that his Sabellian "distinctions" could not be appreciated by the great
mass of the worshippers in the English church ; for he immediately adds,
' Notwithstanding, because of the common people, who by occasion of that



form may entertain Tritheistic notions, Mr. Calvin advised well, that this
and such like offensive forms be taken away. When I say ' offensive,' I
mean they ai-e forms at which the ignorant may dangerously stumble, —
may easily make shipwreck of the faith."

We Christians are taught by the Christian religion to acknowledge
and worship the only true God : " and we are in Him that is true, in
or by his Son Jesus Christ ;" that is, we worship the only true God,

by his Son Jesus Christ The religion of the apostles and

primitive Christians . . . expressly teacheth us, that there is but one
object of our prayers, and one Mediator by whom we are to make
our addresses to God. " There is one God ; and one Mediator between
God and men, the man Christ Jesus," says St. Paul, when he gives a
standing rule concerning prayer in the Christian church. — Arch-
bishop TttLOTSON: Sermons 71, 191; in f Forks, vol. v. p. 189, and
vol. X. p. 144.

Whatever distinction we are taught to make of the persons of the
Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, we are most carefully warned
[by the compilers of our Liturgy] against the division of the Godhead ;
and ail our devotions are addressed to one and the same God, through
the mediation of Christ Jesus, agreeably to the whole tenor of Scri^
ture, and particularly to the doctrine laid down in the plainest terms
in my text [1 Tim. ii. 5], that " there is but one God, and one Media-
tor between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." — Dn, Benjamin
Dawson : Illustration of Texts of Scripture, pp. 206-7.

'""No one will assert that God is ever directly addressed in the Bible as a
Trinity of co-eternal or self-existent hypostases, or even of unequal but
essentially divine agents; but rather invariably as one single Person or
Being, the Creator of heaven and earth, the God of the Jews, the Father
of Jesus Christ, the Parent of ail intelligent beings. Yet, unhappily, the
practice of Christian churches has, in general, differed from that of prophets
and apostles; and Dr. Dawson's statement would have been nearer the
truth of the case, had he said that all the devotions of the English church
should, " agreeably to the whole tenor of Scripture," be addressed to one
and the same God.

The general practice of Scripture seems to indicate, that, in ordinary
worship, we should address the Deity in his unity, manifested to us as,
in Christ Jesus, reconcihng the world to himself, not imputing to men
their trespasses. I confess that I have ever disliked the use of the
word " Trinity " in prayer to God, as not being a name whereby God
reveals himself to us, and as savoring of scholastic theology. — James
Carlile : J-sus Christ the Great God our Saviour, p. 232.


§ 2. The Father entitled to Supreme Worship.

Then do we honor the Trinity in Unity, not when we conceive of
the mystery, but when we make a rehgious use of this high advantage
to come to God in the name of Christ by the Sjjirit, and look for all
from God in Chiist through the Holy Ghost. Du'ect your prayers to
God the Father. Christ prayed to the Father: "I thanls. thee, O
Father ! Lord of heaven and earth." So the saints in their addresses :
" For this cause I bow my knees imto the Father of our Lord Jesus
Chi'ist." Pray in the name of Christ : " Whatsoever ye shall ask in
my name, that will I do." Pray by the Spuit : " Prajing in the
Holy Ghost ; " " Likewise the Spirit itself also helpeth our infirmities,
because he maketh intercession for the saints, according to the will
of God." Christians need not puzzle themselves about concei^•ing of
Three in One, and One in Three : let them in this manner come to
God, and it sufficeth; make God the object, and Christ the means
of access, and look for help from the Spirit. — Dr. Thomas Manton j
apud Christian Reformer for June, 1839.

When we speak of or contemplate the divine nature absolutely,
and without reference to particular dispensations, God the Father is
generally the first in our conceptions, as far as he can be the object of
concejDtion, but not to the exclusion of the divine nature either of the
Son or Holy Ghost. In these dispensations, in the heavenly economy,
we have a manifest and ob^dous reason for addressing our prayers and
petitions, public and private, for the most part, to the first person of
the Holy Trinity. — WiLLlAM Hawkins : Discourses on Scripture
Mysteries, pp. 29, 30.

It appears from what has been said, that we ought to regard and
acknowledge the Father as the Head of the Sacred Trinity, and the
primary object of religious homage. . . . We often read of Christ's
praying unto the Father, but never read of the Father's praying unto
Christ. He taught his disciples to pray in the same form in which
he prayed, and to say, " Our Father which art in heaven ; " and to
ask the Father, in his name, for every thing they wanted. And how
often did the apostles offer up then- devout and fervent prayers for
others t6 " the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Chi-ist " ! This
common mode of expression, in their addresses to the throne of grace,
plainly implies that they meant to acknowledge the Father as the
primary or supreme object of adoration. Though the heavenly hosts
pay divine homage to the Son of God, yet they more immediately and


directly address the Father in their most solemn and grateful devo-
tions. They say, " Blessing and honor and glory and power be unto
Him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever."
These examples of Christ, of the apostles, and of the heavenly hosts,
not only warrant but requhe Christians to address their prayers and
praises to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the primary
object of di\-ine homage and adoration. — Dr. Nathanael Emmons :
Works, vol iv. pp. 137-8.

In the same pages from which this extract is taken, Dr. Emmons incon-
sistently speaks of " all the three persons in the Godhead " as " equal in
every divine perfection; " and approves the conduct of " the gi"eat body of
the most pure and pious Christians " who have " denied Christian commu-
nion and fellowship to those who have openly embraced the Unitariau
error;" that is, as we understand it, to those who, like himself, regard the
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as "the primary or supreme
object of adoration."

The revealed order in the economy of redemption and grace, and
the authority of Scripture, lead to the persuasion, that the most usual
mode of our devotional addresses should be to the Father, with expli-
cit reference to the mediation of the Son and the influence of the Holy
Spirit. — Dr. J. Pye Smith : Scripture Testimony to the Messiah,
vol. ii. p. 455.

Li the Scriptm*es ... we are directed and encouraged to address
ourselves to him [God] as om* heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ,
the Son of his love ; and in his name to offer up our prayers and
praises, our confessions and thanlvsgi^ings, with the profoundest humi-:
Hty, becoming creatures deeply sensible of their ovm unworthiness. —
Thomas Hartwell Horxe : Introduction to the Critical Study and
Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, vol. i. p. 149.

§ 3. The Son karely, the Holy Ghost (as a Person different from
THE Father) never, in the Bible, addressed in Prayer.

All prayer is regularly directed to the Father, and concluded in the

Online LibraryJohn WilsonUnitarian principles confirmed by Trinitarian testimonies : being selections from the works of eminent theologians belonging to orthodox churches → online text (page 44 of 55)