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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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not of a primary, but of an inferior, kind; that those who knew not the
nature of his mission, but who felt respect for his character, and gratitude
for his acts of benevolence, designed merely to pay him civil homage, — the
worship usually manifested in the East to men of superior power and rank ;
and that the apostles, who had heard the behest of Jesus to honor him as
the Son and Messenger of God, never once bent the knee to him, — never
once, even in the unmeasured language of overflowing hearts, offered him a
petition or a thanksgiving, — never once, either by implication or command,
required for him the praises of the lip, the gratitude of the soul, or the
obedience of the life, — in any sense which would attribute to him the ho-
pors of Divinity, or imply that he was greater than he always represented
himself to be ; namely, the Agent, the chosen Servant, the great Prophet,
the moral Image, and the beloved Child, of God.

So marked is the difference in the nature of the worship recorded in the
New Testament to have been paid to Almighty God, and to his best-beloved
Son, and so frequently are the prayers and thanksgivings of the apostles
directed to the God and Father of Christ, and so seldom to Christ himself,

— him who, with blended lowliness and reverence, commanded religious
service to be presented only to the Father, and never prayed to any other
being or person, — that, notwithstanding their belief in the essential Deity
of Christ, some of the orthodox have been forced to acknowledge that to
the Father alone should primary adoration be given ; and that their own
practice, and that of the churches to which they belong, is usually in accord-
ance with the example and injunctions of Jesus and his apostles.


These acknoAvledgments are verified partly by the extracts made in
pp. 397-405, and partly by the observations in the present section, which
interpret in a Unitarian sense some texts of Scripture which have been
regarded as evincing the propriety of addressing our Lord as the object of
supreme and unqualified adoration.

In the whole range of i-eligious controversy, there is nothing perhaps of
so remarkable a kind as that which has been exhibited in the present chap-
ter. It is virtually a triumphant vindication of Unitarian principles from
the pens of honest and learned Trinitarians ; for, though more or less
tinctured by unscriptural phraseology and thought, it does yet, by its ful-
ness of rational and biblical proof for the inferiority of Christ to the Father,
destroy the corner-stone of the foundation on which Trinitarianism is raised.
It shows that in whatever light Christ maybe regarded, — whether as a pre-
existent dweller in heaven, or as a sojourner upon earth, — whether as the
son of Mary, or as the Child and Son of God, — whether as the Servant or
the Eepresentative of the Almighty, — whether as a Prophet in the form of
a slave, or an Exemplar in the image of God; as the meekest and lowliest
of divine Messengers, or the greatest and most sublime, — whether as he
who was in the bosom of the Father, and had a perfect acquaintance with
the Father's character and designs, or as he who was ignorant of the time
of certain events, a knowledge of which did not come within the sphere of
his mission, — whether as the worker of miracles and the author and
bestower of eternal life, or as the petitioner of the Father and the doer of
his will, — whether as Jehovah's Christ, or the people's Saviour, — whether
as the tried and tempted, Avho overcame Satan by his disinterestedness and
piety, or as the holy and sinless one, who shrank at the thoixght of equahzing
his goodness with that of the infinite Source of all good, — whether as a
suffering Messiah, or a moral Redeemer; the rejected of men, or the glorified
of God; a crucified man, or a victorious and universal Potentate, the Lord
and King of his church, the assessor at God's right hand, and the Judge of
the world; — it shows, we say, that in all his existence, teachings, works,
trials, suflerings, and state of glory, — in the Nazarean cradle, and in the
carpenter's shop ; on the Sea of Genesareth, and on the banks of the Jor-
dan; in the streets of Jerusalem, and in the villages of Galilee; at the
mount sacred to Samaritan hearts, and in the temple hallowed by Jewisa
prayers, — he was filled with the life, the power, the inspiration, of the
Father; proving that in the Father he lived and moved, and had his being;
that on him he leaned for support; that from him he derived strength and
consolation; that to him were devoted his earliest and his latest thoughts, —
his holy breathings, — his fervent prayers, — his ever-felt gratitude, — his
heart and soul, with all their energies, all their promptings of love, reve
rence, trust, obedience, and submission.

By the particulars now enumerated, — which, for the sake of brevity
and emphasis, we have expressed in our own terms, instead of repeating the


more amplified language of the writers pre^saously quoted, — an attempt has
been made to give a fair summary and representation of tlie principal con-
tents of this chapter. And now we put the question to the mind of the
unbiased reader, if acknowledgments of Christ's inferiority to the Father,
or statements implicatory of this doctrine, such as these, should not be
regarded as having brought to an end all controversy respecting the Deity
of our Lord. For if he represents himself, and is represented by the apos-
tles, in his condition, character, and offices, as a being dependent on and in
subordination to God, he could not be, what creeds and churches say he
was, God himself, or equal to him in power and glory; nor could one portion
of his nature, the human, have been metaphysically united to another por-
tion, the divine, consisting of an infinite and eternal Agent distinct from the
Father, and called God the Son; since the Scriptures never assert or clearly
imply that the human nature of Jesus, or, as we would say, Jesus himself,
stood or acted in relation to or in union with any other divine person than
the Father.

But, so long as it continues, error will, even after having thrown doAvn
its mightiest weapons at the feet of truth, retain some show or attitude of
defence; and thus it is that Trinitarianism has been forced to depend on a
few passages in Scripture which are thought to attribute to our Lord some
of the characteristics or peculiar titles of Deity. But, if the sacred penmen
are consistent with themselves in the views they have taken of the nature
of Christ, is it not a justifiable and indeed a wise procedure to interpret a
few texts which are obscure, doubtful, or figurative, by those which are
plain, and by the general tenor of their writings; and, where the precise
meaning of a particular passage cannot be obtained either from the language
used or from the context, rather to restrain our judgment than have recourse
to an explanation, which, though a passage in itself may bear it, is in-
consistent with the author's known sentiments, or with the doctrines of
Scripture as repeatedly expressed in terms of clear and unambiguous
import? (See pp. 222-5.) Unquestionably, this is a very proper course.
And accordingly, as will be proved in the remaining volumes of this work,
these few texts are interpreted by some of the orthodox in a Unitarian
sense, either on the ground that the divine names or titles are applied by
the sacred writers, not to Christ, but to the Father; or, if applied to him,
that they are used in a sense similar to that recognized by Jesus himself,
when^ after quoting a passage in one of the Psalms, he says (John x. 36)
that they are " called gods to whom the word of God came."





It has been the method of the wisest and best men, since the date of Christianity,
to prefer express Scripture, or certain consequences from Scripture, before merely
human and philosophical conjectures. — Dr. Daniel Watekland.

It cannot be proved, out of the whole number of passages in the
Old Testament in which the Holy Spirit is mentioned, that this is a
person in the Godhead ; and it is now the almost universally received
opinion of learned commentators, that, in the language of the Jews,
the " Holy Spirit " means nothmg more than divine inspiration, with-
out any reference to a person. — J. D. Michaelis : Anmerk. on John
xvi. 13-15.

The term " God " is never [in Scripture] expressly attributed to
the Holy Spuit, though it is usual to infer it from Acts v. 4, where
Peter, who in the third verse had asked Ananias, " Why hath Satan
filled thy heart to lie to the Holy Spirit ? " says, " Thou hast not lied
unto men, but unto God." But, in our opinion, this deduction is not
valid ; for by the " Holy Spu'it " are to be understood the gifts of the
Holy Spirit, with which the apostles were furnished, and spoke in
the name of God. Persons, therefore, who lie to the apostles
speaking by the Holy Spirit of God, are rightly said to he to the
Holy Spirit; as those who despise the apostles are said to despise
the Lord, and those who despise the Lord Jesus despise Him that sent
him. — Philip Limborch: Theol. Christiana, hb. ii. cap. 17, § 23.

The jjroof that divine worsliip was paid to the Holy Spirit is not
so abundant and satisfactory as that adduced to prove that divine wor-
ship was rendered to Christ. . . . These [the texts in which the Holy


Spirit is called God, &c.] are sometimes used to prove the Divinity of
the Holy Spirit, but are either inferior to the former in evidence, or
have no bearing upon the subject. Writers have thought too much of
the number of texts, and have collected indiscriminately many which
have only an apparent relation to the subject. Especially they have
endeavored to search out a multitude of texts in which the Holy Spirit
is expressly called God. But the simple appellation "God" is not
of itself sufficient to prove the Supreme Divinity of the subject to
whom it is given, as Christ hhnself declared, John x. 34, 35. ... It
is doubtful, in many of these texts in which the predicate " God " is
used, whether the Holy Spirit as a person is intended. Many of
them, at least, may be explained without necessarily supposing a
personal subject. The following texts are often quoted : Acts v. 3, 4.
Peter tells Ananias, ver. 3, that Satan had induced him ipevoaaOat rd
-nveviia ayiov ["to lie to the Holy Spirit'*], and afterwards, ver. 4.
ovK tipcvGu avOpuTToig, uTJm rCo -dcC) [" thou hast not lied unto men, but
unto God"]. The same subject who is called the " Holy Spirit" in
one place is called " God " in the other. But, from the comparison
of other passages, it might be thought that the Ttvevfia ayiov [Holy
Spirit] was here to be understood in the subjective sense, and denoted
the Spirit dwelling in the apostles ; the higher knowledge and gifts
with which they were endowed ; their miraculous powers, as in ver. 32 ;
and the passage could accordingly be explained thus : " Your crime is
not to be considered as if you had intended to deceive mere men,
because you knew that God had endowed us with supernatural know-
ledge." This explanation is confirmed by the very clear text, 1 Thess.
iv. 8, " He who despises us despises not men, but God," tov dovra rd
irvevfia. avrov to uyiov dq yfiug [" who hath given unto us his Holy
Spirit "]. Cf. Exod. xvi., where it is said, ver. 2, that the Israelites
rebelled against Moses and Aaron ; but JMoses tells them, ver. 8,
" Your rebellion is not againstus, but against God, whose messengers
we are." Does this prove that Moses and Aaron belonged to the
Godhead? . . . Matt, xxviii. 19 cannot, in itself considered, be used
as a proof-text, because the mere collocation of the name Holy Spirit
with that of the Father and Son does not prove that he possesses
divine nature in common with them. . . . The passage, 2 Cor. iii. 17,
6 6e ni'piog to -vevfid egtl^ has sometimes been translated, " the Spirit
is Jehovah himself." But the meaning is, " Christ is the true Spirit
of the Old Testament ; " i. e., the Old Testament contains essentially
the same doctrine which Christ taught, viz., the necessity of the


renewal of the heart, and inward piety. Some have endeavored to
prove the Divinity of the Holy Spirit from a comparison of different
texts ; but, in doing this, they have often resorted to forced and un-
natural interpretations. An instance of this may be seen in the
comj)arison of the texts, Isa. vi. 8-10 and Acts xxviii. 26, 27. In
the former of these we read, " Jehovah said, Go to this people," &c. j
but in the latter, Tvvevua to ajLov tT^akrjae 6ca 'Hcra'/ou, . . . Xsyov, k. t. ?u
[^'the Holy Spirit spake by Esaias the prophet, . . . saying," &c.]
Here the same person who in the former text is called nin^ [Jeho-
vah], in the latter is called irvevaa uycov [the Holy Spirit]. But
Tcveiifca aytov may be used in its more general sense for the Deity, and
does not here necessarily designate the person of the Holy Ghost. —
G. C. Knapp : Christian Theology, sect. xl. -

We have omitted from this quotation the following remarks of Dr.
Knapp: " But when it is proved, from other texts, that Christ, the apostles,
and the early Christians, tinderstood the 7rpev/j.a uyLOv [Holy Spirit] to be a
personal subject, belonging to the Godhead (as those concerned in this event
undoubtedly did), then this text [Acts v. 3, 4] and many of the following
may be regarded as satisfactory proof of the Divinity of this Spirit. But
when introduced before these texts, by which their meaning is determined,
or out of their relation to them, they prove nothing. The sense of the text
in Acts, as determined by the preceding texts, is plainly this : ' For you to
intend to deceive us, who are apostles, — us, whom you knew to be under
the special influence of the Holy Spirit, — is to be considered the same as
if you had intended to deceive God ; for you knew that he from whom this
influence proceeds is regarded by us as God.' The same may be said with
respect to the formula of baptism, Matt, xxviii. 19. . . . When his Divinity
[that of the Holy Spirit] has been proved by other texts, then this also may
be cited ; because from the former we learn how the latter must be under-
stood, and was actually understood in the first ages of the church."

That is, as we understand the qualification specified, Assume the truth
of the proposition that the Holy Ghost is a third personal distinction in the
divine nature, and certain passages of Scripture, which prove nothing of
the kind, may be justly thought to afford satisfactory evidence for the doc-
trine ! But, after all, the interpretation of Acts v. 3, 4, Avhich Dr. Knapp
founds on the Trinitarian assumption, does not by any means imply that
either Peter or Ananias considered the Holy Spirit to be a person different
from the Father ; and the reason is perfectly obvious ; for the Father, — the
" Father of lights," from whom " cometh every good and every perfect
gift," — the God who " anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the holy spirit and
with power," imparting to him an unmeasured supply of that spirit, — is
himself emphatically a Spirit, and claims from all his intelli,-ieut offspring
that they worship him as true worshippers, " in spirit and in truth." Sea
^' ^les i. 17. Acts x. 38. John iii. 34; iv. 23, 24.


In proof of the Deity of the Holy Spirit, as a third person in the God-
head, this learned writer appea.'s to some half-dozen passages ; which,
however, as will be seen in future volumes of our Avork, may be more
scripturally explained either of the divine agency personified, or of God
himself, without involving the notion of hypostatical distinctions.

In theology, my father [pastor of a Lutheran church at Gersdorf
and at Lichtenstein] remained true to the school of the celebrated
Crusius, and hence belonged to the orthodox. Still he could tolerate
more liberal views ; and I remember very well that he once said to a
friend, what surprised me though a boy, " We cannot deny that our
proofs for the independent Divinity of the Holy Spirit are very
weak." — C. T. Br^ETSCHNEiDER, in Bibliotheca Sacra for Odoher,
1852 ; vol. Lx. pp. 660-1.

There is one point, and only one, in which the evidence for the
doctrine of the Trinity seems at all defective. In it [2 Cor. xiii. 14]
Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are not called " God " in express
terms. — Orthodox Preshylerian for July, 1830.

2 Cor. iii. 17 . . . has been adduced [by even so clear-headed a
theologian as the elder Edwards] as a proof-text to establish the
doctrine of the Divinity of the third person in the Holy Trinity, and
the equality of each and all in their essence and dignity. But in our
view, according to all the rules of enlightened interpretation, the
passage has no more to do with the Trinity than with the transmigra-
tion of souls. That cardinal article of our faith is totally foreign
from the train of reasoning pursued by the apostle, nor could he have
introduced it there without doing violence to the laws of thought and
association. — Christian Review for June, 1837 ; vol. ii. p. 212.

Other authorities, acknowledging the deficiency of the evidence for the
Deity of the Holy Ghost, as a person distinct from the God and Father of
our Lord Jesus Christ, have been noticed in preceding pages. Thus, in
pp. 337-8, 344-5, 357-8, Stuart, Bushnell, and Sweetser, as well as J. D.
MiciiAELis, confess that his personality was unknown to the Jews before
and at the time of Christ; in pp. 366-8, 371, 374, 401, and 409, Erasmus and
CoppENSTEiN, Bishops Taylor and Atterbury, Dr. William Sherlock,
WiTsius, and the Oxford Tractarians, own that such a being is never in
the Scriptures called " God;" and in pp. 374, 400-1, 403, Possevin, Du-
EAND, and Hugh de St. Cher, Bishop Taylor, Dr. Thomas Goodwin,
Dr. Emmons, and ministers of churches belonging to the English Congrega-
tionalists, that there is no instance, recorded in the Bible, of prayer having
been offered up to him.



The Sovereign Spirit of the world,

Not content,
By one exertion of creative power, '

His goodness to reveal, — through every age,
Through every moment up the tract of time,
His parent-hand, with ever-new increase
Of happiness and virtue, has adorned
The vast harmonious frame ; his parent-hand,
From the mute shell-fish gasping on the shore
To men, to angels, to celestial minds,
For ever leads the generations on
To higher scenes of being.

Mark Akenside.

§ 1. God, without distinction of Persons.

The term " Holy Spirit " has, in Scripture, various significations.
'First, it means God himself, who is a spirit that is holy, and who is
sometimes characterized as having a soul. Thus, Jer. K. 14. Am^os
vi. 8, " God hath sworn by his soul ; " that is, by himself. Li this
sense is " Holy Spirit " used in Isa. Ixiii. 10 [" But they rebelled, and
vexed his Holy Spirit ; therefore he was turned to be their enemy,
and he fought against them "]. — Philip Limborch : Theologia
Christiana, lib. \i. cap. 6, § 2.

As we perceive that God possesses, and that too in the highest
perfection, those quahties of intelKgence and wiU which constitute a
spiritual existence, we justly conclude that he is a Spmt. Hence it
follows, that all the attributes which he possesses as a Spirit are con-
nected either with his understanding or his will. And, as he possesses
these attributes in the highest perfection, he is the most perfect Spirit.
, . , The Hebrew word Jj^ ", which is translated " spirit," signified,
properly and originally, "wind," "breath" (and so "speech"), and
" life." . . . The Hebrews gave the name fTnl to all the invisible
powers, whether physical or moral, which they saw in operation in
the universe, and consequently to God himself, who is possessed of all
conceivable powers, in the highest possible degree. Thus Jl^l and
^in'^ n^l [Spirit of Jehovah] came to signify (a) the nature of God



in general ; (&) his invisible power, as exercised both in the materia;
world, in its creation (Gen. i. 2), &c., and in the soul of man, in
promoting its moral improvement, in the act of inspnation, and in va-
rious other ways : %ide 2 Sam. xxiii. 1, 2. — G. C. Ejs'APP : Christian
Theology, sect. xix.

To our minds, it [the phrase Spirit of God, or Holy Spmt] has a
definite meaning. We understand it as the thh'd person of the Holy
Trinity. The usage in the Old Testament does not necessarily imply
such a knowledge. It is sometimes a term convertible with God.
Sometimes it means a dinne influence. It is the exerted or manifested
power of Jehovah. It is either God himself, or an agency assumed as
the medium of the di\ine operation. There is no positive e\idence
that the Spirit spoken of in the Old Testament was recognized either
as a mode of the di-^ine existence, or as one of a Trinity of persons
in the divine essence. It was either a name of God himself, not
indicating any pecuHarity in his nature, or the expression of the divine
energy as it produced results in the material world, or enlightened
and directed the human mind. — Dr. Seth Sweetser, in Bihliotheca
Sacra for January, 1854 j vol. xi. p. 99.

§ 2. The Holy Spikit, the Powder, Influence, or Gifts
OF God.


He that wiU carefully observe the language of the Holy Ghost
shall find that this word " Spirit," or " Holy Ghost," is most usually,
in the New Testament, taken for the extraordinary gifts of that age.
— Richard Baxter : Unreasonableness of Infidelity ; in Practical
Works, vol. XX. p. 7.

For the better understanding of these words [viz. "full of the
Holy Ghost," in Luke iv. 1.], it is to be observed, that by the term
" Holy Ghost " is to be understood the prophetic gifts where-withal
Christ was filled for the preaching and pubHshing of the gospel, as
the reveahng of the will of God, and working mnacles. The Jews,
by the phrase " Holy Ghost," continually intend prophetic gifts,
wherewith men and women were endued; and in this sense is the
expression most constantly to be taken in the New Testament, when
it speaketh not of the third person in the Trinity itself; as, Luke i.
15, 41, 67. John vii. 39. Acts ii. 4; \iii. 18; x. 44; xiii. 52; xix. 2j
and in very many other places. To work miracles, to expound diffi-
culties, to heal diseases, to teach divinity, to foretell things to come,


and the like, were not so properly the fruit of the union of the human
nature to the GoLftiead ; for even mere men had been enabled to do
the same. — Abridged from Dr. John Lightfoot : Harmony of the
Four Evangelists ; in Works, vol. iv. pp. 351-3.

" Spirit " signifies wind or breath ; and in the Old Testament it
stands frequently in that sense. The " Spirit of God," or " wind of
God," stands sometimes for a high and strong wind ; but more fre-
quently it signifies a secret impression made by God on the mind of
a prophet. In the New Testament, this word " Holy Ghost" stands
most commonly for that wonderful ejffusion of those mii'aculous virtues
that was poured out at Pentecost on the apostles; by which their
spii'its were not only exalted with extraordinary degrees of zeal and
courage, of authority and utterance, but they were fm-nished with the
gifts of tongues and of miracles. And, besides that first and great
efi'usion, several Christians received particular talents and inspu-ations,
wliich are most commonly expressed by the word " Spirit " or inspi-
ration. Those inward assistances by which the frame and temper
of men's minds are changed and renewed are likewise called " the
Spirit," or the " Holy Spirit," or " Holy Ghost." So Christ said to
Nicodemus, that, " except a man be born of water and of the Spuit,
he cannot see the b'ngdom of God ; " and that his " heavenly Father
would give the Holy Spirit to every one that asked him." By these
it is plain that extraordinary or miraculous inspirations are not meant ;
for these are not every Christian's portion. — BiSHOP BuRNET :
Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles, Art. V. p. 84.

Online LibraryJohn WilsonUnitarian principles confirmed by Trinitarian testimonies : being selections from the works of eminent theologians belonging to orthodox churches → online text (page 53 of 55)