Noah Worcester.

Bible news, of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit : in a series of letters. In four parts. I. On the unity of God. II. On the real divinity and glory of Christ. III. On the character of the Holy Spirit. IV. An examination of difficult passages of Scripture. The whole addressed to a worthy minister of online

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Online LibraryNoah WorcesterBible news, of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit : in a series of letters. In four parts. I. On the unity of God. II. On the real divinity and glory of Christ. III. On the character of the Holy Spirit. IV. An examination of difficult passages of Scripture. The whole addressed to a worthy minister of → online text (page 1 of 19)
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" But to us there is but ONE GOD, the FATHER." ST. PAUL,'


" How GOD anointed JESUS OF NAZARETH with the HOLY GHOST
and with POWER." ST. PETER.

Concord :


.. Bible , . j. n

ries of letters. In * u k[ ory of Christ. I"
the teal Divinity $ G ^ ExMn taatteri
the Holy S P .nt. ^ ^dressed a
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Gospel. By.^f to us e is one

passages o
ister of the
o f the church A
Father'-St. Paul.
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ng the benefits the ^^ pv mts. SH AIWOW.

and etching




Introductory Statements and Observations*

J.N solemn prayer to his Father, our Divine Redeemer
said, " This is life eternal, to know THEE, the ONLY TRUE
GOD, and JESUS CHRIST whom THOU hast sent" it must
hence appear, that no inquiries can be more justifiable nor
more interesting than those which respect the true charac-
ter of the FATHER and the SON. So far as we are in dark-
ness respecting these characters, we must necessarily be in
darkness respecting the Gospel of Divine Grace. To obtain
clear and scriptural views of the FATHER, the SON, and
the HOLY SPIRIT, has long been a principal object of my
study and pursuit.

From my infancy, I was taught to believe the Athana-
sian doctrine of three distinct co-equal and co-eternal Per-
sons in one God. And I do not recollect that I had any
doubts of its correctness, unuJ several years after I began
the work of the ministry. Believing it to be both true and
important, according to my ability I taught it to others.
But even while J beiieved and taught the doctrine. 1 w. s
often embarrassed by it both in prayer and in p r aching.
In giving thanks to God for his astonishing love in giving
his SON to die for our offences, the theory has occurred with
a chilling and confounding influence. These thoughts would
unavoidably rush into my mind GOD and his SON are one


< On the Unity of God.

and the selfsame Being ; the SON could not in reality die
or suffer any more than the FATHER ; it was only a mere
man tat swfFcred,- to whojm, the SON wlas mysteriously
united. In my preaching, 'while expressing the love of
God in SPARING NOT HIS OWN SON, the same theory and
the same train of thoughts would occur ; and, in some in-
stances, both in prayer and in preaching,' the influence of
these thoughts has been so great as, for a time, to obstruct
any utterance.

Such embarrassments had a natural tendency to excite
suspicions in my mind that there must be some defect in
the theory which I had adopted. But the doctrine had
been so long and so generally believed by great Divines
and good people, that I almost trembled at the thought of
indulging my suspicions. At length I became acquainted
with the views of Dn, Watts, as exhibited in connexion
with the Memoirs of his life. These I read with care. He
supposed the SON of God not to be a self-existent Person,
but a human Being created before the worlds, and inti-
mately united to the Father, so that in him dwelt all the
iulness of the Godhead ; and that from this union his Di-
vinity resulted. His reasonings, to prove that the union
of the Man Jesus was with the Father, and not with a
second self-existent Person, appeared to me conclusive and
unanswerable. And as a union with the Father must im-
ply as great fulness and dignity as a union with another
Person just equal with the Father, I was unable to see why
his theory did not support the Divinity of Jesus Christ in,
as ample a manner as the Athanasian theory.

Another consideration, which greatly recommended to
my acceptance the theory of Dr. Watts, was this, it freed
me from those distressing embarrassments which I had
formerly felt in prayer and in preaching. For on his the-
ory, the real Person, who is called the SON of God, was
the real Sufferer on the cross.

Having obtained this relief to my mind, I rested pretty
quietly for several years as a believer in Watts's theory of
the Trinity. But my apprehensions and ideas were so in-
distinct, that I indulged no thought of writing on the subject
with any view to publication, until the year 18O7. In the
course of that year, my attention was in a peculiar manner
Arrested by the natural import of this text, " But to us there
is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and

On the Unity of God*

we in him ; and one Lord,' Jesus Christ, by whom are all
things, and we by him."* I noted, that in this verse the
apostle was exhibiting the faith of Christians, in contrast
with the faith of Heathens. In the preceding verse he had
said, " For though there be that are called gods, whether
in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many and lords
many.'') Such is the faith of the Heathen, world. With this
he contrasts the faith of Christians, u But to us there is but
ONE GOD, the FATHER, of whom are all things, and we m
him; and ONE LORD, JESUS CHRIST, by whom are all
things, and we by him." The ideas which appeared to me
to lie plainly on the face of this text, were these :

viz. the FATHER. The apostle does not say, But to us
there is but one God, yet this one God is three Persons.
His language is, " But to us there is but ONE GOD, the FA-
THER." He distinctly names the Person whom he stiles
the ONE GOD, and calls him the FATHER.

2. That this one God is the Fountain or Source of all
things " OF -whom are all things"

3. That Jesus Christ, the one Lord, is a Person as dis-
tinct from the Being of GOD as he is from the Person OE
the FATHER. After the apostle had distinctly told who is
the one God, he then proceeded to say, u and ONE LORD,
JESUS CHRIST." As he had named the one God, so he
also named the one Lord.

4. That Jesus Christ, the one Lord, is the MEDIUM
or AGENT, through whom or by whom God displays his
fulness in the production of events " BY ^vhom are all
things, and we BY HJM."

Such being the views I had of the text, a field was open^
ed which appeared clear, spacious, and delightful. This,
field I entered, and began to write on the doctrine of the
Trinity, in a great measure conformable t-o the views of
Dr. Watts. Nearly two years my mind was absorbed in
ihese inquiries, and my mind employed in writing on the
subject. I wrote pretty largely, and thought I had pro-
duced something which might be useful to the public.

But while writing for the press, it frequently occurred
to my mind that th6 definitive and emphatical language used
In Scripture respecting the SON of God, did import a high-
er character than is implied in Watts's theory- that the*

* I. Cor. viii. 6.

6 On the Unity of God.

terms OWN Sow, ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, &c. did import that
Christ was the SON of God in the mpst strict and proper
sense of the terms. After I had written what I intended
for the press, that idea became more and more impressed
on my mind as the natural meaning of the word of God.
But though I could not find that any person had ventured
to advance the idea, I viewed it to be my duty to examine
the point with the utmost care. This I have attempted to
do ; and the result of my inquiries on that point is this,
that Jesus Christ is as truly the SON of GOD, as Isaac was
the son of Abraham; and that this view of the matter is
essential to a due estimation of the love of God as displav-
ed in the Gospel of his Grace. It is also mv real belief,
that this view of the subject will be found much better to
harmonize with the Scriptures, and unspeakably more
HONORARY to the FATHER and to the SON, than any other
hypothesis which has been advanced.

Having, therefore, experienced such a revolution in my
own views, I have occasion to wr'te anew on the subject,
I have concluded to write in the form of Letters, and to
address them to you, as to a candid Friend and Brother
in Christ.

While writing on my former ground, I derived some
consolation from the thought that my views harmonized
with the theory of Dr. Watts. I am now in a measure de-
prived of that source of consolation; but I have another
which I esteem much more important, viz. that my views
now harmonize with the most obvious and natural meaning
of the language cf GOD, of CHRIST, and his APOSTLES j
and that if I am in an error, my error has not resulted from
departing from the natural import of Scripture language,
but from preferring tliat to a meaning which is foreign, fig*
liratvoe, or mystical.

There is one formidable objection to my views, which I
have to meet in the very threshold of my communications
on this subject. I may therefore now state and answer it,
that the way may be opened for a candid hearing.

It is said, that my views imply a departure from a great
and important article of the orthodox faith, which has for
many centuries been admitted by the great body of
the most pious Christians, and has been advocated by
great numbers of learned and pious Divines ; that it has
long been admitted as .an article of Christian faith, that

On the Unity of God. f

fhere are THREE distinct, co-equal, and self-existent Per-
sons in the ONE GOD ; and that it would be reproachful to
the Great Head of the Church, to suppose that he would
suffer his most faithful friends to be so long in an error on
a point of so great importance.

This, I confess, has appeared to me the most weighty
objection which has ever been stated against the theory I
have adopted. I shall therefore attempt a serious and can-
did reply.

1. I have no inclination to doubt either the piety or the
learning of those D vines who have advocated the doctrine
of three distinct Persons in one God. Many such, I doubt
not, have already been admitted into the realms of bliss,
and others I believe are in the way which leads to the same
state. Some of this class of Divines with whom I am ac-
quainted, I esteem as the excellent of the earth, and as
vastly my superiors in piety, learning, and discernment.
But fallibility has been the common lot of Christians, as
long, at least, as the Ath anas i an theory has been received as
the orthodox faith. And among all the great and good
Divines, I cannot find one who has ever given evidence of
infallibility. Great and good Divines, like other good
people, have been liable to err. And I cannot find, that
Christ ever promised that he would not suffer his church,
to fall into any error in sentiment respecting the character
of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Therefore,
however improbable it may appear to you th^at there is any
incorrectness in the doctrine which has been so long and
So generally received, and so abiy and abundantly advo-
cated, the possibility that there may be incorrectness must
be admitted. An investigation, therefore, may be highly
proper and useful.

2. I would ask, Is it not a truth, that, for many cen-
turies, the doctrine before us has been popular so popu-
lar that a man must run the hazard of losing h.s reputation
for piety, if he should call in question its correctness ?
And would not such a state of things naturally preclude
any general, thorough, and impartial examination of the
subject ? Would not many, even among good people and
good Ministers, be likely to choose to take it for granted
that the popular doctrine is true, and content themselves
with searching the Scriptures for texts to support it ? Such
a course of proceeding, I con/ess, I adopted for a number

3 On the Unity of God.

of years. Such was my veneration for the characters of
those writers \- ho had (defended the theory, that it seemed
to me safe to follow them. My object, therefore, in study-
ing on the subject, was merely to support the doctrine. I
do not know that others have been so deficient ; but if they
have, this may be one reason why the doctrine has been so
long ?nd so generally admitted.

The proposition, which affirms that there are three dis-
tinct Persons in one God, is surely not a Bible proposition,
I am willing to admit it as a proposition formed by good
men to express their views of the meaning of God's word.
But we have the Bible before us, as well as those v> ho
formed the proposition, and it is our duty to bring the
doctrine to the Bible for examination, and not merely for

3. Do not your peculiar sentiments, as a Hopkinsian,
imply a departure from doctrines which have been con-
sidered as highly important, which have been generally
received for several centuries by the most pious Christians,
a: -d which have been advocated by multitudes of great
and good 'Divines ? Why were you not afraid of im-
peaching the character oi the Great Head of the Church,
by adopting sentiments in a manner which, in your own
view, would imply that he had suffered his most faithful
friends for a long time to be in an error on some impor-
tant points ? Why were you not contented to receive for
truth the theeries of our pious forefathers, and thus have
saved yourself the trouble of laborious investigation, and
from the reproa -hes of those who have viewed you as de-
parting from doctrines which have long been received by
the pious and faithful friends of Christ ? It does not, Sir,
ap{.-ar, that our Hopkinsian brethren have been much
afo'vi of impeaching the character of Chrst, by preaching
and writing what they have thought to be the truth, altho\
in some respects, they contradicted theories which have
long been received as essential doctrines of the Gospel.

I willingly admit, that the great body of Christ's
faithful friends have been so far united, as to adopt, as an
article of faith, a proposition which affirms three distinct
.ti.tsoiis in one God. But is it not a solemn truth, that nine-
ty ; j n twentieths of those, who have professed to believe the
ariicle, have never examined the terms of the proposition
so as to be able to tell in what sense they believed it to be

Qn the Unity of God.

true ? Arid have not the great and pious Divines in every
age, since the proposition was adopted, been greatly divid-
ed as to its real import f

Mr. Jcnes, and some others, have informed us, that by
But Dr. Hopkins says, u It must be carefully observed,
that when this word is applied to the Father, the Sun, and
the Holy Ghost, as three distinct Persons, it does not im-
port the same distinction as when applied to men." But
he does not pretend to be able to tell what the word does
import, as applied to the Godhead* There are other Min-
isters who frankly own that they know not what is intended
by Persons in the proposition.

Dr. Watts, in his dav, said, " The common or scholas-
tic explication of the Trinity, which has been long and
universally received, and been called orthodox, is, that
God is but one simple, infinite, and eternal Spirit : Hence
it follows, that the Divine essence, powers, and essential
properties of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, in the
Godhead, are numerically the very same : that it is the
same numerical consciousness, understanding, will, and
power, which belongs to the Father, that also belongs to
the Son and to the Holy Spirit : and that the sacred Three
are distinguished only by the super added, relative proper ~
ties of paternity, filiation, and precession"

Perhaps the word procession should have been used, in-
stead of " precession /' but I have given the word as I
found it in Memoirs of Dr. Watts, page 98.

If Dr. Watts gave a true account of what had " been
long and universally received" as the orthodox faith, Mr*
Jones and those who agree with him in sentiment have
greatly departed from the orthodox faith. The orthodox
faith, according to Dr. Watts, implied no more than one
infinite, self-existent Agent ; the terms Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost, denoted " superadded, relative properties."
But Mr. Jones supposes three distinct Agents.

Some, by the three distinct Persons, have understood
no more than one Being acting in three distinct offices. The
same Person or Being is FATHER as Creator, SON as Re-
deemer, and HOLY GHOST as Sanctifier. This may har-
monize with the doctrine of " superadded, relative


IO On the Unity of God.

In the conclusion of the " Memoirs of Dr. Watts," the
writer says, " If I understand the greatj Reformer Calvin
aright, he in like manner conceived of the WORD and
SPIRIT as the WISDOM and POWER of Deity personified.
The pious Mr. Baxter adopted a like personification."
The same writer quotes from Mr. Baxter a passage,which
shows that there had been other methods still of explaining
the personality of the Trinity.

" Abundance of heretics," says Mr. Baxter, u have
troubled the church with their seif-devised opinions about
the Trinity, and the Person and nature of Christ. And I
am loth to say how much many of the orthodox have
troubled it also, with their self-conceited, misguided and
uncharitable zeal against those they judged heretics. I
would advise the reader to be none of them that shall charge
with heresy all those who say that the three Persons are
Dcus seipswn intelligens, Dens a ssipso intcllectus, et Deus
a seipso Amatus, (though I am not one) nor yet those ho-
ly men whom I have cited, and many others, who expressly
sav that Potentia, Sapientia, et Amor, POWER, WISDOM,
and LOVE, are the Father, Son, and HOLY GHOST."

Thus, Sir, we may see how the great and pious Divines,
with which God has blessed his church, have been divided
in their real opinions of the meaning of a proposition which
they all had adopted as an article of faith. One class out
of six has agreed with you in sentiment, that by the three
Persons are intended three distinct Agents ; a second class
uses the term Persons in an indefinite sense, without ex-
planation ; a third, by three Persons, understands three
offices ; the fourth supposes one proper Person, and His
Wisdom and Poiver personified for the other t o Persons ;
the fifth supposes the three Persons to be three principal
attributes of God, Power, Wisdom, and Love ; the other
supposes the personality to mean no more than this, God
understanding himself ] God understood by himself \ and God
loving himself.

Or what use, Sir, to Christianity, can that proposition
be, which is thus variously understood by the best Divines ?
While there is so great a variety of real opinion about the
import of the artic.e, their agreeing to adopt it as an article
of faith can be no evidence of its correctness. But is not
the disagreement as to the import of the word Person, in
the proposition, some evidence that the word is improper-


On the Unity of God. 11

ly used ? You cannot justly accuse me of differing more in
real opinion from those who have adopted this article, than
they differ from each other. And I would suggest it for
your serious consideration, whether your departure from
the ancient orthodox faith is not infinitely greater than
mine yea, greater by two infinities ? You suppose three
self-existent, infinite Agents; I suppose but one; and if
Dr. Watts fairly stated the explication of the Trinity,
which had " been long and universally received," as ortho-
dox, the ancient orthodoxy implied but one infinite Agent.
And with his statement agrees all but one of the several
explanations which have been enumerated ; the personality
was evidently understood as figurative.

The evidence we have before us, that great and good
men have been greatly divided on the subject of the person-
ality of the Trinity, may serve to evince the propriety of
the caution given by Mr. Baxter against indu'ginga cen-
sorious spirit one towards another. The more deep and
mysterious the subject, the more occasion we have for self-
diffidence, and the more room for the exercise of Christian
candor towards those who may d ffer from us in opinion.

The experience I have had of my own fallibility may be
considered as an admonition to me against indulging a se ! f-
confiderit spirit respecting the correctness of my present
views. I have indeed been long searching and laboring,
by night and by day, to ascertain the truth, and to bring
my views to harmonize with the meaning of the word of
God. But I am yet far from any claim to infallibility* I
can hardly expect that I shal be free from m stakes in ex-
plaining the numerous passages of Scripture which will
naturally come under consideration. But this I know, that
I have no interest to serve by perverting or misapplying the
Scriptures. It is, I hope, my aim, to act faithfully for
Christ in attempting to explain his word j and with him I
may safely leave the event.

I am not insensible that I expose to peril the little share
of reputation which I have hitherto possessed, by taking
ground so singular and unpopular. Nor am I at all indif-
ferent as to the esteem and good will of my fathers and
brethren with whom I have been in fellowship. My esteem
for them is not at all abated by any change in my own sen-
timents ; and it is my wish to give them no occasion of of-
fence in my manner of writing. It will be my duty to ex-

12 On the Unity of God.

pose what I esteem to be erroneous in their sentiments ; hue
I hope to do it in the spirit of meekness, of candor, and of
love. Mv dissenting from them in opinion is surely no
reason why I should be offended with them ; and I am not
sensible that it is a reason why they should be offended with
ie. But should they view my dissent as ground of offence,
I hope they will deal with me in a Gospel temper, and on
Gospel principles, duly bearing in mind that bitter revilings
and sound reasonings are things of a very different nature.

Thiee principal propositions I shall attempt to illustrate
and support, in the course or my Letters to you viz.

J. That the self-ex stent God is only one Person.

II. That Jesus Christ is God's OWN SON, his ONLY BE-

III. That by the Holy Ghost is intended the fulness of
God, or the efficient, productive emanations of Divine ful-

In support of the first proposition, I shall, in my next Let-
ter, distinctly consider what is meant by the word Person*


Personality defned and illustrated.

IT has been supposed to be a very difficult thing to as-
certain in what personality consists, or what constitutes
personality. It may, however, be found an easy thing to
tell what is meant by the word Person, as it is used in
Scripture, and in common discourse. I will exhibit a few
instances of the use of the term in the Scriptures.

u Noah the eighth Person." " Joseph was a goodly
Person." tl No uncircumcised Person shall eat thereof."
<fc Whosoever hath killed any Person." " Goest to battle
in thine own Person." " A righteous Person." " A
wicked Person." " Thy Person." " His Person."

Such a manner of using the term is common in all writ-
ings with which I am acquainted. We apply the term.
Person to any man, or woman, to an Angel, to Jesus Christ,
and to God. But we do not apply it to any class of beings
below the human race. Personal pronouns, as he

On the Unity of God. 13

&c, we apply to the brutal creation ; but it would be thought
an impropriety of speech to apply the term Person to the
most sagacious horse or dog. By careful observation, it
will be found that we use the personal pronouns in refer-
ance to any beings which are supposed to possess animal
life ; but the word Person is properly applied only to intel-
ligent Beings. Inanimate objects, in figurative language,
are often personified ; but the very idea and mode of per-
sonification implies what is intended by the word Person^

What is meant by the word Person, is just as obvious
to common people as what is meant by the moon. And we
have no more occasion to inquire what constitutes person-
ality in order to tell what is meant by the word Person,
than we have to ascertain the essence of the moon in order
to tell what object is called by that name. And it is no
more difficult to ascertain what constitutes personality, than
to ascertain what constitutes intelligent existence.

It may be objected, that there is no part or property of a

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Online LibraryNoah WorcesterBible news, of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit : in a series of letters. In four parts. I. On the unity of God. II. On the real divinity and glory of Christ. III. On the character of the Holy Spirit. IV. An examination of difficult passages of Scripture. The whole addressed to a worthy minister of → online text (page 1 of 19)