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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 2 of 19)
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man but what is spoken of in the possessive case, as though
it were something distinct from personality. We say, his
hands, his feet, his head, hi* intellects, his heart, his body,
his soul, as though personality were something distinct from
any of these.

This is all granted ; but in the same manner we use the
word Person itself ; we say his Person. And thus the term,
is used in the Bible, u the express image of his Person"
But it does not hence follow, that personality consists in
something distinct from Person.

As one Person is one intelligent Being, so two or three
Persons are two or three intelligent Beings. So- obvious is
this to the common sense of mankind, that it may be doubt-*
ed whether any man can form any other idea of two Per-
sons than that of two intelligent Beings. If it be under-
stood, that we are speaking of human Beings, and mention
is made of two Persons, it as tlearly conveys the idea of
two intelligent Beings, as if we should say two men. The
same observation will apply to angels.

Some writers of eminence have suggested, or asserted,
that Person and Being are not terms of the same import ;
and, therefore, it may imply no contradiction to say three
Persons in one Being or one God. But I have not found
tM*- they have attempted to explain, the difference hetwesa



14 On the Unity of God.

Person and Being. I shall not pretend that these terms
are uniformly cf synonymous import, for the term Being
may be applied to any object which Exists, but the term
Person is applicable only to intelligent existence. But the
phrases, an intelligent Person and an intelligent Being, may
properly be considered as synonymous. If you think oth-
erwise, be pleased to explain the difference.

la writing on Divinity, it is highly important that we
should use language according to its common acceptation.
To make use of terms, of which we can give no intelligi-
ble explanation, has no tendency to communicate light.
Those who make use of terms in relation to God, or to
Christ, ought, at least, to be able and willing to tell their
own meaning in the use of those terms. If I say that the
Father and the Son are two distinct Persons, I ought to be
willing to tell what I mean by the word Person. And if I
have any definite meaning to the term, it may be expected
that, in some way, I qan make it known. But if I have
no definite meaning to the term, how is it possible that
another person can tell whether he agrees or disagrees with
me in sentiment?

If I only state, that I believe that the Father and tine
So are two distinct Persons, there is, perhaps, no Chris-
tian but will say he believes the same. But as soon as I
explain what I mean by the word Person, many will dissent
and avow their disagreement. Having thus exposed my-
self to their disapprobation, by explaining my meaning, may
I not be permitted to ask what they mean by the term, that
I may be able to compare the two opinions \ And ought I
to receive it as a satisfactory answer, if I am told that Per-
son and Being- are not the same, and that personality is
something which cannot be defined ?

As you, Sir, profess to believe that the Father and the
Son are two Persons, and yet but one intelligent Being, I
would ask whether the Father is not o e intelligent Being ?
And is not the Son also an intelligent Being ? Was he not
an intelligent Being who came into the world to die for our
sins ? And was he who came and he who sent him one and
the same intelligent Being ?

As you also deny the human personality of Christ, or
that, as a derived Being, he was a Person, and still admit
that he was, in respect to his human nature, tru'y a Man,
I would ask what addition would have been accessary to



On the Unity of Goct 1 5

constitute that Man a proper Person ? If we deny that, as
a derived Intelligence, he was a Person, will it not be dif-
ficult to make it appear that there is any such thing as per-
sonality in Man ? Sin exrepted, what do we find in our-
selves which was not found in the Man Christ Jesus ? If
\ve take ground respecting personality, on which it cannot
be proved that there is any such thing as a human Person^
how shall we be able to show that there is any propriety in
applying the term Person to the Godhead ? It is a clear
case, that so long as we remain ignorant of the import of
the term, we can never be sure that it is properly applied.

I have not, Sir, pursued this inquiry with any desire to
perplex the minds of others, or to multiply or widen the
breaches which exist among professed Christians, but, if
possible, to do something which may contribute to greater
unanimity. Nothing, perhaps, has contributed more to
keep the subject of the Trinity involved in obscurity, than
an indefinite and unmeaning use of the term Person. I will
not affirm, that the definition I have given is perfect ; but
I will hope, that by frankly avowing my own views, and
exposing myself to the censure of others, I may, at least,
be the occasion of further inquiry and further light on the
subject.

Permit me now, Sir, to appeal from your theory to your
enlightened common sense. Did you ever conceive of the
Father and the Son as one and the same intelligent Being ?
When you thank God for the gift of his SON to die for us,
do you not uniformly conceive of the Father as one intelli-
gent Being, and of the Son as another ? From my own
past experience, I may presume, that, according to your
common sense, the Father and the Son are as distinctly
two intelligent Beings, as Abraham and Isaac. Of what
importance then can it be to Christianity, to attempt to
support a theory of personality which is undefinable and
ineffable, which does not accord with the common accepta-
tion of the term Person, nor with the practical views even
of those who adopt it ? Scarcely any thing is more obvi"
bus to the common understanding of men, than what is
usually intended by the word Person ; but where the term
is applied to the Godhead, they must be told that it means
something which cannot be explained. But if the expla-
nation I have given of the meaning of the word Person
shall be found to accord with the common sense of mzmk'



16 On the Unity of God.

and witli the practical views of Christians in relation to th?
Father and Son, may I not hope to escape the censure of
those who profess not td know what is meant by Person a*
applied to the Godhead ?

It will probably be urged, that God is incomprehensible,
and that the doctrine which affirms three Persons in one
God or one Being, is no more above our comprehension
than the eternity and self-existence of Jehovah.

It will readily be granted, that God is to us incomprehen-
sible in his Being and all his attributes; yet in respect to
any of his attributes, we can explain what we mean by the
terms in which they are expressed. We can so explain
as to make each other understand what we mean by th<5
terms eternity and self-existence. Let it, then, be as intel-
ligibly explained what is meant by Person, when we say that
there are three Persons in one Gov, or one intelligent Being.

The incomprehensibleness of an object is no reason why
%ve should use terms without any definite meaning. GOD
is an incomprehensible object ; but in using the term, we
may have an intelligible ar.d definite meaning. We ought,
at least) to have so much meaning to the terms we use,
that we can explain our ozun meaning.

By some good writers it has been supposed, that the
proposition vhich affirms a plurality of Persons in one in-
telligent Bring, implies no contradiction. But I would
ask, how is it known that it does not imply a contradiction ?
Can we affirm any thing of a proposit-on anv farther than
"we understand the terms ? Let the terms be explained, and
then we stand on fair ground to judge whether the proposi-
tion does or does not imply a contradiction. But until this be
done, it would be very improper, at least for me, to affirm
any thing concerning it, one way or another. Until we
understand the term Person, we kno v not what is affirmed
in the proposition. And if there be no definite meaning to
the term,he who states the proposition either affirms nothing)
or he affirms he knows not what. If we think to give
Instruction by using terms in an indefinite and undefinable
sense, we most certainly miss our aim. For no person
can be enlightened by any proposition any farther than he
understands the meaning of the terms. If then, in writing
jn Divinity, we use terms which are undefinable in our
own application of them, what do we better than to dark"
?< n counsel by words without knowledge ?



Sn the Unity of Goct. 17

The proposition supposed to be apostolic is this, " There
are three that bear record in Heaven, the Father, the
Word, and the Holv Ghost." Neither the term Persons^
tior the name God^ is to be found in the text. And if we
know not the import of the term Persons, was it not very
unsafe to insert it in a proposition intended to express the
apostle's meaning ? It was probably with a view to ren-
der the apostle's proposition more explicit, that the term
Person was inserted. But however inexplicit or indefinite
the proposition may be, as it stands in the Bible, it surely
could not be amended by inserting an undefinabie term, or
by using a definite term in an undefinabie sense.

As to the improper use of the term Person, I consider
myself as having been culpable as well as others. And
while I frankly place myself on this ground, I do it in hope
that the preceding remarks will not be viewed as designed-
ly reproachful to any class of Christians or Divines.

Thus, Sir, I have attempted to establish one point in
favor of the proposition, that the Supreme Being, or self-
existent God, is only one Person. If the account which has
been given of the word Person be correct, to say that the
one self-existent God is three self-existent Persons, is the
same as to say that the self-existent God is three self-ex-
istent intelligent Beings. And if there be a propriety in
saying that the ONE GOD is but ONE SUPREME BKING, there
can be no propriety in saying that the ONE GOD is three
SELF-EXISTENT PERSONS. But there are still other con-
siderations which may be brought into view in subsequent
Letters.



LETTER III.

The Scripture use of PRONOUNS and VERBS in relation to God*

REV SIR,

ALTHOUGH the definition which has been given of
the term Person should be admitted as correct, still it may
be thought that a definition may be given of the term GOD,
which will render it consistent to say three Persons in ONE
GOD. And such a definition has been given by Mr.
William Jones in his celebrated performance OR " The
C



18 On the Unity

Catholic doctrine of the Trinity." In page 9, he says,
"The word God, though of the singular number, is of
plural comprehension." In proof of thi^ idea he has writ-
ten a distinct chapter, in which he has evidenced both labor
and i- genuitv. And it will be admitted, that if, in the
Scriptures, the term GOD be intended to import three self-
existent Persons, there is no more contradiction m affirm-
ing that there are three Persons in ONE GOD, than there
\v<>uld be in affirming that there are three Persons in one
Council, or one Senate, or one Triumvirate.

In support of his idea, Mr. Jones has not only mention-
ed some nouns which are plural in the Hebrew, which are
in English translated God ; but he has stated that there are
also pronouns and verb* of the plural number agreeing with,
the term God. And it must be acknowledged that, at first
view, these things appear imu'h in favor of a pluralitv of
Pi-rsons in the Godhead. For according to the established
principles of Grammar, pronouns and verbs should agree
\vith their nouns in number- ic then behoves us to examine
the subject with care and with candor.

Mr. Jones has exhibited several instances in which, in
our translation-, the pronouns us and OUR are used, as he
supposes, as proper pronouns for God only, and as denoting
a plurality of Persons in the one God.

The first text which he mentions is Gen. i. 26. " Arid
GOD said, Let us make man in our image, and after our
likeness." In reference to this text, t mav be observed,
that these, pronouns do not necessarilv imply more than
two Persons, nor do they necessarilv imply that both of
them were self- existent. The representation is, that GOD
spike to some other Person. And as he created all things
b his Son Jesus Christ, the Son was probably the Person
to whom God spake. And all the p'ural pronouns which
]YIr. Jones has relied on may be accounted for in the same
Dnanner.

In respect to the plural nouns which Mr. Jones has men-
tion^d, I shall only say, that they go as far to prove a
p'ur.ility of Gods, as they do to prove a plurality of self-
existent Persons.

But besides nouns and pronouns, he has suggested, that,
in the Hebrew, several plural verbs and adjectives are found
agreeing with the noun God. '1 his he also considers as
evidence that the word God implies a plurality of Persons.



ur

/ On the Unity of God. 10

Being wholly unacquainted with the Hebrew language, I
cannot pretend to dispute the correctness of his state mtrrns.
Somethings, however, may possibly be suggested, which
ma\ be sufficient ground on which to doubt the correctness
of his -inference.

1. I think we have no evidence, that the sacred writers
were perfectly -acquainted with the rules of Grammar, nor
that the Divine Spirit, by which they wrote, secured the in
from every departure from the rules of Grammar in the
construction of sentences. Rut,

2. If it were certain that th^ inspired penmen never de-
viated from the rules of Grammar, it would still be possib e
that as many asjfateor six mistakes, in regard to the num-
ber of verbs, might be made in copving the Old Testament
'five or six thousand times. For though we have evidence
that gr' at care was taken in copving the Scriptures, we have
no evidence that the scribes were infallible. And ii, in the
innumerable copyings of the Old Testament prior to the
art of Printing, not more than five or six verb* were chang-
ed from the singular to the plural number, we have great
reason to acknowledge a superintending Providence.

Thus, Sir, I have endeavored candidlv to reph to Mr.
Jones's arguments from plural pronouns and verbs. Let it
now be supposed, that instead u\ fve or six plural pronouns
of doubtful relation, he had found Jive or -six thousand plu-
ral pronouns which obviously stand as substitutes for the
names God, Lord, or Jehovah ; wou d not his argument
have been at least a thousand times more forcible than it
is on the ground he has produced ? Yea, let it be supposed
that, on the most careful examination, he had found in the
Bible only Jive or six pronouns for God of the singular num-
ber, and those, too, of doubtful import ; and that, on the
other hand, he had found ALL the pronouns for God, of the
plural number, excepting the five or six doubtful instances ;
would not his argument have been invincible in favor of a
plurality of Persons in the Godhead ? Would any man ot"
sense, after such an exhibition, ever have called in ques-
tion the doctrine of three self-existent Persons? Confident
I am, that such an argument would have had more weight
in my mind than all the arguments I have seen or heard in
favor of that doctrine.

Permit me then, Sir, to retort the argument from the
use ot pronouns and verbs in the Bible. Excepting those



On the Unity of

doubtful instances of plural pronouns mentioned by Mr.
Jones, are not the pronouns for GOD uniformly of the sin-
gular number ? Instead of Jive or six doubtful cases, do
we not findjive or six thousand instances in which personal
pronouns of the singular number are unquestionably used
as substitutes for the nouns GOD, LORD, or JEHOVAH ?
And setting aside Mr. Jones's exceptions, do we not fvid
the verbs, agreeing with the noun GOD, uniformly of the
singular number ?

When God speaks of himself in the first Person, he uses
thr pronouns /, My or Mine, Me. When he is addressed
in the second Person, the pronouns are Thou, Thy or
Thine, Thee. When he is spoken of in the third Person,
the pronouns are He, His, Him. This, you must be sen-
sible, is the general and uniform use of the pronouns for
God, in the Old Testament and the New. It may be add-
ed, that Myself, Thyself, and Himself, are also used as
pronouns for God.

If God were THREE co-equal PERSONS, it would be very
Siatural to expect that we should find explicit evidence of
this in the manner of giving the law, and in the prayers of
saints. But when the law was given on Mount Sinai, God
spake in the singular number, " /am the Lord thy God-^
thou shalt have no other Gods before ME." And is it not,
Sir, a solemn fact, that in all the prayers throughout the
Bible, in which God is addressed, that he is addressed as
cue individual Person ?

Moses, David, and Daniel, may be considered as well
acquainted with God. Each of them addressed God as
one Person only.

Moses said, u Yet now if THOU wilt, forgive my sin 5
and if not, blot me, I pray THEE, out of THY book."

David said, u O God, to whom vengeance belongs, shew
THYSELF," not yourselves. " Lift up THYSELF, THOU
Judge of the earth."

Daniel said, u O Lord, hear ; O Lord, forgive ; O
Lord, hearken and do ; defer not, for THINE OWN sake,
O my God : for THY city and THY people are called by THY
name."

We may here add, that Christ, who must be supposed
to be belter acquainted with God than any ancient Prophet
or any modern Divine, addressed the Father not only as
tine Person, but as the " ONLY TRUE GOD." As the Son



tin the Unity of God* 21

he addressed the Father, and in his prayer he had these
words, u And this is life eternal, that they might know

THEE, THE ONLY TRUE GOD, and JESUS ClIRIST whom

THOU hast srnt."

I think, Sir, I may say, without hazard, that there is
no intimat on in the Bible of three self-existent Persons in
one God, either in the manner in which Divine commands
were communicated, or in the prayers of saints. But in
giving commands* God uniformly made himself known as
one individual Person ; and as to an individual Person, the
Prophets and Samts addressed their prayers to God.

Moreover, in all the remarkable manifestations of him-
self to mankind, God made himself known as ONE PERSON
ONLY. -When he appeared to Adam after the fall, he man>*
ifested himself as one Person, And in pronouncing the
curse upon the serpent, as one Person he spake, " 7 will
put enmity between thee and the woman. And unto the
woman he said, /will greatly tnultiplv thy sorrow," &c.

As one Person, God manifested himself to Noah. "And
God said unto Noah, The end of nil fle-sh is come up be-
fore ME. And behold, /, even /do bring a flood upon the
earth. But with thee w : li /establish my covenant,"

In his various appearances to Abraham, he revealed
himself as only one Person. u / am thy shield and thy ex-
ceeding great reward 7 will make thy seed as the dust of
the earth /am the Almighty God, walk before ME, and
be thou perfect.''

Similar to this, was the style and manner adopted by
God in all his appearances to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,

In all the manifestations which God made of himself to
Moses and the people of Israel, he uniformly represented
himself, as one Person. And thus he represented himself
in his communications to the Prophets. It may also be
observed, that in several instances God adopted forms of
speech which not only implied a denial of the existence of
any other GOD, but also of the existence of any other SELF-
EXISTENT PERSON u See now that /, even /am HE, and
there is no God with ME ; / kill, and / make alive ; J

wound, and / heal." Deut. xxxii. 39 " And there is no

god else besides ME ; a just God, and a Savior ; there is
none besides ME. Look unto ME, and be ye saved, all ye
ends of the earth ; for /am God, and there is none else."
Jsa xly. SI, 22," Remember the former things of old :



22 On the Unity of God.

for /am God, and there is none else ; /am God, and there
is none like ME."

When God reveals himself under the title of the HOLT
ONE, or the HOLY ONI: OF ISRAEL, he represents himself
not only as ONE GOD, but as ONE PERSON. u Thus saith
the Lord, the HOLY ONE of Israel, and his Maker, Ask
ME of things to come concerning MY sons ; and concerning
the work of MY hands, command ye ME."

In conformity to the idea which God gave of himself, aa
being one Person only, all the sacred writers, in speaking
of God, speak of him as one Person, by using a personal
pronoun of the singular number, as He^ His, Him, togeth-
er with corresponding verbs.

The Sun of God, in the course of his ministry, spake of
God as one Person. u GOD so loved the world, that HE

gave HIS only begotten Son," &r And the apostles

uniformly spake of God as one Person only. The Scribe
who came to Christ, and received his approbation as not
far from the kingdom of God, in the course of the conver-
sation, and in reply to Christ, said, u There is ONE GOD,
and there is none other but HE." And his remark was
approved by Christ.

Nouns of " plural comprehension," such as Mr. Jones
supposes the word GOD to be, admit the article the before
them, as, the Council, the Senate ; and the pronouns, to
agree with them, must be either neuter pronouns of the
singular number, or personal pronouns of the plural num-
btr. Speaking of a Council, we either say It adjourned,
or They adjourned Of a Senate, It passed an act, or They
passed an act. We do not say of a Council, He adjourn-
ed ; nor of a Senate, He passed an act^ Nor does a Sen-
ate or a Council, speaking in the first person, say /will.

In view of these observations, Sir, suffer me to present
to your notice some of the foregoing passages of Scrip-
ture, in a manner conformable to the Athanasian theory.
I will begin with the passage in Genesis, so much quote- d
by Athanasian writers, and connect with it the following
verse. The passage, to agree with your views, should
read thus :...." And the God said, Let us make man in our
image, and after our likeness. So the God creaced man irj
their own image, and after their likeness ; in the image
of the God created they him."



On the Unity of God, $tf

If the pronouns us and our are pronouns for God only^
loui.ig pronouns should be also of the plural number-
Up m tiie same principle., the first commandment would
read as follows :...." Thou shah have no other gods before"
us.

When God said, " /am God, and there is none like
ME," would not your theory have required the following
form ?....WE ARE THE GOD, and there is none like us.

Would not the words of Christ, to have corresponded
with your views, have stood thus ?...." The God so lovtd
the world, that THEY gave THEIR only begotten Son," &c,

The words of the Scribe, *' There is one God, and there
is none other but THEM" or but IT.

A remarkable variation would also be requisite in the
passage before quoted, in which God speaks of.himsdf as
the HOLY ONE. " Thus saith the Lord, the HOLY ONF,
of Israel, and his Maker, Ask us of things to come, con-
cerning OUR sons ; and concerning the work of OUR. hands,
command ye us."

I would further suggest, whether another variation in
this text would not render it still more conformable to Mr.
Jones' scheme, and even to the language of Athanasians ia
general? "Thus saith the Lord, the HOLY THREE of Is-
rael !" This, I conceive, would have been a correct ex-
pression of your doctrine of the Trinity in Unit)-. Under
the term LORD, or JEHOVAH, the Unity would have been
implied ; and under the terms HOLY THREE, the Trinity
\vould have been expressed.

Will you. Sir, be pleased now to consider what a great
and surprizing change must be made throughout the Bible,
in respect to the pronouns and verbs agreeing with God,
to have the language of the Bible conformable to the Atha-
nasion doctrine ? You cannot be insensible, that, in every
instance in which a personal pronoun of the singular num-
ber is used as a substitute for the noun GOD, something is
imp'ied contrary to that doctrine. Of course, a very great
portion both of the Old Testament and the New, is, accord-
ing to the natural import of language, opposed to that the-
ory* If the doctrine of three self-existent Persons in one
God were true, and of such infinite importance as seems to
be supposed by our good brethren, how can it be accounted
for, that God himself, and all the sacred writers, should so
uniformly adopt such forms of speech aa would naturalfy



24 On the Unity ofGodl

lead to the conclusion, that the one self-existent God is but


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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 2 of 19)