Thomas Smyth.

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the Divine nature. The belief in these three persons, the
Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, as one God, was made
a primary article in the earliest creeds, embodied in what is
called the Apostles' creed, and in all the creeds of the Eastern
Churches. The true doctrine of the primitive Church may also
be learned from published apologies for the christian faith, viz :
those of Justin Martyr, Athenagoras and TertuUian, which
have been handed down to our time in a perfect state. The
doctrine held by the primitive Church may be learned also,
from other writings of the second century, viz: the genuine
production of Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Theophilus of Antioch,
Tatian, Clemens Alexandrinus, and TertuUian; also from the
fragments of Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, of Melito, Bishop
of Sardis, and of Hegesippus, in Eusebius ; from the epistle of
Polycarp of Smyrna, to the Phillipians; from the supposed
epistle of Barnabas ; from the writings ascribed to Ignatius, and
also from Pliny's letter to Trajan, and from the Philotrapis of

The result of long and laboured controversy, and of the most
elaborate and critical examination of these writings cannot, we
think, leave any impartial reader in doubt, as to the belief of
the doctrine of the Trinity by the primitive christians. The
term trinity, however, was not at first employed because, as has
been said, controversy had not required its introduction.

Justin Martyr, who was bom according to different compu-
tations from the year A. D. 89 to A. D. 103, and was beheaded
at Rome, A. D. 165, in a Confession of Faith, found among his

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works, — z work whose genuineness is doubted, indeed, by
many, but admitted by all to be of his age or near it,t uses the
term trinity, (rpia^) very clearly.

Theophilus, A. D. 180, tmdoubtedly employs the term trinity
r/oui9, in the following passage:* "In like manner also, the
three days, which preceded the luminaries, are types of the
Trinity, of God and his Word, and his Wisdom." It is not
necessary to attempt to explain this typical allusion; and the
reader is, perhaps aware, that the term wisdom was applied by
the fathers to the second and third persons of the Trinity,
though more frequently to the second.

It is plain, that in the present instance the term wisdom is
applied to the Holy Ghost, as Bishop Bull has shown it to have
been by Irenaeus, Origen, and others.

This much, at least, is evident, that Theophilus must have
considered some resemblance, if not equality, to have existed
between the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, or he would not
have included them in the same type : and who would venture
in any sense, to speak of a trinity of beings, if one of the three
was God, and" the other two were created.

The next writer, who uses the word in the ecclesiastical
sense, is Clement of Alexandria, who flourished a few years
later than Theophilus. Like many of the fathers, he supposed
Plato to have had a Trinity in view, when he wrote that obscure
passage in his second letter to Dionysius. Upon which Clem-
ent observes, "I understand this in no other way, than as con-
taining mention of the blessed Trinity: for the third thing is
the Holy Ghost, and the Son is the Second." Hippolytus, in a
fragment of one of his works, speaks of "the knowledge of the
blessed Trinity;" and in another, after reciting the form of
words used at baptism, he adds, "For by this Trinity the Father
is glorified." Origen also, very frequently made use of the

Methodius, in his Symposium, made use of the word rpui^^
trinity, and though we may condemn him for seeing an illusion
to the Trinity in the sacrifice offered by Abraham, (Gen. xv:
9,) it is plain from the passage, that the word was in general
use in his day. But there is another passage in the same work,
which shows still more clearly, that, not only the name, but the
doctrine of the Trinity was well understood in those days.

tSee an article in the Biblical Repertory for January, 1853.

♦Ad Autolyctim, lib. 2, c 15, in Dr. Burton's Testinu to the Trinity, p. 34.

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Having compared the stars, which are mentioned in Rev. ii : 4,
to the heretics, he adds in the same allegorical strain which was
then too common, "Hence they are called a third part of the
stars, as being in error concerning one of the numbers of the
Trinity ; at one time, concerning that of the Father, as Sabel-
lius, who said that the Omnipotent himself suffered ; at another
time, concerning that of the Son, as Artemas, and they who say
that he existed in appearance only; and at another time con-
cerning that of the Spirit, as the Ebionites, who contend that
the prophets spoke of their own impulse."*

TertuUian, A. D. 200, frequently uses the term trinity, and
also, the term person, in their modem theological sense. This
he did, both before and after adopting the opinions of Mon-
tanus, which, however, did not affect this doctrine.f Cyprian,
and Novatian also, employs the term trinity, and Origen very

Lucian, a heathen writer, who was a contemporary of Athe-
nagoras, has a remarkable passage in his dialogue called Philo-

The speakers in this dialogue are Critias and Triephon, the
former an heathen, the latter a christian, and when Critias has
offered to swear by different heathen deities, each of which, is
objected to by Triephon, he asks, "By whom then shall I
swear ?" to which Triephon makes the following reply, the first
words of which are a quotation from Homer :

"By the great God, immortal, in the Heavens ;"

The Son of the Father, the Spirit proceeding from the Father,
one out of three and three out of one, [unum, one substance;
not unus, one person :]

"Consider these thy Jove, be this thy God."

Critias then ridicules this arithmetical oath, and says, "I cannot
tell what you mean by saying that one is three, and three are

There can be no doubt, that when this dialogue was written,
it was commonly known to the heathen, that the christians
believed the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, though in one sense
three, in another sense to be one : and if the dialogue was writ-
ten by Lucian, who lived in the latter part of the second cen-

*Dr. Burton's Anti Nicene Testim. to the Trinity, p. 351.
tSee numerous passages with the original, given by Dr. Burton, pp.
60-84, 82, 83.
tSee Do.

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tury, it would be one of the strongest testimonies remaining to
the doctrine of the Trinity. This was acknowledged by
Socinus, who says in one of his works, "that he had never read
anything which gave greater proof of a worship of the Trinity
being then received among christians, than the passage which
is brought from the dialogue entitled Philopatris, and which is
reckoned among the works of Lucian.*

The two following fragments are preserved by Basil. In
the first of them it is necessary to remember that the term
inroaraais hypostasis, was sometimes used for the nature or
essence of the Deity ; sometimes for a person, ». e., for the sub-
stantial individuality of the three persons in the Godhead. The
Sabellians declined saying in the latter sense of the term, that
there were three hypostases ; and wished to argue, that such an
expression implied three distinct unconnected Beings. Diony-
sius observes, "Though they may say, that the hypostases, by
being three, are divided, still they are three, though it may not
suit these persons to say so; or else let them altogether deny
the Divine Trinity." We may infer from this remark, that
the word Trinity was in common use before the Sabellian con-
troversy began; and Dionysius assumes it as an undisputed
point, that in some sense or other there was a Trinity in the
Godhead. The Sabellians probably denied, that the word
rpla^ implied three inroa-Taaei^ or distinctly existing per-
sons ; but the history of Dionysius and his writings, leaves no
doubt as to the body of believers maintaining this opinion.f

In the liturgy ascribed to St. James and used in the Church
of Antioch, it is distinctly affirmed rpia^ €*9 0€O9 the Trinity is
one God, and it speaks also, of "the holy, adorable, and
co-essential Trinity." The term Trinity was employed in the
Synod of Alexandria, A. D. 317, and from that time came into
common and familiar use, and is described, by Zacharias,
Bishop of Mitylene, as "the uncreated, eternal, and consubstan-
tial Trinity, the first and blessed nature and fountain of all
things, itself the true ens" or source of all being. In the
council of Ephesus it is described as "the Trinity consubstan-
tial above all substance, invisible, incomprehensible, inseparable,
immutable, simple and undivided, and uncompounded, without

^Bishop Bull believed it to be genuine, and Fabricius was inclined to
do the same. Some have ascribed it to a writer older than the time of
Lucian ; others to one of the same age ; and others to much later periods.
I need only refer the reader to discussions of the subject by Dodwell,
Blondell, Lardner, &c.

tBurton, p. 124.

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dimension, eternal, uncorporeal, without quality, without quan-
tity, whose is honor and glory, and Deity infinitely good."*

I will only farther remark, in connection with this objection,
in the words of Calvin,t **If they call every word exotic, which
cannot be found in the Scriptures in so many syllables, they
impose on us a law which is very unreasonable, and which
condemns all interpretation, but what is composed of detached
texts of Scripture connected together."

The fathers often accuse themselves and blame the enemies
of the truth for making it necessary to use terms liable to
perversion. ThusJ "Hilary accuses the heretics of a great
crime, in constraining him, by their wickedness, to expose to
the danger of human language those things which ought to be
confined within the religion of the mind ; plainly avowing, that
this is to do things unlawful, to express things inexpressible, to
assume things not conceded. A little after, he largely excuses
himself for his boldness in bringing forward new terms; for
when he has used the names Father, Son, and Spirit ; he imme-
diately adds, that whatever is sought farther, is beyond the
signification of language, beyond the reach of our senses,
beyond the conception of our understanding. And in another
place, he pronounces, that happy were the Bishops of Gaul,
who had neither composed, nor received, nor even known, any
other confession but that ancient and very simple one, which
had been received in all the churches from the days of the
Apostles. Very simple is the excuse of Augustine, that this
word, trinity, was extorted by necessity, on account of the
poverty of human language on so great a subject, not for the
sake of expressing what God is, but to avoid passing it over
in total silence, that the Father, Son, and Spirit are three."

"If, then, the words have not been rashly invented, we should
beware lest we be convicted of fastidious temerity in rejecting
them. I could wish them indeed, to be buried in obHvion,
provided this faith were universally received, that the Father,
Son and Holy Spirit, are the one God ; and that, nevertheless,
the Son is not the Father, nor the Spirit the Son, but that they
are distinguished from each other by some peculiar property.
"I am not so rigidly precise as to be fond of contending for
mere words." "Let us also learn, however, to beware, since

*See Suiceri Thesaurus sat nomine Tpui^.
t Institutes, Book i, ch. 13, 9 3, &c
ICalvin's Institutes, p. 90.

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we have to oppose the Arians on one side, and the Sabellians
on the other, lest while they take offence at both these parties
being deprived of all opportunity of evasion, they cause some
suspicion that they are themselves the disciples either of Arius,
or of Sabellius. Arius confesses "that Christ is God,'' but
maintains also, "that he was created and had a beginning."
He acknowledges that Christ is "one with the Father," but
secretly whispers in the ears of his disciples, that he is "united
to him," like the rest of the faithful, though by a singular
privilege." Say that he is consubstantial, you tear off the
mask from the hypocrite, and yet you add nothing to the Scrip-
tures. Sabellius asserts, "that the names Father, Son, and
Spirit, are expressive of no distinction in the Godhead." Say
that they are three, and he will exclaim, that you are talking of
"three Gods." Say "that in the one essence of God there is a
trinity of Persons," and you will, at once, express what the
Scriptures declare, and will restrain such frivolous loquacity."
Calvin adds, 'But I have found, by long and frequent experi-
ence, that those who pertinaciously contend about words,
cherish some latent poison."

Let us, then, recognize the necessity and importance of the
term, trinity. Names are things. And so long therefore, as
the doctrine taught by this word is assailed and denied, we
have no alternative. Nor could the facts, proved, as we shall
show, from Scripture, be probably expressed in a simpler form
than in saying, that the God who is one and who is yet God as
Father, as Son, and as Holy Ghost, is a Trinity.

"Ineffable, all-powerful God, all free.
Thou only liv'st, and each thing lives by thee ;
No joy, no, nor perfection to thee came
By the contriving of this world's great fame:
Ere sun, moon, stars, began their restless race.
Ere painted was with light Heaven's pure face,
Ere air had clouds, ere clouds wept down their show'rs.
Ere sea embraced earth, ere earth bare flowVs,
Thou happy liv'dst, world nought to thee supply'd,
All in thyself, thyself thou satisfy'd ;
Of good no slendor shadow doth appear,
No age-worn track, which shin'd in thee most clear
Perfection's sum, prime cause of every cause,
Midst, end, beginning where all good doth pause.
Hence of thy substance, differing in nought,
Thou in eternity thy Son forth brought;
The only birth of thy unchanging mind,
Thine image, pattern-like that ever shin'd ;
Light out of light, begotten not by will,
But nature, all and that same essence still
Which thou thyself, for thou dost nought possess
Which he hath not, in aught nor is he less
Than he his great begetter ; of this light.

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Eternal, double kindled was thy spright

Eternally, who is with thee, the same

All-holy gift. Ambassador, knot. Flame:

Most sacred Triad, O most holy One !

Unprocreate Father, ever procreate Son,

Ghost breath'd from both, you were, are still, shall be,

(Most blessed) Three in One, and One in Three,

Incomprehensible by reachless height.

And unperceived by excessive light.

So in our souls three and yet one are still,

The understanding, memory and will;

So (though unlike) the planet of the days.

So soon as he was made, begat his rays.

Which are his offspring, and from both was hurl'd

The rosy light which consolates the world.

And none prevent another: so the spring.

The well head, and the stream which they forth bring

Are but one self same essence, nor in aught

Do differ, save in order; and our thought

No chime of time discerns in them to fall

But three distinctly 'bide one essence all

But these express not thee: who can declare

Thy- being? men and angels dazzled are.

Who would this Eden force with wit or sense,

A cherubim shall find to bar him thence.

O ! King, whose greatness none can comprehend.

Whose boundless goodness doth to all extend ;

Light of all beauty. Ocean without ground,

That standing, flowest ; giving dost abound ;

Rich Palace, and In-dweller, ever blest.

Never not working, ever yet in rest :

What wit cannot conceive, words say of thee.

Here, where we, but as in a mirror see.

Shadows of shadows, atoms of thy might.

Still only-eyed when staring on thy light ;

Grant, that, released from this earthly jail.

And freed from clouds, which here our knowledge veil.

In Heaven's high temples where thy praises ring,

In sweeter notes I may hear angels sine.

IDrummond of Hawthorden, Hymn to the Fairest Faire,

Note A.

The alleged Unitarianism of Locke, Newton, Milton, Clarke, Watts, and


Although Unitarians claim pre-eminent honour because they base their
opinions on reason alone, yet none are more anxious than they to sustain
and patronize them by the authority of great names.

Mr. Locke's Essay was believed by some to lead inferentially to the
rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity ; and therefore, say Unitarians,
Mr. Locke was a Unitarian. But in his elaborate and extended letters to
Bishop Stillingfleet, Mr. Locke repudiates the charge, and proves that, as
no such consequence was intendea by him to be deduced from his Philoso-
phy, so, in fact, no such consequence does, or can fairly be considered to
follow from it. In his vindication of himself, Mr. Locke occupies nearly
as much room as his entire essay, and as he was a bold and open expounder
of his views, we may conclude that he had not adopted sentiments contrary
to the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. That he held such views, he
solemnly denied, in words, and by his subscription to the Articles of the
Church of England and communion at her altars. He acknowledged the doc-
trine of C^hrist's satisfaction for sins, and in his last moments he thanked
(k>d ''for the love shewn to man in justifying him by faith in Jesus Christ,

S—Vol. IX.

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and in particular for haying called him to the knowledge of that Divine

Sir Isaac Newton, in a letter to James Pearce, says, "Your letter a little
surprised me, to find mjrself supposed to be a Socinian or Unitarian. I never
was, nor am now, under the least temptation of such doctrines." ''I hope
you will do me the favor to be one of the examiners of my papers: till
which time, you will do kindly to stop so false a report.'**

In his work against the genuineness of the passage in 1 John, Sir Isaac
remarks,! — "It is no article of Faith, no point of discipline, nothing but
a criticism concerning a text of Scripture, that I am going to write about."
But he says, clearly enough, that he was not a Socinian. For, speaking of
the passage in Cyprian's works, in which he asserts the doctnne of the
Trinity in Unity, he says, "The Socinians here deal too injuriously with
Csrprian, while they would have this place corrupted, — ^these places being,
in my opinion, genuine." The two passages of Cyprian are the following:
"Si templum Dei factus est, quaere cujus Dei? Si Creatoris ; non potuit.
quia in eum non credidit : Si Christi : nee ejus fieri potuit templum, qui
negat Dominum Christum : Si Spiritus Sancti ; quum tres unum sint, quo-
modo placatus ei esse potuit, qui ant Patris aut Filii inimicus est? Dicit
Dominus Ego et Pater unum sumus : et iterum de Patre et Filio et Spiritu
Sancto scriptum est: Et Hi Tres Unum Sunt." No one can doubt Cypri-
an's belief of the doctrine of the Trinity. And when we connect Newton's
censure of the Socinians, with his conviction of the genuineness of these
Trinitarian passages of Cyprian, — ^with the absence of all objection to the
doctrine of the Trinity in his letter to Le Clerc, — and his adherence to
the Church of England, — what can be reasonably inferred, but that he was
not only a decided Anti-Socinian, but a believer of the established doc-
trines of the Church ? There is one passage in his Letter to LeClerc, which
strongly marks the mind of a believer in the Trinity. "In the Eastern
nations, and for a long time in the Western. The Faith subsisted without
this verse, (1 John v: 7,) and it is rather dangerous to Religion to make
it now lean on a bruised reed." The Faith, he says, once subsisted without
this verse ; that is the faith, of which this verse now makes, or is supposed
to make, a part or evidence ; namely. Faith in the Holy Trinity. This Faith,
he says, was prior to, and independent of, the verse. Faith, then, in the
Holy Trinity, is called by The Faith, or the primitive Christian Faith.
Again, he says, "It is rather a danger to Religion to make it lean on a
bruised reed." By religion (the Christian Religion,) here also must be
meant Faith in the Holy Trinity; for the genera] truth of Christianity
cannot be said to lean on this verse ; nor any other doctrine, but the doc-
trine of the Holy Trinity. The language, therefore, of this passage, evi-
dently comes from one, who considered the Christian Religion, the Faith,
and Faith in thhe Holy Trinity, as synonymous terms.

Dr. Clarke is another authority claimed by Unitarians. But, while
inclined to modify the doctrine of the Trinity, Dr. Clarke believed that
"with this first and supreme cause, or Father of all things, there has
existed from the beginning, a second divine Person, which is the Word or

"With the Father and the Son there has existed, from the beginning, a
third Divine Person, which is the Spirit of the Father and the Son."

tSee the statement of his literary friend, who i lived with him tmtil
death, in Works, vol. ix: p. 173, 8vo ed. See also numerous passages in
proof of his anti-Socinian views in Hales on the Trinity, in vol. i : p. 275,
278, and in Bishop Burges's Tracts on the Divinity of Christ, p. 211, &c.

Giving a reason why Christ was not a mortal man. Locke uses this lan-
guage: "Being the Son of God, he was immortal, like God, his Father."
Now, to be immortal, with respect only to the future, is to be immortal
like the angels, or the human soul ; but to be immortal like God. his Father,
is "to have neither beginning of days nor end of life," as St. Paul says of
the Son of God, that is to be eternal and uncreated. To be immortal,
then, like God, his Father, is to be immortal through his divine Sonship,
that is, because he is of the same nature with his Father, or by consubstan-
tiality of nature.

♦This letter is quoted by Mr. Belsham in his Calm Inquiry, p. 474.

tSee Burges's Tracts, pp. 197-222.

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By existing from the beginning, Dr. Clarke does not mean, as the Uni-
tarians do, from the beginning ot the Gospel dispensation, but speaking of
the Son existing "before all worlds," and "without any limitation of time,"
that is, from eternity ; and so of the Holy Spirit.

"After the accomplishing of man's redemption, by his sufferings and
death on the Cross, for the sins of the world, our Lord (saprs Dr. Clarke,)
is described in Scripture as invested with distinct worship in his own per-
son, and receiving prayers (adoration, in the 3d edition,) and thanksgiving
from his Church." As proofs of such worship. Dr. Clarke refers to a
variety of texts, which mention his disciples worshipping him, honouring
him as well as the Father, baptizing in his name, angels worshipping him,
every knee bowing at his name, calling upon his name, invocating him in
prayer, and praying for grace, peace, blessing, direction, assistance and
comfort from him.

The Chevalier De Ramsay, who was witness to the last sentiments of
Dr. Clarke, assures us that he very much repented having published his
work on the Trinity. — [See Whitaker's Origin of Arianism, pp. 456-470.]
And in a paper presented to the Upper House, he formally and solemnly
declared his opinion to be, "that the Son of God was eternally begotten,
by the eternally incomprehensible power and will of the Father ; and that
the Holy Spirit was likewise eternally derived from the Father, by and
through the Son, according to the eternal, incomprehensible power and
will of the Father."

Another eminent man, claimed as an Unitarian, is Grotius. Grotius
has, however, given indisputable proof of his anti-Socinianism. This we
might establish by showing that he admits the words of Thomas, "My
Lord, and my God," to be an acknowledgment of Christ's Divinity; that
he follows the usual interpretation of John i : 1-14, making Christ the incar-
nate Word, and the Creator of the World, &c.

In the year 1617, he published his Defensio Fidei Catholics de Satisfac-
tione Christi adversus Faustum Socinum. The friendly correspondence which
he afterwards carried on with Crellius, excited some doubts of his ortho-
doxy. To repel these doubts, he prefixed to an edition of his tract De
Satisfactione Christi, in 1638, (one and twenty years after its first pub-
lication,) a Letter to G. J. Vossius, in which he confirms his former senti-

Online LibraryThomas SmythComplete works of Rev. Thomas Smyth, D. D → online text (page 12 of 68)