Thomas Smyth.

Complete works of Rev. Thomas Smyth, D. D online

. (page 15 of 68)
Online LibraryThomas SmythComplete works of Rev. Thomas Smyth, D. D → online text (page 15 of 68)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

The argument drawn from this passage by Unitarians is, that
since the father is declared to be the only true God, our
Saviour, and the Holy Ghost are not truly God. But, in this
argument, there is a gross fallacy. The very precise, and
cautiously chosen, words of Christ are misstated. What Christ
does say is, that his Father is the only true God, but he does
not say that his Father only is the true God. He affirms that
his Father, in contrast with all the other so-called Gods, is the
only true God, but he does not say that the Father only, to the
exclusion of the Son and the Holy Ghost, is alone this true
God. Between these declarations there is a radical and essen-
tial difference. Christ affirms that there is an only true God,
and that his Father is this only true God, both of which propo-
sitions we believe to be true. But this leaves the question still
to be answered, as in the case of the Jehovah of the Old Testa-
ment, — who, and what, is this one only true God? Accord-
ing to his own representation of himself, God we have seen,
is not an absolute, and uncompounded person, but is a triplicity
of persons in one Godhead. God is a necessary, self-existent,
spiritual being, in whom Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, do
necessarily co-exist, so as to constitute that one being. The
Father is the only true God, not excluding the Son and the
Holy Spirit. The Son is the only true God, not excluding the
Father and the Holy Ghost. The Holy Spirit is God, the only
true, not excluding the Father and the Son. When, therefore,
it is said the Father is the only true God, since each of them
participates in that one essence or Godhead which is the only
true and real God, each and all unite to constitute this one God-
head. And as this Godhead is common to each and all, it may
be attributed to each; and each, therefore, may be called the
only true God. Such is, as we believe, the teaching of Scrip-

Digitized by



ture, as to the natural, necessary, and eternal union, in one
Godhead, of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And against
this our Saviour affirms nothing; since he does not say thou
Father only, art the true God, but that the Father is the only
true God, a declaration which is equally true of the Son and of.
the Holy Ghost.

The term Father, when applied to God, does not always in
Scripture, refer to the person of the Father, as distinct from
the Son, but is employed as a general title of the divine nature,
and thus includes the three persons.* When the term Father
is applied to God personally, and not as to his Godhead or
essence, it is either in reference to his paternal relation to his
creatures, and especially to believers, or to Christ as his only
begotten Son, "whose goings forth," or, as the words mean,
"whose generation is from of old, from everlasting.^f

Now, what our Saviour says, he says of "my Father," i. e,,
of God as that eternal Godhead with whom he was "in the
beginning as God, the Son." Christ, therefore, says, that God
as his Father, that is God in that infinite essence and Godhead
in which as he elsewhere declares "he and the Father are one,"
is the only true God. The very selection, out of all possible
titles of God, of the term Father necessarily implies, and has
reference to, the Son of whom Scripture is full. We every-
where read also, of the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit
of God, who is God. Now, the term Father implies that the
person so described, in the order of internal relation between
the persons of the trinity, is the source or fountain of the
trinity and the first in authority and office. Of him, therefore,
it may emphatically be said, that he is the true God, since he
includes and implies in his own nature, the Son and Holy

Besides, whatever of divine honour is here ascribed to the
Father is also ascribed to the Son. For, it is not only neces-
sary to eternal life to know the Father to be the only true God.
but also, as our Saviour's words certainly imply, to know the
Son also, as being also, the only true God as well as the Father.
We are to know that and all that of the Son, which we are to
know of the Father ; that is, that he also, is the true God, and
therefore, as elsewhere, God teaches us "we are to honour the
Son, even as we honour the Father.^^

*Deut. xxxii : 6 ; Is. Ixiii : 16, and Ixiv : 3 ; Matt ▼ : 16, 48, and vi : 4,
and 7, 11; John viii: 41.

tMicah vi : 4. See Jonathan Edward's Works, vol. 9.

Digitized by



Both the Son and the Father, therefore, and not the Father
alone, or the Son alone, are represented as being unitedly and
equally the grand objects of spiritual, saving knowledge, a state-
ment which never would have been made without infinite pre-
sumption and impiety by Christ were he not himself "God,
blessea for ever."

The knowledge here made requisite is, it must be remem-
bered, a spiritual and heartfelt reliance on the united object
presented to our faith. It includes love to him, adoration of
him, and obedience to his commands. And as this knowledge
is to be directed to the Son as well as to the Father, in order to
obtain eternal life, the Son is to be regarded as the only true
God equally with the Father. And this is what we are else-
where taught, when we are told that "God is in Christ recon-
ciling the world unto himself," Christ being "God manifest
IN the flesh.'"

But further, the Father is here said to be the only true God,
because he only can give eternal life. But this eternal life is
here and elsewhere, more frequently and emphatically, associ-
ated absolutely and entirely with the Son, who must, therefore,
also be the only true God. And hence Christ is denominated
frequently "the life." He is frequently said to give "everlast-
ing life" and "eternal life."* And the apostle John, as if in
allusion to this passage, declares, "and we know that the Son
of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we
may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true,
even in his Son Jesus Christ. THIS IS THE TRUE GOD

And that the Son is elsewhere called the true God in Scrip-
ture, is admitted by Socinus himself, the father of modem
Socinians.f "It is very false," says Socinus, "that we should
openly declare Jesus Christ is not true God. We profess to
say the contrary, and declare that he is true God, in several of
our writings, as well in the Latin as in the Polish language."
"Jesus Christ," says Smalcius, another father of the Unitarians,
"also may be called with a sovereign right our God, and the
true God, and so he really is." Our Saviour therefore, in
attributing to himself as well as to the Father the title "only
true God," speaks, as our opponents admit, in conformity with
the other portions of Scripture ; as when, in the Old Testament,
that being, whom we have identified with Christ, is made to

♦John vi : 27, and x : 28 ; Matt, xix : 16, 21.
tSce Ad. Wick., p. 49, in Abaddie, p. 276.

Digitized by



declare "I am Jehovah thy God ; thou shalt have no other Gods
before me." **Is there a God beside me? Yea, there is no
God; I know not any;" and again: "There is no God else
besides one, a just God and a Saviour; there is none besides
me ; for I am God, and there is none else ;" and again, "I am
God, and there is none else ; I am God and there is none like
unto me."

The expressions in this text manifestly allude to the multi-
tude of Pagan divinities who falsely bare the name of Gods.
The adjective true is opposed to false, and the adverb only is
opposed to many. Christ was, evidently, speaking in opposi-
tion to the corrupt theology of the heathen, as if he had said,
"The Gentiles perish, because they have no knowledge of any
but false Gods; but it is life eternal to know thee, the only
true God, in opposition to idols, including his co-equal and
co-essential Son, who is Jesus the Christ."

Of exactly similar import is the declaration of the apostle
in 1 Cor. viii: 4-6. "As concerning therefore, the eating of
those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know
that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other
God but one. For though there be that are called gods,
whether in heaven or in earth, as there be gods many and lords
many ; but to us there is but one God, — ^the Father, of whom
are all things, and we in him ; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by
whom are all things, and we by him." Here also God, — ^that is,
the Godhead, or God considered in his essence, and as implying
the Father and the Son, is said to be one in opposition to idols
as in 1 Thess. i: 9. If we compare this with the expression
of St. Thomas, "My Lord and my God," we have the following
argument : "To us there is but one God the Father — ^but to us
Jesus Christ is also Lord and God. The Gospel has, therefore,
either preached two Gods, one distinct from the other, or that
the "one God the Father" is here the name of a nature, under
which Christ himself, as God, is also comprehended. The
same conclusion may be also deduced from several other pas-
sages. Thus, in Matt, xxiii : v. 9, it is said, "Call no man your
Father upon earth, for one is your Father, which is in
heaven." But in verse 10, it is said, "Neither be ye called
masters, for one is your master, even Christ, (vide John
iii: 13,) which is in Heaven. Now, if from the words, one is
YOUR Father, an argument is drawn for the exclusive divinity
of the Father, the same argument would prove, that one per-

Digitized by



son only is our master, and that this person is Christ, which
excludes the persons of the Father and the Spirit from the
honour of that title, and therefore, reduces the argument to an
absurdity. We are to conclude then, that as the phrase, "one
master," cannot be meant to exclude the Father, so neither do
other similar expressions applied to the Father, as "one good,"
or "one is your Father," exclude the person of Christ The
title of Father is, itself, ascribed to the second person of the
Trinity ; for Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, says of himself,
"He that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be his
God, and he shall be my Son."* Isaiah expressly calls him the
Everlasting Father. Again, it is written, "They are the
children of God, being the children of the resurrection :" "but,"
says Christ, "I am the resurrection." Christ therefore, is God,
and the believers are his children. The word Father, there-
fore, cannot always be a name that distinguishes the first per-
son in the Godhead from the other persons of the Godhead, but
is often to be understood as a term merely of relation, and as
in this sense, applicable to the second person also.f

But Whitby so fairly meets, and so fully confutes the argu-
ment which Dr. Carpenter, and Unitarians generally, derive
from this passage, that I shall here transcribe his comment.
The passage is this : "To us there is but one God the Father, of
whom are all things, and we in (or for) him; and one Lord
Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him." Hence,
(says Whitby,) the Arians and Socinians argue against the
Deity of Christ, as he who saith there is one Emperor, to wit,
Csesar, saith in effect, there is no other Emperor but Caesar.
So he that saith there is one God the Father, saith in effect,
there is no other God besides the Father. Again, he who,
having separately spoken of one God, proceeds distinctly to
speak of one Lord, to wit : Jesus Christ doth, by that distinct
title, sufficiently show Christ is not that God. Such is the
argument of Unitarians. To this Whitby replies: "To the
second argument the reply is obvious, by retorting the argu-
ment, as to the ancient Commentators, against this Arian objec-
tion, thus : That, as the apostle, by saying there is one Lord
Jesus Christ, cannot be reasonably supposed to exclude the
Father from being the Lord of christians, as he is often styled
in the New Testament ; so neither by saying, there is one God
the Father, ought he to be supposed to exclude Jesus Christ

*Revel. xxi : 7, Isaiah ix : 6, Luke xx : 3d, John ii : 45.
tScc Jones on Trinity.

Digitized by



from being also, the God of christians. So argue Origen and
Novatian; especially if we consider, first, that he is here styled
that one Lord, by whom are all things, L e., "by whom all things
are created." Ephes. iii : 9. "All things which are in heaven
or in earth." Coloss. i : 16. For "he that made all things is
God." Heb. iii : 6. And "by the works of the Creation is the
Godhead known." Rom. iii : 20. And this is elsewhere made
the very description of God the Father, that it is he, by whom
are all things. Rom. xi : 35, and Heb. xi. 10. And next, that
all things were created not only by this Lord, but (a? avrov)
"for him" also. Col. i : 16. Now, this is the very thing which
the apostle here ascribes to God the Father.

"Secondly, to the other argument I answer, that we and all
the ancients assert, as truly as our opponents can do, the unity
of the Godhead, and that Christ Jesus is not another God, but
only another person from the Father ; and that the application
of the word God here to the Father, doth not necessarily
exclude the Son from being God also, but only from being the
fountain of the Deity, as the Father is. Thus, when these
words, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, (Revel,
i : 17 ; ii : 8, and xxii : 13,) are by St. John, applied to Christ, it
cannot be concluded hence, that the Father is not also Alpha
and Omega, the first and the last, as he is often called in the
Old Testament; and though our Saviour be the proper title of
our Lord Jesus, as his very name informs us, yet is the Father
in Scripture styled our Saviour, (1 Tim. i: 1, and ii: 3,) and
the Saviour of all men, iv : 10. The primitive fathers consider-
ing God the Father as the fountain of the Deity, and Jesus
Christ as God of God, frequently assert two things, which may
illustrate this passage :

First, That christians acknowledge one God only, even the
Father, and yet that Jesus Christ was truly God, of the sub-
stance of the Father.

Secondly, That God the Father was the Creator of all things,
and yet that all things were created by the Word."

And here, also, in describing this God, as he exists tri-per-
sonally, the Son is associated with the Father by the term
Lord, which is equivalent to Jehovah or Supreme Divinity, and
by the attribution to him of the same universal, infinite and
divine dominion. And so also, in the only other very distinct
allusion to the unity of God in the New Testament in 1 Tim.
ii: 3, 5. The apostle in verse 3, speaks of God our Saviour,

Digitized by



and attributes to our Saviour as God sovereign power and
dominion, and then adds : "For there is one Gk>d and one Medi-
ator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus," where with
God, who in his essence is called one, Christ is again associated
in the statement of the object of christian worship and adora-
tion. The Apostle, in effect says, pray for all men ; because all,
without exception, are accountable to one supreme moral
authority, and have only one way of hope and salvation. To
all men, there is no other than one Saviour, the only Deliverer
from the guilt of sin and the wrath to come.

Thus, it appears that even in affirming the unity of God, the
New Testament, as well as the Old, never teaches the absolute
and personal unity of God, but only the unity of his essence in
contrast with all false Gods. So far from doing so, we have
seen that even in declaring the unity of God the New Testa-
ment holds forth Christ as associated in the one Godhead, as
"the true God and eternal life ;" and in another passage, as "the
blessed and only potentate, the King of Kings and Lord of
Lords, who "only hath immortality." Such is the union
between the Father and the Son, that in respect of their essen-
tial glories, what is asserted of the one, is to be understood of
the other. Jesus, therefore, not only says, "I and the Father
are one;" but also affirms that "he who honours the Son,
honours the Father also." And again, he says, "All that the
Father hath, is mine, — ^his nature, essence, or Godhead. He
that hath seen me, hath seen the Father also."

It will afterwards be shown that Scripture attributes to the
Holy Spirit, as well as to the Son, everything which is ascribed
to the Father, and that he therefore, is also, "the only true
C»od." But, at present, it is enough to have proved this of the
Son, and that too, from the very passages adduced to establish
the absolute, personal, and metaphysical unity of God.

We thus perceive that, on the one hand, we are taught in
Scripture, that there is one only true God. On the other hand,
we are equally taught in Scripture, that the Father and the
Son. and the Holy Ghost, are alike this one only true God.
Hence, devoutly receiving the Bible as the divine word of
inspiration, and presuming not to be wise either above what is
written, or contrary to what is written, we conclude from these
several declarations of Scripture, that there is one only true
God, the maker of heaven and earth, but that this one only true
God, mysteriously exists in three persons, or hypostases, as he

Digitized by



himself terms it, and that the Supreme Being is one, in regard
to his substance or his proper divine nature; but that he is
three, in regard to his component persons or hypostases.

A christian is bound therefore, to believe, that there is one
only true God, and that the Almighty Father of heaven and
earth is that God.

This tenet, at once separates him from those who worship
the multifarious rabble of Pagan divinities ; for, if he admit as
the very foundation of his creed, the existence of one only true
God, he must of necessity, reject from his creed a plurality of
false gods.

But, as a christian is bound to believe, that there is one only
true God ; so is he likewise bound to believe, that the one only
true God hath sent Jesus of Nazareth in the character of the
promised Messiah ; and that as such, he is God manifest in the
flesh, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the mighty God,
the everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace, — ^the co-equal
person, with the Father and the Holy Ghost in the ever-blessed
triune Jehovah. This is the God to whom as a christian, every
believer is dedicated, into whose name (or nature and glory,)
he is baptized, in whom he is to believe, and whom he is to
love, honour, worship and obey with all his heart, and soul,
and strength, and mind.

The former article of his belief separates the christian from
polytheistic Gentiles. The latter article of his belief separates
him from the Jews ; for though they have ever firmly expected
the promised Messiah, they have generally, as pertinaciously
denied that the Messiah has come in the person of Jesus of
Nazareth, — ^that he is God, — that the Holy Ghost is God, — ^and
that God is a triune Jehovah, consisting of Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost, in one essential nature.

We must never forget, however, that mere doctrinal knowl-
edge, however essential, will stand us in little avail, unless it is
manifested in our practice. That same Divine person, who
declared the knowledge of God the Father and of the Lord
Jesus Christ, to be eternal life, declared also, no less unequivo-
cally, "Not every one, that saith unto me. Lord, Lord, shall
enter into the kingdom of Heaven ; but he that doeth the will
of my Father which is in Heaven."*

Unitarians may say, that to know Jesus Christ, is to know
the will of God, as delivered by Jesus Christ. But it is not

♦1 Peter, i: 5-7, and ix: 11.

Digitized by



knowing the will of God, but God himself as a Saviour, that
will secure us eternal life. To know Jesus Christ is, therefore,
to know him as he is represented in the Gospel, as God and
man ; and as having become such for our redemption ; and to
believe in, love, and obey him as such, and thus we perceive the
plain, practical, and fundamental character of the doctrine of
the trinity.

"ThU does God's book declare in obvious phrase,
In most sincere and honest words, by God
Himself selected and arranged so dear.
So plain, so perfectly distinct, that none
Who read with humble wish to understand.
And ask the Spirit given to all who ask,
Can miss their meaning, blazed in heavenly light.

The true One God, in Persons Three,
Great Father of eternity.
Swift with the stm departs the day,
Oh, shed on us a heavenly ray.

At mom and even to Thee we raise
The sigh of prayer, the song of praise,
Though poor the strain, its aim is higfa,-
God over all to glorify!

Father, for ever be adored
And Thou, — ^the Son,— our only Lord,
And Thou, true Consolation Giver,
Now, henceforth, and for ever!

God the Father! with us be,

Shield us Thou from danger nigh,
From sin's bondage set us free.

Help us happily to die!

God the Saviour ! with us be.

Shield us Thou from danger nigh,
From sin's bondage set us free.

Help us happily to die !

God the Spirit! with us be.

Shield us Thou from danger nigh,
Prom sin's bondage set us free.

Help us happily to die !

Keep us in the heavenly faith.

From Satan us deliver;
Thine in life and thine in death.

Thine only and for ever!

God ! with thy weapons arm us,

With all true Christians, shall we,—
Nor earth, nor hell, to harm us, —

Hallelujah sing to thee !"

Hymns of Ancient Church.

Digitized by



The Doctrine of the Trinity, not Theoretical or Specu-
lative, But Practical in Its Nature, and Funda-
mental IN Its Importance.

In our previous article on the doctrine of the Trinity, we laid
it down that this was a question plainly above and beyond the
capacity and limits of the human mind, and altogether incom-
prehensible, undiscoverable, and indeterminable, by the human
reason. It is purely a question of revelation; and the only
proper inquiry respecting it is, whether, how far, and for what
purposes, it is revealed. To say it is impossible for God to
exist as a Trinity in Unity, is, therefore, contrary to reason;
which has no premises from whence to conclude one way or the
other: and to say, that the doctrine of the Trinity is contradic-
tory, is to contradict the very term Trinity itself, which affirms
that in God there is a unity of such an infinite and unfathom-
able nature, as to admit and require a trinity, and a trinity
which can only co-exist in a imity.

"When," says Milton, whom Unitarians so proudly and yet
so deceitfully appeal to as a Unitarian, in the posthumous work
on Christian Doctrine attributed to him,* "when we speak of
knowing God, it must be understood with reference to the
imperfect comprehension of man ; for to know God as he really
is, far transcends the powers of man's thought, much more of
his perception." "Our safest way," he adds,t "is to form in
our minds such a conception of God, as shall correspond with
his own delineation and representation of himself in the sacred
writings. For, granting that both in the literal and figurative
descriptions of God, he is exhibited, not as he really is, but in
such a manner as may be in the scope of our comprehensions,
yet we ought to entertain such a conception of him, as he, in
condescending to accommodate himself to our capacities, has
sho^ that he desires we should conceive. For it is on this
very account that he has lowered himself to our level, lest in
our flights above the reach of human understanding, and
beyond the written word of Scripture, we should be tempted
to indulge in vague cogitations and subtleties."

*Vol. i., page 19, Treatise on Christian Doctrine, supposing this to be
tVoU i., p. 20.

Digitized by



"Solicit not thj thoughts with matters hid :
Leave them to God above ; him serve and fear.
♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ Heaven is for thee too hi^h.
To know what passes there ; so, lowly wise,
Think only, what concerns thee, and thy being;
Dream not of other worlds, what creatures there
Live, in what state, condition, or degree."

"We may be sure," adds Milton, "that sufficient care has been
taken that the Holy Scriptures should contain nothing unsuit-
able to the character or dignity of God, and that God should
say nothing of himself which could derogate from his own

Online LibraryThomas SmythComplete works of Rev. Thomas Smyth, D. D → online text (page 15 of 68)