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

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By hope they taste the rich reward.
Which faith already dares to claim.

Father, may we thy laws fulfil.

Blest Son, may we thy precepts learn ;

And thou, blest Spirit, guide our will,
Our feet unto thy pathway turn.

Yea, Father, may thy will be done.

And may we thus thy name adore.
Together with thy blessed Son,

And Holy Ghost for evermore. Amen,



EVENSONG.

O Thou who dwellest bright on high.

Thou ever-blessed Trinity I
Thee we confess, in thee believe.

To thee with pious heart we cleave.

O Father, by thy saints adored,
O Son of God, our blessed Lord,

O Holy Spirit who dost join.
Father and Son with love divine.

We see the Father in the Son,
And with the Father Christ is one:

All three one blessed truth approve.
All three compose one holy love.

To God the Father, God the Son.

And Holy Ghost, be glory done ;
One God Almighty, — ^we adore.

With heart and voice for evermore,*



MATINS.



Thou ever blessed triune li^ht.
And Thou, great God, the highest might,
Now that the setting sun d«>art8,
Shed ye your light upon our hearts.

♦Hymns of Primitive Church, by Chandler, pp. 92-94.
11— Vol. IX.



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162 ARTICLES ON THE TRINITY.



To you, each mom our voices rise,
Each eve we praise, when daylight dies;
Oh 1 let such praises still ascend
Till time himself shall find an end.

Praise be to God, who is in Heaven!
Praise to his blessed Son be given 1
Thee, Holy Spirit we implore 1



FROM THE EVENSONG.

Praise, honour, glory, worship, be
Unto the blest Almighty Three!
Praise to the Sire, who rules above,
Praise to the virgin-nurtur'd. Son,

Who hath for us salvation won ;
Praise to that Holy Spirit's love,
Through whose blest teaching we adore
The triune God, for evermorct

Glory to God the Trinity.
Whose name has mysteries unknown ;
In essence One, in persons Three ;
A social nature, yet alone.

When all our noblest powers are joined
The honours of thy name to praise.
Thy glories overmatch our mind.
And angels faint beneath the praise.



NOTE A.



Waterland (vol. 1, part 2„ p. 157,) gives the following positions of some
or other of the Arians in respect of the Son :

1. Not consubstantial with God the Father.

2. Not co-eternal, however begotten before all ages, or without any
known limitation of time.

3. Of a distinct inferior nature, however otherwise perfectly like the
Father.

4. Not strictly and essentially God, but partaking of the Father's
Divinity.

6. A creature of the Father's, however unlike to the rest of the crea-
tures, or superior to them.

6. Not like the Father, but in nature and 'substance like other creatures.

7. Made in time: there having been a time when he was not, made of
nothing.

8. Far inferior to the Father in knowledge, power and perfections.

9. Mutable in his nature, as a creature, though unchangeable by decree.

10. Dependent on the good pleasure of the Father for his past, present,
and future being.

11. Not knowing the Father perfectly, nor himself; his knowledge being
that of a creature, and therefore, finite.

12. Made a little before the world was made ; and for the sake of those
that should be after hinu

These are the Arian principles, brought down as low as they well can
go. Arius, the author and founder of the sect, seems to have gone through
all those steps at the first, and indeed, all of them, except the last, hang
together, and are but the necessary consequences of each other. Those
that stopped in the midway, or sooner, might be more pious and modest.

tFrom "Hymnarium Anglicanum,'' or, "Hymns of the Ancient Anglican
Church," pp. 47, 50.



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ARTICLES ON THE TRINITY. 163

but less consistent men. . . . The nine last particulars were, for some
time, and by the Arians in general, waived, dropped, not insisted on, (as
being too gross to take,) or else artfully insinuated only, under specious
and plausible expressions. The first they all owned and insisted the
most upon, having many pretenses to urge against consubstantiality, either
name or thing. The second and third they divided upon, as to the way
of expression; some speaking their minds plainly, others with more
reserve; not so much denying the co-eternity, as forbearing to affirm it.
This was the method which the Arians took to propagate their heresy.
We do not wonder if they were often forced to make use of collusions,
equivocations, and double entendres ; for, being obliged, for fear of offence,
to use Catholic words, though without a Catholic meaning; and to main-
tain their main principle, without seeming to maintain its necessary con-
sequences, (nay, seeming to deny and respect them,) it could not be other-
wise. And not only the Catholics frequently complain of those smooth
gentlemen, but some even of their own party, could not endure such
shuffling; thinking it became honest and sincere men, either to speak
out, or to say nothing. Of this kind were Aetius and Eunomius, with
their followers, called Anomieans and Exoucontii, being indeed, no other,
in respect to the Son's divinity, than such as Arius was at first; and
speaking almost as plainly and bluntly as he did. After the disguises
and softening, and colourings, had been carried on so long, till all men of
sense saw plainlv, that it was high time to leave off trifling, and to come
from words to things; and that there was no medium, but either to settle
into orthodoxy, or, to sit down with the pure Arians and Anomseans. (if
they would determine anything, and be sincere and consistent men,) some
choose the former and some the latter, according as they more inclined to
one way or the other. There is certainly no medium betwixt orthodoxy
and Ananism, (for *Semi-Arianism, if so understood, is perfect nonsense
and contradiction,) there being no medium between God and creature,
between unmade and made. Men may conceal their sentiments, suppress
consequences and speak their minds but by halves ; and so one erring
may be more cautious, or more artful than another; but, in truth and
reality, every man that disowns the consubstantiality, rightly understood,
is as much an Arian as Eunomius or Aetius, or any of the ancient Arians
were, or, even as Arius himself, excepting only some few partictxlars,
which were not his standing and settled opinions.



Note B.



"The Son is supposed to be a creature of the Father's. Now, if his being
of, or from, the Father, in this sense, makes him one God with the Father,
it will follow that angels, or men, or, even things inanimate, are one God
with the Father also. Indeed, to do you justice, you do not so much as
pretend, that unity of principle, or anything else, can make him one God
with the Father; which is enough to show how very widely you differ
from the ancients, in the main point of all. They thought it necessary
to assert that Father and Son were both, one God. So Irensus, Athena-
goras, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandrinus, Origen, Hippolytus, Lactan-
tius, and even Eusebius himself, after some debates upon it, as may
appear from the testimonies before referred to ; and of the Post-Nicene
Catholic writers, in general, every body knows how they contended for
it. The thought that the divinity of the Son could not be otherwise
secured, and Polytheism at the same time avoided, than by asserting Father
and Son to be one God ; and they thought right. But what do you do ?
or how can you contrive to clear your scheme? We ask if the Son be
God, as well as the Father? You say, yes. How, then, we ask, is there
but one God? Your answer is, the Father is supreme, and, therefore, he,
singly, is the one God. This is taking away what you gave us before,
and retracting what you asserted of the Son. If supremacy only makes a

*Semi-Arianus, et Semi-Deus, et Semi-creatura perinde monstra et por-
tenta sunt, quae sani et pii omnes merito exhorrent. — Bull D. F., p. 284.



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164 ARTICLES ON THE TRINITY.

person God, the Son is no Qod, iipon your principles; or, if he is God
notwithstanding, then Father and Son are two Gods. Turn this over as
often as you please, you will find it impossible to extricate your^lf from
it. You can say only this: that you do not admit two supreme Gods.
This is very true, no more did the Pagan Polytheists, nor the idolatrous
Samaritans, nor others condemned in Scripture for Polytheism."

The allegations made by Unitarians therefore, that this doctrine is
absurd and contradictory, is founded on ignorance and presumption. It is
also suicidal, since all such objections apply with eqtial, if not greater,
force to the Unitarian hypothesis. The existence of God as an omnipotent,
omnipresent, and yet spiritual being, iuTolyes every difficulty and every
apparent contradiction imputed to the doctrine of the Trinity, and is just
as far beyond the utmost capacity of human reason. Difficulties insur-
mountable to human reason inhere in the very nature of the subject;
and such difficulties therefore, must be one characteristic of a divine reve-
lation and pre-eminently, as it relates to the nature of God and his mode
of existence. Besides, to use the words of Bishop Horsley, "hath the
Arian hsrpothesis no difficulty, when it ascribes both the first formation
and the perpetual government of the universe, not to the Deity, but to
an inferior being? Can any power or wisdom less than supreme, be a
sufficient ground for the trust we are required to place in Providence?
Make the wisdom and the power of our ruler what 3rou please; still, upon
the Arian principle, it is the wisdom and the power of the creature.
Where then, will be the certainty that the evil which we find in the
world, hath not crept in through some imperfections in the original con-
trivance, or in the present management? Since every intellect below
the first, may be liable to error, and any power, short of the supreme,
may be inadequate to purposes of a certain magnitude. But if evil may
have thus crept in, what assurance can we have that it will ever be extir-
pated? In the Socinian scheme, is it no difficulty that the capacity of
a mere man or of any created being, should contain that wisdom by
which God made the universe? Whatever is meant by the Word in St.
John's gospel, it is the same Word of which the Evangelist says, that "aH
things were made by it," and that it "was itself made flesh." If this
Word be the divine attribute Wisdom, then that attribute, in the degree
which was equal to the formation of the universe, in this view of the
Scripture doctrine, was conveyed entire into the mind of a mere man,
the son of a Jewish carpenter. A much greater difficulty, in my appre-
hension, than any that is to be found in the Catholic faith.

The Unitarian hypothesis implies also, that the Son was bom before all
times, yet is not eternal ; not a creature, yet not God ; of God's substance,
yet not of the same substance; and his exact and perfect resemblance in
all things, yet not a second Deity — a creed really involving those contra-
dictions in terms of which the orthodox are wrongfully accused. It cannot
escape from one of two conclusions — "either the establishment of a sort
of polytheism or as the more practical alternative, that of the mere
humanity of Christ ; t. e, either the superstition of paganism, or the virtual
atheism of philosophy. It confesses our Lord to be God, yet at the same
time infinitely distant from the perfections of the One Eternal cause.
Here, at once, a ditheism is acknowledged. But Athanasius pushes on the
admission to that of an unlimited polytheism. "If," he says, "the Son
were an object of worship for his transcendent glory, then every subordi-
nate being is bound to worship his superior." But so repulsive is the
notion of a secondary God, both to reason, and much more to Christianity,
that the real tendency of Arianism lay towards the sole remaining alterna-
tive, the humanitarian scheme."*

The Arian creed, if considered in all its bearings and deductions, will,
perhaps, appear much less rational and philosophical than has been some-
times asserted. It has been described as a simpler and less mystical

*See Newman's History of Arians of the Fourth Century, pp. 220, 221,
246-248.



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ARTICLES ON THE TRINITY. 165

hypothesis than that of the Trinitarians, and yet it requires us to apply
the same term, God, to two beings who differ as widely from each other
as the Creator and his creature. It requires us to speak of Christ as the
begotten Son of God, though he only differs from all other creatures by
having preceded them in the order of time. It requires us to believe of
this Created Being, that he was himself, employed in creating the world;
and to invest him with every attribute of Deity, except that of having
existed from all eternity. If we contrast these notions with the creed of
the Trinitarians, they will be found to present still greater difficulties to
our faculties of comprehension.*



^Burton's Testimonies of the Fathers to the Trinity, page 4.



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ARTICLE VIII.

Further Objections to the Doctrine of the Trinity
Answered.

A consideration of the Heathen Doctrine of the Trinity, the
opinions of the ancient Jews, and the almost universal
testimony of the christian world, both ancient and modem.

We have now endeavoured to meet fairly, fully and candidly,
the objections offered as presumptive arguments against the
doctrine of the Trinity.

There is, however, one other objection that occurs to our
minds, and which may deserve a passing notice. It has been
said that if this doctrine of the Trinity is so essential, and so
practically important as we allege, it would have been revealed
as clearly in the Old Testament as in the New. To this objec-
tion we would reply, first, that the objection admits that the
doctrine of the Trinity is taught clearly in the New Testament.
But, if the doctrine of the Trinity is clearly revealed, as true, in
the New Testament, then to all who receive it as containing the
doctrine taught by Christ and his apostles, it becomes funda-
mental, and vitally essential, whatever may have been the
degree in which it was revealed to believers under the Old Tes-
tament. But, in the second place, we reply, that the doctrines
of a future life, of the resurrection of the dead, of the nature
of everlasting life, of the mercy of God, the way of acceptance
with him, and the principle of obedience, not to mention others,
are, on all hands, admitted to be of fundamental and practical
importance, and among "the first principles of the oracles of
God," and yet these are far more clearly and fully revealed in
the New than in the Old Testament. And it is therefore only
in accordance with the progressive character of God's revela-
tion that the doctrine of the Trinity should be more distinctly
revealed in the New, than in the Old Testament. But, thirdly,
we affirm that there is more in the Old Testament to lead to
the belief of a plurality in the Divine Godhead, than there is to
regard that Godhead as a simple and absolute personal unity ;
and as this plurality is limited to the mention of the invisible
Jehovah, — the visible, Jehovah, the God of Israel — and the
Holy Spirit, we have in the Old Testament a sufficient revela-
tion of the doctrine of the Trinity.



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ARTICLES ON THE TRINITY. 167

We now proceed however, to remark, that in coming to the
investigation of Scripture as to the doctrine of the Trinity, we
are not only relieved from all presumptive objections against
it, but are assisted by a presumptive argument in its favour,
which, to our minds, has no small importance in rendering it
probable that the Trinity is a doctrine of divine revelation.

It is admitted by both parties in this controversy, that the
doctrine of the Trinity of the Godhead is infinitely above, and
beyond, the comprehension, or the discovery, of reason. The
very fact, therefore, that a doctrine so remote from the ordi-
nary conception of reason should exist, and should have existed
always in some form, is a presumption that the human mind
was, originally, led to such a conception by a direct revelation
from Heaven.

The UNIVERSALITY with which this belief, in some form has
been held, is a powerful confirmation of the opinion that the
origin of this . doctrine must be referred to a primitive and
common revelation, since, as is admitted, and even urgently
advanced by our opponents, it is not a doctrine which could
naturally suggest itself to the human mind. It would require
a volume to contain the evidence of the actual existence of the
doctrine of a Trinity, in some form or other, among almost
every nation of the earth. Volumes have been written upon
this subject containing proof of the belief in a Trinity — ^a triad
of supreme and co-equal deities — in Hindostan — ^in Chaldea —
in Persia — in Scythia, comprehending Thibet, Tartary, and
Siberia, — in China — in Egypt — among the Greeks — among the
Greek philosophers who had visited Chaldea, Persia, India, and
Egypt, and who taught the doctrine of the Trinity after their
return to Greece — among the Romans — amcmg the Germans —
and among the ancient Americans.

The truth of this fact it might be necessary to establish by
full and explicit evidence, were it not fully admitted by Uni-
tarian writers who base upon it, an argument for the heathen
origin of the doctrine. A considerable portion, for instance,
of Dr. Beard's recent work entitled Historical Illustrations of
the Trinity* is occupied with the presentation of evidence that
"a divine triplicity was conmion in the heathen world prior to
the Gospel of Christ." He gives proof of its existence among
the Babylonians, the Phoenicians, the Persians, and in India.
2^roaster, he quotes as declaring in so many words, that "the

♦Hist, and Artistic 111. of the Trinity from Lond. 1846. The works of
this writer are in great repute among American Unitarians.



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168 ARTICLES ON THE TRINITY.

paternal monad (or the Deity) generates too, and in the whole
world shines the triad over which the monad rules." In the
most ancient of all mythologies, that of Egypt, "as described by
authors who lived before the christian era, and as set forth on
the walls of the temples in which its ritual of worship was
performed, it was taught to the initiated, and concealed from
the vulgar, that God created all things at the first, by the pri-
mary emanation from himself, his first-bom, who was the
author and giver of all wisdom, and of all knowledge, in heaven
and in earth, being at the same time the wisdom and the word
of God. The birth of this great and all-powerful being, his
manifestation as an infant, his nature and education through
the succeeding periods of childhood and of boyhood, consti-
tuted the grand mystery of the entire system." The idea of a
divine trinity, then, more or less distinctly outlined in other
Eastern systems of religion, appears in that of Egypt fully and
definitely formed, and may in consequence, says Dr. Beard, be
legitimately considered as the immediate parent of the modem
doctrine.f

Dr. Beard quotes as an ancient proverb the declaration
"every three is perfect" Servius, in his Conmientary on
Virgil's 8th Eclogue says, "they assign the perfect number three
to the highest God, from whom is the banning, middle, and
end." Triplicity was, therefore, found in those things which
were held to be mirrors of the Divine essence. And Plutarch
(de Iside 66,) expressly says, the better and diviner nature
consists of the three."

Servius remarks that "the distinctive attributes of nearly all
the gods are represented by the number three. The thunder-
bolt of Jupiter is cleft in three ; the trident of Neptune is three-
forked ; Plato's dog is three-headed ; so are the Furies. The
Muses also, are three times three." Aurelius, according to
Proclus, (in Tim. ii. 93,) says, "the Demiurge or Creator is
triple, and the three intellects are the three kings, — ^he who
exists, he who possesses, he who beholds. And these are dif-
ferent."*

And we leam further, that there existed and was familiar to
the heathen mind the idea of a Seapffpwro^^ Theanthropos, or

GOD-MAN.J

It follows from what is thus admitted by this learned Uni-
tarian, first, that the absolute, metaphysical, or personal unity

tDr. Beard, pp. 19, 20, 21. ♦!>. Beard, p. 4. tDr. Beard, p. 27.



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ARTICLES ON THE TRINITY. 169

of God for which Unitarians contend, never was the doctrine
of human reason, or of human religion ; and secondly, that in
ALL ancient religions we find the evidence of an original doc-
trine of a Trinity.

As to the Romans, "the joint worship of Jupiter, Juno, and
Minerva, — ^the Triad of the Roman Capitol, — ^is, (says Bishop
Horsley,) traced to that of the three mighty ones in Samoth-
race; which was established in that island, at what precise
time it is impossible to determine, but earlier, if Eusebius may
be credited, than the days of Abraham. "J The notion, there-
fore, of a Trinity, more or less removed from the purity of the
christian faith, is found to have been a leading principle in all
the ancient schools of philosophy, and in the religions of almost
all nations ; and traces of an early popular belief of it, appear
even in the abominable rites of idolatrous worship. In regard
to Plato, it is well known that he largely discoursed of a divine
Trinity; the three component members of which are, (says
Bishop Horsley,*) "more strictly speaking, one, than anything
in nature, of which unity may be predicated. No one of them
can be supposed without the other two. The second and third
being, the first is necessarily supposed ; and the first ayadov^
(agathon) being, the second and third, vow, (nous) and '^frvxVj
(psyche) must come forth. Concerning their equality, I will
not say that the Platonists have spoken with the same accuracy
which the christian Fathers use; but they include the three
principles in the Divine nature, in the to S€iov^ (to theion)
and this notion implies the same equality which we maintain."
"In the opinions of the Pagan Platonists, and other wise men,"
adds Bishop Horsley,t "we have in some d^ree an experi-
mental proof, that this abstruse doctrine cannot be the absurd-
ity, which it seems to those who misunderstand it. Would
Plato, would Porphyry, would even Plotinus, have believed the
miracles of Mahomet, or the doctrine of transubstantiation?
But they all believed a doctrine which so far at least, resembles
the Nicene, as to be loaded with the same, or greater objec-
tions."

"God is but One ; who holds a Trinity,

Belieres in that which is not, cannot be,

For Three in One's impossibility."

Thus speaks the "Christian" of Socinus' brood.

What said the very heathen? "There are Three

Who are One God,^' quoth Plato, "th' eqly Good,

tHorsley's Tracts, p. 40.
•Tracts, p. 247.
tHorsley's Tracts, p. 77.



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170 ARTICLES ON THE TRINITY.

The Word, the Spirit" Nay, the Pagan rude
In Scvthian wilds, less stormy than his mind,
Who hoped from foeman's skulls to quaff Heaven's mead.
Believed one God, from whom all things proceed.
And yet declared Three Gods had made mankind.
Each giving his own blessing. Shame, oh Shame I
That men shoiild ape the christian's heavenly name.
And yet be darker than the heathen blind !

Such then, are the facts in this case. What inference,
then, are we to make from these admitted facts, proving, as
they do, the universal belief of the doctrine of a Trinity. "If
reason," says Bishop Horsley,J "was insufficient for this great
discovery, what could be the means of informaticm, but what
the Platonists themselves assign." "A theology delivered from
the gods," i. e., a revelation. This is the account which Platon-
ists, who were no christians, have given of the origin of their
master's doctrine. But, from what relevation could they
derive their information, who lived before the christian, and
had no light from the Mosaic Scriptures ? Their information
could be only drawn from traditions founded upon earlier
revelations; from scattered fragments of the ancient patri-
archal creed ; that creed which was universal before the defec-
tion of the first idolaters, which the corruptions of Idolatry,
gross and enormous as they were, could never totally obliterate.
Thus the doctrine of the Trinity is rather confirmed than dis-
credited by the suffrage of the heathen sages ; since the resem-
blance of the christian faith and the Pagan philosophy in this



Online LibraryThomas SmythComplete works of Rev. Thomas Smyth, D. D → online text (page 18 of 68)