Thomas Smyth.

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

. (page 21 of 68)
Online LibraryThomas SmythComplete works of Rev. Thomas Smyth, D. D → online text (page 21 of 68)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Haleson on the Trinity. Maurice Juo. Antiq. vol. 4, ch. 11, pp. 113.
Jamieson's Reply to Priestly, voL i., pp. 48-117. Randolph's View of our
Saviour's Ministry, vol. ii., pp. 343-354. Gill's Commentary on all the
Passages. Lightfoot. Whitaker's Origen of Arianism. Kidder's Demon-
stration of the Messiah, Part iii., ch. 4, 5. Horsley's Tracts, pp. 242-244.
McCaul's Old Paths. Stillingfleet on the Trinity, pp. 203-206. For a full
account of the Targum, see Prideaux Conect of Old and New Test.,
Part ii, B. 8.

Digitized by



Eternal Godhead. Again the Jews, who regard these writings
as authoritative, their testimony must undoubtedly be conclu-
sive, and against all presumptive arguments of Unitarians, they
are equally conclusive, since they prove that the doctrine of an
absolute personal unity in the divine nature is a defection from
the ancient faith of the Jews as well as of christians, and was
never held either by believers in revelation, or by Gentiles with-
out revelation.*

It must be remembered also, that a great number of the early
converts to Christianity and to the belief of the Trinity were,
like Paul and the other apostles, Jews, and some of them, like
him, trained up in their schools and familiar with all their
learning. And as a contradiction between the Old and New
Testaments would be destructive to the inspired and authorita-
tive claims of both, the adoption of Christianity with the doc-
trine of the Trinity as a vital principle, by them, is an irrefraga-
ble proof to their belief in its perfect consistency with what
they regarded as the teaching of God's worAf

A multitude of the early christians were, on the other hand,
Greeks, or at least familiar with the Greek language, and with
that dialect spoken in Palestine, and in which the Books of the
New Testament were written. Many of them also, like Paul,
had been learned in all the wisdom of the ancient philosophers,
and some of them had been teachers of their systems, and
enthusiastic admirers of their genius and eloquence.

But further, all the primitive and early disciples of Christian-
ity, had either been brought up Jews or Pagans. They were
imbued therefore, with all the prejudices and bigotry of these
nations, and their enmity even unto blood against Christianity.
To the unbelieving, who constituted the great majority of the
Jewish nation, the doctrine of the deity of Christ and of the
Trinity, was an opprobrious scandal, nay a God defying blas-
phemy, for the open avowal of which they condemned Jesus
Christ to what, by their law, they considered a merited cruci-
fixion. To the Greeks and Romans this doctrine was the utter-
most folly, contradiction and absurdity. It was made the
ground-work of opprobrious ridicule, as may be seen in the
oath put by Lucian into the mouth of a christian, and by the

♦Note D., Testimony of Jews.

tThe alleged Unitarianism of the early Hebrew Christians has been
tritimphantly overthrown by Bishop Horsley, in his Tracts against Priestley,
and in Jamieson's Vindication in reply to the same writer in Whitaker^s
Origen of Arianism, and other works.

Digitized by



charge contained in the letter of Pliny to Prajan.* By the
philosophic few these doctrines were regarded as pure poly-
theism and the idolatrous worship of a mere man, while they
rejected all faith in the Gods. To the multitude among them,
on the contrary, they appeared as the impious substitution of a
new system of polytheism for one already established, as the
faith of their fathers.

That the early christians, both Jews and Gentiles, should
have adopted Christianity, and with it as a prime verity, this
doctrine of the Trinity, is, therefore, overwhelming presump-
tive evidence, both that the doctrine is Scriptural, and that it is

It is a further evidence for this conclusion, and a new line of
presumptive and corroborative proof, that some even of the
ancient heretics, who separated themselves from the body of
the church and were cut off by it, as fully retained the doctrine
of a consubstantial trinity as the orthodox. This was the case
with the Manicheesf and the Montanists, Tertullian having
written some of his strongest works in favour of the Trinity
after joining this sect.

Such then, are the many various and antagonistic witnesses,
who\inite their testimony in favour of the doctrine of a trinity,
as having been the doctrine originally, of a primitive divine
revelation, and as being the undoubted doctrine taught in the
Hebrew and christian Scriptures. The heathen world, the
christian world, the various and conflicting denominations of
christians, the ancient Jews, all converted Jews, Romanists and
Greek, and all other oriental christians, the Syrian Church
buried for ages on the coasts of Malabar, and the Waldenses
equally concealed from the earliest times amid their inaccessi-
ble mountains, all unite in testifying to this glorious and divine

Now, be it remembered, that fact thus testified to, is not the
truth of this doctrine, but the simple, palpable, and easily
understood fact, of this doctrine having been handed down
more or less, and purely from primitive and patriarchal revela-
tion, and of its being at this moment^ and ever since they were
written, embodied and taught in the sacred Scriptures.

It must also be remembered, that the Greek and Roman
Churches were early separated, and have 'ever since remained
rival and antagonistic churches. The firm tenure of this doc-

*See ffiven in Note C, as one line of proof. See also, Lardner's Works.
tSee Lardner, vol. iii., pp. 351, 330, 287.

Digitized by



trine therefore, by both churches, their mutual and earnest con-
tending for it as the faith once delivered to the saints, and their
undeviating preservation of it amid all their other changes and
corruptions, gives undoubted strength to the force of their inde-
pendent and yet concurrent testimony.

The undoubted fact of the early and established belief in the
doctrine of the Trinity is, itself, a powerful presumption in
favour of its apostolic origin. For, as it is itself, altogether
remote from the conceptions of the human mind, had the
primitive Jews and Jewish converts, and christian converts,
been Unitarian, it is impossible to conceive how, or in what
manner the doctrine could have been so firmly and finally estab-
lished as the doctrine, both of the Old and New Testaments,
and as fundamentally important

To these considerations must be added, not only the almost
universal testimony of Christendom, in the present and all
modem times, to the doctrine of the Trinity, — ^but the amazing
learning with which every point bearing upon this question has
been discussed; — ^the erudition and research employed in the
study and analysis of the Greek and Hebrew languages; and
the definitive character now given to the proper and only legiti-
mate interpretation of the sacred Scriptures.

The passages from which these various and independent
witnesses deduced the propositions which constitute the ele-
ments of the doctrine of the Trinity, are all those which teach
that God, while in his Godhead or nature, he is absolutely one,
is, in some sense plural, and not absolutely or personally one,
that this plurality is limited to the persons of the Father, Son,
and Holy Ghost, and that each of these are God. Now, these
passages of Scripture are not few. They are exceedingly
numerous and enter into the whole structure and phraseology
of the Bible. And as it regards their qualities of clearness,
plainness, and determinate signification, we appeal from the
prejudiced dogmatism of an adversary to the judgment of the
truly calm and sincere inquirer, and from the comparatively
few who have attempted to sustain the Unitarian hypotheses,
upon purely Scriptural testimony, — to the innumerable wit-
nesses we have produced, who, against all the prejudice which
stood in their way, have been constrained to receive the doctrine
of the Trinity as the doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures.

There is still another remark, which will strengthen this pre-
sumptive argument for the Scriptural authority of the doctrine

Digitized by



of the Trinity, and that is, that were it not plainly and indubita-
bly taught by God himself, no sincere believer could ever have
dared to promulgate it. For, if there is one point on which the
Scriptures are more full, express and positive than any other,
it is in their denunciations against all idolatry and false Gods.
Of Christ, it is almost essential characteristic in the prophetic
writings, that he should "utterly abolish idolatry." (Isa. ii.,
18.) If therefore, the doctrine of the Trinity be not true, then
believers in any age, have been almost universally idolaters.
And hence, from anti-trinitarian principles, the blasphemous
consequence follows, — that God himself has led his creatures
into temptation, — temptation to that very sin, which, above all
others, he hates and abhors, — ^temptation to idolatry! The
Deity declares that he is a "jealous God;" that his glory he will
not give to another, nor his praise "to graven images." He
most pathetically expostulates upon this subject, (Jer. xliv.,
3,) "Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate." With
what scrupulous care does the Supreme Being guard against all
temptations to idolatry? Lest the Israelites should worship
the relics of Moses, the Deity himself privately interred him,
and no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day." The
brazen serpent also, was destroyed, lest it should lead the
Israelites into idolatry. But, if the Deity used such precau-
tion to prevent men from worshipping the body of Moses and
the brazen serpent, how can we believe that he would use no
precaution where the temptation was infinitely greater. How
can we imagine that he would use no precaution to prevent men
from worshipping his Son and the Holy Ghost, if only crea-
tures ? Is not such a supposition in the highest degree, absurd
and imreasonable, and impious? We find that, not only is
there no precaution employed in the Scriptures to prevent men
from such idolatry, but that everywhere and in every way the
Scriptures teach and require men to worship, both the
Redeemer and the Holy Spirit. The most glorious perfections
of Deity are ascribed to them; the most glorious works of
Deity are performed by them, — those very works by which the
being and attributes of God are proved, — ^by which his eternal
power and Godhead are manifested, — ^and by which he is dis-
tinguished from all false gods. They are, also, everywhere
represented as the object of the prayers of men, and of the
united praises and adorations of all intelligent beings. What
temptations to idolatry if these persons are only creatures or

Digitized by



attributes. All the temptations that ever existed compared
with these, were nothing, and less than nothing."*

Finally, if, as it is said by Unitarians, we cannot and ought
not to believe the doctrine of the Trinity, even though the
Scriptures when interpreted, as all other books are, clearly
teaches it, — ^then, since God has given us no other laws of
interpretation by which to understand their meaning, it would
follow that the Scriptures cannot be received as an authorita-
tive and inspired standard of faith and practice, and we are
thrown upon the wide sea of scepticism and human conjecture
as to what is truth. By the g^eat majority of those who have
candidly studied the Bible, it has been regarded as teaching the
doctrine of the Trinity of persons in the One Godhead, and
therefore, it follows that the great majority of those who
believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God, must, also,
believe the doctrine of the Trinity. They have no alternative
between infidelity and Trinitarianism, and since they cannot
adopt the latter they must adhere to the former.

From these consequences, therefore, which follow from the
rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity, and from all the rea-
sons which constitute our presumptive argument in its favour,
we are brought to the conclusion that it is very probably true,
that it will be found clearly taught in the Scriptures, and that
its opponents therefore, are bound to prove that Christianity
distinctly and equivocally condemns and rejects this doctrine
before they can offer any valid argfument against it on the
groimd of antecedent impossibility, or in any degree tamper
with the plain meaning of the words of Scripture. In coming
therefore to Scripture to ascertain what God has revealed on
the subject of his own nature, we are not only freed from any
prejudices against the probability of finding there the doctrine
of the Trinity, but are presumptively led confidently to expect
that it will be clearly and distinctly taught in those Scriptures
which "were given by inspiration of God and are profitable for
doctrine," — "the law and testimony," — ^the rule and standard
of all revealed truth.f

*Oii the alleged idolatry of the doctrine of the Trinity, and the con-
sequences it involves, and its futility, see Wynpersee on the Godhead of
Christ, sec 17, pp. 157-102.

tWe would earnestly ask our readers to distinguish carefully between
the doctrines proposed in Scripture to our belief, and the things them-
selves that are the matter and subject of them. The former may be
known, and ground sufficient seen for receiving them ; where our reason.

Digitized by



On Elohim as a Title of God, and as Implying a Plu-
rality IN THE Godhead.*

The names of the Deity in general and constant use in the
Hebrew language are more numerous than in either of the
beautiful languages of classical antiquity, or in the most culti-
vated tongues of modern Europe. There was no shadow of
necessity, difficulty, or even inducement, for the adoption of a
phraseology which, on Unitarian principles, every candid mind
must confess, can with difficulty, if at all, be defended from the
charge of pernicious example and very dangerous tendency.

Among these names, are the term Eloah, a singular form
of a word signifying the object of fear, reverence, or the prin-
cipal and mighty, or the swearer, or one who enters into cove-
nant by oath, — and Elohim, which is a regularly formed plural
of the singular word, and having the same meaning, if regarded
as derived from it. The etymology of this word, however, says
Dr. Pye Smith, has been much contested; some making it a
compound of El, and Jah, so as to signify "the Mighty Jah;
others deriving it from Ala, "to enter into an engagement by
oath," and thus signifying "the Being of sworn veracity and
faithfulness." The most reasonable and probable derivation,
so far as I can judge, is that of Schultens, Reineccius, and a

at least in this its weak and impaired state, can't reach the full clear, and
adequate understanding of the latter.

"Would not advantage be given to Deists and Anti-Scripturists, not to
say Atheists, to scoff at the Bible, if after pretences of its truth and
authority, and that its great end is to call off the world from idolatry and
polytheism to the knowledge, worship and service of the one only true
God, and of its plainness to such purposes, being for the use of all ; yet
even as to this main point, the settings forth of this one true God, dis-
tinguishing him from all other beings, it is allowed to be done in such a
manner, that not only one, or a few, through carelessness or prejudices,
or judicial blindness might mistake ; but that the generality of christians,
in all ages, have mistaken, under as good capacity to understand it, as
good means and helps thereto, as much concern and diligence, impartiality
and faithfulness in the study of it, as sincere and earnest prayer to God
for his guidance, and as good ground to hope for it from him as any can
pretend to? What use, may they say, can such a book be of, or what
likelihood that it is from God? Could he not speak plainly of himself,
where 'tis pretended he designed to do so? Is all there so delivered, that
the world might, and almost all actually have erred, as to the very object
of their faith, worship and obedience, and in whom their felicity is placed?
Would not that book, instead of leading to life and salvation, be the most
insnaring and dangerous one that can be? Of what tendency must those
notions be from which any such consequences would justly follow ?"

♦Intended to illustrate and confirm the argument from this name in tke
article on the objection to the Trinity, founded on the unity of God, in
the January No. of this Reivew.

18— Vol. IX.

Digitized by



host of the most eminent orientalists, who make its primitive,
Ala, which, though not occurring in the existing remains of the
Hebrew, is preserved in the Arabic "Alaha," and denotes "to
adore." Hence, the noun will signify "the object of adora-
tion," or, as the illustrious Schultens well expresses it, "Numen

Much however, may be said, and we think, with g^eat force,
and no little Scriptural support, in favour of the first deriva-
tion. The word Eloah signifies a denouncing of a curse, a
curse denounced either upon oneself or others, or both, and
therefore, an oath taken or given, for what is an oath but a
conditional curse or execration? It was so used by the
ancients; and, to this manner of swearing our blessed Lord
himself submitted. (See Matt, xxvi: 63, 64.) Hence, the
word Elohim, which is a regularly formed masculine plural of
Eloah, would naturally signify the denouncers of a conditional
curse. So, we find Jehovah swearing to Adoni, (Psalm ex.,)
on oath, certainly prior to the creation. See Prov. viii : 23, and
seq., comp., John xvii : 5, 24. Accordingly, Jehovah is at the
beginning of the creation called Elohim, which implies that the
divine persons had sworn when they created. It was from this
oath that the ever blessed Three were pleased to take that glori-
ous and fearful name. (Deut. xxviii: 58,) Jehovah Elohim;
glorious, in as much as the transaction, to which it refers, dis-
plays in the most glorious manner, the attributes of God to men
and angels ; and fearful, in as much as, by one part of the oath,
eternal and infinite power, Jehovah himself, is engaged to make
the enemies of Christ his foot-stool. — Psalm ex.

Let those who have any doubt whether Elohim, when mean-
ing the true God, Jehovah, is plural or not, consult the follow-
ing passages, where they will find it joined with adjectives,
pronouns, and verbs plural, Gen. i : 26, iii : 22, xi : 7, xx : 13,
xxxi : 63, xxxv : 7 ; Deut. iv : 7, v : 23, or 26 ; Josh, xxiv : 19 ; 1
Sam. iv : 8 ; 2 Sam. vii : 23 ; Ps. Iviii : 12 ; Is. vi : 8 ; Jere. x : 10 ;
xxiii: 36. So, chald. Elohin, Dan. iv: 6, 6, 16, or 8, 9, 18.
See also Prov. ix : 10, xxx : 3 ; Psal. cxlix : 2 ; Eccles. v : 7, xii :
1 ; Job V : 8 ; Is. vi : 3, liv : 5 ; Hos. xi : 12, or xii : 1 ; Mai. i : 6 ;
Dan. vii : 18, 22, 25. It is also to be observed, that the Greeks
had, from this name Elohim, by a perverted tradition, their
Zevi opx<^ Jupiter, who presided over oaths. Hence, also, the
corrupt tradition of Jupiter's oath which overruled even Fate

^Smith's Messiah, voL i., p. 465.

Digitized by



itself, that is, the fated and necessary motions of the elements
of this world.J

The derivation here adduced, is very ably supported by
Geddulph, in his Theology of the Early Patriarchs, vol. ii., pp.
1-27; and favourably regarded by Horsely in his Biblical

This view was ably defended by Hutchinson, Calcott, Bates,
Ahoab, and others in their dissertations on this word. See
also, Calasio's Concordance, London Edition.

But, passing from the derivation of this word, we remark
that this term Elohim, is the most usual appellation of the Deity
in the Old Testament, which is constantly translated God. The
singular form Eloah occurs chiefly in the poetical books; —
twice in the Hymn of Moses, (Deut. xxxii : 7,) several times in
the Prophets, forty times in the book of Job, and in the other
books sixteen times; but the plural Elohim, occurs about two
thousand five hundred times. This plural appellative is gen-
erally put in agreement with singular verbs, pronouns, and
adjectives, as in the first sentence of the Pentateuch, "Elohim
created ;^reavit Dii ; — les Dieux crea." This is the ordinary
construction through. the whole Hebrew Bible. But sometimes
the apposition is made with verbs, pronouns, and adjectives in
the "plural" niunber likewise; and sometimes singulars and
plurals are put together in the same agreement.

"For example, Gen. xx: 13. "Elohim hithoo outhi/' "the
Gods have caused me to wander."

Gen. XXXV : 7, "Sham nighlo elau haelohim/' "there were
revealed to him the Gods."

Josh, xxiv: 19, "Laavod, eth Jehovah chi lo him kidoshim
hoh," "to serve Jehovah, for he are holy Gods."

Is. liv : 6, "Chi boaalaich oosaich," "for thy husbands are thy
makers."* Nor is Elohim the only divine title used in the
plural form. Drusius, Buxtorf, Heeser, Eichhom, Gesenius,
and other distinguished scholars, have maintained that "Adonai
and Shaddai," are plurals of an obsolete form ; and this very
plural title is the word which the Jews of a very early age, cer-
tainly hundreds of years before Christ,t substituted for the use
of the title Jehovah, which they never pronounce, and for

tSee Parkhurst's Heb. Lex., sub. nom. elohim.

*See also, Detit. ▼ : 23 ; (Engl. ▼ : 26 ;) 1 Sam. xvii : 26 ; 2 Sam. yii : 23 ;
PsaL lyiii : 12, cxlix : 2 ; Prov. ix : 10 ; Jere. x : 10 ; Dan. yii : 18, 22, 25,
27; Hos. xii: 1; (EnffU v. xi: 11.)

tSince it is so used in the Septuagint

Digitized by



which singular title of God they have always employed, and
now always employ, the plural title '*Adonai, my Lx>rds."

This Ewald controverts, but he assigns no satisfactory rea-
son, as apparent to me, in either case; and Gesenius remains
imconvinced ; whose opinion in a case of philology, especially,
if at all favourable to a doctrine of revelation is really equal to
an argument.

It is further to be observed, that the first person plural, is
used in reference to the Divine Being. — Gen. i: 26. "And
Elohim said, let us make man in our image, according to our
likeness," chap, iii : 22. "And Jehovah Elohim said, behold the
man is become as one of us," chap, xi : 7. "Come, we will go
down, and there we will confound their language," Is. vi: 8.
"And I heard the voice of the Lord (Adonai,) saying, whom
shall I send, and who shall go for us ?"

Such are the facts in regard to the employment of a plural
title in connection with plural forms of speech, to designate the
Deity. This use must be in accordance with a divine intention
and direction, and not from any necessity in the case. It is
evidently, the result of choice and design. In what then did
this peculiarity of idiom originate?

The question is, why is the plural pronoun used, when the
singular was required by the subject, and would have been, not
only equally dramatic, but indeed, more terse, and vigorous,
and striking? The question is not about the analogous, unfre-
quent, and secondary application of the title to express Gods
who were false, or God's agent as Moses. "It is, says Dr.
Smith, about the proper, primary, and direct signification of the
word." That Elohim is ever so applied to any other being
than God, has been denied. But, granting that it is so, this
will not prove that in its proper and primary meaning it is
applied to God, and that too, with unquestionable design. For
the same is true of all the titles of God, not even excepting
Jehovah which, as Oxlee remarks, "Though generally regarded
by the Jews as a noun appropriated to the individual subsist-
ency of the Godhead, is also common to many persons, for
being found in construction, and accompanied with adjuncts
restraining its signification, it necessarily ceases to be proper.
Thus, we read: "The Jehovah of hosts." And R. Abraham
ben Ezra, confesses, that when thus placed in regimen with the
term hosts, it partakes of the nature of a common appellation."
But, besides being found in construction, and having other
marks of a noun common, it is absolutely equivocal; angels

Digitized by



being called by this name, as well as the Deity. Nor is this any

Online LibraryThomas SmythComplete works of Rev. Thomas Smyth, D. D → online text (page 21 of 68)