Thomas Smyth.

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edge of God. Agur teaches that a knowledge of the name of the Son op
God is an essential part of the knowledge of God, so that both the general
analogy of scripture and the particular scope of the passage under con-
sideration, compel us to concede that the Son here spoken of, is a Divine
person, that is, the passage teaches us that God has a Son, and that this
Son is very God."

"The Old Testament, therefore, speaks of a Being who is, in a peculiar
sense, the Son of God. Thus, in the Book of Proverbs, Agur, the Son of
Jakeh, asks, "Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? Who
hath gathered the wind in his fists? Who hath bound the waters in a
garment? Who hath established all the ends of the earth? What is his
name, and what is his Son's name?" There can be no doubt that God is
he who bound the waters in a garment, and who established all the ends
of the earth. From this passage, then, we learn that there is a Being
who stands to God in the relation of a Son, and that the knowledge of this
Son's name is as great a mystery as the knowledge of God himself, and
cannot be learned, except by immediate revelation. Agur had complained,
in the preceding verses, that he did not possess human knowledge, and
from this ignorance argues, how then, should I have knowledge of the
Holy Ones ; that is, how should I have the knowledge of God ? You will
observe that, instead of the usual word of God, he employs a plural
adjective, The Holy Ones, and then shows in what sense he understood
this plurality, by speaking of God, and of his Son. Agur, then, consid-
ered the knowledge of God's Son as a part of the knowledge of God, and
thereby manifests his belief in the existence and Deity of the Son of
God." — Dr. McCaul on the Eternal Sonship of the Messiah, see pp, 3. 38,
39, 41, 42, 46, 55.

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THREE in such a sense as to be one. And as to the second
point, we believe that Scripture nowhere, or in any manner,
teaches that God is absolutely one person, but that in the eter-
nal Godhead there are three, to each of whom belong all the
attributes and perfections of the one divine essence.

Every term employed on this subject is necessarily human,
and therefore analagous, imperfect, and only suggestive of the
fact that the Unity of the divine nature admits of, and requires
for, its own perfect and inexpressible beatitude, three hypos-
tases, subjects, persons, or distinctions which we therefore call
a Trinity. God*s Unity is, therefore, a Trinity of persons
in one Godhead.

If God is spoken of in Scripture as one he also speaks of
himself in Scripture in plural terms as more than one, and he
emphatically attributes every quality, attribute and work by
which his Deity can be distinguished, not only to the Godhead,
which is in essence one, but also, to the Father, to the Son, and
to the Holy Ghost, who are personally distinct. Hear O Israel
Jehovah our Gods (the Hebrew term is in the plural and not
as might have been in the singular,) is one God." — (Deut. vi:
4.) "The Gods," (the same plural noun elohim.) "The Grods
said unto Moses, I am that which I am."

Unity and plurality are here, and as we shall hereafter show,
in many other passages, asserted of God — ^not an absolute and
personal Unity, nor an absolute plurality, but a plurality of
persons in the essential Unity of the infinite and incomprehen-
sible Jehovah. And thus we find that in one of the very few
passages in the Bible in which the Unity of God is pointedly
enforced the Son is united with the Father. "Thus saith the
Lord the King of Israel, and his Redeemer the Lord of Hosts ;
I am the first and I am the last, and beside me there is no God."
— (Mai. ii: 10.) And thus, when the Apostle declares that
to us "there is one God the Father from whom are all things,"
in copfra distinction to "the Gods many and Lords many" of
the heathen, he immediately adds, "and one Lord^ (a most
emphatic designation among these heathen of their greatest
Gods,) "Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and we
through him," thus attributing to the Son as Lord or Jehovah,*
the identical unity and dominion over all things attributed to
the Father.— (1 Cor. viii: 16.)t

*See Smith's Messiah, vol. 3, p. 131.

tLord is the rendering of the Septuagint for the term Jehovah.

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What we affirm therefore, is, that the Scriptures nowhere
teach, either in the Old or New Testament, that God is meta-
physically, absolutely or personally one. The Unity of God is
taught, and only taught, in order to show that our God is the
true and only real God, in opposition to the variety of imagi-
nary Gods worshipped by the heathen. And whereas, Unita-
rians would lead us to believe that the Scriptures are full of
passages inculcating the doctrine of the absolute Divine unity
in the clearest manner, the fact is that the passages which lean
directly on the unity of God are very few, and far fewer than
those in which the plurality of God, and the Deity of the Son,
and the Deity of the Holy Ghost are taught, — and of this fact
any reader of the Bible can at once satisfy himself by taking
any one of the passages and referring to all the texts alluded
to as proofs in the margin. It will thus be seen, that all the
passages which declare God's unity, do so only as that unity is
opposed to the many Gods of heathenism, — but that in the very
words themselves, and in several other passages of Scripture,
as found in the original Hebrew, God, in calling himself one,
speaks of himself as being also a plurality.* And in the forms
of benediction as found, both in the Old and New Testament —
in the threefold forms of language — used in application to
God, — in the initiatory sacrament of baptism in which all who
become disciples of Christianity, are baptized into the belief,
worship, and service of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost — in these
we say, and in the Scriptural proofs of the Supreme Deity of
the Son and of the Holy Ghost, God limits this incomprehensi-
ble plurality of his one Godhead to three persons, each having
ascribed to it the divine attributes, and all inhering in one and
the same essence.

The Divine unity, therefore, as taught in Scripture, has no
relation to number, or to any kind of unity that is comprehen-
sible by the human mind, as even Jewish writers have taught,t
but is exclusively employed in opposition to all human notions
of a plurality of independent and separate Gods.

This oneness, to use the language of Owen,J this oneness
can respect nothing but the nature, being, substance, or essence
of God. God is one in this respect. Some of these words are
not, indeed, used in the Scripture ; but whereas, they are of the

♦See Owen's Works, vol. 10, p. 474, 22 vol. ed.

tSee quoted in Oxlee's Christian Doctrines of the Trinity, and in vol. 1,
pp. 109-13.

tOwen's Works, vol. 10, p. 504, 22 vol. ed.

6— Vol. IX.

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same importance and signification, and none of them include
anything of imperfection, they are properly used in the decla-
ration of the unity of the Godhead. There is mention in the
Scripture of the Godhead of God.— Rom. i : 20. **His eternal
power and Godhead." And of his nature, by excluding them
from being objects of our worship, who are not Gods by nature.
— ^Gal. iv: 8. Now this natural Godhead of God, is, his sub-
stance or essence with all the holy divine excellencies which
naturally and necessarily appertain thereunto. Such are eter-
nity, immensity, omnipotency, life, infinite holiness, goodness,
and the like. This one nature, substance, or essence, being the
nature, substance, or essence of God, as God is the nature,
essence, and substance of the Father, Son, and Spirit, one and
the same absolutely in and unto each one of them. For none
can be God as they are revealed to be, but by virtue of this
divine nature or being. Herein consists the unity of the God-

This unity in Trinity is, undoubtedly, mysterious and incom-
prehensible. But it is not unreasonable. It is above and
beyond the capacity and limits of reason to discover or com-
prehend. But so is all that relates to God and things super-
natural and divine. Reason, we have seen, by all its searching
can know nothing of the nature and essence of any material
object or of the human soul, much less of God. It never could,
and never did, prove the absolute unity of God. This, as may
be seen in Plato's Parmenides, was the bottomless and fathom-
less gulf to human reason. Reason has proved as it thought,
and practised upon the belief of a plurality of Gods, and by a
corruption of primitive revelation human reason has believed
in a trinity of Supreme Gods. Reason therefore, now humbly
and gladly receives that teaching which Socrates and Plato
sought and even expected, and rejoices to believe that there are
three persons in the adorable Godhead, and that these three are

"Ye lofty minds, whose maxims some e'en now
Pretend to follow, true philosophers, t

Who sought whatever ye could find of God,
How would your hearts have bounded to the voice
Of God in flesh made manifest I whom they

♦Among the Fathers, says Hagenbach, in his History of Doctrines, vol.
1, pp. 93-7, "The more profound thinkers, however, were well aware that
it is not sufficient to demonstrate the mere numerical unity of the Divine
Being, and accordingly placed the transcendental unity far above the
mathematical monas.

The idea of a revealed religion implied that so much of the nature of
God should be made manifest to man as would be necessary to the knowl-

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Who follow up your systems hold in scorn ;

And tuning o'er the first part of the strain

Of angels, which, as though from Heaven t'w€rc caught

By inspiration, ye divinely sanp;.

The closing numbers jarring discords deem

But ye were witnesses of darker times ;

And shall in judgment 'gainst your followers

Of these bright days of revelation rise,

As well as those who in your twilight hour

Denied or hated the fair truths ye taught." — Ragg.

That the Scriptures are the word of God is, in this contro-
versy, assumed. But if they are, then we know as assuredly
that they would be so worded as to guard in every way against
that idolatry which they everywhere and in all its forms, con-
demn. The plain, obvious, and necessary teaching of Scrip-
ture that God is in one sense one, and in another sense three,
and that while there is but one divine Godhead there are three
persons, to each of whom, Scripture attributes this Godhead
with all divine honour and prerogatives pertaining to it, makes
the doctrine of the Tri-unity or Trinity of the divine nature
the teaching of God himself, concerning his own ineffable
nature. And surely, to use the language of Robert Hall, this is
the true way of contemplating the doctrines peculiar to revela-
tion, "to consider them as facts, believed on the authority of
the Supreme Being, not to be proved by reason; since their

edge of salvation. The Church, therefore, has ever cultivated the X.0709
ire^t ©€01/ (theology.) On the other hand, the insufficiency of human ideas
was always acknowledged, (in opposition to the pride of speculation,) and
the character of the Divine Being was admitted to be past finding out ;
some even entertained doubts about the propriety of giving God any name.
Much of what the Church designated by the term mystery (sacrament,)
is founded partly on a sense of the insufficiency of our ideas and the
inaptitude of our language, and partly on the necessity of employing certain
ideas and expressions to communicate our religious thoughts and opinions.
When the martyr Attains, in the persecution of the (iallican christians,
under Marcus Aurelius, was asked by his judges what the name of God was,
he replied **0 ^€09 OVfJM OVfC €;^€t 0)9 ai/^SG)7r09." Euseb., v. i. (edit.
Heinchen. T. ii, p. 29, comp. the note.) Such was also, the opinion of Justin
M. Ajloligy, ii, 6 ; whatever name may be given to God, he who has given a
name to a thing must always be anterior to it. He therefore draws a
distinction between appellatives and names. The predicates TTttTiyf, ^609,
tcvpto^y oeCTTOTrj^y are only appellatives. God is not only above all names,
but also above all existence. Minuc. Fel. c. 18. Hie (Deus) nee videri
potest, visu clarior est, nee comprehendi, tactu purior est, nee aestimari,
sensibus major est, infinitus, imenensus et soli sibi tantus quantus est,
notus, nobis vero ad intellectum pectus angustum est, et ideo sic eum digne
aestimamus, dum inaestimabilem dicimus. Eloquar, quemadmodum sentio :
magnitudinem Dei, qui se putat nosse minit, qui non vult minere, non
novit, nee nomen Deo quaeras: DEUS nomen est. Illic vocabulis opus
est, quum per singulos propriis appellationem insig^ibus multitudo din-
menda est Deo qui solus est, Dei vocabulum totum est. Quem si patrem
dixero. terrenum opineris ; si regem, carnalem suspiceris, si dominus. intel-
liges utique mortalem, aufer addiltamenta nominum, et perspicies ejus

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truth does not result from any perceptible relations in our
ideas, but they owe their existence entirely to the will and
counsel of the Almighty Potentate. Let the fair grammatical
import of Scripture language be investigated, and whatever
propositions are, by an easy and natural interpretation, deduci-
ble from thence, let them be received as the dictates of Infinite
Wisdom, whatever aspect they bear, or, whatever difficulties
they present. Repugnant to reason they can never be, because
they spring from the Author of it; but superior to reason,
whose limits they infinitely surpass, we must expect to find
them. The facts which we have become acquainted with in
the natural world, would appear stupendous were they com-
municated merely on the evidence of testimony; they fail to
astonish us, chiefly because they have been arrived at step by
step, by means of their analogy to some preceding one. We
have climbed the eminence by a slow progression, and our pros-
pect has insensibly widened as we advanced, instead of being
transported thither instantaneously by a supreme power.
Revelation conducts us to the path at once, without previous
training, without any intellectual process preceding, without
condescending to afford other proof than what results from the
veracity and wisdom of the Creator; and when we consider
that this truth respects much sublimer relations and concerns
than those which subsist in the material world, that it regards
the existence and nature of an infinite and incomprehensible
God, the ways and counsels of God respecting man's eternal
destiny, is it surprising that it should embrace what greatly
surpassed our previous conjectures, and even transcends our
perfect comprehension ?"

To question or deny this doctrine of the tri-unitv of God,
although admitted to be taught by the language of Scripture,
plainly and naturally interpreted, because it is incomprehensi-
ble, is to destroy all certain assurance that the Scriptures are
the word of God, or that there is one God, or indeed, as we
have seen, a God at all. To disprove the doctrine of Scripture,
that while the divine essence, nature, or Godhead, is numeri-
cally one, there is a real distinction between the Father, the
Son, and the Holy Ghost, to whom this essence and all divine
attributes are severally and equally applied, we must be able to
prove from our actual knowledge of God's nature that such
distinctions cannot possibly exist in the divine nature, and
which is, we have seen, an impossibility. Apart from what

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God reveals concerning himself, no finite reason can tell what
is God's nature, what is proper or impossible to that nature,
what the unity of this nature is, or what a personal distinction
in that nature is. "It is a clear point, I think," says Prof.
Stuart,* "that the unity of God cannot be proved without reve-
lation. It may, perhaps, be rendered faintly probable. Then
you depend upon Scripture proof, for the establishment of this
doctrine. But have the Scriptures anywhere, told us what the
divine unity is? Will you produce the passage ? The oneness
of God they assert. But this they assert always in opposition
to the idols of the heathen, the polytheism of the gentiles — the
Gods superior and inferior, which they worshipped. In no
other sense have the Scriptures defined the oneness of the
Deity. What then is oneness, in the uncreated, infinite, eternal
Being? In created and finite objects, we have a distinct per-
ception of what we mean by it; but can created objects be just
and adequate representatives of the uncreated one? Familiar
as the assertion is, in your conversations and in your sermons,
that God is one, can you give me any definition of this oneness,
except a negative one ? That is, you deny the plurality of it ;
you say God is but one, and not two, or more. Still, in what,
I ask, does the divine unity consist? Has not God different
and various faculties, and powers ? Is he not ahnighty, omnis-
cient, omnipresent, holy, just, and good? Does he not act dif-
ferently, t. e,, variously, in the natural and in the moral world ?
Does his union consist, then, appropriately in his essence ? But
what is the essence of God ? And how can you assert that his
unity consists appropriately in this, unless you know what his
essence is, and whether oneness can be any better predicated
of this, than of his attributes ?

Your answer to all this is, the nature of God is beyond my
reach; I cannot define it, I approach to a definition of the
divine unity, only by negatives. That is, you deny the negative
plurality of God; or you say there are not two or more
essences, omnisciencies, omnipotencies, &c. But here all inves-
tigation is at an end. Is it possible to show what constitutes
the internal nature of the divine essence, or attributes ; or how
they are related to each other; or what internal distinctions
exist ? About all this, revelation says not one word ; certainly
the book of nature gives no instruction concerning it. The
assertion then, that God is one, can never be fully understood

^Letters to Dr. Channing, pp. 45-6.

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as meaning anything more than that he is numerically one; i, e.,
it simply denies polytheism, and can never reach beyond this.
But how does this prove, or how can it prove, that there may
not be, or that there are not distinctions in the Godhead, either
in regard to attributes, or essence, the nature of which is
unknown to us, and the existence of which is to be proved by
the authorities of the Scriptures only?"

When Unitarians, therefore, inquire what that distinction in
the Godhead is, in which we believe, we answer that we do not
profess to understand what it is ; we do not undertake to define
affirmatively. We can approximate to a definition of it, only
by negatives. We deny that the Father is in all respects, the
same as the Son; and that the Holy Spirit is in all respects,
the same as either the Father or the Son. We rest the fact,
that a distinction exists, solely upon the basis of Revelation.

In principle then, what more difficulty lies in the way of
believing in a threefold distinction of the Godhead than in
believing in the divine unity ?

The unity of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, is, indeed,
a mystery, a fact clearly revealed, yet suggesting questions
which no analogy of consciousness, no walk of human experi-
ence, enables us to solve. "Doth this offend" us? Shall we
deny the fact ? Shall we, in our pride of intellect, assume the
one God must be as one man — ^his unity shall be as one of our
unities — that he cannot contain, in his own essential nature, the
element of love, the object of love, and the manifestation of
love ; that the human definition of God must be the true defini-
tion ; that if the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost be God,
there must be three Gods, and not one, even though the Scrip-
tures teach us that God as revealed in the Scriptures — Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit — is "the only living and true God?"
Rather let us acknowledge, for assuredly it well becomes us,
that as "no man knoweth the things of a man but the spirit of
man which is in him, even so the things of God knoweth no
man, but the Spirit of God. For the whole subject is at an
infinite distance from us, and wholly foreign to us, nor is it
revealed to us, for it even surpasses the apprehension of

Concerning this most excellent and holy Trinity, we cannot
find any suitable words in which we might speak of it, and yet
we must express this supernatural incomprehensible Trinity

♦Stowcll on the Works of the Spirit, pp. 81, 406.


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in words. If we therefore, attempt to speak of it, it is as
impossible to do it properly as to reach the sky with one's head.
For all that we can say or think of it is a thousand times less
proportionate to it than the point of a needle is to heaven and
earth, yea, a hundred thousand times less. We might talk to
a wonderful amount, and yet we could neither express nor
understand how the distinction of the persons can exist in the
supernatural unity.

O thou Eternal OnsI whose presence bright

All space doth occupy, all motion guide ;

Unchanged through time's all-devastating flight;

Thou only God! There is no God beside.

Being above all beings I Three in One!

Whom none can comprehend, and none explore,

Who fill'st existence with Thyself alone.

Embracing all, supporting, ruling o'er,

Being whom we call God and know no more.

As far beyond the starry walls of Heaven,

As is the loftiest of the planets seven,

Sequestered from this earth in purest light

Out-shining ours, as ours doth sable night,

Thou all-sufficient, omnipotent.

Thou Ever Glorious, Most Excellent

God, various in names, in essence one.

High art installed on golden throne,

Out-stretching Heaven's wide-bespangled vault.

Transcending all the circles of our thought;

With diamantine sceptre in thy hand.

There thou giv'st laws, and dost this world command.


But on this subject of the unity of God, as an objection to
the Scriptural proof of the Trinity, we propose to make some
further observations in a future number.

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On the Trinity.

The Objections of Unreasonableness, Contradiction, and the
Human Origin of the Word Trinity.

The object of our previous articles* has been to determine
the true nature, office, capacity, limits and condition of human
reason, especially in reference to God's unity and nature. Our
views will be found admirably sustained in a discourse by
Bishop Butler, — the immortal author of the Analogy of Natu-
ral and Revealed Religion, — upon the ignorance of man.

After illustrating the position that "the wisest and most
knowing'* cannot, any more than the most ignorant, compre-
hend the nature of any causes, or any essences of things, and
much less the Being, attributes or ways of God, he shews that
difficulties in speculation, and limitations to our knowledge, are
as much a part of our present state of probation and discipline
as difficulties in practice. He goes on to remark, that "to
expect a distinct comprehensive view of the whole subject of
religion, and especially of God, clear of difficulties and objec-
tions, is to forget our nature and condition, neither of which
admit of such knowledge, with respect to any science whatever.
And to inquire with this expectation, is not to inquire as a man,
but as one of another order of creatures."

"Knowledge," adds this deep master of human thought, "is
not our proper happiness. Men of deep research and curious
inquiry, should just be put in mind, not to mistake what they
are doing. For it is evident that here is another mark set up
for us to aim at ; — ^another end appointed us to direct our lives
to ; — ^another end which the most knowing may fail of, and the
most ignorant arrive at. The secret things belong unto the
Lord our God ; but those things which are revealed, belong unto
us, and to our children, forever, that we may do all the words
of this law, which reflection of Moses, put in general terms, is,
that the only knowledge, which is of any avail to us, is that
which teaches us our duty, or assists us in the discharge of it."

Online LibraryThomas SmythComplete works of Rev. Thomas Smyth, D. D → online text (page 9 of 68)