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tion, by whatever denomination each may be called, as expressive of divinity, yet they are, to all intents and purposes, of uniform quality and uniform effect, but one God.
The object of these clauses is to guard against the idea, that Christians maintain the doctrine of three Principles contrary and opposite to each other, as the Manichæans conceived of their Two Principles.
3. Titit things equal to the same thing are equal to one another, is the fundamental axiom on which mathematical demonstration and logical reasoning proceed. It cannot be denied, that in whatever circumstances various things agree, so far they are equal. It cannot be denied, that such equality, so far as it extends, excludes comparison of greater or lesser. Apply this to ver. 25, 26. Time and Power are the circumstances, to which those verses allude. With a view to these circumstances they affirm, that as the Three have existed from Eternity, there can in their existence be no priority with regard to time. And, as the Three act in one and the same power, there can in the authority of their acting be no relative superiority with regard to the nature of that power. Unity admits not disparity.
It is true, our Lord did indeed say, “My Father is greater than all.” (St. John x. 29.) But it is also true that he said immediately after, “ I and my Father are one." (x. 30.) How are we to interpret this? By referring to the context. Our Lord had intimated, that eternal life and salvation shoui, be given to his disciples. Their enemics might indeed here persecute them; yet notwithstanding such malice, of their final reward they should not hereafter be deprived; for his Father, who “is greater than all,” i. e. than all their enemies (as the context shews) would by his Power secure to them that ultimate recompense. He instantly subjoins, “I and my Father are one." In what respect? What was the subject on which our Lord was at that moment discoursing? On the Power of the Father. Our Lord meant then to say, “ I and my Father are One” in Power. And so the Jews understood him. For they prepared to stone him, because he had “ made himself God.” (x. 33.) Not God “the Father,” for he had marked out that distinction most clearly ; but God “ the Son," acting in the power of the “ Father," and in that respect equal. To this equality of Power the Creed refers, when it asserts, none is greater or less than another."
It cannot be forgotten that our Lord said, “ My Father is greater than 1.” (St. John xiv. 28.) But the occasion, on which he spoke these words, must be recollected. It was a season of sorrow and fear to his disciples, who were perplexed in their thoughts and dismayed in their apprehensions of losing their Master. He consoled and encouraged them by suggesting, that however much they might despond at his predictions of the sufferings he was spon to endure, yet they should have confidence in his “ Father," who could not suffer : however much they might doubt of his own future power to help them, because of his present humiliation, yet they should not distrust the " Father," who could not be so humbled. With refer. APPEN.
ence then to himself as a suffering and humbled Man, our Lord, a the time to which we allude, used the expression “ My Father is greater than 1 :" not intending thereby to weaken the force either of his exboriation previously given ; “Ye believe in God; believe in me also” (St. John xiv. 1.) as the Messiah; or of the declaration before made ; “ I and my failer are One;" a declaration which intimated that unity of Power asserted by the Creed.
4. No position is to be so strained, as by forced constraction to be made bear a meaning, which was never intended. The words “None is afore or after other, but the Three are Co-eternal,” were meatit, with respect to that eternity from which each has existed. The words “ None is greater or less than another, but the Three are Cc-equal,” were meant, with respect to cxertion of that same Power by woich they each act. As to tho origin of that Power, it is entirely another question not in the contemplation of these two Verses, 25, 2o. It is a question, which being totally distinct, had been distinctly explained in Verses 22, 23. In those Verses, the "father," is asserted to be the fountain and origin of divinily, and of course the fountain and origin of all divine Power. The Nicene Creed, which corresponds with the creed under consideration, intimates the same, when it styles our Lord tov ex O88, Ows Ex Ownos, Otor aandovou ex Osy dodies, “ God of i. e. from God, Light of Light, very God of very God.” And the most learned writer on this subject has shewn, that the Primitive Christians before the Council of Nice as well as after that Council, held this doctrine. “ Uno ore docuerunt" (are his words), “they taught it with one voice," so unanimous were they in this opinion. Perfectly consistent therefore with each other are Verses 25, 26, and Verses 22, 23, for they are considering the subject in a different point of view. On the one hand they assert that the Time of Existence, and the nature of Power, is the same to ail: on the other, that nevertheless the origin of such existence and of such Power is with the “ Father.” And these were the general tenets of the ancient and most early Christians, in consonance with D'ich are the sentiments of the Established Church, as delivered by Person in the most approved manner. “ The Godhead was com
the nicated from the Father to the Son, not from the Son unto the Father. Though therefore this were done from all eternity, and so there can be vo priority of Time, yet there must be acknowledged a pricrity of Order, by which the Father, not the Son, is first; and the Eer, not the Father, is second. Again ; the same Godhead was communicaied by the Father, and the Son, unto the Holy Ghost; not y the Holy Chost to the Father, or the Son. Though thereCore tiis was also done from all eternity, and therefore can admit of no priority in reierence to Time ; yet th:t of Order must be preserved.” (Pearson on the Creed, p. 322. ed. 1704.) It is needless to p:ove, that if the Father communicated Godhead, he must be the oriçi oi Godhead.
5. It has been frequentiy said by others, and may be said again in this place, that, in Ver. 28 and 42, the expressions “must thus think,” and “ this is the Catholic Faith,” apply only to the general coctrine of the Trinity, and not to the particular mode of explanation given in this Creed. To the general doctrine, considered apart from the explanation, every Christian is bound ; because it is the very doctrine of liis baptismal admission into the Christian Church: the very doctrine he professes in his Creed, called the Apostle's Creed. For although the word “ Trinity” is not mentioned in that Creed, yet the “ substantial meaning of the word is implied.
6. The effects, which result from a certain combination of inherent qualities, we de know; but by what particular manner, except by the Will of God, such combination of those qualities is etiected, in many instances we do not know. If we admit as true, nothing but what we can explain, our faith will be extremely limited : and such limitation will exclude from our assent, l'acts really existing. Can we explain the union of these properties, viz. of the vegetable and sensitive in the plant ; the torpid and animate in the insect; the animal and instinctive in the beast; the animal and rational in man? Assuredly not. And yet, that these properties are united in the respective instances mentioned, is Fact. Inability then to account for a thing, is no proof that the thing could never have existence. It is therefore no proof that human and divine nature may never have been united. So far as it refers to our own powers of explaining, every instance of union before mentioned is just as wonderful and unaccountable as this. Do you say, I never saw an instance of human and divine nature united ? True : but others have : men of veracity : many in number : credible witnesses : competent judges. You may not only read their evidence ; but you may ascertain the effects of such union, in the history of Conversion from heathenism which took place in nations savage and idolatrous. Do you answer, I must see an instance of such union with my own eyes, before I can assent? Such an answer will be no more consistent with sound philosophy, than would be the answer of an Otaheitean, who should say he must see the Works of our Arts and Sciences before he could believe they existed : or of a tropical inhabitant, who should say he must , sce the phænomena of the Northern Hemisphere before he could believe their actual appearance. The hesitation of neither would avail towards disproving the matter of Fact: it would only shew his ill-grounded difficulty in believing, and the mistaken principle on which he would have drawn his conclusion. The application of all this to our Lord's incarnation is obvious.
7. Whoever is sincere is using the Apostles' Creed, may without scruple assent to the leading doctrines of the Athanasian Creed; for most assuredly they both mean to inculcate one and the same doctrine of a Trinity in Unity ; that is, of Three Divine Persons united in one Substance of Godhead, distinguished by the appellations of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost : and the same doctrine of our Lord's Incarnation. The ancient Creeds of Irenæus and Tertullian agree with these in teaching similar articles of faith. And all correspond with St. Paul's words, Eph. iv. 5, 6. “ Where (says Cleaver) we may obviously recognize, though in an inverted arder, the leading articles of all subsequent Creeds : Faith in one
God and Father of all; in one Lord Jesus Christ ; in one Holy Spirit; one Body or Catholic Church ; one Baptism for the remission of sins; one hope or looking for a resurrrection to everlasting life.”
LXXIV. That there should be variety of judgments concerning the ancient Christian Writers, is no more extraordinary than that there should be variety of judgments about other men, who have rendered themselves conspicuous by their literary productions or active exertions. Of Thucydides, for instance, biographers speak differently. Some represent him as dishonest to his country ; others affirm he was an impartial historian.
It is to be feared, that perhaps according to diversity of inclinations, as much as according to diversity of conceptions, in general friends extol, enemies censure. Both probably will be excessive. Right opinion will be between both. With regard to the Fathers, learned readers will judge for themselves ; the unlearned will suppose that where much is said for and against them, though there may be somewhat to blame, yet there must be also somewhat to commend. Neither praise, nor reproach, indiscriminate and unqualified, is applicable to Man, or to any Work of Man, so mixed is the character of every thing human.
LXXV. If blind admiration be a fault on one side, entire contempt of the Fathers is a fault on the other. “ It would be a false inference (says Jortin) to conclude from the blemishes and mistakes of the Fathers, that they are to be cast aside as altogether useless."
LXXVI. Of Justin Martyr, who lived in the Second Century, Thirlby says, “Non ille quidem omnium qui unquam fuerunt aut disertissimus aut acutissimus : sed tamen vividus, acer, et multis nominibus utilissimus; et quanquam minus aptus fortasse fastidiosz hujus delicati sæculi elegantiæ, ut iis tamen temporibus doctrina, judicio, eloquentiâ minimè vulgari. Has virtutes duo maxime vitia obscurant: incredibilis quædam in scribendo festinatio, et stylus iracundus." Jortin represents him as “a hasty writer, and of a warm and credulous temper:" but he gives us also the better side of Justin's character, by adding, he was “a virtuous, pious, honest man, incapable of wilfully deceiving. He wanted neither learning nor vivacity, nor an unartificial eloquence. The love of Truth was his predominant passion, to which he sacrificed all worldly considerations, and for which he laid down his life with great resolution ; and therefore, whosoever loves Truth, should love him and his memory." The testimony of such a man in proof of this point, " that there did prevail in his days a certain doctrine," deserves credit. He says, “ We praise the Maker of all things through his Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Spirit ;" “ We adore the Son and the Spirit.” By which expressions he does attest it as a matter of fact, existing and acknowledged, and on his testimony it is to be believed, that the doctrine of the Trinity was in substance maintained by his Contemporaries, who lived long before the Congs cil of Nice. The same remark will apply to Athenagoras, the
civility, and decency, and politeness" of whose Apology, are (in Jortin's opinion) observable.
Theophilus was a Convert from heathenism to Christianity, as. Justin and Athenagoras were, and in the Second Century. He writes like a Man, who believed on conviction, after diligent research and serious reflection. It is true, we find him not exempt, from what is vicious in point of good taste ; but fanciful and farfetched conceits in any author, will not invalidate his credit as a Man, when cited to prove the existence of a fact. Theophilus then by his expressions demonstrates, that the doctrine of a Trinity was holden in his days.
Of Justin, Athenagoras, and Theophilus, it is to be observed, they imbibed not this doctrine in their childhood, nor were Trinitarians through the prejudices of early education. They were Heathen Philosophers : were converted to Christianity : and embraced this as an original principle of Christian Faith.
LXXVII. For the opinions of Plato, for the opinions of Aristotle, we refer to Academic, or to Peripatetic Commentators. For Christian Opinions in early days, why we should not appeal to Christian Commentators, who lived in those days, no sufficient reason has ever yet been given. The question here is not, Whether these opinions were in themselves right or wrong? but, Whether the Commentators have treated of those opinions, and given illustrations of them, and thus proved they were then Christian opinions ?
LXXVIII. If before the Reformation too great deference was paid to the Fathers, as though they were infallible ; since the Reformation too little respect has been shewn them, as though they were absolutely incompetent to judge, and incapable of speaking truth. So prone are we to run from one extreme to another: and so easy is the transition from error on one side, to error in a direction entirely opposite.
LXXIX. Why the most early Fathers should not be at least as competent to interpret Scripture, as we ourselves are, no just cause can be assigned. Why they should be much more competent than we are, may be adduced reasons, which will appear strong to thosc, who consider the proximity of the times, in which many of the Fathers wrote, to the commencement of Christianity ; and the opportunities they had of collecting the sentiments of the Apostles themselves, some by personal intercourse, and others by not very remote tradition.
LXXX. Speaking of the Nicene and Constantinopolitan explications of the Christian Doctrine, Ridley observes, “ The Fathers, who lived about those times, a little before or after the latest of those Councils, such as Basil, the two Gregories, Didymus, and Cyril of Alexandria, in their Discourses on the Holy Spirit, drew their doctrines entirely from the Scriptures, and did not then fashion, but succeeded to the Faith, by tradition of those, who presided in the Church from the Apostolical age to their own times. To which they appeal, producing their testimonies, and tracing it up to the New Testament; where they challenge a cloud of witness