« PreviousContinue »
BY GEORGE ISAAC HUNTINGFORD, D.D. F. R.S.
THOUGHTS are here given in preference to Dissertations, for the sake of brevity and compression.
The several clauses appear detached: there is however a connexion between them. The Subject is begun on principles of abstract reasoning; continued, with reference to Heathen and Jewish opinions; pursued, with consideration of the Baptismal Form delivered by our LORD, and as taught by Evangelists, Apostles, Fathers. Of the question there is then taken a retrospect; which leads to the Conclusion.
The mind of the Writer has long been much impressed with the force f this solemn charge: "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." He is anxious to obey it. On examination and reflection being himself convinced, he employs his efforts to assist others, and support them in the Ancient Faith.
I. WHEN we mean to speak of a circumstance as difficult to be understood, or as altogether inexplicable, we call it a " Mystery." In these acceptations of the word " Mystery," the existence of the universe; the production of the several substances in the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms; the combination of instinct with brute forms, and the union of rational faculties with the human body, are each of them respectively a mystery. They are however all matters of fact: from which consideration we are led to conclude, it is not consistent with true philosophy to deny the reality of a thing, merely because it is mysterious.
II. It has been often said, "Where mystery begins, religion ends." The assertion is erroneous. For, nothing can be so mysterious as the existence of God. Yet to believe that God exists, is the foundation of all religion. Mystery then and religion are inseparably connected, and must inevitably proceed with each other.
III. When Simonides was asked his opinion concerning the masure of God, he required a day to be given him for deliberating on the APPEN. A
question. On the morrow he was asked a second time. He required two days for deliberation. The question was frequently repeated: and on every repetition he doubled the number of days. Hiero was surprised at this hesitation and delay, and demanded the reason of it. He replied, "The longer I think on this subject, the more obscure it appears." Here then we have, from a man of learning and wisdom, an ingenuous acknowledgment, that the nature of God is incomprehensible to the human mind. And the same confession must every one make, who hath duly considered the limits prescribed to our finite understanding, and who is not afraid to own, that of many things he must be ignorant, till his intellectual powers shall be enlarged by the renovation of his nature.
IV. If at this time we ourselves were asked, “What is God?” we should answer, "A Spirit." "And what is a Spirit?" "Some. what which is not corporeal."" Of what subsistence?" Here we are lost. We can say what God is NOT ; but are utterly unable to say what He is, with respect to Essential Subsistence.
V. When we contemplate the extensive scale of existence, and the various degrees which appear in that scale, by reasoning on analogy we are led to suppose, there are as many orders of intelligent Beings above Man, as there are classes of irrational creatures below him. The modes of existence and spiritual qualities may be as much diversified in the several orders of intelligent Beings, as the vital state and animal properties are of infinite variety in the subordinate classes of living creatures extending downwards from Man to the Zoophyte. That in the order superlatively exalted above all others in its mode of existence and in its spiritual qualities, Deity should be an inherent attribute, it is by no means unreasonable to imagine.
VI. By Deity, or Divinity, or Godhead, we mean an essential Nature and a Mode of Existence the most exalted and perfect that can possibly be; and also we mean Power, Wisdom, Goodness, and Holiness, more than human, more than angelic, greater than any words of Mortals can describe, or thoughts conceive. That Deity, thus considered, cannot reside in Three Spiritual Intelligences, on principles of reason no man can prove.
"Subsistence or Sub
VII. From the inability of the human mind to comprehend Deity, has arisen imperfection of language, with which to discourse on that subject. For want of other terms, we use Person; Subsistence or Substance; and "Consubstantial," corresponding with Πρόσωπον ; Ὑποςασις or Ουσία; Ὁμουσιος; expressions frequent among the Christian Greek Writers. By "Person," we mean one that has actual being." By stance," we mean "essential nature." By "Consubstantial," we mean "having the same essential nature." By "sameness of essential nature,' we mean such identity of nature, as when we say, the essential nature of a fountain and of a river is the same; the essential nature of the sun and of a sun-beam is the same. This acceptation of queries "Consubstantial," and this mode of illustration, are of very high antiquity and, most allowed authority among Christian Writers; as in that satisfactory Work, the " Defensio Fidei Nicænæ," has been copiously and ably proved.
VIII. The word "Man" sometimes implies all Mankind; and sometimes "that which possesses the properties of Mankind.” The word "God". sometimes comprehends all Deity; and sometimes it means to express "that which has attributes characteristic of Deity." OvGINS TO 805 dnλalinov, "The word GoD indicates the essential nature," says Justin Martyr, or rather, "The Exposition of Faith," which goes under his name.
IX. The Works of Creation demonstrate the existence of Deity exerting itself with Unity of Design. But they do not demonstrate that Deity and Unity of Design must therefore necessarily be attributes inherent in one Intelligence only. A human instance will illustrate. A piece of mechanism curiously constructed to carry on regular motion shews unity of design but it does not shew that therefore it was the work of one mind only. The design indeed will be one; but the work may have been produced by more minds, all co-operating in the same design.
X. That which has all the properties of a human Being, is Man. That which has all the qualities of a Spiritual Being, is, Spirit. That which has the essential nature, the mode of existence, the power, the wisdom, the goodness, the holiness attributed to Godhead, must be God. The consequence seems to be inevitable.
XI. The Peripatetics and later Platonists maintained that the World was eternal. It is not then offering violence to the human apprehension, to say that Three Spiritual Intelligences, Divine in Essential Nature and Attributes, have existed from Eternity.
Whether one, or both, of these suppositions may be erroneous, is not here the question. The only point at present maintained, is, that according to the natural apprehensions of man in the first instance, one of these ideas can be received by the mind with as much facility as the other.
XII. The Eternity of the World we prove to be a doctrine erroneous, from what we know concerning the properties of Matter. The Eternity of Three Spiritual Intelligences in quality of one Godhead, we cannot prove to be a doctrine erroneous; because we have no sufficient knowledge of Spirituality and Essentially Divine Nature. We have therefore in this case no ground on which to reason. If we talk of our own conceptions, and make them the standard of what may be correct, and what may be erroneous, we must confess, if after the deepest examination we would speak ingenuously, we can no more form an adequate conception how One should exist from Eternity, than how Three should exist from Eternity. We can adequately conceive neither case. And, supposing the Generic Unity of Divine Essence asserted, then there is no argument, which will tend to disprove the eternal existence of Three in that essence, which will not go to disprove the eternal existence of One. So that without great care, Metaphysical Reasoners against a Trinity in the one Godhead will prove too much, unless they mean to prove there can be no such thing as eternal existence either in any Quality, or in any Being.
XIII. It would be Tritheism, if we should maintain a Triplici ty of Divine Intelligences, each diversified in different and opposite
essential natures, different and opposite powers, different and opposite wills, different and opposite counsels, different and opposite energies. But it is not Tritheism when we maintain that Three Divine Intelligences exist, being all of the same essential nature, the same power, the same will, the same counsel, the same energies for, by maintaining the Sameness of Quality, we preserve the Unity of Divine Attributes, and thus also preserve the Unity of Godhead.
XIV. To say that Three Intelligences are one Intelligence, would be contradiction. But to say that three Divine Intelligences are one God is not contradiction. They are One God, by possess. ing the attributes, and acting with the energies of one Godhead.
XV. As all human conceptions of Deity must be imperfect, all illustrations of the doctrine in question must be inadequate. Let it however be observed, that in human cases, Unity and Multiplicity may be combined. Thus we read; "All the rest also of Israel were of One heart to make David king." 1 Chr, xii. 38. "Also in Judah, the hand of God was to give them One heart to do the commandments of the king, and of the princes." 2 Chron. xxx. "And the multitude of them that believed were of One heart, and of One soul." Acts iv. 32. If, without contradiction, Unity of Mental Attribute may be ascribed to many Human Beings, it will follow, that without contradiction, Unity of Divine Attribute may be ascribed to Three Divine Intelligences,
XVI. However much through fanciful additions they may have deviated from their primitive correctness, yet it is reasonable to suppose that opinions, of high antiquity and general universality, must have been founded originally in truth. For, had the case been otherwise, they probably would long ago have been entirely rejected from the human mind. The idea and doctrine of a triad, have indeed undergone very strange modifications: but, as the histories of Ancient Egypt and of modern India demonstrate, that idea and that doctrine have existed for ages in Oriental nations. The fact is extraordinary; and the most obvious method, by which we can account for it, is this; to conclude, that the doctrine originated with the Progenitor of Mankind; by him was communicated, as a notice, which he had received from his Maker, and therefore of im portance to be preserved among his immediate descendants; and from them it was delivered down through succeeding generations, from the first to that which is now in being. Taken then by itself, and divested of mythology, the doctrine of a Trinity is entitled to our regard and veneration, because so ancient and so universal.
XVII. By Revelation we mean that knowledge, which is imparted to us by divine communication. The doctrines imparted to Moses, and the doctrines taught by Christ, are respectively doctrines of Revelation.
XVIII. The divine Legation of Moses is demonstrated by the certainty of the Miracles, which God empowered him to work; and by the fulfilment of the predictions, which God enabled him to deliver. But of Moses, in the scriptures it was never said, that he pre-existed before he appeared on earth; that he was supernatural
ly born into this world; that after death he did not experience cor ruption, but previously to any such corruption rose from the grave. Moses gave not laws either promulgated in his own name, or intended for all mankind, or applicable to all conditions, situations, places, times. Moses never was represented as impeccable; nor as knowing the most secret thoughts, words, and actions, of Man; nor as possessing inherent efficacy for giving agility to the lame, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, sight to the blind, life to the dead, and this spontaneously and on all occasions, which to himself might seem proper. Moses never on his own authority pronounced pardon and forgiveness of sin. He never asserts of himself, that he should lay down his life for his true disciples; that his true disciples should not perish, but have everlasting life; that he had pow. er to lay down and then to resume life; that he was the author of resurrection and life; that he would call forth the dead from their graves; that he should judge all mankind, and assign to every one his just and final retribution; that he was to be honoured even as God the Father is honoured; that he was in divine glory with God the Father before he came upon earth; that to such glory he should return; that God was his Father, and himself was the Son of God, in the most lofty and adorable sense, which those terms could bear according to the apprehension of the Jews. Moses never spoke explicitly of heavenly things; promised not future rewards; sent not apostles to teach all nations, and admit disciples by a form of words, which profess the worship of himself no less than that of the Father; and of the Holy Spirit. Moses received no testimony by voice from heaven that he was the Son of God; is. no where styled the Saviour of mankind; the Lord; the Lord whom ye seek; the express image of the invisible God, in which image the fulness of Godhead dwells; that Eternal Life, which was with the Father; Emmanuel or God amongst men in the exercise of his divine powers; nor the Sun of Righteousness; nor Jehovah our Righteousness; nor the Word of God; nor Creator of all things that have been created; nor in a direct and unqualified manner is he styled God. It is however fact, that every proposition here denied with respect to Moses, may, on the grounds of Scripture, be positively affirmed with regard to Christ. The inference is obvious: Moses was human; Christ was divine.
XIX. The design of Revelation is first to re-establish the primeval Laws of Morality, and the primeval Doctrines of Religion, which were originally imparted from God to Man, at the time of Creation and then, to superadd more explicit communications of knowledge on both these subjects.
XX. Nothing introductory is so full and clear as the complete Work, to which it is intended as an introduction. The First or Mosaic Covenant was introductory to the Second or Christian; it is not therefore so full and clear as the Christian. What the Old Testament intimates obscurely, the New Testament illustrates with brighter light.
XXI. Revelation speaks to us, as to Beings endued with Reason, and expected to exercise our reasoning faculties. It does not