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THE INTRODUCTION; WITH THE PROOF OF THE UNITY OF THE DIVINE ESSENCE, OR, THAT THERE IS BUT ONE GOD.
THE Doctrine of a Trinity of persons in the unity of the divine essence is, without controversy, a great mystery of godliness. The ancient Jews used to call it the sublime mystery, and sometimes the mystery of all mysteries; which if a man did not endeavor to make him feel acquainted with, it would have been better for him if he had never been created: And sometimes they called it the mystery of faith; a phrase which the apostle uses in 1 Timothy 3:9. where he makes it one part of the qualification of a deacon, to” hold the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience”. By which, perhaps, agreeable to the use of the phrase among the Jews, he may chiefly design the doctrine of the Trinity. And if this is to be held in a pure conscience by deacons, much more by the ministers of Christ, who are Rewards of the mysteries of God, and whole business it is to make known the mystery of the gospel to others.
This is a doctrine of pure revelation. That there is a God, and that there is but one God, who is a Being possessed of all divine perfections, may be known by the light of nature: But that there is a Trinity of persons in the Godhead, who are distinct, the not divided from each other, is what natural reason could never have discovered. The books of the Old and New Testament contain the “lure word of prophecy, to which we do well if we take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place”. This is and ought to be our guide in all such abstruse and mysterious doctrines; if we leave this, and are led and governed by the false reasonings of our carnal minds, no wonder if we run our selves into mazes, and their find it difficult to get clear. “To the law and to the testimony, if any speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them”. ( Isaiah 8:20) Since this doctrine is revealed in scripture, it ought to be an article of our faith; though it may be attended with some difficulties, which we cannot account for. That it is a doctrine of great importance, needs no other evidence, the other may easily be given, than the great opposition which Satan has made against it. He, indeed, has recourse to many stratagems, wiles, and cunning devises to support his own interest, and hurt the interest of Christ. But there are two ways more especially, which he has taken for this purpose: One is, to depreciate the divine Being in one or other of the three glorious persons wherein it subsists, in their characters or offices:
And the other is, to magnify and exalt the reason of man, his intellectual powers, and the freedom of his will, in spiritual and divine things. One while man is set up as a creature inverted with powers and abilities to convert himself, to do every thing that is spiritually good, and that may conduce to his present or future happiness; the design of which is, to throw a veil on the glories of divine grace, and render the merits of Christ, and the operations of the spirit, unnecessary: At other times he employs all his strength and cunning, either to destroy the proper Deity of the Son and Spirit, and to bring into contempt their respective characters, offices and works; or to introduce a total confusion into the sacred Trinity, by denying a distinction of persons in the Godhead, the whole of which may be properly called antichristianism; for “he is Antichrist that denieth the father and the sort”. He that says, The father is the son, and the son is the father, and allows of no distinction between them, confounds them both; and by confounding them both, tacitly denies that there is either. Now it being my present design to treat of the doctrine of the Trinity, I shall observe the following method in discoursing on this argument:
II. That there is a plurality in the Godhead.
III. That this plurality is neither more nor fewer than three, which three are the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. And, IV. I shall consider the several characters, the proper Deity, and distinct personality of each of these three.
I. I shall endeavor to prove the unity of the divine essence; or, that there is but one God. This is a truth which the wiser fort of the heathens, their philosophers and poets, have assented to, who laughed at, and derided the polytheism of their own people: The Jews have always retained it even to this Day, as an article in their Creed; and no wonder they should, since ‘tis written, as with a sun-beam, in the writings of the Old Testament: And as for us Christians, “we know, as the Apostle says, ( 1 Corinthians 8:4) “That an idol is nothing in the world; and that there is none other God but one”.
So that we are all Unitarians in a sense, the not in the same sense. The method I shall take in discoursing on this head, will be this:
First, I shall endeavor to prove the assertion, that there is but one God.
First, I shall endeavor to prove the assertion. Now that there is but one God, will admit of proof from the consideration of the being and persections of God, and his relation to his creatures; as well as from the testimonies both of the Old and of the New Testament. 1st . That there is but one God, may be concluded from the consideration of the being and perfections of God, and his relation to his creatures.
It may be argued from the necessary existence of God. He that is God, necessarily exists: If he does not necessarily exist, his existence must be owing to some cause, which cause must be either himself or another; not another, for then he that is the cause of his existence, must be God, and not he himself: And if he was the cause of his own existence, then he must be, and not be at the same moment, or be before he was; either of which is a contradiction in terms. It remains then, that God exists necessarily: And if he exists necessarily, then there is but one God; for a reason cannot be given, why there should be more than one that necessarily exits.
The same truth may be proved from the eternity of God. He that is God, is eternal; he is before all things; he is from everlasting to everlasting; he is the first and the last, the beginning and the end, and without either; he only hath immortality; eternity is peculiar to him; so as it cannot be ascribed to any other being; nor can there be more than one eternal, and therefore no more than one God: For if, as he says, “before him there was no God formed; neither shall there be after him” ( Isaiah 43:10) and again, that there is “no God with him”; ( Deuteronomy 32:39) then it follows, there can be none but himself.
The immensity and infinity of God are strong proofs of his unity. God is infinite in his being and perfections: “His understanding is infinite”, ( <19E705> Psalm 147:5) and so are his power, his goodness, his justice and his holiness, etc. As his eternity is that perfection by which he is not bounded by time, so his immensity, or infinity, is that perfection by which he is not bounded, or circumscribed by space. He that is God is every where; there’s no fleeing from his presence; he fills heaven and earth with it; and by filling them, is not contained in them: “The heaven, and the heaven of heavens cannot contain” ( 1 Kings 8:27) him. Now more infinities than one there cannot be: If we suppose two, either the one must reach unto, comprehend, and include the other, or it must not; if it does not, then it is not infinite and immense, and so not God; if it does reach unto, comprehend, and include the other; then that which is included by it, is finite, and so not God. In short, there cannot be more infinities than one; and if there cannot be more infinities than one, then there cannot be more gods than one.
The argument will receive some strength from the consideration of God’s omnipotence. He, that is God, is almighty; can do all things; fits in the heavens, and does whatsoever he pleases: And if there is one that can do all things, what need is there of more? or what reason can be given why more should be supposed? The word, almighty, admits of no degrees; it cannot be said that there is one that is almighty, and another that is more almighty, and another that is most almighty; no, there is but one almighty, and therefore but one God.
The goodness of God may be brought in to support this truth. He that is God is good originally, and essentially; he is the fountain and cause of all goodness in and towards others; he is good, and he does good; all the streams of goodness flow from him; and if what our Lord says is true, as it certainly is, “there is none good but one, that is, God”: ( Matthew 19:17) Then it follows, that if there is but one good, there is but one God.
I might go on to prove the unity of the divine being from the perfection of God. He that is God is perfect in his nature and works. If we suppose more gods than one, there must be some essential difference, by which they are distinguished one from another; and that essential difference must be either an excellency, or an imperfection. If an imperfection, then he, to whom it belong, cannot be God; because he is not perfect; if it is an excellency, he, in whom it is, is thereby distinguished from all others, in whom it is wanting; and so can only be God: Take it which way you will, there can be but one God. Moreover, he, that is God, is E1 Shaddai, God all-sufficient; he stands in need of nothing, nor can he receive any thing from others: “Who hath first given to him: and it shall be recompensed to him again”? ( Romans 11:35) Now all-sufficiency cannot be properly said of more than one. besides, there is but one first cause of all things, and therefore but one God. Men, from the consideration of effects, arrive to the knowledge of causes, and from the consideration of them, to the cause or causes of ‘em, until they come to the first cause of all things, in which they fix and center, and which they truly call God: And thus by the things that are made, the Gentiles might come at the knowledge of the eternal power and Godhead, or of the unity of the divine essence or being; so that they are without excuse. Now, as there is no reason to believe that there is any more than one first cause of all things; so neither is there any reason to believe that there is more titan one God.
In fine, this may be concluded from the relations of God to his creatures.
He is their creator, their king, their judge, and lawgiver: Now there is but one creator, who is the first cause of all things. There is but one King of Kings, and Lord of lords; but one, whose is the kingdom, and who is the governor among the nations. From the government of the world we have no reason to conclude that there is any more than one governor; neither are there any more lawgivers than one, who is able to fare and to destroy; and. but one judge of all the earth, who will do right. As God is one in his nature or essence, and cannot be multiplied or divided, so he is one in his relation to his creatures. But I go on; 2dly. That there is but one God may be sufficiently proved from the books of the Old and New Testament. 1. From the books of the Old Testament. That famous and remarkable passage in Deuteronomy 6:4. fully expresses this truth: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord”. This is one of the sections of the law which the Jews put into their Tephillin or Phylacteries, and bind on their foreheads and arms, to put them in remembrance of their duty. This place of scripture they read every morning and night, with great devotion; and at every turn, object it to the Christians, as asserting the unity of God, to the exclusion of the doctrine of a Trinity of persons; though to little purpose, as I shall show hereafter. The prophecy of Isaiah abounds with proofs of this truth. In Isaiah 43:10. God says: “Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me”.
And in Isaiah 44:6. “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 besides me there is no God”.
And in ver. 8. the latter part: “Is there a God besides me? yea, there is no God, I know not any”. And in Isaiah 45:5, 6. “I am the Lord, and there h none else, there’s no God besides me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the tiring of the fun, and from the wept, that there is none besides me, I am the Lord, and there is none else”.
And ver. 14 latter part “Surely God is in thee, and there is none else, there is no God”. So ver. 18, 21, 22. The same may be observed in Isaiah 46:9. “Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is none else, I am God, and there is none like me”.
These are some of the proofs of the unity of the divine being from the Old Testament; and therefore we need not wonder that the Jews so closely adhere to this article. 2. The New Testament is as full and as express for this as the Old Testament. Our Lord Jesus Christ not only cites ( Mark 12:20) that text in Deuteronomy 6:4. but addresses God after this manner, John 17:3. “This is life eternal to know thee, the only true God”. And the apostles from him, as well as from the writings of the Old Testament declare, That there is but one God. The apostle Paul. “ It is one God, which says, in Romans 3:30. shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the un-circumcision through faith”: And in 1 Corinthians 8:6. “To us there is but one God the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus, by whom are all things, and we by him”.
So Ephesians 4:6. “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all”: And in that famous text, 1 Timothy 2:5. “For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”. And to close this account, the apostle James commends persons for assenting to this truth, when he says, James 2: 19. “Thou believest that there is one God, thou dost well; the devils also believe and tremble”.
I have not made any remarks on these texts of scripture, because I shall have occasion to consider them hereafter, and give the sense of them. I now proceed, Secondly, To explain the sense of this article, or show what we mean, when we say, that there is but one God. And, 1st , We do not understand this in an Arian sense; that there is but one supreme God, and two subordinate or inferior ones. Those phrases of scripture, which express the unity of God, are not so much leveled against the notion or more supreme gods than one f8 , this being a notion which could never much prevail among the Gentiles; nor is there much danger of people falling into it, seeing the notion is so absurd and contradictory; but they are chiefly leveled against the vast: number of petty and inferior gods, which men have been inclined to embrace and worship. Nor can any reason be given why two inferior gods should not stand as much excluded as two hundred, by there expressions; and why we may not as well allow of the latter as of the former. Either there two inferior gods are creators, or creatures; if they are creators, they are the one supreme God; for to be a creator is peculiar to the supreme God: If they are creatures, as there is no medium between a creator and a creature, then “they are the gods that have not made the heavens and the earth”, and therefore shall “perish from the earth, and from under there heavens”: Nor ought they to have religious worship and adoration given them; because to do so would be a breach of that divine command, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”; ( Exodus 20:3) and would be serving the creature more, or besides the creator, complained of in the Gentiles, Romans 1:25. Nor, 2. Do we understand it in a Sabellian sense, that God is but one person.
For though there is but one God, yet there are three persons in the Godhead. Though the Father, Word, and Spirit are one, yet not one person; because if so, they could not be three testifiers. And when our Lord says, ( John 10:30) “ I and my Father are one”, he cannot mean one person; for he speaks of himself as distinct from the Father, and of the Father as distinct from himself: And as it would be absurd to say, I and my self are one; which he must mean if there is no distinction of persons; so it would be contradictory to say, that I, who am one, and my Father, who is another, are one person: His meaning is, that they were one in nature, essence, power, and glory. Nor, 3. Do we understand it in a Tritheistic sense; that is to say, That there are three offenses, or beings numerically distinct, which may be laid to be one essence or being, because they are all three of one and the same nature:
Just as three men may be laid to be one man, because they are of the same human nature. But this is to make three gods, and not one; their essences being numerically distinct: Whereas, We say, that there is but one divine essence, which is common and undivided to Father, Son and Spirit; and in this sense we assert that there is but one God. There’s but one essence, though there are different modes of subsisting in it. A late writer has very wrongly represented us as holding, f9 That the divine nature of Christ is distinct from the father of Spirits; that the divine nature is partly in the father, and partly in the son; and that the son of God, in his divine nature, is a part of God. This we cannot but corn. plain of as an injury done us, and must insist that the author retract it. If he thinks that these are consequences justly deducible from our principles, he ought not however to represent us as holding them, when we at the same time utterly disavow them: This is not fair dealing. We say that the whole divine nature or offense is in the Father; and that the whole divine nature or essence is in the Son; and that the whole divine nature or essence is in the Holy Ghost; and that it is simple and undivided, and common to all three.
Moreover, when we, with the scriptures, assert that there is but one God, we mean that there is but one only true God, in opposition to all false gods, to the idols of the Heathens; to all nominal gods, or such that are only called so, and are not so really, are not gods by nature: And also, in opposition to all figurative, or metaphorical gods: Thus angels, civil magistrates, and judges, are called gods, because of their exaltation and dignity. Moses is said to be a god to Pharaoh, and to Aaron: A man’s belly is called his god, when he indulges it in an Epicurean way: And Satan, because of his usurped domination, is called the god of this world.
Again, when we say, there is but one God, we thereby design, and so do the scriptures, to include, and not exclude, the deity of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; which will appear by considering the forementioned scriptures. To begin with Deuteronomy 6:4. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord:” Which words are truly rendered by the author of “The great concern of Jew and Gentile;” “Hear, O Israel, Jehovah, our Gods, is one Jehovah.” And the same author justly observes, That “those words spoken by Moses, in so remarkable a stile, and after many ages, by Christ himself, when he appeared in the world, call for the special regard and attention of such, who, in all nations, professed his worship, etc.” But the account which this author gives of these words, I must be obliged to make some few scriptures upon. His sense is this f11: “By the first mention of the name Jehovah, in this place, I consider him, says he, as the only living and true God, who has one of his names Jealous, and will not give his glory to another: By the second name or character, our Gods, I consider him in our nature, in his Christ, the man his fellow; whom he has taken into union with himself, under the character of the Word; and having so done, in the appointed time, made his soul an offering for sin, for the gracious purpose of our redemption and salvation: And by the third, that is, the same sacred name, Jehovah, as the first; I understand the same God, making himself known to his people through his Christ, in whom he was to reconcile the world unto himself.”
I agree with this author in his sense of the first name, Jehovah, as intending the only living and true God; but can by no means assent to his interpretation of the second name or character, as he calls it, our Gods; which he makes to be the same only living and true God, in our nature; which he hath taken into union with himself, under the character of the Word. Now by the only living and true God, he means either God personally, or God essentially considered; not God personally considered, because he disallows of a distinction of persons: I apprehend, therefore, that he means God essentially considered. Now let it be observed, that the divine nature or essence, simply and absolutely considered was not united to the human nature; but as it was in such a mode of subsisting: Or in other words, the divine nature, as it subsisted in the person of the Lo>gov , or Word, was united to the human nature. Otherwise, the Father and the Holy Ghost might be truly said to be incarnate, and to suffer, die, and rise again, as well as the Son: Whereas it was not the Father, nor the Holy Ghost, but” the Word that was made flesh, and dwelt among us:” It was not the Father, but the Son that was” made of a woman, made under the law.” And after all, it is somewhat shocking and surprising to me, that the human nature, being united to the divine nature, should make a plurality in the Deity, which is the only reason of this plural expression, our Gods, hinted at by this author: For though the human nature, by its union to the divine nature, is greatly exalted and dignified, yet it is not deified; it is not transmuted into the same nature; it is not made a God of; nor does it give any plurality to the Deity. As for the author’s sense of the third name, Jehovah, I must confers, I do not understand it; it is altogether obscure and unintelligible to me; and therefore this author must not be displeased, if I take up his own words, used by him in the same page, and say, ‘Tis “a confused meaning, and the language of Babel.” The true meaning of the text, I take to be this: Jehovah, our Gods, Father, Son, and Spirit, are one Jehovah. How the ancient synagogue, or the old Jewish writers understood these words, you will see by an instance or two out of their book of Zohar.
The author in Genesis fol. 1. col. 3. mentioning this text, and the three names, Jehovah, Elohenu, Jehovah, s ays: “These are the three degrees in respect of the sublime mystery. In the beginning God, or Elohim, created, etc.:” And in Exodus fol. 18. col. 3, 4, “This is the unity which is called Jehovah, the first, Elohenu, Jehovah ; lo! They are all one, and therefore called one, to show that those three names are as one; and therefore we call them one, because they are one; which is made known by the revelation of the Holy Spirit, and indeed is abundantly manifest.” And then he explains it by a simile taken from the voice, which though but one, consists of three things: So, says he, “Jehovah , Elohenu , Jehovah; there are one; these three ˆygwwg modes, forms or things, are one.”
Once more on Numbers fol. 67. col. 3. “There are two, and one is joined unto them, and they are three, and these three are one: These are the two names which Israel heard, Jehovah, Jehovah ; and Elohenu is joined unto them; and they become the real of the ring of truth.”
I need not observe to you, the sense of Christian writers on this text; therefore will only mention a passage or two out of Fulgentius, because they contain some reasoning and argument. He, mentioning this text and the other, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve,” makes this remark. f12 “Which God, says he, we believe, is not the Father only, but the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. For our faith, by which we serve and fear the one God, is not contracted by a personal union, nor disjoined by a substantial difference, lest we should either, after the manner of the Heathens, worship gods by worshipping different substances; or with Sabellius, deny the Son and the Spirit, not preferring the persons in the Trinity.”
And in another place: f13 “If by the Lord God we understand the Father only, then we should neither serve nor worship the Son as God; for whatsoever does not belong to the nature of the Lord God only, ought not to be worshipped by us as God.”
In fine, if the Son, or Holy Ghost, stand excluded from the one Lord, in this text, then they must also stand excluded from that love and affection which we are required to pay him, in the following verse.
The texts, which have been produced out of the prophecy of Isaiah, for the proof of the unity of God, are not to be understood exclusive of the Son, or of the Holy Ghost. In Isaiah 44:6. one of the texts cited, the only Lord God calls himself the first and the last; which title our Lord Jesus Christ takes to himself, Revelation 1:8. which he certainly would never have done, had he stood excluded from the one Lord God in this text, in Isaiah. Again, another of there texts, viz. Isaiah 45:22, 23. is manifestly applied to Christ, in Romans 14:10, 11. which would never have been, had he stood excluded by it.
As for the texts in the New Testament, already cited, it will quickly appear, that they are not to be understood to the exclusion of the Deity, either of the Son, or of the Holy Ghost. John 17:3. is the first passage cited. “This is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.”
Now had Jesus Christ, by this text, stood excluded from the only true God, he would never have joined himself with him. besides, eternal life is made as much to depend upon knowing Jesus Christ, as upon knowing the only true God. And after all, Christ is expressly called the true God, in John 5:20. “This is the true God and eternal life:” i.e. This, his Son Jesus Christ; for he is the immediate antecedent to the. relative, this, Romans 3:30. where “one God is said to justify the circumcision by faith, etc.” cannot be under-stood so as to exclude Jesus Christ; seeing it is prophesied of him, in Isaiah 53: 11. that he should justify. many: Nor of the Holy Ghost; because it is “in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the spirit of our God that we are justified.” If none can forgive fins, or justify sinners, but the one God; and yet the Son, and the Holy Ghost do forgive sins, and justify sinners; then they, with the Father, must be the one God.
As for 1 Corinthians 8:5,6. where it is said, That “there is but one God the Father.” It ought to be observed, that the one God here stands opposed to the polytheism of the Gentiles, to them that are called gods, which were many. Moreover, he is not called the Father of Christ, and so not to be considered personally, but essentially, as the one God, the Father of spirits, the former and creator of all things; from which character neither the Son, nor Spirit stand excluded. besides, if Jesus Christ, stands excluded from this one God the Father; then, by the same rule of interpretation, God the Father must stand excluded from the one Lord; which is said of Jesus Christ in the very same text. The same remarks may be made on Ephesians 4:5, 6. and the same reply given to like objections formed upon it. Nor is Christ excluded from the one God, in 1 Timothy 2:5. “There is one God and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” ‘Tis true, Christ is spoken of in his lower nature, as man; yet there are some things said of him, which prove him to be God. Was he not God, he could not be a Mediator between God and men: He could not draw nigh to God, and treat with him about the peace and reconciliation of his people, much less effect it, or be a ransom for them, as he is said to be in the following verse. As to Galatians 3:20. I do not take it to be a direct proof of the unity of God, and have therefore neglected it in my collection of proofs. The meaning of the text, I apprehend, is this: A Mediator supposes, at least, two parties, between whom mediation is made. “Now, says the apostle, a mediator is not of one, that is, of one party, but God is one”; i.e. one party: Now as Moses (for of him the apostle is speaking) was a Mediator between God, as one party, and the people of Israel as the other: So Jesus Christ is a Mediator between God, and his elect people. I shall conclude this discourse, on the unity of God, with a passage ascribed to Ignatius: “Whosoever asserts the one only God, to the exclusion of the divinity of Christ, (and, I may add, of the Holy Ghost)” is a defamer, and an enemy “of all righteousness”.