Imatges de pàgina
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the prophets, the sufferings he should first endure, and the glories to which he should afterwards be exalted ; events these, which though by Christ they were clearly discerned, were yet to Angels obscure. i St. Peter i. 11, 12. This pre-eminence of fore-knowledge shews also pre-eminence of character in Christ. Consistently with which distinction the Apostle again says of Christ, “ who is gone into heaven, and is at the right hand of God, Angels, and Authorities, and Powers, being made subject unto him.” i St. Peter iii. 22. Divine prescience, divine dignity, divine superiority, are thus atuributed to Christ, whom the Evangelists and Apostles considered as Divine ; and if Divine, God.

LXIV. “ There are diversities of gists, but the same Spirit : there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord : there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God," says St. Paul to the Corinthians. } Cor. xii. 5. 6. Why this express and distinct mention of Spirit ; Lord; God? The same Apostle pronounces on the Corinthians this final and solemn benediction : “ The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ ; and the love of God; and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all." 2 Cor. xiii. 14. Whence again this threefold distinction ? Both passages clearly allude to the baptismal form of words, " In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost :" therefore, whatever of personality and of divinity in each of those sacred Three that form implies, the same do these passages of the Apostle imply, In Poole's “ Synopsis Criticorum,” we have the following remarks on the Benediction. “Sunt hic, ut in Baptismo, apertè nomina mas Terados ejus, quam Christiani colunt.” (Grotius.) “ Plainly here, as in the Baptismal Form, are the names of that Trinity, which Christians worship.” “ Hinc constat, Spiritum S. ejusdem esse naturæ cum Patre et Filio.” [Erasmus ex Chrysosto: mo.) “ Hence it is evident, that the Holy Spirit is of the same na: ture with the Father and the Son."

LXV. That a solemn invocation to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, was used at the administering of Baptism in the Second Century, is an allowed Fact. This invocation, which proba. bly had prevailed from the time of our Lord, shewş evidently that the sense, in which the early Christians understood the baptismal words delivered by our Lord, was the sense commonly now affixed to them by Trinitarians. For, it is not to be conceived, they would invoke solemnly any thing, which they did not believe to have ex: istence : nor, that they would solemnly invoke with God, any thing, which they did not think might be named with God without dishonour to his holy attributes. On this ground we may conclude, they believed the Son and the Holy Spirit to have real existence, and such existence they believed to be divine,

LXVI. These two assertions will scarcely be controverted ; That on Questions of Christian Religion we should appeal to the Scriptures; and, That in order to interpret the Scriptures justly and properly, we must compare together several different passages, and explain one by another. Through want of attention to these

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rules, the Docetæ and the Cerinthians, Sectaries of the Second Century, fell into opposite extremes in their opinions respecting Jesus Christ. Truth is commonly found to be placed between extremes. It was so in their case. From their contrary opinions, however, Macknight has justly inferred, it is a probable that the Apostles taught, and that the first Christians believed Christ to be both God and Man. For, if the Docetæ had not been taught the divinity of Christ, they had to temptation to deny his humanity. And if the Cerinthians had not been taught the humanity of Christ, they would have been under no necessity of denying his divinity,

LXVII. If an author attests a Fact, the reality of that Fact will in no degree be affected by any opinion which the author may have formed respecting the fact itself. Be his opinion what it may, his testimony is the same. Or rather perhaps, if although he condemns a Fact, he nevertheless attests it, his testimony in that case is of greater weight ; for he speaks, not from partiality, but from mere veracity. Pliny, in his Epistle to Trajan, asserts “ that the Christians were accustomed on a stated day to assemble before it was light, and to sing a hymn to Christ as to a God.” Thus even an encmy to Christianity proves that in the time of Trajan, a time long antecedent to Constantine the Great, the divinity of our Lord was acknowledged and adored by Christians.

LXVIII. The Writings of Homer were not therefore less excellent because Macron perverted and misapplied them in parody. Quite the contrary. The best things are most easily made subjects of burlesque, because the outlines of their character are most strong. ly marked, and thence most readily traced and imitated. The doc. trine of the Trinity was not therefore less true, because Lucian in his Philopatris thought proper to ridicule that, with other Christian doctrines. The levity both of Mutron and of Lucian has furnished us with ground for ascertaining two circumstances. They are these. From the parodies of the one, we know that the Writings of Homer existed in the days of Matron. From the dialogue of the other, we know that the doctrine of the Trinity was holden by Christians contemporaries with Lucian. But Lucian lived under the Emperors Trajan, Adrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius : he proves therefore the doctrine of the Trinity to have becu holden long before the reign of Constantine the Great.

LXIX. The prejudiced Jew disliked the very name “Galilean," and “Samaritan.' The prejudiced Greek disliked the very

Carian ;" “ Theban ;" * Macedonian.” So much in actual life are we carried away by mere names. In religious opinions the case is similar. Many reject the Athanasian and Nicene Creeds, merely because they are called “ Athanasian,” and “ Nicene.”

LXX. Tie rainbow seems as if it could be grasped : and the sun as if it set in the sea. The fact however is not so in either in. stance, however it may appear. Deciding therefore on appearance only, is unphilosophical, because it may be often in opposition to reality. Such judgınent has that been, which on a slight and cursosy view has at any time pronounced the Athanasian and Niceue

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Creeds to be in contradiction one to the other. However they may appear at first sight, yet if examined, they will be found to contain this same doctrine ; namely, there is one útosatig of Godhead; but there are three agorate in that únosaris. One Godhead ; Three Persons. And they both mean to guard against any idea, that the Son of God was of a nature created, and therefore they assert him to have the same essential nature as the Father ; i. e. divine nature : for the sameness is a sameness in quality. . LXXI. Neither he who begun the Reformation of our Religion, nor he who effected the Restoration of our Constitution, was among the best of men. Good however were the doctrines of the Reformed Religion ; and good the doctrines of the Restored Constitution. It does not then follow, that because the maintainers of a doctrine are bad men, the doctrine itself cannot be right. In common life we learn from sad experience, that teaching is one thing, practice another. The doctrine of the instructor may be sound; his conduct, imprudent. And this remark is made, because some writers on ecclesiastical history have objected to the doctrine of the Trinity, through just disapprobation of Members in Councils, who were corrupt men, but maintained that doctrine.

LXXII. Some have denied the existence of God: some, the superintending care of Divine Providence: some, the truth of Jewish and of Christian Revelation. But it does not follow from the objections of such persons, that either of these doctrines is unsupported by Argument and Fact. The error then, or the propriety of a Doctrine, does not rest either on the reluctance with which it is receive on the one hand, or on the readiness with which it is adopted on the other.

LXXIII. Formularies of Faith give general propositions, rather than particular explanations. Such explanations they leave for those, whose province it is to expound. The Creed, which contains the opinions of Athanasius, may be thus elucidated.

I. "The Second, Twenty-eighth, and Forty-second Verses are to be taken in the same acceptation as the passage of St. Mark's Gospel, xvi. 16, on which they are grounded. The implied qualifications, which are admitted in the interpretation of the Gospel declara. tions, are to be admitted in the exposition of those clauses in the Creed. Do you ask, what those qualifications are? Weigh well these expressions ; “ Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Gen. xviii. 25. “ Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required." St. Luke xii. 48. And then, if you have right ideas of equity and mercy, and recollect Man, as a rational Being, is responsible to God for the wilful neglect and wilful perversion of his intellectual talents, you will yourself answer that question.

2. The Tenth and Seven following Verses contain the Attributes of Deity: and they mean to say, that although such Attributes belong to each Person individually, nevertheless from the identity of their nature, the identity of authority on which they act, the identity of design and end with which they exert those Attributes in the works of creation, providence, moral government, and redemp

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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. That 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 should be given to his disciples. Their enemies 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 I.” (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 soon 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 referAppex.

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ence then to himself as a suffering and humbled Man, our Lord, at the time to which we allude, used the expression “ My Father is greater than I :" not intending thereby to weaken the force either of his exi criation previously given ; “ Ye believe in God; believe in me also" (at. John xiv. 1.) as the Messiah; or of the declaration before made ; "I and my Father 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 construction 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 meant, with respect to that eternity from which each has existed. The words “ None is greater or less than another, but the Three are Co-equiel,” were meant, with respect to exertion of that same Power by which they cach act. As to the origin of that Power, it is entirely another question not in the contemplation of these two Verses, 25, 26. 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 divinity, 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 Otoy en Oix, OW, ET QUtes, Our a?ndovou ex @18 42.60, “ 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 tiey 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 thütthe Time of Existence, and the nature of Power, is the same to a'l: on the other, that nevertheless the origin of such existence and ci such Power is with the “Father.” And these were the general tesets of the ancient and inost early Christians, in consonance with »!ich are the sentiments of the Estoblished Church, as delivered by Ferson in the most approved manner. “ The Godhead was communicated from tie later to the Son, not from the Son unto the Liitber. Though therefore this were done from all eternity, and so the re can be no priority oi Time, yet there must be acknowledged a prority of Order, by which the Father, not the Son, is first; and the Scr, not the Father, is second. Again; the same Godhead was communicated by the Ether, and the Son, unto the Holy Ghost ;

:ct! y tie Holy Ghost to the Father, or the Son. Though there. fore this was also done from all eternity, and therefore can admit of ro priority in reference to Time; yet that of Order must be preserved.” (Pearson on the Creod, p. 322. ed. 1704.) It is needless to prove, that if the Father communicated Godhead, he must be the origin of Godhead.

5. It bas been frequently 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

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