Imatges de pàgina
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doctrine 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 his baptismal admission into the Christian Church: *the very doctrine he professes in his Creed, called the Aposile's -Creed. For although the word “ Trinity” is not mentioned in that Creed, yet the “substantial meaning” of the word is implied.

6. The efiects, 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 effected, in many instances we do not know. If we aduit as true, nothing but what we can explain, our faith will be extremely limited: and such limitation will exclude from our assent, Facts 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 huinan 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 see 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 difticulty 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 in 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

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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 ever. lasting 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 con tempt 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 minùs aptus fortasse fastidiosa hujus delicati sæculi elegantiæ, ut iis tamen temporibus doctrina, judicio, eloquentiâ minimè vulgari. Has virtutes duo maximè 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 Council of Nice. The same remark will apply to Athenagoras, the

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u 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. 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, v

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 Ref. ormation 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 those, 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

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es.” Ridley's “ Eight Sermons” shew him to have been a man of erudition, and well acquainted with the Writings of Heathen and Christian Antiquity.

LXXXI. Philostorgins (says Suidas) hath made mention of Basil, in words to this effect; “In those times flourished Basil of Cesaria of Cappadocia, and Gregory at Nazianzen, and Appollinari. 'us in Laodicia of Syria. These three men contended for the doctrine of “ Consubstantiality," against that of Different-Substance," by excelling all the advocates of that heresy, who had ever written before, or who have written since from that time to my own ; so that even Athanasius was thought a child when compared with them. For they had made very great proficiency in what is called extraneous, i. e. profane learning ; and in the Sacred Writings with respect to whatever perfecter the reading and quick recollection of them, they had great experience; and Basil the most of all." Philostorgius was an Arian. He was nevertheless candid enough not to witnhold from these eminent persons their due praise, although they were of a different persuasion. In this he gave an example of moderation to be commended and imitated.

LXXXII. Whether, among the early Christian Writers, the most approved by the Christian World in general did or did not maintain the docirine of a Trinity, is as much a question of Fact, as whether Sir Isaac Newton did or did not maintain the principles of gravitation and attraction. That such Writers did maintain that doctrine, no man can possibly doubt, who will read the work to which we have before referred, and which (to use Waterland's words) “ will stand as long as clear sense, sound reasoning, and true learning have any friends left," the “ Defensio fidei Nicænæ.”

LXXXIII. By ascribing divine attributes to Three Persons, the ancient Christian Writers asserted a Trinity in the quality of Godhead ; by maintaining the “ Father” to be the only source of Divinity, they asserted Unity in the Power of Divine government.

LXXXIV. Whence did the primitive Christians collect their ideas respecting the Trinity ? From examining, and comparing with each other, various texts and various passages in the Scriptures ; and by reasoning on the whole put together.

LXXXV. St. Paul confuted the Jews who denied that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, cumshots, " by bringing together" a variety of texts from the Scriptures of the Old Testament. These he applied to Christ; and by shewing the correspondence of real character in him, with intimations given and delineations marked out, in the Sacred Writings of Moses and the Prophets, the Apostle proved what he wished to demonstrate (Acts ix. 22.) This method is analogous to the process of reasoning in the human mind. We put together various facts, and then draw our conclusion from those. facts. It is the very characteristic of Man's nature, as Rational, to proceed thus.

LIXXVI. We act in conformity with St. Paul's practice, and with the ordinary course of human reasoning, when we bring together various texts of Scripture, and thence prove the doctrine of a Trini

ty and Unity. Divine Nature is One. Three Persons have the ata tributes of divine nature ; in divinity of nature they must be One. Divine Goveroment is One : Three Persons direct their energies to effectuate the self same ends of that One Government : in the purposes and power of divine Government they must be One. But divine nature and divine government are the very qualities, which essentially constitute Godhead. In Godhead then, the Three must in quality (we repeat the words to obviate misconception,) must in quality of Godhead be One. But if one in Godhead, they must essentially be One God.

LXXXVII. In all concerns of moment, before we depart from what has been long received, we may properly ask the question “ Cui Bono?" " for what good purpose” are we to innovate? Let this question be proposed in the case before us.

“ For what good purpose of obtaining inore distinct knowledge concerning the Essential Nature and Eternal Existence of God, should we reject the doctrine of a Trinity ? For none. It would in that point of view answer no purpose whatever to reject the doctrine of a Trinity. Men, good and acting on the most pure intention, have indeed imagined they could comprehend God's Essential Nature and Eternal Existence butter in Unity, than in Trinity. Their thought however could be but imaginary. For, provided they maintained (what most have maintained) not any Materiality, but the Spirituality of God, they could then no more form an accurate idea of God's Essential Nature and Eternal Existence in Unity, than they could in Trinity. They could precisely and distinctly know nothing in one, or in the other case. And wherefore? For the same reason that a Man born blind knows nothing of Light in the Solar Orb.

We have no pow. ers of mind commensurate to any particle of such a subject as divinė Essential Nature and Eternal Existence.

L.XXXVIII. Supposing, for the sake of argument, we reject Christianity ; and reverting to what is called Natural Religion, let us stand upon that ground. The degree of knowledge, which could be acquired in Natural Religion, can be collected only from considering those, who have actually lived under that Religion. With that knowledge then, “what more perfect ideas respecting God's Essential Nature and Eternal Existence, could we form in our Minds, than those we now form ?” The Master Moralist will tell us. Οτι μεν γαρ τα θεια υπερ μας, παντι

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COE!y. Οίοι δε ετε ευρειν ραδιον, ετε ζητείν θεμιτον. (Xenopl on's Epistle to Aschines, vol. V. part ii. p. 173. ed. Wells.) “ That there are divine Beings above us, is to every person evident. And it is enough to worship them, on account of their superiority in power. But of what nature they are, it is neither easy to discover, nor lawful to inquire.” That there really did exist divine power, and that the exercise of such power for the happiness of Man was demonstrable in the works of creation, and providence, Socrates in his valuable dialogues with Aristodemus and Euthydemus very forcibly maintained. But that we can know the essential nature of those Beings, in whom such power resided, that he denicd; as may

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