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is practical, or deny that it is speculative: for the duties depending upon it are branches of the first and great commandment, the love of God, and not of the second, viz. the love of our neighbour. But what would all this amount to, more than to a dispute about words or names? For we should still insist upon it, that our doctrine is practical, as much as any duties of the first table are practical; which suffices : and so at length in a just and proper sense of the word, the doctrine of the Trinity is practical enough to be a fundamental, if the love of God may be justly called a fundamental.
But when we speak of the doctrine, we mean it of the general doctrine itself, not of the minute circumstances, or appendages of it, which are either of a doubtful nature, or of slighter consideration. For “ though it is necessary “ and essential to the Christian faith, to acknowledge Fa. “ther, Son, and Holy Ghost to be one eternal God, yet “ there are a great many little subtilties started by over “ curious and busy heads, which are not fundamental doc“ trines, and ought not to be thought so. God forbid " that all the nice distinctions and definitions of the “ Schools, about essence, subsistence, personality, about “eternal generation and procession, the difference between 'filiation and spiration, &c. should be reckoned among “ fundamentals of our faith. For though we understood “ nothing of these matters, (as indeed we do not, and it “ had been happy the Church had never heard of them,) “yet if we believe the Divinity of each Person, we believe
enough to understand the doctrine of salvation. And
though that fatal dispute between the Greek and Latin or Church, about the Filioque, be of more importance than “ such scholastic subtilties, yet I cannot see that it con“ cerns the foundation of our faith. For the Greek Church “ did firmly believe the Holy Spirit to be true God, “ though they would not own that he proceeded from “the Father and the Son, but from the Father only. And
though we must acknowledge this to be a mistake, yet " it is not a fundamental mistake : for the doctrine of sal
“vation is secured by believing the Holy Spirit to be “ true God, without defining the manner of his proces“sione.” I may just take notice by the way, that the doctrine of the Trinity hath been but little befriended by the Schoolmen ; rather hurt by them f, though they did not design it. For, 1. By bringing up all the difficulties and perplexities they could themselves invent, or elsewhere meet with, they furnished out matter for the enemies of the faith to lay hold on; and it was from thence chiefly that the Socinians afterwards borrowed their materials to work with. 2. In the next place, by overlarding a plain doctrine with distinctions and subtilties in great abundance, they disguised and obscured it, that it was not easy to see through the mist they had raised. 3. Further, by thus perplexing and diluting it, they really weakened it: for it is much easier to oppose it as it stands tricked up in that scholastic form, than as it stands in Scripture, and in the ancient Fathers. 4. They brought a kind of scandal and disgrace upon the doctrine, as if it subsisted chiefly upon scholastic subtilties; an imputation which the adversaries to the Christian faith have eagerly laid hold on, and often invidiously charged upon the Trinitarians at large; though nothing can be more false or injurious. The truth is, the very distinguishing character of the Trinitarians, in the days of the Fathers, was their resting their cause wholly upon Scripture and tradition ; as the distinguishing character of the Antitrinitarians was their building mostly upon logical or metaphysical quirks and subtilties g. What a string of those wanton levities have we in Aëtius, preserved and answered by Epiphanius h, enough to fright any common reader, or to nauseate any man of good sense. The like we have again in Eunomius, answered by Basil, and by Gregor. Nyssen.
• Sherlock's Vindication of the Defence of Stillingfleet, p. 273, 274.
See Dr. Berriman's History of the Trin. Controversy, p. 378, &c. 8 See Socrat. E. H. lib. v. c. 10. Hieron. contr. Lucipher. tom. iv. par. 2. col. 296. ed. Bened.
Epiphan. Hæres. Ixxvi. p. 924, &c.
The Catholics scarce ever ran out into metaphysical notions, or expressions, excepting in two cases, and both in the way of self-defence. One was, when they were attacked with false metaphysics, they then laboured to answer them with true, lest the adversaries should triumph on that head, and seduce the populace. The other was, when the scriptural and customary expressions, which were used to convey a good sense, and could justly bear no other, were perverted to a bad one by equivocation and wile; the Church could then have no so effectual security against false doctrines and false teachers creeping in among them, to corrupt the faith, and to beguile the unwary, as by adopting some new terms, and chosen expressions, for the supporting old truthsi. This latter case is so naturally represented by a modern writer, that I shall take the freedom to borrow his words, for the sake of laying it in the most lively manner before the reader. “Let me suppose an Arian standing before you, and sub“ mitting himself to your examination, you ask him, “ whether he believes Christ to be God? He answers in “ the affirmative. You again inquire, what kind of God “ he supposes him to be? He replies, such a God as the “ Bible makes him. This, you will complain, is collusive “ language; however, you request him to satisfy you, “ whether he believes the Son to be truly and properly “ God? To this he saith, Yes, consistently enough with “ his own notion of God, though not with yours. But
you farther ask, does he believe him to be one with the “ Father? To this he likewise replies in the affirmative. “ You then press him with another question, How is he
one with the Father, is he of the same essence with the " Father? To this the Arian answers, by asking you “ what you mean by essence ? If you comply with his “ desire, and explain your notion of the term, you are un“ avoidably drawn into metaphysical points k.” Thus we see metaphysical terms may be sometimes used by the orthodox side, when it is unavoidable; that is, when it is necessary to guard against equivocution and disguise, for the preserving the true faith, and for the excluding such ministers as would corrupt the Gospel truths, and mislead the people committed to their care. But then it is wrong to blame those honest and conscientious guides for making use of the only remedy which is left them, and which nothing but the utmost necessity, brought upon them by the prevarication of others, would ever make them choose. It is plain by this and the like instances, that they are not fond of metaphysics, not so much as of the terms: nor would there be any occasion for new words, or any use of them, if many had not learned to undermine the ancient faith, by affixing new and wrong ideas to the ancient forms. The very nature of the thing speaks itself : and the like methods have been used in most other forms and tests, as daily experience has shown the necessity of it. Thus, to instance in the common case of oaths to a government, they are usually worded in as full and expressive terms as can be devised : and yet that sometimes is not thought sufficient, unless it be further added, without any equivocation, or mental reservation, or something of like kind. I ask my reader's pardon for digressing a while from the particular point I was upon : but these reflections came naturally in my way, and may perhaps be of use as to the main thing: and now I pass on to a new chapter.
i Şee Dr. Berriman's History of the Trinitarian Controversy, p. 174179.
* Reply to Mr. P. C.'s Letter, p. 11, 12.
Showing that the Doctrine of the Trinity is sufficiently
insisted upon in Scripture to be deemed an Article of prime Importance.
OUR dispute must here be with the Dutch Remonstrants. The most celebrated men amongst them were Episcopius and Limborch. I shall consider them both with care; that it may be seen by the things wherein they agree, what is it that both aim at, and by the points
wherein they differ, how both of them were at a loss for any sound principle of reason to proceed upon : and the conclusion which perhaps may naturally result from all will be this; that they had some motives, or specious colours, for the persuasion which they jointly entertained, but no rational grounds for it. 1. I begin with the learned Episcopius, as the principal
The sum of what his sentiments on this head amount to is, that the doctrine of the Trinity, as to the main substance of it, is certain and clear, but yet not necessary to be believed in order to salvation, nor important enough to justify an anathema against the impugners of it, or for the rejecting their communion. First, I
he admits our main doctrine as true and certain, being plainly taught in Scripture: this appears from the Confession of the Remonstrants, where the doctrine is taught in full and strong terms', as likewise from other places in Episcopius's worksm. Next, I observe, that in his discussion of the question of the perspicuity of Scripture against Bellarmin, he declares the doctrine of the Trinity (such no doubt he must mean as the Remonstrant's Confession, and his own other writings contain) is clear, perspicuous, and easy to be understood n.
I Cæterum distincte ac relate consideratur Deus sub trina Hypostasi, sire tribus Personis.—Solus Pater originis omnis expers—sed qui Deitatem tamen suam, tum Filio unigenito,- tum etiam Spiritui Sancto-ab æterno communicavit. -Filius ergo et Spiritus Sanctus ejusdem cum Patre Deitatis, seu divinæ essentiæ ac naturæ, absolute ac communiter consideratæ, consortes sunt: prout inter alia ; maxime probatur ex divinis nominibus, seu titulis, item ex divinis proprietatibus, et operationibns, quæ utrique in sacris literis aperte passim tribuuntur. Remonstrant. Confes. c. 3. apud Episcop. Op. vol. ii.
78. m Certum est tribus hisce Personis Divinitatem, sive divinas perfectiones in Scriptura tribui. Episcop. Instit. lib. iv. p. 333.
Mirum non videri debere, si tribus hisce Personis una eademque natura divina tribuatur, cum iis Scriptura divinas istas perfectiones, quæ naturæ divinæ propriæ sunt, tam exerte attribuat. Episcop. ibid.
Atqui, ait, Scriptura tradit summa mysteria. Quæ, inquam, illa ? Primo, ait, de divina Trinitate. Atqui ex, prout Scriptura tradit, nego obscura, nedum obscurissima essc. Addo, ea clara, perspicua, et facilia intellectu