Imatges de pàgina

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 uposaris of Godhead; but there are three agorata in that Ý OSATIS. 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 received 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 declarations, 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 redemption, 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.


ence then to himself as a suffering and humbled Man, our Lord, as 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 exicriition previously given ; “Te believe in God; believe in me also" (ct. 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-equel,” 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 Osov sx Ox, Ows sx PUTOS, OST alndovou 5x Oix xhmox, “ God of i. e. from God, Light of Light, very God of very God.” And the most learned writer on this subject has sliewn, 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 they in this opinion. Perfectiy 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 that the Time of Exisience, 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 te, ets of the ancient and most early Christians, in consonance with w!.ich are the sentiments of the Established Church, as delivered by Pearson in the most approved manner. “The Godhead was combricated from the Father to the Son, not from the Son unto the Either. Theurk therefore this were done from all eternity, and so the re can be no priority of Time, yet there must be acknowledged a priority of Order, by which the Father, not the Son, is first ; and the So, not the Father, is second. Asin; the same Godhead was communicated ly tie Either, and the Son, unto the Holy Ghost; Ectly the Holy Ghost to the Father, or the Son. Though therefcre this was also done from all eternity, and therefore can admit of 1:0 priority in reference to Time; yet thut 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 has been frequently said by others, and maybe said again in this place, that, in Ver. 29 and 42, the expressions“ must thus think,” and “ this is the Catholic Taith," apply only to the general

stoctrine 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 inio the Christian Church: the very doctrine he professes in his Creed, called the Apostle's -Creed. For although the word “ Trinity” is not mentioned in that Creed, yet the “substantial meaning" of the word is implied.

6. The effects, which result from a certain combination of inherent qualities, we do 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 admit as true, nothing but : what we can explain, our faith will be extremely limited : and such limitation will exclude from our assent, l'acts 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 cculd 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 my ascertain the effects of such union, in the history of Conversion froin heathenisin 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 difficulty 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 assu

suredly 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

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 everlasting 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 mis. takes 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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