« AnteriorContinuar »
“What saith the Scriptures ? ” By the light of the “ law and the testimony” we may be led to safe and satisfactory conclusions respecting the doctrine of the Trinity, but other light is very apt to perplex and mislead. In the sacred record, while the essential unity of Deity is emphatically pronounced, the names, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are introduced, denoting, as Trinitarians interpret the record, a trinal distinction in the Divine essence. Various forms of expression are also used, and numerous operations recorded, harmonizing with this distinction by name, indeed, in one form or other, the distinction runs throughout the whole texture of revelation. Those who reject Trinitarianism do not deny the use of these distinctive names, neither do they question the fact that various forms of expression are used harmonizing with the distinction by name, but they endeavour to explain all this usage consistently with their views of the Godhead. A statement of some of the theories they advance will be furnished in the concluding sections of this essay. In this section we purpose submitting the evidence of Scripture in favour of Trinitarianism. The scriptural position, as far as stated, is common ; accepted by Trinitarians and antiTrinitarians alike. Now what are the reasons why the advocates of Trinitarianism adopt their particular view of Scripture teaching? First reason : The names of Deity are applied respectively to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Concerning the Father, this is admitted, but the Son and Spirit are also spoken of as God, Lord, and Jehovah, (see Isaiah vi. compare with John xii. 40, 41, and Acts xxviii. 25-27; Rom. ix. 5; Judges iii. 10; 1 Samuel xi. 6; Acts v. 3-9.) The meaning of these passages and their numerous parallels cannot be exhausted by reference
to mere manifestation, or to different attributes, or to any distinction between power, love,
, and will. Not only are the names of Deity applied to his undivided essence, but also to the Father, Son, and Spirit, respectively; and this usage is considered to denote the fact of distinction, seeing that under any other view it is unnecessary and calculated to mislead. Second reason: The attributes of Deity are affirmed of Father, Son, and Spirit, respectively. Eternity and Omnipresence are attributed to each person in the Godhead as the following references show: Psalms xc. 2; Rev. i. 8; Heb. ix. 14; Jer.xxiii. 24; Eph. i. 23; Psalms cxxxix. 7. And similar statements may be found in Scripture concerning all the determinations under which God has revealed himself to man. The distinction thus set forth cannot be explained by any difference of attribute, for all the attributes are affirmed of each person ; neither can it be explained by reference to successive manifestation, for all the attributes are affirmed of each coexistently and not successively. This distinction not only sustains the Trinitarian view, but it does not appear to admit of explanation upon any other ground. Third reason : The
operations of Deity are ascribed to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The Son is affirmed to have created all things, and without him it is declared not anything was made. The Spirit is represented as brooding over the face of the waters, communicating life and energy, and reducing chaos to order and beauty; while frequently the origin of all things is attributed to the fiat of the Almighty Father. He spake, and it was done. He commanded, and it stood fast. In like manner the continual maintenance of all things is attributed to the Triune Deity. And the entire sphere of providential government is assigned to each respectively, and to the three in unity. The work of redemption furnishes a similar instance of distinction. Accepting the Trinitarian view, the Scripture thus given to man admits of easy and natural interpretation, while upon any other ground there is deinanded an interpretation so violent and distorting that, if admitted as valid, language can no longer be trusted as the medium of thought, for it may mean anything which the inclinations, prejudices, or caprices of men may impose upon it. Fourth reason : Whatever duty the Scriptures state man owes to God the Father, they either explicitly or obviously teach he owes to the Son and Spirit. Reference need only be made to worship, for this act relates itself to all the duty we owe to God. Man is expressly forbidden to worship any other than God, and every instance in which this prohibition is violated the Scriptures declare idolatrous. But the Son and Spirit are represented as objects of worship equally with the Father ; indeed the same love, trust, reverence, and homage due to one is due to each person in the Godhead. There is not the slightest intimation that men, in rendering homage to the Son and Spirit, are guilty of idolatry, but guilty of this sin they would certainly be were not the Son and Spirit as truly and properly God as the Father. And that each must be the object of worship, and that the three must be worshipped as coexistent, render it impossible to explain the distinction either dynamically or by successive manifestation. For these reasons, based upon a wide induction of Scripture statement and teaching, Trinitarians accept that particular form of theologic doctrine from which they derive their distinctive name.
A third line of reasoning may be denominated the patristic argument. This argument has substantially a scriptural basis, for it simply expresses the concurrence and agreement in early church opinion and teaching concerning the doctrine of the Trinity; and this catholicity of opinion and teaching maintained against all attempted subversion, furnishes the view taken of Scripture in relation to this doctrine by the church of the first four centuries. During the first and second centuries the doctrine of the Trinity was not distinctly formulated, but it was incorporated among the regular and established beliefs of the Church as part of the faith
delivered unto the Saints. It was through prolonged controversy that the doctrine realised definite and distinct statement in contrast with repudiated error. The Fathers, in their anxiety to avoid one form of error, often seem to favour some other beretical form of belief; but this anxiety to maintain the fact of trinal distinction indicates the doctrinal antagonism in which the early church teachers stood to anti-Trinitarian beliefs. Previous to the Council of Nice, the church teachers faintly distinguished between the essence and personality of Deity, and frequently their statements verge towards tritheism, or else towards a moderate form of subordinationism, but that the doctrine of the Trinity maintained by modern Christendom was received as the faith of the post-apostolic churches, does not admit of reasonable doubt. And this doctrine did not originate, as is frequently averred by Socinians and Rationalists, in Platonic or Neoplatonic speculation, it was demanded by the Christology and Pneumatology of the church, and had its foundation equally with the doctrine concerning Christ and the Holy Ghost in Scripture. Monotheistic as the church was in belief, the doctrine of the Trinity followed of necessity from the doctrine of the Divinity of Christ and the Holy Ghost. The unity of God was firmly fixed in the faith of the Church as a fundamental article of revealed religion in opposition to Polytheism ; but the New Testament and the christian consciousness of the church as fully and firmly demanded faith in the Divinity of Christ, who effected redemption, and of the Holy Ghost, who established the church, and dwells with men upon earth; and these demands were met by the doctrine of the Trinity ; that is,—for the term did not come into use till the close of the second or the beginning of the third century—by acknowledging that in the one and indivisible essence of Deity there were three hypostases or persons, making allowance for the insufficiency of human language to describe so profound a mystery. This doctrine, then, as taught by the Fathers, bad a scriptural and not a philosophical basis. It may be true that most of the Fathers thought of the Trinity principally as economic,-a trinity of the revelation of God in the threefold work of creation, redemption, and sanctification ; and this probably because the doctrine was not stated in Scripture abstractly, but given as a living fact; but this living fact they regarded as expressive of an ontologic Trinity-an eternal distinction in the Godhead, reflected in this threefold revelation, and only apprehended in so far as manifest in the works and word of God. The Divine nature was not thought of as an abstract blank unity, but as containing in itself the fulness of life. Monotheism was combined with the uth contained even in heathen polytheism, though so disfigured there as to be almost beyond recognition. In the first half of the second century, Justin unites Father, Son, and Spirit together as objects of worship among Christians; Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch, Origen, Tertullian, Hippolytas, and in fact all the Fathers teach the same doctrine, as may be seen by consulting their writings, the church histories, or any work on patristic theology. We subjoin the following extract from Irenæus, given in Bennett's “ Theology of the Early Church :" “ The Church believes in one God the Father, and in one Jesus the Son of God, incarnate for our salvation, and in the Holy Spirit, who by the Prophets preached the dispensations of God, the advent, and that generation which is from the Virgin, and the suffering, and the resurrection from the dead, and the bodily reception into heaven of the beloved Christ Jesus our Lord, and his coming from heaven in the glory of the Father, to sum up all things, and to raise all flesh of all mankind, that to Christ Jesus our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the good pleasure of the invisible Father, every knee may bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.”
A fourth line of reasoning may be denominated the ecclesiastical argument. This argument developes the testimony furnished by the institutions, worship, and practical life of Christianity. Not only has the church logically expressed and formulated the doctrine of the Trinity, but this doctrine has influenced the whole of church usage and life. So powerful and pervasive has been, and still is, the influence of this doctrine, that if it be denied, Christianity, in its institutions, worship, and practice, constitutes an inexplicable enigma. The hymnology of the Church has ever been complexioned by Trinitarian dogma. Concerning the post-apostolic churches, we have the testimony of Pliny the younger, in his letter to Trajan, in which he states that the Christians in his pro-consulate of Pontus and Bithynia, were in the habit of singing hymns to Christ as God, in their assemblies. In the tbird century an Antiochian Synod deposed Paul of Samosata, because, in the interest of his dogmatic views, he altered the hymns containing an acknowledgment of the Divinity of Christ. And this avowal of faith in the Divinity of Christ, contained in the hymnology of the early Church, was in fact an avowal of faith in the ever-blessed Trinity. The following verse is from a hymn belonging to the sixth century, the authorship of which has been satisfactorily traced to Gregory the Great. It is addressed to the Redeemer, and expresses an unwavering confidence in his Divinity.
“O Christ! our King, Creator, Lord,
Saviour of all who trust thy word,
Now to our praises bend thine ear.” The same doctrinal influence is evident in the prayers of the Church. Christ and the Holy Ghost are invoked as Divine. The entire service of song and supplication, from the apostolic age downwards, is determined in form of expression, and in general
character, by Trinitarian doctrine. The two Sacraments of the Church exhibit the same doctrinal truth. The rite of Baptism bas ever been administered in the threefold name, and the Eucharist is deprived of all significance if the Divinity of Christ be denied. In both these ordinances the doctrine of the Trinity is obviously taught. The appointment and observance of the weekly Sabbath reveal the same doctrinal influence ; for in the Christian conciousness the day of rest derives its sacredness and significance from the resurrection of the Redeemer, and this resurrection, asserting as it so distinctly does, the Divinity of Christ, involves the Trinitarian doctrine. The great festivals of the Church are also based upon the same fundamental view of New Testament teaching. The festival of the Nativity, and of the Crucifixion, and of Pentecost, can only be fully and satisfactorily explained by the acceptance of Trinitarianism : apart from this doctrinal view they are utterly meaningless. Reference may also be made to the hundreds of instances in which men sealed their faith in the Divinity of Christ with their blood; and this faith, for which they died, involved the doctrine of the Trinity. To reject the doctrine of the Trinity is to repudiate the Christian institutions, faith, and practice of ages ; is, in fact, to affirm that every institution, and all dogma, and all usage distinctively Christian, have from the very time of Christ himself been founded upon error. Is it possible to conclude that the doctrine most fundamental in the Christian system, most vital in its influence upon Christian worship and life, is after all a huge mistake and blunder ? Is it possible to conclude that the most acute and comprehensive, as well as the most devout thinkers of every age, have completely misunderstood and totally misinterpreted the records of Christianity? Is it possible to conclude that the most potent element in modern civilization, that which more than anything else has refined and purified the feeling, and enlarged the sympathies of society, and contributed most to the adjustment of social and civil wrongs, and the establishment of social and civil rights; and which has developed all that is truest and noblest in philanthropy and patriotism, is after all but the offspring of error ? And yet, until men are prepared to accept conclusions like these, we see not how they can reject the doctrine of the Trinity.
A fifth line of reasoning may be designated the traditional argument. It consists of an enumeration of all resemblances to the Christian doctrine that are found in the religious beliefs which bave been held by various nations; or that may be detected in the tenets advocated by philosophical sects. We attach little importance to this argument. What there is of value in these religious beliefs is probably due to a primeval revelation ; but the doctrine is so disfigured, that it requires the utmost ingenuity and skill to