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thropists, philosophers, poets, and metaphysicians—by Newton, Milton, and Locke : yet, Mr. Pope and the Theologians of his school, have no scruple to class those who profess Unitarianism with Deists and Infidels, (why not with Atheists?) and to brand their faith with the name of leprosy, and soul-destroying heresy !
How simple and how grand is the Unitarian's faith compared with the Trinitarian's! When we turn from the one to the other, it is like turning from the contemplation of a beautiful world, when the sun is in the firmament, “ rejoicing in his strength,' to the view of a sterile and deformed waste, "a land of brimstone, and salt, and burning of blood, fire, and vapour of smoke.”
What is Trinitarianism?
WHAT IS TRINITARIANISM ? The Scriptures are silent. They never present God under any aspect but that of unity. Of a plurality of persons in the Godhead they know nothing. We must therefore turn for information to the “ Infallible Church,” and to those other churches which, having thrown off her yoke, still adhere to her creeds—from the assembly of the disciples at Jerusalem to the councils of fathers; from Paul, the inspired apostle, to Athanasius, the factious and turbulent ecclesiastic.
The doctrine of the Trinity then, informs us that the Godhead consists of three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity;" “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.” Now, any man, under the influence of such vulgar principles as and common sense,” would conclude that three persons must mean three distinct beings, and consequently that there are three Gods. This, Dr. Sherlock candidly admits, and says “it is plain the persons are perfectly distinct. A person is an intelligent being, and to say there are three divine persons and not three distinct infinite minds, is both heresy and nonsense.” Here then is palpable polytheism, from which thus fairly exbibited, even orthodoxy recoils astounded. Doctor South, scandalized by such an admission, from a Doctor of his own church, showers down upon him a torrent of theological vituperation; and alleges that there is only “one infinite mind, with three modes, attributes, or offices, manifested under the different states or relations of father, son, and spirit.” Thus the meaning of the word person is explained away; and after the most painful struggles against the conviction of their own minds, that God is one, the most eminent divines are reduced to the necessity of maintaining that the three persons of their imaginary Trinity are not persons, but something else. Tillotson calls them “ three differences," -Burnet “ three
diversities, -Secker “ three subsistencies,"-others postures !"--Le Clerc thought them to be " three distinct cogitations;"--and that the subject might be explained by the philosophy of Des Cartes. Some are for a specific, some for a numerical unity, and others for both united, though involving a monstrous contradiction. Waterland speaks of a “ three-fold generation of the son, two antemundane and one in the flesh. The substance of the one person,” he says " is not the substance of either of the others, but different, however of the same kind or united.” Barrow speaks of “the mutual inexistence of orfe in all, and all in one." “ They are joined together," says another," by a perichoresis—and this perichoresis, circumincession or mutual inexistence is made very possible and intelligible by a mutual conscious sensation.” Some divines understand the words person and personality in a philosophical sense, others in a political, and a third class in a theological sense. The doctrine of three persons, according to Watts, must be true, "at least in a political sense, yet cannot amount to so much as a philosophical personality, unless we allow a plurality of Gods." We sometimes find the same Trinitarian Divine confuting himself, for error is always inconsistent, and maintaining in one part of his writings, propositions subversive of those which he has maintained in another. Thus Bishop Bull, against the Arians, asserts. the consubstantiality and coeternity of Christ with the Father : but against the Tritheists and Sabellians," he argueth the necessity of believing the father to be the fountain, original and principle of the son, and that the son is hence subordinate to the father!"* What is this but Unitarianism?-We are told of a Ciceronian, a Platonic, an Aristotelian, and a Swedenborgian Trinity, and finally “the Trinity of the Mobile, or common people and lazy divines, who content themselves by calling it an inconceivable mystery,"+
Now, what is this but darkening of counsel by words without knowledge? Which of these contradictory schemes is to be embraced by the man who is determined to depart from the simple truth, that God is one ? 66 What is there" asks the author of an excellent letters on this subject, "to guide me through the dark and dreary labyrinth ? Not one solitary ray of light glimmers to direct my path. All is darkness and confusion: the more I read, the more I am confounded. I cannot advance a step, and I end as I began, without being able to find two men or two creeds agreeing in a similar answer to my inquiry: What is the Trinity ?"
* Nelson's Life of Bull, p. 303. + Ben Mordecai.
The Doctrine of the Trinity Indefensible, by Edward Taylor, Esq.
Perhaps the light of an Infallible Church might be of use to this importunate inquirer.
If we turn to the popular creeds we shall find that they only Tender confusion worse confounded, and add a deeper shade to Egyptian darkness. The Athanasian creed, the most accredited standard of the orthodox faith, teaches that ... the Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten; the Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten ; the Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son, reither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding." “In this Trinity none is afore or after other.” But that which is begotten, if language has any meaning, must be posterior to that which begets it; and that which proceeds mast be subsequent to the source from which it issues. As the very terms begotten and proceeding cannot be in any way applicable to the Father, they denonstrate an essential difference between Him and every being to whom they can be applied There is also an essential difference between the Son and the Holy Ghost, for the one is begotten, and the other proceeds ; so that each has a peculiar and distinguishing characteristic. Moreover, both the Athanasian and Nicene creeds contradict the Apostle's creed, which so far from affirming that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son, says that the Son was “ conceived by the Holy Ghost :" whereas the Athanasian creed says that - the Son is of the Father alone!"
Such are the inconsistencies and contradictions of the creeds and articles which we are told we must believe or "perish everlastingly!” They not only contradict the Scriptures but themselves and one another. It would seem that their fabricators, by some signal act of providence, laboured under an insuperable disability of giving them coherence, and that every scheme tending to subvert a belief in the Divine unity, should contain in itself the elements of its own destruction.
Horsley, notwithstanding his being regarded as a chief pillar of orthodoxy, took the liberty of differing from the creeds which he subscribed, and supposed that the second person in the Trinity was “an effect" produced by the first person contemplating his own perfections! No wonder that Priestley on reading such ægri sqmnia, sick man's dreams, could “hardly help fancying that he had got back into the very darkest of the dark ages, or at least that he was reading Peter Lombard, Thomas Aquinas, or Duns Scotus. *"
The three persons of the Trinity, after all that is said by the bishops and archbishops, about diversities and subsistences,
• Horsley in his controversy with Priestley, says, it is a contradiction that of a part is equal to the whole, or that the same thing, in the same respect, is at the same time, one and many."
This he admits that nothing can prove. • No testimony that a contradietion is, should be allowed to overpower the intuitive conviction that it cannot be."
modes and relations, perichoresis and circumincession, can be contemplated only as " three distinct infinite minds." The advocates of the doctrine speak of them as such, and assign to each his different province. The father commands, the son obeys, the holy spirit sanctifies. But though they are one God, the first and second persons do not appear to be always influenced by the same principles. It might be expected when such enormous sacrifices as reason and common sense” are made in support of the doctrine, that it would be consistent in itself-that the three persons being one God, they would act together with perfect harmony. The Unitarian maintains that God and Christ are one-one in the sense declared by the Saviour himself-one in affection and design. He never can admit the idea that any difference of mind subsisted between the father and the son on any subject whatsoever. The father speaks by or through the son, and hence the Unitarian receives the precepts and doctrines of Christ as those of God himself. Now for this unity which is rational and scriptural, and most beneficially influential on the conduct of men, Trinitarianism sets up another of its own, which is chimerical and full of conflicting imaginations. It represents the father and son as actuated by different principles, and on the most important of all subjects, moral virtue the one as rigorous and inflexibly just, the other as merciful and compassionate. Here their unity is abolished. An act of disobedi. ence is committed by the first of God's intelligent creatures placed upon this earth; and he who “knoweth our frame and remembereth that we are but dust,” filled with ineffable fary, sentences man, and, in him, all his innocent and unconscious posterity, to everlasting perdition! Then bad man been irrecoverably lost—but God the Son interferes; and since nothing less than a ransom of infinite price should atone for the smallest offence against an infinite being, (as theologians tell us--though
Now," asks Dr. Priestley, “ Wherein does the Athanasian doctrine of the Trinity differ from a contradiction as you have defined it ?
It asserts, in effect, that nothing is wanting to either the Father, the Son, or the Spirit, to constitute each of them truly and properly God; each being equal in eternity and all divine perfections; and yet that these three are not three Gods, but only one God. They are therefore, both one and many in the same respect, viz: in each being perfect God. This is certainly as much a contradiction as to say that Peter, James, and John having each of them every thing that is requisite to constitute a complete man, are yet, all together, not three men, but only one man. For the ideas annexed to the words God man, cannot make any difference in the nature of the two propositions. After the council of Nice, there are instances of the doctrine of the Trinity being explained in this very manner. The fathers of that age being particularly intent on preserving the full equulity of the three persons, they en-, tirely lost sight of their proper unity. And explain this doctrine as you will, one of these things must ever be sacrificed to the other."--Priestley's Letters to Horsley, p. 78. Lond. 1815.
they have forgotten to shew how a finite creature can merit the infictions of infinite and eternal wrath,) he offers to pay the price required-to assume a human form and die the death of the cross, that the curse ay
be annulled. Accordingly the proposal is accepted, and the Father Almighty suffers his son, who is equal to himself in majesty and power, to assume the form of an embryo in the virgin's womb, to be born—to encrease in stature like an ordinary mortal-to appear in the humble condition of a carpenter's son-to undergo the most cruel sufferings, bodily and mental; and after a life of poverty and pain, and all the bitter feelings of degradation, of which the highest celestial spirit exiled from heaven and tabernacled in flesh, may be supposed susceptible--to be accused of blasphemy and sedition, to be mocked, spat on, scourged, nailed to a cross as a malefactor, and raised up before an astonished universe--the sacrifice of a son to a father of a God of superlative benevolence, to the inexorable wrath of an offended Deity*_and all for a single act of disobedience in a frail child of the dust! What an awful and tremendous idea of the father of all, does this doctrine convey! Is this the God whom we are instructed to love with all our hearts ? What lesson do we read like this in the heavenly discourses of him who said “What man is there of you, of whom if bis son ask bread, will he give him a stone-or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?"-of him who has so beautifully depicted the Creator as the kindest and most affectionate of parents; whom even the extravagant guilt of his prodigal son could not alienate from his affections_but who “ when lie was yet a great way off, saw him, and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him."
Our blessed Saviour delighted to appeal to the natural feelings of the human heart, to enable us to form just notions of the mercy and beneficence of the universal parent. But priests and theologians, in support of their unscriptural systems, outrage every sentiment of justice and mercy; and hesitate not to ascribe to God such conduct as would horrify them in a mortal like themselves. “Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall ä man be more pure than his máker ?”
* See Channing's admirable Sermon, entitled “ The superior tendency of Unitarianism to form an elevated religious character.” It is stated in the larger Catechism joined to the Westminster Confession of Faith, that Christ • felt and bore the weight of God's wrath.” Q. 49,—" and it was requisite the mediator should be God, that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God!" Q. 38.
+ The doctrine that God could not be appeased without an infinite sa• tisfaction, and a bloody sacrifice, is such an atrocious libel on the character of the beneficent Father of all, that even orthodoxy is beginning to be ashamed to avow it—and to explain it away. It robs God of his glorious