« AnteriorContinua »
That the primitive Church of Christ ever looked upon an hypostatical union of the divine * and
• The primitive Church gathered its views of the great and fundamental doctrine of the Trinity in Unity, from the apostolic source, and transmitted it accordingly, as the writings of the fathers abundantly testify. With regard to the views entertained and promulgated by the Apostles, the Bp. of St. David's, in his Tracts on the Divinity of Christ, (p. 3.) thus forcibly remarks :“Nothing but a belief in Christ's divinity, his omnipresent influence, and omnipotent power, could have induced his disciples and apostles to honour him with divine worship, and to endure the privations, indignities, and sufferings which they underwent for his sake. The divinity of Christ was not with them a ‘speculative notion,' a disputable dogma,' as the Unitarians represent it, but a great practical principle, which influenced their whole conduct, and infused into their minds a fortitude and constancy which made them rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer shame and death for his name. To die, and to be with Christ, they counted better than life. What things were gain, in a worldly sense, they counted loss for Christ; yea, they counted all things loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus. Their belief in Christ's divinity, their confidence in him as God, ever present to sustain them in their difficulties, was the governing principle of their minds through this life; and their trust in his atonement was the ground of their happiness in the next. They knew that the blood of bulls and of goats could not put away sin; and the inspired Psalmist had long before declared, that man was utterly unable to redeem his brother. But in Christ, who was with God, and was God; who was over all, God blessed for ever, their great God and Saviour ; God manifest in the flesh, who was made flesh, and came in the flesk, that he might, by his death, be a propitiation for the sins of mankind; in Him they trusted, as a Saviour, "able to save to the uttermost all who should come to God by him.” Their belief in that truth, which Christ himself declared, which his contemporaries testified, proclaimed, and arraigned, as blasphemy, and for which Christ was crucified; which the Apostles preached and recorded; which the primitive church received, and transmitted to succeeding generations; was their warrant for the reception of the other great doctrine, which their sins and imperfections, and their inability to save themselves, had rendered necessary for their salvation. Christ died for the sins of mankind, not because the infinite malignity of sin required a sacrifice of infinite value, but because no sinful creature, and therefore no man, could by his death atone for the sins of others. Still the Socinian, rejecting the doctrine of man's total depravity, and with it the need, and therefore the truth, of the atonement; and
human natures in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, as the essential characteristic of the plan of human salvation through a mediator, and as being the clearly revealed truth of God, is beyond all dispute ; and certainly a belief in, and a worship of, a triune Godhead is coeval with the planting and first propagation of Christianity: nor is it less certain that though the simplicity of the doctrine of the Trinity, viewed as a matter for faith to embrace, rather than for demonstration to develope, may have been somewhat affected by the feeble though well-meant attempts at demonstration, which some of its most zealouş adherents have made; yet, practically, the same views precisely are entertained of it in the Church now, as were embraced and promulgated by the primitive Church.* It holds the same place. It claims and receives the same regard; and those who humbly adhere to it as being the revealed though inexplicable truth of God, could as well dispense with the centre of the solar system, as forego the divinity of the “Sun of righteousness," or seek to raise the structure of a christian hope on a foundation less than that afforded by a triunity in the Godhead. But it is against this fundamental doctrine that the Socinian directs his shafts. He says he cannot comprehend; and he withholds his assent from the doctrine just because he cannot comprehend ; while, in regard to matters of an inferior grade, he yields assent to phenomena which he cannot explain, and the mysterious nature of which baffles all his penetration. Yet will he not admit that any just charge of inconsistency lies against him.
stripping the Saviour of all but his proper humanity and divine commission, refuses to render him the anciently-paid worship due to his divinity, though it is written, and cannot be gainsayed, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name ; that at name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philip. ii. 9–11.) Alas, alas! notwithstanding the clear declarations of God's Word, and the current testimony of the Church from the beginning, the Socinian seems to be gazing on vacancy; and, trembling lest he should strike against the Scylla of Polytheism, dashes fatally against the Charybdis of infidelity.
In contradiction to the evidence gathered from antiquity, Socinians profess to found their opposition to the doctrine of a Trinity in Unity, on its supposed novelty before the time of Justin Martyr, (A.D. 140,) although the heresies of the Docetæ and Ebionites, in the latter part of the first century, supply direct evidence. (if there were no other) of the current reception of the doctrine of the Trinity by the primitive Church: for, had that doctrine been but a figment of the mind, springing up in the time of Justin Martyr, and not previously entertained as the basis of the true faith, how could occasion have arisen for a questioning of the divinity of Christ by the Ebionites, and of his substantial humanity, by the Docetæ ? This ground of opposition is futile in the extreme. It is certain, moreover, that the doctrine of the Trinity was firmly held from Justin Martyr's time downwards; and Tertullian expressly shows, that at that period baptism was administered in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. “Quum sub tribus et testatio fidei et sponsio salutis pignorentur, necessario adjicitur ecclesiæ mentio : quoniam ubi tres, id est, Pater, et Filius, et Spiritus Sanctus, ibi ecclesia, quæ trium corpus establutione delictorum, quam fides impetrat, obsignata in Patre et Filio et Spiritu Sancto. Nam si in tribus stabit omne verbum, quanto magis, dum habemus per benedictionem eosdem arbitros fidei, quos et sponsores salutis, sufficit ad fiduciam spei nostræ etiam numeris nominum divinorum." (De Bap. c. vi.) In Justin Martyr, who was prior to Tertullian, and born soon after the death of St. John, we have a declaration of faith, distinctly mentioning the belief and worship of the three divine Persons of the Godhead. Εκεινον τε (Πατερα) και τον παρ' αυτου Υιον ελθοντα και διδαξαντα ήμας ταυτα,-Πνευμα τε το προφητικον, geboueda kai mpookuvouMev. (Apol. I. p. 47.) I will mention one more particular, in proof of what I have stated in the text; and it is this—that Hymenæus, bishop of Ælia, and other bishops of the Council of Antioch, declared the doctrine in question to be the faith handed down to their time (A. D. 270,) from the Apostles. Connected with this statement, it may be interesting to the reader to compare with this declaration the creed of the church of Ælia, as contained in the answers of catechumens, preserved in the catecheses of Cyril, bishop of Ælia. IILOTEUW Els éva Osov, &c. “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God; begotten of the Father before all worlds, very God, by whom all things were made; who was incarnate and made in the likeness of men, crucified and buried; who rose again from the dead on the third day, and sat on the right hand of God, and will come to judge the living and the dead, of whose kingdom shall be no end; and in the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, who spake by the prophets; in one baptism of repentance, in the forgiveness of sins, and in one catholic Church, in the resurrection of the body, and in life everlasting.” See the Observatio in Symb. Hierosolym. in the Benedictine edition of the works of CyrilJus Hierosol. p. 79, &c.--I have given a translation of this creed at full length, so that, by comparing it with the Nicene Creed, the reader may see how “the faith once delivered to the saints" has been preserved in the Church, and held with simplicity from the apostolic times down to the present. The Bishop of St. David's remarks, that it is evident that the above creed was in use before the Nicene Creed, from the absence of the term ouoovolos, and some other terms and titles belonging to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. This is important to be borne in mind. The creed of the church of Ælia was promulgated somewhere about A. N. 270: the Nicene Creed about A. D. 325. Should it still be contended that the doctrine of a Trinity in Unity was a novelty till the time of Justin Martyr, we are not without evidence to satisfy us, that instead of being a novel doctrine, it was held by the Hebrews; at least, whatever views they might entertain, peculiar to themselves, respecting the second person of the Trinity, they certainly admitted and held the idea of a plurality in the Godhead, both before and at the time of Christ's manifestation in the flesh. The inquiring reader may, on this interesting point, profitably consult Allix's Judgment of the Jewish Church against the Unitarians, ch. 9–11, 19–21: Witsius's Judæus Christianizans, pp. 319, 320; and also his Dissertation De sacrosancta Trinitate ex scriptis et hypothesibus Judæorum, (Utrajecti, 1661): Pfeiffer's Critica Sacra, cap. viii. ed. 1773; and GROTIUS De Veritate Relig. Christianæ, lib. v. $ 21. If the doctrine of the Trinity be a "disputable dogma” or a “blind error," as Socinians would have us believe, it is marvellous that, unlike error in general, it should have been preserved from remote antiquity down to the present time, as the revealed truth of God, amidst the assaults and devices of heresy. It is rather too much, at this time, for human pride to exalt itself against a doctrine so founded and so received, just because it is not demonstrable by human ratiocination.
Although principles of a like complexion with those now held by Socinians, were entertained by a few in the first three centuries of the christian era, yet Socinianism is a plant of comparatively moderate growth. When the sun-light of the Reformation began to dawn upon Christendom, benighted as it had been by papal abominations and errors, Socinianism rose to cast, if it were possible, a shade over its brightness; and daring spirits were not wanting in laborious assiduity to set the dam of fatal error against the broad current of truth as it rolled forward. Various have been their fate and fortunes; and names which might otherwise have been embalmed in honour, and enrolled amidst the armies of the blessed, are now but memorials of human weakness, at which the christian historian gazes, and pauses, and weeps. They are gone to their account; but they have left a savour behind,alas! have received; and Socinianism has become the shadowy creed, in this and other countries, upon which hundreds have ventured to launch their immortal souls ; a creed which would rob the Gospel of its good tidings, its Author of his glory, and salvation of the Saviour. Though, Proteuslike, Socinianism, in many of its collateral features, has been given to change with the ebb and flow of human opinion amongst its adherents, yet its daring denial of the divinity of the Son of God has con
token which many,