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for no finite mind can comprehend that which is infinite. There are also facts which relate to our own existence, the truth of which we know certainly, and yet we are utterly unable to comprehend them. Who can explain the true cause of muscular motion in the human body? Nothing is more certain in our experience than that our minds and bodies are intimately united, so that they constantly and reciprocally affect each other. How it is that we perceive by the eye, hear by the ear, distinguish tastes by the tongue, or odours by the smell, are all mysteries. They are truths, but they are above reason. Now it is readily admitted, that the doctrine of a Trinity, in the divine essence, falls into the class of incomprehensible truths. We know it to be a truth, because God, who cannot lie, has plainly declared it; but how it is, or how it can be, is above our comprehension, just as some of the fundamental truths of natural religion, which have been mentioned, are above reason.
It is however alleged, that God's being at the same time one and three is plainly repugnant to reason; the proposition containing a palpable contradiction. This statement Trinitarians utterly deny; and certainly the external evidence is very much against it; for much the greater number of wise and impartial men, who have carefully examined the subject since Christianity was introduced, have believed in the doctrine of the Trinity. But let us examine this objection, and see whether it has any foundation. If Trinitarians asserted that the persons of the Trinity were three and one, in the same sense, there would indeed be an evident contradiction ; but this is so far from being the fact, that all writers on the subject are careful to state, that while there are
three distinctions, called persons, there is but one
But it is alleged, that if there be three persons, there must be three Gods; for a person is a distinct, intelligent and voluntary agent; and if there be three distinct, intelligent, voluntary agents, there must be three Gods. But who can show it to involve any contradiction that three equal intelligences should be united in the possession of a common essence? But the whole force of this objection arises from taking the word person in a strict and definite sense, as used when applied to men; whereas, we are under no necessity of retaining this word; it is not found in Scripture, and many Trinitarians have rejected it. There may be three in the divine essence, and yet these may not with much propriety be called persons. Still, in our opinion, there is no need to depart from the terms commonly made use of by Trinitarians. Some term is necessary to designate the three, and there is no objection to the word person, which would not exist in full force against any other word; and this term has the sanction of long usage, and is found in almost every writer on the subject. All that is necessary is, as in analogous cases, to explain the sense in which the word is used in application to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And here it should be remembered, that all our language which we use to designate the attributes of God, is necessarily inadequate; and the most common words in application to the Deity have a peculiar meaning. This is the fact when we use the words intellect, will, purpose, love, &c. God's understanding is infinitely different from ours; the will of God cannot be understood as precisely similar to will in the human mind. And in regard to affections and passions this is so evident, that many, to
avoid the ascription of any imperfection to the Supreme Being, have denied to him every kind of affection, as well as passion. But, in the use of such terms, it should be considered that they must not be taken definitely and strictly, as they apply to man, but as representing vaguely and indefinitely something in God which resembles those things in man for which these words stand. And no other rule, in the use of the term person, is necessary, when the word is used in relation to the Supreme Being, than what is necessary in many other cases. The word person is used merely to mark a distinction evidently made in Scripture, and may, in this indefinitè sense, be properly used; because, in relation to Father, Son, and Spirit, personal pronouns are used, and personal acts are ascribed to them.
The question respecting the truth of the Trinity is, however, not to be confounded with the one respecting the propriety of the use of the word persons, which some who hold the doctrine of the Trinity firmly, have rejected. And some, who nevertheless believed in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as being divine, have scrupled to use the word Trinity, because it is not found in Holy Scripture. Now, while men receive implicitly all that is taught in Scripture respecting each of these, we need not contend with them about the theological terms which shall be employed.
Though the Trinity is not a doctrine discoverable by reason, yet we find some vestiges of it in nearly all ancient systems of Pagan theology, which seems to indicate that it was handed down by tradition from the earliest ages of the world. But we do not adduce this as a fact likely to have any weight with the anti-trinitarian. Indeed, some have ingeniously
founded an argument against the doctrine from its resemblance to Platonism, and other Pagan systems. But still, no more reasonable account of the triad, found in most ancient theories of religion, can be given, than by supposing an early tradition to have been received on this subject. Our appeal, however, must be to the infallible oracles of divine revelation; and although we find many vestiges of a plurality of persons in the Godhead, in the Old Testament, yet as these are not so evident but that they are liable to dispute, it will save time to proceed at once to the testimonies which are found in the New Testament. And our first object will be to show, that three persons are often mentioned together, by three distinct names; and then we will bring convincing arguments to prove that each of these is God; and there being but one God, as we have seen, these three must, in some mysterious way, be united in one essence.
At the baptism of Christ, the Father spake from heaven, saying, “ This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased ;” and the Holy Ghost descended on Christ in the form of a dove. Here then we have Christ visible in the form of man, the Father speaking of the son in a voice from heaven, and the Holy Ghost, in a visible form, descending on Christ. Whatever may be determined respecting the nature of these persons, they are manifestly three in number. The Holy Ghost did not speak, and the Father did speak, but did not descend in a visible form; and, evidently, the Son was not the person who spoke or descended. This evident manifestation of three persons at the baptism of Christ, led one of the Christian fathers to exclaim, “Let him who would have a proof of the Trinity go to Jordan.”
The clear distinction of the persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is again most evidently set forth in Christ's consolatory discourse to his disciples, before he suffered, recorded in John xiv. xv. and xvi., and also in his intercessory prayer, chap. xvii. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that shall abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” Here the Son prays to the Father for the Comforter, the Spirit. That there are three mentioned is too evident to need proof.
Another clear testimony to the truth that there are three distinct persons in the divine essence, is found in the form of Christian baptism, which Christ gave to his apostles, in the commission which he gave them just before his ascension to heaven. “Go,” said he, “teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." These are among the most solemn and important words in the New Testament; they contain the commission under which not only the apostles, but all ministers of the gospel act, and the form of words directed to be used in baptism, was intended to be employed in the administration of this ordinance, through all periods of the church. All persons who have ever been regularly baptized, have had these words pronounced over them, while emblematically, or sacramentally washed from their sins. Into whose name then have all Christians, from the beginning, been baptized ? Into the name of the Fa