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A Review of Trinitarianism, chiefly as it appears in the Writings of Pearson,
Bull, Waterland, Sherlock, Howe, Newman, Coleridge, Wallis and Wardlaw; with a brief Notice of sundry Passages of the New Testament bearing on this Controversy. By John Barling. *
At the beginning of the sixth chapter, Mr. B. enumerates the following propositions, which he thinks have been made to appear in the preceding investigation:
“1. That the doctrine of three divine persons specifically one in nature and perfections is essentially Tritheistic.
“ 2. That no union, whether of penetration or of mutual consciousness, which leaves to each of the persons his own substance and attributes, will suffice to wipe out this stain.
*3. That to say there is but one divine essence, is to say there is but one divine will, one divine understanding, and so but one divine agent or person, in the common sense of the word; which is Unitarianism.
“4. That the doctrine of three intelligent agents, having each its own particular powers of thought and action, and yet inhering in one particular essence, is a ridiculous solecism and inevitably self-destructive.
“ 5. That the specific and numerical unities are essentially opposed to each other; objects which are specifically one, being always numerically more than one; or, to speak more precisely, specific unity always implying numerical plurality.
“6. That to say God is above number and higher than number, is to destroy the significance of the great and fundamental principle both of Judaism and Christianity, namely, that Jehovah our God, Jehovah is one.'
“7. That to suppose, after the manner of Howe, the divine persons to be so united, as to constitute another and fourth Being, diverse from either of the constituent persons, numerically one in himself and alone God in the highest sense, is to take away the proper divinity of each of the persons, to convert the Trinity into a Quaternity, and to make the Deity complex.
“8. That to identify this greater Being with the Father, is to suppose a Trinity in the Father, to make the Son and Spirit parts of the Father, and that without avoiding in the smallest degree the charge of making the Deity complex.
“9. That to convert the powers of the infinite mind into distinct minds, having each its own individual powers, is to fall into plain contradiction; and that to make them self-subsistent is not to make them persons, excepting in a sense that is altogether arbitrary, and at the same time incapable of satisfying the demands of Trinitarian orthodoxy.
“ 10. That no intelligible distinction can be drawn between personal and essential attributes, or between absolute and relative substances, which is any more capable of satisfying those demands."
The author then proceeds to the examination of a class of writers, who, at the same time that they assume the character of orthodoxy, seek to protect themselves against all logical analyses of their doctrine by alleging at once that the personal distinctions in the Godhead are not a subject of human knowledge, and therefore decline all attempts to explain their opinions. They believe the Deity to be one, and also to be three; but in what sense he is three, they pretend not to know. But from this candid confession of ignorance they derive the very convenient inference, that all arguments to prove the falsity of their doctrine must be nugatory, because they can merely shew what is admitted in the outset, that we have no clear ideas attached to the terms in which the proposition is expressed. It is surprising that they are not in general equally ready to perceive that all attempts to prove the truth of such a doctrine must be equally nugatory. One thing is remarkable, that the objection sometimes urged against Unitarianism as a negative creed, is
* Continued from p. 179.
much more applicable to this view of the doctrine of the Trinity, which consists, in fact, of little else than a mere system of negations. If we inquire the meaning of the proposition, “There are three persons in the Godhead,” they can very readily tell us what it does not mean; but further they cannot go, and indeed refuse to make the attempt. This practical futility of their doctrine is well exposed by Mr. Barling in the following passage:
“The present Unitarianism of England has been censured as a system of negations; and the idea of deriving from it any moral elevation has been ridiculed by a distinguished writer, as a proposal to gather grapes from thorns or to extract sunbeams from cucumbers. But what a series of negations is here ! There are in God certain distinctions which are to be called personal; but which distinctions are not nominal,-neither are they modal,-neither are such as distinguish faculties in the human mind, ,—nor any thing else that can be named or thought of. What can be more thoroughly negative and barren than this? The Unitarian would be absurdly prodigal of his labour who should endeavour to prove of such distinctions that they are self-contradictory. Neither the falsehood nor the truth, as Dr. Dwight rightly argues, can be perceived of a proposition which conveys to the mind no notion. Such a proposition is to the mind what an invisible object is to the eye. It is enough for the Unitarian to ask, cui bono? How is my heart to be affected, or my will to be actuated, by a proposition of this nature? To my intelligent faculties nihil, how is it to act on my moral nature, or how assist me in any intellectual process ? I may repeat the words of the proposition, and may believe on extraneous authority that they contain a truth; but so long as it is a truth unknown, what doth it profit?"P. 164.
Trinitarians of this class are distributed by our author into two parties; the one consistent with themselves and liberal, but of suspected orthodoxy; the other orthodox in reputation, but inconsistent of the first class a fair. specimen may be found in Dr. Wallis
, who maintains that the Athanasian Trinity means nothing more than that there are three somewhats which are but one in God. But he has no more definite name for them; and as to any distinction among them, all he can say positively is, that it is that by which the Divine persons are distinguished. Saying no more than this, it is evident that Dr. Wallis could establish no precise difference between his doctrine and that of the Sabellian or the modalist, and accordingly his expositions of it are for the most part, if not altogether, of a Sabellian hue. At times they amount to little more than a trinity of attributes or powers; at others, to a trinity of names or relations, -as when he dwells on the classical sense of the word person, saying in one place that " if it be properly attended to, it will appear no more harsh to say the three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, are one God, than to say God the Creator, God the Redeemer, and God the Sanctifier, are one God. It is much the same thing whether of the two forms we use." The latter form he would even represent occasionally as almost, if not altogether, equivalent to the ordinary tri-personal distinction; and it is evidently the only representation of it which is capable of being duly appreciated or applied in practice.
Of the second class we have an example in Dr. Wardlaw. He sets out with affirming, in terms almost as strong as those of Wallis, that we are utterly ignorant of the true nature of the personal distinctions in the Godhead; and yet, in order to prove the Holy Spirit to be a distinct Divine person, he labours to shew that he is represented as possessing will, understanding and consciousness, and other attributes of a separate intelligent agent which we are accustomed in familiar speech to ascribe to those whom we commonly call persons. But it is impossible for him to rely on such a mode of proof, and follow it out into its particulars, without virtually admitting that we have a precise idea of the meaning ascribed to the word Person, which is the very thing he had previously disclaimed. It is equivalent to saying that we know the nature of the distinction of the persons, and that we do not know it,—which is in truth, as Mr. B. observes, the upshot of Dr. Wardlaw's
statements. A similar inconsistency is afterwards well made out against Conybeare and J. P. Smith, and the result is summed up in the following terms:
“On the whole, then, it may be pronounced that neither Wardlaw, Conybeare nor Smith, has been more successful than Howe in attempting to advance beyond the position taken up by Wallis. The three divine persons are three somewhats. * Thus far the Irinitarian can go. And he may venture, with Watts, Baxter and others, to question whether these unknown may not point to something in the eternal mind analogous to the distinctions which have been observed in our own. But the moment he steps beyond, and invests them with wills and affections of their own, that moment he involves himself in contradiction."
In the concluding chapter the author gives a short examination of some of the texts of Scripture which have been most frequently dwelt upon in connection with this controversy, which is sufficient to shew that he has not failed to apply diligently to the original fountain of divine truth, so as to be abundantly competent, if the nature of his work had required it, to enter into a full and complete view of the scriptural argument, which alone we acknowledge as entitled to be heard as of authority on this much debated question.
The Pilgrim's Progress, &c., by John Bunyan ; accurately printed from the
First Edition, with Notices of all the subsequent Additions and Alterations made by the Author himself. Edited, for the Hanserd Knollys Society, with an Introduction, by George Offor. 8vo. Pp. 379. London. 1847.
The Hanserd Knollys Society was instituted in 1845, for the publication of the writings of the early members and ministers of the English Baptist churches. As Puritan biography is not in the way of all readers, we may mention that the Society takes its name from a Puritan Baptist minister, who was born at Cawkwell, in Lincolnshire, 1598, was educated at Cambridge, became vicar of Humberstone, but shortly, through various Nonconformist scruples, resigned his living, renounced episcopal ordination, and entered on a pilgrimage of forty years' duration, marked by all the painful vicissitudes that attended the lot of à Puritan confessor. We do not particularly admire the name adopted by the Society. Roger Williams had a superior, and William Kiffin had an equal claim to the distinction assigned to Hanserd Knollys. It would have been well had the founders taken counsel of those who wished “to avoid what might seem to be a recognition of any man as master on earth.” But what is of chief importance is, that the Society, for a small annual subscription, supplies its members annually with two handsome octavo volumes. We propose
hereafter noticing the " Broadmead Records,” which contain many things of not mere local interest.
The latest publication of the Society is that named above. An edition of the Pilgrim, freed from the corruptions of the text which have disfigured modern editions, is an acceptable work, and much praise is due to Mr. Offor for the care he has taken in restoring the text. We should be content to entrust him with authority, where necessary, to improve even on the text of the first edition, and to free it from manifest typographical errors. Mr. Offor has prefixed a very long Introduction of 168 pages, in which are things good and bad. In the latter class, we put all Mr. Offor's controversy with Mr. Philip, the author of "The Life and Times of Bunyan.” However humble may be the sagacity, and however exalted the “ self-conceit” of this gentleman, we cannot but think Mr. Offor might have expressed his contempt in somewhat milder terms, and might have been content to empale him in a parenthesis or pillory him in a note. It would, we admit, have surpassed editorial forbearance to have taken no notice of the blunder committed by Mr. Philip in assigning the cottage at Elstow, not Bedford gaol, as the scene where Bunyan wrote his immortal dream.
The literary history which Mr. Offor has given is very curious, though now and then disfigured by trivialities unworthy of the subject, such, for instance, as the anecdote (p.cxlviii) of the silly clergyman of South Hackney, who told his hearers that Solomon meant, "train up a child in the Church of England, and no other way.” The sneer, too, in the same page, against the practice of infant baptism, follows incongruously the Editor's declaration that "the object of the Society, for the members of which this volume is published, is to give the text in all its integrity without gloss or comment, leaving it to every member to add his own notes," &c.
Mr. Offor's collection of facts bearing on Bunyan's personal history is, so far as we know, complete; but we observe one or two inaccuracies that surprise us. Thus, when speaking of the licences granted under the Indulgence of 1672, he says, “ many were for persons and places called Anabapt, all others were under the term Congregational.” All others were not “ Congregational;" the majority were “ Presbyterian.” Then, again, after mentioning May 9, 1672, as the date of Bunyan's licence, Mr. Offor states that he was one of the first persons registered, and “that his was also the first permission to preach given to any Dissenter from the established sect in this country” (p. Ixi). This statement is far from correct. The declaration of Indulgence was issued March 15. Numerous were the licences granted between that day and May 9. In a contemporary MS. volume now open before us, is a copy of a letter from Mr. Richard Steele, the ejected minister of Hanmere, to a friend in the country, of the date, London, April 4, which begins thus : " This day I was with Sir Joseph Williamson, through whose hands this business passes, under Lord Arlington, who readily granted mee a licence to preach in any licensed places, and another for the place I nominated, both to be ready immediately.” Twelve days after, April 16, the same gentleman writes, “ I have at length gotten your licence," and adds that it was the third or fourth time of his attendance, so great was the pressure of applicants.
Mr. Offor will find in Wilson's Diss. Churches, III. 187, the licence for Monkwell-street meeting-house dated April 2. Oliver Heywood's first licence bears date April 20.
We give, as a specimen of Mr. Offor's Introduction, the description of Bunyan's arrest in November, 1660 :
“ He was warned, and might have escaped for that time, if he had omitted to preach at the village of Samsell, or even by altering the time of the service; but no fear could make him swerve one jot from the path of duty. The constable entered and, going up to the pulpit, laid his hand upon him. Bunyan, with the Bible open in his hand, steadfastly fixed his eyes upon the man, when he turned pale, relinquished his grasp, and left him. Truly did one of his friends say, 'he had a sharp. quick eye.” He then gave himself up to those who had come to apprehend him.
“ Thus was he taken, sent to prison, and threatened with transportation or the halter (?), unless he would conform, or pretend to conform, to whatever religion happened to be by law established." This at all hazards he steadily refused. Bunyan's sufferings in prison were aggravated by his affectionate feelings for his blind daughter, and with tender apprehension he speaks of her in language of impassioned solicitude. Poor child, thought I, what sorrow art thou like to have for thy portion in this world! Thou must be beaten, must beg, suffer cold, nakedness and a thousand calamities, though I cannot now endure the wind shall blow upon thee! Oh, the hardships I thought iny blind one might go under, would break my heart to pieces !'. Then he casts himself upon the boundless power of his God, repents his doubts, and is filled with consolation.
“His wife was a partaker of his own spirit, a heroine of no ordinary stamp in so trying a situation. She came to London with a petition for the release of her husband, which was presented to the House of Lords ; but in vain. Time after time she appeared in person before the Judges ; and, although a delicate young woman of retiring habits, pleaded the cause of her husband and his children in language worthy of the most talented counsel ; but all her supplications were fruitless, although Judge Hale was evidently affected by her powerful appeal, and much for her."
This extract will satisfy the critical reader that the editor's “twelve months' labour” in studying John Bunyan has not imbued him with the fine Saxon vocabulary and pure English idiom of his matchless author.
Some Remarks on the proposed Removal of Manchester New College, and its
Connection with University College, London. By Eddowes Bowman. 8vo. Pp. 27. London-Chapman.
The columns of our Intelligence department have recently evinced the deep interest felt by the Unitarian body in the question of the proper locality of their College, and have also shewn the difference of opinion which has arisen amongst the most zealous friends of our academical institutions. Before the close of another month, the Trustees of Manchester New College will probably have decided whether their institution shall remain in Manchester, looking hereafter to the Owens College to supply its literary and scientific departments, or shall remove to London, connecting itself with University College. In the latter case, they will also have to decide whether they will append their College to the projected University Hall. The subject is attended with difficulty, as is usually the case where the conclusion is to be reached through a calm consideration of the several plans, and a balance to be struck between the opposing claims.
Mr. Bowman has, in this pamphlet, considered the subject of the proposed removal of the College from Manchester, and decided against it on grounds which appear to be weighty, and are certainly entitled to the deliberate attention of those with whom the decision rests. Those who dissent from his conclusions must yet admit that the array of his facts is considerable, that the temper which he has brought to the discussion is unobjectionable, and that his remarks are characterized by great ability. From his position and practical experience as a teacher, his remarks on the best mode of communicating classical instruction to young men are especially deserving of attention. Mr. Bowman's opinion is, that in several important branches of study young men are better taught in small than large classes, and that the system of teaching 80 or 100 students in a class, as necessarily pursued at University College, cannot meet the wants of individual pupils, and is a great temptation to carelessness and neglect of preparation.
“Classical instruction in Colleges may be given in two ways: by hearing or prelection classes, in which the students sit and hear the Professor read and interpret, without taking part themselves; and by working or preparation classes, in which they read in the class what they have prepared at home. The first mode is applicable only to very advanced students; the second is the one which is and must be adopted in University College.
“But this mode cannot be efficient, unless the students really do prepare. Now, the objection to large classes, such as those of University College, is, that they have an inevitable tendency to induce neglect of private preparation on the part of ordinary students. The work is divided among so large a number, that the share which falls to each is too small to supply a stimulus to indolence. As only a small proportion of the class can be called up each day, the chances of escaping are often reckoned on, and preparation is dispensed with. At Glasgow even, where a considerable degree of emulation prevails in the classes, many students, after they have been once called up, reckon upon being able safely to neglect preparation altogether for a fortnight or three weeks. In fact, it is practically impossible for any Professor to ensure regular preparation in very large classes. But if preparation be neglected, no ability of the Professor can compensate for it; the progress of the
“The writer remembers well receiving a certificate from the Professor of Latin at Glasgow, in which it was stated that Mr. E. B. had been called up five times in the course of the session (of six months), and had acquitted himself creditably.