common to Father, Son, and Spirit; and that whatever distinction there is between them, it consists not in their nature, but in their personality. Surely H. D. while he objects to the doctrine of the Athanasian creed, must have paid but little attention to it. "There is one person of the Father," says the writer of that creed, "another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost: but the godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one." As therefore he has mistaken the premises, the consequence of "a division in deity" falls of course.


But something like this," he thinks "is the case when the three persons are separately addressed in prayer." Did not the primitive christians call on the name of Christ? Did not Stephen call upon the Lord Jesus to receive his spirit? And was not this praying to him as distinct, though not as "separate," from the Father? Yet I suppose Stephen will not be accused of making "a division in deity."

"It is evident, that amongst common christians there are many who, for want of time and inclination to read and examine for themselves, have no other idea of the doctrine of the Trinity than that of three Gods." To whom is this evident? To me it appears that those christians who read the least of human speculations upon this subject, and content themselves with the doctrine abundantly taught in the scriptures, that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God: yet that there are not three Gods, but one God, are the least likely to


But, "Is not Tritheism an error that ought to be guarded against, as well as that of Socinianism?" The scriptures plentifully guard us against polytheism; and if the danger of tritheism was what is here supposed, it is rather surprising that they never guard us against that. Yet so it is. The sacred writers expressly call the Father, God; the Son, God; and the Holy Spirit, God; yet they seem

[blocks in formation]


never to have thought of christians so understanding it as to make three Gods, and therefore never guard against it. Neither is there a single caution in all the word of God against making too much of Christ, though there are many against making too little of him. The union between him and the Father appears to me to be so described in scripture, as to leave no room for dishonouring the latter, while we truly honour the former.* On the other hand, a jealousy for the honour of the Father, at the expense of that of the Son, was the error and overthrow of the jewish nation.

[ocr errors]

The trinitarian doctrine of the eternal Son of God, the second person in the godhead, assuming human nature in the fulness of time, appears to me to be the great mystery of godliness;' and that which ought to be received without controversy,' or curious speculations, how these things are. It will not be expected that I should here enumerate the many passages by which this is supported in the new testament: I will however mention one, which has lately struck me as possessing peculiar force. It is 1 John i. 2. 'That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the Word of life. For the Life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal Life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.'

[ocr errors]

On this passage I would remark-(1) That there is a manifest resemblance between John's introduction to his epistle, and that to his gospel: and that the same personage that is there called The Word,' is here called The Life,' and The Word of Life.'-(2) That as The Word who was with God,' and who I was God,' was 'made flesh,' and the apostles 'beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth;' so the 'Life, even that eternal Life that was with

[ocr errors]

* See Calvinistic and Socinian systems compared, Letter vii.

the Father, was manifested, and they saw it.' And the manifestation of the Life, in human nature, is given as the reason why he came to be seen with the eyes, and looked upon, and handled;' plainly intimating, that if he had not thus been manifested he would have been concealed from all mortal eyes.-(3) It was not the deity itself, "personally distinguished as the FATHER," (for which Dr. Watts in his latter days contended *) that was manifested; but that eternal Life which was WITH the Father.

As to the Indwelling scheme, I do not at present sufficiently comprehend it. If H. D. will give a brief and clear statement of it, and of the evidence on which it rests, whether in his own words, or those of the ablest authors who have written upon it, I will endavour seriously and candidly to consider what he may advance.


In Reply to the Rev. Henry Davis..

I PROPOSED in my last, that you should state the Indwelling scheme, with the scriptural grounds on which you supposed it to rest. I wish you had complied with this proposal: merely writing about a subject brings nothing to an issue. I will endeavour however to collect your sentiments as well as I can.

I agree with you, that "attempts to investigate difficult parts of divine truth, should be conducted with humility and candour." If any thing I have written, or may write, be inconsistent with either of these virtues, I am willing

* Palmer's Life of Watts, p. 62.

to bear the blame. But I hope an attempt to prove, that the denial of Christ's proper deity is inconsistent with worshipping him, and trusting in him for salvation, is not necessarily subject to such a charge. I am far from thinking that every person is aware of the legitimate consequences of his own doctrine, or that in his approaches to God he acts up to them; and still farther from "excluding from salvation all who may not have the same ideas of the subject with myself." I must add however, that true candour does not consist in entertaining a good opinion of one another, whatever be our religious principles; but in speaking the truth in love. You may think well of me, and I of you; and we may go on complimenting each other, till we both fall into perdition. As to your personal religion, and that of the "very many" who, you say, think with you, I have never called it in question. It is of things, not persons, that I have written. If any of us find ourselves affected by what another advances, it becomes us to examine whether what he alleges be true, and not to content ourselves with exclaiming against his want of candour. If I think the worse of any man on account of his differing from me, that will only betray my vanity and folly; but if I do not think the worse of a man for what I account his differing from the scriptures, and thereby dishonouring Christ, that is esteeming men irrespective of the truth that dwelleth in them, and rendering it of no importance; which, however pleasing to flesh and blood, may be no less repugnant to the spirit of christianity, than the most uncharitable bitterness.

You ask, "Whether by the proper deity of Christ, I mean any thing more than his being called God in the scriptures." Certainly I do; or I have all along been deceiving myself, and the reader. I mean that he is what he is called. But, do I suppose "that he is God in the same sense as the three persons united are one God?" No: I do not. The Father is not God in this sense, any more than the Son and Spirit. We nowhere read that the Father is a God, the Son a God, or the Spirit a God,

when spoken of in distinction from each other; nor do I recollect any such idea conveyed in the scriptures; yet each divine person has every perfection of Godhead ascribed to him.

You have twice suggested, that the Son and Spirit, having assumed visible appearances, must have a nature different from Deity. You cannot mean that the nature or appearance assumed was different from deity; for of this there is no dispute; but the nature assuming. But what proof is there of this? I do not know that the Holy Spirit ever assumed any other nature than his own, though he descended on Christ in the form or appearance of a dove and though the Son assumed human nature, yet this implies no inferiority to the Father, in respect of what he was antecedent to such assumption.

I have no objection to our enquiring, not only into the evidence that the doctrine of the Trinity is contained in scripture, but, as far as scripture informs us, what that doctrine is. It does not become us however to take up the principle of the divine Unity, however true and important, and having formed an idea of it as being personal, resolve to admit of no other than what shall agree with our preconceived notion; for this were to regulate certainty by uncertainty, the certain light of revelation by the uncertain conjectures supposed to be derived from the light of nature. We ought to regulate our ideas of the divine Unity by what is taught us in the scriptures, of the Trinity; and not those of the Trinity by what we know, or think we know from the light of nature, of the Unity.

It appears to me, by the tenour of your pieces, especially from some passages, that you and your brethren have in this matter symbolized with the Socinians; who, having taken up the idea of God as being one person, reject every thing in the scriptures that is inconsistent with it; and therefore renounce first the deity, and then the atonement of Christ; and in short almost every thing pertaining to revelation, except what might have been

« VorigeDoorgaan »