by Thomas Ridgley
QUESTION IX. How many Persons are there in the Godhead?
ANSWER. There be three Persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one, true, eternal God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory; although distinguished by their personal properties.
QUESTION X. What are the personal properties of the three Persons in the Godhead?
ANSWER. It is proper to the Father to beget the Son, and to the Son to be begotten of the Father, and to the Holy Ghost to proceed from the Father and the Son from all eternity.
QUESTION XI. How doth it appear that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father?
ANSWER. The scriptures manifest that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father; ascribing unto them such names, attributes, works, and worship, as are proper to God only.
IN these three answers is contained the doctrine of the ever-blessed Trinity. This is a subject of pure revelation. As it is much contested in the age in which we live, we are obliged to be copious and particular in laying down the reasons of our belief of it, and in our defence of it against those that deny it. It is a doctrine that has been defended by some of the most judicious writers, both in our own and in other nations. Some of these have proved that it was maintained by the church in the purest ages; and their having done so renders it less necessary for us to enter into the historical part of the controversy. We shall discuss the doctrine, principally, as founded on the sacred writings. And while others, by confining themselves to the scholastic methods of speaking, have rendered some parts of it obscure, we shall endeavour to avoid these, that so it may be better understood by private Christians. As to the method of treating it, we shall, first, premise some things which are necessary to be considered, with relation to it in general. Secondly, we shall consider in what sense we are to understand the words 'Trinity' and 'Persons in the Godhead,' and in what respect the divine persons are said to be One. Thirdly, we shall prove that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, have distinct personal properties, and therefore that we have sufficient reason to call them Persons in the Godhead, as they are called in the first of these answers. Under this head, we shall consider also what is generally understood by the eternal generation of the Son, and the procession of the Holy Ghost; and what cautions we are to use, lest, by mistaking the sense of what is said on these subjects, we be led into any error, derogatory to, or subversive of, the doctrine of the Trinity. We shall likewise endeavour to explain those scriptures which are generally brought to establish these doctrines. Lastly, we shall endeavour to prove that the three Persons in the Godhead, especially the Son and the Holy Ghost, are truly divine, or that they have all the perfections of the divine nature; and therefore that they are, in the most proper sense, the one only living and true God.
The Importance of the Doctrine of the Trinity
The first thing which we premise, as necessary to be considered, with relation to the doctrine of the Trinity in general, is that this doctrine is of the highest importance, and is necessary to be believed by all Christians who pay a just deference to revealed religion. It may probably be reckoned an error in method to speak of the importance of the doctrine, before we attempt to prove its truth. Our doing so, however, is not altogether unjustifiable; since we not only address ourselves to those who deny it, but also aim to produce some farther conviction or establishment in the faith of it, in those who believe it. We may therefore be allowed to consider it as an important doctrine; in order that we may be excited to a more diligent inquiry into the force of some of those arguments which are generally brought in its defence.
Now to determine a doctrine to be of the highest importance, we must consider the belief of it as subservient to that true religion which is ordained by God, as connected with salvation, or as a means leading to it, without which we have no warrant to expect it. Such doctrines are sometimes called fundamental, as being the basis and foundation on which our hope is built. It will, I think, be allowed, by all whose sentiments do not savour of scepticism, that there are some doctrines of religion necessary to be believed to salvation. There are some persons, it is true, who plead for the innocency of error; or who contend for this, at least, in the case of sincere inquirers after truth, who, in the end, will appear to have been very remote from it,—as though their endeavours would entitle them to salvation, without the knowledge of those things which others conclude to be necessarily subservient to it. All that we shall say on this point, is, that it is not the sincerity of our inquiries after important truths, but the success of them, which is to be regarded as a means of obtaining so valuable an end. We may as well suppose that our sincere endeavours to obtain many of those graces which accompany salvation, such as faith, love to God, and evangelical obedience, will supply, or atone for, the want of them, as assert, that our unsuccessful inquiries after the great doctrines of religion, will excuse our ignorance of them. This especially appears when we consider, that blindness of mind, as well as hardness of heart, is included among those spiritual judgments which are the consequence of our fallen state; and that God displays the sovereignty of his grace, as much in leading the soul into all necessary truth, as in any other things that relate to salvation. It is not our business, however, to determine the final state of men; or how far they make advances to, or recede from, the knowledge of the most important doctrines; or what will be the issue of their comparative acquaintance with them. Our business is rather to desire of God, that so far as we or others are destitute of a knowledge of fundamental doctrines, he would grant us and them 'repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.' Here we cannot but observe, that the question relating to important or fundamental articles of faith, is not, Whether any doctrines may be so called? but, What those doctrines are? In determining this, many make provision for their own particular scheme of doctrines. Some, particularly the Papists, assert several doctrines to be fundamental, without scripture warrant; yea, they assert some to be so which are directly contrary. Others allow no doctrine to be fundamental, but what will, if adhered to, open a door of salvation to all mankind; and these set aside the necessity of divine revelation. Others, who desire not to run such lengths, will allow that some scripture-doctrines are necessary to be believed to salvation; but they allow only those to be such which are maintained by persons who are in their way of thinking. Accordingly, they who deny the doctrine of the Trinity, are obliged, in conformity to their own sentiments, to deny also that it is an important article of faith. These may justly demand a convincing proof of the truth of it, before they believe it to be of any importance, especially to themselves. It would be a vain thing to tell them, that the belief of it is connected with salvation, or is as necessary as divine worship is, which supposes the belief of the divinity of the Persons whom we adore,—it would be vain to tell them this, without first proving that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, are divine Persons. It would be as little to their edification to say that there are several doctrines necessary to be believed;—such as that of Christ's satisfaction, and of our justification depending on it, and that of regeneration and sanctification, as the effects of the divine power of the Holy Ghost,—all of which suppose the belief of Christ and the Holy Ghost being divine Persons. We must first give some convincing proof of the truth of the doctrine of the Trinity, with which these doctrines are supposed to stand or fall; else it would be immediately replied, that the one is false, and far from being of any importance, and that therefore so are the others. But as we reserve the consideration of these doctrines to their proper place, we shall only observe at present, that there are some persons who do appear to deny not the doctrine of the Trinity, but rather the importance of it, and express themselves with very great indifference about it, and blame all attempts to defend it as needless or litigious, as though they were only a contest about words. They say, 'Though we hold it ourselves, others who deny it may have as much to say in defence of their own cause as we have, and therefore these disputes ought to be wholly laid aside.' Now, as regards these persons, what we have hinted concerning the importance of this doctrine may not be altogether misapplied. We have taken occasion, therefore, to mention it in this place, that we may not be supposed to plead a cause which is not worth defending; and that the doctrine of the Trinity may appear to be, not an empty speculation, but a doctrine which we are bound to esteem as of the highest importance.
Let us next consider what degree of knowledge of this doctrine is necessary to, or connected with, salvation It cannot be supposed that such a degree of knowledge includes every thing that is commonly laid down in those writings in which the doctrine is attempted to be explained; for when we speak of it as a doctrine of the highest importance, we mean by it the scripture-doctrine of the Trinity. This is what we are to assent to, and to use our utmost endeavours to defend. As for those explications which are merely human, they are not to be reckoned of equal importance. Every private Christian, in particular, is not to be censured as a stranger to this doctrine, who cannot define personality in a scholastic way, or understand all the terms used in explaining it, or several modes of speaking which some writers tenaciously adhere to,—such as 'hypostasis,' 'subsistence,' 'consubstantiality,' 'the model distinction of the Persons in the Godhead,' 'filiation,' 'the communication of the divine essence by generation,' 'the communication of it by procession.' Some of those expressions rather embarrass the minds of men, than add any farther light to the sense of those scriptures in which this doctrine is taught. When we consider how far the doctrine of the Trinity is to be known and believed to salvation, we must not exclude the weakest Christian from a possibility of knowing it, by supposing it necessary for him to understand some hard words, which he doth not find in his Bible, and which, if he meet them elsewhere, will not add much to his edification. That knowledge which is necessary to salvation, is plain and easy, and is to be found in every part of scripture. Accordingly, every Christian knows, that the word 'God' signifies a Being that has all those divine perfections which are so frequently attributed to him in scripture, and are displayed and glorified in all his works of common providence and grace. Every Christian knows also that this God is one; and he learns from his Bible, and therefore firmly believes, that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are possessed of divine perfections, and consequently are this one God. He knows, further, that, in scripture, they are distinguished by such characters and properties as are generally called 'personal;' and he applies the word 'Person' to each of them, and concludes that the divine glory attributed to them is the same, though their personal properties or characters are distinct. This is the substance of what is contained in the first of the Answers at present under consideration. And he who believes this, needs not entertain any doubt that he wants some ideas of this sacred doctrine which are necessary to salvation; for the degree of knowledge, which he possesses, attended with a firm belief, is sufficient to warrant all those acts of divine worship which we are bound to render to the Father, Son, and Spirit, and is consistent with all those other doctrines, which are founded on that of the Trinity, or which suppose the belief of it.
The Doctrine of the Trinity a Mystery
The doctrine of the Trinity is a great mystery, such as cannot be comprehended by a finite mind. But let us inquire what we are to understand by the word 'mystery,' as it is used in scripture. This word sometimes denotes a doctrine's having been kept secret, or, at least, revealed more obscurely than afterwards, so that it was not so clearly known. In this sense the gospel is called, 'The mystery which hath been hid from ages, and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints.' It was covered with the ceremonial law, as with a vail, which many of the people, through the blindness of their minds, did not fully understand. Accordingly, when persons are led into a farther knowledge of it, it is said, as our Saviour tells his disciples, that to them it is given to 'know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.'c—Again, when something is revealed in scripture which the world was not in the least apprized of before, it is, by way of eminence, called 'a mystery.' The apostle, speaking concerning the change that shall take place on those that shall be found alive at the last day, says, 'Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.'—There is still another idea affixed to the word 'mystery,' namely, that though a doctrine be revealed, it cannot be fully comprehended. It is in this sense that we call the doctrine of the Trinity a mystery. The word, in some scriptures, seems to occur in two of its senses. When the apostle says, 'Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which, from the beginning of the world, hath been hid in God,'e he speaks of the gospel, not only 'as hid,' but as 'unsearchable;' and when he speaks of 'the mystery of God, even the Father and of Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,' the word 'mystery' seems to denote that which had not been fully made known, and that which cannot be fully understood. Few will deny that the glory of the Father, who is here spoken of, as well as Christ, is incomprehensible by a finite mind; and if it be said that the gospel is intended, and that the words ought to be rendered, 'in which are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,' even this must be supposed to be incomprehensible, as well as formerly less known, otherwise the character which the apostle gives of it would be too great.
But suppose the word 'mystery' were always used to signify a doctrine not before revealed, without including the idea of its being incomprehensible, our general position would not be overthrown; for we can prove from other arguments that the doctrine of the Trinity is incomprehensible; and this we shall endeavour to do. That we may prepare our way for this, let it be considered, that there are some finite things not incomprehensible in themselves, which we cannot now comprehend by reason of the imperfection of our present state. How little do we know of some things which may be called mysteries in nature,—such as the reason of the growth and various colours and shapes of plants, and the various instincts of brute creatures! Yea, how little do we know comparatively of ourselves! How little of the nature of our souls, otherwise than as it is observed by their actions, and by the effects they produce,—or of the reason of their union with our bodies, or of their acting by them! As the inspired writer observes, 'Thou knowest not the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child; even so thou knowest not the works of God, who maketh all things.' Elihu, mentioning some wonderful works of nature, which he challenges Job to give an account of, speaks of this in particular, 'Dost thou know how thy garments are warm, when he quieteth the earth, by the south wind?'h These words signify, not only that we cannot account for the winds producing heat or cold, as blowing from various quarters of heaven, but that we know hot the reason of the vital heat which is preserved, for so many years, in the bodies of men, the inseparable concomitant and sign of life, or what gives the first motion to the blood and spirits, or fits the organized body to perform its various functions. These things cannot be comprehended by us.
But when we speak of that which is infinite, we must conclude it to be incomprehensible, not only because of the imperfection of our present state, but because, as has been before observed, of the infinite disproportion that there is between the object and our finite capacities. In this respect, we showed that the perfections of the divine nature cannot be comprehended,—such as the immensity, eternity, omnipresence, and simplicity of God. Yet we are to believe that he is infinitely perfect. Now it seems equally reasonable to suppose the doctrine of the Trinity to be incomprehensible; for the mutual relation of the Father, Son, and Spirit, and their distinct personality, are not the result of the divine will—they are personal perfections, and are therefore necessary, and their glory, as well as that of his essential perfections, infinite. If we are bound to believe one to be incomprehensible, why should we not as well suppose the other to be so? Or if there are some things which the light of nature gives us some ideas of, concerning which we, notwithstanding, know but little, why should it be thought strange, that the doctrine of the Trinity, though the subject of pure revelation, should be equally incomprehensible! This inference appears so evident, that some who deny the doctrine of the Trinity to be incomprehensible, do not hesitate to deny the perfections of the divine nature to be so. They maintain that there is nothing which is the object of faith but what may be comprehended by us; and thus go to extremities in defence of their cause, which no one who hath the least degree of the humility becoming a finite creature, should venture to adopt. They even, as their cause seems to require, proceed as far as to say, that every doctrine which we cannot comprehend is to be rejected by us; as though our understandings were to set bounds to the truth and credibility of all things.
This, I think, is the true state of the question about mysteries in Christianity. The question is not, whether the word 'mystery' is never used in scripture to signify what is incomprehensible; for if that could be sufficiently proved, which I think hath not yet been done, we would assert the doctrine of the Trinity to be more than a mystery, namely, an incomprehensible doctrine. And the proof of this seems absolutely necessary; for the Anti-trinitarians—some of them, with an air of insult—conclude that our asserting it is a last resort, which we betake ourselves to when they have beaten us out of all our other strongholds. We might suppose, therefore, that the doctrine of the incomprehensiblity of the Trinity would be opposed with the greatest warmth; but I do not find that it has hitherto been overthrown. Indeed, when they call it one of our most plausible pretences, as though we laid the whole stress of the controversy upon it, we might expect that it should be attacked with stronger arguments than it generally is. Sometimes they bend their force principally against the sense of the word 'mystery:' and here they talk not only with an air of insult, but with profaneness, when they compare the doctrine with the abominable mysteries of the heathen, which were not to be divulged to any but those who were in the secret, or when they compare it with transubstantiation, and reckon it mysterious in the same sense, or, according to their construction, absurd and nonsensical. This way of arguing has so far prevailed among them, that no one must apply the word 'mystery' to any doctrines of religion without exposing himself to scorn and ridicule. This, however, will do no service to their cause, nor prejudice to our doctrine, in the opinion of those who inquire into the latter with that seriousness and impartiality which the importance of the doctrine calls for.
The question, then, is, whether any doctrines of religion may be deemed incomprehensible,—that is, such as we can have no adequate ideas of, because of the disproportion between them and our finite minds? and whether the incommunicable perfections of God are not to be reckoned among these incomprehensible doctrines? If they are not, it will be reasonable to demand that every thing relating to them be particularly accounted for, and reduced to the standard of a finite capacity. If this cannot be done, but some things must be allowed to be incomprehensible in religion, it will be farther inquired, Why should the doctrine of the Trinity be rejected, because we cannot account for every thing that relates to the personal glory of God, any more than we can for those things that respect his essential glory? Or may not some things that are matter of pure revelation, be supposed to exceed our capacities, and yet we be bound to believe them, as well as other things which by the light of nature appear to be true, and, at the same time, are incomprehensible? But that we may enter a little more particularly into this argument, we shall consider the most material objections that are brought against it, and what may be replied to them.
One objection is, that we take up with the mere sound of words, and do not affix any manner of ideas to them. Now there is no Christian, that I know of, who thinks there is any religion in the sound of words, or that it is sufficient for us to take up with the word 'Trinity,' or 'Persons in the Godhead,' without determining, in some measure, what we understand by it. We allow that faith supposes some ideas of the object,—that is, that we have some knowledge of what we believe it to be. But our knowledge of things admits of various degrees. Of some things we know only that they are what they are determined or proved to be. If we proceed farther in our inquiries, and would know how every matter is to be accounted for which may justly be affirmed concerning them, our ideas are at a stand. Yet our being reduced to this state is not in the least inconsistent with our believing what we conclude them to be. We believe, for example, that God's eternity is without succession, or that his immensity is without extension. This we know and believe, because to assert the contrary would be to ascribe imperfection to him. Our faith, as grounded on this reason of it, extends only as far as our ideas; and as regards what exceeds them, we are bound to believe that there is something in God which is beyond the reach of a finite mind, though, in consequence of its being infinite, we cannot comprehend or fully describe it. So with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity, it is one thing to say that the Father, Son, and Spirit, have the perfections of the divine nature, as well as distinct personal characters and properties, attributed to them in scripture, and that because the Godhead is but one, these three are one,—it is one thing to say this, and firmly to believe it, on the ground of its being clearly revealed in scripture; and another thing to say that, though we cannot fully describe all the properties of their divine personality, we, nevertheless, believe that they subsist in an incomprehensible manner. And while we compare them with finite persons, as we do the perfections of God with those of the creature, we separate from the one, as well as from the other, whatever savours of imperfection.
Another objection is, that it is unbecoming the divine wisdom and goodness to suppose that God should give a revelation, and demand our belief of it, as necessary to salvation, when, at the same time, it is impossible for our understandings to yield an assent to it, since nothing that is unintelligible can be the object of faith. Now, we must distinguish between rendering unintelligible, by perplexity or difficulty of style, a doctrine which would otherwise be easy to be understood, and the imparting of a doctrine which none can comprehend. The former of these cannot be charged on any part of scripture; and it is only a revelation liable to be charged with it which could be reckoned inconsistent with the wisdom and goodness of God. As to the latter, the design of revelation is not to make us comprehend what is in itself incomprehensible. God, for instance, did not design, when he made known his perfections in his word, to give us such a perfect discovery of himself, that we might be said by means of it to find him out unto perfection, or that we should know as much of his glory as is possible to be known, or as much as he knows of it himself; for that is to suppose the understanding of man infinitely more perfect than it is. Whatever is received, is received in proportion to the measure of that which contains it. The whole ocean can communicate no more water than what will fill the vessel which is applied to receive it. Accordingly, the infinite perfections of God being such as cannot be contained in a finite mind, we are not to suppose that our comprehending them was the design of divine revelation. God, indeed, designed that we should apprehend some things of himself, or as much as should be subservient to the great ends of religion, but not so much as might be inconsistent with our humbly confessing that 'we are but of yesterday, and know,' comparatively, 'nothing.' And this is true as regards not only the essential, but the personal glory of God, 'Who hath ascended into heaven, or descended? Who hath gathered the wind in his fists? Who hath bound the waters in a garment? Who hath established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell?'k Our Saviour, indeed, speaks of his having 'ascended into heaven,' as having a comprehensive knowledge of all divine truths; but this he affirms concerning himself as a divine person, exclusively of all creatures. As to the objection stating, that God makes the comprehensive knowledge of mysterious doctrines a term of salvation, we must take leave to deny it. We have already considered what degree of knowledge is necessary to salvation, and have shown it to be such as is subservient to religion,—which teaches us to adore what we apprehend to be its object, though we cannot comprehend it. As to the further allegation in the objection, that that which is unintelligible, is not the object of faith, we must distinguish before we grant or deny it. As the object of faith is some proposition laid down, it is one thing to say that a proposition cannot be assented to, when we have no ideas of what is affirmed or denied in it; and another thing to say that it is not to be believed, when we have ideas of several things contained in it, of which some are affirmed, and others denied. When, for instance, we say that God is an infinite Spirit, there is a positive idea contained in the proposition, or there is something affirmed in it, namely, that he is able to put forth actions suitable to an intelligent being; there is also something denied concerning him, namely, that he is corporeal, and that there are any limits to his understanding. Now, all this we may truly be said to understand and believe. But if we proceed farther, and inquire what it is to have such an understanding or will, not only does the question exceed our comprehension, but it is not a proposition, and consequently not the object of faith. The same principle holds with regard to the doctrine of the Trinity. When we affirm that there is one God, that the Father, Son, and Spirit, have all the perfections of the Godhead, and that these perfections, and the personality of each of them, are infinitely greater than what can be found in the creature, we state what we yield our assent to. But if it be inquired how far God herein exceeds all the ideas which we have of finite perfections, or personality, our understandings are at a loss. So far, however, as this does not contain the form of a proposition, it cannot, according to our common acceptation of the word, be said to be the object of faith.
A third objection is, that practical religion is designed to be promoted in the world by a revelation; and therefore the will of man must follow the dictates of the understanding, and not blindly embrace, and be conversant about, we know not what,—which is to act unbecoming our character as intelligent creatures. Now, the ideas which we have of things subservient to practical religion are of two sorts, such as engage our obedience, or such as excite our adoration and admiration. As to the former, we know what we are commanded to do, what it is to act as becomes those who are subject to a divine person, though we cannot comprehend those infinite perfections which lay us under the highest obligations to obey him. As to the latter, the incomprehensibleness of the divine personality, or perfections, has a direct tendency to excite our admiration, and the infinitude of them our adoration. And since all religion may be reduced to these two heads, the contents of divine revelation, so far from being inconsistent with it, tend to promote it. Things commanded are not, as such, incomprehensible, as was but now observed, and therefore not inconsistent with that obedience or subjection which is enjoined in one branch of revelation; and things incomprehensible do not contain the form of a command, but rather excite our admiration, and therefore are not only consistent with, but adapted to promote, the other branch of it. Is it not an instance of religion to adore and magnify God, when we behold the display of his perfections in his works? And is he less to be adored, or admired, because we cannot comprehend them? Or should we not rather look upon them with a greater degree of astonishment, than if they did not exceed the reach of a finite mind? Must a person be able to measure the water of the ocean, or number all the particles of matter that are contained in the world, before his ideas can be in any way directed to show forth the Creator's praise? Or must we be able to account for every thing that is a mystery in nature, before we can improve it to promote some of the ends of practical religion to which it incites us? May we not say, with wonder, 'O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of thy riches?' So when we behold the personal glory of the Father. Son, and Spirit, as displayed in the work of redemption, or as revealed in scripture, which, as exhibiting it, is said to be an instance of his 'manifold wisdom,'n should we not admire it the more that it is, as the apostle calls it, 'unsearchable?' We conclude, therefore, that practical religion, as founded on divine revelation, is not, in any of its branches, inconsistent with the incomprehensibleness of those things which are, some in one respect, and others in another, its objects. As to what the objection further states concerning the will following the dictates of the understanding, and practical religion being seated in the latter, I own that we must first know what we are to do in matters of religion, before we can act. Thus we must first know what it is to worship, love, and obey the Father, Son, and Spirit, and also that these three divine persons are the object of worship, love, and obedience; and then the will follows the dictates of the understanding. But it is one thing to know these things, and another thing to be able to comprehend the divine, essential, or personal glory which belongs to them, and is the foundation of acts of religious worship.
Another objection is, that the design of divine revelation is to improve our understandings, and render our ideas of things more clear, and not to entangle and perplex them; or, as it is sometimes expressed, that revelation is an improvement upon the light of nature. This objection seems to have a double aspect, or tendency to advance, or to depreciate, divine revelation. If we take it in the former view, we freely own that revelation is a very great improvement upon the light of nature. It is so, as it leads us into the knowledge of many things which could not be discovered by the light of nature,—such as the doctrine of the Trinity, of the incarnation of the Son of God, and of that infinite satisfaction which was given by him to the justice of God in order to our discharge from condemnation; and also as it leads us into that communion which believers have with the Father, Son, and Spirit. Since the light of nature gives us no discovery of these doctrines, divine revelation, and particularly the gospel, makes a very great addition to our ideas. Both, it is true, take their rise from God; yet one excels the other as much as the light of the sun does that of a star. The psalmist, when comparing them, says respecting revelation, 'It is perfect, converting the soul,' and 'sure, making wise the simple.' Again, when the same truths are discovered by the light of nature, and by divine revelation, the latter tends very much to improve our ideas. Thus when the light of nature leads us into the knowledge of the being and perfections of God, his wisdom, power, and goodness, as illustrated in the works of creation and providence, we have not so clear ideas of them, as we receive from the additional discoveries of them in divine revelation. Hence, the one does not cloud or darken those ideas which the other gives. But those who bring the objection against the doctrine of the Trinity, intend by it to depreciate divine revelation; and the sense of their objection is,—that though the light of nature leads mankind into such a degree of the knowledge of divine truths as is sufficient, in its kind, to salvation, so that they who are destitute of divine revelation may understand the terms of acceptance with God, and the way which, if duly improved, would lead to heaven; yet God was pleased to give some farther discovery of the same things by his word, which, in consequence, is only an improvement upon the other, as it makes the same truths which were known in some degree without it, more clear, and frees them from those corruptions or false glosses which the perverse reasonings of men have set upon them; whereas we, by insisting on inexplicable mysteries, which we pretend to be founded on divine revelation, though in reality they are not contained in it, cloud and darken the light of nature, and so make the way of salvation more difficult than it would otherwise be. This objection, however plausible the words, at first view, may appear to be, certainly tends to depreciate divine revelation. It supposes those doctrines now mentioned, and many others of a similar nature, not necessary to salvation. It, therefore, takes its rise from the Deists, however it may be applied by the Anti-trinitarians, in militating against the doctrine of the Trinity. And as the principal design of it is to overthrow this doctrine, by supposing it to be unintelligible, and, according to their method of reasoning, in no sense the object of faith, the only reply which need be made to it is, that the discoveries of the glory of God by the light of nature, are, in some respects, as incomprehensible as the doctrine of the Trinity, while we are not, for that reason, obliged to disbelieve or reject them. No advantage, therefore, is gained against our argument, by supposing that the light of nature contains a discovery of truths, plain, easy, and intelligible, and that the doctrine of the Trinity is otherwise, and, as such, is not contained in divine revelation, and cannot be defended.
The Doctrine of the Trinity not contrary to reason
Another thing that may be premised, before we enter on the proof of the doctrine of the Trinity, is, that that doctrine is not contrary to reason, though it be above it, and that our reasoning powers, when directed by scripture-revelation, are not altogether useless, in order to our attaining such a degree of the knowledge of it as is necessary, and ought to be diligently sought. When a doctrine may be said to be above reason, has been already considered, as well as that the doctrine of the Trinity is so. We are now, then, to obviate the most popular objection brought against that doctrine, namely, that it is absurd and irrational, and that they who maintain it must lay aside their reason before they can be induced to believe it; for it assumes either that three are equal to one, which is contrary to the common sense of mankind, or that there is a plurality of gods, which is contrary to the first principles of the light of nature. Here we are reflected on, as though we demanded that our antagonists should lay aside their reason before we argue with them, and so make it easy to be seen on which side the argument will preponderate. To make way, then, for what may be said in defence of the doctrine of the Trinity, we shall in this section, First, consider when a doctrine may be said to be contrary to reason; Secondly, show that the doctrine of the Trinity is not so; and Thirdly, inquire what is the use of reason in establishing it, or any other doctrines which are the subject of pure revelation.
1. First, then, let us inquire when we may conclude that a doctrine is contrary to reason. A doctrine may, in a sense, be said to be contrary to reason, when it is contrary to the methods of reasoning made use of by particular persons, which are not always just; and it may then not be false or absurd, but rather the contrary. It is nothing, therefore, to our present argument, to be asked, with an air of boasting, by those on the other side of the question, that if the doctrine we are maintaining could have been accounted for, how comes it to pass that so many men of sense and learning, as are to be found among the Anti-trinitarians, have not been able to do it? We suppose a doctrine to be contrary to reason, only when it contradicts some of the first principles which the mind of man cannot but yield its assent to,—which it receives as soon as it takes in the sense of the words expressing them, without demanding any proof. Examples of such principles are, that the whole is greater than a part,—that a thing cannot be, and not be, at the same time,—and that two is more than one. Or a doctrine is contrary to reason which, when any point is proved to be true to a demonstration, is contained in a proposition contradictory to it, in which the words are taken in the same sense.
2. We shall now show that the doctrine of the Trinity is not contrary to reason. That this may appear, it is to be remarked that we do not say that the three Persons in the Godhead are one Person, or that the one divine Being is three divine Beings.
It is objected, however, that as reason establishes and proves the unity of the Godhead, it is contrary to it to say that the divine nature may be predicated of more than one; for, in that case, there is a plurality of Gods, and every distinct Person must be a distinct God. In other words, it is alleged that the Trinitarian doctrine is downright Tritheism, and consequently contrary to reason. Here those-words of the Athanasian Creed are produced as an instance: "The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God, yet there are not three Gods, but one God; so that the Father is Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Eternal, yet there are not three Eternals, but one Eternal; and the Father Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty, yet there are not three Almighties, but one Almighty." These words they suppose, though without ground, to contain a plain contradiction. When we say the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are God, we do not say they are distinct Gods; for the distinction between them respects their personality, not their deity. When, again, we assert that they are all Eternal, or Almighty, we do not suppose that their duration or power are distinct. And the same thing may be said of all other divine perfections that are attributed to them: the perfections are the same in all of them, though the persons are distinct. The charge of Tritheism thus lies in a narrow compass. The Anti-trinitarians say that there is one divine Being; so do we. But they add, that this divine Being is a divine person, since existence and personality are the same, and that if there be more divine Persons, there must be more Gods. This they maintain; and this we deny. Now how do they prove it? The proof amounts to no more than this,—that there is no instance in finite things—among angels or men, to whom alone personality can be applied—of any distinct persons who are not, at the same time, distinct beings. From this it is inferred that the case must be the same with respect to the divine Persons. This inference we are bound to deny. Our ideas of personality and of existence are not the same. How inseparable soever these may be in what respects creatures, we may have distinct ideas of them, when we speak of the divine being and personality of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Here it will, doubtless, be demanded, that we determine wherein the difference consists; or, in particular, since every distinct finite Person is a distinct being, what there is in the divine personality that should exclude the Father, Son, and Spirit, from being distinct beings, because distinct Persons. Must we then, when we conclude that there is a small or faint resemblance between divine and human personality, be able to comprehend, and fully to describe, that infinite disproportion which is between them, or else be charged with using words without any manner of ideas annexed to them, and so let our cause fall to the ground? If, indeed, the divine personality were finite, like that of the creature, it might be required that a finite mind should account for it; but since it is not so, but incomprehensible, we are bound to believe what we cannot comprehend.
But have we no ideas at all of the distinct personality of the Father, Son, and Spirit? To this we may answer, that we have finite ideas of it, and that only such ideas have we of any of the divine perfections. We are taught, by scripture, to say that they are distinct Persons. We also know what those personal characters or properties, whence our ideas take their rise, signify, when affirmed of men. At the same time, we in our thoughts abstract every thing from these characters or properties which argues imperfection. In short, in our conceptions of them we proceed in the same way, as when we think of any of the perfections of the divine nature. These, as well as the divine personality, are incomprehensible. Yet, while we say they are infinitely more than can be in any creature, we, notwithstanding, retain such ideas of them as tend to answer those ends of religion which suppose that we apprehend something of them which is conducive to its exercise.
3. We are now to consider the use of reason in proving or defending the doctrine of the Trinity, or any other doctrines of pure revelation. Though these doctrines could not have been discovered by reason, nor can every thing that is revealed be comprehended by it; yet reason is not to be laid aside as useless, and has been called by some a servant to faith. While revelation discovers what doctrines we are to believe, and demands our assent to them, reason offers a convincing proof that we are under an indispensable obligation to give it—it proves the doctrine to be true and such as is worthy of God, as it is derived from him, the fountain of truth and wisdom. This office of reason, or the subserviency of it to our faith, is certainly necessary; for what is false cannot be the object of faith in general, and nothing unworthy of God can be the matter of divine revelation or the object of a divine faith.
Now, in order to reason's judging of the truth of things, it first considers the sense of words, what ideas are designed to be conveyed by them, and whether these are contrary to the common sense of mankind. It then proceeds to inquire into those evidences that may give conviction, and enforce our belief of the ideas, and leads us into the nature of the truths revealed, receives them as stamped with the authority of God, and considers them as agreeable to his perfections. It also leads us into his design in revealing them, and what we are to infer from them; and in doing this, it connects things together, shows their importance, and observes the dependence of one upon another, and how they are to be improved to answer the best purposes. Now this office of reason may be performed in particular with regard to the doctrine of the Trinity. That doctrine, as has been already proved, contains in it no absurdity contradictory to reason; and the evidences on which our faith in it is founded, will be farther considered when, by the express words of scripture, or by just consequences deduced from them, we prove it to be a doctrine of revelation, agreeable to the mind of the Holy Ghost. The proofs which we shall then adduce will make it farther appear, that it is necessary for us to use our reason in stating those doctrines which neither are founded on it, nor can be comprehended by it.
Whence the Doctrine of the Trinity is to be deduced
We shall now consider whence the doctrine of the Trinity is to be deduced, or where we are to search for that knowledge of it in which we are to acquiesce. Here it must be observed, that it cannot be learnt from the light of nature; for then we should certainly be able to behold some traces of it in the works of creation and providence, and, reasoning from the effect to the cause, should understand it from them, as well as the power, wisdom, and goodness of God. We should never have known that God made all things by his essential word, 'without whom,' as the evangelist says,' 'was not anything made that was made,' had we not been told so by divine revelation. In like manner we should never have known that the Spirit, as a distinct Person from the Father, created all things, and performed several other works by which his personal glory is demonstrated, had we not been instructed on the subject by scripture. The light of nature could discover to us, indeed, that God, who is a Spirit, or an incorporeal Being, has produced many effects worthy of himself; but we could not have known by it that the word 'Spirit' signifies a distinct person,—a doctrine for which we are indebted to divine revelation. As for the work of our redemption, in which, more than in all the other divine works, the personal glory of the Father, Son, and Spirit is demonstrated, we could have known as little of that, by the light of nature, as we do of the Persons to whom it is attributed.
It will, I am aware, be objected, that our first parents knew the doctrine of the Trinity, as soon as they were created, else they could not have given that distinct glory to the Persons in the Godhead that is due to them,—that if we are required not only to worship the Divine Being, but to worship the Father, Son, and Spirit, and if this worship is due from us as creatures, and not merely as fallen and redeemed, it follows that our first parents must have known the doctrine of the Trinity; and they knew it not by divine revelation, but by the light of nature. Now we will concede every thing in this objection, except that they did not know the doctrine by divine revelation. They certainly had some ideas conveyed to them at first by revelation, else they could not have known anything that related to instituted worship,—which, it is plain, they did. And shall it be reckoned any absurdity to suppose that they received the doctrine of the Trinity by divine revelation, though in the short history which Moses gives us of things relating to the state of innocency, we have no particular account of their having so received it? It is sufficient to our purpose to suppose that it was agreeable to the wisdom and goodness of God to make known to them this important truth, and that, in consequence, he actually did so, though not by the light of nature.
It is farther objected, that, as appears by their writings, the heathen, though they were unacquainted with scripture, knew something of the doctrine of the Trinity. To support this objection, reference is made to several mystical expressions in the works of Plato, when he speaks of three principles, which seem to look in the direction of the doctrine. One of the three principles of which he speaks, he calls goodness, or a being that is good; the second he calls his word, or reason; and the third a spirit, which diffuses its influence throughout the whole system of beings, and which he sometimes calls 'the soul of the world.' In other passages, he speaks of them as having a distinct sovereignty. He supposes the first to be the cause of things most great and excellent; the second, the cause of things of an inferior nature; the third, the cause of things yet more inferior. And, some of his followers plainly call them 'three hypostases,' and sometimes, 'Father,' 'Word,' and 'Spirit.' Now, the account which Plato and his followers seem to have given of the doctrine of the Trinity, does not appear to have been taken from the light of nature; so that it affords no countenance to the principle of the objection. We have sufficient ground to conclude that Plato travelled into Egypt with a design to make improvements in knowledge; and some suppose that he saw there a translation of part of the Bible into Greek,r more ancient than that which is commonly attributed to the LXX, which was not compiled till a hundred years after his time. Whether he did this, or not, is uncertain. It is not to be doubted, however, that he used several expressions which are contained in the books of Moses, and that he took thence the plan of his laws. On this account some have called him 'a second Moses, speaking Greek.' But whether he received his notions immediately from scripture, or by conversation with the Jews, of whom a great number settled in Egypt after Gedaliah's death, is not material. It is sufficiently evident that he did not obtain all his notions, in a way of reasoning, from the light of nature. As for his followers, such as Plotinus, Proclus, Porphyry, and others, though none of them pretended to be Christians, and one of them was an inveterate enemy to Christianity, they lived in those ages when Christianity prevailed in the world; and they may well be supposed to have made their master Plato speak several things, as to the mystery of the Trinity, which he never intended, were it only to persuade the Christians that he was not inferior to Moses or any other hero of the scripture.
Having answered objections, we shall take leave to notice the incautiousness of some divines who have defended the doctrine of the Trinity. They have not only asserted that Plato understood a great deal of it, but have made use of this alleged fact as an answer to the Anti-trinitarian objection formerly mentioned, that the doctrine of the Trinity is unintelligible; and they have taken a great deal of pleasure in accounting for the doctrine, in such ways as the philosophers have done. Some of them have taken notice of a few dark hints which they have met with in some of the poetical fictions, and have thence concluded that there was something of the Trinity known, even by the heathen in general. Thus when the word 'Three' is mentioned by the poets, and applied to some things which they relate concerning their Gods, or when they speak of God's delighting in an unequal number, or in the number 'Three,' they are supposed to have had some confused notion of the Trinity. This matter, however, is too gross to be particularly mentioned; for it might give us an unbecoming idea of this divine mystery, or of those who have better arguments to defend it. The reflection which I would make on it is, that what has been called an advantage to the doctrine, has been certainly very detrimental to it, and, as a late learned divine observes, has tended only to pervert the simplicity of the Christian faith with mixtures of philosophy and vain deceit.t I doubt not but the apostle had an eye to it, among other corruptions, which they who were attached to the heathen philosophy had begun to bring into their scheme of divinity, and which others would notoriously introduce in after-ages, when he said, 'Beware, lest any man spoil you, through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.' 'This corruption so much prevailed, that it has given occasion to some of the Anti-trinitarians to reproach the doctrine of the Trinity, as though it were a system of Platonism; and the fondness of the early Christian writers for using Plato's words, in explaining the doctrine of the Trinity, has given occasion for some of them to be suspected as having been unfavourable to the scripture account of it. Adversaries have, in consequence, laid claim to them as their own; and have produced some unwary expressions out of Justin Martyr, and others, to allege that they were favourable to the Arian scheme, though, in other parts of their writings, they appear remote from it.
This leads us to consider that some divines have used similitudes to explain the doctrine of the Trinity. These, at best, tend only to illustrate, and not to prove a doctrine. We can hardly make use of them for illustrating the doctrine of the Trinity without conveying some ideas which are unbecoming it, if not subversive of it; and while we pretend to explain that which is in itself inexplicable, we do no service to the truth. I shall here give a short specimen, that we may see how some have unwarily weakened the cause which they have been maintaining. Some have taken a similitude from three of the divine perfections. They say that there are three invisibles of God, power, wisdom, and goodness, and that power creates, wisdom governs, and goodness conserves; and so they have gone on to explain this doctrine, till they have almost given it into the hands of the Sabellians. Indeed, they might have instanced in more divine perfections than three, had it been to their purpose. Again, others have explained this doctrine, by some resemblance which they apprehend to be found of it in man; and they speak of the soul, as a principle of a threefold life, rational, sensitive, and vegetative. Others speak of three causes concurring to produce the same effect, the efficient, the constitutive, and the final cause. Others have taken their similitude from inanimate things,—as the sun, in which there are light, heat, and motion, which are inseparably connected together, and tend to produce the same effects. Others, again, illustrate the doctrine by a similitude taken from a fountain; in which there is the spring in the bowels of the earth, the water bubbling out of the earth, and the stream diffusing itself in a perpetual course, receiving all it communicates from the fountain. I am sorry there is occasion to caution any against this method of explaining the doctrine of the Trinity. But these, and many other similitudes of a similar nature, we find in the writings of some, who consider not what an advantage they give to the common enemy. There are, indeed, in most of the similitudes, three things, which are said, in different respects, to be one. But all the similitudes brought to illustrate this doctrine, lead us to think of the whole divided into those parts of which it consists. Writers notice these parts as three in number; or they speak of three properties of the same thing. And if their wit and fancy saw it needful to speak of more than three, the same method of illustration would serve their purpose, as much as it does the end for which they bring it. I would, therefore, conclude this head, by using the words of God to Job, 'Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?' Who are these that, by pretending to illustrate the doctrine of the Trinity by similitudes, do that, which, though very foreign to their design, tends to pervert it?
Expository Rules respecting the Doctrine of the Trinity
We shall now consider what general rules may be observed for our understanding those scriptures on which our faith, with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity, is founded. Since it is a doctrine of pure revelation, as has been before observed, we must keep close to scripture, to the very words where they are express and distinct on the subject, and to consequences deduced from them so far as these are just and self-evident. At the same time, while we are sensible that we cannot comprehend this mystery, we must take care that we pretend not to be wise above what is revealed. Now there are some rules, which may be of use to us in our inquiries into the sense of scripture concerning this doctrine.
1. We must not suppose that the words of scripture, relating to it, are to be taken in a sense which can be known by none but critics, as though it were designed to be understood only by them, or as if the unlearned part of the world should be left in the dark, or led astray as to several things which it contains. We are not to suppose, for example, that we are at a loss as to the proper sense of the word 'God;' or that we can hardly know how to direct our faith and worship founded on it without the help of criticism, or that we shall be led to ascribe divine honour where it is not due, for want of being acquainted with some distinctions concerning one that may be called God by nature, or the supreme God, and others who may be called God by office, or subordinate Gods. Nor is it incumbent on us that either we must be able to distinguish concerning different kinds of worship; or instead of honouring the Son as we honour the Father, we must give him an inferior kind of divine worship, short of what is due to the Father. For such worship as this, we have not scripture warrant; nor are we led by the scriptures to have any notion of a middle being between God and the creature, or one that is not properly God, as the Father is, and yet more than a creature, as though there were a medium between finite and infinite; nor are we led by scripture to conceive of any being, that has an eternal duration, whose eternity is supposed to be before time, and yet not the same with the eternal duration of the Father. These things we shall have occasion to mention in their proper place. We need, therefore, make no farther mention of them at present; but may only observe, how unintelligible the scripture would be in what relates to the doctrine of the Trinity, if the words had not a plain and determinate sense, so that we should require to make use of such methods of reasoning in order to arrive at the meaning of them.
2. If some divine perfections are attributed in scripture to the Son and Spirit, all the perfections of the divine nature, by reason of their simplicity and unity, may, by a just consequence, be proved to belong to them. Hence, if we can prove, from scripture, that they have ascribed to them some perfections which are properly divine,—which, I hope, it will not be a difficult matter to do,—we are not to suppose that our argument is defective, or that the doctrine of the Trinity is not sufficiently maintained, though we cannot produce a scripture to prove every perfection of the divine nature to be ascribed to them.
3. When any thing is mentioned, in scripture, concerning our Saviour, or the Holy Spirit, which argues an inferiority to the Father, it is to be understood consistently with other scriptures, which speak of their having the same divine nature; for scripture does not, in the least, contradict itself. How the two classes of texts on this subject are to be understood, will be farther considered under a following head.
4. If we have sufficient arguments to convince us of the truth of the doctrine of the Trinity, our faith ought not to be shaken though we cannot fully understand the sense of some scriptures, which are brought to oppose it. Not that we are to suppose that the scripture gives countenance to two opposite doctrines; but a person may be fully satisfied concerning the sense of those scriptures, which contain the doctrine of the Trinity, and yet not be supposed perfectly to understand the meaning of every word, or phrase, used in scripture, or of some particular texts, which are sometimes brought to support the contrary doctrine; so that objections may be brought, which he is not able readily to reply to. Shall he, therefore, deny the truth, because he cannot remove all the difficulties that seem to lie in the way of it? That would be to part with it at too easy a rate; and when he has done this, he will find greater difficulties attending the contrary scheme of doctrine. Do Anti-trinitarians object that we believe things contrary to reason, because we assert the incomprehensibleness of divine mysteries? or that we are Tritheists, because we believe that there are three Persons in the Godhead, and cannot exactly determine the difference between divine and human personality? We could, on the other hand, point at some difficulties, that they cannot easily surmount. What shall we think of their giving divine worship to our Saviour, when, at the same time, they deny him to have those perfections that denominate him God in the same sense as the Father? The Socinians found it very difficult, when the matter was disputed among themselves, as to their worshipping him whose deity they denied, to reconcile their practice with their sentiments. The Arians will find that this objection equally affects their scheme; and it will be no less difficult for them to reconcile Christ's character, as Redeemer, Governor of the world, Judge of quick and dead, with their low ideas of him, when denying his proper deity. These things we only mention occasionally atpresent, that it may not be thought that the doctrine of the Trinity is exposed to greater difficulties than the contrary doctrine; and that they who are not furnished with all those qualifications which are necessary for its defence, may not reckon those arguments, by which they have been convinced of the truth of it, less valid, because they are not able, at present, to answer all objections that may be brought against them.
5. The weight of several arguments taken from scripture to prove the doctrine of the Trinity, is to be considered as well as the arguments themselves. We do not pretend that every one of them is equally conclusive. There are some which are often brought to support it, which we can lay no great stress upon; and these we shall omit to mention, lest we should give occasion to the adversary to insult, or conclude that we take anything for an argument that has been brought as such to prove this doctrine. We will not pretend to prove, therefore, or peremptorily to determine, that the doctrine of the Trinity is contained in those words of the psalmist, 'By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.' Nor will we pretend to prove this doctrine from the threefold repetition of the word 'Jehovah,' in the form of a benediction to be used by the High Priest, 'The Lord bless thee, and keep thee; the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.'a Nor do we lay any stress on the threefold repetition of the word, 'Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts;' though we shall show, in its proper place, that there are several things in the context which evidently prove this doctrine. Yet if, together with arguments that are more conclusive, we, at any time, bring some that are less so, we may at least infer that the scripture way of speaking is consistent with the doctrine of the Trinity in places that do not so directly prove it. This we have thought proper to mention, because it is a very common thing for those who cannot answer the most weighty arguments that are brought to support a doctrine, to bend their greatest force against those which have the least strength, and then to triumph as though they had gained the victory, when they have done it only in what respects that which is less material.
Definition of Terms on the Subject of the Trinity
We shall now consider in what sense we are to understand the words 'Trinity' and 'Persons in the Godhead;' and in what respect the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are said to be one. The word 'Trinity' is not to be found in scripture, yet what we understand by it is plainly contained in it. We therefore use the word as agreeable to scripture. Thus we read that there are 'three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost,' and that 'these three are one.' The three here mentioned are Persons, because they are described by personal characters. We shall take occasion elsewhere, when we prove the Deity of the Son and Spirit, to consider their being one, that is, their having the same nature. This subject we shall waive at present, as we are considering only the sense of words commonly used by us in treating of the doctrine.
All contending parties, however they have explained the word 'Trinity,' have, in compliance with custom, used the word, and have so far defined it as to understand by it 'three, who are, in some respect, one.' Some writers, however, have not cared to use the word 'person;' or if they have, it is without the most known and proper idea contained in it. The Sabellians, for example, whenever they use the word, intend nothing by it but three relations, which may be attributed to the same person, as when the same person may be called a father, a son, and a brother, in different respects; or as when he that, at one time, sustains the person of a judge, may, at another time, sustain that of an advocate. This is what some call a Trinity of names; and they might as well have declined to use the words altogether, as to explain them in this sense. Again, the Arians use the word 'person.' They have run, however, into another extreme; and while they avoid Sabellianism, they would lay themselves open to the charge of Tritheism, did they not deny the proper deity of the Son and Spirit. They suppose that every distinct Person is a distinct being, agreeably to the sense of personality as applied to men. This sense of the word, however, as has been already considered, is to be abstracted from the idea of personality, when applied to the Persons in the Godhead. The Arians also understand the oneness of the divine Persons in a sense agreeable to their own scheme, and different from ours: they speak of them as one in will, consent, or design,—in which respect, God and the creature may be said to be one. Accordingly, Arius and his adherents, in the council at Nice, refused to allow that the divine Persons were Ὁμοουριοι consubstantial, and, with a great many evasions and subterfuges, attempted to conceal their sentiments. All that they could be brought to own was, that the Son was Ὀμοιος, or Ὁμοιουσιος; which amounts to no more than this,—that whatever likeness there may be, in some respects, yet he has not the same proper divine nature with the Father and Holy Ghost.
We are now led to consider the sense in which the word 'person' is generally used by those who defend what we think to be the scripture-doctrine of the Trinity. There are some, it is true, both among ancient and modern writers, who attempt to explain what they mean by the word 'person,' who are so unhappy as to leave the sense of it more dark than they found it: they define it, agreeably to the usages of metaphysicians and schoolmen, to this effect,—that it is a supposition, endowed with reason,—or that it is one entire, individual, incommunicable, rational subsistence. Others, when they define Personality, tell us, that it is a positive mode of a being, terminating and completing its substantial nature, and giving incommunicability to it,—words which need to be explained more than the thing defined by them. Here I cannot but take notice of that warm debate which there was between the Greek and Latin church about the words 'Hypostasis' and 'Persona.' The Latin church concluding that the word 'Hypostasis' signified substance or essence, thought that to assert that there were three divine Hypostases, was to say that there were three Gods. On the other hand, the Greek church thought that the word 'Persona' did not sufficiently guard against the Sabellian notion, of the same being sustaining three relations. On these grounds, each part of the church was ready to brand the other with heresy; till, by a free and mutual conference, in a synod at Alexandria, A. D. 362, they made it appear, that their dispute was but a contention about the grammatical sense of a word. It was then allowed, by men of temper on both sides, that the two words might be indifferently used. But what signifies the use of them, when perplexed with the scholastic explications of them? These have given occasion to some whose sentiments have been very conflicting as to the doctrine of the Trinity, to express themselves with some dislike. On the one hand, the Socinians, and some among the Remonstrants who made very great advances towards their scheme, such as, Curcellæus, Episcopius, and others,'b have complained that this doctrine was clouded with hard words; and, though their design might be to substitute such words as would make the remedy worse than the disease, their complaint is not altogether groundless. On the other hand, some who have embraced the doctrine of the Trinity, would not have liked its advocates the worse, had they chosen to have defended it in a more plain and intelligible manner. Calvin himself wishes that some words which are so warmly opposed and defended on each side, were altogether laid aside and buried, provided that such might be retained as express our faith in the doctrine of the Father, Son, and Spirit, being the one God, but distinguished by their personal properties. This is that plain sense of the word 'person' which I shall make use of, in what I shall attempt to lay down in its defence.
We never call any thing a person that is not endowed with understanding and will. The most glorious inanimate creatures, either in heaven or earth, whatever excellencies they have, or how useful soever they are to the world, are not persons. When the sun is described as though it were a person, and is compared to 'a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoicing as a strong man to run a race,' the words are never understood in any other but a metaphorical sense. So 'behemoth' and the 'leviathan,' mentioned in Job, being no other than brute creatures, are described with personal characters, in the same figurative way of speaking. We always suppose a person to have an understanding and will. Again, whenever, 'I,' 'Thou,' and 'He,' are applied to any subject, they always denote a person,—'I,' a person speaking; 'Thou,' a person spoken to; and 'He,' or 'Him,' a person spoken of. When such modes of speaking are sometimes applied to things that are destitute of reason, or to any moral virtues or principles of acting, which, from the nature of the thing, cannot be denominated persons, they are very easily understood in a figurative sense; and this may, without any difficulty, be distinguished from the proper sense, whereby those who are so denoted are denominated persons. There are also some characters which always denote persons, and some works performed which are properly personal, and can be performed by none but persons. Thus a father, or a son, a Creator, a Redeemer, a benefactor, a Mediator, an advocate, a surety, a judge, a lord, a lawgiver, and many others of a similar nature, are all personal characters. Hence, whoever acts with design, and has such characters attributed to him, we call, according to the proper acceptation of the word, a person. These characters we shall endeavour to apply to the Persons in the Godhead, to prove their distinct personality. But since we are at present considering only the acceptation of words, we shall briefly observe the difference between a divine and a human person, when some personal properties, characters, or works, are attributed to each of them.
Human persons are separated one from the other. Thus, Peter, James, and John, were three persons, but they were separated one from the other. On the other hand, the Persons in the Godhead, however distinguished by their characters and properties, are never separated, as having the same divine essence or nature. As for human persons, one of them might have had a being and personality had the other never existed, because it exists by the will of God. But the divine Persons have a necessary existence and personality, as being, in all respects, independent; so that as they could not but be God, they could not but be divine Persons. The personality of the Son and the Spirit are equally independent with that of the Father, and as much independent as their being and divine perfections.—Again, human persons have only the same kind of nature, which is generally called a common specific nature, but not the same individual nature with another person. Though every man has a nature like that of the rest of mankind, yet the human nature, as attributed to one person, is not the same individual human nature that is attributed to another; for then the power and act of reasoning, or the ideas that there are in one man, would be the same power and the same individual ideas that are in another. But when we speak of the Persons in the Godhead as having the divine nature and perfections, we say that this nature is the same individual nature in all of them, though the Persons are distinct; otherwise the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, could not be said to be truly and properly God, and to have the same understanding, will, and other perfections of the divine nature.—Further, when we speak of human persons, we say that as many persons as there are, so many beings there are. Every human person has its own proper being, distinct from all other persons or beings. But we do not say so with respect to the divine Persons; for the divine Being is but one, and the Godhead of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is the very same. This is what we understand when we say, that though there are three Persons in the Godhead, yet they are the same in substance, or the one only living and true God.
This leads us to consider in what respect the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are said to be one. By this we mean that the Son and Holy Ghost have all the perfections of the divine nature, in the same sense as the Father has. To say less than this, is to assert no more than what our adversaries will allow. They will not deny them perfections, nor would they be thought to deny them to have divine perfections; yea, many of them will not stick to say, that they are truly and properly God,—by which they mean, that whatever deity is attributed to them in scripture, by the appointment of the Father, that is, whatever divine authority they have, properly belongs to them. I think, however, that none of them will allow that they have the divine nature in the same sense in which the Father is said to have it. This is what we shall endeavour to prove; and more than this needs not be said in order to establish that the same supreme worship is due to the Son and the Spirit, as to the Father. In order to this, we shall consider the force of those arguments contained in one of the Answers, and, together with them, the sense of that scripture, in which our Saviour says, 'I and my Father are one;' as also that scripture 'the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, who bear record in heaven, are one.'f But the consideration of these we shall reserve to a following head.
As to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost being 'equal in power and glory,' we may observe, that there are two expressions, which we often use, to set forth the deity of the Son and Spirit: we sometimes say that they are God, equal with the Father,—at other times, that they have the same essential perfections. Some may, perhaps, reply, that if they are equal, they cannot be the same; or, on the other hand, if they are the same, they cannot be equal. Now, for understanding what we mean by such expressions, let it be observed, that when we consider them as having the divine essence, or any of its perfections, we choose to describe them, not as equal, but as the same. We, for example, do not say that the wisdom, power, or holiness, of the Son and Spirit, is equal to the same perfection as ascribed to the Father. But when we speak of them as distinct Persons, then we consider them as equal. The essential glory of the Father, Son, and Spirit, is the same; but their personal glory is equal. In this sense we would be understood, when we say the Son and Holy Ghost are each of them God, or divine Persons, equal with the Father.
We shall now, by applying what has been observed as to the meaning of the word 'person,' prove that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are distinct Persons in the Godhead, and we shall add something concerning those personal properties mentioned in one of the Answers we are explaining with respect to the eternal generation of the Son, and the procession of the Holy Ghost.
The Personality of the Son
As to the personality of the Son, in as much as the Arians and Socinians never yet called it in question, we own that it is not necessary, when we dispute with them, to prove it. The Sabellians, however, deny it; and also a late writer, who plainly gives in to their scheme, and concludes the Son of God to be no other than the eternal reason of God. Accordingly, he thus renders John 1:1. 'In the beginning was the word,' that is, reason, 'and by him,' that is, by it, 'were all things made.' And when it is objected, that this mode of speaking signifies nothing more than a quality in God, the only answer that he gives is, that it signifies no more a quality, than if we should translate it, 'The Word,' as is generally done. Now if persons, whether they pretend to be Sabellians or not, express themselves in such a manner, it is necessary for us to prove the personality of the Son. We shall, therefore, state two arguments to show that the Son is a distinct Person from the Father.
1. We often read, in scripture, of two divine Persons speaking to or of one another, the distinguishing personal characters, 'I,' 'Thou,' and 'He,' being applied to them. Thus it is said, 'The Lord,' that is, the Father, 'said unto my Lord,' namely, the Son, 'Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool.' This may be observed throughout the whole psalm. Thus, 'Thy people shall be willing;'i and 'He,' meaning the Son, 'shall judge among the heathen;' and 'He shall drink of the brook in the way.'l So, in another psalm, speaking of the Son, 'Thou art fairer than the children of men;' and 'Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.' The places of scripture where we have such modes of speaking concerning the Son, are almost innumerable. We, therefore, proceed to consider that,
2. Other personal characters are given him. Thus, when he is called the Son of God, whatever we are to understand by that relation or character, (of which more shall be said under a following head,) it certainly denotes him a Person distinct from the Father. His being sent into the world by the Father, which is frequently affirmed of him in the New Testament, also proves this; for a quality, relation, or property, cannot be said to be sent, as the Son is. So when he is described as a Redeemer, a Mediator, a Surety, a Creator, and when he is styled, by the prophet, the everlasting Father, and often described as a Prophet, Priest, or King, and when he is called, 'Lord of all,' or 'the Prince of peace,' or 'the Prince of the kings of the earth,' all these characters sufficiently prove his personality. All those works likewise which he performs, as sustaining these relations or characters, are properly personal; and some of them are never ascribed to any other person. Thus the Father, or Holy Ghost, are never said to assume the human nature, or to become sureties for the salvation of men, or to execute mediatorial offices. From all these considerations it evidently appears, that the Son is a distinct Person. That he is a divine Person, will be proved under a following head; and objections to his personality will be answered along with those to the personality of the Holy Ghost.
The Personality of the Holy Spirit
The distinct personality of the Holy Ghost is denied, not only by the Sabellians, but by some of the Socinians. Socinus himself denies it. He describes the Holy Ghost as the power of God,—intending hereby, as his mode of speaking seems to denote, the energy of the divine nature, or that whereby the Father, who is the only one to whom, according to him, the divine nature is attributed, produces those effects which required infinite power. The Socinians, accordingly, call the Spirit, the power of God essentially considered. They set aside all those proofs that may be produced from scripture to evince his personality,—proofs which are so plain and evident, that many of them have, in this particular, dissented from Socinus, and owned the Spirit to be a Person. Accordingly some of them, while they deny his divine nature, have described him as the chief of created Spirits, or the Head of the Angels. A bold writer expresses himself thus: "I believe that there is one principal Minister of God and Christ, peculiarly sent from heaven, to sanctify the church, who, by reason of his eminency and intimacy with God, is singled out of the number of the other heavenly Ministers, or Angels, and comprised in the holy Trinity, being the third Person thereof; and that this Minister of God and Christ is the Holy Spirit."
We shall prove the Personality of the Holy Ghost, by considering some personal characters ascribed to him, and works performed by him. There are several such characters, by which he is denominated a Person. When, in particular, he is called a Sanctifier; a Reprover, a Witness, a Comforter, it evidently appears that he is a Person. It is said, that 'when he,' that is, 'the Comforter, is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment;' and also, that 'he will guide you into all truth; he will show you things to come,' &c. In one passage, the distinct personality of the three Persons, and particularly of the Holy Spirit, is asserted: 'I will pray the Father, and lie shall give you another Comforter, even the Spirit of truth;' and 'The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things.' Now, it is certain, that to teach, or to instruct, is a personal character. So also is to speak or to dictate to another what, he should say, and this the Holy Ghost is said by our Saviour to his disciples to do: 'Whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye; for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.'n Moreover, to witness, or testify, is a personal character, when the testimony is not merely objective, as when Job calls his 'wrinkles' and his 'leanness' a witness against him. When there is a formal testimony given, he that gives it is, according to our common way of speaking, generally considered a person. And thus the Holy Ghost is described: 'We are his witnesses of these things, and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.'p Here the Holy Ghost being a witness, is as much a personal character as their being witnesses. And it is also said, 'The Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.' Again, dwelling is a personal character. No one ever supposes that anything that is in a house dwells there, excepting persons. But the Holy Ghost is said to dwell in believers;r and, alluding to this, it is also said: 'Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost.' As a house is the dwelling-place of a person, so a temple is the dwelling-place of a divine person. Again, to send any one is a personal character. But this also is attributed to the Holy Ghost: The apostles 'being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed.'t Again, acting with a sovereign will and pleasure, is what belongs only to a person; and this is applied to the Holy Ghost: 'It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us.' Again, prohibiting or forbidding a person to act, is a personal character. This likewise is applied to the Holy Ghost: The apostles 'were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia.'x Again, to constitute or appoint any one to execute an office, is a personal character. This the Holy Ghost is said to have done, when he made the elders of Ephesus overseers of the flock. There are several other personal works and characters, which might have been mentioned; but these are, I humbly conceive, sufficient to prove that the Holy Ghost is a Person. I have no more than mentioned the scriptures which exhibit these personal characters; because I shall have occasion, under a following head, to refer to some of them for the proof of his Deity.
It will be objected, by those who are favourers of the Sabellian scheme, that the characters which we have laid down to prove the personality of the Son, and Holy Ghost, are not sufficient to answer that end; for they are often applied, in a metaphorical way, to those things which no one supposes to be persons, and may be taken in this sense when applied to the Son and Spirit. To support this objection, they produce several instances out of the book of Job, and some other parts of scripture, where things which are not really persons are described with personal characters. Thus, speaking concerning the unicorn, it is said, 'Wilt thou trust him? Wilt thou leave thy labour to him? Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?' So, concerning the horse, as though he acted with design as an intelligent creature, it is said, 'He goeth on to meet the armed men; he mocketh at fear; neither believeth lie that it is the sound of the trumpet; he saith among the trumpets, Ha! ha!'a Concerning the eagle, 'She dwelleth on the rock.' And concerning the leviathan, 'Will he make many supplications unto thee? Will he speak soft words unto thee? Will he make a covenant with thee? He esteemeth iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood. Darts are counted as stubble; he laugheth at the shaking of the spear; he beholdeth all high things; he is a king over all the children of pride.' There are many other personal characters given to brute creatures, which are taken in a metaphorical sense; and sometimes they are applied to inanimate creatures. Thus, 'Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew? out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it? Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season, or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?'d By this description nothing is intended but the signs in the zodiac, or some of the constellations, together with the particular stars of which they consist; yet these are described as though they were persons. So, 'Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are?' Again, the powers and faculties of the soul of man have sometimes personal characters ascribed to them. Thus conscience is said to 'bear witness.'f And some instances may be brought from scripture of a person's speaking to himself; yet these do not prove that there are two persons in man, one speaking, and the other spoken to. It is therefore inferred, that we cannot prove the personality of the Son and Holy Ghost from those personal characters ascribed to them; which may be taken in a metaphorical sense, as well as in the instances now mentioned.
In answer to this objection, several things may be considered. 1. Though the scripture often uses figurative, and particularly metaphorical, ways of speaking; yet these may be easily distinguished from similar phrases used elsewhere, concerning which we have sufficient ground to conclude that they are to be taken in a proper sense. Though it is true, therefore, that there are personal characters given to things which are not persons; yet we are not to conclude, that whenever the same modes of speaking are applied to those who are capable of performing personal actions, they must be taken in a metaphorical sense; for that sense is a known exception to the common idea contained in words. 2. Most of those passages of scripture, where personal characters are attributed, in a metaphorical sense, to things which are not persons, are in the poetical books, or in some particular places where there is a peculiar beautiful mode of speaking taken from poetry. Will it therefore follow, that these personal characters are used in other parts of scripture, in which the Holy Ghost does not think fit to express himself in such an elegancy of style? Now it is certain, that the personal characters before-mentioned are, throughout the whole scripture, given to the Son, and Holy Ghost, in places where there is no design of using a lofty figurative or uncommon way of speaking, as in the instances of the poetical passages. 3. We must not suppose that the Holy Ghost uses any figurative ways of speaking, so as to cast a veil on plain truths, or to endanger our being led out of the way, as we should certainly be, if the many hundreds of places in scripture in which these personal characters are applied to the Son and Spirit, were to be taken in a metaphorical sense, without any intimation given in the context that they are so to be understood. And it will certainly be very difficult to find out any place in scripture that may serve to direct us in our application of these characters, and to show, as applied to the persons in the Godhead, when they are to be taken in a metaphorical sense, and when not. 4. Though we find many metaphors in scripture, yet the most important truths are laid down in the plainest manner, so that the injudicious and unlearned reader, who understands nothing of the art of rhetoric or criticism, is able to understand them. They are, at least, not universally wrapt up in figurative ways of speaking. Now, it would be strange, if the account we have of the personality of the Son and Holy Ghost, which is a doctrine of the highest importance, and such as renders them distinct objects of worship, should be expressed in such a way, as that we should be at the greatest uncertainty whether they are persons or not. 5. If personal characters are not metaphorical, when applied to men or angels, who are subjects capable of having personality attributed to them, why should they be reckoned metaphorical, when applied to the Son and Spirit, who, though they are not distinct beings, yet have a divine understanding and will, and therefore are not rendered incapable of having personality ascribed to them, as signified by these characters? 6. To assert that personal characters, attributed to the Son and Spirit, are always to be understood in a metaphorical sense, would give equal ground to conclude that they are to be so understood when applied to the Father. Accordingly, if we militate against their personality, we shall, at the same time, overthrow his personality; and if we deny that there are three Persons in the Godhead, we shall, in effect, suppose that there are no Persons in the Godhead, any otherwise than as the Godhead, which is common to the Father, Son, and Spirit, is often described as though it were a Person; and if ever the word 'personality' is used or applied in a metaphorical sense, it must be when the Godhead is so described. 7. Though some personal characters are occasionally applied, in a metaphorical sense, to things that are not Persons, yet it is not usual for these to be described as performing personal works. When, in particular, any statements describe personal works, not in the way of occasional hint, or in connexion with metaphorical modes of speaking, but as a long series of action, and in a variety of performances, they must certainly be understood in a proper sense. Thus, when the Son and Spirit are set forth in scripture as performing those works which are expressive of their personal glory,—the one in what respects the purchase of redemption, and the other in the application of it; and when each of them is described as standing in those relations to men which are founded in the performance of these works, certainly what is said of them must be understood in a most proper sense. We must take heed, lest, while we attempt to prove that the Persons in the Godhead are to be taken in a figurative sense, we do not give occasion to any to think that the great benefits which we receive from them are to be understood in the same sense.
The Personal Properties of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit
We shall now take notice of some other personal properties, whereby the Son and Spirit are distinguished from one another, and from the Father. We shall notice these as they are expressed in one of the Answers under our present consideration. 'It is proper to the Father to beget the Son,' or, as it is sometimes expressed, to be unbegotten, 'and to the Son, to be begotten of the Father, and to the Holy Ghost, to proceed from the Father and the Son, from all eternity.' This is certainly one of the most difficult heads of divinity that can be insisted on; and some have made it more so, by their attempting to explain it. I have sometimes thought that it would be the safest and most eligible way, to pass it over, as a doctrine less necessary to be understood. There are, however, several scripture-expressions, on which it is founded, which we ought to pay the greatest deference to, much more than to those explications which are merely human. The properties also plainly prove the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to be distinct Persons; and we must therefore humbly inquire into the meaning of those scriptures in which they are mentioned. We must thus say something as to what is generally called the eternal generation of the Son and the procession of the Holy Ghost. And I hope, through divine assistance, we shall advance no doctrine that is either subversive of our faith in the doctrine of the Trinity, which we are endeavouring to maintain; or derogatory to the essential or personal glory of the Father, Son, and Spirit; or altogether contrary to the sense in which many Christians, who are unacquainted with those modes of speaking used by the fathers and schoolmen, understand those scriptures upon which this doctrine is founded.
Here we shall give a brief account of what we apprehend to be the commonly received sentiments of divines, who, in their writings, have strenuously maintained, and judiciously defended, the doctrine of the Trinity, concerning the eternal generation of the Son, and the procession of the Holy Ghost. This I shall endeavour to do with the greatest deference to those who have treated of these subjects, as well as with the greatest impartiality; and I shall take occasion to show how far the Arians conclude that we give up the cause to them, and yet how little reason they have to insult us upon this head.
As to the eternal generation of the Son, it is generally explained in this manner. The Father is called by some, 'the fountain of the Godhead,' an expression taken from some of the fathers who defended the Nicene faith. But others, of late, have rather chosen to call the Father the fountain of the Trinity; and he is said to be of himself, or unbegotten. This they state as his personal character, distinct from that of the Son. On the other hand, the Son, as to his personality, is generally described as being from the Father. Many choose to express themselves about this mystery in these terms,—'the Father communicated the divine essence to the Son.' This is the most common mode of speaking; though others think it safer to say, that he communicated the divine personality to him. I cannot tell, however, which is least exceptionable. But when I find others using the phrase, 'the Father gave the divine essence to the Son,' their mode of speaking being founded, as they apprehend, on that scripture, 'As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself,' I cannot but think it is an unguarded expression, and foreign to the design of the Holy Ghost in that scripture, as will be hereafter considered. The Arians are ready to insult us upon such modes of speaking, and suppose us to conclude that the Son receives his divine perfections, and therefore cannot be God equal with the Father. None of those, however, who use such expressions, suppose that the Son's deity is founded on the arbitrary will of the Father; for they all assert that the divine nature is communicated necessarily, and from all eternity, as the sun communicates its rays necessarily, which are of equal duration with it. Hence, while they make use of a word which, according to its most known acceptation, seems subversive of the truth, they happily, for truth's sake, explain away the proper sense of it; so that all they can be blamed for by the adversary, is an impropriety of expression. Again, others speak a little more exceptionably, when, explaining the eternal generation of the Son, they say that the Father produced him. But this idea they also happily explain away; saying that the production of which they speak, is not such as in the case of the cause producing the effect. Some of the fathers, indeed, who have been in the Trinitarian scheme, have unwarily called the Father the cause of the Son. Yet our modern divines seldom or never use that expression; or, if they speak of an eternal production, they suppose it to differ vastly from the production of creatures, or from production in that sense in which the Arians suppose the Son to be produced. The expression, however, had certainly better be laid aside, lest it should be thought that we conclude the Son not equally necessary, and, from all eternity, co-existent with the Father; which our divines, how unwarily soever in other respects they may express themselves, are very far from denying,
We shall now consider how some divines express themselves, concerning the procession of the Holy Ghost. On this subject, they generally speak as though the divine essence were communicated by the Father and the Son to the Holy Ghost. Hence, they suppose that the Holy Ghost, at least as he is a divine Person, or has the divine nature communicated to him, cannot, any more than the Son, be said to be of himself, but is from the Father and the Son, from whom he proceeds, or receives, as some express it, the divine nature, or as others say, the divine personality. Others speak of the Spiration of the Holy Ghost, which they suppose to be the same with his procession. The world, however, is much at a loss to understand what they mean by the word 'Spiration.' It seems to be a mere metaphorical expression, as when they call him the breath of the Father and the Son; and if so, it will not express his proper personality. But since we are much in the dark about the reason of this mode of speaking, it would be better to lay it aside, as many modern writers have done.
As to the manner of the procession of the Holy Ghost, there was, about the eighth and ninth centuries, a very warm dispute between the Greek and the Latin church, whether the Spirit proceeded from the Father only, or from the Father and the Son. The controversy rose to such a height, that they charged one another with heresy and schism; though neither side well understood what they contended about. Had they agreed to the healing expedient, afterwards proposed, that they should mutually acknowledge that the Holy Ghost was from the Father by the Son, the matter would have been left as much in the dark as it was before. Some speak of the procession of the Holy Ghost, as though he was produced by the Father and the Son, as the Son, as was before observed, is said, in his eternal generation, to be produced by the Father. Yet they suppose that the production of neither of them was such that they may be called effects,—for that would be to give away the cause we contend for; and they term it the production of a Person in, and not out of, the divine essence. But which way soever we understand the phrase, it contains such an impropriety of expression as can hardly be defended. It is much better indeed to explain away the proper and grammatical sense of words, than to corrupt the truth; yet I would not follow them in this mode of speaking. Moreover, some have pretended to determine the difference between the eternal generation of the Son, and the Spirit's procession. They, with modesty, premise indeed that the matter is not to be explained; but, as far as they enter into it, they suppose the difference to be this,—that in the eternal generation of the Son, the Father communicated the divine essence, or, at least, personality to him, which is his act alone, and herewith he communicated a property, or power, to him, to communicate the same divine essence to the Holy Ghost, while in the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son, there is no power conveyed to him to communicate the divine essence to any other as a fourth Person in the Godhead. These things may be observed in the writings of those who treat of this subject. It is to be feared, however, that they enter too far into the explication of this unsearchable mystery; and some will be ready to conclude that they attempt to be wise above what is written.
In giving my own sense of the communication of the divine essence, I shall probably be thought not to say enough concerning it; yet I hope that, in other respects, none will conclude that I advance any thing subversive of the doctrine of the Trinity. I assert that the divine essence is not communicated by the Father to the Son and Holy Ghost, as imparting or conveying it to them. I take the word 'communicate' in another sense, and say that all the perfections of the divine nature are communicated, that is, equally attributed to, or predicated of, the Father, Son and Spirit. This sense of the word is what some intend when they say the human nature is communicated to every individual, on which account they are denominated men. The word is sometimes used in this sense by logicians and schoolmen; and it seems to be taken in the same sense in Heb. 2:14. where the Greek words, τα παιδια κεκοινωνηκε σαρκος και αἱματος, which we render, 'the children were partakers of flesh and blood,' might be rendered, as in the vulgar Latin Version, Communicaverunt carni et sanguini, that is, they have the human nature communicated to, and predicated of, them, or they are truly and properly men. It is in this sense that we use the word, when we say that the different properties of the divine and human nature are communicated to, that is, predicated of the Person of Christ. This, divines generally call a communication of properties. In this sense I would be understood, when I say that the divine perfections are communicated to, or predicated of, the Father, Son, and Spirit; and this all who maintain the doctrine of the Trinity will allow of. [See note 2 L, page 241.] The other sense, of communication—namely, imparting, conveying, or giving the divine essence—I shall be very ready to agree to, when the apparent difficulties, which, to me, seem to lie in the way of it, some of which have been already considered, are removed.
As to what concerns the farther explication of this mystery, we may observe, that the more nice some have been in their speculations about it, the more they have seemed bewildered. Thus some have inquired whether the eternal generation is one single act, or an act continued,—or whether, when it is said, 'This day have I begotten thee,' the meaning is, that the divine nature was communicated at once, or is perpetually communicating. The difficulties that attend their asserting either the one or the other—which they who inquire into these matters, take notice of—I shall entirely pass over, apprehending that this doctrine receives no advantage by such disquisitions. Neither do I think it tends much to our edification to inquire, as some have done, whether, in the eternal generation, the Father is considered as acting, and the Son as the subject on whom the action terminates; or whether—as they farther inquire, but are not willing to assert—the Son, in this respect, is said to be passive. And I cannot but take notice of another nicety of inquiry,—namely, whether, in the eternal generation, the Son is considered as coexistent with the Father, or as having the divine essence, and hereby deriving only his sonship from him, from all eternity; or whether he derives both his sonship and his essence. The former of these is the more generally received opinion. But I am not desirous to enter into this inquiry; especially without first determining what we mean by 'sonship.' Yet whatever explication be given of the eternal generation of the Son, and the procession of the Holy Ghost, it is at least necessary to inquire, whether they are each of them self-existent, or, as some call it, αυτοθεος. It is generally determined, that the Son and Holy Ghost have the same self-existent divine nature. With respect, however, to their manner of having it, some say that the Son has his divine nature from the Father, and the Holy Ghost from the Father and Son; or that the Father only is self-existent. Most others say, that the Father is self-subsistent; and that this is his personal property, as he is distinguished from the Son and Holy Ghost, whom they conclude not to be self-subsistent, but the one to subsist from the Father, and the other from the Father and the Son. This is a generally received opinion. I must confess myself, however, to be a little at a loss to account for it. Hence, the principal thing in which I am obliged, till I receive farther conviction, to differ from many others, is, whether the Son and Spirit have a communicated or derived personality. This many assert, but, I think, without sufficient proof; for I cannot but conclude that the divine personality, not only of the Father, but of the Son and Spirit, is as much independent and underived, as the divine essence.
We have thus considered how some have embarrassed this doctrine, by being too nice in their inquiries about it. We shall now proceed to consider how others have done prejudice to it, by pretending to explain it; and how, when they make use of similitudes for that purpose, they have rather prejudiced its enemies, than given any conviction to them. I shall mention only what I have found in the writings of some whom, in other respects, I cannot but exceedingly value, as having deserved well of the church of God, in defending this truth with good success. Yet when they take this method to explain this doctrine, they have, to say the best of it, done but little service to the cause which they have maintained. We find them, for example, expressing themselves to this effect:—The soul of man sometimes reflects on itself, and considers its own nature, powers, and faculties, or is conversant about itself as its object, and then it produces an idea which contains the moral image of itself, and is as when a man sees his face in a glass, and beholds the image of himself; so, in the eternal generation of the Son, God, beholding himself or his divine perfections, begets an image of himself, or has an eternal idea of his own perfections in his mind, which is called his internal word, as opposed to the word spoken, which is external. By this illustration they set forth the generation of the Son; and allege that for this reason, or as the wax expresses the character or mark of the seal that is impressed on it, he is called, 'The brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person.' Again, they say, that there is a mutual love between the Father and the Son, which brings forth a third Person, or Subsistence, in the Godhead, namely, the Holy Ghost. There is in the divine essence, they say, an infinite understanding reflecting on itself, whereby it begets a Son, as was before observed, and an infinite will, which leads him to reflect on himself with love and delight, as the chief good, whereby he brings forth a third Person in the Godhead, namely, the Holy Ghost. Accordingly, they describe this divine Person, as being the result of the mutual joy and delight that there is between the Father and the Son. These explications many are at a loss to understand. We humbly conceive it would be much better to let them alone, and to confess this doctrine to be an inexplicable mystery; or else some other way may be found out, less liable to exception, for explaining those scriptures which speak of the generation of the Son, and the procession of the Holy Ghost.
The Sonship of Christ
The scriptures generally brought to prove the eternal generation of the Son are various. A principal one is that in which the Father is represented as saying to him, 'Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee;' that is, say they, 'I have, in my eternal, unsuccessive duration, communicated, or imparted, the divine essence, or, at least, personality to thee.' Another scripture brought for this purpose, is this: 'The Lord possessed me,' speaking of his eternal Word, or Son, 'in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth.'b In this passage, they suppose that God's possessing him, which is certainly to be taken in a different sense from his being the possessor of all creatures, is to be understood of his being God's proper Son by nature; and his being said to be 'brought forth,' they suppose, proves his eternal generation. Another scripture brought for the same purpose, is that in which it is said of the Son, 'His goings forth have been of old, from everlasting.' From these words they attempt to prove his being begotten in the divine essence. But how that can be called his 'going forth,' I do not well understand. Moreover, they adduce the scripture before-mentioned: 'Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person;'d and the parallel scripture: 'Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature;' where, by 'first-born,' they understand, that he was begotten before all worlds,—the divine essence, or, at least, personality, being communicated to him from eternity. Another scripture, before referred to, is brought to prove this doctrine: 'As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;'f that is, say some, 'As the Father hath all divine perfections in himself originally, so the Son hath these perfections by communication from him,'—which they suppose to be not an arbitrary, but a necessary donation. Again, they adduce the texts where he is said to be 'the only-begotten of the Father,' and 'the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father.' From the former of these, they prove the eternal generation of the Son; and from the latter, his being begotten in the divine essence, which distinguishes it from all finite productions, which are out of himself. There are also many other scriptures that speak of our Saviour as the Son of God; particularly those in which he is called, 'the Son of the living God,'h 'his beloved Son,' 'his own Son,' ιδιος υιος, which some render, 'his proper Son,' that is, his Son, not only as having the same divine nature with himself, but as implying the manner of its communication.
These are the scriptures which are generally brought to prove the eternal generation of the Son. But we shall take occasion to inquire whether there may not be another sense given of them, which is less liable to exception, as well as more intelligible. It is to be owned that they contain some of the deep things of God; and therefore it is no wonder if they are reckoned among those scriptures that are hard to be understood. But so far as I have any light, either from the context of the respective scriptures, or from the analogy of faith, I cannot but conclude that those I have mentioned, and all others of a similar nature, which are brought to prove the eternal generation or sonship of Christ, respect him as God-man, Mediator. Here we shall consider these scriptures; and then answer some objections that may be brought against our sense of them. And in what we shall say, it will, I hope, appear, that, without being tenacious of those modes of speaking which have the sanction of venerable antiquity, and are supported by the reputation of those who have used them, we assert nothing but what tends to the glory of the Son and Spirit, establishes the doctrine of the ever-blessed Trinity, and agrees with the commonly received faith, so far as it is founded on scripture.
The first scripture before-mentioned, which was brought to prove the eternal generation of the Son, was this, 'Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.' That this cannot respect the communication of the divine nature or personality to the Son, appears, as I humbly conceive, from the words immediately foregoing, 'I will declare the decree,' or what I had before decreed or determined. Far be it from us to suppose that the divine nature or personality of the Son, was the result of an act of the divine will. Indeed, the whole Psalm plainly speaks of Christ as Mediator. As such he is said, to be 'set as God's King on his holy hill of Sion;'b and, as such, he is said to intercede, or ask of God; and, as the result of this, the Father is said, to 'give him the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession.' All this is spoken of him, as a farther explication of those words: 'Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.' The apostle refers to this scripture when speaking of him as Mediator, he describes him as 'having, by inheritance, obtained a more excellent name than the angels;'d which he has done, as he is constituted heir of all things. The apostle subjoins the promise, 'I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son;' that is, 'He shall perform that obedience which is due from him as a Son; and I will give unto him those rewards which are due from a Father, who has committed this work to him, with a promise of conferring those revenues of mediatorial glory on him, which should ensue on his fulfilling it.' Moreover, this scripture is referred to by the apostle, when he says, that 'the promise, which was made to the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again, as it is written in the second Psalm, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.' It is plain from this, that the psalmist speaks of him as having finished his work of redemption; at the time of his doing which, he was raised from the dead; and then, in the fullest sense, he had 'the heathen for his inheritance.' On this account, he is also called, 'The first-begotten of the dead,'f and, 'The first-born from the dead.'
The next scripture brought to prove the eternal generation of the Son, refers to Christ as Mediator. When God is said to 'possess him in the beginning of his way,' the meaning is, that in his eternal design of grace relating to the redemption of man, the Father possessed or laid claim to him as his Son, or Servant, appointed in the human nature, to bring about that great work. Accordingly it follows, 'I was set up from everlasting;' that is, fore-ordained of God, to be the Mediator and Head of his elect. This agrees very well with what follows: 'I was daily his delight;' that is, God the Father was well-pleased with him, when foreseeing, from all eternity, what he would do in time, to secure the glory of his perfections in the redemption of man; just as he publicly testified his well-pleasedness in him, when he was actually engaged in this work. It is farther added, that 'he was always rejoicing before him; rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth, and his delights were with the sons of men.' This signifies the great pleasure Christ had in his eternal foresight of what he would do for the sons of men, whom he is elsewhere said to have 'loved with an everlasting love.'
The next scripture is in Micah 5:2, where, speaking of the Son, it is said, 'Whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting.' For understanding this let us consider that God's goings are sometimes taken in scripture for what he does, whereby he renders himself the object of his people's astonishment and praise. These are his visible goings. Thus, 'They have seen thy goings, O God, even the goings of my God, my King, in the sanctuary;' that is, they shall see the great things, which thou wilt do for man, in the work of redemption. So in the passage in Micah, we read of Christ's goings forth, his invisible goings, as we may call them, or his secret purposes, or designs of grace, relating to the redemption of his people. 'His goings forth were from everlasting;' that is, he did, from eternity, design to save them; the outgoings of his heart were towards them; and, as the result of this, he came into the world, and was born in Bethlehem, according to this prediction.
The next scripture is in Heb. 1:3, where he is said to be 'the brightness of his,' that is, his Father's 'glory, and the express image of his Person.' By the former expression, I humbly conceive, is meant, that the glory of the divine perfections shines forth most illustriously in Christ, our great Mediator; as the apostle expresses it elsewhere, 'God hath shined in our hearts, to give the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ.' By the latter expression, in which Christ is called 'the express image of his Person,' I humbly conceive is meant, that, though his divine nature is the same as the Father's, yet his personality is distinct. Accordingly, it is not said to be the same, but 'the image' of his Father's. The passage proves also his proper divine personality, or shows it to be, in all respects, like that of the Father, though not the same.
The next scripture is in John 5:26. 'As the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.' We cannot think that the Father's having 'given to the Son to have life in himself,' implies his giving him the divine perfections; for the propriety of that mode of speaking cannot be defended consistently with his proper underived deity. I humbly conceive, that the meaning of it is, that 'as the Father hath life in himself,' that is, as he has, at his own disposal, eternal life, or all that fulness of grace and glory which his people are to be made partakers of, and has designed to give it in his eternal purpose; so hath he given to the Son, as Mediator, to have life in himself, that is, that, as such, he should be the treasury of all this grace, and that he should have life in himself to dispense to them. This is very agreeable to his character and office, as Mediator; and to the words which follow: 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life;' and 'He,' namely, the Father, 'hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.'c These words plainly denote, that the life which he has received from the Father, is that eternal life which he, as Mediator, is empowered or commissioned to bestow on his people. This he has in himself. Accordingly he is said to be 'full of grace and truth;' and it is elsewhere said, 'It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell.'e
The next thing to be considered, is the sense of the many scriptures in which our Saviour is described as 'the Son of God,' 'the Son of the living God,' 'his only begotten Son,' 'his own or proper Son,' as distinguished from all others. These names, I humbly conceive, set forth his glory, as Mediator; and this we shall endeavour to prove. But, to prepare our way for the prosecution of the argument, as well as to prevent any misconstruction which might prejudice it, we shall premise a few remarks. 1. When we read of the Son of God as dependent on the Father, inferior and obedient to him, and yet as being equal with him, and having the same divine nature, we cannot conceive of any character which answers to all these ideas of sonship, except that of Mediator. If we consider the properties of sonship among men, every one who stands in this relation to a father, is dependent on him. In this respect, the father is the cause of his son. Sonship is not like any other production; for no effect can, properly speaking, be called a son, but that which hath the same kind of nature with his father. The relation of sonship also, always implies inferiority, and an obligation to yield obedience. I do not apply this, in every respect, to the sonship of Christ; which no similitude, taken from mere creatures, can sufficiently illustrate. His character, as Mediator, however, seems to answer to it, more than any thing else than can be said of him; since he has, as such, the same individual nature with the Father, and also is inferior to, and dependent on him. As a son, among men, is inferior to, and dependent on, his father, and as the prophet says, 'honoureth his father;' so whatever Christ is as Mediator, he receives it from the Father, and, in all that he does, as he himself says, he 'honoureth his Father.'g As the whole work of redemption is referred to the Father's glory, and the commission by which the Son acts as Mediator is received from the Father; so, as a Son, he refers all the glory of it to him. 2. This account of Christ's sonship does not take away any argument by which we prove his deity. When we consider him as Mediator, or speak of the person of Christ as such, we always suppose him to be both God and man; so that, as God, he is equal with the Father, and has an equal right to divine adoration. This belongs to him as much when considered as Mediator, as it can be supposed to do if we consider his sonship in any other respect. 3. Our account of Christ's sonship does not take away any argument to prove his distinct personality from the Father and Holy Ghost. If it sets aside that which is taken from the dependence of his personality on the Father, as received from him by communication, it substitutes another in the room of it. To be a Mediator, is, without doubt, a personal character; and because neither the Father nor the Holy Ghost can be said to be Mediators, it implies that his personality is distinct from theirs. Likewise his acting as Mediator from the Father, and the Holy Spirit's securing the glory which arises to him from hence, and applying the redemption purchased by him, are a farther proof of the distinction of the Persons in the Godhead. 4. While we consider the Mediator as both God and man, in one Person, we do not suppose that his mediatorial character respects either of his two natures considered separately. It does not so respect his divine nature. It is true, his having the same nature with the Father, might be reckoned by some a character of sonship; as it contains one ingredient in the common idea which we have of sonship among men. They, as sons, are said to have the same kind of nature as their fathers. So our Saviour's having the same individual nature with the Father, might give occasion to some to denominate him his Son. But though this may be the foundation of his being called God's 'proper Son,' ιδιος υἱος, yet it is not his distinguishing character as a Son. For it would follow, that the Holy Ghost, who has the same nature with the Father, would, for the same reason, be called his Son. But this is contrary to the scripture account given of him, as proceeding from the Father and the Son. Again, the character of Christ as God-man, Mediator, does not respect his human nature, considered separately from his divine, nor any of those peculiar honours conferred upon it beyond what any mere creatures are made partakers of.
This leads us to consider the difference between our view of his sonship, and that which was generally entertained by the Socinians. These, for the most part, speak of Christ as being denominated the Son of God, on account of the extraordinary and miraculous conception, or formation, of his human nature in the womb of the Virgin. For this they refer to that scripture: 'The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that Holy Thing, which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God.' The sense in which they understand this text, is, that Christ is called the Son of God on account of this extraordinary event. We cannot think, however, that a miraculous production is a sufficient foundation to support this character, and must conclude that the glory of Christ's sonship is infinitely greater than what arises thence. I humbly conceive, that that scripture is to be understood, with a small variation of the translation, thus, 'The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, &c. because that Holy Thing, which shall be born of thee, shall be called,' as he really is, 'the Son of God;' that is, 'He is, as Mediator, an extraordinary Person appointed to execute a glorious office, the Godhead and the manhood being to be united, on which account he is called the Son of God; and it is therefore expedient that the formation of his human nature should be in an extraordinary way, namely, by the power of the Holy Ghost.' Again, the Socinians suppose that his being called the Son of God, refers only to some dignities conferred upon one whom they suppose to be no more than a man. This is infinitely below the glory which we ascribe to him as Mediator. Their idea of him, as the Son of God, how extraordinary soever his conception was, argues him to be no more than a creature; but ours, as has been before observed, proves him a divine Person, since we never speak of him as Mediator, without including both natures.
Having premised these things, to explain our sense of Christ's being called the Son of God, as Mediator, we proceed to prove our view from scripture. Here we are not under a necessity of straining the sense of a few scriptures, to make them speak agreeably to our notion of Christ's sonship. I think the whole scripture, whenever it speaks of Christ as the Son of God, gives countenance to it. I cannot find one place in the New Testament, in which Christ is called the Son of God, without sufficient evidence appearing in the context, that he is so called as Mediator. Thus Peter's confession, 'Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God,' speaks of him as Christ, or the Mediator, that is, as the person who was invested in the office, and came to perform the work, of a Mediator; and as such it calls him, 'the Son of the living God.' So when the High Priest asked our Saviour, 'Art thou the Christ, the Son of God?'d his question means, Art thou the Messiah, as thou art supposed to be by thy followers? Our Saviour replied to him, 'Thou hast said;' that is, It is as thou hast said; and then he describes himself in another character, by which he is often represented, namely, as Mediator, and speaks of the highest degree of his mediatorial glory to which he shall be advanced at his second coming: 'Nevertheless, I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.'f Doubtless, the centurion, also, and they who were with him, when they confessed that 'he was the Son of God,' understood by the phrase, that he was the Messiah, or the Christ; which is a character by which he was most known, and which had been supported by so many miracles, and was now confirmed by the miracle of the earthquake which gave them conviction. Again, when the devils are represented as crying out, 'Thou art Christ, the Son of God,'h it is added, that 'they knew that he was Christ;' so that the commonly received notion of our Saviour's sonship, was, that he was the Christ. Further, when Jesus says, concerning Lazarus, that 'his sickness was not unto death,' that is, not such as that he should continue in the state of the dead, 'but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby;' the meaning is, that he might give a proof of his being the Christ, by raising him from the dead. Hence, when he speaks to Martha, with a design to try whether she believed he could raise her brother from the dead, and represents himself to her as the object of faith, she replies, 'I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.'k Again, it is said, that Saul, when converted, 'preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God;' that is, he proved him to be the Messiah. Accordingly, when he was establishing the same doctrine, it is said, that 'he proved that he was the very Christ.'m
Moreover, our Saviour is described in scripture as executing some of his mediatorial offices, or as having received a commission to execute them from the Father, or as having some branches of mediatorial glory conferred upon him, at the same time that he is called the Son of God; and this affords us ground to conclude that the view we have given is the true import of his sonship. Thus it is said, 'We have a great High Priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God.' John the Baptist also gives a public testimony to him, as sustaining a character which belongs to him as Mediator, when he says, 'Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world;'o and afterwards, referring to the same character, he says, 'I saw, and bare record, that this is the Son of God.' At another time, he gives a noble testimony to him, as God-man, Mediator, when he calls him, 'The Bridegroom which hath the bride,' that is, who is related to, and has a propriety in, his church; and adds, that 'he testifies what he has seen and heard,' and that it is 'he whom God hath sent, who speaks the words of God, for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him;'q and then, as a farther explication, he says, 'The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.' This is, in effect, the same as when Christ is called elsewhere, 'his beloved Son.' Again, Christ is said to be 'a Son over his own house, whose house are we;'s which denotes, not only his propriety in his church, but his being the Head of it as Mediator. The apostle farther speaks of him as 'the Son of God, whom we are to wait for from heaven; whom he has raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come;' as the Son of God, 'who loved him, and gave himself for him;' as 'God's dear Son,' and, at the same time, as having 'a kingdom,' into which his people are 'translated;'x and as the Person 'in whom we have redemption through his blood, who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature.' This last passage seems to be taken in the same sense as that in which he is said to have been 'appointed heir of all things,'z and so refers to him as God-man, Mediator.
Farther, when he is considered as a Son, related to his Father, he appears from the context to be viewed as Mediator. Thus, he says, 'I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; to my God, and your God;' that is, 'My Father, by whom I am constituted Mediator; and your Father, namely, the God who loves you for my sake: he is first my God, as he has honoured, loved, and glorified me; and then your God, as he is reconciled to you for my sake.' So the apostle says, 'Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.'b
It may be objected that, in these scriptures, and others of a similar nature, there are two ideas,—namely, one of our Saviour as the Son of God by eternal generation, the other of him as Mediator. We answer, that if Christ's sonship, in the sense in which it is generally explained, were sufficiently proved from other scriptures which take no notice of his mediatorial character or works, or could be accounted for without being liable to the difficulties before-mentioned, and if his character, as Mediator, did not contain in it an idea of personality, the objection would have more weight than otherwise it seems to have.
It is farther objected that, as 'God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,' he was the Son of God before he was sent into the world, or made of a woman, and under the law,—that is, he was the Son by eternal generation. The answer I would give to this objection is, that it is not necessary to suppose that Christ had the character of a Son before he was sent, though he had that of a divine person. The words may, without any strain or force upon the sense, be understood thus: 'When the fulness of time was come, in which the Messiah was expected, God sent him forth, or sent him into the world, with the character of a Son, at which time he was made of a woman, made under the law, in order that he might redeem them that were under the law.' But even if we suppose that Christ had the character of a Son before he was sent into the world, it will not overthrow our argument. He was, by the Father's designation, an eternal Mediator, and, in this respect, God's eternal Son. He, therefore, who before was so by virtue of the eternal decree, is now actually sent, that he might be and do, what he was, from all eternity, designed to be and do. He was set up from everlasting, or appointed to be the Son of God; and now he is sent to perform the work which this character implies.
It is objected again, that his sonship is apparent from his being Mediator; in as much as it is said, 'Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.' It cannot, it is alleged, be said, in propriety of speech, though he were Mediator, yet he learned obedience; since he was under an obligation to obey and suffer as Mediator. The meaning, therefore, must be, though he were a Son by eternal generation, yet he condescended to put himself into such a capacity, as that he was obliged to obey, and suffer, as Mediator. The stress of this objection lies on the word which we render 'though.' But the passage, Και περ ων υἱος, &c., may be rendered, with a small variation, 'Though, being a Son, he learned obedience by the things he suffered; but being made perfect,' that is, after his sufferings, 'he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.' This translation takes away the force of the objection. I see no absurdity, however, if it be rendered, as in the vulgar Latin version, 'And, indeed, being a Son, he learned obedience.' The passage, then, proves the argument we are endeavouring to defend, as if it said, It is agreeable to the character of a Son to learn obedience; it was with this view that the character was conferred upon him; and, in performing obedience and suffering as Mediator, and thereby securing the glory of the divine perfections in bringing about the work of our redemption, he acted in pursuance of that character.
It will be farther objected, that what we have said concerning the sonship of Christ, as referring to his being Mediator, has some consequences which seem derogatory to his person. It will be alleged, in particular, as a consequence from it, that had not man fallen, and stood in need of a Mediator, our Saviour would not have had that character, and therefore would never have been described as the Son of God, or worshipped as such; that our first parents, while in the state of innocence, knowing nothing of a Mediator, must have known nothing of the sonship of Christ, and therefore could not give him the glory which is the result of it; and that as God might have prevented the fall of man, or, when fallen, might have refused to recover him by a Mediator, our Saviour might not have been the Son of God, that is, in the sense of a Mediator between God and man. This objection may be very easily answered, and the charge of Christ's mediatorial sonship being derogatory to his glory, removed. We allow that, had not man fallen, our Saviour would not have been a Mediator between God and man. The commonly received notion is true, that his being a Mediator, is, according to the tenor of several scriptures, by divine ordination and appointment. But I see no absurdity in asserting, that his character, as the Son of God, or Mediator, is equally the result of the divine will or decree. This, I hope, if duly considered, will not contain any derogation from his glory, for we farther assert that, though our Saviour would not have sustained this character if man had not fallen, or if God had not designed to bring about the work of redemption by him, yet he would have been no less a distinct Person in the Godhead, but, as such, would have had a right to divine glory. This appears from what was formerly said, as to his personality being equally necessary with his deity; which, if it be not communicated to him, certainly has not the least appearance of its being the result of the divine will. Indeed, his divine personality is the only foundation of his right to be adored; and not his being invested in an office, which only draws forth or occasions our adoration. When we speak of Christ being adored as Mediator, it is his divine personality, included in that character, which renders him the object of adoration, and not his taking the human nature, or being or doing what he was or did, by divine appointment. I question whether they who assert that he had the divine nature or personality communicated to him, will place his right to divine adoration, on its being communicated; they will place it rather on his having the divine nature or personality abstractedly from his manner of having it. So when we speak of Christ as Mediator, it is his having the divine glory, or personality, included in that character which renders him the object of adoration. Hence, if man had not fallen, and Christ had not been Mediator, he would have had a right to divine glory as a Person in the Godhead. I doubt not but that our first parents, before they fell, had an intimation of his being a divine person, and adored him as such. If, therefore, Christ had not been Mediator, it would follow only, that he would not have had the character of a Son. He would still have had the glory of a divine Person; for though his sonship be the result of the divine will, his personality is not so. [See note 2 M, page 241.]
The Procession of the Holy Spirit
Having inquired into the sense of those scriptures which treat of the sonship of Christ, we shall next consider those that are generally brought to prove the procession of the Holy Ghost. The principal of these, are John 14:26, 15:26, and 16:7, in which he is said to 'proceed from the Father,' or to be 'sent by the Father in Christ's name,' or to be 'sent by the Son.' When he is said to be 'sent by the Son from the Father,' and 'to proceed from the Father,' they suppose that his 'proceeding from the Father,' signifies the communication of his divine essence, or, at least, his personality, and that his being 'sent by the Son,' implies that this communication is from him, as well as from the Father. So it is said, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son;' and our Saviour says, 'I will send him unto you;' and, 'he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.'h These scriptures, if not brought directly to prove this doctrine, are, notwithstanding, supposed sufficient to evince the truth of it; in as much as the Son could not send him, if he had not proceeded from him; nor could the Spirit have received that which he shows to the Son's people, if he had not, from all eternity, received his divine essence or personality from him. There is another scripture, brought by some very valuable divines, to prove the Spiration of the Holy Ghost; a term which is used either as supposed to be expressive of the manner of his having his personality as a Spirit, or else as taken from the words of scripture brought to prove it. This scripture is that, in which our Saviour is said to have 'breathed on' his disciples, saying, 'Receive ye the Holy Ghost.' Here the external sign, or symbol, used in the act of conferring him on them in time, is thought to prove his procession from him from eternity; as a temporal procession supposes an eternal one. We shall now inquire whether there may not be another sense given of these scriptures, agreeable to the analogy of faith, that may be acquiesced in by those who cannot so well understand, or account for, the common interpretation. The sense, I humbly conceive, is this: the Spirit is considered, not with respect to the manner of his subsisting, but with respect to the subserviency of his acting, to set forth the Mediator's glory, and that of the Father who sent him. I choose to call it a subserviency of acting, such as does not imply any inferiority in the agent. But if we suppose that it argues any inferiority in the Holy Spirit, this is only an inferiority in acting; the works which he does being subservient to the glory of the Mediator, and of the Father, though his divine personality is, in all respects, equal with theirs. This explication of these texts is allowed by many, if not by most, of those who defend the doctrine of the Trinity, notwithstanding their maintaining the Spirit's procession from the Father and the Son, from all eternity, in the sense before considered. I need only refer to that explication which a great and learned divine gives of these and similar texts, notwithstanding his adhering, in other respects, to the common mode of speaking, as to the eternal generation of the Son, and procession of the Holy Ghost. His words are these: "All that discourse which we have of the mission and sending of the Holy Ghost, and his proceeding and coming forth from the Father and Son, for the ends specified, John 14:26. and 15:26. and 16:7, 13. concerns not at all the eternal Procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father and Son, as to his distinct Personality and subsistence, but belongs to that economy, or dispensation of ministry, that the whole Trinity proceedeth in, for the accomplishment of the work of our salvation." Now if these scriptures, which are the chief in all the New Testament on which this doctrine is founded, are to be taken in this sense, how shall we find a sufficient proof, from other scriptures, of the procession of the Holy Ghost in any other sense?
The Economy of the Persons in the Godhead
That we may farther explain this doctrine, let us consider, that whatever the Son, as Mediator, has purchased, as being sent by the Father for that end, is applied by the Holy Ghost, who therefore acts in subserviency to them. This is generally called, by divines, 'the Economy of the Persons in the Godhead.' As this phrase is often used when we consider the distinct works of the Father, Son, and Spirit, in their respective subserviency to one another, we shall take occasion briefly to explain it, and shall show how it may be applied to them, without inferring any inferiority as to what concerns their personal glory. We shall say nothing concerning the derivation or use of the word 'economy;' though we cannot forbear to mention, with indignation, the sense which some of the opposers of the blessed Trinity have given it. Laying aside all the observances of decency and reverence, which this sacred mystery calls for, they represent us, as speaking of the family government of the divine Persons. This is the most invidious sense they could put upon the word, and most remote from our design in the use of it. A few considerations will explain it and apply it to our present purpose.
All those works, which are the effects of the divine power, or sovereign will, are performed by all the Persons in the Godhead, and attributed to them in scripture. The reason of this is very evident,—the power and will of God, and all other divine perfections, belong equally, and alike, to the Father, Son, and Spirit. If, then, that which produces the effects, belongs to them, the effects produced must be equally ascribed to them. Hence the Father is no more said to create and govern the world, or to be the Author of all grace, and the Fountain of blessedness, than the Son and Spirit. Yet since the Father, Son, and Spirit, are distinct Persons, and so have distinct personal considerations in acting, it is necessary that their personal glory should be demonstrated, or made known to us, that our faith and worship may be fixed on, and directed to them, in a distinct manner. But this distinction of the Persons in the Godhead cannot be known, as their eternal power or deity is said to be, by the works of creation and providence, it being a doctrine of pure revelation. We are therefore given to understand, in scripture, when it treats of the great work of our salvation, that that work is attributed, first to the Father,—then to the Son, as Mediator, receiving a commission from him to redeem and save his people,—and then to the Holy Ghost, acting in subserviency to the Mediator's commission. This is what we are to understand when we speak of the distinct economy of the Father, Son, and Spirit. I cannot better express it than by considering it as a divine determination, that the personal glory of the Father, Son, and Spirit, should be demonstrated in such a way.
I shall now give instances of the economy of divine persons, in some particular acts or works. When a divine Person is represented in scripture as doing, or determining to do, any thing relating to the work of our redemption or salvation, by another divine Person, who must, for that reason, be considered in the matter as Mediator, it is to be understood in the economic sense, of the Father. By this means it is that he declares, or demonstrates, his personal glory. Thus it is said, 'He,' that is the Father, 'hath chosen us in him,' namely, in the Son; it is also said, 'He hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ.' Though election and predestination are applied also to the Son and Spirit, when they have a reference to the demonstration of their personal glory, yet, in this place, they are applied only to the Father. There are several other scriptures, in which things done are, for the same reason, particularly ascribed to the Father. Thus, it is said, 'God hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ;' and 'He was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself;'m and, 'Of him,' namely, the Father, 'are ye in Christ Jesus, who, of God,' that is, the Father, 'is made unto us wisdom,' &c. In these and several other scriptures to the same purpose, the Father is, in a peculiar manner, intended; because he is considered, as no other divine Person is, as acting by the Mediator, or as glorifying the perfections of the divine nature which belong to him, by what this great Mediator did by his appointment.
Further, when a divine Person is considered as acting in subserviency to the Father's glory, or executing a commission which he had received from him, relating to the work of redemption, and accordingly performing any act of obedience in a human nature assumed by him for that purpose, this is peculiarly applied to the Son's personal character, and designed to demonstrate it, as belonging to no other Person in the Godhead. Of this, we have several instances in scripture. Thus, though to judge the world is a branch of the divine glory which is common to all the Persons in the Godhead, yet there are some circumstances in the character of a divine Person in particular, who is denominated as Judge of quick and dead, that are applicable to none but the Son. So we are to understand that scripture, 'The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son;' that is, the Son is the only Person in the Godhead who displays his mediatorial character and glory, as the Judge of the whole world. Yet when there is another personal character ascribed to God, as when he is called 'the Judge of all,' or when he is said to 'judge the world in righteousness, by that Man,' namely, our Lord Jesus, 'whom he hath ordained,' this personal character determines that it belongs to him in particular. Again, to give eternal life is a divine prerogative, and consequently belongs to all the Persons in the Godhead. Yet when a divine Person is said to give eternal life to a people that were given to him for that purpose, and to have received power, or authority, from another, to confer this privilege as Mediator, it is peculiarly applied to the Son. Thus, 'Thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.'q
Moreover, when a divine Person is said to do anything in subserviency to the Mediator, it is to be understood peculiarly of the Spirit. Thus it is said, 'He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.' So when he is said to give his testimony to the mission or work of the Mediator, by any divine works performed by him, or when he is said to sanctify and comfort believers or to seal and confirm them unto the day of redemption, the things done are to be ascribed peculiarly to the Spirit. Though, as divine works, they are applicable to all the Persons in the Godhead; yet when he is said to perform them in a way of subserviency to Christ, as having purchased them, his distinct personal character as displayed in them is demonstrated, and the works are more especially applied to him. This is what we understand by that peculiar economy, or dispensation, which determines us to give distinct personal glory to each of the Persons in the Godhead.
And now that we are speaking of the Spirit, considered as acting so as to set forth his personal glory, we may observe that, in accordance with this way of speaking, the gifts and graces of the Spirit, are, by a metonymy, called 'the Spirit.' Thus, it is said, 'Have ye received the Holy Ghost? They said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.' We are not to understand this passage as though they had not heard whether there were such a Person as the Holy Ghost. What they had not heard was that there was such an extraordinary dispensation of the gifts of the Holy Ghost conferred on men. Again, it is said, 'the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.'t The word 'given' being here supplied in our translation, and not found in the original, the passage ought rather to be rendered, 'the Holy Ghost was not as yet;' by which we are to understand the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and not his personality, which was from all eternity. Here we may farther observe, that when the Holy Ghost is spoken of as a Person, the word which denotes his personality, ought to be rendered, not 'It,' but 'He,' as expressive of his personal character; and when it is taken in a figurative sense, for the gifts or graces of the Spirit, then it should be translated 'It.' This rule is sometimes observed. In John 16:13, it is said of the Spirit, 'He will guide you into all truth;' where the personal character of the Spirit is expressly mentioned, as it ought to be. The rule, however, is not duly observed in every scripture. Thus, the words, 'The Spirit itself beareth witness,' ought to have been rendered, 'The Spirit himself;' [See Note 2 N, page 250.] as also the passage, 'the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us.' The same rule ought to be observed in all other scriptures; so that we may be led to put a just difference between the Spirit, considered as a divine Person, or as producing those effects which are said to be wrought by him.
What I have said, in attempting to explain those scriptures that treat of the Person of Christ, as God-man, Mediator, and of his inferiority, in that respect, or as he is said to sustain that character, to the Father, and those which speak of the subserviency of the Spirit, in acting to the Father and the Son,—does not, as I apprehend, run counter to the common faith of those who have defended the doctrine of the ever-blessed Trinity. I hope, therefore, that when I call one the sonship of Christ, and the other the procession of the Holy Ghost, what I teach will not be deemed a new and strange doctrine. I cannot but persuade myself, that what I have said concerning the Mediator as acting in obedience to the Father, and concerning the Spirit as acting in subserviency to the Mediator, will not be contested by those who defend the doctrine of the Trinity. If I have a little varied from the common way of speaking, I hope none will be offended at the acceptation of a word; especially as I have endeavoured to defend my sense of it, by referring to many scriptures. If I cannot acquiesce in the common explication of the eternal generation of the Son, and the procession of the Holy Ghost, I am well satisfied I do no more than what many Christians do, who have received the doctrine of the Trinity from the scripture, and are unacquainted with those modes of speaking which are used in the schools. These appear as much to dislike them, as any other can do, when used in public discourses about this doctrine.
Proofs of the Doctrine of the Trinity
We shall now proceed to consider, under four general heads of argument, the Godhead of the Father, Son, and Spirit, as maintained in one of the answers we are explaining. We shall consider it, from those divine names which are given to them, that are peculiar to God alone; from their having the divine attributes ascribed to them, and consequently the divine nature; from their having manifested their divine glory, by those works that none but God can perform; and from their having a right to divine worship, which none but God is worthy to receive. If these things be made to appear, we have all that we need contend for; and it will be evident that the Son and Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father. These heads of argument we shall consider first in reference to the Son.
Proofs of the Deity of Christ from his Titles
I. That the Son is God equal with the Father appears from those divine names given to him that are peculiar to God alone.
Here we shall premise something concerning the use of names given to persons, together with the design of them. Names are given to persons, as well as things, with a twofold design. Sometimes nothing is intended by them but to distinguish one object from another. In this sense the names are not in themselves significant, or expressive of any property, or quality, in what they describe. Thus most, though not all, of those names we read of in scripture, are designed only to distinguish one man from another; and this is the most common use and design of names. On the other hand, they are sometimes given to signify some property in those to whom they are applied, such as what they should be or do. We have many instances in scripture, of persons called by names, which have had some special signification annexed to them, assigned as a reason of their being given. Thus Adam had his name given him, because made of earth; and Eve, because she was the mother of all living. The same may be said concerning Seth, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and several others; whose respective names have a signification annexed to them, agreeable to the proper sense of the words, and the design of their being given. As regards our present purpose, we may conclude, that when names are given to any divine Person, they are designed to express some excellency and perfection belonging to him. We shall, therefore, have sufficient reason to conclude the Son to be a divine Person, if we can make it appear that he has those names given to him in scripture, which are proper to God alone.
The name 'Jehovah,' which is peculiar to God, is given to him.
Here we shall first prove that the name 'Jehovah' is peculiar to God, and that he is distinguished by it from all creatures. It is said, 'I am the Lord,' or Jehovah, 'that is my name, and my glory will I not give to another;' or, as the text may be rendered, 'I am Jehovah, that name of mine, and my glory,' which is signified thereby, 'will I not give to another.' It follows, that this is an incommunicable name of God. When he says, 'I will not give it to another,' he declares that it necessarily belongs to him. He cannot, therefore, give it to another; for that would be unbecoming himself. Hence, this name, which is expressive of his glory in so peculiar a manner, is never given to any creature. There are other scriptures in which the name 'Jehovah' is represented as peculiar to God. Thus when the prophet Amos had been speaking of the glory of God, as displayed in the works of creation and providence, he adds, that 'the Lord,' or Jehovah, 'is his name.' So that those works, which are peculiar to God, might as well be applied to creatures, as the name 'Jehovah,' which is equally peculiar. The same prophet gives another magnificent description of God, with respect to those works that are peculiar to him, when he says, 'It is he that buildeth his stories in the heaven, and hath founded his troop in the earth; he that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth;' and then he adds, 'the Lord,' or Jehovah, 'is his name.'a Again, it is said, 'that men may know, that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah, art the most high over all the earth.' This is never said of any other divine names; which are, in a limited sense, sometimes given to creatures. Indeed, all creatures are expressly excluded from having a right to this name.
There are scriptures in which the name 'Jehovah' is applied to God, and an explication of it subjoined which argues that it is peculiar to him. When Moses desired of God, that he would let him know what 'his name' was, for the encouragement of the faith of the Israelites to whom he sent him, the meaning is, he desires to know what are those divine glories which would render him the object of faith and worship, or how he might so describe him to the children of Israel, as to elicit from them the reverence and regard which were due to the great God, who sent him about so important an errand. In answer to this, God says, 'I AM THAT I AM.' 'Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.'d This description sets forth, not one single perfection, but all the perfections of the divine nature; as though he had said, 'I am a God of infinite perfection.' And then he adds, 'Thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, The Lord,' or Jehovah, 'the God of your fathers, hath sent me unto you;' where 'Jehovah' signifies the same as 'I AM THAT I AM.' He further adds, 'This is my memorial unto all generations.' This glorious name, therefore, is certainly peculiar to God.
What has been already observed is sufficient to prove that the name 'Jehovah' is proper to God only. We might add another argument of less weight; which, though we do not lay a stress upon it as if it were of itself sufficient proof, may not improperly be mentioned in connection with what has been already suggested. It is, that the word 'Jehovah' has no plural number, as being never designed to signify any more than the one God; neither has it any emphatical particle affixed to it, as other words in the Hebrew language have. Several of the other names of God are sometimes applied to others, and are made to designate him, as distinguished from them, by means of an emphatic particle. Now, the reason why the name 'Jehovah' has not such a particle is, that it is never given to any creature.
As the Jews best understood their own language, they may, in some respects, be depended on, as to the sense they give of the word 'Jehovah.' It is certain they paid the greatest regard to this name, even to superstition. Accordingly, they would never pronounce it; but, instead of it, used some expressions by which they described it. Sometimes they call it, 'that name,' or 'that glorious name,' or 'that name that is not to be expressed.' By this they mean, as Josephus says,f that it was not lawful for them to utter it, or, indeed, to write it. If any one presumed to do this, they reckoned him guilty not only of profaneness, in an uncommon degree, but even of blasphemy. The name is, therefore, never found in any writings of human composition among them. The modern Jews, indeed, are not much to be regarded, as retaining the same veneration for this name. Yet Onkelos, the author of the Chaldee paraphrase on some parts of scripture, who lived about fifty years after our Saviour's time, and Jonathan Ben-Uzziel, who is supposed to have lived as many years before it, never insert it in their writings; and, doubtless, they were not the first that entertained these sentiments about it, but had other writings then extant, which gave sanction to their practice. Some critics conclude, from Jewish writers, that the name was never pronounced, even in the earliest ages of the church, except by the high-priest; and that when he was obliged, by the divine law, to pronounce it, in the form of benediction, the people always expressed an uncommon degree of reverence, either by bowing or prostration. This, however, is not supported by sufficient evidence. Others think the great veneration for it took its rise soon after their return from captivity, which is more probable. At all events, the reason assigned for it is, that they reckoned it God's incommunicable name. Here I cannot but observe, that the translators of the Greek version of the Old Testament, commonly called the LXX., which, if it be not altogether the same with that mentioned by Aristæus, which was compiled almost three hundred years before the Christian era, is, without doubt, of considerable antiquity, never translate the word 'Jehovah,' but, instead of it, write Κυριος, 'Lord;' and, even when it seems absurd not to translate it, as when it is said, 'by my name, Jehovah, was I not known,' they render it, 'by my name, the Lord, was I not known.'h This practice we have taken occasion to observe, not as supposing it a sufficient proof in itself of the argument we are maintaining, but as it corresponds with the sense of those scriptures before-mentioned, from which it appears that Jehovah is the proper or incommunicable name of God.
It is objected by the Antitrinitarians, that the name 'Jehovah' is sometimes given to creatures, and consequently that it is not God's proper name, nor evinces our Saviour's deity, when given to him. To prove that it is sometimes given to creatures, they refer to several scriptures; as Exod. 17:15, where the altar that Moses erected is called 'Jehovah Nissi,' that is, the Lord is my banner; to Judges 6:24, where another altar that Gideon built is called, 'Jehovah Shalom;' Gen. 22:14, where it is said that Abraham called the name of the place in which he was ready to offer Isaac, 'Jehovah Jirch;' and Ezek. 48:35, where it is said that Jerusalem, from that day, should be called, 'Jehovah Shammah.' They add, also, that the ark was called 'Jehovah,' on several occasions, and particularly when it was carried up into the city of David; for it is said, 'The Lord,' that is, Jehovah, 'is gone up with a shout, even the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.' They say, too, the name 'Jehovah' is often, in the Old Testament, given to angels; and is therefore not proper to God only.
When they pretend that the name 'Jehovah' was given to inanimate things, and in particular to altars, as the instance of one being called 'Jehovah Nissi,' it is very unreasonable to suppose that the name and glory of God were put upon them. Had the altar been a symbol of God's presence, it would not have been called by this name; especially in the sense in which our Saviour and the Holy Spirit have it applied to them. The meaning of this scripture, as I apprehend, is nothing but this,—that there was an inscription written on the altar, containing these words, 'Jehovah Nissi,' the design of which was to signify to the faith of those that came to worship there, that the Lord was their banner. The name, strictly speaking, was not given to the altar, but to God. Accordingly, some, not without good reason, render the words, 'He built an altar, and called the name of it the altar of Jehovah Nissi.' The same may be said with respect to the altar erected by Gideon, which was called 'Jehovah Shalom,' or 'the altar of Jehovah Shalom.' It was so called, that all who came to offer sacrifice upon it might be put in mind that God was a God of peace, or would give peace to them. As for the place to which Abraham went to offer Isaac, which is called 'Jehovah Jireh,' it was the mount Moriah; and it is certain that this was not known by the name 'Jehovah Jireh,' or, whenever spoken of, mentioned by that name. Nor had Abraham any right to apply to it any branch of the divine glory, as signified by the name. When, therefore, he called the place 'Jehovah Jireh,' it is as though he had said, 'Let all that travel over this mountain know that the Lord was seen, or that he provided a ram instead of Isaac, who was ready to be offered up; let this place be remarkable, in future ages, for this amazing dispensation of providence; and let them glorify God for what was done here, and take encouragement from it to their faith.' Or we may consider him as having spoken as a prophet, and then the meaning is, 'This place shall be very remarkable in future ages, as it shall be the mount of vision; here Jehovah will eminently appear in his temple, which shall be built in this place.' Or, if you take the words in another sense, namely, 'God will provide,' it is as if he had said, 'As God has provided a ram to be offered instead of Isaac, so he will provide the Lamb of God, who is to take away the sin of the world, which was typified by Isaac's being offered.' The place, therefore, was not really called Jehovah; but Abraham takes occasion, from what was done there, to magnify him who appeared to him and held his hand,—whom alone he calls Jehovah. We may add that, when Jerusalem is called Jehovah Shammah, 'the Lord is there,' the meaning is, that it shall eminently be said, in succeeding ages, of the new Jerusalem, that 'the Lord is there.' The city which was commonly known by the name Jerusalem, is not called Jehovah, as though it had any character of divine glory put upon it. The name, as given to it, simply implies, that the gospel church, which was signified by it, should have the presence of God in an eminent degree; or, as our Saviour promised to his disciples, that 'he would be with them alway, even unto the end of the world,' and, in consequence, that 'the gates of hell should not prevail against it.'l As for the ark, it was not called Jehovah. The psalmist simply takes occasion, from its being carried up into the city of David with a joyful solemnity and an universal shout, with the sound of a trumpet, to foretell the triumphant and magnificent ascension of our Saviour into heaven, which was typified by the event. Concerning him he says, 'Jehovah is gone up.' He is speaking in a prophetic style,—the present, or time past, being put for the time to come, and his words are as if he had said, 'The Lord, when he has completed the work of redemption on earth, will ascend into heaven, which shall be the cause of universal joy to the church; and then he shall,' as the psalmist farther observes, 'reign over the heathen, and sit on the throne of his holiness.' Again, it does not appear that the ark was called Jehovah, in Exod. 16:33, 34. When Aaron is commanded to 'lay the pot full of manna before the testimony,' that is, the ark, he is said to have laid it 'before Jehovah.' But the reason of the expression is this,—God had ordained that the mercy-seat over the ark should be the immediate seat of his residence, whence he would condescend to converse with men. Accordingly he is elsewhere said to 'dwell between the cherubims.' On this account, that which was laid up before the ark, might be said to be laid up before the Lord. But since none are so stupid as to suppose that inanimate things can have the divine perfections belonging to them, the principal thing contended for is, that the ark was called Jehovah, because it was a sign and symbol of the divine presence. And thence they conclude, that the name of God may be applied to a person that has no right to the divine glory, as the sign is called by the name of the thing signified by it. It is to be observed, however, that the ark was not only a sacramental sign of God's presence, for that many other things relating to ceremonial worship were, but it was the seat of his presence. It was therefore the divine Majesty who was called Jehovah, and not the place of his residence; and it was he alone to whom the glory was ascribed that is due to his name.
When it is farther objected, that the name Jehovah is often applied to angels, the answer is, that it is never ascribed to any but him who is called, by way of eminence, 'the Angel,' or 'the Messenger of the covenant,' that is, our Saviour. Whenever it is given to this angel, such glorious things are spoken of him, or such acts of divine worship demanded by and given to him, as argue him to be a divine Person. This will plainly appear, if we consider what the Angel, as he appeared to Moses, says concerning himself, 'I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' It is said, 'Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God;' and it is added, 'The Lord,' or Jehovah, 'said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people that are in Egypt, and I am come down to deliver them,' and 'I will send thee unto Pharaoh.'o Then in the following verses, the Angel makes mention of his name, as the great 'Jehovah,' the 'I AM who sent him.' Jacob gives divine worship to this Angel, when he says, 'The Angel that redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads.' I might refer to many other scriptures, where the Angel of the Lord is said to have appeared, in which, from the context, it is evident that he was a divine Person, and not a created angel. The most ancient Jewish writers generally call him 'the Wordq of the Lord.' It is not denied, however, by the Anti-trinitarians, that the Person who so frequently appeared in the form of an Angel, made use of such expressions as can be applied to none but God; and they say that he personated God, or spake after the manner of his representative, not designing that the glory of the divine perfections should be ascribed to him, but to Jehovah, whom he represented. We reply, that the Angel appearing to Moses, in the scripture before-mentioned, and to several others, doth not signify himself to personate God, as doubtless he ought to have done had he been only his representative, and not a divine person. An ambassador, when he speaks in the name of the king whom he represents, always, when personating him, uses such modes of speaking as may be understood to apply, not to himself, but to him that sent him; and it would be reckoned an affront to him whom he represents, should he give occasion to any to ascribe to himself the honour that belongs to his master. Now there is nothing in those texts which speak of this Angel's appearing, that intimates his disclaiming divine honour, as what belonged, not to him, but to God. Hence we must not suppose that he speaks in such a way as God doth, only as representing him. We read, indeed, of a created Angel appearing to John, who was supposed by him, at the first, to be the same that appeared to the church of old, and accordingly John offered him divine honour; but he refused to receive it, knowing that the character of being the divine representative would not be a sufficient warrant for his receiving it. We must conclude, therefore, that the Angel who appeared to the church of old, and is called Jehovah, was a divine Person. [See Note 2 P, page 250.]
Having considered that the name Jehovah is peculiarly applied to God, we now proceed to prove that it is given to the Son. The first scripture that we shall refer to is Isa. 40:3, 'The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord,' or Jehovah; 'make straight in the desert a highway for our God.' If we can prove that this is a prophecy of John's preparing the way of our Saviour, it will appear that our Saviour, in this scripture, is called Jehovah. Now that it is a prediction of John's being Christ's forerunner, appointed to prepare the Jews for his reception, and to give them an intimation that he whom they had long looked for would suddenly appear, is plain from those scriptures in the New Testament, which expressly refer to the passage and explain it in this sense. Thus, 'This is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his path straight.' Hence, he whose way John was to prepare, whom the prophet Isaiah calls Jehovah, is our Saviour.
Again, it is said, 'Sanctify the Lord,' or Jehovah, 'of hosts himself, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.' Here the prophet not only speaks of a person, whom he calls 'Jehovah, the Lord of Hosts,' which alone would prove him to be a divine Person; but he further considers him as the object of divine worship,—'Sanctify him, and let him be your fear and your dread.' Certainly, if we can prove this to be spoken of Christ, it will be a strong and convincing argument to evince his proper deity. Now that it is spoken of him, is very evident, if we compare it with what immediately follows, 'And he shall be for a sanctuary.' This I would choose to render, 'For he shall be for a sanctuary;' the Hebrew particle Vau, which we render 'and,' being often rendered elsewhere 'for.' The person's being a sanctuary is thus assigned as a reason why we should sanctify him; and then it follows, that because the Jews will not give that glory to him which they are under obligation to render, he will be 'to them for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offence,' as he shall 'be for a sanctuary' to those that are faithful. That this is spoken of Christ, appears from the subject of which it treats; for it is only he who, properly speaking, is said to be a rock of offence, or in whom the world was offended, by reason of his appearing in it in a low condition. That it is spoken of Christ appears also by comparing it with other scriptures, and particularly with Isa. 28:16, 'Behold I lay in Sion, for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation; he that believeth shall not make haste.' Here he is styled, a foundation-stone, the rock on which his church is built; and in the passage under consideration, he is called 'a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence.' Now both scriptures are referred to, and applied to him in 1 Pet. 2:6, 8, 'Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner-stone, elect, precious; and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence to them that are disobedient.' Here the apostle proves plainly, that our Saviour is the Person who is spoken of, in both these texts, by the prophet Isaiah, and consequently that he is Jehovah, whom we are to sanctify and to make our fear and our dread.
Again, the name Jehovah is applied to Christ in Numb. 21:5–7, 'And the people spake against God, and against Moses; and the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, and much people of Israel died; therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord,' or Jehovah, 'and against thee.' He, who is called 'God,' whom they spake against, is called 'Jehovah,' who sent fiery serpents among them, which destroyed them for their speaking against him. Now this is expressly applied to our Saviour by the apostle, 'Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.'
Again, the prophet Isaiah, having had a vision of the angels adoring and ministering to that glorious Person who is represented as sitting on a throne, reflects on what he had seen, and expresses himself in these words, 'Mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord,' or Jehovah, 'of Hosts.' Now this is expressly applied to our Saviour, in John 12:41, 'These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.' That John refers here to this vision, is evident from the preceding verse, which contains a quotation from a part of it, in which God foretells that he would blind the eyes, and harden the hearts, of the unbelieving Jews. It follows that the Person who appeared to Isaiah, sitting on a throne, whom he calls 'Jehovah,' was our Saviour.
Again, our point may be further argued, from Isa. 45:21, 'There is no God else besides me, a just God and a Saviour, there is none besides me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength; even to him shall men come, and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.' This text is a glorious proof of our Saviour's deity, not only from his being called Jehovah, but from several other divine characters being ascribed to him. The Person whom the prophet speaks of, styles himself Jehovah, and adds, that there is no God besides him; and he is represented as swearing by himself, which none ought to do but a divine Person; and he encourages all the ends of the earth to look to him for salvation. If, therefore, it can be made to appear that this is spoken of our Saviour, it will be an undeniable proof of his proper deity; since nothing more than this can be said to express the glory of the Father. Now that the words are spoken of our Saviour, must be allowed by every one who reads them impartially; for there are several things—such as that all the ends of the earth are invited to look to him for salvation—which agree with his character as Mediator. We have a parallel scripture, which is plainly applied to him, 'And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse,' that is, the Messiah, who should spring from the root or stock of Jesse, 'which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it,' or to him, 'shall the Gentiles seek.' This is the same thing as for the ends of the earth to look to him. Besides, the phrase, 'looking to him,' is a metaphor, taken from a very remarkable type of men's looking to him as the Saviour,—namely, Israel's looking to the brazen serpent for healing. Thus he who is here spoken of, is represented as a Saviour, and as the object of faith. Again, he is represented as swearing by himself, 'That unto him every knee should bow, and every tongue should swear.' This is expressly applied to our Saviour, in the New Testament, as containing a prophecy of his being the Judge of the world, 'We shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ; for it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God; so then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.'z The same words are used, with a little variation, in Phil. 2:10, 11, 'That at the 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.' Again, the person of whom the prophet speaks, is one against whom the world was incensed; which can be meant of none but Christ, as signifying the opposition that he should meet with, and the rage and fury that should be directed against him, when appearing in our nature. Again, he is said to be one in whom 'we have righteousness,' and in whom 'the seed of Israel shall be justified;' which very evidently agrees with the account we have of him in the New Testament, as a Person by whose righteousness we are justified, or whose righteousness is imputed to us for that end.
This leads us to consider another scripture, in which Christ is called Jehovah; 'This is his name, whereby he shall be called, the Lord,' or Jehovah, 'our righteousness.' His being called 'our righteousness,' as was before observed, implies, that the Messiah, our great Mediator, is the Person spoken of, who is called Jehovah. This is farther evinced from the context; for it is said, 'Behold the days come,' namely, the gospel day, 'that I will raise unto David a righteous branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.'b This any one who judges impartially of the sense of scripture, will conclude to be spoken concerning our Saviour's erecting the gospel-dispensation, and being the sole Lord and Governor of his church. How the exercise of his dominion over it proves his deity, will be considered under a following head. All we need to observe at present is, that this description is very agreeable to his character in scripture, as Mediator. We conclude, therefore, that, in this passage, he is called Jehovah. It is objected, however, that the words may be otherwise translated, namely, 'This is the name, whereby the Lord our righteousness,' that is, the Father, 'shall call him.' But the Father is never called in scripture, 'our righteousness,' as was but now observed; this being a character peculiar to the Mediator, as is fully explained in several places in the New Testament. Besides, it is well-known that the Hebrew word signifies either actively or passively, as it is differently pointed, the letters being the same. We shall not enter into a critical disquisition concerning the origin or authenticity of the Hebrew points, in order to prove that our translation, rather than that mentioned in the objection, is just; but shall prove this from the context. It appears thence, that if the passage were translated according to the sense of the objectors, it would be little less than a tautology; for it would then read: 'I will raise to David a righteous branch; and this is the name whereby Jehovah, our righteousness, shall call him, namely, the Branch.' Hence, the sense of our translation of the text, seems, at least, more natural. It is also more agreeable to the grammatical construction observed in the Hebrew language; in which the words of a sentence are not transposed posed as they are in the Greek and Latin, which they are supposed to be, in the sense of the text contained in the objection. But it is farther objected, that though our translation were just, and Christ were called Jehovah, yet the passage will not prove his deity, since it is elsewhere said concerning the church, 'This is the name wherewith she shall be called, The Lord,' or Jehovah, 'our righteousness.' It is evident, however, from the context, that this is a parallel scripture to the one in question. The same Person, 'the Branch,' is spoken of; and the same things are predicted concerning the gospel-church, that was to be governed by him. While it is plain that our translators understood this text as spoken of the church of the Jews, or rather of the gospel-church, as many others do; yet, if we consider the sense of the Hebrew words here used,e it is very evident that they might, with equal, if not with greater propriety, have been rendered, 'shall be called by her.' The sense, therefore, is the same as that of the other passage; the Branch, namely, our Saviour, is to be called, 'the Lord our righteousness,' and adored as such by the church.
There is another scripture, in which our Saviour is called Jehovah; 'And ye shall know that I am the Lord,' or Jehovah, 'your God, and none else;' compared with the words in the context: 'And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord,' or Jehovah, 'shall be delivered.'g In both these verses, it is evident that our Saviour is called 'Jehovah.' The Person who is so called in the former of them, is said to 'pour out his Spirit upon all flesh,' &c. These words are expressly applied to Christ in Acts 2:16, 17. The pouring out of his Spirit on all flesh, which they predict, is particularly ascribed to him: 'Therefore being, by the right hand of God, exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear.' The argument, then, is this: He who was, according to this prophecy, to 'pour out his Spirit on all flesh,' is called 'Jehovah, your God;' but our Saviour is said to have poured out the Spirit,—therefore the name Jehovah is justly applied to him. As to the latter of the verses, 'Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be delivered,' this also is applied to Christ, by Paul in the epistle to the Romans, and explained as spoken of him.k That the apostle there speaks of calling on the name of Christ, is plain from the preceding and following context. What he terms 'calling on the name of the Lord,' he previously terms, 'confessing the Lord Jesus;' and he there connects this with salvation. He then proceeds to consider, that, in order to our 'confessing him,' or 'calling on his name,' it is necessary that Christ should 'be preached.'m He farther adds, that though Christ was preached, and his glory proclaimed in the gospel, yet the Jews believed not in him, and consequently called not on his name. This he treats as an accomplishment of what had been foretold by the prophet Isaiah, 'Who hath believed our report?' &c.; intimating that it was predicted, that our Saviour should be rejected, and not be believed in, by the Jews. It is hence very evident that the apostle is speaking concerning him, and applying to him what is mentioned in the passage in Joel, in which he is called Jehovah. This glorious name, therefore, belongs to him.
Several other scriptures might have been quoted, to prove that Christ is called Jehovah—scriptures which are applied to him in the New Testament, and some of which may be incidentally mentioned under some following arguments. I think, however, that what has been already said is abundantly sufficient to prove his deity, from his having this glorious name given to him. I shall proceed, therefore, to consider some other names given to him for the proof of this.
He is styled 'Lord' and 'God,' in a sense which plainly proves his proper deity. We will not, indeed, deny that the names 'Lord' and 'God' are sometimes given to creatures; yet we are not left without sufficient light, whereby we may plainly discern when they are applied to the one living and true God, and when not. To assert the contrary, would be to reflect on the wisdom and goodness of God. Not only would it render those scriptures in which they occur like the trumpet that gives an uncertain sound; but we should be in the greatest danger, in a matter of the highest importance, of being led aside into a most destructive mistake, and induced to give that glory to the creature which is due to God only. We shall always find something either in the text or in the context, which evidently determines the sense of these names, when they are applied to God, and when to the creature.
Let it be observed, that whenever the word 'God' or 'Lord' is given to a creature, there is some diminutive character annexed to it, which plainly distinguishes it from the true God. Thus when it is given to idols, it is intimated, that they are called or falsely esteemed gods or lords by their deceived worshippers. Accordingly they are styled 'strange gods,' 'molten gods,'p and 'new gods;' and their worshippers are reproved as 'brutish and foolish.'r Again, when the word 'God' is applied to men, there is something in the context which implies, that, whatever characters of honour are given to them, they are, notwithstanding, subject to the divine control. Thus it is said, 'God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.' They are described also as at best but mortal men: 'I have said, ye are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High; but ye shall die like men.' They are depicted, it is true, as partakers of the divine image, consisting in some lesser branches of sovereignty and dominion; but this is infinitely below the idea of sovereignty and dominion which is expressed by the word, when applied to the great God. God says to Moses, indeed, 'See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh.'t But by this we are not to understand that any of the divine perfections were communicated to or predicated of him; for God cannot give his glory to another. The sense is plainly, that he was set in God's stead. Thus he is said to be instead of God to Aaron; and the same expression is used by Elihu to Job,x 'I am according to thy wish in God's stead.' Hence, Moses being made a god to Pharaoh, implies, not that he should have a right to receive divine honour, but merely that he should, by being God's minister in inflicting the plagues which he designed to bring on Pharaoh and his servants, be rendered formidable to them. Again, when the word 'God' is put absolutely, without any additional character of glory or diminution annexed to it, it must always be understood of the great God; this being that name by which he is generally known in scripture, and which is never otherwise applied, without an intimation given that he is not intended by it. Thus the Father and the Son are described in John 1:1, 'The Word was with God, and the Word was God,' and in many other places of scripture. Hence, if we can prove that our Saviour is called God in scripture, without any thing in the context tending to detract from the most known sense of the word, we shall furnish sufficient evidence of his proper deity. We shall find, however, that he is not only called God, but that there are some additional glories annexed to that name, by which his deity will more abundantly appear.
As to the word 'Lord,' though it is often applied to creatures, and is given to superiors by their subjects or servants, yet it also is sufficiently distinguished when applied to a divine person, and when applied to creatures. Now, if we can prove that our Saviour is called 'Lord' and 'God' in the supreme sense, the names will sufficiently evince his proper deity. In order to this, we shall consider several scriptures in which he is so called; and in which also several characters of glory, and divine honours are ascribed to him, which are due to none but a divine Person, and which abundantly determine the sense of the words as applied to him.
He is called 'Lord' in Psal. 110:1, 'The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.' That our Saviour, the Messiah, is the Person whom David calls his Lord, is very evident from the words being quoted and applied to him in the New Testament. It is evident also from a passage in our Saviour's history, that, by calling him Lord, David ascribes divine honour to him. When the question was put to the Pharisees, If Christ were David's Lord, how could he be his Son? they might easily have replied to it, had it been taken in a lower sense; for it is not difficult to suppose that David might have a son descending from him, who might be advanced to the highest honours short of what are divine. But the Pharisees, not understanding how two infinitely distant natures could be united in one person, so that he should be called David's Son, and yet his Lord, in such a sense as proves his deity, they were confounded, and put to silence. But whether they acknowledged him to be a divine Person or not, it is evident that David considers him to be such,—that he considered him to be the Person who, pursuant to God's covenant made with him, was to sit and rule upon his throne, in whom alone it could be said that it should be perpetual, so that of his kingdom there should be no end. And in as much as speaking of the Person whom he calls his Lord, who was to be his Son, he says, 'Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power,' he plainly infers, that he should exert divine power, and consequently evince himself to be a divine Person.
If the word 'Lord' be applied to Christ, as denoting his sovereignty over the church, and his being the Governor of the world, it will be considered under the next head, when we speak concerning those glorious titles and attributes ascribed to him which prove his deity. We shall therefore wave it at present as applied in this sense; and shall only name two or three scriptures, in which he is called 'Lord' in a more glorious sense than when it is applied to any creature. Thus in Rev. 17:14, speaking of the Lamb, which is a character that can be applied to none but him as Mediator, he is called, 'Lord of lords.' In Rev. 1:5, he is called, 'the Prince of the kings of the earth;' and in 1 Cor. 2:8, 'the Lord of glory.' These texts will be more particularly considered, when we speak concerning his glorious titles, as an argument to prove his deity. All that we shall observe at present is, that this is the same character by which God is acknowledged by anti-trinitarians to be described in Deut. 10:17, 'The Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords; a great God, and terrible.' As truly, therefore, as the deity of the Father is proved from this scripture, so truly have we ground to infer the deity of Christ, when he is called Lord, with additional marks of glory.
Christ is often in scripture called 'God,' in a sense in which the name is never applied to a creature. In Psal. 45:6. it is said, 'Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.' Many glorious things are spoken of him in that psalm, which farther prove that he whom it calls 'God' is a divine Person, in the same sense as God the Father is. He is said, in particular, to be 'fairer than the children of men,' that is, infinitely above them. Addressing the church it is also said, 'He is thy Lord, and worship thou him.'b The psalm likewise describes the church's complete blessedness as consisting in her being brought into his palace who is the King of it; and so it denotes him to be the spring and fountain of complete blessedness. It adds that 'his name,' or glory, 'is to be remembered in all generations, and that the people shall praise him for ever and ever.' This glory is ascribed to him who is called 'God;' and many other things are said concerning him, relating to his works, his victories, his triumphs, which are very agreeable to the divine character. It hence evidently appears that the Person spoken of in this psalm, is truly and properly God. The anti-trinitarians, I am aware, will object, that several things are said concerning him in this psalm, which argue his inferiority to the Father. These only prove, however, that the Person spoken of is considered as God-man, Mediator; in which respect he is, in one nature, equal, and, in the other, inferior to him. Were the psalm understood otherwise, one set of expressions contained in it would be inconsistent with and contradictory to another. We shall only add, as an undeniable proof that it is Christ who is here spoken of, and that he is considered as Mediator, that the apostle, speaking of him as Mediator, and describing his divine glory as such, quotes these words of the psalm, 'Unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.'
Another instance of the name 'God' being applied to our Saviour in the sense of deity, occurs in Matt. 1:23, 'Behold a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which, being interpreted, is, God with us.' His incarnation, as is plain from the words, is what gives occasion to his being described by the name or character, 'God with us.' This title imports the same thing as the phrase which occurs in John 1:14, 'The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.' This cannot be applied to any but Christ. To say that the Father is called Emmanuel, is such a strain upon the sense of the text as no impartial reader will allow of. It is obviously a name given to the Son upon the great occasion of his incarnation; and it intimates as glorious a display of his deity, as the text in Exodus does of the deity of the Father, if we suppose it to apply to him, 'I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God.'
Again, Christ's deity is proved from his being styled 'God, manifest in the flesh.' These words imply that the second Person in the Godhead was united to our nature; for neither the Father nor the Holy Ghost were ever said to be manifested in the flesh. Besides, he is, in the context, distinguished from the Spirit, as justified by him. Nor is he called 'God,' on account of his incarnation, as some Socinian writers suppose; for to become incarnate supposes the pre-existence of that nature to which the human nature was united. Accordingly, the incarnation is elsewhere called assuming, or taking flesh; as it is here called, being manifested in it. Christ, therefore, was God before the act of incarnation. And there is certainly nothing in the text which determines the word 'God' to be taken in a less proper sense, than when it is applied to the Father. It is objected, however, that the word 'God' is not found in all the manuscripts of the Greek text, nor in some translations, particularly the Syriac, Arabic, and vulgar Latin, which render the passage, 'the mystery which was manifest in the flesh,' &c. But it is not pretended that the word is left out in more than two Greek copies; and it is very unreasonable to oppose these to all the rest. As to the Syriac and Arabic translations, some suppose that it is not true in fact that the word 'God' is left out in the Arabic; and though the Syriac leaves it out, it retains it in the sense, which is, 'great is the mystery of godliness that he was manifested in the flesh.' As to the vulgar Latin version, it has not credit enough, especially among protestants, to stand in competition with so many copies of scripture in which the word is found. We can by no means, therefore, give up the argument which is taken from this text to prove our Saviour's deity. Besides, we might appeal to the very words of the text itself, from which it plainly appears, that if the word 'God' be left out, the following part of the verse will not be so consistent with 'a mystery' as it is with 'our Saviour.' It is a very great impropriety of expression to say that 'a mystery,' or as some Socinian writers explain it, 'the will of God,'f was manifest in the flesh, and received in a glorious manner. Such an idea is not agreeable to the sense of the Greek words; for it is plain that the phrase εν σαρκι εφανερωθη, which we justly render 'was manifest in the flesh,' is never used in scripture to signify, as the Socinians understand it, the preaching of the gospel by weak mortal men. On the other hand, it is often used to denote the manifestation of our Saviour in his incarnation; and it is explained in John 1:14, where it is said that he was 'made flesh, and we beheld his glory,' As for the gospel, though it met with reception when preached to the Gentiles, and there were many circumstances of glory which attended the dispensation of it, yet it could not be said for that reason to be received up into glory. Now, since what is said in this verse agrees to our Saviour, and not to the mystery of godliness, we are bound to conclude that he is God manifest in the flesh, and that the objection of the Anti-trinitarians is of no force.
The next scripture which we shall consider is Acts 20:28, 'Feed the church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood.' He who is here spoken of is said to have an ownership in the church. This no mere creature can be said to have. Our Saviour is not only here but elsewhere described as having it. Thus it is said, 'He was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, in as much as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house; and he that built all things is God.' This is as though the apostle had said, 'Our Lord Jesus Christ hath built not only his church but all things, and therefore must be God.' Again, he is called 'a Son over his own house;'i so that he is the purchaser, the builder, and the proprietor of his church, and therefore must be a divine person. Then, in the passage under consideration, it is observed, that he who hath purchased this church is God, and that God hath done this with his own blood. Now this cannot be applied to any but the Mediator, the Son of God, whose deity it plainly proves.—Some object against this sense of the text, that the word 'God' is here referred to the Father; and so the sense is, 'Feed the church of God,' that is, of the Father, 'which He,' that is, Christ, 'hath purchased with his own blood.' This seems, however, a very great strain and force upon the grammatical sense of the words; for certainly 'He' must refer to the immediate antecedent, and that is 'God,' to wit, the Son. If such a method of expounding scripture were to be allowed, it would be an easy matter to make the word of God speak anything we please. We must therefore take the passage in the most plain and obvious sense; and then it appears that God the Son has purchased the church with his own blood, and that he has a right to the church.—But it is objected, again, that God the Father is said to have purchased the church by the blood of Christ; which is called his blood, as he is the Proprietor of all things. But though God is the Proprietor of all things, no one who does not labour very hard to maintain the cause he is defending, would understand 'his blood' in this sense. According to this method of speaking, God the Father might be said to have done every thing that the Mediator did, and so to have shed his blood upon the cross, as well as to have purchased the church by it.
The next scripture we shall notice as proving our Saviour's deity by applying to him the name 'God,' is Rom. 9:5, 'Of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever.' Here he is not only called 'God,' but 'God blessed for ever.' This is a character too high for any creature; and is the very same that elsewhere is given to the Father, who is styled, 'The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore,' that is, not only the object of worship, but the fountain of blessedness. Now, if Christ be so called, as it seems evident that he is, then the word 'God' is, in this text, applied to him in the highest sense, so as to argue him a divine Person. That the text does apply it to our Saviour, is plain; because he is the subject of the proposition which it contains, and is considered as being 'of the fathers concerning the flesh,' that is, with respect to his human nature. It is objected, however, that the words may be rendered thus: 'Let God,' namely, the Father, 'who is over all, be blessed for ever,' that is, for the great privilege that Christ should come in the flesh. In defence of our translation, it may be remarked, that it is very agreeable to the grammatical construction of the words. Erasmus, it is true, defends the other sense of the text, and so gives countenance to many after him, to make use of it against our argument; and that sense, he says, may be plainly proved from many other scriptures. It is very strange that, with one hand, he should build up, and, with the other, overthrow Christ's proper deity. Shall we attribute this to that affectation which he had to appear singular, and, in many things, to run counter to the common sense of mankind; or to the favourable thoughts which he appears to have had, in some instances, of the Arian scheme? Most of the ancient versions render this text in the sense of our translation. Most of the ancient Fathers also do so, as a late writer observes,l in their defence of the doctrine of the Trinity. It is certain, too, that the sense given by the Anti-trinitarians, is so apparently forced and strained, that some of the Socinians themselves, whose interest it was to have adopted it, have not thought fit to insist on it. A learned writer, who has appeared in the Anti-trinitarian cause, and who certainly would have defended his sense of the text better than he does had it been defensible, seems to argue below himself, when he attempts to give a turn to it agreeable to his own scheme: "It is uncertain," he alleges, "whether the word 'God' was originally in the text; and if it was, whether it be not spoken of the Father." To say no more than this, is not to defend the Anti-trinitarian sense of the text; for if there were any doubt whether the word 'God' was left out of any ancient manuscripts, he would have obliged the world had he referred to them. This neither he, nor, I think, any one else has done. As to his supposing it uncertain whether the name be not there applied to the Father, he ought to have proved and not suggested this. We might observe, in defence of our translation, that whenever the words are so used in the New Testament that they may be translated, 'Blessed be God,' they are disposed in a different form, or order, from that in which they occur here. But though this is a probable argument, we shall not insist on it, but shall rather prove our translation to be just, from the connection of the words with what goes immediately before. There the apostle had been speaking of our Saviour, as descending from the fathers, according to the flesh; or he had been considering him as to his human nature. It is hence very reasonable to suppose that he would speak of him as to his divine nature. Both natures are spoken of together, in John 1:14. and elsewhere; and why they should not be so spoken of here, cannot well be accounted for. [See Note 2 Q, page 251.] Hence if our translation be only supposed to be equally just with that of the Anti-trinitarians—and I think none pretend to deny that it is—the connection of the parts of the proposition laid down in the passage determines the sense in our favour.
Here I cannot pass over that proof which we have of our Saviour's divinity, in 1 John 5:20, 'This is the true God, and eternal life.' In this passage 'the true God' is opposed to those idols which, in the following verse, the apostle advises believers to 'keep themselves from.' In this sense the Anti-trinitarians themselves sometimes call Christ the true God; that is to say, he is not an idol. On this account, a learned writer observes, that they deal with him as Judas did, when he cried, 'Hail Master,' and then betrayed him. They would be thought to ascribe every thing to him but proper deity. That this belongs to him, however, will evidently appear, if we can prove that these words are spoken of him. The learned author of the scripture-doctrine of the Trinity,p indeed, takes a great deal of pains to prove that it is the Father who is here spoken of; and his exposition of the former part of the text, which does not immediately support his cause, seems very just: 'The Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true,' namely, the Father, 'and we are in him that is true,' speaking still of the Father, 'by or through his Son Jesus Christ.' But, I humbly conceive, he does not acquit himself so well in the sense he gives of the following words, on which the whole stress of the argument depends. He takes for granted, that the word οὑτος, 'this,' refers back, not, as is most natural and usual, to the last word in order, but to the last and principal in sense, namely, 'the Father.' This is, at least, doubtful. Any unprejudiced reader, who hath not a cause to maintain which obliges him to understand it so, would refer it to the immediate antecedent, namely, 'the Son,' by whom we have an interest in the Father. When the apostle had been speaking of him as Mediator, and, as such, as the Author of the great privilege of our knowing the Father and being in him, it seems very agreeable to describe him as a Person every way qualified for this work, and consequently as being the true God. Besides, the apostle had, in the beginning of the verse, spoken of the Father as 'him that is true,' or, as some manuscripts have it, 'him that is the true God,' as the same author observes. What reason, theta, can we assign why this should be repeated,—why the apostle should be supposed to say, 'We know the Father, who is the true God, and he is the true God?' This certainly, to say the best of it, does not run so smooth as when we apply the latter clause to our Saviour. The author referred to attempts, indeed, to remove the impropriety of the expression, by giving an uncommon sense of the words, namely, 'This knowledge of God is the true religion, and the way to eternal life;' or, 'This is the true worship of God by his Son unto eternal life.' But though this is a truth, it can hardly be supposed to comport with the grammatical sense of the words. Why should 'the true God' be taken in a proper sense in one part of the verse, and a figurative sense in the other? If, too, we take such liberty of supposing ellipses in texts, and supplying them with words which make to our own purpose, it would be no difficult matter to prove almost any doctrine from scripture. The plain sense of the text is, that the words designate our Saviour as the true God; and it is as evident a proof of his deity, as when the Father is called, 'the true God,' or 'the only true God.' The Father is called so in John 17:3; yet he is not, as so designated, to be considered as the only Person who is God in the most proper sense, but as having the one divine nature. In this sense the word 'God' is always taken, when God is said to be one. Moreover, let it be observed, that he who, in the passage under consideration, is called the true God, is styled, 'life eternal.' This, I humbly conceive, the Father never is called; though, in one of the foregoing verses, he is said to 'give us eternal life.' On the other hand, not only is it said concerning our Saviour, that 'in him was life,' but he says, 'I am the life,'r and it is said, 'The life was manifested, and we have seen it,' or him, 'and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father,' προς τον πατερα. This is an explanation of his own words, προς τον Θεον, 'with God:' it is also an explanation of what the apostle had said elsewhere, The word of Life, or the Person who calls himself the life, 'was manifested unto us.' This seems to be a peculiar phrase, used by this apostle, whereby he sets forth our Saviour's glory under this character. He calls him 'Life,' or 'Eternal life;' and he that is so, is the same Person who is called 'the true God.' The character of being 'true,' is often applied to Christ, by the same inspired writer; it is applied by him more than by any other, as appears from several scriptures.x And though, indeed, it refers to him, as Mediator, as does also the name, 'Eternal life,' it agrees very well with his proper deity. We cannot but think, therefore, that our Lord's true deity is plainly evinced by this text.
There is another scripture which speaks of Christ, not only as God, but with some other divine characters of glory added to this name, which prove his proper deity. In Isa. 9:6, he is styled, 'the mighty God;' and several other glorious titles are given to him, as 'the Wonderful, Counsellor, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace.' These are all applied to him, as one whose incarnation was foretold, 'To us a child is born,' &c. He is farther described as a person who was to be the Governor of his church; for it is said, 'the government shall be upon his shoulder.' All these expressions so exactly agree with his character as God-man, Mediator, that they contain an evident proof of his proper deity. They, however, who deny our Saviour's deity, object, that the words ought to be otherwise translated, 'the wonderful Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, shall call him, the Prince of peace.' We have before observed, in defence of our translation of another text, that the Hebrew word which we translate, 'he shall be called,' which is the same with that used in this text, does not fully appear to have an active signification, and that such transpositions as are, both there and here, made use of by the Anti-trinitarians, are not agreeable to that language. Our sense of the text is so plain and natural, that any one who reads it impartially, without forcing it to speak what they would have it, would understand it in the sense in which we translate it; and it then contains a very evident proof of our Saviour's divinity.
There is another scripture which speaks of Christ, not only as God, but as 'the great God:' 'Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour, Jesus Christ.' None ever denied that he, who is said 'to appear,' is true and proper God; and the principal thing we have to prove is, that the text refers only to our Saviour, or that the apostle does not speak of two persons, the Father and the Son, but only of the Son. Though we often take occasion to vindicate our translation, we cannot but think that here it ought to be corrected. The word 'and,' should be rendered 'even.' But as I would not lay too great stress on a grammatical criticism, how probable soever it may be, we may consider some other things in the text, such as are agreeable to his character as Mediator, by which it appears that our Saviour is the only person spoken of in it, from what is said of him. The apostle speaks of his 'appearing.' Elsewhere, he speaks of the same thing, 'He shall appear the second time without sin unto salvation.'b The apostle John also says, 'When he shall appear, we shall be like him,' &c. Then he who is said to appear, is called 'the blessed hope,' that is, the object of his people's expectation,—who shall be blessed by him when he appears. In the same way, he is elsewhere called 'our hope,'d and 'the hope of glory.' Now, we do not find that the Father is described in scripture as appearing, or as the hope of his people. A late writer,f it is true, gives that turn to the text: he supposes that, as the Father is said to judge the world by Jesus Christ, and as when the Son shall come at last, it will be in the glory of his Father; so the Father may be said to appear by him, as the brightness of his glory shines forth in his appearance. But such a mode of interpretation is not used with other scriptures of a similar character, which speak of every eye seeing him in his human nature, and which plainly refer to some glories that shall be put upon that nature as the object of sense. Why, then, should we say that the text imports only that the Father shall appear, in his appearing? This is such a strain upon the sense of the words, as they who make use of it would not allow of in other cases. I might have added, as a farther confirmation of the sense we have given of this text, that it agrees with what the apostle says in his epistle to Titus. There he calls the gospel, 'The doctrine of God our Saviour,' and, having described him as our Saviour, he proceeds to show wherein he was so,—namely, 'by giving himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity.'h Christ is also called 'God our Saviour,' in 2 Pet. 1:1, where the church is said 'to have obtained like precious faith, through the righteousness of God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ;' or, as the marginal reading has it, 'of our God and Saviour.' This seems to be so just a reading of the text we are considering, that some, on the other side of the question, allow that the words will very well bear it. They think, however, as the author but now mentioned says, that their view of it agrees with the whole tenor of scripture. This is little other than a boast, as though the scripture favoured their scheme of doctrine; but whether it does or not, they who consider the arguments on both sides may judge. We think we have as much reason to conclude that our sense of the words, which establishes the doctrine of our Saviour's being the great God, is agreeable to the whole tenor of scripture. We proceed, however, to another argument.
There is one scripture in which our Saviour is called both 'Lord' and 'God:' 'And Thomas answered and said unto him, 'My Lord and my God.' The manner of address to our Saviour, in these words, implies an act of adoration, given to him by this disciple, upon his having received a conviction of his resurrection from the dead. There is nothing in the text but what imports his right to the same glory which belongs to the Father, when he is called his people's God. Herein they lay claim to him as their covenant God, their chief good and happiness. Thus David says, 'I trusted in thee, O Lord; I said, Thou art my God;' and God promises that 'he would say to them which were not his people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God;l 'Israel shall cry unto me, My God, we know thee;' and the apostle Paul, speaking of the Father, says, 'My God shall supply all your need,'n &c.; that is, the God from whom I have all supplies of grace, the God whom I worship, to whom I owe all I have or hope for, who is the Fountain of blessedness. Now, if there be nothing in the text we are considering which determines the words to be taken in a lower sense, as there does not appear to be, we are bound to conclude, that Christ's deity is fully proved from it. But some of the Socinians suppose that the words, 'My Lord, and my God,' are a form of exclamation, or admiration,—that Thomas was surprised when he became convinced that our Saviour was risen from the dead, and so cried out, as one in a rapture, 'O my Lord! O my God!' intending hereby the Father, to whose power alone this event was owing. But such exclamations, though often used in common conversation, and sometimes without that due regard to the divine Majesty which ought to attend them, are net agreeable to the scripture way of speaking. Even, however, if any scriptures could be produced to justify it, it is sufficiently evident that no such exclamation is contained in these words. Not only will the grammatical construction not admit of it, but the words are brought in as a reply to what Christ had spoken: 'Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord,' &c. Now, it is very absurd to suppose that an exclamation contains the form of a reply. The words must therefore be understood as an explicit acknowledgment of Christ as his Lord and his God. The objection represents the words so contrary to the known acceptation of them, that many of the Socinians themselves, and other late writers who oppose our Saviour's proper deity, do not think fit to insist on it, but have recourse to some other methods to account for those difficulties which lie in their way in this and other texts where Christ is plainly called God, as in John 1:1, and many other places in the New Testament.
Here we may take occasion to consider the method which the Anti-trinitarians use to interpret those scriptures in which Christ is called God. Some have recourse to a critical remark on the word Θεος, 'God,'—namely, that when it has the article ὁ before it, this adds an emphasis to the sense, and determines it to be applied to the Father. And as the word is sometimes applied to him, when there is no article—a fact which, to some, would appear an objection sufficient to invalidate this remark—they add, that it is always to be applied to him, if there be nothing in the text which determines it otherwise. This remark, as Dr. Clark observes, was first made by Origen, and afterwards largely insisted on by Eusebius. Dr. Clark so far agrees with it that, in his opinion, the word θεος, when put absolutely in scripture, is never applied to any other Person. Let us inquire into the justice of the remark. By the word 'God' being absolutely taken, whether Θεος have an article before it or not, we understand simply being used without any thing to determine its application, either to the Father, Son, or Holy Ghost. On the other hand, when it is not absolutely used, there are several things, by which we may certainly know to which of the divine Persons it belongs. Thus it is particularly-applied to the Father, when there is something in the text that distinguishes him from the Son or Spirit. So, 'Ye believe in God,' namely, the Father, 'believe also in me.' In all those scriptures in which Christ is called the Son of God, the word 'God' is determined to be applied to the Father. It is so determined also, when God is said to act in relation to Christ as Mediator; as in Heb. 2:13, 'Behold, I and the children which God hath given me.' And the word 'God' is determined to be applied to the Son, when he is particularly mentioned, or called 'the Son,' or described by any of his mediatorial works or characters, as the phrases, 'God,' that is, the Son, 'with us,' and 'God manifest in the flesh;'s or when there is any thing in the context which discovers that the word 'God' is to be applied to him. With respect to the Holy Ghost, when any of his personal works or characters are mentioned in connection with the word 'God,' these determine the name to belong to him. Thus, speaking concerning lying to the Holy Ghost, it is said, 'Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.' Again, it is said, 'Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?'u We shall say more of this, however, when we speak of the deity of the Holy Ghost. Now in these and similar cases, the word 'God' is not put absolutely. On the other hand, it is put absolutely when there is nothing of the nature which we have specified to determine its application. It is thus put, for example, in those scriptures which speak of the divine Unity, as, 'There is none good but one, that is God;' 'There is none other God but one;'y 'Thou believest that there is one God,' &c.; and 'Thou, being a man, makest thyself God;'a and in many places in which there is an idea expressed of the divine perfections, without intimation as to which of the Persons in the Godhead is intended. This is what we are to understand by the word Θιος, 'God,' being put absolutely, without any regard to its having an article before it or not. It hence appears that nothing certain can be determined concerning the particular application of the word from its having the article. Many scriptures might easily be referred to, in which it is used without an article, though applied to the Father. On the other hand, it has very often an article when applied to the Son, and sometimes when applied to idols, or false gods. The devil also is called, ὁ θεος του αιωνος τουτου, 'the god of this world.' And it may be observed, that in two evangelists, referring to the same thing, and using the same words, one has the word with an article, and the other without.
Setting aside, then, this critical remark about the application of the word 'God,' when there is an article before Θεος, the main thing in controversy is, how we are to apply it, when neither the context, nor any of the rules above-mentioned, give us any direction whether it is to be understood of the Father, or indifferently of any of the Persons in the Godhead. The author above-mentioned, in his Scripture-doctrine of the Trinity, always applies it to the Father; and it may easily be perceived, that he has no other reason than its being used absolutely to apply many scriptures to the Father, which others, who have defended the doctrine of the Trinity in another way, for reasons contained in the context, applied to the Son.
This is, indeed, the method used by all the Anti-trinitarians, in applying the word 'God.' That which principally actuates them is their taking it for granted, that as there is but one divine Being, so there is but one Person, the Father, who is truly and properly divine. They hence assume that the word 'God' is to be applied to him, when not determined in scripture to signify any finite being, as the Son, or any creature below him. But this supposition, that the one divine Being is a Person, that this is only the Father, and that he is supreme or most high God, as compared with the Son and Spirit, as well as with all creatures, is not sufficiently proved. We cannot allow of it, and therefore cannot see sufficient reason to conclude that the word 'God,' when put absolutely, is to be applied to no other than the Father. That which I would humbly offer regarding this word when thus found in scripture, is, that when the Holy Ghost has left it undetermined, our safest way is to consider it as such, and to apply it indifferently to the Father, Son, or Spirit, and not to one Person, exclusive of the others. Thus, when it is said, 'The Lord our God is one Lord;' and 'there is one God, and there is none other but he,'f the meaning is, that there is but one divine Being, who is called God as opposed to the creature, or to all who are not God by nature. Hence, when in the first of these texts, the unity of the Godhead is asserted, and Israel are exhorted to 'serve him,' they are, at the same time, forbidden to 'go after other gods.' And when it is said, that 'to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, is more than all burnt-offerings and sacrifices,'i the words imply that religious worship was performed to God. But it is certain that this was performed to all the Persons in the Godhead; and hence none of them are excluded, in the assertion which follows, 'There is one God, and there is none other but he.' Though Dr. Clark concludes Athanasius, from his unguarded way of speaking, in some other instances, to be of his side; yet, in the very place which he refers to, Athanasius expressly says, that when the scripture saith the Father is the only God, and 'there is one God,' and 'I am the First and the Last,' this does not destroy the divinity of the Son, for he is that one God, and first and only God, &c., and so is the Holy Ghost. Again, when it is said, 'There is none good but one, that is God,'l the words imply that the divine nature, which is predicated of all the persons in the Godhead, hath those perfections that are essential to it, and particularly that goodness by which God is denominated all-sufficient. So when it is said, 'Known unto God are all his works,' where the word 'God' is absolute, and not, in a determinate sense, applied to either Father, Son, or Spirit, the meaning is, that, as is expressly declared also in other scriptures, all the Persons in the Godhead created all things, and that, as the consequence of this, they have a right to all things, which are known unto them.
It will probably be objected, that we appear to speak of four divine Persons,—that, in addition to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, we speak of the Godhead, which is common to them all, and which we call 'God,' a word which, in other instances, denotes a personal character; and, if so, it will follow, that we are chargeable with a contradiction in terms, when we say that there are three Persons in the Godhead, namely in one Person. To this it may be replied, that though the divine nature, which is common to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is, when called 'God,' represented in scripture, as though it were a Person; yet it is then, in the sense of a person, to be understood only metaphorically. The Father, Son, and Spirit, on the other hand, as has been before considered, are called divine persons properly, or without a metaphor. Moreover, the divine nature, though it is called God, is never considered as co-ordinate with, or as distinguished from, the divine persons; as though it were a person in the same sense as they are. Whenever, therefore, it is so called, it must be considered as opposed to the creature; just as 'the one God' is opposed to those who are not God by nature. It may also be remarked, that those divine perfections which are implied in the word 'God,' understood in this sense, are known by the light of nature; while the divine personality, as regards either the Father, Son, or Spirit, is a matter of pure revelation. Hence, all the force of the objection has reference to the sense of a word; and the principal thing in debate is, whether the word 'God,' absolutely and indeterminately considered, is a proper mode of speaking to set forth the divine nature? Now, if the scripture so uses the word, it is not for us to inquire about its propriety or impropriety. We must take heed, however, that we do not pervert or misunderstand the sense of it as they, on the one hand, do, who speak of the Godhead, when called 'God,' as though it were distinct from the Father, Son, and Spirit, and they, on the other, who understand it only of the Father, as opposed to the Son and Spirit. The Anti-trinitarians thus pervert the word, when they so explain the divine unity, and set aside the true deity of the Son and Spirit, as in effect, to maintain that there is but one Person in the Godhead.
Having thus considered the sense in which the Anti-trinitarians understand the word 'God,' when it is taken absolutely in scripture, we proceed to consider in what manner they understand that word when applied to Christ. They suppose that our Saviour is called God, in the New Testament, by a divine warrant, as a peculiar honour put upon him. Here, they think it not difficult to prove, that a creature may have a right conferred on him to receive divine honour. This, if they were able to prove it, would tend more to weaken our cause, and establish their own, than any thing they have hitherto advanced. We shall have occasion to expose it when we come to prove the deity of the Son, from his having a right to divine worship. We shall therefore pass it over at present; and consider them as intending by the word 'God,' when applied to our Saviour, nothing more than what imports an honour infinitely below that which belongs to the Father. This they suppose to have been conferred upon him, on some occasions, relating to the work for which he came into the world. The Socinians, in particular, speak of his being called God, or the Son of God, on account of his having been 'sanctified,' and 'sent into the world,' that is, to redeem it, in that peculiar and low sense in which they understand the word 'redemption.' Of this we shall say more hereafter. They also speak of his being called God, or the Son of God, on account of his extraordinary conception and birth, by the power of the Holy Ghost; and they appeal, for this view of the matter, to the words: 'The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing, which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God.'p Another reason of his having this honour conferred upon him, they take from his resurrection; they found this on the saying, that he was 'declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead.' Another reason they take from his ascension into heaven, or being glorified; at which time they suppose that he was made an high-priest, and had, in an eminent degree, the name and character of God conferred upon him. For this they refer to the words: 'Christ glorified not himself to be made an high-priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to-day have I begotten thee.'r Now they obviously pervert the sense of these texts to which they appeal. They suppose that Christ's mission, incarnation, resurrection, and ascension, are the principal reasons of his being called God,—that his deity is founded, not in the excellency of his nature, but in these relative circumstances,—and that it was an honour which was conferred upon him, by an act of grace, and which God, had he pleased, might have conferred on any other creature, capable of yielding obedience to him, or receiving a similar commission. In reality, however, these scriptures refer to that glory which he had as Mediator, and which are a demonstration of his deity; and the honours they ascribe to him were agreeable to his character as a divine Person, but did not, as they suppose, constitute him God. These things, however, are not so particularly insisted on by some late Anti-trinitarians. They all, indeed, agree in this, that his right to divine honour is the result of that authority which he has received from God, to perform the works ascribed to him relating to the good of mankind. Yet we cannot but conclude, from the scriptures formerly brought to prove his proper deity, in which he is called 'Lord' and 'God,' in as strong a sense as when those words are applied to the Father, that he is God equal with the Father.
Having thus considered our Saviour's proper deity, as evinced from his being called 'Lord' and 'God,' and also, that these names are given to him in a sense which denotes Godhead, as much as when they are applied to the Father; we shall close this head, by considering two scriptures in which the divine nature is ascribed to him. The first of these is Coloss. 2:9, 'In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.' Here it is not said merely that God dwelleth in him. This would not so evidently have proved his deity; because God is elsewhere said to dwell in others. Thus, it is said, 'God dwelleth in us.' But here it is said, 'the Godhead dwelleth in him,'—language which is never applied to any creature. The expression is very emphatical, 'The fulness,' yea, 'all the fulness of the Godhead, dwelleth in him.' What can we understand by these words, but that all the perfections of the divine nature belong to him? The apostle had been speaking of 'the mystery of Christ,'t as what the church was to know and acknowledge, as well as that of the Father. He also considers him as the Fountain of wisdom, 'In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.' And what is here spoken concerning him, very well corresponds with these other views of his character, as being expressive of his divine glory. The fulness of the Godhead is said, indeed, to 'dwell in him bodily;' by which we are to understand his human nature, as the body is, in some other scriptures, taken for the man. Thus, we are exhorted to 'present our bodies,' that is, ourselves, 'a living sacrifice to God.' So here the divine nature, as subsisting in him, is said to dwell in his human nature, that is, to have the human nature united to it. This is meant by its 'dwelling in him bodily.' The account which some give of the sense of this text, to evade the force of the argument taken from it to prove our Saviour's deity, does little more than show how hard the Anti-trinitarians are pressed to maintain their ground. They say that the word Θεοτης, which we render 'Godhead,' signifies some extraordinary gifts conferred upon him,—especially such as tended to qualify him to discover the mind and will of God; or, at least, that nothing else is intended but that authority which he had from God, to do the work which he came into the world to perform. But it is certain, that this falls infinitely short of what is intended by the word 'Godhead.' That word must signify the divine nature, subsisting in him who assumed, or was made, flesh; and so dwelling in that flesh, as in a temple.
There is another scripture, which seems to attribute to him the divine nature, namely, that in which it is said, that 'he was in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God.' By 'the form of God,' I humbly conceive, we are to understand the divine nature. It was, therefore, no instance of robbery in him to assert, that he was equal with God. If this sense of the text can be defended, it will evidently prove his proper deity; for it is never said, concerning any creature, that he is in the form of God, or, as the words may be rendered, that he subsisted in the form of God. It is well known, that the word which we render 'form,' is used not only by the schoolmen, but by others before their time, to signify the nature, or essential properties, of that to which it is applied. This sense of the word was well known in the apostle's days. Why then may we not suppose, that the Holy Ghost, in scripture, may once, at least, use a word which would be so understood? It will farther appear that Christ's deity is signified by it, if the following words are to be understood in the sense expressed in our translation, 'He thought it not robbery to be equal with God.' The word, ἡγησατο, 'he thought,' is taken in the same sense in the third verse of this chapter: 'Let every man esteem,' or think, 'others better than themselves;' and it is used about twenty times in the New Testament, five times in this epistle, besides in this text, and never understood otherwise than as signifying 'to think,' 'esteem,' or 'account.' The sense of the respective texts where it is used, would be destroyed if it were understood otherwise. This the Anti-trinitarians themselves will not deny, in as much as it does not affect their cause. Yet they determine that it must be otherwise translated in this text; and so they render the words, ουχ ἁρπαγμον ἡγησατο το ειναι ισα Θεῳ, 'he did not covet to be honoured,' or was not greedy, or in haste of being honoured, 'as God,'—that is, he did not affect to appear like a divine Person, or catch at those divine honours that did not belong to him. Could this sense of the text be made out to be just, it would effectually overthrow our argument, founded on it, to prove Christ's proper deity. It is as foreign, however, from the sense of the words, as any sense that could be put upon them; and all that is pretended to justify it, is a reference which they make to a phrase, or two, used in a Greek writer, which is not at all to their purpose.a Moreover, the sense of this text, as agreeable to the words of our translation, will farther appear, if we consider that our Saviour's being 'in the form of God,' is there opposed to his having afterwards been 'in the form of a servant,' or 'in the fashion of a man.' If the latter is to be understood of his being truly and properly man, and not to be understood as merely something in him which resembled the human nature,—or if his 'taking on him the form of a servant,' imports his being in a capacity to perform that obedience which was due from him, as man to God, in a proper, and not a theatrical sense,—then it follows, that his being in the form of God, as opposed to this, must be understood to mean his being truly and properly God, or his having the divine nature. I might here consider the sense which Dr. Whitby, in his Annotations, after having given up the sense of the words, as in our translation, to the adversary, gives of our Saviour's being 'in the form of God,' as opposed to that of a servant. It is, that his being in the form of God, implies his appearing, before his incarnation, in a bright shining cloud, or light, or in a flame of fire, or with the attendance of an host of angels, as he is sometimes said to have done. This appearance the Jews call 'Shechinah,' or the divine Majesty, as being a visible emblem of his presence. This Dr. Whitby calls 'the form of God;' and he calls the absence of it in our Lord's incarnate state in this lower world, 'the form of a servant.' He adds, that when he ascended into heaven, he re-assumed the form of God; and therefore whenever he has occasionally appeared, as to the martyr Stephen at his death, or to the apostle Paul at his first conversion, it has been in that form, or with like emblems of majesty and divinity, as before his incarnation. Now what he says of Christ's appearing with emblems of majesty and glory before his incarnation, and the glory that was put upon his human nature after his ascension into heaven, is a great truth. But this is never styled, in scripture, 'the form of God;' nor is the symbol of the divine glory, however denominated by Jewish writers, ever called in scripture 'the divine majesty.' Dr. Whitby's interpretation, therefore, has no reference to the sense of this text; nor does it in the least enervate the force of the argument, taken from it, to prove our Saviour's proper deity, just as his critical remark on the words does not affect the sense of our translation. I might also observe the sense which another learned writer gives of 'the form of God' in this text; which is the same that is given by several of the Socinians,—namely, that it has a relation to his working miracles while upon earth. This is certainly very disagreeable to the scope and design of the text; for he is said to have been 'in the form of God' before he took upon him the form of a servant, that is, before his incarnation. Besides, the working of miracles never was deemed sufficient to designate a Person to be in the form of God; for if it had, many others, both before and after him, might have been so designated. To be 'in the form of God,' however, is a glory appropriate to him who 'thought it not robbery to be equal with God.'
I would not wholly pass over that which some call a controverted text of scripture, 'For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one,' lest it should be thought that I conclude the arguments brought by the Anti-trinitarians sufficiently conclusive to prove it spurious. I shall, however, say little respecting it, because it is a very hard matter to advance any thing that has not been very largely insisted on by various writers. Among these, I cannot but mention, with great esteem, one who has defended the scripture-doctrine of the Trinity with a great deal of learning and judgment, and who has given a particular account of several that have written on either side of the question. No one pretends to deny that this text is not to be found in a great number of manuscripts, among which some are generally allowed to be of great antiquity. It is hence the less to be wondered at, that it is left out in some ancient versions, which were taken from copies that were destitute of it; for the fact proves only that the text has been corrupted. The main question is, Which copies are to be reckoned genuine,—those which have it, or those which have it not? It must be allowed, that there is a considerable number in which the text is inserted, as Beza and others observe; and it will be a hard matter to prove that these are all spurious,—which must be done, before we shall be obliged to expunge it from scripture. If it be objected, that the manuscripts which have the text are not so ancient as those that are without it, it will be a difficult matter for the objectors to determine the antiquity of them with such exactness as, by comparing one with another, to demonstrate which has the preference, and by what a number of years. Besides, it is certain that more manuscripts of scripture by far are lost, than are now known to exist in the world; unless we suppose that religion, in ancient times, was contracted into a very narrow compass, or that very few, in the first ages of the church, had copies of scripture by them, which is not to be supposed. It will hence be hard to prove that those manuscripts which have the text, did not take it from some others which were in being before them. The genuineness or spuriousness of the text, therefore, is not to be determined only, or principally, by inspection of ancient manuscripts. Nor can I think it very material to offer conjectures concerning the manner how the text came first to be corrupted. Dr. Hammond and others suppose that, in consequence of the repetition of the words in the following verse, 'There are three that bear record,' some one who transcribed the epistle might have left out the text by mistake. It is, indeed, a hard thing to trace to its origin every mistake made by a transcriber. This, however, must be concluded, that it was possible for it to be left out through inadvertency; and that it could not have been put in without a notorious fraud. No one, likewise, would have attempted to do the latter, unless some end, which he thought valuable, were to be answered. As to maintaining the doctrine of the Trinity by making such an interpolation, I will not say that every one who ever defended it had honesty enough to abhor so vile an act; but this I am bound to say, that if any one made the interpolation, he was guilty, not only of fraud, but, at the same time, of folly; for the divinity of the Son and Spirit, as well as of the Father, is maintained throughout the whole scripture, and the principal thing asserted in this text concerning the Son—that he is one with the Father—is expressly laid down in his own words, 'I and my Father are one.'e I know the Arians take occasion to censure the defenders of the doctrine of the Trinity, as if they had been guilty of this fraud; though Father Simon is a little more sparing of his reflections on them. Even he, however, maintains, that some person or other, in the margin of a copy which he had by him, which he supposes to have been about five hundred years old, had affixed the words in question to the eighth verse as an explanation of it, intimating that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are intended by 'the Spirit, water, and blood;' and he hence concludes, that the next person who transcribed from this manuscript, mistook the note for a part of the text, and so inserted the seventh verse. This Le Clerc calls setting the matter in a clear light; for some persons are ready to believe that which supports their own cause, how feebly soever it may be maintained. We might easily reply, that this text was known in the world long before Father Simon's manuscript was written, and consequently that it did not take its rise in the manner he conjectures. To produce a single instance of the nature of the one he mentions, is, I humbly conceive, nothing to the purpose.g
But, passing by what respects manuscripts, there is more stress to be laid on the writings of those who have referred to this text. Now it is certain, that it was often quoted in defence of the doctrine of the Trinity, by ancient writers, in the fifth and following centuries; and it must therefore have been found in the manuscripts that they used. It is not quoted indeed by the Fathers who wrote in the fourth century, namely, Athanasius, Cyril, Gregory Nazianzen, Chrysostom, Augustin, and some others. Nothing, however, can be inferred from this, but that it was not in the copies they made use of. Yet it does not follow that it was in no copy at the time when they wrote; for if we look back to the third century, we find it expressly referred to by Cyprian,—a fact on which I cannot but lay a very great stress. He has it in two places: in the former he incidentally mentions the words, 'These three are one;' and, in the latter he expressly quotes the text, and says, It is written of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, that these three are one.' This evidently proves, that he found it in some manuscript extant in his time; which was before any manuscript, now in being, is pretended to have been written,—for even the Alexandrian manuscript is, I think, supposed by none to be of greater antiquity than the fourth century. The text's having been seen by Cyprian seems to me to be of greater force than any thing that is suggested, concerning its not being found in manuscripts of later date. Cyprian too does not speak of it as a certain manuscript, which was reserved, as a treasure, in some private library,—a situation in which it might be adulterated; nor does he pretend to prove the authority of it, or to make formal use of it, to establish the genuineness of the text; but he quotes the text, as we do any other place of scripture, supposing it generally acknowledged to be contained in it. And Cyprian was reckoned a man of the greatest integrity, as well as piety; and so would not refer to any text, as a part of the sacred writings, which was not so. It is objected, by the Anti-trinitarians, that he quotes, not the text in question, but the eighth verse, and that he does this, not in the words of the verse, but in a mystical sense,—interpreting 'the Spirit, water, and blood, agreeing in one,' to be the Father, Son, and Spirit, being one. They allege, also, that Facundus, an African bishop, who lived about the middle of the sixth century, quotes it in this way, and puts this sense upon it. It may be replied, however, that Facundus' judgment is no more to be valued, who lived three hundred years after Cyprian, than if he had lived in the present age, and that he had no farther light to understand Cyprian's meaning than we have. We know very well, too, that Cyprian was not so unreasonably fond of mystical interpretations of scripture as Origen and some others of the Fathers were. Yet even they never presumed to quote any mystical sense, which they put on scripture, as being scripture itself, or to say of it, as this Father says of his quotation, 'It is so written.' Much less are we to suppose that Cyprian did this. And whatever Facundus' sense was of his words, another who lived in the same century with him, or a little before him, namely, Fulgentius, refers, (as the learned author above-mentionedi observes,) to this passage of Cyprian, not as a mystical explanation of the eighth verse, but as distinctly contained in the seventh verse, and, as such, makes use of it against the Arians. As for that known passage in Tertullian, in which he says that the union, or connexion, as he calls it, of the Father in the Son, and of the Son in the Comforter, make three joined together, and that these three are one, that is, one divine Being, not one Person, and so refers to our Saviour's words, 'I and the Father are one,' it is a very good explanation of the sense of this text, and discovers that, in that early age of the church, he had a right notion of the doctrine of the Trinity. But whether it be sufficiently evident, that, though defending the doctrine contained in it, he refers to the scripture under consideration, I will not determine. I shall add no more in the defence of the genuineness of this text, [See Note 2 S, page 252.] but rather refer the reader to others who have written professedly on the subject.' I shall simply notice that some Anti-trinitarians have supposed, that if this scripture were genuine, it does not prove the doctrine of the Trinity; alleging that the words ought to be taken as implying, that the Father, Son, and Spirit are one only in testimony. Now though it is an undoubted truth that they agree in testimony; yet this truth does not amount to the sense of the words, 'They are one.' If that had been the principal idea designed to be conveyed by them, no reason can be assigned why the phrase should be different from what it is in the following verse; and it would, doubtless, have been expressed, εις το ἑν εισις, 'They agree in one.'
Proofs of Christ's Deity from his own Statements
We have endeavoured thus to prove our Saviour's proper deity, not only from those scriptures which speak of him as being called 'Lord' and 'God.' but from others which assert him to have the divine nature, or to be equal with God the Father. We shall now proceed to consider some scriptures in which he asserts this concerning himself; or, rather, we shall consider what proofs we have of his deity from his own words. These occur in several conferences which he held with the Jews, when he gave them reason to conclude that he was God equal with the Father,—and when they showed themselves to understand his words in this sense, by opposing him, and charging him with blasphemy. It is often replied, indeed, that nothing can be inferred to prove his deity from their misunderstanding his words and charging him, without ground, with calling himself God. But though we do not lay much stress on what they understood to be the meaning of his words; yet it plainly appears, that he intended them to understand him as they did; and if they misunderstood him, he did not undeceive them,—which certainly he ought to have done, had he not been a divine Person. If any one seems to assume to himself any branch of the glory of God which does not belong to him, though the ambiguity of words, provided they may be taken in two contrary senses, may, in some measure, excuse him from having had such a design, yet if he apprehends that they to whom he directs his discourse are in the least inclined to misunderstand him, he is obliged, from the regard which he has to the divine glory, and the duty which he owes to those with whom he converses, as well as in defence of his own character, to undeceive them. If, therefore, our Saviour had not been equal with God, he would, doubtless, upon the least suspicion which the Jews might entertain that he asserted himself to be so, immediately have undeceived them, and would have told them that they took his words in a wrong sense, that he was far from usurping that glory which belonged to God, and that, had he intended to do so, they might justly have called him a blasphemer. This he would, doubtless, have done, had he, by his words, given them occasion to think him a divine Person if he were not so. When the people at Lystra, upon the apostles Paul and Barnabas having wrought a miracle, concluded that they were gods, with what zeal and earnestness did they undeceive them? It is said that when they perceived they were going to offer sacrifice to them, 'they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, and saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? we also are men of like passions with you.' At another time, when Peter and Johnn had cured the lame man, and when they perceived that the people, though they did not conclude them to be divine persons, were amazed, they became jealous lest some thoughts might arise in their minds that they had a right to that glory which belongs to God alone, or that the miracle was to be ascribed to themselves; and 'when Peter saw that they marvelled, and that the people ran together, he answered, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?' and he accordingly took occasion to show that the glory of the miracle was due to none but God. But our Saviour takes no such method to exculpate himself from this charge of blasphemy. We must therefore suppose that the Jews did not mistake his words, and that he intended that they should understand him to be a divine Person.
Yea, Christ is so far from undeceiving them, if they were deceived, that he rather confirms than denies the sense which they put upon his words. This appears from Matt. 9:2–5. The people brought to him a man sick of the palsy, to whom, when he healed him, he said, 'Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee;' and he perceived that 'certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth,' supposing that 'none had power to forgive sins but God.' The words, it is to be remarked, might have been understood as though he had said, 'Thy sins are forgiven thee,' and as signifying, only in a declarative way, that the man had obtained forgiveness from God; and they might not have been viewed as insinuating that he had power, as a divine Person, to forgive sins. But it is plain, from their charging him with blasphemy, that the Jews understood his words in the latter sense. Yet, instead of rectifying the mistake, if it were one, he asserts that, notwithstanding the meanness of his appearance while in his humbled state on earth, he had power to forgive sins. He not only asserts, but proves this, when he says, 'Whether is it easier to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee? or to say, Arise, and walk?' Many suppose that our Saviour intended in this instance to establish his deity, by asserting his infinite power in working a miracle; and so the meaning of his words was, He that can produce any effect which is above the laws of nature, as miracles are, at least if he does it by his own power, must be God. But this he had done; and so had proved his deity by it, and consequently his right to forgive sins.—It will be objected, however, that as creatures have wrought miracles, which were as truly and properly so as this which Christ wrought, the working of a miracle does not prove the divinity of the person that wrought it, unless we could prove that he did it by his own power, and, in consequence, take for granted that he wrought his miracles by his own power. Some have attempted to prove that he wrought his miracles by his own power, from that scripture in which he says, 'He cast out devils by the finger of God,'p supposing that by this phrase is meant his own divine power. Others take notice of something peculiar to himself, as they suppose, in the way of his working miracles,—that, in his performing them, he spake and acted like a God. But since neither of these arguments will be reckoned conclusive, I would take a method somewhat different to account for this matter; and that is, that our Saviour first tells the man that his sins were forgiven him, knowing beforehand how his saying so would be resented by the scribes, who would take occasion from it to charge him with blasphemy, and then, to convince them that he was a divine Person, and had power to forgive sin, he wrought a miracle, and so bade the man sick of the palsy 'arise and walk.' Now, though miracles do not, from any visible circumstance contained in them, argue the divinity of the person who works them, yet they effectually prove it when it is the thing contested, and an explicit appeal is made to the divine power to confirm it by miracle. In this case, miracles are an undoubted proof of the deity of him who works them; and they prove it as truly as they prove anything relating to the Christian religion. In this sense, I humbly conceive, Christ proved his deity by miracles. Accordingly, he is elsewhere expressly said to have done this. Concerning his first miracle in Cana of Galilee, it is said, that thereby 'he manifested forth his glory, and his disciples believed on him.' Here, by 'his glory,' is doubtless meant his divine glory; for the faith of his disciples, which was consequent on beholding it, was a divine faith. We never read of the glory of Christ, more especially in his humbled state, but it must import the glory of his deity. This his disciples are said, in some measure, to have beheld, when they believed in him. Now, Christ confirmed this by his miracles, in the same way as by means of them he confirmed his mission. By his miracle on the man sick of the palsy, then, he proved his deity, and consequently his right to forgive sin; and, therefore, so far was he from endeavouring to convince the Jews, that they were mistaken in thinking him a divine Person, that he farther inculcated and proved that he was so.
Another conference which our Saviour held with the Jews, is mentioned John 5. There we read, that when he had healed a lame man on the sabbath-day, and when 'the Jews sought to slay him,' as a sabbath-breaker, he said, 'My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.'s On hearing this, they were more enraged, and 'sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.' It is plain that they understood his words, as importing that he was equal with God. Indeed they could not do otherwise; for he compares his works with God's, and speaks of himself as working co-ordinately with him. Certainly our works ought not to be mentioned at the same time with God's; and they therefore suppose that he asserted himself to be a divine Person. They supposed also that he repeated his assertion or persisted in it, by calling God his Father,—language which, as they understood it, denoted an equality with him. They hence charged him with blasphemy, and went about to kill him. Now it is certain, that, if he had not been equal with God, he ought to have undeceived them. This he might easily have done, by telling them, 'Though I call God my Father, I intend nothing hereby but that I worship, reverence, and yield obedience to him;' or 'I am his Son, by a special instance of favour, in such a sense as a creature may be; but far be it from me to give you the least occasion to think that I am equal with God, for that would be to rob him of his glory.' Our Saviour, however, is far from denying his equality with the Father, but rather establishes and proves it in the following verses. In some parts of the context, it is true, he ascribes to himself the weakness of a man; and when he does so, he refers to his human nature, which, as well as his divine, is included in his being the Messiah and Mediator. Thus he says, 'The Son,' that is, as man, 'can do nothing of himself;' and, 'The Father showeth him all things.'x But, in other passages, he proves that he had a divine nature, and farther confirms what he had before asserted, namely, that he was equal with God. 'For as the Father,' says he, 'raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.' Observe, he speaks of himself, as having not only divine power, but divine sovereignty; the former, in that he quickeneth; the latter, in that he does it according to his own will or pleasure. Again, he signifies his expectation that 'all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.'z Further, while he thus lays claim to divine glory, he ascribes to himself the prerogative of raising the whole world, at the general resurrection, and of determining their state, as to either happiness or misery. 'Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation.' We may conclude, therefore, that our Saviour, so far from disclaiming the charge of being equal with God, which they called blasphemy, proves it by additional and more convincing arguments.
Another conference, which he held with the Jews about this matter, we read of in John 8. Taking occasion to speak concerning Abraham, who rejoiced to see his day, he tells them plainly, 'Before Abraham was, I am.' By this he did not intend, as the Arians suppose, that he was the first creature, but that he was equal with God. Indeed, there seems to be something in his mode of speaking which argues his asserting his eternal and unchangeable deity. The phrase used is the same, with a little variation, as that which is elsewhere used to set forth the eternity and immutability of God, 'Before the day was, I am he.'c If the prophet is to be understood, as asserting that God the Father existed before time, 'before the day was,' or the course of nature began, why may we not suppose our Saviour to mean the same thing regarding himself, when he says, 'before Abraham was, I am?' As it will be objected, however, that this is, at best, but a probable argument, though it is such as many of the Fathers have made use of in defending his deity, we will not lay the whole stress of our cause upon it; but may observe, that whatever critical remark others may make on the sense of the words, it is certain the Jews understood them no otherwise than as implying that he thought himself equal with God. Accordingly, it is said, that 'they took up stones to cast at him.' This was a punishment inflicted, under the law, on blasphemers; and ought he not, had they misunderstood his words, to have cleared himself from the imputation, if he had not been equal with God? But he is far from doing this; for it is said, in the following words, that 'he hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.'
There is still another conference, which ho held with the Jews, in which he speaks like a divine Person. This is recorded in the tenth chapter of John. In the fourteenth verse, he says, 'I am the good Shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.' Here he claims to himself the same character which the psalmist ascribes to God, 'The Lord is my Shepherd;' and he also lays claim to his church, whom he calls his sheep, his own sheep. In the eighteenth verse, he speaks of himself as having power over his own life, 'I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.' This is a greater instance of dominion than belongs to a creature, who has not a power to dispose of his own life at pleasure. In the twenty-eighth verse, he ascends yet higher in his expression, and speaks of himself as having power 'to give eternal life' to his people. This certainly is the gift of none but God. And while, in the twenty-ninth verse, he owns himself, as man, to be inferior to his Father, he, notwithstanding, plainly asserts his deity in the verse following, and says, 'I and my Father are one.'—The Anti-trinitarians object, that Christ did not speak of himself as one with the Father, any otherwise than in consent, or, at least, as having power and authority derived from him. But to say that these words, 'I and my Father are one,' imply nothing more than that they are one in consent, does not well agree with the sense of the foregoing words, in which he speaks of the greatness and the power of his Father, and of his being one with him in these. Besides, as to his being one with him only in consent, as implying the subjection of all the powers and faculties of his soul to him, every good man may be said to be one with God. Had he meant that he was one with him only in this sense, the Jews would not have charged him with blasphemy. But it is plain that they did charge him with it, and took up stones to stone him for it. His own words, therefore, must have given them ground to conclude that he claimed to be one in nature with God.—But it is farther objected, that though the Jews misunderstood him, nothing can be inferred from their stupidity, to prove his deity. It is alleged also, that, in the following verses, he did more to undeceive them than he had done in some other instances; for he tells them plainly the reason why he spake of himself as a God, namely, that he was a prophet, and he asks them, If 'those were called gods to whom the word of God came,' had not he a right to be so called, from his being 'sanctified, and sent into the world?' We reply, that, by these expressions, he does not intend to set himself upon a level with the prophets of old; but they contain an argument from the less to the greater. The meaning of them is as if he had said, 'If some persons, who made a considerable figure in the church of old, and were sent about important services, are called gods, I have much more reason to claim that character, as having been sanctified, and sent into the world about the great work of redemption,—consecrated, or set apart, to glorify by it the divine perfections.' This work, as will be observed under a following head, proves his deity; and we are therefore not to suppose that he disclaims deity when he speaks of himself, as engaged in it. Besides, he proceeds to assert again his deity, when he speaks of his 'being in the Father, and the Father in him.' These words, it is certain, the Jews understood in a very different sense from that in which they are applied to creatures. They concluded, that he spake of himself as a divine Person; for it follows, that 'they sought again to take him, but he escaped out of their hand.'f He still, therefore, gave them occasion to con elude, that he was God equal with the Father.
Thus he asserted his deity in all these conferences with the Jews. And had he not been what they apprehended him to insinuate that he was, many charges must have been brought against him. Not only would he have been viewed as violating common prudence, by incensing the people by ambiguous expressions, and thereby hazarding his own life; but his holiness would have been called in question, had he given occasion to them to think that he assumed to himself divine glory, had he not had a right to it.
This leads us to consider that last public testimony which he gave to his deity, in the presence of the Sanhedrim, which, in some respects, may be said to have cost him his life, when he stood before Pontius Pilate. On this occasion, the apostle says, that 'he witnessed a good confession.' This we have recorded in Matt. 26:61. When false witnesses were suborned to testify against him, who contradicted one another in their evidence, and when the high priest desired that he would make a reply to what they said, in his own defence, he did not think their statements worthy of an answer, and held his peace. But when he was asked, in the most solemn manner, and adjured, by the living God, to tell them, 'whether he were the Christ, the Son of God?' that is, the Messiah, whom the Jews expected, who governed his church of old, and whom they acknowledged to be a divine Person, or the Son of God,—the whole matter was left to his own determination. Had he denied this, he would have saved his life; and, if he confessed it, he was likely to die for it, On this occasion, he does not hold his peace, or refuse to answer; but replies, 'Thou hast said.' This is as if he had said, 'It is as thou hast said; I am the Christ, the Son of God.' Then he adds, 'Nevertheless, I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.' The high priest now rent his clothes, and appealed to the people, that they had heard his blasphemy; and accordingly they judged him worthy of death. Here we observe, that he not only asserts himself to be the Son of God, and to have a right to the glory of a divine Person, but, as a farther confirmation, applies to himself a text which the Jews supposed to belong to the Messiah, 'I saw in the night-visions, and behold, one, like the son of man, came with the clouds of heaven,'i &c. From all this, it follows, that if Christ, when he conversed occasionally with the Jews, or when he was called before the Sanhedrim, asserted himself to be the Son of God, which includes in it his deity, and so does not shun to speak of himself as equal with God, we have the doctrine which we are defending maintained by himself. We must conclude, therefore, that he really is what he declared himself to be, namely, God equal with the Father.
Proofs of Christ's Deity from his Perfections
We proceed now to consider how our Saviour's deity appears, from those attributes ascribed to him, which are proper to God only, and from his high and glorious titles. The attributes of God, as was formerly observed, are all essential to him, and therefore cannot, in a proper sense, be ascribed to a creature, as they are to Christ. This will be particularly considered in some following sections.
1. One divine attribute ascribed to him is eternity. He is said to be, not only without end, as the angels and saints in heaven shall be, but from everlasting. This appears from Micah 5:2, 'Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.' If his goings forth have been from everlasting, then he existed from everlasting; for action supposes existence. Nothing more than this can be said to prove that the Father was from everlasting. That this is spoken of our Saviour, is very plain from the reference to this text in Matt. 2:6. There the former part of the verse is quoted, and explained as signifying our Saviour's being born in Bethlehem. Hence the latter part of it, 'whose goings forth,' &c. must relate to him. Again, he is said to have been 'in the beginning.' Observe, it is not said he was from, but in, the beginning. It is plain, therefore, that he existed when all things began to be, and consequently was from eternity.
When we consider this divine perfection as belonging to our Saviour, we oppose both the Socinians and Arians. As to the former, they deny that he had any existence, properly speaking, before his conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and interpret all those scriptures which speak of his pre-existence, such as, 'Before Abraham was, I am,' and 'The Word was in the beginning,' as importing, either that he was from eternity, in the decree or purpose of God relating to his incarnation,—a sense in which every thing that comes to pass, as fore-ordained by God, was eternal, and which is a very absurd exposition of such texts; or that he was from eternity as being the Founder of the gospel-state. This, however, cannot be the sense of the evangelist's words; for Christ is said to be 'with God,' and it is added, 'and all things were made by him,'—words which every unprejudiced reader would suppose to describe the creation of the world, and not the erecting of the gospel-dispensation. The Socinian interpretation evidently appears, therefore, to be a perversion of the sense of the text. As to the Arians, they distinguish between Christ's being in the beginning of time, and his being from eternity; and they suppose the meaning of the text, 'The Word was from the beginning,' to be, He was from the beginning of time. Whatever disguise they seem to put upon their mode of speaking, when they say there was not a point of time in which Christ was not, or that he was before the world, they are far from asserting that he was without beginning, or properly from eternity. Now, let it be considered, that we cannot conceive of any medium between time and eternity. Whatever was before time, must be from eternity, in the same sense in which God is eternal. Time is the measure of finite beings. It is hence very absurd, and little less than a contradiction, to say that there was any finite being produced before time. This is, in effect, to assert that a limited duration is antecedent to that measure whereby it is determined or limited. If we suppose some things to have been created before God began to create the heavens and the earth, though these things might be said to have had a being longer than time has had, yet they could not have existed before time, for time would have began with them. Had Christ been created a thousand millions of ages before the world, it could not be said that he existed before time; but it would be inferred that time, which would have taken its beginning from his existence, had continued so many ages. That which existed before time, therefore, must have existed before all finite beings, and consequently was not produced out of nothing, or did not begin to be, and is properly from eternity. I cannot but think that the Arian objection is evasive, or a fruitless attempt to take off the force of this argument for our Saviour's deity; for the expressions of scripture by which his eternity is set forth, are as strong and emphatic as those whereby the Father's is expressed, and consequently his deity is equally evident.
2. Again, our Saviour is said to be unchangeable. This perfection not only belongs to God, but is that whereby he is considered as opposed to all created beings,—which are dependent upon him, and therefore changed by him, at his pleasure. Now that Christ is immutable, is evident from the words of the psalmist: 'Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure; yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed; but thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.' These words are quoted by the apostle Paul,o and applied by him to Christ. It will hence be a very hard matter for any to evade the force of this argument. I am persuaded, that if the apostle had not applied these words to Christ, the Anti-trinitarians would have allowed that the psalmist gives as plain an account of the immutability of God, as can be found in scripture, or, indeed, as words can express. Some of their writers have passed over this scripture, thinking, I suppose, that it is better not to attempt to account for it consistently with their scheme, than to do it in such a way as will not in the least support it. Others are not willing to acknowledge that the words are applied to Christ; alleging that such an application of them would break the chain of the apostle's reasoning, and fasten an absurdity upon it. But by attending to the connection between this and the foregoing verses, it will evidently appear that our Saviour is the person here described as unchangeable. The design of the chapter is to set forth the mediatorial glory of Christ,—to establish his superiority to angels; and, after the apostle had referred to that scripture which speaks of the eternity of his kingdom, he speaks of him as unchangeable, and so applies to him the words of the psalmist.q—We may observe also, that he is said to be unchangeable, not only as to his existence, but as to his duration. This farther confirms what was observed under the last head,—that he is eternal as God is, or is without succession, as well as from everlasting. This seems to be asserted in that expression, 'Thou art the same, thy years shall not fail,' that is, Thy duration does not slide, or pass away by successive moments, as the duration of time and created beings does.
We might quote, as another proof of his unchangeableness, the words of the apostle, that 'he is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.' These words mean that, throughout all the changes of time, he remains unchangeably the same in his being, and in all the perfections of his divine nature. A late writers supposes the meaning to be nothing but this, that the doctrine of Christ, once taught by the apostles, ought to be preserved unchanged. He says elsewhere, indeed, that it is certainly true that the Person of Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Whether, by 'yesterday,' he means any thing more than a limited duration of time past, which he must do, or else give up the doctrine that he everywhere contends for, I cannot tell. He thinks, however, that this text respects not the Person of Christ, but his doctrine. The principal argument by which he supports his view, is the supposed connection of the text with the foregoing verse; and he would paraphrase the passage thus: 'Have regard to what has been delivered to you by those who have preached the word of God; for though they are no more among you, yet the doctrine they have delivered is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.' It seems, however, to be too great a strain on the sense of words, to suppose 'Christ' to import the same with his doctrine; and, with submission, I cannot think that this is to be inferred from what goes before, or what follows. The sense seems to be as if the apostle had said, 'Adhere to the doctrines you have formerly received from those who have preached the word of God to you, and be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines, so as to change your sentiments with your teachers; for that would not be to act in conformity to Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.' He designs to establish their faith from the consideration of Christ's immutability, whatever changes they are liable to from the death of their teachers, or the innovations of those who succeed them, and endeavour to carry them away by divers and strange doctrines. Hence, the text seems to be as plain a proof of our Saviour's immutability, as that scripture is of the immutability of God, in which it is said, 'He is, and was, and is to come.' If, by his being 'yesterday,' we are to understand, as some do, his managing the affairs of his church under the legal dispensation; and 'to-day,' his governing them under this present dispensation; and 'for ever,' the eternity of his kingdom, the passage plainly proves, that whatever changes he has made in the affairs of the government of the church and of the world, he is himself the same, and consequently a divine person.
3. Another divine attribute ascribed to our Saviour, is omnipresence. In Matth. 18:20, he says, 'Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.' This expression imports the same thing as that by which, as is allowed by all, the divine omnipresence is set forth, 'In all places where I record my name, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.' That Christ's presence in the midst of his people, in all places, argues his omnipresence, is very evident. He designs, by this promise, to encourage them in all places, and at all times, to perform religious duties, with an eye to the privilege of enjoying his presence. Hence, wherever there is a worshipping assembly, they have ground to expect that he will be present with them. Now it is certain, that no creature can be in two places at the same time, much less in all places. This is the same as 'to fill heaven and earth,' and is ascribable to God only.y Moreover, when Christ says, that he will be with his people in all places, it must be meant that he will be with them at the same time, and not successively, otherwise he could not be wherever two or three are met in his name. This passage, therefore, is a plain proof of his omnipresence, which is an incommunicable perfection of the divine nature, and consequently argues him to be true and proper God.
In order to weaken the force of the argument taken from this scripture, it is objected to the view we have given of it, that our Saviour is here said to be present, only by his authority, and that, accordingly, his words are to be understood in a metaphorical sense, as when a king is said to be present in all parts of his dominions, where persons, who are deputed to represent him, act by his authority. Now, though we allow that whatever is done in Christ's name, must be said to be done by his authority, yet we cannot allow that his being in the midst of them is to be understood only of his being so by his authority. We must not suppose that our Saviour, in these words, makes use of a tautology. Indeed, it would be a very jejune and empty way of speaking to say, 'Where two or three are met together in my name, that is, by my authority, there am I in the midst of them, by my authority.' Certainly, Christ's being in the midst of them, must be taken in the same sense as the parallel scripture before referred to, where God's 'coming to his people' in those places where he records his name, is explained as having a very great privilege attending it, namely, his 'blessing them,'—which he is said to do, when he confers blessedness upon them, and gives them a full and rich supply of all their wants. This must be the sense of our Saviour's being in the midst of his people. Moreover, as God is said to be present where he acts, so Christ's powerful influence, granted to his people in all places, which supposes his omnipresence, implies a great deal more than his being present by his authority. If that were the only sense in which this scripture is to be understood, it might as well be alleged, that all the scriptures which speak of the divine omnipresence, might be taken in that sense; and this would be to set aside all the proofs we have of this perfection of the divine nature. This objection, therefore, seems to be rather an evasion than an argument.
Others suppose that Christ, being in the midst of his people, when met together in his name, implies nothing more than his knowing what they do when engaged in acts of religious worship. Yet they who make use of this objection in order to impugn the argument which is brought to prove his deity from his omnipresence, will, for argument's sake, allow him to be omniscient, not considering, that, as will be shown in our next particular, that equally proves him to be a divine Person. To prove that Christ's being present with his people, is to be understood of his knowing what they do, they refer to the text in which Elisha says to Gehazi, as knowing what he had done, when he followed Naaman, the Syrian, for a reward, 'Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee?' But as this scripture signifies nothing else but that this secret was revealed to him, which is, in a figurative way of speaking, as though he had been present with Gehazi, it will not follow that the prophet pretended to know whatever was done in all places, and at all times. Such knowledge as this, as will be farther observed in our next particular, is more than what seems communicable to any creature. But this is intended by Christ's knowing all things; and more than this, doubtless, is meant by his being in the midst of his people. When he speaks of the latter, he encourages them to expect from him those blessings which they stand in need of; and he, consequently, promises to be with them in a way of grace. And certainly he that is so present with his people, must be concluded to be, in the most proper sense, a divine Person.
There is another scripture which is generally brought to prove Christ's omnipresence, and consequently his proper deity, namely, John 3:13: 'And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man, which is in heaven.' To understand these words, we must consider their connection with what goes immediately before. Thus, by 'No man hath ascended up into heaven, but he that came down from heaven,' it is plain our Saviour means, that no man, but he that came down from heaven, has a full and comprehensive knowledge of heavenly things. Of this he had been speaking in the foregoing verse. There he asserts his divine omniscience, as the Person, according to a description elsewhere given of him, 'in whom are hid all treasures of wisdom and knowledge.' He says that none knows the mysteries which are hid in God, but he who is in the bosom of the Father, and who came down from heaven,—or, as the apostle expresses it, who is 'the Lord from heaven.'c Then, as a farther proof of his deity, he adds, that 'he is in heaven;' that is, while he was on earth, in one nature, as being omnipresent, he was in heaven in the other nature. Agreeably to this sense of the passage, he is said to 'come down from heaven;' because his divine nature manifested its glory here on earth, when the human nature was united to it. This is the only sense in which God is said to come down into this lower world. We have the same mode of speaking in Gen. 11:7, Exod. 3:8, and other places. If, then, Christ is thus omnipresent, we must conclude that he is a divine Person.
The Arians give a very different sense of this text, especially those words, 'The Son of man, who is in heaven.' They suppose that the words ought to be rendered, 'was in heaven;' and that the passage does not argue his omnipresence, but asserts that that nature which they call divine first resided in heaven from the beginning, when it was produced by the Father, and afterwards was said to come down from thence in his incarnation. But, before we allow of this sense of the text, they must prove that Christ was the first creature; that, in a finite nature, he resided in heaven till his incarnation; and that he afterwards, by a change of place, descended into this lower world. Even if they could make this appear, there is still, as they understand the words, a difficulty in the passage. It is not usual to say, 'I came from a place, and was in that place before I came from it.' Whether their exposition of the words, or ours, be most proper, I leave any one to judge. As for the Socinians who deny that Christ had any existence before his incarnation, they are very much at a loss to account for the sense of this scripture. Socinus himself, and many of his followers, have concluded from it, that Christ was taken up into heaven-some time after his incarnation; and they suppose this to have happened during some part of the forty days in which the scripture says he was in the wilderness tempted of the devil. But how he could ascend into heaven, and yet be in the wilderness, where one of the evangelists says he was all the forty days, cannot be easily understood or accounted for. Indeed, the scripture is altogether silent as to such a matter; and it is very strange, if it had occurred, that when we have an account of other circumstances in his life which are of less importance, no mention should be made of this, which, had it been related, would have been a great inducement to his followers to have paid the highest regard to his doctrine,—especially as the Socinians suppose he was taken up into heaven, that he might be instructed in those things which he was to impart to the world. Instead of offering proof, they only say that it is a parallel instance to that of Moses, who was called up to the top of Mount Sinai, which was then the immediate seat of the divine presence, and who there received the law which he was to impart to Israel. They suppose that it was, in like manner, necessary that our Saviour should ascend into heaven, that he might there be instructed in that doctrine which he was to communicate to his church. We cannot, however, but conclude that, being omniscient, as will be proved in our next particular, and having, in his human nature, had an unction from the Holy Ghost, in as much as 'God gave not the Spirit by measure unto him,'e he had no need to receive instructions, or to ascend into heaven to receive the doctrines which he was to deliver. Moreover, according to the Socinian conjecture, his coming from heaven, in the end of time, to judge the world, should have been called his third coming. His first coming from heaven was in his incarnation; and, according to this conjecture, his second coming was his return to the world after he ascended into heaven during the period of his temptation. But, according to scripture, his coming at the end of the world is called, 'his coming the second time, without sin, unto salvation.' Indeed, the supposition in question is so ungrounded, that some of the Socinians themselves reckon it, at most, but a probable conjecture, and do not pretend to say that it is sufficiently founded in scripture. We cannot think, therefore, that it will have any tendency to enervate the force of our argument for Christ's deity, founded on the above-mentioned sense of the text: 'The Son of man, which is in heaven.'
4. Our Saviour's deity may farther be proved, from his being omniscient. The apostle Peter says, 'Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.' This is too great a glory to be ascribed to any creature. Had it been spoken of the Father, the Anti-trinitarians themselves would have acknowledged, that it is as great a proof of his deity as any contained in scripture. It imports the same thing as what the psalmist says, 'His understanding is infinite.'—There is, however, another expression which abundantly asserts the divine omniscience; it is that in which he is denominated the searcher of hearts. This is a glory which God appropriates to himself, 'I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways.'i 'The Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts.' All creatures are excluded from having any branch of this glory, when it is said, 'Thou only knowest the hearts of all the children of men.'l Now such a knowledge as this is ascribed to Christ. Sometimes he is said to know the inward thoughts and secret reasonings of men within themselves. If it be said, that this is only a particular instance of knowledge, such as he might have had by an immediate divine inspiration, and therefore does not prove his Godhead, there is a scripture which speaks of his knowledge as more extensive, asserting, that he knows the thoughts of all men, 'He needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man.'n Another scripture asserts that his knowledge respects not only men's present, but their future thoughts, which are not known to themselves, 'He knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.' But if all this be not reckoned sufficient to prove him to be the heart-searching God, nothing can express it in plainer terms than the following text, 'All the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts; and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.'p
It is objected to the argument for Christ's omniscience, taken from Peter's confession, 'Lord, thou knowest all things,' &c. that nothing more is intended by the words, than that he had a very great degree of knowledge,—not that he was strictly and properly omniscient. The words are thus supposed to be an hyperbolical expression, not altogether unlike that of the woman of Tekoa to David, 'My Lord is wise, according to the wisdom of an angel of God, to know all things that are in the earth.' This expression of the woman, it is true, is either an unwarrantable strain of compliment or flattery, occasioned by David's suspecting that Joab had employed her to plead the cause of Absalom; or it is a sincere acknowledgment of his great wisdom, without supposing him to be absolutely omniscient,—as if she had said, 'Thou knowest all things that are done in the land; there is no plot or contrivance, how secretly soever it may be managed, but thou wilt, some way or other, find it out, as thou hast done this that I am sent about.' But what reference has this to Peter's confession? Does it follow, that because there are hyperbolical expressions in scripture, as well as in other writings, this must be one? or because a wise governor may have a conjectural knowledge of what is done by his subjects, when considering the various circumstances which attend their actions, that the apostle intends nothing more than such a conjectural knowledge? It is plain he appeals to Christ as the heart-searching God, concerning the inward sincerity of his love to him, as well as of his repentance, after a public and shameful denial of him, which might have given just occasion for his love being called in question; and his confession is as evident a proof of Christ's omniscience, as that text is of the Father's, 'Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me,'r &c.
Others, especially some of the Arians, do not so much deny Christ's omniscience, as the consequence deduced from it, namely, his proper deity. They make use of an abstruse and metaphysical way of reasoning. They suppose that a creature may know all things, that is, all finite objects, and consequently all things that are done in the world, namely, all creatures, and all their actions; since the object of this knowledge is, at most, but finite. They suppose, also, that it is possible for a finite mind to be so enlarged as to take in all finite things, or to have the knowledge of all things communicated to it; since the object and the recipient are commensurate with each other. They, hence, admit that our Saviour may know all things, and yet deny that his understanding is infinite, or that his knowledge is so properly divine as the Father's is; and they, therefore, regard his knowing all things as not a sufficient argument to prove his deity, in the sense in which we understand it. Now this method of reasoning might as well be used to evade the force of every argument, brought from scripture, to prove the Father's omniscience, or, indeed, to prove his infinite power. All effects produced, which are the objects of power, are but finite; and it might, hence, according to this way of reasoning, be inferred, that the producing of all things does not require infinite power, or prove God's eternal power and Godhead. Moreover, as this would tend to destroy the infinite disproportion between God and the creature in acting; so it supposes that God can communicate a branch of his own glory to a creature, by enlarging it to such a degree, as to take in all finite objects. There are some things not so properly too great for God to do, as for a creature to be the subject of. We do not pretend to set limits to the divine power; yet we may infer, from the nature of things, and the powers of finite beings, that it is impossible for any one, below God, to know all things past, present, and to come, at one view. Yet this, our Saviour must be supposed to do; else the attribute of omniscience is not justly applied to him, nor, as will be observed in a following particular, would he be fit to govern the world. We must conclude, therefore, that he is truly and properly a divine Person.
To what has been said concerning Christ's omniscience, we may subjoin those scriptures which speak of him as 'the wisdom of God,' the fountain of all communicated wisdom, 'the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.' It is supposed by many, that 'Wisdom,' spoken of in Prov. 8 is to be understood of our Saviour, as the personal wisdom of God; in as much as there are several personal characters ascribed to him. Thus it is said, 'I was set up from everlasting,' &c., and, 'Then,' that is, before the creation of all things, 'I was by him, as one brought up with him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him, rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth, and my delights were with the sons of men.'u This cannot, properly speaking, be applied to God's essential wisdom; and must therefore be a description of an eternal divine Person, distinct from the Father. Many suppose, indeed, that whatever is spoken of Wisdom, in this and some other chapters of this book, is only metaphorical, or a beautiful description of divine wisdom, as the instructor of mankind. But we cannot see how this, if nothing else be intended by it, can agree with some of the personal characters before-mentioned, which seem applicable to our Saviour. We find also that he is elsewhere called 'the Wisdom God,' in a sense which can by no means be supposed to be figurative. Thus, the words, 'Therefore also said the Wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles,' &c. are certainly understood of our Saviour. If it be objected, that, by 'the Wisdom of God,' is meant there the wise God, namely, the Father, we answer, that another evangelist, referring to the very same thing, explains what is meant by 'the Wisdom of God,' and represents our Saviour as speaking in his own Person, 'Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes,'y &c.
5. The next divine perfection which we notice as ascribed to Christ, is almighty power. This attribute is appropriated, by the Arians, to the Father. They accordingly suppose that it implies his supremacy not only over all creatures, but over the Son and Holy Ghost. They hence peremptorily conclude that it is never applied to them, and consequently that the deity of our Saviour cannot be proved by it. That they may turn our own weapons upon us, or improve some unwary concessions made by some very considerable writers who have, in other respects, very well defended the doctrine of the Trinity, they seem to insinuate, that their view of the subject is a matter to be, as it were, taken for granted. Yet it might easily be made appear, that they strain, beyond what was ever intended, the sense of those expressions whence they conclude the cause to have been given up to them; and, besides, there are many Trinitarian writers who are far from making such concessions as those on which they rely.
As for the word παντοκρατωρ, 'Almighty,' there is nothing in the derivation of it, whence it may justly be inferred, that the perfection denoted by it contains a greater display of the divine glory, than the other perfections which are attributed to all the Persons in the Godhead. It contains, indeed, an idea of the universal extent of divine power, with respect to its objects; and this is not to be separated from the sense of it, when power is ascribed to God in those scriptures in which he is called 'the Almighty.' If, therefore, we can prove that Christ has ascribed to him power which is properly divine, this will evince his deity, as much as though we could produce several scriptures in which he is indisputably called 'the Almighty.' This we shall first endeavour to do, and then we shall inquire whether we have not as much or more reason to conclude that he is called Almighty, than the Anti-trinitarians have to deny it.
That power, such as is properly divine, is attributed to Christ, may be proved from the scripture formerly mentioned, which is evidently applied to him, and in which he is called, 'the mighty God.' This point may, be proved also from Psal. 45:3, which, as has been before observed, is spoken concerning him, and in which he is called 'most mighty.' It may further be proved from Phil. 3:21, where we read of his 'changing our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body.' This is such an effect of power as plainly argues it divine, as much as the production of all things out of nothing could do. Accordingly, it is said to be done, 'according to the working, whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.' We might observe many other things which he has done, and will do, which require infinite power; but these we shall have occasion to consider, when, under a following head, we prove his deity from his works.
All this, however, is to no purpose with those who deny his proper deity, unless we can prove that he is called 'Almighty.' They lay the whole stress of the argument upon this, for no other reason, as I presume, but because they think it impossible for us to prove it. I shall attempt it; and I hope to make it appear that we have greater probability, on our side, that he is so called, than they have ground to deny it. Here I shall take notice of this perfection of the divine nature, as we find it mentioned in the book of Revelation, in which this attribute is mentioned nine times, and, in some places, seems to be applied to the Father, but in others to the Son.
The first we shall mention is in chap. 1:8, 'I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.' This seems to be spoken of our Saviour; because he is described at large in the three foregoing verses. There is nothing which gives the least ground to question its application to him, unless that character's being given to the Person here spoken of, which is given to the Father, namely, 'Which is, and which was, and which is to come.' But we find, in other scriptures, the same divine glories ascribed to the Son that had before been ascribed to the Father. In John 5:21, it is said, 'As the Father raiseth the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will;' and in Tit. 3:4, the Father is called 'God our Saviour,' as appears by comparing it with the fifth and sixth verses, while Christ is so called in the same epistle. Why, then, may not the Father and the Son be each described by this character, 'which was, is, and is to come,'—especially if we consider that the ascribing of this to Christ is, in effect, the same as what is said of him elsewhere, 'He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever?'d—That the text in question in which the person spoken of is called 'Almighty,' is applied to Christ, appears farther from the fact that the character, 'Alpha and Omega,' seems to be applied to none but him. In the other place where it is used in this chapter, namely, in the eleventh verse, it is indisputably applied to him; as will appear by comparing it with the following verses. In chap. 21:6. he is again called 'Alpha and Omega;' and that the name is applied to him there, appears from the context. It is he who 'makes all things new,' or puts a new face upon the affairs of his church; and it is he who commands John to write what he saw and heard: 'He said unto me, Write, for these words are true and faithful.' We may observe, that wherever John is commanded, in this book, to write, it is Christ that gives the command. Thus he said to him before, 'Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.' Again, John is commanded by him who is called the Son of man, to write, 'Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.'g Further, in chap. 22:13. he is called 'Alpha and Omega,' who is described in the foregoing verse, as 'coming quickly, whose reward is with him.' This is undoubtedly meant of our Saviour; for it is said concerning him. 'Surely I come quickly, Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus.' Now that which I infer is, that if Christ be styled 'Alpha and Omega,' in all other places in this book, it is more than probable that he is so in the eighth verse of the first chapter, in which he is said to be 'the Almighty.' And as he is called the 'Alpha and Omega,' so the explanation of the title, wherever we meet with it in this book without the words themselves, is applied to Christ. Thus he is called, 'The first and the last;'i and, 'The beginning of the creation of God.' From these facts, I humbly conceive we have more ground to conclude that Christ is called 'the Almighty' in the verse in question, than the Arians have to deny it.
There is another place in this book where he seems to be styled 'the Almighty.' 'And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.' This triumphant song is occasioned by one of the greatest victories which the church expects to obtain in this world. By 'the song of Moses,' I humbly conceive, is meant the church's celebrating the glory of God, for the greatest victory that ever was obtained under the legal dispensation; and 'the song of the Lamb,' is an acknowledgment of the greatest that is, or shall be, obtained under the gospel-dispensation. Now, in celebrating the Lamb's victories, they set forth the praises of this mighty Conqueror in the following words, 'Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty.' It is the Lamb that is everywhere described in this book, as fighting the church's battles, and obtaining victory for it; therefore it is his glory which is here set forth.
And as he is always described, in this book, as thus fighting the church's battles, so it is he who is described as taking vengeance on its enemies. I cannot but conclude, therefore, that he is spoken of in chap. 16:6. where he is said to have given his church's persecutors 'blood to drink, for they were worthy;' and in the following verse, where it is said to him, 'Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.' Again, in chap. 16:14. we read of the 'battle of that great day of God Almighty;' and then it immediately follows, 'Behold, I come as a thief in the night,' &c. Now, this expression is known to be elsewhere applied to our Saviour, and to none but him. And that it is he who fights the church's battles, is evident from chap. 17:14, 'These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them;' and, from chap. 19:12, &c., as elsewhere, where it is said, 'His eyes were as a flame of fire,' to denote that the great day of his wrath was come. His name is called, in the thirteenth verse of the nineteenth chapter, 'the Word of God;' and we read that 'armies followed him,' and that 'out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that he might smite the nations.' We may hence conclude, that since Christ is represented, in so many places in this book, as fighting with, and triumphing and reigning over, his enemies, inflicting his plagues upon them, and delivering his church from their persecutions, which is a work of divine power, he is fitly styled, in several places, 'Lord God Almighty.'
6. We might consider several other divine attributes ascribed to Christ, which prove his deity, namely, holiness, truth, and faithfulness. Thus it is said, 'These things saith he that is holy, he that is true;' and he is described, in the following words, as having uncontrollable power: 'who openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth.' That this is spoken of Christ, is beyond dispute. Again, 'They cried out, with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?'o To whom did they cry but to the Lamb, who is said to have opened the seals, or to have discovered the mysteries that were thereby revealed? When he had opened the sixth seal, he is described as hearing his church's prayer, and avenging their blood; and so is represented as coming to judgment in a very awful and terrible manner. On this occasion it is said, 'the great day of his wrath is come;' and therefore it is he who is described as 'holy and true.' If it be replied, that creatures are sometimes called holy and true, we may add, that it is Christ to whom it is said, 'Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy; for all nations shall come and worship before thee, for thy judgments are made manifest.'q This I infer from what has been before considered,—that it is he who obtains victory over, and pours forth his judgments on, his church's enemies; and that it is he whose praises are celebrated in the song of the Lamb, mentioned in the verse immediately preceding.
We have thus considered several divine perfections, as ascribed to our Saviour, and these so glorious, that nothing greater can be mentioned to set forth the glory of a divine Person. We may add a view of those glorious titles which are given him with a design to excite in us adoring and admiring thoughts of him. Amongst these we shall only mention some which are either the same with, or are equivalent to, those which are given to the Father; which they, who deny Christ's deity, cannot but own to be distinguishing characters of a divine Person.—Is the Father styled 'The God of peace?' Our Saviour is styled 'The Prince of peace.'s He is also said to be 'our peace;' and as peace includes in it all the blessings which accompany salvation, Christ's being styled the Author of it denotes him to be the Fountain of blessedness,—which he could not be were he not a divine Person.—Again, as God is called 'a Sun and Shield;'u so Christ is called 'The Sun of righteousness,' and 'An hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest, and the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.'y—Again, is it said of God the Father, 'He is thy life, and the length of thy days?' Our Saviour says, concerning himself, that he is 'the life.'a He is also called 'the Prince of life,' and 'our life.'c—Again, is the Father called 'The Shepherd of Israel?' Christ is called 'That great Shepherd of the sheep.'e—Moreover, is God often described in scripture as a glorious King,—'The King of Israel, even the Lord in the midst of thee?' Our Saviour is styled 'The King, the Lord of Hosts,'g 'the King of Israel,' and 'King of kings, and Lord of lords.'i—Again, is God styled 'the Hope of Israel?' Our Saviour seems to be so called by the apostle, when he says, 'For the Hope of Israel I am bound with this chain;'l that is, for Christ's sake, who is the object of his people's hope. But whether Christ is referred to in that scripture or not, he is elsewhere called 'our Hope.'—Moreover, is God the object of desire, as the psalmist says,n so that there is nothing in heaven or earth, or within the whole compass of finite beings, that is to be desired besides, or in comparison with, him? Our Saviour is called' The Desire of all nations.'—I might refer to many other glorious titles that are given to him in the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation, in the epistles to the seven churches; every one of which is prefaced with such a character of him as is designed to strike them with a holy reverence and esteem of him as a divine Person. Here, however, I finish my view of those proofs of Christ's deity, which are taken from the names, attributes, and titles, which are given to him.
Proofs of Christ's Deity from his Works
I shall now proceed to consider those works done by our Saviour, which are proper to God only. Divine works argue a divine agency; they prove that he who performs them has infinite power, and consequently that he is an infinite Person, or truly and properly God. These works are of two sorts; they are either of nature and common providence, or they are of grace, that is, such as immediately respect our salvation. In all of them, Christ acts beyond the power of a creature, and hence appears to be a divine Person.
1. He created all things; and therefore must be God. He that made the world, must be before it; and since time, as has been before observed, began with the first creature, he must have been before time, that is, from eternity. Again, he who created all things must have a sovereign will. 'For his pleasure they are, and were created.' It follows, that he has an undoubted right to all things, and that he might have annihilated them, had it been his pleasure; and also, that he has a right to dispose of them as he will, as the potter has power over his clay. All these things are consequences of the work of creation; and therefore that work is an undeniable argument that he who performed it is God. It may be observed, also, that to create, is to exert infinite power, or to act above the power of a creature, which, at best, is but finite. Now, whatever is more than finite, must be infinite; and consequently he who created all things must exert infinite power, and that is certainly such as is truly divine. We might farther consider, that there are many scriptures which appropriate creation to God. Indeed, it cannot be otherwise; for to suppose that a creature gave being to itself, is to suppose him to be both a cause and an effect, and consequently to be, and not be, at the same time;—to exist as a Creator, and not to exist as to be brought into being. It is evident, also, that in scripture the creature is opposed to the Creator. Thus, it is said, 'They worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever.'q And there are several scriptures which speak of creation as a distinguishing evidence of divine glory. Thus, we have a magnificent description of God, taken more especially from this work, when he is called, 'The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth.' Again, 'Thus saith God the Lord, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it, he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein.'s In these and many other scriptures of a similar nature, which might be referred to, it appears that creation is a work peculiar to God.
We shall now prove that our Saviour created all things. There are many who think that this may be proved from the work of creation being ascribed to more persons than one. In the original, we read of 'Creators,' in the plural number. Thus, 'Remember thy Creator,' or Creators; and, in reference to the creating of man, God says, 'Let us make man after our own image,' &c. These texts seem to imply, that there were more divine Persons engaged in this work than the Father. I do not, indeed, lay so much stress on this argument as many do; yet it is not to be wholly neglected. I confess, I cannot see any reason why there should be such a mode of expression used, were it not to signify the divine mystery of a plurality of Persons in the Godhead, to whom this work is ascribed.
The Anti-trinitarians, especially the Socinians, bring an objection, that this mode of speaking is such as is used in conformity to the custom of kings, who speak in the plural number. But though kings do often speak in the plural number, yet this is only a modern way of speaking, implying, that whatever a king does, is by the advice of some of his subjects, who are his peculiar favourites, and who are made use of to fulfil his will. This way of speaking is not so ancient as scripture-times, much less as Moses' time, or the beginning of the world, which is referred to, when God is represented as speaking in the plural number. It is the custom of kings, in scripture, to speak in the singular number; and it is very absurd to pretend to explain any mode of speaking used in scripture, by customs of speech not known till many ages after. I am sensible, some think that the mode of speaking used by Ahasuerus, 'What shall we do unto the queen Vashti, according to law?' is a proof that it was used in former ages. But the words may be rendered, 'What is to be done, according to law?' &c. or, 'What is it expedient for me to do?' This instance, therefore, does not prove that kings used, in ancient times, to speak of themselves in the plural number. It cannot, then, be argued that, when God is represented as speaking so in scripture, it is in compliance with any such custom. Besides, in all other instances, except those which are referred to by our argument, he is always represented as speaking in the singular number. It is hence additionally probable, that this variation from his usual way of speaking, is not without some reason, and that it intimates to us the doctrine, that there are more divine Persons than one who created all things. But we shall not insist on this; as we have more plain proofs in scripture.
It evidently appears that Christ made all things, not only from what is said in John 1:3, that 'all things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made;' but from Col. 1:16, 'By him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him.' Here he is said to be not only the Creator, but the end of all things. This is the same as what is said in Prov. 16:4, 'The Lord hath made all things for himself.' That Christ created all things, farther appears from Psal. 102:25, 'Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands.' This text is expressly applied to Christ by the apostle.
From these and similar scriptures, it evidently appears that Christ made all things. The Socinians, indeed, who are sensible that creation was an evident proof of divine power, and that the Creator of all things must be God, labour very hard to prove that all those scriptures which ascribe this work to our Saviour, are to be understood in a metaphorical sense, as signifying nothing else but his being the Author of the gospel-state, which is a kind of new creation, peculiar to him. He did this, as they say, as a prophet, revealing those doctrines which relate to the gospel-dispensation. Accordingly they understand that scripture which speaks of his being 'in the beginning,' and of 'all things being made by him,' as intending nothing else, than that he was in the beginning of the gospel,—that whatever was made or ordained to be a standard and rule of faith was by him,—and that, in the discharge of this work, he was to restore decayed religion, and to correct several mistaken notions which the Jews had entertained concerning the moral law, to add some new precepts to it, and to give directions concerning that mode of worship which should be observed in the church for the future. This is all they suppose to be intended by that work which is ascribed to Christ, as a Creator. In this scripture, on the contrary, it is plainly said, that there was nothing in the whole frame of nature, nothing that was an effect of power, which was made without him. There is another scripture also, which cannot, with any colour of reason, be understood in their sense: 'By him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible.'y Here the apostle speaks of the creation of angels and men, as well as all other things. Now, certainly, Christ did not come into the world to rectify any mistakes, or restore decayed religion, among the angels. Hence the apostle here plainly proves that our Saviour created all things.
But as this opinion of the Socinians is now almost universally exploded by the Anti-trinitarians, we have no occasion to say any thing farther in opposition to it; and we shall proceed to consider what the Arians say concerning Christ's creating all things. They allow that the work of creation is ascribed to him; but they deny that this argues him to be God in the same sense as the Father is. The account which they give is, that God, namely, the Father, created all things by the Son, as an instrument created by him immediately for that purpose; so that the Son was an inferior or second cause of the production of all things; and, as such, he cannot be concluded to be God, equal with the Father. I shall offer several remarks in opposition to this theory.—First, in this account of creation, there is not a just difference put between the natural and the supernatural production of things; of which the latter only can be called creation. If these two be confounded, the distinguishing character of a Creator is set aside; and the glory arising from it cannot be appropriated to God. Nor is that infinite perfection which is displayed in creation duly considered; but, according to this scheme, or method of reasoning, a creature may be a Creator, and a Creator a creature. Nor, according to this scheme, can 'the eternal power and Godhead' of the divine Being be demonstrated 'by the things that are made,' or created, as the apostle says they are.—From that first mistake arises another. In natural productions, that which was created by God may be rendered subservient to the production of other things; and, in this respect, it may be termed an instrument made use of by a superior cause, and may have an energy, or method of acting, peculiar to itself, whereby it produces effects, according to the course and laws of nature, fixed by God, the first cause of all things. From this they suppose, though without sufficient ground, that God might create all things by an instrument, or second cause, as they conclude he did by the Son.—Now, we must assert that, creation being a supernatural production of things, what has been said concerning natural production is not applicable to it.—Though things may be produced in a natural way by second causes, whose powers are limited and subjected to the laws of nature, yet supernatural effects cannot be produced by anything short of infinite power. Hence, as creation is a supernatural work, it must be concluded to be a work of infinite power.—It follows, that it is not agreeable to the idea of creation, or the producing of all things out of nothing, for God to make use of an instrument. That this may appear, let it be considered, that whatever instrument is made use of, must be either finite or infinite. An infinite instrument cannot be made use of; for then there would be two infinites, the one superior, the other inferior. Nor can a finite one be made use of; for that, according to our last proposition, cannot produce any supernatural effect, as creation is supposed to be. That work requires infinite power, and this cannot be exerted by a finite medium. Hence, no finite instrument can be used. Moreover, if it requires infinite power to create all things, this power, in its method of acting, would be limited by the instrument it makes use of; for whatever power a superior cause has in himself, the effect produced by an instrument will be in proportion to the weakness thereof. This some illustrate by the similitude of a giant's making use of a straw or a reed in striking a blow, when the weakness of the instrument renders the power of the person who uses it insignificant. Thus, if God the Father had made use of a creature in the creation of all things, the power exerted by him could be no other than finite; but that was not sufficient for the production of things supernatural,—which require infinite power.—Again, the creation of all things is ascribed to the sovereignty of the divine will. The psalmist, describing it, says, 'He spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast;'a and it is recorded, 'God said, Let there be light, and there was light.' When we read that the other parts of the creation were produced by his almighty word, this implies that they were produced by an act of his will. Now, it seems impossible, from the nature of the thing, that an instrument should be made use of in an act of willing, any more than in an act of understanding.—Moreover, no cause can reasonably be assigned, why God should make use of an instrument in the production of all things. Certainly he who, by his immediate power, produced the instrument, might, without any difficulty or absurdity attending the supposition, have created all things immediately without one. We must suppose, too, that if there were nothing in the nature of things which required him to make use of an instrument, he would not, by making use of one, namely, the Son, administer occasion to him for his assuming so great a branch of his own glory as that of being the Creator of the ends of the earth, or for his being, as the result of this, worshipped as a divine Person.
But, say the Arians, though no one supposes that God stood in need of an instrument, or could not have created all things without it, yet we must not conclude that he did act without one, because the scripture speaks of the Father's creating all things by the Son; and when one person is said to do anything by another, it implies that he makes use of him as an instrument. This allegation of the Arians seems to be the only foundation on which their doctrine is built. But there is no necessity of understanding the words which speak of God's creating all things by the Son, in the sense in which they interpret them. All effects are produced by the power of God. This power—supposing the Son to be a divine Person, which we have endeavoured, by other arguments, to prove—must belong to him; and the Father and the Son being united in the same Godhead, one cannot act without the other. Hence, whatever is said to be done by the Father, may, in this sense, be said to be done by the Son; for though the Persons are distinct, the power exerted is the same. Thus a learned writer accounts for this matter, when he says: "The Son is of the same nature and substance with the Father; so nearly allied, so closely united, that nothing could be the work of one, without being, at the same time, the work of both. Hence it was, that the Son was Joint-creator with the Father, that all things were made by him, and nothing without him. It was not possible for them either to act, or to exist separately; and therefore it is that the work of creation is, in scripture, attributed to both." This is a very safe as well as a just way of reasoning, consistent with, and founded on, the doctrine of the Father and Son's being united in the same Godhead, though distinct Persons, and it is agreeable to the sense of those scriptures which attribute this work to the Son, in the same sense as when it is attributed to the Father.
The Arians, I am aware, will reply, that this does not sufficiently account for that subordination in acting which seems to be implied in the sense of those scriptures in which the Father is said to have created all things by the Son. I shall therefore take leave to notice, more particularly, the texts in which this mode of speaking is used. Though there are several scriptures which represent the Son as a Creator, or consider all things as having been made by him, as well as the Father, or exhibit him as a Joint-creator with the Father; yet there are but two places in the New Testament in which the Father is said to have created all things by the Son,—namely, Eph. 3:9, in which it is said, 'God,' that is, the Father, 'created all things by Jesus Christ,' and Heb. 1:2, where it is said, 'By whom also he made the worlds.' We have already considered the absurdity of the Socinian way of expounding those other scriptures which speak of Christ as a Creator, in which he is said to act, not in subserviency to, but co-ordinately with, the Father. But as God the Father is, in the scriptures now in question, said to create all things by Jesus Christ, I humbly offer it, as my opinion, that though the other scriptures, in which Christ is set forth as a Creator, have no reference to him as Mediator, or to his work of the new creation, yet such a reference seems to be the probable sense of both these scriptures. As to the former, some suppose that it is needless to give the sense of it; because the words, 'by Jesus Christ,' are wanting in some ancient copies, as well as in the vulgar Latin and Syriac versions. But as there are many copies which have the words, we shall suppose the reading to be genuine; and that we may ascertain the sense of it, we may observe that the apostle makes use of the word 'create' three times in this epistle. We find it, in chap. 2:10, and in chap. 4:24, in both which places it is taken for the new creation, which is brought about by Christ, as Mediator. I humbly conceive, that it may be understood in the same sense, in the verse which we are now considering. The new creation by Jesus Christ is hence a part of that mystery, of which the apostle says in the foregoing words, 'that was hid in God.' This sense seems not to be excluded by those who suppose, that, in other respects, it has some reference to the first creation of all things. The other scripture in question is, 'By whom also he made the worlds,' δι οὑ και τους αιωνας εποιησεν; that is, by whom he made, instituted, or ordained, the various dispensations which the church was under, either before or since his incarnation. This was certainly done by him as Mediator; and in it, as well as in all other works performed by him in his mediatorial character, he acted in subserviency to the Father. I would not be too peremptory in determining this to be the sense of the text; for the apostle speaks, in the following verse, of his 'upholding all things,' which is well put after this account of his having created them. I am sensible also that the word which we translate 'worlds,' is used in Heb. 11:3, to signify the world that was at first created, in the most proper sense of the word 'creation.' There the apostle says, that, 'through faith, we understand that the worlds,' τους αιωνας, 'were framed by the word of God,' &c. But yet when I find that in many other places of the New Testament, where the word is used, it is taken in the sense I have stated, I cannot but conclude that the sense most probably belongs to the text. That which most of all determines me to acquiesce in it, is, that the subserviency of the Son to the Father in the mediatorial work is most agreeable to it. If it be objected, that this sense of the text coincides with that which is given of it by Socinus and his followers, which we before-mentioned and opposed, I answer, that it is very foreign to theirs. They endeavour, by their view of the text, to evade the force of the argument brought from it to prove our Saviour's deity; while we only exchange one argument in proof of this for another. It seems to me to be as great an evidence of his being a divine Person, that he is considered as the Author and Founder of the church, in all ages, or the Rock on which it is built, as that he is called, as he is, in many other scriptures, the Creator of the world. If he is the supreme Head, Lord, and Lawgiver of his church, in all ages,—if the faith and hope of all that shall be saved, are founded on him as their great Mediator, Redeemer, and Sovereign, he certainly is God, equal with the Father.
To what was mentioned as the chief prop of our reasoning, namely, that a finite creature cannot be an instrument in supernatural productions, it is objected, that miracles are supernatural productions, and yet have been wrought by men, as instruments in the hand of God; and it is hence inferred that the creation of all things may as well be supposed to have been performed by the Son, as an instrument made use of to this end by the Father. Now, that miracles are supernatural productions, no one denies; and it follows, that they are either a species of creation, or equivalent to it. If it be allowed, therefore, that a creature can have power communicated to him to work them, and therein may be said to be an instrument made use of by God, we cannot reasonably deny that God the Father might use the Son as an instrument in creating all things. But we must take leave to deny that any who are said to have wrought miracles, have had infinite power communicated to them for that purpose. They were not properly instruments in the hand of God, to produce supernatural effects. All that they did, was only to address themselves to God, that he would put forth his immediate power in working the miracle,—to give the people, for whose sake it was to be wrought, occasion to expect it,—and afterwards to improve it for their farther conviction. It is true, miracles are often said to have been wrought by men; but I humbly conceive that nothing more is intended than what I have stated. That this may appear, let it be observed, that sometimes they who wrought them did not make use of any action, but only gave the people ground to expect the divine interposition. Thus, immediately before the earth swallowed up Korah and his company, Moses gave the people to expect the miraculous event: 'And Moses said, Hereby ye shall know that the Lord hath sent me. If these men die the common death of all men, then the Lord hath not sent me. But if the Lord make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the Lord;' and as soon as he had spoken the words, the ground clave asunder, and swallowed them up. This may be reckoned among the miracles wrought by Moses; though all that he did was only what tended to raise the people's expectation, that the extraordinary event should immediately happen. Again, at other times, when a miracle was wrought, we read of nothing done, but only a word spoken to signify that God would work it. Thus when the captain, with fifty men, was sent by the king of Israel to the prophet Elijah, to command him to come to him, the prophet said, 'If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty;' and the event immediately happened accordingly. At other times, when miracles were wrought, the person who, in the sense but now mentioned, is said to have wrought them, made use of some external and visible sign. This, if no one was present but himself, was an ordinance for his own faith; as when the prophet Elisha smote the waters of Jordan with Elijah's mantle, and said, 'Where is the Lord God of Elijah?'h Or when it was a sign given by divine direction, it was an ordinance for the faith of the people present, whose conviction was intended. Yet they were not to suppose that the action used had any tendency to produce the miracle. It was designed only to raise their expectation, that God would work the miracle by his immediate power. Thus when Moses was commanded to lift up his rod, and stretch out his hand over the sea, and divide it, that Israel might pass through, the event intimated immediately took place; and when he was commanded to 'smite the rock,'k God caused water to come out of it. He used also, by divine direction, several other actions, when other miracles were wrought. Hence, though he was said, in a less proper way of speaking, to have wrought them, yet he was no more than a moral instrument in working them; so that the divine power was not communicated to, or exerted by him. Now, if creatures have been instruments in working miracles in no other sense than this, it cannot be inferred that Christ might be made use of by the Father, as an instrument in creating the world. A moral instrument he could not be; for there was no doctrine contested, no truth to be confirmed, no subjects present to expect a divine interposition. Indeed, no one ever supposed that the Son of God was an instrument in this sense. Hence, if no one ever was an instrument in any other, nor could be, from the nature of the thing, as has been already proved, the force of the argument which we have laid down is not in the least weakened by the objection we have been considering.
2. Having thus endeavoured to prove the divinity of Christ from the work of creation, we shall proceed to consider how it appears, from those works of providence which are daily performed by him. Providence is as much a divine work, and contains as glorious a display of the divine perfections, as creation; and it is twofold, namely, preserving and governing. With respect to the former of these, some divines have asserted, that it is, as it were, a continued creation, and not formally so. As creation produces a creature, preserving providence prevents its sinking into nothing. And because the creature is, in all respects, dependent on the power of God, as much so for the continuance of its being, as it was for its being brought into being, preserving providence is an evidence of the divine power of him who sustains all things.
Now that this glory belongs to our Saviour, is plain from scripture. It is said, 'He upholds all things by the word of his power;' and, 'By him all things consist.'m Both these scriptures respect this branch of divine providence, namely, his preserving all things in being; and they certainly affirm more of him than can be said of any creature. It is not pretended that in this work he acts as the Father's instrument, even by those who suppose that he did so in the creation of all things. Scripture does not speak of God's upholding all things by him, but of Christ's upholding them by his own, that is, the divine power. We have, therefore, as plainly a proof of his deity, from his upholding providence, as there is evidently to be inferred from it the being of a God.
As to the other branch of providence,—the governing of the world in general, or of the church in particular—this also is ascribed to Christ, and affords proof of his Godhead. Whatever degree of limited dominion may be said to belong to creatures, universal dominion belongs to God only. This is assigned as one ground and reason of his right to divine honour. Accordingly it is said, 'Dominion and fear are with him;' that is, there is a holy reverence due to him, as the supreme Lord and Governor of the world. Again, it is said that 'he shall judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth;'o and this is considered as the foundation of universal joy, 'O let the nations be glad, and sing for joy,' and of praise, 'Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.' Again, it is said, 'The kingdom is the Lord's; and he is the Governor among the nations;'q and this is assigned as the reason of their worshipping him, 'All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.' This, therefore, is undoubtedly a branch of the divine glory. Hence, if we can prove that universal dominion belongs to Christ, or that he is the Governor of the world, and of the church on earth, this will plainly evince his deity.
Let us consider him as the Governor of the world. That he sustains this character, seems to be the meaning of several expressions of scripture, in which royal dignity is ascribed to him. He is represented as sitting upon a throne; while his 'throne is forever and ever,' and he himself is infinitely greater than all the kings of the earth. On this account he is called 'The Prince of the kings of the earth;'t and they are commanded to testify their subjection to him, and all are represented as blessed that 'put their trust in him.' His kingdom is considered also, as 'not of this world,'x and the honours due to him, such as are divine. These things farther prove his deity. Moreover, his universal dominion, and consequently his Godhead, are evinced by the glorious character of 'the Lord of Hosts,' which we have already considered as belonging to him. The prophet Isaiah, speaking of the vision which he had of his glory, says, 'Mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.' This character denotes his sovereignty over all the hosts of heaven, and all creatures in this lower world,—his governing them, and making one thing subservient to another, and doing all to set forth his own glory.
His deity will farther appear, if we consider him as the Governor of his church. In this he has access to the souls of men, working in them those graces which are the effects of almighty power. This he does, when they are effectually called; and also in the work of sanctification, which is consequent on their being called, and is carried on till it is perfected. We shall have occasion, under some following Answers, to prove that these are divine and supernatural works; and we shall reserve the more full and particular proof of this to its proper place. At present, we shall only observe that they are spoken of as such in scripture, and ascribed to the exceeding greatness of the power of God,—no less than that 'which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead.'a Elsewhere they are called 'a new creation,' 'a quickening' or 'resurrection,' 'a breaking of the rock in pieces,' 'taking away the heart of stone,' 'giving a heart of flesh,' or 'a new heart.'c These expressions would never have been used, if the work were not divine and supernatural. It follows that, as Christ is the Author of this internal work, he is a divine Person. Now that he is so, is obvious from many places in the New Testament. He is styled 'The Author and Finisher of our faith.' The apostle Paul speaks of 'faith and love abounding, which is in Christ Jesus,'e and at the same time, speaks of the grace of our Lord abounding, as the spring and fountain thereof. The apostles desired him to 'increase their faith,' not in an objective way, as affording some greater foundation for it, but subjectively, by an internal work, exciting and promoting the principle of it, which was before implanted in them, and so causing all those graces which accompany it to abound, as the effects of his divine power.
We might farther consider Christ's spiritual government as extended to his church, collectively considered. The church is exposed to many dangers and difficulties, and meets with much opposition from its enemies, who attempt its ruin, but in vain; for it is the object of the divine care, kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation, and 'the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' Now this is, in a peculiar manner, the work of Christ. He is the rock on which it is built. His presence, in the midst of his people, is not only their glory, but their safety; and this it would not be, if he were no more than a creature. We might also consider the subserviency of the various dispensations of providence in the world to their good. He is 'Head over all things to the church;' and his being so could not cause that subserviency, were he not a divine Person.
We might farther consider how the divine glory of Christ will be demonstrated, in his second coming to complete the work of salvation, begun in this world. To prepare a way for this, there will be an universal resurrection of the dead; which will be no less an effect of almighty power, than the creation of all things was at first. I need not say anything to prove that this will be a divine work; but need prove only that the general resurrection will be performed by Christ. This might be proved from several scriptures. In one of these he himself expressly asserts it in words very plain and particular: 'The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth,' &c. Moreover he is represented as coming in the clouds, with power and great glory,—in his 'own glory,' as well as in 'his Father's, and of the holy angels.'i The most natural sense of this text seems to be, that his divine glory, which is called 'his own,' and which was comparatively hid from his people while he was on earth, shall eminently be demonstrated in his second coming; and that his mediatorial glory, which he has received from the Father, as what he had a right to on his having accomplished the work of redemption, shall also be then displayed. Then as to the glory of his retinue, as appearing with all his holy angels, this bears some resemblance to the description by which the majesty of God is set forth on occasion of his appearing on Mount Sinai, to give the law, 'The Lord came with ten thousands of saints.'
We may add, that the work which he shall, immediately after this, be engaged in, namely, that of judging the world in righteousness, plainly proves his deity. None but a divine Person can judge the secrets of all men, and bring to light every thing that has been done from the beginning to the end of time. But this is to be done in the final judgment; for it is said that 'God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.' This is an. extension of that argument, before laid down, to prove his divinity from his omniscience. If his judgment must be, as the apostle says, 'according to truth,'m and consequently performed with the greatest impartiality, as well as with an exquisite knowledge or discernment, without which it could not be said that 'the Judge of all the earth does right,'—if rewards shall be proportioned to every work done, so that every one shall receive, as the apostle says, 'according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad,'o—if persons are to be rewarded, or punished, for all the secret springs of action, which, as well as the actions themselves, must be reckoned either good or bad, according to what they produce,—and if this respects not particular persons only, but all men who have lived, or shall live, from the beginning to the end of the world,—it evidently follows, that He to whom this glorious work is ascribed, must be a divine Person. Moreover, the manner of his appearing with the terror as well as with the majesty of a Judge, being such as shall strike his enemies with the utmost horror and confusion, is a farther proof of his deity. This is represented in a lively manner where it is said that 'the kings of the earth, and the great men,' those who once rendered themselves formidable to their subjects, shall desire to 'hide themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains, and shall say to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?' And he will not only pronounce the sentence, but execute it; and he will do this with respect both to his saints and subjects, and to his enemies. As to the former, he will command them to come and possess not only the kingdom prepared for them, but the blessedness which he will confer upon them. This blessedness is called the beatific vision, 'We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is;'q and the happiness of heaven is described in such a way as plainly proves our Saviour to be the Fountain of it, and consequently a divine Person. It is represented as a state in which they will 'behold his glory;' and certainly the beholding of the glory of the most exalted creature, falls infinitely short of this ingredient in the heavenly blessedness. On the other hand, the immediate impressions of the wrath of God on the consciences of his enemies, or the power of his anger, which shall render them eternally miserable when banished from his 'presence,' proves him to be a divine Person. The highest degree of misery consists in a separation or departure from him; and this it could not do, if he were not the Fountain of blessedness. Nor could the punishment of sinners be proportioned to their crimes, if it were not to be inflicted by 'the glory of his power.' The apostle joins this and banishment from his presence together; though some understand his words as implying, that their punishment proceeds from Christ's immediate presence, in the display of the greatness of his power, as a sin-revenging Judge. In either sense, it argues him to be a divine Person. And that it is our Saviour who is spoken of, is evident, from the context. It is he who shall appear 'in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel;' and it is he that shall 'come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.' We have thus a very plain proof of his deity, from the exercise of his government, either in this or in the other world.
Having endeavoured to prove the divinity of Christ, from his works of creation and providence, and, under the former of these, offered some things in answer to the methods taken by the Socinians, and especially the Arians, in accounting for the sense of those scriptures which speak of the Father's creating all things by the Son; it is necessary for us now to consider the most material objections, brought by the Anti-trinitarians in general, against what has been said in defence of this doctrine, from the works of common and special providence, as ascribed to him, and, in particular, from the administration of his kingdom of grace. It is objected by them that his kingdom, and power of acting in the administration of the affairs relating to it, are wholly derived from the Father. Thus he says, 'I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me;' and, 'All things are delivered unto me of my Father.'u Again it is said, 'Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion.' As to his managing the affairs of his kingdom, being by the Father's commission and appointment, he speaks of the works which he was to perform as those which 'the Father had given him to finish.'y As to his power of executing judgment, which is one of the greatest glories of his kingly government, being derived from the Father, it is said, 'The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son;' and, 'He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained,'a meaning our Saviour. When he speaks of his ruling his enemies with a rod of iron, and breaking them to shivers, as the vessels of a potter, he adds, that this 'he received of his Father.' The Anti-trinitarians hence infer that, as he received his dominion, or right to govern the world and the church, from the Father, he cannot be God equal with the Father. As we say, in opposition to their scheme of doctrine, that a derived deity, such as they suppose his to be, cannot be the same with that which the Father has; so they allege this, by way of reprisal, against the argument we have but now insisted on, that a derived dominion cannot be made use of to prove that he who has it is a divine Person, in the sense in which we maintain him to be. Again they say, that in all his works, and particularly in the administration of the affairs of his kingdom, he acts for the Father's glory and not his own; whereas a divine Person cannot act for any other end than for his own glory. This, they allege, disproves, rather than evinces, his proper deity. He says, 'I honour my Father;'c and, 'I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father, which hath sent me.' He also speaks of the Father's giving him a commandment to do what he did: 'I have not spoken of myself, but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak;'e and, 'As the Father gave me commandment, even so I do.' Again, he speaks of his having 'kept his Father's commandment,'g and, pursuant to this, of his 'abiding in his love.' They hence argue, that he who is obliged to fulfil a commandment, or who acts in obedience to the Father, is properly a subject or a servant, and therefore cannot be God in the same sense as the Father, who gave this commandment. They add, that in the government of his church, and in that of the world in subserviency to it, he acts in the Father's name, as his deputy and vicegerent. He says, 'The works that I do, in my Father's name, they bear witness of me.' Accordingly his works are called the Father's, 'If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not;'i and these works are said to be done from the Father, 'Many good works have I showed you from my Father.' As the consequence of all this, he acknowledges, say they, as he ought to do, that 'the Father is greater than he.'l How then, they ask, can he be a divine Person, in the sense in which we assert him to be, when there is a God above him, in whose name he acts in all he does? They farther argue, that, as is expressly stated, he was 'made both Lord and Christ,' and made so by the Father. They argue again, that the donatives of his kingdom, or those honours which are bestowed on his subjects, are not his to give, but the Father's. 'To sit,' says he, 'on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.'n Finally, they remind us that this kingdom which he received from the Father, and thus administers in subserviency to him, is, in the end, to be resigned, or delivered up. 'Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father;' 'and when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.' Accordingly, say they, he shall lay aside those divine honours which he now has, or cease to perform those works which give him a right to claim them. These are the strongest arguments which are brought by the Anti-trinitarians against our Saviour's proper deity. Indeed, as though they had little else to object, there is scarcely an argument against it, but what is supported by this reasoning, which they think to be altogether unanswerable, and which is supported by many more scriptures than those quoted. It is necessary, therefore, that we should consider what may be said in reply.
The sum of what has been objected, as branched into several particulars, is, that since Christ is represented as below the Father, or inferior to him, he cannot be equal with him, for that is no other than a contradiction. To this it may be replied that, though the scripture speaks of our Saviour as receiving a commission from the Father, and as acting in subserviency to him; yet this does not respect the inferiority of his divine nature, but the subserviency of what is done by him, as Mediator, to the glory of the Father, as this character and office is received from him. Indeed, whenever the Son is represented as engaged in the great work of redemption, or in anything tending to it, or in any work consequent upon it, whereby what was before purchased is said to be applied by him, the reference is peculiarly to him as Mediator. Nothing is more common in scripture, than for him to be represented as Mediator; especially in all those things which concern the spiritual advantages or salvation of his church,—which is the principal thing to be considered in his government. In this sense we are to understand those scriptures which have been brought to support the objection. It is plain that our Saviour generally speaks of himself under this character; which is included in his being the Messiah or Christ, and which is the main thing that he designed to evince by his doctrine and his miracles. If, therefore, we duly consider the import of this character, it will not only give light to the understanding of the scriptures referred to, but sufficiently answer the objection against his deity taken from them. Now, our adversaries will not deny that Christ is represented as a Mediator; but they widely differ from us, when they take occasion to explain what they understand by his being so. Sometimes they seem to mean nothing else by it but a middle being betwixt God and the creature. The work performed by him as such, is not, they say, what requires him to be, in the most proper sense, a divine Person; and consequently, whatever inferiority to the Father is contained in this character, they conclude to respect his deity. We, on the contrary, distinguish between the subserviency of the work performed by him, as Mediator, to the glory of God the Father, together with the subjection or real inferiority to the Father, of the human nature in which he performed it, and the inferiority of his divine nature. The former we allow; the latter we deny. When we speak of him as Mediator, we always suppose that he is God and man in one person, and that these two natures, though infinitely distinct, are not to be separated. As God, without the consideration of a human nature united to his divine person, he would be too high to sustain the character or to perform the work of a servant, and, as such, to yield that obedience which was incumbent on him as Mediator. On the other hand, to be a mere man is too low for this end; and would be altogether inconsistent with that infinite value and dignity which was to be put on the work he was to perform. It was necessary, therefore, that he should have two distinct natures, a divine and a human, or that he should be God incarnate. This will be more particularly considered under some following answers; and we shall reserve the proof for its proper place, and shall there consider the distinct properties of each nature. All that we shall observe at present is, that the evangelist John, in whose gospel our Saviour, agreeably to his mediatorial character, is often described as inferior to the Father, as well as equal with him, lays down this as a kind of preface to lead us into the knowledge of such descriptions: 'The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.'q Now, it follows that several things may be truly spoken concerning or applied to him, which are infinitely opposite to one another, and yet be both true in different respects,—for example, that he has almighty power, as to what concerns his deity; and yet, that he is weak, finite, and dependent, as to what respects his humanity. In one nature, he is God equal with the Father, and so receives nothing from him, is not dependent on him, nor is under any obligation to yield obedience. In this nature, he is the object of worship, as all worship terminates on that deity which is common to all the Persons in the Godhead. But, in the other nature, he worships the Father, and receives all from him, and refers all to his glory. Hence, those scriptures which speak of him as receiving a kingdom, doing all things from or in obedience to the Father, or in his name and for his glory, and as inferior to and dependent on him, are not only applied to him as Mediator, but have a particular respect to his human nature. All, therefore, which can be inferred from those modes of speaking which are quoted as objections against the doctrine which we are defending, is, that he who is God is also man, and, as such, has those things predicated of him which are proper to a nature infinitely below, though inseparably united with, his divine nature.—As to its being said that 'the Father hath committed all judgment to the Son,' or that 'he judgeth the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained,' all that can be in erred is, that, so far as this work is performed by Christ in his human nature, which will be rendered visible to the whole world at the day of judgment, it is an instance of the highest favour and glory conferred upon this nature, or upon God-man Mediator, as man. But so far as, according to descriptions elsewhere given of him, he has a right to judge the world as God, and possesses those infinite perfections whereby he is fit to do it, these are the same which belong to the Father, and therefore not derived from him.—Again, though it is said, 'God hath made him both Lord and Christ,' it is not said that the Father hath made him God, or given him any branch of the divine glory. The words refer to the unction which he received from the Father to be the King, Head, and Lord of his church. This, so far as it is an act of grace, or implies his dependence on the Father, has an immediate respect to him in his human nature; in which, as well as in his divine nature, his dominion as Christ is exercised. On the other hand, his sovereignty and universal dominion over the church and the world, or those divine perfections which render him, in all respects, fit to govern it, belong to the Mediator more especially as God, and are the same as when they are affirmed of the Father. Moreover, when he says, 'I seek not mine own will, but the Father's that sent me,' and elsewhere, 'Not my will, but thine, be done,' his words argue that he had a human will, distinct from his divine, in which he expresses that subjection to the Father which becomes a creature. This is plainly referred to him as man. On the other hand, when he says, speaking of himself co-ordinately with the Father, 'As the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will,' his words, though spoken of his character as Mediator, have a peculiar reference to his divine nature.—Again, his words, 'The Father is greater than I,' are applied to him as man. On the contrary, when he says, 'I and my Father are one,' he speaks of himself as God, having the same nature with the Father.—Thus, if we suppose our Saviour to be God and man, as he is plainly proved to be from scripture, it follows that whatever is said, as importing his right to divine honour on the one hand, or as to his disclaiming it on the other, is equally true, when we consider him in his different natures. In this manner are we to understand those scriptures which speak of the real inferiority of the Son to the Father. But when, in other places, nothing is intended but the subserviency of what is done by the Son as Mediator, or its tendency to set forth the Father's glory, this may be applicable to those divine works which the Mediator performs. We may thus distinguish between the subserviency of the divine actions to the Father's glory, and, the inferiority of one divine Person to another. The former may be asserted, without detracting from his proper deity; while the latter is denied, as inconsistent with it. Thus have we endeavoured to explain those scriptures which are referred to by the Arians, to overthrow our Saviour's divinity; and, by the same method of explanation, I humbly conceive, all others which can be brought for that purpose may be understood. I have passed over that scripture, indeed, which respects Christ's 'delivering up the kingdom to the Father, and being subject to him,' which it might have been expected I should have endeavoured to explain; but I choose rather to reserve the consideration of it to its proper place, when we come to speak of Christ's kingly office, and of his being exalted in its execution.
Proofs of Christ's Deity from his being the object of worship
The next argument to prove the divinity of Christ, is taken from his being the object of religious worship. When, in any act of worship, there is an agreement between our words and actions, we, in both, acknowledge him to be a divine Person, and to have the perfections of the divine nature. This argument is so strong and conclusive, that it is very difficult to evade the force of it. Indeed, it affects the very essentials of religion.
Now, that we may proceed with greater plainness, let us consider, what we are to understand by worship in general, and by religious worship in particular. I am very sensible that the Anti-trinitarians understand the word in a sense very different from what we do. They view it as expressing some degree of humility or reverence to a person whom we acknowledge, in some respect, to be our superior. Whatever words or external signs of reverence we use to express our regard to him who is its object, our worship, as offered to our Saviour, is no more than what they suppose to be due to a person below the Father. Now, that we may not mistake the meaning of the word, let it be considered, that worship is either civil or religious. The former contains in it that honour and respect which is given to superiors, and is sometimes expressed by bowing or falling down before them, or by some other marks of humility which their advanced station in the world requires. This, however, is seldom called worshipping them; and is always distinguished from religious worship, even when the same gestures are used. It is true, there is one scripture, in which the same word is applied to both, 'All the congregation bowed down their heads, and worshipped the Lord and the king.' But the meaning of this is, they paid civil respect to David, accompanied with those actions which are expressive of humility, and of that honour which was due to him; while their worship, as given to God, was divine or religious. The latter is the only sense in which we understand 'worship 'in this argument; and it includes in it adoration and invocation. In the former, we ascribe infinite perfection to God, either directly, or by consequence. An instance of this we have in 1 Chron. 29:11, 12, 'Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as Head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all, and in thine hand is power and might, and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.' Instances of it occur also in those texts, in which we are said to 'ascribe greatness to him,' to 'glorify him as God,'u or 'to give unto him the glory due unto his name.' Invocation is that wherein we glorify God as the fountain of blessedness, when we ask those things from him which none but God can give. This is sometimes called 'seeking the Lord,'y or 'calling upon him.' It includes all those duties in which we consider him as a God of infinite perfection, and ourselves as dependent on him, and as desirous to receive all those blessings from him which we stand in need of. Faith, in particular, is, in the various acts of it, a branch of religious worship; for it implies its object to be a divine person. Religious worship includes also supreme love, and universal obedience, and, indeed, the whole of religion; in which we have a due regard to that infinite distance that there is between God and the best of creatures. Religious worship is nowhere understood in a lower sense than this in scripture. As thus described, religious worship is to be given to none but a divine person. 'Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God,' said our Saviour, 'and him only shalt thou serve.'a This is evident from the idea we have of religion in general; which is a giving of that glory, or an ascribing of those perfections to God, which belong to him as founded in his nature. It is the highest instance of blasphemy and profaneness to ascribe these to any creature; for this is in effect to say that he is equal with God.
Now, it plainly appears from scripture, that Christ is the object of religious worship, and consequently that the argument we are maintaining is just,—namely, that, for this reason, he must be concluded to be a divine person. Many examples occur in scripture of religious worship having been given to him; while they who gave it were not reproved or restrained, but rather commended, for performing it. We have some of these in the Old Testament, of which I shall mention two or three: 'God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads.' When Jacob here speaks of Abraham and Isaac having walked before the great Being whom he addresses, his words imply, that, in their whole conversation, they considered themselves as under his all-seeing eye; and Jacob acknowledges him as the God who had sustained, preserved, and provided for him hitherto, the support of his life, and his deliverer, or redeemer, from all evil. This divine person he addresses himself to, in a way of supplication, for a blessing on the posterity of Joseph; and that he intends our Saviour is evident, because he refers to his appearance in the form of an angel, and describes him under that character. We cannot suppose that this holy patriarch is here represented as praying to a created angel; for that would be to charge him with idolatry. Moreover, this is the same description which is elsewhere given of Christ: 'In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them, and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old;'c and, 'The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple; even the messenger,' or angel, 'of the covenant, whom ye delight in.' The latter passage contains a very plain prediction of our Saviour's incarnation; whose way is said to be prepared by John the Baptist, who is spoken of in the words immediately foregoing. It is certain, also, that God the Father is never called an angel in scripture; for this name is a peculiar description of the Mediator, who, as such, is never mentioned as the person sending, but as the person sent. Described as an angel, he is considered as one who was to be incarnate, and who, in our nature, was to execute those offices which he was therein obliged to perform. This, then, is the person whom Jacob adored and prayed to.
We have another instance, not only of his being worshipped, but of his demanding this divine honour of him that performed it. When he appeared as 'the Captain of the host of the Lord,' Joshua 'fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my Lord unto his servant? And the captain of the Lord's host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot, for the place whereon thou standest is holy; and Joshua did so.' It cannot be supposed that it was any other than a divine person that appeared. Not only did Joshua fall on his face and worship him, and express his willingness to fulfil his command; but the object of his worship bade him loose his shoe from his foot, for the place on which he stood was holy. This expression is nowhere else used in scripture, except in Exod. 3:5, in which our Saviour, as we before considered, appeared to Moses, with the majesty and glory of a divine person, and whose immediate presence made the place relatively holy, which the presence of a creature never did. Moreover, the character which he here gives of himself to Joshua, that of 'the Captain of the Lord's host,' not only implies that all Joshua's success was owing to his conduct and blessing on his warlike enterprises; but it also corresponds with the description which is elsewhere given of our Saviour. He is called, 'A leader and commander to the people,' 'The Captain of our salvation,'g 'The Prince of life,' and 'The Prince of the kings of the earth.'
There are also in the New Testament various instances of worship given to Christ, which, by several circumstances attending it, was evidently divine or religious. Thus he had divine honour given him, by the wise men from the East, who 'fell down and worshipped him,' &c. And when he ascended up into heaven, 'his disciples worshipped him.'i In these instances, there is nothing in the mode of expression which distinguishes the worship given him from that which is due to God. There is a very illustrious instance of his being thus worshipped by a numerous assembly, represented in the vision of John. 'I beheld, and heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, saying, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature that is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne and to the Lamb for ever and ever.' In these words there are such glories ascribed, that higher expressions cannot be used by any who adore the divine majesty. And it is plain that our Saviour is intended; for he is described as the Lamb that was slain; and he is also considered co-ordinately with the Father, when it is said that this glory is given to him that 'sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb.' Now, if our Saviour be thus worshipped, he must have a right to it; else his worshippers would have been reproved, as guilty of idolatry. Peter reproved Cornelius, or rather prevents his paying divine adoration to himself, who was no more than a man. 'Stand up,' said he, 'I myself also am a man.'l The angel, in Revelation also, when John, through mistake, thought him to be a divine person, and fell at his feet to worship him, expressly forbade him, saying, 'See thou do it not; I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God.' But our Saviour never forbids any to worship him. We must hence conclude that he is the object of worship, and consequently a divine Person.
1. We shall now proceed to consider the various branches of divine worship that are given to him. And the first we shall mention, is swearing by his name. By this an appeal is made to him, as the Judge of truth, and the Avenger of falsehood. Some think that the apostle intends as much as this, when he says, 'I speak the truth in Christ, I lie not;' as if he had said, 'I appeal to Christ, as the heart-searching God, concerning the truth of what I say.' But there is another sense of swearing,—namely, when, in a solemn manner, we profess subjection to him, as our God and King. This agrees with, or is taken from the custom of subjects, who swear fealty or allegiance to their king. Thus it is said, 'Unto me every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall swear.'o In doing this, his people acknowledged him to be the object of faith, and to have a right to universal obedience, as well as to be the Fountain of blessedness. This religious worship, as the prophet foretells, was to be given to the Person of whom he speaks, who is particularly said by the apostle to be our Saviour.
2. Another act of religious worship, which has some affinity to the former, is the baptismal vow; in which, according to the divine command, there is a consecration, or dedication, of the person baptized to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, or a public profession that it is our indispensable duty to exercise an entire subjection to them, in a religious manner. This is one of the most solemn acts of worship which can be performed; and there is explicit mention in it of the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Here we may consider, in general, that the Son is put co-ordinately with the Father, which no creature ever is. It will also be necessary for us to inquire what is meant by being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; that so it may farther appear to be an act of religious worship. Some understand nothing by it but our being baptized by the authority of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, or by a warrant received from them. But though this is sometimes the meaning of our acting in the name of God; yet more is intended by it in reference to this ordinance, otherwise baptism is not sufficiently distinguished from other acts of religious worship, none of which can be rightly performed without a divine warrant. According to this sense of the phrase, ministers may as well be said to preach the gospel, and the church to attend on their ministration, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; for these cannot be done without a divine warrant. Moreover, to suppose that the instituted form of administering baptism, conveys no other idea than that of a divine warrant, is to conclude that there is in it no determinate meaning of the action performed, and that the administrator is to intend nothing else but that he has a warrant from God to baptize. But the administration being made in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, seems plainly to intimate, as the principal thing signified, that they who are baptized are consecrated or devoted to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, devoted to God professedly, and called by his name, in the sense in which the phrase is elsewhere used in scripture. His right to them is hereby signified, and their indispensable obligation to be entirely his; and a peculiar acknowledgment is made of the distinct personal glory of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and the concern which each of them has in our salvation. The apostle, speaking of our being baptized in the name of Christ, calls it, 'putting on Christ;r which seems to imply a consecration, or dedication, to him. Persons, as well as things, before this ordinance was instituted, were consecrated to God by divers washings, as well as other rites, used under the ceremonial law; and this consecration seems to be the sense in which the apostle himself explains 'putting on Christ;' for he infers, from this action, that they who had so done were Christ's, not only by that right which he has to them as their Creator and Redeemer, but by another which is the immediate result of their professed dedication to him. This, therefore, is such a comprehensive act of worship, that it includes in it the whole of that subjection which is due to the Father, Son, and Spirit; and as the Son, in particular, is considered as the object of it, together with the Father, it follows that he is God, equal with the Father. We may add, that it would be not only an unwarrantable action, but an instance of the greatest profaneness, to be baptized in the name of any one who is not a divine Person. This farther argues that baptism is an act of divine worship. The apostle Paul, remarking that some of the church of Corinth were disposed to pay too great a veneration to those ministers who had been intrumental in their conversion, as though, for this reason, they were to be accounted the lords of their faith, and, in particular, that some said 'they were of Paul,' and being apprehensive that they thought the minister who baptized them had a right to be thus esteemed, not only reproves their ungrounded and pernicious mistake, but takes occasion to thank God, that he had baptized none of them, but Crispus and Gaius, together with the household of Stephanas, lest any should say he had baptized in his own name. Thus, while he testifies his abhorrence of his giving any just occasion to any, to conclude that he was the object of this branch of divine worship, he takes much pleasure in reflecting that the providence of God had not led them, through the ignorance and superstition which prevailed among them, to draw this false conclusion from his administering baptism, which probably they would not have drawn from any other's having baptized them who had not so great an interest in their affections as he had. This I apprehend to be the meaning of what the apostle says, in the passage refered to. And I take occasion to refer to it, as a farther proof of baptism being an act of religious worship, unalienable from the Father, Son, and Spirit, in whose name alone we are to be baptized. And I cannot but conclude, as a just consequence from its being an act of religious worship, that if the Son were not a divine Person, we might as well be baptized in the name of Paul, or any other of the apostles, as in his name. He would never, therefore, have joined his own name with the Father's, when he gave the commission to baptize, if he had not had a right to it, as well as the Father.
It is objected that, though this ordinance, as it respects the Father, contains, properly, an act of divine worship, in which we consider him as the great Lord of all things, to whom divine worship, in the highest sense, is due; yet we consider the Son, as well as the Holy Ghost, only as having a right to an inferior kind of worship, in proportion to the respective parts which they sustain, by the will of the Father, in the work of our salvation. In particular, to be baptized in the name of Christ, implies, it is said, nothing else but a declaration that we adhere to him, as the Father's Minister, delegated by him to reveal his mind and will to us, and to erect that gospel-dispensation, which we, in this ordinance, professedly submit to. Accordingly, to be baptized in the name of Christ, it is inferred, is to be understood in the same sense as when the Israelites were said to be 'baptized unto Moses in the cloud, and in the sea.' They signified thereby their consent to be governed by those laws which Moses was appointed by God to give them; on which account, they were denominated a particular church, separated from the world, and obliged to worship God in the way which was prescribed in the ceremonial law. Even so, it is said, we, by baptism, own ourselves Christians, under an obligation to adhere to Christ, as our Leader and Commander, who has revealed to us the gospel; by subjecting ourselves to whom, we are denominated Christians. To this they add, especially the Socinians, that as baptism was first practised as an ordinance, to initiate persons into the Jewish church, and was afterward applied by our Saviour, to signify the initiating of the heathen into the Christian church; so it was designed to be no longer in use, than till Christianity should be generally embraced; and consequently we, being a Christian nation, are not obliged to submit to it, since we are supposed to adhere to the doctrines of Christianity, and it is needless to signify our adherence by this ordinance. It was upon this account that Socinus, and some of his followers, denied the baptism not only of infants, but of all others who were supposed to be Christians.—Now, as to the first part of this objection, that baptism does not signify the same thing when it is administered in the name of Christ, as when administered in the name of the Father,—this is founded on a supposition, that the Son has not a right to the same honour which is due to the Father. But this ought to be proved, and not taken for granted. It altogether sets aside the consideration that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are co-ordinately represented, as the objects of this solemn dedication. This, on the Anti-trinitarian hypothesis, tends very much to derogate from the Father's glory; for God might as well have ordained, that we should have been baptized in his name, together with the name of any of his prophets and apostles who were appointed to be his ministers in revealing his will to us, as in the name of the Son and Spirit, unless they are accounted worthy of having an honour infinitely superior given to them. Again, when it is supposed that our professed subjection to Christ in baptism, is nothing else but our consent to be governed by those laws which he has given us in the gospel, and is compared to that declaration of subjection to the law of Moses which was made in the baptism of the Israelites unto Moses,—this supposes that Christ is only a Lawgiver, that to be a Christian, is nothing else but to be professedly a member of a society which goes under the Christian name, and that to 'put on Christ,' is not to consecrate or devote ourselves to him as a divine Person. This is a very low idea of Christianity. The character of a Christian does not imply so much, when assumed by an Anti-trinitarian, as when assumed by those who suppose that they are obliged to honour Christ as they honour the Father, or to submit to his government as truly and properly divine. A Christian, however, is not merely one who is of Christ's party, in the same sense as a Mahommedan, who adheres to the laws of Mahommed, is of his; for Christianity involves an obligation to perform those religious duties of trust, universal obedience, and love, which are due to Christ as a divine Person. As to the supposition, that, baptism being an ordinance of proselytism to the Christian faith, a Christian nation is not obliged to submit to it, this is directly contrary to what our Saviour says, in the words immediately following the institution of the ordinance, 'Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world;' that is, 'You may expect my presence with you in administering this ordinance, as well as in preaching the gospel, not only during the first age of the church, till Christianity shall triumph in the world, but as long as there shall be a society of Christians in it.' Even in fact, if Christianity were nothing more than a public declaration of our obligation to adhere to the laws of Christ, it does not follow, that, because we are born in a Christian nation, such a public declaration is no longer necessary. But since, as was formerly observed, more than this is implied in it, namely, our professed subjection to Christ, in a religious way, as a divine Person, the baptismal obligation extends much farther than to our being called Christians, and argues the necessity of our observing this ordinance, as long as Christ is the object of faith, or to be acknowledged as the Prophet, Priest, and King of his church, and, as such, the object of religious worship,—in other words, to the end of the world.
3. Divine worship is due to Christ, as he is the object of faith. We are to depend upon whatever he has revealed, as a matter of infallible verity; otherwise the faith of the church, especially under the New Testament dispensation, would be built on an uncertain foundation. It will be objected, indeed, that whatever is transmitted to us by divine inspiration, is infallibly true, though the instruments made use of were not divine Persons. "When we assert that what Christ delivered was infallible, in a higher sense than this, we rather suppose than prove his deity. The Anti-trinitarians will not deny, that what he imparted was infallibly true, and therefore the object of faith; but they suppose, at the same time, that whatever was imparted to the world by the apostles and prophets, was equally true and infallible. They hence infer that the inspired writers are the objects of faith, in the same sense as our Saviour himself. Now I would not compare what was delivered immediately by our Saviour, with what was transmitted by those who spake and wrote by divine inspiration, or suppose that one was more infallibly true than the other. That which I would principally insist on, when I speak of Christ as the object of faith, whereby he appears to be a divine Person, is that we are obliged, not only to yield an assent to what he has taught us, but also to place a firm reliance on him, or trust in him, for all we expect in order to make us completely happy. In this sense we are to understand the apostle's words, when he says, 'I know whom I have believed,' or trusted, 'and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.' This is such a faith, as no creature is the object of. Trust in man is prohibited, and called a departure from God. 'Cursed be the man,' says the prophet, 'that trusteth in man,'z or, by a parity of reason in any other creature, 'and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart' herein 'departeth from the Lord.' Trust is such an act of faith as is appropriated to a divine Person. And I cannot but observe that, when Christ is represented as the object of trust, there is something peculiar in the mode of speaking, which is never applied to any creature. His worshippers are said to 'believe in him.' Thus he says, 'Ye believe in God, believe also in me.' Here he commands his people to believe in him in such a way that their faith is accompanied with other graces, and argues him to be a divine Person.
4. Christ is the object of supreme love and universal obedience, which also are acts of religious worship. The former respects him as our chief good and happiness; the latter, as our undoubted Sovereign and Proprietor. We do not say that a person's having a right to be obeyed, or loved, or trusted, in a limited degree, argues him to be a divine Person; but when these graces are to be exercised in the highest degree, without any possibility of our going to excess in them, and when the exercise of them is inseparably connected with salvation, as it is often in scripture said to be, and when our not exercising them is declared to exclude from salvation, I cannot but conclude that they constitute religious worship. And it is certain, that our Saviour is often represented, in scripture, as the object of them.
5. The last thing that we shall consider, under this head, is, that he is the object of prayer and praise. That these are parts of religious worship, needs no proof. Some think, and the conjecture is not altogether improbable, that Christ's being the object of prayer is intended in these words of the psalmist, 'Prayer also shall be made for him continually.' This text might as well be rendered, 'continually made to him,' which agrees with what follows, 'and daily shall he be praised.' That this psalm respects the Messiah, who had a right to more glory than Solomon, appears from several things, which are said in it concerning him. I will not, however, insist on this; as we have more evident proofs in other scriptures. It is also foretold concerning him, that 'to him,' for so the words ought to be rendered, 'shall the Gentiles seek.' This mode of speaking is frequently used, to signify our addressing ourselves to a divine Person with prayer and supplication, for the supply of our wants. But we have yet more evident proofs in the New Testament. The Syrophenician woman's prayer, which was directed to him, was, indeed, short, but very comprehensive: 'Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David.'d Again, 'She came and worshipped him, saying, Lord help me.' Her act of religious worship was commended by our Saviour, and her prayer answered. Again, can we suppose any other than an act of religious worship to be contained in the petition of the man who solicited him to cast the devil out of his son, who said, with tears, 'Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief?'f We are to understand that he desired that his unbelief should be removed, not in an objective way, by our Saviour's giving him more convincing arguments to confirm his faith, but by a powerful access to his heart, as the Author and Finisher of faith, which is the peculiar gift of God. Accordingly, he is considered as a divine Person, by those who thus address him.
We shall conclude by giving a few instances of short prayers directed to Christ, together with doxologies, or ascriptions of praise, in which he is sometimes joined with the Father and Holy Ghost, and the scope of which proves him to be a divine Person. The apostle Paul thus concludes his epistles: 'The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, Amen;' 'The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit;'h 'The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit.' Each is a short and comprehensive prayer directed to Christ, that he would bestow on them all those graces which are necessary to their salvation, and that his grace may so govern and influence their spirits, as to fit them for his service. This supposes him to be the God and Giver of all grace. Again, Paul offers a prayer to the three Persons in the Godhead: 'The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all, Amen.'k He here desires that they would communicate those blessings which accompany salvation, by which the divine perfections, and in particular the personal glory of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are demonstrated; and herein the Son is as much considered the object of prayer as the Father, and consequently is proved to be a divine Person. We may add those doxologies in which praise is given to Christ; and which also exhibit him as the object of divine worship. Thus, Peter, speaking of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, says, 'To him be glory, both now and for ever, Amen;' and Jude says, 'Unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and for ever, Amen.'m Here it is plain that he ascribes this divine glory to Jesus Christ; for he had spoken of him in the immediately preceding context: 'Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus unto eternal life,' that is, for that mercy which shall preserve us unto eternal life, and shall then confer that life upon us. This, with a small variation of the phrase, is the sense of those words, 'Keeping us from falling, and presenting us faultless before the presence of his glory.' The very same thing Christ is elsewhere expressly said to do, namely, 'to present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy, and without blemish.'o He presents it to his own view, as taking a survey of his workmanship, when brought to perfection, just as God is said to have taken a view of all things that he had made at first, when he pronounced them good; and, when he has thus taken a survey of his church, or presented it to himself, he presents it to the view of the whole world of angels and men, causing them, as it is said, exceeding joy. This makes it plainly appear that our Saviour is the Person of whom Jude speaks. And that he is so, is agreeable also to what follows. He is there called, as he is elsewhere, 'God our Saviour;'q which is a character corresponding with the name by which he was most known, namely, 'Jesus.' Another doxology we have in Rev. 1:4–6, 'Grace be unto you, and peace from Jesus Christ,' &c. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood; and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever, Amen.' There are two places more, in which, to me, it seems more than probable, that doxologies are directed to Christ. The first of these is 1 Tim. 6:15, 16, 'Who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, or can see; to whom be honour and power everlasting, Amen.' All allow that nothing greater can be said of God than is here spoken. Hence, the only thing denied by the Arians is, that this is applied to any but the Father. But to me, it seems very obvious that it is spoken of Christ; because he is mentioned immediately before. Thus, in the thirteenth verse, it is said, 'I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who, before Pontius Pilate, witnessed a good confession; that thou keep this commandment without spot, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which in his times he shall show; who is the blessed and only Potentate,' &c. Here by 'his times' is meant that season in which his glory shall shine most brightly,—when, what he witnessed before Pontius Pilate, namely, that he was the Son of God, he will demonstrate in the highest degree, and when he will eminently appear to have a right to that glory which the apostle ascribes to him. The other scripture, in which a glorious doxology is addressed to Christ, is 1 Tim. 1:17, 'Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory, for ever and ever, Amen.' A late learned writer, without assigning any reason, puts this among those scriptures which he applies to the Father. The context, however, seems to direct us to apply it to the Son, who is spoken of in the foregoing verses thus, 'I thank Jesus Christ our Lord, who counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;' 'The grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant,'u &c.; 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners;' 'Howbeit, for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.'y Having thus mentioned the great things which Christ did for him, it is natural to suppose that the apostle would take occasion to ascribe glory to him. This accordingly he does in the words immediately following, 'Now unto the King eternal, immortal,' &c.
Having considered the argument for Christ's deity taken from divine worship being ascribed to him, we shall proceed to observe the methods used by the Anti-trinitarians to evade it. Some of the Socinians, as though there were no scriptures which speak of him as the object of religious worship, have peremptorily denied that it is due to him; and have thought very hardly of their brethren who were of a different opinion, as if they were involved in the common guilt of idolatry, which they suppose his worshippers to have been chargeable with. This occasioned warm debates in Transylvania and Poland, where Socinianism most prevailed towards the close of the sixteenth century. Indeed, the method of reasoning made use of by those who denied that he was the object of worship, though it tended more to his dishonour, yet it carried in it a greater consistency with the Socinian scheme of doctrine, than the opinion of those who, while they viewed him as an object of worship, denied his divinity. As for the Arians, they do not expressly deny him to be the object of worship, but rather deviate from the true sense of the word, when they maintain his right to it. They speak of great honours that are to be ascribed to him, by which one would almost be ready to conclude that they reckoned him a divine Person. But when these honours are compared with those that are due to the Father, we very plainly discover that they mean nothing more by them than what, in consistency with their own scheme, may be rendered to a creature. Thus a late writer,a in his explanation of the text, 'That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father,' plainly discovers his sense of divine worship, as due to our Saviour, to be very remote from that which is defended by those who maintain his proper deity. He says: "The meaning is not that the Son's authority should, like that of the Father, be looked upon as underived, absolute, supreme, and independent; but that as the Jews already believed in God, so they should also believe in Christ; as they already honoured God the Father, so they should also for the future, honour the Son of God,—honour him, as having all judgment committed unto him,—honour him, to the honour of the Father, which sent him,—acknowledge him to be God, to the glory of the Father." This is a very low idea of divine honour; for it is as much as to say, that as the Father is to be honoured as God, so there is a degree of honour which he has conferred on the Son, infinitely below that which is due to himself, but yet called divine, because it is given him by a divine warrant. Whether, in this sense, an angel might not have had a warrant to receive divine honour, I leave any one to judge. Indeed, nothing is contained in this sense, but what tends rather to depreciate than to advance the glory of Christ. But that we may better understand how far the Arians allow that religious worship may be given to our Saviour, as well as that we may take occasion to defend that right to divine worship which we have proved to be due to him, we shall briefly consider, and endeavour to make some reply to several objections.
To what has been stated, that a right to religious worship is founded only in a person's having the perfections of the divine nature, and that our Saviour's having this right is an argument that he is truly and properly God, equal with the Father, it is objected, that if God commands us to worship a creature, we are bound to obey him,—that, without considering any right which is founded in his nature, we are, by divine direction, or in obedience to a command given us for that purpose, to give divine worship to Christ,—and that evidence of such a command having been given, is contained in the text, 'When he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him,' which supposes that they did not worship him before, nor would have done so afterwards, without this divine intimation. Now, as to our yielding obedience to a divine command, provided God should require us to give divine worship to a creature, we do not deny that all the divine commands are to be obeyed. Yet this supposition is groundless; it is, in effect, to suppose what can never be; for God cannot command us to worship a creature, any more than he can discharge us from an obligation to worship himself. We might as well say, that if God should cease to exist, he would cease to be the object of worship; or if a created being had divine perfection, he would have a right to equal honour with God; as to say that it is warrantable for us to pay divine worship to a creature; for each of these is to suppose a thing which is in itself impossible. This will farther appear, from what was formerly said in explanation of the nature of religious worship. Adoration is a saying to a person who is the object of it, 'Thou hast divine perfections,' and to say this to a creature, is contrary to truth; and certainly, the God of truth can never give us a warrant to say that which is false. And if we consider worship as an addressing of ourselves to him whom we worship, in such a way as becomes a God, he cannot give us a warrant to render it to a creature; for that would be to divest himself of his glory; it would also disappoint our expectations, by causing us to put our trust in one who cannot save us; and it would place us among those who are justly reproved, as 'having no knowledge, who pray unto a god that cannot save.'d We must conclude, therefore, that since God cannot give his glory to another, he cannot, as is supposed in the objection, give any warrant to us to pay divine worship to a creature. As for the scripture referred to, in which God commanded the angels to worship our Saviour when he brought him into the world, it is not to be supposed that he had no right to divine worship before his incarnation. If he be a divine Person, as the scriptures assert him to be, the angels, doubtless, adored him as such before. The only new discovery which was made to them, when he came into the world, was, that the second Person in the Godhead was now God incarnate. This instance of infinite condescension was to be considered as a motive to excite their adoration, but not as the formal reason of it. We are, on the same principle, sometimes commanded to adore and magnify God, for the visible displays of his divine perfections in his works. Thus the psalmist says, 'O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!' In many other scriptures, also, the works of God are represented as a means or motive to excite our worship or adoration. Yet the divine perfections, which are displayed or rendered visible in them, are the great foundation or reason of worship. We worship God because he is infinitely perfect; though from the visible display of his perfections we take occasion to worship him. In this sense we understand the worship given to Christ by the angels, when brought into the world. They took occasion from this amazing instance of his condescension, to adore those perfections which induced the Son of God to take the human nature into union with his divine;—not that they supposed his right to divine worship was founded in that event.
It is further objected that, as our worshipping Christ includes the ascribing of all that glory to him which is his due, it is enough for us, when we worship him, to confess that he has an excellency above the angels, or that he is the best of all created beings, as well as the most honourable, and the greatest blessing to mankind,—that he was sent of God to instruct us, as a Prophet, in the way of salvation, to intercede for us as a Priest, and to give laws to us as a King,—and that he has done all this faithfully, and with great compassion to us. These things, and whatever else he does for the advantage of mankind, may, it is said, and ought to be, acknowledged to his praise as a debt due to him, and constitute him the object of worship; yet we are not to give him that glory which is due to the Father, as though he were a Person truly and properly divine. Now, while it is agreed, that that glory which is due to him, is to be ascribed; we humbly conceive, that the ascribing to a person of that honour which he has a right to, unless we suppose it to be divine, is not religious worship; or that to confess that those works which he has done are wonderful, and of great advantage to mankind, unless we suppose them to be such as none but a Person who has the divine nature can perform, is no instance of adoration. Yet all those works which the Arians ascribe to him, may, according to their opinion, be performed by a finite being; else they must allow the arguments which have been founded on them, to prove his proper deity. Again, if the works which are ascribed to him be considered as properly divine, as they are represented to be in scripture, it must not be concluded that he is to be adored, as performing them; but we are rather to take occasion from them, as was formerly observed, to adore those divine perfections which are evinced by them, and which render him the object of worship. The works of God are motives to induce us to worship him, and not the formal reason of worship. When, in the first commandment, God lays claim to divine honour, or obliges the Israelites 'to have no other gods before him, because he brought them out of the land of Egypt,' their deliverance, indeed, is to be considered as a motive to worship, but it is the divine power exerted in the deliverance, which was properly the object of worship. So in Psal. 136:1, we are commanded to 'give thanks to the Lord, whose mercy endureth for ever;' and in the following verses, there is a particular mention made of some glorious works which God had done: 'Who alone doth great wonders; who, in wisdom, made the heavens, and stretched out the earth; who made the sun to rule by day, and the moon by night,' &c. These and several other works there mentioned, are all considered as motives to excite our adoration; but his being 'Jehovah, the God of gods, and Lord of lords,' as he is called in the first, second, and third verses, is the great foundation of his right to worship. This character is in itself infinite; whereas his works are only the effects of infinite power, and so only a demonstration of his right to divine glory. Now, to apply this to those works which are done by our Saviour,—if we suppose them, as we ought, to be properly divine, they are to be considered only as evincing his right to divine honour, or as demonstrating his possession of that true deity which alone constitutes him the object of divine worship.
But some Arians proceed a little farther, when they speak of Christ as the object of worship, and allow that honours, truly divine, may be given to him. Yet this, they say, does not prove him to be God equal with the Father; for he is herein considered only as the Father's representative, on whom the worship which is offered immediately to him, must be supposed to terminate; as when an ambassador, who represents the prince that sent him, is considered as sustaining the character of representative, and receives some honour which otherwise he would have no right to, or rather is honoured as personating him whom he represents. Now, whatever may be said to be done by an ambassador, as representing the prince who sent him, there is always something in the manner of his address, or in the honours ascribed to him, which denotes him to be no more than a subject; and it would be strongly resented, should he assume that honour to himself which is due to his master. Our Saviour, therefore, were he not a divine Person, but only the Father's representative, could not have a right to claim that divine honour which is ascribed to him. Nor have we any foundation in scripture to distinguish between a supreme and a subordinate worship, or a worship given to a person which does not terminate in him, but in another whom he represents. If there be any apparent foundation for this distinction, it must be sought in those expressions in which Christ is represented as Mediator, as acting in the Father's name, and as not seeking his own glory, but the glory of him that sent him, or as referring all the honour which is given to him as Mediator to the Father. Now, when our Saviour uses such a mode of speaking, he disclaims any right to divine honour due to him as a man; in which capacity he received a commission from the Father, and acted in his name. But when the honour of a divine person is given to him, as God, though considered as Mediator, he is to be looked upon, not as representing the Father, or as transferring the divine glory which he receives to the Father, but as having the same right to it as the Father has, in as much as he has the same divine nature. We cannot, on any other supposition, account for those modes of speaking, frequent in scripture, in which the glory of a divine person is ascribed to him, without restriction or limitation.
Another objection against the argument for Christ's deity from his being the object of divine worship, is taken from his having refused to have one of the divine perfections ascribed to him, and having directed the person who gave it to ascribe it to the Father. 'He said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is God.' These words the Anti-trinitarians understand in a sense as if he had said, 'There is but one Person who is good, as goodness is properly a divine attribute; and that is the Father.' They hence infer that he alone is the object of that worship which consists in ascribing to him the perfections of the divine nature; in which sense we have before supposed religious worship to be understood. Now, as to our Saviour's words, 'There is none good but one, that is God,' they are doubtless to be understood in the same sense as all other scriptures which deny a plurality of gods, in opposition to the principles and practice of idolaters. But it does not follow that the Father is the only Person who is God, or the object of divine worship. This has already been considered; so that all I shall reply to this part of the objection is, that the word 'God' is sometimes taken for the Godhead, without a particular restriction or limitation to either Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, and may be equally applied to them all. In this sense it is to be taken, when the being of a God is demonstrated by the light of nature; as when, from the effects of the divine power, we argue that there is a God, who is the Creator of all things. But this cannot, if we have no other light to guide us but that of nature, be applied to the Father as a distinct Person in the Godhead; for the distinction between the divine Persons is a matter of pure revelation. Hence all that our Saviour intends by the expression in question is, that no one has a right to have divine perfections ascribed to him, but he who has a divine nature; and whether they be meant of the Father, Son, or Holy Ghost, he is denominated, 'The one only living and true God.' It follows, that when such modes of speaking are used in scripture, though the Father be called the one or only God, the Son is not, as a late judicious writer well observes, excluded.g As to that part of the objection which concerns our Saviour's blaming the man for calling him good, there are two senses given of it. One is taken from a different reading of the words, namely, 'Why dost thou ask me concerning good?' But it will not be much to our purpose either to defend or disprove this reading, since Mark and Luke read it, 'Why callest thou me good?' Passing this over, therefore, and supposing that it ought to be read as we generally do, the common answer which is given to the objection founded on it is, that our Saviour considers the man as ascribing a divine perfection to him whom, at the same time, he concluded to be no more than a creature. Hence his words are as if he had said, 'Either first acknowledge me to be a divine Person, or else do not ascribe divine honours to me; for then, by consequence, thou mightest as well ascribe them to any other creature.' By the same method of reasoning, had he conversed with any Anti-trinitarian, in his day, who had given divine worship to him, and yet denied his proper deity, he would have reproved him for his mistake, arising from an erroneous conscience, as much as he does the man, whom he reproves, in the same sense, for styling him 'good.' That Christ does not exclude himself from having a right to this divine perfection, is evident from those several scriptures, formerly referred to, which ascribe perfections to him that are equally divine; for he who has a right to one divine perfection, has a right to all. Besides, he styles himself, 'The good Shepherd,'—a title which certainly imports as much as the expression, 'good Master,' used by the man referred to. And that his being the good Shepherd argues him to be the Fountain of blessedness, which is certainly a divine perfection, is evident; because he speaks of himself as communicatively good in the highest sense: 'I give unto them,' namely, my sheep, 'eternal life.'k
The Divinity of the Holy Spirit
Having proved the deity of the Son, we proceed to consider that of the Holy Ghost. Here we are obliged to oppose the Socinians and the Arians, though in different respects. The Socinians seem to be divided in their sentiments on this subject. Some of them consider the Holy Ghost no otherwise than as a divine power; and they call him Virtus Dei, or the divine energy, or power of acting, and seem to deny his distinct personality, as the Sabellians do that of the Son and Spirit. Others of them, convinced that there is sufficient proof of his personality in scripture, deny his deity, supposing him to be no other than a created ministering Spirit. As for the Arians, the council at Nice was so much employed in defending the deity of our Saviour, by proving him to have the same essence with the Father, that the doctrine of the consubstantiality of the Holy Ghost did not come to be discussed. This doctrine, however, is universally denied by those who adhere to the Arian scheme. It is true that, as they do not question his personality, so they allow that he has many glories ascribed to him, and agree in words with the scripture account of his character; but they are, notwithstanding, far from asserting his proper deity, any more than that of the Son.
We have already proved him to be a distinct Person. Nothing, therefore, remains, but that we consider him as having a divine nature. In discussing this subject, we shall draw our arguments from the same sources as when we proved the divinity of the Son, namely, from those divine names, attributes, works, and worship, which are ascribed to him. We have no occasion, however, to insist on the proof of the proposition, that he who is thus described is God; for we have done that already under each class of arguments in defence of our Saviour's deity. We need only consider the arguments as applied to the Holy Ghost. And,
I. It appears that he is God, equal with the Father and Son, from the same divine names being given to him which are given to them.
1. He is called 'God,' without any thing tending to detract or diminish from the proper sense of the word; or he is called so in the same manner as when the name is applied to the Father or the Son. Thus, 'Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.' Here he is not only called 'God,' but put in opposition to the creature. The words are as if the apostle had said, 'Thou hast endeavoured to deceive him by whom I am inspired, which is a greater crime than if thou hadst lied to me only.' It is objected, however, that it is not the Holy Ghost who is here called 'God,' but the Father, In defence of this sense of the text, it is supposed that, though the lie was immediately designed to deceive the apostles, or the Holy Ghost, by whom they were known to be inspired, yet it was interpreted by God the Father, as an attempt to impose upon him through the medium of his ministers; for, in the character of ministers, the objectors regard not only the apostles, but also the Holy Spirit. Accordingly they thus argue: He who does any thing against God's ministers, to wit, the Father's, may be said to do the same against him. Here they refer to some scriptures which, they think, give countenance to their argument,—namely, Exod. 16:8, where Moses tells the Israelites, when they murmured against him, 'Your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord;' 1 Sam. 8:7, where God says to Samuel, speaking concerning the Israelites, 'They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me;' the words of our Saviour to his disciples, 'He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me;' 1 Thess. 4:8, 'He that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his Holy Spirit.' Now, how plausible soever this objection may seem to be, yet, if duly considered, it will not appear sufficient to overthrow the argument we are maintaining. It is true, indeed, that what is done against any one who acts by a commission, as a servant to another, is interpreted as done against him who gives him the commission. He, for example, who affronts a judge, or an ambassador, affronts the king whom he represents; or if an inferior servant is ill treated, in delivering a message from his master, there is always supposed to be a reflection on him who sent him. But I humbly conceive, this cannot be applied, as it is in the objection, to Ananias, 'not lying unto men, but unto God.' To make this appear, let it be considered, that here are two terms of distinction; and these respect either God the Father and the apostles, or God the Father and the Holy Ghost, or God the Holy Ghost and the apostles. Now God the Father cannot be said here to be distinguished from the apostles, so as to give countenance to this phrase, 'Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God;' because it is said, in the foregoing verse, that 'they had lied to the Holy Ghost.' If the Holy Ghost had not been mentioned, indeed, there might have been more ground to conclude, that Peter distinguished himself from God the Father, or intimated that Ananias, in attempting to deceive him, attempted to deceive God who sent him. But even then the passage would not have fully corresponded with the sense of those scriptures which are quoted by the objectors as of a similar character. For though he who despises a servant, despises him who sent him, and he who despises a minister, when he is preaching the gospel, or despises the message which he brings, may be said to despise God, whose message it is; yet it does not follow that, if a person design to impose, in other respects, upon a minister, he imposes upon God who sent him. He may not disown the divine authority, or commission, which the minister has to preach the gospel, and yet may conclude that he can deceive him,—though he is sensible that he cannot deceive God, who knoweth all things. Again, let us consider whether God the Father be here distinguished from the Holy Ghost. To suppose this would make the passage say, 'Thou hast lied to the Holy Ghost, wherein thou hast not lied to man, but to God, namely, the Father.' Now, had the apostle designed to distinguish the Holy Ghost from the Father, and by doing so to deny his deity, he ought to have expressed himself thus: 'Thou hast not lied unto the Holy Ghost, but unto God.' This would effectually have determined him not to have been God, and removed any suspicion that by the expression, 'Thou hast not lied unto men,' we were to understand the apostles. Or if it be objected, that to have said this would have been contrary to fact, since Ananias lied both to the apostles and to the Holy Ghost, the words might have been, 'Thou hast not lied to the Holy Ghost, or to men, that is, not to them only; but thou hast, interpretatively, in lying to them, lied unto God, namely the Father.' Had Peter expressed himself thus, the sense would have been plain and obvious, in favour of the Anti-trinitarians, as well as agreeable to their interpretation of the texts quoted in their objection. But as the words are not so, we must conclude that in this text there is no other distinction than between God the Holy Ghost and the apostles. Accordingly, the sense is very plain and natural; and is as if the apostle had said, 'Thou hast endeavoured to deceive me, who am under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Ghost, which is a greater crime than if thou hadst only lied to me, at a time when this honour was not conferred upon me; for thou hast committed a double crime,—thou hast not only lied to me, which thou oughtest not to have done, but thou hast lied to the Holy Ghost, and, in so doing, hast not lied unto men, but unto God.' Hence, it is said, that, Ananias and his wife had agreed together to tempt the Holy Ghost.' What is called 'a lying to him,' in one verse, is styled 'a tempting him' in another. This, then, seems to be a plain and easy sense of the words, which any unprejudiced reader would be inclined to accede to. And as scripture is written to instruct the most injudicious Christians, as well as others, I cannot conceive that modes of speaking would be used in it, especially in a matter of so great importance as this, which have a tendency to lead persons out of the way, by deviating from the common sense of words, and which, in this case, might induce some, by adhering to the most proper sense, to acknowledge the Holy Ghost to be God, if he were not so.
In another scripture the Holy Ghost is called, 'The God and the Rock of Israel.' Now, by comparing the passage with the foregoing and following words, it seems very evident that it is applied to him. It is said in the context, 'The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.' Then we have an account of what he said: 'He that ruleth over man must be just,' &c. It cannot, with any colour of reason, be supposed that there is more than one Person here intended, who spake to the prophet. And as this Person is called not only 'the God,' but also 'the Rock of Israel,' he is plainly intimated to be the almighty God of Israel; for that, in other scriptures, is the sense of the metaphor, 'a rock,' when applied to God.
Again, it is said, 'Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?' Here it must be observed, that their being called the temple of God, who is said to dwell in them, denotes the inhabitant to be a divine Person; for a temple, according to the known acceptation of the word, always implies a deity, and so is called the house of God. Now, he who dwelt in them, and on account of whose dwelling in them they are called his temple, is expressly said to be the Spirit of God; and the passage corresponds with what is said concerning him elsewhere, 'Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which,' or who, 'is in you?'u
2. In further proof of the Holy Spirit's deity, we observe that he is called, 'Lord.' This seems very evident from Isa. 6:8, 9, 'And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I, send me. And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye, indeed, but understand not,' &c. Here the person sending speaks both in the singular number and the plural, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?' By the former expression, 'Whom shall I send?' he evinces his divinity, as having a right to give a commission to the prophets, to declare his mind and will to man; and this right, as will be observed in a following section, none but a divine Person possesses. By the latter, 'Who shall go for us?' he includes himself among the Persons in the Godhead; for, as has before been observed, when God is represented as speaking in the plural number, a Trinity of Persons seems to be intended. But that which we principally consider is, that the Holy Ghost is here called 'Lord.' This appears from what the apostle says in Acts 28:25, 26, 'Well spake the Holy Ghost, by Esaias the prophet, unto our fathers, saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing, ye shall hear, and shall not understand,' &c. It cannot be reasonably objected, that the apostle refers only to the book of Isaiah, and not to this particular part of it. For though the words, 'Thus saith the Holy Ghost,' might be used as a preface to any quotation from scripture, as all scripture is given by his inspiration, yet the message referred to by the apostle was not only transmitted by Esaias to the church, but is distinguished from all the other things which the Spirit of the Lord spake by him. It cannot be supposed, therefore, that the apostle, when referring to this scripture, and saying, 'Well spake the Holy Ghost by him,' means anything else than the Holy Ghost's giving him this commission. He, consequently, who gave this commission, or spake thus to him, is the Holy Ghost; who is, in the foregoing words, called 'the Lord.'
In another scripture it is said, 'We are changed from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord;' or, according to the margin, 'As by the Lord the Spirit.' This reading is certainly as proper as any other, and is, by some, preferred to all others. The passage contains, therefore, at least a probable argument that the Spirit is expressly called 'Lord.'y
II. The Holy Ghost appears to be God, from those divine attributes that are ascribed to him.
1. He is eternal. In Heb. 9:14. it is said, 'Christ, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself, without spot, to God.' I am sensible that, according to the opinion of many the phrase 'eternal Spirit' here signifies Christ's eternal Godhead, which is so called on account of the spirituality of its nature; and that it is designed to set forth the infinite value which the oblation he made of himself, in his human nature, to God, received from the divine nature, to which it was united. Now though this is a very great truth, yet there does not seem to be so great a propriety in the expression, when 'the eternal Spirit' is taken for the divine nature, as when understood of the Holy Ghost. Christ may be said to have, by him, offered himself, without spot, to God, as implying, that the unction which he received from the Holy Ghost, was the means to preserve him from all sinful defilement,—on which account his oblation was without blemish. Indeed it was no less necessary, in order to his oblation being accepted, that it should be spotless, than that it should be of infinite value. I must conclude, therefore, that it is the Holy Ghost who is here called 'the eternal Spirit.' [See Note 2 T, p. 253.]
Moreover, his eternity may be evinced from his having created all things; for he who made the world and all finite things, wherewith time began, must have been before them, and consequently from everlasting. By this, the eternity of Christ was proved, under a foregoing Head; and that the Holy Ghost made all things, will be proved under our next argument.
2. His immensity, or omnipresence, is a further proof of his deity. This attribute seems to be plainly affirmed of him in Psal. 139:7, 'Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?' The import of these words is, there is no place where the Spirit is not. It is allowed by all, that they describe the divine immensity in a very elegant manner. It is objected, indeed, that one part of this verse is exegetical of the other; and that the psalmist, by 'the Spirit,' intends nothing else but the presence of God. But it is equally probable, if not more so, that the Spirit is distinguished from the presence of God, and consequently that he is a distinct Person in the Godhead. This interpretation does not make any strain upon the sense of the words; for the Spirit, as has been before observed, is often spoken of in scripture as a Person. It is not strange, therefore, that he should be mentioned as such in this text; and, if he be spoken of as a Person, it is beyond dispute that he is here proved to be a divine Person
3. His deity farther appears from his omniscience. This perfection is ascribed to him in 1 Cor. 2:10, 'The Spirit searcheth all things; yea, the deep things of God.' To search, indeed, is a word used in condescension to our common mode of speaking. We arrive at the knowledge of things by searching, or inquiry. But this idea is to be abstracted from the word, when applied to God. For him to search is to know all things. In this sense, the word is used in Psal. 139:23, 24, 'Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me,' &c. The word implies, not the manner of his knowing, but the exquisiteness of his knowledge. In this sense we must understand it in the text in question; for while the Spirit is said to search all things, we have an account of the objects of his knowledge, namely, 'the deep things of God.' Thus he knows all those things which were hid in the divine mind from all eternity, and the infinite perfections of the divine nature, which are incomprehensible to a creature, and which none can, 'by searching, find out to perfection.' In this respect, the highest creatures, the angels, are said to be 'charged with folly;'b for their knowledge is comparatively imperfect. Besides, the manner of the Spirit's knowing all things is not like ours, that is, by inferring consequences from premises, in a way of reasoning; for it is said, in the verse immediately following, that 'he knows the things of God,' in the way in which a 'man knoweth the things of a man;' that is, he knows his own thoughts, by an internal principle of knowledge, not by revelation, or by any external discovery. Thus the Spirit knows the divine nature, as having it. His omniscience, therefore, is a plain proof of his deity.
III. The deity of the Holy Ghost may be farther evinced, from his performing those works which are proper to God only.
1. He created all things. In Gen. 1:2. it is said, 'The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.' Here, by 'the Spirit of God,' cannot be meant, as some suppose, the air or the wind; for that was not created till the second day, when God made the firmament. Again, it is said, 'By his Spirit he hath garnished the heavens;' and, 'The Spirit of God hath made me.'d Some of the Arians are so sensible that the Spirit, as well as the Son, is represented as the Creator of all things, that they suppose him to have been an instrument to the Son in the work of creation. This, according to the Arian scheme, is as much as to say, he is an instrument of an instrument. Indeed, to say the Son created all things, as an instrument, has been proved to be an indefensible notion; but to say that the Spirit is his instrument is much more so.
2. Extraordinary or miraculous works, which are equivalent to creation, have been performed by the Spirit. The apostle, speaking concerning extraordinary gifts, which were subservient to the propagation of the gospel in the first preaching of it, attributes them to the Spirit. This he largely insists on, in 1 Cor. 12; and in particular, he says, 'There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord; and there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God, which worketh all in all.' Many who defend the doctrine of the Trinity, take for granted, that this passage speaks of all the Persons in the Godhead,—that it calls our Saviour 'Lord,' and the Father 'God.' Some of the Anti-trinitarians, hence, argue, that the Spirit is not God, because he is distinguished from the Father, whom they suppose to be called God. I cannot but conclude, however, that the Holy Spirit is set forth under all the three names. The works attributed to him, notwithstanding the variety of expressions, are the same, and are included in the general term 'spiritual gifts.' I hence take the meaning of the text to be this, There are diversities of gifts, or extraordinary operations, which some are enabled to put forth in the exercise of their ministry, and which are all from the same Spirit, who is Lord and God, who has an infinite sovereignty, and bestows these blessings as he pleases, as becomes a divine person. This interpretation agrees very well with what is said, in the eleventh verse, 'All these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.'
3. The Spirit of God commissioned and qualified ministers to preach the gospel, and thereby to gather and build up churches, determining that their ministry should be exercised in one place, and not in another. This work is a peculiar branch of the divine glory; and no one has a right to do it, but a divine Person. A creature may as well pretend to command the sun to shine, or to stop its course in the heavens at his pleasure, as to commission a minister to preach the gospel, or to restrain the preaching of it. But the Holy Ghost is plainly said to have called and appointed the apostles to exercise their ministry in the first preaching of the gospel, after he had, by conferring extraordinary gifts upon them, qualified them for it. Accordingly, in Acts 13:2, he speaks in a style truly divine, 'The Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul, for the work whereunto I have called them.' In Acts 20:28, also, the apostle tells the elders or ministers of the church at Ephesus, that 'the Holy Ghost had made them overseers.' We read, likewise, of the Spirit's determining where they should exercise their ministry. Thus he commanded Philip to go and preach the gospel to the eunuch: 'Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.' At another time, the Spirit bade Peter, when he doubted whether it were lawful for him to do it or not, go and preach the gospel to Cornelius: 'The Spirit said unto him, Behold three men seek thee; arise therefore and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing, for I have sent them.'h At another time, it is said, 'They were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia; and they assayed to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit suffered them not.' Again, it is said, that the apostle Paul was ordered, in a vision, to go to Macedonia, and that he obeyed, 'assuredly gathering that the Lord,' that is, the Spirit, 'had called him to preach the gospel unto them.'k Nothing can be a greater proof than what these instances furnish of the sovereignty of the Holy Ghost. They relate to a work of the highest importance, and one which evidently proves his divinity.
4. His divinity farther appears from the unction which he conferred on. our Saviour, to perform the work of a Mediator in his human nature. In Isa. 61:1. it is said, 'The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek,' &c.; and these words are particularly referred to, in Luke 4:18, 19, as signifying our Saviour's unction by the Holy Ghost. Indeed, it is not denied, even by those who do not infer his deity from them, that they are spoken of the Holy Ghost. Accordingly it is inserted, by a late writer, among those scriptures which speak particularly of the Holy Ghost. It would be a great strain on the sense of the text, to suppose that the clause, 'he hath anointed me,' refers to the Father, and not to the Spirit. As to the meaning of the word 'unction,' it is borrowed from the ceremonial law, under which the prophets, priests, and kings, were publicly anointed with oil, to signify the warrant or commission they had received from God, to execute their offices, together with the qualifications which were to be expected for the discharge of them. In this sense our Saviour is said to have been anointed by the Holy Ghost. He was anointed in his human nature, in which he was obliged to yield obedience and subjection to God; and he was authorised and qualified to perform this obedience by the Holy Ghost. However difficult to be performed, it was, in consequence of the Spirit's unction, discharged by him, without the least failure or defect; and owing to the same thing, as we observed before, his oblation was without spot. The work was certainly extraordinary, and consequently the glory redounding from it, to the Holy Ghost, is such as proves him to be a divine person.
5. A farther proof of his divinity is that the work of grace, both as to the beginning, progress, and completing of it, in the souls of believers, is ascribed to him, as well as to the Father and the Son. That this is a work of God's almighty power, and consequently too great to be performed by any creature, and that the Holy Ghost, in particular, is the Author of it, we shall here take for granted, without attempting to offer proof. This indeed is not in itself a just method of reasoning; but we shall be led to insist on the subject, under some following Answers, and shall there prove the point in question. And if the work whereby we are regenerated and sanctified, and enabled to overcome all opposition till we are brought to glory, appear to be the effect of the exceeding greatness of the power of God, then he who is the Author of it is evidently the God of all grace.
IV. The Holy Ghost appears to be God, in as much as he has a right to divine worship. That none but a divine Person has this right, has been already proved. That the Spirit has a right to it, might be evinced, from his having those divine perfections which, as has been before observed, are ascribed to him in scripture. As he has the perfections of the divine nature, which are the objects of adoration, it follows that he is to be adored. If, likewise, he has performed those works which argue him to be the Proprietor of all things, the same consequence follows. And if all that grace which is necessary to make us meet for the heavenly blessedness, be his work and gift, it follows that he is to be supplicated for it; and to do this is a great branch of religious worship. But this being only an improvement of, or a deduction from arguments already laid down to prove his deity, we shall inquire whether we have not the obligation of a command, or some examples equivalent to this, which will farther warrant our giving divine worship to him.
Some suppose, that the prayer is directed to the Holy Ghost, which is mentioned in Acts 1:24, 25, 'Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, show whether of these two thou hast chosen, that he may take part of this ministry and apostle-ship.' The designation of persons to the exercise of their ministry, as well as the extraordinary gifts with which they were furnished, is peculiarly ascribed, in the book of Acts, to the Holy Ghost. It is supposed, therefore, that the disciples prayed to the Holy Ghost, that he would signify whom of the two nominated by them he had chosen to the apostleship, in the room of Judas. But this being, at most, but a probable argument, I shall lay no stress upon it.
I humbly conceive, however, that we have a more evident example of prayer to the Holy Ghost, in 2 Thess. 3:5, 'The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.' It seems more than probable that the Holy Ghost, who is here called Lord, is prayed to; for he is distinguished from the Father and Son, and the apostle prays to him that he would direct them into the love of the Father, and enable them, patiently, to wait for the Son.
There is another instance in 1 Thess. 3:12, 13, 'The Lord make you to increase and abound in love one towards another, to the end that he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.' Here the Holy Ghost seems to be the Person prayed to; for he is plainly distinguished from the Father and Son, in as much as what is prayed to him for, is that the believers may be holy before the Father, at the coming of the Son.
There is another scripture, in which it is still more evident, that the apostle prays to the Holy Ghost together with the Father and Son, namely, 2 Cor. 13:14, 'The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all, Amen.' In that part of this prayer which respects the Holy Ghost, is an humble supplication, that he would be pleased to manifest himself to them, or that he would communicate to them those graces which they stood in need of. As the church is elsewhere said to have 'fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ,' so here the apostle prays that they may have fellowship with the Holy Ghost. And how could he have prayed for this blessing unless he be supposed to have addressed himself to the Holy Ghost? Whenever any thing is desired, or prayed for, which can be considered no otherwise than as an effect produced by a free agent, the prayer or desire for it, is supposed more immediately to be directed to the agent. Should a person say, in presence of a disobliged friend, 'O that he would look upon me, that he would converse with me, or that he would discover his wonted love unto me!' though, according to the form of expression, it seems not to be directed to him, yet every one would suppose it to be equivalent to an immediate address made to him. Hence, for the apostle to desire that the Holy Ghost would have communion with believers, that is, converse with, and manifest himself to them, in performing all those works which were necessary for their edification and salvation, cannot amount to less than a prayer to him.
We shall now proceed to consider some objections, brought by the Anti-trinitarians, against the deity of the Holy Ghost. A divine person, they say, cannot be the gift of God, for that supposes him to be at his disposal, and inferior to him. But the Spirit is said to be given by him: 'Thou gavest also thy good Spirit to instruct them;' 'God gave them the like gift,'p meaning the Spirit, 'as he did unto us;' 'Your heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him.' Again, the Spirit is said to be sent, and that either by the Father, or by the Son, 'The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name;' 'If I depart, I will send him unto you.'s Again, he is said to receive from another what he communicates, 'He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.' But this, it is alleged, is inconsistent with the character of a divine Person, who is never said to receive what he imparts to others. Hence, the apostle says, concerning God, 'Who hath first given to him?'u Again, the Holy Ghost is said to speak not of himself, but what he hears, when he shows things to come. It is hence inferred, that he did not know that which he was to communicate before he heard it. Again, it is alleged, that he is said to have a mind distinct from God, unless we suppose that there are a plurality of gods, and so more distinct divine minds than one. In support of this, the text is quoted, 'He that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit.'y Again, he is represented as making intercession, 'The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us,' &c. This, it is alleged, is an act of worship; so that he himself cannot be the object of worship, or possess those blessings for which he intercedes. Again, he is not only said to be resisted and grieved, expressions which, in an improper sense, or speaking after the manner of men, are sometimes applied to God, but he is said to be quenched, or extinguished.a This, together with other things said concerning him, is alleged to be not applicable to a divine Person.
These are the most material objections which are brought against the doctrine which we have been endeavouring to maintain. The sum of them all is this,—that it is inconsistent with the character of a divine Person to be dependent on, and subjected to the will of another, as the Spirit is supposed by the objectors to be. That we may defend the Godhead of the Holy Ghost against them, we shall premise something respecting all those scriptures which speak of the Spirit, as given or sent by the Father, and then apply it to the sense of those in particular which are brought to support the objections.
It may be easily observed, that in several places of scripture, especially in the New Testament, 'the Holy Ghost' is often taken for the gifts or graces of the Spirit, and more particularly for that extraordinary dispensation, in which the apostles were endowed with those spiritual gifts which were necessary for the propagation and success of the gospel. These, by a metonymy, are called 'the Spirit.' I humbly conceive, that all those scriptures which speak of the Spirit's being 'poured forth,' are to be understood in this sense. On the occasion when 'the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word,' it is said, that 'upon the Gentiles was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.'c Thus we are to understand that scripture, 'We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost;' and this, 'The Holy Ghost was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified.'e In the latter passage, the word 'given' is supplied by our translators, probably to fence against a weak argument of some Anti-trinitarians, taken from that text, to overthrow the eternity of the Spirit. But whether the word be supplied or not, the sense of the text is plainly this,—that the gifts of the Holy Ghost were not conferred before Christ's ascension into heaven. The passage is thus a farther confirmation that the name 'Holy Ghost' is sometimes used to denote the Spirit's gifts. Again, all those scriptures which seem to represent the Holy Ghost as in ferior to the Father and Son, some of which are noticed in the objection, may be understood as denoting the subserviency of the works of the Spirit, which also are called 'the Holy Ghost,' to those works which are said to be performed by the Father and Son. Now it is certain, that the subserviency of one work to another, performed by different persons, does not necessarily infer the inferiority of one person to the other. We must, accordingly, distinguish between the Spirit, as subsisting, and as acting. In the former sense, he is a divine Person, equal with the Father and Son; in the latter, he may be said to be subservient to them.
But now we shall proceed, in consistency with what has been premised, to consider the sense of those scriptures which are brought to support the objection. The first is that in which it is said, 'Thou gavest them thy good Spirit to instruct them.' Here the Holy Ghost is described with a personal character; and probably the name is not to be understood metonymically for his gifts and graces. The meaning seems to be this,—the Spirit's efficiency in guiding and instructing them was a special gift of God conferred upon them. In this respect, though he was a sovereign Agent, yet he is said to act by the will of the Father, which is the same with his own will; for though the Persons in the Godhead are distinct, yet they have not distinct wills. Now, it is not an improper way of speaking to say, when a divine Person displays his glory in conferring a blessing upon men, that the display he makes of himself, and the blessing he bestows, are given. God is said, for example, to give himself to his people, when he promises to be a God to them. According to this mode of speaking, indeed, there is a discriminating act of favour conferred on men, which is called a gift; but this does not militate against the divinity of the Holy Ghost, though he is said to be given to them.
Another scripture quoted in the objection is that in which it is said, 'God gave them the like gift, as he did to us,' meaning the Holy Ghost. Here the phrase 'Holy Ghost' is plainly taken for the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit; the conferring of which is called, in the foregoing words, a being 'baptized with the Holy Ghost.' This is particularly explained in the scripture, formerly referred to, in which it is said, that 'on the Gentiles was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.' What this gift was, we learn from the following words, 'They spake with tongues, and magnified God.'
Again, the phrase 'Holy Spirit' in the passage, 'Your heavenly Father shall give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him,' is explained by another evangelisth to mean good things in general, and so includes the graces of the Spirit which accompany salvation. He reads the words, 'Your Father who is in heaven shall give good things to them that ask him;' so that here the Spirit is taken for all those blessings which he bestows upon his people in answer of prayer.
As for those scriptures in which the Spirit is said to be sent, either by the Father or the Son, they are not to be understood in the same sense as when the Son is said to be sent in his human nature, appearing in the form of a servant, to fulfil the will of God. When God is said to send his Spirit, the word 'send' is to be taken in a metaphorical sense. Sending imports as much as giving; and, when the Spirit is said to be given, the language has a peculiar reference to the grace which he was to bestow upon them. By this metaphorical way of speaking we are probably to understand, that the Spirit, who was to produce the effects, is a divine Person; and that the effects themselves are subservient to those works which are performed, and which demonstrate the personal glories of the Father and Son.
Again, when it is said by our Saviour, 'the Spirit shall receive of mine, and show it unto you,' the words plainly mean, that the Spirit should apply those blessings which Christ had purchased by his blood, and so should show forth his glory. Still they signify the subserviency of the Spirit to the Son, only in working, or in so far as the application of redemption tends to accomplish its designed end.
As to the scripture, in which the Spirit is said 'not to speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak,' it does not argue, in the least, that he receives what he communicates; as if he were dependent on the Father for the knowledge of the things he is to impart, or that he has ideas impressed on his mind, as creatures are said to have. To suppose this is inconsistent with what has been before proved from scripture, namely, that 'the Spirit knoweth the deep things of God, even as the spirit of a man knoweth the things of a man,' or as an intelligent being is conscious of his own thoughts, or actions, not by information, but by an immediate internal perception. The sense, therefore, of the text in question is, that the Spirit shall communicate no other doctrines, and give no other laws, than what Christ had before given in the gospel; or that what he reveals is the same which Christ had given his disciples ground to expect. So far from militating against the Spirit's divinity, it proves the harmony and consent of what is suggested by one divine Person, with what had been before delivered by another. As to the peculiar expression, 'Whatsoever he shall hear that shall he speak,' it is spoken after the manner of men, and is no more inconsistent with his divine omniscience, or the independence of it, than when God is said, in other scriptures, to know things by searching them, or, as it were, by inquiry. These, and similar expressions, by which God is represented by words accommodated to our usual way of speaking in reference to men, are, when applied to the Holy Ghost, to be understood in a way agreeable to the divine perfections, by abstracting from them every thing which argues the least imperfection; and they are to be viewed in the same light when some expressions, agreeable to human modes of speaking, are elsewhere used, with a particular application to the Father, without detracting from his divine glory.
It is again objected, as we saw, that the Spirit is said to have a distinct mind from God, as in the passage, 'God knoweth the mind of the Spirit;' and that he is represented as engaged in an act of worship, or as praying, or 'making intercession for us, according to the will of God.' But it is plain, that, by 'the mind of the Spirit,' we are to understand those secret desires in prayer which are wrought in believers by the Spirit, when they want words to express them. They are said, instead of words, to address themselves to God, 'with groanings which cannot be uttered.' These are from the Spirit, as the Author of those secret desires which are known only to the heart-searching God, who knows the meaning of them, what it is we want. Our desires are hence called 'the mind of the Spirit,' as the Author of them, though they are subjectively our own mind or desires, which we want words to express. And when the Spirit is said to 'make intercession for us,' the phrase implies nothing else but his enabling us, whether in more or less proper modes of speaking, to plead with God for ourselves.
As to those expressions, in which the Spirit is represented as 'quenched,' or 'extinguished,' they are to be understood as a metonymy, whereby, as before mentioned, the gifts of the Spirit are put for the Spirit. When extraordinary gifts were first promised, the disciples were led to expect that they should be 'baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire;' that is, they should have the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, conferred upon them, and signified by the emblem of fiery tongues, that sat on them. The reason of this emblem might probably be, that, as a necessary qualification for their preaching the gospel, they should be filled with an holy flame of love to God, and zeal for his glory, as well as with the gift of tongues, by which they might communicate his mind to the world. This privilege, which they had received, the apostle exhorts them not to forfeit or abuse, so as to provoke the Holy Ghost to take it from them; and the forfeiture or abuse of it is called 'quenching the Spirit.' This metaphorical way of speaking, therefore, must not be supposed to be inconsistent with his divinity.
The Practical Use of the Doctrine of the Trinity
I shall conclude my observations on questions connected with the doctrine of the Trinity with some inferences which more especially respect the practical improvement of the doctrine.
1. We may take occasion to observe the difference that there is between natural and revealed religion. The former respects the knowledge of God, so far as it may be attained without the help of divine revelation, and the worship which the heathen, who have nothing else to guide them but the light of nature, are obliged to give to the divine Being. The latter, which is founded on scripture, contains a display of the personal glory of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This is necessary to be known and believed; as it is the foundation of all revealed religion. The sum of Christianity consists in our subjection to, and adoring the Godhead, as subsisting in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
2. As the doctrine of the Trinity is eminently displayed in the work of our redemption, it is necessary for us to consider how it is accommodated to, and demonstrated by, all the branches of that work. The price which was given by our great Redeemer, has a value put upon it, in proportion to the dignity of his person; and lays a sure foundation for our hope of being accepted in the sight of God, on account of his obedience and sacrifice, which were of infinite value. And the application of redemption being a work which the Spirit, who is a divine person, has undertaken to perform, we have reason to expect that it shall be brought to perfection. Hence, they who are the objects of redeeming love and sanctifying grace, shall in the end be completely saved.
3. As it is necessary for us to adore and magnify the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for our inestimable privilege in the gospel; so we must observe the distinct glory which is to be given to each of the divine persons for the work of redemption. Whatever is done by the Mediator to procure this privilege for us, is considered, in scripture, as taking its rise from the Father, and affording reason for giving him glory. 'Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.' Whatever was done in the human nature, or by God incarnate, is, in a peculiar manner, the work of the Son; and a revenue of glory is due to him for it, who 'gave his life a ransom for many,' and thus displayed the highest condescension, enhanced by the infinite dignity of his person. And whatever work is performed in subserviency to the Mediator's glory, whereby the Spirit demonstrates his distinct personal glory, gives us occasion to adore him, in all the displays of his power, in beginning, carrying on, and completing the work of grace in the souls of men.
4. As to what respects that fellowship, or communion, which believers have with the Father, Son, and Spirit, it depends on the account we have, in scripture, of the distinct methods in which their personal glory is set forth. We have access to God the Father, through the mediation of the Son, by the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit. 'Through him,' says the apostle, 'we have an access, by one Spirit, unto the Father.' And our hope of blessedness is the gift of the Father, who has prepared an inheritance for us; the purchase of the Son, on whose death it is founded; and the work of the Holy Ghost, as bringing us to, and putting us into, the possession of it.
5. This directs us as to the way of performing the great duty of self-dedication, to the Father, Son, and Spirit; to the Father, as our covenant God in Christ; to the Son, as the Mediator, head, and surety of this covenant; and to the Spirit, by whom we are made partakers of the blessings promised. In all these, and many other respects, we are to have a particular regard to the Persons in the Godhead, correspondingly to the way in which their personal glory is set forth in scripture.
6. As the Father, Son, and Spirit, are one, though we distinguish them as Persons, we must consider them as having the same divine perfections, the same divine understanding and will, lest, while we give glory to each of the Persons in the Godhead, we should suppose that there are more Gods than one. Hence, though the Person of the Father is distinct from that of the Son and the Holy Ghost, we are not to suppose that power, wisdom, goodness, faithfulness, or any other divine perfections, belong, in a more or a less proper sense, to one Person than another.
7. The doctrine of the Trinity is of use to direct us how we are to address ourselves to God in prayer. When in prayer, we call him our Father, we are not to consider him in the same sense, as when he is represented as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; but we address ourselves to him, as the author of our being, the God of all grace, and the fountain of blessedness. Accordingly, the Son and the Holy Ghost are not to be excluded; unless we especially consider him as our Father in Christ, and so express our faith, with respect to his distinct personality from that of the Son and the Spirit. Though only one divine Person be particularly mentioned in prayer, the blessed Trinity is to be adored. Whatever personal glory we ascribe to one, as subsisting distinctly from the other, we must, notwithstanding, consider the Father, Son, and Spirit, as the one only living and true God.
Thus we have gone through this great and important subject, and have taken occasion, particularly, to insist on the chief matters in controversy relating to the doctrine of the ever-blessed Trinity, and considered the various methods taken to oppose it, both by the Socinians and the Arians, and endeavoured, not only to defend the deity of our Saviour and the Holy Ghost, by inquiring into the sense of those many scriptures on which our faith therein is founded, but to answer the most material objections which are brought against it. Our having enlarged more on it, than we shall do on several following answers, cannot be reckoned a needless work; for much has been written in opposition to it, whereby the faith of some has not only been shaken, but overthrown. I would never attempt to speak of this doctrine, or of any of the divine perfections, without being sensible of the difficulty of the subject, it being such as is not to be comprehended by a finite mind. I hope nothing will appear to have been suggested inconsistent with the essential or personal glory of the Father, Son, or Spirit. I may reasonably expect that allowances should be made for great defects; for it is but a little of God that can be known by us. When we pretend to speak concerning him, it will not be thought strange if we give occasion to any to say, what we have the greatest reason to acknowledge, that, in many instances, we cannot order our words, by reason of darkness.
[NOTE 2 L. The Communication of the Divine Perfections.—When Dr. Ridgeley had so well exposed the inappropriateness of the word 'communication,' he ought to have entirely discarded it. He tries to invest it with a new meaning, but, in reality, renders it meaningless and absurd. His views—quite justly as appears—will not allow him to say more respecting the modus of personality in the Godhead, than that 'all the perfections of the divine nature are equally attributed to, or predicated of, the Father, Son, and Spirit.' In using this language, he is on safe ground: he speaks consistently with the simple phraseology of scripture; he throws off the mystifying, pseudo-profound, and mischievous jargon of the scholastic theology; he is free from pretension to explain or define what scripture has not revealed, and what reason cannot comprehend; and he offers no premium and no incitement, by 'great swelling words of vanity,' to daring speculation, to Arian misconstruction, or to a man's 'intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.' But why does not Dr. Ridgeley content himself with the language of his direct statement? why does he translate it into a technical synonyme, and try to make it comport with the phrase, 'All the perfections of the divine nature are communicated?' The word 'communicate'—except when utterly explained away, and made arbitrarily to signify something altogether foreign to its ordinary acceptation—is far, very far from expressing Dr. Ridgeley's views, or harmonizing with correct conceptions of the divine subsistence. Followed by the preposition 'to,' it denotes a person's participation in anything by reception of it from another; and, followed by the preposition 'in,' it denotes his participation in it absolutely or by his own act. In both cases, however, it supposes the thing to exist before the participation takes place. One man communicates to another ideas or information; or one man communicates in a privilege which is common to a class. In either case, the object of communication, the thing participated, the information or the privilege, exists apart from the participant, independent of his causation, and prior to his act of receiving or enjoying it. Whether the words, κεκοινωνηκε σαρκος και αἱματος, may, as Dr. Ridgeley proposes, be justly translated, 'They bad flesh and blood communicated to them,' is more than questionable; but if they be so translated, they must be understood as affirming or assuming that, abstractedly, flesh and blood are as extrinsic to the beings who 'communicate' in them, as the lessons of childhood are to the untutored intellect. Explain and restrict the word 'communicate' as he may, any writer who employs it to define the mode of the divine subsistence, will invariably convey to the mind of his reader some outline of the gross and egregiously wrong idea that the divine perfections were originally extrinsic to the persons of Deity. The simpler, the freer from technical terms, and the more directly accordant with the phraseology of scripture, any language on the incomprehensible or higher doctrines of revelation is, the more adapted will it be to edification, and the less likely to produce obscurity or phantasmagoria before the moral vision of a reader.—ED.]
[NOTE 2 M. The Sonship of Christ.—Dr. Ridgeley's view of the Sonship of Christ is, that he is Son as Mediator. He denies, not only his generation, but the eternity of his Sonship. The name 'Son,' or 'Son of God,' in other words, appears to him to designate, not our Lord's Deity, but his mediatorial person He is not to be charged, indeed, with derogating from the doctrine that Christ is God; he is not to be charged even with denying that those passages assert him to be so which call him 'Son;' but he distinctly maintains that the name in question does not designate him as God,—that it does not in itself, like the name 'God' or 'Jehovah.' affirm his Deity,—that it is generically of the same import as the names 'Christ,' Saviour,' 'Redeemer,' 'Mediator,'—and that it did not appropriately or actually belong to him till the date of his incarnation. His doctrine may, accordingly, be termed the doctrine of mediatorial Sonship.
Now, to what is this doctrine opposed? What view of our Lord's Sonship does it impugn and condemn? Dr. Ridgeley—if we conjecture his sentiments from the entire scope of what he says—would at once answer, it is opposed to the doctrine of Christ's generation. All the antagonist views which he states, all the extravagancies which he enumerates, all the censurable definitions and expositions which he quotes, have reference, not to the Sonship itself, but to the mode of its subsistence. He deals simply with the question of the eternal generation; and, having confronted and despatched this, he arrives, per saltum, at the doctrine of mediatorial Sonship. Now, the real question at issue is not, Is the Son generated, or is he not? Does his Sonship consist in the mode of his divine subsistence, or does it consist in the hypostatical union of his deity and his manhood? but it is, In what person, in his divine or in his mediatorial, is he the Son of God? How long—from eternity, or merely from the incarnation—has his Sonship existed? In what sense—as designative of his deity, or as designative of God-man Mediator—is the name 'Son' to be understood? The mode of his divine subsistence may not once be glanced at; the manner in which he is divinely a Son may be pronounced an improper subject of inquiry; the doctrine of his eternal generation may be ranked among the dogmata of the Platonizing fathers, or the bold speculations of the schoolmen; and, so far from the doctrine of the divine, eternal Sonship, being impaired or surrendered, it will appear in greater clearness than before, and stand out in stronger evidence, and be maintained with firmer tenure.
Sonship and generation are far, very far from being correlative ideas. Scripture speaks of sonship by creation, by adoption, by a renovating divine influence, by a pervading moral affection, by reception of Christian instruction, by ancestral connexion, and by literal generation. We read in it of the son of a parent, the son of an ancestor, the son of an adopting stranger, the spiritual son of a Christian minister, a son of God by the renewing agency of the Holy Spirit, a son of God by the creation of a holy but fallible nature, and a son of God by the creative and continually sustaining agency of divine power and beneficence. Thus, in senses all distinct and widely different from one another, a child, a remote descendant, a protege of benevolence, a converted hearer of a Christian minister, a regenerated soul, man in his paradisaic capacity, and a holy angel, or 'angel of light,' are all denominated sons. To say that the word 'son,' in most of these instances, is metaphorical, and has a figurative allusion to generation, is to beg the question at issue and to contradict fact. What resemblance to generation is there in adoption, in pastoral usefulness, in an act of creation, or in the sustaining manifestation of the divine power? Just one general idea seems applicable to the various and apparently conflicting senses of sonship,—and that is sameness of nature; and this idea appears to be the key to the very frequent scripture Hebraism of which 'son of the vine,' 'son of consolation,' and 'son of thunder,' are examples. The juice of the grape partakes the properties of the vine; a child partakes the nature of his parent, a descendant that of his ancestor, an adopted son that of his benefactor; a complacent speaker exerts the same influence as consolation, an arousing one the same as thunder; a convert homologates in principles and character with his spiritual teacher; a soul renewed by the Holy Spirit is 'a partaker of the divine nature' in knowledge and true holiness; and our first parents in paradise, as well as the unfallen angels, were created in the divine image. Sameness of nature with the objects to which they are allied, seems the only categorical idea which includes the whole under the name of sons. In the light of that idea, they are all styled sons, without violence to language, or extravagance of fancy; they all have sameness of substance, sameness of properties, or sameness of character and influence, with the objects constructively called their father. Yet how diversified are their sonships! How widely different in their origination, in their mode of subsistence, in the properties which distinguish them, and in the substances in which they exist! Who, then, will say that, according to the inspired use of it, the word 'Son' always or generally, or, in more than one of seven or eight distinct modes of application, includes the idea of generation? Who will deny that it expresses any relation, however remote, however sublimated, whether vegetable, animal, moral, rhetorical, or divine, which simply developes identity of nature?
Now, when the word is used to denote sameness of nature amid such an extensive variety of objects and relations,—to denote this without allusion to mode of subsistence, or the law by which the sameness exists,—why may it not be employed to denote sameness of nature, apart from any human analogy, between two persons of Deity? A believer in Christ is a son of God, because he homologates with him in will and in moral principle; Adam in paradise was a son of God, because he bore his image in intellectual and spiritual character, and in dominion over the inferior creation; and the second person of Deity is 'the Son of God,' 'God's only Son,' his 'proper Son,' his 'only begotten Son,' because he is 'in the form of God, and thinks it not robbery to be equal with God,' and is 'the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person.'
There is peculiar appropriateness in the epithets 'only,' 'proper,' 'begotten.' They show the second person of Deity to have sameness of nature with the Father in an eminent and distinguishing sense,—a sense exclusive of all creatures, and peculiar to a divine person. As he is called 'a Son' to denote sameness of properties, so he is called 'a begotten Son' to denote sameness of essential nature. That sonship among creatures which is highest and most dignified, is the sonship of a child. Believers in Christ are, in consequence, not only called sons, to intimate their bearing God's moral image; but they are said to be begotten and born to denote the dignity and value of their spiritual character and life. Now, the second person of Deity is called 'a Son,' to show that he has sameness of nature with his Father.—'the Son,' to show that he has that sameness in a way of eminence,—'the only Son,' to show, that he has it in a sense exclusive of all other sons,—'God's proper son,' to show that he has it as regards essential deity,—and 'God's only begotten Son,' to show that, as to dignity and glory and essential nature, he is God equal with the Father.
The doctrine of Christ's Sonship, when thus stated, appears to me clear, consistent, and scriptural; and is no more to be charged with the mysticisms and extravagancies of the scholastic advocates of eternal generation, than the doctrine of justification by faith is with the licentious inferences and expositions of Antinomians. Dr. Ridgeley, then, was far from being correct, when he passed, by one step, from the confutation of the mode of subsistence by generation, to the assertion of mediatorial Sonship. The doctrine which I have stated—the doctrine of divine or eternal Sonship—is that only which deserved or ought to have drawn his attention; and it is that which stands confronted to his views, and challenges them to the proof. He achieves nothing, except to shake off some idle dreams of the schoolmen, when he disproves 'the communication of the divine essence or personality to the Son.' He was to deal, not in speculations as to the manner of the divine Sonship, but with plain scriptural testimonies simply as to the fact. Eternal filiation, not eternal generation,—the fact, and not the mode of divine sonship, is what his theory principally opposes. What should be thought or an Anti-trinitarian who amasses daring, confused, contradictory, disparaging speculations of scholastic writers, respecting the manner in which God is three and yet only one; and who, after exposing their unwarrantableness and absurdity, persuades himself that he has disproved the fact of the Trinity? Yet the Anti-trinitarian would, in this case, act exactly the part, with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity, which Dr. Ridgeley, throughout the greater portion of his discussion, acts with respect to the doctrine of divine sonship or eternal filiation.
In one place, indeed, he notices the true question at issue, and attempts to show that Christ's participation of the divine nature is not the reason of his being called 'the Son.' Yet, in that very passage, he admits, or rather states, that the participation of his divine nature is the reason of his being called 'God's proper Son.' His words and reasoning are remarkable. "It is true," he says, "Christ's having the same nature with the Father, might be reckoned by some a character of sonship; as it contains one ingredient in the common idea we have of sonship among men. They, as sons, are said to have the same kind of nature as their fathers. So our Saviour's having the same individual nature with the Father, might give occasion to some to denominate him his Son. But though this may be the foundation of his being called God's proper Son, ιδιος υἱος, yet it is not his distinguishing character as a Son. For it would follow that the Holy Ghost, who has the same nature as the Father, would, for the same reason, he called his Son. But this is contrary to the scripture account given of him, as proceeding from the Father and the Son." Now, to say nothing of Dr. Ridgeley's rejecting the doctrine of the Spirit's procession, and, in consequence, of his not being entitled to assume it as true, and to adduce it as an objection, might be not have seen that what he says respecting the Spirit might have been said also respecting the Father,—that personal participation in the divine nature is equally, and in the same sense, true of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost? Either, then, that participation is consistent with exclusive and distinguishing titles, else the distinction of persons must cease to be recognised. 'In the beginning was the Word,' says the apostle John, 'and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.' Here, the affirming of Christ to be God, clearly proves that his title, 'the Word,' is a designation of his deity. But are we to be told that, because the Holy Ghost also is God, either he too must be called 'the Word,' else the title is not divine? Christ's being called 'the Son,' while it affirms his identity of nature with the Father, at the same time correlatively affirms the Father's identity of nature with him. The general idea of sameness of nature is as truly expressed in the relation of father to son, as in the converse relation of son to father. This idea, apart from all analogy to relations between creatures, is what the personal titles of Godhead appear eminently to express. Accordingly, while one is called the Father and another the Son, the third is called the Spirit. Now, with an intellectual, an intelligent being with a being who is 'a Spirit,' what more exactly expresses identity of nature than spirituality. But though the third person of Deity is called 'the Spirit,' 'the Holy Spirit,' to show that he has sameness of nature with the other persons of Godhead, or that he is 'the High and Holy One,' must we, after all, conclude that his name does not designate his deity, unless it is applied also to the Father and the Son? 'The Father,' 'the Son,' 'the Holy Spirit,' are distinctive names of the persons of Godhead; they appear all to denote just identity of nature; and, in beautiful and expressive consistency, they exhibit the great fundamental truth of revelation, that the one only God is three in personality. But what comes of Dr. Ridgeley's concession that Christ's "having the same individual nature with the Father, may be the foundation of his being called God's 'proper Son?' " Would it not follow from this, too, that either the title does not designate his deity, or else it must be applied likewise to the Holy Ghost? Dr. Ridgeley sees no such inference from the title God's 'proper Son;' and why should he see it from the title 'God's Son?' Besides, 'proper Son' does not seem to be a stronger title than 'only Son,' or especially 'only begotten Son;' and each of the three appears to be an epithetical definition of the simple title 'the Son,' just as 'the Holy Spirit' is of the simple title, 'the Spirit.' If Christ's being called God's 'proper Son' is founded on "his having the same individual nature with the Father," surely his being called his 'only Son,' his 'only begotten Son,' his 'well beloved Son,' or even simply his 'Son,' cannot be founded on anything different. If it be, there are two sonships,—one 'proper,' and one not so; the former divine and eternal, and the other mediatorial, and dating from the period of the incarnation. But as no party pretends that there are two, we must conclude that 'proper' or divine Sonship is what the name 'Son,' as applied to Christ, designates. Accordingly, just the same things, in the same connexion, are affirmed of God's 'proper Son,' and of God's 'Son.' 'He that spared not his proper Son, but delivered him up for us all,' &c.; 'When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman,' &c.,—Rom 8:32; Gal. 4:4.
Dr. Ridgeley, when speaking of the second person of Deity, as such, usually calls him 'the Son. 'It is generally determined,' says he, 'that the Son and Holy Ghost have the same self-existent divine nature' as the Father. Again, when stating the doctrine of the Trinity, he says. 'We shall prove that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost have distinct personal properties;' 'we shall endeavour to prove that the three persons in the Godhead, especially the Son and the Holy Ghost, are truly divine.' Is not his use of such language as this—his current and almost uniform use of it—an indirect, but conclusive, concession that the name 'the Son,' is a divine, and not a mediatorial title? How could he, or how can any man, speak distinctly of the second person of Deity, except by calling him 'the Son?' This name as directly and currently, in scripture, designates him, as the name, 'the Father.' designates the Father. The two names, besides, are strictly correlative. The first person of Deity is called 'the Father' relatively to the Son. and the second person is called 'the Son' relatively to the Father. To deny that 'the Son' is strictly a divine title, seems in effect to deny that 'the Father' is strictly a divine title. The two are correlative, not only as to their intrinsic import, but as to the manner in which scripture currently employs them. If a difference be observable in the use of them, it is that the first person of Deity is less uniformly, or with comparatively less frequency, called 'the Father,' than the second person is called 'the Son.'
I shall now glance at Dr. Ridgeley's strictures on some arguments in favour of the doctrine of divine sonship; and shall take occasion to interweave with my remarks some objections to the opposite doctrine.
The first argument on which he animadverts is founded on the passage in the second psalm, 'Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.' He thinks he shall disprove this argument, if he show that the 'passage cannot respect the communication of the divine nature or personality to the Son.' But the question at issue, as we stated before, has reference, not to the doctrine of eternal generation, but to the doctrine of eternal filiation,—not to the manner in which Christ is the Son, but to the fact that he is the Son as God. What Dr. Ridgeley should, in consistency with his views, alone have attempted to prove, is, that the words, 'Thou art my Son,' are addressed to Christ, not as a divine person, but strictly and solely as Mediator. He is so far aware of the true state of the question, as to feel induced to show that other parts of the psalm are addressed to him in his mediatorial capacity. But what avails it to his purpose in what sense the context is understood, if the words themselves have reference to his deity? Because the context speaks of Christ as Mediator, is the name 'the Son,' therefore, not a divine title? On this principle of reasoning, there is probably not one instance of the application of a divine title to Christ in the Bible. Wherever even the names 'God,' 'the Word,' and 'Jehovah' are given to him, some statements are made in the immediate context respecting him as Mediator. Let Dr. Ridgeley's own arguments for the deity of Christ from his divine titles be examined; and they will all be found to be based on passages which more or less immediately describe him as the Saviour. But what would Dr. Ridgeley have thought, had any one inferred hence that the names 'God' and 'Jehovah' are not strictly divine, and, as applied to Christ, designate him only as Mediator? Yet be himself reasons exactly thus with respect to the name 'the Son.' His remarks on that name, as it occurs in the second psalm, might all, without losing a particle of their appropriateness, be transferred to the names 'God' and the 'Word,' as these occur in the first chapter of the gospel according to John. All that chapter, especially the commencing part of it, speaks of Christ distinctly as Mediator; it seems to have the exhibition of him as such for its express or specific design; it professedly sets him before the mind as God-man, as the Word made flesh, as the Creator tabernacling in human nature with the creature; yet it ascribes to him the work of making all things; it describes him as the author of spiritual life, as self-existent, as eternal; and it applies to him the titles, 'God,' 'the Word,' 'the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father,' 'the Word' whose glory was the glory 'as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.' If Dr. Ridgeley's strictures on the argument founded on the second psalm, be transferred to an argument of just the same complexion and probably of more force founded on this chapter, they will, to persons who acquiesce in them, prove indeed that the phrase 'the only begotten Son' designates Christ only as Mediator, but they will, at the same time, prove that the names 'God' and 'the Word,' and the ascriptions to him of divine works and divine perfections, designate him in the same way. Dr. Ridgeley's argument proves too much, and therefore proves nothing: it leads to the conclusion, contrary to fact, that names and ascriptions confessedly divine are applicable to Christ only as Mediator; and it hence presumptively proves that 'the Son' is, rather than shows that it is not, a divine title.
Dr. Ridgeley finds that the words, 'Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee,' are quoted in the first chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews; and because, in the context of the quotation, Christ is spoken of as 'appointed heir of all things,' and as 'having, by inheritance, obtained a more excellent name than the angels,' he infers that the title 'the Son' designates him as Mediator. Now, just the same chapter, in the course of exactly the same argument, quotes two other texts from the Old Testament scriptures,—in one of which Christ is called 'God,' and in the other 'Jehovah.' Are we, then, to conclude that these titles also are only mediatorial? Exactly the reasoning, be it what it may, which applies to the quotation containing the title Son, applies to the quotations containing the titles 'God' and 'Jehovah.' The nature, the design, the contextual position of the three quotations, are precisely the same. What inference can more fairly follow than that 'the Son' is a divine title?
But Dr. Ridgeley finds, further, that, jointly with the quotation from the second psalm, there is a quotation of the passage, 'I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son;' and he thus paraphrases the latter: 'He shall perform that obedience which is due from him as a Son; and I will give unto him those rewards which are due from a Father, who has committed this work to him, with a promise of conferring those revenues of mediatorial glory on him which should ensue on his fulfilling it.' In vindication of the doctrine implied in this paraphrase, he elsewhere contends that dependence, subjection, and obedience are essential elements in the idea of sonship. 'The relation of sonship,' he says, 'always implies inferiority and an obligation to yield obedience.' He adds, indeed, 'I do not apply this, in every respect, to the sonship of Christ; which no similitude taken from mere creatures can sufficiently illustrate.' But, instead of not applying his notion in every respect, he ought not to have applied it in any. The idea of inferiority or moral subjection is just that part of the similitude—for 'similitude,' Dr. Ridgeley confesses it to be—of sonship 'taken from mere creatures,' which detracts from the divine perfection of what belongs to Christ, and ought, in consequence, to he rejected. Inferiority and subjection, even among men, belong to sonship only in its infantile or immature condition; and at the period of manhood, they give place to independence and equality. Though love and veneration and deference never cease to be filial duty; yet personal accountability and independence of judgment do, and superiority of wisdom and power and resources may, supersede the inferiority and subjection of a state of childhood. Dependence or obligation to obey, in fact, is not a property of sonship, but only an accident. It belongs, not to the condition of a son as such, but to the condition of an imperfect, helpless, and erring being, who arrives by slow degrees at the maturity of his powers, and needs, in the earlier stages of his existence, to be fostered, corrected, and taught by parental wisdom and care. So far as mere sonship is concerned, the grand, if not the only idea, is sameness of nature. A child among men is subject simply because he is dependent; Adam in paradise and the angels of light are subject because they are creatures; and Christ as Mediator is subject to the Father, because he is incarnate in a created nature. Subjection seems, in every case, based on something different from sonship. While the idea of sonship is distinct and clear, whether we look at a child as possessing the same human nature as his parent, or at Adam in paradise as bearing the moral image of God, or at the second person of Deity as having the same subsistence and perfections as the first, the idea becomes confused and incongruous, as applied to any of the three cases, if we associate with it the notion of dependence. Subjection is one relation; sonship is another: the former is based on dependence; the latter is based on sameness of nature. Christ, as subject to the Father, is his 'servant;' as equal to him, is his Son. Speaking of him as Mediator, the Father says, 'Behold my servant, whom I uphold;' but 'to the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; and thou, Jehovah, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth.' As the Son, he sustains a character, and occupies a position, incompatible with that of a servant. 'Moses verily was faithful in all his house as a servant; but Christ as a Son over his own house. Every house is built by some man; but he who built all things is God.' Moses only occupied the house by appointment and under authority; but Christ built it and possessed it, as the independent, the divine proprietor. He, in consequence, 'is counted worthy of more glory than Moses; in as much as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.' The house is the church; and it is Christ's own,—his own by erection, by creation, by exercise of that divine power and wisdom whereby he 'built all things.' Dr. Ridgeley himself, with justice and piquancy, treats his ownership of the church as an evidence of his deity. Now it is 'as a Son' that he is 'over his own house;' it is as 'the Son' that he is 'God who built all things;' it is as a Son that his character and position are exhibited antithetically to those of a servant. Moses was 'as a servant;' but Christ was 'as a Son.' (Heb. 3:1–6.) Do we need further proof that the notion of subjection—a notion belonging to his incarnate state—has no reference to him as 'the Son?'
Dr. Ridgeley further finds the passage in the second psalm quoted in Paul's address at Antioch in Pisidia, (Acts 13:32, 33.) and applied to our Lord's resurrection; and he infers hence that 'the psalmist speaks of him as having finished his work of redemption,—at the time of his doing which he was raised from the dead, and then, in the fullest sense, he had the heathen for his inheritance.' Here, again, Dr. Ridgeley proves too much,—too much, at least, for his own cause. If, as he infers, David speaks of Christ as rising from the dead, or as 'having finished his work of redemption' when he became the Son, either there must be two mediatorial sonships, one dating from the resurrection and the other dating from the incarnation, else Christ was not mediatorially the Son at any period previous to his death. How, then, are we to understand the numerous passages, in the course of his public ministry and of his conferences with the Jews and with his disciples, in which he calls himself 'the Son of God?' The words, 'Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee,' were not, we are told, addressed to him as Mediator, till he had 'finished his work of redemption:' what inference, then, can we draw but that, on all the occasions referred to, he is called 'the Son,' not as Mediator, but as the second person of Deity? The quotation from the second psalm in connexion with the resurrection, is, according to our view of the sonship, consistent and beautiful. Christ, at his coming into the world, was made known to be divine by the miraculous conception; and before he went out of it, he was again demonstrated to be divine by his supernatural resurrection. On account both of the manner of his incarnation, and the manner of his triumphing over death, he was 'declared to be,' what he really was, 'the Son of God,'—the equal of the Father.
The next argument on which Dr. Ridgeley animadverts is based on the account given of Wisdom in the eighth chapter of Proverbs. He admits that by 'Wisdom,' we are to understand Christ,—and Christ as 'the Son;' and he attempts to silence the evidence which the passage affords of eternal sonship, by making it speak the language merely of promise or decree. He, in particular, quotes the clause, 'I was set up from everlasting,' and paraphrases it thus: 'foreordained of God to be the Mediator and head of his elect.' His entire reply is of the same complexion. Now, on his principle of interpretation, all things whatever may be said to have been 'set up from everlasting,' for all were foreordained of God. He virtually represents the Son as saying only what might be said by every mortal, or even, if it could speak, by every shrub and pebble. A Socinian, too, might seize on his principle of interpretation, and explain away by it all the texts which affirm our Lord's eternity, and find in it ample sanction to his gloss on the declaration: 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.' But indefensible and mischievous as Dr. Ridgeley's rule of interpretation is as applied to direct assertions of Wisdom's, or the Son's eternity, it becomes absolutely absurd when applied to some contextual statements. The depths, the mountains, the hills, the earth, it is to be remembered, were all 'foreordained,' and foreordained from eternity. Yet Wisdom, or the Son, says, 'I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was; when there were no depths, 'I was brought forth, when there were no fountains abounding with water; before the mountains were settled, before the hills, was I brought forth.' All this, according to Dr. Ridgeley's rule, just means, that Christ was ordained to be Mediator, before the earth and waters and hills were ordained to be created,—that he was ordained in eternity before eternity. Surely the offering of so disastrous an interpretation,—the offering of it, too, as an only argument for harmonizing the passage with his views,—is strong incidental evidence, is virtually a direct confession, that the statements respecting Wisdom assert the eternity of our Lord's sonship.
Another argument which Dr. Ridgeley notices, is founded on Heb. 1:2. 'God hath in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also be made the worlds, who, being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person,' &c. But so far from impugning the argument, as he thinks he does, he only states in a clear light, though in words of his own, the doctrine which it maintains. 'By the expression, 'the express image of his person,' says he, 'I humbly conceive is meant that, though his divine nature is the same as the Father's, yet his personality is distinct.' Now sameness of nature with the Father and distinctness of personality, are just filiation or divine sonship; and they are affirmed of Christ both directly as 'the Son,' and indirectly as correlative to 'the Father.' 'The Son,' says the apostle, 'is the express image of his person,'—the express image of the person of 'the Father.' He is so, Dr. Ridgeley admits, not as Mediator, but as possessing sameness of nature with the Father, and distinct personality. These, then, and not his mediatorial properties, are the elements of his sonship.
Dr. Ridgeley next animadverts on an argument founded on the fifth chapter of the gospel according to John. But he quotes only one of about twenty verses on which the argument rests; and quotes it as though it contained the whole evidence appealed to, and without a hint that the pungency of the argument is derived from the entire scope of the chapter. No objection can be made to his comment on that particular verse. His views as to 'the Father's giving the Son to have life in himself,' are on the whole unexceptionable; but, in the connexion in which they stand, they are entirely thrown away: they afford no answer—though, in fact, no other is given—to the argument of his opponents. What we contend for, in appealing to the fifth chapter of John, is that, in a conference with the Jews, Christ asserts his true deity, that he does this by calling God 'his Father,' that the Jews understood him to claim divinity by his tacitly assuming to be 'the Son of God,' and that he confirmed them in their opinion by expressly calling himself the Son, and by claiming for himself, under that name or in that character, such honours as are due to Deity,—'that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.' Dr. Ridgeley, when he comes to treat of our Lord's deity, sees this argument in all its beauty, and feels it in all its force; and he expends paragraphs upon it in showing bow demonstratively it proves Christ to he God. Yet not a sentence which he so conclusively writes there, does not apply to the doctrine of divine sonship. He dwells with just emphasis on the construction which the Jews put upon our Lord's words, and on his proceeding to sanction and confirm it. Now the words which they construed to mean his assertion of true deity were, 'My Father worketh hitherto, and I work'—for 'they sought the more to kill him, because he said that God was his Father, making himself equal with God;' and the words by which he sanctioned and confirmed their interpretation, claimed for him only the name of 'the Son,' and correlation with the Father—'for,' said he, 'as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will; for the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son, that all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father.' What can be clearer than that it is as the Son our Lord claimed to be divine, that the Jews understood 'the Son of God' to be a divine title, and that both, by appropriating this name and by asserting his correlation with the Father, he made and confirmed their impression that he claimed to be truly God? If the passage proves his deity—and who can doubt that it does?—it proves it only through the medium of his divine sonship; for it directly asserts that he is divine as the Son, that he is divine correlatively to the Father; and it teaches the doctrine of his deity as a corollary of the doctrine of his divine sonship. Nor is it an objection to say that it affirms some things concerning him which can belong to him only as Mediator. The chief of these is, that he has received from the Father the appointment or office of Judge; and this, so far from being affirmed of him as the Son of God, is expressly ascribed to him in another and mediatorial character. 'The Father hath given him authority to execute judgment also,' says the passage, 'because he is the Son of man.' If 'Son of God' were a mediatorial title, the import of this statement would be, 'He who is the Son of God is constituted Judge, because he is the Son of God.' Who can imagine that so unmeaning a statement—'a matter is so, because it is so,'—was made by divine wisdom? Is it not apparent that 'Son of man' is a mediatorial title,—that it is antithetic to the title 'Son of God,'—and that the ascription of it to Christ, in assigning the reason of his being Judge, necessarily implies that, as the Son of God, he is, not the Mediator, but the second person of Deity? He has authority given him to execute judgment, not because he is the Son of God—for as such he is equal with the Father; but because he is the Son of man—for as such he is the Father's messenger and servant.
Dr. Ridgeley, under the form of an objection to his own views, introduces an argument in favour of our Lord's divine sonship, founded on those texts in which the Father is said to have sent his Son into the world. The argument does not, as his statement of it implies, rest on one text; but it is based on many.—in fact, on the current phraseology of the New Testament respecting the Son,—on all the passages which represent him either as having been sent or as having come. The Son is said to have become partaker of flesh and blood, to have come into the world, to have been sent under the law, made of woman, to have come in his Father's name, to have come forth from the Father into the world; and, in all such expressions, be is implied to have had pre-existence as the Son, or to be the Son in his divine nature. Dr. Ridgeley replies, that 'it is not necessary to suppose that he had the character of a Son before he was sent, though he had that of a divine person.' But the question respects not character, but personality. What we ask is, Does the name Son designate Christ's person as Mediator, or his person as God? Dr. Ridgeley's statement is ambiguous: he talks of the character of a Son, as distinguished from the character of a divine person. If by 'character' he mean a property, a quality, or a relation, be abandons his own view of the sonship, and makes it consist, not in our Lord's mediatorial personality, but in mediatorial properties or relationship. If, on the other hand, he mean by 'character' a person, what sense can be attached to the statement that 'it is not necessary to suppose that one sent has personality before he was sent?' He who was sent is called 'the Son.' What can be a fairer inference than that he was the Son when he was sent, and before he was sent? Dr. Ridgeley himself very justly and pungently draws the inference in support of our Lord's divine personality. 'His being sent into the world by the Father,' says he, 'which is frequently affirmed of him in the New Testament, proves that he is a distinct person from the Father; for a quality, relation, or property, cannot be said to be sent as the Son is.' Yet it is the Son who is sent. What follows but that, as the Son, he had, before being sent, distinct personality,—that, in other words, he is the Son as to his divine nature. To tell us that his being sent as the Son has reference to a character, is to say that 'a quality, relation, or property,' is sent; or if 'character' be understood in the sense of 'person,' it is either to admit the pre-existence, and consequently the divinity of his sonship, or to deny the obviously true principle of Dr. Ridgeley's reasoning respecting personality,—that to be sent presupposes a person.
The texts in question, besides, mention adjuncts of the Son's being sent which seem decisive of the pre-existence of his Sonship. 'God,' we are told, 'sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.' Here was humiliation. Here was the sending of a glorious person in a nature, or with an appearance abasingly different from that in which alone be bad hitherto existed. All the meaning, all the appropriateness, all the force of the passage, are seen only when it is viewed as parallel to the declaration, 'He, being in the form of God, was made in the likeness of men.' Again, we are told, 'God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.' Here was the manner in which he was sent; here were the adjuncts of his coming. He who was the Son of God was made of a woman: he who was the Lawgiver was made under the law. But, according to Dr. Ridgeley's theory, these were not the adjuncts with which the Son came, but the circumstances which constituted him the Son. If the doctrine of mediatorial sonship were true, the Son was not sent, but the sending of the second person of Deity made him the Son; or his being made of a woman, made under the law, constituted, not his being sent, but his assumption of sonship.
Dr. Ridgeley seems aware that his ground in opposing this argument is untenable; and he hence tries to show that the doctrine of Christ's mediatorial sonship is reconcilable with his pre-existence as the Son. 'If we suppose,' says he, 'that he had the character of a Son before he was sent into the world, it will not overthrow our argument. He was, by the Father's designation, an eternal Mediator, and, in this respect, God's eternal Son.' He forgets that he had used the argument from his being sent, to prove his divine pre-existence and personality; and he does not see—but who else does not?—that Socinians might now retort upon him and say: 'If we suppose that Christ had the character of God before he was sent into the world, it will not overthrow our doctrine that he is God only as a human Mediator. He was, by the Father's designation, an eternal Mediator and, in this respect, eternally God.' Besides, Dr. Ridgeley's purely figurative idea of pre-existence or eternal sonship, is utterly incompatible with the fact of being literally sent. 'If,' as he justly teaches, 'a quality, relation, or property, cannot be said to be sent,' how can that be said to be sent which does not exist at all, or exists only in purpose or by a figure? On the same principl that he talks of Christ's 'eternal sonship,' he might talk also of the eternal sonship of every ange and every redeemed soul. Angels and saved men were all as truly ordained to be sons of God respectively by creation and regeneration, as Christ was ordained to be Mediator. May it, therefore, be said, on the ground of the execution of the divine purposes respecting them, that God sent them, into the world,—sent them in the same sense in which he sent his Son? Yet monstrous and revolting as this conclusion is, it fairly follows from Dr. Ridgeley's premises. His attempt to show that mediatorial sonship is compatible with the fact of the Son having been literally sent, only affords additional, though indirect evidence, that Christ is the Son as to his divine nature.
I shall here, from among a number which might be adduced, mention two arguments for our Lord's divine sonship, which Dr. Ridgeley has omitted to notice. One of these is founded on the words: 'Who hath ascended up into heaven or descended? who hath gathered the winds in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his Son's name, if thou canst tell?' (Prov. 30:4.) Whoever doubts that these words describe Deity, and are not a general allusion to any imaginary god or power of the heathens whom they vainly supposed to have achieved divine works, may compare them with parallel texts in Job, Psalms, and Isaiah (Job 38:4, &c.: Ps. 104:3, &c.; Isa. 40:12, &c.); and he will there rind phraseology, the same either in terms or in import, applied in the same way as here, to 'Jehovah,'—to 'Jehovah, God.' What then, but the doctrine of divine sonship is taught or implied in the second clause of the question, 'What is his name, and what is his Son's name, if thou canst tell?'
The other argument which I shall mention is based on Rom. 1:3, 4. 'Concerning his Son Jesus Christ, who was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.' Here there seems evidently a twofold antithesis: 'made of the seed of David,' is antithetic to 'declared to be the Son of God;' and, 'according to the flesh,' is antithetic to 'according to the. Spirit of holiness.' As 'the seed of David,' our Lord was 'made' (γενομενου); but as 'the Son of God,' he was 'declared,'—'declared by a miracle,'—(ὁρισθεντος εν δυναμει) 'miraculously declared by the resurrection from the dead.' Again, as 'the seed of David,' he was 'according to the flesh' (κατα σαρκα); but as 'the Son of God.' he was 'according to the Spirit of holiness,'—according to the divine nature (κατα πνευμα ἁγιωσυνης). If the doctrine of mediatorial sonship were true, there would be no propriety, no correctness, in speaking of 'the seed of David,' of being 'made,' of being 'according to the flesh,' antithetically to 'the Son of God;' for, according to that doctrine, all the ideas expressed In these phrases are elements in the notion of the sonship, and cannot be antithetic. But how consistent, how expressive, is the passage, when we view the sonship as divine! Christ, according to his human nature, was the seed of David, and according to his divine nature was the Son of God: he was 'made' or 'became' the former in his incarnation, and was 'declared' or demonstrated to be the latter by his miraculous discomtiture of death.
We now pass to a brief notice of Dr. Ridgeley's arguments in favour of his doctrine. Later writers who advocate it must feel surprise that he does not quote Luke 1:35. in its defence: 'The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God.' But though this text has of late been appealed to as the very pillar of the doctrine of mediatorial sonship, Dr. Ridgeley has perspicacity to see that, when viewed in that light, it is claimed more by the Socinians than the orthodox. He justly remarks, that 'a miraculous production is not a sufficient foundation to support the character of the Son of God;' and he might have added, that even if it were, it would render Christ the Son, not of the Father, but-of the Holy Ghost. 'The glory of Christ's sonship,' he concludes, 'is infinitely greater than what arises from the miraculous conception.' He sees too—as who may not?—that the word translated 'called,' means, not 'designated' or 'denominated,' but 'declared,' 'made known,' 'acknowledged;' and he reads the latter part of the verse thus: 'That Holy Thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called,' as he really is, 'the Son of God.' Why, then, we ask, did he not adopt the doctrine of divine sonship? No inference can appear to follow more fairly from premises, than this doctrine does from his remarks and reasoning. Yet he evades it; and, in its stead, adopts the conclusion that Christ is the Son of God by the union of the divine and the human natures. But what was the formation of that union? Was it not the incarnation,—the miraculous conception,—the very event which the passage in question records? But if the formation of the union, or the union in its stupendous and supernatural commencement, was 'not a sufficient foundation to support the character of the sonship of God,' how could the union itself, or the union as perpetuated, be 'a sufficient foundation?' The text in Luke, even in the light of Dr. Ridgeley's own exposition of it, appears to be strictly parallel to that at which I last glanced. Christ, as to his human nature, was the son of Mary; but, as to his divine nature he was the Son of God. His being 'made of a woman' was evidence that he was truly man; but his human nature being miraculously conceived by the Holy Ghost, has evidence that he pre-existed and is truly God. Because he was born of the Virgin, he should be acknowledged as the Son of man, and because he had miraculous evidence of incarnation, he should he acknowledged as the Son of God. The complexion of his advent to our world, just like that of his rising from the dead, miraculously declared him to be divine. The display or demonstration, in either case, of his sonship, was the display or demonstration of his deity.
Dr. Ridgeley's arguments in favour of the doctrine of mediatorial sonship—though he seems to menace us with them by the hundred, and to talk as if one existed in every text of the New Testament which speaks of Christ as the Son—are of only two classes, or, more properly, are just two in number, each being based on a class of texts.
His first argument rests on the numerous passages in which our Lord is called, 'the Christ, the Son of God.' The instances which he quotes, and separately comments on, are so closely akin OI rather identical in nature, that two—the first and second which he adduces—develop all the argument from the whole. 'Peter's confession,' says he, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,' speaks of our Lord as Christ, or the Mediator, that is, as the person who was invested in the office, and came to perform the work of the Mediator; and, as such, it calls him 'the Son of the living God.' Now the name, 'the Christ,' according to Dr. Ridgeley's own showing and agreeably to general consent, means just 'the Mediator.' Yet, this, too, is what, according to his argument, the title, 'the Son of the living God,' means. He, hence, represents Peter as uttering this extraordinary tautology: 'Thou art the Mediator, the Mediator;' or, 'Thou art the Messiah, the Messiah.' But let the title, 'the Son of God,' be understood as designating our Lord's deity, and the confession is consistent and expressive: 'Thou art the Mediator, the true God'—'Thou art the Redeemer of men, the Creator of the ends of the earth.' The question of the High Priest, and our Lord's answer to it, are exactly parallel to Peter's confession. 'So,' says Dr. Ridgeley, when the High Priest asked our Saviour, 'Art thou the Christ, the Son of God?' his question means, 'Art thou the Messiah, as thou art supposed to be by thy followers?' Here, according to Dr. Ridgeley, is the same tautology as before: 'Art thou the Christ, the Christ?' or, 'Art thou the Messiah, the Messiah?' In this instance, however, he is not satisfied with one tautology; but proceeds to elicit another. 'Our Saviour,' says he, 'replied to him,' 'Thou hast said,' that is, 'It is as thou hast said;' and then he describes himself in another character, by winch he is often represented, namely, as Mediator, and speaks of the highest degree of his mediatorial glory to which he shall be advanced at his second coming: 'Nevertheless, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power.' Now, might not Dr. Ridgeley have seen that as the character in which our Lord proceeds to speak of himself is that of 'the Son of man,' and that as this is 'another character' from that in which the High Priest had spoken of him,—'another character' from that of 'the Son of God,'—both cannot he identified with the character of Mediator? Might he not have inferred also, that the title, 'the Son of man,' being, according to his own showing, designative of our Lord as Mediator, the title, 'the Son of God,' must be designative of him as a person of the Godhead? Besides, the High Priest would not have charged him with blasphemy, for calling himself the Messiah. The Jews, from the greatest to the least of them, gave a ready, a credulous hearing to almost any one who claimed to be the Christ; and whenever they charged our Lord with blasphemy, they viewed him, and viewed him rightly, as claiming to be divine. But the High Priest and all the multitude which stood before him, when Jesus avowed himself to be the Son of God, exclaimed. 'He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses?' 'Here,' says Dr. Ridgeley, when treating of our Lord's deity and conclusively proving that great doctrine from this passage. 'Here our Lord was asked. Whether be were the Christ, the Son of God? that is the Messiah, whom the Jews expected, who governed his Church of old, and whom they acknowledged to be a divine person or the Son of God; and here he asserts himself to be the Son of God, and to have a right to the glory of a divine person.' (See Sect on. 'Proofs of Christ's Deity from his own statements.') How sound is this statement—how conclusive the inference which it embodies—but how incompatible with the doctrine of mediatorial sonship! II Christ asserted his deity at all—and the High Priest, the multitude of Jewish spectators, and Dr. Ridgeley himself, all understood him to assert it—he assented it only by avowing himself to be the Son of God. He was divine, he had a distinct character from that of Mediator, he bad pre-existence. he had supreme glory, he urged a claim which the High Priest unbelievingly and wickedly pronounced blasphemous, he asserted himself to be equal with the Father, simply by calling himself 'the Son.' The remarks we have now made apply in substance to all the texts, noticed or not noticed by Dr. Ridgeley, in which the titles 'Christ' and 'Son of God' jointly occur.
Dr. Ridgeley's second or remaining argument in favour of the doctrine of mediatorial sonship, is based on the class of texts which speak of Christ as Mediator, and at the same time call him the Son. We do not need to notice any of the particular examples which he selects for illustration. The entire principle of his argument is wrong and indefensible, and is again and again, both overtly and practically, refuted by himself. Almost every line of his very correct statement of the personal work of the Son, in his section on 'the Economy of Persons in the Godhead,' might be quoted in refutation. Nearly all his reasonings to prove our Lord's deity also set it at defiance. If, in fact, 'the Son of God' were not a divine title because some passages in which it occurs speak of Christ as Mediator, almost every application to him of a divine title in the New Testament, and almost every ascription to him of divine perfections, divine works, or divine worship, would, for the same reason, be annulled or silenced. Christ as Mediator, is properly designated either by a divine title, or by a title descriptive of his humanity: for, as Mediator, he is both God and man. All we can infer as to the quality of a title when applied to him in that character, must be learned from the context, from internal evidence, or from other passages in which it occurs; and, according to the evidence thence elicited, it may strictly designate our Lord as God, or describe him as the Messiah, or refer to his human nature or incarnate stale. To infer that a title is mediatorial which occurs in connexion with statements of mediatorial works or office, is to set at defiance the strong, manifold, conclusive evidence that 'the Word,' 'God,' 'Jehovah,' as applied to Christ, are divine titles. Son of God is proved by other scriptures, just as these titles are, to designate our Lord's deity; and when found, as they are, in texts which speak of him as Mediator, it must, like them, be understood in its legitimate or ordinary sense. In the first chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, to which we had already occasion to refer, we have a fair example: Christ is there spoken of as Mediator, and he is designated 'the Son.' 'God,' and 'Jehovah.'
I shall close my remarks on our Lord's sonship with a brief historical statement,—designed not as an argument, but only as an illustration, or as incidental corroborative testimony. Of the ten extant creeds of the period preceding the fourth century, one speaks relatively of the Son, mentioning 'Jesus Christ,' and calling God 'his Father;' another reads 'the Son;' two read 'his Son,' two read 'the Son of God;' one reads 'his Son, the Word. Son of man and Son of God;' another reads 'Jesus Christ, the Lord, truly human and truly divine;' and another reads, 'the only begotten Son, the living and irresistible Word, the only Son of the only Father, God of God.' The original harmonies of the ten creeds seem all to have read, 'his only begotten Son;' and all the Greek copies of the Apostles' Creed, or those used in the oriental churches, retain this reading to the present day.
The Jews, the apostles, and all the early Christians, appear to have understood this phrase, or and language analogous to it, to assert our Lord's true deity. To confess Jesus to be 'the Son of God,' was to acknowledge his supreme power and authority, and his perfect equality with the Father; just as to confess him to be 'the Christ,' was to acknowledge his being of the seed of David, and the Saviour of the world. When, on one occasion, he said to the Jews, 'My Father worketh hitherto, and I work,' they 'sought to kill him,' assigning as the reason of their malice, that 'he said God was his Father, making himself equal with God;' and when, on a subsequent occasion, they actually took up stones to stone him for calling himself the Son of God, they remarked, in answer to a remonstrance from him, 'For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy, and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.' All the early Christians and primitive churches appear to have understood, in the same way, that 'the Son,' and especially 'the only Son,' and 'the only begotten Son,' are strictly appellations of Deity. Novatus, the founder of the evangelical sect of the Novatians, and the author of a work on the doctrine of the Trinity which was highly appreciated during centuries after he wrote, says. 'As our Saviour's being the Son of man declares his humanity, so his being the Son of God is an undeniable proof of his divinity;' again, 'He is not only a man because the Son of man, but he is also God because the Son of God.' Cyril of Jerusalem, who wrote about the year 370. who, indeed, had so far Platonized as to speculate on the modus of the sonship, and find adopted the notion of generation, but who, nevertheless, is a witness as to belief in the fact of divine sonship—says. 'When thou hearest Christ called a Son, do not think him to be an adopted Son, but a Son by nature, an only begotten Son; for he is called the only begotten, because there is none like him as to either the dignity of his deity, or his generation from the Father.' Athanasius, who wrote a little before Cyril, and in circumstances similar to his, says, 'We believe in one only begotten Word, born of the Father, without beginning of time, from all eternity, being not a division from the impassible nature, or an emission, but a perfect Son.' Several other of the early Christian authors write exactly the same sentiments; and though, like Cyril and Athanasius, they unwarrantably venture to speak, in an expository way of the scriptural epithet 'begotten,' they are not to be viewed as having on less secure ground maintained the fact of divine sonship, because they unadvisedly speculated as to its manner. Even the Arians, after discarding other evidences of our Lord's divine dignity, admitted the names 'Son' and 'only begotten Son' to prove his being 'like God.' These names were a grand defence, on the part of the orthodox, against their heresy. The use and exposition and admitted force of the names, not only prevented Arianism from degenerating into such a system as modern Socinianism, but obliged it to rise higher and higher in definitions of the Son's dignity, till it finally merged in orthodoxy, or was abandoned by its followers.—ED.]
[NOTE 2 N. The Spirit of Adoption.—The rule which Dr. Ridgeley proposes to be observed in translating phrases which mention the Spirit, is sound and important; hut does not seem to apply to the principal instance which he adduces for illustration. 'The Spirit itself,' αυτο το πνευμα, in Rom. 8:16, may be translated. 'This very Spirit,' 'the same Spirit,' or 'that Spirit;' and clearly refers to 'the Spirit of adoption,' πνευμα υἰοθεσιας, mentioned in the preceding verse. Now, 'the Spirit of adoption,' or rather 'the Spirit of sonship,' is antithetic to 'the spirit of bondage,' or 'the spirit of servitude, πνευμα δουλειας. The believers to whom Paul wrote had 'not received the spirit of servitude again lo fear.'—to crouch and be in terror like slaves; hut they had 'received the Spirit of sonship. whereby they cried, Abba, Father,'—rejoicing and obeying like children. The 'spirit' from which they had been delivered was 'the old man,' 'the flesh,' 'the carnal mind,' the unregenerated, earthly, corrupt natural character; and the 'Spirit' by which they had become animated was 'the new man,' the spiritual mind, 'the new creature,' the holy, heavenly, devotional, filial character of the renovated soul. 'This Spirit'—which distinguished them as sons, and embodied the dispositions and hopes and joys of children—'cried, Abba, Father;' and bore witness with their spirit, τῳ πνευματι ἡμων, with their own mind, with their intellectual consciousness, 'that they were the children of God.'
The 'Spirit of sonship' is unquestionably produced and sustained by the Holy Spirit; but is not the Holy Spirit himself. The phrase is just one of the frequent and expressive metonymies of the New Testament, by which the cause is put for the effect.—the agent for his work,—the Holy Spirit for the graces he bestows and the dispositions he creates. The metonomy occurs in a strong form in Gal. 4:6: 'And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.' The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Christ, and the Spirit of God's Son, because he testifies of him in his word and by his operations, and because he subdues souls to his authority, and maintains in them obedience to his faith; but, in the passage in question, he seems clearly to be spoken of metonymically for the effects he produces, or the hopes and affections which he originates and sustains. It by the Spirit of God's Son we understand the Holy Spirit personally, we have the assertion that he, not the new man which he creates, not the element of Spirit sonship which he sustains, cries, 'Abba, Father.' But as the nature of the case, and the parallel text in Romans, prove that the spiritual child is what cries 'Abba, Father,' we must conclude that the Holy Spirit is spoken of, not personally, but as represented by his work in the believing soul.—ED.]
[NOTE 2 O. Substitution of 'Lord' for 'Jehovah.'—There seems good reason why 'Jehovah' in the Old Testament is translated 'Lord' in the New. The language of the inspired writers of the New Testament was Hellenistic Greek. It was such Greek as the Jews understood and spoke,—the Greek of the Septuagint; and this language did not contain the word Jehovah, but substituted for it the word Κυριος. Besides, even classical Greek contained neither a word, nor proper elements for forming one, which might have strictly represented the word 'Jehovah.' The substitution of this name by Κυριος is not different, in principle or effect, from the substitution of אלהים by Θεος. The latter name in Hebrew has its peculiar and expressive meaning as truly as the name יהרה; indeed, additional to its distinguishing radical significancy, it possesses a shade of meaning of no small importance connected with its plural form. Yet this name is uniformly translated Θεος, for the simple reason that, among exiting vocables of the Greek language, or vocables which might have been framed from its elements, that word most nearly expressed the requisite idea. Apparently for just the same reason, יהרה is translated Κυριος. In three instances, indeed, (Rev. 1:4, 8; 4:8.) that name is actually used in the New Testament,—used according to its peculiar and distinguishing significancy,—but used in the form of a periphrasis, probably the only form in which the Greek language admitted of its being expressed. But while 'he who is, and who was, and who is to come, is a suitable description, it cannot, properly be used as an appellation; and hence does not, in general, take the place occupied by the single word, 'Lord.'—ED.]
[NOTE: 2 P. The Angel Jehovah.—Dr. Ridgeley, instead of discussing the texts respecting 'the Angel of the Lord' in answer to an objection, might have advantageously employed them as the basis of positive and strong arguments. Not only do they afford no colour to the allegation that the name 'Jehovah' is applied to a created angel, but they furnish direct and manifold evidence of our Lord's true deity. The words מלאד יהוח, viewed apart from collocation or context, are capable of being translated either 'the angel of Jehovah,' or 'the Angel Jehovah.' מלאך is a masculine, singular noun, not subject to change when joined to a pronominal suffix or to a governing noun. Hence when it and יהרה occur together, the context alone must determine whether they are not nouns in apposition,—appellatives, the one official and the other essential, of the same person. Now, the person to whom they are applied is uniformly spoken of in terms which are utterly inapplicable to a creature. No created angel is ever introduced to our notice in such a distinguishing and glorious manner as he. Works are frequently ascribed to him, the performance of which implies omnipotence. His name, as in the narrative of his wrestling with Jacob, of his appearance to Manoah. and his manifestation to Moses, is used interchangeably with the name אלהים; and in the last of these instances, as well as in two others, (Judges 6:11–16; 2:1–5.) is used interchangeably also with the name 'Jehovah.' On these grounds, we cannot but infer that he is not a created angel,—that he is truly a divine person,—that the nouns יהרה and מלאך, which designate him, are placed in apposition, the one denoting him in his deity, and the other denoting him in his office.
While 'the Angel Jehovah' is mentioned identically with 'God' or 'Jehovah,' he is also mentioned distinctly.—a fact which harmonizes with the doctrine of unity in the divine essence and distinction in divine persons. In the story of Balaam and Barak, in the course of which 'the Angel Jehovah' is repeatedly mentioned, it is said: 'God's anger was kindled because he went, and the Angel Jehovah stood in the way;' and again, 'Jehovah opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the Angel Jehovah standing in the way.'
That 'the Angel Jehovah' was the second person of Deity, who should in the fulness of time become incarnate as Mediator between God and man, appears from comparing Malachi 3:1, on the one hand, with Luke 7:27, and, on the other, with Judges 2:1: 'Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me; and the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple, even the Angel of the covenant whom ye delight in.' This passage our Lord quoted at the commencement of his public ministry; applying the former part of it expressly to John the Baptist, and the latter part tacitly, but certainly, to himself. 'This,' said he, speaking of John, This is he of whom it is written, I send my messenger before thy face; he shall prepare thy way before thee.' If John the Baptist was the messenger who prepared the way, our Lord, by necessary consequence, was 'the Angel of the covenant who should suddenly come to his temple.' Now, that the Angel of the covenant was the Angel Jehovah, appears from the text to which we referred in the book of Judges: 'The Angel Jehovah came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.' Thus, 'the Angel Jehovah' is manifestly 'the Angel of the covenant,' and 'the Angel of the covenant' is our Lord Jesus Christ.
The fact that 'the Angel Jehovah' is our blessed Lord being now established, a vast volume of evidence is unfolded of his true deity. The name מלאך יהרה is itself a divine name.—as strictly so as the simple name 'Jehovah.' The nouns of which it is composed, being placed in apposition, have the force and significancy of independent nominatives, יהרה. when joined with מלאך, is, in consequence, as unrestricted in its import as if it stood alone. Every passage, therefore, in which the name 'the Angel Jehovah' occurs, is an instance of the application to our Lord of the supreme and incommunicable name of Deity. All the passages, also, in which that name is used interchangeably with 'God' or 'Jehovah,' are instances of the twofold application to him of the divine name. If we look, too, at the passage quoted from the book of Judges, we find 'the Angel Jehovah' saying that it was he who led the Israelites up out of Egypt, who made the covenant with them which constituted them a peculiar people, and who sware to their fathers that he would give them the land of promise. We must hence infer that when the names 'God' and 'Jehovah' occur in connexion with the very numerous statements of these events, they are directly applicable to 'the Angel Jehovah.' our Lord and Saviour.—ED.]
[NOTE 2 Q. Proof of Christ's Deity from Rom. 9:5.—Dr. Ridgeley misses the point of the argument. From the manner in which he states it, he wears the appearance of taking for granted the thing to be proved. The proof that the clause, 'who is over all, God blessed for ever,' refers to Christ, consists, not in the human and the divine nature being 'mentioned together,' but in the clause which designates the former, κατα σαρκα, being antithetic. The same phrase occurs in Rom. 8:1, 4, 5, and, in each of the verses, is opposed to κατα πνευμα. It occurs also in Rom. 1:4, and is there opposed to κατα πνευμα ἁγιωσυνης. In these, and other passages, it is manifestly antithetic; nor can it be otherwise understood in Rom 9:5. Had the apostle intended to say merely that Christ was descended from the fathers, he could not, without gross tautology, have added, 'concerning the flesh.' If, as the Socinians allege, Christ was a mere man, he could be spoken of at all, or spoken of especially, as descended from the fathers, only κατα σαρκα. Hence, to have added this phrase was, on the Socinian hypothesis, or according to the Socinian interpretation of the passage, an unmeaning accumulation of words. The phrase, to have any import or propriety, must antithetically refer to some quality or idea to which 'the flesh,' or human nature, is opposed. This quality can be found only in what immediately follows, 'who is over all. God blessed for ever;' and it is pointed out, or determined, by the relative ὁ, which looks back to ὁ Χριστος as its antecedent.
Dr. Ridgeley thinks his stricture on the Socinian emendation only 'a probable argument.' But his statement, that, 'whenever the words are so used in the New Testament, that they may be translated, 'Blessed tie God,' they are disposed in a different form or order from that in which they occur here,' is abundantly defensible. Besides, to render the words Θεος ευλογητος εις τους αιωνας, 'Blessed be God for ever,' converts them into a doxology, in utter defiance of contextual coherence or connexion. If too, the words are a doxology,—if they are to be construed apart from what precedes them,—θεος could not have appeared, as it does, without the article. Understanding the passage as our translators did, θεος and Χριστος are designations of the same person; and ὁ, having been used before Χριστος, did not need to be repeated before θεος. But, in order that the concluding clause may have connexion and meaning within itself, the appearance of ὁ before θεος is indispensable. What then, can we inter from the absence of the article, or from the antith tie power of κατα σαρκα, but that, in the terms of our translation, 'Christ is over all, God blessed for ever?'—ED.]
[NOTE 2 R. The Doctrine of the Greek Article.—Dr. Ridgeley here states, in limine, a doctrine respecting the Greek Article, which is of great importance, and which, since his time, has drawn much attention from the learned, and been established on an inexpugnable basis. The doctrine, as stated by Dr. Ridgeley, is essentially correct; and, as now investigated and proved, it affords, not 'a probable argument,' but a series of strong irrefutable arguments in favour of our Lord's true deity. Mr. Granville Sharp was the first writer who brought the doctrine fairly before the public view; and he was followed, first by Dr. Wordsworth, and next by Dr. Middleton, bishop of Calcutta, the latter of whom, in a considerable volume on the subject, has presented the doctrine in all its force and beauty, and fortified it by innumerable appeals to authority. The doctrine is this: Whenever two or more personal nouns, either substantives or adjectives, of the same gender, number, and case, are joined by και, and preceded by an article, not repeated before the second or subsequent nouns, they denote only one person. A corollary of the doctrine is, that, when two personal nouns are joined by και. and denote different persons, while qualities are implied which might exist in one person, either they must both want the Article, or both have it. With a very few exceptions, all Greek, whether that of the classic writers, or that of the early Christian authors, is constructed in accordance with this doctrine. The exceptions, too, are only apparent, occurring merely in instances of qualities so incompatible, or names so manifestly distinct, that they could not possibly be understood to belong to the same person.
The arguments which the doctrine I have stated elicits for our Lord's true deity, are various and of high importance. The following are the chief:—The text quoted by Dr. Ridgeley is proved by it to bear, as a matter of necessity, the translation which he proposes: 'Looking for the blessed hope, even the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ, the great God and our Saviour.' Another passage (2 Pet. 2:1.) reads in our version: 'Through the righteousness of God and of our Saviour Jesus Christ.' This ought to be: 'Through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.' A third passage (2 Thess. 1:12.) reads: 'According to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.' This ought to be: 'According to the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.' A fourth passage (1 Tim. 5:21.) reads: 'I charge thee before God and the Lord Jesus Christ. This ought to be: 'I charge thee before God, even the Lord Jesus Christ.' A fifth passage (Eph. 5:5.) reads: 'In the kingdom of Christ and of God.' This ought to be: 'In the kingdom of Christ, even God.'—ED.]
[NOTE 2 S. Genuineness of 1 John 5:7.—When a Trinitarian shows tenacity in maintaining the genuineness of 1 John 5:7, he wears an appearance of having an empty or ill-furnished armoury for the defence of his faith. The doctrine of the Trinity stands on a basis of evidence so strong and broad, and is bulwarked by arguments so numerous and inexpugnable, that there needs be no tilting with the opponents of it as to the genuineness of this much-disputed text. The evidence for the interpolation of 1 John 5:7, too, is, to say the least of it, such as should inspire great caution and no small diffidence.
Biblical literature was in a low state in Dr. Ridgeley's days, compared to that to which it has since arisen; and it afforded him faint light for the investigation, respecting this text, on which he entered. Yet, faint as it was, he has some appearance of not having duly availed himself of it, or of having misconceived the evidence which it revealed. He certainly says more respecting the genuineness of 1 John 5:7, than facts, even as they were known in his day, will well warrant. 'It must be allowed,' he says, 'that there is a considerable number of manuscripts in which the text is inserted.' All the manuscripts yet discovered, which contain the first epistle of John, are one hundred and twelve in number. Only three of these contain the verse in question; one of which is a manuscript of the seventeenth century, another a copy from the printed text of the Complutensian polyglot, and the third, the 'Codex Dubliniensis,' a manuscript which no writer has asserted to be of higher antiquity than the eleventh century, and which most critics date so low as the fifteenth or the sixteenth. Against the evidence—if evidence it may be called—of these three manuscripts, is arrayed the evidence of one hundred and nine, including all the manuscripts of the highest antiquity and greatest value.
Again, Dr. Ridgeley says, 'It is less to be wondered at that the text is left out in some ancient versions.' Now it is left out in all the ancient versions, except the Vulgate or Latin. All the manuscripts even of this version have it not; and those which have it, vary greatly in the manner in which they read it.
Further, Dr. Ridgeley says, 'it is not quoted, indeed, by the fathers who wrote in the fourth century, namely, Athanasius, Cyril, Gregory Nazianzen, Chrysostom, Augustine, and some others.' Now fifty fathers, or upwards, who wrote on the divinity of Christ, on the Trinity, or on topics intimately connected with the text, do not quote it. All the Greek fathers omit it. Yet many of them quote both what precedes and what follows it; and do so in evidence of the doctrine of the Trinity. Is it to be imagined that, if the verse had been before them, if they had known of its existence, they would have quoted the words respecting the three earthly witnesses in support of the doctrine of the Trinity, and, at the same time, have taken no notice of the words respecting the three heavenly witnesses?
Dr. Ridgeley's principal arguments seem to be two. In one, he proposes difficulties respecting the loss of ancient manuscripts, and the ascertaining of the comparative antiquity of extant ones; and arrives at the conclusion that 'the genuineness or spuriousness of the text is not to be determined only or principally by inspection of ancient manuscripts.' Here he occupies untenable and dangerous ground. Were his argument sound, it would vindicate almost any interpolation, and unsettle all the splendid evidences of a pure text which have been accumulated by the valuable labours of Wetstein, Griesbach, and Kennicott. His other chief argument is based on the supposed quotation of the text by Cyprian. But even if all doubt were removed as to Cyprian's words being a quotation of it, nothing more would be accomplished than to afford proof, or rather illustration. that the text was found, so early as the third century, in some copies, at least in one, of the Latin version. The Latin, as I have stated, is the only one of the ancient versions which has the text. That version was the authority from which Cyprian quoted,—if he quoted at all. Hence, even if his voice he allowed all the importance which Dr. Ridgeley attaches to it, it is answered by twenty Latin fathers who wrote on subjects connected with the doctrine of the Trinity, but did not quote the text.—by all the Greek fathers,—by all the oriental ancient versions,—and by all ancient manuscripts of the Greek text now known to exist.
With such lacts before him as I have hinted at, a judicious writer will be slow to assert the genuineness of 1 John 5:7. Every apology is to be made for Dr. Ridgeley, on account of the state of Biblical literature at the period when he wrote. Any writer now, however, cannot well plead excuse; and if he assert the genuineness of the text in question, and seem tenacious of it in connexion with the doctrine of the Trinity, he may not only prejudice that all-important doctrine in the estimation of an Anti-trinitarian, but give unjust occasion to the enemies of revelation to question the general purity of the Sacred Text. Just those principles and reasonings which afford us firm assurance of possessing every where else the pure text of the divine word, seem to demand that the genuineness of 1 John 5:7. should not be asserted. But Anti-trinitarians have obtained no triumph, no concession, no advantage, when we cease to adduce it. We meet them still on the same ground, and with all the same triumphant materials of refutation, as the advocates of orthodoxy in the early centuries, and during the stormy but futile rage of the anti-Nicene controversy. The doctrine of the Trinity is interwoven with the entire scriptures, and expressly exhibited in passages too numerous to be appealed to in any one debate—ED.]
[NOTE 2 T. 'The Eternal Spirit' through whom Christ 'offered himself.'—The truth asserted in the passage in which the phrase 'the Eternal Spirit' occurs, is the infinite sufficiency of Christ's atonement. The blood of Christ, the apostle states, is able to 'purge the conscience from dead works to serve the living God'—it is able to do this, he says, because Christ was 'without spot,' because he offered himself 'to God,' and because he offered himself 'through the Eternal Spirit.' Looking simply at the design of the passage, at its contextual connection, and at the nature of the truth it teaches, one would readily suppose that, by 'the Eternal Spirit,' is to be understood our Lord's deity.
In the economy of redemption, the work of atonement, in all its parts, belongs peculiarly to the Son. But what part or property of it is more prominent or characteristic, than its possessing intrinsic sufficiency,—infinite moral worth? Our Lord's holiness, too, both as priest and as sacrafice, was strictly his own. 'Such an high-priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens,' Heb. 7:26. 'Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot,' 1 Pet. 1:18, 19. The divine dignity of our Lord, his being truly God while he was truly man, was exactly that which rendered his sacrifice sufficient, and his obedience magnifying to the divine law. 'Feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood,' Acts 20:28. 'God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and by a sin-offering condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit,' Rom. 8:3, 4.
The work of the Holy Ghost, in the economy of redemption, is to 'testify of Christ,' to 'take of his and show them' to men, and, in a process of influence on the understanding and the heart, to apply the results of atonement and intercession. By him the sacred writers were inspired, the prophetic and apostolic miracles were wrought, and the hearts of enemies to the gospel are subdued; because in these works, as well as in others which he performs, Christ as the Mediator is exhibited, and the design of redemption is practically accomplished. Our Lord is the Christ or the Messiah—the administrator of the dispensation of grace, the Priest and the King in Zion—as anointed with the Holy Spirit. He is anointed with the oil of gladness, above all others who ever had a heavenly unction: 'the Father giveth not the Spirit by measure to him.' His anointing, however, has reference to his administration,—to his wielding a sceptre, and ruling over a kingdom,—to his 'sitting a priest upon his throne.' As regards redemption itself, we see him as 'the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth;' and we hear him saying, 'Mine own arm brought salvation unto me, and my fury, it upheld me.' It is as regards the application of redemption—the unfolding of the evidences of its truth, the communication of a knowledge of it to the understanding, the removing of dislike or indifference to it from the heart, and the bestowing of its rich and imperishable blessings on the soul, that we see the immediate working, and contemplate the personal glory of the ever-blessed Spirit.
The phrase, 'the Eternal Spirit,' is similar to the phrase 'the Spirit of holiness;' and the latter, as we showed in the Note on Christ's sonship, is used, in Rom. 1:4, to denote our Lord's deity. In two other passages which appear to speak strictly of the Saviour, 'the Spirit' seems to be mentioned antithetically to 'the flesh.' In both, 'the flesh' clearly designates his human nature; so, that, by the law of antithesis, 'the Spirit' necessarily designates his divine nature. 'Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit,' 1 Tim. 3:16. 'Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to Heath in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit,' 1 Pet. 3:18. At the same time, while speaking of the personal acts of either the Son, the Spirit, or the Father, in the economy of redemption, we ought closely to bear in mind that God is one, and that the glory of Godhead is undivided.
From A Body of Divinity