by Charles Hodge
§ 1. Preliminary Remarks.§ 2. Biblical Form of the Doctrine. § 3. The Transition Period.
§ 4. The Church Doctrine as presented by the Council of Nice. § 5. Points decided by these Councils.
§ 6. Examination of the Nicene Doctrine.§ 7. Philosophical Form of the Doctrine of the Trinity.
§ 1. Preliminary Remarks.
THE doctrine of the Trinity is peculiar to the religion of the Bible. The Triad of the ancient world is only a philosophical statement of the pantheistic theory which underlies all the religion of antiquity. With the Hindus, simple, undeveloped, primal being, without consciousness or attributes, is called Brahm. This being, as unfolding itself in the actual world, is Vishnu; as returning into the abyss of unconscious being, it is Shiva. In Buddhism we find essentially the same ideas, in a more dualistic form. Buddhism makes more of a distinction between God, as the spiritual principle of all things, and nature. The soul of man is a part, or an existence-form, of this spiritual essence, whose destiny is, that it may be freed from nature and lost in the infinite unknown. In Platonism, also, we find a notional Trinity. Simple being (to. ovn)has its lo,goj, the complex of its ideas, the reality in all that is phenomenal and changing. In all these systems, whether ancient or modern, there is a Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis; the Infinite becomes finite, and the finite returns to the Infinite. It is obvious, therefore, that these trinitarian formulas have no analogy with the Scriptural doctrine of the Trinity, and serve neither to explain nor to confirm it.
The design of all the revelations contained in the Word of God is the salvation of men. Truth is in order to holiness. God does not make known his being and attributes to teach men science, but to bring them to the saving knowledge of Himself. The doctrines of the Bible are, therefore, intimately connected with religion, or the life of God in the soul. They determine the religious experience of believers, and are presupposed in that experience. This is specially true of the doctrine of the Trinity. It is a great mistake to regard that doctrine as a mere speculative or abstract truth, concerning the constitution of the Godhead, with which we have no practical concern, or which we are required to believe simply because it is revealed. On the contrary, itunderlies the whole plan of salvation, and determines the character of the religion (in the subjective sense of that word) of all true Christians. It is the unconscious, or unformed faith, even of those of God's people who are unable to understand the term by which it is expressed. They all believe in God, the Creator and Preserver against whom they have sinned, whose justice they know they cannot satisfy, and whose image they cannot restore to their apostate nature. They therefore, as of necessity, believe in a divine Redeemer and a divine Sanctifier. They have, as it were, the factors of the doctrine of the Trinity in their own religious convictions. No mere speculative doctrine, especially no doctrine so mysterious and so out of analogy with all other objects of human knowledge, as that of the Trinity, could ever have held the abiding control over the faith of the Church, which this doctrine has maintained. It is not, therefore, by any arbitrary decision, nor from any bigoted adherence to hereditary beliefs, that the Church has always refused to recognize as Christians those who reject this doctrine. This judgment is only the expression of the deep conviction that Antitrinitarians must adopt a radically and practically different system of religion from that on which the Church builds her hopes. It is not too much to say with Meyer,1 that "the Trinity is the point in which all Christian ideas and interests unite; at once the beginning and the end of all insight into Christianity."
This great article of the Christian faith may be regarded under three different aspects: (1.) The Biblical form of the doctrine. (2.) The ecclesiastical form, or the mode in which the statements of the Bible have been explained in the symbols of the Church and the writings of theologians. (3.) Its philosophical form, or the attempts which have been made to illustrate, or to prove, the doctrine on philosophical principles. It is only the doctrine as presented in the Bible, which binds the faith and conscience of the people of God.
§ 2. Biblical Form of the Doctrine.
A. What that Form is.
The form in which this doctrine lies in the Bible, and in which it enters into the faith of the Church universal, includes substantially the following particulars.
1. There is one only living and true God, or divine Being. The religion of the Bible stands opposed not only to Atheism, but to all forms of polytheism. The Scriptures everywhere assert that Jehovah alone is God. (Deut. vi. 4.) "The Lord our God is one Lord." "I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God." (Is. xliv. 6.) "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well." (James ii. 19.) The Decalogue, which is the foundation of the moral and religious code of Christianity, as well as of Judaism, has as its first and greatest commandment., "Thou shalt have no other God before me." No doctrine, thererfore, can possibly be true which contradicts this primary truth of natural as well as of revealed religion.
2. In the Bible all divine titles and attributes are ascribed equally to the Father, Son, and Spirit. The same divine worship is rendered to them. The one is as much the object of adoration, love, confidence, and devotion as the other. It is not more evident that the Father is God, than that the Son is God; nor is the deity of the Father and Son more clearly revealed than that of the Spirit.
3. The terms Father, Son, and Spirit do not express different relations of God to his creatures. They are not analogous to the terms Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor, which do express such relations. The Scriptural facts are, (a.)The Father says I; the Son says I; the Spirit says I. (b.)The Father says Thou to the Son, and the Son says Thou to the Father; and in like manner the Father and the Son use the pronouns He and Him in reference to the Spirit. (c.)The Father loves the Son; the Son loves the Father; the Spirit testifies of the Son. The Father, Son, and Spirit are severally subject and object. They act and are acted upon, or are the objects of action. Nothing is added to these facts when it is said that the Father, Son, and Spirit are distinct persons; for a person is an intelligent subject who can say I, who can be addressed as Thou, and who can act and can be the object of action. The summation of the above facts is expressed in the proposition, The one divine. Being subsists in three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit. This proposition adds nothing to the facts themselves; for the facts are, (1.) That there is one divine Being. (2.) The Father, Son, and Spirit are divine. (3.) The Father, Son, and Spirit are, in the sense just stated, distinct persons. (4.) Attributes being inseparable from substance, the Scriptures, in saying that the Father, Son, and Spirit possess the same attributes, say they are the same in substance; and, if the same in substance, they are equal in power and glory.
4. Notwithstanding that the Father, Son, and Spirit are the same in substance, and equal in power and glory, it is no less true according to the Scriptures, (a.)That the Father is first, the Son second, and the Spirit third. (b.) The Son is of the Father (evk qeou/, the lo,goj, eivko.n, avpau,gasma, tou/ qeou/);and the Spirit is of the Father and of the Son. (c.)The Father sends the Son, and the Father and Son send the Spirit. (d.)The Father operates through the Son, and the Father and Son operate through the Spirit. The converse of these statements is never found. The Son is never said to send the Father, nor to operate through Him nor is the Spirit ever said to send the Father, or the Son, or to operate through them. The facts contained in this paragraph are summed up in the proposition: In the Holy Trinity there is a subordination of the Persons as to the mode of subsistence and operation. This proposition again adds nothing to the facts themselves.
5. According to the Scriptures, the Father created the world, the Son created the world, and the Spirit created the world. The Father preserves all things; the Son upholds all things; and the Spirit is the source of all life. These facts are expressed by saying that the persons of the Trinity concur in all acts ad extra. Nevertheless there are some acts which are predominantly referred to the Father, others to the Son, and others to the Spirit. The Father creates, elects, and calls; the Son redeems; and the Spirit sanctifies. And, on the other hand, there are certain acts, or conditions, predicated of one person of the Trinity, which are never predicated of either of the others. Thus, generation belongs exclusively to the Father, filiation to the Son, and procession to he Spirit. This is the form in which the doctrine of the Trinity lies in the Bible. The above statement involves no philosophical element. It is simply an arrangement of the clearly revealed facts bearing on this subject. This is the form in which the doctrine has always entered into the faith of the Church, as a part of its religious convictions and experience.
To say that this doctrine is incomprehensible, is to say nothing more than must be admitted of any other great truth, whether of revelation or of science. To say that it is impossible that the one divine substance can subsist in three distinct persons, is certainly unreasonable, when, according to that form of philosophy which has been the most widely diffused, and the most persistent, everything that exists is only one of the innumerable forms in which one and the same infinite substance subsists; and when, according to the Realists, who once controlled the thinking world, all men are the individualized forms of the numerically same substance called generic humanity.
B. Scriptural Proof of the Doctrine.
No such doctrine as that of the Trinity can be adequately proved by any citation of Scriptural passages. Its constituent elements are brought into view, some in one place, and some in another. The unity of the Divine Being; the true and equal divinity of the Father, Son, and Spirit; their distinct personality; the relation in which they stand one to the other, and to the Church and the world, are not presented in a doctrinal formula in the Word of God, but the several constituent elements of the doctrine are asserted, or assumed, over and over, from the beginning to the end of the Bible. It is, therefore, by proving these elements separately, that the whole doctrine can be most satisfactorily established. All that is here necessary is, a reference to the general teachings of Scripture on the subject, and to some few passages in which everything essential to the doctrine is included.
The Progressive Character of Divine Revelation.
1. The progressive character of divine revelation is recognized in relation to all the great doctrines of the Bible. One of the strongest arguments for the divine origin of the Scriptures is the organic relation of its several parts. They comprise more than sixty books written by different men in different ages, and yet they form one whole; not by mere external historical relations, nor in virtue of the general identity of the subjects of which they treat. but by their internal organic development. All that is in a full-grown tree was potentially in the seed. All that we find unfolded in the fulness of the gospel lies in a rudimental form in the earliest books of the Bible. What at first is only obscurely intimated is gradually unfolded in subsequent parts of the sacred volume, until the truth is revealed in its fulness. This is true of the doctrines of redemption; of the person and work of the Messiah, the promised seed of the woman; of the nature and office of the Holy Spirit; and of a future state beyond the grave. And this is specially true of the doctrine of the Trinity. Even in the book of Genesis there are intimations of the doctrine which receive their true interpretation in later revelations. That the names of God are in the plural form; that the personal pronouns are often in the first person plural ("Let us make man in our image"); that the form of benediction is threefold, and other facts of like nature, may be explained in different ways. But when it becomes plain, from the progress of the revelation, that there are three persons in the Godhead, then such forms of expression can hardly fail to be recognized as having their foundation in that great truth.
2. Much more important, however, is the fact, that not only in Genesis, but also in all the early books of Scripture, we find a distinction made between Jehovah and the angel of Jehovah, who himself is God, to whom all divine titles are given, and divine worship is rendered. As the revelation is unfolded, such distinction becomes more and more manifest. This messenger of God it called the word, the wisdom, the Son of God. His personality and divinity are clearly revealed. He is of old, even from everlasting, the Mighty God, the Adonai, the Lord of David, Jehovah our Righteousness, who was to be born of a virgin, and bear the sins of many.
3. In like manner, even in the first chapter of Genesis, the Spirit of God is represented as the source of all intelligence, order, and life in the created universe; and in the following books of the Old Testament He is represented as inspiring the prophets, giving wisdom, strength, and goodness to statesmen and warriors, and to the people of God. This Spirit is not an agency, but an agent, who teaches and selects; who can be sinned against and grieved; and who, in the New Testament, is unmistakably revealed as a distinct person. When John the Baptist appeared, we find him speaking of the Holy Spirit as of a person with whom his countrymen were familiar, as an object of divine worship and the giver of saving blessings. Our divine Lord also takes this truth for granted, and promised to send the Spirit, as a Paraclete, to take his place; to instruct, comfort, and strengthen them, whom they were to receive and obey. Thus, without any violent transition, the earliest revelations of this mystery were gradually unfolded, until the Triune God, Father, Son, and Spirit, appears in the New Testament as the universally recognized God of all believers.
The Formula of Baptism.
4. In the formulas of Baptism and of the Apostolic Benediction, provision was made to keep this doctrine constantly before the minds of the people, as a cardinal article of the Christian faith. Every Christian is baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. The personality, the divinity, and consequently the equality of these three subjects, are here taken for granted. The association of the Son and Spirit with the Father, the identity of relation, so far as dependence and obedience are concerned, which we sustain to the Father, Son, and Spirit respectively; the confession and profession involved in the ordinances; all forbid any other interpretation of this formula than that which it has always received in the Church. If the expression, "In the name of the Father," implies the personality of the Father, the same implication is involved when it is used in reference to the Son and Spirit. If we acknowledge our subjection and allegiance to the one, we acknowledge the same subjection and allegiance to the other divine persons here named.
The Apostolic Benediction.
In the apostolic benediction a prayer is addressed to Christ for his grace, to the Father for his love, and to the Spirit for his fellowship. The personality and divinity of each are therefore solemnly recognized every time that this benediction is pronounced and received.
5. In the record of our Lord's baptism, the Father addresses the Son, and the Spirit descends in the form of a dove. In the discourse of Christ, recorded in the 14th, 15th, and 16th chapters of John's Gospel, our Lord speaks to and of the Father, and promises to send the Spirit to teach, guide, and comfort his disciples. In that discourse the personality and divinity of the Father, Son, and Spirit are recognized with equal clearness. In I Cor. xii. 4-6, the Apostle speaks of diversity of gifts, but the same Spirit; of diversity of administration, but the same Lord; and of diversities of operations, but the same God.
It is not to be forgotten, however, that the faith of the Church in the doctrine of the Trinity, does not rest exclusively or principally on such arguments as those mentioned above. The great foundation of that faith is what is taught everywhere in the Bible of the unity of the Divine Being; of the personality and divinity of the Father, Son, and Spirit; and of their mutual relations.
§ 3. The Transition Period.
A. The Necessity for a more Definite Statement of the Doctrine.
The Biblical form of the doctrine of the Trinity, as given above, includes everything that is essential to the integrity of the doctrine, and all that is embraced in the faith of ordinary Christians. It is not all, however, that is included in the creeds of the Church. It is characteristic of the Scriptures, that the truths therein presented are exhibited in the form in which they address themselves to our religious consciousness. To this feature of the Word of God, its adaptation to general use is to be attributed. A truth often lies in the mind of the Church as an object of faith, long before it is wrought cut in its doctrinal form; that is, before it is analyzed, its contents clearly ascertained, and its elements stated in due relation to each other. When a doctrine so complex as that of the Trinity is presented as an object of faith, the mind is forced to reflect upon it, to endeavour to ascertain what it includes, and how its several parts are to be stated, so as to avoid confusion or contradiction. Besides this internal necessity for a definite statement of the doctrine, such statement was forced upon the Church from without. Even among those who honestly intended to receive what the Scriptures taught upon the subject, it was inevitable that there should arise diversity in the mode of statement, and confusion and contradiction in the use of terms. As the Church is one, not externally merely, but really and inwardly, this diversity and confusion are as much an evil, a pain, and an embarrassment, troubling its inward peace, as the like inconsistency and confusion would be in an individual mind. There was, therefore, an inward and outward necessity, in the Church itself, for a clear, comprehensive, and consistent statement of the various elements of this complex doctrine of Christian faith.
B. Conflict with Error.
Besides this necessity for such a statement of the doctrine as would satisfy the minds of those who received it, there was a further necessity of guarding the truth from the evil influence of false or erroneous exhibitions of it. The conviction was deeply settled in the minds of all Christians that Christ is a divine person. The glory which He displayed, the authority which He assumed, the power which He exhibited, the benefits which He conferred, necessitated the recognition of Him as the true God. No less strong, however, was the conviction that there is only one God. The difficulty was, to reconcile these two fundamental articles of the Christian faith. The mode of solving this difficulty, by rejecting one of these articles to save the other, was repudiated by common consent. There were those who denied the divinity of Christ, and endeavoured to satisfy the minds of believers by representing Him as the best of men; as filled with the Spirit of God; as the Son of God, because miraculously begotten; or as animated and controlled by the power of God: but, nevertheless, merely a man. This view of the person of Christ was so universally rejected in the early Church, as hardly to occasion controversy. The errors with which the advocates of the doctrine of the Trinity had to contend were of a higher order. It was of course unavoidable that both parties, the advocates and the opponents of the doctrine, availed themselves of the current philosophies of the age. Consciouslv or unconsciously, all men are more or less controlled in their modes of thinking on divine subjects by the metaphysical opinions which prevail around them, and in which they have been educated. We accordingly find that Gnosticism and Platonism coloured the views of both the advocates and the opponents of the doctrine of the Trinity during the Ante-Nicene period.
The Gnostics held that there was a series of emanations from the primal Being, of different orders or ranks. It was natural that those addicted to this system, and who professed to be Christians, should represent Christ as one of the highest of these emanations, or Eons. This view of his person admitted of his being regarded as consubstantial with God, as divine, as the creator of the world, as a distinct person, and of his having at least an apparent or docetic union with humanity. It therefore suited some of the conditions of the complicated problem to be solved. It, however, represented Christ as one of a series of emanations, and reduced Him to the category of dependent beings, exalted above others of the same class in rank, but not in nature. It moreover involved the denial of his true humanity, which was as essential to the faith of the Church, and as dear to his people as his divinity. All explanations of the Trinity, therefore, founded on the Gnostic philosophy were rejected as unsatisfactory and heretical.
The Platonic system as modified by Philo, and applied by him to the philosophical explanation of the theology of the Old Testarnent, had far more influence on the speculations of the early Fathers than Gnosticism. According to Plato, God formed, or had in the divine reason, the ideas, types, or models of all things, which ideas became the living, formative principles of all actual existences. The divine reason, with its contents, was the Logos. Philo, therefore, in explaining creation, represents the Logos as the sum of all these types or ideas, which make up the ko,smos nohto,j, or ideal world. In this view the Logos was designated as evndia,qetoj (mente conceptus). In creation, or the self-manifestation of God in nature, this divine reason or Logos is born, sent forth, or or projected; becoming the lo,goj proforiko,j, giving life and form to all things. God, as thus manifested in the world, Philo called not omly lo,goj, but also uivo,j, eivkw,n, ui`o.j monogenh,j, ski,a, para,deigma, do,xa, and deu,teros Qeo,j. In the application of this philosophy to the doctrine of Christ, it was easy to make him the lo,goj proforiko,j, to assume and assert his personality, and to represent him as specially manifested or incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth. This attempt was made by Justin Martyr, Tatian, and Theophilus. It succeeded so far as it exalted Christ above all creatures; it made him the creator and preserver of all things, the light and life of the world. It did not satisfy the consciousness of the Church, because it represented the divinity of Christ as essentially subordinate; it made his generation antemundane, but not eternal; and especially because the philosophy, from which this theory of the Logos was borrowed, was utterly opposed to the Christian system. The Logos of Plato and Philo was only a collective term for the ideal world, the ivde,a tw/n ivdew/n;and therefore the real distinction between God and the Logos, was that between God as hidden and God as revealed. God in himself was o` qeo,j; God in nature was the Logos. This is, after all, the old heathen, pantheistic doctrine, which makes the universe the manifestation, or existence form of God.
Origen presented the Platonic doctrine of the generation and nature of the Logos in a higher form than that in which it had been exhibited in the speculations of others among the fathers. He not only insisted, in opposition to the Monarchians or Unitarians, upon the distinct personality of the Son, but also upon his eternal, as opposed to his antemundane, generation. Nevertheless, he referred this generation to the will of the Father. The Son was thus reduced to the category of creatures, for according to Origen, creation is from eternity. Another unsatisfactory feature of all these speculations on the Logos-theory was, that it made no provision for the Holy Spirit. The Logos was the Word, or Son of God, begotten before creation in order to create, or, according to Origen, begotten from eternity; but what was the Holy Spirit? He appears in the baptismal service and in the apostolic benediction as a distinct person, but the Logos-theory provided only for a Dyad, and not a Triad. Hence the greatest confusion appears in the utterances of this class of writers concerning the Holy Ghost. Sometimes, He is identified with the Logos; sometimes, He is represented as the substance common to the Father and the Son; sometimes, as the mere power or efficiency of God; sometimes, as a distinct person subordinate to the Logos, and a creature.
The Sabellian Theory.
Another method of solving this great problem and of satisifying the religious convictions of the Church, was that adopted by the Monarchians, Patripassians, or Unitarians, as they were indifferently called. They admitted a modal trinity. They acknowledged the true divinity of Christ, but denied any personal distinctions in the Godhead. The same person is at once Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; these terms expressing the different relations in which God reveals Himself in the world and in the Church. Praxeas, of Asia Minor, who taught this doctrine in Rome, A. D. 200; Noetus, of Smyrna, A. D. 280; Beryll, bishop of Bostra, in Arabia, A. D. 250; and especially Sabellius, a presbyter of Ptolemais, A. D. 250, after whom this doctrine was called Sabellianism, were the principal advocates of this theory. The only point as to which this doctrine satisfied the religious convictions of Christians, was the true divinity of our Lord. But as it denied the distinct personality of the Father and of the Spirit, to whom every believer felt himself to stand in a personal relation, to whom worship and prayers were addressed, it could not be received by the people of God. Its opposition to Scripture was apparent. In the Bible the Father is represented as constantly addressing the Son as "Thou," as loving Him, as sending Him, as rewarding and exalting Him; and the Son as constantly addresses the Father and refers everything to his will, so that their distinct personality is one of the most clearly revealed doctrines of the Word of God. Sabellianism was, therefore, soon almost universally rejected.
Although Origen had insisted on the distinct personality of the Son, and upon his eternal generation, and although he freely called him God, nevertheless he would not admit his equality with God. The Father, alone, according to him was ov qeo,j, the Son was simply qeo,j. The Son was qeo.j evk qeou/ and not avuto-qeo,j. And this subordination was not simply as to the mode of subsistence and operation, but as to nature; for Origen taught that the Son was of a different essence from the Father, e[teroj katV ouvsi,an, and owed his existence to the will of the Father. His disciples carried out his doctrine and avowedly made Christ a creature. This was done by Dionysius of Alexandria, a scholar of Origen, who spoke of the Son as poi,hmaand kti,sma, a mode of representation, however, which he subsequently retracted or explained away. It is plain, however, that the principles of Origen were inconsistent with the true divinity of Christ. It was not long, therefore, before Arius, another presbyter of Alexandria, openly maintained that the Son was not eternal, but was posterior to the Father; that He was created not from the substance of God, but evk ouvk ovntw/n,and therefore was not o`moou,sioj with the Father. He admitted that the Son existed before any other creature, and that it was by Him God created the world.
It is to be constantly remembered that these speculations were the business of the theologians. They neither expressed nor affected to express the mind of the Church. The great body of the people drew their faith, then, as now, immediately from the Scriptures and from the services of the sanctuary. They were baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. They addressed themselves to the Father as the creator of heaven and earth, and as their reconciled God and Father, and to Jesus Christ as their Redeemer, and to the Holy Ghost as their sanctifier and comforter. They loved, worshipped, and trusted the one as they did the others. This was the religious belief of the Church, which remained undisturbed by the speculations and controversies of the theologians, in their attempts to vindicate and explain the common faith. This state of confusion was, however, a great evil, and in order to bring the Church to an agreement as to the manner in which this fundamental doctrine of Christianity should be stated, the Emperor Constantine summoned the First Ecumenical Council, to meet at Nice, in Nicomedia, A. D. 325.
§ 4. The Church Doctrine as presented by the Council of Nice.
A. The Objects for which that Council was convened.
The object for which the Council was called together was three-fold. (1.) To remedy the confusion which prevailed in the use of several important words employed in discussions on the doctrine of the Trinity. (2.) To condemn errors which had been adopted in different parts of the Church. (3.) To frame such a statement of the doctrine as would include all its Scriptural elements, and satisfy the religious convictions of the mass of believers. This was an exceedingly difficult task.
1. Because the usus loquendi of certain important terms was not then determined. The word u`po,stasij, for example, was used in two opposite senses. It was often taken, in its etymological sense, for substance, and is used by the Council itself as synonymous with ouvsia. But it had already begun to be used in the sense of person. As it expresses reality, as opposed to what is phenomenal or apparent, or mode of manifestation, it came to be universally used in the Greek Church, in the latter sense, as a safeguard against the idea of a mere modal Trinity. It will be admitted that great confusion must prevail, if one man should say there is only one u`po,stasij in the Godhead, and another affirm that there are three, when both meant the same thing, the one using the word in the sense ofsubstance, and the other in that of person.
In the Latin Church the same difficulty was experienced in the use of the words substantia and subsistentia. These words were often interchanged as equivalent, and both were used, sometimes in the sense of substance, and sometimes in that of suppositum.Usage finally determined the former to mean substance or essence, and the latter a mode in which substance exists, i. e., suppositum. According to established usage, therefore, there is one substance, and there are three subsistences in the Godhead.
To express the idea of a suppositum intelligens, or self-conscious agent, the Greeks first used the word pro,swpon. But as that word properly means the face, the aspect, and as it was used by the Sabellians to express their doctrine of the threefold aspect under which the Godhead was revealed, it was rejected, and the word u`po,stasijadopted. The Latin word persona (from per and sono)properly means a mask worn by an actor and through which he spoke; and then the role or character which the actor sustained. On this account the word had a struggle before it was adopted in the terminology of theology.
The celebrated term o`moou,sioj, so long the subject of controversy, was not free from ambiguity. It expressed plainly enough sameness of substance, but whether that sameness was specific or numerical, the usage of the word left undecided. Porphyry is quoted as saying, that the souls of men and of irrational animals are o`moou,sioi, and Aristotle as saying that the stars are o`moou,sioi, and men and brutes are said to be o`moou,sioi as to their bodies; and in like manner angels, demons, and human souls, are said to be all o`moou,sioi. In this sense, Peter, James, and John are o`moou,sioi, as having the same nature in kind. On this account the use of the word was objected to, as admitting of a Tritheistic interpretation. The Council, however, determined the sense in which it was to be understood in their decisions, by saying that the Son was begotten evk th/j ou`siaj tou/ patro/j, and by denying that He was created. As God is a spirit, and as we are spirits, we are said, in Scripture, to be like Him, and to be his children, to be of the same nature. But with regard to the Son it was declared that He was of the same numerical essence with the Father; He is truly God, possessing the same attributes and entitled to the same homage. Thus explained, the word became an insuperable barrier against the adoption of the Nicene Creed by any who denied the true divinity of the Son of God.
Difference of Opinion among the Members of the Council.
2. A second difficulty with which the Council had to contend was diversity of opinion among its own members. All the conflicting views which had agitated the Church were there represented. The principal parties were, first, the Arians, who held, (1.) That the Son owed his existence to the will of the Father. (2.)That He was not eternal; but that there was a time when He was not. (3.) That He was created evx ouvk ovntw/n,out of nothing, and was therefore kti,sma kai. poi,hma. (4.) That He was not immutable, but trepto.j fu,sei. (5.) That his preeminence comisisted in the fact that He alone was created immediately by God, whereas all other creatures were created by the Son. (6.) He was not God of Himself, but was made God, evqeopoih,qh;that is, on account of his exalted nature, and the relation in which He stands to all other creatures, as Creator and Governor, He was entitled to divine worship.
One of the passages of Scripture on which the Arians principally relied was Prov. viii. 22, which in the Septuagint is rendered: e;ktise, me avrch.n o`dw/n auvtou/ (He created me in the beginning of his ways). As Wisdom, there spoken of, was universally understood to be the Logos, and as the Septuagint was regarded as authoritative, this passage seemed to prove, beyond dispute, that the Logos or Son was created. The Orthodox were forced to explain away this passage by saying that kti,zeinwas here to be taken in the sense of genna/n, the word elsewhere used to express the relation between the Father and the Son. Ignorance, or neglect of the Hebrew, prevented their answering the argument of the Arians by showing that the word hk'q', here rendered by the Septuagint e;ktise, means not only to establish, but to possess. The Vulgate, therefore, correetly renders the passage, "Dominus possidet me;" and the Engish version also reads, "The Lord possessed me." The Arians proper constituted a small minority of the Council.
The second party included the Semi-Arians and the disciples of Origen. These held with the Arians, (1.) That the Son owed his existence to the will of the Father. (2.) That He was not of the same essence, but e[teroj katV ouvsi,an. They seemed to hold that there was an essence intermediate between the divine substance and created substances. It was in reference to this form of opinion that Augustine afterwards said,2 "Unde liquido apparet ipsum factum non esse per quem facta sunt omnia. Et si factus non est, creatura non est: si autem creatura non est, ejusdem cum Patre substautiae, est. Omnis enim substantia quae Deus non est, creatura est; et quae creatura non est, Deus est."
(3) The Son was, therefore, subordinate to the Father, not merely in rank or mode of subsistence, but in nature. He belonged to a different order of beings. He was not auvto,qeoj, o` Qeo,j,or o` avlhqino.j qeo,j; but simply qeo,j, a term which, according to Origen, could be properly applied to the higher orders of intelligent creatures.
(4.) The Son, although thus inferior to the Father, having life in Himself, was the source of life, i. e., the Creator.
(5.) The Holy Spirit, according to most of the Arians and to Origen, was created by the Son, -- the first and highest of the creatures called into being by his power.
The third party in the Council were the Orthodox, who constituted the great majority. All Christians were the worshippers of Christ. He was to them the object of supreme love and the ground of their confidence; to Him they were subject in heart and life. They looked to Him for everything. He was their God in the highest sense of the word. He was, moreover, in their apprehension, a distinct person, and not merely another name for the Father. But as the conviction was no less deeply rooted in the minds of Christians, that there is only one God or divine Being, the problem which the Council had to solve was to harmonize these apparently incompatible convictions, namely, that there is only one God, and yet that the Father is God, and the Son, as a distinct person, is God, the same in substance and equal in power and glory. The only thing to be done was, to preserve the essential elements of the doctrine, and yet not make the statement of it self-contradictory. To meet these conditions, the Council framed the following Creed, namely, "We believe in one God, the Father almighty, the maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, only begotten, begotten of the Father, that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten and not made, consubstantial with the Father, by whom all things were made whether in heaven or on earth; who for us men and our salvation came down from heaven; and was incarnate and became man, suffered and rose again on the third day; ascended into heaven, and will come to judge the living and the dead. And we believe in the Holy Ghost. But those who say, that there was a time when He (the Son) was not, that He was not before He was made, or was made out of nothing, or of another or different essence or substance, that He was a creature, or mutable, or susceptible of change, the Holy Catholic Church anathematizes."
B. Council of Constantinople. The so-called Athanasian Creed.
The most obvious deficiency in the Nicene Creed is the omission of any definite statement concerning the Holy Spirit. This is to be accounted for by the fact that the doctrine concerning the Son, and his relation to the Father, was then the absorbing subject of controversy. Athanasius, however, and other expounders and defenders of the Nicene Creed, insisted that the Spirit is consubstantial with the Father and the Son, and that such was the mind of the Council. As this, however, was disputed, it was distinctly asserted in several provincial Councils, as in that of Alexandria, A. D. 362, aud that of Rome, A. D. 375. It was opposition to this doctrine which led to the calling of the Second Ecumenical Council, which met in Constantinople, A. D. 381. In the modification of the Nicene Creed, as issued by that Council, the following words were added to the clause, "We believe in the Holy Ghost," namely: "Who is the Lord and giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets." Some of the Greek and the great body of the Latin fathers held that the Spirit proceeded from the Son as well as from the Father, and by the Synod of Toledo, A. D. 589, the words filioque were added to the creed. This addition was one of the causes which led to the separation of the Eastern and Western Churches.
The Athanasian Creed.
After the Council of Constantinople, A. D. 381, the controversies which agitated the Church had reference to the constitution of the person of Christ. Before the questions involved in those controversies were authoritatively decided.. the so-called Athanasian Creed, an amplification of those of Nice and of Constantinople came to be generally adopted, at least, among the Western Churches. That creed was in these words, namely: "Whoever would be saved, must first of all take care that he hold the Catholic faith, which, except a man preserve whole and inviolate, he shall without doubt perish eternally. But this is the Catholic faith, that we worship one God in trinity, and trinity in unity. Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance. For the person of the Father is one; of the Son, another; of the Holy Spirit, another. But the divinity of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is one, the glory equal, the majesty equal. Such as is the Father, such also is the Son, and such the Holy Spirit. The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, the Holy Spirit is uncreated. The Father is infinite, the Son is infinite, the Holy Spirit is infinite. The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, the Holy Spirit is eternal. And yet there are not three eternal Beings, but one eternal Being. As also there are not three uncreated Beings, nor three infinite Beings, but one uncreated and one infinite Being. In like manner, the Father is omnipotent, the Son is omnipotent, and the Holy Spirit is omnipotent. And yet, there are not three omnipotent Beings, but one omnipotent Being. Thus the Father is God, the Son, God, and the Holy Spirit, God. And yet there are not three Gods, but one God only. The Father is Lord, the Son, Lord, and the Holy Spirit, Lord. And yet there are not three Lords, but one Lord only. For as we are compelled by Christian truth to confess each person distinctively to be both God and Lord, we are prohibited by the Catholic religion to say that there are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made by none, nor created, nor begotten. The Son is from the Father alone, not made, not created, but begotten. The Holy Spirit is not created by the Father and the Son, nor begotten, but proceeds. Therefore, there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits. And in this Trinity there is nothing prior or posterior, nothing greater or less, but all three persons are coeternal, and coequal to themselves. So that through all, as was said above, both unity in trinity, and trinity in unity is to be adored. Whoever would be saved, let him thus think concerning the Trinity."
It is universally agreed that Athanasius was not the author of this creed. It appears only in the Latin language in its original form; and it has modes of expression borrowed from the writings of Augustine, and of Vincent of Lerins. A. D. 434. As it also contains allusions to subsequent controversies concerning the person of Christ, it is naturally referred to some period between the middle of the fifth and the middle of the sixth centuries. Although not issued with the authority of any Council, it was soon universally admitted in the West, and subsequently in the East, and was everywhere regarded as an ecumemiical symbol.
The Doctrine of the Trinity as set forth in these three ancient creeds, -- the Nicene, the Constantinopolitan, and Athanasian (so-called), -- is the Church Form of that fundamental article of the Christian faith. There is no difference, except as to amplification, between these several formulas.
§ 5. Points decided by these Councils.
A. Against Sabellianism.
These Councils decided that the terms Father, Son, and Spirit, were not expressive mnerely of relations ad extra, analogous to the terms, Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor. This was the doctrine known as Sabellianism, which assumed that the Supreme Being is not only one in essence, but one in person. The Church doctrine asserts that Father, Son, and Spirit express internal, necessary, and eternal relations in the Godhead; that they are personal designations, so that the Father is one person, the Son another person, and the Spirit another person. They differ not as a;llo kai. a;llo, but as a;lloj kai. a;lloj; each says I, and each says Thou, to either of the others. The word used in the Greek Church to express this fact was first pro,swpon, and afterwards, and by general consent, u`po,stasij;in the Latin Church, "persona,"and in English, person. The idea expressed by the word in its application to the distinctions in the Godhead, is just as clear and definite as in its application to men.
B. Against the Arians and Semi-Arians.
The Councils held that the Father, Son, and Spirit are the same in substance, and equal in power and glory. Whatever divine perfection, whether eternity, immutability, infinity, omnipotence, or holiness, justice, goodness, or truth, can be predicated of the one, can in the same sense and measure be predicated of the others. These attributes belonging to the divine essence, and that essence being common to the three persons, the attributes or perfections are in like manner common to each. It is not the Father as such, nor the Son as such, who is self-existent, infinite, and eternal, but the Godhead, or divine essence, which subsists in the three persons. The Greek words used to express that which was common to the three persons of the Trinity were, as we have seen, ouvsi,a, fu,sij, and at first, u`po,stasij;to which correspond the Latin words substantia, or essentia, and natura;and the English, substance, essence, and nature. The word selected by the Nicene fathers to express the idea of community of substance, was, o`moou,swj. But this word, as we have already seen, may express either specific sameness, or numerical identity. In the former sense, all spirits, whether God, angels, or men, are o`moou,sioi. They are similar in essence, i. e., they are rational intelligences. That the Council intended the word to be taken in the latter sense, as expressing numerical identity, is plain, (1.) Because in its wider sense o`moou,sioj does not differ from o`moiou,sioj, which word the Council refused to adopt. The Arians were willing to admit that the Father, Son, and Spirit were o`moiou,sioi, but refused to admit that they were o`moou,sioi. This proves that the words were used in radically different senses. (2.) Because this Council declares that the Son was eternal; that He was not created or made, but begotten evk th/j ouvsi,aj tou/ patro,j,"of the very essence of the Father." (3.) This is implied in the explanation of "eternal generation" universally adopted by the Nicene fathers, as "the eternal communication of the same numerical essence whole and entire, from the Father to the Son." (4.) If the term o`moou,sioj be taken in the sense of specific sameness, then the Nicene Creed teaches Tritheism. The Father, Son, and Spirit are three Gods in the same sense that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are three men, for all men in that sense of the term are o`moou,sioi. It is the clear doctrine of these Councils that the same numerical, infinite, indivisible essence subsists in the three persons of the Trinity. This is still further evident from the inadequate illustrations of this great mystery which the early fathers sought for in nature; as of the light, heat, and splendor of the sun; the fountain and its streams; and especially from memory, intelligence, and will in man. In all these illustrations, however inadequate, the point of analogy was unity (numerical identity) of essence with triplicity.
C. The Mutual Relation of the Persons of the Trinity.
On this subject the Nicene doctrine includes, --
1. The principle of the subordination of the Son to the Father, and of the Spirit to the Father and the Son. But this subordination does not imply inferiority. For as the same divine essence with all its infinite perfections is common to the Father, Son, and Spirit, there can be no inferiority of one person to the other in the Trinity. Neither does it imply posteriority; for the divine essence common to the several persons is self-existent and eternal. The subordination intended is only that which concerns the mode of subsistence and operation, implied in the Scriptural facts that the Son is of the Father, and the Spirit is of the Father and the Son, and that the Father operates through the Son, and the Father and the Son through the Spirit.
2. The several persons of the Trinity are distinguished by a certain "property," as it is called, or characteristic. That characteristic is expressed by their distinctive appellations. The first person is characterized as Father, in his relation to the second person; the second is characterized as Son, in relation to the first person; and the third as Spirit, in relation to the first and second persons. Paternity, therefore, is the distinguishing property of the Father; filiation of the Son; and procession of the Spirit. It will be observed that no attempt at explanation of these relations is given in these ecumenical creeds, namely, the Nicene, that of Constantinople, and the Athanasian. The mere facts as revealed in Scripture are affirmed.
3. The third point decided concerning the relation of the persons of the Trinity, one to the other, relates to their union. As the essence of the Godhead is common to the several persons, they have a common intelligence, will, and power. There are not in God three intelligences, three wills, three efficiencies. The Three are one God, and therefore have one mind and will. This intimate union was expressed in the Greek Church by the word pericw,rhsij, which the Latin words inexistentia, inhabitatio, and intercommunio, were used to explain. These terms were intended to express the Scriptural facts that the Son is in the Father, and the Father in the Son; that where the Father is, there the Son and Spirit are; that what the one does the others do (the Father creates, the Son creates, the Spirit creates), or, as our Lord expresses it, "What things soever" the Father "doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise." (John v. 19.) So also what the one knows, the others know. "The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." (1 Cor. ii. 10, 11.) A common knowledge implies a common consciousness. In man the soul and body are distinct, yet, while united, they have a common life. We distinguish between acts of the intellect, and acts of the will, and yet in every act of the will there is an exercise of the intelligence; as in every act of the affections there is a joint action of the intelligence and will. These are not illustrations of the relations of the persons of the Trinity, which are ineffable, but of the fact that in other and entirely different spheres there is this community of life in different subsistences, -- different subsistences, at least so far as the body and soul are concerned.
This fact -- of the intimate union, communion, and inhabitation of the persons of the Trinity -- is the reason why everywhere in Scripture, and instinctively by all Christians, God as God is addressed as a person, in perfect consistency with the Tripersonality of the Godhead. We can, and do pray to each of the Persons separately; and we pray to God as God; for the three persons are one God; one not only in substance, but in knowledge, will, and power. To expect that we, who cannot understand anything, not even ourselves, should understand these mysteries of the Godhead, is to the last degree unreasonable. But as in every other sphere we must believe what we cannot understand; so we may believe all that God has revealed in his Word concerning Himself, although we cannot understand the Almighty unto perfection.
§ 6. Examination of the Nicene Doctrine.
A distinction must be made between the Nicene Creed (as amplified in that of Constantinople) and the doctrine of the Nicene fathers. The creeds are nothing more than a well-ordered arrangement of the facts of Scripture which concern the doctrine of the Trinity. They assert the distinct personality of the Father, Son, and Spirit; their mutual relation as expressed by those terms; their absolute unity as to substance or essence, and their consequent perfect equality; and the subordination of the Son to the Father, and of the Spirit to the Father and the Son, as to the mode of subsistence and operation. These are Scriptural facts, to which the creeds in question add nothing; and it is in this sense they have been accepted by the Church universal.
But the Nicene fathers did undertake, to a greater or less degree, to explain these facts. These explanations relate principally to the subordination of the Son and Spirit to the Father, and to what is meant by generation, or the relation between the Father and the Son. These two points are so intimately related that they cannot be considered separately. Yet as the former is more comprehensive than the latter, it may be expedient to speak of them in order, although what belongs to the one head, in a good degree belongs also to the other.
The ambiguity of the word o`moou,sioj has already been remarked upon. As ouvsi,a may mean generic nature common to many individuals, not unum in numero, but ens unum in multis, so o`moou,sioj(consubstantial) may mean nothing more than sameness of species or kind. It is therefore said, that "the term homoousion, in its strict grammatical sense differs from monoousion or toutoousion, as well as from heteroousion, and signifies not numerical identity, but equality of essence or community of nature among several beings."3 "The Nicene Creed," Dr. Schaff adds, "does not expressly assert the singleness or numerical unity of the divine essence (unless it be in the first article: 'we believe in one God), and the mnamn point with the Nicene fathers was to urge against Arianism the strict divinity and essential equality of the Son and Holy Ghost with the Father. If we press the difference of homoousion from monoousion, and overlook the many passages in which they assert with equal emphasis the monarchia or numerical unity of the Godhead, we must charge them with tritheism."
Gieseler goes much further, and denies that the Nicene fathers held the numerical identity of essence in the persons of the Trinity. The Father, Son, and Spirit were the same in substance as having the same nature, or same kind of substance. This he infers was their doctrine not only from the general style of their teaching, and from special declarations, but from the illustrations which they habitually employed. The Father and the Son are the same in substance as among men father and son have the same nature; or as Basil says, Father and Son differ in rank, as do the angels, although they are the same in nature. Gieseler says that the numerical sameness of nature in the three divine persons, was first asserted by Augustine. It was he, according to Gieseler, who first excluded all idea of subordination in the Trinity.4 "Athanasius and Hilary understood the proposition, 'There is one God of the Father. Basil the Great and the two Gregories understood by the word God a generic idea (Gattungsbegriff), belonging equally to the Father and the Son. Basil in the 'Apologia ad Caesarienses," says, h`mei/j e[na qeo.n, ouv tw| avriqmw/|, avlla. th/| fu,sei o`mologou/men,and endeavours to show that there can be no question of number in reference to God, as numerical difference pertains only to material things. Augustine on the contrary expressly excludes the idea of generic unity,5 and understands the proposition 'there is one God' not of the Father alone, but of the whole Trinity,6 and, therefore, taught that there is one God in three persons." This, however, is the precise doctrine of the Nicene Creed itself, which affirms faith "in one God," and not in three. Basil in the place quoted is refuting the charge of Tritheism. His words are, pro.j de. tou.j evphrea,zontaj h`mi/n to. tri,qeon, evkei/no lege,sqw o[tiper h`mei/j e[na qeo.n,etc.7 On page 460 reasons have already been given for assuming that the sameness of substance taught by the Nicene fathers was not simply generic but numerical. On this subject Pearson, a thorough advocate of the Nicene Creed, says, "As it (the divine nature) is absolutely immaterial and incorporeal, it is also indivisible; Christ cannot have any part of it only communicated unto Him, but the whole, by which He must be acknowledged co-essential, of the same substance with the Father; as the Council of Nice determined, and the ancient fathers before them taught."8 If the whole divine essence belongs equally to the several persons of the Trinity, there is an end to the question, whether the sameness be specific or numerical. Accordingly the Bishop says: "The Divine essence being by reason of its simplicity not subject to division, and in respect of its infinity uncapable of multiplication, is so communicated as not to be multiplied; insomnuch that He which proceedeth by that communication hath not only the same nature, but is also the same God. The Father God, and the Word God; Abraham man, and Isaac man: but Abraham one man, Isaac another man; not so the Father one God, and the Word another, but the Father and the Word both the same God."9
Gieseler says that Augustine effectually excluded all idea of subordination in the Trinity by teaching the numerical sameness of esence in the persons of the Godhead. This does indeed preclude all priority and all superiority as to being and perfection. But it does not preclude subordination as to the mode of subsistence and operation. This is distinctly recognized in Scripture, and was as fully taught by Augustine as by any of the Greek fathers, and is even more distinctly affirmed in the so-called Athanasian Creed, representing the school of Augustine, than in the Creed of the Council of Nice. There is, therefore, no just ground of objection to the Nicene Creed for what it teaches on that subject. It does not go beyond the facts of Scripture. But the fathers who framed that creed, and those by whom it was defended, did go beyond those facts. They endeavoured to explain what was the nature of that subordination. While denying to the Father any priority or superiority to the other persons of the Triimity, as to being or perfection, they still spoke of the Father as the Monas, as having in order of thought the whole Godhead in Himself; so that He alone was God of Himself (auvto,qeoj, in that sense of the word), that He was the fountain, the cause, the root, fons, origo, principium, of the divinity as subsisting in the Son and Spirit; that He was greater than the other divine persons. They understood many passages which speak of the inferiority of the Son to the Father, of the Logos as such; and not of the historical Son of God clothed in our nature. Thus Waterland10 says of these fathers, "The title of o` Qeo.j, being understood in the same sense with auvto,qeoj, was, as it ought to be, generally reserved to the Father, as the distinguishing personal character of the first person of the Holy Trinity. And this amounts to no more than the acknowledgment of the Father's prerogative as Father. But as it might also signify any Person who is truly and essentially God, it might properly be applied to the Son too: and it is so applied sometimes, though not so often as it is to the Father."
Hilary of Poictiers expresses the general idea of the Nicene fathers on this point, when he says: "Et quis non Patrem potiorem confitebitur, ut ingenitum a genito, ut patrem a filio, ut eum qui miserit ab eo qui missus est, ut volentem ab ipso qui obediat? Et ipse nobis erit testis: Pater major me est. Haec ita ut sunt, intelligenda sunt, sed cavendum est, ne apud imperitos gloriam Filii honor Patris infirmet."11
Bishop Pearson12 says the preeminence of the Father "undeniably consisteth in this: that He is God not of any other but of Himself, and that there is no other person who is God, but is God of Himself. It is no diminution to the Son, to say He is from another, for his very name imports as much; but it were a diminution to the Father to speak so of Him; and there must be some preeminence, where there is place for derogation. What the Father is, He is from none; what the Son is, He is from Him; what the first is, He giveth; what the second is, He receiveth. The First is Father indeed by reason of his Son, but He is not God by reason of Him; whereas the Son is not so only in regard of the Father, but also God by reason of the same." Among the patristical authorities quoted by Pearson, are the following from Augustine:13
"Pater de nullo patre, Filius de Deo Patre. Pater quod est, a nullo est: quod autem Pater est, propter Filium est. Filius vero et quod Filius est, propter Patrem est, et quod est, a Patre eat." "Filius non hoc tantum habet nascendo, ut Filius sit, sed omnino ut sit. . . . Filius non tantum ut sit Filius, quod relative dicitur, sed omnino ut sit, ipsam substantiam nascendo habet."14
The Reformers themselves were little inclined to enter into these speculations. They were specially repugnant to such a mind as Luther's. He insisted on taking the Scriptural facts as they were, without any attempt at explanation. He says: "We should, like the little children, stammer out what the Scriptures teach: that Christ is truly God, that the Holy Ghost is truly God, and yet that there are not three Gods, or three Beings, as there are thre. Men, three Angels, three Suns, or three Windows. No, God is not thus divided in his essence; but there is one only divine Being or substance. Therefore, although there are three persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, yet the Being is not divided or distinguished; since there is but one God in one single, undivided, divine substance."15
Calvin also was opposed to going beyond the simple statement of the Scriptures.16 After saying that Augustine devotes the fifth book on the Trinity to the explanation of the relation between the Father and the Son, he adds: "Longe vero tutius est in ea quam tradit relatione subsistere, quam subtilius penetrando ad sublime mysterium, per multas evanidas speculationes evagari. Ergo quibus cordi erit sobrietas et qui fidei mensura contenti erunt, breviter quod utile est cognitu accipiant: nempe quum profitemur nos credere in unum Deum, sub Dei nomine intelligi unicam et simplicem essentiam, in qua comprehendimus tres personas vel hypostaseis: ideoque quoties Dei nomen indefinite ponitur, non minus Filium et Spiritum, quam Patrem designari: ubi autem adjungitur Filius Patri, tunc in medium venit relatio: atque ita distinguimus inter personas. Quia vero proprietates in personis ordinem secum ferunt, ut in Patre sit principium et origo: quoties mentio sit Patris et Filii simul, vel Spiritus, nomen Dei peculiariter Patri tribuitur. Hoc modo retinetur unitas essentiae et habetur ratio ordinis, quae tamen ex Filii et Spiritus deitate nihil minuit: et certe quum ante visum fuerit Apostolos asserere Filium Dei illum esse, quem Moses et Prophetae testati sunt esse Jehovam, semper ad unitatem essentiae, venire necesse est." We have here the three essential facts involved in the doctrine of the Trinity, namely, unity of essence, distinction of persons, and subordination without any attempt at explanation.
Calvin was accused by some of his contemporaries of teaching the incompatible doctrines of Sabellianism and Arianism. In a letter to his friend Simon Grynee, rector of the Academy of Basle, dated May, 1531, he says the ground on which the charge of Sabellianism rested, was his having said that Christ was "that Jehovah, who of Himself alone was always self-existent, which charge," he says, "I was quite ready to meet." His answer is: "If the distinction between the Father and the Word be attentively considered, we shall say that the one is from the other. If, however, the essential quality of the Word be considered, in so far as He is one God with the Father, whatever can be said concerning God may also be applied to Him the Second Person in the glorious Trinity. Now, what is the meaning of the name Jehovah? What did that answer imply which was spoken to Moses? I AM THAT I AM. Paul makes Christ the author of this saying."17 This argument is conclusive. If Christ be Jehovah, and if the name Jehovah implies self-existence, then Christ is self-existent. In other words, self-existence and necessary existence, as well as omnipotence and all other divine attributes, belong to the divine essence common to all the persons of the Trinity, and therefore it is the Triune God who is self-existent, and not one person in distinction from the other persons. That is, self-existence is not to be predicated of the divine essence only, nor of the Father only, but of the Trinity, or of the Godhead as subsisting in three persons. And, therefore, as Calvin says, when the word God is used indefinitely it means the Triune God, and not the Father in distinction from the Son and Spirit.
B. Eternal Generation.
As in reference to the subordination of the Son and Spirit to the Father, as asserted in the ancient creeds, it is not to the fact that exception is taken, but to the explanation of that fact, as given by the Nicene fathers, the same is true with regard to the doctrine of Eternal Generation. It is no doubt a Scriptural fact that the relation between the First and Second persons of the Trinity is expressed by the relative terms Father and Son. It is also said that the Son is begotten of the Father; He is declared to be the only begotten Son of God. The relation, therefore, of the Second Person to the First is that of filiation or sonship. But what is meant by the term, neither the Bible nor the ancient creeds explain. It may be sameness of nature; as a son is of the same nature as his father. It may be likeness, and the term Son be equivalent to eivkw,n, avpau,gasma, carakth,r, or lo,goj, or revealer. It may be derivation of essence, as a son, in one sense, is derived from his father. Or, it may be something altogether inscrutable and to us incomprehensible.
The Nicene fathers, instead of leaving the matter where the Scriptures leave it, undertake to explain what is meant by sonship, and teach that it means derivation of essence. The First Person of the Trinity is Father, because He communicates the essence of the Godhead to the Second Person; and the Second Person is Son, because He derives that essence from the First Person. This is what they mean by Eternal Generation. Concerning which it was taught, --
1. That it was the person not the essence of the Son that was generated. The essence is self-existent and eternal, but the person of the Son is generated (i. e., He becomes a person) by the communication to Him of the divine essence. This point continued to be insisted upon through the later periods of the Church. Thus Turrettin18says, "Licet Filius sit a Patre, non minus tamen auvto,qeoj dicitur, non ratione Personae, sed ratione Essentiae; non relate qua Filius, sic enim est a Patre, sed absolute qua Deus, quatenus habet Essentiam divinam a se existentem, et non divisam vel productam ab alia essentia, non vero qua habens essentiam illam a seipso. Sic Filius est Deus a seipso, licet non sit a seipso Filius."
Again,19 "Persona bene dicitur generare Personam, quia actiones sunt suppositorum; sed non Essentia Essentiam, quia quod gignit et gignitur necessario multiplicatur, et sic via sterneretur ad Tritheismum. Essentia quidem generando communicatur; sed generatio, ut a Persona fit originaliter, ita ad Personam terminatur" This is the common mode of representation.
2. This generation is said to be eternal. "It is an eternal movement in the divine essence."
3. It is by necessity of nature, and not by the will of the Father.
4. It does not involve any separation or division, as it is not a part, but the whole and complete essence of the Father that is communicated from the Father to the Son.
5. It is without change.
The principal grounds urged in support of this representation, are the nature of sonship among men, and the passage in John v. 26, where it is said, "As the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself."
It is admitted that the relation between the First and Second persons in the Trinity is expressed by the words Father and Son, and therefore while everything in this relation as it exists among men, implying imperfection or change, must be eliminated, yet the essential idea of paternity must be retained. That essential idea is assumed to be the communication of the essence of the parent to his child; and, therefore, it is maintained that there must be a communication of the essence of the Godhead from the Father to the Son in the Holy Trinity. But, in the first place, it is a gratuitous assumption that, so far as the soul is concerned, there is even among men any communication of the essence of the parent to the child. Traducianism has never been the general doctrine of the Christian Church. As, therefore, it is, to say the least, doubtful, whether there is any communication of the essence of the soul in human paternity, it is unreasonable to assume that such communication is essential to the relation of Father and Son in the Trinity.
In the second place, while it is admitted that the terms Father and Son are used to give us some idea of the mutual relation of the First and Second persons of the Trinity, yet they do not definitely determine what that relation is. It may be equality and likeness. Among men Father and Son belong to the same order of beings. The one is not inferior in nature, although he may be in rank, to the other. And the son is like his father. In the same manner in the Holy Trinity the Second Person is said to be the eivkw,n, the avpau,gasma, the carakth,r, the lo,goj, the Word or Revealer of the Father, so that he who hears the Son hears the Father, he who hath seen the one has seen the other. Or the relation may be that of affection. The reciprocal love of father and son is peculiar. It is, so to speak, necessary; it is unchangeable, it is unfathomable; it leads, or has led, to every kind and degree of self-sacrifice. It is not necessary to assume in reference to the Trinity that these relations are all that the relative terms Father and Son are intended to reveal. These may be included, but much more may be implied which we are not now able to comprehend. All that is contended for is, that we are not shut up to the admission that derivation of essence is essential to sonship.
As to the passage in John v. 26, where it is said the Father hath given to the Son to have life in Himself, everything depends on the sense in which the word Son is to be taken. That word is sometimes used as a designation of the lo,goj, the Second Person of the Trinity, to indicate his eternal relation to the First Person as the Father. It is, however, very often used as a designation of the incarnate lo,goj, the Word made flesh. Many things are in Scripture predicated of the Godman, which cannot be predicated of the Second Person of the Trinity as such. If in this passage the Son means the Logos, then it does teach that the First Person of the Trinity communicated life, and therefore the essence in which that life inheres, to the Second Person. But if Son here designates the Theanthropos, then the passage teaches no such doctrine. That it is the historical person, Jesus of Nazareth here spoken of,may be argued not only from the fact that He is elsewhere so frequently called the Son of God, as in the comprehensive confession required of every Christian in the apostolic age, "I believe that Jesus is the Son of God;" but also from the context. Our Lord had healed an impotent man on the Sabbath. For this the Jews accused Him of breaking the Sabbath. He vindicated Himself by saying that He had the same right to work on the Sabbath that God had, because He was the Son of God, and therefore equal with God. That He had power not only to heal but to give life, just as the Father had life in Himself, so had He given to the Son tohave life in Himself. He had also given Him authority to execute judgment. He was to be the judge of the quick and dead, because He is the Son of man, i. e., because He had become man for us and for our salvation. His accusers need not be surprised at what He said, because the hour was coming when all who are in the grave shall hear his voice, and shall come forth, they who have done good, unto the resurrection of life, and they who had done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. The subject of discourse, therefore, in the context, is the historical person who had healed the impotent man, and who with equal propriety could be called God or man, because He was both God and man. What the passage teaches, therefore, concerns the constitution of Christ's person as He appeared on earth, and not the nature of the relation of the Father and Son in the Godhead.
C. Eternal Sonship.
There is, therefore, a distinction between the speculations of the Nicene fathers, and the decisions of the Nicene Council. The latter have been accepted by the Church universal, but not the former. The Council declared that our Lord is the Eternal Son of God, i. e., that He is from eternity the Son of God. This of course involves the denial that He became the Son of God in time; and, consequently, that the primary and essential reason for his being called Son is not his miraculous birth, nor his incarnation, nor his resurrection, nor his exaltation to the right hand of God. The Council decided that the word Son as applied to Christ, is not a term of office but of nature; that it expresses the relation which the Second Person in the Trinity from eternity bears to the First Person, and that the relation thus indicated is sameness of nature, so that sonship, in the case of Christ, includes equality with God. In other words, God was in such a sense his Father that He was equal with God. And consequently every time the Scriptures call Jesus the Son of God, they assert his true and proper divinity. This does not imply that every time Christ is called the Son of God, what is said of Him is to be understood of his divine nature. The fact is patent, and is admitted that the person of our Lord may be designated fromu either nature. He may be called the Son of David and the Son of God. And his person may be designated from one nature when what is predicated of Him is true only of the other nature. Thus, on the one hand, the Lord of Glory was crucified; God purchased the Church with his blood; and the Son is said to be ignorant; and, on the other hand, the Son of Man is said to be in heaven when He was on earth. This being admitted it remains true that Christ is called the Son of God as to his divine nature. The Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity as such and because of his relation to the First Person, is the Son of God. Such is the doctrine of the Nicene Council, and that it is no less the doctrine of the Scriptures, is plain from the following considerations : --
1. The terms Father, Son, and Spirit, as applied to the persons of the Trinity, are relative terms. The relations which they express are mutual relations, i. e., relations in which the different persons stand one to another. The First Person is called Father, not because of his relation to his creatures, but because of his relation to the Second Person. The Second Person is called Son, not because of any relation assumed in time, but because of his eternal relation to the First Person. And the Third Person is called Spirit because of his relation to the First and Second.
2. If, as the whole Christian Church believes, the doctrine of the Trinity is a Scriptural doctrine, and if, as is also admitted by all the parties to this discussion, it was the purpose of God to reveal that doctrine to the knowledge and faith of his people, there is a necessity for the use of terms by which the persons of the Trinity should be designated and revealed. But if the terms Father, Son, and Spirit do not apply to the persons of the Trinity as such, and express their mutual relations, there are no such distinctive terms in the Bible by which they can be known and designated.
3. There are numerous passages in the Scriptures which clearly prove that our Lord is called Son, not merely because He is the image of God, or because He is the object of peculiar affection, nor because of his miraculous conception only; nor because of his exaltation, but because of the eternal relation which He sustains to the First Person of the Trinity. These passages are of two kinds. First, those in which the Logos is called Son, or in which Christ as to his divine nature and before his incarnation is declared to be the Son of God; and secondly, those in which the application of the term Son to Christ involves the ascription of divinity to Him. He is declared to be the Son of God in such a sense as implies equality with God. To the former of these classes belong such passages as the following: Rom. i. 3, 4, where Christ is declared to be kata. sa,rka, the Son of David, and kata. pneu/ma,the Son of God. That pneu/ma a`giosu,nhj does not here mean the Holy Spirit, much less a pneumatic state, but the higher or divine nature of Christ, is evident from the antithesis. As to his human nature, He is the Son of David; as to his divine nature, He is the Son of God. As to his humanity, He is consubstantial with man; as to his divinity, He is consubstantial with God. If his being the Son of David proves He was a man, his being the Son of God proves that He is God. Hence Christ was called Son before his incarnation, as in Gal. iv. 4, "God sent forth his Son, made of a woman." It was the Logos that was sent, and the Logos was Son. Thus in John i. 1-14, we are taught that the Logos was in the beginning with God, that He was God, that He made all things, that He was the light and life of men, and that He beame flesh, and revealed his glory as the Son of God. Here it is plain that the Logos or Word is declared to be the Son. And in the eighteenth verse of that chapter it is said, "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father (ov w;n evij to.n ko,lpon tou/ patro,j)He hath declared Him." Here the present tense, ov w;n, expresses permanent being; He who is, was, and ever shall be, in the bosom of the Father, i. e., most intimately united with Him, so as to know Him, as He knows Himself, is the Son. According to Chrysostom, this language implies the sugge,neia kai, e`no,thj th/j ouvsi,aj of the Father and the Son, which were not interrupted by his manifestation in the flesh. To the latter class belong such passages as the following: John v. 18-25, where Christ calls God his Father in a sense which implied equality with God. If sonship implies equality with God, it implies participation of the divine essence. It was for claiming to be the Son of God in this sense, that the Jews took up stones to stone Him. Our Lord defended Himself by saying that He had the same power God had, the same authority, the same life-giving energy, and therefore was entitled to the same honour. In John x. 30-38 there is a similar passage, in which Christ says that God is his Father in such a sense that He and the Father are one. In the first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, it is argued that Christ does not belong to the category of creatures; that all angels (i. e., all intelligent creatures higher than man) are subject to Him, and are required to worship Him because He is the Son of God. As Son He is the brightness of the Father's glory, the express image of his person, upholding all things by the word of his power. Because He is the Son of God, He is the God who in the beginning laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of his hands. They are mutable, but He is unchangeable and eternal.
There can, therefore, be no reasonable doubt that according to the Scriptures, the term Son as applied to Christ expresses the relation of the Second to the First Person in the adorable Trinity. In other words, it is not merely an official title, but designates the Logos and not exclusively the Theanthropos.
4. Another argument in proof of this doctrine is derived from the fact that Christ is declared to be "the only-begotten Son of God," "his own Son," i. e., his Son in a peculiar and proper sense. Angels and men are called the sons of God, because He is the Father of all spirits. Holy men are his sons because partakers of his moral nature, as wicked men are called children of the devil.
God's people are his sons and daughters by regeneration and adoption. It is in opposition to all these kinds of sonship that Christ is declared to be God's only Son, the only person in the universe to whom the word can be applied in its full sense as expressing sameness of essence.
Objections to the Doctrine.
The speculative objections to this doctrine of eternal sonship have already been considered. If Christ is Son, if He is God of God, it is said He is not self-existent and independent. But self-existence, independence, etc., are attributes of the divine essence, and not of one person in distinction from the others. It is the Triune God who is self-existent and independent. Subordination as to the mode of subsistence and operation, is a Scriptural fact; and so also is the perfect and equal Godhead of the Father and the Son, and therefore these facts must be consistent. In the consubstantial identity of the human soul there is a subordination of one faculty to another, and so, however incomprehensible to us, there may be a subordination in the Trinity consistent with the identity of essence in the Godhead.
Psalm ii. 7.
More plausible objections are founded on certain passages of the Scriptures. In Ps. ii. 7, it is said, "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee." From this it is argued that Christ or the Messiah was constituted or made the Son of God in time, and therefore was not the Son of God from eternity. To this it may be answered, --
1. That the term Son, as used in the Scriptures, expresses different relations, and therefore may be applied to the same person for different reasons; or, have one meaning, i. e., express one relation in one place, and a different one in another. It may refer or be applied to the Logos, or to the Theanthropos. One ground for the use of the designation does not exclude all the others. God commanded Moses to say unto Pharaoh, "Israel is my son, even my first-born." (Ex. iv. 22.) And He said of Solomon, "I will be his father and he shall be my son." (2 Sam. vii 14.) The word son here expresses the idea of adoption, the selection of one people or of one man out of many to stand to God in a peculiar relation of intimacy, affection, honour, and dignity. If for these reasons the theocratic people, or a theocratic king, may be called the Son of God, for the same reasons, and preeminently, the Messiah may be so designated. But this is no argument to prove that the Logos may not in a far higher sense be called the Son of God.
2. The passage in question, however, need not be understood of an event which occurred in time. Its essential meaning is, "Thou art my Son, now art thou my Son." The occasion referred to by the words "this day" was the time when the Sonship of the king of Zion should be fully manifested. That time, as we learn from Rom. i. 4, was the day of his resurrection. By his rising again from the dead, He was clearly manifested to be all that He claimed to be, -- the Son of God and the Saviour of the world.
3. There is another interpretation of the passage which is essentially the same as that given by many of the fathers, and is thus presented by Dr. Addison Alexander in his commentary on Acts xiii. 33, "The expression in the Psalm, 'I have begotten thee,' means, I am He who has begotten thee, i. e., I am thy father. 'To-day' refers to the date of the decree itself (Jehovah said, Today, etc.); but this, as a divine act, was eternal, and so must be the Sonship which it affirms."
Acts xiii. 32, 38.
It may be urged, however, that in Acts xiii. 32, 33, this passage is quoted in the proof of the resurrection of Christ, which shows that the Apostle understood the passage to teach that Christ was begotten or made the Son of God when He rose from the dead. The passage in Acts reads thus in our version: "We declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that He hath raised up Jesus again (avnasth,saj); as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." Here there is no reference to the resurrection. The glad tidings which the Apostle announced was not the resurrection, but the advent of the Messiah. That was the promise made to the fathers, which God had fulfilled by raising up, i. e., bringing into the world the promised deliverer. Compare Acts ii. 30; iii. 22, 26; vii. 31, in all which passages where the same word is used, the "raising up" refers to the advent of Christ; as when it is said, "A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me." The word is never used absolutely in reference to the resurrection unless, as in Acts ii. 32, where the resurrection is spoken of in the context. Our translators have obscured the meaning by rendering avnasth,saj"having raised up again,"instead of simply "having raised up," as they render it elsewhere.
That this is the true meaning of the passage is clear from the succeeding verses. Paul having said that God had fulfilled his promise to the fathers by raising up Christ, agreeably to Psalm ii. 7, immediately adds as an additional fact, "And as concerning that He raised Him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, He said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." (Acts xiii. 34, 35.) The Apostle, therefore, does not teach that Christ was made the Son of God by his resurrection. But even, as just remarked, if He did teach that the Theanthropos was in one sense made the Son of God, that would not prove that the Logos was not Son in another and higher sense.
Luke i. 35.
The same remark is applicable to Luke i. 35: "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." Bishop Pearson, one of the most strenuous defenders of "eternal generation," and of all the peculiarities of the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity, gives four reasons why the Theanthropos or Godman is called the Son of God. (1.) His miraculous conception. (2.) The high office to which he was designated. (John x. 34, 35, 36.) (3.) His resurrection, according to one interpretation of Acts xiii. 33. "The grave," he says, "is as the womb of the earth; Christ, who is raised from thence, is as it were begotten to another life, and God, who raised him, is his Father."20 (4.) Because after his resurrection He was made the heir of all things. (Heb. i. 2-5.) Having assigned these reasons why the Godman is called Son, he goes on to show why the Logos is called Son. There is nothing, therefore, in the passages cited inconsistent with the Church doctrine of the eternal Sonship of our Lord. The language of the angel addressed to the Virgin Mary, may, however, mean no more than this, namely, that the assumption of humanity by the eternal Son of God was the reason why He should be recognized as a divine person. It was no ordinary child who was to be born of Mary, but one who was, in the language of the prophets, to be the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Son of the Highest. It was because the Eternal Son was made of a woman, that that Holy Thing born of the virgn was to be called the Son of God.
It need hardly be remarked that no valid objection to the doctrine of the eternal Sonship of Christ, or, that He is Son as to his divine nature, can be drawn from such passages as speak of the Son as being less than the Father, or subject to Him, or even ignorant. If Christ can be called the Lord of glory, or God, when his death is spoken of, He may be called Son, when other limitations are ascribed to Him. As He is both God and man, everything that is true either of his humanity or of his divinity, may be predicated of Him as a person; and his person may be denominated from one nature, when the predicate belongs to the other nature. He is called the Son of Man when He is said to be omnipresent; and He is called God when He is said to have purchased the Church with his blood.
D. The Relation of the Spirit to the other Persons of the Trinity.
As the councils of Nice and Constantinople were fully justified by Scripture in teaching the eternal Sonship of Christ, so what they taught of the relation of the Spirit to the Father and the Son, has an adequate Scriptural foundation.
That relation is expressed by the word procession, with regard to which the common Church doctrine is, (1.) That it is incomprehensible, and therefore inexplicable. (2.) That it is eternal (3.) That it is equally from the Father and the Son. At least such is the doctrine of the Latin and all other Western churches. (4.) That this procession concerns tha personality and operations of the Spirit, and not his essence.
The Scriptural grounds for expressing this relation by the term procession, are (1.) The signification of the word spirit. It means breath, that which proceeds from, and which gives expression and effect to our thoughts. Since Father and Son, as applied to the First and Second persons of the Trinity, are relative terms, it is to be assumed that the word Spirit as the designation of the Third Person, is also relative. (2.) This is further indicated by the use of the genitive case in the expressions pneu/ma tou/ patro,j, tou/ ui`ou/, which is explained by the use of the preposition evk, as pneu/ma evk toi/ patro,j. The revealed fact is that the Spirit is of the Father, and the Church in calling the relation, thus indicated, a procession. does not attempt to explain it. (3.) In John xv. 26, where the Spirit is promised by Christ, He is said to proceed from the Father.
That the Latin and Protestant churches, in opposition to the Greek Church, are authorized in teaching that the Spirit proceeds not from the Father only, but from the Father and the Son, is evident, because whatever is said in Scripture of the relation of the Spirit to the Father, is also said of his relation to the Son. He is said to be the "Spirit of the Father," and "Spirit of the Son;" He is given or sent by the Son as well as by the Father; the Son is said to operate through the Spirit. The Spirit is no more said to send or to operate through the Son, than to send or operate through the Father. The relation, so far as revealed, is the same in the one case as in the other.
When we consider the incomprehensible nature of the Godhead, the mysterious character of the doctrine of the Trinity, the exceeding complexity and difficulty of the problem which the Church had to solve in presenting the doctrine that there are three persons and one God, in such a manner as to meet the requirements of Scripture and the convictions of believers, and yet avoid all contradiction, we can hardly fail to refer the Church creeds on this subject, which have for ages secured assent and consent, not to inspiration, strictly speaking, but to the special guidance of the Holy Spirit.
§ 7. Philosophical Form of the Doctrine of the Trinity.
The philosophical statements of the doctrine of the Trinity have been intended by their authors either to prove it, or to illustrate it, or to explain it away and substitute some speculative theory as to the constitution of the universe for the Scriptural doctrine of the Triune God. The two former of these classes, those designed for proof, and those designed for illustration, need not be discriminated. It may be remarked in reference to them all that they are of little value. They do not serve to make the inconceivable intelligible. The most they can do, is to show that in other spheres and in relation to other subjects, we find a somewhat analogous triplicity in unity. In most cases, however, these illustrations proceed on the assumption that there are mysteries in the Godhead which have no counterpart in the constitution of our nature, or in anything around us in the present state of our existence.
We have already seen that the fathers were accustomed to refer to the union of light, heat, and radiance in the one substance of the sun; to a fountain and its streams; to the root, stem, and flower of a plant; to the intellect, will, and affections in the soul; as examples of at least a certain kind of triplicity in unity, elsewhere than in the Godhead. The last-mentioned analogy, especially, was frequently presented, and that in different forms. Augustine said, that as man was made in the image of the Triune God, we have reason to expect something in the constitution of our nature answering to the Trinity in the Godhead. He refers to the memory, intelligence, and will, as co-existing in one mind, so that the operations of the one are involved in the operations of the others. Gregory of Nyssa refers for his illustration to the soul, the reason, and the living power, united in one spiritual substance in man. It was admitted, however, that these analogies did not hold as to the main point, for these different powers in man are not different subsistences, but different modes of activity of one and the same personal essence, so that these illustrations lead rather to the Sabellian, than to the Scriptural view of the doctrine of the Trinity.
By far the most common illustration was borrowed from the operations of our consciousness. We conceive of ourselves as objective to ourselves, and are conscious of the identity of the subject and object. We have thus the subjective Ego, the objective Ego, and the identity of the two; the desired Thesis, Analysis, and Synthesis. In one form or another, this illustration has come down from the fathers, through the schoolmen and reformers, to theologians of our own day. Augustine21 says, "Est quaedam imago Trinitatis, ipsa mens, et notitia ejus, quod est proles ejus ac de seipsa verbum ejus, et amor tertius, et haec tria unum atque una substantia." Again,22 "Haec -- tria, memoria, intelligentia, voluntas, quoniam non sunt tres vitae, sed una vita; nec tres mentes, sed una mens: consequenter utique nec tres substantiae sunt, sed una substantia." And,23 "Mens igitur quando cogitatione se conspicit, intelligit se et recognoscit: gignit ergo hunc intellectum et cognitionem suam. . . . Haec autem duo, gignens et genitum, dilectione tertia copulantur, quae nihil est aliud quam voluntas fruendum aliquid appetens vel tenens." Anselm24 has the same idea: "Habet mens rationalis, quum se cogitando intelligit, secum imaginem suam ex se natam, id est cogitationem sui ad suam similitudinem, quasi sua impressione formatam, quamvis ipsa se a sua imagine, non nisi ratione sola, separare possit, quae imago ejus verbum ejus est. Hoc itaque modo, quis neget, summam sapientem, quum se dicendo intelligit, gignere consubstantialem sibi similitudinem suam, id est Verbum suum." Melancthon25 adopts and carries out the same idea: "Filius dicitur imago et lo,goj: est igitur imago cogitatione Patris genita; quod ut aliquo modo consideran possit, a nostra mente exempla capiamus. Voluit enim Deus in homine conspici vestigia sua. . . . Mens humana cogitando mox pingit imaginem rei cogitatae, sed nos non transfundimus nostram essentiam in illas imagines, suntque cogitationes illae subitae et evanescentes actiones. At Pater aeternus sese intuens gignit cogitatonem sui, quae est imago ipsius, non evanescens, sed subsistens, communicata ipsi essentia. Haec igitur imago est secunda persona. . . . Ut autem Filius nascitur cogitatione, ita Spiritus Sanctus procedit a voluntate Patris et Filii; voluntatis enim est agitare, diligere, sicut et cor humanam non imagines, sed spiritus seu halitus gignit." Leibnitz,26 says "Je ne trouve rien dans les creatures de plus propre a illustrer ce sujet, que la reflexion des espirits, lorsqu'un meme esprit est son propre objet immediat, et agit sur soi-meme en pensant a soi-meme et a ce qu'il fait. Car he redoublement donne une image ou ombre de deux substances respectives dans une meme substance absolue, savoir de celle qui entend, et de celle qui est entendue; l'un et l'autre de ces etres eat substantiel, l'un et l'autre est un concret individu, et ils different par des relations mutuelles, mais ils ne sont qu'une seule et meme substance individuelle absolue."
Of the theologians of the seventeenth century belonging to the Reformed Church, Keckermann was the most disposed to present the doctrines of the Bible in a philosophical form. We find, therefore, with him a similar attempt to make the mystery of the Trinity intelligible. He regards the existence of God as consisting in self- conscious thought. As thought is eternal, it must have an eternal, absolute, and perfect object. That object must, therefore, itself be God. The unity of the divine essence demands that this object should be in God himself, and therefore, it eternally returns to Him.27
The modern theologians of Germany, who profess allegiance to the Scriptures, have, in many cases, taken the ground that absolute unity in the divine essence would be inconsistent with self-consiousness. We become self-conscious by distinguishing ourselves from what is not ourselves, and especially from other persons of like nature with ourselves. If, therefore, there were no person objective to God, to whom He could say Thou, He could not say I. Thus Martensen28 says: Although the creature can have no adequate comprehension of the divine nature, we have a semblance of the Trinity in ourselves; as we are formed in the image of God, we have the right to conceive of God according to the analogy of our own nature. As distinction of persons is necessary to self-consciousness in us, so also in God. Therefore, if God be not a Trinity, He cannot be a person. How, he asks, can God from eternity be conscious of Himself as Father, without distinguishing Himself from Himself as Son? In other words, how can God be eternally self-conscious, without being eternally objective to Himself? That with us the objective Ego is merely ideal and not a different person from the subjective Ego, arises from our nature as creatures. With God, thinking and being are the same. In thinking Himself his thought of Himself is Himself in a distinct hypostasis. Dr. Shedd29 has given a similar exposition, "in proof that the necessary conditions of self-consciousness in the finite spirit, furnish an analogue to the doctrine of the Trinity, and go to prove that trinity in unity is necessary to self-consciousness in the Godhead."
In all that precedes, reference has been made to those who have had for their object to vindicate the doctrine of the Trinity, by showing that it is not out of analogy with other objects of human thought. There are, however, many modern systems which profess to be Trinitarian, which are in fact mere substitutions of the formulas of speculation for the doctrine of the Bible. Men speak of the Trinity, of the Father, Son, and Spirit, when they mean by those terms something which has not the least analogy with the doctrine of the Christian Church. Many by the Trinity do not mean a Trinity of persons in the Godhead, but either three radical forces, as it were, in the divine nature, which manifest themselves in different ways; or three different relations of the same subject; or three different states or stages of existence. Thus with some, the absolute power or efficiency of the Supreme Being considered as creating, upholding, and governing the world, is the Father; as illuminating rational creatures, is the Son; and, as morally educating them, is the Spirit. According to Kant, God as creator is the Father; as the preserver and governor of men, He is the Son; and as the administrator of law, as judge and rewarder, He is the Spirit. With DeWette, God in Himself is the Father; as manifested in the world, the Son; and as operating in nature, the Spirit. Schleiermacher says, God in Himself is the Father; God in Christ is the Son; God in the Church, is the Holy Spirit. The avowed Pantheists also use the language of Trinitarianism. God as the infinite and absolute Being is the Father; as coming to consciousness and existence in the world, He is the Son; as returning to Himself, the Spirit. Weisse attempts to unite Theism and Pantheism. He pronounces the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity the highest form of philosophical thought. He professes to adopt that doctrine ex animo in its commonly admitted sense. There is a threefold personahity (Ichheit) in God necessary to the constitution of his nature. When the world was created the second of these persons became its life, merging his personality in the world and became impersonal, in order to raise the world into union and identity with God. When the curriculum of the world is accomplished, the Son resumes his personality.30