REV. AUGUSTUS CLISSOLD, M. A.
Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.Hebrews xii. 26
LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.
WHEN great changes are apprehended as impending over great Institutions, they naturally give rise to great diversities of opinion. Two of the greatest changes which can befall any National Church are, in the present day, subjects of serious discussion. There is a change affecting the internal life of the Church, so far as this life is derived from the Athanasian Creed; and there is a change affecting its external life, in the form of proposed Secession, or else Disestablishment. Hence a variety of conflicting opinions. Some think it desirable that the Damnatory Clauses should be dispensed with, but they would preserve the rest of the Creed; some would preserve the whole Creed, but make it no part of Divine worship; some would retain the Creed, but make its use optional; some, while retaining the Creed, would make its use compulsory, and adopt an explanatory rubric. Some would professedly secede from their ministrations in the Church, if any alterations were made in the Creed or even in the use of the Creed; some would join the Liberation Society; and some secede from the Church altogether.
In the course of the present Tract a new element is introduced as the latent cause of the present agitation, namely, that of Prophecy; for if the Church be what it aims to be, a true Catholic Church, nay, according to some, the one great bulwark of Christianity, it is not unreasonable to presume, that it has a place in the scheme of Divine Providence; and, in this case, to omit the subject of Prophecy might be only to admit, that the destiny of the Church has no place in the Divine order of things, and consequently is unconnected with either the Present or the Future of Christendom.
It has, indeed, been supposed by some, that the old heresies have died out; and, as such, that there is no further use in denouncing them. Others have thought that they have never died out, but are always re-appearing, though, it may be, under new names; thus, for instance, that what is called Swedenborgianism is nothing more than a new name for the old Sabellianism; and as some of the clauses of the Athanasian Creed were introduced for the express purpose of condemning Sabellianism, the disuse of the Creed, it is thought, would tend to remove the only bulwark against this heresy; and therefore, says Mr. MaccollI trust that the Athanasian Creed will be neither abolished nor altered. To do either would be to abandon the Faith, and to commit the Church of England to Sabellianism.
In the ensuing pages, we have pointed out the real relation of the Sabellian Creed to the Athanasian, at least in so far as the doctrines of Sabellius are thought to be known; and having done this, we are the better enabled to perceive the relation of both to the doctrines of Swedenborg.
It seems impossible to disguise the fact, that, in the present day, the Athanasian Creed is itself upon its trial. This is the reason for which a Defense Committee has been formed; and the ensuing pages may serve to shew what are the responsibilities they, have undertaken. That the Creed cannot remain as it is, and as it is interpreted by its most able advocates, the present Tract is designed to demonstrate; inasmuch as it is no longer any safeguard against either Tritheism or Sabellianism. In shewing its inadequacy in these respects, I have avoided as much as possible the metaphysical part of the subject; still it could not be avoided altogether without leaving the argument incomplete.
It has been said, that there may be a considerable difference between a Creed, and the interpretation of a Creed: it is however certain, that there is no difference between a Creed and the meaning of the Creed. The interpretation of a Creed by its advocates is to them the meaning of the Creed.
Accordingly, in the ensuing pages, we have assumed the case of a person of ordinary attainments, pursuing his enquiries into the meaning of the Creed, on the principle expressed as follows by an earnest advocate of the Creed itself:
I am supposing that we think of what we say in solemn worship: that we endeavor to gain as clear a nation as we can of the meaning of the words we use, and of what we commit ourselves to by using them.
THE PARK, STOKE NEWINGTON,
IF according to the written Creed of the Church, there are not, Three Gods, but one God; I and if, notwithstanding, a general belief should prevail that there are Three Divine Beings, and not One Divine Being it is evident that the state of the Church must be determined not by the paper and ink of a written Creed, but only by the actual state of mind of the members of the Church. If, therefore, a member of the Church, in order to prove that he is no Trithist, should quote the declaration of the Athanasian Creed, that there are not Three Gods but one God, this would be no more a proof that he is not a Tritheist, than if he should quote the Ten Commandments in order to prove that he had never broken them.
Although the Athanasian Creed has never received the; sanction of an (Ecumenical Council, yet the decrees of such a Council, it is said, do not partake of an CEcumenical character until they are made known throughout the world, and accepted by the Church universal as the expression of its faith. It is accordingly affirmed that, from the beginning, the Athanasian Creed was received with such a universal approbation as to constitute it a truly Catholic Creed;
If we ask how it is that universal approbation is an evidence of its truth, we are told that
"It is of course morally impossible that the collective mind of Christendom, if it found a truly representative organ, could go astray in a matter of faith; for otherwise our, Lord's promise would fail, and the gates of Hell would indeed prevail against His Church.*
* The Damnatory Clauses of the Athanasian Creed Rationally Explained. In a Letter to the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone, M.P. By the Rev. Malcolm Maccoll, M.A.; Rector of St. George, Botolph Lane, with St. Botolph-by-Billingsgate. Pages 36, 37.
Nothing, however, is more clear than that a time is predicted when there would be an Apostacy; when the collective mind of the Church would go astray, and the true faith be confined to a few. It is in this sense that the prophetic words of our Lord are generally interpreted concerning the latter days, when He says, "The sun shall be darkened, the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken."
"The gates of Hell shall not prevail, namely, in subverting the Church. from the true faith; because the Church does not consist of men who are of the Church by reason of their power, or their ecclesiastical or secular dignity; inasmuch as many Princes, and Pontiffs, and others of inferior rank, have been found to apostatize from the faith; for which reason, the Church consists of those other persons who possess a true knowledge, and a true confession, of the faith and of the truth."
Who are these? In the latter days the true faith is confined only to a few. The Church however, in this case, is not destroyed; it does not perish totally, or irrecoverably, even should it seem as if a true Church could nowhere be found; for "the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it:" there shall be even then a true Church, says Bishop Horsley, somewhere or other.
"As it refers to the Church in complex, i.e., to the whole congregation of Christian professors, so it signifies a promise of Christ that it shall never be destroyed so as to perish totally, irrecoverably but whatsoever change it undergoes in the world, it shall again lift up the head, and have as it were its resurrection; which promise is performed, if, as it decays or perishes in one branch or part, it revive and flourish in another."
Now, in what way does it come to pass that the Church is reduced to such a strait? The question is thus answered by Dr. Samuel Clarke:--
The Baptismal Creed must of necessity contain explicitly in it at least all the Fundamentals of Faith, because, whatever is fundamental is necessary to Salvation; and 'tis a manifest absurdity that anything should be necessary to the salvation of a Christian, and yet not be expressly required to be explicitly believed by him at his Baptism (or Confirmation), when he is admitted into the Christian Church. For to admit any person to be a member upon certain terms or conditions and afterwards to alter or add to those terms, is what in other cases men never allow."
But in process of time, as men grew less pious and more contentious, so, in the several Churches, they enlarged their Creeds and Confessions of Faith; and grew more minute in determining unnecessary controversies; and made more and more things explicitly necessary to be understood; and, under pretence of explaining authoritatively, imposed things much harder to be understood than the Scripture itself, and became more uncharitable in their censures; and the farther they departed from the Fountain of Catholic Unity, the Apostolical form of sound words, the more uncertain and unintelligible their definitions grew; and good men found nowhere to rest the sole of their foot, but in having recourse to the original words of Christ Himself and of the Spirit of Truth, in which the wisdom of God has thought fit to express itself.*
* Introduction to the Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity.
How far this is applicable to the controversies which have taken place with regard to the doctrine of the Tripersonality, the reader will judge as we proceed.
* See Waterland's works, vol. i., part ii., page 210.
The pretended contradictions, now revived by many against the doctrine of the Trinity, are very old and trite. They were long ago objected to the Christians by the heathen idolaters. They almost turned the heads of Praxeas, Noetus, Sabellius, Manicheeus, Paul of Samosata, not to mention Arius, Nestorius, Eutyches, and other ancient heretics. The Catholics were sensible of them, but having well considered them, they found them of much too slight moment to bear up against the united force of Scripture and tradition. The doctrine of the Trinity, with all its seeming contradictions, has stood the test not only of what human wit could do by way of dispute, but of all that rage and malice could contrive, through a persecution almost as bitter and virulent as any that ever been under heathen emperors. This is to me an additional confirmation, that the doctrine we profess is no such gross imposition upon the common sense and reason of mankind as is pretended."
Waterland's works--A Defence of Some Queries, vol., i., part ii., page 210.
Assuming the truth of all this, we readily grant that if the Chinch is never destined to change, of course there will be no change in the Athanasian Creed. On the other hand, if the Church be destined to change, it becomes a question how far the Athanasian Creed may be involved in the change. It may be said that if a Creed be true, it will never change. But in like manner, so long as a Church is true, it will never change; and we are assured by its advocates, that the Athanasian Creed and the Church will stand or fall together.
But how is it that the very traditions of the Church, as founded on Scriptural interpretations, testify that the Church is actually destined to experience this change? I am not about to quote any sensational interpretations of Prophecy; but interpretations deliberately given by some of the most eminent divines in the Church, attesting that the whole Catholic Church is to experience a change, which is represented in terms signifying the greatest change possible.
Let us furnish examples.
In Hebrews xii. 26, it is said:--"Whose voice then shook the earth; but now he hath promised, saying,--Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.
The interpretation of Estius is as follows:
The Apostle speaks of this commotion as if it were yet to come, and were still future. As if he should say, one was formerly effected, another is still to be expected according to promise."
Moreover Chrysostom, and all the Greek interpreters without exception, explain this passage of that commotion of heaven and earth which shall take place at the End of the Age, when the whole world will be made new. For Cyril also, as., quoted by (Ecumenius, gives this in plain terms as the meaning of the passage. To these may be added Latin interpreters, such as Anselm, Thomas, Cajetan, and others."
As applied to the Jewish Economy, Calmet declares that the passage signifies a universal change in all parts of the world, in regard to religion, manners, and doctrine; and it is in conformity with this method of interpretation that Bishop Horsley interprets the words in Isaiah li. 13, 16*--"That I may plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people."
* See his Biblical Criticism, vol. i., page 434.
"To stretch out the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth; may be an image generally signifying the execution of the greatest purposes of Providence. Perhaps the heavens may denote hierarchies, or religious establishments; and the earth, secular governments. And under the image of extending the heavens and setting the earth on its foundations, the Holy Spirit may describe a new and improved face of religion and civil government, as the ultimate effect of Christianity in the latter ages. Certainly not religion only, but civil government also, has already received great improvement from Christianity But the improvement will at last be inconceivably greater and universal. And whenever this phrase of stretching out the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth is applied by the prophets to things clearly future, and yet clearly previous to the general Judgment, I apprehend it denotes those great changes for the better in ecclesiastical and civil politics, in religion and morals, which are to take place in the very last period of the Church on earth, not without allusion to that physical improvement of the system of the material world (query) which seems in some places to be literally predicted.
Conformably to this view of the subject, we find in the Family Bible, published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, the following remarks on Hebrews xii. 26, the passage before cited--
When the Prophets describe the great changes and revolutions that should forerun, and the mighty power that should accompany, the last and perfect Dispensation of Christ the Messiah; they represent it by God shaking the heavens and the earth. Haggai ii. 6, 7.
The same kind of interpretation is given by the same Family Bible to Revelation xxi. 1: "And I, John, saw the Holy City--I beheld, under the emblem of the New Jerusalem, not the literal, the Jewish city of that name, rebuilt and new adorned ; but that Israel of God by which the Prophets were wont to express the true Church and worshippers of God, under Christ the Messiah. As this Christian Church, in its former corrupt state, answered to the sinful Jerusalem that was to be destroyed by the Chaldeans and Romans, so now in its reformed and pure condition it is styled New."
From these interpretations it is evident, that the whole Catholic Church is destined to undergo a change--a change of such a vital nature as to be expressed by the greatest change possible, namely, the creation of new heavens and a new earth, and consequently a New Church.
It may be replied by some, that this is not the meaning of the prophecies; that other eminent Commentators have given at least a different application;--consequently, that no one is bound to receive these interpretations as true. This we grant. All that we contend for is the liberty to believe them to be true; and consequently the liberty to believe, that what has lasted for nearly two thousand years is not on that account to last for ever. In the exercise of this liberty, we are free to inquire, how far the Athanasian Creed is involved in the predicted destinies of the Church? thus, whether the Creed be among those things which are to be shaken and removed, as being of the things that are made; that those things which cannot be shaken, may remain.
We are thus taken out of the region of CEcumenical Councils, and the traditions, authority, and approbation of the Church; unless it be maintained that the Church is mistress over her own destinies; and that Divine Providence can introduce no changes without first consulting Councils, or submitting His designs to the approbation of the Church. The voice of Prophecy is supreme over the voice of the Church.
With these prefatory remarks we pass on to the consideration of the subject.
We have seen how Waterland has already spoken of pretended contradictions in the Creed; that is, contradictions pretended to be such by the enemies of the Creed. We purpose to show, that these contradictions are declared to be such not only by the adversaries of the Creed, but by its most zealous advocates; and that, in support of this view of the subject, a new and most subtle system of metaphysics has been introduced, designed to show, that the doctrine of the Tripersonality, when attempted to be explained and understood, not only is, but ought to be self-contradictory.
Let us trace the argument to its earlier history, and carefully note the kind of ordeal which a sincere inquirer of ordinary attainments has to pass through, in endeavoring to satisfy his mind with regard to the Athanasian Creed.
In the time of Dean Sherlock a Socinian Tract was published, entitled Brief Notes upon the Athanasian Creed, in which occurred the following remark:--
They* (namely, the Athanasians) all say, The Father is the One true God, the Son is the One true God, and the Holy Ghost is the One true God, which is a threefold contradiction; because there is but One true God, and One of these Persons is not the other. But if it be a contradiction, it is certainly false; for every contradiction, being made up of inconsistencies, destroys itself, and is its own confutation.
* A Vindication of the Doctrine of the Holy and Ever Blessed Trinity, page 86.
In answer to this charge of contradiction, Dean Sherlock observes, that a contradiction is to deny and affirm the same thing in the same sense. "If there be Three Gods, it is not true that there is only One God."
Ibid., pages 2, 3.
... "Things which are so contrary as to contradict each other, can never be both true; for all contradictions finally resolve into this--It is, and It is not, which is absolutely impossible."
Hence he adds:--
"Before we can pronounce that such (and such) a notion or idea is contradictious, we must be sure that we perfectly understand and comprehend the nature of that Being; otherwise the contradiction may not be in the thing, but in our manner of conceiving it. It is not enough in this case to say, We cannot understand it, and know not how to reconcile it; but we must say that we do perfectly understand it, and know that it cannot be reconciled."
"Men may easily mistake," says he, in charging the nature and notions of things with contradiction; and therefore we must enquire how we may discover that an apparent contradiction is not real, but is wholly owing to our imperfect conception of things. When it relates to such things as all mankind agree that we do not, and cannot fully* understand or comprehend,* it is a vain and arrogant presumption to say what is and what is not a contradiction."
* Dean Sherlock here lays himself open to a cavil of Dr. South, who replied that, as we do not fully understand anything, upon this principle there would be no such thing as a contradiction. Still there is something in Christianity, as a mystery, which we profess to understand; and it is in relation to what we profess to understand that the term contradiction may be used. In this respect there is no real difference between South and Sherlock.
* Ibid., page 4.
Ibid., page 5.
Now the proofs, says he, that any thing is, are either from Sense, Reason, or Revelation. Setting aside, in the present case, the evidence of Sense, we derive our proofs from Reason and Revelation; and, inasmuch as it can be shewn from Scripture that the thing is, therefore there is an end of all pretended contradictions. The same may be shewn also, says the Dean, from Reason hence the doctrine of Three Persons and One God does not transcend human reason, but may be shewn to be perfectly reasonable and free from all contradiction, whether apparent or real; for if the Divine Persons were separate, then there would be clearly Three Gods. But
"Neither Athanasius, nor any of the Trinitarians ever said this--that the Person of the Father, as separated from the Persons of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, is the One true God; or that the Person of the Son as separated from the Persons of the Father and of the Holy Ghost, is the One true God; or that the Person of the Holy Ghost, as separated from the Persons of the Father and of the Son, is the One true God; for we constantly affirm, that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, by an intimate and inseparable union to each other, are, but One true God; but as their Persons can never be separated, so they must never be considered in a separate state; and if we will imagine such an impossible absurdity as this, neither of them is the One true God; for whoever separates them destroys the Deity, and leaves neither Father, Son, nor Holy Ghost."*
* Ibid., page 87.
"And yet if we consider these Three Divine Persons, as containing each other in themselves, and essentially One by a mutual consciousness, this pretended contradiction vanishes: for then the Father is the One true God, because the Father has the Son and the Holy Spirit in Himself;
In giving this explanation Dean Sherlock believes and maintains, that he is faithful to every single clause of the Athanasian Creed; that he presents* a plain and intelligible solution of all the difficulties and seeming contradictions in the doctrines of the Tripersonality; that he neither confounds the Persons nor divides the substance; and that hence he can say on the authority of Scripture--"Which faith, except a man do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly."--"He that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity."
Ibid., page 19.
For--1. He says that. he neither separates nor confounds the Persons, but maintains that they are only distinct. 2. That he does not divide the substance which, he says, is common to all. 3. That he does not destroy the Unity, but maintains it to be perfect and complete. 4. Hence he defends the Athanasian doctrine of the Perielioresis; and whilst he maintains that the substance of the Father is Ingenerate; the substance of the Son, Generated; and the substance of the Holy Ghost, Proceeding; yet he also maintains, that all are but One and the same common Substance, having different modes or modifications.
What now should hinder Dean Sherlock from reading the Damnatory clauses? We know that he did read them. He boldly maintained the existence of Three Divine Beings, and yet could conscientiously and without equivocation say with Mr. Maccoll:--
"The polytlieislic* view of the doctrine of the Trinity would convert the Three Persons into Three Gods, or establish a Tritheism instead of a Unity of the Godhead.
* The Damnatory Clauses of the Athanasian Creed, page 202.
How, then, is the Athanasian Creed any safeguard against Tritheism? Or take another case, namely, that of Bingham.
Bingham says in a Sermon on the Trinity,* preached before the University of OxfordIt is agreed both by Fathers and Schoolmen, that the notion of person is an individual substance of a rational or intelligent nature, rationalis nature individua substantia, according to the definition given by Boethius, who speaks the sense of the Fathers, and is not rejected by the Schoolmen. It is agreed further, at least in. expression, that there are Three such Persons in the Godhead, really distinct from one another; thus far they are agreed. And One might reasonably now expect to hear, that, according to this notion and discourse, they should both agree further in asserting Three individual Substances in the Unity of the Godhead. This is certainly the natural consequence of allowing Three Persons whereof every one is an individual subject."
* See his works, vol. ix., page 315.
Hence it is, that Mr. Bingham maintains in this Sermon, that in the Godhead there are "Three Minds or Spirits," "Three Infinite and Eternal Beings," "Three rational and eternal Beings," "Three individual Essences or Substances, numerically distinct from one another," "Three Personal Substances," "Three individual subsisting Substances," who are One by "mutual immeation and conjunction."
Now it is well known, that Bingham was virtually banished from the University of Oxford in consequence of advocating from the University pulpit this doctrine of the Tripersonality, which was charged against him as gross Tritheism; and yet he could sincerely, and without equivocation repeat the words of the Athanasian Creed, and say, "Not three Gods but one God," "not three Lords but one Lord."--"For, like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; so are we forbidden by the Catholic religion to say, There be Three Gods or Three Lords." Hence, also, Bingham could say with as much sincerity as Mr. Maccoll:--
"The polytheistic view of the doctrine of the Trinity would convert the Three Persons Into Three Gods, or establish a Tritheism instead of a Unity of Godhead. To this the Athanasian Creed opposes itself by a series of repeated contradictions, from the seventh verse to the nineteenth, both inclusive."
How then is the Athanasian Creed any safeguard against Tritheism?
No doubt to this day Chichester Cathedral rings to the chant of the Athanasian Creed; yet the eminent divine who is now the Dean, maintains that Bingham was right and the University authorities wrong.*
* See the article Bingham in Dr. Hook's Ecclesiastical Biography.
But if the Athanasian Creed is powerless against Tritheism, is it any safeguard against Sabellianism?
Dr. Wallis, as is well known, was a man of eminent abilities, and of a thoughtful and reflective mind. In the year 1690 he was involved in the Socinian controversy of that period, and wrote a series of Letters in support of the Athanasian Creed. In the Third Letter he observes, in regard to the expressions, " Three Persons and One God"
That which makes these expressions seem harsh to some of these men (Socinians), is because they have used themselves to fancy that notion only of the word Person, according to which Three Men are accounted to be Three Persons, and these Three Persons to be Three Men. But he may consider that there is another notion of the word Person, and in common use too, wherein the same Man may be said to sustain divers Persons; and those Persons to be the same Man, that is, the same man as sustaining divers capacities. As was said of Tully, Tres Personas onus sustineo. And then it will seem no more harsh to say, The Three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are one God, than to say, God the Creator, God the Redeemer, and God the Sanctifier are one God; which, I suppose, to this Answerer would not seem harsh."
Again in the Fifth Letter:--
The word Person (persona) is originally a Latin word; and doth not properly signify a Man (so as that another Person must needs imply another Man); for then the word Homo would have served, and they needed not have taken in the word Persona, but rather one so circumstantiated. And the same Man, if considered in other circumstances (considerably different), is reputed another Person.
Again, in the Seventh Letter, he calls the modern sense of the word Person a forced sense, introduced by the Schoolmen for want of a better word to apply to men and angels. In the modern sense of the word, he says that "Three Persons must needs be Three Intelligent Beings."
Whereas Persona, in its true and ancient sense, before the Schoolmen put this forced sense, did not signify a Man simply, but one under such, and such, and such circumstances and qualifications. So that the same Man (if capable of being qualified thus, and thus, and thus), might sustain three Persons, and these three Persons be the same man."
On this principle Dr. Wallis defends the Athanasian Creed, and even the Damnatory Clauses, with as much sincerity as Mr. Maccoll; and as heartily maintains that
The polytheistic view of the doctrine of the Trinity would convert the three Persons into Gods, or establish a Tritheism instead of a unity of the Godhead.
How then is the Athanasian Creed any safeguard against Sabellianism?
It is well known that the late Archbishop of Dublin adopted the theology of Dr. Wallis upon this subject; as may be seen in his Elements of Logic under the article Person. On this account his theology has been condemned by the reputedly orthodox, as pure Sabellianism; and the theology of Dr. Wallis has received the same sentence, for the very same reason. Yet both these eminent men repeated the Athanasian Creed. Hence we see Tritheists, sincere and conscientious men, advocating the Athanasian Creed against Tritheism; and Sabellians advocating the Athanasian Creed against Sabellianism; for we are told, that the article, "Neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the Substance," was expressly introduced against both Sabellianism and Tritheism. Nay, the very Sabellianism and Tritheism alluded to, arose out of a conscientious attempt to understand the Creed; both parties could understand it only in their own way, and both repelled the charge of equivocation.
Let us, however, leave the case of Tritheists and Sabellians, and come to what the orthodox maintain to be the genuine Catholic doctrine of Athanasius.
This doctrine is thus laid clown in a work sanctioned by Mr. Nelson, author of the life of Bishop Bull, as follows:*--
* The Scripture Doctrine of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity Vindicated, etc., p. 187.
I say then, that, according to Scripture and the general sense of the Church founded thereupon from the very beginning, there is One God, or one Divine Substance manifested to the world in Three Subsistences; so that, First, every Divine Person is an individual intelligent Being; but the Divine intelligent Being; which is individually or undividedly one, is not one Person only; which is the first difference between Human and Divine Persons.
Now, my object is not to oppose this statement, but to try to understand it; and, in the first place, to ascertain what is here meant by the term Person. In so doing, I am greatly encouraged by a remark of Mr. Bingham, when speaking of the various ways in which persons excuse themselves from making any effort in enquiry after truth:--
"The* first is, when men, out of a kind of religious reverence to some Divine truths, are afraid to let their understandings have free exercise and liberty of thinking about them. This indeed at first looks like a kind of paradox, to assert that men should be ignorant of truth out of mere reverence to it: and yet it is too certain that ignorance and error are often the genuine effects of this cause.
* See Third Sermon, Buy the Truth, vol. ix., page 382.
It is in this spirit that I proceed to the consideration of the Catholic doctrine, that there are Three Persons in one Substance: Let me first endeavor to ascertain the meaning of 'the word Person; and although this may lead me somewhat into the mazes of metaphysics, I propose to avoid them as much as possible, in mercy to my metaphysical capacities.
Waterland says* that "Each Divine Person is an individual intelligent Agent:" Mr. Nelson's expositor, that each Divine Person is an individual intelligent Being; he therefore thought that an intelligent Agent is an intelligent Being. But Waterland maintains the Three Divine Persons to be Three intelligent Agents; how then shall I avoid the snare of believing them to be Three Intelligent Beings, except by denying that an intelligent Agent is an intelligent Being? Yet these are, expositions of the Athanasian Creed; and I am told that the Creed, in its genuine sense, is the one great safeguard against two damnable heresies, viz., Sabellianism and Tritheism. But in the case both of Sabellians and Tritheists, I find that these at least have put forward clear and distinct notions of what they mean by the term Person; and I cannot expect to oppose effectually what is clear and distinct, by what is obscure, vague, or indefinite; particularly as Dr. Waterland assures me, that "there is a medium between Sabellianism and Tritheism;" and that this medium is to be found in the Athanasian doctrine, that there are Three Persons in the One God.
* Vol. i., part ii., p. 248, "Defence of Some Queries."
See his Works; vol. i., part ii., p. 235.
* The Arians of the Fourth Century. Third Edition, p. 160.
"The mysteriousness of the doctrine (of the Tripersonality) evidently lies in our inability to conceive a sense of the word person, such as to be more than a mere character, yet less than an individual intelligent Being; our own notions, as gathered from our experience of human agents, leading us to consider personality as equivalent, in its very idea, to the unity and independence of the immaterial substance of which it is predicated."
I naturally ask, What safeguard against any heretical sense of the term Person is no sense at all?
"Profane minds ask," says Dr. Newman,* Is God One or Three? They are answered, He is One and He is also Three. They reply, He cannot be One in the same sense in which He is Three. It is in reply allowed to them, He is Three in one sense, One in another. They ask, In what sense? what is that sense in which He is Three Persons? what is that sense of the word Person, such that it neither stands for one separate Being, as it does with men, and yet, on the other hand, has a real and sufficient sense answering to the word? We reply that we do not know that middle sense; we cannot reconcile, we confess, the distinct portions of the doctrine; we can but take what is given us, and be content. They rejoin that, if this be so, we are using words without meaning.
* Parochial Sermons, vol. iv., p. 329. "The Mysteriousness of our Present Being.
Now I think I see so far, that if no middle term can be assigned between Sabellianism and Tritheism, no one can fully apprehend its meaning. But if the Athanasian Creed teaches me that there are Three Persons in one Substance, and I ask what is the meaning of the term Person, and am told that "God only understands it," what help to me is this against Sabellianism and Tritheism? Or, again, if it be said that the word Person may be understood in part, but that the part which I understand I cannot reconcile with the other portions of the Athanasian doctrine, may I venture to ask what security against Sabellianism and Tritheism is afforded me by a doctrine which, its advocates admit, is irreconcilable with itself? Besides, I am assured by one eminent Athanasian that a Divine Person is veritably an "individual intelligent Being;" and I am instructed by another, that He is less than an individual intelligent Being; as we have seen.
Suppose, however, my confidence in Catholic teaching to be so great, that although as yet I do not see my way between Sabellianism and Tritheism, I nevertheless have no doubt that I shall be supplied with clearer ideas as I proceed. Let me, then, faithfully pursue my enquiries, and carefully study certain elaborate Sermons* on the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, written for the religious and studious youth of the Two Universities, "explained and confirmed by the Holy Scripture in a manner adapted to common apprehensions." In these Sermons I read as follows:--
* By Charles Wheatly, M.A., Vicar of Furneaux, Pelham, in Herefordshire, page 288.
For the Catholics understand nothing to be a different substance or Being but what exists separately from every Being that exists besides. And, therefore, since the Divine Persons do not exist separately the one from the other, the Catholics cannot, whilst consistent with themselves, pronounce the Three Persons to be Three Substances or Beings also. For this would be to pronounce them separate, while they believe them to be inseparable--an inconsistency which, however unjustly it has been charged upon the Church, she was never prone to."
So Dr. Waterland:*--"Does Scripture any where tell you that two Divine Persons cannot be one God? Or that Father and Son must have a separate existence?"--Why does Waterland say this? "Because," says he, "all that Dr. Clarke hath proved, or can prove, is only this, that separate Persons are so many intelligent Beings, which we readily admit."
* See his Works, vol. i., part ii., page 229, Defence of Some Queries, in answer to Dr. Clarke. Also page 232.
I take it for granted, then, that the Three Divine Persons, being undivided, have no separate existence from each other, and hence that the Divine Persons are not: separate existences; for this would amount to separate Beings, and hence separate Gods.
In confirmation (?) of this view of the subject I turn to the Catechism of the Bishop of St. David's (Dr. Burgess), and read as follows:--
"Question. If, then, the Son and the Father be of the same Divine nature, and the Holy Ghost and the Father be of the same Divine nature, what follows? Answer. It follows that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost being of one and the same nature (we speak as men, and in such terms as man's language supplies us with), are in their separate existences equally God."
How am I to account for this? for here are three strict Athanasians, each warning me against Tritheism, and yet one opposed to the others as to what Tritheism is. The Catholics say that "the Divine Persons do not exist separately the one from the other."--Surely Dr. J. Wilberforce* was a Catholic, and as such may I not have perfect confidence in his teaching? I appeal, then, to his work on The Doctrine of the Incarnation, and there I learn that
* Archdeacon of the East Riding. Fourth Edition. Pages 135, 150.
"The existence of the Eternal Son, as a separate Person in the Ever Blessed Trinity, was linked by inevitable sequence to that manifestation of God in the flesh which was the first starting point of the religious mind of The Church."
"Unless the Word or Eternal Son existed really as a separate Person in the glorious Godhead, neither could Christ be the proper object of worship, nor could the Redemption of mankind be truly effected."
In this case, professing to be an enquirer of only ordinary capacity, I humbly conceive that to exist separately and to have a separate existence, are much about one and the same thing;
Thus far, then, I am only perplexed as to whether, according to the Athanasian Creed, the Three Divine Persons are, or are not, separate existences. Let me not, however, be wearied in the search, but appeal to the authority of one of whom it has been said that he always writes with clearness and strength, and that every word skews him to be a master; I mean John Henry Newman, in his work on The Arians of the Fourth Century:--
"Scripture* is express in declaring both the Divinity of Him who, in due time, became man for us, and also his Personal distinction from God in His pre-existent state. This is sufficiently clear from the opening of St. John's Gospel, which states the mystery as distinctly as an ecclesiastical comment can propound it. On these two truths the whole doctrine turns, viz., that our Lord is one with., yet personally separate from God.
* Page 161, The Ecclesiastical Doctrine of the Trinity.
In the foregoing statement, I find that the Son of God had a Personal distinction from God in his pre-existent state; that He is Personally separate from God, and yet has an inseparable inherence in the Divine Unity. I now clearly see why it is that God is here called Incomprehensible, and also why it is that some theologians affirm that in things Infinite we cannot tell what is a contradiction and what is not; and if so, that there is in things Divine no test of absurdity; and hence, for aught we know, no absurdity in conceiving that God could exist separately from one of His Divine Persons, or one of the Divine Persons be not only distinct but separate from God.
Now, if A attempts an explanation which I do not understand, I have the privilege of appealing to B; and if B is not quite as satisfactory as A, still I can go on to C; and if C should not be altogether as satisfactory as B, I shall at least enjoy the liberty of consulting D. Now, of this liberty I propose to avail myself in the present case, so as to illuminate my understanding as much as possible.
I readily, therefore, appeal to The Scripture Testimony to the Doctrine of the Trinity, in Four Sermons preached before the University of Cambridge, with Notes and Illustrations. In these Sermons I am told that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are Three distinct intelligent Beings, all of them independent one of another; that each of them has a separate consciousness, will, powers, and relations; but that these three separate consciousnesses become one by perichoresis, and, consequently that this doctrine is not Tritheism. For instance, when speaking of the "One Eternal, Infinite, Almighty Being," I am instructed that
He* who hath declared Himself One and a jealous God, who will not give his glory to another, nor his praise to graven images, hath yet revealed to our faith, and held up to our adoration, two Beings intimately united in all the fullness and perfections of his own Essence, thus exhibiting the Triunal Deity, Three Persons and one God." ... "Of this doctrine, though not fully made known until these sacred Beings wrought on earth in the salvation of man, various premonitory notices were vouchsafed in the Old Testament."
* By the Rev. Edmund Mortloch, B.D., Fellow of Christ's College, page 8.
The Gospel of St. John "proclaims, on the authority of an ancient and acknowledged revelation, the existence of a second Divine Being, answering to the lessons of the New, who had been promised, and of old expected, agreeably to such promise, in the very character assumed by Christ. Such is at once the clear and consistent doctrine of the opening chapter of St. John's Gospel."
Ibid., page 31.
Now I rejoice to meet with something which at length is clear and consistent; and particularly to be told that a clear and consistent doctrine has for its foundation the authority of Scripture.
"The* Being of the Son is an improper expression, because it supposes the Son to be a Being (properly so called), that is a separate Being, which he is not. But one Person, the Person of the Son, may be incarnate, and the Person of the Father or Holy Ghost not incarnate, without any contradiction, because one person is not another person. Yet it may be said, the Godhead is incarnate; i. e., the Divine Being, as personalized in the Son, is incarnate in the Persona of the Son."
* Vol. iv., page 45.
My difficulty is here to understand how a Father can beget a Son who is not properly a Being; or how one who has a Being can beget another who has a Being, and yet who is not properly a Being; for I have been assured, that the Son is an intelligent Being; and yet Waterland says, "the Being of the Son is an improper expression, that is, a separate Being which he is not." Yet this mystery I desire consistently to understand as well as I can; lest otherwise I should divide the Substance of the Godhead.
Now a way out of this difficulty seems to be pointed out by Mr. Maccoll.* "God the Father," says he, "and His Eternal Son are not related to each other as a human father and son are related; and yet the human relationship may be the nearest approach to the truth of which our feeble minds are capable."
* See The Damnatory Causes, etc., page 62.
I must not, then, understand the relations of Father and Son as strictly literal, or in the same sense which they bear in ordinary language; as when we speak of the human relationship between Father and Son; and accordingly, in the desire to obtain as clear and consistent an idea as possible concerning this mystery, I refer to the Defence of the Athanasian Creed, in a Sermon preached before the University of Oxford, by Dr. Burton, Regius Professor of Divinity and Canon of Christ Church, in which he says:--
"It will be observed, that the sense which the Church has attached to the words, Son of God, is strictly literal; by which I mean, that she takes the term Son in the same sense which it bears in ordinary language, and according to human ideas; whereas every other hypothesis, not excepting the Arian, which comes nearest to that of the Church, uses the term Son in a figurative or metaphorical sense.... "
Sermons preached before the University of Oxford, page 205.
There are passages in Scripture, says the Regius Professor, ... "Where* the whole force of the argument depends upon our supposing God and Jesus Christ to be Father and Son in the same sense which is attached to those terms which is applied to human beings."
* Ibid., page 269.
"I admit that the New Testament is silent as to the mode of the Divine generation; but then we have a right to assume that the words were taken in their plain and literal sense.... There is no evidence that the first converts ever thought of attaching any other meaning to the words Son of God; and upon this ground I would take my stand in defending the Athanasian Creed."
Ibid., page 272.
As to explaining in what sense, or in what manner, Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Regius Professor observes:--
If* I were to state in a few words the difference between the doctrine of the Church upon this point, and that of all other persons, I should state it thus: the Church takes the expressions of the New Testament literally, and believes literally, that Jesus Christ is the begotten Son of God; while those who differ from her, whether Sabellians, Arians, Socinians, or others, attach a figurative meaning to the words, and do not believe in the literal sense, or in any sense analogous to the human, that God is the Father of Jesus Christ."
* Ibid., p. 273.
"Thus when the Creed speaks of our neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance, the former clause is opposed to the Sabellians, the latter to the Arians; and the Sabellian heresy is alluded to in the verse immediately following,--For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. It has often been said, that no such declaration as this is made in the New Testament, which is true, if it be meant that the actual words do not occur in the New Testament;
Now I thank the Regius Professor for leaving, in these remarks, enabled me clearly to see the origin of the use of the word Person in the Athanasian Creed. For instance, Father and Son are two Beings, and because they are two Beings, they are therefore two Persons; so that the author of the Creed taught the existence of Three Persons in the Trinity because he could not conceive the Three Persons otherwise than as Three Beings. They were Persons because they were Beings.
I now begin to perceive a dawn of light upon this mysterious subject; and also to see how the Regius Professor is illustrating a remark made by Dean Sherlock.*--"I would desire the reader," says the Dean, "to observe, for the understanding this Creed, what belongs to the Persons, and what to the One undivided Substance or Godhead; which will answer all the seeming contradictions which are charged on this doctrine. On this general rule all parties are agreed."
* Vindication of the Doctrine of the Holy and Ever Blessed Trinity, pages 45, 47.
Now, then, I hope I shall find some easy way of distinguishing between Person and Substance. I accordingly read on, and find the following statement:--"It is not easy to distinguish the Essence or Substance from the Person, and therefore not easy to tell, how there should be but One Substance and Three Persons." Well! I now remember this was Dr. Clarke's difficulty: it was not easy for him to understand how a Person should be a Being in such a sense, that Three Persons should not be Three Beings.
It is in consequence of this difficulty, even in the minds of some of the most earnest defenders of the Athanasian Creed, that they conceive of Three Persons only as Three Beings;
* Page 85, Discourse iii.
From this remark I see how it is, that the Athanasian may sincerely, and without any equivocation affirm, that there are not Three Eternals, nor Three Incomprehensibles, nor Three Uncreateds, nor Three Almighties, nor Three Gods, nor Three Lords; and yet all the time tacitly believe, that there are Three Eternal, Incomprehensible, Uncreated, Almighty Beings.
For the same reason it is, that Dean Graves, in defending the Athanasian Doctrine of the Tripersonality, observes, when speaking of Baptism:*--That the Three names thus united in this solemn rite, must therefore express Three Divine and equal Persons forming the one Godhead, which we are bound to believe in, worship, and obey." But that he did not in his own mind distinguish Person from Being, is evident from what he says concerning the equality in nature and power, authority, and influence of the Three Objects of faith, as professed by the convert at his Baptism. "The convert," he says, "would proceed to inquire into the declarations of Scripture, with respect to the common nature and powers belonging to those Sacred Beings."--Yet the Dean strenuously denies, with the Athanasian Creed, that there are Three Gods; although he deems it, as others do, perfectly consistent with the Creed to think, and even to say, that there are Three Divine Beings.
* Select Scriptural Proofs of the Trinity, arranged in Four Discourses, delivered in the Chapel of Trinity College, Dublin. By the Very Rev. Richard Graves, D.D., etc., Dean of Ardagh, King's Professor of Divinity, etc. p. 19.
Ibid., page 6
The difficulty of distinguishing between Person and Substance in regard to Father and Son, is similar in regard to the Person of The Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit, says Mr. Mortlock,* is conceived to be a "Third Agent" in the redemption of man; not a mere energy, or operation, or quality; but "a real Being." ... "For when it is said, HE will guide you into all truth, the word rendered by HE necessarily implies, according to the force of the original language, a real, independent, living Agent." ... "All the instances in which the Holy Spirit is coupled with Christ, or with Him and the Father, are certain intimations of his independent existence." ... Belief commanded in the name of the Holy Ghost, holds up all in the same light: teaches them to be real, independent, and equal, by requiring for each of them a like acknowledgment and reverence."
* Scripture Testimony to the Doctrine of the Trinity, pages 129, 133,134.
For this reason it is, that this professedly strict Athanasian explains the Tripersonality as signifying Three real, independent, Divine Beings; each having His own separate consciousness, will, and operation;
Here, then, is a sincere believer in the Athanasian Creed who conceives the Three Divine Persons to be independent of each other. How am I to think this doctrine to be true, so as to avoid the snare of belief in Three Gods? Let me humbly enquire what another Athanasian, Bishop Horsley, teaches me upon this subject. In his Letters to Dr. Priestley the Bishop says:
"You are, Sir,* very positive in the assertion, that Dr. Waterland in particular, and all the strict Athanasians of the last age, maintained that the Trinity consists of Three Persons all; truly independent of each other. Upon this opinion, which you ascribe to the strict Athanasians, you remark in your history that to make Three proper and distinct Persons independent of each other, is to make Three Gods. I concur with you in this remark, in which you have been anticipated by the Roman Dionysius; whose judgment, you know, upon certain persons of his own time, who in their zeal against Sabellius ran into this error, is quoted with approbation by Athanasius himself."
* Letter xv., toward the end.
The truth is, that, as an enquirer, I must confess that I cannot see clearly where distinction ends and separation begins, or where separation ends and independence begins; the consequence is, that the idea of distinction easily and insensibly passes into the idea of separation, and separation into independence. But what I conceive as actually separate, and hence independent, I am taught to say is only distinct; and thus I avoid the imputation of heresy. But inasmuch as the leading idea in my mind is that of Person, and I think from Person to Essence; the consequence is, that, as I am told there are Three Persons, the idea of plurality is the dominant idea, and as such subordinates to itself the idea of Unity.
While under the influence of this idea of plurality--a plurality which it is a damnable heresy to deny--I am told with regard to the Essence of the Godhead, that "this* Essence is not a Being really distinguishes from the Persons, any more than the Person, from the Essence;"
* Discourses Concerning the Ever Blessed Trinity, by Dr. Brett, page 71, A.D. 1720.
* Letter xv. of Bishop Horsley, toward the end.
"For when a long and constant course of observation has still took notice, that every numerically distinct Person and every suppositum has a numerically distinct nature appropriate to it, and Religion comes afterwards, and calls upon us to apprehend the same numerical Nature as subsisting in three numerically distinct Persons;
Animadversions upon Dr. Sherlock's Book, chap. ii:, page 55.
Hence Dr. South remarks, "that with the greatest part of mankind, what appears, and what does not appear, determines what can, and what cannot be, in their opinion."
For this reason, when I am told that the Three Divine Persons are inseparable from each other nevertheless that one was Incarnate and the other not; nay, that it is a blasphemy to think that the Father was incarnate; I perceive that by means of a certain violence offered to the constitution of my mind, and to the universal laws of thought, I am enabled to submit to the doctrine of the Tripersonality. My alternative is between damnable heresy on the one side, and impossibility on the other so long as I conform to the ordinary laws of thought; and the only way of escape from out of this dilemma is, to profess the Athanasian Creed, and to interpret it in such a sense as to make it consistent with the possibility of thinking.
Though there be no article in our Creed more necessary to be known and understood, because none more necessary to be believed, than the doctrine of the Trinity; yet perhaps there is no one thing in the whole body of Divinity we are generally less ashamed to own ourselves ignorant of, than this most necessary article of religion. Most men are so possessed with a sense of its darkness and obscurity, that they avoid all inquiries of this nature, as utterly despairing of ever attaining to any tolerable notion of it. But I wish this do not rather reflect upon the honor of our religion, as if it obliged us to believe something which no one will pretend to give a rational account of: if so, the oracles of God are as dark and unintelligible as the oracles of Apollo;
Such is the result of our endeavors to arrive at the Catholic sense of the word Person, as used in the Athanasian Creed.
Let me, however, not be discouraged. For aught I know, the clear and consistent idea which I have failed to obtain in the course of these inquiries concerning the meaning of the term Person, will certainly be offered to me in the inquiry after the meaning of the term Substance.
I now, therefore, pass on to the meaning of this term.
In the course of my enquiry, I find it regarded as signifying strictly the substratum of Being; but, in its general sense, as synonymous with Being: so that one Substance is One Being.
In order, however, to avoid the appearance of Tritheism, I am told that we must transcend the idea of personalized Substance to which number belongs, and come to the transcendental idea of Substance, or Being as unpersonalized, or above number, or above Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Now the Father* is said to be the Being of the Son; but this cannot be unoriginate Being; for this would be to make the Son unoriginate. There is therefore a yet higher consideration of Being; and it is in this higher, or transcendental Being or Substance, that is to be found, it is said, the inmost or supreme Unity of the Trinity.
* Newman's Select Treatises of Athanasius, page 424.
The ancients, says Mr. Bingham, often tell us that the Divine nature, or Substance in general, absolutely considered, without regard to its subsisting in this or that particular Person, is neither begotten nor unbegotten; for then all the Persons must be either begotten, which, besides other absurdities attending it, would destroy the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; or else they must be all unbegotten, and that would introduce Tritheism, or Tria Ingenita, which is Three Gods: for this reason, I say, the Fathers always peremptorily deny that the Divine nature in general is either wholly unbegotten or wholly begotten: but their doctrine is that it is capable of both.
Sermon on the Trinity.
However theologians may or may not dispute the accuracy of this statement, one thing is certain; that Bingham believed himself to be honestly and strictly maintaining the Athanasian Creed; because to all Three Divine Substances there is One Substance in common.
The doctrine of Tripersonal Substance is, however, thus stated by Hooker:*--
* Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity, book v., chap. E.; vol. i., page 599.
"Seeing therefore the Father is of none, the Son is of the Father, and the Spirit is of both, they are by these their several properties really distinguishable each from other. For the Substance of God with this property to be of none doth make the Person of the Father; the very self-same Substance in number with this property to be of the Father, maketh the Person of the Son; the same Substance having added unto it the property of proceeding from the other two, maketh the Person of the Holy Ghost. So that in every Person there is implied both the Substance of God which is one, and also that property which causeth the same Person really and truly to differ from the other two. Every Person hath his own subsistence which no other besides hath, although there be others besides that are of the same Substance.
Presuming to be an enquirer of only ordinary capacity, my duty is simply to try to understand that meaning of, the Creed which is given by reputedly the safest and soundest Teachers. In so doing, I find that Waterland, explaining the doctrine of the Tripersonality, observes, that worshipping* the Divine Substance as personalized in the Father, is the same thing as worshipping the Father's Person; and he adds, "Pray, what is the Person of the Father but living, acting, intelligent substance.... All worship," says he to Dr. Clarke, "you say is personal, and I say every Person is substance."
* See his Works, vol. iii., page 361.
If then, as I am told, substance means Being; how shall I be able so to distinguish between Person and Being, or Person and Substance, that when I say Three Persons, I do not mean Three Beings or Three Substances? The question is not with me what the Creed says; that is clear enough: but how I am to understand it without falling into the belief of.
I am told, then, that the first revealed fact is, that there is one God; the second revealed fact is, that in this one God there are Three Persons. Here then is apparently fact against fact. The two facts appear to be contradictory. How shall I reconcile them? I am informed that the reconciliation is impossible. In this case, is not Christianity represented to me as a self contradiction? And how am I benefited by calling the contradiction a Revelation?
Again: I find that according to Waterland:
"The Person of the Father* only communicates, the Person of the Son is communicated: and these two Persons, or Hypostases, constitute the same numerical Essence; which consequently, as personalized in the Son, is begotten; as personalized in the Father, unbegotten, i. e., exists in a different manner." I find also it is said, that the same numerical Essence, as personalized in the Holy Ghost, is proceeding.
* See his Works, vol. ii., page 218.
Now, how am I, as an enquirer of only ordinary apprehension, to understand this?
First of all, I am told that I must keep in view the one grand object of the Athanasian Creed, which is to furnish to the Church a medium between Sabellianism and Tritheism. Waterland says, such a medium is the Athanasian doctrine of the Tripersonality.
See his Works, vol. i., part ii., page 235.
Moreover the great rule of the Christian Church, says Bishop Stillingfleet, "was to keep in the middle, between the doctrines of Sabellius and Arius; ail so by degrees, the notion of Three Hypostases and one Essence was looked on in the Eastern Church as the most proper discrimination of the orthodox from the Sabellians and Arians."
Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity, page 118.
How, then, shall I keep in the middle? ANSWER: By assigning to the term Person a middle sense between the Sabellian and Tritheistical. But I am told by Dr. South, that, in seeking for this sense, "there is an utter want of all instances and examples of the kind;" "that we are extremely at a loss how to conform our notions to it, and to conceive how that can be in Three Persons which we never saw before, or in any thing else, to be but only in one." And Bishop Bull says, that the union of the Divine Persons is such* as there is no pattern of, no resemblance perfectly answering to it, whereby to illustrate it, among created Beings.
* See Waterland's Works, vol. ii., page 211.
Here, then, is an acknowledged difficulty. How shall I surmount it? Dr. Newman, as we have seen, tells me it is impossible: no middle sense of the word Person ever has been found, or ever will be in the present order of things. How then shall I reconcile the Tripersonality with the Unity of God? Dr. Newman tells me again, it cannot be reconciled. Indeed Waterland himself had before acknowledged, with respect to the belief of Three Persons, every one of whom is singly God, and all together but one God, that:--
"We* know what we mean, in saying every one, as clearly as if we said any one, is God; a Person having such and such essential perfections. We see not perfectly how this is reconciled with the belief of one God, as we see not how prescience is reconciled with future contingents. Yet we believe both, not doubting but that there is a connection of the ideas, though our faculties reach not up to it.
* See his Works, vol. i., part ii., page 222.
The Unity of God, then, is a doctrine beyond the reach of our faculties. There is, however, this advantage attending this view of the subject; namely, that now I see I need not try to reconcile the expression Three Persons with the expressions One Substance, one Essence, one Being, or one God; nor need I try to understand what is meant by one Person communicating another Person; nor what is meant by one Substance personalized in the Father, the self-same Substance personalized in the Son, and the self-same Substance personalized in the Holy Ghost; nor what is meant by one Person being incarnate, and the other not;
Yet this is the sort of theology which the Damnatory Clauses are meant to support. "Let* the assailants of the Athanasian Creed look to it. The statements which they denounce with such vehement thoughtlessness belong to the very essence of the Gospel, and are an integral part of Christianity, and I hold therefore that the Athanasian Creed and Christianity must stand or fall together."--"There is not a single proposition in the Athanasian Creed of which the rejection does not involve the rejection of Christianity. I make that assertion without the least hesitation, and I challenge all the gainsayers of the Creed to disprove it."--"All the propositions of the Creed hang together, and the rejection of any one of them would strike Christianity to the heart."
* See The Damnatory Clauses of the Athanasian Creed. By the Rev. Malcolm Maccoll, pages 160, 161.
Yes; if the Creed were really a barrier against Sabellianism and Tritheism; if not, what else can I expect than to find the Church overrun with Tritheism; and while professedly protesting against it, yet embracing it as Christianity, and denouncing those who receive it not? Does not the Creed declare that there is but one God? How then can the Athanasian be charged with Tritheism? And no sooner is the statement made, than he has no hesitation in using the following language:--
"Let* us return our most humble thanks to God'' the Father for sending to his Church, at the effectual prayer of God the Son, the Person of God the Holy Ghost, to abide with it for ever."
* Discourses Concerning the Ever Blessed Trinity, by Dr. Brett, page 240.
How, can this be reconciled with the idea of only; one Being?
On the ground of Three Divine Beings it is, to an ordinary mind, very intelligible; hence the Arian can use the same language with the Athanasian, and the Athanasian with the Arian. The only difference between the two is, that the Arian says what he means, and calls it Tritheism; the Athanasian says the same thing, and, as we have seen, tacitly means the same thing, but invests it with a different name.
* See his Works, vol. ix., page 345. Dedication.
"It is, very inconceivable how one office should intercede or mediate to another. Intercession is an act of a rational intelligent being; and intercession of one to another supposes distinct intelligent Beings, one interceding, another to whom the intercession is made."
Upon the same principle, the ordinary language in which Intercession is described, presents no difficulty to ordinary apprehensions:
"We believe that Christ is continually interceding for us at the right hand of the Father, presenting night and day before the mercy-seat His glorified body, with all its wounds; and thereby reminding the Father of the one oblation of Himself, once for all offered upon the cross and in the Holy Eucharist; the Church on earth joins in the memorial which He is making, and pleads together with Him the unspeakable merits of His death and passion."
How is any ordinary mind to understand this as speaking only of one Being? Nay, how does the more learned Athanasian understand it? He professedly rejects the doctrine of the specific Unity, and yet while doing so virtually adopts it. For as* Dr. Waterland says to Dr. Clarke:--
* See his Works, vol. ii., pages 85, 78.
"As I before hinted, no good reason can be. given why the word God may not be Wised in a large indefinite sense, not denoting any particular Person, just as the word man is often used in Scripture not denoting any particular man, but man in general, or man indefinitely.... As the word man sometimes stands for the whole species, sometimes indefinitely for any individual. of the species, without determining which; and sometimes for this or that particular man: so, by way of analogy, or imperfect resemblance, the word God may signify all the Divine Persons; sometimes any Person of the Three indefinitely without determining which; and sometimes one particular Person, either Father, Son, or Holy Ghost."
It is in the same sense, that an ordinary mind would understand what is meant by the self- same nature belonging to all the Three Divine Persons; for as Hooker says:--
"No man but Peter can be the Person which Peter is, yet Paul hath the self-same nature which Peter hath."
In the like sense also the ordinary mind would understand the word homo-ousian, which Aristotle used to designate the common nature of the stars. To popular apprehension the term is not the slightest safeguard against the doctrine of the specific unity. Whatever merit it may be thought to have in this respect, is known or unknown only to the most subtle metaphysicians.
We now come to the final issue of the Athanasian Creed; and to see on what shores its advocates are safely landed.
There is nothing which Athanasians, in their controversies with Arians and Sabellians, have for centuries more vehemently repudiated than the charge of contradiction. We only proceed so far," says one of the Moyer Lecturers, of Cambridge,* "as to acquit ourselves of the infamy of believing, or maintaining, contradictions;
* Eight Sermons Preached in the Cathedral of St. Paul, London, by Dr. Thomas Bishop, page 253.
Presuming to be only a learner, far be it from me to bring a charge of this hind. My object is not to impute, but to enquire; and ascertain, as far as possible, who are the persons, in the present day, who bring forward this charge of contradiction, and what are the arguments by which it is supported.
In pursuing this enquiry, let me not derive my instruction from the open adversaries of the Creed; but only from its most firm and able defenders.
Dr. Wilberforce, a strict Athanasian, in his treatise on The Incarnation,* tells me that in the Unity of the Godhead there are three Persons; but that the fast and most essential condition of belief in this fact is to acknowledge that it is a mystery, as is also the Incarnation.
* Page 128. Fourth Edition.
Now, Dr. Waterland justly observes,* that "plain contradictions are certainly no mysteries, any more than plain truths." If this be the case, and I meet with a doctrine which appears to me a plain contradiction, I cannot receive it in that sense in which it is a contradiction; and if I cannot discover any other sense, I have no right to say that I receive the doctrine by calling it. a mystery unrevealed. I cannot receive the doctrine at all.
* See Works of Waterland, vol. i., part ii., page 222.
There is, however, another sense of the word mystery which ought to be considered, namely, the Scriptural sense; and I am informed, that in this case, when St. Paul speaks of "a mystery now made manifest," or of his office being to "make known the mystery of the Gospel," it is not in reference to their inscrutable character that he calls them mysteries, but the reverse:
It is evident; then, in this case, that I derive no aid from calling a contradiction a mystery; for if it be to me a mystery, it is in this sense only a plain contradiction.
If, now, what appears to me a plain contradiction, be nevertheless a doctrine which enters more or less into every other doctrine of my theological system; I must naturally expect the whole of that system to be more or less contradictory; and, as I cannot believe that which is self-contradictory, inasmuch as what is self-contradictory is self-destructive, I am not in the position of an unbeliever, because there is nothing to disbelieve: nor am I in the position of a believer, for there is nothing to believe.
Further: If I meet with a proposition, and there is no idea in my mind which can be assigned to one of its terms, it ceases to be to me any proposition at all, and as such there is nothing to require my belief or assent.
If, accordingly, it be asserted that there are Three Persons in one God; and no idea can he assigned to the word Person, the proposition ceases to be a proposition; and the doctrine so called is to me no doctrine, and as such has no relation whatever to any doctrine of Christianity; the consequence is, that if other doctrines are said to be founded upon it, they rest upon what is to me no foundation.
On the other hand, if in the proposition, "There are Three persons in one God," in order to avoid believing in nothing, I assign a definite idea to the term Person, and if in this case I perceive the proposition to be self-contradictory ; then, inasmuch as what is self-contradictory destroys itself, I have nothing to believe; for my belief amounts only to this, as Dean Sherlock observes, It is, and It is not.
Is, then, the Athanasian doctrine of the Tripersonality a plain contradiction? for if so, it is no longer possible to take refuge in mystery. Let us refer to reputedly the most able Athanasian in the present, day. In the notes to his translation of the Select Treatises of Athanasius, he says:*--
* Page 439.
"The peculiarity of the Catholic Doctrine (of the Trinity) as contrasted with the heresies on the subject of the Trinity, is that it professes a mystery. It involves, not merely a contradiction in the terms used, which would be little, for we might solve it by assigning different senses to the same word, or by adding some limitation (e.g. if it were said that Satan was an Angel and not an Angel, or, man was mortal and immortal); but an incongruity in the ideas which it introduces. Not indeed ideas directly and wholly contradictory of each other, as 'circulus quadratus,' but such as are partially or directly antagonistic, as perhaps montes sine valle. To say that the Father is wholly and absolutely the One infinitely simple God, and then that the Son is also, and yet that the Father, is eternally distinct from the Son, is to propose ideas which we cannot harmonize together; all d our reason is reconciled to the state of the case only by the consideration (though fully by means of it), that no idea of ours can embrace the simple truth, which we are obliged to separate into portions, and view in aspects, and adumbrate under many ideas, if we are to make any approximation toward it at all; as in mathematics we approximate to a circle by means of a polygon,--great as is the dissimilarity between the two figures."
"It* has been observed, that the mystery of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not merely a verbal contradiction, but an incompatibility in the human ideas conveyed by them. We can scarcely make a nearer approach to an exact enunciation of it, than by saying that one thing is two things."
* Ibid., page 515.
Thus there are two Persons in each other ineffably, each being wholly one and the same Divine Substance, yet not being merely separate aspects of the same. Each being God as absolutely as if there were no other Divine Person but Himself. Such a statement is not only a contradiction in the terms used, but in our ideas, yet not therefore a contradiction in fact; unless indeed any one will say that human words can express in one formula, or human thought embrace in one idea, the unknown and the Infinite God."
Ibid., page 327.
"If Scripture bids us adore God, and adore His Son, our reason at once asks, whether it does not follow that there are Two Gods;
The Arians of the Fourth Century, third edition, page 150.
This, we are told, is the real and ultimate issue of the Athanasian Doctrine of the Tripersonality.--There is one God; but if I attempt to form any idea of that One God, I inevitably fall into Tritheism.
How so? Surely here is no charge brought against Athanasians by Sabellians and Arians: the whole process is described by Athanasiaus themselves.
For example; Dr. Waterland says to Dr. Clarke:--
"One* God, you say, is one Person only otherwise one Person could not be one God. I answer that no one Person is one God, exclusively of the other two Persons."
* See his Works, vol. i., part ii., page 247.
Be it so; but after all, am I nevertheless in thought compelled to exclude the other Two? Let us hear Dr. Newman's answer:--
It is no inconsistency to say, that the Father is first, and the Son first also; for comparison or, number does not enter into this mystery.
Select Treatises of Athanasius, page 412.
Consequently, when it is said, Not Three Eternals but one Eternal
"I* suppose this means, that each Divine Person is to be received as the one God as entirely and absolutely as He would be held to be if we had never heard of the other Two, and that He is not in any respect less than the one and only God, because they are each that same one God also; or in other words, that as each human individual being has one personality, the Divine Being has Three."
* Atlantis, July, 1858, page 338.
If, then, I think of one Divine Person as the one God, and as entirely and absolutely as if I had never heard of the other Two, I think of one Divine Person as the One God exclusively of the other Two; at the moment of contemplation one excludes the other. This process of exclusion is moreover perfect; for it as completely, excludes the other Two, not only; as if I had never heard of them, but even as if they had never existed; for (Parochial Sermons, vol. Vi., p. 388)
God is as wholly and entirely God in the Person of the Father, as though there were no Son and Spirit; as entirely in that of the Son, as though there were no Spirit and Father; as entirely in that of the Spirit, as though there were no Father and Son.
Is it possible. for the process of exclusion to be more definite? But Dr. Newman adds
"And the Father is God, the Son God, and the Holy Ghost God, while there is but One God; and that without any inequality, because there is but One God, and He is without parts or degrees; though how it is that that same Adorable Essence, indivisible, and numerically One, should subsist perfectly and wholly in each of Three Persons, no words of man can explain, nor earthly illustration typify."
Why can no words of man explain it? Because, as we have already seen, it is called a contradiction. What is the consequence? The whole Athanasian system of theology becomes to me not only a verbal contradiction, but a contradiction in ideas, incongruous, incompatible, inconsistent with itself. And now what becomes of the chivalrous assertions--"I hold, therefore, that the Athanasian Creed and Christianity must logically stand or fall together"
We here perceive, that the whole doctrine of the Tripersonality is now approaching the verge of an abyss; for we have now to consider not only the safety of the Creed, but the safety of Christianity. What becomes of Christianity in my mind, when it enters my thoughts only as a series of incompatibilities, incongruities, inconsistencies, and plain contradictions? I might resign myself to this outer darkness by saying with some, It is all a mystery. But even in this sense of the term mystery, I am told, "a plain contradiction is no more a mystery than a plain truth." If then I say, I cannot help myself: I desire to continue a Christian; but, one thing raises my alarm-for if Christianity be a self-contradiction, and self-contradiction destroys itself, my faith in Christianity is not only imperiled, but is shipwrecked altogether.
The crisis is desperate; but a refuge is provided. In the History of my Religious Opinions I naturally say with Dr. Newman,--"I* am far of course from denying that every article of the Christian Creed, whether as held by Catholics or by Protestants, is beset with intellectual difficulties; and it is simple fact, that, for myself, I cannot answer these difficulties."--But "ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt."--Why not?--There is the doctrine of Transubstantiation! and Sir Thomas More says, "A faith which stands that test, will stand any test."--I think so too.
* Pages 238, 239.
"People say that the doctrine of Transubstantiation is difficult to believe: I did not believe the doctrine till I was a Catholic. I had no difficulty in believing it, as soon as I believed that the Catholic Roman Church was the oracle of God, and that she had declared this doctrine to be part of the original revelation. It is difficult, impossible to imagine, I grant;--but how is it difficult to believe?"
Well, then, the doctrine of Tripersonality stands upon the same ground as the doctrine of Transubstantiation.
Here then I am reminded of the following remark by Mr. Bingham:--
The* authors of the Roman Communion (in their extravagant zeal for the authority of the Church, and the power of general Councils, to make new articles of faith) have not scrupled to assert, that the Divinity of our Savior and the doctrine of the Trinity are neither defensible from the authority of Scripture, nor the writings of the primitive Fathers from the days of the Apostles down to the Council of Nice. Mr. Chillingworth did long ago object this very thing to his Romish adversary; and it were easy upon occasion to confirm his suggestion by multitudes of any such importance.
* Sermon 2, On the Divinity of Christ, vol. ix., page 357.
Now there is no ground for believing, in the present case, that it was zeal for the authority of the Church that caused the distinguished author to assert, that the Athanasian Creed is self-contradictory;
This brings us to what may be called the Philosophy of Contradiction, and to see why it is said, that any Revelation from God concerning Himself must necessarily, in our apprehensions, be self-contradictory. In this case, however, the contradiction is said to be derived not merely from the words of Scripture, but from the very laws of the human mind; so that Scripture itself, and all explanations of Scripture, any, even the human mind itself in its endeavors to arrive at a knowledge of God, are all with one accord self-contradictory.We refer to the Bampton Lectures of Dr. Mansel.
Theology, he observes, has been made to speak the language of Metaphysics; as indeed we have already seen. Thus, in relation to God, Theology treats of Being, Substance, Essence, Begotten, Unbegotten, Proceeding, Person, Mode, Subsistence, Unity, Perichoresis or Circumincession, and so forth;
* Page 68, Lecture iii.
Hence the Lecturer observes:--
The conception of the Absolute and Infinite, from whatever side we vie it, appears encompasses with contradictions. There is a contradiction in supposing such an object to exist, whether alone or in conjunction with others; and there is a contradiction in supposing it not to exist. There is a contradiction in conceiving it as one, and there is a contradiction in conceiving it as many. There is a contradiction in conceiving it as personal, and there is a contradiction in conceiving it as impersonal.
Page 58, Lecture ii., 1st Ed.
It is, then, in the very constitution of the human mind that we are to seek for the origin of all contradiction respecting God; and thus we have a satisfactory account of the origin of the expression, Three Persons and one God, which the translator of the Select Treatises of Athanasius 9Only a few years before the Lectures) were given), declared to be inconceivable except in the form of a contradiction. In this manner all theological controversy is silenced, and the Athanasian Creed may be accepted. I may assert the absolute Unity of God, and yet so conceive of one Divine Person as to exclude the other Two, and to think each Person in succession to be by Himself as absolutely and perfectly God as if I had never heard of the other Two, nay, as if They never existed.
It is true that Mr. Maurice protested against Dr. Mansels philosophy as being a death-blow to Christianity; but what are we to think of the Notes to the Select Treastises of Athanasius? The doctrine of the Tripersonality is regarded by its distinguished advocate as the highway into the Church of Rome; and this explains the reason why Roman Catholics feel so shocked at the possible disuse of the Creed in the Church of England, or at any modification of its language, particularly of its anathemas; for as there is no salvation out of the Church, and religious toleration is impious and absurd, the Damnatory Clauses especially ought to be retained.*
* Praelectiones Theologicae, by J. Perrone; Prop. 11, De Nulla Salute extra Ecclesiam: art. 266, etc.
Profane minds ask, says Dr. Newman, is God One or Three?Other minds, which are not profane, have asked the same question. It does not appear, for instance, to have been from any spirit of profanation, that this question was asked by Sabellius, a Priest or Bishop of Africa; but solely in consequence of explanations of the Trinity being at that time given which seemed to be destructive of the doctrine of the Divine Unity.
The same fear, says Mosheim,* lest God (whom reason and the Scriptures teach us to be most simply one) should be divided out into many Gods, which induced Noetus to deny a distinction of Persons in the Divine Nature; induced also Sabellius to do the same, and to contend that there is only one Divine Person or Hypostasis. Hence, according to Epiphanius, whenever the Sabellians happened to meet with uneducated people, whom they wished to draw over to their side by a short method, they were accustomed to propose this single question, "What are we at last to say? Have we One God, or Three Gods?"
* De Rebus Christianorum, pages 690, 689, etc.
With respect to the writings of Sabellius, there are none extant; so that his theological opinions are known only through the medium of his opponents, by whom they are in consequence discordantly represented.
Dr. Newman observes*--"It is difficult to decide what Sabellius's doctrine really was; nor is this wonderful, considering the perplexity and vacillation which is the ordinary consequence of abandoning Catholic truth." This, however, may be said on the other side of the question; that we have no opportunity of hearing Sabellius speak for himself, as in the case of Athanasius; that what Sabellius wished to oppose was the Tritheism of that day; and that, not improbably, the party spirit of that day ought to be taken into account.
* Select Treatises of Athanasius, page 529.
"Great is the dissension among the learned," says Mosheim, "concerning the real opinion of Sabellius. Many of them inform us, that he taught that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were Three names of the One God, arising from the diversity of his divine words and actions:
"Others, however, led chiefly by the authority of Epiphanius, contend, that ancient writers never attained to the meaning of Sabellius; that according to him the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, were not three names of the One God acting in diverse manners; but that it was the Father Himself who was called God, and was without any division;
"Although Sabellius asserted that there is only Ono Divine Person, nevertheless he thought that the difference of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit mentioned in the Scriptures was not merely appellative, or, to speak in the language of Grammarians, nominal. For the one Divine Person which He put on (inducebat) had, as Sabellius thought, Three Forms, having a real distinction one from another, and in no wise to be confounded one with another.
The first authority adduced by Mosheim is that of Arnobius; and, from the passages cited from this author, Mosheim concludes as follows:--
1. That Sabellius taught the doctrine of a Trinity; 2. That he dehounced those who denied the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or the Trinity; which being granted, it follows, from what Arnobius says, that he also separated Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If he had only thought that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were but the names of one Supreme Deity, there would have been no occasion for his execration of opponents. Without any doubt, both the course of the argument, and the very thing itself, place it beyond controversy, that Sabellius condemned those who mingled together and confounded Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Now most certainly they do so, who think that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in no wise differ from each other except only in name.
The second authority adduced by Mosheim is that of Basil, on whose testimony Mosheim thus remarks:
"It is sufficiently evident that the Trinity acknowledged by Sabellius is not merely nominal or verbal. For, as he maintained that there is only one Person or Hypostasis in God, so at the same time he affirmed that there are Three [scanner unable to insert words], or three Forms, and appearances (facies) of that One God; and that this same God assumed sometimes one, sometimes another Form, according to the difference of circumstances. Now these different Forms of one and the same Nature, however they may be conceived, imply a veritable difference; and ought by no means to be confounded with only different names of one and the same thing. Nothing, however, more tends to confirm what I have said, than the comparison by which the Sabellians were accustomed to illustrate their dogma concerning the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as received by Epiphanius from their own mouth--namely, the comparison of body, soul, and spirit."
Certain it is that such similitudes are not to be pressed too far. Still, in the present case, every shadow of similitude and comparison would be lost, if Sabellius had taught a Trinity only of names and words. If between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, there be the same difference, I say not wholly but even in part, as there is between the body, the rational mind, and the sentient soul in man, then it necessarily follows, that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit really differ from each other. Sabellius therefore thought, that in like manner as the person of an individual man is one, and that in this one person there are three things which can be distinguished from each other, not mentally only but in reality, namely, body, soul, and spirit; so likewise, although there is One only individual Person of God, still in this One Person the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit may be discriminated not only in thought, but also ought to be ;distinguished and discreted in reality."
"Inasmuch as Sabellius thought that there was simply one Nature and one Person of God, and yet that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit really differed from each other, and were not Three names of the One God acting in divers manners, this one thing only remains for us to believe;
"Moreover, as the same God willed to recall to Himself the human race by means of Christ, He sent forth another portion of his Nature, which, being conjoined to the man Christ, is called the Son, so that by residing in the Son of God, He taught and wrought by means of the Son, and together with the Son constituted in a manner One Person.
"Lastly, God sent forth a Third particle of His Nature really separate from the Two former, by means of which He gives life to all things in the universe; illuminates, kindles, and regenerates the minds of mankind. This Third portion of the Divine Nature is called the Holy Spirit, because it both produces holy men, and actuates them by an operation similar to that of the wind.
"The doctrine of Sabellius, that there were Three Forms, or Three [scanner unable to insert word] of God, was neither, as Abulpbaraius supposed, that of three qualities of the Divine Nature, viz., existence, wisdom, life; nor Three modes of acting; nor Three names of the One God; but Three portions or parts, in some way or other sundered from God, and yet in some other way connected with God.
"With this explanation sufficiently agrees the celebrated comparison, mentioned by Ephiphanius, derived from the Sun; and which has moved certain eminent men to compare the Sabellians with Socinians.
Epiphauius, however, so explains this comparison as to make it appear, that by this fresh similitude Sabellius had no design to subvert the former, derived from the soul, body, and spirit. For he adds, that the Son was like a ray sent forth from the Father, in order to convey to mankind those blessings which Christ alone of all the human race sought out for them; and having accomplished, His work, returned to heaven. That the Holy Spirit also ought to be regarded after the same manner, as being itself sent down into the world. Now, whatsoever is sent forth from God and afterwards returns to God, is without doubt, in a certain manner, really separated from the Divine Nature. For in no way could it return to God, unless it had departed from God and become separated from Him."
"Although, therefore, ancient writers sometimes so speak as if they seemed to think that Sabellius was of opinion that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit differed from each other only as three modes of action of one man, or in three different respects; still their words are not to be too eagerly insisted upon, but are to be interpreted in the way which we have mentioned. Nay, even the ancient writers, for the most part, explain in one set of passages what they had said less aptly and distinctly in another; they correct their own statements, and accommodate them to our present interpretation."
Thus Basil in one place says, that Sabellius seemed to him to deny to God all true distinction; yet elsewhere that Sabellius denied a Personal distinction, but not a real and true distinction. Even Dionysius in refuting Sabellius mistook his meaning, for lie imputed to Sabellius the opinions of Valentinus. Sabellius believed that the Son was begotten of the Father after the manner of bodies in general, or by section; Valentinus, by emanation, or fluxion of divisions. Valentinus taught that it was only a portion or part of God which constituted that Divine thing which dwelt in the man Christ; and thus that the Son differed from the Father as a part from the whole, from which it is divided and separated by section.
Bishop Bull, says Mosheim, was in error when regarding as most certainly true, the vulgar opinion concerning the Sabellian dogma.--"Every one knows," says Bishop Bull, that Sabellius taught that God was [scanner unable to insert word] (an egregious mistake, for we may clearly see from Basil, that he acknowledged that there were Three [Greek: monoprosopon] in God, but denied that there were Three hypostases); also that he acknowledged that there was no real distinction of Persons, nor even any division." This, for a great part, is false. Sabellius repudiated a distinction of Persons, but not a true and real division.
"Now since Sabellius taught that a part of God, or portion of the Divine. Nature, was separated from that Nature by a section of some kind, those ancient writers were not altogether in error who called both him and his friends, Patrigmssians; if indeed by the name of the Father be understood that One Supreme God whom this African was unwilling should be divided into Persons.
With respect to Dionysius, Sabellius, and ourselves, "all maintain that there were in Christ two Natures, the Divine and the Human. But we affirm that these two Natures constituted one Person; and we take away personality from the .human nature, for we teach' that the personality, subsisted in the Divine. Sabellius, on the contrary, thought indeed so far with us as to say, that one Person was constituted out of the two Natures; but he took away the personality from the Divine Nature, and taught that this personality subsisted in and by the human nature. Dionysius; however, when he aimed to confute him, not only sundered the two natures in Christ, but also decreed that the persons, actions, and sufferings of the human nature did not pertain to the Divine. So that aiming to destroy one error, he fell into another equally grave."
"Sabellius, however, and his disciples cannot be said to be Patripassians, in the same sense as the Noetians; if the opinions of the latter be rightly expounded by the ancients. For Noetus thought, that. the man Christ conjoined to himself the whole Person of the Father, or the whole Divine nature; Sabellius, however, thought that only a part of the Divine nature descended into the man Christ. Epiphanius, therefore, fell into no error, when lie wrote, that the Sabellians agreed for the most part with the Noetians; but that they did not teach that the Father suffered, as the Noetians do. This is perfectly true, if explained in the manner I have stated, namely, that the Sabellians did not refer the sufferings of Christ to the Father in the same sense as the Noetians. There was no reason therefore why Augustin, in his treatise De Haeresibus, and so many others after him, should have blamed Epiphanius."
Thus far the account given by Mosheim of the doctrines of Sabellius.
We next proceed to the relation of Sabellianism to the doctrine of the Tripersonality, and the difficulties experienced by the advocates of this doctrine in endeavoring to avoid the Sabellian heresy.
1. In the Notes to the Select Treatises of Athanasius it is observed* that--"When God is thrice repeated, and Father, Son, and, Holly Ghost is named, Three Unities do not make plurality of number in Him, which they are.... This repetition of Unities is iteration rather than numeration.... As if I say Sun, Sun, Sun, I have not made three Suns, but named one so many times.... A trine numeration, then, does not make number; which they rather run into who make some difference between the Three."
* Page 454.
Hence it has been observed, that if I say Substance, Substance, Substance, this does not imply Three Substances, but one and the same Substance referred to three times. So when it is said, the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Ghost is God; yet there are not Three Gods but one God, not Three Substances but one Substance; in like manner, it is affirmed by parity of reason, "this is as if one should say, the Father is a Person, the Son is a Person, and the Holy Ghost is a Person, and yet there are not Three Persons but one Person."
Bishop Stillingfleet's Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity, page 110.
It is rejoined, the Father is not the Son, and the Son is not the Holy Spirit; and therefore there are Three different Persons. But here Dr. Newman observes:--
The* question has almost been admitted by St. Austin, whether it is not possible to say that God is one Person; for He is wholly and entirely Father, and at the same time wholly and entirely Son, and wholly and entirely Holy Ghost.
* See the passage in the Appendix.
Hence Dr. Newman observes, "Nothing is more remarkable than the confident tone in which Athanasius accuses Arians and Sabellians in Oration iv., 2, of considering the Divine Nature as compound; as if the Catholics were, in no respect open to such a charge; though in avoiding it, they are led to enunciate the most profound and ineffable mystery. The Father is the One Simple entire Divine Being, and so is the Son. They do in no sense share Divinity between them: each is [Greek: olos Theos].
Select Treatises of Athanasius, page 334.
The Divine Person comes under number; for we say there are Three Divine Persons, and each one differs from the other. The Divine Nature does not come under number; for we say there are not Three Gods, but one God; and yet each Person is as wholly and entirely the One God as if there were no other divine Person but that one. This is the most profound and ineffable mystery; and the enunciation of this mystery is the Athanasian bulwark against Sabellianism. Now we have seen that it is called a mystery, because it is admitted to be a contradiction; and if so, the bulwark against Sabellianism is a self-contradiction.
In this way may we not believe, that the Church on earth, as being the embodiment of her own doctrines, is herself in the same self-contradiction as are the doctrines of which she is the embodiment; and here may we not see room, therefore, for the fulfilment of those Prophecies to which we have referred?
2. There is yet another difficulty experienced by Athanasians in opposing Sabellians; namely, the fact that there is in man, as an image and likeness of God, a Trinity analogous to the Trinity in God. This Trinity is said by Augustin to be that of Love, Intelligence, and Memory: by others it is stated, as will be seen in the sequel, to be Goodness, Wisdom, and Power. These Three are not parcelled out in man, each to a different Person; but are all comprehended in one Person, or one Personal Being; so that, in this respect, the mind of man is Sabellian by the very constitution of his nature; and hence the mystery and contradiction which arise, when lie is required to think of God as being, according to the Athanasian Creed, Three different Persons. In this respect, even the Athanasian, as being Sabellian by nature and by birth, cannot help himself; while on the other hand, if he does not think of God in a manner contrary to the constitution of his nature, he comes under the anathema of the Damnatory Clauses; for "he that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity;" while yet he is told that so to think is to think a contradiction.
The case is the same when the illustration of the Trinity is derived from body, soul, and spirit: All these are comprehended in one man, as one Personal Being. But this illustration is Sabellian; and only shews how man is Sabellian by the very constitution of his person.
The case is the same, again, when the illustration is taken from the Sun; and we perceive the Trinity of Heat, Light, and Solar activity. In this point of view, the Sabellian Trinity is found to be shadowed forth in the very laws of Nature. The Sabellian freely refers to these illustrations: the Athanasian is cautioned against them; he sees all Creation against him, unable to afford any help or strength to his faith. He is told that he must beware of these dangerous illustrations, or else he must unavoidably fall into the Sabellian heresy--the heresy of believing in a false Unity.
What then is the true Unity?
It is not only a unity of Substance, for, according to some, the Sabellian admits this in the case of the One Supreme God, as Father of all; but it is the Unity also of the Tripersonality, as distinguished from Unity of Substance; and this Unity is effected by Perielaoresis. What is this Perichoresis? It is said to be a Divine process of immeation, permeation, inhabitation, by means of which one Person is within the other, and in this consists the proper unity of the Tripersonality, as distinguished from that of the Essence. Are we then to conceive one Divine Person to be so within the other, that the Three Persons may be called one Person? Certainly not, we are told; for that again would be Sabellianism. How then are we to understand it? Here again we are told, that there is nothing in Creation which affords us any illustration; indeed that, in this respect, it is impossible for man to be an image and likeness of God, and also equally impossible for the Angels; for one Angel is only one Person.
How, then, shall I think of this Perichoresis of Persons? I have already been informed. A Divine Person is more than a mere character, yet less than an individual intelligent Being.
We would now conclude our examination of the Athanasian and Sabellian doctrines with the following illustrations and reflections.
1. In Reasons for neither Mutilating nor Minting the Athanasian Creed, by a pious, eminent, and well-known dignitary of the Church of England, we are assured that one of these Reasons is the following:--that "The God* whom the Athanasian Creed proclaims has never been alone." ... "The Father's joy from eternity has been to love the Son the Son's joy from eternity has been to love the Father, to trust in Him entirely, to do His blessed will." ... That Here is the fatal objection to the God of the Unitarian Goal is not a solitary Being:" and it is on this ground that "No marvel that, when such a Being created man, His very first utterance should have been, It is not good that man should be alone.--All this is stated under the sanction of the Athanasian Creed!--It is not good that the One alone God should be alone.
* Page 24.
In another zealous Defence of the Creed, it is said of Clement of Alexandria:--
"As to Christ's praising God* together with us, though he (Clement) calls Him God the Word, the Eternal; yet he intimates that it is in His capacity of High Priest or Mediator, wherein he is Man as well as God; and so may very fitly be supposed, as Head of His Church, to join with Men and Angels in that service."--Here it is thought to be quite consistent with the Athanasian Creed, that Christ as man should join with Angels in praising Himself as God!
* Sermons by Dr. Bishop, Lady Moyer Lecturer, p. 217.
2. In the Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide, it is shewn in the following manner, how it is that God is said to be not a Solitary Being; and that "the God whom the Athanasian Creed proclaims has never been alone."
The words in Ecclesiasticus--"Praise shall be uttered in wisdom, and the Lord will prosper it," are rendered in the Vulgate--"Praise standeth as the companion to wisdom" on which A Lapide remarks, that to offer true praise is competent to Wisdom only;
Chap. xv. 9, 10.
"The praise of God is (astat) attendant on the wisdom of God; because not only do all the angels, and the blessed, praise the wisdom of God; but so does God Himself, even the very Holy Trinity itself; in which Trinity, the Father praises and glorifies the Son and Holy Spirit with. immense laudation ; the Son in like manner praises the Father and the Holy Spirit; and the Spirit praises the Father and the Son. For when each one of them sees in the other Two, Deity and Divine majesty full of infinite gifts, and therefore worthy of infinite praise and glory, each for that reason continually praises and celebrates the other Two with His entire affection (toto affectu), and this He has done from eternity, and will continue to do to all eternity."
"This laudation we ourselves must follow and adopt as our example, just as the Church. does, when at the end of every Psalm, she sings, Glory be to the Father, and to the Soya, and to the Holy Ghost;
Hence also A Lapide adds, that the Holy Trinity has ever praised, is still praising, and ever will praise itself to all eternity, in the way of a reciprocal jubilance of the Three Divine Persons one among the other.
3. It is no wonder, therefore, that in a Life of St. Gertrude (recently published under', the imprimatur of a Roman Catholic Bishop), the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit : are represented as, in a vision, becoming visible to the Saint, and all Three Persons are seen and heard chanting to each other, to the Virgin Mary, and to the heavenly host. All which is stated not only as being quite in harmony with the Athanasian formula--"not Three Gods, but one God," but as being its legitimate development.
Thus for instance:
"Then* the Holy Spirit chanted the words, Una est columba mea, her Divine Son adding Perfecta mea, as if to say that she was the most perfect of creatures. The Eternal Father then said, Una est matri sine electa, with exceeding love, which indicated all that He desired to say of her: after this the whole celestial court chanted her praise in the Versicle, Salve, Nobilis."
* Life and Revelations of St. Gertrude, published (1871) under the approbation of the Right Rev. Dr. Moriarty. Kenmare Series. Pages 438, 439. The following testimony to the book, by some learned person who had carefully read it, is contained in page 69:--I consider that no one having the Spirit o God in him can either find fault with or impugn any thing written in this book. Nerved by the Spirit of Truth, from whom all wisdom emanates, I offer and hold myself bound unto death to meet any one in defense of the Holy and Catholic doctrine contained in it.
The Blessed Trinity afterwards add to the foregoing, the Ave Maria, and--"God the Father then chanted the words Ave speciosa--to indicate the rare beauty of this most perfect of creatures; God the Son replying, Sunainites secunduni cop summi regis; the Holy, Ghost added, Ave mater Maria; and the Son again replied Spiritu Sancto teste.
Now there is no doubt that many would object to these illustrations of the Athanasian Creed; but the question is, whether the Creed itself is in any way opposed to them; for all the parties whose statements we have adduced profess to be Athanasians, and to maintain with the Creed that "the Father is God, the Son: is God, and the Holy Ghost is God; and yet there are not three Gods, but one God." Why not three Gods? Because all the Divine Persons are inseparable, and homo-ousian to each other.
Hence, there is nothing in. these illustrations which is thought to militate against the following statements of Athanasian doctrine:--
(1). "The* Trinity is not a trinity of mere . names and words, only, but of hypostases truly and really existing."
* Cudworth's Intellectual System, vol. iii., page 166.
(2). "The homo-ousian Trinity of the orthodox goes exactly in the middle, betwixt that mono-ousian Trinity of Sabellius, which was a Trinity of different notions or conceptions only of one and the self-same thing;
The Athanasian Trinity, then, as presented in the foregoing illustrations, is opposed to Sabellianism, because it involves the existence of Three hypostases, and not One only; on the other hand, it is said not to be Arian, for the Three Divine Persons are homo-ousian, not heterogeneous one to another. Thus it is that the middle path is preserved; for, first, the God whom, the Athanasian Creed proclaims has never been alone, inasmuch as the Three Divine Persons have always been bound to each other by the fellowship of Eternal Love; secondly, they are eternally occupied in alternately and simultaneously glorifying each other, according to the language of the, doxology used in the Church;
Moreover, there is another safeguard against Sabellianism, which requires to be seriously considered; namely, in the four different forms of Divine worship; for adoration by the Church is of two kinds,--Essential and Personal. Essential adoration is one only, as being the adoration of the one only God. Personal adoration, on the other hand, is of three kinds; for we must not adore the Father with the adorations proper to the Son and Holy Spirit; we must not adore the Son with the adorations proper to the Father and the Holy' Spirit; and we must not adore the Holy Spirit with the adorations proper to the Father and the Son. To do so would be, according to Cornelius a Lapide,* to confound the Persons, and to fall into the heresy of Sabellius.
* Commentary on Ecclesiasticus, xxiv., 7.
While, however, a bulwark is thus said to be set up against Sabellianism on the one hand, and Arianism on the other, the question naturally occurs, What after all becomes of the Essential Divine Unity?
* Tritheism Charged upon Dr. Sherlock, etc., page 79.
"That a plain account may be given by us of the most Mysterious, Incomprehensible, and Unaccountable thing, that God ever proposed to the belief of men; as the Numerical Essential Unity (which is the Unity here spoken of) between the Father and the Son confessedly is."
And here, be it observed, that it is not, as some speak, the manner of the Union, but the very Union itself, which is so mysterious, incomprehensible, and unaccountable: the difficulty with respect to the Three Persons is not--how they are united--but--that they are united; in which case the Sabellian error of one hypostasis would appear to be worse even than the Arian, and the very question put by Sabellius sixteen hundred years ago, still to savor of damnable heresy.My friends, what are we at last to say--Have we one God or Three Gods?
In thus stating the reciprocal relation between the Athanasian and Sabellian doctrines, we may see on what grounds Archbishop Whately made the following remark:*--
* Errors of Romanism, page 84.
Though in itself the doctrine so sedulously inculcated throughout the Scriptures that there is but One God seems to present no revolting difficulty, yet, on rising from the disquisitions of many scholastic divines on the inherent distinctions of the Three Divine Persons, a candid reader cannot but feel that they have made the Unity of God the great and difficult mystery, and have in fact so nearly explained it away, and so bewildered the minds of their disciples, as to drive them to. withdraw their thoughts habitually and deliberately from every thing connected with the subject, as the only mode left for the unlearned to keep clear of error.
If, now, the doctrine of the Divine Unity be not utterly worthless; if, indeed, it be the very, doctrine on which is founded the Unity of the Church, what becomes of the Church when her foundation is undermined, and she is told that it is not good that the one God should be alone?
Are we bound to believe that a Creed is necessarily that only which is, and which was, and which is to come?
Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. But this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made; that those things which cannot be shaken may remain."
With these remarks we now pass on to the doctrines of Swedenborg, which we shall compare more particularly with those of Athanasius and Sabellius.
"THERE is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost." This clause, we are told, was inserted against the Sabellians who confounded the Persons; and as the doctrine taught by Swedenborg is said to be Sabellian; so they who receive it are regarded as Sabelliaus, and, as such, are included among those who "without doubt shall perish everlastingly."
Where a heresy is denounced, perhaps it is not unreasonable to expect that they who denounce it should, at least, have some slight notion. of what the heresy is; for otherwise they may be denouncing only their own imaginations.
Now, the doctrine of Sabellius is, as represented by some, that God is one Personal Being; and that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are but the names of Three successive characters in which the One God has appeared; these three; successive characters constituting a triune manifestation. This is alleged to be the doctrine of Swedenborg, as may be seen from the following statement of Mr. Maccoll:* --
* The Damnatory Clauses of the Athanasian Creed rationally explained, page 27.
"A great deal depends on the meaning of the word Trinity, and I do not feel quite sure that I understand the sense in which the Dean (of Westminster) uses it in the above passage. Emanuel Swedenborg, he tells us, and his followers, who acknowledge no Person in the Trinity but that of the Divine Man Jesus Christ, are yet ardent admirers of the Athanasian Creed, and claim its sanction for their doctrine, and are ready to demonstrate that all its contents, even to the very words, are agreeable to the truth, provided that for a Trinity of Persons we understand a Trinity of Person,--provided, that is, we suffer the doctrine of the Trinity to evaporate in the shadowy counterfeit of it which Sabellianism offers in its place. With this reservation, the Dean of Westminster goes. on to say, quoting White's Life of Swedenborg, The mind of a Swedenborgian may traverse the clauses of that arduous dogma with joyful assent and consent. Doubtless; for the reservation in question gives us, not a Trinity of Persons, but a triune manifestation of one Person. No doubt the Athanasian Creed is the chief obstacle in the way of the acceptance of that doctrine. But the doe trine of the Trinity which the Dean of Westminster and I hold, is very different.
Now we grant, that the doctrine of Swedenborg so. far agrees with that doctrine Sabellius as to maintain, that God is only one Personal Being. But' was Swedenborg therefore a Sabellian? You might prove, upon the same principle, that, Athanasius was a Tritheist. Sabellius believed there is only one Divine Person in the Godhead; Swedenborg believed there is only one Divine Person in the Godhead; therefore Swedenborg was a Sabelliun.
But what of the "Triune manifestation," and "succession of characters?" The whole theology of Swedenborg is as much opposed to Sabellius in this respect, as is that of Athanasius; and far, more effectually. In a correspondence between Dr. Hartley (Rector of Wynwick) and Swedenborg, on the doctrine of Sabellius, the following Question was put by Dr. Hartley:--
"May not the Trinity be properly said to be one and the same Lord under Three characters, distinctions of office, or relations towards man, namely, as Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier,--as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,--as Divine Esse, Divine Human, and Holy Proceeding; not as Three Persons, which would of necessity be malting Three Gods?"
To this Question Swedenborg returns the following Answer:--
"The most Holy Trinity in one Person is to be apprehended as the Divine Esse, the Divine Human (or Existere), and the Divine Proceeding, and thus as soul, body, and operation thence proceeding;
As productions from these follow in their order, Creation, Redemption, and Regeneration; for Creation is the attribute of the Divine Esse, Redemption is the attribute of the Divine Human from the Divine Esse; and Regeneration is the attribute of the Holy Spirit, which is the primary power or operation of the Divine Human from the Divine Esse; agreeably to what is said in The True Christian Religion."
It is here said, that the Divine Trinity in Unity corresponds o the soul, body, and operation in man; but this is no triune manifestation of man; for man does not manifest himself sometimes as soul, sometimes as body, and sometimes as one operating apart from both these together; nor does he appear in a succession of characters, sometimes in the distinct character of soul, sometimes in the distinct character of body, and sometimes in the character of one operating differentially from the other two.
It will, however, be desirable to enquire into the grounds upon which, most certainly, the whole theological system maintained by Swedenborg is, on the one hand, directly opposed to those Metaphysical expositions of the Trinity we have already presented to view, and, on the other, to the doctrines of Sabelllus.
Dean Sherlock had felt not a little averse to the multiplicity of metaphysical terms which so-called Catholic theologians had employed in inculcating the doctrine of the Trinity; and he regarded them as "darkening counsel by words without knowledge." In order, therefore, to remove the obscurity in which the Divine Unity had been involved, be thought it better to discard the old metaphysical system, and to contemplate God as Truth, Wisdom, Goodness, and so forth.
To this Dr. South replies,* that "Truth, Wisdom, Goodness, are in our apprehensions finite things, and as such are in the same disproportion to God as Substance, Essence, and all the other Metaphysical terms."
* Animadversions upon Dr. Sherlock's Book, pp. 49, 51.
Hence also he says, "I cannot perceive that Truth, Wisdom, or Goodness. have any pre-eminence or advantage over Essence, Substance, and the like;"--according to which account, the old Metaphysical system of Theology has the precedence over the Moral, and as such stands first in order; the term Person ought to supersede the term Essential. And yet it is of this very system that Archbishop Whately thus writes:--
The unprofitable,* absurd, presumptuous, and profane speculations of Scholastic theologians (not all of them members of the Romish Church) which are extant, afford a melancholy specimen of the fruits of this mistake as to the Christian mysteries--this corruption from the simplicity that is in Christ.
* Errors of Romanism, page 83.
It is in this point of view that Swedenborg regards the whole metaphysical system that has identified itself with the Doctrine of the Tripersonality. In the Athanasian Creed not one word is said concerning Divine Goodness, Wisdom, or Truth; it is an appeal not to the moral or spiritual, but to the purely intellectual faculties, in relation to which alone heresy is accounted heresy. If that Creed had expressed itself in the language of Hooker, it would have been practical, would have had relation to the Christian life, and thus have been in accordance with the Creed as amended by Swedenborg. And what is the amendment against which we are so gravely warned? The substitution of Essential for Person, and hence of Moral or Spiritual truths instead of the old Metaphysical entities. In illustration of this change, let us first quote the words of Hooker:--
"The* Father as Goodness, the Son as Wisdom, the Holy Ghost as Power, do all concur in every particular outwardly issuing from that One only glorious Deity which they all are. For that which moveth God to work is Goodness, and that which ordereth his work is Wisdom, and that which perfecteth His work is Power."
* Ecclesiastical Polity, book v., chap. lvi. ; art. v.
Here Hooker likens the Trinity in God to the Trinity of Essentials in man; for in the Christian, as an image and likeness of God, there is a Trinity, after a finite manner, of goodness, wisdom, and power; goodness in the will, wisdom in the intellect, and power to accomplish both in outward life. It is this Trinity which some Athanasians think it so awful to ascribe, to the Deity; for in the Christian goodness is not a Person of itself, nor wisdom a person of itself, nor power a person of itself; but all Three are essentials of one personal being. And where is the .heresy of attributing by analogy Goodness, Wisdom, and Power to God, as the Essentials of One Divine Being? Yet on this subject it is said:--
"As for those who believe that this is one of those questions which test to the quick. the vitality of a Church, there is no sacrifice which they will think too great to make in defense of what is to them dearer than any thing which this world can offer in exchange."
Damnatory Clauses, etc., page 209.
And for what is this sacrifice to be made? For the retention of a word which, as Dr. Newman says, nobody can understand, simply because it has no assignable meaning; or if any one should unhappily assign a definite meaning to it, the result is that the Tripersonality contradicts the Unity and the Unity the Tripersonality, and there is no alternative but transition to the Church of Rome; as already exemplified.
That the minds of men, not excepting the Clergy, are beginning to be ill at ease upon this subject, it is in vain to deny; and it is but a low view of this state of things to attribute the cause to this or that particular spirit or heresy; the Church, in its latter clays, may more wisely consider it to be only part of that last general concussion effected and predicted by the Lord Himself, in virtue of which, whether we will or will not, there will be "a removal of those things which are shaken as of things that are made; that those things which cannot be shaken may remain."
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not, according to Swedenborg, the more names, or characters, or manifestations of one Person, who, in the Old Testament, gave the Law in the character of Father; in the New Testament was made man in the character of Son, and afterwards descended upon the Church in the character of the Holy Ghost; for this would imply that the Father manifested his Divine Esse to the Jews apart from any Mediatorial Humanity; or that Divine Goodness might manifest itself apart from Divine Truth. There is not a word said by Swedenborg to justify any such notions.
The* Divine Truth, says he, "which proceeds from the Lord, acteth nothing from itself, but from the Divine Good which is the Divine principle itself; for the Divine Good is the Esse, but the Divine Truth is the Existere thence derived; wherefore the Esse must be in the Existere, that this latter may be something, and that hence that something may be done. The Lord, when He was in the world, was Divine Truth; and on this occasion the Divine Good in Himself was the Father; but when he was glorified, then He was made Divine Good even as to the Human principle: the Divine Truth which on this occasion proceeds from Him, is called the Paraclete or Spirit of Truth."
* Arcana Coelestia, art. 8724.
"He who knows these two arcana, if he be in illustration from the Lord when he reads the Word, may be in the understanding of several things which the Lord Himself spake concerning the Father and concerning Himself, and also concerning the Paraclete the Spirit of Truth, as when he spake in John:
The Son cannot do any thing from Himself, unless He seeth the Father doing it; for whatsoever He (the Father) doeth, the Son also doeth in like manner. As the Father hath life in Himself, so bath He given also to the Son to have life in Himself.--v.19, 26.
Again, in the same Evangelist--"The Holy Spirit was not yet because Jesus was not yet glorified."--vii. 39.
And in another place: "If I go not away, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go away, I will send Him to you:" "He, the Spirit of Truth, shall not speak from Himself; but whatsoever things He shall hear, that Ile shall speak. He will glorify me, because He will receive of mine."--xvi. 7, 13, and several like passages elsewhere.
Now, he who thinks from Person to Essence will, in the foregoing passages, think first of the apparent diversity of Persons; hence the doctrine of the Tripersonality will be uppermost in his mind. On the other hand, he who thinks from Essence to Person will think first of the Three Essentials belonging to a Person; and as these Essentials are not mere names, characters, appearances, qualities, modes, forms, or such like, he will regard them all as Personal, because belonging to a Person. As, however, Goodness, Wisdom, and Power are thus all Personal, and yet one is not the other, so to the merely natural man who thinks inversely, or from Person to Essence, there will appear to be as many Persons as there are Essentials. Hence it is that he aims to regard the Tripersonality as itself the one great Essential, to become ardent in the study of all manner of metaphysical entities or non-entities, to the exclusion of the real Essentials--Goodness, Wisdom, and Power-as unhappily is done in the case of the Athanasian Creed. And no marvel, if the merely natural man, in whose mind the metaphysical notion of Personality thus takes precedence of goodness, charity, and all other Christian affections flowing from the Divine Goodness, should become of all Churchmen the most zealous, the most fervid, the most indoctrinated in the Tripersonality, the most precise, the most authoritative, the most exclusive, the most alarmed for the Unity of the Church after having consigned the Unity of God to incomprehensible mystery (to say nothing of contradiction);
It is in conformity with this view of the subject that, in a Memorable Relation, Swedenborg introduces a speaker as saying,*
* True Christian Religion, art. 623
"Wherefore, my children, frame your thoughts from the consideration of Essence, and from Essence think of Person; for to think from Person of Essence is to think materially not only of Person, but of Essence also; whereas to think from Essence to Person, is to think spiritually of Person also."
Ibid., art. 624.
In the Lord the Creator, Divine Good and Divine Truth, are in their very Substance itself. The Esse of His Substance is Divine Good; and the Existere of His Substance is Divine Truth; in Him too they are in their very unition itself; for in Him they are infinitely One; and as these two principles are in God the Creator a One, they are a one also in every thing created by Him. By this too the Creator is joined in an eternal covenant, like that of marriage, with all things of his Creation."
Now inasmuch as man was created an image and likeness of God, and in God there are Three Essentials, Goodness, Wisdom, and Power; it is evident that Man was created into an image and likeness of this Divine Trinity. This, indeed, is the foundation of all analogy between God and man, and consequently of all human faculty to obtain a true knowledge of God. Make the Trinity in God to be a Trinity of Persons, and this Tripersonality to be the one great cardinal doctrine concerning God, then in no sense could it be said that man is created in the image and likeness of God; for no man is created to be three persons. In this respect the relation between God and man is cut asunder; there is a gulph--nay--a direct contradiction between the two; and all true knowledge of God is lost for ever in hopeless mystery, unless indeed the hope be held out, that hereafter man will become Tripersonal.
But if it be in virtue of this Trinity of Essentials in unity that man is man, and if as such he is an image and likeness of God; it follows, that God Himself is the Archetypal Man, as being the Archetypal Goodness, Wisdom, and Power.
This is the original ground of Swedenborg's affirmation, that God is a Man--nay, the only Man; as being alone essential Goodness, Wisdom, and Power. A confirmation of this truth occurs in the Warburtonian Lectures of Dr. McCaul:--
"From* the translators of the Septuagint downwards, it appears that the Jews understood that the Old Testament language ascribed to God a human form. The Greek translators have generally allowed the anthropomorphisms to remain unsoftened and unexplained; but in some places where they thought :the idea of corporeality was too strongly expressed, they have altered the text; as when it is said in the Hebrew that Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the Seventy Elders saw the God of Israel, the Septuagint says, They saw the place where the God of Israel stood. But in the Chaldee Paraphrases there is a systematic alteration of every passage which implies corporeality.
* Lectures on the Prophecies proving the Divine Origin of Christianity. Delivered in the Chapel of the Hon. Society of Lincoln's Inn, on the Foundation of the late Bishop Warburton. By Alexander McCaul, D.D., Professor of Divinity in King's College, London, and Prebendary of St. Paul's, page 54.
"The result, then, of the present inquiry is, that the doctrine of the revelation of God in human form is the universal doctrine of the Old Testament; that, therefore, there is no reason for explaining away the prophecies which, when interpreted according to their grammatical sense, implied that the promised. Messiah was to be an incarnation of Deity."
The same view of the subject is taken by Swedenborg in the Arcana Coelestia:*--
* Art. 4692.
"The Jewish Church believed that Jehovah was a Man and likewise God, because He had appeared to Moses and the Prophets as a Man, wherefore every angel who appeared. they named Jehovah: nevertheless they had no other idea concerning Him than what the Gentiles had concerning their gods, to which gods they gave Jehovah God a, preference, because he could do miracles; not aware that Jehovah was the Lord in the Word, and that it was His Divine Human principle which all their rituals represented.
The* reason that the Lord's internal Man, which is Jehovah, is called a Man, is because no one is a Man but Jehovah alone. For the term man signifies in the genuine sense that Esse from which man originates. The very Esse from which man originates is Divine, consequently is celestial and spiritual; and without this Divine celestial and spiritual principle, there is nothing human in man, but only a sort of animal nature such; as the beasts have. It is from the Esse of Jehovah, or of the Lord, that every man is a man; because he is an image of the Lord, and because he has that celestial principle from the Lord; otherwise he is a wild beast."
* Ibid., art. 1894.
Thus Jehovah, or the Lord, is the only man, and it is by virtue of what they receive from Him that men are called men.
"The same may further appear from this circumstance, that Jehovah, or the Lord, appeared to the patriarchs of the most ancient Church as a man; as He did afterwards to Abraham, and likewise to the prophets. Wherefore also the Lord deigned, when there was no longer any man upon earth, or nothing celestial and spiritual remaining with man, to assume the human nature by being born as another man, and to make it Divine; whereby He is the only Man. Moreover, the universal Heaven presents before the Lord the image of a Man, because it presents an image of Himself. Hence Heaven is called Maximus Homo--the Grand Man, on this account especially, because the Lord is All in All therein."
Now inasmuch as the Trinity in Unity has been thought of from Person to Essence, and hence has arisen the idea of Three Persons, a difficulty also arose in conceiving how Three Persons could in any respect be united. The highest idea of union presented in Creation is that of marriage; but marriage is between two, not between three.
We thus see that the idea of a Perichoresis or Circumincession of Three Persons in one God, and which has no parallel in Creation, is substituted for the idea of marriage, or of the most sacred union in the Christian Church; this Perichoresis being, according to Swedenborg, nothing but the vagary of metaphysicians. To .the Christian, the origin of marriage is to be sought in the Lord Himself. There is a marriage union in the Lord; there is hence a marriage union between the Lord and His Church; and hence a marriage union between husband and wife. With respect to the marriage union in the Lord, Divine Truth in Him is the Son; Divine Good is the Father; and from these two as one, proceeds the Holy Spirit.
"Truth* cannot possibly be and exist from any other source than from Good. The ground and reason why Son is Divine Truth, and Father Divine Good, is, because the union of the Divine Essence with the Human, and of the Human with the Divine, is the Divine marriage of Good with Truth, and of Truth with Good, from which is derived the heavenly marriage. For in Jehovah or in the Lord there is nothing but what is Infinite; and inasmuch as it is Infinite, it cannot be apprehended by any idea except only as being the Esse and Existere of all Good and truth, or as Essential Good and Essential Truth."
* Arcana Coelestia, art. 2803.
Essential Good is the Father, and Essential Truth is the Son. But whereas there is a Divine Marriage of Good with Truth and of Truth with Good, therefore the Father is in the Son, and the Son in the Father, as the Lord Himself teaches in John. Jesus said to Philip, Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me?
Ibid., art. 2803.
Swedenborg then explains by the marriage of Goodness and Truth the various passages which are generally so interpreted as to sanction a Tripersonality; and he adds:--
"Hence* it may appear what is the nature of the union of the Divine principle and of the Human in the Lord, viz., that it is a mutual and reciprocal union; which union is what is called the Divine marriage; from which descends the heavenly marriage, which is the Lord's essential kingdom in the heavens, concerning which the Lord thus speaks in John, In that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in Me, and I in you.
* Ibid., art. 2803.
Again:--Whereas Divine Good can in no wise be and exist without Divine Truth, nor Divine Truth without Divine Good, but one is in the other mutually and reciprocally, it is hence manifest, that the Divine marriage was from eternity, that is, the Father in the Son and the Son in the Father, as the Lord Himself teaches in JohnAnd now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.
Again: "But the Divine Human Principle which was born from eternity, was also born in time, and what was born in time and glorified, is the same.
Now, in this method of interpretation, there is a far surer safeguard against Sabellianism and Tritheism, than in the one founded on the Perichoresis and the Tripersonality. For Sabellius never dreamed of a Divine Marriage between essential Goodness and essential Truth; his doctrine is represented as that of a Trinity of names, characters, or appearances, pertaining to one Personal Being. On the other hand, there is an equal safeguard against Tritheism; for there are not Three Divine Persons, one of which is incarnate, another not: hence also there cannot be Three Divine Beings.
Let us now compare the foregoing explanations of Swedenborg with those of other Commentators. On the words--"I and my Father are one," John x. 30, Cajetan observes:--
Lest we should here fall into error by understanding that Jesus is Himself both Father and Son, as Sabellius understood the words, he shows that he who seeth Him seeth also the Father; not because He himself is the Father, but because He is in the Father, and the Father in Him. In these words there is signified consubstantiality together with distinction of Persons, for the pronoun I supposes a Person; and the name. of Father also signifies a Person; and that 'I am in the Father and the Father in me,' signifies a consubstantiality of the two."
The plurality here implied by the plural are (sumus), is said to signify a plurality of Persons, in opposition to Sabellius; and the oneness, implied by the word unum, to signify oneness of Essence in opposition to Arius, who attributed plurality to the Essence as well as to the Person.
"The* Father also," says Hilary, "excludes the supposition of a single solitary Person. Our Lord's expressions do not speak of one Person solitary and without relationship, but teach us His birth. The expression Father also excludes the supposition of a single solitary Person, and leaves us no other doctrine but that the Father is seen in the Son, by the incommunicable likeness of birth."
* Catena Aurea of Aquinas.
We have already seen, how by a solitary Person is generally understood a solitary Being; and how a plurality of Divine Persons has led to a society of Divine Beings; seeing that it is not good that God should be a solitary Being. Even Bishop Bull sanctions the paradox, that God himself alone is "a most perfect and blessed society, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, eternally conversing with and enjoying each other."
Discourse on the Trinity, page 9.
Before we pass on to that of A Lapide, let us premise, that, when the Father was said not to be incarnate, a difficulty arose among theologians as to how it could be said, that he who sees the Son sees the Father also. The difficulty was solved by metaphysicians in the two following waysFirst: the Essence of both is the same, and therefore he "who sees the Essence of one sees the Essence of the other.--Now we say nothing about any one seeing an Essence, especially of the Father, and this too without any knowledge of what the Essence is; nor how, if the Essence of one be the same as that of the other, it is nevertheless not incarnate; or if incarnate, how the Essence can be incarnate and not the Persons, particularly as the Persons are inseparable* from each other and from the Essence--these things may be left to the eagles that gather round the carcase.
* "Una Persona posita, poni necesse erit alteram, nee a se invicem separari poterunt; et altera intime conjuncts erit alteri, in eaque inerit, et existet." Petavius, De Trinitate, lib. iv., cap. xvi., art. 5. "De Perichoresi, quam Circuinineessionem voeant."
Here then, in the next place, is the use of the doctrine of Circumincession; by which is signified the perfect and intimate inexistence and inhabitation of one Divine Person in the other:--
"From which it follows," says A Lapide, that he who fully knows and sees one Person, viz., the Son, as the blessed behold Him, not only sees the Deity common to the Father and Son, but sees also the very Person of the Father; both because the Person of the Father is the inmost Person of the Son, and because thus to see comprehends the relation and order essential to Deity.
It seems, then, that by Perichoresis the Person of the Father becomes the inmost Person of the Son. Has then the Son two Divine Persons, one of which is within the other; one Incarnate, the other not?
Be it observed, that not a word is here said by any of these Commentators about Divine Goodness and Truth:
* Thus, for instance, in his Treatise De Trinitate, Petavius, has six folio pages on the Circumincession (double columns); but not a word about Goodness and Truth. A similar omission occurs in Duns Scotus, Vasquez, Suarez, and others whose works upon the subject I have had an opportunity of consulting; while they are tediously diffuse upon the metaphysical notion of Person.
On the words, Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me, Calvin observes:--
"These words I do not refer to the Divine essence of Christ, but to the measure (ad modum) of the revelation made to Him. For Christ, as to His hidden Deity, is no more known to us than the Father. He is indeed said to be the express image of God, because in Him God had manifested Himself wholly; inasmuch as in this manifestation appear His immense Goodness, Wisdom, and Power in their perfection"--the Three Essentials so much objected to.
Hence Calvin refers the foregoing words of our Lord to the revelation arising from the reciprocal union of the Divine and Human natures, and hence to the manifestation of the Divinity in the Humanity. Now, concerning the unition of the Divine and Human in the Lord, Swedenborg thus writes:--
It* is the very essential marriage of Good and Truth whence comes the heavenly marriage; which marriage is the Lord's kingdom in the heavens and the earths. Therefore the Lord's kingdom is so often in the Word called a marriage; the mysterious reason whereof is, because from the marriage of Divine Good and Truth in the Lord comes 'all conjugal love, and thereby all love celestial and spiritual." ...
* Arcana Coelestia, art. 2618.
We see, then, that, according to Swedenborg, it is not true that the Divine Unity is of so! incomprehensible a nature as to be without any parallel, correspondence, or example in the universe, by which it may be illustrated. This is true enough in regard to the Periclaoresis of John of Damascus; but untrue when the Unition is regarded not as merely Personal, but as Essential, or as that of a Divine Marriage. The Perichoresis, having no correspondence throughout all Creation, can be applied to no practical purpose whatever in Christian life without betraying its absurdity; whereas the Divine Marriage of Good and Truth in the Lord is the very foundation of His marriage with the Church, and hence of marriage as recognized in the Church; and, as such, to denounce these principles as heresy, is to dissolve the sacred bonds of Christian society.
From the Perichoresis let us turn to the Hypostatic union.
There have been more hymns than one sing even in the Church of England, the burden of which isJesu, Son of Mary, hear! Appeals of this hind involve the whole doctrine of the Incarnation, and I acknowledge are utterly at variance with Swedenborg's explanation of this subject; for, as he says:*--
* True Christian Religion; art. 102, 92. See also art. 94.
"It is believed at this day that the Lord not only was, but also is, the Son of Mary; but in this the Christian world is under a great mistake. That He was the Son of Mary is true; but that He is so still, is 'hot true; for by acts of Redemption He put off the Humanity which He derived from His mother, and plat on a Humanity from His Father; in consequence of which the Humanity of the Lord is Divine, and in Him God is Man and Man is God."
Again: "That by the Son of Mary is signified that which was merely human, is very evident from this circumstance in the generation of mankind; that the soul is from the father, and the body from the mother;
Even in the Roman Catholic Church them has appeared some glimpse of this truth; for in an Explanation of the Apocalypse by D. Herv, of the Society of Jesus, and dedicated to Pope Innocent II., occur the following remarks on chap. iii. l4These things saith the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the Creation of God.
"Although* Christ as man, while living upon earth, was the Creation of God, and this in a singular manner, as being produced by God through the power of the Most High and by, the operation of the Holy Spirit; still He was also at that time the Son of the Most holy Virgin, from out of whose most pure blood He was formed.
* Page 98.
Now we have seen, that when the Lord said, "I and my Father are one," Hilary explains this as of oneness of Essence derived from the Father by birth. Be it so: but--What birth? There is the birth arising from the Eternal generation; and there is the birth arising from the Temporal generation. On which of these two accounts does our Lord call himself the Son; and Him who begat Him, the Father? for on the answer to this question depends the right or the wrong of Swedenborg's whole system of interpretation: Let any one look into the Commentaries upon this subject, which have been generally prevalent, and he will see that the passages we have referred to are interpreted upon, the principle of the Eternal generation, to the exclusion of the Temporal. The consequence has been, a misinterpretation of the Gospels throughout, wherever the Father and the Son are spoken of. Indeed it may be said, that the Temporal generation has been virtually ignored in Commentaries altogether;
Now it is observed by Dr. Heylin, on the article, "His only Son our Lord," as it occurs in the Apostles' Creed--that
"Being* begotten and conceived in the Virgin's womb, after such a supernatural and wonderful manner, by the Almighty power of God, He is in that regard (if there were no other) God's own Son, or His Son by nature, His only and his Only Begotten Son, take which phrase we will. The angel Gabriel doth affirm this twice for failing; Behold 1 thou shalt conceive and bring forth a Son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be; great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest. And, then, unto the Virgin's query, he returns this answerThe Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee; therefore also that Holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. ...
* See his "Theologia Veterum, or The Summe of Christian Theology," page 167.
It is a remarkable fact, that Bishop Pearson, on this article in the Apostles' Creed, has completely inverted this method of considering the subject; for he interprets the article as referring, in the primary sense, to the Eternal generation, and to the Temporal generation only in a secondary sense, as if it was inadequate to the proof of our Lord's Divinity. Commentators in general having followed out the same view of the subject, have throughout the Gospels referred to the Eternal? generation what in truth belonged to the Temporal; and, inasmuch as the Father and the Son were perfectly One from all eternity, and the unition of the Two was consequently perfect from all eternity, all idea of progress in this unition is utterly excluded; and for this reason is excluded all progress in the unition of the Humanity with the Divinity; and as the process of this unition is the same with that of Glorification so the process of Glorification is in like manner ignored, and He who is the Lord God Almighty is still addressed as the Soya of Mary.
The Humanity which our Lord now has, is, in a certain true sense, not the same with that which he received from Mary; but is the Humanity glorified, Deified, or made Divine.
"I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending, the First and the Last, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty."
Even, in the case of Christians in general, earthly relationships are dissolved and superseded hereafter by such as are spiritual. Much more is this the case with Him who was at first born upon earth as the Son of Mary. Hence it is observed by Swedenborg
The* Lord, in the Word, is called Jehovah , as to Divine Good; for Divine Good is the very Divine itself; and the Lord is called the Son of God as to Divine Truth, for Divine Truth proceeds from Divine Good as a son from a father, and also is said to be born. How the case herein is, it may be expedient further to say: for the Lord when He was in the world made His human, principle Divine Truth, and on this occasion called the Divine Good, which is Jehovah, His Father; since Divine Truth proceeds and is born from Divine Good.
* Arcana Coelestia, art. 7499, 3703, 3704.
* See also art. 3704, 6872, 3952, 3960.
But, after all, will not the votaries of antiquity ask, whether this plenary unition of Essentials described by a marriage, is not a mere mystical theory evolved out of Swedenborg's own consciousness, and having no root whatever in the theology of the Church?
In answer to this, surely it cannot be denied, that dais principle of the marriage of the Divinity with the Humanity has ever been acknowledged in the Church. In a Christmas Sermon upon the Nativity of our Lord, Dr. Barrow, for instance, observes:--
"Behold* the greatest wedding that ever was, is this day solemnized: heaven and earth are contracted: Divinity is espoused to Humanity; a sacred and indissoluble knot is tied between God and man: The Bridegroom is come forth out of his chamber (Verbum Dei de utero Virginali) clad in His nuptial garment of flesh, and ready to wed the Church, His beloved Spouse: Let us therefore be glad and rejoice; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His, wife path made herself ready."
* Sermon i. (for Christmas Day), Luke ii. 10.
Here, however, it is to be observed, that the espousal of Divinity is not to the humanity proper to the Person of our Lord Himself, but to the humanity of the Church in general. The espousal of the Divinity to the Humanity in the Person of our Lord is left out altogether; although Swedenborg points out how it is the very origin of the Lord's marriage with the Church.
If we take the statement of Gregory the Great, we shall see what is the secret reason of the omission above referred to.
"God the Father made a marriage feast for God the Son, when He joined Him to human nature in the womb of the Virgin.
On the Gospels, book ii., Homily 38, vol. i., p. 1635.
We thus see Gregory maintaining, that in the womb of the Virgin there was an espousal of the Divinity to the Humanity in the individual Person of our Lord Himself; but he no sooner states it as a matter of faith, than he omits all further explanation; for marriage, says he, is between two persons, and further explanations might lead us to speak of the Divinity as one Person, and the Humanity as another Person, and thus we should fall into the heresy of Nestorius.
What is the reason of this? The naturalism which leads the mind to assign the first place to Personality; and the second, or generally no place at all, to Essentials in the Person. Two persons are of course requisite to the constitution of a marriage, but two persons do not per se constitute the essentials of a marriage; for two persons may be joined together, when nevertheless there is no marriage. The essentials of marriage consist in the reciprocal union of two minds, or the wisdom of the man with the affections of the wife, and vice versa.
We thus see, that although Essentials are expressed in the language of Persons, yet the theory of different Divine Persons loving and lauding each other from all eternity, has no foundation in truth; but is a mode of expression accommodated to human apprehension, and signifying the unition of Essentials, or of Divine Goodness and of Divine Truth in one Person. Hence, when. our Lord says, "I and the Father are One:"
"This* unition is not to be understood of two who are distinct from each other, and only conjoined by love, as a father with a son when the father loves the son and the son the father;
* Arcana Coelestia, art. 3737.
Hence it is observed by Swedenborg,* that the Lord taught the Apostles interior or essential truths by means of exterior or apparent truths adapted to the fallacies of the external mind; for if he had taught essential truths only, they would have transcended the ideas of the Apostles, and as such would not have been received. Even before, the time of the Jewish Dispensation, Churches believed holy worship to consist in external representatives and significatives; and ad any one told them that the essentials of their Divine worship consisted in the spiritual things represented and signified therein, namely, concerning the inner life of the Lord who was to come into the world, no Church could have been established among them, for they would have neither. understood nor acknowledged the essential truths contained in the outward ritual.
* Arcana Coelestia, art. 3857.
Independently, however, of the external states of the Apostles, even our Lord himself was personally in two states, viz., one of exinanition or apparent dissociation from the Father; and another, of glorification or essential union with the Father. In the state of exinanition, which was a state of temptation, the Father appeared to be absent, nay, even to be a Being apart from Himself; but this absence of Divinity for a period was only apparent, and a necessary part of the process of Unition. When that Unition was finally completed, all more appearances were finally put of, and the Lord manifested Himself as the Judge of all the world, the Divine Man whose glory would be seen in the clouds of Scripture, and who, though slain as to His Humanity, from the foundation of the Church, was worthy to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing; for then He could say
Compare this view of the connection between the Divinity and Humanity with that which is commonly given:--
Dr. Waterland* says--that "In respect to the miraculous conception, 'Christ was not Son of God in a higher or more peculiar manner than angels or Adam.'"
* See his Works, vol. v., pages 390, 399.
Wheatly--that, with respect to the humanity, notwithstanding the miraculous conception, 1 Adam was more immediately the Son of God than Christ."
Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, page 209.
Dean Sherlock--that "Christ is never in Scripture called the Son of God, but with respect to His Eternal generation " ... that ... "It is downright heresy to assert that Christ is called the Son of God on account of his, miraculous conception."
Scripture Proofs of Our Savior's Divinity, 161, 167.
Archbishop Usher*--that--"Christ Jesus is the natural Son of God only in regard of the Eternal generation; otherwise there would be two Sons, one of the Father and another of the Holy Ghost."
* Body of Divinity, page 195.
Dr. Scott--that "Since Adam is called the Son of God, because God immediately formed him of the substance of the earth, he had thereby as good a right to the title of God's Only Begotten Son as Christ himself had, because God immediately formed him of the substance of woman."
See his Works, vol. v., page 275.
Holden--that "The conception in the womb of the Virgin does not constitute the only pro-eminence of Christ designated by the title Son of God; for, in this respect, He is not much superior to Adam, who was the immediate work of God, as Christ's human nature was the immediate work of the Holy Ghost.
Scripture Testimonies to the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, page 393.
Vogan?--that "The title Son of God has no reference to his Humanity, for we all share it with Him; nor to His piety, for all pious persons are said to be begotten of God.
?Bampton Lectures, page 235.
Bishop Bull*--that "As to being formed by the Divine power and virtue without a father in the womb of the Virgin, the first Adam is in some measure superior to the second; since the former was made by God without father and without mother; the latter, without father only."
* See his Works, vol. vi., page 102.
Can we wonder, then, that Bishop Pearson should say:--
On The Creed, art. Only Son.
"Although to be born of a Virgin be in itself miraculous, and justly entitles Christ unto the name of the Son of God; yet it is not so far above the production of all mankind, as to place; Him in that singular eminence which must be attributed to the Only Begotten. We Lead of Adam the Son of God, as well as, Seth the son of Adam; and surely the framing Christ out of a woman cannot so far transcend the malting of Adam out of the earth, as to cause so great a distance, as we must believe, between the first and second Adam."
Of course doctrines of this kind involve other fundamentals of Christianity; for if these things be true, it becomes a question how far our Lord, as he is Man, is competent to judge the world; and we are told that He is not. For to judge the world in righteousness there are required Omniscience, Omnipotence, and other Divine attributes. But the soul of the Man Christ, being finite and creaturely, is said to be incapable of receiving such a Divine influx:
For--"It* is certainly impossible for the human soul of Christ, illustrated with whatever degree of Divine light, to know and understand the desires and prayers which are daily at one and the same moment poured forth to the name Jesus by so many myriads of men, in so many different places, and distant from each other by such long intervals of space.
* See the Works of Bishop Bull, vol. vi., pages 333, 345. A similar passage occurs nearly word for word in Remarks upon Dr. Clarke's Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity, ascribed to Bishop Gastrell.
Accordingly, if our Lord received the power of judging the world qua homo, there is no reason at all, it is said, why other men also should not possess the same power; so that, in fact, the miraculous conception passes for nothing--"cume Christus non ideo acceperit judicandi potestatem, quod esset homo; nam si ob id accepisset, danda erat eadem omnibus hominibus.
Thus we cannot speak of the Person of our Lord as God-man or Man-God, but only as God and Man in one Person.
Now I ask, Is it possible to place the Humanity of our Lord' upon a lower level? and if not, whether, when our Lord used the words--"He that believeth not shall be damned," he meant to include in the doom of eternal perdition those who disbelieve these degrading doctrines concerning His own Divine Humanity? For we are told, that the first condition of doing the works of God is a right belief as to the doctrine of the Incarnation--"And* when our Lord warns evil doers of the (loom that awaits them, He tells them that He will appoint their portion with the unbelievers. Here our loving Savior Himself puts immoral living and pertinacious unbelief on the same level, and He even seems to intimate that unbelief is the more dangerous of the two."
* The Damnatory Clauses, etc., page 164.
Unbelief in what? Unbelief in these interpretations of the Incarnation? Or, unbelief in the Incarnation itself? Surely the two are not identical. Swedenborg himself entirely confirms that clause in the Athanasian Creed--As the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ; but he, as entirely rejects those explanations which, as we have seen, nullify the union of the Divinity with the Humanity, and consequently the whole doctrine of the Incarnation. Truly, we are here reminded of the words in the prophet Zechariah,* What are these wounds in thine hands? Then shall one answer--Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends."
* Zechariah, chap. xiii. 6.
When our Lord said, "Go ye, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;" we have seen that by the Father is meant Essential Goodness; by the Soya Essential Truth; and by the Holy Ghost, both. these in their Divine Power or operation upon the minds of men; we have seen that a commission was given to the Church to teach this doctrine.
No doubt a true idea of God is the first and foremost idea which ought to be taught by the Church; on this ground it is that, whether for good or for evil, the Athanasian Creed stands first in importance; for, as Swedenborg observes:--
"Every* one hath a place in heaven according to his idea of God; for this idea, like a touchstone by which gold and silver are tried, is the true test for examining the quality of good and truth in man; since no possible saving truth can come but from God, and there is not a single saving truth but what deriveth its quality from interior goodness."
* True Christian Religion, art. 163; see also art. 621.
In this respect, indeed, we admit that there is not a single proposition in the Athanasian Creed which does not vitally affect our ideas of Christianity, and thus also our ideas of God; nor can we conceive that any vital change should come upon Christendom, which did not equally affect the Creed.
We are warned however by some, that "On the very face of the matter, to disuse or to mutilate the Athanasian Creed involves the first great step in a theological revolution."--Be it so.--But how do I know that this may not be also the first great step in that theological revolution which is foretold in the Book of Revelation
* Rev. T. Pye, M.A., Prebendary of Sarum.
* See Bloomfield in loc.
As applied to the Christian Dispensation, it is admitted to signify, as above, the passing away of the former heaven and earth, i. e. the internal. and external of the previous Church, and the descent from heaven of a higher order of Truth. Accordingly "The Prophet John describes himself as beholding a new heaven and a new earth; and although this expression has been thought by some to relate to a change attending the dissolution of the present material globe; yet, says a Christian Advocate of Cambridge, it is in other passages of the ancient prophets expressive of those great changes which will take place in the moral world, in that flourishing and triumphant state of the Church which we believe will prevail before the great consummation of all things.
The Prophetical Character and Inspiration of the Apocalypse Considered. By G. Pearson, B. D., Christian Advocate of the University of Cambridge, etc., page 292.
Has a member of the Church of England no liberty to believe these interpretations to be true? And, in so far as he believes the Church to have identified itself with the Athanasian Tripersonality, is there any inconsistency in presuming, that a renovated Church will give rise to a renovated Creed?
Certainly, if the limits of Religious Thought be such that Theology can never be formed into a system consistent with itself; if the very constitution of the human mind be such, that in the relations between the Finite and the Infinite, the instant we attempt to analyze the ideas suggested to us, in the hope of attaining to an intelligible conception of them, we are on every side involved in inextricable confusion and contradiction; then, as Dean Mansel maintains--"The same impediment which prevents the formation of Theology as a science, is also manifestly fatal to the theory which asserts its progressive development." Here is a metaphysical theory defying Prophecy.
Now it is in the way of progressive development that this author refers to a new era as coming upon the Church.
The Lord is the God of heaven and earth; that He made His Humanity Divine by means of the Divinity within Himself; and that He thus became one with the Father."
The confession of this fundamental doctrine, as distinguishing a New Era, will not be brought to pass without controversies more or less vehement. There will be thunderings, and lightnings, and voices in the world below, as there have been in the world above; but when these commotions shall have all died away, they will be seen to have been only gradual preparations for that period of which it is writtenBEHOLD! I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW."
Page 83.--"Philosophy of Contradiction."
The following extract from Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Rowan Empire (chap. xxi.) seems to have suggested the subject of Dean Mansel's Bampton Lectures:--
The most sagacious of the Christian theologians, the great Athanasius himself, has candidly confessed, that whenever he forced his understanding to meditate on the divinity of the Logos, his toilsome and unavailing efforts recoiled on themselves; that the more he thought, the less he comprehended ; and the more he wrote, the less capable was he of expressing his thoughts. In every step of the enquiry, we are compelled to feel and acknowledge the immeasurable disproportion between the size -of the object and the capacity of the human mind. We may, strive to abstract the notions of time, of space, and of matter, which so closely adhere to all the perceptions of our experimental knowledge.
(For page 86.)
ARIANISM, TRITIIEISM, SABELLIANISM.
(Abridged from Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chapter xxi.)
"When the mysteries of the Christian faith were dangerously exposed to public debate, it might be observed that the human understanding was capable of forming three distinct, though imperfect, systems, concerning the nature of the Divine Trinity (Arianism, Tritheisrn, and Sabellianism); and it was pronounced that none of these systems, in a pure and absolute sense, were exempt from heresy and error."
l. Arianism. "According to the first hypothesis, which was maintained by Arius and his disciples, the Logos was a dependent and spontaneous production created from nothing by the will of the Father.
2.--Tritheism. "In the second hypothesis, the Logos possessed all the inherent, incummnicable perfections, which religion and philosophy appropriate to the Supreme God. Three distinct and infinite minds or substances, three co-equal and co-eternal beings, composed the Divine Essence; and it would have implied contradiction, that any of them should not have existed, or that any of them should cease to exist."
3. Sabellianism. Three Beings, who by the self-derived necessity of their existence possess all the Divine attributes in the most perfect degree; who are eternal in duration, infinite in space, and intimately present to each other, and to the whole universe; irresistibly force themselves on the astonished mind as one and the same Being, who, in the economy of grace, as well as in that of nature, array manifest himself under different founts, and be considered under different aspects.
Pago 102.--"God is one Person."
Decline in ipso generali vocabulo, si propterea dicimus tres personas, quia commune est eis quod persona est: (alioquin nullo modo possunt ita dici, quemadmodum non dicuntur tres filii, quia non commune est eis id quod est filius:) cur non etiam tres deos dicimus?
Page 146.The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit eternally conversing with and enjoying each other."
The Rev. J. Howe, in his Calm Discourse concerning the Trinity in the Godhead, could not conceive how Three distinct intelligent hypostases could exist from all eternity in a state of solitude and inactivity. He therefore follows out the notion of Bishop Bull and of some of the ancient writers, concerning the "delicious society supposed to be between or rather among the Three Persons;" and he asks
"Is this a dream? and so strange a one? Why good Sir, can you suppose Three Persons, i. e. Three intellectual subsistences, perfectly wise, holy, and good, co-existing with, inexisting in, one another, to have no society? or that society not to be delicious? He says, How can it be? I say, How can it but be? Herein I am sure the enquirer hath far more company than in the former. For whether the Three Persons have all the same numerical essence, or three distinct, all agree they most delightfully converse." A View of the Late Considerations about the Trinity. Second part. In a Letter to a Friend.