BY RICHARD DE CHARMS,
AN ORDAINING MINISTER OF THAT CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES.
BROWN, BICKING & GUILBERT, PRINTERS, 56 NORTH THIRD ST.
THE writer of these sermons cannot give them publicity without disclaiming, on the very threshold, all credit for any truths which they may contain. All that belongs to him is some peculiarity in the presentation and illustration of the doctrines taught by Emanuel Swedenborg, who, he believes, was peculiarly qualified, and personally commanded by the Lord, to teach those doctrines to his church. He is even willing to think that what he calls his illustrations, may in fact be nothing more than tempering mediums of a too bright light. He hopes, however that the spiritual objects seen through them will not be found to be distorted. If the light has been merely dimmed by the medium in which it is refracted, it is perhaps well; for our weak eyes, in taking altitudes, need to be defended from the suns effulgence by coloured mediums. In short, these sermons are designed to be simply an index to the writings of Swedenborg which contain "truths continuous from the Lord:" and the author hopes that the reader will go from the index to the bourn at which it points. In the works of that enlightened writer, every sincere seeker of truth, of all denominations, will find fuller information and far clearer illustration of the subjects discussed in this book. And to aid him in his search for truth, the titles of some of the principal theological works of Swedenborg, and the places where they may be procured, are here indicated.
Arcana Coelestia, 12 vols., 8vo., $30.00
Apocalypse Revealed, 3 vols., 12mo., 3.00
Apocalypse Explained, 6 vols., 8vo., 16.00
The True Christian Religion, 1 vol., 8vo., 2.75
Heaven and Hell, 1 vol., 12mo., .75
Angelic Wisdom concerning the Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom, 1 vol., 12mo., .50
Do. do. the Divine Providence
1 vol., 8vo., 1.75
Four Leading Doctrinesof the Lord, of Life, of Faith, and of the Sacred
Scriptures, 1 vol., 12mo., .75
The Heavenly Doctrines of the New Jerusalem pamphlet, 12mo., 12-1/2
These works, with others pertaining to the new church, are kept for sale by Otis Clapp, 121 Washington Street, Boston; Samuel Colman, Bookseller, 56 Gold Street, New York; Daniel Goddard, 109 North Second Street, Philadelphia; T. S. Arthur, 8 North Street, Baltimore; and Southworth Holmes, Main Street, near Fifth Street, Cincinnati.
Philadelphia, May, 1840.
THESE sermons are designed for persons, especially young persons, just embracing the doctrines of the new church. They are, therefore, written in a diffuse style, with much plainness and familiarity of illustration, without any pretensions to originality of thought, and with only an effort, perhaps an ineffectual one, to make the abstruse and fundamental principles of our theology plain to the commonest minds. To do this well and effectively, would be the greatest use, worthy of the utmost efforts of the strongest minds. To do this well and effectively, would be the greatest use, worthy of the utmost efforts of the strongest minds. The author dare not hope that his effort can prove successful. But his best feelings have been exercised in making it, and his prayer now is that He who can give increase to the planting and watering of his weakest agents, will, in his mercy, bless it with unforeseen productiveness.
Young persons, when first embracing the doctrines of the new church, are sometimes subjected to doubts, owing to infestations from those of different faiths with whom they are obliged to associate. The reason of these doubts seems to be given in the following law of the spiritual world: "It is to be noted that it is according to the laws of order, that no one ought to be persuaded instantaneously concerning truth that is, that truth should instantaneously be so confirmed as to leave no doubt concerning it. The reason is, because the truth which is so impressed, becomes persuasive truth, and is without any extension, and also without any yielding. Such truth is represented in the other life as hard, and of such a quality as not to admit good into it, that it may become applicable. Hence it is, that, so soon as any truth is presented before good spirits in the other life by manifest experience, there is presently afterwards presented some opposite which causes doubt. Thus it is given them to think and consider whether it be so, and to collect reasons, and thereby to bring that truth rationally into their minds. Hereby the spiritual sight has extension, as to that truth, even to opposites." (A. C. 7298.)
From this it appears to be orderly, both that doubts should be experienced in the reception of the true faith, and that those doubts should be removed by rational confirmations of its truths. On this ground a reasoning method will be found to form a prominent feature of these sermons. For a chief design in writing them was, to furnish reasons suited to remove the doubts incident to young and ingenuous receivers of our faith, and to enable them to bring the truths of that faith rationally into their minds.
Reasoning whether a thing be so or not so will never bring a negating mind into the perception of what is. The mind itself must first be true before it can perceive what is true. It is easy to believe things to be as we love to have them: but nothing is so difficult as to reason a man into a belief of that which he does not love. The natural man does not love spiritual truths; and hence, it is not only difficult to reason him into a belief of them, but it is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for him to comprehend them. Now the truths which the New Jerusalem teaches are eminently spiritual. Hence the natural man is prone to negate them. While the evils of his will are quiescent, he may give a mere intellectual assent to these truths, but he will always deny them in spirit whenever they touch his life. They cannot be perceived until, by the life of the doctrines that contain them, spiritual discernment is attained; when a man ceases to be natural and becomes spiritual. Therefore we do not imagine that natural men are to be converted to our faith by argument, but by that change of internal state, which Divine Providence, in the exercise of some of his infinite means, effects.
Still, as it is admissible to reason whether a thing be so or not so, when the end is to conform truths already admitted on a ground of faith, rational argument has been used here in illustrating and confirming the truths contained in the doctrines of the true church. And although we cannot hope to convince confirmed negaters by rational arguments for our tenets against their faith, yet we may free and defend ourselves from doubts respecting our own faith, which their sphere may infuse into us during our daily intercourse with them.
The mode of contrasting our views with others has been adopted, not for the purpose of attacking and putting down the principles or men of any prevailing denominations, but simply for the purpose of confirming ourselves in the rational and vital reception of the most essential principle of our faith, which cannot be so distinctly seen as when it is contrasted with its opposite.
Jesus and the Father are one.--John, xiv. 8-11.
True nature of the Spirit that testifies of Jesus.--John, xv. 26.
The Nature and Necessity of a Second Coming of the Lord, in respect to the regeneration of the individual soul, together with a disquisition on the internal and external revelation of truth, and an incidental explanation of the Lords declaration that the Father is greater than he.--John, xiv. 28.
The Holy Spirit is not a Person separate from Jesus Christ, but is a Divine Sphere proceeding from him.--John, xx. 22.
What are the three Constituent Principles of Deity?--John, i. 1, 4, 14.
The three Constituent Principles of Deity are in Jesus Christ, so as to constitute him God alone.Matthew, xxviii. 18, 14.
Jesus Christ is God alone because he is possessed of all the Divine Attributes.--Matthew, xxviii. 18.
Jesus Christ, or the Humanity of Jehovah, or the Reactive Principle of Deity, is the Proper Object of Christian Worship.--Psalm ii. 10.
Jesus Christ was worshiped when on earth.Matthew, xxviii. 9.
Jesus Christ was not only worshiped on earth, but is now worshiped in heaven, and, therefore, was presumably the Object of Apostolic Worship.--Revelation, v. 3.
That Jesus Christ was the God of the Apostles, proved from their Epistles, together with an Exposition of the Ground and Nature of the Distinction which the Apostles make between Jesus and the Father, and a consideration of the question, If the Apostles saw clearly that Jesus Christ and the Father are one person, why did they not utter this truth plainly?
That Jesus Christ was the God of the Apostles, proved particularly from the Epistles of John.Isaiah, ix. 6.
Statement of the Difficulty which the Sensual Mind has in conceiving the Unity of God and Man in one person, with a Declaration and Explanation of the New-Church Faith, both general and particular, concerning the Lord, whereby the Lords alternate states of humiliation and glorification are brought to bear upon the difficulty in question.Matthew, xxvii. 46.
The Doctrine of the Lords Alternate States of Humiliation and Glorification made to explain the Apparent Separation of Jesus and the Father, so as to consist with the idea of their real Unity and Identity; together with a consideration of the Unitarian Objections to the views of the New Church on this subject; and a disclosure of the Root of the Difficulty which is felt in receiving those views.--John, x. 17, 18, 19.
Consideration of the Lords apparently contradictory assertions both of his equality and inferiority to the Father.--Total difference between the New-Church and Unitarian Views of this subject.--True Reason of the wide difference.--And a demonstration that the Divine Essence must have had a Divine Form to effect either creation, or redemption and salvation.--Isaiah, lix. 16.
A Familiar Illustration of what the Divine Humanity of the Lord is.--Jeremiah, iv. 25.
The Doctrine of a Divine Humanity the Touchstone which is to try who belong to the True Christian Church, and to be the means of breaking up all existing Denominations of the Old Christian Church, by separating its Wheat from its Chaff or secerning its Spiritual from its Natural Men.--Luke, xx. 18.
The Necessity of Redemption.--An Answer to the Question, What did Jesus Christ come for? In which it is shown that Jesus Christ came to Redeem and Save Mankind by subduing the Hells, reducing the Heavens to order, and thereby establishing a True Church on earth.Matthew, ix. 12, 13.
The True Nature of the New Birth, in an explanation or what is meant by being born of water and the spirit.--John, iii. 5.
The Necessity of the New Birth, together with a demonstration of the gradual and progressive nature of this change; and of the source from whence alone it can be effected.--John, iii. 7.
The Sum of all True Religion is the Life of Use from the Love of Use for its own sake.Matthew, vi. 33.
THE entire series, of which the sermons published in this volume form a part, was originally delivered in Cincinnati. After their delivery it was the design of the author to work them up into articles for a periodical publication which he was then editing in that city. But being subsequently removed, in the Divine Providence, to another quarter of the general church, and yielding to repeated requests to have these sermons published elsewhere, it seems proper that the preceding parts, which are necessary to complete the series, should be published in connection with them. Therefore, four numbers, which originally appeared in "The Precursor," the periodical work above alluded to, under the head "Doctrines of the New Church," are here presented as an introduction. These four numbers were so many articles discussing
I. THE UNITY AND TRINITY OF GOD.
II.} THE DIVINE TRINITY SHOWING THAT THERE IS
III.} A TRINITY IN THE ONE GOD. AND SHOWING
IV. THAT THERE MUST BE A TRINITY IN GOD.
I. The Unity and Trinity of God.--These principles have ever been elemental and fundamental in all Christian theology. They are subjects so trite, and made so threadbare by immemorial and all varied discussion, that it is perhaps impossible to give to them any forms of newness. It is essential, however, that they should be noticed in the formal presentation and exposition of any doctrinal system; and the mists which have shrouded them with utter darkness in the old church, have made it especially needful that they should be placed in clear light when we essay to unfold the lucid doctrines of the new. It will be our aim to make them clear to common minds, although, in the effort, we may incur the charge of commonplace dullness by uncommon ones. And, in our discussion of these and other topics, we shall contrast, as we go along, the views of the new church with those of the old, because "every perception of a thing is according to reflection relative to discriminations arising from contraries in various modes and degrees," (A. C. 7812,) and because "we have no idea of truth without falsity." (H. K. to C. 17.)
As the Divinity is the First and the Last of all things, therefore the true knowledge of him is the foundation of religion, and the doctrine concerning him is the corner stone of the church: consequently, a proper idea of the Divine Being is the first subject of theological instruction.
In discussing this subject at some length, we shall take for granted the divine existence and unity, and shall, in the first place, show, from Scripture and the nature of things, that there is and must be a trinity in the one God; secondly, that this trinity is in the one person of our Lord Jesus Christ; thirdly, that Jesus Christ, or the son, ought to be directly approached in worship; fourthly, that he was worshiped when on earth; fifthly, that he is now worshiped in heaven; sixthly; that he was very presumably the God of the apostles; seventhly, that, therefore, he solely is the only true object of all Christian worship; eighthly, that he came into the world to subdue the hells, to restore the heavens, and by these means to redeem and save mankind; ninthly, that he effected this subjugation, restoration, redemption, and salvation, by a human nature which he look unto himself in the world and made divine; and, tenthly, that now the doctrine of the divinity of his humanity is the touchstone by which the Christian church is to be tried.
But before we proceed, it may be well, in this paper, just to glance at the subject of the divine unity. As already premised, we take for granted that God is, and that he is one. For the voice of enlightened reason, and the express language of Holy Writ, unequivocally pronounce that there is one, and but one, God. This truth is written as it were on the frontlet of creation. It is declared by the unity of design, and the coherency and harmony of operation, every where conspicuous in the universe. Hence there is a universal impression that the Divine Being is individual: so much so, that nothing can be more revolting to the common sense of mankind than the idea of a plurality of gods.
The very definition of the Deity clearly evinces the individuality of his nature. He is defined, an infinite, eternal, omniscient and omnipotent being; and it is very manifest that there cannot be more than one such being, for the idea of two infinites, or two omnipotents, is absurd.
The idea which every rational mind forms to itself of the Deity also shows that he is one. We conceive that he has life in himself, or suppose and admit that he is essential and underived life. Now it is perfectly manifest that a self-existing being cannot generate another being that is self-existent. For this involves contradiction and absurdity in the very terms: since that which is generated derives existence from that which generates, and of course cannot exist of itself. Hence it is impossible for God to generate a god. And thus there can be but one God.
This truth, which is so clearly demonstrable by reason, is as explicitly set forth in the Sacred Scriptures. "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord." (Deut. vi. 4.) "I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God besides me." (Isa. xlv. 5.) "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." (v. 22.) "I am the Lord thy God, and thou shalt know no God but me." (Hosea, xiii. 4.) "Thus saith the Lord, the King of Israel; I am the first, and I am the last, and besides me there is no God." (Isa. xliv. 6.) "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day there shall be one Lord, and his name one." (Zech. xiv. 9.)
We assume, then, that God is one, and proceed now to discuss the subject of a divine trinity.
In consequence of the above express declarations of the Sacred Scriptures, all denominations of Christians admit and maintain the unity of God. But they entertain very different ideas of the nature of this unity. In general the old Christian church resolves itself into two parties; one of which maintains that God is a simple oneness of being, and the other that his existence is tripartite. The one party of course denies, and the other affirms, the doctrine of a trinity. We, who believe that we have received the doctrines of a new church, sent down from the Lord out of heaven by the medium of an agent whom he raised up, enlightened, and commissioned expressly to teach them, hold, in common with the two parties just mentioned, that God is one; but differ from the former in asserting that there is a trinity, and from the latter in denying that this is a trinity of persons.
Trinitarians of the old school divide the godhead into three persons, to each of which they assign distinct offices. What they mean by person it is difficult to apprehend; and even they are not agreed among themselves as to what is to be understood by this word. But whatever it means, they assert that each person is "of himself" God. Hence you will find in the Litany of one of the most respectable denominations of the old church, adoration addressed in the form of separate supplications to "God the rather," "God the son," and "God the holy ghost." Still, however, they aver, that these three persons, each of which is of himself God, are not three gods, but one god. And they aver this, because the contrary would be repugnant to reason and common sense. They assert that these three,--though clearly and definably distinct and separate,--are some how one. They do not undertake to say how: this they consider an impenetrable mystery; a mystery which no human understanding can see into, and which it is the height of presumption to attempt to understand. It is, they say, a holy mystery, which is to be believed, whether it is understood or not, because it is revealed in the Holy Scriptures. Thus Trinitarians of the old church hold to one God in three persons--God the father, Creator, God the son, Redeemer, and God the holy ghost, Regenerator and Sanctifier. And though they say these three persons are one god, they believe each is separate and distinct from the others. For they will refer you to the baptism of our Lord by John, where the voice from heaven says, "This is my beloved son," and will ask you if the father and the son are not here clearly separate, nod of course distinct. They will tell you, too, that the son intercedes at the right hand of the rather, and of course is separate and distinct from him. And they will ask you if the holy ghost does not proceed from the father and the son, and they will say, if he proceeds from them, he cannot but be a separate person. Hence they believe in a trinity of separate and distinct persons.
But the idea of the trinity as entertained by the new church is essentially different. The new church believes there is one God in one person, and that this one God consists of a trinity of distinct principles, which have only a representative personification in the Sacred Scriptures as father, son, and holy ghost. She believes that this trinity is essential to the existence of the one God. She believes that, if either part of it were taken away, the others could not exist. And hence she believes that the father, the son, and the holy ghost, though they may be distinct, are not, and cannot be separate: and she believes that they are in no other sense distinct than end, cause and effect, or soul, body and conduct, or will, understanding and act, or love, wisdom and use. Hence she believes that three divine principles are distinctly one in God, and thus that there is a trinity in unity: in other words, that the godhead consists of a trine, which is indispensable to every one, viz: an essential, a formative, and a spherical principle; and that these three are distinctly one in their subject, which, as to the divine, or a human, being, is one person.
The difference, then, between the old church and the new church is, that the former believes there is one God in a trinity of separate and distinct persons, while the latter believes there is a triune God in one person. Consequently, it is the peculiar and distinguishing trait of the new church, as respects the doctrine of the trinity, that, while the old church believes the godhead is in three separate and distinct persons, she holds that the Lord is constituted by three divine principles, which are three essential requisites of one person.
Thus we trust me have distinctly, because distinctively, set forth our view of the trinity. Be it then clearly understood, that we do not contend for a trinity of separate or individually and functionally distinct divine existences, but, for a threefold distinction in the essential constituents of the one Divine Being.
II. The Divine Trinity.We have assumed the existence and unity of God; and we have distinctly stated our view of the divine trinity. We proceed in this paper to show, from the Word, that there is a trinity in the one God.
The passages of Scripture which assert in just so many words that there is a triple principle in the godhead, are not numerous. But many passages prove this truth inferentially. And the whole Word is full of it in its spiritual meaning. But in view of the letter of the Word we would premise, that the Bible must be consistent; and therefore, the unequivocal meaning of one passage cannot be contradicted by the real meaning of any other, however seemingly conflicting they may be. Hence, if we can deduce the existence of a trinity from a single passage of the Word in the letter, we shall claim to have attained our end.
Now, in our view, the existence of such a trinity as we contend for is shown most unequivocally in this passage, from Genesis xviii. 1-5, "And the Lord appeared unto Abraham in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; and he lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself towards the ground, and said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; and I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on; for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said."
To understand this passage fully, we should see it in its spiritual sense. But it would be contrary to our design in these papers, to unfold these verses as to their entire spiritual import. It is sufficient for our present purpose to direct attention to the fact which they state, that the Lord appeared to Abraham under the representative and significative personification of three men. For on this fact we ground our argument.
But in remarking upon these verses me must regard them as having a spiritual meaning, although we do not undertake to show fully what that meaning specifically is. For it is only from this spiritual ground that the true meaning of their literal sense can be seen. We at once, then, take the ground that what Abraham here saw, was a vision. This is manifest from the fact, that angels, as they are spiritual beings, cannot be seen by the reflection of natural light. And hence Abraham could not have seen them with his natural eyes. It was a vision similar to those which the prophets had--similar to that of the three disciples when they saw the Lord transfigured on the mount--similar to that of Mary Magdalene, in which she saw "two angels in white, sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain." (John, xx. 12.) It was similar also to those visions that the disciples had of our Lord, in which they communed and ate with him after his ascension from the sepulchre. And it was likewise similar to the visions of the martyred Stephen and of St. John. The things beheld by these persons respectively were objects seen in the light of heaven or the spiritual world, thus by the opening of the spiritual sight. For in the case of Stephen it is said that he saw the heavens opened, and in the case of St. John it is expressly said he was "in the spirit on the Lords day." What they saw, therefore, was in spiritual and not in natural vision. And we may presume it was the same in the case of Abraham and the rest, inasmuch as the objects which they saw were spiritual objects.
But as the spiritual sight can be opened in a state of bodily wakefulness, and consists in the minds consciousness being raised above the sphere of natural into the sphere of spiritual existences, while the natural plane of the mind is quiescent,--as in a reverie,--the objects seen by the spiritual eye would seem, to a person not aware of the fact that there is a spiritual sight distinct from the natural sight and that his spiritual sight was opened, as existing in the natural world: much the same as when a person has had a remarkably impressive dream, he can hardly divest himself of the notion that the things seen and heard in the dream have been actual natural occurrences. The only difference is, that, in the case of the dream, the transition from sleep to wakefulness, or from bodily quiescence to bodily activity, makes the person sensible of his two states of consciousness, and thus enables him to discriminate between them; whereas, in the case of the visions, the spiritual sight passing through the natural sight, which is now quiescent or altogether subservient, the person has nothing to mark the two states of his consciousness, and hence the spiritual objects seem to be natural objects. And thus, when those spiritual objects were persons, the circumstance of the spiritual eye being opened and closed would be attended by the natural appearance doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, and Jesus came and stood in the midst," (John, xx. 19,) it doubtless appeared to his disciples as a natural event, and they seemed to see him with their natural eyes; but it was manifestly a spiritual vision, because the walls of the room where they were assembled, which did obstruct their natural sight, were no obstruction to the Lords apparent natural entrance. So in the case of Abraham, the approach of the Lord to him in the form of three men appeared to him as a natural event; when in fact it was a spiritual event, occurring to the view of his spiritual sight. Fur Jehovah appeared to him under angelic forms, which, being spiritual, evidently could not have been seen naturally. And as Abraham probably was not aware that he saw by the opening of his spiritual sight, and thus rested in the natural appearance; hence it is recorded as an historical event, that three men stood before him as he sat in his tent door; and it is related that he performed natural offices to them. It is however manifest that all this must have been a spiritual occurrence of the merely mental world, seen by Abrahams spiritual eyes; and was but a representative imaging of divine and spiritual things, intended for the church in all ages. For these things, in common with other historical events which are recorded in the Old Testament, "happened," as Paul says, "for ensamples, and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." (1 Cor. x. 11.)
The end of the Divine Being in giving man a revelation, is the salvation of his soul. He could not therefore have given the Bible simply as an historical relation of events which took place in the early ages of the world: for how can the mere knowledge of an historical event avail to the souls salvation? But when the historical event is supposed to be representative of spiritual and divine realities, and is supposed to be related for the purpose of embodying those realities in sensible images and of thereby representing them to the human mind, so that when those sensible images are in the mind of man, angels can be associated with him thereby; we can very readily conceive how the divine end in giving that relation would be attained. For those spiritual and divine realities, when so communicated to the soul of man through angelic influence, might, by their enlightening and purifying effects on his will and understanding, save those faculties of his mind from evil and false principles. We say, then, that this historical event which is related as having occurred to Abraham in this world, was a representative imaging of divine and spiritual things intended for the church in all ages. We call it a representative imaging; for though these might have been, and doubtless were, actual angelic beings, still they were a representative personification of the Lord. For it is said "the Lord appeared unto him""and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and lo, three men stood by him, and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door and bowed himself toward the ground, and said, my Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant." All which shows that these three men were characters representative of the one God. They were representative, because they purported to be the Lord, who is God; but were not actually God, for Abraham saw them, and "no man hath seen God at any time." (John, i. 18.) And they were representative of the one God, because Abraham addressed them as one. He calls them my Lord; and throughout the chapter they are called the Lord, and in most instances spoken of in the singular number. Thus in the last verse it is said, "And the Lord went his way as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place." We may here observe, incidentally, that this expression, "Abraham returned unto his place," is a further proof of Abrahams having been in a spiritual state when he saw the Lord as three men: for it denotes that he came again into his previous natural state. As before, his transition from a natural to a spiritual state was attended by the circumstance of the Lords appearing, so here, his return to a natural is accompanied by the appearance of the Lords going away.
Now this is our argument. Abraham saw the Lord representatively; for he could not see the Lord himself and live. (Exod. xxxiii. 20.) But a representation of the Lord must have corresponded to his nature; or else, it could not have brought him forth to view. Now this representation of the Lord presented him as three men. Therefore, there is something threefold in his nature. And thus we prove there is in God a trinity. Were there not, then, another test in Scripture, on this alone we would boldly take our stand and confidently proclaim a trinity in God!
But, say the Tripersonalists, Granted. We too proclaim that there is a trinity in God, and bring this same passage to prove that this is a trinity of persons. For, if this representation indicates the Lords nature,--as he is represented by three men, and three men are three persons,--therefore, the Lord in his nature is three persons. No! we answer. This representation only indicates that there are in the Lords nature three constituent principles. For the Word of God is so written that it uses sensible forms to represent and signify spiritual principles in the church and heaven, or divine principles in God. And the person of a man is his outward form. Hence his person must represent his inward principles. And when the forms or persons of men are used in the Word to represent the Deity, they represent the principles which constitute him. Thus Moses represented the Lord as to his divine law, or as to the principle of truth. Aaron represented the Lord as a divine priest, or as to the principle of goodness. David represented the Lord as a divine king, or as a principle of truth ruling and governing the refractory passions of men by bringing them into obedience to its dictates. So universally a form or person is never used in the Word simply to suggest an idea of itself and no more, but to involve and present some principle to which it corresponds. This is the case in the passage before us. Therefore, when the Lord was presented as three men, it did not indicate that he was three men in form, but that there were in his nature three principles which could be so represented. So when the Lord is called a shield end buckler, it is not meant that he is in that form, but that he effects that for the spirit of him who trusts in state him which a shield does for his body; namely, defends it from evil. Thus, in this instance, the sensible forms of a shield and buckler are used to represent the Lord as a principle of defence. So when the Lord was represented to John in a vision as a lamb standing in the midst of the throne, it did not indicate that he is actually in the form of a lamb, but represented him as to a certain principle of his nature, the principle of innocence, to which the lamb corresponds. We repeat, then, that these three men represented principles and not persons.
Again, we argue from this passage that there is a trinity of principles in the individual Divine Being, and not a trinity of individualities in the godhead, because Abraham addressed these three men as one person, calling them my Lord. For thus we reason: if the three men represented three persons, then Abraham would have addressed them as Lords, and would uniformly have spoken to and of them as plural in number. But this he did not. For though he saw three, he addressed them as one. We conclude, therefore, that these three represented three essential constituents of one Lord.
Hence we are not to regard this figurative representation as indicating that there are three persons in the one God; but that the one God is constituted one person by three distinct but essential principles of his being. These principles are distinct, because they are not absolutely the same; and they are essential, because without them he could not be one person. Thus these three are distinctly one.
But it is perhaps difficult for some minds to conceive how three can be distinctly one. Let us endeavor to illustrate this. Take for example that mathematical figure called a cube. How are three essential mathematical properties distinctly one cube? The properties of a cube are length, breadth and depth. These properties are distinct, because the length is not the breadth, but is altogether different from it; and the length or breadth is not the depth. But they are essential, because without all three of these properties the figure would not be a cube. Were there merely length and breadth, the figure would not he a cube, but a superficies. Still less would it be a cube, if there were only one of these properties. Hence, length, breadth and depth are essential properties of one cube. And being distinct, therefore they are distinctly one cube. Just so it is with God. There are three principles essentially constituent of his being. What these principles are, it would be out of place here to say. We merely take the fact as set forth in the passage of the Word under consideration. In this passage the Lord is represented as three, and addressed as one. From which it appears that there is a threefold something in the one God. This, we maintain, is a threefold principle. Or, we maintain that there are three principles by which God is constituted one person. And we present to view the sensible figure of a cube, not to show the quality of the divine principles, but simply to illustrate how three principles can constitute one thing; and thus show how three divine principles may constitute one God. The nature of those principles will be discussed hereafter.
Now it is merely this distinction of the constituent principles of the one God which was represented to Abraham by the three men. Of this he doubtless had an intuitive perception. Hence, when he regarded the Deity in his complex character, he addressed these three men as one Lord: but when he regarded the Deity as to his distinctive constituent properties, he addressed the one Lord as several. So the mathematician, when he looks at the cube in the concrete, considers it one thing. But, to serve the purposes of abstract reasoning, he regards its three essential properties as distinct and several. In some cases, as in an algebraic process, he even considers these properties as separate from the subject in which they necessarily inhere, and represents them by distinctive characters. But this does not destroy the individuality of the subject, and imply that there are three separate things in one cube. So neither did Abraham, when he addressed the three men as several, destroy the individuality of God, and imply that there are three persons in the one God. He addressed the men as several only when he regarded the essential constituent divine principles distinctively. He still regarded them as one in their subject; that is, as existing in and constituting one divine person. Hence he most frequently addresses them as one, and speaks of them in the singular number. Of course, God is individual in person, though his individuality may consist of a threefold principle. And as he was represented to Abraham as three men, we argue that he does consist of three principles. And as Abraham addressed these three as one, we argue that they are the constituent principles of one God. Therefore, in our view, this passage of Scripture affords incontrovertible proof that there is a trinity in the one God.
III. Same Subject Continued.--It is usual for those who believe in a trinity to bring forward, in proof of their belief, Genesis, i. 26, "let us make man in our image." But we do not advance this passage, because we think the plurality of the pronouns herein does not prove trinity. It would serve just as well to prove that there are four, or a hundred, as three. Nor do we think that one person in the godhead could say to two other persons, re let us make man in our image;" because it is utterly inconceivable how they could be so separate as to talk to one another and yet not be three gods. Besides, it is clear that God did not say this as three persons conversing together, first, because it is afterwards said, in the singular number, (verse 27,) "So God created man in his own image;" and, secondly, because man when created in Gods image was in one person and not in three.
But in Luke, i. 35, it is written, "And the angel answered and said unto her, The holy ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the son of God." Here mention is made of three, namely, the Highest, the holy ghost, and the son of God.
In Matthew, i. 16, 17--"And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the spirit of God, descending like a dove, and lighting upon him; and, lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. Here, too, there are three indicated--God, the spirit of God, and the son of God.
We are aware that this passage is a strong redoubt of the tripersonal scheme. But if we regard it in the same light in which we viewed the passage from Genesis in our last number, this text will be seen to afford to that scheme no defence. Let it be observed, then, that what was here seen by the Lord, although an occurrence actually taking place before the minds eye of a person living on this earth, was a representation in the spiritual world. For it is said "the heavens were opened." Of course, the things seen by the Lord were in the heavens. This is a mode of expression .uniformly used in the Word in reference to the opening of the spiritual sight. Hence it is used by the prophets, and others, when speaking of their visions. Thus Ezekiel says, (i. 1,) "Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year," &c. "that the heavens were opened, and saw visions of God." Stephen, when about to be stoned to death, (Acts, vii. 56,) said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the son of man standing on the right hand of God." So, too, Peter, when he fell into a trance, (Acts, x. 9-13,) "saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet, knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air." The least reflection on these passages will show that the opening of the heavens here spoken of means an opening of the spiritual sight of men on earth, so as to enable them to see visual representative forms of spiritual and celestial things existing in heaven and the church. This is especially manifest from the vision of Peter. For he was afterwards made to understand that his vision was a representative mode of signifying to him this truth, "that God is no respecter of persons: but, in every nation, he that feareth him and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him," (verses 34, 35.) Besides it is dearly seen that "fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air" represented men and those mental qualities which constitute men, because Peter, in reference to these animals which he saw in his vision, says, "God hath shown me that I should not call any man commoner unclean," (verse 25.) Hence we may conclude it is a law of the spiritual world, that mental things, that is, voluntary and intellectual things, should be represented by visible images. And when men are in that state in which these images of heavenly things are seen, heaven is said to be opened, for such is the appearance; but in fact mans visual powers are so expanded or extended, or, are rather so indrawn, as to see things as they exist in a heavenly state. This is what we mean by his spiritual sight being opened. This undoubtedly was the case with the Lord when he, as recorded in the passage of the Word which we are now considering, saw heaven opened, and a dove descending and lighting upon him, and heard a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved son. Doubtless all this appeared, at the time, to be an event transpiring in this natural world, but it was, in reality, a visual representation and spiritual perception of things spiritual and divine which were transpiring in the Lords internal man, or in the spiritual world. Therefore what is said in this passage is not to be taken in its mere literal sense. And hence the argument, based upon this sense, that the father, son and holy ghost are separate and distinct persons, is fallacious.
But even though you take this passage in its apparent meaning, it will not support the argument of the Tripersonalists. For, as a certain writer has remarked, if this passage, in its literal sense, proves any thing for the tripersonal scheme, it proves too much: since it proves, not only that the holy ghost is separate from the Lord, but that he is in the form of a bird!--which we presume the advocates of the personality of the holy ghost are not disposed to maintain. Yet this is the conclusion to which we must come, if we adhere to the strict literal sense of this passage.
But this is not all: for, to prove the separate personality of the father and the son from this passage, you must suppose that there was an audible voice from heaven, and that this was actually the voice of the father. Yet the Lord says, (John, v. 37,) respecting the father, "Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape." It could not then have been the voice of the father which was heard from heaven in this case; and thus the argument resting upon the supposition that the father was, as a person, where the voice came from, and hence was separate from the son, falls to the ground. Thus is manifest the fallacy of these reasonings from appearances in the mere letter of the Word. And it is high time that Christians should awake, and open their eyes upon the spiritual import of that book which they believe to be the Word of God!
In fine, the Tripersonalists might just as well argue that cherubim are actually in the form in which they were represented in Ezekiels vision, or that the Lord Jesus now actually exists in the form of a lamb, slain, standing in the midst of the throne of heaven, and that the New Jerusalem will actually descend from heaven in the form of a city,--because these things were so represented to John in vision,--as to argue, from our Lords vision in the present instance, that the father and the holy ghost are persons separate or distinct from him, because he saw the spirit descend as a dove and light upon him, and heard a voice, as it had been the voice of the father, calling him his son. The separation is only an appearance. It is a visual representation of a certain process then going on in the glorification of the Lords human nature, and indicates that the spirit is in him, or that he, even as to his human nature, is infinitely imbued with the divine spirit--"For God giveth not the spirit by measure unto him," (John, iii. 34.) Hence, we have no more right to conclude that the holy ghost is actually separate from the Lord Jesus, because it descended upon him in the form of a dove, than we have to conclude that length, breadth, and depth are actually separate from a cube, because the mathematician can so represent them in an algebraic process. This vision which the Lord saw, like that which Abraham saw, was representative. And if the three men, which Abraham saw, represented the one God without distinction of persons; much more does this three fold appearance of the dove, the voice, and the Lords person, represent the same.
Thus this passage, though it does indeed prove a trinity, does not prove a trinity of persons. And we deem ourselves justified in concluding from this passage too, that there are three essential divine principles in the one God.
Besides the passages above noticed, there are many others in the New Testament from which the doctrine of a trinity can be inferentially deduced: but it is needless to do more than advert to the first of John, where it is said, "In the beginning was the word," "and the word was made flesh;" which word made flesh afterwards breathed on his disciples and said "receive ye the holy ghost." Here mention is made of the word, "which was God," or the essential divine principle--the word made flesh, which was "Immanuel, or God with us," the "express image" of Gods substance, the "form of God," and therefore the divine formative principle--and the breath, or proceeding influence of Jesus Christ, the word made flesh, which was called the holy ghost, and was the divine spherical principle. Thus by this passage a trinity of principles is most clearly proved.
We may here just add, finally, that the Lord Jesus frequently speaks of the father as in him, of himself as coming forth from the father, and of the holy ghost, or the comforter, as sent by him from the father. And in the last of Matthew he commands his apostles expressly to baptize all nations in "the name of the father, and of the son, and of the holy ghost." In these passages, too, the same three fold distinction is kept up. Frequent mention is made moreover of the father, the son, and the holy ghost in the Epistles of the Apostles; acid so their testimony is given to the existence of a trinity. A very remarkable instance of distinct reference to a trinity in the one God is found in Johns First General Epistle, (v. 7,) "There are three that bear record in heaven, the father, the word, and the holy ghost: and these three are one. Here both the trinity and unity of God are expressly asserted.
We are aware that this is a disputed passage, and that many Trinitarians have relinquished their hold upon it as an authentic part of the original epistle. But we are not disposed to give it wholly up, both because it is quoted as genuine by the divinely commissioned teacher of the doctrines of the New Jerusalem and because there are both intrinsic and extrinsic evidences of its genuineness.
Some of the arguments for the authenticity of this verse are:
1. That the connection would be incomplete without it. To see this, just read the sixth, seventh and eighth verses consecutively. Now would not the mention in the eighth verse of three who bear witness in earth be too abrupt a transition from the sixth verse? What possible connection can there be imagined, in the drift of the apostles ideas, between the sixth and eighth verses? Moreover, can there be three principles in earth without three correspondent principles in heaven? There is no question about the authenticity of the eighth verse, and if this is genuine, then there is a trinity m earth; and if so, why should there not be a trinity in heaven also? Is not the earth created of God, and does not the creation bear the image of its creator? Are not "the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made--even his eternal power and godhead?" (Heb. i. 20.) Hence, if there is a trinity in earth, must there not be a trinity in God too? And if there are three correspondent principles in the Divine Being, and in heaven from him, why not mention them? We reason, then, that the connection requires the verse which is supposed to be spurious; and, therefore, there is intrinsic evidence that it is in reality genuine. But, from what has been just advanced, we may shift our position, and directly argue, that, though the seventh verse be omitted, still the doctrine of a trinity is effectually proved by the eighth. For in this it is said there are three that bear witness in earth. And we contend that there cannot be principles in earth which have not principles in heaven from which they exist and to which they correspond. And therefore, if it be admitted that there is a trinity in earth, it will follow that there is a trinity in heaven. Indeed Paul clearly shows that this is so, when he says he was caught up into the third heaven. Hence there is a trinity in the complex heaven. Consequently there must be a trinity in God, from whom heaven exists.
2. The clause in the eighth verse, [scanner unable to insert words] which is rendered, "and these three agree in one," if rendered literally would read, "and these three are in (the or) that one." It might be rendered, "and these three correspond to that one. The article in the phrase [scanner unable to insert words] evidently relative, and relates to a one which has been previously mentioned. So that the sense of the eighth verse is in this way, too, proved to be defective without the seventh.
3. The most ancient and most accurate manuscripts are said to contain this verse: thus affording extrinsic evidence that it is genuine.
4. It rests upon the authority, among others, of Cyprian, one of the Fathers, who lived in the third century, before the rise and spread of arianism: which proves that this seventh verse existed in copies of Johns First Epistle at a time when there could be no temptation to interpolate arising out of the arian controversy.
We conclude, then, that this verse is authentic; and, of course, the doctrine which it so unequivocally sets forth, cannot be impugned. But, admitting that it were not genuine, still the doctrine of the trinity is so interwoven with the very texture of the whole Sacred Scriptures, that the whole must be destroyed before it can be obliterated. And passages enough, without this, have been adduced from the Word of God to prove that there is a trinity in the one God.
IV. There MUST BE a trinity in God.--We proceed in this number to demonstrate that, in the nature of things, there must be a trinity in the one God.
Paul says, (Rom. i. 20,) "the invisible things of God,--even his eternal power and godhead,--are clearly seen from the creation of the world, being understood by the things that are made." Wherefore, the nature of the Deity is discernible in his works. Consequently, we may reason from the essential principles of natural existence to the essential principles of divine existence, or, to use the words of the poet, we may "look through nature up to natures God."
This mode of reasoning is not only legitimate and admissible, but, in the present constitution of man, it is the only way in which he can form any adequate conceptions of the Divine Being. Man is born in entire ignorance and helplessness. And, without instruction, he cannot know even how to feed and clothe himself. How then can he know his creator, unless he be instructed? And unless he has ideas in his mind from the objects of nature around him, there are no vehicles whatever by which instruction respecting the Deity can be conveyed to his mental apprehension or his moral feeling.
"That is first which is natural, and afterwards that which is spiritual." The form must first be impressed on the senses, before the rational and intellectual faculty can apprehend its qualities and its essence. Hence nothing of thought or affection can exist with man which has not with it a natural or sensual idea. Qualities cannot exist without subjects in which they inhere; and the mind cannot comprehend qualities without a distinct idea of their subjects. Hence the mind cannot apprehend the qualities of the Deity unless, and only in the degree that, it has a distinct idea of the forms which these qualities assume. And this is one meaning of that scripture, "No man cometh to the father, but by me," the son.
The essential divine principles, which, in the unapproachable and indescribable adytum of their own infinite and eternal being, no man hath seen nor can see, flowing down by a regular gradation of cause and effect, at length clothe themselves in natural forms and thus produce creation. In this plane of creation man first exists; and the images of the natural forms, that are the outermost coverings of the divine principles from which they ultimately exist, form the ground-work of his mind. When the form is presented, and is seen or perceived, by the imprinting of its image on organs suited to receive it, the qualities of that form may be gradually discerned, and thus its essence apprehended. And no quality can be discerned, and no essence apprehended, until the image of the form in which they inhere is thus received. And unless the qualities and essences of natural forms are discerned and apprehended, there is no possible may by which the mind can have any conception of the divine principles from which they exist, and which are most intimately within them. Hence, without the images of natural forms impressed on the senses, it is altogether impossible that man can have any idea of God. But, when the images of these forms are thus impressed, then the perfection of mans wisdom consists in the eternal opening up of his mind towards the essential divine principles from which those forms come forth.
These natural forms are the effects of the influx of spiritual forms as causes. They are common things which involve innumerable spiritual and infinite divine particulars; which particulars can never he reached or approached, before the common things which contain them are known and apprehended. For illustration, take the case of the human body. This consists of various common members, which involve many organical, visceral, muscular, fibrous, nervous and other particular parts. And these again, may be traced to singular constituents so minute and hidden that they elude the ken of the most searching and scrutinizing microscopic vision. Now what anatomist can, or attempts to know the hidden parts of the human body without first becoming acquainted with its common and obvious parts? In short, what is common is an effect caused by the influx of what is particular. And we cannot discern the cause if we do not know the effect.
Thus the only way in which man can attain to any knowledge of the hidden essences of things is, by tracing effects up to their causes. So that it is legitimate to reason from the essential principles of natural existence to the essential constituent principles of the Divine Being. In fact, these natural existences, or the works of creation, are the fruits of the Divine Being. And his own divine law must be universal in its application--"By their fruits ye shall know them." Therefore, by his fruits we must know him.
Hence, if we discern that in every natural existence there is a threefold principle, we must conclude that there is a trinity in God.
In pursuing this argument, we must take things as they are. It is not necessary far us to show why they are so; nor to inquire whether the Divine Being could not have constituted things differently. It is sufficient for us to know that the order in which things do exist, is the result of infinite wisdom; and we are not to suppose that infinite wisdom could devise any other order than that which it has produced. For an infinite being cannot act otherwise than according to his nature--thus infinitely. And to suppose that he could produce any other order than the one he has produced, would be to suppose that he could produce either what is more than infinite, which is absurd; or what is less than infinite, which is impossible.
Our prescribed limits will not allow us to expatiate so widely on this head as might be necessary. And we must therefore confine ourselves within the narrow compass of a very cursory view of the general principles of natural existence.
In starting we take this position, that a trinity is necessary to every unity; which we will strive to maintain, first, by the fact that there is a threefold principle in every existence, and, secondly, by the rational deduction from this fact, that from a simple or metaphysical oneness of being nothing can exist: which will lead us directly to the conclusion that the Deity is not a simple oneness of being, and of course that he is a triune being.
Casting our eyes over the whole scope of creation, we cannot but observe this fact, viz. that in every existence there are three things essential to that existence, namely, an inmost, a middle and an ultimate. These three things are the essential principles of all being, and universally manifest themselves as action, reaction, and the operation or result of these two. In philosophical language these three principles are called end, cause, and effect. The end is the intimate, the cause is the intermediate, and the effect is the ultimate. The end is the essential principle, the cause is the formative principle, and the effect is the spherical or influential principle. Thus there are three essential principles in every one existence, which are essentially distinct the one from the others.
That this is the constitution of things, any of us may be sensible by attending to the subjects of our observation or consciousness. For in whatever we behold or examine, we find an inmost, a middle, and an outermost. In a circle, there is a centre, an area, and a circumference. In the earth there is a entre, a spherical bulk, and a surface. In a flower of the field there is its essence, its form, and its odor. In ourselves there is an inmost, a middle, and an ultimate principle; that is, there is a voluntary, an intellectual, and an operative principle; or a will, an understanding, and an act; or a love, a wisdom, and a use. And in this inmost of us are our ends, in this middle our causes, and in this ultimate our effects: that is, in our inmost are motives to action, in our middle are modes of action, and in our ultimate are actions themselves. So in every thing which is an object of our sight or consciousness, there is an end, a cause, and an effect--or an inmost, a middle, and an outermost.
And every effect is seen to be the result of an action and a reaction. Our will acts, our understanding reacts, and the consequence is affection and thought. Our mind acts, our body reacts, and the consequence is the varied modes of bodily motion. The head acts, the trunk reacts, and in consequence the animal fluids pervade the system, causing sensation in all its forms. The heart acts, the arteries react, and hence the blood circulates, producing bodily sustentation. All the viscera act, while the bony, muscular, membranaceous, and cuticular parts react, and thus the various members are formed, and the whole body is kept in order, symmetry, and beauty.
Now in all these things the result of action and reaction is essential to the mode of existence and subsistence. And this is true of all nature and of every object of nature--of every animal, plant, and mineral--of every work of art and of every mechanical invention. You could not shoot a gun unless the barrel reacted on the expanding powder, and thus caused it to speed the bullet in its course. Unless the projectile tendency of a planet reacted on the suns attractive power, the planet would not move in its orbit. Unless the earth reacted on the suns influences, no material form whatever could exist. You could not walk, unless the ground reacted on your feet: and hence the tiresome effects of walking on loose sand or newly fallen snow. You could not breathe, if the air did not react upon your lungs. You could not speak if the various conformations of the throat and mouth did not react on the air sent back again from the lungs. You could not hear your preachers, unless the walls of your temples and the atmosphere reacted on their voice. You could not understand their teachings, unless your minds reacted on theirs so as to give the requisite attention. And all preaching would be vain, unless the hearts of the people so reacted on its practical precepts as to bring them into life.
There is, then, in every thing, action, reaction, and the result of these. Or, in other words, there is an active principle and a passive subject; and the flowing of the active into the passive, and the reaction of the passive on the active, produce life in all its varied forms.
Thus there are in every thing end, cause, and effect. And these three are essential to every existence. For if you were to take any one away, the others would cease to exist. If, for instance, you take away the effect, the end and the cause would be nonentities for want of a power of ultimation. If you take away the cause, the end could not come into effect for want of the requisite means. And if you take away the end, cause and effect must of course cease for want of a first principle of their existence. Thus, if you take away exercise from the mind, it becomes enervated. If you take away understanding, will cannot effect its purposes. And if you take away volition, understanding is dormant. A disorganization of the brain produces insanity. A sudden recession of the spirit, as in the case of excessive fright, joy, or what not, produces instant death of the body. And a violent assault of the love, by some cruel treatment, sad disappointment, or dire calamity, oftentimes produces alienation of mind and premature dissolution. All which are instances in which the end, the cause, or the effect are suspended, obstructed, or taken away. So a workman without tools, though he has the best design and most perfect practical skill, can produce nothing useful. Without skill his design could do nothing with the best of tools. And without design his skill and tools would be both inoperative.
Thus we see, that in every thing there is an inmost, a middle, and an outermost. And we also perceive that they never can be blended. For they are evidently separated by discrete degrees. Hence the end by any continuity can never become the cause. So neither can the cause ever become the effect. Your will by any increase or activity whatever can never become understanding. And your understanding can never become act. Or your desire can never become thought; or your thought speech; except by correspondence. So that these three essential constituents of one thing, are and must be distinct. This is universal. It is true of every thing which comes within our observation. And hence we conclude that it is true with respect to the whole creation in general, and every part in particular. Consequently, there is a distinctly threefold principle in every existence. And thus a trinity is necessary to every existence.
Now,--taking things as they are, and supposing that they could not be otherwise in the divine economy,--from the fact that there is a threefold principle in every existence, we reason that, from a simple oneness, nothing can exist. By simple oneness we mean oneness in a metaphysical sense--that is, mere, abstract oneness, or a principle of unity without a subject of unity: which is the idea that we suppose Unitarians to have of the divine unity.
In arguing this point, we lay it down as an axiom that all things exist and subsist from the Divine Being. Of course, existing from the Divine Being, they cannot exist of themselves; but must exist by virtue of life flowing into them. Now as every thing which exists is the result of action and reaction; hence there must be a twofold influx, that is an immediate and a mediate influx. For the acting principle must be distinct, and we have seen that it is distinct, from the reacting principle: and that which acts must be distinct from that which reacts: since to predicate action and reaction of absolutely one and the same thing is absurd. For to do this we must consider absolutely one and the same thing distinctly from itself: which would be like considering length as distinct from length: than which there cannot be a greater absurdity. And as action and reaction are distinct and twofold, hence the influx of the active and reactive principles, which produces these, must be twofold likewise. Thus there must be the influx of the active principle, or life, and this is called immediate influx; and the influx of that which forms the plane of operation of the former, and this is called mediate influx.
Let us illustrate this. In the formation and growth of a plant, for instance, the germ in the seed manifests itself by expanding and clothing itself in the elements of nature. Here there is the influx of life from the spiritual world into the germ; and the influx of the sun and earth into that material form which the life assumes in the natural world. The former is called immediate influx, not because it is life from the Divine Being flowing in without any media, but because it flows through spiritual agents, and thus is more direct than the latter, which comes from the same source by the round about way of material agents.
Take the case of man. His spirit or active principle flows in from the spiritual world, and his body or reactive principle flows in from the natural world. So his love, affection, or virtue, as an active principle, flows in immediately, or from within, into instruction, knowledge, or wisdom, which, as a reactive principle, flows into him mediately, that is by instructors and teachers, thus from without.
So in the various parts of his body, as the hand, for instance, or the arm. There is the immediate influx of the soul into the arm, by which it acts and performs its wonted operations for the body; and the mediate influx of the heart and lungs, by which it exists as a material reactive plane for the souls activity. The immediate influx in this case is by the nerves--the mediate by the arteries and veins: and the immediate is so called, because its medium, the nerves, is also the medium of the active principle to the heart, the source of the arteries, as well as to the arm, which those arteries support. That there is this twofold influx in the case of the arm, is proved by the fact, that, if you destroy the nerves, or interrupt the communication by them, as in a paralysis, the arm loses its power of action, while it still exists by nourishment from the heart; and if the communication from the heart is cut off, or the requisite supply of nourishment is lessened, as is the case in some diseases, the arm withers, while it is still capable of acting until it ceases to furnish an adequate reactive plane for the active principle.
So, universally, there must be into every thing that exists a twofold influx. Of course, this influx must have a twofold source. For how can that which is twofold proceed from that which is absolutely simple? Manifestly, that which is absolutely simple cannot both act and react in itself. How then can it produce action and reaction in that which is out of itself? Clearly mere, abstract, simple oneness can produce nothing at all. It is just as impossible as it is for an apothecary to make a compound medicine out of one drug; or for an arithmetician to compute with nothing but units; or for a conspiracy to be formed by one man. Thus nothing can exist without action and reaction. And action and reaction cannot exist without a twofold influx. And a twofold influx cannot proceed from a simple oneness of being. Therefore, from a simple oneness of being nothing can exist.
But things do exist. And their existence is the result of action and reaction: which are owing to a twofold influx; that is, both an immediate and a mediate influx of life from the Divine Being. Since, then, action and reaction, and their twofold influx, cannot exist from a simple oneness of being, and they do exist from the Deity, therefore, the Deity is not a simple oneness of being.
And further, as it is legitimate to reason from the essential principles of natural existence to the constituent principles of divine existence, and as a threefold principle is essential to every thing which exists in nature, hence we conclude that there is a threefold principle in the Deity. Thus there must be in the Deity, a divine active, a divine reactive, and a divine influential principle. And as we are not to suppose that things can exist in any other order than that in which they do exist, consequently are bound to suppose, that, as there is a trinity in every unity, there must be a trinity in every unity; hence we conclude that in the nature of things, there must be a trinity in the one God.
And this trinity does not consist in three persons or individualities. For every individual thing must be constituted by an inmost, a middle and an outermost. And hence, if there were three persons or individualities in the one God, there would be in the one God three inmosts, three middles, and three outermosts--or three divine actives, three divine reactives, and three divine influences; which is absurd.
But the trinity in the one God consists in three essential and indispensable principles, which are his inmost, his middle, and his outermost--that is, it consists in a divine active, a divine reactive, and a divine spherical principle; which, on another occasion, we shall prove to be divine love, divine wisdom, and divine use; and which, in the divine language of the Sacred Scriptures, are called,--that is, are personified to the thought of man as,--the father, the son, and the holy ghost. Thus, then, "there are three that bear record in heaven--the father, the word, and the holy ghost; and these three are one."
We have now, as we proposed, proved from the Holy Word that there is--and have shown by rational deduction from the nature of things that there must be--a trinity in the one God. And we have pointed out the true nature of this trinity as consisting, not in three divine persons, but in three indispensable divine principles.
To those persons, then, whose minds are not made up on this subject, we will, in concluding this paper, hold up to them a miniature portrait of the faith of the old church, and one of the faith of the new, in respect to the trinity.
The old church believes--"There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the maker and preserver of all things, both visible and invisible. And in unity of this godhead, there are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity--the father, the son, and the holy ghost."--"There is one person of the father, another of the son, and another of the holy ghost: the father is God and Lord, the son is God and Lord, and the holy ghost is God and Lord; nevertheless there are not three gods and three lords, but one God and one Lord. For 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."
The faith of the new-jerusalem church isThat there is one infinite and eternal God in one divine person--that this one person is necessarily constituted by an active, a reactive, and an influential principle--which are a divine essence, a divine form, and a divine sphere: and that these three principles, which in the Scriptures are called father, son, and holy ghost, are distinctly one God, just as soul, body, and conduct, are distinctly one man.
There are the two portraits before you. Judge ye for yourselves which is the best likeness of the truth. Look at them and compare them with the portraiture of the Divine Being, as seen in his Word and in his works; and, in the free and responsible exercise of your own reason and volition, take that which is conscientiously deemed best.