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God had compassion for the world, and wished man to become reconciled to him. Christ was the medium through which God put himself in communication with man. Through him, as the Mediator, came all the spiritual blessings to the human race ; and through him again, as the Mediator, are all offerings of praise and prayer to ascend from man to God. Both parties, then, receive Christ as he is offered to them in the Gospel, but they put different constructions on the terms found there in connection with him. By thus receiving Christ in sincerity, and to the best of their knowledge, as he is revealed to them, they become his professed disciples. In addition, then, to the names already given to them on account of their belief in a God, and their particular views of the Godhead, we attach the name Christian to them. The Trinitarian becomes a Trinitarian Christian ; the Unitarian, a Unitarian Christian. As to which party is right in its interpretation of the Scripture, that is just the point in controversy.
Ever since the period of its first authoritative promulgation by the Council of Constantinople, in A. D. 381, the doctrine of the Trinity has had a powerful and extensive hold upon the mind of Christendom. The dreadfully rigorous measures of the Emperor Thedosius effectually checked the discussion of the question, and paved the way for the complete triumph of the Trinitarian doctrine.*
* Here is a sample of the style in which Theodosius addressed the Arians, A. D. 383, two years after the Council of Constantinople :“I will not permit throughout my dominions any other religion than that which obliges us to worship the Son of God in unity of essence with the Father and Holy Ghost in the adorable Trinity, — as I hold The strong arm of imperial power severely exercised had given it a firm hold, and secured its prevalence in the Church before the night of the Middle Ages set in upon the world. When this dark period came, the human mind was hushed in slumber, or engaged in speculations which were calculated to augment, rather than diminish, the errors which had already become incorporated with the simple doctrines of the Gospel. In the sixteenth century, an open and successful revolt was made against the corruptions and abuses of the Church. It was not to be expected, however, that the Reformers of that period could discover and set aside the accumulated errors of fifteen centuries. Their work was the first step towards a glorious consummation, and a giant stride it was. did not rise completely above the evil influence of their times. Those who narrowly escaped the faggot for denying the doctrine of Transubstantiation could look without compunction on a brother Reformer in the fames because
the empire of him; and the power which I have to command you, he likewise will give me strength, as he hath given me will, to make myself obeyed in a point so absolutely necessary to your salvation and the peace of my subjects.”—Waddington's History of the Church,
" Theodosius considered every heretic (that is, every one who differed from himself ] as a rebel against heaven and earth.
In the space of fifteen years, he promulgated at least fifteen severe edicts,
more especially against those who rejected the doctrine of the Trinity; and to depride them of every hope of escape, he sternly enacted, that if any laws or rescripts should be alleged in their favor, the judges should consider them as the illegal productions either of fraud or forgery.” — Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. V.,
he denied the doctrine of the Trinity. The fate of Servetus, and the part Calvin took in the affair, are well known matters of history. No doctrine was ever more favored and aided by the iron arm of temporal power than that of the Trinity. It is but little more than thirty years since the penal laws against those who ventured to deny it were erased from the statute-book of Great Britain.
It is no wonder, then, that it should be so extensively held and professed in the world at present. Nor should it be thought strange, that those who set it aside are now greatly in the minority. The power and the fashion of the world, the interests and the prejudices of the multitude, have all been in its favor. In a community or country where the denial of this doctrine is a new thing, those who venture on such a course will be regarded with distrust. And this is natural enough. To all around them they appear as innovators on things most sacred. In this light all religious reformers have been viewed at first. If the community be of an intelligent and inquiring character, it will be ready to ask, and willing to hear, what reasong Unitarians have for departing from so prominent a point in the popular faith. Such a disposition is proper and praiseworthy. Presuming that there are many persons in this community of that stamp, we propose to offer a few reasons in justification of Unitarians for adopting the course they have taken.
There are several reasons which compel us to decline the triune theory of the Godhead, and adhere to a belief in the simple unity of the Deity. In our opinion, the argument from common sense is against the doctrine of the Trinity; the argument from sound reason is against
it; the argument from plain Scripture is against it ; the argument from ecclesiastical history is against it; and even from those who believe it, as well as from those who deny it, we derive argument against it ; and to this we may add, that the doctrine on which it relies for support, and without which it could not be defended, is fallacious and untrue. Let us briefly illustrate what we have now laid down.
1. The argument from common sense is against it. The following extract from the Athanasian creed may be taken as a statement of the doctrine : " The Father is Almighty; the Son, Almighty ; and the Holy Ghost, Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So, likewise, the Father is Lord ; the Son, Lord ; and the Holy Ghost, Lord. And yet not three Lords, but one Lord.” Now, we say that common sense gives a verdict against every sentence of this statement. Here are three persons, each of whom is plainly affirmed to be God, and yet in the same breath we are told they are not three Gods, but one God. Common sense at once pronounces, that if the former part be true, the latter cannot be ; and if the latter be true, the former cannot.
Or take the statement and explanation of the Westminster Confession : " In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity : God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father, the
Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son." Here again common sense gives a verdict against the assertion that a son can be eternal as his own father, or that the third person of the Trinity can be precisely coeval with those other persons from whom he is said to have proceeded.
2. The argument from sound reason is against it. Some may think it unnecessary to make this a matter of distinct statement; inasmuch as sound reason, it is said, always confirms the dictates of common sense. But, under this head, we only intend to show, somewhat more minutely, that the verdict of common sense is correct.
The assertion that there are three persons, each of whom is Supreme God, and yet that there is only one Supreme God, at once confounds numbers and contradicts first principles, and therefore it cannot be true. If the term per
" have any intelligible meaning, it implies, at least, a distinct individual existence. Now to affirm that there are two or three such distinct individual existences, each and every one of whom is omnipotent, etc., is to assert a moral impossibility. And with respect to the coeternity of the Son with the Father, this part of the theory is likewise at variance with reason and truth. Father and Son are correlative terms, necessarily involving the ideas of priority and posteriority in point of time. “The phrase, Eternal Son," says Dr. Adam Clarke (himself a Trinitarian), “ is a positive self-contradiction. Eternity is that which has had no beginning, nor stands in any
reference to time.
Son supposes time, generation, and father ; and time also antecedent to such generation." An argument of the same nature lies against the "eternal procession" of the Holy Ghost, or third person of the Trinity.