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While the relation that we are now entering upon is also a tender theme, as well as vast and difficult, and the more liable to exceptions through the little pains that people take to understand it. Wherefore it should be our endeavour in pursuing this theme, to obviate such exceptions, if possible, by a clear exposition, a satisfactory illustration, and a solid confirmation of the doctrine; or by considering; 1, Doctrine ; 2, Evidences; 3, Objections and Errors -here, as before on similar occasions.
§ 1. Proceeding therefore with the Doctrine in the way now simply proposed ; 1, by an exposition of the subject; 2, by its analogy or comparison
1. The first particular to be regarded under that head, is the Subject, or what the doctrine may be about: which is the relation of One to many by Three,-or, as more commonly expressed, of THE UNITY IN TRINITY. And the comprehension of this subject is to be farther determined by 1, simplifying its designation, namely of Unity in Trinity ; and 2, supplying what may be required to complete its signification.
1, For simplifying there may be occasion enough, the expression of unity in trinity being perfectly scholastic, and neither scriptural, nor yet generally intelligible : therefore, to make it either, we should hereby understand in the first place, Three that are One, according to the Scriptural expression. Which unity of Three is understood to be,not casual, as by agreement or cooperation, but constant and invariable, and may be in one respect, in more than one, or in many, but cannot be in all, for then would they not be three. And what that ONE may be which they are, or in which their unity or common being consists, is not declared in the Scripture in which they are particularly mentioned. It is not conceivable, that three persons-supposing the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost to be persons, which they literally are not, could be one person in the same sense in which they are three respectively; and, more than that, the literal construction of the sentence is ONE THING—that is THE SAME, or one substance: therefore the plain drift of the argument will be their common identity, or the sum and substance of that in which their sameness, or rather oneness consists.
2, The particulars of that sameness is the part that requires to be supplied. It would be too general an hypothesis, to suppose that such sameness consists in the equal divinity of the Three, without finding some properties, acts or instances, being purely divine, in which they agree; it may therefore still be well, to reconsider without repeating, a few points of their agreement, sameness, or unity in that full relation in different respects; as in respect of 1, Nature, &c.; 2, Origin, &c.
-1, With regard to the sameness or unity of the Three, in Nature, besides what has been cited,
=l, From the same verse from which the above is collected, and the most express authority for the doctrine above referred to, we may conclude these Three to be one in the habit or property of bearing record, which is an essential property—“ for there are three that BEAR RECORD;" and next in one sphere or quality, the divine, which is here its characteristic—" for there are three that bear record in HEAVEN, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and THESE THREE ARE ONE.” So that one natural point, or one essential property, with its characteristic is here clearly confessed as a respect of union for “these Three" Types or Mediates of Divinity. And we have reason to apprehend, that the same may also be one in other respects as well essential as characteristic, and common as well as peculiar to them: for example,
=2, in glory and majesty (Matt. xxviii. 19; Eph. iv. 4 -6). =3, in being uncreated (Rom. xi. 35, 36). =4, . ... incomprehensible (Tim. I. vi. 15, 16). =5, . eternal (Rev. 1. 4, 8). =6,
almighty (Ps. cxxxv. 6; John v. 23): also
= 7, in creation (Gen. i. 2, 3). = 8,- judgment (Job xxvi. 11, 12; Isai. xxx. 27, 28). =9,- providence (Ps. civ.; Heb. i. 3).
=10, — truth, by attestation, &c. (as above, also John I. iv. 2, 3).
To which might still be added, if necessary, other properties or particulars as respects of union within our conception only; to say nothing of more perhaps beyond, being also not in kind only, as several human persons may resemble each other, but in very substance--yea, IN VERY ACT AND DEED: whereby they being three Persons, have yet but one primitive beginning or principle of existence centering in “ One God and Father of all; who is above all, and through all and in you all” (Eph. iv. 6).
The distinction between Substance and Person may be obvious enough to any man who can distinguish between human nature and himself: so may the presence of two persons, male and female, in which that nature was created; and thereby perhaps the Presence or Persons of the divine Nature; being Three, instead of two,--that is one Nature and Presence in three Persons. By which unity is meant, not a reduction of three persons into one PERSON or into one ANY THING ; but an unity or oneness between three persons, their own personal distinctions still continuing : by which means the same three persons, or any other number, may be united under one head or idea, and form a collective person, whether special, general or universal in the manner before described * ; being here the One, or Universal God. But this unity notwithstanding; it is clear, that the Father and Son could not be one in being both Father or both Son; neither could the Son and Holy Ghost be one in being both man or both spirit, or both Son, or both Holy Ghost: for either of these alternatives were destructive of the relation. No more can the Three Persons of the Godhead, be, as before signified, one by agreement, occasional cooperation or any other occasional
Vol. I. p. 129.
medium only: for then the evangelist would not have said, “ These Three ARE One,” but These Three AGREE in One, as he says in speaking of the three witnesses on earth in the following verse (John I. v. 8). It therefore seems reasonable to conclude the meaning of St. John to be as above stated, namely, that the Three bearing record in Heaven are ONE BY UNITY BOTH OF PRINCIPLE AND PRESENCE; BUT NOT OF MODE, DESIGN, OR PERCEPTION; because in these respects they differ, and are very distinct, as we feel, although the Son and Holy Ghost can originate nothing of themselves, and there is also nothing done by the Father without them from the beginning ;-so strict is their unity.
-2, Wherefore they being all of one Principle, though by different presentations, there can be no imaginable subsequence or succession among them in respect of original, or first beginning; although in respect of other beginnings there might; as e. g.
=1, In respect of that eternal beginning which constituted the relation of Father, Word, and Holy Ghost: when the Unity of the divine Presence went forth really in two ways, or it may be said, in three ways, at once ; being not only by the two last mentioned directly, but also mediately in the First by them.
=2, Such then was the first beginning of personality in the eternity of the Godhead. And, not to be minute or presuming beyond what is written; whatever other beginnings may be conceived in creation, or in any other act, for either of the two last mentioned, -of one such beginning of the Second Mediate we have a clear conception in his human birth : when he came down from Heaven, as he says, “ For I came down from Heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me" (John vi. 38).
=3, It might be thought another beginning for this one, when he returned to the state from which he descended, to the glory, as he also signifies, which he had with the Father before the world: “And now, O Father, glorify Thou me with thine own self (says he) in the glory which I had with Thee before the world was” (John xvii. 5) : being then so far a new person as he returned in the adopted form of manhood, the body prepared for him (Heb. x. 5): in which form or body he will also return to judgment upon earth (Acts i. 11).
=4, This might be so thought; but (to finish our comparison of the Second Person or Mediate in this place) it must be thought, and also owned and remembered; that in no beginning could the divine Principle be changed or degraded, let the new form, person or presence be what it might: as here, for example, the posthumous form or state of the Word which was incarnate in Jesus Christ will be the same that he enjoyed before his descent and humiliation in a mortal form, or with the same superadded to the divine original; that original form being rather glorified, than degraded by this addition. For as our mortal bodies are improved by repletion, even so is the immortal body of Christ by one such body, and not by one alone: “the fulness of him that filleth all in all” being-not indeed, but apparently or in a manner enlarged by this seeming circumscription.
The Principal in this divine relation, which is God absolutely considered, will necessarily stand or be accounted before its internal relations as well as before the external. For first by birth is originated the internal relation of Father and Son, and next by mission or procession that of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, or Spirit of each; all being one. So that in this Trinity none is afore or after other, except in relation to the observer; in nature or principle none is greater or less than another, but the whole Three Persons are co-eternal together, and co-equal." Accordingly we find, and nothing can be more simple, that of THE SAME THREE GOD IS EACH, AND EACH IS GOD; BUT EACH IS NOT OTHER, NEITHER ARE THEY ALL THREE GODS : the personal distinction between these divine Correlatives is as decided as any distinction can be; the substantial agreement just as close, and that without any confusion of persons, or division either.
For if there be no distinction in Divinity itself; and by