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A contradiction, you acknowledge, is, that “a part is equal to the whole, or that the same thing, in the same respect, is at the same time one and many. This you admit that nothing can prove. “ No testimony," you say, “ that a contradiction is, should be allowed to overpower the intuitive conviction that it cannot be. An inquiry, therefore, into the reasonableness of our faith, as well as just views of its history, is of great importance.
Now I ask, Wherein does the Athanasian doctrine of the Trinity differ from a contradiction, as you have defined it? It asserts, in effect, that nothing is wanting to either the Father, the Son, or the Spirit, to constitute each of them truly and properly God; each being equal in eternity and all divine perfections; and yet that these three are not three Gods, but only one God. They are, there fore, both one and many in the same respect, viz. in each being perfect God. This is certainly as much a contradiction as to say that Peter, James and John, having each of them every thing that is requisite to constitute a complete man, are yet, all together, not three men, but only one man.
For the ideas annexed to the words God or man cannot make any difference in the nature of the two propositions. After the Council of Nice, there are instances of the doctrine of the Trinity being explained in this very manner. The fathers of that age being particularly intent on preserving the full equality of the three persons, they entirely lost sight of their proper unity. And, explain this doctrine as you will, one of these things must ever be sacrificed to the other.
II. Notwithstanding what I have quoted from you above, you seem to countenance some sort of explanation of the doctrine of the Trinity. “ The sense” (viz. of Athenagoras), you say, " is, that the personal subsistence of a divine Logos is implied in the very idea of a God. And the argument rests on a principle which was common to all the Platonic fathers, and seems to be founded in Scripture, that the existence of the Son flows necessarily from the Divine Intellect exerted on itself; from the Father's contemplation of his own perfections. But as the Father ever was, his perfections have ever been, and his intellect has been ever active. But perfections which have ever been, the everactive intellect must ever have contemplated; and the contemplation which hath ever been, must ever have been accompanied with its just effect, the personal existence of the Son."
* Tracts, p. 68.
I wish you had shewn what it is in the Scriptures, or indeed in the fathers, that gives any countenance to this curious piece of reasoning; and in your reply to me I hope you will not fail to point it out. In the mean time, as we cannot pretend to draw any conclusions from the necessary operations of one mind, but from their supposed analogy to those of other minds, that is, our own, you will find yourself embarrassed with a difficulty similar to that of Tertullian, Lactantius and Athanasius; and must explain to us how it comes to pass, that, if the contemplation of the divine perfections of the Father necessarily produced a distinct person in him, fully equal to himself, a man's contemplation of such perfections, or powers, as he is possessed of, should not produce another intelligent person fully equal to himself?
You will, perhaps, say, (though you can have nothing to authorize it,) that the impossibility of producing this in man, is the imperfection of his faculties, or his limited power of contemplating them. But to cut off that subterfuge, I will ask, why the contemplation of the Son's perfections, which you suppose to be fully equal to those of the Father, and whose energy of contemplation you must likewise suppose equal to that of the Father, does not produce another intelligent being equal to himself; and why are not persons in the Godhead, in this manner, multiplied ad infinitum ? If, for any incomprehensible reason, this mysterious power of generation be peculiar to the Father, why does it not still operate? Is he not an unchangeable being, the same now that he was from the beginning, his perfections the same, and his power of contemplating them the same? Why, then, are not more sons produced ? Is he become ayovos, incapable of this generation, as the orthodox fathers used to ask ? Or does it depend upon his will and pleasure, whether he will exert this power of generation ? If so, is not the Son as much a creature, depending upon the will of the Creator, as any thing else produced by him, though in another manner; and this whether he be of the same substance, goorios, with him, or not? I should also like to know in what manner the third
person in the Trinity was produced. Was it by the joint exertion of the two first, in the contemplation of their respective perfections? If so, why does not the same operation in them produce a fourth ? &c. &c. &c.
• Charge, p. 55. (P.) Tracts, pp. 55, 56.
Adınitting, however, this strange account of the generation of the Trinity, (equal in absurdity to any thing in the Jewish cabala,) viz. that the personal existence of the Son necessarily flows from the intellect of the Father exerted on itself, * it certainly implies a virtual priority or superiority in the Father with respect to the Son ; and no being can be properly God who has any superior. In short, your scheme effectually overturns the doctrine of the proper equality as well as that of the unity of the three persons in the Trinity.
Indeed, Sir, had you lived in some former ticklish times, when words were more narrowly watched than they are now, I think you would have run some risk of being accused of heresy, for thus boldly making the second. person in the Trinity to be nothing more than an effect, though the necessary etfect of the Father's contemplation of his own perfections. Far from this was Dr. Waterland, and all the strict Athanasians of the last age. They maintained that the Trinity consisted of three persons, all truly independent of each other. It is, indeed, very amusing to observe how many totally discordant opinions, schemes as distant from each other as light and darkness, all pass for orthodoxy in this heedless age; in which we have no councils, synods, or convocations, to watch over the faith. Error itself is hardly more various than modern truth.
III. You cannot but acknowledge that the proper object of prayer is God the Father, whom you call the first person in the Trinity. Indeed, you cannot find in the Scriptures any precept that will authorize us to address ourselves to any other person, nor any proper example of it. Every thing that you can allege to this purpose, as Stephen's short ejaculatory address to Christ, whom he had just before seen in vision, &c., is very inconsiderable. Our Saviour himself always prayed to his Father, and with as much humility and resignation as the most dependent being in the universe could possibly do; always addressing him as his father, or the author of his being ; and he directs his disciples to pray to the same great Being, whom only, he says, we ought to
Had he intended to guard against all mistake on this subject, by speaking of God as the author of his being, in the same sense in which he is the author of being to all men, he could not have done it more expressly than he has, by calling him his Father and our Father, his God and our God.
* See supra, p. 93.
At the same time he calls his disciples his brethren. John xx. 17: “ Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.” Can you, Sir, read this, and say that we Unitarians wrest the Scriptures, and are not guided by the plain sense of them?
Accordingly, the practice of praying to the Father only, was long universal in the Christian church; the short addresses to Christ, as those in the Litany,“ Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us,” being comparately of late date. In the Clementine Liturgy, the oldest that is extant, contained in the Apostolical Constitutions, which were probably composed about the fourth century, * there is no trace of any such thing. Origen, in a large treatise on the subject of prayer, urges very forcibly the propriety of praying to the Father only, and not to Christ; and as he gives no hints that the public forms of prayer had any thing reprehensible in them in that respect, we are naturally led to conclude that, in his time, such petitions to Christ were unknown in the public assemblies of Christians; and such hold have early established customs on the minds of men, that, excepting the Moravians only, whose prayers are always addressed to Christ,f the general practice of Trinitarians themselves is to pray to the Father only.
Now please, Sir, to consider on what principle could this early and universal practice have been founded. What is there in your doctrine of a Trinity, consisting of three equal persons, to entitle the Father to that distinction more than the Son or the Spirit ? I doubt not but that, considering the thing ab initio, you yourself would have thought that, since of these three persons it is the second that was the maker of the world and who is the immediate governor of it, he is that person of the three with whom we have most to do; and therefore he is that person to whom our prayers ought to be addressed. This, I should think, would have been a natural conclusion, even if Christ had not been thought to be equal to the Father, but only the maker and the
governor of the world under him ; supposing him to have had power originally given him equal to the making and governing of it, as I have shewn at large in my Disquisitions on Matter and Spirit. I For we should naturally look up to that Being on whom we immediately depend, knowing that it must be his
proper province to attend to us. * See Lardner, II. p. 407; IV. p. 350. + See Vol. X. p. 505.
See Vol. III. pp. 420, 421.
If there should have been any reason in the nature of things, though undiscoverable and incomprehensible by us, why the world should have been made and supported by some being of communicated power and delegated authority, rather than by the self-existent and Supreme Being himself, (and if the fact be so, there must have been some good reason for it,) that unknown reason, whatever it be, naturally presents this derived being to us as the proper object of our prayers. And I must observe once more, that a derived pre-existent being, supposed to animate the body of Jesus, and who is not also the maker of the world, is a creature of imagination only, whose existence is not to be inferred, with the least colourable pretext, from the Scriptures. If the sacred writers do represent Christ as having pre-existed at all, they certainly suppose him to be the maker of all things. Let those, therefore, who pretend to maintain the Arian hypothesis either assert it in its original and proper extent, or else abandon it altogether.
But supposing this second person in the Trinity to be our independent maker, governor, and final judge, the propriety of praying to him, and to him exclusively, is so obvious, that no consideration whatever could have prevented the practice, if such had been the real belief of the Christian world from the beginning. That Christians did not do so at first, but prayed habitually to the Father only, is therefore with me almost a demonstration that they did not consider Christ in that light; but that, whatever they might think of him, they did not regard him as being a proper object of worship, and consequently not as possessed of the attributes that are proper to constitute him one, and therefore not as truly God. The persuasion that he was truly God, and that God on whom we immediately depend, would unavoidably have drawn after it the habitual practice of praying to him, as it has at length effected with respect to the Moravians; and in spite of constant usage, and against all scripture precept and example, the practice has more or less prevailed with all Trinitarians. Petrarch, we find by his Letlers, generally prayed to Christ ; that pious treatise of Thomas-a-Kempis, on the Imitation of Christ, consists of nothing besides addresses to him, and they compose the greater part of the Litany in the Church of England.
When I was myself a Trinitarian, I remember praying conscientiously to all the three persons without distinction, only beginning with the Father; and what I myself did in