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ence then to himself as a suffering and humbled Man, our Lord, as the time to which we allude, used the expression "My Father is greater than I:" not intending thereby to weaken the force either of his exhortation previously given; "Ye believe in God; believe in me also" (St. John xiv. 1.) as the Messiah; or of the declaration before made; "I and my Father are One;" a declaration which intimated that unity of Power asserted by the Creed.
4. No position is to be so strained, as by forced construction to be made bear a meaning, which was never intended. The words "None is afore or after other, but the Three are Co-eternal," were meant, with respect to that eternity from which each has existed. The words "None is greater or less than another, but the Three are Co-equal," were meant, with respect to exertion of that same Power by which they each act. As to the origin of that Power, it is entirely another question not in the contemplation of these two Verses, 25, 26. It is a question, which being totally distinct, had been distinctly explained in Verses 22, 23. In those Verses, the "Father," is asserted to be the fountain and origin of divinity, and of course the fountain and origin of all divine Power. The Nicene Creed, which corresponds with the creed under consideration, intimates the same, when it styles our Lord tov EX Oe8, Ows Ex QWTOS, OLOT ahnfivou ex Oss mandus, “God of i. e. from God, Light of Light, very God of very God." And the most learned writer on this subject has shewn, that the Primitive Christians before the Council of Nice as well as after that Council, held this doctrine. "Uno ore docuerunt" (are his words), "they taught it with one voice," so unanimous were they in this opinion. Perfectly consistent therefore with each other are Verses 25, 26, and Verses 22, 23, for they are considering the subject in a different point of view. On the one hand they assert that the Time of Existence, and the nature of Power, is the same to ail: on the other, that nevertheless the origin of such existence and of such Power is with the "Father." And these were the general tenets of the ancient and most early Christians, in consonance with which are the sentiments of the Established Church, as delivered by Pearson in the most approved manner. "The Godhead was comnicated from the Father to the Son, not from the Son unto the Father. Though therefore this were done from all eternity, and so there can be no priority of Time, yet there must be acknowledged a priority of Order, by which the Father, not the Son, is first; and the Sen, not the Father, is second. Again; the same Godhead was communicated by the Father, and the Son, unto the Holy Ghost; not by the Holy Ghost to the Father, or the Son. Though therefore this was also done from all eternity, and therefore can admit of no priority in reference to Time; yet that of Order must be preserved." (Pearson on the Creed, p. 322. ed. 1704.) It is needless to p:ove, that if the Father communicated Godhead, he must be the origin of Godhead.
5. It has been frequently said by others, and may be said again in this place, that, in Ver. 28 and 42, the expressions "must thus think," and "this is the Catholic Faith," apply only to the general
octrine of the Trinity, and not to the particular mode of explanation given in this Creed. To the general doctrine, considered apart from the explanation, every Christian is bound; because it is the very doctrine of his baptismal admission into the Christian Church: the very doctrine he professes in his Creed, called the Apostle's Creed. For although the word "Trinity" is not mentioned in that Creed, yet the "substantial meaning" of the word is implied.
6. The effects, which result from a certain combination of inherent qualities, we do know; but by what particular manner, except by the Will of God, such combination of those qualities is effected, in many instances we do not know. If we admit as true, nothing but what we can explain, our faith will be extremely limited and such limitation will exclude from our assent, Facts really existing. Can we explain the union of these properties, viz. of the vegetable and sensitive in the plant; the torpid and animate in the insect; the animal and instinctive in the beast; the animal and rational in man? Assuredly not. And yet, that these properties are united in the respective instances mentioned, is Fact. Inability then to account for a thing, is no proof that the thing could never have existence. It is therefore no proof that human and divine nature may never have been united. So far as it refers to our own powers of explaining, every instance of union before mentioned is just as wonderful and unaccountable as this. Do you say, I never saw an instance of human and divine nature united? True: but others have: men of veracity: many in number: credible witnesses: competent judges. You may not only read their evidence; but you may ascertain the effects of such union, in the history of Conversion from heathenism which took place in nations savage and idolatrous. Do you answer, I must see an instance of such union with my own eyes, before I can assent? Such an answer will be no more consistent with sound philosophy, than would be the answer of an Otaheitean, who should say he must see the Works of our Arts and Sciences before he could believe they existed or of a tropical inhabitant, who should say he must. see the phænomena of the Northern Hemisphere before he could believe their actual appearance. The hesitation of neither would avail towards disproving the matter of Fact: it would only shew his ill-grounded difficulty in believing, and the mistaken principle on which he would have drawn his conclusion. The application of all this to our Lord's incarnation is obvious.
7. Whoever is sincere in using the Apostles' Creed, may without scruple assent to the leading doctrines of the Athanasian Creed; for most assuredly they both mean to inculcate one and the same doctrine of a Trinity in Unity; that is, of Three Divine Persons united in one Substance of Godhead, distinguished by the appellations of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: and the same doctrine of our Lord's Incarnation. The ancient Creeds of Irenæus and Tertullian agree with these in teaching similar articles of faith. And all correspond with St. Paul's words, Eph. iv. 5, 6. "Where (says Cleaver) we may obviously recognize, though in an inverted order, the leading articles of all subsequent Creeds: Faith in one
God and Father of all; in one Lord Jesus Christ; in one Holy Spirit; one Body or Catholic Church; one Baptism for the remission of sins; one hope or looking for a resurrrection to everlasting life."
LXXIV. That there should be variety of judgments concerning the ancient Christian Writers, is no more extraordinary than that there should be variety of judgments about other men, who have rendered themselves conspicuous by their literary productions or active exertions. Of Thucydides, for instance, biographers speak differently. Some represent him as dishonest to his country; others affirm he was an impartial historian. It is to be feared, that perhaps according to diversity of inclinations, as much as according to diversity of conceptions, in general friends extol, enemies censure. Both probably will be excessive. Right opinion will be between both. With regard to the Fathers, learned readers will judge for themselves; the unlearned will suppose that where much is said for and against them, though there may be somewhat to blame, yet there must be also somewhat to commend. Neither praise, nor reproach, indiscriminate and unqualified, is applicable to Man, or to any Work of Man, so mixed is the character of every thing human.
LXXV. If blind admiration be a fault on one side, entire contempt of the Fathers is a fault on the other, "It would be a false inference (says Jortin) to conclude from the blemishes and mistakes of the Fathers, that they are to be cast aside as altogether useless."
LXXVI. Of Justin Martyr, who lived in the Second Century, Thirlby says, "Non ille quidem omnium qui unquam fuerunt aut disertissimus aut acutissimus: sed tamen vividus, acer, et multis nominibus utilissimus; et quanquam minùs aptus fortasse fastidiosz hujus delicati sæculi elegantiæ, ut iis tamen temporibus doctrinâ, judicio, eloquentiâ minimè vulgari. Has virtutes duo maximè vitia obscurant: incredibilis quædam in scribendo festinatio, et stylus iracundus." Jortin represents him as "a hasty writer, and of a warm and credulous temper:" but he gives us also the better side of Justin's character, by adding, he was "a virtuous, pious, honest man, incapable of wilfully deceiving. He wanted neither learning nor vivacity, nor an unartificial eloquence. The love of Truth was his predominant passion, to which he sacrificed all worldly considerations, and for which he laid down his life with great resolution; and therefore, whosoever loves Truth, should love him and his memory." The testimony of such a man in proof of this point, "that there did prevail in his days a certain doctrine," deserves credit. He says, "We praise the Maker of all things through his Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Spirit ;" "We adore the Son and the Spirit." By which expressions he does attest it as a matter of Fact, existing and acknowledged, and on his testimony it is to be believed, that the doctrine of the Trinity was in substance maintained by his Contemporaries, who lived long before the Couns cil of Nice. The same remark will apply to Athenagoras, the
"civility, and decency, and politeness" of whose Apology, are (in Jortin's opinion) observable.
Theophilus was a Convert from heathenism to Christianity, asJustin and Athenagoras were, and in the Second Century. He writes like a Man, who believed on conviction, after diligent research and serious reflection. It is true, we find him not exempt, from what is vicious in point of good taste; but fanciful and farfetched conceits in any author, will not invalidate his credit as a Man, when cited to prove the existence of a fact. Theophilus then by his expressions demonstrates, that the doctrine of a Trinity was holden in his days.
Of Justin, Athenagoras, and Theophilus, it is to be observed, they imbibed not this doctrine in their childhood, nor were Trinitarians through the prejudices of early education. They were Heathen Philosophers: were converted to Christianity and embraced this as an original principle of Christian Faith.
LXXVII. For the opinions of Plato, for the opinions of Aristotle, we refer to Academic, or to Peripatetic Commentators. For Christian Opinions in early days, why we should not appeal to Christian Commentators, who lived in those days, no sufficient reason has ever yet been given. The question here is not, Whether these opinions were in themselves right or wrong? but, Whether the Commentators have treated of those opinions, and given illustrations of them, and thus proved they were then Christian opinions?
LXXVIII. If before the Reformation too great deference was paid to the Fathers, as though they were infallible; since the Reformation too little respect has been shewn them, as though they were absolutely incompetent to judge, and incapable of speaking truth. So prone are we to run from one extreme to another: and so easy is the transition from error on one side, to error in a direction entirely opposite.
LXXIX. Why the most early Fathers should not be at least as competent to interpret Scripture, as we ourselves are, no just cause can be assigned. Why they should be much more competent than we are, may be adduced reasons, which will appear strong to those, who consider the proximity of the times, in which many of the Fathers wrote, to the commencement of Christianity; and the opportunities they had of collecting the sentiments of the Apostles themselves, some by personal intercourse, and others by not very remote tradition.
LXXX. Speaking of the Nicene and Constantinopolitan explications of the Christian Doctrine, Ridley observes, "The Fathers, who lived about those times, a little before or after the latest of those Councils, such as Basil, the two Gregories, Didymus, and Cyril of Alexandria, in their Discourses on the Holy Spirit, drew their doctrines entirely from the Scriptures, and did not then fashion, but succeeded to the Faith, by tradition of those, who presided in the Church from the Apostolical age to their own times. To which they appeal, producing their testimonies, and tracing it up to the New Testament; where they challenge a cloud of witness
es.' Ridley's "Eight Sermons" shew him to have been a man of erudition, and well acquainted with the Writings of Heathen and Christian Antiquity.
LXXXI. Philostorgius (says Suidas) hath made mention of Basil, in words to this effect; "In those times flourished Basil of Cesaria of Cappadocia, and Gregory at Nazianzen, and Appollinarius in Laodicia of Syria. These three men contended for the doctrine of "Consubstantiality," against that of " Different-Substance," by excelling all the advocates of that heresy, who had ever written before, or who have written since from that time to my own; so that even Athanasius was thought a child when compared with them. For they had made very great proficiency in what is called extraneous, i. e. profane learning; and in the Sacred Writings with respect to whatever perfected the reading and quick recollection of them, they had great experience; and Basil the most of all.” Philostorgius was an Arian. He was nevertheless candid enough not to withhold from these eminent persons their due praise, although they were of a different persuasion. In this he gave an example of moderation to be commended and imitated.
LXXXII. Whether, among the early Christian Writers, the most approved by the Christian World in general did or did not maintain the doctrine of a Trinity, is as much a question of Fact, as whether Sir Isaac Newton did or did not maintain the principles of gravitation and attraction. That such Writers did maintain that doctrine, no man can possibly doubt, who will read the work to which we have before referred, and which (to use Waterland's words)" will stand as long as clear sense, sound reasoning, and true learning have any friends left," the "Defensio Fidei Nicana."
LXXXIII. By ascribing divine attributes to Three Persons, the ancient Christian Writers asserted a Trinity in the quality of Godhead; by maintaining the "Father" to be the only source of Divinity, they asserted Unity in the Power of Divine government.
LXXXIV. Whence did the primitive Christians collect their ideas respecting the Trinity? From examining, and comparing with each other, various texts and various passages in the Scriptures; and by reasoning on the whole put together.
LXXXV. St. Paul confuted the Jews who denied that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, ovibawv, " by bringing together" a variety of texts from the Scriptures of the Old Testament. These he applied to Christ; and by shewing the correspondence of real character in him, with intimations given and delineations marked out, in the Sacred Writings of Moses and the Prophets, the Apostle prov ed what he wished to demonstrate (Acts ix. 22.) This method is analogous to the process of reasoning in the human mind. We put together various facts, and then draw our conclusion from those facts. It is the very characteristic of Man's nature, as Rational, to proceed thus.
LXXXVI. We act in conformity with St. Paul's practice, and with the ordinary course of human reasoning, when we bring togeth er various texts of Scripture, and thence prove the doctrine of a Trini