« AnteriorContinuar »
when they are trampling on his most sacred lawsthe laws of charity and truth. In every age of the church, it has sought to rend asunder the "seamless robe of Christ," and cover it with the blood of contending sectarians.
have simply and uni
The correctness of the maxims by which we have sought to preach the gospel, we are contented should be tried by the manner in which we have treated the controversy with respect to the unity of the divine nature. Without assailing at all the belief of others, we formly presented those views only which seemed to us just. We have spoken of the Lord our God, always and only, as One Lord, and declared that there is none other but he. In our preaching, and in our prayers, we call you to witness, we have led you to him, as the great and single object of religious worship; and have invited you to ask, through Jesus Christ, for all things, of his Father and our Father; of his God and our God. Very sensible that those may love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, who have very different, and in some respects very erroneous ideas of his nature, we have not sought to diminish your respect for our Trinitarian brethren; but have been willing to trust to the progress of free inquiry into the meaning of the sacred scriptures, to rectify what we think to be their mistaken ideas.
On the most deliberate review of the maxims on which our preaching has proceeded, I feel sa
tisfied that they are just and evangelical; and I had hoped to have been able to conform my practice to them, as long as my life should be spared, and I should be permitted to continue my honourable labours as a servant of Christ.
"But we have fall'n on evil days,
"On evil days have fall'n, and evil tongues."
Our forbearance is made a crime; and our unwillingness to denounce those who differ from us, and to turn our churches into halls of unhallowed and unchristian disputation, is imputed to the most unworthy motives.
Το you, my friends, it is unnecessary to offer a word of comment on this subject; or to assure you that we shall not be deterred from performing our duty, in the manner in which, before God, we think we ought to do it, by the misguided zeal of those who know not "what spirit they are of." Still, however, as the question with regard to the divine unity excites a strong interest among many excellent christians, and as its real nature is, after all, but little understood, I have thought it might be useful for once, to give you a general view of the state of this question, and its connexion with other doctrines. I do not know any better mode of leading you to a right judgment in this controversy, than by simply telling you what it is; and how far any vital principle of the gospel is involved in the decision of it.
The testimony of the sacred scriptures is so full, so clear, and so express as to the truth that God is one, that all christians, of all denominations, admit it as a primary and undeniable principle. It is so solemnly declared to us, both in the Old Testament and the New, That the Lord our God is one Lord, that there is none other but he, and that we shall have no other before him; that all christians must agree, that unless their opinions are consistent with this first and great truth, they must be unscriptural and false. Our Trinitarian brethren, however, suppose that God is not one in the common meaning of this word, but only in a mysterious sense; that there exists in the divine nature a threefold division; and, consequently, they must believe that Moses, in the Old Testament, and our Saviour in the text, would have spoken more definitely and exactly if they had said, The Lord our God is one God in three persons-the holy one of Israel is in effect the holy three-there are none other but they. With regard to the meaning of the word person this proposition, there is a very great diversity among our brethren; and, indeed, for the most part, they seem to agree in nothing with respect to it, but in condemning those who decline to use it. You will judge what this word must practically mean, however, when you consider, that they all suppose that each of these persons has a distinct name, a distinct office-is a distinct object of petition, and a distinct object of worship; that the
Father is the supreme and self-existent God, the Son is the supreme and self-existent God, and the Holy Ghost is the supreme and self-existent God. Still, however, though nothing seems wanting here to complete the idea of three distinct beings, our brethren most earnestly, and I doubt not, most sincerely disclaim the idea of three Gods; and heaven forbid, my friends, that we should impute to them any belief which they disavow. I would only say, that my own mind is unable to make the distinction between a person and a being. I can conceive of one God; or I can conceive of three Gods; but of an existence which is neither one nor three, in any known meaning of these terms, and yet is affirmed to be both one and three, I cannot form the most remote conception. The moment that I affix any idea whatever to these words, they form in my mind the most express and formal contradiction. Other men's understandings may be differently constructed; but for myself, unless the proposition of the Trinity means that there are three Gods, it does not convey to me the smallest gleam of meaning. One cannot with so much propriety be said to disbelieve such a proposition, as to be wholly ignorant of its meaning. It is not rejected because it is a mystery, but because, if it be not a contradiction in terms, it is nothing-nothing but words without any ideas. Our brethren, however, do not view the subject in this light, and, as far as this is so, they deserve praise for fol
lowing with fidelity their best convictions of what is right. We, my friends, when we do the same, I should hope, would at least be thought not to merit censure.
This, however, is not the whole of that doctrine which is called the doctrine of the Trinity; a word, you remember, not found in the sacred scriptures, and indeed not invented till long after the birth of Christ. Our brethren mean something more by it than I have yet stated to you. Besides the doctrine that the nature of God comprehends three perfectly distinct, supreme, and self-existent persons, they make the enormous addition of supposing, that one of these persons possesses a Human as well as a Divine nature—is at the same time perfect God and perfect man—at one and the same moment, the infinite, eternal, unchangeable Jehovah, and a frail, feeble, and imperfect mortal like ourselves! I fear, my friends, that some of you who have not much attended to this subject, may think that this representation cannot be accurate, and that it is impossible any should think they find such a theory as this in the Bible which you habitually read. You may ask, whether it is possible that any one can suppose, that if a doctrine like this were the true doctrine, our Lord would have made the solemn declaration in our text, of the Unity of God, without the slightest qualification of its meaning. When the great object of Judaism had been to secure the