cause it precludes the benefit which might otherwise be derived from that most valuable of all instruction, which is grounded exclusively upon Divine authority.

We cannot have stronger proof of this, than in the many errors which have prevailed respecting the Scripture-doctrines of the Trinity and our Lord's Incarnation. If any truths may properly be said to transcend the reach of human faculties, they are these. We can form no abstract conception of them; nor can we by any analogy, any comparison of them with objects of the visible world, attain to a more perfect acquaintance with them than is conveyed in the simple declarations of holy writ-declarations, which profess not to give us any insight into the mode of being essential to the Godhead, or of its union with human nature in the person of our Lord; but require us to receive both doctrines, on the sole authority of Divine testimony. Whatever questions, relating to either of them, have more in view than this, fall under the description of those which the apostle censures. They cannot advance real knowledge; they can only serve the purpose of contentious disputation.

The doctrine of the Trinity presents, it must be confessed, insuperable difficulties to

them who attempt to fathom its mystery. But they are not, in general, difficulties arising out of any inherent obscurity or ambiguity in the terms by which the doctrine is propounded in holy writ; but, difficulties, for the most part, of a physical or metaphysical kind, springing from a contemplation of the subject in some point of view not presented to us by the scriptures. Similar difficulties to these (it has often been observed) occur, even in what relates to our own nature and essence. Who can explain how the human mind, in the same instant of time, and apparently by one and the same act, exercises the distinct faculties of perception, judgment, and will? Yet who will question the fact? And the same may be said of many other phenomena of the human mind. If then, in matters of which we ourselves are personally conscious, so much mystery be found; how much rather may we expect that the infinity of the Divine nature should baffle our research? Let reason first be assured that she can solve the lesser problem, before she presume to attempt the greater. Let her prove, that within her own immediate province she can disperse the clouds and darkness which surround her, before she aspire to higher flights, and lose

herself in those regions where faith alone can safely direct her course.


The desire however of philosophizing upon the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation, appears to have been the main source of some of the earliest heresies. Theodoret supposes that St. Paul had Simon Magus and his followers specially in view, when he admonished Timothy to "avoid profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called." What were the particular tenets of Simon Magus, it is somewhat difficult to trace, through the obscurity in which his history is involved. It appears to have been the general persuasion of antiquity, that he was a chief leader, if not the actual founder, of the multifarious tribe of Gnostics, afterwards divided and subdivided into innumerable sects. Nor is it improbable, that the wild and fantastic speculations of these pretenders to science prepared the way for subsequent heresies of a more plausible de


f "Qui a Simone orti sunt Gnosticos seipsos appellarunt, quasi scientia præditos. Quæ enim divina Scriptura ta"cuit, ea Deum sibi aiunt revelasse: sunt autem plena "omni impietate ac libidine. Hanc jure vocavit falso no"minatam scientiam. Ignorationis habent caliginem, non "divinæ lucem cognitionis." Theodoret. in locum. Oper. tom. 3. p. 493. Paris. 1642.


scription, and so much the more dangerous in their effect upon inquisitive minds. But, whether or not we can trace the chief antitrinitarian sects to this source, we have ample evidence to prove, that, whatever differences may have subsisted between them in other respects, their errors were mostly attributable to one and the same cause, the vanity of being wise above what is written, and of endeavouring to explicate what is inexplicable by human reasoning. Hence the frequent disregard of scripture among these " perverse disputers," when it came into competition with their own imaginations; and their rashness in making the crude conceptions of the human mind the supreme standard even of Divine truth, and the arbitrary interpreter of its sacred oracles.

Three heresiarchs of this description, passing over others of less notoriety, it may suffice to notice.


Sabellius, rather the reviver, perhaps, than the first assertor of the opinions which pass under his name, maintained, in opposition to the catholic faith, that there is no distinction of persons in the Godhead; the terms Father, Son, and Holy Ghost being nothing more than different names or titles of the Supreme Being, by which were denoted the several

manifestations of the Divine Nature in heaven and in earth; or, in other words, by which the Deity was nominally distinguished, according to his distinct operations in the redemption and sanctification of mankind. Upon this hypothesis, (for Sabellius does not appear to have denied the doctrine of the Incarnation,) it would follow, that the Father himself was united to the man Jesus, and suffered death upon the cross; whence the earlier abettors of the heresy were styled Theopaschitæ, or Patripassians, and obtained other similar denominations expressive of that confusion of the persons in the Godhead which this hypothesis seemed necessarily to imply.

Arius, seeing how totally irreconcileable this opinion was with the distinct agency ascribed to each person of the Godhead in the holy scriptures, devised the scheme of attributing to the Son an inferior species of divinity to that of the Father; reducing him to the rank of a created being, neither coeternal, co-essential, nor co-equal with the Father; yet antecedent to all other created beings, and himself invested with the powers of the Creator. The Holy Ghost he held to have been produced by the Son, and to have cooperated with him in the work of creation,

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