« VorigeDoorgaan »
those who bear the denomination of orthodox, to be the standard of the true doctrine of the Trinity. It is to this purpose: The catholic faith is this; that we worship one * God in Trinity Trinity in Unity; neither confounding
the persons, nor dividing the substance. For there is one • person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of • the Holy Ghost. But the godhead of the Father, of the • Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one, the glory equal, the • majesty co-eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, . and such is the Holy Ghost.-The Father eternal, the Son • eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet there are not • three eternals, but one eternal. As also there are not three • incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated, but one uncreated, . and one incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is al* mighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Ghost almighty. . And yet there are not three Almighties, but one Almighty. • So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost • is God. And yet there are not three Gods, but one God.'
According to this creed, there are not three eternals, . but one eternal, not three Almighties, but one Almighty.' So this seems to me. However, let every man judge for himself. And let every man, who thinks himself
orthodox, examine himself by this creed, whether he be so, or not. For it is not impossible that many well meaning people, of lower rank, may believe a real Trinity of distinct intelligent beings. Yea, it is likely, that this is indeed the firm belief and persuasion of great numbers of the vulgar sort among christians. It
be also tbe sentiment of some who make no small figure in the learned world.
Nevertheless I do not think that to be wbat is called the cominonly received doctrine of the church. This appears to me evident from the forecited creed.
Before we proceed to apply this doctrine to the words of the text, it may be proper to observe still more distinctly the received doctrine concerning the Son. The second article of the church of England is thus. • The Son, which • is the word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the • Father, the very and eternal God, of one substance with • the Father, took man's nature in the womb of the blessed • virgin, of her substance; so that two whole and perfect
natures, that is, the godhead and manhood were joined to'gether in one person, never to be divided. Whereof is one
Christ, very God, and very man ; who truly suffered, was • dead and buried.' I have taken the words of that article, that I may be sure
to avoid all misrepresentation, and that there may be no suspicion of it.
Let us now observe the explication of the text, agreeably to this scheme; which I shall take in the words of a pious annotator. • “ Let this mind be in you, which was also in • Christ Jesus.” As Christ denied himself for you, so
should you for others. “ Who being in the form of God, • thought it not robbery to be equal with God :" that is, : who being the essential image of the Father, and enjoying • the divine essence and nature with all its glory, knew that • it was no usurpation in him, to account himself so, and carry
bimself as such. “ But made himself of no reputa• tion." Yet he emptied himself of that divine glory and * majesty, by biding it in the veil of his flesh; " and took
upon him the form of a servant:" that is, the quality and : condition of a mean person, not of some great man.
6 And ' was made in the likeness of men;" that is, subject to all • the frailties and infirmities of human nature, sin only ex* cepted. “And being found in fashion as a man, he hum• bled himself." By what appeared to all, and by the whole
tenour of his carriage, he was found to be a true man. !“ And becaine obedient unto death, even unto the death : of the cross.” He manifested his obedience, as in all other * particulars, so in resigning up himself to death, the death
of the cross, the most cruel, contemptible, and accursed • death. “ Wherefore God also bath highly exalted him, and * given him a name, which is above every name.” Where· fore God advanced his human nature to the highest degree • of glory, and has given him honour, authority, and majesty, • above all created excellence.'
Upon this interpretation it is easy to remark, that it does not seem exactly to answer the apostle's expressions. It supposes two things to be spoken of, first the Deity, then the humanity of Jesus. I say, it is supposed, that the apostle first speaks of Christ's being “ of the divine nature and essence,” and therein humbling himself. And the human nature is exalted. Whereas the apostle seems to speak all along of one thing or person. “Let this mind be in
you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who made himself of no reputation.
Wherefore God also has highly exalted him, and given him a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow." He who had humbled himself is exalted. Nor can true Deity either be abased or rewarded.
b Mr. Samuel Clark's Annotations upon the place
There is therefore no small difficulty in applying the commonly received opinion concerning Christ, as God, of the same substance, and equal with the Father, to this text. Or, it is not easy to reconcile the doctrine of the apostle in this place, and the commonly received opinion concerning the Trinity.
I shall now conclude with these two remarks.
I. The commonly received doctrine of the Trinity, which is reckoned orthodox, and the doctrine of the church, is obscure. Indeed it is generally acknowledged to be very mysterious. And it appears to be so from the authentic accounts which have been now given of it. For it is said that there are three persons in the godhead, the Father, • the Son, and the Holy Ghost:' and they are said to be . equal in power and glory. Which expressions seem to intinate, that there are three distinct beings, and minds. But yet, on the other hand, it is as plainly said, that there is but one eternal, and one Almighty.
These expressions must be allowed to represent an obscure doctrine. Some have said, that it is contradictory.
All I affirm is, that it is obscure, and difficult to be conceived and understood, if it be not absolutely incomprehensible.
II. Secondly, I would observe, that obscure doctrines ought not to be made necessary to salvation. They who consider the general tenour, and great design of the preaching of Christ and his apostles, to all sorts of men, in order to bring them to repentance and holiness, and thereby to everlasting happiness, by the good will and appointment of God, will be easily led to think that there should not be any doctrines, necessary to be believed, which are of such a nature, that the most metaphysical and philosophical minds can scarcely know what they are, or reconcile them to reason. Therefore the commonly received doctrine of the Trinity, if it be obscure, should not be made a necessary article of a christian's faith. And yet this is the introduction to the Athanasian creed: - Whosoever will be saved, • before all things it is necessary, that he hold the catholic • faith. Wbich faith, except every one do keep whole and • undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. • And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in * Trinity, and Trinity in Unity :' and the rest. And the more fully to enforce the necessity of this doctrine, it is repeated again at the end :.. This is the catholic faith. Which
except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.'
This, and other like creeds, are inserted in almost all the established articles and liturgies in christendom.
But is not this teaching uncharitableness by authority ? And, if any join in such offices of religion, whilst they believe not the creeds which they recite, or are supposed to recite, they are made to pass sentences of condemnation upon themselves.
How great then is the privilege to be at liberty to choose our religion, and that way of worship, which, upon a serious consideration, and after careful and impartial examination, we think to be reasonable, scriptural, and edifying !
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.
And what follows. Philip. ii. 5–11. IN a late discourse on this text, I stated and considered the commonly received opinion concerning the Trinity, and the person of Christ in particular.
I now intend to consider another sentiment concerning the person of Christ, and consequently also concerning the Trinity.
Some then suppose the Son to be a spirit, or_intelligent agent, subordinate and inferior to the Father. They think that this is what is meant by the Word, spoken of by St. John at the beginning of his gospel. “ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God :” or a God, as they would translate : not the same with the Father, or equal to him, or of the same nature and essence: but said to be God, on account of his great excellence and power, derived to him by the will of the Father. “ All things were made by him,” that is, by him under the Father, as his instrument, and by his appointment.
66 And without him was not any thing made that was made."
To the like purpose they understand and explain Col. i. 15, 16, “ Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisi. ble; whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers. All things were created by him, and for him.”
Which words are thus paraphrased by an ingenious and learned commentator, of the sentiment, which I am now endeavouring to represent as fairly as may be-Since he " is the most lively visible image of the Father who is the • invisible God, and is the first being that was derived from • him. And that he must be the first derived from him, is • from bence evident, that all other beings were derived • from God, the primary and supreme cause of all, through • this his Son, by whoin, as their immediate Author, all * things were created, that are in heaven, or that are in earth, • visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or domini. ons, or principalities, or powers. All things were created .by him, and to be in subjection to him. He therefore * must be before all things. And by him all things are ' preserved. And he is the head of the church, which is • his body
Heb. i. 1, 2, “ God hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.” In his notes upon these last words, the same learned expositor says: “As from • other places it appears, that Christ was employed in making • the world, so this seems most agreeable to the scope of the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews. His intention appears to be, to give the loftiest and most noble account of • his greatness and dignity, abstractedly from what be pro• ceeds to afterwards, the honour conferred upon him at his resurrection. Now since he so expressly mentions that which may seem a less instance of his greatness, that “ he * upholds all things ;"it is not probable, that he would omit . that which was greater, God's creating the worlds by • him.'
Of the Word, or Son of God, these learned men do also generally understand Prov. viii. 22–31.
Well then, the Son being, according to this scheme, the first derived being, and God having made the world by him : what was the station, what the employment, what the dignity of the Son of God before his incarnation ?
The learned annotator before quoted, in his notes upon Philip. ii. 9, says: “The scriptures seem to represent this to have been the state of things antecedently to our Savi
our's coming into the world ; that God allotted to the an'gels provinces and dominions, one being appointed to preside over one country, and another over another
The places, as evidences of this, are all taken out of Dan. x. ; • where is related a vision of an angel sent to Daniel in the
· Mr. James Peirce.