« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
men for their arrogance and folly in preferring the words of their own wisdom, to the plain, simple, unadulterated language of divine revelation. And all this, be it remembered, not by the Unitarian against the Trinitarian, but among Trinitarians themselves, in their disputes respecting who is the God of the Christian--the God of the Bible ; a truth which must be clearly revealed, if there is anything plain in revelation. Let us notice a few of these diversities among the more distinguished writers upon the subject.
Bishop Sherlock says,—"The persons in the Trinity are three distinct infinite minds: a person is an intelligent being, and to say they are three divine persons, and not three infinite minds, is both heresy and nonsense.” “But," exclaim a host of his opponents, "three distinct infinite minds are three Gods;" and no reviling, no opprobrious name, no execration, no punishment, in time or eternity, is sufficient to satiate their wrath against this tritheist ! Dr. South, one of the most bitter, talented, and learned of his antagonists, says that it is only a Trinity of modes or relations, -"Forasmuch as persons here imports only a relation or mode of subsistence, in conjunction with the nature it belongs to, and therefore, a multiplication of persons of itself, imports only a multiplication of such modes or relations,” &c. &c. But as God stands connected with his creation in an almost endless variety of relations, we should thus have an infinity of Gods, persons; and the greater the number the nearer the approach to the truth. Besides, each of the persons in the Trinity is said to be God; but a mode or relation can never be God; and in the opinion of many Trinitarians, this lowers and degrades the persons, and is equally heresy and nonsense with the explanation of Sherlock. It has been said by others, that a Trinity of persons in God was necessary, in order that He, the one living and true God, might not, from all eternity, be alone—that he might enjoy the sweets of society. This opinion was once very popular among Trinitarians, as affording one of the best explanations of the Trinity ; and yet, if there be but one God, how can he be in company, enjoy society, except with himself? Absurdity can scarcely go farther than this! or, on the other hand, we have distinct separate minds enjoying each other's society, that is, three distinct Gods, the anathematized opinion of Dr. Sherlock, and yet strange to say, the propounders of this opinion were amongst his most bitter antagonists; so inconsistent and contradictory is error, and into such confusion and absurdity does it ultimately lead. Some affirm, that “three somewhats in God there must be ; but studiously avoid saying what these somewhats are.” And not to multiply quotations, which would be endless, others declare there must be a Trinity, for it has been long and popularly a doctrine of the Christian Church-their fathers believed it ; but ask what it means, or to express it in the language of Scripture, you are informed they do not trouble themselves with such controversies, the clergy tell them “it is found in every page of the Bible," and they should know best. And this, too, is modern Protestantism, and the exercise of the right of private judgment for the use or abuse of which they must one day give an account.
Now, the whole of this diversity of opinion, contradiction, and absurdity arises out of a departure from the language and simplicity of the Holy Scriptures. Were the subjects such as are within the reach of the light of nature, human speculations might be more freely indulged; but where the word of God affords us the only information we possess, to depart from the language in which it conveys instruc, tion, and adopt, in preference, a pagan phraseology, or the unintelligible jargon of scholastic divinity, savours of a perverted understanding and spiritual pride. But it must be admitted, upon all hands, that all our knowledge respecting the nature of God, the mode of his existence, the relations which subsist between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is solely obtained through divine revelation ; and, therefore, to employ on these subjects language which they never use, is unwarranted and presumptuous, and such as no mind sufficiently imbued with that reverence for the word of God which a Christian should feel, would venture to employ, Away, then, with this fatal delusion, the foolish invention of the days of darkness; and let Christian men again return to the glorious light of the sun of righteousness.
But, it will be said, though Trinity, triune God, three persons, God the Son, &c. are not found in Scripture, and though, as admitted by eminent Trinitarians, and among others by Dr. Sherlock, the terms, one God, the true God, the living and true God, are never applied to any but the Father ; yet a plurality in God there must be, for one of of the words, in Hebrew, which signifies God, is used in the plural number. As this is an argument much relied on, and frequently and popularly urged in the present day, it deserves some notice ; not certainly from anything in the argument itself, for nothing can be more unfounded and absurd, but because it misleads the weak and the unthinking.
Now, it is admitted that the word Elohim, in the plural number, often signifies the true God; but in every instance which I have observed, it has connected with it a pronoun or verb in the singular, proving that when so used, it has only a singular signification. It is •used when plurality is impossible, as to a single angel, to Moses, &c. and surely no one will maintain that there is a Trinity in them ; nor in any translation of the Scriptures is this word ever rendered Gods, except when applied to false gods. Indeed, so to translate it would be to contradict the uniform testimony of Scripture, which declared
there is but one God. Besides, no creed of any Trinitarian Church, ever published to the world, has dared to declare there are more Gods than one-but invariably teach the contrary; yet in opposition to their own creeds, as well as the word of God, some have not failed to affirm, that the word may be translated Gods. Thus, Dr. Pye Smith, and many modern divines after him, affirmed, that the words of Moses, quoted by our Saviour (Deuteronomy vi. 4), “ Flear, O Israel, the Lord your God, should be, the Lord your Gods is one Lord : and thus the weak Christian is taught he has Gods, worships and prays to three gods, whilst both the Scriptures and their own creeds tell them such a translation is a falsehood, for there is but one only the living and true God.
But who dares to assert that the word either could or should be translated Gods ?—such an affirmation involves in it the most awful consequences. If this translation be true, then either the evangelist Mark has recorded a wilful and deliberate falsehood, or our Saviour was ignorant of the meaning of the words which he used, for in Mark xii. 29, he, quoting the words of Moses, has the plural Hebrew word rendered by a Greek noun in the singular. Except then our Saviour was mistaken, or Mark has told a falsehood-Moses used the word God, and not Gods, as Dr. P. Smith falsely asserts ; and the fact of its having been so understood by Christ and his Apostles, should for ever put to shame the advocates of this worthless argument. A plurality of Gods, falsely so called, it may prove, for so the word is used in Scripture ; but three persons in God it cannot prove. Let us try—“ Hear, O Christian! the Lord your Gods are three Gods, and yet there are not three Gods but one God.” Again—singular, EI, God ; plural, Elohim, Gods. No, indignantly exclaims the Trinitarian ; we do not believe in three Gods. This is a Unitarian calumny. What we do believe is, that there are three persons in God. Well, singular, El, God; plural, Elohim, persons! With just as much regard to the meaning of words, and the grammatical structure of language, might you say singular, man ; plural, angels ! Ballycarry, Feb. 4, 1846.
WILLIAM GLENDY. (To be continued.)
OUTLINES OF THE HISTORY OF PRESBYTERIANISM, IN
BY THE REV, H. MONTGOMERY, LL.D.
(Continued from page 90, No. III.) at the adherents of Catholicism, wlio assume the infallibility of their Church, should be disposed to inflict penalties upon those that dissent from their opinions, involves little contradiction in principle, whatsoever may be its violation of charity : but, that those who have seceded from other churches, on the ground of free inquiry, should immediately begin to forge chains, first for themselves, and then for their brethren, is an exhibition of human weakness and inconsistency, equally humiliating and deplorable. Such, however, has been the almost universal practice of Churches calling themselves Protestant. Rejoicing in that penetration of mind which enabled them to detect the errors of others, and proud of that independence of spirit which sustained them in the assertion of their newly acquired liberties, they seem too generally to have believed that they had, themselves, attained the height of perfection, and that nothing more could be abstracted from error, or superadded to truth. Liberty of thought and profession, up to the point at which they had arrived, was noble and commendable, but, beyond that, all was presumption, heresy, and ruin! Every new sect was, in its turn, denounced and persecuted by its elder brethren ; until obtaining some strength and stability in itself, it came in due course, to swell the general out-cry against some more recent innovator. Hence it is, that although we have only one church which boldly lays claim to infallibility, in express terms, we have many that disclaim it in words, whilst they assume it in practice. Nothing could be more ludicrous, than the strut and swagger of the petty Protestant Popes of the earth, called Churches, were not their folly and presumption exhibited on a subject too serious, and often with results the most deplorable. We have Lutherans, Calvinists, Arminians—Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Independents, Methodists--all in conflict, yet all infallible ; each, in the estimation of all the rest, leading souls to destruction, yet, in its own opinion, the only sure guide to Heaven. Such a group would form an admirable subject for the pencil of the Unbeliever or the Catholic ; but it is too melancholy for the contemplation of the genuine Protestant, who would concede to all the same privileges which he, himself, enjoys; and who feels that no service can be acceptable to God, which is not the free-will offering of man!
It could scarcely be expected, that Ireland, always unfortunate, should, in the early stages of the Reformation, have escaped this crying evil of Protestant inconsistency and dissension. For about twenty years, Episcopalian Protestants, English Puritans, and Scotch Presbyterians, laboured for the advancement of their common cause, with a praiseworthy zeal and salutary co-operation ; but, unhappily, the vanity and selfishness of man, which so frequently overpower his higher and better tendencies, gradually disturbed this honourable tranquillity, and laid the foundation of many evils. As usual, in disputes, all parties were, I presume, to some extent, in fault-although their respective Historians have endeavoured to show, that the. blame rested entirely on their opponents. The truth, I believe to be this—The Presbyterians and Puritans, enjoying not merely toleration, but likewise protection, support, and comprehension within the pale of the Church Established by Law, were not always very discreet in the exercise of their privileges. More popular than the Established Clergy, in their style of preaching, in their fervent extempore prayers, and in their modes of administering the ordinances of religion, they gathered the great body of the Protestant laity around them, in every locality where they ministered. This, naturally enough, awakened some jealousy amongst the episcopal ministers; and produced not a little pride and vanity amongst their more popular rivals. As the necessary result of this state of affairs, the two parties gradually became alienated, and each endeavoured to strengthen its own position, by showing its peculiar claims to respect. The Episcopalians relied upon their power and authority, as sanctioned by the State; and the Presbyterians boasted of their superior claims, as sanctioned by the Word of God. Both appealed to the people, in public and in private ; 80 that the breach gradually became wider, and “the Protestant peace was seriously disturbed.” In this rupture, I candidly own, that I do think, the Presbyterians were the aggressors ; or, at the very best, they did not manifest that courtesy and forbearance, to which the Prelates and other clergy of the Established Church were entitled, from those whom they had received with great kindness, and treated with remarkable liberality. That the episcopal clergy, supported by the civil power, were chiefly to blame, in the end, will speedily appear ; but, it is only “historical justice," to place both parties fairly before the world, at the origin of the dispute, as well as during its progress.
It has already been shown, that, in consequence of the growing alienation just adverted to, Bishop Echlin had ceased to join in the ordination of Presbyterian Ministers, or to induct them into Church Livings. “So early," says Mr. Blair, “as 1626, he began to lay snares for us ; but, because the people did generally approve our labours, he at first did this under cover. He wrote to me to be ready to preach at the Primate's triennial visitation, which was to be held by Commission-Dr. Ussher being then in England. I chose for my text 2 Cor. 4, 1, from which I endeavoured specially to show that Christ had instituted no bishops, but only presbyters or ministers ; and then I concluded by exhorting them to use moderately that power which custom and human laws had put into their hand. And, indeed, they took with the advice, without challenging my freedom: only the Bishop of Dromore, who was brother-in-law to Primate Ussher, exhorted me privately to behave as moderately towards them as they had done towards me ; and then bade me farewell.” Now, all this