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From the doctrines of our faith we pass to its author, from Chris. tianity to Christ; and state our belief in the following words: “ We believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, as the only Son of God, the only mediator between God and man. We reject the Athanasian doctrine of the Trinity, and we contend that faith on this point should stop at the limit Christ himself prescribed, when he said no man knoweth the Son but the Father.”
The controversies which have distracted the churches on the subject of the Trinity, have been the most virulent, and at the same time the most sterile, of any by wbich she has been convulsed. The bitterness and sterility of these disputes are easily accounted for. Controversy is always virulent in proportion as the subject matter in debate is obscure, as the language of the disputants is vague, and as their ideas are undefined ; and, controversy is always sterile, as the matter in debate is unconnected with the moral laws and practical precepts of Christianity. Now the idea of the Trinity is but a vain effort to scan the nature of the Deity, -to penetrate his essence, to see the invisible, to place an infinite on a level with the conceptions of a finite being—the language of the disputants in this controversy has therefore been necessarily figurative, unmeaning and confused to a degree almost surpassing belief, and their animosity has increased in proportion to the difficulty—they have found in rendering themselves mutually intelligible, just as we know that the fury and destruction of a midnight assault are greater than those of a combat in open day. Nor have the losses suffered by Christian faith in these interminable and aimless disputes been compensated for by “ any collateral” gain on the side of Christian charity, or virtue. All the questions on the sub. ject of the Trinity involve points of mere dogmatical speculation, having no possible connection with love to God, or our duty to our fellow men ; and we fearlessly assert, that the creed of Athana. sius, the only orthodox statement of the Trinity, has never originated, a repentant, a resigned, nor a devotional sentiment.
True it is, that the disputes on this dogma are less virulent than beforetime; the denunciations of its supporters are not so frequently heard, not that the disputants have come to any mutual comprehension of each other's theories, but they have agreed to discontinue the controversy. Such is a fitting way to terminate such an argumert, silence looks like peace, and may happily be mistaken for it. What preacher of our day (in France) ventures to make the Trinity a subject of pulpit discussion, to introduce it in his pastoral exhortations ? What work of any value has appeared for years upon this effete topic? What theologian of any character would dare to quote as of any importance the argument for this doctrine rested upon the words “ Let us make man,” an argument formerly so popular and satisfactory? The word Trinity exists not in the Bible ; it is a pure invention of human reason, a sufficient argument with the Bible Christian for rejecting its use, for avoiding it in sermons, in works intended for religious edification, and in the instruction of the young. The notion of a Trinity will perish and be forgotten as the word becomes disused, and the period will arrive when the Christian church will be profoundly astonished that man ever ventured thus presumptuously to raise the veil which concealed the Holy of Holies, and look with daring eye into the sacred ark where God had placed his majestic pre
With many all definite idea connected with the term is already passed and gone and the word alone remains. They fancy they believe in the Trinity, but they do not really do so. No doctrine less troubles their peace, or distracts their religious meditations. They have formed for themselves insensibly, and by the tried acquiescence of their reason, a system quite different from the old one, and are Trinitarians in a sense very remote from that adopted by ancient Orthodoxy. It is thus with the French Methodists of our day. They acquiesce in the opinions of other sects upon this doctrine, but are careful not to be too explicit in its statement, nor too exacting in requiring its reception from their own partyWe speak from our own knowledge and experience, and we re
commend our readers to make the same trial as we have done. Ask professed Trinitarians what they do believe upon this doctrine. Leave them to explain their own views, and before they have reached the third sentence in their explanation you will find them Antitrinitarian! You will see heresy peeping from beneath their orthodox robe! you will find them contending, “ Thad God manifests himself as the Father in creation, as the Son in redemption, as the Holy Ghost in sanctification ; and the Trinity becomes ONE God, creating, saving, and sanctifying! In this sense we are all Trinitarians. We may remark while on this subject, that in the history of doctrines, this view is known as Sabellianism, and is wholly opposed to ancient Orthodoxy, to the Confession of Rochelle, and to the theology of Luther and Calvin. In former times Sabellians were condemned and excommunicated by the Trinitarians, now Trinitarians are almost to a man Sabellians !
This gradual and unconscious change which the lapse of time and the progress of knowledge have made in the profession of those who still fancy they hold fast to ancient Orthodoxy, has proceeded so far with many, that they have not a shred of the old Trinity remaining, and are astonished when we assert that this doctrine is a vain effort of the human mind to comprehend the Deity, to define the infinite, to pierce the mysteries of God's nature, and to describe in the feeble language of earth the mighty operations and awful manifestations of the Almighty Spirit of the universe. To avoid misapprehension we therefore deem it necessary to declare, that it is the Trinity of the Athanasian creed, we attack and reject. A creed very different from the one bearing the name of the apostles', a creed which we never read without a shudder, which appears to us the most melancholy and deplorable proof ever given of the length to which pride and presumption will carry the mind of man, and which is alone useful in demonstrating the great truth to which we have before adverted, that God can alone comprehend God. In perusing this chaos of meaningless definition, which in attempting to define what cannot be defined, outrages every devotional feeling of the mind, one hears as it were the rolling of the thunders which interrupted the reproaches and silenced the cavils of Job's presumptuous friends. The clouds of Heaven thicken around us, the darkness deepens, and we hear the voice of God, rebuking the profane accents of man and thundering in his ear, “ Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge ?"
The extravagances of ancient Orthodoxy upon the doctrine of the Trinity, and the modifications necessarily introduced by time, have led to a marked change in the mode in which the faith of the church is now announced and defended in the discussions between the various sects, and in the controversy with the Rationalists and Sceptics. The object of defence is now not so much the Trinity as the Divinity of Christ. Now we claim to share the honour of supporting this holy ark with our feeble hands; not like Uzza fearing it should fall without our aid, but because we esteem it our duty to defend this doctrine of Christ's Divinity, as well against the incredulity of the false philosophy which denies, as against the mysticism of the pretended orthodoxy which disfigures it, we think it advisable to exhibit it in the native and luminous simplicity of the gospel word, and free it from the darkness and gloom of the Athanasian symbol. This may seem a bold andertaking, and yet we dare to think that something new may be said in exposure of the presumption, both of the Skeptic and the Theologian, and since the history of Uzza has been recalled to our recollection we devoutly pray that in the performance of this work which will almost complete our present task, we may remember that it is the duty of the humble worshipper to regard the ark of God at a respectful distance, to follow it with pious adoration, but not to gaze within upon its holy secret.
The question respecting the Divinity of Christ is almost invariably stated and discussed amiss. A view is taken of the subject which appears to us both presumptuous and inexpedient. This has led to a twofold error into which all sects in every age of the church have unhappily fallen. In the first place, an attempt has been made to establish this doctrine by human reason.
Now it seems to us that this is not a question of reason, but of faith. It is a truth which rests on the testimony of inspiration alone, and the sole interference of reason must be confined to giving the correct interpretation of the passages in which the doctrine is announced. Take the following examples of the mode of reasoning sometimes employed upon this question. “An offence committed against an infinite being can only be effaced by an infinite atonement, and therefore Jesus must be the infinite God: If Jesus is not of the same essence as the Father, then Mahometanism is a more rational faith than Christianity!" “ If Jesus is not the same as God, the Christian religion is but a refined magic."! “ If Jesus is not the true God, he could not judge the living and the dead.” Now none of these subtle arguments have the smallest value, they move in a circle, they beg the question. They may appear logical, but logic is out of place here, she dares too much when she thus stands between God and Christ. With the evangelical student there is but one valid argument which weighs a little in this controversy, and that argument is “ It is written.”
Another source of error in connection with this controversy, has been the preference theologians have shown to regard the relations of Christ to God, rather than the relations of Christ to man. It is the last alone which concern us. What Christ is in relation to God, concerns himself and God alone, what Christ is in relation to man in. timately concerns us, because on those relations depend our hopes of pardon, of salvation and of eternal life. This distinction appears to us of the greatest importance, and that it is so will, we trust, appear to our readers if they seriously weigh the following considerations.The titles of Son of God and Saviour are distinct, Christ might have possessed the one without the other, because had not mankind fallen from virtue and incurred the spiritual death which sin entails, Jesus had not required to assume the office of a Saviour nor had redemption been required by man. But the title Son of God appertains to him independent of his mediatorial office, and instead of visiting the earth to redeem sinners, he might have remained in the calm enjoyment of “the glory he had with the Father before the world was.”
In fact we might reduce the New Testament scriptures to the three first lines of St. John “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God." and these lines would contain an important and eternal truth, though not followed by another sentence of the gospel though “ the word” had not “ been made flesh,” that is become a man, and consented to descend from Heaven to enlighten, to convert, and to save humanity. Our relations with Christ, therefore, depend upon the redemption he accomplished, not upon the divinity he possessed. We are more concerned in receiving him as the Saviour of men, than recognizing him as the Son of God. If our opponents insist that he could not be the one without being the other, that the redemption he accomplished depends upon his divinity, that to deprive him of divine majesty is to take from him the power to save, we merely reply, this is appealing to reason again, intruding upon the council of God, asserting that he can save but by one way, and redeem but by one method, it is passing a judgment on a matter of which we