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CEN T. modifying the ancient and orthodox doctrine of XV. , the Trinity (2). But it must argue a great want
of [z] It is but too evident that few controversies have so little augmented the sum of knowledge, and so much hurt the spirit of charity, as the controversies that have been carried on in the Christian church in relation to the doctrine of the Trinity. Mr WHISTON was one of the first divines who revived this controversy in the xviiith century. About the year 1706, he began to entertain some doubts about the proper eternity and omniscience of Christ. This led him to review the popular doctrine of the Trinity; and, in order to execute this review with a degree of diligence and circumspection suitable to its importance, he read the New Testament twice over, and also all the ancient genuine monuments of the Christian reli, gion till near the conclusion of the second century. By this inquiry, he was led to think, that, at the incarnation of Christ, the Logos, or Eternal Wisdom, supplied the place of the rational soul, or a veurea ;-that the eternity of the son of God was not a real distinct existence, as of a son properly co-eternal with his father by a true eternal generation, but rather a metaphysical existence in pottentiâ, or in some sublimer manner in the father, as his wisdom or word that Christ's real creation or generation (for both these terms are used by the earliest writers) took place some time before the creation of the world;---that the council of Nice itself established no other eternity of CHRIST; and, finally, that the Arian doctrine in these points was the original doctrine of Christ himself, of his holy Apostles, and of the most primitive Christians. Mr Whiston was confirmed in these sentiments by reading NOVATIAN's Treatise concerning the Trinity ; but more especially by the perusal of the
Apostolical Constitutions, the antiquity and authenticity of which he endeavoured, with more zeal than precision and pru. dence, to prove, in the third part of his Primitive Christianity Revived.
This learned visionary, and upright man, was a considerable sufferer by his opinions. He was not only removed from his theological and pastoral functions, but also from his mathéma, tical professorship, as if Arianism had extended its baneful influence even to the science of lines, angles, and surfaces. This measure was undoubtedly singular, and it appeared rigid and severe to all those, of both parties, who were dispassionate enough to see things in their true point of light. And, in. deed, though we should grant that the good man's mathematics might, by erroneous conclusions, have corrupted his orthodoxy, yet it will still remain extremely difficult to comprehend, how his heterodoxy could hurt his mathematics. It was
of equity and candour, to rank this eminent man CENT. in the class of Arians, taking that term in its XVIII.
proper not therefore consistent, either with clemency or good sense, to turn Mr Whiston out of his mathematical chair, because he did not believe the explication of the Trinity that is given in the Athanasian creed ; and I mention this as an instance of the unfair proceedings of immoderate zeal, which often confounds the plainest distinctions, and deals its punishments without measure or proportion.
Dr SAMUEL CLARKE stepped also aside from the notions commonly received concerning the Trinity ; but his modification of this doctrine was not so remote from the popular and orthodox hypothesis, as the sentiment of WHISTON. His method of inquiring into that incomprehensible subject was modest, and, at least, promised fair as a guide to truth. For he did not begin by abstract and metaphysical reasonings in his illustrations of this doctrine, but turned his first researches to the word and to the testimony, persuaded that, as the doctrine of the Trinity was a matter of mere revelation, all human explications of it must be tried by the declarations of the New Testament, interpreted by the rules of grammar, and the principles of sound criticism. It was this persuasion that produced the Doctor's famous book, entitled, The Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity, wherein every Text in the New Testament relating to that Doctrine is distinctly considered, and the Divinity of our blessed Saviour, according to the Scriptures, proved and explained. The doctrine which this learned divine drew from his researches was comprehended in 55 propositions, which, with the proper illustrations, form the second part of this work. The reader will find them there at full length. We shall only observe here, that Dr CLARKE, if he was careful in searching after the true meaning of those scripture expressions that relate to the divinity of the Son and the Holy Ghost, was equally circumspect in avoiding the accusation of heterodoxy, as appears by the series of propositions now referred to. There are three great rocks of heresy on which many bold adventurers on this Antipacifick ocean have been seen to split violently. These rocks are Tritheism, Sabbellianism, and Arianism. Dr CLARKE got evidently clear of the first, by denying the self-existence of the Son and the Holy Ghost, and by maintaining their derivation from, and subordination to, the Father. He laboured hard to avoid the second, by acknowledging the personality and distinct agency of the Son and the Holy Ghost; and he flattered himself with having escaped from the dangers of the third, by his asserting the eternity (for the Doctor believed the possibility of an eternal production which WHiston could
CENT. proper and natural signification; for he only , maintained what is commonly called the Armi.
nian not digest of the two divine subordinate persons. But with all his circumspection, Dr CLARKE did not escape opposition and censure. He was abused and answered, and heresy was subdivided and modified, in order to give him an opprobrious title, even that of Semi-Arian. The convocation threatened, and the Doctor calmed by his prudence the apprehensions and fears which his scripture-doctrine of the Trinity had excited in that learned and reverend assembly. An authentic account of the proceedings of the two houses of convocation upon this occasion, and of Dr Clarke's conduct in consequence of the complaints that were made against his book, may be seen in a piece supposed to have been written by the Rev. Mr JOHN LAWRENCE, and published at London, in 8vo, in the year 1714, under the following title : An Apology for Dr CLARKE, containing an Account of the late Proceedings in Convocation upon his Writings concerning the Trinity. The true copies of all the original papers relating to this affair are published in this apology.
If Dr Clarke was attacked by authority, he was also com. bated by argument. The learned Dr WATERLAND was onę of his principal adversaries, and stands at the head of a pole. mical body, composed of eminent divines, such as GASTREL, WELLS, Nelson, Mayo, Knight, and others, who appeared in this controversy. Against these, Dr CLARKE, unawed by their numbers, defended himself with great spirit and perseverance, in several letters and replies. This prolonged a controversy, which may often be suspended through the fatigue of the combatants, or the change of the mode in theological researches, but which will probably never be terminated, for nothing affords such an endless subject of debate as a doctrine above the reach of human understanding, and expressed in the ambiguous and improper terms of human language, such as persons, generation, substance, &c. which, in this controversy, either convey no ideas at all, or false ones. The inconveniences, accordingly, of departing from the divine simplicity of the scripture-language on this subject, and of making a matter of mere revelation an object of human reasoning, were palpable in the writings of both the contending parties. For, if Dr CLARKE was accused of verging towards Arianism, by maintaining the derived and caused existence of the Son and the Holy Ghost, it seemed no less evident that Dr WATERLAND was verging towards Tritheism, by maintaining the self-existence and independence of these divine persons, and by asserting that the subordination of the Son to the FATHER is only a subor
nian Subordination, which has been, and is still C E N T.
XVIII. adopted by some of the greatest men in England, in
and dination of OFFICE, and not of NATURE. So that if the former Divine was deservedly called a Semi-Arian, the latter might, with equal justice, be denominated a Semi-Tritheist. The difference between these two learned men lay in this, that Dr CLARKE, after making a faithful collection of the texts in scripture that relate to the Trinity, thought proper to interpret them by the maxims and rules of right reasoning, that are used on other subjects ; whereas Dr WATERLAND denied that this method of reasoning was to be admitted in illustrating the doctrine of the Trinity, which was far exalted above the sphere of human reason, and therefore he took the texts of scripture in their direct, literal, and grammatical sense. Dr WATERLAND, however, employed the words persons, subsistence, &c. as useful for fixing the notion of distinction ; the words uncreated, eternal, and immutable, for ascertaining the divinity of eache person ; and the words interior generation and procession, to indicate their union. This was departing from his grammatical method, which ought to have led him to this plain conclusion, that the Son and the Holy Ghost, to whom divine attri. butes are ascribed in Scripture, and even the denoinination of God to the former, possess these attributes in a manner which it is impossible for us to understand in this present state, and the understanding of which is consequently unessential to our salvation and happiness. The Doctor, indeed, apologizes in his queries (p. 321.) for the use of these metaphysical terms, by observing, that “ they are not designed to enlarge our views, “ or to add any thing to our stock of ideas, but to secure the “ plain fundamental truth, That Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
are all strictly divine, and uncreated ; and yet are not three “ Gods, but one God.” It is, however, difficult to comprehend how terms, that neither enlarge our views, nor give us ideas, can secure any truth. It is difficult to conceive what our faith gains by being entertained with a certain number of sounds. If a Chinese should explain a term of his language which I did not understand, by another term, which he knew beforehand that I understood as little, his conduct would be justly con. sidered as an insult against the rules of conversation and good breeding ; and I think it is an equal violation of the equitable principles of candid controversy, to offer, as illustrations, propositions or terms that are as unintelligible and obscure as the thing to be illustrated. The words of the excellent and learned STILLINGFLEET (in the Preface to his Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity) administer a plain and a wise rule, which, were it observed by divines, would greatly contribute to heal the wounds which both Truth and Charity have re
CE N T. and even by some of the most learned bishops of
that nation. This doctrine he illustrated with greater care and perspicuity than any before him had done, and taught that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are equal in nature, and different in rank, authority, and subordination al. A great number of English writers have endeavoured, in a variety of ways, to invalidate and undermine the doctrine of the Holy Trinity; and it was this consideration that engaged a lady (6], eminently distinguished by her orthodoxy and opulence, to leave by her testament a rich legacy as a founda. tion for a lecture, in which eight sermons are preached annually by a learned divine, who is no. minated to that office by the trustees. This foundation has subsisted since the year 1720, and promises to posterity an ample collection of learned
productions in defence of this branch of the . Christian faith.
ceived in this controversy. “ Since both sides yield (says he)
Those who are desirous of a more minute historical view of the manner in which the Trinitarian Controversy has been carried on during this present century, may consult a pamphlet, entitled, An Account of all the considerable Books and Pamphlets that have been wrote on either Side in the Controversy concerning the Trinity since the rear 1712; in which is also contained, an . Account of the Pamphlets written this Last Year, on each side, by the Dissenters, to the End of the Year 1719. This pamphlet was published at London in the year 1720. The more recent treatises on the subject of the Trinity are sufficiently known.
[a] It will appear to those who read the preceding note [%], that Dr Mosheim has here mistaken the true hypothesis of Dr CLARKE, or, at least, expresseth it imperfectly ; for what he says here is rather applicable to the opinion of Dr WATERLAND. Dr Clarke maintained an equality of perfections between the three Persons ; but a subordination of nature in point of existence and derivation.  Lady MoYER.