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remarks, Mr. S. has not exactly met the Unitarian, and driven him from his ground. The Unitarian will readily concede, that when the meaning of a writer is fairly ascertained by the right rules of exposition, he must either believe his assertion or reject his authority. But he will not concede, that his investigation is to be conducted by his philology, independently of his philosophy; nor do we think that Mr. S. has shewn or can shew, that it ought to be so conducted. Should we find in a book of acknowledged inspiration, the assertion that Peter and John are one, we should find the language used in such circumstances as to lead us at once to decide, that the meaning is not that they are one being; and our decision would rest on these two principles; first that our received philosophy forbids such an interpretation, and secondly, that the language, according to a common usage has evidently a figurative meaning. Now these are, as we shall have occasion to shew hereaster, precisely the principles which Unitarians adopt in interpreting the texts that speak of the divinity of Christ. The case in the mind of Professor Stuart, was evidently one in which there was no usage to authorize the supposed metaphorical meaning of the passage; or a case in which the second of the above principles could not be applied. To recur to the example given above; the book is inspired, it affirms that Peter and John are one, there are no circumstances to authorize any other than a literal meaning of the terms. Row in such a case Professor Stuart maintains, and justly maintains, that the point at issue is between the authority of the writer, and that of our philosophy, and therefore we are brought to the alternative of believing the writer's assertion, or of rejecting the writer's authority. To all this we have no doubt the Unitarian would readily assent, still he would not feel as it was the Professor’s object to make him feel, that he must believe the divinity of Christ, or re
ject the inspiration of the Scriptures; for he would reply that the passages supposed by Trinitarians to assert Christ's divinity, admit according to he common use of language of another interpretation, and that his philosophy decides that of the two meanings of which the passages are capable, that of the Trinitarian cannot be the right one. He therefore rejects that interpretation and maintains the authority of revelation.— We do not here mean to affirm that Mr. S. has not in the subsequent discussion effectually closed the way of escape from his dilemma, against the Unitarian. We have no doubt at least that he has abundantly furnished the materials. We only regret that when formally laying down the principles of interpretation, he did not, as we think he might have done, cut offevery retreat. We shall now proceed to those general remarks which we proposed. 1. We regard Mr. Stuart's letters, as a complete and triumphant refutation of the sermon of Mr. C. and in effect of the review in the Christian Disciple, on the main questions in debate. As the controversy has been conducted in the present instance, it turns almost wholly on two points, the intrinsic absurdity of the doctrines of the Trinity and the supreme divinity of Christ; and the testimony of the scriptures to the latter doctrine. We do not suppose it necessary to prove the assertion, that Unitarians regard the doctrine of the Trinity as absurd. Mr. C. has stated his objections to the doctrine in some diversity of form, but we are utterly unable to discover the least force in either of them, except what results from the supposed absurdity of the doctrine. The following extract, will exhibit Mr. C's. objection in its entire strength.
We object to the doctrine of the Trinity, that it subverts the unity of God. According to this doctrine, there are three inflnite and equal persons, possessing supreme divinity, called the Father, Son, and Hol Ghost. Each of these persons, as described by theologians, has his own particular consciousness, will, and perceptions—
They love each other, converse with each other, and delight in each other's society. They perform different parts in man's redemption, each having his appropriate of. fice, and neither doing the work of the other. The Son is mediator, and not the Father. The Father sends the Son, and is not himself sent ; nor is he conscious, like the Son, of taking flesh. Here then, we have three intelligent agents, possessed of different consciousness, different wills, and different perceptions, performing dif. ferent acts, and sustaining different relations; and if these things do not imply and constitute three minds or beings, we are utterly at a loss to know how three minds or beings are to be formed. It is difference of properties, and acts, and consciousness, which leads us to the belief of different intelligent beings, and if this mark sail us, our whole knowledge falls; we have no proof, that all the agents and persons in the universe, are not one and the same mind—pp. 13, 14.
Let us now recur to Mr. S's reply to this statement of Mr. C.
You will permit me, then, to add, that we speak of person in the Godhead, to express that which in some respect or other corresponds to persons as applied to men, i.e. some distinction; not that we attach to it the meaning of three beings, with a separate consciousness, will, omnipotence, omniscience, &c.—p. 34.
Then surely it is not the best mode of convincing your opponents, to take the word in a sense so different from that in which they understand it, and proceed to charge them with absurdities, consequent upon the language of their creed. It has always been a conceded point, that in the statement of difficult subjects, or the discussion of them, terms might be used in a sense somewhat different from their ordinary import.—p. 35.
One of your rules of exegesis, to which I have with all my heart assented, demands that “every word ... should be modified and explained, according to the subject which is discussed, according to the pur:roses, feelings, circumstances and principles of the writer.” Do us the justice to apply this law of interpretation to our language, and the dispute between us about the meaning of the word person, is forever at an end.
What then, you doubtless will ask, is that distinction in the Godhead, which the word person is meant to designate 2 I answer without hesitation, that I do not know. The fact that a distinction exists, is what we aver; the definition of that distinction is what I shall by no means attempt. By what shall I, or can 1 define it? What simile drawn from created objects, which are necessarily derived and
dependent, can illustrate the mode of existence in that Being, who is underived, independent, unchangeable, infinite, eternal 2 I confess myself unable to advance a single step here in explaining what the distinction is. I receive the FAct that il eacists, simply because I believe that the Scriptures reveal the F Act. And if the Scriptures do reveal the fact, that there are three persons in the Godhead, (in the sense explained ;) that there is a distinction which affords ground for the appellations of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; which lays the foundation for the application of the personal pronouns, J, thou, he , which renders it proper, to speak of sending and being sent; of Christ being wilh God, being in his bosom, and other things of the like nature; and yet, that the divine nature belongs to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; then it is, like every other fact revealed, to be received simply on the credit of divine revelation.—pp. 35, 36.
In regard to this distinction, we say, It is not a mere distinction of attributes, of relation to us, of modes of action, or of relation between attributes and substance or essence, so far as they are known to us. We believe the Scriptures justify us in these negations. But here we leave the subject. We undertake, (at least, the Trinitarians of our country, with whom I am acquainted, undertake,) not at all to describe affirmatively the distinction in the Godhead. When you will give me an affirmative des. cription of underived existence, I may safely engage to furnish you with one of person in the Trinity. You do not reject the belief of self-existence, merely because you cannot affirmatively define it; neither do we of a distinction in the Godhead, because we cannot affirmatively define it.-p. p. 36,37.
In order to prove that this distinction contradicts the divine unity, must you not be able to tell what it is, and what the divine Unity is Can you do either?
Allow me, for a moment, to dwell on the subject now casually introduced. It is a clear point I think, that the unity of God cannot be proved, without revelation. It may perhaps be rendered faintly probable. Then you depend on Scripture proof, for the establishment of this docirine. But have the Scriptures any where told us what the divine Unity is Will you produce the passage 2. The onemess of God they assert. But this they assert al. ways, in opposition to the idols of the hea. then—the polytheism of the Gentiles—the gods superior and inferior, which they worshipped. In no other sense, have the Scriptures defined the oNENEss of the Dei. ty. What then is Oneness, in the uncreat. ed, infinite, eternal Being : In created and finite objects, we have a distinct perception of what we mean by it but can
created objects be just and adequate representatives of the uncreated on Ef Familiar as the assertion is, in your conversation and in your sermons, that God is on E, can you give me any definition of this oneness, except a negative one * That is, you deny plurality of it; you say God is but one and not two, or more. Still, in what, I ask, does the divine Unity consist? Has not God different and various faculties and powers ? Is he not almighty, omniscient, omnipresent, holy, just, and good 2 Does he not act differently, i. e. variously, in the natural, and in the moral world 2 Does his unity consist, then, appropriately in his essence 2 But what is the essence of God? And how can you assert that his unity consists appropriately in this, unless you know what his essence is, and whether oneness can be any better predicated of this, than of his attributes ?—pp. 45, 46.
Suppose 1 should affirm that two subjects A and B are numerically identical in regard to something called X, but diverse or distinct, in regard to something else called Y; is there any absurdity or contradiction in this affirmation ? I hope I shall not, by making this supposition, be subjected to the imputation, of endeavouring to prove the doctrine of the Trinity by the science of Algebra; for my only object in proposing this statement is, to illustrate the answer that we make, to a very common question, which Unitarians put us; “How can three be one, and one three ?” In no way, I necessarily and cheerfully reply. “How then is the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity to be vindicated 2" In a manner, which is not at all embarrassed by these questions. We do not maintain that the Godhead is three, in the same respects that it is one, but the reverse. In regard to X, we maintain its numerical unity; in regard to Y, we maintain a threefold distinction; I repeat it, we waintain simply the fact that there is such a distinction, on Scripture authority. We do not profess to understand in what it consists.-p. 47.
Now we think that no one can read the statement of the doctrine of the Trinity, made by Mr. C. and that made by Mr. S. and not see that they are totally diverse. What Mr. C. asserts to belong to the doctrine, Mr. S. denies to be any part of it. Allowing then, the argument which Mr. C. has founded on his statement of the doctrine to be conclusive, still he has opposed a doctrine of the Trinity, not maintained by the Trinitarians of this country; and therefore a doctrine, which, so far as the purpose of discussion is concerned, is a
doctrine of his own fabrication. This doctrine, at least for the present, we will concede, he has completely demolished. But has he approached the real doctrine in debate, the doctrine held and stated by Mr. S. and we may say by the other Trinitarians of this country P. He has opposed the doctrine that there are three Gods. Is this the doctrine that there are three persons in the Godhead, as maintained by Mr. Stuart? Let us now inquire what the Reviewer has achieved on this point. Requesting our readers to bear it in mind that he is professedly reviewing Mr. S.'s Letters, we give the following as the substance of what he has said on the topic now before us.
The proper modern doctrine of the Trinity, as it is stated in the creeds of latter times, is, that there are three persons in the Divinity, who equally possess all di. vine attributes; and this doctrine is at the same time connected with an explicit statement that there is but one God. Now we do not believe this doctrine, because taken in connexion with that of the unit of God, it is a doctrine essentially incredible ; one, which no man who has compared the two doctrines together with just conceptions of both, ever did, or ever could believe. Three persons, each equal. ly possessing divine attributes, are three Gods. A person is a being. No one who has any correct notion of the meaning of words will deny this. And the being who possesses divine attributes must be God or a God. The doctrine of the Trinity, then, affirms that there are three Gods. It is af. firined at the same time, that there is but one God. But nobody can believe that there are three Gods, and that there is but one God.—p. 371.
There is no reasonable pretence for say. ing that the great body of Trinitarians, when they have used the word person, have not meant to express proper personality. He who asserts the contrary, asserts a mere extravagance. He closes his eyes upon an obvious fact, and then asfirms what he may fancy ought to have been, instead of what there is no doubt really has been.—p. 371.
The Reviewer then proceeds to state the different forms of the modern doctrine of the Trinity. We suppose the following remarks to apply to Mr. S.’s statement.
But there are others, who maintain will, those last mentioned, that in the terms
employed in stating the doctrine of the Trinity, the word person, is not to be taken in its usual acceptation ; but who differ from them in maintaining that these terms ought to be understood as affirming a real threefold distinction in the Godhead. But this is nothing more than a mere evasion introduced into the general statement of the doctrine, for the purpose of rescuing it from the charge of absurdity, to which those who thus express themselves, allow that it would be liable, if the language in which it is usually expressed, were to be understood in its common acceptation.— They themselves, however, after giving this general statement, immediately relapse into the common belief. When they speak particularly of the Father, the Son, or the Spirit, they speak of them unequiv. ocally as persons in the proper sense of the word. They attribute to them personal attributes. #. speak of each as sustaining personal relations peculiar to himself, and performing personal actions, persectly distinct from those of either of the others.-p.374.
Those, therefore, whose opinions we are now considering, we conceive to be nominal Trinitarians in their statement of the doctrine, and real Trinitarians in their belief; to hold the true doctrine with an implicit acknowledgment in the very statement which they have adopted, that the true doctrine is untenable ; and to have involved themselves therefore in new difficulties, without having effected any escape from those with which they were pressed before.—p. 377.
It would seem that if the Reviewer proposed to himself any object in his discussion, it must have been to correct the errours of his own age and country. The question then is whether the great body of Trinitarians, whom he could hope to benefit by his labours, do by the word person, in its present application, intend to denote a distinct being * Where does the Reviewer find proof of this assertion ? Does he find it in the statements of the author whom he is reviewing? Does he find it in the statements of any respectable theologian of this country P. He has proJuced no such evidence in support of his assertion; and yet he asserts, as if contradiction were impossible, that in this controversy, “a person is a being”; that no one who has any correct notion of the meaning of words, will deny this; that the doctrine of
the Trinity affirms that there are three Gods.” The doctrine then, the only doctrine opposed by the Reviewer, on the ground of its absurdity, is that which affirms that there are three Gods, and yet but one God! Is this doctrine maintained by any respectable theologian in this country P Is it the doctrine stated and defended by Mr. Stuart? But the Reviewer, if we rightly understand him, has conceded the very point in debate. Speaking of that statement of the doctrine of the Trinity, in which the word person is used out of its ordinary acceptation, after saying it is made for the purpose of rescuing the doctrine fom the charge of absurdity; instead of charging the statement itself with absurdity, he is satisfied to bring the charge against what he conceives to be the actual belief of those who adopt the statement. The inference is, that the statement of the doctrine is not chargeable with absurdity. The Reviewer can, if he please, consider those who adopt the statement now under consideration, as Tritheists, or any thing else. But to argue from what he conceives their creed to be, instead of arguing from the statement which they give of it, is the perfection of trifling. Even on the supposition that they have made declarations, which are inconsistent with their own statement, by what authority does he inser, that these are the true index of their creed, and not their own statement 2 The Reviewer can employ his ingenuity in forming a creed for Trinitarians, and then charge it with absurdity, and then peradventure substantiate the charge. But what has he accomplished P Is the actual creed of the Trinitarian subverted by such a course? But he says when Trinitarians speak of the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit, they ascribe to them personal attributes, personal relations, and personal actions, and he will have it, that when they do this, they “relapse” from their statement into “the common belief” of three Gods. Our answer is simply that the Reviewer has “relapsed into the common belief,” that Trinitarians do not use the word person in the sense in which they profess te use it. Only let him be candid enough to affix their own meaning to this term, and all that which he regards as inconsistent with the statement of their creed, becomes at once perfectly consistent with it. For if there really be that distinction in the Godhead which is the ground of those personal relations, personal actions, &c. which Trinitarians ascribe to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and if, as they maintain, and as the Reviewer seems to concede, this distinction is consistent with the unity of the Godhead, then these personal relations, &c. do not prove that there are three Gods. It is then perfectly clear that the Reviewer, when he charges us with “relapsing” into “the common belief” of three Gods, has only “relapsed” (a relapse to which he is peculiarly subject,) into the common unfairness of perverting our language. This is not all. Speaking of the statement of the doctrine made by Mr. Stuart, he says, “this is nothing more than a modal or nominal Trinity;” (p. 376) which, as he also says, “is nothing more than simple Unitarianism disguised,” &c.” (p. 374. Whether the Reviewer be right in supposing this statement to be mothing more than simple Unitarianism, is wholly immaterial to the point now before us. One thing is certain; he perceives nothing in it to distinguish it from simple Unitarianism, and of course he can perceive no more absurdity in it than he can perceive in simple Unitarianism. He has therefore conceded that so far as the perceptions of his intellect can reach, the statement of the doctrine of the Trinity, made by Mr. Stuart, is as free from absurdity as Unitarianism itself. Again, the Reviewer maintains that we know, and can know, nothing of the nature of any being, but by the attributes or properties of that being. We then safely affirm that he knows
nothing of God but by his attributes. How then does he know that God may not know something of himself, besides his own attributes, even that he exists in the manner maintained by Trinitarians? This is possible, according to the Reviewer's own consession. What then becomes of all the Reviewer’s assertions, which imply that on this subject, Omniscience can know no more than he himself knows ' We are now prepared to ask whether the doctrine of the Trinity, as stated by Mr. S. o there is no doubt that his general statement would be approved by the great body of Trinitarians,) is proved to be an absurdity by Mr. C. or by the Reviewer : We ask whether the term person, as used by Mr. S. and other Trinitari
ans, to denote an unknown three-fold .
distinction in the Godhead, does demote three Gods? This is the whole question now at issue. Unless it can be shewn that Trinitarians do believe, and do teach that there are three Gods, and yet but one God, there is not a pretence for the charges of absurdity brought against their doctrine by Mr. C. and the Reviewer. On this point we do think that no one can be at a loss, after reading the extracts we have made from the Letters of Mr. Stuart. To the fact that “a person,” in the language of Trinitarians, “is a being,” there is not the least evidence, except the assertion of the Reviewer, an assertion made in direct contradiction to the explanations which Trinitarians give of the term in question. But it is a right indefeasible, of Trinitarians as of all men, to use words as they please, if they explain them ; and we add that a stronger proof cannot be furnished of conscious defeat in a controversial writer, than to resort to the pitiful subterfuge of denying the meaning which an antagonist puts on his own terms. It belonged to the Reviewer not to reject Mr. Stuart’s meaning in the face of his explanation of the term person, but to meet the point in debate, as presented by that