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tained by its advocates. A very moderate share of respect for the reason of mankind might have sufficed to keep Dr. Channing from imputing so gross an absurdity to the brightest ornaments of it-to the most glorious representatives of it, which have as yet appeared to shed their lustre on the universe of God.
If he had looked into their writings, he must have seen that the docrine of the Trinity, as held by its advocates, is not an absurdity. Whatever else may be said concerning it, no fair opponent will ever make such a charge against it. If he will learn the doctrine from those who hold it, and not from himself, he will find it impossible to regard it as an absurdity. He cannot go amiss if he really wish to find the truth-to ascertain that the doctrine of the Trinity, as it stands in his mind, is a widely different conception from that tenet as it is maintained by its advocates. Trinitarians do not hold that there are three persons in the Godhead and yet only one person; or, only one being and yet three beings. They do not hold, as all their writers assure us, that there are three and yet one in the same sense, but only in different senses-one in essence and yet three in subsistence. This ineffable triune distinction of persons, or hypostasis, in no way conflicts with the sublime unity of the One, undivided, indivisible, uncreated and eternal Divine Essence. Of such a doctrine, whatever else may be said, we cannot say that it is self-contradictory and absurd. It is only a gross caricature of it which can make it a gross absurdity. To symbolize it under the image of myriads of human beings of distinct, individual and separate men as constituting but one man, is not to represent it fairly-is not to represent it as held by the Butlers, and Pascals, and Barrows, and Liebnitz; by nearly all the great lights and ornaments of human reason in all ages of the Christian world; but to misrepresent it grossly and without a decent respect for the opinions of the great and good. We do not say without a decent respect to the word of God itself, because we wish to try the Unitarian at the bar of his own oracle; and, besides, because he may allege
Scripture in favor of his own tenet, while it is known and confessed that the great high priests of reason have given their sanction to the doctrine of the Trinity.
We do not produce the authority of great names, it will be observed, to establish the doctrine of the Trinity, but simply to show with how little respect they are treated by these great admirers of human reason; to show how easily they can attribute the grossest absurdities to them without sufficient evidence, but upon their suspicion of their weakness; to show, in one word, that it is not the reason of other men which Unitarians admire, but their own.
Their method of dealing with the doctrine in question reminds one of the tyro in mathematics. We have said to such a one, that "two lines lying in the same plane may be indefinitely produced, and continually approach each other, without meeting or intersecting." "It is impossible," said he. "There is no doubt of it," we replied; "it admits of the most rigid mathematical demonstration." He smiled, and his smile as good as said, "I do not believe it; the very idea is absurd, and no rational being can believe it." "But," said we, "it admits of a mathematical demonstration, so clear and irresistible that all the great mathematicians of the world have given their sanction." He seemed to stand amazed, to be quite as much astonished, indeed, as the Unitarian is at the prevalence of the doctrine of the Trinity. He then walked up to the blackboard, and taking a piece of chalk, he drew two straight lines on it, making an angle with each other, and asked with great confidence, "Do you say that if these two lines be indefinitely produced, they will never meet ?" "No, sir," said we, "we did not speak of two right lines; we meant a right line and a curve." The source of his error was obvious; he did not reject the doctrine of mathematicians as absurd, but only the false conception of his own mind. Now, we will venture to affirm, that the two straight lines of this tyro in mathematics is not a more inaccurate representation of the hyperbola and its assyntote, than is Dr. Channing's conception of the doctrine of the Trinity, of that doctrine itself.
This rational method of dealing with the doctrines of religion is common with Unitarians. The Deity of Christ is frequently disposed of by them according to the same short and easy method with the Trinitarians. "To say that the same person," they allege, "is both finite and infinite is a plain contradiction." These are not the words of Dr. Channing, but he says that the doctrine of two such natures in one and the same person, "is involved in a gross absurdity."* If these learned authors had only reflected for a moment on the first elements of logic, they would have seen that no two propositions can contradict each other, unless they refer to one and the same thing, to one and the self-same object of thought. Or if, discarding all logic, they would just hold in their hasty judgments long enough to perceive that the term finite might possibly be applied to the human nature of Christ, and the term infinite to his divine nature, every appearance and shadow of contradiction would vanish from the proposition; unless, indeed, they should continue to view it with exceedingly unsteady and wavering minds. Suppose one should say, for example, that man is mortal, and, in the same discourse, also declare that man is immortal, who would imagine that he had contradicted himself? So far from seeing any contradiction, who would not at once perceive the truth of both propositions? But this case is precisely parallel with the one under consideration; those who can see a contradiction in either must be, it seems to us, more eager in pursuit of absurdities than of the truth.
Hence it follows, that just as a sovereign contempt for reason in general may signify nothing more in practice than a total disregard of the reason of other men, so the most profound admiration of the dignity and glory of human reason, as having something "truly divine" in it, may imply nothing more, in reality, than an admiration of one's own individual reason. All this may be very natural, but surely it is not very creditable. It betrays an impatience of contradiction, a haste and precipitancy in the formation of opinions, even in
* Discourses, Reviews and Miscellanies.
regard to the most important subjects, which is unfavorable,
in a high degree, to the careful, patient and protracted elaboration of truth. It makes self, not the organ of enquiry merely, but the oracle to be consulted.
Now, to profit by these examples, let us suppose that reason and revelation seem to contradict each other; how should we proceed in such a case? We should reject neither; for both are lights from heaven. We should rather imitate Moses, who, when he saw an Egyptian and an Israelite strive together, avenged the wrong which the Israelite suffered, and smote the Egyptian; but when he saw two Israelites in conflict, he asked, "Ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another?" In plain English, we should enquire into the grounds of this apparent quarrel, with a view to effect a reconciliation and establish harmony between reason and revelation. We should begin with reason, in the first place, and examine her testimony severely, but yet fairly, to see if we had not either misunderstood her dictates, or else, by our own misconceptions, applied them wrongly. In this way reason may, perchance, be delivered from error and brought into harmony with the divine word. But if this cannot be done, then we should turn our attention to revelation to see if we have not misunderstood its teachings, and too hastily relied upon an imperfect interpretation of it. In this way we may find the real meaning of Scripture, instead of the supposed one; and a meaning too which will harmonize, not only with the dictates of reason, but also with other portions of revelation. Such a scrutiny of reason is demanded by a reverence for revelation, and such an examination of revelation is due to a respect for reason. And both are indispensably necessary. The careful and loving study of each is the best possible way to correct our errors in regard to the other as well as to determine the position and limits of the truths belonging to both. No man can make war upon the one, either openly or undesignedly, without doing a frightful injury to the other.
Newton himself, if he had not possessed the correct measurement and dimensions of the earth, could not have ascer
tained the principles or attained to a scientific view of the solar system. If he had not first studied and clearly comprehended the laws of motion pertaining to earth and earthly objects, he could never have obtained an insight into the sublime laws which regulate all the shining hosts of Heaven. The order of his knowledge was from earth to Heaven. In like manner, if we would clearly understand the principles and truths of revelation, or the grand system of which those principles and truths form the parts, we must first analyze the phenomena and laws and processes of the human mind, and render them clear to our inmost apprehensions. We must ascend from reason to revelation. And again, in order to make a geodetic survey of the earth, recourse must be had to an observation of the stars; it is in this way, and in this way alone, that the surface of the earth can be correctly mapped out and fairly exhibited. We must return from Heaven to earth. In like manner, if we would correct the prejudices and follies, the aberrations and errors, of the human mind, we must be guided by an observation and knowledge of the great truths of revealed religion. We must descend from revelation to reason. It is the advantage of this twofold process, as we have seen, that each is made to correct the errors of the other. If we look to revelation alone, without regard to the laws and processes and dictates of reason, it will inevitably present a scene of great apparent confusion and disorder, in which light and darkness, truth and error, beauty and deformity, will appear to struggle for the ascendancy. And if we rely upon reason alone, without reference to the simple but sublime teachings of revelation, we shall be forever bound to the earth by inveterate prejudices, or else misled and lost. amid the wild conceits of the imagination. It is only by a due regard to, and loving reverence of both reason and revelation, that the great everlasting lineaments and features of either can be seen to advantage. It is only in this way that reason can be raised and illuminated and transformed into the divine image of revelation; or that the divine image of revelation, by presenting itself in its own light and beauty, can