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I. THE MYSTERIES OF THE GOSPEL.
The first, the most mysterious, and the most awful of those things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath entered into the heart of man to conceive, a subject utterly undiscoverable and unfathomable by human reason, is the distinction of the persons of the GODHEAD, intimated in
This word was first introduced by Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch, about A.D. 170, into Christian Theology, Ad Autolycum, Lib. ii. p. 94, et 100, as noticed by Dupin; and adopted by the learned Origen, &c.; and does not occur in the NEW TESTAMENT. It was borrowed from the Heathen philosophy, the Grecian, especially the Platonic, which was borrowed from the Orphic, and that from the Egyptian, and ultimately, from the Jewish, or Hebrew Theology. And the doctrine itself was gradually corrupted in its progress from the pure spring of ORIGINAL REVELATION, by the heterogeneous admixture of fabulous mythology, and vain philosophy. An account of the ancient Trinities may be seen in those copious repositories of ancient wisdom and foolishness, the learned works of Cudworth, Gale, Stillingfleet, Brucker, and the Asiatic Researches. They shall be briefly noticed, please God, in the Appendix to the fourth volume, on the Primitive Theology and its Corruptions. It is only to the profound and sublime philosophy of SCRIPTURE, derived from Revelation, that we owe any rational and consistent notions on this most abstruse and mysterious subject.
The most ancient Book of Job recognizes THE DEITY under different conceptions, THE MOST HIGH, or ALMIGHTY GOD, THE REDEEMER or INTERCESSOR, the SPIRIT OF GOD, or the HOLY ONE. And it speaks of the Privy Council of GOD*, XV. 8. See the foregoing Analysis of that Book.
The Hebrew term, TD, (Sod,) is variously rendered in our English Bible, 66 secret," Job xv. 8; "assembly," Psalm lxxxix. 7, and "counsel," Jer. xxiii. 18; it ought to be uniformly rendered “privy council," in all.
Of this "privy council of GOD," Job seems to speak in the beginning; in that "day, when the sons of GOD, or the holy angels, came to present themselves before THE LORD," Job i. 6, (see Vol. II. p. 60,) and the Prophet Micah, to Ahab, "I saw THE LORD
In the Book of Genesis, compiled, perhaps, partly from ancient records, Moses, the inspired historian, represents the world as the production of two or more Divine Beings, "THE GOD who created the heavens and earth; THE SPIRIT OF GOD, who quickened the chaotic mass, and THE GOD who spake," or the ORACLE OF THE LORD, who conducted the process of the visible creation, Gen. i. 1-3. He distinguishes A visible LORD from THE invisible LORD in heaven, xix. 24; and he alludes to Job's privy council of God, iii. 22, xi. 7.
David, that inspired Prophet, likewise distinguishes THE LORD from THE MESSIAH, REGENT, or SON OF GOD, Psalm ii. and cx, (See Vol. II. p. 366,) and notices THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD, Psalm li. And Etham, his contemporary, notices the privy council of the saints, Psalm lxxxix. 7.
The wise Agar asks," What is God's name, and what is HIS SON'S name?" Prov. xxx. 4.
Daniel notices THE SON OF GOD, iii. 25; and Jeremiah speaks of the privy council of THE LORD, Xxiii. 18.
The doctrine, indeed, of the three persons of the Godhead,
sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him, on his right hand, and on his left," 1 Kings xxii. 19; the Prophet Daniel also, in that sublime vision of the ANCIENT OF DAYS, seated in judgment, where "the thrones were placed, and thousands of thousands of angels ministered unto Him, and myriads of myriads stood before Him," Dan. vii. 9, 10. The Prophet Zechariah describes "the seven [angels] that are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth," Zech. iv. 10; the angel Raphael says, "I am one of the seven holy angels which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of THE HOLY ONE," Tobit xvi. 15; and in similar language the angel who appeared to Zechariah the priest, says, "I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of GOD," Luke i. 19. John, in the Apocalypse, greets the seven Churches of Asia Minor, "Grace be unto you, and peace from [GOD THE FATHER,] who is, and who was, and who is to come; and from the seven spirits, who are before his throne; and from JESUS CHRIST, the faithful witness," &c. i. 4, iv. 1—5, "who hath the seven spirits of God" at his command, Rev. iii. 1. And Paul, by the most solemn adjuration to Timothy, says, "I strictly charge thee, before GOD, and THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, and the elect angels, that thou observe these directions," &c. 1 Tim. v. 21, where the anarthrous term, Kuptov, is equivalent to rov Kupov, in the parallel passage, 2 Tim. iv. 1, and is therefore rightly rendered, "THE LORD," in the English; contrary to Mr. Sharp's rendering, "before JESUS CHRIST, THE GOD and LORD, and before the elect angels," &c. Remarks on the Definite Article, p. 38, 39, which is also rejected by Middleton, p. 544, 563, 567, who adheres to the common translation.
The "seven holy angels" or "elect angels," are generally understood by commentators to denote THE HOLY SPIRIT, of whose "seven fold gifts," they are the representatives, 1 Cor. xii. 7-11 1. Because they occupy the place of the HOLY SPIRIT, or third person of THE GODHEAD, in the foregoing greeting and adjuration; and 2. From the prohibition of invocation of angels, Matt. iv. 10, Rev. xix. 10, xxii. 8, 9.
seems to have been fully established in the Jewish Church, at the coming of CHRIST. John evidently recorded it, as the received doctrine, when he testified that THE FATHER declared JESUS, by a voice from heaven, to be HIS beloved Son, and THE HOLY SPIRIT rested upon him at baptism. The doctrine is found in the Chaldee Paraphrast, and in Philo. The Jews only doubted, or denied, that JESUS was that SON.
The latter Rabbins * acknowledge that there is a remarkable mystery, couched in the various pointing of the divine name, in the Masorete text, where it is thrice repeated in the solemn blessing ordained to be pronounced upon the congregation of Israel, by Aaron and the priest, Numb. vi. 24-26.
1. "THE LORD (71) bless thee and keep thee;
2. THE LORD (¡¡?) make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee ;
3. THE LORD (1) lift up his face upon thee, and give thee peace.”
The mystery concealed in these repetitions of the sacred name, is best, perhaps, explained by that mighty master of Hebrew learning, bred at the feet of the sage Gamaliel, the Apostle Paul, in the evangelical blessing, 2 Cor. xiii. 14.
1. "The grace of OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST,
And the pious Christian will thus gratefully combine both together, according to the analogy of faith.
"GOD THE FATHER bless and keep us through his love;
GOD THE SON make his face shine upon us, and be gracious unto us through his
GOD the HOLY GHOST lift up his face upon us, and give us peace, through his
In the Jewish and Christian blessings, the order of the first and second clauses, we see, is reversed; the latter, beginning
• "The Mosaic records brought down the notion of a TRINITY from the earliest ages. The modern Jews contend against this fact, that they may not seem to countenance an argument for the truth of Christianity; but if they read their own Targums, they will see that their forefathers confessed it; as in the following instance: "Come and see the mystery of the word ELOHIM. There are THREE DEGREES, and each degree is sole: Notwithstanding, they are ONE; and are united into one; nor is one of them divi·led from another." R. Simeon ben Jochai, in Zohar, ad 6 section. Levit. cited by Buchanan in his Christian Researches in Asia, p. 247, Edit. 2.
with THE SON; perhaps to intimate that it is by JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD, or Spiritual Sovereign, that we, sinful mortals, have " access unto THE FATHER," or "boldness to approach Him with confidence," "by ONE SPIRIT," Eph. ii. 18, iii. 12. For there is but "ONE GOD [SUPREME,] and ONE MEDIATOR between GOD and man, THE MAN CHRIST JESUS, who gave himself as a ransom in the stead of all mankind," 1 Tim. ii. 5.
The benefits we owe to the EVER BLESSED TRINITY, are distinctly intimated in the several operations of creating, redeeming, sanctifying LOVE. "Every good gift, and every perfect grace, is from above, coming down from THE FATHER OF LIGHTS [and PERFECTIONS,] (Urim and Thummim, Exod. xxviii. 30,) James i. 17. And these gifts are distributed by their joint agency. CHRIST "received gifts" from THE FATHER, which "He gave unto men," through the HOLY SPIRIT; compare Psalm lxviii. 18, 19, with Eph. iv. 7-10, they are thus classed, 1 Cor. xii. 4—11.
Vers. 4. For there are differences of gifts [of healings *,] but THE SAME SPIRIT;
In the first class, xapioμara, here, (1 Cor. xii. 4,) are afterwards explained, χαρισματα ιαμάτων, Gifts of healings," ver. 28, 30, and these seem to include the cure of Demoniacs, and of all manner of diseases, by laying hands on the sick, according to the general commission; clause the fourth. These are attributed to the HOLY SPIRIT as the infliction of diseases, for correction or punishment, was called, "to deliver up to Satan," or the wicked spirit, 1 Cor. v. 5, Acts xiii. 9—11.
In the second class, diakovial, “ministries," include the different orders and degrees of ministers in the Church; which are noticed afterwards, as " members, composing, in part, the body of CHRIST," or the corporation of His Church.
1. Apostles, 2. Prophets, 3. Teachers, 4. Helps, or Helpers, 5. Governments, or Governors, the abstract being put for the concrete terms, ver. 27-29. The institution of these, therefore, is attributed to CHRIST.
In the third class, ενεργήματα, are afterwards explained, ενεργήματα δυναμεων, "workings of miracles,” ver. 10, and they to whom these were distributed, are afterwards called ovvapɛıç, “workers of miracles," the abstract put for the concrete, ver. 29, and the word Evɛpynμara, seems to intimate, that they were impelled to the exercise of these miracles, by an inward operation of THE SPIRIT. And these, as distinguished from the other gifts, may denote those extraordinary miracles wrought by the chief Apostles, Peter and Paul, such as curing diseases by the shadow of the former, or by handkerchiefs taken from the latter, raising the dead, handling serpents, drinking deadly potions, unhurt, &c. These, therefore, are attributed to GOD.
The other gifts of the Spirit, enumerated here by the Apostle, 1. The word of wisdom, 2. The word of knowledge, 3. Faith, 4. Prophecy, 5. Discernings of spirits, 6. Different kinds of tongues, 7. Interpretation of tongues, were peculiarly necessary for the different orders and degrees of the ministry, from the highest to the lowest, in order to qualify
5. And differences of ministries [in the Church,] but THE SAME LORD.
6. And differences of workings [of miracles,] but it is THE SAME GOD who worketh all in all.
7. But to each is given the manifestation of [the gifts of] the Spirit, for the [common] advantage.
11. But all these [various gifts] worketh THE ONE AND THE SAME SPIRIT, distributing severally to each, according as HE willeth, 1 Cor. xii. 4-11. In this most mysterious passage, diversities of gifts are ascribed to the three Beings, which are all ultimately attributed to the one Being, who is called to iv Kaι TO AVTO Пvevμa, "THE ONE AND THE SAME SPIRIT," and who seems to coincide with "THE FATHER of lights, WITH WHOM IS NO VARIABLENESS NOR SHADOW OF CHANGE," according to James i. 17, whose Hebrew name, IAH, signified "ONE AND THE SAME," Isa. xxvi. 4, and who was described as "UNCHANGEABLE," Mal. iii. 6. But in a subject so profound and unfathomable, how HE is solely the cause of effects, above severally ascribed to THE SPIRIT, THE LORD, and THE GOD, we know not, we understand not. See Middleton's excellent note, p. 481-483.
"The world by wisdom knew not GOD," 1 Cor. i. 21. “Such knowledge is too wonderful and excellent for mortals; they cannot attain to it," Psalm cxxxix. 6. It is to revelation only that we are indebted for any clear and distinct ideas of THE GODHEAD. Not affecting, therefore, to be wise above what is written, we shall proceed, with awful reverence, to sketch what THE HOLY SCRIPTURES have unfolded respecting the several Beings, (or Persons, as they are commonly styled,) who compose the "TRINITY in UNITY;" not presuming to enter into their metaphysical nature, which is alto
them for the due discharge of their respective offices and functions in the Church. And all these various gifts were distributed severally to each person, as fitted to his station, for the public good.
Lord Barrington, in his Miscellanea Sacra, has given an elaborate essay on the teaching and witness of the SPIRIT, Vol. I. p. 101-341, which contains much valuable matter; and in p. 166, a table, harmonizing the several gifts of the Spirit, scattered throughout this twelfth chapter. But it is rather perplexed and embarrassed, and in some places inaccurate; as where he supposes that "helps" answer to 66 prophecy," and 'governments" to "discerning of spirits." The above attempt, it is humbly hoped, will be found clearer and plainer, and more consistent with the context, in this most abstruse and difficult part, perhaps, of the abstruse and difficult writings of St. Paul.