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a kind or degree of mutual knowledge of each other between the Father and the Son which no other person possesses. But if the Spirit be a person, and equal with the Father and the Son, why did Christ treat the Spirit with such entire neglect, while proclaiming the knowledge of the Father and himself? Why did he not say, no one knoweth the Son but the Father and the Spirit, and no one knoweth the Father but the Son and the Spirit? What he has affirmed fairly implies, either that the Spirit is not a person, or that it is a person of limited knowledge. Either of which is contradictory to the trinitarian hypothesis.
Again, Mark xiii. 33. "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but my Father."
In Matt. xxiv. 36. we have the passage a little differently expressed. "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels, but my Father only."
As this is the language of Christ himself, we are not to question the correctness of his representation. But we ought with humility to remember that when he uttered these words, he had for our sakes become poor. And to this circumstance we may perhaps properly attribute his want of knowledge respecting "that day and hour." The Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things that himself doeth. But the Son was then in a state of poverty and abasement, and the knowledge "of that day and hour" might not be at that time and in that condition necessary to him. The more perfect and full disclosure to him of the counsels of the Father was reserved for his state of exaltation, when he should "take the book and open the seals."
But the passages now before us distinctly exclude the Spirit as a person of equal knowledge with the Father.-The knowledge of that day and hour was not possessed by any one except the "Father only." Why did Christ except the Father and not the Spirit, if the spirit were a person of equal knowledge with the Father?
Thus I have exhibited several classes of texts, which, in my view, stand opposed to the trinitarian scheme. More might
be added, but it is believed, the several classes already in view include more than forty-nine fiftieths of all the passages in the Bible which have any direct relation to God, or his Son, or his Holy Spirit. And it is presumed that no one text is included in either class which can, according to the most natural meaning of language, be reconciled to the doctrine, that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct persons in one and the same Being.
Is it not then astonishing that any divines in this enlightened age of the world should boldly affirm, that "the revealed God is three distinct persons," and censure all who deny the doctrine, as little better than atheists? Can it be, that they have carefully and impartially examined the subject in the light of revelation? And is it not still more astonishing that any should pretend, that the natural meaning of bible language leads to such a conclusion?
As a farther confirmation of the truth that the "Holy ONE of Israel" was not the Holy THREE of Israel, let us take into view the manner in which Paul preached to the heathen at Athens, respecting their "inscription to the unknown God." If Paul supposed the "revealed God" to be three distinct persons, we may naturally expect such would be his representation to the Athenians, who were ignorant of the "revealed God." But what is the fact? Did he represent God as three persons, or as one person only? Let his own language decide the question.
"Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, HIм declare I unto you. GOD, who made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands."
Does this language represent God as three persons? No verily; but distinctly as one person. And thus he goes through his discourse, using singular pronouns as substitutes for the name of God, and this without saying one word to prevent mistake. When he came near the close of his discourse, he assured his hearers, that "the times of this ignorance GOD winked at, but now He commands all men every where to repent; because He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained;
whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised him from the dead.
The object of the apostle was to give the heathen correct ideas of the true God, and the way of life. Why did he not tell them that the God they ought to worship was three distinct persons? Why did he use language, which would naturally lead his hearers into a belief, that the true God was one person only? And a being perfectly distinct from the one by whom he would judge the world?
It will, perhaps. be said that he was preaching to an ignorant people, who could not have understood him, had he taught the doctrine of three persons in one God. But to this it may be replied, if they were ignorant they had the more need of instruction; but although they were ignorant of the true God, yet they were, perhaps, the most learned people then in the world, and as capable of understanding language as any to whom the apostle ever preached. That they could not have understood the doctrine of three persons in one God will be admitted. But in this respect they were on a level with Christian divines of the present time. And if the obscurity of the doctrine might then be a reason for neglecting to preach it, the same reason holds good to this very day.
But the forms of speech used by Paul on that occasion were by no means singular. As Paul spake of God, so did the Prophets, so did Christ and his other apostles.
It is believed that no well informed person will pretend, that the Jews, before the coming of Christ, had any idea that their God was more than one person. It may however be imagined, that the doctrine of the trinity was one of the mysteries to be revealed after the coming of Christ. Had this been true we might expect to find, that Christ or his apostles had labored to establish this doctrine in their preaching. But so far from this being the case, we do not find this doctrine so much as named in any sermon or discourse delivered either by Christ or his apostles: But in every sermon we have on record, they spake of God as one.person only, just as Paul did in his discourse to the men of Athens. Yea, I feel safe in affirming, that the doctrine of three persons in God is neither stated now
intimated in any sermon recorded in the Bible, whether delivered by a prophet, by Christ, or by an apostle. Therefore, trinitarian preaching, so far as it respects the doctrine in question, is a complete departure from all the examples recorded in the Bible, the standard of truth.
The censure implied in the foregoing representation is indeed of a serious nature, and with all its weight it falls on my self, in respect to past conduct; yet on serious inquiry and full
conviction of its truth I have made the remark.
AN ACCOUNT OF THE CONTROVERSY
BETWEEN DR. PRIESTLEY, DR. HORSLEY, THE MONTHLY REVIEWER, AND OTHERS.
Continued from vol. ii. page 288.
WE come now to that part of the controversy, which relates to the account that Dr. Priestley has given:-1. Of the origin of the doctrine of the Trinity, particularly in respect to the divine nature of Christ: and 2. Of the form in which it was held by the Fathers who lived before the Nicene Council, or, as they are called, the Antenicene Fathers. It had its origin, according to him, in the theology of Plato. The great majority of the early Fathers had been among his followers and admirers; and when they became converts to Christianity, they brought along with them the rudiments of this doctrine from the schools of their philosophy. Desirous of freeing themselves from what they considered the disgrace of being the disciples of a crucifi⚫ed man, they took advantage of what they found to their purpose in the writings of Plato, and of his follower Philo, and in the Platonic philosophy as professed in their times, and formed out of the materials with which they were thus furnished, the doctrine of a preexistent Logos, the maker of the world under God, the medium of his dispensations to mankind, and who, becoming incarnate, appeared on earth as the immediate author of the Christian dispensation. The doctrine of the trinity however by no means assumed at once its proper form and proportions, and it was not till the period succeeding the council
of Nice, that is, till the fourth century, that it was fully developed. This mysterious article of faith, which has humbled to its reception the reason of so many superior minds, which so much ingenuity has been employed in laboring to explain and defend, and which has been the occasion of so much sin and misery, of so much bitter animosity and merciless persecution, was, according to Dr. Priestley, a mere fiction of the Platonic school of Alexandria, the mother of the most absurd philosophy with which Europe was ever disgraced.
With whatever force of evidence it might be shown, that the doctrine of the trinity is not a doctrine of the scriptures; that it was never preached by Christ and his apostles, because no such effects ever existed as its preaching would have produced; and that it was always rejected by the Jewish believers; and for a long time not received by the great majority of Gentile Christians; still something might seem to be wanting to prove it not a doctrine of Christianity, unless it could be shown from what other source it might have had its origin. But another source from which it might have been derived can easily be pointed out. That there is a striking resemblance between the theology of the Platonic school and the doctrine of the trinity has never been denied. A much closer resemblance indeed between this doctrine and the opinions of Plato himself concerning the divinity, has been contended for by some of the orthodox, and among others by Dr. Horsley, than is maintained by Dr. Priestley. Plato, according to Dr. Priestley, as far as his ideas can be discerned in the obscurity in which they are involved, taught that there was one Supreme Being, the Good (='ayatov). By him all things were formed, according to the permanent ideas, or patterns, in his divine mind (vous). To the divine nind, (the us) Plato does not ascribe a proper and distinct personality. Beside these, is the Soul of the Universe (4) either created, or endued with intelligence, by the Supreme Being, distinct from him and far inferior. Such is the representation which Dr. Priestley has given of the notions of Plato respecting the divinity, in which representation he is supported by the very learned Brucker in his history
See Hist. of Earl Opp. B. i. c. 6.