« ÎnapoiContinuați »
but the FATHER. It calls no Person ALMIGHTY, but the FATHER. It ascribes the creation of heaven and earth to no Person but the FATHER.
See page 10. By all who admit the competency of the witness, this testimony must, I think, he considered as decisive, that the system of faith in the first and second centuries was not Trinitarian. That the same was true of the third century will appear by the following testimony from the same author.
In the year 317, a new contention arose in Egypt, upon a subject of much higher importance, [than the faction of the Donatists] and with consequences of a yet more pernicious nature. The subject of this fatal controversy, which kindled such deplorable divisions throughout the christian world, was the doctrine of three persons in the godhead; a doctrine which, in the three preceding centuries, had happily escaped the vain curiosity of human researches.” Page 399.
If the doctrine of the Trinity, while in embryo, could be the occasion of so much evil, of what inconceivable mischief is it capable, having grown to maturity! It had been well for the church, well for the world, if it “ had happily escaped the rain curiosity of human researches," not only during "the three preceding centuries, but to the end of time! The same author, page 414—15, speaks more definitely, as to the time when, and the place where, the doctrine of the Trinity was first decreed by the Christian church.
“ An hundred and fifty bishops, who were present at this council, [Constantinople, A. D. 381] gave the finishing touch to what the council of Nice had left imperfect, and fixed in a full and determinate manner, the doctrine of three Persons in one God, which is as yet received among the generalily of christians.”
The second witness I will summon is Dr. MILNER,
who, in describing the council of Constantinople, says: “This council very accurately defined the doctrine of the Trinity, and enlarging a little the Nicene Creed, they delivered it as we now have it in our communion service. The Macedonian heresy which blasphemed the Holy Ghost, gave occasion to a more explicit representation of the third Person in the Trinity."*
The Nicene Creed was defective in two respects. It recognized neither the Divinity of the Holy Ghost, nor the Son's equality with the Father. These defects were supplied by the Council of Constantinople. Whether this was enlarging the Nicene Creed “a little," as Dr. Milner calls it, the reader can judge.
Mr. Yates gives the following. "Another learned Reformed and vigorous defender of orthodoxy, who maintains the same opinion, is M. JURIEU. Speaking of the doctrine of the Trinity as believed both by Papists and Calvinists, he says, 'Every one knows that this mystery remained incomplete, (informe',) without its right form or shape, until the council of Nice, nay, until that of Constantinople;' and he asserts, and by proper citations fully proves, that all the ancients of the three first
believed the Son to have been created hy, and inferior to, the Father."- Vindication, fc. p. 278, 279.
Mr. Norton gives the following. “Every well informed Trinitarion has at least heard of the orthodoxy and learning of Bishop Bull. His Defence of the Nicene Creed is the standard work as regards the argument in support of the doctrine of the Trinity from Ecclesiastical History. But one whole division of this famous work is employed in maintaining the subordination of the Son. “No one can
abt,' he says, “that the Fathers who lived before the Nicene Council acknowledged this subordination. It re
* Church Hist. Vol. I. p. 333, Phil. edit. 1835.
mains to show that the Fathers who wrote after this council, taught the same doctrine.' "*—“ Defensio Tidei Nicana, Sect. IV. cap. I. 9 3."
Finally, this has been practically admitted by every Trinitarian that ever attempted to prove the contrary. All have retired from the field without success. Dr. Dwight, already consulted, page 33, has given us the best he could on the subject, but has failed to produce a single testimony to the point. The latest able controversy on this subject was between Dr. Priestley and Bishop Horseley, of the last century: the former maintaining that the primitive believers were Unitarians; the latter, the contrary. And though Bishop Horseley was a man of great learning, and fully competent to do justice to his cause, yet the attempt was a total failure. If such men as Dr. Dwight and Bishop Horseleyt could not prove that the primitive christians believed in the doctrine of three co-equal and co-eternal Persons in the Godhead, we may rest assured that it never can be proved.
Having shown that the first Christians knew nothing of the doctrine of the Trinity, I will conclude with some extracts from Professor Norton, touching its ORIGIN.
We can trace the history of this doctrine,” says Mr. Norton, “and discover its source; not in the Christian revelation, but in the Platonic philosophy; which was the prevalent philosophy during the first ages after the introduction of Christianity; and of which all the more eminent Christian writers, the Fathers, as they are called, were, in a greater or less degree, disciples. They, as others have
• Statement of Reasons, p. 6.
+ • Horseley has been, not inaptly, described as the last of the race of episcopal giants of the Warburtonian school.”—Encyclopedia of Relig. ous Knowledge, p. 631.
often done, blended their philosophy and their religion into one complex and heterogeneous system; and taught the doctrines of the former as those of the latter. In this manner, they introduced errors into the popular faith.
• It is an old complaint of learned men,' says Mosheim, • that the Fathers, or teachers of the ancient church, too much inclined to the philosophy of Plato, and rashly confounded what was taught by that philosopher with the doctrines of Christ, our Saviour; in consequence of which, the religion of Heaven was greatly corrupted, and the truth much obscured.'
Again, says Mr. Norton, “the very learned Cudworth, in his great work on the Intellectual System, has brought together all that antiquity could furnish to illustrate this doctrine. He institutes a long and minute comparison between the forms in which it was held by the heathen Platonists, and that in which it was held by the Christian Fathers. Toward the conclusion of this, we find the following passages :"—(I give but one.)
* As the Platonic Pagans after Christianity did approve of the Christian doctrine concerning the Logos, as that which was exactly agreeable with their own; so did the generality of the Christian Fathers before and after the Nicene council, represent the genuine Platonic Trinity as really the same thing with the Christian, or as approaching so near to it, that they differed chiefly in circumstances, or the manner of expression.'
" Basnage was not disposed to allow such a resemblance between the Christian and Platonic Trinity, as that which Cudworth maintains, and has written expressly in refutation of the latter. It is not necessary to enter into this controversy. The sentence with which he concludes his remarks on the subject is enough for our purpose. Christianity, in its triumph, has often reflected honor on
the Platonists; and as Christians took some pride in finding the Trinity taught by a philosopher, so the Platonists were proud in their turn to see the Christians adopt their principles.'
6. There has been no more noted defender of the doctrine in modern times, than Bishop Horseley. The following is a quotation from his letters to Dr. Priestley.
“I am very sensible, that the Platonizers of the sccond century were the orthodox of that age. I have not denied this. On the contrary, I have endeavoured to show that their Platonism brings no imputation upon their Orthodoxy. The advocates of the Catholic faith in modern times have been too apt to take alarm at the charge of Platonism. I rejoice and glory in the opprobrium. I not only confess, but I maintain, not a perfect agreement, but such a similitude, as speaks a common origin, and affords an argument in confirmation of the Catholic doctrine [of the Trinity] from its conformity to the most ancient and universal traditions.'
I might produce more authorities in support of the facts which have been stated. But I conceive it to be unnecessary. The fair inference from these facts, every reader is able to draw for himself. The doctrine of the Trinity is not a doctrine of Christ and his Apostles, but a fiction of the later Platonists, introduced into our religion by the Fathers, who were admirers and disciples of the philosophy taught in this school. The want of all mention of it in the Scriptures is abundantly compensated by the ample space which it occupies in the writings of the heathen Platonists, and of the Platonizing Fathers.
"But what has been stated is not the only evidence which Ecclesiastical History affords against this doctrine. The conclusion to which we have just arrived is confirmed by other facts. But these, however important, I will here