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Unitarians. It is sufficient to my present purpose, however, to show, that he is, in the passage before us, considered as a Person, and distinct from the Father and the Son. To view the Holy Ghost, as being only an attribute, or operation of the Deity, when he is represented as actually bearing witness with two real Persons, is a thing utterly inadmissible. No doubt can remain, that the text in debate explicitly declares the doctrine of three distinct agents in heaven, who bear the glorious names of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This is all which is incumbent on me to show, under the present particular.
2. These three illustrious Persons are said, in the text, to bear a distinct witness or record. To "bear record," is a solemn testimony. This is evident from that saying of John the Baptist respecting Jesus Christ, "I saw, and bear record, that this is the Son of God." A proper witness must be a rational agent; and on this ground it is said in scripture, "In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established." If the Holy Spirit is not a Person, but a divine perfection or energy, it is remarkable that this should be represented as bearing witness 'with two real intelligent agents. It is very evident that this is not the meaning of the words in question. If the author intended to convey such an idea, he has given his readers no intimation of it, and on that account we must view him as having been very unhappy in the selection of his words. But, if he meant to speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as three distinct Persons, or agents, then his language is perspicuous and forcible. If the text is an insertion, the inserter, undoubtedly, was a Trinitarian, and intended to speak of these three witnesses in heaven as distinct agents. We need not hesitate in saying, that this is the literal and obvious import of the passage, whether it is viewed as spurious or genuine. To seltle
this point, is all that is necessary under the present subdivision; and this, I may now consider as being sufficiently evinced.
3. It is said in the text, that the "three who bear record in heaven, are one." An understanding of this point is of vast importance; and, therefore, a careful and clear explanation is requisite. It is not the design of the writer, to inform his readers, that the three witnesses in heaven, are one, merely in respect to the truth of their testimony. He appears to be very particularly guarded on this point; distinguishing between the witnesses on earth, "the Spirit, the water, and the blood," and the "three who bear record in heaven." Concerning the first class of witnesses, he says, "and these three are one;" but of the second, he states, "and these three agree in one." That "the Spirit, the water, and the blood, are one, only in regard to the nature and truth of their testimony, is clearly the object of the writer; for he does not say of the three who bear record in heaven, that "they agree in one;" but that they "are one." It is very mysterious to some people, as they say, to see how three can be one, and one three. Declining a humble and candid examination, they have the temerity to pronounce the sublime doctrine of a Trinity in Unity, an absurdity-an absolute contradiction.
We are ready to acknowledge that this would be true, if it were said, that they are three and one, in the same sense; but this is not the case. There is a sense in which they are really three, and there is a sense in which they are actually one. To communicate this incomprehensible and glorious mystery, was, undoubtedly, the serious intention of the writer of 1 John 5. 7. No words could be better chosen, to express the doctrine of a Triune God. It has been the belief of Trinitarians, in all ages, that
the Almighty is one in essence, and three in Persons. The insinuation of Anti-Trinitarians, that we believe in a plurality of Gods, is either founded on the want of proper information, or in real disingenuousness. We have no idea, that there are, or possibly can be, three distinct supreme Gods; but we fully believe, that there are three distinct Persons, in the one eternal and infinite Jehovah. We wish to have no dispute with any sect of men, about the existence of more than one Supreme Being. The contest between us and those who wish to be distinguished by the name of Unitarians, is entirely about the manner of the divine existence, and not about the number of Gods. If our doctrine is as absurd and easily confuted, as they in general pretend, it is astonishing that they are all so anxious to misrepresent it to the unthinking populace. A misrepresented doctrine, we readily grant, may be easily confuted. Let them state our views fairly, on the sentiment in question, and then demonstrate from Scripture its fallacy, and the dispute will be completely settled, and their triumph will be worth enjoying.
He that has a clear cause, would manifest great folly in resorting to misrepresentation and sophistry. Every disputant will be candid, who finds it possible to maintain his ground in that way; for truth requires no subterfuges.
In the view of what has been said, it appears with great clearness, that our text contains the common Trinitarian idea of God. It expressly states, that He is three and one-a Trinity in Unity. There is no attempt made by the writer of the text in debate, to show how the thing is; he merely asserts the fact. We are bound, therefore, to believe, on the testimony of God, who certainly best knows, the mode of his own being. The practical use of the doctrine, is easily seen; but the mystery of it remains unexplained, and probably will, through eternity.
The text perfectly accords with these memorable words, in our excellent shorter catechism, "There is but one only, the living and true God; and there are three Persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory."
With this explanation of the passage in debate, we may proceed to show,
II. Its actual agreement with the Holy Scriptures in general. If it could be made to appear that the text in view obviously disagrees with the established doctrines of divine revelation, it would be a more conclusive evidence of its spuriousness, than any arguments which have ever been advanced by its opposers. Its obvious disagreement with their peculiar sentiments, is, unquestionably, the grand reason of the general and pointed war which they have waged with it, through modern ages. If it can be clearly shown that the text in question, strictly accords with the doctrines of the Bible, it will be a strong presumptive evidence of its inspiration. To establish this point, will now be attempted.
1. Is it said, in this passage, that there are three in heaven, called "the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost?" This is manifestly the doctrine of the Scriptures at large. In the Old Testament, JEHOVAH expressly speaks of himself in the plural number. Gen. 1. 26. "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." Chap. 3. 22. "And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us." At the erection of the tower of Babel, "The Lord said," in Gen. 11. 7, "Let us go down and there confound their language." It is also stated by Isa. 6. 8. "I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall Isend, and who will go for us." Notwithstanding all the evasive explanations of Anti-Trinitarian writers,
these passages of holy writ, are expressed in a very singular phraseology, if God is, in no respect, more than one person. In particular that remarkable expression, "the man is become as one of us." There is no other way of evading its force, but by supposing that the infinite God, in this case, associates the angels with himself: But, it would be infinitely beneath the dignity of the Lord of Hosts, to associate with himself the most exalted of created beings, in so important a consultation as that which concerned the creation of man. It may truly be said in
relation to that event, "Who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor ?"
If there are three Persons in one Godhead, the passages which have been quoted above, are phrased in a very proper manner; but if the case is otherwise, they are framed in very strange and inadmissible language. The very names of the Father, Son, and Spirit, are certainly given to these divine persons, in the Old Testament Scriptures. Concerning God, it is said in Jer. 31. 9, "I am a Father to Israel ;" and in Mal. 11. 10," Have we not all one Father? hath not one God created us ?" There is one mentioned in the second Psalm, to whom it is said, in the 7th verse, "Thou art my son." To convince us that he possesses divine perfections as well as the Father, it is said to mankind in the close of that Psalm, "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little." It is then added, "Blessed are all they that put their trust in him." Seeing, that we are strictly forbidden, to trust in any being in heaven or on earth but God, this command from on high, establishes the proper and eternal Deity of that glorious Person who is emphatically called the Son.
With regard to him, who is denominated in the text, the Holy Ghost, which is but another name for Spirit, much is