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by the Rev. H. C. G. Moule, M.A., Principal of Ridley Hall, and formerly Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Author of "Veni Creator: Thoughts on the Holy Spirit of Promise," etc.
Revised edition [[third edition, Feb., 1890]]
London: Hodder and Stoughton
27, Paternoster Row.


The Doctrine of God.

I. Theism. II. The Holy Trinity.

I. Theism.

In these pages, of course, no attempt is made to elaborate the argument for God from man and nature. We have seen already that the Christian doctrines, which are our real concern here, very largely assume that argument as, more or less consciously, carried out in the mind already. All that we do is to indicate some of the great converging lines of testimony outside the Scriptures, and to remark briefly on some systems of misbelief.

What then are the main lines of testimony, other than direct and miraculous, to the being and glory of the "One living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom and goodness; the Maker and Preserver of all things, both visible and invisible" (Art. I.)?

Stated as simply and briefly as we can, they are—those testimonies which arise from man’s observation of the world, and from man’s observation of himself, and, as a special and profound fact under this last head, from man’s possession of certain tendencies, or laws, of his nature, which, lying at the basis of all <10/11> his powers of observation and reasoning, conduct him also, with mysterious certainty of result, beyond them. We mean what are known as our "Intuitions;" man’s constitutional recognition of certain primary facts as incapable alike of formal proof and of natural doubt.

Such facts are, the reality of our own personality, the reality of existence external to our own, the universal truth of the first principles of geometry, as that two straight lines cannot enclose a space, and the absolute difference between right and wrong. No logical process (in the popular sense of logical) can prove these truths. But when once the contemplation of them is occasioned to man by observation, and their bearing made clear, man is such that he cannot naturally doubt them, while in a state of mental and moral health.

The elements of evidence for God thus presented to man, apart from Revelation, work then somewhat as follows, so far as we can analyse a process which ordinarily takes place without the least conscious analysis. Man finds himself in the midst of a world, a universe, showing innumerable and ever-multiplying instances of order. We do not say design; for the word design takes for granted personal will behind order. Man sees order, the more closely he observes; from the dust beneath to the starry skies above. His instinct is to infer personal purpose and action behind it. Why so? Because in that region of observation which to him is quite immediate, namely his own personal consciousness, he knows that the production of order inevitably implies purpose in action, somewhere, however far, behind the result. And he is certain that he is not his own cause, not his own maker; that he himself is, in all the order of his being, an event, a production demanding <11/12> (for this is an intuition of the mind) a sufficient cause behind it. And he finds himself so related to things around him, so adjusted to and interlaced with the external world, that he naturally tends to recognize himself as, in some great respects, part of it; and so in its personal Cause to look for his own. And in himself he finds, immediately and inalienably, the facts of personal intelligence, will, and love, and the certainty that wrong and right in actions are absolutely different. And it is intuitive to him to be naturally sure that such consciousness is in a true sense supernatural, that it belongs to a higher order than other matters of observation, so that that which cannot know, and will, and love, and discern moral truth, is incalculably lower in the scale of being than that which can. The combined facts of the inner and outer worlds, watched by the one observer, man, thus naturally suggest to man Personality behind and above phenomena, recognized as exercising intelligent will, and as knowing good and evil. Meantime, the external things actually observed are always finite, and so cannot merely of themselves carry proof up to the infinite; but then the gulf is lawfully bridged by those intuitions which demand, by the constitution of the mind, the existence of the ultimate and uncaused; being behind all becoming; power than which nothing can be more strong, truth than which nothing can be more true, goodness than which nothing can be more good. Order, observed by the personal existence, man, who is himself profoundly related to that order, witnesses to personality behind it, personality of at least man’s order, because man’s cause. Conscience, known in himself by man, witnesses to that personal Cause as not only knowing good and evil, but as ranged on the <12/13> side of good. Intuitions of the infinite—as, for instance, in space and time—witness to that personal Cause as not only to a high degree knowing, willing, and good, but as being (because ultimate) all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good; a God of infinite attributes, that is to say, eternally exempt from imperfection in everything that can be predicated of Him; not a vague Something embracing all being, but the eternal One who is good so that He could not be better, wise so that He could not be wiser, strong so that He could not be stronger; perfect in Himself and to our true apprehension, infinite to our always finite comprehension.

It would indeed be idle to say that this idea of God so dwells in the human mind that it needs nothing to call it out, admits of no development, and demands no revelation. What we mean is that in its highest and noblest form it is still an inference as true as sublime from constant facts of the world and of man; that in the lowest manifestations of religion, even among savages, there are discernible the rudiments or the relics of it, and that Revelation finds in man’s capacity for it and tendency to it the prepared receptacle for its glorious message, a message which meanwhile man’s study of the world and himself could never by itself develope, and the essence of which, as Christians believe on good grounds, was accordingly given supernaturally to man even in the first days of his being. [1]

To this faint sketch of the lines of theistic testimony we append a brief notice of opponent or alien systems, with passing remarks. <13/14>

Polytheism is the belief of many invisible personal agents, more or less co-ordinate, behind or in phenomena. It is the belief of many races. In very many instances, if not practically in all, there lies however a theistic (i.e., as the word by usage means, monotheistic) background behind the polytheism, discoverable as the thought of the people is better observed and understood; one indication among others that polytheism is not the germ of theism, but a degradation. It is almost needless to say that polytheism as a belief is on the wane. Observation, now enormously developed, and ever developing, in its range and minuteness, tends to evince a unity in nature which effectually discredits polytheism. On the other hand, Revelation indicates an element of truth underlying it, telling us of innumerable existences other than human, personal, and therefore true causes, but all wholly subject (willingly or not) to the Supreme.

Pantheism is the view of things which may be roughly said to identify God and the universe, including man. More strictly, it views the universe, including the human consciousness, as a phase of the Absolute Being, held to be itself non-personal, non-conscious. God is the Ocean, the universe a wave, or waves. Ocean and waves alike are water, but the waves are not the ocean, only its surface in a certain state. In this view there is no separation between God and the world; all phenomena, good and evil, are equally and alike related to Him, or to It. The great existing instance of pantheism is Indian Brahmanism. To the Brahman all existences, material and personal, are transitory phases of the inscrutable Brahm, itself unpersonal, which for ever evolves and absorbs universes and persons, <14/15> yet without design, sovereignty, or distinction. It is remarkable that human instinct has so triumphed, however, as to make India the stronghold of developed polytheism, which is, in this case at least, the popular correlative of an inner pantheism.

Revelation wholly repudiates pantheism, above all by its witness to the eternal difference of right and wrong, and by always representing the Creator as the wholly free personal Cause of all other existence, and wholly sovereign over it. On the other hand, it fully responds to the element of truth in pantheism, by revealing the true God as not only distinct from His creation, and sovereign over it, but always and everywhere present and working in it; not so that "the universe thinks and knows," but so that His living, willing, and holy presence is the sustaining cause of all things moment by moment, in their nevertheless real existence, and while they work each in its sphere and order.

Atheism, although in theory the creed of the many millions of oriental Buddhists, is now rarely avowed, in a positive form, in thoughtful circles of unbelief. Practically, it involves the view that the world of phenomena explains itself. But observation shows more and more clearly that the universe, so far as its material resources and laws go, tends to quiescence and death. It is not self-sufficient for its existence. It must therefore have begun, originated ab extra, by a cause or causes not material. Non-theistic thought infers from this an impersonal eternal "force" as the cause; a cause not only mysterious, but unknowable; only, man can know that it is not the archetype of his own personality. To this view the abiding answer is our immediate certainty of personality, of self-conscious- <15/16> ness, will, and conscience, and of the relative greatness of this amongst other kinds of being. In his personality man knows himself to be higher than even the most impressive of his surroundings, viewed as unconscious and without will. And he is assured, in the deepest sense of a reasonable certainty, that the true Cause of himself, a person, is not devoid of personality. His intuitions rest in an eternal Person as the ultimate truth, as they cannot rest in eternal non-personal being.

The non-theistic view just stated, as an alternative to material atheism, is what is known (with very many modifications of detail) as Agnosticism. It has affinities in some respects with pantheism, though widely differing from it in others. Like it, it leaves no real ground for the ideas of government of the world, of sin, of accountability and retribution. Meanwhile, it has in it elements of truth, recognized by Revelation. God, according to Scripture, is "unknowable" in the sense of being never "found out unto perfection;" in the sense that He only wholly knows His own infinite glorious being wholly as it is. He eternally invites, and eternally transcends, our thought. Only, we are sure that nothing unknown or unknowable in Him contradicts what He has revealed of Himself.

Deism is very much a word of the past. It denotes the belief of an almighty, or mighty, Contriver and Maker of the universe, who however is not actively sovereign over it, and is not immanent in it. In particular, it is a belief which declines to admit the fact (whether or no the possibility) of miraculous Revelation. Such a view of God and the world is discountenanced, not only by Scripture, but by independent observation and inference. <16/17>

In closest connexion with the testimonies to God commonly adduced from man and nature, we lawfully claim, as a great concurrent evidence, Christianity, (or let us say, Jesus Christ Himself,) antecedent to any detailed study of the Christian doctrinal system. What, on the whole, is the testimony of mankind to Christ? There are many exceptions, real or apparent, to the testimony. But as a fact He has commanded not only the moral adoration of sixty generations of disciples, but also, to a degree quite without parallel, the moral reverence of those who have not submitted to His claims. In the languages of the foremost races the word "Christian" is practically synonymous with "righteous" and "good." And this Object of the homage of the human conscience not only confesses God, but claims unique connexion with and mission from God.

And Jesus Christ is no mere Ideal of the human conscience, evolved from its own materials. He is historical. His personality, character, utterances, and acts cannot, in the nature of things mental and moral, be the creation of the thought of Galilean peasants and a zealous Pharisee, of eighteen centuries ago, nor of their period. He appears before us as a fact of the past, with the practical alternatives that we see in Him either the supreme example of self-illusion or the supreme Truth. The natural verdict of human conscience is not on the side of the former.

This is not a book of Christian evidences. We can only point to the obvious fact that the evidences of Christianity are all evidences of course of theism, and direct us towards the highest answer to the further questions raised by natural theism. Only here, as everywhere else in the enquiry, the observer, <17/18> man, as well as the phenomena observed, must be remembered.

In closing this section, we make a few detached remarks.

(1) Our physical evidence for the existence of God is akin to that for the existence of man. We infer, however unconsciously, the presence of human personalities around us, from observing matter around us acted on in a way which in ourselves we directly know to imply personality. So we infer the Supreme Personality, however dimly, from observing everywhere, around and within, the phenomenon of adjustment which we know implies, in the action of our own being, intention.

(2) A view of the Creator as working in His creation as well as ruling over it prepares us to find that the traces of His working differ in many respects from the traces of ours. "He leaves no chips." The hands and tools with which He works are, in the last analysis, His will, on which also the material rests for its existence and which gives it the power and law of its development from within.

(3) The dependence, absolutely and always, of creation on the Creator (Rev. iv. 11) is a truth more distinctive of Revelation than is commonly understood. The tendency of non-biblical systems of thought has been either to make the universe co-existent with God, who modifies and adjusts, but does not sovereignly originate and order, or to identify more or less the universe with God. The doctrine of Creation, with which Scripture begins and which is everywhere supposed in it, is all-important to the Scripture doctrine of Providence, which teaches us to regard the whole system of events as so related to the sovereign will that while every move- <18/19> ment of secondary causes is left truly free, the whole issue is such that "of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things" (Rom. xi. 36).

The One God stands in Scripture really and absolutely alone as the free personal Cause, the Creator, of all material and spiritual existence; as its true reason, not only of origin but of continuance in being; as its supreme and entirely just Lord, Lawgiver, and Judge; as its true Final Cause or Raison d’être; for He has made it "for Himself." He is not only greatest of Beings, first among many; He is the Being of Beings, such that nothing not being of His Essence can for a moment exist independent of it, or out of relation to Him. Being uncaused, He is in the fullest sense Eternal; His mode of being has nothing to do with either origin or close. Declining all analysis of the idea of eternity, Holy Scripture abundantly teaches that, whatever be the nature of matter or of spirit, the material universe, and the spiritual, are not conditions of, but consequent upon, the being and the eternally free will of God; never to be identified with Him, but never to be dissociated from Him as original and perpetual Cause, alike in their ultimate elements and in their whole combination.


II. The Holy Trinity.

"In unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost" (Art. I.).

For evidence on this supreme doctrine we go to the Holy Scriptures. A basis for it has often been sought, and thought to be found, in independent speculation on the nature of things, on the laws of being and of thought. But it is at least safer for <19/20> those who accept the Scriptures to make them the whole basis. The existence of the supreme personal Cause and Lord may lawfully fall within the scope of natural evidence; but not so, surely, the mode of His existence. This He must Himself reveal. Nature and man may in certain ways harmonize with, or reflect, that mode of existence, but cannot be trusted to disclose it. A brief outline of Scripture evidence is accordingly presented.

(1) The basis of Trinitarian doctrine is Unitarian—God is One. The divine Nature is not, like the human, distributed through or realized in a class of individuals; it is the Nature of One Being, who is at once the Individual and the Kind. He in the sphere of divine existence is One in such a sense that other claimants to Godhead can be called God only by direct usurpation or by figurative and well guarded designation, as when human judges are called Elôhim (Psal. lxxxii. 1, 6). As a few specimen passages of the "unitarian" doctrine of Holy Scripture, see Deut. iv. 35, vi. 4, xxxii. 39; 2 Sam. xxii. 32; 2 Kings xix. 15; Psal. lxxxvi. 10 ; Isai. xlii. 8, xliv. 8 ; Mark xii. 32. Further, this great truth appears in Scripture as a thing of warm and pressing practical importance. The Eternal One, being infinitely great, good, and holy, eternally and necessarily knows Himself to be such, and cannot, without ceasing to be Himself, "give His glory to another," nor approve the slightest transference of the allegiance, adoration, praise, and love, of the created being. Not in selfish jealousy but in eternal rightness, having justly caused all existence for Himself, He requires its right relation to Himself. And so far as that existence consists in personal wills, He eternally <20/21> and necessarily requires all wills, if they are to be in right relation to Him, to will His will, to find their highest utterance in His praise, to work always in the line of adoring and loving homage to Him, to recognize their creaturely relation in everything. Personal beings must personally live as those, who live by, in, and for God. He meanwhile is always, and necessarily, and at once, alike the righteous claimant of such worship and love, and its infinitely good and satisfying Object; glorifying and beatifying the creature so related to Him. For evidence from the side of human consciousness to the supreme fitness and rightness of such a divine demand on human adoration, we may justly point to the spiritual experience of all true believers in the God of the Bible. To them, obedience to this sublime command is the most ennobling action of their will, understanding, and affections. With a joy that cannot be expressed they "give thanks to Him for His great glory," and recognize in that glory the true final cause of all His adorable ways.

Under this head see, for example, Exod. xv. 11; Psal. xlvii. 7, 1. 23, xcix. 3, cxlvi.-cl.; Isai. xl. 12-28; Jer. v. 22, x. 7; Rom. xi. 33-36, xvi. 25-27; Eph. i. 6, iii. 20, 21; 1 Tim. vi. 15, 16; Jude 24, 25; Rev. xix. 5.

Such, faintly adumbrated—for even in Scripture we know Him but in part—is the One God; such is the consistent Unitarianism of Revelation.

(2) But here comes in the Trinitarian phenomenon of the Scriptures.

Throughout the Book, as we have seen, One God appears as the object and claimant of supreme love and worship; and His claim is guarded with <21/22> holy jealousy. Yet meanwhile more Personal Existences than One are addressed, or treated of, in Scripture, in terms of supreme love and worship—in fact, as God. Let both these facts be given full and unreserved weight, and then compared and coordinated; and their convergence at least concurs with the catholic doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Both facts are necessary; for the evidence of the second will be weak out of relation to the first. It is the first which decisively forbids us to explain the second either in a polytheistic sense, or in the sense of a mere delegation of divine functions, or of a quasi-Godhead, to beings not properly divine. For the language used about the love and worship rendered in the cases instanced is such as to invade the prerogatives of Eternal Deity if it is not harmonized with them by being given to Those who are within It.

We do not here enter in detail on the statement of the evidence for the Godhead of the Son, and of the Spirit. See further below, in the proper places (pp. 57, 119, etc.). The inner relations of the Trinity will there find fuller consideration, so far as we may reverently attempt it.

Here, with a brief catena of passages, we rather assume the fact hereafter to be illustrated, and (a) make a short statement on the whole question, and (b) briefly outline the history of the doctrine.

The Deity of Scripture, then, is One Being, in a sense of oneness infinitely deeper than that in which, as in men, man is one—by a common nature in many individuals. The Oneness of Godhead is altogether unique, and implies a unity of the eternal Content ineffable, absolute, so that nothing can be more truly one; and necessary, that <22/23> is to say, such that Its eternal reason for so being is in Itself. Such is the Eternal Nature, which is also the Eternal One, that being eternally and necessarily not only Being but Love, It has more than oneness, It has relation, within Itself. In one respect One, it is in another respect Three; three eternally harmonious Wills, Agents, Persons; Persons, inasmuch as there is between Them knowledge, will, and love. Each has as His nature the entire Divine nature, which is quality, not quantity: Each is truly God. Each is necessarily and eternally one in Being with the Others: there are not Three Gods. Each is not the Others: there are Three Persons.

Meanwhile this Harmony presents with equal clearness the phenomenon of internal Subordination. The Father is not more divine than the Son, or than the Spirit; but He is the Father. Godhead is in Him as in the Eternal Fountain; in the Son and in the Spirit as in the Eternal Streams. They are not accidents of His will, any more than His holiness is an accident of His will (for without it He would not be God). Nevertheless, He is the Father of the Son, the Source of the Spirit. Such is His primacy that He is continually spoken of, by the side of mentions of the Son and of the Spirit, as simply God; while yet the other evidence forbids us, if we would submit, to explain this of a difference of Nature. It indicates a primacy of Relation, of Order.

See the following passages; Matt. xi. 25-27; Joh. v. 19-23, 26, 27, vi. 38, viii. 38, x. 29, xiv. 28, xvii.; and in general all passages where the phraseology of Sonship is used of our Lord in His divine Nature. <23/24>


Detached Remarks on Trinitarian Doctrine.

(1) In the Old Testament there is an adumbration. The plural noun Elôhim (singular, Elôah [2]) appears continually in the Old Testament with a singular verb. It would be too much to say that this reveals the Plurality in Unity, but it certainly is in deep and suggestive harmony with it.

Again, in a large range of passages a Being appears whose character is at once that of Messenger and Master, Angel of Jehovah and Jehovah. See e.g. Gen. xvi. 10, xxii. 12, xxxi. 11-13; Numb. xxii. 32; Josh. v. 13–vi. 2; Isai. lxiii. 9 ; Mal. iii. 1. Such passages at least adumbrate the truth that the divine Unity is not such as to exclude inner Relation.

Again, the divine Spirit is spoken of in terms which at least suggest that in God’s mode of being His Spirit is not an impersonal Thing, but a Personal Being; not only Influence, but Agent. See Isai. xlviii. 16.

We may reverently add, as possible indications in the same direction, the threefold benediction. Numb. vi. 24-26; and the threefold ascription, Isai. vi. 3.

(2) The truth of the Trinity is accordingly in the New Testament less announced than assumed and developed, in the light of the Incarnation of the Son, and of the Mission of the Spirit to the world and to the Church.

(3) There is a recognized distinction in theology between the Trinity "Immanent," or Essential, and <24/25> the Trinity Economical, or Dispensational. The Immanent Trinity is a phrase pointing to the eternal inner relation of the Persons. The Economical Trinity is a phrase pointing to what may be called with reverence the redeeming activities of the Persons. It views the Father as the Giver of the Son, the Supreme Author of the Incarnation and Resurrection, and the Adopter in Him of the saints. It views the Son as the Son, not only Eternal, but also Incarnate and Mediating. It views the Spirit as not only the eternal Bond of love between the Father and the Son, but the Glorifier of Christ in human hearts, and the Regenerator of fallen men into children of God in Christ, and the Bond of life and love between Christ and His Church. The distinction is helpful and important as a formulation of great revealed facts. Meanwhile it is obvious that there is a deep and necessary relation and connexion between the two aspects of the Holy Trinity.

(4) Illustrations of the Doctrine of the Trinity.—Up to a certain point illustration is lawful and helpful. Anything which illustrates the way in which apparent contradictions are often harmonized by remembering differences of point of view, may be thus in point. But the Trinity in Unity, being the mode of existence of the Eternal, is a thing essentially unique, and is therefore lifted far above the possibility of complete comparison or illustration. The student and teacher will do wisely therefore to deal very sparingly with such treatment of the doctrine, and will always guard what he does in this direction with a remembrance of the unique nature of the subject. <25/26>



History of the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

We trace the history of the doctrine in the form of a very brief account of some chief misbeliefs, occasioning as they did closer examinations and definitions of the revealed Truth.

(1) In the Gnostic systems (say a.d. 60 to 200) the Trinitarian question is involved only by the fact that the terms Christ, Jesus, Holy Spirit, appear in them. A principle common to all these systems is the view of the Supreme as raised, not only above immediate contact with the world, but above all we conceive or define of personal existence and its attributes; so that in the scheme of Basilides, He, or It, appears as the Non-Existent (ouk ôn). Such quasi-knowledge, however, as man can gain of Him is man’s salvation; a quasi-knowledge, purely speculative and contemplative, without love or service. This knowledge descends to man through a long chain of Emanations, in which the links are super-terrestrial existences. Among these existences appear a "Christ" (or, in one system, two Christs), and a Holy Spirit. The "Christ" appeared on earth either in mere semblance of, or as united to, a man, Jesus; but so that the higher being was in no way involved in the sufferings of the lower. What concerns the doctrine of the Trinity here is the tacit witness to the Christian belief that Christ is superhuman, and the Holy Spirit personal.

(2) Akin in some respects to Gnosticism, but remote from it in others, is Manicheism. Its floruit begins about a.d. 280. Its feature was an explicit [3] doctrine of Dualism; the theory that the co-existence of good and evil in phenomena involves the eternal co-existence of two originals, God and Satan, Spirit and Matter, Light and <26/27> Darkness. What concerns us here is that the Manichean doctrine of Christ and the Spirit made a nearer verbal approach than the Gnostic to the catholic truth of the Trinity, and witnesses so far to its wide acceptance. From the Father, Lord of Light, emanated two Persons, subordinate to Him, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ was the Son, sent to enlighten souls, and to teach them how to escape from the prison of matter. His Body was not really material; His death, resurrection, and ascension were only mystical and visionary. There is no recognition of the mystery of eternal distinctions and relations within the Godhead. The Son and Spirit of the Manichean are little more than modes of the action of the good God.

(3) Somewhat earlier, and more within the Church,we find developed the Monarchian type of thought. Of its expounders the best known is Sabellius, a North African, an active teacher as early as a.d. 200. But the principle of the error was held about the same period by many and often mutually independent teachers; an often repeated phenomenon in the progress of both error and truth. Noetus, Beryllus, Paul of Samosata, and (later) Photinus, were all essentially Monarchian. The view indicated by this word is that God is essentially Unipersonal, and Three only in manifestation to us. The same Person, as the Father, decreed to save; as the Son, was incarnate and suffered; as the Holy Spirit, influences man. The Sabellian perplexed the orthodox with the question, often asked since in the same spirit, "Have we one God, or three?" And believers, in reply, sometimes used language about essential differences between the Father and the Son, such as to open the door to errors of the next type. The Monarchian theory is not a reverent induction from Scripture, but an attempt to harmonize its teaching with the à priori conception of a God necessarily unipersonal, devoid of inner relations of eternal love. <27/28>

(4) The next great alien theory was the Arian. Arius (floruit a.d. 321-36) was the champion of the view which still assumed Unipersonality as essential in the Supreme. But, recognizing the personal difference given in Scripture between Father, Son, and Spirit, he taught, not three phases of the One, but that the One willed into existence Two Possessors of a subordinate quasi-Deity, to be His intermediaries with the world and man. Claiming to be scriptural, and insisting on the Personality of the Son and of the Spirit, he ascribed to the Son an existence pre-temporal, yet not eternal; a surpassing greatness and glory, yet not a necessity of existence. The Son’s exalted being was yet originally contingent on the will of the Supreme. Conceivably, He need not have been; that is, He was a creature, though a creature who could in turn create, and could become incarnate in a quais-man (below, p. 66). The doctrine of the Spirit was but slightly expounded by Arius. His followers arrived at the theory that the Spirit was willed into existence by the Son, and was thus God in a sense only tertiary (below, p. 148).

(5) Plainly, a common ground in the above systems is the assumption that the true God must be unipersonal. Each finds at least a hint of refutation when the Scripture is seen to assume and indicate interior and necessary relations of love in the unique Being of the Supreme. In that view, the supremacy of God over creation, and the sovereignty of His will, are as secure as ever; but a wholly new intensity is given to the truth that God is Love, and thus a new aspect to the reality and glory of the union of man with God in the Son Incarnate. To expound this truth was the great work of Athanasius and his immediate successors. It had been held before, but imperfectly set forth and vindicated. The truths whose harmony forms the true doctrine—the Unity of God, and the true Deity, yet Subordination, of the Begotten Son and the Proceeding Spirit—had been held, and held together; but very much as truths proposed to faith (as <28/29> some truths doubtless are), unrelieved by a harmony summing them up into one.

(6) Leading Alien Theories of Modern Times.—Of these perhaps the most distinct and important are those connected with the words Unitarian and Swedenborgian.

Of the "Unitarian" theology it is difficult to speak precisely, for it deprecates, on principle, dogmatic fixity. Its one really common tenet appears to be the necessary Unipersonality of the Godhead, involving the inferior nature of Christ. Within this lies a large gradation of views. The early Unitarians, at the era of the Reformation, held a doctrine akin to the Arian, and many modern Unitarians probably do the same. But the doctrine was early started that Christ was mere man (whether supernaturally born or not), and in no sense an object of worship; and this is perhaps the more prevalent modern view. Unitarians hold very various opinions on the authority of Scripture, from deep reverence to advanced rationalism; these, of course, are reflected in their theology.

Unitarians are often called Socinians, from the Italian teachers Lælius and Faustus Socinus (cent. xvi.). But the opinions of the Socini were Arian. The term Unitarian meanwhile is to be conceded only under reserve. The Trinitarian is an earnest Unitarian with regard to the Unity of the divine Being.

The theology of Swedenborg (1688-1772) is in some respects sui generis. A Trinity appears to be recognized within the Godhead. In Christ, supernaturally born, resides this triune Godhead, so modified, or manifested, as to be accessible to worship. The Holy Spirit is the influence communicated to churches and individuals by Christ. Worship is to be addressed to Christ alone, who is, for man, the One God.

The followers of Swedenborg are numerous; organized as the New Jerusalem Church, or the Church of the New Dispensation. <29/30>


The Word "Trinity" (Trias, Triad)

The first formal adoption of the word to designate the Three in One, One in Three, dates a.d. 317, at a synod held at Alexandria. That the holy Mystery was long before this a common article of Christian confession appears from e.g. a passage in Lucian, the Voltaire of antiquity, (floruit probably about a.d. 160). In his Philopatris the Christian is made to confess "The exalted God, …. Son of the Father, Spirit proceeding from the Father, One of Three, and Three of One."

"Trinity" properly means "Threefoldness." It is not, as it is sometimes said to be, a shortened form of Triunity. <30>


[1] Among books developing the theistic argument we commend specially Flint’s Theism, Harris’ Self-Revelation of God, and Père Gratry’s Connaissance de Dieu.

[2] Whatever the ultimate derivation, there appears to be no doubt that the form of the words El, Elôah, Elôhim conveyed to the Hebrew the idea of power.

[3] Gnosticism, with its tenet of the essential evil of Matter, was implicitly dualist, and often explicitly so.


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