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fect the truth of the facts which it seeks to explain. Never was there a more palpable assumption of the very point in question, than is displayed by Unitarian writers on this subject. Their position, with scarcely an exception, is, that the doctrine is absurd or contradictory, and that every passage seeming to imply it must be explained away. Reason, it is claimed, is the arbiter, and as the doctrine is contrary to the obvious dictates of common sense, i must be rejected. We grant that unbiased reason, or common sense, as to subjects on which it is competent to decide, is an in: fallible guide. We do not concur in opinion with Dr. Chalmers for instance, as quoted and condemned by Prof. Norton, that the examination of the scriptures is a pure work of grammatical ana lysis," "an unmixed question of language," and that " we admit of no other instrument than the vocabulary and the Lexicon," etc Our common sense has an important part to perform in the inves tigation of truth. The known absurdity or contradictory nature a a proposition is sufficient ground for rejecting it. Nor are we re quired to believe what we cannot understand. In all those caser where our Trinitarian brethren have seemed to deny these prince ples, they have, we believe, weakened the cause which they aimed to defend. The obvious meaning of scripture we consider the true one, except when it directly contradicts our consciousness, or some known truth, on a subject respecting which reason is competent to decide. We utterly deny the propriety of resorting to a forced construction, or any labored method of explanation, by : violation of the true principles of grammar and usage. There is no other alternative than to take the obvious meaning, or some other natural_one, or else to reject the pretended revelation altogether. To aim at forcing out meanings such as we wish; to admit the mistaken views of Christ and the apostles, their incorrect reasoning, etc., and yet claim to believe the word of God, is surely no mark of that discriminating judgment in which Unitarians so constantly glory. Some truths taught in the bible respect subjects which lie so fully within the circle of our consciousness, and other means of knowledge, that we are perfectly qualified 10 decide
upon them. For instance, we know that one man's act cannot be another's, and that sin or moral turpitude can be nothing but a voluntary state of mind. Reason is entirely competent 10 decide respecting these things. They relate to subjects which lie within the bounds of our knowledge. If, therefore, we find declarations in the scriptures seemingly asserting the contrary, we must of necessity reject the literal meaning as absurd or contradictory, and have recourse to some other natural method of explanation ; or if this is impracticable, we have no other alternative than to reject the pretended revelation altogether. A real revelation from God cannot contain an absurdity. But there are many subjects on which reason is utterly incompetent to decide. These, i
made known at all, must be disclosed to us from on high. Of this rature, plainly, is the mode of the divine existence. No man can pronounce beforehand what is or is not true on this subject. For who can lay claim to any such knowledge as qualifies him, by his own upaided reason, to judge of this matter? But the Unitarian does virtually assume to himself such a power, when he undertakes to say, that the doctrine of the trinity is absurd or contradictory. When we speak of this doctrine, we mean the fact, that the Father, Sao
, and Holy Spirit, are God, while yet there is but one God. This the Unitarian pronounces absurd or contradictory. He affines, that it is impossible,—that it cannot be. But from whence does he derive his knowledge of its absurdity or contradictory nature? Nine tenths at least of those who receive the bible, have seen no such absurdity or contradiction in it. What are the sources of his superior knowledge? What does he know a priori respecting the mode of the divine existence, more than they know who hold to the doctrine of the trinity ? Surely he cannot presume that it is so, because he or they can devise no particular theory or explanation of the subject, which will be free from apparent objections. By the nature of the case, every such theory is but conjecture ; and that cannot militate against the facts declared or implied in the scriptures. Is he not, then, guilty of the most intolerable arrogance, in an assumption of its absurdity or impossibility, when he is contradicted by nearly all of those to whom the bible has come, and on a subject too, respecting which reason is plainly incompetent to decide?
We have made these remarks, to show what, in our view, is the true course to be taken in conducting the Unitarian controversy; and it is on account of its clear and guarded statement of the doctrine in question, that we think favorably of the little work which Fe have placed at the head of this article. Without any effort to sustain a particular theory, Mr. Winslow has given what we conceive to be a plain exhibition of the scriptural truth on this subject
, together with the appropriate proofs of the doctrine, and some concluding remarks on its moral value. The limits of his work, and the nature of the discourses, as delivered, admitted of no extended or labored course of argument; but to many minds it will be of greater use than the more elaborate treatises or discussions on the same subject. It is not our purpose to dwell upon
it to any length, either by way of review or remark, for this our liinits forbid. We throw together, however, some of Mr. Winslow's statements, taken from different parts of the volume.
* The mode of man's existence is such, that he can occupy only one place in the universe at the same moment. The mode of God's existence is such, that he can occupy every place at the same moment. An angel may be one being, existing only in spirit; a man may be one being, existing in soul and body ; God may be one being, existing i Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. An angel may have one mode of exis tence ; man may have another ; God may have still another. *** God is not three in the same sense in which he is one.
* * * Th sense in which he is one, is expressed by the term being. He is op being. The sense in which he is three, is usually expressed by the term person. He exists in three persons. The term person is use by way of accommodation, as we apply various other human expression to God. *
* We must either say nothing about God, or we mu apply to him human language; and he who takes advantage of this, unkind to his species, because he takes advantage of a circumstance i our present mode of being, beyond our control. We have a distin idea of the existence of the fact which this term represents, but th exact image of the fact, in our present mode of existence, we are it competent to perceive. ** We use the term person, to desig nate the distinction in the Godhead, with as much definiteness of meanin as many other terms applied to God, which all do and must adopt wb speak of that Being. * The word person, is used only to re present the distinction in the Godhead necessarily implied in the re vealed fact of the deity of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Hol Ghost. **** By discriminating, in regard to the divine trinity, be tween the fact itself and the mode of the fact, it will be perceived tha we are not chargeable with believing what we do not comprehend In strict language, no mind can believe what it does not comprehend **** Respecting theories explanatory of the mode of the trinits we do not object to them, provided they be understood simply as theories
Suppose it to be a revealed fact, and whether it is we are to inquire in our next discourse, that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are each divine, and co-existing in the one Being, Jehovah. Now for theory respecting the mode of this fact. We give the following Their unity may consist in ONENESS OF ESSENCE. We are not surficiently acquainted with the elements of being, to know that onenes of essence cannot constitute that plurality of persons, which the trinit predicates of Jehovah. Our theory, then, is good, and the fact it re spects is entitled to rational belief, if attested by good evidence ; for i is entirely above the reach of all objection. But let not the fact an the theory be confounded; the theory is human, the fact divine pp. 26–35.
With the foregoing observations we agree. All language ar plied to the divine Being, must of necessity be more or less imper fect. We cannot understand it precisely in the same sense, as whe it is applied to men. If, for instance, we speak of his knowledge we cannot suppose that this term implies knowledge gained lik our own, by sensation and reflection. The Unitarian admits the principle of interpretation with respect to many things. Wit what propriety, then, does he object to the term person, to signit something different from that of being; or why does he insist, tha they shall, in every case, mean the same thing? Is it fair for hin to affix to it the sense which he does, while it is pointedly denie
o be the sense which the Trinitarian means by it? Because the two words are synonymous in one case, must they of necessity be so in every case?
Prof. Norton, in his late work, (Statement of Reasons, etc.,) has endeavored to show, that ambiguity of language is the source
errors in interpretation. Admit it. But what has this to do with the fact, that God is in some sense one, and in some other ense three ? or that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each inte ascribed to them attributes and works which can belong only o the Deity ? One thing is certain, that Mr. Norton has left enirely unnoticed the very point on which the whole question turns ; and this notwithstanding it has time and again been stated. Years ince, this point was urged upon him in a review of pamphlets on he Unitarian controversy.* He did not then attempt to meet it; and fet in the year 1833, we have seen him again presenting, in a more laborate shape, his former rules of interpretation ; using the saine anguage of confident superiority, but very carefully avoiding the rgument which was then pressed upon him.
We will quote a en extracts from the article to which we have referred. Do Unitarians infallibly know that the doctrine of the trinity is aksard? Mere assertion in argument, unless it contain a self-evident truth, is entitled to no weight. The point then is, whether the doctrine be a self-evident absurdity ; i. e. is it seen by the mind to be absard, with the same intuition that we see that a part is not equal to the whole, or that two and two are not five? We grant, if the doctrine were, that God is one and three in the same sense, or that he is one in every possible sense, and yet three in some other sense, it would be a selfevident absurdity. But such is not the doctrine. Trinitarians hold no such ideas ; they utterly disclaim them. Unitarians in all their attempts to prove such a doctrine to be absurd, (and we never knew them attempt to prove absurdity on any other,) have all the glory of a triumph. But they touch not the doctrine of the trinity. This doctrine is, that God is one in some sense, and three in some other sense. Now we affirm, that absurdity can no more be charged on the doctrine thus stated, than on the proposition that husband and wife are one in wine sense, and two in some other sense. We adduce this example simply to show, that when we affirm that God is one in some sense, we do not contradict the affirmation that he is three in some other sense ; " the terms being used in senses not really opposed to each other.” We bring together no ideas which are incompatible with each other.” And we say that nothing but absolute stupidity can fail to see that such is the fact
, and nothing but willful perverseness can refuse to confess it. Again, if the statement of the doctrine involves no absurdity, there is way
in which the doctrine can be known to be absurd ; viz. by actual knowledge that God is one in every possible sense.
See Christian Spectator for April, 1821.
discovery, if Unitarians have made it, and can prove that they made it, is to their purpose. On the contrary, if they have not it, then they do not know that God is not three in some sense to their knowledge does not extend. Suppose then that we should aff that in the essence of God there is a three-fold distinction, which stitutes distinct personality. * ** * Does the Unitarian then pos such infallible knowledge respecting what constitutes the whole na of the infinite Being, that no evidence of miracles could convince that there is a three-fold mode of existence in the Godhead, which foundation for a three-fold personal distinction ? Has he sent his pe trating glance around and through the essence and attributes of the existent and infinite God, and so exactly surveyed the lines and lit and nature and mode of his existence, as to know by such discove: that God is one in every possible sense ? **** Why then do talk as if they had? Why do they affirm what can and what can be true of the mode of the divine existence, with the same boldoand confidence as had they actually found out the Almighty to perf tion? It is presumption, daring presumption ; nor shall we hesitate pronounce it such, until they prove to us that they have the same kng ledge of God, which God has of himself. It is to no purpose to tell that the doctrine of the trinity seems to them to be a contradiction, they think it is a contradiction. Of what authority are the opinie and conjectures of mere ignorance? Do they know it to be a conti diction? We put this question to the conscience, and claim an answ without equivocation. pp. 193, 194.
Why has not this appeal been met? Is not the silence of Pro Norton, under these circumstances, decisive evidence that h could not meet it?
The question now arises, What name ought to be applied those who, on the ground of such an assumption respecting a fact on which reason is confessedly incompetent to decide, feel com pelled to turn the language of scripture from its obvious meaning or when this cannot be done, to treat the sacred writers as weak reasoners, and mistaken reporters of the facts; and who, in the progress of their unbelief, reject not only the doctrine of the trinity, but also the entire sinfulness of man, the atoning death ol Christ, regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and the unending penalty of the law,-doctrines which are regarded by christians as fundamental truths of the gospel ? Are they entitled to claim from Trinitarians, or to complain if we deny it, the name of believers in the divine revelation? We would not indulge in the language of bitterness ; but on a subject in which are involved our best hopes for time and eternity, we cannot refrain from using the language of plainness. We know that some of our brethren at the east have been charged with unnecessary harshness, and a want of all christian courtesy, with “weakness and wickedness," for the course which they have taken on this subject. We too have