Samuel Clarke’s Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity did not go unnoticed; it sparked lasting debate in the church of England and led to the acceptance of Clarke’s scriptural trinitarianism- effectively identical to that of the Homoians of the fourth century, and in keeping with the theology of the ante-nicene church fathers- among many in the Church of England, as well as within various non-conformist churches. English Presbyterianism bears a strong classical trinitarian legacy during the 18th century, and Clarke’s scriptural ideas also found a home in English Baptist churches. The following statement of faith is taken from one of many unitarian works written during this era.
Here is part 2 of section 2 of Samuel Clarke’s Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity. The introduction is available here. The first part, theses 1-15, can be read here. My comments on the first part can be read here.
They therefore have also justly been censured, who taking upon them to be wise above what is written, and intruding into things which they have not seen; have presumed to affirm [Gr text] that there was a time when the Son was not.
See beneath, thesis 17.
The Son (according to the reasoning of the primitive writers) derives his Being from the Father, (whatever the particular manner of that derivation be,) not by mere necessity of nature, (which would be in reality self-existence, not filiation;) but by an act of the Father’s incomprehensible power and will.
Notes on thesis 17.
It cannot be denied but the terms [Son and beget] do most properly imply an act of the Father’s will. For whatever any person is supposed to do, not by his power and will, but by mere necessity of nature; ’tis not properly He that does it, but necessity of fate. Neither can it intelligibly be made out, upon what is founded the authority of the Father, and the mission of the Son, if not upon the Son’s thus deriving his Being from the Father’s incomprehensible power and will. However, since the attributes and powers of God are evidently as eternal as his Being; and there never was any time, wherein God could not will what he pleased, and do what he willed; and since it is just as easy to conceive God always acting, as always existing; and operating before all ages: it will not at all follow, that that which is an effect of his will and power, must for that reason necessarily be limited to any definite time. Wherefore not only those ancient writers who were esteemed Semi-Arians, but also the learnedest of the fathers on the contrary side, who most distinctly and explicitly contended for the eternal generation of the Son, even they did still nevertheless expressly assert it to be an act of the Father’s power and will.
“Him [saith Justin Martyr] who, by the will of the Father, is God; the Son and Messenger of the Father.” (Dial. cum Trypho.)
Again: “For he hath all these titles [before-mentioned, viz. that of Son, Wisdom, Angel, God, Lord, and Word,] from his ministering to his Father’s will, and from being begotten of the Father by his will.” (Ibid.)
And in that remarkable passage, where he compares the generation of the Son from the Father, to one light derived from another; he adds, “I have said that this Power [meaning the Son] was begotten of the Father, by his power and will.” (Ibid.)
[Note: In all these passages, the words [Gr text], signify evidently, not volente, voluntate; not the mere approbation, but the act of the will. And therefore St. Austin is very unfair, when he confounds these two things, and asks (utrum Pater sit Deus, volens an nolens,) whether the Father himself be God, with or without his own will? The answer is clear: He is God, [volens,] with the approbation of his will; but not voluntate, not [Gr text], not, [Gr text], not by an act of will, but by necessity of nature.]
Irenaeus frequently styles the Son, [Latin text] the eternal Word of God; and affirms, that [Latin text] he always was with the Father, that [Latin text] he did always co-exist with the Father; and blames those who did [Latin text] ascribe a beginning to his production: And yet (I think) there is no passage in this writer, that supposes him to be derived from the Father by any absolute necessity of nature.
Origen speaks thus concerning the time of the Son’s generation: “These words, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee; are spoken to him by God, with whom it is always today: For there is no evening nor morning with him: but the time co-extended, if I may so speak, with His unbegotten and eternal life, is the today in which the Son was begotten: So that the beginning of his generation can no more be discovered, than of that day.” (Comment. in Joh. pag. 31.) And yet none of the ancient writers do more expressly reckon the Son among the [Gr text] Being derived from the power and will of the Father, than Origen: See the passage cited above, in thesis 14.
Novatian expresses himself thus: “The Son, being begotten of the Father, is always in [or with] the Father: —- He that was before all time, must be said to have been always in [or with] the Father.” (De Trin. c. 31.) And yet in the same chapter he expressly adds: “The Word, which is the Son, was born of the Father, at the will of the Father: —- He was produced by the Father, at the will of the Father. (Ibid.) Upon which passages the learned Bp Bull makes this remark: “When the Son is said to be born of the Father, at the will of the Father, that will of the Father must be understood to be eternal.” (Defens. Sect. 3. cap. 8. S 8.)
And Alexander Bishop of Alexandria: “We believe (saith he) that the Son was always from the Father. But let no one by the word [always,] be led to imagine him to be self-existent. For neither the term, was; nor, always; nor, before all ages; mean the same as being self-existent. —- The phrases, was; and, always; and, before all ages; whatever their meaning be, cannot imply the same as self-existence.” (Theodorit. lib. 1. c. 4.)
Eusebius, in the following passages, expresses his sense of the Son’s being always with the Father: “The singular [saith he] and eternal generation of the only begotten Son.” (Eccles. Theol. 1. 1, c. 12.) And again; “‘Tis manifest that the only-begotten Son was with God his Father, being present and together with him, always and at all times.” (Lib. 2. c. 14.) And again; “But [the consideration of Christ before his incarnation] must extend back beyond all time, and beyond all ages.” (Demonstr. Evang. lib. 4, c. 1.) And again; “That the Son was begotten; not as having at a certain time not been, and then beginning to be; but being before all ages, and still before them, and being always present as a Son with his Father; not self-existent, but begotten of the self-existent Father; being the only-begotten, the Word, and God from God.” (Ibid. c. 3.) And again; “That the Son subsisted from endless age, or rather before all ages; being with Him, and always with him who begat him, even as light with the luminous body”: (Ibid. 1. 5. c. 1.) [Which similitude ** how far it is true, see explained in the following page.] ** See my commentary on 40 select texts, in answer to Mr. Nelson, p. 158. And again; “To Him, [viz. to the Father] is intercession made for the salvation of all, by the pre-existing only-begotten Word Himself, by him first and only, who is over all, and before all, and after all, the great High Priest of the Great God, ancienter than all time and all ages, [Gr. the ancienter of all time and of all ages,] sanctified with the honor and dignity of the Father.” (De land. Constantini, c. 1.) And again: “The only-begotten Word of God, who reigneth with his Father from beginningless ages, to endless and never-ceasing ages. (Ibid. c. 2.)
And yet nobody more expressly than the same Eusebius, declares that the Son was generated by the power and will of the Father: “The Light [saith he] does not shine forth by the will of the luminous body, but by a necessary property of its nature: But the Son, by the intention and will of the Father, received his subsistence so as to be the Image of the Father: For by his will did God become the Father of his Son, and caused to subsist a second light, in all things like unto Himself.” (Demonstr. Evangel. lib. 4, cap. 3.) And again; “Receiving before all ages a real subsistence, by the inexpressible and inconceivable will and power of the Father.” (Ibid.)
And the Council of Sirmium: “If any one says that the Son was begotten not by the will of the Father, let him be anathema. For the Father did not beget the Son by a physical necessity of nature without the operation of his will; but he at once willed, and begat the Son, and produced him from Himself, without time, and without suffering and diminution himself.” (Anathemat. 25.) And this canon, saith Hilary, was therefore made by the Council, “lest any occasion should seem given to heretics, to ascribe to God the Father a necessity of begetting the Son, as if he produced him by necessity of nature, without the operation of his will.” (De Synod.)
And Marius Victorinus: “It was not [saith he, speaking of the generation of the Son,] by necessity of nature, but by the will of the Father’s Majesty.” (Adv. Arium.)
And Basil the Great: “God [saith he] having his power concurrent with his will, begat a Son worthy of Himself; he begat him, such as he Himself would” (Hom. 29.)
And again: “It is the general sentiment of all Christians whatsoever, that the Son is a Light begotten, shining forth from the unbegotten Light; and that He is the True Life and the True Good, springing from that Fountain of Life, the Father’s goodness.” (Contr. Eunom. lib. 2.)
And Gregory Nyssen: “For neither [saith he] doth that immediate connection between the Father and the Son, exclude [or, leave no room for the operation of] the Father’s will; as if he begat the Son by necessity of nature, without the operation of his will: neither does the supposition of the Father’s will [operating in this matter,] so divide the Son from the Father, as if any space of time was requisite between, [for the will of the Father to operate in.]” (Contr. Eunom. lib. 2.)
And again: “If he begat the Son when he would, (as Eunomius contends;) it will follow, that since he always willed what is good, and always had power to do what he would, therefore the Son must be conceived to have been always with the Father, who always wills what is good, and always has power to do what he wills.” (c. Eunom. 8.)
And, among modern writers, the learned Dr. Payne: “There are several things, I own [saith he] in the blessed Trinity, incomprehensible to our reason, and unaccountable to our finite understandings —-; As, why, and how an infinite and all-sufficient God, should produce an eternal Son, —-; Whether this were by a voluntary or a necessary production; etc.”
The [Logos, the] Word or Son of the Father, sent into the world to assume our flesh, to become man, and die for the sins of mankind; was not the [[Gr text], the] internal reason or wisdom of God, an attribute or power of the Father; but a real Person, the same who from the beginning has been the Word, or Revealer of the will, of the Father to the world.
See the texts, No 535, 680, 654, 616, 617, 6 18, 607, 612, 638, 574, 584, 586, 588, 569, 631, 641, 642, 652, 672.
See beneath, theses 22 and 23.
Notes on thesis 18.
That [the [Gr text], the [Gr text], the [Gr text],] the Word, the Wisdom, the Power, of the Father, was inseparably united to Christ, and dwelt in him, [the Father which dwelleth in me, he doth the works, Joh. 14:10;] is acknowledged on all hands, even by the Socinians themselves. But the question is, whether that Logos, of whom it is declared in Scripture that He was made flesh, and dwelt among us; that he came down from heaven, not to do his own will, but the will of him that sent him; that he came in the flesh; that he took part of flesh and blood; that he was made in the likeness of men, and found in fashion as a man; does not signify the real Person, to whom the forementioned powers and titles belongs, both before and after his incarnation, in different manners.
As to the sense of Antiquity. Among the writers before the time of the Council of Nice, Theolphilus, Tatian, and Athenagoras, seem to have been of that opinion, that [the Logos] the Word, was [the [Gr text]] the internal Reason or Wisdom of the Father; and yet, at the same time, they speak as if they supposed that Word to be produced or generated into a real Person. Which is wholly unintelligible: And seems to be a mixture of two opinions: the one, of the generality of Christians, who believed the Word to be a real Person: the other, of the Jews and Jewish Christians, who personated the internal Wisdom of God, or spake of it figuratively (according to the genius of their language) as of a Person. See my commentary on 40 select texts, in answer to Mr. Nelson, p. 178.
Irenaeus and Clemens Alexandrius, speak sometimes with some ambiguity; but upon the whole, plainly enough understand the Word or Son of God, to be a real Person. The other writers before the Council of Nice, do generally speak of Him clearly and distinctly, as of a real Person. See a large passage of Justin Martyr, in the latter part of his Dialogue with Trypho; where speaking against those, who taught [[Gr text]] that the Son was only a power emitted from the Father, so as not to be really distinct from him; in like manner as men say the light of the sun is upon earth, yet so as not to be a real distinct thing from the sun in the heavens, but, when the sun sets, the light also goes away with it; he, on the contrary, explains his own opinion to be, that as angels are permanent beings, and not mere powers; so the Son, whom the Scriptures call [[Gr text]] both God and an Angel, [[Gr text]] “is not, like the light of the sun, a mere name [or power,] but a really distinct Being, begotten from the Father by his power and will; not by division, as if the Father’s Substance could be parted, as all corporeal things are divided and parted, and thereby become different from what they were before part was taken from them; but as one fire is lighted from another, [so as to be really distinct from it,] and yet the former suffers thereby no diminution.” And indeed St John himself, styling him [Theos] God, (which can be understood only of a real Person,) Joh. 1:1; compared with Rev. 19:13, where he says, “His name is called the Word of God”; does sufficiently determine the point.
About the time of the Council of Nice, they spake with more uncertainty; sometimes arguing that the Father considered without the Son, would be without Reason and without Wisdom, (which is supposing the Son to be nothing but an attribute of the Father:) and yet at other times expressly maintaining, that the Son was “neither the word spoken forth, nor the inward word [or reason] in the mind of the Father, nor an efflux of him, nor a part [or segment] of his unchangeable nature, nor an emission from him; but truly and perfectly a Son.” (Athanas. Exposit. Fidei.) But the greater part agreed in this latter notion, that he was a real Person: and the learned Eusebius has largely and beyond contradiction proved the same, [viz. that the Son is neither, [Gr text], a mere power or attribute of the Father; nor the same Person with the Father; but a real distinct living Subsistence, and true Son of the Father;] in his Books, de Ecclesiastica Theologia, against Marcellus of Ancyra, a Follower of Sabellius and Paul of Samosat: And particularly, Book I, chap. 8, and chap. 20; which highly deserve the perusal of all learned men.
After the time of the Council of Nice, they spake still more and more confusedly and ambiguously; till at last the Schoolmen, (who, as an + excellent writer of our Church expresses it, “wrought a great part of their Divinity out of their own brains, as spiders do cobwebs out of their own bowels; starting a thousand subtilties, —- which we may reasonably presume that they who talk of them, did themselves never thoroughly understand”;) made this matter also, as they did most others, utterly unintelligible. + Archbishop Tillotson, sermon concerning the unity of the divine nature.
The Holy Spirit is not self-existent, but derives his Being from the Father, (by the Son,) as from the Supreme Cause.
See the texts, No 1148, 1154, 546; and 1149-1197.
See above, theses 5 and 12; and below, thesis 40.
The Scripture, speaking of the Spirit of God, never mentions any limitation of time, when he derived his Being from the Father; but supposes him to have existed with the Father from the beginning.
See the texts, No 1132*, 1148, 1154.
See above, theses 3 and 15.
In what particular metaphysical manner the Holy Spirit derives his Being from the Father, the Scripture hath no where at all defined, and therefore men ought not to presume to be able to explain.
See the texts, No 1148, 1154.
See above, thesis 13.
Notes on thesis 21.
Thus Basil: “If [saith he] you are ignorant of many things; nay; if the things you are ignorant of, be ten thousand times more than those you know, why should you be ashamed, among so many other things, to take in this likewise, that safe method of confessing your ignorance as to the manner of the existence of the Holy Spirit?” (Orat. contr. Sabell.)
And again: “The very motions of our own mind, [saith he,] whether of the soul may be said more properly to create or beget them; who can exactly determine? What wonder then is it, that we are not ashamed to confess our ignorance how the Holy Spirit was produced? For, that he is superior to created Beings, the things delivered in Scripture concerning him do sufficiently evidence: But the title of unoriginated, this no man can be so absurd as to presume to give to any other than to the Supreme God: Nay, neither can we give to the Holy Spirit, the title of Son; for there is but one Son of God, even the only-begotten. What title then are we to give the Spirit? We are to call him the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Truth, sent forth from God, and bestowed through the Son: Not a servant, but Holy and Good, the directing Spirit, the Quickening Spirit, the Spirit of Adoption, the Spirit which knoweth all the things of God. Neither let any man think, that our refusing to call the Spirit a creature, is denying his personality, [or real subsistence:] for it is the part of a pious mind, to be afraid of saying any thing concerning the Holy Spirit, which is not revealed in Scripture; and rather be content to wait till the next life, for a perfect knowledge and understanding of his nature.” (Contra Eunom. lib. 3.)
The Holy Spirit of God does not in Scripture generally signify a mere power or operation of the Father, but more usually a real Person.
See the texts, No 1017, 1032, 1043, 1045, 1046, 1048, 1059*; 1077, 1129, 1138, 1143, 1144, 1147, 1155, 1171, 1172.
See above, thesis 18; and below, thesis 23.
They who are not careful to maintain these personal characteristics and distinctions, but while they are solicitous (on the one hand) to avoid the errors of the Arians, affirm (in the contrary extreme) the Son and Holy Spirit to be (individually with the Father) the Self-existent Being: These, seeming in words to magnify the name of the Son and Holy Spirit, in reality take away their very existence; and so fall unawares into Sabellianism (which is the same with Socinianism.)
See above, theses 18 and 22.
Notes on thesis 23.
“It is so manifestly declared in Scripture, [saith Novatian] that He, [viz. Christ] is God; that most of the heretics, struck with the greatness and truth of his divinity, and extending his honor even too far, have dared to speak of him not as of the Son, but as of God the Father himself.” (De Trin. cap. 18.)
And Origen: “Be it so [saith he,] that some among us, (as in such multitude of believers there cannot but be diversity of opinions,) are so rash as to imagine our Savior to be Himself the Supreme God over all; Yet we do not so, who believe his own words, My Father which sent me, is greater than I.” (contr. Cels. lib. 8.)
And Athanasius: “Was not the Son [saith he] sent by the Father? He himself every where declares so: and He likewise promised to send the Spirit, the Comforter; and did send him according to his promise. But now they who run the Three Persons into One, destroy (as much as in them lies) both the generation [of the Son,] and the mission [of the Son and Spirit.]” (contra Sabell.)
And Basil: “If any one [saith he] affirms the same person, to be the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; imagining One Being under different names, and one real subsistence under three distinct denominations; we rank such a person among the Jews.” (Monachis Suis, epist. 73.)
And again: “Unto this very time, in all their letters, they fail not to anathematize and expel out of the Churches the hated name of Arius: but with Marcellus, who has introduced the directly contrary impiety, and profanely taken away the very existence of the divinity of the only-begotten Son, and abused the signification of the word (Logos,) [interpreting it of the internal reason of the Father;] with this man they seem to find no fault at all.” (Ad Athanas. epist. 52.)
And Nazianzen, speaking somewhere of the same opinions, calls those men [[Gr text]] over-orthodox, who by affirming the Son and Holy Spirit to be unoriginated, did consequently either destroy their personality, that is, their existence; or introduce three co-ordinate self-existent Persons, that, [[Gr text]] a plurality of Gods.
The learned Bishop Bull, speaking of the ancient writers before the Council of Nice: “Though perhaps [saith he] they do indeed somewhat differ from the divinity of the schools; on which, Petavius lays too much stress in these mysteries.” (Sect. 2. cap. 13, S 1.)
And again: “He [viz. Petavius] thought every things jejune and poor, that was not exactly agreeable to the divinity of the schools, itself more truly in most things jejune and poor.” (Sect. 3. cap. 9, S 8.)
The Person of the Son, is, in the New Testament, sometimes styled, God.
See the texts, No 533-545.
See below, theses 25 and 27.
The reason why the Son in the New Testament is sometimes styled God, is not so much upon account of his metaphysical substance, how divine soever; as of his relative attributes and divine authority (communicated to him from the Father) over us.
See the texts, No 533—-545.
See beneath, thesis 51.
Notes on thesis 25.
So far indeed as the argument holds good from authority to substance, so far the inferences are just, which in the School of Divinity are drawn concerning the substance of the Son. But the Scripture itself, being written as a rule of life; neither in this, nor in any other matter, ever professedly mentions any metaphysical notions, but only moral doctrine; and metaphysical or physical truths accidentally only, and so far as they happen to be connected with moral.
The word, God, when spoken of the Father himself, is never intended in Scripture to express philosophically his abstract metaphysical attributes; but to raise in us a notion of his attributes relative to us, his supreme dominion, authority, power, justice, goodness, etc. For example: When God the Father is described in the loftiest manner, even in the prophetic style, Rev 1:8, he which is, and which was, and which is to come; tis evident that these words, signifying his self existence or underived and independent eternity, are used only as a sublime introduction to, and a natural foundation of, that which immediately follows, viz. his being (ho Pantokrator) Supreme Governor over all.
And hence (I suppose) it is, that the Holy Ghost in the New Testament is never expressly styled God; because whatever be his real metaphysical substance, yet, in the divine economy, he is no where represented as sitting upon a throne, or exercising supreme dominion, or judging the world; but always as executing the will of the Father and the Son, in the administration of the government of the Church of God; according to that of our Savior, Joh. 16:13 “He shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak.” See below, theses 32 and 41.
By the operation of the Son, the Father both made and governs the world.
See the texts, No 546, —- 553, 642, 652.
Notes on thesis 26.
There is hardly any doctrine, wherein all the ancient Christian writers do so universally, so clearly, and so distinctly agree; as in this. And therefore I shall mention but one or two authors.
“There is one God [saith Irenaeus] Supreme over all, who made all things by his Word: —- And out of all things, nothing is excepted; but all things did the Father make by Him, whether they be visible or invisible, temporal or eternal.” (lib. 1, cap. 19.)
Again: “That the Supreme God did by his Word [which, saith he just before, is our Lord Jesus Christ,] make and order all things, whether they be angels, or archangels, or thrones, or dominions; is declared by St. John, when he saith, All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made.” (Lib. 3. cap. 8.)
And again: “Believing [saith he] in the one true God, who made heaven and earth, and all things that are therein, by his Son Jesus Christ.” (lib. 3, cap. 4.)
And Athanasius: “By whom [viz. by the Son,] the Father frames and preserves and governs the universe.” (contra Gentes.)
And again: “By the Son [saith he,] and in [or through] the Spirit, God both made and preserves all things.”
Concerning the Son, there are other greater things spoken in Scripture, and the highest titles ascribed to him; even such as include all divine powers, excepting only supremacy and independency, which to suppose communicable is an express contradiction in terms.
Notes on thesis 27.
The Word, [saith Justin] is the first power (next after God, the Father and Supreme Lord of all,) and it is the Son.” (Apol. 1.)
See the texts, which declare;
That He knows men’s thoughts, No 554, 557, 562, 564, 565, 573, 589, 599, 605, 614, 627, 657, 669.
That he knows things distant, No 571.
That he knows all things, No 606, 613.
That he is the Judge of all, No 582, 623.
That it would have been a condescension in him, to take upon him the nature of angels, No 654.
That he knows the Father, No 555, 576; even as he is known of the Father, No 592.
That he so reveals the Father, as that he who knows Him, knows the Father, No 590, 598, 600, 603.
That he takes away the sin of the world, No 570.
That he forgave sins, and called God his own Father, No 580, 649, 650.
That all things are His, No 604, 608, 655, 656.
That he is Lord of all, No 620, 621*, 622, 630, 633, 638, 651, 652, 665, 679, 681.
That he is the Lord of Glory, No 626, 663.
That he appeared of old in the person of the Father, No 616, 617, 618, 597.
That he is greater than the temple, No 556.
That he is the same for ever, No 652, 662.
That he hath the keys of hell and of death, No 667.
That he hath the Seven Spirits of God, No 670, 674.
That he is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, No 666, 667, 668, 686,
That he is the Prince of Life, No 615.
That he and his Father are one, [[Gr text]] No 594, 595, 609, 610, 611.
That he is in the Father, and the Father in Him, No 596, 600, 602, 610, 611.
That he is the Power and Wisdom of God, No 625, 644.
That he is holy and true, No 671, 672.
That he is in the midst of them who meet in his Name, No 558, 621, 624, 648.
That he will be with them always, even unto the end, No 560.
That he will work with them and assist them, No 563, 640, 643.
That he will give them a mouth and wisdom, No 566.
That he will give them what they ask in his Name, No 601.
That he hath Life in himself, No 583, 667.
That he hath power to raise up himself, No 572, 593.
That he will raise up his disciples, No 582, 585, 587.
That he works as the Father works, and does all as He doth, No 579, 581, 582.
That he has all power in heaven and in earth. No 559, 578, 628, 629, 639, 646, 653, 664, 671.
That he is above all, No 577, 633, 638, 642.
That he sits on the throne, and at the right hand, of God, No 633, 647, 652, 659, 666, 661, 664, 673, 676.
That he was before Abraham, No 591.
That he was in the beginning with God, No 567.
That he had glory with God before the world was, No 607, 612.
That he was in the form of God, No 638.
That he came down from heaven, No 574, 584, 586, 588; and is in heaven, No 575.
That he is the Head, under whom all things are reconciled to God, No 632, 633, 635, 636, 642, 646.
That in him dwelleth the fulness of the Godhead, No 642, 645.
That he is the Image of God, No 631, 641, 652.
That he is in the bosom of the Father. No 569.
That his generation none can declare, No 619, 658.
That he is the Word of God, No 680, 535; the Son of God, No 561; the only-begotten Son, No 568; the firstborn of every creature; No 641, 642, 672.
See also the texts, wherein are joined together
The kingdom of Christ and of God, No 637, 677.
The throne of God and of the Lamb, No 684, 685.
The wrath of God and of the Lamb, No 675.
The first fruits to God and to the Lamb, No 675.
God and the Lamb, the light of the new Jerusalem, No 683.
God and the Lamb, the temple of it, No 682.
In order to understand rightly and consistently, and in what sense, in several of these passages, many of the same powers are ascribed to Christ, which in other passages are represented as peculiar characteristics of the Person of the Father; it is to be observed, that with each one of the attributes of the Father, there must always be understood to be connected the notion of supreme and independent; but the titles ascribed to the Son, must always carry along with them the idea of being communicated or derived. Thus, for example, when all power is ascribed to the Father; ’tis manifest it must be understood absolutely, of power supreme and independent: but when the Son is affirmed to have all power, it must always be understood (and indeed in Scripture it is generally expressed) to be derived to him from the supreme power and will of the Father. Again; When the Father is said to create the world, is must always be understood, that he of his own original power created it by the Son: But when the Son is said to create the world, it must be understood that he created it by the power of the Father. See and compare thesis 10 above, with this whole thesis 27; and the texts there cited, with those referred to here; particularly No 447, 362, 58, 669, and 789.
The Holy Spirit is described in the New Testament, as the immediate Author and Worker of all miracles, even of those done by our Lord himself; and as the Conductor of Christ in all the actions of his life, during his state of humiliation here upon earth.
See the texts, wherein he is declared to be:
The immediate Author and Worker of all miracles, No 996, 997, 1001, 1009, 1011, 1012, 1014, 1015, 1016, 1017, 1018, 1019, 1021.
Even of those done by Christ himself, No 1000, 1010, 1013, 1023.
And the Conductor of Christ, in all the actions of his life here upon earth, No 998, 999, 1002, 1003, 1004, 1005, 1006, 1007, 1008, 1010, 1020, 1022.
The Holy Spirit is declared in Scripture to be the Inspirer of the prophets and apostles, and the Great Teacher and Director of the apostles in the whole work of their ministry.
See the texts, No 1024—-1073.
The Holy Spirit is represented in the New Testament, as the Sanctifier of all hearts, and the Supporter and Comforter of good Christians under all their difficulties.
See the texts, No 1074—-1120.
Here is the beginning of section 2 of Samuel Clarke’s Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity, in which, after having presented the biblical data organized categorically in section 1 of the book, he sets out to systematically sum up the teaching of the Scriptures in 55 theses. This is taken from the 2nd Edition. The very useful introduction to the book can be read here. God willing, the remainder of the theses will follow soon.
Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity.
Being the foregoing doctrine set forth at large, and explained in more particular and distinct propositions.
There is one * supreme Cause and Original of all things; one simple, uncompounded, undivided intelligent Agent, or ** Person, who is the + Author of all being, and the # Foundation of all power.
This the great foundation of all piety; the first principle of natural religion, and every where supposed in the scripture revelation. And the acknowledgment of this truth in our faith and worship, is the first and great commandment, both in the Old Testament and the in the New. See, in Part I, the texts No 1—-532.
* See beneath, thesis 7.
** For, intelligent Agent, is the proper and adequate definition of the word, person; neither can it otherwise be understood, with any sense or meaning at all. See Dr. Bennet on the Trinity, p. 231.
+ See beneath, theses 12, 19, & 35.
# See beneath, thesis 6.
With this First and Supreme Cause or Father of all things, there has existed * from the beginning, a second divine + Person, which is his Word or Son.
See the texts, No 567, 568, 569, 574, 584, 586, 588, 591, 607, 612, 619, 638, 641, 658.
* See beneath, thesis 15.
+ See beneath, thesis 18.
With the Father and the Son, there has existed # from the beginning, a third divine + Person, which is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son.
See the texts, No 1124, 1129, 1132*, 1148.
# See beneath, thesis 20.
+ See beneath, thesis 22.
What the proper metaphysical nature, essence, or substance of any of the divine persons is, the Scripture has no where at all declared; but describes and distinguishes them always, by their personal characters, offices, powers, and attributes.
See beneath, theses 13 & 21, and the notes on thesis 25.
All reasonings therefore, (beyond what is strictly demonstrable by the most evident and undeniable light of nature,) deduced from their supposed metaphysical nature, essence, or substance; instead of their personal characters, offices, powers, and attributes delivered in the Scripture; are uncertain and at best but probable hypotheses.
The Father alone, is self-existent, underived, unoriginated, independent; made of none, begotten of none, proceeding from none.
See the texts, No 8, 13, 339, 361, 372, 385, 393, 411.
Also No 413, 414, 416, 417, 419, 425, 427, 431, 583, 798.
See beneath, theses 12 & 19 & 34 & 40.
The Father is the Sole Origin of all power and authority, and is the Author and Principle of whatsoever is done by the Son or by the Spirit.
See the texts, No 756 —- 995, 1148 —- 1197.
See beneath, theses 35, 36, 37 & 41.
The Father alone, is, in the highest, strict, and proper sense, absolutely Supreme over All.
See the tests, No 337, 342, 343, 345, 346, 347, 348, 349, 350, 357, 360, 361, 363, 365, 372, 380, 382, 382*, 389, 393, 398, 411, 414, 415, 416, 417, 420, 425, 426, 427, 428, 429, 430, 433, 434, 435, 436, 440.
See beneath, these 34 & 40.
The Father alone, is, absolutely speaking, the * God of the Universe; the + God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the # God of Israel; of Moses, of ++ the prophets and apostles; and the ** God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
* See the texts, No 337, 357, 361, 363, 365, 372, 380, 382*, 393, 411, 414, 415, 416, 417, 418, 421, 423, 424, 425, 427, 428, 429, 432, 434, 435, 436, 439, 440.
+ No 356.
# No 338.
++ No 441.
** No 18 —- 336, 767, 854, 894, 904, 911, 917, 922, 935, 950, 974, 989, 991, and the Note on 542.
See also the passage cited below in thesis 9, from Irenaeus, lib. 2. c. 55.
The Scripture, when it mentions the One God, or the Only God, always means the Supreme Person of the Father.
See the texts, No 1—-17.
See beneath, thesis 39.
Notes on thesis 9.
The reason is; because the words, “one” and “only,” are used, by way of eminence, to signify Him who is absolutely supreme, self-existent, and independent; which attributed are personal, and evidently impossible to be communicated from one person to another.
Wherefore, not only the Scripture, but also the ecclesiastical writers in all antiquity, do thus speak.
“Have we not, [says Clement Romanus,] One God, and one Christ, and one Spirit?” (Ad Cor. 1)
And Ignatius: “There is [saith he] One God, who hath manifested himself by His Son Jesus Christ, who is his eternal Word:” Or, (as it is in the larger copy of the same epistle,) “There is One God, Supreme over all, who hath manifested himself by his Son Jesus Christ, who is his Word; not a word spoken forth, but substantial; For he is not the sound of an articulate voice, but a substance begotten by the divine power.” (Ad Magnes.)
And Justin Martyr: “If ye had considered [says he] the things spoken by the prophets, ye would not have denied Christ to be God, who is the Son of the Only and unbegotten and ineffable God.” (Dial. cum Tryph.)
And Irenaeus: “St John [says he] preached One God supreme over all, and one only-begotten Son Jesus Christ.” (lib. 1. c. 1.)
Again: “The Church dispersed over all the world, has received from the apostles this belief, in One God the Father, Supreme over all, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, etc.” (lib. 1. c. 2.)
Again: “We hold fast the rule of truth, which is, that there is one God Almighty, [Gr. pantokrator, Supreme over all;] who created all things by his Word. —- This is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (lib. 1. c. 19.)
Again: “This God, is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; and of Him it is, that St Paul the apostles declares, There is One God, even the Father, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.” (lib. 2. c. 2.)
Again: “Our Lord acknowledges one Father; and that He is the God over all.” (lib. 2. c. 12.)
Again: “The One only God, the Creator, who is above all principality, dominion and power. —-This is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob; —- whom both the Law shows forth, and the prophets declare, and the Spirit reveals, and the apostles preach, and the Church has believed in. This is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (lib. 2. c. 55.)
Again: “The doctrine delivered by the apostles; viz. that there is One God Almighty, —- and that He is the father our our Lord Jesus Christ.” (lib. 3. c. 3.)
Again: “Believing in One God, the maker of heaven and earth, and of all things that are therein, by Jesus Christ the Son of God.” (lib. 3. c. 4.)
Again: “Settling in the Church, the rule of truth; that there is One God Almighty, who made all things by his Word, [viz. by Christ.]” (lib. 3. c. 11.)
Again: “The only-begotten Son came to us from the One God; For no man can know the Father, but by the revelation of the Son.” (lib. 4. c. 14.)
Again: “First of all, believe that there is One God, who made all things. —- As saith the apostle; There is One God, even the Father, who is above all, and in us all.” (lib 4. c. 37.)
Again: “In One God Almighty, of whom are all things: and in the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom are all things: and in the Spirit of God.” (lib. 4. c. 62.)
And again: “Thus therefore [says he] our Lord manifestly shows, that the true Lord and One God, which the law had declared, etc. —- For he shows that the God, preached and declared in the Law, was the Father.” (lib. 5. c. 18.)
Clemens Alexandrius in like manner: “The nature of the Son, (saith he) which is most closely allied to Him who alone is Supreme over all; is most beneficent.” (Strom. 7.)
And again: “This eternal Jesus, [saith he] the one great High Priest of One God, who is also his Father.” (Protreptic. ad Gentes.)
And Tertullian: “As [says he,] the Word of God is not the same Person whose Word he is, so neither is the Spirit; and if he is called God, yet it is not thereby meant that he is That God [or that same Person] whose Spirit he is. For no thing, which belongs to another, (or, is the relative of another,) can be that same thing to which it belongs, (or, whose relative it is.)” (Adv. Prax. c. 16.)
And again: speaking of those who did not approve His (or Montanus’s, and perhaps * Valentinus’s) explication of the doctrine of the Trinity:
* See Tertullian. advers. Prax. cap. 8, [latin and Gr text] Et advers. Valentin. c. 7, [latin text] compared with that passage in Irenæus, lib. 1, c. 1, referred to by the Learned Bp. Bull, Defens, Sect. 2, c. 5. s 4, [Gr text.]
“The unlearned people [saith he,] which are always the greatest part of believers; not understanding that they ought indeed to believe in One God, but yet so as at the same time to take in the Economy; [that is, that notion of the Trinity which he says in this book he learnt more perfectly from Montanus, whom he calls the Paraclete;] are the frightened at the notion of the Economy. And pretending that we teach two or three Gods, but that they are the worshippers of the One God; they perpetually cry out, We hold fast the Monarchy, [or the Supreme Government of the One God, over the universe.]” (ibid. c. 3.)
And again: speaking of the Creed received in the universal Church; “The rule of faith [saith he,] is that, whereby we believe in One God only who made all things out of nothing, by His Word emitted first of all; Which Word is called his Son.” (Preser. adv. Haeres. c. 13.)
And Origen: “We worship [saith he] the One God, and his one Son or Word; offering up our prayers to the Supreme God, through his only-begotten Son.” (Cels. lib. 8.)
And Novatian: “We believe [says he] in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our God, but God’s Son; namely, the Son of Him, who is the One and Only God, the Maker of all things.” (de Trinit. c. 9.)
And again: “God the Father therefore is alone unoriginated, —- the One God. —- The Son indeed as proceeding from God, is also God, constituting a second Person, but not therefore hindering the Father from being the One God. —- The Son is begotten, and derives his original from Him who is the One God. —- For since the Principle or First cause of all things, is that which is Unbegotten; (which God the Father only is, as being without any Original at all;) this shows, that though He which is begotten is also God, yet the One God is He whom the Son hath declared to be Unoriginated. —- Whilst the Son acknowledgeth the whole power of his divinity to be derived from the father, he declares the Father to be the One True Eternal God, from whom alone that divinity of the Son is derived. —- The Son indeed is shown to be God, as having divinity derived and communicated to him; and yet nevertheless the Father is proved to be the One God, as being the Communicator of that divinity.” (Ibid. cap 31.)
And Eusebius, in the following passages, (which are most of them cited by Dr. Cave in his dissertation against Le Clerc in defense of Eusebius’s orthodoxy:) “The Son, [saith he,] hath his divinity by derivation from the Father, as being the Image of God; so that there is but one divinity considered in both, according to this similitude, [namely as the light of the sun, and of an image of the sun seen in glass, is but one;] and there is but One God, viz. he who exists of Himself without cause and without original, and who is manifested by his Son as by a glass and an Image.” (Demonstr. Eveng. lib. 5. c. 4.)
And again: “Though the Son [saith he] is by us acknowledged to be God, yet [properly speaking] there is but One God only; [or, there is but One who is the Only God;] even He who alone is underived and unbegotten, who hath his divinity of Himself, and is the Cause both of the Son’s Being, and of his being what he is, [viz. of his being God]. —- This is the One God, even the Father of the only-begotten Son. —- Is not He alone the One God, who acknowledges no superior, no cause of his Being, but hath his divinity and supreme dominion absolutely of Himself, underived and unbegotten; and communicates to the Son, both his divinity and life? —- whom the Son himself teaches us to acknowledge as the Only True God? [Joh. 17:3.]” (De ecclesiast. Theol. lib. 1. c. 11.)
And again: “The Son himself declares the Father to be even His God also. —- And therefore the Church preaches, that there is but One God.” (Ib. lib. 2. c. 7.)
And again: “As all other things, so the glory of his divinity also has he received from the Father, as a true and only Son. But the Father did not receive His from any; but being Himself the Original and Fountain and Root of all Good, is therefore justly styled the One and Only God.” (Ibid.)
And again: “The Church preaches the One God, and that He is the Father and Supreme over all; and that Jesus Christ is God of God.” (lib. 1. c. 8.)
And again: “The apostles styles Christ the Image of God, that no man might imagine two Gods, but One only, even Him who is over all. For if there be One God, and there be none other but He; ’tis plain this must be He, who is made known by his Son as by an Image.” (Lib. 1. cap. 20. s 15.)
And Athanasius: “One God, [saith he] and one [who is the] Word of God.” (contra Gentes.)
And again: “The One and Only True God; I mean the Father of Christ.” (Ibid.)
Again: “That Jesus Christ our Lord and God incarnate, is not the Father; is not, as Sabellians would have it, The Only God: this the Holy Scriptures every where testify; Declaring, that it was the Son of God, which came in the flesh; and that he always spake of his Father, and professed that he came forth from his Father, and was to return to his Father. In proof of which, there is no need to allege particular passages; For (as I said) all the Gospels, and all the Writings of the apostles tend to this very point.” (contra Sabellianos.)
Again: “There is but One God, because the Father is but One; yet is the Son also God, having such sameness as that of a Son to a Father.” (Ibid.)
Again: “Because He only [viz. the Father] is unbegotten, and He only is the Fountain of Divinity; therefore He is styled the Only God.” (Ibid.)
Again: “What person, when he hears Him, whom he believes to be the Only God, say, This is my beloved Son; dares affirm, that the Word of God was made out of nothing?” (De Sententia Dionysii Alex.)
And again: “When therefore the Father is styled the Only God, and the Scripture says that there is One God, etc.” (contra Arian. Orat. 3.)
And again: “We acknowledge but One Original of things; and affirm that the Creating Word has no other sort of divinity, but that which derives from the Only God, as being begotten of Him.” (Ibid.)
And again: “The One God, is the Father; who exists by Himself, as being over all, and is manifested by his Son, etc.” (Ibid.)
And again: “Because Christ is God of God, therefore the Scripture declares there is but One God: For, the Word being the Son of the Only God etc.” (contra Arian. Orat. 4.)
And Hilary: “The Son’s being God, does not hinder the Father from being the One God; For He is therefore one God, because he is self-existent God.” (Hil. de Trin. lib. 4.)
And again: “We profess our belief in One God: —- because upon account of his self-existence, he [viz. the Father] is the One God.” (Id. de Synod.)
And Epiphanius: “Do you not perceive how these words, There is one God, of whom are all things, and we in him, show there is but one Original of Things?” (Heres. 57.)
And Gregory Nazianzen: “There is but One God; the Son and the Holy Ghost being referred to the One Cause; [Namely, as being divine persons by whom the One God, or One Cause and original of things, made and governs the world.] (Orat. 29.)
And Austin; (mentioning objections against his own notion of the Trinity;) “But what shall we do [saith he] with that testimony of our Lord? For ’twas the Father he spoke to, and ’twas the Father he directed himself to, when he said; This is life eternal, that they may know Thee the One True God. [The reader that pleases to consult the passage, will find the answer much weaker than the objection.]” (De. Trin. lib. VI. cap. 9.)
And, among later divines, Zanchy: “The Father [saith he] is called the One and Only God, by way of eminence.” (de Trib. Elohim, Lib. 5. c. 5.)
And the learned Bishop Pearson: “That One God [saith he] is Father of all; and to us there is but One God, the Father.” (Expos. on the Creed, p. 26.)
Again: “And thus to us there is but One God, the Father, of whom are all things; To which, the Words following in the Creed may seem to have relation, The Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth.” (pag. 26.)
And again: “From hence He [viz. the Father] is styled One God, (1 Cor. 8:6; Eph. 4:6;) the True God, (1 Th. 1:9;) the Only True God, (Joh. 17:3;) the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, (2 Cor. 1:3; Eph. 1:3;).” (pag. 40.)
Again: “I shall briefly declare the creation of the world to have been performed by that One God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (pag. 63.)
And again: “But as we have already proved that One God to be the Father; so must we yet further show that One God, the Father, to be the Maker of the World.” (p. 64.)
And the learned Bishop Bull: “When He [viz. Socinus] affirms that all the ancients, till the time of the Nicene Council, believed the Father of Jesus Christ to be alone the One True God; if this be understood of that preeminence of the Father, by which He alone is of Himself [by self-existence] the True God; we confess that this assertion is most true. But this makes nothing in favor of Socinus: And ’tis certain that this doctrine continued in the Church of Christ, not only till the Council of Nice, or a little after; but always.” (Defense. Proaem. S 4.)
Again: “Which subordination [saith he] of the Son to the Father, is expressed by the Nicene Fathers two ways. First, in their calling the Father, the One God; and then in their styling the Son, God of God, Light of Light.” (Ibid. S 11.)
Again: To an Arian writer, who alleged that Polycarp, in his prayer, manifestly styles the Father only, the true God and maker of all things; and that he invoked Him through the Son, whom he calls only our High Priest; and lastly that he so speaks, as to seem to acknowledge the Father only, to be the Supreme God: He replies; “We readily grant, that the Father alone is in some respect the Supreme God; namely because, as Athanasius speaks, He is the Fountain of Divinity; that is, He alone is of Himself [by self-existence] God; from whom the Son and Holy Spirit derive their divinity: And that for this cause the Father is most commonly styled properly [or peculiarly] the True God, both in the Holy Scriptures, and in the writings of the ancients; especially where the divine persons are mentioned together.” (Defens. Sect. 2. cap. 3. S 10.)
Again: “Justin Martyr, in his dialogue with Trypho, expressly affirms, that the Father is the Cause of the Son’s Being. Upon which account, both Justin and the other Ante-Nicene Writers commonly call God the Father, by way of distinction, sometimes God absolutely, sometimes The God and Father of All, (according to the Texts, 1 Cor. 8:4; Eph. 4:6; Joh. 17:3;) namely, because the Father alone is God of Himself [by self-existence;] but the Son, is only God of God.” (Defens. Sect. 4, cap. 1, S 2.)
Again: “They also [viz. the fathers after the Council of Nice,] make no scruple to style the Father the Origin, The Cause, The Author of the Son; nay, to call the Father therefore, The One God.” (ibid. S 3.)
And again: “Lastly, [saith he,] the ancients, because the Father is the Original Cause, Author, and Fountain of the Son; made no scruple to call Him the One and Only God. For thus even the Nicene Fathers themselves began their Creed; I believe in One God, the Father Almighty, etc.” (ib. S 6.)
And Mr Hooker: “The Father alone [says he] is originally that Deity, which Christ originally is not; For Christ is God, by being of God.” (Ecclesiast. Pol. Book 5. S 54.)
And Dr. Henry More: “By the term God, [saith he,] if you understand that which is First of all, in such a sense as that all else is from Him, and He from None; the Son and Spirit cannot be said to be God in this signification; because the Father is not from Them, but They from the Father.” (Myst. of Godliness, Book 9, chap. 2.)
And the learned Dr. Payn: “Had we gone no further [says he] than Scripture, the only rule of our faith, in this matter; and held, with that, that to us there is One God, the Father, 1 Cor. 8:6; One God and Father of all, who is above all, Eph. 4:6; And had we known Him the Only True God, (as Christ called him, Joh. 17:3, not exclusively, but eminently and by way of excellency and prerogative, by which the Name and Title of God is peculiarly predicated of God the Father in Scripture; —- which is the great reason given by the fathers, of the divine unity; —-) Had we considered this plain Scriptural account and observation, that One God is spoken and predicated of the Father, and meant of Him, when it is said both in the Old Testament, and in the New, the Lord thy God is One God, and there is none other but he, or besides him; we had not given occasion for that objection of our adversaries, against our faith, of its implying a contradiction, or of its setting up more Gods than One. The One God, whom we pray to in the Lord’s prayer, and in other Christian offices and addresses; whom we profess to believe in, in our Creed; and whom the Scripture calls so; is God the Father Almighty. And He hath an only-begotten Son, etc.” (Payn’s Sermon on Trinity-Sunday, June the 7th, 1696; pag. 18.)
Again: “The One God [saith he] is spoken of God the Father in Scripture, as I have shown you; and as a great many, and particularly, Bishop Pearson upon the Creed observes; that “the Name of God taken absolutely, is often in Scripture spoken of the Father, and is in many places to be taken particularly of the Father; and from hence (says he) he is styled One God, the True God, the Only True God: and this 9he says further) is a most necessary truth to be acknowledged, for the avoiding multiplication and plurality of Gods:” He saying the Unity mainly here, as I have done. So that though the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God; which they are not often called in Scripture; (which rather reserves and gives the name of God absolutely and peculiarly to the Father; as, God loved the world, God sent his Son, and the like;) yet neither of them are meant by that One God, which the Scripture speaks of, when it speaks peculiarly of the Father. —- The word God, —- generally (if not always) in Scripture, taken absolutely and spoken so of One God, is meant of God the Father. Which may give us such an account of the Trinity and of the Unity, as may take of all the charge of a contradiction. Since they are not One and Three; nor is each of them God, and All of them God or One God, in the same respect, sense and meaning of the words; but in different. —- The Father is the Only Self-existent unoriginated Being, the Cause and Root of the other Two, as the ancients often call him; and so is the most absolutely perfect Being, and God in the highest sense: And the Scriptures, Creeds, and Christian offices, call him so absolutely and by way of eminence and prerogative. The Son is produced of the Father, and so is not Autotheos, or God in that sense as the Father who is from none; but is God, of God etc.” (Ibid.)
Again: “He is not indeed God the Father, or God from none, Autotheos. 9In that sense, we believe in One God, the Father Almighty; and to use there is but One God, the Father, as the apostles speaks, 1 Cor. 8:6; And Christ is the Son of this God the Father, who had his Being and Nature from him:) But he is God of God, etc.” (Serm. on Spet. 21, 1696; pag. 87.)
Again: “The Father [saith he] is the only self-existent, unoriginated Being; —- and so, in the words of a right reverend and excellent person, God in the highest sense —- The word Deus, [God,] as it signifies a self-existent, unoriginated Being, is predicated only of God the Father; and not, secundum eandem rationem [upon the same account,] of the other two divine Persons, neither of which are self-existent and unoriginated, nor God in the highest sense of Autotheos. —- But He [viz. the Father] —- is called eminently and absolutely, and by way of excellence and prerogative, the One God, and, in the words fore-quoted God in the highest sense.” (Letter from Dr. P. to the Bishop of R. in Vindication of his Sermon on Trinity-Sunday, pag. 15, 16, 17.)
And again: “This is the explication of the ancients, which they hold; with this more plain Scriptural account of the Trinity, that needs no explication: One God the Father, with an only-begotten Son, etc.” (Postscript, pag. 26.)
Lastly, the learned author of the History of the Apostle’s Creed: “This Clause [saith he] of One God, was inserted [in the Creed,] to require our belief, that there is but one Infinite, Supreme, Beginningless, and Eternal God; and that this One God, and none other, was the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of all other beings whatsoever; Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. So that this expression of One God, is to be understood either absolutely, without regard to any other article in the Creed; and so it denotes our faith, that there is but one Eternal, Independent, Self-existent God: or relatively, as it hath reference to what immediately follows; as so it signifies, that One and the same God, and not a different or diverse Being from him, is the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.”
When the word, God, is mentioned in Scripture, with any high epithet, title, or attribute annexed to it; it generally, (I think, always) means the Person of the Father.
See the texts, No 337-441. Wherein He is styled;
The Lord of heaven and earth, No 337, 365.
The God of Israel, No 338.
The Living God, No 339, 341, 354, 361, 370, 378, 379, 385, 390, 391, 394, 397, 400, 401, 403, 406, 422.Which liveth for ever and ever, 417, 419, 425, 430.
The Good God, No 340.
The Power, No 342.
The most High God, No 343, 350, 360, 364, 398.
The Blessed, No 344.
The Highest, No 345, 346, 348, 349.
The Mighty One, No 347.
Who is above all, No 382**.
The Invisible God, 384, 389, 402.
Whom no man hath seen or can see, 351, 352, 353, 393, 409.
The True and Only True God, No 355, 385, 410.
The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, No 356.
That made heaven and earth, etc. No 357, 361, 365, 425, 428.
Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. No 382*, 634.
The God of our fathers, No 356, 358, 366.
The God of Glory, No 359.
Which searcheth the hearts, No 362, 369*, 386.
Which doth or maketh all things, No 363.
The incorruptible God, No 367.
Which raiseth the dead, and quickeneth all things, No 368, 377, 392.
Who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, No 369, 858, 859, 864, 866, 867, 870, 873, 875, 876, 877, 878, 879, 881, 882, 885, 887, 889, 893, 899, 901, 908, 912, 913, 923, 924, 939, 942, 972, 974, 975.
The Lord of Hosts, No 371, 405.
Of whom, and through whom, and to whom are all things, No 372.
The God of Peace, No 373, 374, 381, 383, 387, 404.
The Everlasting God, No 375.
The Only Wise God, No 376, 389, 412.
The Lord God Almighty, No 380, 414, 416, 427, 429, 432, 434, 435, 436, 440.
Which worketh all thing s after the counsel of his own will, No 382.
The Blessed God, No 388.
The King eternal, immortal, etc. No 389.
The Blessed and only Potentate, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the Light which no man can approach unto, etc. No 393.
The Great God, No 395, 437.
The Majesty on high, and in the heavens, No 398, 399.
The excellent Glory, No 407.
The Holy One, No 408.
The Only Supreme Governor, No 411.
He which is, and which was, and which is to come, No 413, 414, 416, 427, 431.
Which sitteth on the throne, No 415, 417, 418, 421, 423, 424, 435, 439.
Who created all things, and for whose pleasure they are, and were created, No 417.
Supreme, Holy, and True, No 420.
The God of heaven, No 426, 433.
Who only is the Holy One, No 429, 431.
From whose Face, the earth and the heaven fled away, No 438.
The Lord God of the Holy Prophets, No 441.
The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, No 767, 854, 894, 904, 911, 917, 922, 935, 950, 974, 989, 991.
The Scripture, when it mentions God, absolutely and by way of eminence; always means the Person of the Father.
Particularly when ’tis the subject of a proposition, as God does, etc. But when ’tis predicated of another, (as, the Word was God,) the case is different. Concerning the single text, 1 Tim 3:16; See No 540.
See the texts No 18—-336.
Notes on thesis 11.
This is the language, not only of Scripture, but also of all antiquity.
Thus Justin Martyr: “The Word [saith he] is the first Power (next after God, the Father and Supreme Lord of all;) and it is the Son.” (Apol. 1.)
And Tatian: “Of the Trinity, [saith he;] namely, of God, and his Word, and his Wisdom.” (Lib. 2.)
And Origen: “We [saith he] acknowledge the unspeakable supereminent divinity of God; and moreover [the divinity] of his only-begotten Son also, who excelleth all other beings.” (Cels. lib. 5.)
[Of these words, the learned Bishop Bull sets down the following translation: [Latin text]: That is: We acknowledge the divinity of God and his only Son, to be unspeakably supereminent, and far excelling all other things.) But this translation quite spoils the emphasis of what Origen intended to say; by running the two distinct members of the sentence, into one; and wholly omitting the words, ([Gr text], and moreover;) and rendering [Gr term], as if it had been again [different Gr term].
And Athanasius: “It is necessary to acknowledge God the Governor of the Universe; and that he is One, and not many: And one Word of God, which is the Lord and Ruler of the creation.” (contr. Gentes.)
Again: “Not, as God himself is far above all, so also is the Way to him [viz. Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life,] far off and beyond us.” (Ibid.)
Again: “Concerning the eternal existence of the Son and the Spirit, with God.” (contr. Sabellianos.)
Again: “When you reason concerning God, and the Word, and the Spirit.” (Ibid.)
Again: “By the Son, and in the Spirit, did God create, and does preserve all things.” (Ibid.)
And again: “The Spirit being in the Word; ’tis manifest that consequently through the Word, it was in God.” (Epist. ad Serap. altera.)
And the Council of Sirmium: “The head, which is the Original of all things, is the Son; but the Head, which is the Original of Christ, is God.” (apud Hilar. de Synod.)
And Hilary: “For the Head of all, is the Son; but the Head of the Son, is God.” (Ibid.)
And Basil; ‘As there are many sons, but One properly the true Son; so though all things may be said to be from God, yet the Son is in a peculiar manner from God, and the Spirit in a peculiar manner from God; the Son from the Father by generation, and the Spirit from God in an ineffable manner.” (Homil. 27. contr. Sab. & Arium.)
Again: “But the title of Unbegotten, [or self-existent.] no man can be so absurd to presume to give to any other than to the Supreme God.” (contr. Eunom. 1. 3.)
And Theo. Abucara, cited by Bishop Pearson: “the apostles [saith he] and almost all the Scriptures, when they mention God absolutely and indefinitely, and commonly with an article [ho theos,] and without personal distinction; mean the Father.” (Abucara Opusc.)
And, among modern divines, Calvin: “We freely confess, [saith he,] that the name, God, by way of eminence, is properly ascribed to the Father.” (Calv. in Valent. Gent.)
And Flac. Illyricus: “‘Tis to be observed, [saith he,] that St. Paul in his epistles commonly styles the Father, God; and Christ or the Son of God, Lord: —- Because, in the mystery of our redemption, the supreme dignity is ascribed to the Father, as the True God —-. And this is the reason, why in the New Testament the first person only is usually styled God.” (Clavis Script. in voce, Dens.)
And the learned Bishop Pearson: “It is to be observed, [saith he,] that the name of God, taken absolutely, is often in the Scriptures spoken of the Father: As when we read of God sending his own Son; of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God: and generally wheresoever Christ is called the Son of God, or the Word of God; the name God is to be taken particularly for the Father, because he is no Son but of the Father. From hence he [viz. the Father] is styled the One God, the True God, the Only True God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Which, as it is most true, and so fit to be believed, is also a most necessary truth, and therefore to be acknowledged, for the avoiding of multiplication and plurality of Gods: For if there were more than one which were from none, it could not be denied be there were more Gods than One. Wherefore this origination in the divine paternity, hath anciently been looked upon as the assertion of the unity. (p. 40.)
Again: “As we believe there is a God, and that God, Almighty; as we acknowledge that same God to be the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in Him of us; so we also confess that the same God the Father, made both heaven and earth.” (pag. 47.)
And again: “I acknowledge this God, Creator of the world, to be the same God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
And the learned Bishop Bull: “God the Father [saith he;] who was usually by the catholics of that age, [viz. in Origen’s time,] called, by way of distinction, the Supreme God, [or the God of the Universe.] (Sect. 2. cap. 9. S 12.)
And again: “For which reason also, [viz. because the Father alone is God of Himself, or self-existent;] the writers before the time of the Council of Nice, when they mention the Father and the Son together, generally give the name, God, to the Father; styling the second Person, either the Son of God, or our Savior, of our Lord, or the like.” (Id. Sect. 4. cap. 1. S 2.)
And the learned Dr. Payne: “I doubt not but the great God, and my blessed Savior, and their Holy Spirit, etc.” (Letter from Dr. P. to the Bishop of R. in Vindicat. of his Serm. on Trinity Sunday, pag. 21.)
The Son is not self-existent; but derives his Being, and all his attributes, from the Father, as from the Supreme Cause.
See. the texts, No 619, 769, 798, 801, 937, 950, 953, 986, 992.
Notes on thesis 12.
Thus Basil, speaking of the Person of the Father: “But [saith he] the title of Unbegotten, [or self-existent,] no man can be so absurd as to presume to give to any other than to the Supreme God.” (contr. Eunom. lib. 3.)
And the learned Bishop Bull: “they [says he] who contend that the Son can properly be styled God of Himself, [or self-existent;] their opinion is contrary to the catholic doctrine.” (Def. Sect. 4. cap. 1. S 7.)
And again: “The Council of Nice itself decreed, that the Son was only God of [or from] God: Now He that is only God of God, cannot without manifest contradiction be said to be God of Himself, [or self-existent.] —- I earnestly exhort all pious and studious young men, to take heed of such a Spirit, from whence such things as these [viz. ridiculing the distinction between God self-existing, and God of God,] do proceed.” (Ib. S. 8.)
See above, thesis 5; and below, thesis 34.
In what particular metaphysical manner, the Son derives his Being from the Father, the Scripture has no where distinctly declared; and therefore men ought not to presume to be able to define.
See the texts, No 619, 658.
See beneath, thesis 21.
Notes on thesis 13.
For generation, when applied to God, is but a figurative word, signifying only in general, immediate derivation of Being and life from God himself. And only-begotten, signifies, being so derived from the Father in a singular and inconceivable manner, as thereby to be distinguished from all other Beings. Among men, a son does not, properly speaking, derive his being from his father; father, in this sense, signifying merely an instrument, not an efficient cause: But God, when He is styled Father, must always be understood to be [aitia,] a True and Proper Cause, really and efficiently giving life. Which consideration, clearly removes the argument usually drawn from the equality between a father and son upon earth.
‘Tis observable that St. John, in that passage, where he not only speaks of the Word before his incarnation, but carries his account of him further back, than any other place in the whole New Testament; gives not the least hint of the metaphysical manner, how he derived his Being from the Father; does not say He was created, or emitted, or begotten, or was an emanation from him; but only that he was, that he was in the beginning, and that he was with God, and that he was [theos] partaker of the divine power and glory with and from the Father, not only before he was made flesh or became man, but also before the world was.
Accordingly Irenaeus: “If any one [saith he] inquire of us, how then was the Son produced by the Father? We answer that this his production, or generation, or speaking forth, [alluding to his name, the Word;] or birth, [adaperitonem; alluding, I suppose, to the Hebrew phrase, adaperiens vulvam], or how else soever [tis observable he does not here add the term, creation,] you in words endeavor to express his generation, which in reality is ineffable; it is understood by no man, neither by Valentinus nor Marcion, neither by Saturninus nor Basilides, neither by angels nor archangels nor principalities nor powers, but by the Father only which begat, and by the Son which is begotten of him. Wherefore, since his generation is ineffable, etc.” (lib. 2, cap. 48.)
And Novatian: “Of whom, and at whose will, was generated the Word His Son. The secret manner of whose sacred and divine generation, neither have the apostles known, nor the prophets discovered, nor the angels understood, nor any creature comprehended: It is known only to the Son, who understands the Father’s secrets.” (De Trinit. c. 31.)
And Alexander Bishop of Alexandria: “The pious apostle St. John, [saith he,] considering that the manner of existence of God the Word, was far superior to, and incomprehensible by, all created beings; avoided saying of Him, that he was made; [but said only, that he was] Not as if he were unoriginate; (for nothing is unoriginate besides the Father;) but because the ineffable manner how the only-begotten God received his subsistence, is far beyond the comprehension not only of the evangelists, but probably even the angels also. —- For if the knowledge of many things very far inferior to this, be hid from human understanding; —- how dare any man curiously pry into the manner how God the Word received his subsistence; concerning which the Holy Ghost saith, Who shall declare his generation?” (Epist. as Alex. apud Theodorit. lib. 1. cap. 4.)
And Eusebius: “The church [saith he] preaches Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all ages: being not the same Person with the Father; but having a real subsistence and life of his own, and being with him as his true Son; God from God, Light from Light, Life from Life: Begotten of the Father after unspeakable and ineffable and to us wholly unknown and inconceivable manner, for the salvation of the world.” (De Eccles. Theol. lib. 1, c. 8.)
And again: “If anyone [saith he] will be so curious as to inquire, How God begat the Son; the boldness of this question is justly reproved by Him that said, (Ecclus. iii. 21) seek not out the things that are too hard for thee, neither search the things that are above thy strength; but what is commanded thee, think thereupon with reverence; for it is not needful for thee to see with thine eyes the things that are in secret. He that would presume to go further; let him himself first show, how and in what manner those things, which be says were made out of nothing, received their subsistence, having before had no being at all. For as this is impossible in nature, for men to explain; so, and much more, the manner how the only-begotten was produced, is unsearchable and inscrutable, not only to us (as a man may say,) but also to all the powers far beyond us.” (De Eccles. Theol. lib. 1. cap. 12.)
And Basil: “Thou believest that he was begotten? Do not inquire, how. For, as it is in vain to inquire how He that is unbegotten, is unbegotten; so neither ought we to inquire how he that is begotten, was begotten. —- Seek not what cannot be found out —- –. Believe what is written; search not into what is not written.” (Homil. 29.)
They are both therefore worthy of censure; both they who on the one hand presume to affirm, that the Son was made ([Gr text]) out of nothing, and they who, on the other hand, affirm that He is the Self-existent Substance.
Notes on thesis 14.
That the Son is not self-existent, see above in these 5 and 12.
That, on the other hand, the ancients were generally careful not to reckon Him among beings made ([Gr text]) out of nothing, but (on the contrary) thought themselves obliged to keep to the Scripture-language, which styles him the only-begotten of the Father, and ([Gr text]) the first-born (not [Gr text] the first created) of every creature; may be judged from the following passages.
“The Son of God [saith the Pastor of Hermas] is ancienter than all creatures, insomuch that he was present in consult with his Father at the making of the creature, [or, at the creation.]” (Simil. 9.)
And Ignatius: “Who [saith he] was with the Father, [or, as it is in the other copy, was begotten of the Father, before all ages;] and appeared at the end of the world. (Ad Magnes. epist. contractior, S 6.)
And again: “If anyone confesses the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and praises the creation, [viz. acknowledges all the creatures of God to be good,] etc.” (Epist. as Philadelph. largior sive interpol. S 6.)
And Justin Martyr: “But the Son of the Father, even he who alone is properly called his Son, the Word which was with him before the creation, because by Him He in the beginning made and disposed all things; He etc.” (Apol. 1.)
And again: “But this Being, who was really begotten of the Father, and proceeded from him; did, before all creatures were made, exist with the Father, and the Father conversed with him.” (Dial. cum Trypho.)
And in all other places of his works, he speaks with the like caution; calling Christ, [Gr text], the first-begotten of God before all creatures; and, [Gr text], a Being which was begotten absolutely before all creatures; and the like.
And Irenaeus, reckoning up the several words, by which the generation of the Son [or Word] might be expressed; such as production, generation, speaking forth, or birth; did not think fit (as I before observed) to add, creation. (Lib. 2. c. 48.)
Origen calls the Son, ([Gr text], contr. Cels. lib. 1.) ancienter than all creatures, (so the learned Bp Bull translates the words; in like manner as the phrase, [Gr text], in St John, must be rendered, before me. See above, the note upon a passage of Origen, cited under No 937.) But I think the words should rather be understood in a larger sense; as appears from that passage in Athanasius contra gentes, [[Gr text], The Lord of all creatures, and the Author of every subsistence;] where he calls God the [Gr text] Author of [Gr text] subistencies, which are distinguished from [Gr text] the creature.
And Eusebius: “The Church [saith he] preaches One God, and that He is the Father and Supreme over all: The Father indeed of Christ alone, but of all other things the God and Creator and Lord. (De Eccles. Theol. lib. 1. c. 8.)
And Athanasius: “Who, [says he,] when he hears Him, whom he believes to be the only true God, say, this is my beloved Son; dares affirm that the Word of God was made out of nothing?” (De Sentent. Dionys. Alexandr.)
The Scripture, in declaring the Son’s derivation from the Father, never makes mention of any limitation of time; but always supposes and affirms him to have existed with the Father from the beginning, and before all worlds.
See the texts, 567, 569, 574, 584, 586, 588, 591, 607, 612, 619, 641, 642, 658, 666, 667, 668, 672, 686.
See above, thesis 2; and below, thesis 17.
I have for some years now desired to write a book on the doctrine of the Trinity; but when I read Samuel Clarke’s work, the Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity, I was so impressed both by the quality of the work itself, and the similarity of my own views with those of Clarke, that I thought I may not need to write a work of my own at all, but simply recommend his work to others for the same basic purpose. Small differences between our views, and the desire to treat aspects of the subject in addition to those which Clarke addresses, and Clarke’s inclusion of extensive sections of the book which, while important to the Church of England in his day, bear little immediate relevance to the churches of the twenty-first century, continue to provide sufficient motivation for me to still aspire to write in the future. I continue, however, to strongly recommend Clarke’s work above any other written in the last millennia and a half, as the best book I am aware of written on the Trinity within the last fifteen-hundred years.
Samuel Clarke’s Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity is an excellent work, one which is not only largely unknown, but also in some respects inaccessible to most modern Christians. The text of the book itself, scanned from very old editions, my be readily found online, free to read, and is searchable in such format. However, the mode of expression and style of the print make it a difficult (although worthwhile) read for modern students. The old font used in the scanned editions makes the letter ‘S’ appear much more like the letter ‘F’ than most modern readers are used to, making the work as a whole slow and difficult to read for those accustomed only to modern English fonts.
I have therefore set out to update the style and language of the original work here on Contra Modalism, in an effort to make this work more widely accessible to those interested. The main alterations are an updated font, and the removal of the very frequent use of capitalization and italics, in order to make the book appear in a style more comfortable for modern readers. This removes the added emphasis these provide in the original, but make it much simpler for modern readers. If the details of a specific passage are in question, the passages should be kept in mind, and the scanned originals available on the web referred to, so that any special emphasis provided by such things may be taken note of by the reader. For simplicity, the extensive parallel columns of the Greek and Latin of quotations in the original are left out here; anyone wishing to see the Greek or Latin basis for Clarke’s quotations is referred to the scans of the original work available on the web. I have inserted the citations for such quotations into the English text, where they were only present in the Greek or Latin column.
The content of Clarke’s work combines at once careful exegesis of scripture with an equally careful handling of relevant patristic data, making this book highly useful for all Christians, and of special interest to those who are interested in the teaching of church fathers as they relate to the doctrine of the Trinity. Those who follow this blog will find Clarke’s views closely aligned with my own, although there is not perfect agreement between our views, as is to be expected. The points of disagreement are generally quite minor, enough so that I would happily profess myself to hold the same general view as Clarke, with only a few areas wherein our views differ on details. This work has been a great help to me, and I hope it will be for others as well. My hope is that this work will abound to the glory of God and His Son, and for the good of His people.
As, in matters of speculation and philosophical inquiry, the only judge of what is right or wrong, is reason and experience; so in matters either of human testimony or divine Revelation, the only certain rule of truth is the testimony or the revelation itself.
The Christian revelation, is the doctrine of Christ and his apostles; that is, the will of God made known to mankind by Christ, and by those whom Christ instructed with infallible authority to teach it. For the right apprehending of which doctrine, men are (as in other matters of the greatest importance to them) sincerely to make use of their best understanding; and, in order thereunto, to take in all the helps they can find, either from living instructors or ancient writers: But this, only as a means to assist and clear up their own understanding, not to over-rule it; as a means to afford them light to see what Christ has taught them, not to prejudice them with supposing that Christ has taught any thing, which, after the strictest inquiry and most careful examination, they cannot find to be delivered in his doctrine.
If in all things absolutely necessary to be believed and practiced in order to salvation, the revelation of Christ was not itself so clear, as that every sincere person, using the best helps and assistances he can meet with, could sufficiently understand it; it would follow, that God had not at all made sufficient provision for the salvation of men. For the doctrine of Christ and his apostles being the only foundation we have to go upon, and no man since pretending to have had any new revelation; ’tis evident there can never possibly be any authority upon upon earth, sufficient to oblige any man to receive any thing as of divine revelation, which it cannot make appear to that man’s own understanding (sincerely studying and inquiring after the truth,) to be included in that revelation. For if any man can by any external authority be bound to believe any thing to be the doctrine of Christ, which at the same time his best understanding necessitates him to believe is not that doctrine; he is unavoidably under the absurdity of being obliged to obey two contrary masters, and to follow two inconsistent rules at once. The only Rule of Faith therefore to every Christian, is the doctrine of Christ; and that doctrine, as applied to him by his own understanding. In which matter, to preserve his understanding from erring, he is obliged indeed, at his utmost peril, to lay aside all vice and prejudice, and to make use of the best assistances he can procure: but after he has done all that can be done, he must of necessity at last understand with his own understanding, and believe with his own, not another’s, faith. For (whatever has sometimes been absurdly pretended to the contrary,) ’tis evidently as impossible in nature, that in these things any one person should submit himself to another, as that one man should see or taste, should live or breathe for another.
Wherefore in every inquiry, doubt, question or controversy concerning religion, every man that is solicitous to avoid erring, is obliged to have recourse (according to the best of his capacity) to the rule itself, to the original revelation. Using (as is before said) all the helps and assistances he can obtain; but still taking care to use them, only as helps and assistances; not confounding and blending them with the rule itself. Where that rule is to be found by every sincere Christian, is very evident. Whatever our Lord himself taught, (because his miracles proved his divine authority,) was infallibly true, and to us (in matters of religion) the rule of truth. Whatever his apostles preached, (because they were inspired by the same Spirit, and proved their commission by the like testimony of miracles,) was likewise a part of the rule of truth. Whatever the apostles wrote, (because they wrote under the direction of the same Spirit by which they preached,) was in like manner a part of the rule of truth. Now in the Books of the Scripture is conveyed down to us the sum of what our Savior taught, and of what the apostles preached and wrote: and were there as good evidence, by any certain means of tradition whatsoever, of any other things taught by Christ or his apostles, as there is for those delivered down to us in these writings; it could not be denied but that such tradition would be of the same authority, and in every respect as much a part of the rule of truth, as scripture itself. But since there is no such tradition (and indeed in the nature of things there can be no such tradition) at this distance of time; therefore the Books of Scripture are to us now not only the rule, but the whole and the only rule of truth in matters of religion.
This notion is well expressed by Irenaeus: “We have not [saith he] been taught the method of our salvation by any others, than by those from whom the Gospel itself was delivered to us: which the apostles, at first, preached; and afterwards, by the will of God, delivered down to us in writing, that it might be the foundation and pillar of our faith. And it is impious to imagine, that they preached before they had perfect knowledge of what they were to deliver; as some, who boast themselves to be the amenders of the apostles doctrine, have presumed to affirm. For after our Lord was risen from the dead, and they were indued by the Holy Spirit with power from on high; they were fully instructed, and had perfect knowledge in all things; and went forth into the ends of the world, declaring the good things which God hath provided for us, and preaching peace from heaven unto men; having all and each of them the Gospel of God. Thus Matthew set forth the Gospel in Writing, etc.”
Nevertheless, though the whole Scripture us the rule of truth; and whatever is there delivered, is infallibly true; yet because there is contained in those writings great variety of things, and many occasional doctrines and decisions of controversies, which though all equally true, yet are not all equally necessary to be known and understood by all Christians of all capacities; therefore the church from the beginning, has out of scripture selected those plain fundamental doctrines, which were delivered as of necessity to be known and understood by all Christians whatsoever. And these, all persons were taught in their Baptismal Creed: Which was therefore usually called, the rule of faith: not that itself was of any authority, any otherwise than as it expressed the sense of scripture; but that it was agreed to be such an extract of the rule of truth, as contained all the things immediately, fundamentally, and universally necessary to be understood and believed distinctly by every Christian.
As in process of time men grew less pious, and more contentious; so in the several churches, they enlarged their creeds, and confessions of faith; and grew more minute, in determining unnecessary controversies; and made more and more things explicitly understood; and (under pretense of explaining authoritatively,) imposed things much harder to be understood than the scripture itself; and became more uncharitable in their censures; and the farther they departed from the fountain of catholic unity, the apostolical form of sound words, the more uncertain and unintelligible their definitions grew; and good men found no where to rest the sole of their foot, but in having recourse to the original words of Christ himself and of the Spirit of Truth, in which the Wisdom of God had thought fit to express itself.
For, matters of speculation indeed, of philosophy, or art; things of human invention, experience, or disquisition; improve generally from small beginnings, to greater and greater certainty, and arrive at perfection by degrees: but matters of revelation and divine testimony, are on the contrary complete at first; and Christian Religion, was most perfect at the beginning; and the words of God, are most proper significations of his will, and adequate expressions of his own intention; and the forms of worship set down in scripture, by way of either precept or example, are the best and most unexceptionable manner of serving him.
In the days of the apostles, therefore, Christianity was perfect; and continued for some ages, in a tolerable simplicity and purity of faith and manners; supported by singular holiness of life, by charity in matters of form and opinions, and by the extraordinary guidance of the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Peace, Holiness and Love. But needless contentions, soon began to arise; and faith became more intricate; and charity diminished; and human authority and temporal power increased; and the regards of this life grew greater, and of the next life less; and religion decayed continually more and more, till at last (according to the predictions of the apostles) is was swallowed up in apostasy. Out of which, it began to recover at the reformation; when the doctrine of Christ and his apostles was . again declared to be the only rule of truth, in which were clearly contained all things necessary to faith and manners. And had that declaration constantly been adhered to, and human authority in matters of faith been disclaimed in deeds as well as words; there had been, possibly, no more schism in the church of God; nor divisions, of any considerable moment, among Protestants.
But although contentions and uncharitableness have prevailed in practice, yet (thanks be to God) the Root of Unity has continued amongst us; and the Scripture hath universally been declared to be the only rule of truth, a sufficient guide both in faith and practice; and those who differ in opinion, have done so only because each party has thought their own opinion founded in Scripture; and men are required to receive things for no other cause and upon no other authority, than because they are found (and consequently in no other sense than wherein they are found) in the Holy Scriptures. Wherefore in any question of controversies in a matter of faith, Protestants are obliged (for the deciding of it) to have recourse to no other authority whatsoever, but to that of the Scripture only.
The incomparable Arch-Bishop Tillotson, has made this sufficiently appear, in his Rule of Faith; particularly, Part I, Sect. 3; and Part IV, Sect. 2.
And the very learned and judicious Bp Wake: “I choose rather [saith he in the Name of ever Christian,] to regulate my faith by what God hath delivered, than by what man hath defined.” Comment. on Ch. Catech. pag. 21.
And the excellent Mr Chillingsworth: “By the religion of Protestants [saith he,] I do not understand the doctrine of Luther, or Calvin, or Melancthon; nor the Confession of Augusta, or Geneva; nor the Catechism of Heidelberg; nor the Articles of the Church of England; no, nor the harmony of Protestant Confessions: but that wherein they all subscribe with a greater harmony, as a perfect rule of their faith and actions; that is, the Bible. The Bible, I say, the Bible only, is the religion of Protestants. Whatsoever else they believe besides it, and the plain, irrefragable, indubitable consequences of it; well may they hold it as a matter of opinion: but as matter of faith and religion, neither can they, with coherence to their own grounds, believe it themselves; nor require the belief of it of others, without most high and most schismatical presumption. I, for my part, after a long and (as I verily believe and hope) impartial search of the true way to eternal happiness, do profess plainly, that I cannot find any rest for the sole of my foot, but upon this Rock only. I see plainly and with mine own eyes, that there are Popes against Popes, Councils against Councils, some fathers against others, the same fathers against themselves, a consent of fathers of one age against a consent of fathers of another age against the church of another age. Traditive interpretations of Scripture are pretended, but there are few or none to be found. No tradition, but only of Scripture, can derive itself from the fountain; but may be plainly proved, either to have been brought in, in such an age after Christ; or, that in such an age it was not in. In a word, there is no sufficient certainty but of Scripture only, for any considering man to build upon. This therefore, and this only, I have reason to believe: this I will profess; according to this, I will live; and for this, if there be occasion, I will not only willingly, but even gladly lose my life; though I should be sorry that Christians should take it from me. Propose me any thing out of this book, and require whether I believe it or no; and seem it never so incomprehensible to human reason, I will subscribe to it hand and heart: as knowing no demonstration can be stronger than this; God hath said so, therefore it is true. In other things, I will take no mans liberty of judgement from him; neither shall any man take mine from me. I will think no man the worse man, nor the worse Christian: I will love no man the less, for differing in opinion from me. And what measure I mete to others, I expect from them again. I am fully assured that God does not, and therefore that men ought not, to require any more of any an than this; to believe the Scripture to be God’s word, to endeavor to find the true sense of it, and to live according to it.” Ch. 6. S 56.
In the Statutes given by Queen Elizabeth of glorious memory, to Trinity-College in the University of Cambridge, the following oath is appointed to be taken by every fellow in the chapel, before his admission. “I, N. N. do swear and promise in the presence of God, that I will heartily and steadfastly adhere to the true religion of Christ, and will prefer the authority of Holy Scripture before the opinions of men; that I will make the Word of God the rule of my faith and practice, and look upon other things, which are not proved out of the Word of God, as human only; —- that I will readily and with all my power oppose doctrines contrary to the Word of God; that, in matters of religion, I will prefer truth before custom, what is written before what is not written; etc”
And, in the same university, ever Doctor of Divinity, at his taking that degree, does [profiteri in Theologia] make his profession in the following words: “In the Name of God, Amen: I A. B. do from my heart receive the whole sacred Canonical Scriptures of the old and new Testament: And do hold, or reject, all that the True, Holy, and Apostolical Church of Christ, subject to the Word of God, and being governed by it, holds or rejects: And in this profession I will persevere to my lives end, God of his great mercy giving me grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
And every Priest at his ordination, (and Bishop at his consecration,) being solemnly asked, “Are you persuaded that the holy Scriptures contain sufficiently all doctrine required of necessity to eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? And are you determined out of the same holy Scriptures to instruct the people committed to your charge, and to teach (or maintain) nothing as required of necessity to eternal salvation, but that which you shall be persuaded may be concluded and proved by the Scripture?” answers in the following words; “I am so persuaded, and have so determined by God’s grace.”
And the whole church, in the 6th, the 20th, and the 21st Articles, declares; that “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; So that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an Article of the Faith, or be though requisite or necessary to salvation: That it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s word written; neither may it so expound one place of scripture, that it be repugnant to another: wherefore, although the church be a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ, yet as it ought not to decree any thing against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of salvation: that even general councils, —- [forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and the Word of God,] may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God: Wherefore things ordained by them, as necessary to salvation, have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of Holy Scripture.”
To apply this general doctrine (which is the whole foundation of the Protestant and of the Christian Religion,) to the controversies which have been raised in particular, with great animosity and uncharitableness, concerning the manner of explaining the doctrine of the ever-blessed Trinity; I have in the first part of the following treatise, (that it might appear what was, not the sound of single texts which may easily be mistaken, but the whole tenour of the Scripture,) collected all the texts that relate to that matter, (which I am not sensible has been done before,) and set them before the reader in one view, with such references and critical observations, as may (’tis hoped) be of considerable use towards the understanding of their true meaning.
In the second part, is collected into methodological propositions the sum of doctrine, which (upon the carefullest consideration of the whole matter) appears to me to be fully contained in the texts cited in the first part. And I have illustrated each proposition with many testimonies out of the ancient writers, both before and after the Council of Nice; especially out of Athanasius and Basil; of which, are several not taken notice of either by Petavius or the learned Bp Bull. Concerning all which, I desire it may be observed, that they are not alleged as proofs of any propositions, (for proofs are to be taken from the Scripture alone,) but as illustrations only; and to show how easy and natural that notion must be allowed to be, which so many writers could not forbear expressing so clearly and distinctly, even frequently when at the time they were about to affirm, and endeavoring to prove, something not very consistent with it. The greatest part of the writers before and at the time of the Council of Nice, were (I think) really of that opinion, (though they do not always speak very clearly and confidently,) which I have endeavored to set forth in those propositions. But as to the writers after that time, the reader must not wonder, if many passages not consistent with (nay, perhaps contrary to) those which are here cited, shall by any one be alleged out of the same authors. For I do not cite places out of these authors, so much to show what was the opinion of the writers themselves, as to show how naturally truth sometimes prevails by its own native clearness and evidence, even against the strongest and most settled prejudices: according to that of Basil: “I am persuaded [saith he] that the strength of the doctrine delivered down to us, has often compelled men to contradict their own assertions.” (De Spiritu Sancto, cap. 29.)
In the third part there is, first, brought together a great number of passages out of the Liturgy of the Church of England, wherein the doctrine set forth in the former parts is expressly affirmed; and then in the next place are collected the principle passages, which may seem at first sight to differ from that doctrine: and these latter I have endeavored to reconcile with the former, by showing how they may be understood in a sense consistent both with the doctrine of Scripture, and with the other before-cited expressions of the liturgy. And this is absolutely necessary to be done by every one, who when he prays with his mouth, desires to pray with his understanding also.
It is a thing very destructive of religion, and the cause of almost all divisions among Christians; when young persons at their first entering upon the study of divinity, look upon human and perhaps modern forms of speaking, as the rule of their faith; understanding these also according to the accidental sound of the words, or according to the notions which happen at any particular time to prevail among the vulgar; and then picking out (as proofs) some few single texts of Scripture, which to minds already strongly prejudiced must needs seem to sound, or may easily be accommodated, the same way; while they attend not impartially to the whole scope and general tenour of Scripture. Whereas on the contrary, were the Scriptures first thoroughly studied, and seriously considered, as the rule and the only rule of truth in matters of religion; and the sense of all human forms and expressions, deduced from thence; the greatest part of the uncharitable divisions that have happened among Christians, might in all probability have been prevented. The different states, which controversies concerning predestination, original sin, free will, faith and good works, and the doctrine of the ever-blessed Trinity, have at different times gone through, are a sufficient evidence of this truth.
The Church of Rome indeed requires men to receive her particular doctrines (or explications of doctrines) and traditions, as part of the rule itself of their faith: and therefore with them no good Christian can possibly comply. But the Protestant Churches, utterly disclaiming all such authority; and requiring men to comply with their forms, merely upon account of their being agreeable to Scripture; ’tis plain that every person may reasonably agree to such forms, whenever he can in any sense at all reconcile them with Scripture.
The first Reformers, when they had laid aside what to them seemed intolerable in the doctrines of the Church of Rome, in other matters chose to retain the words they found; yet declaring that they meant thereby to express only the sense of Scripture, and not that of tradition of the schools. If tradition or custom, if carelessness or mistake, either in the compiler or receiver, happen at any time to put a sense upon any human forms, different from that of the Scripture, which those very forms were intended to explain, and which is at the same time declared to be the only rule of truth; ‘its evident no man can be bound to understand those forms in such a sense; nay, on the contrary, he is indispensably bound not to understand or receive them in such a sense. For (as the learned Mr Thorndike rightly observes,) “That which once was not matter of faith, can never by process of time, or any act the church can do, (or by any interpretation of words, that custom or carelessness or contentiousness may have introduced,) become matter of faith.” Epilog. Part II. pag. 155.
As in reading a comment upon any book whatsoever, he that would thence understand the true meaning of the text, must not barely consider what the words of the comment may of themselves possibly happen to signify; but how they may be so understood, as to be a consistent interpretation of the text they are to explain: so in considering all forms of human composition in matters of religion, it is not of importance what the words may in themselves possibly most obviously signify, or what they may vulgarly and carelessly be understood to mean; (for there is in almost all words, some ambiguity;) but in what sense they can be consistent expositions of those texts of Scripture, which they were intended and are professed to interpret. Otherwise it may easily happen, that a comment may in effect come into the place of the text, and another interpretation afterwards into the place of that comment; till in process of time, men by insensible degrees depart entirely from the meaning of the text, and human authority swallows up that which is divine. Which evil can no otherwise be prevented, than by having recourse perpetually to the original itself; and allowing no authority to any interpretation, any further than ’tis evidently agreeable to the text itself.
Not to mention many examples of this kind, in almost all the confessions of faith that ever were published; there is one very remarkable instance of it, in the Apostles Creed itself. The word, Hell, in the English language, signifies always the place or state of the damned; and every vulgar English reader, when he professes his belief that Christ descended into hell, is apt to understand the article, as signifying Christ’s descending into the place of the damned: and probably they who first put the article into the Creed, about the beginning of the fourth century, might mean and intend it should be so understood. Nevertheless, since all learned men are satisfied, that the Greek word (hades) in those texts of Scripture upon which this article was founded, does not signify Hell, but in general only the invisible state of those departed out of this world; they now with great reason think themselves obliged to understand it in the Creed, not as the word my in modern speech seem to sound to the vulgar, but as it really signifies in the original Texts of Scripture.
The same is to be understood of every part of all human compositions whatsoever. According to that excellent observation of the learned Bp. Pearson: “I observe [saith he] that whatsoever is delivered in the Creed, we therefore believe, because it is contained in the Scriptures; and consequently must so believe it, as it is contained there: whence all this exposition of the whole, is nothing else but an illustration and proof of every particular part of the Creed, by such Scriptures as deliver the same, according to the true interpretation of them.” Expos. on the Creed, 4th Edit. pag. 227.
And the whole church has made the like declaration, in the 6th, the 20th, and 21st of the 39 Articles, before-cited; and in the eighth Article, which declares that the creeds ought only to be received and believed, “because [and consequently only in such sense wherein] they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture.”
In what sense the most difficult passages in the liturgy, concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, can be understood agreeably to the doctrine of Scripture, I have endeavored to show in the following papers. And (as I think the sincerity of a Christian obliges me to declare, ) I desire it may be observed that my assent to the forms by law appointed, and to all words of human institution, is given only because they are, and in that sense wherein they are, (according to the following application,) agreeable to that which appears to me (upon the most careful and serious consideration of the whole matter) to be the doctrine of Scripture; and not in that sense which the popish schoolmen, (affecting, for the sake of transubstantiation, to make everything look like a contradiction,) endeavored to introduce into the church.
Every sincere Christian, assenting (for the sake of peace and order) to the use of any forms of words; must take care to assent to them in such a sense, as may make them consistent with the Scripture; (otherwise he assents to what is false:) and in such a sense, as may make them consistent with themselves; (otherwise he assents to nothing.) This is what I have attempted to do in the third part: and I am sure it is no more a putting of violence upon the expressions cited in the second chapter of that part, to make them consistent with Scripture, and with the expressions of the liturgy cited in the first chapter of that part; than it is on the contrary a putting of violence upon Scripture and upon the expression cited in the first chapter of that section, to make them consistent with the expressions cited in the second chapter of that section.
I am well aware it may to many seem needless, to enter into questions of this nature; and that, in matters of such nicety and difficulty as this, it were better (in their opinion) to let every man frame to himself such obscure notions as he can, and not perplex him with subtle speculations. And indeed, with regard to Scholastic and philosophical inquiries concerning the metaphysical nature and substance of each of the Three Persons in the ever-blessed Trinity, this manner of judging is so right and true, that had these things never been meddled with, and had men contented themselves with what is plainly revealed in the Scripture, (more than which, they can never certainly know;) the peace of the Catholic Church, and the simplicity of the Christian Faith, had possibly never been disturbed. But that which is properly theological in this matter; viz. the distinct powers and offices of each of the Three Persons, in the creation, government, redemption, sanctification, and salvation of man; and the proper honor due consequently from us to each of Them distinctly; this is the great foundation, and the main economy of the Christian Religion; the doctrine, into which we were baptized; and which every sincere Christian ought, according to the best of his ability and the means he has of informing himself, to endeavor thoroughly to understand. The Supremacy of God the Father over all, and our Reconciliation and Subjection to him as such our Supreme Governor; the Redemption purchased by the Son; and the Sanctification worked in us by the Holy Spirit; are the three great articles of our Creed: and in maintaining these rightly, so as seriously to affect men’s understandings, and influence their lives accordingly; is the honor of God, and the interest of True Religion greatly concerned. Tritheism, Sabellianism, Arianism, and Socinianism, have, to the great disparagement of Christianity, puzzled the plain and practical doctrine of Scripture, with endless speculative disputes: and it has been no small injury to religion, in the midst of those disputes; that as on the one hand, men by guarding unwarily against Tritheism, have often in the other extreme run into Socinianism, to the diminution of the honor of the Son of God, and to the taking away the very Being of the Holy Spirit; so on the contrary, incautious writers in their zeal against Socinianism and Arianism, have no less frequently laid themselves open to Sabellianism or Tritheism, by neglecting to maintain the honor and supremacy of the Father. The design of the following papers, is to show how this evil may be prevented, and in what manner both extremes may rationally be avoided.
There are others who have thought, that we ought not at all to treat concerning any of these matters, because they are mysterious. By which if they meant, that the words of God were mysterious, and that therefore we ought not to be wise beyond what is written; no man could say that herein they judged amiss. But if they mean, that the words of men are mysterious; and that we must not reason concerning them, nor inquire whether or no, and in what sense, they are agreeable to the words of God: what is this, but substituting another mystery in the stead of the true one; and paying deference to the mystery of man’s making, instead of the mystery of God? The true veneration of mysteries consists, not in making them ourselves, and in receiving blindly the words of men without understanding them; but it consists, either in taking care there to stop, where the Scripture itself has stoped, without presuming to go further at all; or else, in taking care to understand all words of human institution in such a sense, as that they be sure to signify neither more nor less than the words of Scripture necessarily and indisputably do. Whosoever puts any meaning upon words of human institution, which does not appear to another (upon his sincerest and most careful examination) to be the same with the sense of the words of Scripture; must not complain that the other opposes his own reason to the authority of God, when indeed he opposes it only to those who would make human authority the same with divine. Affecting to speak unintelligibly, where the Scripture itself has not done so; is indeed promoting skepticism only, not true religion: nor can there be any other so effectual a way of confuting all heresies, as it would be to restrain men within the bounds of the uncontested doctrine of Scripture; and give them as few advantages as possible, of raising objection against human and fallible forms of speaking.
Lastly; as to those, who, in the whole, are of opinion that every man ought to study and consider these things according to his ability; and yet, in the particulars of the explication, have quite different notions from those which I have thought reasonable and necessary to set forth in the following papers; I have, with regard to such persons as these, endeavored to express myself with all modesty and due submission. And if any learned person, who thinks me in an error, shall in the Spirit of Meekness and Christianity, propose a different interpretation of all the texts I have produced, and deduce consequences therefrom different from those which seem to me unavoidably to follow; I shall think myself obliged, either to return him a clear and distinct answer in the same Spirit of Meekness and Candor, or else fairly and publicly to retract whatsoever is not capable of being so defended. But if, on the contrary, any nameless or careless writer shall, in the spirit of popery, contend only that men must never use their own understandings, that is, must have no religion of their own; but, without regarding what is right or wrong, must always plead for what notions happen at any time to prevail; I shall have no reason, in such case, to think myself under the same obligation of answering him.
The early church fathers express a wide range of views on many topics. Issues of authority and how doctrine was to be determined valid, and the role of scripture, like other topics, saw a variety of views. While not necessarily ubiquitous throughout the early church fathers, several fathers ranging from the ante-nicene through post-nicene eras spoke in favor of what is basically ‘sola scriptura’.
They did not, of course, speak of it by that name. In short, for them, it was the principle that in order for doctrines to be established as true, they must be demonstrated from the scriptures. This idea of demonstration is simply that a given doctrinal proposition must be proven from the scriptures, either by way of an explicit testimony, or else as a necessary deduction from them, in order to be accepted by Christians as true. That it come from an esteemed person or an ecclesiastical authority is not enough- it must be demonstrated from the scriptures, these fathers argued.
-The joint councils of Arminium and Seleucia met in 359 to resolve the ongoing trinitarian debates of the fourth century. The council of Nicea had succeeded in largely nullifying the threat of Arianism, but also, by introducing highly philosophical, extra-biblical, controversial language of ‘ousia’, ‘being’, or ‘substance’, had continued to be a source of controversy to the churches of the Roman empire.