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The Doctrine of the

Holy Trinity.

Being the First Section from:

A Testimony and Warning Against

Socinian and Unitarian Errors.

By the Reformed Presbytery of Scotland.

X

TrueCovenanter.com Editor's Introduction.

What follows is the prefatory address and first section of an important publication of the Reformed Presbytery of Scotland.  Called to be faithful to their generation in testifying against the dangerous courses of the time, they were not neglectful to provide needed warnings and directions both to their own flock, as well as the inhabitants of the land in which they laboured.  As our lot is to live in a time when the anti-trinitarian heresies of former ages are grown to more common acceptance, and thorough instruction in the scripture doctrine of the Trinity is less common in many churches, the following paragraphs are only more needful for out time.  It is hoped that many readers will find strengthening meat (1 Cor. 3.2; Heb. 5.12-14) in the few pages which follow.  The discussion below is very suitable for any who have already attained to the first principles in this doctrine, and desire further knowledge without doubtful or tedious speculations.  What is especially precious is the abundance of Holy Scripture brought forward to shed light on this fundamental doctrine of the Christian Faith.

2012.11.15::JTKer.

A

Testimony AND Warning

Against

Socinian and Unitarian Errors;

Intended

AS A SHORT SCRIPTURAL DEFENCE OF THE IMPORTANT DOCTRINES OF THE HOLY TRINITY—OF THE PROPER DIVINITY OF OUR BLESSED REDEEMER—OF THE PECULIAR SONSHIP OF CHRIST—OF THE REAL SATISFACTION OF JESUS FOR THE SINS OF HIS PEOPLE—OF THE PERSONALITY OF THE SPIRIT—OF THE PROPER DIVINITY OF THE HOLY GHOST—AND OF THE SPIRIT’S EFFICACIOUS AND INVINCIBLE OPERATIONS UPON THE SOULS OF MEN.

Addressed to

Christians of Every Denomination,

By The

Reformed Presbytery.

1 PET. v. 12. I have written briefly, exhorting, and teſtifying, that this is the true grace of God wherein ye ſtand.

1 COR. iv. 14. I write not theſe things to ſhame you, but as my beloved ſons I warn you.


Glasgow:

Printed by Ebenezer Miller.  Sold by W. Miller,

Bookseller, SaltMarket.   1793.

At HAMILTON, March 21, 1792.

The Reformed Preſbytery met, and constituted, —— ſederunt, &c.

A Motion was made and agreed to, that the Presbytery should publish a Testimony and Warning against Socinian and Unitarian Errors.  After some conversation on this subject, an appointment was laid upon a member to prepare a draught of a Testimony and Warning against those errors, and to lay it before the Presbytery as soon as possible.

Archibald Mason, Cls.


At HAMILTON, September 26, 1792.

The Reformed Presbytery met, and constituted, —— ſederunt, &c.

THE draught of a Testimony and Warning against Socinian and Unitarian errors was, by the member appointed to prepare it, laid upon the table.  The Presbytery having heard it read, and considered it attentively section by section, unanimously approved of it, and ordered it to be printed, under the inspection of the member who composed it, with all convenient speed.

Archibald Mason, Cls.

A

Testimony and Warning

By The

Reformed Presbytery,

Against

Socinian and Unitarian Errors.

To all professors of the Protestant Reformed Religion, particularly those under our pastoral and presbyterial inspection.

Beloved friends, brethren, and countrymen, grace and peace be multiplied unto you, through the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord.

OUR lot is fallen in a day of trouble, of rebuke, and of blasphemy.  In it the words of Paul are mournfully accomplished, Now the spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils. (1 Tim. 4.1.)  The predictions of Peter likewise are therein verified, But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.  And many shall follow {4} their pernicious ways, by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. (2 Pet. 2.1,2.)  As a certain evidence of this melancholy truth, the doctrines of the Holy Trinity, of the divinity, sonship and satisfaction of Christ, and of the personality, divinity and work of the Holy Spirit, are in our times corrupted, rejected and opposed.  In such a perilous time, it is of the utmost importance to the professors of Christianity, to know the truth as it is in Jesus, to have their minds fortified against the seductions of error, and to be established in the faith of the doctrines of the gospel.  That we may contribute our mite towards the accomplishment of these great and valuable ends, we have, beloved friends and brethren, judged it our duty to address you, in a testimony and warning against some of the blasphemous and damnable heresies, which are prevailing in the present times.  Considering ourselves as watchmen set for the defence of the gospel, upon the walls of our New Testament Jerusalem, whose duty it is to give faithful warning unto all, concerning sin and duty, truth and error; we did not see how we could be accountable unto our Lord, if we had remained silent at this time, when the floods of error all around us are lifting up their voice.  Constrained therefore as we are by a desire to promote the glory of God, the interest of his truth, and the salvation of immortal souls, we earnestly solicit [for] what is now submitted unto you, a careful attention and a favourable hearing.

The principal branches of the Socinian and Unitarian heresy appear to have had, in the Christian church, a very early rise.  Before the apostle John had finished his course, a sect of corrupt Christians appeared, who denied the divinity of Christ, held many anti-scriptural opinions concerning his person, and thereby destroyed the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.  In opposition {5} unto these errors, this eminent servant of Jesus, in his gospel, epistles and revelations, did earnestly contend, and in the clearest manner asserted the doctrine of Christ’s divinity.  After the Roman Emperors had embraced Christianity, and it had been established in the empire, those heresies were revived by the ministry of Arius; and so much did they prevail, that, in the days of Athanasius, they almost totally overspread the Christian world.  No sooner did the sun of righteousness arise upon some of the nations of the earth, with healing under his wings, in the reformation from Popery, than Satan, ever diligent to promote the interests of his kingdom, employed agents to darken the light of the gospel, by preaching and publishing damnable errors, relative to the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  Those opinions have still continued in the Christian church, and of late years have greatly increased.  The religious societies by law established in Scotland, England and Ireland, though in their constitutional articles these errors are rejected; have nevertheless many members who teach them unto their people every day.  A late publication by a member of the church of Scotland, crouded with Socinian tenets, and the unfaithfulness of ecclesiastical judicatures in dealing with him, are in our view, in this testimony and warning.  Besides, in some ecclesiastical societies among the dissenters, especially in England and Ireland, are to be found corrupters of the doctrine of scripture, in these most essential articles.  But above all, these religious societies called Unitarians, which have long existed in England, and are now gaining ground in Scotland, have settled themselves upon the impious foundation of denying and blaspheming the doctrine of the Trinity, the divinity of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, are particularly in our eye in this publication.

It is not proposed to consider all the branches of divine truth, which Socinians and Unitarians pervert {6} and deny; a few of the most capital parts of that system only, are to be taken into consideration.  A vindication of the doctrines of the gospel, on the seven following heads, in opposition unto the corruptions or denial of them, is what we have in view.   The doctrines of the Holy Trinity—of the proper divinity of our blessed Redeemer—of the peculiar Sonship of Christ—of the real satisfaction of Jesus for the sins of his people—of the personality of the divine Spirit—of the proper divinity of the Holy Ghost—and of the Spirit’s efficacious and invincible operation upon the souls of men.  In handling these important articles, it may be proper [1] to state the sentiments of Socinians and Unitarians, [2] to represent the received doctrine of the church of Christ, and then [3] exhibit the scripture evidence of the church’s faith upon each of them.  After these particulars have been considered in this manner, some conclusion of the whole may be subjoined.


SECTION I.

Of the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

THE Socinian and Unitarian teachers positively deny and ridicule this important doctrine.  They believe and maintain that as the Godhead or divine nature is one, so there is but one divine person, whom they generally call God Almighty.  Pompous as the titles are which they sometimes bestow upon the Lord Jesus Christ, yet they believe him to be inferior in nature and personality to God Almighty.  They all agree in denying the divinity, and most of them the personality of the Lord the Spirit.  By entertaining such opinions of the Son and Holy Ghost, they plainly overthrow the doctrine of the Trinity. {7}

One of these expresses himself in the following words, “I hold that there is but one God, who is one person, one self-existent, infinite, eternal, almighty and supreme being, to whom none is equal, or to be compared, and from whom all beings, whether in heaven or in earth, derive their existence, and all they possess.—To me it appears that three divine persons make three Gods, as certainly as three human persons make three men, and that those who assert such doctrines expose Christianity to the derision of infidels, destroy the unity of the Godhead, distribute the perfections of Jehovah amongst other, and inferior beings, and rob him of his peculiar glory, which he has declared he will not give to another.”*[1]

The church of Christ in every age has believed, and defended the doctrine which is so plainly denied by the Unitarians.  Convinced as they have been that the divine nature or essence is one, they have also believed and maintained that this divine nature subsists in three divine equal and distinct persons.  We shall represent their belief unto you in their own words.  “I believe and confess my Lord God eternal, infinite, unmeasurable, incomprehensible, and invisible, one in substance, and three in persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost.” (Geneva con. article I.)  “We confess and acknowledge one only God;—one in substance, and yet in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” (Scots con. article I.)  “In the unity of this Godhead there be three persons of one substance, power and eternity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” (Articles of the church of England, article I.)  “In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, {8} power, and eternity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.” (Westminster con. chap. 2. sect. 3.)

Before we proceed to prove this truth, it may be of use to make the following observations, for clearing the scripture doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

The divine nature is one.   The notion of a plurality of Gods is repugnant both to right reason, and to scripture revelation.  The unity of the divine nature can be demonstrated easily from the light of reason in man, and also from the word of God.  The light of reason teaches that the divine being is omnipotent, which proves the unity of his nature.  The moment you suppose two or more beings possessed of omnipotence, you altogether destroy this perfection. You make a number of beings possess an equality of power, and however much may be ascribed unto them, none of them can be almighty.  The infinity of God, as well as his omnipotence, establishes the truth of the divine unity.  Seeing the divine nature is infinite without all bounds and limits, it is impossible that there can be any more Gods than one.  To suppose two distinct beings to enjoy this perfection is a plain contradiction.  The infinity of the one, and the infinity of the other, must destroy the infinity of both, and neither of them can be infinite.  The absolute supremacy of God, which is a dictate of right reason concerning him, confirms the tame truth. Were we to suppose two beings, having in their hands the absolute government of all things, both of them are immediately divested of this attribute.  Seeing the divine nature has an absolute supremacy over every being, in his nature he must be one; for in two or more distinct beings, this dominion over all cannot reside.—

With the dictates of right reason, concerning the unity of God, scripture revelation perfectly agrees.  The word of God being full of this truth, it will be {9} unnecessary to multiply texts for the confirmation of it.  The words of Moses to the Israelitish tribes clearly declare it to us; Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. (Deut. 6.4.)  The royal David is equally clear with the prophet Moses upon this truth, when he sings, For who is God save the Lord? or who is a rock save our God. (Psalm 18.31.)  The words of Christ to the young man also confirm this truth; There is none good but one, that is God. (Matth. 19.17.)  In the words of Paul this article of faith is likewise represented; For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. (1 Tim. 2.5.)  As this text obliges us to believe, in opposition unto all who would multiply mediators, the unity of his person and office; so it constrains us to maintain, against all who plead for a plurality of Gods, the unity of the divine nature.

There are three persons in the one Godhead.  Scripture revelation warrants us to say, that the one divine nature subsists in three persons.  As there is a sense in which God is one, so there is a sense in which he is three;  one in nature, and three in personality.  It is a common and very just observation, Christian brethren, which deserves your attention and rememberance, that the unity of the essence or being of God, does not destroy the difference of the persons; nor does the distinguishing of the persons infer any division of the essence.  Instead of confirming this truth here, which is reserved for the latter part of this section, it may be necessary to explain some terms;*[2] which, in speaking on the doctrine of the {10} Trinity, we are obliged to employ. 

[ Some Terms Explained: ]

The being of God, the divine nature, the Godhead, and the essence of God, signify the same thing.  They all express what Jehovah is in himself essentially considered, and that infinite existence or thing, of which each of the divine persons is possessed.

The word person must be frequently used on these subjects, and that with scripture authority; for there we read of the person of the Father, and the person of Christ.  Various definitions have been given of a person in the Godhead, which, though differently expressed, amount to the same thing; three of them may be mentioned.  “A divine person is the divine essence subsisting in a special manner, on account of a special and incommunicable property:” or, “a mode of subsistence in the divine essence distinct from others in the same individual essence, by a peculiar and incommunicable property:” or, “the Godhead itself as subsisting with some distinct and natural relation unto another person possessed of the same nature.”  From these definitions, which are mentioned in humility, we may form some idea, as far as we are capable of understanding it, of what is meant by a person in the Trinity; it is just the divine nature subsisting with a personal property.  The person of the Father is the divine nature as it subsists, with the personal property of begetting the Son: the person of the Son is the divine nature as it subsists, with the personal property of being begotten of the Father: and the person of the Holy Ghost is the divine nature as it subsists, with the personal property of proceeding {11} from the Father and Son.  For there are three who bear record in heaven, the Father, and the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one. [1 John 5.7.]

The three persons, in which the divine nature subsists, are equal.  There is not any inferiority of one of these persons to another.  It is a confirmation of their perfect equality, that the order in which they are mentioned is varied, in different places of scripture.  The Father is first mentioned, in the institution of baptism.  The Son is named first, in the apostolic benediction.  And in Paul’s account of the gifts and privileges of the church, the Spirit is mentioned before the other two.  Were there a natural inferiority of one of these persons to another, the order of their subsistence would never be changed; but to prove their equality it is more frequently varied than it is kept.  The persons of the Godhead are equal in nature.  Each of them possesses the entire divine nature. They are all in scripture called God, in the highest sense of the term, which could not be, did the divine nature not belong to each of them.—They are equal in all perfections.  Infinite sovereignty, unerring wisdom, almighty power, untainted holiness, inviolable veracity, and all other divine perfections, equally belong unto the three who bear record in heaven.—They are equal in intelligence.  The understanding of each of them is infinite, and therefore must be one and the same.  They are not possessed of three distinct and different understandings, but one infinite understanding, which cannot be multiplied, is common to them all.  This is the foundation of that eternal and necessary harmony in their judgments, concerning all persons and things, which subsists among them.—They are equal in will.  Possessed as they are of one understanding, the same will is common to them all. This infinite will, which was exercised from eternity, in forming the sovereign and unchangeable decrees of God, is equally the will of the Father, Son, and Holy {12} Ghost.  This will, as it is manifested to men in the divine law, for the rule of their obedience, or discovered to them as a rule of faith, in the glorious gospel, belongs equally to each of the divine persons.  This will which is fulfilled in the divine conduct towards angels and men, whereby he does what he will in the arm of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, [Dan. 4.35,] pertains to the three who bear record in heaven.  This renders them perfectly, eternally and necessarily harmonious, in all the objects of their choice and aversion.—They are equal in operation.  The divine works of creation, providence and redemption are ascribed both to God essentially considered, and to each of the adorable three.

The persons in the Godhead are to be distinguished from one another.  They may be distinguished by their peculiar names, their natural relations, their personal properties, their order of subsistence, and their order of operation. 

The divine persons are to be distinguished by their peculiar or personal names.  The divine names mentioned in scripture are of two kinds: those that are essential and common, and those which are personal or peculiar.  Jehovah, God, Lord and the like belong to the former; the Father, the Son or Word, and the Holy Spirit or Ghost, pertain unto the latter class.  The former are called essential, because they are names of the divine nature; and they are called common, because they are given to each of the divine persons.  The latter class of names are called personal, because they belong unto the divine persons; and they are peculiar, because the name that is given to one is never bestowed upon the other two divine persons as such.  Not by the essential and common names, but by those which are personal and peculiar, are the divine persons to be distinguished.—

By their natural relations.  There is a difference between their natural and œconomical relations: of the former, but not of the latter, are we {13} now speaking.  In the œconomy of man’s redemption, the Son stands in the relation of a servant to the Father, and the Holy Spirit is the missionary of them both; but it is not by these relations that they are properly distinguished as persons in the Godhead. By their natural relations however, the divine persons are distinguished.  The first person stands in the relation of a Father to the second, the second bears the relation of a Son to the first, and the Holy Ghost stands in the relation of a Spirit to the other two; and by these we discern them as distinct.—

By their personal properties.  It may be of use to observe that the divine persons cannot be distinguished by their natural properties.  All the perfections of the Godhead are the natural properties of each of the divine persons, and thereby we are never to distinguish them.  By their personal properties this may be done.  It is the personal property of the Father to beget the Son; of the Son to be begotten of the Father; and of the Holy Ghost to proceed from the Father and Son; by which properties they may be distinguished from one another.  These properties are called personal, because they do not belong to the divine nature, otherwise they would all pertain to each of the divine persons, which is not the case; but they belong unto the divine persons, each having his own personal property.  These natural relations and personal properties of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are necessary. They do not originate in the divine will, but they are founded in the divine nature, and are essential unto its very being.—

By their order of subsistence.  The Father is the first, the Son the second, and the Holy Spirit the third in this order.  In the institution of baptism they are mentioned according to the natural order of their subsistence; Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Matth. 28.19.)  This order of their personal {14} subsistence is clearly proved by their names, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Paternity being ascribed unto the first, filiation to the second, and proceeding to the third person, their order of subsistence cannot be otherwise.  Their personal properties ratify the same truth.  Since it belongs to the first person to beget, to the second to be begotten, and to the third to proceed from both the first and second, this must be the order of subsisting among them.—

By their order of operation.  The order observed by them, in their operations, is the same with their order of subsistence.  The Father is the first in the order of divine working, and is the beginner of them all; the Son is the second in that order, and carries on these operations; and the Holy Ghost is the third in this order, and is the finisher of all the works of God.  This truth may be confirmed from the work of redemption only, without taking a view of those of creation and providence at all.  The contrivance of the whole scheme is ascribed unto God the Father; the purchase of all its blessings is attributed unto God the Son; and the application thereof belongs unto God the Holy Ghost: For sinners are saved by the love or grace of the Father, through the redemption or righteousness of Christ the Son, and the renewing or sanctification of the Holy Ghost.  This order of operation among the adorable three, and not any natural inferiority of one of these persons to another, is the reason why the Father is said to work by the Son, and the Father and Son by the Holy Ghost, which we see expressed in the three following texts of scripture.  Who created all things by Jesus Christ. (Eph. 3.9.)  That he would grant you—to be strengthened with all might by his Spirit in the inner man. (Eph. 3.16.)  Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had {15} given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen. (Acts. 1.2.)

The subsistence of the divine nature in three divine and equal persons is a mystery; and hence it is called the mystery of God. (Col. 2.2.) 

This is a necessary mystery.  It is not a mystery of the divine will, but it is a mystery of the divine nature.  It is not like the mystery of the union of the two natures in the person of Christ, which has its foundation in the sovereign will of God; but it is a mystery that is founded in, and is essential unto the very being of God.  While all the mysteries of grace depend upon the good pleasure of Jehovah, it is the excellency of this mystery, not to depend upon his will at all, but, like all his necessary and essential perfections, to spring from his nature.—

It is an incomparable mystery.  The highest intelligences among angels and men cannot search into the unfathomable deeps of this mystery.  They may by divine revelation know that it is, but as to the mode of it, they can have no conception.  While the divine nature is infinite, and the creature finite, which shall for ever be, this must be the case.  To impress our minds with a conviction of this, that humbling question is proposed to the children of men; Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? (Job 11.7.)

It is a glorious mystery; a mystery which displays the peculiar glory of the divine nature and persons.  Of no created nature is this a perfection, that it subsists in three persons; nor of any three created persons can it be affirmed, that one individual essence is common to them all; but this is true both of the divine nature and person, which is a peculiar glory of both.—

It is an eternal mystery.  The divine nature will forever subsist in three divine and equal persons; and therefore this mystery will never end.  As God is unchangeable in {16} his nature and perfections, so he is immutable in this most glorious property of his essence.  This mystery will continue through all eternity to be an object of wonder and praise to angels and redeemed men.—

It is a mystery to the creatures only.  There is not any thing in the nature or works of God that is a mystery to himself; for he perfectly knows himself, and all the effects of his power and goodness.  When any thing therefore about the nature of works of God is said to be mysterious, it applies to the creature only. When we assert that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is a wonderful mystery, it is not so with respect to God; but it is so with regard to the limited capacities of the creature, which are necessarily unfit for comprehending this glorious nature, and its properties.

The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is known to the children of men by divine revelation only.  It is a doctrine which is peculiar to the scriptures, and sinners could never have found it out by the light of nature.  It is true, there are a few sayings in the writings of one or two of the heathen philosophers, which have some analogy to the scripture doctrine of the Trinity; but these sentences in their works, if they were at all in the originals, which some question, behoved either to be borrowed from the Old Testament scriptures, or learned from conversation with the Jews.  Nothing in all the works of God can teach fallen men the knowledge of this mystery.  To divine revelation alone are we indebted for this information.  The scriptures are a light that shineth into our hearts, to give us the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. [2 Cor. 4.6.]  The knowledge of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which is one special part of the glory of God, is given in divine revelation to us, by the ministry of Christ the great prophet of the church.  The harbinger of Jesus declares, No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the {17} bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. (John 1.18.)  These words clearly prove, that the Lord Jesus, by his personal ministry, by the ministry of his prophets before his incarnation, and by that of his apostles after his death, hath given to the church, in the word of God, a discovery of the nature, persons, perfections, counsels and works of the great Jehovah.  But for this ministry, impossible it had been for the children of men to have obtained the knowledge of this mystery.  All our knowledge of it is to be learned from the sacred scriptures.  All the considerations, which tend to strengthen our faith in this divine doctrine, are to be drawn from this source.  The sacred records furnish us with all those arguments that are necessary, or can be used, for the information of those who are ignorant, the conviction of them who are unbelievers, and the silencing of such as are opposers of this article of faith.  This therefore testifies to us the doctrine of the Holy Trinity; for therein, and by no other mean, are we informed, that there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one. (1 John 5.7.)

The doctrine of the Trinity is a fundamental article of the Christian faith, the belief of which is absolutely necessary to salvation.  The rejected Jews, the followers of Mahomet, the ancient Arians, the latter Socinians and modern Unitarians agree, in denying the doctrine of the Trinity; whereby they both reject the salvation of God, and seal their own condemnation.  To the salvation of every soul of man, the belief of this doctrine is essential.  For the confirmation of this, it will be necessary to make and illustrate the following observation: — there are many truths of the gospel, the faith of which is necessary to our salvation, whereof we can have no proper idea at all, without believing the doctrine of the Trinity.  That we may obtain salvation, {18} it is needful to believe the eternal council of peace among the adored three, wherein the whole plan of saving sinners was adjusted, the eternal resolves of infinite wisdom and love were formed, and the everlasting covenant of peace was established.  What idea can we have of this, if the doctrine of the Trinity is denied?  Of the incarnation of the Son of God, declared unto us in these words, when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, (Gal. 4.4.) we can have no proper knowledge, unless we believe the doctrine of the Trinity; and surely a scriptural belief of this is necessary to our salvation.  In vain do men dream of salvation, if they do not believe upon the infinitely meritorious obedience of the Son of God, and his infinitely satisfactory sufferings in our nature and place; and how can we do this if we reject this glorious doctrine?  Salvation is impossible to that man, who does not know, believe and experience the special and invincible operations of the Spirit by means of the word upon his soul; But how can these be the objects of our knowledge, belief or experience, if the doctrine of the Trinity is not an article of our faith?  If we believe not this mystery of the divine nature, we can have no saving knowledge of the love of the Father, in giving his Son, and sending his Spirit, for accomplishing our salvation.  If this doctrine is denied, how can we know the grace of Christ in becoming poor, that he might inrich us by his poverty? Or how can we be acquainted with the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, in a course of opposition to this sacred truth? Rejecting this doctrine as many do, we can never be sharers of saving grace, and spiritual peace; for these blessings come from him which is, and which was, and which is to come, and from the seven Spirits of God which are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ. (Rev. 1.4,5.)  These few hints sufficiently {19} shew that the faith of this truth is necessary unto the sinner’s salvation.

For the confirmation of the doctrine of the Trinity, and the confutation of all Socinian and Unitarian errors on this head, we are now to bring forward the scripture evidence thereof, which may be collected in the following arguments.

The account we have, in the sacred scripture, of the work of creation, affords an incontestible proof of the doctrine of the Trinity.  If we find it evident, that scripture ascribes the work of creating all things to three different persons, as creation is competent to God only, each of these persons must be divine.  As there is no dispute concerning God the Father, we shall only represent to you what the scripture declares, relative to the Son and the Holy Ghost.  Of the former we are told, all things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John. 1.3.)  Christ is here declared to be the creator of all things, and without his divine and personal agency, no creature received its existence.  This work is also ascribed unto Christ in that remarkable description given of him by the apostle, of which the following words are a part; for by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, all things were made by him and for him. (Col. 1.16.)  Here we have an enumeration of the works of creation, and the different places where they exist; of them all Jesus is the glorious maker, the first cause, and the last end.  Concerning the Holy Spirit the scripture informs us, that the work of creation belongs unto him.  In the history of creation given by Moses, we have these remarkable words, and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (Gen. 1.3.)  This text warrants us to believe, that the Holy Ghost by his infinite, {20} divine and all producing influence formed the creatures that were made.  As a farther confirmation of this, the words of Job and Elihu may be mentioned: The former declares by his Spirit he hath garnished the heavens. (Job 26.13.)  The latter affirms, The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the almighty hath given me life. (Job 33.4.)  In these words the work of creation is plainly ascribed unto the Holy Ghost.  Since scripture information concerning this work of God, plainly represents three different agents to be concerned therein; we are surely warranted to conclude, that the infinite nature of God subsists in three divine and equal persons.

The doctrine of the sacred Trinity stands confirmed from the scriptural account of the work of providence.  The conservation and government of the creatures is a divine work, equally with their creation.  If the scripture represents three distinct persons employed in this work, there must be three persons possessed of the divine nature.  The equal concern of the Father and the Son, in the work of providence, is affirmed by Christ, when he, on a particular occasion, said to the Jews, my Father worketh hitherto and I work. (John 5.17.)  The concern of our Mediator in the work of providence is asserted in as strong terms, as the Father’s concern in that work can possibly be expressed.  By him all things consist, (Col. 1.17.)  and upholding all things by the work of his power, (Heb. 1.3.)  are the expressions which scripture uses to represent Jesus as the God of providence; and what phrases can be more clear or significant?  That almighty word, by which all the creatures of God are upheld in their being, and directed in their operations, is not the word of the Father only; but it is the word of him also, who by himself purged our sins.  The concern of the eternal Spirit in the work of providence {21} is equally clear from the sacred record.  Upon this point hear the holy Psalmist, thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created; and thou renewest the face of the earth. (Psalm 104.30.)  These words represent a glorious effect, the continued creation or conservation of all things, and the renovation of the face of the earth.  They inform us also of the powerful cause, the Spirit of God who is sent forth for this end.  Added to this evidence, you may also consider the testimony of the Lord’s prophet; seek ye out of the book of the Lord and read; no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate; for my mouth it hath commanded, and his Spirit it hath gathered them. (Isa. 34.16.)  As the Holy Spirit moved upon the face of the waters, and by his all-creating energy formed the creatures at first; so by his almighty personal agency he daily renews, gathers and preserves all the creatures of God.

The general plan of our redemption, laid down in the sacred scriptures, clearly establishes the doctrine of the Trinity.  Many texts might be introduced, which represent the method of God’s grace to men, as confirmations of this fundamental article of the Christian faith; we shall however confine ourselves to the four following.  The apostle Paul, when he is representing Jesus as a priest reconciling us to God, and as a prophet preaching peace to them who were afar off, and to them who were nigh, has these remarkable words; for through him we both have an access by one Spirit to the Father. (Eph. 2.18.)  He again declares, but we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth, whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thes. 2.13,14.)  The apostle Peter also states the general plan of our {22} redemption in such a way as confirms this doctrine; elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 1.2.)  To these may be added the words of the apostle John, grace be unto you and peace from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven spirits which are before his throne; and from Jesus Christ. (Rev. 1.4,5.)  In these scriptures we have one divine person represented, as the glorious object to whom sinners have access, as chusing them from the beginning to salvation by his eternal foreknowledge, and as the author of grace and peace to the church.  In them we have another divine person mentioned, as the glorious channel of the sinner’s access unto God, as the author of that glory, to the enjoyment of which they are advanced, as having shed meritorious blood for their redemption, and as the source from which grace and peace flow to believers.  Therein we have a third divine person presented to our view, as being by his divine influence the cause of the sinner’s access to the Father, as the blessed author of their sanctification, and as being equally with the Father and Christ, the fountain of the spiritual and eternal blessings of grace and peace.  Who, that considers these things aright, can refuse his assent to the scripture doctrine of the Trinity?

The incarnation of the Son of God affords an undeniable proof of this doctrine.  This glorious event was foretold in ancient prophecy, it was the matter of the divine promise, the object of the church’s faith, and the sum of their joyful expectation. Behold a virgin shall conceive, says Isaiah, and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7.14.)  In exact agreement with this Micah proclaims, but thou Bethlehem Ephratah though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet {23} out of thee shall he come forth unto me, that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. (Mic. 5.2.)  Let us see what the New Testament records concerning the accomplishment of all this.  Of the Son of God it is said, that he took on him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men (Phil. 2.7.), and that he took on him the seed of Abraham. (Heb. 2.16.)  The agency of God the Father in the work is expressed to us in these words, but when the fulness of the time was come God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law; (Gal. 4.4.) and again a body hast thou prepared me. (Heb. 10.5.)  The concern of the Holy Spirit in Christ’s incarnation is very particularly stated in the words of the angel to the virgin, the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the highest shall overshadow thee, therefore also that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. (Luke 1.35.)  This collected view of the incarnation of Christ represents it to be the work of the three one God.  God the Father sends his Son, and, by authoritative appointment, prepares for him an human nature.  God the Holy Ghost, by his personal agency, exerts that omnipotence, which is common to each of the divine persons, and essential to the divine essence in the actual formation of Christ’s human nature.  And God the Son takes on him the human nature, and assumes it into an union with the Godhead in his person.  From this scriptural account of the manifestation of God in the flesh, the trinity of persons in the divine essence clearly appears.

The doctrine of the Trinity may likewise be demonstrated from the baptism of Christ.  An account of this solemn transaction is given by all the evangelists: that of Matthew need only be mentioned, which he conveys to us in the following words: and Jesus when he was baptized, went up straightway {24} out of the water; and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. (Matth. 3.16.)  To every unprejudiced mind the doctrine of the Trinity, from these words, must be evident.  Here we have the blessed Mediator receiving an immeasurable unction of the Spirit, and divinely declared to be God’s beloved Son in whom he is well pleased.  Here we have the Holy Spirit descending from heaven, lighting upon the Son of God, abiding upon him, and filling his human nature with an immeasurable degree of spiritual gifts and grace; which could not be were he not a divine person.  And here we have the eternal Father proclaiming with an audible voice from heaven, this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.  In this transaction the divine persons are represented in such a way as proves the divinity of each of them, and at the same time confirms this article of the Christian faith.

The baptism of Christians is a proof of the doctrine under our consideration.  The baptism of Christ is not a more convincing proof of this point, than is the baptism of all his followers.  The divine direction for the administration of this ordinance to the children of men, is expressed to the church by Christ himself; Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Matth. 28.19.)  The three divine persons are here mentioned by their peculiar and personal names, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  The unity of their nature is not obscurely hinted in that expression, baptizing them in the name, not in their names.  If one of these persons is divine, they must all be so; for none of them is placed below another, or described with any mark of inferiority.  It is truly unaccountable {25} how any professing the Christian name, and believing the divine institution of this ordinance, can banish from their minds the belief of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

The promise of the Spirit unto the church is another confirmation of this truth.  In that remarkable discourse delivered by Christ unto his disciples, immediately before his last sufferings and death, this promise is recorded in the following words: I will pray the Father and he shall give you another Comforter that he may abide with you for ever. (John 14.16.)  But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things. (John 14.26.)  But when the Comforter is come whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me. (John 15.26.)  It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I go not away the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart I will send him unto you.  And when he is come he will convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. (John 16.7,8.)  In these words, the Lord Christ speaks of one person called the Father, giving the Spirit, sending the Spirit, having the Spirit both sent and proceeding from him; and must not he be a divine person? The Lord Jesus speaks of himself, in whose name the Father sends the Spirit, who himself sends the Spirit, and of whom the Spirit testifies to the children of men; and must not he also be a divine person? Will the eternal Father send the Spirit in the name of a creature? Can a creature send the Holy Ghost? Will the eternal Spirit testify of a creature to the church of God? The Redeemer in these words speaks of a third person called the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, and Spirit of truth, sent by the Father and proceeding from him, sent by Christ, testifying of him, teaching the church all things, abiding with them {26} for ever, and convincing the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; and must not he likewise possess the divine nature?  These titles and works surely are not competent to a creature.

The way in which the members of the church receive gifts and privileges, and true believers obtain the blessings of salvation, confirms the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.  An illustration of the former branch of this proof we have in the words of Paul; Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but the same God, which worketh all in all. (1 Cor. 12.4-6.)  Can human language more clearly convey any idea to the rational mind, than those words represent to us three divine persons equally concerned, in bestowing upon the church all the different gifts, administrations, and operations which she enjoys?  

The latter branch of this proof [concerning salvation itself] may be illustrated in a few instances. 

Regeneration is one of the blessings of salvation of which all believers partake.  It consists in the renovation of the faculties of the soul, and planting in the man the divine image.  This blessing comes from the Father, for believers are born of God. (1 John 3.9.)  It comes from the Son, for they are created again in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2.12.)  It proceeds also from the Holy Ghost, for they are born of the Spirit. (John 2.5.)

Adoption is another blessing of the covenant of grace, whereby the children of men, who were among the world lying in wickedness, become the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty.  This blessing comes from the Father; for he puts them among the children. (Jer. 3.19.)  Bestowed also it is by the Son; because he gives them power to become the sons of God. (John 1.12.)  By the Holy Ghost is this blessing granted to sinners; as he is the Spirit of adoption whereby they cry Abba, Father. (Rom. 8.15.) {27}

Justification and sanctification are two precious blessings of salvation; by the former sinners are delivered from condemnation, and entitled to the blessings of grace and glory; and by the latter they are conformed in heart and life, to the nature, image, and law of God.  As these blessings are given by God the Father, so also they come to us by Christ and the Spirit, according to that lively oracle of inspiration, and such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6.11.) 

If all the outward privileges and common gifts enjoyed by the church come from Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and if each of these divine persons has a peculiar operation in bestowing saving blessings on true believers, the divine essence must subsist in three distinct and equal persons.

The benediction of the church clearly unfolds the doctrine of the Trinity.  By the commandment of the everlasting God, the church is blessed in the following manner; the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all, Amen. (2 Cor. 13.14.)  When these words, are pronounced over the congregations of Christians by the servants of Jesus, the blessing of a three-one God is exhibited in a ministerial and authoritative manner to the church, upon which their faith should be exercised.  This is a giving the blessing unto, and putting it upon the people of God, which, being heard and received by faith, makes persons possessors of the blessing.  In whose name are they blessed? In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the name of God, and in the name of the Holy Ghost.  With what are they blessed? with the grace of Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost.  Impossible it is that this could be said, or that all this could be true, if there are not three persons in the Godhead.  Having {28} viewed the benediction of the church in her New Testament state, it may be proper to consider that also which obtained during the former dispensation; and there we will find no obscure intimation of the doctrine of the Trinity.  By divine appointment the church in that period was blessed in the following words; The Lord bless thee, and keep thee.  The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee.  The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. (Numb. 6.24-26.)  By a threefold repetition of the name Jehovah, and with a threefold class of spiritual blessings, the church of old had the divine benediction pronounced on them.  This bears such analogy to the New Testament form, as makes this doctrine evident from the one as well as the other.  Guided as we are by the clearer light, rising out of the Church’s benediction under the new dispensation; we are warranted, with certainty and assurance, to infer the doctrine of the Trinity, from that which obtained under the old.

The heavenly attestation of the gospel record is another proof of this article of the church’s faith.  For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one. (1 John 5.7.)  The truth attested to the faith of mankind by these witnesses is, that Jesus is the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world; that he is come by water and blood, for the salvation of sinners; and that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  They are described from their number, they are three; from their work, they bear record; from the place of their glorious residence, in heaven; from their names, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and from the unity of their nature, these three are one.  Persons surely they must be, for each of them bears a personal office, appears as a witness; and performs a personal work, emitting a testimony.  As they are {29} three in their personality, so they are one in essence: for these three are one, one nature, one essence, one thing.

From what has been offered above, dear Christian friends and brethren, we are constrained to believe, that in the unity of the divine nature there are three persons, of one substance, power and eternity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.  Each of these articles of proof represents three possessed of all the glory of the Deity.  To believe they are three Gods we cannot, without contradicting reason and revelation; for both concur in establishing the unity of the divine nature.  Three therefore they must be in their personality, while they are one in their essence.  Deeply impressed as your minds should be with abhorrence of all Antitrinitarian errors; let it be your constant study to know, believe, contemplate, adore, profess, and defend the infinitely important doctrine of the sacred Trinity.


Footnotes:

1. See Mr. Christie’s book, entitled, the Holy Scriptures the only rule of faith, page 4, 5.

2. In the whole of this testimony and warning, the ordinary terms, on the different subjects treated therein, are made use of in the strict theological sense, in which they have always been used by Calvinists.  The most of them indeed are scriptural terms, and those which are not so are warranted by the word of God; because words of the same import are found in the scripture, and because the doctrines represented by them are most certainly founded therein. We do not intend either to mention or explain them here, as their meaning will be easily understood when they occur in the different sections.