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him. Jer. ii. 6. By the psalmist he called on them to praise his great and terrible name, because it was holy; and to give thanks to him because he was good, and because his mercy endured forever. Pø. xcix. 3, and cxxxvi. 1. Natural attributes are either desirable or undesirable, according to the character of the being who possesses them. It is because the infinite natural attributes of Jehovah are wholly under the direction of goodness, that they are ineffably lovely and glorious.
Thus have we seen, that various portions of scripture combine their testimony in establishing the point, that there is one God, infinite in greatness and goodness: and such greatness and goodness they ascribe to Jehovah, the God of the Hebrews. Every man who has read the Bible knows that a multitude of other passages stand ready, if called upon, to testify to the same point; and that not a single text can be found to bear any counter testimony. Every verse in the Bible does not assert the being and perfections of God; for there are verses and chapters, and even one entire book,* in which no name or title of the Supreme Being is found; yet in this very book his hand is clearly seen, and his glory strikingly displayed.
I hardly need to say, that the mere silence of a text in relation to any point of doctrine, amounts to no proof against that doctrine. As a thousand witnesses who testify nothing relative to a certain fact, will not put to silence one witness who declares he saw it take place ; so a thousand texts, which say nothing concerning any particular article of doctrine, will not set aside one single text which asserts its truth. I wish this remark to be considered as one of general application, and hope it will not be lost sight of, either by the writer or his readers, through the whole work. That position, which was assumed in the Introduction, namely, that the scriptures, being the testimony of the God of truth, can not speak both for and against a doctrine, needs also to be kept in remembrance. These inspired writings can not bear any coun. ter testimony to this most fundamental truth, namely, the existence and unity of God, and his infinite perfection, both natural and moral. We are aware, however, that on this very article the scriptures are thought by some to deliver contradictory testimony. It is objected,
First. That while many passages declare that there is but one God, others are found which tell us there are three. The scriptures, we acknowledge, speak of the one living and true God as existing in a manner mysterious and incomprehensible, so as to contain in himself a plurality of subsistences; or so as to possess a kind of plural unity. We know that the God of the Bible is represented as saying, “ Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” And when this was done, it is thus recorded : “So God created man in his own image.” When these passages are compared, we learn that the plurality is not such as to destroy the unity of the Godhead. By means of other passages we learn that this plurality is a trinity. « There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost ; and these three are one.” 1 John, v. 7. The Savior commanded his apostles to baptize their converts in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of
the Holy Ghost. Matt. xxviii. 19. In blessing the Christian church, instead of repeating the name of the LORD, (or JEHOVAH, as it is in the Hebrew,) three times, according to that form by which the sons of Aaron blessed the church of Israel, the apostle implored on them “ the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost.” Compare Num. vi. 22—26, with 2 Cor. xiii. 14.
It is acknowledged that these, and similar representations, occur with considerable frequency; but we aver that there is nothing in them which is repugnant to the unity of God. In the apostolic benediction, it is the blessing of one God which is implored for the church. It is in the name of one God that we are baptized, though this one God is de. clared to be the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And the three that bear record in heaven, are expressly declared to be one. There is nothing in the trinity which the Bible reveals, and in which Christians, even trinitarian Christians believe, that has any real resemblance to the polytheism of the pagans. Between the persons of the Godhead there is no difference in their attributes. Each is eternal, omniscient, almighty, and infinitely holy. They are one in their supreme object, one in counsel, one in affection, and even one in essence; since the three constitute but one being. The doctrine of a triune God, as it is revealed in the scriptures, appears to have no tendency to lead us to polytheism and idolatry. They, who are the most devoted to the ser. vice of the God of the scriptures, have a perfect abhorrence of idols.*
Secondly. It is said, while some portions of scripture speak of God as absolutely knowing all things, others limit his knowledge. The pas
I have just above spoken of the Persons of the Godhead. There may be some, even among the orthodox, who will object to the use of this word. It seems to be needed, however, to distinguish the sentiments of trinitarians from what has been called the Sa bellian heresy. And I would ask, whether the use of the word is not justified by what we find in the scriptures ? Paul speaks of the person of Christ, and of the person of his Father, of whom he was the express image. 2 Cor. ii. 10. Heb. i. 3. Here, then, we have scripture authority for calling the Father and the Son persons ; why, then, shall we not apply the same word to the Holy Ghost ? Words, which serve to distinguish one man from another, are made use of to distinguish between the Father, and the Son, and the Spirit. Take a few examples: "For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father." Eph. ii. 18." And I, (i. e. The Son,) will pray the Father, and he (i.e. the Father) shall give you another Comforter, that he (i. e. the Holy Ghost) may abide with you forever. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance." John xiv. ]6, 26. " And 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 xv. 26. “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; 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 reprove the world of sin," &c. John xvi. 7, 8.
In these scriptures we perceive that nouns and pronouns denoting distinct personality are applied to ihe three subsistences in the Godhead. We also perceive that personal acts are altributed to each of them. And to prove that there is something answering to personal identity, the three are represented as having each his respective work ; and yet as all acting in perfect concert to accomplish the same grand object, the redemption of lost men. The Son departs to make room for the coming of the Spirit; who, though an omnipotent agent, is said to be sent both by the Father and by the Son. At another time, the Son is said to be led and driven by ihe Spirit. See Matt. iv. 1. Mark i. 12. While the language of these quotations, and of many other passages which might be introduced, naturally leads us to contemplate something in Jehovah answering to distinct personality, there is enough in the scriptures to hold us back from embracing tri-theism, or the doctrine of three distinct and separate deities, whose union is by accident, rather than by nature.
sages which declare his omniscience are numerous, and need not be quoted.
Of those which have been thought to limit his knowledge, I will quote one or two of the most distinguished : “ They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not. “They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind.” Hos. viii. 4. Jer. xix. 5. It requires but a slight attention to these passages, to satisfy any one, that neither of them intimate an intellectual defect in the Most High, or any want of the most perfect knowledge of events past or future. Both of them clearly teach one and the same thing, namely, that the conduct complained of was abhorrent to his feelings, and was therefore done wholly without his approbation. Knowledge is applied to the heart as well as to the understanding; and when it is so applied, it expresses approbation or complacency. In the first Psalm it is said, “ For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous; but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” Here it is manifest, that the Lord's knowledge of the way of the righteous, in distinction from the way of the ungodly, relates to his heart, not to his understanding. The same is true of the passage where Christ is represented as saying to hypocrites, in the day of judgment, " I never knew you."
Thirdly. It is objected, that the scriptures make very discordant representations concerning God's unchangeableness; that while some passages speak of him as always of one mind, and incapable of so much as the shadow of a turning, others represent him as having great changes and frequent turnings. Of those which are thought to belong to the latter class, the following are some of the most prominent : “ And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” “ Then came the word of the Lord unto Samuel, saying, It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king; for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my command. ments." “ And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way, and God repented of the evil that he had said that he would do unto them, and he did it not." Gen. vi. 6. 1 Sam. xv. 10, 11. Jo. nah iii. 10. That these texts present a seeming difficulty, we do not deny; yet I am persuaded that a careful and candid attention to it, will effect its removal. In seeking to obviate the objection, I remark,
Ist. Those passages which inform us that God is always the same, without variableness or shadow of turning, were never designed to impress our minds with the belief, that divine perfection consists in an apathy, which implies a sameness of feeling towards moral objects of a different character. It is essential to the very nature of a holy and benevolent God, that he should take complacence in holy beings, and their consequent happiness, in distinction from taking complacence in the sin and misery of the unholy. The unchangeableness of his character is an eternal security for this uniform difference of feeling towards objects so totally diverse. I proceed to remark,
2dly. That the passages which represent God as being grieved at what has taken place; as repenting of what he has done, and as apparently altering his plans, do not imply, either that his mind has become unhappy; that he wishes he had done otherwise ; or that he
has now struck out a new plan, different from his original calculations,
I have already intimated that this subject requires a distinction to be made between events in themselves considered, and all things considered. To say, that God is well pleased with his whole system of providence, comprehending events of every sort, is to do him honor : but should we hence infer that he is equally pleased with good and evil agents; or that the misery of hell is, in itself, as pleasing and gratifying an object to him as the blessedness of heaven, it would be a high impeachment of his character. Who does not see that we give honor to the God of Israel, when we express our confidence in the wisdom and benevolence of that manifestly concerted scheme of provi. dence, by which he brought his people into Egypt? We may well say, as for this work of God,
perfect. So it was viewed by Joseph. See Gen. xlv. 5–7. And so God himself viewed it. But if, because the scheme, as a whole, was perfect, we were to say, that God must have looked with equal complacency on each individual agent and event, which made a part of it; implying that he must have had the same delight in the envious and murderous brethren, as in the object of their
envy; or that he must have been as much gratified with the anguish of Jacob's heart, when he exclaimed, “ Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces," as when he ssid, “ Joseph my son is yet alive,” we should entirely misrepresent the divine character.
In pointing out the entire difference of feeling which God has towards good and bad characters, also towards the happiness and misery of his creatures, his word is remarkably explicit. If I mistake not, it is the strong expression of this difference of feeling, which is the very thing that has given rise to the objection now before us. In each of the three passages which were introduced at the head of the present objection, as being among the most prominent which are thought to lend it support, repentance is ascribed to God. In one of them he is said to be grieved at his heart; and in all of them is he represented as changing the course of his conduct, in view of changes which were seen to take place in his creatures. Whenever men are said to repent of what they have done, it always implies a change of feeling towards their own character and actions. But since the cha. racter of God is unchangeably good, and all his works are done in wisdom, repentance, when it is attributed to him, however forcibly it may be expressed, must always be understood to refer to to his altered feelings towards the character and conduct of his mutable creatures. While man remained innocent, God had complacency in him; but when he became a rebel, he abhorred the creature which his own hands had formed; and this abhorrence he expressed in very emphatic language, by declaring it repented him that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. Whoever, since man's apostacy, whether our first parents themselves, or any of their sinful posterity, have returned unto the Lord, he has repented of the threatened evil and returned unto them. But does not the repentance which is attributed to him in both these instances, very clearly imply that his holy nature is unchangeably the same ? Man, while innocent, is delighted in—he becomes an apostate, and is abhorred—he returns to allegiance, and again becomes an object of delight. All this while the Holy One maintains immovably the same ground. Man has undergone (according to the statement now made) two very great changes, first from holiness to sin, and then from sin back to holiness. Of consequence, He, whose holiness is without the least shadow of turning, must twice have changed his feelings towards his creature man; first when he turned away from obedience to rebellion, and next when he turned back from rebellion to obedience : and the change in both cases is expressed by repentance, that significant word by which men describe the changes which take place in their own minds.
In addition to what has already been advanced to obviate the objec. tion, I would say.; if matters had been so circumstanced, that the universe could in no way have been benefitted by our apostacy, the Creator must have regretted, even all things considered, that he had made man on the earth; but since it has prepared the way not only for his justice, but also his mercy to be displayed ; and since the display of mercy in the work of redemption, is spoken of in the scriptures as exceeding all other displays of divine glory; and because there would have been no opportunity for this display unless man had been created,