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The above is from a work of Novatian, written expressly to explain and defend the doctrine of the trinity.
These passages, it is to be recollected, are merely specimens. A great number of others equally explicit may be and have been produced from the same writers, and from the other Antenicene Fathers.
The want of orthodoxy in these writers was early perceived, and sometimes complained of, and sometimes excused by their successors, and sometimes attributed to Arian interpolation. Various passages to this purpose are produced by Whitby. Dr. Priestley, in saying that the orthodoxy of Novatian has never been questioned, * must be understood as meaning, that it never has been questioned that he was among the orthodox of his time. Jerom, about a century after he wrote,called his work on the trinity, a book of heresy. The orthodoxy of Novatian however is defended by Bishop Bull, who brings from him the clearest testimonies, luculentissima testimonia, of his correct belief; and gets into no small passion with Petavius, for his intolerable wickedness, in perverting the meaning of such a well disposed writer.t Testimonies equally satisfactory Bishop Bull produces from the other Antenicene Fathers.
With regard then to the notions of the early Fathers respecting the doctrine of the trinity, there are four opinions:
1. That of some of the orthodox, like Bishop Bull and Dr. Horsley; who in opposition to the plainest language, and the most explicit declarations, claim their support in favor of the present orthodox doctrine of the trinity.
This is not extraor
Inde deniq; et ante carnis assumptionem, sed et post assumptionem corporis, post ipsam præterea resurrectionem, omnem Patri in omnibus obe. dientiam præstitit, pariter et præstat. Ex quo probatur nunquam arbitratum illum esse rapinam quandam Divinitatem, ut æquaret se Deo Patri; quin immo ipsius imperio et voluntati obediens, atq; subjectus; ut formam servi susciperet, contentus fuit." Lib. de regula Fidei, sive de trinitate, co xxii. p. 176. edit. Jackson.
• Hist. of Earl. Opp. B. ü. c. 4.
† Profecto minime toleranda est Petavii Jesuitæ in veteres scriptores iniquitas, ita passim sana et catholica illorum dicta, contra manifestam ipsorum mentem et sententiam, in sensus alienos et hæreticos detorquentis. Def. Fid. Nic. sec. i cap. 10. $ 5.
dinary, as the same persons of course claim the support of the + scriptures, and there is certainly nothing in the writings of these
Fathers, more plain or explicit, in opposition to their doctrine, than there is in the scriptures.
2. That of others of the orthodox, like Petavius, Huetius, and Brucker, who maintain that these Fathers corrupted the true doctrine, which they had received from the apostles, by the use of Platonic language and the intermixture of Platonic notions.
3. That of the Arians, who maintain that these Fathers held, generally speaking, the true doctrine; and who correctly, in many respects, claim the support of their authority; particularly in regard to the inferiority of the Son to the Father; but who differ from them in other respects, especially in believing the Son to have been created out of nothing.
And 4. That of the unitarians (as they have been distinctively called), or of those who think with Dr. Priestley, who believe that in the doctrine of the trinity, as it was held by the Antenicene Fathers, explained by them in Platonic language, and defended by Platonic arguments, they perceive the commencement of a corruption introduced from the Platonic philosophy, which afterward grew to a more formidable size; but which at first had to contend with the established and universal belief of Christians, the supremacy of One God.
Which of these opinions is the most probable may be determined in some degree from the preceding statements, in the present and in foriner numbers, respecting the controversy between Dr. Priestley and his opponents. But whichever of the ihree last mentioned opinions any one may adopt, I think that if he come to the examination with a tolerable share of fairness of mind, he will leave it with the conviction, that few historical facts can be belter established, than THAT THE DOCTRINE OF THE EARLY FATHERS, RESPECTING THE TRINITY, WAS VERY DIFFERENT FROM THE PRESENT ORTHODOX DOCTRINE, AND THAT THEY MAINTAINED A DECIDED AND GREAT INFERITY OF THE ON TO THE FATHER.
I have thus gone through with the principal points in the controversy, of which I have undertaken to give an account. I No. 1. Vol. III.
have sometimes endeavoured to illustrate its subjects by other matter than had been previously adduced. It is perhaps the most important controversy in a religious and literary view, which has engaged the attention of the present age; and it is one whose results have, from very obvious causes, been most grossly misrepresented.
Some statements of inferior importance remain to be made, which will occupy another number.
(To be continued.)
ON ISAIAH IX. 6.
For unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given; and the gov.
ernment shall be upon his shoulder. And his name shall be called WONDERFUL, COUNSELLOR, THE MIchtr God, The
EVERLASTING FATHER, THE PRINCE OF Peace. The prophecy contained in this verse of Isaiah has been admitted by the generality of Christians to be descriptive of the character of the Messiah. Some indeed, who hold to a double sense of prophecy, make it relate, in its primary sense, to Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz, whose history is given 2 Kings xviii. and to the Messiah, in its secondary and spiritual sense. On either supposition, the several titles here enumerated are snpposed to consist with the character of Jesus Christ. It is proposed briefly to consider their several imports, and to show in what manner they agree with what we deem to be the true character of our Saviour. The received English version evidently favors the idea of his being God; since some of the titles would seem to be applicable only to tħe one living and true God. But it is believed that from an examination of the original, and a comparison of the ancient versions, such a conclusion will be found to be unauthorised, and that some of the titles, or names of the Messiah, have been wrongly translated. There is little difficulty in understanding the application of the two former epithets-Wonderful and Counsellor. They are some times taken in connexion, and are then rendered a Wonderful Counsellor, or Wonderful in Counsel. Thus the Targum of Jon-.
athan, the version of Theodotion, the Arabic, and several modern versions have rendered it by terms equivalent to-A Wonderful Counsellor.
When considered separately, the first is applicable to the Messiah, for the mighty deeds and wonders which he was enabled to perform, as proofs of his divine mission.* And the second for the wisdom and benevolence of his counsels and precepts to mankind-since he was commissioned to publish to them the counsels of God, respecting the attainment of immortality and happiness and since he was in the bosom of the Father, admitted to a knowledge of the secret things concerning the redemption of the world.
The two following titles are those, which it may be conceived are applicable to Christ, only as he is the Eternal Jehovah. The first our translators have rendered the Mighty God, and, by affixing the article the, have confined its application to the one Supreme God. Had it been rendered a Mighty God, or Mighty God, (and there is nothing to justify the other rendering,) its application would not have been so restricted; since in the Jewish scriptures the term god is applied to angels, judges, magistrates, and prophets. The term then is applied to human beings in *consequence of their possessing superior power and authority. Why then should it be thought strange, that this title should be conferred on the Saviour of mankind? If those be called gods
• “Ob summas quæ in eo erant virtutes.” Le Clerc.
† Grotius connects per with the two following terms, and renders the passage by Consultor of the Mighty God; (Consultator Dei Fortis,) that is, one who in all his actions looked up to God for aid and counsel. Me contends that the original word, you may signify either one who takes or one who gives counsel, as the theme, yyt is acknowledged to be capable of an active or påssive signification. But as pont most frequently signifies one who gives Counsel, and as this rendering is perfectly consistent wirh the character of the Messiah, on whom rested the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of Counsel and might, (Isaiah xi. 2.) it is conceived that it ought to be so understood in this place.
# See Ps. scvii. 7. Ixxxii, 1, 6. cxxxviii. 1. 1 Sam. xxvüj. 13. and nume. rous other places. The word, which in Exod. xxi. 6. xxii. 8, 9. and in other places is rendered 'judges,' is the same which is commonly translated "God' or "gods," as it is in one of the chapters just mentioned:Exod. xxii. 28.
unto whom the word of God came, * shall not he, whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world, unto whom was committed authority to execute judgment, unto whom was given a name above every name, and who, in reward of his obedience, was exalted above all principalities and powers, be digni. fied with this high title? This might be said, and this, we think, would be quite satisfactory, supposing our present translation, 'mighty god,' correct except as regards the insertion of the article, the. But this is not all;--we believe ourselves justified in separating the terms 5x, ; (God, Mighty:) making them two distinct titles of the Messiah. This is done in conformity to the ancient versions, excepting the Syriac and Arabic. We learn too from several of them, that by the term 5x they imagined nothing more was expressed than great power, which they accordingly render by a term equivalent to powerful, or a potentate, that is, one possessed of power, which may be either inherent or delegated. Whether then we take the terms maia X in connexion, and render them a Mighty God; that is, agreeably to the Hebrew idiom, one possessed of power and dominion, a character acknowledged to belong to the Messiah, to whom was delegated all power in heaven and on earth or whether, with the ancient versions, we make them twodistinctepithets, and render thetn by the terms mighty, a potentate, (soryuges, nousns:) in either case they afford no argument in proof of our Saviour's divinity.
The following title (17 2x) is rendered in the received Engfish version the Everlasting Father. We have no doubt that this title has contributed to increase the general trinitarian effect of the passage; yet what ideas any trinitarians have affixed to it, when applied to the second person in the trinity, it would be difficult to decide. They certainly cannot apply it in its most obvious sense, for though they hold that the Son is God, they have never maintained that the Son is the Father. Yet such, it would seem, was the obvious import of the terms of our translation. But what ideas were attached to our present translation by the authors of it, or how any have considered the
See John x. 35. where our Saviour himself condescends to prove to the Jews, the propriety of his assuming the title of Son of God.