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clearly understood. Witness the shocking language which ushers in the Athanasian Creed. "Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic faith; which faith, except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly." And again, at the end of this famous symbol. "This is the Catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved." Hence, if a rational consideration of this dogma of the trinity should raise the slightest doubt of its truth in the mind of an inquirer, the creed has fixed on him the sentence of eternal reprobation for his temerity. Well may we ask; if this doctrine of the trinity be so sublime and so ineffable a mystery, that it revolts at all scrutiny and investigation, why should the Apostle command us to "prove all things, and hold fast that which is good?"
Concerning every subject, which comes under our inquiry, two questions may be asked. First, whether there be such a thing? And, secondly, in what manner it exists? The first question is the foundation of the second, and is the first to be answered. For if a thing do not exist, if it be only a figment of the imagination, it is idle to ask in what manner it exists. Now there are innumerable things, which every one knows to exist, but the manner of whose existence is not comprehensible by the human faculties. Whatever is known, is not a mystery. Whatever is concealed and unknown, is a mystery, and will remain such, till it shall be discovered, either by inquiry, reflection, or a revelation from God.
The omniscience of the Deity, for example, is no mystery. It is a truth perfectly well known both from
the Scriptures, and from the light of reason. But in what manner God knows all things; by what means he is able to penetrate the hearts of men, to become acquainted with their most secret thoughts, and to retain in his recollection all the events, which have happened from the foundation of the world; this is a kind of knowledge far above the grasp of the human mind, while in its present mortal state. Moreover, that God created the heavens and the earth is no mystery, for it is plain to every understanding. But how God created the world, how his simple command and the breath of his mouth should be clothed with such power, as to call into being the works of wonder, and beauty, and majesty, which speak of his greatness and wisdom; this is indeed a mystery to us, and must always be a mystery, till our knowledge shall be enlarged from more celestial fountains.
In this sense nature is full of mysteries. That a tree germinates in a small seed, and springs out of the earth, and grows in height and strength, is a fact of which we every day have occular proof, and therefore it is no mystery. But how the seminal principle operates, how the fibres draw nourishment from the surrounding soil, how the roots, the stalk, the branches, leaves, and fruit, are produced and supported; these things we have no power to explore or discern. They are a mystery. And so is every thing in nature of which we know nothing.
In regard to the trinity, as well as to other subjects of inquiry, the two questions may be asked; whether there be such a doctrine? And in what manner it is to be understood? Now as to the first question, that is, whether there actually be a trinity in God, no one cer
tainly can call this a mystery, who professes to know it, and to inculcate and teach it to others. A mystery is a thing of which we are ignorant; but truly they who boast of finding this doctrine in the Scriptures, will not speak of its being a mystery, since, if it be there, all men may know it, who read the Scriptures and believe in them. To them, indeed, who do not yet know that there is a trinity, this doctrine must be a mystery. There can be no reason why such should be prohibited from inquiring whether there be such a doctrine or not. Are they to be frightened from an investigation of truth, because they are told that the thing they search after is an inscrutable mystery?
If the trinity be no longer a mystery to those, who know and believe this doctrine, it is their duty so to behave towards others, from whom they require a similar knowledge and faith, that it may no longer be a mystery, but that they may have the same clear and indubitable knowledge of its truth. That is, they ought to use all proper, modes of instruction, and not think to force their dogma on the minds of men without proof, but to convince them by solid and irrefragable arguments, and to refute their objections by sound and sober reasoning.
Furthermore, if any person be fully convinced, or if the truth of a thing be demonstrated to him by arguments so strong, that objections have no weight, he is nevertheless not prohibited from further investigation, nor from inquiring, when the subject is within his comprehension, in what manner this thing exists. On the contrary, he is worthy of the highest praise for thus attempting to enlarge the bounds of his knowledge But if he declines inquiring further, he must be con
tented with knowing that the thing exists, although he may be ignorant of the manner. Thus we are satisfied with knowing, that God is omniscient, that he created the world, and that large trees grow from small seeds, although in what manner these things are done, we can never understand in this life. If any one pretends, that it is sufficient reason for doubting the truth of a thing, because he does not understand its mode, or its manner of existence, even when he might be convinced by attending to proper evidence, it may justly be said, that what he does not understand is a mystery to him; but his ignorance affords no ground for denying the truth of a thing itself, which may be established by certain and invincible arguments.
Some person may say, perhaps, that they, who refuse assent to the trinity, not only demand whether there be such a doctrine, but require its manner of being to be explained; and that, when they cannot be satisfied on the second point, they doubt the first, and deny the truth of the doctrine, because they do not understand its mode. But this is not correct. The opposers of the trinity demand no more, than that the first question should be answered. Convince them, that there is actually such a thing as a trinity, and all their doubts and objections will be removed. And here they mean by the trinity no other, than that particular doctrine, which its advocates assert, propagate, and profess to understand.
They do not, for example, request to be informed whether there be a Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Of this position no christian doubts.
kind of trinity, which the modern
Nor is this the
defenders of the
doctrine set forth. The questions, which the opposers of the trinity wish to have solved, are, whether the Supreme God is one in essence, and three in persons? Whether the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods, but one God? Whether the Most High descended from heaven, as the second person of the trinity, and took upon himself the nature of man? These dogmas, and many others equally strange and difficult, are daily urged upon us.
To inquire whether these things are so, whether they afford a true representation of the Deity, is very far from being an improper exercise. No lover of truth would account this inquiry a crime, any more than he would account it a crime in one of the learned ancients, who believed the world to be eternal, as Aristotle, Pliny, and others, for inquiring whether it might not be true, that God created the world in time. Besides, if there be any fault in this particular, it is on the side of trinitarians themselves. They not only tell us, that God is one and three at the same time, but they undertake to explain the mode of this triune nature. Thus they pry into the very depths of what they call an inscrutable mystery. When they say,
that God is one in essence, and three in persons, what is this but developing the modes of the trinity? And again, you will find them describing, with as much minuteness as temerity, all the circumstances and particulars of the eternal generation of the Son from the essence of the Father, and explaining in what manner the Father produced the Son after a certain pattern formed in his mind by contemplating himself. With