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how one affects the other. It is not within the limits of our understandings to know how two distinct substances, matter and spirit, constitute unity of person. But we know that we have existence, that we have mental exercises; that our bodies and souls are united; and that they constitute but one person. If we cannot comprehend our own existence, it cannot be expected that we can comprehend "the degrees or forms of the Deity."
The divine plurality is not a plurality of nature. If there were a plurality of divine natures, there would be distinct divine beings; there would be a multiplicity of deities. It would be a contradiction to say that several divine natures make but one divine nature; that several Gods make but one God. But it is not a contradiction to say the Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God; and these three
The Creator, by the communication of reason made a partial revelation of himself. All his other revelations are coincident with this; or, at least, they do not militate' against it. In his sacred word he makes known truths, which the utmost efforts of reason could never discover. But he discloses nothing, which contradicts the dictates of this power of the mind. In the works of nature there is mystery. In ourselves there is mystery. It is not surprising then that there should be mystery in the mode of the divine existence. A Trinity in Unity is this mystery.
But this is not the only mystery in the divine nature. God's eternity is above our comprehension While we believe the existence of this attribute, we form no adequate idea of it. We believe the selfexistence of the divine nature. But as we are acquainted with only a series of dependencies, we have no just conception of absolute independence. God hears our supplications. But we understand not how he perceives the voice of prayer without the organ of hearing. He perceives the operations of our
minds. But we understand not how a Spirit is acquainted with the exercises, motives and feelings of other spirits. These are mysteries, and they are probably as far beyond our reach, as the doctrine of Trinity in Unity.
We have not an adequate idea of the plurality in the divine nature. We do not understand that ground of distinction in the Deity, by which one addresses others of the same nature; and all compose but one essence. The scriptures authorize us to believe this ground of distinction, and this bond of Union. But how this is without division and separation of nature, and without confusion of individuality is far beyond our deepest research. Omnipresence is an acknowledged attribute of the Deity. God is in every place. In every part of creation he displays the infinitude of his attributes; and he does this without division or separation of himself. If it be rationally admitted that God is in every place, it is not contrary to rationality that he was in the man Christ Jesus.
Many, by attempting to explain and illustrate the doctrine of divine plurality, have rendered it more obscure; and have given it the appearance of absurdity. Because the divine Being speaks in the three persons, I, thou, he; because distinct offices, works and attributes are attributed to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, it is concluded there is ground in the divine nature for distinct personalities. As we have not distinct ideas of divine plurality, it is impossible to give distinct and appropriate names, which will justly designate the individuality. It is probable, however, that no term in our language would better mark the distinction in the divine nature, than the term person. In our English Testament the word person is once applied to the Father; and several times it is applied to the Son. But in the original they are different words, and of different significations. But neither of them appears primarily to signify person. The original of the word person, applied to the Father signifies
self-existence or distinct substance. When it is applied to the Son, it signifies face or presence. These instances, therefore, afford no argument for the term persons; and as many view the expression, when applied to one God, as a contradiction, it is preferable to adhere as closely as possible to the language of divine inspiration in representing a doctrine so myste
The greatest care needs to be used in the choice of terms to express our ideas of the divine Nature. If we have clear ideas of any truth, we can clearly communicate them. But when we have confused ideas of a doctrine, or no ideas at all, it is in vain to attempt to supply the deficiency by any selection of words. From the inspired writings we have a distinct idea that there is a plurality, a trinity in the divine nature. But when we pursue our inquiries respecting the mode of this three-fold substance, ideas fail and language also fails.
The words plurality and Trinity are not found in the sacred writings. But as the divine name is repeatedly used in the plural number; as the appellations, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are given to the divine Being, it is conceived there is just ground for the use of these terms.
Some have attempted to illustrate this doctrine by comparing it with the union of the human body, soul and spirit; and likewise by comparing it with the three principal faculties of the human mind. These comparisons may go so far, perhaps, as to shew that the doctrine is not contradictory or absurd. But they fall far short of illustrating the doctrine. The human body, soul and spirit have properties peculiar to themselves. What is predicated of one cannot be predicated of the others. Neither do these three constitute one essence. The understanding, will and affections are simple qualities of the mind. They not only sustain different offices in the human intellect, but they are entirely different. Some suppose there is no need of
admitting any distinction in the divine nature; that he, who is the same in all respects, acts in different offices. But the divine law and the nature of the atonement do not admit this illustration.
It is in vain to draw comparisons from the material, or from the intelligent world for the explanation of the doctrine of divine plurality. There may be some points of contact in the comparison; but there is no parallellism between the creature and the Creator. "Who in the Heaven can be compared unto the Lord; who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord?***
The names of
It is worthy of remark, that the same name of plural number, which is applied to God, (b) is also applied to Dagon, the god of the Philistines; to Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Zidonians; and to Moses. Another plural name of God (N) is also applied to individual men. some individual things are expressed by nouns of the plural number. But does this prove that there is either no plurality in the divine Being, or that there is a plurality in human nature, or in particular things? This conclusion would be hardly logical. The first name in the Bible given to God is a noun of plural number. The same name is frequently given to him in the Old Testament. The idolatrous nations, which lived not very remote from the Jews, were un doubtedly acquainted with the name of the God they worshipped. They applied the same plural name to individuals of their deities; and when they applied other names, they sometimes applied them in the plural number. It was natural for them to give a name to their deities as honorable as that, which the Hebrews gave to their God. If there was an appropriate significancy in the plural num. ber, when applied to the true God, it is not incredible that heathen should use the same number in giving names to their idols, designing to equalize them with him; as far as names could do it. Nor is it a striking peculiarity of the Hebrew language, that a name of masculine termination should be given to a goddess. For the Latin Deus and the Greek 80s, are used to signify both god and goddess. Besides, there were many idols of the same name, which justifies the use of the plural number.
The divine name of plural number was given to Moses. I have made thee a God, ns, to Pharaoh. Ex. 7:1. s, the root of this word, signifies, to interpose, intervene, mediate, come or be between, for protection, prevention, &c. (Parkh. Lex.) There was great pertinence in giving a name, from this root, to Moses; because he interposed, intervened, mediated between the king of Egypt and God. As God in plurality interposed in behalf of fallen man for protection and prevention, as the name of God, from this root, was used frequently, if not generally, in the plural number, there was a propriety in applying to Moses this name in the same number. The name was not designed to be sig nificant of the nature of the Hebrew leader, but to express his office and work. A plural name of God is also given to Joseph by his brethren. But reasons similar to the foregoing will justify its application. This style is not peculiar to the Hebrew language. In the English tongue a similar dialect is used. Some of the names of God are applied to men; and the royal style is of plural number. Names of plural number, applied to individual things, are not peculiar to the Hebrew language; nor do they invalidate the argument drawn from the plurality of the divine name. The same usage is known in our own language. Because some of our plural names are applied to singular things, it does not follow that there is not a peculiar significancy in the royal style. Because some Hebrew names of plural number are applied to individual things, it does not follow that
there is not a peculiar significancy in the plural name of God. Besides, those Hebrew plurals, applied to singulars, which have been offered to invalidate the argument of divine plurality, are of such a complex nature, or of such connexion, that they appear to contain or imply a plurality.
In Ps. 45:6, 7, the plural name of God is applied to the Son and to the Father. This, instead of proving that there is a plurality in each, serves to confirm the opinion that there is such a union between them, that the name of one may be applied to the other; and the plural name, embracing the Trinity, may be applied to the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit; for one implies the other. The ancient idolaters in general called the material heavens, or their representatives. And although the heavens are eminently distinguished into fire, light, and spirit, and many actions or operations are immediately performed by one or two of these, yet, as the whole celestial fluid acts jointly, or all its three conditions concur in every effect; hence it is that the ancient heathen called not only the whole heavens, but any one of its three conditions, denoted by a name expressive of some eminent operation it performs, b. For they meant not to deny the joint action of the whole material Trinity, but to give it the glory of that particular attribute." Parkh. Lex. p.120.
nx signifies "a denouncing of a curse, a curse denounced either upon one's self or others, or both, so an oath taken or given." (Parkh. Lex. p. 18.) The plural of this word, applied to God, easily suggests the idea of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, entering into an oath, or covenant between themselves, and denouncing a curse on those, who continue not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. Besides, the Son himself was made a curse. In this view, the plural noun, has peculiar significance and perti