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heretics (d); and as every one knows that neither the divinity of the Father, nor the unity of the Godhead, was ever called in question at any period, it follows that the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity has been in substance, in all its constituent parts, always known among Christians. In the fourth century it became the subject of eager and general controversy; and it was not till then that this doctrine was particularly discussed. While there was no denial or dispute, proof and defence were unnecessary: Nunquid enim perfecte de Trinitate tractatum est, antequam oblatrarent Ariani (e)?" But this doctrine is positively mentioned as being admitted among catholic Christians, by writers who lived long before that age of controversy. Justin Martyr, in refuting the charge of Atheism urged against Christians, because they did not believe in the gods of the heathen, expressly says, "We worship and adore the Father, and the Son, who came from him and taught us these things, and the prophetic Spirit (f);" and soon after, in the same Apology, he undertakes
(d) Vide Letters between Dr. Horsley and Dr. Priestley, Dr. Knowles's Primitive Christianity, and Wilson's Illustration of the Method of Explaining the New Testament by the early opinions of Jews and Christians concerning Christ.
(f) Just. Mart. edit. Par. 1636, page 56.
takes to shew the reasonableness of the honour paid by Christians to the Father in the first place, to the Son in the second, and to the Holy Ghost in the third, and says, that their assigning the second place to a crucified man, was, by unbelievers, denominated madness, because they were ignorant of the mystery, which he then proceeds to explain (g). Athenagoras, in replying to the same charge of Atheism urged against Christians, because they refused to worship the false gods of the heathen, says, "Who would not wonder, when he knows that we, who call upon God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, shewing their power in the unity, and their distinction in order, should be called Atheists (h)?" Clement of Alexandria, not only mentions three divine persons, but invokes them as one only God. Praxeas, Sabellius (i), and other unitarians,
(g) Page 60.
(h) Athenag. ad Colum. Just. Mart. p. 11. edit. Par. 1615.
(i) Praxeas and Sabellius taught an unity of persons as well as of substance, supposing that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, were only different terms for the same person, which led to the heresy of the Patripassians, who affirmed, that the Father was incarnate, and suffered upon the cross. It is curious to observe the contrast which the antient Ebionites and the modern Socinians form to these opinions. Praxeas lived in the second, and Sabellius in the third century.
[PART III. unitarians, accused the orthodox Christians of tritheism, which is of itself a clear proof that the orthodox worshipped the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and though in reality they considered these three persons as constituting the one true God, it is obvious that their enemies might easily represent that worship as an acknowledgment of three Gods. Tertullian, in writing against Praxeas, maintains, that "A Trinity rationally conceived, is consistent with truth; and that unity irrationally conceived, forms heresy." He had before said, in speaking of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, that "there are three of one substance, and of one condition, and of one power, because there is one God:' and he afterwards adds, "The connection of the Father in the Son, and of the Son in the Comforter, makes three united together, the one with the other; which three are one thing, not one person; as it is said, I and the Father are one thing, with regard to the unity of substance, not to the singularity of number:" and he also expressly says, "The Father is God, and the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God;" and again, "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, believed to be three, constitute one God." And in another part of his works he says, "There is a Trinity of one Divinity, the Father, and the Son, and
and the Holy Ghost." And Tertullian not only maintains these doctrines, but asserts that they were prior to any heresy, and had indeed been the faith of Christians from the first promulgation of the Gospel (k). To these writers of the second century we may add Origen and Cyprian in the third; the former of whom mentions Baptism (alluding to its appointed form) as the
(k) These passages, from this most antient of the Latin fathers, appear to me so important, that I am tempted to transcribe the words of the original: Duos et tres (deos) jam jactitant a nobis prædicari; se vero unius Dei cultores præsumunt: quasi non et Unitas, irrationaliter collecta, hæresim faciat; et Trinitas, rationaliter expensa, veritatem constituat. Adv. Prax. cap. 2. Tres unius substantiæ, et unius statûs et unius potentiæ, quia unus Deus. cap. 2.-Connexus Patris in Filio, et Filii in Paracleto, tres afficit cohærentes, alterum ex altero: qui tres unum sunt, non unus ; quomodo dictum est, Ego et Pater unum sumus, ad substantiæ unitatem, non ad numeri singularitatem. cap. 16.-Pater est Deus omnipotens, Filius est suo jure Deus omnipotens. cap. 12.-Spiritus Deus est. cap. 16.-Pater, et Filius, et Spiritus, tres crediti, unum Deum sistunt. cap. 21.-Trinitas est unius Divinitatis, Pater, et Filius, et Spiritus Sanctus. De Pud, cap. 20. Hanc regulam ab initio Evangelii decucurrisse, etiam ante priores quosque hæreticos, nedum ante Praxean hesternum, probabit tam ipsa posteritas omnium hæreticorum, quam ipsa novellitas Praxeæ hesterni. Adv. Prax.
"source and fountain of graces to him who dedicates himself to the divinity of the adorable Trinity (1)." And the latter, after reciting the same form of Baptism, says, that "by it Christ delivered the doctrine of the Trinity, unto which mystery or sacrament the nations were to be baptised."
It would be easy to multiply quotations upon this subject; but these are amply sufficient to shew the opinions of the early fathers, and to refute the assertion that the doctrine of the Trinity was an invention of the fourth century.
To these positive testimonies I will subjoin a negative argument: those who acknowledged the divinity of Christ and of the Holy Ghost, are never called heretics by any writer of the first three centuries; and this circumstance is surely a strong proof that the doctrine of the Trinity was the doctrine of the primitive church; more especially, since the names of those, who first denied the divinity of Christ and of the Holy Ghost, are transmitted to us as of persons who dissented from the common faith of Christians.
But, while we contend that the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity is founded in Scripture, and supported
(1) Orig. Tom. 6. in Rom.