« PreviousContinue »
the others is God. He would not say that there are literally three wills, three sets of affections, three intellects. Whereupon “E. A. H.,” in the Inquirer of April 12, 1877, commented :
Here is the old, futile attempt renewed to make the sent equal with the sender; that which proceeds equal with the source. Compare this trinity with George W. F. Hegel's. The divine nature (or idea) unfolds itself in three forms: (1) Being eternally, in and with itself, the kingdom of the Father; (2) The form of manifestation in physical nature and in the finite spirit, the kingdom of the Son; (3) The Deity in the sphere of the religious community, the kingdom of the spirit. In such a definition there are no quibbles, no self-contradictions. It is philosophic: we recognize lucidity and mental integrity in the premises, though our acceptance may not be given any more to Hegel's trinity than to Mr. Cook's.
“ It is not a definition that I wish to give, but a life,” says the lecturer. Which expression, when probed, means this: I wish to make evident that Christ must be worshipped as God, or else our way is dark. It is the same ground Mr. Beecher has long taken. He says : I cannot know God as he is, but Christ has been revealed that I may have something personal to worship. He is God in that sense, our best idea of Deity; an object for finite grasp to seize. The Unitarian finds no such necessity in his nature: he desires to worship the one living God, and finds it possible. His Scriptures do not direct him to address prayers to Jesus; his idea of the “nature of things” conflicts with any such assignment of rank to him. As a Way, as a Life, as a Guide, he leads to the Father. The Son is but the servant of the Most High, whose will he came to do.
Another modified form of the creed was recently criticised:
Dr. Smyth believes “in one God, existing in three eternal distinctions of being, of absolute moral perfection.” God then exists as three eternal beings who are eternally distinct, which is an unthinkable absurdity. There is not room in the universe for three eternals. - James K. Applebee (The Commonwealth, Oct. 14, 1882).
In the theological controversy at the council of Nicæa, A.D. 325, the only argument recorded is that of Nicholas of Myra, which was literally “a
knock-down argument"; for he gave Arius of Alexandria such a blow in the jaw that this offending member must have been incapacitated for its legitimate functions for a time. His creed, however, was produced and read to the assembly. A storm of disapprobation greeted it, and it was torn in fragments by the opposing party. Another creed, that of Eusebius of Cæsarea, was read, disapproved, and torn in pieces. To read this creed, though Eusebius was himself an Arian, any one would suppose that it might give satisfaction to the most orthodox. It had given satisfaction to the emperor Constantine, who, before the meeting of the council, had leaned undisguisedly to the Arian side; but the very fact that this creed was satisfactory to the Arians insured its condemnation by the opposite party. What this party wanted was a creed that Arius could not accept; and it was furnished them, or, at least, its crucial word, by one of the Arian party, Eusebius of Nicomedia, who declared that “to assert the Son to be uncreated would be to say that he was homdöusiun,- that is, of one substance with the Father." Great was the excitement caused by this letter. It was torn in pieces, as the obnoxious creeds had been before it; and then a creed was fashioned by the Athanasian party, in which the word “homoöusian” was embodied. So hateful to the Arians, it was just the word the Athanasians wanted. The creed, so far as it concerned the nature of Christ, affirmed belief in “onę Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father; only begotten, that is to say, of the substance of the Father; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Fathez, by whom all things were made,” etc.
At once, the emperor threw himself with his whole weight on the side of this statement. What he wanted was unanimity, and he cared little how it was gained. To Eusebius, he privately confessed that he understood homoöusian to mean homoiöusian, “of the same substance" to mean “of like substance,” and advised Eusebius to sign, with this private understanding! All of the Arian bishops, except some five or six, proved their subserviency and duplicity by following his example. Constantine, determined to do nothing by halves, issued a decree of banishment against all who refused to sign the creed, denounced Arius and his disciples as impious, and ordered that he and his disciples should be called Porphyrians, and his books burned, under penalty of death to any one who perused them.-J.W. Chadwick (The Man Jesus, p. 252).
Some of the principal "technical and theological distinctions” to which Dr. Clarke above referred are thus presented by Bishop Hans Lassen Martensen:
When we say that God knows himself as a Father, we say that he knows himself as the ground of the heavenly universe which proceeds eternally forth from him, solely because he knows himself as the ground of his own outgoing into this universe, in which he hypostatizes himself as Logos. When we say that God knows himself as Son, we say, God knows himself as the one who from eternity proceeded forth from his own fatherly ground, he knows himself as the deuteros theos, who objectively reveals the fulness wrapped up in the Father. Without the Son, the Father could not say to himself I; for the form of the Ego, without an objective something different from the Ego (a non-Ego, a Thou) in relation to which it can grasp itself as Ego, is inconceivable. What the outward world, what nature, what other persons are for us, to wit, the condition of our own self-consciousness, the Son and the objective world which arises before the Father in and through (dia) the Son are for the Father,to wit, the condition of his own identity.
But, if the inner revelation were terminated in the Son, God would be manifest to himself merely according to the necessity of his nature and thought, not according to the freedom of his will. It would be merely in intellectual contemplation that God would stand related to the heavenly world, which, by a necessity of nature, proceeds forth from him in the birth of the Son; but he would not stand to it in the relation of a free formative cause. It is only because the relation of God to his world is that of a freely working, moulding, creating agent, as well as that of a natural logical necessity, that he constitutes himself its Lord. If, then, the “birth" of the Son out of the essence of the Father denotes the momentum of necessity, the “procession” of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son denotes the momentum of freedom in the inner revelation. The Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, as the third hypostasis, whose work it is to transform and glorify the necessary subject of thought into the free act of the will, and to mould the eternal kingdom of ideas into a kingdom of inner creations of free conceptions. The fatherly plērāma which is revealed in the Son as a kingdom of ideas, of a necessity proceeding out of the depths of his being, is glorified by the free artistic action of the Spirit into an inner kingdom of glory (doxa), in which the eternal possibilities are present before the face of God as magical realities, as a heavenly host of visions, of plastic architypes, for a revelation ad extra, to which they desire, as it were, to be sent forth. Only on the basis of such a free procession of the Spirit, which is at the same time a free retrocession, can the relation between the Father and the Son be one of love. In the Spirit alone is the relation of God to himself and his inner world, not merely a metaphysical relation, a relation of natural necessity, but a free, an ethical relation. But, notwithstanding that the Spirit is a distinct hypostasis, perfecting, completing momentum in the Godhead, the entire Trinity must also be designated Spirit
. “God is a Spirit,” says Christ; and this is the comprehensive designation of the Trinitarian God.
There are, therefore, three eternal acts of consciousness; and the entire divine Ego is in each of these three acts. Each hypostasis has being solely through the other two. Here there is no temporal first or last. The entire Trinity stands in one present Now, three eternal flames in the one light. — Christian Dogmatics, S 56 (Urwick's Translation).*
Many, however, who are apprehensive of "wading in pursuit of abstractions too far out from terra-firma concretions for
But see Dr. Matthew Arnold's God and the Bible, chap. ii., “The God of Metaphysics." Also Letters to a Trinitarian, by George Also Letters of B. F. Barrett to Rev. H. W. Beecher on the Divine Trinity. Also Discussion of the Doctrine of the Trinity, by Luther Lee and Samuel J. May
logical safety,” fain content themselves with the reflection of H. B. Thoreau:
I had but few companions on the shore;
converse with many a shipwrecked crew. All of which suggests the utterance of Thoreau's friend, who also would 6 see the natural before the supernatural”:
Above all men do I bow myself before that august personage, Jesus of Nazareth, who seems to have had the strength of man and the softness of woman,— man's mighty, wide, grasping, reasoning, calculating, and poetic mind; and woman's conscience, woman's hiart, and woman's faith in God. He is my best historic ideal of human greatness; not without errors nor....- Theodore Parker.
And also that of another “Concord philosopher”:
Always put the best interpretation on a tenet. Why not on Christianity, wholesome, sweet, and poetic? It is the record of a pure and holy soul, humble, absolutely disinterested, a truth-speaker, and bent on serving, teaching, and uplifting men. Christianity taught the capacity, the element, to love the All-perfect without a stingy bargain for personal happiness. · It taught that to love him was happiness,to love him in others' virtues. An era in human history is the life of Jesus; and the immense influence for god leaves all the perversion and superstition almost harmless. Mankind have been subdued to the acceptance of his doctrine, and cannot spare the benefit of so pure a servant of truth and love. Of course, a hero so attractive to the hearts of millions drew the hypocrite and the ambitious into his train, and they used his name to falsify his history and undo his work. Ralph Waldo Emerson, (Unitarian Review January, 1880).
After all such conflict of opinion, how sweetly soothing are Emerson's wise words ! Not always is the yearning vain :
How might her reconciling notes
Have symphonized earth's din,
Luella Clark. CHAPTER XI.
What Threefold Classification of Men's Views of God and the
Expression of Jesus, “Our Father" ? (1) The anthropomorphic, or extreme personal; (2) the atheistic, or extreme impersonal; (3) the empiric or ideal. Dr. Hedge, in his chapter on “The Natural History of Theism,” after tracing the idea of God in the way of natural religion through the several stages of fetichism, astrolatry, impersonation of physical forces, and theanthropism,— God as terrestrial creature, God as celestial radiance, God as personified elemental power, and God as man,- adds :
God reveals himself not by sensible apparition, but by his witness in the soul. That testimony first heard by elect individuals,-meditative men, like Abraham, Zoroaster, Moses, Jesus,- and declared by them, becomes what we call a "revelation.” or divine dispensation of religion. Monotheism comes not by the way of natural religion, seeking God without and fusing its many gods into one, but by reflection, seeking God within; and the difference between natural and revealed religion consists in this, that in the former the religious sentiment is turned outward, in the latter inward. ... It finds in the dictates of the moral sense, in imperative warnings and obligations, in the consciousness of spiritual wants and aspirations, a God unknown to natural religion,-a God who is not mere power and intelligence and commanding will, but goodness, holiness, truth, love. These constitute the God of moral intuition,-a God self-evident and one in the double sense of onliness and unity. The very idea of such a God excludes multitude. There can be but one absolute Good. Hence, revealed religion is necessarily monotheistic. . . . Inward and ever inward is the way to God.- Dr. F. H. Hedge (Ways of the Spirit, p. 140).
Dr. Matthew Arnold traces the word “God” back to a root signifying “ brilliance." His favorite designation is "the power not ourselves that works for righteousness." * M. D. Conway
* God and the Bible, passim.