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being thought partizans in favor of Colonization on the one hand, or immediate unlimited emancipation on the other.
In bringing this article to a close, we subjoin a brief analysis of the work under review. After the introductory essay, it is divided into four parts, the first containing an historical sketch of the Society and its several committees; the second, brief notices of those members of the Society, who have gone as missionaries to foreign lands or to the American Indians; the third, the correspondence of the Society with the Rev. Dr. Burder, of England, and the most distinguished foreign missionaries who have been connected with it, and the fourth, dissertations on various important subjects, read before the Society. The Appendix gives an account of the Constitution and By-laws of the Society, a Catalogue of its menubers, a notice of its Library and books published, and a description of its Museum. Parts III and IV, contain a variety of interesting and useful matter. The subjects of the correspondence and dissertations are practical and important. They are also atly treated.
We will only add that we wish for this volume a rapid and general circulation through our country. It is an appropriate manual for the parlor of every Christian family. Its influence in quickening a spirit of Missions, will, we doubt not, be considerable.
UNITARIAN TRACT, No. 18. "The evidence necessary to
establish the doctrine of the Trinity.'
This Pamphlet is from the pen of the late Rev. Samuel Cooper Thatcher of Boston, and has been twice published, previous to its appearance as a Tract.* The argument of the writet may be stated in few words.
“ There is,” says he, a priori, a strong presumption against any proposition which apparently interferes with the doctrine of the unity of God." “The doctrine of the Trinity is apparently inconsistent with the unity of God." Hence there is a very high probability, a strong previous presumption,” that the doctrine of the Trinity “will not be found” in the Scriptures. "A student of the Bible is bound to take it for granted that it is not there, till it is proved that it undoubtedly is; he must conclude it to be false, * In the Appendix to the American Edition of Yates' Reply to Wardlaw; and at the
; end of the volume of Mr. Thatcher's Sermons, printed after bis death.
till it is fully and clearly demonstrated to be true. Every thing must be presumed against its evidence, and nothing in its favor. It will prove nothing for such a doctrine, that passages can be produced, which may possibly mean something like it, unless it can be unequivocally shown, that they cannot possibly mean any thing else."
This reasoning, it will be seen, has no connexion with the Scriptures, except as it is intended to prepare the mind for the study of them. And the amount of it is, that we must come to the Bible with “a strong presumption" that the doctrine of the Trinity is not there. We must come to the Bible under the impression, that this doctrine contradicts some of the plainest principles of the religion of nature—that it is incredible and absurd-and that nothing but a frequency and force of Scripture declaration which “cannot possibly mean any thing else, " shall ever induce us to embrace it.
This, then, we are authorized to say, is the manner in which Unitarians read and study the Bible, and in which they recommend the study of it to others. Instead of going to the sacred word without bias, without prejudice, and for the simple childlike purpose of learning and receiving whatever the Lord our God shall say ; it is here gravely inculcated, that we should go to the Scriptures with a fixed prejudice against certain doctrines-with "a strong presumption" that they are not true, and of course not revealed-and with a determination not to discover or embrace them, if we can possibly avoid it. No passages shall convince us of the truth of these doctrines, i unless it can be unequivocally shown, that they cannot possibly mean any thing else."
But coming to the Bible with these “strong presumptions" and inveterate partialities, is it strange that Unitarians do not perceive in it the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel? Is it strange that they can torture it to speak a language conformable to their own prejudices and wishes? Plain language presents no obstacle in the way of such interpreters. Studying the Bible in this way, they may be Unitarians or Universalists, or any thing else, just as their prepossessions lead.
But to return to the argument of the Tract: This argument assumes, in the first place, that the unity of God is so palpably, undeniably evident from nature, that "there is a strong presumption against any proposition" which so much as appears to interfere with it. But is this true? Is it confirmed by observation and facts? The fact is, that nearly all those, in past and present times, who have been left to the mere light of nature, have been the worshippers of many gods. And it is also
a fact, that not a few under the Gospel have doubted whether the unity of God can be so much as proved from the light of nature. The a priori argument,' say they, has puzzled more than ever it convinced; and the argument a posteriori proves little more than unity of design, without determining whether this is the design of an individual Being, or of several united and perfectly harmonious Beings?
We believe most assuredly in the unity of God; but we embrace this doctrine, not so much on the ground of evidence derived from nature, as on the firmer ground of revelation. God has told us, in his word, that he is one-a declaration which perfectly harmonizes with the voice of nature, though nature alone might never have proclaimed it in a way to remove the doubts and the scruples of men.
God has told us that lie is one ; and it is chiefly on the ground of this repeated and unequivocal declaration, that we embrace, with full assurance, the important doctrine of the Divine unity.
But if the Christian embraces the unity of God on the authority rather of revelation, than of reason and nature, then how can reason authorize such strong controlling presumptions in favor of this doctrine, as are supposed in the argument before us ; --presumptions which are to go with us to the word of God, and prejudice our minds in judging of its contents? How can mere reason authorize us to suspect and call in question every doctrine of the Bible which so much as appears to contradict the Divine unity, and to explain away, if possible, every passage, which seems at all to interfere with this doctrine ?
But it is important to inquire, in the second place, whether the doctrine of the Trinity is apparently inconsistent with the unity of God. The affirmative of this inquiry is assumed in the Tract before us; but certainly it should not have been. It is a point which requires, and before being adınitted must receive, substantial proof.-Of course, the doctrine of the Trinity can be so exhibited (and so it commonly is by Unitarians) as to appear inconsistent with the unity of God. But thus set forth, it is not the real doctrine of the Trinity, as taught in the Bible, and as received by Evangelical Christiaus, but quite another thing—a mere figment of Unitarian prejudice and fancy. If the doctrine of the Trinity is not really inconsistent with the unity of God (and the author of the Tract does not affirm that it is) then, if properly stated and explained, it cannot appear to be inconsistent with it,-unless it appear different from the reality. And to suppose it to appear diferent from the reality, is to suppose it to lack a proper statement and explanation.
But we go further than this, and say, that the doctrine of the Trinity, instead of being inconsistent, really or apparently, with the Divine unity, necessarily includes it. It is as much a part of the doctrine of the Trinity, that God is in some sense one, as that he is in some other sense three. He exists in a threefold distinction of persons, but is one God. ever believed in the doctrine of the Trinity, who did not believe in the Divine unity; and from the nature of the case, none ever can. Persons may be Tritheists or Polytheists, if they will; but Trinitarians they cannot be, without believing in the essential unity of the Supreme Being.
What then becomes of the argument in the Tract before us? The premises obviously are gone; and the conclusion must go with them. Nature, we have seen, is not so full and unequivocal in teaching the unity of God, as to stamp with absurdity every proposition which may appear to interfere with this doctrine; and neither does the doctrine of the Trinity, properly explained, appear to interfere with it at all. So far from this, the doctrine of the Trinity necessarily includes that of the Divine unity. The former doctrine cannot be held or retained, if the latter is discarded.
What then becomes of the “strong presumption” against the doctrine of the Trinity, with which, it is pretended, every person ought to study the Scriptures, on account of its apparent interference with the unity of God? It vanishes at once. There is no imaginable ground for it
, and it disappears. We have remarked already on the influence of such a presumption or prejudice, as is gravely inculcated in this Tract, on the study of the sacred Scriptures. It will lead the student rather to attempt to guide the Bible, than to suffer the Bible to guide him.
It will lead him to decide rather what the Bible ought to say, than what it does say. It will lead him to prove or disprove almost any thing from the Bible, as his heart or his fancy may suggest.
In regard to the subject of the Trinity, we have seen that there is no ground for indulging a controlling prejudice one way or the other; but persons should go to the Scriptures for instrucLion with perfectly unbiassed minds. They should go with a childlike readiness to hear and receive whatever the Lord has been pleased to reveal. They should go with the honest purpose of ascertaining the plain meaning of the inspired word, and of embracing it, when discovered, with the whole heart.
Let any intelligent inquirer go to the Bible with this feeling, and in this manner, and we have no fear as to the result of his investigations. It is these "strong presumptions" against the
Trinity-which bias the understanding, and warp the judgment, and unfit it to appreciate the force of evidence—which make men Unitarians, and which keep them so. And it is, doubtless, because these presumptions against the Trinity are felt to be necessary, that they are so earnestly recommended. If this doctrine has no appearance of support from the Bible, as its opposers sometimes insist; then why not allow people to study the Bible without bias or prejudice, one way or the other ? Why direct them to commence their investigations under the impression that the doctrine “is false”—that "every thing is to be presumed against it”—and that no passages must be allowed to stand in its favor, “unless it can be unequivocally shown that they cannot possibly mean any thing else ?” Is there not betrayed here a consciousness, that the Bible, fairly interpreted, is in favor of the Trinity; and that great care must be taken to fortify the minds of people against the doctrine, before they go to the Bible, or they will be likely to come out Trinitarians ?
So clear, to our own mind, is the testimony of Scripture in support of the Trinity, that we could almost be willing to rest the whole argument on the erroneous principle laid down in the Tract, that the passages to be adduced in favor of the doctrine must be such as “cannot possibly mean any thing else." We suppose that all who admit the proper Divinity of Christ will also admit the doctrine of the Trinity; and really there are many passages which go to prove the Divinity of Christ, which, as it seems to us, “cannot mean any thing else." It is not our intention to quote proof texts, but we shall appeal to an authority, which is of great weight with Unitarians on some subjects, and from which they ought not lightly to dissent; we mean that of J. J. Griesbach.
• There are," says he,
so many arguments for the true Deity of Christ, that I see not how it CAN BE called in question,—the Divine authority of the Scriptures being granted, and just rules of interpretation acknowledged. Particularly, the exordium of John's Gospel is so perspicuous, and above all exception, that IT NEVER CAN BE OVERTURNED by the daring attacks of critics and interpreters.*
The writer of this Tract affirms, that the doctrine of the Trinity, "if proved at all, must be proved from the New Testament alone;" the Old Testament does not teach it; and “at the time of the introduction of the Gospel, it was wholly unknown to any human being.” But on this principle, how are we to account for much that we find written in the Old Testa
* See Preface to Vol. ü. of Griesbach's New Testament. VOL. VI-NO. XI.