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COME YE NEAR UNTO ME; HEAR YE THIS: I HAVE NOT SPOKEN · IN SECRET FROM THE BEGINNING; FROM THE TIME THAT IT WAS, THERE AM 1: AND NOW THE LORD GOD AND HIS SPIRIT HATH SENT ME.
ISAIAH XLVIII. 16.
IN the last Discourse I considered the personality and divinity of the Spirit of God. In a series of Discourses formerly delivered I considered the divinity of Christ. If the arguments alleged in those Discourses are as conclusive as they appear to me, they prove the existence of a TRINITY, or three persons and one God.
The proof of this doctrine must unquestionably be derived from the Scriptures alone. But when a doctrine of this extraordinary nature is presented to the mind, we naturally feel a strong curiosity to know the manner in which the same doctrine has been regarded by others ; particularly by such as have lived before us; and peculiarly by the ancient members of the Jewish and Christian churches. Nor is this a matter
of mere curiosity. If the doctrine of the Trinity were now first discovered by mankind to be contained in the Scriptures, the words being supposed to have remained always the same, we should undoubtedly be surprised to find that those passages which in our view clearly contain this doctrine, had never been understood by others in the same manner as by ourselves. Particularly, we should be inclined to doubt the soundness of our own interpretations, if we found the Jews construing such passages in the Old Testament, and the early Christians in the New, in a manner totally different from ours. Were such the fact, we should, I think, very naturally suspect our own mode of construction; for we could not easily believe that the Jewish church was always ignorant of this doctrine, if it was really taught by the prophets, nor the early Christian church, if it was decisively communicated by the apostles. It will be easily seen, that the time in which those lived to whom an appeal of this nature is made, must be important, as well as the character of the witnesses. The more ancient the witnesses are, other things being equal, the more valuable must be their testimony ; and such testimony, if really ancient, and at the same time explicit and decisive, cannot fail of yielding material satisfaction to every rational inquirer.
Nor is the testimony even of heathens concerning this subject to be disregarded. If we find that the ancient heathen nations generally, or in most or all instances, independently of any acquaintance with the Scriptures, have holden the doctrine of a triad constituting a monad, that is, a supreme God, who was one in one sense, and three in another, we cannot easily avoid the conclusion, that they derived this doctrine from a single source, and that that source was revelation. The doctrine plainly lies wholly out of the course, I think I may say out of the reach, of human thought. There is therefore no reason why we should believe it to have been invented by man. Much less is there any reason to suppose it invented by men in so many different nations, and in such circumstances of barbarism as almost preclude the invention of any philosophical doctrine. The source of the doctrine must, therefore, have been one, and that a Revelation, existing before these nations were separated from each other.
In the text a person declares concerning himself, ' I have
not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord God, in the Original the Lord Jehovah,) and his Spirit hath sent me.' The person speaking in this verse, is in the 2nd verse called · Jehovah of Hosts,' or Jehovah God of Hosts. And in the 12th verse he says,' I am he; I am the first: I also am the last.' Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth; my right haud bath spanned the heavens. When I call unto them they stand up together. The person speaking in the text is then · Jehovah of Hosts ;'-—' the first and the last ;' - the Creator of the earth and the heavens. And this person says, • And now the Lord Jehovah and his Spirit hath sent me: ' or, more properly, · The Lord Jehovah hath sent me and his Spirit' Origen, as quoted by Bishop Lowth, comments on this passage in this manner; “ Who is it, that saith in Isaiah,
And now the Lord hath sent me and bis Spirit ?' in which, as the expression is ambiguous, is it the Father and the Holy Spirit, who hath sent Jesus? or the Father, who hath sent both Christ and the Holy Spirit? The latter is the true interpretation.” This opinion of Origen appears to be just : because we nowhere read in the Scriptures, that Christ was sent by the Spirit; but everywhere, that both Christ and the Spirit were sent by the Father, called in the text the Lord God,' To the present purpose, however, this difference of interpretation is wholly immaterial. Whether the Spirit send, or be sent, he is equally determined to be a living agent; since in the physical sense it is impossible that any other being should either send, or be sent. In the text then, the doctrine of a Trinity is directly declared by a person, styled · Jehovah of Hosts. Let us now see what countenance this doctrine receives from the sources which I have specified above.
It will not be imagined that in the compass of such a Discourse, any thing more can be done, than merely to make a moderate selection of the testimonies referred to. For those, which I shall mention, I am chiefly indebted to Bishop Bull, Doctor Jamieson, Mr. Maurice, and the Asiatic Researches : and it is believed that they will be sufficiently numerous, and sufficiently explicit, to satisfy a mind willing to receive the truth.
1. To the pre-existence of Christ the following testimonies must, I think, be regarded as complete.