An Alphabetical Analysis
Volume 7 - Doctrinal Truth - Page 96 of 297
'But there is another proposition equally distinct, and in itself
intelligible -- it is, that God is one.  Viewed apart from all other
sayings, there is nought obscure surely in this particular saying ... .
What, then, is that which is commonly termed mysterious in the doctrine
of the Trinity? ... the whole mystery is raised by our bringing them
together, and attempting their reconciliation.  But the Scripture does
not itself offer, neither does it ask us to reconcile them.  It
delivers certain separate propositions, and thus it leaves them, each
of which, it must be observed, is in and of itself perfectly level to
our understanding ... We could have tolerated that Socinians and Arians
had quarrelled with the phraseology of Athanasius, had it but thrown
them back on the simplicities of the Scripture.
'I should feel inclined to describe the multiplicity of opinions by
negatives rather than by affirmatives, denying Sabellianism on the one
hand on the Scriptural evidence of the distinction between Father, Son
and Holy Spirit, denying Tritheism on the other, on the Scriptural
evidence of there being only one God, professing the utmost value for
the separate propositions, and on their being formed into a compendious
proposition, confessing my utter ignorance of the ligament which binds
them together into one consistent and harmonious whole.
'We can make out no more of the Trinity than the separate and
Scriptural propositions will let us' (Dr. Chalmers Institutes of
A word of vital importance, but one much misunderstood in relation to
the nature of God, is the word 'person'.  It will be found that even when the
Athanasian Creed is honestly accepted, and the warning most solemnly repeated
that 'there are not three Gods: but one God', a great number who subscribe to
the doctrine of the Trinity, subconsciously conceive of three separate Gods,
or as the term is, they are at heart Tritheists.  The thirty-nine articles of
the book of Common Prayer opens thus:
'There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts
or passions: of infinite power, wisdom and goodness, the Maker and
Preserver of all things visible and invisible.  And in the unity of the
Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power and eternity:
the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost'.
The Athanasian Creed goes to great lengths to insist that there are not
three eternals, not three incomprehensibles, not three uncreated, not three
almighties, not three Gods, not three Lords.  Yet with the statement before
the mind that at the same time there are three Persons in the Godhead, this
reiteration in the creed sounds much like a confession that, left to itself,
the creed does and will in fact breed the concept that there are three Gods,
however the idea be denied.  An examination of the defence of the creed
through the centuries only deepens the problem, and the earnest enquirer
generally finds that he is taken away from the realm of revealed Truth, to
the intricacies of metaphysics, leading him either to throw aside his
intelligence and believe upon the authority of the church and tradition, or
to take the opposite step, deny the Deity of Christ, become a unitarian as a
protest, and ultimately a deist or an agnostic.
We believe a true understanding of the word 'person' would prevent the
idea of 'three Gods' forcing itself upon the mind in spite of all the