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We now proceed however, to remark, that in coming to the investigation of Scripture as to the doctrine of the Trinity, we are not only relieved from all presumptive objections against it, but are assisted by a presumptive argument in its favour, which, to our minds, has no small importance in rendering it probable that the Trinity is a doctrine of divine revelation.
It is admitted by both parties in this controversy, that the doctrine of the Trinity of the Godhead is infinitely above, and beyond, the comprehension, or the discovery, of reason. The very fact, therefore, that a doctrine so remote from the ordinary conception of reason should exist, and should have existed always in some form, is a presumption that the human mind was, originally, led to such a conception by a direct revelation from Heaven.
The UNIVERSALITY with which this belief, in some form has been held, is a powerful confirmation of the opinion that the origin of this doctrine must be referred to a primitive and common revelation, since, as is admitted, and even urgently advanced by our opponents, it is not a doctrine which could naturally suggest itself to the human mind. It would require a volume to contain the evidence of the actual existence of the doctrine of a Trinity, in some form or other, among almost every nation of the earth. Volumes have been written upon this subject containing proof of the belief in a Trinity-a triad of supreme and co-equal deities-in Hindostan—in Chaldeain Persia—in Scythia, comprehending Thibet, Tartary, and Siberia,-in China—in Egypt—among the Greeks—among the Greek philosophers who had visited Chaldea, Persia, India, and Egypt, and who taught the doctrine of the Trinity after their return to Greece—among the Romans-among the Germansand among the ancient Americans.
The truth of this fact it might be necessary to establish by full and explicit evidence, were it not fully admitted by Unitarian writers who base upon it, an argument for the heathen origin of the doctrine. A considerable portion, for instance, of Dr. Beard's recent work entitled Historical Illustrations of the Trinity* is occupied with the presentation of evidence that “a divine triplicity was common in the heathen world prior to the Gospel of Christ.” He gives proof of its existence among the Babylonians, the Phænicians, the Persians, and in India. Zoroaster, he quotes as declaring in so many words, that "the paternal monad (or the Deity) generates too, and in the whole world shines the triad over which the monad rules.” In the most ancient of all mythologies, that of Egypt, "as described by authors who lived before the christian era, and as set forth on the walls of the temples in which its ritual of worship was performed, it was taught to the initiated, and concealed from the vulgar, that God created all things at the first, by the primary emanation from himself, his first-born, who was the author and giver of all wisdom, and of all knowledge, in heaven and in earth, being at the same time the wisdom and the word of God. The birth of this great and all-powerful being, his manifestation as an infant, his nature and education through the succeeding periods of childhood and of boyhood, constituted the grand mystery of the entire system.” The idea of a divine trinity, then, more or less distinctly outlined in other Eastern systems of religion, appears in that of Egypt fully and definitely formed, and may in consequence, says Dr. Beard, be legitimately considered as the immediate parent of the modern doctrine.
*Hist, and Artistic Ill. of the Trinity from Lond. 1846. The works of this writer are in great repute among American Unitarians.
Dr. Beard quotes as an ancient proverb the declaration "every THREE is perfect." Servius, in his Commentary on Virgil's 8th Eclogue says, "they assign the perfect number three to the highest God, from whom is the beginning, middle, and end." Triplicity was, therefore, found in those things which were held to be mirrors of the Divine essence. And Plutarch (de Iside 56,) expressly says, the better and diviner nature consists of the three."
Servius remarks that "the distinctive attributes of nearly all the gods are represented by the number three. The thunderbolt of Jupiter is cleft in three; the trident of Neptune is threeforked; Plato's dog is three-headed; so are the Furies. The Muses also, are three times three.” Aurelius, according to Proclus, (in Tim. ii. 93,) says, "the Demiurge or Creator is triple, and the three intellects are the three kings,—he who exists, he who possesses, he who beholds. And these are different."*
And we learn further, that there existed and was familiar to the heathen mind the idea of a Beav@pwtros, Theanthropos, or GOD-MAN.
It follows from what is thus admitted by this learned Unitarian, first, that the absolute, metaphysical, or personal unity
Dr. Beard, pp. 19, 20, 21.
*Dr. Beard, p. 4.
Dr. Beard, p. 27.
of God for which Unitarians contend, never was the doctrine of human reason, or of human religion; and secondly, that in ALL ancient religions we find the evidence of an original doctrine of a Trinity.
As to the Romans, “the joint worship of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva,—the Triad of the Roman Capitol, -is, (says Bishop Horsley,) traced to that of the THREE MIGHTY ONES in Samothrace; which was established in that island, at what precise time it is impossible to determine, but earlier, if Eusebius may be credited, than the days of Abraham."I The notion, therefore, of a Trinity, more or less removed from the purity of the christian faith, is found to have been a leading principle in all the ancient schools of philosophy, and in the religions of almost all nations; and traces of an early popular belief of it, appear even in the abominable rites of idolatrous worship. In regard to Plato, it is well known that he largely discoursed of a divine Trinity; the three component members of which are, (says Bishop Horsley,*) "more strictly speaking, one, than anything in nature, of which unity may be predicated. No one of them can be supposed without the other two. The second and third being, the first is necessarily supposed; and the first ayatov, (agathon) being, the second and third, vous, (nous) and puxn, (psyche) must come forth. Concerning their equality, I will not say that the Platonists have spoken with the same accuracy which the christian Fathers use; but they include the three principles in the Divine nature, in the to Belov, (to theion) and this notion implies the same equality which we maintain.” "In the opinions of the Pagan Platonists, and other wise men,” adds Bishop Horsley, † "we have in some degree an experimental proof, that this abstruse doctrine cannot be the absurdity, which it seems to those who misunderstand it. Would Plato, would Porphyry, would even Plotinus, have believed the miracles of Mahomet, or the doctrine of transubstantiation ? But they all believed a doctrine which so far at least, resembles the Nicene, as to be loaded with the same, or greater objections."
"God is but One ; who holds a Trinity,
Who are One God," quoth Plato, "th' only Good,
The Word, the Spirit.” Nay, the Pagan rude
And yet be darker than the heathen blind ! Such then, are THE FACTS in this case. What inference, then, are we to make from these admitted facts, proving, as they do, the universal belief of the doctrine of a Trinity. "If reason,” says Bishop Horsley, "was insufficient for this great discovery, what could be the means of information, but what the Platonists themselves assign.” “A theology delivered from the gods," i. e., a revelation. This is the account which Platonists, who were no christians, have given of the origin of their master's doctrine. But, from what relevation could they derive their information, who lived before the christian, and had no light from the Mosaic Scriptures? Their information could be only drawn from traditions founded upon earlier revelations; from scattered fragments of the ancient patriarchal creed ; that creed which was universal before the defection of the first idolaters, which the corruptions of Idolatry, gross and enormous as they were, could never totally obliterate. Thus the doctrine of the Trinity is rather confirmed than discredited by the suffrage of the heathen sages; since the resemblance of the christian faith and the Pagan philosophy in this article, when fairly interpreted, appears to be nothing less than the consent of the latest and the earliest revelations.”
That this universal belief in A Trinity is to be traced to an original revelation is, however, proved not only by the incapacity of reason to discover such a doctrine, and its reluctance to receive it when discovered, and by the equality universal reference of it to an original divine revelation, but also by the fact that it is only in the very earliest and purest traditions and theologies that this doctrine exists in any degree of clearness. As human reason was developed the doctrine became obscured, and was either hidden from public knowledge, or transformed into a mere intellectual refinement. Dr. Minchola in his Treatise on Vaticination § 4, speaking of the experiences of all nations as a proof of the rationality of even supra-rational doctrines says: "Here we meet, in the first place, the mysterious number "three,” in all the religious systems of antiquity, and
#Ib., p. 49.
even where such systems are not, and were not, existing, the number of the highest gods have so frequently been found to coincide with "the number three," e. g., the Laplanders, the Finns, the Germans, the South Sea Islanders, the ancient Mexicans, and others, that this phenomenon cannot be considered as an accidental one. The ancient philosophical systems were likewise based upon this mysterious number, e. g., those of Orpheus, Pythagoras, Plato, the very ancient Chinese philosopher, Laodhoë, in later times, that of Aurelius, (Suidas sub voce,) of the Jew Philo, of the modern Platonists and the Cabbalists, so that we can only say that the mystery of the Divine Trinity has found its wonderful mystic harmony, from the beginning of the world, among all zones and nations. However, the fountain from which this mystery has flowed, can have been no other but “the Lord,” i. e., “the first revelations of God to man.”
To use the language of a recent poet who has ably written on this subject :*
Gross as was the darkness on man's mind,
Of Shem, of all the post-diluvian world, *Ragg's Poem on the Deity, pp. 125-127.