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essence; still this will infer, that the Holy Ghost has a two-fold manner of subsistence. That the divine essence existed prior to the divine persons: --that there is a difference betwixt the persons and the essence in Deity: with many other shocking conséquences too grating to christian ears to mention!
But as considering it in this light is so very inconsistent, let us view it in a glass of their polishing, who are the supporters of the scheme. “ But the persons in the essence:" that is, say they, “ The divine essence self-exists in the person of the Father, and the divine person of Christ is begotten by the Father." Not to mention how ill the explication agrees with the proposition in terms; the one says the persons are begotten, the other that only one person is begotten, which makes it necessary to provide another nostrum to account for the subsistence of the Holy Ghost; but eternal procession is at hand for this purpose.
1. I must observe, 'tis marvellous! that such a demonstrative account can be given of the manner the Son and Holy Ghost subsist in Deity; but none of the Father's subsistence, further than that he hath it of himself, which is denied of the other two divine persons; this certainly carries the direct idea of unorigination in the Father, and a derived personal subsistence in the other two persons in Deity:
2. I observe, that it is impossible upon this foundation, that the personal glory of the Lord Jesus can be equal with the Father's. For if the divine essence self-exists in the person of the Father, necessarily his personal glory must be essential, and self-existent: but if the divine person of the Lord Jesus is begotten of the Father, his personal glory can neither be essential, nor self-existent, but communicated, derived glory from another; which may be called relative; but not self-existent glory. When there is such an essential difference in the manner the divine persons subsist in Deity, it is impossible the same identical glory can belong to all the persons. The Father must have a supreme glory in Deity, which neither the Word nor Holy Ghost have; how then can they be equal or the same in perfection and glory? This leads me further to observe,
3. That here the maintainers of the scheme, and the Arians, are almost at one. The Arians say, the divine person of the Lord Jesus was created; the others say, he is begotten; now, let the honest enquirer search the scriptures and try, if he can find such a difference betwixt a created and a begotten being, as we are bound to believe there is betwixt the highest created or begotten glory, and the self-existent, unoriginated glory of the Lord Jesus. There is a near analogy betwixt what is said of the acts of God in creating and begetting; but none between any thing created or begotten, and self-existence. In this case the Arians are the more consistent of the two, in denying the self-existence of the Lord Jesus, while they hold that he was created: but the others, while they hold that he was begotten, and had his personality communicated to him, at the same time say, that he is self-existent; which is a manifest contradiction in terms.
I must acknowledge here, that I have met with a modern author, an advocate for the scheme, more consistent than the rest. He wrote against the Arian hypothesis, and finding it impossible to réconcile the terms in the scheme with self-existence, which the Arians object, he very complaisantly, (or rather blasphemously) yields the selfexistence of both Word and Holy Ghost, and writes a chapter intituled,
“ The divine person of the Father ONLY SELF-EXISTENT.”-Astonishing! That men to support their darling notions of the Lord Jesus being a Son as he is God, or that his divine person was begotten, which they can never prove from revelation, should thus give up his divine and self-existent glories into the hands of ad. versaries to his proper divinity! Tell it not in chris. tian churches, lest Arians, Socinians, yea, Atheists, rejoice!
There are some other things said in favor of eternal generation, but they are so trifling, and so little to the purpose, that I shall not detain the reader with them, but come to the consideration of the only argument that can be produced in favor of that doctrine, viz. “ The ANTIQUITY of it, and the multitude of its espousers,” which I shall consider together.
Ans. It should be well observed, that revelation is the true antiquity: and what God hath revealed and prescribed therein, has more authority for binding the conscience, than the dictates and traditions of multitudes in every age. There is a wide difference betwixt the primary antiquity and authority of the scriptures, and that which is traditional, flowing only from the custom and observation of men. There is often too great regard paid to traditional antiquity, human authority, and the practice of multitudes, to the dishonor of the sacred word.
Antiquity, simply considered, can never add strength to a cause, nor honor to any profession, Sin deserves not applause, because committed in
paradise, and bears date with the ancient records of Moses. Nor should the Romish beast be held in repute, because the mystery of iniquity began to work in the apostolic age. Human authority, if it has any weight, it is owing to the word of God; consequently the divine testimony, which is more ancient than any other, is sufficient without it. The celebrated Hervey hath a very notable remark to the present purpose.
“ Human authority," says he, “compared with the oracle of revelation, is like a range of cyphers connected with the initial figure, which, were they detached, would be insignificant; but in such subordination are considerable.” A multitude of votaries cannot dignify a cause, nor prove any doctrine to be true. If it could, Christ's little flock must have been wrong in all ages, for they were always the fewest..
Antiquity, a great number of espousers, and the sentiments of great, learned, and good men, have, like pilgrims' staves leaning against the walls of the noble structure of divine revelation, been too often, by unthinking multitudes, mistaken for the pillars that supported the magnificent fabric. It shews a cause to be weak indeed, when no better arguments can be brought to support it. Every argument of this kind will serve the popish cause against reformation, as well as eternal generation: but the reformers despised the weapons of antiquity, learning, and multitudes of votaries, and betook themselves to the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Had they observed the same rule in forming their own systems, as in opposing popery, protestants at this time would have known less about eternal generation, than they know of transubstantiation: such as were disposed to support the one, would have found it as difficult as papists did to maintain the other. The
sum of all that can be said for either is, that it is old, and has been countenanced by all those who are best pleased with that in religion, which costs them least trouble to examine. I think a striking parallel may be drawn betwixt these sister mysteries, transubstantiation and eternal generation, but I must return to my argument of antiquity in favor of the latter.
I confess it is a very ancient method of pleading, but always in favor of error and delusion. The Jews resolved to “bake* cakes, and burn incense to the queen of heaven, as their princes and fathers had done,” &c. Thef Samaritans could plead the custom of their fathers, worshipping in that mountain, for the ground of their own practice:—and how evident is it, that the Jews most fatally preferred thef traditions of their rabbies, to the doctrine of the blessed Jesus. They thought it a sufficient reason to reject him, because none of the rulers and Pharisees believed in him.
But if we enquire into the antiquity of this hypothesis, and find it fall short of the period in which revelation was compiled and completed, it must be of human invention, and with respect to religion, deserves to be antiquated.
Besides the scriptures, in the first two centuries, there were no settled forms of this doctrine of the Trinity. Every one had his own speculations, which were very different, and some particularly odd. As Dr. Cave says, Things were not defined then as they are now, by explicit
* Jer, vii. 18, and xliv. 17.
+ John iv, 20. * Matt. xv. 2, 3. John vii. 48.