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minds and spirits, essentially united into one infinite mind and spirit; but the Holy Ghost, who is the Spirit of the Father and the Son, and a distinct person in the Trinity, is but one. - DR. WM. SHERLOCK: Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity, pp. 51, 66–7, 78; 101, 105, 119, 258–9.
We fear that the doctrine above inculcated, though abhorrent to right reason and Sacred Scripture, is yet unconsciously entertained by not a few professed Trinitarians; and in this opinion we are supported by the following remarks of Dr. KNAPP, in his Christian Theology, sect. xvi.: “ Christians in general have been charged by Jews and Mahommedans with believing in a Tritheism; and it must be confessed, that too much ground for this charge has been afforded by the incautious expressions, with regard to the doctrine of the Trinity, which were common, especially among the ancient teachers of Christianity. And, even at the present day, there are many common and unenlightened Christians who fall into the same error. They make profession with their mouth of their faith in one God; while, at the same time, they conceive of him in their minds as three.” Probably, however, the majority of Trinitarians incline more to a Tritheism of unequal Gods than to the sentiments held by Dean SHERLOCK, and regard the Son and Holy Spirit as possessing each a derived divine nature, but the Father only as the self-existent and independent God.
We make a few other extracts from this celebrated writer; so numbering them that COLERIDGE's notes, which will afterwards be introduced as strictures, may be understood by the reader.
 We know not what the substance of an infinite mind is, nor how such substances as have no parts or extension can touch each other, or be thus externally united; but we know the unity of a mind or spirit reaches as far as its self-consciousness does, -—- for that is one spirit which knows and feels itself, and its own thoughts and motions; and, if we mean this by circumincession, three persons thus intimate to each other are numerically one. ... As the self-consciousness of every person to itself makes them distinct persons, so the mutual consciousness of all three divine persons to each other makes them all but one infinite God. As far as consciousness reaches, so far the unity of a spirit extends; for we know no other unity of a mind or spirit but consciousness.  This one supreme God is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, a Trinity in Unity, three persons and one God. Now, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, with all their divine attributes and perfections (excepting their personal properties, which the schools call the modi subsistendi, that one is the Father, the other the Son, and the other the Holy Ghost, - which cannot be communicated to each other), are whole and entire in each person by a mutual con
sciousness. Each person feels the other persons in himself, all their essential wisdom, power, goodness, justice, as he feels himself; and this makes them essentially one. ...  I leave any man to judge whether this one single motion of will, which is in the same instant in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, can signify any thing else but a mutual consciousness, which makes them numerically one, and as intimate to each other as every man is to himself. ...  You'll say, that there should be three persons, each of which is God, and yet but one God, is a contradiction; but what principle of natural reason does it contradict ? ...  It is demonstrable, that, if there be three persons and one God, each person must be God; and yet there cannot be three distinct Gods, but one. For, if each person be not God, all three cannot be God, unless the Godhead have persons in it which are not God.
- DR. WILLIAM SHERLOCK : Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity, pp. 50, 68, 99, 117, 147–9.
If here it shall be urged to me, that one individual, necessarily existent, spiritual being alone is God, and is all that is signified by the name of God; and therefore that three distinct, individual, necessarily existent, spiritual beings must unavoidably be three distinct Gods, I would say, if by one individual, necessarily existent, spiritual being, you mean one such being, comprehending Father, Son, and Holy Ghost taken together, I grant it. But if by one individual, necessarily existent, spiritual being, you mean either the Father, Son, or Holy Ghost taken sejunctly, I deny it; for both the other are truly signified by the name of God too, as well as that one. ...
We Christians are taught to conceive, under the notion of God, a necessary, spiritual being, in which Father, Son, and Spirit do so necessarily co-exist as to constitute that being; and that, when we conceive any one of them to be God, that is but an inadequate, not an entire and full, conception of the Godhead. ... Upon the whole, let such an union be conceived in the being of God, with such distinction, and one would think .. the absolute perfection of the Deity, and especially the perfect felicity thereof, should be much the more apprehensible with us.
When we consider the most delicious society which would hence ensue among the so entirely consentient Father, Son, and Spirit, with whom there is so perfect rectitude, everlasting harmony, mutual complacency, unto highest delectation, ... we for our parts cannot but hereby have in our minds a more gustful idea of a blessed state than we can conceire in mere eternal solitude. — JOHN HOWE: Calm Enquiry concerning the Possibility of a Trinity; in Works, vol. ii. pp. 549–50.
It may be a question whether the pious Howe, in the preceding extract, speaks of three self-existent beings, or of three imperfect Gods constituting one perfect God; but there can be no doubt that he represents the Deity ás made up of a council of distinct but harmonious intelligences, relieving what would otherwise have been the tedium of an “ eternal solitude" by a free, equal interchange of converse and love. The old Hebrew prophets seem to have entertained very different conceptions of Jehovah: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, THOU art God.” “I am Jehovah that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens ALONE; that spreadeth abroad the earth BY MYSELF."
I do, I confess, charge this author [Dr. WILLIAM SHERLOCK) with asserting three Gods (although he does not in terminis express it), because of his asserting three distinct infinite minds or spirits. The consequence of three Gods from three distinct infinite spirits is direct, manifest, and immediate; or rather, in truth, is not so properly a consequence, or one assertion following from another, as one and the very same thing expressed in other words. ... For the words, “ infinite mind or spirit," are but a periphrasis of the thing signified by the term “God.” ..... If self-consciousness be the formal reason of personality in the three divine persons, then there is no repugnancy in the nature and reason of the thing itself but that there might be three thousand persons in the Deity as well as three. ... If it be here said that the three persons are not only three self-conscious spirits, but also three distinct infinite self-conscious spirits (as our author says they are), I answer that there may be as well three thousand distinct infinite spirits as three; for infinity is as much inconsistent with the least plurality of infinites as with the greatest. ... But how, then, comes there to be only three ? Why, upon these grounds no other reason can be assigned for it but only that it was God's free determination that there should be three, and no more. And then the Trinity of persons must be an effect of God's will, and not a necessary condition of the divine nature; and the further consequence of this must be, that the three persons are three created beings, as proceeding from the free results of God's will, by virtue whereof they equally might or might not have been. ......
. . I shall now pass to his [Sherlock's] other new notion of mutual consciousness, whereby those persons, who were distinguished from one another by their respective selfconsciousnesses, are united and made one in nature by virtue of this mutual consciousness: concerning which notion also, I must profess myself in the number of those who are by no means satisfied with it. ... No act of knowledge can be the formal reason of an unity of nature in the persons of the blessed Trinity: but an act of mutual consciousness is an act of knowledge; and therefore no act of mutual consciousness can be the formal reason of an unity of nature in the three divine persons. The major I prove thus: Every act of knowledge supposes the unity of a thing or being from which that act flows, as antecedent to it, and therefore cannot be the formal reason of the said being. For still I affirm, that being, and consequently unity of being (which is the first affection of it), must in order of nature precede knowledge, and all other the like attributes of being. .... My reason for what I affirm viz., that three distinct infinite minds, or spirits, are three distinct Gods — is this, that “God” and “infinite mind" or "spirit” are terms equipollent and convertible; God being truly and properly an infinite mind or spirit, and an infinite mind or spirit being as truly and properly God. . . . Whatsoever may be affirmed or denied of the one may with equal truth and propriety be affirmed or denied of the other. ... Three infinite minds or spirits are three absolute, simple beings or essences, and so stand distinguished from one another by their whole beings or natures. ... Three minds or spirits are three absolute beings, natures, or substances; and three distinct infinite minds or spirits are, accordingly, three distinct infinite absolute beings, natures, or substances; that is, in other words, they are three Gods.
three Gods. ...... I desire this author to produce that revelation which declares the three persons of the blessed Trinity to be three distinct infinite minds or spirits ; for I deny that there is
... These two propositions — viz., “God is one infinite mind or spirit;” and that other, “God is three distinct infinite minds or spirits” (which he must be, if the three divine persons are three distinct infinite minds or spirits) — are gross, palpable, and irreconcilable contradictions; and, because they are so, it is demonstrably certain that the said three persons are not three distinct infinite minds or spirits. ...... If those three acts in the Godhead (original mind and wisdom, -- the knowledge of itself, — the love of itself ] are three distinct infinite substances (as he plainly says they are, p. 130,...), then in the Godhead there are and must be three distinct Gods or Godheads; forasmuch as, an infinite substance being properly God, every distinct infinite substance is and must be a distinct God. - DR. ROBERT SOUTH : Animadversions on Sherlock's Vindication, pp. xvi. 101-3, 106–7, 119–22, 133–4, 216.
The assertion, there are three infinite, distinct minds and substances in the Trinity, is false, impious, and heretical, contrary to the doctrine of the catholic church, and particularly to the received doctrine of the church of England. VICE-CHANCELLOR AND HEADS OF COLLEGES BELONGING TO THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD.
This censure was passed on SHERLOCK's doctrine, Nov. 25, 1695. See Lindsey's Apology, p. 63.
An hypothesis which leaves out the very nexus, that natural eternal union, or leaves it out of its proper place, and insists upon mutual consciousness, which at the most is but a consequence thereof, wants the principal thing requisite to the solving the unity of the Godhead. If two or three created spirits had never so perfect a mutual perspection of one another, that would not constitute them one thing, though it probably argue them to be so; and but probably, - for God might, , no doubt, give them a mutual insight into one another, without making the mone. JOHN HOWE: Calm Enquiry concerning the Possibility of a Trinity; in Works, vol. ii. p. 548.
Their explication of the Trinitarian doctrine is unscriptural who assert that there are three infinite, eternal, self-existent Beings, as distinct from each other as three men are; for this is to suppose three Gods, each being asserted to be distinctly a God. Whereas the Scripture says there is but one God; which God, and no other, spake by his Son Christ Jesus, being manifested in the flesh. -- DR. BENJ. DAWSON: Illustration of Texts, pp. 129–30.
 Have these three infinite minds, at once self-conscious and conscious of each other's consciousness, always the very same thoughts ? If so, this' mutual consciousness is unmeaning or derivative; and the three do not cease to be three, because they are three sames. then there is Tritheism evidently.  Is not God conscious of every thought of man ? and would SHERLOCK allow me to deduce the unity of the divine consciousness with the human? Sherlock’s is doubtless a very plain and intelligible account of three Gods in the most absolute intimacy with each other, so that they are all as one; but by no means of three persons that are one God. I do not wonder that WATERLAND and the other followers of BULL were alarmed.
 Will not the Arian object, “ You admit the modus subsistendi to be a divine perfection, and you affirm that it is incommunicable. Does it not follow, therefore, that there are perfections which the Allperfect does not possess ?” This would not apply to Bishop Bull or