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but having still, confessedly, no speculative theory or dogmatic scheme of Trinity. . . . They had the word of God in power, but not as yet in science: Christian dogmatics were yet to be invented. If you desire to see the form in which they summed up the Christian truth, you have it in what is called the Apostles' Creed. This beautiful compend was gradually prepared or accumulated in the age prior to theology; most of it, probably, in the time of the Apostolic Fathers. It is purely historic, a simple compendium of Christian fact, without a trace of what we sometimes call doctrine; that is, nothing is drawn out into speculative propositions, or propounded as a dogma, in terms of science. DR. HORACE BUSHNELL: God in Christ, pp. 286-7.
Let any one place the Apostles' Creed beside that of the Westminster Assembly, and see what a vast expansion of revealed truth has taken place. The former was all that the mind of the church, in that age of infancy, was able to eliminate and systematize out of the Scriptures; and this simple statement was sufficient to satisfy the imperfectly developed scientific wants of the early church. The latter creed was what the mind of the church was able to construct out of the elements of the very same written revelation, after fifteen hundred years of study and reflection upon them. The "words," the doctrinal elements, of Scripture are "spirit and life," and hence, like all spirit and all life, are capable of expansion. Upon them, the historic Christian mind, age after age, has expended its best reflection; and now the result is an enlarged and systematized statement such as the early church could not have made, and did not need. ·PROFESSOR W. G. T. SHEDD, in the Bibliotheca Sacra for April, 1854; vol. xi. pp. 384-5.
From this quotation it would seem, that, the nearer we approach the time of the apostles, the less Trinitarianism is found in the Christian church; and that, the further we recede from it, the more dogmatic, orthodox, and metaphysical the doctrine becomes. The mind of the early Christians was too simple and unsophisticated to discern in the Scriptures the doctrine of a Triune God; and it was only by degrees, after centuries of reflection had been employed in systematizing the Bible, that men and women could eliminate the mystery of a divine plurality from the words of Moses and Christ, "Jehovah, our God, is one Jehovah;" and a Trinity of eternal persons from the writings of those who constantly inculcated the great truths that there is but one God, the Father; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son and Servant of God, the Man of Nazareth, who was raised up, commissioned, approved, and anointed by the Father to act as the Teacher and Regenerator of the human race.
§ 2. THE ORIGINAL NICENE TRINITY.
We believe in one God, the Father, Almighty, the Maker of all things visible and invisible: and in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, only-begotten (that is) of the substance of the Father; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made; of the same substance with the Father; by whom all things were made that are in heaven and that are in earth; who for us men, and for our salvation, descended, and was incarnate, and became man; suffered, and rose again the third day ascended into the heavens; and will come to judge the living and the dead: and in the Holy Spirit. But those who say that there was a time when he was not, and that he was not before he was begotten, and that he was made out of nothing, or affirm that he is of any other substance or essence, or that the Son of God is created, and mutable or changeable, the catholic church doth pronounce accursed. — NICENE CREED, as given by Dr. Murdock in his Translation of Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, vol. i. p. 293, note.
Dr. MURDOCK says that "the creed used in the Catholic, Lutheran, and English churches, and called the Nicene Creed, is in reality the creed set forth by the Council of Constantinople in the year 381," and "is considerably more full than the original Nicene Creed."
This creed, which was established at the Council of Nice, A.D. 325, somewhat approximates to the orthodox belief now professed; but it makes no mention of the co-equality of the Son with the Father, the personality or Divinity of the Holy Ghost, or a Trinity in Unity. Like the "Apostles' Creed," it is Unitarian in making a profession of faith in one God, the Father, and in the derived existence of his Son Jesus Christ; but it so far departs from this doctrine as to introduce an article of belief in another Deity, the uncreated Deity of Christ. In other words, it propounds, as we conceive, a Duality of Gods, one of the Gods being derived from the other; and ends by pronouncing a curse against those who cannot help thinking and asserting that this portion of the creed is neither apostolical nor rational.
This, I say, our Christian Platonist supposes to be much more wonderful, that this so great and abstruse a mystery, of three eternal hypostases in the Deity, should thus by pagan philosophers, so long before Christianity, have been asserted as the principle and original of the whole world; it being more indeed than was acknowledged by the Nicene fathers themselves; they then not so much as determining
that the Holy Ghost was an hypostasis, much less that he was God. DR. R. CUDWORTH: Intellect. Syst. of the Universe, vol. i. p. 779.
The Nicene Symbol . . . presents the Father as the Movàs, the Divinity or proper Godhead in and of himself exclusively: it represents him as the Fons et Principium of the Son, and therefore gives him superior power and glory. It does not even assert the claims of the Blessed Spirit to Godhead, and therefore leaves room to doubt whether it means to recognize a Trinity, or only a Duality. . . . The Nicene Symbol, then, does not appear plainly and explicitly to acknowledge that "there are three persons in one God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; " nor that "these three are one God, the same in substance, and equal in power and glory." No: it comes, or seems to come, far short of this. MOSES STUART, in Biblical Repository for April, 1835; vol. v. pp. 317-18.
3. THE CONSTANTINOPOLITAN TRINITY.
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible: and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God; begotten of his Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made; being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven; and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary; and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate: he suffered, and was buried; and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end. And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spake by the prophets. And I believe one catholic and apostolic church; I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen. CONSTANTINOPOLITAN CREED.
This creed, which we take from the English "Book of Common Prayer," is the Nicene, enlarged by the Council of Constantinople, and mentioning, among other particulars, the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father. The words," and the Son," were not added till a considerable time after.
§ 4. THE TRINITY OF UNEQUAL PERSONS OR GODS.
This kind of Trinity, to the titling of which many would object, but which appears to us strictly characteristic of it, will be found to bear a strong likeness to that of the Nicene and the Constantinopolitan Creed; but is placed separately here, because it gives a peculiar prominence to the Superiority of the Father over the Son and the Holy Ghost. It probably represents the general opinion of Christians at the present day, as well as of the fathers who flourished at or near the time when the Nicene Creed was established; though, in writing avowedly against Unitarianism, comparatively few would now be willing to make so express a recognition of inequality as is observable in the following extracts.
We must not so far endeavor to involve ourselves in the darkness of this mystery as to deny that glory which is clearly due unto the Father; whose pre-eminence undeniably consisteth in this, that he is God, not of any other, but of himself; and that there is no other person who is God, but is God of him. It is no diminution to the Son to say he is from another, for his very name imports as much; but it were a diminution to the Father to speak so of him; and there must be some pre-eminence where there is place for derogation. What the Father is, he is from none; what the Son is, he is from him: what the first is, he giveth; what the second is, he receiveth. The first is a Father indeed by reason of his Son, but he is not God by reason of him; whereas the Son is not so only in regard of the Father, but also God by reason of the same.... This priority doth properly and naturally result from the divine paternity; so that the Son must necessarily be second unto the Father, from whom he receiveth his origination, and the Holy Ghost unto the Son. Neither can we be thought to want a sufficient foundation for this priority of the first person of the Trinity, if we look upon the numerous testimonies of the ancient doctors of the church, who have not stuck to call the Father the Origin, the Cause, the Author, the Root, the Fountain, and the Head of the Son, or the whole Divinity. . The proper notion of the Father in whom we believe is this, that he is a person subsisting eternally in the one infinite essence of the Godhead; which essence or subsistence he hath received from no other person, but hath communicated the same essence, in which himself subsisteth, by generation to another person, who by that generation is the Son. BISHOP PEARSON: Exposition of the Creed, Art. I. pp. 49, 50, 52, 56-7.
There is evidently some subordination amongst these three persons; because the Father possesses the divine nature from himself, but the Son and Holy Spirit have it from the Father, who is therefore the Fountain and Origin of their Divinity. In dignity and power
the Father is supereminent in respect to the Son, and the Father and Son in respect to the Holy Spirit; since it is more honorable to beget than to be begotten, to cause to proceed than to proceed. The sender has also power over the person sent; but the messenger, not over him by whom he is commissioned. But God the Father is everywhere said to have sent the Son; and the Son refers all things that he does to his Father as the author: see John vi. 57; v. 19, 20, 30. The Scripture, accordingly, terms the Father sometimes "God" in an absolute sense, John iii. 16. Rom. viii. 31, 32. Gal. iv. 4. 1 John iv. 9, 10, et al.; and sometimes "the God of Jesus Christ," John xx. 17. Heb. i. 9; and the Son himself plainly says that the Father is greater than he, John xiv. 28. PHILIP LIMBORCH: Theologia Christiana, lib. ii. cap. 17, § 25.
Though all created beings are the creatures of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, the catholic faith requires us to own the Father as the Source and Head in the work of creation, and the two other persons as acting in and executing the same work, but in harmonious subordination to him as the Head and Centre of Divinity. ... Of these persons, only one can be self-existent and unoriginated, the Cause and Original of all things, who is denominated God the Father: but the Father alone is self-existent and unoriginated; therefore the Son must have derived his being and essence from the Father. The doctrine here delivered accords with the sentiments of the most learned and zealous defenders of the orthodox faith in every age. GEORGE HOLDEN: Scripture Testimonies, pp. 336, 437, 444.
Whoever asserts that the Son owes his essence to the Father, denies him to be self-existent. ... If we admit the whole essence to be solely in the Father, either it will be divisible, or it will be taken away from the Son; and so, being despoiled of his essence, he will be only a titular God. The divine essence, according to these triflers, belongs solely to the Father, inasmuch as he alone possesses it, and is the author of the essence of the Son. Thus the Divinity of the Son will be a kind of emanation from the essence of God, or a derivation of a part from the whole. . . . Although we confess, in point of order