Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles – Article I (Part 1)

Article I.

Of Faith in the Holy Trinity.

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, both visible and invisible. And in the unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

De fide in Sacrosanctam Trinitatem.

UNUS est vivus et verus Deus, æternus, incorporeus, impartibilis, impassibilis; immensæ potentiæ, sapientiæ, ac bonitatis; Creator et Conservator omnium, tum visibilium, tum invisibilium. Et in unitate hujus divinæ naturæ tres sunt Personæ, ejusdem essentiæ, potentiæ, ac æternitatis: Pater, Filius, et Spiritus Sanctus.

Section I. — History.

THIS Article is evidently concerned with two somewhat distinct subjects.

FIRST. The Nature and Essential Attributes of God in the general.

SECONDLY. The Doctrine of the Trinity in Unity.

The FIRST part is common to natural and revealed religion, and requires less either of illustration from history or demonstration from Scripture; it having been the universal creed, both of Jews and Christians, “God is one, living and true, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things, both visible and invisible.”

There have, however, been two classes of speculators, against whom we may suppose these words to be directed.

1. The obscure sect of the Anthropomorphites is reckoned as a heresy of the fourth century, and is said to have reappeared in the tenth, in the district of Vicenza in Italy.[1] Their opinion, as expressed by their name, was that God was in form as a man, material, and with body and members like our own.

2. The more important and dangerous error of the Pantheists may not be directly alluded to in the Article, but is plainly opposed by it.

Pantheism has been the prevailing Esoteric doctrine of all Paganism, and, with various modifications, the source of a great part of ancient philosophy.[2] The Orphic Hymns have evident traces of it. Thales and the Eleatic School expressed it distinctly, and in the definite language of philosophy.[3] There can be little doubt, that it was the great doctrine revealed in the mysteries. The Egyptian theology was plainly based upon it.[4] It was at the root of the Polytheism of the Greeks and Romans; and their gross idolatry was probably but an outward expression of its more mystic refinements.[5] The Brahmins and Buddhists, whose religious systems still prevail amongst nearly half the human race, though also, exoterically, gross Polytheists, are yet, in their philosophy, undisguised Pantheists.[6] The Jewish Cabala is thought to have drunk deep of the same fountain.[7]

When the Christian faith came in contact with Eastern philosophy, it is probable that Pantheistic notions found their way into its corruptions. Gnostics and Manichees, and possibly some of the later heretics, such as the Paulicians, had some admixture of Pantheism in their creeds. Simon Magus himself may possibly have used its language, when he gave himself out as “the great power of God.”

Its leading idea is, that God is everything, and everything is God.[8] Though all mind, whether of men or animals, is God, yet no individual mind is God; and so all distinct personality of the Godhead is lost. The supreme being of the Hindoos is therefore neither male nor female, but neuter.[9] All the numberless forms of matter are but different appearances of God; and though he is invisible, yet everything you see is God.[10] Accordingly, the Deity himself becomes identified with the worshipper. “He, who knows that Deity, is the Deity itself.”[11] Hence, as all living beings are manifestations of, and emanations from the Deity, the devout Brahmin or Buddhist, while he believes that by piety man may become more and more truly God, looks forward, as his final consummation and bliss, to Nirwana, or absorption in the Deity.

This system of religion or philosophy, which has prevailed so extensively in heathendom, and found favour with the early philosophic heretics, and probably with the brethren of the free spirit in the twelfth century,[12] was taught in the seventeenth century by Benedict de Spinoza, a Portuguese Jew,[13] and has been called from him Spinozism. Some of the philosophic divines of Germany have revived it of late, and have taught it as the solution of all the Christian mysteries; so that with them the Christ or God-man is not the individual personal Jesus: but mankind is God made man, the miracle-worker, the sinless one; who dies and rises, and ascends into heaven, and through faith in whom man is justified.

The history of the SECOND part of this Article, that is, of the doctrine of the Trinity, may be considered as almost equivalent to the history of Christianity.

I. What degree of knowledge of it there may have been previously to the coming of Christ, is a question of great interest, but of great difficulty. This question, as regards Scripture, must be deferred to the next section; here it is considered by the light of history alone.

It has been thought, with considerable reason, that there are distinct intimations of it (1) in the Jewish writings, (2) in the mythology of most ancient nations, (3) in the works of Plato and other philosophers.

1. The Jewish Targums and Philo-Judæus both speak frequently of the Word of the Lord. The latter may possibly have been indebted to philosophic sources. This can hardly be conjectured with probability of the former; and, although none of them are much earlier than the Christian era, there is no doubt that they speak the language and contain the tradition of former ages. Passages, such as that in the Targum, in Psalm cx., where “the Lord said unto my Lord” is rendered “the Lord said unto His Word,” and many like it, seem, at first sight at least, very clearly to indicate a notion of Personal plurality in the Divine Unity.[14] Yet, of late, a different opinion has prevailed concerning the signification of the term Memra or Word (מימרא דיי) used in the Targums; it being contended, that the phrase means not a distinct and separate Person, but is, in fact, only another form of the pronoun “Himself.”[15] Both views have found able advocates, and may be supported by considerable arguments; and therefore the question concerning the Jewish opinions on the Trinity must be considered as one which is not fully decided.

2. In the mythology of almost all nations, it is plain that the number three has been a sacred number. The triads of classical mythology (e. g. Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades; or again, Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva in the Capitol) are well known.[16] More remarkable by far is the Trimourti of Hindostan. Christians have frequently believed that the Trimourti originated in some patriarchal tradition, whilst unbelievers have found in it an argument against the Christian Faith, as being merely one development of the many speculations concerning God which have prevailed in India and elsewhere. In answer to the latter, it may be enough to say, that the whole significance of the Trimourti is utterly unlike that of the Trinity, the likeness being in number only. Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, were no tripersonal unity, but three distinct, created divinities, embodiments of the various powers of nature; though subsequently both Vishnu and Siva were, by their respective votaries, identified with the Great Supreme. And, on the other hand, it is now well ascertained that the gods of the Trimourti were unknown to the Vedas and more ancient books of the Hindoos;[17] so that the origin of a belief in them cannot be traced to primitive tradition, but must more probably be ascribed to the speculations of later Indian Theosophists.[18]

3. Plato and some other Greek Philosophers are generally considered as having expounded a doctrine which bears some resemblance to the doctrine of the Gospels.[19] If it be so, we may, probably enough, trace his sentiments to some like source of patriarchal tradition or Jewish creed. Some think Plato had it of Pherecydes of Syros, who may perhaps have learned it from some Eastern source. Others, that, according to the testimony of Numenius, Plato gained a knowledge of Hebrew doctrine during his thirteen years’ residence in Egypt.[20] But, on the other hand, it has been argued, that Plato’s view of the Logos was utterly unlike the Christian belief in the Trinity. It is said, he never spoke of the Word or “Reason of God as a distinctly existing person; it was only a mode or relation in which the operations of the Deity might be contemplated.”[21] After the Christian Revelation, indeed, philosophic Christians, and still more philosophic heretics, early used Platonic terms to express Christian doctrine. Hence the language of philosophy became tinged with the language of Christianity: hence, too, at a very early period, the heretics, using the language of Platonism, corrupted Christianity with Platonic philosophy. Hence, again, St. John, who wrote after the rise of such heretics, uses language which they had introduced; yet not in their sense of such language, but with the very object of correcting their errors.[22] It is clear then, that, in more ways than one, we may account for the fact that St. John used terms which had been used before the Christian Revelation; and the sneer of the infidel, which hints that he learned his doctrine from Plato, becomes harmless and unmeaning.[23]

II. When once the mystery of the Trinity had been revealed in the Gospel, it became the fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith. Yet we must not expect to find the first Christian writers using the same technical language to express their belief in it, which afterwards became necessary, when heresy sprang up, and controversy gave rise to definite controversial terms. Unitarian writers have charged Justin Martyr (A. D. 150) with being the first to introduce “the Platonic doctrine of a second God” into Christianity; that is to say, they have admitted that Justin Martyr speaks of Christ as God, but deny that the Apostolic fathers held the doctrines of Trinitarianism. Such assertions, however unfounded, render the doctrines of the Apostolical fathers not a little important; as it could hardly fail to puzzle us, if we found the earliest Christians and their most famous pastors ignorant of what we have learned to esteem the groundwork of the faith.

There is certainly nothing in the subjects treated of by any of the Apostolical fathers, to lead them naturally to set forth a distinct acknowledgment of the doctrine of the Trinity, or of the Divinity of Jesus Christ; and many expressions might occur of love to Christ and reverence for Him, without a distinct enunciation of the doctrine of His Godhead. It is therefore the more remarkable and satisfactory, when we find, as we do, in all the works ascribed to those fathers commonly called Apostolical, passages which seem distinctly to assert the Deity of Jesus Christ, and so, at least by implication, the doctrine of the Trinity. Ignatius, especially, is so clear on this point, that the only possible way of evading the force of his testimony is to deny the genuineness of his epistles. A majority of learned men are of opinion that this question has been well nigh set at rest by Bp. Pearson in his Vindiciæ Ignatianæ.[24]

Justin Martyr, A. D. 150, is the first early Christian writer of whom we have any considerable remains. If he does not state the doctrine of the Trinity in the form of the Nicene or Athanasian Creeds, he yet clearly and constantly asserts that the Son is God, of one substance and nature with the Father, and yet numerically distinct from Him.[25] The word Trinity occurs in a treatise attributed to Justin Martyr (De Expositione Fidei); but this work is generally allowed to be spurious. The first use of this term is therefore commonly ascribed to Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch, A. D. 181, who speaks of the three days of creation, which preceded the creation of the sun and moon, as “types of the Trinity, namely, of God, His Word, and His Wisdom.”[26]

Irenæus, A. D. 185, gives something like regular forms of creeds, greatly resembling the Apostles’ Creed (see I. 9, IV. 33). His statements of the Deity of Christ are singularly clear, and he expressly tells us that the Scriptures would never have given to any one absolutely the name of God, unless he were truly God.[27]

There is a well-known passage in a heathen author, somewhat earlier than Irenæus, (the Philopatris of Lucian,) which shows the received doctrine of the Church, at which he sneers, more plainly perhaps than if the words had been those of a Christian. There is a doubt whether the work is Lucian’s or not; but its genuineness is not of much consequence, if, as is generally admitted, it was either his writing, or that of some contemporary of his.[28]

Tertullian, A. D. 200, both distinctly propounds the doctrine of the Trinity, and is the first Latin who uses the term Trinitas.[29]

We might trace the chain onwards through Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Hippolytus, Cyprian, Dionysius, and so down to the Council of Nice. Some may see in the bold speculations of Origen the germ of heresy even on the important doctrine of the Trinity; and Dionysius of Alexandria, in his zeal against Sabellius, appears to have been led into some heedless expressions. There is, however, little doubt that Origen was a firm believer in the Trinity; and the expressions of Dionysius, which called forth the censure of his brethren, were afterwards fully and satisfactorily explained. Thus all the early fathers who continued in the communion of the Catholic Church, are unanimous in their testimony to the faith of that Church in one God and three Persons in the Godhead.

Some, even, who were charged with schism or heresy, as Montanus and Novatian, were yet clear and decided in their language on this head. Bingham[30] has collected abundant proof, that the devotions of the ancient Church were paid to every Person of the Blessed Trinity.

Bishop Bull, in his Fidei Nicænæ Defensio, and Dr. Burton, in his Testimonies of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, have given fully the testimonies of the fathers to the Godhead of Christ before the Council of Nice. To their works the student may refer for farther evidence that the doctrine of the Trinity was firmly and fully maintained by the early Christian writers from the first.[31]

But, though the Church was thus sound at heart, it had been declared by the Apostle that “there must needs be heresies, that the approved might be made manifest;” and we find, that, even during the lifetimes and labours of the Apostles themselves, “the mystery of iniquity did already work,” which soon after was revealed in the monstrous forms of Gnosticism and other Antichristian heresies.

It is plain from St. Paul’s Epistles, that there were two evil elements, even then, at work, to corrupt the faith and divide the Church. Those elements were Judaism and Eastern Philosophy. The Epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Timothy, and the writings of St. John, abound with allusions to these dangers. The “Philosophy falsely so called” (γνῶσις ψευδώνυμος), and the seeking justification by the Jewish Law, are the constant topics of the Apostle’s warning. There are also two points deserving of particular notice: first, that these warnings are especially given to the Churches of Proconsular Asia;[32] secondly, that St. Paul evidently connects with his warnings against both these errors earnest enforcement of the doctrine of Christ’s Divinity.[33]

Accordingly, in the early history of the Church, we find two classes of false opinions, the one derived from a mixture of the Gospel with Judaism, the other from a like mixture with Oriental or Platonic philosophy, and both tending to a denial of the mystery of the Trinity, and of the supreme Godhead of Jesus Christ. As was most probable, the Eastern rather than the Western Church, and especially, in the first instance, the Churches of Asia Minor, and afterwards the Church of Antioch, were the birthplaces of the heresiarchs and of their heresies. These Churches exhibited, independently of distinct heresy, a considerable tendency to Judaism. The celebrated controversy about Easter first arose from the Churches of Proconsular Asia adopting the Jewish computation, in which they were followed by the Church of Antioch.[34] Again, in the East it was that the Judaical observance of the Sabbath, or seventh day of the week, prevailed; which is first condemned by St. Paul,[35] then by Ignatius,[36] and afterwards by the Council of Laodicea.[37]

The earliest heretics of whom we read are Simon Magus and the Nicolaitans, both mentioned in Scripture; who adopted, according to Ecclesiastical history, the Gnostic philosophy, and endeavoured to combine it with the Gospel. Gnosticism, in its more developed form, seems to have taught, that the one Supreme Intelligence, dwelling in darkness unapproachable, gave existence to a line of Æons, or heavenly spirits, who were all, more or less, partakers of His nature, (i. e. of a nature specifically the same,) and included in His glory (πλήρωμα), though individually separate from the Sovereign Deity.[38] Of these Æons, Christ or the Logos was the chief, — an emanation from God, therefore, but not God Himself, although dwelling in the Pleroma, the special habitation, and probably the Bosom of God. Here then we see, that the philosophic sects were likely to make our Lord but an emanation from God, not one with Him.

Cerinthus,[39] a heretic of the first century, is by some considered more as a Judaizer, by others more as a Gnostic or philosophic heretic. It is probable that he combined both errors in one. But early in the second century we meet with the Nazarenes and Ebionites, who undoubtedly owed their origin to Judaism, although, like others, they may have introduced some admixture of philosophy into their creed.[40] All these held low opinions of the Person and nature of Christ. The Cerinthians are said to have held the common Gnostic doctrine, that Jesus was a mere man, with whom the Æon Christ was united at baptism. The Nazarenes are supposed to have held the birth of a Virgin, and to have admitted that Jesus was in a certain manner united to the Divine Nature. The Ebionites, on the other hand, are accused of esteeming Christ the son of Joseph and Mary, though with a heavenly mission and some portion of Divinity.[41]

Here we have almost, if not quite, in Apostolic times, the germ at least of all false doctrine on the subject of the Trinity. Such heretics, indeed, as have been mentioned were at once looked on as enemies to, not professors of, the Gospel; and were esteemed, according to the strong language of St. John, not Christians but Antichrists.

In the latter part of the second century, the Church of Rome, which had been peculiarly free from heresy, was troubled by the errors of Theodotus and Artemon. They are generally looked on as mere humanitarians; but they probably held that Christ was a man endued with a certain Divine energy, or some portion of the Divine nature.[42]

The end of the same century witnessed the rise of another heresy of no small consequence. Praxeas, of whose opinions we can form a more definite notion from Tertullian’s treatise against him, asserted the doctrine that there was but one Person in the Godhead. That one Person he considered to be both Father and Son; and was therefore charged with holding that the Father suffered, whence his followers were called Patripassians.[43]

Noetus (A. D. 220) of Smyrna, and after him Sabellius of Pentapolis in Africa (A. D. 255), held a similar doctrine; which has since acquired the name of Sabellianism. Its characteristic peculiarity is a denial of the three Persons in the Trinity, and the belief that the Person of the Father, who is one with the Son, was incarnate in Christ. But a more heretical and dangerous form of the doctrine made, not the Godhead, but an emanation only from the Godhead, to have dwelt in Jesus; and thus what we may call the low Sabellians bordered on mere humanitarians, and also nearly symbolized on this important subject with Valentinus and other Gnostics, who looked on the supreme Æon, Christ or the Logos, as an emanation from God, which dwelt in Jesus, and returned from Jesus to the Pleroma of God.

Beryllus, Bishop of Bozrah, seems to have taken up this form of Sabellianism. He was converted by the arguments of Origen. But, not long after, Paul of Samosata, Bishop of Antioch, the most important see in Asia, a man supported by the influence of the famous Zenobia, professed a creed which some have considered pure humanitarianism; but which was evidently, more or less, what has been called the Emanative, in contradistinction to the Patripassian, form of Sabellianism. He held, “that the Son and the Holy Ghost exist in God, in the same manner as the faculties of reason and activity do in man;[44] that Christ was a mere man; but that the Reason or Wisdom of the Father descended into him, and by him wrought miracles upon earth, and instructed the nations; and finally, that, on account of this union of the Divine Word with the man Jesus, Christ might, though improperly, be called God.” Several councils were called in consequence of this spiritual wickedness in high places; and although the rhetoric and sophistry of Paulus for a time baffled his opponents, he was finally condemned by the Council of Antioch (A. D. 264), and dispossessed of his bishopric by Aurelian (A. D. 272), after having held it, in spite of condemnation, by the aid of Zenobia.[45]

The controversies which these various errors gave rise to, naturally tended to unsettle men’s minds, and to introduce strife about words; and so paved the way for the most formidable heresy that has probably ever disturbed the Christian Church. Arius, a native of Antioch, but a presbyter of Alexandria, began by charging his bishop, Alexander, with Sabellianism. It is most probable, that, as his predecessor Dionysius, in his zeal against Sabellianism, had been betrayed into incautious expressions, seeming to derogate from the dignity of Christ’s Divine nature; so Alexander, in his zeal to maintain that dignity, may have used language not unlike the language of the Patripassians. There is no doubt, however, that he was a sound believer in the Trinity. Arius was, from this beginning, led on to propound, and mould into shape, his own dangerous heresy.

It was unlike the heresy of any of his predecessors. For, though some of them may have been mere humanitarians, those who held that the Logos dwelt in Christ, held that Logos to be either God, or an emanation from God, and so in some sense co-eternal and consubstantial. Arius and his followers, on the contrary, held that there was a period[46] when the Son of God was not (ἦν πότε ὅγε οὐκ ἦν), and that He was created by God, of a substance which once was not (ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων). They called Him by the name of God, and allowed to Him, in terms, all the attributes of God, but denied that He was homo-ousios, of one Substance with the Father,[47] or in any sense one with Him. The true Logos they esteemed to be merely the Wisdom, an attribute of God; but the Son they held to have been created before all worlds, and so far enlightened by the Wisdom of God, that He might, though improperly, be called the Logos, and that by Him God made the world. They said of Him, that, before He was created or begotten, He did not exist (πρὶν γεννηθῇ, οὐκ ἦν), and they explained the title of μονογενής, Only-Begotten, as though it meant Begotten by God alone, γεννηθεὶς παρὰ μόνου.[48]

Here we see a second and created God introduced into the Christian Theology. The Patripassians, on the one hand, had denied the Trinity of Persons; the Valentinians and Manichees, on the contrary, are accused of saying that there were three unconnected, independent Beings in the Godhead.[49] But Arianism taught distinctly the existence of one, or two beings, who were to be worshipped as God, and yet were neither one nor of the same nature with the Father. The inevitable tendency of this was either to direct Polytheism, or more probably and naturally to Humanitarianism.[50]

The Council of Nice, consisting of 318 bishops, was summoned in 325 by Constantine the Great; which condemned Arianism, established the doctrine of the homo-ousion (i. e. that the Son was consubstantial with the Father), and drew up the Creed which now bears the name of Nicene, with the exception of the clauses which follow the words “I believe in the Holy Ghost.” Arianism, thus checked for a time, soon revived again. Constantine was convinced that Arius had been unjustly banished, and recalled him. His son Constantius, who ruled first in the East, and then over the whole empire, and afterwards Valens, who ruled also in the East, favoured the Arians. Partly by this powerful patronage, partly by subtilty of argument, and partly in consequence of the prevalence of Judaizing or philosophic doctrine, this dangerous heresy, or some modification of it, spread extensively, especially in the Eastern Churches. The famous Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, exhibited unbounded zeal and courage in defending the Catholic faith, and suffered greatly from the persecution of the Arians. There then arose a variety of sects, with more or less of the Arian tenets; such as the Eusebians, Anomœans, Semi-Arians. The latter adopted as their symbol the term homoi-ousios, of like substance, instead of homo-ousios, of one substance. From among the latter sprang Macedonius. The pure Arians, and those who symbolized with them, — the Anomœans, and Eunomians, and Semi-Arians, — appear to have held that the Holy Ghost, like the Son, was a created being. Macedonius, Bishop of Constantinople, whose followers were called Macedonians, or Pneumatomachi, seems to have been more orthodox on the Person of the Son, but to have esteemed, like the Arians, that the Holy Ghost was a creature.[51] This heresy was condemned at the second General Council at Constantinople, A. D. 381; which added to the Nicene Creed the clauses which follow “I believe in the Holy Ghost.”[52] With this Council the struggles between the Catholics and the Arians ended. Arianism thence forth became a heresy excommunicated and detached from the Church.[53] It found refuge for some time with the Gothic invaders of the Empire, who persecuted the Catholics; but at length declined and became extinct.

After this, we hear of a sect of Tritheists in the sixth century, the principal defender of whose doctrine was Philoponus of Alexandria.[54]

The discussions between the Nominalists and Realists of the Middle Ages often led to something like erroneous statements of the Trinitarian question. The Nominalists were charged with teaching Tritheism, and their founder, Roscellinus, was condemned by the Council of Soissons, A. D. 1092. A subsequent synod at the same place, A. D. 1121, condemned Abelard, another famous reasoner of the same school, for errors on the subject of the Trinity; though what his errors were is a question of some difficulty. His great opponent, St. Bernard, charged him with nothing short of Arianism.[55]

After the Reformation, when freedom of opinion was introduced, and an unsettled state of mind naturally sprang from violent changes, several heretics arose, who denied the doctrine of the Trinity. Servetus, a Spaniard, in 1531, taught a doctrine like that of the low or emanative Sabellians; that Christ, who was born of the Virgin, was united to one of the two personal representations or modes of existence, which God, before the world, had produced within Himself. He was apprehended by Calvin, on his way through Geneva, and put to death.[56]

Several other sects of Arians and Anti-Trinitarians arose about this time; some of which took refuge in Poland, as the country of most religious liberty. They called themselves Unitarians. In the Cracow Catechism, which they published as their confession of faith, they plainly deny the Divinity of the Son and of the Spirit, making Jesus Christ but a prophet of God.

In the mean time, Lælius and Faustus Socinus constructed the system which bears their name. They were natives of Tuscany, which they left from hatred to Romanism; and Faustus after his uncle’s death joined the Unitarians of Poland, and there taught his doctrines, which soon spread into Hungary, Holland, and England. He professed that Luther had begun, but that he would perfect the Reformation; which was incomplete whilst any doctrine which Rome had held remained to be believed. His fundamental error was, that Scripture should be received as truth, but be made to bend to reason. He taught, that Jesus was born of a virgin, and, having been translated to heaven, was instructed in God’s will, and endued with that portion of the Divine power called the Holy Ghost. He then came down as a teacher of righteousness. Those who obey him shall be saved. The disobedient shall be tormented for a time, and then annihilated. In a certain sense, Socinus allowed Christ to be called God, and worshipped. But his followers have generally looked on Him as a mere man; following herein that sect of Socinians whose first leader was Budnæus.[57]

In the Reformed Church of England, in the beginning of the eighteenth century, Mr. Whiston, Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, adopted and maintained the Arian doctrine, or a slight modification of it.[58] And Dr. Samuel Clarke, a man of learning and unblemished character, maintained the subordination of the Persons in the Godhead in so objectionable a form as to lay himself open to the charge of Arianism, or semi-Arianism. The masterly works of Waterland on the Trinity were many of them called forth by the unsound views of Dr. Clarke.

Later in the century, Priestley advocated with learning and skill, though without accuracy or caution, the far more heretical doctrines of the Socinians, or rather of the pure humanitarians. Those writings of Bishop Horsley are considered as of most value which are directed against Priestley.

It has been observed, that the various bodies of Presbyterian Christians, both in Great Britain and on the Continent, have had a considerable tendency to lapse into Socinianism, with the exception of the Kirk of Scotland, which has maintained a most honourable superiority to all other Presbyterians, partly, no doubt, because — unlike the generality of them — she strictly guards the Creeds of the Church, and other formularies of the faith.

In Germany and Switzerland the rationalism which so generally prevails among foreign Protestants has been favourable to Unitarian views of the Godhead, and humanitarian doctrines concerning Christ.


  1. See Suicer, s. v. ἀνθρωπομορϕῖται, and Mosheim, Ecclesiast. Hist. Cent. x. pt. II. ch. v. § 4. [This error has been revived by the Mormons. In the Latter-Day Saints’ Catechism, or Child’s Ladder, by Elder David Moffat, God is described as an “intelligent, material personage, possessing both body and parts,” possessing “passions,” and unable to “occupy two distinct places at once.” The same statement occurs in the Millennial Star. On the Divine attributes, the profound work of Dean Jackson, and the fourth chapter of Mr. Owen’s Introduction to the Study of Dogmatic Theology, should be studied. —J. W.]
  2. Cudworth, Int. Syst. ch. IV. passim, especially §§ 29, 32, 33, 34.
  3. Cudworth, B. I. ch. IV. §§ 30, 31. Tennemann’s Manual of Philosophy, pp. 59, 70. (Oxf. 1832.)
  4. γώ εἰμι πᾶν τὸ γεγονὸς, καὶ ὂν, καὶ ἐσόμενον· καὶ τὸν ὲμὸν πέπλου οὐδείς πω θνητὸς ἀπεκάλυψεν: “I am all that hath been, is, and shall be, and my veil hath no mortal ever uncovered.” Inscription on the Temple of Saïs, ap. Plutarch. De Iside. Again, τὸν πρῶτον Θεὸν τῷ παντὶ τὸν αὐτὸν νομίζουσιν. Plutarch, from Hecatæus, De Iside et Osiri. See Cudworth, II. ch. IV. pp. 170, 175. All that Cudworth adduces, and it is well worth reading, shows that the Egyptians were genuine Pantheists.
  5. See Faber, Pagan Idolatry, B. I. ch. III.
  6. See Sir W. Jones’s Works, I. p. 252; Maurice’s History of Hindostan and Indian Antiquities, passim; Faber, as above; Mill’s Pantheistic Theory.
  7. Burton’s Bampton Lectures, note 16.
  8. “Jupiter est quodcumque vides, quocumque moveris.” Lucan. IX. 580. See also Virg. Eclog. III. 60, Georg. IV. 219, Æn. VI. 724; Lucret. II. 61.
  9. Sir W. Jones’s Works, I. p. 249.
  10. Sir W. Jones’s Works, I. p. 252. Ward’s Religion of the Hindoos, IV. 274.
  11. Mill’s Pantheistic Theory, p. 159.
  12. Mosheim, Cent. XII. pt. II. ch. v. § 10.
  13. Mosheim, Cent. XVII. §§ 1, 24; Tennemann, p. 324. Giordano Bruno, in the sixteenth century, a Dominican, was burnt at Rome as a heretic, A. D. 1600, for holding opinions very similar to Pantheism. See Tennemann, p. 283.
  14. See Allix’s Testimony of the Ancient Jewish Church against the Unitarians; Bryant’s Opinions of Philo-Judæus; Bull, Fid. Nic. Def. I. I. 16‒19. [See also Oxlee, On the Trinity, &c., a laborious, curious, and valuable work. —J. W.]
  15. Burton’s Bampton Lectures, Lect. VII. p. 221, and note 93.
  16. Cudworth, B. I. ch. IV. § 27, p. 319, § 32, p. 470. The Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva of the Capitol were the same as the three great Gods, Tinia, Cupra, and Menrva, who had temples in every Etruscan city.
  17. See especially Professor Wilson’s translation of the Rig Veda. The legend of Crishna, which seemed peculiarly to resemble some portions of Christian history, occurs first in the Bhagavat Gita, a work of about the third century A. D. Some part of it has probably been directly borrowed from the Gospels, or Apocryphal Gospels. The student may consult Rev. C. Hardwick’s Christ and other Masters, Part II.
  18. On the Trinity of Zoroaster and the Magi, see Cudworth, Intell. Syst. B. I. ch. IV. § 16, &c. On the appearance of a Trinity in the Egyptian Pantheism, see § 18, II. p. 194.
  19. On Plato’s Trinity, see Cudworth, B. I. ch. iv. §24. II. p. 300. § 34. III. pp. 54, 82, &c.
  20. On the statement of Numenius, who asks, “What is Plato, but Moses in Attic?” see Lardner’s Test. of Anc. Heathens, ch. XXXV. Allix’s Judgment of the Jewish Church, ch. XXIII. p. 286.
  21. See Burton, Bampton Lect. p. 213.
  22. Burton’s Bampton Lect. Lect. VII. and note 90.
  23. Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, ch. xv.
  24. The following passages exhibit some of the testimonies of the Apostolic fathers to the Divinity of Christ, and by implication, to the doctrine of the Trinity: — Clemens Romanus. “The Sceptre of the Majesty of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, came not in the show of pride and arrogance, though he might have done so.” (1 Cor. xvi.) “Being content with the portion GOD had dispensed to you: and hearkening diligently to His word, ye were enlarged in your bowels, having HIS SUFFERINGS always before your eyes.” (1 Cor. ii. See also chapters xxxii. xxxvi. xlv. &c.) Ignatius calls our Saviour “Jesus Christ our God,” (in the Inscription to the Epistles to the Ephesians and Romans, also in Trall. 7, Rom. iii.) speaks of “the blood of God,” (Eph. i.) “the passion of my God,” (Rom. vi.) says, “I glorify God, even Jesus Christ.” (Smyrn. i.) “When God was manifested in human form (ἀνθρωπίνως) for newness of eternal life.” (Eph. xix.) “There is one Physician, both fleshly and spiritual, made and not made, God incarnate: true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passible, then impassible; even Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Eph. vii.) “Expect Him, who is above all time, eternal, invisible, though for our sakes made visible, who was intangible, impassible; yet for our sakes became subject to suffering, enduring all manner of ways for us.” (Ign. to Polyc. iii.) “God, who was manifested by His Son Jesus Christ, who is the Eternal Word, not coming forth from silence.” (Magn. viii.) The Trinity of Persons in the Godhead is plainly referred to in such passages as these: — “Study that so . . . .ye may prosper in body and spirit, in faith and charity — in the Son, and in the Father, and in the Spirit — in the beginning and in the end;” and again, “Be subject to your bishop and to one another, as Jesus Christ to the Father, according to the flesh, and as the Apostles both to Christ and the Father, and the Holy Ghost.” (Magn. xiii.) Polycarp speaks most clearly in the doxology ascribed to him, as some of his last words, in the Circular Epistle of the Church of Smyrna on the Martyrdom of Polycarp. “For this, and for all things else, I praise Thee, I bless Thee, I glorify Thee, by the eternal and heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son, with whom, to Thee and the Holy Ghost, be glory both now and to all succeeding ages, Amen.” Martyrdom of Polyc. XIV. On this passage see Waterland, II. p. 232. A vindication of Clement of Rome and Polycarp from the imputation of Arianism may be found in Bull, F. D. II. 3, 2. Barnabas, whose Epistle, though perhaps not the work of the Apostle of that name, is doubtless the work of one who lived nearly conteporaneously with the other Apostolical fathers, writes: “For this cause the Lord was content to suffer for our souls, although He be the Lord of the whole earth; to whom God said before the beginning of the world, ‘Let us make man in our image.’” (Barnab. c. v.) Again, “You have in this, also, the glory of Jesus, that by Him and for Him are all things.” ὅτι ἐν Αὐτῷ πάντα, καὶ εὶς Αὐτόν (c. XII. See Bull, F. D. I. 2, 2.) Hermas, who is reckoned an Apostolical father, and was certainly a writer not later than the middle of the second century, has the following: “The Son is indeed more ancient than any creature, inasmuch as He was in counsel with the Father at the creation of all things.” (Simil. IX. 12) “The Name of the Son of God is great, and without bounds, and the whole world is supported by it.” (Simil. IX. 14.) Concerning the genuineness of the seven shorter Epistles of Ignatius, see Pearson’s Vindiciæ Ignat. in the second volume of Cotelerii Patres Apostolici. A Synopsis of his Arguments is given in Dupin’s Eccles. Hist., in the Life of Ignatius. See also Bp. Horsley’s Works, IV. p. 133. Dr. Burton (Testimonies of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, p. 14) enumerates the following, as great names to be ranked on the same side with Bp. Pearson in holding that the genuineness of these Epistles has been fully proved. I. Vossius, Ussher, Hammond, Petavius, Grotius, Bull, Cave, Wake, Cotelerius, Grabe, Dupin, Tillemont, Le Clerc, Lardner, Horsley, &c. On the opposite side he reckons Salmasius, Blondel, Dallæus, Priestley. Since the discovery of the Syriac Version of the Epistles of Ignatius, and their publication by Mr. Cureton, a new controversy has arisen; namely, whether the three Epistles in the Syriac be the only genuine, and the seven shorter Greek Epistles deserving of acceptance only so far as they agree with the Syriac. Whatever may be the ultimate fate of this controversy, it is most satisfactory to know that even the three Syriac Epistles contain some of the strongest of those passages, in the Seven Greek Epistles, which prove the writer’s belief in the true Deity of Christ.
  25. An example of his mode of speaking may be seen in the following short passage from Apol. I. c. 63: “They, who say that the Son is the Father, are convicted of neither knowing the Father, nor of understanding, that the God of the universe has a Son, who, being the First-born Word of God, is also God.” Of Justin’s sentiments on the Logos and the Trinity, see Bull, F. D. II. 4; Waterland, III. pp. 157, 246; Burton’s Testimonies of Ante-Nicene Fathers, p. 30; Bp. Kaye’s Just. Mart. ch. II. where also, in the Appendix, is an account of the opinions of Tatian, Athenagoras, and Theophilus of Antioch.
  26. Ad Autolycum, Lib. II. p. 106. τύποι τῆς Τριάδος, τοῦ Θεοῦ, καὶ τοῦ Λόγου αὐτοῦ, καὶ τῆς Σοϕίας αὐτοῦ. On his doctrine, consult Bull, F. D. II. 4, 10.
  27. Iren. III. c. VI. § 1; Burton, Ante-Nicene Fathers, p. 68, where see the testimony of Irenæus at length; also in Bull, F. D. II 5, and Beaven’s Account of Irenæus, ch. IV.
  28. The passage is — Κρι. Καὶ τίνα ἐπομόcωμαί γε; Τοι. ψιμέδοντα Θεὸν, μέγαν, ἄμβροτον, οὐρανίωνα, υἱὸν πατρὸς, πνεῦμα ἐκ πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον, ἓν ἐκ τριῶν, καὶ ἐξ ἑνὸς τρία.
  29. E. g. Adv. Praxeam, c. III. “Itaque duos et tres jam jactitant a nobis prædicari, se vero unius Dei cultores præsumunt, quasi non et unitas inrationaliter colleta hæresim faciat, et Trinitas rationaliter expensa veritatem constituat.” Dr. Hey, in his lectures on the First Article, observes that the charge, which the heretics made against the Catholics, of holding three Gods, is to him the strongest evidence that the Catholics held the doctrine of the Trinity. Tertullian distinctly illustrates the consubstantiality of the Persons in the Godhead, by introducing the comparison of the sun, and a ray from the sun, or light kindled from light. As the substance of the light remains the same, though a ray has been sent forth, or another light kindled, “so what proceeds from God is both God and the Son of God, and both are one.” Apol. c. XXI. See Bull, F. D. II. 7; Burton, p. 162; and Bp. Kaye’s Tertullian, p. 553, where the ambiguity of some of Tertullian’s language is fully considered. The use of the word Trinity, first to be found in Greek in Theophilus, and in Latin in Tertullian, received synodical authority in the Council of Alexandria, A. D. 317.
  30. Eccl. Antiq. Book XIII. ch. II.
  31. See also Bull’s Primitiva Traditio; Waterland, On the Trinity; Faber’s Apostolicity of Trinitarianism.
  32. St. John lived latterly at Ephesus, and especially addresses the Churches of Asia. Timothy was Bishop of Ephesus, and St. Paul’s most marked allusions to philosophical heresy are in the Epistles to Timothy, the Ephesians, and the Colossians.
  33. This may be especially seen in such passages as Eph. i. 23; Col. i. 15, 19; ii. 9; 1 Tim. iii. 16, compared with iv. 1, 2, 3.
  34. See Newman’s Arians, ch. I. § 1.
  35. Col. ii. 16.
  36. Ignat. Ad Magnes. XVIII.
  37. Can. XXIX. See Suicer, II. p. 922.
  38. Newman’s Arians, ch. II. § 4, p. 206.
  39. See Mosheim, Cent. I. pt. II. ch. v. § 16.
  40. Mosehim, Cent. II. pt. II. ch. v. §§ 2, 3. See also Burton’s Bampton Lectures, p. 247.
  41. Mosheim, Cent. II. pt. II. ch. v. § 21.
  42. Theodotus, having denied his faith in persecution, excused himself by saying, that he had not denied God, but man; he, according to Eusebius, being the first who asserted that Jesus Christ was a mere man; for all former heretics had admitted ast least some Divinity in Jesus. (See Burton’s Bampton Lectures, p. 247.) This should seem to show that Theodotus was a mere humanitarian.
  43. See Tertullian, Adv. Praxeam; also Bp. Kaye’s Tertullian, p. 526; Mosheim, Cent. II. pt. II. ch. v. § 20. Praxeas is placed A. D. 200. He propagated his opinions at Rome.
  44. He spoke of the Son of God, as being an unsubsisting knowledge or energy, ἐπιοτήμη ἀνυπόστατος. In opposition to which, the fathers of the Council of Antioch speak of Him as ζῶσαν ἐνέργειαν καὶ ἐνυπόστατον, a living and subsisting energy. Routh, Reliq. Sac. Tom. II. pp. 468, 469. Bull, Fid. Nic. Def. Lib. III. c. IV.
  45. See Mosheim, Cent. III. pt. II. ch. v. § 15; Newman’s Arians; Burton’s Bampton Lectures, note 108.
  46. He avoided saying “time” (χρόνος); because he appears to have admitted that the production of the Logos was before all time. See Neander, Church History, IV. p. 4. London, Bohn, 1851.
  47. Pearson, On the Creed, Art. I. p. 135. (fol. Lond. 1723.)
  48. This was the fallacy of Eunomius. See Pearson, On the Creed, Art. II. p. 138
  49. The Apostolical Canons mention and condemn certain persons, who baptized in the name of three unoriginated principles, τρεῖς ἀνάρχους. Can. Apost. c. 49. And the first Council of Bracara says that the Gnostics and Priscillianists introduced a Trinity of Trinities. See Bingham, B. XI. ch. III. § 4.
  50. See Newman’s Arians, ch. II. § 5.
  51. “Macedoniani sunt a Macedonio Constantinopolitanæ ecclesiæ episcopo, quos et Πνευματομάχους Græci dicunt, eo quod de Spiritu Sancto litigent. Nam de Patre et Filio recte sentiunt, quod unius sint ejusdemque substantiæ, vel essentiæ: sed de Spiritu Sancto hoc nolunt credere, creaturam Eum esse dicentes.” — S. August. Hæres. 52. See Pearson, On the Creed, p. 316, note, Art. VIII.
  52. With the exception of course of the famous “Filioque.”
  53. Much information on the terms of the controversy may be found by turning to the words Τριάς, ὑπόστασις, οὐσία, ὁμοούσιος, ρειος, μιάρειοι, Πνεῦμα (c), πνευματομάχος, &c., in Suicer’s Thesaurus. See also Bp. Kaye’s History of the Council of Nicaea.
  54. See Suicer, s. v. Τριθεΐται, and Mosheim, Cent. VI. pt. II. ch. v. § 10.
  55. “Cum de Trinitate loquitur, sapit Arium; cum de Gratiâ, sapit Pelagium; cum de Personâ Christi, sapit Nestorium.” — Bernard. Ad Guidon. Cardin. Epist. 192; apud Cave, Hist. Lit. p. 652.
  56. Mosheim, Cent. XVI. pt. II. ch. IV. § 3.
  57. Mosheim, Cent. XVI. pt. II. ch. IV. § 3; also Cent. XVII. pt. II. ch. VI. § 2.
  58. [See Johnson Grant’s History of the Church of England, III. c. XVII. —J. W.]


E. Harold Browne

(Edward) Harold Browne was an English bishop, born at Aylesbury and educated at Eton and Cambridge. He was ordained in 1836, and two years later was elected senior tutor of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. From 1843 to 1849 he was vice-principal of St David’s College, Lampeter, and in 1854 was appointed Norrisian professor of divinity at Cambridge. His best-known book is the Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles (vol. i., Cambridge, 1850; vol. ii., London, 1853), which remained for many years a standard work on the subject and is still beloved today. In 1864 he was consecrated bishop of Ely.

'Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles – Article I (Part 1)' has 1 comment

  1. December 19, 2023 @ 9:02 pm S. Wesley Mcgranor

    Your ending comments perhaps a Freudian slip, that Presbyterians took God’s Arminian High Church deposit away at Westminster.


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