Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles – Article I (Part 2)

Section II. — Scriptural Proof.

HAVING thus far given a history of the doctrine contained in this Article, I proceed to the proof from Scripture.

So much of the subject may seem to belong to natural religion that we might easily be tempted to begin with proofs from reason alone. It appears to me, however, that, as a Christian Church presupposes acceptance of the Christian revelation, the proper way of treating the symbols and articles of a church is to prove them from the authentic records of that revelation. The proofs from reason belong rather to the department of Christian evidences. Yet thus much perhaps it may be necessary to premise: that the mystery of the doctrines contained in this Article should be considered as no argument against their truth. For, as, with all our study, we can scarce attain to any clear understanding of the mode in which we exist ourselves; reason alone should teach us to look upon it as hardly likely, that, with any searching, we could find out God. The mode of His subsistence who is infinitely above us may probably enough be infinitely above our powers to comprehend.

According, then, to the division of the subject proposed above, we have to show, —

FIRST, in opposition to Anthropomorphites, that “God is a Spirit, without body, parts, or passions.”

SECONDLY, in opposition to Pantheists, that God is a personal, living Being, — “living and true, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, Maker and Preserver of all things, visible and invisible,” “everlasting.”

THIRDLY, in opposition to Tritheists, Arians, and every kind of Polytheists, that God is One.

FOURTHLY, in opposition to Arians, Sabellians, Macedonians, Socinians, &c., that, “in the Unity of the Godhead there are three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity, — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”

I shall consider it sufficient to establish the doctrines contained in the first three of the foregoing propositions by simply referring to some of the many texts of Scripture by which they may be proved; reserving for the fourth and last any more extended arguments.

FIRST, then, “God is a Spirit, without body, parts, or passions.” Joh. iv. 24. Comp. Isai. xl. 18, 25. Deut. iv. 15. Luk. xxiv. 39. Joh. i. 18; v. 37. Acts xvii. 24, 28, 29. Rom. i. 20, 21. 1 Tim. i. 17; vi. 16.

“Without passions” may be inferred from Num. xxiii. 19. Mal. iii. 6. Heb. vi. 17, 18. James i. 13, 17.

It is perhaps hardly necessary to add, that, whereas God is often spoken of in terms which express bodily relations, it is that the Infinite may in some degree be made intelligible to the finite; the Almighty having been pleased to condescend to our infirmities, and to deal with us, as parents do with their children, teaching them by such figures and modes of instruction as their tender minds will bear.


1. “Living and true.” Exod. iii. 6, 14, 15; vi. 2, 3. Num. xxvii. 16. Deut. v. 26. Josh. iii. 10. 1 Sam. xvii. 26. Ps. xlii. 2; lxxxiv. 2. Isai. xlii. 8. Jer. x. 10. Dan. vi. 26. Matt. xvi. 16. Joh. xvii. 3. Acts xiv. 15. Rom. ix. 26. 2 Cor. vi. 16. 1 Thess. i. 9. 1 Tim. iv. 10; vi. 17. Heb. x. 31. Rev. iv. 8; x. 5, 6.

2. “Of infinite power.” Gen. xvii. 1; xviii. 14. Job xlii. 2. Jer. xxxii. 17, 27. Matt. xix. 26. Eph. iii. 20. Rev. iv. 11; xix. 6.

3. “Wisdom.” Gen. xvi. 13. 1 Sam. ii. 3. 1 Kings viii. 39. Job xxvi. 6; xxviii. 10, 23, 24; xxxiv. 21. Psal. xliv. 21; xciv. 9; cxxxix. 4. Prov. xv. 3. Jer. xxiii. 23, 24. Dan. ii. 22, 28. Acts xv. 18. Rom. xi. 33; xvi. 27. Heb. iv. 13. 1 Joh. i. 5. Jude 25.

4. “Goodness.” Ex. xv. 11; xxxiv. 6. Lev. xi. 44. Deut. iv. 31. 1 Sam. ii. 2. Psal. lxxxvi. 15; cxviii. 1; cxlv. 8. Isai. vi. 3. Dan. ix. 9. Joel ii. 13. Jonah iv. 2. Mic. vii. 18. Luke i. 77, 78. Rom. ii. 4. 2 Cor. i. 3. Eph. ii. 4. Heb. vi. 10. 2 Pet. iii. 15. 1 Joh. iv. 8. Rev. xv. 3.

5. “Maker of all things, visible and invisible.” Gen. i. ii. 2 Kings xix. 15. Neh. ix. 6. Psal. xxxiii. 6; c. 3 ; cxxxv. 6. Acts xvii. 24. Eph. iii. 9. Col. i. 16. Heb. iii. 4. Rev. iv. 11; x. 6.

6. “Preserver of all things.” Deut. xxxii. 39, &c. 1 Sam. 11. 6. 1 Chron. xxix. 11, 12. Job xii. 9. Psal. xxii. 28; lxxv. 6, 7; xc. 3; xcv. 3, 4, 5, 7. Isai. xiv. 27; xl. 11, 12, 13, 15, 22. Jer. v. 24; xviii. 6‒9. Dan. v. 23. Matt. vi. 25‒30; x. 29, 30. Rom. xi. 36.

7. “Everlasting.” Gen. xxi. 33. Deut. xxxiii. 27. Psal. ix. 7; xc. 2, 4; cii. 12, 26, 27. Isai. xliv. 6; lvii. 15. Lam. v. 19. Rom. i. 20; xvi. 26. 1 Tim. i. 17. Rev. i. 8; v. 14; x. 6.

THIRDLY. We have to show, in opposition to Tritheists, Arians, and every kind of Polytheists, that “God is One.” “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. vi. 4). “The Lord, He is God, there is none else beside Him” (Deut. iv. 35). “Thus saith the Lord . . . Beside Me there is no God” (Is. xliv. 6; comp. v. 8). “There is one God, and there is none other but He” (Mark xii. 32). “The only true God” (Joh. xvii. 3). “We know that there is none other God but One” (1 Cor. viii. 4). “God is One” (Gal. iii. 20). “There is One God, and one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. ii. 5). “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well” (Jam. ii. 19). “Denying the only Lord God” (Jude 4). “The only wise God, our Saviour” (Jude 25).

See also Ex. xx. 3. 2 Sam. xxii. 32. Psal. lxxxvi. 10. Isai. xxxvii. 16; xlii. 8. Mark xii. 29. 1 Cor. viii. 6. Eph. iv. 6.

FOURTHLY. We have to show, in opposition to Sabellians, Arians, Macedonians, Socinians, &c., that “In the Unity of the Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity, — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”

As regards this doctrine of the Trinity in Unity, we must not expect to find the same express declarations in Scripture that we find, for instance, of the facts, that “God is a Spirit,” “God is a righteous God,” or the like. But it by no means therefore follows, that the one is less true than the other. It appears to have been far from the design of the Author of Holy Scripture to set down every article of Christian truth in the form of a distinct enunciation. Scripture is not a system of catechetical instruction, designed to lead us, step by step, to the knowledge of religious verities, and to place everything so clearly before us, that, if we will, we cannot mistake it. On the contrary, it is plainly intended, that, if we do not fear the Lord, we shall not be able to penetrate His secret, and that, unless our hearts are set to do His will, we shall not be able to know of His doctrine. If there were no other reason than this, we might see why many things in Scripture require to be sought out.

But, again, God has appointed various instruments for instruction in His Church; all, of course, in subordination to the teaching of His Holy Spirit. He has bestowed upon us, first, reason; secondly, Scripture; thirdly, the ministry of His word and Sacraments. If Scripture were a regular course of catechetical teaching, so plain that it could not be mistaken, the prophetic or didactic office of the Church and the ministry would be altogether superseded. Again, it is evidently desirable that our reason, enlightened by God’s Spirit, should be exercised to the understanding of His word; and one great blessing derived from this appointment is, that so, whilst the ignorant may find enough to guide them safe, the most profound and acutest intellect may find abundance to employ its meditations, and exercise its thoughts. Else, what was suited for the one might pall upon the taste of the other.

Believing, then, that we are not only permitted, but called upon, in humble dependence on the Divine guidance, to use our reason, dispassionately but reverently, in order to understand what God has delivered to us, I shall endeavour to class together the various facts which Scripture has recorded concerning the nature of God, so far as they bear on this part of our subject; and then, by the common process of induction, shall hope to arrive at a just conclusion from a general view of them all.

Now these different facts of Scripture may be classed under four heads.

I. Scripture teaches, that there is One God.

II. There is, nevertheless, clear intimation of some kind of plurality in the Godhead, even in the old Testament; but in the new Testament there is a clear declaration that

The Father is God, — the Son is God, — the Holy Ghost is God.

III. This fact of the plurality is not in express terms a contradiction of the Unity; such as would be the case, if in one passage it were said, “There is one God,” and in another passage, “There are three Gods;” for it appears from Scripture, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are but one and the same God.

IV. Still, though Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are but one God, there is plain evidence from Scripture, that the Father is not the Son, nor is either of them the Holy Ghost; but that they are clearly distinguished from one another, and distinguished, too, as Personal Agents, not merely as modes, operations, or attributes.

If I find these four propositions clearly established in Scripture, I do not know what more can be required to prove the doctrine of this Article, that “in the Unity of the Godhead there be three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost;” and that these three Persons are “of one substance, power, and eternity.”

I. In the first place, then, Scripture teaches us, that there is but one God. This has been already shown in the THIRD principal division of the subject. It is revealed as the fundamental truth of all religion. Whatever contradicts this truth is evident falsehood. Therefore Tritheism, which speaks of the Father, Son, and Spirit as three Gods, is false. Therefore Arianism, which speaks of the Father as the supreme God, and of the Son as another inferior, subordinate God, is false. Therefore every kind of Polytheism is false; for “there is one God, and there is none other but He.” Mark xii. 32.

II. But next, plain as is this doctrine of the Unity of the Godhead, there are (1) in the old Testament decided intimations of a plurality in the Godhead, and (2) in the new Testament express declarations, that

The Father is God, — the Son is God, — and the Holy Ghost is God.

(1) In the old Testament there are decided intimations of a plurality in the Godhead.

The Jews indeed were placed in the midst of idolaters, themselves easily tempted to idolatry; and, being subjects of a carnal dispensation, were but little capable of embracing spiritual truth. It may therefore probably have been in mercy, to prevent the danger of Tritheism, that the doctrine of the Unity was so strongly insisted on, and so little said of a Trinity or plurality of Persons. Yet intimations are not wanting.

I do not insist on the plural form of the name of God, be cause the Hebrews used plurals at times to express greatness or intensity; and such may have been the force of the plural in the name Elohim.

But, in the history of the Creation (Gen. i. 26, 27), it is certainly remarkable, that God said, “Let us make man in our image;” and then it is added, “So God created man in His own image.” This is the more remarkable, if we compare with it what is said by St. Paul (Col. i. 16; Heb. i. 2, &c.), namely, that God made all things by His Son. The same plural expression occurs after the fall, when God says, “The man is become as one of us;” and at the confusion of Babel, “Let us go down and confound their language.” We cannot conceive the infinite Creator of all things thus coupling any finite creature with Himself.

Again, in the old Testament there are various manifestations of God, which at one time are spoken of as manifestations of God Himself, at another as manifestations of a Messenger or Angel sent by God: as though God were at once the Sender and the Sent, — the God of Angels and the Angel of God.

This may be observed of the wrestling of Jacob with the Angel (Gen. xxxii. 24). In Genesis it is said Jacob wrestled with a man; but he called the place, “Peniel, because he had seen God face to face” — (ver. 30); and where the same is referred to by Hosea (xii. 3, 4), it is first said, “He had power with God,” and then in the next verse, “He had power over the Angel, and prevailed.”

In Joshua (v. 14), one appears to Joshua, who calls Himself “the Captain of the Lord’s host.” Yet three verses farther (ch. vi. 2), when the Captain of the Lord’s host speaks to Joshua, the name by which He is called is the LORD (i. e. JEHOVAH). From this we infer, that He, who came as the Captain of JEHOVAH’s host, was also Himself JEHOVAH.[1]

In the second chapter of Judges, the Angel of the LORD appears to speak with full authority, as if He were the LORD Himself. “I made you go out of Egypt.” “I said, I will never break My covenant with you.” Ver. 1.

The history of Manoah and the Angel (Judg. xiii. comp. vv. 20, 21, 22, 23) seems to teach the same thing.

But not only is One, who is sent by the Lord as His Angel, called by the highest name of God, namely, JEHOVAH; but also there is indication of the clearest kind in the old Testament, that One, who should be sent on earth by God, as a man, to suffer, and to deliver, is also the Fellow of God, and God Himself. Thus, in Jeremiah (xxiii. 6), the Messiah’s name is called “JEHOVAH our Righteousness.” In Isaiah (vii. 14), it is called “God with us.” In Malachi (iii. 1), we are told, “The LORD whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the Covenant whom ye delight in,” — language clearly used of the Messiah, but as clearly most suitable to God. In Isaiah (ix. 6), the Child, who is to be born as a Redeemer, is expressly called “The Mighty God.” In Zechariah (xiii. 7), in a prophecy of salvation by the Christ, we read, “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the Man that is My Fellow (or Companion, עֲמִירִי), saith the Lord of hosts.”

I forbear to adduce such passages as those where the Wisdom, or the Word of God are spoken of with personal attributes (e. g. Prov. viii. ver. 22, 23, 24, 30, 31. Psal. xxxiii. 6. Isai. xlviii. 16); because we cannot be certain that in these cases personal attributes are not ascribed by the figure called Prosopopœia. But it is hard to explain how God in creation can use the plural number, speaking as to another, with whom He was, as it were, acting in concert, — how the same Person can be both JEHOVAH, and sent as JEHOVAH’s Angel, Captain, or Messenger, — how the same person can be sent on earth as Messiah, and yet be the mighty God, — how God can speak of the Man, that is His Fellow, — without supposing, that some sort of plurality in the Godhead is implied.

I conclude, therefore, that in the old Testament there are distinct intimations of a plurality in the Godhead.

(2) But next, in the new Testament, there are not only intimations of a plurality (such as the very use of the names, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and their conjunction in numerous passages plainly imply), but farther, it is distinctly taught us

1. That the FATHER is GOD, — 2. That the SON is GOD, — 3. That the HOLY GHOST is GOD.

1. That we are taught the FATHER is GOD, no one can doubt. So strong indeed are the expressions concerning the Father as God, that, if they stood alone, we should naturally conclude, that the Father alone was God, and that, as there is but One God, so there was but one Person in the Godhead. Thus our Lord says (John viii. 54), “My Father, of whom ye say that He is your God.” Again, addressing the Father, He says, “This is Life eternal, to know Thee, the only true God” (John xvii. 3). St. Paul speaks (Eph. iv. 6) of “One God and Father of all.” And again, “To us there is one God, the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. viii. 6.)[2]

2. We learn also from the teaching of the new Testament that the SON is GOD. And this fact we deduce both from reasonable inference, and from direct statement.

Our reasonable inference is of the following kind.

We often meet with passages in the old Testament, which speak plainly of the Most High God, applied as plainly in the new Testament to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. For example, in Isaiah xl. 3, it is said, that “the voice of one crying in the wilderness shall prepare the way of JEHOVAH, and make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” But in each one of the Evangelists this passage is quoted. The “Voice” is said to be John the Baptist; and He for whom he prepares the way is said to be Christ.[3] Is not the natural and necessary inference, that Christ is as much “our God” and “JEHOVAH,” as John was the voice in the wilderness?

Again, in Zech. xii. 4, 10, if we compare the one verse with the other, we shall see that it is written, “In that day, saith JEHOVAH . . . they shall look on Me whom they have pierced.” But St. John (xix. 37) tells us, that this prophecy was concerning the piercing of Christ. Therefore we must conclude, that Christ is JEHOVAH.

Once more, in Isaiah vi. the prophet sees the Lord sitting upon His throne, even “the King, JEHOVAH of hosts” (ver. 5). But St. John (compare xii. 37‒41) says, that the LORD, whose glory Isaiah then saw, was Jesus Christ.

Another reason why we infer that the Son is God, is that the worship due to God is offered to Him, the peculiar attributes of God are ascribed to Him, and the power of God is exerted by Him.

(1) He receives worship as God, and is prayed to.

See Matt. ii. 11; viii. 2; ix. 18; xiv. 33; xv. 25; xx. 20; xxviii. 9. Mark v. 6; ix. 24. Luke xxiii. 42. John ix. 38. Acts vii. 59. 2 Cor. viii. 8, 9. 1 Thess. iii. 11. Heb. i. 6. Rev. v. 8, 12, 13.

Whereas saints and angels universally refuse worship offered to them, and bid us worship none but God. Acts x. 26; xiv. 14, 15. Rev. xix. 10; xxii. 9.

(2) The peculiar attributes of God are ascribed to Him.

α. He is eternal, existing from everlasting to everlasting. Micah v. 2. John i. 1, 3; viii. 58. Col. i. 16, 17. Heb. i. 8, 10, 11, 12; vii. 3; xiii. 8. Rev. i. comp. vv. 8, 11, 12, 13, 18 (which comparison will show that the language is all used of Jesus Christ); xxii. 13.

It may be added, that several of the above passages show, that He is not only eternal, but unchangeable, e. g. Heb. i. 10, 11; xiii. 8.

β. He knows the thoughts, yea, all things. Matt. ix. 4; xii. 25. Luke vi. 8; ix. 47; xi. 17. John i. 48; xvi. 30; xxi. 17. Col. ii. 3. Rev. ii. 23.

Those of the above passages which show that Jesus Christ knew the thoughts of the heart, should be compared with such as the following: Jer. xvii. 10, “I the Lord search the heart.” Acts xv. 8, “God, which knoweth the hearts” (ὁ καρδιογνώστης Θεός) and 1 Kings viii. 39, “Thou, even Thou ONLY knowest the hearts of all the children of men.”[4]

γ. He is everywhere present. Matt. xviii. 20; xxviii. 20. John i. 48; iii. 13.

The last passage especially shows that, whilst He was on earth, He was still in Heaven.

δ. He is self-existent, like the Father, having derived from the Father the same eternal nature with Himself. John v. 26. Compare John xi. 25; xiv. 6. See also John i. 4; x. 30; xiv. 10. Phil. ii. 6.[5]

(3) The power of God is exerted by Him.

α. He is Lord of the Sabbath, which God ordained, and none but God can change. Comp. Gen. ii. 2, 3, with Mark ii. 28. Luke vi. 5.

β. He sends His Angels, as God. Matt. xiii. 41. Rev. i. 1; xxii. 6.

γ. He has power to forgive sins as God. Matt. ix. 2‒6. Mark ii. 5, 7, 10. Luke v. 20‒24; vii. 48.

Whereas, when forgiveness is merely ministerial or ecclesiastical, the power is conferred by Him, and exercised in His name. Comp. John xx. 23 with 2 Cor. ii. 10.

δ. He shall judge the world. Job xix. 25. Matt. xiii. 41; xvi. 27; xxv. 31. John v. 22, 23. Acts x. 42. 2 Cor. v. 10.

ε. He created and preserves all things.[6] John i. 3, 10. Eph. iii. 9. Col. i. 16. Heb. i. 2, 3, 10, 11, 12.

With these passages compare Isaiah xliv. 24, “Thus saith the LORD (i. e. JEHOVAH), I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by MYSELF.”

ζ. He has all power in Heaven and earth. Matt, xxviii. 18. Mark i. 27. John iii. 31, 35; v. 19, 21; xvi. 15. Acts x. 36. Rom. xiv. 9. Eph. i. 20‒23. Phil. ii. 10; iii. 21. Heb. vii 25. 1 Pet. iii. 21, 22. Rev. i. 5, 8.

Thus far, then, we have seen, that passages in the old Testament, spoken of God, are in the new Testament applied to Christ, the Son of God: that the worship due to God is offered to the Son: that the peculiar attributes of God are ascribed to the Son: that the power of God is exerted by the Son. If we had nothing more than this, surely our natural and necessary inference must be, that the Son is God.

But we are not left to the inference of our reason only on this momentous subject. We have also direct statement, and that many times repeated, that Christ, the Son of God, is God.

And here we may recur, for a moment, to what was said concerning intimations of a plurality in the Godhead in the old Testament. Some of the passages there referred to, when seen in the light cast upon them by the new Testament, become direct assertions of the Godhead of Christ.

The prophecy in the seventh chapter of Isaiah, that a Virgin should bear a Son, whose name should be called Immanuel, i. e. God with us, is, in the first chapter of St. Matthew, distinctly interpreted of the birth of Jesus Christ. Therefore St. Matthew distinctly declares to us, that Jesus Christ is Emmanuel, God with us. Again, in the ninth chapter of Isaiah, which is a continuation of the prophecy in the seventh chapter, the child that was to be born is called “Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father.” This prophecy, too, is by St. Matthew expressly interpreted of the Lord Jesus. (See Matt. iv. 16, which compare with Isai. ix. 1, 2.) We have then the express assurance of the Evangelist, that Jesus Christ was called in the old Testament, Immanuel, and the Mighty God.

We might add to these examples the language of Zechariah (xiii. 7), where the Lord’s “Shepherd” is called his “Fellow;” and that of Jeremiah (xxiii. 6), where the “Branch,” that should be raised to David, is called “JEHOVAH our Righteousness;”[7] because both these passages are unquestionable prophecies of Christ, though not so distinctly referred to by the Evangelists.

The first chapter of St. John begins with a declaration of the Divinity of the Son of God. From whatever source St. John derived the use of the term “the Word of God;” whether he used language already familiar to the Jews, or, as is perhaps more probable, adopted the phrase of Platonizing heretics;[8] it is quite plain, that by the “Word” he means the Son of God, who was incarnate in Jesus Christ. That is proved by Rev. xix. 13, where it is said of Jesus Christ that “His name is called the Word of God;” and again, by the 14th verse of the first chapter of St. John’s Gospel, where we read, “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father.” Of this Word of God then, who was the Only-begotten of the Father, and, when made flesh, was called Jesus Christ, we are told (John i. 1), “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Language cannot more strongly express the Deity of the Son of God, the Word of God. Yet, lest mistake should occur, the Evangelist adds a sentence which at once declares that the Word was uncreated, and was Himself the Creator of all things, exercising that, the highest act of Almighty power. “All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.” If no created thing was made but by Him; then was He Himself uncreated, and so He must be the eternal, uncreated Maker of the universe.

In the eighth chapter of the same Gospel, we find our Lord taking to Himself one of the most special names of God. God had first revealed Himself to Moses by the name “I AM.” Here, then, Christ having declared Himself the Son of God, having assured the Jews that Abraham had seen His day and rejoiced: when they doubted the possibility of His having seen Abraham, He adds, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Had He merely spoken of His preëxistence, the past tense would have seemed more natural. But He uses that tense which expresses the existence of none but God, — an unchanging present, which has no future nor past, — and so adopts, as His own, the name of the self-existent JEHOVAH. That the Jews so understood Him is apparent from the fact, that, though they bore with Him whilst He called Himself God’s Son, as soon as he had uttered the words “Before Abraham was, I am,” they took up stones to cast at Him.

Again, (John xx. 28,) when Thomas is convinced of Christ’s resurrection, he is therewith, though not till then, convinced of Christ’s Divinity; for he immediately “said unto Him, My Lord and My God.”[9]

Another important passage is that in the ninth chapter of Romans, ver. 5; where St. Paul, speaking of the Jews, says that of them, “as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God, blessed forever.” In this verse there is, as it were, proof upon proof, that Christ is God. First, the expression “as concerning the flesh,” indicates that, according to something higher than the flesh, He had His Being elsewhere. Next He is said to be ἐπὶ πάντων, “over all;” as John the Baptist said of Him (John iii. 31), “He that cometh from above is above all.” The very same epithet (ἐπὶ πάντων) is applied, Eph. iv. 6, to God the Father; nor can we conceive it to be of less significance than that similar title of God (עֶלְיוֹן, ὕψιστος) “the Most High.” Next comes the name (Θεός) God, which is in every manuscript and every version. Lastly, the whole is concluded by the words “Blessed forever:” a phrase which is a translation, or paraphrase of a well-known Jewish form used only in speaking of the Almighty: (בָּרוּךְ הוּא הַקָּדוֹשׁ).[10]

Again, in the second chapter of the Epistle to the Colossians, ver. 9, St. Paul says of Christ, that “in Him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” The Gnostics made a fulness (pleroma) of numerous Æons, or emanations from God, and one of these emanations they believed to dwell in Jesus. The Apostle says, however, that it was no single Æon, no mere emanation from God: but that the whole Pleroma, the fulness of God, dwelt in Him bodily.[11]

The first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, besides ascribing Creation and Providence to the Son of God, besides saying that all the Angels should worship Him, distinctly applies to Him the name of God. It is thus the Apostle quotes the Psalms : “To the Son He saith, Thy Throne, O God, is for ever and ever.” And again, “Thou, Lord, in the beginning, hast laid the foundation of the earth.”

Let us next take the important passage in the Epistle to the Philippians (ii. 5‒9). The Apostle exhorts the Philippians to humility by the example of the incarnate Son of God. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” There are two ways in which this passage, or at least one phrase of it (οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο), may be translated: one, as in our version; the other (as Origen, Novatian, and many after them have interpreted it), “did not pique Himself on this His dignity,” or, “did not covet and earnestly desire to be so honoured.”[12] It does not appear that one of these renderings is more calculated to weaken the force of the passage than the other. Both of them are intelligible, if we admit that St. Paul is speaking of Christ as God: both unintelligible on every other hypothesis.

The Arians indeed interpret the “being in the form of God,” not as though it meant being in the “nature of God,” but as though it were intended to signify, that Christ, before His incarnation, acted under the old Testament as God’s Angel and Messenger, represented and personated God; and so might be said to be in the form of God. They would therefore explain it, “that Christ, having been sent as God’s messenger, and permitted to personate and represent God, yet did not arrogate to Himself to be equal with God.” But it must be observed, that, if this were the right sense of the passage, then also the phrase “taking the form of a servant” should mean, not the becoming really man, but merely personating or appearing in the semblance of a man; which sense of the passage might be correct, if the writer had been a Gnostic; not, as it was St. Paul. But as the “taking on Him the form of a servant” must mean that He was truly man; so the “being in the form of God” must mean that He was truly God. It must be observed again, that, as the Apostle distinctly tells us that Christ took the form of a servant by being made in the likeness of men, it is therefore quite plain that, before He was made in the likeness of men, He was not in the form of a servant. But who of all created beings is not in the form of a servant? Who, but the uncreated God, is not a servant of God? If therefore Christ was, before His incarnation, not a servant, nor in the form of a servant, then, before His incarnation, He must have been God.

The passage then requires us to interpret it as follows: “Take, for your example of humility, Jesus Christ. He, being in the form and nature of God, thought it not robbery to be (or, piqued not Himself on being) equal with God; but emptied Himself of His Divine glory, inasmuch, as He, being Lord of all, yet assumed the form of a servant, by being made in likeness of men; and when He was thus found in fashion no longer as God, but as man, He humbled Himself yet further, by becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

In the famous passage in 1 Tim. iii. 16, we read, “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” It is indeed true that there are three readings of the first word, which is in our version God. Yet whichever reading may be the true, the whole drift of the passage and its context clearly express the Deity of Him of whom the Apostle writes, that is of Jesus Christ.[13]

There is another passage, in Acts xx. 28, which I couple with the last, because here too the reading is in doubt. St. Paul exhorts the elders of Ephesus “to feed the Church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood.”[14] So strongly does this speak, and so plainly assert the Deity of Christ, that the fathers, as early as Ignatius, who was a contemporary of the Apostles, considered themselves sanctioned by these words to use the remarkable expressions, “the Blood of God,” and “the passion of God.”[15]

St. Peter (2 Pet. i. 1) speaks of “our God and Saviour Jesus Christ;” St. Jude, of “our only Lord God, even our Lord Jesus Christ,” Jude 4. Compare Eph. v. 5; 2 Thess. i. 12; Tit. ii. 13.[16]

Lastly, St. John (1 John v. 20) distinctly calls Jesus Christ “the true God.” “We are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This (οὗτος) is the true God, and eternal life.” The pronoun “this” (οὗτος), in all propriety of speech, should refer to the last antecedent, Jesus Christ. Hence, literally and grammatically, the passage teaches, that Christ is the true God. But also the context shows that it is of Him, and not of the Father, that St. John makes this statement. Our Lord is called by Himself, and by His Apostle St. John, “the Life,” “the Life of men.” Throughout the chapter, the Apostle has been urging, that eternal life is in the Son of God. Hence, when he has said all he has to say on the subject, he concludes with once more assuring us, that Jesus Christ is both “the true God and eternal Life.” So cogent has this argument appeared, that some Arians have admitted that eternal life was meant of the Son, whilst the true God was meant of the Father. But it can never be denied that οὗτος, this, is equally the subject of both the predicates, true God, and eternal life. Therefore, if it be said, that Christ is eternal life, it is equally said, Christ is the true God. Lastly, there is no instance of the contrary interpretation in all antiquity, the objections being all modern, and of no weight in themselves.[17]

We may now then fairly conclude, that Scripture furnishes us, both by reasonable inference and by direct statement, with proof that the SON is GOD.

3. In the third place we learn also from Scripture that the HOLY GHOST is GOD.

Having found from the Scriptures that the Father is God, and that the Son is God, we shall need the less proof that He whose name is constantly joined with them is also God. Indeed, but few will deny the Divinity, though they may doubt the Personality of the Holy Ghost. Yet, since in old times Arians, Macedonians, and others appear to have held the strange notion that the Holy Spirit was a creature, it may be well to show briefly that Scripture does speak of Him as God.

As is the case as regards the Son, so to the Spirit are ascribed the power and the attributes of God.

(1) He is the great Worker of Miracles. Matt. i. 20; xii 28. Luke iv. 1, 14. Acts ii. 4; x. 45. Rom. xv. 19. 1 Cor. xii. 4, 8. Heb. ii. 4.

(2) He is the Inspirer of Prophets, and can teach all things. Mark xii. 36; xiii. 11. Luke i. 15‒41; xii. 12. John xiv. 26; xvi. 13. Acts i. 8; viii. 29; x. 19, 20; xiii. 2; xxviii. 25. 1 Cor. ii. 13; xii. 11. Eph. iii. 5. Heb. iii. 7. 1 Pet. i. 11, 12. 2 Pet. i. 21.

(3) He dwells in temples as God. 1 Cor. iii. 16; vi. 19.

(4) He is the Source of all holiness. John iii. 5. Rom. i. 4, 5; viii. 9, 14. 1 Cor. vi. 11. Gal. v. 16, &c. Compare Matt. xix. 17.

(5) He is Omnipresent and Omniscient. Ps. cxxxix. 7. 1 Cor. ii. 10.

(6) He is represented as the Creator. Gen. i. 2. Job xxvi. 13; xxxiii. 4. Ps. civ. 30, with which compare Is. xliv. 24. Mai. ii. 10.

(7) He is everlasting. Heb. ix. 14.

(8) Sin against Him is so great, that, though blasphemy of all other kinds is pardonable, blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is unpardonable. Matt. xii. 31. Mark iii. 29. Luke xii. 10.

Thus are attributes and powers ascribed to the Holy Ghost which can only be ascribed to God.

But, moreover, He is expressly called God. In 2 Sam. xxiii. 2, 3, we read,

“The Spirit of the Lord spake by me,

And His Word was in my tongue,

The God of Israel said,

The Rock of Israel spake to me.”

According to the usage of Hebrew poetry, it is unquestionable that “the Spirit of the Lord” in the first verse is the same as “the God of Israel” in the third.

In Matt. xii. 28, our Lord says, “If I with the Spirit of God cast out devils.” The parallel passage, Luke xi. 20, has, “If I with the finger of God cast out devils;” where the word “finger,”like “hand” in the old Testament, simply signifies by or by means of.[18] So that here God and the Spirit of God are synonymous.

In Acts xxviii. 25, St. Paul quotes a passage thus, “Well spake the Holy Ghost by the prophet Esaias.” The passage is from Isaiah vi. 9: which, if we refer to it in Isaiah, we shall find to have been unquestionably spoken by God.

In 1 Cor. iii. 16, we read, “Ye are the temple of God.” In 1 Cor. vi. 19, the parallel passage, we find, “Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost.”

In Exod. xxxiv., it is related that, when Moses had gone up to talk with the Lord on Mount Sinai, the skin of his face shone so brightly, that, when he had spoken to the people, he put a veil over his face, so that they were not able to look upon him; but, “when he went in before the Lord,” (i. e. JEHOVAH,) “to speak with Him, he took the veil off until he came out,” ver. 34. Now in 2 Cor. iii. 16, 17, St. Paul alludes to this history, and plainly referring to this very verse, he says, When the heart of the Israelites “shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.” He then adds, “Now the Lord” (i. e. the Lord, before whom Moses stood, and to whom the Israelites were to turn, i. e. JEHOVAH) “is that Spirit.”

In Acts v. 3, 4, when Ananias had denied the truth before the Apostles, Peter said to Ananias, “Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?” And immediately after he adds, “Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.” Plainly, therefore, the Holy Ghost is God.

Such are some of the passages of Scripture from which we may infallibly conclude, that,

As the FATHER is GOD, — And the SON is GOD, — So the HOLY GHOST is GOD.

III. Having shown that God is One, and yet, that, as regards the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, it is said of each that He is God; I propose next to show that these two truths are not direct contradictions to each other, as though it were said in one place, “there is One God,” and in another, “there are three Gods;” for it appears from Scripture that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are but one and the same God.

1. It appears from Scripture, that the Father is One with the Son. This is expressly declared by our Lord (John x. 30), “I and My Father are One.” Again, He addresses the Father as being One with Him; and prays that His Church may be one Church in God, as He and His Father are One: “that they all may be One, as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us.” Again, that “they may be one, even as we are one” (John xvii. 21, 22). Therefore it is, that the Lord Jesus says of Himself, “He that seeth Me, seeth Him that sent Me,” and in like manner He reproves His Apostle for asking to be shown the Father, saying, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? he that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father: and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?”[19]

2. That the Spirit of God is one with God the Father is shown by St. Paul, who compares the Spirit of God in God, to the spirit of man in man (1 Cor. ii. 10, 11): “What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.”

The passage in 2 Sam. xxiii. 2, 3, quoted above, where “the Spirit of God spake by me” is synonymous with “the God of Israel said,” is to the same effect.

3. That the Son and the Spirit are One may appear from the fact that St. John says (xii. 37, 41), that the Lord, whose glory Isaiah saw in the vision recorded in the sixth chapter, was the Son, Jesus Christ; but St. Paul says (Acts xxviii. 25), that the Lord, who then spoke to Isaiah, was the Holy Ghost.

Again (in Matt. xi. 27) we read, “No one knoweth the Father, but the Son.” Whereas, in 1 Cor. ii. 11, we are told that “the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.”

4. Accordingly we find, that what the Father does, that the Son does, and that the Holy Ghost does; where the Father is, there the Son is, and there the Holy Ghost is, e. g.

The Father made the world. Heb. i. 2. 1 Cor. viii. 6.

The Son made the world. John i. 3. Col. i. 16. Heb. i. 2.

The Spirit made the world. Job xxvi. 13; xxxiii. 4.


The Father quickeneth. John v. 21.

The Son quickeneth whom he will. John v. 21.

It is the Spirit that quickeneth. John vi. 63.


God the Father spake by the prophets. Heb. i. 1.

God the Son spake by the prophets. 2 Cor. xiii. 3. 1 Pet. i. 11.

God the Holy Ghost spake by the prophets. Mark xiii. 11. 2 Pet i. 21.

Again, sanctification is ascribed

To the Father. Jude 1.

To the Son. Heb. ii. 11.

To the Holy Ghost. Rom. xv. 16.[20]

Ordination is ascribed

To the Father. 2 Cor. iii. 5, 6.

To the Son. 1 Tim. i. 12.

To the Holy Ghost. Acts xx. 28.

Indwelling and presence in every Christian are ascribed

To the Father. John xiv. 23. 1 Cor. xiv. 25.

To the Son. John xiv. 23. 2 Cor. xiii. 5.

To the Holy Ghost. John xiv. 17.

From these considerations, and others like them, we naturally conclude, that, though the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God, yet are they not three different Gods, but one and the same God.

Those, indeed, who take the Arian view of the Scriptures, maintain that there is but one God, even the Father; but they add, that the Son also is God, yet not the same God, but an inferior God to the Father, and so not of the same nature and substance with the Father. This is both self-contradictory and contradictory to Holy Scripture. First, it is self-contradictory, for it teaches that there is but one God, and yet that there are two Gods. Secondly, it is contradictory to Scripture; for it is opposed to the passages, which, as we have just seen, prove the Son to be one with the Father; and it is opposed most distinctly to such passages as teach that there is no God but the One Supreme Creator of the Universe. For example, we read, Isai. xliv. 8, “Is there a God beside Me? Yea, there is no God, I know not any;” and, Isai. xiv. 5, “I am the Lord, there is none else; there is no God beside me.” (So Deut. iv. 35, 39: xxxii. 39. 2 Sam. xxii. 82.) Now, if the Arian hypothesis be true, there is another God, besides God the Father, even His Son Jesus Christ, who is not only another, but an inferior God to the Father. The only way, then, in which we can reconcile the two apparently contradictory truths, (1) that God is one, and (2) that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are each said to be God, is by admitting, as the Scriptures also teach us, that “they are not three Gods, but One God.”[21]

Thus far, then, we have proved, — I. The Unity of the Godhead, — II. That the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God, — III. That these two truths are not direct contradictions to each other; for that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are but One God, not three Gods.

But if this were all that we could learn from Scripture, we might naturally conclude that the Sabellian was the correct hypothesis, and that the names of Father, Son, and Spirit were the names but of different modes, operations, or characters of the Deity: so that, perhaps, God might be called Father, when viewed as Creator and Governor; Son, when viewed as Redeemer and Saviour; Spirit, when considered as Sanctifier and Teacher. Or perhaps we might suppose, that the Son and the Spirit were mere attributes of, or influences from God; as, for instance, the Son, the Logos, might be esteemed but as the Reason of God; the Spirit, as that Divine Influence by which He teaches the minds, and sanctifies the hearts of His servants.

IV. It is therefore necessary to show that there is plain evidence from Scripture that the Father is not the Son, and that neither of them is the Holy Ghost; but that they are plainly distinguished from one another, and distinguished, too, as Personal Agents, not merely as modes, operations, or attributes.

That there is some kind of distinction, must appear from the fact that the three, Father, Son, and Spirit, are so frequently mentioned together in the same sentence; especially in the forms of blessing and of baptism. (2 Cor. xiii. 14. Matt, xxviii. 19.) This alone might be sufficient to prove that these three sacred names were not names merely of different characters assumed by God at various times; for it seems scarcely reasonable to suppose that the Apostles prayed for blessing from three characters assumed by God, instead of praying for blessing from the One God to whom all such characters belonged; nor yet can we well believe that they should invoke blessing from the attributes of God, or baptize converts into a form of faith not in God alone, but in God, His attributes, and His influences.

But, in order to establish more clearly the fact that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are distinguished as personal Agents, it will be necessary to bring passages from Scripture, in which they are represented to us as acting personal parts, and even in which all three are represented as acting three distinct parts.

1. The Father and the Son act distinct personal parts, and are therefore distinct Personal Agents.

(1) The Father sends the Son; whereas no one can be said to send himself. John v. 36, 37; vi. 38, 39. Acts iii. 20. Gal. iv. 4. 1 John iv. 9, &c.

(2) The Son leaves the Father and returns to Him again. John viii. 42; ix. 4; xii. 49; xvi. 5, 28; xvii. 3. 1 John iv. 14.

(3) The Son offers Himself to the Father. Heb. ix. 14.

(4) The Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father. John iii. 35; v. 20; xiv. 31; xv. 9; xvii. 24, 26.

(5) The Son is said to make intercession with the Father. Heb. vii 25. 1 John ii. 1. Comp. Heb. ix. 24.

(6) The Son in His human nature prays to the Father. Luke xxii. 42; xxiii. 34. John xvii.

(7) The Father hears and speaks to the Son. John xi. 42. Heb. v. 7. Matt. iii. 17; xvii. 5. Luke ix. 35. John xii. 28.

2. The Spirit acts distinct parts from either the Father or the Son.

(1) The Father and the Son both send the Spirit. John xiv. 16, 26; xv. 26; xx. 22. Acts ii. 33. Gal. iv. 6.

(2) The Spirit makes intercession with the Father, whereas no one can intercede with Himself. Rom. viii. 26.

(3) The Son offers Himself to the Father through the Eternal Spirit. Heb. ix. 14.

(4) Christ tells His disciples, that He must go away from them, and that then the Holy Spirit should come in His place; that He would go to the Father; and from the Father send the Comforter. John xiv. 16, 26 ; xvi. 7.

(5) Christ says, that the Holy Spirit should not speak of Himself, but should receive of Christ’s, and show to the Church. John xvi. 13, 14, 15.

3. We not only have the names of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit joined in blessing, and in the form of baptism, but we are told of a scene in which they all three acted jointly, yet separate parts. At the baptism of Christ, the Son was in the Man Christ Jesus baptized; the Spirit in the shape of a dove descended on Him; the Father, out of Heaven, pronounced Him His beloved Son.

All these facts, put together, sufficiently demonstrate that there is a distinction between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and that a distinction of Personal Agents. Yet still, that we may leave no room for objection, it may, perhaps, appear necessary to consider separately, and more at length, the Personality (i) of the Son, (ii) of the Spirit.

(i) The general tone of Scripture so clearly indicates that God the Son is a Person, that, at first, it might appear that the Arian hypothesis, which makes the Son an inferior God to the Father, was the only one which could be at all maintained on Scriptural grounds; except, of course, the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity. But as the Sabellian hypothesis is not without its advocates and its arguments, it deserves and requires to be considered.

The view which Sabellianism takes of the Son of God, is, as has been said before, twofold. Some Sabellians considered God the Son as altogether the same as God the Father, and as having no proper distinction from Him. These were, in the early ages, called Patripassians. Others, again, looked on God the Son as but an Emanation from the Father, not as a Person distinct, in any sense, from Him. These have been called Emanative Sabellians. Both forms have found advocates in some degree in later times. Patripassianism has been virtually held by some divines, who, in the main orthodox, have endeavoured too boldly to make the doctrine of the Trinity square exactly with human reason and philosophy. The emanative theory has been adopted, more or less, by some, who are in fact Socinians, to elude the force or explain the difficulty of such passages as John i. 1.

Now, against both these hypotheses, the marked distinction which our Lord makes between Himself and the Father must be carefully noted. For example (John viii. 17, 18): “It is written in your Law that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of Myself, and the Father that sent Me beareth witness of Me.” Here is a distinct appeal to two distinct witnesses. As the Jewish Law required the evidence of two men; so here the Lord Jesus appeals to the evidence first of Himself, secondly of His Father. Would this be much unlike equivocation, if the Father and the Son had no personal distinction? Again (John v. 17), our Lord says: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” And when the Jews accused Him of blasphemy, for making God His Father, and so claiming equality with God, He does not deny the charge of making Himself equal with God, but still goes on to declare to them, that, notwithstanding His unity of nature with the Father, He, the Son, had a personal subordination to Him. “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth Him all things that Himself doeth.” In this passage surely, where the Son claims, as the Jews rightly interpreted Him, to be the true Son of God, and so equal with God, He yet plainly sets forth the doctrine, that in His Person, though not in His Nature, He was subordinate to the Father, receiving of the Father, and doing the same things as the Father doeth. And so He goes on, “As the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son.” Again, “As the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself:” that is, “the Father,” unlike any creature, is self-existent, having “life in Himself,” and so He hath given to the Son to be self-existent, and to “have life in Himself,” — (language clearly spoken of the eternal Son, not merely of the Man Christ Jesus,) — “And hath given Him authority to execute judgment also; because He is the Son of Man,” i. e. because He is not only Son of God, but Son of man also, incarnate, and so the fitter agent to execute the wrath, as well as to show the mercy of God. But again, our Lord goes on, “I can of Mine own Self do nothing: as I hear I judge: and My judgment is just: because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father, which hath sent Me.”[22] Again, in the forty-third verse, “I am come in My Father’s name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.”

The whole of this passage is one in which our Lord clearly spoke of Himself in His Divine nature, and of His relation to His Father in that nature, which He had in common with Him; yet no language can more expressly mark a distinction of personal action, and personal attribute.

Again, some of the passages which seem to have as their special object to set forth the glory of the Divine Being of the Son, are so worded as specially to show His distinction of Person from the Father. Thus in Coloss. i. 15, 16, where creation and providence are ascribed to Him in terms of peculiar grandeur, He is called “the Image of the Invisible God, the First Born of,” or “Begotten before, every creature.” Here He is both represented as the Image of the Father, and as having before all creation been begotten as His Son; both expressions markedly denoting personal difference.

The same thing is even more remarkable in the beginning of the Epistle to the Hebrews. It is plain, from the language of the whole of the first chapter, that the subject is the Divine nature of the Son. Yet nothing can be more clear than the distinction which is made between the Father and the Son. First of all, God is said to have spoken in old times by the prophets, but in the latter days by His Son, “whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds. Who being the brightness (the shining forth) of His glory, and the express Image of His Person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right Hand of the Majesty on High” (vv. 1, 2, 3). Now here God is said to have spoken by His Son, as He did by the prophets; He is said to have appointed Him heir of all things; (both marking distinctions of Person); then the Son is said to be “the express Image of the Person” of the Father. It may be a question, what is meant by the word ὑπόστασις, translated Person; but there can be no question that the word χαρακτήρ, translated express Image, means that the ὑπόστασις of the Son answers to that of the Father, as the impression on wax answers to the seal which made the impression. Whether then ὑπόστασις means “Person,” or whether it means “Mode of existence,” we learn that, as the Son is the shining forth of the Father’s glory, so His Person, or His mode of being, corresponds to that of the Father, (not only as a Son’s to a Father’s, but) as an impression on wax to the engraving on a seal. This indeed teaches us clearly, that the Son is of one glory, and so of one eternal essence with the Father; but as the image on the wax is distinct from that upon the seal, so must there be a distinction between the Father and the Son, of which the distinction of the seal and the wax is a figure and similitude.

The prayer of our Lord to His Father, in the seventeenth chapter of St. John, is another striking proof that the Son is indeed of one nature and substance, but not of one Person with the Father. No one can attentively peruse that prayer without seeing that our Lord speaks of Himself and His glory, as the Eternal Son, not merely as the Man Christ Jesus; so that whatever diversity we observe is not merely incident to our Lord’s incarnation, but is also characteristic of Him in His uncreated nature. When, therefore, He says (ver. 1), “Father, glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee,” we may inquire, what sense the passage could bear, if the Father and the Son were personally identical? Again, the same question is suggested by the following: “And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory that I had with Thee before the world was” (ver. 5). And “I have given unto them the words which Thou gavest Me, and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from Thee, and they have believed that Thou didst send Me” (ver. 8). And again, “Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world” (ver. 24). Does not all this necessarily prove that, before the world was created, the Person of the Son was different from the Person of the Father?

Perhaps the passage which most favours the Sabellian notions concerning the Person of the Son, is the important first chapter of St. John. That passage indeed distinctly asserts the Divinity of the Son; but language is used which may be supposed to mean that He is, as regards His Divine nature, not to be distinguished from the Father, or at least to be distinguished only as an emanation or attribute. Plato had used the term Λόγος; but he did not probably intend to distinguish, by any personal distinction, the Λόγος from God. The early heretics had mixed up the philosophy of Plato with the religion of Christ; and they used of the Son of God the language which the Platonists had used of the Λόγος. When, therefore, St. John came to use the same expression (adopted, as some think, on purpose to refute heretical teachers whilst using their own terms), it might be supposed that by the Λόγος he meant no more than the Thought or Reason of God, which, whilst it remained in the bosom of God, was the Λόγος ἐνδιάθετος, the inward Reason or Thought; when it was exerted to create the world or reveal the will of God, it became the Λόγος προϕορικός, or, as it were, the outward Speech of God.

This view of the passage may seem supported by the eighth chapter of Proverbs; where the Wisdom of God is spoken of in terms so like St. John’s language concerning the Logos, that the fathers, and many after them, have considered that Solomon must there have been writing of Christ. If this be the meaning of the Logos in St. John, we may paraphrase his words somewhat as follows: In the beginning was the Reason or Wisdom of God. That Wisdom was in God, nay, it was God (for as God is Love, so God is Wisdom). All things were made by the Reason or Wisdom of God, and without it was nothing made that was made. . . . . It was the true light, that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. . . . . And this wisdom was incarnate, or manifested in Christ, and so dwelt among us.

I have endeavoured to put this argument in its strongest form, that I may give it all the weight which it deserves. I proceed to show wherein it is defective and unsound.

In the first place, the later Platonists, and still more, the Platonizing and Gnostic heretics, had a notion of the Logos very different from Plato’s, and far more personal. Again, the Gnostics, against whose opinions in all probability St. John directs many of his statements, considered the Pleroma or fulness of God to be made up of many Æons or Emanations from God, to which they gave the various names of Nus, Sophia, Dynamis, &c. The chief of these was the Logos, whom they believed to have descended on the man Jesus. It is probable that in the first chapter of his Gospel St. John uses the names of other Æons besides the Logos. For example, whereas he first calls the Son of God the Logos, he also tells us, that in Him was Zoe (life), and the Zoe was the Phos (light); by which he has been supposed to mean, that the Logos, the Zoe, the Phos, were not different Æons but that, as St. Paul informed the Colossians (ii. 9), the whole Pleroma of Godhead dwelt in Christ, bodily. Again, St. John tells us that by the Logos, who is also the Phos and the Zoe, the world was created. The Gnostics taught that the world was created by a fallen Æon, who was an enemy to God, and that the Logos came down to destroy his dominion among men. But St. John teaches that the Logos was Himself the Creator of the Universe, and that without Him nothing was made that was made. Once more, he explains (ver. 14), that the Logos was really made flesh and dwelt among us. The Gnostics did not believe the Logos to be really made flesh; but they supposed, either that He only assumed the appearance of humanity, or that He descended, for a time, on the man Jesus, and then left him at his crucifixion. Therefore St. John uses the strong expression Λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο, “The Word was made flesh.” Lastly, he says that “we beheld His glory, the glory of the Monogenes (the Only-begotten) of the Father; full of grace and truth.” Monogenes (only-begotten) was the name of another Æon in the Gnostic Pleroma. St. John therefore adds to the other titles of the Son this title of Monogenes, to show still farther, that the Lord Jesus, the Son of the Father, combined in His own Person all the attributes which the Gnostics assigned to these various Æons, and was therefore not simply a single emanation from God, but, as St. Paul says, had in Him a fulness of Deity, and was moreover the Creator of the universe, and not, as the Gnostics had it, one who was sent to overthrow the power of the Creator.

Now, if this be the true explanation of St. John’s language, it is vastly unlike the language assigned to him by the Sabellian hypothesis. For whilst St. John is ascribing to the Son supreme Divinity, he does so in a manner which essentially implies Personality too.

But there are many other reasons why the word Logos in the first chapter of St. John must be interpreted of a Person, not of an attribute or quality, like Reason, or Wisdom.

(1) The Word is said to be God. It is not said that the Word is θεῖος, divine, but Θεός, God. Now it may be possible improperly to say “God is wisdom,” as the Apostle says, “God is love.” But we cannot say, “God’s wisdom is God,” any more than “Man’s wisdom or reason is man.”

(2) The Word is said to be “with God,” not in God; which implies personality. God’s wisdom is in Him, not, properly speaking, with Him.

(3) In ver. 11, the Word is said to have “come to His own;” meaning, no doubt, His own creatures; which again is personal.

(4) In verse 14, He is called the Μονογενής, the Only-begotten. But the idea of Sonship is personal. We cannot conceive of the Son of God, but as one in some personal sense distinct from him: just as the term son amongst men indicates one distinct from his father. And no doubt, as the term Logos is used to indicate that the Son from all eternity dwelt in the bosom of the Father, as the reason or wisdom dwells in the bosom of one endowed with such faculties; so the word Son is used to indicate to our finite under standings, that, notwithstanding such an intimate union, yet there is a distinction, such, in some degree, as the distinction of father and son.

(5) He is said to have been “made flesh, and to have dwelt among us;” and that, in opposition to the fancy of the Gnostics or Docetæ, that the Christ or Logos only took a phantastic body. Accordingly, in Rev. xix. 18, St. John sees a vision of a Person, who is evidently Jesus Christ, and whose name, written on His thigh, is King of kings, and Lord of lords; and he tells us that this Person is called “The Word of God.”

(6) In the eighth verse, John the Baptist is contrasted with Him, and declared not to be the Light or the Logos. Now, John the Baptist was undoubtedly a person. We must therefore conclude that He, with whom he is contrasted, and of whom the Evangelist had been speaking before, was a Person also.

Thus, I trust, we may conclude that the testimony borne by St. John, in the first chapter of his Gospel, is a testimony to the doctrine of the distinct personality of the Son, not to Sabellianism.[23] And with this we may venture to leave the question of the Personality of God the Son.

(ii) We have next to show the Personality of the Spirit of God.

Now, as we are baptized “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” as the Apostles bless in the name of Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Ghost: and as on many occasions the Holy Spirit is joined with the Father and the Son; we cannot but think it probable, at least, that as the Father is a Person, and the Son has just been shown to be a Person distinct from the Father, so the Holy Ghost is a Person also distinct from either of them.

But beyond this, we find distinctly that, in Holy Scripture, personal actions are ascribed to the Holy Ghost.

(1) He makes intercession with God the Father, Rom. viii. 26. Now to make intercession is a personal act.

(2) He testifies. John xv. 26.

(3) He teaches. John xiv. 26.

(4) He hears and speaks. John xvi. 13.

(5) He gives spiritual gifts, dividing them according to His will. 1 Cor. xii. 8, 11.

(6) He inhabits a temple, 1 Cor. iii. 16 ; vi. 19. This is the act of a Person, not of an attribute or influence.

(7) He not only is represented as speaking generally, but we have speeches set down in Scripture, which the Holy Spirit is said to have uttered to peculiar persons, e. g. Acts x. 28: “The Spirit said unto Peter, Behold, three men seek thee . . . . I have sent them.” Acts xiii. 2: “The Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul, for the work whereunto I have called them.”

(8) He is put in direct opposition to evil spirits, who are doubtless persons. 1 Sam. xvi. 14. 2 Chron. xviii. 20, 21.

It has, however, been argued that these and similar personal actions, when ascribed to the Spirit, are the actions of the Father, who, when He does them Himself, is said to do them by His Spirit. In answer to this, it can plainly be shown that there are many personal actions ascribed to the Spirit which cannot be ascribed to the Father. For instance, in Rom. viii. 26, as we have just seen, the Spirit intercedes with the Father for the saints. But it cannot be said that the Father intercedes with Himself. Here then we have an instance of the performance of a personal action by the Spirit, which cannot be performed by the Father. Again, Christ is said to send the Spirit (John xvi. 7). But it is never said of God the Father, that He is sent. He sends both the Son and the Spirit, but is never sent Himself. Moreover (in John xv. 26), our Lord promises “to send the Spirit from the Father.” If the Spirit means here the Father, then Christ must send the Father from the Father.[24] Again (in chapter xvi. 13, 14), when our Lord promises to send the Paraclete, He says, that “He,” the Paraclete, “shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak.” “He shall glorify Me; for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you.” Now, it certainly cannot be said of God the Father (from whom eternally both Son and Spirit are derived), that He should not speak of Himself, but should speak what He heard only. Nothing which implies subordination is ever spoken of God the Father. We conclude, therefore, that the Spirit (who is here represented as acting personal parts, and parts which cannot belong to the Person of the Father) is both a Person, and a Person distinct from the Father.

The fact that the Spirit is called Paraclete, which means either Comforter or, more probably, Advocate,[25] seems to imply distinct personality.

The use of the masculine pronoun He, ἐκεῖνος, to designate the Holy Ghost, surely indicates, that reference is made to a personal Agent, not to an influence or attribute. This is observable especially in John xvi. 13, where we have in immediate connection, “When He the Spirit of truth is come,” ἐκεῖνος, τὸ Πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας, a masculine pronoun, whilst τὸ Πνεῦμα is neuter.[26]

From these, then, and similar reasons, we conclude that the Spirit is a distinct Person from the Father and the Son.

Thus we have reached the conclusion of our reasoning on the subject of Personality, and so we believe our Fourth Proposition to be established: that although the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are but one God, yet are they clearly distinguished from One another, and distinguished as Personal Agents.

Now this is the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity, as held by the Catholic fathers, expressed in the Creeds of the Church, and exhibited in this first Article of the Reformed Church of England, namely, that “There is but one God,” yet that “in the Unity of that Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”

This conclusion we deduce from the statements of Scripture. We do not pretend to explain the mystery, for it is, of course, above the reach of finite understanding. Yet we cannot doubt that, in the substance of it at least, our conclusions are legitimate. To explain the subject philosophically would be inconsistent with the purpose in hand, inconsistent with the assertion that it is a mystery (that is, a thing which human reason cannot fathom), and therefore impossible. It may not even be altogether possible to mark out accurately the exact distinctions between Tritheism and Trinitarianism on the one hand, between Trinitarianism and Sabellianism on the other. This, by the way, should make us not the less earnest to maintain the truth, nay! the more earnest, because of the greater danger of error; but yet the more tender, the more ready in meekness to instruct those who from the difficulty of apprehending have been led to doubt this great article of the faith. But, though all this is true, yet, thoughtfully considered, this doctrine of the Trinity, though above our understanding, does not necessarily appear contrary to our reason. That reason may well teach us that it is likely God should subsist in a manner above what we can apprehend. That reason may teach us, that, though God’s nature is infinite, and therefore cannot be multiplied; yet, seeing that he has shown himself to be essentially loving, and loving to have partakers of His love, it is not impossible that there might exist, even in the divine Essence, something like a Personal diversity, that so He, who, as regards the creature, dwells in light which is unapproachable, might have within Himself that which would be capable of receiving and imparting the love which can be perfect in God alone. Yet such a diversity existing in the Godhead, which from its very perfection can admit neither multiplication nor division, could not constitute a distinction of Deity, though it would constitute what, in the language of Theology, has been called a distinct Personality.

The Fathers, who used the language which has been inserted in the Creeds and generally adopted in the Church, never thought, when they used to speak of three Persons in one God, of speaking of such three Persons as they would speak of persons and personality among created beings. They did not consider, for example, the persons of the Father and the Son as they would have done the persons of Abraham and Isaac, — the Persons of the Holy Trinity as they would have done the persons of Peter, Paul, and John, which are separate from one another, and do not in any way depend on each other for their essence. They held, that the Father is the Head and Fountain of Deity (Πηγὴ Θεότητος), from whom the Son and Holy Spirit are from all eternity derived, but so derived as not to be divided from the Father; but they are in the Father and the Father in them, by a certain περιχώρησις or inhabitation. So then, though they acknowledged the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost to be really three Persons, yet they held “them to have no divided or separate existence, as three different men have, but to be intimately united and conjoined one to another, and to exist in each other, and by the said ineffable περιχώρησις or inhabitation to pervade or permeate one another.”[27]


  1. Compare Ex. xxiii. 20, 21, where the Angel, whom God sends before the Israelites, seems plainly by ver. 21, to be God.
  2. The apparently exclusive appropriation of the name of God to God the Father must be accounted for by the consideration that the Father is ever represented to us as the Fountain and Source of Life, the Ἀρχή, or Πηγὴ θεότητος, from whom eternally both the Son and Spirit derive the same Life and Godhead. See below, pp. 65, 67.
  3. Matt. iii. 3; Mark i. 3; Luke iii. 4; John i. 23.
  4. The objections to Christ’s omniscience, taken from John viii. 28; Rev. i. 1; Mark xiii. 32; are answered by Waterland, Moyer’s Lecture, Serm. VII., Works, II. p. 160. See the latter passage considered below, under Art. IV.
  5. On Phil. ii. 6, see Pearson, On the Creed, fol. p. 121.
  6. On the proof of Christ’s proper Deity from creation, see Pearson, On the Creed, p. 113; Waterland, Works (Oxf. 1823), II. 2d and 3d Sermons at Lady Moyer’s Lecture.
  7. On this passage see Pearson, On the Creed, fol. p. 148, note.
  8. See Sect. I. Historical View.
  9. The objections which have been made to the plain sense of this passage may be seen fully replied to, Pearson, On the Creed, p. 131; and Middleton, On the Article, in loc.
  10. All MSS. all VSS. have the verse entire. All the Fathers have it, except that in Cyprian, Hilary, and Leo it is referred to without Θεός. Such an exception will be very far from invalidating the reading; but Erasmus observes that without Θεός, the verse would still prove the Divinity. See the passage fully considered, Pearson, p. 132; Waterland, II. p. 133; Middleton, On the Article, in loc.; Magee, On Atonement, III. p. 91. The Arian interpretation, which would make the latter part of the verse a doxology to the Father, is considered and refuted very fully by Bp. Middleton. See also Tholuck and Alford on this passage.
  11. See Whitby on this passage. His Notes on the Colossians are very good.
  12. ς ἐν μορϕῇ Θεοῦ ὑπάρχων, οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἶσα Θεῷ, ἀλλ’ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσε, μορϕὴν δούλου λαβὼν, ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος, καὶ σχήματι εὑρεθεὶς ὡς ἄνθρωπος, ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτὸν, γενόμενος ὑπήκοος μέχρι θανάτου, θανάτου δὲ σταυροῦ. “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God (or, did not parade, covet, or pique Himself on the being equal with God); but emptied Himself (of his glory) by taking the form of a servant, (and that) by being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” The participles express the manner in which the actions of the verbs were effected. He, being in the form of God, emptied Himself of His divine glory. How? Why, by taking the form of a servant. And how did He take the form of a servant? By being made in the likeness of men. And then, being no longer in the glory of God, but in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself. How? By becoming obedient unto death. Hence it appears, that, as He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death, so He emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant, and He took the form of a servant by being made man. The taking the form of a servant, then, was the becoming man, the assuming human nature: “the form of a servant” was the nature of man. It follows that the “form of God” was the nature of God. It must be admitted that οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο is an unusual expression; but to the interpretation “did not make a parade of, or pique Himself on the being equal with God,” the few parallel expressions which are to be found seem most favourable. On the whole passage see Grotius, Hammond, Whitby, Macknight, Rosenmüller, Middleton, in loc. Suicer, s. v. ἁρπαγμός; Pearson, On the Creed, p. 12, fol.; Waterland, II. Serm. v. p. 89.
  13. The state of the question is nearly this: — ὅς is the reading of C*F.G. 17. 73. 181. —— of D*. —— Θεός of D*** J. K. and of nearly all cursive MSS. B. E. H. are defective in this place, and supply no evidence at all. The reading of A has been very much disputed. At present A reads Θεός, but the lines which distinguish ΘϹ from ΟϹ are in a newer and coarser ink than the original. The MS. is greatly defaced in this passage, and it is now extremely difficult to decide what the reading originally was. There is no trace now of a line either in or over the Ο written in the original ink; and from close inspection I am satisfied, that the tongue of the ε in the page on the other side of the leaf might have been seen through, and have appeared like the stroke of the middle of Θ. But it is difficult to say how far this settles the question concerning the reading of A. The reading of VSS. is in favour of a relative, the Latin reading quod, the other ὅς, except the Arabic (Polygl.) and Slavonic, which have Θεός. The Latin fathers followed the Vulgate in reading quod, except Hieron. In Esai. liii. 2, who reads ὅς. Of the Greek fathers, some are doubtful. Ignat. Ad Eph. 19, Chrysost., Theodoret, Damasc., Œcum., Theophyl., read Θεός. Cyril. Alex., Theodor. Mopsuest., Epiphan., Gelas. (Cyzic.). read ὅς.
  14. Θεοῦ is the reading of Cod. Vat. and seventeen other MSS., two of the Peshito, Vulg., Æthiop., Athanasius, Tertullian, &c. Κυρίου is the reading of Cod. Alex., Bezæ, and fourteen others; Copt., Sahid., Armen., Eusebius, &c. The fathers’ authority is greatly for the first. The three readings Θεοῦ, Κυρίου, and Κυρίου καὶ Θεοῦ, are nearly equally supported by MSS. The VSS. in number are nearly equal for Θεοῦ and Κυρίου; those of greater authority favor Θεοῦ. The phrase Ἐκκλησία τοῦ Θεοῦ occurs eleven times in St. Paul’s writings; Ἐκκλησία τοῦ Κυρίου, never. See also Bp. Middleton in loc.; Burton’s Testimonies of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, p. 15.
  15. Ignat. Ad Ephes. 1. μιμηταὶ ὄντες Θεοῦ, ἀναζωπυρήσαντες ἐν αἵματι Θεοῦ. This passage is in Syriac.
  16. This is, of course, assuming Mr. Granville Shar’s Canon on the Article to be established. See Middleton, pt. I. ch. III. Sect. IV. § 2; and upon the five passages quoted and referred to in the text; also Waterland, II. p. 128.
  17. See Waterland, II. p. 123.
  18. Thus בְּיַד משֶה, “By the hand of Moses,” means merely “by Moses.”
  19. John xiv. 9; see also Matt. x. 40; Mark ix. 37.
  20. See Jones’s Catholic Doctrine of the Trinity.
  21. It may be observed, that, if this is true, then the doctrine of the homo-ousion, the consubstantiality of the Son and the Spirit is proved; for if the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be but one God, the Son and the Spirit must be of one nature and substance with the Father.
  22. See John v. 17‒30.
  23. On this subject see Waterland’s first Sermon at Lady Moyer’s Lecture, on John i. 1, II. p. 1.
  24. See Hey, II. p. 443.
  25. See Pearson, On the Creed, Art. VIII. p. 329, note, fol.; and Suicer, s. v. Παράκληος .
  26. The Personality of the Holy Ghost is fully and admirably treated by Bp. Pearson, Art. VIII. p. 308, fol.
  27. Bull, Posth. Works, p. 1004, quoted by Waterland, Works, II. p. 211. “Patrem, Filium, et Spiritum Sanctum, cum revera tres sint Personæ, nequaquam tamen ut tres homines seorsum et separatim existere, sed intime sibi invicem cohærere et conjunctos esse; adeoque alterum in altero existere, atque, ut ita loquar, imeare invicem et penetrare per ineffabilem quandam περιχώρησιν, quam circuminsessionem Scholastici vocant.” — Bull, Def. Fid. Nic. II. 9, 23; Works, IV. p. 363; see also Lib. IV. § 4; also Pearson, On the Creed, Art. II. p. 138, fol. On the meaning of the word Person, see Waterland, Works, III. p. 338. The term by which to designate what we call person, was early a subject of dispute. The Greeks mostly used the word ὑπόστασις, the Latins Persona. Yet among the Greeks it was not uniformly agreed to speak of τρεῖςποστάσεις and μία Οὐσία. Some, on the contrary, identified ὑπόστασις with οὐσία, and spoke of μίαπόστασις . These differences in language led to the Council of Alexandria, A. D. 362, at which Athanasius was present, and at which this λογομαχία was condemned. See Athanasius, Dial. II. Tom. II. p. 159; Suicer, s. v. ὑπόστασις; and Newman’s Hist. of Arians, ch. v. § 2. [Note. It may not be useless to the student in Theology, to become familiar with the following analysis of the Scriptural argument for the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity in Unity. I. God is one. II. The Old Testament contains intimations of a plurality in this One Godhead. III. The New Testament affords proof by (a) necessary inferences, and (b) express declarations: (1) that the Father is God; (2) that the son is God; (3) that the Holy Ghost is God. IV. How are these phenomena to be reconciled? There are but three modes: (1) Tritheism; (2) Sabellianism; (3) the Catholic Doctrine of the Trinity. The first of these modes destroys the Divine Unity. The second ignores all the personal characteristics and agencies attributed to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Logically, then, the third remains. By bringing together the Scripture passages which belong to each of the above heads, and then, by studying out the exact way in which the Catholic Doctrine of the Trinity harmonizes what the other two schemes reject, the student may thoroughly appropriate and make his own the very valuable collections and arguments of the preceding pages. The fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of Owen’s Introduction, may be profitably read. —J. W.]


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