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for which “Scripture proof” will be sought. The existence and unity of God is assumed and taken for granted throughout Scripture. Indeed, Scripture will have no force or weight to anyone who has not first on other grounds accepted this truth. Thus the consideration of the several “ proofs" of God's existence belongs to the study of “evidences," and would be out of place in a commentary on the Thirty-Nine Articles. It is therefore not considered necessary to enter into it here, but the reader will find in the foot-note reference to a few recent works in which the whole subject is discussed.1
The second part of the Article, And in unity of this Godhead there be three persons of one substance, power, and eternity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, states in the briefest possible terms the great truth taught us by Revelation concerning the nature of God, the acceptance of which distinguishes Christianity from Judaism, Mohammedanism, Unitarianism, and all other forms of religious belief.
The subject will be best considered under the following heads :
1. The grounds on which the doctrine is accepted.
2. The history of the doctrine in the Church, and the growth of technical phraseology in connection with it.
3. The explanation of the doctrine.
L The Grounds on which the Doctrine is accepted.
Our belief in the doctrine of the Holy Trinity rests entirely on the revelation made by God in Holy Scripture.
1 Flint's Theism and Anti-Theistic Theories. Bishop Ellicott's Being og God. See also Mozley's Essays, Historical and Theological, vol. ii.; Essays on The Argument of Design and The Principle of Causation ; and Illing. worth's Bampton Lectures, Lect. iv.
Intimations that distinctions of some sort exist in the divine nature may be discerned in the Old Testament, but the proof of the doctrine can only be sought in the teaching of the Gospels. Without direct revelation from God man could never by his reason have discovered that in the unity of the Godhead there are three persons, but when once this is disclosed man can see that it is not merely not contrary to reason, but rather that it satisfies the demands of his reason, and fits in with his deepest thoughts on the nature of God. Though “not discoverable by reason," it is yet “agreeable to reason."1
(a) The preparation for the revelation of the mystery under the Old Covenant. To guard the truth of the unity of God, and to bear a never-failing witness to it in the midst of idolatry and polytheism, was the special function of the Jewish Church. "Hear, 0 Israel, the LORD our God is one LORD” (Deut. vi. 4) forms the central declaration of the Old Covenant, standing to it in much the same relation that the command to baptize into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost stands in to the Christian Church. It is, therefore, not to be expected that the doctrine of Personal distinctions within the Godhead will be prominently brought forward in the Old Testament. The unity must first be established and firmly fixed in the minds of God's chosen people before the further revelation can be safely made and the existence of distinct persons within the Godhead be disclosed without fear of leading men to polytheism, And yet throughout the Old Testament the thoughtful reader will from time to time discern the presence of hints, suggestions, and anticipations of the truth subsequently made known in its fulness through the incarnate Son. There are three verses in the early chapters of Genesis in which devout
Gore's Bampton Lectures, p. 184.
minds have often found an adumbration of the doctrine of the Trinity, namely, Gen. i. 26, " And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”; iii. 22, " And the Lord God said, Behold the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil”; xi. 7, “And the Lord said. ... go to, let us go down, and there confound their language.” So also in Isaiah vi. 8, we read, “I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us." Various interpretations of these passages have been proposed. Some have explained the plural as that used by monarchs in speaking of themselves in decrees, etc., but this explanation is now generally rejected, as not in accordance with Hebrew usage. The majority of modern commentators prefer the view which refers the plural to the angels, as if God announced to them His resolve to create man,
It is, however, difficult to hold this view without supposing that a co-ordinate share in the act of creation is granted to the angels, which is quite inadmissible, and it is by no means clear that the patristic interpretation of these passages which sees in them an adumbration of the doctrine of the Trinity is incorrect.
Again, the believer, who reads the Old Testament in the light of the New, may well see a foreshadowing of the doctrine in the threefold repetition of the divine name in Aaron's blessing, Num. vi. 24-26, “The LORD bless thee and keep thee; the LORD make His face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; the LORD lift up His countenance upon thee and give thee peace"; as well as in the song of the seraphim in Isaiah vi. 3, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of Hosts -an utterance which has become the “ Tersanctus” of the Christian Church (cf. Rev. iv. 8).
1 See, however, Spurrell's Notes on the Hebrew Text of Genesis, p. 14.
Cf. the thrice-repeated refrain in Ps. xcix. 3, 5, 9, which is really an echo of the song of the seraphim. “Holy is He ... Holy is Ho
.. Holy is the Lord our God.” See the R.V. Nothing is said in the
All these passages, however, though they may appeal forcibly to those who have already accepted the doctrine can scarcely serve for proof of the doctrine to the unbeliever. For purposes of controversy no high value can be attached to them. The real line of preparation for the disclosure of the mystery must be sought elsewhere. It will be found in a study of those passages in which God is spoken of in His covenant relation to man, acting upon him, and revealing Himself to him, in a twofold manner.
There is first that which may be called the "external” manifestation, by means of the messenger or "angel of the LORD,” who speaks now as God, and now as one sent by God, so that the angel is in part identified with Jehovah, and in part distinguished from Him.
Thus we read that “the LORD appeared” to Abraham, and “lo, three men stood over against him.” Then follows the account of the manifestation, and then we read that "the men turned from thence, and went towards Sodom; and Abraham stood yet before the LORD ... And the LORD went His way, as soon as He had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned to his place. And the two angels came to Sodom” (Gen. xviii. 1; xix. 1). Plainly, then, one of the three was a more exalted Being than “the two angels,” and represented “the LORD.” Again in Joshua v. 14, a mysterious being
text of the name Elohim, & plural form in which some would see a reference to the doctrine, because it is now generally agreed that it is simply the plural of majesty or intensity. It has been truly pointed out that "those who adduce it as an anticipation of the doctrine of the Trinity appear to forget that this use of the plural does not stand alone in Hebrew; the words 717X and Sya meaning lord, master, are often used in the plural with reference to a single human superior (e.g. Ex. xxi. 4, 6, 8, 29); and Isaiah (xix. 4) describes the conqueror of Egypt as nUP D'3178, where the adjective is singular, but the substantive is plural."-S. R. Driver, in the Expositor, 3rd series, vol. iii. p. 42.
appears to Joshua, and announces himself as “ Captain of the LORD's host," and immediately afterwards we read of Him as “the LORD"; for “the LORD said to Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, etc." (See also Gen. xvi. 7 seq.; xxii. 11, 14; xxiv. 7, 40; xxxi. 11-13; Ex. ü. 2 seq.; xiii. 21 ; xiv. 19; xxxii., xxxii.) There is no need to consider here the oft-discussed question which of the two views of the “Angel of the LORD” is correct-(1) That which has the support of most of the Greek Fathers, from Justin Martyr onwards, and of some of the Latins, namely, that the angel is actually the Logos, or Second Person of the Holy Trinity, thus manifesting Himself before the Incarnation; or (2) that which was advocated by St. Augustine, and is adopted by most moderns, namely, that he is a created angel, acting as the direct representative of Jehovah. In either case God's presence is specially manifested through him, and thus there is a real preparation for the revelation of God in Christ, and the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. In this connection reference must also be made to those numerous passages from which the Jews of Palestine constructed their doctrine of the Logos, the Word, or “Memra,” which represents the personal action of God, and which is found in the Targums in many places where the communion of God and man has to be expressed. For instance, in the oldest Targum, that of Onkelos, Adam is represented as hearing the voice of the word of the Lord in the garden (Gen. iii. 8); the Lord protects Noah by His word when he enters the ark (vii. 16), and at Sinai, Moses brings forth the people to meet the word of God (Ex. xix. 17). In all such passages we can see that “the Palestinian instinct seized upon the concrete idea of “the word
1 On the "Angel of the Lord,” see Oehler's Theology of the Old Testament, vol. i. p. 188 809., and Medd's Bampton Lectures, Note vii. p. 426.