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Home arrow Writers arrow Wilson Thompson arrow Triumphs Of Truth: Chapter 5
Triumphs Of Truth: Chapter 5 PDF Print E-mail
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Another main argument which is much relied on, in supporting the tri-personal scheme, is drawn from personal pronouns. I shall, therefore, offer a few remarks on this source of argument. Personal pronouns are used in the English, in two ways. First, when we speak of a real person, the personal pronoun he, or she, is used instead of the name of the person. Secondly, the personal pronoun may be properly used, when we personify things that are not persons, but in this case the personal pronoun is used in a figure of speech, and does not argue a proper, or natural person; in the thing spoken of; but is only used in a figure of speech. For instance, if I personify the Sun; in this figurative way, it is proper to say, He rises in the east; He sets in the west. Or I may say of a ship, She sails well; She made a quick return. Now what man in Christendom, would infer from this usage of the personal pronoun, that the Sun was indeed, either naturally, or properly, a person, of the masculine gender; and that a ship was a proper person, of the feminine gender? I presume no man in his right mind will ever attempt this; and equally futile, and unjust must be every argument drawn from personal pronouns, to prove three persons in the Godhead. God is a Spirit, every where present, invisible, and uncompounded. Therefore, not a person naturally, and can be naturally, neither male nor female. From his great power he is, in a figure of speech, spoken of in the masculine, and in this figure of speech, the personal pronoun "He" is used for God. When we attend to the idiom of our language, with regard to person-"I" is the first person singular, and is used when the speaker speaks of himself. "Thou" is the second person singular, for the person spoken to. "He" is the third person singular, and is used for the person spoken of because the personal pronoun is thus used in the three persons, with reference to God. Men of erudition have contended that God exists in three distinct persons; while it is an uncontroverted fact, that the personal pronouns are used, both in scripture and in every day's conversation, in the first, second, and third persons, where no one ever thought of understanding a trinity of distinct persons. An instance of this kind you may see in II Cor.12:1 to verse 5, where Paul is doubtless speaking of himself, and speaks of himself under the first, and third person. See verse 3, " And I knew such a man, " verse 4, "How that he was, " &c. Now who ever was so fruitful in invention as to think, or ever pretend to argue, that there were two or three distinct persons of one essence in Paul, because he speaks of himself under the personal pronoun in the first, and third persons? But this would be an argument of equal weight, with any argument drawn from personal pronouns in favor of the tri-personal scheme. It is a well known, and almost universal practice with poets; to speak of themselves, in the first, second, and third person. The same things occurs in every day's conversation, in all ranks of society; but who from the untaught Hottentot, to the most refined linguist, ever pretended to prove from this usage of the personal pronoun, that there was a trinity of three distinct persons, in every man thus using the personal pronoun. If the personal pronoun can never be used in a figure, but must always identify a distinct, and a proper person, in the first, second, or third person, as it occurs, then there must be three distinct persons, in every speaker, real or fictitious that uses the personal pronoun, with reference to himself, in any other than the first person. I think this would be a new theory in our world, that would make shipwreck of all books -the Bible, and common sense itself. Equally absurd, childish, and mischievous in its nature, are the arguments drawn from personal pronouns, in support of the tri-personal scheme in theology. It may be objected, that those who support the tri-personality of the Trinity; do not hold that there are three real persons in the Godhead; but only that God is spoken of under the personal pronoun in the three persons by a personification, in order to teach us his ways, or methods of performing his purposes with regard to his creatures. On this I could give you my hand freely. If this had been what the tri-personal party has meant by three distinct persons, some would have expressed it before this time. No something more is intended.

Personal acts attributed distinctly to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is another source of argument, much depended on, by those who hold to the tri-personality of the Trinity. I shall in the next place offer a few remarks on this subject.

Were there nothing in the tri-personal scheme of the Trinity, to create a suspicion of its impropriety; when we see its veterans resort to such futile refuges as this, it should start the enquiry, Can that cause be good, that depends on such poor support as this? If it were good, would it need support from such a futile resource? We think, that the very appeal to this source of argument, is in effect giving up the case. Nevertheless, as many have enlisted personal acts as one of their chief braces to the tri-personal fabric, it becomes our duty to animadvert on this their usual resort, under which they have taken shelter, and by which they have attempted to defend, and support their tottering tower.

Some may think that I speak too lightly of this argument, seeing many learned, and pious champions for the faith of the gospel, have improved it to their advantage. This is not denied; neither do I wish to impeach those eminent men, who have used it, but their making use of it, can make it none the better. Their arguments were directed against the Arians, and their success; was not in proving the tri-personality of the Trinity, but in proving the divinity of Jesus Christ; this they could scarce fail in doing, and however they might be foiled in other matters, they were sure of victory in the end, for the divinity of the adorable Jesus, is a point which shines in almost every page of the inspired volume. Had those great men left all this round of persons, personal pronouns, and personal acts out of their arguments, and have confined their antagonists to the word of God, they would have been to the Arians, like Sampson was to the Philistines.

It cannot be denied by any man in a land of Bibles, but that personal acts are attributed to things personified, without the most distant thought of the thing spoken of, being a real, or proper person. See for example the 65th Psalm, verses 12 & 13, " And the little hills on every side. The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing. " Here we see the personal acts of rejoicing, shouting for joy, and singing; are ascribed to the little hills, pastures, and valleys. Was there ever a reader of the Bible, that from these, and similar passages of scripture, would imagine, that the little hills, the pastures, and the valleys, are persons, either naturally, or properly? No, they would never contend for anything more than a figure of speech. Now if such personal acts do not prove a person really or properly; in the little hills, pastures, or valleys; why is this argument resorted to, in order to prove three distinct persons in the unity of the Godhead? It must show that the cause is but poor, that has to be supported by such a trite argument as this. It may be thought by some, that these are not proper cases; because the personal acts expressed in the examples above, were only spoken in a figurative way and the personal acts of singing, shouting &c., were not literally performed by the little hills and valleys, while those personal acts relied on in support of the tri-personality of the Trinity, are acts which have been literally performed. To put to silence this objection, see a case in Num.16:32, "And the Earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up." Here was both the personal act of opening her mouth, and swallowing; and the personal pronoun her, is used for the earth. Will any man on earth attempt to infer from this, that the earth is a person, of the female gender; having a mouth to open, and a throat big enough to swallow this great company and all their goods? I think no man ever did, or ever will understand it so. Yet, strange to think! Such futile, such strained unqualified arguments are the main support of the tri-personal fabric.

The very doctrine of the Trinity itself is offered in support of the tri-personal scheme; as if there could be no such a thing as a trinity, without a trinity of persons. I shall therefore; offer a few remarks on this subject.

In a small Book, which I published in 1821 entitled Simple Truth; I said something against the notion of three distinct persons in the Godhead; as being a defect in the Trinitarian plan of reasoning. On this account, some men, not very well disposed toward me, have seized this as a good opportunity to poison the minds of their friends against me, by falsely saying, both, in print and verbally, that I had treated the doctrine of the Trinity with the utmost contempt. This is a false allegation, but I hold nothing against any man on this account; to his own master he stands or falls. By the word Trinity; I understand three in one. By the Divine Trinity; I understand the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; being one. But I never thought, nor do I yet think, that these three must necessarily be distinct, divine, and equal persons of one indivisible essence and each of these persons, separately considered, truly and properly God, and yet all of them but one God, in order to the existence of a trinity; nor did I believe, that the three must necessarily be persons at all in order to the existence of a trinity; nor do I yet believe it. "The Lord God is a sun and a shield. " The sun seems to have a trinity in it; for besides its body, there is light, and heat. Yet I think no philosopher would infer from this--that there were three distinct persons in the Sun. There seems to be a sort of a trinity in man; for Paul prays, "That your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved," &c. I Thes.5:23. Would any man argue from this notion of a trinity in man, that there were three distinct persons in every man, or in those for whom Paul thus prayed? I think this will never be contended for. Is not ice, snow, and hail three; and are they not all of one essence, and that essence water, and are they not frequently personified? Are not personal pronouns applied to them severally; and personal acts attributed severally to them? But who ever attempted since the world began, to argue from this notion of a trinity, in the unity, or undivided essence of water; that ice, snow and hail, were three distinct, real or proper persons? I think sensible men will never attempt this, in any other way, than in a figure of speech, personifying things which are not persons.

From the above mentioned cases we plainly see, that a denial of three distinct persons in the unity of the Godhead, can have nothing to do with a denial of the Trinity; therefore, the doctrine of a trinity, can have nothing to do in proving three distinct persons in the Trinity.

I believe I have now noticed all the main grounds of argument, relied on by the tri-personal party; except such as are bottomed on the Father's sending the Son, and the Holy Ghost's proceeding from them, &c. These are only arguments drawn chiefly from personal acts; and as I shall notice them more particularly in the appendix in a letter to Elder Hornady; it would only be a repetition were I to enter on it here also. Suffice it here to say, that the human nature of Christ, was the sent; as he said "I came not of myself but he [the Father] sent me" -"I came not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. "Will any man say that Christ did not come to do the will of his divine nature or person? I think none will venture such an assertion; than it was his human nature, and not his divine, that was sent. As the sun sends forth its light, and yet the light always remains in the sun; so the Spirit of God may be sent, and yet not a distinct person; for the personal act of sending, is often ascribed to the Son; but more of this in its proper place. We only say here that when the Spirit is sent into this world, it is not distinct from the Father, and the Word, for the personal acts of the Spirit when thus sent, are equally ascribed to the Father, and Word, as to the Spirit; hence when we are born of the Spirit, we are said to be born by the Word, and God is the Father of the birth. This shows that the Father, Word, and Spirit, are not three distinct persons, but one efficient agent in the work of the new birth.

I shall now show a few, out of many, of the evils arising out of the doctrine of three distinct divine persons in the divine Trinity.

1st. The idea of three distinct divine persons--each of them separately considered as being really, truly and properly God; is the English way of saying, there are three Gods. I never could see any real, or substantial difference, between saying there are three Gods, and saying there are three distinct persons, and each one of them truly and properly God. Where would be the real difference between my saying there are three distinct men, or saying there are three distinct persons and each of them truly and properly man? Would not every man understand the same idea from each of these forms of expression? Although men are still saying, there is but one God, yet when they come to define or explain their views, the unity they mean is only in the essence or nature of God; that is, three persons each one truly God, but all one in nature or essence. The same may be properly said of three persons of the human race, for all men are of one nature or essence, but this does not show that all human persons are but one man, because but one in essence or nature. When men reason in this way they always give me good reason to believe, that they, [at least mentally] entertain the idea of three Gods; although they will not come out and express it, or if this is not the fact, they argue so as to cause many others to believe in three distinct and proper objects of worship. This is no untrue or colored statement, for I can with confidence appeal to many of my readers; who have no doubt, heard men in prayer, distinctly address three distinct objects, Father, Son, and Spirit, and pray to them distinctly, for distinct blessings, such as they think to be each one' s province to bestow. Why these different invocations? Why addressed distinctly to different, and distinct persons? Why all these different objects prayed to, if there be but one object of worship? Now I will appeal to every man who worships but one God, if the tri-personal plan has not introduced itself into our minds, to cause many to divide their worship, and address three distinct objects! Now we surely must mentally believe in three Gods, or else we pray to those which are not the proper objects of prayer, for they are not prayed to in unity of essence, but in personal distinctions, and to each for different blessings. O amazing! Is there no evil in this? While the tongue owns but one God, does not the mind entertain an idea of three? Reader, art thou clear? I believe the Father, the divine Word, and the Spirit, are but one, therefore but one object of religious worship, "God is a spirit and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit; " not in three distinct persons.

2nd. A person is a local being, and can be but in one place at a time; and can see nothing but what comes within the scan of his eyesight. The idea of three distinct persons in the Godhead, has fixed in our mind's eye, shapes, or beings, near together, on a local throne, at some great height above the stars, and from thence looking over the world beholding all things in their vast dominion; each one of these enthroned persons, distributing blessings, and judgments, according to his sphere. Search your own heart reader, and say before God, if it is not too much the case with thyself. This is another evil arising from the tri-personal theory. It leads our minds away from the proper, and scriptural doctrine of God' s omnipresence and leads the mind to view three local beings, or persons.

3rd. Another very great evil arising from this theory is, in its tendency, in dividing our affections, drawing them away from one indivisible God; and dividing them amongst three separate and distinct persons. These are but a few of the evils arising from the tri-personal theory. These I have not mentioned as an invective, on those of my dear, and much esteemed brethren, whose minds are fettered with these old traditions, which are hard to eradicate. My remarks are against the stale theory of three persons in the Godhead, and not against the pious servants of God, whose hearts are much better than their heads, and have long been bewildered with this error; and have been taught to think, it was not their province to think for themselves on this subject. May God help them to know the truth, and feel its power in the emancipation of their minds from all error.

It would be too tedious to animadvert on all the evils of this system, suffice it to say, that where ever the tri-personal theory has its influence on the mind, it tends to confuse the mind, veil the truth in mystery, and diminish our views of the real glory of Christ; and to depend upon fare brought criticisms, inferences and implications; to support our doctrine;

while without this anti-scriptural notion, having the light of the spirit in our hearts, and the volume of revelation in our hands; we can contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints, like Christ and the apostles, did; without once mentioning three distinct persons in the Godhead in the whole contest. Then our strength lies, not in learned criticisms, not in the wisdom of this world, not in inferences drawn from personal acts and pronouns; but in positive scripture language we can tell the Arian; the Socinian, the Jew, or the Mohammedan: -"To us there is but one God; " and we know that the Son of God is come and hath given us an understanding that we should know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. Now having showed the imbecility of the arguments in support of the tri-personality of the Trinity; and pointed out some of the evil tendency of this theory, I shall submit the whole to the clemency of the public, with a short recapitulation.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 13 September 2006 )
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