Chapter IV

CHAPTER IV.

POST-NICENE TRINITARIANISM.

§ 1. Mediaeval and Papal Tnnitariarmm.

The history of the Doctrine of the Trinity in the Scholastic and Modern Churches can be compressed into a brief statement, the more readily, because this doctrine, more than is the case with any other, reached its approximately full developement in the first stages of its history. After the year 600, expansion in theory, and technical accuracy in statement, can be detected much more plainly in Soteriology, and even in Anthropology, than in Theology. The Scholastic and Protestant systems have unfolded the doctrines of sin and redemption, far more than they have the doctrine of the trinity.

In the Middle Ages, the character of the investigation of the doctrine of the trinity -was determined by the general bent of the individual mind, or of his school. Men like Anselm, Bernard, and Aquinas joined on upon the views of the past. The writings of the Western Latin trinitarians, particularly Hilary and Augustine, as we have already remarked, were resorted to, and their general type of doctrine prevailed among thinkers of this class. The Greek language was but little cultivated, and hence the speculations of the Greek Fathers exerted comparatively little direct influence. In regard to the opinions of the leading theologians of the Mediaeval Church, it may be summarily remarked, that the trinitarianism that had been formed and authoritatively established during the first six centuries was adopted and defended.

In that class of speculative minds, to which we had occasion to allude in the history of Apologies, we find more or less deviation from the catholic creed and faith. That adventurous thinker of the ninth century, Scotus Erigena, whose philosophizing upon the general doctrine of the Deity was pantheistic, presented views of the trinity that were Sabellian. Abelard was charged with the same tendency. Roscellin was accused of tritheism, and Gilbert of Poictiers of Damian's old heresy of tetratheism.1 But such opinions were regarded by those who controlled the public sentiment of the church, and by the church itself as represented in councils, as heterodox. The Anselms, Bernards, and Aquinases of the Mediaeval Church were one in sentiment upon this doctrine, with the Athanasiuses, Basils, Gregories, Augustines, and Hilaries of the Ancient Churcl.

1 Damian of Alexandria was ac- one), and three persons, or indicnsed of holding the theory of a vidualizations,in addition,—Three Munad (the aCrotnos, or generic and One, instead of Three in One.

§ 2. THnitarianism of the Continental and English Reformers.

At the Reformation, the Roman and Protestant churches adopted the same dogmatic statement of the doctrine of the Trinity. This is the only cardinal truth of revelation in respect to which, both parties stood upon the same ground. The anthropology, soteriology, and eschatology, of the Council of Trent are different from those of the Reformers; but its theology is the same. The Tridentine scheme presents Semi-Pelagian views of sin, teaches the doctrine of justification in part by works, and nullifies the doctrine of endless punishment by its purgatorial fires. But it adopts the trinitarian symbols of the Ancient Church, not so much from any vital interest in them, as because they have come down from the past, and there is no motive for alteration, and no intellectual adventurousness prompting to the formation of new theories. That the Roman Church is trinitarianly orthodox, because it has no motive to be otherwise, is proved by the fact that a doctrine which lies as near the heart of Christianity as the doctrine of the trinity, and which appeals even more directly to the heart of the Christian,—the doctrine of forgiveness solely through the atonement of Christ,—has been remorselessly mutilated, and in effect annihilated by it.

The Augsburg Confession, the chief Lutheran symbol, adopts the decisions of the Nicene Council respecting the unity of the divine Essence, and the three Persons, in its statement that there is "one divine Essence which both is, and is called God, eternal, incorporeal, indivisible, infinite in power wisdom and goodness, the Creator and Preserver of all things visible and invisible; and yet, there are three Persons, of the same essence and power, coeternal, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." 1

The Second Helvetic Confession, drawn up by Bullinger in 1564, is as fair an expression of the Reformed or Calvinistic doctrine as any. Its teaching upon the doctrine of the trinity is as follows: "We believe that God, one and indivisible in Essence, is without division or confusion distinct in three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so that the Father generates the Son from eternity, the Son is begotten by an ineffable generation, but the Holy Spirit proceeds from each and that from eternity, and is to be adored together with each; so that there are not three Gods, but three Persons, consubstantial, coeternal, and coequal, distinct as hypostases, and one having precedence of another as to order, but with no unequality as to essence." •

Hase: Libri Symbolic!, p. 9. * Niemeyer: Confessiones, pp. 470,471.

The trinitarianism of Calvin, as enunciated in his Institutes, is a very clear exhibition of the Nicene type of doctrine, under the additional light that had been thrown upon the subject by the thinking of Hilary and Augustine, and by his own profound and patient study of the Scriptures. "What I denominate a Person," he says,1 "is a subsistence in the Divine essence, which is related to the others, and yet distinguished from them by an incommunicable property. By the word subsistence we mean something different from the word essence. For if the Word were simply God, and had no peculiar property, John had been guilty of impropriety in saying that he was always with God. When he immediately adds that the Word also was God, he reminds us of the unity of the essence. But, because he could not be with God without subsisting in the Father, hence arises that subsistence, which, although inseparably connected with the essence, has a peculiar mark, by which it is distinguished from it. Now, I say that each of the three subsistences has a relation to the others, but is distinguished from them by a peculiar property. We particularly use the word relation (or comparison) here, because when mention is made simply and indefinitely of God, this name pertains no less to the Son and Spirit, than to the Father. But whenever the Father is compared with the Son, the property peculiar to each distinguishes him from the other. Thirdly, whatever is proper to each of them, I assert to be incommunicable, because whatever is ascribed to the Father as a character of distinction, cannot be applied or transferred to the Son."

1 Calvin: Institutes, I. xiii. 6.

Calvin, as did the Nicene theologians, carefully confined the term "generation" to the hypostatical character. "We teach," he says, "according to the Scriptures, that there is essentially but one God; and therefore, that the essence of both the Son and the Spirit is unbegotten. But since the Father is first in order, and hath of himself begotten his Wisdom, therefore, as has before been observed, he is justly esteemed the original and fountain of the whole Divinity.1 Thus God, indefinitely [i. e. the Godhead, the Essence in distinction from the Persons], is unbegotten; and the Father also is unbegotten with regard to his Person The Deity

[the Essence] is absolutely self-existent; whence we confess, also, that the Son, as God, independently of the consideration of Person is self-existent; but as the Son, we say, that he is of the Father. Thus his essence is unoriginated; but the origin of his Person is God himself."2

'By this Calvin means, that the this is the correct interpretation

Father is "the original and foun- of his language, is proved by the

tain of the whole Divinity," con- fact, that in the section following

sidered hypostatically, not essen- (§26) that from which the above

tially; for he expressly says that statement is taken, Calvin remarks

the essence is unbegotten. lie that "the Father is the fountain

means that the Father is that of the Deity, not with regard to

hypostasis from whom the second essence. but in respect to order." and third hypostases issue. That 'Calvin: Institutes, I. xiii. 25.

Notwithstanding the clearness and explicitness of Calvin's views, he was accused by Caroli of both Arianism and Sabellianism. He defended himself before the synod of Lausanne. Caroli held it to be heresy that Calvin, in his confession there presented, affirmed that Christ is that Jehovah who of himself, alone, is always self-existent. "Certainly," said Calvin in reply, "if the distinction between the Father and the "Word be attentively considered, we shall say that the one is from the other. If however the essential quality of the Word be considered, in so far as He is one God with the Father, whatever can be said concerning God may also be applied to Him, the second person in the glorious Trinity. .... We teach, certainly, that Christ is the true and natural Son of God, who has possessed the like essential deity with the Father from all eternity."1

The Nicene trinitarianism passed also into the symbols of the English Churches; both the Established and the Non-Conforming. The Thirty-Nine Articles teach that "in the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity;" and that the Son "is begotten from eternity of the Father, very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father." * The Westminster Confession teaches that " in the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eter

1 Calvin: Letters, Vol. II. pp. 'Artioles I. II. 80, 81. Edinburgh Translation.

nity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son."l

§ 3. Unitarianism.

In the 16th century, an opposition to the church doctrine of the trinity arose in the modern Unitarianism. The two brothers Socini (Laelius and Faustus), by their writings and endeavours in other ways, associated and centralized those in the midst of Protestantism who agreed in their rejection of the doctrine of the trinity, and gave the party an external form and position. The growing spirit of toleration in the Protestant Church favoured them, and permitted the Socini to do what was forbidden to their predecessor Servetua, at the time of the Reformation, and for attempting which he lost his life at the stake,—a measure, it should be observed, that was approved in that age by theologians of all parties, both Roman and Protestant, and was by no means a distinctively Calvinistic procedure. One of the Polish Palatines afforded this party an asylum, and encouraged it in many ways. It nourished to such an extent as to produce a body of theologians, and to construct a creed. The writings of the Fratres Poloni are to this day the ablest in the Unitarian theology, and the Racovian Creed and Catechism, drawn up by them, contain an explicit and logical announcement of the Unitarian scheme, which it would be for the interest of their modern successors" to adopt, and of their modern opposers to examine. The only statement of Unitarianism that has any interest for the scientific theologian must be sought for in that period of its history when it had both a creed and a catechism.1

1 Westminster Confession: Chapter II.—The Nicene trinitarianism camo with the English and Continental colonists into the American churches. The Episcopalian Church adopts it, in adopting the Thirty-Nine Articles. The Presbyterian Church receives it in the Westminster Confession; as did also the early Congregational churches. The churches of New England, represented in the Synod at Boston in 1680, made their statement in the following phraseology: "In the nnity of the God-head there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and Son." (Boston

Confession, Chap. II). An earnest defender of the Nicene doctrine of "eternal generation" is Samuel Hopeins (Works, I. 298 sq.), the leader of one of the later New England schools. The elder Edwards is also supposed to have left in manuscript reflections upon the doctrine of the trinity, in the line of the Nicene trinitarianism. During the present century, some opposition to the doctrine of the Eternal Sonship has shown itself in a few New England writers. The opposition, however, is founded upon an inadequate dogmatico-historical knowledge,—the Origenistio theory of eternal generation, as revived in England in the last century by Samuel Claree, being mistaken for the historical doctrine of Athanasius and the Nicene theologians.

This scheme of doctrine did not, however, attract any very considerable attention on the part of the church. It was a less profound form of error, than that Sabellianism and Arianism which in the first centuries had compelled the theologian to employ his most extensive learning, and his subtlest thinking. As a consequence, it has been, and still is, confined to but a small portion of the Protestant world. Had Unitarianism adopted into its conception of Christ those more elevated views of his nature and person which clung to Sabellianism, and even to Arianism, it would have been a more influential system. But merely reproducing that low humanitarian view of Christ which we found in the third class of Anti-Trinitarians of the 2d and 3d centuries,—the Ebionites, Artemonites, Theodotians, and Alogi,—the Unitarian Christ possessed nothing that could lift the mind above the sphere of the merely human, and nothing that could inspire the religious affections of veneration and worship.

1 Schomann in 1591, Faustus Tius in 1625, published cateSocinus in 1618, and Moscoeo* chisms.

§ 4. Latitudinarian Trinitarianism in the English and German Churches.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the history of the Doctrine of the Trinity presents little that is new. The English Church during the 18th century was called upon to defend the catholic faith from the attacks of Socinians and Arians,—the former mostly in the Dissenting Churches, and the latter within its own communion. The opinions and statementa of Priestley were reviewed and refuted in a superior manner, by Hordey, bishop of St. Asaph. Those of Samuel Clarhe, who was court preacher to Queen Anne, and by her deposed from his office, were examined by Watei'land, Master of Magdalen College.

Clarke's views were, in reality, a reproduction of the Origenistic and HighArian doctrine of subordination, as distinguished from the Athanasian. His positions were the following. The supreme and only God is the Father, the sole origin of all being, power, and authority. "Concerning the Father, it would be the highest blasphemy to affirm that he could possibly have become man; or that he could possibly have suffered in any sense, in any supposition, in any capacity, in any circumstance, in any state, or in any nature whatsoever."' With the Father, there has existed "from the beginning" a second divine Person, who is called his Word or Son, who derives his being or essence, and all his attributes, from the Father, not by mere necessity of nature, but by an act of the Father's optional will. It is not certain whether the Son existed from all eternity, or only before all worlds; neither is it certain whether the Son was begotten from the same essence with the Father, or made out of nothing. "Both are worthy of censure, who, on the one hand, affirm that the Son was made out of nothing; or, on the other, affirm that he is the self-existent sub

•Clarke: On the Trinity, Ch. II. § v.

stance." Clarke will not be positive upon these points, because of the danger of presuming to be able to define the particular metaphysical manner of the Son's deriving his essence from the Father. With the Father, a third Person has also existed, deriving his essence from him through the Son; this Person has higher titles ascribed to him than to any angel, or other created being whatsoever, but is nowhere called God in Scripture, being subordinate to the Son, both by nature, and by the will of the Father.1

The error of Clarke originated in his failure to discriminate carefully between the essence and the hypostasis. Hence, in quoting from the Scriptures, and the Fathers, he refers to the essential nature phraseology that implies subordination, and which was intended by those emploving it, to apply only to the Jtypostatical character} He even cites such high trinitarians as Athanasius and Hilary, as holding and teaching that the subordination of the Son to the Father relates to the Son's essence. The terra " unbegotten" he also, held, as did the Arians, to be a synonyme with "uncreated," so that the term "begotten" must necessarily signify "created."' Thus misconceiving the Nicene use of these two terms, he endeavours to prove that the Nicene trinitarians taught that the Father alone possesses necessary existence, while the Son exists contingently. But both of these terms, as we have seen, were limited by the council of Nice to the Person, and have no relation to the Essence. The Essence, as such, neither begets, nor is begotten. They merely indicate the peculiar manner in which the first and second hypostases participate in one and the same eternal substance or nature. In this use of the terms, consequently, "begotten" signifies "uncreated" as much as does "unbegotten." The Begotten Son is as necessarily existent as the Unbegotten Father, because the Essence is the seat and source of necessary existence, and this is possessed alike by both,—in the instance of the first Person by paternity, and of the second by filiation. In the controversy between Clarke and Waterland, a distinction was made by the latter between self-existence, and necessary existence, which it is important to notice. "Waterland attributes necessary existence to the Son, but denies self-existence to him. The second Person, he maintains, is necessarily existent, because he participates in the one substance of the Godhead; but he is not self-existent, because he participates in it, not by and from himself, but by communication from the Father. The firat Person is both necessarily existent and self-existent, because he not only participates in the Divine Essence, but does so without any communication of it to him by either of the other two Persons in the trinity. According to this distinction and discrimination, "self-existent" simply means "unbegotten." "I suppose," says Waterland, "the Father to be Father of his Son; which expresses a relation of order, and mode of existence; not any difference in any essential perfection. Neither is there any greater perfection in being a Father, in this case, than in being a Son; both are equally perfect, equally necessary, in respect of existence,— all things being common, but the personal characters. And .s^-existence, as distinct from necessary existence, is expressive only of the order and manner in which the perfections are in the Father, and not of any distinct perfection. With this answer the catholic Fathers baffled the Arians and Eunomians."1 Waterland thus sums up the difference between himself and his opponent. "We say the Son is not self-existent, meaning that he is not unoriginate [or unbegotten]. You not only say the same, but contend for it, meaning not necessarily etzisting. We say, not unoriginate, meaning that he is not the head or fountain, not the first Person of the trinity. You take up the very same word, and zealously contend that the Son is not unoriginate, understanding it in respect to time or duration. We say the Son is subordinate, meaning it of a subordination of order, as is just and proper. You also lay hold of the word subordinate, and seem wonderfully pleased with it, but understanding by it an inferiority of nature. We say, that the Son is not absolutely supreme or independent, intimating thereby that he is second in order as a Son, and has no separate, independent existence from the Father, being coessentially, and coeternally one with him. You also take up the same words, interpret them in a low sense, and make the Son an inferior dependent Being,—depending at first on the will of the Father for his existence, and afterwards for the continuance of it."l

■nelson: Life of Bull, p. 276. too, not with any intention to

* Claree, in his reply to Nel- show what was on the whole the

son (p. 4), in answering the com- opinion of those authors. .. . but

plaint of Nelson that he (Clarke) only to show what important

had cited Bull to prove senti- concessions they were obliged to

ments directly contrary to those make; even such concessions, as

which Bull held, says: "This of necessity and in strictness of

objection, you are sensible, I had argument inferred my conclusion,

endeavored to prevent; by de- whether the authors themselves

daring beforehand, that I cited made any such inference or

modern authors, and the Fathers no."

1 Olaeee: On the Trinity, Pt. I. oh. ii. § 5; Pt. II. § 11, 12.

1 Waterland: Second Defence, Question III.

On the Continent, the doctrine of the trinity has been most discussed, during the present century, within the German Church. The Rationalists have rejected trinitarianism altogether, and have adopted the Deistical conception of God,—substantially that of Socinianism. So far as the Orthodox theology has been affected by the pantheistic systems of philosophy, it is easy to see a leaning in it towards the Sabellian construction of the trinity. The attempt of Schleiermacher to evince the substantial accord

■wateeland: Vindication, Question XIII.

ance of the Sabellian with the catholic scheme, while unsuccessful before the bar of science, had the effect to modify the views of his school. Some of the essays upon the trinity that are occasionally appearing in German periodical literature, betoken an inclination towards the theory of a modal trinity. At the same time, it is worthy of notice, that the learned and logical histories of the Doctrine of the Trinity that have been produced in Germany, within the last half century, whether proceeding from a friend or an enemy of the orthodox creed, from a Dorner or a Baur, show very conclusively, by their manner of construing the historical facts, that it is the received opinion that, whether true or false, the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan symbol contains the historical trinitarianism adopted by the Ancient, the Mediaeval, and the Modern Church.