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Noble's 'Appeal': X. Appendix:

B. Section VII.—part D.
The New-Church Doctrine of the Trinity, not a Revival of Sabellianism, or any other Ancient Heresy.

A very common mode of attempting to throw odium on the doctrines of the New Church, is that of giving them the name of Sabellianism, or some other long exploded error. Thus, after stating, in his way, our view of the Trinity (as given above, p. 378), the writer I chiefly follow proceeds thus:—

"If there were any merit in the authorship of this anti-scriptural doctrine, yet even then it would not fall to the share of the Baron, for the very same doctrine in substance was broached and propagated in the third century by an arch-heretic of the name of Noetus, and whose followers were called Noetians, and also Patripassians, because they said the Father suffered in the body of Christ for the sins of all mankind. After this arose another sect bearing some resemblance, though somewhat different, under the denomination of Sabellians, being the followers of one Sabellius." (P. 10.)

Here are two things to be observed: first, that in bringing this charge against us, the objector includes in it a statement, which, indeed, is an essential part of it, but which totally exculpates us from it: and, secondly, that the same statement shows, that in all that is really erroneous in the doctrine of Noetus and Sabellius, the charge may be truly made against modern Tripersonalists in general. The statement alluded to is, that they were called "Patripassians, because they said that the Father suffered in the body of Christ for the sins of all mankind."

It is true that the Sabellians and Noetians, and also the still earlier Praxeans, were justly called Patripassians, and that for the reason stated by the objector; and this evinces that their doctrine was most essentially different from ours; for it has been amply shown in Section VII., that in no sense whatever do we hold that the Father suffered. Such an idea is, to our apprehensions, shocking and blasphemous in the extreme. We have seen, however, that modern Tripersonalists in general, if they do not believe that the Father, as the first person of their Trinity, suffered, do believe this of the Son of God from eternity, the second Person of their Trinity, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father: thus if not Patripassians, they are strictly Deopassians;* and all the absurdity and blasphemy of Patripassianism belongs to it, not as Patripassianism, but as Deopassianism; that is, it belongs to it, not as affirming that the Father suffered as a Divine Person distinct from other Divine Persons, but as affirming that the Father suffered as God. The monstrosity of the doctrine consists in its imagining that God could suffer. From this absurd and shocking idea the doctrines of the New Church are completely free: in those of Tripersonalism it is retained in all its deformity and extravagance.

Our opponents will, perhaps, wish to escape from this imputation: it shall, therefore, be established by an authority which they admit, that of the celebrated Mosheim. As, of the three ancient "Arch-heretics," the sentiments of Noetus come the nearest to our views, I will extract a statement of them from Mosheim's most copious work on Ecclesiastical History,—his De Rebus Christianorum ante Constantinum Magnum Commentarii; in which he treats of these subjects far more particularly than in his well known Ecclesiastical History, translated by Dr. Maclaine.

"The doctrine of Noetus," says our learned author, "so far as it can now be made out from the writings of the ancients, was this. I. The clearest declarations of the sacred oracles established beyond all dispute, that beside that * A Deopassian means one who holds the doctrine of a suffering God.

God who is called the Father of all things, there is no other.

II. But they who divide God into Persons, multiply their Gods, or out of one make many.

III. Therefore, that distinction of persons in God ought to be rejected as false.

IV. But the divine books declare with equal clearness, that God was in Christ, and that Christ is that supreme God, from whom proceeded all things. V. To reduce, then, the two classes of declarations to agreement, it is necessary to believe, that the God who is in Christ, is the supreme God himself, whom the sacred books call the Father of the human race. VI. That Father, in order to succour fallen men, procreated of the Virgin Mary, a man free from all fault, who, in a peculiar sense, is called the Son of God. VII. The Father joined that man to himself, in such a manner, that of himself and that Son was formed one person. VIII. On account of this conjunction, whatsoever things befel that Son, or that divinely begotten man, are also rightly attributed to the Father, who had associated him to his own Person. IX. The Father, therefore, thus joined to the Son, was born, suffered punishment, and died. For though the Father, considered in himself, can neither be born, nor die, nor be tormented, yet, since he made the Son one person with himself, he may be said to have been born and to have died. X. For the same reason, although the Father present in the Son continues to be the Father, he is also rightly called the Son."

By this statement of Noetian doctrine, so clearly given by Mosheim, we find that it contained great truths mixed with great errors. Through the first six or seven articles the reasoning is irrefutable, and the conclusions certain; but from thence to the end all is as erroneous. The origin of the error lies here; that neither Noetus, nor any other theologian before Swedenborg, perceived, that the union between the Divine and Human Natures was not complete, but only in incipiency, at the time of our Lord's birth,—that it was in progress during the whole course of his life in the world, and was only finished by his death and resurrection; thus, that it is literally true, as declared by the Apostle, that he was "made perfect through sufferings." For want of perceiving this truth, though it stands so obviously extant in the sacred writings; and thus supposing that the union of the Divinity and the Humanity was complete from the very birth of the latter; Noetus and the other ancients, who denied the tripersonality, were driven to the necessity of admitting, that the Father, or the whole Godhead, suffered in the Humanity of Jesus Christ; and Tripersonalists have in like manner been compelled to suppose, that, though not the whole Godhead, a third part of it,—the Son of God from eternity,—a God co-equal and co-eternal with the Father,—actually thus suffered. From what inextricable embarrassments, then, are we relieved by the New-Jerusalem doctrine, of the progressive union of the Divinity with the Humanity, and of the gradual glorification or deification of the latter!

But with all its errors, the doctrine of Noetus is greatly superior to that of Tripersonalism; since this retains all the errors of the former in addition to its own. This is actually acknowledged by Mosheim, though himself a very orthodox Tripersonalist. Take his remarkable words: "This doctrine," says he, meaning that of Noetus, "does indeed take away the mystery of the Divine Trinity [meaning Tripersonality]; but it does no prejudice either to the person or to the offices of the Saviour Christ, and is far preferable to the Socinian doctrine, and all that are like it. It also is not more repugnant to reason, than that which affirms that it was a Divine Person [the second Person of the Trinity] which joined the man Christ to himself; nay, by establishing the most simple unity of the Divine Nature, it seems to come nearer to the dictates of reason" Mosheim afterwards notices a remark of Beausobre's who, because Noetus admitted the Divine Nature to be impassible in itself, concluded that he could not hold, as affirmed of him, that the Father suffered. "He could not," says Beausobre, "without the extreme of folly, have said, that one and the same God was impassible, and yet suffered." On this Mosheim observes, "It is truly astonishing that this eminent writer did not recollect, that what he calls the extreme of folly, is precisely what the great body of Christians profess every day; namely, that that God, who, by nature cannot suffer at all, did in Christ suffer the punishment owing by man to God; that ib, that the sufferings of Christ's Human Nature did also belong to God, who was joined to this Nature by the closest and most indissoluble union." (Mosheim's De Rebus, &c., pp. 685, 686, 687.)

For popular evidence, that the great body of Christians do profess every day what Beausobre justly calls the extreme of folly,—the notion that God himself suffered on the cross,—take the following extracts from the Hymns of Wesley, who has never been charged with want of orthodoxy:

"Where is the King of glory now,
The everlasting Son of God!
Th' Immortal hangs his languid brow,
Th' Almighty faints beneath his load"
(Hymn 24.)

"The earth could to her centre shake, Convulsed, while her Creator died." (Hymn 25.)

"The Immortal God for me hath died, My Lord, my Love, is crucified.— Come, see, ye worms, your Maker die!" (Hymn 28.)

"Sion, thy suffering God behold!" (Hymn 149.)

"Lo! the powers of heaven he shakes;
Nature in convulsions lies: Earth's profoundest centre quakes:
The Great Jehovah dies
! Dies the Glorious Cause of all!—
Well may Sol withdraw his light,
With the Sufferer sympathise;
Leave the world in sudden night,
While his Creator dies
Mourn th' astonished hosts above:
Silence saddens all the skies:
Kindler of seraphic love, The God of angels dies
" (Hymn 552.)

Contrast the foregoing pictures of the Sufferer at the Crucifixion, with the following from the New-Church Hymn Book, and say which is most rational as well as scriptural:

"Now Satan triumph'd; 'Now,' he cried,
'Who shall my power oppose?'
But when the Son of Mary died,

The Son of God arose.
He finished with his dying breath
Redemption's grand design:
His Manhood bare our sins to death,
And then arose Divine" (Hymn 82.)

Thus then we find, even from the admissions of a learned Tripersonalist, that it is wrong to charge us with being Noetians or Sabellians, since we utterly reject the notion which procured for them the distinguishing name of Patripassians; that most unjustly is the charge made by modern Tripersonalists, who themselves hold the error which, in the former name, is imputed to us, being themselves Deopassians as truly as were the Noetians; and that, were the charge against us as true as it is false, our sentiments would still be more consonant to reason than those of the Tripersonalists, because not destroying, as theirs do, the real unity of God. Of the three doctrines, ours alone has no inconsistencies. That of the Noetians is burthened with inconsistencies from which ours is free. That of the Tripersonalists retains all the inconsistencies of the doctrine of the Noetians, and adds to them others equally great beside. Far indeed, then, are our adversaries from obtaining any triumph over us, when they throw upon us the unmerited reproach, of holding the doctrine of Noetus or Sabellius.

The doctrine of Sabellius deviated farther from ours, and approached nearer to that of the Tripersonalists, than did that of Noetus; but it is not very important to point out the distinction. They are generally regarded as the same; and when our adversaries ignorantly charge us with Sabellianism, they mean by it the doctrine which is explained above as that of the Noetians.

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