Noble's 'Appeal': VII. The Trinity, As Centered In The Person Of The Lord Jesus Christ.:
C. Tritheism, the Alternative of the True Doctrine of the Trinity,
abundant proof has been now given, in the preceding parts of this section, as I trust will be acknowledged by the Candid and the Reflecting, of the grand doctrine of the New Church, which we believe to be prefigured by the New Jerusalem in the Revelation,— that the whole Divine Trinity is centered in the single Glorious Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Copious stores of Scripture evidence have been adduced, directly establishing his Sole Divinity; and such explanations of particular parts of the Doctrine have been offered, as indirectly establish the same truth, and take away the ground of all the objections that can plausibly be raised against it. Virtually then, every objection advanced by the writer whom, in this work, I principally follow, and by all other adversaries, has already been answered. Every difficulty that has ever been raised has in effect been solved, and all further refutation is unnecessary. Nevertheless, as I wish everything to be fully met that is advanced by the Author of the Anti-Swedenborg, whose objections and arguments are the same as those of other assailants, of all of whom he may be taken as the representative; I will specifically apply the principles already developed to the solution of the difficulties which he has attempted to raise. The result, if I do not grossly mismanage the discussion, cannot fail to be, the more irrefragable establishment of the truth: for how can the genuine truth,—that the whole Trinity is centered in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ,—be more powerfully corroborated, than when it is seen, that its only real alternative is, the doctrine of Tritheism, or the avowal of the existence of three distinct Gods? The only way in which the doctrine of the Sole Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, and, consequently, the concentration of the Trinity in his single Person, can be evaded, is, either by denying the Trinity altogether, and affirming his simple humanity, as is done by Unitarians; or, if a Trinity be acknowledged, by regarding the three subjects of it—the three Divine Persons, as they are commonly called,—as three distinct Gods. The writer whom I here follow, with all the numerous class of whom he is the legitimate representative, sometimes, to avoid the acknowledgment of the Lord's Sole Divinity, argues like those who assert his mere humanity; and it is perfectly evident, that, with all his suffragans, he views the Lord's humanity as not essentially differing from that of an ordinary man. He allows him, however, to he a Divine Being, as well; hut, as God, he denies him to be the same God as either the Father or the Holy Ghost. He openly avows, in everything but the name, the doctrine of Tritheism; and his observations are such as clearly evince, that this is the only refuge which remains open to those, who, asserting a Trinity, insist that it is a Trinity of separate Persons, and deny that it is centered in the single Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The avowal of Tritheism is most plainly made by this opponent in his endeavours to elude the force of the three texts, on which, as he represents the matter, our Doctrine of the Sole Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ is founded. The true meaning of these texts, therefore, shall be vindicated, and the Tritheism of those who resort to such attempts to evade their testimony, established, in the present part of this section.
"The Baron's Creed," says this objector, (Anti-Swedenborg, p. 10) "allows of a Trinity in the Godhead, and the following is the scheme of it: Jesus Christ is God, and beside him there is no other,—the Spirit within him is the Father—his body is the Son,—and the operations and actions proceeding from both constitute the Holy Ghost." And he immediately calls this, without excepting any part of it, an "anti-scriptural doctrine." Let this be looked at for a moment. Our doctrine, as here stated, affirms, that Jesus Christ is God, and beside him there is no other: The objector declares, that this is an anti-scriptural doctrine: Consequently, this opponent believes, either, that Jesus Christ is not God at all, or that there is another God beside him But we find he does not mean to deny Jesus Christ to be God at all: Consequently, his belief is, that there is another God (if not two) beside Jesus Christ. I should not have pressed this conclusion from his words, had he not repeated the sentiment. I should have concluded that he had merely made a slip of the pen, in seeming to assert that there are other Gods beside Jesus Christ. But that such is really his opinion, whether he meant so openly to avow it or not, is evinced by the whole of his subsequent reasoning; as will presently appear.
"The Swedenborgians (he says, p.11) support their doctrine of the person of Christ being the entire Godhead on the following Scriptures chiefly: I and my Father are one. (John x. 30.) He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. (John xiv. 9.) For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (Col. ii. 9.)" Our doctrine is here incorrectly stated, and the proof's on which we rest it are injuriously contracted. Our doctrine does not affirm "the person of Christ to be the entire Godhead," but to be one of the three Constituent Elements of the Godhead: and our Scripture proofs of our doctrine in general are extremely numerous indeed; as is evident from the sample in part A of this section. The above three, however, are too clear to be evaded; and we shall presently see how impossible it is to explain them into an agreement with the doctrine, that there are other Gods beside Jesus Christ.
For guiding the decision, the objector lays down a canon which is a very just one; but let the reader judge whether his conclusion from it, or ours, agrees with it best. He states the canon thus: "It is a rule of criticism among divines, that Scripture is a key to Scripture: and that, wherever one part of Scripture appears to contradict another, then the analogy of the whole Bible, and unbiassed reason, must determine which of the seeming contradictions ought to give way." His inference is this: "Wherefore the Scriptures which make Jesus Christ the Son of God, and a distinct person from God the Father, being very numerous, and unequivocally expressed, must in all fair construction determine the above-cited texts to bear a very different construction to that which Baron Swedenborg puts upon them." (Anti-Swedenborg, p. 11.) I beg to repeat the rule, with an inference more in harmony with the premises. "It is a rule of criticism among divines, that Scripture is a key to Scripture; and that, wherever one part of Scripture appears to contradict another, the analogy of the whole Bible, and unbiassed reason, must determine which of the contradictions ought to give way." Wherefore, the Scriptures which declare the strict unity of God being very numerous, and unequivocally expressed, must in all fair construction determine those passages which speak of a distinction between the Father and thd Son not to mean such a distinction as destroys the great doctrine of the Divine Unity, consequently, not a distinction of persons; thus they must determine the above-cited texts to mean what they plainly say, and to bear a very different construction from that which a Tritheist would put upon them.
1. To deduce such forced construction, this writer says (pp. 11, 12) respecting the text, I and my Father are one, "This text is made by the Baron to signify, that 'I and my Father are one person;' whereas the very grammatical form of the words is against such a construction. For we find, I, which is one person, and then my Father, which is another person; and these are coupled together by the plural verb are: but upon the Swedenborgian scheme our Saviour ought to have said, 'I and my Father am one.' " Very peculiar notions of grammar are here propounded. Every one knows that the soul is not the same thing as the body; nay as, while we are in the body, we have no consciousness of anything that passes, properly speaking, in our soul, but only of what affects our body and the region of our mind which is in contiguity with the body, we are constantly apt to identify the body with ourselves, and to regard the soul as something distinct from ourselves; and though we know that the case is actually the reverse, we still speak according to the appearance, as it presents itself to our senses. Thus every one uses such phrases as these: "When I die;"—"My friend is dead:"—"It is appointed to all men once to die:"—although he well knows that the soul, which is truly the man, never dies, but only the body. Suppose then any one, in this familiar sort of phraseology, were desirous of expressing the fact, that the soul and body, while in union, make but one person: would he say, according to the proposed system of grammar, "I and my soul am one?" Would the proposer himself talk so ridiculously ? Would he or any one think, that by saying, "I and my soul are one," he was affirming the monstrous absurdity, that his soul and body are two separate persons ? Does then the use, according to regular grammatical construction, of the plural verb are, afford even a shadow of a pretence for contradicting the explicit assertion which the Lord here makes, and for affirming, that when he says, "I and my Father are One," we are to understand him as saying, "I and my Father are Two?" Such a declaration, also, could have given no offence to his hearers; whereas no sooner were the words, "I and my Father are One" out of his mouth, than, as we are informed in the next verse, "the Jews took up stones to stone him;" and affirmed (Verse 33) that they did this "for blasphemy;— because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God." The Jews, certainly, had no idea of more Gods than one: when, therefore, they understood, by the Lord's affirming his oneness with the Father, that he affirmed himself to be God, they understood that he affirmed himself to be the one and only God. It will require, then, something more than a grammatical or ungrammatical quibble, to evince that, in this plain declaration of the Lord, explained by this conclusive comment of his hearers, we are to understand him as meaning, that himself and the Father are two. When the Jews said on hearing it, "Thou, being a man, makest thyself God," they clearly testified, that he affirmed himself and the Father to be One Being, One Person, One God.
"Here (adds the objector, p. 12) it will be proper to state the gloss which the learned divines give upon the words before us, and which I think, cannot be much mended: 'I and my Father are one in will, — one in purpose, — one in design, — one in love, grace, and goodwill to all mankind; and all our operations tend to one and the same end, truth, righteousness, and goodness.' " This construction, he affirms, is supported by that text, in which Jesus Christ says, "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are:" (John xvii. 11.) and he afterwards (p. 19) argues in the same manner from the texts which speak of a union between the saints and God. I once read a celebrated Unitarian work, intended to explain away the force of the texts which assert the Lord's Divinity, for which, if a descriptive title had been sought, I thought it ought to have borne the following: "The rhetorical figure called Meiosis or Extenuation, applied to the interpretation of Sacred Writ: or, The art of extracting, from the mountain of Scripture Truth, the mouse of Unitarian Doctrine." Certain it is that we are here presented with a specimen of that art, and that it is from "learned divines" of that school that the present extenuator borrowed his "gloss." Let, then, a learned divine of the school which he more generally follows here give the answer. In Doddridge's note on the Lord's words, "I and my Father are One," is this remark: "How widely different that sense is in which Christians are said to be one with God (John xvii. 21), will sufficiently appear, by considering, how flagrantly absurd and blasphemous it would be to draw that inference from their union with God which Christ does from his:" — that inference is, that in power, also, he is one with the Father; which the extenuating "gloss" keeps out of sight.
But in the view taken by the opponent of the union of the disciples with each other and with their Divine Head, he totally reverses the order of things. The Lord never speaks of himself and the Father being one as the disciples are one; but, in the ardour of his divine love, he desires that his disciples may be one, as himself and the Father are one. The union of himself and the Father is the prototype, that of the disciples with each other and with their Divine Head is the copy: and who will pretend that, in anything whatever, man can be more than a most distant and imperfect copy of God! If the union of Christians with each other and with the Lord is of the same kind and degree as that of the Lord and the Father, because Jesus desires "that they may be one, as we are;" then also the righteousness of Christians is of the same kind and degree as that of their Heavenly Father, because he commands, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matt. v. 48.) Upon such a mode of interpreting the language of Scripture, the perfection of a good Christian, according to this text, is as great as that of God; or, to express the subject more according to our opponent's mode of reasoning, the perfection of God is no greater than that of a good Christian. He must either affirm this, or admit that John xvii. 11, and the similar texts, do not prove the point for which he quotes them. If the highest perfection of which men can he the subjects, is only a faint image of the ineffable perfection of the Divine Nature; then the closest union of which men ran be the subjects, is only a faint image of the union of the two first Essentials of the Divine Nature. Again: to argue, because the union among the Lord's true disciples is an image of the union between the Father and the Son, or the Divine and Divine-Human Natures in the Lord, that therefore the union between the Lord's true disciples is equally close with that between the Father and the Son; is just as conclusive, as to argue, because man was created in the image of God, that therefore he was created equal with God. Precisely the same difference as that between God, and man as an image of God, is that between the union of the Lord's disciples, and the union of the Father and the Son.
If, then, this argument proves so void of solidity, what its author adds to it will not help to strengthen it, but only to expose, still more unreservedly, the polytheism of his sentiments. "This subject," he ventures to say, (p. 18) "may be further illustrated by a mercantile firm, which may consist of three, four, or more individuals. Of these it may be said, and often is said, that they are all one; because they are one in purse, one in gains, one in losses, one in their hopes and fears, and one in all their mercantile interests. But they are not one person." No assuredly. Neither are they one man. In offering then this similitude as an illustration of the Trinity, our opponent confesses, that, in his idea, the Father, Son, and Spirit, are not only not one person, but that they are not one God. As having entered into a kind of partnership for man's salvation, "it may be said, and often is said, that they are all one;" but by those who understand the use of the figure Meiosis in the interpretation of Scripture, this is known to be mere empty words: in and among themselves, they are as much three several Gods (my pen revolts at the word), as the "three, four, or more individuals" of "a mercantile firm," are three, four, or more, several men.
Behold, reader, the Tritheism of Tripersonalism fairly unmasked. But will this naked, unsupported assertion, that there are several Gods, carry the weight of a feather against the assertion of Jesus which it pretends to illustrate, "I and my Father are One?" If by such arguments our blessed Lord is stoned out of his Sole Divinity in the mind of a Tritheist, may not accusers continue to cast such stones at him for ever, before they will destroy the belief of this great truth in the mind of one consistent disciple of the Scriptures and of Reason ?
2. The next text to be diluted into insignificance is, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." The extenuator, who is, at other times, a great enemy of the spiritual sense of the Scriptures, is now very anxious to get rid of their literal sense also. "If these words," says he, (pp. 13, 14.) "be taken according to the letter, then several plain texts of Scripture will be clearly falsified; as for instance, 'And he' (the Lord) 'said, Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me and live.' (Ex. xxxiii. 20.) 'No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.' (John i. 18.) 'And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me: ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape." (John v. 37.) 'Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God; he hath seen the Father.' (John vi. 46.) From these passages," adds the writer, "it is manifest that the words in question are to be taken in a figurative sense." Before we look at the figurative sense proposed, be it observed, that the Lord's words to Philip, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father," and the other texts here quoted, instead of falsifying each other, are, according to our views of them, mutually illustrative in an eminent degree. They all are "plain, texts of Scripture;" and certainly, the words to Philip are quite as plain as any of the rest. Combined, then, into one proposition, what do they all teach? Clearly, this: That Jehovah in his pure Divine Essence, as he existed before the incarnation, was inapprehensible either by the bodily, spiritual, or intellectual sight, of human beings: but that, by his assumption of Humanity in the Person of Jesus Christ, he rendered himself apprehensible, for a time, and in a certain degree, to their bodily sight, and to their spiritual and intellectual sight for ever. This obvious mode of uniting in one harmonious sentiment the (as the opponent would have them,) conflicting statements, is also, in one of them, clearly pointed out. "No man hath seen God [the Divine Essence} at any time: the only-begotten Son [the Divine Humanity] which is in the bosom of the Father [or in the closest union with the Inmost Divinity], he hath declared him;" where the word translated, "hath declared him," properly means, "hath brought him to view;" by which we are expressly taught, that the invisible and inaccessible God was rendered visible and accessible in the Person of Jesus Christ. As the glorification of the Person of Jesus Christ advanced towards completion, the otherwise invisible God was more and more fully manifested therein: since, therefore, when the Lord addressed the words to Philip, but one stage more of the great work remained to be accomplished, well might he say to the yet ignorant disciple, in stronger terms than this opponent likes to bring forward, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet thou hast not known me, Philip ? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?"
Plain, however, as this is; and beautifully as it harmonises with all the texts quoted as in opposition to it, the objector resolves the declaration into figure. The figure of speech employed by the Divine Speaker, is assumed to be that of Hyperbole, or Exaggeration; wherefore its explainer again has recourse to the opposite figure of Meiosis or Extenuation. He finds (Col. iii. 10, and 1 Cor. xi. 7) that man is called an "image of him that created him," or "of God." He finds also (Col. i. 15, and Heb. i. 3), that Jesus Christ is called "the Image of the invisible God," and "the Brightness of his glory and the express Image of his person" (which last phrase, however, according to the original is, "the stamped impression," or "the moulded form of his substance"): and thence he concludes, that Jesus Christ is an image of God, in the same manner and sense as man is an image of God. Lexicographers, however, tell us, most truly, that the Greek term usually rendered image, "not only signifies an image, or an effigy of the form of a certain thing, but the very form, figure, and as it were countenance, of the thing. (Schleusner.) and this must be its meaning when applied by Paul to the Person of Jesus Christ, otherwise it would not agree with the same Apostle's other declaration just cited, that he is the Brightness, or Effulgent Display, of the glory of God, and the Stamped Impression, or Moulded Form of his substance. Hence, also, the Apostle distinguishes so accurately in his use of the term image, when applied to our Lord, and his use of it when applied to man: for he calls Jesus Christ "the Image of the Invisible God;" but he never calls man so; and by the Image of the Invisible God, he obviously means, the Divine Form, in and by which the otherwise Invisible God is manifested, and rendered visible to his creatures. It is then perfectly true, that Jesus declares, that "he that hath seen him hath seen the Father," in the same sense as the Apostle calls him "the Image" or "Visible Form of the Invisible God:" but never will it be true, either that Jesus uses those words of himself, or the apostle these words of him, in the same sense as man is called "an image of him that created him."
The opponent would force this low meaning on the Lord's words by an illustration that is really shocking. Jesus Christ has declared it to be the will of God (John v. 23.) "that all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father:" but the extenuator declares, that we may honour all good men even as we honour the Lord: for, he says, "Respecting those who inherit the power and live in the practice of real religion, it might be said without blasphemy, that they who have seen such, have seen God; that is, in a low degree, they have seen God in his moral likeness!"
I really felt thunderstruck when I read this declaration. I could scarcely believe it possible that eagerness to shun the force of a plain text could drive any one to such a degrading parody on the Lord's words. Is its proposer prepared to stand by his statement through all its consequences? Philip, unquestionably, was a holy man: will the parodist then contend, that it is a matter of indifference whether we read the Lord's answer to him, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father;" or, "He that hath seen thee hath seen the Father,"—that the declaration would be as true in the one case as in the other? Yet this is no more than he asserts again, when he says in the next sentence, that "this may be said of a [i.e. any] good man or good woman." No good man or good woman, it is certain, ever before dreamed of arrogating such divine honour, or ever will hereafter: the person who makes the assertion doubtless considers himself as belonging to the class of good men: If then he, as a good man, finds it not repulsive to his feelings to say, "He that hath seen me hath seen God," he will never have any for his rival— but the Lord Jesus Christ!—I am persuaded that he must himself be shocked at the consequences which now out of his proposition.
But error is always inconsistent; and the author of the above "gloss" proceeds with observations which nullify his whole argument. "Now," he adds, "if this maybe said of a good man or a good woman, how much more may it be said of Him who knew no sin— who did all things well—in whose mouth was no guile—who was in the bosom of the Father—who came from the Father, and was with the Father before the world was—and who was as a lamb without blemish and without spot!"—How much more, indeed! In fact, when the writer sees that there is this infinite difference of character between the Lord Jesus Christ and a mere man, how strange that he cannot allow the Divine Speaker's descriptions of his own character to indicate that impassable difference between himself and a mere man, and that to apply them to a mere man is as great an outrage, as to apply to a man any other incommunicable divine characteristic! Now, however, he seems disposed to paint the difference as it really is: for he proceeds to say further, "But more than all these, Jesus Christ inherited in himself the attributes of the Father; those attributes which are designated as essential and incommunicable, namely, Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence:" and he goes on for some time, giving Scripture-proof of these truths. We do not desire a more full concession. Jesus Christ inherited the divine attributes that are "incommunicable:" can this be admitted by a writer, who yet will not allow that he who sees Jesus Christ sees the Father, in any other manner, than as he who sees any good man sees God ? After he has affirmed, that the oneness of Jesus Christ with the Father differs not in kind from the union that exists between good men and God, does he not see the inconsistency into which he plunges, when he adds, in the same breath, that Jesus Christ possesses the incommunicable divine attributes of Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence ? If the Oneness that exists between Jesus Christ and the Father be only a figurative, and not a real oneness, that is, a personal oneness, does its impugner not see that he is now affirming, as plainly as words can convey it, that there are two Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent Beings ? By his own confession these atttributes are "incommunicable:" does he not see then that he hereby openly affirms, that there are two, if not three, separate Gods?
Yes, alas! he sees it too well. It is the very doctrine he means to convey: and he has only laid down these glorious acknowledgements of the truly divine character of the Lord Jesus Christ as introductory to it. For behold the consistency of his conclusion: "Now seeing that so much of the divine power, properties, and perfections, are evidently found in the Son of God, 'in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,' might he not with much propriety say, 'He that hath seen me hath seen the Father,' without meaning, or intending to be understood, that he and the Father were one and the same Person?"—Here then are two Beings, each possessing the same incommunicable divine attributes; two Almighties, two Omnipresents, two Omniscients: for when Jesus says, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father," he does not mean, we are told, to account for his possessing the incommunicable divine attributes by affirming that he and the Father are one Person, like the soul and body, whence all the attributes properly belonging to each are at the same time the property of the other, according to the Lord's declaration, when he says, "Father, all thine are mine, and mine are thine;" (John xvii. 10, ch. xvi. 14, 15.)— but the meaning of the Divine Speaker, it is pretended, is, that he is just such another as the Father,—that he that seeth him does not actually see the Father, though he says so, but sees one just like him, a fellow-God. This is tolerably plain: but the writer is determined to leave no doubt about his meaning, whatever ambiguity he may impute to the language of the Lord Jesus Christ; he therefore concludes his illustrations of divine language thus: "Do we not often even among ourselves say, speaking of a father and his son, 'The son is the very picture of his father:' and sometimes we hear it also said, 'If you have seen the one you have seen the other.' But in these cases it is never apprehended that the two like persons are one person!" The note of admiration is the writer's own. He appears to think that he has now succeeded to admiration in proving, that the Divine Saviour was trifling with Philip's anxiety for knowledge on this most momentous of subjects, and was amusing him with paltry quibbles. When Jesus declared, and accompanied the declaration with every circumstance expressive of the utmost earnestness, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father," he meant, we are to believe, nothing of the kind; he intended no more than we do, when, speaking of two men, we say, "The son is the very picture of his father," especially if we add to it, "If you have seen one you have seen the other." There is no more identity between the Lord and the Father than there is between a human father and son. As these, even when they happen to resemble each other most closely, are never one person, so neither are the Lord and the Father one person. As the human father and son, even though, as often happens, they may be united in one "mercantile firm," are two absolutely separate men, so also the Divine Father and Son, though likewise united by a certain covenant, as by articles of partnership, are two absolutely separate Gods.
Tripersonalists in general! do you acknowledge this writer's development of the mysteries of your creed ? Many of you, probably, have never ventured to look so narrowly into it before. You have perhaps allowed it to remain wrapped in the swaddling clothes with which the perpetually repeated cry of "Mystery!" has surrounded it: now that one of its nurses has drawn these aside a little, and exposed some of its features to view, how do you like their appearance ? Which do you think is more reasonable, more consentaneous with "the analogy of the whole Bible" and with "unbiassed reason;" to believe that Jesus and the Father are two absolutely separate Gods,— for, suppress the word as they may, you see your profound Tripersonalists, when they venture on illustrations, cannot help admitting all that the word implies;—or to believe, without reserve or equivocation, that he that hath seen Jesus hath seen the Father, because, though not one and the same Divine Principle, they are together but one Divine Person, the one being the proper Form and Person of the other, the Visible God in whom is the Invisible, and out of whom nothing of either can be seen, known, or apprehended ? To this clear and most satisfactory apprehension of the subject,—this view which combines into one harmonious whole every statement respecting the Divine Person and Nature contained in Holy Writ,—the initiated, you see, have nothing to oppose but the entirely unsupported assertion, that the Invisible, unapproachable God, is invisible and unapproachable still, and that the Visible God, that is, the God who became visible in the person of Jesus Christ, is quite a separate Being from the former, only bearing, in a figurative manner, his "moral likeness." The question, then, is simply this: Which will you believe; the Tritheist, who calls on you to believe mere absurdity and contradiction; or the Lord Jesus Christ, who offers to your acceptance the most sublime, important, and satisfactory of truths ?
3. Our explainer now proceeds to exercise his skill in the art of reducing mountains to mole-hills, upon the other text which he has selected for the operation: "In him (Jesus Christ} dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." But when the reader finds him, in his first two paragraphs, palpably catching at straws, and endeavouring to puff into repute the insignificant "meaning" (or rather no meaning) to which "some" ("learned divines," of course), and "others" have endeavoured to reduce these weighty words; it must be seen that his only solicitude is, to divest them of all their proper meaning, and, provided this can be accomplished, that he little cares what is substituted in its place. He begins thus: "From these words some draw this meaning, that as Moses taught the Israelites by ceremonial shadows of better things to come, his religion was unsubstantial, and, as to intrinsic value, empty; but Jesus Christ, the great teacher, being come, he taught nothing but substantial and necessary truths respecting God, &c. Therefore St. Paul is pleased to describe the superiority of Christ over Moses by the text before us: as if he should say, 'In Christ's dispensation there are no empty shadows— no unsubstantial ceremonies; but on the contrary there is a fulness of doctrine, example, revelation, spirit, wisdom, sacrifice, merit, love, and goodness. This construction of the text is not unworthy of consideration."—So thinks the extenuator: dost thou, reader, think so too ? The text, remember, with the verse preceding, says, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy, and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ: for in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." Is not the above comment an open attempt to substitute mere emptiness for fulness, and to "spoil you through philosophy, and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ ?"
Conscious of this, its proposer tries again. "Others," he states, "say, that St. Paul had reference to the divine appearance between the cherubim on the mercy-seat,—that appearance being but in vision, seen but seldom, and then only by one person, the high priest. This manner of the divine appearance to men, they say, was rare and scanty; and to this, therefore, Christ is contrasted, because he derived from the Father a plenitude or fulness of the divine attributes, the Spirit without measure, and all moral perfections in an infinite degree," &c. This is a little better: but do you find, reader, any reference, in the Apostle's words, to the rare and scanty manner of the divine appearance in the mercy-seat, to satisfy you that he only refers to a certain fulness of the divine attributes in the person of Jesus ? Does any imputed fulness of divine attributes, communicated to Jesus as a separate person, at all come up to the idea conveyed by the declaration, that all the fulness, not of divine attributes merely, but of the Godhead itself—the whole Divinity—dwelt in him bodily— in a personal form? But the Apostle, it seems, like his Divine Master, was apt, when he was in his theme, to run into the use of Hyperbole or Exaggeration; wherefore his meaning equally requires to be diluted into insignificance, by the application of Meiosis or Extenuation.
The opponent, affecting to consider that these truly futile expositions of the text evince the unsoundness of our apprehension of it, proceeds thus: "The futility of the Swedenborgian doctrine respecting the phrase, 'all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,' will be still more apparent when it is considered, that nearly the same language is used in reference to ordinary saints; as in these words: 'That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith: that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend, with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge; that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.' Here then we find nearly the same phrase repeated respecting the saints, as that which is now the subject of our animadversions." Instead of being only nearly the same phrase, had it been quite the same phrase, such an argument from it would have been sufficiently answered by our remarks above, on the words, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." It would be impossible to argue, in the one case, that God dwells in the saints in the same manner as the Divine Essence dwells in the person of Jesus Christ, without arguing, in the other, that the perfection of the saints is the same as the perfection of their Heavenly Father. But in reality the Apostle's wish, "that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith,—that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God," does not bear a near, but only a remote resemblance to his declaration, that "in Christ dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." In the one case, the God whose fulness is spoken of is Christ; and Christ is mentioned as dwelling in the hearts of the saints by faith in the other case, God is not mentioned, but the Godhead—the whole of Divinity; and this is not spoken of as dwelling in the heart of Christ by faith; but all the fulness thereof—the entire Godhead—is declared to dwell in him bodily; which is equivalent to saying, that his Body or Person is the Body or Person of the whole Divine Nature. Here is a wide difference indeed! But still less are the passages parallel as they stand in the original: for, in that respecting the saints, nothing is there said of their being "filled with all the fulness of God;" but literally translated it is, "that ye might be filled unto all the fulness of God;" plainly evincing the Apostle's meaning here to be the same as when he speaks in the next chapter, of the saints as coming "unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."(Ver. 13.) To be filled unto the fulness of God, or to attain to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, is, obviously, to reach that perfection, in the spiritual life for which God or Christ designs us,—to be replenished, according to the full measure of our finite capacities, with all heavenly graces,—to receive to the utmost of his fulness, and grace for grace (John i. 16). How could we receive of his fulness, had it not "pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell?" (Col. i. 19) How then can the fulness, of which we receive from him, be all the fulness that is in him ? The fact that all our fulness is received from him, proves, not that there is no more or other fulness in him than is received by us, but that in him, most truly, dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,—that he is the Personal Form of the whole Divine Nature; whence, of his fulness, we receive a portion.
The extenuator might have learned far better to understand this subject from his Concordance, than from the "learned divines" of the Unitarian school whom he has followed. "Whereas," says honest Cruden on the word fulness, "men are said to be filled with the Holy Ghost, as John the Baptist (Luke i. 15) and Stephen (Acts vi. 5); this differs from the fulness of Christ in three respects; the Grace and the Spirit be in others by participation; as the moon hath her light from the sun, rivers their waters from the fountain, and the eye its sight from the soul; but in Christ they be originally, naturally, and of himself. 2. In Christ they be infinite and above measure (John iii. 34); but in the saints by measure, according to the gifts of God (Eph. iv. 16). The moon is full of light, but the sun is more full; rivers are full of waters, but the sea more full. 3. The saints cannot communicate their graces to others: whereas the gifts of the Spirit be in Christ, as a head or fountain, to impart them to others: 'We have received of his fulness' (John i. 16). It is said (Col. ii. 9), 'That the fulness of the Godhead dwells in Christ bodily;' that is, The whole nature and attributes of God are in Christ, and that really, essentially, or substantially; and also personally, by nearest union, as the soul dwells in the body, so that the same person who is man, is God also." This is a just account of the matter. And as the Godhead which thus dwells personally in Christ, as the soul in the body, is not a part of the Godhead, merely,—one of three persons, into which, according to the fictions of men, the fulness of the Godhead is divided, hut is, according to the express declaration, all the fulness of the Godhead; it follows that this declaration of Cruden's is true in the fullest and most ample sense; and further, that as nothing but a truly Divine Body can be the abode of the whole of the Divine Essence, Jesus Christ is in proper Person, as to Soul and Body, the One Only and Infinite God.
The objector here adds some passages in which God is said to dwell in men, to draw from them the inference, that as the dwelling of God in men does not make them one person with God, no more is this the case when all the fulness of the Godhead is said to dwell bodily in Christ: but it is needless to say any more than has been said already, to prove, in his own language, that this argument is a "downright sophism." So far from any argument being thence to be drawn against the unity as to person of Jesus and the Father, such texts as these, in fact, strongly confirm it. For it has already appeared, that the God who dwells in the saints is Jesus Christ, by virtue of the Spirit communicated from him, and that they have no intercourse with the inmost of Deity called the Father, except as this dwells in the Divine Humanity of Jesus Christ. Thus we find Jesus saying, in his address to the Father just before the completion of his glorification, "The glory which thou gavest me, I have given them:—I in them, and thou in me;" (John xvii. 22, 23.) and many similar statements might be mentioned. Thus it is obvious, that it is from Jesus Christ alone that the saints immediately receive all that makes them such; and that Jesus Christ is able to impart it, because the whole Divine Essence, called the Father, dwells bodily in him. Thus his dwelling in the saints is not of the same kind as the Father's dwelling in him, but is an image of it; for no one will pretend that the saints actually receive the whole fulness of Jesus Christ, so that he has no existence out of them, as is repeatedly affirmed respecting the dwelling in Jesus Christ of the Father. And as the fulness of the reception by saints of Jesus Christ is infinitely inferior to the fulness of his reception of the Father, it follows again, that their union with him is not of the same kind as his union with the Father, but is an image of it; just in. the same manner as the perfection of the saints is not of the same kind, but is only an image of, the perfection of their Heavenly Father; and as man himself is not God but is only an image of God.
As our extenuator has succeeded so ill in destroying the meaning of these three conclusive texts of Scripture, he at last betakes himself to his best refuge, the plea of mystery, and employs, as noticed above, the remaining four pages of his present Section in deprecating all inquiry, and extolling ignorance as a Christian privilege. Here, therefore, it is quite needless to follow him. The same, doubtless, is true of error in regard to religious doctrine, as the Lord affirms of evil in heart and life. "Every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved." (John iii. 20) But it is somewhat curious, that, after his own disclosures, he should have penned the following sentence: "It were much to be wished that men, even good men, were more cautious and reserved, in their language respecting the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, than they commonly are." Of course, then, he intended to practise the caution and reserve which he so earnestly recommends. He is sensible that Tripersonalists have much to conceal. And yet we have seen that he has so far let out the interior sentiments of his mind or his creed upon the subject, as to evince that, in his ideas, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are three separate Gods: may we not conclude, then, that had he not aimed at being "cautious and reserved" he would openly have used the very words ?
Since then these three important texts stand quite uninjured by the efforts to deprive them of meaning, but, the more they are examined, are more demonstrably seen to be plain declarations of the most important doctrines; and, since, as is obvious, in agreement with these texts only can be understood the other texts which speak of the Father and the Son, so as to be in harmony with those numerous passages which affirm the strict Unity of the Divine Being; it follows that we are to believe, what these three texts so plainly affirm, that the Lord Jesus Christ is one Person with the Father,— the whole Godhead dwelling personally in him, as the soul in the body. Abundant other proof of the same grand doctrine has been given above: and the only portion of the Scripture-evidence that the writer I follow has ventured to attack, has now been shown to be invulnerable to all his objections. It is eternally true, as the Lord declares of himself, that He and the Father are One, and that he that hath seen Him hath seen the Father; and, as Paul declares of the name Glorious Being, that in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. No attempt has ever been made to explain these texts to any but the New-Church sense, which did not wear the character of most miserable subterfuge, most palpable violence. And how must our conviction of the truth they teach be strengthened, when we find, as has now indisputably appeared, that Tritheism lurks in the interior thought of those who deny it,—that when, in the warmth of argument, they forget their wonted caution and reserve, they allow the triple-headed monster openly to display his dreadful form,—that the only alternative for those, who, asserting a Trinity, deny that it is centered in the Single Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, is to acknowledge in heart, if not commonly with the lips, three several Gods I