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Still, they do not rest their sentiments on any human decisions, but on what they deem the clearest testimony of the scriptures of truth. They admit that the doctrine is a mystery, but claim that it is no greater mystery than the self-existence of God, his eternity, or the nature of spiritual beings, or the union of the human body and soul, or many other truths with whicb all are familiar. They also claim that a mystery is not an absurdity or contradiction : that the scripture doctrine of a separate state, and the resurrection of the dead, and many others, though mysteries, are not deemned absurd and incredible : that we know little of God except what he has revealed of himself: and that it is absurd, if not impious, to reject his own testimony concerning himself, because it makes known truths above our comprehension. The fact that there are three persons in one God is as intelligible as the truth that God is self-existent, and is not to be rejected because we cannot understand this mode of the divine existence.
A few of the scripture testimonies, by which the doctrine of the Trinity is supported, are the following. God speaks of himself as existing in plurality. Gen. 1. 26. “And God said, Let us inake man in our image, after our likeness." Gen. jj. 22. “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.” Gen. xi. 6. “Let us go down and there confound their language.” Isa. vi. 8. “I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” The word God, as used in the scriptures, is, in the original, very commonly, in the plural number. It is so in the first passage. “In the beginning God (Gods) created the heaven and the earth.” The precept “ Remember thy Creator,” is, literally, “Remember thy Creators.”
This plurality of persons in God being taught in the scrip. tures, Trinitarians consider that there is the fullest testimony that it is Three. The most express declaration of this truth is by the Apostle John. 1. John, v. 7. “ There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." The vision of Isaiah, in the sixth chapter of his prophecy, is a remarkable passage, some parts of which are more often quoted by Christ and the apostles than any other portion of the Old Testament. The prophet says, “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims :-And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts : the whole earth is full of his glory. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said'I, Here am I ; send me. And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but un: derstand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes ; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.” Concerning this passage it is said, “ The Trinity is
expressed, in the adoration of the seraphims, by using the word holy three times successively; of which there is no instance of the kind in the Bible, where a single person, who is in no sense plural, is addressed."* A like form of expression is used, on the same theme, by the four beasts who were seen and heard by John, Rev. iv. 8.“ And they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was and is, and is to come." The ancient Christian Fathers considered the expression Lord God Almighty, which repeatedly occurs, as designed to express the Trinity. The apostle John refers to the vision of Isaiah, just noticed, and says, speaking of Christ, “ These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, (Christ's) and spake of him." John xii. 41. The apostle Paul quotes the same passage and says, "Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand ; and seeing ye shall see and not perceive :" &c. Acts xxviii. 25. None will deny that the Father appeared in this heavenly vision, worshipped by the seraphims, and speaking to the prophet. John says it was Christ, and Paul says it was the Holy Ghost. This passage, thus illustrated by inspired authority, is considered as full proof that Jehovah who was thus seen sitting upon a throne was the Triune God.
The sacred persons of the Trinity are named in the ordinance of baptism. This, being a solemn act of worship, and a covenant transaction between God and man, cannot be performed in any other name than that of God.
The same truth is conveyed in the form of the apostolic bles. sing. “ The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all."
The doctrine of the Trinity is considered as fully taught in the scriptures, as they teach that there is but one God, at the same time that each of the sacred persons, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, is often spoken of, and in various forms, as the true God. Respecting the divinity of the Father, no question is made. The divinity of the Son is no where more clearly declared than in the gospel of John. “ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him.” The Word is Christ. The Apostle here declares him to be God, to be eternal, and the Creator of all things. All divine attributes are ascribed to him in the scriptures ; and he is worshipped by inspired men. Another proof of the Saviour's divinity is, that, during his incarnation, he was without fault. This could never be said of any prophet or saint.
The distinct personality and divinity of the Holy Ghost is held by Trinitarians to be taught no less clearly than that of the Son. This distinct personality is asserted in various pas. sages. One of which is, " As they ministered to the Lord, and
fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” Acts xii. 2. In proof of his divine character, Christ says, “ Except a man be born of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” The apostle Paul speaks of the same change as “the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” The subjects of this change are said by the apostle Jobn to be “ born of God.” Thus the Holy Spirit is God. Peter said to Ananias, “Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost ; thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.” Acts v. 34. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.—Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”. Thus, God who inspired the holy men, by whom the scriptures were written, was the Holy Ghost.
OF THE WESLEYAN AND OTHER METHODISTS.
This body of Christians owe their origin to the zealous labours of two learned and pious clergymen of the Church of England, of the name of Wesley : they were brothers, John and Charles. In the year 1729, they began, whilst at college, to manifest a more than usual zeal, first for the salvation of their own souls, and then for the conversion of others. In this holy work they were shortly joined by other members of the University ; and in the furtherance of their objects, they observed so much method and strictness, that some wag of a student, recol. lecting either the rigid forms of a number of men formerly found in the Roman Catholic Church, bearing this appellation, or, which is more likely, calling to mind an ancient sect of Physi. cians, founded by Themison, who were so denominated, gave the Wesleys and their religious friends the nick-name of Methodists. In course of time, the name became so familiar, that now it is admitted by themselves as their distinguishing appellation. From having become a term of reproach amongst Christians, except with the bigoted, the prejudiced, the profane or the ignorant, the term Methodist properly conveys no other idea but that of a member of one of a respectable body of Christians. It is still, however, customary with some persons to brand every man with the name of Methodist, who displays a more than ordinary degree of concern for the eternal interests of mankind ; just as they call every man an enthusiast, who has more zeal in religion than falls to the lot of the mere man of the world, or the dry maxims of a formal Christian profession.
1. The Methodists maintain the total fall of man in Adam, and his utter inability to recover himself, or to take one step towards his recovery, “ without the grace of God preventing him, that he may have a good will, and working with him when he has that good will."
2. They are sometimes called Arminians, and hold general redemption. They assert" that Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man.” This grace they call free, as extending itself freely to all.***
3. They hold Justification by Faith. 6 Justification," says Mr. Wesley, “ sometimes means our acquittal at the last day. But this is altogether out of the present question ; for that jus. tification whereof our articles and homilies speak, signifies present forgiveness, pardon of sins, and consequently acceptance with God, who therein declares his righteousness, or justice and mercy, by or for the remission of the sins that are past, saying, I will be merciful to thy unrighteousness, and thine iniquities I will remember no more. I believe the condition of this is faith (Rom. iv. 5, &c.); I mean, not only, that without faith we cannot be justified ; but also, that as soon as any one has true faith, in that moment he is justified. Faith, in general, is a divine supernatural evidence, or conviction, of things not seen, not discoverable by our bodily senses, as being either past, future, or spiritual. Justifying faith implies, not only a divine evidence, or conviction, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, but a sure trust and confidence that Christ died for my sins ; that he loved me, and gave himself for me. And the moment a penitent sinner believes this, God pardons and absolves him.”
This faith, Mr. Wesley affirms, “is the gift of God. No man is able to work it in himself. It is a work of omnipotence. It requires no less power thus to quicken a dead soul, than to raise a body that lies in the grave. It is a new creation, and none can create a soul anew, but he who at first created the heavens and the earth. It is the free gift of God, which he be-stows not on those who are worthy of his favour, not on such as are previously holy, and so fit to be crowned with all the blessings of his goodness, but on the ungodly and unholy ; on those who, till that hour, were fit only for everlasting destruction ; those in whom was no good thing, and whose only plea was, God be merciful to me a sinner. No merit, no goodness in man, precedes the forgiving love of God. His pardoning mercy supposes nothing in us but a sense of mere sin and misery ; and to all who see and feel, and own, their wants, and their utter inability to remove them, God freely gives faith, for the sake of him in whom he is always well pleased.
“ Good works follow this faith, but cannot go before it ; much less can sanctification, which implies a continued course of good works, springing from holiness of heart. But it is allowed, that entire sanctification goes before our justification, at the last day. It is allowed also that repentance, and fruits meet for repentance, go before faith. Repentance absolutely must go before faith ; fruits meet for it, if there be opportunity.”
Mr. Wesley maintained, also, salvation in general by faith only. “By salvation I mean,” says he, “ not barely according to the vulgar notion, deliverance from hell, or going to
heaven, but a present deliverance from sin ; a recovery of the divine nature ; the renewal of our souls after the image of God in righteousness and true holiness in justice, mercy and truth. This implies all holy and heavenly tempers, and, by consequence, all holiness of conversation. Now, it by salvation we mean a present salvation from sin, we cannot say holiness is the condition of it ; for it is the thing itself. Salvation, in this sense, and holiness, are synonymous terms. We must there. fore say, 'we are saved by faith. Faith is the condition of this salvation ; for without faith we cannot be thus saved.”
Mr. Wesley, speaking of the witness of the spirit, says, “ The testimony of the spirit is an inward impression on the soul, whereby the spirit of God directly witnesses to my spirit, that I am a child of God; that Jesus Christ hath loved me and given himself for me ; that all my sins are blotted out, and I, even I, am reconciled to God. The manner how the divine testimony is manifested to the heart, I do not take upon me to explain. But the fact we know, namely, that the Spirit of God does give a believer such a testimony of his adoption, that while it is present to the soul, he can no more doubt the reality of his sonship, than he can doubt the shining of the sun, while he stands in the full blaze of his beams.”
4. The Methodists maintain, that, by virtue of the blood of Jesus Christ, and the operations of the Holy Spirit, it is their privilege to arrive at that maturity in grace, and participation of the divine nature, which excludes the love of sin from the heart, aus fills it with perfect love to God and man. This they denominate Christian perfection.
There is only one condition previously required of those who desire admission into this society, namely, a desire to flee from the wrath to come, to be saved from their sins. But in order to continue therein, it is expected that all the members should continue to evidence this desire of salvation. First, by doing no harm, by avoiding evil of every kind ; such as taking the name of God in vain, profaning the sabbath, drunkenness, fighting, and broiling, brother going to law with brother, dealing in unaccustomed goods, taking unlawful interest, speaking evil of magistrates and ininisters, acting unfairly, costly dress, fashionable amusements, borrowing money without a probability of returning it, or taking up goods without a probability of paying for them, &c. Secondly, by doing good according to their ability, as they have opportunity, to all men : to their bodies, by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting or helping them that are sick or in prison ; to their souls, by instructing, reproring, or exhorting, all they have any intercourse with. By doing good, especially to them that are of the household of faith, employing them in preference to others, and by this means assisting each other in business ; by diligence and frugality in their temporal concerns ; by perseverance, and patiently enduring reproach, &c. Thirdly, by attending on all the ordipances of God: such as the public worship of God; the minis