(Owen, Trinity. part 2)

Jews with whom he had to do; for having, as was said, lost the
doctrine of the Trinity and person of the Messiah, in a great measure,
whenever he asserted his Deity, they were immediately enraged, and
endeavoured to destroy him. So was it, plainly, John 8: 66-69. Says
he, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and
was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years
old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily,
I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to
cast at him." So, also, John 10: 30-33, "I and my Father are one. Then
the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many
good works hare I showed you from my Father; for which of those works
do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we
stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man,
makes thyself God." They understood well enough the meaning of those
words, "I and my Father are one," namely, that they were a plain
assertion of his being God. This caused their rage. And this the Jews
all abide by to this day, - namely, that he declared himself to be
God, and therefore they slew him. Whereas, therefore, the first
discovery of a plurality of persons in the divine essence consists in
the revelation of the divine nature and personality of the Son, this
being opposed, persecuted, and blasphemed by these Jews, they may be
justly looked upon and esteemed as the first assertors of that
misbelief which now some seek again so earnestly to promote. The Jews
persecuted the Lord Christ, because he, being a man, declared himself
also to be God; and others are ready to revile and reproach them who
believe and teach what he declared.
  After the resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus, all things
being filled with tokens, evidences, and effects of his divine nature
and power (Rom. 1: 4), the church that began to be gathered in his
name, and according to his doctrine, being, by his especial
institution, to be initiated into the express profession of the
doctrine of the holy Trinity, as being to be baptized in the name of
the Father, and, the Son, and the holy Ghost, - which confession
comprises the whole of the truth contended for, and by the
indispensable placing of it at the first entrance into all obedience
unto him, is made the doctrinal foundation of the church, - it
continued for a season in the quiet and undisturbed possession of this
sacred treasure.
  The first who gave disquietment unto the disciples of Christ, by
perverting the doctrine of the Trinity, was Simon Magus, with his
followers; - an account of whose monstrous figments and unintelligible
imaginations, with their coincidence with what some men dream in these
latter days, shall elsewhere be given. Nor shall I need here to
mention the colluvies of Gnostics, Valentians, Marcionites, and
Manichees; the foundation of all whose abominations lay in their
misapprehensions of the being of God, their unbelief of the Trinity
and person of Christ, as do those of some others also.
  In especial, there was one Cerinthus, who was more active than
others in his opposition to the doctrine of the person of Christ, and
therein of the holy Trinity. To put a stop unto his abominations, all
authors agree that John, writing his Gospel, prefixed unto it that
plain declaration of the eternal Deity of Christ which it is prefaced
withal. And the story is well attested by Irenaeus, Eusebius, and
others, from Polycarpus, who was his disciple, that this Cerinthus
coming into the place where the apostle was, he left it, adding, as a
reason of his departure, lest the building, through the just judgment
of God, should fall upon them. And it was of the holy, wise providence
of God to suffer some impious persons to oppose this doctrine before
the death of that apostle, that he might, by infallible inspiration,
farther reveal, manifest, and declare it, to the establishment of the
church in future ages. For what can farther be desired to satisfy the
minds of men who in any sense own the Lord Jesus Christ and the
Scriptures, than that this controversy about the Trinity and person of
Christ (for they stand and fall together) should be so eminently and
expressly determined, as it were, immediately from heaven?
  But he with whom we have to deal in this matter neither ever did,
nor ever will, nor can, acquiesce or rest in the divine determination
of any thing which he has stirred up strife and controversy about: for
as Cerinthus and the Ebionites persisted in the heresy of the Jews,
who would have slain our Savior for bearing witness to his own Deity,
notwithstanding the evidence of that testimony, and the right
apprehension which the Jews had of his mind therein; so he excited
other to engage and persist in their opposition to the truth,
notwithstanding this second particular determination of it from
beaten, for their confutation or confusion. For after the more weak
and confused oppositions made unto it by Theodotus Coriarius [i.e.,
the tanner], Artemon, and some others, at length a stout champion
appears visibly and expressly engaged against these fundamentals of
our faith. This was Paulus Samosatenus, bishop of the church of
Antioch, about the year 272; - a man of most intolerable pride,
passion, and folly, - the greatest that has left a name upon
ecclesiastical records. This man openly and avowedly denied the
doctrine of the Trinity, and the Deity of Christ in an especial
manner. For although he endeavoured for a while to cloud his impious
sentiments in ambiguous expressions, as others also have done (Euseb.,
lib. vii. cap. 27), yet being pressed by the professors of the truth,
and supposing his party was somewhat confirmed, he plainly defended
his heresy, and was cast out of the church wherein he presided. Some
sixty years after, Photinus, bishop of Sirmium, with a pretence of
more sobriety in life and conversation, undertook the management of
the same design, with the same success.
  What ensued afterward among the churches of God in this matter is of
too large and diffused a nature to be here reported. These instances I
have fixed on only to intimate, unto persons whose condition or
occasions afford them not ability or leisure of themselves to inquire
into the memorials of times past amongst the professors of the gospel
of Christ, that these oppositions which are made at present amongst us
unto these fundamental truths, and derived immediately from the late
renewed enforcement of them made by Faustus Socinus and his followers,
are nothing but old banded, attempts of Satan against the rock of the
church and the building thereon, in the confession of the Son of the
living God.
  Now, as all men who have aught of a due reverence of God or his
truth remaining with them, cannot but be wary how they give the least
admittance to such opinions as have from the beginning been witnessed
against and condemned by Christ himself, his apostles and all that
followed them in their faith and ways in all generations; so others
whose hearts tremble for the danger they apprehend which these sacred
truths may be in of being corrupted or defamed by the present
opposition against them, may know that it is no other but what the
church and faith of professors has already been exercised with, and,
through the power of Him that enables them, have constantly triumphed
over. And, for any part, I look upon it as a blessed effect of the
holy, wise providence of God, that those who have long harbored these
abominations of denying the holy Trinity, and the person and
satisfaction of Christ, in their minds, but yet have sheltered
themselves from common observation under the shades of dark, obscure,
and uncouth expressions, with many other specious pretences, should be
given up to join themselves with such persons (and to profess a
community of persuasion with them in those opinions, as have rendered
themselves infamous from the first foundation of Christianity), and
wherein they will assuredly meet with the same success as those have
done who have gone before them.
  For the other head of opposition, made by these persons unto the
truth in reference unto the satisfaction of Christ, and the imputation
of his righteousness thereon unto our justification, I have not much
to say as to the time past. In general, the doctrine wherein they
boast, being first brought forth in a rude misshapen manner by the
Pelagian heretics, was afterward improved by one Abelardus, a
sophistical scholar in France; but owes its principal form and poison
unto the endeavours of Faustus Socinus, and those who have followed
him in his subtle attempt to corrupt the whole doctrine of the gospel.
Of these men are those amongst us who at this day so busily dispute
and write about the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, and his
satisfaction. - the followers and disciples. And it is much more from
their masters, who were some of them men learned, diligent, and
subtle, than from themselves, that they are judged to be of any great
consideration. For I can truly say, that, upon the sedate examination
of all that I could ever yet hear or get a sight of, either spoken or
written by them, - that is, any amongst us, - I never yet observed an
undertaking of so great importance managed with a greater evidence of
incompetency and inability, to give any tolerable countenance unto it.
If any of them shall for the future attempt to give any new
countenance or props to their tottering errors, it will doubtless be
attended unto by some of those many who cannot but know that it is
incumbent on them "to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered
unto the saints." This present brief endeavour is only to assist and
direct those who are less exercised in the ways of managing
controversies in religion, that they may have a brief comprehension of
the truths opposed, with the firm foundations whereon they are built,
and be in a readiness to shield their faith both against the fiery
darts of Satan, and secure their minds against the "cunning sleight of
men, who lie in wait to deceive." And wherein this discourse seems in
any thing to be too brief or concise, the author is not to be blamed
who was confined unto these strait bounds by those whose requests
enjoined him this service.

The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity Explained and Vindicated

The doctrine of the blessed Trinity may be considered two ways: First,
In respect unto the revelation and proposal of it in the Scripture, to
direct us unto the author, object, and end of our faith, in our
worship and obedience. Secondly, As it is farther declared and
explained, in terms, expressions, and propositions, reduced from the
original revelation of it, suited whereunto, and meet to direct and
keep the mind from undue apprehensions of the things it believes, and
to declare them, unto farther edification.
  In the first way, it consists merely in the propositions wherein the
revelation of God is expressed in the Scripture; and in this regard
two things are required of us. First, To understand the terms of the
propositions, as they are enunciations of truth; and, Secondly, To
believe the things taught, revealed, and declared in them.
  In the first instance, no more, I say, is required of us, but that
we assent unto the assertions and testimonies of God concerning
himself, according to their natural and genuine sense, as he will be
known, believed in, feared, and worshipped by us, as he is our
Creator, Lord, and Rewarder; and that because he himself has, by his
revelation, not only warranted us so to do, but also made it our duty,
necessary and indispensable. Now, the sum of this revelation in this
matter is, that God is one; - that this one God is Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost; - that the Father is the Father of the Son; and the Son,
the Son of the Father; and the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of the Father
and the Son; and that, in respect of this their mutual relation, they
are distinct from each other.
  This is the substance of the doctrine of the Trinity, as to the
first direct concernment of faith therein. The first intention of the
Scripture, in the revelation of God towards us, is, as was said, that
we might fear him, believe, worship, obey him, and live unto him, as
God. That we may do this in a due manner, and worship the only true
God, and not adore the false imaginations of our own minds it
declares, as was said, that this God is one, the Father, Son, and Holy
Ghost; - that the Father is this one God; and therefore is to be
believed in, worshipped, obeyed, lived unto, and in all things
considered by us as the first cause, sovereign Lord, and last end of
all; - that the Son is the one true God; and therefore is to be
believed in, worshipped, obeyed, lived unto, and in all things
considered by us as the first cause, sovereign Lord, and last end of
all; - and so, also, of the Holy Ghost. This is the whole of faith's
concernment in this matter, as it respects the direct revelation of
God made by himself in the Scripture, and the first proper general end
thereof. Let this be clearly confirmed by direct and positive divine
testimonies, containing the declaration and revelation of God
concerning himself, and faith is secured as to all it concerns; for it
has both its proper formal object, and is sufficiently enabled to be
directive of divine worship and obedience.
  The explication of this doctrine unto edification, suitable unto the
revelation mentioned, is of another consideration; and two things are
incumbent on us to take care of therein: - First, That what is
affirmed and taught do directly tend unto the ends of the revelation
itself, by informing and enlightening of the mind in the knowledge of
the mystery of it, so far as in this life we are, by divine
assistance, capable to comprehend it; that is, that faith may be
increased, strengthened, and confirmed against temptations and
oppositions of Satan, and men of corrupt minds; and that we may be
distinctly directed unto, and encouraged in, the obedience unto, and
worship of God, that are required of us. Secondly, That nothing be
affirmed or taught herein that may beget or occasion any undue
apprehensions concerning God, or our obedience unto him, with respect
unto the best, highest, securest revelations that we have of him and
our duty. These things being done and secured, the end of the
declaration of this doctrine concerning God is attained.
In the declaration, then, of this doctrine unto the edification of the
church, there is contained a farther explanation of the things before
asserted, as proposed directly and in themselves as the object of our
faith, - namely, how God is one, in respect of his nature, substance,
essence, Godhead, or divine being; how, being Father, Son, and Holy
Ghost, he subsists in these three distinct persons or hypostases; and
what are their mutual respects to each other, by which, as their
peculiar properties, giving them the manner of their subsistence, they
are distinguished one from another; with sundry other things of the
like necessary consequence unto the revelation mentioned. And herein,
as in the application of all other divine truths and mysteries
whatever, yea, of all moral commanded duties, use is to be made of
such words and expressions as, it may be, are not literally and
formally contained in the Scripture; but only are, unto our
conceptions and apprehensions, expository of what is so contained. And
to deny the liberty, yea, the necessity hereof, is to deny all
interpretation of the Scripture, - all endeavours to express the sense
of the words of it unto the understandings of one another; which is,
in a word, to render the Scripture itself altogether useless. For if
it be unlawful for me to speak or write what I conceive to be the
sense of the words of the Scripture, and the nature of the thing
signified and expressed by them, it is unlawful for me, also, to think
or conceive in my mind what is the sense of the words or nature of the
things; which to say, is to make brutes of ourselves, and to frustrate
the whole design of God in giving unto us the great privilege of his
  Wherefore, in the declaration of the doctrine of the Trinity, we may
lawfully, nay, we must necessarily, make use of other words, phrases,
and expressions, than what are literally and syllabically contained in
the Scripture, but teach no other things.
  Moreover, whatever is so revealed in the Scripture is no less true
and divine as to whatever necessarily follows thereon, than it is as
unto that which is principally revealed and directly expressed. For
how far soever the lines be drawn and extended, from truth nothing can
follow and ensue but what is true also; and that in the same kind of
truth with that which it is derived and deduced from. For if the
principal assertion be a truth of divine revelation, so is also
whatever is included therein, and which may be rightly from thence
collected. Hence it follows, that when the Scripture reveals the
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to be one God, seeing it necessarily and
unavoidably follows thereon that they are one in essence (wherein
alone it is possible they can be one), and three in their distinct
subsistences (wherein alone it is possible they can be three), - this
is no less of divine revelation than the first principle from whence
these things follow.
  These being the respects which the doctrine of the Trinity falls
under, the necessary method of faith and reason, in the believing and
declaring of it, is plain and evident: -
  First. The revelation of it is to be asserted and vindicated, as it
is proposed to be believed, for the ends mentioned. Now, this is, as
was declared, that there is one God; that this God is Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost; and so, that the Father is God, so is the Son, so is the
Holy Ghost.
  This being received and admitted by faith, the explication of it is,
  Secondly, To be insisted on, and not taken into consideration until
the others be admitted. And herein lies the preposterous course of
those who fallaciously and captiously go about to oppose this sacred
truth: - they will always begin their opposition, not unto the
revelation of it, but unto the explanation of it; which is used only
for farther edification. Their disputes and cavils shall be against
the Trinity, essence, substance, persons, personality, respects,
properties of the divine persons, with the modes of expressing these
things; whilst the plain scriptural revelation of the things
themselves from whence they are but explanatory deductions, is not
spoken to, nor admitted into confirmation. By this means have they
entangled many weak, unstable souls, who, when they have met with
things too high, hard, and difficult for them (which in divine
mysteries they may quickly do), in the explication of this doctrine,
have suffered themselves to be taken off from a due consideration of
the full and plain revelation of the thing itself in Scripture; until,
their temptations being made strong, and their darkness increased, it
was too late for them to return unto it; as bringing along with them
the cavils wherewith they were prepossessed, rather than that faith
and obedience which is required. But yet all this while these
explanations, so excepted against, are indeed not of any original
consideration in this matter. Let the direct, express revelations of
the doctrine be confirmed, they will follow of themselves, nor will be
excepted against by those who believe and receive it. Let that be
rejected, and they will fall of themselves, and never be contended for
by those who did make use of them. But of these things we shall treat
again afterward.
  This, therefore, is the way, the only way that we rationally can,
and that which in duty we ought to proceed in and by, for the
asserting and confirming of the doctrine of the holy Trinity under
consideration, - namely, that we produce divine revelations or
testimonies, wherein faith may safely rest and acquiesce, that God is
one; that this one God is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; so that the
Father is God, so also is the Son, and the Holy Ghost likewise, and,
as such, are to be believed in, obeyed, worshipped, acknowledged, as
the first cause and last end of all, - our Lord and reward. If this be
not admitted, if somewhat of it be not, particularly [if it be]
denied, we need not, we have no warrant or ground to proceed any
farther, or at all to discourse about the unity of the divine essence,
or the distinction of the persons.
  We have not, therefore, any original contest in this matter with
any, but such as deny either God to be one, or the Father to be God,
or the son to be God, or the Holy Ghost so to be. If any deny either
of these in particular, we are ready to confirm it by sufficient
testimonies of Scripture, or clear and undeniable divine revelation.
When this is evinced and vindicated, we shall willingly proceed to
manifest that the explications used of this doctrine unto the
edification of the church are according to truth, and such as
necessarily are required by the nature of the things themselves. And
this gives us the method of the ensuing small discourse, with the
reasons of it: -
  1. The first thing which we affirm to be delivered unto us by divine
revelation as the object of our faith, is, that God is one. I know
that this may be uncontrollably evinced by the light of reason itself,
unto as good and quiet an assurance as the mind of man is capable of
in any of its apprehensions whatever; but I speak of it now as it is
confirmed unto us by divine revelation. How this assertion of one God
respects the nature, essence, or divine being of God, shall be
declared afterward. At present it is enough to represent the
testimonies that he is one, - only one. And because we have no
difference with our adversaries distinctly about this matter, I shall
only name few of them. Deut. 6: 4, " Hear, O Israel; The LORD our God
is one LORD." A most pregnant testimony; and yet, notwithstanding, as
I shall elsewhere manifest, the Trinity itself, in that one divine
essence, is here asserted. Isa. 44: 6, 8, "Thus saith the LORD the
being of Israel, and his Redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first,
and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. Is there a God
beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any." In which also we may
manifest that a plurality of persons is included and expressed. And
although there be no more absolute and sacred truth than this, that
God is one, yet it may be evinced that it is nowhere mentioned in the
Scripture, but that, either in the words themselves or the context of
the place, a plurality of persons in that one sense is intimated.
  2. Secondly, It is proposed as the object of our faith, that the
Father is God. And herein, as is pretended, there is also an agreement
between us and those who oppose the doctrine of the Trinity. But there
is a mistake in this matter. Their hypothesis, as they call it, or,
indeed, presumptuous error, casts all the conceptions that are given
us concerning God in the Scripture into disorder and confusion. For
the Father, as he whom we worship, is often called so only with
reference unto his Son; as the Son is so with reference to the Father.
He is the "only begotten of the Father," John 10: 14. But now, if this
Son had no pre-existence in his divine nature before he was born of
the Virgin, there was no God the Father seventeen hundred years ago,
because there was no Son. And on this ground did the Marcionites of
old plainly deny the Father (whom, under the New Testament, we
worship) to be the God of the Old Testament, who made the world, and
was worshipped from the foundation of it. For it seems to follow, that
he whom we worship being the Father, and on this supposition that the
Son had no pre-existence unto his incarnation, he was not the Father
under the Old Testament; he is some other from him that was so
revealed. I know the folly of that inference; yet how, on this opinion
of the sole existence of the Son in time, men can prove the Father to
be God, let others determine. "He that abideth in the doctrine of
Christ, he has both the Father and the Son;" but "whosoever
transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, has not God,"
2 John 9. Whoever denies Christ the Son, as the Son, that is, the
eternal Son of God, he loses the Father also, and the true God; he has
not God. For that God which is not the Father, and which ever was, and
was not the Father, is not the true God. Hence many of the fathers,
even of the first writers of the church, were forced unto great pains
in the confirmation of this truth, that the Father of Jesus Christ was
he who made the world, gave the law, spoke by the prophets, and was
the author of the Old Testament; and that against men who professed
themselves to be Christians. And this brutish apprehension of theirs
arose from no other principle but this, that the Son had only a
temporal existence, and was not the eternal Son of God.
  But that I may not in this brief discourse digress unto other
controversies than what lies directly before us, and seeing the
adversaries of the truth we contend for do, in words at least, grant
that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the true God, or the only
true God, I shall not farther show the inconsistency of their
hypothesis with this confession, but take it for granted that to us
"there is one God, the Father," 1 Cor. 8: 6; see John 17: 3. So that
he who is not the Father, who was not so from eternity, whose
paternity is not equally coexistent unto his Deity, is not God unto

(continued in part 3...)

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