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fully to read Dr. Watts's Essay on the Impotence of any Human Schemes to explain the Doctrine of the Trinity. This essay shews, first, that no such scheme of explication is necessary to salvation; secondly, that it may yet be of great use to the Christian church; and, thirdly, that all such explications ought to be proposed with modesty to the world, and never imposed on the conscience.
Bishop Burnet tells us, that before the Reformation it was usual in England to have pictures of the Trinity. God the Father was represented in the shape of an old man with a triple crown, and rays about his head! The Son, in another part of the picture, looked like a young man, with a single crown on his head, and a radiant countenance. The blessed Virgin was between them, in a sitting posture ; and the Holy Ghost, under the appearance of a dove, spread his wings over her! This picture, he tells us, is still to be seen in a prayer-book printed in the year 1526, according to the ceremonial of Salisbury. Skippon also tells us, there is at Padua a representation of the Trinity, being the figure of an old man with three faces and three beards! How contrary are these absurd representations of the Deity to the sublime declaration of our Saviour! John iv. 24. “ God is a spirit, and they that wor“ship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."
SABELLIANS. THE Sabellian reduces the three persons in the Trinity to three characters or relations. This has been called by some a modal Trinity, and the persons who hold it Modalists. Sabellius, the founder of the sect, espoused the doctrine in the third century. Of his tenets, the accounts are various. Some say, he taught that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, were one subsistence, and one person, with three names; and that in the Old Testament the Deity deliverell the law as Father, in the New Testament dwelt among men as the Son, and descended on the apostles as the Holy Spirit. This opinion gains ground in the principality of Wales. “ The Sabellians (says Mr. Broughton) made the Word and the Holy Spirit to be only virtues, emanations, or functions of the Deity. They held, that he who in heaven is the Father of all things, descended into the Virgin, became a child, and was born of her as a Son; and that having accomplished the inystery of our salvation, he diffused himself on the apostles in tongues of fire, and was then denominated the Holy Ghost. They resembled God to the sun, the illuminative vfrtue or quality whereof was the Word, and its warming virtue the Holy Spirit. The word they tauglit was darted like a divine rav, to accom
plish the work of redemption ; and that being re-ascended to heaven, as the ray returns to its source, the warmth of the Father was communicated after a like manner to the apostles. Such was the language of Sabellians.”
Between the system of Sabellianism, and what is termed the Indwelling scheme, there appears to be a considerable resemblance, if it be not precisely the same, differently explained. The Indwelling scheme is chiefly founded on that passage of the New Testament, where the apostle, speaking of Christ, says-" In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Dr. Watts, towards the close of his life, became a Sabellian, and wrote several pieces in defence of it*. His sentiments on the Trinity appear to have been, that “the Godhead, the Deity itself, personally distinguished as the Father, was united to the man Christ Jesus, in consequence of which union or indwelling of the Godhead, he became properly God.” Mr. Palmer, in his useful edition of Johnson's Life of Watts, observes that Dr.
* See Dr. Watts's Last Thoughts on the Trinity, in a pamphlet republished by the Reverend Gabriel Watts, now of Chichester. It was printed by the doctor in the year 1745, three years only before his death. It is on this account highly valuable, and ought, in justice to that great and good man, to have been inserted in the recent edition of his works. From this piece it appears that Dr. Watts had discarded the common notion of the Trinity,
Watts conceived this union to have subsisted before the Saviour's appearance in the flesh, and that the human soul of Christ existed with the Father from before the foundation of the world : on which ground he maintains the real descent of Christ from heaven to earth, and the whole scene of his humiliation, which he thought incompatible with the common opinion concerning him. Dr. Doddridge is supposed to have been of these sentiments, and also Mr. Benjamin Fawcet, of Kidderminster, who published a valuable piece, entitled Candid Reflections concerning the Doctrine of the Trinity.
THE Arian derives his name from Arius, a presbyter of Alexandria, who flourished about the year 315, and the propagation of whose doc
trine occasioned the famous council of Nice, as- sembled by Constantine, in the year 335. Arius owned Christ to be God in a subordinate sense, and considered his death to be a propitiation for sin. The Arians acknowledge that the Son was the word, though they deny its being 'eternal; contending, that it had only been created prior to all other beings. Christ, say they, had nothing of man in him, except the flesh, with which the Logos, or word, spoken of by the apostle John, was united, which supplied the rest. The Arians, though they deny that Christ is the eternal God, yet they contend against the Socinians for his pre-existence. His pre-existence they found on the two foilowing passages, among many others :-BEFORE Abraham was I am. And the prayer of Jesus—“ Glorify me with that glory which I had with thee BEFORE the world began. These and other texts of a similar kind, are, in their opinion, irrefragable proofs that Christ did actually exist in another state before he was born of the Virgin Mary in the land of Judea. This matter has been argued by various writers; and names of the first character have distinguished themselves in the Arian controversy. It has also been urged by the advocates of Arianism, that the pre-existent dignity of Christ, accounts for that splendid apparatus of prophecies and miracles, with which the mission of the Messiah was attended. In modern times, the term Arian is indiscriminately applied to those who consider Jesus simply subordinate to the Father. Some of them believe Christ to have been the creator of the world; but they ALL maintain that he existed previous to his inçarnation, though in his pre-existent state they