Anti-Trinititarianism of Early Quakers
By Thomas Weisser
The Heart of New England Rent or Hardened?
The day for the execution came. The prisoners came forth from the jail, and surrounded by a hundred soldiers walked through the streets. Drummers went immediately before them who were told to beat their drums loudly if the Quakers attempted to speak to the crowds that lined the way. The Governor was evidently fearful lest the people might make an attempt at a rescue, for thirty-six soldiers were posted about the town during the execution to preserve order’.
William Robinson was hanged first. His last words were, “I suffer for Christ, in whom I live, and for whom Marmaduke Stevenson suffered next. As he ascended the ladder he said: “Be it known unto you all this day, that we suffer not as evil doers, but for conscience sake. This day shall we be at rest with the Lord.”
Later, a young lady named Mary Dyer was sentenced to death.
It was the first day of Sixth Month, 1660, when Mary Dyer walked from the jail to the Common surrounded by soldiers. At the gallows she said: “I came to do the will of my Father, and in obedience to His will I stand even to this death.” John Wilson, the Puritan minister, said; “Mary Dyer, O! repent, O! repent, and be not so deluded and carried away by the deceit of the devil.” She replied; “Nay, man, I am not now to repent.”
Why were these merciless killings carried out? What great crimes had the Quakers committed in Boston to cause such a reaction from these Puritans?
England was alive with revolutionary ideas in the Seventeenth Century. This was especially true in matters concerning the Bible.
One of the more radical groups were the early Quakers. Controversy over their beliefs repeatedly brought them to prison. Nevertheless, with a boldness that reminds one of the Early Church they preached on.
This upset the more established groups including the Puritans in both Old & New England. During this time many tracts, pamphlets, and books were written back and forth between rival groups. In this first chapter we will look at the two writings dealing with the problem in Boston.
Initially, the Quakers coming to Boston in the 1650’s were harassed and laws were passed to drive them out. As more Quakers arrived the laws correspondingly got stricter. Eventually the penalty of death was created for those returning after expulsion. A few became martyrs as recorded at the start of this chapter.
The thrust of this report will deal with a significant aspect of Early Quaker beliefs ignored by most of their historians. It was at least partially because of their anti-trinitarianism that they were driven from Boston.
In the late 1650’s a prominent Boston minister, John Norton was commissioned to write a book exposing the Quaker doctrines. He entitled it, The Heart of New England Rent. It accuses Early Quakers of denying the Trinity. He mentions Praxeas and Sabellius:
Praxeas, who lived in the year two hundred, taught that there was but one person, only in diverse respects, called the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. After ariseth Sabellius under Valerian, affirming that in the Divine Essence, there were three names, but denied there were three distinct subsistences, or persons. 2
Concerning Quaker beliefs pertaining to the Trinity he writes:
They acknowledge that there is one God and three, viz. the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; but they deny that these three are distinct Persons. 3
Many other charges were made. Francis Howgill, a prominent Quaker leader, responded with The Heart of New England Hardened Through Wickedness. In response to Norton’s identifying the Quakers with men labelled heretics he says:
I shall not trouble the Reader with thy old Hetrodoxes, as thou calls them, of the heads of Religion, there is many that know these things as well as thyself, and as for Praxeas, Sabellius, Nestorius, Cerinthius, Eutiches, nor with Quintinius, Swinckfield, Muncer, David George, and John of Leyden, what are these to us? And what are their Principles to us? Some thing they spoke which was real heresie, if the Histories betrue, whereof I much doubt, because many such as thyself were the authors thereof… As for the Hetrodoxes of the Quakers concerning the heads of Religion, as thou hast set down, this I say to thee, and to all the World, we do not hold them because any man before did hold them, or may hold them after, but because God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit, which also may be confirmed by the Testimony of the Scripture of Truth. 4
Concerning Norton’s attacks in regards to the Godhead Howgill responds:
-First concerning the Trinity thou saith, they confess the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and yet they deny the Trinity, and those to be three distinct Persons, for confutation of this thou brings Heb. First and third; He is the express Image of his Father’s Person. -Thy Trinity is an old Popish term and we love to keep to sound words, but by Trinity I suppose thou means three, and thy own words shall confute thee, thou confesseth we say there is Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and yet but one God, or one Eternal being or substance in which they all subsist, but thy word distinct is thy own and not the Spirit’s, yet to distinguish betwixt Father, Son and Spirit we deny not; and as for the first of Heb. it is in another translation rendered the express Image of his substance, for Person is too grosse a word, as to express an Eternal and Divine being in, and if thou do hold three distinct substances thou errs in thy Judgment, for that were to make three Gods.
Norton also accuses the Quakers concerning Christ. Howgill responds to Norton’s accusation: -They deny Christ to be God and man in one Person, and Christ to be a distinct Person from the Father, and they acknowledge such a Christ as unchrists Christ; and when they say Christ manifest in the flesh, they mean not as the Scripture, but Salaciously. -We say according to the Scripture of Truth and not according to thy falacy, that in the man Christ did the fulness of the Godhead dwell, and God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, and he saith I and my Father are one, and the Father the Son and the Spirit subsist in one Eternal Power, Life, and Glory, which thou with all thy stupid generation are ignorant of; and Christ that we acknowledge is such a Christ as is able to save to the utmost them that come unto him, and receive him and believe in him… When we say Christ manifest in the flesh we say that holy thing which was brought forth and born of a Virgin, and conceived of the Holy Ghost in whom the fulness of the Godhead dwells, in whom the Eternal Power of the Father was manifested, that he was the Christ which was manifest in the flesh and Justified in the Spirit, Preached among the Gentiles, seen of Angels, and received up into Glory, and this is according to the Scripture of Truth, and thy judgment must be judged. 6
Norton endeavors to explain the Trinity in his writing. Howgill responds: -In the ninth page thou art going about to prove thy Trinity, as thou calls it, and thou saith, The Father is a distinct subsistence, and the Son a distinct subsistence, and the Holy Ghost a distinct subsistence, and thou brings John 5. there is another bears witness likewise, speaking of the Holy Ghost, he calls him another, and this another thou says, Is intelligible of the Essence, and then saith, What is more manifest then another subsistence, and another subsistence speaks distinct subsistences, and thou saith, The Spirit is called the hand of the Trinity. -Another is not understood of another being of another life or another subsistence, but is understood of another Manifestation or Operation of the same God who subsists in the same Power in which the Father the Son and the Spirit subsisteth, as I said unto thee before, another, as to distinguish of the Operation and work of the Spirit, and of the Son, we do not refuse; but to make three distinct essences and beings is ignorance and error, as thou saith, Another is intelligible of the Essence, and so thou hast made three Essences, three Subsistences, three Persons and three Gods; but we say there is but one God, and there is three that bears record in Heaven, the Father, the Word and the Spirit, and these three are one. Now as for Subsistence and Essence, they are unsound words coined of yourselves, from your dark imaginations, in which there is no truth at all, but to cast a mist; Now where the Holy Ghost is called a Person in the Scripture I have never read, and where it is called the hand of the Trinity I have never heard of before thee, and so thy blind ignorant conclusions and Sophistical arguing will have little place with them that are come to know the Teachings with the Spirit, and also keep to a form of sound words, which thou cannot. 7
Francis Howgill died in 1668 after repeated imprisonments. His last words were; “I have sought the way of the Lord from a child and lived innocently among men, and if any inquire concerning my latter end, let them know that I die in the faith in which I lived and for which I suffered.”
Early Quakers – Oneness
The early Quakers strongly defended their beliefs in numerous tracts and books. Repeatedly they were attacked concerning their theology of the Godhead. Over and over they were said to deny the Trinity and the Divinity of Christ.
From their writings it is apparent they did deny God is three Persons. They never denied the divinity of Christ. In fact, the last section of this book is a partial reprint of the book entitled The Divinity of Christ by George Whitehead.
According to Maurice A. Creasey in his Early Quaker Christology the Early Quakers saw no distinction between the pre-incarnate Christ and the Father. This is a main ingredient of modern Oneness belief. Mr. Creasey also says that the distinction between Father, Son and Holy Ghost to early Quakers; “must be defined in terms of operation and manifestation rather than of ‘Person’ in the sense in which their contemporaries understood that term.’ 10
Quaker View of History
Most of the Early Quaker writers didn’t concern themselves much with the History of Christianity. As Howgill says concerning their beliefs; “we do not hold them because any man before did hold them.” An interesting exception to this is William Penn.
In his The Sandy Foundation Shaken he relates the idea that trinitarianism was born from the struggle between Athanasius and Arius at Nicea. “Know then, my friend, it was born above three hundred years after the ancient gospel was declared; and that through nice distinctions, and too daring curiosity of the bishop of Alexandria, who being as hotly opposed by Arius, their zeal so reciprocally blew the fire of contention, animosity, and persecution, till at last they sacrificed each other to their mutual revenge.”
He goes on to say that Trinitarianism being stronger than Arianism triumphed and the creed developed was given the title Athanasian. Penn suspected, as has been confirmed, that it was written not by Athanasius but rather it was, in his mind, “the results of popish school-men”.
A very controversial subject in 17th Century England was the right of lay people to interpret the Bible. Among the non-conformists men rose up to take the place of preachers in the State Church. This was abhored by the established Church leaders.
At the forefront of this concept stood the Early Quakers. They actualized the Reformation concept of the priesthood of believers.
With the New Testament they proported a common salvation, understandable to all repentant hearts. But, Church leaders would not tolerate wayfaring men taking the place of theologians.
One characteristic of modern Oneness believers is their leaders encourage lay people to study and teach from the Bible.
By His Spirit
Another amazing thing about these Early Quakers is that their understanding concerning the Godhead was revealed to them by the Spirit. This is amazing in that the same thing is said by modern Oneness believers.
Howgill says he holds to his beliefs, “because God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit which also may be confirmed by the testimony of the Scripture of Truth.”
Modern critics of the Oneness movement act like its claims of spiritual enlightenment are imaginary. They forget it was the work of the Spirit of God that brought about the birth of the Church [Acts 2].The Spirit annointed an incapable fisherman named Peter to reveal the gospel message [Acts 2:38]. The Spirit moved on men of God to write the entire Bible. Why is it wrong to depend on the Spirit of God to give us an understanding of God today?
Early Quaker Theology – Christ Centered
Christ was central to the Early Quaker experience. Indeed, the Light within them they identified with Christ. This is true of modern Oneness Pentecostals when they refer to the Holy Ghost within them as Christ in them.
William Penn was imprisoned for his anti-trinitarian statements in The Sandy Foundation Shaken. The primary accusation was he denied the divinity of Christ. His answer to this charge written from prison he entitled Innocency With Her Open Face.
That which I am credibly informed to be the greatest reason for my imprisonment, and that noise of blasphemy, which hath pierced so many ears of late, is, my denying the divinity of Christ, and divesting him of his eternal God-head, which most busily hath been suggested as well to those in authority, as maliciously insinuated amongst the people; wherefore let me beseech you to be impartial and considerate, in the perusal of my vindication, which being in the fear of the Almighty God, and the simplicity of scripture dialect, presented to you, I hope my innocency will appear beyond ascruple. The Proverbs, which, as most agree, intend Christ, the Savior, speak in this manner: “By me kings reign, and princes decree justice; I [wisdom] lead in the midst of the paths of judgment: I was set up from everlasting;” to which Paul’s words allude, “Unto them which are called [we preach] Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God;” from whence I conclude Christ the Savior to be God; for otherwise God would not be himself; since if Christ be distinct from God, and yet God’s power and wisdom, God would
be without his own power and wisdom; but inasmuch as it is impossible God’s power and wisdom should be distinct or divided from himself, it reasonably follows, that Christ, who is that power and wisdom, is not distinct from God, but entirely that very same God. Next, the prophets, David and Isaiah, speak thus: “The Lord is my light and my salvation. I will give thee for a light unto the Gentiles;” and speaking to the
church, “For the Lord shall be shine everlasting light;” to which the evangelist adds, concerning Christ, “that was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. God is light, and in him is no darkness at all;” from whence I assert the unity of God and Christ, because though nominally distinguished, yet essentially the same divine light; for if Christ be that light, and that light be God, then is Christ God; or if God be that light, and that light be Christ, then is God Christ. Again, “And the city had no need of the sun, for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb [Christ] is the light thereof;” by which the Oneness of the nature of those lights plainly appears; for since God is not God without his own glory, and that his glory lightens, [which it could never do if it were not light] and that
the Lamb, or Christ, is that very same light, what can follow, but that Christ the light and God the light are One pure and eternal light? Next, from the word Savior, it is manifest, ” I even I am the Lord, and beside me there is no Savior: and thou shalt know no God but me, for there is no Savior besides me.” And Mary said, “My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior:” and the Samaritans said unto the woman, “Now we know that this is indeed the Christ the Savior of the world. According to his grace made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ. Simon Peter to them that have obtained like precious faith with us, through the righteousness of God, and our Savior Jesus Christ. For therefore we suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men: to the only wise God our Savior be glory,” & c. From which I conclude Christ to be God; for if none can save, or be styled properly a Savior but God, and yet that Christ is said to save, and properly called a Savior, it must needs follow, that Christ the Savior is God. Lastly, “in the beginning was the Word, [which the Greeks sometimes understood for wisdom and divine reason] and the Word was with God, and the Word was God: all things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made. For by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth. He is before all things, and by him all things consist. Upholding all things by the Word of his power,” &c. Wherefore I am still confirmed in the belief of Christ the Savior’s divinity; for he that made all things, and by whom they consist and are upheld, because before all things; he was not made nor upheld by another, and consequently is God; now that this Word that was made flesh, or Christ the light, power and wisdom of God, and savior of men, hath made all things, is he by whom they only consist and are upheld, because he was before them, is most evident, from the recited passages of scripture; therefore he was not made, nor is he upheld by any other power than his own, and consequently is truly God. In short, this conclusive argument for the proof of Christ the Savior’s being God, should certainly persuade all sober persons of my innocency, and my adversaries malice; He that is the “everlasting wisdom, the divine power, the true light, the only Savior, the creating word of all things, [whether visible or invisible] and their upholder by his own power, is without contradiction God;” but all these qualifications and divine properties are, by the concurrent testimonies of scripture, ascribed to the Lord Jesus Christ; therefore, without a scruple, I call and believe really to be the mighty God. And for more ample satisfaction, let but my reply to J. Clapham be perused, in which Christ’s divinity and eternity are very fully asserted. Judge then, impartial readers, [to whom I appeal in this concern] whether my Christian reputation hath not been unworthily traduced; and that those several persons who have been posting out their books against me [whilst a close prisoner] have not been beating the air, and fighting with their own shadows, in supposing what I never thought, much less writ of, to be the intention of my book; and then as furiously have fastened on me their own conceits, expecting I should feel the smart of every blow, who thus far am no ways interested in their heat.
Partial Reprint of George Whitehead’s The Divinity of Christ.
[This was a response to books written against Quakers by Tho. Vincent, Will. Madox, Tho. Danson, and John Owen.]
EDITORS NOTE: What you are about to read is copied from the original book published in 1668. In endeavoring to preserve it we have copied it verbatum with minor spelling corrections. The following is not easy reading but after you read it I believe you will agree that it is worthwhile reading.
If that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost be three distinct separate Persons, not simply One, or agreeing simply, as the Priest saith, then how far distance are they one from another? Show us Chapter and Verse for this, and make it good by Scriptures.
And let us see through all the Scriptures, wherever the Holy Men of God did give such titles or names to God, and Christ and the Holy Ghost as the Presbyterians and Independents have done, as may be seen in this Book.
The Scripture saith, That God, and Christ, and the Holy Ghost will dwell in Man; & then you Independent and Presbyterian Priests, Whether then that there is not three Persons in a Man [dwelling in him] that is a Person? For the Apostle saith, That your Bodies are the Temples of the Holy Ghosts and that your Bodies are the Temples of God, and that Christ is in you, except ye be Reprobates?
The DIVINITY of CHRIST, Confessed by us called Quakers; And, What we
own touching the Deity or God-head, according to the Scriptures…
That there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him, and our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
That there are Three that bear Record in Heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, and that these three are One, both in Divinity, Divine Substance, and Essence; not three Gods, nor separate Beings.
That they are called by several Names in Scripture, as manifest to, and in the Saints [for whatsoever may be known of God, is manifest in man, Rom. 1] and their record received as the full testimony of three, by such as truly know and own the Record of the three in Earth; and yet they are Eternally One in Nature and Being; One infinite Wisdom, One Power, One Love, One Light and Life, & c. That there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him, and our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
For, the only Wise God, the Creator of all, who is One, and his Name One, is infinite and inseparable, Deut. 6:4. Zec. 14:9. And the Father’s begetting the Son, and the Spirit’s being sent, we witness to and own; as He said, Thou art my Son, this day I have begotten thee, Psal. 2:7. Heb. 1:5. And he hath sent his Spirit into our hearts, Gal. 4:6. And that the Father is in the Son, and the Son in the Father, yea, in the bosom of the Father, Joh. 1:18 & chap. 17:21, 23. So that they are neither divided, nor separate, being One, and of One infinite Nature, and Substance; Christ being the image of the invisible God; the first born of every Creature, by whom all things were Created, both in Heaven and in Earth, Col. 1. -Yea, the Son of God is the brightness of his glory, and the express Image of his substance, Heb. 1:3. And that it was in due time God was manifest in Flesh, I Tim. 3:16. As in the fulness of time God sent his Son Gal. 4. And the Son of God was made manifest to destroy sin, I Joh. 3:8. And a manifestation of the Spirit is given to every Man to profit withal, I Cor 12.—So the manifestation of the Father, of the Son, and Holy Spirit we confess to, and own to be in Unity [and so the only true God] according to the Scriptures.
And that Jesus Christ being in the Form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, and yet as a Son, in the fulness of time, was sent of the Father, and took on him the form of a servant, Phil. 2:6,7. in which state he said, My Father is greater than I, Joh. 14:28. and he learned Obedience through Suffering, and was made perfect, and is become an everlasting High Priest, after the Order of Melchisedeck, and is the Author of Eternal Salvation, unto all them that Obey him, Heb. 5.— And God hath given us Eternal Life in his Son: And unto us a child is born, and a Son is given to Govern, whose Name is Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace, Isa. 9:6. And he is over all, God blessed forever, Rom. 9:5. Even the true God, and Eternal Life, I Joh. 5.
So that the Deity or Divinity of Christ, in his eternal, Infinite, Glorious State, we really confess and own; having known his Virtue and Power to redeem us from our vain Conversations, and to save us from wrath to come.
And our knowledge of the only true God, and our Faith in, and concerning him, and his Name, unto our Salvation, cloth not consist in the traditional Names, human Inventions (nor in Philosophical terms, and nice School distinctions, derived from Heathenish Metaphysics; which since the Apostles time, men have put upon the Godhead] but in the living sense, and feeling of his Divine Power, Life, and Love, revealed in us by the Spirit of the Son of God; whereby we have [in his gift of Divine Life and Spirit] received Life and Salvation, from sin and death; see Matth. 11:27. Luk. 10:22. Matth. 16:17. Rom. 1:17. ch. 8. 18. Gal. 1:16. Eph. 3:5. I Pet. 5:12. ch. 4:14. ch. 4:13. ch. 5:1. 2 Pet. 1:3. Matth. 1:21.
Also we judge, That such Expressions, and words as the Holy Ghost taught the true Apostles, and Holy Men mentioned in the Scriptures, are most meet to speak of God, and Christ, and not the words of man’s wisdom, or human inventions, and devised distinctions since the Apostles days.
Finally, We have received an Unction, or Anointing, from the Holy One, which as it cloth teach us, we know a continuance in the Father and in the Son, I Joh. 2. And for whom we know the Father is well pleased, and in him we know the true Satisfaction, Justification, and Peace, which all that abide in him, enjoy and witness.
Now unto the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the One Eternal Word, The Only Wise, Pure, Perfect God, who is Infinite, Omnipotent, Incomprehensible, who giveth unto all Life and Being, and is the Life of all, and the Being of Beings, who filleth all in all with his Presence, Unto whom be Glory now and evermore, [saith our Souls.]
And for Definition of a Person, or what a Person is, we shall not need to go to Popish and Heathenish Authors, as Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle, and others; as some of these Presbyterian Teachers, and others, have done, when they have gone about to demonstrate their Doctrine of a Trinity of distinct Persons in God; And yet in Contradiction, for a cloak, they pretend the Scriptures to be their Rule, wherein there is no proof of their calling the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, three distinct Persons, while the Scriptures be full and plain enough to prove, define, or show what a Person is; as namely, a Man or Woman; sometime the body, the face, or visible appearance of either, &c. But the Infinite God is not like to corruptible man.
W. Madox: By their three Persons you mean the three uncreated Persons of the ever blessed Trinity, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost.
Three uncreated Persons are thy own words and terms; but the Father, Word, and Spirit, we really own, and bear witness to, both as mentioned in the Scripture, and as knowing the absolute Testimony and Eternal Power thereof manifested, where that which may be known of God is manifest [even within] both in creating, begetting, and quickening us again to God out of death and darkness. And these Three which are One, which bear Record in Heaven, to wit, The Father, the Word, and the Spirit, as I could not own the title of Three distinct and separate Persons to be put upon them, as thy Brother Erroniously did [being not Scripture language] so it was never my intent, nor Principle, to compare them to three Apostles, or finite Creatures, as most falsely and injuriously thou accusest me. But to endeavor to make the People understand both the grossness and falseness of Tho. Danson’s and Tho. Vincent’s Principles of three distinct Persons in the Deity, you naming each Person God, which renders them Three Gods [whilst but One God] by showing the Consequence of this your Principle; After I had from
Scripture showed how inseparable the Father and the Son were, and the Oneness of the Father, Word, and the Spirit; but if I had simply compared them to three Apostles, who were distinct and separate Persons, then had I owned your Terms and Principle, and then the Controversy had fallen between us: But instead thereof, I am accused for opposing your Doctrine of distinct separate Persons; and thus you confound yourselves in wronging of me; for were not the three Apostles, Paul, Peter, and John, three distinct, separate Persons [did I ever deny that they were] how like then to finite Creatures cloth your own Doctrine render the Eternal God, his Word, & Spirit; which to show, was my end in instancing three Apostles, for we never believed the Eternal God to be like to corruptible man, since we knew anything of his Divine Power. But T. Danson in his Synopsis, pag. 12. plainly instanceth three Apostles, Peter, James, and John; as also his instance of David and Solomon for their Trinity, or three Persons in one nature;
Was not this an instance of finite Creatures, and such an indignity put upon God as I never intended: How can such men but blush for charging that on others, which so evidently they are guilty of themselves?
Madox. We call the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Three Persons, or Hee’s, according as they are held forth in the Scriptures.
Answer: Nay, had you stood to Scripture-language, there had not been any Controversy between us therein; but it would not satisfy you, but you must obtrude your Popish unscripture-like terms and distinctions, or rather worse, in telling not only of distinct but separate Persons, which being plainly refuted from Scripture, you may remember I several times called to T.D. and T.V. to confess their Error, I strewing how inseparable the Father and the Son were, reflecting chiefly on the words separate Persons, which, how you come off about, will appear hereafter. And as for their being Three Hee’s, thou W. M. durst not keep to any Argument from thence, or to make that any Cause, or Reason, why we must own them to be Three Persons, though here thou seem’st to make the terms equivolent, viz. three and the Holy Ghost, as falsely and blasphemously we are accused by this our prejudiced Opposer.
W. M. What you mean by separate, I know not; if you mean so separate as to destroy the unity and simplicity of the divine Essence, I own no such separation; if you take it to be all one with distinct, then it was no begging the Question. And in their 39. pag. it’s said, viz. The word Separate Person I disown any further then we may conceive it to signify no more than distinct.
Answer: It appears then, that T. D. and their using the word separate persons, was to explain their meaning of distinct persons, for it was used after distinct, viz. Distinct and separate persons; which word separate persons, they know I chiefly reflected upon at the Dispute, I proving the contrary from Scripture, viz. both the Oneness and inseparability of the Father, Word, and Spirit; but seeing they own no such separation as to destroy the Unity of the Divine Essence, why did they make use of the word Separate at all in the case, telling us, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are three distinct and separate persons, which they confess are of one divine Essence. Now they disown separate any otherwise then it signifies distinct; but they should not have own’d it at all in this case. Is it not sad Doctrine that supposeth any Separation, Finiteness, or Limitation, in this Divine Being? But if the separation relate to the Personality, or their distinctions of persons, and not to the Essence, then cloth not this tend to divide God, or to separate Father, Son, and Spirit, who are in each other, and how then are they three distinct, co-eternal, co-essential, coequal Persons? Or how are they three distinct uncreated
persons of an infinite nature, as before? but another while not infinite in the Personality; what wonderful confusion and gross contradictions are here! and what strange boldness is it for men, so dark in their understandings, discomposed in their minds, confused and incongruent in their Principles, thus ignorantly to attempt to define or demonstrate the infinite Power, or God-head, which is out of their sight, and beyond their earthly capacities, who are so ignorant of God who is Light; they count the Light within an Idol of our own brains, as W. M. hath blasphemously done; whereas it is the Light by which God hath shined in our hearts, to give us the knowledge of his Glory, in the face of Jesus Christ, 2 Cor. 4.
W. M. I called them three Hee’s, to try if you would own the Deity of Christ, and the Holy Ghost, under any title.
As the subject of this Trial is very mean and weak [to wit] the calling them three Hee’s to prove the Deity; so his trying of us hereby, was altogether groundless, since that we never disowned the Deity of Christ, or the Holy Ghost, as falsely and injuriously is insinuated against us. And since that three He’s will now serve instead of Persons, [he saying they are three Persons, or three He’s] to prove the Deity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: Why have they made such a pudder for their distinction of Persons? But would it be a strong Reason to induce Infidels to the belief of the Deity of each, because they are three Hee’s as he saith; for, are all Hee’s either God, [or yet Persons] or Divine? But I need say little to the shallowness of
this Work; Let the ingenious Reader judge of it. But when he thinks he mends the matter, by calling them three divine Hee’s, his intent is, that the Father is called Hee, the Son is Hee, the Spirit Hee; which neither proves them three separate, nor three incommunicable Persons, distinct subsistences, or bottoms; whilst both the Father’s a Spirit, the Lord is that Spirit, Christ a quickening Spirit; all inseparable.
W. M. You by refusing to call them Three Divine Hee’s, have made it manifest, that your Quarrel is not with the word Person, as some then apprehended; but with the Doctrine or Fundamental Truth, expressed by the three Persons, viz. the Modal Distinction, and Essential Union; or Oneness of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Answer: It’s manifest, that some of the Hearers that were present at our Debating this matter, had a better apprehension and understanding of us than you prejudiced Teachers and Opposers had: for some of them apprehended that we opposed your unscriptural terms and words put upon the Deity, and not that we opposed either the Divinity or Union of the Father, Son, or Holy Ghost; neither did we in the least go to quarrel with any Fundamental Truth, as most grossly and slanderously we are accused and misrepresented by thee W. M. who hast showed thyself [so far from either Truth, Moderation, or Reasonableness in this matter] as one swallowed up with Envy and Prejudice: And thy taking for granted, that thy Modal distinction and terms, are Fundamental Truth, and joining them with the Oneness of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is but a begging the Question, and presumption in thee, especially whilst by your vain Philosophy some of you have either rendered them as Three Gods, or denied them to be Infinite, as in pag. 45. Yea, and it was evident to many, That we found fault with your mix-calling and mix-representing the Father, the Word, and Spirit; and never in the least opposed nor questioned their being Three such as mentioned in Scripture, viz. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, but there openly confessed to the Fundamental Truth of them in Scripture terms. And when you fell into your needless Questions, and Philosophic terms of incommunicable properties, subsistences, &c. I [to bring the matter to be more obvious to the People, to shorten and mittigate the Controversy, and to abate your heart] did tell you, That if you meant by incommunity of properties, the Father’s begetting the Son, and the Spirit’s being sent; state your Question so, in plain English, Whether the Son was begotten, and the Spirit sent of the Father, and it would quickly end the Controversy. But nothing would serve you, but an Answer to your vain babbling and School-terms, with such a limitation as Aye or No; as if the Scripture terms and expressions were in this to be waved and slighted as insufficient, and your confusion, vain Philosophy, and deceit, must be set up above the Scriptures of Truth, though you profess them to be your Rule, at other times. But here in plain Contradiction, you have gone about to obscure Divine Mysteries under your Traditional terms of Heathenish Metaphysics, and laid such a stress upon them, as if all were to be deem’d Blasphemers and Hereticks, and so to be damned, that cannot confess, own, and be tied up to your terms, nice and confused distinctions, which you presumptuously put upon the Father, Word, & Spirit.
And as for W. M. his accusing us with rejecting the Son, and so the Father. It is a gross slander, as many more of his accusations are; and never was it in our Intention nor Doctrine so to do, whilst the Oneness of Father, Son, and Spirit, we really confess to, but disown your blind distinctions, which deny them Infiniteness.
And as for W. M. his so much talk of three Hee’s, each of which [he saith] is by nature God: We do not read in Scripture, that God is called three Hee’s, or three distinct Hee’s; and therefore three distinct separate Persons [indeed Children in the Accidence call Hee the third Person singular] But that both the Father and Son speaking of themselves, use the word Hee, as I am Hee; and he that is with you, shall be in you; Christ speaking of his own manifestation [which was that other Comforter] I will not leave you comfortless, I will come unto you. But each of these three Hee’s he tells of, he hath told us is by nature God; so then they are One, as God, the Word, and Spirit, are.
And as to his charge of Ignorance of Philosophy about Subsistence, which he says, is not a form of a Hee, but the manner of his being.
His Charge of Ignorance, of his kind of Philosophy, and such nice distinctions [as this between manner and form] we can easily bear, and pass by, and leave them to feed upon it, who will choose such chaff for their food, knowing that the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ, consists not in such trifles.
W. M. The form of God the Father is his Divine Nature, but his Subsistence is his manner of being in the relative Property of the Father; and so he speaks of the Form and Subsistence of the Son and Holy Ghost [as his terms of them are.]
Now touching these distinct subsistences, or manners of being, wherein stands their Model, distinction of Three distinct Personalities to which they say in pag. 45. That infiniteness is not applicable, and that there be three distinct Personalities, unto which infiniteness is not ascribed: Here they have given People to understand what their meaning is about their three distinct Subsistences, or Personalities, that they are not Infinite. What then! Is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Finite? What gross darkness is this? Let the impartial Reader judge, whether we have not sufficient ground and cause to oppose them and their vain Philosophy in this so high a matter, and whether herein their Doctrine cloth not blasphemously oppose the Divinity of Father, Son, and Spirit; and they go about to eclipse [and detract from] the Glory of the infinite God-head, whilst at other times, in contradiction, they confess each to be God, and tell of the Eternal Son of God, and say, That in the concrete, every subsistence is infinite, but not the subsistence or personality in the abstract. What darkness is here? Is God divided, or Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, separate or abstract from their Essence? And where then is this finite personality so much contended for? Is it in God, yea or nay? or relating to his Divine Being, or Substance? But if these distinct personalities or subsistence, which they say are not infinite, be the relative
Properties of the Father, Son, and Spirit, then I ask, Hath not this Doctrine denied both Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to be infinite? Let the unbiased Readers judge. And yet in Confutation of themselves again, there’s God the Father the first person, God the Son, a person distinct from him; and God the Holy Ghost, a person proceeding from both. How to make sense of these three distinctions, comparing them together, or how to make them hang together without rendering them Three Gods, and not only so, but such as are not Infinite, cloth not yet appear to me. And whether my comparison of not understanding Paul, Peter, and John, could be Three Persons [each of them an Apostle] and yet all but one Apostle, was not suitable to detect these mens unscriptural Doctrines and Distinctions, and to show the absurdity of the consequences thereof, which whilst this railing angry man, W. Madox, cloth so often take it as a comparing the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to Three Apostles; herein he hath grossly wronged and abused me, and his own understanding, And his Charge of Blasphemy against me [for that he intimates that I should say] That God is but equal with man, or compared the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to Three Apostles, then had I and these rigid Presbyterians accorded nearer than we did, for then had I owned their Doctrine and terms of three distinct and separate persons in the God-head, which are not infinite; which I can never own, nor believe, nor depend upon any God, or thing, which is finite, for Salvation. Besides, I never denied finite man, nor three distinct Apostles [as Paul, Peter, and John] to be distinct and separate Persons; so if I had really compared the Deity to such, we had not differed about the distinction of separate Persons, or finite substances in the God-head, which is no less than Blasphemy. But then, how poorly, maliciously, and falsely this W. M. comes off in so positively deeming their Doctrine and terms in these matters, to be Scripture Truth; and charging us with designing to blast and overthrow the Deity of Christ, and the Holy Ghost; upon which, Blasphemers, and Blasphemy, and damnable speeches, are hideously cast upon us, but most unjustly, and falsely; for no such design ever had we, as either to blast or overthrow the Deity of Christ, or Holy Spirit, we have openly professed and declared the contrary, both in words and writings. As also his accusing us with boldly spitting in the face of God, is a gross and malicious slander, and a presumptuous taking for granted, that our opposing their corrupt unscriptural distinctions, and vain babbling, was a spitting in the face of God; as if we must believe all that these men say, in this matter, to be as true as God is, and his Glory to be so deeply concern’d in their vain Philosophy: Judge whether they herein are competent Disputants, yea or nay? and whether these our Opposers, or we, have compared God, or the Father, Son, and Spirit, to men; let the Reader judge by what follows.
In their Answer to the Argument of William Penn’s, viz. The Divine Persons are either finite, or infinite; if finite, then something finite is in God; if infinite, then there would be three distinct infinites, and consequently three distinct Gods: thus far W. P. Touching which, after they have denied infiniteness to be applicable or ascribed to them [as to their subsistences or personalities, as they call them, they bring a comparison of the substance of a man, pag. 46. saying, It would be improper to ascribe the property that belong to him, unto his subsistence, to say that his subsistence in the abstract is either a learned or unlearned subsistence, a great one or a small one, a white one or a black one. What vain babbling, and blind instance is here]. And so they say, It is improper to say, that either of the Persons, in regard of the personality or subsistence, are finite, or infinite; but in regard of their Essence in the concrete, are infinite.
Now the Reader at length may see what’s become of their distinctions of three distinct subsistences, or persons in the God-head, or Divine Essence, wherein they having here undertaken to demonstrate that which Reason cannot demonstrate to them, nor they clear to themselves by demonstration, as in pag. 26. they have run themselves as into a Wood and Ladyrinth, as persons bewildered and confounded; so as now the subsistences or distinct persons in the Deity, they much contended for, are such as are neither learned nor unlearned, neither great nor small, neither finite or infinite; what are they then? what gods are they that these men would have us believe in? before they were not infinite, now neither finite nor infinite. What grosse Confusion and Contradiction is here! for if not infinite, then finite; but the God whom we serve and believe in is infinite, the only Wise God, and nothing relating to him, or his, being finite. Howbeit since these our Opposers are contending for that, which they cannot by Reason demonstrate, nor clear to themselves, pag. 26. It is very unreasonable in them to Impose it upon others to believe, without either Reason or Demonstration; or to pronounce them Blasphemers who cannot own their Doctrine and Distinctions therein, to be according to the Scriptures, whilst they cannot clear them [by Reason] to themselves, but both a mix-calling, and grossly mixrepresenting of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as one while with being not infinite, another while neither finite or infinite; instancing in the case the subsistence of a man, which they say is neither learned nor an unlearned one. They have accused W. P. with Blasphemy, who never denied the infiniteness of either Father, Word, or Spirit; but what greater Blasphemy can there be but their own? And now let the indifferent Reader judge, what effect this kind of their vain babbling would have in the minds of an Auditory, if thus, God should be Preached in their blind confused terms; and if one of them should exhort People to believe in a Trinity of separate persons or subsistences, which are infinite in the concrete, but not infinite in the personality, or subsistence in the abstract: Another while they are neither finite nor infinite; and what they are they cannot tell; for, by reason they cannot clear this their Mystery to themselves; Another while they are three Hee’s that People must believe in, and therefore three persons or subsistences with incommunicable properties, by all which they go to demonstrate the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, who are infinite in the Essence, but not in their Personalities: They say another while, neither finite nor infinite as they say, what effect would this kind of Preaching have with People do you think! and where ever did the Apostles, and true Ministers of God, Preach in this manner, or allow of such Philosophy in Preaching the Mysteries of God? Nay, did they not Preach in the simplicity of the Gospel, and Exhort in simplicity, as of the Ability that God gave; And did not Paul absolutely forbid such Philosophy and vain deceit? And to avoid opposition of Science, falsely so called, Col. 2:8. I Tim. 6:20. And are there not words sufficient in the Scriptures of Truth, to Preach God and Christ in, according to the plainness and simplicity thereof; but men pretending to be his Ministers, and Scripture their Rule, must thus run themselves into Confusion and Darkness by Human Inventions and Traditions both of words, terms, and blind distinctions of man’s fallen wisdom, which neither knows God, nor can rightly speak of him, but hath obscured the Glory of his Appearance from very many; but the Light is risen, and the Day dawned, which hath not only discovered, but will expel those thick Mists and Clouds of men’s Inventions, that the simple may come to be undeceived and unveiled, and so be delivered from such as these confused Babel-builders, that have made a prey upon them.
Something farther Observed, in Answer to Tho. Vincent.
Now let us a little observe some Passages and Arguments in Tho. Vincent’s Work; for their distinctions about Trinity of Persons [as they call them] distinguished one from another by incommunicable personal properties. But such kind of distinctions and terms he hath not learned from the Scriptures, but from human Inventions; by which they have darkened the simplicity of truth; as also he hath appeared as one in self-contradiction, when he saith, That one should be in another; the first should be in the second, and the second in the first, and both in the third, and all one and the same individual Essence. Now if they are in each other, they are not separate Persons as at the Dispute was affirmed; and if one be in another, where are the personal incommunicable properties, wherein they are not infinite as they have told us? Is there finiteness in each Person, and yet each person God; what gross darkness and blasphemy is this? But then to mend the matter, T. V. tells us, This is such a Mystery as cloth exceed the weak and narrow understandings of most enlightened and clear sighted Christians fully to comprehend; Some, by gazing too long upon the Sun, become blind.’ Surely then, if it be such a Mystery as exceeds the understanding of the clear sighted, it must needs exceed the dark understanding of T. V. and his Brethren; And seeing, as appears, he was conscious to himself of his own dimness or darkness herein, as by what follows; also, he should have let it alone, and not troubled his head with things beyond his reach; for he has confounded and married his cause, and not at all mended nor cleared it; but if he hath assayed to
demonstrate this Mystery, as he calls it, as one more clear sighted than the most enlightened, his work cloth manifest the contrary; And that God cannot represent himself otherwise than he is; It’s true: But where cloth he thus represent himself as these men do, with such invented terms, vain tautologies, and confusion? We do not read such in all the Scriptures of Truth; howbeit T. V. takes the boldness to Assert his Doctrine herein to be of Divine Authority, and to be the Truth of God revealed in his Word; and that if the Scriptures have revealed that there are three distinct persons in one Divine Essence, it is a certain truth, & c. This is sooner said, than proved; if that Word of God, and Scripture could be produced that cloth reveal their Doctrine, and say, there are three distinct persons in the Divine Essence: Produce us such a Scripture among all the Writings of the Holy men of God [in all the Bible] and it shall end the Controversy; otherwise let T. V. be ashamed of his Asserting it to be revealed in the Word of God. And of his saying that in his Syllogism, pag. 13. There is not a word but what is to be found in the Scripture; whereas neither the matter, manner, nor expressions of his Arguments are to be found in Scripture. As for Instance his Argument;
Page 13. The Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, are either three Substances, or three Manifestations, or three operations, or three Persons, or something else: But they are not three Substances, nor three Manifestations, nor three Operations, nor anything else; Therefore they are three Persons.
To the first part; Indeed they must be something: To the Minor, if they be neither three Substances, Manifestations, &c. nor any thing else, this renders them nothing, and contradicts both the Major, and Conclusion, where they are something else, which is, three Persons [he saith;] So the tenor of his Argument runs thus, they are something; but they are nothing [he meant nothing else but three Persons] therefore they are three Persons. It would have held better thus, but against himself, If the Father, the Word, and Spirit, be not three distinct Substances, then not three distinct Persons; but they are not three distinct Substances, Ergo. unless he can shew us a distinct person without its own substance: But his Brother T. D. saith, A person is a rationals nature individual substantial, an individual substance, of a rational nature; see how flatly T. D. and T. V. have Contradicted one another herein; one affirming they are three Persons, because not three Substances; the other, That a Person is an individual substance: But if T. V. by saying, There is not a word in his Syllogism, but what is to be found in Scripture; intends that every word particularly is to be found in Scripture; the word Substance, the word Manifestation, Operation, Person, &c. abstractively, what proves this of his matter? for the contrary may as well be Asserted from bare words: I never met with more silly kind of Arguing before: And if so be his other Argument from the Property of the Father to beget, of the Son to be begotten, of the Holy Ghost to proceed from them both, &c. be an Argument sufficient to prove Three distinct Persons in the God-head, with Three incommunicable Properties, &c. Then cloth it not follow as well, That every Spiritual perfect Gift that proceeds from God to man, must needs be a Person, and then so many Gifts, or manifold Graces as proceed from him [or are begotten by him] are so many Persons in him, which would be numerous indeed, and amount to a Plurality of Trinities; for the Spirit is given variously, and in divers Manifestations, and the Graces and Gifts of God are many and manifold; but the shallowness of this man’s arguing, who is it cannot see? besides that Christ being the express Image of the Father’s substance, and the Spirit the Life of both; it’s neither scriptural nor reasonable to say that the Image and Life of One and the same thing, should be either Two distinct and separate Persons from it, or from their own substance; so that still it follows, that if the Three bearing Record in Heaven, be One divine substance, and not Three substances; then not Three distinct or separate Persons: As, also, God is called both the Word and Spirit.
Farther, Mark the manner of T. V. his expressing his Doctrine; viz. The Trinity of Persons in the Unity of the Divine Essence, and the Unity of the Divine Essence in the Trinity of Persons, that three
should be one, and that one should be three; that three should be distinguished, but not divided, that one should not be another; the first should not be the second, nor the second the third, nor the second or third the first; and yet the first second and third the same that the first should be in the second, and the second in the first, and both first and second in the third.’ thus far T. V. for his separate Persons.
Reader, Do but mark his Jigg here, and what a whirling he has made like one dis-tempered; but where is his scripture for all this? See how he manages it, pag. 26. he saith, Reason it may be will leave us in our search after the Deity in the Trinity, and the trinity, &c. but where Reason faileth, Faith must supply its room: And then he tells us of Mysteries which Reason cannot demonstrate to us, and that in this Mystery of the Trinity we must exercise our Faith, though we cannot clear it to ourselves by demonstration, &c.’ But sure whilst Reason hath so much failed T. V. and his Brethren in this matter, that thereby they cannot clear it to themselves by demonstration, its very strange and unreasonable they should make such a stir in the dark, as they have done, to Impose it on the Faith of others; and what tends this to, but to force People to Exercise an implicit Faith, whilst they have neither Scripture, Reason, Demonstration, or Revelation [for that’s ceased they say] to ground a Faith upon in this matter, as he argues, viz. If the Divine Essence, or Godhead, can be but One, and the Father is God, the Son God, the Holy Ghost God, and they three distinct Subsistences, or Persons, then they are three distinct subsistences or persons, in the same single Divine Essence, but the Essence can be but One, and the Father is God, the Son God, &c. and they are three distinct subsistents or persons; therefore there are three distinct subsistents, or persons.’
Let the moderate Readers but mark this Argument, and whether it carries any matter or weight of any proof, or Argumentation along with it any more than an Empty Assertion: [Tautologies] begging the Question in the sequel of the Major, and so along still, taking the matter in Controversy for granted, which cannot be without better proof, and more convincing Arguments than T. V. hath patched up, and produced: But as for the beginning of his Argument, That the Divine Essence, or God-head, can be but One, and this in each of the Three, we never denied; and T. V. has confessed it is not denied by us, pag. 28. But as for the rest of his Argument, it runs in the substance of it thus; If they be three distinct subsistents or persons, then there are three distinct subsistents or persons; But they are three distinct subsistents, therefore, &c. Or, if they be so, then they are so; but they are so. therefore they are so.’ I shall not need to say much, to show what mean Logic this is, since it is from a Person whom Reason has so far failed, that he can neither clear nor demonstrate that to himself, which thus pitifully he has assayed to demonstrate to others; And so let the Readers judge if he be not such an one as he tells of, that by attempting to bring the Mystery to the Model of his Reason, hath lost the fight, and sunk into gross Apprehensions.
And as for his fierce Railing against W. P. and calling him, Wretched Blasphemer, accusing him with denying that the Lord Jesus Christ is God, and with denying the Divinity of Christ and Holy Ghost, and with thrusting the Lord Jesus Christ off the Throne of his God-head, &c.’
I have not yet perceived any strength or weight of the Argument from either T. V. or his Brethren, that has convicted W. P. as guilty herein; but rather the more they strive with him, and thus grossly revile him, and rail against him, the more their Folly, Confusion, and Weakness appears: And indeed if W. P. be supposed to be so grossly Erroneous as he is represented, it must be more Competent Antagonists than T. V. or such Railers as he, that must Convince him: But his strewing the absurdity of T. V. his Doctrine, and both unscriptural and unreasonable Distinctions; and his denial thereof, is neither a denial of the Son, nor Spirit, nor the Divinity of either; but the apparent falseness of their railing and slanderous Accusations before, with the Consequences thereof against W. P. in this thing, touching the Divinity of Christ. &c. appears in his own Book, pag. 14. “Of Christ being the only God, and the Divine Nature being inseparable to each [whom they call] Person, have the whole Divine Nature, the Son in the Father, and the Spirit in the Son, unless the God-head be as incommunicable to the Person [so called] as they are reported to be among themselves,” saith W. P. Doth not W. P. herein own the Divinity of Christ and Holy Spirit, let the indifferent judge how T. V. has wronged him.
And then W. P. his Admonition, pag. 15. saith, “Apply thy mind unto the Light and Grace which brings Salvation; that by obedience thereunto, those mists Tradition hath cast before thy eyes, may be expel’d, and thou receive a certain knowledge of that one God, whom to know is Life Eternal, not to be divided, but ONE pure, entire, and eternal Being; who in the fulness of time sent forth his Son, as the true Light which enlighteneth every man; that whosoever followed him [the Light] might be translated from the dark Notions, and vain Conversations of men, to this Holy Light, in which only sound Judgment and eternal Life are obtainable: [fuel testified the virtue of it, and has communicated unto all such a proportion, as may enable them to follow his Example.” [thus far W. P.]
Now mark whether herein he has not owned the Divinity of the Son, when thus plainly he hath confessed to his Light, both as to Extent and Virtue. And so as for T. V. his railing against us so bitterly, calling us, black-mouth’d Blasphemers; accusing W. P. with Heathenism, abominableness, foulness; falsely comparing him to Arius &c. These are but mean Arguments to Convince W. P. and cloth but shew the malice and rancor of T. Vincent’s Spirit; and what an implacable persecuting Spirit appears among these Presbyterian Priests? What cruel work would they make if they had power in their hands to persecute such as cannot be tied up to their narrow Spirits and Principles, which is the same old persecuting Spirit that cried for Fire and Faggot, after it put these names, Blasphemer and Heretics, upon the Martyrs: And indeed, if any should be so disingenious and drowned in their understandings by prejudice, as to think that the Absurdities that W. P. draws from his Adversaries Principles, are his own; they may be apt to charge him with Blasphemy, and what not, though falsely: But farther, how evidently
hath W. P. in his 18, 19, 21 pag. owned and confessed Christ the Son of God, and his Light, and Grace, both for Remission of sins, Reconciliation, Salvation of men, Life Eternal; and as he is the only begotten of the Father, the Gift and Expression of Eternal Love for Salvation; Now can anything have [or work] these Effects that is not Divine? Is not Christ’s Divinity, Virtue, Divine Light and Power, plainly confess by W. P. herein, as also to his being God, pag. 21. How grossly have these angry Presbyterians wronged him in so hideously charging the contrary upon him; and are not they rather justly chargeable herein, with denying the Divinity of Christ, in setting so slight by his Light in every man, as they have done, one calling it an Idol; another Cautioning not to follow its guidance; But the Divinity of Christ, and the Honor due to him, far be it from us to deny, as these men have done; and the Scripture instances in that case, we both know and own, Joh. 3:13. Rom. 9:5. Phil. 2:6. Heb. 1:8. Joh. 2:17. Heb. 1:3. Joh. 14:1. Phil. 2:10. Col. 1:16,17. Joh. 8:58. But we are not convinced, that men’s invented distinctions put upon Christ, does add anything to his Honor, but rather diminish from it.
And where in pag. 31. it is said, In regard of his human Nature, the Jews spoke true, Thou art not yet fifty years old; as Man, he was a Son of Abraham, and born many generations after him, &c. Now I ask if he was not a Person as Man, and so born? And if there were three Coeternal Persons before, whether this cloth not make a fourth? For as he was not fifty years old, this had not reference to his Divine Nature, as is confessed; But then, where in pag. 36. The generation of the Son must be Eternal, the Son being so: [they say] How is his Personality, with reference to his being begotten, denied to be Infinite? in pag. 45. What gross and apparent Contradictions are these?
And as to his instance, Matt. 3:16,17. how that Jesus went up out of the Water, and the Spirit descended like a Dove, and lo a Voice from Heaven, to prove a distinction of the Three Persons; the Son was
cloathed in Flesh, the Spirit in the shape of a Dove, the Father was in the Voice, he saith, &c. Let the Reader but mark how far short of proving his Distinction, this instance is: Surely he will not say, That the Son was cloathed in Flesh from Eternity, nor the Spirit in a bodily shape like a Dove from Eternity; for if their Personalities did consist in these visible Appearance, how were they Coeternal, Coessential, Coequal with God, &c? And surely Personality cloth not consist in the shape of a Dove, neither do we read of the Person of a Dove, besides the Spirit’s appearing in a bodily shape like a Dove, cloth not prove that the Spirit was a distinct or separate Person from Jesus, for he had the Spirit in him, and was not separate from the Spirit, though that appearance like a Dove, was for a Confirmation to John’s belief of him, John 1:32,33.
T. V. (Isa. 6:3] Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts: the three Holies, signifies the three persons; the Lord of Hosts, the One God.
I must confess I never heard this Argument before; if each Holy signify a Person, how then are they spoken to the One God? And if so many Holies as are given in praise to him, do signify so many distinct Persons in him, then they will amount to a great many Trinities; for it is said, Rev. 4:8. They rest not day nor night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, &c. Now if all the Holies they give day and night to him, be so many Persons, then they will amount to Persons ad infinitum; but the absurdity of this Argument who cannot see? As also his Argument from the distinct Names, is kale better; for God is denominated under many Names more then Three; And also his arguing from John. 14, 15, & 16. chap. from personal Acts, as he calls them, as sending the Comforter, his speaking and guiding, &c. Where cloth the Scripture call them Personal Acts? Were they not Spiritual Acts of the Divine Spirit and Power of God? And was there any Act but what was brought forth in time? And was the Father’s begetting the Son a Personal Act? [however was it not an Act in time] if so, how says T. V. That the Generation of the Son must be Eternal? What distracted confused work is here!
And as to the Cavil in pag. 40. at the word ONE, as not being in the Hebrew, in all those Scriptures, Isa. 49:25. chap. 48:17. Psal. 71:22. where Holy One is mentioned in the English, which to Cavil at, shows little prudence; whilst Holy One, and the Lord being One, and the Only Wise God, is often mentioned elsewhere; see Zac. 14:9 which W.P. quotes, is it not: Jehovah echad ushemo echad: i. e. Dominus unus nomen Ejus unum, One Lord, and his Name One. And see Deut. 6:4. how its Jehovah echad One Lord; but where the word Echad is not expressed, whether it be not understood? Besides, T. V. himself, pag. 33. useth these words, The Lord of Hosts the One God: so that he might have spared his Contradictory Cavil about it; And if their distinctions be in regard of the Personality and not of the Essence, then I ask, Are they three Persons both distinct among themselves, and also distinct from the Essence or Being of God? and so not infinite; or neither finite nor infinite, as most Absurdly and Contradictorily is laid down in their 44, 45, 46, pages, as before, has been mentioned.
And as to W. P. his Cloudy Brain Conceptions [as it’s called] which is so difficult to find out [as they say] and his Phrases so uncouth, and his Reasonings so oddly joined together: Indeed, neither T. V. nor T. D. have showen any such Brightness, nor strength of Argument as to expel or drive away those cloudy Conceptions; if they be such, it must be another thing that unveil him, and overthrow what he hath said, than their grosse Confusion, and many apparent Contradictions, which I am certain that W. P. is so far unvail’d, as to have a fight and discovery of, though this dark ridged Presbyterian Spirit hath sought by Persecution, false Reports, and Slanders, to vail and obscure both him and others, in whom any degree, breakings forth, or glimerings of true Light have appeared; where they could not do it by slandering, grossly villifying, and traducing them, they would endeavour to bring Persecution, and Cruelty, and outward Restraint upon them, to their Power.
And as for their taxing W. P. for instancing Irenaus, Justin Martry, Tertullian, Origen, Theophil. and others, as appearing foreign to the matter in Controversy, &c. they telling us, The Doctrine of the Trinity is plainly enough to be gathered from several passages in Irenaus lib. I, ch. 2. Ecclesia accipit sidem que est. in unum Deum Patrem Omnipotentem in unum Christum filium Dei incarnatum in spiritum Sanctum qui per Prophetas praedicavit: And then our Opposers ask, Do not these words hold forth a distinction of those three persons? To which I say, However he gathers or imagines such a distinction of their being three Persons, he does but beg the Question in calling them three Persons, which their words do not prove, nor so call them; but God the Father Omnipotent, Christ the Son of God, and the Holy Ghost [in whom the Faith of the Church is] Neither do the latter words prove any thing for this purpose, which mention the God of all things, making and governing all things by his word and Spirit: If he had asserted no otherwise herein then Irenaus hath done, there had not been this
Controversy between us, and them. And as for the rest of the Authors they mention, I do not find that they called them three distinct separate persons [as T. D. did] in all these Passages mentioned and
quoted by them; And its known that W. P. his Controversy was principally against them for the un-scriptural Doctrine of the God-head subsisting in three distinct and separate persons; which also their own Instance of Theophil. lib. I Com. in Evang. cloth contradict, viz. Maragrita pretioso est Sancta Trinitas que dividi non potset nam in unitate consistit; the Holy Trinity is a precious Jewel, which cannot be divided, because it consisted in Unity: To which I say then, the Glorious Three that bear Record in Heaven, are not three separate Persons; howbeit we are not bound to believe the determinations of Fathers and Councils any farther than they accord with the pure Language of Scripture.
And whereas T. V. and his Brethren, supposing that they have detected the weakness and absurdity of W. P.; thereupon go to Caution People, Not to follow the guidance of the Light, which W. P. [truly] saith is communicated unto all, and forsake the true Light of the Word and Spirit, which alone can guide men into all truth. This is a groundless Caution, and false as it reflects upon the Light; for suppose W. P. were in Weakness as they say, yet the Light is not the cause thereof; however his Weakness [as they call it] hath brought forth much of their Folly; for the Light which is communicated unto all, which People should follow the Guidance of, is the light of Christ, which enlightens every man coming into the World; and thereof to render weakness, absurdity, falsehood, and folly, as the Products of it, is both grosse Ignorance and Blasphemy; for the Light never changeth, however the Creature may; neither is this Light contrary to the Word, Spirit, or Scripture.
And as for their so much Railing against the Socinians and Arians, and malitiously comparing any of us with them, it is no reasonable way to Convince either us or them, if we were as ill as they render us; for they have gone the way to animate and encourage both Socinians, and others, against them, and their absurdities, and ridged inveterate Spirits, and Railing against many that are of better Spirits [as men at least] than themselves. As for the Socinians, they have given ground to some to think the better of them, because they have shown so much hatred and reviling against them; howbeit Socinians [if there be any that own themselves by that Name] may answer to their Accusations, it is not my work to maintain anothers Quarrel, nor yet to reflect upon their Persons, nor either to accuse or excuse them, to gratify such incompetent Judges as these our Revilers.
I am not going about to gratify Parties, or private Opinions [or man’s Wisdom] on any hand, but to vindicate the naked Truth; yet, it’s true, I have heard of some, beyond the Sea, that went under that Name Socinians, who were accused with denying the Divinity of Christ, or Him to be of one Substance with the Father; if our Opposers do know of any such, they may tell them of it, and not accuse the Innocent with the Guilty, as they have done to us. However, it is but a mean way of Arguing, to accuse or miscall any for owning any Truth that any sort [if they do Err in somethings] do hold; for by that way, I may as well be reckoned a Papist, a Jew, or a Turk, Episcopal, or Presbyterian, or what not because some Truths are held by them all, in words: but we had not our Principles either from Arius or Socinius, neither did we ever deny the Divinity of Christ [or his being of the same substance with the Father] as Arius, Socinius, and others, are accused; so that therein we are very unjustly compared and mix-represented, for which I can say, The Lord forgive these our perjudiced Opposers. But it is no strange thing for us to be called by nick-Names one after another, by these and such false Accusers and incompetent Judges; for one while they were wont to Revile us for wanting Learning, being Illiterate, Lay-men, Preachers, &c. Another while they Railed against us, and falsely accused us for Papists and Jesuits. Another while they accused falsely with being Free-Willers, Arminians, &c. because we plead for the Free Grace of God to all men: And now we are falsely reckoned
Socinians, and most injuriously accused with denying the Divinity of Christ the Son of God, which we are ever always clear of, still Confessing him according to the Scriptures, both in his Sufferings, Dominion, and Glory, who is the same yesterday, to day, and for ever.
The Scripture saith, I Joh. 5:7. That there are Three that bear Record in Heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one. But he cloth not say that they are separated nor distinct, neither cloth call them Persons. _ And thus we call them, as the Scriptures call them, Father, Word, and Holy Ghost; and the Apostle cloth not say they are separate, nor distinct; and we do not presume above what is written.
1. Ouaker Biographies, vol. 2, Philadelphia, PA, 1909, art. Boston Martyrs, pp. 228-230 [direct quotes taken] hereafter cited as Quaker Biographies.
2. Norton, John; The Heart of New England Rent; London, Printed by J. H. for John Allen at the Rising Sunne in St. Paul’s Church-yard, 1660, p. 3, hereafter cited as Norton.
3. Norton, p. 6
4. Howgill, Francis; The Heart of New England Hardened; London, Printed for Thomas Simmons at the Bull and Mouth near Aldersgate, 1659, p. 7, [hereafter cited as Howgill]
5. Howgill, pp. 8,9
6. Howgill, p. 9
7. Howgill, pp. 14, 15
8. Quaker Biographies, p. 214
9. Creasey, Maurice A.; Early Quaker Christology, 1956, np, p. 73, hereafter cited as Creasey.
10. Creasey, p. 74
11. Howgill, p. 8
12. Penn, William; The Select Works of William Penn; London, 1825, Sold by William Phillips, George Yard, Lombard St., vol. 1, p. 138, hereafter cited as Penn.
13. Howgill, p. 8
14. Penn, pp. 158-160
15. Chap. 3 – Whitehead, George; The Divinity of Christ: London, 1669; [part of the first few pages not numbered] to p. 39
-Creasey, Maurice A.; Early Ouaker Christology, 1956,np; A Thesis Presented In The University of Leeds For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
-Howgill, Francis; The Heart of New England Hardened:London, Printed for Thomas Simmons at the Bull and Mouth near Aldersgate, 1659.
-Norton, John; The Heart of New England Rent; London,Printed by J. H. for John Allen at the Rising Sunne in St. Paul’s Churchyard, 1660.
-Penn, William; The Select Works of William Penn;London, 1825, Sold by William Phillips, George Yard, Lombard St.
-Ouaker Biographies; Vol. 2; Philadelphia, PA; 1909.
-Whitehead, George; The Divinity of Christ; London, 1669.
Rev. Thomas Weisser is a minister with the United Pentecostal Church. He has spent nine years of extensive research, gathering little-known facts on the Oneness belief in Church History. Because of his research and study he has become an authority on Modalistic Monarchianism, and was asked to speak at Harvard’s Symposium on Oneness Pentecostalism held July, 1984. He has recently been listed in Who’s Who in Religion. Resulting from his discoveries is this book, as well as After the Way Called Heresy, containing Oneness believers from Bible days to the present century, and Three Persons’ which exposes the pagan roots of Trinitarianism.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY THOMAS H. WEISSER, 1985, PAGES 1-39. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.