Printed by I. R. Butts, Boston.

[This Tract is taken from an Address delivered in 1827 before the Unitarian Association of York County, Maine.]

Why do we not believe the doctrine of the Trinity? Because it is not the doctrine of the Bible.

This is our reason. Not because the doctrine is a mystery that is, if you mean by mystery something which we cannot fully understand or explain. This circumstance may create a difficulty in many minds; but notwithstanding this, if we found it testified to in Scripture, as an unquestionable and essential doctrine, we should not hesitate to believe it, any more than we hesitate to believe that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, or that God foreknows all thing, and that yet man is a free agent. We only ask for PROOF that it is taught in the Bible. We have looked for it, and do not find it. We do find that God is revealed to be ONE, but we do not find that he is reveled to be THREE neither three 'persons,' nor three 'subsistences,' nor three 'distinctions,' nor three 'somewhats;' for each of these words has been used to explain the doctrine. Therefore we cannot believe it.

That God is revealed to be One is a proposition which I need not stop to prove; for no one denies it. It would be consuming time to no purpose to quote passages in support of it.

I therefore pass to the other proposition -- We do not find in Scripture that God is revealed to be Three. This is the doctrine opposed to our faith, and which it is necessary for us, in upholding the truth of the Bible, distinctly to disprove. In doing this, we make our appeal to the Bible; and may He, who blessed man with that precious volume, aid us in so unfolding its testimony, that we may 'speak concerning Him the thing which is right.'

We refer principally, in this brief outline, to the testimony of the New Testament. If it appear that this is decidedly against the doctrine, it is enough. No one will pretend to prove it from the Old Testament alone. If Jesus and the Apostles deny it, no one will think that Moses and the Prophets assert it.

I. The terms which are necessary to the very statement of the doctrine, and which cannot well be avoided by them who hold it, are not found in Scripture.

The words Trinity, triune, Jehovah-Jesus, God-man, are not in the Scriptures. We nowhere find the expression God the Son, but always the Son of God; nowhere God the Holy Spirit, but the spirit of God, or the Holy Spirit. The expressions first person, second person, third person, three persons, are not found. Now if the very words, which are necessary to express the doctrine, are not in the Scriptures, how can we suppose the doctrine itself to be there? If the sacred writers meant to teach this doctrine, how is it possible they should not sometimes have used the words which are now used in regard to it?

II. The doctrine of the Trinity is nowhere stated in express terms, while that of the sole divinity of the Father is taught in language the most explicit and direct.

There are only three texts which speak of the Father, Son, and Spirit in formal connection, and neither of these declares them to be three equal persons in the Divinity. Now is it possible this should be the case if the doctrine were true? Is it possible that the Apostles should never name them together but three times, and then not speak of their being one God?

Indeed I am wrong to say that there are three texts; there are only two; for one of the three passages to which I referred is well known to be no part of the Bible: I John 5:7. There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one. (Vol. 5, No. 58.) This verse, every body knows, was not written by St. John, but has been added to this epistle since his day. John wrote in Greek; but the old manuscripts of the Greek New Testament do not contain it. It is found only in the Latin. It has therefore no right to a place in the New Testament, and ought to be rejected. It is rejected by all impartial scholar of every denomination, who have inquired concerning it. There are therefore only two texts which formally name the Father, Son, and Spirit in connection with each other.

The first is the form of Baptism, Matthew 28:19. Baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Here the three are placed in connection. But observe the mode of expression. Does it say that they are three persons? No, it does not say that they are persons at all. Does it assert that they constitute one God? No. Does it say that each is God? No such thing. Does it say that they are all equal? No such thing. Does it say they are all to be worshipped? No. Then it does not teach the doctrine of the Trinity. If it neither declares them to be three persons, nor equal to each other, nor each to be God, nor each to be worshipped, then it does not teach the doctrine of the Trinity.

The same is true of the other text, II Corinthians 13:14. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. It is not here said that each is God, nor that all are equal, nor that all are to be worshipped, nor that all together constitute one, Therefore it does not teach the doctrine of the Trinity. Nay, it virtually denies it. For, as you observe, it does not speak of the Father, Son, and Spirit, but of Jesus Christ and God and the Holy Spirit. Observe the difference, and consider what it implies. Would a Trinitarian express himself in these words and in this order, when intending to express his doctrine? If it were Father, Son and Spirit, we should of course regard them as three and not one, unless expressly instructed to the contrary; how much more when the words run, Jesus Christ, and God,and the Holy Spirit. So that there is only one text which unites the term Father, Son and Spirit, and that one says nothing of the doctrine of the Trinity. Now I ask seriously, if it had been intended to teach that doctrine, is it possible that this should be the case?

It is thus plain that this doctrine is nowhere taught in express terms. You then say, it is perhaps taught indirectly and by necessary implication. I answer, it is impossible that this should be, because the doctrine that THE FATHER ALONE IS GOD is taught in the most direct and absolute terms that language will admit; so as positively to put out of the question every other doctrine, and to take away the liberty of inferring any other from indirect expression.

That this is so, may be seen at once from a few plain and explicit texts, which seem to be perfectly decisive.

(1) John 17:3. This is life eternal, that they might know THEE, THE ONLY TRUE GOD and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. This is the language of our Lord himself in prayer. Now that he was at prayer proves that he could not be God for God never prays. But besides this, he strongly asserts that the Father only is God. It could not be asserted more strongly. It never has been asserted more strongly.

(2) Mark 13:32. But of that day and hour knoweth no man; no, not the angels which are in heaven; NEITHER THE SON; but the Father. This is the language of our Lord. he declares that he does not know the time of that day and hour; that the Father only knows it. Therefore the Father only can be God; for God knows all things.

(3) I Timothy 2:5. There is one God and, one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. What can assert more positively than this, that Jesus is not the one God? If not, then there is no Trinity.

(4) I Corinthians 8:6. But to us there is but ONE GOD, THE FATHER, of whom are all things and we in Him; and ONE LORD, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things and we by him. This text is very positive. It declares that Jesus is our Lord; but that the Father only is our God. Can language be devised which shall declare it more positively?
(5) Ephesians 4:5-6. ONE LORD, one faith, one baptism, ONE GOD AND FATHER of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. What can the Apostle mean by this separation of our Lord from the one God and Father of all, if it do not intimate the Father's complete and unrivaled supremacy? What words can speak it, if such words as these mean anything else? Has it ever been asserted, by any Unitarian, more unequivocally?

I ask then, seriously , in the fear and presence of Almighty God, and in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord ,whether these five POSITIVE, EXPLICIT assertions that the Father only is God, ought not to set the question at rest in our minds? While we have these plain and intelligible declarations of the divine word, which never have been, and never can be, made consistent with the doctrine of three equal persons in the Godhead, ought we to be turned from our faith by any arguments which might be drawn from more obscure passages? Ought we to take up the opposite doctrine, because it may be ingeniously inferred from difficult and controverted texts? Are we not bound by these plain declarations? And while they stand in our Bibles, uncontroverted and unrefuted, shall it be said that we reject the testimony of God, and depart from the oracles of truth? For myself, so long as the glorious doctrine of the Divine Unity is built upon these FIVE SACRED PILLARS, I must confide in it as the truth of God. If the Holy Oracle can announce any truth plainly and unequivocally, it has so announced this. To my ear it speaks in language the most unambiguous and the least susceptible of perversion. While I abide by it in these plain texts, I know what I believe; I have the sure word of truth. If I forsake these, and attempt to reason out another doctrine from more difficult passages, I am not sure that my reason may not deceive me in the process, and lead me to wrong conclusions. I am safer therefore to abide by the testimony inscribed on these Five Pillars, which I can read as I run.

III. As these fundamental texts most plainly teach the supremacy of the Father, so there are equally decisive texts respecting the character and offices of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, which go to confirm it. Let us attend to these.

(1) Let us consider, first, the language which is commonly used respecting our Lord Jesus. Is it such as implies that he is the same with Almighty God? Take his testimony respecting himself:

"I came not to do mine own will."
"I can of myself do nothing."
"The Son can do nothing of himself."
"The Father that is in me, he doeth the works."
He calls himself, "he whom the Father hath sanctified and sent."
He says, "I am come in my Father's name."
And after his resurrection he says, "I ascend to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God."

Ponder these expressions; weigh these words; and say whether they be the words of one who would represent himself as the independent God.

Take the testimony of the Apostles.

"Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God, by signs and wonders which God did by him."
"Appointed to be a Prince and Saviour."
"at the right hand of God exalted."
"made both Lord and Christ."
Because of his obedience unto death, "God hath highly exalted him and given him a name above every name."
In the end he shall "deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father, that God may be all in all."

Weigh these expressions deliberately, and consider whether it be possible that they should be used concerning Almighty God. Yet such as these are applied to Jesus in every part of the New Testament.

Consider the terms of faith in him which were required of his disciples. Were they such as implied his supreme divinity? Remember the confession of Peter -- "Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God;" -- and with this Jesus was satisfied. Remember the confession of Martha -- I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God;" --and he required no more. Remember the reason which John gives for writing his Gospel; "These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." Who does John say is born of God? "Whoso believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God." Who does he say overcomes the world? "He that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God." What was the preaching of the Apostles? Look through the book of Acts, and you will find the burden of it to be, "Reasoning from the Scriptures and testifying, that Jesus is the Christ." Now is it possible, that, in all which is thus said of the necessity and value of faith in Jesus, when believers were to be received into the church and their immortal interests were depending -- is it possible that they should not have been required to believe him the Almighty God, if he were so? Would he and the Apostles have so solemnly assured them that faith in him as the Son of God was sufficient, if in truth he had been the very God?

(2) The same conclusion may be as decisively drawn from the language perpetually used respecting the Holy Spirit --language, wholly inconsistent with the idea of a divine person distinct from the Father, and equal with him. The Spirit is said to be poured out -- shed -- given -- given without measure; men are said to be baptized with it, filled with it, to partake of it. But this cannot be said of a person. It signifies evidently, in such passages, a divine influence; an influence which may descend from the person of the Father, as well as from some distinct person. God does not become another person, because he gives his spirit to men. When Paul visited Ephesus, he found certain Christians there, and asked them if they had received the Holy Ghost. They answered, we have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. How is this? The Holy Ghost a person in the Godhead, equal with the Father, and essential to salvation to know him, and yet these disciples never heard of him? Impossible -- and therefore impossible that it should be a third person in the deity, distinct from the Father, and equal in power and glory. No -- the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God. Paul tells us what it is, when he says, "As no man knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of man which is in him; so the things of God knoweth no man, but the spirit of God." The spirit of God is God himself, just as the spirit of a man is the man himself. It is no more a separate person, than a man's spirit is a separate person. Thus the supremacy of the Father remains unaffected.

(3) There are also many expressions respecting Jesus and the Holy Spirit in connection with each other, which confirm the evidence that the Father alone is God. It will be sufficient to cite these without comment; since the mere reading of them will show how utterly irreconcilable they are with the idea of three persons, alike equal and supreme.

"God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the holy spirit and with power."
"Jesus received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost."
"God giveth not the spirit by measure unto him."
"He that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies by the spirit that dwelleth in you."

Consider what each of these passages must mean if the doctrine of the Trinity be true, and you will perceive them to be utterly irreconcilable with it. Each of the sentences quoted speaks of God, of Jesus, and of the spirit; and this in such a manner, that, if each be God, they express a meaning which is absurd.

IV. Thus far we have looked at the testimony of Scripture as exhibited in particular classes of texts. We may now turn to some considerations drawn from the general style of the New Testament. Here we shall find that the doctrine of the Divine Unity so pervades and gives a complexion to the New Testament, that if we could conceive the doctrine of the Trinity to be true, it would alter the complexion of the whole. It would not be such as it is, if that doctrine were true.

This may be partially illustrated from the devotional character of the New Testament; from the conduct of the disciples toward their Lord; from the conduct of the Jews toward him, and his disciples; and from the controversies of that age.

(1) Look at the devotional character of the New Testament. If the Apostles worshipped God in three persons, it will so appear in their conduct and writings; this circumstance will characterize their devout expressions everywhere. And this the more especially, because they were Jews, a people who worshipped God with a strict and most jealous regard to his unity. They could not have changed their practice in this particular without the change being most strikingly observable. Yet we have no intimation of such a change. They appear to have gone on with the worship of the One God of their fathers, without any alteration. Look at this fact. When Paul was converted, he must have passed -- supposing the Trinity to be a christian doctrine -- from believing Jesus a blasphemous impostor, to believing him the Lord Jehovah. Is there the least hint of such an amazing change? He speaks with admiration and rapture of the new views and feelings which he enjoyed with his new faith. But all the rest together was not so astonishing and wonderful as this particular change. Yet he nowhere alludes to it. Is it then possible that it could have been so? that so great a revolution of feeling should have taken place, and no intimation of it be found in any act or expression? He speaks frequently of his prayers. And how? "I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." "Making mention of you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom." It is plain therefore to whom Paul directed his worship. His epistles contain many doxologies and ascriptions of praise to God. And in what terms? Always to One person, God the Father. And not once, either in his epistles, or in any other writing of the Bible, is a doxology to be found, which ascribes praise to Father, Son and Spirit, or to the Trinity in any form. This fact is worth remarking. The New Testament contains, I think, twenty-eight ascriptions in various forms; and from not one of them could you learn that the doctrine of the Trinity had been dreamt of in that day.

Honor is doubtless ascribed to the Saviour in terms of gratitude, love, and rapture. It could not have been otherwise. How could they, who had seen him, avoid it, when we, who have not seen him, are constrained to love him, and through our faith in him to rejoice with joy unspeakable? Ascriptions of gratitude and honor to the Saviour, who will not render? But this does not prove him to be the Almighty God. When the company around the throne are represented in the Apocalypse as uttering a new song of blessing and honor and glory to Him who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb, it never can be understood that they attribute divinity to the Lamb; much less that he is the same being with him who sits on the throne, for he is standing in the midst of the elders, and is praised because he was slain. This is not a description suitable to God. And thus while the New Testament overflows with warm expressions of reverence and gratitude toward Jesus, it is as to the Son of God and it reserves all supreme worship for the Father. Jesus himself worshipped the Father. The language of the Apostles was, "Giving thanks always to God, even the Father, through Jesus Christ." And when honor to the Son is spoken of, it is distinctly stated that it is "to the glory of the Father."

Such is the devotional aspect of the New Testament -- an aspect which it could not possibly present, if the disciples had practiced, and meant to teach, the worship of God in three persons.

(2) The manner in which the disciples conducted themselves toward their Master, is a certain proof to the same point. Conceive that they supposed him to be Infinite Jehovah, the God of their fathers, whom they had been adoring from their childhood in the strong and awful reverence of the Mosaic worship; and could they have lived and conversed with him freely as they did? Could Peter have rebuked and denied him -- Judas betrayed him -- and all forsaken him? Impossible -- perfectly impossible. Their whole intercourse with him must have worn a wholly different complexion. It is not in human nature to have lived with one whom they knew to be God, and yet to have conducted themselves as if he were not.

(3) The same thing may be said of the conduct of the Jews toward him. If they had supposed him to be the God of their fathers, is it possible that they should have treated him with violence and contempt? If they did not suppose it, yet knew that he claimed to be such, and that his Apostles so regarded him, they must have looked upon him with horror as the highest blasphemer. And would not this have sometimes appeared? This is a very strong point. When he was accused before their Council, and the charge was blasphemy, they were evidently at no small straits to support the charge. The only evidence which they could at last adduce was, that he had said he could raise up the Temple in three days. Now if he had ever claimed, in any way, to be Almighty God, or had given any intimation that he desired to be so considered, would they not have remembered it against him at such a moment? When they were eager to seize on the most trifling circumstance, when they sought long for false witness before they could find one; is it to be believed they would pass by such a charge as this? And as they were entirely silent concerning it, is it not certain that he could never have made any such claim?

Nothing can be more decisive than this consideration. Yet it may be corroborated, if not strengthened, by advertising to a remarkable event in his history. Some of the Jews, on a certain occasion, took up stones to stone him. He inquired the cause of their violence. They answered, "Because thou, being a man, makest thyself God." To this he replied by a positive denial, and by a full explanation cleared himself of the charge, saying that he claimed to be only "the son of God." After this they seem never to have repeated the accusation; -- not even when they were ready to take unfair measures for his condemnation. And yet, strange to say, this explanation, which satisfied his enemies, has not prevented his followers from still insisting to repeat the charge which he refuted -- that he, being a man, made himself God.

(4) The conduct of the Jews toward the disciples after their Lord's death, proves that they knew nothing of the Trinitarian doctrine. They were active in establishing a new dispensation of religion, and thus drew on themselves the obloquy, abuse, and persecution of their countrymen. Wherever they went, they were assailed by the Jews with outrage and violence. They were accused of speaking blasphemous words against the holy place and the law; of turning the world upside down; of designing to overthrow the religion of their fathers; and were scoffed at as followers of a master who had died the ignominious death of a malefactor. But they were never accused of worshipping him, or preaching him as God. Amidst all their enemies' accusations -- about the fairness of which we cannot think they would have been very scrupulous -- they never brought forward this. And yet, in the eye of a Jew, it must have been the most hateful thing in their system. To teach that that Nazarene enthusiast, whom they had despised and slain, was the very God whom they had always honored and worshipped, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! -- nothing could have so excited them against the new religion and its active propagators. Yet it never formed the ground of their opposition. Is it not therefore certain, that the Apostles never held such a doctrine?

(5) Of the same nature is the following argument. There arose several controversies in that age, especially with those Jews who had been converted to Christianity. Some of these are treated of in the Epistles. But it is very observable, that amongst the questions which thus arose and required explanations from the Apostles, there is no record of any question or controversy respecting the Object of worship. And yet, if the new religion was adding two new objects of worship to that of the old, this would have been, to a Jew, by far the most important, most interesting, and most perplexing of all the peculiarities of the gospel. No such doctrine could have been added to the ancient faith of the Jews, with whom the Unity of God was the proud and distinguishing tenet, without its occasioning some controversy, between those who received and those who persecuted the new birth. Yet no such controversy took place; neither is there the slightest appearance in the new Testament, that any objection, difficulty, or doubt arose in any quarter upon this ground. Is it not impossible, then, that any such doctrine should have been taught?

V. I have thus gone over a few heads of the Scriptural argument respecting the Divine Unity.

But in speaking thus decidedly respecting the testimony of the Scriptures, we must not be understood to assert, that there is nothing in this volume which seems to favor the Trinitarian doctrine, or that its advocates are altogether without plausible support. Far from it. There are undoubtedly many passages of difficult interpretation, and many expressions, more or less directly, which may be construed to assign Supreme Divinity to the Saviour, and personality to the Spirit. But there are two considerations which go to show, that although this be the case, yet the certainty of our doctrine is not in any degree affected by it.

(1) The first of these considerations is, that the texts which speak most directly and plainly on this subject are decidedly Unitarian. These we have already quoted, and no forms of speech could be selected more explicit and unequivocal. But this is not the case with those texts which are quoted in support of the Trinity. Not one of them states the doctrine in so many words. The doctrine is made up by inference and argument from separate texts. Many of these texts are among the most perplexing and difficult passages in the Bible -- passages which have tried the skill of interpreters in all ages, and have received a variety of expositions. now it is plain that where such passages are cited in proof of the Trinity, the value of the citation must depend on the correctness of the criticism; that is, on the soundness of the reasoning by which the text is interpreted; that is, the doctrine is thus far supported by the power of reason simply. Need I say how different from the support which our principal texts give to the doctrine of the Unity? Thus it appears that the doctrine of the Trinity is mainly dependent for its support on processes of reasoning; processes, by which the most plain and decisive texts are made to bend to the less plain, and the easy are interpreted by the difficult. We think it safer not thus to trust our power of interpreting dark places, but to take the plain texts for our guide, and solve the dark ones by them. And if there be some which still remain obscure, and which we cannot satisfactorily clear up, we should esteem it safer to leave them as they are, unexplained, than to give them a meaning, and then find ourselves obliged to conform the plain texts to them. In the one case we should think that we followed our power of logic, and in the other the simple word of revelation.

(2) The second consideration to which I referred is this. The assumption, or supposition, which is resorted to in order to make these plain, decisive passages agree with the Trinitarian doctrine, is of a character to confirm us as yet more strongly in our belief. This assumption is that Jesus Christ possessed two perfect natures, the human and the divine; and that he sometimes speaks and acts as a man, and sometimes as God. Now if this were expressly asserted in Scripture, it would be very well. But it is not so asserted, and, what is more, it is by none pretended to be expressly taught there. It is argued that it must be so, because it is a supposition which serves to remove difficulties, and to reconcile the language which is used respecting the Lord. But we have no right, it seems to me, to reason out for ourselves a doctrine of such magnitude as this for such a purpose; especially when it creates difficulties quite as embarrassing as those which it removes -- it seems to me far more so. For look at the case a moment. The assertion is, that our Lord speaks and acts sometimes as God and sometimes as man. Accordingly when we argue thus:

"He declares that he does not know the day or the hour

he says he can do nothing of himself
he prays to God;"

it is then replied:

"He says these things as man; he does not, as man, possess supreme power, or know the future; and as a man he prays; but still as God he is omnipotent, and omniscient, and asks no blessing from on high." Now this assertion may support the doctrine of the Trinity, and may evade certain difficulties which Scripture throws in its way; but does it not create a more serious difficulty than it removes? Let any man candidly examine the subject, and say whether it do not. For -- I speak it reverently, and my hand trembles as I write -- does it not attribute to our Lord a very strange way of speaking, and something of a deceptive manner; to say that he does not know when he really does, and that he cannot do what he has infinite power to do? For, if he were God, it would not be true that he did not know the future; it would not be true that he did not his own will, and did not work miracles of himself. And therefore I beg to ask -- in the name of all that is reverent and good --whether we can find it in our hearts to advocate a doctrine, which can be supported only on a supposition which exposes the blessed Jesus to the charge of untruth and deception; a supposition which would render it impossible, if carried to its full extent, to believe anything which he may say; for one has only to assert, "He spoke this or that in his human nature, not as God, and therefore it has no authority;" and then all his testimony on religious truth may be entirely set aside.

No. Let the plain declarations of our Saviour's word be enough for us; and let us rejoice that we hold a faith, which allows us to believe every word that he said, just as he uttered it, without the necessity of explaining away a syllable, on the plea that he sometimes spake in one character and sometimes in another.

Such are a few of the reasons which are directly and indirectly furnished by the Scriptures for holding the doctrine of the undivided Unity of God.

We regard it as the clear and unquestionable doctrine of Holy Writ, and therefore to be held with firm and decided faith. The more confident our persuasion that it is so, the more highly shall we value it, and the more shall we rejoice to see it extended and honored. If we felt that he whom we call Master and Lord, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, who lived and died that he might secure to us the blessing of our religion, and whose kingdom we desire to spread with its holy and beneficent influences -- if we believe that he taught and inculcated this doctrine; then, as his disciples, we shall desire that it prevail -- for it is his Truth.

 by Scott J. Kleper