“For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.*’—Ephesians 2:18
I often think with much sadness upon the great ignorance of professing Christians. Whether people call themselves Churchmen or dissenters, there is a deplorable want of information amongst them upon the great doctrine of revelation. I most firmly believe that if the first one hundred persons we were to meet in the streets were to be stopped, and examined upon the doctrines of the Christian religion, ninety of them would prove to be totally ignorant; and yet, is it not strange whilst there are such multitudes of churches and chapels and preachers in the land, and such throngs of people flocking into them? No; for the churches and chapels are, for the most part, like ill-conducted schools, where, first of all, the masters are not up to their business, and, secondly, the scholars thronging them have no capacity for learning. The professing teachers of the Christian religion are not up to their business, and the scholars have no inclination or power to learn. In a secular school the master must be a man of intelligence and learning; he must himself have gone through the lessons he professes to teach, and the scholars must have brains and inclination to learn. In a spiritual school, the master must be a man of experience in those great things he professes to teach, and the scholars must have grace which will enable them to learn with profit. It is the want, then, of experience and grace on the part of both teachers and hearers in the present day, that will account for the gross ignorance of the masses of professors upon the great doctrines of Revelation. Oh, may the great Teacher, God the Holy Spirit, teach, and continue to teach, both you and me! for, without Him, our labours will be in vain.
The subject for discourse which this day has suggested, the Trinity in Unity, has forcibly brought to my mind the lamentable fact to which I have been alluding. How few believe it! How few know how to defend it! How few can see the blessedness of it!
But now, under God, I would, first, speak upon the great doctrine, and, secondly, show the blessedness flowing from a contemplation of it.
I. Eph. 2:18. You who have been taught of God can see this glorious doctrine in this single text. Here we have Christ, the Holy Spirit, and God the Father distinctly revealed; but such a text would be no proof of the doctrine to a Jew or a Unitarian, so we had better look a little deeper into the subject. I will strive to make the matter as plain and as easy of comprehension as possible. The great arguments for this doctrine of the Trinity in Unity may be simplified thus, namely,
First. God speaks of Himself in many places of Scripture in the plural number; e.g., “Let us make man in our own image ”(Gen. 1:26); “And the Lord God said, Behold, man is become as one of us” (Gen. 3:22; 11:7); “I heard the voice of the Lord saying, Who will go for us?” (Isa. 6:8); and, when we compare other Scriptures with these, we discover that the Son and the Holy Spirit are the Persons to whom God alludes; for Christ is declared to be God (Eph. 2:6; 1 John 5:20; Rom. 9:5; Heb. 1:8, &c.), and the Holy Spirit is declared to do things that none but God can do (compare Jer. 17:10, and 1 Cor. 2:10), and, therefore, must be God.
Secondly. That these are Three distinct Persons appears from the fact that each speaks of Himself, or is spoken of by a personal pronoun, as “Me,“He;” e. g., “I am the Lord” (Jer. 17:10); “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me” (Isa. 61:1);“I am the First and the Last,” (Rev. 1:17,18); “He will guide you into all truth” (John 14:26); “Separate Me Barnabas and Saul,” &c. (Acts 13:2). If the Spirit were not a Person as well as the Father and the Son, He would not have been spoken of as He, or Me, but as it.
Thirdly. That all Three Persons are One God appears from the dogmatic statements, namely, “The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4); and “I am God, and there is none else” (Isa. 45:21, 22).
Here you have a clear and simple outline of the great arguments for the truth of the doctrine of a Trinity in Unity. To an unprejudiced mind they are conclusive; but the Jew and the Unitarian have their objections to make. Let us hear them. The unconverted Jew evades the force of the plural pronoun, “us” thus: he says God was speaking to His council of angels! But the Jew forgets that God needs no counsellors, for it is written, “Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or, being His counsellor, hath taught Him? With whom took He counsel, and who instructed Him?” The Jew, moreover, is a blasphemer, for he places angels on a par with God, making them of consequence in the creation, whereas they themselves are but creatures; and nowhere in Scripture is creation attributed to them. The Unitarian evades the force of those Scripture proofs by his reason. He says (1)“My reason refuses to receive this doctrine; it is contrary to my understanding to believe it;” (2) as he cannot deny the fact of God’s speaking in the plural number of Himself, the Unitarian says, “This mode of speech is just the same that all monarchs use, when they say ‘we command,’ ‘we will,’” &c. But, to the first of his objections I reply that man’s reason is depraved by the fall; many things, even in nature, man cannot understand, though he cannot deny them. Poor man cannot understand his own spirit, soul, and body, how they exist; and yet he would fain judge God! Human reason, with all its boasted power and acuteness, is but a fool when it exalts itself against the knowledge of God. If reason were all-sufficient for our understanding of the Scriptures, we should have no need of faith. To the second objection, I reply, It is simply absurd; for it is the most unlikely thing in the world that God should employ a mode of speech common amongst monarchs long, long before any monarch existed; and that it is much more probable that monarchs in their mode of speaking of themselves have blasphemously imitated the Almighty. Ah, this reason! It is with this unsanctified weapon that many besides the Unitarian and the Jew attack other doctrines as well. It is by reason free-willers try to get rid of the doctrines of sovereign grace. But let them beware lest the awful words of God be fulfilled in them, “Behold ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, that ye shall not believe, though a man declare it unto you.”
A certain learned doctor of so-called divinity in a conversation with the celebrated John Newton, in speaking of the doctrine of the atonement, observed, “It is very strange, Mr. Newton, that I have not been able to recognize this doctrine in the Bible, though I have read and compared every word and passage therein, which is said to speak of or allude to it, no less than seventeen times, and in the original languages, too!” “Not at all strange, sir,” replied Mr. Newton; “I have oftentimes attempted to light my candle with the extinguisher upon it.” Now, it is just so with him who sets about lighting up his soul by the word of God, when that extinguisher of all that is humble is upon it, viz., proud reason. This must be taken off ere we can light our candles at the altar of God.
II. Having now simplified the great arguments for a Trinity in Unity, I would attempt to show you the blessedness of this doctrine when realized in the soul. “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” Oh that the Spirit may make this precious to us! He leads me to look at the words thus, “Through the atonement of the glorious God-man, Christ, we both [Jews and Gentiles] have permission to approach the Father, and we are stirred up to use our privilege by the Spirit.” Which is as much as to say, “Without Christ’s atonement, we dare not come near the Father, for He is a consuming fire to all out of Christ; but, as it hath pleased the blessed Jesus to satisfy God the Father for our sins, we may now approach Him at any time; but, as we are poor helpless, lifeless creatures when left to ourselves, and should not think of approaching the Father, the Spirit has undertaken to quicken us, and to teach us, and to lead us to the throne of grace, where we may ask for all we want.” O poor downcast one, have you ever been to the throne of grace? Have you ever seen the right, the only, way of approach there? Believe me, it was the Spirit of God that wrought in you mightily, that led you there. Fear not to go often, go boldly in the full assurance of faith in atoning blood as the only avenue of approach, and you will get help in time of need. This is my only solace. Here I find help; as long as I stand haggling with the devil, and arguing with my own vile nature, and yield to the terrorism of my sins, I am in misery; but, when I think of a Triune Jehovah working in me and for me, and am enabled to fling myself at the foot of the throne of grace, I there get help and consolation, and hardly ever come away without a renewed sense of pardoning mercy. Oh, what is all intellectual knowledge in comparison with experimental knowledge like this, when we can believe that there is: 1. An infinite Saviour to rescue; 2. An infinite Father to receive; 3. An infinite Spirit to comfort, to teach, and lead? We are then happy, and only then. Then trials and tribulations are light indeed, and for the moment we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. How little do the majority of professors know of the exceeding preciousness of this faith! How few enter into the views of the glorious men who compiled our liturgy, who could pray heartily evermore to be kept stedfast in this faith (Collect for Trinity Sunday).
But, brethren in the Lord Jesus, we have been taught the value and sweetness of this wondrous revelation.
First. We have seen, with astonishment and delight, that there is a God in Three Divine Persons, exactly suitable to our innumerable wants and wishes. We have felt ourselves infinitely lost by infinite transgression; but we have seen in Christ a Person who is infinitely able to save from wrath and sin and Satan.
Secondly. We have seen the wonderful depths of the Father’s love, that moved Him to send such a Saviour, and He has become near and dear to us.
Thirdly. And we have been taught that these precious mysteries have been made known to us by the special work of the Holy Spirit, who has thus indeed been a Comforter to us, a Counsellor and Guide into all essential truth. The work of the Trinity has been on our hearts, and we are filled with wonder, love, and praise.
There is another sweet view to take of the Trinity in Unity; it is this, viz., all Three Persons are of one mind. So that the purposes and acts of one of them are the purposes and acts of all of them. Oh, what an unspeakable gift it is for God’s people to have eyes to see this great mystery! Did the Father purpose to save you or me from all eternity, then the Son purposed to work out our salvation from all eternity—then the Holy Ghost purposed to quicken us, to teach us, to convert us from all eternity. And sooner shall you or I turn the ocean’s waves from their course, than one shall ever perish for whom the Triune Jehovah thus purposed. The Father, being well pleased with the Son’s work, sends the Spirit at the purposed time to apply the purifying blood, and then takes up His abode in the pardoned soul, fulfilling His own words, ‘‘I will dwell in them and walk in them, and they shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
William Parks (1809-1867) was a High-Calvinist Anglican preacher. In 1843, he was appointed Rector of the church meeting at Openshaw, Manchester, a position he held for twenty-four years.
The Inscription On His Tomb: “In Memory Of William Parks, B. A., Late Rector Of This Parish, Who For Twenty-Four Years Was Privileged To Preach The Discriminating Gospel Of The Free And Sovereign Grace Of God, In The Adjoining Church. He Died In Hope Of A Glorious Resurrection, On The 2nd Of October, 1867, In The Fifty-Eighth Year Of His Age. “He Being Dead Yet Speaketh.” To which is added by his own expressed desire, “Here Lies A Sinner, Saved By Grace.”
The Memorial Table In The Chapel: “In Memory Of The Rev. William Parks, B. A., Late Rector Of This Parish, Who Departed This Life October 2, 1867, In The Fifty-Eighth Year Of His Age. He Was Born In Dublin, And After Preaching Three Years At Rainbow, Entered Upon His Labours At Openshaw, Where He Proclaimed The Gospel With Boldness For Twenty-Four Years. His Views Of Divine Truth Were Distinct And Unvarying; Ever Ascribing All The Glory To Christ, For The Salvation Of His Chosen People. His Preaching And Writings Were Blest To Many Of God’s People. His Upright Manner Of Life, And His Patient Hope In Death, Bore Testimony To That Grace Which He So Dearly Loved And So Faithfully Preached. “Be Thou Faithful Unto Death, And I Will Give Thee A Crown Of Life.”—Rev 2:10. This Tablet Was Erected By The Congregation As A Token Of Esteem For Their Late Minister. November, 1867.”