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2. The Unity and Trinity of the Godhead implied in the Devotions of the Ancient church

Antiquities of the Christian Church
CHAPTER X. Of the Prayers and Psalmody of the Church

2. The Unity and Trinity of the Godhead implied in the Devotions of the Ancient church

Every prayer and every song of praise was presented by the worshipper to one God, the Maker of heaven and earth. In this, Christianity was directly opposed to the polytheism of the age, whilst it perfectly harmonized with the doctrine of the Jewish religion: – "Hear, O Israel! the Lord our God is one God."

At the same time, all the prayers and songs of the, church were directed to the triune God, or distinctly implied the doctrine of the Trinity. The church guarded itself against the charge of paganism by continually asserting that it rejected all polytheism, and that the doctrine of the trinity bore no analogy to tritheism. Indeed it is very evident, in view of all that the apostles have said, that, in worshipping the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, they did not worship three Gods.

The distinction between the Jews and Christians on this point is well described by Tertullian, who says, "They believed God to be one in such a sense that it is improper to unite with Him the Son and Holy Spirit. What can the distinction be, save that under the new dispensation he is revealed to us through the Son and the Spirit, although he is still known by his own appropriate appellations, and in his own person, whilst in the former dispensation he is not revealed to us through the intervention of the Son and the Spirit." Jerome, Augustine, and Cosmus, Indicopleustes, etc., express much the same sentiments. Ever since the time of the christian apologists, dogmatists, and polemics, the strife has been to detect, in the creeds and liturgy of the Jews, in their names of the Deity, doxologies, and ascriptions of praise, implied evidence of the trinity, and to ascribe to the Jews their belief in God as existing in three persons. 

The church has also had occasion to defend herself, in the worship of the three persons of the Godhead, against numerous classes of heretics who are known under the general name of anti-trinitarians – Patripassians, Sabellians, Gnostics, Manicheans, Arians, etc. In all these controversies, the church has sought to maintain the doctrine of the trinity in its integrity. "Our hope," says Cyril of Jerusalem, "is in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. We teach, not the doctrine of three Gods, but, with his Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God; of necessity, our faith is undivided. We neither sunder the trinity, as do some, nor confound it, like the Sabellians, But we acknowledge with piety the Father, who sent the Son our Saviour; we acknowledge the Son, who promised to send us the Comforter from the Father; we acknowledge the Holy Ghost, who has taught us by the prophets, and who, on the day of Pentecost, descended in tongues of fire upon the apostles, in Jerusalem, the head of the church." 

Such being the decided testimony of the church, setting forth the doctrine of the trinity as the grand characteristic of the christian religion, it is no matter of surprise that this doctrine is so constantly advanced under all circumstances; especially, that it is repeated in their doxologies, psalms, and hymns. They repeated the doxology at each .(assembly for religious worship, and at each rehearsal of the liturgy. This doxology was as follows: "To God the Father, and his Son our Lord Jesus Christ, whh the Holy Spirit, be honor and might forever and ever. Amen."

They were so minutely careful respecting the phraseology of these forms, that it became a question, which Basil the Great discussed at length, whether the preposition *, through, or *, with, should be used in connection with the Holy Spirit. From which we learn that in the fourth century the same controversies were had on this subject which were renewed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries throughout Germany, Holland, England, France, and Sweden.

So general was this recognition of the trinity in public prayer, in the fourth and fifth centuries, that merely upon the mention of the name of God, the adoration of God in three persons, was, of course presupposed and implied. Nay, it may be affirmed as a general truth, that any petition addressed to either of the persons of the God head, was directed to all. To prevent confusion of mind it was in deed decreed by the council of Carthage, A. D. 525, that the prayer should be directed to the Father only, but this was distinctly under stood and explained to be a prayer to the three persons of the God-head. Similar sentiments are found abundantly in the writings of the ancients, so that it is an undeniable fact that their prayers and psalmody were indicted by zealous trinitarians. "From all which," as Bingham very justly observes, "it is evident, to a demonstration, that the three persons of the Holy Trinity were always the object of divine adoration from the first foundation of the primitive church, and that the giving of divine honor to the Son, and Holy Ghost, as God, was not the invention, or addition, of any later ages." 

Adv. Praxeam. c. 31.

Jo. Henr. Maji, Synopsis Theologiae Judaicae, p. 29–56.

Cateclies. xvi. c. 4: Comp. Tertull. Adv. Prax. c. 3.

De Spiritu Sancto ad Amphil. c. 25–29.

Concil. Hippo, A. D. 397. c.21: Carihag. A. D. 525: S. Fulgent. Rusp. ad Monimum. lib. ii. c. 5. edit. Basil. 1621. p. 328: Basil M. De Spiritu Sancto ad Amphil. c. 12: Ambrose, De S. S. lib. i. c. 3:

Bingham, vol. v. p. 71.

Si qui catholici fideles hujus sacramenti nunc usque videantur ignari, deinceps scire debent, omne cujuslibet honorificentiae et sacrificii salutaris obsequium et Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto, hoc est, sanctae Trinitati ab Ecclesia catholica pariter exhiberi. In cujus utique uno nomine inanifestum est, sanctum quoque baptisma celebrari. Neque cnini praejudicium Filio vcl Spirittu Sancto comparatur, dum ad Patris personam precaiio ab offerente dirigitur : cujus consummation dum Filii et Spiritus S. complectitur nomen, ostendit, nullum esse in Trinitate discrimen. Quia dum ad solius Patris personam sermo dirigitur, bene credentis fide tota Trinitas honoratur; et quum ad Patrera litantis destinatur intentio, sacrificii munus omni Trinitati uno eodemque offertur litantis officio. S. Fulgent. Rusp. ad Monimum lib. II. c. 5. edit. Basil. 1621. p. 328.

(* denotes Greek text in Rev. Lyman Coleman's translation.)


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