The Nestorians and their Rituals/Volume 2/Chapter 5

CHAPTER V.

OF FAITH IN THE HOLY TRINITY.

"There is but One living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker and Preserver of all things, both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost."—Article I.

§ 1. "God the Father, and God the Son, the Word, and God the Holy Ghost, one substance, one God, in three co-equal persons, of whose Being there is no beginning, and of whose Divinity there is no creation; He is living and everlasting. When He determined to make known the mystery of His Being, He created," &c. From the Kanoona d'Brasheeth, or First Canon, contained in the Khudhra, and appointed to be read in the Morning Service of every Sunday throughout the year with the exception of the Sundays of the Lenten fast.

§ 2. "The glory of the Lord of all can be comprehended by none, nor can His greatness be conceived by reason, neither His form imagined. He hears without ears, speaks without a mouth, works without hands, and sees without eyes, … nor can He be confined in any place so as to be laid hold of … who can search Him out?"—From the Service for the Holy Nativity, in the Khudhra.

§ 3. "O Thou living and everlasting One, by Whose decree all creatures were created, visible and invisible, our Almighty God, Who fillest the heavens and the earth, the merciful and the compassionate One, Who carest for our species, and renewest our frame, Who feedest us with good things, … Who art long-suffering, great in Thy power, just in Thy wisdom. … O Thou righteous Father, and everlasting Son, and Holy Spirit, of invisible substance, incomprehensible, wonderful in Thy doings, … incorruptible, immortal; near to all, but comprehended by none; worshipped by angels and men in spirit and in truth; God, without beginning and without end."—From the Litany of the second day of the Baootha d'Ninwâyé, in the Khudhra.

§ 4. "And He [Christ] manifestly committed unto them [the Apostles] the whole hidden mystery of the Godhead, without addition or reserve. [That there is] one Essence (οὐσία) in three Persons. The word 'Essence' He applied to the three co-equal Persons, lest it should be thought that there are three essences having the same name. 'Go ye into all the world, and disciple all nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;' the Persons co-equal, one distinct Essence. The word Name proves the unity of the Essence, and the latter part of the sentence points out the coequality of the Persons in this one and self-same Essence."—From the Service for the Holy Nativity in the Gezza.

See also Appendix B. Part I. passim.

REMARKS.

The reasoning of Mar Abd Yeshua, as quoted from the Appendix, in proof of the existence, unity, eternity, and incomprehensibility of God, and of those other attributes which necessarily spring therefrom, is remarkable as well for its logical precision, as for its conciseness and comparative simplicity. It also shows that he was master of the irresistible à posteriori argument, which necessitates one great, designing Cause from the innumerable marks of design with which all created nature abounds. But, nevertheless, what this cause is he reverently abstains from any attempt to define. He concludes his fourth chapter with this sentence: "Now when we say of God that He is invisible, incomprehensible, impassible, and immutable, we do not describe what He is, but what He is not," and I cannot better analyze his whole train of argument on the being and attributes of God, than by quoting an admirable passage from Sir Isaac Newton, which could not have suited better had it been drawn up with this especial design. "God is eternal and infinite; omnipotent and omniscient; that is, He endures from eternity, and is present from infinity to infinity. He governs all things that exist, and knows all things that are to be known; He is not eternity or infinity, but eternal and infinite; He is not duration or space, but He endures and is present; He endures always, and is present everywhere; He is omnipresent, not only virtually, but also substantially, for power without substance cannot subsist. All things are contained and move in Him, but without any mutual passion; He suffers nothing from the motions of bodies; nor do they undergo any resistance from His omnipresence. It is confessed that God exists necessarily, and by the same necessity He exists always and everywhere. Hence also He must be perfectly similar, all eye, all ear, all arm, all the power of perceiving, understanding, and acting, but after a manner not at all corporeal, after a manner not like that of men, after a manner wholly to us unknown. He is destitute of all body, and all bodily shape; and therefore cannot be seen, heard, or touched; nor ought to be worshipped under the representation of anything corporeal. We have ideas of the attributes of God, but do not know the substance of even anything; we see only the figures and colours of bodies, hear only sounds, touch only the outward surfaces, smell only odours, and taste tastes; and do not, cannot, by any sense, or reflex act, know their inward substances; and much less can we have any notion of the substance of God. We know Him by His properties and attributes."

Further, the extracts quoted from their rituals, at the beginning of this chapter, and the able dissertation referred to in the Appendix, are sufficient proof of the orthodoxy of the Nestorians on the important article now under consideration. Mar Abd Yeshua says of it, that "in the confession of the Trinity all Christians agree, for all receive the Nicene Creed, which creed confesses that the Trinity is co-equal in essence, dignity, power, and will;" and his own illustrations of this mystery will amply repay a careful perusal. He does not attempt, by any effort of human reasoning, to prove a doctrine which he admits to be beyond the comprehension of all; but he so opens it out as to enable the mind rightly to conceive of this truth so clearly revealed to us in the Sacred Scriptures, and thus to prevent, as far as may be, that mental confusion of the three Divine Persons, which is apt to perplex even the most devout whenever they contemplate the providence of the Almighty towards the world, or their own individual dependance on Him.