Three sermons concerning the sacred Trinity by John Wallis.
Wallis, John, 1616-1703.

Objection IV.

But then here I meet with another Obje∣ction, on which the Socinians lay great weight. If God the Creator, God the Redeemer, and God the Sanctifier, or God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy-Ghost, be the same God, they can∣not then be Three Persons: And if they be Three Persons, they must be Three Gods. For like as Three Persons, amongst Men, doth signifie Three Men; so Three Persons, who are God, must be Three Gods. Contrary to the First Commandment, which allows us to have but One God.

Page  56To which I answer; First, This is only to cavil at a Word, when they have nothing of moment against the Thing. So that if in••ead of saying hese Three Persons are One God, we say, These Three are One God, or give them ano∣ther Name instead of Persons, or say these Three Somewhats, without giving them a Name, this Objection is at an end.

2. I say further; 'Tis very true, that, in our English Tongue, by another Person, we some∣times understand another Man, (because that other Person is, very often, another Man also.) But it is not always so; nor is that the proper Signification of the Word; but an Abusive sense put upon it.

And the reason of using the word Person in this abusive or improper sense; is, for want of an English word to answer the Latin word Homo, or the Greek〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, which might in∣differently relate to both Sexes.

For the word Man doth properly relate to the Male, and Woman to the Female. And if the word Man be sometimes so used as to imply the Woman also; it is (by a Synecdoche) putting the Name of One Sex, to signifie Both. And 'tis for want of such a Word (which might in∣differently relate to both Sexes) that we some∣time Page  57 make use of Person in a borrowed sense, rather than to use a Circumlocution of Man and Woman, by naming both Sexes.

And if we should use such Circumlocution of Man and Woman; yet even this would not reach the whole Species. For we do not use to call them Man and Woman, till they be of a considerable Age; before which time they are called Children; and therefore to compre∣hend the whole Species, we say, Man, Woman, and Child.

We do indeed, sometimes, to that purpose, make use of the word Mankind, (adding the word kind to that of Man, to Ampliate the Signifi∣cation of it.) But this relates only to Genus Humanum in a Collective sense; not to Homines taken Distributively. For we do not say a Man∣kind, two Mankinds, &c, as we say Homo, Ho∣mines.

We are fain, therefore, for want of a pro∣per English word, to make use of Person in a borrowed sense to answer the Latin Homo.

But the Ancient Fathers, who first applied the word Persona to the Sacred Trinity, did not speak English. And therefore we cannot, from the present use of the word Person in our Lan∣guage, conclude in what sense they used the word Persona.

Page  583. Again; the Schoolmen in later Ages, have yet put another sense on the word Perso∣na, peculiar to themselves; extending it in∣differently to Men and Angels; (for want of a proper word of that Extent;) so as to signifie (with them) what they call Suppositum Ratio∣nale, or what we call a Reasonable Creature. (And, in imitation of them, some others have since so used it.) But this is a New sense, of later Ages, since the time of those Fathers, (nor do the Schoolmen, in this sense, without a Meta∣phor, apply it to the Sacred Trinity.) We can∣not therefore conclude from hence, What was the Fathers sense of it.

4. To find out therefore the true sense of te word Person as applied to the Trinity; we are not so much to consider, what now-a-days the word doth sometime signifie with us in En∣glish; nor what sense the Schoolmen have put upon it since the time of those Fathers: As, what was the true sense of the word Persona, at or before their times, in approved Latin Authours. Which is quite another thing from either of these senses.

For what in English we sometimes mean by Three Persons (taken indifferently for Men, Wo∣men, and Children,) the Latins would not have Page  59 called tres Personas, but tres Homines: Though, if considered in such Relations, as Father, Mother, and Child, they might so be called tres Personae.

Nor do I find that in approved Latin Au∣thours, the word Persona was wont to be attri∣buted by them (as by the Schoolmen it hath since been) to Angels; nor to their Genii, or Heathen Gods.

But, 5. It did signifie the State, Quality, or Condition of a Man, as he stands Related to other Men. (And so I find the Latin word Persona Englished in our Dictionaries.) Suppose, as a King, a Subject, a Father, a Son, a Neigh∣bour, a Publick or Private Person, a Person of Honour, and the like. And so, as the Condition varied, the Person varied also, though the same Man remained. As if an ordinary Person, be first made a Knight, and then a Lord; the Per∣son or Condition is varied, but he is still the same Man that he was before. And he that is this Year, a Lord Mayor, may be, next Year, but an Alderman, or not so much.

Hence are those Latin Phrases, frequent in approved Authours; Personam imponere (to put a Man into an Office, or confer a Dignity upon him;) Induere personam (to take upon him the Office;) Sustinere personam (to Bear an Office, Page  60 or Execute an Office;) Deponere personam (to Resign the Office, or lay it down;) so, Agere personam (to Act a Person,) and many the like.

So that there is nothing of Contradiction, no∣thing of Inconsistence, nothing Absurd or Strange in it, for the same Man to sustain divers Persons, (either successively, or at the same Time;) or divers Persons to meet in the same Man; accord∣ing to the true and proper Notion of the word Person. A Man may, at the same time, sustain the Person of a King, and of a Father, if in∣vested with Regal and Paternal Authority; (and these Authorities may be Subordinate one to another;) and he may accordingly Act sometime as a King, and sometime as a Fa∣ther. Thus Tully, (who well understood the Propriety of Latin words) Sustineo Unus tres Personas; meam, Adversarii, Judicis, (I being One and the same Man, sustain Three Persons; That of my Own, that of my Adversary, and that of the Judge.) And David was, at the same time, Son of Jesse, Father of Solomon, and King of Israel.

And this takes away the very Foundation of their Objection; Which proceeds upon this Mistake, as if Three Persons (in a proper sense) must needs imply Three Men.

Page  616. Now if Three Persons (in the proper sense of the word Person) may be One Man; what hinders but that Three Divine Persons (in a sense Metaphorical) may be One God? What hinders but that the same God, considered as the Maker and Sovereign of all the World, may be God the Creator, or God the Father; and the same God considered, as to his special Care of Mankind, as the Ruthour of our Redempti∣on, be God the Redeemer, or God the Son; and the same God, as working effectually on the Hearts of his Elect, be God the Sanctifier, or God the Holy-Ghost?

And what hinders but that the same God, di∣stinguished according to these three Considerati∣ons, may fitly be said to be Three Persons? Or (if the word Person do not please) Three Some∣whats that are but One God?

And this seems to me a Full and Clear So∣lution of that Objection, which they would have to be thought Insuperable.