Monday, January 11, 2010
Founding Father John Jay's Quote About The Trinity
Jonathan Rowe, of American Creation blog, has written a post about private religious tests, and posted this quote by John Jay. Jay was the most decorated Founding Father. Washington told him he could have any post he wanted. He was the First Chief Justice:
"It appeared to me that the Trinity was a Fact fully revealed and substantiated, but that the quo modo was incomprehensible by human Ingenuity. According to sundry Creeds, the divine Being whom we denominate the second Person in the Trinity had before all worlds been so generated or begotten by the first Person in the Trinity, as to be his coeval, coequal and coeternal Son. For proof of this I searched the Scriptures diligently -- but without Success. I therefore consider the Position of being at least of questionable Orthodoxy."
-- John Jay to Samuel Miller, February 18, 1822. Jay Papers, Columbia University Library.
Rowe goes on to say:
"Even the great "John Jay" has given rope with which the heresy hunters could hang him. Though Jay is conceded as one of the "authentic" orthodox Christian notable Founders, one could argue Jay may not have been a "Christian." Or at least that he doubted his Christianity and flirted with Arianism."
However, there is a flip-side to this statement, and there may be a better interpretation of the aforementioned quote.
You see, Mr. Jay was about as Orthodox as a person can be. He affirmed the Sacrificial Atonement of Christ, His Deity, and what I will attempt to show from that quote, The Trinity.
Here is Jay affirming the Trinity, claiming The Holy Spirit is God:
"Condescend, merciful Father! to grant as far as proper these imperfect petitions, to accept these inadequate thanksgivings, and to pardon whatever of sin hath mingled in them for the sake of Jesus Christ, our blessed Lord and Savior; unto Whom, with Thee, and the blessed Spirit, ever one God, be rendered all honor and glory, now and forever." [bold face mine]
--William Jay, The Life of John Jay (New York: J & J Harper, 1833), Vol. I p. 518, Appendix V, from a prayer found among Mr. Jay’s papers and in his handwriting.
Jay also affirmed the Atonement; mandatory for believers, specifically shown in the New Testament; Matthew, Mark, Luke, Romans 5, 9, and Hebrews 9, 10, 12, and 13:
"The Bible will also inform them that our gracious Creator has provided for us a Redeemer in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed – that this Redeemer has made atonement “for the sins of the whole world,” and thereby reconciling the Divine justice with the Divine mercy, has opened a way for our redemption and salvation; and that these inestimable benefits are of the free gift and grace of God, not of our deserving, nor in our power to deserve." [bold face mine]
--John Jay, The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, 1794-1826, Henry P. Johnston, editor (New York: Burt Franklin, 1890), Vol. IV, pp. 494, 498, from his “Address at the Annual Meeting of the American Bible Society,” May 13, 1824.
I believe here is the complete and correct quote of John Jay. The original is a little different, and there's more to it than meets the eye:
"I adopted no articles from Creeds, but such only as on careful examination I found to be confirmed by the Bible. It appeared to me that the Trinity was a Fact fully revealed and substantiated, but that the quo modo was incomprehensible and consequently inexplicable by human Ingenuity. According to sundry [several] Creeds, the divine Being whom we denominate the second Person in the Trinity had before all worlds been so generated or begotten by the first Person in the Trinity, as to be his coeval, coequal and coeternal Son. For proof of this I searched the Scriptures diligently -- but without Success. I therefore consider the Position of being at least of questionable Orthodoxy." [bold face mine]
-To Samuel Miller 1822
Mr. Jay is saying some Creeds, most likely Arianism, is the subject, and he doesn't go by those creeds. The Bible doesn't teach what he's writing; the Creeds do. The Scriptures teach The Second Person of the Trinity is eternal and always existed; that he wasn't generated by the Father. He searched for that heresy in the Scriptures and couldn't find it. He's saying that position; Arianism, is questionable Orthodoxy.
I can go further, and say it's not in the Bible at all. The Scriptures are clear, before Jesus became a man, He was God, an Eternal Spirit Being:
It was Jesus at the Burning Bush, for He used the same name He told Moses, which is why the Pharisees tried to stone Him:
"Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. [bold face mine]
Here, Peter says the Holy Spirit is God:
But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. [bold face mine]
There are many more referring to the Deity, thereby Trinity, but here are a few:
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men."
"Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." [bold face mine]
"Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen." [bold face mine]
Here is the Trinity in Genesis 1:26:
"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. [bold face mine]
Even the Jewish prophets knew the Messiah was Eternal:
"But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. [bold face mine]
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." [bold face mine]
The Everlasting Father refers to Jesus as the Father of Eternity, reigning like a Father.
No wonder the great John Jay believed the Trinity. Belief in Jesus' Deity, implies Trinity.