What Did the Pioneers Say?
From the 1872 Statement of Beliefs
I. That there is one God, a personal, spiritual Being, the Creator of all things, omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal, infinite in wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, truth, and mercy; unchangeable, and everywhere present by His representative, the Holy Spirit. Psalm 139:7
II. That there is one Lord Jesus Christ, and Son of the Eternal Father, the One by whom God created all things, and by whom they do consist; that He took on Him the nature of the seed of Abraham for the redemption of our fallen race; that He dwelt among men, full of grace and truth, lived our example, died our sacrifice, was raised for our justification, ascended on high to be our only Mediator in the sanctuary in heaven, where, with His own blood, He makes atonement for our sins; which atonement, so far from being made on the cross, which was but the offering of the sacrifice, is the very last portion of His work as priest, according to the example of the Levitical priesthood, which foreshadowed and prefigured the ministry of our Lord in heaven. See Leviticus 16; Hebrews 8:4,5; 9:6,7; &c. (A DECLARATION OF THE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES TAUGHT AND PRACTICED BYTHE SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS, published in 1872 in Battle Creek, Michigan)
Statements From the Pioneers
The way spiritualizers this way have disposed of or denied the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ is first using the old unscriptural trinitarian creed, viz, that Jesus Christ is the eternal God, though they have not one passage to support it, while we have plain scripture testimony in abundance that He is the Son of the eternal God. (Letter in The Day-Star, IX January 24, 1846)
To assert that the sayings of the Son and His apostles are the commandments of the Father, is as wide from the truth as the old trinitarian absurdity that Jesus Christ is the very and eternal God. (The Faith of Jesus, Review & Herald, August 5, 1852)
And as to the Son of God, he could be excluded also, for he had God for His Father, and did, at some point in the eternity of the past, have beginning of days. So that if we use Pauls language in an absolute sense, it would be impossible to find but one being in the universe, and that is God the Father, who is without father, or mother, or descent, or beginning of days, or end of life. Yet probably no one for a moment contends that Melchizedek was God the Father.(Melchisedec, Review & Herald, September 7, 1869 also found in the January 4, 1881 edition of Review & Herald )
The Scriptures declare that Christ is the only-begotten Son of God. He is begotten, not created. As to when He was begotten, it is not for us to inquire, nor could our minds grasp it if we were told .... There was a time when Christ proceeded and came forth from God, from the bosom of the Father (John 8:42; 1:18), but that time was so far back in the days of eternity that to finite comprehension it is practically without beginning. (Christ and His Righteousness, pp. 21, 22From the section entitled, Is Christ a Created Being?)
As Christ was twice born, - once in eternity, the only begotten of the Father, and again here in the flesh, thus uniting the divine with the human in that second birth, - so we, who have been born once already in the flesh, are to have the second birth, being born again of the Spirit, in order that our experience may be the same, - the human and the divine being joined in a life union. (The Christ for Today, Review & Herald, April 14, 1896)
Question 1. What serious objections is there to the doctrine of the Trinity?
Answer. There are many objections which we might urge, but on account of our limited space we shall reduce them to the three following:
1. It is not very consonant with common sense to talk of three being one, and one being three.
2. It is contrary to Scripture.
3. Its origin is pagan and fabulous. (Review and Herald, November 5,1861)
I never believed the doctrine of the trinity, nor ever professed to believe it. But I do not think it the most dangerous heresy in the world ... men have gone to extremes in the discussion of the doctrine of the trinity. Some have made Christ a mere noble man, commencing his existence at his birth in Bethlehem; others have not been satisfied with holding Him to be what the Scriptures so clearly reveal Him, the pre-existing Son of God, but have made Him the God and Father of Himself .... I would simply advise all that love our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to believe all that the Bible says of Him, and no more ....
...We understand that the term trinity means the union of three persons, not offices, in one God; so that The Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Are three at least, and one at most. That one person is three persons, and that three persons are only one person, is the doctrine which we claim is contrary to reason and common sense. (The Trinity, Review & Herald, July 6, 1869)
But to hold the doctrine of the Trinity is not so much an evidence of evil intention as of intoxication from that wine of which all the nations have drunk. The fact that this was one of the leading doctrines, if not the very chief, upon which the bishop of Rome was exalted to the popedom, does not say much in its favour. This should cause men to investigate it for themselves; as when the spirits of devils working miracles undertake the advocacy of the immortality of the soul. Had I never doubted it before, I would now probe it to the bottom, by that word which modern Spiritualism sets at nought. (Ibid.)
The following article written by R.F. Cottrell published in the Review of June 1, 1869, sets forth well the attitude of the pioneers and believers on the question of the trinity.
THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY
This has been a popular doctrine and regarded as orthodox ever since the bishop of Rome was elevated to the popedom on the strength of it. It is accounted dangerous heresy to reject it; but each person is permitted to explain the doctrine in his own way. All seem to think they must hold it, but each has perfect liberty to take his own way to reconcile its contradictory propositions; and hence a multitude of views are held concerning it by its friends, all of them orthodox, I suppose, as long as they nominally assent to the doctrine.
For myself, I have never felt called upon to explain it, nor to adopt and defend it, neither have I ever preached against it. But I probably put as high an estimation on the Lord Jesus Christ as those who call themselves Trinitarians. This is the first time I have ever taken the pen to say anything concerning the doctrine.
My reasons for not adopting and defending it, are 1. Its name is unscripturalthe Trinity, or the triune God, is unknown to the Bible; and I have entertained the idea that doctrines which require words coined in the human mind to express them, are coined doctrines. 2. I have never felt called upon to adopt and explain that which is contrary to all the sense and reason that God has given me. All my attempts at an explanation of such a subject would make it no clearer to my friends.
But if I am asked what I think of Jesus Christ, my reply is, I believe all that the Scriptures say of him. If the testimony represents him as being in glory with the Father before the world was, I believe it. If it is said that he was in the beginning with God, that he was God, that all things were made by him and for him, and that without him was not anything made that was made, I believe it. If the Scriptures say he is the Son of God, I believe it. If it is declared that the Father sent his Son into the world, I believe he had a Son to send. If the testimony says he is the beginning of the creation of God, I believe it. If he is said to be the brightness of the Fathers glory, and the express image of his person, I believe it. And when Jesus says, I and my Father are one, I believe it; and when he says, My Father is greater than I, I believe that too; it is the word of the Son of God, and besides this it is perfectly reasonable and seemingly self-evident.
If I be asked how I believe the Father and Son are one, I reply, They are one in a sense not contrary to sense. If the and in the sentence means anything, the Father and the Son are two beings. They are one in the same sense in which Jesus prayed that his disciples might be one. He asked his Father that his disciples might be one. His language is, that they may be one, even as we are one.
It may be objected, if the Father and the Son are two distinct beings, do you not, in worshiping the Son and calling him God, break the first commandment of the Decalogue?
No; it is the Fathers will That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. We cannot break the commandment and dishonor God by obeying him. The Father says of the Son, Let all the angels of God worship him. Should angels refuse to worship the Son, they would rebel against the Father. Children inherit the name of their father. The Son of God hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than the angels. That name is the name of his Father. The Father says to the Son, Thy throne, O God is forever and ever. Heb. 1. The Son is called The mighty God. Isa. 9:6. And when he comes again to earth his waiting people will exclaim, This is our God. Isa. 25:9. It is the will of the Father that we should thus honor the Son. In doing so we render supreme honor to the Father. If we dishonor the Son we dishonor the Father; for he requires us to honor his Son.
But though the Son is called God yet there is a God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Pet. 1:3. Though the Father says to the Son, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, yet, that throne is given him of his Father; and because he loved righteousness and hated iniquity, he further says, Therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee. Heb. 1:9. God hath made that same Jesus both Lord and Christ. Acts 2:36. The Son is the everlasting Father, not of himself, nor of his Father, but of his children. His language is, I and the children which God hath given me. Heb. 2:13 (R. F. Cottrell - Review and Herald, June 1, 1869, italics in original)
If the Scriptures say He is the Son of God, I believe it. If it is declared that the Father sent His Son into the world, I believe He had a Son to send. - R. F. Cottrell