trinitarian worshippers

Following on from this discussion, and the points raised about whether it is possible to love or worship one person of the Trinity exclusive of the others, I’d like to post something else that Thomas Goodwin has said.

In his work on faith (‘The Object and Acts of Justifying Faith’), Goodwin discusses how all three persons of the Godhead are involved in the salvation of each individual who is saved. ‘When we come to Christ, and believe on him, there is a concurrence and consent of all the three persons in the Godhead unto that great work,’ as the chapter in question is elaborately titled.

It’s clear from what he says that he is presenting the acting of faith as a work which originates with God’s initiative (ie, faith is the outcome of a work of God in the individual’s heart). Also, his aim in all that he says is to encourage and provoke worship and adoration of this God who saves. The point that makes it especially relevant in the present discussion, though, is that he identifies each person of the Godhead as contributing in a slightly different, though equally essential, manner to the work of salvation in each saved individual. Thus, the people who are on the receiving end of this work should be encouraged to worship all three persons of the Godhead.

And even more to the point, because of how intricately connected is each aspect of the work of salvation, it would not seem to be possible to select one aspect (or the person of the Trinity most directly responsible for it) to consider strictly in isolation from any other aspect. Although there are various components of the work, which can be conceptually distinguished, they cannot be practically separated. Our worship, I think Goodwin would be inclined to go so far as to say, would indeed be defective, if it did limit itself to one or the other, consciously exclusive of the rest.

Anyway, here’s Goodwin.

“At that great union which is made between Christ and the soul, … there is a concurrence, a consent, a joint meeting of all three persons to this great work, and that in a special manner. … There is the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The Father draweth, the Son accepteth, and the Holy Ghost is the instrument of both, and quickeneth and enliveneth the heart. Such a great conjunction is a matter of infinite wonder. If you look into the heavens, you shall not see great conjunctions of planets every day. … But here is a greater conjunction in the heaven of heavens, when there is an influence of all the three persons into a soul at its first turning to God.”

“[We have] the Father beginning the business in commending us to the Son, and the Son sending the Spirit into the soul, and the Holy Ghost working grace in us, he leads us from one person to the other back again. And therefore in our coming unto God, you have all the three persons mentioned together, eg Eph 2:18, ‘Through him we have access by one Spirit unto the Father.’ Here is Christ, Father, Spirit. … As Christ Jesus took us, and took us by the hand as it were, and led us into that race, and took hold of us by his Spirit, so what doth the Spirit do? He leads us by Christ to the Father, for we come to God by and through Christ, being led in the hand of the Spirit. Thus the soul comes to have communion with all the three persons, fellowship with the Father, and with the Son, and with the Holy Ghost, till this fellowship is perfected in heaven.”

“Thou that art a believer, … [perhaps] thou hast considerations of what was done upon earth in thine own heart; but look up higher, and consider what was done in heaven as the originator of all, and let that be the thing for which thou praisest and blessest God. Go home, and down upon thy knees, and thank these three persons that have done all this for thee, though thou sawest it not, when thy heart was first drawn to Christ. … Set an high price and value on it, and consider that ere this match was made [between your soul and Christ], the Father said Amen in heaven, and the Son said Amen, and the Holy Ghost said Amen, before ever thy heart said Amen.”

(And sorry for the length!)

8 thoughts on “trinitarian worshippers

  1. An anecdote of Fr Thomas Loya (Byzantine) when he was a seminarian in Rome talking to a Latin Rite seminarian (light hearted banter, not a fight!)

    Fr Loya – Why is it you in the West have to explain everything fully?!

    Latin Rite seminarian – Why in the East do you take anything you don’t understand, wave incense at it and call it a mystery?!

    Myself on trinitarian matters ? Pass me the censer!

    If I get quized too deeply on the trinity I fall back on St Gregory…

    Thus God escapes your syllogistic toils and shows Himself stronger than your exclusive alternatives. What, then, is ‘proceeding’? You explain the ingeneracy of the Father and I will give you a biological account of the Son’s begetting and the Spirit’s proceeding – and let us go mad the pair of us for prying into God’s secrets.

    St. Gregory Nanzanius


  2. Sometimes, I think the problem is that, while most Christians acknowledge the Trinity intellectually, many believers are “practical monotheists,” that is, when they think of God, they think of Jesus almost exclusively, since He’s the one who died for their sins. Due to the nature of the Trinity, it can be hard work to get Christians to train themselves to think trinitarianly (if that’s a word).


  3. “Due to the nature of the Trinity, it can be hard work to get Christians to train themselves to think trinitarianly (if that’s a word).”
    That is something I have often noticed, with very devout persons – i.e. if you start your prayer adressing the Holy Spirit yet somehow imperceptively shift to adressing the Son.
    It is for this reason, I think, dear Cellerar that, though we tread where angles fear to tread (as Berenike quoted), it is more than syllogisms when we try to understand, in the defective and limited way we are capable of in this live, what the action of each of the Persons of the Most Holy Trinity is towards us.
    It is true that I, too, most often pray to Our Lord, yet I may admire the beauty of creation and thank the Father for it, or may ask the Holy Spirit for one particular gift I most urgently need right now, or thank Him for hearing such a prayer – yet still if we knew better what the works ad extra of each of the Persons are, we would be more grateful to each, and address our prayers, as it were, better. (Of cours the Triune God hears all our prayers, and yet a loving heart would want to know as much as it can whom exactly it owes thanks and who did what for it.)

    As to the role of the imagination in the reading of Scripture, I must say that I, personally, have my difficulties with that. I cannot imagine “what it looked like”, since I know it is an imagining, and not the truth. What I find possible is trying to put myself into some situation – be it that of the pharasees, the disciples, or even that of Our Lord himself – and trying to imagine what I would have thought or done – by which I see how far away I am of my Model, in the case of Our Lord; or how close I am to the failings of the others.


  4. All of the above, blog post and comments alike, resonate deep with me.

    With Goodwin I do agree that “there is a concurrence, a consent, a joint meeting of all three persons to this great work”, yet in our daily walk of life, esp. in our prayers, it is only in the rarest moments that we can keep all three persons in perfect balance. And is it not so that each soul that is jointly drawn still perceives more of one person first than of the others. Granted, this is our imperfection. Still, will it not help us (finite and flawed as we are) to concentrate on one person (or one aspect, or one situation), give that *one* our fullest possible attention for a while only then to turn to another? If simultaneously, it is difficult to be a truly Trinitarian worshipper, maybe successively, we are better able to give the praise and love that is due. I certainly didn’t mean anything otherwise exclusive when I talked about loving the Son versus loving the Spirit …

    Pity I will be traveling for a few days without regular (or even certain) access to the web …


  5. Phew. Excellent. I’m glad we’re all at least this orthodox :)

    It must be true that sinful and finite human minds aren’t able to understand fully, even when they are regenerated. The mystery of the trinity is the greatest mystery of being. Yet the scriptures offer the possibility of knowing him truly, as the triune God. Worshipping each person successively – I think I see what that’s meant to mean, and yet as Berenike says on the other post, if we don’t acknowledge the Son as the Son of the Father, we aren’t really worshipping at all.

    Richard – yes – too many practical unitarians – and yet if Christ came in love to sinners, he came as sent from the love of the Father, and as equipped by the love of the Spirit. A wonder. Nobody worships as they should, but surely it would do us good to be more firmly acquainted with these truths. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…


  6. Do you know the story about the two friends, one a Protestant clergyman and the other a Catholic priest? So they’re talking away after dinner one day, and get to religion, and a good old discussion gets under way. Not the first time, by a long shot. Sometime in the early hours of morning the discussion peters out. They sit for a while in silence, looking into the embers of the fire. Eventually the priest stretches, gets up and says “well, we’re not going to get anywhere with this tonight, Let’s just agree to disagree for the moment, you carry on worshiping God in your way, and I’ll go on worshiping Him in His.”


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