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Robertson on the Trinity - 1850

Frederick W. Robertson.


Frederick W. Robertson was one of the most notable preachers of nineteenth-century England. He died at the young age of thirty-seven, having made a point of preaching his convictions, never his doubts. He said, “It is an endless task to be refuting error. Plant truth, and the errors will pine away.” Among his printed sermons was one preached on this day 26 May, 1850—a message contrasting two trinities: man’s discordant body, soul, and spirit; and God’s unified being. He text was 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”) Here is an excerpt showing Robertson’s understanding of Christ’s relation to us and God’s plan of sanctification.


“Now the passage which I have undertaken to expound to-day, is one in which the doctrine of the Trinity is brought into connection practically with the doctrine of our humanity....

“The second way through which the personality and consciousness of God has been revealed to us is as the Son....Before the world was, there was that in the mind of God which we may call the Humanity of His Divinity. It is called in Scripture the Word: the Son: the Form of God. It is in virtue of this that we have a right to attribute to Him our own feelings....Love in God is what love is in man; justice in God is what justice is in man; creative power in God is what creative power is in man; indignation in God is that which indignation is in man, barring only this, that the one is emotional, but the other is calm, and pure, and everlastingly still....

“Lastly, let us turn to the relation which the Trinity in unity bears to the triad in discord. It is intended for the entireness of our sanctification: ‘the very God of peace sanctify you wholly.’ Brethren, we dwell upon that expression ‘wholly.’ There is this difference between Christianity and every other system: Christianity proposes to ennoble the whole man; every other system subordinates parts to parts. Christianity does not despise the intellect, but it does not exalt the intellect in a one-sided way....Asceticism would crush the natural affections—destroy the appetites....But when the apostle Paul comes forward to proclaim the will of God, he says it is not by the crushing of the body, but by the sanctification of the body....The only way in which a man can subdue the flesh, is not by the extinction of those feelings, but by the elevation of their character....”


Robertson, F.W. Sermons Preached at Brighton. London: Kegan, Paul, Trench and Co., 1884.

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