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THE DOCTRINE OF THE HOLY TRINITY VINDICATED.
Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty
unto perfection? Having formerly proved, that there is but one God, and that no new God can be produced by adoption, by generation, by creation, or delegation; and having also proved, that Christ and the Holy Ghost are each of them, that one God; what now is left to be done by us as Christians, but to believe what God hath told us concerning himself? Is there any room left for our own speculations on the awful subject of the Trinity? God alone knows himself; and we neither know, nor can know, any thing of him, but what he hath been pleased to reveal. No man knows the Father, but the Son; nor can any man impart to us that share of this knowledge we are capable of, but the Son. Hear his own words, Matt. xi. 27, • No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.' He must be infinite, who perfectly knows the Infinite. Christ alone is equal to this. “As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father, John X. 15. For this reason he saith, John xvii. 25, 'O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee; but I have known thee.' Well therefore might Zophar say to Job, in the words of my text, ' Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.'
From hence a reasonable, a modest, a pious, man would conclude that God is incomprehensible to our minds; and that we cannot go a hair's breadth farther in the knowledge of him, than he is pleased to lead us by the light of revelation. Yet, unhappily, the mind of man, proud, petulant, and distempered, even to madness, with its own conceit, is for going farther, and putting its counter-questions to those of Zophar. How can these things be? How can it be true, that there is but one God, and yet true, that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost God? O infinitely incomprehensible and awful Being ! impute it not to us for a crime, if we presume to answer these men according to their folly.' He, who asks such questions, asks them not of men, but of God; and if he believes the Scriptures to be the word of God, is impious; if he does not, he hath no right to be answered under this head of inquiry, but must be sent back to this other question, Are the Scriptures the word of God? If God, as I have clearly proved to every Christian, hath affirmed the doctrine of the Trinity, then he, who demands a reason for the consistency or truth of that doctrine, demands it of God; and will not believe it though God says it, till God shall give him a reason ; whereas, sure I am, it is reason sufficient, that God hath said it. And that he hath often, in the strongest terms, said it, I have sufficiently shewn in the four preceding discourses; so that I insist, if these men are still to debate the point, it must be with God. If they have presumption enough for this undertaking (and what is it they cannot presume to do?)Let them bring forth their strong reasons, and God shall answer them out of the whirlwind; Who are these that darken counsel by words without knowledge?' and will send them to his works, to try the strength and stretch of their talents on them, before he admits them to a speculation on himself.
But if we must engage in this impious controversy, let those answer for it, that drag us into it; for we cannot be silent when the honour of our Redeemer and Comforter is called in question.
Have the Sabellians, the Macedonians, the Arians, the Semi-arians, found out a middle point of inquiry between these two, Whether the Scriptures are the word of God, and whether the doctrine of the Trinity, as set forth in the Athanasian creed, is a true doctrine? For my part, I think it impossible. If the Scriptures were dictated by God himself, this doctrine must be true ; for those Scriptures, as I have them any,
fully shewn, set it forth in clear and strong terms ; nay, in such a multitude and variety of terms, as leaves no other possible way of evading the doctrine, but by denying the Scriptures.
But our Anti-trinitarian adversaries think they have found out a middle question, which is this, Whether the Scriptures alleged for this doctrine are rightly understood and applied by us who hold it. Let the Scriptures speak for themselves, in God's name. I have cited them as naked and free from commentaries of my own, as the necessity of shewing why I cited them would permit. The truth is, I think they need none; nor should we ever attempt to give
had not the mortification to see them handled by our adversaries with a freedom so disingenuous, and even contemptuous, that we should ill answer for our charge of so sacred a deposit, did we not endeavour to clear it of the false colours, wherewith they labour to daub it.
The Sabellians allowed the divinity, but denied the personality, of the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The Arians and Semi-arians allowed their personality, but denied their divinity, as the Macedonians did that of the Holy Ghost in particular. Of our modern Anti-trinitarians, some side with the Arians, some with the Semi-arians; but the greater number of them are Socinians, who utterly deny the divinity of Christ, and either join with the Sabellians in sinking the personality of the Holy Ghost, or with the Macedonians in denying his divinity; which latter proceeding seems at present to prevail ; though the former was that which their leaders generally leaned most to. They all in common hold a Trinity, and give the name, style, and worship of God, to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; but deny that either of them is truly and really God, insisting that either is God only by the appointment of the one true God. Hence the amazing distinctions of self-existent, self-originated, eternal,' God, in opposition to those supposed created and delegated gods. Most astonishing ! have we more gods than one? Have we one self-existent, and two other derivative gods? Gods dependant on one another for their very being ? Have we one eternal, and two new or temporary gods? And is this horrible system of Polytheism to be fathered on the Scriptures ? No, no; it is derived from the enormous presumption of men, who would be wiser than God; but who, however pretending infinite veneration for his words, would give these words a meaning wholly opposite to their naturalimport, in order to screw them to their own impious hypothesis. When the Scriptures say, “The Word was God, they must not mean that he was truly God. When they call the Holy Ghost .The eternal Spirit,' they must not mean that he was from all eternity; for these men will have him to be a creature produced in time. Thus the express passages of Scripture must be explained away; or so enfeebled by an artful, an arbitrary exposition, that consequences of their own drawing, or of their own forcing, from other passages of Scripture, neither very clear, nor pertinent, may be set up against them. How would a Lipsius, or a Bentley, maul these expositors, if he caught them chicaning in this manner with a place in Livy or Horace! If any man apprehends I wrong them, let him look into Waterland's Queries, or Lessie's Socinian Controversy; after which, I will venture to say, if he is an honest man, he will find in his heart more indignation against their practices, than I shall help him to express.
As to those, who sink the personality of the Son and the Holy Ghost in the attributes of God, or mere modes of acting, there are now so few of them in the world, and the heretics with whom we have to do, being much apter to assign them a distinction of nature, than to deny them that of persons, we shall, for proof of this personality, only refer you to the baptism of our Saviour, Matt. iii. 16, 17; where the three Persons are clearly distinguished to the senses; the Father, by a voice from heaven, · This is my beloved Son;' the Son, by going 'visibly out of the water ;' and the Spirit of God, by descending like a dove, and lighting on him.' This distinction is also evident from John xiv, 16, 17.26, where Christ saith, ‘I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Comforter-even the Spirit of truth, whom the Father will send in my name.' No actions can more fully demonstrate a personal distinction, than these which exhibit *Christ praying to the Father, and the Father,' at his request, * sending the Holy Ghost.' How does it reflect on the understanding of man, that the truth, in this plain particular, should be attacked on the two opposite sides ! that some should find but one person in these transactions, while others
find three beings in them! But both these errors proceed from a wrong construction of other parts of Scripture, tinctured with the self-sufficient dependence of conceited men on their own understandings. The Sabellians, seeing Christ, and the Holy Ghost so often set forth, each as God, in expressions so clear, as if no other person were God but himself; in order to preserve the unity, destroyed the personality; and all this purely because their reason must be superior to Scripture, as if it could so far comprehend God, as to see there could be no personal distinction in him. The Arians, &c. on the other side, seeing Christ and the Holy Ghost set forth, each as God, but spoken of as acting in subordination to the Father, must have one supreme, and two created gods, merely because their own reason, or rather conceit, could not digest the belief of three Persons in the Godhead itself. You see how both, by various ways, but with one and the same view, namely, to preserve the unity, trample on the truths of Scripture; and you see also what a monstrous expedient the latter have pitched on for this purpose, to preserve the unity of God, they have given themselves three gods instead of one. Had they only considered, that, as God is incomprehensible, there may be a personal distinction in his nature, which no way affects the unity of that nature, for aught their reason can discover to the contrary, they had never been in the least danger of falling into the very error they would avoid. How could they have found out assuredly and clearly, that there is but one God, if the Scriptures had not revealed it to them? And if the same Scriptures give the name and attributes of the one God to three persons, why do not they as readily admit the latter as the former? Is it not because their reason cannot so easily account for the one as for the other? And is not this to prefer their reason to God's word? Nay, is it not to confound their very reason, and set it at variance with itself, since they acknowledge the Divine Being incomprehensible? They ought certainly to take his word for it, that he consists of three divine Persons, rather than contradict him in this, when, in the same breath, they own they know no more of him than what he is pleased to discover. If the Sabellians could lay aside their conceit, and cease to understand that of the offices of Christ and the Holy Ghost, which is said of