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"everlasting, without Body, Parts, or Passions, "of infinite Power, Wisdom, and Goodness, the "Maker, and Preserver of all Things both visible "and invisible."—The Truth is, though a very clear and rational Scheme of Religion may be drawn from the obvious Sense and Import of the Holy Scriptures, yet, they themselves are not a methodical, but historical System of Divinity. The great Truths they contain are not to be inferred from a particular Clause, or a single Section, but from the collective Tendency and Purport of the whole. Thus, the Attributes of the Deity are severally illustrated in the Old Testament by the occasional Accounts therein given us of the Divine Dispensations to Mankind, to the Family of Noah., and of Abraham, to the Patriarchs, to the People of the Jews, and the neighbouring Nations. And in like manner the great Doctrines of the New Testament depend upon the Truth of the Narrations of our Saviour's Birth, Life, Conversation, Miracles, Discourses, Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension, and of the Descent and Operations of the Holy Ghost, and upon the frequent References and Allusions to some one or more of these in the Epistles of the Apostles to the Christian Converts. If these therefore are full and explicit as to their Meaning, the Church has nothing to do but to deliver that Meaning to her Members in any Terms that are evidently significant of it; and if the Vol. I. G scriptural scriptural Representation of a threefold Union of Persons in the Godhead be pertinently expressed by the Word, 'trinity, we are certainly as much at liberty to make use of it, as we are to make use of the Word, Deity, to express our Idea of the One God by, which yet is a Term that occurs no more than the other in the sacred Writings. When therefore we fee that these 'Things are so, from the easy, natural, and unavoidable Construction to be put upon numberless Expressions and Passages, it is absurd, as well as wicked to ask, how can these Things be? Indeed, the Non-attention of Men to plain Fact, and simple scriptural Relation, and the Perplexities they throw themselves into by their vain Endeavours to reconcile spiritual Truths with natural Ideas, or by their gross and and literal Acceptation of certain scriptural Terms and Expressions, which are only true in an eminent and incomprehensible fense, contribute much to that prevailing Scepticism, which it is almost unfashionable to complain of in the present Age.—There is in Scripture a clear and manifest Distinction of Three Persons in the Divine Nature, the Second of which is repeatedly and emphatically stiled, the Son of God.—But 'tis to be remembered, that though this Title or Denomination belongs to him undoubtedly in some strictly true and proper Sense, yet in respect of our Notions of Paternity and Sonship, which suppose the Precedency of Cause, the Dependence
pendence of Effect, &c. &c. he is so called by Analogy only, and OLvSpwftOXOtSac. The Relation the Second Person in the Holy Trinity bears to the other Two, and the Part he voluntarily took in the great Scheme of Man's Redemption, are most aptly conveyed to our Understandings (as far as they can be conveyed at all) by this Appellation; which is the more proper and significant, because, while it may denote some Degree of Subordination as to Manner of Subsistence, Posteriority of Order, or Peculiarity of Office, it imports no fort of Inferiority or Inequality of Nature.—Instead therefore of amusing, or rather confounding ourselves with fruitless Attempts to ascertain the precise Idea of Father, Son, and Spirit, in the Godhead, we should humbly acquiesce in the Declarations of Scripture which manifestly assert the Divinity of each. p He who knoweth all Things,, , He who searcheth all Things, r He who is the Dispenser of all spiritual Gifts, &c. &c. 'He, in whose Name we are baptized, and solemnly hlesl, must be truly and essentially God: And accordingly no Expressions that seem to intimate the Generation of the Son by, or the Procession of the Holy Ghost from, a superior or prior Being, (Expressions partly allusive only to the Gospel Dispensation, and partly significant, in some measure, of the threefold Distinction in the Godhead to the Weakness f Johnxxi. 17. q 1 Cor. ii. 10. r i Cor. xii. ir.
of the human Mind) can justly be understood to affect the Eternal Essence and inherent Perfections of the Son, or of the Spirit, or direct us to consider them as Persons or Beings of a different Nature and Excellence from God the FatherIt may farther be observed, that though the Manner, the Ratio of the Existence of three Persons in one Nature be utterly inexplicable, yet this Doctrine does by no means contradict the great Principles even of natural Religion, or clash with our Ideas of the moral Attributes of God. So far from it, that it exhibits them in the strongest Light, and to the noblest Advantage. What System, like the Christian, displays to us the Exactness of Divine Justice, the Plans of infinite Wisdom, and the Funds of inexhaustible Goodness, as well as the Plenitude of Almighty Power? Nay, it is not destructive of that first and most obvious natural Attribute of the Deity, his Unity, with which it seems to be most irreconcileable. For, as much as the Infidel would insinuate, that the human Mind in the Contemplation of the Deity cannot distinguish without diminishing, and that the Idea of absolute and indivisible Unity is inseparable from that of Perfection, yet while the Unity of the Divine EJsence is maintained in and from Scripture, the Participation of that Essence by three distinct Persons implies nothing derogatory
to to the Excellence of the Divine Nature, or the Perfection of Unity. For we ascribe Unity to the Godhead primarily, because the Idea of Unity supposes such a full Independency of Power, and absolute Freedom of Will and Action, as is neither subject to the Opposition or Controul, nor requires the Concurrence of any equal or inferior Being. The most material Objection against the Multiplicity of Gods, or a Distinction of Persons in one Godhead, seems to be grounded on the Possibility of their counter-acting one another, and on the precarious and contradictory System of Providence that must thereupon inevitably ensue.—But the Christian Theory obviates every Objection of this kind, by manifestly representing to us the Holy Three as necessarily cooperating together, and to all Intents and Purposes One, with regard to the Mystery of Man's Redemption, and consequently to every supposable Act and Dispensation. It exhibits to us the Three Persons of the Godhead in different Lights, and under the several Denominations of Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier; but notwithstanding such Distinction of Denomination, Relation, and Office, (a Distinction which, by the way, admits a reciprocal Change of Characters) the Three are demonstrably in Point of Will, Decree, Power and Excellency, One and the Same: So that, as the Athanasian Creed well directs, " in all I! Things the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity "in Unity is to be worshipped."