« AnteriorContinuar »
ensures of the church in con vocation. But so often urged, and so much insisted upon by if, on the contrary, the sheltering of some divines, as that in 1 John, v. 7, “ There are such rotten churchmen, as well as several three who bear record in heaven, the Father, others, from the dint of ecclesiastical autho- the Word, and the Holy Ghost ; and these rity, was one great cause of that so long and three are one;" a text fully containing in it unaccountable omission of those sacred and the doctrine of three distinct divine persons in most useful assemblies, for many years to one and the same blessed and eternal godhead; gether, since the restoration, (as many wise a doctrine unanimously received by the catholic and good men shrewdly suspect it was,) is it Christian church, and warranted by the testinot just with God, and may it not, for ought mony of the most ancient, genuine, and unwe know, actually provoke him to 'deprive us exceptionable records or copies of the New of the Christian religion itself? For assuredly, Testament, as well as of the most noted of the that lewd, scandalous, and ungrateful usage, fathers concerning it; and that not only as of which it has (of late years especially) found a single article, but rather as the sum-total of from some of the highest pretenders to it our Christian faith ; and not so much a part amongst us, has not only deserved, but, upon or member, as a full but short compendium too great grounds of reason, seems also to of our religion. And yet, under these high prognosticate and forebode, and even cry out advantages of credibility, we see what oppofor no less a judgment upon the nation. But sition iť met with, both from ancients and howsoever God, whose ways are unsearchable, moderns, of the first sort of which we have shall think fit to dispose of and deal with us, Arius, with his infamous crew, leading the let us not vainly flatter ourselves; but as we van, by questioning the text itself, as if not have been hitherto proving the certainty of a originally extant in some two or three ancient general resurrection, so let us still remember, copies of this epistle ; and of the latter sort, that the day of the resurrection will be as are those innumerable sects and sectaries certainly a day of retribution too, a day, in sprung up since, some of them openly denywhich the proudest and most exalted hypo- | ing, and some of them, whose learning, one crite shall be brought low enough, and even would have thought, might have been better the lowest hypocrites much lower than they employed, slyly undermining this grand fundesire to be ; a day, in which the meanest damental ; and while they seemingly acknowand most abject (if sincere) member of our ledge the truth, as it lies in the bare words of excellent (how much soever struck at and the text, treacherously giving it up in the exmaligned) church, shall be raised to a most plication. happy and glorious condition ; though, whe As for the Socinians, who hold with the ther or no the church itself (God bless it) be, Arians, so far as they oppose us, though not in the meantime, in so flourishing an estate,
in all 'which the Arians assert themselves, (as some would persuade us it is,) I shall not, they have a double refuge. And first, with I must not, presume to determine.
them pretending the doubtfulness of the text, Now to God, the great judge and rewarder they would farther evade it by a new interof men, according to the vileness of their pretation of its sense, affirming, that this exprinciples, as well as the wickedness of their pression, “these three are one,” does not, of practices, be rendered and ascribed, as is most necessity, import an unity of nature, but only due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, of consent; the Father, the Word, and the now and for evermore. Amen.
Holy Ghost, being therefore said to be one, because they jointly and indivisibly carry on one and the same design; all of them jointly concurring in the great work of man's salva
tion. SERMON XLIII.
Thus say they ; but if this were indeed so, THE DOCTRINE OF THE BLESSED TRINITY
and if no more than matter of consent were ASSERTED, AND PROVED NOT CONTRARY
here intended, where then (in God's name) TO REASON.
would be the mystery which the universal
Christian church have all along acknowledged PREACHED BETWEEN THE YEARS 1663 AND 1670, BE to be contained in these words ? For, that
the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, should thus jointly concur in, and carry on,
the grand business of saving mankind, is a “To the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the doctrine, expressing in it nothing mysterious, Father, and of Christ." - Coloss. ii. 2.
unaccountable, or surpassing man's underΕις επίγνωσιν του μυστηρίου του Θεού, και Πατρός, και του standing at all. Χριστού. .
But farther, if unity of consent only were
here intended, why, in all reason, was it exIn the handling and asserting of the doctrine pressed by v tion, that is, they are one thing, of the Trinity, I do not remember any place | being, or nature ; and not rather by sis tó és
FORE THE UNIVERSITY OF OXON.
tlov, “they agree in one ?” as in the very next that a duality, or binary number of Persons verse to this, such an unity of concurrence in in it, would, in a Socinian's account, pass for the spirit, the water, and the blood, is ex no less an absurdity than even a Trinity itself, pressed by the same words, eis tò év gioi, mani the grand article controverted between us and festly importing no identity or unity of nature theni. or being, but only of agreement in some cer The words, therefore, being thus examined tain respect or other, and doubtless, in so very and explained, I shall draw forth the sense of near a neighbourhood and conjunction of them into this one proposition, namely, words, had the sense been perfectly the same, That & plurality of Persons, or personal there can be no imaginable reason given, whý subsistences in the divine nature, is a great the apostle should, in the very same case, thus mystery, and so to be ackuowledged by all have varied the expression.
who really are and profess themselves ChrisBut, for yet a farther assertion of the great tians. truth now insisted upon, this text, out of the The discussion of which shall lie in these Epistle to the Colossians, will as effectually two things, evince the same, as the place before mentioned, I. In shewing what conditions are required though perhaps not quite so plainly, nor to denominate a thing properly“ a mystery.” wholly in the same way; that is to say, it will And, do it by solid inference and just consequence II. In shewing that all these conditions from the words, though not expressly in the meet in the article of the blessed Trinity. very words themselves. And accordingly, we I. And first for the first of these. The conmay consider tliose words, Εις επίγνωσιν του ditions required to constitute and denominate μυστηρίου του Θεού, και Πατρος, και του Χριστού, a thing properly a mystery, are these threetwo different ways, namely,
1. That the thing so denominated be in 1st, As the term to Oécū may be taken itself really true, and not contrary to reason. personally, as in Scripture sometimes it is, 2. That it be a thing above the power and and then it will here signify the Holy Ghost, reach of mere reason to find it out before it be the third person of the blessed Trinity, though revealed. And, not indeed mentioned in this place in the 3. That being revealed, it be yet very difsame order in which the three persons com ficult for, if not above, finite reason fully to monly use to be ; but the order, I conceive, understand and comprehend it. And here, may sometimes be less observed, without any 1. For the first of these conditions: a change in, or detriment to, the article itself. mystery must be a thing really true, and by And so this text, out of the Epistle to the no means contrary to reason. Where let me Colossians, will point out to us the doctrine lay down this rule or maxim, as the groundof the ever-blessed Trinity, as well as that fore work of all that is to follow, to wit, That as alleged place out of Saint Jolin did. But, nothing can be an article of faith that is not
2dly, If the word tow toờ be here taken true, so neither can any thing be true, that is essentially, and for the divine nature only, irrational. Some, indeed, lay this as their then the particle ras will import here properly foundation, That 'men, in matters of religion, a distribution of Toù Osoữ, (signifying the divine are to deny and renounce their reason : but if nature,) as a term common to those two, to so, then let any one declare, why I am bound Πατρός, και του Χριστού, as to two particular | to embrace the Christian religion rather than Persons, distinguished by their respective pro that of Mahomet, or of any other impostor. perties. And so taken, it must be confessed, | And I suppose you will, in the first place, tell that the term to Otoù here will not signify me, because the Christian religion was rethe Person of the Holy Ghost. But granting vealed and attested by God; whereas others, all this, are there not, however, two other opposing it, were not so. To which I answer, Persons in the divine nature manifestly signi- first, that this very thing, that it was thus fied thereby? forasmuch as the Godhead, here attested by God, is the greatest reason for imported by tot ©£oở, is expressly applied both our believing it true in the world, and as conto the Father and the Son, in those words, Toü vincing as any demonstration in the matheμυστηρίου του Θεού, και Πατρος, και του Χριστού. | matics; it being founded upon the essential, And that, I am sure, (should it reach no unfailing veracity of God, who can neither farther,) is a full and irrefragable confutation deceive nor be deceived. But then farther, in of the Socinians, the grand and chief opposers the second place, I ask, how I shall come to of the doctrine now insisted upon. For these know that this is revealed by God? Now men deny not a plurality of Persons in the here, if you will prove this to me, (it being Godhead from any allegation or pretence of matter of fact,) you must have recourse to all some peculiar repugnancy of the number of those grounds upon which reason uses to three to the same, more than of any other believe matters of fact, when past, and accordnumber ; but because they absolutely deny, ingly shew me, how that all these are to be that there can be any more Persons in the found for the divine revelation of the ChrisGodhead than only one. And consequently, tian religion, and not of any other pretending
to oppose or contradict it. And this, I am In answer to this, let it be here observed, sure, is solid and true arguing in the case that this is the constant fallacy that runs before us; and being so, what can it amount through all the arguments of the Socinians in to less, than a just demonstration of the thing this dispute; and all that they urge against a nere intended to be proved? I say, a demon- triple subsistence of the divine nature is still stration proceeding upon principles of moral from instances taken from created natures, certainty; a certainty full and sufficient, and and applied to the divine; and because they such as, being denied, must infallibly draw see this impossible, or at least never exempliafter it as great an absurdity in reference to fied in them, they conclude hence, that it practice, as the denial of any first principle must be so also in this. can do in point of speculation. As for in But this is a gross and apparent error in stance, I look upon the unanimous testimony argumentation ; it being a mere transition a of a competent number of sincere, disinterested genere ad genus, which is to conclude the same eye or ear-witnesses, and, which is more, (in thing of different kinds ; and because this the present case inspired too,) all affirming holds true in things of this nature, to conclude the same thing, to be a ground morally cer hence, that therefore the same must be true tain, why we should believe that thing; for also in things that are of a clean different asmuch as the denial of its certainty would, nature, is a manifest paralogism. amongst many other absurdities, run us upon To all these arguments, therefore, I oppose this great one, that we can have no assurance this
one, I think, pot irratioual consideration, or certain knowledge of any thing, but what that it is a thing very agreeable even to the we ourselves have personally seen, heard, or notions of bare reason to imagine, that the observed with our own senses; which asser divine nature has a way of subsisting very tion, if stuck to, would be as absurd and different from the subsistence of any created inconvenient in the transactions of common being. For inasmuch as nature and subsislife, as to deny that two and two make four tence go to the making up of a person, why in arithmetic. And in good earnest it will be may not the way of their subsistence be quite very hard (if possible) to assign any other as different as their natures are confessed to sufficient reason, why our Saviour, in Mark, be? one nature being infinite, the other finite. xvi. 14, upbraided some with their unbelief, And therefore, though it be necessary in things as inexcusable, only for not believing those created (as no one instance appears to the conwho had seen him after he was risen.
trary) for one single essence to subsist in one In short, the ultimate object of faith is single person, and no more, does this at all divine revelation ; that is, I believe such a prove, that the same must be also necessary in thing to be true, because it is revealed by God: God, whose nature is wholly different from but then, my reason must prove to me that it theirs, and consequently may differ as much is revealed ; so that, this way, reason is that in the manner of his subsistence, and so may into which all religion is at last resolved. have one and the same nature diffused into
And let me add a little farthe that no one three distinct persons ? This one covsideratruth can possibly contradict another truth; tion, I say, well weighed and applied, will refor if two truths might contradict, then two tund the edge and dint of all the Socinian contradictions might be true. And therefore, assaults against this great article ; whom I if it be true in Christian religion, that one have still observed to assert boldly, when they nature may subsist in three persons, the same conclude weakly, and in all their arguments cannot be false in reason. Thus much I con
to prove nothing more than this, that the fess, that, take the thing abstract from divine greatest pretenders to, are not always the revelation, there is nothing in reason able to greatest masters of, reasoni. prove that there is such a thing ; but then this But here, before I dismiss this particular, I also is as true, that there is nothing in reason shall observe this, that for a man to prove & able to disprove it, and to evince it to be im- thing clearly, is to bring it, by certain and possible.
apparent consequence, from some principle in But you will say, that for the same thing to itself known and evident, and granted by all ; be three and one is a contradiction, and there otherwise it would not be a demonstration, fore reason cannot but conclude it impossible. but an infinite progress. I answer, that for a thing to be one in that Now, this being supposed, in case any one very respect in which it is three, is a contra shall so disprove the Trinity, as to shew that diction ; but to assert, that that which is one it really contradicts some such principle of in this respect may be three in another, is no reason evident in itself, and universally contradiction.
granted by the unprejudiced apprehensions of But you will reply, that the single nature mankind, I should not be afraid to expunge of any person
incommunicable to another, this article out of my creed, and to discharge as the essence of Peter is circumscribed within any man living from a necessity of believing the person of Peter, and so cannot be commu it : for God cannot enjoin any thing absurd nicated to Paul.
or impossible. But for any man to assent to
two contradictory propositions, as true, while reason, but received them from others by trahe perceives them to be contradictory, is the dition, who themselves first had them from first-born of impossibilities.
revelation. But, secondly, to the case in hand, Reason, therefore, is undeservedly and igno- I answer more fully, that it cannot be denied, rantly traduced, when it is set up and shot at, but that some Christians have endeavoured to as the irreconcilable enemy of religion. It defend the truth imprudently and unwaris indeed the very cr:)wn and privilege of our rantably, by bad arts, and falsifying of ancient nature- a ray of civinity sent into a mortal writers; and that such places as speak of the body- the star that guides all wise men to Trinity are spurious, or at least suspicious ; as Christ—the lautern that leads the eye of faith, the whole book that now goes under the name and is no more an enemy to it, than an obe of Trismegistus, called his Pæmander, may dient handmaid to a discreet mistress. Those, justly be supposed to be. indeed, whose tenets will not bear the test of But that we may a little aid and help out it, and whose ware goes off best in the dark our apprehensions in conceiving of this great rooms of ignorance and credulity, and whose mystery, let us endeavour to see whether, upon faith has as much cause to dread a discovery the grounds and notions of reason, we can as their works,-these, I say, may decry rea frame to ourselves any thing that may carry son, and that indeed not without reason. in it some shadow and resemblance at least
For ask such, upon what grounds they be- of one single, undivided nature's casting itself lieve the truth of Christian religion, whereas into three subsistences, without receding from others so much oppose it; and here, instead | its own unity. And for this purpose, we may of rational inducements and solid arguments, represent to ourselves an infinite rational mind, we shall have long harangues of the “ kingdom which, considered under the first and original of Jesus Christ,” of “ rolling upon the pro- perfection of being or existence, may be called mises,” of the “spirit of assurance," and the the Father, inasmuch as the perfection of “preciousness of gospel dispensations," with existence is the first and productive of all many other such like words, as shew that they others. Secondly, in the same infinite mind have followed their own advice to others, and may be considered the perfection of underwholly renounced their reason themselves. standing, as being the first great perfection
But I cannot think or persuade myself, that that issues from the perfection of existence, God gave us eyes only that we may pluck and so may be called the Son, who also is them out, and brought us into the world with called ó óyos, the Word, as being the first reason, that being born men, we might after- emanation of that infinite mind. And then, wards grow up and improve into brutes, and thirdly, when that infinite mind, by its unbecome elaborately irrational. No, surely ; derstanding, reflects upon its own essential reason is both the gift and image of God; and perfections, there cannot but ensue an act of every degree of its improvement is a farther volition and complacency in those perfections, degree of likeness to him. And though I can- | arising from such an intellectual reflection not judge it a fʻ. saying for a dying Christian upon them, which may be called the Holy to make, tha: wish of Averroes, “Sit anima Ghost, who therefore is said to proceed both mea cum pislosophis ;" yet, while he lives, I from the Father and the Son, because there think no Christian onglit to be ashamed to must be not only existence, but also underwisli, “Sit avima mea cum philosophia.” standing, before there can be love and volition. And for all these boastings of new lights, in Here, then, we see, that one and the same beamings, and inspirations, that man that mind is both being, understanding, and willing ; follows his reason, both in the choice and and yet we can neither say that being is uudefence of his religion, will find himself better derstanding, nor that understanding is willing; led and directed by this one guide, than by a nor, on the contrary, that understanding is hundred directories. And thus much for the merely being, nor that willing is understandfirst condition.
ing; forasmuch as the proper natural concep2. The second condition required to deno tion of one is not the conception of the other, minate a thing properly a mystery is, That it nor yet commensurate to it. And this I probe above the reach of reason to find it out, pose, neither as a full explication, nor much and that it be first knowable only by revela less as a just representation of this great tion. This, I suppose, I shall not be called mystery ; but only (as I intimated before, upon to prove; it being a thing clear in itself. and intend no more now) as some remote and
But we have been told by some, that there faint resemblance or adumbration thereof. are some hints and traces of the article of the For still this is and must be acknowledged Trinity to be found in some heathen writers, inconceivably above the reach and ken of any as Trismegistus aud Plato, who are said to human intellect ; and as a depth, in which make mention of it. To which I answer, first, the tallest reason may swim, and, it it ventures that if there do occur such hints of a Trinity too far, may chance to be swallowed up too. in such writers, yet it follows not hence, that Nay, I think that it was a thing, not only they owed them to the invention of their own locked up from the researches of reason,
amongst those that were led only by reason, relate distinctly to the three hypostases of the I mean the Gentiles, but that it was also con Godhead. But this is thought by others to cealed from, or at best but obscurely known have so little of an argument in it, as scarce by the Jewish church. And Peter Galatine to merit any answer; it being so usual with assigns a reason, why God was not pleased to all nations and languages to express any thing give the Jews any express revelation of this vehement or extraordinary by thrice repeating
mystery, namely, that people's great stupi- | the word used by them : suitable to which are .dity and grossness of apprehension, together those expressions that occur in classic authors, with their exceeding proneness to idolatry ; as, “ Tergeminis tollit honoribus,” and “O ter by reason of the former of which, they would felices,” and “ Illi robur et æs triplex circa have been apt to entertain very uncouth and pectus erat," with infinite the like instances ; mistaken conceptions of the "Godhead and in all which, the manner of speaking serves the three Persons, as if they had been three only to express the greatness of the thing distinct Gods, and thereupon to have been spoke of. So that these and such like places easily induced to an idolatrous worship and of Scripture carry not in them any such eviopinion of them; and therefore, that the un dent proof of the Trinity, as to persuade us folding of this mystery was reserved till the that the Jewish church could from hence days of the Messias, by which time the world arrive to any clear knowledge of this article. should, by a long increase of knowledge, grow The forementioned Galatine indeed affirms the more and more refined, and prepared for the Talmudists to speak several things concerning reception of this so sublime and mysterious an it very plainly; and from hence concludes, article.
that in regard the Talmud is a collection of This was his reason for God's concealing it the several sayings and writiugs of the old from the Jews; for that God did so, the Old Jewish doctors upon the Old Testament, it Testament, which is the great ark and reposi must import, that since they wrote such things tory of the Jewish religion, seems sufficiently of the Trinity and the Messias, there was then to declare ; there being no text in it, that a kuowledge of these things in the Jewish plainly and expressly holds forth a Trinity of church. But I fear the authority of those Persons in the Godhead. Several texts are Talmudical writings will weigh so little in indeed urged for that purpose, though (what this case, that if the letter of the Scripture ever they may allude to) they seem not yet will not otherwise speak a Trinity, but as it to be of that force and evidence, as to infer | is helped out and expounded by the Talmud, what some undertake to prove by them. few sober persons will seek for it there. The
only solid proof, that makes toward the evic1. Those words in the first of Genesis, Bara tion of a Trinity from thence, I conceive to Elohim ; where Elohim signifying God, and lie in those texts that prove the divine nature being of the plural number, is joined with of the Messias, whose coming was then exbara, creavit, a verb of the singular. Whence pected by all the Jews. Otherwise, surely, some collect, that the former word imports a the knowledge of this article could but very plurality of persons, and the latter an unity obscurely be gathered from the bare writings of essence. But others deny that any such of Moses and the prophets, and consequently peculiar meaning ought or can be gathered was by no means received with that explicitfrom that which is indeed no more than an ness in the ancient Jewish church, that it is idiom and propriety of the Hebrew language. now in the Christian. So that Elohim, applied to others besides God, As for the opinion of the modern Jews is often joined with a singular number. touching this matter, we shall find, that these
2. Another place alleged for the same pur acknowledge no such thing as a Trinity, but pose is that in Gen. i. 26, “Let us make man utterly reject and explode it. And as for the in our own image;" where they say, that Mahometan religion, (which, being a gallithere is a consultation amongst many persons maufry made up of many, partakes much of in the Godhead. But to this also it is the Jewish,) that also wholly denies it ; and answered, that the term, “ Let us make," does the professors of it, in all their public pernot of necessity imply any plurality, but formances of religious worship, with much may import only the majesty of the speaker, zeal and earnestness frequently reiterate and kings and princes being accustomed to speak repeat this article, “There is but one God, of themselves in the plural number: as, there is but one God;" not so much out of will and require you,” and,“ It is our royal zeal to assert the unity of the Godhead, as to will and pleasure.” This is the common exclude the Trinity of Persons maintained by dialect of kings; and yet it iufers in the the Christians. speaker no plurality, for then surely a king I conclude, therefore, that it is very probable would speak very unlike a monarch.
that the discovery of this mystery was a 3. There is a third place also, in Isa. vi. 3, privilege reserved to bless the times of Chriswhere the threefold
repetition of holy, holy, tianity withal, and that the Jews had either holy," applied to God, is urged by some to none, or but a very weak and confused know.
Such as are,