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LETTERS

ADDRESSED TO

CANDIDATES FOR HOLY ORDERS,

IN THE

EPISCOPAL CHURCH OF SCOTLAND.

LETTER I.

THE religion of Christians is founded upon the assured belief of ONE, SUPREME, SELF-EXISTENT ESSENCE, the first cause, and sole creator of heaven, and of earth, and of all things visible, and invisible.

This belief, though consonant to the universal reason of mankind, is not originally deducible, from that reason, or from what is commonly termed The Light of Nature. It was early taught to man, by express and immediate revelation from the CREATOR himself. It was manifested to the first ages of mankind by visible and emblematical representations. It was renewed “ at sundry times " and in divers manners” by the same infallible Teacher, as his infinite wisdom saw to be most

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conducive to man's instruction; and it was, at last, fully and finally established by a continued chain of inspired writings, from Moses, down to Christ and his apostles. These writings, to distinguish them from all others, are called THE SCRIPTURES OF THE OLD AND New TESTAMENTS; and from them alone, carefully preserved, and handed down, as they have been, to our times, do we derive our firm belief of that One Supreme self-eristent Essence',

by whom and of whom are all things,” and that imperfect knowledge, which our limited faculties can have of him.

But from the general tenour of these scriptures, as well as from particular and apposite declarations, we are taught to believe, and we do stedfastly, I trust, and sincerely believe, that in this One Supreme and self-eristent Essence, to whom, in the language of the Old Testament, is given the income municable name JEHOVAH; and to whom, in our language, is given the communicable appellation God, there do, from all eternity, subsist THREE, whom we call Persons, of equal Substance, Power and Eternity; and to whom the divine economy, as revealed to us, has assigned the official titles of Father, Word or Son, and Holy Spirit : thus constituting and presenting to our faith, an incomprehensible Trinity of Persons, without any inequality or inferiority in the equally incomprehensible Unity of Essence. For, admitting that the being of a God was discoverable by human reason, it is unquestionably above the capacity of human reason to fathom the whole extent of such being; and it is no more possible to form an adequate idea of what the philosopher terms an absolute Unity, than it is possible to form an idea of what the christian believes, a revealed Trinity.

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i l use the terms Supreme Essence, rather than the philosophical title, Supreme Being. I know, that, radically, they both mean the same thing. But I find Dr. Clarke and his metaphysical followers, either forming to themselves, or taking hold of, an ambiguity in the term “ Being." For they endeavour to confound Person and Being together, by telling us that Persan means an intelligent being ; a matter, which they say, that we cannot, and the fact is, that we do not deny. On this subtle definition, however, they build what constitutes their · Jugulum Causæ ;' that, according to what is esteemed orthodox doctrine, “ in one intelligent being there are three intelligent beings," or " that three intelligent beings are one intelligent being ;" whereas the term Essence, being more descriptive of the Hebrew names Jau and JEHOVAH, and implying, even in human conception, somewhat more than the simple idea of being amounts to, prevents that sophism, by fixing, at once, a proper and necessary distinction between Essence srce, and Person, únosæcos, a distinction which was so much agitated in the age of the Arian controversy, and which is now totally overlooked by the Unitarian of modern times.

How absurd, nay how fraudulent is it, therefore, in the Unitarian reasoner, to be still requiring of the 'Trinitarian believer, what he himself has never yet produced, and never will be able to produce, in corroboration of his own belief, viz. a clear and satisfactory conception of the existence of the divine Essence, in any form or mode which he may be pleased to fancy! While, on the other hand, it is humbly thought, that there do erist some sensible representations, which may enable the sound and

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orthodox christian to form some kind of conception, although, by reason of his own natural imperfection, far from being either clear or adequate, of this fundamental article of his faith---a Trinity in Unity. Thus, in the structure of the material heavens, which were made, in order to " declare " the glory of God',” philosophy finds a threefold subsistence and distinction of fire, light, and air, in the unity of one created substance. And even within ourselves, in the corporeal part of our compound frame, we perceive, in strict analogy with this triune subsistence in the material heavens, a threefold operation and distinction of senses, in one and the same subject, by which we feel the fire, we see the light, and we hear the air or wind. Philosophy also discovers, and man's own experience justifies a threefold faculty of will, memory, and understanding, in the one substance of his spiritual part, the soul : all or either of which

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be considered as conveying a funt representation, though not an adequate description of the subsistence of a Trinity of Persons in the Unity of the divine Essence. For it must be confessed that this divine mystery is no less inscrutable to the mind of man, than it is ineffable to his language ; insomuch that the various modes of explaining it hare never altogether answered the end in view, nor cleared up

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1 Psalm xix, 1. 2 See a little Tract,'in the editor's opinion, decisive on this subject, written by the late Rev. Wm. Jones of Nayland, and entitled “The “ Trinitarian Analogy."

the difficulties, which misapplied ingenuity, and wantonness of imagination, are ever eager to start concerning it,

Full of some expressions to be met with in the Post-Nicene Fathers of the christian church, a majority of modern writers on this subject have held, that the first person is really the fountain of Deity : (though, be it observed, the common language of first, second, and third persons, is not scripture language) and

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this account have termed him the eternal father: that the second person is, from all eternity, generated or begotten by the first, and upon that account is the eternal son ; and that the third, eternally, proceeds from the first alone, as the Greek church believes, or from the first and second, according to the Western church, and is the eternal spirit. Others again, convinced that such a way of explaining the matter is insufficient to stop the mouths of gainsayers, seem inclined, (with all due deference to the great names who have favoured it) to abandon this scheme of explication ; inasmuch as they suspect, that it implies what the adversaries of the doctrine of a Trinity have affirmed it to imply, viz. a SUBORDINATION, or INFERIORITY, contrary to the revealed accounts, and contrary to the received notions of the divine

perfections. For this reason, what scripture declarations appear to favour this scheme, they would and do attribute not to the divine nature, but to that æconomy, or covenanted plan of grace and mercy,

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