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1 Epift. Gen. of St. John v. 7. For there are three that bear record in heaven,

the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghoft; and these Three are One.

THIS day being fet a-part to acknowledge

our belief in the Eternal Trinity, I thought it might be proper to employ my prefent difcourse entirely upon that subject ; and I hope to handle it in such a manner, that the most ignorant among you may return home better informed of your duty in this great point, than probably you are at present.

It must be confessed, that, by the weakness and indiscretion of busy (or at best, of wellmeaning) people, as well as by the malice of those who are enemies to all revealed religion, and are not content to possess their own infidelity in silence, without communicating it to the disturbance of mankind; I say, by these means, it must be confessed, that the doctrine of the Trinity hath suffered very 5


much, and made christianity suffer along with iț. For these two things must be granted : first, That men of wicked lives would be very glad there were no truth in christianity at all; and secondly, If they can pick out any one single article, in the christian religion, which appears not agreeable to their own corrupted reason, or to the arguments of those bad people, who follow the trade of seducing others, thcy presently conclude, that the truth of the whole gospel must sink along with that one article. Which is just as wife, as if a man should say, because he disikes one law, of his country, he will therefore observe no taw at all; and yet, that one law may be very reasonable in itself, although he does not al. low it, or does not know the reason of the lawgivers.

Thus it hath happened with the great doctrine of the Trinity; which word is indeed not in scripture, but was a term of art invented in the earlier times, to express the doctrine by a single word, for the sake of brevity and convenience. The doctrine then as delivered in holy scripture, though not exactly in the fame words, is very short, and-amounts only to this ; that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, are each of them God, and yet there is but One God. For as to the word Person, when we say there are three persons ;

to those other explanations in the Athanafian creed this day read to you (whether compiled by Athanafus or no) they were taken up three hundred years after Christ to


and as

expound this doctrine; and I will tell you upon what occasion. About that time there sprang up a heresy of people called Arians, from one Arius the leader of them. These denied our Saviour to be God, although they

allowed all the rest of the gospel (wherein - they were more fincere than their followers

among us). Thus the christian world was die vided into two parts, till at length, by the zeal and courage of Saint Athanasius, the Arians were condemned in a general council, and a creed formed upon the true faith, as St. Athanafius hath fettled it. This creed is now read at certain times in our churches, which, although it is useful for edification to those who understand it, yet, since it contains some nice and philosophical points which few people can compelend, the bulk of mankind is obliged to believe no inore than the fcripTure doctrine, as I have delivered it. Because that creed was intended only as an answer to the Arians in their own way, who were very subtle disputers.

But this heresy having revived in the world abont an hundred years ago, and continued ever since; not out of a zeal to truth, but to give a loose to wickedness by throwing off all religion ; several divines, in order to answer the cavils of those adversaries to truth and morality, began to find out farther explanati. ons of this doctrine of the Trinity by rules of philofophy · which have multiplied cor, troversies to such a degree, as to beget fcru: ples that have perplexed the minds of mariĝ


fober christians, who otherwise could never have entertained them.

I must therefore be so bold to affirm, that the method taken by many of those learned men to defend the doctrine of the Trinity, hath been founded upon a mistake.

It must be allowed, that every man is bound to follow the rules and directions of that measure of reason which God hath given him ; and, indeed, he cannot do otherwise, if he will be sincere or act like a man. For instance : if I should be commanded by an angel from heaven to believe it is midnight at noon-day; yet I could not believe him. So if I were directly told in scripture that three are one, and one is three, I could not conceive or believe it in the natural common sense of that expreffion, but must suppose that something dark or myftical was meant, which it pleased God to conceal from me and from all the world. Thus in the text, There are three that bear record, etc. am I capable of knowing and defining, what union and what distinction there may be in the divine nature, which, possibly, may be hid from the angels themselves ? Again, I see it plainly declared in {cripture, that there is but one God; and yet I find our Saviour claiming the prerogative of God in knowing men's thoughts; in faying, He and his father are one; and, before Abraham was, I am. I read, that the disci. ples worshiped him: That Thomas said to him, My Lord and my God: and Saint John, chap. i, In the beginning was the word, and


the word was with God, and the word was God. I read, likewise, that the Holy Ghost bestowed the gift of tongues, and the power of working miracles, which, if rightly confidered, is as great a miracle as any, that a number of illiterate men shoule', of a sudden, be qualified to speak all the languages then known in the world, such as could be done by the inspiration of God [x] alone. From these several texts it is plain, that God commands us to believe there is an union, and there is a distinction ; but what that union, or what that distinction is, all mankind are equally ignorant, and must continue so, at

[x] In defending the peculiar do&trines of chriftianity perhaps it is always beft to infift upon the pofitive evidence, as the Dean has done in this sermon : for in every question he who undertakes to obviate objections must necessarily be foiled by him who puts them. By the human intellect little more than the surface of things can be known; and therefore speculative objections, which would puzzle an able philosopher, may be easily raised even against those truths which admit of practical demonstration. It was once objected to a philosopher, who was explaining the laws of motion, that there could be no such thing, for that a body mult move either in the place in which it is, or in the place in which it is not ; but both being impossiblt, there could be no motion : this objection the philofopher immediately removed by walking cross the room ; and, if none were to triumph in the firength of popular objections against christianity, but those who could otherwise shew the fallacy his against motion, tbe number of moral philosophers among us would probably be very few.


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