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Thus, let every man look with a severe and impartial eye into all the distinct regions of the heart, and no doubt several deformities and irregularities that he never thought of will open and disclose themselves upon so near a view, and rather make the man ashamed of himself than proud.
Secondly, A due improvement in the knowledge of ourselves doth certainly secure us from the sly and insinuating assaults of flattery. There is not in the world a baser and more hateful thing than flattery: it proceedeth from so much falseness and insincerity in the man that giveth it, and often discovereth so much weakness and folly in the man that taketh it, that it is hard to tell which of the two is most to be blamed. Every man of common sense can demonstrate in speculation, and may be fully convinced that all the praises and commendations of the whole world can add no more to the real and intrinsic value of a man, than they can add to his stature. And yet for all this, men of the best sense and piety, when they come down to the practice, cannot forbear thinking much better of themselves, when they have the good fortune to be spoken well of by other persons.
But the meaning of this absurd proceeding seemeth to be no other than this: there are few men that have so intimate an acquaintance with their own hearts as to know their own real worth, and how to set a just rate upon themselves, and therefore they do not know but that he who praises them most may be most in the right of it. For no doubt, if a man were ignorant of the true value of a thing he loved as well as himself, he would measure the worth of it according to the esteem of him who biddeth most for it, rather than of him that biddeth less.
Therefore, the most infallible way to disentangle a man from the snares of flattery is, to consult and study his own heart; for whoever does that well, will hardly be so absurd as to take another man's word before his own sense and experience.
Thirdly, Another advantage from this kind of study is this, that it teacheth a man how to behave himself patiently when he has the ill fortune to be censured and abused by other people. For a man who is thoroughly acquainted with his own heart, doth already know more evil of himself than anybody else can tell him; and when any
1 one speaketh ill of him, he rather thanketh God that he can say no worse; for could his enemy but look into the dark and hidden recesses of the heart, he considereth what a number of impure thoughts he might there see brooding and hovering like a dark cloud upon
the face of the soul; that there he might take a prospect of the fancy, and view it acting over the several scenes of pride, of ambition, of envy, of lust, and revenge; that there he might tell how often a vicious inclination hath been restrained, for no other reason, but just to save the man's credit or interest in the world; and how many unbecoming ingredients have entered into the composition of his best actions. And now, what man in the whole world would be able to bear so severe a test ? to have every thought and inward motion of the heart laid open and exposed to the views of his enemies? But,
Fourthly, and lastly, Another advantage of this kind is, that it maketh men less severe upon other people's faults, and less busy and industrious in spreading them. For a man employed at home inspecting into his own failings, hath no leisure to take notice of every
little spot and blemish that lieth scattered upon others; or, if he cannot escape the sight of them, he always passes the most easy and favorable construction upon them. Thus for instance, does the ill he knoweth of a man proceed from an unhappy temper and constitution of body? he then considereth with himself how hard a thing it is, not to be borne down with the current of the blood and spirits; and accordingly layeth some part of the blame upon the weakness of human nature, for he hath felt the force and rapidity of it within his own breast; although perhaps, in another instance, he remembereth how it rageth and swelleth by opposition; and although it may be restrained or diverted for a while, yet it can hardly ever be totally subdued.
Or, has the man sinned out of custom ? he then from his own experience, traceth a habit into the very first rise and imperfect beginnings of it; and can tell by how slow and insensible advances it creepeth upon the heart; how it worketh itself by degrees into the very frame and texture of it, and so passeth into a second nature; and consequently he hath a just sense of the great difficulty for him to learn to do good, who hath been long accustomed to do evil.
Or, lastly, hath a false opinion betrayed him into a sin? he then calleth to mind what wrong apprehensions he hath made of some things himself, how many opinions that he once made no doubt of, he hath upon a stricter examination found to be doubtful and uncertain; how many more to be unreasonable and absurd. He knoweth further, that there are a great many more opinions that he hath never yet examined into at all, and which, however, he still believeth, for no other reason but because he hath believed them so long alromig without a reason.
Thus, upon every occasion, a man intimately acquainted with himself consulteth his own heart, and maketh every man's case to be his own, and so puts the most favorable interpretation upon it. Let every man therefore look into his own heart before he beginneth to abuse the reputation of another; and then he will hardly be so absurd as to throw a dart that will so certainly rebound and wound himself. And thus, through the whole course of his conversation, let him keep an eye upon that one great comprehensive rule of Christian duty, on which hangeth, not only the law and the prophets, but the
very life and spirit of the gospel too: “Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them.” Which rule that we may all duly observe, by throwing aside all scandal and detraction, all spite and rancor, all rudeness and contempt, all rage and violence, and whatever tendeth to make conversation and commerce either uneasy or troublesome, may the God of peace grant, for Jesus Christ his sake, &c.
Consider what hath been said; and the Lord give you a right understanding in all things. To whom, with the Son and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, now and for ever.
SERMON THE SECOND.
ON THE TRINITY.
FIRST EPISTLE GENERAL OF JOHN, v. 7
For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy
Ghost : and these Three are One.
This day being set apart to acknowledge our belief in the eternal Trinity, I thought it might be proper to employ my present discourse 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 well-meaning 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 much, and made Christianity suffer along with it. 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, they presently conclude that the truth of the whole gospel must sink along with that one article. Which is just as wise as if a man should
say, because he dislikes one law of his country, he will therefore observe no law at all; and yet that one law may
very reasonable in itself, although he does not allow 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 the 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 same 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; and as to those other explanations in the Athanasian Creed, this day read to you, (whether compiled by Athanasius or not,) they were taken up three hundred years after Christ to 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 Savior to be God, although they allowed all the rest of the gospel; wherein they were more sincere than their followers among us.
Thus the Christian world was divided into two parts; till at length, by the zeal and courage of St. Athanasius, the Arians were condemned in a general council, and a creed formed upon the true faith, as St. Athanasius hath settled 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 comprehend, the bulk of mankind is obliged to believe no more than the Scripture doctrine, as I have already 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 about a 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 further explanations of this doctrine of the Trinity by rules of philosophy; which have multiplied controversies to such a degree, as to beget scruples that have perplexed the minds of many sober Christians, who otherwise could never have entertained them.
I must therefore be 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
For instance: if I should be commanded by an angel from heaven to believe it is midnight at noonday, 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 expression, but must suppose that something dark or mystical 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, &c.” 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 Scripture, that there is but one God; and yet I find our Savior claiming the prerogative of God in knowing men's thoughts, in saying, “He and his father are one;” and “ before Abraham was, I am.” I read that the disciples worshipped him; that Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God;" and St. 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 power of working miracles and the gift of tongues, which, if rightly considered, is as great a miracle as any,—that a number of illiterate men should 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 alone. From these several texts, it is plain that God commands us to believe that there is a 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 least till the day of judgment, without some new revelation,
But because I cannot conceive the nature of this union and distinction in the divine nature, am I therefore to reject them as absurd and impossible, as I would if any one told me that three men are one, and one man is three? We are told that a man and his wife