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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 no,) they were taken up three hundred years after Chrift, to expound this doctrine; and I will tell you upon what occasion. About that time, there sprang up a herefy 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 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. Athanafius, the Arians were condemned in a general council, and a creed formed upon the true faith, as St. Athanasius 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 comprehend, the bulk of mankind is obliged to believe no more than the scripture-doctrine, as I have delivered it; because that creed was intend
ed 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 an hundred years ago, and continued ever fince; 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 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 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 fincere, 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 fense 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, pofsibly, 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 Saviour claiming the prerogative of God, in knowing mens 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 gift of tongues, and the power of working miracles; 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 * In defending the peculiar doctrines of Christianity, perhaps it is always best to insist upon the positive 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;
I for, This
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 fo, 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 abfurd 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 are one flesh; this I can comprehend the meaning of; yet, li. terally taken, it is a thing impossible. But, the apostle tells us, We see but in part, and we know but in part : and yet, we would comprehend all the fecret ways and workings of God.
Therefore, I shall again repeat the doctrine of the Trinity, as it is positively affirmed in scripture : That God is there expressed in three different names, as Father, as Son, and as Holy Ghost; that each of these is God, and that there is but one God. But this union and distinction are a mystery, utterly unknown to mankind.
for, that a body must move, either in the place in which it is, or in the place in which it is not; but, both being impossible, there could be no motion. The objection the philofopher immediately removed, by walking cross the room. And, if none were to triumph in the strength of popular objections against Christianity, but those who could otherwise shew the fallacy of this against motion, the number of moral philosophers among us would probably be very few. Hawkes.
This is enough for any good Christian to be. lieve, on this great article, without ever enquiring any farther. And this can be contrary to no man's reason, although the knowledge of it is hid from him.
But there is another difficulty, of great imports ance among those who quarrel with the doctrine of the Trinity, as well as with feveral other articles of Christianity; which is, That our religion abounds in mysteries; and these they are so bold to revile as cant, impofture, and priestcraft. It is impossible for us to determine, for what reasons God thought fit to communicate some things to us in part, and leave some part a mystery: but so it is in fact, and so the holy scriptures tell us in several places. For instance, the resurrection and change of our bodies, are called mysteries by St. Paul; our Saviour's incarnation is another. The kingdom of God is called a mystery by our Saviour, to be only known to his disciples ; fo is faith, and the word of God, by St. Paul. I omit many others. So that, to declare against all mysteries, without distinction or exception, is to declare against the whole tenor of the New Testament.
There are two conditions that may bring a mystery under fufpicion : First, When it is not taught and commanded in holy writ: Or, secondly, When the mystery turns to the advantage of those who preach it to others. Now, as to the first, It can never be said, that we preach mysteVOL. II.