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authentic, and the other has quite a different sense; when he cavils at this term because it is not precisely and expressly written in scripture, and will express the same truth in no terms at all, nor mention any one argument that is sufficient to prove it, I think that man gives too just a suspicion that he is no great friend to that doctrine ; and if be should tell me I have no reason to deny his orthodoxy, yet I am sure at best, there is reason enough to doubt of his prudence. But to proceed to my design:
The method which I have chosen is what the learned called “ analytic." Beginning with the first and plainest principle of natural religion, and then, supposing the revelation of scripture, I have attempted to lead my reader onward to the most easy and yet most satisfying evidence of this glorious mystery of the gospel. Nor did I think it necessary to stand still often to observe and answer every objection. For these many times break in upon the order of a discourse, and divert the mind from the train of argument ; and as Doctor Knight well observes in the preface to his late sermons on this subject. “ Objecting is endless; the pursuit of which wearies the mind, draws it too far from the main argument, and is apt to leave it in confusion and obscurity. Honest hearts and common understanding, whose concern is greater to discern truth, tban to know the multiform windings of error, being once convinced of the goodness of the proofs that infer a doctrine, will be satisfied therewith, though they be not qualified to return an answer to every objector : For they well know ihat objections must fall, where the proofs of a doctrine are clear and conclusive."
I confess my thoughts sometimes ran out too far in a defence of some occasional positions, or incidental truths; but upon a review I have cut them all off from the body of this discourse, least the thread of it should be too much interrupted, and have reserved them to be published in distinct essays or dissertations, if it be found needful.
After all our labours and studies, it is the good Spirit of God alone, who can lead us into all truth. If he please he can bless this liule treatise which is the fruit of retirement, labour and prayer, and make it useful to instruct the ignorant, to settle the wavering, to guard those that are tempted, and to recover those that have gone astray. To this end I entreat my readers, that since it is but a little book, they would begin and read it throogh, that they may see all the parts of it in their proper connexion. Then I presume they will not take offence at any single sentence, which if separated from the rest of the work, mighs perhaps have given surprize or disgust to the weaker christians.
I conclude with an ardent address to heaven, that the sacred mysteries of our religion, and particularly this doctrine, which contains in it, and carries with it the substance and glory of the gospel, may prevail over all the clouds and powers of error. O may it never more be profaned by angry disputes and fruitless janglings ! But be humbly received and piously improved, in order to pay all necessary honours and duties to the sacred Three, which is the great design for which this doctrine was revealed : And thereby we sbal} eftectually secure and evidence our own interest in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of the Father, and the communion of the holy Spirit. Amen.
THE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY.
THERE are many thousands of souls brought to the saving knowledge of God, and trained up for heaven by the various revelations which God gave to mankind before our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world. His own counsels and contrivances wrought powerfully for the salvation both of the patriarchs and the Jews under those darker dispensations, without their particular and explicit knowledge of those divine methods whereby that very salvation was to be effected. These were reserved as a mystery hidden from ages and generations to be revealed by the gospel in these later times. Therefore the gospel is called the “ revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest by a clear interpretation of the scriptures of the prophets, and made known to all nations for the obedience of faith ;" Rom. xvi. 25, 26. that is, that the nations might shew their obedience to a revealing God, by believing this doctrine now it is clearly revealed, and the prophets are explained.
It is the gospel that teaches us how God the Father sent his own Son to assume human nature, and therein to fulfil all righteousness, and to make full satisfaction for our sins by his sufferings and death, in order to restore us to the favour of God. It is the gospel that tells us how our Lord Jesus Christ ascended to heaven, and receiving from the Father the promise of the Spirit, sends bím down to renew our natures to holiness, and to restore us to the image of God. And it is the gospel that calls us to believe or trust in this Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in order to be restored to the favour of God by his death and righteousness, and to be renewed after the divine image, by the operations of his holy Spirit
Thus we are taught by the gospel, what hand the Son and Spirit have in our salvation as well as the Father. The Father appears here as our sovereign and offended governor, condescending to be reconciled, and appointing this method for our recovery: The Son of God appears as a Redeemer or Reconciler; and the Spirit of God' as a Sanctifier; and we are taught to get an actual interest in these blessings by faith.
Cpon this account, when we are admitted into the profession of the christian faithi, the names of the Father, the Son, and the holy Spirit, are joined together in the very ceremony of Vol. VI.
admission. We are baptized with this form of words, according to the institution of Christ ; Mat. xxviii. 19. “ Go teach all pations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost,"
Thus though the ancient Jews and patriarchs might be saved without an explicit koowledge of the special methods of this salvation, and the divine persons concerned in it, because they were not clearly revealed; yet since these are clearly revealed to us by Christ and his apostles in the New Testament, and appointed to be a part both of our faith and our profession, it is evident that some knowledge of these divine persons, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, and their several sacred offices, or an acquaintance with the doctrine of the blessed Trinity, is now become a necessary part of our religion : So that I know not how any man can properly be called a christian without it.
It is certain, indeed, and must be confessed, that this sacred doctrine of the Trinity has some great and upsearchable difficulties which attend the full explication of it, such as the wisest men in all ages have found too hard and too bigh for their comprehension ; and yet it is as certain, that so much of this doctrine as is necessary to salvation, is plainly revealed in scripture, and easy to be understood ; that the unlearned, and persons of the meanest capacity, may attain the knowledge of it: For the high way to heaven, which was to be revealed under the gospel, must be marked out with such plainness and evidence, «that the way-faring men, though fools, shall not err therein;" Is. XXXV. 8.
It shall be my business therefore, at present, to lead the unlearned christian, by soft and easy steps, into this mystery, so far as may furnish him with a sufficient knowledge of it for his own salvation, and shew him how to confirm and maintain his belief of it by the plain evidence of scripture, and to secure him from making shipwreck of his faith in the day of temptation. And I shall attempt to do all this without perplexing and embarrassing his mind with any of those various mazes of scheme and hypothesis, which men of learning have invented to explain and defend this sacred article of the christian faith.
The way wherein I shall pursue this design is, by laying down the following propositions :
I. There is a God.
II. This God is the Creator of all things, the first and tlie eternal Being, the greatest, the wiscst, and the best of beings, the sovereign Lord and Disposer of all his works, the righteous Governor of his intellectual creatures, and the proper object of their worship
III. There is, and there can be, but one true God, but one such God as agrees with the foregoing description.
IV. Since there can be but one God, the peculiar, divine and distinguishing characters of godhead cappot belong to any other being
V. And God himself is so jealous of his own honour, and so concerned to maintain the digpity of his godhead, as never to suffer these peculiar distinguishing characters to be ascribed to any other besides himself.
VI. He is also so kind and faithful to his creatures, as to tell them what are these peculiar and distinguishing characters of godhead, that they may not run into this mistake and guilt of ascribing them to any other.
VII. The peculiar and distinguishing characters of godhead, are those names, titles, attributes, works and worship which God has assumed to himself in bis word, exclusive of any other being ; and has either asserted them expressly to belong only to himself, or left it sufficiently evident in his word, that they belong to him alone.
VIII. Yet these very names, titles, attributes, works and worship, which are peculiar to God, and incommunicable to another, are ascribed to three, by God himself
, in his word; which three are distinguished by the names of Father, Son, and Spirit.
IX. There are also some other circumstantial but convincing evidences, that the Son and the Spirit have the true and proper godhead ascribed to them as well as the Father.
X. Thence it necessarily follows, that these three, viz. the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, have such an intimate and real communion in that one godhead, as is sufficient to justify the ascription of those peculiar and distinguishing divine characters to them.
XI. Since there is, and can be, but one true God, these three, who have such a communion in godhead, may properly be called the one Gud, or, the only true God.
XII. Though the Father, Son, and Spirit are but one true God, yet there are such distinct properties, actions, characters and circumstances ascribed to these three, as are usually ascribed to three distinct persons among men.
XIII. Therefore it has been the custom of the christian church, in almost all ages, to use the word person, in order to describe these three distinctions of Father, Son and Spirit, and to call them three distinct persons.
XIV. Thougb the sacred three are evidently and plainly discovered in scripture to be one and the same God, and three distinct personal agents or persons; yet the scripture bath not in plain and evident language explained, and precisely
determined, the particular way and manner, how these three persons are one God, or how this one godhead is in three persons
XV. Thence I infer, that it can never be necessary to salvation to know the precise way and manger, how one gudbead subsists in these three personal agents, or, how these three persons are one God.
XVI. Yet we ought to believe the general Doctrine of the Trinity, viz. That these three personal agents, Father, Son and Spirit, liave some real comtyunion in one godhead, though we cannot find out the precise way and manner of explaining it.
XVII. And wheresoever we meet with any thing in scripture that is incommanicably divine, ascribed to either of these three persous, we may venture to take it in the plain and obvious seuse of the words, since we believe the true and eternal godhead to beloog to them all.
XVIII. Where any thing inferior to the dignity of godhead is really and properly attributed in scripture to the person of the Son, or the boly Spirit, it may be easily imputed to some inferior nature united to the godhead in that person, or to some inferior character or office sustained by that person,
XIX. Nor do these inferior nature or natures, characters or agencies, at all hinder our firm belief of the godbead of these three persons, which is so plainly expressed in scripture; nor should it abate or diminish our sacred regards to them.
XX. We are bound, therefore, to pay divine honours to each of the sacred three, viz. the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, according to their distinct characters and offices assigned them in scripture.
XXI. İn so doing, we shall effectually, secure our own salvation: For the scripture has made our salvation to depend on those offices which these divine persons sustaio, and the honours due to them according to those offices, rather than upon any deep philosophical votions of their essence and personalities, any nice and exact acquaintance with their mysterious union and distinction.
XXII. The man, therefore, who, professes each of the sacred Three, to have sufficient divine power and capacity to Sustain the characters, and fulfil the offices attributed to them in scripture, and pays due honour to them according to those offices, may justly be owned by me, and received as a christian brother; though we may differ much in our notions and opinions about the explication of the blessed Trinity, or though we may both be iguorant or doubtful of the true way of explaining it.
Now if these propositions are found agreeable to the mind and will of God in his word, then may his blessed Spirit furnish