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scheme of our redemption; the strict and close resemblance between the personal distinction in him, and the like distinction among men, as effectually answers every end, both in our understandings, and on our affections, as it could do, were the personality precisely the same in both. Were they set forth as actually the very same in both, it would be perfectly senseless and presumptuous to deny the possibility of such a distinction in a nature confessedly incomprehensible. But since there are all the grounds in the world for our believing them to be only analagous, the mystery, which before was reconcilable to reason, although above it, leaves reason now so far behind it, that we too must lose sight of her, before we presume to say, there can be no resemblance of such a distinction in God.
The gracious Being, foreknowing our utter incapacity of conceiving him, as he is in himself, hath provided such resemblances of himself in the works of his creation, as do aptly and sufficiently represent him to us, as soon as he discovers that resemblance. But that we may not mistake those things for representations which are not, nor miss those that are, he hath pointed them out to us in his word. And, lest any share of our adoration should stop and terminate in the representation, he hath, by two express commandments, the one restraining all worship to himself, and the other absolutely forbidding all representative worship, so limited the use of these resemblances, as to preclude the possibility of a misapplication, while his commandments are at all attended to.
Now the resemblances he hath thus provided, and pointed out to us, are, first, The nature of man; for we are told, Gen. i. 26, that · He hath formed us in his own image,' or • after his likeness;' so that our souls represent his spiritual nature; our reason, his wisdom; our justice, his righteousness; our compassion, his mercy; our dominion over the creatures, his power, &c. Here the Godhead is simply, and without distinction, represented to us. But as some knowledge of the personal distinction in his nature became necessary to us, in order that we might understand the scheme of our redemption, wherein each Divine Person assumed a distinct office, the personal distinction between man and man is made use of to represent the like distinction in God. And farther, that we may the more readily believe the consistency of this distinction with the unity of God, there are three essences or natures united in that of man; the vegetative, the animal, and the angelic nature, which constitute one individual man, It is true, there is but one nature in God; and therefore this is not a parallel instance, but a partial image. But, if three different natures can be united into one individual essence, why shall we think it impossible, that three persons (person being taken analogically), all of the same nature, should constitute one incomprehensible essence?
And farther still, to figure to us, in a lively and striking manner, the properties peculiarly active in each person for the accomplishment of so glorious a scheme, he hath, in holy Scripture set forth a luminous body as the representation of the divinity, or of God the Father, who is the fountain of the divinity. He hath here also represented Christ by light, and the Holy Ghost by fire, or heat. God was instead of a sun, and Christ, of light, to that New Jerusalem, which St. John saw in the twenty-first of the Revelation. "The city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. So, Isa. lx. The sun shall be no more thy light by day, neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee; but the Lord shall be unto thee for an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.' In pursuance of the same beautiful figure, God is called a sun in the eighty-fourth Psalm. Our Saviour calls himself. The light of the world, John viii. 12. and St. John is so fond of the figure, that he applies it to Christ, and his religion, on all occasions. The Holy Ghost is figured by fire, Matt. iii. 11, where John the Baptist says, Christ'shall baptize his disciples with the Holy Ghost, and with fire,' which Isaiah calls the Spirit of burning, ch. iv. 4. Acts ii.3. 'the Holy Ghost descends on the apostles in the appearance of cloven tongues, like as of fire.' Christ seems to be represented by light, and the Holy Ghost by fire, in one and the same place, Isa. x. 17. • The light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a fame.' Similitudes of our own adapting to God, or the Trinity, are dangerous things. But this, which the Scriptures themselves have painted out, and the primitive Fathers therefore made so frequent use of, is both safe, and highly serviceable in the application. As the luminous body is the source of light and heat, so the Father is the fountain, from whence the Son is generated, and the Holy Spirit proceeds. As light and heat are of the same nature and substance, and coeval, with the luminous body from whence they flow, so Christ and the Holy Ghost are consubstantial and co-eternal with the Father. As light dispels the darkness, cheering and directing us in all the offices of life, so Christ, dispersing the night of superstition and idolatry, sheds the light of true religion on the soul, and guides it in the way of eternal life. As fire or heat prevails against that cold which benumbs the body, so the Holy Ghost, driving out the stupefaction and insensibility of our hearts, revives our pious reflections, quickens our consciences, and gives warmth and vigour to our love of God; and therefore St. Paul saith, 1 Thess. v. 19. Quench not the Spirit.' As we neither see the luminous body, nor direct our steps towards it, but by its own light, so Christ saith, John xiv. 6. • No man cometh unto the Father, but by me. He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father;' John xiv.9. As a pleasing warmth both moves and guides us to the fire, from whence it proceeds ; so have we an access by one Spirit to the Father;' Eph. ii. 18. This glorious similitude might be traced much farther, through the purity, the activity, the immensity, of God; but I forbear, having touched on it only for these two reasons; first, because a great part of the Scriptures will seem to lose their force and beauty to a reader that is not aware of the true application made of it in those holy writings; and, secondly, because it removes all the difficulty of conceiving how Christ could be eternally generated, and the Holy Ghost from all eternity proceed, from the Father; how they can be of the same substance with him, and yet distinct, both from each other, and from him; since we see in this similitude an instance of all these, even in matter.
Having already thrown together all the reflections I had to make on this subject, it is high time to finish this long Discourse. Let us therefore try whether we can answer the two questions started in my text; ‘Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty
to perfection ? As to the first, we may venture to say, we can by searching find him out; but by searching what? No doubt, his word, and his works. We see in each an evident proof of his existence. But, as to the second question, we . cannot possibly know him to perfection;' because both his word, and the comparison of his nature with our own, represent him as altogether incomprehensible to our minds, -and therefore forbid the possibility of such knowledge. So far as he hath taught us in his word, we may know him; but no farther. We there see him eterual, almighty, omnipresent, omniscient; we there see him infinitely just, infinitely holy, infinitely merciful; a bountiful Creator and Provider; an awful Governor; a compassionate Saviour; a kind Comforter; we there see him distinguished into three divine personalities, each whereof is employed in a distinct office, while they all, with one unbounded power, one unbounded wisdom, one unbounded mercy, pursue the blessed work of our reformation and happiness. No essential part of this work is left to the ministry of creatures. The glorious spirits of all orders superior to our own act only an underpart in it. The renovation of the moral world had too much of creation in it to admit the agency of limited beings. They are sufficiently honoured in being permitted to carry messages between God and his other intellectual creatures, to publish the approach, or to follow in the train, of him who was to perform any primary part in a scheme infinitely transcending the capacities and powers of all limited natures. Besides, though the angels had been capable of taking a higher or greater share therein, it was by no means fit they should, inasmuch as such an interposition might have diverted the current of our gratitude to God, who, as he is the author of our being, and the donor of our happiness, ought also to be the sole object and centre of our love. God therefore chose to tread the winepress of this warfare alone;' and he alone was equal to it; for he was 'mighty to save.'
This now is the most glorious, the most gracious discovery ever made to mankind; a discovery wherein every necessary intimation, and even mystery, is laid open for our instruction ; every virtue exemplified for our imitation; every condescension vouchsafed ; every frightful danger encountered; every seemingly insurmountable obstacle re
moved ; and, O the inconceivable goodness of God! even every disgrace and misery, banishment, poverty, death, endured; that we may become the children of God, and heirs of eternal life.'
What an understanding! what a heart! how low! how narrow ! how despicable! that meets the boundless love of God, thus exemplified, with nothing but cavils and objections; that cavils, when it should wonder! that objects, when it should adore! that either proudly slights the immense obligation ! or sneakingly pays its thanks for it to a creature !
Let others attack this truth with as much boldness as they please ; I thank God for it, I have had the grace, knowing it to be a truth, to defend it with fear and trembling. The infinite dignity of the subject, and the miserable indignity of the preacher, would have held me back, had not an honest zeal, and an unhappy necessity, arising from the odious treatment given in this detestable age to the great fundamentals of our religion, forced me forward. But I will end where St. Augustine began. “After all I have said, I shall neither be grieved, in case I hesitate, to inquire; nor ashamed, in case I mistake, to learn. Furthermore, whosoever hears, or reads, what I have said, where he is alike certain, let him go on with me; where he is alike in doubt, let him search with me; where he discovers his own error, let him return to me; where he discovers mine, let him call me back; so may we, entering the road of charity together, press forward towards him, of whom it is said, 'Seek ye his face' evermore.'
And now, O infinitely gracious Being, be pleased so to enlighten our understandings, and move our hearts, that we may both see and feel what we ought to know of thee; and at the same time to bless us with such humility, as may prevent in us the presumptuous sin of all farther inquiries. Grant us this in compassion to our miserable infirmities, for the sake of our dear Redeemer; to whom, with thee, O merciful Father, and thee, O Holy Spirit, be all might, majesty, dignity, and dominion, now, and for evermore. Amen.
. St. Augustine, lib. i. de Trinitate.