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A distinction of persons in the divine nature is
to be received, though not explained, upon no other evidence than Scripture. The Arians chargeable with Tritheism. The Trinity does not signify three Gods ; but it denotes more than three names or powers. The notion of an analogical figurative personality confuted ; it is as absurd as the anima mundi. The distinction of persons in names, relations, communion, worship, and operations. Objections answered, viz, that the term person is unscriptural and theatrical; that it destroys the unity of the Godhead ; that clear ideas would convince the enemy; that per
sonality is only an eastern figure. IV. ANOTHER mystery contained in this fundamental article of our religion, is the distinction between those three, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, into whose individual name we are baptized. We are as much bound upon the authority of mere revelation, to confess a Trinity of persons, as to believe an Unity of nature, because the word of truth has made an equal declaration of both. To say these two are inconsistent, is no less than refusing the record of God, and making him a liar. 1. John v. 10. It is unbecoming those who are but of yesterday, to inquire how it can be, when the father of lights has expressly told us, thus it is.
He will be adored for perfections that we cannot comprehend, and reports that we cannot explain. We may as well pretend by searching, to find out the fulness of his being, as to describe the manner of it. Had all his words come down as low as our apprehensions, and revealed no more than man's wisdom teaches, he had not spoken like God. But as his ways are not ours, so neither are his thoughts. Is. Ix. 8. He has told us as much, as he would have us know; and by say. ing no more, has thrown a bar upon all foolish and unlearned questions, that we may not break through to gaze. Exod. xix. 21. We may say of faith as Christ does of duty, what is written? How readest thou ? and leave all diviners, and dreamers, and disputers of this world, to talk like those who know nothing of another.
The question is not whether we should have imagined any plurulity of persons in the divine nature, or how many of them there are, but what the Scripture itself has told us; and what the Spirit who searches the deep things of God has bound upon our belief. No matter whether eye has seen it, or ear has heard it; whether it is to be matched with similitudes and illustrations of our own; or whether the heart of man is able to conceive it, under clear and distinct ideas. We believe it, because he has said it; and without a faith so unlimited and absolute, we receive the record of God with no more veneration than we do that of man.
If there are ten thousand difficulties in conceiving, that there should be three persons, they all dissolve in the report of him that cannot lie. He has a right to tell us what he pleases, and we can no more pass a judgment upon a doctrine, than we do upon a command. We are doers of the law, and not judges ; receivers of the Truth, and not choosers. If he has avowed a Trinity, it is a trial of skill and wisdom with him, when we dare to deny it. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater, which he has given of his Son.. 1 John v. 9.
There is a mystery, in no more, than one God, and no fewer, than three persons. Be cause, it is true, we cannot dispute it; because it is mysterious, we cannot explain it. Therefore the only thing, our souls have to do in the whole inquiry, is to examine whether God has said it. How far the distinction of persons reaches, and how much the unity of nature comprehends, is a question above the comprehension of those, who are but of yesterday, and know nothing. But when we read of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we conclude from the very sound of the words, that there is a difference between them. There are certain boundaries fixed to the minds of men, that they make it, neither too much, nor too little. We have an open road between two extremes, and can easily tell what is false, though we are not able to fathom all that is true. Let thine eyes look right on, and thine cye-lids strait before thee. Ponder the path of
thy feet, and all thy ways shall be established. Prov. iv. 25, 26.
1. It is making the distinction too great, to say they are three Gods.
2. It is making it too little to say, they are only three names, or powers, and relations. :
1. There is nothing in this form of baptism, that will suffer us to wander into the conceit of three Gods. Wicked and unreasonable men have determined to dash is upon one of those rocks, Sabellianism or Tritheism, but God has thrown us upon neither ; and the faith once delivered to the saints, keeps us clear of both. They are equally our abhorrence. The scripture has poured out a flood of arguments a. gainst them : and we need not confront the one with the other, but reject them both at once, as divers and strange doctrines.
Indeed the Arians, who tell us of one unoriginated God, and of two derived ones; one supreme, and two subordinate, have made the notion of a Trinity abominable. They are the only people who have made three Gods, or rather two and a half; for as to the Holy Spirit, to show how little he knows of them, it is apparent they know nothing of him. They have taken none of his counsel, nor covered themselves with his covering. Is. xxx. 1.
I call them by the name of Arians, though they are somewhat distinguished from them. I would call the French by the name of Papists, though they do not adhere to all the peculiarities of Rome. They have the grossness of their idolatry and their spirit of persecution, whatever degrees they may want of a complete subjection to the man of sin. And so it is here. From these people alone, we have had a plurality of Gods. They are the only faction, that have the confidence to talk of a repeal of the first commandment.
Now though this form of baptism, tells us of those whose name is called upon us; yet there is no division of nature, no subordination of existence; for he who is not supreme, independent, and eternal, is not God over all.
(1.) The notion of three Gods, is against the light of nature; I mean as we come to the right use of it, since we had the key of revelation. If any one delineates the religion of nature with a bible in his hand, he will make it a quite different thing, from what he finds it in the best of human philosophy.
The greatest attainments that we read of among the Gentiles are, first, in the wisdom of Egypt, then, in the learning of the Chaldeans, and lastly in the polite researches of the Athenians: and yet it may be said of them all, the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than they. They never knew the true God; they never adored him as one ; they paid no deference to his perfections, but rather supposed he might be worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed something. Acts xvii. 25. A sheep was the abomination of the Egyptians. Exod. viii. 26. Nebuchadnezzar had a treasure-house for his God. Dan. i. 2. And the Grecians thought that the Godhead was like the silver and gold, graven by