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water applied to us, is no better than water spilt upon the ground, that cannot be gathered.
1. It is supposed, both in our making this profession and holding it fast, that we believe it to be true. Thou art to know the certainty of the words of truth, that thou mayest answer the words of truth, to them that send unto thee.
The argument of this faith, is, not its agreement to human reason. No. I cannot see, that revealed religion, is any more suited to our reason, than it is to our lusts; that is, no more to the lusts of the mind, than to those of the flesh. Imaginations and high thoughts exalt themselves, against the knowledge of the Son of God. 2 Cor. x. 3.
I do not speak of reason, as it was before the fall, for there is no such thing in the world. I would be understood of a reason which we have, not of one that we have not : i.e. a corrupted faculty, which the scripture has called by the name of a carnal mind, or the natural man, Rom. viii. 7. and of which we are expressly told, that it receives not the things of the Spirit of God, because they are foolishness to it, neither can it know them, because they are spiritually discerned. I Cor. ii. 14. Our understandings are darkened by a vanity of mind, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in us, because of the blindness of our hearts. Eph. iv. 17, 18. We are mere darkness.
To say, there is nothing in the doctrines of the gospel, opposite to a corrupted reason, is talking both against grace and nature. We are plainly told, that the world by their wisdom knew not God. 1 Cori. 21. I question, whether the mere light of nature ever taught any after the flood, that there was but one God, or that he alone was to be worshipped. The first commandment of the law, strikes as much at all the sentiments of the heathen, as the first doctrine of the gospel does, thou shalt have no other Gods before me. The number of their deities was a growing thing, and indeed they sprung very fast. Some of the best morality that we have among the philosophers, is from those who talk of 30,000 Gods and Goddesses, So wild and wanton was the reason of man, under the least attainments of learning. Least of all, can I think they had any imagination about a trinity of persons. The quotations I have met with, from those who studied their writings, are poor, confused, and empty fancies. So that a person who believes, as he is called to do, that there is but one name belonging to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, does not receive it as a thing that man's wisdom teaches..
There is no book in all the world that reveals it, but one; and our assent to it, is upon no other ground than the testimony of God.
We do not believe it, as we do many things, · upon ocular demonstrations ; for God is one whom no man has seen, nor can see. 1 Tim. vi. 16. Nor is it by rational deduction, and a train of thinking; for canst thou by searching find out God, canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection ? It is high as heaven, what canst thou do? deeper than hell, what canst thou know? Job xi. 7,8. But it is the account that God, who alone comprehends his own nature, is pleased to give us of it. And though I would neither have supposed it, nor am I able to explain it, yet he who cannot lie has said it.
In many cases, the character of the witness depends upon the evidence of the testimony. If he says a true thing, we know him to be a true person. But here, the evidence of the testimony, depends upon the character of the witness. We cannot prove he says it, because it is true ; but it is true, because he has said it. We have no ideas of it, antecedent to his testimony. He that receives the testimony, has set to his seal that God is true. John iii. 33. His mere authority goes as far, in a doctrine. as it does in a command.
I will not let my thoughts loose upon a copious argument, whether the scripture has revealed to us a Trinity of persons in the unity of the Godhead. Keep but to the form of baptism. Here is a man called to this ordinance. He does it in obedience to Jesus Christ, who has all power both in heaven and earth, and is head over all things to the Church. Well; Christ, in directing him to the practice, has told him what he means by it.
This form must be intelligible. He has given me no explication of it, which supposes that he thought it plain enough. Now if there had been never a syllable, in all the bible
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about the equality of the Son and Spirit with the Father, and their distinction from him ; the very declaration that I make in baptism, by his own appointment, is enough. I must conclude this is the faith delivered to the saints, because it was so early professed by the saints, If the doctrine is false, Christ has put a lie in my mouth; if the words are not easy, he has put a trifle there. He has called me to a profession that I cannot believe, and that others cannot understand. , But that be far from him. The words of the Lord are pure words. We receive the truth as it is in Jesus. We know that the Son of God is come, and has given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true. This is the true God, and this is eternal life. I John v. 20.
2. Holding fast this profession, supposes that we know it to be, the doctrine of the scriptures, from a particular trial and examination. Until you have proved all things, you will never hold fast that which is good. The Bereans are mightily extolled by some in our days, (I wish they were as much imitated) for taking nothing upon trust. But observe what is said of them, upon which they were more noble, than those of Thessalonica. Acts. xvii. ll.
First, That they received the word with all readiness of mind. They were glad to hear it. They did not call the preachers a company of imposters and enthusiasts; or reject the doctrine without inquiry : for though
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they received nothing upon trust, yet they admitted every thing upon trial..
Secondly, They searched the scriptures daily, whether the things were so or not: which is ani argument that they looked for no higher authority, and no greater evidence. If they found the doctrines there, they never brought them to the bar of human reason, or strained them upon maxims of philosophy, but were glad to own whatever God was pleased to say. : We have had, through the gracious hand of providence, the first principles of the oracles of God in a proper light. Ours has been the valley of vision. Our serious parents had the best catechism in all the world in their hands,* and it was early put into our mouths; but without any design to diminish the reputation of the bible. The people that say this, are as foolish as they are rude. There is not a child that has learned two answers in that catechism, but is able to confront them. The second answer is, that the word of God contained in the scriptures of the Old and New testament is the ONLY RULE (not merely a good one, or the best, but the only rule) that God has given us, how we may glorify and enjoy him. And therefore, · Men who insinuate, that we set up this form of sound words as a rival to the bible, have taught us not to heed what they say, for it is plain they do not heed it themselves. The several propositions there, have a guard of Scriptures set about them, which every one
* The Westminster catechism.