Imatges de pàgina
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ing to all the approved rules of grammar or criticism, that there is nothing at all left on the other side, whereby to turn the scale, except it be some pretended absurdity, or absurdities, in point of reason, charged upon us, by the help of dialectical or metaphysical subtleties; which yet, after all, are mere fallacy and sophistry, and have no real strength in them. We must therefore insist upon it as certain fact, that our doctrine is clear enough, with respect to the Scripture evidences produced for it. Scripture, in its plain, natural, obvious, unforced meaning, says it, and reason does not gainsay it: upon these two pillars our cause rests. Upon this bottom Bishop Bull fixes it : “ The Antitrinitarians can never produce a demonstrative “ reason to prove that it cannot be, and divine revelation

assures us that so it is m.” To the same purpose speaks Mr. Howe: “ That there is a Trinity in the Godhead, of “ Father, Son, (or Word,) and Holy Ghost, is the plain “ obvious sense of so many Scriptures, that it apparently “ tends to frustrate the design of the whole Scripture “ revelation, and to make it useless, not to admit this “ Trinity, or otherwise to understand such Scriptures n." In like manner Dr. Burnet of the Charter-House, a noted man, and known to have had as little of a bigot in him as any one, says thus : “We are obliged, according to that “ light which God hath vouchsafed to us in the dispensa“ tion of the Gospel, to believe and profess that Jesus of “ Nazareth is the Messiah, and likewise God. “ mistake in this faith, the mistake is so far from being “ voluntary, that it is inevitable. For we follow, accord“ing to the best of our apprehension, the guides which “ God hath given us, St. John, and Paul the Apostle. “ To these sacred writers we assent and adhere, interpret“ing them according to the genuine force and received use of words : for neither Christ, nor the abovesaid “ writers have told us, that those sacred Oracles were

If we

n

Bull, Posth. Works, vol. iii. p. 833. » Howe's Calm Discourse of the Trinity in the Godhcad, p. 136, 137.

“written in any other style, or that they were to be “ interpreted in any other mannero."

The late learned Professor Franck, of Hall in Saxony, speaking to the Antitrinitarians, expresses himself thus: “ Though you allow the Scriptures of the New Testa“ment, you nevertheless boldly and arrogantly contra“ dict the truth, clearly shining before your eyes, and

express testimonies proposed in such simple and plain " words, that even a child may read and understand " them.”

I cite these testimonies, not in the way of authority, but only to give the reader a clearer idea of what the Trinitarians go upon : for they are all, so far, in the same strain, and these testimonies are offered only as samples, whereby to judge of the rest. Any indifferent stander-by may easily perceive what, for the most part, has led the Christian world to contend earnestly for the doctrine of the Trinity ; namely, a conscientious dread of dishonouring him whom God the Father has commanded them to honour even as himself, a profound reverence for sacred Writ, and an invincible persuasion that those Scriptures cannot, without the utmost violence, and most daring presumption, be interpreted otherwise than they interpret thein. It would be tedious here to cite the particular texts which we ground our faith upon; and it would be highly improper to fetch in the whole dispute about the truth of the doctrine into this other debate, which concerns only the importance of it. Therefore referring the readers for the truth of the doctrine to other treatises lately printed, in great abundance, and well known, I shall content myself here with hinting two general arguments or considerations, such as may give the readers some notion of the irresistible force of our Scripture proofs in this cause.

• Judginent of Dr. Thomas Burnet, p. 11, 12. printed for Roberts, 1732. See the original, de Fid. et Offic. cap. viii. p. 134. And compare my seventh Sermon, vol. ii. p. 166, 167, 168.

p Franck's Christus sacræ Scripturæ Nucleus, p. 181, 182. translated out of German : printed by Downing, 1732.

1. One is, that the proofs which we insist upon cannot be evaded by any approved rules of language or criticism, but the last resort of our opposers commonly is to some philosophical principle, some pretended reason, drawn from the supposed nature of the thing, rather than from the Scripture style, or from the force of Scripture expressions. I have observed elsewhere9, that such has been the method of eluding John i. 1. and several other texts, which are full and express as possible, for the real and proper divinity of our Lord. They are eluded, I say, upon this principle, that person and intelligent being are equivalent and reciprocal ; or that there can be no medium between Tritheism and Sabellianism, or by something else of like kind: which is running off from the question about the Scriptural proof of the doctrine, to the natural possibility of the thing; and is not submitting to the obvious and apparent sense of sacred Writ, but is tantamount to saying, that no Scriptures can prove it: an evasion which might equally serve for any texts whatever, were they ever so numerous, plain, and express. This kind of conduct on the opposite side, manifestly shows how hard they are pressed upon the foot of Scripture; when, in the last result, they remove the cause from Scripture to philosophy, from considerations of language, and style, and propriety of expression, to a foreign consideration, the rationale of the thing. This is a plain token that the letter is against them; only they take the reason of the thing to plead so much in their favour, that it ought to overrule any force of expression. So they lay the main stress upon metaphysical subtleties"; that is to say, upon human conjectures about things naturally unsearchable, in opposition to the express declarations of the word of God : which, by the way, is first setting up a false measure of truth; and, next, is making a new rule of faith. It is a false measure of truth to make human conception the standard of it, since there may be a thousand or ten thousand verities, which we cannot account for, or explain the manner of: and it is making a new rule of faith, if we resolve to believe nothing but what we can comprehend ; or if in cases where we can see no plain contradiction or absurdity, we choose to make the letter of Scripture bend to our own conceptions, rather than submit our wisdom to the wisdom of God. But this is not the point which I am now upon; and so it suffices to have briefly hinted it in passing. The use which I intended of the observation in this place, was to intimate the strength of our Scripture proofs, which drive the adversaries to such extremities.

9 Defence, Qu. xxii. vol. i. p. 231. Second Defence, Qu. xxii. rol. iii. p. 402, &c.

+ See my First Defence, vol. i. p. 232, &c. 340. Second Defence, vol. iii. p. 4, 64, 109, 397, 402, 403.

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2. Another yet more affecting and sensible argument of the same thing is, that our antagonists, in eluding the Scripture proofs of the divinity of God. the Son, have scarce left themselves any for the divinity even of God the Father ; indeed none but what by the same artificial way of eluding may be evaded and frustrated, as well as the other. This is a consideration of great weight, which has been pressed upon them over and overs, and has never yet received a satisfactory answer.

So it remains as a standing evidence of the glaring force of our Scripture proofs, and will ever remain so.

Upon the whole then, the doctrine of the Trinity must be acknowledged clear enough with respect to the Scripture proofs upon which it stands; provided always, that there is nothing plainly repugnant or contradictory in the notion. For, on the other hand, it must be allowed, that

• Defence, vol. i. p. 82. Second Defence, vol. iii. p. 230, &c. Third Defence, vol. iv. p. 55, &c. Compare Abbadie on Christ's Divinity, p. 240.

were the thing plainly absurd or impossible, no Scriptures could prove it; but, in such a case, we should be obliged either to deny the authority of such Scriptures, (in whole, or in part,) or to have recourse to trope or figure, or any possible interpretation to solve the difficulty. This is not the case here : and therefore since the doctrine cannot be proved to be impossible in the nature of the thing, it is abundantly proved from Scripture to be both possible and true. Reason never has, never can demonstrate the thing to be impossible: after repeated trials, 1400 years upwards and more, and all to no purpose, that should now be looked upon as a ruled point'. I conclude then, from what has been offered in this chapter, that the doctrine of the Trinity is clear enough to be important, both with respect to the matter of it, and the Scripture proofs upon which it stands : and therefore its pretended obscurity, or uncertainty, can be no sufficient reason for throwing it off as a slight or indifferent article, not worth contending for, or insisting upon, as an essential of faith, and a term of Christian communion.

CHAP. II.

Showing, that the same Doctrine is no specoLATIVE or

NOTIONAL thing, but strictly PRACTICAL, and closely interwoven with the Principles of the Christian Life.

A RIGHT knowledge of God, and a practice conformable to it, and both in order to a more complete and blissful enjoyment, are not speculative or indifferent matters, but matters properly practical, and of infinite concernment. If religious practice in any measure depends upon a previous knowledge of God, (as undoubtedly it does,) then certainly, for the like reason, the perfection of that practice depends upon the perfection of such knowledge. A general and confuse notion of God may produce as general

" See the state of the question, as to the possibility of the doctrine, in Second Defence, vol. iii. p. 478. and in Mr. Browne's Animadversions on two Pieces, p. 5, 6, &c.

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