Imatges de pàgina
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myself. Upon their hypothesis, “ the grace of our Lord “ Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion “ of the Holy Ghost *,” will amount only to the love of the Father thrice told; which supersedes both the other. And when it is said, that the Father and Son will make their abode with us y, and in the same chapter, that the Holy Ghost also will abide with us for ever 2, the two creatures superadded to the Creator will appear but as ciphers that add nothing to the sum, while in one we have all, and there is nothing but that one to be at all depended upon. His presence alone will supply every thing, and his lustre will so far eclipse both the other Persons, that it will be hard to say (upon the hypothesis I am mentioning) what occasion there would be for them, or what comfort in them. Such is the appearing change made in the very form and essence of Christianity by these new doctrines, that it seems to lose the very

life and soul of it, and by degrees to degenerate into little else but a better kind of Judaism, retaining still the name of Christianity, but giving up the main things.

While we consider the doctrine of the Trinity, as interwoven with the very frame and texture of the Christian religion, it appears to me natural to conceive, that the whole scheme and economy of man's redemption was laid with a principal view to it, in order to bring mankind gradually into an acquaintance with the three divine Persons, one God blessed for ever. I would speak with all due modesty, caution, and reverence, as becomes us always in what concerns the unsearchable counsels of Heaven: but I

appears to me none so natural or so probable an account of the divine dispensations, from first to last, as what I have just mentioned; namely, that such a redemption was provided, such an expiation for sins required, such a method of sanctification appointed, and then revealed, that so men might know that there are three divine Persons, might be apprised how infinitely the

say,
there

x 2 Cor. xiii. 14.

John xiv, 23.

2 John xiv, 16.

world is obliged to them, and might accordingly be both instructed and incited to love, honour, and adore them here, because that must be a considerable part of their employment and happiness hereafter. I urge not this as an argument of the truth of the doctrine, but as a consideration of great weight, supposing the doctrine true, for the recommending it to our affections, and for the raising our ideas of it. The divine dispensations appear both rational and amiable, considered in this light: and if it be not too bold to offer any rationale of them, I would humbly presume to say, that there is none so satisfactory as what I have now mentioned. I can see no probable reason why the Church of God should be, as it were, first put under the immediate conduct of the Father, then under the Son, and last of all, under the Holy Ghost ; nor why the honour of creating should be principally ascribed to the first, and the honour of redemption, as considerable as creation, to the second, and the honour of illumination, sanctification, and miraculous gifts, as considerable as any thing before, to the third: I say, I can see no probable reason for these things (when the Father, as it should seem, might as well have had the sole honour of all) but upon the hypothesis which I have hinted a.

But however that be, or whatever other reasons divine wisdom, to us unsearchable, might proceed upon in every dispensation towards mankind, certain it is, that the doc

• Ac profecto admiranda mihi videtur divinarum Personarum in sacrosanctissima triade oírovouía, qua unaquoque Persona distincto quasi titulo humanum imprimis genus imperio suo divino obstrinxerit, titulo illi respondente etiam distincta unius cujusque imperii patefactione. Patrem colimus sub titulo Creatoris hujus universi, qui et ab ipsa mundi creatione hominibus innotuerit: Filium adoramus sub titulo Redemptoris ac Servatoris uostri, cujus idcirco divina gloria atque imperium non nisi post peractum in terris humanæ redemptionis ac salutis negotium fuerit patefactum: Spiritum deinique sanctum veneramur sub titulo Paracleti, Illuminatoris, et Sanctificatoris nostri, cujus adeo divina Majestas demum post descensum ejus in Apostolos primosque Christianos, donorum omne genus copiosissima largitione illustrissimum, clarius emicuerit. Nimirum tum demum Apostoli, idque ex Christi mandato, gentes baptizabant in plenam atque adunatam Trinitatem, Bull. Primitiva Tradit. c. vi. p. 399.

trine of the Trinity, if true, (as we here suppose,) runs through every part of Christian theology, and gives, as it were, a new force and spirit to it.

I have been proving, from several topics, that this doctrine is important and practical, no slight, no speculative opinion. I shall add but one consideration more, and that a general one, applicable to all other articles of faith, and proving them to be practical in a large sense of the word, but a just sense too, and well deserving our notice. As we are commanded to believe whatever God reveals, belief itself is an instance of obedience ; and unbelief, much more disbelief, is disobedience to the commands of God. Consequently, unless obedience and disobedience are points of mere speculation, there is no room left for any pretence of that kind in the case now before us. Let the matter of the belief be otherwise ever so speculative, (though it is not the case here,) yet to believe Scripture verities, prime verities especially, is under precept, is express duty; and all duty is practical in a large sense, as it is paying obedience to God's commandments. St. Paul therefore, more than once, speaks of the obedience of faith b, and with great propriety, since believing is obeying the will of God, and is entitled to a reward. It is true, faith and obedience (taking obedience in a more restrained sense) are often contradistinguished: but interpreting obedience in its fullest and most comprehensive meaning; faith is properly a species of it, another kind of obedience. Faith is a virtue, both a moral and a Christian virtue, as a very ingenious and acute writer observes. “ As to the nature of faith, it is plain that it is a moral virtue, as being that natural homage which the under

standing, or will, (for I need not here dispute which c,) “pays to God, in receiving and assenting to what he re“ veals, upon his bare word, or authority: it is an humi

b Rom. i. 5. xv. 18. xvi. 19, 26. Conf. Act. vi. 7. Vid. Wolfii Curæ Philolog. et Criticæ ad Rom. xvi. 19.

See that point fully discussed in Fiddes's Body of Divinity, vol. i. p. 333, &c.

VOL. V.

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liation of ourselves, and a glorification of God. And as so it is a moral, so it is also a Christian virtue, as being a duty commanded in the Gospel, and an act of Christian “ humility d.” If it be objected, that faith depends entirely upon evidence, and therefore is no matter of choice, and therefore is no virtue, nor can properly fall under precept; I deny that faith depends entirely upon evidence, though it ought to do so. There are motives to assent or dissent, as well as rational grounds; and those motives often bias and determine the judgment, either without reason or against it: not that men can always believe what they will, but inclination frequently has a great hand in their persuasions. Men can lean, and will lean to the side which they happen to favour, upon motives of education, habit, authority, or example; or of interest, vanity, pride, passion, resentment, and the like: and when they so lean to a side, they can be partial in examining, rash in judging, or precipitate in resolving; so that the will may much influence belief. And as to unbelief, or disbelief, the influence is still more apparent : for, excepting such glaring facts as force assent, by obtruding themselves upon the senses, all other things almost may be slighted, and set aside. A man may refuse to attend to the clearest demonstration, or may industriously perplex it, and never let in the light which might convince him of its truth : and what he may do in that case, he may much more easily do in others, where the evidence is not so bright, or strong, or comes not up to perfect demonstration. These things considered, it must be allowed, that faith has at least a great dependence upon the will, if it be not itself an act of the will, as appears most probable. Diligence in looking out for evidence, patience and perseverance in attending to it, honesty in considering, comparing, balancing, and then determining on the side of truth, these are all matters of choice, depending on the will; and therefore a right faith is a

Norris's Christian Prudence, p. 259.

submission of our wills in that instance to God. Seeing therefore that faith in general is virtue and duty, and therefore practical, it follows most evidently, that faith in the doctrine of the Trinity (supposing the doctrine true) is practical in its nature, is both moral and Christian duty.

Now to sum up briefly what has been done in this chapter; it has been shown, that the doctrine of the Trinity is of prime consideration for directing and determining our worship, and that it influences Christian practice many ways, as forming proper dispositions, as raising and strengthening the Gospel motives, and as enforcing the doctrines of satisfaction made by Christ, and of illumination and sanctification by the Holy Spirit; on all which accounts it appears to be strictly practical, and highly important : and it has been further intimated, that all duty is practical, and that faith is duty; and therefore this faith, as well as any other, and because of its important nature, more than many other. I conclude therefore from the premises laid down in this chapter, that the doctrine of the Trinity is practical enough to be a fundamental article of Christianity.

I must own, there is a narrow kind of sense, and very improper, of the word practical, which I have observed in some writers, according to which the doctrine of the Trinity would not be a practical doctrine: for they mean by practical, what concerns practice between man and man, and nothing else. Such persons would not scruple to say, that worship itself is no practical matter: and it must be allowed it is not in that sense; it is not a duty of the second table, but of the first. It may deserve considering, whether that narrow sense of the word practical might not first give rise to the objection, that the doctrine of the Trinity is not practical, but speculative; conceiving every thing to be speculative, excepting the common offices of life which we owe one towards another. Now indeed, according to such interpretation of the words practical and speculative, we should never affirm, that this doctrine

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