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and malice, envy and hatred, lust and intemperance, even as the heathen who knew him not. And though it be the faith of a Christian, which distinguishes him from the rest of mankind.—yet that faith, to profit him, must appear in the conduct of his life; as love to a friend is best witnessed by a readiness to do him service. Without holiness no man shall see the Lord: none of the world's dross or impurity will be suffered to continue in his sight. And in this he is no hard master, reaping where he has not sown, and requiring the fruit of good works, without giving us strength and ability to bring them forth. He has provided for us the precious blood of the Lamb, and offered to us the assistance of his Holy Spirit, that we may be enabled to serve that true and living God, in whom we believe. If we are purged by him, we shall be clean ; if he washes us, we shall be whiter than snow; and when the kingdom of God shall come, and his glory shall appear, we shall be prepared to behold his face in righteousness.
The sum of the whole matter, as St. Paul has wonderfully expressed it in a single verse, is thism Through Christ we have an access by one Spirit unto the Father.' (Ephes. ii. 18.] To the Father, with a due sense of this great honour and privilege, as sons of God, let us therefore address ourselves for pardon, and admission to our heavenly inheritance; 0 God, the Father of heaven, have mercy upon us miserable sinners.' But as we have no deserts of our own, no works of righteousness by which to claim his favour, and are entitled only through the sufferings and satisfaction of Christ, let us beseech him to intercede for us, and plead his merits with the Father; O God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy upon us miserable sinners!' And since the benefits of his merits are applied, and our pardon sealed, and ourselves enabled to render an acceptable service, only by the operations and assistances of the Holy Spirit, let us implore his aid also ; • O God the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, have mercy upon us miserable sinners! Yet remembering, that, how various soever the economy may be, salvation is the one sole, undivided end and work of all; therefore to all let us address our earnest prayers and invocations, as to the great Power to whom we have consecrated ourselves and services ; "O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three persons and one God, have mercy upon us miserable sinners!'
And thou, almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace by the confession of a true faith to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the divine Majesty, to worship the Unity; we beseech thee, that thou wouldest keep us stedfast in this faith ; and evermore defend us from all adversities; who livest and reignest one God, world without end.
MYSTERIES. 1 John v. 7.-For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost ; and these three are one.
[Text taken from the second Evening-lesson.] This day being set apart to acknowledge our belief in the eternal Trinity, let us employ our present meditations upon that subject.
It must be confessed, that, by the malice of those who are enemies to all revealed religion, and are not content to posse their own infidelity in silence, without communicating it to the disturbance of mankind,—the doctrine of the Trinity hath suffered very much, and made Christianity suffer along with it. For these two things must be granted : first, that men of wicked lives would be very glad there were no truth in Christianity at all; and secondly, if they can pick out any one single article in the Christian religion, which appears not agreeable to their own corrupted reason, or to the arguments of those bad people, who follow the trade of seducing others, they presently conclude that the truth of the whole gospel must sink along with that one article. This is just as wise as if a man should say, because he dislikes one law of his country, he will therefore observe no law at all; and yet that one law may be very reasonable in itself, although he does not allow it, or does not know the reason of the lawgivers.
Thus it hath happened with the great doctrine of the Trinity; which word is, indeed, not in scripture, but was a term of art invented, in the earliest times, to express the doctrine by a single word, for the sake of brevity and convenience. The doctrine, then, as delivered in holy scripture, though not exactly in the same words, is very short, and amounts only to this, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, are each of them God, and yet that there is but one God.
It must be allowed, that every man is bound to follow the rules and directions of that measure of reason which God hath given him ; and, indeed, he cannot do otherwise, if he will be sincere, or act like a man. For instance: if I should be commanded by an angel from heaven, to believe it is midnight at noon-day, yet I could not believe him. So, if I were directly told in scripture, that three are one,' and 'one is three,' I could not conceive or believe it in the natural common sense of that expression, but must suppose that something dark or mystical was meant, which it pleased God to conceal from me and from all the world. Thus, in the text, There are three that bear record,' &c. Am I capable of knowing and defining what union and what distinction there may be in the divine nature, which possibly may be hid from the angels themselves ? Again : I see it plainly declared in scripture, that there is but one God ; and yet I find our Saviour claiming the prerogative of God in knowing men's thoughts; in saying, he and his Father are one;' and, before Abraham was, I am.' I read, that the disciples worshipped him; that Thomas said to him, • My Lord and my God.' And St. John, chap. i., ' In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.? I read likewise that the Holy Ghost bestowed the gift of tongues, and the power of working miracles, which, if rightly considered, is as great a miracle as any ; that a number of illiterate men should, of a sudden, be qualified to speak all the languages then known in the world, such as could be done by the inspiration of God alone! From these several texts it is plain, that God commands us to believe there is a union and there is a distinction : but what that union, or what that distinc tion is, all mankind are equally ignorant, and must continue so, at least till the day of judgement, without some new revelation.
But because I cannot conceive the nature of this union and distinction in the divine nature, am I therefore to reject them as absurd and impossible, as I would if any one told me that three men are one, and one man is three? We are told, that a man and his wife are one flesh : this I can comprehend the
meaning of; yet, literally taken, it is a thing impossible. But the Apostle tells us, · We see but in part, and we know but in part;' and yet we would comprehend all the secret ways and workings of God.
Therefore I shall again repeat the doctrine of the Trinity, as it is positively affirmed in scripture; that God is there expressed in three different names, as Father, as Son, and as Holy Ghost; that each of these is God, and that there is but one God. But this union and distinction are a mystery utterly unknown to mankind.
This is enough for any good Christian to believe on this great article, without ever enquiring any further. And this can be contrary to no man's reason, although the knowledge of it is hid from him.
But there is another difficulty of great importance among those who quarrel with the doctrine of the Trinity, as well as with several other articles of Christianity; which is, that our religion abounds in mysteries ; and these they revile as cant, imposture, and priestcraft
. It is impossible for us to determine for what reasons God thought fit to communicate some things to us in part, and leave some part a mystery. But so it is in fact; and so the holy scriptures tell us in several places. For instance, the resurrection and change of our bodies are called mysteries by St. Paul; our Saviour's incarnation is another; the kingdom of God is called a mystery by our Saviour, to be only known to his disciples; so are faith and the word of God by St. Paul: I omit many others. So that to declare against all mysteries without distinction or exception, is to declare against the whole tenor of the New Testament.
There are two conditions that may bring a mystery under suspicion. First, when it is not taught and commanded in holy writ; or, secondly, when the mystery turns to the advantage of those who preach it to others. Now, as to the first, it can never be said, that we preach mysteries without warrant from holy scripture. As to the second; it will not be possible to charge the Protestant priesthood with proposing any temporal advantage to themselves by broaching, or multiplying,or preaching of mysteries. Does this mystery of the Trinity, for instance, and the descent of the Holy Ghost, bring the least profit or power to the preachers ? No, it is as great a mystery to themselves, as it is to the meanest of their hearers: and may
be rather a cause of humiliation, by putting their understanding in that point upon a level with the most ignorant of their flock. The mysteries, held by us, have no prospect of power, pomp, or wealth ; but have been ever maintained by the universal body of true believers from the days of the apostles, and will be so to the resurrection; neither will the gates of hell prevail against them.
It may be thought, perhaps, a strange thing, that God should require us to believe mysteries, while the reason or manner of what we are to believe is above our comprehension, and wholly concealed from us; neither doth it appear at first sight, that the believing or not believing them doth concern either the glory of God, or contribute to the goodness or wickedness of our lives. But this is a great and dangerous mistake. We see what a mighty weight is laid upon faith, both in the Old and New Testament. In the former, we read how the faith of Abraham is praised, who could believe that God would raise from him a great nation, at the very same time that he was commanded to sacrifice his only son, and despaired of any other issue. And this was to him a great mystery. Our Saviour is perpetually preaching faith to his disciples, or reproaching them with the want of it; and St. Paul produceth numerous examples of the wonders done by faith. And all this is highly reasonable ; for faith is an entire dependence upon the truth, the power, the justice, and the mercy of God; which dependence will certainly incline us to obey him in all things. So that the great excellency of faith consists in the consequence it hath upon our actions; as, if we depend upon the truth and wisdom of a man, we shall certainly be more disposed to follow. his advice. Therefore let no man think that he can lead as good a moral life without faith, as with it;
for this reason : because he who has no faith, cannot, by the strength of his own reason or endeavours, so easily resist temptations, as the other who depends upon God's assistance in the overcoming his frailties, and is sure to be rewarded for ever in heaven for his victory over them. • Faith,' says the Apostle, is the evidence of things not seen.' He means, that faith is a virtue by which any thing, commanded us by God to believe, appears evident and certain to us, although we do not see, nor can conceive it; because, by faith we entirely, depend upon the truth and power of God.