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divine worship according to those various offices, he shall not be excluded by me from the number of the faithful, for any defect in this article of the catholic faith.
And if he make this confession honestly in any words of his own chusing, and make it evident to me, that his sense and meaning amounts to what I have here expressed, I shall venture to call him my fellow-christian and my brother; nor shall I dare to condemn him, though he refuse to make use of the expressions I have here written, or any other words that I should chuse for him. If a man has "faith and knowledge," though I may fancy him to be rude in knowledge and weak in the faith, yet I am commanded to receive him, and "not to doubtful disputations:" Rom. xiv. 1.
But while I am professing christian charity, I would set a due honour and defence upon the christian faith; and amidst all my love to men, I would remember what honours are due to Christ, "my Lord and my God." "Whosoever abideth not in the necessary doctrine of Christ, hath not God, nor is he to be received into the church," nor the house, as a christian brother, or as a friend; 2 Jolin verse 9. If I read and believe the word of God I must believe there are some such gross errors in doctrine, that will as effectually exclude from the church of Christ and from the kingdom of heaven, as gross immoralities in practice: There are such things as damnable heresies which will bring upon the professors of them swift destruction; and the apostle assures us that one of these heresies is a "denial of the Lord that bought them;" 2 Pet. ii. 1.
Before I put a full end to this little treatise, I would ask leave of my readers, and especially those of younger years, to propose to them these two heads of advice relating to the doctrine of the Trinity. The first refers to our enquiry into the doctrine itself. The second to our establishment in the faith of it.
The directions I would give concerning our enquiries into this great doctrine are these:
I. "Seek for it chiefly in the word of God;" build your faith entirely upon this word, and not upon the books of men. There you will be sure to find no human additions to it, but the pure divine doctrine itself. And whensoever you consult the writings of men on this subject, dare to admit nothing but what you see evidently proved by the word of God. Judicious collections out of the Holy Scripture relating to this article, are of great use, when they are not chosen and culled out, and put together merely to serve and support some particular scheme
of explication. Though the writings of men may be of great service, yet you must use them only as helps not as determiners of your faith.
II. "Read the word with holy reverence and humility of soul," resolving to believe whatsoever you find there plainly revealed, whether you can reconcile it or no to your own fàncies or former opinions. Read with an awful submission of your understandings to the authority of God speaking in his word. See Proposition XVI.
III. "Read and pursue your enquiries with a solemn concern about the importance of this doctrine:" Let not a vain, light, airy spirit tempt you ever to think or speak of it as a trivial matter, nor to mix it with common careless talk, nor profane it by noisy janglings, and a vain affectation of disputes about so divine a mystery. I fear this is a most provoking sin in our day.
IV." Read with an abasing sense of your your own weakness and darkness of mind," and with importunate prayer to God for the teachings of his Spirit, who searches the deep things of God, and is promised to be given to those that ask it, and to Jead them into all necessary truth.
V. "Set yourself to this work with great solemnity," and let your judgment determine itself in this important article, as in the presence of God your Supreme and final Judge. Dare not to indulge any old prejudices, or a vain affectation of novelty. Do not consult with flesh and blood, or suffer any carnal interests to have influence upon your judgment, or to bias your assent to any principle or opinion. Let nothing but the convincing evidence of scripture decide the question, and settle your faith. Take heed lest you build your belief upon any reasons or motives which you cannot justify to your conscience under the sharpest and severest enquiry: nor take up merely with such a shew of argument, either to confirm or renounce any important article as you dare not produce at the bar of God, and speak it boldly as a proof of your faith in the face of men and angels.
VI. And while you read and meditate on this subject and pursue your enquiries about this important point of religion, "watch and preserve a pure and holy frame of soul." Take heed lest you indulge a haughty, or a sensual, sinful temper; examine your hearts and your ways, and remove every iniquity; lest the great and dreadful God, who is jealous for the honour of his name, should be provoked to leave you to your own darkness, or abandon you to the foolish fires of fancy; lest he should give you up in judgment to the vain dictates of a proud and conceited mind, and thereby you may
be entangled in the most pernicious errors, or lost in everlasting wanderings.
The directions which relate to our establishment in the faith of the Trinity are these:
I. Furnish your memory with those portions of holy scripture, wherein this sacred doctrine is most clearly expressed, and by which it is most effectually supported: That you may be ready to give to every one that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear;" 1 Pet. iii. 15. that you may have an answer ready at hand to repel the assaults of error and temptation. The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, and the shield of faith in that word, are admirable pieces of christian armour and artillery in an evil day.
II. "Maintain a firm and resolute assent to what the word of God plainly reveals concerning this divine doctrine," and be not ever wavering and tossed in your mind, with a kind of doubtful uncertainty, merely because you cannot explain the matter, and adjust every difficulty.
Keep on your spirit such a holy awe of the majesty and authority of God speaking in his word, that you may never stagger in the faith, which you can find so clearly dictated from heaven. Nor be ashamed to profess it at all proper occasions.
Having settled the substance of this doctrine in your minds, and founded it on the plain and solid evidence of scripture, you ought not to doubt and waver, much less to desert your faith merely because you cannot answer every objection against it: For even in the affairs of nature and the civil life, as Dr. Owen well expresses it," If the objections wherewith we may be entangled be not of the same weight and importance with the reason for which we embraced any opinion, it is a madness to forego it on the account thereof. And much more must this hold amongst the common sort of christians, in things spiritual and divine, If they will let go, and part with their faith in any truth, because they are not able to answer distinctly some objections that may be made against it, they may quickly find themselves disputed into atheism,"
In every sacred truth that is revealed to us, a plain evidence and full assurance that God hath said it, should be a sufficient answer to a thousand objections.
III. Since a particular knowledge of the "modus" or manner, how three persons are one God, is not clearly revealed in scripture, and therefore not necessary to salvation, "Be not too fond of any learned explications of this sacred mystery." Do not give into them too soon, nor yield your full assent them too easily, nor be furiously zealous in the defence of them. Do not fix and root your judgment too fast in any of these
schemes of explaining the Trinity, till you see most abundant and convincing evidence; and take care that you do not mingle any of these explications with the plain scriptural doctrine, so as to make them necessary articles of your faith. Hereby you will obtain great advantage in a day of temptation, as will appear thus:
You may observe it has been the usual and subtile practice of our adversaries to cavil at our faith of the Trinity by perplexing some part of our learned explications and schemes with knotty objections and arguments: And many times they have found themselves so successful herein, that they have sorely shaken the faith of many a christian, merely because he had mingled his opinions and his faith together, and joined the scriptural doctrine of the Trinity together with some learned hypothesis to explain it, in the same article of his faith. Whereas a man that well distinguishes between the plain scriptural doctrine itself, and the particular explications of it, holds his faith in the divine doctrine firm and unmoved, while several human forms of explication are attacked, and perhaps destroyed. Such a christian may triumph in a day of temptation, and may defend bis creed, by keeping close to what the scripture has most evidently revealed, while he sees others that have built a high superstructure of notions about this doctrine, make shipwreck of their opinions, and their faith together.
IV. 1 would add this also, that one effectual method to establish the heart in this divine and important truth is, "to take a due survey what a sacred influence it has into all the parts of our holy religion :" And when we feel the daily want of the blessed Trinity, we shall not easily part with the doctrine. Let us keep a humble sense of the deplorable state of sin and ruin, into which the fall of man has brought us, and then we may see what need there is of the presence of a God in all the parts of our recovery and salvation. We may then see what need we have of so divine and all-sufficient a Reconciler as Jesus the Son of God, to bring us into his favour; and what need of the almighty operations of the blessed Spirit to create us anew, and to restore us to his image. And since true and proper divinity or godhead is ascribed to those two glorious persons who are employed in this work, our hopes hereby have a surer refuge, and our faith a more immediate and divine foundation. It is quite contrary to our duty and our interest, to change such a Saviour, and such a Sanctifier, for any meaner beings which men may be tempted to put into these sacred offices, since the great and blessed God, subsisting in three persons, is pleased to undertako them, in various forms of condescension.
To conclude, let us with humble faith read and believe this glorious doctrine of the christian Trinity, so far as it is declared
in the holy scripture: Let us adore God the Father, as the au thor of all our mercies and our hopes. Let us trust in Jesus Christ his Son with a divine faith, as our all-sufficient Saviour, and obey him as our sovereign Lord. Let us wait for and seek the almighty and divine influences of the blessed Spirit to enlighten, to sanctify and to comfort us, and to carry us onward in our way to heaven. Let us be constant and zealous in paying these divine honours to the sacred three, which the word of God hath appointed, and upon which scripture hath taught us to expect eternal life: And then if God be faithful, and his gospel true, eternal life shall be our portion in the other world, though we know not how to explain all divine mysteries in this.
Now to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, three persons and one God, be all honour and glory, and everlasting praise, Amen.