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therefore, is as really mysterious and incomprehensible in its operation, as the doctrine of the Trinity. Or it is a mystery that looks as much like an absurdity, as that of God's existing in three persons.
There is nothing in the doctrine of the Trinity, as represented in this discourse, which is more repug. nant to the dictates of sound reason, than the doctrine of a strict and proper creation, the doctrine of the divine omnipresence, or even the doctrine of the divine existence. And we must be extremely inconsistent, if we believe the being and works of the great Creator, and at the same time disbelieve that he exists, one God in three persons, according to the general representation of the sacred scriptures.
I shall now close the subject with a few brief remarks.
1. If the doctrine of the sacred Trinity has been properly stated in this discourse, then there seems to be no just foundation for the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son, and of the eternal procession of the Holy Ghost. Many have supposed that the Son, the second person in the Trinity, is, in some mysterious manner, begotten of the Father; and the Holy Ghost, the third person in the Trinity, is, in the same mysterious manner, eternally proceeding from the Father and Son both. They found this opinion upon several passages of scripture, which I have not time to consider; but without a particular consideration of them, we may safely conclude that they do not contain sentiments so plainly contrary to our clearest apprehensions. To suppose that the Son, with respect to his divine nature, was begotten of the Father, and that the Holy Ghost proceeded from the concurrence of the Father and Son, is to suppose that a Trinity of persons is not founded in the divine nature, but merely in the divine will. For, on this supposition, if the Father had not pleased to beget the Son, and the Father and Son had not pleased to produce the Holy Ghost, there could have been no Trinity of persons in the Godhead. Besides, this opinion sets the Son as far below the Father, as a creature is below the Creator; and sets the Holy Ghost as far below the Son as he is below the Father; or rather it makes the Holy Ghost a creature of a creature! There are no ideas which we can affix to the words, beget, produce, or proceed, but must involve in them an infinite inequality between the three sacred persons in the adorable Trinity. On this ground, we feel constrained to reject the eternal generation of the Son, and the eternal procession of the Holy Ghost, as such mysteries as cannot be distinguished from real absurdities, and as such doctrines as strike at the foundation of the true doctrine of three equally divine persons in one God.
2. The doctrine of the sacred Trinity, as represented in scrip
ture, gives us a clear and striking view of the all-sulficiency of God. Since he exists in three equally divine persons, there is a permanent foundation in his own nature, for the most pure and perfect blessedness. Society is the source of the highest felicity. And that society affords the greatest enjoyment, which is composed of persons of the same character, of the same disposition, of the same designs, and of the same pursuits. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, who are three equally divine persons in the one living and true God, are perfectly united in all these respects; and therefore God's existing a Trinity in Unity, necessarily renders him the all-sufficient source of his own most perfect felicity. We cannot conceive of any other mode of existence so absolutely perfect and blessed. Besides, this most perfect and blessed mode of God's existence lays the only possible foundation of the happiness of his sinful and
perishing creatures. If the God whom we have offended had not existed a Trinity in Unity, we cannot conceive how he could have formed and executed the present plan of our redemption. Had there been but one person in the Deity, there could have been no mediator between God and men. But as God existed in three persons, the Father was able to send his Son to redeem us, and his Spirit to sanctify us, and make us meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. Hence we are naturally led to see and admire the all-sufficiency of God, which ultimately results from his existing in three equally divine and glorious persons.
3. What has been said in this discourse may show us the importance of understanding and believing the scripture doctrine of the ever blessed Trinity. Unless we understand and believe this great and mysterious doctrine, it will be extremely difficult to answer the objections of the deists against the Bible, which plainly represents the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as three equally divine persons, and yet asserts there is but one God. And this doctrine is so interwoven with the whole scheme of the gospel, that we cannot possibly explain the great work of redeinption in a clear and consistent manner, without admitting the personal characters and offices of the three divine persons in the sacred Trinity. This is evident from the peculiar phraseology of scripture, and no less evident from observation. All who have rejected the mystery of the Trinity from the Bible, have shaken, if not destroyed, the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. The gospel is so absolutely and obviously founded on the doctrine of three persons in one God, that whoever denies this great and fundamental truth must, in order to be consistent, deny all the peculiarities which distinguish revealed from natural religion. "And if this be true, every friend of
divine revelation must feel the importance of understanding, believing and maintaining this first principle of his religion.
4. The joint operations of the ever blessed Trinity lay a foundation for the most perfect and blessed union among all holy beings. Each divine person bears a distinct part in the work of redemption, and each will be infinitely well pleased with the conduct of each. They will mutually rejoice in the great good which will be the fruit of their united exertions. And saints and angels will join in their communion. There will be the same kind of holy union and communion between saints and angels and the three divine persons in the sacred Trinity, that there will be between the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And such a union and communion between all the inhabitants of heaven will afford the most consummate felicity. This glorious hope and prospect Christ exhibited before his sorrowful disciples, just before he left them, and ascended to his Father and their Father, to his God and their God. His words are memorable; and O that they might be written on the heart of every one of his followers as with the point of a diamond, and become a perpetual source of divine consolation and support! “ Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also that shall believe on me through their word. That they all may be one; as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us :- that they may be one, even as we are one:- I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.” Amen.
A PERSONAL DISTINCTION IN THE GODHEAD.
Tre grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of
the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen. – 2 Cor. xiii. 14.
This apostolic benediction has been more constantly and universally used by christians in their public worship, than any other passage in the New Testament, for nearly two thousand years. And they have used it, not to express their belief that there are three Gods, but that there are three distinct divine persons in the one living and true God. This common practice of christians is a presumptive evidence of their common belief of the doctrine of the sacred Trinity, and of its practical importance to promote true devotion and vital piety. Admitting this to be true, there is no occasion, perhaps, on which it is more proper to illustrate the truth and importance of this doctrine, than on a day of communion at the table of Christ, when his cordial friends unite to celebrate the memorials of his death. In treating upon this mysterious doctrine in the present occasional discourse, I shall not attempt to discuss it fully, but only endeavor to set it in a plain, scriptural, useful light. Accordingly I propose, agreeably to the language of the text, to show,
1. That there is not merely a nominal, but a personal distinction in the one living and true God; and,
II. That christians ought to exercise affections towards God, corresponding to this personal distinction in the divine essence.
I. I am to show that there is not merely a nominal, but a personal distinction in the Godhead.
Though all denominations of christians profess to believe that there is one only living and true God, yet they do not all
profess to believe that he exists a Trinity in Unity; or that there is something in his essence which lays a foundation for three equally distinct and divine persons. The Sabellians suppose that God is one person acting in three distinct offices, and for that reason is called Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; which is only a nominal distinction of persons. The Arians suppose that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three distinct persons, but that the Son derives his existence from the Father, and the Holy Ghost derives his existence from the Father and the Son. Ånd the Socinians, who are more appropriately called Unitarians, suppose that God exists in but one person; and that the Son is a mere man, and the Holy Ghost is no person at all, but a mere divine energy, or influence. Those, therefore, who are called Trinitarians are the only denomination of christians who profess to believe that there is a real, and not merely a nominal, distinction in the divine essence; and that there are three equally distinct and divine persons in the Godhead, who, on account of the different parts they act in the work of redemption, are called Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. But though these three divine persons are distinct, yet they are not separate. Things may be distinct, which are not separate. The soul and body of a living man are distinct, but not separate. The powers and faculties of the human mind are distinct, but not separate. So the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three distinct persons in the Godhead, but not separate, because they are inseparably united in the divine essence. And in this union of three distinct persons in the one living and true God, consists the mystery of the sacred Trinity. It is universally acknowledged by those who maintain this doctrine, that it is a profound mystery, which cannot be explained. But though we cannot explain how three distinct persons exist in the Godhead, yet we can state the scripture evidence that there is a real personal distinction in the divine essence, and explain what the scripture reveals concerning the agency of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in the work of redemption; which is all that is necessary and useful for us to know about this great and incomprehensible doctrine.
Now this doctrine, in the sense which has been mentioned, is implicitly or expressly taught both in the Old and New Testaments. But like many other important truths, it is more clearly taught by Christ and the apostles in the New Testament, than by the inspired writers in the Old Testament. I shall therefore confine myself in this discourse to what we find said in the New Testament, concerning the real personal distinction in the Godhead. Our Saviour just before his ascension into heaven, came to his apostles and said, “Go ye and teach all nations,