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carries with it insuperable difficulties. There is nothing peculiar to the doctrine of the Trinity, any thing near so perplexing as eternity is : and yet the gentlemen who are for discarding mysteries are forced to believe it. I know no remedy for these things but an humble mind; a just sense of our ignorance in many things, and of our imperfect knowledge in all. Now to return to the learned Dr. Whitby.
After a view of the premises, it might be proper to ask him, whether he dislikes the Catholic doctrine of the holy Trinity, as perceiving contradictions in it. If this be the case, however concerned I am for that doctrine, (believing it to be true,) I will venture to say, it would be an acceptable piece of service, if he could any way help others to perceive them too. Truth, certain truth, will be always welcome, in any cause, and from any hand, to all sober and considerate men. But if this should be done, he should not then complain that he understands not the doctrine, but that he understands (i.e. distinctly perceives) it to be false.
If he means that he has no idea at all of the mystery, not so much as a general, confuse, or inadequate apprehension of it; that must be a mistake; as may appear from what hath been before observed. Besides that have ing once, or oftener, wrote for it, (though he has since laboured very much to perplex, puzzle, and disparage it,) every candid man must believe that he understood, in some measure, formerly, what he engaged in the proof
If the case be, that he does not throughly, fully, and adequately comprehend it, and therefore demurs to it; then it should be considered, that the result of all is this only, that he will not admit so far as he may understand, unless he may have the privilege to understand something more: which, whether it be not too familiar from a creature towards his Creator, and articling more strictly with Almighty God than becomes us, let any wise man judge.
If, lastly, it be pretended that it is a human, not a divine doctrine, which he is pleased to quarrel with; let him censure it as human and unscriptural only; and not as unintelligible, and impossible to be assented to: and then we may bring the cause to a short issue, by inquiring whether the doctrine be scriptural, or no. Let things be called by their right names, and set in their true and proper light; that truth may not be smothered, nor any doctrine (especially so ancient and so important a doctrine) condemned, before we know why. So much we owe to the Church of Christ, which receives this faith ; to the blessed saints and martyrs, many centuries upwards, who lived and died in it; to truth, to God, and to ourselves, as to see that it be fairly and impartially examined; that “proving all things,” as we ought to do, in sincerity and singleness of heart, we may, at length, be both wise enough to know, and suitably disposed to "hold “ fast that which is good.”
It is excellently remarked by the ingenious Mr. Emlyn, in the Appendix to his m Narrative, “ that the holy “ Scriptures require no accurate, philosophical notions of “ God's eternity, omnipresence, and immensity, &c. They “ are content to give us popular, easy accounts of these “ matters — they trouble not men with the niceties of “ eternal successions, or an eternal sò vũv, without succes~ sion; nor with infinite spaces, or of God's being present « in part, or in whole ; and the like metaphysical diffi“ culties.-Our religion imposes no such difficulties on “ us, of believing with the understanding what we cannot “ so much as perceive by it; it only requires us to believe "s what it reveals to us, i. e. to our understanding and ap« prehension.”
All this is very rightly and judiciously observed. God's eternity and omnipresence we have only general and confuse ideas of; Scripture has not revealed to us the particular modus, or minute circumstances of either; and we are not obliged to believe any otherwise than as we apprehend, (i. e. confusely and inadequately;) nor indeed is it possible. The same is the case of three Persons, every one truly God, and all but one God; so far evident from Scripture, and apprehended, in the general, as fully and clearly (perhaps more so) as eternity, omnipresence, or the like. But the particular modus, how the three are one, and the minute circumstances of their union and distinction, are as much a secret to us, as how God foresees future contingents, or is present in all places at once. Many have been prying and inquisitive into this matter, hoping to know something more particularly of it, till they have come to doubt even of the thing itself, and so have fallen into heresy : and Catholics have sometimes exceeded in this way, endeavouring to explain beyond their ideas; which is really nothing else but multiplying words. The notion is soon stated, and lies in a little compass. All that words are good for, after, is only to fix and preserve that notion, which is not improvable (without a new revelation) by any new idea ; but may be obscured and stifled in a multitude of words. The most useful words for fixing the notion of distinction, are person, hypostasis, subsistence, and the like: for the divinity of each Person, Guoouo los áy évntos, eternal, uncreated, immutable, &c. For their union, a epizóprois, interior generation, procession, or the like. The design of these terms is not to enlarge our views, or to add any thing to our stock of ideas ; but to secure the plain fundamental truth, that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are all strictly divine and uncreated; and yet are not three Gods, but one God. He that believes this simply, and in the general, as laid down in Scripture, believes enough ; and need never trouble his head with nice questions, whether the union of three Persons should be called individual or specific; whether Person and Being are reciprocal terms; whether every person may be properly said to be self-existent ; how three persons can be all in the same place ; whether all perfection might not as well have been confined to one
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one might are difficile concern
Person only; or whether one might not have been as good as three, and the like. These are difficiles nuge, mostly verbal, or vain inquiries; and do not concern common Christians, any farther than to be upon their guard, that they be not imposed on by these subtilties, invented to puzzle and perplex a plain Scripture truth, which is easily perceived and understood in the general, that is, as far as required to be believed. Minute particulars about the modus, may be left to “the disputers of this “ world,” as a trial of their good sense, their piety, modesty, and humility.
We do not take it well to be reproached, as running too far into metaphysical subtilties, by men whose peculiar talent it is, to play their metaphysics (that is, their presumptions about the nature of a thing whereof they know little) against Scripture and antiquity, the best guides in those searches. If the Catholics have sometimes gone farther than was necessary, in particular explications, it should be remembered for whose sake they did it; and that it was chiefly with a view to satisfy such as would not be contented with the general truth laid down in Scripture. I shall show, by an instance or two, how that matter is. The repixugnois, and interior generation, are two specialities taught by the Catholics, and heavily complained of by your friend n Dr. Whitby, as unscriptural definitions. Now, these are but appendages to our prime (and, as we think, scriptural) positions, and we are no farther concerned for them, than as they are conceived to hang upon the other; so that your quarrel with us for these, is really finding fault with our leading and fundamental doctrine of one God in three Persons. But to show you how unequal you are in censuring us for unscriptural terms, observe the course and method of dispute which draws us first into them. You argue, suppose, that the Son cannot be God, in the strict sense, without making two Gods: we answer, that Father and Son, by a most intimate and ineffable union of substance, will, power, presence, operation, &c. (which we call megszúgnois) may be one God. You argue again, that if the Son be a Son, in our sense, there must be a division and separate existence: we say, No; alleging that he may be a Son in a proper sense, and in our sense, without division, and without a separate existence; and the name for this is interior generation. After we are come thus far, pursuing your wanderings into the philosophy of the thing; you step back again, and tell us, that Scripture says nothing of this wepox úspois, or interior generation. Supposing (not granting) your pretence true; did you set out upon the foot of Scripture? Does Scripture any where tell you that two divine Persons cannot be one God? or that Father and Son must have a separate existence? You argue only from the nature and reason of the thing itself, of which you have no adequate idea ; and we answer what is sufficient, and more than sufficient, to confute mere conjectures in matters above your reach. Lay you aside your unscriptural objections, and we shall have no occasion for unscriptural answers.
n Disquisit. Modest. Præf. p. 26.
I shall just take notice of an artificial turn of Mr. Emlyn's, relating to this subject; and then put an end to this long, but, I hope, useful digression. His words are as follow : 06 The pride of reason, which hindered (the “ Pagan philosophers) from believing in Christ, did not lie “ in refusing to submit their faith to mysterious specula“ tions, which puzzled their reason: but, on the con“ trary, it lay in a proud affectation of swelling words “ and philosophic mysteries, and not humbling their un“ derstandings to receive a plain Gospel, and familiar doc“ trine.”
The thought is ingenious, and might pass well, if history, like metaphysical arguments, were to be made merely by strength of wit. He forgets that the mystery of the resurrection was one of those plain familiar things,
• Exam. of Dr. Bennet, &c. p. 5. Introduct.