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One particular doctrine, the reality of which God hath been pleased to reveal, though the manner of it continues a secret, is, that he himself is ONE, and that he is THREE. The truih of this is indisputable, if we can credit his testimony who has revealed it to us; but if we reject his authority in this instance, we may with equal propriety refuse it in every other part of revelation, and so render it wholly useless to us as a rule of either faith or practice. If God hath told us that it is so, the obligation to believe it is binding on us, though the manner how it is, remains only proper for his own infinite mind to investigate.
But there is a very wide difference between what is revealed in scripture, and the nice speculations of the schools concerning the doctrine of the Trinity. The schoolmen, who abounded in wit and leisure, have been very speculative and acute in starting a great number of subtilties concerning it, which no christian is bound to trouble his head about; much less is it necessary for him to understand those niceties, which we may reasonably presume those who invented them, did themselves never thoroughly understand; and, least of all, is it necessary to believe them. The modesty of christians is contented in divine things to know what God hath said concerning them, and has no curiosity to be wise above what is written. What God reveals is enough in these matters; but if any will venture to say more, every other man surely is at liberty to believe as he sees cause.
As our knowledge of God in this world is more properly conversant about what he is not, than what he is in himself; the utmost care should be taken in all our conceptions of God, to remove every thing that is not agreeable to what he hath made known of himself in his own word; which is all we can know of him with certainty, and of real use to us, on this side the full enjoyment of bimself in glory.
Though there is much difficulty at present, to ascertain the full and true import of the several titles whereby the great Creator of heaven and earth is designed, in any language; yet this we may venture to say we are sure of, that they never were intended to give us a clear and full comprehension of the divine nature, or the precise manner in which the Supreme Being doth exist. This is what even the most glorious and extensive finite reason can never possibly comprehend to perfection. It must then follow as a necessary consequence, that the words in all languages by which it has been endeavored to be explained, must be as defective as our comprehensions are.
Were it possible for us fully to comprehend all the properties which necessarily distinguish the Supreme Being from all beings, and to have adequate words to express our conceptions, it is likely dissentions on this head would be at an end. But as this, in the nature of things is not to be expected; and as many, by attempting it in words of their own conceiving, have but darkened counsel with words without knowledge, the best way is, to confine ourselves to the holy scriptures, and say no more of God, than he hath been pleased to teach
But as to the manner of his existence, I do not find from revelation that he hath taught us any thing at all. When Moses asked him what was his name, he answered by a word, I am, or I WILL BE; which does not convey any notion of the manner how he existed, (as has been often pretended); though he implies absolute existence, as well as irresistible power to accomplish what he had promised, or was pleased to do. But this does not
in the least degree favor the empty speculations that have been framed concerning the nature and existence of God. His nature being infinite and incomprehensible, the mode of his existence must necessarily be above the investigation of every finite capacity. Here all analogy and comparison are utterly useless and trifling.
Two things in general are intended in the following work.
FIRST. To draw out to the consideration of the enquiring christian, a brief connected view of what the scriptures say concerning the Trinity, or the THREE that are one.
SECONDLY. To shew how little regard is due from christians, to the subtle distinctions invented. among men concerning that subject.
The first of these, for the reader's ease, and greater distinctness, I shall divide into two parts, and each of the parts into sections, as the matter treated of shall require.
In this first part, I shall endeavor to shew plain scripture evidence for these three particular points:
First. That there is but one God.
Secondly. That there is a PLURALITY in God, and that it is limited to THREE.
Thirdly. That Each of the three hath ascribed to him in scripture the names and perFECTIONS proper only to God. Or that the NAMES and PERFECTiOns proper only to Deity are comMỌN to THREE that ARE ONE.
The first thing undertaken is, to prove that there is but one God.