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lyte other christians 'to our particular scheme ; much less to impose it on the consciences of others : We should ever take care jest by anxious enquiries into things less necessary, we should unhappily divert ourselves or others from those duties and practical regards, which we all owe to the Father, Son and Spirit, and u bicli all parties agree to be necessary to salvation."
It is an important lesson both of natural and revealed religion, that we should lay out our greatest concern and zeal on things of the greatest consequence : and we have already proved, that it is of much higher moment to wait for divine benefits from the sacred three, and to pay our proper respective honours to the sacred three, so far as scripture requires it, than to know how far they are the same, and how far they are distinguished. Indeed when we have arrived at any farther light in some divine doe. trine, we ourselves may find greater clearness of thought, with wore ease, satisfaction and pleasure in the practice of especial duties ; yet the most enlightened persons ought not to give unnecessary and unreasonable disturbance to all those who practise the same duties, though they do not attain so clear ideas as God may have blessed and favoured them with.
If we labour in our zeal to proselyte the learned to our scheme, the most part of them are so deeply rooted in their old opinions, so immoveably established in their particular forms, so self-satisfied in what they believe, so nich prejudiced against any further light, that we shall probably do nothing but awaken their learned anger, to fix the brand of hcresy upon us, and to overwhelm the hints of any brighter discovery with clamours and hard names, and drown them in noise and darkness.
If we are too solicitous to persuade the unlearned christian to come into any better explication of this doctrine than he bas learned in his younger years, we have the same huge prejudices to encounter here as in the learned world ; nor can we hope for much better success, if we attempt to change his ancient opinon by a basty and industrious zeal. Hard names and reproaches are weapons ever at band, and common both to the wise and the unwise, the Greek and Barbarian. The vulgar christian is as expert at them as the scholar.
; Besides, if he be a person of weaker understanding whom we address with our pew explication, and we set ourselves hard at work to shake his old notions, but in the mere modus of things, we may happen to uubinge hin, as it were, and throw him off from bis centre; we may embarrass bis mind with inward contests, which may be too hard for him ; and we may tempt him to lay out too many of his thoughts and hours on some particular explications of this doctrine, on the substance of which he had long before built bis pious practices and devotions, though mingled with sume innocent mistakes.
Yet these accidental inconveniences are not a sufficient reason for our supine and perpetual contentment with confused sentiments and unintelligible speeches about the modus of sacred truths, if clearer ideas are any ways attainable. There are just and strong motives that may excite us to search into the deep things of God, and to propose all our improvements in knowledge, to the world and the church, though there are no reasons or motives sufficient to impel us to impose our improved notions on others, or to raise contentions and quarrels on the account of them.
All our particular illustrations therefore, or clearer conceptions of this sublime doctrine which God at any time may have favoured us with, should be proposed to the christian world with great modesty, with a humble sense of our fallible natures, with a gentle address to the wise and to the unwise, without imposing upon their judgments or dictating to their faith, and with a zealous care to maintain all those necessary practical regards to the holy Trinity, which are of so much greater importance.
And if it be an unreasonble thing to dictate to our fellowchristains, and urge our particular sentiments on them in these mysterious points, how much more culpable and domineering is it to establish any especial form of human explication of this sacred doctrine as a test of orthodoxy and christianity ! How vain a presumption it is with a pretence of divine authority to impose mere human explications upon the consciences of men, and to forbid them all the sacred blessings of especial communion in the gospel, unless they testify their assent to such a particuliar hypothesis or scheme of explication, which the imposers confess to be human, and yet impose it in their own prescribed form of words.
The persons who are guilty of this uncharitable practice may consecrate their impositions, and their excommunications with holy names, and call them pure zeal for the divinity of Christ ; but I suspect it will be found in the great day to deserve no better a character than a mistaken zeal for the honour of Christ, mingled perhaps with zeal for the divinity of their own notions, which they had incorporated with the plain and express revelations of the godhead of Jesus Christ our Lord. • He that makes a private and particular explication of any doctrine which is dark and doubtful in itself, and not clearly revealed in scripture, as necessary as the doctrine itself, which is plain and clearly revealed, puts the matter of faith and opinion on the same foot, and intrudes too much upon the authority and kingdom of our Lord Jesus in his church.
OUR Lord Jesus Christ is the author, the foundation and the glory of one religion. The scripture teaches us to describe this blessed person two ways; that is, as a man who is ope with God, or as God who is one with man. He is called sometiines God with us ; Mat. i. 23. God manifest in the flesh; i Tim. lii. 16. that is, God dwelling in our mortal nature. At other times de is described as the man Christ Jesus, in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the godhead bodily; 1 Tim. ii. 5. and Col. ii. 9. A man of the seed of David afier thg tlesh, who is God over alt, blessed for evermore; Rom. ix. 5. A man whose flesh Thomas the apostle şaw and felt, and yet called bim my Lord and my God, John xx. 27, 28, Vpon such, scriptures as these my faith is built.
And as it is the most general sentiment of the christian world in our age, so I must acknowledge it is very evident to me, that our blessed Saviour is often representeil in scripture as a complex person, wherein God and man are united, so as to make up ope complex agent, one intellectual compound being, God joined with man, so as to become one common principle of action and passion. Christ wrought miraculous works, and yet it is “the Father or God in him who doth these works ;" John xiv. 10. The God and the man are one. And on this account the child Jesus may be well called the mighty God; Is. ix. 6. And God himself is said to redeem the church with bis ovu blood; Açts xx. 28. And to lay down his life for us ; 1 John iii. 16. This intimate or present union between God and Christ allows him to say ; John x. 38. I am in the Futher, and the Father in me. And verse 30. I and the Father are one.
Since Christ Jesus in his person and his offices hath so farge a share in our holy religion, we cannot be too well acquainted with his various glories. It is the study and joy of angels to pry into these wonders; 1 Pet. i. 13. And it is the duty of men to grow in the knowledge of Christ their Lord, their God, and their Saviour ; 2 Pet. ïïi. 18.
It is granted that many things relating to the erer blessed Trinity may have heiglits and depths in them which are unsearchable by our understandinys. Though we learn from scripture, that true and proper deity is ascribed to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and that they are represented often in scripture as distinct personal agents; yet after all our enquiries and prayers we may be still much at a loss to describe exactly wherein this distinct per sonality cousists, and what is the distinct communion of eacb of them io the divine nature. We have never yet been able with any strong evidence and clear certainty precisely to adjust this sacred difficulty, how far they are one, and how far they are three. Several schemes and hypotheses bare been in venteil for this purpose, and the best of them falls short of solving all questions relating to this doctrine completely to our satisfaction, though some of them are evidently much more agreeable to scripture thay others. As it is our great happiness, that the knowledge of any such particular schemes of explication are not necessary to tbe salvation of men, so neither are any of those different schemes of the I'rinity at all needfal to our present enquiries concerning that glory of Christ, which is the subject of this treatise.
Let no humble christian therefore be jealous of losing his own form of explaining the Trinity by reading these discourses, nor let him be afraid of being led into any particular luman schemes or explicatious of that divine
doctrine. I have so far laid them all aside in this book, that there is scarce any bint of any of them, and that in a very slight and transient manner.
The glories of Christ, both in bis divine and human nature, which are here unfolded, are not necessarily confined to any particular schemes or hypo. theses of the Trinity. All that I pretend to maintain here is, ihat our blessed Saviour must be God, and he must be man ; God and inan in two distinct natures, and one person, that is, one complex personal agent. Those who be. lieve this doctrine may read these frealises without danger or fear; for I would always endeavour to search out divine truth, and promote the knowledge of Christ, as far as possible, without offence to the bulk of the christian world, or any of the truly pious and religions of every party.
These three discourses were written at three distant and different times: I hope therefore my readers will be so candid as to bear with a small repetia tion of the same thoughts, or with refereuce from one discourse to another though not expressed in so regular a manner as though I had all three con. stantly in one view. Though the order in which these discourses stand be not adjusted according to chronology, yet it is such an order as I thought most proper to lead my reader by degrees into these discoveries of the glory of Christ.
In the first of these discourses I have maintained the “ godhead of Christ in his appearances under the Old Testament.” The doctrine itself is entirely agreeable to the common sentiments of all our divines, and I have confirmed it by such arguments as seem to me most effectual and conviucing. I persuade myself the generality of my readers will concur with me in these senti. ments, though I will not say I have borrowed my method of argument and sindication from any but the sacred writers. In the second and third discourses perhaps they will find some things, which though they are derived from scripiure, yet appear to be more uncommon, and which have not been taken no. tice of hy many authors. With regard to these, I beg leave to make these few requests to those wbo will seriously, and with a honest heart peruse what I have here written.
1. That they would suffer themselves to believe with me that we have not yet attained all knowledge, nor particularly apprehended all those things that may be learned from the bible concerning our Lord Jesus Christ : and that they would permit themselves also to think with me, that we are all fallible ereatures, and that it is possible for us to have been inistaken in some points, at Icast of lesser moment, which we have been taught to believe before we were capable of searching the word of God for ourselves : for the best of men who hare been our teachers know but in part, and therefore they could prophesy, or instruct others but in part; I Cor. xiii. 9. Though they have spoken the truth, yet perhaps they have not spoken all the truth which lies hid in the holy scriptares.
2. That my readers would not be startled and discomposed at any thing which may seem new and strange to them at first appearance, nor be frighted at a sentence; as though heresy were in it, because it may differ a little from the sentiments which they have hitherto received. That very same notion in any science wbatsoever, which may perhaps surprize us at first, by reading further onward may become plain and easy and certain : and I can assure them, that there is not one sentence in all these discourses but what is very consistent with a firm belief of the divinity of Christ, and a just and sincere concern for the most eminent and glorious truths of the gospel, as they are professed by protestants ainong us against the Socinian and Arian errors.
3. That they would not rashly conclude that any christian doctrine is lost, or any article of their faith endangered, or the proper deity of our Lord Jesus Christ dropped or neglected, if they should be led to interpret a few texts of scripture in another nanner than they themselves have been formerly used to explain them: for it must be acknowledged, that some pious and zealous writers for the truth havo,mustered together out of all the bible whatsoever tests could possibly be turned by art or force to support any one doctrine a lucha they undertook to defepil, just as ancient heretics have done to support their errors. Now among this great number of scriptures, it may be easily supposed, that there is here and there one which is not so fit and apposite to Their purpose, and which does not carry in it naturally that sense which has been imposed upon it; or at least which does not contain that force of argument which has been generally believed ; and yet the same point of doctriue may remain immoveable, without the help of that particular text.
Now though they have been learned and wise and pious men that have used these scriptures to support some particular doctrine of scripture or article of faith, yet it is possible they may have been mistaken in the application of them. Latter days, and the maturer age of the world have given light to many passages of the bible which were not well understood in the days of the fathers : and though I read their writings with sincere reverence, yet not with an absolute submission to their dictates. The same doctrines and articles of faith which they espoused and defended in their time, may be still espoused and defended with as much zeal and succession in our day by some new arguments brought to support them, though in reason and justice we are constrained to drop some of the old ones. Besides, There is more honour done to the cause of christianity and the gospel, by building all the articles of it upon such scriptures only as are firm and unshaken to support them, thap by multiplying feeble shews and sbadows of defence. We expose ourselves and our faith at once to the insult and ridicale of our adversaries, by persisting in a mistaken exposition of scripture, and by maintaining every colour or false appearance of argument, even though it be in the defence of a most important truth. We ought to make use of all the advantages of encreasing light, nor continue in a wrong application of scriptures to support any poiot of our faith in opposition to their most open and evident meaning. Though truth is infinitely preferable to error, yet men may use insufficient arguments for one as well as the other. And in our days, i conceive a wise and thoughtful man will not be charmed at once with a title-page, merely because it pretends to many hundred proofs of the godbead of Christ..
4. I request that they would consult their bible with diligence, as I have done, especially in the places which I have cited, and like honest English readers would look only at the sense as it lies before them, and neither consider nor care whether it be new or old, so it be true: For he that doth this, is much more likely to be led into the truth than a greater scholar, full of his own potions which he has learned in the schools, who brings his own opinions always to direct and determine his own interpretation of scripture whepsoever he reads it ; and thus he interprets every text, not so much according to the plain, obvious, and easy sense of it, and in correspondence with the context, as he does in correspondence with his own opinions and his learned schemes.
5. That they would suffer themselves to vield to truth wheresoever they find it, and imagine that the loss of an old opinion by the force and evidence of truth is a victory gained over error, and a honourable advancement in their own knowledge in the things of God.
6. That they would apply themselves with sincere diligence to consider the evidence of scripture for any of the opinions that I have proposed or maintained, ratbier than labour to invent objections as fast as ever they can against it, as though they knew it was false before-hand; for if we read a treatise wbicb contains ever so much truth, with a previous aversion to the doctrines of it, and a resolution before hand to object against it all the way, we hinder ourselves from attending to the force of reason, and prevent our minds from taking in the evidence on which any doctrine is founded. I grapt it is neces. stry that all just objections should have their due weight, and they ought to be well considered in our enquiries after truth; yet when any doctrine bas