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absolute prohibition, to worship the second and third Persons. As there is no medium between the nature of God and a creature; and as we are to demean ourselves to both, according to their respective natures; so the worship we pay to God ought infinitely to transcend the respect we pay to the highest creature; and therefore can in no sense admit of the same name. The infinite and finite can by no conclusion of ideas, or juggle of words, be excusably expressed by the same term. Neither therefore can the sentiments of love, veneration, and dependence, wherewith our hearts are affected towards them, admit of the same expressions, without absurdity and blasphemy.
An indifferent person, who had not read the Scriptures, on considering the tenets of the Antitrinitarians, could not avoid presuming, that the divinity and worship of the Son, and the Holy Ghost, are strongly insisted on in those Scriptures, since the opposers of their real divinity are forced to assign them a delegated divinity, and a subordinate worship, directly in the teeth of their own avowed principle, that there is but one God. Were he afterward fairly to examine the sacred books, and to take their sense concerning God, as he does the sense of other books, he must be astonished to find a plurality of gods deduced from writings, wherein it is so often and so peremptorily condemned; and the worship of more gods than one so severely prohibited, or so dreadfully punished, in almost every page. He would find all divine worship absolutely appropriated to the one infinite Being only, and this appropriation made the source and basis of all the religion prescribed in either Testament. He would find the distinction between God, or the infinite Being, and the creature, set so wide, as to forbid the possibility of another distinction, consistent with Scripture, between a false and a subordinate God. In short, he could not help observing, that either the faith and practice of an Antitrinitarian are directly opposite to each other, inasmuch as he pays divine honours to that which he does not believe to be God; or, at least, that his faith is opposite and contradictory to itself, inasmuch as he, believes the same Being to be God, and yet but a creature..
To tell him there is one Supreme, and other subordinate gods, could not satisfy him; because the Scriptures have
restrained the word God to one sense only, when worship is annexed to it, and have laid down this restriction as the first fundamental of true religion. If, after all, he found the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, set forth, each as God, by the same writer, who insists there is but one God, whatsoever inconsistency he might charge that writer with, he could not suppose him guilty of an intention to contradict himself; which he must have had, if he intended to say there is but one God, and yet three gods, without giving warning, that he took the word God in two infinitely different senses. So far a candid and indifferent reader of the Scriptures must condemn the Antitrinitarians, in case he brought the same mind with him to those writings, that he brings to all other books. On the contrary, howsoever he might at first, be surprised at our notions of the Trinity, he must, even from the beginning, perceive a close congruity between them and the Scriptures; an impossibility of avoiding them, without rejecting or doing violence to those Scriptures; and, on farther consideration, no other appearance of an objection to them, than what arises from the supposed inconsistency of a personal distinction in God, which his reason indeed might demur to, but could not, in the result, charge with a contradiction, as well because God is incomprehensible, as because God and Person are quite different ideas, and are never, either in reason or Scripture, put for each other.
These things being premised, it will be easy to prove, that faith in the Holy Trinity, that is, in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost (God throughout in the same sense of the word, and free of all equivocation), is fundamentally necessary to the very essense of Christianity. By the express command of Christ, Matt. xxviii. 19, we are all baptized in the name and authority of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; that is, by the outward washing, our spiritual purgation from sin is signified, while the soul, thus cleansed, is initiated into the grand article of the Christian faith, by the form of words. We may be sure, had any other article been more fundamental, or more essentially comprehensive of Christianity, this must have given place to it, as fitter for so great a purpose, when the soul is first dedicated to God, and engaged, by covenant, to that faith or religion,
the whole of which is contained in, or necessarily results from, the form authoritatively used in this introductory contract. To understand these words rightly, and to believe in them firmly, is to understand and believe as a Christian ought to do. But to know the stress that is laid on them, and how far they are made fundamental, is every whit as necessary, as either to understand or believe the words themselves; for how otherwise shall our attention or inquiry, as to either, be sufficiently roused? Our blessed Saviour, at the same time that he commands his disciples to baptize all nations by this form, shews how necessary it is, that all who are baptized should believe in that form; for he says, Mark xvi. 15, 16, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned.'
Now, it is to be remarked here, that, by this form of words, we are received into the body of Christ, jointly and equally, in the name, and by the authority, of the three Persons; that hereby God sets his seal to the covenant, authorizing the institution in these very words, that the new Christian also sets his seal to that covenant, solemnly promising faith, in the true and real meaning of the same words. Now, if there should be any difficulty in apprehending the meaning of the form, or any dispute about it, how is either to be removed? Is it not by recourse to other parts of Scripture? The word God is not affixed in the form to any of the Three Persons. But in the Scripture, at large, each Person is represented to us as God, in one unequivocal import of the word. This I have abundantly proved, in former Discourses. If then Scripture is the safest expositor of itself, if we are obliged to believe other parts of Scripture, as well as this, and if other Scriptures give us all the reason divine revelation can give, for believing the Father to be God, the Son God, and the Holy Ghost God, it follows indisputably, that the doctrine of the Trinity, as we hold it, is a fundamental, or rather the great fundamental, of our religion. The church, in the earliest ages, looked on it as such, and considered it as comprehending the whole of Christianity. Accordingly, out of this they framed the first creed, whereby the catechumens answered at baptism, only rendering it, for that purpose, a little more explanatory. The answer of a
catechumen, fairly and closely translated, was this; I believe in the one God, who is the Father, who is the Son, and who is the Holy Ghost.' The article in the original Greek set before God, and then separately before each of the Three Persons, shews, that the word God was distinctly applied to each. This I formerly observed, as also that Tertullian expresses this common faith of Christians as strictly as truth, and the Latin tongue, will bear it: his words are to this effect; 'The Father God, the Son God, and the Holy Ghost God; every one of them God.' All the fathers writing against heretics, or, on any occasion, declaring the Christian faith, did it on the basis of this form; or rather, did hardly any thing else, than set forth the doctrine of the Trinity. Throughout all ages of the church, as heresies and contentions concerning the faith arose, all the creeds drawn up by particular bishops, or councils, howsoever enlarged by explanatory clauses, for the censure of those heresies, were planned on the form of words used at baptism, and had the doctrine of the Trinity for their basis.
Nothing more need be said to shew, that this doctrine is actually the great fundamental of our faith, or that the anathemas denounced in Scripture, by our Saviour, and by the Holy Spirit, against unbelievers, were really and truly denounced against such as should disbelieve or corrupt this doctrine.
Let those now, who, pretending to be Christians, would represent this doctrine as erroneous, or those who, with more cunning, endeavour to persuade us it is not fundamental, in order the more easily to reconcile our minds, thus rendered indifferent, to an opposite doctrine, consider, whether the point, held one way or the other, can be less than fundamental. They may read us fine lectures on charity, and tell us, that all anathemas pronounced on others, be their tenets what they will, are grievous breaches of Christian charity. They may represent the doctrine of the Trinity as too mysterious and subtle to be made an article of faith necessary to the salvation of mankind. And all this may sound plausibly in the ears of an age not distinguishable among other ages, for a propensity to faith and fidelity, in any sense. Yet it should still be remembered, that we call ourselves Christians; that we call the Scriptures the rule of our faith;
and that, consequently, we must either give the lie to our own professions, or be ready to say, after Christ and his apostles, whatsoever they have thought fit to say, 'lest we be found to contradict the Holy Ghost.' Now, the anathemas pronounced on the impugners of the Trinity are pronounced by the Holy Ghost. Let us therefore have a care of saying, they are uncharitable in themselves; for, in that case, we charge the author with a crime, which we look on as highly heinous in a man. And why heinous in a man, who only repeats what the Holy Ghost hath first uttered, and wishes from his soul, that every human creature was of this faith, to which alone salvation is promised? It hath been already seen, that faith is, in its own nature, a rewardable, and infidelity, a punishable, turn of mind. God therefore is justified in denouncing damnation to the one, and eternal life to the other; and since, consistently with justice, he may, and, in pursuance of infinite wisdom, he actually hath, determined thus to punish and reward them, it is an effect of his goodness to declare this determination in time, that mankind, sufficiently warned thereby, may not presume to slight that revelation, which it cost so much to introduce into the world.
It is from the publication of this divine anathema that the very essence of a fundamental, or that without which we cannot be saved, is gathered. But were we not at liberty to repeat this anathema, nor to apply it, as it is already applied in Scripture, the first publication of it must have been in vain; because a subsequent silence on the subject would, in a great measure, stifle the knowledge, and prevent the use God intended to make of the thing. Our adversaries may, as they usually do, endeavour to represent it and the faith to which it is annexed, as matters of little consequence; but it is our business to think quite otherwise of that, which the infinitely awful Being thought proper to lay so great a stress on. Much good may their very prudential neutrality do them, who can so comfortably, and often so profitably, join in a communion with a church that holds the divinity of Christ, and the Holy Ghost, or with one that denies it. For my part, I shall never make one among men, who change the word of God into a lie, who worship and serve the creature even as the Creator, who alone is God over all,