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There may be, for aught we know, an incomprehen. sible SOMETHING in the one self-existent Being which lays a proper foundation for his existing a Trinity in Unity.
2. If it implies no contradiction, that the one living and true God should exist in three Persons, then this mysterious mode of the divine existence is agreeable to the dictates of sound reason. We cannot suppose, that the uncreated Being should exist in the same manner, in which we and other created beings exist. And if he exists in a different manner from created beings, then his mode of existence must necessarily be mysterious. As creatures, we must expect to remain forever unacquainted with that mode of existence, which is peculiar to the great Creator. To suppose, that God does not exist in a manner absolutely mysterious to creatures, is virtually to deny his existence. And if his existing a Trinity in Unity does not involve a plain contradiction, then it amounts to no more than a profound mystery, which we might reasonably expect to find in his mode of existence, had the Scripture been silent upon the subject. Though, perhaps, the bare unassisted power of reason would have never discov . ered, that God exists in three Persons; yet since the Scripture has revealed this great mystery in the divine existence, reason has nothing to object against it. Reason can see and acknowledge a mystery, though it cannot comprehend it. Hence the Scripture doc. trine, that the one living and true God exists in three Persons, is as agreeable to the dictates of sound reason as any mystery can be, or as any other account of the mode of divine existence could have been. If the Scripture had given any true account of the mode of God's existence, that mode must have appeared to such finite, imperfect creatures as we are, truly mysterious,
or incomprehensible. And whoever now objects against the Scripture account of the sacred Trinity, would have equally objected against any other account, which God could have given of his peculiar mode of existence. I may add,
3. The doctrine of the Trinity, as represented in Scripture, is no more repugnant to the dictates of sound reaso:1, than many other doctrines, which all Christians believe concerning God. God is truly incomprehensible by creatures. “Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?” All, who believe the existence of the Deity, must believe mysteries, which no human understanding can fathom. Here permit me to mention several things respecting God which are commonly believed, and which are as mysterious as his existing in three Persons.
It is generally believed, that God is a self-existent Being, or that there is no cause or ground of his existence out of Himself. But who can explain this mode of existence, or even form any clear conception of it? There must be some ground or foundation of God's existence; and to say that this is wholly within Himself, is to say something, of which we can frame no clear, or distinct idea. It is only saying, that the ground of God's existence is mysterious. And is it not as repugnant to the dictates of sound reason to say, that the ground of God's existence is mysterious, as to say that the ground of his existing in three Persons is mysterious? These two cases are exactly parallel. There is a certain SOMETHING in the divine Being, which renders hisexistence absulutely necessary. This all must believe, who believe that God exists. And so there is a certain SOMETHING in the divine Being, which renders it equally necessary, that he should exist in three Per.
sons. It is, therefore, easy to see, that there is nothing more repugnant to right reason, in the doctrine of the Trinity, than in the doctrine of God's self existence. Again,
It is generally believed, that God is constantly present in all places, or that his presence perpetually fills the whole created universe. But can we frame any elear ideas of this universal presence of the Deity? It seems to be repugnant to reason, to suppose that his presence is extended, because extension appears to be incompatible with the nature of a pure Spirit. And if his presence be not extended, it is impossible for us to conceive, how it should reach and fill all places, at all times. The moment we attentively consider the universal presence of the supreme Being, we are involved in a mystery, as profound as that of three Persons in one God. Once more,
It is generally believed, that God is the Creator, who has made all things out of nothing. But it was a maxim with the ancient atheistical philosophers, that it is a contradiction to say, that God made all things out of nothing; that is, without any pre-existent materials. And it is supposed by many, who have had more light upon this subject, that creation is no more than an emination of the Deity, or that God only diffuses his own existence in giving existence to other beings. Indeed, a strict and proper creation of all things out of nothing, has appeared to many great and learned men, as contrary to every dictate of reason. They have considered it, not merely as a difficulty, or mystery, but as a real absurdity. And whoever will critically attend to the subject, will probably find it as difficult to reconcile the doctrine of a strict and proper creation to the dictates of his own reason, as the doctrine of three Persons in one God. That a fountain should be diffused into
streams, or the whole be divided into parts, is easy to conceive; but these similitudes do not touch the case of a strict and proper creation. For in creation, God does not diffuse himself; since created objects are no part of the Deity: nor does he divide himself; since the Creator is not capable of a division into a multiplicity of parts. God neither made the world of pre-existent materials, nor of Himself; but he made it out of nothing, that is, gave it a proper and real existence, distinct from his own. Creation is the effect of nothing but mere Power. But of that Power which is able to create, or produce something out of nothing, we can form no manner of conception. This attribute of the Deity, therefore, is as really mysterious and incompre. hensible, 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 repugnant 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 exist. ence. 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.
REMARK 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.
REMARK 2.- The doctrine of the sacred Trinity, as represented in Scripture, gives us a clear and striking view of the Allsufficiency of God. Since he exists in three equally divine Persons, there is a permanent