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what I believe? I believe that it is a blade of grass, and I comprehend that it is a blade of grass; and the belief that it is a blade of grass, is the whole of my belief on the subject. But some one asks me, how does that blade of grass grow? Now, you observe this is entirely a different question. Here the mode comes up for consideration; what can I comprehend
Ι about the manner in which the blade of grass grows? Nothing. What do I believe about the manner in which it grows ? Nothing. Why do I not believe any thing about the method of its growth? Simply because nothing in relation to the manner in which it grows has ever been presented to my mind. Now, because I believe nothing about the manner in which it grows, do I not therefore believe that it grows ? Unquestionably. I see that it grows; I understand that it grows; I believe that it grows; and no man on
Ι the face of the earth can say more, or is required to say more.
I am travelling upwards, and shall by-and-by reach the point on which the subject of the present discourse is suspended; but I want to travel to it slowly and surely, therefore I will use another illustration of a higher cast.
It is said that man is composed of soul and body. Do I believe this? I do! I believe just the simple proposition, that man is so constituted. Do I comprehend what I believe? Most certainly; what should hinder me? Is not the proposition a perfectly plain one? But then, some one asks, how do the soul and body exist together? To this I answer, that the manner is beyond my comprehension. Do I believe how they exist together? Certainly not; I am not asked to believe how they exist together; I am only asked to believe that they do exist together, and this proposition I fully comprehend; and, therefore, in relation to the existence of the soul and body togther, which is a simple fact, no man on the face of the earth is asked to believe any thing beyond what he comprehends. It appears to me that now you can easily see the distinction, and the mistake into which men run. If a person was to say, I do not comprehend how the body and the soul exists together, therefore I do not believe the fact that they do exist together, the absurdity is apparent at once. It goes on the supposition that because they cannot comprehend the mode, they cannot comprehend the fact; whereas, the two things have no connexion with each other. If a person were to say,
I do not comprehend how the soul and body exist together, therefore I cannot believe how they exist together, he would be perfectly correct, and this no man is asked to believe. It is utterly beyond all his powers; and as he is not able to comprehend the how, he is not asked to believe it: all that he is asked to believe is, that they do exist; and this demand, as a simple proposition, he fully and perfectly comprehends. But if a person were to say, I cannot believe that the body and soul exist together, because I cannot comprehend the declaration that they do exist together, that man would be no better than a fool. The proposition is just as plain as that 2 and 2 make 4.
Now let us go one step higher, but we will speak even more cautiously, because now we are to tread on hallowed ground. I take, as an illustration, the most difficult case that I can imagine; a case infinitely more difficult than the doctrine of the Trinity.
I mean the eternity of God. By the eternity of God I mean, that God is a being who never had a beginning, and can never have an end. Permite to ask whether it is possible to state a more difficult proposition? Do I believe the eternity of God? I do! What do I believe? I believe the simple proposition that God is eternal. Is there a rational being before me who does not comprehend that proposition? I am aware that I shall set many to thinking whether they do or do not comprehend that proposition, and yet nothing but the want of a habit of close thinking prevents an immediate perception of its truth; many a person now is thinking, I cannot comprehend how God is eternal. Do you not see that this very effort to comprehend how God is eternal, has set you entirely upon a new train of investigation. It is not how God is eternal which I have asked you to comprehend; it is the simple proposition of the Scriptures, that God is eternal. You cannot fail to perceive at once, that there is a wide difference between how God can be eternal, and the plain proposition that God is eternal; and the difficulty in your minds is, that you have applied to the one that which belongs only to the other. You believe that the holy Scriptures have said that God is a being without begivning and without end; and this plain proposition there is no difficulty in understanding; and consequently, when you say you believe that God is eternal, you fully comprehend what you believe—that is, simply that God is eternal. Now how God can be eternal, observe, is a totally distinct question. I cannot comprehend this; am I required to believe this? Most certainly not; you are required to believe that God is eternal, because he says so; but you are not required to believe how he is eternal; and, therefore, as you are only required to believe the simple declaration of God, you do believe only that which you do comprehend.
I am anxious that this course of reasoning should be very distinctly remembered; for I wish, in my succeeding remarks, (perhaps not in the present discourse) to apply the principles here defended to the all-important fact of the Trinity in the Godhead; and
my purpose will be to show, that in relation to that subject, God requires us to believe nothing which is beyond our comprehension—that just so far as we are required to believe it, the fact of the Trinity is just as easy to be comprehended as any thing else in Scripture. It is obvious to you, however, that before I can apply these principles, I must state what the doctrine of the Trinity is. The divisions of my subsequent discussion, therefore, will be
I. WHAT IS THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY.
II. How CAN WE PROVE THAT THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY IS A DOCTRINE OF THE BIBLE.
III. STATE THE IMMENSE IMPORTANCE OF THE
I. I am bold to say that there is no subject in Theology more misunderstood, even by those who profess to believe it, than what this doctrine is; and there is no subject more wilfully and abominably and dishonestly misrepresented by its opposers than this. What is this doctrine? I can show this two ways; first by stating what it is not, and then by stating what it is.
1. I will state what it is not. The doctrine of the
Trinity is not that there are three supreme independent Gods, and yet one God. This would be what might be called Tri-theism; whereas the word Trinity, or as it might otherwise be expressed, Tri-unity, entirely excludes any such idea. Every believer in the doctrine of the Trinity or the Tri-unity of God, is by the very term a most zealous adherent to the doctrine of the divine unity. The language of Scripture is—"Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.” The doctrine of the Trinity is not, therefore, that there are three Gods, and yet one God. Neither is it the doctrine of the Trinity that God acts in three essentially different ways, or in three prominent and peculiar relations; it is not that when he manifests himself in one of these relations, he takes the title of Father; when he appears in the second, he takes the title of Son; and when he is exhibited in the third, he styles himself the Holy Ghost. This is a method by which some have thought to explain the doctrine, and by so doing, they have entirely mistaken it, and essentially denied it; this, therefore, is not the doctrine of the Trinity.
By the doctrine of the Trinity is meant to be understood merely this fact, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, are the one living and true God; that the divine nature, or godhead, is one; and yet that there is just such a distinction between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as to justify the use of the personal pronouns I, thou, and he, to each of these names, and that divine attributes are ascribed to each.
I wish you distinctly to observe, that this the Scripture teaches merely as a fact, to be received or rejected, according to the nature and the degree of