« הקודםהמשך »
to common reason, and as much a mystery, as this doctrine of the Trinity ; and therefore we may with equal justice deny the truth of them all. For instance: it is against the laws of nature, that a human body should be able to walk upon the water, as St. Peter is recorded to have done; or that a dead carcase should be raised from the grave after three days, when it began to corrupt; which those who understand anatomy will pronounce to be impossible by the common rules of nature and reason. Yet these miracles, and many others, are positively affirmed in the Gospel; and these we must believe, or give up our holy religion to atheists and infidels.
I shall now make a few inferences and observations upon what has been said.
First, It would be well, if people would not lay so much weight on their own reason in matters of religion, as to think every thing impossible and absurd which they cannot conceive. How often do we contradict the right rules of reason in the whole course of our lives ? Reason itself is true and just; but the reason of every particular man is weak and wavering, perpetually swayed and turned by his interests, his passions, and his vices. Let any man but consider, when he hath a controversy with another, though his cause be ever so unjust, though the whole world be against him, how blinded he is by the love of himself, to believe that right is wrong, and wrong is right, when it makes for his own advantage. Where is then the right use of his reason, which he so much boasts of, and which he would blasphemously set up to control the commands of the Almighty ?
Secondly, When men are tempted to deny the mysteries of religion, let them examine and search
into their own hearts, whether they have not some favourite sin, which is of their party in this dispute, and which is equally contrary to other commands of God in the Gospel. For, why do men love darkness rather than light? The Scripture tells us, “ Because
their deeds are evil ;” and there can be no other reason assigned. Therefore, when men are curious and inquisitive to discover some weak sides in Christianity, and inclined to favour every thing that is offered to its disadvantage, it is plain they wish it were not true ; and those wishes can proceed from nothing but an evil conscience; because, if there be truth in our religion, their condition must be miserable.
And therefore, thirdly, men should consider, that raising difficulties concerning the mysteries in religion, cannot make them more wise, learned, or virtuous; better neighbours, or friends, or more serviceable to their country; but, whatever they pretend, will destroy their inward peace of mind by perpetual doubts and fears arising in their breasts. And God forbid we should ever see the times so bad, when dangerous opinions in religion will be a means to get favour and preferment; although even in such a case, it would be an ill traffick to gain the world, and lose our own souls. So that upon the whole it will be impossible to find any real use toward a virtuous or happy life, by denying the mysteries of the Gospel.
Fourthly, Those strong unbelievers, who expect that all mysteries should be squared and fitted to their own reason, might have somewhat to say for themselves, if they could satisfy the general reason of mankind in their opinions ; but herein they are miserably defective, absurd, and ridiculous; they strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel: they can believe that the
world was made by chance; that God doth not concern himself with things below; will neither punish vice nor reward virtue ; that religion was invented by cunning men to keep the world in awe; with many other opinions equally false and detestable, against the common light of nature as well as reason ; against the universal sentiments of all civilized nations, and offensive to the ears even of a sober heathen.
Lastly, Since the world abounds with pestilent books particularly written against this doctrine of the Trinity ; it is fit to inform you, that the authors of them proceed wholly upon a mistake: they would show how impossible it is, that three can be one, and one can be three; whereas the Scripture saith no such thing, at least in that inanner they would make it : but only that there is some kind of unity and distinction in the divine nature, which mankind cannot possibly comprehend: thus the whole doctrine is short and plain, and in itself incapable of any controversy : since God himself hath pronounced the fact, but wholly concealed the manner.
And therefore many divines, who thought fit to answer those wicked books, have been mistaken too by answering fools in their folļy; and endeavouring to explain a mystery, which God intended to keep secret from us.
And as I would exhort all men to avoid reading those wicked books written against this doctrine, as dangerous and pernicious; so I think they may omit the answers, as unnecessary. This I confess will probably affect but few or none among the generality of our congregations, who do not much trouble themselves with books, at least of this kind. However, many, who do not read themselves, are seduced by others thatdo, and thus become unbelievers upon trust and at
second hand ; and this is too frequent a case : for which reason, I have endeavoured to put this doctrine upon a short and sure foot, levelled to the meanest understanding; by which we may, as the apostle directs, be ready always to give an answer to every man, that asketh us a reason of the hope that is in us, with meekness and fear.
And thus I have done with my subject, which probably I should not have chosen, if I had not been invited to it by the occasion of this season, appointed on purpose to celebrate the mysteries of the Trinity, and the descent of the Holy Ghost, wherein we pray to be kept stedfast in this faith; and what this faith is I have shown you in the plainest manner I could. For, upon the whole, it is no more than this : God commands us, by our dependence upon his truth, and his holy word, to believe a fact that we do not understand. And this is no more than what we do every day in the works of nature, upon the credit of men of learning. Without faith we can do no works acceptable to God; for, if they proceed from any other principle, they will not advance our salvation; and this faith, as I have explained it, we may acquire without giving up our senses, or contradicting our reason. May God of his infinite mercy inspire us with true faith in every article and mystery of our religion, so as to dispose us to do what is pleasing in his sight; and this we pray through Jesus Christ, to whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, the mysterious incomprehensible One God, be all honour and glory now and for evermore! Amen.
(First printed in 1744.)
I ST. PETER, V. 5. '
Yea, all of you be subject one to another. THE apostle having in many parts of this epistle, given directions to Christians concerning the duty of subjection or obedience to superiours ; in the several instances of the subject to the prince, the child to his parent, the servant to his master, the wife to her husband, and the younger to the elder; doth here, in the words of my text, sum up the whole, by advancing à point of doctrine, which at first may appear a little extraordinary; “ Yea, all of you,” saith he, “ be subject one to another.” For it should seem, that two persons cannot properly be said to be subject to each other, and that subjection is only due from inferiours to those above them: yer St. Paul hath several passages to the same purpose. For he exhorts the Romans, “ in 'honour to prefer one ano“ ther;” and the Philippians, « that in lowliness of “mind they should each esteem other better than “ themselves;” and the Ephesians, “that they should “ submit themselves one to another in the fear of the