Some Considerations Concerning the TRINITY: AND The WAYS of Managing that CONTROVERSIE.

LONDON, Printed; and Sold by E. Whitlock, near Stationers-Hall. MDCXCVI.


THIS Discourse was Written some time ago for the Pri­vate Satisfaction of the Au­thor, who thought that a pro­per Season for an Impartial Enquiry into the Doctrine of the Trinity, when several Persons of different Opinions in that Point had just before appeared in the Contro­versie about it, and their Printed Papers being canvas'd over again in Conversation, [Page] had produced many New Remarks upon the same Subject. Which Advantages, together with what he had formerly read, having, as he judged, given him a pret­ty full comprehension of the Matters in Dispute, he took the following Method of Re-examining that part of his Faith, and Justifying what he believed to his own Reason and Conscience. Some Per­sons to whom he communicated what he had writ, advised him to Print: Which he had done before now, upon the Judgment of a Great and Learned Man of the Church, lately dead, who was pleased to approve the Papers, without knowing to whom they belonged: But Occasion being given him to fore-see some little Objections, which might, probably, at that particular time, have in some mea­sure obstructed his Good Intentions in Printing them, he thought fit to de­fer the Publication of them till a more convenient Opportunity, such as he judges this to be, when the Controversie of the [Page] Trinity is managed in such a manner as to offend a great many, and satisfie very few; and the Church is like to suffer very much by the too Adventurous At­tempts made by some to Vindicate her Doctrines.

Those who pretend to Explain the Distinction in the Godhead by Modes, Of­fices, Relations, and the like, are censured as saying too little, and coming much below the Characters of Distinction to be found in Scripture; though, at the same time they use these Terms, they acquaint us that they use them in a dif­ferent Sense from any they are taken in, when applied to Creatures, and in a sense importing greater Difference, but such as is not conceivable by Human Understand­ing.

And some of those who call the Three Divine Persons Three Infinite Minds, Spi­rits, or Substances, would not be thought [Page] to mean by these Expressions, That the Three Persons in the Godhead are as much distinguished from one another as Three Men, or Three Angels are; but that the Distinction betwixt them is so great, that no other Terms can reach it, though these do somewhat exceed what they would sig­nifie by them: Which Distinction, less than these Expressions, in the common use of them, do import, and higher than any other can come up to, is acknowledg'd likewise to be inconceivable.

Which being observed by the Author of this Discourse, he thought it more Ad­visable to use no New Terms with a De­sign of Explaining what, by the Confes­sion of Persons of different sides in the Dispute, is not to be rendred more con­ceivable. And, to Justifie his Opinion in this Matter, he has endeavoured to prove that no New Terms can be used to any such purpose. And this, he thinks, he has made very Evident by the Account he [Page] has given of what we can distinctly conceive, and what we can confusedly believe of the Doctrine of the Trinity; which ought carefully to be distinguish'd in all Disqui­sitions upon Subjects of this Nature.

As for those who will allow only a pure Nominal Distinction in the Godhead; or that apply the Terms Son and Holy Ghost to meer Created Beings, he has only the Language and Design of Scripture to oppose to them; which seem to him utterly irre­concileable to such Notions, and he hopes those general Reflections he has drawn from thence will make this appear: so to others. But the Opinion of those who make the Persons in the Godhead as distinct as Three Men, or Three Angels, he is sure, both from Revelation and Reason, is false: And that advancing any such Explications of the Trinity, as will fairly bear this Constru­ction, is of such dangerous Consequence, that he hopes he has done some Service to Religion by proving, That Three Persons [Page] in the Godhead as distinct as Three Men, or Three Angels, is not only an Incomprehensible Notion, but an Impossible Thing; which im­plies a manifest Contradiction to the plain­est and surest Principles of Knowledge.

Having given this short Account of the Author, and his Performance in this Discourse, I have only this further to acquaint his Readers with, That he desires they would believe him to be a sincere Man, that has a serious Regard for Religion and no other aims behind what he professes: For, what­ever his Arguments are, he is sure his De­sign is good: And, that his Reasoning may appear so too, he would be glad that They who take up these Papers would give them the Reading over, before they pass any Judgment upon what is advanced in them; For, the Discourse being written in the Demonstrative way, where the Main Conclu­sions are establish'd by a long Train of Pre­paratory Proofs, no true Judgment can be made but upon the whole together.

[Page] May it please God to make these Endea­vours of the Author successful to Satisfie and Unite the Minds of Men in their Be­lief of the Doctrine of the Trinity; or may He direct some abler Persons to find out more Effectual Methods of Establish­ing the Primitive Faith, and settling the Present Peace of the Church.


THere's no part of the Christian Faith has produced so many Disputes and Controver­sies, such a numerous Variety of Opinions and Sects, as the Doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. If we consult the large Catalogues of Pri­mitive Heresies, we shall find the far greatest Number of them nothing else but so many several Modes and Ways of Explaining the Common Undivided Nature and Essence of the Trinity, and the different Offices and Operations of each Person.

How far the uncertainty of our Faith in these Points, the many Absurd and Blasphemous Expositions that have been made of them, and the warm and indiscreet Management of contrary Parties, have contributed to the Prejudice of Religion, and the Scandal of its Pro­fessors, has been a common Observation and Com­plaint in all Christian Ages. And several Expedients have been proposed for the Redressing of this Mischief, but all Attempts of this kind have hitherto miscarried. [Page 2] The principal Reason of which I humbly conceive to be this: That those who have laboured in this good Design, have for the most part proceeded upon wrong Measures.

Now, the Methods that have been generally and chiefly insisted upon, are Three, which are all impro­per, or insufficient, and have therefore proved ineffe­ctual, as will plainly appear upon a particular Exami­nation of each.

1. First then, There are some who are for Reveren­cing the Mystery of the Trinity without ever looking into it at all, who think it not to be the Subject either of Dispute or Enquiry; imagining every thing of this high and transcendent Nature is proposed to us only as a Tryal and Exercise of our Faith; and the more im­plicit that is, the fuller do we express our trust and relyance upon God.

Nay, farther, There are those who do not scruple to say, the more Contradictions the better; the greater the Struggle and Opposition of Reason, the greater is the Triumph and Merit of our Faith.

But there's no likelihood of suppressing any of our Doubts or Disputes in Religion this way: For besides the Natural Propension of the Soul to the search of Truth, and the strong and impatient desire we have to know as much as ever we can of what immediately concerns us, 'tis generally and very justly look'd upon both as the Priviledge and Duty of Man to Enquire and Examine before he believes or judges; and never give up his assent to any thing but upon Good and Ra­tional Grounds: And therefore 'twould be a very hard thing to perswade the World to stifle and restrain so many Powerful Motives of Action: But should they be farther prevailed upon to go directly contrary to [Page 3] their Reason, 'twould be much more difficult to Con­quer the uneasiness of the Reluctance.

And indeed 'tis well the difficulties of subduing the Understanding are too great to be master'd; For a slight Reflection will serve to convince us, that the ne­cessary Consequences of a blind Resignation of Judg­ment would be far more Fatal to Christianity than all our present Divisions.

What Blasphemies and Contradictions may and have been imposed upon mens belief, under the Venerable Name of Mysteries? And how easie are Villainous Pra­ctices derived from an absurd Faith? This is matter of common Observation, and has brought a just Scandal upon a large Party of Christians, and given occasion to Men of light, undistinguishing Capacities, to deny and scoff at the Saving Truths of the Gospel, because they were accompanyed with a ridiculous mixture of Errors.

No doubt therefore we may, and ought carefully to Examine the Faith and Principles we design for the Rule of our Lives, and endeavour to understand all our Religion so far, as to be able to Justifie it, both to our Selves and Unbelievers.

We ought indeed to proceed with all the Caution and Humility imaginable, and take a just Estimate of our Task and Abilities: But to deny us the Liberty ei­ther of using or obeying our Reason, is a suspicious as well as an unjust Restraint.

2. There are others, who call the Doctrine of the Trinity an Incomprehensible Mystery, and yet are at a great deal of pains to bring it down to a Level with Humane Understanding; and are all very earnest to have their own particular Explications acknowledged as necessary Articles of Faith: But the number and [Page 4] disagreement of the Expositors plainly discover the va­nity of such Pretences.

This has proved so unsuccessful a way, that instead of uniting the different Judgments of Christians in one Point, it has broke the Controversie into a Thou­sand more: For Zeal and Opposition raising up a great many Assertors of the Common Belief, and every one looking out for some new Terms and Modes of Speech, which should be fuller and more expressive than those in Question, the Differences and Disputes were by con­sequence proportionably multiplyed. For the Terms and Forms of Speech made use of being capable of se­veral sences, and each of them attended with other Accessory Idea's, Mistakes must necessarily arise, and divers new Thoughts be suggested to such whose Heads were employed upon the same Subject: And thus it came to pass, that Defences and Vindications of the Orthodox Faith produced more Heresies.

Wherefore in all such Matters as these, which are too big to be grasp'd, we had better sit down contented with what we have firm hold of, than tire our selves with vain Endeavours to take in more. 'Twould cer­tainly be the truest, and the safest way, strictly to con­fine our selves to Scripture Expressions, and never speak of Supernatural Things, but in the Language of Revela­tion; which being the proper Standard of all other words that shall be used on these Occasions, 'tis in vain to shift the Measure, when there's never another to be found which can or ought to reach farther.

It may, however, sometimes be necessary to change this Method, and introduce New Terms to secure the True Faith against the False Interpretations of such as pervert Scripture. For if Hereticks will make use of New Expressions to contradict the received Doctrine, we [Page 5] must have New Terms to express the same Truth in, in Opposition to their Heresie. And in this case the Church may very reasonably require her Members to shew their steady continuance in the Ancient Faith, by the use of such Terms as plainly infer their denyal of any later erroneous Inventions set up against it.

3. There are a Third sort of Men in the World, who pretend, That there is no Mystery proposed to us as an Object of Faith; and in order to make this of the Trinity appear to be none, they bring a Cloud over the whole Bible, and with strange forc'd Criticisms and Allegories give the very plainest Texts such an unusual Mysterious turn, as neither the Language will bear, nor is any ways consistent with the Design or Character of the Holy Writers.

But this is a very odd preposterous Method of Ex­plaining Scripture, by darkening a great part of it to illustrate the rest, and as ridiculous a Project of heal­ing Divisions, as pulling down a whole side of stand­ing Wall to mend a Breach.

And after all, the Socinian Hypothesis seems to me to have more of Mystery, and Contradiction to Natu­ral Reason in it, than what is objected to the Catholick Doctrine.

I am not for clogging the Faith, nor multiplying Mysteries; yet we ought not presently to deny what we do not understand, but soberly, and impartially con­sider how much we are able to Comprehend, and how far we are obliged to Believe, what we do not.

The Method therefore I design to observe in the fol­lowing Discourse, shall be different from any of those now mentioned. I shall not go about to press Men to a Blind Veneration, or Presumptuous Belief of any thing without Examination; or in Defiance to Reason: I shall [Page 6] not offer to impose any New Arbitrary Explications of my own upon other mens Consciences, but confine my self wholly to the usual warranted Forms of Expression. I will not wrest and strain Scripture to help out a Pri­vate Notion, nor do any thing to betray the Just Rights and Priviledges of our Common Reason; but care­fully endeavour to distinguish How far the Doctrine of the Trinity is a Mystery, and how far a Mystery may be­come an Object of Faith. From whence I hope to make it appear, that nothing hard or unreasonable is requi­red of us by our Church for the belief of this Article.

In order to which, I shall rank all my Reflections upon this Subject, under these Three Heads of En­quiry.

  • I. What it is that perplexes and obscures our Faith in the Trinity.
  • II. What is sufficient for Christians to believe con­cerning this Point?
  • III. What ill Consequences can attend such a Faith.

First then, I am to Enquire, What it is that per­plexes and obscures our Faith in the Holy Trinity. For before I enter upon a distinct and particular Considera­tion of the Doctrine it self, 'tis necessary to point out some of the Principal Causes which have occasioned so many False, Absurd, and Ineffectual Expositions of it. And they are these four:

  • The Prejudice and Bigottry of Men indiscreetly Pious.
  • The Vanity and Design of such as value themselves upon inventing New Notions, or laughing at the Old ones.
  • The not discerning or considering the Bounds and Li­mits of our Knowledge.
  • [Page 7] And lastly, An imprudent Choice of improper ways of Expression.

The two first of these have a general Influence upon all Religious Controversies, but are more especially concerned in this: For there's never more room for Superstitious and Rigorous Impositions, nor fairer Ad­vantages for Cavilling, and drawing absurd Conse­quences, than where a Mystery is the Subject of De­bate.

There are some who are apt to be concerned, and cry out, as if the very Foundations of all Religion were overturning, when any particular Scheme or Notion they are fond of, is called in Question. On the other side, I have no small Reason to believe there are several who strike at Christianity it self, under the Pretence of bringing down the value of Mysteries.

And indeed if we consider the general Temper of Mankind, 'tis no wonder that there's more Superstition and Infidelity in the World than True Religion: For be­lieving every thing, and believing nothing, a sudden Veneration or Contempt of whatsoever is proposed to us, equally gratifie the lazy Inclinations of the Soul, which loves an easie undisturbed course of Thoughts, and is very difficultly brought to endure the Labour of Attention and Enquiry. Nay, of those who seem to have conquer'd this Trouble, there are few who lay themselves out in a free and impartial search of Truth, but are wholly employed in the pursuit of some Notion they have before-hand taken up, and are resolved to maintain: They are already determined what to be­lieve, and only seek out Arguments to Justifie or Re­commend their Opinions to others.

[Page 8] How far these general Reflections are applicable to the present Case, has been hinted already in the begin­ning of this Discourse, where 'tis very discernible from the Ways and Methods made use of for settling the Do­ctrine of the Trinity, that Prejudice and Vanity, a false Zeal, and an ill-grounded Contempt have had a large share in the Management of this Controversie.

Another Reason why our Endeavours of Expound­ing this Point have been vain and unsuccessful, is the want of discerning or considering the Bounds and Li­mits of our Knowledge; from whence it comes to pass, that oftentimes we strive to soar above our pitch, and imagine we understand some things better than re­ally we do. But especially Men of abstracted Think­ing are very apt to deceive themselves with false Idea's, and are firmly perswaded they conceive things distinct­ly, which they have but a confused Notion of. As for instance; It has been delivered down, as the constant Faith of a long Succession of Eminent Philosophers, that the whole Substance, Nature, and Essence of the Soul is wholly and entirely in all the Body considered to­gether, and wholly and entirely in every single Particle of it. And this is a Notion which at first view has a great appearance of truth and clearness, and is such as the Understanding readily closes with: But if we would strictly and distinctly Examine our selves, what we mean by those Terms, I believe we should be able to give but a very obscure Account of our Opinion; and at last, be forced to confess we understand no more than this by them, That the Soul is the Principle of all the Operations performed in the Body. But so it some­times happens, that we are transported too far in our Enquiries after hidden Truths, till we are lost in Specu­lation, and vainly think to Fathom the depths of Know­ledge [Page 9] and Wisdom, without considering the shortness of our time. Whereas we ought rather to examine, and find out the Bounds of our Thoughts, know the just extent and compass of our Understanding, and then rest satisfied with what we are Capable of, without desiring to know more than we can, or pretending to know more than we do.

But further, the Doctrine of the Trinity has suffered very much by the Discourses made about it upon another Account; And that is, that some of the Authors of such Discourses have imprudently made choice of im­proper ways of Expression: Either perplexing plain Revelation too much with Philosophical Terms and Niceties, or exposing the Faith to contempt, by homely indecent Similies, and disproportionate Comparisons.

Now, to keep clear of all those Rocks I have dis­covered others to have split upon, I have endeavoured, what I could; to deliver my self from Prejudice and confusion of Terms, and to speak Justly and Intelligibly: And not being yet prepossest in favour of any particu­lar Explication, the better to preserve my freedom of Examining the Subject in hand, I have purposely for­born to search the Fathers, Schoolmen, or Fratres Po­loni, or read over any later Treatises concerning this Controversie while I was composing the present Essay, resolving to consult nothing but Scripture and my own Natural Sentiments, and draw all my Reflections from thence, taking only such which easily, and without constraint offered themselves.

2. And thus having cleared the way, and removed every thing which I thought might obstruct or mis­guide my Enquiries, I come, in the second place, to consider the Doctrine it self; and Faithfully and Im­partially to Examine what is sufficient for Christians to [Page 10] believe concerning the Trinity, or, which is all one in this case, what is necessary to be believed: For certainly he believes enough, and cannot in reason be taxed for a narrow defective Faith, who believes as much as is required of him.

For the better proceeding in which Enquiry, I shall lay down this as an evident Truth, which every Man will grant me, that nothing is necessary to be believed, but 1. what's possible to be believed; and 2. what's plainly revealed.

But here I would be understood, as to the last part of the Assertion, only of such matters which are known to us no other way than by Revelation. For in seve­ral other cases, I confess, we may be obliged to believe meerly upon Humane Testimony: Nay, even Revelation it self, as it is a matter of Fact, claims our Assent upon no higher a ground.

But further, I shall take this for granted too in a Protestant Country, that Scripture is the only Standard of all Necessary Revealed Truths: Neither in the present Instance is there any room for a Traditionary Faith. For besides that, all the Fathers and Ancient Writers ground their Expositions of the Trinity wholly upon Scripture, I cannot conceive that the Subject is capable of a plainer Revelation, as I shall endeavour to shew more fully in the following Discourse.

We are therefore, in the first place, to consider how far 'tis possible to believe a Trinity; and next, to examine what the Scripture requires us to believe in this matter.

Now, there are two Conditions requisite to make it possible for us to believe a thing. 1. That we know the Terms of what we are to assent to. 2. That it im­ply no contradiction to our former Knowledge; such Knowledge I mean which is accompanied with Cer­tainty and Evidence.

[Page 11] First then, we can believe a thing no further than we understand the Terms in which it is proposed to us: For Faith concerns only the truth and falshood of Propo­sitions; and the Terms of which a Proposition consists must be first understood before we can pronounce any thing concerning the Truth or Falshood of it; which is nothing else but the agreement or disagreement of its Terms, or the Idea's expressed by them. If I have no Knowledge at all of the meaning of the terms used in a Proposition, I cannot exercise any Act of my Under­standing about it, I cannot say, I believe or disbelieve any thing, my Soul is perfectly in the same state it was before, without receiving any new Determination. If I have but a general confused Notion of the Terms, I can give only a general confused Assent to the Proposition. So my Faith will always bear the same Proportion to my Know­ledge of the Subject-matter to be believed.

To make this plainer by an Instance, suppose I am required to believe that A. is equal to B. If I don't know either what A. or B. stands for; or have no Notion of Equality, I believe nothing more than I did before this was proposed to me; I am not capable of any new determinate Act of Faith. All that I can be­lieve in this case can amount to no more than this, That Something has some respect to something else; that the Matter I am required to believe, is affirmed by a Per­son of great Knowledge and Integrity, who ought to be credited in what he says, and therefore the Proposi­tion here laid down is probably true in that sense the Author means. And what am I the wiser for all this? What addition is there made to my Faith or Knowledge by such a Proposition? But farther, suppose I know that A. and B. stand for two Lines, and that by Equal Lines is meant Lines of the same length; such Know­ledge [Page 12] can produce only a general confused belief, that there is some certain Line imaginable just of the same length with some other Line: But if by A. and B. are meant two right Lines, which are the sides of a given Triangle, and I take a Mathematician's Word for it, without demonstration that they are equal, or of the same length, this is a particular distinct Act of Faith; by which I am satisfied of the Truth of something which I did not believe or know before.

From whence it follows, that Terms and simple Idea's must be clearly and distinctly understood first, before we can believe any thing particular of the respects and rela­tions they bear to one another, which is the only proper Object of Faith.

Another Condition necessary to render a thing capa­ble of being believed is, that it implies no Contradi­ction to our former Knowledge. I cannot conceive how 'tis possible to give our assent to any thing that contradicts the plain Dictates of our Reason, and those evident Principles from whence we derive all our other Knowledge.

As for Example: I do not see how any Authority of Revelation can overthrow the Truth of this Propo­sition, That the Whole is bigger than any of its Parts. For

First, I cannot more clearly and distinctly perceive any external Impressions made upon my Soul, nor be more certain that such Impressions proceed from God, than I can perceive and be assured that the Idea's I have of Whole and part bear this relation to one another.

Secondly, The nature and constitution of things makes it impossible that this Proposition should be false; for such and such Things or Notions being supposed, such and such Habitudes and Respects must necessarily result [Page 13] from them. So long therefore as I have the same Idea's of whole and part, and the same Faculties of Perception, I shall always perceive the same relation betwixt them: And if my Idea's of whole and part were changed, or a new Texture and Frame of Soul given me, I should indeed perceive different: relations betwixt these new Idea's; but this would by no means destroy the Truth of my former Conceptions, 'twould still be certain, ac­cording to the Idea's I had before of whole and part, that the whole was bigger than any of its parts: Which Idea's will always unalterably have the same re­lation to one another. But

Thirdly, Was it possible this Proposition could be false, considering only the nature of the things them­selves, the Nature of God furnishes us with other Ar­guments of the Truth, and Certainty of it. And

1st. It is not consistent with the Justice, Wisdom, or Goodness of God, to require us to believe that, which, according to the Frame and Make he has given us, 'tis impossible for us to believe: For however some Men have advanced this absurd Paradox, that God can make Contradictions true, I am very certain, that upon an impartial Trial of their Faculties, they would find 'twere perfectly out of their power to believe explicitly, and in the common Sense of the Terms, that a Part can be bigger than the Whole it is a Part of. But

2dly, Admitting it possible for us to be deceived in such Propositions which have a constant, uniform, and universal appearance of Truth and Evidence, this would destroy all manner of Certainty and Knowledge, and leave us wholly in Darkness, Ignorance, and Despair; or, which is more Injurious to the Divine Goodness to imagine, under an absolute necessity of being deceived: For 'tis not only impossible for me to believe, that such [Page 14] a Proposition as this, That the VVhole is bigger than any of its Parts is false; but I cannot deny my positive ex­press assent to it as true: The Light and Evidence in this Case is so clear and strong, that I am not at Liber­ty so much as to suspend my Judgment.

3dly, 'Tis Blasphemy to think, that God can contra­dict himself; and therefore right Reason being the Voice of God, as well as Revelation, they can never be dire­ctly contrary to one another.

Now to apply all this to the present Case; suppose I am required to believe, That One and the same God is Three different Persons: I only suppose it here, because I have not yet proved how far, and in what sense, we are obliged to believe a Trinity. If this, I say, be the Proposition I am required to give my assent to, 'tis plain, by what has been proved before, that I can believe it no farther than the Terms, of which it is made up, are known and understood, and the Idea's signified by them consi­stent.

In order therefore to form a determinate Act of Faith in this Point, I must carefully examine my self what Notions I have of God, of Ʋnity and Identity, Distin­ction and Number, and Person.

As to the Notion of a Deity, 'tis true indeed I have not a full and adequate Idea of God, neither is my Soul capable of it; but what Conceptions I have of his Na­ture and Perfections, are, according to my Apprehen­sion, so far clear, as to enable me truly and justly to de­termine which of those distinct Idea's, I have in my Mind, are applicable to him, and which are not. And such a Knowledge of the Divine Nature as this, is a sufficient direction of my Faith in any Proposition con­cerning God, where I clearly understand all the Idea's attributed to him.

[Page 15] In the next place therefore, I am to consider what Notions I have of Ʋnity and Identity, Distinction and Number.

And here I confess I am at a Loss how to deliver my self, these being some of our first and most simple Idea's which are so clear of themselves, that I cannot find clearer to explain them by.

For this is certain, that every Man is conscious to himself, that he has a power of perceiving and compa­ring his Perceptions, and consequently must know when any thing is presented to his Mind, whether it be per­ceivable at one entire view, and whether the Object have one uniform appearance or not: He must be also sensible in a succession of Idea's, when the same Appearances are repeated again, and how often the Representation is va­ried.

However, notwithstanding the Clearness of these Notions, with respect to what passes in our own Minds, we are not able to make true and distinct Judgments of the unity or multiplicity of things without us: For it does not follow, that what is represented to the Soul at once, under one Idea or Appearance, should, accor­ding to the reality of things, be one undivided nature, neither can it be inferred, that what is represented to the Soul under different Idea's are so many distinct real Beings: For there are some Idea's purely of the Soul's own making, and not copied from any external Pat­terns, where there are a great many particular real Be­ings, of different kinds and natures, comprehended un­der one Representation: Thus all the Hills, Plains, Rivers, Trees, and Towns, &c. which the Eye can reach from such or such a Point, we put into one Pi­cture, and call it a Landskip or Prospect. Thus does the Soul enlarge its View to all the Works of God and [Page 16] Nature; it takes in the whole Creation at a Thought, and calls it World. On the other side, the real Na­tures, and Essences of Things, which are allowed to con­sist in a simple undivided Ʋnity, are not conceivable by us at once, but at different Views, by different partial Conceptions, which the Soul afterwards compounds and calls by one Name. Thus when we endeavour to com­prehend the Nature and Essence of what we call Man▪ we form, at different times, several confused Notions of Substance, Body, Life, Sense, and Reason; every one of which is a complicated Idea, and to be resolved into a great many others more simple and distinct: As for instance, I must form a great many Idea's of particular Actions, and the Modes, Differences, and Relations of them, before I can have any tolerable knowledge of what Reason is; and so for the rest.

All therefore that we understand of the unity of things without us, is this: When we perceive any Ob­ject in a continued Position, bounded and fenced out from other things round about it, all within such Terms and Limits we call One: And then again, observing a great many different Actions, produced in and by such an Object, we judge all these Actions and Operations to proceed from one common Principle, in some such man­ner as Streams from a Fountain, or several Lines from the same Centre. And whatever we thus judge to be One, tho' a great many Thoughts and Conceptions go to the forming of such a Judgment, we endeavour, as well as we can, to represent to our selves under one Idea or Appearance, tho' the Representation be often very confused and indistinct. And this we do, as supposing it wholly and uniformly conceivable at one single View, were it not for the Imperfection of our Faculties: Which Supposition is not without good Ground; for [Page 17] this we have plain Experience for, that when any visi­ble Object is of such a magnitude, or in such a situa­tion that the Eye cannot receive the whole Image of it at once, we take it in at different times, from different points of Sight; and yet for all this, we find no more Reason to doubt of the real Unity of such an Object, than of any other, whose Image came into the Soul entire at one Act of Vision; for we easily conceive there may be other Organs of Sight, which would reflect the whole Object together: And from thence we conclude further, that there may be also some other Mind more perfect than ours, which perceives that as one simple Idea which we cannot apprehend, but by a union of several different Conceptions: From whence it fol­lows, that the most perfect Mind, which is God, is the only true and proper Standard of all Unity and Distinction.

The Summe of all my Thoughts is this: What is meant by one or more, the same or different Idea's is bet­ter to be conceived by inward Reflexion, than can pos­sibly be explained by Words.

Such an Idea, which is not distinguishable into dif­ferent Appearances, I call a simple Idea.

When I have any Thought or Perception, which is resolvable into several Idea's, I call this a complex or com­pounded Notion. And hence I term any Being simple or compounded, according as it is perceivable by some Mind, under one simple Appearance, or a complex Idea.

Whether my Idea's are agreeable to the real Natures of Things, or those original Fatterns in the Mind of God, I cannot certainly know; but when they are the same, and when they differ from one another, I plainly perceive, tho' I cannot always judge of the Identity or Distinction of Things, according as they are represen­ted [Page 18] to my understanding, under the same or different Appearances: For here I should be sometimes mista­ken too, as 'tis plain I often must, if I judged of the real unity or multiplicity of Things by my own Idea's.

The Notions we have of the unity of Things with­out us, come the nearest that can be imagin'd to our Idea's of Point, and continued Extension; one of which represents simple unity, the other compounded; the one we apply to what we call spiritual Beings, the other to material: For 'tis certain the Conception we have of Body, can never furnish us with any Idea of simple Unity.

By a Spirit then we mean something without exten­sion, and consequently indivisible, capable of perfor­ming some such kind of Actions, which do, in some manner or degree, resemble those we are conscious of: But what that is, from whence I suppose such Actions to proceed, I have not the least conception of; for all that I conceive, is only several Idea's of different parti­cular Actions, which no more express the Idea of that Principle from whence they spring, than the Idea's of several particular Lines express the Idea of that Point they are drawn from.

All that we can perceive or imagine of corporeal Ʋ ­nity, is nothing else but a Connexion or joint Position of several Bodies, which, according as it is more or less perceivable, according to the simplicity or multiformity of the Figure resulting from it, and the easiness or difficulty of Separation, makes several degrees of Ʋnion, which all receive the common Denomination of Ʋnity.

Now as Extension, by reason of its perpetual divisibi­lity, cannot give us a true Notion of simple Ʋnity, so neither can I have any distinct knowledge of Ʋnion or [Page 19] Composition, abstracted from all Considerations of Ex­tension. I do not understand how a Mind and Body are united, any otherwise than that I perceive such and such spiritual Actions produced within the Compass of such a Body which I call One: Neither am I able to comprehend the Union or Separation of Two spiritual Beings, without considering them as in the same or dif­ferent Localites; for I have not distinct Idea's of seve­ral spiritual Natures, nor, if I should perceive the seve­ral Operations of different Spirits, could I distinguish the several individual Beings, or Principles, they pro­ceeded from: For who is there that, if all the Thoughts and Motions of the Souls of several Men were commu­nicated to him, could tell which proceeded from which? Nay, we cannot tell what difference of Actions is suffi­cient to determine the different kinds of Principles they proceeded from; neither can any Co-operation, or Con­sent of Actions, make us conceive a spiritual Ʋnion, without conceiving the same Term of Action too. For suppose two Souls were so exactly framed alike, that they always thought and will'd the same Things at the same times, and were conscious of each other's Thoughts and Actions, if they were put into different Bodies, 'tis plain we could not properly say they were united or made one: And again, supposing they were in the same Body, we could not possibly conceive them to be two, any otherwise than we knew them capable of a separate Existence; that is, if we examine our Thoughts ho­nestly, of a separate Ʋhi, in different Bodies, or else­where: Not that I think local Presence, or Determina­tion, is any way contained within the Idea of a spiritu­al Being, but it helps us to conceive it better, and dis­course more distinctly about it. And, if we observe [Page 20] it, there are several cases where our Conceptions and Judgments must necessarily differ.

These then are all the kinds of Ʋnity and Distinction I can possibly imagine; namely, in Idea, Principle, and Position. Whatever else is called Unity, is more properly termed Agreement, the very Notion of which implies a distinction in some of the fore-mentioned kinds.

Identity is nothing else but a repetition of Ʋnity, as Number is of Difference, with the Judgment of the Un­derstanding upon it.

What Personal Ʋnity and Distinction are, will be easily understood by explaining the word Person, which signifies one of these two things; either a Particular, Intelligent Being, or an Office, Character, or some such complex Notion applicable to such a Being. In the first sense one Man, or Angel, is one Person, and several Men or Angels are several Persons. In the second sense of the word there may be so many Persons as there are different Combinations of the Actions, Relations, and Circumstances of Intelligent Beings.

And thus having given an Account of the meaning and signification of the Terms in which we are required to express our Faith, we are next to Examine, how far, and in what sense we can believe this Proposition, That One and the same God is Three different Persons.

Now 'tis certain, that if those before-specified are all the Notions we are able to frame of Ʋnity and Di­stinction, then God must be One and Three in some way or manner there laid down, or else in some other way or manner not conceivable by Human Understanding.

First then, let us see how and in what manner God can be One and Three, according to those Notions our Souls have framed of Ʋnity and Distinction.

[Page 21] And here 'tis granted on all hands, that nothing can be One and Three in the same manner and respect: We can­not conceive a thing to be in One determinate Position or Ʋbi, and in Three separate Ʋbi's all at once; We cannot conceive that One Principle or Nature should be but One, and yet Three different Principles or Natures too; or that any Object should be truly and adequately represented to any Mind or Understanding under One Idea, and truly and adequately represented under Three different Idea's. 'Tis impossible to believe any thing of this kind, because it implies a plain Contradiction to the clearest and most certain knowledge we can have of Unity and Distinction; so that if One may be Three in the same respect 'tis One, then One and Three must stand for other Idea's than we conceive when we pro­nounce these words; and if so, they ought to have other Names, and not be called One and Three.

Since therefore we cannot say, that God is One and Three in the same respect; in the next place let us En­quire, In what different respects this may be affirmed of him. Now, as to the Ʋnity of God, this is easily be­lieved and acknowledged, as being very agreeable to all our other Notions of the Deity. The chief diffi­culty lyes in assigning the Distinction: In attempt­ing which, the best and clearest way of proceeding will be by going over the several kinds of Distinction before-mentioned.

I will begin with that of Position: And here 'tis plain at first sight that we cannot possibly conceive God under any difference of Position; we cannot ex­clude Omnipotence from any imaginable point of space: 'Tis the limited Powers and Faculties of created Beings which are the Foundation of all Local Distinctions: And therefore when we endeavour to represent God to our [Page 22] thoughts in this manner, we consider him as Omnipre­sent; and I can no more conceive Three Omnipresents, than I can conceive Three straight Lines drawn be­tween the same Points.

But though there can be but One undivided Omnipre­sence, may there not be Three Infinite Beings Co-equal to one another, and Commensurate to One Infinite Space? This is far above my Conception too: Infinite swallows up all my thoughts. Whatever Idea we apply this Term Infinite to, I think it impossible to apply it to another of the same Denomination: As for Example; If I apply it to Power, I cannot consider it as applicable to more than One Infinite Power: For Infinite Power includes all the Possibilities of Action; so that to con­ceive more than One Infinite Power, would be to con­ceive more Power than is possible; which is a gross and palpable Absurdity. And therefore we cannot conceive Three Infinite Beings distinct from one another, any more than Three Infinite Powers, or Three Infinite Spaces, because all Distinction implies some Limitation, and Li­mitation is a Contradiction to Infinity. We can indeed conceive Infinite Power, as in some manner bounded by Infinite Wisdom, Justice, Mercy, or the like; but in no wise as limited by any other Power. We cannot therefore conceive one Infinite Being as bounded by another Infinite Being; for then we should conceive Infinite Power limited by another Power, and the like of all other Attributes, which are the same in both: For the Notion of an Infinite Being includes in it all the imaginable kinds of Infinite Perfection.

But if we say, there are Three Infinite Beings, and all the Perfections of each are coincident, what ground can we have for such a Distinction? Not so much, to use the former Instance, as for that of three [Page 23] straight Lines between the same Points; for there the different times of describing the same Line may in some manner help us to form a confused Conception of dif­ferent Lines: But 'tis not in the Power of the Soul to represent to its self Three Eternal Beings of Coinci­dent Perfections. Here's nothing for the Imagination to lay hold of, no manner of ground to deceive our selves into a confused belief of such a Distinction. And therefore I do not see how 'tis possible for us to believe there are Three distinct Principles or Natures all of the same Infinite Perfections, which together we call God.

And if there be but One Omnipresent, Infinitely Per­fect Being, how can he be truly and fully represented to any Mind under Three different Idea's? The truth of an Idea consists in its Agreement and Conformity to the Original it represents; And if so, how is't possible there should be Three Idea's exactly and adequately conformable to the same Original, and yet different from one another? Either these Differences found in the Idea's are not in the real Pattern, and then the Re­presentation is false; or they are, and then the Unity of the Object is destroyed.

'Tis true, indeed we do often apply different Idea's to the same individual Object; but these are either Partial and Inadequate Conceptions of the Nature and Es­sence of it; or Expressive of something Accessory and Extrinsecal to the Nature of the thing, such as Modes, Circumstances, and Relations.

Those Partial Conceptions we frame of the Divine Nature are what we call the Attributes of God: Which, how different soever from one another in our thoughts, are all necessarily included in the simple Idea of God; and therefore cannot be the ground of such a Distinction as we are now enquiring after. For when I say, that God [Page 24] is Holy, Wise, or Powerful, I only say that explicitly and in part, which I said implicitly and in full, when I pronounced the Name of God; and the meaning of such Propositions is no more but this, That a Holy, Wise, Powerful Being, of all other Infinite Perfections is Holy, Wise, Powerful, &c. All which Perfections, though considered separately under different Appear­ances by our imperfect Faculties, being really but one simple Idea, can be applyed to but one Single Person in the first sense of the word Person, as it signifies a particular Intelligent Being, Nature, or Principle; and that for the Reasons just now mentioned concerning the Conformity of Idea's with their Patterns.

From whence it follows, that according to the No­tions we are capable of framing of Ʋnity and Distin­ction, which I have particularly examined, with Re­ference to the Holy Trinity, all the Personal Distinction we can conceive in the Deity must be founded upon some Accessory Idea's Extrinsecal to the Divine Nature; a certain Combination of which Idea's makes up the Second Notion signified by the word Person.

And if we fairly and impartially Examine our own Thoughts upon this Subject, we shall find, that, when we name God the Father, we conceive the Idea of God so far as we are capable of conceiving it, as Acting so and so, under such Respects and Relations; and when we name God the Son, we conceive nothing else but the same Idea of God over again under different Rela­tions; and so likewise of the Holy-Ghost.

But if this be all that is meant by Trinity in Ʋnity, Three Persons, and One God, where is that stupendious Mystery so much reverenced and adored by some? What becomes of the great Difficulty and Obscurity complained of by others? What is it that has puzled [Page 25] the Understandings, and staggered the Faith of so many Learned and Inquisitive Men in all Ages since this Doctrine was first delivered? This is an invincible Pre­judice against the Account now given, and indeed a­gainst any other Explication whatsoever that has no­thing in it hard to be understood, or believed: For how can it be imagined that what has passed for a Mystery these Sixteen Hundred Years, should now at last be comprehended as plainly as a common ordinary Notion?

But if this Account of the Trinity be too easie, and falls far short of those High Expressions of Distinction found in Scripture (as I think it does) and no other grounded upon any Notions our Souls have framed of Ʋnity and Distinction can be true or consistent (as I have before particularly proved) then it necessarily fol­lows, that God must be One and Three in some way or manner not conceivable by Humane Understanding.

And what we are to believe in this case is the Sub­ject of my next Enquiry; which I am perswaded may very easily and quickly be resolved: For if we are fully satisfied from Revelation, that these Terms, One and Three, may, and ought to be affirmed of God, but not in any sense of the words we are here in this pre­sent state capable of conceiving. And moreover, if it be true, as I have already shewn it is, that we can be­lieve a thing no farther than we understand the Terms in which it is proposed to us; 'tis plain from hence that all we can possibly believe in the matter of the Trinity is, That One and the same God is Three in some way or manner we are not able to comprehend. And if we are sure we cannot comprehend what this Di­stinction is whereby God is Three, in vain do we look out for Terms to express something which we have no [Page 26] manner of Conception of. Whatever words we use, whether Person, Hypostasis, or any other we can in­vent, or Languages furnish us with, they all signifie the same thing; that is, some kind of Distinction we do not understand. And we may rack our Thoughts, tire our Imaginations, and break all the Fibres of our Brain, and yet never be able to deliver our selves clearer.

All therefore that we can know of the Trinity by Reason, can amount to no more than an Obscure confu­sed Knowledge, which we are forced to express in ge­neral and abstracted Terms, because we are sure no other reach our thoughts, though these are not suffi­cient to explain all we mean by them.

Nor is this to be wonder'd at, that we should have confused Notions of things which no particular Idea's our Minds are furnish'd with can render clearer to us: For if we consider the Degrees and Limits of our Know­ledge, and take a strict Survey of our whole stock of Thoughts, we shall find there are very few things that we know fully and distinctly. Most of our Notions differ only as more or less confused, more or less general. There is a certain Scale of Knowledge, wherein every thing is so fitted and proportioned to our Faculties, that we cannot descend below such a determinate pitch in our Conceptions or Explications of any Object propo­sed to us.

As for instance; suppose a Blind-Man has a desire to know what Colour is; 'tis certain he can never form a true distinct Idea of it; but yet he is capable of a ge­neral confused Knowledge, which wants but one de­gree of Particularity to be clear and perfect Conception. He may know that Colour is not any Substance, but some Mode or Determination which owes its Existence [Page 27] and Support to some other Being; that it is not Exten­sion, or any other Accident or Quality perceivable by any of the Senses he enjoys: He may further be made to understand, that it is some kind of Sensation, pro­duced by the impression of other Bodies upon that part of a Man's which is called the Eye, which other Men perceive though he does not. Now 'tis plain that such a Man knows a great deal of the Nature of Colour, more by far than another Blind-Man who has not made the same Enquiries and Reflections about it; and so much as will secure him from having any other Idea imposed upon him for that of Colour, which is so di­stinguished and circumstantiated to him, that, should he now receive his sight, he would presently acknow­ledge the marks before described to him. And yet af­ter all, it may be truly said, while he continues blind, he has no manner of Idea of Colour, because he has no distinct Idea of that particular kind of Sensation to which his general Idea's are applyed. And therefore he can go no lower in his Explications of the Notion he has of Colour: For if he explains it by any Sensa­tion which he receives from his other Senses, the Idea's he has then in his Mind are indeed more particular and distinct, but the Judgment he makes upon them must be utterly false, whereas before, his Knowledge was only general and confused, but yet true.

I have made choice of this plain, familiar Instance of Sense, to shew the unreasonableness of those who in higher Speculations complain that the terms brought to explain them are too general and abstracted; and de­mand a further Explication of what we cannot possibly know beyond such a degree of Particularity, which the Terms already made use of, do express.

[Page 28] In vain therefore, and unjustly, are we urged to ex­plain the Doctrine of the Trinity more particularly, when we have brought it down to the utmost Particu­larity we are capable of conceiving, and at the same time freely acknowledge, we don't know it so distin­ctly as 'tis capable of being known.

For then only is the Use of general abstracted Terms to be condemned, either when the subject we are upon will admit of a more particular and sensible Explica­tion; or, if it will not, when by too much Refi­ning and Abstracting, we deceive our selves, and think some Terms we have found out make the Thing clear to us, tho' we have not really more distinct Con­ceptions of it than we had before, and at the same time these very Terms make it more obscure and difficult to others. And this is what I remarked before as a Prejudice to be avoided in an impartial Search after Truth.

But so long as we acknowledge we have only a gene­ral confused Notion of the Trinity, or such a Three-fold Distinction in the Godhead, as is consistent with the uni­ty of the Divine Nature, we may be allowed to explain this Notion in general abstracted Terms; because we lay no greater a Stress upon the Terms than they will truly bear, and require only a Faith proportionate to our Knowledge; that is, a general confused Faith, which we expect a clearer and more distinct Revelation of here­after.

And thus I have dispatched the first Branch of my Discourse, wherein I proposed to consider how far 'twas possible for us to believe a Trinity.

II. I come now to my Second General Enquiry, viz. What it is the Scripture requires us to believe in [Page 29] this Matter? For a distinct Resolution of which Question, I shall observe the following Method:

  • First, I shall barely and positively lay down the Doctrine of the Trinity, so far as I judge it expresly contained in Scripture.
  • Secondly, I shall endeavour to prove the Truth of what I assert.
  • Thirdly, I shall consider the particular Additional Explications that have or may be given of the Scripture-Account of this Article.

1. In speaking to the First, it must be allowed, that there is no such Proposition as this, That One and the same God is Three different Persons formally, and in Terms, to be found in the Sacred Writings either of the Old or New Testament: Neither is it pretended that there is any Word of the same Signification or Importance with the Word Trinity, used in Scripture, with rela­tion to God. There is one Text which plainly enough affirms, without the help of Inference or Deduction, that God is Three and One: But this being a disputed Passage, and no where else repeated in the same or the like Terms, I shall not insist upon it. Nor do I think such a Trinity as we profess to believe, stands much in need of the Support of this Text; the Matter and sub­ject of our Faith in this Point being frequently, largely, and circumstantially mentioned; and, as it appears to me, interwoven into the very Design of the Scrip­tures.

Now the Summ of all that the Scriptures plainly and expresly teach concerning a Trinity, is this: That there is but One only God, the Author and Maker of All Things; but that One God ought to be acknow­ledged [Page 30] and adored by us, under those Three different Ti­tles or Characters of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Which Terms, whatever they signifie, according to my Judg­ment, upon a fair and impartial Consideration of all Circumstances that can determine their Sense, are evi­dently applied to God in many Places of Holy Writ; and consequently are truly and properly applicable to him.

2. The Proof of which Assertion is the Second Thing I undertook.

But here I find my self forestalled by the successful Endeavours of a great many Learned Men, who have carefully and nicely examined every Text that can be brought, either for the Establishment, or Confutation of the Doctrine of the Trinity. I shall not therefore trouble my Reader with a particular detail of all their Arguments; but only acquaint him truly and fairly what were the chief Motives which influenced and disposed me to make such a Judgment as I have, just before, declared.

Now the Reasons which determined my Opinion in this Matter, were such as freely offered themselves up­on an unprejudiced reading of Scripture, and conside­ring the Design, Connexion, and Analogy of those Writings: And I am apt to believe, if any Man else took the same Method, and considered Things toge­gether, and not only in loose Texts and Passages, the first Result of his Thoughts would be the same, viz. These Terms, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, must all be so understood, as to include the same God in their Signification; and that any other Sense or Explication of the Words, would be attended with greater Diffi­culties.

[Page 31] But this being a Reflexion which is founded upon the Agreement and Coherence of all the Parts of Scrip­ture, 'twould be a very improper and ineffectual De­sign to go about to confirm the Truth of it from some particular Passages. Omitting therefore all those Texts, which are a great many, where any of these Terms, Father, Son, or Holy Ghost, appear to be directly affir­med of God, according to a fair Construction of the Words, I shall only observe Two or Three Passages from the History of our Saviour and his Gospel, which, to my Apprehension, do as strongly prove what I have advanced as the most formal Expressions, and are less liable to be perverted by the Criticisms of Lan­guage.

The first Observation I have to make, concerns the common Forms of Baptism, Salutation, and Blessing, used in several Places of the New Testament.

Now these are Matters no way controverted: That our Saviour commanded his Disciples to go and teach all Nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. That St. Paul makes use of such Salu­tations as these: The Lord be with you; The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all; Grace be to you, and Peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ: And particularly closes his Second Epistle to the Corinthians with this [...] and fuller Blessing; The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God, and the Communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all. From whence I infer, that all these Terms, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, signifie God; because I cannot possibly conceive 'tis agreeable to the Nature of the Christian Religion, that the Ministers of it should Teach, Baptize, or Bless the People in any other Name but God's.

[Page 32] It cannot be imagined but the People must equally believe in those, in whose Names they are Baptized or Bless'd: They must believe that those, who are call'd upon to bestow Graces and Blessings upon them, are able to give what they are called upon for. And whatever is meant by Baptizing in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, it seems very plain that these Three are all equally concerned in what's done in that Sacrament. Whether by this Form of Baptism be signified on the Minister's Part, the Authority or Commission by which he acts in his Administration; or whether on the Part of the Person baptized, be meant any Acknowledgment or Confession, Submission or Dedi­cation of himself; or whether this Phrase in the Name, or, as in the Greek, into the Name, does imply all this, and more, the whole Force and Importance of the Ex­pression, does in the same Extent belong to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The Power and Authority here recei­ved, is derived from all Three: They are all to be ac­knowledged as Authors of our Salvation; all infallible, and to be believed in what they Teach; have all the same Title to our Submission and Obedience, and are Joint-Parties in that Covenant we make in Baptism.

The Inference from hence is very Plain and Easie: That if any one of these Terms signifie God, they must all Three signifie God; and if all Three signifie God, they must all Three signifie one and the same God; for God is but One. Now that the One Supreme God, the Lord and Maker of All Things, is here meant by the Word Father, is a Thing not questioned; and there­fore Son, and Holy Ghost, are Terms expressive of the same Divine Nature.

Should we but suppose the contrary, That by Son was meant only a meer Man, or some Heavenly Being, [Page 33] of highest Rank under God; and by Holy Ghost was sig­nified only some created Spirit, inferior to the Son, or the Power, Efficacy, Love, Favour, or Vertue of God how strange would such a Form of Baptism appear? I Baptize thee in the Name of God, Peter the Apostle, and the Power or Love of God; or, I Baptize thee in the Name of God, Michael the Archangel, and Raphael a Ministring Spirit. There needs no more but a bare Mention of such an Exposition to shew the Fal­shood of it: What absurd Consequences may be drawn from it, I shall leave to every Man's particular Reflexion.

Another Thing which mightily confirmed me in this Belief, that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, so often named in Scripture, are One and the same God, under those Three different Appellations, was this, That the Son, who is the same with him that is in other Places called the Lord, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and some­times only Jesus, or Christ, was worship'd with a Reli­gious Worship by those that followed him and embraced his Gospel: For if he that was called the Son of God, or Christ, was thus to be worship'd, it plainly and evi­dently follows from hence, according to all the Notions we have of God and Religion, either from Nature or Revelation, that the Son was also God, the same true and only God with the Father.

And if the Son be allowed to be God as well as the Father, it will be easily admitted that the Holy Ghost is so too, who appears in Scripture invested with all the same Characters of Divinity: For Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are as consistent with the Ʋnity of the Godhead, as Father and Son only; and besides, there's greater difficulty in conceiving the Son to be God, than the Holy Ghost, because of his Humane Nature. But [Page 34] that he was God manifest in the Flesh, is, I say, appa­rent from the divine Worship that was pay'd to him: For that God only is to be worship'd, is an evident Principle, as well as an indispensable Duty; and I can as soon believe a thing to be, and not to be, as that any thing that is not God should be worshipped as God.

Now that Christ received the Honour and Worship due to God only, is plain from abundance of Places of Scripture, where we find he was not only adored with all the outward Expressions of Reverence and Devotion, but confess'd and acknowledged to be God by an Application of the Divine Attributes to him, such as agree only to God, and are incommunicable to any other, as might be proved at large if it had not been done already: But this being fully insisted upon by others, I shall only name Two Passages to this Pur­pose; the one, Phil. 4. 13. the other, Act. 7. 59. which, if there were no other, are of themselves suffi­cient to shew what the Faith of the first Christians was: For who, but one that believed that Christ was God, could say with St. Paul, I can do all things through Christ that strengthneth me; or, with St. Stephen, at the instant of Death, cry out, Lord Jesus receive my Spirit.

From these, and many other Texts, it seems plain to me, that Christ was worshipped, and acknowledged as God; and that therefore he ought so to be worship­ped, and acknowledged, we have all the same Reasons to believe, as we have that the Scriptures are True; the Establishment of a False Worship being a thorough Disproof of the Authority that Commands it.

Supposing therefore the Truth of the Scriptures, there's no way of eluding this Argument, but by gi­ving [Page 35] another Interpretation to all those Places which seem to ascribe divine Honour to Christ; which can no otherwise be done, than by framing a particular Dia­lect for this Purpose, and giving new Significations to Words, when applied to our Saviour, which they never had before, when used upon other Occasions.

I shall not enter upon a particular Proof of this, but pass on to

Another Argument I observ'd from Scripture, which gave me further Assurance of the Divinity of the Son, and consequently of the Truth of the whole Proposi­tion before advanced; and that is, The Character of Jesus Christ considered meerly as a Man. Now 'tis cer­tain, that the Man Christ Jesus, the Son of David, ac­cording to the Flesh, is represented by all the Evange­lists, as having his Conversation in this World with all Lowliness, and Humility, and with perfect Holiness, and Unblameableness of Life. And it is not imagina­ble, that a Person of this Character should have suf­fered any Titles to have been given him, any Honour or Respect to have been pay'd him, which were not strictly and indispensably due to him; much less have taken the Honour and Worship, peculiar to God only, to himself, if he had not been infallibly conscious that of a Truth God dwelt in him. I cannot possibly con­ceive that one, who declined all Appearance of Gran­deur, Dominion, and Authority, should have allowed of any thing that look'd like Worship, or Adoration, or might have been mistaken for it; or that he, who knew he was believed to be the Son of God, in such a Sense which some thought Blasphemy, would not have undeceived his Followers, and justified himself to his Enemies, had he not really been what 'twas Blasphe­my to have pretended to be, if he were not.

[Page 36] I might easily pursue these Reflections a great deal further, and bring more Arguments to confirm the truth of what I have asserted, that these Names or Titles of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are applyed in Scripture to the One True God; but I judge it altoge­ther unnecessary, not only because it has been fully made out already in several set Discourses upon this Subject, but because it is so plainly and expresly re­vealed, that I am verily perswaded every Man that reads would believe, were it not for the additional Ex­plications such a Belief is charged with.

3. Which is the next thing to be considered: And indeed here lyes the whole difficulty of the matter, the main stress of the Controversie. For that God should be called Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is as easily to be believed, as that he should be called Adonai, Elohim, and Jehovah; That the same thing should be signified and expressed by several names, is no such incredible Mystery: But if we allow that these Terms, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are all applyed to God in Scrip­ture, 'tis not thought sufficient to say, that these are three several Names which signifie God; but we are further required to believe that God is One and Three, the same God, but three different Hypostases or Persons; And that one of these three Hypostases or Persons, is both God and Man. These are the hard sayings which puz­zles some Mens Understandings, and make them chuse rather to wrest and pervert the plainest Texts, than admit such seemingly inconsistent Consequences.

Here therefore I shall Examine, what grounds there are in Scripture for such an Exposition:

And what we are obliged from thence to believe when we express our Faith in this particular man­ner.

[Page 37] First then, as to these forms of Expression, That God is One and Three, &c. It is to be observed, that these Names, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are applyed to God in Scripture in a different way from what any of his other Names are: For the other Names of God signifie only Partial Conceptions of the Divine Nature, such as Self-Existence, Power, &c. and are all contained within the same Idea of God; and so are indifferently used upon any occasion to express the whole Idea of God to which they belong, which is the same under every denomination. These therefore cannot be the Foundation of any distinction in the Godhead: But Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, according to our way of conceiving things, signifie something Extrinsecal and Accessory to the Divine Nature, as much as we know of the Divine Nature by reason, the whole Idea of God being conceived as full and compleat before the appli­cation of these terms; And though all of them are se­parately and together affirmed of God, yet each of them in so peculiar a manner, that there are several occasions where when one of these terms is used with relation to God, 'twould be improper to use either of the other. From whence it follows, that these three Names of God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, must de­note a three-fold difference or distinction belonging to God; but such as is consistent with the Ʋnity and Sim­plicity of the Divine Nature. For each of these Names includes the whole Idea we have of God and something more; so far as they express the Nature of God, they all adequately and exactly signifie the same; 'tis the additional signification which makes all the distinction betwixt them.

What particular kind or manner of distinction this is, is not expressed in Scripture; but since the Church has [Page 38] thought fit to assign a Name for it, that of Person seems to me as proper and agreeable to the whole Te­nor and Design of the Holy Writings, as any other that could have been chosen for that purpose. For Fa­ther, Son, and Holy Ghost, whether we consider the Primitive sense and intention of the words, the gene­ral and constant use of them, or the particular Connex­ion and Circumstances in which they are mentioned in Scripture, have plainly a Personal Signification; each of them, without any figure of Speech, being deter­mined to signifie some intelligent Being Acting in such a manner as is there related.

There needs no Proof of this, the plain distinction of Persons imported by those Terms being the chief Ar­gument made use of to shew that they cannot all be applied to God, but must necessarily signifie Three di­stinct Beings: But that they are all applyed to God in Scripture, has been proved already; And therefore Fa­ther, Son, and Holy Ghost may be considered as Persons or Personal Characters, which do not imply any distin­ction of Being or Nature.

The Greeks are supposed to have meant the same by Hypostases as we do by Person; this word being some­times the very Translation of the other; And if so, there's the same ground for the use of both: But if they meant any thing else, they could hardly have so good Warrant for it from Revelation.

Now, that one of these Persons or Hypostases should be both God and Man, there is this Foundation in the Scriptures for. He who is there called the Son of God, did certainly appear in the likeness of Men, being in all respects, Sin only excepted, truly and properly Man; as his Birth, Necessities, Sufferings, and Death sufficiently testifie. 'Tis certain also that the same Jesus Christ, [Page 39] who was called the Son of God, and was made in the likeness of Man, is affirmed by St. Paul, Phil. 3. 7, 8. to have been in the form of God, when he took the Na­ture of Man upon him.

But besides this and many other Texts to the same effect, 'tis plain, from what before has been proved, that God did suffer himself to be worshipped and ado­red in and by the Man Christ Jesus: The least that can be inferred from which is, that God was more imme­diately and peculiarly present in Christ, than ever he is said to have been any where else: As in the Heavens, Jewish Temple, between the Cherubims, in Prophets and Holy Men, who spake as they were moved by the Spi­rit of God. What created Object was ever allowed to intercept the Worship paid to God, or share with him in it? Were the Heavens, the Temple, the Cherubim or Prophets to be adored? Nay, has not God taken a par­ticular care to preserve Men from Idolatry, by forbid­ding them to Worship him in or by any sensible Repre­sentation? Did not the Apostles, who worship'd Christ, forbid others to Worship Men of like Passions with Acts 14. ver. 15. themselves, commanding them to direct all their Devo­tion to the Living God, who made Heaven and Earth? How then can we suppose that Christ was only a meer Man, or some other Creature, and not rather believe that he had the Fulness of the Godhead dwelling in him bodily?

But here it is Objected; How can God and Man be united? And to this I must fairly Answer, that I can­not tell. I have confessed already in the Account I have given of those Notions of Ʋnity and Distinction, that I have not any just or distinct Conceptions of the Ʋnion of Spiritual Beings, either with Bodies, or with one ano­ther: But this I will venture to say, that I can as well [Page 40] conceive God and Man together under one Idea, at one view, as I can conceive a Soul and Body so united.

All that I know of the Ʋnion of Soul and Body is; that there is some Intelligent Power that makes use of the Organs of my Body, and Acts in conjunction with the Motions there produced. And I may as well con­sider God united to Man, when he so Acts by the Ministry and Operation of Man, that the Actions of God seem conveyed to us the same way as the Actions of one Man are to another. Had those who upon some occasions spake by the extraordinary Assistance of a Di­vine Power been constantly so directed, and assisted, how would they have distinguished the Motions of their Souls from the Impressions of God? And why then should not we think such an Extraordinary Power as this as much united to such Men, as that Common ordinary Power we call the Soul is to those Bodies in which it acts and exerts it self?

Some have been of Opinion, that what we call the Soul, is nothing else but a constant regular Inspiration, or a determinate Concurrence of God Almighty with such and such Motions and Capacities of Matter: But whe­ther this be so or no, as most probably it is not, it seems to me very plain from Scripture, that such a Power which we ascribe to God, did as Constantly and Regu­larly Act in and through Christ, as the Human Soul is perceived to do in any other Man: As appears from his absolute security from all manner of Sin and Error, from his constant knowledge of the Thoughts and De­signs of Men, and the Will and Decrees of God; and from his Readiness and Ability to work Miracles at any time, and upon any occasion. All which are manifest Tokens of an uninterrupted Presence and Concurrence of the Deity: Especially if we consider the Calmness and [Page 41] Evenness of Spirit observable in our Saviour, entirely free from all the transports of over-ruling Impressions, 'tis a further Argument that he did not receive the Spi­rit of God at times, or by measure; but was as consci­ous of all the Divine Perfections in himself as a Man is conscious of his own Thoughts.

Such are the Grounds we find in Scripture for those particular Explications of the Trinity before-men­tioned.

In the next place, we are to Enquire what the Scrip­tures necessarily oblige us to believe in this Point.

But before this Question can be resolved, there are two things to be premised:

1. That whatever Articles of Faith are absolutely necessary to Salvation, all Persons of every Rank and Condition are equally obliged to believe them. There is not one Religion for the Peasant, and another for the Scholar: We have the same general Rule to walk by, though particular Obligations may be greater or lesser, fewer or more, according to different Circumstances and Relations. And whatever Principles and Duties are of general Necessity, ought to be so plainly re­vealed, as to be easily understood by ordinary Capa­cities upon a fair and careful Examination.

2. That in order to this end it seems to have been the Design of the Scriptures to represent God in a sen­sible manner; though at the same time they take care to assure us that God is in his own Nature a Being of different Perfections not conceivable by Human Under­standing: And is thus represented only in condescen­tion to our weakness, for the help and assistance of our Devotion. So that all Expressions of this kind, where God is the Subject, are to be understood in a higher and more Spiritual sense, but still with some Analogy to [Page 42] what they properly and usually signifie. Thus, to use a common Instance, when 'tis said, that God looks down and beholds what's done among the Children of Men; that he hears the Cries of the Righteous, and the Bla­sphemies of the Wicked, 'tis not to be imagined that he sees as Man sees, that he makes use of any Organs of Sense; but 'tis thus expressed to give us more lively Notions and Impressions of the certainty of God's Ʋni­versal Knowledge; to assure us that God more plainly, fully, and infallibly knows whatever is done in all the Earth, than we are capable of knowing those things which fall within the reach of our Senses.

This being premised, it seems very plain to me that the Doctrine of the Trinity is not to be look'd upon as a nice abstracted Speculation designed for the Exercise of our Understandings; but as a plainer Revelation of God's Love and Good Will towards Men, and a greater Motive and Incitement to Piety than any we had be­fore this Doctrine was delivered.

Had man stood confirmed in his Original Righteousness, and there had been no need of Redemption, 'tis highly probable God had never been considered by Man in his state of Probation under any such Distinction as is now revealed to us; And therefore I should think those different Titles and Relations by which God has been pleased to express that Eternal Distinction in the God­head to us, should be chiefly considered by us with refe­rence to the great Work of Man's Salvation.

Thus far then the Scriptures require us to believe; That the One only Supream God upon his fore-knowledge of Man's Fall, did from all Eternity Purpose and De­cree to Redeem Mankind into a capacity of Salvation, by the Death and constant Mediation of a Man chosen and enabled for this Work by the fulness of the Godhead [Page 43] dwelling in him: And in consideration of his Passion and Intercession, to impart such Gifts, Graces, and Spiritual Assistances, as would be sufficient to render this Redem­ption effectual to the Saving of much People.

And moreover we are to believe that God has accord­ingly executed this his Gracious Design towards us: By sending into the World Christ Jesus, the Man who before he had ordained, should in the Fulness of Time be born, and suffer for our Sins; in and by whom, as has already been shewn, God acted in a wonderful man­ner, was worshipped and adored, and acknowledged in all his Attributes; and with whom he abideth in the Ful­ness of Power and Glory for ever: And, since his Death and Reception into Heaven, by a plentiful Effusion of Spiritual Graces and Influences; by which means a great many have embraced the Gospel of Christ, and become Heirs of Salvation, and more from henceforth to the end of all things shall daily be added to the Church of God, be supported in the Faith, and be made Partakers of the purchased Inheritance reserved in Heaven for those that are Sanctified by the Spirit of God.

Now, with respect to this great Design of Saving Mankind, and the Order and Method of the Divine Wisdom in the Execution of it; To give us as full and distinct Apprehensions as our Souls are able to con­ceive of the Misery of our sinful Condition, the diffi­culty of Deliverance, and the unspeakable Mercy of God in restoring us to the Happiness we had justly for­feited; and to raise our Souls to the highest pitch of Veneration, Love, and Gratitude we are capable of expressing for such an inestimable Blessing; God has been pleased to reveal himself to us under several Personal Characters and Relations: Such as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; Saviour, Mediator, and Comforter. By which [Page 44] Names, and all other Expressions consequent thereup­on, we are directed to consider some such kind of Di­stinction, and Subordination of Offices and Relations in God, as the Terms made use of do commonly import.

Thus when God is pleased to represent his Love to Mankind, in the highest Image of Nature; that of a Father sacrificing an only well-beloved Son, the exact Transcript and Resemblance of himself, perfectly In­nocent, and Obedient to his Will in all Things, we are to believe that, by the Sufferings, and Death of Christ, God has given greater Proofs of his Love towards us than any Man is capable of doing to another; and that such an Action of an Earthly Parent suggests the near­est and likest Conception we can possibly frame, of what our Heavenly Father has done for us; tho' at the same time we must acknowledge it comes infinitely short of expressing the Riches and Fulness of his Mer­cy and Loving-kindness.

And the same Use and Spiritual Improvement is to be made of all other Revelations of this nature.

And thus we have seen how far we are capable of conceiving a Trinity, and what the Scriptures expresly oblige us to believe concerning this Point.

All that is beyond, lies far out of our Reach and Comprehension, and no particular Explications can add any thing to our Faith; for the Terms made use of for that End, being in use before this Doctrine was taught, must either signifie the same they did before, or not: If the same, where's the Mystery? If not, what do they signifie? Something that we cannot explain but in Words used already, and then the Question will re­turn again. The same Difficulty would attend new Terms invented on purpose; for either they would have no meaning at all affixed to them, or else they [Page 45] would be understood in the sense of some other in use before. And therefore, had the very same Terms and Forms of Expression been found in the Scriptures, as are now in our Creeds, the Revelation of the Trinity had been no plainer, nor we obliged to believe any farther than the present Language does import: For upon a fair and distinct Examination both of Scripture and Reason, it plainly appears, that what's already revealed amounts to as much as we are capable of conceiving, and does besides imply something more which we can not comprehend; and 'tis not in the Power of Lan­guage to make us understand any thing better: For 'tis utterly impossible to frame any Notions above our own Level. And should God be pleased to stamp some new Idea's upon the Minds of Men▪ they could not be conveyed to others by the help of Words, or any other Signs, but only by the same Divine Impressions: so that whatever Idea's the Apostles, and Inspired Writers, might have of a Trinity by immediate Infusion, the Terms they have made use of can give us but this im­perfect Discovery of them, that they were such as we are not able to comprehend without the like Assistance.

This then is the utmost we are required to believe, or are capable of believing, concerning the Doctrine of the Trinity, viz. That these Three different Terms, Fa­ther, Son, and Holy Ghost, are all applied in Scripture to the One only supreme God; That all the Actions, Of­fices, and Relations, which are in Scripture ascribed to any of these Names, (excepting those proper to the Humane Nature of Christ) are there plainly attributed, and do truly belong to one, and the same Divine Nature; That there are such frequent and evident Assertions of the Ʋnity of God in Scripture, and yet such plain Ex­pressions of distinction, signified by these Terms, Fa­ther, [Page 46] Son, and Holy Ghost, as imply a consistency of uni­ty and distinction in the Godhead.

That this Distinction, whatever it be, is not the same with that we conceive betwixt the Attributes of God, which are partial Conceptions of his Essence, nor a meer difference of Name, Office, or Relation, such as is sig­nified by the like Terms, when applied to Men, (tho' these are all the Differences we can expresly conceive, as appli­cable to the Divine Nature) but some other Distinction, which we have but a confused perception of, and cannot comprehend or explain by any particular Idea's; which unknown inexplicable Distinction is the Foundation of all these Differences expresly conceived by us.

And since the Church has thought fit, for the Sake of Unity and Peace, and for the Suppressing all Private Disputes and Interpretations, to appoint set Forms to express this our Faith in, I think the Athanasian Creed as rational an Explication of the Trinity as can well be made. The Worst that the Enemies of this Doctrine can say of it, is, That it is an unnecessary Multiplication of Terms, and too nice an Endeavour to Explain what cannot be Explained; but not that 'tis False, or Absurd; nothing being there asserted in any sense inconsistent with the Ʋnity of God, or the Principles of Right Rea­son: All such Meanings and Significations of any Terms or Expressions in that Creed being very impro­per, as they are there applied, and utterly disclaimed by the Church that enjoins the Use of it.

Nor can it be esteemed an unreasonable Imposition, That we should be obliged to profess our Faith of some­thing which cannot be conceived, but confusedly and in­distinctly; nor expressed, but in general and obscure Terms. For where's the Hardship of being required to believe as far as we can believe? God is Incomprehensible in [Page 47] his Nature and Perfections, but are we not obliged to believe there is a God who is Incomprehensible? Are we not obliged to believe there are Joys in Heaven, which it has not enter'd into the Heart of Man to con­ceive? And, to repeat a former Instance, may not a Blind Man be obliged to believe what a Friend of un­suspected Integrity tells him of the general nature of Co­lour, tho' he is not able to form a particular Idea of it? And, if these Things cannot be denied, What diffe­rence can be assigned why we should not be under as great an Obligation of believing the Trinity, tho' we are not able to conceive it distinctly?

A Threefold Distinction in the Godhead, consistent with the Unity of God, is as plainly revealed in Scrip­ture as any other Article of Faith: Nor are those gene­ral Abstracted Terms we find in our Creeds, to be con­demn'd as meer useless and perplexing Niceties; for tho' they are not sufficient to make us understand the Trinity fully and distinctly, yet they are proper Limita­tions to exclude all the False and Unworthy Apprehen­sions of this Doctrine, which Pretenders to a more par­ticular Explication might introduce.

III. And now what dangerous Consequences can possibly attend such a Faith as this? 'Tis true indeed, the Adversaries of the Trinity have drawn up a heavy Charge against this Doctrine, and taken a great deal of Liberty in their Discourses about it: But the principal Objections that have been made by any of them are but Three; to which all the rest may be reduced: And these I shall endeavour to shew, by the Account before given, are very Frivolous and Unjust.

1. The first Pernicious Consequence the Doctrine of the Trinity stands charged with, is, the Introduction [Page 48] of a Plurality of Gods: But 'tis very plain from what we have said in the former part of this Discourse, that 'tis utterly impossible to believe a Trinity in any such sense as implies a Plurality of Gods: For according to the Notions I have there shewed we have of the Na­ture and Attributes of God, 'tis undeniably certain to every Man's Experience, that we cannot conceive more than One God: All our Endeavours to comprehend more are only repetitions of the same Idea.

Let Those therefore take care to Answer this Accusa­tion, who, under pretence of giving a more Rational Account of what we are to believe in this Point, set up created subordinate Gods to be Partners with their Maker in the Glory and Worship due to him.

Besides, we do explicitly declare, that there is but One God at the same time we make Profession of our Faith in a Trinity, or Three Persons.

2. In the next place, therefore we are accused of believing Contradictions; and consequently of destroy­ing all the certainty of Natural Knowledge: Which Fence being down, there's no Error so gross or absurd but may be obtruded upon us; and Transubstantiation has as good a Pretence to be an Article of our Faith as the Trinity. But I need not make any particular An­swer to this Objection, having proved at large already, that we neither do nor can believe a Trinity in any sense that contradicts the plain and evident Principles of Natural Reason. We do not believe there can be more Gods than One, that One can be Three in the same respect 'tis One; or that One God can be Three Persons in the same sense three Men are three Persons; or any other Proposition that's inconsistent with those Natural No­tions which are the Foundation of all our other Know­ledge. But the Patrons of Transubstantiation cannot [Page 49] make this Plea, who in this one Particular deny those very Principles which upon all other occasions they rely upon with the greatest Assurance. Did they only affirm, that Christ was present in that Sacrament in some way or manner they could not comprehend, but in no way repugnant to the plain and necessary Dictates of well-informed Sense, and right Reason, there might be then some Resemblance found betwixt this Doctrine and that of the Trinity; but at present the Comparison is palpably and notoriously unjust.

3. But Thirdly, 'tis further Objected, That though the Doctrine of the Trinity, as we explain it, could not be proved to contain down-right Contradictions; yet at least it must be counted and esteemed as a My­stery, and the Imposition of Mysteries for Articles of Faith, is a thing of very ill Consequence.

In Answer to which Charge, it is to be observed, that as in the Doctrine of the Trinity, so in most other Objects of Faith and Knowledge, there's something that we plainly and certainly understand, and some­thing that we cannot possibly comprehend: Thus a Man by inward Reflection is Infallibly conscious of his own Thoughts, and he judges, whatever he perceives within himself, to proceed from one Common Principle, which he calls his Soul; and which, from the Nature of its Operations, he is fully perswaded is something of a different kind from his Body, tho' it always Acts in con­sent with it: But what this Soul is, or in what manner united to his Body, he is not able to conceive; and there­fore the Doctrine of the Human Soul, taken all together, may as justly be stiled a Mystery, as the Trinity. We ought not then to be offended at the word Mystery, since, if we strictly examine our thoughts, we shall find that almost every thing we pretend to know, comes under [Page 50] that name, even those things we have the greatest As­surance of, our very Souls and Beings.

This being observed, we may consider the Trinity either with respect to what may be understood of it, or what cannot: So far as we are capable of conceiving a Trinity, 'tis no Mystery, and consequently no Oppression of our Faith; And so far as it cannot be comprehended, it does not bind us to any Explicit Act of Faith: As is plain from what has been said before concerning the Nature of Faith, and the Persons obliged to believe this Article: For all things necessary to Salvation are to be believed by all sorts of Men; and nothing can be believed any farther than the terms in which it is proposed are under­stood: But a Mystery cannot be brought down to the lowest Capacities, and be delivered in Terms that are plainly and distinctly understood, for then it would be no longer a Mystery: So far therefore as we are ob­liged to believe, is no Mystery; For whatever Terms I am bid to believe a thing in I cannot comprehend, I can mean no more but that I believe it to be in some manner I cannot comprehend: And I am sure there's no difficulty or danger in believing that there are some things which we are not able to find out, or comprehend.

These are the Reflections which offered themselves upon a careful and impartial Consideration of this Subject.

But here I fore-see it may be asked, What do we understand more of the Trinity now than we did be­fore? What new Hypothesis is here advanced to solve all the Difficulties of that Doctrine by? In Answer to which Objection, I have this further to add for the Ju­stification of the foregoing Discourse.

First, That the Principal Design of my Enquiries was, to know, what God required us all to believe in [Page 51] order to our Salvation, not how far the Soul of Man was capable of discovering the deep things of God: For I am fully perswaded; that there may be things necessary to be believed, and yet we not obliged to believe them in that distinct particular sense in which some Learned. Men have explained them; Though their Hypothesis should be very Rational and Consistent, and perhaps really true. And therefore could there be any new way found out of making the Trinity conceivable by Human. Understanding, I do not think we should be under any Obligation of believing that particular Exposition of it: For besides the difficulty of such abstracted Notions, even in their plainest dress, with respect to mean Ca­pacities, which are all equally concerned in necessary Articles of Faith, it cannot be imagined that we should be obliged to believe more than the Christians who li­ved before us were; that more should be necessary to our Salvation than was to theirs: And 'tis certain their Faith was sufficient and effectual for obtaining Eternal Life, who could not possibly believe what we suppose to be but lately discovered.

But 2dly, Considering that we were permitted with Humility and Reverence to Exercise our Souls in the search of Divine Knowledge; And moreover that we ought as Christians, as well as Men, to give a Reason of the Faith we profess, and defend it against all false and unjust Imputations; I have also made it my business to enquire, how far we were capable of forming distinct Conceptions of a Trinity; And upon Enquiry found that after a Faithful Tryal of our Faculties, and a strict Examination of all the simple Notions which make up the Proposition to believed, we cannot arrive at greater Knowledge in this Point than our fore-fathers have done; And that so much of the Doctrine of the Trinity as [Page 52] was a Mystery to them, is like to be so to the end of the World.

Which if I have as fully and sufficiently proved to others as I am convinced of it my self, I shall not think my Time or Labour lost upon this Subject. For next to understanding a thing throughly is to know we can­not understand it; next to resolving a Problem in Ma­thematicks, is to demonstrate it cannot be done. Our Souls are as much at rest, our Desires as quiet, and all our Designs and Pursuits as much at an end when we despair of Victory, as when we actually Conquer.

And therefore if these be the true and proper Limits of our Faith and Knowledge which I have assigned; If I have given a Just Account of what we are required to believe concerning the Trinity; How much 'tis possible for us to believe of it, and how far we are capable of having distinct Conceptions about it; 'tis in vain to search for new Notions and Hypotheses, which may probably puzzle or deceive our Understandings, but can never lead us farther into the Knowledge of the Trinity.

But I will not pretend to measure the Abilities of other Men by my own: I shall only say this more, which I am sure I can truly affirm, that I have taken all the care imaginable to deliver my Judgment impartially and sincerely, and have not dared to impose any thing upon others, which I do not believe my self, or is any ways inconsistent with the Principles of right Reason.


These Papers were in the Press, and every Word in the Book, and Preface, as they stand now, was Written before His Majesty's In­junctions came forth: The Author is glad to find that he has not transgress'd 'em; the Authority and Reasonableness of which he pays such a Submission to, that if he had not prescribed to himself the same Rules in Writing, that be now sees enjoyned by his Superiours, he wou'd have shewed his Obedience to 'em, by Suppressing what he had written.


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