[Page] A Calm and Sober ENQUIRY Concerning The Possibility OF A TRINITY in the Godhead: IN A LETTER to a Person of Worth. Occasioned By the lately Published Considerations on the Explications of the Doctrine of the Trinity: By Dr. Wallis, Dr. Sherlock, Dr. S—th, Dr. Cudworth, &c. Together with Certain Letters (hitherto unpublished) former­ly Written to the Reverend Dr. Wallis on the same Subject.

LONDON, Printed by J. Astwood for Tho. Parkhurst at the Bible and 3 Crowns at the lower End of Cheapside, near Mercers. Chappel, 1694.

A CALM DISCOURSE OF THE Trinity in the Godhead, &c.


I Intend not this Discourse shall be concern'd in what this Author hath said of the several Explications given by the Persons named on his Title-page. The only thing it is design'd for, is the Discoursing with him that single Point which he refers to in his 29th. and 30th. pages, and which in this Con­troversie, is on all hands confessed to be the Cardinal one, viz. Whether a Tri­nity in the Godhead be possible or no?

I put not the Question about three Persons; both because I will not, in so short a Discourse as I intend to make this, be engaged in discussing the un­agreed Notion of a Person; and because the Scripture lays not that Necessity [Page 2] upon me, (tho' I do not think the use of that term, in this affair, either blame­able or indefensible.)

But I shall enquire whether the Fa­ther, the Son (or Word) and the Holy Ghost cannot possibly admit of suffici­ent distinction from one another to an­swer the parts and purposes severally as­signed them by the Scripture, in the Christian Oeconomy, and yet be each of them God, consistently with this most inviolable and indubitable truth [that there can be but one God.]

This Author concludes it to be im­possible in the mentioned Pages of his Dis­course, and thereupon seems to judg it Necessary that two of them be excluded the Godhead, as many others (some going the Arian, some the Photinian, more lately called the Socinian way) have done before him. He acknow­ledges pag. 30. col. 1. there may be ‘[some Secret revealed by God, be­cause it was above Humane Capaci­city to discover it; and sometimes [Page 3] also to comprehend how it can be]’ But adds‘[there is a vast difference between my not being able to con­ceive how a thing should be, and a clear apprehension, and sight that it can­not be.] What he says thus far is un­exceptionable, and I heartily concur with him in it.

But for what he subjoyns, (where­in he might have spoken his Mind of the Matter in Controversie with as much Advantage to his Cause, without re­flecting upon his Adversaries, as if they considered these things either with no in­tention, or with no sincerity, not allowing them even the never so little of the one or the other) that ‘[three distinct almighty and alknowing Persons, should be but one Almighty, or but One All­knowing, or but one God, a Man (who considers with never so little intention and sincerity) clearly sees that it cannot be. In short, that it is not a Mystery, but (as Dr. South speaks) an absurdity and a contra­diction.]’ [Page 4] This is that I would con­sider with him, if he will affix these words of his [a Man who considers, &c.) clearly sees it cannot be; and it is an absurdity and a contradiction] to the Question as I have set it down a­bove. In the mean time he cannot be ignorant that as he hath represented the matter, he hath here either not truly, (or at least not fairly) given the sense of any of them whom he pretended to oppose.

For when by those words, ‘But that three Divine Persons, or that three distinct almighty and allknow­ing Persons should be but one Al­mighty, but one Allknowing, or but One God,’ he would slily insinuate to his unwary and less attentive Read­er that the same Men held three Al­mighties, and but One; He well knows, and elsewhere confesses (tho' he might suppose that some Readers would not be at leisure to compare one place of his Writings with another, but hastily [Page 5] run away with the apprehension, that such as were not of his mind spake nothing but Nonsense and Contradicti­ons) that not only his later Opposers since P. Lumbard, as he speaks, but di­vers much more ancient, as Athanasius, and the rest of the Nicene Fathers, &c. deny'd three Almighties, tho' they affirm­ed each of the Persons to be Almigh­ty, understanding Omnipotency (as they do Omnisciency) to be an attribute not of the person, as such, but of the essence, as such, which they affirm to be but One, i. e. that they are each of them almighty, by communication in one and the same almighty essence. And if their Sentiment be so very absurd, he needed the less to fear representing it as it is.

And the other who seems to grant three Almighties, doth never say there is but one Almighty; tho' such say too there is but One God, placing the Unity of the Godhead in somewhat else, as he hath himself taken Notice; which is re­mote [Page 6] from express Self-contradiction also.

But I shall concern my self no fur­ther about the one or the other of these ways of explaining the Doctrine of the three Persons. Only shall enquire con­cerning the possibility of such a Trinity in the Godhead as was above expressed, re­quiting the uncharitableness of this Author, in imputing carelesness or insincerity to all, that think it possible, with so much Chari­ty, as to believe he would not (against the plain tenour of Scripture) have re­jected the Doctrine of the Trinity (as he professes to do that of the Incarna­tion) if he had not thought it every way impossible.

And here I premise

1. That the present Undertaking is not to shew that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are three, and but One, in the same respect, which I would adventure (in this Authors words) to say, no Man that considers with never so little In­tention and Sincerity, would offer at. [Page 7] But when they are supposed to be but One, in respect of Deity, they are thought to be three in some other respect.

2. That what I now design is only to represent this matter as possible to be some way, and in the way here propo­sed for ought we know, not as defi­nitely certain, to be this way or that. The former is enough to our present purpose, i. e. if any way it can be conceived, with­out absurdity or contradiction, that these may be three with sufficient distinction to found the distinct Attributes which the Scriptures do severally give them, so as some things may be affirmed of some one, and not be affirmed of the other of them, and yet their Unity in Godhead be conserved, our Point is gain­ed; and the clamour of this (and every other) Opposer ought to cease, for our asserting what every one that considers clearly sees cannot be.

Now, so much being forelaid, that we may proceed with clearness and sa­tisfaction of mind [If we would un­derstand [Page 8] whether it be possible that these three may be sufficiently distinguished for the mentioned purpose, and yet be one in Godhead, or in Divine Being; we are to recollect our selves, and consider what we are wont, and find our selves indispensably obliged to conceive of that ever blessed Being, and what is with less certainty or evidence said or thought of it. Therefore,

I. We cannot but acknowledge that whereas we do with greatest certainty and clearness conceive of it as an intel­lectual Being, comprehensive (with that) of infinite and universal perfection, so we do (most expresly, tho' this be imply'd in universal perfection) conclude it a Being most necessarily existent; which God hath himself been pleased to signifie to us by the appropriated Name I am, or I am what I am.

Hereby is this most excellent of Beings infinitely, distinguished from all Crea­tures, or from the whole Creation. All created being is meerly contingent, i. e. (ac­cording [Page 9] to the true Notion of Contin­gency) dependent upon will and pleasure. So he hath himself taught us to distin­guish; and with such distinction to conceive of the Creation, Rev. 4. 11. Thou hast made all things, and for [or by, [...]] thy pleasure [or Will [...]] they are, or were created. Whatsoever being is necessarily existent, the excellen­cy of its Nature being such, as that it was necessary to it to exist, or impossi­ble not to exist, is God, or is Divine being. [Notwithstanding what some have imagined of necessary matter, we might adventure to affirm this univer­sally of all necessary being that it is Di­vine, taking it to be plainly demon­strable, and to have been demonstra­ted beyond all contradiction, by the learned Dr. Cudworth, and many others long before him. And doubt not to evince (tho' that is not the present bu­siness) that supposing the imagination of necessary matter were true, this sensi­ble World could never possibly have [Page 10] been made of it, by any power what­soever; the only pretence for which it is imagined. But if any have a mind to make this a Dispute, to avoid be­ing unseasonably involved in it at this time, it will serve my present purpose to assert only, whatsoever intellectual Be­ing is necessarily existent is divine.

And on the other hand, whatsoever being is contingent, i. e. such as that it depended on a meer intervening act of will, (viz. even the sovereign and supream will) whether it should be or not be, is created, or is creature.

II. Whatsoever simplicity the ever bles­sed God hath by any express Revela­tion claimed to himself, or can by evi­dent and irrefragable Reason be demon­strated to belong to him, as a Perfection, we ought humbly and with all possible reverence and adoration, to ascribe to him. But such simplicity as he hath not claimed, as is arbitrarily ascribed to him by over-bold, and adventurous Intruders into the deep and most profound arcana [Page 11] of the divine Nature, such as can never be proved to belong to him, or to be any real Perfection, such as would prove an imperfection, and a blemish, would render the divine Nature less intelligible, more impossible to be so far conceived as is requisite, as would discompose and disturb our Minds, confound our Con­ceptions, make our apprehension of his other known Perfections less distinct or inconsistent, render him less adorable, or less an Object of Religion, or such as is ma­nifestly unreconcileable with his plain affirmations concerning himself, we ought not to impose it upon our selves, or be so far impos'd upon, as to ascribe to him such simplicity.

It would be an over-officious and too meanly servile Religiousness to be aw'd by the Sophistry of presumptuous Scho­lastick Wits, into a Subscription to their confident determinations concerning the Being of God, that such and such things are necessary or impossible thereto, beyond what the plain undisguised reason of [Page 12] things, or his own express Word do evince. To imagine a Sacredness in their rash Conclusions, so as to be afraid of searching into them, or of examining whether they have any firm and solid ground or bottom. To allow the Schools the making of our Bible, or the form­ing of our Creed, who license (and even sport) themselves to Philosophize upon the Nature of God with as petulant, and irreverent a Liberty, as they would upon a Worm, or any the meanest In­sect, while yet they can pronounce little with certainty even concerning that, hath nothing in it either of the Christian or the Man. It will become as well as con­cern us, to disencumber our Minds, and release them from the entanglements of their unproved dictates; whatsoever authority they may have acquired, only by having been long, and com­monly, taken for granted. The more reverence we have of God, the less we are to have for such men, as have themselves expressed little.

[Page 13] III. Such as have thought themselves obliged by the plain Word of God to acknowledge a Trinity in the God-head, viz. of Father, Son, and H. Ghost, but withall to diminish the distinction of the one from the other, so as even to make it next to nothing, by reason of the straits into which unexamined Maxims have cast their Minds, concerning the Divne Simplicity; have yet not thought that to be absolute or omnimodous. For the allowing of three somewhats in the divine nature (and what less could have been said?) cannot consist with abso­lute Simplicity in all respects, inasmuch as they cannot be three without differing, in some refpect, from one another.

Since therefore there is a necessity apprehended of acknowledging three such somewhats in the Godhead, both because the Word of God (who best understands his own Nature) doth speak of three in it so plainly, that without notorious violence, it cannot be understood otherwise, and because [Page 14] it affirms some things of one or other of them, which it affirms not of the rest; it will therefore be necessary to ad­mit a true distinction between them, other­wise they cannot be three, and safe to to say there is so much, as is requisite to found the distinct affirmations, which we find in Gods word, concerning this or that, apart from the other; otherwise we shall, in effect, deny what God af­firms; and modest to confess that how great the distinction is, with precise and particular limitation, we do not know nor dare be curious to determine or enquire: only that as it cannot be less, than is sufficient to sustain distinct predicates or attributions; so it cannot be so great, as to intrench upon the Unity of the God­head. Which limits, on the one hand, and the other, God hath himself plainly set us.

IV. Therefore since we may offend very highly by an arrogant pretence to the knowledge we have not, but shall not offend by confessing the ig­norance [Page 14] which we cannot (and there­fore need not) remedy. We should abstain from confident Conclusions in the dark, and at random, especially concerning the Nature of God; and for instance from saying, we clearly see a suf­ficient distinction of Father, Son, and Spirit, in the Godhead cannot be, or is impossible. It expresses too little Reverence of God, as if his being had any, or so narrow, limits as to be presently seen thorough; an over-magnifying Opini­on of our selves, as if our Eye could penetrate that vast and sacred darkness, or the glorious light (equally imper­vious to us) wherein God dwells; too great rudeness to the rest of Men, more than implicitly representing all Man­kind besides as stark blind, who can discern nothing of what we pretend clearly to see.

And it is manifest this cannot be said to be impossible, upon any other Pretence, but that it consists not with the Unity of the Godhead, in opposition [Page 16] to the multiplication thereof, or with that simplicity, which stands in oppositi­on to the concurrence of all Perfecti­ons therein, with distinction greater than hath been commonly thought to belong to the Divine Nature. For the former we are at a certainty: But for the latter how do we know what the Original, Natural State of the Divine Be­ing is, in this respect? or what simplicity belongs to it? or what it may con­tain or comprehend in it, consistently with the Unity thereof; or so, but that it may still be but one Divine Being? What di­stinction, and unity (conserved together) we can have, otherwise, an Idéa of, with­out any apprehended inconsistency, absur­dity or contradiction, we shall rashly pro­nounce to be impossible (or somewhat imperfectly resembled thereby) in the Divine Being, unless we understood it better than we do. Some prints and characters of that most perfect Being may be apprehended in the creatures, especi­ally that are intelligent; such being ex­presly [Page 17] said to have been made in the Image of God. And if here we find Oneness, with distinction, meeting toge­ther in the same created intelligent being, this may assist our Understandings in conceiving what is possible to be (in much higher Perfection) tho not to the con­cluding what certainly is, in the uncrea­ted.

V. Waving the many artificial Uni­ons of distinct things, that united, and continuing distinct, make one thing, un­der one Name, I shall only consider what is natural, and give instance in what is nearest us, our very selves; tho the truth is, we know so little of our own Nature, that it is a strange assu­ming when we confidently determine what is impossible to be in the divine Nature, besides what he hath told us, or made our own Faculties plainly tell us is so; (and what he hath made any mans Faculties to tell him, he hath made all mens that can use them.)

But so much we manifestly find in [Page 18] our selves, that we have three Natures in us very sufficiently distinguishable, and that are intimately united, the ve­getative, sensitive, and the intellective. So that notwithstanding their manifest di­stinction, no one scruples when they are united, to call the whole the hu­mane nature. Or if any make a diffi­culty, or would raise a Dispute about the distinction of these three Natures, I for the present content my self with what is more obvious, not doubting to reach my mark by degrees, viz. that we are made up of a mind, and a body, somewhat that can think, and somewhat that cannot; sufficiently distinct, yet so united, that not only every one (without hesi­tation) calls that thing made up of them one man; but also every one that consi­ders deeply, will be transported with wonder by what more-than-magical knot or tye, two things so little a-kin, should be so held together, that the one that hath the power of will and choice cannot sever it self, and return [Page 19] into the same union with the other at pleasure. But,

VI. Since we find this is a thing actually done, the making up of two things of so different Natures into one thing, that puts the matter out of doubt that this was a thing possible to be done, 'twas what God could do, for he hath done it. And if that were possible to him, to unite two things of so very different natures into one thing; let any colourable reason be assigned me why it should not be as possible to him, to unite two things of a like nature. i. e. If it were possible to him to unite a spirit and a body, why is it less possible to him to have united two spirits? And then I further enquire, If it were possible to him to unite two, would it not be as possible to unite three? Let Reason here be put upon its utmost stretch, and tell me what in all this is less pos­sible than what we see is actually done! Will any man say two or three spirits united, being of the same na­ture, [Page 20] will mingle, be confounded, run into one another, and lose their di­stinction? I ask, supposing them to pre-exist apart, antecedently to their Uni­on; are they not now distinguished by their own individual essences, let them be as much united as our Souls and Bo­dies are, why should they not as much remain distinct by their singular essences? There is no more hazard of their losing their distinction, by the similitude of their natures, than of our Soul and Body's transmuting one another by their dissi­militude.

I know not but the dictates of so vogued an Author with many in this Age, as Spinosa, may signifie somewhat with some into whose hands this may fall; who (with design bad enough) says, that, from whence one might col­lect the remaining distinction of two things of the same nature in such a supposed union, were the more easily con­ceivable of the two, i. e. than of two things of different natures. For in his [Page 21] Posthumous Ethicks, de Deo, He lays this down in Explication of his second De­finition, [Cogitatio aliâ cogitatione termina­tur. At corpus non terminatur cogitatione, nec cogitatio corpore.] Some may regard him in this, and it would do our bu­siness. For my patt, I care not to be so much beholden to him; for it would, at the long run, overdo it; and I know his meaning. But I see not but two con­generous natures are equally capable of being united, retaining their distincti­on, as two of a different kind, and that sufficiently serves the present purpose.

However, let any man tell me, why it should be impossible to God so to unite three spirits, as by his own pow­er to fix their limits also, and by a perpetual Law inwrought into their di­stinct beings to keep them distinct, so that they shall remain everlastingly united, but not identifyed; and by vertue of that union, be some one thing (which must, yet, want a name) as much, and as truly, as our Soul and Body united [Page 22] do constitute one man. Nor is it now the question, whether such an union would be convenient or inconvenient, apt or inept; but all the question is whether it be possible or impossible; which is as much as we are concerned in at this time.

But you will say, suppose it be pos­sible, to what purpose is all this? How remote is it from the supposed Trini­ty in the Godhead? You will see to what purpose it is by and by. I there­fore adde,

VII. That if such an Union of three things (whether of like, or of different Natures) so as that they shall be truly one thing, and yet remain distinct, tho united, can be effected, (as one may with certainty pronounce, there is no­thing more impossible, or unconceiv­able in it, than we find is actually done) then it is not intrinsecally impossible, or objectively; it is not impossible in it self. No power can effect what is simply, and in it self impossible. There is therefore [Page 23] no contradiction, no repugnancie, or inconsistencie, as to the thing, nor con­sequently any shadow of absurdity in the conception hereof. Whereupon,

VIII. If such an union with such distinction be not impossible in it self, so that by a competent power it is sufficiently pos­sible to be effected, or made; we are to consider whether it will appear more impossible, or whether I shall have a conception in my own mind any thing more incongruous if I conceive such an union (with such distinction) unmade, or that is original and eternal, in an un­made, or uncreated being. For we are first to consider the thing in it self, ab­stractly from made or unmade, created or uncreated being. And if it pass clear of contradiction or absudity, in its ab­stract notion, we are so far safe, and are not liable to be charged as having the conception in our minds of an impos­sible, absur'd, or self-repugnant thing. So that clamour and cry of the Adver­sary must cease, or be it self absurd, [Page 24] and without pretence. This now sup­posed Union with such distinction, must if it be judg'd impossible, as it is in our thoughts introduc'd into unmade being, can no longer be judg'd impossible, as it is an Union of distinct things, but only as it is unmade, or is supposed to have place in the unmade eternal Being.

IX. This is that then we have fur­ther to consider, whether, supposing it possible that three spiritual beings might as well be made or created in a State of so near Union with continuing distin­ction, as to admit of becoming one spi­ritual being, to be called by some fit name (which might easily be found out, if the thing were produc'd) as that a spiritual being, and a corporeal being may be made or created in a state of so near union with continuing distinction, as to become one spiritual-corporeal being, call­ed by the Name of Man; I say, whe­ther supposing the former of these to be as possible to be done, or created, as the latter, which we see done already; [Page 25] we may not as well suppose somewhat like it, but infinitely more perfect to be original, and eternal in the uncreated Be­ing? If the first be possible, the next actual, what pretence is there to think the last impossible?

X. I might add, as that which may be expected to be significant with such as do seriously believe the Doctrines both of the Incarnation, and the Trinity (tho' I know it will signifie nothing with them, who with equal contempt reject both) that the union of the two Natures, the humane (made up of an humane Body and an humane Soul, which are two exceedingly different Natures) with the divine (which is a third and infinitely more different from both the other) in one Person, viz. of the Son of God, cannot certainly appear to any considering Person more conceivable or possible, than that which we now sup­pose (but assert not) of three distinct Essences united in the One Godhead, up­on any account, but this only, that this [Page 26] is supposed to be an unmade, eternal uni­on, the other made and temporal; which renders not the one less conceivable than the other, as it is union, but only as in the several terms of this union it is sup­posed eternally to have place in the Being of God; whereas that other union, in respect of one of its terms is ac­knowledg'd de novo to have place there.

In short, here is a spiritual created being, an humane Soul (setting aside for the present the consideration of the hu­mane body, which united therewith made up the Man, Christ) confessed to be in hypostatical union with the un­created spiritual being of God, not as that being is in the Person of the Father, nor as in the Person of the Holy Ghost, for then they should have become Man too; but as it was in the Person of the Son only; why shall it be thought less possible that three uncreated spiritual be­ings may be in so near an union with each other as to be one God, as that a [Page 27] created Spirit (and Body too) should be in so near union with one of the Per­sons in the Godhead only, as therewith to be one Person? will it not hereby be much more easily apprehensible how one of the Persons (as the common way of speaking is) should be incarnate, and not the other two? Will not the Noti­on of Person it self be much more un­exceptionable, when it shall be sup­posed to have its own individual Nature? And why is a natural, eternal union of uncreated Natures (with continuing distin­ction, or without confusion) sufficient un­to the Unity of the Godhead, less sup­posable, than a temporal contracted union with created Natures (without confu­sion too) that shall be sufficient to the Unity of a Person? will it be any thing more contrary to such simplicity of the Divine Nature as is necessarily to be ascri­bed thereto? or will it be Tritheism, and inconsistent with the acknowledged in­violable Unity of the Godhead?

[Page 28] XI. That we may proceed to speak to both, let these things be consider'd with seriousness and sobriety of mind, as to our selves; with all possible reve­rence towards the blessed God, and with just candour and equanimity towards other Men. And first we must leave it to any ones future representation (not be­ing hitherto able to discern any thing) what there is in all this that is here supposed any way repugnant to such simplicity, as God any where claims to his own being, or that plain reason will constrain us to ascribe to him, or that is really in it self any Perfection. We are sure God hath not by his Word taught us to ascribe to him universal absolute simplicity; or suggested to us any such Notices as directly and evidently infer it to belong to him. Nor hath seem'd at all intent upon cautioning of us lest we should not ascribe it. The word we find not among his Attributes men­tioned in the Holy Scriptures. The thing, so far as it signifiies any general per­fection, [Page 29] we are sure belongs to him; but the Scriptures are not Written with visible design to obviate any danger of our misconceiving his Nature, by not apprehending it to be in every respect most absolutely simple. It doth teach us to conceive of him as most powerful, most wise, most gracious; and doth not teach us to conceive all these in the abstract, viz. Power, Wisdom and Good­ness to be the same thing. Yet we easi­ly apprehend by reflecting upon our selves, that, without multiplying the subject, these may all reside together in the same man. But our difficulty is greater to conceive what is commonly taught, that these, without real distinction, or with formal only (as contradistinguished to the difference of thing from thing) are in the abstract affirmable of God, that he is Power, Wisdom, Goodness. That to his Being belongs so absolute simpli­city, that we must not look upon these as things really distinguishable, there, from one another, but as different con­ceptions [Page 30] of the same thing. We must conceive of things as we can, not as we cannot; and are only concern'd to take heed of unreveal'd, and undemon­strable, and peremptory conceptions concerning that glorious most incom­prehensible and ever-blessed Being; to beware of too curious prying into the Nature of God (when it vvas so Penal to look unduly into, or even to touch that only-hallovved Symbol of his Pre­sence, his Ark!) beyond what he hath reveal'd expresly, or we can most clear­ly, by generally received light, ap­prehend. When we knovv there is a Knovvledge of him so reserved from us, vvhereof our Minds are so little receptive, that it seemed all one, vvhether he told us, he did dvvell in thick darkness, or in inaccessible light. 'Twill be a reproach to us, if we shall need to be taught reverence of him by Pa­gans; or that such a document should need to be given us for our Admoni­tion, as that very ancient Inscription in [Page 31] one of their Temples imported, I am whatsoever was, is, or shall be, and who is he that shall draw aside my Vail?

XII. If we should suppose three spi­ritual necessary beings, the one whereof were meer Power (or furious might) destitute of either wisdom, or goodness; another meer wisdom (or craft rather) destitute of either goodness or power; a third meer goodness (or fond and fruit­less kindness) destitute of either power or wisdom, existing separately and apart from each other. This triple conception would overthrow it self, and must cer­tainly allow little ease to any consider­ing mind. Nor could any of these be God. But if we conceive essential power, wisdom, and goodness concurring in one spiritual necessarily existent Being, in which are each of these, not only, by the [...], usually acknowledged in the three Persons, totally permeating one another (which signifying but meer presence, as we may express it, is in com­parison, a small thing) but really and vi­tally [Page 32] united, by so much a nearer, and more perfect union than hath ever come under our notice among created beings, of partly corporeal, partly incorporeal na­tures, by how much beings of purest Sprituality may be apter to the most in­timate union, than when one is quite of a different nature from the other, and as whatsoever union is suposeable to be, originally, eternally, and by natural necessi­ty, in the most perfect being, may be thought inexpressibly more perfect than any other. And if, hereupon, we fur­ther conceive the most entire, perpetual, everlasting intercourse and communion of these three, so originally united, that what is conceivable of perfection, or excellency in any one of these, is as much the others, for whatsoever exercises or operations, as his own; I cannot appre­hend what there is of repugnancy, con­tradiction, or absurdity in this supposition; nor any thing that, by any measures he hath given us to govern our concep­tions of him, appears unbecoming, or [Page 33] unworthy of God. There is, 'tis true, less Simplicity, but more perfection ascribed hereby to the divine Being, intirely con­sidered; and more intelligibly, than if you go about to impose upon your self the notion of most absolute omnimodous simplicity therein. There would be yet more absolute simplicity ascribed unto an eternal Being, if you should conceive in it meer power exclusive of wisdom, and goodness—and so of the rest; but infinitely less perfection. And, if that would avail any thing, I could easily produce more School-men, than one, of no small note, concurring in this sen­timent that [simplicitas, si sumatur in to­tâ suâ amplitudine, non dicit perfectionem simplicitèr.] But I count it not worth the while.

XIII. And let it be here again ob­served, I speak not of this, as any cer­tain determination, that thus things are in the Deity; but as a possible supposition of what, for ought we know, may be. If any say this gives us the Notion of a [Page 34] compounded Deity, or of a composition in it; I only say the term, composition, seems to imply a pre-existing component that brings such things together, and supposes such and such more simple things to have pre-existed apart or se­parate, and to be brought afterwards together into an united state. Whereup­on I peremptorily deny any Composi­tion in the Being of God. And let any man from what hath been hitherto said or supposed, inferr it, if he can. Imagine this of the Godhead, and you shall, we acknowledge, conceive most untruly, most unworthily, most injuriously of God; and what is most absolutely im­possible to agree to the Divine Being. And for this Reason only, that I know of, that carries any shadow of Import­ance in it, many have been so apt, without the least warrant from any re­velation God hath given of himself, to ascribe to him an unintelligible simpli­city; apprehending they must other­wise admit a composition in his most sa­cred [Page 35] Essence, i. e. the putting of things together that were separate, to make it up; which must suppose it a new production, that once was not, and from an imperfect state by the Coalition of things once severed, to have arrived to the perfection we ascribe to the Di­vine Being; which sort of being can­not, without the most absurd and blas­phemous contradiction, ever admit to be called God. But if we suppose most perfect, essential, Power, Wisdom, Love, by original, eternal, and most natural necessi­ty to have co-existed in that being most intimately united, tho' distinct; that seem­ingly important reason, will appear but a shadow, and accordingly vanish as such.

And indeed this is no more than what, in effect, such as discourse upon this Subject do commonly say (tho' perhaps some may less consider the ducture and sequel of their own professed Senti­ments) when they speak of the incom­prehensibleness of God's Essence, and how [Page 36] impossible it is a finite mind should form or receive a full and compleat Idéa of it; or when they therefore say, that any conceptions we can have of the Wis­dom, Goodness, or any other Attribute of the Divine Being, are still but inadequate conceptions; whereby they must mean, when we consider for instance the Wis­dom of God that we not only fall infi­nitely short of conceiving all that be­longs to the Divine Being, in that kind, but that there is also infinitely more belong­ing thereto, in other kinds, than it is possible that conception can contain or express. And when we have the con­ception in our minds of the Divine Wis­dom, do we not apprehend there is re­ally somewhat else in the Divine Be­ing, whereof that term hath no signifi­cation? or will we say his Wisdom and his Power are really the same thing? (as they must either be the same, or divers things:) If we say they are the same, we must, I doubt, confess our selves to say what we do not understand, especially [Page 37] when, in the abstract, we affirm them of one another, and of God; and accor­dingly say that Wisdom is Power, and Power is Wisdom, and the one of these is God, and the other, God. I know a formal distinction is commonly admitted, i. e. that the conception of the one is not included in the conception of the other. But are these different conceptions true or false? If false, why are they admit­ted? if true, there must be somewhat in the Nature of the thing corresponding to them. But if we say they are di­stinct, but most intimately, and eternally united in the Divine Being, by a necessary, natural Union, or that it is not impossi­ble so to be, what we say will, I think, agree with it self, and not disagree with any other conception we are obliged to have concerning the blessed God.

In the mean time, I profess not to judge, we are under the precise Notions of Power, Wisdom and Goodness, to con­ceive of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; nor that the Notions we have of those, [Page 38] or any other divine Perfections, do exact­ly correspond to vvhat, in God, is signi­fy'd by these Names; but I reckon, that vvhat relief and ease is given our minds by their being disentangled from any apprehended necessity of thinking these to be the very same things, may facili­tate to us our apprehending the Father, Son, and Spirit to be sufficiently distinct, for our affirming, or under standing the af­firmation, of some things, concerning some one, without including the other of them.

XIV. But some perhaps will say, while we thus amplify the distinction of these glorious three, we shall seem to have too friendly a look towards, or shall say in effect, what Dr. Sherlock is so highly blam'd for saying, and make three Gods. I answer, that if with sincere minds we enquire after truth, for its own sake, we shall little regard the friendship or enmity, ho­nour or dishonour of this or that man. If this were indeed so; doth what was [Page 39] true become false, because such a man hath said it? But it is remote from be­ing so. There is no more, here posi­tively asserted than generally so much distinction betweeen the Father, Son, and Spirit, as is in it self necessary to the founding the distinct attributions, which in the Scriptures are severally given them [that when the word or wisdom was said to be with God (un­derstanding it, as the case requires with God the Father) in the creation of all things, we may not think nothing more is said than that he was with himself; that when the Word is said to be made flesh, 'tis equally said the Father was made flesh, or the Holy Ghost; that when the Holy Ghost is said to have proceeded from, or have been sent by the Fa­ther, or the Son, he is said to have pro­ceeded from himself, or have sent him­self.] But, in the mean time this is offered without determining precisely, how great distinction is necessary to this purpose. It is not here positively said [Page 40] these three are three distinct substances, three infinite minds or spirits. We again and again insist, and inculcate, how be­coming, and necessary it is to abstain from over-bold enquiries, or positive determinations concerning the limits, or the extent of this distinction, beyond what the Scriptures have, in general, made necessary to the mentioned pur­pose; that we may not throw our selves into guilt, nor cast our minds in­to unnecessary straits, by affirming this or that to be necessary, or impossible in these matters.

XV. The case is only thus, that since we are plainly led by the express reve­lation God hath made of himself to us in his Word, to admit a trinal conception of him, or to conceive this threefold distin­ction in his Being, of Father, Son, and Spirit; since we have so much to greaten that distinction, divers things being said of each of these, that must not be understood of either of the other; since we have nothing to limit it on [Page 41] the other hand, but the Unity of the Godhead, which we are sure can be but One, both from the plain Word of God, and the nature of the thing it self; since we are assured both these may consist, viz. this Trinity, and this Unity, by being told there are three—and these three 1 Joh. 5. (i. e. plainly, continuing three) are [...], one thing; which one thing, can mean nothing else but Godhead; as is also said concerning two of them, elsewhere, (there being no occasion, then, to men­tion the third) I and my Father are one thing. We are hereupon Joh. 10. unavoidably put upon it to cast in our own minds (and are concerned to do it with the most religious reverence and profoundest humility) what sort of thing this most sacred Godhead may be, unto which this Oneness is ascribed, with threefold distinction. And manifest­ly finding there are in the Creation made Unions, with sufficient remaining distinction, particularly in our selves, [Page 42] that vve are a soul and a body (things of so very different natures) that often the Soul is called the Man, (not exclu­ding the Body) and the body, or our flesh called the Man (not excluding the Soul) we are plainly led to ap­prehend that it is rather more easily possible there might be two Spirits (so much more agreeing in nature) so uni­ted, as to be one thing, and yet conti­nuing distinct; and if two, there might as well be three, if the Creator plea­sed. And hence are led further to ap­prehend, that if such a made Union, with continuing distinction be possible in created being, it is for ought we know, not impossible in the uncreated; that there may be such an eternal unmade union, with continuing distinction. And all this being only represented as possible to be thus, without concluding that thus it certainly is; sufficiently serves our purpose, that no pretence might remain of exclu­ding the eternal Word; and the eternal Spi­rit, the Godhead, as if a Trinity therein [Page 43] were contradictious and impossible, repugnant to reason, and common sense. Where novv is the coincidency?

XVI. Nor is there, hereupon, so great a remaining difficulty to salve the Unity of the Godhead; when the sup­position is taken in, of the natural, eter­nal, necessary Union of these three that hath been mentioned.

And it shall be considered, that the Godhead is not supposed more necessa­rily to exist, than these three are to co­exist in the nearest and most intimate union with each other therein. That Spiritual Being which exists necessarily, and is every way absolutely perfect, whether it consist of three in one, or of only one, is God. We could never have known, 'tis true, that there are such three coexisting in this one God, if he himself had not told us. What Man knoweth the things of a Man, 1 Cor. 2. 11. but the Spirit of a Man that is in him? even so the things of God none knoweth but the Spirit of God. In telling us this he hath [Page 44] told us no impossible, no unconceiv­able thing. It is absurd, and very ir­religious presumption to say this cannot be. If a Worm were so far capable of thought, as to determine this or that con­cerning our Nature; and that such a thing were impossible to belong to it, which we find to be in it, we should trample upon it! More admirable Di­vine Patience spares us! He hath only let us know that this is the State of his Essence (whereof we should have been otherwise ignorant.) This is its con­stitution, (q. d. ita se habet comparatam) thus it is in, and of it self, that there are three in it to be conceived, under the distinct Notions of Father, Son and Spi­rit, without telling us expresly how far they are distinct, in terms of Art, or in Scholastick Forms of Speech. But he con­sidered us as Men, reasonable Creatures; and that when he tells us there are three existing in his being, of each of which some things are said, that must not be understood spoken of the [Page 45] other, and yet that there is but one God. We are not uncapable of un­derstanding, that these three must agree in Godhead; and yet that they must be sufficiently distinct, unto this purpose, that we may distinctly conceive of, apply our selves to, and expect from, the one and the other of them. And the frame of our Religion is therefore ordered for us accordingly, i. e. for us to whom he hath revealed so much. Others, to whom such Notices are not given, he expects should deport themselves to­wards him, according to the light which they have, not which they have not.

XVII. But an Hypothesis in this Af­fair, which leaves out the very Nexus, that natural, eternal union, or leaves it out of its proper place, and insists up­on mutual consciousness, which, at the most, is but a consequence thereof, wants the principal thing requisite to the salving the unity of the Godhead. If two or three created Spirits had never so perfect a mutual Perspection of one [Page 46] another, that would not constitute them one thing, tho' it probably argue them to be so; and but probably; for God might, no doubt, give them a mutual insight into one another, without making them one; but if he should create them in as near an union, as our Soul and Body are in vvith one another (and it is very ap­prehensible they might be created in a much nearer, and more permanent one, both being of the same Nature, and nei­ther Subject to decay) they vvould as truly, admit to be called one something (as such a Creature might vvell enough be called, till a fitter name were found out) notvvithstanding their supposed continu­ing distinction, as fitly, as our Soul and Body united, are, notvvithstanding their continuing distinction, called one Man. And I do sincerely profess such an union, vvith perpetual distinction, seems to me every vvhit as conceivable, being supposed un­made, uncreated, and eternal, as any union is among Creatures, that must therefore be a made thing, or a temporal production.

[Page 47] And vvhereas necessity of existence (most unquestionably of an intellectual Being) is a most certain, and fundamental attribute of Deity: The Father, Son, and Spirit being supposed necessarily existent, in this united state, they cannot but be God, and the Godhead by reason of this necessary union cannot but be One; yet so, as that when you predicate Godhead, or the name of God of any one of them, you herein express a true, but an inadequate conception of God; i. e. the Father is God, not excluding the Son, and H. Ghost; the Son is God, not ex­cluding the Father and the H. Ghost; the H. Ghost is God, not excluding the Father and the Son. As our body is the man, not excluding the soul; our soul is the man, not excluding the body. Therefore their Union in Godhead being so strict and close, notwithstanding their distinction, to say that any one of them is God, in exclusion of the other two, would not be a true predication. 'Tis indeed said the Father is the only true [Page 48] God; but that neither excludes the Son, nor the H. Ghost from Joh. 17. 3. being the true God also; each of them communicating in that Godhead which only is true. It had been quite another thing, if it had been said, Thou Father only, art the true God.

XVIII. The order moreover, is this way also very clearly preserved and fitly comply'd with of priority and posteriori­ty (not of time, as every one sees, but nature) which the names Father, Son, and Spirit do more than intimate. For the Father (usually called by Divines the Fons Trinitatis) being by this appel­lation plainly signify'd to be First in this sacred Triad; the Son, as that title imports, to be of the Father; and the Spirit to be of, or from, both the other. Let these two latter be considered as being of, or from the First, not by any intervening act of will, by which it might have been possible they should not have been so; but by natural, neces­sary, eternal promanation; so as that ne­cessity [Page 49] of existence is hereby made as truly to agree to them as to the First, which is acknowledged the most fundamen­tal attribute of Deity. This promanation is hereby sufficiently distinguisht from creation; and these two set infinitely a­bove all Creatures, or the whole Uni­verse of created beings. Nor is there hereby any place left for that unapt application of a Son and Grand­son deriving themselves from P. 17. of these Con­siderations. the Grandfather, or two Brothers from one Father.

And altho' it be also true, and rea­dily acknowledged, that there are nu­merous Instances of involuntary producti­ons among the Creatures, and which are therefore to be deemed a sort of natural and necessary productions; yet that necessity not being absolute, but ex hypo­thesi only, i. e. upon supposition of their productive Causes, and all things requi­site to those productions, being so, and so, aptly posited in order thereto, all which depended upon one Sovereign will [Page 50] at first, so that all might have been otherwise, this signifies nothing to ex­empt them out of the state and rank of Creatures, or invalidate this most un­alterable distinction between created be­ing, and uncreated.

XIX. But if here it shall be urged to me that one individual necessarily exi­stent spiritnal Being alone is God, and is all that is signifyed by the Name of God; and therefore that three distinct, indivi­dual, necessarily existent, spiritual Beings must unavoidably be three distinct Gods:

I would say, if by one individual, ne­cessarily existent, spiritual Being, you mean one such Being, comprehending Father, Son and Holy Ghost taken together, I grant it. But if by one individual, necessarily ex­istent, spiritual Being, you mean either the Father, Son, or Holy Ghost, taken se­junctly, I deny it; for hoth the other are truly signify'd by the Name of God too, as well as that One.

I therefore say, the term individual, must in this case now supposed (as [Page 51] possible, not as certain) admit of a twofold application; either to the distinct essence of the Father, or of the Son, or of the Holy Ghost; or to the entire es­sence of the Godhead, in which these three do concur. Each of these conceived by it self are (according to this supposition) individual essences, but conceived together, they are the entire individual essence of God. For there is but one such essence, and no more, and it can never be multi­plyed, nor divided into more of the same name and nature. As the body, and soul of a man, are one individual body, and one individual soul, but both toge­ther are but one individual man: And the case would be the same, if a man did consist of two, or three spirits so (or more nearly) united together, as his soul and body are. Especially if you should suppose (which is the supposition of no impossible or unconceivable thing) that these three spirits which together (as we now do suppose) do constitute a man, were created with an aptitude to this [Page 52] united coexistence, but with an impossibi­lity of existing separately, except to the Divine Power which created them con­junct, and might separate them so as to make them exist apart; which yet cannot be the Case in respect of three such uncreated spiritual Beings, whose Union is supposed to be by natural, eternal necessity, as their Essences are; and are therefore most absolutely inse­parable.

XX. Or if it should be said, I make the Notion of God to comprehend Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and a Godhead besides common to these three.

I answer; nothing I have said or sup­posed implies any such thing; or that the Notion of God imports any thing more of real being, than is contained in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, taken together, and most intimately, naturally, and vitally, by eternal necessity, united with one another. As in a created being, consisting of more things than one taken together and united; a Man for instance, there is nothing more of [Page 53] real entity, besides what is contained in his Body and his Soul united and taken to­gether. 'Tis true that this term, a Man, speaks somewhat very divers from an humane body taken alone, or an humane soul taken alone, or from both, separately taken; but nothing divers from both united, and taken together.

And for what this may be unjustly collected to imply of composition, repug­nant to Divine Perfection, it is before obviated. Sect. 13.

If therefore it be askt, What do we conceive under the Notion of God, but a ne­cessary, spiritual Being? I answer that this is a true Notion of God, and may be passable enough, among Pagans, for a full one. But we Christians are taught to conceive under the Notion of God, a necessary spiritual Being, in which Father, Son, and Spirit, do so necessarily coexist, as to constitute that Being; and that when we conceive any one of them to be God, that is but an inadequate, not an entire and full conception of the Godhead.

[Page 54] Nor will any place remain for that trivial Cavil, that if each of these have Godhead in him, he therefore hath a Tri­nity in him; but that he is one of the three who together are the One God, by ne­cessary, natural, eternal Union.

Which Union is also quite of another kind than that of three Men (as for in­stance, of Peter, James and John) parta­king in the same kind of Nature; who notwithstanding, exist separately, and apart from each other. These three are suppo­sed to coexist in natural, necessary, eter­nal, and most intimate Union, so as to be one Divine Being.

Nor is it any prejudice against our thus stating the Notion of the Godhead, that we know of no such Union in all the Creation, that may assist our Concep­tion of this Union. What incongruity is there in supposing, in this respect, as well as in many others, somewhat most peculiarly appropriate to the Being of God? If there be no such actual Union in the Creation, 'tis enough to our [Page 55] purpose, if such a one were possible to have been. And we do know of the actual union of two things of very different Natures so as to be one thing, and have no reason to think the Union of two or more things of the same sort of Na­ture, with sufficient remaining distincti­on, less possible or less intelligible.

XXI. Upon the whole, let such an union be conceived in the Being of God, with such distinction, and one would think (tho' the Complexions of Mens minds do strangely and unaccountably differ) the absolute perfection of the Deity, and especially the perfect felicity thereof, should be much the more apprehensible with us. When we consider that most de­licious society which would hence ensue, among the so entirely consentient Fa­ther, Son, and Spirit, with whom there is so perfect rectitude, everlasting harmony, mutual complacency, unto highest delectati­on; according to our way of conceiv­ing things, who are taught by our own Nature (which also hath in it the Di­vine [Page 56] Image) to reckon no Enjoyment pleasant, without the consociation of some other with us therein; we for our parts cannot but hereby have in our minds a more gustfull Idea of a blessed state, than we, can conceive in meer eter­nal solitude.

God speaks to us, as Men, and will not blame us for conceiving things so infinitely above us, according to the Ca­pacity of our Natures; provided we do not assume to our selves to be a mea­sure for our Conceptions of him; further than as he is himself pleased to war­rant, and direct us herein. Some like­ness we may (taught by himself) ap­prehend between him and us, but with in­finite (not inequality only, but) unlike­ness. And for this Case of delectation in Society, we must suppose an immense difference between him an all-sufficient, self-sufficient Being, comprehending in himself the infinite fulness of whatsoever is most excellent and delectable, and our selves, who have in us but a very minute porti­on [Page 57] of being, goodness, or felicity, and whom he hath made to stand much in need of one another, and most of all of him.

But when, looking into our selves, we find there is in us a disposition, often upon no necessity, but sometimes, from some sort of benignity of temper, unto Con­versation with others; we have no reason, when other things concur, and do fair­ly induce, and lead our thoughts this way, to apprehend any incongruity in supposing he may have some distinct object of the same sort of propension in his own most perfect Being too, and there­with such a propension it self also.

XXII. As to what concerns our selves, the observation is not altogether un­apposit, what Cicero treating of Friend­ship, discourses of perpetual solitude, that the affectation of it must signifie the worst of ill Humour, and the most sa­vage Nature in the World. And sup­posing one of so sour and morose an Humour, as to shun and hate the Conversation of Men, he would not [Page 58] endure it, to be without some one or other to whom he might disgorge the virulency of that his malignant Humour. Or that supposing such a thing could happen, that God should take a Man quite out of the Society of Men, and place him in absolute solitude, supplyed with the abundance of whatsoever Nature could covet besides; who, saith he, is so made of Iron, as to endure that kind of Life?’ And he introduces Architas Ta­rentinus reported to speak to this pur­pose.

‘That if one could ascend into Hea­ven, behold the frame of the World, and the beauty of every Star, his ad­miration would be unpleasant to him alone, which would be most delicious, if he had some one to whom to express his sense of the whole.’

We are not, I say, strictly to mea­sure God by our selves in this; further than as he himself prompts and leads us.

[Page 59] But if we so form our Conception of Divine Bliss, as not to exclude from it somewhat, whereof that Delight in Society, which we find in our selves may be an imperfect faint resemblance, it seems not altogether disagreeable to what the Scriptures also teach us to conceive con­cerning him, when it brings in the eter­nal Wisdom, saying, as one distinct from the prime Author, and Parent of all things, then was I by him, as one brought up with him, and daily his delight. Prov. 8.

XXIII. However, let the whole of what hath been hitherto proposed be taken together, and to me, it appears our conception of the sacred Trinunity will be so remote from any shadow of inconsistency or repugnancy, that no ne­cessity can remain upon us of torturing Wit, and racking Invention to the ut­termost, to do a laboured and artifici­al violence (by I know not what skrews and engines) to so numerous plain Texts of Scripture, only to undeify our glorious Redeemer, and do the utmost despite [Page 60] to the Spirit of grace! We may be con­tent to let the word of God (or what we pretend to own for a divine revelation) stand as it is, and undistorted, speak its own sense. And when we find the Former of all things speaking as WE or US. When we find Gen. 1. another [I] possessed by the Lord, Prov. 8. in the beginning of his way, before his works of old; so as that he says of himself (as distinct from the other) I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the Earth was—And when he prepared the Heavens I was there, &c. When we find the Child born for us, the Son given to us, called also the migh­ty Isa. 9. God, and (as in reference to us he fit­ly might) the Everlasting Father. When we are told of the Ruler that was to come out of Bethlehem-Ephrata, Mic. 5. that his goings forth were from everlasting. That the Word was in the be­ginning with God, and was God—That all things were made by him, Joh. 1. and without him nothing was made, that was [Page 61] made. That this Word was made flesh—That His glory was beheld as the glory of the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. Even that same he that above was said to have been in the be­ginning with God, and to be God. That when he who was said to have come down from Heaven, was, Joh. 3. even while he was on Earth, at that time, said to be in Heaven. That we are told by himself, he and his Father are one thing. That he Joh. 10. is not only said to know the heart, but to know all things. Joh. 21. That even he who according to the flesh came of the Israelites, is Rom. 9. yet expresly said to be over all, God blessed for ever. That when he was in the form of God—he Phil. 2. humbled himself to the taking on him the form of a servant, and to be found in fashion as a man. That 'tis said, all things were created by him, Col. 1. that are in heaven, and on earth, visible and invisible, thrones, dominions, principali­ties, [Page 62] powers,—and that all things were created by him, and for him; than which nothing could have been said more peculiar or appropriate to Deity. That even of the Son of God it is said, he is the true God and eternal Life. 1 Joh. 5. That we are so plainly told he is, Alpha and Omega, the first Rev. 1. and the last, he that was, and is, Chap. 2. and is to come, The Lord Almighty, the beginning of the creation of Chap. 3. The searcher of hearts. That the God. Spirit of God is said to search all things, even the deep things of 1 Cor. 2. God. That lying to him is said to be lying to God. That the Acts 5. great Christian Solemnity, Baptism is di­rected to be in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. That it is so di­stinctly said, there are three that bear record in Heaven, the Father, 1 Joh. 5. the Word, and the Spirit, and that these three are one thing.

I cannot imagine what should o­blige us so studiously to wiredraw all [Page 63] this to quite other meanings.

XXIV. And for the leaving out of this last mentioned text in some copies, what hath been said (not to mention divers others) by the famously learned Dr. Ham­mond upon that place, is so reasonable, so moderate, so charitable to the oppo­site party, and so apt to satisfie impartial and unprejudic'd minds, that one would scarce think, after the reading of it, any real doubt can remain concerning the au­thentickness of that 7th. verse in 1 Joh. 5.

Wherefore now taking all these texts together; with many more that might have been mentioned, I must indeed profess to wonder, that with men of so good sense, as our Socinian Adver­saries are accounted, this consideration should not have more place and weight, viz. That it being so obvious to any Reader of the Scriptures to apprehend from so numerous Texts, that Deity must belong to the Son of God, and that there wants not Sufficient inducement to conceive so of the Holy Ghost also; there should be [Page 64] no more caution given in the Scriptures themselves to prevent mistake (if there were any) in apprehending the matter accordingly. And to obviate the unspeak­able consequent danger of erring in a case of so vast importance. How una­greeable it is to all our notions of God; and to his usual procedure in cases of less con­sequence! How little doth it consist with his being so wise and so compassionate a Lover of the souls of men, to let them be so fatally expos'd unto so inevitable, and so destructive a delusion! That the whole Christian Church should thorough so many Centuries of years, be even trained into so horrid and continued Ido­latry by himself who so severely forbids it! I cannot allow my self to think men of that perswasion insincere in their professing to believe the divine authority of the Holy Scriptures, when the Leader and Head of their Party, writ a book, that is not without nerves in defence of it. But I confess I cannot devise, with what design they can think those Scriptures [Page 65] were written! Or why they should count it a thing worthy of infinite wis­dom to vouchsafe such a revelation to men, allowing them to treat and use it as they do! And that till some great So­cinian wits should arise 1500 years af­ter, to rectify their notions in these things, men should generally be in so great hazzard of being deceived into damnation, by those very Scriptures, which were professedly writ to make them wise to Salvation!

XXV. Nor is it of so weighty impor­tance in this controversie, to cast the bal­lance the other way, that a noted Cri­tick (upon what introducement needs not be determined) chang'd his judgment, or that his Posthumous interpretations of some texts (if they were his interpreta­tions) carry an appearance of his ha­ving changed it; because he thought such texts might possibly admit to be in­terpreted otherwise, than they usually were, by such as alledged them for the Trinity, or the (disputed) Deity of the [Page 66] Son or Sipirit, or that the cause must be lost, upon his deserting it, or that he was still to be reckoned of the opposite party (as this Author calls it) and that such texts as we most rely'd up­on, were therefore given up by some of our own.

And it is really a great assuming, when a man shall adventure to pro­nounce so peremptorily, against the so common judgment of the Christian Church, without any colour of proof, that our copies, are false copies, our translations, our explications false, and the generality of the wisest, the most inquisitive, most pious, and most judicious assertors of the Christian cause, for so many continued ages, fools, or cheats for owning and avowing them; for no other imagina­nable reason, but only because they make against him! How will he prove any Copies we rely upon to be false? Is it because he is pleased to suspect them? And is an interpretation false, because the words can possibly be tortur'd unto some [Page 67] other sense? Let him name me the Text, wherein any Doctrine is supposed to be delivered that is of meerly supernatural revelation, of which it is not possible to to devise some other meaning, not more re­mote, alien, or unimaginable, than theirs, of most of the disputed Texts.

Nor indeed do we need to except that natural sentiment it self, that there is but one God, (which this Author takes such Pains to prove, as if he thought, or would make other men think, we deny'd it.) For tho' it is so generally acknowledged, doth he not know it is not so generally under­stood in the same sense? Against whom doth he write? Doth he not know they understand this Oneness in one sense, he, in another? They in such a sense as ad­mits a Trinity, he in a sense that ex­cludes it?

But (for such things as did need a superadded verbal revelation) how easie is it to an inventive, pervicacious Wit, to wrest words this way or that.

[Page 68] XXVI. The Scriptures were writ for the instruction of sober learners; not for the pastime of contentious wits, that af­fect only to play tricks upon them. At their rate of interpreting, among whom he ranks himself, 'tis impossible any Doctrine can with certainty, be foun­ded upon them. Take the first Chap­ter of St. John's Gospel for instance, and what Doctrine can be asserted in plainer words, than the Deity of Christ, in the three first Verses of that Chapter? Set any man of an ordinary, unprepossest understanding, to read them, and when he finds that by the Word is meant Je­sus Christ (which themselves admit) see if he will not judge it plainly taught, that Jesus Christ is God, in the most eminent, known sense. Especially when he shall take notice of so many other Texts, that, according to their most obvious appearance, carry the same sense. But it is first, thorough meer shortness of discourse, taken for granted, and rashly concluded on, that it is absolute­ly [Page 69] impossible, if the Father be God, the Son can be God too (or the Holy Ghost) upon a presumption, that we can know every thing that belongs to the Divine Nature; and what is possible to be in it, and what not; and next, there is hereupon not only a license imagined, but an obligation, and necessity, to shake Heaven and Earth, or tear that divine Word that is more stable, into a thousand pieces, or expound it to nothing, to make it comply with that forelaid pre­sumptuous determination. Whereas if we could but bend our Minds so far to comply with the plain ducture of that revelation God hath made unto us of himself; as to apprehend that, in the most only Godhead there may be distincti­ons, which we particularly understand not, sufficient to found the Doctrine of a Trinity therein, and very consistent with the unity of it; we should save the divine Word, and our own Minds, from unjust torture, both at once. And our task, herein, will be the easier, that we [Page 70] are neither concerned nor allowed to de­termine, that things are precisely so, or so; but only to suppose it possible that so they may be, for ought that we know. Which will I am certain not be so hard, nor so bold an undertaking, as his, who shall take upon him to prove, that any thing here supposed is im­possible.

Indeed if any one would run the discourse into the abyss of Infinity, he may soon create such difficulties to himself, as it ought not to be thought strange, if they be greater than any humane understanding can expedite. But not greater than any man will be intan­gled in, that shall set himself to con­sider Infinity upon other accounts; which yet he will find it impos'd upon him unavoidably to admit whether he will or no. Not greater than this Author will be equally concern'd in, upon his doing that right to Truth, in oppo­sition to the former leaders of his own Party, as to acknowledge the Omnipre­sence [Page 71] of the Divine essence, p. 32. which he will find, let him try it when he will. Nor yet so great, nor accompa­nyed with so gross, so palpable and horrid absurdities, as he will soon be encountred with, should he retract his grant, or entertain the monstrously maimed, and most deformed, impi­ous, conceit of a finite, or limited Dei­ty!

XXVII. Yet also in this present case, the impossibility to our narrow Minds of comprehending Infinity, is most ratio­nally improveable to our very just ad­vantage. It ought to be upbraided to none as a pretext, or a cover to sloth, or dulness. 'Tis no reproach to us that we are creatures, and have not infinite capacities. And it ought to quiet our minds, that they may so certainly know they have limits; within which, we are to content our selves with such notions, about indemonstrable, and unrevealed things, as they can, with greatest ease to them­selves, find room for.

[Page 72] I can reflect upon nothing in what is here proposed, but what is intelligi­ble without much toil, or much Metaphy­sicks. As matters, of so common concern­ment, ought, to our uttermost, to be represented in such a way that they may be so. We need not be concern'd in Scholastick Disquisitions about Union; or by what peculiar Name to call that which is here supposed. It's enough for us to know there may be a real, natural, vital, and very intimate union, of things that shall, notwithstanding it, continue di­stinct, and that shall, by it, be truly one. Nor do we need to be anxiously curi­ous in stating the Notions of Person, and Personality, of suppositum and suppo­sitality, tho' I think not the term Per­son disallowable in the present Case. Nor will say what that noted Man (so noted that I need not Name him, and who was as much acquainted with Me­taphysicks as most in his Age) publish­ed to the World above twenty Years ago, that he counted the Notion of the [Page 73] Schools about Suppositum a Foolery. For I do well know, the thing it self, which our Christian Metaphysicians intended, to be of no small importance in our Re­ligion, and specially to the Doctrine of Redemption, and of our Redeemer.

XXVIII. But I reckon they that go the more Metaphysical way, and con­tent themselves with the modal distincti­on of three Persons in the Godhead, say nothing herein that can be proved ab­surd or contradictious. As to what is commonly urged, that if there be three Persons in the Deity, each Person must have its distinct individual Essence, as well as its distinct personality. I would de­ny the consequence, and say, that tho' this be true in created Persons (taking Person in the strict Metaphysical sense) it is not necessary to be so in uncreated. That the reason is not the same be­tvveen finite things and infinite; and would put them to prove, if they can, that the same infinite Essence cannot be whole and undivided in three several Per­sons; [Page 74] knowing there can be nothing more difficult urged in the Case, than may against the Divine Omnipresence; which irrefragable reasons, as well as the plainest testimony of Scripture will oblige us to acknowledge.

But I think, tho' this Hypothesis ab­stractly considered, and by it self, is not indefensible; it doth not altogether so well square with the Christian Oeconomy, nor so easily allow that distinction to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which seems requisite to found the distinct attributi­ons that are severally given them in the Holy Scriptures.

XXIX. To conclude, I only wish these things might be considered, and discoursed with less confidence, and per­emptory determination; with a greater awe of what is divine and sacred; and that we may more confine our selves to the plain words of Scripture in this matter, and be content therewith. I generally blame it in the Socinians (who appear otherwise rational and considering men) [Page 75] that they seem to have formed their belief of things, not possible to be known but by the Scriptures, without them; and then think they are by all imagi­nable Arts, and they care not what violence, (as Socinus himself hath in ef­fect confessed) to mold and form them according to their preconceived sense. Common Modesty, and Civility, one would have thought, should have made Schli­ctingius abstain from prefixing, and con­tinuing that as a running Title to a long Chapter: Articulus Evangelicorum de Trini­tate cum sensu communi pugnat, engrossing common sense to himself and his Party, and reproaching the generality of Christians, as not understanding common sense. They should take upon them less, and not vaunt, as if they were the Men, and Wisdom must dye with them.

For this Author, I Congratulate his nearer approach to us, from those who were formerly Leaders of his Party, in the Doctrines of Gods Omnipresence, and the perceptiveness, and activity of separate [Page 76] Souls. He writes with sprightliness and vigour. And, I doubt not, believes re­ally, what he writes with so little seem­ing doubt. And because his Spirit ap­pears to be of a more generous, exalt­ed pitch, than to comport with any thing against his Judgment, for secu­lar interest and advantage. I reckon it the greater pity it should want the ad­dition of what would be very orna­mental to it, and which he wishes to two of the Persons, to whom he makes himself an Antagonist, more of the tender­ness and Catholick Charity of genuine Christi­anity, p. 19. col. 2. to accompany those his abilities and learning, which would not thereby be the lesser (as he speaks) nor the less conspicuous.

I believe few would have thought him to see the less clearly, if he had been content to see for himself, not for man­kind. And if he had not talkt at that rate, as if he carried the Eyes of all the World in his Pocket, they would have been less apt to think he carried his own there.

[Page 77] Nor had his Performance, in this Writing of his, lost any thing of real value, if in a Discourse upon so grave a subject, some lepidities had been left out, as that of Dulcinea del Toboso, &c.

And to allude to what he says of Dr. Cudworth, his displeasure will not hurt so rough an Author as Arnobius, so many Ages after he is dead, if he should happen to offend him, by having once said, Dissoluti—est pectoris in rebus serijs quaerere voluptatem—&c.

But for all of us, I hope we may say without offence to any, common hu­mane frailty should be more consider­ed, and that we know but in part, and in how small a part! We should, here­upon, be more equal to one another. And when it is obvious to every one, how we are straitned in this matter, and that we ought to suppose one ano­ther intently, aiming to reconcile the Scripture-discovery, with natural Sentiments, should not uncharitably censure, or la­bour to expose one another, that any [Page 78] seem more satisfi'd with their own Me­thod than with ours. What an odd and almost ludicrous Spectacle do we give to the blessed Angels that supervise us (if their benignity did not more prompt them to compassion) when they behold us fighting in the dark, about things we so little understand; or, when we all labour under a gradual blindness, objecting it to one another, and one accusing another that he abandons not his own too weak sight, to see only by his (perhaps) blinder Eye.

Thus, Sir, you have my sense what I think safe, and enough to be said in this weighty matter.

To you, these thoughts are not new, with whom they have been commu­nicated and discoursed heretofore, long ago. And I believe you may so far re­collect your self, as to remember the principal ground was suggested to you, upon which this Discourse now rests; [viz. necessity of Existence, and Contin­gencie; [Page 79] emanations absolutely independent upon any will at all; and the arbitrary productions of the Divine Will,] as the suf­ficient and most fundamental difference be­tween what is uncreated and what is cre­ated; and upon this very account, as that which might give scope and room to our thoughts, to conceive the Doctrine of the Trinity, consistently with the Unity of the Godhead; and so, as that the Son, tho truly from the Father, and the Holy Ghost tho' truly from both, shall yet appear infinitely distinguished from all created Beings whatsoever.

So much you know was under con­sideration with us above twenty years ago; and was afterwards imparted to many more; long before there was any men­tion or forethought, within our notice, of such a revival of former controver­sies, upon this Subject, as we have lately seen.

This occasion, now given, hath put me upon revolving anew these former thoughts; and upon digesting them into some or­der, [Page 80] such as it is, for publick view. If they shall prove to be of any use, it appears they will not be out of season; and it will he gratefull to me to be any way serviceable to so worthy a Cause. If they shall be found altogether useless; being evicted either of impertinency, or untruth, it shall not be ungratefull. For I thank God, I find not a disposition in my mind to be fond of any Notions of mine, as they are such, nor to be more adventurous, or confident, in de­termining of things hid, not only in so profound, but in most sacred darkness, than I have all along exprest my self. I ought indeed to be the more cauti­ous of offending in this kind, that be­ing the thing I blame, the positive as­serting this or that to be impossible, or not possibly competent to the nature of God, which by his own Word, or the manifest reason of things doth not plainly appear to be so. Much more which his Word doth as plainly as it is pos­sible any thing can be exprest by words, [Page 81] ascribe to him. The only thing I assert is, that a Trinity in the Godhead may be possible, for ought we know, in the way that I have proposed. At least it is so, for any thing that I do as yet know. And so confident I am of the truth, and true meaning of his Word, revealing a Trinity in his eternal Godhead, that I strongly hope, if ever it shall be proved to be impossible upon these terms that I have here set down; by the same, or by equal, Light, the possibility of it some other way, will appear too. i. e. That not only a Trinity in the Unity of the Godhead is a possible thing; but that it is also possible that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost may be sufficiently distinguished to answer the frame and design of Christianity: And that will equally serve my purpose. For so how­ever, will the Scandal be removed, that may seem to ly upon our Holy Reli­gion, through the industrious misrepre­sentation which is made of it, by Scep­ticks, Deists or Atheists, as if it were [Page 82] made up of inconsistencies and absur­dities, and were fitter to be entertain­ed with laughter than faith: And be­ing effectually vindicated, it will be the more successfully propagated, and more chearfully practised; which is all that is coveted and sought by

Your very Respectfully, Humble Servant, &c.


HAving the Copies of some Letters by me, which I wrote to Dr. Wallis between two and three Years ago, upon this Subject; I think, Sir, it is not improper, and perhaps it may be some way usefull, to let them ac­company this to your self.

And here I shall freely tell you my principal inducement, (taking notice in some of the Doctor's printed Letters; of others to him, contained in them) to send him (incognito) one also; but with that reason against printing it, which you find towards the end of the first Let­ter.

It was really the apprehension, which had long remained with me, that the simplicity, which (if the Notion of it were stretch'd too far) not the Scriptures, [Page 84] but the Schools have taught us to ascribe to the Being of God, was that alone which hath given us difficulty, in conceiving a Trinity in the onely One God.

It is not the Unity, or Oneliness of the Godhead; but the Simplicity of it, as the School-men have stated it, that hath crea­ted the matter of dispute. Unity, you know, denies more of the same; simplicity denies more in it. Concerning the for­mer that there could be no more Gods than One, we are at a point; the reason of the thing it self, and the Holy Scriptures so expresly asserting it, leave it out of dispute.

All the doubt is about the latter. Not whether such a thing belong to the Nature of God; but concerning the just explication of it: As it is a real excellen­cy, not a blemish; and not meerly a moxal, but a natural excellency, there can be no doubt of its belonging to the Di­vine Nature; but if you understand it as exclusive of all Varietie therein, you find not any express mention of such [Page 85] an Attribute of God in the Scriptures. They are silent in the matter. It hath no authority, but of the Schools. That and the Reason that can be brought for it must give it its whole and only sup­port. It is the only thing that must open, and give way, to admit the Do­ctrine of the Trinity; and it is the only thing that needs to do so. For we none of us assert a Trinity of Gods; but a Tri­nity in the Godhead. It is the only thing that can to the Adversaries of the Tri­nity with any colourable pretence seem opposite to it. And which therefore I thought the only thing that remained to be sifted and examined, if they will state it in an opposition thereto. What so mighty and invincible strength of reason it had, whence alone either to shock the Autho­rity; or pervert the plain meaning of the Holy Scriptures, discompose the whole frame of Christian Religion, disturb the Peace of the Church, perplex very think­ing minds, subvertt the Faith of some, and turn it into ridicule with too many.

[Page 86] I reckon'd the Dr. (as I still do, not­withstanding the Contempt this Author hath of him) a Person of a very clear, unmuddied Understanding. I found him, by what he express'd in his first Letter of the Trinity, not apt to be awed by the Authority of the Schools, nor any Bigot to them, as having declined their Notion of a Person, and fixing upon another, (less answering, as I ap­prehended, the Scheme and Design of Christianity) I thought it easie, and re­putable enough to him to add, what might be requisite in this matter, with­out contradicting (directly, or discerni­bly) any thing he had said. I gave him the opportunity of doing it, as from himself, without seeming to have the least thing to that purpose suggested to him by any other. I had my self, I think, seen and considered the main strength of the School-mens reasonings con­cerning that simplicity, which they will have to be divine; and, for ought I do yet know, have competently oc­curr'd [Page 87] to it in this foregoing Letter, and partly in what you will now find I wrote to him. But what there is of real infirmity, or impertinencie to this case (as it is, and ought to be represented) in their arguings, I reckon'd he would both see and evince more clearly than I.

Therefore I greatly desired to have engaged him upon this Point; but I could not prevail. And am therefore willing that what I writ then with de­sign of the greatest privacy, should now become publick. Not that I think it hath so great value in it self; but that perhaps it may furrher serve to excite some others more able and more at lea­sure to search and enquire into this mat­ter; and either to improve, or disprove what I have essayed. And which of the two it is, 'tis all one to me. For I have no Interest or Design, but that of Truth, and the service of the Christian Cause.

I was so little apprehensive of any such future use to be made of these [Page 88] Letters, that I kept no account of the dates, except that one of the two lat­ter (which both only refer to the first) I find by the Copy I have in my hands, to have been sent Decemb. 19th. 1691. I remember it was a long time, and guess it might be 6 or 8 weeks, e're I heard any thing of the first, after I had sent it. Probably it might have been sent in October, or the begining of No­vember before. I at length heard of it very casually, being in an house in Lon­don, whither the Doctor's Eighth Letter was nevvly arrived (then no secret) in order to impression. I then found this my first Letter was lightly toucht, but mistaken; vvhich occasioned (it being a Post-night) my second. That was fol­lowed by the third, the next Post af­ter, when I had a little more time wherein to express my mind, tho' I still concealed my Name, as it is yet fittest to do, my main Business in my Letter to you lying with a Person, who (blamelesly enough) conceals his.

[Page 89] These two latter of my Letters to the Dr. produced some alteration in that Paragraph of his 8th. Letter, which re­lates to my first.

But yet no way answering the De­sign for which I writ it. You have them now together exactly according to the Copies I have by me, except­ing one or two circumstantial things fitly enough left out, or somewhat altered.

And they had all slept long enough, if this occasion had not brought them to light.

But before I give them you, let me suggest some things further to you con­cerning the foregoing Letter to your­self.

You may apprehend that some will think it strange (if not an inconsisten­cy) that I should suppose it possible an absolute onmimodous simplicity may not be­long to the Divine Being, when yet I absolutely deny all composition in it.

And I apprehend too some may [Page 90] think so, at least a while; but such as have considered well, will not think so, and such as shall, I presume will not long. For,

1. If I had deny'd the simplicity of the Divine Nature, had the inference been just, that therefore I must grant a composition? How many instances might be given of one opposite not agree­ing to this or that thing, when also the other doth as little agree! And most of all doth the transcendent excellency of the Divine Nature exempt it from the limiting by-partitions to which Creatures are subject.

Take Reason in the proper sense for arriving gradually by argumenta­tion from the knowledge of more evi­dent, to the knowledge of obscurer things, and so we cannot say the Divine Nature is rational. But is it therefore to be called irrational? Faith and Hope a­gree not to it. Are we therefore to think Infidelity or Despair do not disa­gree?

[Page 91] It is indeed more generally appre­hended, we can scarce have the notion of any thing that strictly, or otherwise than by some very defective analogy, agrees to him, and to us. Some Pagans, and some Christians from them (not in derogation, but) in great reverence to the high excellency of the Deity, not excepting the most common noti­on of all other, even that of being it self; but making his Being and Sub­stance to be superessential, and supersub­stantial. 'Tis out of doubt that what­soever perfection is in us, is not the same thing in him formally, but in an uncon­ceivable transcendent eminency only. Do therefore their Contraries agree to him?

2. I am far from denying the sim­plicity of the blessed Nature of God, which I ascribe to him in the highest Per­fection which it is capable of signify­ing. I most peremptorily affirm not only all the Simplicity, which he ex­presly affirms of himself; but all that can by just consequence be inferr'd from [Page 92] any affirmation of his; or that can by plain reason be evinced any other way. Whatsoever is any real Perfection, &c. Sect. 11.

'Tis true while I affirm such a sim­plicity as excludes all composition, in the sense already given, I affirm not such as excludes all variety. Not such as ex­cludes a Trinity, which he so plainly affirms, and with such distinction, as his affirmations concerning it imply, and make requisite.

I further judge that tho the Scriptures do not expresly ascribe simplicity to the being of God, as a natural excellency, they say that which implies it, as such, to belong to him; as when they bring him in saying of himself I am what I am. This must imply his nature to ex­clude every thing that is alien from it self. I take it, as it signifies (besides a moral) a meer natural excellency, to import a most perfect purity of essence. And I understand that to be purum, which is plenum sui, and quod nihil habet alieni. I [Page 93] do therefore take the natural simplicity of the divine Being to exclude the in­grediency of any thing that can infer in it, conflict, decay, change, disturbance or infelicity in the least degree; and to in­clude whatsoever infers the contraries of all these; serenity, tranquillity, harmo­ny, stability, delight, and joy, in high­est Perfection; as necessity of existence al­so doth; and that for all this, it by no means needs to exclude a Trinity, but to include it rather.

But I judge humane (and even all created) Minds very incompetent Judges of the divine simplicity. We know not what the divine nature may include con­sistently with its own perfection, nor what it must, as necessary thereto. Our eye is no judge of corporeal simplicity. In darkness it discerns nothing but simpli­city, without distinction of things. In more dusky light the whole Horison ap­pears most simple, and every where like it self. In brighter light, we per­ceive great varieties, and much greater [Page 94] if a Microscope assist our Eye. But of all the aerial people that replenish the Region (except rare appearances to very few) we see none. Here want not Objects, but a finer Eye.

'Tis much at this rate with our Minds in beholding the spiritual Sphaere of Be­ings, most of all the uncreated, which is re­motest, and furthest above, out of our sight.

We behold Simplicity! and what do we make of that? vast undistin­guisht Vacuity! sad, immense Solitude! only this at first view. If we draw nearer, and fix our Eye, we think we apprehend somewhat, but dubiously hal­lucinate, as the half-cur'd Blind man did, when he thought he saw Men like Trees.

But if a voice which we acknowledge Divine speak to us out of the profound abyss, and tell us of gratefull varieties and distinctions in it; Good God! shall we not believe it? Or shall we say we clearly see that is not, which only we do not see? This seems like somewhat worse than blindness!

Now follow the Letters.

LETTERS TO Dr. WALLIS, Sent in 1691.



I Could much please my self in re­volving in my own mind the very respectful Thoughts and Veneration I have long had for you, and in Con­versing with the grateful and enter­taining Idéa which I have not abitrari­ly, but by your irresistible imposition received; and retained of you many [Page 96] Years, on the account of your former most useful and acceptable Performan­ces, and which is both renewed and heightened greatly by your late, clear, prudent, and piously modest Discour­ses (both Letters and Sermons) of that awful Mystery [the Trinity in the God­head.] But as I can neither satisfie my self of the fitness of making an Encomi­um of you the matter of a Letter to your self; so nor can I hope to please you by doing a thing in it self so inept, and so insignificant to you. I shall bet­ter do both, if I shall offer any thing to you concerning this mentioned Sub­ject, your further consideration whereof may prove a further benefit to the World.

In what you have already said con­cerning it, you have used that great Caution, and so well guarded your self, as not so far as I can apprehend, to give an adversary in this single point, the least advantage. That which I would in the general, humbly offer, is, whe­ther [Page 97] you have said so much as with safety might be said, and as the Case may require, for the gaining of a just advan­tage to the common Christian Cause.

We design, in fight, not only to keep our selves safe, but to overcome, and not in praelio only, but in bello. In Wars, indeed of this sort, both our own safety and victory, are less to be valued than truth. Which, being of a piece, can be injured in no part, without some dam­mage to the whole frame of congene­rous Truth. And as it is very possi­ble, while an Enemy is withstood at­tacking some one Fort, a greater loss may not be provided against elsewhere; it may so fall out in Affairs of this kind too, that the Care of defending some one Truth may be accompany'd with a present not attending to the jeopardy of divers others.

The nearer we approach an Adver­sary (within just limits) in these ratio­nal decertations, the less he can have to say against us. But being well re­solved [Page 98] our selves about the main point of disagreement, we then take Care not to come so near, as to fall in with him, pass into his Tents, and give a­way our main Cause.

I am (worthiest Sir) far from assu­ming so much to my self, or detracting so much from you, as to give a judg­ment that this really is done in your Discourses about the Trinity. I only submit it to your own most penetra­ting judgment, what may be further requisite and possible in this matter, to take away any appearances hereof, and prevent ill consequences that may too easily ensue.

I have, for my own part, long im­pos'd it upon my self to abstain from any positive Conceptions concerning the Godhead, beyond what I find expresly contain'd in the divine revelation, or what the reason of things, either antecedent­ly thereto, or consequentially there­upon, doth most evidently perswade and require; and do greatly approve the [Page 99] same caution, which I cannot but ob­serve with you. But desire it may be weigh'd whether such measures may not, and must not lead us further.

As for the word person, you prudent­ly profess not to be fond of it, the thing being agreed, thô you also tru­ly judge it a good word, and suffici­ently warranted.

For the Notion signify'd by it, you all along seem to decline that of the Schools, or the Metaphysical one, which, you know, makes it to be a rational (or intelligent) suppositum; and to take up with (what I think I may, wanting a fitter, i. e. a more comprehensive word, call) the Civil Notion of it; which will allow the same man to be capable of sustaining three or more persons, suppo­sing his circumstances or qualifications to be such or such, as to that purpose you speak both in your Letters and Sermons.

Now whereas you have also told us, Letter 1. that by personality you mean [Page 100] that distinction (whatever it be) by which the three persons are distinguish­ed each from other; that which, with great submission, and most profound re­spect to you, I propose to your fur­ther Consideration, will be capable of being resolved into these two Enqui­ries.

1. Whether only such a distinction of the Divine Persons, as this amounts to, will be sufficient to found the several attributions which the Holy Scriptures give distinctly and severally to them, and to preserve the Scheme of Christian Re­ligion entire, which is wont to be de­duced from these Sacred Writings.

2. Whether some further distinction may not be admitted as possible, con­sistently with the salved unity of the Godhead.

As to the former, 1. Whereas you think the word Person to be a good word, and sufficiently warranted by Scrip­ture, Heb. 1. 3. where the Son is called the express Image of his Father's Person; al­ledging [Page 101] that so we render the word Hypo­stasis which is there used, and do mean by it what you think to be there meant; I de­sire you would please to consider whe­ther the word Hypostasis, according to the common use of it will admit to be so taken, as you explain your self to mean by the word Person. For thô the Latine word persona, as you say, ac­cording to the true and ancient sense, may well enough admit to be so ta­ken, as that the same Man might sustain three persons, I offer it to your re-conside­ration, whether ever you have observ'd the word Hypostasis, in any sort of Au­thors, when it signifies any Person at all (for I know that it frequently sig­nifies somewhat else than a Person) to be taken in that sense. And whether one Hypostasis so taken as it uses to be when it signifies a Person, may not be capable of sustaining three of those Per­sons which you here describe. And whether, according to this sense you mean not God to be only one such Hy­postasis.

[Page 102] 2. Be pleas'd further hereupon to consider how well it agrees with this supposition of God's Being but one Hy­postasis, or intelligent suppositum, so fre­quently to speak, as the Holy Scrip­tures do of the Father, Son or Word, the Spirit or Holy Ghost, as three distinct I's or He's. The Lord possessed me (as the Divine Word or Wisdom is brought in speaking) in the beginning of his way.—I was set up from everlasting, Prov. 8. 22, 23. When he prepared the Heavens I was there, vers. 27.—Then was I by him, vers. 30, &c. The Word—was with God, Joh. 1. 1. He was in the World, vers. 10. We beheld his glory, vers. 14. And of the Spirit, He dwelleth with you, Joh. 14. 17. The Holy Ghost whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, vers. 26. And whom I will send you from the Father, he shall testifie of me, Chap. 15. 26. And when he is come, he will reprove the World—Ch. 16. 8. And the observation seems to me as weighty, as it is usual, that, [Page 103] in some of the mentioned Chapters, the somewhat hard Synthesis of constru­ing [...] with [...] (even where [...] is not the nearer Suppositum, but, in one place, a very remote one, (and one would think too remote to be referr'd to ch. vers. 13, 14.) is rather chosen to be used than that the Spirit should not be spoken of as a distinct he, or rather than he should be called it, (which could not so fitly notifie a Per­son.) If the same man were a King, a General, and a Father, I doubt whe­ther that would give sufficient ground to his being called He, and He, and He.

2. But the distinct Predicates spoken of the three Sacred Persons in the God­head seem much more to challenge a greater distinction of the Persons than your Notion of a Person doth seem to admit. That of sending, and being sent, spoken so often of, the first in refe­rence to the second, and of the first and second in reference to the third, as not [Page 104] to need the quoting of places. If the same man were a King, a General, and a Judge, methinks it would not well square with the usual forms of speak­ing among Men (and God speaks to Men as Men) to say, that, as the first, he sends the two latter, that is himself.

And one would think our being re­quired to be Baptized in the distinct Names of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost should signifie some greater di­stinction.

As also that three are said to bear witness in Heaven. I doubt that in a Cause wherein our Law requires two or more Witnesses, the same Man that should be a Father, a Brother, and a Son, would scarce thereupon be admit­ted for three Witnesses.

And how the Incarnation of the Son can be understood according to your Notion of Person, without the Fathers and Holy Ghosts Incarnation also, I con­fess I cannot apprehend. Your Notion of a Person contradistinct to the Scho­lastick [Page 105] Notion, as was said before, seems to leave the Godhead to be but one hypostasis, or Person in the latter sense. How then are we to conceive of the hypostatical union? The assumed Nature will be as much hypostatically united with the Father, or the Spirit, as with the Son.

3. And doth not this civil, or meerly respective Notion of a Person, the other being left, fall in with the Antitrinitari­an? Will it not make us Unitarians on­ly, as they affect to call themselves? Would any of them who (as you are pleas'd to take notice Letter 6. p. 1, 2.) say, none but a Mad-man would deny there may be three Persons in God, have been so mad (not yet professing themselves Converts) as to say so, if they had not suppos'd their Cause not hurt by this Notion of a Person? For, (as you well say, Letter 1.) we need not be fond of words, so the thing be agreed, so have they equal reason to say, we need not be afraid of words, if in the sense you agree with us. [Page 106] And with one sort of them I only desire you to consider how great an appear­ance the asserting only of three Persons, in the one sense, quitting the other, will carry off an agreement?

And have they not all the advan­tage left them which they seek in ar­guing against the satisfaction made by our Saviour from the necessity of an alterity, that in the business of making satisfaction there must be alter atque alter, One who satisfies, and another who is satisfy'd. I do very well know, what Instances are brought of humane Rulers making satisfaction for Delin­quents, but there is no parity in the Cases. They being themselves Debtors to the governed Community, as God is not, who hath with most undoubted righteousness made all things for him­self.

4. And consider whether by your Notion of a Person you forsake not the generality of them, who have gone, as to this point, under the repute of [Page 107] Orthodox? Who no doubt have un­derstood by three Persons, three intelli­gent Hypostases; tho' they have differ'd in thinking, some of them, that only a [...] was the genitum or spira­tum as to the two latter; (a notion that is either too fine, or too little so­lid, for some Minds to grasp, or take any hold of.) Others that the divine Nature might it self be some way said to be communicated to them. But I pass to the

IId Enquiry: Whether some further distinction may not be admitted as pos­sible?

The only thing that straitens us here, is the most unquestionable unity or unicity (as we may call it) of the Godhead. Which, if it cannot be other­wise defended, I must yet for my part, notwithstanding these hardships (and I know no man with whom I could do it with more inclination) fall in with you. But I must crave it of you so far to fall in with you know not [Page 108] who, as to apply your clearer mind, as, I do my more cloudy one, to consider whether it can or no?

You will here say further than what? and what would I have further?

To the former of these, I only say, further than the asserting, in very deed, but one Hypostasis in the Godhead, di­stinguished no otherwise into three, than by certain relative capacities, like those which may among men be sustain'd by one and the same man; and which distinction, as you after add, is analogous to what, in created be­ings, is called distinctio modalis.

To the latter, I desire you to ob­serve what I generally propose, not that we may positively assert any fur­ther determinate distinction as certain and known; but only whether we may not admit some further distinction to be possible, in consistency with the Unity of the Godhead. I do equally detest and dread to speak with rash and perem­ptory confidence about things both so [Page 109] Mysterious and so Sacred. But may we not modestly say, that if to that Oeconomy which God hath represented himself in his Word, to bear, and keep afoot, towards his Creatures, any fur­ther distinction than hath been assign­ed is necessary, it is also possible, and may be, for ought we know (if in­deed we know nothing to the contra­ry.) What is impossible we are sure cannot be necessary. But God himself best, and only knows his own nature, and what his own meaning is in the representation he hath made to us. If we sincerely aim to understand his meaning, that we may bear our selves towards him accordingly, he will vvith mercifull indulgence consider our short­or mis-apprehensions. But vve need not say there is not this or that distinction, if really vve do not knovv there is not. While vve knovv so little of na­tures inferiour to our ovvn, and even of our ovvn nature, and hovv things are distinguished that belong to our [Page 110] selves, vve have little reason to be shy of confessing ignorance about the Na­ture of God.

Therefore I most intirely agree to the tvvo Conclusions of the Ingenious W. J. vvherevvith he concludes his Let­ter. But in the mean time (and pur­suantly enough thereto) cannot but doubt the concludingness of his very acute reasonings against, at least, some of the expressions of that learned Per­son (Dr. Sherl.) vvhich he animadverts upon, as, I perceive you also do p. 16. of your 7th Letter. And even W. J. himself: for vvith a pious modesty he tells us—concerning infinite Natures he presumes not to determine. Letter, p. 8.

What he objects against that Authors having said the divine Persons are three beings really distinct (vvherein I instance, not intending to run thorough that ela­borate Letter) that then there must be three distinct Essences—seems to me a [...]. I doubt not the Author vvill [Page 111] easily admit it. But what will be the consequence? That therefore there are three Deities? That cannot be his mean­ing, nor be consequent from it, if he only mean that the Deity comprehends in it three such essences. If indeed he think those three beings are as distinct as Peter, James, and John; what is said by W. J. against him, I think irrefra­gable, that then they are no otherwise one, than Peter, James and John; and by him against himself; for Peter, James and John are not mutually self-conscious, as they are asserted to be, which mu­tual self-consciousness, since it is suppo­sed to make the three divine Persons one, cannot be supposed to leave them so distinct, as they are with whom it is not found.

As to what is observed of the de­fective expression of this unitive Principle by the word consciousness, that bare Consci­ousness, without consent, is no more than bare Omnisciency. Sure it is not so much. For Consciousness doth not signifie Omni­sciency. [Page 112] We are conscious to our selves, yet are not omniscient. But I reckon, (as I find he also doth) that even con­sent added to consciousness, would yet leave the expression defective, and still want the unifying power which is sought after. For it would infer no more than a sort of moral union, which in the kind of it, may be found among men, be­tween whom there is so little of natural union (speaking of the numerical na­ture) that they are actually sepa­rate.

But now may we not suppose (as that which is possible, and actually is, (for ought we know) what may be fundamental to both Consciousness and Consent, a natural union even of the nu­merical natures? Such an union would not infer an Unity, or Identity of these Natures, Essences, Substances, or Be­ings themselves. For as W. J. hath well argued, Letter, p. 5, 6. Substances upon Union are not confounded or identi­fy'd, or brought to unity of Substance, but [Page 113] continuing numerically distinct Substances acquire some mutual community or communi­cation of operations, &c. And deferring the consideration a while what this would signifie towards the unity, not­withstanding, of the Godhead, shall take notice how accommodately to our present purpose W. J. speaks in what follows, where instancing in the chief uni­ons that are known to us, he says, Our Soul and Body are two substances really di­stinct, and in close union with one another. But notwithstanding this, they conti­nue distinct substances under that union. In like manner the humane soul of Christ is in union with the Logos, or second Person of the Trinity, which we call an hypostati­cal Union. But neither doth this union make an unity of substance. For the two substan­ces of the divine and humane natures con­tinue distinct under that union. 'Tis true, he addes, which must not be allowed in the Unity of the Godhead, where there can be no plurality or multiplicity of substhaces. Nor do I say that it must, I only say [Page 114] Do we know, or are we sure there is no sort of Plurality?

But if we are sure that there are temporal unions (i. e. begun in time) as in our selves for instance, of two substances that make but one man, and in our Saviour an humane nature and divine that make but one Emma­nuel. How do we know but that there may be three in the Godhead that make but one God? And the rather, because this being supposed, it must also be supposed that they are necessarily and eternally united, and with a conjunct na­tural impossibility of ever being, or having been otherwise, whereof the absolute immutability of God must up­on that supposition most certainly as­sure us. And such a supposed union will be most remote from making the Deity an aggregate. And for any thing of composition, I reckon we are most strictly bound to believe every thing of the most perfect simplicity of the Di­vine Being which his Word informs us [Page 115] of, and to assent to every thing that is with plain evidence demonstrable of it. But not every thing which the Schools would impose upon us, without such testimony or evidence. For as none can know the things of a Man, but the Spirit of Man which is in him, so nor can any know the things of God, but the Spirit of God. Nor can I think the Argument concluding from the imperfection of a Being, in which distinct things concur that were seperate, or are de novo united, to the impersection of a being, in which things some way distinct are necessarily and eternally self-united. Nor can there­fore agree with W. J. that we are to look (universally) upon real distinction as a mark of separability; or that clear and distinct conception is to us the rule of partibility. For tho' I will not affirm that to be the state of all created Spirits; yet I cannot deny it to be possible that God might have created such a being, as should have in it distinct (assignable) parts, all of them essential to it, and [Page 116] not separable from it without the cessa­tion of the whole. But now, as the accession of the humane Nature to the divine in the hypostatical union infers no imperfection to the divine, so much less would what things we may suppose naturally, necessarily, and eternally uni­ted in the Godhead infer any imperfecti­on therein.

I easily admit what is said by W. J. Letter pag. 8. That we have no bet­ter definition of God, than that he is [a Spirit infinitely perfect] But then, being so far taught by himself my con­ception of him, I must include in it, this trinal distinction, or a triple somewhat which he affirms of himself, and with­out which, or any one whereof, he were not infinitely perfect, and conse­quently not God, and that all together do make one God. As you most aptly say of your resemblance of him, a Cube, there are in it three dimensions truly distinct from each other, yet all these are but one Cube, and if any one of the [Page 117] three were wanting, it were not a Cube.

Set this down then for the Notion of God, that he is a Spirit infinitely perfect, comprehending in that omni­modous Perfection a trinal distinction, or three persons truly distinct, each whereof is God. What will be the consequence? that therefore there are three Gods? Not at all, but that each of these partaking Divine Nature give us an inadequate, and all together a most perfectly adequate and entire Notion of God.

Nor would the Language of this Hypothesis being prest to speak out (as he says in his Letter) be this—these are not fit to be called three Gods; but not possible (with any truth) to be so called.

And whereas he after tells us these three being united by similitude of Na­ture, mutual consciousness, consent, co­operation under the greatest union possi­ble; and in that state of union do constitute the [...], the entire all-com­prehensive [Page 118] Godhead, and adds, this looks somewhat like a conceivable thing. To this I Note two things: 1. That he makes it not look like so conceivable a thing, as it really may do. For he leaves out the most important thing that was as supposable as any of the rest, and prior to a meer similitude, viz. a natural union of these (supposed) distinct essen­ces, without which they are not under the greatest union possible; and which, being supposed necessary, and eternal, cannot admit these should be more than one God.

2. I note that what he opposes to it (so defectively represented) is as defe­ctive, that the Christian Trinity doth not use to be represented thus, &c. What hurt is there in it, if it can be more intelligibly represented than hath been used?

But his gentle treatment of this hypo­thesis, which he thought, as he repre­sents it, not altogether unintelligible, [Page 119] and which with some help may be more intelligible, became one en­quiring what might most safely, and with least torture to our own minds, be said, or thought in so awful a My­stery. It however seems not proper to call this an hypostatical union—much less to say it amounts to no more. It amounts not to so much. For an hy­postatical or personal union would make the terms united (the unita, the things or somewhats under this union) become by it one hypostasis or person; whereas this union must leave them distinct per­sons or hypostases, but makes them one God. In the use of the Phrase hypostati­cal or personal union the denomination is not taken from the subject of the union, as if the design were to signifie that to be divers hypostases, or persons, but from the effect or result of the mentioned union, to signifie that which results to be one person or hypostasis. As the matter is plain in the instance wherein it is of most no­ted use, the case of the two Natures uni­ted [Page 120] in the one Person of the Son of God; where the things united are not supposed to be two Persons, but two Na­tures so conjoyn'd, as yet to make but one person, which therefore is the Nega­tive result or effect of the union, viz. that the person is not multiply'd by the accession of another Nature, but re­mains still only one. But this were an union quite of another kind, viz. of the three hypostases, still remaining distinct, and concurring in one Godhead. And may not this be supposed without prejudice to its Perfection.

For the Schools themselves suppose themselves not to admit a composition prejudicial to the Perfection of the God­head, when they admit three modes of subsistence, which are distinct from one another, and from the Godhead, which they must admit. For if each of them were the very Godhead, each of them (as is urged against us by you know who) must have three Persons belong­ing to it, as the Godhead hath. And [Page 121] your self acknowledge three somewhats in the Godhead distinct, or else they could not be three: I will not here urge that if they be three somewhats, they must be three things, not three nothings; for however uneasie it is to assign a Medium between something and nothing, I shall wave that Metaphysical contest. But yet collect, that simplicity in the ve­ry strictest sense that can be conceiv'd, is not, in your account, to be ascribed to God, either according to his own word, or the reason of things.

It may here be urged, how can we conceive this Natural Union (as I have adventur'd to Phrase it) of the three Persons, supposing them distinct things, substances, or Spirits? Is such an Union conceivable, as shall make them be but one God, and not be such, as shall make them cease to be three distinct things, substances, or Spirits? We find indeed the mentioned unions of Soul and Body in our selves, and of the two Natures in Christ consistent enough with manifest [Page 122] distinction; but then the things united are in themselves of most different Na­tures. But if things of so congenerous a Nature be united, will not their di­stinction be lost in their union?

I answer, 1. That a Spirit and a Spirit are numerically as distinct, as a Body and a Spirit. And, 2. That we may certainly conceive it as possible to God to have united two or three crea­ted Spirits, and by as strict union as is between our Souls and Bodies, without confounding them; and I reckon the union between our Souls and Bodies much more wonderful than that would have been. Why then is an unmade, uncreated union of three Spirits less con­ceivable as that which is to be presup­posed to their mutual consciousness?

I shall not move, or meddle with, any Controversie about the Infinity of these three supposed Substances or Spi­rits, it being acknowledged on all hands that Contemplations of that kind can­not but be above our measure. And [Page 123] well knowing how much easier it is to puzzle oneself upon that Question, An possit dari infinitum infinito infinitius, than to speak satisfyingly, and unexceptionably about it to another.

And tho' I will not use the expressi­ons, as signifying my formed judgment, that there are three things, substances, or Spirits in the Godhead (as you that there are three somewhats) yet, as I have many Years thought, I do still think that what the learned W. J. doth but more lightly touch of the Son, and the Holy Ghost being produced (which term I use, but reciting it, as he doth) not by a voluntary external, but by an internal, necessary, and emanative Act, hath great weight in it.

In short my sense hath long lain thus, and I submit it to your searching and candid Judgment, viz. That tho' we need not have determinate thoughts, how far the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are distinguished; yet we must conceive them in the general to be so far distin­guished, [Page 124] as is really necessary to the founding the distinct attributions which the Scriptures do distinctly give them. And that whatever distinction is truly necessary to that purpose, will yet not hinder the two latters participation with the first in the Godhead, which can be but one, because that tho' we are led by plain Scripture, and the very import of that word, to conceive of the Fa­ther as the Fountain, yet the Son being from him, and the Holy Ghost from them both, not contingently, or dependently on will and pleasure; but by eternal, natural, necessary promanation, these two latter are infinitely distinguisht from the whole Creation. Inasmuch as all Crea­tures are contingent beings, or depen­dent upon will and pleasure, as the Cha­racter is given us of created things, Rev. 4. 11. Thou hast made all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. But that whatever is what it is necessarily is God. For I have no doubt but the Dreams of some, more anciently, and [Page 125] of late, concerning necessary matter, and the Sophisms of Spinosa and some others, tending to prove the necessity and identi­ty of all substance are (with what they aim to evince) demonstrably false.

The Summe of all will be this,

1. That we can be more certain of nothing than that there is but one God.

2. We are most sure the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are sufficiently distin­guished to give a just ground to the di­stinct attributions, which are in Scrip­ture severally given to them.

3. We are not sure what that suffi­cient distinction is (wherein I find you saying with me over and over) But whereas you rightly make the word per­son applicable to God, but in a sense analogous to that which obtains of it with men; why may it not be said it may be fitly applicable, for ought we know, in a sense analogous to that notion of it among men, which makes a person signify an in­telligent hypostasis; and so three distinct persons, three distinct intelligent hypo­stases.

[Page 126] 4. But if that sufficient distinction can be no less, than that there be in the Godhead, three distinct intelligent hy­postases, each having its own distinct singular intelligent nature, with its pro­per personality belonging to it, we know nothing to the contrary, but that the necessary eternal nature of the God­head may admit thereof. If any can from plain Scripture testimony, or co­gent reason evince the contrary, let the evidence be produced. In the mean time we need not impose up­on our selves any formal denial of it.

5. If the contrary can be evidenced, and that hereupon it be designed to conclude that there can be but one in­telligent hypostasis in the Godhead, and therefore that the Son, and the Holy Ghost are but creatures, the last refuge must be to deny the former conse­quence, and to alledge that thô the same finite singular nature cannot well be un­derstood to remain entirely to one, and be communicated entirely to another, [Page 127] and another, the case will not be the same speaking of an infinite Nature.


If what is here said shall occasion to you any new thoughts that you shall judge may be of common use, I con­ceive there will be no need of Publish­ing my Letter, but only that you be pleased to comunicate your own Senti­ments, as from your self, which will have so much the more of Authority and Usefulness with them. The most considerable thing that I have hinted, is the necessary Promanation of the Son, and Holy Ghost, that must distinguish them from contingent Beings, and so from Creatures; which if you think im­proveable to any good purpose, as it hath been with me a Thought many years old, so I suppose it not new to you, and being now resumed by you, upon this occasion, you will easily cultivate it to better advantage than any words of mine can give it.

But if you think it adviseable that any [Page 128] part of my Letter be Published, if you please to signifie your mind to that pur­pose in one Line to marked——it will come Sealed to my view, and will give Opportunity of offering my Thoughts to you, what parts I would have supprest, which will be such only, as shall leave the rest the fuller Testimony of my being,

Poirets method of proving a Trinity in the Godhead, tho' it call it self Ma­thematical or Geometrical, is with me much less convictive, than the plain Scriptural way.

Your most sincere Honourer and most respectful Humble Servant, Anonym.



YOur Eighth Letter happening to come to my View before it was [Page 129] printed off, I have the Opportunity of taking Notice to you that it quite mis­represents the intent of the Letter to you subscribed Anonymous, which it makes to be the defending or excusing some Ex­pressions of Dr. Sherlock's; which indeed was the least considerable thing, if it were any thing at all in the design of that Letter, and not altogether acciden­tal to it. The true design of it was, that there might be a clearer Foundati­on asserted (as possible at least) to the Doctrine of the Incarnation and Satisfa­ction of the Son of God. Nor can the fortè quod sic, here be solved by the fortè quod non, the Exigency of the Case being such, as that if more be possible, it will be highly requisite; and that it can­not well be avoided to assert more, unless it can be clearly evinced that more is im­possible. Nor yet is it necessary to de­termine how much more is necessary. But not only the commonly receiv'd frame of Christian Doctrine, doth sem to require somewhat beyond what the meer [Page 130] civil or respective Notion of the word Per­son imports; but also the plain Letter of Scripture, which says Heb. 1. 3. that the Son is the express Image of the Fa­thers hypostasis, which seems to signi­fie there are two Hyyostases, and other Scriptures seem to say enough, whence we may with parity of Reason collect a third. Now that Letter intimates, I think, sufficient matter of doubt, whether hypostasis doth not signifie much more than Person, in your sense.

The principal thing that Letter humbly offer'd to consideration [i. e. whether, supposing a greater distinction than you have assign'd be necessary, it may not be defended, by the just supposal that the promanation of the second or third Per­sons (or hypostases rather) howsoever di­vers they are, is by natural eternal necessi­ty, not contingent, or depending upon will and pleasure, as all created Being is and doth] is altogether waved. That Let­ter was written with design of giving you the occasion of considering what [Page 131] might be further requisite and possible to be asserted for the serving of the Truth, and with that sincerity and plenitude of respect to you that it might be wholly in your own Power to do it in such a way, as wherein not at all to disserve your self. Which Temper of Mind is still the same with

Reverend SIR,
Your most unfeigned Honourer, and Humble Servant, Anonym.


Worthy SIR,

I Am very loath troublesomely to im­portune you. But the very little time I had for the view of your 8th. Let­ter, before I wrote mine by the last Post not allowing me fully to write my sense as to that part which concern'd my for­mer Letter; I take leave now to add, [Page 132] that my design in it (as well as the pro­fest design of the Letter it self) was to offer you the occasion of employing that clear understanding, wherewith God hath blest you, above most, in consider­ing whether a greater latitude cannot be allow'd us in conceiving the distinction of the three in the Godhead consistently with the Unity thereof, than your notion of a person will extend to. And if it can, whether it ought not to be represented (at least as possible) to give a less ex­ceptionable ground to the Doctrines of the incarnation and satisfaction of the second Person, in order whereto it seems to me highly requisite. This was that I really intended, and not the vindicating the Sentiments of that Author, which you might observe that letter animadverts upon. The Scripture seems to allow a greater latitude, by the ground it gives us to apprehend three hypostases; which so much differ from the notion you give of persons, that one hypostasis may sustain three such persons as you describe. The [Page 133] only thing that seems to straiten us in this matter, is the usual Doctrine of the Schools about the divine simplicity. I con­fess I greatly coveted to have had your thoughts engag'd in sifting and exami­ning that Doctrine; so far as to consi­der whether there be really any thing in it, cogent and demonstrable that will be repugnant to what is overtur'd in that Letter. And I the rather desir'd more room might be gained in this mat­ter, apprehending the Unitarians (as they more lately affect to call themselves) might, upon the whole, think you more theirs, than ours; and while they agree with you concerning the possibility of such a Trinity as you assert, may judge their advantage against the other men­tioned Doctrines, no less than it was.

My desiring that letter of mine might not be printed, was most agreeable to what I intended in writing it; that was, only to suggest to you somewhat (very loosly) that I reckon'd you more capable than any man I knew, to cultivate, and im­prove, [Page 134] to the great service of the com­mon Christian Cause. And that you might seem to say, what you might, upon your own search, find safe and fit to be said, as meerly from your self, without taking notice that occasion was given you by any such Letter at all. Had I design'd it for publick view, it should have been writ with more Care, and with more (expressed) Respect to you. But if upon the whole, you judge there is no­thing in it considerable to the purposes it mentions, my further request is, you will please rather to suppress that part of your Letter which concerns it (for which I suppose there is yet opportuni­ty) and take no notice any such letter came to your hands. I am,

Reverend SIR,
Your most Respectful, Humble Servant, Anonym.

Summary Propositions, collected out of the foregoing Dis­courses, more briefly of­fering to view the substance of what is contained in them.

1. Of the Unity of the Godhead there can be no doubt, it being in reason demonstra­ble, and most expresly, often, asserted in Scripture.

2. That there is a Trinity in the God­head, of Father, Son, or Word, and Holy Ghost is the plain, obvious sense of so many Scriptures, that it apparently tends [Page 136] to frustrate the design of the whole Scripture-revelation, and to make it useless, not to admit this Trinity, or otherwise to understand such Scriptures.

3. That therefore the devising any other sense of such Scriptures ought by no means to be attempted, unless this Trinity in the Godhead can be evidently demonstrated to be impossible.

4. That the impossibility of it can never be demonstrated from the meer Unity of the Godhead, which may be such, as to admit these distinctions in it, for ought we know.

5. Nothing is more appropriate to the Godhead than to be a necessarily ex­istent, intelligent Being; since all Creatures whether intelligent, or unintel­ligent, are contingent, depending upon the Will of the necessary, intelligent, Be­ing.

6. If therefore the Father, Son, and Ho­ly Ghost do coexist in the Godhead ne­cessarily, they cannot but be God.

[Page 137] 7. And if the first be conceived as the Foun­tain, the second as by natural necessary (not voluntary) promanation from the first, the third by natural, necessary (not volun­tary) spiration, so as that neither of these latter, could have been otherwise; This aptly agrees with the Notions of Fa­ther, Son, and Spirit distinctly put upon them, and infinitely distinguishes the two latter from all Creatures that depend upon will and pleasure.

8. Whatever distinction there be of these three among themselves, yet the first being the Original, the second being by that promanation necessarily and eternally united with the first, the third by such spiration united necessarily and eternally with both the other, inasmuch as eternity, and ne­cessity of existence admit no change, this union must be inviolable, and ever­lasting, and thereupon the Godhead which they constitute, can be but One.

9. We have among the creatures, and even in our selves, instances of very different [Page 138] Natures, continuing distinct, but so uni­ted, as to be one thing; and it were more easily supposeable of congenerous Na­tures.

10. If such Union with distinction be impossible in the Godhead, it must not be from any repugnancy in the thing it self, since very intimate Union, with con­tinuing distinction, is in it self no im­possible thing; but from somewhat pe­culiar to the Divine Being.

11. That peculiarity, since it cannot be Unity (which because it may admit di­stinctions in one and the same thing, we are not sure it cannot be so in the God­head) must be that simplicity common­ly wont to be ascribed to the divine Na­ture.

12. Such simplicity as shall exclude that distinction, which shall appear necessary in the present case, is not by express Scrip­ture any where ascribed to God; and therefore must be rationally demonstra­ted [Page 139] of him, if it shall be judg'd to belong at all to him.

13. Absolute Simplicity is not a Perfecti­on, nor is by any ascribed to God. Not by the Socinians themselves, who ascribe to him the several intellectual and mo­ral excellencies, that are attributed to him in the Scriptures, of which they give very different definitions, as may be seen in their own Volkelius at large, which should signifie them not to be count­ed, in all respects, the same thing.

14. That is not a just consequence, which is the most plausible one that seems capa­ble of being alledg'd for such absolute simplicity, that otherwise there would be a composition admitted in the Divine Nature, which would import an imper­fection inconsistent with Deity. For the several excellencies that concur in it, how­soever distinguished, being never put to­gether, nor having ever existed apart, but in eternal, necessary union, tho' they may make some sort of variety, im­port [Page 140] no proper composition, and carry with them more apparent Perfection than absolute omnimodous simplicity can be conceived to do.

15. Such a supposed possible variety even of individual Natures in the Deity, some way differing from each other, infers not an unbounded Liberty of conceiv­ing what pluralities therein we please or can imagine. The divine revelation, which could only justify, doth also li­mit us, herein, mentioning three distinct I's or He's, and no more.

16. The several Attributes which are com­mon to these three, do to our apprehen­sion, and way of conceiving things, re­quire less distinction; no more, for ought we know, than may arise from their being variously modify'd, accord­ing to the distinction of Objects, or other extrinsecal things, to which they may be referr'd.

[Page 141] We that so little know how our own Souls, and the Powers and Principles that be­long to them do differ from one ano­ther, and from them, must be supposed more ignorant, and should be less curi­ous, in this.


Books printed for, and sold by Tho. Parkhurst at the Bible and Three Crowns at the lower end of Cheapside, near Mercers Chappel.

A Body of practical divinity, consisting of above 176 Sermons on the Lesser Cate­chisme compos'd by the Reverend Assembly of Divines at Westminster: With a Supplement of some Sermons on several Texts of Scrip­ture. By Thomas Watson, formerly Minister of St. Stephens Walbrook, London.

Theological Dicourses, in two Volumes: The First, Containing eight Letters and three [Page] Sermons concerning the Blessed Trinity: The Second, containing 13 Sermons on several Occasions. By John Wallis, D. D. Professor of Geometry in Oxon.

An Account of the Blessed Trinity, argued from the nature and perfection of the Su­pream Spirit, coincident with the Scripture Doctrine in all the Articles of the Catholick Creeds, together with its Mystical, Federal, Practical uses, in the Christian Religion. By William Burrough, Rector of Cheynis in Bucks.

The confirming Work of Religion, or its great things made Plain by their primary Evidences and Demonstrations, whereby the meanest in the Church may soon be made able to render an account of their Faith. By R. Fleming, Author of the Fulfilling of the Seriptures. Now Published by Daniel Bur­gess.

The Rod or the Sword, the present Dilem­ma of the Nations of England, Scotland and Ire­land, considered, argued and improved, &c.

A Family Altar erected to the Honour of the Eternal God; or a Solemn Essay to pro­mote the Worship of God in private Houses, together with the best Entail, or dying Pa­rents living Hopes for their surviving Chil­dren, grounded upon the Covenant of Gods Grace with Believers and their Seed. By Oliver Heywood, Minister of the Gospel.

This keyboarded and encoded edition of the work described above is co-owned by the institutions providing financial support to the Text Creation Partnership. This Phase I text is available for reuse, according to the terms of Creative Commons 0 1.0 Universal. The text can be copied, modified, distributed and performed, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.