A LETTER To a FRIEND, Concerning a POSTSCRIPT To the Defence of Dr. SHERLOCK's Notion OF THE Trinity in Unity, Relating to The Calm and Sober Enquiry upon 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 LETTER To a FRIEND, &c.

SIR,

I Find a Postscript to the newly pub­lished Defence of Dr. Sherlock's Notion of the Trinity in Unity, takes Notice of the Enquiry concerning the possibility of a Trinity in the Godhead. He that writes it seems somewhat out of Humour, or not in such as it is decent to hope is more usual with him: And I can't guess for what, unless that one, whom he imagines a Dissenter, hath adven­tured to cast his Eyes, that way that he did, his. But for that Imagination he may have as little ground, as I to [Page 2] think the Dean's Defender is the Dean: And as little as he had to say the En­quirer took great Care that no Man should suspect that he favours the Dean in his No­tions, where he is quite out in his guess; for the Enquirer took no such Care at all, but nakedly to represent his own Sentiments as they were, whether they agreed with the Dean's, or wherein they differ'd: And really cares not who knows that he hath not so little kind­ness either for the truth or for him, as to abandon or decline what he thinks to be true for his sake, or (as he ex­press'd himself p. 29. of that Discourse) because he said it.

But the Defender represents the Dean as much of another temper, and that he will thank him for not favouring him in his Notions. But yet he says, that tho' the Enquirer doth not in every particular say what the Dean says, yet he says what will justifie him against — the Charge of Tritheism. And is there any hurt to him in that? [Page 3] what a strange Man doth he make the Dean! as if he could not be pleased unless he alone did engross Truth! will he thank a Man for not favouring his Notions, and yet would blame him for not saying in every particular what he says, tho' he say what will justifie him against the heaviest Charge fram'd against him! may one neither be allow'd to a­gree with him, nor disagree?

But Sir, the Defender's Discourse hath no design (nor I believe he himself) to disprove the Possibility of a Trinity in the ever blessed God-head. There­fore the Enquirer is safe from him as to the principal Design he is concerned for, it is all one to him if it still ap­pear possible in what way it be so re­presented, that is intelligible, consistent with it self, and with other truth; so that it is hardly worth the while to him, further to enquire whether the Dean's Hypothesis or his be better, if either be found unexceptionably, safe and good. [Page 4] But because the Defender hath, to give preference to the one, misrepresented both with some appearing disadvantage to the Cause it self, what he says ought to be considered.

And the whole Matter will be re­duced to this twofold Enquiry:

1. Whether the Enquirer hath said more than the Dean, or more than is defensible, of the distinction of the Sacred Three in the Godhead.

2. Whether the Dean hath said so much as the Enquirer, or so much as was requisite of their Union.

1. For the former, the Defender, p. 103. mentions the Dean's Notion of three Infinite Minds or Spirits: And makes the Enquirer to have been proving three Spirits, three distinct Essences, three indivi­dual Natures, in the Godhead; and then adds — for my part, I cannot take where the difference is, unless it be in the term Infi­nite. 'Tis indeed strange the Enquirer shou'd have said more than the Dean, [Page 5] if there were no difference, unless in the term Infinite, wherein he must have said Infinitely less.

But he at length, apprehends another difference, tho' he after labours to make it none, viz. that the Enquirer disputes, but asserts nothing, and he fancies he doth so to shelter himself from the Animadverter, of whom he says he seems to be terribly afraid — Here he puts the Dean into a fit of kindness and good Nature, allowing the Enquirer to partake with him in his fears, tho' not in his Notions, as more sacred. But he herein understands not the Enquirer, who if he had been so terribly afraid, could very easily have said nothing: And who was really a­fraid of a greater Animadverter, think­ing it too great boldness, under his Eye, to speak confidently of his own peculiari­ties, and that ly folded up in so vene­rable darkness. He thought it enough, in opposition to the daring Person (who­soever he was) with whom he was [Page 6] concern'd that so peremptorily pro­nounc'd the Trinity an absurdity, a contra­diction, nonsense, and an impossibility, to re­present whar he proposed as possible for ought he knew.

And now the Defender will have the Dean to have done no more. And with all my Heart let him have done no more, if he and his Animadverter, and the rest of the World will so a­gree it: But he will have the Enquirer to have done more, and to be much more exposed to the Charge of Tritheism, by asserting three distinct Essences, three indi­vidual Natures, and three spiritual Beings in the Godhead. This is indeed very mar­vellous, that the Enquirer should ex­pose himself to the Charge of Trithe­ism by asserting all this, when but a few Lines before upon the same Page, he is said to have asserted nothing! But he may as well make the Enquirer in assert­ing nothing to have asserted all this, as the Dean in asserting all this to have asserted nothing.

[Page 7]And where the Enquirer hath said in express words that the Sacred Three are three distinct substances I can't find: And we must in great part alter the com­mon Notion of Substance to make it affirmable of God at all, viz. that it doth substare accidentibus, which I believe the Dean will no more than the En­quirer suppose the Divine Being to ad­mit. But 'tis true, that there is some­what more considerable in the Notion of Substance, according whereto, if the Dean can make a shift to avoid the ha­ving of any inconvenient thing proved upon him by consequence, I hope the Enquirer may find a way to escape as well.

But whereas he says the Dean allows but one Divine Essence, and one individual Nature in the Godhead repeated in three Per­sons, but without multiplication, as he says he had already explained it. This hath occasion'd me to look back to that ex­planation, and if he thinks the allowing [Page 8] but one Divine Essence, and one indi­vidual Nature in the Godhead, will a­gree with what the Dean hath said in his Vindication, I shall not envy him, nor (now) go about to disprove it. But I confess I see not how it can agree with what the Defender says in this his explanation it self, when p. 23. he tells us the Son is the living subsisting Image of the Father, and the Image and the Prototype can not be the same but must be two. No man is his own Image, nor is an Image the Image of it self. And he adds, this is so self evident, &c. But whereas the di­stinction all this while might be under­stood to be but modal, and that appears to be the Defenders present (what ever was the Deans former) meaning, that the three subsistences differ only in their dif­ferent manner of subsisting, yet with this meaning his other words do little a­gree, for he plainly asserts a real distincti­on of three in the same individual numerical nature. And who did ever make a real [Page 9] distinction to be but modal? More ex­presly he had said before p. 18. the Divine Nature is one individual nature, but not one single nature, for one single nature can be but one person whether in God or man.

I shall not here discuss with him the Criticism upon which he lays so mighty stress of one individual nature and one sin­gle nature, but take the terms he choo­ses, and if the Divine Nature be not one single nature, it must be double, it must be triple. And what doth this come to less than three Natures? un­less all ordinary forms of speech must be quite abandon'd and forsaken. And wherein doth it come short of what is said by the Enquirer? p. 50. and 51. ‘This term individual must (in the case now supposed, as 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, [Page 10] in which these three do concurr. 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 multiplied nor divided into more of the same name and na­ture.’ Duplicity, triplicity, are admitted; simplicity rejected, if (simple and sin­gle be of the same signification.) Where is the difference, but that the one thinks absolute omnimodous simplicity is not to be affirmed of the Divine Nature, as he of­ten speaks. The other says downright, it is not single or simple without limitation. The one denies multiplication of it, so doth the other: The one indeed speaks positively, the other doth but suppose what he says as possible not certain. And there is indeed some difference between supposing a thing as possible for ought one knows; and affirming it so positive­ly, as to impute Heresie, and Nonsense [Page 11] to all Gainsayers. But both bring for proof, the same thing, The incarnation; as in the Postscript, the Defender takes notice the Enquirer doth. p. 102. And so doth he himself in his letter, p. 102. — The Divine Nature was incarnate in Christ, he was perfect God and perfect man, and if there was but one single Divine Na­ture in all three persons, this one single Di­vine Nature was incarnate, and therefore the Father and the Holy Ghost who are this sin­gle Divine Nature as well as the Son, must be as much incarnate as the Son was. He makes the contrary absurd. And brings in (fitly enough) Victorinus Afer teach­ing, that we ought not to say, nor is it lawful to say, that there is but one substance (i. e. as he paraphrases it, one single subsisting nature (therefore there must be three sin­gle subsisting natures) and three persons. For if this same substance did and suffer'd all (Patri-passiani et nos) we must be Patri-passians, which God forbid.

And what the Defender alledges from [Page 12] the Ancients, against the Sabellians, allow­ing only a Trinity of Names and his taking the [...],Note: Letter, p. 24, 25. in the concrete not in the abstract, fully enough speaks the Enqui­rers sense, his accounting the contrary too Fine and Metaphysical for him was what was writ to Dr. Wallis, Calm Dis­course, p. 107. too fine or too little solid, &c.

In short, till it can be effectually prov'd, that Mind and Spirit do not sig­nifie somewhat as absolute as Nature or Essence (or rather more than the former, which signifies the Principle of Operati­on as the other of Being,) And till it can be as well prov'd, that asserting a thing as certain, so as to pronounce it Here­sie and Nonsense to think otherwise, is less than only to propose it as possible, or enquire whether it be so or no, The Dean must be judg'd by every one that understands common sense, to have heightened the Distinction of three [Page 13] Persons at least as much as the Enqui­rer. And whether the Enquirer have supposed more than is defensible against the Defenders objections, will be consi­dered by and by in its proper place. In the mean time let it

2. Be examin'd whether the Dean has said as much for salving the Uni­ty of the Godhead as the Enquirer, or as much as is requisite to that purpose. And here our Business will be short, for it all turns upon that one single point, whe­ther mutual Consciousness be that Union which must be acknowledged, or sup­pose it only. For which we need only appeal to common Reason, whether Be­ing do not in the natural Order precede even the Power of working, and conse­quently whether being united vitally, pre­cede not the possibility of acting agreeably to that united state, whereupon the En­quiry is not concerning actual conscience only, but (as he speaks) Consciousness. Is it possible any three Persons or Intel­ligent [Page 14] Subsistences, should naturally have vital Perception of each others in­ternal Motions and Sensations, without being vitally preunited? I say naturally, for that God might give to three created Spirits a temporary Perception of each other without bringing them into a stated Uni­on each with other, is little to be doubt­ed; as a Spirit may assume a Body and animate it pro tempore without being sub­stantially united with it. And if that Body were also a Spirit they might pro tempore for ought we know by extraor­dinary Divine Disposition (for within the ordinary course of Nature we know of no such intimacy of created Spirits to another) be quasi animae to one another. But if naturally they were so to mingle and transfuse Sensations mutually into each other, they must be naturally, first, in vital union with one another. Nor therefore did the Enquirer mistake the Dean's Notion as the Defender fancies in the passage he quotes p. 104. as if [Page 15] he took mutual Consciousness for meer mutual Perspection. For tho' scire ab­stractly taken doth not signifie more than perspicere, yet the Enquirer in that passage speaking of a never so per­fect mutual perspection properly enough ex­press'd thereby as great a feeling such Spirits were supposed to have of each o­ther, in themselves, as mutual conscious­ness is apt to signifie, or as the Dean can yet be supposed to have meant, that perspection being more perfect which produces gusts and relishes suitable to the Object, than that which stays in meer speculation only.

And upon the whole, it seems very strange the Defender should say, if such an internal, vital sensation, be not an essenti­al union, he believes no man can tell what it is. For how can such actual sensation be imagin'd to be union? As well might the use of sense its self (speaking of any thing singly to which it belongs) be said to be its constituent form, or (conse­quently) [Page 16] the doing any thing that pro­ceeds from Reason, be the form of a Man. So the writing a Book, should be the Author. And whereas he says it is certain the Dean took it to be so, and there­fore he did not leave out a natural external union; it follows, indeed, that he did not leave it out, in his Mind, and De­sign, but he nevertheless left it out of his Book, and therefore said not enough there, to salve the unity of the Godhead, but ought to have insisted upon some­what prior to mutual consciousness, as con­stituent of that unity, and which might make the three one, and not meerly argue them to be so.

2. But now p. 105. he comes to find as great fault with the Enquirers way of maintaining this unity, and because he is resolv'd to dislike it, if he can't find it faulty, sets himself to make it so.

The Temper of Mind wherewith he writes to this purpose what follows p. 105. and onwards to the end so soon, [Page 17] and so constantly shews it self, that no man whose mind is not in the same dis­order will upon Tryal apprehend any thing in it, but such heat as dwells in darkness. And he himself hath given the Document which may be a measure to any apprehensive Reader.

True divine Wisdom rests not on an ill natur'd, Note: See his Letter, p. 1. and perverse Spi­rit, I understand it, while the ill fit lasts. But 'tis strange he could write those words without any self-reflection.

The Thing to be reveng'd is, that the Enquirer did freely speak his Thoughts, wherein he judg'd the Dean's Hypothesis defective, his not taking no­tice of what he reckon'd naturally antece­dent and fundamental to mutual conscious­ness: A most intimate, natural, necessary, eternal union of the sacred Three. If the Enquirer spake sincerely, as he under­stood the matter, and him; and it evi­dently apppear the Defender did not so, I only say the wrong'd person hath [Page 18] much the advantage and wishes him no o­ther harm, than such gentle Regrets, as are necessary to set him right with himself, and his higher Judge.

He says, he (the Enquirer) represents this (Unity) by the union of soul and body, and by the union of the divine and humane nature, &c.

'Tis true, he partly doth so, but more fully by the (supposed union of) three created Spirits (to which he that will may see, he only makes that a low­er step) and he says, (with respect es­pecially to the former of these) ‘That an union supposeable to be originally, eternally, and by natural necessity in the most perfect being, is to be thought unexpressibly more perfect than any o­ther.’ But (he adds) these are per­sonal unions, and therefore cannot be the uni­ty of the Godhead. And he very well knew (for he had but little before cited the passage) that the Enquirer never intended them so, but only to represent [Page 19] that the union of the three in the God­head, could not be reasonably thought less possible.

What he farther adds is much strang­er (and yet herein I am resolv'd to put Charity towards him to the utmost stretch, as he professes to have done his understanding) for he says — as far as he can possibly understand and that he should be glad to be better informed, tho' there is some reason to apprehend that former displeasure darkned his understanding, (and even dimn'd his Eye-sight) which yet I hope hath it's more lucid Intervals, and that his distemper is not a fixed ha­bit with him.) And what is it now that he cannot possibly understand o­therwise? that no other union will satisfie him (viz. the Enquirer) but such an u­nion of three spiritual Beings and individual natures as by their composition constitute the Godhead, as the composition of soul and bo­dy do the Man, i. e. He cannot understand but he means what he expresly denies. [Page 20] Who can help so cross an understand­ing? If he had not had his very finger upon the place where the Enquirer says in express words [I peremptorily deny all composition in the Being of God] this had been more excusa­ble,Note: Calm Discourse p. 34. Note: Calm Discourse p. 89, 90. (besides much said to the same purpose elsewhere) It had been ingenuous in any man not to impute that to another, as his meaning, which in the plainest terms he disa­vows, as none of his meaning: And it had been prudent in the Dean (or his Defen­der) of all Mankind not to have done so in the present case, as will further be seen in due time. But he takes it for an Affront, when he fancies a man to come too near him.

He adds, for this reason he disputes ear­nestly against the universal absolute omnimo­dous simplicity of the divine Nature, and will not allow that Wisdom, Power, and Goodness, are the same thing in God, and [Page 21] distinguished into different Conceptions by us, only through the weakness of our understand­ings, which cannot comprehend an infinite Be­ing in one thought, and therefore must, as well as we can, contemplate him by parts.

I know not what he means by ear­nestly, the matter was weighty, and it is true, he was in writing about it in no disposition to jeast. But it's said he dis­puted against the universal, absolute, omni­modous simplicity of the Divine Nature. I hope the Defender in this means honestly, but he speaks very improperly, for it supposes him to think that the univer­sal, absolute, omnimodous simplicity, so earnestly disputed against, did really be­long to the Divine Nature, but I can scarce believe him to think so, and there­fore he should have said, his disputati­on tended to prove it not to belong. If he (viz. the Defender, or the Dean) did really think it did, they, or he, must be very singular in that sentiment. I would have them name me the man [Page 22] that ever laid down and asserted such a position. Some I know have said of that Sacred Being, that it is summè simplex, or more simple than any thing else, but that imports not uni­versal, absolute, omnimodous simplicity, which is impossible to be a perfecti­on, or therefore to belong to the Di­vine Nature. No man that ever ac­knowledged a Trinity of persons even modally distinguished, could ever pre­tend it, for such simplicity excludes all modes. Nay, the Antitrinitarians them­selves can never be for it, as the Calm Discourse hath shewn.Note: p. 139. And if the Dean be, he is gone into the remotest extream from what he held (and plain­ly enough seems still to hold) that ever man of sense did.

But for what is added, that he will not allow that Wisdom, Power and Goodness, are the same thing in God: This is not fairly said, Civility allows me not to say, untruly. There is no word in the [Page 23] place he cites, nor any where in that book, that signifies not allowing, 'tis in­timated we are not instructed ‘by the Scripture to conceive of the Divine Na­ture, as, in every respect, most abso­lutely simple, or that Power, Wisdom, Goodness in the abstract, are the same thing, and that our difficulty is great to apprehend them really undistinguisha­ble. And let me seriously ask himself, doth he in good earnest think it is only through the weakness of our understand­ings that we distinguish the notions of the Divine Wisdom, Power and Goodness? certainly it were great weakness of un­standing to define them alike. I be­lieve he never met with the writer yet that distinguisht them less, than ratione ratiocinatâ, in contradistinction to ratocinan­te, which implies somewhat corresponding to our distinct notions of them (emi­nently and not formally) in naturâ rei.

And whereas he further says, This prepared his way to make Goodness, [Page 24] Wisdom, Power, — a natural Trinity n Unity, herein the Defender is mista­ken. This is not the Trinity which the Enquirers discourse was ever intended to terminate in, as he himself hath expres­ly said, and the Defender takes notice of it, which makes me wonder how he could think it was so intended, ci­ting the very passage p. 37. where the Enquirer ‘profes­ses,Note: Calm Disc. not to judge, that we are under the precise notions of Power, Wisdom and Goodness, to conceive of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.’ But why then were these three so much discourst of before? They are three most celebra­ted Divine Attributes, wherein we have our most immediate and very principal concern. And some have thought the Trinity was most fitly to be conceived by them: The Enquirer did not think so; but he thought first, it would be requisite to have our minds disentangled from any apprehended necessity of conceiv­ing [Page 25] them to be in all respects the very same things, nor are they the very same, if they be so distinguish'd as is expressed in the 16th. of the summary propositions;Note: Calm. Disc. p. 140. where also they are each of them said to be com­mon to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, whence therefore it is impossible they shou'd be thought to distinguish Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. But that some distinction being admitted even of them, this might facilitate to us our concepti­on of the greater distinction which must be, of Father, Son and Spirit, as is ex­press'd p. 38. Indeed he did not think fit to interrupt his discourse by staying to shew reasons why he did not rest in that account alone of the Trinity, tho' it might seem plausible, or not absurd, but proceeded further to what was more satisfying to himself, and might be so to other men. And (as the intervening Series of his discourse leads thereto) this is more directly done p. 47. & 48. &c. especially [Page 26] where he comes to speak of the necessa­ry coexistence, and the (as necessary and natural) order of the Father, Son and Spirit, towards each other. The second being, not by any intervening act of will, but by necessary, eternal promanati­on, from the first, and the third from them both. And the true reason why Power, Wisdom and Goodness, were not thought expressive of the distinction of Father, Son and Spirit, but common to each of them (as is said, Summary Prop. 16.) was, thatt the two latter can not but be necessary emanations, most conna­tural to their Original, as is truely sugge­sted by the Defender, p. 1 [...]1.

If you object (as the Defender brings in the Enquirer, saying) That this gives us the notion of a compounded Deity, &c. This, i. e. the supposition, that absolute omnimo­dous simplicity, belongs not to it, is the thing which may be thought to give us this notion. And he tells us, he (the En­quirer) answers this difficulty, by giving us [Page 27] a new notion of a compositum. And what's that which he calls a new no­tion? that a compositm seems to imply a preexisting component, that brings such things together, and supposes such and such more sim­ple things to have preexisted apart, or sepa­rate, and to be brought afterwards together in­to an united State.

And indeed is this a new notion? as new as the Creation? Let him shew me an Instance through the whole crea­ted universe of Beings (And for the un­created Being the Defender (now at this time) disputes against any composition there, and the Enquirer denies any) first, where there hath been a compositum without a pre-existing component, or next the compounded parts whereof, if substantial did not in order of nature pre-exist separate; i. e. whether esse sim­plicitèr do not naturally precede esse tale, or which is all one, to our present pur­pose, whether they were not capable hereof if the Creator pleased: Let any [Page 28] man, I say, tell me where was there ever a compositum made by substantial union, that did not consist of once se­parate or of separable parts.

But note his admirable following sup­position, that is to say, that if a man, sup­pose, who consists of body and soul, had been from eternity, without a maker, and his soul, and body had never subsisted a part, he could not have been said to have been a compound­ed Creature? This is said with design most groundlesly (as we shall see) to fasten an absurd consequence upon the Enquirer, and see how it lucks: Did ever any man undertake to reprove an absurdity with greater absurdity? a Creature without a Maker! what sort of Creature must this be! we have a pretty saying quoted in the Defender's Letter; He that writes lies down; and we are apt enough too, when we write to trip and fall down, and ought in such Cases to be merciful to one ano­ther, even tho' he that falls should be [Page 29] in no danger of hurting his fore-head, much more if he be. What was ano­ther man's turn now, may be mine next.

But let the supposition proceed, and put we Being instead of Creature, which no doubt was the Defender's meaning, for Creature he must needs know it could not be that had no Maker. And what then? why he should not (says he) have been said to be compounded, though he would have had the same parts that he has now: We have here a self-confounding supposition, which having done that first, can't hurt him whom it was design­ed to confound, being taken in season. Grant one, and you grant a thousand. A Being made up of a soul and a body, is so imperfect an entity, as could not be of it self. Nothing is of it self which is not absolutely perfect. If he mind to dis­prove this, let him try his faculty when he pleases against it, and (which I sincere­ly believe he never intends) together with it, against all Religion. But be­sides, [Page 30] he hath destroy'd his own suppo­sition himself (to put us out of that dan­ger) by saying in plain words, p. 107. We have no Notion of an eternal and necessa­ry Existence, but in an absolutely perfect and infinite nature. Now say I, what is so perfect, and hath whatever belongs to it necessarily, though distinguishable things belong to it, hath no parts, for what are parts, but such things as can be parted? such things as never were parted, and never can be, (as 'tis nonsence to talk of those things being parted that are united necessarily, and of themselves) are no parts, if partiri, whence they are so called, must not (and herein he cannot so fool the whole Chri­stian World as to make it concur with him) lose its signification to serve a turn. Tho' the things be real, there par­tibility is not real. If any indeed will call them parts, beeause they may be conceived or contemplated apart, as parts meerly conceptible are no prejudice to the perfection of the Divine Being, so are [Page 31] such conceivable parts acknowledged by this Author himself in express words;Note: His Letter, p. 105. we cannot comprehend an infinite Being in one Thought, and therefore must as well as we can contemplate him by parts. God can as little ad­mit to be a part of any thing, as to have any thing a part of him. And yet 'tis no prejudice to the Dignity and Perfe­ction of his Being, to conceive of him conjunctly with other things, as when we make him a part (subject or predi­cate) of a Proposition. All his dispu­tation therefore against parts and compo­sition in the Deity, is against a figment, or no present adversary. For my part I am of his mind, and I should be obliged to thank him that this once he vouchsafes to let me be on his side, when he knows I am, if he did not take so vast pains to make others not know it. How hard a thing is it for an angry man (especi­ally when he knows not why) to write with a sincere Mind.

[Page 32]But hath he in all this fervent blust­er a present concern at this time for the Honour of the Divine Being? (as God forbid I should think he never hath) what is that he supposes injurious to it? Is it the words, parts and compounds? or is it the things supposed to be united in the Divine Being? The words he knows to be his own, and let him dispose of them more ineptly if he can tell how: parts that were never put together, ne­ver parted, nor ever shall be the one or other; i. e. that never were or will be parts: And a compound of such parts! But now for the things upon which he would obtrude these words [three Essences, natures, (or if you please, Infinite minds or spirits) signified by the Names of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, in eternal union, but distinct in the Be­ing of God.] Let us consider his dis­putation against them united, or in u­nion, according to its double aspect: First, upon the Hypothesis or Suppositi­on [Page 33] of them: Secondly, upon himself.

First, Consider his Disputation as le­vell'd against the Hypothesis or supposi­tion of such distinct essences, natures, minds, spirits, in necessary, eternal Union in the Divine Being. And one of his arguments against it, is in those words of his One principal argument against it (here put out parts and composition which are his own, and we have no more to do with them) is, that God is eternal and unmade, and whatsoever (hath parts, saies he) hath such essences in it, must have a maker. And here let him prove his consequence, and his business is done, viz. both ways, as will be seen by and by. But let him shew the inconsisten­cy between a things having such di­stinct essences naturally and necessari­ly united in it, (as the supposition to be argued against is, and before ought to have been justly stated) and it's be­ing eternal and unmade. But how that is to be evinced I can not so much as [Page 34] guess; confident affirmation, against the most obvious Tenour of Gods own Word, is of little account, who shall ascend into the heavens? or fathom the depths? or can have that perspection of God's incomprehensible nature, as with­out (and visibly against) his own re­velation to be able, without great rashness, to pronounce so concerning him? But so toyish an Argument as here follows, is worse than the Positi­on; i. e. when one shall say, that for ought we know there may be three distinct Essences by an eternal unmade union, united into one, in the Being of God; any man should say, and be so vain as to expect to be regarded, that because they are united by an eternal and unmade uni­on, therefore they are not united by an eternal and unmade union! If there be not a Contradiction in the terms to dis­prove a thing, by it self, is to say no­thing, or is all one with proving a thing by it self. He proceeds, to what [Page 35] hath no thing in it like an Argument, but against his own Conceit of parts, and that very trifling too. There can be but one eternal nature in God: But if there be three — there must be three. This 'tis now come to, proving his Point by its self. Here he makes sure work to have nothing deny'd, but then nothing is prov'd, no advance is made; if there be three, there must be three. But if there be three what? eternal parts: There must be three different Natures, or else they — would be the same. (What? tho' distinct?) But this supposes some body said the first: And who? himself; therefore he is dis­proving himself. If I had said so, I would have deny'd his consequence, for there may be similar parts: Whereas by different, he seems to mean dissimi­lar. He says not only distinct, but diffe­rent natures. Now you have that won­derful thing talk'd of some times, but never brought to view before, a distin­ction [Page 36] without a difference. 'Tis strange how any things should be distinct, and no way different. What distinguishes them if they differ by nothing. This different, apply'd to this present Case, is his own word, coined to introduce a No­tion that is not new to Christians on­ly, but to all Man-kind. If by diffe­rent Natures he means (as he seems) of a different kind, who thought of such a difference? But I trow, things that differ in number, do as truly differ (how­ever essentially cohaering) tho' not so widely.

His next is, that though we have a na­tural notion of an eternal Being, we have no notion of three eternal Essences (which a­gain I put instead of his parts) which necessarily coexist in an eternal union.

Doth he mean we are to disbelieve every thing of God whereof we have not a natural Notion? Then to what purpose is a Divine Revelation? Is this Notion of God pretended to be Natu­ral? [Page 37] 'Tis enough, if such a Notion be most favoured by his own Revelation, who best understands his own Nature, and there be no evident natural Notion against it. He forgot that he had said, (Defence, p. 5.) If every thing which we have no positive Idea of must be allow'd to contradict Reason, we shall find contradicti­ons enow; adding, We must confess a great many things to be true, which we have no Idea of, &c. He adds, once more we have no notion of an eternal and necessary exist­ence, but in an absolutely perfect and infinite nature, but if there be (I here again leave out his three parts, because I design to consider if there be any thing of strength brought against what was supposed possi­ble by the Enquirer, not against his fiction, which I trouble not my self any fur­ther with) three spiritual Beings — nei­ther of them can be absolutely perfect and in­finite, (I would rather have said none, or no one, than neither, since the dis­course is of more than two. I thought [Page 38] the meaning of uter and neuter had been agreed long ago,) tho' we could suppose their union to make such a perfect Being, because they are not the same, and (neither) no one of them is the whole, — &c.

This is the only thing that ever came under my notice among the School-men, that hath any appearing strengh in it, against the Hypothesis which I have pro­posed as possible for ought I knew. They generally dispute against many sorts of Compositions in the Being of God, which I am not concern'd in. That of Matter and Form, which is alien from this affair, of quantitative parts, which is as alien. Of subject and accident, which touches us not. Of act and power, which doth it as little. Each subsistent, being eternally in utmost actuality. And by sundry sorts and methods of argument, whereof only this can seem to signify a­ny thing against the present supposition. And it wholly resolves into the Noti­on of Infinity, about which I generally [Page 39] spoke my sense in that first Let­ter to Dr. Wallis. Note: See Calm Disc. p. 122.123 And as I there intimated how much easier it is to puzzle another upon that subject than to satisfy one self, so I here say, that I doubt not to give any man as much trou­ble about it in respect of quantitative extensi­on, as he can me, in this. I think it demon­strable that one Infinite can never be from another by voluntary production, that it cannot by necessary Emanation, I think not so. In the mean time when we are told so plainly by the Divine Oracles, of a sacred three, that are each of them God, and of some one whereof some things are spoken that are not nor can be of the others. I think it easier to count three than to determine of Infiniteness: And accordingly to form ones Belief. But of this more when we come to com­pare him with himself. And for what he discourses of the as­pect this supposition hath upon the Trinity, and the Homo-ousion. Note: p. 108.109, 110. It [Page 40] all proceeds still upon his own fiction of parts, and upon the invidious straining of that similitude of the union of soul and bo­dy, as he himself doth tantum non confess; except that he lessens it by saying most untruly that he (the Enquirer) doth expresly own the Consequence. There­fore if he do not own the Consequence, then the Defender confesses himself to have invidiously devised it; and what is it? That if all three by this compositi­on are but one God, neither of them by himself is true and perfect God. The Divinity is like the English. But both his own. The Enquirer denies both an­tecedent (which he knows) and conse­quent too. Leave out by this composition, (his own figment) and his argument as much disproves any Trinity at all as it doth the present Hypothesis.

But wherein doth the Enquirer own it? because such a Similitude is used (as 'tis often in that discourse) of the union between soul and body (declared [Page 41] elsewhere to be unexpressibly defective) that therefore the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are each of them by himself no more truly Lord or God, according to the Athanasian Creed, or otherwise than in as improper a sense, as the Body of a Man, excluding the Soul, is a Man, or an Humane Person. Or as if Deity were no more in one of the Persons, than humanity in a Carkass! who that looks upon all this with equal Eyes, but will rather choose as doubtful a no­tion, than so apparently ill a Spirit! Are similitudes ever wont to be alike throughout, to what they are brought to illustrate? It might as well be said, because he mentions with Approbation such as illustrate the Doctrine of the Trinity by a Tree and its Branches, that, therefore, there we are to expect Leaves and Blossoms. Is it strange the Created Universe should not afford us an exact Representation of uncreated Be­ing? How could he but think of that; [Page 42] To whom do ye liken me? At least one would have thought he should not have forgot what he had so lately said him­self. We must grant we have no perfect Ex­ample of any such union in nature. What Appetite in him is it,Note: His Letter. p. 5. that now seeks what Nature doth not afford? A very unnatural One, we may conclude. 'Twere trifling to re­peat what was said, and was so plain, before, that the union between Soul and Body was never brought to illustrate personal union but essential. The former is here imagin'd without pretence, there being no mention or occasion for the the mentioning of Persons in the place he alledges.Calm Disc. 47. But to make out his violent Consequence he foists in a supposition, that never came into any man's Imagination but a Socinians and his own. (Which I say, contradistin­guishing him to them, that the matter may (as it ought) appear the more strange.Note: His Letter p. 110.) If God be a person, he can [Page 43] be but one. Is God the appropriate Name of a Person? then indeed there will be but one person; but who here says so but himself? The name God is the name of the Essence, not the distin­guishing name of a Person. But if three intelligent Natures be united in one Deity, each will be Persons, and each will be God, and all will be one God; not by parts, o­ther than conceptible, undivided, and inse­perable, as the Soul and Body of a Man are not. Which sufficiently conserves the Chri­stian Trinity from such furious and impo­tent Attaques as these. And the Homo­ousiotes is most entirely conserved too. For what are three spiritual natures no more the same, than (as he grosly speaks) the Soul and Body are? no more than an intelligent mind, and a piece of Clay? by what consequence is this said, from any thing in the Enqui­rers Hypothesis? Whereas al­so he expresly insists,Note: Calm Disc. p. 48. that the Father, as Fons Trinitatis, is first, [Page 44] the Son of the Father, the Holy Ghost from both. Is not the water in the streams, the same that was in the Foun­tain? and are not the several Attributes expresly spoken of as common to these three? Note: Calm Disc. p. 140. Essential Power, Wis­dom, Goodness, (which are deny'd to be the precise notions of Father, Son, and Spirit) said by more than a [...], as that may be understood to signify, meer pre­sence, (how intimate soever) but by real, vital union, as much each one's as any one's? and all other conceivable perfections besides? Why were these words read with Eyes refusing their office, to let them into the Reader's mind? whence also how fabulous is the Talk of Powers begetting Wisdom, Note: Postscr. to his Letter p. 111. &c. against what is so plainly said of the order of Priority and Posteriority, Note: Calm Disc. p. 48. &c.

There had been some prudence seen in all this conduct, if the Defender could have taken effectual care, that every thing [Page 45] should have been blotted out of all the Copies of that Discourse, but what he would have thought fit to be permitted to the view of other Eyes than his own. For then, tho' in so gross praevarication he had not preserved his Innocency, he might have sav'd in some degree his Re­putation. Yet also he should have taken some heed that Anger might not so have discoloured his Eye, as to make so in­judicious a Choice what to confess and what to conceal. For had he not him­self blab'd, that it was said, we are not under the precise notions of Power, Wis­dom and Goodness, to conceive of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. He might more plausibly have formed his odd Births, and father'd them where he doth. But wrath indulg'd will show its go­verning power. And all this fury and vengeance (upon the Enquirer, and the Dean too) he reckon'd was due, only because it was so presumptuously thought, that somewhat in his Hypothesis (or which [Page 46] he defends) might have been better, and that he (probably) sees it might, so much a greater thing (in some ill fits) is the gratifying a humour than the Christian Cause!

2. But let us now see how all this turns upon himself. And how directly his ill-polisht (not to say envenom'd) darts, missing their designed Mark, strike into that very Breast which he under­takes to defend.

Whereas there are two things, princi­pally to be designed in a Discourse of this subject. viz.

1. The explaining the Unity of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, so as that tho' they are some way three, they may yet be concluded to be in Godhead but one.

2. The evincing notwithstanding that unity, the possibility of their sufficient di­stinction, to admit the distinct predicates that are severally spoken of them in the Holy Scriptures.

[Page 47]The Enquirer's discourse chiefly insists upon these two things.

1. That necessity of Existence is the most fundamental Attribute of Deity. And that therefore the Father, as the Fountain, being necessarily of himself: The Son, necessarily of the Father: The Holy Ghost, necessarily from them both, each can­not but be God, and the same, one God. (In reference to the former purpose.)

2. That absolute omnimodous simplicity, be­ing never asserted, in Scripture, of the divine Being, nor capable of being, o­therwise, demonstrated of it, and it be­ing impossible, either from Scripture, or rational evidence, accurately to assign the limits thereof, and determine what sim­plicity belongs to that ever-blessed Be­ing, and what not. If it be necessary to our apprehending how such distinct predicates and attributions may severally belong, to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, that we conceive three distinct essen­ces necessarily coexisting, in an eternal, [Page 48] vital, inseperable union in the Divine Being. The thing may be in it self possi­ble for ought we know. (And this is pro­pounded to serve the latter purpose)

The Defender of the Dean seems to think otherwise of these two things, viz. Of necessity of Existence, common to the sacred three, which will prove each of them to be God, and, belonging to them in the mentioned order, as Father, Son, and Spirit, will prove them, neces­sarily, to be one God.

And of what is said of simplicity, which might admit their sufficient distin­ction; of both these, I say, he seems to think otherwise by neglecting both, lest that Discourse should be thought any way pertinent, or useful to its end. And disputes vehemently against the latter, How strongly and successfully, he does it, in respect of the Truth of the Thing, we have seen.

But whether weakly or strongly, that his disputation tends to wound the Dean's [Page 49] cause, all that it can, shall now be made appear.

It is notorious the Dean hath asserted, so positively, three infinite Minds or Spirits, that the benign interpretation wherewith this Defender would salve the matter, (A new Vocabulary being to be made for him on purpose, and the Reason of things quite alter'd) will to any man of sense seem rather ludicrous, than sufficient, without express retractation. For which the Enquirer thinks he is up­on somewhat better Terms, than he, if there were occasion for it, both by the Tenour of his whole Discourse, and by what he hath particular­ly said in the 28 Sect. But after the Interpretation offer'd,Note: Calm Disc. p. 73 74. See whether such things are not said o­ver and over in the Defence, as make the Defender (and the Dean if he speak his sense) most obnoxious to the whole argumentation in the Postscript. So as, if a part was acted, it was carried so [Page 50] untowardly, that it seem'd to be quite forgotten what part it was, and all the Blows (for it was come now to offend­ing instead of Defending) fall directly up­on him, whom the Actor had underta­ken to defend.

It hath been noted already, that the Defender says expresly, the Divide Nature is one individual nature, Note: Defence p. 16. p. 18. (and so says the Enqui­rer) — but not one single nature;Note: Calm Disc. p. 50.51. (then it must be double and triple, not absolutely simple, as also the Enquirer says) to which he (viz. the Defender) adds, one single nature can be but one person, whether in God or Man. Now let any man judge whether all his Reasonings are not most directly ap­plicable against him, (if they signify a­ny thing) which are contained in his Postscript, p. 106, 107, 108. &c.

How furiously doth he ex­agitate that saying,Note: Postscrip. p. 108, 109. When you prae­dicate Godhead, or the Name of God, [Page 51] of any one of them, (viz. Father, Son, or Ho­ly Ghost) you herein express a true but in­adequate conception of God, &c. insisting that the whole undivided Divine Nature (no doubt it is everlastingly undivided wherever it is) subsists entirely, in three distinct Persons: This the Enquirer ne­ver deny'd, tho' he charges it upon him, that he makes no one of the Persons to be true and per­fect God. Note: Postscrip. p. 108. But how well doth that agree with what he had himself said, (Defence, p. 26.) Tho' God be the most absolute, compleat, independent Being, yet neither the Son, nor the Holy Ghost, can be said to be, an absolute, compleat, indepen­dent God. He falsly charges it upon the Enquirer that he makes the Per­sons severally not perfect God, and he denies two of them to be compleat God. To say not perfect, is criminal (as in­deed it is) to say not compleat is inno­cent! But his saying the Son and Holy Ghost are not compleat God; How doth [Page 52] it consist with what is said, Postscr. p. 109. The same whole entire Divinity di­stinctly and inseparably subsists in the Per­son of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. What is wanting to make him compleat God, in whom the whole, entire Divinity sub­sists? No wonder if he quarrel with all the World who so little agrees with him, whose Defence he undertakes, or with himself. In the mean time the En­quirer hath the less reason to complain, when he manifestly treats, himself as ill as him.

I only add, that for his Discourse concerning [the one Divinity, or one Di­vine Nature, subsisting wholly and entirely, three times, (whereas I had thought the three Persons had subsisted at all times, and all at once) Defence p. 26, &c. And the Persons of the Son and Holy Spirit, not being emanations, p. 28. Not the Son, because he is the Father's Image: And an Image is not an emanation, but a re­flection: (But how should there be a [Page 53] reflected Image without an emanati­on?) Nor the Holy Ghost being [...], not in the sense of emanation, but of the mysterious Procession] I shall make no guesses about it (for it concerns not the Enquirer) only I think it very secure a­gainst the formidable Objection which he mentions p. 35. of it's being too intelligible.

Upon the whole matter I see not what service it can do him, to put in­telligent person instead of mind. For I thought every Person had been intelli­gent. Boethius his definition which he alledges plainly implies so much, and one would think he must know that it is the usual notion of Person to understand by it suppositum rationale or intelligents. Therefore methinks he should not rec­kon it necessary to distinguish Persons (as he doth by this addition of intelli­gent) into such as are Persons and such as are no Persons.

But since he expresly saies (and I think for the most part truly) thatNote: Defence p. 30. [Page 54] the three Persons or subsistences, in the ever blessed Trinity are three real, substantial sub­sistances, each of which hath entirely, all the Perfections of the Divine Nature, Divine Wisdom, Power, and Goodness; and there­fore each of them is eternal, Infinite mind, as distinct from each other as any other three Persons; and this he believes, the Dean will no more recant, than he will renounce a Tri­nity; for all the wit of man, can not find a medium, between a substantial Trinity, and a Trinity of names, or a Trinity of meer modes, Respects and Relations in the same single essence, which is no Trinity at all. As also he had said much to the same pur­pose before, that to talk of three subsisten­ces in the abstract, without three that subsist, or of one single nature which hath three sub­sistences, when it's impossible that in singu­larity there can be more than one subsistence, &c. I believe he will find no small dif­ficulty to name what it is, that with the peculiar distinct manner of subsistence makes a person; not the very same common na­ture, [Page 55] for the Persons can not be distin­guished from each other by that which is common to them all. Therefore the Divine Nature which is common to the three, must according to him comprehend three single natures, and not be absolutely simple. Hither must be his resort at last, after all his earnest disputation against it. And these he will have to be parts, which because they are undivided, im­partible, inseparable, everlastingly and necessarily united. I do reckon the En­quirer did with very sufficient reason, and with just decency (and doth still conti­nue very peremptorily to) deny.

And whereas he contends that the whole Divine nature is entirely in each sub­sistence, (as he does again and again) I think the term whole, improper, where there are no proper parts. And I doubt not, when he gives place to cooler thoughts, he will see cause to qualify that assertion. For if he strictly mean that every thing that belongs to the Godhead [Page 56] is in each Person; I see not how he will fetch himself from the Socinian consequence, that then each Person must have a Tri­nity subsisting in it, and be Father, Son, and H. Ghost. For I doubt not he will acknowledge that the entire Divinity in­cludes in it the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. And therefore he must be be­holden to an inadequate notion in this ve­ry case, when all is done, how much soever he hath contended against it. I do however think it safe and free from any other difficulty, than we unavoida­bly have, in conceiving Infinites. To say that all perfection is in each subsi­stent (which I like better than subsistence, as more expressive of the concrete) as far as their natural, necessary, eternal order, towards one another, as the first is the fountain or radix, the second from that, and the third from both, can possibly admit. All must be originally in the Father, with whom, the other two have that intimate, vital, eternal union, that what is in him [Page 57] the other communicate therein, in as full perfection as is inconceivable, and more than it is possible for us, or for any fi­nite mind to conceive. Therefore since that difference which only proceeds from that natural, eternal order, is conjecturable only, but is really unknown, unreveal­ed and inscrutable; it is better, herein, to confess the imperfection of that know­ledge which we have, than to boast that which we have not, or aspire to that which we cannot have.

FINIS.

These Books written by the Reve­rend Mr. John Howe, are sold by Tho. Parkhurst at the Bible and Three Crowns in Cheapside.

1. THE Blessedness of the Righte­ous: The Vanity of this Mor­tal Life. On Psal. 17. ver. 15. and Psalm 89.47.

2. Of Thoughtfulness for the Mor­row. With an Appendix concerning the immoderate Desire of fore-knowing things to come.

3. The Redeemer's Tears wept over lost Souls, in a Treatise on Luke 19.41, 42. With an Appendix, wherein some­what is occasionally discoursed concern­ing the Sin against the Holy Ghost, and how God is said to Will the Salvation of them that perish.

[Page]4. Of Charity in reference to other Mens Sins.

5. Self-dedication discoursed in the An­niversary Thansgiving of a Person of Ho­nour for a great Deliverance.

6. A Sermon directing what we are to do after a strict Enquiry whether or no we truly love God.

7. A Funeral Sermon for that Faith­ful and Laborious Servant of Christ, Mr. Richard Fairclough, (who deceased July 4. 1682. in the Sixty First year of his Age.)

8. A Funeral Sermon for Mrs. Esther Sampson, the late Wife of Henry Samp­son, Dr. of Physick, who died Nov. 24. 1689.

9. The Carnality of Religious Con­tention. In two Sermons Preach'd at the Merchant's Lecture in Broadstreet.

Books lately Printed for Tho­mas Parkhurst.

Spira's Despair revived. Being a Nar­ration of the Horror and Despair of some late Sinners under the Apprehensions of Death and Judgment. Wherein are such Unquestionable Examples pro­duc'd, and such Matters laid down and proved, as may stop the Mouths of the Atheistical Scoffers and Mockers. By Thomas James, Minister of the Go­spel at Ashford in Kent.

The Confirming Work of Religion, and its great things made plain by their primary Evidences and Demonstrations: Whereby the meanest in the Church may soon be made able to render a ra­tional account of their Faith.

The present Aspect of our Times, and of the Extraordinary Conjunction [Page] of things therein; in a rational View and Prospect of the same, as it respects the publick hazard and safety of Brit­tain in this Day. These two last by Rob. Fleming, Author of the fulfilling of the Scriptures, and Minister at Rotter­dam.

England's Allarm: Being an account of Gods most considerable dispensations of Judgment and Mercy towards these Kingdoms, for fourteen years last past; and also of the several sorts of Sins and Sinners therein: Especially the Mur­murers against this Present Government. With an Earnest call to speedy Humili­ation and Reformation, and Supplication, as the chief means of prospering their Majesties Councils and Preparations. De­dicated to the King and Queen.

A Discourse concerning Old Age, tending to the Instruction, Caution and Comfort of Aged Persons. By Richard Steel, A. M.

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