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able to their prejudices, and represents him as pleased with what pleases themselves. Now the Scriptural notion of God is of quite a different nature, and represents him both as an incomprehensible Being, and as infinitely averse to those corruptions and pollutions they delight in. In order therefore to get rid of it, they set themselves first to expose what they cannot comprehend, that they may afterward, with the better grace, reject what they do not relish in it.
This kind of worldly-mindedness makes more unbelievers indeed, but they are not so sincerely infidel as those, who are led to conceive amiss, and pronounce presumptuously of God, by a wrong bias of thought, contracted in conversing too intimately with the sensible things of this world. They borrow all their rules of thinking from what they observe about them; and when they come to think of God, which is but seldom, they regulate their notions of him by those rules.
From hence it came that a plurality of gods overswarmed the world; for every one conceiving of God, according to his conceptions of things about him, fell at last into the absurdity of worshipping God under the representation of his own favourite man, or river, or brute, or plant.
And, even among persons more enlightened, this is too often the case. In the gloomy mind, God is nothing but wrath and terror, armed with thunder, and intent on vengeance. In a mind amused by gaiety and pleasure, he is all indulgence to the desires and enjoyments of his creatures. The mathematician says he is number, and the musician calls him harmony. These are gods of mens own making, and bear no resemblance to the living and incomprehensible God.
Men are too inclinable to form their notions of God by their notions of human nature ; which, nevertheless, they are much in the dark about. Although men are so formed in the image of God, that their faculties bear some resemblance to his attributes, their reason to his wisdom, their probity to his justice, their compassion to his merey; yet, if they hope by this way to form a perfect notion of God, they will succeed no better than they, who attempted to raise that building to heaven, which they had formed on earth ; their endeavours will perish in the same confusion. Now, if we examine the sentiments of those who deny the Trinity, we shall find them entirely built on this argument of resemblance, over-strained, and wrong applied. In one man there cannot be more persons than one ; therefore in God there can only be one person. If a peasant should, in this manner conclude, that, because there is but one apartment in his cottage, there can therefore be no more in the palace of a prince, he would reason just as wisely as they.
There is nothing within us, or about us, that can help us to a perfect knowledge of God. What a notion had the children of Israel of the Divine Being, who, when Moses was conversing with him on mount Sinai, set up a golden calf to represent the Almighty God? Our libertines, in like manner, forsaking the Scriptural notion of him, form one from themselves, which they worship, as the Israelites did theirs, with sensuality and riot; 'they sit down to eat and drink, and then to rise up to play.'
"To whom then shall we liken God, or what likeness shall we compare unto him ?' Is he like a plant, or a brute, or the sun, or the host of heaven? What proportion or resemblance can they bear to their Creator? Or is he like a man? Shall we imagine, wickedly, that he is even such a one as ourselves ?' It is true, the soul of man is formed in the image of the Divine mind, but bears no proportion to that which it resembles. Our likeness of God renders us capable of knowing him, so far as our duty and wants require ; while the infinite disproportion between him and us, places him above the curiosity and presumption of our inquiries.
Let us search the Scriptures, and there we shall find enough to dash our own presumption to the ground, to sh us that God is too great to be comprehended by us, to satisfy us that there is a Trinity of persons in his nature ; which we may believe, but can never account for. Our enquiry ought not to be, whether the Divine nature is capable of such a Trinity in unity; for this, to mere human reason, is impossible to be determined; but whether the Scriptures are the word of God, or not; and if we find they are, we ought surely to submit our faith to every thing in them, without staying to try it by our wretched rules of thinking.
As to that knowledge of himself which God hath been pleased to vouchsafe us, it is not, in respect to the Trinity,
or any thing else, as the libertines object, either speculative or physical, in any degree; it is purely practical. It was, that we might become good and happy men, that God revealed himself and his will to us. With this gracious intention, he passed the boundaries of nature; and, descending from the heights of heaven, drew back the dark curtain of natural ignorance, that hung between him and us, and shewed us so much of himself as our faculties could bear, and our moral wants required the knowledge of.
Shall we vainly think this visit was made to our curiosity; and instead of adoring and obeying, idly set ourselves to speculating and disputing about him? Yes, the world, which hath been too inquisitive from the beginning, and excessively conceited ever since, will needs convert God, who was proposed solely as an object of love and obedience, into a subject for impertinent and dangerous inquiries. Therefore it was, that our Saviour cried out, in the words of my text, ‘O righteous Father! the world hath not known thee.'
He that would know God rightly, let him open the word of God with an humble sense of his own natural ignorance, and his many spiritual wants; with a desire to be instructed, not a design to criticise; and he shall there learn, that God is one infinitely powerful, just, wise, and merciful Being; that, in this infinite Being, there are three Divine persons, to each of whom we lie under distinct and infinite obligations; that the first of these persons framed us out of the dust, and bestowed his own image on us ; that the second, after we had corrupted ourselves by sin, took our nature on him, and died to satisfy Divine justice for us, and establish a covenant of peace between God and us; and that the third, knowing we have enemies to contend with, who are too powerful for us, is ever near us, removing from us all unsurmountable impediments to the performance of such articles of the covenant as we are engaged to, on our part. He will likewise find in the holy Scriptures, that this great Being is present every where ; that he is about us, and within us, and spieth out all our ways;' nay, “and knows our thoughts long before;' that he will one day call us before his throne, and there, with infinite knowledge and justice, distinguishing the whole race of mankind into two sorts, shall carry with him, to his glorious place of abode, those who resemble
him in truth and goodness; and shall send those with the author of evil, who resemble him in sin and deformity, to regions of darkness, and everlasting despair.
This is that sort of knowledge, which God hath taught us in his word ; which we could not have known, without revelation; which the world hath not known ;' which the natural man receiveth not;' and 'to which not many wise men after the flesh, not many noble or mighty, are called ;' which, nevertheless, is absolutly necessary to the well-being of society, and the salvation of souls.
This knowledge represents God to us as our Father, our Saviour, our Comforter; as the most compassionate, the most amiable, the most excellent of all beings. Can we behold him, thus gracious and beautiful, and not love him more than the whole world, than life itself, and even being ?
This knowledge also displays him to us as an all-knowing witness, as an impartial judge, as an almighty king, who can reward with celestial kingdoms, and punish with infernal fires. Can we behold him in this awful light, and not fear him?
Or can we love and fear him, and yet disobey him ? No; the true knowledge of God is the only spring of all duty and virtue, and virtue the only road to true and real happiness.
As to any other sort, or higher degree, of knowledge concerning God, as it would be useless, so would it be impossible and unattainable. Our faculties are not calculated to extend much farther than our wants. If we look impartially and carefully into our nature, we shall find our knowledge so cramped behind us, by the weakness of our memory; cut so short in respect of what is to come, by want of foreknowledge; reduced to so scanty bounds all about us, by the narrowness of our senses, and the shortness of our lives; and so broken, by the infirmity of human reason and judgment, that persons of the most improved capacities seem to direct themselves in the knowledge of even temporal things, through a general darkness, by a faint taper, that enlightens a few paces round them, and moving with them, leaves it dark at a very small distance, both before and behind them.
How unequal must faculties, so deficient in teaching us the nature of things we converse with every day, be, to the
knowledge of an infinite and almighty object, so far removed from our observation! Since so it hath pleased God to form us, we ought to know, and humbly acknowledge, our own infirmity; and, in the spirit of modesty and lowliness, approach the Divine Being, rather with awe, than curiosity ; confessing our own weakness, not talking presumptuously of his perfection.
He knows God best, who feels the deepest impressions of his majesty and goodness on his heart; who praises his works indeed aloud, but adores the author in silence and astonishment; whose notions of God are too great for utterance, too wonderful for words to represent; who dares not approach too near to pry into the nature of so awful and terrible a Being; who dares not stand before him, but removes out of the way of him, who hath his way in the whirlwind, and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet;' who worships at a respectful distance from the fire that devours before him, and the tempest that is stirred up round about him.
To whom, in the unity of the Farther, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be all honour, and glory, and worship, for ever. Amen.
It is more blessed to give, than to receive. If we consider, that the word blessed, in this saying of our Saviour, signifies the same as happy, we shall conclude the saying itself must appear a perfect paradox to the world. What, will the generality of mankind say, is he more happy who gives away his substance to others, than he who receives from them? How can this be true, if the necessaries and comforts of life are not reckoned in the number of evil things ? If they are good, surely it cannot be an happiness