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This has been the general sense of all our divines in this matter, and I thought it necessary to insert this proposition here, that it might more evidently appear, that though, in some scriptures, the term Spirit, and Holy Spirit, may signify his gifts, graces, and influences, yet this does not at all derogate from the true and cternal godhead, which is plainly ascribed to the Holy Spirit in other places. Here note, though it is hard to determine always with certainty, when the Holy Ghost, or Spirit of God, signifies the divine Agent himself, and when it denotes Iris influences ; yet there are some texts, wherein the scuse is plain and evident.
XIII. Though the Son, and Spirit, are true God, as well as the Father, yet all divines universally acknowledge, that the language of scripture seems to ascribe some sort of peculiar eminence, or special prerogative, to the Father, in such respects as these.
1. The Father, as I hinted before, is always represented as the first and chief Agent in creation, in providence, and in the affairs of salvation : the Father is described and exhibited as acting by his Son, or Word, and by his Spirit, as sepding them, and employing, or using them, as mediums of his agency :-Whereas the Son, and Spirit, are never represented as Chief Agents, in comparison with the Father, nor are they said, in this manner, to act by the Father, or to send, or use, and employ him as such a medium of their acting.
2. When the name of God is used absolutely in scripture, it generally relates to the Father. This appears in innumerable instances : As, for example, where Christ is called the Son of God, the word God plainly signifies the Father : And indeed, this idea of God, as the Father or prime Agent, is much the most frequent and general sense of the word God, in the Old and New Testament, as all men confess.
3. The Father is described as the only true God, as the one God, even the Father; and that in such scriptures, where the Son, or Spirit, are named, and plainly distinguished from himn; John xvii. 3. Christ saith to his Father; “ This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent;" Eph. iv. 6. T'here is one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one God
God dwells in them, and abides with them for ever ; John xiv, 16, 17. For ke that hath not the Spirit of Christ, is none of his; Rom. viii. 9. But this proposition relieves those harsh and unwarrantable expressions, of being anointed with God, of receiving a double portion of God, of God being shed or poured down on men, wbich would be the plain coosequence of interpretiog such scriptures con. cerning divine Agent himself, or ibe Holy Spirit, who is true God; and for that reason our divines have generally thought it proper and necessary to inter. pret many of these expressions, rather concerning the gifts, graces, and influences of the Spirit.
and Father of all. 1 Cor. viii. 6. " To us there is but one God the Father, of whom are all things, and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things.”
XIV. Since there is but one God, even the Father, according to St. Paul, and since the Father is the only true God, according to Christ's own expression, then the Son and Spirit cannot have another, or a different godhead from that of the Father : But since the Son and Spirit also are true God, it must be by some communion in the same true godhead, which belongs to the Father : For if it were another godhead, that would make another God; and thus the christian religion would have two or three Gods, which is contrary to the whole tenor of the gospel*.
This might be proved from many scriptures, and many reasonings drawn from scripture; I shall mention two or three of them :
1. Christ himself saith? John x. 30. “ I and my Father are one,” that is, one in divine power and godhead, as the context leads us to expound it : And this has been the most general sense of all our Trinitarian writers. | John v. 7. The apostle saith, “ There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, and these three are one :" which is usually explained, these three are one in Deity, or have one and the same godhead. Nor do I know any better exposition.
2. The godhead of the Father, and the godhead of the Spirit, is the very same godhead which is in Christ, and which wrought his miracles. John xiv. 10. “ I am in the Father, and the Father is in me: It is the Father that dwelleth in me, he doth the works,” that is, the godhead of the Father. And this language is so strong, as if Christ and God, in these miraculous actions, were to be esteemed one complex agent, since he elsewhere says; John x. 30. “ I and my Father are one.”.
* Here let it be observed, that I do not enter into that question, whether the godhead, which is ascribed to the Son, does always sigoify the full, complete, and adequate idea of the godhead, which is in the Pather? or whether, in some scriptures, it only may mean an inadequate idea of godbead, which may be supposed to be called the word, or wisdom of God; or whether it be pot rather the entire godhead under the special idea of wisdom? For I would not enter into any particular schemes of explication, in this sermon : But, in general, it is evident from scripture, that the godbead of Christ, and that of the Fatber, must be one and the same godhead, since there are not two Deities.
Let it be observed, again : that supposing the godhead of the Father and the Son, to be the very same, then, though the Father bas the only true godhead in bim, the Son and Spirit are not excluded from a communion therein. For thus it may be made to appear, that, though the Pather be called the only true God; Johd xvii. 3. the Soo and Spirit may be true God also ; yet, perhaps, this texe might receive a much clearer explication, by applying some particolar scheme, in order to interpret it; but this is not my preseul work.
Again Mat. xii. 28.“ Jesus, by the Spirit of God cast out devils.” Now if there were any other distinct godhead in the Son, besides the godhead of the Father, or of the Spirit, it seems to be somewhat strange and unaccountable, that the miracles of Christ should never be plainly ascribed to that peculiar distinct godhead of the Son, but that scripture should so often tell us, he wrought his miracles by the Holy Spirit, or by the aid of his Father. I think, therefore, it must at least imply thus much, that the godhead of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, is but one and the same godhead. And it is this same one godhead, or divine essence, that is united personally to the man Jesus Christ, and wronght his miracles : It is the same godhead that subsists in the Father, and in the Son, whatsoever personal distinctions are between them, which shall be considered immediately.
3. Many of those scriptures, in the Old Testament, which apparently refer to God the Father, that is, to the great God, considered and exhibited as the prime Creator, and Lord of all, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; I say, many of these very scriptures are ascribed to Christ, in the New Testament, and interpreted concerning Christ, particularly in Rom. x. 11-13. xiv. 10--12. Eph. iv. 8-10. Ps. ii. 6-11. Heb. i. 10--12. which, I think, could not be a just representation, if the godhead of Christ, and the godhead of the Father, were not one and the same godhead. I add after all, this bath been the common and general sense of all our protestant divines, at home and abroad, that the godhead of the Father, Son, and Spirit, is but one and the same godhead, or divine essence.
XV. Yet, there is a plain distinction held forth in scripture, between the sacred Three, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as I have already declared; even so plain and strong, as that they are all several times represented, in a personal manner, and are spoken of, as three distinct Persons*, who have different works or offices, attributed and assigned to them.
The Father is represented, as the prime Agent, in our creation, and redemption, our sanctification, and salvation : It was he sent his Son Jesus Christ to redeem, and save us from hell:
* Though they are generally called “three distinct Persons," by our divines, yer there are no writers, either abroad or at home, that ever pretended this to be ibe express language of scripture: And there are very few, if any, of our most orthodox writers, who ever supposed the word “person," was to be taken here in the full, common, and literal sense of it, for a distinct conscious being; but only in a qualified and restrained sense, or a sense that is analagous, or a-kin to the common meaning of it, among men: for three distinct persons, in the common and literal seose of it, would be three distinct Spirits, which very few TriDitarians allow.
It is he sends his Holy Spirit to enlighten, sanctify, and comfort us, and to prepare us for heaven.
The Son is represented as sent by the Father into this world, to take our flesh and blood upon him, that he might die to redeem us: He becomes our Prophet, our Priest, and our King, to complete our salvation : He sends the Holy Spirit, from the Father, to dwell in his people.
The Holy Spirit is represented as sent, by the Father and the Son, to confirm the truth of the gospel, to guide us into all truth, to change our sinful natures into holiness, and to witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God: He is expressly called a Witnesser, and a Comforter, or Advocate.
XVI. Upon the whole it appears, that there is, and there must be, some real union and communion in godhead between the sacred Three, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to answer and support the divine names, titles and attributes, &c. which are ascribed to them all? And, there is, and there must be, some sufficient distinction between them, to sustain these distinct personal characters and offices, and to answer to these distinct representations of scripture : Through how far this oneness of godhead, and this personal distinction extend, may not be easy for us, to find out exactly, and to describe to the understanding and satisfaction of our fellow-christians.
This is that very question, which has so much difficulty in it to answer : This bas been the hard problem of christianity, in almost all ages, how to reconcile and adjust this article: 'This has been the solemn labour of our several schemes and hypotheses, wherein some of us would be glad to arrive at clearer conceptions, by a further search of the holy scriptures. But among the many attempts that have been made to adjust this matter, there is not one which is universally approved.
XVII. Though perhaps, we may not find, nor determine clearly and precisely, how far the sacred Three are the same as to their oneness of godhead, nor how far they are different, as to their distinct personal character ; yet it is our duty to honour them, according to the revelation which scripture hath made ; that is, we must pay all of them divine honours, since they have communion in godhead; and we must transact our important affairs of salvation with them according to their distinct offices, as our Father, our Saviour, and our Sanctifier.
Thus I have given a plain scriptural account of the doctrine of the Trinity, without entering into those particular explications, whereby, Trinitarian writers have unhappily divided themselves into several contending parties. And I have done my endeavour to express what appears to be the first, the most plain, and obvious representation of things in scripture, and that so inoffensively to my brethren, who own and believe this doctrine, that I am persuaded there have been but few Trinitarians these hundred years past, who would deny any one of all these propositions. Nor am I conscious to myself that I have ever written any thing inconsistent with them, in any of my discourses on this divine subject.
[Here is a proper division of this Sermon into two parts.]
The second thing contained in the text is, the important use of this great doctrine of the 'Trinity, and that is, We have an access to the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit.
I shall not stand here to debate, whether the access, which we have to the Father, in my text, refers to any particular act of worship, or to our general return to God from a state of sin, guilt, and distance. The text is a divine truth in both these senses : But since it seems to be the chief design of the whole chapter, to shew the way of our return to the favour of God, and a state of peace and friendship with him, since we are said to be brought near to God by the blood of Christ ; verse 13. I suppose, it cannot be improper to take this verse, in the same extensive sense*. But, if the apostle should mean our access to God, in particular acts of worship, here in my text, yet I am sure, this glorious sentence is justly applicable to the general access of a siuner to God, and his introduction into a state of divine favour : For it must be confessed, that our first general return to God from a state of sin, and all our gradual advances to greater nearness, must be still expected, and obtained through Christ, and by the Holy Spirit.
Here let us consider the different stations, or characters, in which the sacred Three are represented in this great and important concern of our salvation, and at the end of each representation, I shall shew briefly, what our duties are to the sacred Three, in our approaches to God, correspondent to the stations, in which the gospel places them.
I. God, the great God, and Father of all, is here represented as sustaining the majesty of godhead, as the sovereign Lord, and governor of his creatures, and my text, compared with the foregoing verses, discovers him to us in these four views :
1. As offended with his creature man, on the account of
* I might take notice here, in order to confirm my extensive sense of the text that the word access in one or more copies, is engoun, peace : And the inference, which the apostle makes in the next verse, Therefore ye are no more strangers and joreigners, is very naturally drawn from our access to God, as a state of peace with God, but not from a particular act of worship.