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The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Use of it.
Eph. ü. 18. Through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the
Father. THERE is hardly another text in the bible, of so short an extent that contains in it so much of the substance and glory of our holy religion. Here we have,-1. The doctrine of the blessed Trinity plainly represented. The Father and the Holy Spirit are expressly named, and the little word, “ him," most evidently refers to Christ the Son of God, who is mentioned before, ver. 13.-II. We read also in this verse, the important use of this great doctrine : We must have access to God the Father, through the mediation of his Son, by the aids of the Holy Spirit: And.—III. There is the union of all nations, and the harmony of all the true worshippers of God, held forth in the words, We both have access. This is the common and universal method of approach to God, for it is provided for the whole world, which is here distinguished into Jews and Gentiles. We both have access to the Father by one Spirit, through one Lord Jesus.
These three shall be the chief divisions of my discourse, and I shall consider each of them distinctly.
First, The doctrine of the blessed Trinity is here represented to us, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit : And in order to set this article of our faith in the most plain and easy light, for the use of common christians, I would draw it out, as far as scripture evidently leads the way, into several propositions. But here let it be observed, that I am not going to present you with any of those particular schemes of explication of this Vol. II,
doctrine, which have divided the Trinitarian writers, but nakedly to represent it according to its most obvious appearances in scripture, and yet in such a manner as almost all our divines have received, and delivered it, who may differ in particular schemes of explication.
Proposition I. God is a Spirit, all-wise, and almighty, infinite, eternal, unchangeable, and incomprehensible by any creature; the first, the greatest, and the best of Beings.
Since the word of God assures us that he is a Spirit ; John iv. 24. since men are called his offspring ; Acts xvii. 28. since man is the image of God; 1 Cor. xi. 7. it is evident, that God teaches us to conceive of himself, in a way of resemblance to our own souls, which are spirits. We are therefore to conceive of him as a Being, which has understanding, or consciousness and knowledge, which has a free will, and power of operation ; for these are the clearest and best notions that we have of a spirit: And the scripture itself frequently applies them all to God, and speaks of his understanding, will, and power.
Yet still let us remember, that we must conceive of these things in God, in the highest and greatest perfection possible ; removing always, from our idea of God, every thing that is imperfect, and raising this idea infinitely above every power and quality that is in our own souls. He hath infinite wisdom, or understanding, to know, contrive, and decree all his works, and infinite power, to execute and effect his decrees. Every thing in God transcends the highest conceptions of man.
II. There is but one only, the living, and the true God. There is but one godhead, one divinity; for since God is the first, the greatest, and the best of Beings, there can be but one that is the very first, the very greatest, and the very best.
Besides, God is a self-sufficient Being, and can want nothing from another; Acts xvii. 25. He is an all-sufficient Being, and can do every thing of himself; Job xlii. 2. and therefore, he cannot possibly stand in need of any other being beside himself. Within himself the one God possesses all possible perfection. Two such all-sufficient Beings could do no more than one could do, either with regard to their own blessedness, or with regard to creatures; for if two could make each other more blessed, or do any thing more toward creatures, than one could do, then each of them alone could not be self-sufficient, nor all-sufficient; each of them could not be a God, if they could want any help from another. Thence it follows, that there cannot be two Gods; for since each of them must be self-sufficient, that is, sufficient for himself, and all-sufficient, that is, sufficient for all other
purposes whatsoever, one of these two Gods would be utterly needless and useless : But it is absurd to imagine, that a God is an useless, or needless Being; therefore there can be no other God but one.
This is the great and universal dictate of the light of nature, and this is the constant doctrine of scripture in the Old and New Testament: And indeed, this unity of the godhead, is a peculiar glory of all the religions, that God hath given to men, and whereby they are distinguished, from the false religions of the heathen nations, who did generally profess more gods than one. God hath always taken care, to secure to himself an unrivalled dignity and majesty, in all his dispensations. This is the language of God by Moses, Hear, o Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; Deut. vi. 4. And Christ confirms this doctrine, most abundantly, in the New Testament, and that in the very same words; Mark xii. 29. And he commends the scribe for affirming, “ There is one God, and there is none other but he.” This is the foundation and basis of all that can be called true religion, in every nation and in every age since the world began. And when a multitude of nations had lost this doctrine of the one God, and fell into the worship of many, whom they called gods, it was one great design of christianity, to destroy polytheism, or the doctrine of many gods, among the nations of the world, and to reduce them inore universally to that ancient and eternal truth which some of their own philosophers professed, viz. that there is but one true God.
llence it follows, by plain consequence, from these two propositions, that since God is a Spirit, eternal, all-wise, and almighty, &c. and since there cannot be more gods than one, there cannot be more than one eternal, all-wise, and almighty Spirit; there can be but one eternal and almighty Being. Let this then be fixed as an unchangeable truth.
III. This one God hath revealed himself by the light of nature, as well as by scripture, to be the first cause of all things in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, the Creator and Governor, the original Possessor, and the sovereign Lord of all other beings whatsoever. And as he is the original Lord of all, he requires the worship and homage of all his intelligent creatures : He demands holy obedience to liis laws, and humble submission to his providences; and upon this account, even some of the ancients, by the light of nature, have called him, Father of all.
IV. The great God hath more clearly made himself known in his word, under the personal and relative character of a Father,
that is, as a person bearing the relation of a Father, and that not only to angels and men, who are called the sons of God: but he is a Father also to our Lord Jesus Christ himself, though in a far more excellent and superior way, for Christ is the only begotten Son. Yet it may be noted that God is never called the Father of the Holy Ghost.
Under this personal character of the Father, the great God appears in scripture, as the prime Agent and Ruler in all the kingdoms of nature, and grace, and glory: the Father is eminently Lord of heaven and earth, as Christ himself calls him*. He sustains the dignity and majesty of godhead, and maintains the divine rights and prerogatives of it in heaven, earth, and hell. It is under this personal character that he appears in my text, as that God and Father, who receives the homage and worship of sinful men, returning and approaching to him through Jesus Christ his Son, and by his lloly Spirit.
V. God the Father is revealed in scripture, as transacting his affairs that relate to his creatures through Jesus Christ his Son, and by his Holy Spirit. It is by his Son he made the world; Heb. i. 2. It is by bis Spirit he formed the host of heaven ; Ps. xxxiii. 6. It is by his Spirit he reneres the face of the earth, and covers it with living creatures; Ps. civ. 30. It is by his Son he redeems sinful mankind from hell, and by his Spirit he sanctifies them, and makes them fit for heaven. Note, 'The Son of God is sometimes called the Word of God, and God is said to act by his word, as well as by his Son, in several places of scripturet.
These are the blessed Three, who, by the christian church, for many ages, have been called the holy Trinity. The clear and distinct revelation of them, and their various offices to us in the gospel, is the chief glory of the christian religion, and therefore we are initiated or admitted into the profession of this religion, by being baptised into the name of the sacred Three, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Having surveyed the scriptural representations of God the Father, in the foregoing propositions, let us now consider what is the first, the most plain and obvious manner, wherein the scripture represents to us the Son of God, and the Spirit of God, and,
* Mat. xi. 25. Jesus said, I thank thee, O father, Lord of heaven and earlh verse 27. All things are delivered to me of my Father.
+ I do not here assert any thing, or make any enquiries, whether, or how far the idea of the Word of God, may differ from ihe idea of the Son of God, because this has been controveried among orthodox writers. It is very plain and certain that both these rames belong io Jesus Christ, the second person in the sacred Trinity; and this is sufficient for my present purpose, since I design to avoid all particular controversies about modes of explication in this place.