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SERMON LXXI. Regeneratirn. Testimonies to the Doctrine of the Trin-
ity from the ancient Christians, Jews, and Heathen.—Is. xlviii. 16. 381
SE E MON LXXVII. Regeneration. Its Attendants : Faith ; Repentance.-
SERMON LXXXII. Regeneration. Its Consequences; Adoption.—1 John
SERMON LXXXV. Regeneration. Its Consequences; Joy in the Holy
DIVINITY OF CHRIST.
CORINTHIANS iii. 20.—The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are
In the eighteenth verse of this chapter, St. Paul says, Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise, in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God; for it is written, He taketh the wise in their own cruftiness.
These words, together with the text, are paraphrased by Doddridge in the following manner: “ I know there are those among you, whose pride and self-conceit may lead them to despise this admonition, especially as coming from me ; but let no man. deceive himself with vain speculations of his own worth and abilities. If any one of you seem to be wise in this world, if he value himself on what is commonly called wisdom among Jews or Gentiles ; let him become a fool, that he may be wise indeed. Let hiro humbly acknowledge his own natural ignorance and folly; and embrace that Gospel, which the wisdom of the world proudly and vainly derides as foolishness, if he desire to approve himself really and substantially wise, and to reap at last the honours and rewards of those, who are truly so, in the sight of God. For all the boasted wisdom of this world is foolishness with God; who with one glance sees through all its vanity; as it is written, (Job v. 13) He entangleth the wise in their own crafty artifice; often ruining them by those designs, which they had formed with the utmost efforts of human policy, and were most intent upon executing. And again it is said, elsewhere, Psalm xciv. 11, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise that they are vain. He sees how they ensnare themselves in their own subtleties; and, when they think themselves most sagacious, are only amused with their own sophistry and deceit."
This paraphrase expresses, exactly, my own views concerning these declarations of St. Paul : declarations, which appear to me to be continually, and abundantly, verified by experience. No man is in the way to true wisdom, who does not first become, in the Apostle's sense, a fool; that is, who has not a just and affecting consciousness of his own ignorance and weakness, his utter inability to devise a system of Religion, or to amend that, which God has taught; and who is not altogether willing to submit his own opinions to the dictates of Inspiration.
Concerning the text it will be only necessary to observe, that the word dadogiques, translated thoughts, is properly rendered reasonings; and that the word, translated the wise, is oopwv; denoting the learned men of Greece, and ultimately of other countries, most usually called Philosophers. The reasonings of these men, as the Apostle proves from the Scriptures of the Old Testament, are in the sight of God vain ; or utterly incapable of accomplishing the end, to which they were then chiefly directed; viz. the formation and establishment of a sound Theological system.
What was true of these men in ancient times is equally true of men of the same sort in every age. Modern wise men are no more able to perform this work than ancient ones. Hence, the proposition in the text is written in the absolute, or universal form; and extends this character to the reasonings of all men, employed either in making systems of Theology, or in amending that, which is revealed by God.
Of the truth of this declaration experience has furnished the most abundant evidence. The great body of such systems, including all, which have been originally devised by man, and which have existed long enough to be thoroughly examined, have been successively exploded; and, as objects of belief, forgotten. Those, which have been devised for the purpose of amending the Scriptural system, have been generally of the same frail and perishing character. Some of them, however, under the wing of that divine authority, which by their abetters was supposed to shelter them; and under the garb of sacredness which was lent them by their inventers; have lasted longer, and been more frequently revived. New forms have in the latter case been given to them; new arguments suggested in their behalf; and the splendour of new and respectable names has been employed to recommend them to mankind. After all, their existence and their influence, have been generally limited by bounds comparatively narrow.
From the nature of the subject the same truth is completely evident. Theology is the science of the will of God concerning the duty, and destination, of man. What the will of God is concerning these subjects cannot possibly be known, unless he is pleased to disclose it. That it is disclosed by him in the works of Creation and Providence in a very imperfect degree, and that it cannot be discovered by man beyond that degree, must be admitted by every one, who would make even a plausible pretension to good sense, or candour. All that remains undiscovered in this way, must be unknown, unless revealed by the good pleasure of God. When thus revealed, it can never be safely added to, diminished, nor otherwise in any maner altered, by man. To him, whatever God is pleased to withhold must be unknown. By him, whatever God is pleased to reveal must be unalterable, either as to form or substance; for no authority, less than infinite, can change that, which infinite authority has been pleased to establish. As, therefore, the Scriptural System of Theology could not have been invented by man; so neither can it possibly be amended by man. In the strong, but accurately just, language of St. Paul on this subject, Let God be acknowledged to be true; but let every man, who denies, or opposes, what he has revealed, be accounted a liar. Or in the still stronger language of the same Apostle, Though an angel from heaven preach any other Gospel, let him be anathema.
Among the various denominations of men, denoted in the text by the wise, whose reasonings are vain, are included, so far as I can discern, the Arians and Socinians; or, as both sometimes choose to term. themselves, Unitarians. I feel myself obliged to warn my audience, that this name however, contains in itself an error ; and appears to have been formed with a design to deceive. It was professedly assumed for the purpose of challenging to those, who assumed it, the exclusive character, among Christians, of believing in the Unity of God; and of denying particularly, that Trinitarians entertain this belief: whereas Trinitarians believe in the Unity of God as entirely, and absolutely, as their opposers. That every Trinitarian asserts this of himself, every Unitarian, possessing a very moderate share of information, knows; and he knows also, that the charge of admitting more Gods than one cannot be fastened upon the Trinitarian; except by consequences, professedly derived from his doctrine, which he utterly disclaims. To prove, that such consequences do indeed follow from it, is, if it can be done, altogether fair, and unobjectionable; but to charge him with admitting them, while he utterly disclaims them, is unworthy of a disputant, assuming the character of a Christian.
For the assertion, which I have made above, concerning the Unilarians, generally, I am bound to give my reasons. This I intend to do without disguise, or softening; but at the same time with moderation and candour. My observations I shall distribute under two heads: Answers to the Objections of the Unitarians against the doctrine of the Trinity; and Objections to the Doctrine of Unitarians, and to their Conduct in managing the controversy. It will not be supposed, that under either of these heads very numerous, or very minute, articles can find a place in such a system of discourses. All, that can be attempted, is to exhibit a summary view of such particulars, as are plainly of serious importance.
In the present discourse, it is my design to answer the principal objections of Unitarians against the doctrine of the Trinity. Of these the
1st. And as I conceive, the fundamental one, on which their chief reliance is placed, is, That the doctrine of the Trinity, or of Three Persons in One God, is self-contradictory.
This objection, therefore, merits a particular answer,
selves in such language as the following: The Father, according to the Trinitarian doctrine, is God; The Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. Here are three, each of whom is God. Three cannot be One, three units cannot be one unit. Were this objection made professedly, as it is actually, against the inconsistency of Tritheism with the unity of God, it would be valid and unanswerable. Equally valid would it be against the Trinitarians, if they admitted the existence of three Gods; or if their doctrine involved this as a consequence. But the former of these is not true; and the latter has not been, and, it is presumed, cannot be, shown. Until it shall be shown, every Trinitarian must necessarily feel, that this objection is altogether inapplicable to his own case; and, although intended against his faith is really aimed against another, and very distant object. Until this be shown, this objection will, I apprehend, be completely avoided in the following manner.
ist. The admission of three infinitely perfect Beings does not at all imply the existence of more Gods than one.
This proposition may, perhaps, startle such persons, on both sides of the question, as have not turned their attention to the subject; but can, I apprehend, be nevertheless, shown to be true. It is clearly certain that the nature, the attributes, the views, the volitions, and the agency of three Beings, infinitely perfect, must be exactly the same. They would, alike, be self-existent, eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, and possessed of the same boundless moral excellence. Of course, they would think exactly the same things, choose the same things, and do the same things. There would, therefore, be a perfect oneness of character and conduct in the
and to the universe of creatures they would sustain but one and the same Relation; and be absolutely but one Creator, Preserver, Benefactor, Ruler, and Final Cause. In other words they would be absolutely One God. This radical objection, therefore, is, even in this sense, of no validity.
2dly. The Doctrine of the Trinity does not involve the existence of Three Infinite Beings; and therefore this objection does not afThe Scriptural account of Jehovah, as received by every
Trinitarian, is, that He is one perfect Existence, underived and unlimited ; and that this one perfect Existence is in the Scriptures declared to be, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. These, in the usual language of Trinitarians, are styled Persons, because, in the Scriptures, the three personal pronouns, I, Thou, and He, are on every proper occasion applied to them. As this is done by the Father and the Son, speaking to each other, and of the Holy Ghost; and by the Holy Ghost, speaking of the Father and of the Son; we are perfectly assured, that this language is in the strictest sense proper. Still, no Trinitarian supposes, that the word, Person, conveys an adequate idea of the thing here intended: much less that, when it is applied to God, it denotes the same thing, as when