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A Defence of the Blessed Trinity.
TRINITY SUNDAY, 1663,
Φύσει μεν άπας λόγος σαθρός και ευκίνητος, και δια τον αντιμαχόμενον λόγον ελευθερίαν ουκ έχων και δε περί Θεού τοσούτω μάλλον, όσο μείζον το υποκείμενον, και ο ζήλος πλείων, και ο κίνδυνος χαλεπώτερος και γαρ νοήσαι χαλεπόν, και έρμηνεύσαι αμήχανον, και ακοής κεκαθαρμένης επιτυχεϊν έργωdisepov. Greg. Naz. Orat, 26.
Col. iii, 2,
Set your affections on things above*.
particulars must be considered ; first the act, XXI. ppoveis (which is rendered to set aur affections), then the abject, på dyw, things above; these we briefly Thall explain.
The word proveïy doth primarily, and also according to common üle, denote an advertency, or intent application of the mind upon any object : of the mind, that is, of a man's foul, efpecially of its rational part; fo as to include the powers of underftanding,
SER M. will, affection, activity ; whence it may imply direc
tion of our understanding to know ; of our will to choose and embrace; of our affection to love, desire, relish ; of our activity to pursue any good (real or apparent) which is propoled: according to which most comprehensive sense (suiting the nature of the thing) I do take the word, supposing that St. Paul doth enjoin us to employ all our mental faculties in study, choice, passion, endeavour upon supernal things.
The ta žvw (things above) may be so taken, as to import all things relating to our spiritual life here, or our future state hereafter ; the which do either actually fubfist above in heaven, or have a final reference thither : so they may comprise, 1. The substantial beings, to whom we stand related, owe respect, perform duty. 2. The state and condition of our spiritual life here, or hereafter, as we are fervants and subjects of God, citizens of heaven, candidates of immortal happiness. 3. Rules to be obferved, qualities to be acquired, actions to be performed, means to be used by us in regard to the superior place and state.
Of these things the incomparably principal and supreme, the tò un spaćiw, is the ever most glorious and blessed Trinity ; to the minding of which this day is peculiarly dedicated, and the which indeed is always the most excellent, most beneficial, most comfortable object of our contemplation and affection; wherefore upon it I shall now immediately fix
The sacred Trinity may be considered, either as it is in itself wrapt up in unexplicable folds of mystery; or as it hath discovered itself operating in wonderful methods of grace towards us.
As it is in itself, it is an object too bright and dazzling for our weak eye to fasten upon, an abyss 100 deep for our short reason to fathom : I can only faj, that we are so bound to mind it, as to exercise
our faith, and express our humility, in willingly be-S ER M. lieving, in submislively adoring those high mysteries XXI. which are revealed in the holy oracles concerning it, by that Spirit itself, wbich searcheth the depths of God, and by that only Son of God, who residing in his Father's bosom, hath thence brought them forth, and expounded them to us, so far as was fit for our ca- 'Extīvas ignpacity and use : and the lectures to read by the eter-Johni: 18. nal wisdom of God, the propofitions uttered by the mouth of truth itself, we are obliged with a docile ear, and a credulous heart, to entertain.
That there is one Divine Nature or Essence, common unto three persons incomprehensibly united, and ineffably distinguished ; united in effential attributes, distinguished by peculiar idioms and relations ; all equally infinite in every divine perfection, each different from other in order and manner of subfistence; that there is a mutual inexistence of one in John x. 38. all, and all in one ; a communication without
any deprivation or diminution in the communicant ; an eternal generation, and an eternal procession, without precedence or succeslion, without proper causality or dependence; a Father imparting his own, and the Son receiving his Father's life, and a Spirit issuing from both, without any division, or multiplication of effence : these are notions which may well puzzle our reason in conceiving how they agree, but Ihould not stagger our faith in afsenting that they are true; upon which we should meditate, not with hope to comprehend, but with disposition to admire, veiling our faces in the presence, and prostrating our reason at the feet of wisdom so far transcending us.
There be those, who, because they cannot untie, dare to cut in sunder these sacred knots; who, because they cannot fully, conceive it, dare flatly to deny them; who, instead of confessing their own infirmity, do charge the plain doctrines and assertions of holy Scripture with impossibility. Others seem to think they can demonstrate these mysteries by
xiv. 10. xvii. 21.
SE R M. arguments grounded upon principles of natural light; xxi. and express it by fimilitudes derived from common
experience. To repress the presumption of the former, and to restrain the curiosity of the latter, the following considerations (improved by your thoughts) may perhaps somewhat conduce.
1. We may consider, that our reason is no competent or capable judge concerning propositions of this nature; Our breast (as Minutius fpeaketh) is a narrow vesel, that will not hold much understanding *; it is not sufficient, nor was ever designed to sound such depths, to descry the radical principles of all being, to reach the extreme possibilities of things. Such an intellectual capacity is vouchsafed to us as doth suit to our degree (the lowest rank of intelligent creatures), as beconieth our station in this inferior part of the world, as may qualify us to discharge the petty busineffes committed to our management, and the facile duties incumbent on us : but to know what God is *, how he fubfifteth, what he can, what he should do, by our natural perspicacity, or by any means we can use, farther than he pleaseth to reveal, doth not suit to the meanness of our condition, or the narrowness of our capacity; these really are the most elevated sublimities, and the abftrufelt subtilties that are, or can be, in the nature of things: he that can penetrate them, may erect his tribunal any where in the world, and pretend justly that nothing in heaven or earth is exempted from his judg. ment. But in truth, how unfit our reason is to exercise such universal jurisdiction, we may discern by comparing it to our sense; it is obvious that many beasts do (by advantage of a finer sense) see, hear, imell things imperceptible to us : and were it not very unreasonable to conclude that such things do
* Nobis ad intellectum pectus angustum est, &c. Min. Felix.
+ Τον μεν έν ποιητών, και πατέρα τέδε τα παντός ευμεϊν το έργον, και ευρόντα εις πάντας αδύνατον λέγειν. Ρlato in Τim. .
not exist, or are in themselves altogether insensible, S E R M. because they do not at all appear to us? Is it not xxi. evident, that we ought to impute their imperceptibility (respecting us) to the defect of our sense, to its dulness and grossness, in regard to the subtilty of those obje&s? Even so may propositions in themselves, and in regard to the capacity of higher understandings (for there' are gradual differences in understanding, as well as in sense) be true and very intelligible, which to our inferior reason seem unina telligible, or repugnant to the prenotions with which our foul is imbued ; and our not discerning those truths, may argue the blindness and weakness of our understanding, not any fault or inconsistency in the things themselves; nor should it cause us any wise to distrust them, if they come recommended to our belief by competent authority.
To such purposes indeed the holy Scripture frequently doth vilify our reason and knowledge: Every Jer. %. 14. man, faith Jeremiah, is brutish in knowledge. The Psal. cii. Lord, faith the Pfalmist, knoweth the thoughts of men "Cor. iii. (of wise men, as St. Paul quoteth it), that they are va-20. nity. Vain man, faith he in Job, would be wise, though. Job xi. 12. man be born like a wild afs's colt; that is, however we affect to seem wise, yet to be dull as an ass, to be wild as a colt, is natural to us. My thoughts (saith Ila. Iv.8,9. God in the Prophet) are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways : For as the heavens are higher than the earth, jo are my ways than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. God's wisdom is as the heavens, the highest and top of all wisdom; man's as the earth, 'beneath which there is no degree, but that of hell and darkness : we therefore in this respect are unfit to determine concerning things ro exceedingly sublime and subtile.
2. We may consider, that not only the imperfection of our reason itself, but the manner of using it doth incapacitate us to judge about these matters. Had we competent skill to fail in this deep ocean,