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desires to be known by this attribute to the whole world ; He is the Lord God gracious and merciful, and publicly declares that His mercy rejoices over judgment. And therefore the rainbow is placed about the throne, to signify to us that God is always mindful of His gracious covenant made with mankind; and that in the midst of justice He remembers mercy.
Of the pulpit performances of the Dean of St Patrick's only three specimens survive. The following sermon was a special favourite with Dr Chalmers, and he used to read it to his class as a good example of plain sense and downrightness, as well as of a wise forbearance, brought to the treatment of a difficult subject. The text is 1 John v. 7.
Except to the lovers of morbid mental anatomy, the history of Jonathan Swift is not an attractive subject. Those who wish to study it will find abundant materials in his numerous biographers and critics, from Dr Johnson down to Sir Walter Scott and Mr Thackeray.
On the Trinity. This day being set apart to acknowledge our belief in the Eternal Trinity, I thought it might be proper to employ my present discourse entirely upon that subject; and I hope to handle it in such a manner that the most ignorant among you may return home better informed of your duty in this great point than probably you are at present.
It must be confessed, that by the weakness and indiscretion of busy (or, at best, of well-meaning) people, as well as by the malice of those who are enemies to all revealed religion, and are not content to possess their own infidelity in silence, without communicating it to the disturbance of mankind; I say, by these means, it must be confessed, that the doctrine of the
Trinity hath suffered very much, and made Christianity suffer along with it. For these two things must be granted : First, That men of wicked lives would be very glad there were no truth in Christianity at all; and, secondly, If they can pick out any one single article in the Christian religion which appears not agreeable to their own corrupted reason, or to the arguments of those bad people who follow the trade of seducing others, they presently conclude, that the truth of the whole gospel must sink along with that one article; which is just as wise as if a man should say, because he dislikes one law of his country, he will therefore observe no law at all. And yet that one law may be very reasonable in itself, although he doth not allow it, or doth not know the reason of the lawgivers.
Thus it hath happened with the great doctrine of the Trinity; which word is indeed not in Scripture, but was a term of art invented in the earlier times to express the doctrine by a single word for the sake of brevity and convenience. The doctrine then, as delivered in Holy Scripture, although not exactly in the same words, is very short, and amounts only to this That the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are each of them God, and yet that there is but one God. For, as to the word person, when we say there are three persons, and as to those other explanations in the Athanasian creed this day read to you (whether compiled by Athanasius or no), they were taken up three hundred years after Christ to expound this doctrine; and I will tell you upon what occasion. About that time there sprang up a heresy of a people called Arians, from one Arius the leader of them. These denied our Saviour to be God, although they allowed all the rest of the gospel (wherein they were more sincere than their followers among us). Thus the Christian world was divided into two parts, until at length, by the zeal and courage of Saint Athanasius, the Arians were condemned in a general council, and a creed formed upon the true faith, as Saint Athanasius hath settled it. This creed is now
read at certain times in our churches, which, although it is useful for edification to those who understand it, yet, since it containeth some nice and philosophical points which few people can comprehend, the bulk of mankind is obliged to believe no more than the Scripture doctrine, as I have delivered it. Because that creed was intended only as an answer to the Arians in their own way, who were very subtle disputers.
But this heresy having revived in the world about an hundred years ago, and continued ever since—not out of a zeal to truth, but to give a loose to wickedness by throwing off all religion-several divines, in order to answer the cavils of those adversaries to truth and morality, began to find out further explanations of this doctrine of the Trinity by rules of philosophy, which have multiplied controversies to such a degree as to beget scruples that have perplexed the minds of many sober Christians, who otherwise could never have entertained them.
I must therefore be so bold as to affirm, that the method taken by many of those learned men to defend the doctrine of the Trinity has been founded upon a mistake.
It must be allowed that every man is bound to follow the rules and directions of that measure of reason which God hath given him; and indeed he cannot do otherwise if he will be sincere, or act like a man. For instance, if I should be commanded by an angel from heaven to believe it is midnight at noonday, yet I could not believe him. So, if I were directly told in Scripture that three are one and one is three, I could not conceive or believe it in the natural common sense of that expression, but must suppose that something dark or mystical was meant, which it pleased God to conceal from me and from all the world. Thus, in the text, “ There are three that bear record,” &c., am I capable of knowing and defining what union and what distinction there may be in the Divine nature? which possibly may be hid from the angels themselves. Again, I see it plainly declared in Scripture that there is but one God, and
yet I find our Saviour claiming the prerogative of God in knowing men's thoughts, in saying He and His father are one, and “ Before Abraham was, I am.” I read that the disciples worshipped Him; that Thomas said to Him, “My Lord and my God.” And St John, chap. i.—“In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” I read likewise, that the Holy Ghost bestowed the gift of tongues and the power of working miracles, which, if rightly considered, is as great a miracle as any, that a number of illiterate men should of a sudden be qualified to speak all the languages then known in the world, such as could be done by the inspiration of God alone. From these several texts it is plain that God commandeth us to believe there is a union and there is a distinction; but what that union, or what that distinction is, all mankind are equally ignorant, and must continue so, at least till the day of judgment, without some new revelation.
Therefore I shall again repeat the doctrine of the Trinity, as it is positively affirmed in Scripture: That God is there expressed in three different names, as Father, as Son, and as Holy Ghost; that each of these is God, and that there is but one God. But this union and distinction are a mystery utterly unknown to mankind.
This is enough for any good Christian to believe on this great article, without ever inquiring any further : and this can be contrary to no man's reason, although the knowledge of it is hid from him.
But there is another difficulty of great importance among those who quarrel with the doctrine of the Trinity, as well as with several other articles of Christianity; which is, that our religion abounds in mysteries, and these they are so bold to revile as cant, imposture, and priestcraft. It is impossible for us to determine for what reasons God thought fit to communicate some things to us in part, and leave some part a mystery. But so it is in fact, and so the Holy Scripture tells us in
several places. For instance: The resurrection and change of our bodies are called mysteries by Saint Paul; our Saviour's
; incarnation is another: The Kingdom of God is called a mystery by our Saviour, to be only known to His disciples; so is faith, and the Word of God by Saint Paul: I omit many others. So, that to declare against all mysteries without distinction or exception, is to declare against the whole tenor of the New Testament.
There are two conditions that may bring a mystery under suspicion. First, when it is not taught and commanded in Holy Writ; or, secondly, when the mystery turns to the advantage of those who preach it to others. Now, as to the first, it can never be said, that we preach mysteries without warrant from Holy Scripture, although I confess this of the Trinity may have sometimes been explained by human invention, which might perhaps better have been spared. As to the second; it will not be possible to charge the Protestant priesthood with proposing any temporal advantage to themselves by broaching or multiplying, or preaching of mysteries. Does this mystery of the Trinity, for instance, and the descent of the Holy Ghost, bring the least profit or power to the preachers? No; it is as great a mystery to themselves as it is to the meanest of their hearers; and may be rather a cause of humiliation, by putting their understanding in that point upon a level with the most ignorant of their flock. It is true, indeed, the Roman Church hath very much enriched herself by trading in mysteries, for which they have not the least authority from Scripture, and were fitted only to advance their own temporal wealth and grandeur; such as transubstantiation, worshipping of images, indulgences for sins, purgatory, and masses for the dead; with many more. But it is the perpetual taunt of those who have ill-will to our church, or a contempt for all religion, taken up by the wickedness of their lives, to charge us with the errors and corruptions of Popery, which all