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Add to this, that if man is to be trained up to a knowledge of God here, in order to be admitted to “ see God as he is,” in the life that shall be hereafter; it seems highly requisite that he should know at least how many and what Persons stand in that character, that by his acquaintance with them now, in such measure as is proper to this state, he may attract such love and esteem for them here, as may prepare him for the fuller vision and fruition of the same hereafter. Thus far I have presumed to plead, from the very nature and reason of the thing itself. But to this I must add,
2. That this reasoning is abundantly confirmed, from the concern that God hath shewn to imprint and inculcate this so necessary and saving belief upon us. I shall not here cite the many texts of Scripture bearing testimony to the Divinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and engaging us to place our hope, trust, and confidence in them all, and to pay our worship to them. This would be too large a task, and is a work more proper for a divinity chair than for the pulpit. But I shall single out two or three considerations appearing to me of great force ; leaving you at leisure to consult the Scriptures themselves, for the many and plain testimonies of the Divinity of the three Persons.
You will observe, that as soon as ever our Lord had given his disciples commission to form a church, he instructs them to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
This was the one short and important lesson to be first instilled and inculcated into the new converts through every nation. From whence we may justly infer, that the faith in these three Persons as Divine, in opposition to all the gods of the Gentiles, was to be the fundamental article of Christianity, the distinguishing character of the true religion. Such care has been taken to impress the belief of the ever blessed Trinity upon the minds of all Christ's disciples.
Another thing I would observe, not so obvious perhaps as the former, but not less worthy of notice; and that is, how the whole scheme and frame of the Divine dispensations seem purposely calculated to introduce men gradually into the knowledge of these three Persons. This appears all the way down from the fall of Adam, to the completion and perfection of all by the descent of the Holy Ghost. One might justly wonder why man, created after God's image, should be so soon suffered to fall; and why, after his fall, such a vast preparation, such a long train
should be laid for his recovery, that there should be no way for it but by means of a Redeemer to mediate, to intercede, to suffer for him, to raise and restore him, and at length to judge him. Why might not the thing have been done in a much shorter and easier way? Why might not God the Father (so graciously disposed towards all his creatures) have singly had the honour of pardoning, restoring, raising, and judging mankind? Or supposing both the Father and Son joined in the work, why should it be still left, as it were, un finished and incomplete, though in the hands of both, without the concurrence of the Holy Ghost ? Can any doubt be made, whether God the Father singly was able or willing to do all that the Holy Ghost has done for us ; to work miracles, to shed gifts, to sanctify and purify man's nature, and to qualify him for the enjoyment of God? These things must appear strange and unaccountable, full of darkness and impenetrable mystery.
But our wonder ceases as soon as we consider that mankind were to be gradually let into the knowledge of three Divine Persons, and not one only; that we were to be equally obliged to every one of them, that so we might be trained up to place our love, our fear, and trust in all, and pay acknowledgments suitable to their high quality and perfections. This is the reason of that long train and vast preparation in man's redemption : and with this view, there appear so many characters of consummate wisdom all the way, that nothing can furnish us with a more charming and august idea of the Divine dispensations from first to last. Consider but a little our Lord's conduct, when he was going to take his leave of his disciples, and what he said to them upon that occasion: “It is expedient,” says he, “ for you, that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter “ will not come unto you ; but if I depart, I will send him unto
you 8.” And in another place, “ I will pray the Father, and " he shall send you another Comforter, that he may abide with Son could do, by their constant presence with them? But the reason of the whole procedure is very plain and manifest. The Holy Ghost, the third Person of the ever blessed Trinity, was to be introduced with advantage, to do as great and single things for mankind, as either Father or Son had done; that so he likewise might partake of the same Divine honours, and share with them in glory: and thus Father, Son, and Holy Ghost might be acknowledged as one God, blessed for ever.
you for ever h.” What is the meaning of this ? Could the disciples want any other comforter, when he had told them, in the same chapter, that he himself and the Father should come and make their abode with them i; and when he had determined himself to be with them “alway, even to the end of the world k," what occasion could they have for any other comforter? Or what comforter could do more or greater things than the Father and
& John xvi. 7.
h John xiv. 16.
i John xiv. 23
k Matt. xxviii. 20.
It can never be imagined that an all-wise God, jealous of his honour, and strictly prohibiting all creature worship, would ever have laid such a scheme as has been laid to magnify two creatures, and to raise them to such a height of honour and dignity, as to be made partakers of that glory and worship which can be due to God only. No, certainly ; the Son and the Holy Ghost are no creatures, but strictly Divine, and of the same true and eternal Godhead with the Father himself. In this faith was the Church founded; in this faith have the renowned martyrs and confessors of old lived and died; in the same faith are all the churches of the Christian world instructed and edified at this day. Let it therefore be the especial care and concern of every one here present, to continue firm, steadfast, and unshaken in this faith; and never to be moved from it by the “ disputers of this world ;" who are permitted for a while to gainsay and oppose it, for a trial and exercise to others, that “ they which are approved may “ be made manifest.” Persevere in paying all honour, worship, and praise to the three blessed Persons; knowing how great and how Divine they are, and how securely they may be confided in. And let the intimate union they have one with another put us in mind of that brotherly love and union which ought to be among Christians; that we may become, as it were, one heart and one soul, knit together in one faith, in the unity of the spirit, and the bond of peace.
So may the “
grace of our Lord Jesus “ Christ," and the love of God the Father," and the “ com“munion of the Holy Ghost," be with us all evermore.
PREACHED AT THE
CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF ST. PAUL,
RIGHT HON. THE LORD MAYOR,
ALDERMEN, AND CITIZENS OF LONDON,
On Wednesday, May 29, 1723.
Being the Anniversary Day of Thanksgiving for the
Eccles. vii. 14.
In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity con
sider : God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him. THE words which I have here cited are in some measure
obscure, and of doubtful meaning ; which is no fault of the translation, since the original itself is here also ambiguous, and fairly capable of more meanings than one.
Our translators have left a latitude in their version of the place, not taking upon them to determine the sense where the generality of the expression in the original had left it undetermined ; lest they should thereby forestall the reader's judgment, and make a comment instead of a translation. A safe and prudent rule in translations, to leave a text in the same doubtful state wherein it was found; rather than to fix and determine it
to a certain meaning, upon uncertain conjectures. It may be left to commentators, whose proper business it is, to point out some determinate sense for a reader to fix upon : and if it be not certainly the true sense, yet if it be a good sense, and as probable as any other, it may very well pass for the true one, till a truer can be found.
Now as to the text before us, the first words of it, “ In the “ day of prosperity be joyful,” have no difficulty: the sense is plain and obvious, and thus far interpreters are agreed. The next clause, “ but in the day of adversity consider,” may well enough bear to be changed into this; but consider also the day of adversity; that is, look backwards or forwards to the day of adversity ; as being that which went before, and may also ensue upon the day of prosperity : for God hath set the one over against the other; so I render this clause, (instead of God also hath “ set,” &c.) the better to preserve the connection and coherence of one part with another. The last words of the text are the most obscure of any, and capable of divers meanings ; “ to the “ end that man should find nothing after him.” I shall not trouble you with a tedious recital of the several constructions put upon them by different interpreters; some referring the words, after him, to man, the nearest antecedent ; and others, I think rightly, to God, the more remote. Instead of the words, “ to the end that man should find nothing after him,” I should rather choose another rendering, which the words of the original will very well bear, and which makes the sense more natural and coherent ; in such a way (order, or method) that man can find nothing after him: nothing after God, nothing to correct or justly complain of. The whole verse then may, I conceive, be thus rightly paraphrased.
“ In the day of prosperity be joyful, receiving and enjoying the “ blessings of Heaven with thankfulness and cheerfulness; but “ consider also the day of adversity, as what went before, or may
again return: for God hath set the one over against the other, in “ such a way; he hath so mingled and tempered prosperity and
adversity together, and hath so exactly balanced one with the “ other, that no man, after him, can find any thing to correct or
complain of with any reason ; nothing wiser or better can be “ contrived or thought on, for the due government of the moral “ world, after what uperring wisdom has once fixed and settled.”
The text, thus understood, will lead me to discourse upon the