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SECT. II.

THE DOCTRINE OF A TRIUNE GOD INCOMPREHENSIBLE

AND IRRATIONAL.

I am well assured, that God, who made our faculties, will never offer any thing to us to believe that upon close debate does plainly contradict them. - HENRY MORE.

§ 1. THIS DOGMA, NO LESS THAN TRANSUBSTANTIATION, OPPOSED TO

COMMON SENSE.

Indeed, that Transubstantiation is openly and violently against natural reason is no argument to make them disbelieve it who believe the mystery of the Trinity in all those niceties of explication which are in the school (and which now-a-days pass for the doctrine of the church), with as much violence to the principles of natural and supernatural philosophy as can be imagined to be in the point of Transubstantiation. - JEREMY TAYLOR: Liberty of Prophesying, sect. xx. 16.

On another passage, of a similar character, in JEREMY TAYLOR'S works, COLERIDGE, in his “Literary Remains" (Works, vol. v. p. 229), says, “ It is most dangerous, and, in its distant consequences, subversive of all Christianity, to admit, as TAYLOR does, that the doctrine of the Trinity is at all against, or even above, human reason in any other sense than as eternity and Deity itself are above it.” Undoubtedly, the prelate's admission would be “subversive of all Christianity,” if a Trinity of co-equal persons in one God were proved to be a Christian doctrine; but this, in our opinion, never has been, and never will be, proved.

I was half converted to Transubstantiation by TILLOTSON'S common senses against it; seeing clearly that the same grounds, totidem verbis et syllabis, would serve the Socinian against all the mysteries of Christianity. — S. T. COLERIDGE: Lit. Remains ; Works, vol. v. p. 333.

But, my brethren, as I before hinted, are we safe in at all admitting this principle of contradiction to the law of nature, of apparent violation of philosophical principles, as a means of interpreting Scripture ? What, I will ask, becomes of all mystery? ... What becomes of that very mystery which we observed FABER put in a parallel with that of Transubstantiation when he commented upon this argument? What becomes of the Trinity? What becomes of the incarnation of our Saviour ? What of his birth from a virgin ? — and, in short, what of every mystery of the Christian religion? Who will pretend to say, that he can, by any stretch of his imagination or of his reason, see how, by possibility, three persons in one God can be but one Godhead? If the contradiction, the apparent contradiction, to the laws of nature, is so easily received, without being understood by us here, is it to be a principle for rejecting another doctrine as clearly laid down in Scripture ? and if the doctrine of the Eucharist, which is even more plainly expressed than it, is to be rejected on such a ground, how is it possible for one moment to retain the other? Its

very
idea

appears, at first sight, repugnant to every law of number; and no philosophical, mathematical, or speculative reasoning will ever show how it possibly can be. You are content, therefore, to receive this important dogma, shutting your eyes, as you should do, to its incomprehensibility: you are content to believe it, because the revelation of it from God was confirmed by the authority of antiquity; and therefore, if you wish not to be assailed on it by the same form of reasoning and arguments as you use against us, you must renounce this method, and, simply because it comes by revelation from God, receive the real presence at once, in spite of the apparent contradiction to the senses; for He hath revealed it who hath the words of eternal life. CARDINAL WISEMAN: Lectures on the Doctrines of the Catholic Church, vol. ii. pp. 171-2.

§ 2. THE DOGMA OF A TRIUNE GOD UTTERLY INCOMPREHENSIBLE, AND

REPUGNANT TO REASON.

a

1. A Christian is one that believes things his reason cannot comprehend. ... 2. He believes three to be one, and one to be three; a Father not to be elder than his Son; a Son to be equal with his Father; and one proceeding from both to be equal with both; he believing three persons in one nature, and two natures in one person. 3. He believes a virgin to be a mother of a son, and that very son of hers to be her Maker. He believes Him to have been shut

up

in narrow room whom heaven and earth could not contain. He believes Him to have been born in time who was and is from everlasting. He believes Him to have been a weak child, carried in arms, who is the Almighty; and Him once to have died who only hath life and immortality in himself. LORD BACON: Works, vol. ii. p. 410.

The whole article consists of thirty-four “ Christian Paradoxes," so strangely expressed as to have given rise to the suspicion that they are not the genuine production of Lord BACON, and may have been written for the purpose of deriding a belief in Christianity.. But there is no doubt, that, however absurd they may appear when compared with the dictates of reason or with the teachings of the New Testament, the sentiments quoted above are quite Trinitarian in their character; and it is undeniable that BACON himself was a Trinitarian, and, with all his greatness, not entirely free from the errors of the age in which he lived. These “Paradoxes " have been esteemed so orthodox, and so full of “godly truths,” that, about the middle of the last century, they were several times republished in London as a penny tract, with a Preface by a clergyman of the name of F. Green, for the use of “the poorer sort of Christians." See note in Bacon's Works, vol. ii. p. 401.

That the great philosopher to whom we have referred was capable of penning such contradictions, is confirmed by the following remark from his De Aug. Scient., lib. ix., as quoted by Mr. Yates in Vindication of Unitarianism, p. 278, fourth edition: “ The more absurd and incredible any divine mystery is, the greater honor we do to God in believing it, and so much the more noble the victory of faith.” Well may Papists, in their defences of Transubstantiation, triumph over Protestants who adopt such principles.

This is the great mystery, Three and One, and Onę and Three. Men and angels were made for this spectacle : we cannot comprehend it, and therefore must admire it. O luminosissime Tenebræ! Light darkness. ... They were the more Three because One, and the more One because Three. Were there nothing to draw us to desire to be dissolved but this, it were enough. — DR. THOMAS MANTON: Sermons on John xvii. ; vol. ii. p. 307.

That there is one divine nature or essence, common unto three persons incomprehensibly united, and ineffably distinguished; united in essential attributes, distinguished by peculiar idioms and relations; all equally infinite in every divine perfection, each different from other in order and manner of subsistence; that there is a mutual inexistence. of one in 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 succession, 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 essence, these are notions which may well puzzle our reason in conceiving how they agree, but should not stagger our faith in assenting that they are true; upon which we should meditate, not with hope to comprehend, but with dispositions to admire, veiling our faces in the presence, and prostrating our reason at the feet, of wisdom so far transcending us. DR. ISAAC BARROW : Defence of the Blessed Trinity; in Works, vol. ii. p. 150.

Methinks there be not impossibilities enough in religion for an active faith : the deepest mysteries ours contains have not only been

illustrated, but maintained, by syllogism and the rule of reason. I love to lose myself in a mystery, -- to pursue my reason to an O altitudo! 'Tis my solitary recreation to pose my apprehension with those involved enigmas and riddles of the Trinity, incarnation, and resurrection. I can answer all the objections of Satan and my rebellious reason with that.odd resolution I learned of TERTULLIAN, “ Certum est quia impossibile est” [It is certain because impossible). I desire to exercise my faith in the difficultest point; for to credit ordinary and visible objects is not faith, but persuasion. ... This, I think, is no vulgar part of faith, to believe a thing not only above, but contrary to, reason, and against the arguments of our proper senses. . There is no attribute that adds more difficulty to the mystery of the Trinity, where, though in a relative way of Father and Son, we must deny a priority. SIR THOMAS BROWNE: Religio Medici, sects. 9, 10, 12; in Works, vol. ii. pp. 332, 334-5.

Referring to the “ Ultrafidianism” of this learned physician, as COLERIDGE expresses it, Archbishop TILLOTSON, in Ser. 194 (Works, vol. x. 180), makes the following very sensible remark: “I know not what some men may find in theinselves; but I must freely acknowledge that I could never yet attain to that bold and hardy degree of faith as to believe any thing for this reason, because it was impossible."

I ever did, and ever shall, look upon those apprehensions of God to be the truest, whereby we apprehend him to be the most incomprehensible, and that to be the most true of God which seems most impossible unto us. Upon this ground, therefore, it is that the mysteries of the gospel, which I am less able to conceive, I think myself the more obliged to believe ; especially this mystery of mysteries, the Trinity in Unity, and Unity in Trinity, which I am so far from being able to comprehend, or indeed to apprehend, that I cannot set myself seriously to think of it, or to screw up my thoughts a little concerning it, but I immediately lose myself as in a trance or ecstasy. That God the Father should be one perfect God of himself, God the Son one perfect God of himself, and God the Holy Ghost one perfect God of himself; and yet that these three should be but one perfect God of himself, so that one should be perfectly three, and three perfectly one; that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost should be three, and yet but one; but one, and yet three, - oh heart-amazing, thought-devour-. ing, unconceivable mystery! Who cannot believe it to be true of the glorious Deity ? BISHOP BEVERIDGE: Private Thoughts on Religion, Art. III. pp. 52–3.

For that any one should be both Father and Son to the same person [to David), produce himself, be cause and effect too, and so the copy give being to its original, seems at first sight so very strange and unaccountable, that, were it not to be adored as a mystery, it would be exploded as a contradiction. — DR. R. SOUTH: Sermons, vol. ii. p. 240.

. The doctrine of the Communication of Properties is as intelligible as if one were to say that there is a circle which is so united with a triangle, that the circle has the properties of the triangle, and the triangle those of the circle. — LE CLERC, apud Rev. J. H. Thom.

The revelation of it (the blessed Trinity] is, ... I conceive, an absolute demonstration of its truth; because it is a mystery which by nature could not possibly have entered into the imagination of man.

Faith in these [mysteries] is more acceptable to God than faith in less abstruse articles of our religion, because it pays that honor which is due to his testimony; and the more seemingly incredible the matter is which we believe, the more respect we show to the relater of it.- DR. EDW. YOUNG: Letter on Infidelity; Works, vol. ii. p. 14.

Objections have likewise been raised to the divine authority of this religion from the incredibility of some of its doctrines, particularly of those concerning the Trinity, and atonement for sin by the sufferings and death of Christ; the one contradicting all the principles of human reason, and the other all our ideas of divine justice. . . . That three Beings should be one Being, is a proposition which certainly contradicts reason, that is, our reason; but it does not from thence follow, that it cannot be true; for there are many propositions which contradict our reason, and yet are demonstrably true. SOAME JENYNS : View of the Internal Evidence of the Christ. Religion, pp. 134–5.

If, as we believe, a Triune God and other kindred doctrines were not taught by Jesus and his apostles, one of the strongest arguments for the rejection of Christianity would be annihilated; and our holy religion, when found to be perfectly compatible with the highest reason, would draw the respect, if not the unqualified assent and submission, of every thoughtful and inquiring mind.

In this awfully stupendous manner, at which Reason stands aghast, and Faith herself is half confounded, was the grace of God to man at length manifested. - BISHOP HURD: Sermons preached at Lincoln's Inn, vol. i. (Sermon 17), p. 287.

Bishop HURD here refers to the incarnation of what he calls “ the second person in the glorious Trinity," and to the atonement made by him.

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