PREACHED LORD’S DAY EVENING, MARCH 14, 1813,
REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN MEETING-HOUSE, CALTON, GLASGOW.
MINISTER OF THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CONGREGATION, PAISLEY.
“Paul—reasoned with them OUT OF THE SCRIPTURES,” ACTS xvii. 2.
“To the acknowledgment of the mystery of GOD, and of the FATHER, and of CHRIST,” COL. ii. 2.
Paisley: S. & A. Young,
The writer of this discourse being lately called to preach in Glasgow, was requested to give a sermon in the evening, in aid of a collection that had been made during the day, for sending occasional missions to destitute corners of the church. The subject and text were first suggested to him from hearing that a Unitarian chapel had been opened in Glasgow, and that the confession of Paul, concerning the God of his fathers, had been made the topic of discourse. Upon reading that sermon, only the week before he came to Glasgow, (certain occurrences having prevented this about the time of its publication) he found that it did not profess to treat the subject argumentatively. But he was made sorry to find so many round assertions against important and plainly revealed truth, shocked to see the worshippers of adored Trinity virtually charged with polytheism and idolatry, and much grieved on reflecting that, in the city of Glasgow, so injurious doctrines should be delivered from the pulpit, where the Divine Savior, and his great salvation, should be presented to the faith of men.
In delivering the discourse, it was not the author’s object to give a critical disquisition, but simply to exhibit some plain scriptural evidence, with a view to call the attention of his hearers unto the subject, and to excite diligence in searching the Scriptures, whether these things were so. He considered that doctrines directly subversive of the Christian faith, concerning the object of worship, has been presented from the words of Paul, with an imposing ingenuity. Taking the word heresy in its more common acceptation, in which case, it would be falsely applied unto the faith and worship of Paul, it is partly assumed that the charge of false doctrine brought against those who deny the Trinity, is equally groundless. The author of the following discourse, thought with himself: Paul surely believed and taught otherwise; and his words, on this occasion, can neither give recommendation nor authority to doctrines directly opposed to those of his own writings. He meditated and delivered the discourse, under some impression of the essential importance of the subject, but without the most remote idea of publication. It appears before the public at the request of the hearers. He is sensible that it contains only but a very abridged view of the great argument, and in the more confined view which he has taken of it, it is capable of far more ample illustration. The discourse is given nearly in the way in which it was spoken. A few things are added on the second part, which he had not time to deliver. Fully persuaded in his own mind, that the subject is inseparably connected with the ALL of our duty and hope, as Christians, the author addresses his readers in the words of Scripture: Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world. To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
ACTS XXIV. 14.
BUT THIS I CONFESS UNTO THEE, THAT AFTER THE WAY WHICH THEY CALL HERESY, SO WORSHIP I THE GOD OF MY FATHERS.
THE great Supreme is entitled to homage from all his rational children. Foundation is laid for this in the nature of God, in the natural and moral relations of man to him, and in the varied displays which the Divine Being has made of himself. Natural religion may teach us this much; but it is inadequate to give just views of the true God, or any views of his will respecting his worship. The Scriptures of inspiration reveal the one and the other; and are the only sure guides to man in presenting to God a reasonable and an acceptable service. Drawing our knowledge of God from this pure source, and learning the holy prescriptions of his will respecting his worship, we are under the highest obligations, in our hearts, and in the observance of all positive institutions, to give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name. Although the service of God, at any time, occasion inconvenience and reproach, it will be our duty, and our safety, to abide by his worship; and if brought before rulers on this account, to avow it, with a becoming humility and steadfastness, will be an honour and glory. Thus did Paul before the Roman governor.
Through the envy and rage of the Jews, a riot had been stirred up against Paul in Jerusalem; and it was with some difficulty that he was rescued from the outrage of an infuriated multitude. He was apprehended, clapt in irons, and carried to the castle. All attempts to reason in his own defence, were resisted; other endeavours to adjust the dispute were unsuccessful; and more than forty men of the Jews bound themselves with an oath, that they would not eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. To prevent the evil consequences of this wicked conspiracy, the chief captain sent Paul, under a strong military escort, unto Cæsarea, that he might be brought to a regular trial. And here, Ananias, the high priest of the Jews, with the elders, by the mouth of Tertullus a Roman barrister, preferred an accusation against Paul, before Felix. While the apostle steadily refused what was false in their accusation, he as boldly acknowledged what was true. But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers.
Paul was of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews. Without shame, he professes the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of his fathers. He was kinsman to those, whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came. By believing in Jesus he did not renounce the God of his fathers. To the fathers this Jesus had been promised. Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.[Acts 3:25.]—The apostle also confesses the worship of the God of his fathers; comprehending in it all the inward regard and veneration, that external homage, and universal obedience which are due unto God.—In witnessing this good confession, Paul’s language, after the way which they call heresy, bears directly upon the terms of the accusation, ver. 5. a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. The words rendered heresy and sect are the same word in the Greek text; and, whatever may be its acceptation in other passages, it seems here to signify a sect.*[It is so rendered Acts 26:5, &c. See Dr. Campbell’s Preliminary Dissertations to his Translation of the Gospels. Diss. Ix. Part. Iv.] A great part of the force of the charge against Paul, lay in representing him as an apostate from the Jewish religion; and the argument of his reply, lies in his professing no new deity, but the God of his fathers—embracing no novel religion, but believing in the mercy promised unto the fathers, in the law and the prophets.
The knowledge and worship of God, my Brethren, are important things; and the former lays a foundation for the latter. A total ignorance of God, or radically mistaken views of his nature and character, are incompatible with acceptable worship. May the Spirit of truth be our guide when we speak of the God of Paul’s fathers, and of the worship of that God. It shall be my object
I. To speak of the God of Paul’s fathers. Our observations on this part of the subject shall be taken, chiefly, from these two authorities. The law and the prophets, and the writings of Paul. In the former of these the apostle professes his universal belief: believing all things which are written in the law and the prophets. Allowing him only the merit of consistency with himself, by an examination of the old testament Scriptures, and his own epistles, we may ascertain who that God was in whom he believed, and whom he worshipped. Having the best authority to believe, both, that the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost;[2 Pet. 1:21; 2 Tim. 3:16.] and, that the writings of Paul are the inspiration of the Almighty,[1 Cor. 14:37; Gal. 2:12.] we have in his confession, an example for our imitation. Aiming thus, to build upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, I observe, the object whom Paul worshipped is
1. The true and living God. He is thus represented in the prophets, and by Paul himself: The LORD is the TRUE God, he is the LIVING God—Ye turned to God from idols, to serve the LIVING and TRUE God. He is the true God, as contrasted with idols which are falsehood and vanity, and the work of errors; and the living God, as exalted above molten images which are destitute of life. He is self-existent; he necessarily lives; he is life itself; and he is the source of it to all living beings: but the idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths but they speak not, eyes have they but they see not. They have ears but they hear not: neither is there any breath in their mouths.[Ps. 135:15-17; 115:3.]
It may be difficult to trace the rise of idolatry, and uncertainty may rest upon the conclusions of men respecting it; but the fact is lamentably true, that the great part of the inhabitants of the earth, in every age, have been devoted to it. To explain how men lost the knowledge of God, without having recourse to the accounts of revelation, and without acknowledging its principles concerning the origin and present condition of man, appears to be impossible. It is thought, with some probability, that the celestial bodies were the first objects of idolatrous worship. Conceiving the sun, moon, and planets, to be abodes of intermediate beings, who were thought capable of interceding with God, mankind offered worship to them. Finding that these bodies were not always visible, and not knowing how to address the supposed inhabitants in their absence, recourse was had to the invention of images; and by consecrating these, it was thought they were inhabited by the inferior deities. These images were called by the planets which they represented. Hence the names of Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, &c. which certain heavenly bodies still retain, were first ranked among the gods of the ancients.*[Prideaux’s Connection of the History of the Old and New Testament, vol. I, p. 183. Edin(burgh ed.) 1799.] These bodies, from their magnitude, splendor, and known or supposed utility, were afterwards considered to be gods; and worship was directed unto the orbs themselves, without any higher object of regard. To this account, some particular injunctions which were directed unto the fathers seem to refer: lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldst be driven to worship them.[Deut. 4:19.] In seeming allusion to this, Job says, If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness, and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand; this also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge: for I should have denied the God that is above.[Chap. 31:26-28.] Afterwards, from an excessive veneration for those who had been eminently useful, from the extravagant pride and ambition of some to immortalize their memories, and from a servile and abject flattery on the part of others, connected with the prevailing blindness of the human mind, men departed were deified and worshipped. Degenerating still farther in their views, they consecrated and worshipped beasts, and abominable creatures, and inanimate things. They directed worship unto images of these; against which the language of the second commandment seems particularly to point. In short, the heathen world has always been, as it is still, overspread with idolatry, manifesting that gross darkness covers the people; and not only exhibiting things repugnant to reason, but, in many cases, connected with cruelties and impurities, that admit not of a detail.
The high views entertained by many concerning the power of reason, to direct man in the matters of religion, receive a sorry confirmation from these facts. It appears that the knowledge of God was lost in the world, excepting what might be transmitted by tradition from the descendants of Noah and Abraham, and scattered in imperfect fragments, which mankind could neither preserve nor improve. Even the wisest of the heathens had the most obscure and erroneous conceptions respecting God. What were the sentiments of a Cicero, a Seneca, a Socrates, a Simonides or a Plato? Occasionally a thought may be found in which they seem to rise above themselves, (and it is far from being improbable that such was rather the gleaming of tradition, than the pure effort of the unassisted mind) the import of which, however, they did not understand; and the excellence of which, they were not able to support, or illustrate, but associated with ideas the most unworthy and degrading. Wiser than many of their enlightened posterity, some of the most eminent acknowledged the necessity of superior direction in the knowledge and worship of God.—And all their knowledge was ineffectual to produce impressions of a Divine Being to make them cast away their idols, and desist from that absurd idolatry in which God was so much dishonored. I shall appeal to a fact related by our apostle. It was in Athens, so greatly celebrated for its learning and arts. Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom, therefore, ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.—Forasmuch then, as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.[Acts 17:22,23,29.] I shall refer to a general statement by the same apostle, as giving the most just account of things:—When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.[Rom. 1:21-23.]
The knowledge of the true God was peculiar to the Jews, and those around them to whom their traditions and writings extended. To them he was known as the living God; revealed in his spirituality, immensity, eternity, power, and Godhead—in his wisdom, grace, and goodness; and manifested as the Creator and Preserver of the world, the Maker and Governor of man, whose glory was not to be given to another, nor his praise to graven images. This God Paul confesses before a Pagan idolater. The object of Paul’s worship is also made known, as
2. The one God. The polytheism of the heathens gives a most melancholy representation of the ignorance of mankind. The Greeks and Romans had many thousand gods. Their deities were almost countless. But that God whom Paul worshipped is ONE. And by the profession of this one God, the Jews, his fathers, were distinguished from the other nations. The apostle had read in the law, the words of the Lord: Thou shalt have NO OTHER gods before me,[Exod. 20:3.] the first commandment, the basis of all true religion and just morality, the sum of all duty. He had read the words of Moses: Hear O Israel, the LORD our God is ONE LORD.[Deut. 6:4.] He had also read the claims of the Lord in the prophets: I even I, am the Lord, and besides me there is NO Saviour. I am the first, I am the last; and besides me there is NO god. Is there a god besides me? Yea, there is NO god.[Isaiah 43:11 & 44:6,8.] And he taught the unity of God in his epistles to the churches: Though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but ONE God. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is ONE. There is ONE God, &c.[1 Cor. 8:5,6; Gal. 3:20; 1 Tim. 2:5.]
When reason pursues its inquiries into the origin of things, it may perceive the necessity of a first cause. Because something now is, something must always have been, otherwise what now is, must have risen into being without a cause. That which always was, must be distinct from the universe, exist from a necessity of nature, and cannot be supposed either not to exist, or to exist otherwise. We see, thus, a necessity for a self-existent First cause: but we are satisfied with one; we see no necessity for more. We cannot suppose two. It seems reasonable to think that infinite perfections dwell in one only; that one only can fill immensity, and be absolutely independent, eternal, and almighty; and that one only can be the first cause and last end of all things, and the object of supreme love and homage. The unity of design, and the harmony of operation in the works of God, might suggest the idea of his unity. By reasoning in this way, we might see the necessity of the existence of a God, and learn his unity. But though all this is very reasonable, it could be the attainment of few; and even when partly apprehended, it was practically insufficient to regulate the worship of men, or to preserve from the polytheism and prevailing idolatry of the world. Those who had the advantage of learning might see a folly in some parts of their idolatry; but this superior wisdom was insufficient either to reform themselves or others. We find learned and unlearned, mingling in the worship of the gods.
The Holy Scripture reveals the proper unity of God. The profession of this distinguished the Jews; and Paul here confesses, not the gods but the God of his fathers, and thus before a polytheist boldly declares the one God. We believe with Paul that there is one God, and but one God; we worship but one God; and we are persuaded that this is not inconsistent with believing also that
3. The one true and living God is revealed as having the mysterious personal subsistences of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. I contend, Brethren, that Paul believed in and worshipped a trinity of persons, for he was baptized by Ananias; and there can be no reasonable doubt that he was baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, according to the prescription of the Saviour.
In this remark it must be kept in view, that we are not discussing a question of natural theology and human reason; but a question of supernatural revelation, to which, being fully accredited, it is highly rational that our judgment and reason be in subjection. I do not enter upon the proof in general, but simply state that Paul believed in the great doctrine to which I have referred. Our appeal is not here, Brethren, to the natural notions of mankind, but to the law and the prophets, and to the writings of Paul. And the language of these authorities is to be understood in its plain and ordinary meaning, and as interpreted by the current of Scripture phraseology and doctrine. What was written aforetime, being written for our learning, and Paul’s epistles being given by inspiration of God for our instruction in righteousness, we cannot think that they were conceived in language to mislead our judgments. If we form mistaken views, it will arise from our negligence, or voluntary blindness, or false prejudices, or predominant evil passions, or from the want of an humble subjection to the authority of Holy Scripture.
The apostle, understanding through faith that the world was framed by the word of God, surely believed in the Mosaic account of the creation. He had read, in the law, concerning the formation of man: And God said let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness.[Gen. 1:26.] Taking this phraseology, in its usual acceptation, it intimates a plurality of persons in the one God. Paul could not view this as an address to angels, and believe the law and the prophets in representing creation as the proper work of God: With whom took he counsel? I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens ALONE; that spreadeth abroad the earth BY MYSELF.[Isai. 40:14; 44:24.] Man is never viewed as the conjunct production of God and the angels; nor represented as being made in the image of angels. It has often been alleged that God speaks in the plural number, after the manner of kings. Not to insist upon the improbability and unworthiness of this conjecture, as if the great Jehovah did accommodate himself to language, which creatures in after ages of the world would adopt, there are other parts of Scripture with which this interpretation does not consist. Apply it to the words: And the Lord God said, Behold the man is become as ONE of US,[Gen. 3:22.] and it appears ridiculous. The apostle would find the same form of expression in other places of the Scriptures: Let us go down and there confound their language.[Gen. 11:7; See. Isai. 41:21.] It is most satisfactory here, that the apostle himself has given an explanation of a similar expression. He read the account of the vision of Isaiah: Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?[Isai. 6:8.] The prophet speaks of the voice of Jehovah, and the apostle having occasion to apply an after part of the prophecy to the infidelity of the Jews, expressly mentions the Holy Ghost as having spoken: Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, saying, Go unto this people and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand.[Acts 28:25.] He considered the person denominated the Holy Ghost, as included in the persons speaking, as the LORD that spake unto his fathers, and so as the God of his fathers, whose worship he confesses. And if he believed in the divine testimony concerning this vision, he must have believed that Jesus was included among the persons speaking. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.[John 12:41.] The person spoken of throughout this passage is he on whom we are to believe, he whom the Jews rejected, that is, Jesus Christ. And thus we learn what that plurality is that was intimated in the expression, Who will go for us?[Endnote A.] Applying the same interpretation to the other instances, the consequence is obvious.
Believing in the Mosaic account of the creation, he also believed that Jesus was the Creator of the world. In his epistle to the Hebrews†[It is assumed that Paul wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews.] he had said: God hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds. Not jealous of giving the glory of creation unto Jesus, nor careful to represent his agency as in any respect subordinate, he had written: For BY HIM were all things CREATED that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, ALL THINGS WERE CREATED BY HIM, and FOR HIM. And he is BEFORE all things, and by him all things consist.[Col. 1:16, 17.] Could language ascribe creation more directly unto God than it is here to Jesus? Not only is he represented as the first cause, but the last end, pre-existent to all creatures, and their great Preserver and Governor. In the Psalms the apostle had read: Of old thou hast laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thy hands, and understanding Christ as included, he has applied this to him in his epistle to the Hebrews.[Psalm 102:25; Heb. 1:10.] And in like manner he believed in the Holy Spirit, as the Creator, for he had read: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. This could not be a mighty wind, as some would signify, for the firmament or atmosphere in which the fowl did fly above the earth, was not created till the second day.*[See Jamieson’s Use of Sacred History, vol. 2, page 40 and Dr. Owen on the Holy Spirit, vol. 1, page 168.] He had likewise read the words of Job: By his Spirit he hath garnished the heavens;[26:18.] and the words of Elihu: The Spirit of God hath made me;[Job 33:4.] and in the Psalms: Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created;[Psal. 104:30.] While from the things that are made we learn the eternal power and Godhead of the Divine Supreme, it is evident from the account in the law, and the prophets, that there are different persons concerned in it. Finding this great work ascribed to God absolutely, and again to the particular persons individually, we see no way upon which to explain this, but by admitting that there are in the one God, three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and that these three are ONE.
But to come a little more closely to the subject. Paul believed in the testimony of the law and the prophets concerning the character of Jesus Christ, for in Rome, he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus both out of the LAW OF MOSES and out of the PROPHETS.[Acts 28:23.]
In the law of Moses, he read of an extraordinary Angel that appeared to the holy men of old, called by the great name Jehovah, having worship offered to him, addressed in prayer, and acknowledged as a source of blessing.*[Gen. 16:9,13; 18:13,17; 22:11,14,16; 48:16, &c. See Jamieson’s Vindication of the Doctrine of Scripture, lib. 1, cap. 8 & lib. 2, cap. 8.] The same Angel appeared to Moses in the mountain of God, even Horeb, and claimed the character of the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.†[Exod. 3:6.] It is certain that it was God who spake to Moses out of the bush,‡[ver. 4 & Mark 12:26.] and that he is the same who is called the Angel; for in ver. 2. the Angel of the Lord is said to have appeared, and in ver. 16. Moses is authorized to say: The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, APPEARED unto me; and he was empowered to work miracles in confirmation of this: That they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers—hath APPEARED unto thee.[Exod. 4:5.] The whole tenor of Scripture declares that it was the LORD who spake to Moses in the wilderness, and in mount Sinai. If we admit the testimony of Stephen, a faithful servant of Jesus Christ, this was still the same Angel. Speaking of Moses, he says: This is he that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sinai, and with our fathers.[Acts 7:30,33,38.] And who was this, but the Angel of God’s presence, the messenger or angel of the covenant of whom Malachi prophesied, and who we know, is the Lord Jesus Christ?*[Isaiah 63:9.; Zech. 3:1. & Mal. 3:1. applied to the coming of Christ. Matt. 11:10. and in other Gospels.] From such evidence, I aver that this was the Son of God, that the same is the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, and so the God of Paul’s fathers.
Paul believed in what was written in the Psalms concerning Jesus. He had read concerning his exaltation: Thy throne, O GOD, is forever and ever, and he applies this to Christ in his epistle to the Hebrews.†[Psal. 45:6, with Heb. 1:8.] There can be little doubt but the same person is spoken of in Psalm xlvii. GOD is gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to GOD, unto our KING The apostle applies the words: Thou hast ascended on high, to Christ Jesus,‡[Psal. 68:18, with Eph. 4:8.] and there can be little question that the same person is spoken of in the context, as God, Lord, and the God of salvation. He had read, concerning the Israelites: they tempted and provoked the MOST HIGH GOD; and in speaking of the same people, he says: they tempted CHRIST.*[Psal. 78:56, with 1 Cor. 10:9.] He must also have believed in him as the object of worship. It could not be otherwise when he had read concerning the King of salvation, the church’s husband: for he is thy LORD, and worship thou him.[Psal. 45:11.] He understood the commandment, worship him all ye gods, to include Christ, as the object of worship, for he says: when he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.†[Ps. 97:7., with Heb. 1:6.]
Paul believed all things which are written in the prophets. Then he believed that Jesus was GOD WITH US; that he was THE LORD or JEHOVAH; THE MIGHTY GOD; THE EVERLASTING FATHER; THE LORD OF HOSTS; THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS: and that he was from FROM OF OLD, EVEN FROM EVERLASTING. I could easily recite in your hearing a great many similar testimonies from the prophets concerning Messiah. These are only a few: and that there may be no doubt in your minds, they will be found everyone to our Blessed Lord, in the New Testament Scripture.‡[Isaiah 7:14. with Matt. 1:23.,—Isaiah 9:6, with Matt. 4:15. & Luke 1:32,33.—Isaiah 8:13. with 1 Pet. 2:8. & Rom. 9:33.—Isaiah 40:3,9, with Matt. 3:5. &c.—Jer. 23:6, with 1 Cor. 1:30.—Mic. 5:2, with Matt. 2:6.] The apostle had also read, in the prophets, the words of the Lord: I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear; a passage that applies to Christ, as appears from the context following, and which the apostles seems either to quote, or to have in particular allusion, when speaking of the exaltation of Christ: That at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth. And every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.*[Isai. 45:23, with Phil. 2:10. Isai. 42:4.] Surely he is thus represented as the object of universal homage. Was he not also represented as the Divine object of faith, when it was foretold to this effect: And in his name shall the Gentiles TRUST?[Matt. 12:21.]
As professing to believe all things written in the law and the prophets, Paul must have received the testimony concerning the Holy Spirit. It was no doubt with the apostle whether there was any Holy Ghost. He had read of the Spirit of God moving upon the face of waters,—Striving with man,—Resting upon the prophets,—Instructing the church,—Remaining with the chosen people,—Anointing the Lord Jesus,—And being the author of inspiration.†[Gen. 1:2. 6:3.—Numb. 11:25.—Neh. 9:20.—Hag. 2:5.—Isai. 61:1.—2 Sam. 23:2.] He would find such names and works connected with the Spirit, as necessarily implied true divinity; while at the same time there was language importing some personal character. This is confirmed from his own writings, in which the characters, properties, and actings of a person, are ascribed to one usually called the Spirit, or the Holy Ghost.
That the apostle had a particular belief in the existence of the Holy Ghost, appears not only from those passages of the Old Testament, where the Spirit is expressly mentioned; but from the application of other passages to him, in the New Testament, in which God had spoken of more generally in the Old. Thus Paul had read the words of the Lord: Harden not your heart, as in the words of provocation, and as in the day of the temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. Forty years long was I grieved with this generation; and he applies them as spoken by the Holy Ghost: Wherefore, as the HOLY GHOST saith, Today, if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts as in the provocation,[Psal. 95:8,9. Heb. 3:7-9.] &c. He read also, How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert! And more particularly, they rebelled, and vexed his Holy Spirit. How like this is the apostle’s injunction? And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.*[Psal. 78:40. Isai. 63:10, with Eph. 4:30.] It is written: But when Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him he took off the veil; and in allusion to this it is said: When it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that SPIRIT.†[Exod. 34:33. 2 Cor. 3:16,17.] It is said: I will set up my tabernacle among you, and I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and Paul, illustrating this, says: Ye are the temple of the living God, as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and in another passage, he says: Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the SPIRIT OF GOD DWELLETH IN YOU? and again: Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?*[Lev. 26:11,12, with 2 Cor. 6:16. 1 Cor. 6:19. 3:16.] Such passages as these surely prove that the apostle believed, from the law and the prophets, in the Holy Ghost.
From what has been stated out of the law and the prophets, it appears that there are distinct persons having the names, characters, and works of God. We find these ascribed to him who is our Redeemer; and we see them also given to one denominated the Holy Ghost. And at the same time God is represented as one. The conclusion seems inevitable. There are in the one Godhead those different persons. Nor do we see it possible to explain the language of Scripture on any other supposition.—But from the law and the prophets, let us turn to the writings of Paul himself, in search of the character of that God in whom he believed.
It is almost unnecessary to bring a proof that he often mentions in his writings, the distinct persons of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. His prayer for the Ephesians had a respect to these: That the God of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, the FATHER of glory, may give unto you the SPIRIT of wisdom.[Eph. 1:17.]—In like manner, in the following passages: For through HIM, that is, Christ, we both have an access by ONE SPIRIT, unto the FATHER.[2:18.]—God hath sent forth the SPIRIT of his SON into your hearts.[Gal. 4:6.]—HE, that is, the Father, saved us by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the HOLY GHOST, which he shed on us abundantly through JESUS CHRIST our Savior.[Tit. 3:5,6.]—For this cause, I bow my knees unto the FATHER of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, That he would grant you according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his SPIRIT in the inner man.*[Endnote B.] But it is unnecessary to multiply proofs of a truth that appears throughout the whole of his epistles, that is necessary to explain his language, and is rather supposed by him, than formally stated or proved.
His language concerning Christ Jesus is very plain. GOD was manifest in the flesh. Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is OVER ALL GOD BLESSED FOREVER. Amen. And let us, my hearers, say: AMEN. In him dwelleth all the FULNESS of the GODHEAD bodily. Looking for the appearing of the GREAT GOD AND OUR SAVIOUR, that is, OUR GREAT GOD AND SAVIOUR Jesus Christ.†[1 Tim. 3:16. Rom. 9:5. Col. 2:9. Tit. 2:13.] Is it reasonable to think that when the apostle wrote these and numerous other passages of the same import, he did not intend that his readers should believe that Jesus was God? If his words do not contain this, I know not what language he could have employed to express it.
That Paul believed in Jesus as the object of worship, I apprehend will appear from those passages, in which Christ is the object of prayer: For this thing I besought the Lord thrice.[2 Cor. 12:8.] That this was Jesus appears from ver. 9: Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on me. It was Christ’s power that was sufficient for him, and it was the Lord whom he besought, that said unto him: My grace shall be sufficient for thee. In addressing the saints in Corinth, his language is:—to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place CALL UPON THE NAME of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.[1 Cor. 1:2.] Calling on the name of the Lord is certainly expressive of prayer, and of worship. Who would think that any other thing was intended, when it is said: Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name? or that David designed any other thing when he said: I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord?[Psal. 105:1. 116:12.] The apostle at his conversion was required to call on the name of the Lord,[Acts 22:16.] by whom it is natural to understand Jesus, especially as we find him teaching others the same thing: Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.*[Endnote C.] That this is Christ the Lord, appears from the words which follow: How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? We know the gospel calls us to Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul himself also prayed to Jesus. Now God himself, and our Father, and our LORD JESUS CHRIST, direct our way unto you.[1 Thess. 3:11.] He is here addressed equally with the Father, as the God of providence, who orders the steps of men. If the order in which the persons are mentioned, is supposed to affect the argument, we find it changed in another passage of the same kind: Now OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF, and God even our Father—comfort your hearts,[2 Thess. 2:16,17.] so that there is no room to think of any inferiority. Is not Jesus the object of thanksgiving, in the way of worship, when Paul says: I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry? In many other passages the same thing is expressly declared, or fairly implied. In none is Jesus excluded from worship; though men and angels are denied this, it being the prerogative of God.*[Acts 10:26. 14:15. Rev. 22:9.] Would I then speak consistently with the law and the prophets, and the writings of Paul, were I to say that prayer ought to be offered to God the Father only?
With respect unto the Divine Spirit, we have seen, Paul learned of him in the law and the prophets. His own writings also are full of the Holy Ghost. In the Acts of the apostles, the Holy Ghost is represented as saying: Separate unto me Barnabas and Paul, for the work whereunto I have called them.[13:2,4.]—And these men were sent forth by the Holy Ghost. Can anything be more clear, than that it is a person, who speaks, calls, whom persons are separated to serve, and who sends? The apostle himself had said: Take heed therefore, unto yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers; and thus he represents the Spirit as appointing the ministers of the church. Does not the apostle represent the Spirit, as having, mind, will, power, and affection,*[Rom. 8:27. 1 Cor. 12:11. Rom. 15:13,19. Eph. 4:30.] and as performing the acts or works of a person in searching the deep things of God, making intercession, giving witness, &c.?†[1 Cor. 2:10. Rom. 8:26.] When we read him distinguishing the gifts of the Spirit himself and saying: all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally AS HE WILL, and beseeching the churches by the love of the Spirit, and speaking of the power of the Holy Ghost, is it reasonable to consider all this as spoken merely of an attribute of influence of the Deity? Such a view is inconsistent with the plainness of Scripture language. There are figures, no doubt, in Scripture: but they generally declare themselves. There is no instance of a personification of any one thing, carried through the whole book of God and supported, in the way in which personal characters are ascribed to the Holy Ghost. Besides, were we to substitute the alleged explanation, for the terms Spirit, and the Holy Ghost, in a thousand instances the result would be something incongruous and inadmissible. Suppose it to signify the power or influence of God, how would we read of grieving the power of God, of the love of the power of God, and of miracles wrought by the power of the power of God? Or suppose it to signify the mind of God, how would we read: He that searches the hearts, knows what is the mind of the mind,—the mind of the influence or power? But I shall not occupy your time with illustrations of this kind.*[Endnote D.] Language implying personality is not found in one or two obscure passages only, but throughout the whole of the apostle’s writings. Leaving the examination of these to your own leisure, I only add that in baptism, and in the benediction of the church, the Holy Spirit is recognized in a distinct personal character, equally with the Father and the Son. Denying the one, I do not know how the others can be admitted.
While the apostle believed in the Holy Ghost, he also recognized him as the object of worship. We have seen that he addressed prayer unto Christ; it may appear that he also addressed prayer unto the Holy Ghost: We read: And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love toward one another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblamable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.[1 Thess. 3:12,13.] It appears that the apostle had the Lord the Spirit, particularly in view, not only from the matter of the prayer, as respecting love and holiness, which are fruits of the Spirit,[Gal. 5:22. Rom. 1:4.] but from mention being afterwards made of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus, in distinct personal characters. May not the same observation apply to the apostle’s words, And the LORD direct your hearts into the love of GOD, and into the patient waiting for CHRIST;[2 Thess. 3:5.] especially when we read of the love of God, which is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost.*[Rom. 5:5 & Gal. 4:6. Endnote E.] But though there were no other evidence than what arises from the ordinance of baptism, it is sufficient. If God the Father, is the object of worship in this ordinance, so is the Holy Ghost. We are baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. What view could we entertain of these words, upon the supposition that the Son is not God, and the Holy Ghost no person? What! Brethren. Are we baptized, in the name of God the Father; and in the name of a creature—a person of our own order; and in the name of an attribute or influence of Deity? I forbear to comment. Let us read the words of the apostle in the conclusion of his epistles to the Corinthians: The grace of the LORD JESUS CHRIST, and the love of GOD, and the communion of the HOLY GHOST, be with you all. Amen. The order in which the persons are named is a little different from that in the ordinance of baptism, perhaps with design to point out equality. But there seems to be the same evidence of the personality of the Holy Spirit, that there is of that of Christ, and of the Father. Truly our fellowship is with the Father and his Son Christ Jesus, and also with the Holy Spirit. Did not Paul express his belief in the Spirit’s being the object of worship, when in dismissing Christian assemblies, he summoned their solemn attention to the Source of benediction, and blessed them in the name of the Lord, recognizing equally the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost?—Though there were no other evidence than what arises from baptism and benediction, it is sufficiently conclusive. But this is confirmed by a great body of other evidences equally strong, and illustrated through the whole of Scripture.
From the summary now given, which is susceptible of much enlargement, I conclude that Paul believed in and worshipped the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Still he believed in one God, and addressed his worship to one Object. His doctrines respecting the Unity and Trinity of God cannot be reconciled without the admission of both. Nor are they destructive of one another, while unity respects Being or Godhead, and trinity respects personal subsistences in one.
This view of the great God is mysterious. But it is taken from Scripture; and it is an object of faith. The plain testimony of God, is a more sure foundation for our faith, than the most satisfactory conclusions of our reason; or even the reports of our sense themselves. It ought not to disappoint, much less to displease man, the creature of yesterday, confounded at an atom, that there is in the nature of the Divine Being much that he cannot comprehend; yea, that God is altogether incomprehensible. There is a mystery which the adversaries of the above doctrine should explain. How is it that the writings of Paul, and the holy Scriptures in general, which were designed to instruct us in the knowledge of God, so universally contain language which admits of being natively interpreted to signify a trinity, if there is no foundation for it in the very nature of God, and if it was not the design of God to make this known? The doctrine of a trinity so pervades the whole of revelation, and is so interwoven with all its doctrines, that the Scriptures cannot be explained without it: I can see no alternative between refusing this doctrine, and rejecting the testimony of the Scripture.
But I have yet to remark concerning the God whom Paul worshipped, that
4. He is made known, as the Lord God, merciful and gracious, by covenant revelation. This observation is suggested from the expression the God of my fathers, which I view, as having not merely a general respect to God as the Creator and Preserver of Paul’s fathers, but bearing particularly on those covenant revelations which God made of his gracious designs, to holy men of old. In respect of the covenant which God made with Abraham, renewed to Isaac, and confirmed to Jacob, he is called their God, and claims this appellation: And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name forever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.[Exod. 3:15.] Whatever temporal blessings might be appended to the covenant made with Abraham, we cannot but consider it as revealing substantially what is now made knownin the gospel. The gospel was preached unto Abraham when it was said: In thee shall all nations be blessed.*[Gal. 3:8, See whole chapter, & Rom. 4 throughout.] Hence says Peter, in the words quoted in the beginning of the discourse: Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. The great promise was a seed in whom the kindreds of the earth were to be blessed. We cannot doubt respecting this, when we read the explanation which immediately follows: Unto you first, God having raised up his SON Jesus, sent him to BLESS you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.[Acts 3:25,26.] Paul viewed Christ as the promised seed, and so when he speaks of the God of his fathers, has a respect to the covenant revelation of the divine mercy, through Jesus; in raising of whom God performed the mercy promised to the fathers, and remembered his holy covenant.[Luke 1:72.] He does not worship God, merely as Creator, and Preserver; nor as a perfectly innocent creature would worship the moral Governor; but as a sinner, having respect unto the covenant revelation of divine mercy through a Savior. The leading and comprehensive promise of that covenant was: I will be your God, and ye shall be my people; and the free exhibition of this, through the Lord Jesus, is the ground of faith, in apprehending God as merciful and gracious. In every aspiration and act of worship, the eye of the believing mind ought to fix on this view of the Divine character. Hence the words of the law, as given by the Savior: Thou shalt worship the Lord THY God.[Matth. 4:10.] It is this which is the ground of our approach to the Lord as our God.
This observation, does not respect the Object of worship merely, but the nature of that Object; and it bears most particularly upon the good will of God toward men, the sovereign good pleasure of his goodness, revealed in the gospel. Man is to worship God, not simply as a creature doing homage to a Creator and Benefactor; not generally as a moral subject giving obedience to a moral governor; not, now, with respect to that positive constitution under which primeval man was placed; but, as a lost creature, embracing God in the revelations of his mercy. We cannot reasonably question that this was the view of Paul, who represents himself as having obtained mercy of the Lord, and teaches as the sum of the ministry of reconciliation, that God was IN CHRIST reconciling the world unto himself.[2 Cor. 5:18, 19.] He viewed the God of his fathers, as exhibiting mercy and grace, through the revelation of his covenant in Christ. This revelation is now extended, according to original design, to the Gentiles; for, the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.[Gal. 3:8.] Though not descended from those, whose are the fathers, we Gentiles may now say: Doubtless thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer, thy name is from everlasting.[Isai. 63:16.] Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also.[Rom. 3:29.] This precious revelation of God, in his covenant character, ought ever to be in the view of the worshipper. The Lord is My God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my FATHERS’ God, and I will exalt him.[Exod. 15:2.]
Such was the view which the great apostle of the Gentiles had of the God of his fathers. We have found from the law and the prophets, and the writings of Paul, that the Object of his worship is the true and living God;—the one God;—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost in one; and the Lord God, merciful and gracious, in the revelation of his covenant. A knowledge and belief of these Scriptural views of God, are necessary for his worship. I proceed
II. To speak of the worship of the God of the apostle’s fathers.
It is the design and excellency of the knowledge of God to lead men to glorify him as God. Without this, knowledge is not only a vain, but a most condemning acquisition. The one is theoretical; the other practical. Paul worshipped the God of his fathers.
1. Worship is to be offered to God, by faith in the meditation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The necessity of an intercessor between God and sinners, is forcibly suggested from the natural sentiments of man; it approves itself to his reason; and it is implied in the whole doctrines of revelation concerning a Savior. This necessity is felt, not merely from a view of that incalculable distance which necessarily subsists between God and creatures, a thought that will beget humility, and awe, and profound veneration in the highest of them; but from a conviction of guilt. When the conscience of a man charges him with sin, it asserts the authority of God, as well as reminds him of his goodness; it pleads the truth and righteousness of his holy law; and it often fills the soul with a fearful looking for of judgment, which a thousand expedients cannot dispel. In this state of mind the soul dreads to approach the Lord. Its language is: Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God?—I know that thou wilt not hold me innocent.—He is not a man as I am that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment. Neither is there any DAY’S-MAN betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both. The force of this principle may be observed from what obtains among men. When we have offended one whom we were under manifold obligations to love, and our hearts smite us for it, we are filled with shame; we cannot approach him, even though we may think that this might be done with safety; we seek an intercessor. The necessity must be incomparably more strong in the case of a heart-felt consciousness of sin against God. The fears of man, the stirrings of conscience within him, and the practices to which the unenlightened have had recourse for the expiation of offence, illustrate the necessity of a Mediator. But though conscience alarm the mind, and reason suggest the necessity of atonement before the soul can find rest, the Scriptures alone reveal the desirable, the needed intercessor. And, independently of our conviction and felt necessity, if the Scriptures reveal such a character, we must acknowledge that such a one is necessary; and an approach to God without regard to him would be presumptuous. The question with which we have chiefly to do, is, Whether the Scriptures reveal such a character, and require respect to him in the acts of worship?
That the ancient church, in all her worship, had a special respect unto atonement to be made by a Mediator, appears from the early and universal use of sacrifices. Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock an offering to the Lord, and the Lord had respect to Abel and to his offering.[Gen. 4:4.] He worshipped God in faith: By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts.[Heb. 11:4.] Is it not reasonable to consider this faith as having a respect unto Jesus, in the view given of him by our apostle, when he says: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.[Rom. 3:25.] We are also informed, generally, that without faith it is impossible to please God.—The necessity of mediation was illustrated in the dispensation from Sinai, when the law was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. We find this expressed by God: Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it; and by the people: they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us and we will hear: but let not God speak with us lest we die.[Exod. 19:23; 20:29.] And did not the whole system of sacrifice proceed upon this very principle, and typify Jesus, who was once offered to bear the SINS of many, and put away SIN by the SACRIFICE of himself? The apostle, believing in the law, explains the Mosaic ritual as having a respect to Christ, a completion in him, and bearing particularly upon his true atonement. As expressive of the manner of New Testament worship, his words are: Having, therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the BLOOD of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an HIGH PRIEST over the house of God, Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith.[Heb. 10:19-22.] These things clearly teach that God is to be worshipped through the atonement and intercession of a Mediator.
It is finally decisive in this argument, that the apostle in his writings represents Jesus in the character of a Mediator: For there is on God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.[1 Tim. 2:5.] Here the Savior is revealed as the man Christ Jesus. It was necessary for the ends of mediation that he should be a partaker of flesh and blood. But Paul as plainly makes him known in his original divine glory, and represents his humanity as assumed: Who, being in the FORM of GOD, thought it not robbery to be EQUAL WITH GOD: but made himself of no reputation; and TOOK UPON him the FORM of a servant, and was made in the likeness of man.[Phil. 2:6,7.] The Mediator is GOD manifest in flesh. It is through him we have peace with God, and have access by faith into his grace, having redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sin according to the riches of divine grace. It is by his blood that we who were afar off, are made nigh. Paul’s writings are full of the great doctrine of atonement. He knew well of the absolute necessity of the mediation of Christ, for the acceptance both of the person and homage of worshippers: He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.[Eph. 1:6.] Without the acceptance of the person through Christ no service can be acceptable. The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord. The Lord had respect to Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. Without the mediation of Jesus there could be no actual admission to God: For THROUGH HIM we have an ACCESS by one Spirit to the Father; and in him we have boldness and ACCESS with confidence by the faith of him.*[Endnote F.] And says the apostle, giving direction concerning a particular part of worship: By HIM therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God.[Heb. 13:15.] Worship must have respect to God, as in Christ reconciling the world unto himself; it must be offered unto him through the Lord Jesus. Homage presented to God without regard to the sacrifice and intercession of the Savior, is alien from that which Paul taught; and worship which does not respect Jesus as the alone way of acceptance and access, seems very inconsistent with the doctrine of Christ himself: No man cometh unto the Father but BY me.[John 14:6.]
2. The worship of God should be regulated by the revealed prescriptions of the Divine will.
It is the sacred sovereign right of Jehovah to give laws to man. God has a claim upon all his services. As worship is chief part of that service for which man was made, which God requires of him, and he owes to God, it is reasonable to think that the Lord will particularly express his will to man on this great branch of his duty; and it will become man to receive and obey the divine prescription. While the nature of God is the foundation of all worship and that which claims religious homage, the manifestation or revelation God gives of his being and excellencies is the rule to guide us in offering it. This worship will be such as it is every way worthy of God to prescribe and acknowledge; yet there may be something in the manner of it, which is to be entirely resolved into the divine appointment. Viewing man as fallen, and needing revelation, the necessity of direction from God will be increased; and it may be expected that the prescriptions delivered to him, in this condition, will particularly bear upon the revelations which God has given of his mercy, and the way of its extension unto sinners. Accordingly much of the sacred volume is occupied in revealing the particular way man is to approach the Lord, either in the acts of faith and trust, or in the acts of immediate worship. Taking the Scriptures as the only sure and full revelation of the Object of worship, it is reasonable to receive them also as the rule according to which it is to be offered. The excellencies, works, and revelations of God claim acts of faith, trust, love, and adoration; his law is the guide to man in the expression of these, in the observation of positive institutions. His authority is supreme. What he has required we are bound to observe; what he has prohibited we must scrupulously avoid; and what has not the sanction of his authority can neither be obligatory upon man, nor acceptable to God.
Under the dispensation of religion during the law and the prophets, there was a complex system of significant external rites, adapted in wisdom to that age of the church, and preparatory to the time of reformation. To these a strict conformity was required: See that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount. And some instances of perverse deviation were punished with an awful and exemplary severity; because God would be sanctified in them that came nigh to him, and before all the people would be glorified.
But now, by the coming of Christ, the church is delivered from these carnal ordinances, and a system of worship, at once simple and spiritual has succeeded. Institutions are few, and outwardly not difficult to be observed. Some of them respect individuals, others are social; some are private, others are public; some are permanent, others occasional: but taken altogether they are few and simple. Prayer and praise, reading, preaching, and hearing of God’s word, the sanctification of the Lord’s day, the observation of baptism and the Lord’s supper, are most of the duties connected with the stated institutions of the gospel church. These are to be observed with a studied conformity to the letter and spirit of the divine rule, and according to the sacred order prescribed to the church by Jesus, the Son over his own house. The extensive use of symbols is now almost entirely annulled. They are retained only in Baptism and the Supper; and here in the greatest possible simplicity.—While the Christian is called to habitual humility and gratitude, there may be seasons when these are particularly required. The church may be called at one time to fast, and present the sacrifice of a broken spirit; and at another time to go up to Jerusalem to give thanks to the name of the Lord, to sacrifice sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare the works of the Lord with rejoicing. These and other occasional solemn services of religious worship, it is the duty of the church to observe in their times and seasons.
The superiority and privileges of the New Testament economy are decided and great, as our apostle has elaborately illustrated in his epistle to the Hebrews. The leading character and excellence of its worship is spirituality. Whatever is external in it, is distinguishedly simple. And what was glorious, hath no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. Of old time, there were visible symbols of the Divine presence; yet no similitudes of Deity. These symbols were calculated for an imperfect state of the church, and now that they are departed, there is a still higher regard to the spirituality of the Object. The introduction of signs of any kind, excepting in the two institutions where they are appointed, (the appointment of which teaches that the church is yet in the body) would be to lessen the spirituality of worship, by returning to worldly elements, from which the church is delivered. We have seen that there is one Mediator, to whose atonement and intercession we look. We view his mediation as perfect; we do not associate angels or saints with him, for whom there is no necessity, and by acknowledging of whom we would exalt them to a place too high for creatures, and give them an honor which they would all disclaim. We have no outward representations of the atonement, excepting in the institutions of Baptism and the Supper; and in our worship, we do not look to altars and incense, but by faith enter into the most holy place not made with hands, and within the veil, whither the Forerunner is for us entered. To introduce images, pictures, altars, and instruments, into the worship of God, would be to draw us away from the simplicity that is in Christian worship, and to lower its spiritual excellence, by returning to the yoke of bondage. New Testament worship needs not the ornament of Jewish rites and ordinances, and it disclaims all connexion with the superstitions of idol temples.
The will of God, as revealed in holy Scripture, is the supreme rule of worship. We are not left, excepting in the affairs of external decency and order, to our own prudence. To increase, to retrench, or to new-model sacred institutions would be to reflect most injuriously upon the wisdom of their Author, to resist his authority, to invade his prerogative; and must incur his high displeasure. The second commandment, which respects the manner of worship, is given under very awful sanctions. We must worship God in his own institutions. And although delivered from the bondage of ceremonial ordinances, we are still under law to Christ, and bound to observe all things whatsoever he has commanded. Of the innovations of the Pharisees our Lord says: In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men; or teaching the institutions of men.[Matt. 15:9.] Our apostle himself cautions the Colossian brethren: why, as though living in the world are ye subject to ordinances, (touch not, taste not, handle not; which are all to perish with the using,) after the commandments and doctrines of men? which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in WILL-WORSHIP, &c.[Col. 2:20-23.] To the beautiful and simple institutions of worship, authorized by Christ, and followed by those contemptuously called Nazarenes, the apostle in our text openly professes his regard.—External conformity to the divine rule is comely and excellent in itself, but we are not to forget that
3. God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. That service which is offered to him must be the worship of the soul; it should be the homage of the whole heart. All things are naked and opened to the eyes of him with whom we have to do. The first and great commandment is: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. The Lord looketh into the heart, he desires truth in the inward parts.
An internal homage should be habitually paid to God, in fixed impressions in our minds, of his being, character, and works, accompanied with prevailing sentiments of fear, reverence, and humility—trust, hope, and love. In all places, and circumstances, and times, we should set the Lord before us, and walk before him in the land of the living. And when we engage in the acts of immediate worship, while in these a studied conscientious conformity to the divine rule is required, it is a primary object to have the heart right with God. We are to glorify God, not only with our bodies, but chiefly with our spirits which are his. If we pray, it should be with the spirit, and with the understanding also. If we praise, it should be with the spirit and the understanding, making melody with our heart to the Lord. If any preach, it must be as of sincerity, as of God, in the sight of God. If we hear, we should be mixing faith, and receiving the truth in the love of it. If we approach the Lord in the dedication of children in Baptism, or in the communion of the body and blood of Christ in the holy ordinance of the Supper, while in faith and love we give a cheerful obedience to the commandments of our Lord, with devotion of spirit our souls should embrace the blessings that are sacramentally exhibited, and our hearts aspire after fellowship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If we fast, we should chastise our souls, and appear not unto men, but unto the heavenly Father to fast. And whatever be the act or exercise of worship, the Lord’s requisition in it is: My son give me thine heart. My hearers! he is a Christian worshipper who is one inwardly; and true religion, genuine Christianity is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men but of God. The most exact conformity to the letter of sacred institutions, without the spirit, is but a vain, a hypocritical oblation. The knee may bow, and the heart be lifted up in pride. The lips may pray and praise, when the heart is a stranger to holy desire, and to spiritual joy in God. We may profess to adore, when the soul is without impressions of that fear which is the beginning of all wisdom. How applicable to many the description: This people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men.[Isai. 29:13.] Now therefore fear the Lord in sincerity, and in truth. He is nigh to all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. We are thus to draw near to God, with true hearts, in the full assurance of faith, and to worship him in the beauty of holiness. But
4. Worship should be offered to God under the help and influence of the Holy Ghost.
While the three-one God is the undivided Object of our worship, we find the different persons particularly recognized, according to their particular revealed works, in the economy of our redemption. We have already seen the necessity of the mediation of the Son; by him we have access to God; no less necessary is the work of the Holy Spirit: Through Christ we have an access by ONE SPIRIT unto the Father.[Eph. 2:18.] I do not now illustrate the personal character of the Holy Ghost, but it is plain that without this view of the Spirit, the language of this verse is uncommon—unintelligible. Our observation now respects the influence of the Holy Spirit, in the souls of worshippers.
Believing in the Holy Ghost, and in the reality of his influences in the souls of men, we may see the necessity of these in the acts of worship. It is by these, in the use of the divine testimony, that the soul has a proper apprehension of the Object of worship. No man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. Jesus declares God in his revelations and gospel, and reveals him in the hearts of men by his Spirit: When the Spirit is come, he will guide you into all truth. The things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God. This is the anointing which teacheth. No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. However distinctly the letter of revelation may be understood, there cannot be a discernment of the great Object, requisite for acceptable worship, without the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God and of Christ. The Spirit also teaches, by the word, the nature of that homage which God requires, and begets in the soul the inward principles of faith, trust, hope, love and reverence, which enter into spiritual worship. And it is under the influence of this Spirit, that we can actually worship God. It is by Him that we are strengthened with might in the inner man. It is by this Spirit that God dwells in us, and we in him. We are builded together for an habitation of God through the SPIRIT.
This observation might be extended to all duties, and to all the acts of worship: I will put my SPIRIT within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes. As many as are led by the SPIRIT of God, they are the sons of God.[Ezek. 36:27; Rom. 8:14.] It is the distinguishing character of a child of God, that the Spirit of God dwelleth in him. If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. Paul believed in the necessity of a divine influence in the hearts of men, and looked to the Spirit as that which animates the soul in all duty. Respecting the ordinance of prayer, eminent in the worship of God, he would find this promise, in the prophets: I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications;[Zech. 12:10.] and himself had said: Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.[Rom. 8:28.] Can any person read the eighth chapter of the epistle to the Romans, and doubt of the apostle’s belief in the personality of the Spirit, and in the necessity and reality of his influence in the whole of the Christian life? In like manner, in his epistle to the Galatians: Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.[4:6.] And as in prayer, so in all other duties of worship, it is the Spirit that helps our infirmities. Without him we can do nothing. In an humble dependence upon his promised help, we should engage in all duty, that we may have grace to worship God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear, and that we may be the circumcision that worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
5. Religious worship is to be offered unto God exclusively. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
The true God alone is possessed of these perfections and excellencies of nature, which are the foundation of worship; and he is the author of all the displays of these perfections, through which we have any apprehension of his being and glory, and by which we are called to know, and acknowledge, and worship God. As worship is his prerogative, so he has required it, accompanied with expressions of his holy jealousy; I am the LORD; that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.[Isai. 42:3.] Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down to them nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God. Worship is not to be given to graven images: nor is the use of these in the worship of God consistent either with the divine precept, or the spirituality of the glorious Object. Worship must not be given to angels: Let no man beguile you of your reward, in a voluntary humility, and worshipping of angels.[Col. 2:18.] Nor is it to be given to the saints of God: They are men of like passions with others.[Acts 10:26; 14:15.] Nor is it to be given to any creature. The Scriptures recognize no worship, to be given unto creatures, excepting that merely civil respect which is due unto superiors. But we read of a son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; and by looking into the predictions of the New Testament, we find that many parts of the world, through the influence of his deceptions, following his idolatries, shall be subjected to very heavy calamities. The begun and rapidly advancing fulfilment of these sayings, should impressively admonish us of the essential importance of receiving and observing in purity the institutions of God’s word, and of the ‘zeal God hath to his own worship.’
Here it is of great practical importance to observe, that many may profess God to be the only object of worship, and may be separated from the external forms of superstition and idolatry, and yet worship other objects in their hearts. The man of ambition worships his projects of honor, the miser his gold, and the voluptuary his pleasures. In a thousand ways are our hearts ready to be alienated from the love of God, and given away to other objects; so that there is much reason for the injunction: Little children, keep yourselves from idols.—While we state that the only object of worship is God, we are not to forget that the Scriptures reveal, as we have endeavored to show, this one object to be the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Having thus stated that worship must be offered to God, by faith in the mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ;—according to the revealed prescriptions of the divine will;—in spirit and in truth;—under the help and influence of the Holy Ghost;—and that it must be offered to the true God only, I shall now conclude with a few reflections.
1. Unassisted reason is insufficient to lead man to the knowledge of the true God, or of his worship. The universal idolatry of the heathen world mournfully confirms the observation. Men are without God in the world. The powers of the human mind have had very ample time to exercise and display themselves in this interesting inquiry; but the result has ever been, even in those places where literature and science have flourished most, the world by wisdom knew not God. This is not, at this advanced period of the world, a question of speculation, but of historical fact. The insufficiency of the powers of men is indeed supposed, when a supernatural revelation is imparted; but a survey of the world, either in ancient or modern times, will give an affecting illustration of it. Our conclusion in this question is not to be drawn from systems of natural religion formed by those who have enjoyed the light of Scripture; some of whom, after borrowing the best of their ideas, are not ingenuous to acknowledge, but basely revile those very revelations to which they have been chiefly indebted. Neither is it to be taken from abstract speculations about the powers of man; but it is to be deduced from the actual state of the world, in the matter of religion, where revelation has not been known. And when we go out to the dark places of the earth, what do we see? Men worshipping stocks and stones, and in many cases abusing and sacrificing one another, in rites not only contrary to all reason, but revolting to humanity, and to nature. I may refer you for a partial but affecting illustration of this, to the recent disclosures that have been made of the state of religion among the Hindus; whose condition, in consequence of some public discussions, is so justly exciting the interest of Christians. Look to these facts, with the eyes of Christians, and learn further, the value of your bibles, and the preciousness of the gospel, and see the necessity of these to fill the earth with the knowledge of the Lord. Extensive as have been the discoveries of reason in general science, it has achieved comparatively little in religion. It is to the Scriptures we owe the knowledge of the true God.
2. The Unity of God is an essential article in the Christian faith, and the profession of it, is by no means peculiar to those who affect this, by assuming the name Unitarian. Were it not that established use has associated fixed ideas to that name, it is calculated to impose upon the mind, as implying that those calling themselves by it are the only believers in the Divine Unity. But those against whom they have stated their opposition, maintain as strongly as they do, the proper unity of God. The God is ONE, Trinitarians firmly hold; and the idea of a plurality of gods they uniformly reject. Nor do they view themselves as overturning this fundamental article of their faith, when, from the authority of sacred Scripture they maintain that the Divine Essence, in itself incomprehensible, subsists mysteriously in distinct, though not separate, personal characters or subsistences, which the Scriptures particularize. To deny the possibility of this would be presumptuously to prescribe laws unto divine and necessary existence. It would be the height of pride in man, to whom his own circumscribed nature is unfathomably mysterious, to pronounce upon the possibilities of Infinite Being. That the mystery of the Divine subsistences has no analogy in nature, is not surprising. To whom will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him? He is the I AM THAT I AM. And if mysterious in his being and perfections, why not also in the mode of his subsistence? Is it wonderful that it is without any likeness? Since he has proclaimed this mystery of his being, in supernatural revelation, it is our reasonable duty to receive it, and to wonder, and to adore.
But, my friends, you need not to be reminded that the doctrine of a multiplicity of gods is uniformly disclaimed by those who hold the distinct persons of the Divine Unity. And it must be something else than oversight, to represent those who believe in Trinity, as worshipping other beings and objects than God the Father. They believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and these as one Being, and one Object of worship. Has not this been stated a thousand times, a thousand times told? Opponents may think our faith liable to this imputation. They should say no more. They should not impute to us what is universally refused. To speak of Trinitarians as believing in or worshipping other beings and objects, is an insult upon the Christian world; it manifests a pitiable want of candor; and it is a mean and now very trite artifice, to expose to ridicule, what is not condemned from Scripture, and to clothe the sentiments of opponents with ideas that they peremptorily disavow. Trinitarians may sometimes have used unguarded expressions. But where is the writing of any respectable Trinitarian, or confession of any orthodox church, where Christ and the Holy Ghost, are represented as other beings, objects, or gods, than the Father? It may readily be granted with respect to the distinction in the Divine Existence pleaded for, that, as it is without any likeness or analogy in nature, so no term in human language can fully express it. If the terms which are used are strained to an extreme, they may lead us astray. But this is not peculiar to this doctrine. It results from the imperfection of language, in general; and especially in expressing divine things. But the terms must express some real distinction, and since the Scriptures use hypostasis or persons, we may safely abide by it; ever remembering that we are not to level it to everything imported in the term applied to men. Of this imperfection of language adversaries have taken an unfair advantage. What does not hold concerning man; may, and does holy concerning God. We maintain, notwithstanding, Brethren, the Divine unity—we view it as essential in our faith. Were the term Trinitarian to express tritheism, or a belief in three gods, we would renounce it. And had the term Unitarian merely respected Deity or Godhead, and not been long associated with the refusal of the divinity of the Son of God, and the personality of the Holy Ghost, (ideas not expressed in the term itself,) it might have been adopted, if necessary to distinguish from the profession of three gods. In its present use, however, as applied not only to Godhead but personality, we disclaim it; and cannot but view it as improperly assumed.
Thou believest, O Christian! that there is one God, thou doest well. Besides him there is no God—no Savior. Suffer me to put you in remembrance of the words of our Redeemer: Ye believe in God, believe also in me; and of the words of the apostle: Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?[John 14:1; Acts 19:2.] Let this one god, as revealed in the word, be the one Object of your supreme love, of your faith and homage, and his glory the one object of your aim.
3. The apostle Paul believed in the doctrine of the Trinity.
We view him as an inspired apostle, who has spoken unto us the word of the Lord, and his faith we will follow. He was both a believer, and a sound reasoner. He believed all things which were written in the law and the prophets, and, knowing well the use and province of reason, he reasoned out of the Scriptures. After his example, let our faith receive the divine testimony, and then let us reason from it. Our reason is not the standard to which the Scriptures are to be conformed, but the Scriptures are the standard which our reason should receive, and by which its conclusions are to be regulated. Were men to see things in this order it would be of essential use; and it would bring down those high imaginations, or reasonings, that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. From the inversion of this order, arises a radical mistake in religious inquiries. We are to set the Scriptures before us. This is the only sure way of reasoning in divine things. The Scriptures furnish the first principles or data, upon which to proceed. If we assume first principles from the imaginations of our own minds, our conclusions, however legitimately formed, cannot be correct. But laying the foundation in the holy word, we are safe. It presents to us things necessarily great and mysterious, but nothing contrary to sound reason; and we are to receive its testimony in itself, and in the legitimate consequences of it. But to accommodate Scripture to our own views, is to make a very unreasonable use of it, and to frustrate all its design as an authoritative revelation. To this inversion of the natural order of things, may be traced much of that doctrine, which falsely insinuates itself under the guise of rationality, but at the same time is radically inconsistent with the principles of revelation. These principles must be supremely just and good, and what is inconsistent with them, cannot be reasonable.
That the apostle believed in the Trinity, may appear from what has been stated. But judge ye yourselves what has been said. Be not satisfied with a transitory hearing, but, with the infallible rule in your hand, think, judge, and reason; prove all things, and hold fast that which is good. You may pursue illustrations of the argument to a great length. If this doctrine is not true, the language of Scripture, which we would judge to be such that wayfaring men, though fools, should not err in it, is not only ambiguous, but it is directly misleading. Without admitting the doctrine of a Trinity, Scripture language is inexplicable. A writer*[Dr. (Joseph) Priestly] of eminence on the opposite side of the question has said, when arguing against the doctrine from its supposed inutility, ‘all that can be said for it is that the doctrine, however improbable in itself, is necessary to explain some particular texts of Scripture: and if it had not been for these we should have found no want of it.’ Surely this is a considerable concession. If it be necessary to explain one passage of Scripture, and is not contradictory to others, and if no other meaning can be given to it, without violating all rules of interpretation, this one would be sufficient. But it is found, as has often been stated, throughout the whole of the Scripture.
We are aware of the advantages which may be derived from sacred literature, in the interpretation of Scripture. But we are also sensible, on the other hand, of the hostile occasion that has thus been taken, against the truth, by licentious criticism. Much of this has appeared in the writings of those who oppose the doctrine of which we are speaking. One passage declares this mystery; but it is an interpolation. Another reveals it; the reading must be altered. A third makes it known; but it is of doubtful authority, and no conclusion can be drawn from it. Another intimates it plainly, but the doctrine is so unreasonable in itself, that the words cannot be understood in their ordinary meaning. Therefore a meaning that is strange and forced must be adopted. The end of these things, my Brethren, is to make void the Scripture as any standard of truth. The necessity requiring so unwarrantable freedoms with the Scripture, and the great frequency of them, do not say much in favor of the cause they are designed to support. On the other hand, the doctrine of the Trinity, though mysterious in itself, is plainly revealed; and upon the admission of it, the interpretation of Scripture is natural and easy.
As necessarily included in this great doctrine, Paul believed in the true Deity of our blessed Savior. We have seen he speaks plainly of it. It is true he speaks also of the humanity of Christ. But it is a great mistake to think that the divinity of Christ is overturned, when the truth of his humanity is asserted. Of the reality of this the apostle had no doubts, nor do the followers of his faith dispute it. But the Scriptures speak as strongly of his divinity, as of his humanity; nor is there any character of Deity that is not fully ascribed to him. No view of the character of Christ can be reconciled with this two-fold representation of him, but the one that comprehends both, namely, that he is God and man in one person. Without denying his humanity, we contend for the divine dignity of his person. It is this which imparts dignity, value, and efficacy to every part of his mediation. Without it he could be no Savior, no object of trust or hope. Without this, I am, as a sinner, without hope in the world, I am without consolation, I have nothing, I am undone forever. To use the words of an elegant writer: ‘The divinity of Jesus is in the system of grace, the sun to which all its parts are subordinate, and all the stations refer, which binds them in sacred concord, and imparts to them their radiance, and life, and vigor. Take from it this central luminary, and the glory is departed—its holy harmonies are broken—the elements rush to chaos—the light of salvation is extinguished forever!’*[Endnote G.]
Connected also with this we have seen the apostle’s views of the Holy Spirit. If his language is interpretative of his faith, he believed in the divine personality of the Holy Ghost. We find also all the characters of true Deity given unto the Spirit. And thus while we find the apostle teaching the unity of God, and at the same time ascribing all the names, and attributes, and operations, and honors of God to the Son and the Holy Ghost, we are warranted to view him as believing that these three persons are the One God.
I have not at all considered the very copious evidence of this doctrine which appears in the discourses of Christ and in the evangelists, and in the other apostles. To your Bibles, then, O Christians! Search them with care, and the more you examine, the more will you be confirmed in the sublime truth, and knowing the name of God, you will put you trust in him.
Thus we have a sure foundation for our faith. We have the law and the prophets, the writings of Paul, the word of God at large. We do not rest it upon the prejudices of education. It is true our fathers have told us and we have heard with our ears, this doctrine of the holy word. Yes! we esteem it our privilege to have known from children the holy Scriptures, which are able to make us wise unto salvation. And no parent, feeling the force of truth in his own mind, will decline the pleasing duty of teaching God’s testimony to his children, nor will he dread any hazard from the mind being early stored with the truths of the holy word. Yes! Parents, believing in the truth yourselves, you will make it known to your children, and while many are emulous to begin early the education of their youth for this life, you will not judge it less important to direct their view unto the life that is to come. Bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
4. The worship of the Father alone, to the degradation of the Son, and the denial of the Holy Spirit, is not that worship which Paul taught and offered. It has not the authority of his faith or example, so far as these are to be learned from his writings.
We are bound to worship God. The Scriptures reveal God to be Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. God then, subsisting in the person of the Father, without the Son and Holy Spirit, is not the God of the Scriptures, but an imagination of the mind. Worship regarding God in this view cannot be approved, for it is the will of the Father, That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. And, whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father.[John 5:23; 1 John 2:23.] To refuse to worship Jesus, is to refuse what angels are commanded to do. Yes! It is the authoritative mandate of the Father: Let all the angels of God worship him. To call the worship of the blessed Jesus idolatry, is to impugn the Scripture, it is to make God himself the author of idolatry, it is to impute this to the doctrine of Christ, it is to accuse the saints and church in all ages of idol worship. If this be just, the disciples were guilty of this great sin, when Jesus was in the world. The supposition reflects most injuriously upon the character of Christ. Angels and saints refused worship when offered them; and did Jesus receive worship from both, if it was not his due, without intimating his disapprobation? He could not do this. It was his due. If the worship of Christ was idolatry, the thief upon the cross was guilty of it! In this case, holy Stephen died praying to an idol! The primitive church worshipped a false god! The charge must extend to heaven itself! There saints and angels are prostrated in adoration before Jesus, ascribing all divine glory unto him. Can you expect to mingle with adoring angels and saints around the throne of Jesus, if you refuse him now to be the Object of adoration? Alas! that there are any who thus blaspheme that worthy name by which we are called. Alas! that any deny that BLESSED SPIRIT, into whose name we are baptized equally with the Father and the Son, by whose agency we are born again, by whom we are instructed, and guided, and sanctified, who witnesses within us that we are the children of God, and in whose communion we are blessed. I tremble, when I read, and consider what may be the import: whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.[Matt. 12:32.] Ponder the solemn declaration. It is the saying of infallible Truth. Alas! Christians, that the adored Saviour, and the Blessed Spirit, whom the saints in all ages have worshipped, should now be called our false deities.
We may learn, from this subject, that it is impossible to worship God acceptably, without admitting the doctrine of the Trinity. While the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, are the One Object, God is revealed as gracious and merciful; and Jesus in his atonement, as the way of access; and the Holy Spirit, as our gracious helper. These views are essential to Christian worship. No doubt there is much ground for wonder. But we have a satisfaction in this; the doctrine is replete with comfort; it is suitable to our condition. We are sinners. We dread to approach the Lord. This doctrine presents a Mediator, and atonement. We feel ourselves backward and feeble. This doctrine presents a Holy Spirit, to quicken and succour us. Thus we are encouraged in all the duties of religion.
Adversaries may think the doctrine perplexing to our minds, may ascribe our belief of it to prejudice, and say that we renounce our reason. We consider ourselves as having the exercise of reason, in common with others, in the several departments of human knowledge; and in receiving this doctrine of the Scripture, we do not outrage or suppress our reason, but do homage to God with our understandings, in receiving his testimony concerning himself. A full comprehension of the Object is not required to worship. In this case Unitarians, as well as others would be forever precluded from it. By faith, we apprehend God in his scriptural character; we rejoice in the mystery of his Being; we have delight in the contemplation of it. To us it appears that the display of this wonder in the Divine character was a great end of God in the salvation of a guilty world, and that God designed to be glorified in the universal recognition of it, in every part of the worship of the redeemed. The Lord himself grant unto us the riches of the full assurance of UNDERSTANDING, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the FATHER, and of CHRIST.
5. The worship of adored Trinity is not new. It is not modern, but as ancient as the worship of God. This is the God whom our fathers praised, and in whom they put their trust. It has been partly shown from what is said of the Angel of the Lord, and might be largely illustrated, that a plurality was known and worshipped in the Old Testament church; and although the distinct personal relations and actings of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost might not be so clearly revealed, yet there was so much revealed as was a ground of faith and worship. We have appealed to the New Testament Scripture. It might be shown that in the ages immediately following the days of the apostles, the church believed in and worshipped the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. In confirmation of this, we might refer to the ancient document so familiar to our minds by the name of the creed; and to many others. It is a common thing with adversaries to represent the testimonies which are adduced, as spurious; and this is not wonderful from those who find so many interpolations and corruptions, in those parts of the Scriptures which affect their favorite doctrines. The argument, however, from the antiquity of the doctrine, and from the faith of the church, has been taken up, and we believe well supported, by those conversant with the writings of former ages. We readily acknowledge that the conclusion derived from this is not in itself final. Our first, and chief, and last appeal is to the Holy Scriptures. There we read the doctrine. There we know what was the faith of the primitive church. Believing the church to be built upon this doctrine, we firmly confide, that however opposed, it will prevail triumphant. It is no new doctrine we profess, when, after the way which some call idolatry and polytheism, we worship Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the God of our fathers, believing all things written concerning him, in the law and the prophets, and in the evangelists and the apostles.
6. In concluding this subject, I consider it to be my duty, to admonish the hearers of the gospel, of the danger arising from the dissemination of false doctrine. Think it not indifferent what views you entertain of the word of God. It is possible to wrest it to our own destruction. It is eternal life to know the only true God; then the doctrines concerning God are of radical importance. Error here will diffuse itself through all our faith, our worship, and our obedience. Two opposite systems of belief cannot be both acceptable to God, or truth is nothing in the world. Beware of these doctrines which, under the pretence of reason, are subversive of the plain testimony of God. We call you to examine, to consider, and to search the Scriptures, accompanying all your researches after truth with prayer to the ‘Father of lights.’ In this way use your reason, but beware of that use, or rather abuse of it, which would lead you away from the word of God its only sure guide, and, exalting itself, would accommodate revelation, at any expense, to its own maxims. Some have thought in this way to recommend revelation to its adversaries, but they have thus betrayed it into their hands, and led some to infidelity, who had formerly the Christian name; and they have exposed themselves to the censure of those with whom they sought a compromise. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. There are enemies of the truth. There are persons who care not for the truth. And there are superficial sceptical speculators, who have no settled belief of anything, whose ears are itching after every novelty. But Christians, ye that have received Christ Jesus the Lord, Walk ye in him, rooted and built up in him, stablished in the faith as ye have been taught, and beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit. Be established in the present truth concerning your God, and your Redeemer. It is important, to your faith, your worship, your Christian comfort, your eternal hope.
Our Lord taught his disciples to Beware of false prophets. His words must have had some application. It may be thought invidious or presumptuous in any to make the particular application. But you have a standard of truth. None may plead exemption from it. Bring the doctrine you have now heard, to this rule. At present a very bold and zealous opposition is made to the most essential doctrines of the Christian faith; unto almost everything in it that discriminates Christianity from natural religion; and unto those things in it, which speak peace to our consciences, which give us confidence in God, and hope in another world. Jesus not true God! His blood no true propitiation for our sins! We are thus without a Mediator, who can approach the Lord for us; we are left to atone for our offences, and to tremble and despair forever! Brethren, we cannot but feel here, and view it as our painful duty to withstand those who deny the Lord that bought us, and who would thus not only bring upon themselves, but upon us, swift destruction. We indulge no personal rancour, but seek the spirit which actuated our apostle, when he says: Many walk of whom I have told you often, and now tell you, even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ. I would rather plead the truths of my Redeemer, with tears, than with the wrath of man that worketh not the righteousness of God. It is in this spirit, I hope that I have, this evening, addressed you.
Finally. The worship of God is a practical subject. It is a subject, the doctrine of Scripture concerning which is to be believed, and to be performed. After you have given me your attention, while attempting to exhibit the Object of worship, and that homage which is due unto him, permit me now, my hearers, to inquire whether you actually worship God. Many profess to know God, but in works deny him. Might I ask, Do you pray to him, in your closets, and in your families? Or are the theory and the name of religion all your concern with it? Do you come before God, in the house called by his name, while you are without his fear in your hearts, and neglect his worship in your homes? What avail your knowledge of doctrine, and your profession, if you do not reduce them to practice; or your form of godliness, when you deny the power of it? They will aggravate your condemnation. Be not deceived. God is not mocked. Be wise now, therefore; be instructed. Without believing in his Son you cannot please God. Thus taste and see that the Lord is good. O love the Lord, and by faith in the Redeemer, seeking and trusting in the promised aids of his Holy Spirit, delight yourselves in his worship.
Let me now address all the hearers of the gospel. The Lord is now revealed as gracious and merciful. The exceeding riches of his grace and kindness come to us through Jesus Christ. The gospel reveals a Mediator, who has made atonement, and a Holy Spirit who works effectually in them that believe. These are doctrines of God, which your condition as sinners, guilty and impotent, requires. Improve them by faith. Feeling their consolation in your hearts, you will be confirmed in their truth, by arguments which all the sophistry of men cannot shake. In these views you will, through grace, continue, with your mouths to confess the God of your fathers; and under all reproach, and at every peril, you will abide by his worship.
To God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; and to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father; and to the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of the Son, that proceedeth from the Father; ONE GOD, be all divine glory. Amen.
S. & A. Young, Printers, Paisley.
A. God is frequently called by plural names, which many consider, as designing to intimate some plurality of character. Thus, in the very first words of inspiration, a plural name of God (Elohim) is joined with a verb in the singular number. In other passages plural names are used. Job xxxv. 10. Where is God thy Makers? Psal. cxlix. 2. & Isai. liv. 5. Ecc. xii. 1. Remember now thy Creators, &c. Concerning the special intimation of a plurality at the creation of man, Dr. Owen has somewhere remarked to this effect, that God, manifesting by the other parts of creation his existence, nature, and perfections, designed in the creation of man the manifestation of himself as subsisting in a trinity of persons.
B. Even in many places of the Old Testament, the trinity of persons will be found mentioned with the compass of a verse or two. By the WORD of the LORD were the heavens made: and all the host of them by the breath (SPIRIT) of his mouth. Psal. xxxiii. 6. compared with John i. 3. & Job xxvi. 13.—The ANGEL of HIS presence saved them—but they vexed his HOLY SPIRIT, Isai. lxiii. 9,10.—The SPIRIT of the LORD GOD is upon ME, Isai. lxi. 1. Christ is the speaker. Many consider the words, Hag. ii. 4,5. in the same view. I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts, according to the WORD that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my Spirit remaineth, &c. or as they may read: I am with you—with the WORD that I covenanted with you—and with my SPIRIT remaining in the midst of you. Dr. Jamieson’s Vindication. Book. i. chap. ix.
C. Rom. x. 13. a quotation from Joel. ii. 32. See also Acts ii. 21. Acts. ix. 14. must apply to Christ. The person spoken to by Ananias, was the Lord. And that Lord was Jesus whom Paul persecuted. Christians are generally denominated persons that call on his name.
D. In illustration of this, I am disposed to quote a Section from Dr. Owen’s Discourse concerning the Holy Spirit, Book i. chap. iii. § 10. For the sake of conciseness, I shall give it, as quoted by Dr. Hawker in his Sermons on the Divinity and operations of the Holy Ghost. “If (says he) a wise and honest man should come and tell you, that in a certain country, where he has been, there is an excellent governor, who wisely discharges the duties of his office; who hears cause, discerns right, distributes justice, relieves the poor, and comforts the distressed; would you not believe that he intended by this description, a righteous, wise, diligent, and intelligent person? What else could any man living imagine? But now suppose that a stranger should come and tell you that the former information, which you had received was indeed true, but that no person was meant by it; it was only a figure of the sun or the wind, which by their benign influences rendered the country fruitful and temperate, and disposed the inhabitants to natural kindness and benignity. This is exactly the case in the instance before us. The Scriptures tell us that the Holy Ghost governs the church, appoints overseers of it, discerns and judges all things, comforts the faint, strengthens the weak; is grieved and provoked by sin; and that in these and many other affairs, he works, and orders, and disposes all things according to the counsel of his own will. Can any man credit this testimony, and conceive otherwise of the Blessed Spirit, than as of an holy, wise, intelligent person? Is it possible that nothing more is intended by these expressions, than only an accident, a quality, an effect or influence of the power of God, which doth all these things figuratively; hath a will figuratively; an understanding figuratively; is sinned against figuratively, and the like? What can any man, not bereft of natural reason as well as spiritual light conclude; but either that the Scripture designed to draw him into fatal errors; or that those, who would impose such a sense upon the Word of God, are corrupt seducers, who would rob him of his faith and his comforts?”
E. Perhaps the same might be said of 1 Thess. iii. 11. Now, God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. We read of God—of the Father—and of our Lord Jesus Christ.
F. The word rendered access is expressive of that admission which is obtained into the presence of princes, by their friends or counsellors. It signifies an introduction And in the case under consideration, it is not the introduction merely of a stranger, or an inferior, but of an offender; and an introduction through atonement, as is very clearly stated by Peter, making use of the same word: Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might BRING US to God, or give us access to God. 1 Pet. iii. 18. See also Rom. v. 2.
G. See Sermon by Dr. [John M.] Mason of New York from Psal. xlv. 6. In reading that sermon, several years ago, the writer was deeply affected with the following passage, which he was induced to transcribe, and shall insert for the sake of such of his readers as may not have seen the sermon itself. He wishes that it may be the means of impressing many in the way it did himself. ‘Indeed, my brethren, the doctrine of our Lord’s divinity is not as a fact more interesting to our faith, than as a principle it is essential to our hope. If he were not the true God, he could not be the ‘eternal life.’ When pressed by guilt and languishing for happiness, I look around for a deliverer, such as my conscience, and my heart, and the word of God assure me that I need. Insult not my agony by directing me to a creature—to a man like myself! a creature! a man! My Redeemer owns my person. My immortal spirit is his property. When I come to die I must commit it into his hands. My soul! my infinitely precious soul committed to a mere man! become the property of a mere man! I would not, thus, entrust my body, to the highest angel who burns in the temple above. It is only the ‘Father of spirits’ that can have property in spirits, and be their refuge in the hour of transition from the present to the approaching world. In short, my brethren, the divinity of Jesus is in the system of grace, &c. as above.