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wills of free agents; it being utterly inconceivable, how any understanding, how large and perfect foever, can certainly know beforehand that which depends upon the free will of another, which is an arbitrary and uncertain cause.
And yet the scripture doth not only attribute this foreknowledge to God; but gives us also plain instances of God's foretelling such things, many ages before they happened, as could not come to pass but by the sins of men; in which we are sure that God can have no hand, though nothing can happen without his permission. Such was that most memorable event of the death of Christ, who, as the scripture tells us, was by wicked hands crucified and pain : and yet even this is said to have happened according 10 the determinate foreknowledge of God; and was punctually foretold by him fome hundreds of years before. Nay, the scripture doth not only ascribe this power and perfection to the divine knowledge, but natural reason bath been forced to acknowledge it; as we may fee in some of the wiselt of the philosophers. And yet it would puzzle the greatest philosopher that ever was, to give any tolerable account how any knowledge whatsoever can certainly and infallibly foresee an event through uncertain and contingent causes. All the reasonable satisfaction that can be had in this matter is this, that it is not at all unreasonable to suppose, that infinite knowledge may have ways of knowing things, which our finite understandings can by no means comprehend how they can possibly be known.
Again, there is hardly any thing more inconceivable, than how a thing should be ofitself, and without any cause of its being: and yet our reason compels us to acknowledge this ; because we certainly fee, that something is, which must either have been of itself, and without a cause, or else something that we do not see must have been of itself, and have made all other things. And by this reasoning, we are forced to acknowledge a Deity; the mind of man being able to find no reft, but in the acknowledgment of one eternal and wise mind, as the principle and first cause of all other things : and this principle is that which mankind do by general consent call God. So that God hath laid a fure foundation of our acknowledgment of his being in the reason of our own minds. And though it be one of the hardest things in the world, to conceive how any thing can be of itself; yet necessity drives us to acknowledge it whether we will or no: and this being once granted, our reason being tired in trying all other ways, will, for its own quiet and ease, force us at last to fall in with the general apprehension and belief of mankind concerning a Deity.
To give but one instance more : There is the like difficulty in conceiving how any thing can be made out of nothing: and yet our reason doth oblige us to believe it; because matter, which is a very imperfect being, and merely passive, must either always have been of itself, or else, by the infinite power of a most perfect and aEtive being, must have been made out of nothing. Which is much more credible, than that any thing so imperfect as matter is, should be of itself; because that' which is of itself, cannot be conceived to have any bounds and limits of its being and perfection ; for by the fame reason that it necessarily is and of itself, it mult necessarily have all perfection, which it is certain matter hath not: and yet necessary existence is so great a perfection, that we cannot reasonably suppose any thing that hath this perfection, to want any other.
Thus you see, by these instances, that it is not repugnant to reason, to believe a great many things to be, of the manner of whose existence we are not able to give a particular and distinct account. And much less is it. repugnant to reason, to believe thofe things concerning God, which we are very well assured he hath declared concerning himself, though these things by our reason should be incomprehensible.
And this is truly the case as to the matter now under debate. We are sufficiently
. assured, that the scriptures are a divine revelation, and that this mystery of the Trinity is therein declared to us. Now, that we cannot comprehend it, is no sufficient reason not to believe it : for, if this were a good reason for not believing it, then no man ought to believe tbat there is a God; because his nature is most certainly incomprehensible. But we are assured by many arguments that there is a God; and
the same natural reason which assures us that he is, doth likewise assure us, that he is incomprehenlible: and therefore our believing him to be so, doth by no means overthrow our belief of his being.
In like manner, we are assured by divine revelation of the truth of this doctrine of the Trinity ; and being once assured of that, our not being able fully to comprehend it, is not reason enough to stagger our belief of it. A man cannot deny what he ees, though the necessary consequence of admitting it may be fomething which he cannot comprehend. One cannot deny the frame of this world which he sees with his eyes, though from thence it will necessarily follow, that either that or something else must be of itself; which yet, as I faid before, is a thing which no man can comprehend how it can be.
And by the same reason, a man must not deny what God says, to be true; though he cannot comprehend many things which God says: as particularly concerning this mystery of the Trinity. It ought then to satisfy us, that there is sufficient evidence, that this doctrine is delivered in fcripture ; and that what is there declared concerning it, doth not imply a contradiction. For why should our finite understandings pretend to comprehend that which is infinite; or to know all the real differences that are consistent with the unity of an infinite being; or to be able fully to explain this mystery by any fimilitude or resemblance taken from finite beings?
But, before I leave this argument, I cannot but take notice of one thing which they of the church of Rome are perpetually objecting to us upon this occafion; and it is this : That by the same reason that we believe the doctrine of the Trinity, we may and must receive that of tranfubftantiation. God forbid : Because of all the doctrines that ever were in any religion, this of transubstantiation is certainly the most abominably absurd.
However, this objection plainly fhews how fondly and obstinately they are addieted to their own errors, how mishapen and monstrous foever ; infomuch that, rather than the dictates of their church, how absurd foever, should be called in question, they will question the truth even of Christianity itself; and if we will not take in transubstantiation, and admit it to be a necessary article of the Christian faith, they grow so sullen and desperate, that they matter not what becomes of all the rest: and rather than not have their will of us in that which is controverted, they will give up that which by their own confession is an undoubted article of the Chris stian faith, and not controverted on either side ; except only by the Socinians, who yet are hearty enemies to transubstantiation, and have exposed the absurdity of it with great advantage.
But I shall endeavour to return a more particular answer to this objection, and such a one as I hope will fatisfy every considerate and unprejudiced mind, that after all this confidence and swaggering of theirs, there is by no means equal reason either for the receiving, or for the rejecting of these two doctrines of the Trinity and transubstantiation.
1. There is not equal reason for the belief of these two doctrines. This objection, if it be of any force, must suppose that there is equal evidence and proof from scripture for these two doctrines. But this we utterly deny; and with great reason ; because it is no more evident from the words of scripture, that the sacramental bread is substantially changed into Christ's natural body by virtue of those words, This is my body, than it is, that Christ is fubftantially changed into a natural vine by virtue of those words, John xv. I. I am the true vine ; or than that the rock in the wilderness, of which the Ifraelites drank, was substantially changed into the person of Christ, because it is expressly said, that Rock was Chrift; or than that the Christian church is substantial. ly changed into the natural body of Christ, because it is in express terms said of the church, that it is his body, Eph. i. 23.
But besides this, several of their own most learned writers have freely acknowledged, that transubstantiation can neither be directly proved, nor neceffarily concluded from scripture. But this the writers of the Christian church did never acknowledge concerning the Trinity, and the divinity of Christ; but have always appealed to the clear and undeniable testimonies of fcripture for the proof of these doctrines. And then the whole force of the objection amounts to this, That if I am bound to believe what I am sure God says, though I cannot comprehend it; then I am bound by the same reason to believe the greatest absurdity in the world, though I have no manner of assurance of any divine revelation concerning it. And if this be their meaning, though we understand not transubstantiation, yet we very well understand what they would have, but cannot grant it; because there is not equal reason to believe two things, for one of which there is good proof, and for the other no proof at all.
2. Neither is there equal reason for the rejecting of these two doctrines. This the objection supposes, whieh yet cannot be supposed, but upon one or both of these two grounds ; either because these two doctrines are equally incomprehensible ; or because they are equally loaded with absurdities and contradictions.
ift, The first is no good ground of rejecting any do&rine, merely because it is incomprehensible; as I have abundantly thewed already. But besides this, there is a wide difference between plain matters of sense, and mysteries concerning God; and it does by no means follow, that if a man do once admit any thing concerning God which he cannot comprehend, he hath no reason afterwards to believe what he himself fees. This is a most unreasonable and destructive way of arguing; because it strikes at the foundation of all certainty, and sets every man at liberty to deny the most plain and evident truths of Christianity, if he may not be humoured in having the absurdest things in the world admitted for true. -T next step will be, to persuade us, that we may as well deny the being of God, because his nature is incomprehensible by our reason, as deny transubstantiation, because it evidently contradicts our senses.
2dly, Nor are these two doctrines loaded with the like absurdities and contradictions. So far from this, that the doctrine of the Trinity, as it is delivered in the fcriptures, and hath already been explained, hath no absur-. dity or contradiction, either involved in it, or necessarily consequent upon it. But the doctrine of transube Itantiation is big with all imaginable absurdity and contradiction. And their own Ichoolmen have fufficiently