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We know then, that the perfections of God are infinite, and we are bound to believe them; but for our finite capacities to comprehend them is impossible.
And as his perfections, so his counsels and resolutions in the general scheme of his providence concerning tlie salvation of men, can be no farther known than he has been pleased to reveal them.
If then in this revelation of his will to men, there should be some doctrines, which are above our capacities to explain, why are we not equally obliged to believe them, as well as those truths in natural knowledge, which we cannot solve, or the notion of the divine attributes, which we cannot comprehend; especially when our belief of those doctrines is an acknowledgement of the belief of one of those attributes, the veracity of God? Now reason itself will shew us, that we ought to acknowledge all the divine attributes, and we must necessarily own, that God is a God of infallible truth, as well as a being of infinite wisdom and goodness : infallible truth, therefore, must be one of his attributes. And as God could have no other end in revealing his will to men, than to promote their happiness by directing them to their duty, we must conse
quently be inexcusable, if we do not believe all those things, which he has revealed, upon his testimony, and thereby make an acknowledgement of this attribute. This faith is absolutely required of us : for if we believe only those truths in this revelation, which are self-evident or demonstrable by reason, we shew no regard to the veracity of God and his testimony; for we should have believed them, had they been affirmed by the most fallible men, because they carry their own evidence and conviction along with them. It is not, therefore, inconsistent with the attributes of God to require of us the belief of some truths, which are above reason, as trials of our faith, and evidences of our submission to his authority.
We acknowledge, then, that there are doce trines contained in this revelation which we cannot comprehend; such as the incarnation and death of God's Son, the unity of the Trinity, and others relating to the counsels of God; and yet we affirm, that we are bound to believe them, because we cannot any other way shew our acknowledgement of God's infallible truth and veracity, than by giving our assent to those truths, which are above our comprehension, upon the divine authority,
And the reason, why some men do not concur with us in the belief of these truths, is their not distinguishing between things that are above reason and things that are contrary to it. But because they cannot fully comprehend these doctrines, they hastily conclude, that they must be false and impossible. Now before it can be proved that any proposition is false, we must fully comprehend all the parts of it, and the whole matter contained therein : will they assert then, that they know so much of the divine nature, as to demonstrate that what is affirmed in the scriptures concerning it is false or impossible?. It has been proved already, that our finite capacity cannot fully comprehend the perfection of God and the manner of his existence: whatever, therefore, is contained in the scriptures concerning the manner of God's existence, may be possible, and consequently may be revealed: but what God has revealed we are bound to believe to be true, because it has the testimony of him, who cannot deceive or be deceived. If, then, the incarnation of the Son of God is affirmed in the scriptures, or that God exists in three persons, we admit these doctrines to be incomprehensible, and that we have no adequate ideas of the parts contained in these propositions: but, at the same time, we must acknowledge, that God perfectly knows the manner of his own existence, and, therefore, we must believe what he has revealed to us concerning it, upon his indisputable authority.
From what has been said, it appears,' that we do not require a blind and implicit obedience, or exclude the use of reason in matters of religion. For it is by the use of reason, that we examine into the proofs of the revelation, and by the guidance of reason, into the nature of the doctrines contained in it, whether they be contrary to it or not: and when we are convinced of these two points, all that we insist upon is, that if, upon examination into these doctrines, we find any that are incomprehensible, we ought not upon that account to conclude that they are false, but with the greatest reason to submit to the authority of God, who has revealed them.
And, indeed, however men may pretend to rail at the belief of mysteries, not all the wit of man has ever yet been able to produce a scheme of salvation, which has so well provided for the honour of God, and the harmony of his attributes, as the Gospel dispensation. For the atonement which a crucified Saviour made for the sins of mankind, at the same time, shewed the displeasure of God to sin, that it procured
his pardon and forgiveness of it to men. Here mercy and justice met together, righteousness and peace kissed each other. Under this gracious covenant of promise, we have this comfort and assurance, that though we cannot ourselves inake any atonement for our sins, and though our best works are imperfect, yet, through faith in the merits of him who died for us, and sincere repentance, the one will be pardoned, and the other accepted. For now there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit: For God is the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus, to whom his faith is counted for rigliteousness, and that freely, by the grace of God, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
But, 2dly, Lest the mercy of God in this dis pensation should be abused by the presumptuous pretensions of wicked men, as if faith alone was sufficient to procure pardon of sins, the Apostlecommands us“ to hold this mystery of the “ faith in a pure conscience;" that is, to live agreeably to our christian profession. And accordingly, in St. James, and many other parts of scripture, it is expressly declared, that faith is no otherwise saving, than as it is an active principle, and exerts itself in good works ; that