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gible and mysterious doctrines, which they allow are revealed in the Bible, and which they insist that no man can really and truly understand. But is it not a plain absurdity to suppose that God has revealed any thing to us in his word, concerning himself, or concerning any of his creatures, which cannot be really known by us in our present, imperfect state? If we cannot understand God, speaking to us in our own language, why should he speak to us at all? If we allow, then, that God does speak to us in his word, we must suppose that we are capable of understanding what he says, whether he says more or less, upon any subject whatever. None suppose that God has revealed all that he might have revealed upon plain subjects; and much less, that he has revealed all that he might have revealed upon more difficult, deep and abstruse subjects. But we must suppose that what he has revealed upon the darkest and deepest subjects is as easy to understand, as what he has revealed upon the plainest subjects. I will illustrate this point as clearly as I can. God has told us that he existed before the foundation of the world ; that is, before any creature or object existed, besides himself; which means his existing from eternity. This is a plain and important truth, though he has not told us how he existed from eternity. God has told us that he created the world and all that is in it; which is a plain and important truth, though he has not told us how he created all things, or brought them out of nothing into existence. God has told us that he hath hung the earth upon nothing; which is a plain and important truth, though he has not told us how he upholds, or supports it every moment. God has told us that he governs all things; which is a plain and important truth, though he has not told us how he governs all things. God has told us that he constantly fills heaven and earth and all places with his presence; which is a plain and important truth, though he has not told us how he fills the universe with his presence. God has told us that he has decreed all things; which is a plain and important truth, though he has not told us what and how many things he has decreed. God has told us that he is absolutely immutable; which is a plain and important truth, though he has not told us what is the ground of his immutability. God has told us that he works in men both to will and to do; which is a plain and important truth, though he has not told us how he constantly produces all their free and voluntary exercises. God has told us that he is one God, but exists in three distinct persons, each of whom has the properties of understanding, willing and acting; which is a plain and important truth, though he has not told us what there is in his nature that lays a foundation for this personal distinction.
Now just so much as God has told us in his word concerning his existing from eternity, his creating the world, his upholding the world, his governing the world, his filling the world with his presence, his decreeing all things, his perfect immutability, his operating upon the hearts of men, and his existing a Trinity in Unity, is as easy to be understood and certainly known, as any thing he has revealed concerning less obscure and profound subjects. Whatever he has revealed in the Bible, he has revealed in the plain and intelligible language of men, who are capable of understanding the true meaning of every word which he has used, upon every subject about which he has revealed any thing It is reasonable to suppose that God has not revealed any thing in his word which we cannot understand, but it is absurd to suppose that he has revealed any thing in his word which we cannot understand. It is certain to a demonstration, that if we cannot understand what he reveals upon the most profound subjects, we cannot understand what he reveals upon the plainest subjects. It is a contradiction in terms, to say that he reveals any thing in our language which we cannot understand, nor express properly in our own language. For, on this supposition, he does not reveal any thing. Nothing can be revealed to us, which no human language can express. The supposition that we cannot understand all that God has actually revealed concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, casts a mist, a cloud, and complete darkness, over all the doctrines of the Bible. It is absurd for any man to undertake to defend the doctrine of the Trinity, and at the same time tell us that neither he nor any body else can understand what God has actually revealed upon that mysterious subject. God has told us that he created men, that his Son died to redeem men, and that the Holy Ghost sanctifies the hearts of men. This implies that he is a person, or agent, and that his Son is a person, or agent, and that the Holy Ghost is a person, or agent. And it as absurd to deny that the Father is a person, or that the Son is a person, or that the Holy Ghost is a person, because they are not called persons in the Bible, as to deny that God is a moral agent, because he does not call himself a moral agent; or as to deny that mankind are moral agents, because God calls them men, and not moral agents. These observations will apply to every doctrine which God has revealed in the Bible in human language ; for they can all be understood and explained, by different words in the same language in which they are revealed.
2. If christians can understand whatever God has revealed in his word concerning himself or any of his creatures, then there is a propriety in preaching upon any truth, or doctrine,
that God has revealed in the Bible. We often hear it said that there are some doctrines revealed in the Bible that ought never to be preached ; such as the doctrine of the Trinity; the doctrine of the divine and human nature in the person of Christ; the doctrine of decrees; the doctrine of election ; the doctrine of divine agency in the production of moral exercises in the hearts of men; and the doctrine of the future and eternal punishment of the finally impenitent; and many other doctrines. It is said that such doctrines as these, though revealed in the Bible, are too dark, profound, or mysterious, to be explained, proved and defended, by the fallible preachers of the gospel. But is not this a groundless and hurtful opinion? If christians may have a true knowledge of what God has revealed in his word, then it seems that Christian ministers may have a true knowledge of whatever doctrine God has revealed in the gospel; and, consequently, that they may and ought to explain, prove and defend whatever doctrine they find God has actually revealed. That is to say, they ought to explain, prove and defend so much concerning any doctrine as God has revealed, and no more. If he has revealed something concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, they ought to explain, prove, and defend that something. If he has revealed something concerning the doctrine of decrees, election and reprobation, they ought to explain, prove and defend that something. If he has revealed something concerning the doctrine of the divine and human nature of Christ, they ought to explain, prove and defend that something. If he has revealed something concerning divine agency, future punishment, or any other doctrine of the gospel, they ought to explain, prove and defend that something. But though ministers ought to explain, prove and defend what God has revealed in his word, yet they ought never to attempt to explain, or prove, or defend what he has not revealed in his word, and what, for that reason, is really mysterious. There is, however, a wide difference between what is merely difficult, and what is really mysterious, respecting the revealed doctrines of the gospel. And it is the proper duty and business of ministers to point out this difference, by explaining what is difficult, and distinguishing a difficulty from a mystery. And it is, in all cases, easy and practicable to discover and point out and remove a difficulty, and make it appear to be no mystery. And when they have done this, in respect to the doctrine of the Trinity, or the doctrine of decrees, or any other doctrine, concerning which God has not revealed so much as he might have revealed, they have done what they ought to do. Ministers may go just as far as revelation goes, and not a step farther, in explaining, proving and defending any doctrine of the gospel
3. If christians may have a true knowledge of whatever God has revealed concerning any doctrine of the Bible, then they have no right to disbelieve and reject any doctrine of the Bible, merely because there is something really mysterious in it. If we may disbelieve whatever has something mysterious in it, we may disbelieve every thing that exists. On this principle, we may disbelieve our own existence; for there is something in our own existence which is mysterious, and which we cannot comprehend. We may disbelieve the existence of all our fellow creatures; for there is something mysterious in their existence which we cannot comprehend. We may disbelieve the existence of the world in which we live; for there is something mysterious in its existence, which we cannot comprehend. We
may disbelieve the existence of the Deity; for there is something mysterious in his existence, which we cannot comprehend. But though there is something mysterious in all these, and in all other beings, creatures and objects, that exist, which we cannot comprehend; yet there is something that is not mysterious, but plain and intelligible, in them all. And it would be absurd to disbelieve what is plain and intelligible, on account of what is mysterious. And it is equally absurd for christians to disbelieve any, or all the doctrines of the gospel, because there is really something mysterious in them; when, at the same time, there is something plain and intelligible in them. For they may come to the true knowledge of what is plain and intelligible in them, either by the light of nature, or by the light of divine revelation, or by the light of both. How many are there at this day, who professedly disbelieve and reject the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of election, and many other essential doctrines of the gospel, because they discover something mysterious in them! Mystery is the great stumbling block which heretics, deists and skeptics are throwing in the way of christians, for the purpose of involving them in doubts and darkness respecting all the doctrines of the gospel. Common christians ought to stand upon their guard, and steadfastly turn a deaf ear to such deceivers and seducers. Their sophistry is both absurd and criminal, though they may have deceived themselves by it.
4. If christians can come to the certain knowledge of what God has revealed concerning the doctrines of the gospel, then those who have gained this certain knowledge, ought to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. Those who are superficial and lax in their religious sentiments, are loudly exclaiming against religious disputes. They say that neither side in a dispute know that they are right; they can only approximate towards the truth ; nobody certainly knows it, respecting any doctrine of the gospel. If this were true, it
would be vain and absurd to dispute upon religious subjects. But it has been, perhaps, sufficiently shown that christians may come to the real, certain knowledge of what God has revealed, concerning the doctrines of the gospel. And those who have this knowledge of what God has revealed, may know that they have it; and when they know the truth, and know that they know it, it is their duty to contend earnestly for it. Unitarians are crying peace, peace, when there is no peace; and moderate men, on all sides, are crying peace, peace, when there is no peace. It is while men sleep, that the enemy sows tares. Corrupters always wish to throw christians off their guard. There were never, perhaps, more corrupters of the gospel, than at the present day. Now is the proper time to put on the Christian armor, and fight the good fight of faith; which has always been defended and promoted by religious disputes.
5. If christians may come to the knowledge of God and divine truth, then they will have no excuse for their religious errors. Many believe and maintain that religious errors are very innocent and harmless. They suppose that men may be saved, notwithstanding any religious errors they imbibe, if they are only sincere in the belief of their errors; that is, if they really believe them to be the truth. But the Bible represents gross error as not only dangerous, but absolutely destructive. We read of those who were under delusion to believe a lie, that they might be damned. And we read that error doth eat as a canker. Error is like poison; to imbibe the smallest potion of it will be injurious; and a large potion of it will be eventually and eternally destructive. The most gross religious errors were never more zealously and artfully propagated than at the present day; by which the souls of thousands and millions are exposed to endless destruction. The propagators of errors first endeavor to make men believe that no errors are dangerous, and especially those they wish to propagate. And this opinion, that it is no matter what religious sentiments men believe and embrace, is the most dangerous of all errors; because it opens the door to all other errors imperceptibly. Men do not at once see the width of this door, and the consequences of entering into it. But those who trust in the innocency
of error, will be sooner or later awfully disappointed. Paul once trusted in his sincere errors until he was well nigh destroyed. The Scribes and Pharisees persisted in their belief of fatal errors, which shut them out of the kingdom of heaven. Accordingly Christ told his followers, “ Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”