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their comfort and support in the moment of dissolution, when their souls left this tenement of clay, and fled to the resting place of the spirits of the just.
It is agreed by the most eminent divines, that the literal meaning of scripture is not to be deserted without the most urgent necessity. This is the fundamental principle of biblical interpretation ; a departure from which inevitably leads into all the excentricities of opinion, and the wildness of enthusiasm ; for when the literal exposition is rejected, no bounds can be set to the errors which may ensue,-in some cases a various reading is adopted, in others a conjectural alteration, which will at least neutralize a pungent passage, and stubborn must be the text which will not bend under one or other of these modes of treatment. Thus the scriptures cease to be the unerring rule of faith and manners, and by the dexterity of controversalists, and philosophical commentators, a fancied support is wrested from them to systems not only absurd, but productive of mis. chiefs the most deplorable.
In the following treatise I propose to prove the Divinity of Christ, from his Preexistent state, his Incarnation and Atonement, and from a full conviction of the absolute necessity of conforming to the rule I have now laid down, namely, that of adhering strictly to the plain and obvious sense of scripture testimony, I shall quote those texts only, which in the mind of every candid reader fairly shew, that Jesus of Nazareth, who took upon himself the nature of man, was essentially partaker of the Divine Nature also, being (as an apostle hath distinctly stated it) “ the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person."
THE PRE-EXISTENCE OF CHRIST.'
Before Abraham was I am." John viji. 58.
Wuen it pleased God to bestow the faculty of reason on his creature man, he intended that this substitute of himself should be the guide of life, and the handmaid of religion ; and that it might serve to these purposes, it was made intelligent enough, if honestly exerted, to lead him to some competent knowledge of his Maker, and of his moral duty, and to judge of the pretensions of any further light from heaven, which might be graciously vouchsafed to him. Now the safest rule by which a christian can conduct himself upon mysterious subjects, I apprehend to be this-that he never allow himself to philosophize, or to draw conclusions in theology, upon philosophical reasonings, without his bible. He may invesa tigate, and hypothetically draw conclusions, but for a certain test of the conclusions so
drawn, let him have recourse to the word and to the testimony. In every thing relating to the being and essence of God, he must divest himself of all the pride of philosophy, and implicitly resign his understanding to the authority of the scriptures. We cannot reason on all subjects, because there are many subjects which we cannot understand. The nature of the infinite Being, the mode of his existence are inscrutable to us, and probable to the highest angels. Why then intrude into such things, as no man hath seen, or can see, especially when the revelations which God hath given of himself only silence, and do notcontradict our reason? Every thing would appear fit and right, if the whole scheme of providence were fully unveiled to us. It must be fit and right, whether we see it or not, if the doctrine in question be credibly attested ; and the credibility will depend not on our fancies and expectation, of I know not what irresistible evidence, but on the real weight of the authority, on which it is established.
The unity of God is a first principle in all true religion, whether natural or revealed.
We know there must be a first cause, because things actually exist, and could never have existed without a cause, and all secondary causes necessarily lead us to a primary
Both the old and new testament proclaim with equal clearness and force, the existence of one eternal, omnipotent, and immutable God. Yet while we unequivocally own this sacred truth, and resolve to preserve it inviolate, we nevertheless acknowledge a personal distinction in that unity. We believe that in the Godhead there are three persons, each of whom is by himself God, fully possessed of the divine perfections, at the same time so indissolubly connected, so strictly one being, that any individual thing in the whole world of matter and of spirit, presents but a faint shadow of their unity.*
* The excellent Grotius has given an elucidation of the Trinity, which may be translated thus :
Why is one God set forth in Persons Three
Vid. Institutio. Baptizatorum Puerorum.