« PreviousContinue »
my language expresses. His making me deny, without qualification, the propriety of "making it a rule to understand the "terms of a proposition before believing it," arose from his having, "without leave asked or obtained," fathered his own definition upon me. For where is the proposition, of which I have denied the necessity of understanding the terms before believing it? He has pointed out none;-and that for a very good reason, because there is none. There are propositions relative to the fact of the Trinity; and the terms used in these, as declarative of the fact, are understood. But there is not (as I have already noticed) any proposition in the Scriptures, relative to that which we do NOT comprehend, namely, the MODE of the fact. There is nothing on this point which we are called to believe. for the "rule" of "understanding the terms of a proposition "before believing it;"-for there is no proposition to be believed, no terms to be understood.
There is no room, therefore,
3dly. I might perhaps have spared the reader the trouble of going through the preceding reasonings, by placing my third observation first:-The chapter is futile and useless in the argument; because it admits all that I should reckon it necessary to plead for.
Thus, (p. 45.) “I have already stated the fact, which it "would be the height of presumption to deny, that concern"ing every class of beings there are truths, clear to superior "intelligences, though seen indistinctly, or not at all, by us." —If “concerning every class of beings,"—most of all, surely, concerning the first and highest of beings. How will Mr. Yates prove, that the mode of the Divine existence may not be one of that description of truths to which he refers ?—that superior intelligences may have some clearer knowledge of it, —and that such knowledge we ourselves may attain, in the
higher state of our future existence?-that "what we know not now, we shall know hereafter?”—Perhaps, indeed, it may not be so; for the mode of the Divine subsistence may, for aught we can tell, be beyond the grasp of all finite intelligence:—but still it may be so; and this is enough-enough to silence the " presumption" that would refuse assent to an incomprehensible proposition (incomprehensible in its matter, not unintelligible in its terms) on such a subject.
Thus again :-"Notwithstanding, therefore, the apparent "force of these observations, I would still maintain an humble "conviction, that my understanding is weak and deceitful; "and hence I am prepared to admit the truth of any unintel"ligible proposition, which is supported by the authority of "Scripture." (P. 44.) And again:-" On all these subjects "truths may be enunciated, so far as human language is ad66 apted to convey them, which to inferior minds will appear ❝ difficult to be conceived, or entirely incomprehensible. No"thing, therefore, can be more unreasonable, than absolutely "to deny a proposition because we attach no distinct concep❝tions to the terms in which it is expressed." (P. 41.)
Now, first of all here, what does Mr. Yates mean by assenting to the truth of an unintelligible proposition—i. e. of a proposition to the terms of which he affixes no conceptions, or no distinct conceptions?-What is it, in this case, that he really believes? It is evidently nothing expressed in the proposition itself. There is a very material difference between believing that a particular proposition contains some truth or other, and believing the truth which the proposition contains. The former only is what a man believes, when a proposition is uttered to him in an unknown tongue; or, if he be entirely ignorant of mathematics, when he hears it said by a mathematician, that "an ellipse is one of the conic sections."-Such
alone could be our belief with regard to the Trinity, if the terms in which the doctrine is expressed were unintelligible. -But "there is a vast difference between unintelligible and "incomprehensible. That is, strictly speaking, unintelligible, concerning which we can frame no ideas; and that only "incomprehensible concerning which our ideas are imperfect. "It is plain, therefore, that a doctrine may be intelligible, "and yet incomprehensible." *-Is Mr. Yates, then, prepared to give his assent to what is unintelligible, and determined to withhold it from what is incomprehensible?—to admit the truth of propositions whose terms he does not understand, and to deny the truth of propositions, which affirm a fact in terms perfectly clear and intelligible, and which only leave unexplained the manner of the fact?-to yield his assent to what is not revealed at all (for that certainly is not at all revealed, which is expressed in terms that cannot be understood), and to refuse his assent to what is partially revealed, because it is not revealed more fully; when, for aught we know, the reason of the limitation may have been the impossibility of any thing further being so expressed as to bring it within the apprehension of the human faculties? I cannot suppose he will be so inconsistent.-To the inquiry, On what grounds our assent should be yielded to mysterious propositions? he answers, with great propriety-that "our belief must arise solely from implicit reliance upon the authority which de"clares them." I need not hesitate to say, that it is on this ground I am a believer in the doctrine of the Trinity. I believe that in one sense Deity is ONE, and that in some other sense Deity is THREE. I believe it simply on the authority of God, who declares it in his word;-and I durst not with
* Conybeare's Sermon.
hold my assent from the fact, that it is so, because he has not been pleased to tell me the mode of the fact, or how it is so.
To the above quotations, the following may be added :— "A prophet who proves his Divine commission by miracles, 66 may announce a doctrine in terms, to which I annex no "distinct conceptions; yet I may believe that the prophet does, "that angels and superior spirits may, that I myself may, in a "more advanced stage of my existence; in deference, there"fore, to his Divine authority, I would yield my humble and " entire assent.” (Pages 41, 42.)-Now the concessions made in these various extracts, of the propriety of believing even unintelligible propositions on the authority of the sacred records, being applicable, a fortiori, to partially revealed truths, appear to me to nullify the whole chapter about mysteries, converting it into a mere logomachy-a useless verbal dispute.
DEFENCE OF THE REASONINGS IN SUPPORT OF THE TRINITY, AND OF THE DIVINITY OF CHRIST, AGAINST THE ANIMADVERSIONS OF MR. YATES.
I HAVE now done with preliminary topics: and if any of my readers shall think that on those of them which are of a personal nature I have detained him too long, I have only to assure him for his comfort, that I have left unsaid a good deal of what I once intended to say. I conceive it to be not merely natural and pardonable, but, on various and important grounds, obligatory on every man, and especially on every man who occupies a station of public usefulness, to vindicate himself from misrepresentations and aspersions. But I trust I shall never be left to place myself and my cause on any thing like the same level in the scale of importance. Let what will of the mire of controversial disparagement adhere to me, I shall consider myself richly recompensed, if I shall, in any measure, succeed in clearing the cause of God and truth.
I have a slight objection to offer against the manner in which Mr. Yates announces the division of his subject, in the second and third parts of his work. In the former, he proposes to state the opinions and arguments of Unitarians; and in the latter, to consider the objections by which I have endeavoured to invalidate them. I demur at this. Trinita