Exposition

In this question we have contained the doctrine of the church in reference to the one true God, and the three persons of the Godhead. The principal questions which claim our attention, in connection with this subject, are the following :

• From what does it appear that there is a God?
• What is the character of that God whom the church acknowledges and worships, and in what does he differ from heathen idols?
• Is he but one, and in what sense do the Scriptures call creatures gods?
• What do the terms Essence, Person, and Trinity signify, and in what do they differ?
• Is it proper to retain these names in the church?
• How many persons of the Godhead are there?
• How are these persons distinguished from each other?
• Why is it necessary for the church to holdfast to the doctrine of the Trinity?

I. From What Does it Appear That There is a God?

That there is a God, is proven by many arguments common both to philosophy and theology. These arguments we shall present in the following order :

1. The order and harmony which we observe every where in nature, gives evidence of the existence of God. There is, as every one must perceive, a wise arrangement of every part of nature, and a constant succession of changes and operations, according to certain laws, which could not exist and be preserved, unless by some intelligent and almighty being. The Scriptures refer to this argument, at considerable length, in the following places : Psalms 8, 19, 104, 135, 186, 147 & 148. Romans 1. Acts 14 & 17.

2. A rational nature having some cause, cannot exist except it proceed from some intelligent being, for the reason that a cause is not of a more inferior character than the effect which it produces. The human mind is endowed with reason, and has some cause. Therefore it has proceeded from some intelligent being, which is God. “ There is a spirit in man,” &c. “Yet they say, the Lord shall not see,” &c. “ We also are his off spring.” (Job 32 : 8. Ps. 94 : 7. Acts 17 : 28.)

3. The conceptions or notions of general principles which are natural to its, as the difference between things proper and improper, &c., cannot be the result of mere chance, or proceed from an irrational nature, but must necessarily be naturally engraven upon our hearts by some intelligent cause, which is God. “ The Gentiles show the work of the law written in their hearts,” &c. (Rom. 2 : 15.)

4. From the knowledge or sense which we all have that there is a God. There is no nation, however barbarous or uncivilized, but has some notion or system of religion, which presupposes a belief in some God. “ That which may be known of God is manifest in them [that is, in the minds of men], for God hath shewed it unto them.” (Rom. 1 : 19.)

5. The reproofs of conscience, which follow the commission of sin, and harass the minds of the ungodly, cannot be inflicted by any one except by an intelligent being one who can distinguish between that which is proper and improper who knows the thoughts and hearts of men, and who can cause such fears and forebodings to arise in the minds of the wicked. “ Their worm dieth not.” “ There is no peace to the wicked.” “ God is” a consuming fire.” “ They shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their consciences either accusing or excusing them. (Is. 57 : 21. Deut. 4 : 24. Rom. 2 : 15.)

Addenda. These reproofs of conscience, which are common to all men, may be regarded as a sufficient answer to the objection that has sometimes been brought against the existence of God, that it is a mere subtle device, invented and published by philosophers and legislators for the purpose of restraining men from the commission of crime; for if it be true that it is a mere device, why is it, we might ask, that these men who seem to have detected this fraud are most harassed by their consciences on account of this their blasphemy, as well as for their other crimes. How, too, we might ask, could the mere assertion of a few individuals be sufficient to persuade all mankind into this belief, and cause it to be maintained in all succeeding ages ? And if, to weaken the force of this argument, it be asserted that there are those who neither believe in a God, nor are troubled by their consciences, we reply, that this, which they imagine, is most false, for there are none of the wicked who are free from these compunctions of conscience ; for however much they may despise God and every form of religion, and endeavor to repress their fears, so much the more are they tormented, and made to tremble at every mention and approach of God.. Hence we often see those whose lives are for the most part profane and secure, die in despair when they are oppressed with the judgments of God.

6. The rewards of the righteous and punishments of the wicked as the deluge, the destruction of Sodom by fire, the overthrow of Pharaoh in the Red Sea, the downfall of flourishing kingdoms, &c., are evidences of the existence of a God ; for these judgments, which are inflicted upon wicked men and nations, testify that there must be some universal and omnipotent Judge of the whole world. “ God is known by the judgments which he executeth.” “ Verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth.” (Ps. 9:16; 58: 11.)

Addenda. And although the wicked often flourish for a time, whilst the godly are oppressed, yet examples which are few in number do not weaken the general rule with which most events agree. And if it were even so, that the wicked do not as often suffer punishment as the righteous, yet these very examples, although few in number, testify that there is a God, and that he is also displeased with the offences of others who seem not to be so severely punished. But it is not true of any of the wicked that they are not punished in this life, for all those who are unconverted are sooner or later overtaken by punishment ; yea, they most generally die in despair, which punishment is more grievous than all others, and is the beginning and testimony of everlasting punishment. And although the punishment of the wicked in this life is not as great as their sins deserve, yet it nevertheless has some correspondence with the most tragical crimes of the ungodly, so that we are taught, by the doctrine of the church, that the lenity which God here uses towards the wicked, and the severity which he seems to show to the righteous, do not at all weaken his providence and justice, but rather declare his goodness, in that he invites the wicked to repentance, whilst he delays their punishment, and perfects the salvation of the righteous by exercising them with crosses and chastisements.