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said I know to be a truth from my own experience; for, about the year 1727, as exactly, as I can remember, a gentleman of genteel appearance and behaviour made an attempt to pervert me to the catholic faith, as he was pleased to call it. We had two interviews, and the conversation turned on several of the distinguishing tenets of that superstition. When we came, in the second conference, to debate on the subject of transubstantiation, the gentleman, after saying the most favourable things he could be able to say of that strange opinion, asked me what were my objections? I told him, I had principally two,-transubstantiation was a contradiction to my reason, and to the testimony of all my senses. He smiled and said, was there all my strength? I told him if I was baffled there, he might be sure of a convert.-Then, replies he, if you are ingenuous and sincere, I am assured of you. And I do now confidently affirm, that a fundamental doctrine which you hold, even as a protestant, is equally contradictory to reason and sense. Could he convince me of any such tenet, I again said, he might be assured, I was no longer a protestant. With an air of the utmost confidence he opened,——The doctrine of the ever-blessed Trinity, sir, is altogether as repugnant to reason and to all your senses, as transubstantiation can possibly be.--No sooner did I show him, he had widely missed his mark, and greatly mistaken the nature of my creed, but he affected to be beyond measure astonished! and
although he had before made me some advantageous offers, if I would embrace popery, he now professed to despair of making any good impression upon me. At parting, however, he was so courteous, as to assure me, he would pray for me.--I should have mentioned, that he pretended not to know, there were any protestants in England, so extremely heretical, as to deny the doctrine of the trinity; and would have it they could not be denominated believers in revelation; which I returned upon him, as an instance of great ignorance; since many English protestants of eminence, advocates for the religion of Christ, have, in their writings, absolutely disowned the absurdity. This is strictly true as a narrative of fact; and a method of perverting protestants which I doubt not is very common."
THE existence of God appears from his visible works; for, as there can be no effect without a cause, and the material universe presents no objects to our senses but what are effects, the whole being a vast combination of effects, which
must have had some cause distinct from what visibly appears, no sufficient visible cause being discoverable, we are necessarily led to the conclusion, that an invisible Being exists, who is the first cause of all things. This Being must be intelligent, capable of design; for in every part of creation evident marks of design appear, and in the constitution and arrangement of the whole, the most perfect intelligence, the most comprehensive design, is manifested. This Being must be powerful; for the most astonishing power is displayed in the magnitude, diversified forms, and wonderful organization, of his works; in the regular and efficient laws by which they are governed, the vivifying principle which animates his creatures, and the intelligence communicated to them. This Being is manifestly good; for the communication of life and so many gifts are unequivocal proofs of goodness: benevolence of design, and beneficence of conduct, appear throughout the creation.
One divine Being, possessed of infinite wisdom, power, and goodness, must be capable of producing every thing that appears in the visible universe: only one such Being need be suppos ed to exist, to enable us to account for the whole phenomena of nature, and it is irrational to suppose more causes than are necessary to enable us to account for every thing we perceive. The supposition of more than one such infinite person is not only unnecessary, it is useless and irrational. It is useless; for a multitude of such persons
could effect no more than one, as every thing that is possible can be done by one that is infinite. It is absurd to suppose the existence of more than one absolutely infinite person; for infinity must comprehend every divine attribute in the utmost perfection; consequently, a plurality of such persons could possess no more perfections than what are possessed by one such individual person, nor be capable of any operation, or of producing any effect, or in any higher degree, than what one such person is capable of performing and producing. A plurality of such persons can be no greater, nor any thing more, than one such person is; for as there can be no degrees in that which is infinite, it can admit of no addition by an increase of persons. It is difficult, if not impossible, to form distinct ideas of three infinite persons in one divine essence, without supposing three gods; for what is a distinct person but a distinct intelligent being?
When we survey the creation, we discover a unity of design in its various parts; they are connected together and fitted to each other, as parts of one stupendous whole. This unity of design shows them to be the production of one individual Being, of one will, of one hand. If in the divine essence there are three distinct persons, they must either be independent of each other, or two of them at least must be dependent on the other. If independent of each other, are they not three gods? and is it not unaccountable that a unity of design should appear throughout the
universe? If each of them be the Creator, how can creation be the work of one being? If each be not the Creator, how can each be properly God? If two of the divine persons be dependent, how can each of the three be really God? for dependence is incompatible with proper Deity. If all three be self-existent, and co-eternal, how can one of them be a father, and another a son? Who can solve these difficulties? Yet solved they ought to be, before the doctrine of the trinity is admit. ted. How can that doctrine ever be reconciled with the light of nature and the dictates of reason? Surely, the works of God will never lead us to conceive of more than one first cause, one infinite subsistence; the supposition of more seems to me irrational, and it is absurd to suppose divine revelation to contain any thing irrational.
If any of the readers of your truly excellent Repository will attempt to solve the above diffi. culties, without crying out against reason, and throwing dust in my eyes, by talking about mystery and doctrines of revelation which cannot be understood, they shall have the thanks of
A CONSTANT READER.