« PreviousContinue »
than the fifteenth century. 2nd. Nor in any Latin manuscript, earlier than the ninth century. 3rd. It is not found in any of the ancient versions. 4th. It is not cited by any of the Greek ecclesiastical writers, though, to prove the doctrine of the Trinity, they have cited the words both before and after this text. 5th. It is not cited by any of the early Latin fathers, even when the subjects upon which they treat would naturally have led them to appeal to its authority. 6th. It is first cited by Vigilius Tapsensis, a Latin writer of no credit, in the latter end of the fifth century, and by him it is suspected to have been forged. 7th. It has been omitted as spurious in many editions of the New Testament since the Reformation. 8th. It was omitted by Luther, in his German Version. In the old English Bibles of Henry VIII. Edward VI. and Elizabeth, it was printed in small types, or included in brackets; but between the years 1566 and 1580, it began to be printed as it now stands; by whose authority is not known." Respecting Vigilius Tapsensis, mentioned above, Griesbach as
signs six reasons why he is not to be trusted. The first and only one I shall mention is, "That this man is entitled to little credit, because he wrote many books under the forged names of Athanasius, Augustine and Idacius."
After all these quotations, you, my Trinitarian hearers, are as competent judges as myself, of the probability of this passage being genuine. If you have only serious doubts respecting it, call it only a suspected passage, will you be led by it to so solemn and serious a consequence, as the religious adoration of more beings than one? Will you still triumphantly exclaim with Dr. Hawker, 66 Read the chapter and leave this verse out, then discover the chasm?" I will then quote the two preceding and the succeeding verses, and you shall discover the chasm if you can. "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he that came by water and blood, (alluding to his baptism and his death) even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness,
because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record, the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three agree in one."
I have now omitted the spurious part and given you the remainder in the common translation. Have you discovered the chasm? The fact is, that the sense is perfect and complete without the verse, and that it is an evident intrusion. There is a clear and regularly connected chain of argument in the passage as now given. The latter part of the seventh verse, and the repetition of words at the commencement of the eighth, have no connection with the argument. The whole of the previous reasoning refers to the authority and effects of the mission of Jesus upon earth. The introduction of the heavenly witness is clearly needless and out of place.*
*"This much must be granted, that the verse is not absolutely necessary to the sense of the text. Whatever be its right construction, the sentence is complete and perfect in itself. Jesus, the Christ, is the person to whom testimony is borne; the Spirit, the water and the blood are the witnesses bearing testimony to him. Thus, without further aid, the construction and meaning of the sentence are complete. The verse therefore is not essentially necessary to the text." Butler's Horæ Biblicæ. Vol. ii. p. 264, 265.
Now, Christians, before 1 conclude, you must grant me one thing, that you cannot adduce a single passage which says positively that there are three persons in one God. It is merely an inference drawn by reason, (which you so much depreciate)
The following admission from the same author is most striking and important: "They say, that there is hardly a library in Europe, in which the manuscripts of the Greek Testament have not been examined, in order to determine, whether the verse really proceeded from the pen of St. John: and that the result of this long and laborious examination is, that of all the Greek manuscripts of the Catholic Epistles now extant, of which more than a hundred have been quoted by name, independently of those which have been quoted in the aggregate, (as where Dr. Griesbach, Professor Birch or Professor Alter speak, at large, of all the manuscripts they have seen) the passage has been discovered in one manuscript only,-the Codex Montfortianus, which is neither of sufficient antiquity nor of sufficient integrity to be entitled to a voice in a question of sacred criticism. This the advocates of the verse generally admit." Vol. ii. p. 270. It has been asserted, that it is more probable that the verse should have been omitted by Unitarians than inserted by Trinitarians. Judge of the probability of this, ye who are acquainted with the state of the Christian world between the years 500 and 1500; in those ages justly denominated dark, when none dare openly arraign the mystery of the Trinity or the infallibility of the Pope; when small indeed was the fold of those who “had not bowed the knee;" judge of the probability that this little flock should have been so all-powerful, that above one hundred of their garbled Greek manuscripts should survive, and one only, one of suspected integrity, of a true orthodox Catholic!
from a very few passages, which, you will allow, may admit a different interpretation. And yet, upon these inferences, you tell us positively, that if we do not believe this mystery, we shall, without doubt, perish everlastingly!!
Let me ask one thing. Suppose your inferences are not correct; suppose that there are not three persons in one God; suppose that Jesus Christ was a mere man ; if, believing this, I bow down to him in religious adoration, do I not detract from the homage due to God, do I not consent to the practice of idolatry?