Page images



1. Legislative authority of Christ.-II. Implications of pre-existence.

III. Intimation of unity with the Father..Chap. v. 7, 8.-IV. Investigation of the sense of Chap. v. 20.

In the preceding Section we commented on the commencing paragraph of the first epistle of John ; and if we have not greatly failed in its interpretation, we found in it recognitions of the pre-existent state and the divine nature of the Messiah, coinciding in terms and meaning with the more ample declarations of the Introduction to the Gospel.

There are, in the Epistles of this apostle, some incidental and allusive expressions, which though not independent evidences of a Divine Nature in the Person of the Messiah, appear to be most rationally and easily understood on the admission of that doctrine.

I. Obedience to his commandments is spoken of in a way which seems more befitting to the idea of a reference to the One Supreme Lawgiver, than to that of a merely human messenger, however accredited and inspired. The reader is requested to connect the following passage with

some observations made in a former part of this work.* By this we know that we rightly regard him, if we keep his commandments. He who saithI rightly regard him ;' and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whosoever keepeth his word, truly in him the love of God is accomplished.”+

II. Expressions occur which strongly imply that the Saviour's existence among men, was an act of condescension from a previous state.

Every spirit which confesseth Jesus Christ [as] having come in the flesh, is of God. Many deceivers are gone out into the world, who confess not Jesus Christ [as] come in the flesh. For this

purpose the Son of God was 'manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. In this was manifested the love of God to us, that God sent his Only-begotten Son into the world, that we may live through him : he sent his Son, [to be] the propitiation for our siņs : the Father sent the Son, (to be] the Saviour of the world.”I Dr. Priestley, Mr. Lindsey, and the Calm Inquirer

* Page 302-303 of this Volume.

+ Chap. ii. 3–5. The well known differences in the use of yı»úrnery warrant this varying the translation ; which is indeed absolutely necessary to express the sense. The meaning of TETENEIwtar is justly given by Diodati: “ La gratia di Dio giugne al suo vero segno, e produce il suo sovrano effetto, quale puo essere in questo mondo.—The grace of God arrives at its proper point, and produces its own sovereign effect, so far as can be in the present world."

Chap. iv. 2, " spirit," i. e. teacher professing the knowledge of spiritual things. 2 Ep.7. Chap. iii. 8. iv. 9, 10, 14.


understand the phrase to come in the flesh, as merely expressing “the real and proper humanity of Christ, in opposition to the doctrines of the Docetæ, -that Christ was a man in

appearance On this we remark :(1) That, had the intention of the apostle been what is here affirmed, the more proper expression would have been to be flesh, or to be in the Aesh,t rather than to come, or to be manifested, in the flesh.

(2) That we have no evidence of the existence of the opinion referred to, till a period later than the life of the apostle John. The earliest imputation of this notion is to Saturninus and Basilides, about the year 120 : and Lardner does not place entire reliance on the testimonies of the fathers to this effect. I

III. The ensuing declaration is very intelligible, on the admission that Christ and the Father are ONE in nature, perfections and honour : but I do

* Calm Ing. p. 169.
+ As in Gen. vi. 3. Ps. Ivi. 4. Joh. i. 13.

# See Lardner's Hist. Her. p. 69, 80, 81. Hujus erroris demonstrari non potest tantam esse antiquitatem, ut Joannis ætatem attingat : neque ullum est in commentariis de vitâ Jesu, ceterisque in libris Novi Testamenti, vestigium ex quo appareat, jam tum extitisse qui dubitarent Jesum in cruce mortem vere oppetiisse. It cannot be shewn that this error was as old


of John: nor is there in the memoirs of the life of Jesus, or in the other books of the New Testament, any trace of the existence of persons who doubted whether Jesus actually died upon the cross." Knuppii Scripta Vurii Argumenti, tom.

as the

p. 192.

not see how its assertion can be sustained, in any fair and rational way, upon the opposite hypothesis. Supposing the confession of the Son to signify only the receiving of him as a divine messenger, it appears far from impossible that a virtuous Jew might be a true worshipper of God, and yet have no faith in the claims of the Nazarene prophet. “Who is a liar, if he be not who denieth that Jesus is the Messiah? This is the antichrist, he that denieth both the Father and the Son. Every one who denieth the Son, hath not the Father. He who confesseth the Son, hath also the Father."*

If the evidence allowed us to regard the celebrated text concerning the three that bear witness in heaven, as genuine, I should not be able to adduce any thing from it with absolute satisfaction but a unity of testimony. It is not, therefore necessary to enlarge upon it.t

Chap. ii. 22, 23. + I beg to refer the reader, if he has not already studied this question, to the late Richard Porson's Letters to Archdeacon Travis, 1790, and to Bishop Marsh's Letters to the same person, 1795 : works which, independently of the particular argument, are eminently worthy of being read, for their brilliancy of talent, and as specimens of the most masterly processes in criticism. A comprehensive view of the evidence may be seen in the Eclectic Review, for Jan. and Feb. 1810; and in the Rev. T. H. Horne's very valuable Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, vol.ii. p. 627-637.

Some have lately attempted to revive an argument to this purport; that the masculine gender in the genuine context (speãs εισιν οι μαρτυρούντες-και οι τρείς εις το έν εισιν") is irreconcileable VOL. II.

2 N

IV. There is another passage in the first Epistle, the interpretation of which is attended with con

with the belief that the nouns referred to were all neuters ; that consequently the two masculine nouns in the rejected portion of the paragraph are necessary to the construction : and that, this being admitted, the whole of that portion must come in likewise. But this argument proceeds upon overlooking the fact, that the neuter nouns are, by the composition of the sentence, personified : so that a word undersood, páptupes, is strictly that with which the others agree.

Bishop Middleton, with distinguished judgment and candour, largely discusses a difficulty which accrues upon the rejection of the passage from the insertion of vò before év in v. 8, and which, if the reading be authentic, appears to him to be insuperable. It is but just to this long-agitated controversy, to cite the concluding paragraph of his note. “I am not ignorant that, in the rejection of the controverted passage, learned and good men are now, for the most part agreed ; and I contemplate, with admiration and delight, the gigantic exertions of intellect which have established this acquiescence. The objection, however, which has given rise to this discussion, I could not, consistently with my plan, suppress. On the whole, I am led to suspect that, though so much labour and critical acuteness have been bestowed on these celebrated verses, more is yet to be done before the mystery, in which they are involved, can be wholly developed.” On the Greek Article, p. 653.

That some learned writers have of late professed themselves satisfied of the authenticity of this passage, while they advance nothing but surmises and conjectures in counterbalance of the weight of evidence on the other side, excites my astonishment and concern. Some considerable clauses and sentences might be adduced, which are universally rejected as spurious, but which have more semblance of a right to be admitted into the sacred text, than this passage has to be retained. The attempt to set aside the decisions of impartial and honest criticism, is painfully discreditable. Nothing is so injurious to a good cause, as the calling of fallacious allies to its support.

« PreviousContinue »