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siderable difficulty. “We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding that we may know the True [One]; and we are in the True [One], in his Son Jesus Christ': this is the True God and the eternal life."*
The question is, whether the demonstrative pronoun refers to the immediate antecedent, “ Jesus Christ,” or to the remote one, “the True,” (d aan divès,) by which must be evidently understood the Divine Father. In favour of the latter interpretation it is urged :
1. That the former part of the verse unquestionably distinguishes between the Mediator, who is the Author and Bestower of saving knowledge, and the Father as the object of that knowledge. The latter is designated by the epithet, the True. It is, therefore, reasonable to regard him as intended by the same epithet with its accompanying name, in the succeeding clause,
2. That the agreement of relative and demonstrative pronouns with remoter antecedents is a common construction in all languages.f
* Chap. v.
19, 20. Griesbach does not alter the common reading Swin aióvas' which, however, cannot be correct; for it would make a proposition, The life is eternal, like those in the first aphorism of Hippocrates, ó Bios Bpaxùs, &c. The Alexandrian Manuscript, and several besides of inferior note omit the article ; others repeat it before aiários. Either of these emendations is good: but Bishop Middleton prefers the latter.
+ E. g. Acts viii. 26, where even more probably refers not to the town of Gaza, but to the road thither as lying through the desert, whereas there was another way through the inhabited
3. That, for the sake of avoiding a harsh and apparently tautological construction, and for the attainment of a perspicuous sense, the second év, in the middle clause, may properly be rendered by; so as to read, “We are in the True One, by his Son Jesus Christ."
On the opposite side, it is maintained :
1. That the ordinary and fair construction of the demonstrative is with the nearest antecedent noun: a rule from which we are not at liberty to depart, without evident necessity,* and on grounds critically impartial. But there is not here a clear necessity, and the deviation is made to answer a party purpose. 2. That it is not a tautology to take the
preposition ły in each place in the same signification; and that it would be much more harsh to
country. Heb. xii. 17, where aitny refers, not to repentance, but to the blessing. A striking instance is in the 2d Ep. of this very apostle, v.7; where the antecedent to CŨTOS is to be made out by inference from the former part of the sentence, though a noun in the singular more closely precedes. See also John vii. 50, and viii. 44.
* Dr. Wardlaw lays down the following, as a further case of exception from the ordinary rule; and I conceive the observation to be strictly just :
« When the immediate antecedent holds no prominent place in the sentence, but is introduced only incidentally, the remote being obviously the chief subject, having the entire, or greatly preponderating emphasis in the mind of the writer. It requires only the reading of the verse, to satisfy any candid mind that this is not the case here, and that no reason exists on this ground for any departure from the general rule.” Discourses on the Socinian Controv. p. 38. Reply to Mr. Yates, p. 180.
suppose, that a change was intended in so close and continuous a clause. The second member is, therefore, added for the elucidation of the first : We are in the True One, in his Son Jesus Christ; i. e. We enjoy a mental and moral union with the Father of mercies, by the faith, devotedness, and obedience which we exercise towards him; and this union is also, concurrently and equally, with our Gracious Redeemer, since it is only by a spiritual union with him that we can enjoy the favour and love of the Father.' Thus the sentiment is the same with that of various other passages of scripture : as, “ I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one cometh to the Father except through me. Abide in me and I in you. He who confesseth the Son, hath also the Father. Ye shall continue in the Son and in the Father. He, who hath seen me, hath seen the Father. I am in the Father, and the Father
God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” Dr. Samuel Clarke so felt the force of this argument that he inclined to the extravagant expedient of dividing the reference of the two attributives ; making the first apply to the Father, and the second to Christian knowledge.*
3. That, with this idea of the spiritual union of true believers with the Father and the Son, the apostle, by a reasonable association, connects the fact that the Son is, equally with the Father,
is in me.
* Script. Doct. of the Trinity, Text 410.
THE TRUE God. He, therefore, annexes the declaration, as a further ground for the stability and consolation of sincere Christians.
4. That the characteristic epithet, “the True," is repeatedly given to Christ in the writings of the apostle John : “The True Light; the Holy, the True; the Faithful and True Witness; He is called Faithful and True.”*
5. That the designation, THE ETERNAL LIFE" is never given to the Father, but is peculiar and appropriate to the Saviour: “ The Life has been manifested,—that Eternal Life which was with the Father.”+ While thus the abstract term is. metonymically applied to Christ, the same sentiment is held forth by its being the constant style of scripture, that Jesus Christ is the Author and Giver of "eternal life,” true and perpetual happiness, the reconciliation and holy reunion of man to God.
6. It does not appear that any good reason can be laid for the affirmation, “This is the True God,” in relation to the subject of the former part of the sentence. The argument of the passage involves no alluding to difficulty, upon
the question whether the Father were the True God. On the contrary, this position is evidently assumed as a point on which no hesitation could possibly exist. “ We are of God,” says the apostle; "We know him; we are in him ;" He has already twice recognized the Father as “the True One:" and there seems to be no necessity, nor even propriety, for subjoining the clause under consideration.
* Joh. i. 9. Rev, iii. 7, 14. xix. 11.
+ Chap. i. 2.
7. But the reference of the argument to the Lord Jesus is very different. The connexion of sentiment is this: It is HE that has given us this unspeakable blessing, this knowledge of the True One: he has come, he has been manifested in the flesh, for that very purpose : yea, our holy and happy union with the True One is, in fact, our union, by the living principle of religion, with the Saviour himself: him we have before declared to be " the Eternal Life," and to him we look with gratitude and joy, saying, " This is the True God!"
Thus it appears to my own mind, that the more strictly we analyse this paragraph, the more closely we attend to the nature and sequence of its sentiments, the more carefully we enter into its spirit and argument; the more we find the evidence to preponderate in favour of the latter interpretation.