Page images

but Jesus Christ : not two separate beings united for a time, but one person. Nor did this one person, Jesus Christ, come by water only, or in the water only, when he was baptized : but he had been come long before by blood, when he was first made flesh and dwelt among us. And as to the Spirit which descended like a dove, and which was said by the Gnostics to be the Æon Christ, then for the first time coming down from heaven, St. John goes on to say, It is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth : or in other words, The Spirit was not Christ, as the Gnostics say, but it came to bear witness of Christ, to testify that Jesus, on whom the Spirit descended, was the Son of God : and this witness was given by God himself, when he said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. If any of the Gnostic writings had come down to us, we should perhaps find that it was a common expression in them to say that Christ came by water, or in the water. It at least seems plain, that some persons must have said so, or St. John would not have thought it necessary to assert, that he did not come by water only. But ecclesiastical history acquaints us with no persons who would have said that Christ came by water only, except the Gnostics : and they, whether Cerinthians or Docetæ, would certainly have said so, since this was their fundamental doctrine concerning the descent of Christ. I would observe also, that though our translators in each place wrote “by water,” the expressions are not the same in the Greek ; and the literal translation would be, This is he that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not in the water only, but in the water and the bloodl, ουκ εν τω ύδατι μόνον, αλλ' εν udati koh tớ aiuati, which last clause might perhaps be rendered, “ but in the water and by blood;" and the meaning of the whole passage would be, that Christ did not come when the Spirit descended upon Jesus in the water, but Christ was with Jesus both when he was in the water, and before, when he was born into the world e.

It may be said, perhaps, that the phrase coming by blood is a very extraordinary one, to express being born into the world: to which I would answer, that the fairest and safest way to interpret an author is by his own expressions; and when St. John in his Gospel wished to speak of the spiritual birth of a regenerated Christian, in opposition to his first or natural birth, he writes, Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (i. 13.) It is plain, that to be born of blood is used in this place by St. John for a natural or ordinary birth : and so I conceive, that when he spoke in his Epistle of Jesus Christ coming by blood, he meant to assert, contrary to the Gnostics, that Christ as well as Jesus was born of Mary, or, as it is said in the Epistle to the Hebrews, he was partaker of flesh and blood. (ii. 14.) I have perhaps spent too much time upon what may seem to some a matter of verbal criticism : but I could not pass over what appears to me so plain an allusion to the Cerinthian heresy without discussing it at some length. I am aware, that this is not the usual interpretation, and I offer it with the greatest diffidencef : but when

e In the first clause of v. 6. iii. 5. we have yervon és üdatos. it is divatos, in the second év Michaelis understood this TẬ įdari, and John the Baptist passage to be directed against speaks of himself as baptizing, the Cerinthian notion of Christ ev udari, John i. 33. In John descending upon Jesus at his

the whole Epistle is so pointedly directed against the Docetæ, and when this view of the passage enables us to explain it literally without any allegorical or mystical meaning, I can hardly help concluding that the interpretation is right, and that the false doctrines of the Gnostics concerning Christ were those which St. John intended to confute 85.

baptism : but he explains com- ferings and death of Christ. vol. ing by blood to relate to the suf. III. part 1. c. 7. §. 3. p. 283.

[blocks in formation]

These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the

Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. IN

my last Lecture I pointed out some passages in the Epistles of St. John, which appeared to be directed against the Gnostic opinions concerning Christ. I also observed, that St. John in his Gospel refutes the notions of the Docetæ; and I stated, that according to the testimony of several ancient writers, his express object in publishing his Gospel was to check the heresies of Cerinthus and Ebion. It has often been shewn, that the doctrines delivered in the opening of his Gospel confirm this statement. But I feel it impossible, in examining the Gospel of St. John, not to notice some of the remarks which have been made upon his peculiar phraseology.

We are here obliged to act partly upon the defensive; and we must not only consider St. John as the opponent of heresies, but we are called upon to inquire, whether St. John himself did not introduce new expressions and new doctrines, and corrupt the simplicity of the Gospel. These are heavy charges against the beloved disciple of his Master; and I am entering perhaps upon what is thought dangerous ground, when I propose to consider the influence, which the Platonic doctrines had upon Christianity,

« PreviousContinue »