Page images

expressive of Christ's withdrawing to converse with God, before his entrance on his ministryThat “ The word was God," might be “a God;" here predicated of Christ, as it had been of Moses, who was to be "a God to Pharoah."* That “all things” (meaning relatively to the Christian dispensation) “ were”-not " made,” but “ done by him:"_That for “ In him was life"_which is the most agreeable to the original-we should read“By him was life:” and to pass over other such criticisms, that for “ The word was made flesh,” it should be—“The word was flesh”-or, a mortal


These strained interpretations-all of them in themselves untenable--are foreclosed by a reser'ence to the design with which St. John wrote his gospel, according to the testimonies of very early fathers. It was to oppose the heresy of Cerinthus; who alleged, that Jesus and Christ were two dis. tinct beings, united at baptism, but separated be. fore the passion. The evangelist uses the very terms affected by this heretick, but in such a man. ner, as to rescue them from his abuses. It corrobo. rates ecclesiastical history in this particular, that there are certain other passages in the writings of St. John, not easily explained but on the same principle. This might be made to appear by comparing the thirty-first verse of the twentieth chapter of his gospel with from verse the first to the sixth of the fifth chapter of his first Epistle; and then, the whole with the profane philosophy of the Gnosticks, as exhibited in any of the histories of the early times. But it is here supposed, that without recurrence to such a source, the latter passage, in any fair translation, will always speak sufficiently to the effect for which it is now cited.

As the gospel narrative begins with the testimonies which have been recited; so it ends with

* Exod. vii. In

Christ's commission to his apostles—“Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.* What an association is here of subjects utterly un. fit, on the opposite principle, to be incorporated in the same commission! It would be a low construction, and give a quite different sense, to say with some, that the


means instruction concern. ing the subjects specified. Even then, there would be redundancy in the recital of the last subject; it being contained in the first. But to baptize in the name, or, as the Greek preposition rather signifies, into the name, must at least have for its object the profession of faith in an agent spoken of.

After such weighty authorities, the following is a string of others from the gospel of St. John; which it is thought sufficient merely to refer tomii. 19. and 2).-ji. 13.viii. 58.-X. 30.-xii. 41. com. pared with Is. vi. 1.-xiv. 9.-xvii. 5.—xx. 28.

If it should occur, that the immediately preceding texts are taken exclusively from the gospel of St. John; the answer is, First--that this apostle wrote expressly to sustain the truth on the present point; designing his work chiefly for Churches gathered from among the Gentiles, as especially appears in his many incidental explanations of words and of customs peculiar to the Jews: and Secondly, that the other evangelists, when they quote from the Jewish Scriptures passages describing a character above man and every other created intelligence, show their presuming on such a character, as an acknowledged property of the true Messiah; and conceive of no more remaining for them, than to apply the same to Jesus. Thus in Matt. xxii. 45; when on a reference to the one-hundred and tenth Psalm, it was asked concerning the Messiah -" If David call him Lord, how is he his Son?” Whatever supereminence of character attaches to the person in the Psalm, is transfused into the citation from the his. tory. So, in the account of the preaching of John the baptist, recorded in St. Luke,* where the office of the harbinger is copied from the fortieth chapter of the prophecy of Isaiah; it will be found on turning to the passage, that with expressions designatory of the future Christ, there are intermixed other expressions inapplicable to created being. Christ's forgiving of sins and his healing of diseases, in virtue of his own authority, strongly mark the high character here pleaded for. Accordingly in the prophet Isaiah,t where he is de. scribing the gospel age in the performance of many miraculous cures; the person by whom these things are to be done, is arrayed in attributes more than human. In analogy with this, it is affirmed and not denied concerning the ancient Jewish targums (or interpretations,) that there are in many places the expression—“The word of the Lord” for “ the Lord” himself: For instance, in the passage already quoted from the one-hundred and tenth Psalm, they have--" The Lord said to his word:” and in Gen. xxviii. 21. it is “ Abraham worshipped and called upon the name of the word of Jehovah.” A variety of instances might be brought to prove, that St. John did not take his peculiar style from the Platonick philosophy, as same imagine: it being familiar to the ancient Jews; from whom it probably came to Plato, with the learning which he drew from Egypt. And further, when St. John is said to have designed his gospel against the errour of Cerinthus; it is not that this heretick held the proper humanity of Jesus, or that the Messiah, who taught and performed the miraculous works of the gospel, was mere man; but it was pretended, that the divinity was united to him at his baptism, and left him before his crucifixion: the offence being, as with the Jews, at the ignominy of the cross. Hence the

* Matt. xxviii. 19,

[ocr errors][merged small]

importance of laying down such positions, as are found in the beginning of the gospel of St. John.

The following texts from the Acts of the Apos. tles, are here referred to as to the purpose-vii. 59: in which St. Stephen is represented in the act of prayer to Jesus Christ; presumptive of his divinity: and-viii. 14. and 21.; in both which places, the calling on his name implies invocation of him, as a property of the Christian profession.

Before the recording of intended references to passages in the Epistles, there may be propriety in offering specimens of the interpretation of them, by the opponents of the doctrine; in the instances of the texts contained in the lecture.

When it is said of Christ-" In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily;"* it is thought to mean no more, than where it is supposed of be. lievers that they may be “filled with all the fulness of God,"f-that is, with the graces of the Holy Spirit. God's being “in Christ reconciling the world unto himself,”I is supposed to be the same with the doing of this through Christ; although there is nothing in the original, countenancing this emendation. And the words “God blessed for ever. more,”\ are interpreted to be not joined to Christ, named immediately before, but an exclamation of praise: doubtless by a very singular construction, put on the form of expression in the original.

To similar schemes of interpretation, there are entrusted the following texts-Rom. ix. 5; x. 12, 13, 14; xiv. 12.-1 Cor. x. 9.-2 Cor. viii. 9; xii. 8, 9; xiii. 14.-Philipp. ii. 5-8.-Col. i. 15-20.-1 Tim. iii. 16.-Heb. i. 2; and follow. ing: vii. 3; xiii. 8.--Pet. i. 11.

To the above, there may be added from the book of Revelation-i. 17.-ii. 23.-xxii. 20. Some of the cited passages should be more distinctly no.

* Col. ij. 9. † Eph. iii. 19. 1 1 Cor. v. 19. Rom. ix. 59

ticed; were it not that they will again come into view in the fourth section.

To the above-cited testimonies, others of great weight may be added; in compliance with a rule of criticism, which some learned men have of late years urged, with evidence drawn from their stores of Greek literature. The rule is, that when the Greek copulative connects two personal substantives, the article preceding the first noun and not the second, the same person is contemplated in them both. The application of the rule to some texts, in which the Almighty Father is referred to, may be seen in the following instances:-Gal. i. 4. -i Thess. i. 3.—2 Thess. i. 1., ii. 16. In each of these, the rendering might be, as in the last“God, even our Father:” and it would be utterly inadmissible, to conceive of two characters as de. signed, in any one of them. In like manner, it is contended, that the rendering of 1 Tim. v. 21. should be not as at present—"I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ;" but-“I charge thee before God, even the Lord Jesus Christ." The rule has been sustained by innumerable quotations from the Greek fathers, and from the Greek classicks: and, so far as is here known, any attempts to invalidate it have been very feeble and inefficient. Under it, the following texts, in addition to that specified, may be referred to-Eph. v. 5.—2 Thess. i. 12.--Titus, ii. 13.-2 Pet. i. 1.-Jude, 4.*

On this subject of the divinity of Christ; the advocates of it have always conceived, that they derive great advantage from the testimony of the primitive Church. For although, among Protes. tants, the only standard of truth is in the Holy

• The rule is said to have been suggested by Theodore Beza; and some say, by others also. But it has been of late years opened and applied by Granville Sharpe, Esq. The au. thors who have sustained it by the fruits of their laborious researches are the Rev. Christopher Wordsworth, D. D. and the Rev. T. F. Middleton, D.D.

« PreviousContinue »