That the Text of the three witnesses, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one, was always in St. Jerom’s Version.
MR. Emlyn does not deny but this Text has been in the Manuscripts of the Latin Bibles since the time of Charles the Great, who liv’d at the close of the eighth Century; the testimonies I have produc’d have not left him the least room to dispute it. But how could so remarkable a Text as this, both in its matter and form, be found in the Manuscripts of the New Testament, dispers’d through all Countries among the Clergy and the People?
If it was a Stranger, newly come, it must he own’d they were very easy who admitted it into the Sanctuary of the sacred Scriptures, without having given it any opposition in any countrey of the world. These Manuscript Bibles were several times revis’d, the smallest errors of transcribers were corrected as much as possible, and yet they must have shewn so excessive an indulgence to this entire Text, lately lately introduced, as to leave it in possession of a place it had so undeservedly usurp’d! Does Mr. Emlyn really believe this?
I went back yet farther than the time in which the famous revise was made by the order of Charles the Great, wherein we have seen this Text of St. John; there’s no artifice and Criticism, which can evade this revise; ’tis beyond all the subterfuges which prejudice and error can raise against it; I have set it beyond the reach of both, as may be seen from what I have said.
Passing farther than the time of this famous revise, I searched into the Decretal Epistles of Isidorus Mercator, and I shew’d that the two Texts of St. John, one of which speaks of the three witnesses in heaven, and the other of the three witnesses on earth, were read in two of these Epistles. The Bible of St. Jerom was then only in common use with the Church and its Doctors; this Bible had then the passage of the 7th verse. which is that of the witnesses in heaven.
As Germany furnish’d me with this very certain proof in the Writings of Mercator; Italy affords me a like one in the Commentary of a learned Abbat in the Kingdom of Naples; this is Ambrose Anthbert, or Ansbert, whose words I have quoted, and which I am willing to repeat here, because of the new observations I have to make upon ’em. Ansbert then commenting upon these words in the first Chapter of the Revelation, the faithful witness, and the first-begotten of the dead, and the prince of the Kings of the earth, says, that tho’ the expression of faithful witness has there reference only to Jesus Christ ’tis yet a character, which equally belongs to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; according to these words of St. John, There are three, which bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one. The remarks I have to make upon this quotation deserve a particular attention.
Ambrose Ansbert, a native of Provence, retir’d into the Kingdom of Naples, and was there very much esteem’d: he wrote there several Works which gain’d him a great reputation withal tho’ they drew upon him the envy of many. They accus’d him of pride, rashness, and in a manner of impiety, for having attempted to write a Commentary upon the Revelation, to the great contempt, they cry’d, of that terrible Sentence in the 22nd Chapter, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this Book. It was easy for Ansbert to shew this accusation ridiculous; but as his innocence was not a buckler strong enough to defend him against his enemies, he implor’d the protection of Pope Stephen, to whom he dedicated his Commentaries. Would a man so unjustly defam’d in publick, and so rashly accus’d of making additions to the Book of the Revelation, under pretence of the explications he gave of it, would he have unadvisedly quoted in this very Commentary a passage, which had not been in the Bible, and said, it is written, ‘there are three which bear record, &c. if it had not been written? Now it was St. Jerom’s Bible which was then read in the Churches, and which private families had before their eyes. The old Italick Version had given place to this, which was far more correct, as I have already observ’d; and this alteration of the Version had been introduc’d into the Church but about a Century, or a Century and an half, before: the Italick Version had kept its ground ’till towards the close of the seventh Century, and Ambrose Ansbert wrote about the middle of the following. We cannot then have a greater certainty of the fact: in question, namely, that the Text of the witnesses in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, &c. were from the first ages; as in the Age of Charles the Great, in St. Jerom’s Bible.
Another instance, very like the former, and of the same Century, is that of Etherius, Bishop of Uxame in Spain, and of Beatus Priest in the Aflurias. Elipandus Archbishop of Toledo, and Felix Bishop of Urgel, taught that Jesus Christ consider’d as man was only the Son of God by adoption, and thus they struck at the hypostatick union of the two natures in Jesus Christ: their doctrine prevail’d mightily in Spain out of regard to these two Prelates, whose reputation there was considerable, especially Elipandus, who was Primate of all Spain. Etherius, tho’ his Suffragan, and Beatus, who was but a bare Priest, wrote against the error of the Archbishop; and the Archbishop in his turn writes a Letter of Spirit against ’em, to an Abbat, called Fidelis, in which he charges ’em with being Eutychians. To justify themselves, and at the same time to oppose the Error of Elipandus and Felix, they wrote a Book, in which they quoted a good part of the first Epistle of St. John; and among the rest the entire passage of the fifth Chapter, Which speaks of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
It was already a great undertaking in Etherius and Beatus to venture openly to oppose their Archbishop and Primate; and it would have been not only an imprudence in ’em, but impious withal, to blend a forg’d passage among the genuine Texts of St. John’s Epistle, and thus to corrupt the sacred Scripture, if this passage had not been generally in the Bibles of those times. This must necessarily have brought upon ’em the censure of their Superior, who was already but too much provok’d at their boldness in opposing his doctrine with such open force; they, who according to the Ordinary course of Subordination should have regulated their sentiments by his. The conclusion is, and this a very certain conclusion, that the record of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, one God in three persons, was really in St. Jerom’s Version; which was all I had to prove.
Now wherein are these proofs defective? We are upon a fact, and a fact which must have been publick, expos’d to the eyes of the whole Church, and we have seen in this Chapter the testimonies from Germany in the Works of Isidorus Mercator; testimonies from Italy in the Writings of Ambrose Ambert; testimonies from Spain and the Aflurias in the Book of Etherius and Beatus. All these testimonies exactly agree, they all depose that the Text of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost was in the Epistle of St. John; and all these four witnesses report it as having read it, and reading it in the Version of St. Jerom, without any person, even their greatest enemies, accusing ’em of a false translation: and yet nine hundred years after there shall be found men who will venture to assert that these words were not in St. Jerom’s Bible! A little more equity, but especially more candour, would submit to the genuineness of this Text.