SERMON I. 1 JOHN. V. 7.
For there are Three that bear Record in Heaven, the FATHER, the WORD, and the Holy Ghost; and these Three are One.
171 KNOW not a Passage in all the New Testament so contested as this. Tho, it has of a long Time been own’d and day . used both in the Greek and Latin Church, and is in all our Modern Versions, (a very few..only being excepted) yet have we some that reject it as spurious, and won’t allow it to be a Part of the Sacred Scripture, but rem present it as brought in out of Design, and added by those that had a Turn to serve. This is so heavy a Charge, that it had need be well prov’d; considering however a Denunciation St. John has in the very, Close of the Canon of: Scripture made against such as are under any Guilt of this Kind. If any Man, says he, shall add unto these Things, GOD shall add unto him the Plagues that are written in this Book. (Rev.xxii) And indeed the severest Punishment that could be thought of, would be but the just Dessert of such Arrogance and Presumption. But then on the other hand it deserves Observation, That the Threatning added in the very next Verse, against such as diminish and take from the Sacred Scripture, is as severe and awful, as that against those that make Additions to it: For it is said, If any Man shall take away from the Words of the Book of this Prophecy, (and the Reason will hold as to any other of these divinely inspir’d Writings) GOD shall také away his Part out of the Book of Life; and out of the Holy City; and from the Things which are written in this Book. So that the Danger is very great, whether we offer to add to God’s Word, or take from it: And we have all the Reason in the World to beware, left out of Fear of the one, we run into the other. to take upon ’em to add such a Passage as this, if it did not really come from St. John, was certainly very Criminal; and no End that could be proposed to be serv’d by it, could be the least Justification of it: ‘And the abetting, favouring, supporting, or excusing such an Addition, (when once it is discover’d) can be no small Fault. Nor can the opposing or censuring this Passage as an human Addition, be a Jot the less Criminal, if suitable Evidence be but produc’d that it was really Apostolical, of if its being an Addition, be not solidly prov’d. This Matter therefore is important, and of no small Consequence : And that the rather, because if one Passage that has been so oft cited for Scripture as this, be own’d spurious, People will be naturally apt to suspect that the Case may be the same as to a great many more: And it will be hard to Satisfy ’em that it is otherwise. However, there being some Things that have a plausible Appearance alledg‘d against this Text, it is but fit there should be a careful Examination, and impartial Search : And I see no good Reason we that are most earnest for keeping it, can have, for being against such a Search, or why we should not to our utmost encourage it. And tho’ we have no Occasion to condemn such as have modest Doubts after all, concerning it; yet to have the worse Opinion of it on the Account of the great Assurance with which it has been opposed and assaulted, would in my Apprehension, be a Piece of shameful and scandalous Weakness. We that think the adhering to this Text our Duty, stand openly charg’d (by a Writer, that first appear’d without, and since with his Name) with mistaking an unwarranted modern Addition, for an inspir’d Oracle. ‘Tis but fit we should wipe it off, if we can, and shew the Charge to be undeserv’d and groundless.
That I may here give what Afiftance I am able, I propose,
- To premise a few Things that are fit to be taken Notice of, by such as are for pursuing the Inquiry, Whether this Text be genuine or spurious?
- To make some free Concessions, that so they that are most vehement against this Text, may have no Grounds left for just Complaints.
- To give the Sum of the Argument against this Text, with a Reply to it its several Parts and Branches. And,
- To add the Sum of the Argument for this Text, with an Answer to the Suggestions of Opposers, that have been design’d to weaken it.
I. I shall begin with Premising a few Things that are fit to be taken Notice of, by such as are for pursuing the Inquiry, Whether this Text be genuine or spurious? And they are such as these:
- The Truth of the great Doctrine of the TRINITY, as it has been commonly held in the Christian Church all along, and particularly , among our Reformed Divines, does not, as far as I can perceive, either in Whole or in Part, depend upon this single Text. The foremention’s Writer indeed, affects with great positiveness That these Words are not to be Match’d with any in the whole Bible (Emlyn’s Tracts. P. 308. ? Ibid. p. 318) And that it is principally on the Credit of this Text, that some important Branches of the Creed seem to be founded. He might even as well have expressly mention’d the Doctrine of the Trinity, which I believe most People will be apt to think was what he aim’d at. But I must own myself at a Loss for his Warrant for either of these Assertions, when on the direct contrary it is so evident, both that the several Texts that refer to the Doctrine of the TRINITY do match with this Text most exactly; and also that what the Creed delivers as to that Doctrine might be proved to be well founded, tho’ the Credit of this Text should be entirely dropp’d. Two of the most important Branches of that Doctrine, are, That the Father, Son, and Spirit, are God, and that they are One God. And tho both these are clear in this Text, (supposing it genuine yet I can’t see that we should be without sufficient Proof of the Truth of both, either if no such Text had ever been inserted, or if it should be now discarded. That the Father is God, the Son God, and the Holy Ghost God, may be prov’d by Texts in great Number: And their Unity also may be collected from several other Texts ; tho’ as to all the Three, I can’t say that that is anywhere else so expressly asserted, as it is here: So that we don’t need such a Text as this, as a Foundation of our Creed. And then, as to the matching of these Words with other Texts in the Bible, We need be in no Pain: For nothing can match better than this does with the whole Current of the New Testament; and that is one Rea- son why we are the more inclin’d to adhere to it. We have nothing here, but a Nomination of Three, that bear Witness to our LORD’s being the Messiah, and a Declaration that there Three are One: And both these are so intimated elsewhere, that we should have had good Reason to have believ’d ’em, altho’ no Notice had here been taken of them. This is far from being the only Place in which these Three are referr’d to as Witnesses to Christianity, or to our Lord’s Messiahship, which was one of its capital Articles. Our Blessed Saviour directly points us to the first of these Three Witnesses, when he says, The Father himself which hath sent me, hath born Witness of me. He did so at his Baptism, by a direct Voice from Heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. He also mention’d the first and second of these Three Witnesses together, when He said, I am one that bear Witness of myself, and the Father that sent me, beareth Witness of me. We read also of the third Witness, when our Lord Jesus, speaking of the Spirit, whom He promis’d as a Comforter, says, He shall testify of me. Neither is the New Testament silent as to the Unity of these Witnesses. Our Lord is plain and positive as to the Unity of the two first of them, saying, I and my Father are One. And tho’ some of the Father’s were for referring this to an Unity of Affection and Will, yet the main Stream of them carry’d it for an Unity of Essence and Nature. And if there was an Unity of that Sort between the Two first Witnesses, viz. the Father’ and Son, it might, I should think, very naturally be concluded, That if the Spirit was as truly God, as either of them, He must in the very same Sense be One with them too. And to me, I confess, it is far from seeming likely, that when the Apostle was here speaking designedly of those that bore Witness. to the Truth of Christianity, he should mention Three inferior Witnesses, and forget the Three superior ones; take notice of Three Witnesses on Earth, and silently pass by the Three Witnesses in Heaven, which are of infinitely greater Authority, viz. the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to whose Testimony he well knew our LORD had often taken Occasion to refer in order to full Satisfaction.
- Tho’ it is comparatively but of late, that this Text has been debated and canvass’d, yet can it not with any Shadow or Appearance of Truth, be said to have been of late thrust into the New Testament, by those that would most gladly have it expunged. If it was an Addition at first, which we have no Reason to yield, without good Proof; yet still Mr. Emlyn was much in the wrong to call it a Modern Addition. Were it but a few Years since, or in later Ages only, that this Text had first appear’d, there would, it must be own’d, have been more Likelihood of a Mistake, or more Danger of a Fraud : But after all the Bravado’s of such as are against it, we have incontestable Proof, and such as none can justly call in Question, that it not only is generally now own’d in the Christian World, but also that it was own’d for Scripture above Twelve hundred Years ago; and we have probable Proof that goes yet much farther, and rises higher. This Text is not only now commonly read in these Parts of the World, but Father Simon, as much as he sets himself against it, freely owns, that it is read by the Greeks at this Day in their Copy intitled Apostolos. (Pag: 353 t Crit. Hift. of the N. T. c. xviii ) Nor is this of late only, but it has long been own’d amongst ’em. Mr. Selder acknowledges. it was read constantly and solemnly, as a Part of Scripture, both in the Greek and Latin Churches before the Reformation. So that as Bishop Stillingfleet observes, There was a general Consent of the Eastern and Western Churches for the receiving it; and we shall afterwards see, that this was of a long standing too. Though there might be some Variety in the remaining Copies of the New Testament, with regard to this Verse, yet there was little Notice taken of it; there was no Variety in the Publick Service, nor do we meet with any Objections against the Genuineness of this Text, till Eramus rais’d a Dust, and began a Scruple, which others have taken no small Pleasure in increasing since. So that tho’ our Humble Inquirer (who has since styld his Performance, A Full Inquiry) thought fit to style this, a long doubted Text; yet he might as well, and I think more truly) have call’d it, a long own’d Text, in as much as it has been much longer own’d than doubted of in the Church of CHRIST, where for any Thing that appears, it was first oppos’d by Erasmus and Servetus. And as to Erasmus, tho’, he left it out of his first Edition of the New Testament, yet he brought it into his third Edition, An. 1522, being prevail’d with by a British Copy, which he follow’d, thoʻ. he does not tell us where that Copy was deposited. It was also kept in in the Complutensian Edition, after a variety of Copies had been searched