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teenth century; and 1 John 5. 7, was exhibited against him, in a general council, of 1200 ministers, “and an equal number of deputies.” See page
may be asked, why did not that learned man inform his judges, that the text on which their main reliance was placed, was “a vile interpolation,” and never taken from the autograph of St. John? This ground would, undoubtedly, have been taken by him, if he had thought himself able to maintain it, before that extensive and learned body. This we see he did not attempt.
If that kind of evidence, contended for by my opponent, were complete, I have no special objection to its admission. But that is not the fact. That this text, has been “absent from every place, where it must be if alive, from the fifteenth century, up to the first, has never been proved; but the reverse has been amply supported.
After stating and illustrating the power of negative evidence, the gentleman goes on to observe :-“ The true state of the case is this : If the passage was actually written by St. John, it would undoubtedly be found in the best and most ancient Greek manuscripts ; that we should certainly find it in the great majority of them; that it would appear
in the different translations made near the days of the Apostles ; that it should be quoted by the fathers in their controversies with the Anti-Trinitarians, and must certainly be found in their works, particularly in the writings of Athanasius, who was the great champion of the Trinitarian cause in the early part of the fourth century.” My opponent goes on to say, “The burden of proof, the laboring oar, belongs wholly to those who would impose a passage as genuine, the word of a sacred penman ; and it must be proved by positive evidence, competent evidence, sufficient evidence; such evidence as reaches back, in its testimony, to the Apostolic age. This is particularly necessary in the case of a contested passage, and still more so of so singular a passage; one pertaining to a vastly interesting subject, which has been the grand theme of violent dispute from the very early ages of the church to the present period.”
The above statement is an abridgment of nearly three pages of my opponent's discourse. In condensing, however,
I have taken great care to preserve the strength of his arguments; to which I shall now reply. His first position is, “ If this passage was actually written by St. John, it would undoubtedly be found in the best and most ancient Greek manuscripts."
What he would consider as the best Greek manuscripts, I cannot tell ; unless he means such ones as have the least in them relating to the Trinity, and its kindred doctrines. I am very willing to admit, that the age of manuscripts is of great importance. But, to meet the point, I would observe, the gentlemap's argument appears to be this : If 1 John v. 7, were a genuine text, “it would be found in the most ancient Greek manuscripts.” The Alexandrian and Vatican manuscripts are the most ancient; the text in dispute is not found in them; therefore, it is spurious. If the most ancient manuscripts included the autograph of St. John, his argument would be invincible. That, however, with many others which have been transcribed from it, are lost in the revolution of time. The Alexandrian manuscript, which is wțitten in the Greek character, is allowed to be the oldest in the world ; but Wetstein admits that it is of no higher antiquity than the close of the 5th century. He has given great attention to the subject; and as that manuscript does not contain the text in debate, he, being an Anti-Trinitarian, would readily allow it all the credit it could derive from age or any other circumstance. But, as the want of the text in
question in this and the Vatican manuscript, was acknowledged in my sermons, and accounted for, the reader is referred to my arguments. I must dissent from the conclusion of my opponent, that “if the passage was actually written by St. John, it would be found in the best and most ancient Greek manuscripts." Every candid mind must be convinced that the case may be otherwise. My opponent's next position is, that “if the passage be genuine,” we should certainly find it in the great majority of the ancient Greek manuscripts.
I will only say, at present, to this argument, that if a sufficient reason can be assigned for the want of the text in some of the ancient manuscripts, it will also account, in a great measure, for the want of it" in the great majority of them.” I might reply more largely; but I shall be under the necessity of using the same arguments in answering my opponent hereafter.
His next position is : “If the passage was actually written by St. John, it would appear in the different translations made near the days of the Apostles.”
To this I answer: As the art of printing was not understood in the early ages, and all depended on the pen, the translations themselves were in manuscript; and, therefore, they were liable to the same erasures and omissions as the Greek manuscripts.
In relation to printing, my opponent says, “ which noble art, blessed be God, secures the church, through all future ages, from the imposition of forgery.”
In all his statements, he goes evidently on the ground that forgery was a very easy thing ; but that erasures and omissions were impracticable. By such a method of reasoning, three things are effected; namely, he exculpates the Arians, criminates the Orthodox, and destroys a text, whose very sound deprives him of patience, and calls forth all the powers of his mind in anathemas against it, I think, however, that this “noble art,” as he elegantly calls printing, is as necessary to “secure the Church, through all future ages, from the imposition” of erasing and omitting, as from forgery and insertion.
My opponent's next position is : “ If the passage was actually written by St. John, it would have been quoted by the fathers in their controversies with the Anti-Trinitarians; and must certainly be found in their works, particularly in the writings of Athanasius.”
I reply: This, no doubt, is to be expected. Their writings, however, might have been mutilated, as well as the Sacred Oracles, by the same hands, and for the same reasons. But history testifies, that in this respect, we have the evidence which the gentleman requires. In proof of this, the reader is referred to the third sermon, page 42—48. We have, therefore, as great evidence that the text in dispute was quoted by the ancient fathers, as can be expected at this distance of time.
But the gentleman proceeds in saying, “ The burden of proof, the laboring oar, belongs wholly to those who would impose” this text on mankind, as a sacred passage. .
Surely, we have no right to object against laboring in defence of the inspired writings. I would neither receive the text myself, nor recommend a belief of its authenticity to others, without a conviction that it bears the indubitable marks of divine authority.
But my opponent says, with an air of triumph, that the text in view“must be substantiated, proved, and rendered certainly genuine, by positive evidence, competent evidence, ancient evidence, suficient evidence, such evidence as reaches back in its testimony to the period of the Apostolic age, and is attended with such corroborating considerations, as to recommend it to the impartial mind.” He adds,
“ 'This is particularly necessary in the case of a contested passage; and still more so, of so singular a passage as the one now in question.”
My reply to this high-sounding argument, is : In the historical evidence which was adduced in
sermon, we have ancient evidence, and, I think, sufficient evidence, to convince men whose minds are not hostile to Trinitarian doctrines.
But the gentleman gives us two grand reasons for requiring such a host of evidence to prove the authority of the text in debate. The first is, “it is a contested passage;" and the second, “it is a singular passage.” To his first appalling argument, I say, if being “ contested,” is a sufficient reason to look on the text with a jealous eye, the whole Bible is in the very same situation. Volumes have been written to prove that the Scriptures at large are an imposition on mankind; and by men who have gloried in their philosophical talents, extensive erudition, independence of mind, and deep research. If my opponent's argument is allowed to have any weight, we must stand in doubt of every part of that which we call the word of God. His second reason against the authority of the text, is its being “so singular a passage." If all the difficulties which are charged upon it by the gentleman, were real ones, it is surely a “ singular passage.” But, I must say, with the celebrated Dr. Doddridge, “ I am persuaded that the words contain an important truth ;” a truth expressed in a decent and intelligible manner, whether they are spurious or genuine. I cannot discover in them, by the help of all that has been said, “absurdity, contradiction, abomination," or " barbarism.” The text certainly expresses, with great clearness, a plain Bible doctrine; as has been largely proved in my sermons on it. On these two reasons, I think nothing more need be said.