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The truth of this has been very fully maintained in the prosecution of the subject in hand. In one of the preceding sermons, it was made evident that, “ the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,” have testified in and from heaven ; and that each is supremely divine, and yet but one God, is a doctrine accompanied with such evidence, that a denial of it is an entire departure from the very foundation on which the church is built. We must be more than distracted, therefore, to doubt of the authenticity of the text, on the ground of its internal character.
No Trinitarian can consistently také such a stand. On the internal purity of the passage, we may surely repose the highest confidence. We must be convinced that three persons in one God, is not a sound and Scriptural doctrine, before our minds can be shaken by such arguments as my opponent has advanced in opposition to the internal character of the text in dispute.
This consideration, however, is not an incontestible proof that it is an insertion ; for an interpolation may be a correct statement of a divine doctrine. Although the passage, as Dr. Doddridge says,"contains an important truth,” its inspiration ought to be renounced, if it could be proved that it was not written by St. John. Unless that can be done, we may justly esteem it as a part of the Holy Scriptures.
2. We may now go on to sum up the external evidence which has been adduced in favor of the text under consideration.
If the historical testimony, which has been exhibited in the foregoing discourses, is correct, there is no just reason for renouncing its authenticity. But the gentleman on the other side, has endeavored to shake that in an indirect manner. The information and integrity of Mr. Travis, however, may be believed, until the opposite of these
things is fairly substantiated. That he was a gentleman of sound sense and classical education, very fully appears from the perspicuity, force and elegance of his writings. It is said by a very learned writer, that he has had “access to the most faithful, and the most credible documents," and “given the most enlightened answers to the objections of those writers who have distinguished themselves most. against this contested text.” His situation in life placed him above suspicion, as to his integrity. To attack an opponent, in the way that the gentleman in opposition has Mr. Travis, betrays the weakness of his cause. We have no reason to believe the historical testimony, on which we rely in this case, was ever fabricated by Mr. Travis, nor by him from whom he is said to have copied. The attempt of
my opponent, to destroy the historical evidence which has been produced by me, is vain. An effort to prove its insufficiency, would be far more ingenuous and convincing. This method of destroying testimony, may be reresorted to on both sides of the question ; and then all certainty concerning any historical statements, would be at once unsettled.
After these general remarks, we may proceed to state the main things in the historical evidence in favor of the text, on which a reliance may be placed. And in doing this,
1. Mention will be made of the quotations of the passage by the early fathers of the church. My opponent has stated, that the text in view was never quoted earlier than the eighth century. The Rev. T. Lindsey, however, has acknowledged, that it was cited in the fifth century; and he certainly is one to whom all the other AntiTrinitarians are willing to look up to as their file leader. He says,—-" The person who first cited this suspected verse, as being really written by the apostle John, was
Vigillius Tapsensis, a bishop who lived about the end of the fifth century.” This acknowledgment being against the cause in which Mr. Lindsey was enlisted, it is justly entitled to our highest confidence. This recent and learned Anti-Trintitarian does not mention this matter, as a thing of which he entertained any doubt; for his expressions are absolute. This concession, however, is almost a fatal blow to his own interest, as it respects the text in debate; for if it was quoted by Vigillius at the close of the fifth century, it must have been in the Sacred Manuscripts then, and believed by the church to be an inspired text, long before that time; or a citation of it must have exposed him to detection and contempt. The citation of this debated passage must be found in some of his wri. tings; and, if he had an authority for this which was then deemed good, the text must be carried back, near or quite to the apostolic age. As the majority of Christendom at that time must have been Arians, and many of them learned men, Vigillius would have been exposed to shame in citing the text, unless he had an authority for it which was indisputable. Common sense must say, that Mr. Lindsey's concession is one of the worst blows to the opposers of the passage, that could be well given. It clears the Church of Rome entirely from my opponent's charge of forging the passage.
It is insinuated however, by Mr. Lindsey, that Vigillius forged it himself; saying, that he is “the same person, who, most probably, forged the creed, which goes about under the name of Athanasius." This retreat is the best that he could make from the position he had taken. Mr. Lindsey, however, has contradicted my opponent, by placing the first use of the text, three hundred years beyond his statement, which was made in unqualified terms. Seeing that men of the same school disagree with each other, we may be justified in thinking, that other writers may be right in differing from them all. In the historical testimony which I have adduced in defence of the text, Vigillius was mentioned ; and it is supported, we see, by high Anti-Trinitarian authority. We may venture to believe, therefore, that it was quoted also by Jerom, in the beginning of the fifth century—by Agustine in the fourth —by his cotemporaries, Marcus Celedensis and Phebadius by Cyprian and Tertullian in the third-and by Clemens, in the second century. We may rely on this evidence, until it can be removed by solid proof.
2. The ancient versions in which the text appears, testify in its favor. These are, the Italic, which was made in the first century-the Armenian version, which history says was made very early, and from Greek manuseripts the Vulgate, or Latin version, in which my opponent himself acknowledges, the text appears. In regard to the Syrian version, it is admitted by Mr. Lindsey, to be in some of its printed editions. That is a very great concession for him to make.
3. The Greek manuscripts in which the text has appeared, are highly in its favor. Notwithstanding their not existing at present, we have authentic documents of their having been examined, and found containing the text in question. It has been shewn, that Laurentius Valla obtained seven Greek manuscripts, in the fourteenth century; and we have his testimony, that the text was in them all. Robert Stephens found it in nine of his sixteen Greek manuscripts. Jerom formed his Testament in the fourth century, from Greek manuscripts. Walafrid Strabo, formed his Glossa Ordinaria in the ninth century, from Greek manuscripts. In making the Armenian version, they had Greek manuscripts; and so had the divines, who made what is called the Correctorium in the eighth century. Thus we have a correct historical account of Greek manuscripts, from the fourth, down to the fifteenth century. These various accounts of Greek manuscripts, containing the text, through the duration of a thousand years,
shews that the number of them must have been very considerable. Although they have perished with time, we have an evidence of their examination, that is as great as many other historical facts, on whose truth we fully rely.
As the substance of the evidence for and against the text in debate, has now been concisely stated; we may proceed to the intended reflections on the subject. And,
1. It must be admitted, that the passage in controversy is, in some degree, involved in difficulty. Not having been more frequently quoted by the ancient fathers-not appearing in a number of the ancient versions-not being found in the existing Greek manuscripts, is the sum of the evidence that lies against it. Its having been quoted by some of the fathers, from the fifth up to the second century
appearing in several of the early versions of the scriptures—the historical account we have of its existing in many Greek manuscripts which have been examined, but lost with time; with the purity of its internal character, are the testimonies which we have in its favor. These are the grounds on which we must judge of its spuriousness or authenticity. Thus, the substance of the evidence for and against it, is placed in a concise and clear light. It must be admitted that the passage is either spurious or genuine. If it be an inspired text, its adversaries must have, by some means, banished it from many of the versions and manuscripts of the Scriptures; and, if it is a spurious passage, the Orthodox must have forged it, antecedent to the close of the fifth century. But how either of these things could have been done, without plain evidence of the fact, is truly mysterious. There is no hint,