THE EDITOR OF THE QUARTERLY REVIEW
IN WHICH IS DEMONSTRATED
THE GENUINENESS OF
THE THREE HEAVENLY WITNESSES
1 JOHN v. 7.
By BEN DAVID
"There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; and hid that shall not be known. --- Matthew 10:26
"And if any one shall take away from the words of the prophecy of this book, God shall take away his part out of the book of life. --- Revelations 22:19
PRINTED FOR R. HUNTER, ST. PAUL'S CHURCHYARD
All Rights Reserved
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic [floppy disk, zip disk, &c.], mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of both the publisher and the editor.
THE EDITOR OF THE QUARTERLY REVIEW
Ever since I began to interpret the Jewish and Christian Scriptures in connexion with the circumstances which called them forth, and the knowledge of which is necessary to place their true sense and propriety in a clear light, I became convinced that the celebrated verse concerning the three heavenly witnesses, is as genuine as the rest of the Epistle; and I intended one day to dissipate the mystery which enveloped the subject. But I thought the age little prepared to receive the consequences likely to follow from the discussion; and I intended to leave my thoughts on the question, as a legacy to succeeding generations. This was my intention, because experience taught me that it would be in vain for me to write, if I materially opposed public opinion, or ran counter to the authority of those who lead it. The following incident, however, induced me to alter my mind. --- A gentleman, distinguished for his eloquence, when very lately addressing a public assembly, asserted that no person could maintain the authenticity of the three witnesses without either ignorance or dishonesty. I was struck with this bold assertion; and I resolved to give publicity to my ideas, and undeceive those at least who should be at pains of examining them. This is the occasion which called forth the following letters. And I address them to you, because of the decided part you took in the controversy, when reviewing Dr. Burgess's Vindication. That review, Sir, does, in my opinion, great credit to your Journal: it contains a concise, candid, and luminous statement of the question; and while it displays abilities peculiar to your publication, it gives a specimen of the temper in which all theological controversies ought, for the honour of Christianity, to be conducted. In your introduction you say, "We must confess that, when we read an advertisement announcing the publication of a work which promised to give Greek authorities for the authenticity of 1 John v. 7, not hitherto adduced in its defence, we felt no slight degree of surprise and curiosity. After the labour bestowed by so many learned and ingenious men as have written on this controverted verse, nothing seemed to remain for future disputants, but to restate and place in new lights the facts which had been transmitted to them. When therefore we saw new authorities promised, we were anxious to know by what singular felicity the Right Reverend Prelate had been led to the discovery of evidence which had escaped the researchers of all preceding inquirers. The result of the controversy between Professor Porson and Archdeacon Travis, --- the last regular controversy on the subject of 1 John v. 7, --- had proved in a very high degree unfavourable to the opinion of the genuineness of that passage. The great majority of learned men, whatever were their sentiments respecting the important doctrine of the Trinity, agreed in pronouncing the verse to be spurious." Quarterly Review for 1822, p. 324.
I believe, Sir, no publication has contributed to diffuse and establish this notion more than the Quarterly review; not merely because of the vast influence which it has on public opinion, but because of the superior force and clearness with which you analysed the controversy, and, if the grounds on which you proceeded were admitted, the justness of your decision. My object is to show that this ground is entirely mistaken; and to open a new path of inquiry, which shall inevitably lead to the re-establishment of the verse in the hearts and conviction of mankind. Important and curious as the question of its authenticity is in itself, it has a far higher claim on your attention and that of the public, on account of the consequences which it involves. If I prove the genuineness of this text, the orthodox faith, whether established by power or by prejudice, will receive a shock which shall shatter its very foundations, and bring it at no distant period completely to the ground; while, on the other hand, additional strength and lustre will be given to the evidences of Christianity as it came from the hands of Christ and his Apostles. This consideration, more than mere curiosity, must, if founded in truth, inevitably engage you again in the controversy, and induce you to employ your powerful pen in refuting my views. I then, Sir, summon you a second time to the field; and I pray God that you may come in the exercise of that Christian spirit of which you have given me and others a fine example in your review of this question. Mistake me not; this summons is an invitation, not a challenge. Whatever confidence I have in my cause, I have none in myself, that would warrant me in defying your hostility. I wish you to come forth, not that I might combat you, but that I might enlist under you banners; that if in the main I am right, I might receive your assistance, --- if otherwise, your opposition to come at a final decision; and through you, give the nation an opportunity of knowing the issue of a discussion, which, if taken in all its bearings, is one of the most momentous and interesting that has ever engaged the attention of the Christian world. With this introduction,
I propose then, to prove, That the disputed verse forms the sum and substance of the whole Epistle, and is essential to the connexion:--- That the true sense places its genuineness beyond all reasonable suspicion, and serves to account for every defect in its external evidence. In pursuing this end, the course natural for me to adopt, is to ascertain, first, the scope of the Epistle; secondly, the scope of the verse; and lastly, this scope being ascertained, to account for the silence of manuscripts, of version, and of the early fathers.
I propose then, first, to ascertain the scope of the Epistle: and an attentive perusal of it warrants us in concluding, that its object is to check the heresy of the Gnostics. These the Apostle mentions under the names of false prophets and Antichrist: and so directly does he meet their tenets, that we might fairly infer what they were from John's own words. But we need not rest on this inference, as Iranaeus, Theodoret, and Epiphanius, have given a direct history of the Gnostics system; while it is indirectly confirmed by Justin Martyr, Origen, Tertullian, Eusebius, and Jerome.
These heretics insisted on two principles, which served as the foundation of their whole system. The first was, that the Creator is an evil, imperfect Being: the second, that the Christ was a God, either dwelling for a season in the man Jesus, or an empty phantom in his shape. In Judaea and other places, where our Lord was personally known, they insisted on the former as the morre plausible supposition; but in heathen countries, where the appearance of a God in human form was vulgarly believed, they inculcated the latter. It obviously followed, that if the Almighty were evil, he must wish the misery rather than the happiness of his creatures, and the Saviour could not have come from Him to save the world: and if Christ, as they affect to believe, was a God opposite to the Creator in nature and character, he must have come to destroy the works, to abolish the laws, of the Creator; he must have come not to save men from their sins, but to confer, as they pretended, on a favourite few, the privilege of indulging in every sinful inclination. Moreover, if Christ were a God, He must have performed His miracles by virtue of His own power; He appeared after death by virtue of His own nature; and the resurrection or the reappearance of a being after his supposed death, who was by nature superior to death, would not be a pledge and pattern of the resurrection of beings such as mortals are, who by nature are subject to death. There is therefore no resurrection of the dead; and the doctrine of a future state or a judgment to come, with all the purifying influence of the Gospel, falls to the ground.
The Epistle of John consists of a few positions again and again repeated, and variously placed in opposition to the two dogmas above mentioned, and the pernicious inferences which followed from them. Thus, in opposition to the impious statement that God was evil or malignant, or that the Christ did not come from Him to save mankind, he says, "God is light, and in Him there is no darkness." 1:5. "In this the love of God hath shown itself among us, that His only begotten Son He hath sent into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God thus loved us, we too ought to love one another." 4:9 - 10 "God is love; and he who remaineth in love, remaineth in God, and God in him." 4:16.
The impostors pretended, however it might be incumbent on the Apostles and their faithful followers to suffer persecution and to abstain from sin, they and their disciples were exempt from such sacrifices, being privileged to continue in sin. This is a fact attested by Irenaeus (see p. 31.); and without a knowledge of it, a modern reader would hardly comprehend such passages as the following: "Children, let no one deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, as Jesus Himself was righteous. He that doeth sin is of the devil; because from the beginning the devil sinneth. This was then end for which the Son of God appeared, that He might destroy the works of the devil." 3:7 - 8.: that is, to destroy the works of the devil, or all evil works, and not, as the deceivers pretended, to destroy the righteous laws of God. Simon of Samaria, who was one of the framers of the Gnostic system, as Theodoret informs us (Haeres. Fab. Lib.1. 1.), taught his followers "that the prophets were ministers of (evil) angels; and therefore encouraged those who believed in him not to attend to them, nor dread the threatenings of the law, but to practise without restraint whatever they wished; for it is not by good works but by grace they can attain salvation." This is directly opposite to the Apostolic doctrine, which says, "Every one that is born of God, does not sin; because his seed (a Divine principle) remaineth in him; and he cannot bring himself to sin, because he is born of God. In this are manifest the sons of God and the sons of the evil one; every one that practiseth unrighteousness, or hateth his brother, is not born of God."
The impostors were not content with destroying the reforming influence of the Gospel, but in mere derision sought to give immorality and licentiousness the regularity of system and the sanctions of a law. Hence the same Theodoret says of certain Gnostics in Egypt: "These men use magic, and employ the names of demons: and to such a pitch of madness are they advanced, that they conceal not their lewdness, but reduce it to a regular system. For, says Carpocrates, some things are deemed evil, and others good, from opinion, and not from truth. While I am on this subject, I shall not pass over the legislative sanctions which they give to their impurities. They admit the transmigrations (of the soul), but not on the principle according to which it was taught by Pythagoras. For he said, that souls which have sinned are sent into bodies to be duly purified and purified. But these say, that the cause of their being embodied is directly opposite to that assigned by Pythagoras. For human souls. Affirm they, are sent into bodies in order to practise all manner of impurities: that therefore, those souls which fulfill this end, on being once immersed in a body, do not need a second immersion; but that those which have sinned in a small degree, must be sent twice, thrice, or oftentimes, until they have completed all sorts of baseness." Haer. Fab., lib. 1. 5.
Their attempts, --- in many instances, it is to be feared, too successful to pervert the Gospel into a regular system of depraved indulgences, --- are thus noticed in the following words of Jude: "certain men long ago foretold (by Jesus) as devoted to this condemnation, have insidiously crept in among us, who changed, as being impious (atheists), the grace of our God into lewdness; who perverted the Gospel, the gracious gift of God, into an engine of impurities; and who reject God the only supreme ruler, and our Lord Jesus Christ, as their Lord." Irenaeus is express in declaring that, though they affected to extol Christ as a God, they rejected Him under the title of Lord, as denying any obligation on their part to obey the precepts and follow the example of Jesus, an obligation which that name implies. (See Iren. P.9.)
While the Antichristian teachers rejected the Creator and the only Supreme Ruler of the universe, as evil and imperfect, they pretended to reveal an all-perfect being of their own, not concerned in the creation and government of the world. To this fictitious God, (which the impostors pretended to have been unknown to the Apostles till they had brought him to light,) John thus alludes, at the close of his Epistle, "We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding that we might know the true God; and we are in the true God by means of His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and the life eternal. Children, be on your guard against idols:" that is, "This is the true God, whom the only begotten in the bosom of the Father hath brought to light (John 1:18); and whom we know through Him, and not the new and the false God, whom the deceivers pretend to have revealed. Brethren, be on your guard against all such false Gods."
Let us next advert to what the Apostle advances against the other fundamental principle on which the Antichristian system was founded; namely, that "Jesus is not the Christ." This means, that the man Jesus is not the Christ. For the deceivers maintained that the Christ is a God in the form of a man, and not a real man; or that it is a God which dwelled for a season in the man Jesus, having entered into him at the commencement of his ministry, and abandoned him before his crucifixion. The first of these notions, as I have already observed, was insisted upon only in heathen countries, where such a notion harmonized with the popular superstition; while a more plausible fiction was taught in Judaea and other places, where Jesus had been personally known, or a more just notion of god prevailed. To the former barefaced fiction, John thus distinctly alludes: "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, if they be of God; because many false prophets are come into the world. In this know ye the spirit of God: every spirit which alloweth that Jesus Christ came in the flesh is of God: and every spirit which alloweth not that Jesus Christ came in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of Antichrist, of whose coming ye have heard, and who is even now already in the world." 4:1 - 3. "To come in the flesh" means, to come in a real human body, or to be a real man. Here then it is clearly and unequivocally written, that there were those who taught that Christ is a God --- in the appearance of man indeed, but not a real man: and that the Apostle calls the men who thus taught the Divinity of Christ, false teachers, and even Antichrist. The comprehensive notion of Jesus being God and man was, it seems, yet unthought of; and in the estimation of this Apostle, to allow the Divinity of Jesus, was to deny His humanity; while on the other hand, the allowing of his real humanity implied a denial of His Divinity. It was necessary for a darker age to arrive, a more debased prostration of the human understanding to take place, before it could be admitted that the natures of God and man, though directly opposite to each other, might yet co-exit in the same person, and constitute one and the same being.
As Jesus, according to the impostors, had not a real body, or real flesh and blood, he did not in reality suffer death. At this notion John glances in the following verse: "But if we walk in the light, as God is in the light, God and we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus Christ purifies us from all sin." 1:7. Here three things most important are implied: that Jesus had real flesh and blood, --- and that his object in shedding it was to cleanse men from all sin. These positions the Gnostics denied; and the phrase "the blood of Jesus Christ purifieth us from all sin" means, that He, by voluntarily laying down His life in connexion with His resurrection, furnished a decisive proof of a future state; and by that means, motives the most powerful to induce every man who cherishes this animating hope, to "purify himself even as Jesus was pure." 3:3
Our Lord Himself states that the object of His death was to induce men to forsake their sins; "And he took up the cup, and gave thanks, saying, drink ye all of it, it is My blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for many --- eis aphesin amartion, FOR THE DISMISSION OF SINS." Matthew 26:28: that is, Christ shed His blood, --- or in other words, He laid down His life, --- in order to supply all men, Gentiles as well as Jews, with an adequate motive to dismiss their sins; that being purified from their iniquities by repentance and reformation, they might be received into favour with God.
It is a remarkable fact, that wherever in their writings the Apostles notice the death of Christ, they uniformly refer to the sentiments of the Gnostics; and these sentiments supply an unerring standard by which to ascertain their true meaning. The sentiments were; that Christ did not die for the sins of men, the object of His appearing in the world being to destroy the works of the Creator, who is cruel and arbitrary; and to rescue mankind from subjection to His laws, so that all who followed them might gratify their propensities without fear or compunction. This blasphemy Paul sets aside in the beginning of his Epistle to the Galatians: "Grace be unto you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. I wonder that ye are so soon removed from Him who called you in the grace of God unto another Gospel; which is not another Gospel, but the artifice of men who wish to throw you into confusion, and to subvert the Gospel of Christ." Here Paul must have intended to assert what the deceivers denied; namely, that Christ gave Himself for our sins, not to atone for them to Infinite Justice, but to deliver us from the evil which is in the world: and this he did not against the will of God, but in conformity to it, as the will of a father who takes an affectionate interest in the recovery of his children. Again, Acts 20:28, "Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He (Jesus) hath secured around with His blood." The Gnostics denied that Christ had a real body, and consequently denied that He really died. Of these he immediately adds, "I know this, that immediately after my departure grievous wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock." The phrase "with His blood" is the same as "with His death:" but the writer preferred the former, to show that the body of Jesus Christ, like that of other men, consisted of real flesh and blood. The expression "He secured the church of God with His blood" or "by death," has allusion to a fold well fenced on every side against wolves or other beasts of prey which sought to break into it. The wolves here meant were the Antichristian teachers: and the fence which guarded the flock was the simple humanity and death of its faithful shepherd. For these they wished to substitute in the person of Christ, a God in a human form, but incorporeal and impassive. Paul, they said, did not preach this doctrine, because Christ had not fully communicated to him the mysteries of the Gospel: and to this charge the Apostle alludes, when he says that he declared to them the whole counsel of God."
The death of Christ, though not a supernatural event, is the corner-stone on which the church of Christ is erected. It was necessary that our Lord should voluntarily surrender Himself to His enemies, in order to evince the sincerity of His own conviction in the doctrine which He proclaimed to the world. It was necessary, too, that He should have died in the most public manner, or His resurrection, however true, could not be proved, or even known. Without the resurrection of Christ, we should have no hope in Christ of surviving the tomb: and without the crucifixion of Christ, we should have no evidence of His resurrection: and the glorious evidence of the Christian faith erected by Him, and now placed on a solid basis, would fall to the ground. Of this the Antichristian teachers were fully sensible; and they used every artifice to undermine the death of our Saviour: and to this circumstance it is owing that the Apostles assert it so frequently and lay so much stress upon it. The cause of this stress became in latter days overlooked; and men where hence led to ascribe to the blood of Jesus some mysterious efficacy, by which the pardon of sin is obtained, and the Creator prevailed upon to be reconciled to His fallen creatures. This was a refinement unknown to the impostors; or they would have been glad to establish it, in order to vilify the God and Father of mankind, as unwilling to forgive sin unless appeased by the suffering of His own Beloved Son.
I am, Sir, yours &c
HAVING shown in the foregoing letter, that the object of John in this Epistle is to set aside the Divinity of Christ as an artifice to undermine the Gospel, I proceed in the second to ascertain the object of the disputed verse.
The fiction that Christ was a God, or a phantom in the likeness of man, was so absurd, as to be seriously believed by none; while the notion that He was God dwelling for a time in the man Jesus, is no less plausible, than difficult to be guarded against or refuted. It was countenanced by the visible appearance which descended on Jesus at His baptism ; by the power of working miracles which ensued; and the apparent dereliction of Him by that supernatural power when He surrendered Himself into the hands of His enemies. Divine Wisdom anticipated this difficulty, and enabled Jesus and His Apostles by three remarkable provisions to set aside; I mean, a public testimony given by God Himself at the commencement of Christ's ministry, --- the testimony given by Jesus in His capacity of delegate from heaven, --- the testimony of the Holy Spirit after His ascension; --- all these three testimonies forming one testimony.
This leads me to the scope of the disputed verse, which is the following:--- 'Oti treis eisin oi marturountes en to ourano, o Pater, o Logos, kai to Agion Pneuma, kai outoi treis en eisi. There are three bearing testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one: that is, oi treis en marturion eisi. The meaning then is, that the father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, which are in heaven, bear testimony; and these three testimonies are one testimony; or, as it is expressed by the parallelism in the next verse, agree in one testimony. The testimony meant, is that which it is the burden of this Epistle to prove; namely, that JESUS IS THE CHRIST: meaning, in opposition to the Antichristian teachers, that the man Jesus, and not a God dwelling in the man Jesus or in the empty form of the man Jesus, is the Christ.
That the reader may be assured that I do not mislead him by this distinction, I will cite one or two authorities. Origen, speaking of the Serpentists, a sect of the Gnostics in Egypt, thus writes of them: "They (while they affected to believe in Christ) vilify JESUS no less than Celsus; nor do they admit any into their society, unless he first pledges himself by curse against Jesus." Contra Celsus. P. 294. They were sometimes called Ophitai, as worshippers of the Serpent in opposition to the Creator, from Ophis; and Paul thus alludes to them: "I fear, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craft, so your minds be corrupted from the simplicity which is in Christ." 2 Cor. 11:13. These, in verse 13, he calls "false teachers, deceitful doers, assuming to themselves the character of Christ's Apostles." In his first Epistle he distinctly refers to the circumstance of their cursing the man Jesus, while they pretended to receive and worship the Divinity within Him. "Wherefore I give you to understand, that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calleth JESUS cursed." 1 Cor. 12:3; that is, --- rejecteth Jesus with curses. At the close of the same Epistle, he writes, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus, let him be anathema (excommunication)" : that is --- instead of excommunicating Jesus, excommunicate the person, whosoever he be, that pretending to receive the Christ, yet blasphemes and hates the Lord Jesus.
I.] The authors of the Antichristian system were the priests and rulers who put our Lord to death. During His ministry they laboured to disseminate a belief that He performed His miracles by intercourse with evil spirits from hades, or by Beelzebub prince of the demons dwelling in Him. Divine Wisdom anticipated this subterfuge, and provided against it by a public testimony, which rendered it impossible for the most ignorant or superstitious among the people, to refer the power with which the blessed Jesus acted to any other source than His Almighty Father in heaven. While His forerunner was proclaiming the approach of the kingdom of Heaven, when surrounded by an immense concourse from Judaea, Jerusalem, and all the country round about, many of the Pharisees and Sadducees also being in the number, on this public occasion, Jesus of Nazareth came to be baptized. A scene solemn, sudden, and surprising ensued:--- High in the heaven, beyond the reach of all human power or imposture, the clouds which had hitherto darkened the sky dispersed; a commission from the Sovereign of the universe, assuming a visible appearance, descended on the man Jesus, at the same time accompanied with an audible voice, saying "This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."
In consequence of this signal event, the fame of Jesus, we are told, "went out through all Syria: ands they brought to Him all that were diseased, those oppressed by various distempers and afflictions; demoniacs, lunatics, and those with palsies: and He healed them." The Evangelist mentions these incidents, in order to show, that the benevolent use, as well as the magnitude of the power here displayed by Jesus, precluded the possibility of intercourse with evil spirits and pointed to the Almighty as its real origin. The testimony thus given Him by His heavenly Father implies, that Jesus, the man Jesus, or, as He emphatically calls Himself the Son of Man, is also the Son of God; that He was thus distinguished on the authority of God Himself; that he became the Son of God by the commission or by the power and instruction which He received on this occasion; and finally, that the Almighty, being proclaimed that Father of all men who receive His Gospel and follow His example. This chain of consequences the Apostles comprised in the simple proposition, that Jesus is the Christ, or, that Jesus is the Son of God; while the Antiapostolic teachers endeavoured to set them aside in a manner equally compendious, by insisting on His Divinity. Thus John asks, "Who is a liar but he that denieth Jesus to be the Christ? This is the Antichrist, who denieth the Father and the Son." 2:2.
The Apostles suppose the notoriety and acknowledged truth of this testimony; ands they frequently allude to it in arguing against the impostors. Thus our Lord asserts it in the face of His enemies; "I have a testimony greater than that of John: for the works which the Father gave me to finish, these works which I do, bear testimony of me, that the father sent me." John 5: 36-37. John the beloved disciple seems to have been present at the baptism of Jesus; and, apparently, it is to what he there witnessed that he thus alludes: "And we have seen, and bear testimony, that The Father sent His Son to be the saviour of the World. Whosoever alloweth that Jesus is the Son of God, God remaineth in him, and he in God." In writings these words, the Apostle had in his mind the following words of John the Baptist, which he himself has recorded in his Gospel: "And John bore testimony, saying, I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove from heaven, and it remaineth upon Him." 1:32. From the succeeding verses we learn that two of John's disciples then became disciples of Jesus. These appear to have been John the beloved disciple, and Andrew brother of Simon Peter. Hence the former relates of the Baptist what he had himself seen and heard; and he relates it with all the particularity of an eye witness: "And on the following day, John stood, and two of his disciples; and fixing his eyes on Jesus as he was walking, saith, Behold the lamb of God!" 35, 36. The Baptist uses tetheamai (I have seen) in the singular; but the Apostle, in order to include himself and his fellow-disciple, changes it into the plural, we have seen. And it is worthy of remark, that the words tetheametha, marturoumen, omologese, Uios tou Theou, menei, which the Apostle use in Chapter 3:14-15, of his Epistle, were originally the words of the Baptist, and hence copied from him. The clause, "Behold the lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world," used by the Baptist, is changed by the Apostle, into "the Son, Saviour of the world;" both clauses meaning the same thing, namely, that Jesus, as the Son of God, was to die; and that the object of His death was to save the world from sin and its penal consequences; both which the impostors denied.
II. No word in the New Testament seems more uncertain, or the sense of which has been more controverted, than the original of the Word, o Logos. It is therefore necessary for me, first, to ascertain its meaning; and then to show how, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, it bears testimony that Jesus is the Christ.
The Gnostics are thought by modern divines to have been a sect of Christians betrayed into error by the pride of knowledge, and by the imperceptible influence of early prejudices on the human heart. But this is a very mistaken notion. The Gnostics were Christians only in profession; but in reality, Epicurean Jews, and the most deadly enemies of the Gospel. This will appear from the following reasons:---
1. The Egyptians from the most early times worshipped the Serpent, as a symbol of divine wisdom; and opposed it to the God of Israel, whom they blasphemed as an evil, imperfect Being. This was the first principle in the Gnostic system; and it is evident that those among the Jews who adopted it, must have been apostates from the religion of Moses and the Prophets. As abettors of the Serpent, they were sometimes called Ophitai, or Ophianoi, Serpentists; and it is for their apostasy in this respect, that John the Baptist and our Lord Himself stigmatize them as "serpents, or children of the serpent." (See Matthew 3:7; 23:33.)
2. The framers of Antichrist pretended to have revealed a supreme Being hitherto unknown even to the Jews. This pretension demonstrates that their religious creed was founded in atheism. For it is not to be supposed that, if, in opposition to the strongest evidence from reason and revelation, they rejected the Creator and Governor of the world as an all-perfect Being, they seriously believed the existence and perfection of another Being without any proof from either. Besides, the pagan poets, and even philosophers, personified the Abyss  mentioned in the beginning of the Mosaic history, and represented him as the most ancient of gods. This was the Supreme God of the impostors; and therefore amongst other names they called him Bythos, the "Depth." Accordingly, the description they gave of him was copied from the school of Epicurus. He was not the creator, nor had any concern in the government of the world; and his happiness consisted in Epicurean ease, in silence, indolent tranquillity, and indulgences, unruffled by disquietudes, or uninterrupted by care. (See Irenaeus, p.7.)
3. The Gnostics, being unable to check the progress or counteract the purifying influence of the Gospel by openly denying the miracles and resurrection of Jesus, artfully sought to sink it in the dregs of heathenism. This was not only the tendency, but the direct object of their system: and the most likely way to secure their end was to deify the founder, and to place him on the same shelf with Pan, Serapis, or Hercules, in the Pantheon of Athens or of Rome. Their attempts to fulfill this purpose at Philippi and in the capital of the empire, may be seen in the seventh and tenth chapters of the First Part of Ben David's Reply to Gamaliel Smith. Egypt had ever been the hot bed of superstition. There Gnosticism mostly flourished. The Emperor Adrian informs us that the priests of Serapis were also bishops of Christ.  Of this number probably was Carpocrates and Basilides, and these we know to have been at the head of the Gnostics in that country.
4. The authors of Gnosticism were the higher orders of priests and Pharisees, who caused our Lord to be put to death. The blessed Jesus, anticipating their insidiousness and enmity, pointed out the foundation of their system in the parable of the tares sown with the good seed; and he repeatedly warned his faithful followers against them, under the figure of wolves coming among them in sheep's clothing. During His ministry, they had the depravity to refer to an evil spirit miracles which they could not but know to have proceeded from the Spirit of God. But they soon found this evasion unavailing; and after the resurrection of the Founder, from open enemies they became pretended friends. While their real object was to undermine Christianity, they affected to render it more perfect and attractive, by superadding to it certain sublime mysteries, which Christ had concealed from His Apostles, as being illiterate; but revealed to them, as men of superior wisdom. Being adapted to the prejudices of Jews and Gentiles, and perverted into a cloak for gratifying the worst passions of the human heart, this pernicious system enlisted on its side all the pretended wise, and all the incorrigibly wicked, not only in Judaea, but in Rome and the provinces. By means of agents and emissaries it was systematically propagated from Jerusalem, and conveyed to all those places in which the Gospel in its purity had been planted by the Apostles. Its reception into the churches established by them was the means, under Providence, of calling forth the Apostolic writings; and among the number, the Gospel and this Epistle of John; who, on account of its wide prevalence and more systematic opposition to the doctrine of Christ, was the first to give to this imposture the name of ANTICHRIST.
One of the means wisely adopted by this Evangelist to defeat the purposes of the Antichristian teachers, was to transfer to his Divine Master the title of Logos, which, as expressive of the being and attributes of God, became in after days a new foundation for erecting upon it the Divinity of our Saviour. Philo has the merit of unfolding the primary sense of the term, and bringing to light the propriety of its application to Christ. "The Deity," says he, (De Mundi Opificio, p.3,) "foreseeing that nothing fair could be formed without a fair model, and that no sensible object would be perfect unless made after some archetypal form, --- on having determined to frame this visible world, preconcerted an intellectual world, in order that after the model of this immaterial and diviner world He might execute that which is material, as a younger image is taken from an older, comprehending in it the several sensible kinds contained in the other." The author illustrates his meaning by comparing the Creator to an architect, who having designed to build a splendid city, first forms a complete plan of it in his mind, before he carries his scheme into execution. "In the same way," adds he, "we must conceive of God, who having purposed to build this city of universal nature, first conceived the models of it, constituting the intellectual world, and then used this as a pattern when executing the sensible world: and as the ideal city preconceived by the architect had no external local existence, but subsisted only in the mind of the artist; so the ideal world, consisting of models, can have no other place than the Divine Intellect which arranged it." The original of Divine Intellect, or the intellectual world, is Theios Logos, the Divine Logos, or Logos Theou, Logos of God. In thus applying the term Logos to the intellect of God, or to the effect of that intellect subsisting within Himself, Philo professes to speak with philosophical accuracy. If I might use," says he, "plain language, I should say that the intellectual world (Theou Logon) is nothing else but the Intellect of God, while He was mow making the world; for the intellectual city is nothing else but the reasoning of the architect while employed in projecting the material city." Vol. 1. 5. He adds, that god and no other is the author of nature, employing only His own attributes, without advice, without assistance from any other. Now Philo says expressly that this representation is given by Moses, whence he borrowed it: and if we accurately examine the Mosaic history of the Creation, we shall find that the assertion is most true, as has been shown by Essenus, in his "New Version of the First Three Chapters of Genesis, accompanied with Dissertations illustrative of the Creation, the Fall of Man, the Principle of Evil, and the Plagues of Egypt." According to this writer, Moses in speaking of the Creation uses two verbs which the common translators have taken as synonymous: these are bara, to create, and asha, to make, which nevertheless have very distinct significations; the former meaning to plan, to model, or devise, the latter to effect or produce. The one is a term of science, and expresses the operation of the understanding while planning, scheming, or inventing; the other of art, and denotes the execution or performance of any scheme. This distinction Essenus establishes by decisive evidence from Moses himself. Accordingly he renders the first verse thus, "In the beginning God planned the heavens and the earth;" remarking that, when the sacred historian represents the Almighty as planning the heavens and the earth, He must have intended to set aside the false notions of those who maintained that the world had not beginning, or began to exist by natural causes.
"The advocates of atheism," adds he, "endeavoured to throw a veil over the evidences of design in the works of nature, as proving, if admitted, a designing cause; and that by denying all previous ideas, or models of material things in the Supreme Mind." They knew that nothing was so likely to bring into disbelief the agency and existence of the true God, as a pretended belief in the agency and existence of false gods. With this view they personified the properties of matter, and spoke of these properties as the attributes of divine beings. On the other hand, they applied the name and attributes of God to nature, to physical causes, to chance or fortune, and finally to the heavenly bodies; thus endeavouring to confound Him with His own works, and to conceal Him from the eyes of human reason by interposing the shades of His own splendid creation. The Jewish Legislator had to defeat this philosophical craft; and he has done it in a manner truly admirable. He first places a spiritual being at the head of the creation; then represents him, before he begins to create, as previously forming models of all the things to be created. Next he exhibits him as moving to and fro over the surface of the deep, in order to survey, as it were, how and were to begin his projected plan. In a step further wee see him issue his commands to the ministers that surround his throne, to carry his plans into effect, conformably to models placed in their hands. Immediately after the execution, he surveys the work, passes sentence on its merits, again and again pronouncing it to be good.
Ver. 11 stands thus in the common translation, "And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit-tree yielding fruit after his kind." The phrase after his kind is used in connexion with all the creatures which God commanded to be made. It is therefore evident that it has some definite and emphatic meaning. When one thing is said to have been done after another, we mean that it is done in imitation of it, that it is done conformably to it, the thing imitated being a pattern or model, prior in point of time to the copy or imitation. But the kinds of things were not yet in existence; they could not therefore, in the sense of kinds, be standards of the things to be created. Yet this precisely the meaning of lameino in Hebrew; and it is remarkable that the translators, following with scrupulous accuracy the idiom of the original, have so rendered it in English, without knowing its import. The meaning of Moses, however, is clear and consistent. According to his representation, the Creator, as a necessary step to render his works conformable to his design, first drew a plan of the whole in his own mind. This plan consisted of general ideas, intended to serve as models for the several classes of things to be carried into effect. As the creator designed things to be formed in classes or kinds agreeably to given models, it was natural in Moses to designate the kinds or copies by the very same name which designates the originals in the mind of God. Moreover, the classes of things called kinds, now actually existing in nature, prior to our conceptions, become themselves prototypes of those general conceptions which we call ideas: and thus it is that the same word in Hebrew, when applied to things in the divine Mind meant models; when applied to the classes of things, signifies kinds; to ourselves denotes ideas, --- and yet retains the same radical signification. The corresponding word in Greek is eidos or idea; and this, like the original mein, may mean models or ideas in God, the classes of things in nature, or the general notions of those classes in the human understanding.
The atheistical philosophers, considering the phaenomena of nature as the result of matter and motion, rejected the doctrine of ideas or models; while Moses and his followers insisted on them, as inseparable from the existence of a Supreme Intelligence, --- for this obvious reason, that nothing can proceed from design, but that of which an idea previously existed in the mind of the designer. If these things came into being without ideas, they must have come without design, and consequently without a designing cause. This is the conclusion which the Jewish Legislator sets aside by representing Jehovah as planning the fair system of things before he actually produced it.
We return again to Philo. He says, that Logos means the Divine Intelligence, as the designing cause of all things, or as a rational spiritual being independent of the works of nature. This doctrine he advances in opposition to the atheistical philosophers of Egypt, who applied the word God to nature, to physical causes, and to heavenly bodies; seeking thereby to preclude all evidence for the existence of a rational principle distinct from nature herself. Now this is precisely the doctrine of the evangelist john in the beginning of his Gospel. Evidently alluding to the account of the Creation given by Moses, he says, "In the beginning was the Logos;" meaning, that when creation began to exist, a rational intelligent principle, under the name of Logos, was the first cause of its existence; or according to Philo, when the foundation of the universe was laid, an intelligent planner or designer preceded its formation.
The reference which this Evangelist has to Antichrist, both in his Gospel and in his Epistles, places this doctrine in a clear, simple, and unequivocal light. The Antichristian teachers were atheists; and they sought to level the whole edifice of Christianity, by withdrawing from under it the existence and agency of One God. The dispute between them and the Apostles was, whether Sige (sige, silence) or Logos was from the beginning with God.  If the former, the Supreme Being led a life of eternal darkness and lonely inaction; --- if the latter, he lived in the everlasting fruition of light and life; in the eternal display of every natural and moral perfection, throughout the boundless and complicated machine of nature. The one cut up all hopes of a future state, by erasing the very foundations of natural religion: the other prepared the way for a rational faith in it, by pointing to an all-powerful, wise, and beneficent Being at the head of the universe.
One step more remains to be taken, and we have reached the end of our inquiry. The Logos which in the beginning was with God became flesh.  What does this much disputed doctrine imply, --- what does it assert? In direct and forcible language it asserts the very thing which the impostors denied: It asserts that the Christ, instead of being a man in appearance, was a real human being; that, instead of being a god acting independently of the Creator, he was a man acting with the authority of the Creator. It implies that the miracles which Jesus performed, the wisdom and benevolence which he displays, the doctrine which he taught, the power by which he rose from the grave, --- were but emanations of those Supreme Perfections which originally framed and still govern the universe. In a word, it implies that Jesus had received a commission from God, and was even invested with the attributes of god, in order to carry into effect a benevolent scheme which God Himself had formed for the salvation of mankind. The man Jesus is the Christ: as the Christ, is the Word of God; and as the word of God, the attributes of the Great Creator united themselves with him, and are displayed in him. As the Christ, he was constituted and proclaimed the Son of God; and as the Son of God, he is One with God --- not one in substance or essence, (which, if not absurd and impossible, is quite foreign to the question,) but one in co-operation and design: the very thing which the Antichristian teachers denied, and by denying it, sought to bring the fair fabric of Christianity altogether to the ground.
III. The enemies of Christ could not deny that He appeared to His disciples after His death; but they maintained that it was not Jesus Himself, but a demon or a god in his known form. This was a fundamental point with the Gnostic impostors; and it was equally important for Christ and His Apostles to set it aside as an artful subterfuge. The beginning of John's first Epistle is directly levelled against it: and the earnest emphatic manner in which the Apostle brings forward the actual resurrection of Jesus as witnessed by their several senses, sufficiently shows that there were men at the time who pretended that it was a mere appearance, and by that means sought to supersede the Gospel: What was at first; what we heard; what we saw with our eyes; what we inspected, and our hands have handled, concerning the Logos of life (for this life showed itself again after being put to death; and we have seen it, and bear testimony, and declare unto, this eternal life which was with the Father, and showed itself unto us His chosen Apostles); that which we saw and heard, we declare unto you, that ye also may have communion with us: for we have communion with the Father, and His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write unto you, that your joy may be complete."
In an age when a belief in supernatural beings was general, and the laws of nature little understood, it was very difficult to defeat the artful scheme of the Gnostics. Divine Wisdom, however, furnished them with means sufficient for this purpose. In his last discourse to the Apostles, when they were sinking under apprehension of the evils before them, Jesus says for their consolation, "But I tell you the truth. It is expedient to you that I go away. If I do not go away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send Him to you." John 16:7. The disciples were not yet prepared to have His meaning more fully explained to them; but it was to this effect: "You have witnessed My miracles, and you will soon witness my resurrection: but even then, the evidence of My Divine mission and of a future state will not be complete. Our enemies will endeavour by a false philosophy to set aside my resurrection; by saying that it was not the man Jesus, but a god within Him, or a go in His shape, that appeared to His followers after death. I will frustrate this false doctrine, by not delegating to you now the miraculous power necessary to ensure your success in the propagation of the Gospel, but defer it till I ascend to My heavenly father. I shall then descend upon you in a visible form, and expressly with the design to prove that the Jesus who was crucified is the same with the Jesus who rose from the grave; and that the Jesus who rose from the grave did actually ascend into heaven, and will thence hereafter return to raise the dead, and to confer eternal happiness on His faithful followers. This divine gift, which will enable you to work miracles and speak with unknown tongues, shall come down upon you in a visible form, that all may see whence you derived it, that all may see you did not derive it from intercourse with demons, or the base arts of magic. As it is intended to identify My Person and prove the reality of My ascension, it shall be attached to, and display its effect only in the name of Jesus. And as you are the faithful witnesses of all I said and did, and especially of My resurrection, this power shall be communicated to you, and to you alone; though through you it shall be extended to such converts among the Jews and Gentiles as the Holy Spirit shall deem worthy to receive it; so the the communication of it by Me shall terminate with your life, and the last exercise of it with the life of those to whom you may impart it."
In a few weeks after, this promise was fulfilled. The Apostles Peter, John, and afterwards Paul, uniformly declared that the very Jesus who had been crucified was risen and ascended into heaven, and had sent from thence the Divine Spirit to work miracles in attestation of that fact. The words which they use clearly show that an attempt was made by their enemies to disprove the identity of Jesus. The preachers met this attempt with the strongest and most specific words which the language could supply, in order to identify Him that was risen and now glorified, with the man Jesus who had been put to death: "Men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus, HIM OF NAZARETH, A MAN appointed of God among you, by miracles and wonders and signs which God wrought by means of HIM in the midst of you, as you yourselves know: THIS --- after being delivered to you by the predetermined decree, by the foreknowledge of God, ye seized and slew, having with impious hands nailed Him to a cross, --- this I say, WHOM God raised from the dead, having loosened the pangs of death, as it was not possible that HE should be kept under by Him." Acts 2:22. Observe here the crowd of words, the circuitous round of terms, by which the Apostle traces the divine Power which had descended upon them, and identifies the Person who had sent it. This Person was Jesus, Him of Nazareth --- a man appointed of God, and endowed with powers and wonders and signs, because He was so appointed. He was taken, not unawares, not by surprise, being delivered up by the foreknowledge, the previously settled counsel of Heaven --- He was slain, but slain by impious hands: He performed mighty deeds even in the face of His enemies; but these He performed, not by virtue of His own power --- God performed them by means of Him. This very man, thus signalized by authority from heaven, thus cruelly put to death by the malice and wickedness of men, rose again; but not by virtue of His own nature, --- God raised him; not before He died; no, after the sufferer was swallowed up in death, after the prison of the grave had been opened, and He had been deposited there, as was supposed, in eternal chains: but Almighty Power again laid open this prison, loosened these chains, wrested the lifeless corpse from its womb, and restored Him after the pangs of crucifixion, like a babe when born, to a new and glorious life. The Apostle, not content with this, proceeds still further in the same strain of emphasis and specification: "This very Jesus God again raised, of whom we all are witnesses: being therefore exalted to the right hand of God, and having received of the Father the Holy Spirit, which He promised to us, this Spirit He has now shed upon us, as ye yourselves see and hear. Know then for certain, all ye house of Israel, that God hath made the same man Lord and Christ, --- I mean that very Jesus whom you have crucified." 32 - 37. From these and similar passages which pervade the Apostolic writings, it appears to me demonstrable that the very men who had put our Lord to death endeavoured, soon after His resurrection, to set aside that fundamental principle of Christianity, by insisting that the Christ was not the same with the man Jesus, but a god which appeared in his form; and that the Apostles received the Holy Spirit for the express purpose of defeating this evasion, and worked miracles in the name of Jesus, and solely in His name, as proofs that He, who showed Himself again alive, but who is now seated on the right hand of god, was the very same with him whom they attended during His ministry, and who closed it by a violent death on the cross.
IV. It now remains to apply these facts to the disputed verse. It says "That there are three who bear testimony in the heaven, the father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one."
The father bears testimony in the heaven, and His testimony is, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." The subject of this testimony is expressed in another form in the first verse of this chapter. "Every one that believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and every one that loveth the father loveth Him also that is born of Him." He is born of God, because he receiveth the testimony which God hath borne to him as his beloved Son; and because he leadeth a new life of piety and benevolence, in consequence of embracing the Son of God as his Divine Master. The testimony which the father bore in the heaven is more clearly expressed in verse 9: "If we believe the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; because this is the testimony of God which he hath testified concerning His own Son." Thus verse 7 asserts that the Father bears His testimony in the heaven; and verse 1st and 9th explain the effects of that testimony, and what it is. The sense is only complete when all the three verse are taken together. Remove the 7th under the supposition of forgery, --- you have a head and feet of a human body without its trunk.
Again, in verse 7 it is asserted that the word bears testimony. John himself explains to us what is the object of this testimony, and how it is borne by the Word. In the beginning of his Gospel he tells us that the Logos or word of God became flesh, united with a real human body, or the man Jesus. He then writes a history of what Jesus, as the Word of God, or as the delegate of heaven, said and did during His ministry; and at the close of this history, the evangelist fails not to inform us, that the object of the things written by him was, "That we might believe that Jesus if the Christ, the Son of God." Chapter 20:31. Thus the testimony of the father and the Word is one and the same.
In verse 10, the Apostle adds, "He who believeth in the Son, hath the testimony in himself;" that is, on the earth, which carries a tacit reference to the Word now in heaven. He that believeth on the Son hath the testimony in himself, --- because he has still the remembrance of what the word said and did, while yet on earth; because he had the many proofs of His Divine mission, His Doctrine, and example still engraved on his heart.
The testimony of the Holy spirit, we have seen, harmonizes with that of the Father and the Word. It was sent from heaven for the express object of certifying that the man Jesus was the Christ, in opposition to the Antichristian teachers, who denied His resurrection from the dead, His ascension to heaven, and His second Coming to judge the world in righteousness, --- by maintaining that the Christ a god in the likeness of man.
It is worthy of remark, that the controverted text bears a striking resemblance in form and sense to the last verse of the Gospel of Matthew; and the manner in which the impostors attempted to evade the force and application of that injunction, clearly proves that the gift of the Holy spirit was more immediately levelled against them. "Go ye and make disciples of all nations; baptizing them in the name of the father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit;" which is to this effect, "Go and preach the Gospel, not only to the Jews, but to all other nations; and teach them to believe in My Father as the only true and Supreme god, as the only authorized teacher from Him, and not as a God acting independently of Him; --- in the Holy Spirit, as a power given you to work miracles in attestation of My simple humanity, and of My resurrection from the grave. Let these be the fundamental principles of the Gospel you teach, and encourage those who embrace it, openly to avow their faith by being publicly baptized."
The import and scope of this formula are best asceratined by that which the impostors opposed to it, and which is preserved by Irenaeus. "They lead," says that father, "the disciple to the water, and on baptizing him they thus say:--- Unto the name of the unknown Father of all; unto truth, the mother of all; unto him which came down on Jesus." Here the deceivers for the universal Father substituted the Supreme unknown God, which they pretended to have revealed. For the man Jesus, or the Son of God, they held forth as an object of faith the God that descended on Jesus; and in the room of the Holy Spirit, which attested his simple humanity, they placed a fictitious being, which they called Alethia, or Mother of all. (See Iren. P.91.)
It is remarkable that some supernatural circumstances attended the baptism of Jesus, which presignified his death, and which rendered the water then administered a symbol or figure of the blood which He was to shed on the cross. This probably was the circumstance which led the baptist to say, "Behold the lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world." John 1:20. This explains what precedes and immediately follows the disputed verse. But I must put down the whole context: "Who is he that conquers the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is He who came by water and blood, Jesus the Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood: because the Spirit is the truth; and the Spirit is He that testifieth:--- for there are three which bear testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three who bear testimony on the earth, the Spirit, the Water, and the Blood; and these three agree in one."
Before I proceed, I must point out a circumstance necessary to the elucidation of this passage, which shows how apt the writers of the New Testament were to borrow their terms from the objects before them, and apply them by association in a new and tralatitious sense. In my Reply to Gamaliel Smith, I have proved that the centurion who pierced the side of Jesus, immediately after His resurrection became converts to Him whom they had been the instruments in slaying. These soldiers John had in his mind when penning the above paragraph. Hence he calls that faith which enabled the believer to bear under his trial, victory. The Roman soldiers, priding in their superior valour and discipline, considered themselves conquerors of the world. In opposition to such means of conquering the world, the Apostle says, "This is the victory which conquereth the world; namely, our faith." A heathen, on being brought to the knowledge and worship of the true God, was, in the language of the Jews, said to be BORN AGAIN, or born of God. In reference to the conversion of the centurion and the other soldiers, the Apostle says, "Whoever is born of God, conquereth the world." The centurion acknowledged, on seeing the wonders that happened at the cross, that Jesus was the Son of God. (See Mark 15: 39.) This confession John had before his eyes in the following question: "Who is he that conquereth the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" Finally, the obedience of the Roman soldier was founded only in fear; and the orders which he had to fulfil as a servant of the emperor, was hard, oppressive, and painful: and in allusion to those who, while engaged in the service of Caesar, had enlisted under the banners of Christ, our author says, "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and HIS commandments are not heavy."
The circumstance of the soldiers being in mind of the writer at this time, accounts for the notice here taken of the water and blood which flowed from the wound inflicted by one of them. The clause "This is He who came by water and blood, Jesus the Christ," means as if it were thus arranged: "This Jesus who came by water and blood is the Christ;" that is, This Jesus, who was baptized by John, announced as the Son of God by a voice from heaven, who afterwards, as having a real body, shed His blood on the cross, --- this Jesus is the Christ, and not a God, as the impostors pretend, in the form of the man Jesus. The Apostle adds, "Not by water only, but by water and blood;" that is, not by the water of baptism only, but by the water and blood which issued from His side, and which prove His having a real body and His having really died.
I have observed that the baptism of Jesus was considered as a symbol of His death; and this seems to have been the reason why the two events were united by association in the mind of our Lord. (See Matthew 20:22.) Hence the meaning of the clause "because the Spirit is the truth" e aletheia. "The true baptism," in reference to the baptism implied in en to udati. The Spirit, the spiritual or figurative, presignified by His literal baptism, is the true baptism. The abstract aletheia with the article is used, John 1:17, to signify the Gospel as the substance or reality of the Law of Moses, in contradistinction to its types and shadows. The Apostle adds, "And it is the Spirit that testifies this." But how does the Spirit testify it? The Spirit bears testimony to this figurative baptism or death, because it enabled Jesus, on whom the Spirit descended, to foresee and foretell His own death. The foreknowledge, the prediction of that event, in some of its minutest circumstances, before the event took place, was a testimony most true and convincing, borne by the Holy Spirit in the person of the sufferer.
This places the sense of the 8th verse in a new and forcible light: "There are three which bear testimony on the earth, the Spirit, and the Water, and the Blood." The water and the blood bear testimony; as having proceeded from the region of the heart, they prove that the sufferer was actually dead: and the Spirit bears testimony, because it inspired Him with the foreknowledge of it from the very commencement of His ministry. And here a circumstance presents itself which demonstrates the dependence of the 8th verse, which is allowed to be genuine, upon the 7th verse, which is said to be spurious. The water and the blood bear testimony that Jesus actually died. But what does this testimony prove? Taken in itself, nothing to the purpose; for every man dies. But take Jesus in the character of the Word, now alive, and now in heaven, as asserted in the preceding verse, --- and the circumstances of His having died proves every thing. It places on a solid foundation the grand principles of Christianity; the actual death,  the resurrection, and exaltation to the right hand of God, of the man Christ Jesus; whence, according to His own solemn promise, He will one day return in the power of God, to raise the dead, and to pass on the righteous the animating sentence "Come, ye blessed of My father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
I am, Sir, yours &c.
Footnotes for Letter II.
 --- The valentinians, Marcosians, the Carpocratians, the Cerinthians, all maintained that the God which dwelt in the man Jesus descended upon Him in the form of a dove at His baptism; thus artfully availing themselves of the divine power which was then visible imparted to Him. (See Iren., pp. 33, 73, 102.)
 --- See the Theog., of Hesiod, 123; and the Clouds of Aristophanes, v. 423.
 --- See his letter to the Consull Servianus, preserved by Vopiscus in Saturninus, c.7. or Lard., volume viii, p. 363. Ben David's Reply to Two Deistical Writers, p. 25.
 --- Touton de kai Protatora uparchonta de auton achoreton kai aoraton te kai agenneton, en esouchia kai eremia polle gegonenai en apeirois aiosi chronon sunuparchein o auton kai Esnoian, en de kai Charin kai Sigen onomaxousi. "Him they call the original Father, and also Bythos (abyss), being of himself, inaccessible and invisible, eternal and unregenerated, and existing through interminable ages of time. With him co-existed Ennoea, whom they name also Charis or Sige (silence)." When the beginning of the Gospel of John is brought to bear against this artful, impious system, --- how plain, how significant, how appropriate must it appear! En arche en o Logos, kai o Logos en pros ton Theon, kai Theos en o Logos. Outos en en arche pros ton Theon. , i.e, outos o Logos, kai Sige, os phesi o Antichristos, "This Logos was in the beginning with God, and not Sige, as Antichrist says." Irenaeus understood the Evangelist exactly in this light, and well illustrates the force of his language. "John," says he, (lib. I., p. 41,) "proclaiming one omnipotent God, and one only begotten, says, This is the Son of God; this the only begotten; this the maker of all; this the true light, lighting every man; this came to His own; this became flesh and dwelt among us. But these heretics, perverting in a specious manner the narrative, say that Monoges was one, that the Saviour was another, that the Logos was another, and that the Christ sent to complete the Pleroma was another still."
If we understand by Logos the Supreme Mind, as the Intelligent Cause of all things, and as delegating his Son Jesus to save the world, we can see the object of this artifice: for if we separate the Logos from God, the Creator becomes at once what the impostors represent their Bythos, --- a being from eternity without life, light, or action; and Christ is no longer invested with his attributes, or acting with his authority. These conclusions are what the Evangelist meets and sets aside by asserting that the Logos was in the beginning with God and became flesh, which asserts the two main pillars of natural and revealed religion; namely, the existence of a Supreme Intelligent Creator, and the Divine mission of Jesus.
I may here observe that all the Gnostics, as rejecting the Logos, and the writings of John, were alogoi, though Epiphanius confines this name to one sect of them only. (See Haer., 51, or p. 422.)
 --- Peter, speaking of the universal prevalence of the Gospel, gives it the name of Logos, and represents it as a real being descended on the man Jesus, and addressing the children of Israel through him. "The Logos whom God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ, --- this (Logos) is Lord of all." Acts 10:36. Philo adopted the same notion, and thus represents the Logos of God as descending from heaven: "God the author of Divine virtue was willing to send his Image (meaning of course in the person of Christ) from heaven to the earth, from compassion on our race, that he might wash away the impurities which fill this life with guilt and misery, and that he might thus secure to us a better inheritance." Philo, vol. 2, p. 669. A very interesting history of the rise, progress, and purifying influence of the Gospel may be gathered from the works of this celebrated man. Luke published his Gospel in Egypt; and there will appear reason to believe that Theophilus, to whom he dedicates it, is not other than Philo.
 --- The Gnostics allowed that the Christ, after the crucifixion of Jesus, was still alive, as having neither died nor suffered. IN order to set aside this, it was necessary in the Apostles to assert his death whenever they had occasion to speak of him as being alive. I will give an instance or two from the Revelation: 1:18: O zon kai egenomen nekros. I who am alive, was also dead. Thus also chapter 2:8: os egeneto nekros kai ezesen, --- who was dead, and he lived.
HAVING now ascertained the scope of the verse, I proceed in this letter to show its scope accounts for the suspicion of forgery under which it has strangely fallen, and for the defect in the evidence for its genuineness. And here I must be permitted to lay down two propositions, as preliminaries to our inquiry. The one requires no proof; the other will need illustration.
First: A verse which sets aside the Divinity of Christ could not be a forgery of any man, or any body of men, who in after times believed in His Divinity. Such were all the Greek and Latin fathers through whose hands the verse descended to us.
Secondly: Averse which establishes the simple humanity of Christ could not be regarded with dark suspicion and alarm; could not but be mangled or perverted by men who, understanding its import, yet strenuously insisted on the Divinity of Christ, as essential to Christianity.
In order to give my readers a general idea of the evidence which in its full extent lies against the verse, I will here set down the opinions of the most eminent among its adversaries. The judgment of Griesbach, after examining the evidence for and against it, is the following: "If vouchers so few, doubtful, suspected, and recent, and arguments so trifling, could suffice to establish the genuineness of any reading, in opposition to so many weighty testimonies and arguments, there would no longer be any criterion of truth and falsehood in criticism, and the whole text of the New Testament would become wholly uncertain and doubtful."
Professor Porson, in his Letters to Travis, (p.26,) says: "All the Greek MSS., which, if I have counted rightly, amount to ninety-seven, ancient and modern, Oriental and Occidental, good, bad, and indifferent, do with one consent wholly omit the seventh verse, and the words en tei gei of the eighth." Again, (p. 131,) he says: "I hesitate not to conclude with Chandler, Bengelius, Wetstein, Mr. Griesbach, and many others, that this celebrated verse exists in no genuine Greek manuscript whatsoever; and partly with Mr. Gibbon, that it owes its place in our edition to the prudence of Erasmus, the honest bigotry of the Complutensian Editors, the typographical error of Robert Stephens, and the strange misapprehension of Theodore Beza."
The verse is not cited by any of the Greek and Latin fathers, who would and ought to have cited it, if it had been genuine. Of these Mr. Porson gives a long catalogue in his last letter; and he adds, (p.373,) "I always thought that when a great number of MSS., of an ancient author omit any passage upon which the intermediate writers, who upon other occasions freely quote that author's work, are quite silent, though the passage be very fit for their subject; though they quote other passages much less apposite; though they quote so near it, that they could not help seeing it if it were extant; though sometimes they quote the words that precede and the words that follow; even though they extract from the next words, with great labour and difficulty, the very sense which this passage would furnish at a much easier and cheaper rate; --- I always thought that in such a case, the plain reason of these omissions of the fathers was a total ignorance of the passage from their copies, and a total ignorance of its existence." In p. 402 the same writer subjoins, "From the facts stated in this historical deduction, it is evident that if the text of the Heavenly Witnesses had been known from the beginning of Christianity, the ancients would have eagerly seized it, inserted it in their creeds, quoted it repeatedly against the heretics, and selected it for the brightest ornament of every book that they wrote upon the subject of the Trinity. In short, if this verse be really genuine, notwithstanding its absence from all the visible Greek MSS except two; one of which awkwardly translates the verse from the Latin, and the other transcribes it from a printed book; notwithstanding its absence from all the Versions except the Vulgate, and even from many of the best and oldest MSS of the Vulgate; notwithstanding the deep and dead silence of all the Greek writers down to the thirteenth, and most of the Latin down to the middle of the eighth, century; --- if in spite of all these objections it be still genuine, no part of Scripture whatsoever can be proved either spurious or genuine; and Satan has been permitted for many centuries miraculously to banish the finest passage in the New Testament from the eyes and memories of almost all the Christian authors, translators, and transcribers."
Dr. Marsh has placed the objections to the authenticity of this unfortunate verse if possible in a still stronger light. In the sixth part of his Theological Lectures, the integrity of the New Testament forms the subject of the twenty-seventh, in which the question relative to the disputed verse is an important part. He says: "1. It is wanting in the most ancient manuscripts even of the Latin versions. --- 2. It was no more known to Augustin, than it was to Chrysostom. --- 3. It was gradually introduced into the Latin Vulgate by the Church of Rome. --- 4. Not a single Gree MS was ever known to contain the passage till after the invention of printing. --- 5. That solitary MS was not written in Greece. --- 6. The verse originated in a Latin gloss upon the eighth verse; and this is not conjecture, but an historical fact, supported by evidence which cannot be resisted."
It is not necessary for me to give the history of the controversy respecting this passage: it was carried on in England and on the Continent with doubtful issue, till Griesbach and Porson appeared in the field. The candour, learning, and vast research of the former; the brilliant wit, the keen satire, the tenacious memory of the latter, --- secured to them an easy victory over their feeble adversaries. The Bishop of Peterborough came up in the rear of the victorious party, and is remarkable only for brandishing weapons furnished him by the conquerors against an enemy already in the dust. Dr. Burgess bishop of St. David's, however, considering the battle as not completely lost, renewed the contest by a formal Vindication of the verse. The second edition of this tract being much enlarged, comprehends a reply to Dr. Marsh and the Quarterly Review, as well as to Griesbach and Porson. The Vindication is calm, able, and learned. Deriving wisdom from the intemperance and indiscretion of Martin and Travis, the author is cautious in his positions, correct in his statements, fair and just in his conclusions. He considers the absence of the verse from Greek manuscripts an accidental omission. The improbability of this supposition renders his reasonings throughout, however just in themselves, feeble and inefficient. He defends the text as a pillar of the Trinity: and his zeal for orthodoxy makes us sometimes forget that he is a man of sense and a Christian. His Vindication, in short, has the singular fate and character of Cassandra; --- it absolutely proves the genuineness of the verse, yet leaves every reader in full conviction of its forgery.
I now proceed to meet the overwhelming evidence against the verse. In doing so, I must frankly confess that I have little novelty to produce. I shall therefore select but a few facts from the materials collected by Mr. Porson, Dr. Burgess, and others; and these will be sufficient to decide the question. The following quotation from the first verse of these writers, (p. 155,) in connexion with the sense I have already given to the verse, lays open at once the true state of the controversy.
"Abbot Joachim compared the final clauses of the seventh and eighth verses, whence he inferred that the same expression ought to be interpreted in the same manner. Since therefore, said he, nothing more than unity of testimony and consent can be meant by tres unum sunt in the eighth verse, nothing more than unity of testimony and consent is meant in the seventh. This opinion the Lateran Council and Thomas Aquinas confuted by cutting out the clause in the eighth verse. Thomas tells us that it was not extant in the true Copies; but that it was said to be added by the Arian heretics, to pervert the sound understanding of the foregoing authority."
This Abbot Joachim was probably an Arian; and he here at once puts a lighted torch in our hands, to guide us through the intricate windings of this subterraneous controversy. The verse pressed as hard against the Arians as against those who denied the pre-existence of Christ. And how does this champion of Arianism repel its force? By denying its genuineness? No: he admits its authenticity, and meets his antagonists by pointing out the true sense of the verse. And how was he answered? In a way which fully accounts for the silence of the fathers, and for the erasure of the verse from MSS and translations, --- they cut out the clause which led to the true understanding of the verse. Here then we are prepared for the scene which I shall attempt to disclose.
At the time when the Gospel was promulgated, men of education in Rome and other places were acquainted with Greek. But this was not generally the case with the common people who had the Gospel preached unto them. It is reasonable to suppose, therefore, that the New Testament soon after the dissemination of the Gospel in Italy was translated into Latin. This Version, effected by a competent person or persons, must have been widely circulated, and sanctioned by the learned as faithful and worthy of reception. As it descended in the Latin Church it probably underwent occasional correction and revisal; and thus it passed as a standard into the African churches (where Latin was the vernacular tongue), till, about the end of the fourth century, it was again corrected and revised by Jerome. According to Newton, the disputed verse was then, for the first time, inserted in the Latin Text, and Jerome was the author of its insertion. But to be consistent this great man ought to have gone higher. In the year 484, a council was held at Carthage, consisting of 400 bishops of the Western Church. These in their profession of faith appeal to the verse; and Newton owns that Eugenius, who was one of them, expressly quotes it.
In the beginning of the fourth century the Arian controversy broke out, and continued to rage till Constantine assembled the Council of Nice in Bythinia. The controverted text, as understood by Trinitarians, might have been a powerful weapon against Arianism. Was it so used by the orthodox? Or, if used, did the Arian bishops object to it as spurious; or did they acquiesce in its authenticity? Though the works of these bishops are lost, being for the most part burnt by the decree of that council, we should still have known their objection to it, if any had been made. The works of Celsus are lost; yet we know through Origen, who answered him, the charge of altering the Gospel which he brought against the Christians. The works of the heretic Marcion are lost; yet we know through Tertullian that he urged a similar charge against the orthodox. The works of Abbot Joachim may be also lost; but Thomas Aquinas and the Lateran Council have been obliging enough to let posterity know how that heretic understood the verse. And undoubtedly we should now have also known, if the Arians objected to its genuineness, when first quoted against them, or if through fear not quoted, when first inserted in the Vulgate translation.
If then the Latin Version contained the verse in the fourth century, it was there from the beginning, probably so early as the end of the first century, or even before the death of the Apostle John. This inference we are not only warranted in drawing, but we are compelled to draw it. For if it be not true; then it is true that a text which in its obvious acceptation disproves the Divinity of Christ, and which came from the hand of the Apostle for that purpose, is the forgery of some one who interpolated it to prove the Trinity.
Here we are arrived at an important stage of inquiry. A Latin Version, which perhaps was not unknown to some of the Apostles; which perhaps was made with the sanction and under the eye of John himself, or of Paul, or of Peter, or of Mark, when preaching in the western parts of the Roman empire; which, if this exceed the truth, was made from the autographs of the Apostles, or at least from Copies in Greek attested with their signatures; --- a version, I say, thus circumstanced, thus authenticated, thus grafted on the Greek original, contained the disputed verse.
I next proceed to show that it was known, as an integral part of the Italic version, to the Latin fathers, from Tertullian down to the African Council or to Jerome. These fathers, it is allowed, all except the last, do not indeed quote the verse: but I will show that they were acquainted with it; that they allude to it; that they embody in their writings as much of it as was likely to answer their purpose; and they dared to no more. The argument of Griesbach, Porson, and other adversaries of the text, drawn from the silence of Tertullian and others, proceeds on an erroneous apprehension of its meaning: they suppose it to be such as to furnish those fathers with the strongest motive for quoting it, if they knew of it; and as they had no knowledge of it, it must be a forgery subsequent to their days. The argument, it must be allowed, is conclusive, if we allow the premises. But the Greek and Latin authors of the second and third centuries, instead of having motives to quote the passage as come from the pen of John, had motives the most powerful to pass over it in silence, and to erase it, if possible, from the sacred text, --- a fraud which, as I shall prove in many instances, they actually committed.
The far greater portion of the Christian world in the second century when Tertullian flourished, though their numbers were continually diminishing, still preserved the faith in that simplicity which it had when first delivered to the saints.  Men of information had the facts which called forth the writings of John yet fresh in their minds. The knew that the identity spoken of in the disputed paragraph meant identity of testimony, and that the intended testimony meant the simple humanity of Jesus. In such circumstances, surrounded with such witnesses of the truth, could Tertullian quote the verse as evidence of the Trinity? At this early period the advocates of orthodoxy were beset with dangers unseen on every side: they walked among steel traps and spring guns, where one incautious step might prove fatal; or they resembled men going about having their pockets filled with gunpowder, at a time when the smallest spark of inquiry, the slightest collision with an adversary, might cause an explosion destructive to their system.
Nevertheless Tertullian has done what might be expected: he shows that he was no stranger to the verse, by alluding to it, by garbling and disguising it. He wished indeed openly to lay it down as the chief corner-stone of the orthodox church; but this he dared not do. He therefore breaks it into fragments; and these he throws into the breach which the enemy was making in its walls.
The first paragraph of Tertullian I shall quote from his treatise De Baptismo, c. vi. P. 226, already quoted by Dr. Burgess: "Si in tribus testibus omne stabit verbum, quanto magis, dum habemus per benedictionem eosdem arbitros fidei, quos et sponsores salutis sufficit ad fiduciam spei nostrae etiam numerus nominum divorum." The numerus nominum divorum in the last clause, means ternus numerus, the number three, the three witnesses, or, as Tertullian himself explains it in the next sentence, tres, i.e. Pater, et Filius, et Spiritus Sanctus. It might be supposed and fairly urged by the adversary, that the writer here alludes to the Father, Son. And Holy spirit mentioned at the close of Matthew. But the specification of three witnesses in the preceding clause demonstrates that the allusion is to the disputed text, where alone the three names, namely, the father, the word, and the Holy Spirit, are represented as bearing testimony. "Si in tribus testibus omne stabit verbum." --- If we receive the witness of man, the witness of God is greater.
Again, in his book against Praxeas, (c.25,) the same author says, "Caeterum de meo sumet, inquit, sicut ipse de Patris. Ita connexus Patris in Filio et Filii in Paracleto tres efficit cohaerentes alterum ex altero. Qui tres unum sunt, --- non unus; quomodo dictum est: Ego et Pater unum sumus, ad substantiae unitatem, non ad numeri singularitatem." But the Son says, he will take of mine, as he Himself of the Father's. Thus the connexion of the Father in the Son, and of the Son in the Comforter, makes three cohering one with another, WHICH THREE ARE ONE, pointing, to unity of substance, non ad numeri singularitem.
The professor comments on these words, and says, "As often as I read this sentence, so often I am astonished that the words Tres unum sunt should ever be urged as a quotation: they are words of Tertullian himself, and expressly distinguished from the words of Scripture." P.240. In this opinion he is joined by the Quarterly Review. With regard to this passage, "We are compelled," says he, "to confess that we participate in the feelings of Professor Porson. Is it probable, that if Tertullian had 1 John, v. 7, in his thoughts, he would have appealed for the true meaning of the expression not to that verse, but to John 10:30? Yes, contends Mr. Nolan: for the reading of John is not Pater, Filius, et Spiritus; but Pater, Verbum, et Spiritus; and therefore contains as just a description of the doctrine of Praxeas as that heretic could have given. If then this passage of Tertullian be a proof of the existence of 1 John v. 7, we suppose that he referred his adversary to the very text which that adversary would urge as most accurately representing his own opinion."
Now in opposition to these high authorities I will briefly show that Tertullian not only alludes to the verse, but has embodied the substance of it in his own comment. If tres unum sunt were his own words, in allusion to John 10:30, he would have said duo unum sunt; for there it is virtually said that the Father and the Son are one. The reason of Tertullian's referring to the Gospel at all is an artifice. In the Epistle, John directly meets the impostors, and in opposition to them he again and again asserts the simple humanity of Christ. In his Gospel he advances the same doctrine in reference to the same deceivers indeed, yet without mentioning them by name. His opposition, therefore, to the Divinity of Christ is of course less obvious in the Gospel. The very foundation of the Trinity in unity is the supposed spurious text; and this foundation the builders of the system attempted for obvious reasons to lay deep and out of sight. Hence the silence respecting it, and the caution with which they allude to it, or embody its substance in their own words. Having thus founded the doctrine on a passage which at first glance appears most favourable to it, --- but which in reality was ever liable to be withdrawn, and which when withdrawn left baseless the superstructure of wood, hay and stubble, erected upon it, --- the advocates of the Trinity went to the Gospel for materials to complete and establish it. There Jesus, though in the beginning represented as the Logos, is usually designated "the Son," or, "Son of God." There also the Holy Spirit is called "the Comforter." Hence Tertullian, and others who succeeded him down to the Council of Nice, for the sake of disguise substituted "Son" and "Comforter," which occur in the Gospel, for the "Word" and "Holy Spirit," which are used in the disputed text.
But has Porson done justice to the passage of Tertullian? No; he has omitted the very clause which completely identifies the verse with the quotation. The clause I mean is, "Non ad numeri singularitatem," which, it must be allowed, is obscure and equivocal, and probably so intended. In this treatise Tertullian had in view the Unitarians of his days, who, as appears from his own words, formed the majority of believers; and he levels his language against them, --- for numerus in that age, and afterwards, came to signify exclusively the three Heavenly Witnesses, or the three persons of the Trinity. If we take the clause in the first sense, we have the controverted text complete. Thus, "Which three," (namely, the Father, Son, and Comforter, or the Father, Word, and Holy Spirit,) "are one, pointing to unity of substance, and not to the singular form of the three Witnesses;" or, in other words, to the unity of their testimonies. Tertullian makes the words of the Apostle the foundation of the Trinity, without informing the reader where he had them: he quotes the verse, but quotes it with a comment that perverts its true meaning. The Unitarians of the day doubtless understood the verse in its true sense; as they could not but consider the clause "and these three agree in one," in the eighth verse, as an index of that in the seventh. This interpretation Tertullian meets, and endeavours to set it aside by a gloss of his own: and that this might have some show of probability, he steals away the attention of his readers from the Epistle, where there is a clue to the true sense, and fixes it on a passage in the Gospel, which, without such clue, appears to favour his meaning.
But the clause, "Non ad numeri singularitatem," may mean Not making singular the number three, not reducing to the singular number the plurality of persons. In this sense the words are levelled against Praxeas, who maintained that the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit were one; and that these names expressed not three distinct beings, but three different relations of the same being. Now it is demonstrable that in this sense also Tertullian refers to the disputed verse: first, because Fulgentius, having before him this passage of Tertullian, understood the member in this sense. His words are, "In Patre, et Filio, et Spiritu Sancto unitatem substantiae accipimus, personas confundere non audemus." The master says, "The three are one, pointing to unity of substance, not to the unity of the three persons." The pupil says after him, "We acknowledge the unity of substance, but dare not confound the persons;" that is, dare not bring the three persons into one. But this, you will say, is no proof that Tertullian refers to the disputed verse. I answer, it is a proof that Fulgentius, who could not have been mistaken, understood his master as referring to that verse: for he adds, "Beatus enim Johannes Apostolus testatur Tres sunt, qui testimonium perhibent in caelo, Pater, Verbun, et Spiritus Sanctus, et tres unum sunt." Secondly, Tertullian alludes to the disputed verse, because the heresy of Praxeas was founded upon it. The true reading of O Logos was essential to his opinion; and I can say with confidence that that heresy would not have existed, if the verse had not been known to exist: for Praxeas knew that Logos in its strictest sense meant God Himself. In the disputed verse the Logos is applied to Christ, and is said to be one with the Father; nor is there another verse in the New Testament where such unity between the Father and the Logos is asserted. Tertullian could not meet this argument without the subterfuge of substituting Filius for Verbum, the true reading. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is commonly represented as "the Son;" and He proceeds throughout His discourses on the assumption that He is a being different from the Father. Tertullian had recourse to the substitution, because he was by means of it enabled to supplant his antagonist. He wrests the verse from the hands of Praxeas, and he gives it up to the public with a version of his own. "If then," says the Reviewer, "this passage of Tertullian be a proof of the existence of 1 John v. 7, we must suppose that he referred his adversary to the very text which that adversary would urge as most accurately representing his own opinion." Most truly so: Tertullian could not help adverting to the verse as the foundation of Praxeas's theory; and he endeavours to defeat him by garbling it, and by putting upon it his own interpretation.
Porson expresses his astonishment that any should consider the words of Tertullian as a quotation of the Apostle. In truth, the Professor, in this and many other places of his Letters, has recourse to the usual refuge of weak disputants, enlisted by accident or by prejudice on the side of error: he garbles his author, and uses strong assertions where he ought to produce proofs. He proceeds in his argument on mistaken grounds; and the fallacy made him quite blind. He powerfully urges that Tertullian does not allude to the verse, because he does not quote it; while he freely quotes other verses much less to his purpose. This was to him inconceivable. Of the dilemma he adopted the least improbable side; and by his ingenuity and bold assertions he contrived to make his readers (and the Quarterly Reviewer in the number) as blind as himself. Had he been aware of the true state of the case, how different would have been his conclusion! With what promptitude and keenness would he have unravelled Tertullian's quotation, discovered in it the language of John, and disclosed it beyond all dispute tom the views of his readers! But he was engaged in a wrong cause; and his fine powers either drooped, or they displayed their matchless vigour in devious flights of wit and sophistry, far beyond the precincts of truth.
Tertullian was a master in Israel, and his authority prescribed in which way and how far the verse might be quoted with safety to the orthodox faith. Accordingly Phaebadius A.D. 350, and Marcus Celedensis in 373, cite the verse only so far as he has cited it: but Cyprian, though preceding these writers by a century, took greater liberty; and he places the citation in a more clear and unequivocal light. His words are these: "De Pater, et Filio, et Spiritu Sancto, scriptum est: et hi tres unum sunt." In this paragraph are implied two things; namely, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one; and that it is so written of them, or that they are said to be one in the Scriptures. This is true; John has thus written of them in the disputed verse, and in no other place. But observe, the clause which says that these three bare witness, and suggests the unity meant to be that of testimony, is artfully omitted; and Cyprian leaves the reader to conclude, as Tertullian asserts, that it is that of being or essence which the Apostle means.
If we turn to the Greek fathers, we shall find them equally well acquainted with the verse, and equally reluctant to quote it. I will notice a few of those who have been brought forward as vouchers for its genuineness.
In a scholium on Psalm 122 ascribed to Origen, the controverted text is partly quoted: Ta de tria Kurios o Theos emon esti. Oi gar to en eisi. The Lord our God is threefold; for THEY ARE ONE.
Clemens Alexandrinus has a manifest reference to the verse and its context: Pan rema istatai epi duo kai trion marturon, epi Patros, kai Uion, kai Agioun Pneumatos. Eph on marturon kai bonthon ai entolai legomenai phulassestai ophelousi. Every promise is valid before two or three witnesses, before the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; before whom, as witnesses and helpers, what are called the commandments ought to be kept. This passage was first pointed out by Bengelius, and lately alleged by Dr. Burgess.
Basil paraphrases the text, but is afraid to quote it: 'Oi pisteuontes eis Theon, kai Logon, kai Pneuma, mian ousan theoteta. Who believe in God, and the Word, and the Spirit, being one Godhead.
Theodorus, the master of Chrysostom and a contemporary of the emperor Julian, as we learn from Suidas, wrote "A Treatise on one God in the Trinity, from the Epistle of John the Evangelist" Eis ten Epistolen Ioannou tou Euaggelistou peri tou eis Theos en Triadi. This is a remarkable testimony, as it implies the existence and notoriety of the verse about the middle of the fourth century. At that period, a writer of celebrity erects upon it the doctrine of a trinity in unity; which surely he would hardly have done, if any suspicion of its authenticity had been entertained by him, or by any other person of that age. Besides, the turn of the expression, as it supposes what was grounded on the verse to be grounded also on the whole Epistle, supposes the Epistle and the verse, in respect to their purport and authenticity, to stand exactly on the same foundation. (See Suidas on the word Diodoros.)
Cyril, in his Thesaurus, attempts to prove that the Holy Spirit is God. With this view he extracts the 6th and 8th verses, and omits the 7th: yet he inserts an argument which demonstrates that this verse lay before him, though he was too much afraid directly to use it. Cyril's words are these: Eirekos gar oti to pneuma esti tou Theou to marturoun mikron ti proelthon, epipherei, e marturia tou Theou meizon esti. Pos oun esti poiema to ton olon Patri suntheologoumenon kai tes agias triados sumplerotikon. For having said that it is the Spirit of God that witnesses, a little forward he adds, the witness of God is greater: How then is he a creature WHO IS SAID TO BE GOD WITH THE UNIVERSAL FATHER, AND COMPLETES THE NUMBER OF THE HOLY TRIAD. The words in capitals form the substance of the seventh verse which Cyril wished to quote, as being direct to his purpose; yet through fear he declined to produce it in express terms. This was in the fifth century. Time, however, removed the grounds of this apprehension; and in the course of seven centuries after, Euthymius Zigabenus published a work called The Panoply of Faith (Panoplia Dogmatike); in which he quotes the words of Cyril, premising the disputed text as it stands in our Greek Copies. Mr. Porson (p. 224) translates the whole passage from the Panoply, as published in the Turgovist edition of 1710: but, strange to say, the clause in the Thesaurus, which demonstrates that Cyril had the controverted text before his eyes, is omitted by him. This omission is noticed by Dr. Burgess: "Here," says he, "Mr. Porson unaccountably closes the passage by his et caetera; --- I say unaccountably, because the omitted words relate expressly to the seventh verse." P. 37.
This is sufficiently indulgent. Had Mr. Belsham or Dr. Carpenter been guilty of an evasion so palpable, what epithets would not have been applied to them by the Bishop of St. David? In truth, the professor felt a difficulty which he could not solve; but being convinced that Cyril never saw the verse, he passes over in silence the paraphrase of it given by that father.
Travis, in support of the verse, produces a passage from a Dialogue as between Athanasian and an Arian, where it is quoted in part, with an express reference to John as its author. The passage is to this effect: "Is not that lively and saving baptism, whereby we receive remission of sins, administered in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And St. John says, And these three are one." (See Porson's Letters, p.213.)
The work whence this extract is taken, has come home down to us as the production of Athanasius bishop of Alexandria, who flourished about the middle of the fourth century. But some things in it being supposed unworthy of him, it is considered as spurious, and imputed to Maximus, a monk in the seventh century. But I believe there is no solid ground whatever for this supposition; nor would it have been countenanced, had it not been for the advantage it gives to the adversaries of the disputed verse. And I request my reader to weigh the following reasons:--- Mention is made in it of the joint reign of Constantine and Constantius in the year A.C. 337. This appears to have been made incidentally, and not by any means with the design of foisting it on the public as a genuine production of Athanasius. It is reasonable to suppose that the Dialogue was composed at the period when the Arian controversy was raging; and this was in the age of Constantine, and not in the seventh century. Above all, the authority of the verse is quoted with a precaution which the acuteness and vigilance of the Arians required in that age; but which was not necessary in the age of Maximus, when the verse was openly trumpeted forth without fear and without disguise.
As this observation is of moment, I will illustrate it in a few words. The author speaks of baptism administered in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and therefore refers to the concluding verse of Matthew. Then he jumps, by mere association, to that in the Epistle of John, saying, "And these three are one." Now had no more than this been said, Mr. Porson, and you, Sir, would have maintained that this was an inference from the words of Matthew, and not the words of the Apostle John. But the clause "And St. John says" is unfortunately premised; and thus all plea for denying the reference is cut off, and nothing remains for you but to say that the treatise is the production of a much later age.
But I ask, Sir, why did not the author cite the whole text? Why confine himself to the clause "And these three are one"? here lies the adroitness of the writer. Had he produced the verse, and placed it wholly before his readers, they would have seen, with little help from the Arians, that the unity spoken of was unity of consent or of testimony; and this would have scattered the Athanasian's argument as dust on the wind. Her therefore was determined to give his opponents no such advantage; and he prudently effected his purpose by suppressing the rest of the sentence.
I have discovered allusions to the disputed verse in Tatian the disciple of Justin Martyr, and in Theophilus bishop of Antioch; but I will not here stop to produce the passages, as they are quite unnecessary for my argument. I cannot however pass by the Philopatris of Lucian, which Cave has alleged as a voucher for the controverted text. This is a dialogue between Critias a heathen, and Triephon a pretended catechumen. The former asks, "Whom shall I bind by an oath to myself, or solemnly profess?" The latter answers, "The God who rules aloft, great, immortal, heavenly, --- the Son of the Father, --- the Spirit proceeding from the Father; three making one, and one three." (See vol. 3., p. 598, Hemster. Edit.) I think it hardly possible but that the author of this passage had before his eyes the supposed spurious text, his object being to travestie and ridicule it. A God is solemnly appealed to as a witness; he is in the heaven; he consists of three, Father, Son, and Spirit; these three make one. This is the caricature; and the original, beyond all doubt, is the Apostle John. Here then we have a remarkable testimony to the existence of this much injured verse about the middle of the second century, the time when this dialogue was written. I am aware, indeed, that learned men, and Professor Porson in the number, refer it to some author of a much later period. But the only reason for supposing it not the composition of Lucian is, that it discovers more knowledge of the sentiments and affairs of the Christians than Lucian is supposed to have had. The supposition however is most erroneous; as that writer had an intimate knowledge of the Christian, and even the Jewish, Scriptures. Most of his works too were called forth by circumstances connected with the propagation of Christianity. The philosophers, whom he ridicules and vilifies in many of his pieces, were for the most part impostors of the Gnostic school. His life of Peregrinus or Proteus (as Suidas well observes) is but a travestie of Christ and His Gospel. The Drapetai, succeeding that infamous piece, or Fugitivi, whom he so bitterly maligned and held forth as objects of hatred and persecution, were the professors of Christianity in Egypt, Greece, and other provinces. He appears for a season to have been himself of the number; but his conversion was doubtless a mask for acquiring a knowledge of the Christian affairs, with a view to betray them: and this pretended conversion is what he significantly describes by his metamorphosis into an ass.
The flame of controversy broke out about the beginning of the fourth century, and Arianism endangered the orthodox church; when, in A.C. 325, Constantine, having assembled the Council of Nice, condemned the followers of Arius, authorizing them to be persecuted, and their books burnt. The violence begun by Constantine was carried to a still greater extent by Theodosius, who, interesting himself in the Trinitarian doctrine, exterminated the Arians from all parts of the empire. From various causes, in which odium and persecution had their share, Unitarianism at this period was nearly extinct. Length of time too had withdrawn from the knowledge of men those pernicious errors which called forth the writings of John. These cause emboldened the fathers of the Western Church to lay aside the restraint which Tertullian and Cyprian felt with regard to the verse; and at length to quote it without disguise in support of their favourite doctrine, the Trinity.
About the latter end of the fourth century, Jerome, at the request of Pope Damasus, undertook a revision of the Vulgate, correcting first the Gospels, then the Epistles, by comparing them with Greek MSS. To the last seven Canonical Epistles he wrote a Prologue, in which he complains of the unfaithfulness of certain interpreters, and exemplifies this complaint by their omission of the three Heavenly Witnesses in their editions. I will first give a version of this Prologue, and then subjoin Mr. Porson's comment. "The order of these seven Epistles (meaning the Epistles of Peter, James, John, and Jude), in those Greek copyists who think soundly and follow the right faith, is not the same as it is found in the Latin Copies; where, as Peter is first, so his Epistles are placed in order before the rest. But as I have long since corrected the Evangelists (or preachers of the Gospel, meaning the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of Paul, as well as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), according to the rule of truth, so these Epistles I have restored to their proper order; which, if arranged agreeably to the original text, and faithfully interpreted in Latin diction, would neither cause perplexity to the readers, nor would the various readings contradict themselves, especially in that place where we read the unity of the Trinity laid down in the Epistle of John. In this I found translators (or copyists) widely deviating from the truth; who set down in their own edition the names only of the three witnesses, that is, the Water, Blood, and Spirit; but omit the testimony of the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; by which, above all places, the Divinity of the father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is proved to be one. How far my edition differs from those of others, I leave to the discernment of the reader. But whilst thou, O virgin of Christ, demandest of me the truth of Scripture, thou in a manner exposest my old age to the rancorous teeth of those malicious men who hold me forth as faithless and a corrupter of the Sacred Writings. But in such an undertaking, I neither dread the malice of rivals, nor shall I withhold the truth of the Holy scriptures from those who demand it."
On this Prologue, the Professor, in his Letters, p. 289, thus comments: "At the request or command of Pope Damasus, Jerome revised the Latin translation, and corrected it upon the faith of the Greek MSS. Did he therefore replace the three Heavenly Witnesses at this revision, or not? If he did, why did he not then write his preface to inform the world of his recovered reading? But after Damasus was dead, Eustochium it seems, a young lady at once devout, handsome and learned, requests him once more to revise the Catholic Epistles and correct them from the Greek. Jerome undertakes the task; and having completed it, advertises her in this Prologue, that other inaccurate translators had omitted the testimony of the three Heavenly Witnesses, the strongest proof of the Catholic faith. Such a story carries its own condemnation upon its forehead." He then adds, "It has therefore been given up by most defenders of the verse; by Mill, by Abbe Roger, by Maffei, Valarsius, Twells, Bengelius."
It is remarkable that friends and foes should thus concur in fixing the stigma of imposture on a document which carries in itself the mark of authenticity beyond any to be found in ancient records. In truth, this fine writer and great critic was not himself on the question before us. The prejudices of education made him the easy dupe of ancient fraud; and with all his learning, with all his brilliant parts, he failed to master the controversy. On other subjects of criticism, Porson was the huge leviathan, which, like another Britannia, ruled the wide domain of Grecian literature; --- on this, he is the same monster of the deep, floundering and struggling for life in shallow waters.
The true state of the case is probably the following. The verse, as I have observed, descended in the Old Italic Version from the days of the Apostles to the age of Jerome. But the Copies which contained it were confined to confidential friends, or to the more trusty fathers of the Church, while it was carefully excluded from those which were designed for general use. This precaution was naturally suggested by the dangers which on all sides had hitherto encompassed the text. But these dangers were in a great degree surmounted by the recent triumphs of orthodoxy, by the extinction of Unitarianism, and by the shades of ignorance which gathered deeper and yet deeper over the horizon of the Christian Church. At length Pope Damasus thought it safe to restore the verse in the public version; and engaged Jerome to revise it, partly with a view to that purpose. The design was hazardous; and as it might be unpopular among the learned, it could not fail to call forth the fears of the timid and the jealousy of rivals. Before the end was accomplished, Damasus died, and Jerome found protection in Eustochium, a lady of learning, influence, and reputation, who had earnestly solicited him to restore the genuine text.
With regard to the Prologue itself, a variety of circumstances beyond the reach of forgery in a future age, and appropriate to the situation of the author, concur in establishing its genuineness. Damasus engaged him to revise the Latin Version; and the writer of the Prologue alludes to his revision, as in part already accomplished. He tells his fair patroness, that at all hazard he would restore the genuine text; and we find it in the very translation which came through his hands. The Prologue is ascribed to Jerome; and it came down to posterity among his works. Walafrid Strabo in the ninth century commented upon it, as the production of Jerome; and neither he nor any other of that age appears to have entertained any suspicion of forgery. About the days of Jerome, the African fathers, omitting the seventh verse, supplied its place by a mystical interpretation of the eighth; and it is in reference to this notable piece of mysticism, which I shall presently notice, that Jerome calls the restored injured verse veritatem Scripturae. Besides, the verse and the context were not only disguised, but torn to pieces, and cited by different authors in various contradictory ways, which caused doubt and perplexity to the readers. "Sermonum ses varietates impugnabant, et ambiguitatem legentibus faciebant." Jerome removed the evil, by restoring "the truth of the Holy Scriptures" to Eustochium, and others who demanded it. The attempt, as it might be expected, in such circumstances, met with opposition, and brought upon the author the very charge which he urged against those who faithlessly suppressed the text. But Jerome had sense and magnanimity to defy clamour, as he was fast sinking under the weight of years to that rest where the sting of envy is no longer felt, and the voice of slander silent for ever.
The restoration of the verse by Jerome was followed by consequences that might be expected. All efforts after this entirely to suppress it were fruitless: and we find the passage formally quoted by Eucherius bishop of Lyons, and Vigilius Tapensis, both of the fifth century, and in the sixth by Fulgentius; though these writers felt it requisite still to mutilate the context, or give it a new arrangement. I will produce their quotations at once, to show their management, and at the same time with what little ceremony the adversaries of the verse advanced the most unfounded positions. I quote Eucherius from Griesbach, ad locum, p. 700, "III. (h.e. numerus ternarius) ad Trinitatem (refertur) in Joannis Epistola: Tres sunt qui testimonium dant in caelo; Pater, Verbum, et Spiritus Sanctus: et tres sunt qui testimonium dant in terra; spiritus, aqua, et sanguis." Here the unity being fist assumed as that of the Trinity, the clauses asserting it in the seventh and eighth verses are both amputated. The amputation undoubtedly was designed to prevent the reader from discovering the true of that unity which the Apostle inculcates. Of this object Griesbach was not aware, and he scruples not to deny the passage to be a quotation of John.
The citation of Vigilius, at the close of the fifth century, as given by Griesbach, is the following:--- "Joannes Evangelista ad Parthos. Tres sunt, inquit, qui testimonium perhibent in terra; aqua, sanguis, et caro; et tres in nobis sunt: et tres sunt qui testimonium perhibent in caelo; Pater, Verbum, et Spiritus; et hi tres unum sunt." P. 702. Here we may detect several artifices calculated to disguise the real meaning of the Apostle. Some words foreign to the original are introduced; and the clause in the eighth expressing the unity of testimony, which is the only true key to the sense of the passage, is excluded. The seventh and eighth are transposed. The transposition is most artful; for by the help of the new reading it suggests a tacit illustration of the Trinity in unity. That, as water, blood, and flesh, form one body in us, or in man; so the three which give testimony in heaven, the father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, are one substance or being. --- I have already noticed the testimony of Fulgentius, but it is necessary again to quote it. It is as Follows: "In Patre ergo et Filio et Spiritu Sancto unitatem substantiae accipimus, personas confundere non audemus. Beatus enim Joannes Apostolus testatur: Tres sunt qui testimonium perhibent in caelo; Pater, Verbum, et Spiritus Sanctus; et tres unum sunt. Quod etiam beatissimus Martyr Cyprianus confitetur," &c. Then he presently cites the words of cyprian already considered. The citation of this father is equally artful with that of Vigilius. He abruptly breaks off at the end of the seventh, et tres unum sunt, --- thus endeavouring to prevent his readers from learning what that unity was; and lest they should not be drawn to his own notion, he premises, "In Patre, et Filio, et Spiritu Sancto, unitatem substantiae accipimus."
But hear what Mr. Porson says to this: "Fulgentius fairly confesses that he became acquainted with this verse solely by the means of Cyprian." Letters, p. 264. And in the next page he adds, "Fulgentius being aware of an objection, that the verse was not then extant in St. John's Epistle, shields himself under the authority of Cyprian." This is all mistake undoubtedly, observes the bishop of St. David's. It is matter of astonishment, that a writer who animadverts with so much contemptuous severity on assertions without proof in his opponent, should himself again and again assert things unsupported by a shadow of truth.
I again revert to the Prologue, to point out one or two circumstances which go to prove its genuineness. Those who suppose it a forgery, refer it to a period subsequent to Fulgentius. We have here evidence that the African fathers, long before the seventh century, quoted the very words which are said in the Prologue to have been omitted in some Copies. The author of that Prologue also intimates that the making of these same words public, excited alarm and gave great offence. How could this be, if they had been previously quoted by the most popular writer? The Prologue then carries its own intrinsic evidence that its publication did not come after, but preceded these citations of the disputed verse by the African fathers. If so, if Jerome restored and published the verse in his corrected version, his conduct in this respect must have been the real cause of those fathers being more explicit in quoting it, than Tertullian, Cyprian, Phaebadius, Marcus Celedensis, and others who preceded him. They followed the author of the Prologue, and endeavoured to neutralize the mischief which he had occasioned, by garbling the text, and pre-occupying the public with their own construction. And here a coincidence of a delicate nature, which ever accompanies truth, presents itself. The Latin fathers preceding, such as Tertullian and Cyprian, in alluding to the verse or quoting it, always use FILIUS, instead of VERBUM as it is in the original. But Eucherius, Vigilius, and others who succeeded Jerome, as uniformly use the latter in the room of the former. To what is this deviation from their great masters to be ascribed? Plainly to Jerome, who had corrected the text, and restored to it Verbum, as the true reading. The change evidently was not the effect of choice, but necessity; for whenever they accompany the text with their own comment, they adopt their favourite Filius, instead of the long disinherited Verbum.
The Prologue then is beyond all contradiction the work of Jerome: and it furnishes us with three most important facts. First, that as this great father restored the disputed verse to the Vulgate, on the authority of Greek MSS., there were extant at that period, in the fourth century, Greek MSS which Jerome considered more ancient and more authentic than those, which did not contain the disputed verse; and four of which remain to this day. Secondly, the erasure of the disputed verse from such of the Greek MSS as were then, and still are without it, proceeded from the same motive which induced the Greek and Latin fathers to pass it over, or to garble the text in their writings. Thirdly, the Copies of the Vulgate insisted upon by Porson as not containing the verse, are those, or Copies taken from those, of which Jerome complains as faithless versions of the Greek original.
After the restoration of the verse by Jerome, ecclesiastical writers felt it necessary to notice it; and no alternative was left to them, but to use some expedient for disguising its true import. The principal expedient usually adopted for this purpose was, the omitting of the clause which pointed out the nature of the unity intended by the Apostle in the eighth verse. The second was, the transposing of the two verses, so as to make the eighth, without the clause denoting unity of testimony, a model for interpreting the seventh, as denoting unity of substance. To render this parallelism the more obvious, it became necessary to insert some particle expressing similitude; and this various reading being found in certain Copies, afforded to Mr. Porson a fresh proof of interpolation, and suggested the way in which it crept into the text. "I have purposely omitted," says he, "in my former account of the various readings, one of the most important, that I might introduce it here. The reader will easily guess that I mean the connexion of the seventh verse with th eighth by the intervention of SICUT. In three MSS that Bishop Burnet saw, the seventh verse follows the eighth; and they are pinned together, as the Bishop well expresses it, by a sicut. In a MS at Ulm, the passage stand thus: 'Quia tres sunt, qui testimonium dant, Spiritus, et aqua, et sanguis; et tres unum sunt: SICUT in caelo tres sunt, Pater, Verbum, et Spiritus; et tres unum sunt.' This various reading not only gives fresh suspicion of interpolation, but shows us the means by which it gradually insinuated itself into the text. Whoever duly and attentively weighs this circumstance, will perhaps see less cause to think the idea of a marginal gloss so affected and absurd as you modestly pronounce it." (See Letters, p. 148.)
The argument against the verse drawn from its corruption he states more fully in p. 142: "If all these various readings were presented in one view to any person endowed with common sense, moderately instructed in the principles of criticism, and uninfluenced in the present debate by interest or passion, he could not help concluding that the number and the importance of the various readings furnish reasonable ground for a suspicion of corruption. That a passage which so often adds, omits, or alters particular words; which now precedes, now follows the unsuspected part of the text; which is sometimes seen in the body of the work, sometimes in the margin; sometimes by the same, sometimes by a different hand; sometimes after a rasure; which, in short, changes shapes faster than Proteus or Empusa; that such a pasage is exceedingly questionable, whatever shape it assumes; and that, though it were not absolutely omitted by any MSS., an editor might yet hint his doubts, or even avow his disbelief of its genuineness, without justly incurring the censure of blasphemy or impiety."
How differently does the same thing strike different minds? I am not influenced by interest or passion in the present debate; and am, too, it is hoped, moderately instructed in the principles of criticism :--- yet to my mind, various readings, the variety of forms and positions which the verse assumed, its transposition with the eighth, open fresh evidence of genuineness. Uniformity may often be the effect of art and systematic falsehood; while diversity changes with change of circumstances; agreement in the main, and variance in inferior points, are characteristics of nature and of truth. I should therefore thus reason on the present subject :--- The verse is certainly authentic: the tattered form in which it appears, the patches put upon it, and the turning of it as it were inside out, prove only that it is old, and has long suffered violence and hard service; not that it never came from the hands of the Apostle. Its dismemberment and abuse must therefore be referred to some causes very different from interpolation. The precise words used by the Apostle, and the arrangement which he gave to the context, were repugnant to the views of those who, coming after him, quoted or copied the verse; and they sought to alter its sense by altering its position or true reading. If it had been a forgery, the authors of it would at once have placed it where it would have answered their purpose best; and it is certain that they, and their coadjutors in successive ages, would exert all their endeavours to prevent its mutilation and its variety of shapes from appearing in evidence against its authenticity. If in a solitary spot I saw the decayed and scattered bones of a human being, I should instantly conclude that a person once existed to whom they belonged. Mr. Porson, if he were consistent, would insist on the contrary conclusion. He would say, these bones are mangled and scattered by violence, and therefore never formed a real body. The inference he draws, resembles that which Jacob drew when he saw the mantle of his son torn to pieces and stained with blood. The inference in both cases proves erroneous. The verse, like Joseph, was still alive. Pious fraud forced it away, and, with the Gospel in its original simplicity, sold it to Antichrist; and there for ages they were held in worse than Egyptian bondage. But the period of their common deliverance is at hand. The diffusion of knowledge, the progress of inquiry, and the spirit of rational and manly freedom, will, sooner or later, melt their chains; and the powers of darkness, like Pharaoh and his hosts, shall be scattered on the waves.
A third expedient remains to be noticed, which for its cunning and baneful consequences may appear an invention of Satan to blind the eyes of the learned. This is the allegorical interpretation given to the eighth verse, which consisted in explaining the water, the blood, and the spirit --- as meaning the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. On this allegory Mr. Porson observes, that "no writer in his perfect mind could possibly adopt this allegorical interpretation of the eighth verse, if the seventh were extant in his Copy." P. 311. "Because," says he, "it is not likely that anybody, seeing the doctrine of the Trinity clearly revealed in the seventh verse, should extract it from the eighth by an unnatural interpretation." P. 307. By means of this argument he infers the absence of the verse from the Copies used by Cyprian, Eucherius, Augustin, and others, referring their supposed citation of the seventh to a mystical gloss of the eighth.
This is the chief instrument by which the genuineness of the verse was annihilated in the judgement of the learned; and its fallacy will appear from the three following remarks. First, the reference proceeds on the assumption that the verse in question proves the doctrine of the Trinity, which it does not. Secondly, the allegory of the eighth verse is so unnatural, absurd, and even impious (for it makes water to mean God the Father), that it would never have been thought of, if it had not been suggested by the presence of the seventh, and adopted by cunning interpreters as an expedient to give a wrong direction to their readers, and by that means prevent its true meaning from being known. In order to secure this text from danger, and to pervert it in safety to the support of the Trinity, it was necessary for these true sons of the Church to leave the plain and solid ground of common sense, and rise into the region of mysticism; and they left off this allegory as a smaller balloon to pilot their readers in the interpretation of the seventh verse. Thirdly, the allegory was suggested by the transposition of the two verses; and then, and not till then, adopted. Hear the Professor's own words: "Bengelius wishes to transpose the seventh and eighth verses. I believe that this was more frequently the position of the verses when the Heavenly Witnesses first obtained admittance. The allegorical interpretation will then so naturally follow the verse which it explains, particularly in the Copies that announce the Heavenly Witnesses with a sicut, that the manner in which the interpretation was made, will be obvious to any person acquainted with the history of MSS. Twells saw something of this consequence; for he reasons against the idea of an allegory or marginal gloss upon this ground, --- that the oldest and best MSS prefix the seventh verse: but, says he, if the seventh verse were a gloss engendered by the eighth, the seventh would follow the eighth. The plain answer to this reasoning is, that such indeed was the arrangement of the two verses." P. 394.
The Professor argues that Augustin was a stranger to the verse, because he put upon the eight a mystical interpretation. But this argument, like his other reasonings, is totally unfounded. This father was as well acquainted with the disputed text as Mr. Porson himself; as we may infer from the following passage: "Pater et Filius et Spiritus Sanctus unum sunt. Tres enim personae sunt, Pater et Filius et Spiritus Sanctus; et hi tres, quia unius substantiae sunt, unum sunt." Here the substance of the seventh verse with Augustin's own comment; and such comment as prevented every reader, who regarded that father's authority, from having any idea of the sense which the Apostle intended to convey by it.
The venerable Bede wrote a commentary on the seven canonical Epistles; and it is remarkable that he has passed over the verse in profound silence. Its adversaries, of course, have availed themselves of this omission, to plead that the verse was unknowns to him. "If any person," says Mr. Porson, "will read through Bede's commentary on the fifth chapter, he must see, unless he be wilfully blind, that Bede was totally ignorant of the seventh verse." P. 384. I confess myself so far blind as not to see this. From the very words which the Professor has himself quoted, I see quite the reverse. "Upon this very chapter, he (Bede) breaks out: Pereat de terra memoria eorum, qui eum vel Deum vel hominem esse verum denegant." P. 385. Now why should Bede utter this anathema in commenting on the very chapter in which the controverted text is found? He wishes that the memory of those who denied Jesus to be real God and real man, might perish from the earth. Has such pious curse any propriety in this place? Yes, if the verse was in his Copy; but not otherwise. For it turns solely upon the seventh and eight verses. According to Bede, who, as Mr. Porson observes, was wuite othrodox, the former verse asserts that Christ is a real God, one of the three persons of the Trinity; the latter, that He was a real man. Those who maintained the simple humanity of Christ, or simply His pre-existence, denied the one;--- the Gnostics, whom John immediately opposed, denied the other. There was, it seems, something peculiar in the situation of Bede, which made him afraid to comment on what the first of these parties rejected: and he was compelled to be content with cursing both.
It is needless to pursue the inquiry any further. From the eleventh century the verse was known, freely quoted, and its authenticity never called in question till the revival of learning, when the first edition of the Greek Testament was given to the world. The merits of the Complutensian edition is discussed by Mr. Porson in his third letter; and the charge that the editors translated the verse from the Latin Vulgate, is urged with a force difficult to be resisted. Yet a single circumstance exits, which should rescue them in fairness from this imputation. The Complutensian differs from the common reading by substituting in the seventh, oi treis eis to en eisi, which belongs to the eighth verse. This is the clause which the Latin fathers so much dreaded, and uniformly omitted in quoting the context. Yet the Complutensian editors not only adopted it, but placed it contrary to the Latin Copies, where it set aside the doctrine of the Trinity, and points directly to the true meaning of the Apostle. So far, therefore, is the Complutensian text from being a version of the Vulgate, that it is the reading of some MS which owed its existence and preservation to antitrinitarians. This is a very providential circumstance; and the attempt of Porson to account for it by supposing that the editors had recourse to this variation for the purpose of disguise, is both unsatisfactory and disingenuous.
Porson's Letters to Travis have greatly and deservedly been admired. The amazing magazine of knowledge, the strength of memory, the detail of minute, dry, and uninteresting facts --- yet facts sparkling with wit and learning --- which are exhibited almost in every page; the vein of sarcastic humour and contemptuous indignation with which he assails his adversary; the ingenuity with which he detects his weakness and turns it to his own advantage; finally, the force with which he hurries away his readers to his conclusion, --- give them a character unrivaled among similar production of the human mind. But accident, or caprice, or prejudice had enlisted him on the side of error; and his credit as a Scriptural critic vanishes for ever. Had the verse in John been a verse of Euripides, he would by his learning and acuteness have penetrated the circumstances of the writer, developed the mystery which peculiarity of situation gave to his meaning, and in connexion with the errors which called it forth, placed it before his readers in the light of day. But the path of enlightened criticism, the avenue to Biblical knowledge, were in a manner blocked up to the Cambridge professor. From his youth he had sworn to belive, on the subject of religion, only what his Alma Mater prescribed; and he was one of those few who scorned to read, where was not permitted to think for himself. Accordingly, the volume of Revelation, though the only charter of immortality to man, though written in the same sublime characters, and with the same Divine hand, which has stereotyped around us the volume of Nature, presented him either with a blank page, or a page obscured and distorted through the mist of authority. His discussion of the three Heavenly Witnesses furnishes, I believe, the only specimens we have of his skill in sacred criticism; and I must say that they are unworthy of him. The remissness with which he suffered the obvious sense of the verse to elude his grasp, and his forced and awkward attempts to explain the context without it, makes us lose sight of the man; and we are mortified to discover him dipping in the sacred page, as in the stream of Salamis, where his masculine mind drops half its vigour. What an example of the baneful influence of an established creed! Had thirty-nine articles been laid down at the revival of learning, requiring conformity in science and literature as well as in religion, the noble rage for improvement had never been felt in Europe; the genial current which enlivens and enriches society, would have been chilled by monkish penury; and knowledge, like a beneficent stream in spring diffusing verdure and fertility over its banks, would have been arrested in its progress as by the frost of winter. Locke and Newton would not have existed as philosophers; Bentley and Porson would have been unknown as critics; and the Bishop of St. David's, a man unquestionably of sterling powers and an accomplished scholar, would have been known, if known at all, only as a fanatic and a driveler.
Having finished this brief sketch of the external evidence of the verse, I must again shortly advert to its internal meaning. And here, Mr. Editor, I beg your attention while I argue a little with you, as an advocate of the Trinity. Let us then recall the three Heavenly Witnesses, and re-examine their testimony. What is the subject of this testimony? The subject is that of the whole Epistle, namely, that JESUS is the Christ. But what does Jesus mean? Assuredly the man Jesus. If I were to say Paul was an Apostle of Christ, I must mean the man Paul. The use of language in every age and country, from the beginning of the world until now, implied that when a man's name is used, it means that man, and nothing more, who is designated by it. But you will say, that Jesus, as the Christ, was indeed a real man, but he was also really God. The Apostle does not say so; he says the very reverse. You and other Trinitarians maintain what the Gnostics before you maintained at the first appearance of the Gospel. IN places where the gods were thought to appear in the empty form of men, the impostors pretended that Jesus was one of those phantoms: but in other countries they taught, more plausibly, that a God united with the man Jesus, and that therefore he was both God and man. In opposition to such teachers, the Apostle wrote his Epistle. And what does he say? He says, again and again that Jesus, whom they rejected and even cursed, was the Christ; thus inculcating that the God which they pretended to have united with the man Jesus was not the Christ. If the language of the Apostle were vague and uncertain, the sentiments of the deceivers would serve to define it; for he maintains what they denied, and denies what they maintained: and, beyond controversy, what they maintained was the Divinity of Christ. Here then we have an important fact placed before us in clear unequivocal light. The orthodox insist on the Divinity of Christ as essential to Christianity; the enemies of the Gospel, on its promulgation, artfully adopted the same doctrine as the means of subverting Christianity. The doctrine was specious, and it did prevail. John publishes his Epistle to check its growth, and he expressly calls it Antichrist.
But you will say that the Unitarians who maintain the simple humanity of Christ, degrade Him far below His real dignity. Quite the reverse: for Unitarians, with John and the other Apostles, receive him --- with all gratitude and reverence receive Him --- as the Logos of God. In this view they believe Him, as the evangelist asserts, to be God; though we scruple to give Him the name, as liable to abuse and misconstruction. The term holds him forth as the delegate of God, to be the Saviour of the world: it is a title of His high office, not of His nature. The union of the Logos with the man Jesus is not the union of two natures in one person, but the union of His ministry, as the promised Messiah, with the moral government of God for the salvation of mankind. The Evangelist, in attesting the incorporation of the Logos, solely attests the Divinity of our Lord's mission, and that in opposition to wicked and artful men, who denied His commission from the Creator and Governor of the Universe.
To the subject that Jesus is the Christ, there are in heaven, according to the disputed verse, three who bear testimony; the father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit. The father attests it as having, at the commencement of His ministry, by a voice from heaven declared Jesus to be His well-beloved Son. The word attests it, because Jesus in His official capacity, now invested with all power and authority, gives a clear and decisive evidence of His delegation. The Apostle, speaking of himself and brethren, says, that they had this testimony in themselves, --- meaning, that the proofs of His Divine mission which Jesus exhibited during His ministry, were still engraven in their memories and on their hearts. The Holy Spirit attests it, because it descended on the Apostles expressly to prove that the man Jesus, who, after bringing life and immortality to light in His Gospel, was put to a violent death, is the very same with Him who rose from the dead and now sitteth at the right hand of God. The disputed verse, then, is not spurious, because it asserts a testimony which is recognized and verified in the Gospel; because its object is that which it is the object of the Epistle in other parts to establish: in a word, because, with singular brevity and felicity of expression, it comprehends the substance of Christianity and a summary of its evidences.
If we want any further evidence for the trues sense and genuineness of the verse, we shall find it in the conduct of the Greek and Latin fathers. These men made it the foundation of their peculiar system, yet were afraid to produce it in support of that system. For many ages they concealed it, erased it from the manuscripts, omitted it in their versions; thus endeavouring to confine the knowledge and use of it to a confidential few: and when circumstances at length allowed them to bring it to light, they could not trust it to the public eye without mutilating and perverting it by their own interpretation. These artifices demonstrate their fears; and their fears suppose a consciousness that the three Heavenly Witnesses, on which the trinity was built, might, if rightly interpreted, be made a handle to subvert it. After the lapse of ages, what they feared is actually accomplished: and hence the restoration of this celebrated verse, as an authentic document of the Apostle John, becomes, in the hands of Divine Providence, an extraordinary instrument of restoring the Gospel to its original purity.
The providence of God, which watches over the interests of the Gospel, is singularly displayed in the history and preservation of this text. An artful scheme, dictated by heathenism, was formed to undermine Christianity. Its prevalence called forth the writings of John: the controverted text, containing as it does the sum and substance of the Gospel, presents a triangular figure, corresponding in shape to the base of the orthodox church. This accidental coincidence suggested the idea of converting it into a pillar to support the Trinity. The attempt was hazardous, for the Apostle erected the verse as a column to the simple humanity of Christ; and it was found by experience impossible at the time to conceal the true meaning of the verse without concealing the verse itself. Hence the founders of orthodoxy, though they would have been happy to quote the passage, if they could quote it without detection, were compelled, as opportunity offered, to erase it from their Copies, to omit it in their Versions and writings. In more favourable circumstances, they felt themselves free to allude to it or paraphrase it; but they were still forced to have recourse to the expedients of mutilating it, transposing it, and of tacking upon it their own interpretations. But lo! A consequence ensued, which was never contemplated by the pious advocates of the Trinity. The ages of darkness drew to a close. The reign of ignorance and imposture, the usurpations of priestcraft, received successive shocks by the invention of printing, the revival of learning, and the reformation from popery; and the very means which had been adopted to disguise the verse, brought it under the suspicion of forgery. Learned men in England and on the Continent for two centuries eagerly engaged in the dispute, and were divided in their opinions. The arguments against it were more and more felt. The number of its advocates daily diminished; till it was abandoned, except by a few, as a gross interpolation. The pantomime, which pious fraud had for a thousand years been acting on the Christian stage, at length reached its crisis. The mask dropped; and the verse, after a long incarceration, emerged with proofs of genuineness written in letters of gold upon its forehead. The catastrophe is sudden and surprising. The verse promised to establish the Trinity, --- but it is found to level it in the dust for ever. The perversion of its meaning caused its concealment; its concealment brought on the suspicion of forgery; and it is cut off, as a rotten member, from the very church of which it is the main pillar and ornament. It is again restored to its primitive sense; --- its primitive sense accounts for its ill treatment; while the violence which it suffered for ages confirms in return the true signification: and thus a verse which was thought to justify the orthodox in placing beyond the pale of the church those who rejected the Divinity of Christ , establishes the simple humanity of Christ as a fundamental article of that faith which Christ and His Apostles delivered to the saints. The riddle of the Sphinx is scarcely more enigmatical; and the Oedipus of Sophocles, so famous for the complication of its plot, more unexpected in its catastrophe. The Bishop of St. David's, Mr. Nolan, and other sons of Orthodoxy, who still defend the verse, gain their cause; and they are defeated. On the other hand, Mr. Fox, Dr. Carpenter, with others of the same school, who insist on its forgery, are defeated; and they triumph. The former, like the frogs of Aesop in demanding a king, claim the verse, to crush Unitarianism. Their demand is heard; and they receive a Hydra, to devour their own system. The latter repudiate it, as hostile to genuine Christianity. They fail in the attempt; and the failure restores the Gospel to that purity for which they contend. In a word, the contending parties, after struggling each against their own views and interest, change places. The success of the one is followed by disappointment and even mortification; the defeat of the other ends in triumph. The most respectable characters in this comic-tragedy are Michaelis, Marsh, Griesbach, Porson, J.P. Smith, and others, who, though Trinitarians, still had the candour to reject the verse. To the command of the roman Satiris, Vos hinc, hinc vos mutatis discedite partibus, they may still answer, Nolumus; and, though defeated, retire from the stage with honour and consistency. They however cannot feel but mortified that the part which they have acted, obliges them in retreating to leave behind their fair name, as a mantle to cover the shame of the triumphant party.
I remain, Mr. Editor,
Your most obedient humble Servant,
Footnote for Letter III.
 --- Tertullian plainly acknowledges that the common people of his days (who, as he says, constituted the majority of believers) dreaded the Trinity, as introducing three Gods. The attempt on the part of this father and others to extinguish common sense, and to reconcile the Divine unity with the distinction of three persons in the Trinity, caused them uncommon perplexity. In one passage of his treatise, he says, "Simplices quisque, ne dixerim imprudentes, et idotae, quae major semper credentium pars est, quoniam et ipsa regula fidei a pluribus diis saeculi, ad unicum et verum Deum transfert, non intelligentis unicum quidem, sed cum sua oeconomia esse credentum, expavescunt ad oeconomiam. Numerum et dispositionem Trinitatis divisionem praesumunt unitatis. Itaque duos et tres jam jactitant a nobis praedicare, se vero unius Dei cultores praesumunt." Page 502.
For there are Three who bear testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word [Logos], and the Holy Spirit; and these Three agree in One.
I John v. 7.
8 September 2018: This item is a rare pamphlet which is now offline. It was scanned originally by Don Hewey for his website "www.1john57.com" (archived copy here). I received a query about it from a correspondent, and thought that it would be useful to someone have it online again. I take no responsibility for the quality of the original scan. -- RP