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supported by external positive testimony. These things are sufficient to satisfy us, who are fully convinced, that three divine Persons exist in one undivided essence.
is our faith; and it is built on solid evidence, independent. of the text in dispute. We do not contend for it, as a passage, on which the belief of a Trinity solely depends; but as a part of divine revelation, of which we ought ever to be tenacious. To say with some writers, that "we can do without it," is no proper reason for consigning it to that grave, in which its enemies conceive it to be now laid. No part of the Sacred Oracles, may be consistently deemed unnecessary. Every word of God is pure;" and, it should neither be added to, nor diminished. wisdom best knows, what is necessary to the perfection of Scripture, and what is not. If one half of the Bible were annihilated, in the other, every gospel truth would have ample support; nevertheless, the loss would be incalculable. There is no reason, therefore, in being any less engaged to defend 1 John 5. 7, than if the doctrine of the Trinity depended on its single authority. The Christian church,is under indispensable obligation to contend for every verse and word, in the book of God. As the text in view contains a doctrine of vital importance in the divine system, we ought never to relinquish it, without plenary evidence of its spuriousness.
2. From what bas been said on this subject, we must be convinced, the text in debate is an irresistible proof of three Persons in one God.
There is no other text in the Sacred volume, in which, the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity, is so expressly declared. In this single passage, the sense of many others, is condensed, and expressed with peculiar happiness and energy. We need not be surprised, therefore, that Anti-Trinitarians have been so industrious to sink its authority.
It cannot be mistaken, in respect to the Persons in God; for, they are distinctly mentioned, by the appropriate names of "the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost." In relation to the Unity of the essence, the text is sufficiently clear; although this has been disputed by some learned and orthodox divines.
Among the dissenters from this construction of the terminating clause of the text, "these three are one," we find Beza, Calvin, Dr. McKnight, and Dr. Wall. I do not know of any other distinguished Trinitarians, of their opinion in this respect. But with due defference to the judgment of these brilliant lights in the church, we are warranted to dissent from their conclusions, in the case before us. Taking into view the orthodox churches and clergy at large, more than a thousand to one have been and now are, of the opinion, that the clause in view, is expressive of the Unity of the divine essence.
No doubt it means likewise, that the three divine Persons, are united in their testimony concerning Christ and his salvation; but that does not exclude the other important signification. The general suffrage of common sense, is in favor of the highest construction which is put upon that union. It appears very clearly, that the Anti-Trinitarians, as well as the Orthodox, take the words in their highest import.
If 1 John 5. 7, expresses nothing but a union of testimony, it would afford no evidence against the AntiTrinitarian system; it would, therefore, be useless for them to exert themselves with such persevering energy to silence its voice. If any man have an important cause in a court of justice, and a witness is like to appear against him, whose testimony would prove fatal to his case; his interest would naturally lead him to destroy the character of that witness, in regard to veracity; but if the testimo
ny of that witness could in no sense injure his cause, he would be loath to take the trouble to shake his character in point of truth, let his veracity be ever so vulnerable. The zeal and perseverance of Anti-Trinitarians, to overthrow the authenticity of the text, is a decided evidence of their conviction, that its literal and obvious import is against them. If they mean to contend for an exposition of it, which does not clash with their scheme, it is vain to argue against its divine authority; for that must induce the world to believe, that they themselves really think otherwise. The opinion of men in general, in all ages, orthodox and heterodox, has been in favor of that construction of the text, which is given in my first sermon. No sentence could be framed in so few words, more clear in its import, in relation to the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity.
3. From what has been said we learn, that some orthodox divines, have been unnecessarily shaken in respect to the inspiration of the text in dispute; and made unguarded concessions to its enemies. Their doubts and acknowledgments, have induced me once to suppose, that they must have possessed greater evidence of its spuriousness, than I have been able to find on a careful examination. have never, however, met with any Trinitarians, who have avowed a fixed belief, that the text is an interpolation. Some appear to be inclined not to contend for it, for the three following reasons; namely, the negative evidence which lies against it-the dispute about its divine authority-and its not being absolutely necessary to support the Trinitarian system.
Although these things are true, yet, there is such internal and external evidence of the divinity of the text, that no Trinitarian can be justified in declining to appear in its defence. Some, however, who take this course, are sound
in the faith, pious and learned; but "great men are not always wise." Many who are as eminent in every respect as the divines in view, are exactly of my opinion, in relation to the authenticity of the text in debate.
Among these are, the Rev. William Jones, the Rev. George Travis, and Dr. Gill; with many other shining lights in the Christian church. Dr. Emmons, and the Rev. John Brown, author of the Family Bible, have viewed the evidence against the passage to be so trivial, that they have made no mention of the controversy, in writing on it. For a Trinitarian to express a single doubt, or to make the most distant approach to a concession that it is spurious, gives a greater blow to its authenticity, in the view of mankind, than all the arguments that can be set in array against it, by its avowed enemies. This should prevent every incautious observation from men, who firmly believe the doctrine of a Triune God. Believing that the text contains no false principle, it may be properly vindicated, as far as there is any testimony in its favor; and no concessions need be made of its spuriousness, unless there is positive evidence of the fact. As no Trinitarian appears to be prepared to say this, no steps should be taken, to expose any part of the professed word of God to the rage of its adversaries. Every saying of Trinitarians, which could be, with any colour of plausibility, construed into an acknowledgment of the spuriousness of this text, has been eagerly seized by Anti-Trinitarians, as a ground, on which to raise their fabric of opposition to the doctrine of the Trinity.
It appears to me that the Rev. Drs. Scott, Doddridge, and Wardlaw, have not been sufficiently guarded, in relation to the sacred authority of this text; as their thoughts evidently preponderated in favor of its authenticity.
It has been asserted by a writer of the Anti-Trinitarian school, and with an air of triumph, that "no gentleman,
possessing a competent share of Biblical and critical knowledge, would now venture to call the text in question, a genuine passage of scripture." I have a strong impression, that such sayings as these, have a very imposing effect on many of the advocates of divine truth. Some very
able writers and divines, seem to have a dread of having their judgment and critical talents, called in question; and this, they see will be done, if they attempt to use or vindicate 1 John, 5. 7, as a text of Scripture. In my opinion, therefore, this important passage suffers greatly, both from the neglect of its friends, and the opposition of its enemies. It would be well if more caution were used by the Orthodox about it; and more exertion made on their part, to support its credit; seeing it bears such visible internal marks of being inspired.
If the text be in fact, a genuine passage, I must dissent from the opinion that it is unimportant, on the ground, that the doctrine of the Trinity can be supported independent of its aid. This seems like a reflection on Divine wisdom, in giving us superfluous evidence of an important truth ; and betrays a want of fidelity, in defending the Holy Oracles, which God has committed to the care and use of his - Church.
But though this text, evidently, contains an important gospel doctrine, it ought to be rejected, if there were plenary and positive testimony against its authenticity. In a book, divinely inspired, there can be no deficiency, nor any thing redundant. Though the doctrine of the Trinity may be maintained without the text, yet, proving it to be an interpolation, may settle some wavering minds forever, on the side of Anti-Trinitarianism. I fear, that this thought may not have been sufficiently weighed by some Trinitarian divines. Such an entering wedge, into the system of truth, may have a fatal influence, on the salvation of many