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I JOHN, V, 7.
For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are
IN the three preceding Sermons, the general propositions which were deduced from this passage, have been discussed. In illustrating them, we have seen the doctrine which the text contains-its agreement with the Scriptures at large-and the evidence of its divine authority. It only remains, to close the subject with an appropriate improvement. And,
1. In the light of what has been said, I think, we are fully warranted to receive 1 John, 5. 7, as the real word of God. The evidence alleged against it, that it is not found" in many of the ancient versions and manuscripts," has, in some measure, been accounted for; and, as we have seen positive proof of its existence in every age, up to the very period, in which, St. John lived, we may rest fully satisfied. It has been shown, that "the Italic version, which was made in the first century, contained this text, and was for many centuries, used by all the Latin churches in Europe, Asia and Africa. The text in question, must have had a being when it was put into the ver
sion under consideration. If it had been forged, the iniquity must then have been at once detected by the original manuscript; and, even, by the voice of its author, who was probably, still alive.
It is inadmissible to suppose, that the Latin churches would have received a text as inspired, which was not to be found in the apostle's autograph, nor in the manuscripts used in the Greek churches. Its being referred to by Cyprian and Clemens, in the third and second centuries, very fully shows, that it was received by the Christian world then, as the pure word of God. The want of this text, in a thousand manuscripts and versions, which have been made subsequent to the third and fourth centuries, cannot destroy this positive testimony in its favor. As it contains a doctrine, clearly revealed in the Holy Scriptures; it is also a strong proof of its authenticity, to an orthodox mind. No evidence, however, arises from that consideration, in the view of those, who do not allow that the Trinity, and the Divinity of Christ, are truths revealed in the Bible. It is no wonder, that with such sentiments, they should doubt the inspiration of 1 John 5. 7, nor, that they should exert themselves to prove it spurious.
If a text were to be found in the Scriptures, opposite to their express doctrines, we would undoubtedly, on that very account, question its authority. Men, therefore, who think, that this is the only passage, which speaks of a Trinty in Unity; will naturally consider its very contents, as being evidence of its spuriousness. Nothing short of positive testimony can convince them of its divine original. That, however, has, I think, been fully exhibited. I shall, therefore, consider myself justified in quoting the text, as evidence of a Triune God; unless greater proof of its fallacy can be made to appear, than I have ever yet seen. In itself, it bears the characteristics of inspiration, strongly
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. This 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. Infinite 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. I 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