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concerned; and, in it, we are all alike interested. The wood, hay, and stubble of error may prove more than a mere incumbrance-it may scorch us with its flames."
The second thing to be noticed in the introduction of my opponent's discourse is, that the "learned European divines, in general, now acknowledge the spuriousness of the text in question." If in this assertion, the Orthodox be included, they have certainly altered greatly since the time in which Michaelis charged them with dishonesty. But, allowing this to be true, we are not bound to be of their opinion until we are convinced by ample proof. But I must proceed from the introduction, to the body of the discourse on which I am animadverting.
The gentleman commences, by informing us how many words of the place in question are disputed. His statement in this respect is, no doubt, correct. But, if it were otherwise, it would not affect the case; as there are so many disputed, as completely to destroy the' sense in which the Trinitarians understand the passage.
His first attack is made on the internal evidence of 1 John, 5. 7. In opposition to the plea of the Orthodox, that it is necessary to support a proper connection in the chapter, he contends, that it "bears, in this connection, the marks of forgery upon its very countenance."
This is a heavy charge; and, if it could be maintained it would be sufficient to destroy the whole authority of this But the forger is boldly attacked as well as the forgery. The gentleman says, "the decree of heaven is forever against him." It seems, however, that he has gone down to the grave undetected, for his name cannot be told; nor the place of his birth and residence; nor the age in which he lived; or whether he was a clergyman, or one of the laity. If such facts could be ascertained, they would settle the dispute.
There are three great marks of forgery, mentioned by my opponent, which he expresses in the energetic language of "one absurdity-one contradiction —and one abomination."
In explaining, he observes, 1. "The absurdity is, that the six witnesses are reducible to five. Three and three make five only." But why, I ask, have not all the Trinitarians on earth seen this pretended absurdity? Have they all been so blind, that they could not see it? or, so wicked as to overlook it? But, there is no difficulty in this case. It is not the intention of the writer of the text in debate to inform us that there are six distinct witnesses. It is surprising that this should be viewed as an argument calculated to convince a Trinitarian. We believe, that the Holy Ghost is God, and that he can and does bear witness, both in heaven and on earth. As he fills immensity, the objection can have no weight in our minds. In relation to this point the Psalmist saith unto God, "Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there."
It has been clearly proved, in my sermons on this subject, that "the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost," do bear witness in, and from heaven, in respect to the scheme of salvation through Christ; and, that the Spirit also bears witness on earth, by his operations on men, cannot be doubted. The writer of the text has stated glorious facts; and, therefore, he is justly entitled to exhoneration' from the dreadful charge of "absurdity and contradiction." These two great marks of forgery are, I think, fully obviated. To make such objections is mere cavelling.
The third grand mark of forgery is, that the text contains "one abomination." This is a serious charge! But
on what is it founded? The gentleman goes on to tell; namely, that by the words, "the Spirit of God is degraded to the rank of an earthly witness, in contradistinction from heavenly witnesses, and placed on a level with water and blood." He adds, "the force of the contrast, introduced by the words "in heaven and on earth," necessarily impels to the conclusion, that there are two sorts of witnesses; the one celestial, and the other terrestrial. The abomination is therefore obvious. The Spirit of God is degraded to an earthly character, and made to be of earthly origin." This passage, he says, "bears the mark of the beast on its very forehead-changing the glory of the incorruptible Spirit to that of a witness belonging to this world."
Surely this is high sounding language! But what is there in all this, so degrading to the divine Spirit? My opponent says, that he is made to be an "earthly witness." The writer of the text, however, conveys no such idea. There is an obvious difference between bearing witness" on earth, and being of an earthly origin and character. This sense is forced upon the text by the objector; for, it is not its natural and obvious import. The writer, does not say that there are three earthly witnesses; but, that there are three that bear witness in or on earth. "The water and blood," are divine ordinances; and, therefore, it is no dishonor to the Spirit to accompany his own institutions with the evidence of his special and saving operations. This is infinitely far from being "on a level" with these things. The statement of the writer, instead of being "an absurdity, a contradiction, and an abomination," is a lucid exhibition of the only way of eternal life.
The judgment of Dr. Doddridge, is widely different from the opinion of my opponent in relation to this text; and, he is considered by Anti-Trinitarians themselves pre
eminent in candor, piety and learning. He says, "I am persuaded the words contain an important truth." See his "Family Expositor," vol. 6. page 311. It is really surprising, that so great and good a man as Dr. Doddridge, should speak so favorably of the meaning of the text, if the gentleman in opposition to me can with propriety appeal so solemnly "to every man's conscience and common sense," concerning its "absurdity, contradiction, and abomination." Can it be supposed, that Dr. Doddridge was destitute of conscience, and void of common sense? If this is true, it is time for our opponents to take back many things which they have said in honor of his memory. But, in the view of what has been said, I think, the three prominent marks of forgery, which have been mentioned by my opponent, disappear. The ground of my opinion in this respect, must, however, abide your judgment; for which you are not responsible to me but to God.
But the gentleman in opposition, proceeds to another internal mark of the spuriousness of the text in question, which is, its ungrammatical construction. He says, "the Greek word EV translated one, "is neuter gender, and cannot be applied to the word Eos or God, which is always of the masculine gender." But allowing this to be correct, the conclusion which he draws from it, that it proves the passage to be a forgery, may, I think, be consistently denied. It may be thought to affect the received meaning of the text; but it can have no bearing against its authenticity; for, he himself acknowledges that, in respect to harmony of design and action, it is grammatically accurate. He gives us an instance of this, from 1 Cor. 3. 8. "He that planteth and he that watereth are one." To argue the forgery of the text from this consideration is, therefore, inadmissible.
The weight of the gentleman's argument appears to be
this: The neuter gender cannot be applied to persons, for that would be such a confounding of genders, as to form a barbarism in language. The pronoun it is in the neuter gender, and yet it is frequently applied to persons, by writers of classical eminence; as, for instance, "it was I, it was he, or it was they." Both the neuter and the masculine genders are applied to the Spirit, where the word evidently signifies God. See Rom. 8. 16. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." John 16. 13. "When he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth." Able scholars in the Greek language say, that the neuter gender, as applied to God in our text, instead of being a barbarism, gives greater force and dignity to the sentence, than to have used the masculine gender.
The gentleman's grammatical criticisms appear to have no effect in overthrowing the exposition of the text which was given in my first sermon; nor in proving it to be a forgery. Some reasons have been offered, and more will be added.
1. The grammatical situation of the text, has not prevented the learned world, in general, from understanding it in the very sense in which it has been explained in the preceding sermons. 2. The Holy Spirit, who inspired the sacred writers, is not bound to conform his words to human views of grammatical rules. 3. The apostle, in John 10. 30, uses the very same phraseology, in which the text in dispute is written, concerning the unity of the Godhead; namely, "I and my Father are one.
But my opponent and his brethren in opinion say, that in the text referred to, "Christ speaks of the unity of agreement, or harmony in the same cause, between the Father and himself." This construction, however is far from being the real meaning of the sacred writer, as we