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individual consciousness, who was colonel, judge, and lawyer at the same time, and whom I therefore, denominate three persons. Aye, say you;-that alters the case materially. Let us have more than one individual being, if you make out three witnesses. If your colonel, judge and lawyer be but one individual man you must have two more men, to make out three witnesses.
"Thus, on every hand, the forger is detected, and the impious hot-headed zealot is slain with his own weapons. This interpolation throws every thing about it into absurdity and confusion. Erase this from the Epistle, and the argument of St. John stands fair and consistent. In the Spirit, we have the witness of God by miraculous powers, testifying that he hath given us eternal life, through Jesus Christ his Son; and in the ceremony of water baptism, in which men profess faith in his divine mission, and in the ceremony of the Lord's supper, in which they commemorate his death in the ratification of the new covenant, that brings life and immortality to light, we have the witness of men, to the same fact. Hence the apostle pertinently remarks, "If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater.
To all this, I answer :-If we were Sabellians, and contending for the divine authority of the text in dispute, the gentleman's argument, could not by us be consistently resisted. The case of his "colonel, judge and lawyer, perfectly illustrates their views of a Trinity in God, but not our's.” We do not consider the Almighty as being one, in the sense of a man sustaining three offices. In my sermons on this subject, it may be clearly seen, that there is an important sense, in which God is three distinct persons; and, therefore, he is properly capable of bearing witness in a threefold manner. We do not hold, by any means, that the infinite Jehovah is only "one individual consciousness.”
My opponent must first convince us, that his view of the manner of the divine existence is correct, before we can feel the force of this argument. If we were of his opinion about God, we would, no doubt, readily unite with him, in questioning the sacred authority of the text in debate.
But it is our fixed belief, that there is as real a personal distinction in the Godhead, as there is in three men; yet, an entire unity of essence. Such a unity of nature or essence, no created persons can consistently claim. It has been fully proved, that the three Divine Persons, who are mentioned in the text, do bear a distinct witness; and that they are only one essence or being. The gentleman, therefore, has brought up a doctrine which we fully believe, and placed it in a misrepresented light, to destroy the authority of a text that proves it. I should not have thought, that he would resort to such arguments, to convince Trinitarians, of the spuriousness of the text in question. But with these remarks, I shall dismiss the present objection. I cannot see how the "forger," as he is called, "is detected" yet; nor how such weapons could slay him. Neither can I see how the text in view, "throws every thing about it, into absurdity and confusion."
You have seen, my hearers, that men of the first classical eminence have thought otherwise. In my judgment, therefore, "the "the argument of St. John, stands" more "fair. and consistent" with, than without this text. To your decision, however, the grounds of this conclusion are submitted.
But that saying of my opponent claims some attention; namely, " In the Spirit, we have the witness of God by miraculous powers, testifying that he hath given us eternal life, through Jesus Christ his Son." To me, his words seem to be involved in a great degree of ambiguity. I am at a
loss to know, whether he means by the word " Spirit," the Father himself, or, only his operation. The gentleman's scheme, certainly forbids us to believe that he means by the Spirit, a Divine Person, distinct from the Father. If by the Spirit, he means merely a divine operation, then there can be no distinction between the Spirit and "miraculous powers:" but, if by the Spirit be meant the Father, then Jesus Christ is the Spirit's son; and christians are baptized in the name of the Father, and in the name of the Son, and again in the name of the Father; that is, twice in the name of God, and once in the name of a mere creature. This is a great incumbrance to the Anti-Trinitarian system; and it makes them appear to as great a disadvantage in our view, as we can possibly appear in their's by not producing a text, which they will acknowledge to express the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity.
My opponent speaks of “water baptism," as a way "in which men profess faith in the divine mission" of Christ; but, surely, this is as unscriptural language as the expression Trinity in Unity. But the gentleman has probably adopted the phraseology, to escape saying, "in which men profess faith in his" blood. The latter, however, is certainly the most Scriptural manner of expressing the object of a christian's faith.
His observations on the Lord's supper, accord strictly with his views of baptism. The administration of these ceremonies, as he calls them, he considers as "the witness of men," in distinction from "miraculous powers," which he views as "the witness of God." But my learned antagonist, is certainly under a great mistake in this case ; for there is no human testimony mentioned by St. John, as bearing witness to the facts which he has mentioned. The Spirit is certainly not a human witness; and neither are "the water and the blood." The whole account is the
witness of God, whether we include or exclude the text in debate. Those who wish to be farther satisfied on this point, are referred to Dr. Scott's exposition of the 9th verse, from which, undoubtedly, my opponent has formed this opinion.
But in the view of my opponent's Greek arguments, I will mention an observation made on Anti-Trinitarian writers, by Mr. Blackwall, in his sacred classics, Part 2. Chap. 5. He says; They outrage the sacred writers in a double capacity: first, they debase their sense as theologists and commentators, and then carp at, and vilify their language as grammarians and critics." That ingenious and pious divine, Dr. A. Fuller, says; "They are obliged, on almost every occasion, to have recourse to interpolation, or mistranslation; and are driven to disown the apostolic reasonings as a proper test of religious sentiment." He adds "When they have mangled and altered the translation to their own minds; informing us, that a term may be rendered so―and such a passage should be pointed so-and so on-they seem to expect that their opponents shall quote the Scriptures accordingly; and, if they do not, are very liberal in insinuating, that their design is to impose upon the vulgar. But, though it be admitted, that every translation must needs have its imperfections, and that these imperfections ought to be corrected by fair and impartial criticism; yet, where alterations are made by those who have an end to answer by them, they ought always to be suspected, and will be so by thinking and impartial people." See Fuller's Letters, page 252.
But, on the internal character of 1 John 5. 7, my opponent observes," that the manuscripts, versions, and quotations of this passage vary very much in their language— some of them omitting the word Holy before Spirit-` some quotations having it "these three are one God," which
is the reading of no manuscript or version whatever-and some manuscrips and versions have it "these three agree one." Some omit the last clause of verse 8th and attach it to verse 7th, which is the case with Cardinal Zimminies's complutension polyclot, on which so much dependence is placed by the advocates for the genuineness of the passage. Now this diversity, in so singular a passage, ingenders a strong presumption, that it has been tampered with, by more hands than one; and, that different forgers, have been at variance with respect to the best method of wording the interpolation. Had it been written by St. John, as we have it in our Bibles, it would have been in every man's memory and mouth; and quotations, versions and manuscripts, would have been as much one, as the heavenly witnesses are said to be."
To this, I reply;-If different manuscripts and versions, disagree in reading, in respect to this text, then, something of it is to be found in them. The gentleman in opposition, has more than insinuated, that almost all the ancient manuscripts and versions of Scripture, are without any thing of the text in dispute. He says, however, the word "Holy," is omitted in "some of them" before "Spirit ;" and, therefore, in such manuscripts and versions the text is entire, with the exception of one word. In others, he says, "we have it," "these three agree in one:" and, therefore, in them, the text is entire, with the exception of the word in, and the addition of two letters, making are to be the word agree. He acknowledges likewise, that the greater part of the text is to be found in the complutension polyclot of Cardinal Zimmenies. In that my opponent says, "the latter clause of verse 8th, is omitted, and attached to the 7th verse and, therefore, the text in dispute reads, "there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three agree in one."