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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
I have an opportunity, my hearers, of proceeding with my reply to the discourse which was delivered in this house in opposition to my sermons on this text. At our last meeting, an answer was given to the arguments of my opponent, on the internal evidence of its spuriousness.
It must be acknowledged, that much depends on the internal character of the passage in dispute. If it could be proved that it is in itself an absurdity, or, that it contains a doctrine at variance with the established principles of the Scriptures; no historical testimony against it would be necessary to silence its voice. On the contrary, if no solid argument appears against it in these respects, powerful historical evidence must be required, to condemn it as a spurious text in the view of impartial people. I must be allowed to think, that there is a conviction in your minds, that the purity of its internal character has been amply supported, in opposition to all the objections of my ingenious and ardent opponent.
Under this impression, I shall proceed to an examination of his historical testimony against the divine authority of the text in debate. The gentleman seems to proceed with admirable courage and alacrity in laying that before us. He goes on to say;—
"In proving the spuriousness of this passage, it falls to our lot to show, that it could not have been in the autograph of St. John-i. e. to prove a negative. Much is said, by the advocates of this passage, to degrade what is styled negative evidence. But it is the only evidence by which any notorious and universally admitted interpolation can be proved to be such; and is often as convincing, as satisfactory and certain, as any positive proof whatever. The absence of a person from the place where he must be, if alive, is absolute proof of his death; and to show and to prove a negative in the case, viz. that he is not in that place, is as substantial and irresistible evidence, as it would be to exhibit his lifeless body in the tomb."
It appears to be the leading object of my opponent, in what has now been stated, to convince us, that negative proof is sufficient to silence the text in question. If this kind of evidence were opposed by no positive proof to the contrary, it is readily granted that it would be sufficient. If, when Erasmus, in the fifteenth century, called the authenticity of the text in question, no account could be found of it in any manuscript, or version of the Scriptures; nor any quotations of it in the writings of the ancient fathers of the Christian church; the evidence would be irresistible, that it must have been forged near that very time. But in the historical evidence which was advanced in my third sermon, we have seen that in every century, back to the very first in the Christian era, it has been considered as an inspired passage. But if it could be proved that there was no possibility of erasing it from the ancient manu
scripts, versions and writings of the fathers; nor, of omitting it by transcribers, neither through design nor inadvertence; but, that forging and inserting it in such writings were practicable and easy, then we must conclude, that, as it does not appear in all these places, it must be an interpolation. So, my opponent reasons on the subject; but it is a kind of logic, that I cannot admit as being sound.
He has expressly admitted that it was quoted seven hundred years by the Latin authors, and two hundred years by the Greek writers, before it was questioned by Erasmus as being a spurious text. He says, "the passage of the heavenly witnesses is not quoted by any Greek writer before the thirteenth century, nor by any Latin writer earlier than the eighth." It is, however, very surprising, that a notorious and now universally admitted interpolation, should have been quoted in the christian world through a period of seven hundred years, without one faithful witness to oppose the iniquity!
unless they found it in Without any doubt,
In the eighth century, the art of printing was unknown; and therefore, all the copies of the scriptures then existing were written with the pen. Surely, no writers would have quoted the text in debate, some of the sacred manuscripts. there were many manuscripts of scripture existing then far more ancient than any that are now in being. As my opponent allows, that the text was then quoted by the Latin writers, it is a strong evidence of its authenticity.
But if it should be said, that the text must have been forged in the eigth century, and that there were no AntiTrinitarians between that and the fifteenth, to announce the forgery to the world; we may reply, that such people have, no doubt, existed in every age. We have an account of a famous Italian father, called Joachim, who was tried for Arian sentiments in the beginning of the thir
teenth century; and 1 John 5. 7, was exhibited against. him, in a general council, of 1200 ministers, "and an equal number of deputies." See page 45.
It may be asked, why did not that learned man inform his judges, that the text on which their main reliance was placed, was "a vile interpolation," and never taken from the autograph of St. John? This ground would, undoubtedly, have been taken by him, if he had thought himself able to maintain it, before that extensive and learned body. This we see he did not attempt.
If that kind of evidence, contended for by my opponent, were complete, I have no special objection to its admission. But that is not the fact. That this text, has been "absent from every place, where it must be if alive, from the fifteenth century, up to the first, has never been proved; but the reverse has been amply supported.
After stating and illustrating the power of negative evidence, the gentleman goes on to observe :-"The true state of the case is this: If the passage was actually written by St. John, it would undoubtedly be found in the best and most ancient Greek manuscripts; that we should certainly find it in the great majority of them; that it would appear in the different translations made near the days of the Apostles; that it should be quoted by the fathers in their controversies with the Anti-Trinitarians, and must certainly be found in their works, particularly in the writings of Athanasius, who was the great champion of the Trinitarian cause in the early part of the' fourth century." My opponent goes on to say, "The burden of proof, the laboring oar, belongs wholly to those who would impose a passage as genuine, the word of a sacred penman; and it must be proved by positive evidence, competent evidence, sufficient evidence; such evidence as reaches back, in its testimony, to the Apostolic age.
This is particularly necessary in the case of a contested passage, and still more so of so singular a passage; one pertaining to a vastly interesting subject, which has been the grand theme of violent dispute from the very early ages of the church to the present period."
The above statement is an abridgment of nearly three pages of my opponent's discourse. In condensing, however, I have taken great care to preserve the strength of his arguments; to which I shall now reply. His first position is, "If this passage was actually written by St. John, it would undoubtedly be found in the best and most ancient Greek manuscripts."
What he would consider as the best Greek manuscripts, I cannot tell; unless he means such ones as have the least in them relating to the Trinity, and its kindred doctrines. I am very willing to admit, that the age of manuscripts is of great importance. But, to meet the point, I would observe, the gentleman's argument appears to be this: If 1 John v. 7, were a genuine text, "it would be found in the most ancient Greek manuscripts." The Alexandrian and Vatican manuscripts are the most ancient; the text in dispute is not found in them; therefore, it is spurious. If the most ancient manuscripts included the autograph of St. John, his argument would be invincible. That, however, with many others which have been transcribed from it, are lost in the revolution of time. The Alexandrian manuscript, which is written in the Greek character, is allowed to be the oldest in the world ; but Wetstein admits that it is of no higher antiquity than the close of the 5th century. He has given great attention to the subject; and as that manuscript does not contain the text in debate, he, being an Anti-Trinitarian, would readily allow it all the credit it could derive from age or any other circumstance. But, as the want of the text in