« PreviousContinue »
deny but it is usual with all writers to use terms and phrases by way of accommodation, and to illustrate their sense by alluding to something that is like it; and therefore are not always to be understood in the sense which those terms and phrases do most commonly signify, but in a sense that hath some proportion with it, as the drift and connection of their discourse doth plainly intimate. But when writers use words in a literal sense, without any note of allusion, and without explaining themselves into any different sense, either they must mean the same thing which those words do commonly signify, or else they must mean to deceive and impose upon their readers. And thus stands the case before us; our Saviour is here styled the Word, a term of art which was very common both in the Jewish and Gentile philosophy; and neither here nor any where else is there the least intimation that he is called so only by way of allusion; nor is it in all the New Testament explained into any other sense than that wherein it was commonly used; and therefore the intent of the sacred writers in using it must be either to denote the same thing which it signified before, or to deceive and impose upon the world. But doubtless if the Holy Spirit, which inspired those writers, had meant any thing else by it than what it ordinarily signifies, he would have told us of it, and not have given us such an unavoidable occasion to mistake in so great a doctrine, by clothing its sense in such a phrase as generally signifies what he never meant. For when he called Christ by the same name, and attributed the same titles and characters by which the Jews and Gentiles were wont to describe their byos, he could not but foresee that all inquisitive persons would be apt to conclude that he meant the same thing; and therefore, if he had not meant so, he would doubtless either not have given him that name and those titles, or else, to prevent our being imposed upon by them, he would have explained them into some other meaning; which since he hath not done, we may safely and rationally conclude, that he hath meant the same thing, by this name and those titles, with those from whom he did derive them; and consequently that the most certain way for us to understand what is the sense of Christ's being the Word, is to consider what those Jews and Gentiles meant by it, from whose philosophy it was first borrowed and derived.
3. That both the Jewish and Gentile theology used this phrase, the Word, to signify a vital and divine subsistence. For as for the Jews, it is plain that by the Word they meant the Messias; and therefore, Psalm cx. which they say contains the mysteries of the Messias, the Chaldee Paraphrase, instead of The Lord said unto my Lord, read, Tho Lord said unto his Word, that is, consequently, to his Messias. And Rab. Arama upon Genesis, explaining that passage in Psalm cvii. 20. The Lord sent forth his word, and they were healed, expressly tells us, that by this Word is meant the Messias. And Rab. Simeon, the son of Johni, expounding those words of Job xix. 26. yet in my flesh shall I see God, saith, that the mercy which proceeds from the highest wisdom of God shall be crowned by the Word, and take flesh of a woman; by which it is plain, that by the Word he understood the Messias. And that by the Messias they understood a divine subsistence, is evident from sundry places in the Chaldee Paraphrase, which often applies the name Jehovah to the Messias ; which, according to the opinion of the Jews, ought not to be imparted to any creature; as particularly Isai. xxvii. 5. Jehovah Sabbaoth (for so it is in the Hebrew) shall be a crown of glory unto the residue of his people ; which those interpreters understand concerning the Messias. So also Isai. xviii. 7. In that time shall the present be brought unto the Lord of hosts ; that is, say they, unto the Messias. So also, Jeremiah xxxii. 16. by Jehovah our righteousness, they understand the Messias ; and by the name of the Everlasting, Moses Hadersan understands the name of the Messias, or anointed King. And certainly, had they not believed the Messias to be a divine subsistence, they would never have attributed to him this incommunicable name of God; of which they had so high a veneration, that they thought it too sacred for
any creature to name, and much more to assume. And the commentary upon the fourth Psalm expressly saith, “ Because the Gentiles cease not to ask
us, Where is our God, the time will come that God “ will sit among the righteous, so as they shall be “ able to point him out with the finger;" which plainly refers to the coming of the Messias. And so also the Septuagint change Shaddai, the undoubted name of the omnipotent God, into Móyos, the Word, Ezek. i. 24. where, instead of the voice of God, (as it is in the Hebrew,) they read par toũ Máyou, “ the voice of “ the Word of God." And so also the aforenamed Paraphrase, as I have already hinted, doth often use the Word of God for God himself, and that more especially with relation to the creation of the world.
Thus instead of I made the earth, Isai. xlv. 12. they read it, I by my Word made the earth : and instead of God made man, Gen. i. 27. the Jerusalem Targum reads, And the Word of the Lord made man : and instead of They heard the voice of the Lord, Gen. iü. 8. the Paraphrase reads it, And they heard the voice of the Word of the Lord God. And Philo expressly calls this Word the dettepov @còv, or second God, next to the tatépa Tūv návrov.
And as the Jews believed the Word to be a divine subsistence, so did the Gentiles also. For so Numenius the Pythagorean, as he is quoted by St. Cyril, calls the Father the first, and the Word the second God; and Plotin tells us“, “ that this Word, “or image of God, beholdeth God, and is inseparably
joined with him ;” and Porphyry, as he is cited by the forenamed father, tells us, that “the es
sence of God extends to three in-beings, viz. the
highest good, which is the Father; and the maker “ of all things, which is the Word ; and the Soul of “ the world;" and these he also calls the first, and second, and third God. And of Pythagoras Proclus the Platonist affirms, “ that he commended three “ Gods together in One, (even as Plato also doth,) the “ second of which was the Word, or wisdom, where« unto he attributes the creation of the world.” And Plato, in his sixth epistle, so far owns the divinity of the Word, that he earnestly exhorts his friends that they should υπομνύειν τον των πάντων Θεόν ηγεμόνα τωντε όντων και των μελλόντων, τούτε ηγεμόνος και αιτίου παTépa kúplov; that is, “ invocate God the Governor of
Cyril. cont. Julian. I. viii.
• Cyril. ibid. I. i.
“ all things that are and shall be, and also the Lord “ and Father of that prince and governor;” by the first of which he evidently means the Word, since it is to the Word that he elsewhere f attributes the government of the stars and heavenly bodies. By all which it is apparent, that by the Word they understood some divine subsistence, whose nature is exalted above all finite beings whatsoever ; and therefore,
4. And lastly, Our Saviour, to whom this phrase, the Word, is applied, must be that divine Person or subsistence. And so we find him styled in the first verse of this chapter; In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Which expressions are so exactly agreeable to the phrase of the Gentile theology, that Amelius, the disciple of Plotin, and a great enemy to the Christians, was forced to acknowledge that this is that Word which was from everlasting, and by whom all things were made, as Heraclitus supposed: and, Per Jovem, saith he, barbarus iste, meaning St. John, cum nostro Platone consentit, Verbum Dei in ordine principii esse 8. “ This bar“ barian is of our Plato's mind, that the Word of “ God is ranked among the principles.” And indeed, unless we understand this place of the eternal Deity of the Word, I know not how it will be possible to make any tolerable sense of it; for if by In the beginning here, we understand, as the Socinians would have us, In the beginning of the gospel, when John Baptist began to preach, the words will imply a gross tautology, and the sense of them must be this ; that
8 St. Austin. de Civit. Dei, I. X.