« PreviousContinue »
the creation of the world, there was Reason, for Reason was then in God, yea God himself, since God cannot be without Reason. 2. The same was in the beginning with God.' 2. There was, I say, Reason in God, before the world was created. 3. 'All things were made by it, and without it was not any thing made that was made.' 3. For every thing in the world was made with the highest Reason ; nor can any one thing be produced that was created without Reason. 4. In it was life, and this life was the light of men.' 4. Formerly there was lodged only in this Reason, a full and complete knowledge of the way that leads to cternal life, and this knowledge wanted only to be communicated to men, to be a clear and sufficient light to guide them in their pursuit after that life.
56 5. “And the Light shineth in darkness, and the dark. ness comprehendeth it not.' 5. And now that light has been brought down upon earth amongst men, and has shined for many years past upon the way that leads to life; but the greatest part of mankind chuse rather to wander in the darkness of ignorance, than to make use of that light. ô. There was a man sent from God, his name was John.' 7. • The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the light, that all men through him might believe.' 6, 7, John, the son of Zacharias, was sent by God to the Jews, to show them in whom that light resided, and by bearing witness to bim openly, to induce them to believe on him. 8. He was not the light, but was sent to bear witness of the Light.' 8. But John had not this Light in himself, nor was it the end of his coming, to make men partakers of that light; but only by his testimony to procure credit and authority to him who had that light among the Jews. 9. That Light was the true light, which came into the world, and enlighteneth every man.' and no other, resided this light, which in the most ex. cellent sense deserves only to be so called, and which now shines among men ; so that every one who will but follow this light, may be sure of being brought to eternal life. 10. “Reason was in the world, and the world was nade by it, but the world knew it not.' 10. And he in whom that light was, conversed for some time among men; but they, notwithstanding their having been created by the Divine Reason which dwelt in that man, did not distinguish him from false tcachers. 11. 'It came to its own, but its
In that man,
own received it not.' 11. Nay he lived among those who alone were called the people and children of God, and yet they did not know the doctrine of their God. 12. But to as many has received it, it gave power to become the Sons of God, even to them that believe on its name.' 12. But all that embraced his divine doctrines, became, in consequence the people of God, and were received, although they were not Jews, into the number of his children. 13. Who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.'. 13. Though they were not Jews by birth, nor by marriage, nor proselytes, yet God was pleased freely to honour them with that title. 14.
And that Reason was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld its glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.' That Reason which I before spake of, and asserted to have been with God from the beginning, yea to have been God himself, and in which was life and the light of men, did not always, as I said, conceal itself from us; but by the man in whom it was, became conspicuous, and dwelt for some time among us. We saw the majesty of the Divine Reason which was never before beheld, discovering itself in that man, as it became him who is the Son of God, not in that manner that we are, but in a manner peculiar and proper to himself alone. That Eternal Reason made itself visible and mani. fest to us in him, and shewed itself merciful and gracious
Another ingenious writer, and strenuous advocate for the divine unity, paraphrases these verses in the following man.
66 The Greek term which we have translated the word, does also signify reason, intelligence, wisdom. This makes much better sense than the other, since it is more suitable to the divine nature, which is purely spiritual, and to which speech cannot be properly applied. This being set. tled, the intention of St. John, in my opinion, is to inform us, that the same Wisdom which at first formed the natural world of creatures with such admirable art, has been equally conspicuous in the new or moral world. This thought is truly noble, and conveys a sublime idea of the gospel. To make it appear in its full lustre, let us attend minutely to the language of the evangelist.
* Le Clerc in locoa
"In the beginning was the Word,' that is, there is an eternal intelligence, a sovereign wisdom, which has existed before all time.
• And the Word was with God or in God,' that denotes, that wisdom has always been inseparably united to the Deity, and that it resides in him as its true and only source. This is correspondent to that fine figure in the viii. chapter of Proverbs, where wisdom is intro. duced speaking in this manner. The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way;' that is, I am his most distin. guished ornament, his constant and invariable companion. And lest we should be apt to fall into the erroneous opinion of the pagans, who made this virtue a Minerva, a divine person
different from their chief God, St. John explains his own meaning with the utmost precision, and adds, that Wisdom is not a thing distinct from God himself, the Word
“ After having defined the nature of this wisdom, he proceeds to consider it in its effects. And in order to come at these the more naturally, he repeats his first assertion. (In the beginning then wisdom was with God, and all things were made by her.' The expression is truly energetic, and implies a great deal more than is expressed. God consults his wisdom, and immediately the fabric of creation emerges from chaos. This truth, although of the last importance, was formerly unknown even to the most enlightened philosophers: the greatest part of whom belieyed, that the world existed without a cause, and that all things were made without reason, and by chance. The apostle refutes so capital an error, and declares, that all things were made by reason." Indeed, if ever there was a plan well conceived, if ever there was a work in which art and understanding were displayed, it is undoubtedly, in the structure of the universe. The characters of consummate wisdom are apparent in every part of it. To ascribe so much order to chance, effects so constant and regular to mere caprice, is to associate the most incompatible ideas, and to renounce even reason itself. Sooner might it be supposed that stones falling casually from the top of a rock, should form a handsome edifice at the bottom of it; than that the blind and unintelligent parts of matter should pro. duce, I will not say the universe, but even a single crea. ture such as man,
In vain would you put these atoms in
motion; without the interposition of wisdom nothing but wild confusion would ensue; without her nothing which has been made could have been made.'
We come now to the last period of the word;' and St. John arrives at his principal proposition, and that which he intended as the subject of his history: the word was made flesh.? Before we give the true meaning of it, let us first remove one erroneous idea. Properly speaking, wisdom did not become flesh; the Deity did not transform himself into a man: this is contradictory to all just conceptions of things. How shall we then- understand the phrase; Wisdom was made flesh? We cannot have a better interpreter than St. Paul; who tells us that · God was manifest in the flesh.'* This passage is perfectly parallel with St. John's words, who intended to say nothing else, but that wisdom was entirely manifested; that she became sensible or visible, as it were, in the person of Jeó sus Christ; and that this wisdom appeared in his doctrine, in his discourses, and in every part of his conduct. On this account he is called the image of the invisible God,' because the perfections of the Deity were observed to shine forth in him: and if wisdom discovered herself in the work of creation, it may be affirmed, that she was still more conspicuously displayed by the gospel. She dwelt among us full of grace and truth,' which means, that she was in. cessantly employed in performing benevolent actions to mankind, by illuminating their understandings, and supplying them with every thing necessary to salvation: 'and we beheld her glory, a glory becoming the only begotten of the Father.' This glory appeared in the miracles of Jesus Christ, in his resurrection, and in his ascension into heaven: a glory far surpassing that of Moses and the pro. phets ; but yet no more than was suitable to the dignity of the only son of God, who was produced by his father in a miraculous way, and sent by him with an extraordinary power and authority to men.''
In this manner the Socinians interpret the introduction to St. John's Gospel; and the passage can only be understood in this sense, or in that of the Arians: for the Trinitarian
* 1 Tim. iii. 16.
exposition is in all respects absurd, and evidently contra. ry to the scope and intention of the Evangelist, as well as the general tenor of scripture. We now pass from this subject to the consideration of other objections.
John i. 18. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. The term jovoyevns, only begotten, does not in the smallest manner relate to any supposed eter. nal generation: but either respects the miraculous producţion of Jesus by the power of God; or is equivalent to the term beloved, and well beloved, so often used by the other Evangelists concerning our Lord. Compare with this place of St. John, Matth. iii. 17. xvii. 5. Mark i. 11. ix. 7. Luke iii. 22. ix. 35. 2 Pet. i. 17. In like manner, Heb. xi. 17. Isaac is styled Abraham's only begotten or well be. loved son; although Abraham had other children besides him by Hager and Keturah. The phrase, who is in the bosom of the Father,' may be understood in the same way, viz. that Jesus was the object of the Father's peculiar affec. tion and regard: or it may signify that he alone was aça quainted with the counsels or designs of the Father, and from what follows, he hath declared bim,' this appears to be the true meaning of the place.
John ij. 19. Destroy this teniple and in three days I will raise it up,' &c. Sce this explained, Dis. V. page 68, 69.
John ii. 24, 25. But Jesus did not commit himself un. to them because he knew all men and needed not that any man should testify of man, for he knew what was in man. Our Lord Jesus Christ was made acquainted with the knowledge of the human heart, in consequence of the wisdom and spirit of the Father which dwelt in him
Mat, xi, 27. All things are delivered unto me of my Father.' John iji, 34. God giveih not the Spirit by measure unto him.' John xiy. 10. The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself, &c.' The prophets and apostles possessed the same knowledge on some occasions; thus, Elisha knew
* Mr. Lindsey in his Sequel to his Apology, and in his Catechist has advanced many excellent things in confirmation of the Socinian interpretation of the introductory verses of St. John's Gospel; which highly deserve the attention of every serious and inquisitive Christian,