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The Holy Ghost in the first three, and the Spirit in the second three, may be the same, only referring to different testimonies or evidences of the truth. In the first three, the Spirit is connected with two Persons ; in the last three, it is connected with two objects which are not Persons.
Its connexion, therefore, leaves the matter of personality wholly undetermined; for the evidence resulting from connexion is perfectly equal for and against the supposition.
If you shall ask, How can the Holy Ghost be said to bear witness, unless it be a Person? It may be asked, How can the Water and the Blood bear witness, unless they are Persons ? And both questions may be answered in this manner_They bear witness in the same sense that the works of Christ bore witness that he was the Son of God, and sent of the Father. “ The same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.” We know that actions and facts speak as loud as words, and are as proper evidence for the support of truth.
It will further be observed, that, respecting the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, it is said these three are
But it is not said that these three are one Being or one God. Nor is any such idea naturally implied or suggested. How then are they one? They are one, as any three witnesses, whether persons or things, are one, which unite in bearing testimony to the same truth.
The observations already made may be sufficient to show that this text contains nothing in favor of the supposition of three self-existent Persons in one God, and nothing against the theory which I have adopted. It may, however, be useful to make some further remarks.
*If the two verses, which have been under consideration, were written by John, the truth of which is very willingly admitted, the object of the Apostle in them was, to show what abundant evidence had been given for the confirmation of these truths, viz. That Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God: that “God has given to us eternal life, and that this life is in his Son." This will clearly appear to any judicious person, who will be at the pains of examining the connexion, beginning with the 4th verse and ending with the 11th. After having mentioned the three that bear record in heaven, and the three that bear witness in earth, the Apostle says in the 11th verse,“And this is the record,” that is, the thing testified by these witnesses, “This is the
record, that God hath given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son."
The things which have been done in confirmation of these truths, are the things intended by bearing witness or record.
Among all the events which have excited the attention or astonished the minds of angels and men, there are none more extraordinary in their nature, or more interesting in their consequences, than the incarnation, the public ministry, the death and resurrection, of the Son of God. It appears highly important, that events of so extraordinary a nature should be the subjects of prior promises and pre. dictions, that they should be accompanied by signs and wonders, and that some public memorials should be instituted to perpetuate the memory of those events to the end of time.
Accordingly we find that those events were not only the subject of promises, but of numerous and circumstantial predictions, by which a general expectation of the coming of the Messiah was excited. His birth was announced not only by the appearance of a supernatural Star, but by Angelic Envoys from the Court of Heaven. According to prophecy, John the Baptist came." to prepare the way of the Lord,” by preaching and administering the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. He understood his business as the Herald of the Lord. A token was given him beforehand, by which he was to know the Son of God when he should come to be baptized, or inaugurated as the Teacher sent from Heaven. At length the Savior came to John to be baptized. And after his baptism, in answer to his prayer, the Heaven was opened, and “ the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from Heaven which said, THOU ART MY BELOVED Son, in thee I am well pleased.” (Luke iii. 22.]
Our Savior, being thus inaugurated, endued, and announced to the world as the Son of God, proceeded to the work of his public ministry. In the course of his ministry, he abundantly testified with his own lips, that he was the Son of God, that he was sent into the world by the Father to save sinners. In support of such declarations, he wrought innumerable miracles by the Holy SPIRIT which he had received of the Father.
As a farther confirmation of these truths, while he was on a mountain with Peter, James, and John, he was transfigured before them, and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And behold, there
appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. And a bright cloud overshadowed them; and behold, a voice out of the cloud, which said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased ; hear ye him."
Moreover, at the time of his crucifixion, farther evidence was given, by supernatural tokens, that he was the Son of God“ Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour." While the inhuman rabble were insulting him, and calling on him for some miracle to prove that he was the Son of God, Jesus cried with a loud voice, “ My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" And as he expired, behold the vail of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent, and the graves of the dead were opened. Such events produced conviction in the minds of the Centurion and others with him--they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God.”
As Christ had not only foretold his death, but also his resurrection from the dead, this event was necessary to confirm the truth that he was the Son of God. Accordingly he was “ declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” And after he, through the Holy Ghost, had given commandment to the Apostles, while they beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight.
Thus, Sir, it is conceived, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, have testified to confirm the truth, that Jesus is the Son of God, that God has given to us eternal life, and that this life is in his Son. And these three are one, as the several modes of testifying all unite to prove the selfsame truths.
In the passage under consideration, there is a difficulty resulting from the distinction of heaven and earth, which it may now be proper to note. The testimony in both cases seems to have been given to men on earth : the first triad is represented as bearing record in heaven and the other in earth. This difficulty you will perceive is not peculiar to my views of the Trinity; it is equally a
difficulty on your theory. You will not understand me as expressing my views with great confidence in this case, but only as stating what appears to me most probable.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Mosaic state of the church appears to be called heaven, ch. xii. verse 26. The Apostle was aiming to prove to the Hebrews the abolition of the Mosaic rituals, by the coming and death of the Son of God. For this purpose he quoted a prophecy, “ Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven." Upon which he observes, “ And this word yet once more signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken," &c.
The word heaven is here evidently used in reference to that external state or order of the church which was established by the ministry of Moses. That state was to be shaken and removed by the coming and death of the Son of God. And if we may suppose that John used the word heaven in the same sense, will it not solve the difficulty, and afford us a proper dividing line, as to time, between the testifying of the first three and the second three? What has already been brought into view of the testifying of the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, was during the Mosaic state of the church, and ended with the abolition of the Mosaic rites. These were the things which were concomitant with Christ's residence on earth, and necessary, at that period, to prove that he was the Son of God, and had been sent into the world by God for the redemption of sinners. But when Christ had finished the work which he was sent to do in this world, he ascended to glory, and sat down on the right hand of God. The door was then open for the spread of the Gospel throughout all the earth, and from that period the second triad of witnesses may be supposed to bear witness.
The Father no more announces with an audible voice from heaven, “This is my beloved Son." The Son no more goes about personally announcing his own character. But the Spirit of God still continues to testify, and was one of the second triad, as well as of the first. As this had been given without measure to Christ, as a testimony that he was the Son of God; so it was given to the Apostles by measure, to prove the same thing ; and to prove, also, that they were as really sent by Christ as He had been sent by the Father. And thus having the Spirit of God to perform miracles, the Apostles were enabled to produce conviction
of the truth and reality of the things which they testified concerning Jesus. And thus they were prepared to extend the Gospel, and the church of God, among the heathen nations. And not only was the Holy Spirit granted for the purpose of miracles, but to convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment ; and to extend the conquests of the Redeemer over the hearts of men, and to enlarge his Kingdom in the world. Miracles have, indeed, ceased to be common in the church ; but the Holy Spirit has, in other respects, been granted to the church from age to age ; and by it, the church is continued and kept alive ; and will be so to the end of the world. And what is done by the Spirit from age to age, is of the nature of a testimony that " Jesus is the Son of God,” “ that God has given to us eternal life, and that this life is in his Son."
But what are intended by the other two witnesses, the Water and the Blood ?
In the verse immediately preceding those under consideration, John said of the Son of God, “ This is he that came by WATER and BLOOD ," not by Water only, but by WATER and BLOOD. By the Blood, in this instance, is undoubtedly intended his sufferings and death. And by Water, may be intended the baptism of John, by which the
way of the Lord was prepared, and by which Christ was solemnly inaugurated as the Great High Priest, and the Envoy of Heaven to a sinful world.
On this important occasion we have noted, that two extraordinary events took place to confirm the truth that he was the Son of God-The voice from heaven, and the descent of the Spirit of God.
By the Water and the Blood which bear witness, we may then naturally understand the two sacraments of the New Testament, BAPTISM and the Lord's SUPPER; the one as a memorial that the Son of God came by Water, and the other as a memorial that he came by BLOOD; or, in other words, the one as a memorial of the solemn and public inauguration, enduement, and annunciation of the MesSIAH ; and the other as a memorial of HIS DEATH, with the concomitant events, by which it was evinced that he was the Son of God and the Savior of the world.
Monuments or institutions, as memorials of extraordinary events, are properly of the nature of witnesses, and are so · considered in the Scripture ; and they may be as properly