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An entrance into the examination of the Racovian Catechism in the business of the deity of Christ — Their arguments against it answered; and testimonies of the eternity of Christ vindicated.
III. Although the testimonies and arguments for the deity of Christ might be urged and handled to a better advantage, if liberty might be used to insist upon them in the method that seems most natural for the clearing and confirmation of this important truth, yet that I may do two works at once, I shall insist chiefly, if not only on those texts of Scripture which are proposed to be handled and answered by the author or authors of the Racovian Catechism; which work takes up near one-fourth part of their book, and, as it is well known, there is no part of it wherein so much diligence, pains, sophistry, and cunning are employed as in that chapter, “Of the person of Christ,” which by God’s assistance we are entering upon the consideration of.
Those who have considered their writings know that the very substance of all they have to say for the evading of the force of our testimonies for the eternal deity of Christ is comprised in that chapter, there being not any thing material that any of them have elsewhere written there omitted. And those who are acquainted with them, their persons and abilities, do also know that their great strength and ability for disputation lies in giving plausible answers, 206and making exceptions against testimonies, cavilling at every word and letter; being in proof and argument for the most part weak and contemptible. And therefore, in this long chapter, of near a hundred pages, all that themselves propose by way of argument against the deity of Christ is contained in two or three at the most, the residue being wholly taken up with exceptions to so many of the texts of Scripture wherein the deity of Christ is asserted as they have been pleased to take notice of, — a course which themselves are forced to apologize for as unbecoming catechists.286286 Interpres Lect. Prefat. ad Cat. Rac.
I shall, then, the Lord assisting, consider that whole chapter of theirs in both parts of it, — as to what they have to say for themselves, or to plead against the deity of Christ, as also what they bring forth for their defence against the evidence of the light that shineth from the texts whose consideration they propose to themselves, to which many of like sort may be added.
I shall only inform the reader that this is a business quite beyond my first intention in this treatise, to whose undertaking I have been prevailed on by the desires and entreaties of some who knew that I had this other work imposed on me.
Their first question and answer are:—
Ques. Declare now to me what I ought to know concerning Jesus Christ?
Ans. Thou must know that of the things of which thou oughtest to know, some belong to the essence of Christ and some to his office.
Q. What are they which relate to his person?
A. That only that by nature he is a true man, even u the
Scriptures do often witness, amongst others, 1 Tim. ii.
5, 1 Cor. xv.
21; such a one as God of old promised by the prophets, and such
as the creed, commonly called the Apostles’, witnesseth him to be; which,
with us, all Christians embrace.287287 “Rogatum
to velim, ut mihi ca de Jesu Christo exponas, quæ me scire opertest? —
Sciendum tibi est, quædam ad essentiam Jesu Christi, quædam ad illius munus
referri, quæ te scire oportet.
“Quænam ea sunt quæ ad personam ipsius referuntur? — Id solum, quod natura sit homo verus, quemadmodum ea de re crebro Scripturæ sacræ testautur, inter alias, 1 Tim. ii. 5, et 1 Cor. xv. 21; qualem olim Deus per prophetas promiserat, et qualem etiam esse testatur fidei symbolum, quod vulgo Apostolicum vocant, quod nobiscum universi Christiani amplectuntur.”
Ans. That Jesus Christ was a true man, in his nature like unto us, sin only excepted, we believe, and do abhor the abominations of Paracelsus, Wigelius, etc., and the Familists amongst ourselves, who destroy the verity of his human nature. But that the Socinians believe the same, that he is a man in heaven, whatever he was upon earth, I presume the reader will judge that it may be justly questioned, from what I have to offer (and shall do it in its place) on that account. But that this is all that we ought to know concerning the person of Christ is a thing of whose folly and vanity our catechists will be one day convinced. The present trial of it between us depends in part on the consideration of the scriptures 207which shall afterward be produced to evince the contrary, our plea from whence shall not here be anticipated. The places of Scripture they mention prove him to be a true man, — that as man he died and rose; but that he who was man was not also in one person God (the name of man there expressing the person, not the nature of man only) they prove not. The prophets foretold that Christ should be such a man as should also be the Son of God, begotten of him, Ps. ii. 7; “The mighty God,” Isa. ix. 6, 7; “Jehovah,” Jer. xxiii. 6; “The Lord of hosts,” Zech. ii. 8, 9. And the Apostles’ Creed also (as it is unjustly called) confesseth him to be the only Son of God, our Lord, and requires us to believe in him as we do in God the Father; which if he were not God were an accursed thing, Jer. xvii. 5.
Q. Is therefore the Lord Jesus a pure (or mere) man?
A. By no means; for he was conceived of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, and therefore from his very conception and birth was the Son of God, as we read, Luke i. 35, that I may not bring other causes, which thou wilt afterward find in the person of Christ, which most evidently declare that the Lord Jesus can by no means be esteemed a pure (or mere) man.288288 “Ergo Dominus Jesus est purus homo? — Nullo pacto; etenim est conceptus e Spiritu Sancto, natus ex Maria Virgine, eoque ab ipsa conceptione et ortu Filius Dei est, ut ea de re Luc. i. 35 legimus, ubi angelus Mariam ira alloquitur, Spiritus Sanctus superveniet in te, etc., ut alias causas non afferam, quas postmodum in Jesu Christi persona deprehendes, quæ evidentisaime ostendunt Dominum Jesum pro pure homine nullo modo accipi posse.”
Ans. 1. But I have abundantly demonstrated that Christ neither was nor was called the Son of God upon the account here mentioned, nor any other whatever intimated in the close of the answer, but merely and solely on that of his eternal generation of the essence of his Father.
2. The inquiry is after the essence of Christ, which receives not any alteration by any kind of eminency or dignity that belongs to his person. If Christ be by essence only man, let him have what dignity or honour he can have possibly conferred upon him, let him be born by what means soever, as to his essence and nature he is a man still, but a man, and not more than a man, — that is, purus homo, a “mere man,” — and not φύσει Θεός, “God by nature,” but such a god as the Gentiles worshipped, Gal. iv. 8. His being made God and the Son of God afterward, which our catechists pretend, relating to office and dignity, not to his nature, exempts him not at all from being a mere man. This, then, is but a flourish to delude poor simple souls into a belief of their honourable thoughts of Christ, whom yet they think no otherwise of than the Turks do of Mohammed, nor believe he was otherwise indeed, or is to Christians, than as Moses to the Jews That which Paul speaks of the idols of the heathen, that they were not gods by nature, may, according to the apprehension of these catechists, be spoken of Christ; notwithstanding 208any exaltation or deification that he hath received, he is by nature no god. Yea, the apprehensions of these gentlemen concerning Christ and his deity are the same upon the matter with those of the heathen concerning their worthies and heroes, who, by an ἀποθέωσις, were translated into the number of their gods, as Jupiter, Hercules, and others. They called them gods, indeed; but put them close to it, they acknowledged that properly there was but one God, but that these men were honoured as being, upon [account of] their great worth and noble achievements, taken up to blessedness and power. Such an hero, an Hermes or Mercury, do they make of Jesus Christ, who, for his faithful declaring the will of God, was deified; but in respect of essence and nature, which here is inquired after, if he be any thing according to their principles (of making which supposal I shall give the reader a fair account), he was, he is, and will be, a mere man to all eternity, and no more. They allow him no more, as to his essence, than that wherein he was like us in all things, sin only excepted, Heb. ii. 17.
Q. You said a little above that the Lord Jesus is by nature man; hath he also a divine nature?
A. No; for that is not only repugnant to sound reason, but also to the Scriptures.289289 “Dixeras paulo superius Dominum Jesum natura esse hominem; an idem habet naturam divinam? — Nequaquam; nam id non solum rationi sanæ, verum etiam divinis literis repugnat.”
But this is that which is now to be put to the trial, Whether the asserting of the deity of Christ be repugnant to the Scriptures or no. And as we shall see in the issue that as these catechists have not been able to answer or evade the evidence of any one testimony of Scripture, of more than an hundred that are produced for the confirmation of the truth of his eternal deity, so, notwithstanding the pretended flourish here at the entrance, that they are not able ‘to produce any one place of Scripture, so much as in appearance, rising up against it. [As] for that right reason, which in this matter of mere divine revelation they boast of, and give it the pre-eminence in their disputes against the person of Christ above the Scripture, unless they discover the consonancy of it to the word, to the law and testimony, whatever they propose on that account may be rejected with as much facility as it is proposed. But yet, if by “right reason” they understand reason so far captivated to the obedience of faith as to acquiesce in whatever God hath revealed, and to receive it as truth, — than which duty there is not any more eminent dictate of right reason indeed, — we for ever deny the first part of this assertion, and shall now attend to the proof of it. Nor do we here plead that reason is blind and corrupted, and that the natural man cannot discern the things of God, and so require that men do prove themselves 209regenerate before we admit them to judge of the truth of the propositions under debate; which though necessary for them who would know the gospel for their own good, so as to be wise unto salvation, yet it being the grammatical and literal sense of propositions as laid down in the word of the Scripture that we are to judge of in this case, we require no more of men, to the purpose in hand, but an assent to this proposition (which if they will not give, we can by undeniable demonstration compel them to), “Whatever God, who is prima veritas, hath revealed is true, whether we can comprehend the things revealed or no;” which being granted, we proceed with our catechists in their attempt.
Q. Declare how it is contrary to right reason.
A. 1. In this regard, that two substances having contrary properties cannot meet in one person; such as are to be mortal and immortal, to have a beginning and to want a beginning, to be changeable and unchangeable. 2. Because two natures, each of them constituting a person, cannot likewise agree or meet in one person; for instead of one there must (then) be two persons, and so also two Christs would exist, whom all without controversy acknowledge to be one, and his person one.290290 “Cedo qui rationi sanæ repugnat? — Primo, ad eum modum, quod duæ substantiæ, proprietatibus adversæ, coire in unam personam nequeant; ut sunt mortalem et immortalem esse, principium habere et principio carere, mutabilem et immutabilem existere. Deinde, quod dues natures, personam singulæ constituentes, in unam personam convenire itidem nequeant; nam loco unius duas personas esse operteret, atque ita duos Christos existere, quem unum esse, et unam ipsius personam omnes citra omnem controversiam agnoscunt.”
And this is all which these gentlemen offer to make good their assertion that the deity of Christ is repugnant to right reason; which, therefore, upon what small pretence they have done, will quickly appear.
1. It is true that there cannot be such a personal uniting of two substances with such diverse properties as by that union to make an exequation, or an equalling of those diverse properties; but that there may not be such a concurrence and meeting of such different substances in one person, both of them preserving entire to themselves their essential properties, which are so diverse, there is nothing pleaded nor pretended. And to suppose that there cannot be such an union is to beg the thing in question against the evidence of many express testimonies of Scripture, without tendering the least inducement for any to grant their request.
2. In calling these properties of the several natures in Christ “adverse” or “contrary,” they would insinuate a consideration of them as of qualities in a subject, whose mutual contrariety should prove destructive to the one, if not both, or, by a mixture, cause an exurgency of qualities of another temperature. But neither are these properties such qualities, nor are they inherent in any common subject; but [they are] inseparable adjuncts of the different natures of Christ, never 210mixed with one another, nor capable of any such thing to eternity, nor ever becoming properties of the other nature, which they belong not unto, though all of them do denominate the person wherein both the natures do subsist. So that instead of pleading reason, which they pretended they would, they do nothing, in this first part of their answer, but beg the thing in question; which, being of so much importance and concernment to our souls, is never like to be granted them on any such terms. Will Christ, on their entreaties, cease to be God?
Neither is their second pretended argument of any other kind.
1. We deny that the human nature of Christ had any such subsistence of its own as to give it a proper personality, being from the time of its conception assumed into subsistence with the Son of God. This we prove by express texts of Scripture, Isa. vii. 14, ix. 6; John i. 14; Rom. i. 3, ix. 5; Heb. ii. 16; Luke i. 35; Heb. ix. 14; Acts iii. 15, xx. 28; Phil. ii. 7; 1 Cor. ii. 8, etc.; and by arguments taken from the assigning of all the diverse properties by them mentioned before, and sundry others, to the same person of Christ, etc. That we would take it for granted that this cannot be, is the modest request of these gentlemen with whom we have to do.
2. If by natures constituting persons they mean those who, antecedently to their union, have actually done so, we grant they cannot meet in one person, so that upon this union they should cease to be two persons. The personality of either of them being destroyed, their different beings could not be preserved. But if by “constituting” they understand only that which is so in potentia, or a next possibility of constituting a person, then, as before, they only beg of us that we would not believe that the person of the Word did assume the human nature of Christ, that “holy thing that was born of the Virgin,” into subsistence with itself; which, for the reasons before mentioned, and others like to them, we cannot grant.
And this is the substance of all that these men plead and make a noise with in the world, in an opposition to the eternal deity of the Son of God! This pretence of reason (which evidently comes short of being any thing else) is their shield and buckler in the cause they have unhappily undertaken. When they tell us of Christ’s being hungry and dying, we say it was in the human nature, wherein he was obnoxious to such things no less than we, being therein made like unto us in all things, sin only excepted; — when of his submission and subjection to his Father, we tell them it is in respect of the office of mediator, which he willingly undertook, and that his inequality unto him as to that office doth no way prejudice his equality with him in respect of his nature and being. But when, with the Scriptures and arguments from thence, as clear and convincing as if they were written with the beams of the sun, we prove our dear Lord 211Jesus, in respect of a divine nature, whereof he was partaker from eternity, to be God, blessed for ever, they tell us it cannot be that two such diverse natures as those of God and man should be united in one person; and it cannot be so, because it cannot be so, — there is no such union among other things! And these things must be, that those who axe approved may be tried. But let us hear them out.
Q. But whereas they show that Christ consisteth of a divine and human nature, as a man consisteth of soul and body, what is to be answered them?
A. That here is a very great difference; for they say that the two natures in Christ are so united that Christ is both God and man. But the soul and body are in that manner conjoined in man, that a man is neither soul nor body; for neither soul nor body doth singly of itself constitute a person. But as the divine nature by itself constitutes a person, so it is necessary that the human nature should do.291291 “Cum vero illi ostendunt, Christum sic ex natura divina et humana constare, quemadmodum homo ex animo et corpore constet, quid illis respondendum? — Permagnum hic esse discrimen; illi enim aiunt, duas naturas in Christo ita unitas esse, ut Christus sit Deus et homo. Anima vero et corpus ad eum modum in homine conjuneta sunt, ut nec anima nec corpus ipse homo sit, nec enim anima nec corpus sigillatim personam constituunt. At ut natura divina per se constituit personam, ita humana constituat per se necesse est.”
Ans. 1. In what sense it may be said that Christ, that is, the person of Christ, consisteth of a divine and human nature, was before declared. The person of the Son of God assumed the human nature into subsistence with itself, and both in that one person are Christ.
2. If our catechists have no more to say, to the illustration given of the union of the two natures in the person of Christ by that of the soul and body in one human person, but that there is “a great difference” in something between them, they do but filch away the grains that are allowed to every similitude, and show wherein the comparates differ, but answer not to that wherein they do agree.
3. All that is intended by this similitude is, to show that besides the change of things, one into another, by the loss of one, as of water into wine by Christ, and besides the union that is in physical generation by mixture, whereby and from whence some third thing ariseth, that also there is a substantial union, whereby one thing is not turned into another nor mixed with it. And the end of using this similitude (which, to please our catechists, we can forbear, acknowledging that there is not among created beings any thing that can fully represent this, which we confess “without controversy to be a great mystery”) is only to manifest the folly of that assertion of their master on John i., “That if the ‘Word be made flesh’ in our sense, it must be turned into flesh; for,” saith he, “one thing cannot be made another but by change, conversion, and mutation into it:” the absurdity of which assertion is sufficiently evinced by the substantial union of soul and body, made one person, without that alteration 212and change of their natures which is pleaded for. Neither is the Word made flesh by alteration, but by union.
4. It is confessed that the soul is not said to be made the body, nor the body said to be made the soul, as the Word is said to be made flesh; for the union of soul and body is not a union of distinct substances subsisting in one common subsistence, but a union of two parts of one nature, whereof the one is the form of the other. And herein is the dissimilitude of that similitude. Hence will that predication be justified in Christ, “The Word was made flesh,” without any change or alteration, because of that subsistence whereunto the flesh or human nature of Christ was assumed, which is common to them both. And so it is in accidental predications. When we say a man is made white, black, or pale, we do not intend that he is as to his substance changed into whiteness, etc., but that he who is a man is also become white.
5. It is true that the soul is not a person, nor the body, but a person is the exurgency of their conjunction: and therefore we do not say that herein the similitude is [to be] urged, for the divine nature of Christ had its own personality antecedent to this union; nor is the union of his person the union of several parts of the same nature, but the concurrence of several natures in one subsistence.
6. That it is “of necessity that Christ’s human nature should of itself constitute a person,” is urged upon the old account of begging the thing in question. This is that which in the case of Christ we deny, and produce all the proofs before mentioned to make evident the reason of our denial; but our great masters here say the contrary, and our under-catechists are resolved to believe them. Christ was a true man, because he had the true essence of a man, soul and body, with all their essential properties. A peculiar personality belongeth not to the essence of a man, but to his existence in such a manner. Neither do we deny Christ to have a person as a man, but to have a human person: for the human nature of Christ subsisteth in that which, though it be in itself divine, yet as to that act of sustentation which it gives the human nature, is the subsistence of a man; on which account the subsistence of the human nature of Christ is made more noble and excellent than that of any other man whatever.
And this is the whole plea of our catechists from reason, that whereto they so much pretend, and which they give the pre-eminence unto in their attempts against the deity of Christ, as the chief, if not the only engine they have to work by. And if they be thus weak in the main body of their forces, certainly that reserve which they pretend from Scripture, — whereof, indeed, they have the meanest pretence and show that ever any of the sons of men had who were necessitated to make a plea from it in a matter of so great concernment as that now under consideration, — will quickly disappear. Thus, then, they proceed:—
213Q. Declare, also, how it is repugnant to Scripture that Christ hath a divine nature.
A. First, Because that the Scripture proposeth to us one only God by nature, whom we have above declared to be the Father of Christ. Secondly, The same Scripture testifieth that Jesus Christ was by nature a man, whereby it taketh from him any divine nature. Thirdly, Because whatever divine thing Christ hath, the Scripture plainly teacheth that he had it by a gift of the Father, Matt. xxviii. 18; Phil. ii. 9; 1 Cor. xv. 27; John v. 19, x. 25. Lastly, Because the same Scripture most evidently showing that Jesus Christ did not vindicate and ascribe all his divine works to himself, or to any divine nature of his own, but to his Father, makes it plain that divine nature in Christ was altogether in vain, and would have been without any cause.292292 “Doce etiam, qui id repugnet Scripturæ Christum habere divinam naturam. — Primum, ea ratione, quod Scriptura nobis unum tantum natura Deum proponat, quem superius demonstravimus esse Christi Patrem. Secundo, eadem Scriptura testatur, Jesum Christum natura esse hominem, ut superius ostensum est; quo ipso illi naturam adimit divinam. Tertio, quod quicquid divinum Christus habeat, Scriptura eum Patris dono habere aperte doceat, Matt. xxviii. 18; Phil. ii. 9; 1 Cor. xv. 27; John v. 19, x. 25. Denique cum eadem Scriptura apertissime ostendat, Jesum Christum omnia sua facta divina non sibi, nec alicui naturæ divinæ suæ, sed Patri suo vindicare solitum fuisse, planum facit, eam divinam in Christo naturam prorsus otiosam, ac sine omni causa futuram fuisse.”
And this is that which our catechists have to pretend from Scripture against the deity of Christ, concluding that any such divine nature in him would be superfluous and needless, — themselves being judges. In the strength of what here they have urged, they set themselves to evade the evidence of near fifty express texts of Scripture, by themselves produced and insisted on, giving undeniable testimony to the truth they oppose. Let, then, what they have brought forth be briefly considered:—
1. The Scripture doth indeed propose unto us “one only God by nature,” and we confess that that only true God is the “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ;” but we say that the Son is partaker of the Father’s nature, of the same nature with him, as being his proper Son, and, by his own testimony, one with him. He is such a Son (as hath been declared) as is begotten of the essence of his Father; and is therefore God, blessed for ever. If the Father be God by nature, so is the Son; for he is of the same nature with the Father.
2. To conclude that Christ is not God because he is man, is plainly and evidently to beg the thing in question. We evidently discover in the person of Christ properties that are inseparable adjuncts of a divine nature, and such also as no less properly belong to a human nature. From the asserting of the one of these to conclude to a denial of the other, is to beg that which they are not able to dig for.
3. There is a twofold communication of the Father to the Son:— (1.) By eternal generation. So the Son receives his personality, and therein his divine nature, from him who said unto him, “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” And this is so far from disproving 214the deity of Christ that it abundantly confirms it. And this is mentioned, John v. 19–23. This Christ hath by nature. (2.) By collation of gifts, honour and dignity, exaltation and glory, upon him as mediator, or in respect of that office which he humbled himself to undergo, and for the full execution whereof and investiture [where] with glory, honour, and power were needful; which is mentioned, Matt. xxviii. 18, Phil. ii. 9, 1 Cor. xv. 27: which is by no means derogatory to the deity of the Son; for inequality in respect of office is well consistent with equality in respect of nature. This Christ hath by grace. Matt. xxviii. 18, Christ speaks of himself as thoroughly furnished with authority for the accomplishing of the work of mediation which he had undertaken. It is of his office, not of his nature or essence, that he speaks. Phil. ii. 9, Christ is said to be exalted; which he was in respect of the real exaltation given to his human nature, and the manifestation of the glory of his divine, which he had with his Father before the world was, but had eclipsed for a season. 1 Cor. xv. 27 relates to the same exaltation of Christ as before.
4. It is false that Christ doth not ascribe the divine works which he wrought to himself and his own divine power, although that he often also makes mention of the Father, as by whose appointment he wrought those works, as mediator: John v. 17, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work;” verse 19, “For what things soever the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son;” verse 21, “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.” Himself wrought the works that he did, though as to the end of his working them, which belonged to his office of mediation, he still relates to his Father’s designation and appointment.
And this is the whole of our catechists’ plea from reason and Scripture against the deity of Christ. [As] for the conclusion, of the superfluousness and needlessness of such a divine nature in the Mediator, as it argues them to be ignorant of the Scriptures, and of the righteousness of God, and of the nature of sin, so it might administer occasion to insist upon the demonstration of the necessity which there was that he who was to be mediator between God and man should be both God and man, but that I aim at brevity, and the consideration of it may possibly fall in upon another account, so that here I shall not insist thereon.
Nextly, then, they address themselves to that which is their proper work (wherein they are exceedingly delighted), — namely, in giving in exceptions against the testimonies produced for the confirmation of the truth under consideration, which they thus enter upon:—
Q. But they endeavour to assert the divine nature of Christ from the Scriptures.
A. They endeavour it, indeed, diverse ways; and that whilst they study either to 215evince out of certain scriptures what is not in them, or whilst they argue perversely from those things which are in the scriptures, and so evilly bring their business to pass.293293 “Atqui illi e Scripturis illam divinam in Christo naturam asserere conantur? — Conantur quidem variis modis; idque dum student aut e scripturis quibusdam evincere quæ in iis non habentur, aut dum ex iis quæ in scripturis habentur perperam ratiocinantur, ac male rem suam conficiunt.”
These, it seems, are the general heads of our arguments for the deity of Christ; but before we part we shall bring our catechists to another reckoning, and manifest both that what we assert is expressly contained in the Scriptures, and what we conclude by ratiocination from them hath an evidence in it which they are not able to resist. But they say, —
Q. What are those things which they labour to evince concerning Christ out of the Scriptures, which are not contained in them?
A. Of this sort is, as they speak, his pre-eternity; which they endeavour to confirm with two sorts of scriptures:— 1. Such as wherein they suppose this pre-eternity is expressed; 2. Such as wherein, though it be not expressed, yet they think that it may be gathered from them.294294 “Quæ vero sunt ilia quæ illi de Christo e Scripturis evincere laborant quæ illic non habentur? — Est illius, ut loquuntur, prææternitas, quam duplici scripturarum genere approbare nituntur. Primum ejusmodi est, in quo præ-æternitatem hanc expressam putant. Secundum, in quo licet expressa non sit, earn tamen colligi arbitrantur.”
That we do not only “suppose,” but have also as great an assurance as the plain, evident, and redoubled testimony of the Holy Ghost can give us of the eternity of Jesus Christ, shall be made evident in the ensuing testimonies, both of the one sort and the other, especially by such as are express thereunto; for in this matter we shall very little trouble the reader with collections and arguings, the matter inquired after being express and evident in the words and terms of the Holy Ghost himself. They say, then, —
Q. Which are those testimonies of Scripture which seem to them to express his pre-eternity?
A. They are those in which the Scripture witnesseth of Christ that he was in the beginning, that he was in heaven, that he was before Abraham, John i. 1, vi. 62, viii. 58.295295 “Quænam sunt testimonia Scripturæ quæ videntur ipsis eam præ-æternitatem exprimere? — Sunt ea in quibus Scriptura testatur de Christo, ipsum fuisse in principio, fuisse in cœlo, fuisse ante Abrahamum, Joh. i. 1, vi. 62, viii. 58.”
Before I come to the consideration of the particular places proposed by them to be insisted on, I shall desire to premise one or two things; as, —
1. That it is sufficient for the disproving of their hypothesis concerning Christ if we prove him to have been existent before his incarnation, whether the testimonies whereby we prove it reach expressly to the proof of his eternity or no. That which they have undertaken to maintain is, that Christ had no existence before his conception and birth of the Virgin; — which if it be disproved, they do not, they cannot, deny but that it must be on the account of a 216divine nature; for as to the incarnation of any preexisting creature (which was the Arians’ madness), they disavow and oppose it.
2. That those three places mentioned are very far from being all wherein there is express confirmation of the eternity of Christ; and therefore, when I have gone through the consideration of them, I shall add some others also, which are of no less evidence and perspicuity than those whose vindication we are by them called unto.
To the first place mentioned they thus proceed:—
Q. What dost thou answer to the first?
A. In the place cited there is nothing about that pre-eternity, seeing here is mention of the beginning, which is opposed to eternity. But the word “beginning” is almost always in the Scripture referred to the subject-matter, as may be seen, Dan. viii. 1; John xv. 27, xvi. 4; Acts xi. 15: and therefore, seeing the subject-matter here is the gospel, whose description John undertakes, without doubt, by his word “beginning,” John understood the beginning of the gospel.296296 “Quid vero ad primum respendes? — In loco citato nihil habetur de ista præ-æternitate, cum hic principii mentio fiat, quod præ-æternitati oppenitur. Principii vero vox in Scripturis fere semper ad subjectam refertur materiam, ut videre est, Dan. viii. 1; John xv. 27, xvi. 4; Acts xi. 15: cum igitur hic subjecta sit materia evangelium, cujus descriptionem suscepit Johannes, sine dubio per vocem hanc principii, principium evangelii Johannes intellexit.”
This place being express to our purpose, and the matter of great importance, I shall first confirm the truth contended for from thence, and then remove the miserable subterfuge which our catechists have received from their great apostles, uncle and nephew.
1. That John, thus expressly insisting on the deity of Christ in the beginning of his Gospel, intended to disprove and condemn sundry that were risen up in those days denying it, or asserting the creation or making of the world to another demiurgus, we have the unquestionable testimony of the first professors of the religion of Jesus Christ, with as much evidence and clearness of truth as any thing can be tendered on uncontrolled tradition; which at least will give some insight into the intendment of the Holy Ghost in the words.297297 Iren. adv. Hæres. lib 3 cap. 11; Epiphan. lib. 1 tom. 2 hæres 27, 28, 30, etc., lib. 2 tom. ii. hæres. 69; Theod. Epitom. Hæret. lib. 2; Euseb. Hist. lib. 3 cap. xxvii. ”Causam post alios hæc scribendi præcipuam tradunt omnes (veteres), ut veneno in Ecclesiam jam tam sparso, authoritate sua, quæ apud omnes Christianum nomen profitentes non poterat non esse maxima, medicinam faceret.” — Grot. Præfat. ad Annotat. in Evang. Johan.
2. That by ὁ Λόγος, howsoever rendered, Verbum or Sermo, or on what account soever he be so called, either as being the eternal Word and Wisdom of the Father, or as the great Revealer of his will unto us (which yet of itself is not a sufficient cause of that appellation, for others also reveal the will of God unto us, Acts xx. 27, Heb. i. 1), Jesus Christ is intended, is on all hands confessed, and may be undeniably evinced from the context This ὁ Λόγος came into the world and was rejected by his own, verse 11; yea, expressly, he “was made flesh,” and was “the only-begotten of the Father,” verse 14.
2173. That the whole of our argument from this place is very far from consisting in that expression, “In the beginning,” though that, relating to the matter whereof the apostle treats, doth evidently evince the truth pleaded for. It is part of our catechists’ trade so to divide the words of Scripture that their main import and tendence may not be perceived. In one place they answer to the first words, “In the beginning;” in another, to “He was with God, and he was God;” in a third, to that, “All things were made by him;” in a fourth (all at a great distance one from another), to “The Word was made flesh:” which desperate course of proceeding argues that their cause is also desperate, and that they durst not meet this one testimony, as by the Holy Ghost placed and ordered for the confirmation of our faith, without such a bold mangling of the text as that instanced in.
4. I shall, then, insist upon the whole of this testimony as the words are placed in the contexture by the Holy Ghost, and vindicate them from what, in several places, they have excepted against several parcels of them. Thus, then, from these words (these divine words, whose very reading reclaimed as eminent a scholar as the world enjoyed in his days from atheism298298 “Novum Testamentum divinitus oblatum aperio. Aliud agenti exhibet se mihi aspectu primo augustissimum illud caput Johannis evangelistæ et apostoli, In principio erat Verbum. Lego partem capitis, et ita commoveor legens, ut repente divinitatem argumenti, et scripti majestatem, auctoritatemque senserim, longo intervallo omnibus eloquentiæ humanæ viribus præeuntem. Horrebat corpus, stupebat animus, et totum illum diem sic afiiciebar, ut qui essem, ipsi mihi incertus viderer esse.” — Francisc. Junius.) we proceed.
He that was in the beginning before the creation of the world, before any thing of all things that are made was made, who was then with God, and was God, who made all things, and without whom nothing was made, in whom was life, — he is God by nature, blessed for ever; nor is there, in the whole Scripture, a more glorious and eminent description of God, by his attributes, names, and works, than here is given of him concerning whom all these things are spoken. But now all this is expressly affirmed of the “Word that was made flesh;” that is, confessedly, of Jesus Christ: therefore he is God by nature, blessed for ever. Unto the several parts of this plain and evident testimony, in several places they except several things; thinking thereby to evade that strength and light which each part yields to other as they lie, and all of them to the whole. I shall consider them in order as they come to hand.
Against that expression, “In the beginning,” they except, in the place mentioned above, that it doth not signify pre-eternity, which hath no beginning. But, —
1. This impedes not at all the existence of Jesus Christ before the creation, although it denies that his eternity is expressly asserted. Now, to affirm that Christ did exist before the whole creation, and made all things, doth no less prove him to be no more a creature, 218but the eternal God, than the most express testimony of his eternity doth or can do. 2. Though eternity has no beginning, and the sense of these words cannot be, “In the beginning of eternity,” yet eternity is before all things, and “In the beginning” may be the description of eternity, as it is plainly, Prov. viii. 23. “From everlasting,” and “In the beginning, before the earth was,” are of the same import. And the Scripture saying that “In the beginning the Word was,” not “was made,” doth as evidently express eternity as it doth in these other phrases of, “Before the world was,” or “Before the foundation of the world,” which more than once it insists on, John xvii. 5. 3. By “In the beginning” is intended before the creation of all things. What will it avail our catechists if it do not expressly denote eternity? Why, the word “beginning” is to be interpreted variously, according to the subject-matter spoken of, as Gen. i. 1; which being here the gospel, it is the beginning of the gospel that is intended! But, —
Be it agreed that the word “beginning” is to be understood according to the subject-matter whereunto it is applied, yet that the apostle doth firstly and nextly treat of the gospel, as to the season of its preaching, is most absurd. He treats evidently and professedly of the person of the author of the gospel, of the Word that was God and was made flesh. And that this cannot be wrested to the sense intended is clear; for, — 1. The apostle evidently alludes to the first words of Genesis, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth;” and the Syriac translation from the Hebrew here places בְּרִ שִׁית. So here, “In the beginning the Word made all things.” 2. The following words, “The Word was with God, and the Word was God,” manifest the intendment of the Holy Ghost to be, to declare what and where the Word was before the creation of the world, even with God. 3. The testimony that he was God in the beginning will no way agree with this gloss. Take his being God in their sense, yet they deny that he was God in the beginning of the gospel or before his suffering, as hath been showed. 4. The sense given by the Socinians to this place is indeed senseless. “In the beginning,” say they, “that is, when the gospel began to be preached by John Baptist” (which is plainly said to be before the world was made), “the Word, or the man Jesus Christ” (the Word being afterward said to be made flesh, after this whole description of him as the Word), “was with God, so hidden as that he was known only to God” (which is false, for he was known to his mother, to Joseph, to John Baptist, to Simeon, Anna, and to others), “and the Word was God; that is, God appointed that he should be so afterward, or made God” (though it be said he was God then when he was with God). “And all things were made by him; the new creature was made by him; or the world by his preaching, and teaching, and working miracles, was made, or reformed” (that is, 219something was mended by him). Such interpretations we may at any time be supplied withal at an easy rate. 5. To view it a little farther: “In the beginning, — that is, when John preached Jesus, and said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God,’ — was the Word, or Jesus was;” that is, he was when John preached that he was. “Egregiam vero laudem!” He was when he was! “The Word was in the beginning;” that is, Jesus was flesh and blood, and then was afterward made flesh, and dwelt among us, when he had dwelt amongst us! And this is that interpretation which Faustus Socinus, receiving from his uncle Lælius, first set up upon, in the strength whereof he went forth unto all the abominations which afterward he so studiously vented.
Passing by these two weighty and most material passages of this testimony, “The Word was God,” and “The Word was with God,” the one evidencing his oneness of nature with, and the other his distinctness of personality from, his Father, our catechists, after an interposition of near twenty pages, fix upon verse 3, and attempt to pervert the express words and intendment of it, having cut it off from its dependence on what went before, that evidently gives light into the aim of the Holy Ghost therein. Their words concerning this verse are, —
Q. Declare to me with what testimonies they contend to prove that Christ created the heaven and the earth?
A. With those where it is written, that “by him all things were made, and without him was nothing made that was made,” and “the world was made by him,” John i. 3, 10; as also Col. i. 16; Heb. i. 2, 10–12.
Q. But how dost thou answer to the first testimony?
A. 1. It is not, in the first testimony, they were created, but they were “made.” 2. John says “They were made by him;” which manner of speaking doth not express him who is the first cause of any thing, but the second or mediate cause. Lastly, The word “all things” is not taken for all things universally, but is altogether related to the subject-matter; which is most frequent in the Scriptures, especially of the New Testament, whereof there is a signal example, 2 Cor. v. 17, wherein there is a discourse of a thing very like to this whereof John treats, where it is said “All things are made new,” whereas it is certain that there are many things which are not made new. Now, whereas the subject-matter in John is the gospel, it appeareth that this word “all things” is to be received only of all those things which belong to the gospel.
Q. But why doth John add, that “without him nothing was made that was made?”
A. John added these words that he might the better illustrate
those before spoken, “All things were made by him;” which seem to import
that all those things were made by the Word or Son of God, although some of
them, and those of great moment, were of such sort as were not done by him
but the apostles, — as the calling of the Gentiles, the abolishing of legal
ceremonies: for although these things had their original from the preaching
and works of the Lord Jesus, yet they were not perfected by Christ himself,
but by his apostles; but yet not without him, for the apostles administered
all things in his name and authority, as the Lord himself said, “Without me
ye can do nothing,” John xv.
5.299299 “Expone igitur mihi quibus
testimoniis approbare contendunt Christum cœlum et terrain creasse? — his
ubi scriptum extat, quod per eum omnia facta sint, et sine eo factum sit
nihil quod factum sit, John i.
3; et iterum, Mundus per
ipsum factus est, ver.
10, et rursus, quod in eo
omnia sunt condita, etc., Col. i.
16, et quod Deus per eum
sacecula fecerit, Heb. i. 2,
denique, et ex eo, Tu in
principio, etc., ver.
“Qui vero ad primum testimonium respondes? — Primum, non habetur in primo testimonio creata sunt, verum facta sunt. Deinde, ait Johannes, facta esse per eum, qui modus loquendi, non eum qui prima causa sit alicujus rei, velum causam secundam aut mediam exprimit. Denique, vox omnia non pro omnibus prorsus rebus hic sumitur, sed ad subjectam materiam restringitur omnino, quod frequentissimum est in libris divinis, præsertim Novi Testamenti, cujus rei exemplum singulare extat, 2 Cor. v. 17, in quo habetur sermo de re, huic, de qua Johannes tractat, admodum simili, ubi dicitur, omnia nova facta esse, cum certum sit multa extare, quæ nova facta non sunt. Cum veto subjecta apud Johannem materia sit evangelium, apparet vocem omnia de iis omnibus quæ quoquo modo ad evangelium pertinent accipi debere.
“Cur vero addidit Johannes, quod sine eo factum est nihil quod factum est? — Addidit hæc Johannes, ut eo melius illustraret illa superiora, Omnia per ipsum facta sunt, quæ eam vim habere videntur, per solum Verbum vel Filium Dei omnia illa facta esse, licet ejus generis qædem, et quidem magni momenti, non per ipsum, verum per apostolos facta fuerint, — ut est vocatio Gentium, et legalium ceremoniarum abolitio: licet enim hæc originem ab ipsis sermonibus et operibus Domini Jesu traxerint, ad effectum tamen non sunt perducta per ipsum Christum, sed per ipsius apostolos, non tamen sine ipso; apostoli enim omnia nomine et authoritate ipsius administrarunt, ut etiam ipse Dominus ait, Sine me nihil facere potestis, Joh. xv. 5.”
220Thus to the third verse, of which afterward. We shall quickly see how these men are put to their shifts to escape the sword of this witness, which stands in the way to cut them off in their journeying to curse the church and people of God by denying the deity of their blessed Saviour.
The connection of the words is wholly omitted, “He was God, and he was in the beginning with God, and all things were made by him.” The words are an illustration of his divine nature by divine power and works, He was God, and he made all things. “He that made all things is God,” Heb. iii. 4; “The Word made all things,” John i. 3: therefore he is God. Let us see what is answered.
1. “It is not said they were created by him, but ‘made.’ ” But the word here used by John is the same that in sundry places the LXX. (whom the writers of the New Testament followed) used about the creation; as Gen. i. 3, Καὶ εἶπεν ὁ Θεὸς Γενηθήτω φῶς καὶ ἐγένετο φῶς, and verse 6, Ἐγένετο στερέωμα. And if, as it is affirmed, he was in the beginning (before all things), and made them all, he made them out of nothing; that is, he created them. To create is but to produce something out of nothing, “nothing” supplying the term from whence of their production. But, —
2. “They are said to be made ‘by him:’ it is δι’ αὐτοῦ, which denotes not the principal, but mediate or instrumental cause.” But it is most evident that these men care not what they say, so they may say something that they think will trouble them whom they oppose.
(1.) This might help the Arians, who fancied Christ to be created or made before all things, and to have been the instrumental cause whereby God created all other things; but how this concerns them 221to insist on who deny that Christ had any existence at all before the world was some thousands of years old is not easy to be apprehended.
(2.) In their own sense this is not to the purpose, but expressly contradictory to what they offer in the last place, by way of answer to the latter part of the third verse. Here they say he is not the principal efficient cause, but the second or mediate; there, that all things were either done by him or in his name and authority, which certainly denotes the principal cause of the things done. But, —
(3.) This very expression is sundry times used concerning God the Father himself whom our catechists will not therefore deny to have been the principal efficient cause of the things ascribed to him: Rom. xi. 36, “From him, and δι’ αὐτοῦ, by him are all things;” 1 Cor. i. 9, “God is faithful, δι’ οὖ, ‘by whom ye were called;” Gal. i. 1, “Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ Θεοῦ Πατρός, by Jesus Christ and God the Father;” Eph. i. 1, Διὰ θελήματος Θεοῦ, “By the will of God.” So that this also is frivolous. Thus far we have nothing to the purpose. But, —
3. “ ‘All things’ are to be referred to the gospel, all things of the gospel whereof John treats; so are the words to be restrained by the subject-matter.” But, —
(1.) This is merely begged. John speaks not one word of the gospel as such, gives no description of it, its nature or effects; but evidently, plainly, and directly speaks of the Word that was God, and that made all things, describing him in his eternity, his works, his incarnation, his employment, his coming into the world, and his business; and treats of the gospel, or the declaration of the will of God by Jesus Christ, distinctly afterward, from verse 15 and forwards,
(2.) For the expression, 2 Cor. v. 17, “All things are become new,” it is expressly restrained to the “new creature,” to them that are “in Christ Jesus;” but as to this general expression here, there is no colour why it should be so restrained, the expression itself everywhere signifying the creation of all things. See Gen. ii. 1, 2; Ps. xxxiii. 6, cxxi. 2; Isa. xxxvii. 16, xliv. 24, lxvi. 1, 2; Jer. xxxii. 17; Acts xiv. 15, xvii. 24.
And this is it which they plead to the first part of the verse, “All things were made by him.”
4. The other expression, they say, is added to manifest that “what was done after by the apostles was not done without him; and that is the meaning of these words, ‘And without him was not any thing made that was made.’ ” But, —
(1.) Their πρῶτον ψεῦδος, of referring the whole passage to the description of the gospel, whereof there is not the least tittle nor intimation in the text, being removed out of the way, this following figment falls of itself.
(2.) This gloss is expressly contrary to the text. The “all things” here mentioned are the “all things” that were made in the beginning 222of the world, but this gloss refers it to the things made in the end of the world.
(3.) It is contradictory to itself, for by the “beginning” they understand the beginning of the gospel, or the first preaching of it, but the things that they say here were made by Christ are things that were done after his ascension.
(4.) It is true, the apostles wrought not any miracles, effected no mighty works, but by the presence of Christ with them (though the text cited to prove it, John xv. 5, be quite of another importance, as speaking of gospel obedience, not works of miracles or conversions); but that those works of theirs, or his by them, are here intended, is not offered to proof by our catechists. And this is the sense of the words they give: “Christ in the beginning of the gospel made all things, or all things were made by him, even those which he made by others after his ascension into heaven;” or thus, “All things, that is, some things, were made, that is, mended, by him, that is, the apostles, in the beginning of the gospel, that is, after his ascension.”
(5.) Our sense of the words is plain and obvious, Says the apostle, “He who was in the beginning, and was God, made all things;” which he first expresseth positively, and then by an universal negative confirms and explains what was before asserted in an universal affirmative, “Without him was not any thing made that was made.”
And this is the sum of what they have to except against this part of our testimony, than which nothing can be more vain and frivolous.
The 10th verse is also by them taken under consideration, and these words therein, “The world was made by him;” against which this is their procedure:—
Q. What dost thou answer to the second?
A. 1. That John doth not write here that the world was created, but “made.” 2. He uses the same manner of speech which signifieth the mediate cause; for he saith “The world was made by him.” Lastly, This word mundus, the world, as others of the same import, doth not only denote heaven and earth, but, besides other significations, it either signifieth human kind, as the present place manifesteth, “He was in the world, and the world knew him not,” and John xii. 19, or also future immortality, as Heb. i. 6; which is to be understood of the world to come, as it appears from chap. ii., where he saith, “He hath not put the world to come into subjection to the angels, of which we speak,” but he had nowhere spoken of it but chap. i. 6. Furthermore, you have a place, chap. x. 5, where, speaking of Christ, he saith, “Wherefore coming into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not have, but a body,” etc.; where, seeing it is evident that he speaks of that world into which Jesus being entered was made our priest, as all the circumstances demonstrate, it appears that he speaks not of the present, but of the world to come, seeing, chap. viii. 4, he had said of Christ, “If he were on earth he should not be a priest.”300300 “Quid vero respondes ad secundum? — Primum, quod hic non scribat Johannes mundum esse creatum, sed factum. Deinde, eo loquendi mode utitur, qui mediam causam designat, ait enim, mundum per eum factum. Denique, hæc vox mundus, quemadmodum et aliæ quæ prorsus idem in Scripturis valent, non solum cœlum et terram denotat, verum præter alias significationes, vel genus humanum designat, un locus præsens ostendit, ubi ait, In mundo erat, et mundus eum non agnovit, John i. 10, et Mundus eum secutus est, John xii. 19, aut etiam futuram immortalitatem, ut apparet, Heb. i. 6, ubi ait, Et eum iterum introducit primogenitum in mundum, ait, Et adorent cum omnes angeli Dei, quod de futuro mundo accipi apparet e cap. ii. ejusdem epistolæ, ubi ait, Etenim non angelis subjecit mundum futurum, de quo loquimur, at nusquam de eo locutus fuerat, nisi ver. 6, cap. i. Præterea, habes locum, cap. x. ver. 5, ubi de Christo loquens, ait, Propterea ingrediens in mundum, ait, Hostiam et oblationem noluisti, verum corpus adaptasti mihi; ubi cum palam sit eum loqui de mundo in quem ingressus Jesus, sacerdos noster factus est (ut circumstantiæ omnes demonstrant) apparet, non de præsenti, sed de futuro mundo agi, quandoquidem, cap. viii. ver. 4, de Christo dixerat, Si in terris esset, ne sacerdos quidem esset.”
223The first two exceptions have been already cashiered; those which follow are of as little weight or consideration: for, —
1. It is confessed that the word “world” hath in Scripture various acceptations, and is sometimes taken for men in the world; but that it can be so taken when the world is said to be made or created, when it is equivalent to all things, when it is proposed as a place whereunto One comes, and where he is, as is the state of the expression here, there can nothing more absurd or foolish be imagined.
2. Heb i. 6 speaks not of the world to come, nor is there any place in the Scripture where the word “world” doth signify immortality or the world to come, nor any thing looking that way. Heb. ii. 5, mention is made not simply of the world, but of the “world to come;” nor doth that expression of the apostle relate unto that of chap. i. 6, where the word “world” is used, but to what goes before and after in the same chapter, where the thing itself is insisted on in other terms. Nor is future immortality intended there, by the “world to come,” but the present state of the Christian church, called the “world to come,” in reference to that of the Jews, which was past in that use of speech whereby it was expressed before it came; as also chap. vi. 5. Nor is the “world to come” life eternal or blessed immortality; life is to be had in it, but “immortality” and the “world to come” are not the same. Nor is that world ever said to be made, nor is it anywhere described as made already, but as to come: as Matt. xii. 32; Luke xviii. 30, xx. 35; Eph. i. 21. Nor can it be said of the world to come that it knew not Christ, as it is of this that he made; nor can Christ be said to come into that world in the beginning, which he did not until after his resurrection; nor is the world to come that whereof it is said in the next verse, which expounds this, “He came, εἰς τὰ ἴδια,” “to his own,” for then “his own,” οἱ ἴδιοι, “knew him not.” So that there is not the least colour or pretence of this foppery that here they would evade the testimony of the Holy Ghost withal.
3. These words, Heb. x. 5, “Coming into the world, he saith,” etc., do not in the least intimate any thing of the world to come, but express the present world, into which Christ came when God prepared a body for him at his incarnation and birth; which was in order 224to the sacrifice which he afterward offered in this world, as shall be evidently manifested when we come to the consideration of the priesthood of Christ.
It remains only that we hear their sense of these words, which they give as followeth:—
Q. But what dost thou understand by these words, “The world was made by him”?
A. A twofold sense may be given of them: — First, that human kind was reformed by Christ, and as it were made again, because he brought life, and that eternal, to human kind, which was lost, and was subject to eternal death (which also John upbraideth the world withal, which being vindicated by Christ from destruction acknowledged him not, but contemned and rejected him); for that is the manner of the Hebrew speech, that in such terms of speaking, the words to “make” and “create” are as much as to “make again” or to “create again,” because that tongue wants those words that are called compounds. The latter sense is, that that immortality which we expect is, as to us, made by Christ; as the same is called “the world to come” in respect of us, although it be present to Christ and the angels.”301301 “Quid vero per hæc, Mundus per cum factus est, intelligis? Duplex eorum sensus dari potest: Prior, quod genus humanum per Christum reformatum, et quasi denuo factum sit, eo quod ille generi humano, quod perierat, et æternæ morti subjectum erat, vitam attulit, eamque sempiternam (quod etiam mundo Johannes exprobrat, qui per Christum ab interitu vindicatus, eum non agnoverit, sed spreverit et rejecerit); is enim mos Hebraici sermonis, quod in ejusmodi loquendi modis, verba facere, creare, idem valeant, quod denuo facere, et denuo creare, idque propterea, quod verbis quæ composita vocant ea lingua careat. Posterior vero sensus est, quod illa immortalitas quam expectamus per Christum, quantum ad nos, facta sit; quemadmodum eadem futurum sæculum, habita ratione nostri, vocatur, licet jam Christo et angelis sit præsens.”
1. That these expositions are destructive to one another is evident, and yet which of them to adhere unto our catechists know not, such good builders are they for to establish men in the faith. Pull down they will, though they have nothing to offer in the room of what they endeavour to destroy.
2. That the latter sense is not intended was before evinced. The world that was made in the beginning, into which Christ came, in which he was, which knew him not, which is said to be made, is a world, is not immortality or life eternal; nor is there any thing in the context that should in the least give countenance to such an absurd gloss.
3. Much less is the first sense of the words tolerable; for, —
(1.) It is expressly contradictory to the text. “He made the world,” that is, he reformed it; and, “The world knew him not,” when the world is not reformed but by the knowledge of him!
(2.) To be made doth nowhere simply signify to be renewed or reformed, unless it be joined with other expressions restraining its significancy to such renovation.
(3.) The world was not renewed by Christ whilst he was in it; nor can it be said to be renewed by him only on the account of laying the foundation of its renovation in his doctrine. “ ‘By him the world 225was made;’ that is, he preached that doctrine whereby some in the world were to be reformed.” The world that Christ made knew him not; but the renewed world know him.
4. The Hebraism of “making” for “re-forming” is commonly pretended, without any instance for its confirmation. John wrote in Greek, which language abounds with compositions above any other in the world, and such as on all occasions he makes use of.
There is one passage more that gives strength to the testimony insisted on, confirming the existence of Christ in his divine nature antecedently to his incarnation, and that is verse 14, “The Word was made flesh.” Who the Word is, and what, we have heard. He who was in the beginning, who was God, and was with God, who made all things, who made the world, in whom was light and life, he was made flesh, — flesh, so as that thereupon he dwelt amongst men, and conversed with them. How he was, and how he was said to be, made flesh, I have declared in the consideration of his eternal sonship, and shall not again insist thereon. This, after the interposition of sundry questions, our catechists take thus into consideration:—
Q. How do they prove Christ to have been incarnate
A. From those testimonies where, according to their translation, it is read, “The Word was made flesh,” John i. 14, etc.
Q. How dost thou answer it?
A. On this account, because in that testimony it is not said
(as they speak) God was incarnate, or the divine nature assumed the human.
“The Word was made flesh” is one thing, and God was incarnate, or the
divine nature assumed the human, another. Besides, these words, “The Word
was made flesh,” or rather, “The Speech was made flesh,” may and ought to
be rendered, “The Word was flesh.” That it may be so rendered appears from
the testimonies in which the word ἐγένετο (which is here translated “was made”) is found
rendered by the word” was,” as in this chapter, verse
6, and Luke xxiv.
19, etc. Also, that it ought to be so rendered the order of
John’s words teacheth, who should have spoken very inconveniently, “The
Word was made flesh,” — that is, as our adversaries interpret it, the
divine nature assumed the human, — after he had spoken those things of the
Word which followed the nativity of the man Christ Jesus; such as are
these, “John bare witness of him;” “he came into the world;” “he was not
received of his own;” that “to them that received him, he gave power to
become the sons of God.”302302 “E quibus vero testimoniis
Scripturæ demonstrate conantur Christum (ut loquuntur) incarnatum esse? —
Ex iis ubi secundum eorum versionem legitur Verbum caro factum
ease, Job i. 14; Phil. ii. 6, 7; 1
Tim. iii. 16, etc.
“Quomodo ad primum respondes? — Ea ratione, quod in eo testimonio non habeatur Deum (ut loquuntur) incarnatum ease, aut quod natura divina assumpserit humanam. Aliud enim est, Verbum caro factum est, aliud, Deus incarnatus est (ut loquuntur) vel natura divina assumpsit humanam. Præterea, hæc verba, Verbum caro factum est, vel potius, Sermo caro factus est, possunt et debent ita reddi, Sermo caro fuit. Posse its reddi, e testimoniis in quibus vox ἐγένετο (quæ hic per factum est translata est) verbo fuit reddita invenitur, apparet; ut in eodem cap., ver. 6, et Luc. xxiv. 19: Fuit homo missus a Deo, etc.; et, Qui fuit vir propheta, etc. Debere vero reddi per verbum fuit, ordo verborum Johannis docet, qui valde inconvenienter loquutas fuisset, Sermonem carnem factum esse, — id est, ut adversarii interpretantur, naturam divinam assumpsisse humanam, — postquam ea jam de illo Sermone exposuisset, quæ nativitatem hominis Jesu Christi subsecuta sunt: ut sunt hæc, Johannem Baptistam de illo testatum esse; illum in mundo fuisse; a suis non fuisse receptum; quod iis, a quibus receptus fuisset, potestatem dederit, ut filii Dei fierent.”
226This is the last plea they use in this case. The dying groans of their perishing cause are in it, which will provide them neither with succour nor relief; for, —
1. It is not words or expressions that we contend about, Grant the thing pleaded for, and we will not contend with any living about the expressions wherein it is by any man delivered. By the “incarnation of the Son of God,” and by the “divine nature assuming the human,” we intend no more than what is here asserted, — the Word, who was God, was made flesh.
2. All they have to plead to the thing insisted on is, that the word ἐγένετο may, yea ought to be, translated fuit, “was,” and not factus est, “was made.” But, —
(1.) Suppose it should be translated “was,” what would it avail them? He that was a man was made a man. In that sense it expresses what he was, but withal denotes how he came so to be. He who was the Word before was also a man. Let them show us any other way how he became so but only by being made so, and, upon a supposition of this new translation, they may obtain something. But, —
(2.) How will they prove that it may be so much as rendered by fuit, “was.” They tell you it is so in two other places in the New Testament; but doth that prove that it may so much as be so rendered here? The proper sense and common usage of it is, “was made,” and because it is once or twice used in a peculiar sense, may it be so rendered here, where nothing requires that it be turned aside from its most usual acceptation, yea much enforcing it thereunto?
(3.) That it ought to be rendered by fuit, “was,” they plead the mentioning before of things done after Christ’s incarnation (as we call it), so that it cannot be “He was made flesh.” But, —
[1.] Will they say that this order is observed by the apostle, — that that which is first done is first expressed as to all particulars? What, then, becomes of their interpretation who say “The Word was made God by his exaltation, and made flesh in his humiliation?” and yet how much is that which in their sense was last expressed before that which went before it? Or will they say, in him was the life of man before he was made flesh, when the life of man, according to them, depends on his resurrection solely, which was after he ceased to be flesh in their sense? Or what conscience have these men, who in their disputes will object that to the interpretation of others which they must receive and embrace for the establishing of their own?
[2.] The order of the words is most proper. John having asserted the deity of Christ, with some general concomitants and consequences 227of the dispensation wherein he undertakes to be a mediator, in his 14th verse enters particularly upon a description of his entrance upon his employment, and his carrying it on, by the revelation of the will of God; so that without either difficulty or straining, the sense and intendment of the Holy Ghost falls in clearly in the words.
3. It is evident that the word neither may nor ought to be translated according to their desire; for, —
(1.) It being so often said before that the Word was, the word is still ἦν, and not ἐγένετο. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God;” — the same was. “He was in the world, he was the light;” — still the same word. So that if no more were intended but what was before expressed, the terms would not be changed without exceedingly obscuring the sense; and therefore ἐγένετο must signify somewhat more than ἦν.
(2.) The word ἐγένετο, applied to other things in this very place, denotes their making or their original; which our catechists did not question in the consideration of the places where it is so used: as verse 3, “All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made;” and verse 10, “The world was made by him.”
(3.) This phrase is expounded accordingly in other places: as Rom. i. 3, Τοῦ γενομένου ἐκ σπέρματος Δαβὶδ κατὰ σάρκα, — “Made of the seed of David according to the flesh;” and Gal. iv. 4, Γενόμενον ἐκ γυναικός, “Made of a woman.” But they think to salve all by the ensuing exposition of these words:—
Q. How is that to be understood, “The Word was flesh?”
A. That he by whom God perfectly revealed all his will, who is therefore called “Sermo” by John, was a man, subject to all miseries and afflictions, and lastly to death itself: for the Scripture useth the word “flesh” in that sense, as is clear from those places where God speaks, “My Spirit shall not always contend with man, seeing he is flesh,” Gen. vi. 3; and Peter, “All flesh is grass,” 1 Pet. i. 24.303303 “Qua ratione illud intelligendum est, Sermonem carnem fuisse? — Quod is per quem Deus voluntatem suam omnem perfecte exposuisset, et propterea a Johanne Sermo appellatus fuisset, homo fuerit, omnibus miseriis et affiictionibus, ac morti denique subjectus: etenim vocem caro eo sensu Scriptura usurpat, ut ex iis locis perspicuum est, ubi Deus loquitur, Non contendet Spiritus meus cum homine in æternum, quia caro est, Gen. vi. 3; et Petrus, Omnis caro ut fœnum, 1 Pet. i. 24.”
This is the upshot of our catechists’ exposition of this first chapter of John, as to the person of Christ; which is, —
1. Absurd, upon their own suppositions; for the testimonies produced affirm every man to be flesh, so that to say he is a man is to say he is flesh, and to say that man was flesh is to say that a man was a man, inasmuch as every man is flesh.
2. False, and no way fitted to the intendment of the Holy Ghost; for he was made flesh antecedently to his dwelling amongst us; which immediately follows in the text. Nor is his being made flesh 228suited to any thing in this place but his conversation with men; which answers his incarnation, not his mediation; neither is this exposition confirmed by any instance from the Scriptures of the like expression used concerning Jesus Christ, as that we urge is, Rom. i. 3, Gal. iv. 4, and other places. The place evidently affirms the Word to be made something that he was not before, when he was the Word only, and cannot be affirmed of him as he was man, in which sense he was always obnoxious to miseries and death.
And this is all which our catechists, in several places, have thought meet to insist on, by way of exception or opposition to our undeniable and manifest testimonies from this first chapter of John unto the great and sacred truth contended for; which I have at large insisted on, that the reader from this one instance may take a taste of their dealing in the rest, and of the desperateness of the cause which they have undertaken, driving them to such desperate shifts for the maintenance and protection of it. In the residue I shall be more brief.
John vi. 62 is in the next place taken into consideration. The words are, “What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?” What we intend from hence, and the force of the argument from this testimony insisted on, will the better appear if we add unto it those other places of Scripture wherein the same thing is more expressly and emphatically affirmed; which our catechists cast (or some of them) quite into another place, on pretence of the method wherein they proceed, but indeed to take off from the evidence of the testimony, as they deal with what we plead from John i. The places I intend are:—
John iii. 13, “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” Verse 31, “He that cometh from above is above all: he that cometh from heaven is above all.” Chap. viii. 23, “Ye are from beneath; I am from above.” Chap. xvi. 28, “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the World: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.”
Hence we thus argue:— He that was in heaven before he was on the earth, and who was also in heaven whilst he was on the earth, is the eternal God; but this doth Jesus Christ abundantly confirm concerning himself: therefore he is the eternal God, blessed for ever.
In answer to the first place our catechists thus proceed:—
Q. What answerest thou to the second testimony, John vi. 62?
A. Neither is here any mention made expressly of pre-eternity; for in this place the Scripture witnesseth that the Son of man, that is a man, was in heaven, who without all controversy was not eternally pre-existent.304304 “Ad secundum autem quid respondes? — Neque hic ullam præ-æternitatis mentionem factam expresse; nam hoc in loco Filium hominis, id est, hominem in cœlis fuisse testatur Sriptura, quem citra ullam controversiam præ-æternum non extitisse certum est.”
229So they. 1. It is expressly affirmed that Christ was in heaven before his coming into the world. And if we evince his pre-existence to his incarnation against the Socinians, the task will not be difficult to prove that pre-existence to be in an eternal divine nature against the Arians. It is sufficient, as to our intendment in producing this testimony, that it is affirmed that Christ ἦν πρότερον in heaven before his coming forth into the world; in what nature we elsewhere prove.
2. It is said, indeed, that the Son of man was in heaven; which makes it evident that he who is the Son of man hath another nature besides that wherein he is the Son of man, wherein he is the Son of God. And by affirming that the Son of man was in heaven before, it doth no more assert that he was eternal and in heaven in that nature wherein he is the Son of man, than the affirmation that God redeemed his church with his own blood doth prove that the blood shed was the blood of the divine nature. Both the affirmations are concerning the person of Christ. As he who was God shed his blood as he was man, so he who was man was eternal and in heaven as he was God. So that the answer doth merely beg the thing in question, namely, that Christ is not God and man in one person.
3. The insinuation here of Christ’s being in heaven as man before his ascension mentioned in Scripture, shall be considered when we come to the proposal made of that figment by Mr B., in his chapter of the prophetical office of Christ. In answer to the other testimonies cited, they thus proceed, towards the latter end of their chapter concerning the person of Christ:—
Q. What answerest thou to John iii. 13, x. 36, xvi. 28, xvii. 18?
A. That a divine nature is not here proved appeareth, because the words of the first testimony. “He came down from heaven,” may be received figuratively: as James i. 17, “Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights;” and Rev. xxi. 2, 10, “I saw the holy city Jerusalem coming down from God.” But if the words be taken properly, which we willingly admit, it appears that they are not spoken of any other than the Son of man, who, seeing he hath necessarily a human person, cannot by nature be God. Moreover, for what the Scripture witnesseth of Christ, that the Father sent him into the world, the same we read of the apostles of Christ in the same words above alleged; as John xvii. 18, “As thou hast sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” And these words, “Christ came forth from the Father,” are of the same impart with “He descended from heaven.” “To come into the world” is of that sort as the Scripture manifests to have been after the nativity of Christ, John xviii. 37, where the Lord himself says,” For this I am born, and come into the world, that I might bear witness to the truth;” and 1 John iv. 1, it is written, “Many false prophets are gone forth into the world.” Wherefore from this kind of speaking a divine nature in Christ cannot be proved; but in all these speeches only what was the divine original of the office of Christ is described.305305 “Ubi vero Scriptura de Christo ait, quod de cœlo descendit, a Patre exivit, et in mundum venit, John iii. 13, x. 36, xvi. 28, xvii. 18, quid ad hæc respondes? — Ex iis non probari divinam naturam hinc apparere, quod primi testimonii verba, Descendit de cœlo, possint figurate accipi; quemadmodum, Jac. i. 17, Omne datum bonum et donum perfectum desursum est, descendens a Patre luminum; et Rev. xxi. 2, 10, Vidi civitatem sanctam, Hierusalem novam, descendentem de cœlo a Deo, etc. Quod si proprie æcipi debeant, quod nos perlibenter admittimus, apparet non de alio illa dicta quam de Filio hominis, qui cum personam humanam necessario habeat, Deus natura esse non potest. Porro, quod Scriptura testatur de Christo, quod Pater eum miserit in mundum, idem de apostolis Christi legimus in iisdem verbis citatis superius: Quemadmodum me misisti in mundum, et ego misi eos in mundum, John xvii. 18. Ea veto verba, quod Christusm a Patre exierit, idem valent, quod de cœlo descendit. Venire vero in mundum, id ejusmodi est, quod Scriptura post nativitatem Christi extitisse ostendit, Joh. xviii. 37, ubi ipse Dominus ait, Ego in hoc natus sum, et in mundum vent ut testimonium perhibeam veritati; et 1 John iv. 1, scriptum est, Multos falsos prophetas exiisse in mundum. Quare ex ejusmodi loquendi modis natura divina in Christo probari non potest. In omnibus vero his locutionibus, quam divinum muneris Christi principium fuerit, duntaxat deseribitur.”
2301. That these expressions are merely figuratively to be expounded they dare not assert; nor is there any colour given that they may be so received from the instances produced from James i. 17 and Rev. xxi. 2, 10; for there is only mention made of descending or coming down, which word we insist not on by itself, but as it is conjoined with the testimony of his being in heaven before his descending, which takes off all pretence of a parity of reason in the places compared.
2. All that follows is a perfect begging of the thing in question. Because Christ is the Son of man, it follows that he is a true man, but not that he hath the personality of a man, or a human personality. Personality belongs not to the essence but to the existence of a man. So that here they do but repeat their own hypothesis in answer to an express testimony of Scripture against it Their confession of the proper use of the word is but to give colour to the figment formerly intimated; which shall be in due place (God assisting) discovered.
3. They utterly omit and take no notice of that place where Christ says he so came from heaven as that he was still in heaven; nor do they mention any thing of that which we lay greatest weight on, — of his affirming that he was in heaven before, — but merely insist on the word “descending” or “coming down;” and yet they can no other way deal with that neither but by begging the thing in question.
4. We do not argue merely from the words of Christ’s being sent into the world, but in this conjunct consideration that he was so sent into the world as that he was in heaven before, and so came forth from the Father, and was with him in heaven before his coming forth; and this our catechists thought good to oversee.
5. The difference of Christ’s being sent into the world, and the apostles by him, which they parallel as to the purpose in hand, lies in this, that Christ was so sent of the Father that he came forth from the Father, and was with him in heaven before his sending; which proves him to have another nature than that wherein he was sent, The similitude alleged consists quite in other things. Neither, —
6. Doth the scripture in John xviii. 37 testify that Christ’s sending 231into the world was after his nativity, but only that the end of them both was to “bear witness to the truth,” And, indeed, “I was born,” and “came into the world,” are but the same, the one being exegetical of the other. But his being born and his coming into the world are, in the testimonies cited, plainly asserted in reference to an existence that he had in heaven before. And thus as our argument is not at all touched in this answer, so is their answer closed as it began, with the begging of that which is not only questioned but sufficiently disproved, — namely, that Christ was, in his human nature, taken up into heaven and instructed in the will of God before his entrance upon his prophetical office.
And this is the whole of what they have to except against this evident testimony of the divine nature of Christ. He was in heaven with the Father before he came forth from the Father, or was sent into the world, and κατὰ ἄλλο καὶ ἄλλο, was in heaven when he was on the earth, and at his ascension returned thither where he was before. And so much for the vindication of this second testimony.
John vi. 62 is the second place I can meet with, in all the annotations of Grotius, wherein he seems to assert the union of the human nature of Christ with the eternal Word, — if he do so. It is not with the man that I have any difference, nor do I impose any thing on him for his judgment; I only take liberty, having so great cause given, to discuss his Annotations.
There remains one more of the first rank, as they are sorted by our catechists, for the proof of the eternity of Christ, which is also from John, chap. viii. 58, “Before Abraham was, I am,” that they insist on:—
In this place the pre-eternity of Christ is not only not expressed, seeing it is one thing to be before Abraham, and another to be eternal, but also, it is not so much as expressed that he was before the Virgin Mary. For these words may otherwise be read, namely, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was made, I am;” as it appears from those places in the same evangelist where the like Greek phrase is used, chap. xiii. 19, xiv. 29.
Q. What then would be the sense of this reading?
A. Very eminent. For Christ admonisheth the Jews,
who would have ensnared him in his speech, that whilst they had time, they
should believe in him as the light of the world, before the divine grace
which Christ offered to them should be taken from them and be carried to
the Gentiles. But that these words, “I am,” are to be supplied in that
manner as if himself had added to them, “I am the light of the world,”
appears, because that in the beginning of his speech, verse 12, he had twice in these
words, “I am,” called himself the light of the world, verses
24, 28. And that these words, “Before Abraham be,” do signify
that which we have said, may be perceived from the notation of that word
“Abraham;” for it is evident that “Abraham” denotes “the father of many
nations.” Seeing, then, that Abram was not made Abraham before the grace
of God manifested in Christ redounded to many nations, for Abraham before
was the father of one nation only, it appears that that is the very sense
of the words which we have given.306306 “In hoc
loco non solum non exprinfitur præ-æternitas Christi, cum aliud sit, ante
Abrahamum fuisse, aliud, præ-æternum; verum ne hoc quidem expressum est,
ipsum ante Mariam Virginem fuisse. Et enim ea verba aliter legi posse
(nimirum hac ratione, Amen, amen, dico vobis, Priusquam Abraham fiat,
ego sum) apparet ex iis locis apud eundem evangelistam, ubi similis et
eadem locutio Græca habetur, cap. xiii.
19, Et modo dico vobis,
priusquam fiat, ut cum factum fuerit credatis; et cap. xiv. 29, Et nunc dixi vobis usquam fiat, etc.
“Quæ vero ejus sententia foret lectionis? — Admodum egregia: etenim admonet Christus Judæos, qui eum in sermone capere volebant, ut dum tempus haberent, crederent ipsum esse mundi lucem, antequam divina gratia, quam Christus iis offerebat, ab iis tolleretur, et ad Gentes transferretur. Quod vero ea verba, ego sum, sint ad sum modum supplenda, ac si ipse subjecisset iis, Ego sum lux mundi, superius e principio ejus orationis, ver. 12, constat et hinc, quod Christus bis seipsum iisdem verbis, ego sum, lucem mundi vocaveritm, ver. 24, 28. Ea vero verba, Priusquam Abraham fiat, id significare quod diximus, e notatione nominis Abraham deprehendi potest; constat inter omnes Abrahamum notare patrem multarum gentium. Cum vero Abram non sit factus prius Abraham, quam Dei gratia, in Christo manifestata, in multas gontes redundaret, quippe quod Abrahamus unins tantum gentis antes pater fuerit, apparet sententiara horum verborum, quam attulimus, esse ipsissimam.”
232If our adversaries can well quit themselves of this evidence, I believe they will have no small hopes of escaping in the whole trial; and if they meet with judges so partially addicted to them and their cause as to accept of such manifest juggling and perverting of the Scriptures, I know not what they may not expect or hope for, especially seeing how they exult and triumph in this invention, as may be seen in the words of Socinus himself in his answer to Erasmus Johannes, p. 67. For whereas Erasmus says, “I confess in my whole life I never met with any interpretation of Scripture more wrested, or violently perverting the sense of it;” the other replies, “I hoped rather that thou wouldst confess that in thy whole life thou hadst never heard an interpretation more acute and true than this, nor which did savour more of somewhat divine, or evidenced more clearly its revelation from God. I truly have not light conjectures that he who brought it first to light in our age (now this was he who in this age renewed the opinion of the original of Christ, which I constantly defend)” (that is, his uncle Lælius) “obtained it of Christ by many prayers. This truly I do affirm, that whereas God revealed many things to that man at that time altogether unknown to others, yet there is scarce any thing amongst them all that may seem more divine than this interpretation.”307307 “Fateor me per omnem vitam meam non magis contortam scripturæ interpretationem audivisse; ideoque eam penitus improbo.” — Eras. Johan. “Cum primum fatendi verbum in tuis verbis animadverti, sperabam to potius nuliam in tua vita scripturæ interpretationem audivisse, quæ hac sit acutior aut verior; quæque magis divinum quid sapiat, et a Deo ipso patefactum fuisse præ se ferat. Ego quidem certe non leves conjecturas habeo, ilium, qui primus setate nostra eam in lucem pertulit (hic autem is fuit, qui primus quoque sententiam de Christi origine, quam ego constanter defendo renovavit) precibus multis ab ipso Christo impetrasse. Hoc profecto affirmare ausim, cum Deus illi viro permulta, aliia prorsus tunc temporis incognita, patefecerit, vix quidquam inter ilia omnia esse quod interpretatione hac divinius videri queat.” — Socin. Disput. cum Eras. Johan. arg. 4, p. 67.
Of this esteem is this interpretation of these words with them. They profess it to be one of the best and most divine discoveries that ever was made by them; whereto, for my part, I freely assent, though 233withal I believe it to be as violent a perverting of the Scripture and corrupting of the word of God as the world can bear witness to.
Let the Christian reader, without the least prejudicial thought from the interpretation of this or that man, consult the text and context. The head of the discourse which gives occasion to these words of Christ concerning himself lies evidently and undeniably in verse 51, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.” Upon this the Jews rise up against him, as one that boasted of himself above measure, and preferred himself before his betters: Verse 52, “Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death;” and, verse 53, “Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?” Two things are here charged on him by the Jews: First, in general, That he preferred, exalted, and honoured himself. Secondly, in particular, That he made himself better than Abraham their father. To both which charges Christ answers in order in the following words. 1. To the first or general charge of honouring himself: Verses 54, 55, “Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoreth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God. Ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.” His honour he had from God, whom they professed [to know,] but knew not. 2. To that of Abraham he replies, verse 56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad;” — “Though Abraham was so truly great, and the friend of God, yet his great joy was from his belief in me, whereby he saw my day.” To this the Jews reply, labouring to convince him of a falsehood, from the impossibility of the thing that he had asserted, verse 57, “Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?” — “Abraham was dead so many hundred years before thou wast born, how couldst thou see him, or he thee?” To this, in the last place, our Saviour replies, verse 58, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” The Jews knowing that by these words he asserted his deity, and that it was impossible on any other account to make good that he, who in their esteem was not fifty years old (indeed but a little above thirty), should be before Abraham, as in a case of blasphemy, they take up stones to stone him, verse 59, as was their perpetual manner, to attempt to kill him under pretence of blasphemy, when he asserted his deity; as John v. 18, “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he said that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.”
This naked and unprejudicate view of the text is sufficient to obviate all the operose and sophistical exceptions of our catechists, so 234that I shall not need long to insist upon them. That which we have asserted may be thus proposed: He who in respect of his human nature was many hundred years after Abraham, yet was in another respect existing before him; he had an existence before his birth, as to his divine nature. Now this doth Christ expressly affirm concerning himself; and nothing else is pretended but only his divine nature wherein he should so exist. They say, then, —
1. That these words do not signify pre-eternity, but only something before Abraham. It is enough that his existence so many hundred years before his nativity is evidently asserted; his eternity from thence will evidently be concluded; and they will not deny that he may as well be eternal as be before Abraham. But, —
2. The words may be rendered, “Priusquam Abraham fiat, ego sum,” “Before Abraham be made.” But that they may be so rendered is no proof at all that they ought to be so; and, as was before observed, if this be sufficient to evade the sense of a place, that any word in it may be otherwise rendered, because it is or may be so in some other place, nothing certain can be concluded from any testimony of the Scriptures whatever. But that they may not be so rendered is evident, — (1.) From the context, as before declared; (2.) From the opposition between ἐγώ εἰμι, “I am,” and “Abraham was,” which evidently denotes a time past, as it stands in comparison with what Christ says of himself; and, (3.) The words in such a construction as this require an interpretation as to the time past; and, (4.) Because this interpretation of the words corrupts the whole sense of the place, and wrests it contrary to the design and intendment of our Saviour. But then they say, —
3. “The sense is excellent; for ‘Before Abraham be made’ is as much as before he be Abraham, or the father of many nations, which he was when the gospel was preached to the conversion of the Gentiles. ‘I am,’ that is, ‘I am the light of the world,’ which you should do well to walk in and attend unto.”
(1.) That this interpretation in general is altogether alien and strange from the scope of the place, the Christian reader, upon the bare view of it, will be able to judge. (2.) It is false:— [1.] Because Abraham was the father of many nations, Jews and proselytes, before the preaching of the gospel, as Gen. xv. 5. [2.] It is false that Abram was not Abraham until after the ascension of Christ and preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, He was made Abraham from his first enjoyment of his name and seed in Isaac, and is constantly so called. [3.] It is frivolous; for if Christ was before Abram was made Abraham, we obtain what we plead for, for he was made so when God gave him that name. But it should be, “Before Abram be made Abraham,” or there is no sense in the words; nor then neither, unless Abraham be taken as a common appellative for “the father of 235many nations,” and not as a proper name, whereof in Scripture there is not any example. [4.] It is horribly wrested, — 1st. In making the words “I am” elliptical, whereas there is neither need of nor colour for such a pretence. 2dly. In supplying the feigned ellipsis with a word at such a distance as from verse 12 to verse 58. 3dly. In making Christ to say he is the light of the world before the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, when the “world” is everywhere in the gospel taken quite in another sense, for the Jews and Gentiles, and not for the Jews only, which according to this interpretation it must be. 4thly. It leaves no reason of the following attempt of the Jews to stone him, upon the particular provocation of this assertion, he having before affirmed himself to be the light of the world, which they were not moved at. There is indeed no end of the falsities, follies, and corruptions of this perverting and corrupting of the word of God.
For the grammatical vindication of the words, and the translation of the word γενέσθαι in a sense of that which is past, there is no occasion administered by our catechists; and therefore I shall not trouble the reader therewith.
And of the first sort of testimonies which they except against, and their exceptions, thus far.
A little animadversion upon the catechists’ good friend Grotius shuts up this discourse and chapter. In the end he agrees with them, but fixes on a new medium for the accomplishment of it, not daring to espouse an interpretation so absurd in itself, and so abhorrent from the common sense of all men that ever professed the name of Christ. He takes, then, another course, yet no less aiming than they to disappoint this evidence of the pre- existence of Christ before his nativity. Πρὶν αβραὰμ γενέσθαι, antequam esset, saith he, “before he was;” and he gives many instances to prove the propriety of so translating that expression: “ Ἐγώ εἰμι, præsens pro imperfecto, eram, Syrus; Ἐγὼ πέλον, Nonnus. Sic in Græco: Ps. xc. 2, Πρὸ τοῦ γενηθῆναι σὺ εἷ.” Very good: before Abraham was, or was born, Christ was; as in that of the psalm, “Before the mountains were made, thou art.” And, a little to help a friend at so good a work, it is no new thing for this evangelist to use the present for the preterimperfect tense; as chap. xiv. 9, Τοσοῦτον χρόνον μεθ ὑμῶν ἐιμι καὶ οὐκ ἔγνωκάς με — “I am so long,” for “I was,” or “I have been so long with you,” etc. And chap. xv. 27, Ὅτι ἀπ ἀρχῆς μετ ἐμοῦ ἐστε — “Because ye have been with me from the beginning.” Thus far, then, we are agreed. But how should this be, that Christ thus was before Abraham was? “Fuerat,” saith he, “autem ante Abrabarnum Jesus divina constitutione;” — “In God’s appointment Jesus was before Abraham was born.” Yea, and so was Grotius, and Socinus, and every man in the world; for “known unto God are all his works 236from the beginning of the world.” And this is that great privilege, it seems, that our Saviour vindicates to himself, without any occasion, to no purpose, insisting on that which is common to him with all the elect of God in the best sense of the words! Of that other text of Scripture, John xvii. 5, which together with this he labours to corrupt, I shall speak afterward. I shall only add, that our great doctors do not in this business agree. Grotius here makes no mention of Socinus’ gloss, and Socinus beforehand rejects this of Grotius as absurd and fond; and as such let it pass, as having no occasion given from the words foregoing, nor colour from the matter or phrase of words, nor significancy to the business in hand.
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