Page images

that it is his, especially as he haih sufficiently discovered himself to be an apostle, by'affirming in the beginning of the epiftle, that he was an eye and ear witness, of the things which he hath written concerning the living Word.

2. The style of this epiltle, being the fame with the style of the gospel of John, it is, by that internal mark, likewise thewed to be his writing.-In his gospel Joho doth not content himself with simply affirming or denying a thing, but to strengthen his affirmation he denieth its contrary. In like manner to trengthen his denial of a thing, he affirms its contrary, See John i. 20. jii. 36. v. 24. vi. 22. The same manner of expressing things strongly, is found in the epistle. For example, chap. ii. 4. He who faith I have known him, and doth not keep his commandments, is a liar, and the tru:h is not in him.-Ver. 27. The same unction teacheth you concerning all things, and is truth, and is no lie.Chap. iv. 2. Every Spirit, which confefseth Jesus Christ hath come in the flesh, is from God. 3. And every spirit, which doth not confefs Fesus Christ hath come in the flesh, is not from God.

In his gospel likewise, John, to express things emphatically, frequently uses the demonstrative pronoun, This.--Chap. i. 19. Aufn, This is the testimony.-iii. 19. Aurn, This is the condemnation, that light, &c.—vi. 29. Txto, This is the work of God.--ver. 40. Txto, This is the will of himn.--ver. 50. 'Outos, This is the bread which came down from heaven.--- xvii. 3. Autn, This is the eternal life - In the epistle, the same emphatical manner of expression is found, chap. i. 5. ii. 25. This is the promise--iii. 23. Auth, This is his comutandment.-- v. 3. Auth, This is the love of God.-ver. 4. This is the victory.--ver.

..ver. 6. 'Outcs, This is he who came by water.ver. 14. This is the boldness which we have with him.

Such is the internal evidence, on which all Christians, from the beginning, have received the first epistle of John, as really written by him, and of divine authority, although his name is not mentioned in the inscription, nor in any part of the epistle.

Sect. III. Of the State of the Christian Church, at the Time John

wrote his First Epiftle; and of his Design in writing it. The apostle John, having lived to fee great corruptions, both in doctrine and practice, introduced into the church, by many


who professed themselves the disciples of Christ, employed the last years of his life in opposing these corruptions. For he wrote his three epiftles, to establish the trụths concerning the · person and offices of Christ, and to condemn the errors then prevailing contrary to these truths. Also to repress the lewd practices, for the sake of which these errors were embraced. -Besides, he considered that his testimony to the truths concerning the person and offices of Christ, together with his direct condemnation of the opposite errors, published to the world in his infpired writings, would be of singular use in preserving the faithful from being seduced by the falle teachers and other corrupters of Christianity, who in future ages might arise and trouble the church. See the preface to James, Sect. 4.

The heretical teachers who infested the charch in the first age, finding Melliah called in the Jewish scriptures, God, and the Son of God, thought it impollible that he could be made flesh. In this sentiment, these teachers followed the Jewish chief prieits, elders, and fcribes, who being affembled in full council, unanimously condemned Jesus as a blasphemer, because being a man, he called himself Christ the Son of the blessed God. See 1 John v. 5. note. Upon this decision, one class of the ancient falle teachers founded their error concerning the person of Chrift. For, while they acknowledged his divinity, they denied his humanity ; that is, the reality of his appearing in the flesh. (See i John iv. 2, 3. v. 1.) and contended, that his body was only a body in appearance ; that he neither suffered nor died; and that he did none of the things related of him in the gospel. He seemed indeed to do these things, which, in their opinion, was a sufficient foundation for the evangelists to relate them as done by him. But their reality as matters of fact, they absolutely denied. 'More particularly, having affirmed that he died only in appearance, they denied his having made a propitiation for the fins of the world by his death, chap. ii. 2. They likewise denied, that he arose from the dead and ascended into heaven, In short, according to them, the things ascribed to Jesus in the gospels, were altogether imaginary. This was the opinion of Bafilides, and of all the heretics in the firit age to whom the



fathers have given the name of Docetæ, or Phartnofiæ; but who by the apostle John are more emphatically called, antichrifts, chap. iv. 3. because they were opposers of Christ as come in the flesh. By pretending that Christ suffered death only in appearance, the Docetæ endeavoured to avoid the ignominy of the crucifixion of their Maiter, and to free themselves from that obligation to suffer for their religion, which was laid on them both by Christ's precept and example.

On the other hand, the Cerinthians and Ebionites adopted a do&rine concerning the Christ, which, though contrary to that just now described, was equaliy erroneous. They acknowledged the reality of the things written in the gospels concerning Jesus. But like many in modern times, who admit nothing as true which they are not able to comprehend, they denied that Jesus was the Christ or Son of God, chap. ii. 22. becaufe they could not reconcile the things which happened to him, with their idea of the Son of God. This class of heretics were said by the fathers A velv Tov 1mTxv, to diffolve Jesus. See chap. iv. 3, note 1. end For they affirmed, that Christ entered into Jefus at his baptism in the form of a dove, but flew away from him before his passion.-B. Horsley, in let. xiv. to Dr. Priestleyfaith, “ The Cerinthians held, that Christ being restored to Jesus after « his resurrection, it rendered the man Jesus an object of di« vine honours.” They believed it seems that Jesus was originally and essentially a man ; and that whatever divinity he posfeffed was adventitious, constquently was feparable from him.

The former fort of false teachers having denied the humanity, and the latter the divinity of our Lord, the apostle Johu to canfirm all the disciples in the belief of the truth concerning the person and offices of Christ, wrote this his first epiftle, in which he expressly afferted that Jesus Christ is the son of God, chap. i. 3. 7. iv. 15. and that he came in the flesh. See chap. iv. 2.


Here let it be observed, that the opinions of the Docetæ, on the one hand, and of the Cerintliians on the other, concerning the person and offices of Chrilt, make it probable that the apostles taught, and that the first Christians believed Christ to be both


[ocr errors]

God and man. For if the Docetæ had not been taught, the divinity of Christ, they had no temptation to deny his humanity. And if the Corinthians had 'not been taught the humanity of Chrift, they would have been under no necessity of denying his divinity. But fancying it impossible that both parts of the apostle's doctrine concerning the Christ could be true, the one class of heretics to maintain his divinity, thought themselves obliged to deny his humanity, and the other to maintain his humanity, supposed it necessary to deny bis divinity. To this argument by which it is rendered probable that the apostles taught, and the first Christians believed Jesus Christ to be both God and man, the Socinians perhaps will reply, that the members of the church of Jerusalem being called Ebionites by the ancients, is a proof, not only that the church of Jerusalem held the opinion of Ebion concerning the mere humanity of Christ, but that the apostles who planted and instructed that church held the same opinion ; because it is natural to suppose that the faith of the teachers and of the disciples on this article was the fame, consequently that the apostles themselves were Unitarians. Nevertheless, from the account which Origen hath given of the brethren of the church of Jerusalem, who he tells us were called Ebionites by the ancients, it appears that this name, as applied to the Hebrew Christians, by no means leads to these conclucions. For in his second book against Celsus, sect. 1. in answer to the Jew, who alleged that the Jewish Christians, being deceived by Christ, had forsaken the laws and institutions of their fathers, and gone over to a different name and manner of living, Origen affirmed, “That they had not forsaken the law “ of their fathers, but lived accorling to it, being named from " the poorness of the law ; (he means, named Ebionites) for a “ poor person is called by the Jews, Ebion. Hence, those of “ the Jews who received Jesus, are called Ebionites.The Jewish believers therefore, according to Origen, were called Ebionites, not because they held the opinion of Ebion concerning the mere humanity of Christ, but because they adhered to the law of Moses, and expected only the poor temporal rewards which were promised in that law. Whereas the proper Ebionites were those who had a low opinion of the person of Christ. So


Eufebius informs us, E.H. lib. 3. c. 27. “The ancients called them 6. Ebionites, who entertained a poor and low notion of Christ ; 66 for they thought him only, a stov nai noivov, a simple and common “ man.”-Farther, admitting that the argument taken from the appellation of Ebionites, which was given by the ancients to the members of the church of Jerusalem, were well founded, it would not prove that all, cr even the greatest part of them, held the doctrine of the mere humanity of Christ. For in comprehending the whole body of the Hebrew Chriftians under the appellation of Ebionites, Origen himself acknowledgeth in the third section of the same second book, that he wrote incorrectly, fince he there distinguishes the Hebrew Christians into three fects, one of which, he tells us, discarded the law entirely ; consequently they were not Ebionites, but orthodox Christians. The same distinction Jerome hath made in his commentary on Isaiah ix. 1, 2, 3. where he speaks of Hebrews believing in Christ, and as a class of people distinct from them mentions Nazarenes, who observed the law, but despised the traditions of. the Pharisees, thought highly of Paul, and held the doctrine of our Lord's divinity. See also his Comment. on Isaiah viji. 14.21.-More than this, although it were granted, for argument's fake, that the brethren of the church of Jerusalem, generally bem lieved the doctrine of Christ's mere humanity, it will not prove that the apoitles by whom they were instructed were of the same opinion, unless we think the Hebrew Chriftians could not be enticed by false teachers to forsake their first faith. This, it is prefumed, no one will affirm who recollects that the Laodiceans are an example of a whole church declining from its first faith, even in the days of the apoftles, Rev. iii. 14.-18.-Lastly, in this question it is of importance to know that the doctrine of the proper Ebionites concerning the mere humanity of Christ, was deemed heretical by the church in the days of Irenæus, who wrote his books against herefies in the year 176 or 177. For in the list which he hath given of heretics, lib. 1. he places the Ebionites between the Cerinthians and the Nicolaitans, both of them acknowledged heretics. And in his third book he refutes, by testimonies from the scriptures, the opinion of those


« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »