Obrazy na stronie

ing the thing itself to be true, yet it neither can be made appear that John has here asserted it, nor was Mr. Norris himself sanguine enough to affirm that he ever intended it. See his preface to part i. p. 14. Add to this, that the ideal world is nobody knows what. Strip it of fight and figure, and there is no more in it than his, that God knew all things before he made them: but the modus of it infinitely surpasses all created understanding. If we come to plain good sense, we can conceive nothing of God, but what is either substance or attribute. The ideal world, in your, hypothesis, must either be the substance of God the Father, that is, God himself, or only some attribute of him. You make it to be his reason, or his wisdom, and thereforc must of consequence suppose it an attribute; and so you say in your first letter, though in the same place you observe that it is “ of the substance of God,” the meaning of which I should be glad to know distinctly. To me there appears no medium between an attribute of God, and God himself. You suppose wisdom to be an attribute, not God himself precisely considered ; and accordingly you say by it, not by him : so that, at length, allowing only for a small difference in words, your hypothesis falls in with the Sabellian scheme, and I have already confuted it in my first Sermon. However, I shall not scruple to make a little more particular application of what I have there said to your hypothesis. I argue thus. Either you must understand by the Abyos,

Λόγος, God the Father himself, or an attribute of God the Father: but neither of these suppositions can be reconciled to St. John's Gospel, therefore your scheme falls. If you understand by the Aóyos, God the Father, try if you can make sense of verse the 1st, 2nd, and 14th; if you understand any attribute of him, as you seem to do, I object as follows:

1. The Logos was with God, apòs tov eóv. What accurate writer would not rather have said of an attribute, that it was év TỢ OeQ, in God? And yet tpos tòv Ocòv is again repeated.

2. St. John lays some stress upon the Logos's being in the beginning with God. He repeats, he inculcates it. What ueed of this, if the Logos means only God's wisdom? Can any man doubt whether God was always wise? But there might be some doubt whether any other Person was in the beginning with God the Father; and therefore, if a Person be meant, we see the reason of the Evangelist's repeating it, and laying a stress upon it. 3. The pronoun oŮtos (verse the 2nd) put by itself, and beginning a sentence, seems rather to denote a Person than an attribute, and to be more justly rendered he than it. I know not whether any the like instance can be given of oůtos put absolutely and beginning a sentence, and not denoting a person.

4. Verse the 8th, “ He (John the Baptist) was not that light." The he here, of whom this is denied, plainly refers to some other he, of whom the thing is affirmed. How would it sound to say, he was not, but it (an attribute of God) was that light ?

5. Proceed to verse the 11th, and read it in your way, thus : It came unto its own, and its own received it not. Where is the sense or the propriety?

6. Go on to verse the 12th. But as many as received it, to them it gave power to become the sons of God. Is not the sense flat, and the sentence very odd and unnatural?

7. Lastly, consider verse the 14th. The Logos (an attribute of God the Father) was made flesh, and it tabernacled amongst us, and we beheld its glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, &c. Now, how comes wisdom or reason to be the only begotten of the Father, more than power, or goodness, or any other attribute?

8. St. John in his Revelations seems to have determined, that ó Móyos is the name of a Person, not an attribute, the Person of Jesus Christ : Rev. xix. 13.

These are the principal difficulties against your scheme, which at present occur to me. Be pleased to answer them severally and distinctly, or give them up as unanswerable. In the interim,

[ocr errors]

I rest,

Your faithful Friend,

And humble Servant,


Magd. Coll. Oct. 27, 1720.

LETTER IV. SIR, I RECEIVED a letter from you, containing some exceptions to the evidence and reasons which I offered against your interpretation of the first chapter of St. John. Your exceptions, or


pleas, I shall examine one by one ; and then leave you to judge of what weight they ought to be: charitably believing that you will not industriously deceive your own soul.


my critical reasons your general answer is, that you are illiterate, and pretend not to criticism.

But this plea will be of no service in the case. You correct the English translation, and indeed all the versions that ever were, appealing to the original itself. I shew you from the idiom of the language, from the Apostles' manner of expressing himself elsewhere, and from his principal drift and design through the chapter, that you misconstrue the original, and that the words cannot bear your sense. Now either you are obliged to answer these reasons, or else to own frankly, that you

have taken upon you to judge in a point you understand not, have been confident without grounds, and pronounced in the dark. Consider well what St. Peter has observed, namely that the unlearned and unstable wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction, 2 Pet. iii. 16. How know you but this may be your own case, while against the idiom of the tongue, the author's manner of expression, as well as against the wisest and ablest judges ancient or modern, you wrest a passage of such importance to a new and strange meaning?

I do not doubt but an illiterate man may be capable of understanding the Gospel : and I hope you are capable of understanding the passage of St. John in the vulgar sense, as well as in any new invented one of

your own. · 2. To my argument drawn from the sentiments of antiquity, you except, that if the sense of a text can be fixed, any different sense of Fathers against it is of no weight.

But what is this to the purpose? Have you fixed the sense of the text, that is, ascertained it? So far from it, that you have hardly the shadow of a reason, from text or context, to support it. On the contrary, it is rather fired to another sense, as I have shewn you, and given you reasons which you are not able to answer.

3. You plead that the five first verses are a train of progressive propositions, and that generally the predicate of the former is the subject of the succeeding.

I answer, that your rule fails in the very two first propositions, for ó Abyos is the subject in both. It fails again in verse the 2nd, where, by your rule, it should have been ó Aóyos,

[ocr errors]

instead of oύτoς. Your rule is again broke in verse the 3rd, where di aŭtoû should, by that rule, refer to còv going before. But enough of fancies.

4. To my argument drawn froin St. John's making the Logos his principal theme, and his intending to tell us, not what God the Father was, but what the Logos was: to this you except, that the Apostle's declaring the Logos to be an attribute of God, is declaring what the Logos is, and is therefore consonant to the Apostle's design. I answer,

You do not here carefully distinguish between subject and predicate. When we say, God is reason, God is the subject, and reason is predicated of him. But when we say, the Logos is God, the Logos is the subject, and that he is God, is predicated of the Logos. Now St. John's scope and design, which runs through the first fourteen verses, is to predicate of the Logos, not to predicate of God the Father: wherefore I must still insist upon it, that the Apostle's drift all along is against your construction.

5. You conceive that you have some strength and countenance from the 5th verse, which you desire me to account for. Please to compare John iii. 36. v. 40. X. 10. v. 25, 26. vi. 33, &c. xiv. 11. and especially John viï. 12. xi. 25. Col. iii. 3, 4. You will find Christ to have been the life and light of the world, as being the Author and Fountain of the resurrection, and the Giver of life eternal. Not a word do you meet with about the ideal world, which, whether it be a truth or no, has no foundation in Scripture, but is borrowed from the Platonic philosophy.

6. You pass some high cominendations on Mr. Norris, reflecting not very kindly (I am sure, without Mr. Norris's good leave) on the clergy in general.

I readily allow all you can say in commendation of that good man. But will you abide by his authority in every thing? If you will, our dispute will be at an end. But it is in vain to contend by authorities instead of reasons. How many authorities might I produce against your sentiments, particularly against

I your construction of St. John! The whole Christian world, in a manner, from the beginning downwards to this day, not to mention that Mr. Norris, in the main, is of my side of the question, and interprets the Abyos of a distinct Person, not of God the Father, or any attribute of him.

7. You except to my notion of an attribute, and (without un


derstanding what you say) call it Sabellian. My notion of an attribute is the same that all Divines, whether Sabellian or others, have ever had of it. Power, wisdom, goodness, are attributes of God, not his substance precisely considered : in like manner, as reason is a property of something rational, not the very thing itself precisely considered. They are abstract partial ideas, and are not the very same with the notion of the substance itself. For if you say that power is the substance, and wisdom the substance, and goodness the substance, precisely considered; then power is goodness, and both together are wisdom; and wisdom is omnipresence, &c. and there is no difference between one attribute and another, nor any sense in saying that the substance of God is wise, good, powerful, &c. because it will be only saying, that the substance is substance.

8. You take hold of Bishop Pearson's saying, that God is an attribute of the Móyos. But it is plain that the Bishop there used the word attribute in an improper sense, for predicate ; meaning only that eòs was predicated of the Abyos, or, in plain English, that it is there said of the Abyos, that he was God.

When you speak of wisdom, power, and goodness being coessential and consubstantial, you use words either without a meaning, or with a meaning peculiar to yourself. Things are with one another coessential or consubstantial, not properties, nor abstract notions.

As to my rendering John iv. 24, I have the same right to render aveüua Spirit, (not a Spirit,) as our translators had to render meúmari, in the same verse, Spirit, not a Spirit. But that by the way only, having little relation to our present dispute.

As to the preposition dià, neither you nor Mr. Norris has given any instance of its ever being used in the exemplary sense. The rest is of no moment.

Thus, Sir, I have, I think, considered every exception in your letter that appears to have any weight. As you are pleased to apply to me under the character of a Ductor Dubitantium, so I have endeavoured to answer every the least scruple, that so you may the more readily come into those reasons which I before offered, and which return now upon you in their full force. I beg leave to assure you, that I offer you nothing but what appears to me plain good sense, and sound reason, and such as

« PoprzedniaDalej »