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an argument of great weight in favor of its authenticity.
The way is, therefore, prepared, to proceed to a further train of testimony, in favor of the divinity of 1 John 5. 7.
In doing this, it will be proper to show,
6. The grounds on which this passage is rejected, from the oracles of God.
In attending to this point, I shall endeavor to observe candor and accuracy, as far as I have obtained light on the subject. It has been noticed already, that it is on the ground of negative proof, that this text is declared to be spurious. On that account, its enemies have been very confident; and, by their triumphant language, many of the Orthodox have been, I think, unnecessarily shaken, in respect to its divine authority.
The main evidence which lies against the text in question, is this: It is wanting in many of the ancient manuscripts, and especially the Greek; and it is omitted in many of the earlier versions of the Holy Scriptures.
This fact we are not disposed to deny; neither do we consider the argument derived from it as unanswerable; and to this the attention of my hearers is now to be directed,
The most famous manuscripts existing at present are only transcripts of more ancient ones, which have perished in the lapse of ages. It is very easy, therefore, to see, that transcribers might have left out this text through inadvertence, or with a wicked design of embarrassing the doctrine of the Trinity. An omission in one manuscript, might have occasioned the want of this text in many
others which were subsequently written. No doubt, many manuscripts and versions of the Scriptures, have been formed from the Alexandrian and Vatican copies, in which, this text, from some reason or other, has been omitted. It is a fact, well authenticated, that some of the ancient manu
scripts have had this text in them, and that others have appeared, and still appear without it.
The Rev. William Jones, author of “The Catholic doctrine of a Trinity,” in page 224 of "the first American edition," observes, “The divines of Lovain, having compared many Latin copies, found this text wanting but in five of them; and Robert Stephens found it retained in nine out of sixteen ancient manuscripts which he used.” The probability is surely as great, that where this text is wanting in the ancient manuscripts and versions of Scripture, it might have been omitted through inadvertence, or erased with design, as that it was inserted in the copies where it was or is found. It is a fact, well known from ancient history, that many Anti-Trinitarians appeared very early in the Christian Church, whose hearts were highly embittered against the doctrine of the Trinity, and the supreme Deity of Christ. Ebion, Cerinthus, and Marcion, who had many followers, lived in and near the days of the apostles; and they were violent opposers to the doctrines which have been mentioned Milner, in his Church History, observes concerning them, “While they acknowledged the excellence of the character of Jesus Christy they considered him a mere man, descended from Mary and her husband Joseph. With such low ideas of the Redeemer's person, they denied the virtue of his atoning blood, and labored to establish justification by the deeds of the law. To be consistent with themselves, they rejected the divine authority of St. Paul's Epistles, and accused the apostle of being an Antinomian.” See “Townsend's abridgment of Milner, page 56. Men of this description were full as likely to have erased 1 John, 5. 7. from the ancient manuscripts, as the orthodox Christians wete to have inserted such a text. I am, however, of the Opinion, that it was neither omitted nor inserted in that period of time. There is no such charge exhibited against those ancient heretics by the Orthodox; neither do we find them complaining of such an addition having been made to the Holy Scriptures by their opponents. The original copy was, at that period, undoubtedly, in the possession of the Church; and a sight of it must have completely settled such a controversy. It was, therefore, an inauspicious era, to have omitted or inserted the
passage under consideration. · But, if either of these things was done, I think an omission of the text in writing manuscripts, the most probable, for these two weighty reasons, namely: First, The character of the Orthodox for piety, and veracity, we must believe, was not inferior to that of the Anti-Trinitarians; Secondly, It was more safe to omit a passage in transcribing the Scriptures, than to make and insert one. If such an omission had been noticed, and protested against, a very plausible apology could have been offered; namely, that it was a mistake, and not designed. No such plea could possibly have been made for an interpolator. The weakest reasoner on earth, must have seen at once, that from the guilt of such an action, it would have been impossible for him to have washed his hands. It is the most probable thing, therefore, that the early manuscripts of the New Testament were all either with or without, this contested passage. But, after the early manuscripts were all buried in the grave of time, and transcriptions had become númerous, no doubt it was then, that this text was either omitted or inserted. None of the ancient manuscripts, which are now in being, reach within many hundred
As the art of printing was then unknown, manuscripts of the Bible would be the most likely to increase, when the Christian religion was established in the Roman Empire, and had diffused itself extensively in the world. A multiplicity of transcriptions of the Holy Scriptures was then more practicable and necessary, than in any antecedent period. After the establishment of the Christian religion in the Roman Empire, Anti-Trinitarianism became very prevalent. Then the famous Arius arose, covering the Christian horizon with a cloud of Anti-Trinitarian delusion. He was, indeed, greatly opposed by the Orthodox, and by Constantine the Great; yet his sentiments spread extensively, and finally obtained a legal establishment. The sons of the Arian school were then under peculiar advantages to omit and erase the text which is now in debate.
Concerning this passage, Dr. Scott observes, “It is certainly wanting in many of the ancient versions and manuscripts: but whether the Trinitarians interpolated it, or the Arians and other Unitarians omitted it, is to this day a matter of controversy.” He adds, “It is, however, more probable that the Anti-Trinitarians should silently omit, in their copies a testimony that was so decisive against them, or that it should be left out by the mistake of some ancient transcriber, than that the Trinitarians should directly forge and insert it.” Ecclesiastical history testifies, that Anti-Trinitarianism prevailed in the Christian world, through the greater part of the fourth century, and almost the whole of the fifth. The votaries of that deleterious scheme, made every possible effort to crush the orthodox religion, and to promote their own views of theology. They had two distinguished sovereigns, who favored their cause, Constantius and Huneric. While the Arians were crimsoning the earth with the blood of orthodox Christians, and banishing their leading men into deserts and caves, we may well suppose that they would take some liberty also with the Holy Scriptures. In relation to this subject, Milner, in his Ecclesiastical History states, that“ Huneric ordered, that no one should hold any office in his dominions, who was not an Arian. He confiscated the property of the rejected Orthodox, and banished their persons. In the year 483, he commanded the Trinitarian ministers to meet the Arian clergy, at Carthage in Africa, to prove their faith, if they could, by the Scriptures.” When they assembled at the appointed place, our historian says,
Huneric made no mention of the 'conference, for many days, and separated those of the greatest abilities from the rest, that he might on false pretences, put them to death. One of the most learned, named Laetus, he burned alive, to intimidate others. When the conference was opened, the Orthodox chose ten of their own number to answer for the rest. Cirila, the chief of the Arian bishops, was seated on a magnificent throne, with his partizans sitting in an exalted station, while the Orthodox continued standing below.
The latter saw what a mock conference it was likely to prove, and remonstrated the Arians ordered one hundred bastinadoes to be given to each of them.” Under such disingenuous treatment, poor Eugenius, lifted up his voice to heaven, saying, “God look down upon the violence offered us!" “ They, however, presented a confession of their faith, in terms, expressive of Trinitarian doctrine.” After this awful scene, “ Huneric ordered them to be expelled from Carthage, stripped them of horses and change of raiment and forbad any one to give them victuals or lodgings, under terrible penalties.”
We may well suppose that such people were full as likely to omit, in transcribing, and to erase from the then existing manuscripts of Scripture, 1 John 5. 7, as the Orthodox were to insert it; seeing that of such an interpolation, there is not the shadow of positive proof.
The evidence, on which this text is rejected from the Holy Scriptures, has now been presented to your view,