« السابقةمتابعة »
whole human nature, body and soul. And it is likewise very probable, that the Evangelist did purposely chufe the word flesh, which signifies the frail and mortal part of man, to denote to us, that the Son of God did afsume our nature, with all its infirmities, and became subject to the common frailty and mortality of human nature.
The words thus explained, contain that great mystery of godliness, as the Apostle calls it, or of the Christian religion, viz. the incarnation of the Son of God, which St. Paul expresseth by the appearance or manifestation of God in the flesh, i Tim. iii. 16. And without controverly great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifested in the flesh; that is, he appeared in human nature, he became man; or, as St. John expresseth it in the text, The Word was made flesh.
But, for the more clear and full explication of these words, we will consider these two things.
1. The person that is here spoken of, and who is said to be incarnate, or to be made flesh, namely, the Word.
2. The mystery itself, or the nature of this incarnation, so far as the scripture hath revealed and declared it to us.
First, We will consider the person that is here fpoken of, and who is said to be incarnate, or to be made flesh, and who is so frequently in this chapter called by the name or title of the Word, namely, the eternal and only begotten Son of God; for so we find him described in the text : The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, &c.; that is, such as became so great and glorious a person as deserves the title of the only begotten Son of God.
For the explaining of this name or title of the Word, given by St. John to our blessed Saviour, we will conlider these two things.
1. The reason of this name or title of the Word, and what probably might be the occasion why this EvangeInt infilts so much upon it, and makes so frequent mention of it. 2. The description itself, which is given of him un
der this name or title of the Word by this Evangelist, in his entrance into his history of the gospel.
1. We will inquire into the reason of this name or title of the Word which is here given to our blefled Saviour by this Evangelist; and what might probably be the occasion why he insists so much upon it, and makes so frequent mention of it. I shall consider these two things distinctly and severally.
1. The reason of this name or title of the Word here given by the Evangelist to our blessed Saviour. And he seems to have done it in compliance with the common way of speaking among the Jews, who frequently call the Messias by the name of the Word of the Lord. of which I might give many instances; but there is one very remarkable, in the Targum of Jonathan, which renders those words of the Pfalmist, which the Jews acknowledge to be spoken of the Messias, vis. The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hanit, &c.; I say, it renders them thus: The Lord said unto his Iord, Sit ihou 912 my right hand, &c. And so likewise Philo the Jew calls him by whom God made the world, the Word of God, and the Son of God. And Plato probably had the fame notion from the Jews; which made Amelius the Platonist, when he read the beginning of St. John's gospel, to say, " This barbarian agrees with Plato, ranking the “ Word in the order of principles ;" meaning, that he made the Word the principle or efficient cause of the world, as Plato also hath done.
And this title of the Word was so famously known to be given to the Messias, that even the enemies of Christianity took notice of it. Julian the Apostate calls Christ by this name : and Mahomet, in his Alcoran, gives this name of the Word to Jesus the son of Mary. But St. John had probably no reference to Plato, any otherwise than as the Gnosticks, against whom he wrote, made use of several of Plato'sewords and notions. So that, in all probability, St. John gives our blessed Saviour this title with regard to the Jews more especially, who anciently called the Messias by this name.
2. We will, in the next place, consider what might probably be the occasion why this Evangelist makes lo frequent mention of this title of the Word, and insists
so much upon it. And it seems to be this; nay I think that hardly any doubt can be made of it, since the most ancient of the fathers, who lived nearest the time of St. John, do confirm it to us.
St. John, who survived all the Apostles, lived to see those herelies which sprang up in the beginnings of Chriftianity, during the lives of the Apostles, grown up to a great height, to the great prejudice and disturbance of the Christian religion ; I mean the heresies of Ebion and Cerinthus, and the several fects of the Gnosticks, which began from Simon Magus, and were continued and carried on by Valentinus and Bafilides, Carpocrates and Menander. Some of which expressly denied the divinity of our Saviour, asserting him to liave been a mere man, and to have had no manner of existence before he was born of the blessed virgin; as Eusebius and Epiphanius tell us particularly concerning Ebion : which those who hold the fame opinion now in our days may do well 10 con der froin whence it had its original.
Oihers of them, I ftill mean the Gnosticks, had corrupted the simplicity of the Christian doctrine, by mingling with it the fancies and conceits of the Jewish Cabbailitis, and of the schocls of Pythagoras and Plato, and of the Chaklean philosophy, more ancient than either; as may be seen in E:1febius de præparat. cvar.; and, by jumbling all these together, they had framed a confused genealogy of deities, which they call by several glorious names, and all of them by the general name of Æons or dges; among which they reckoned Zo'n, and Angos, and Mevog eins and in paua, that is, the Life, and the Word, and í ke Only Begotten, and the Fulness, and many other divine powers and emanations which they fancied to te fuccessively derived from one another.
And they also distinguished between the maker of the world, whom they called the God of the Old Testament, and the God of the New, and between Jesus and Christ; Jesus, according to the doctrine of Cerinthus, as Irenæus tells us, being the man that was born of the vir. gin; and Christ, or the Messias, being that divine power or spirit which afterwards defcended into Jesus, and dwelt in him.
If it were possible, yet it would be to no purpose, to
about to reconcile these wild conceits with one another, and to find out for what reason they were invented, unless it were to amuse the people with these high swelling words of vanity, and a pretence of knowledge falsely so called, as the Apostle speaks, in allusion to the name of Gnosticks, that is to say, the men of knowledge ; which they proudly assumed to themselves, as if the knowledge of mysteries of a more sublime nature did peculiarly belong to them.
In opposition to all those vain and groundless conceits, St. John, in the beginning of his gospel, chufes to speak of our blessed Saviour, the history of whose life and death he was going to write, by the name or title of the Word, a term very famous among those feets; and thews, that this Word of God, which was also the title the Jews anciently gave to the Messias, did exist before he assumed a human nature, and even from all eternity; and that to this eternal Word did truly belong all those titles which they kept such a canting ftir about, and which they did with so much fenfeless nicety and fubtilty distinguish from one another, as if they had been so many several emanations from the Deity. And he shews, that this Word of God was really and truly the Life, and the Light, and the Fulness, and the Only Begotten of the Father : Ň 4. In him was the life, and the life was the light of men'; and, v 5. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not; and, v 6. 7. 8. 9. where the Evangelist, speaking of John the Baptist, says of him, that he came for a witness, to bear witney's of the light'; and that he was not that light, lut was sent to bear witness of that light: and that light was the true light which coming into the world enlightens every man ; and v 14. And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth'; and y 16. And of his fulness we all receive, &c. You see here is a perpetual allufion to the gloricus titles which they gave to their Æons, as if they had been so many several deities.
In short, the Evangelist shews, that all this fanciful genealogy of divine emanations, with which the Gnosticks made so great a noise, was mere conceit and imagination; and that all these glorious titles did really C3
meet in the Messias, who is the Word, and who before his incarnation was from all eternity with God, partaker of his divine nature and glory.
I have declared this the more fully and particularly, because the knowledge of it seems to me to be the only true key to the interpretation of this discourse of St. John concerning our Saviour under the name and title of the Word. And surely it is a quite wrong way for any man to go about by the mere Itrength and subtilty of his reason and wit, though never so great, to interpret an ancient book, without understanding and confidering the historical occasion of it, which is the only thing that can give true light to it.
And this was the great and fatal mistake of Socinus, to go to interpret fcripture merely by criticizing upon words, and searching into all the senses that they are possibly capable of, till he can find one, though never so forced and foreign, that will save harmless the opinion which he was beforehand resolved to maintain, even against the most natural and obvious sense of the text which he undertakes to interpret; just as if a man should interpret ancient statutes and records by mere critical skill in words, without regard to the true occafion
upon which they were made, and without any manner of knowledge and insight into the history of the age in which they were written.
I shall now proceed to the second thing which I proposed to consider, namely,
II. The description here given of the Word by this Evangelist in his entrance into his history of the gospel: In the beginning (says he) was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him ; and without hin was not any thing made that was made.
In which passage of the Evangelift four things are faid of the Word which will require a more particular explication.
1. That he was in the beginning. 2. That he was in the beginning with God. 3. That he was God. 4. That all were made by him. 1. That he was in the beginning ; tv ápxñ, which is