Page images

Christ applies to himself. Or you understand by the foregoing words, "In the beginning was ** the Word," &c. truth and righteousness, coeternal with the Divinity. Permit me to tell you, that you explain one obscurity by another; and that, notwithstanding all your shifts, either the evangelist did not know what he was faying, or you must absolutely allow an eternal and preexistent principle, united to human nature, " in ** the fulness of time."

To prove what I advanced, I shall adopt your interpretation, and place 'truth in the room of Word.. ** In the beginning was the *' truth: and the truth was with God: and "God was the truth." Remark, here, that God

and the truth are identified: God was the

Truth. In the fame chapter, it is said; "The ** Word Was made flesh, and dwelt amongst "us." In adopting your interpretation, it will be—" The truth was made flesh, and dwelt "amongst us," viz. the same Truth of which he said before, that it was God him self,-r-and then the entire sense will be—God, the Truth, was made flesh, and dwelt amongst ut. Upon the whole, you are to acknowledge an eternal, pre-existent principle, assuming human nature; or to reject this chapter as supposititious, which no Aiian or Socinian ever did.

* 'You

You accuse the English translators of some design, in transposing these words, K*/ e»f 5» * A»v@-, "And God was the Word," which they have Englished, " And the Word was "God," as if they intended to promote the Christian cause by an artful transposition.

I see no advantage you can derive from so severe and injurious an intimation. Whether we say, "God was the Word," or " the Word "was God," the sense is the fame: for, in aH languages, it is the nature of the copulative verb (is) to identify the predicate and the subject, if it be not followed by some exclusive particle or negative word. Peter was or is that man; transpose the words, and such will be the result of the transposition: that man was or is Peter. The sense is the fame in both cases: and the same may be said, and is true, whether we fay, *< God was the "Word," or " the Word was God."

This chapter is as clear as the first chapter of St. Paul's epistle to the Colossians, wherein he sets forth and extols the qualities of our divine Redeemer, " by whom were made all things in "Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible; "whether thrones, or dominations, or princi"palities, or powers: all things were created "by him and in him : and he is before all: and "all things subsist in him."*.

.. D 2 If

* Verse 16, 17.


If all things, that are, were made by him, he himself was not made: and his divine power is signified, when it is said, 1* all things subsist," or are preserved by him.

Further: Critics lay down a general rule, whereby to elucidate the fense and meaning of authors, viz. to know the time in which they lived; the circumstances in which they wrotei and the adversaries with whom they were engaged. The application of the rule evinces the literality of the first chapter of St. John, winch puzzled and perplexed the Arians and Socinians, and exhausted the metaphysics of the subtle Crellius. St. John wrote his gospel at the request of the Asiatic bishops, in opposition to the false doctrine of Ebion and Cennthus, who denied the Divinity of the Son of God. Motives, circumstance^ the nature of the question, the doctrine of his adversaries, all concur to prove that he is to be understood in a literal fense: a sense so free from any mysterious obscurity, that the Platonic philosophers, according to St. Austin, discovered, in this chapter, the Divinity of the Son of God. "But they were too proud," fays this father, " to acknowledge the lowness "of his humanity."


To invalidate our belief of Christ's conception in a virgin's womb, you oppose St. Matthew, thew, who says, " that Jacob was father to Jo"seph, the husband of Mary," to St. Luke, who says* "that Heli was Joseph's father." But this seeming contradiction vanishes, if we pay attention to the manner in which the Jews sometimes traced their genealogy. In Deuteronomy*, the law declares, " that if one brother "dies without children, the surviving brother "shall marry his relict, in order to raise up "issue for the deceased," which issue was to bear his name. Hence, a twofold genealogy amongst the Jews; the one legal, the other natural. Jacob and Heli were brothers. Heli died without issue. Jacob married his relict, and begot Joseph, the husband of Mary. Thus, when St. Luke calls Heli " Joseph's father," he means, his father, according to the law: and when St. Matthew calls Jacob " Joseph's fa"ther," he means, his father, according to nature: and by this means, the evangelists are easily reconciled. Other solutions are given to this difficulty, and you are at your option to give the preference to which you choose. The Jewish records and their family-registers have been burnt with the archives of their temple. We live at too great a distance to settle the genealogies of their families. The evangelists, besides the gift of inspiration, had every information: as they were nearer the times. In certain countries,

* Chap. xxr.

tries, there are some traces of this ancient custom of giving the denomination of father or uncle to a person who is not either the one or the other, but by a fiction of law. Hence, in the province of Britany, in France, by their municipal law, a relation, in a remoter degree, inherits as an uncle; and has the title of " On** cle a la mode de Bretagne," an uncle, according to the custom of Britany.

If, of two historians, in writing the life of one -«f their nobles, one said, that he was nephew to -one, and the other, that he was nephew to another, could we impeach either with ignorance, when both could be reconciled by examining into the customs of the country in which they .wrote? And, if the rule stands good with regard to authors of credit and repute, how much more so, with regard to inspired writers?

Let us now examine your difficulty relative to this famous prophecy of Isaiah*, applied to .Jesus Christ by St. Matthew t, " A Virgin (hall ** conceive, and bring forth a Son: and they **/stiall call his name Immanuel: that is to say, **iGocbis with us."

You assert, that "'St. Matthew did not well

]" understand the prophet's meaning:" and

"that this prophecy concerns one Maher-flialal

"hathbas, * Chap. vii. Terse 14. + Chap. i.

« PreviousContinue »