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more clearly its revelation from God. I truly have not light conjectures, that he who brought it first to light in our age (now this was he, who in this age renewed the opinion of the original of Christ, which I constantly defend) (that is, his uncle Lælius) obtained it of Christ by many prayers, This truly I dare affirm, that whereas God revealed many things to that man, at that time altogether unknown to others, yet there is scarce any thing amongst them all, that may seem more divine, than this interpretation.'
Of this esteem is this interpretation of these words with them. They profess it to be one of the best, and most divine discoveries, that ever was made by them; whereto for my part I freely assent; though withal, I believe it to be as violent a perverting of the Scripture, and corrupting of the word of God, as the world can bear witness to.
1. Let the Christian reader, without the least prejudicial thoughts from the interpretation of this, or that man, consult the text, and context. The head of the discourse, which gives occasion to these words of Christ concerning himself, lies evidently and undeniably in ver. 51. Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man keep my saying, he shall never see death :' upon this the Jews rise up against him, as one that boasted of himself above measure, and preferred himself before his betters : ver. 52. Then said the Jews unto him, now we know that thou hast a devil; Abraham is dead, and the prophets, and thou sayest, if a man keep my sayings he shall never taste of death;' and ver. 53. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, who is dead, and the prophets are dead, whom makest thou thyself to be.' Two things are here charged on him by the Jews. First in general, that he preferred, exalted, and honoured himself. 2. In particular, that he made himself better then Abraham their father. To both which charges, Christ answers in order in the following words: to the first, or general charge of honouring himself; ver. 54, 55. Jesus answered, if I honour myself, my honour is nothing; it is my Father that honoureth me, of whom ye say, that he is your God. Ye have not known him, but I know him, and if I should say I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you; but I know him, and keep his saying.' honour he had from God, whom they professed, but knew
To that of Abraham he replies, ver. 56. "Your fa
ther Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad.' Though Abraham was so truly great, and the friend of God, yet his great joy was from his belief in me; whereby he saw my day. To this the Jews reply, labouring to convince him of a falsehood, from the impossibility of the things that he had asserted, ver. 57. Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham ?' Abraham was dead so many hundred years before thou wast born; how couldst thou see him, or he thee? To this in the last place our Saviour replies, ver. 58. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am.' The Jews knowing that by these words he asserted his Deity, and that it was impossible on any other account to make good, that he who in their esteem was not fifty years old (indeed but a little above thirty), should be before Abraham, as in a case of blasphemy, they take up stones to stone him, ver. 59. as was their perpetual manner, to attempt to kill him under pretence of blasphemy, when he asserted his Deity, as John v. 18. Therefore thought the Jews the more to kill him,--because he said, that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.'
This naked and unprejudicate view of the text, is sufficient to obviate all the operous and sophistical exceptions of our catechists, so that I shall not need long to insist upon them. That which we have asserted may be thus proposed. He who in respect of his human nature, was many hundred years after Abraham, yet was in another respect existing before him; he had an existence before his birth, as to his divine nature. Now this doth Christ expressly affirm concerning himself. And nothing else is pretended but only his Divine nature, wherein he should so exist. They say then,
1. That these words do not signify pre-eternity, but only something before Abraham. It is enough, that his existence so many hundred years before his nativity is evidently asserted; his eternity from thence will evidently be concluded, and they will not deny, that he may as well be eternal, as be before Abraham. But,
2. The words may be rendered,“ priusquam Abraham fiat, ego sum ;' before Abraham be made. But 1. They may be so rendered, is no proof at all that they ought to be so: and, as was before observed, if this be sufficient to evade the sense
of a place, that any word in it may otherwise be rendered, because it is, or may be so in some other place, nothing certain can be concluded from any testimony of the Scriptures whatever. But that they may not be so rendered is evident. 1. From the context, as before declared. 2. From the opposition between tyó ciui, 'I am,' and · Abraham was,' which evidently denotes a time past, as it stands in comparison with what Christ says of himself. And 3. The words in such a construction as this, require an interpretation as to the time past. And 4. because this interpretation of the words corrupts the whole sense of the place, and wrests it contrary to the design and intendment of our Saviour. But then
63. The sense is excellent; for before Abraham be made, isasmuch as before he be Abraham, or the father of many nations, which he was when the Gospel was preached to the conversion of the Gentiles. I am, that is, I am the light of the world, which you should do well to walk in, and attend unto.'
1. That this interpretation in general is altogether alien, and strange from the scope of the place, the Christian reader, upon the bare view of it, will be able to judge. 2. It is false. 1. Because Abraham was the father of many nations, Jews, and proselytes, before the preaching of the Gospel, as Gen. xv. 5. 2. It is false, that Abraham was not Abraham, until after the ascension of Christ, and preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles. He was made Abraham, from his first enjoyment of his name, and seed in Isaac, and is constantly so called. 3. It is frivolous; for if Christ was, before Abram was made Abraham, we obtain what we plead for, for he was made so, when God gave him that name: But, it should be, before Abram be made Abraham, or there is no sense in the words ; nor then neither, unless Abraham be taken as a common appellative, for the father of many nations, and not a proper name, whereof in Scripture there is not any example. 4. It is horribly wrested, 1. In making the words, 'I am,' eliptical ; whereas there is neither need of, nor colour for such a pretence. 2. In supplying the feigned elipsis with a word at such a distance, as from ver. 12, to ver. 58. 3. In making Christ to say, he is the light of the world, before the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles, when the world' is every where in the Gospel taken quite in another sense, for the Jews and Gentiles, and not for the Jews only, which according to this interpretation it must be. 4. It leaves no reason of the following attempt of the Jews to stone him, upon the particular provocation of this assertion, he having before affirmed himself to be the light of the world, which they were not moved at. There is indeed no end of the falsities, follies, and corruptions of this perverting, and corrupting of the word of God.
For the grammatical vindication of the words, and the translation of the word yéveo Jai, in a sense of that which is past, there is no occasion administered by our catechists, and therefore I shall not trouble the reader therewith,
And of the first sort of testimonies, which they except against, and their exceptions, thus far.
A little animadversion upon the catechists good friend Grotius, shuts up this discourse and chapter. In the end he agrees with them, but fixes on a new medium for the accomplishment of it, not daring to espouse an interpretation so absurd in itself, and so abhorrent from the common sense of all men, that ever professed the name of Christ. He takes then another course, yet no less aiming than they, to disappoint this evidence of the pre-existence of Christ before his nativity: 'Tiv Aßpadu yevéolai, antequam esset,' saith he, before he was:' and gives many instances to prove the propriety of so translating that expression. “Eyú tim : præsens pro imperfecto: eram: Syrus. ływ tê ev Nonnus: sic in Græco;' Psal. xc. 2. miv tà opn yevnñvai où eli' very good, before Abraham was, or was born, Christ was, as in that of the psalm, ' before the mountains were made, thou art.' And a little to help a friend at so good a work; it is no new thing for this eyangelist to use the present for the preterimperfect tense: as chap. xiv. 9. TOGOŪTOV Xpóvov med? υμών ειμι, και ουκ έγνωκάς με I am so long,’ for “I was,' or ' I have been so long with you:' &c. And chap. xv. 27. ότι απ' αρχής μετ' εμού έστε" • because ye have been with me from the beginning ;' Thus far then we are agreed: but how should this be, that Christ thus was, before Abraham was, * Fuerat,' saith he, “autem ante Abrahamum Jesus, divina constitutione.' In God's appointment Jesus was before Abraham was born : yea and so was Grotius, and Socinus, and every man in the world, for known unto God are all his works from the foundation of the world.' And this is that great privilege it seems, that our Saviour vindicates to himself, without any occasion, to no purpose, insisting on that which is common to him with all the elect of God in the best sense of the words. Of that other text of Scripture, John xvii. 5, which together with this he labours to corrupt, I shall speak afterward. I shall only add, that our great doctors do not in this business agree. Grotius here makes no mention of Socinus's gloss : and Socinus before-hand rejects this of Grotius, as absurd and fond : and as such let it pass; as having no occasion given from the words foregoing, nor colour from the matter, nor phrase of words, no significancy to the business in hand.
The pre-eternity of Christ farther evinced. Sundry texts of Scripture
vindicated. In the consideration of the ensuing testimonies I shall content myself with more brief observations upon, and discoveries of the corruption of our adversaries, having given a large testimony thereof in the chapter foregoing. Thus then they proceed.
Q. What are the testimonies of Scripture wherein they think, that this pre-eternity of Christ is not indeed ex.. pressed, but yet may thence be proved ?
‘A. These which seem to attribute to the Lord Jesus some things from eternity, and some things in a certain and determinate time.' ** Let the gentlemen take their own way and method ; we shall meet with them at the first stile, or rather brazen-wall, which they endeavour to climb over.
•Q. What are the testimonies which seem to attribute some things to the Lord Jesus from eternity ?
a Quæ vero sunt testimonia Scripturæ, in quibas putant, non exprimi quidem præ-æternitatem Christi, ex iis tamen effici posse ?—Ea quæ videntur Domino Jesu quasdam res attribuere, ab æterno; quasdam vero tempore certo et definito.
b Quænam sunt testimonia, quæ Domino Jesu ab æterno res quasdam attribuere videntur?-Sunt ea, ex quibus conantur exstruere Christum ab æterno ex essentia patris genitum.