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If our adversaries can well quit themselves of this evidence, I believe they will have no small hopes of escaping in the whole trial; and if they meet with judges so partially addicted to them and their cause as to accept of such manifest juggling and perverting of the Scriptures, I know not what they may not expect or hope for, especially seeing how they exult and triumph in this invention, as may be seen in the words of Socinus himself in his answer to Erasmus Johannes, p. 67. For whereas Erasmus says, “I confess in my whole life I never met with any interpretation of Scripture more wrested, or violently perverting the sense of it;" the other replies, “I hoped rather that thou wouldst confess that in thy whole life thou badst never heard an interpretation more acute and true than this, nor which did savour more of somewhat divine, or evidenced 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 do 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
ante Mariam Virginem fuisse. Et enim ea verba aliter legi posse (nimirum hac ratione, Amen, amen, dico vobis, Priusquam Abraham fiat, ego sum) apparet ex iis locis apud eundem evangelistam, ubi similis et eadem locutio Græca habetur, cap. xiii. 19, Et modo dico vobis, priusquam fiat, ut cum factum fuerit credatis; et cap. xiv. 29, Et nunc dici vobis priusquam fiat, etc.
" Quæ vero ejus sententia foret lectionis ?-Admodum egregia : etenim admonet Christus Judæos, qui eum in sermone capere volebant, ut dum tempus haberent, crederent ipsum esse mundi lucem, antequam divina gratia, quam Christus iis offerebat, ab jis tolleretur, et ad Gentes transferretur. Quod vero ea verba, ego sum, sint ad eum modum supplenda, ac si ipse subjecisset iis, Ego sum lux mundi, superius e principio ejus orationis, ver. 12, constat et hinc, quod Christus bis seipsum iisdem verbis, ego sum, lucem mundi vocaverit, ver. 24, 28. Ea vero verba, Priusquam Abraham fiat, id signi. ficare quod diximus, e notatione nominis Abraham deprehendi potest ; constat inter omnes Abrahamum notare patrem multarum gentium. Cum vero Abram non sit factus prius Abraham, quam Dei gratia, in Christo manifestata, in multas gentes redundaret, quippe quod Abrahamus unius tantum gentis antea pater, fuerit, apparet senten. tiam horum verborum, quam attulimus, esse ipsissimam."
1 " Fateor me per omnem vitam meam non magis contortam scripturæ interpretationem audivisse; ideoque eam penitus improbo."- Eras. Johan. “Cum primum fatendi verbum in tuis verbis animadverti, sperabam te potius nullam in tua vita scripturæ interpretationem audivisse, quæ hạc sit acutior aut verior: quæque magis divinum quid sapiat, et a Deo ipso patefactum fuisse præ se ferat. Ego quidem certe non leves conjecturas habeo, illum, qui primus ætate nostra eam in lucem pertulit (hic autem is fuit, qui primus quoque sententiam de Christi origine, quam ego constanter defendo renovavit) precibus multis ab ipso Christo impetrasse. Hoc profecto affirmare ausim, cum Deus illi viro permulta, aliis prorsus tunc temporis incognita, patefecerit, vix quidquam inter illa omnia esse quod interpretationc hac divinius videri queat."-Socin. Disput. cum Eras. Johan, arg. 4, p. 67.
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.
Let the Christian reader, without the least prejudicial thought 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 verse 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: Verse 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 saying, he shall never taste of death;” and, verse 53, “ Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself ?” Two things are here charged on him by the Jews : First, in general, That he preferred, exalted, and honoured himself. Secondly, in particular, That he made himself better than Abraham their father. To both which charges Christ answers in order in the following words. 1. To the first or general charge of honouring himself: Verses 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 bim, and keep his saying." His honour he had from God, whom they professed [to know,] but knew not. 2. To that of Abraham he replies, verse 56, “Your father 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 thing that he had asserted, verse 57, “ Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham ?”—“Abraham was dead so many bundie]
before thou wast born, how couldst thou see him, or he thee?” To this, in the last place, our Saviour replies, verse 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, verse 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 the Jews sought 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 operose 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 afirm 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 that 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 be otherwise 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 80 rendered is evident,--(1.) From the context, as before declared; (2.) From the opposition between eyú siun, “ 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 they say,-
3. “The sense is excellent; for 'Before Abraham be made' is as much 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 Abram 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 as a proper name, whereof in Scripture there is not any example. [4.] It is horribly wrested, -1st. In making the words “ I am" elliptical, whereas there is neither need of nor colour for such a pretence. 2dly. In supplying the feigned ellipsis with a word at such a distance as from verse 12 to verse 58. 3dly. 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 everywhere 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. 4thly. 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 gevéodui 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. “Tipiv A Opadiye ysvériai, antequam esset,” saith he, “ before he was;" and he gives many instances to prove the propriety of so translating that expression: "'Eyú sites, præsens pro imperfecto, eran, Syrus; 'Eyw rinov, Nonnus. Sic in Græco: Ps. xc. 2, Tlpò Toü õpon yevnogvar où el." 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 evangelist to use the present for the preterimperfect tense; as chap. xiv. 9, Togo Tou zpórov jedine wv drus, xai oux fyrorás me—“I am so long,” for “ I was,” or “ I have been so long with you," etc. And chap. xv. 27, '05ı ' ippas just' iu o
Oū έστε éoTE_“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 Abra
“” hamum Jesus divina constitutione;"_“In God's appointment Jesus was before Abrabam 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 beginning 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' gloss, and Socinus beforehand 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 or phrase of words, nor 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 corruptions of our adversaries, having given a large testimony thereof in the chapter foregoing. Thus, then, they proceed :
Ques. What are the testimonies of Scripture wherein they think that this preeternity of Christ is not indeed expressed, but yet may thence be proved ?
Ans. Those 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 scem to attribute some things to the Lord Jesus from eternity ?
A. They are those from which they endeavour to confirm that Christ was begoiten from eternity of the essence of his Father.?
These are some of the places wherein this property of the Godhead, eternity, is ascribed to our Saviour, it is confessed.
Q. But from what places do they endeavour to prove that Christ was from eternity begotten of the essence of his Father?
A. From these chiefly, Mic. v. 2; Ps. ii. 7, cx. 3; Prov. viii. 23.5
1. These are only some of the testimonies that are used to this purpose. 2. It is enough to prove Christ eternal if we prove him begotten of his Father, for no such thing can be new in God. 3. That
1 “Quæ vero sunt testimonia Scripturæ in quibus putant non exprimi quidem prææternitatem Christi, ex iis tamen effici posse ?—Ea quæ viilentur Domino Jesu quasdam res attribuere ab æterno, quasdam vero tempore certo et definito."
2 “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."
3- Ex quibus vero locis exstruere conantur Christum ab æterno ex essentia Patris genitum ?—Ex his potissimum, Mic. v. 2; Ps. ii. 7, cx. 3; Prov. viii. 23."