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Christ God in the strict and proper sense:
FROM JOHN I. 1.
The first Sermon preached Sept. 9, 1719.
JOHN i. I.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
SAINT John the beloved Disciple, the undoubted author of this Gospel which bears his name, was the youngest of the Apostles, and survived the rest many years. He saw so much the more of the state of Christianity, and of the progress it made under two persecutions; the first by Nero, the second by Domitian. Under the latter, he himself had inevitably suffered, had not God miraculously preserved him. After this, he was banished into Patmos, a little island in the Archipelago; and, during his retirement there, was favoured, in a particular manner, with revelations from heaven; which he committed to writing, and left behind him for the benefit of the Church. After a year or two's exile, it pleased God to call him forth again to Ephesus, his usual seat of residence; and there he passed the short remainder of his days, being then ninety years old, in the most divine and comfortable employment; taking upon him the charge of the churches
of Christ, those especially of the Lesser Asia. As there must be heresies at all times, (infinite wisdom permitting them for great ends and reasons,) so were there not wanting, even in the times of the Apostles, some denying the divinity, others the humanity of our blessed Lord, and both for the same reason; being offended at the great and unsearchable mystery of God incarnate. The tares had been sown by Simon Magus, Cerinthus, and others; and were grown up to a great height before St. John's death. This made it the more necessary for him to write his Gospel; which accordingly he undertook at the request of the bishops of Asia, and the brethren of the neighbouring provinces. But first he appointed solemn fasting and prayer for the divine blessing and assistance in it; after which being more fully instructed and more plentifully inspired, he thus began his lofty theme. "In the beginning 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 him was not any thing "made that was made." In these few words, and those that follow in that chapter, the good Apostle has not only confuted most of the heresies then on foot, but has obviated as many as should thereafter rise up in opposition to the divinity, personality, or incarnation of the Son of God: points of the greatest concernment to all Christians, but which nevertheless (through the perverseness of men's wits, and their proneness to take wrong measures of divine things) have been a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence to the disputers of this world, in former and in latter ages. This first chapter of St. John (as I said) is alone sufficient, with reasonable men, to end all disputes upon those heads. The words are plain, and the sense clear when carefully looked into; and it is for that very reason that they have been more tampered with, than any in the whole Scriptures. For, when the obvious and natural meaning of a text happens to stand in the way of an hypothesis, or preconceived opinion, pains must
be taken to darken the evidence, and to perplex the proofs which make against it. My design is briefly to enumerate the several interpretations which have been given of this chapter, to remark upon them as far as is needful, and to establish the only true one. They are reducible to four; which I may call Sabellian, Socinian, Arian, and Catholic. I shall explain them in their order. To begin with the first.
1. Under the Sabellian interpretation I include all that belongs to men of Sabellian principles, whether before or after the times of Sabellius, who lived about the middle of the third century. The Sabellians deny the Aóyos, or WORD, whereof St. John speaks, to be any real or substantial thing, distinct from the Person of God the Father. They understand by the Word, either some attribute, power, or operation inherent and permanent in the Father; or else some transient voice, sound, and the like. How they came into these and the like fancies, I shall show presently, after I have premised a few things about the name of the Aóyos, or WORD, which St. John uses. I do not design any historical account of the use of the term among Jews or Gentiles; being happily prevented, in that part, by a late excellent sermon of a very worthy and learned Prelate a. But I must observe that the Greek Aóyos, which we render WORD, may signify either inward thought, or outward speech. And it has with good reason been supposed by the Catholic writers, that the design of this name was to intimate that the relation of Father and Son bears some resemblance and analogy to that of thought, or of speech to the mind b. For example: as thought is coeval with the mind; so the Son is coeval with the Father c. As thought is closely united to, proceeds from, and yet remains in the mind; so also may
Bishop of Litchfield and Coventry. Sermon before the King.
Β Λόγος δὲ ὅτι οὕτως ἔχει πρὸς τὸν πατέρα ὡς πρὸς νοῦν λόγος. οὐ μόνον διὰ τὸ ἀπαθὲς τῆς γεννήσεως, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ συναφὲς, καὶ τὸ ἐξαγγελτικὸν———Greg. Νaz. Orat. xxxvi. p. 590. Vid. etiam Basil. Hom. 15. Petav. de Trin. p. 743.
• Vid. Dionys. Alex. apud Athanas. p. 259.
we understand that the Son is in the bosom of the Father, proceeding from him, yet never divided or separate, but remaining in him and with him. As to speech, it is properly the interpreter of the mind; and so, in this respect also, there is some resemblance and analogy, the Son being as it were interpreter and revealer of the unknown Father to the world d. Some of the ancient Catholic writers joining both these notions together, have considered them as applicable to the Son at different times, and in different capacities. Before the world was made, while he yet existed alone with the Father, (always including the Holy Ghost,) they supposed he might best be compared to silent thought resting in the mind,
d ob hoc Verbum nuncupatur, quia ex proprio divino ore processit, et nihil Pater sine eo aut jussit, aut fecit. Pseud. Ambros. de Fid. Orth. cap. vi. p. 353. ed. Bened.
Δύναται δὲ καὶ ὁ λόγος υἱὸς εἶναι παρὰ τῷ ἀπαγγέλλειν τὰ κρύφια τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκείνου, ἀνάλογον τῷ καλουμένῳ υἱῷ, λόγῳ νοῦ τυγχάνοντος· ὡς γὰρ ὁ παρ ̓ ἡμῖν λόγος Αγγελός ἐςι τῶν ὑπὸ τοῦ νοῦ ὁρωμένων, οὕτως ὁ τοῦ Θεοῦ λόγος ἐγνωκὼς τὸν πατέρα——————ἀποκαλύπτει ὃν ἔγνω πατέρα. Orig. Comm. in Joh. p. 41. Vid. et Just. Mart. Dial. p. 358. Iren. lib. ii. cap. 30. p. 163.
Theophilus Bishop of Antioch, where he speaks of the λóyos ivdiάderos and googixos (p. 129.) is thus to be understood. Tertullian, in his piece against Praxeas, has a great deal to the same purpose. Athenagoras, Tatian, and Hippolytus, though more obscurely, seem to have intended the same. And even Origen himself had adopted the like notion, as may appear from the following passages.
̓Εὰν ἐπιμελῶς ἐξετάζωμεν αὐτοῦ πάσας τὰς ἐπινοίας, μόνον κατὰ τὸ εἶναι σοφία ἀρχή ἐξι -ὡς εἰπεῖν ἄν τινα τεθαῤῥηκότως πρεσβύτερον πάντων τῶν ἐπινουμένων ταῖς
· ὀνομασίαις τοῦ πρωτοτόκου πάσης κτίσεως ἐσιν ἡ σοφία. Orig. in Joh. p. 19.
Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος————-ἀρχὴ δὲ μετὰ μαρτυριῶν τῶν ἐκ τῶν παροιμιῶν ἀποδίδοται εἰρῆσθαι ἡ σοφία, καὶ ἔτι προεπινοεμένη ἡ σοφία τοῦ αὐτὴν ἀπαγγέλλοντος λόγε, νοητέον τὸν ἐν τῇ ἀρχῇ, τουτέςι τῇ σοφίᾳ, αἰεὶ εἶναι. Orig. in Joh. p. 43. Compare p. 59.
Afterwards Origen uses an argument to prove that the λoyos has a real substance, and adds in conclusion: ‘O λóyos- ἐν ἀρχῇ τῇ σοφίᾳ τὴν ὑπόφασιν xy, p. 44. Which words are remarkable, and worth comparing with Ter tullian's upon the same subject, where he says: Jam in usu est nostrorum, per simplicitatem interpretationis, sermonem dicere in primordio apud Deum fuisse, cum magis rationem competat antiquiorem haberi; quia non sermonalis a principio, sed rationalis Deus etiam ante principium, et quia ipse quoque sermo ratione consistens, priorem eam ut substantiam suam ostendat. Tertull. contr. Prax. cap. v.
and which in Greek is called Λόγος ἐνδιάθετος. But when he afterwards came to create the world, and to reveal both himself and his Father, then he might more properly be compared to outward speech, or a word spoken forth, which the Greeks express by λόγος προφορικός. And thus it is, that the same writers sometimes speak of the Aóyos, or WORD, being both eternal, and in time: eternal in one capacity, not so in the other. For as thought must be considered previous to speech, so the Aóyos, or WORD, under one consideration might be conceived more ancient than under the other.
Thus far the Catholics, sober men, carried on the parallel; and there was no harm in it, while they kept close to the rule of faith, and within the bounds of sobriety. But the Sabellian heretics did not stop there. They pursued the parallel still farther, till they left the Aóyos, or WORD, no distinct personality. They observed that inward thought was no real substantial thing, distinct from the mind itself; and that outward speech was but a voice or sound, nothing fixed, real, and permanent: and from hence they took occasion to misinterpret the Apostle very widely; as if the WORD, which he speaks of, were nothing really distinct from the Father, not a second Person, any more than a man's thought, or word, is another person from the man. This kind of construction was openly received and propagated by f Photinus, about the middle of the fourth century; by Paul of 8 Samosata, almost a century before him; by h Sabellius and Noëtus earlier than he; and by i Praxeas still higher up, about the end of the second century; and probably by some other here
f Hilar. p. 789, 1048, 1179. Ambros. de Fid. lib. i. cap. 8.
8 Epiphan. Hæres. lxv. p. 608, 609.
h Epiphan. Hæres. lxv. p. 608.
i Tertull. contr. Prax. c. vii. viii.
k Vld. Clem. Alexandr. Strom. p. 646. Iren. p. 130, 132, 157, 158. N. B. The notion of a λόγος ἐνδιάθετος and προφορικὸς, in this heretical sense,
is justly condemned by all the Fathers. Athanasius, Hilary, Basil, Ambrose, and other Catholics censured it as smartly as the Council of Sirmium, Euse