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Discourses on the principal points of the Socinian controversy online

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well how far this was from being the fact. Such language is a mere
ruse de f^uerre, to diminish, in the minds of the ignorant, the real
state of the enemy's force. On reading this note of Mr. B. one would
he apt to think that his fidversaries had been driven from poi^t to post,
stormed triumphantly out of every successive fortress — till they had,
at length, bailied and dispirited, taken their last shelter behind this
feeble bastion of the (Jreok Article. While the matter of fact is, that
these adversaries retaiu the firm possession of a whole line of impreg-



NOTES. 409

nable stations, against which " no weapon that has yet been formed
has prospered." These adversaries have also shown, that, without
the slightest apprehension of the stability of their cause, they can re-
tire from disputed ground, when they are sensible that it cannot be
retained with honour, or even when they perceive that the validity of
their right of possession is, in any degree, questionable : they do not
feel themselves at all dependent on the retention of such ground, for
their strength, and for their triumph. They do most cordially agree
with Mr. Belsham, when he says elsewhere, " that profound learning,
and acute metaphysical subtlety, are by no means necessary to settle
the important question concerning the person of Christ. The inquiry
is into a plain matter of fact, which is to be determined, like any other
fact, by its specific evidence, the evidence of plain, unequivocal testi-
mony ; forjudging of which no other qualifications are requisite than
a sound understanding, and an honest mind." Belsham's Calm In-
quiry, Introd. page 5.

Note F. page 103.

I shall, in this note, submit to the reader a few remarks on the
two verses immediately subsequent to those which are discussed in
the text.

John i. 4, 5. " /n him was life, and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness ; and the darkness compi'ehetided it
not.^^

The language of the fourth verse — " In him was life ; and the life
was the light ofmen,''^ has been variojisly understood by interpreters.
Whitby makes the " ^i/e," to mean, " that life eternal %vhich he re-
vealed to the vyorld, 2 Tim. i. 10 ; to which he taught the way, chap.
xiv. 6 ; which he promised to believers, chap. x. 28 ; which he pur-
chased for them, chap. vi. 51, 53, 54>', which he is appointed to give
them, chap. xvii. 2; and to which he will raise them up, chap. v. 29 ;
as liaving life in himself, verse 26." This interpretation appears to
lead him immediately into the inconsistency of making this life the
revealer of itself. " Hence it follows," says he, after further illus-
trating the above interpretation, " that this life must be the light of
men, by giy^^g them tlie knowledge of this life, and of the way lead-
ing to it," &c. ; which, with ail deference to a critic so deservedly em-
inent, seems to amount just to this : — that the '• light of men" is so
called, because it reveals this " life," and yet this '• life" is the '* light
of men." — '• The life which the evangelist here speaks of," savs Dr.
52



ilO NOTES.

Mackuiijlil, " is lUc iiiiniau life;" for he adds, " and the life was the
light ofmen.^^ The human life that was in the TVord was *" the
light of men : the Word, by becoming flesh, enlightened men in the
knowledge of God. Henee Jesus called himself the light of the world,
(John viii. 12.) his doctrine being to the understanding what " light
is to the eye." The principal olijeiitions to this view are, that it pro-
duces too sudden a transition from the Word as ^^ in the beginning
with God," and as the divine Creator of all things, to the Word made
flesh: and that it does what seems to be by no means necessary, re-
stricts the meaning of his being the light of men, to the period of his
manifestation in the human nature. Doddridge, following some of
the ancient fathers, takes from the end of the preceding verse the two
last words, in the Greek (a 7£-/ovfv),and connects them with verse -ith.
" That which ivas in him was life ; and the life was the light q/'tucn,"
which he thus paraphrases: " That fulness of power, wisdom, and
benignity, which was in /iim, was the fountain of life to the whole
creation : and it is in particular, our coucern to remember, that the
life, which icas in him, was the light of men, as all the light of reason
and revelation was the effect of his energy on the mind." The alteration
in the construction is not, however, insisted upon ; and, indeed, the
very language of the paraphrase, shows it to be unnecessary : for af-
ter changing the expression " in him was life " into " that which was
in him ivas life,''^ the learned critic goes on in his paraphrase as if he
had kept the former : — " the life which teas in him was the light of
men." Interpretations, different in some respects from all of these,
are given by others.

Without dwelling upon these; I would remark, that the language
in question applies by far most naturally to thk word, prior to his
incarnation, or at least not in a sense confined to the period of his in-
carnation. The evangelist does not seem, at the third verse, to have
finished what he had to say respecting the Word in tlie state in which
he existed previously to his being " made flesh." After representing
him as God, and as with God, and as the Almightij Creator, without
whose power not one creature was formed ; he adds in verse 4th, an
expression which may, with great propriety, be understood as aflirm-
ing him lo be the self -e.vistent J cho\&\i, who has life in himself, and is
the great fountain of life to all other beings : so thiit there is no life
in the universe that is not derived from him. We know how often
Jehovali is distinguished in Scripture l>y the appellation of '• the liv-
ing God ;-^ we know that this very name, by which he made himself
known of old, the name Jehovah is derived from his self-existence.



NOTES. 411

and that it is, therefore, peculiarly his own, in distinction from all
Idols, and pretenders to deity. When it is here, then, said of the
Word, " in him ivas life,^^ the expression may be considered as equiv-
alent to " the living one ;" an appellation by which he denominated
himself to John, the writer of this gospel history, when he made his
glorious appearance to him in the isle of Patmos — " Fear not ; I am
ihe first and the last, and (or even) the Living One : and I was
dead, and behold I am alive forevermore," &c. Rev. i. 17, 18. The
Greek words are, £y «.£'*



Online LibraryRalph WardlawDiscourses on the principal points of the Socinian controversy → online text (page 34 of 36)