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Discourses on the principal points of the Socinian controversy online

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manifested unto us." — The illustration and proof of this
point I do not further resume : but proceed to show the
consistency of the text, thus interpreted, with other passa-
ges of the Divine Word, wliich all, indeed, mutually com-
Municate light and evidence to one another.



jS on the supreme divinity

Srf. John i. 1. "In the ])eginning was the AYord, and
the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

That " THE Word," in whatever way we choose to-
translate the original term w hich is so rendered, whether
we retain tliis rendering, or give the preference to Wis-
dom, or Reason, is here to he understood as a designation
of Jesus Christ, is so incontrovertibly clear, that I should
reckon it ill-spent time, to argue with any one w ho could
be so disingenuous as to question it. — Tlie w hole of the
subsetpient context shows it ; in wliich the same glorious
person continues to be spoken of, in different views, and
under different appellations, till it is said of him, in the
14th verse, "and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt
among us, (and we beheld his glory, tlie glory as of the
only-begotten of the Fatiier,) full of grace and truth."' —
Tlie application of tlie title to Christ is, besides, more than
justified, — it is put beyond all controversy, by the use of
it elsew here, in the writings of this same apostle. He thus
commences his first epistle : — " That which was from the
beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with
our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have
handled of the Word of Life :"' — and the similarity be-
tween the opening of the epistle and the intioduclion to
the Gospel is so striking, as to leave no doubt in any con-
siderate and candid mind, w hether " the Wordy'' in the
latter means the same person w ith "' the Word nf Life,*'
in the former. The same appropriation of the title to Christ
appears, in one of those sublime visions described by this
apostle in the book of Revelation ; where the Redeemer
is introduced, marked by designations and characters
which preclude the possibility of mistake :-" I saw heaven
opened ; and behold, a white horse : and he that sat upon
him was called Faithful and True ; and in righteousness
he doth judge and make war. His eyes w ere as a flame
of fire, and on his head w ere many crowns ; and he had a



OF JESUS CHRIST. 59

name written which no man knew but he himself : and he
was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood ; and his name
is called the Word of God,"* f

Supposing it, then, to be admitted, that "^ the Word ''
here does not mean an attribute^ or an abstract quality
personified, but a ferson ; and that this person is Jesus
Christ : — we affirm, that the verse contains a plain and
express declaration of his true and proper Divinity. '^The
Word was God.^^

To take off the force and conclusiveness of this proof,
it has been alleged, that as the name of "6ro^" in this
eov. f ©£ov lu^xKf.



63 ON THE SUPREiME DIVINITY

phrases as these, into idolatry, and polytheism ? No dif-
ficulty is felt. The mind of the reader is left perfectly
easy and unembarrassed. Are these, then, to he consid-
ered as parallel expressions to one, which, if the Unitarian
interpretation of it be just, has actually misled into false
confidence, and idolatrous worship, ninety-nine hundredths
of the professing Christian world ?

The same observation is applicable, in its full force, to
another view of tlie text before us, which, although not the
one usually given of it by Unitarian w riters, is adopted by
some of them, and must not be entirelv overlooked. Dis-
satisfied with the translation, '* the Word was a God,^^
and sensible, it should seem, of the force of those consid-
erations, by which the word God is shown to be used in
its proper and unqualified sense, they admit that it should
be so understood : but the meaning of the expression is
not, say they, that Jesus Cluist was himself truly God,
but that, as the great prophet of the Most High, he was in
the room of God, the representative of God to mankind.
The only passage on which this interpretation is founded,
as a parallel case, is, what God says to Moses in the first
verse of the seventh chapter of the book of Exodus : " See,
I have made thee God (not a God, as it is rendered in our
translation) I have made thee God to Pharaoh; and Aaron
thy brother shall be thy prophet.*' I have no doubt, that
the true meaning of this expression is the same with that
of the l6th verse of the 4th chapter of the same book,
where God says to Moses respecting Aaron, " he shall be
to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead
of God.^^ But is this expression, I ask, in which a person,
acknowledged, on all hands, to have been a mere human
prophet, is spoken of, in an address by Jehovah himself,
as made, or njipointed God, to a particular individual, on a
particular occasion, and for a specific design, to be consid-
ered as parallel to the one before us, in which, without the



OF JESUS CHRIST. 63

application of a single restrictive term, and without the
smallest hint that sliould lead to the idea of representation
or vicegerency, it is simply affirmed, that " ^Ae Word was
God ?'" For my own part, I can hardly bring myself to
conceive how any one can assert the parallelism of the
two cases, who is not searching for support, which he
finds extremely scanty, to a pre-conceived and favourite
opinion.

At verse 14th of this chapter, to which allusion has
already been made, it is said : — "The Word was made
jlesh — or became flesh — and dwelt among us — full of
grace and truth." By those who deny the Divinity and
pre- existence of Jesus, these Avords are rendered, " aiid
(or nevertheless J the Word icas flesh.^' They do not
deny, that the verb, which they translate was, does fre-
quently signify to become ; but the most general significa-
tion of it, they remind us, is to be. Flesh , again, they say,
is often used generically for man ; and peculiarly for man
considered as mortal ; which no one certainly will be dis-
posed to question. Now since, according to them, " thr
Word" also means a man, even the man Christ Jesus,
who had no existence otherwise than as a man, the amount
of import in this words is, that the man Christ Jesus, "the
first preacher of the gospel, although honoured with such
signal tokens of Divine confidence and favour, and al-
though invested with so high an office, was nevertheless a
man, a mortal man.''^ I think I may, with perfect safety,
leave this, without comment, to your own understandings.
It is a proposition, which, if Jesus Christ had been a mere
man, it does not seem very likely, that the Evangelist
would have thought of thus formally announcing ; and if he
had, it requires only a comparison of his words, with the
commentary of our opponents, to satisfy you, that they are

* Cappe, as quoted in the Note of the Improved Version. — Mr.
Belsham's interpretation is the same, Calm Inquiry, pages 38,39.



6-1 ON THE SUPREME DIVINITY

not the terms which of all others he was most likely to
choose, for expressing the idea, which it is supposed to
liave been his intention to convey. To a candid reader,
I think, it must also be sufficiently obvious, that the
Word's becoming jiesh, or marij is represented as taking
place, in onler to his dwelling among men on the earth.

St?. The two expressions — " the Word was God,-'' and
^^ the Word became jlesh,-^ — when taken together, accord
precisely with other jKissages of Scripture, in which he is
- denominated God. in the very same kind of connexion. —
Isaiah ix. 0. — '' For unto us a child is born, unto us a soil
is given : — and his name shall be called — the mighty
GodP Mattli. i. 23, 23. " Now all this was done, that
it might be fuKilled which was spoken of the liord, by tlie'
prophet, sayiug, Beliold, a virgin shall be with child, and
shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Em-
manuel ; which, being interpreted, is God icith «s." The
former of these two passages is strikingly express : — and
as to the strange and ilimsy ground on which the genuine-
ness of the chapter, wherein the latter occurs, has been
questioned, I shall probably take some notice of it in a
future discourse. - '

'■Mh. Kom. ix. 5. '•' Of Avhom. (the Israelites) as con-
cerning the flesh, the Clirist came, who is over all, God,
blessed forever.'^f

This seems aliiuidantly plain : — so plain, and so deci-
sive, that if there were not another text in the whole Bil)lc
directly affirming this great truth, I know not how I sliould
satisfy myself in rejecting its explicit testimony. It has,
accordijigly, been put upon the rack, to make it speak, l)y
dint of torture, a different language.

* See Note C.
t I give the Greek here, for the sake of easy reference to it jii what

follows :^f| »" Kois-Toij TO KKTX (Txsy.Xj aiy sti txvtw* ©£«J) (V^.oyTjTci;
eii Tot/5 xiuvxi'.



OF JESUS CHRIST. 65

It might perhaps be enough to say, respecting this pas-
sage, that, according to the order of the original words,
the received translation is the most direct and natural ren-
dering. This, so far as I know, no one has ventured to
deny. All that has been affirmed is, that it is capable of
hearing a different sense. And this has accordingly been
attempted, in no fewer than five different ways : —

*^ Of whom, by natural descent, the Christ came. God,
who is over all, be blessed forever !"*

^' Whose are the fathers, and of whom — the Christ came,
who is above them all (viz. the fathers.) God be blessed
forever !"

" Of whom the Christ came, who is over all things. God
be blessed forever !"t

^' Of whom the Christ came, who is as God, over all,
blessed forever :"J — and, by a conjectural emendation,

^' Of whom the Christ came, (and) whose, or of whom,
is the supreme God, blessed forever."^

With regard to the last of these various modes of evad-
ing tJiis troublesome text, the severest terms of reproba-
tion are not too strong. — Conjectural alteration of the orig-
inal text, is an expedient which, all critics are agreed,
nothing but indispensable necessity can, in any case, jus-
tify. In the~ present instance, the alteration is not only
a most unwarrantable liberty with the sacred text, but,
even if on this ground it were admissible, it is liable to oth-
er objections, on principles both of syntax, and of propri-
ety as to sense. — These, however, it is needless to state ;
because the emendation itself, although still suggested as,
in its nature, " most happy and plausible/^ and spoken of

* Placing the full stop after a-upx-u.

t In this and the preceding, the full stop is placed after itfi fF



Online LibraryRalph WardlawDiscourses on the principal points of the Socinian controversy → online text (page 6 of 36)