Chapter 38

Of Mr. John Hunt’s further arrogance; especially in his expression about Interpreters on Luke 15:22.

It is some arrogance too, though of a far lower kind, for Mr. Hunt to appropriate that conception to himself, which may be found more common in Expositors taking up the same thought {as is most probable} one from another. A word or to upon that in Genesis to begin with.

“Could not the Dove, says he, stay out of the Ark as well as the Raven? I conceive the reason why she could not, did arise from there different natures; the Raven in all probability might light and live upon the dead carcasses, which were floating upon the water, and that might keep her from coming to the Ark.” {Page 134}

If a man will site his authorities let him do it, but to challenge them as his own, favors of an ostentation of vain-glory, more than a proof of Truth and Modesty. I conceive it, says he. It is easy to conceive that which is both conceived and expressed too to our hands. Now considering this conceiving of the matter, why the Raven returned not into the Ark, is found in Mr. Poole’s English Annotations, and in the hints of the Assembly’s Annotations, and in Diodati,, or the Italian Annotations, translated into English, Mr. Hunt should rather have said, as in his book, page 26, “since I have been a student in Divinity I have been taught from you; that immodestly have said it thus of the Raven, I conceive so and so, when his worthy authors had conceived it for him.”

But the main instance of his pride and arrogance designed for this chapter lies in his fictitious pretensions of knowing the general interpretations on Luke 15:22, whereas it may easily be proved he never saw them on the text, Ezek.13:3, but has consulted the fewest number of them. And all tends to make the vulgar reader believe two lies. 1. His own reading on the text. 2. That Interpreters are generally sounder and more honest than indeed they are. {“I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words everyone from his neighbour. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD.” Jer.23:30-32.}

The words he uses are upon Luke 15:22, “bring forth the best robe,” by which {says he} Interpreters do generally understand the robe of Christ’s Righteousness.” {Page 204} Generally? What, as if no body almost was corrupt upon this text.

I shall prove, if the Lord will, that he never consulted Interpreters generally to know it. This was a boast. Interpreters generally are all sorts of Interpreters. It’s a very loose phrase. I could remember no such general interpretation, and therefore before I consulted Interpreters particularly, as this phrase is a loose one, I secretly feared it was a lying one. Neh.6:8. Generally? What, do Popish, Arminian, and all sorts of Interpreters upon that place generally interpret the best robe, of Christ’s Righteousness? For there is not one cautious word of limitation; as to say, Orthodox or Reformed Interpreters, to soften the expression. Let me cast his general Interpreters into these four classes, viz. 1. Corrupt. 2. Barren. 3. Vacant. 4. Famed for Orthodoxy. Of the corrupt there are two sorts. 1. Corrupt in doctrine. 2. Corrupt in the form of criticizing the original words. Let me go over them in their order.

The “best robe,” by which {says he} “Interpreters do generally understand the robe of Christ’s Righteousness.” But {say I} how can that be? Theophylact makes it to be baptism. Gregory the Great, and his Moral Expositions, and the First Volume of his works, interprets it the garment of innocency that man had in his original integrity. Nicholas of Lyra, or Lyranus, the Jew turned Christian, calls this best robe the hope of immortality. Thomas Aquinas interprets it of the Divinity which Adam lost. Desiderius Erasmus in his paraphrase follows Gregory and Lyra, and makes this best Rose to be the robe of former innocence which the prodigal son had lost. Carthusian interprets it the robe of innocency taken up in baptism, and so follows Theophylact, as afore. Willem Hessels van Est expounds it of charity. Felix Bidenbachius, a follower of Martin Luther, doth, in his storehouse of funeral-subjects distributed into various classes, interpret it, as some before, of baptism. Hugo Grotius gives this sense, that it is perpetual innocence of life. Emmanuel Housset follows Gregory, Aquinas and Erasmus. He tells us, it was that garment the prodigal had been clothed with before. Johannes Ludovicus Wolzogenius the Socinian is the very quill of our Neonomian, and tells you, it is an unblameable life and conversation; which is plain Mr. Baxter meant this robe to be, in his gloss upon the text, clothing the children of God with righteousness and holiness.

The “best robe,” Lucas Brugensis interprets it in the letter, a long garment down to the ankles. Maldonate, a learned Jesuit who thought it a great improvement upon the text, tells us, it is not an ordinary garment as servants wore, but a vestment fit to be put on by the sons of nobles. Nicolaus Zegerus interprets it a kind of garment to the bottom of the feet. Augustine Marlorate, who gleaned the ears, makes but a poor harvest of it, having picked up no better an interpretation, than what is of the corrupt literal sort too, as I find, when he came to thresh it out, and give his own thought. Rudolf Gwalther in the greater critics interprets thus, a principal robe heretofore proper to the Medes, or Medians. The critic Daniel Heinsius could not have slept, if he had not been reconciled to the conceit of Lucas Brugensis, and told us it was a certain sort of garment worn down to the ankles. The Dutch Annotations, translated into English by Theodore Haak, say no more upon this best robe than the same defectiveness of the letter, and in an odd enallage of the number too, to wit, long garments like gowns. Dr. Hammond flourishes over the same with new and better rhetoric. His words are, “use him with all the expressions of respect and kindness which are possible; bring the best garment that is in the wardrobe.” Thus the doctor, and are not all these far enough from the Righteousness of Christ? Let’s consult more of them.

The “best robe,” next let me bring in the barren Interpreters. These read after the criticism of the original words, but open not the ground of them. For there is a notable variation in the original text from our common reading in the translation of the King’s Bibles. And let’s see among these Interpreters, whether they do generally understand the robe to be meant of Christ’s Righteousness. The interpretation called Glossa Ordinaria, or the ordinary gloss, reads it the first robe, but says not the Righteousness of Christ; and no wonder the ordinary gloss is so barren and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which ought to be healed in our understandings out of that wholesome and original phrase, the first robe, when as some of the ancients {from whence this Glossa &c., was collected by Walafrid Strabo the Monk, a disciple of Rabanus Maurus, about the middle of the ninth age particularly Hierome in his Canon does read it so too; quickly bring forth the first robe; and so the Vulgar Latin from Eusebius Hieronymus reads the first robe. Francois Vatable also reads the first robe. Sebastian Castellio reads it too the first robe. The Rhemists in their translation, glosses and annotations, read it, “quickly bring forth the first stole and do it on him,” and though herein they followed Hierome in the matter, they labored to be more obscure in the form to lock up all they could from the knowledge of the common people; thereby seeking to frustrate the English Reformation, by filling up the English Bible with many Popish and hard words; a work of darkness subtly contrived by the Jesuits at Rhemes, but bravely unraveled and refuted by Thomas Cartwright and William Fulke. Arias Montanus follows Jerome, “quickly bring forth the first robe.” John Price {Pricaeus} in the fifth volume of the larger critics, reads “the first robe, the former robe, or principal robe.” Ludovicus de Dieu brings the Arabic text for the first robe, and the Syriac text for the chief robe. The famous of the Cartwright’s, in his Harmony, published about 1627, goes not beyond the literal expositors, “a most excellent and precious robe;” but says no more of it; he does not say the Righteousness of Christ. Do these Interpreters therefore bring up the examined observation to truth, that Interpreters generally understand this robe, this first robe, has meant of Christ’s Righteousness? Surely no!

By this “first robe” those Interpreters {without doubt} meant the first robe of innocence which mankind had, and lost in Adam, even as the Interpreters of the first class had expounded. This first robe nevertheless {though Interpreters do not hit on it} was the Righteousness of Christ, absolutely designed as Grace, for supreme ornament and glory to the elect in Christ Jesus, in the over-fall way, though the elect had never fallen, and so needed the Righteousness of Christ’s nature for their Justification, which since they did, as matters stood, by reason of the Fall. The Righteousness of Christ’s taken thus, in this supreme over-fall way, seems to be pointed to by the Holy Ghost, in his original phrase, the first-robe. {Rom.11:36 – Rev.3:14} For so, it is the first robe, in a priority of Designation and Order, before the robe of Adam’s innocence was pitched on, who is but the first open man, in the Creation of man by the pattern, or Man-Image in the Second Person of God, and first man too in the under-fall way, or the fallen state of mankind. {Gen.1:26. Christ is the First Man in the Pre-Creation Over-Fall way; Adam is the first man in the Creation Under-Fall way.} Also thus over-fall way; Adam is the first man in the creation-under-fall way, it is, that the Righteousness of Christ was absolutely the former robe to Adam’s innocence; and withal the chief robe, the principal, the most excellent and precious robe, which Adam never lost, because {as he was our open creation-head} it was never committed to him, as the robe of our nature-innocency was. Jn.1:16. Now such was the vastness of God’s thoughts and ways within Himself, Isa.55:8,9, that He was not tied up to the Fall for a way of dispensing to the elect, the Righteousness of His Son, as the Glory-Man; for though the elect had never needed Pardon and Justification from that Righteousness, yet they should, as the wife of a husband, have been endowed with this glory, the glory of the Wisdom-Righteousness, I Cor.1:30, whether there had been any Fall decreed, to make the Redemption-Righteousness of Christ necessary, or no; because it will ultimately be swallowed up in that Righteousness-Glory, as if sin had never entered. So that the first robe there in Luke 15:22 is the first robe, in order of Counsel, before Adam’s robe of innocence. Eph.1:11. Neither indeed can the Righteousness of Christ stand so clearly in this text, according to the original words, except in the Over-Fall way of Grace it be so interpreted. This might be some reason why the learned have generally stumbled, scrupling to confess it of the Righteousness of Christ in their interpretations; because the Righteousness of Christ can’t well be the first robe {for first and chief are two things} without the Over-Fall Interpretation; and I have found that almost all learned men have been enemies to that. Isa.29:14. Blessed therefore be the Lord that he has kept me, and rescued me out of their snare {robbing me of the chief Foundation of all the Grace of God in an Absolute Over-Fall way, that does so secure Grace to me in the Under-Fall dispensations, through which I am passing into an Upper-Fall glory.} Now man being fallen, the same first robe of Christ’s Redemption-Righteousness, prepared in Christ before the robe of innocence was openly put on Adam, is put upon the elect. Tit.3:4-6. The robe of innocence too in Creation was put upon Adam by the Wisdom-draught of the same Wisdom-Righteousness, or Image of God, the Glory-Man, from the Dates of Everlasting. This Wisdom-Righteousness could have served the First Decrees of God’s Absolute Grace, though there had never been the Fall to make it necessary, that that Wisdom-Righteousness should have become Redemption Righteousness. But to go on.

“Bring forth the best robe.” Here I proceed to the mutes and the vacant Interpreters. Of the critics, Johannes van den Driesche, in his 10 books of the Praetorian, omits the 22nd verse. Martin Bucer also, in his upon the Evangelists, excludes it from its proper place; nevertheless, elsewhere in a remote reference of his, when he has wearied his reader to find him, descends to no particulars. Cartwright and Fulke, in their confutation of the Rhemist’s Testament, pass this verse over. Theodore Beza hath it wanting in his annotations. Joachim Camerarius, his supplier, at the end of the best edition of the book, leaves it out. Fransiscus Junius and David Paraeus are silent in the matter. Piscator hath not one word to it. Nor yet Benedictus Aretius on the New Testament. Dr. John Lightfoot neither takes it into his Horae Hebraicae, nor in his Harmony descends to any particulars in the whole parable. And Mr. Samuel Cradock in his Harmony overlooks the particulars of the parable as too minute to spend time on.

“Bring forth the best robe.” Next come the reputed Orthodox, and yet indeed are, in their interpretation of this best robe, Heterodox. The ancient Ambrose, bishop of Milan, interprets it of wisdom, the strength of spiritual wisdom in the room of bodily infirmities. Conrade Pellican, one of the first reformers, and born as early as 1478 only follows Erasmus in his Paraphrase, who was a moderate Papist, and interprets it that first robe of former innocence the prodigal son had lost. Heinrich Bullinger {another of them} speaks freest from corruption of any yet, whose interpretation is, that it is the Innocency of Christ; that is, of Christ’s Person and Nature. And yet this is distinct from the common acceptation of his Righteousness, and wide from what Mr. Hunt with other authors, {perhaps,} will allow that Particular Righteousness of Christ’s, which consists in what he did and suffered. Ulricus Zuinglius, the Swiss Reformer, makes it to be only the liberal bounty of God. John Calvin himself makes it but a restitution of Adam’s Righteousness we lost in innocency; the Italian Annotations by Giovanni Diodati expound it of God’s doing good to his own in general. Daniel Toffanus interprets it of our Sanctification and Renewing. Now this is an inward work, and so can’t be the Robe of Christ’s Righteousness. Mr. Matthew Poole in his Latin Synopsis, or abbreviation of the greater critics, quotes none for it but such as interpret it Innocency of Life, and a Restoration of what we lost. Whereas we lost not the Righteousness of Christ whereby we are justified. Mr. Clarke hath nothing but two texts at the place, which I may say, he Interpreters do far oftener carry to inherent Righteousness than imputed.

In short, I have never met with three Interpreters, and all in English, who have expounded this robe in Luke 15:22 of the Righteousness of Christ. The first is Bishop George Downham in his Treatise of Justification against the Papist Robert Bellarmine. He understands it of the Righteousness of Christ imputed to us. The second is Mr. Abbot in the Divines of the Assembly {commonly, though improperly, called the Assembly’s Annotations, because all was done in that performance by ten men.} And the third and last interpreter is honest Mr. John Collings, late of Norwich, who is the only man finds fault with the interpretation of it, as to Innocence our Inherent Righteousness lost, in this supplement to Mr. Poole’s English Annotations. Now I never met with a fourth.

On the whole I argue, books and interpretations of men hitherto upon this text are generally deceitful streams. They’ll fail a man who searches them with a thirst after the truth. And surely he is a boldfaced and arrogant writer who tells us of this text, Luke 15:22, that by the best robe Interpreters generally understand the Righteousness of Christ, when there are but three Interpreters to be found, in consulting above fifty, but what give him the lie in it! If he can nevertheless maintain his ground of thirty or forty of his worthy authors, it behooves him for his reputation’s sake to do something manly in it; and albeit he can’t make out this generality of Interpreters on the place, yet he ought to recant the mistake openly among his other retractions. “Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.” I Sam.2:3.