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for him, and he is before all things, and by him all things consist."* But what, if even this sublime description of the Redeemer's works, as Creator of the world, is tortured and degraded, as, “meaning only the great change which was introduced into the moral world, and particularly into the relative situation of Jews and Gentiles by the dispensation of the Gospel.”+ If this be the sense of this and similar passages, it seems most strange that artless, honest, pious men like the apostles, should thus use so many sublime expressions concerning Christ, at first sight so strongly misleading men to believe him truly God, while in all these they had a reserved sense, meaning only that he was miraculously inspired, gifted and exalted, but still a mere man. Would such subtlety on such a subject be consistent with fairness, truth, and piety ?
In truth and seriousness, my fellow-christians, if we deny either “that the Word was in the beginning with God, and was God, and that all things were made by him,”I or on the other hand deny, that the same Word dwelt among us, and that “we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,”f we shall contradict the plainest declarations of Scripture, and shall meet in every page of the prophets, the evangelists, and the apostles, a multitude of inexplicable assertions, and irreconcilable contradictions. Whereas, by admitting both the divinity and the incarnation of the Redeemer, we find the all-pervading and connecting principle, which solves the difficulties, and reconciles the apparent contradictions of Scripture, and gives to the entire scheme of revelation, harmony and consistence.
If we admit that Christ was at once truly God and truly man, we can reconcile the divine characters ascribed to Him, and the humble adoration paid to Him on various occasions, with the humiliation and sufferings ascribed to Him on others. Nay, when both the divine and human characters are attributed to Him in one and the same sentence, with what at first seems a studied and irreconcilable opposition, we can perceive it is no more than a full exhibition of these different truths. By uniting
• Coloss. i. 13-17.
John, i. 1.
+ Vide Burnet on Article II. his first argument.
$ John, i. 14.
these two truths we can understand the prophecy of the sublime Isaiah, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace;"* and that of Malachi, “Behold I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to His temple; even the messenger of the covenant whom ye delight in, behold He shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts;"and that of Micah, “ Thou Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me, He that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting ;"I and that most remarkable prediction of Zechariah, declaring at once the infliction of sufferings on the Redeemer, and yet that the person thus suffering was equal with God, “ Awake, oh sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man who is my fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts ; smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.”& This prophecy our Lord, immediately before His suffering applied to Himself, as predicting the desertion even of His chosen apostles at that trying hour when He told them, “All ye shall be offended, because of me this night, for it is written, I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered abroad.”| Now the prophet had declared that the Shepherd, who as man was thus to be smitten, was no other than He, “who is my fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts.” What but Christ's being at once perfect God and perfect man, can reconcile and harmonise these, at first sight, inconsistent characters ?
Thus also we perceive the justice of St. Matthew's application of prophecy, when on the miraculous birth of our Lord, he declares, “ Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold a Virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted, is God with us.”T
It should here be particularly remarked, that the acknowledgment of the union of the divine and human natures in the person of Christ, is the only key to explain the prophetic records. This evidently appears from the reasoning of our divine Lord Himself, when His adversaries endeavoured to entrap Him by insidious questions, which, however answered, would (as they hoped) discredit him with one or other of the parties, who held opposite opinions on the subjects proposed to Him. After having defeated their treacherous hypocrisy, by the manly plainness and profound wisdom of His replies, He completely checked and silenced their presumption, by questioning them in His turn. For “while the Pharisees were gathered together, (says St. Matthew) Jesus asked them, saying, What think ye of Christ ? whose Son is He? They say unto Him, the Son of David: He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call Him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool :* if David then call Him Lord, how is He his son ? and no man was able to answer Him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask Him any more questions.”+ Here our Lord refers to a hymn of the inspired psalmist, which clearly predicts the kingdom, the priesthood, the suffering, and the triumph of the Messiah, but which is utterly inexplicable, except by admitting the union of the divine and human nature in Christ. Thus it was evident, that as man, “ He was the son of David;" but it was only as God that “He could sit at the right hand of the Most High, rule in the midst of .His enemies," and possess an eternal priesthood, “ after the order of Melchisedec,” that is, as the King of righteousness--a title typical of the eternal Mediator, to whom every other priesthood was subordinate, and by whom alone propitiation with God can be completed.
* Isaiah, ix. 6.
+Malachi, iii. 1.
Micah, v. 2. q Matt. i. 22, 23.
This inference from the reasoning of our divine Lord, rests not on mine, or any mere human authority. It is sanctioned by the great apostle of the Gentiles, who, from the very same passage of the inspired Psalmist, infers the superiority of the Redeemer, above the highest orders of angelic beings. “To which of the angels, (the apostle asks,) said He at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool ? Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?"* Now, if we exclude from our view of the character of Christ, His voluntary humiliation from the participation of divine glory, to a state of human debasement, and the suffering he endured as the atonement for human guilt; if we suppose Him only a prophet to teach, and an example to guide mankind; how would He be distinguished from the superior spirits who minister to the heirs of salvation ? how would the psalmist's description or the apostle's 'argument be peculiarly appropriate to the Son of David ? But how strict is the application, how just the reasoning, when we contemplate the unspeakably exalted idea the apostle exhibits of the Messiah. “God,” says he, “who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son.”+
* Psalm, cx. 1,
+ Matt, xxii. 41-46.
Here our opponents affirm Jesus Christ is no otherwise the Son of God, than any other pious teacher or inspired prophet. How diametrically opposite is this to the apostle's view of the dignity annexed to Christ, as Son of God, that Son “ whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself, purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high ; being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said He at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee ? And again, I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to me a Son. And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him.”I Shall we, my fellow-Christians, hear this from the inspired word of God, and refuse to bow to Him whom angels, even the most exalted, are bound to adore? Strongly and clearly indeed, does the apostle contrast the dignity of angels, however exalted, with the divine Majesty of Christ : “Of the angels (says the apostle) God saith, who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire ; but unto the Son He
• Heb. i. 13, 14.
+ Heb. i. 1, 2.
Heb. i. 2-6.
saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom."* This is the great Being whom the presumptuous scepticism of blind and feeble mortals dares to undeify, to dethrone from heaven, and wrest from His hand that sceptre of righteousness, which is the sceptre of His kingdom. O, my fellow-Christians, let us with unfeigned sincerity renounce such scepticism and such presumption; and remember the declaration of our Lord himself, as transmitted to us by the beloved apostle, “that all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father; he who honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father who hath sent Him.”+
Thus awful is the danger of rejecting those peculiar doctrines of the Gospel, which some men think unimportant, because as they suppose they have no necessary connexion with the truths or the duties of what they term the religion of reason and nature, to which exclusively they would confine their regard. No, my friends, to despise the doctrines of a clearly attested revelation, is to deny the truth, and shake off the authority of the Lord of nature, and the God of truth.
That the apostles, and the primitive Christians, who derived from the apostles immediately the doctrines of Christianity, fulfilled the obvious duty arising from the express revelation of the divinity of Christ, to pay divine honours to Him, the crucified Redeemer, may be proved from the entire tenor of the apostolie writings, and the clear evidence of ecclesiastical history. We have seen proofs of this in the form of baptism, in the apostolic benediction employed by St. Paul, and by many of the other apostles. We may add the example of St. Thomas, who, when his disbelief was removed, was constrained to address his Redeemer with the solemn and emphatic language of adoration; “ My Lord and my God!” adoration which, had it not been exactly such as the apostle, (with the knowledge he then possessed of our Lord's nature,) ought to have directed to him, our Lord would certainly have rejected, as He had before repressed the
young man who applied to him, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may inherit eternal life?"'S Our Lord
• P. xlv. 6.
t John, v. 23.
John, xx. 28.
SMark, X. 17.