« AnteriorContinuar »
here censured this language, because the person who used it, viewing Christ merely as a man, (though a man inspired,) ought not to apply to Him as man the epithet of good, which our Saviour declared belonged only to God. Now can we believe that our Lord, thus careful that no one should transfer to any being whom they did not know to be God, a single particle or title of honour belonging to God, can we believe he would have permitted St. Thomas to apply to Him, the transcendently highest titles of “my Lord, and my God,” which it is affirmed was à mistaken application of these titles, proceeding from sudden surprise ? Assuredly, if there had been here such an error, our Lord would have instantly and clearly corrected it. Whereas, on the contrary, he accepts these titles : “ Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed ; blessed are they which have not seen, and yet have believed :” thus accepting the worship, and applauding the faith of the apostle, he encouraged all future believers to adopt the same faith as that of St. Thomas, and authorized them to display it in the same adoration.
Thus also St. Stephen, at the hour of martyrdom--when to support and to reward his glorious constancy heaven was opened to his view, and he was permitted to behold the glory of God, and Jesus sitting at the right hand of God-terminated his life by addressing Christ with language of adoration, exactly similar to that, which, when hanging on the cross, Christ had addressed to his Heavenly Father. Both, with their expiring breath, implored pardon for their persecutors; and as Jesus had prayed his Heavenly Father, “into thine hands I commend my spirit,” so the holy martyr implored his Redeemer, “ Lord Jesus receive my spirit;"* thus accurately fulfilling the declaration of our Lord, “ that all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father."
Surely it were a plain perversion of Scripture, to affirm with the Unitarians, that no Christian can at the hour of sorrow or of death, commit himself to the protection of his Redeemer, or adore his Majesty like the holy martyr, except, like him, he is favoured with the same miraculous view of his celestial glory. No; the reality once shown, is a sure foundation for similar faith and adoration to the end of the world. The suffering or dying Christian, is for ever called, with steady endurance to seek and to wait for the same consolation; in the midst of the most malignant persecution to imitate the martyr's benevolence; and, at the last struggle of expiring nature, to lift the eye of faith to heaven, and behold, the glory of God and Jesus sitting at the right hand of God ready as his Mediator, his Redeemer, and his Judge, to crown him with never-fading glory, and exalt him to immortal happiness.
* Acts, X. 54, 60.
The attempt to deprive the Christian of the benefit of this ennobling example and encouragement, supplies a melancholy instance of the depressing and chilling power, with which the narrow and heartless system of Socinianism, would repress the warm feelings, and crush the aspiring hopes of genuine Christian faith and Christian piety.
Equally decisive is the example of the apostles worshipping the Lord immediately after he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.* At that moment, either Christ was God indeed, or his apostles were inexcusable idolaters, as they violated the law which Jesus himself had instructed them to revere; and Jesus, who did not check and reject such homage, outraged the Supreme Being whom he professed to serve, and who at that moment was receiving him to glory, and by this his last solemn act on earth, overthrew his own so frequently inculcated principle, “ Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and HIM ONLY shalt thou serve.”t
Thus also, the prayer of the apostles for divine aid to assist them in the choice of a successor to Judas, was evidently addressed to Christ. I He it was, who had originally chosen the twelve apostles to be the witnesses of his ministry, his sufferings, and his resurrection. This also was to be the business of the new apostle about to be chosen. It is surely then unnatural, nay, almost incredible, that the apostles should not look up to Jesus as the person to select this new apostle. The word “ Lord," was the constant title by which they distinguished him ; when, therefore, they prayed, and said, “ Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all, show whether of these two thou hast chosen,” the Lord Jesus was undoubtedly meant. It cannot be supposed that St. Peter would hesitate to ascribe to this his Lord, the power of knowing the hearts of all; a power which had been so recently and so signally exercised with respect to himself,* and which he had so distinctly and so feelingly acknowledged, when, on his Lord repeating a third time the question, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me," the apostle, grieved at a repetition which so clearly, and yet with such delicacy, referred to his third repeated denial, replied,
* Matt. xxviii, 17.
+ Luke, xxiv. 52.
| Acts, i, 27.
Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.” If this reasoning be admitted, we have here an instance of a solemn prayer addressed to our Lord, by all the apostles, with the ascription to him of that omniseience, which to the supreme God alone can be attributed, consistently with truth and piety.
Not less clear is the example of St. Paul: when what he terms a thorn in the flesh was inflicted on him,f lest he “ should be exalted above measure, through the abundance of the revelations” vouchsafed unto him, he “besought the Lord thrice that it might depart from him."It has been admitted that the apostle invoked Christ; but it is alleged that here also was a personal appearance of Christ; for the apostle adds, “he (that is, Christ) said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” This inference is not strictly conclusive; the apostle might have been instructed that this was the decision of Christ, by the internal impression of inspiration, as easily as by a repetition of any such personal and glorious appearance of our Lord, as had been employed at his first conversion. But if it be admitted that our Lord was seen on this occasion in a miraculous vision, and heard to pronounce this, as when he appeared to him “in a trance at the temple of Jerusalem,”on the apostle's praying, (doubtless to this his Lord,) and commanded, “ Depart, for I will send thee far hence among the Gentiles;" “ if this were admitted, it would not lessen the authority of the example. If the Redeemer could be invoked as God, without idolatry under any circumstance, it must then have been known he was God; and if this was then true, he must be God for ever.
* Luke, xxii. 31-34, compared with John, xx. 15–18. + 2 Cor. xij. 7.
See Note 6. $ Acts, xxii. 17-21.
Here, as in the cases of St. Thomas, of the Ascension, and of St. Stephen, though the same immediate, miraculous, and awful events, which called forth these instances of devotion, can never occur to any Christian at this day, yet the eye of faith, reverting to these great events, will employ them as the means of exciting devotion towards that adorable Redeemer, who was acknowledged by the apostle as his Lord and his God, to whom the martyr committed his departing spirit, and who, having ascended on high, was worshipped by all the apostles. To say that this is unnecessary, or impossible for Christians at this hour, is to limit the efficacy of miracles to the moment of their exhibition, to render useless all the means of grace, and to despise the declaration of our Saviour, “ Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed."
But we do not rely solely on these instances, however striking and conclusive, as the only proofs of that adoration being due and paid to Christ, the Messiah, which could not be due or paid to him, if he was not truly God. Our Lord himself, on the last solemn meeting with his disciples, before his crucifixion, authorized and commanded all Christians to offer up prayers in his name, with the assurance that he would himself hear and answer them, and this in such a manner as to identify himself with the Father, in a way utterly inexplicable and indefensible, except we believe him to partake of the same Godhead. In one place he tells them, “ Believe me, that I am in the Father, and the Father in me, or else believe me for the works' sake.” And after assuring them, that he would communicate to them the power of working miracles, he adds; “ Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father
be glorified in the Son: if ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it." In another place he declares “ Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.”t Thus the Father and Son would equally hear and equally grant the prayer of the faithful, offered in the name of Christ. Does it not follow irre
• John, xiv. 8-14.
| Compare John xiv. with John xv. 16.
sistibly, that they must equally possess omniscience and omnipotence, and be alike the objects of faith, and hope, and adoration ?
How express and clear, in declaring that adoration was due to our Saviour, is the apostle John in his first epistle. After testifying the indispensable necessity to our salvation, that Christ should reign in our hearts, “for (saith he) he that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life;" he adds, “ this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us; and if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we desired of him.”
To the authority which thus enjoined adoration to the Son of God, the practice of the Christian church was perfectly conformable. In truth the worship of Christ was so universal, and so remarkable, that it early became the distinguishing character of the Christian church, both among friends and enemies; and to be a Christian and worshipper of Christ, became appellations perfectly synonymous. Thus, when the Jews persecuted the first converts to the faith, before they were distinguished by the name of Christians, they were distinguished by the character of worshippers of Christ. Thus Ananias, when our Lord had appeared in a vision, and directed him to go to Saul, and heal him, he declares “ Lord, he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call upon thy name.”+ And when, from a persecutor, Saul became an apostle, he also adopted the same language, and to the Romans avowed it to be the object of the ministry of the Gospel to declare, that “whosoever calleth upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”! And again he addresses the church of Corinth, “ To them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours, grace be unto you, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus."
In addition to this clear apostolic testimony-in another region of the world, and about seventy years afterwards, Pliny the heathen, who had made himself accurately acquainted with the religious worship of Christians, by the complaints of enemies,
* 1 John, v, 11-15.
† John, ii, 14.
| Rom. x. 13.
§ 1 Cor. i. 2.