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Vol. XVII, No. 4. OCTOBER, 1935. New Series—Vol. VI, N». 4.
A SERMON ON THE DIVINITY OF JESUS CHRIST.
BY THE REV. JOHN DEMPSTER.
"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."— Hebrews i, 3.
This epistle to the Hebrews is a masterly production of a masterly mind. It sheds a light on the economy of God in the Jewish Church, which shines from no other source. It develops the deep import of the temple service, much of which would have otherwise remained enigmatical. The first chapter is an appropriate introduction to the whole epistle, and 'for importance of subject, dignity of expression, harmony and energy of language, compression and yet distinction of ideas, it is equal if not superior to any other part of the New Testament.' [Clarke's Commentary.) The verse we have chosen for a text may be deemed the most lofty part of this astonishing chapter. It at once presents the mysterious person of our Redeemer in His two natures. It gives an elevated description of His Godhead, by entitling Him the outbeaming of His Father's glory, the express image of His person, and the upholder of all things by the word of His power. It involves the necessity of His human nature, by ascribing to Him the purgation of our sins, and assigning to Him a seat at the right hand of the Divine majesty, to which, even in His human nature, He had mounted to effectuate, by His intercession, the lofty purposes of His mercy. We have therefore selected this text as an appropriate foundation of the arguments we intend to submit to you, in support of our Savior's supreme Divinity.
After a few remarks on the term Person, which occurs in the text, and has held a distinguished place in theology, we shall proceed to sustain our position by showing,
I. That the works which are peculiar to Jehovah, are ascribed to Christ.
II. That the worship which belongs only to Jehovah, is rendered to Christ.
HI. That the titles which can belong only to Jehovah, are appropriated to Christ.
IV. That the attributes by which the great Creator is known are claimed by the Redeemer..
V, And finally, that the Gospel proceeds on the supposition that Christ possesses supreme Divinity.
Vol. YI October, 1835. 31.
All the great truths we have stated in these propositions are suggested by the different parts of the short chapter before us. Immediately before the text, the sublime achievement of erecting the frame of the universe is, in this language, ascribed to Christ—' By whom also He made the worlds.' And in another part of the chapter we find the firmest support to our second proposition. The highest worshippers in the heavenly world are called on, by the everlasting Father, to worship the Son. When he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, ' And let all the angels of God worship Him.' And in the next verse but one, we find proof of our third proposition, viz. in his paternal address, the Father appropriates to the Son that awful name by which Himself is known: 'Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.' Here the title God is given to the Son, by Him who alone knows all its mighty import.
The attributes that belong to God are, by implication, ascribed to Christ, by the text itself: It calls Him ' the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of His person.' Now the proceeding rays which are here said to shine from the Father, must have the same nature as the fountain from whence they emanate ; and as He is said to be the express image of His Father's person, there must be in the one every thing answering to what there is in the other; all the attributes ascribed to the one person must belong to the other, if He be the express image of the former. Finally, our fifth proposition is an inference from the latter clause of the text. For if by Himself He purged our sins, He must have been the source of /nit' to have thus met its unanswered claims: that is, He must have been God to have been capable of suffering meritoriously as man. Thus within the narrow limits of this brief chapter all these adorable perfections are implicitly or explicitly ascribed to Christ.
Before we advance to the designed proof of our position, we shall make a passing remark on the term Person, which occurs in the text. This term has generally been used to express an individual substance of an intelligent nature ; and when so used it implies a separate being. Were it so used when applied to the Father, Son, and Spirit, it would signify three Gods. But the Scriptures most explicitly teach, what all Jews and Christians believe, that there is but one God; and at the same time they explicitly ascribe Acts to the Father, Son, and Spirit, respectively, which characterize personality. The term is therefore used by Trinitarians to express distinct agents, but not separate agents, in the Godhead. From the nature of the case then, the term person has not in all respects the same meaning when applied to God, as when applied to man; and this, indeed, is true of most other words when applied to express what is peculiar to God. In the common use ot the word we have been accustomed to contemplate personality only in connection with separation of being. But, by proper attention to the subject it will be perceived that separation of being is merely an accidental circumstance, usually attendant on personality, but not necessarily arising out of personality. For ' the circumstance of separation forms no part of the idea of personality itself, which is confined to the capability of performing Personal Acts.' 'In God the distinct persons are represented as having a common foundation in one being; but this union also forms no part of the idea of personality, nor can