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The apostle Paul puts this in the front of all christian mysteries ; when writing to Timothy, he saith, "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh," 1 Tim. 3. 16. It is a great mystery indeed, such as elect angels and elect men will admire and contemplate for ever and ever, with inconceivable and increasing delight and joy.
This great subject, the essential Word incarnate, or God manifest in the flesh, Immanuel, God with us, I will endeavour to set before you at this time; it being a most particular part, branch, and article of our most holy faith and profession, to believe in God incarnate. It must therefore be absolutely necessary to attend to what is revealed and related concerning it in the record which God hath given concerning his Son.
May the Holy Ghost be my guide. O! that it may please him to enlighten my understanding, and sanctify my mind, that I may so conceive, and clearly and properly express my thoughts on this most divine and glorious mystery, agreeably with what is recorded, and set forth of it, in the written word of God; and altogether in perfect conformity therewith, to the glory of the Three in Jehovah, and„to the comfort and benefit of your souls. Even so, O! Holy Ghost, grant it for thy name sake. Amen.
The evangelist in the verses going before my text, treats of the personality and divinity of God, our Saviour, of his office, of his incarnation, and of his being rejected by some, and received and believed on by others.
The distinctive personality of the essential Word, his co-existence in the Godhead by essential union with it, his co-eternity and coequality in the unity of the infinite and incomprehensible essence, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, God over all blessed for ever, amen, are truths of the utmost importance, and most closely connected with our present subject. Our evangelist viewed it in this light, and therefore in the verses going before our text, he, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, positively asserts these truths as fundamental ones. Herein he shews his apostolic wisdom; for the person of Christ in his divine nature, should be treated of before his actions in his human nature. He says, ver. 1. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The second person in the essential and eternal Trinity, is here called the Word. He is called so in the old testament, in divers places, too many to mention: to give some instances, he is called the Word of the Lord, and that in relation to the creation of all things; "By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the hosts of them, by the breath of his mouth," Psalm xxxiii. 6. We read, that the Word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, Gen. xv. I. Most certainly by it we are here to understand the essential Word. We read in 1 Kings xix. 9. concerning the prophet Elijah at Horeb, "The word of the Lord came unto him, and said unto him, What doest thou here Elijah?" Now as personal properties are here ascribed to the word of Jehovah, who came and spoke to the prophet, it fully proves he must be the essential Word. Thus also, when God's covenant and promise is mentioned, and the Three in Jehovah expressly mentioned by the prophet Haggai, the second person in the Trinity bears this title, and is called the Word; "I am with you, saith the Lord of Hosts, according to the word that I covenanted with you, when ye came out of Egypt, so my Spirit remaineth amongst ,you," Haggai ii. 4, 5. Dr. Allix says, that the Targum of Jonathan Ben Uzziel, the Chaldee, hath rendered this text of Haggai, " I am with you, saith the Lord of Hosts, with the word which covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, and my spirit which abideth in the midst of you." See Dr. Allix's Judgment of the Jewish Church, page 358.
'In this glorious promise, (says the truly excellent Mr. Serle, in his essays on the names and titles of the Holy Spirit,) are mentioned the three covenanting persons, Jehovah, the Word, and the Spirit; and it doth not seem improbable that the apostle had his eye upon
this passage, when he wrote the remarkable text of the three witnesses in heaven, " the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost," I John v. 7. However in that text of Haggai, there are three persons, as well as in that of John, and in both the three are one.'
To introduce my text, I will comment briefly on the preliminary verses, viz. 1, 2, 3. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made."
John's beginning is the same with Moses' beginning: he says, " In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," Gen. i. 1. And John seems to have his eye on what Moses records concerning the creation, and positively asserts that the Word was in the beginning, before the creation, present at it when it took place. He was the essential Word: be was with God, distinct from the Father and Spirit in personality, yet co-equal and co-eternal with them, possessed of all the glories, perfections, and essential incommunicable blessedness of the divine essence.
He co-existed and co-operated with the Father and the Spirit, in the whole work of creation and providence. He who made all things is God: Christ, the essential Word, is the Lord and Creator of all things, visible and invisible.
Thus his eternal power and Godhead being set forth, the apostle in verses 4 and 5, proceeds with his subject, saying, of the eternal and essential Word of the Father: "In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not."
In him, as Creator, is the fountain of life: in him, as God-man, is the fountain and spring of all communicated life, natural, spiritual,«and eternal. All the life and light of nature is from him: in him was the life of the promise, and the light which shone through it on the elect patriarchs and prophets, and all the church of God, from the first moment of its publication in the garden of Eden, till the fulfilment of it in bis incarnation.
He shone forth in all the types, shadows, and figures of the ceremonial law, in all the ministry of the prophets, in the whole scriptures of truth; yet such was the darkness of the human mind, corrupted by the fall, that the bulk of the Jewish people did not comprehend him, when manifested in the flesh, to be the very Messiah which all the prophets had spoken of, and borne witness to, in their writings.
In the sixth and following verses, the evangelist gives an account of the forerunner of