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Father,” &c., that he should be convinced of his Deity by his resurrection from the dead (John xx. 26—31 ; Rom. i. 2, 3.) To set aside this testimony, it hath been said, that the apostle's words were the language of astonishment, and not of adoration; as men often exclaim, my God, when greatly surprised. But are not such exclamations manifest violations of the third commandment, and certain proofs of men's irreverent contempt of the name of God? Who then can believe, that the apostles used such profane language before Christ, without meeting with the least reproof for it? (Matt. v. 37.) Surely such a solution must be improbable in the highest degree ; and they, who can admit it, have no right to despise other men's credulity! But indeed, the words do not admit of any such construction, consistent with the idiom of the original language. That most august passage, with which John opens
his Gospel, has been so construed, in order to evade our inference from it, that the nominative case to the verbs used in it must be changed again and again, without the least intimation given of it ; contrary to all the rules of grammar. At other times, the Word is supposed to mean nothing more than the energy or power of God, which was eternally with him and essential to him, by which he made the world, and which was manifested in the man Jesus: but can any man in his senses suppose, that this was all the meaning of the apostle's introduction to his Gospel, of the sublime things he says of the Word; and his becoming flesh and dwelling among us? If any one should think so for a moment, a second attentive perusal must surely convince him of his mistake. Aware of this, it is now deemed convenient to set it aside, as no part of revelation. The interpretation given of another decisive evidence (Phil. ii. 5—10) is grounded on a proposed different translation, implying that Christ did not think of such a robbery, as that of being equal with God.” But, not to mention the various expressions used by our Lord, which certainly were thus understood by the Jews; who can believe, that the apostle should propose to his brethren, as a perfect example of humility, the conduct of a mere man, or creature, who barely did not claim equality with the eternal God; which could be no more than an exemption from the very summit of all possible pride and ambition ? His argument (as well as the meaning of the words) proves, that “ being in the form of God," signifies, being truly God, and appearing so; even as the form of a servant and the fashion of man signify being truly man: and how could a mere creature “take upon him the form of a servant," seeing he must always have been a servant of his Maker? To render the words of Paul (Rom. ix. 5,)“ God over all, blessed for ever," would reduce his language to absurdity :, for what could he then mean by saying, “ of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came?” Did ever historian describe the descent of a prince in such language ? and would it not be ridiculous in him to do so ? Stephen's dying address to Christ has lately been considered, “ as the words of a man, in an extacy of devotion, or in the agonies of death,” and, therefore, not of much weight in the argument: as if modern reasoners could better direct our faith and worship, than this proto-martyr, when full of the Holy Ghost, favoured with the visions of God, and replete with the light of heaven! What shall we say to Paul's words ? (2 Cor. viii. 9) could he, who was born in a stable, had not where to lay his head, and died on a cross, be rich before he was poor; if he had not existed before he became man? The words of Christ, which his disciples thought so plain (John xvi. 28,) and many other declarations he made, “ that he came down from heaven,” &c., so pressed the ancient Socinians, as to induce them to feign, that Jesus, like Mahomet, went to heaven to receive his instructions, previous to his entrance on his ministry. But modern Socinians have given up this figment: they seem conscious of their inability to maintain their old ground; and, therefore, they now intimate, that apostles and evangelists were mistaken, and that several books of the scripture are not authentic. Thus they save themselves much trouble, by answering all our witnesses at once: and doubtless they act prudently, in imitating the church of Rome, by constituting themselves judges of the scripture, determining what parts of it are authentic, and making their own scheme the standard, by which it is to be interpreted : for neither of their systems can subsist, except by a proportionable disregard to, and degradation of the word of God. I feel a confidence, that each of the arguments here adduced are separately conclusive : how great then must be the united force of them? Yet only a small part of the evidence can be contained in so brief an essay. I would therefore conclude, with observing, that the scriptures were written to recover men from idolatry to the worship of the true God: and that idolatry consists in worshipping such as by nature are no gods. What then shall we think of all the texts here adduced, if Christ be not God; or what shall we say to John's conclusion of his epistle? Having mentioned Jesus Christ, he adds, “. This person (euros) is the true God, and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John v. 20, 21.)
On the Doctrine of our Lord's Deity, showing it to be, Essential to Christianity;
with a Brief Answer to some Objections.
We may not, in all cases, be able to determine exactly what things are essential to our holy religion, and what are not; yet the Scriptures most evidently declare some particulars to be so; and I cannot but consider the doctrine of our Jord's Deity as one of these, nor hesitate to say, that Christianity itself must stand or fall with it. The greater decision is proper on this subject, as our opponents seem lately to have shifted their ground : they used to say, that “ Christ's divinity was the master-piece of absurdities—directly contrary to every part of natural and revealed religion, and to all the rational faculties God has given us:" “ that a deceived heart had turned those aside who hold the doctrine:” and “ that, by making more Gods than one, it was a breach of the first commandment,” &c. This was a direct charge of gross idolatry (which surely must be a mortal sin :) and as the defenders of the doctrine denied, and even retorted the charge (showing, that another god is substituted by Socinians in the place of the God of the Bible,) the cause was fairly at issue, and was allowed to be of the greatest possible importance, and therefore entitled to the most careful, serious, and impartial investigation. But at present men are generally put off their guard by the plausible and indolent sentiment, that speculative opinions are of little consequence, and that doctrinal errors will not condemn those who are sincere and lead good lives. And an attempt has lately been made, by a champion of the party,* to persuade a very large body of men, who universally profess the doctrine of Christ's Deity, that there is no essential difference between them and the Socinians ! On the other hand, some able defenders of the doctrine seem disposed to allow, that the belief of it is not necessary to salvation, or essential to Christianity; nay, that they, who most strenuously oppose it (and not always in the most unexceptionable manner,) may yet be accepted of God as sincere believers. Thus the subject, which used to be considered as of the utmost importance, is now generally thought to be rather a matter of doubtful disputation among Christians, than immediately connected with our eternal interests; and the cause hath more to fear from the indolent and contemptuous indifference of mankind, as to theological questions, which are not supposed essential to salvation, than from the most strenuous and ingenious efforts of its most learned opponents.
I shall therefore endeavour, in this essay, to show, that the doctrine of our Lord's Deity is essential to the faith and hope of a Christian: and this
* Dr. Priestley's Address to the Methodists ; Preface to the Letters of the Wesleys.
will introduce many arguments in proof of it, which have not before been adverted to.
I. There are several texts of Scripture which expressly prove the point. The Lord Jesus himself declares, « that the Father hath committed all judgment to the Son, that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father: he that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father,” &c. (John v. 22, 23.) If then, the doctrine of his Deity be true, and if the very end of his mediatory authority, as the Son of man, (ver. 27), were this, that all men should honour him with the same kind and degree of how nour that is shown to the Father, then such persons as deny his Deity, refuse to worship him, and spend their lives, with all their power, to draw men off from this faith and worship, do not honour him at all, but greatly degrade him; and therefore by the verdict of their future Judge, they'“ do not honour the Father that sent him.” So that, if our doctrine be true, it must be essential to Christianity. It appears, from Scripture already referred to, (Matt. xi. 27; Luke x. 22), that they have no true knowledge of the Father, who do not receive it from the revelation made of him by the Son; but how can at man thought to learn the knowledge of the Father from the Son, who disregards his express declarations, " that He and the Father are one;" “ He that hath seen him hath seen the Father,” &c.? If these words do indeed imply the Deity of the Son as one with the Father, the knowledge of God, which they who deny his Deity possess, cannot accord to the revelation made to the Son, but must be of another nature. The apostle says, (1 John ii. 22, 23,)“ whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father.” But can any man suppose this related only to a denial that Jesus was the Messiah ? If this were all that was meant, then only avowed unbelievers were concerned in the warning ; whereas it is manifest, that the apostle spoke of those who seduced, not such as opposed his Christian brethren; and who, by denying Jesus to be the Son of God, drew them off from the true doctrine in that particular. As therefore, they " who denied the Son, had not the Father," the inference is unavoidable, that they who deny the Scripture doctrine concerning the Son of God, (whatever that doctrine be), have not the Father for their God and portion. Many errors relate to different parts of the structure, the removal of which (though ill spared) may not wholly subvert it; but this concerns the foundation, and is of fatal consequence, “ for other foundation can no man lay,” &c. (1 Cor. iii. 10–15). Again, the apostle (1 John iv. 2–6) lays it down as a rule, that the truth was to be known by its agreement with the doctrine taught by him and his brethren, “ with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven;" and that every tenet, however supported, must be a doctrine of Antichrist, which accorded not with what they had taught concerning the person of Christ. According to this rule, all pretences to new revelations, and every philosophical reasoning, must be wholly disregarded, as springing from the spirit of error, if they contradict the testimony of the apostles, as recorded in the Scriptures; and if this error relate to the person of Christ, it is of Antichrist. It may be allowed, that, by “coming in the flesh," the reality of our Lord's human nature was maintained: but who could have doubted, that he was really a man, if it had been generally believed, that he was no more than a man? And if he could not have come otherwise than in the flesh, the apostle would hardly have made that an essential part of his confession. But the coming of the only begotten Son of God in the flesh, as the anointed King, Priest, and Prophet of the church, was indeed essential to his doctrine ; and they who denied it, must reject or pervert all the rest. Some of those heretics whom John here so strenuously opposed, as the forerunners of the principal Antichrist, were the very persons whom certain modern Unitarians would persuade us to regard as the only primitive Christians who retained the faith of the gospel in its original purity! Afterwards the same apostle, (1 John v. 10–13) declares, that the principal testimony of God related to his Son; and that he who believes not this testimony, « hath made him a liar, because he believeth not
the testimony which God hath given of his Son,” &c. As all revelation centres in this point, it is vain for a man to pretend that he believes other parts of it, whilst he rejects its principal doctrine. His opinion may indeed accord with the testimony of God in some particulars; he may assent to Scripture truths, because he thinks they may be otherwise proved; but if his own reasonings, or those of some philosopher, lead to conclusions opposite to the word of God, he hesitates not to treat that as a lie. So that, in fact, such men do not believe God, but other witnesses, when they assent to Scripture truths; for they treat him as a false witness, when he contradicts their preconceived opinions. Whence it is evident, that no man's belief of the Bible, or of any thing contained in it, can be genuine, whilst he rejects “the testimony which God hath given of his Son." This also illustrates all those other passages in which it is declared, that “ he that believeth not shall be damned :" that “ he who believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him," &c.; because it hence appears, that they treat the truth of God as a lie, and so exclude themselves from that salvation which is in Christ Jesus for sinners, that by faith apply for an interest in it. And a man cannot believe the Son, if he refuse to credit
at he says of himself, as One with the Father, &c. The same important caution is again inculcated by the apostle, (2 John 7—11), who declares the man " to be a deceiver and an antichrist, who confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh," and that “whosoever abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God.” Now the doctrine of Christ must have relation to his person, either as God and man, or merely man. But if he that abode not in that doctrine had not God, and if the Christians were forbidden to receive him into their houses, or bid him God speed, or at all to sanction his delusions, (though they might doubtless have relieved his urgent wants, as an enemy in distress), it must follow, that the doctrine concerning the person of Christ is essential to Christianity, and a rejection of the true doctrine is an antichristian departure from the faith. And I appeal to every impartial man to determine, whether such language, if we had first used it, would not have excited the sneer of numbers, and an outcry of bigotry against us. The reader must observe, that the texts here quoted are not brought as direct proofs of our Lord's Deity, (though many of them do prove it), but to show that a right faith in this respect is essential to salvation by Christ; and they doubtless so far establish this point, that they who treat such questions as immaterial, will find it most convenient wholly to overlook them, or to deny them to be the unerring dictates of the Spirit of Truth.
II. The peculiar nature of our Lord's mediation warrants the same conclusion. The office of mediator, between two parties who are at variance, seems to imply, that the person performing it stands in some relation to each party ; is likely to take care of the interests of both in an equitable manner; and possesses influence (either from excellency of character, dignity of rank, or services performed) to give weight to his interposition. Now Jesus is Mediator between the great Creator and holy Governor of the universe, and his unholy, rebellious creatures; and it is supposed, that there are those things in his character, &c., for the sake of which the Father is pleased to pardon and bless them in behalf of whom he mediates. But (not , to anticipate the subject of a future Essay,) it suffices to observe at present, that if the Father saw it necessary for the display of his glory in the salvation of sinners, that the Mediator should be Emmanuel, his co-equal Son in human nature, God manifest in the flesh; and that it was wholly improper for any other person to sustain this office, or approach him in this character, except his well-beloved Son in whom he is well pleased; and if sinners pertinaciously reject his authenticated testimony to this divine Mediator, and will regard him as a mere man, they must exclude themselves from the benefit of this gracious constitution, and exceedingly affront both the Father and the Son. And can it be supposed that they are taught by that Spirit, whose office it is to glorify Christ, when they thus studiously degrade him? And
yet, “ if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Indeed, it will be shown, in due time, that the mediation of Christ is the grand display of the divine glory, of the honour of the law, of the evil of sin, &c. ; and, in this view of it, the personal dignity of Christ, (like the centre stone of an arch) sustains the whole; take that away, the whole must fall, either at once, or by degrees. And do not facts prove, that they who deny the Deity of Christ, soon learn to explain away the doctrine of the atonement ? And that of his intercession and priestly character is proportionably disregarded : the evil and desert of sin then seem to vanish from their view; they have little fear of future punishment, but object to the plain language of Scripture on that subject ; this makes way for doubts about the authenticity or divine inspiration of the sacred oracles, and often terminates in rejecting them: and, when such men are still pressed with difficulties from undeniable facts, they proceed to deny the providence, and then the very being of a God. It is manifest, that this hath been the unhappy progress of many: when the Deity of Christ is denied, his mediation cannot consistently be maintained ; and when that is rejected, the book, in which it is the principal subject, must soon sink into insignificancy at least, and be treated with neglect.
Ill. The peculiar nature of the faith, love, &c., which the word of God requires us to exercise towards the Lord Jesus, confirms the point in question. The prophet says, (Jer. xvii. 5, 6), Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm,” &c. And the Psalmist (Psalm cxlvi. 3) says, “ Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help:" yet nothing can be plainer, than that we are required to put our trust in Christ; and if he were only the son of man, and had only an arm of flesh, I cannot see how we could trust in him, without in heart departing from the Lord. The form of baptism, into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, implies a professed dependence for salvation on the Son, and on the Holy Ghost, and a devoted, faithful attachment to them, as well as to the Father. The expression, “ believe in the Son of God,” implies not only an assent to his truths, but a reliance on him for all the blessings which he is exalted to bestow. The apostle describes Christians as those “ who trusted in Christ,” (Eph. i. 12). Faith, or its inseparable effect, is commonly described by “coming to Christ,” “receiving him,” “abiding in him," &c. : and such expressions must imply application to, and habitual dependence on him, even now he is invisible to us, and not present in his human nature. We are commanded to “ walk in him," which must include a constant reliance on his power, truth, and love, as well as a regard to his authority, (Col. ii. 6, 7). “ He suffered being tempted, that he might be able to succour us when tempted,” (Heb. ii. 17, 18). Does not this teach us to apply to and rely on him in our temptations? He promised his disciples a mouth and wisdom, (Luke xxi. 15): ought they not, therefore, to rely on him to fulfil that promise? Can he be our life, unless we depend on him for the life of our souls ? (Col. iii. 1—4). Does he forgive sins? (ver. 13) and ought not the sinner to rely on him for pardon ? Does he send the Holy Spirit to teach, comfort, and sanctify his people? and ought we not to depend on him for that blessing? Hath he all power in heaven and earth? and shall we do wrong to trust that power in all circumstances? Has he engaged to be with his assembled disciples? and should they not expect and depend on his gracious presence? (John xiv. 20—24). In short, the believer can do nothing of himself, and “ can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth him.” “ He has communion with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ :” and how can this be, unless he habitually relies on, and applies to him for every thing? If men do not trust in' Christ, they can experience no communications from him, nor maintain any intercourse with him; and it is no wonder that they deride those as enthusiasts, who experience what they despise. But surely it would be idolatry to rely on a mere creature, in the manner that hath been stated ; if then such a dependence on