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THE object of the present Treatise is to consider the Evidence in support of the Divinity of the Person and Character of our Saviour, which may be derived from a review of his different discourses and declarations.
Although, in endeavouring to form an estimate of the evidence which the Scriptures afford to the Divinity of the Person and character of our Redeemer, we do injustice to the subject in dwelling entirely upon any individual part of that evidence, when the true and just conclusion from it must necessarily depend on a fair and impartial estimate of the whole ; yet in this, as in all other subjects, great advantage may be often gained by considering separately each individual part; because, in thus directing our attention to each separate portion of evidence, we are enabled to perceive more clearly both the weight which is due to it, as well as the reference which it has to the whole. The great mass of evidence in support of the Divinity of the Person and character of our Saviour, is derived from the examination of the prophecies concerning him, and a comparison of them with their fulfilment in the
New Testament; from the express testimonies to his Divinity, which are contained in the writings of the Prophets, Apostles, and Evangelists; and from the proof, which we derive from the discourses, the miracles, and the whole office and character of the Redeemer. Now although the evidence, which we derive from the Discourses of our Saviour, in itself forms but a small part of the whole evidence which the Scriptures contain ; yet it is in itself an evidence of a most valuable and important description; and is calculated materially to strengthen our faith in the great Author of our salvation, if it leads us to more just and correct views of his Divine character, and of the reasons on which we believe his religion to be from God.
It is evident that we cannot expect to find in the Gospels a full revelation of all the mysteries of Redemption, or a complete knowledge of its doctrines and its duties; because the great scheme of salvation was yet incomplete, till the Son of God had suffered on the cross and had ascended up to heaven to the right hand of God. Our Saviour himself told his disciples just before his death : “I have many things to say unto you ; but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth".” This was the case, when at the very commencement of his ministry he uttered that remarkable prediction of his death and resurrection : Destroy this temple and in three
i Joh. xvi. 12, 13.
days I will raise it up. This speech was little understood by the Jews, that they immediately observed : Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days; and we know that they made this speech the foundation of an accusation against him at the last. But St John tells us, that he spake of the temple of his body. When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had spoken this unto them ; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said. Now this passage affords at once an instance of the purposed obscurity in which our Saviour involved many of his most important revelations, and of the force with which this mode of revelation afterwards struck their minds, when the predictions were fulfilled, and they were enlightened by the Holy Spirit from on high: and the same observation may be made with regard to other incidents in our Saviour's life? In the same manner also, he was sparing of his declarations with regard to his own divine Person and character; it was only on a few occasions that he spoke clearly on this subject, even to his chosen friends and disciples: and, even on some of these, when a consideration of his teaching and miracles had extracted from them a confession of his divine character, he enjoined silence upon them. Such was the case upon the occasion, when St Peter, in the name of the Apostles, made the profession, that he was the Christ the
2 Joh. ii. 18_22.
3 Joh. xii. 16, &c.
Son of the living God"; and such also was the case after the Transfiguration, when “he charged the disciples to tell the vision to no man, till he was risen from the dead?." For although he continually spoke of God as his Father, it does not appear that his meaning was in general clearly understood either by his own disciples or by the Jews who heard him; and on those occasions, when he spoke with more than his usual clearness, so that his words appeared to imply either a divine origin, or an equality with the Father, he immediately roused the anger of the Jews, as if he was guilty of blasphemy against God.
“In this method of revealing the Gospel there was,” as has been remarked by a learned writer, “ both dignity and propriety. For the Son of God came from heaven not only to make a new revelation, but to be the subject of it, by doing and suffering all that was necessary to procure the salvation of mankind." Indeed, it is evident from a review of our Lord's discourses, and from the conduct of his disciples on different occasions, when he spoke more plainly on the subject of his death and resurrection, that he went as far, in making these disclosures, as was consistent with prudence, and with the prejudices and mistakes of his followers with regard to his Person and character; and that, in this state of their minds, any more open revelation would have been premature, either of doctrines, which depended upon
i Matth. xvi. 16. 20. 2 Ib. xvii. 9. 3 Joh. v. 18. A. 30. &c. 4 Macknight. Translation of the Epistles. Prelim. Essay. I.