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England, it has been remarked, one of the parties says to the other, “ with my body I thee worship,” but does he proffer to his helpmate an act of divine adoration? The poverty of all human languages compels to this use of the same word in diversified acceptations. It is only by a careful examination of the circumstances of the case, and of the intent of the individual that we can discover whether tbe
person who worships means to offer civil respect or religious homage.
It ought, however, to be known, that the presumption, in the first instance, is that the word denotes religious adoration. Says Dr. Smith,* the best and the most candid of modern critics, “ The word occurs sixty times in the New Testament. Of these there are two which, without controversy, denote the customary act of civil homage—fifteen refer to idolatrous rites--three are used of mistaken or disapproved homage to creatures—about twenty-five clearly and undeniably respect the worship due to the Most High God—and the remaining number relate to acts of homage paid to Jesus Christ.”
Now, the plain inference from this enumeration is, that as the word most generally denotes religious adoration, so this, unless there is something directly to the contrary, should be its meaning when applied to Jesus. The presumption is on this side, even before the examination of the circumstances begins, though it is cheerfully granted that there must be a careful examination before we can arrive at a fair and well grounded conclusion.
Let it also be remembered that the proof of Christ's being adored or prayed to as divine does not depend merely upon those
passages where this word is used, and where he is said, in so many words, to be worshipped, but that the same truth can be established by a multitude of
* Dr. Smith, on the Person of Christ, vol. ii. p. 271, 1st edition.
describe acts of adoration, of prostration, and of prayer as being presented to Jesus.
I. The first example which I select of religious homage being paid to Jesus by one of his disciples, is that contained in our text. A person who was afflicted with the loathsome disease of leprosy, and who was excluded from society that none might be infected by his incurable distemper, came, and, as we learn from another evangelist, prostrated himself on the ground before the Saviour, and worshipped him, saying, “ Lord, if thou wilt thou canst make me clean.” He knelt before him in the attitude of adoration, and certainly addressed to him such a direct and confiding petition as a person would naturally address to God. In his deep affliction be seems to have retained the faith of the Old Testament saints in reference to the divine character of the Messiah, who speak of him as “God sitting upon a throne for ever and ever"_“ Jehovah our righteousness,”—"and the Lord who in the beginning had laid the foundation of the earth."* Believing, farther, that Jesus of Nazareth was this personage promised by the prophets, he fell down and worshipped him. As an echo to his faith in him as a divine person, Christ spoke to him with all the authority of a divine being, and said, “I will, be thou clean, and immediately his leprosy was cleansed." No change of diet is prescribed_no washing in Jordan-no course of medicine, but just as God of old said, “let there be light, and instantly there was light;" so Jesus said, "I will, be thou clean, and immediately the leper was cleansed." Language, certainly, which was highly becoming if he was divine and to be divinely adored, but language on any other supposition, exceedingly inappropriate and unbecoming, as it would seem to trench upon the power and prerogative of God. eyes."
2. Another example of divine worship we have in the case of the man who was born blind, and who was cured by
* Ps. xlv. 6, 7.; Heb. i. 8.; Jer. xxxiii. 16.; Ps. cii. 25.; Heb. i. 10.
Jesus. At first when brought before the Pharisees, he defended the character of Christ as being that of a Prophet, and not an impostor. They say unto the blind man again what sayest thou of him that he hath opened thine He said, “ He is a prophet.” But after they had cast him out of the synagogue, and Christ had again thrown himself in his way, and carefully instructed him that he was the Son of God, then “ he worshipped him." He worshipped him, be it observed, as the Son of God. A title which tbe Jews understood as implying actual divinity, and which the man evidently understood as elevating Jesus far above the rank of a prophet. The inference, therefore, is fair, that he did not honour him as a prophet, but that he worshipped him as a divine personage. Before he offered this worship, he had been tutored and instructed by Jesus concerning bis real character.
3. Another example of divine worship we have in the prayer of the thief upon the cross. As this malefactor bung by the side of Jesus, he fixed his eyes, or at least his heart, stedfastly upon him, and, with a burst of feeling, and a strong expression of faith, he said, “ Lord, remember me when thou art come to thy kingdom.". Remarkable words! He addressed him as Lord-he recognised him as king of heavenhe prayed to him as presiding over the invisible world-he commended himself into his hands in the agonies of death : nay, by his prayer, he professed his faith that Jesus would soon give up the ghost and enter upon the possession of his kingdom, wbile he should be left bebind. He, indeed, saw him at the time working no miracles, neither curing the diseased nor raising the dead. He saw him sitting upon no celestial throne, holdi no sceptre in his hands, which were nailed to the tree; wearing no crown but a crown of thorns, and encircled with no ministers of justice save bis executioners. He saw him a bleeding victim expiring upon a tree, yet notwithstanding of all this, his faith pierced
through all the gloom and humbling circumstances connected with the Cross of Christ, and he discerned, in the demeanour of Jesus, and by the signs which appeared in the heavens, sufficient evidence to convince him that he was Lord of heaven and of earth, and, therefore, with the most confiding sincerity he says, “ Lord, remember me when thou
“ art come to thy kingdom." He thus anticipated the death of Jesus before his own. When Jesus has entered
his kingdom, he beseeches him to remember that he is not yet dead, and that he stood in need of his compassionate aid. There was in all this a very high degree of faith in the divinity of the Saviour. As an evidence that Christ approved of his faith, and was both the hearer and answerer of prayer, he says to him in reply,—“ To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” Now, without any flourish of trumpets, we leave it with every candid disputant to say, whether the supplication presented, and the circumstances in which it was offered, and the answer received, when taken together, do not conspire to represent Jesus as the undoubted object of prayer.
I have thus selected a few examples of religious worship offered to Christ from the period of his birth to his death, and which go to prove that he was worshipped even during the days of his flesh. The circumstances which were connected with them show that divine honours, in these cases, were done to him; and they should serve to explain other instances where it is said he was worshipped, but where it is difficult to say, from the context, whether the persons who presented it intended to reverence him as senger from God, or to adore him as the eternal and uncreated Son of God, who was equal with the Father. It is not, indeed, denied that some of those who offered bim worship during the days of his flesh had but dark, confused, and wavering notions of his being Immanuel—God in human nature-yet though they saw the matter very imperfectly, still they were acting according to the knowledge which they had, and carefully groping after him, and therefore he accepted of their worship as an expression of their faith in his dignity, sometimes weaker indeed and sometimes stronger, yet always taking a right direction. To encourage them in offering this worship, he taught them that all men should “honour the Son as they honour the Father.” An expression be it noticed, exceedingly strong, for wheresoever the phrase to honour God occurs in the Scriptures, it always denotes religious homage: and, farther, at the time it was used by Jesus, much of its strength was derived from the fact that he was at the very moment encompassed by Jews, who sought to kill him because he said “God was his Father," thereby making himself, as they thought, "equal with God.” Even in these circumstances he did not shrink from his claims of homage, but pointedly required an honour equal in kind and degree to that which was paid to the first person of the Godhead.
I deny not that there was considerable mystery thrown around the person and character of Christ so long as he tabernacled in this world. He did not uniformly make a full manifestation of his claims as the Son of God; but after his passion he showed what he really was by many infallible proofs, and accordingly after his ascension we shall find numerous and decided acts of worship presented to him by his followers.
4. The fourth example, therefore, which I select of divine homage being paid to Jesus by one of his disciples, is the case of Stephen :-“ And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep."* The word God, you will see, is printed in italics,
* Acts vii. 59, 60.