Page images

and with all their circumstances, I cannot help regarding as even stronger evidence of the point in question, than the absolute assumption of the name of God, which may be, and has been, rendered susceptible of various interpretations. Further, Christ, in performing miracles, spoke not, as did the apostles, in the name of another. But, "as God said, Let there be light, and there was light;" so Jesus, "I will; be thou clean; and the leper was cleansed." To the sick of the palsy he said, “Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thy house. And he arose, and departed to his house." He said to the raging tempest, "Peace, be still; and the wind ceased, and there was a great calm." These are not human commands; they are divine. In the Acts of the Apostles, we have the history of the infant church. Its lineaments are drawn, and the stamina of the Christian faith are formed. To the articles already stated, the apostles added that of the resurrection of Christ, of which they were particularly called to be witnesses; of the remission of sins through him; and of a future judgment, which he was to exercise. They baptized, and wrought miracles, and worshipped, in his name. Stephen, before he expired, "commended his spirit to the Lord Jesus."

a Gen. i. 3. b Mat. viii. 3. e Acts ii. 24, 32; iii. 15, 26; 37; xvii. 3, 31; ii. 38; x. 48. xxii. 16; vii. 59.

c Mat. ix. 6, 7. d Mark iv. 29. iv. 10; v. 30; x. 40; xiii. 30, 33, f Acts x. 42; xvii. 31; ix. 21;

If conjecture may be admitted in a case of this kind, the reason why the apostles were, in their first addresses to the people, less explicit concerning the divinity of Christ, may be found in the peculiar character of the two classes of men whom they had to convert; namely, Jews and Gentiles. They may have wished to prevent the former entertaining any suspicion of polytheism as imputable to Christianity. It is probable the greater part of the Jews could not admit of the notion of divinity as belonging to the Messiah. Accordingly, when Jesus claimed to himself the dignity of the Son of God, pre-existence to Abraham, and unity with the Father, they wished to stone him as a blasphemer." This Jewish prejudice, together with the temporary indulgence which it received from the apostles, gave, it is probable, occasion to the Ebionites and Nazarenes, judaizing sectaries, to deny the divinity of Christ, although they acknowledged him to be the Messiah." It might not have been expedient to propose at once to the Gentiles, who were to be converted from polytheism, the doctrine of a triune God, lest they might pervert it into a resemblance of their own errors. Men's minds were not at first prepared for the full effulgence of divine truth. It was gradually introduced in conformity to that progression

a John v. 18; viii. 58, 59; x. 30, 31, 33.

b Mosheim's Eccl. Hist. vol. i. p. 118, and p. 172, 8vo. edition.

which the Deity observes in the completion of all his works in this lower world. With respect to the divine nature of the Son, we find this completion in John's Gospel, in the apostolical epistles, and in the Book of Revelation. The Acts of the Apostles are terminated by Paul's arrival at Rome, that is, a little before the sixtieth year after the birth of Christ. At that time John's Gospel and many of Paul's Epistles had not been published. Let us now inquire. what is contained in that Gospel, and in the Epistles, concerning the person and offices of Christ.

John seems to have composed his gospel in a great measure with a view to assert the Saviour's divinity. "In the beginning was the word," says he, "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." That the evangelist here speaks of the person of Christ, is manifest from the 14th verse, where he says, that "the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." To interpret the first three verses of this gospel as representing only a metaphorical

[ocr errors]

a John i. 1, 2, 3. In this passage there is a manifest reference to the 1st verse of Genesis :-" In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." And the Greek words Ev aexy are those used by the Septuagint translation in this verse.

and moral creation, and the terms in the beginning as referable only to the commencement of the gospel, is to strip them of all energy, and to reduce them to the enunciation of identical propositions. It is a perfect truism to say that Christ existed in the beginning of the Christian religion. But this evangelist distinctly expresses his own meaning in other parts of his writings, by positively asserting the deity of Christ, and his being the object of adoration and worship. Speaking of Christ, he says, "this is the true God, and eternal life." In the Book of Revelation, Jesus declares himself to be" Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, which is, which was, and which is to come, the Almighty." The Lamb, a term which can be applied only to Christ, is expressly denominated the Lord of lords, and King of kings; an appellation appropriated to the eternal God, both in the Old and in the New Testament. It has been already observed, that the creation of all things is, by John, ascribed to the word which became incarnate. The apostle Paul says, He that built all things is God; yet he declares, that the Son had in the beginning laid the foundations of the


a 1 John v. 20.

b Rev. i. 8, 17; iv. v. xvii. 14, 16, 17; xxi. 3, 6, 7.

It is impossible to get rid of these passages by any gloss conformable to sound criticism, and to the natural signification and connexion of the words. Compare Isaiah xli. 4; xliv. 6; xlviii. 12. c. Deut. x. 17. 1 Tim. vi. 15. d John i. 3. e Heb. iii. 4.

[ocr errors]

earth, that the heavens are the works of his hands, and that he upholds all things by the word of his power. The same apostle asserts, that "by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him. And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.' No enumeration of created substances can be more comprehensive. The celestial and terrestrial, the spiritual and corporeal worlds are here included. There is, consequently, no ground for supposing a metaphorical creation or renovation by the gospel, since this enumeration embraces orders of being superior to man, and those angelical na tures which had never fallen from their primitive innocence, and could therefore require no benefit from the evangelical dispensation of mercy and grace. It is even probable that this enumeration was introduced by the apostle, in order to obviate the cavils of certain early heretics who had feigned other authors and founders of the world. Christ is, in the New Testament, designated by the title of Lord, the very term by which the Hebrew word Jehovah is, in the Septuagint version, uniformly translated. Hence, the apostle says, "we look for our Saviour, the

a Heb. i. 10, 3.

b Col. i. 16, 17.


· Κύριος.

« PreviousContinue »