Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

D'I198 ADONIM is the plural form of 1178 Adon, 1 fully to unfold; yet, were these plural titles and forms a Governor. “If I be Adonim, masters, where is my

of construction blotted out, the evidence of a plurality fear?" Mal. i. 6. Many other instances might be given, of Divine persons in the Godhead would still remain as “Remember thy Creators in the days of thy youth.”

in its strongest form. For that evidence is not merely * The knowledge of the Holy Ones is understanding.” that God has revealed himself

under plural appellations, “ There be higher than they." Heb. High ones; and

nor that these are constructed with sometimes singular in Daniel, “The Watchers and the Holy ones.

and sometimes plural forms of speech; but that three Other plural forms of speech also occur when the persons, and three persons only are spoken of in the one true God only is spoken of. “And God said, let us Scriptures under Divine titles, each having the peculiar make man in our own image, after our likeness.” attributes of Divinity ascribed to him; and yet that the “And the LORD God said, Behold the man is become first and leading principle of the same book, which like one of us.” “And the Lord said, let us go down." speaks thus of the character and works of these perBecause there God appeared to him.” Heb. “God sons, should be, that there is but one God. This point they appeared," the verb being plural. These instances being once established, it may be asked, which of the need not be multiplied: they are the common forms of hypotheses, the Orthodox, the Arian, or the Socinian, speech in the sacred Scriptures, which no criticism has agrees best with this plain and explicit doctrine of been able to resolve into mere idioms, and which only Holy Writ. Plain and explicit, I say; not as to the the doctrine of a plurality of persons in the unity of the mode of the Divine existence, not as to the comprehenGodhead can satisfactorily explain. If they were mere

sion of it, but as to this particular, that the doctrine idioms, they could not have been misunderstood by itself is plainly stated in the scriptures. those to whom the Hebrew tongue was native, to imply

Let this point, then, be examined, and it will be seen plurality; but of this we have sufficient evidence, even that the very number three has this pre-eminence; which shall be adduced when we speak of the faith of that the application of these names and powers is rethe Jewish church. They have been acknowledged to

strained to it, and never strays beyond it; and that form a striking singularity in the Hebrew language, those who confide in the testimony of God rather than even by those who have objected to the conclusion

in the opinions of men, have sufficient Scriptural readrawn from them; and the question, therefore, has been

son to distinguish their faith from the unbelief of others to find an hypothesis which should account for a pecu- by avowing themselves Trinitarians.(1). liarity which is found in no other language with the

The solemn form of benediction, in which the Jew. same circumstances.(9)

ish high-priests were commanded to bless the children Some have supposed angels to be associated with of Israel, has in it this peculiar indication, and singuGod when these plural forms occur. For this there is larly answers to the form of benediction so general in no foundation in the texts themselves, and it is besides the close of the apostolic Epistles, and which so approa manifest absurdity: Others, that the style of royalty priately closes the solemn services of Christian worwas adopted, which is refuted by two considerations— ship. It is given in Numbers vi. 24–27. that Almighty God in other instances speaks in the

Jehovah bless thee and keep thee: singular, and not in the plural number; and that this

Jehovah make his face to shine upon thee, and be was not the style of the sovereigns of the earth, when

gracious unto thee: Moses or any of the sacred penmen composed their

Jehovah lift his countenance upon thee, and give writings; no instance of it being found in any of the

thee peace. inspired books. A third opinion is, that the plural form

If the three members of this form of benediction be of speaking of God was adopted by the Hebrews from attentively considered, they will be found to agree retheir ancestors, who were polytheists, and that the an- spectively to the three persons taken in the usual order cient theological term was retained after the unity of of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The God was acknowledged. This assumes what is totally Father is the author of blessing and preservation ; illuwithout proof, that the ancestors of the Hebrews were

mination and grace are from the Son ; illumination polytheists; and could that be made out, it would leave and peace from the Spirit, the Teacher of truth, and the it still to be accounted for, why other names of the Comforter.(2) Deity, equally ancient for any thing that appears to the

“ The first member of the formula expresses the becontrary, are not also plural, and especially the high nevolent love of God; the father of mercies, and founname of Jehovah; and why, more particularly the very tain of all good: the second well comports with the appellation in question, Aleim, should have a singular redeeming and reconciling ‘grace of our Lord Jesus form also, 175x, in the same language. The gramma- solation, and joy, which are received from the commu

Christ;' and the last is appropriate to the purity, contical reasons which have been offered are equally un- nion of the Holy Spirit.'”(3) satisfactory. If, then, no hypothesis explains this pe

The connexion of certain specific blessings in this culiarity, but that which concludes it to indicate that form of benediction with the Jehovah mentioned three mode of the Divine existence which was expressed in times distinctly, and those which are represented as later theology by the phrase, a Trinity of Persons, the flowing from the Father, Son, and Spirit in the apostolic inference is too powerful to be easily resisted, that these form, would be a singular coincidence, if it even stood plural forms must be considered as intended to intimate alone; but the light of the same eminent truth, though the plurality of persons in essential connexion with one supreme and adorable Deity.

not yet fully revealed, breaks forth from other partings This argument, however, taken alone, powerful as it

of the clouds of the early morning of revelation.

The inner part of the Jewish sanctuary was called has often been justly deemed, does not contain the the Holy of Holies, that is, the holy place of the Holy strength of the case. For natural as it is to expect, Ones; and the number of these is indicated and limited presuming this to be the mode of the Divine existence, to three, in the celebrated vision of Isaiah, and that with ihat some of his names, which, according to the expres- great explicitness. The scene of that vision is the holy sive and simple character of the Flebrew language, are place of the Temple, and lies therefore in the very abode descriptions of realities, and that some of the modes and residence of the Holy Ones, here celebrated by the of expression adopted even in the earliest revelations, seraphs who veiled their faces before them. And one should carry some intimation of a fact, which, as es- cried unto another, and said, Holy, Holy, Holy, is the sentially connected with redemption, the future com- Lord of Hosts.” This passage, if it stood alone, might plete revelation of the redeeming scheme was intended be eluded by saying, that this act of divine adoration

here mentioned is merely emphatic, or, in the Hebrew (9) The argument for the Trinity drawn from the mode of expressing it, a superlative; though that is plural appellations given to God in the Hebrew Scrip- assumed, and by no means proved. It is, however, tures, was opposed by the younger Buxtorf; who yet worthy of serious notice, that ihis distinct trine act of admits that this argument should not altogether be re- adoration, which has been so often supposed to mark a jected among Christians; "for upon the same princi- plurality of persons as the objects of it, is answered by ple on which not a few of the Jews refer this emphati- a voice from that excellent glory which overwhelmed cal application of the plural number to a plurality of the mind of the prophet when he was favoured with powers or of influences, or of operations, that is, ad extra; why may we not refer it ad intra, to a plurality (1) The word tplas, trinitas, came into use in the of persons and to personal works? Yea, who certainly second century. knows what that was which the ancient Jews under- (2) Vide Jones's Catholic Doctrine. stood by this plurality of powers and faculties ?"

(3) SMITH's Person of Christ.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

the vision, responding in the same language of plurality ranks of the orthodox, and among those who do not in which the doxology of the seraphs is expressed. captiously make objections; and because it would “ Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom scarcely be fair to adduce it as a proof unless the argushall I send? and who will go for us ?" But this is not ments on each side were exhibited, which would lead the only evidence, that in this passage, the Holy Ones, to discussions which lie beside the design of this work, who were addressed each by his appropriate and equal and more properly have their place in separate and disdesignation of holy, were the three divine subsistences tinct treatises. The recent revival of the inquiry into the in the Godhead. The being addressed is the “Lord of genuineness of this text, however, shows that the point Hosts.” This all acknowledge to include the Father; is far from being critically settled against the passage, but the Evangelist John, xii. 41, in manifest reference to as a true portion of Holy Writ, and the argument from this transaction, observes, “These things said Esaias, the context is altogether in favour of those who advocate when he saw his (Christ's) glory and spake of him." | it, the hiatus in the sense never having been satisfactorily In this vision, therefore, we have the Son also, whose supplied by those who reject it. This is of more weight glory on this occasion the prophet is said to have be- in arguments of this kind than is often allowed. As to held. Acts xxviii. 25, determines that there was also the doctrine of the text, it has elsewhere abundant proof. the presence of the Holy Ghost. “Well spake the It has now been shown, that while the Unity of God Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, is to be considered a fundamental doctrine of the Scripsaying, Go unto this people and say, Hearing ye shall tures, laid down with the utmost solemnity, and guarded hear and not understand, and seeing ye shall see and not with the utmost care, by precepts, by threatenings, by perceive," &c.

These words, quoted from Isaiah, the promises, by tremendous punishments of polytheism Apostle Paul declares to have been spoken by the Holy and idolatry among the Jews, the very names of God, Ghost, and Isaiah declares them to have been spoken on as given in the revelation made of himself, have plural this very occasion by the “Lord of Hosts.” “And he forms and are connected with plural modes of speech; said, go and tell this people, ‘Hear ye indeed and under-that other indications of plurality are given in various stand not, and see ye indeed but perceive not," " &c. parts of Holy Writ; and that this plurality is restricted to

Now let all these circumstances be placed together, three. On those texts, however, which in their terms deTHE PLACE, the holy place of the holy ones; the repeti- note a plurality and a trinity, the proof does not wholly or tion of the homage, THREE times, Holy, Holy, Holy- chiefly rest, and they have been only adduced as introducthe ONE Jehovah of hosts, to whom it was addressed, tory to instances too numerous to be all examined, in ---the plural pronoun used by this ONE Jehovah, us; which two distinct persons are spoken of, sometimes conthe declaration of an Evangelist, that on this occasion nectedly and sometimes separately, as associated with Isaiah saw the glory of Christ; the declaration of St. God in his perfections and incommunicable glories, and Paul, that the Lord of Hosts who spoke on that occa- as performing works of unequivocal Divine majesty and sion was the Holy Ghost; and the conclusion will not infinite power, and thus together manifesting that tri. appear to be without most powerful authority, both cir- unity of the Godhead which the true Church has in all cumstantial and declaratory, that the adoration, Holy, ages adored and magnified. This is the great proof upon Holy, Holy, referred to the Divine Three, in the one es- which the doctrine rests. The first of these two persons sence of the Lord of Hosts. Accordingly, in the book of is the Son, the second the Spirit. Of the former, it will be Revelations, where the Lamb" is so constantly repre- observed that the titles of Jehovah, Lord, God, King, King sented as sitting upon the divine throne, and where he of Israel, Redeemer, Saviour, and other names of God, by name is associated with the Father, as the object of are ascribed to him,--that he is invested with the attrithe equal homage and praise of saints and angels; this butes of Eternity, Omnipotence, Ubiquity, Infinite Wisscene from Isaiah is transferred into the 4th Chapter, dom, Holiness, Goodness, &c.,--that he was the Leader, and the "living creatures,” the Seraphim of the Prophet, the visible King, and the object of the worship of the are heard in the same strain, and with the same triné Jews,—that he forms the great subject of prophecy, and repetition, saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Al- is spoken of in the predictions of the prophets in lanmighty, which was, and is, and is to come." Isaiah guage, which if applied to men or to angels would by xlviii. 16, also makes this threefold distinction and limit- the Jews have been considered not as sacred but idolaation. " And now the Lord God and his Spirit hath trous, and which, therefore, except that it agreed with sent me." The words are manifestly spoken by Mes their ancient faith, would totally have destroyed the siah, who declares himself sent by the Lord God, and by credit of those writings,--that he is eminently known his Spirit. Some render it, hath sent me and his Spirit, both in the Old Testament and in the

New, as the Son the latter term being also in the accusative case. This of God, an appellative which is sufficiently proved to strengthens the application, by bringing the phrase have been considered as implying an assumption of Dinearer to that so often used by our Lord in his discourses, vinity by the circumstance that, for asserting it, our who speaks of himself and the Spirit being sent by the Lord was condemned to die as a blasphemer by the Father. “The Father which sent me--the Comforter Jewish Sanhedrim,- that he became incarnate in our whom I will send unto you from the Father, who pro- nature-wrought miracles by his own original power, ceedeth from the Father.” Isaiah xxxiv. 16, “Seek ye and not, as his servants, in the name of another,--that out of the Book of the Lord, and read, for my mouth it he authoritatively forgave sin,--that for the sake of hath commanded, and his spirit it hath gathered his sacrifice sin is forgiven to the end of the world, them." “Here is one person speaking of the Spirit, and for the sake of that alone,-that he rose from another person.”(2) Hag. ii. 5. 7, “ I am with you, saith the dead to seal all these pretensions to Divinity,--the Lord of Hosts, according to the word that I cove- that he is seated upon the throne of the universe, ali nanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so my power being given to him in heaven and in earth, that Spirit remaineth among you ; fear ye not. For thus his inspired apostles exhibit him as the Creator of all saith the Lord of Hosts, I will shake all nations, and the things visible and invisible; as the true God and the desire of all nations shall come.” Here also we have eternal life; as the king eternal, immortal, invisible, the three persons distinctly mentioned; the Lord of Hosts, only wise God and our Saviour,--that they offer to him his Spirit, and the Desire of all nations.

the highest worship,- that they trust in him, and comMany other passages might be given, in which there mand all others to trust in him for eternal life,--that he is this change of persons, sometimes enumerating two, is the head over all things,-that angels worship him sometimes three, but never more than three, arrayed in and render him service,-that he will raise the dead at these eminent and Divine characters. The passages in the last day,-judge the secrets of men's hearts, and the New Testament are familiar to every one: "Bap- finally determine the everlasting state of the righteous tizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the wicked. and of the Holy Ghost.” “ The grace of our Lord Jesus This is the outline of Scriptural testimony as to the Christ, the Love of God, and the communion of the Son. As to the Divine character of the Spirit, it is Holy Ghost,” with others in which the sacred three, equally explicit. He too is called Jehovah ; Jehovah and three only, are thus collocated as objects of equal of Hosts; God. Eternity, omnipotence, ubiquity, infitrust and honour, and equally the fountain and the nite wisdom, and Oiher attributes of Deity, are ascribed source of grace and benediction.

to him. He is introduced as an agent in the work of On the celebrated passage in 1 John v. 7, “There are the creation, and to him is ascribed the conservation of three that bear record in heaven,” I say nothing, because all living beings. He is the source of the inspiration authorities against its genuineness are found in the of Prophets and Apostles ; the object of worship; the

efficient agent in illuminating, comforting, and sancti(2) Jones on the Trinity.

fying the souls of men. He makes intercession for the saints; quickens the dead, and, finally, he is associated one to the exclusion of the others. The true Scripwith the Father and the Son, in the form of baptism tural doctrine of the Unity of God will remove this into the one name of God, and in the apostolic form of be- objection. It is not the Socinian notion of unity. nediction, as, equally with them, the source and foun- Theirs is the unity of one, ours the unity of three. We tain of grace and blessedness. These decisive points I do not, however, as they seem to suppose, think the shall proceed to establish by the express declarations Divine Essence divisible, and participated by, and of various passages, both of the Old and New Testa- shared among, three persons; but wholly and undiment. When that is done, the argument will then be, videdly possessed and enjoyed. Whether, therefore, that as on the one hand the doctrine of Scripture is, we address our prayers and adorations to the Father, that there is but one Gon; and, on the other, that Son, or Holy Ghost, we address the same adorable Bethroughout both Testaments, three persons are, in un-ing, the one living and true God. “Jehovah, our equivocal language, and by unequivocal circumstances, Aleim, is one Jehovah.” With reference to the reladeclared to be Divine; the only conclusion which can tions which each person bears to us in the redeeming harmonize these otherwise opposite, contradictory, and economy, our approaches to the Father are to be made most misleading propositions and declarations is, that through the mediation of the Son, and by, or with dethe THREE PERSONS ARE ONE GOD.

pendence upon, the assistance of the Holy Spirit. Yet, In the prevalent faith of the Christian Church, neither as the authority of the New Testament shows, this of these views is for a moment lost sight of. Thus it does not preclude direct prayer to Christ and to the exactly harmonizes with the Scriptures, nor can it be Holy Spirit, and direct ascriptions of glory and honour charged with greater mystery than is assignable to them. to each. In all this we glorify the oneGod over all, The Trinity is asserted, but the Unity is not obscured; blessed for evermore.” the Unity is confessed, but without denial of the Trinity. No figures of speech, no unnatural modes of interpretation are resorted to, to reconcile these views with human conceptions, which they must infinitely

CHAPTER X. transcend. This is the character of the heresies which have arisen on this subject. They all spring from the

TRINITY.-Pre-existence of Christ. attempt to make this mystery of God conceivable by the By establishing, on Scriptural authority, the pre-exhuman mind, and less a stone of stumbling to the pride istence of our Lord, we take the first step in the demonof reason. Ou the contrary," the faith of God's elect,” stration of his absolute Divinity. His pre-existence, as imbodied in the creeds and confessions of all truly indeed, simply considered, does not evince his Godevangelical churches, follow the example of the Scrip- head, and is not, therefore, a proof against the Arian tures in entirely overlooking these low considerations, hypothesis; but it destroys the Socinian notion, that and "declaring the thing as it is,” with all its mystery he was a man only. For since no one contends for the and incomprehensibleness, to the Jews a stumbling pre-existence of human souls, and if they did, the docblock, and to the Greeks foolishness. It declares that trine would be refuted by their own consciousness, it we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; is clear, that if Christ existed before his incarnation, neither confounding the persons nor dividing the sub- he is not a mere man, whatever his nature, by other stance; for there is one person of the Father, another arguments, may be proved to be. of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost; but the God- This point has been felt to press so heavily upon the head of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doctrine of the simple humanity of Christ, that both is all one; the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal. So ancient and modern Socinians have bent against it all the Father is God, the son is God, and the Holy Ghost those arts of interpretation which, more than any is God; and yet there are not three Gods, but one thing else, show both the hopeles sness of their cause, God."(3) Or, as it is well expressed by an eminent and the pertinacity with which they cling to oft and modern, as great a master of reason and science as he easily refuted error. I shall dwell a little on this point, was of theology, “There is one Divine Nature or Es- because it will introduce some instances in illustration sence, common unto three persons incomprehensibly of the peculiar character of the Socinian mode of perunited, and ineffably distinguished; united in essential verting the Scriptures. attributes, distinguished by peculiar idioms and rela- The existence of our Lord prior to his incarnation tions; all' equally infinite in every Divine perfection, might be forcibly argued from the declarations that he each different from the other in order and manner of was “sent into the world;" that he came in the flesh;" subsistence; that there is a mutual existence of one in that “he took part of flesh and blood;" that he was all, and all in one; a communication without any de- “ found in 'fashion as a man;" and other similar privation or diminution in the communicant; an eternal phrases. These are modes of speech which are used generation, and an eternal procession without prece- of no other person; which are never adopted to exdence or succession, without proper causality or depend- press the natural birth, and the commencement of the ence; a Father imparting his own, and a Son receiving existence of ordinary men; and which Socinianism, his Father's life, and a Spirit issuing from both, without therefore, leaves without a reason, and without an exany division or multiplication of essence. These are planation, when used of Christ. But arguments drawn notions which may well puzzle our reason in conceiv- from these phrases are rendered wholly unnecessary, ing how they agree; but ought not to stagger our faith by the frequent occurrence of passages which expliin asserting that they are true; for if the Holy Scripture citly declare his pre-existence, and by which the inge. teacheth us plainly, and frequently doth inculcate upon nuity of unsubmissive criticism has been always us that there is but one true God; if it as manifestly foiled; the interpretations given, being too forced, and doth ascribe to the three persons of the blessed Trinity, too unsupported, either by the common rules of critithe same august names, the same peculiar characters, cism or by the idioms of language, to produce the the same Divine attributes, the same superlatively ad- least impression upon any, not previously disposed to mirable operations of creation and providence; if it torture the word of God in order to make it subservient also doth prescribe to them the same supreme honours, to an error. services, praises, and acknowledgments to be paid to The first of these proofs of the pre-existence of them all; this may be abundantly enough to satisfy our | Christ is from the testimony of the Baptist, John i. 15, minds, to stop our mouths, to smother all doubt and dis- “He that cometh after me is preferred before me, for pute about this high and holy mystery."(4)

he was before me;" or, as it is in verse 30, “After me One observation more, before we proceed to the cometh a man which is preferred before me, for he was Scriptural evidence of the positions above laid down, before me.. shall close this chapter. The proof of the doctrine of The Socinian exposition is, “ The Christ, who is to the Trinity, I have said, grounds itself on the firm begin his ministry after me, has, by the Divine appointfoundation of the Divine Unity, and it closes with it; 1 ment, been preferred before me, because he is my chief and this may set the true believer at rest, when he is or principal.” Thus they interpret the last clause, assailed by the sophistical enemies of his faith with “ for he was before me,” in the sense of dignity, and the charge of dividing his regards, as he directs his not of time, though St. John uses the same word to prayers to one or other of the three persons of the denote priority of time, in several places of his Gospel. Godhead. For the time at least, he is said to honour “If the world hate you, you know that it hated me

before it hated you ;" and ch. i. 41; viii. 7; xx. 4–8. If (3) Athanasian Creed.

they take the phrase in the second clause, eu ipoc0ev (4) Dr. BARROW's Defence of the Trinity, 18 7'E}'ovev in the sense of "preferred," then, by their mode of rendering the last clause, as Bishop Pearson, it is totally inapplicable to the text in question, and is has observed, “a thing is made the reason of itself, in fact directly refuted by it. which is a great absurdity and a vain tautology.". But the principle is false, and it may be denied, that * He is preferred before me, because he is my chief;"|" to ascend into heaven” is a Hebrew phrase to express whereas by taking upwros us in the sense of time, a the knowledge of high and mysterious things. So reason for this preference is given. There is, how- utterly does this pretence fail, that not one of the pasever, another rendering of the second clause, which sages they adduce in proof can be taken in any other makes the passage still more impracticable in the sense than its literal meaning; and they are therefore, as are of the Socinians. EunpocOɛv is never in the Septua- others, directly against them. Deut. xxx. 11, is first gint or in the New Testament used for dignity or rank; adduced. “Who shall go up for us into heaven, and but refers either to place or time, and if taken in the bring it unto us?” This, we are told, we must take sense of time, the rendering will be,“ He that cometh figuratively; but then, unhappily for them, it is also after me was before me;" and ori, in the next clause, immediately subjoined," neither is it beyond the sea, signifying "certainly,'truly,(5) the last clause that thou shouldst say, Who shall go over the sea for will be made emphatical, "certainly, he was before us?" If the ascent into heaven in the first clause is to me," and is to be considered, not as giving a reason for be taken figuratively, then the going beyond the sea, the sentiment in the preceding clause, or as tautolo- cannot be taken literally, and we shall still want a gical, but as explanatory and impressive; a mode of figurative interpretation for this part of the declaration speaking exceedingly natural when so great a doctrine of Moses respecting the law, which will not so easily and so high a mystery was to be declared, that he who be furnished. The same observation is applicable to was born after John, was yet, in point of existence, be- Romans x. 6, in which there is an adaptation of the fore him ;—"certainly, he was before me.” This ren- passage in Deuteronomy to the gospel. “Who shall dering of the second clause is adopted by several emi- ascend into heaven ? that is, to bring Christ down nent critics; but whether this, or the common version from above;" &c., words which have no meaning be preferred, the verb in the last clause he was before unless place be literally understood, and which show me, sufficiently fixes apuros in the sense of priority of that the Apostle, a sufficient judge of Hebrew modes time. Had it referred to the rank and dignity of Christ, of expression, understood, in its literal sense, the pasit would not have been "he was,” but “he is before sage in Deuteronomy. A second passage to which me,” εςι not ην.

they trust is Prov. xxx. 4, “Who hath ascended and The passages which express that Christ came down descended," but if what immediately follows be added, from heaven are next to be considered. He styles “ who hath gathered the winds in his fists, who hath himself “the bread of God which cometh down from bound the waters in a garment," &c., it will be seen heaven.-The living bread which came down from that the passage has no reference to the acquisition of heaven.-He that cometh from above is above all; he knowledge by a servant of God, but expresses the vathat is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the rious operations in nature carried on by God himself. earth; he that cometh from heaven is above all;" and " Who hath done this? What is his name, and what in his discourse with Nicodemus, “No man hath as- is his son's name, if thou canst tell ?” cended up to heaven, but lie that came down from In Baruch iii. 29, it is asked of Wisdom, “Who hath heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.In gone up into heaven, and taken her, and brought her what manner are declarations so plain and unequi- down from the clouds ?” but it is here also added, vocal to be eluded, and by what arts are they to be in-“ Or who hath gone over the sea for her ?" Wisdom terpreted, into nothing? This shall be considered. is, in this passage, clearly personified; a place of haSocinus and his early disciples, in order to account for bitation is assigned her, which is to be sought out by these phrases, supposed that Christ, between the time those who would attain her. This apocryphal text, of his birth and entrance upon his office, was transla- therefore, gives no countenance to the mystical notion of ted into heaven, and there remained some time, that he ascending into heaven, advanced by Socinian expositors. might see and hear those things which he was to pub- If they then utterly fail to establish their forced and lish in the world. This hypothesis, however, only unnatural sense of ascending into heaven, let us exproves the difficulty or rather the impossibility of in- amine whether they are more successful in establishterpreting these passages, so as to turn away their ing their opinion as to the meaning of “coming down hostile aspect from the errors of man. It is supported from heaven.” This, they say, means “to be commisby no passage of Scripture, by no tradition, by no sioned to reveal the will of God to men;"(8) but if so, reason in the nature of the thing, or in the discourse. the phrases, “ to ascend up into heaven,” and “to come The modern Socinians, therefore, finding the position down from thence," which are manifestly opposed 10 of their elder brethren untenable, resolve the whole each other, lose all their opposition in the interpretainto figure, the most convenient method of evading tion, which is sufficient to show, that it is, as to both, the difficulty, and tell us, that as we should naturally entirely gratuitous, arbitrary, and contradictory. For, say, that a person who would become acquainted with as Dr. Magee has acutely remarked, “it is observed the secret purposes of God, must ascend to heaven to by the Editors of the Unitarian Version, and enforced converse with him, and return to make them known, with much emphasis by Mr. Belsham and Dr. Carpenso our Lord's words do not necessarily imply a literal ter, that to 'ascend into heaven signifies 'to become ascent and descent, but merely this, “ that he alone acquainted with the truths of God, and that conscwas admitted to an intimate knowledge of the Di- quently the correlative to this (the opposite they vine will, and was commissioned to reveal it to should have said), to 'descend from heaven' must mean men.”(6)

to bring and to discover those truths to the world.' In the passages quoted above, as declarations of the Imp. Vers. p. 208, Calm Inq. p. 48. Now, allowing pre-existence of Christ, it will be seen, that there are those gentlemen all they wish to establish as to the two phrases to be accounted for,-ascending into first clause,-that to go up into heaven means to learn heaven--and coming down from heaven. The former and become acquainted with the counsels of God,-is said to mean the being admitted to an intimate know what must follow then, if they reasoned justly vpon ledge of the Divine counsels. But if this were the their own principles? Plainly this, that to come down sense, it could not be true that “no man” had thus as- from heaven, being precisely the opposite of the cended, but “the Son of man;" since Moses and all former, must mean to unlearn or to lose the knowledge the prophets in succession had been admitted to "an of those counsels: so that, so far from bringing and intimate knowledge of the Divine counsels,” and had discovering those counsels to mankind, our Lord must been “commissioned" to reveal them. It is nothing to have disqualified himself from bringing any. Had insay that our Lord's acquaintance with the Divine deed " ASCENDING into heaven' meant 'BRINGING the counsels was more deep and comprehensive. The truth (any where) FROM men,' then ‘DESCENDING îrom case is not stated comparatively, but exclusively,- heaven' might justly be said to mean “BRINGING it “No man hath ascended into heaven, but the Son of back to men.' Whatever, in short, ASCENDING may be man;" no man, but himself, had been in heaven.(7) supposed to signify in any figure, DESCENDING must Allowing therefore the principle of the Socinian gloss, signify the opposite, if the figure be abided by: And

therefore, if to ASCEND be to learn, to discend n:ust (5) SCHLEUSNER sub voce.

be to unlearn."(9) (6) BELSHAM's Calm Inq. (7) “No man, except myself, ever was in heaven."-

(8) Belsham's Calm Inquiry. PEARCE.

(9) Discourses on the Atonement.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

son :

It is farther fatal to this opinion, that “if to come ther the verb Elul I am," may be understood to be from heaven; to descend from heaven,” &c., signify equivalent to the incommunicable name Jehovah, shall receiving a divine commission to teach; or, more sim- be considered in another place. The obvious sense of ply, to communicate truth after it has been learned, it the passage at least is,“ Before Abraham was, or was is never used with reference to Moses, or to any of born, I was in existence.” Abraham, the patriarch, the Prophets or divinely appointed instruments who, was the person spoken of; for the Jews having said, from time to time, were raised up among the Jews. “ Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen We may therefore conclude, that the meaning attached Abraham ?" our Lord declares, with his peculiarly soto these phrases by Socinian writers of the present day, lemn mode of introduction, “ Verily, verily, I say unto who, in this respect as in many others, have ventured you, before Abraham was, I am.” I had priority of a step beyond their predecessors who never denied their existence,“ together with a continuation of it to the literal acceptation, was unknown among the Jews, present time.”(3) Nor did the Jews mistake his and is a mere subterfuge to escape from the plain neaning, but being filled with indignation at so matestimony of Holy Writ on a point so fatal to their nifest a claim of divinity,“they took up stones to stone scheme.

him." The next passage which may be quoted as express- How then do the Socinians dispose of this passage? ing, in unequivocal terms, the pre-existence of Christ, The two hypotheses on which they have rested, for occurs John vi. 62, and is, if possible, still more out of one would not suffice, are, first, “ That Christ existed the reach of that kind of criticism which has just been before the patriarch Abraham had become, according exhibited. The occasion, too, fixes the sense beyond to the import of his name, the Father of many nations, all perversion. Our Lord had told the Jews, that he that is, before the Gentiles were called;" which was as was the bread of life, which came down from hea- true of the Jews who were discoursing with him as ven. This the Jews understood literally, and there- of himself. The second is, “ before Abraham was born fore asked, " Is not this the son of Joseph, whose fa- I am he, i. e. the Christ, in the destination and appointther and mother we know, how is it then that he saith, ment of God;" which also was saying nothing peculiar I came down from heaven?“ His disciples too so of Christ ; since the existence and the part which every understood his words, for they also“ murmured.” But one of his hearers was to act, were as much in the des our Lord, so far from removing that impression, so far tination and appointment of God as his own. Both from giving them the most distant hint of a mode of these absurdities are well exposed by Bishop Pearmeeting the difficulty like that resorted to by Socinian writers, strengthens the assertion, and makes his “ The first interpretation makes our Saviour thus to profession a stumbling-block still more formidable, speak: Do ye so much wonder how I should have seen “ Doth this offend you?" referring to what he had just Abraham who am not yet fifty years old? Do ye imasaid, that he had descended from heaven, “ What and gine so great a contradiction in this? I tell you, and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up WHERE HE be ye most assured, that what I speak unto you at this WAS BEFORE." Language cannot be more explicit; time is most certainly and infallibly true, and most worthough Mr. Belsham has ventured to tell us that this thy of your observation, which moves me not to deliver means, " What if I go farther out of your reach, and it without this solemn asseveration (Verily, verily, I become more perplexing and mysterious !” And, in- say unto you), before Abraham shall perfectly become deed, perplexing and mysterious enough would be the that which was signified in his name, the father of words both of Christ and his apostles, if they required many nations, before the Gentiles shall come in, I am. such criticisms for their elucidation.

Nor be ye troubled at this answer, or think in this I The phrase to be “sent from God,” they think they magnify myself; for what I speak is as true of you sufficiently avert, by urging that it is said of the Bap- yourselves as it is of me: before Abram be thus made tist,“ There was a man sent from God, whose name Abraham, ye are. Doubt ye not, therefore, as ye did, was John." This, they urge, clearly evinces, “ that nor ever make that question again, whether I have seen to come from God is to be commissioned by him. If Abraham.Jesus was sent from God, so was John the Baptist; if “ The second explication makes a sense of another the former came down from heaven, so did the latter.” nature, but with the same impertinency: Do ye conThis reasoning must be allowed to be fallacious, iftinue still to question, and with so much admiration do it can be shown that it contradicts other Scriptures. ye look upon my age and ask, Hast thou seen AbraNow our Lord says, John vi. 46, “ No one hath seen ham? I confess it is more than eighteen hundred the Father, save he who is from God, he, outos, hath years since that patriarch died, and less than forty seen the Father;" namely, this one person, for it is sin- since I was born at Bethlehem: but look not on this gular and no one else hath seen the Father. Therefore, computation, for before Abraham was born I was. But if Christ was that person, as will not be disputed, John mistake me not, I mean that I was in the foreknowledge could not be “ sent from God,” in the same manner and decree of God. Nor do I magnify myself in this, that Christ was. What does the Baptist say of him- for ye also were so.. How either of these answers self? Does he confirm the Socinian gloss? Speaking should give any reasonable satisfaction to the question, of Christ and of himself he says, “ He that cometh from or the least occasion of the Jews' exasperation, is not to above is above all; he that is of the earth is earthly, he be understood. And that our Saviour should speak of that cometh from heaven is above all," John iii. 31. any such impertinencies as these interpretations bring Here John contrasts his earthly origin with Christ's forth, is not by a Christian to be conceived. Wherefore, heavenly origin. Christ is " from above;" John from as the plain and most obvious sense is a proper and full " the earth,” EK Tng yns.

Christ is “ above all," which answer to the question, and most likely to exasperate he could not he, if every other prophet came in like the unbelieving Jews; as those strained explications manner from heaven, and from above; and therefore if render the words of Christ not only impertinent to the John was " sent from God,” it cannot be in the same occasion, but vain and useless to the hearers of them; sense that Christ was sent from him, which is enough as our Saviour gave this answer in words of another to silence the objection.(1) Thus, says Dr. Nares, language, most probaby incapable of any such inter“ we have nothing but the positive contradictions of pretations : we must ad here unto that literal sense althe Unitarian party, to prove to us that Christ did not ready delivered, by which it appeareth Christ had a come from heaven, though he says of himself he did being, as before John, so also before Abraham, and come from heaven; and though he declares he had seen consequently by that he did exist two thousand years the Father, he had not seen the Father; that though he before he was born, or conceived by the virgin."(4) assures us, that he, in a most peculiar and singular man- The observations of Whitaker on this decisive pas. ner came forth from God (EK Ty Oɛy Etnadev, a strong sage, are in his usual energetic manner : and singular expression), he came from him no other- “ Your father Abraham," says our Saviour to the wise than like the prophets of old, and his own imme- | Jews,“ rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it and was diate forerunner."(2)

glad.” Our Saviour thus proposes himself to his counSeveral other equally striking passages might claim trymen, as their Messiah; that grand object of hope our attention; but it will be sufficient for the argu- and desire to their fathers, and particnlarly to this first ment, to close it with two.

father of the faithful, Abraham. But his countrymen, “Before Abraham was, I am,” John viii. 58. Whe- not acknowledging his claim to the character of Mes(1) Holden's Scripture Testimonies.

(3) PEARSON on the Creed. (2) Remarks on the Imp. Version.

(4) Exposition of the Creed.

« PreviousContinue »