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ON THE DIVINITY OF CHRIST.
Divinity of Christ inferred from the Religious Worship and Honour rendered to him; Instan
ces—The Doctrine of his Divinity shewn to be interwoven with the Scriptural Scheme of Redemption-Objections stated and answered.
I PROCEED, in the fourth place, to prove the Divinity of Christ from the religious honours which are given to him.
Reason and Scripture coneur in appropriating religious worship to God, who alone is possessed of those perfections which are presupposed in the object of our prayers and thanksgivings, and the sentiments and affections which these are designed to express, as supreme respect, love, trust, hope, and resignation. It is an understood condition, that he whom we address has a perfect knowledge of our situation,-comprehending our dangers, our temptations, our afflictions, and our desires ; that he has resources adequate to the supply of all who make application to him; and that he is able to afford us effectual assistance in every possible case. We believe him to be omniscient, omnipotent, and infinite in goodness. To worship a creature is as great an absurdity as it would be to intreat a poor man to make us rich, or a subject to pardon us, while the remission of punishment is the exclusive prerogative of the sovereign. It is sacrilege, a robbery of God, from whom we take the honour to which he has an exclusive right, and transfer it to a being who, in comparison with him, is less than nothing and vanity. It is the idolatry which is prohibited under the severest denunciations, and which consists in giving that glory to another, which is due to God alone. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. “ Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”+ The Gentiles are condemned for erecting temples and altars, offering sacrifices, and addressing prayers to others besides the Creator of heaven and earth, and are pronounced guilty because " they did service to those who by nature were not gods.” From these, and innumerable passages, it appears that religious worship should be given to the self-existent and allperfect Being alone ; that he will not permit, and still less command, us to worship a creature; that a creature cannot acquire by rank, or dignity, or office, a right to the honour which is peculiar to Him who derives nothing from others, and gives to all the life which they enjoy, and the qualifications by which they are distinguished.
That religious worship is given to Jesus Christ, we shall afterwards see; but in the mean time, I remark, that from a perception of the necessary connexion between Divine worship and the Divinity of the object, Socinus maintained that our Saviour, although a man by nature, had, since his exaltation, become Verus Deus, true God, having received supreme dominion over heaven and earth, and being made a partaker of the Divine perfections of omniscience and omnipotence. But upon this point, there was a division among his followers, some of whom denied that Christ could be lawfully worshipped, while Socinus defended the contrary opinion, and refused to acknowledge those who differed from him to be Christians. The controversy was carried on with much keenness, and Socinus, impelled by intolerant zeal, which, it seems, is not peculiar to the orthodox, complained to the Prince of Transylvania, who committed his principal antagonist, Francis David, to prison, in which he died. • Exod. xx. 3.
† Luke iv. 8. Vol. I.-42
If Socinus agreed with the Scriptures, in asserting that Divine honours should be paid to our Lord, he was at variance with his own fundamental tenet of his simple humanity, and sought in vain to reconcile the two statements by the inconceivable notion of his subsequent deification. David and others who joined with him (for he was not alone) saw more clearly, or avowed more honestly, the consequences of the opinion which they held in common concerning the person of Christ: for certainly, if he was only a man, they reasoned justly when they affirmed, that by no change of state could he become entitled to the same honour with God. Religious worship is not founded in arbitrary appointment, but in the nature of things. It is not due to God, merely because it is commanded, but because, possessing all perfection, he is worthy of it, and we are his creatures, who hold all by his bounty, and are dependent upon his care. This reason of worship is wanting in all created beings, in the highest as well as in the lowest. Hence Francis David and his friends had the advantage in their dispute with Socinus, and urged him with arguments, to which he could not answer in a satisfactory manner.
I proceed to the proof, that Jesus Christ is the object of religious worship, and begin with his own general declaration : “ The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto 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 which hath sent him."* Observe the occasion on which these words were spoken. It was when the Jews, who were offended because he had profaned the Sabbath, as they thought, by curing a lame man upon it, now accused him of blasphemy in making himself equal to God. If our Lord had been a mere man, he would have repelled the charge, and shewn that his pretensions were not higher than a creature might have made without arrogance and impiety. But does he utter a single word to this effect? No! his whole discourse is a repetition of his claim, and the words now under consideration are not the least remarkable part of it. We cannot conceive a more explieit assertion of his equality with the Father. He claims equal honour, and would he have done so, if his dignity had not been equal ? The honour which is given to the Father, is to be given also to the Son. Now the honour which we give to the Father consists in adoration, praise, unreserved confidence, humble submission, and, in a word, the dedication of soul and body to his service. We are therefore to adore the Son, to make him the object of our trust and hope, to resign ourselves to his disposal, and to yield implicit obedience to his commands. There is no mention made here of supreme and subordinate honour, but in every respect it is the same. And it is enjoined by the Father himself. But if Jesus Christ is a mere man, as Unitarians afirm, how can the will of the Father, in this case, be reconciled with his general declaration, that he will not give his glory to another? Has he revoked it in favour of the Son of Mary? Is the God of the New Testament at variance with the God of the Old ? It is in vain to compare the words of Paul, “ He that despiseth us, despiseth not man, but God;'t for they are totally different. There is no demand of the same respect to the apostles, which belongs to God himself, but a simple and intelligible declaration, that as they were the messengers of God, the contempt with which some might treat their message would ultimately terminate upon Him. No Apostle ever said, It is the will of the Father that all men should honour us, even as they honour himself. They would have deemed it impious to speak so: and they guarded against such an idea, by saying to those who were disposed to admire them, “ Why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk ?" I "Neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase."S
John v, 22, 23, + 1 Thess. iv. 8. # Acts üi. 12. $ 1 Cor. iü. 7.
That Jesus Christ was worshipped by the primitive Christians, is a fact so clearly established in the New Testament, that nothing but prejudice, blinding the mental eye, can hinder any person from perceiving it. The truth is, that this worship was so general, and so publicly known, that it is used as a description of his followers, who are more than once denominated those who called upon his name ; a phrase which often occurs in the Scriptures, and . signifies invocation or prayer. “ He hath authority to bind all that call upon thy name.”*–παντας τους επικαλουμους το ονομα σου - To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord,” συν πασι τοις επικαλούμενους το ονομα του Κυρίου ημών Ιησου Χριστου. It has been asserted, indeed, that the words may be rendered, who are called, or, who call themselves by thy name, that is, who profess to be the disciples of Christ. It has been observed, however, that in Scripture, when it is designed to express the idea of denominating, or calling after another, a different form is used, and the name of the one person is then said to be called upon the other.
". The house upon
which thy name is called.” "My people upon whom my name is called.”I It has been farther observed, that in the translation of the Seventy, when a tense of the verb TIXLAEG occurs in the middle voice, it has an active signification, and denotes calling upon another. The phrase, 67 inlaude To ovou 2, Tor Bess,Meautor, occurs often, and is expressive of the act of invocation. Even those critics, who would give a different translation when the verb is used in reference to our Saviour, render it in the sense of calling upon, when passages are quoted from the Old Testament in which the object is understood to be the Father; thus shewing, that their occasional deviations in translating it, are not founded upon the settled meaning of the term, but upon the necessity of their system. It is convenient to conceal this decisive proof of the divinity of Christ, and to represent the primitive Christians as not calling upon, but calling themselves by, his name, as the ancient philosophical sects adopted an appellation derived from their respective founders. In short, 2. IX ANNO bus is a complaisant word, and changes its meaning on all necessary occasions, to serve the cause of Unitarianism. The first disciples were worshippers of Christ; and there is one eminent instance which well deserves our attention. “ And they stoned Stephen, calling upon and saying,” (this is the literal translation, and the word God, which our translators have inserted, is an unnecessary and improper supplement,) “ calling upon 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." It has been said, that “this solitary example is of itself no sufficient warrant for a practice contrary to the precepts of Christ, and the doctrine of the Apostles.” That it is contrary to the precepts of Christ, and the doctrine of the Apostles, we deny; and that it is not a solitary example has already appeared; but it is thus that Unitarians, those masters of reason, draw conclusions without premises, and assume as certain what remains to be proved. Is this their respect for a holy man and a martyr? Was the last act of his life an act of transgression? Did his expiring breath atter the language of idolatry? How, then, was he "full of faith and of the Holy Ghost ?” ”It has been said again, that the invocation of Stephen was justifiable, because Christ was really present, and the martyr saw him; but that our case is very different, because Christ is now at a great distance from us in heaven. But we would ask those who make use of this argument, whether it would be lawful to pray to our Saviour, or to invoke his aid, if he were present? If they answer in the affirmative, then we tell them, that it is lawful for us, as well as for Stephen, to pray to him, because it has been proved that, in his divine nature, he fills heaven and earth. But, as they allege • Acts ix, 14.
+ 1 Cor. i. 2.
that he was only a man, we ask again, whether Stephen, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, would address such a prayer to him, even when he was present? What was it to “receive his spirit,” but to admit him into the region of everlasting peace? What was it “not to lay sin to the charge” of his murderers, but to repeal the sentence of the divine law, and grant them impunity? Were these blessings to be asked from a creature? What greater could he have asked from God? Can a creature pardon our sins, and bestow eternal life? It would be wise to abandon these miserable subterfuges. The passage is plain ; and no man of candour will rest in any other view of it, than ihat Stephen, enlightened and guided by the Spirit of grace and supplication, died in the act of adoring his Saviour, and, therefore, that the Saviour is God.
In the first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, verse 6, the Apostle, among the proofs of the pre-eminence of the Son, quotes the following passage, and applies it to him: “ Again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.” The words are taken from the ninety-seventh Psalm, where they run thus: “Worship him all ye gods." The term Elohim is sometimes applied to created beings, and we have the authority of the Apostle for considering this as an instance. Those who are called gods in the Psalm, are called angels in the Epistle. They are addressed while a description is given of the reign of Jehovah, on account of which the earth is summoned to rejoice, and the multitude of the isles to be glad. We should not have known that the reference is to the reign of the Messiah, if Paul had not informed us; but, believing that he was under the direction of the Holy Spirit, we follow with confidence when he leads the way. The gods, then, are angels, and the object of their worship is Jesus Christ. It is a mere evasion to say that “the angels are the former prophets and messengers of God, who are summoned to do homage to Christ in consequence of his resurrection from the dead, and to acknowledge him as their superior.” If celestial beings are not mentioned in this chapter, we can find them nowhere in the Scriptures ; and that it is not simple homage, but religious worship which is demanded, is evident from this consideration, that he, whom they are called to worship, is, according to the Psalmist, the JehoVAH" whose righteousness the heavens declare, and whose glory all the people
“Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God, and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.
“I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands ; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.”+ All these things belong to our Savionr, and are ascribed to him by the holy worshipping assembly. The spirits of heaven, and the redeemed from the earth, unite in celebrating his praise. They worship him in the same manner as JEHOVAH is worshipped. “ Give unto the Lord, ye kindreds of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name ; bring an offering, and come before him: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." “ Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty : for all that is in the heaven and in the earth, is thine." As he is honoured with the same ascriptions as the Father, so he is joined with him in the same act of adoration and thanksgiving. “ Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb."'S Can Unitarians produce another instance in which the name of a creature is thus associated with that of God, in the
• Rev. i, 5, 6. | Rev. v. 11, 12. # 1 Chron. xvi. 28, 29. xxix. 11. 6 Rev, vü. 10
devotions of his people? They will not find it in the Scriptures; they must seek for it in the litany of the Church of Rome ; and even there, although divine honours are given to creatures, care is professedly taken not to elevate them to the same rank with the Supreme Being, as Jesus Christ is elevated by an inspired writer in the passages quoted.
I conclude with the argument derived from the form of Christian Baptism, which is administered “ in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”* If we suppose us to eropues to be used for 6 TC orojati, we are baptized by the authority of the Son, as well as of the Father: But how can this be, if the Son is only a man? Do religious ordinances emanate from the Creator and a creature, as a common source? Do the commands of a creature bind our consciences as much as the commands of the Creator? If we translate us to crouca literally, to the name, baptism is our solemn dedication to the persons in whose name it is administered. Are we dedicated to the service of a creature? Who is Jesus Christ, if he is only a man, that we should obey him? It is said, indeed, that the Israelites “ were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”+ The word Moses sometimes signifies the religion which Moses delivered as the minister of God. 6When Moses is read to them," that is, the books of Moses, or the laws of Moses, “ the veil is upon their hearts."! All agree that the meaning is, that the Israelites, by passing through the Red Sea, were separated to the service of God, as enjoined by the ministry of Moses. But the meaning of the words used in Christian baptism is manifestly different, unless we choose to say that we are baptized in the name of the Father, and in the name of the Christian Religion. It is plain, that in the same sense in which we are consecrated to the Father, we are consecrated to the Son; and consequently, that we are laid under an obligation to worship and serve the one, as well as the other. We never read that the Israelites were baptized in the name of JEHOVAH and of Moses. The Lord and the servant are not joined together as objects of equal respect, as the Father and the Son are. The cause of the difference is this, that the Son is himself a Divine person, and therefore entitled to the same honour with the Father.
I have gone over, in order, the proofs which are usually adduced to establish the Divinity of Christ. It is wonderful, that a point so clearly taught in the sacred writings, should have ever been made the subject of dispute; it is still more wonderful that, after the ample discussion which it has undergone, it has not been settled to the satisfaction of all parties. There is something unaccountable in the opposition which it has met with from persons professing to receive the Scriptures as the standard of their faith. If the arguments which present themselves in such abundance, whether consisting in express testimonies, or in legitimate and obvious inferences from them, are deemed insufficient, it would puzzle a wiser man than I pretend to be, to tell what would convince. The doctrine could not have been stated in plainer terms.
He who runs may read it, if he will open his eyes. It is probable that, in whatever terms the doctrine had been delivered, some men would have objected. Human language, the only vehicle of Divine communications to human beings, is not proof against Unitarian criticism, which wrests words from their natural sense, and affixes any meaning to them, however harsh and remote, which suits the design of the critics. All that we can gain by our controversy with them, is to expose their unfairness to the world, that the simple and ineonsiderate may not be seduced: of convincing them we have no hope, unless that power be exerted which casts down imaginations, and every high thing, and brings all the thoughts into captivity to Christ. * Matt. xxviü. 19.
+ 1 Cor. x. 2.
# 2 Cor. iii, 15.