Page images

all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. He is the express image of his person; the very character of his substance. If there were no plurality in the divine nature, which is the ground of the distinctions, Father and Son, it appears to be improper to say that in him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead. If, on this principle, all divine fulness dwelt in him, there would be no ground for addressing divinity out of himself. There would be no ground of his addressing the Father. If the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in Christ, divine nature and divine attributes dwelt in him; otherwise, all the fulness of the Godhead did not dwell in him; he was not the character of divine nature

If God made communications to Christ as he did to the prophets, only in a greater degree, he would not possess one divine attribute. Divine fulness would not dwell in him. If there be no ground of distinction in the divine nature, and God should communicate his fulness to the man Christ Jesus, he would only change his condition, (if the expression may be allowed) but there would be no ground of distinction between the Father and the Son; nor would there be ground for one to address the other. It is absurd to say that Christ possesses divine attributes only in a limited degree. Divine attributes are infinite, or in the greatest possible degree. What is less is not divine. If this be not true, it is impossible to draw a line of distinction between human and divine attributes.

As divine attributes are as clearly and fully ascribed to the Son as they are to the Father; and as a nature is known only by its attributes, it follows that there is as clear evidence, from this source, of the divine nature of the Son, as of the Father.*

* Who being the express image of his person. XaganTng ThS ÚTOσTROUS autoũ. Heb. 1:3. These original words signify the character of his substance. A character is an exact representation of the seal or stamp, which makes the impression. They are of the same dimensions; and they perfectly correspond in all their parts. According to the perfection of the former, so is the perfec tion of the latter. If Christ represents the Father as a character represents its seal, there is an exact correspondence between them. They are of the same extent. Their attributes are correspondent, and of equal perfection. If Christ

[ocr errors]

be of finite nature and finite properties, there is no proportion, there is no correspondence between him and the Father, who is of infinite perfection. If extraordinary powers were delegated to him, they would make no addition to his nature; and of course they would not make him the character, or exact likeness of the Father's substance.

"Before Abraham was, I am." John 8:58. We produce this text, not to prove the eternal existence of the Son, but to prove his pre-existence. Attempts have been made to evade even this proof from the text. It is contended that Christ did not design to convey an idea that he had existence before Abraham, but that before his day he was appointed by the counsel of Heaven to the office of Messiah; that he was ordained to be the Christ. If this be the meaning of the text, he gave a very indirect answer to the question of the Jews. Their inquiry related to his age; and if his answer related to the time of his appointment to office, there is not the least connexion between the answer and the question. Rather than to suppose this prevarication, we would use the text according to its most easy and natural construction; that Christ was before Abraham.

"Glorify thou me with thine ownself, with the glory, which I had with thee before the world was." John 17:5. This text is offered to prove Christ's preexistence only. It is an unhappy eyasion to say that this glory, which Christ once had with the Father, and for which he prayed, was a glory, which was reserved for him, which was in the Father's purpose and decree. It could not, with truth be said that he ever had a glory, which was only reserved or purposed for him. Besides, if he prayed for this degree of glory, he would pray only for a glory to be kept in reserve or purpose; for this, upon the present hypothesis, is the glory he had with the Father.

"I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." Rev. 22:13. It is admitted by Unitarians that these are the words of Christ. The terms, first and last, are applied in the Old Testament to God. If these terms, when applied to him, express his eternal existence, they equally express the eternal existence of Christ, when applied to him. It is admitted that many words in the scriptures, which, according to their natural meaning, are taken in their greatest latitude, are restricted by their application. But there is no restriction, or qualification intimated, when the terms first and last are applied to Christ. To say "they signify that Jesus Christ, is contemporary with the earliest and latest events in that dispensation, over which he has been ordained by the Almighty to preside," is begging the question. It is assuming that he had no authority, or that he did not preside over any thing till he commenced the dispensation of mercy with mankind. When the prophet Isaiah applies the same terms to the God of Israel, some captious critic might as well say, they signify that God is contemporary with the earliest and latest events of the Jewish dispensation. With such license, it would be impossible to prove one divine attribute of God the Father.

"But thou Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be Ruler in Israel, hose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." Micah 5:2. The original words standing for "shall he come forth," and "whose goings forth," are radically the same. It is contended that the first, signifies his birth at Bethlehem; and that "the last clause must therefore be understood thus: "whose birth has been of old from everlasting;" i. e. "whose birth has been determined, or appointed from everlasting." Even though the expression, "going's forth," should be referred to an earlier period of our Lord's existence than his birth from the Virgin Mary, it must signify generation in some way or other, and therefore favors the Unitarian doctrine, that he had a beginning, rather than the orthodox opinion of his eternity." (See Yates' Vindication of Unitarianism.)

This learned author makes the assumption, that the phrase, "shall he come forth," signifies his natural birth. The original word does not necessarily signify birth. It is sometimes applied to it. But it is also "applied to the pro ductions of the earth, or of vegetables; to the solar lights going forth upon the earth; so to the stellar lights, to the springing, or coming forth of waters; to come or go forth, or out, in almost any manner." (See Park. Heb. Lex. on the word) "Out of thee," i. e. Bethlehem, "shall he come forth to me." However common the supposition may be, it is hard to conceive that Christ's coming forth out of the city Bethlehem to his Father, should signify his natural


birth. But if this supposition were correct, and the latter phrase, "his goings forth," signified the same thing, the inference would be, that he had a natural birth before he was born of Mary. As the latter phrase is in the plural number, it would follow that he had had several natural births before that time. The learned author, however, only infers that "it must signify generation in some way or other." But this is making the conclusion broader than the premises. To apply the first phrase to his natural birth, and the latter to an unintelligible generation, is neither agreeable to sound logic, nor to the rules of strict criticism. The LXX did not understand, by the original terms, any kind of birth or generation. If we understand the terms according to their natural and true import, as they stand in our translation, we shall find that he, who came forth from Bethlehem on his Father's business, had also gone forth from him, from of old, from everlasting.

"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever." Heb. 13:8. It is contended by some that Jesus Christ, in this text, is put for the doctrines which he taught; and that this text proves not the immutability of his nature; but only the immutability of his doctrines. It is admitted that his name is sometimes used to signify his religion. But it does not follow from this that it is always used in this sense, or that it is so used in this passage. But if this were the true meaning of the text, it would afford some evidence of his immutability. If he be the Author and Supporter of an unchangeable religion; if his kingdom be of one nature, and his laws and administration be without essential variation, there is strong evidence that he himself does not essentially change. If his designs are always the same, there is no reasonable doubt that he is always the same. In the former part of the epistle to the Hebrews, the apostle, after attributing the work of creation to the Son, asserts his immutability by the same terms, thou art the same (autos.) To speak of the visible changes, which Christ sustained during his humiliation is mere evasion. It is to speak of the mutability of his humanity, which all admit.

"No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man, which is in heaven." John 3:13. Trinitarian commen. tators are not agreed in their explanations of this text. It appears, however, that the first clause cannot be understood literally. For Enoch and Elijah were taken up bodily into heaven. The connexion of this text authorizes a belief that Christ, by his declaration, "no man hath ascended up to heaven," designed to shew that no person beside himself was fully acquainted with the counsel of heaven. He positively asserted that he spoke what he knew, and testified what he had seen. He knew and he had seen what mere man never knew nor saw. If the first part of the text is understood figuratively, there is no necessity of understanding the second clause in this manner. Other texts, without the appearance of a figure, assert that he came down from heaven. Christ himself says, "I came down from heaven." The Jews understood him to speak literally; for they said, "is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know, how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?" The apostle Paul, speaking of Christ's ascension, saith, "now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also, that ascended up far above all heavens.


The latter part of the text, "the Son of man, who is in heaven," naturally conveys the idea that he, who had descended from heaven, and was then speaking, was also in heaven. This construction is easy, if it be admitted that divinity was united with the Son of man. If this union be denied it is difficult to explain this passage.

"They went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following," Mark 16:20. "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them," Mat. 18:20. "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world," Matt. 28:20. A learned Unitarian, (see Yates' Vindication of Unitarianism, p. 225,) admits that these texts "prove, that he was virtually present with his disciples, to guard, comfort, and assist them in their apostolic labors." To prove his omnipresence, he considers it necessary to shew that his substance is extended through all space. This extension of substance he considers to be the omnipresence of God. The distinction between actual and virtual omnipresence of God is a subject better calculated for the speculations of metaphysicians than for the discussion of theologians. Let the conclusion be which way it will, the effect will be the same. Whether he be actually or virtually present, it is in

(or rather by) him we live, move, and have our being. We know too little of spiritual substance to have definite conceptions of its extension, or of its relation to place. We cannot define the limits of our spirits; but we have reason to believe that we have perceptions, and we produce effects far beyond the extension of our material or spiritual substance. If a finite spirit can produce effects where its substance does not actually extend, it does not appear to be necessary to suppose that the substance of the divine Spirit should be actually extended wherever he operates. If it be admitted that the virtual presence of Christ is "with his disciples, to guard, comfort, and assist them in their apostolic labors," it is believed that the presence of God with them is not superior to this, either in its nature, or in its effects; and till it is proved to be superior, there appears to be no presumption in the belief. We do not maintain that these texts alone prove Christ's universal presence; but they appear to prove his presence to be of such a nature, that it may as well extend to every other creature. But we are not left to inference on this subject. The apostle expressly tells us, "by him all things consist," Col. 1:17. Upholding all things by the word of his power," Heb. 1:3. These texts prove, (and it is presumed it will be admitted) that Christ's virtual presence is as extensive as the works of creation; and till it is proved that the presence of God the Father is more extensive and of a higher nature, we shall call it omnipresence, and a divine attribute.

"Now we are sure that thou knowest all things and needest not that any man should ask thee." John 16:30. "But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man; for he knew what was in man," John 2:24, 25.

"Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen," Acts 1:24. It is probable that the address in the last verse quoted was made to Christ. It was his province, while he was upon earth to designate men to the apostleship. After his resurrection his authority was not abridged. So far from it that all authority in heaven and in earth was given unto him. Of course he retained the authority of selecting and sending forth apostles. It was with peculiar propriety that they should direct their requests to him to designate which of the two candidates should fill the place, which Judas had vacated.


In these texts Christ is said to know all things; to know all men; to know what is in man. But we are told that "the word all, does not always denote strict universality.' The very same phrase, of knowing all things, is used in application to men. "Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things," 1 John 2:20. It is admitted that the word all, is sometimes used in the scriptures in a limited sense. Because it is sometimes used in this manner, it does not follow that it is always used so. Because it is used in a restricted sense, when it is applied to men, it does not follow that it is to be restricted, when it is applied to Jesus Christ. But we are not left to ambiguous terms and phrases to prove the divine knowledge of Christ. He is said to know what was in man. At different times he gave evidence that he possessed this knowledge. But we are told that this knowledge might be revealed to him; that "numerous instances of this occur in scripture." Ahijah the prophet, although blind through age, was inspired to know the wife of Jeroboam and the intentions of her heart, notwithstanding she feigned herself another. It is asserted, concerning Elijah the prophet, that he could tell the things, which the king of Israel should do in his bed chamber; an expression denoting a knowledge of the most secret transactions. Much in point is the declaration of Elisha. And the man of God said, "Let her alone, for her soul is vexed within her; and the Lord hath hidden it from me, and hath not told me." We have a memorable instance in the Acts of the Apostles, in which Peter knew by inspiration, that Ananias had kept back part of the price of the land, though he declared he had not; and, also, that he and his wife had secretly agreed to maintain the falsehood. "My lord is wise according to the wisdom of an angel of God, to know all things that are in the earth."

These are particular cases of extraordinary knowledge. In the case of Ahijah, it is expressly asserted, that the Lord told him the errand and the deception of Jeroboam's wife. In respect to Elisha's knowledge of the words, which the king of Syria spoke in his bed chamber, it is only a declaration of a servant of the Syrian king. But admitting his declaration to be literally true, it only proves that a particular fact was revealed to him. When the Shunamite went unto Elisha with the sad tidings of the death of her son, he did not know her errand;

[ocr errors]

and for this reason, the Lord had hid it from him, and had not told him. This im plies that when he had extraordinary knowledge, it was by inspiration. It is not recorded how Peter knew the secret deception of Ananias and his wife. But there is no doubt that he received knowledge of this event, from Him, who gave him power to heal a lame man. When the widow of Tekoah perceived that David had discovered her deception; and convinced of his sagacity, she in a complimentary manner compared him with an angel of God to know all things that are in the earth. In all these instances, extraordinary knowledge was communicated by the divine Being. But these communications were made only in particular cases, and for special purposes. Those men, who were thus endowed, had not knowledge of the hearts of men generally, nor had they a knowledge of a single heart at all times.

Christ's knowledge appears very different from this. He knew not only a particular thought of a particular person, but he knew all men; and needed not that any should testify of man; for he knew what was in man. This text expresses his knowledge of what is in the hearts of mankind; and he possesses this knowledge without any one's testifying to him what passes in the human mind. There is no intimation given that he received this knowledge by inspiration. This and some other texts, which are applied to Christ, are as expressive of divine knowledge, as any texts, which are applied to the Father. But we are told, there are texts, which represent Christ's knowledge to be inferior to the Father's, or to be derived from him. It is admitted there are two classes of texts, which are applied to Christ. One class represents him having knowledge, which is peculiar to Deity. Another class represents him having limited knowl. edge; having knowledge, or doctrines, given, shewn, taught him from above. These two classes of texts exhibit Christ in his divine and human nature. When things are said to be given, shewn, and taught to Christ, he is either exhibited in his humanity, or in his mediatorial, subordinate office. When Christ says, "The Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things, that himself doeth," he asserts his perfect knowledge of all the operations of the Father; and also the intimate union, which subsists between them. To express their equality of knowledge in unequivocal language he says, "As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father."

"I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts; and I will give unto every one of you according to your works," Rev. 2:23. It will not be pretended that Christ searcheth, by inspiration, the reins and hearts. A person may be inspired with a knowledge of what passes in another's heart; but it is not proper to say, one is inspired to search his heart. But it is asserted that power may be delegated to Christ for this purpose; and it is supposed he "will at the day of general judgment be endued with all the knowledge of men's thoughts and dispositions, which is necessary to the discharge of his office." Let it be observed, that a text in the book of Jeremiah predicates of God the same power. "I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings." Now let it be asked why the same unqualified words, when Christ applies them to himself, do not import the same power, as when God applies them to himself? By what rule are they to be restricted in one case, and not in the other? A delegation of power to a creature to know all things is an impartation entirely disproportionate to the capacity of the recipient. Christ, to express his union and equality with the Father, says, "What things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise." At the same time he disclaimed all pretensions to acting separately from him.

« PreviousContinue »