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ON THE CHARACTER AND OFFICES OF THE SON OF
GOD, AS THEY ARE SET FORTH IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS.
WE read, in the 24th chapter of St. Luke's gospel, that as two of the disciples were walking to Emmaus, on the day of Christ's resurrection, an unknown person joined them on the way, and entered into discourse with them. After some questions had passed between them, this unknown person (who was no other than Jesus himself) began to shew them, how all the circumstances, so lately fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, had been foreshewn in the scripture : and, beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. Who can read this without wishing to have overheard that expository discourse, which, as the disciples said of it afterwards, made their hearts burn within them? Such a discourse is the Epistte to the Hebrews, to those whose hearts are open to understand it; not conceived in the same words, perhaps, nor laid down exactly in the same method; but consisting of the same matter, and all tending to produce the same effect.
All the doctrine contained in this epistle relates to one or other of these three heads;
First, to the Person of the Son of God, as it had been described in the Old Testament.
Secondly, to the Religion of the Gospel, as being the same under both Testaments.
Thirdly, to the Church of Israel, as a figure of the Church of Christ.
Under the first of these heads, I shall extract and arrange the doctrine of the Old Testament relating to the person of the Son of God; taking the Epistle to the Hebrews as my authority; wherein the apostle begins with shewing the divine character of the Son of God, as distinct from, and superior to, the nature of Angels ; those invisible and exalted beings, who are between the nature of men and the nature of God.
For, first, his name is greater than theirs ; it being said to him, never to them, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee *. And, secondly, he is an object of worship to angels—when he bringeth in his first begotten into the world, he saith t, and let all the angels of God worship him. And farther, he is celebrated in the Psalms as the King of heaven, and the Creator of the world— Thy throne, O God, is for ever'' and ever-Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth: &c. these things are said, as the apostle witnesses, to the Son ; who being also commanded to sit at the right hand of God, which was never said to any angel, his person was not of a created angelic nature, as the Hebrews might suppose, who had been used to that term in Moses and the prophets (and perhaps took it generally in such a sense) but strictly divine, and himself the Lord and God of men and angels, the coassessor of the Father in glory everlasting.
Such indeed is the character of the Son in the He
* Chap. i. 5.
+ Chap. vi:
brew scriptures, that it is the same in all respects with those titles which the apostle subjoins to his name in the second verse of this first chapter: whom (saith he) God hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds, who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. Great as these expressions are, they are the same in substance with what the Old Testament had declared before concerning the Son of God; who being called the Glory of God, has that relation to him which the light that comes down from heaven has to the sun, froni whence it proceeds ; who being truly the Son, is consequently the heir of God; who now sustains that world of which he at first laid the foundations; who purged the sins of man by himself, who was the creator of man; and when he sat down at the right hand of God, returned to that majesty which was essential to his character before the world was made.
Nothing can be more full and express than the language the apostle uses in this chapter, to convince the Hebrews, that the term Son of God, as applied to the person of Christ, is not a name of accominodation, as sometimes taken in other applications of it, but a name, the excellence of which comes to him, not by adoption, but by inheritance, that is, by a natural right, which could not be, unless the Son were of the saine nature with the Father.
As the apostle proceeds to treat of the person of Christ, he takes occasion to shew from the 8th Psalm, (and thereby teaches us how to understand that Psalm) that he, who, as God, was above all the angels of heaven, as man was made lower than the angels,
that he might' taste of death for every man, and so bring many sons unto glory, by receiving glory in our nature, as the reward of his sufferings. In virtue of his incarnation, we are become the sons of God and brethren of Christ; as he was in all things made like unto his brethren, his brethren will in all things be made like unto him; that is, they will be imputed by a new relation to the same Father, with a legal right to the same inheritance, and be crowned with glory and honour after their sufferings upon earth.
The divine and human natures of the Son of God being thus settled and distinguished, we are now to consider him with the apostle under the three characters he took upon him for the salvation of the world.
1. As Moses, he was to be a teacher, lawgirer, and prophet; and Moses had acted as a minister of God for a testimony of these things which were to be spoken after* by a greater than Moses.
2. Like Aaron and Melchizedec he was to be a high priest and intercessor; a minister of the true sanctuary.
3. As Joshua, whose name is called Jesus in this epistle, he was to be the captain of our salvation, to conquer our spiritual enemies, and put us into possession of the heavenly Canaan.
From all these figurative characters of the old law, it was foreshewn, that he should be the greatest of prophets, the greatest of priests, and the greatest of conquerors. And first he is to be understood as a prophet or teacher.
The apostle and high priest of our profession, Christ Jesus, was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses' was faithful in all his house f: to which the
• Chap. iii. 5.
+ Chap. iji. .