« PreviousContinue »
sed: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God—John xx, 31. This proposition is stated differently in the New Testament, though it is conceived that the idea is the same. Simplicity, that characterizes the whole Gospel, shines conspicuously here; and this circumstance, added to the important truth it embraces, renders it worthy of a careful investigation.
We shall be excused for considering this point both nega tively and positively. It appears strange at first sight, if modern systems be correct, that the articles established as objects of faith, had not been made more numerous and more complex; inasmuch as number and complexity have distinguished all modern theories.
It seems equally astonishing, if received opinions of men be well founded, that our Saviour and his Apostles never required of new converts at their connexion with the Christian church, an expression of their belief in the article of endless misery. It is the more surprizing, as the pretended followers ofthe Lamb make this an important point, to which their newly initiated brethren are bound to subscribe; and the rejection of which will prevent their admission into the church, or prove the cause of their excommunication, if already members. We can receive no light upon this subject only by a recurrence to the nature of the Christian dispensation. The Gospel was never designed as a system of abstruse, complex, mysterious theories. It was from these, in part, that evangelical truth was calculated to deliver the world. The Gospel is in fact a highway and a way, in which the way-faring men, though fools, shall not err. Again, we can conceive nothing more improper, than the requirement of a faith in condemnation, as synonimous with faith in Christ, when a primary assertion concerning Christ, is, that God sent not his Son into the world, to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.
The necessity of an acknowledgement, that Jesus was the Christ the Son of God, will appear from the following consideration, viz. It was the great article which the Jewish Rabbis and all their adherents doubted; and it is easy to see, that if convinced of the truth of the above proposition, the mind was prepared to receive a knowledge of all truths, which grow out of it.
We are induced to regard this as a preparatory step, particularly with regard to the Jews; as that people had been taught by Moses and the Prophets to expect a Messiah; and when he appeared, they rejected him, from the supposition that he was an impostor, and rejecting him, they despised also his
works and doctrine. This would never have been, had they known who he was, in the sense asserted in the scriptural proposition quoted as above.
It is now time, that the reader be presented with some memorable instances in which an acknowledgement of the article of Christ's Sonship was required and made. The first remarkable account that we shall produce, is that of the Baptism of the Ethiopean Eunuch by Philip. This man was reading in in his chariot concerning Christ, at the time Philip entered into conversation with him. The passage which he read, was a prophecy of Isaiah, specially regarding Jesus of Nazareth ; but such was the ignorance of the Eunuch, that he enquired of Philip "of whom speaketh the Prophet this, of himself or of some other man?" Philip answers, by beginning at that scripture and preaching unto him Jesus. Doubtless the discourse exhibited evidence of the only article necessary for an admission into fellowship with the Apostles, which directly followed: For coming to water, the Eunuch enquires, what doth hinder me to be baptized? The reply is, if thou believest with all thy heart thou mayest. He professed his faith in these words, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. His baptism by Philip immediately followed. See the whole account, Acts viii, 27-39.
After reading this account, it is not easy to suppress an observation, of this nature; that had a union with the apostolic Church, either pre-supposed or required an acknowledgment of a belief in any article not then expressed, it is strange that Philip did not inform the eunuch what it was, and request his subscription to it accordingly. No such thing, however, took place.
Another particular instance of the requirement of the Christian professor, we have in Acts xvi. 30-33. We allude to the history of the conversion, and consequent baptism of the jailor and his family. This man is represented as saying to Paul and Silas, "What must I do to be saved?" They said unto him, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shale be saved, and thy house." There is no necessity for many observations upon this historical fact. It may be answered by way of objection to the point we endeavour to establish, that to understand the expression quoted, in the sense for which we contend, makes the faith of the christian, merely historical, and of course inactive and inefficient. We reply; that this article of faith, proposed to the jailor, cannot be understood in opposion to other similar texts; and to corroborate the testimony
before adduced, we cite John xx, 31. "But these things are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God; and believing ye might have life through his name."The connexion of the two passages, we have cited, justifies this inference, that a belief that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, is so far from being an inactive faith, that through it we have the communication of spiritual life.
In addition to the two particular instances we have produced, might be cited innumerable assertions of Christ and his apostles to the same purpose, though of a more general nature. Some of these, which seemed to form subjects on which our Saviour delighted to dwell, are calculated to prove not only his Sonship, but the nature of that filial relation in which he stood to God. This point will be distinctly considered under another branch of this subject. At present we shall only notice how essential an article it must have been in the view of him "who spake as never man spake," that his followers should be well grounded in the faith of his relation to his father. This is directly evinced by such declarations as these: John viii, 42, I proceeded and came forth from God. John viii. 24, If ye be lieve not that I am he, (the Christ) ye shall die in your sins. The same truth, in its general application, is made a subject of many observations by the apostle John. See 1. John, iv. 2, 3. Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is not of God. Again, chapter v. verse 1. Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God. See also Romans x, 6-9. But the righteousness which is of faith, speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above :) or who shall descend into the deep? (tha is, to bring Christ up again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is the word of faith which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. From this declaration of the Apostle, the following inferences seem deducible.
1. That the requirements of the righteousness of faith are plain, simple and few in number. They are only two when particularised; and these having respect to the person and office of Christ.
2. That the confession required was the word of faith which the apostles preached, and of course, with great propriety made
the whole sum and substance of the article, which the Christian was required to subscribe.
3. That this article embraced two particulars:-1, Confession with the mouth, that Jesus was the Christ. 2, Which confession was to proceed from a belief in the heart that God had taised him from the dead.
Were any additional testimony thought necessary, to support or elucidate this important theory; and were it required to find a proof, competent to demonstrate that an acknowledgement of the Sonship and Messiahship of Christ was all that was requisite to become the basis of the Christian church; in this case we should cite an account recorded in Matthew xvi, 13-18. Christ is there represented as asking his disciples, this question, "Whom do men say that I the son of man am And they said, some say that thou art John the Baptist; some Elias; and others Jeremias, or one of the Prophets. He saith unto them, but whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" Here we have Peter's plain confession of the truth as a Christian, his answer to the query that his master had proposed. Next follows Christ's approbation of Peter's an swer "And Jesús answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou Simon Barjoha; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my father which is in heaven. I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
This paragraph among other deductions affords the follow ing-1, That our Saviour seemed desirous that his disciples might express their opinion of his character, their faith in his person, and therefore having heard the opinions of others, he gave the question this form, "Whom say ye that I am ?" 2, That Peter's confession embraced the truth, in such a manner, that Jesus gave it a distinguishing mark of his approbation, by declaring that it was not a revelation of flesh and blood. 3. That Peter's confession was of such a nature, that it was to be employed as the foundation of the Christian Church. "On this rock, will I build my church."
Presuming that sufficient evidence has been adduced to strengthen and support the proposition assumed; at least, that the passages cited may have a tendency to awaken a spirit of enquiry, and to induce our readers to search the scriptures for further light; we shall take leave of this article, and next consider as was proposed,
II. The evidence on which this profession of faith will rest.
It is not only true that all faith which is genuine, rests upon rational evidence, proportionate to the point believed; but all profession must be made and be founded upon the same basis. This is a fact established by the whole voice of reason and revelation. It is supported too, by a consideration of the circumstance in which mankind generally, but particularly the members of the Christian church, may be placed. The latter may and often will be "asked a reason of the hope that is in them." This it is their duty to give, with meekness and fear. But how shall they frame such an answer? It is evident, they cannot satisfy the querist, but by offering a substantial reason for their hope.
The term reason, therefore, has respect to the testimony or evidence, on which the Christian's hope is founded; and this evidence it is now our duty to consider in its various particu→ lars.
In this case a text presents itself, which for distinction sake, may be called a key text, and of which we shall have occasion to make a considerable use in our progress through this article. John xx, 31-"But these things are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing, ye might have life through his name."
To what does the Evangelist refer, as being written? We answer; the signs which Jesus did. What was the high object of his signs and miracles, which he wrought, and of the succeeding publication of them to the world? We reply; that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.Was there any other object? There was. The object we first noticed, though really necessary, was still, nothing more than subordinate or subservient to another; that believing we might have life through his name. This analysis of the above passage gives us a view of the evidence, on which the Christian profession rests; while it discovers the great end of our faith in the Son of God.
Our discoveries in these points, are greatly assisted by sev eral passages of Scripture, explanatory of the method in which God deals with us, as rational beings; and likewise exhibiting the ways in which the foregoing truth obtains our belief. We are taught that Jesus Christ is the "brightness of his father's glory and the express image of his person." This text alone will support the idea, that Jesus as an angel of peace, and the Messenger of the covenant possesses all the divine qualities that dwell in God.
The necessity and propriety of this exhibition and the man