« PreviousContinue »
encountered the perils of the Ocean, and the sufferings of the desert; sustained all the horrors of savage war, and all the evils of famine, disease, and death. In this very land, how many enemies have arisen up to the Church of God, among the descendants of these very Christians, and among the brethren of those who are persecuted! They know not, perhaps, that their curses are directed to the fathers who begal them, or that their eye is evil towards the mothers who bore them; nor mistrust, that their scorn is pointed against the source, whence, under God, they have derived every enjoyment, and every hope.
Against this source of blessings, the religion of Christians, they are more malignant, than even against Christians themselves. The Bible is hated more than those who believe it; the doctrines and duties of Christianity more than its professors. What are those duties? They are all summed up in those two great precepts, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself ; and in the means of producing obedience to these precepts in the soul of man. What is there in these precepts, which can be the object of vindicable hatred? Who will stand and
say; who will say in the recesses of his own heart; “ It is an odious and contemptible thing to love God; to obey his voice; to believe in his Son; to shun the anger of God; to escape from endless sin and misery; and to attain everlasting virtue and happiness ;” Or is it, in the view of common sense, wise to choose the anger of God rather than his favour, a depraved character rather than a virtuous one, the company of apostates and fiends rather than of saints and angels, and hell rather than heaven? • Is it odious, is it contemptible, is it ridiculous, does it deserve obloquy and persecution, to love our neighbour as ourselves; to exhibit universal kindness; to deal justly; to speak truth; to fulfil promises; to relieve the distressed; to obey laws; to reverence magistrates; to resist temptation; to be sober, chaste, and temperate; and to follow all things, which are honest, pure, lovely, and of good report ?
Is it, on the contrary, honourable; is it praiseworthy; does it merit esteem and reward ; to be impious, profane, and blasphemous; to be infidels; to have a seared conscience; to possess a hard heart; to be unjust, unkind, and unfaithful; to be false, perjured, and seditious; to be light-minded, lewd, and gluttonous ?
Is not the true reason of all this hostility to Christians, the plain superiority of their character to that of their enemies? Does not the hatred arise from their consciousness of this superiority; from the impatience which they feel, whenever they behold it; from the wounds, which neighbouring excellence always inflicts? Do they not feel, that good men cast a shade upon their character; reprove them, at least by the silent and powerful voice of their own virtue ; serve as a second conscience, to hold out their sin before their eyes; and alarm their hearts with a secret and irresistible sense of future danger? Do not wicked men say in their hearts, as they said at the time when the Wisdom of Solomon was written: Therefore let us lie in wait for the righteous, because he is not for our turn; and he is clean contrary to our doings. He upbraideth us with our offending the law; and objecteth to our infamy the transgressings of our education. He professeth to have the knowledge of God; and calleth himself the child of the Lord. He was made to reprove our thoughts. He is grievous unto us, even to behold: for his life is not like other men's ; his ways are of another fashion. We are esteemed of him as counterfeits; he abstaineth from our ways as from filthiness; he pronounceth the end of the just to be blessed; and maketh his boast, that God is his Father. Let us see, if his words be true; and let us prove what shall happen in the end of him. Let us examine him with despitefulness, and torture, that we may know his meekness, and prove his patience. Let us condemn him with a shameful death: for by his own saying he shall be respected. Apply this description ; and you will find it as exact, and just, as if it had been written yesterday, and intended to mark out, in the most definite manner, the loose and profligate of our own land.
But let Christians remember, that these things will not always be. The time will come; it will soon come; when their enemies, however numerous, proud, and prosperous, will, like sheep, be laid in the gravė. Death shall feed on them; and the worm shall cover them.
Their beauty shall consume away; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning. Then shall all the just be far from oppression; for they shall not fear; and from terror; for it shall not come near them. God shall redeem them from the power of the grave; and shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. Then shall it be seen, that their light affliction, in the present world, was but for a moment, and that its real and happy efficacy was no other, than to work for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
CHARACTER OF CHRIST, AS A KING.
EPHESIANS I. 20-22. —Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the
dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places; Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in thal which is to come. And hath put all things un. der his feel; and gave him to be the head over all things to the Church.
I HAVE now in a series of sermons examined the character of Christ, as the prophet, and high priest, of mankind. Under his prophetical character I have considered his preaching, by himself, and by his Apostles ; the Things, taught by both; the Manner, in which they were taught ; and their consequences. Under his Priesthood I have considered his personal holiness; his atonement; and his Intercession.
I shall now, according to the original scheme mentioned when I began to discuss the mediation of Christ, proceed to consider his character as a King.
That this character is given to Christ in the Scriptures, in instances almost literally innumerable, is perfectly well known to every reader of the Bible. In the second Psalm, there is a solemn annunciation of the Kingly office of Christ to the world. It is introduced with these words: I have set, or as in the Hebrew, have anointed, My King on my holy hill of Zion. Unto us, says Isaiah, a child is born ; unlo us a Son is given; and the Government shall be upon his shoulders ; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the Father of the everlasting age, the Prince of peace; and of the increase of his Government, and of his peace, there shall be no end : Upon the throne of David, and upon his Kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment, and with juslice, from henceforth, even for ever.
The Lord hath sworn, says David, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the ora der of Melchisedek. Melchisedek was both a King and a priest. The priesthood of Christ, therefore, was a royal priesthood; or the priesthood of a
who was, at the same time, a King : Like Melchisedek, a King of righteousness, and a King of peace. Thy throne, O God, says David, is for ever and ever; and the sceptre of thy Kingdom is a sceptre of righteousness. He shall reign, says Ga. briel, when predicting his birth to Mary, He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his Kingdom there shall be no end. His name, says St. John, is called the Word of God; and he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written; King of kings and Lord of lords. VOL. IJ.
In the text we are presented with several interesting particulars concerning the Kingly office of Christ, which shall now be the subject of our consideration.
We are taught in this passage,
III. That this Dominion was given, and assumed, for the benefit of the Church.
1. We are taught that God hath exalted Christ to this Dominion.
This doctrine is repeatedly taught in the text, in the following expressions. He set him ai his own right hand in the heavenly places. He hath put all things under his feet. He gave him to be head over all things. In these expressions the exaltation of Christ to the dominion and dignity, ascribed to him in the text, is as unequivocally attributed to the Father, as it can be in human language. Of course, their plain import must be acknowledged by every Christian. I insist on this doctrine of the text; I have insisted on it, particularly, because it has
been made by Unitarians an argument against the Divinity of Christ. “If,” they say, “ Christ is a Divine person; whence is it, that we hear so many things, said in the Scriptures concerning his exaltation; and particularly of his exaltation by the Father? If Christ is God; how is it possible, that he should be in any sense exalted? But, should we, contrary to plain probability, suppose him to have undergone voluntarily an apparent humiliation; can he, who is truly God, be indebted to any other, than himself, for a restoration to his former dignity and greatness? To be exalted at all, necessarily involves a preceding state of inferiority, particularly, to the state, to which he is exalted; and, certainly, of inferiority to the proper state and character of Jehovah. He, who has all power, knowledge, wisdom, and greatness, cannot have more; and, therefore, can in no sense be exalted. To be exalted by another person, also, involves dependence on that person: and a dependent being cannot be God."
As this, in my view, is the most plausible argument against the Divinity of Christ; and that, which has had more weight in my own mind, than any other; though, I believe, less relied on, and less insisted on, by Unitarians, than some others; I shall consider it with particular attention.
As a preface to the answer, which I intend to this objection, I observe, that the argument, contained in it, is in my own view conclusive; and, if applied to the subject without any error, must be admitted in its full force. The error of those, who use it, lies in the application, made of it to Christ. That exaltation involves a state of preceding inferiority, is, I apprehend, intuitively certain i and that he, who is exalted by another, must be a dependent being; dependent on him, by whom he is exalted ; cannot be denied. Let us see how far this argument is applicable to Christ; and how far it will conclude against his Deity.
It must be acknowledged by all Trinitarians, as well as others, that, if Christ be God in the true and proper sense, it is impossible for him to be exalted above the dignity and greatness, which he originally and alway possessed. He cannot be more powerful, wise, or excellent. He originally possessed all things; and, therefore, can have nothing given to him. It cannot, of course, be in this sense, that the scriptural writers speak of Christ as exalted.
But it is equally clear, and will be equally insisted on by every Trinitarian, that Christ is man as well as God. In this character, it is evident, that he can receive exaltation; and that, to
any gree less than infinite. It is further evident, according to the Trinitarian doctrine concerning Christ, that the Messiah, or Mediator, Jesus Christ, is distinguishable from Christ, considered as God, and from Christ considered as man: being constituted by the union of the Eternal Word with the man Christ Jesus: An union, as the Westminster Assembly express it, of two distinct natures in one person for eter.
This Mediator, in his complete character, began to exist at the birth of the man Jesus Christ; as being a person, then new to the Universe. Of this Mediator, then commencing his perfect existence, the predictions concerning the Kingdom of Christ, and the accounts concerning his assumption of that Kingdom, are, I apprehend, all, or nearly all, written. It is of the Mediator, that it is said, I set my King on the holy hill of Zion. It is of the Son who was born, and whose name was called Wonderful ; Counsellor ; the mighty God; on whose shoulder the Government was to be placed. Of the Mediator, Gabriel said, He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his Kingdom there shall be no end. Of the Mediator, St. Paul says, Wherefore God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth. It is of the Mediator, that it is said in the text, God set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above every name, that is named in this world, and in that which is to come : and that it is further said, He hath put all things under his feet; and given him to be head over all things to his Church.
As the Mediator, Jesus Christ began to exist at the birth of the man Jesus Christ; so, until his resurrection, he existed in a state of humiliation only. The Word, though originally in the form of God, and justly thinking it no robbery to be equal with God, yet voluntarily took upon himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. In this form, or character, of a Servant, he fulfilled all the several duties, which he had engaged to perform ; and in this humble character he acted, till he arose from the dead.
It will not be denied, that this person, allowing him to have existed, was capable of exaltation; nor that, if he received it at all,