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THE PRE-EXISTENCE OF CHRIST.
" Before Abraham was I am."
John viii. 58.
When it pleased God to bestow the faculty of reason on his creature man, he intended that this substitute of himself should be the guide of life, and the handmaid of religion ; and that it might serve to these purposes, it was made intelligent enough, if honestly exerted, to lead him to some competent knowledge of his Maker, and of his moral duty, and to judge of the pretensions of any further light from heaven, which might be graciously vouchsafed to him. Now the safest rule by which a christian can conduct himself upon mysterious subjects, I apprehend to be this—that he never allow himself to philosophize, or to draw conclusions in theology, upon philosophical reasonings, without his bible. He may investigate, and hypothetically draw conclusions, but for a certain test of the conclusions so drawn, let him have recourse to the word and to the testimony. In every thing relating to the being and essence of God, he must divest himself of all the pride of philosophy, and implicitly resign his understanding to the authority of the scriptures. We cannot reason on all subjects, because there are many subjects which we cannot understand. The nature of the infinite Being, the mode of his existence are inscrutable to us, and
probable to the highest angels. Why then intrude into such things, as no man hath seen, or can see, especially when the revelations which God hath given of himself only silence, and do not contradict our reason? Every thing would appear fit and right, if the whole scheme of providence were fully unveiled to us. It must be fit and right, whether we see it or not, if the doctrine in question be credibly attested ; and the credibility will depend not on our fancies and expectation, of I know not what irresistible evidence, but on the real weight of the authority, on which it is established.
The unity of God is a first principle in all true religion, whether natural or revealed.
We know there must be a first cause, because things actually exist, and could never have existed without a cause, and all secondary causes necessarily lead us to a primary Both the old and new testament
proclaim with equal clearness and force, the existence of one eternal, omnipotent, and immutable God. Yet while we unequivocally own this sacred truth, and resolve to preserve it inviolate, we nevertheless acknowledge a personal distinction in that unity. We believe that in the Godhead there are three persons, each of whom is by himself God, fully possessed of the divine perfections, at the same time so indissolubly connected, so strictly one being, that any individual thing in the whole world of matter and of spirit, presents but a faint shadow of their unity.* This sublime and mysterious truth is expressly delivered in the bible as a rule of faith ; and if the reader (who is obligated to attend to what his maker reveals), will search the scriptures, he will find that there is neither name, act, nor attribute, of the Godhead, which is not ascribed, in common, to all the Persons of the Trinity. The prophets and apostles have in a variety of places called Christ God, the true God, the great God, the mighty God, Jehovah, and I am.* They have declared Him to be eternal, incomprehensible, Almighty, omnipresent, omniscient, and immutable. They have attributed to Him the creation, preservation, and government of all things. Atoms were called into existence by His word ; and angels owe to Him their exalted being.
* The excellent Grotius has given an elucidation of the Trinity, whieh may be translated thus :
Why is one God set forth in Persons Three
Vid. Institutio. Baptizatorum Puerorum. * The word Jehovah, as Bishop Horsley observes, being descriptive of the Divine Essence, is equally the Name of every one of the Three Persons in that Essence. The compound Jehovah Sabaoth belongs properly to the Second Person, describing not merely the lord of such armies as military leaders bring into the field, but the unmade self-existent Maker and sustainer of the whole array and order of the Universe.
In the first chapter of Genesis God is said to have created all things. St. John says Christ created all things. The same unerring Spirit inspired both Moses and the evangelist. In the beginning (of the creation) was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God. The same was in the beginning with God, that is, the Divine Person of whom St. John speaks, neither began to be when He was born into the world, nor when the world and all things in it were made, for He was God from eternity, though as to Personality distinguished from the Father. In the next verse, it is declared that Christ was the creator of the universe. 56 All things were made by Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.” That St. John actually speaks of Christ, we cannot entertain any reasonable doubt, for he states in the 14th verse of the same chapter, “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."*
* Philo fequently stiles the logos (the word) God, and by the Targumist, he is often stiled God, as when