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Scriptures; yet, on the ground of moral evidence, the ground on which alone the authenticity of any book of Holy Scripture can be demonstrated-it seems contrary to all our experience of human nature to suppose, that immediately after the decease of the apostles, the very essence of the system should have become changed, and this without opposition, throughout all the countries in which it had been received.
To avoid this pressing difficulty, the opponents fix on a particular time, when they affirm the change to have taken place. That time is about half a cen. tury after the decease of the last of the apostles, when Justin Martyr wrote his Apology; in which there are conceded to be express testimonies to the doctrine in question. About thirty years afterwards, Irenæus wrote; and within twenty or thirty years afterwards, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian. It is not denied, that all these exhibit the doctrine as the faith of the Church. That they should have done this in the face of the world--two of them in apologies addressed to the emperours and the senate of Rome-while the opinion was notoriously of modern origin; and that two of these men should have been honoured as martyrs, without a single voice raised to impeach the idolatry of what they taught; would prove mankind to have been differ. ently constituted in those ages, than at present.
All this, however, is on the erroneous presumption, that of the scanty remains possessed of still earlier writers, there are no express testimonies to the divinity of the Redeemer. The contrary may be easily made to appear. The Roman Clement, who is mentioned as having “his name in the book of life”,* says—“The sceptre of the majesty of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, did not come in the splendour of arrogancy and pride, although he had power to do so, but in humility.”+ Hermes, supposed to be the person mentioned by St. Paul in Rom. xvi. 14, says-"The Son of God is more ancient than any creature; insomuch, that he was counsel to the Father, in making the creatures.”* This refers to Gen: i. 1. and 26. In the former of which verses, the Hebrew of “ God” is in the plural number, and that of the verb “ made” is in the singular: and in the latter of the verses, there is the consultation“Let us make man, &c.” Certain it is, that the fathers of the primitive Church considered those places as to the purpose, for which Hermes quoted them.
* Philipp. iy. 3.
+ Ch. 16.
Ignatius, affirmed by some, but perhaps without sufficient evidence, to have been the very child taken by Christ in his arms, as related in Mark, ix. 36, says with allusion to an ancient heresy—“There is one God, who hath manifested himself through Jesus Christ his son, who is his eternal word, who came not forth from silence.” And the Father had said before, of the same blessed person, “Who, begotten of the Father before all ages, was God the word, the only begotten son:"+ And in the account of the martyrdom of the same Father, we readiHaving prayed to the Son of God for the Churches, for the ceasing of the persecution, and for the brethren's love of one another, he was led to the amphitheatre.
Finally, there is the testimony of St. Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who had conversed with the apostles; and is supposed by some to have been the angel of the said Church, to whom one of the messages in the book of Revelation is addressed. Eusebius has handed down an epistle from the Church of Smyrna, giving a narrative of the martyrdom of their bishop, addressed to the whole Christian world. The epistle relates, that the Jews hindered his flock from gathering the bones, lest they should
• Ninth Simil. + Sect. 6. Eusebius, lib. iv. cap. 15. $ Ch. 17. ,
be made an object of worship: “ being ignorant” (it continues] “ that we could never either leave Christ, who suffered for the salvation of all who are saved in the whole world, the sinless for sinners, nor worship any other.” And in the conclusion of the martyr's prayer, sent up by him from the midst of the flames, it is said " Wherefore, for all things I praise thee, I bless thee, I glorify thee, with the eternal and heavenly Jesus Christ: with whom, to thee and the Holy Spirit, be glory both now and through all ages. Amen.'
In contrariety to these express testimonies, it has been alleged, that in the times to which they belong, there were in Judea two bodies of professing Christi. ans—the Ebionites and the Nazarenes-who were in the belief of the mere humanity of Christ. The alle. gation has been proved to be groundless, as it concerns the Nazarenes; and it is acknowledged on both sides, that the two sects retained the observance of the law of Moses, in contrariety to all the notices of the abrogation of it, abounding in the New Testament. If then the Nazarenes were indeed what they are represented to have been on the other side; the inference would be, that within a century after the crucifixion, the leading truth of the Christian system, remaining only with two small sects, who held an absurd compound of Ju. daism and Christianity, had become lost in all the Churches gathered from among the Gentiles, and even among the mass of professing Christians in Judæa itself. On the supposition of this, to what purpose are the many splendid prophecies of a Church to be gathered from among all nations; and how little fruit accrued from what gave occasion to that saying of St. Paul concerning the preaching of the apostles, that “ their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world."* Even on the mistaken ground of the matter affirmed, the argument proves too much, and therefore nothing.
The above is here believed to be a correct, although
. Rom. X. 18.
a concise statement of the evidences of the divinity of the Saviour of the world, as they are found in scrip. ture; and in primitive antiquity, so far as the fact has a bearing on the sense of scripture. And it ought to be noted, that the doctrine being considered merely as an article of the apostles' creed, there have been carefully avoided all terms and metaphysical refinements, introduced into theology after the third century; and levelled against the errour of the Arians. The subtlety and the misapplied philosophy of this people, gave occasion to the opposing of their distinctions, by others of the same metaphysical description: and it will not be here said, that they were not imitated by the advocates of the truth, to a very great extreme.
The truth to be maintained, may be found in the Greek word, * on which the title of the present section is built. The word is rendered “propitiation” in Rom. iii. 25. In the Old Testament, it answers to the Hebrew wordt which denotes the mercy seat between the two cherubims in the Jewish temple; on which there was sprinkled the blood of the victims slain in sacrifice. By a figure of speech, the person of the Redeemer is thus made the true mercy seat, typified by the other; being the medium, by which sinful men may draw nigh to a reconciled God. This analogy be. tween the appointed use of the mercy seat, and the efficacy of the passion of the l'edeemer, was within the view of St. Peter, where he speaks of the sprink. ling of the blood of Jesus Christ:”And the same must have been contemplated by St. Paul, where he
• истпроу. .
1 1 i. 2.
uses the language-" the blood of sprinkling, which speaketh better things than that of Abel."'*
It is not uncommon, to endeavour to discredit the doctrine, by confounding it with the position, that the Great Father of men and angels is a wrathful being, without any such property as placability, attached to the perfection of his nature. Well may such a sentiment be pronounced unscriptural, on the ground of what we read-“God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life;”+ and
The grace of God, bringing salvation to all men hath appeared."
The contrary to these and the like assurances of the mercy of God, as an essential attribute of his being, is not held by the maintainers of the doctrine of the propitiatory sacrifice for sin. And although they perceive no obligation resting on them, of deducing a rationale of the doctrine from reasonings “a priori” . concerning the divine nature; yet they deny the allegation made against their theory, that it involves an impeachment of the benevolence of God.
That he is a holy being, and that sin is opposed to his perfections and a rebellion against his authority, is agreed on both sides. It is as foreign to the purpose to contend, that he might pardon it without such a substitution; as to say, that he might put a stop to moral evil, without the many miseries both of mind and body, which we perceive to be entailed on it. Certainly this point has occasioned embarrassment to many, who were too much addicted to speculate on subjects beyond the reach of mortal minds: and the hope of solv. ing the resulting difficulties, has been the parent of many abominable theories. It may be said, that what is evil in itself may be over-ruled to good, by the wise Being who permitted it. This is, indeed, the proper solution of the difficulty. But let a similar mode of