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persons were united in the majesty of the Godhead, and in the glorious work of redemption, as a tenet that should be ever deeply impressed on their memories, and warmly cherished in their hearts, as the foundation of the Christian faith, the source of holy hope and joy, of gratitude and love to God-a tenet which they fearlessly and openly inculcated, though fully aware that, to the Jews it was the great stumbling-block, and to the heathens foolishness; the occasion of calumny, scorn, and contempt; but which, from our Lord's solemn command, that it should be authoritatively taught to all nations, and unequivocally received by every convert on his admission into the baptismal covenant, the apostles knew was the “power of God, and the wisdom of Godunto salvation.” As such, my friends, may we humbly receive and steadily retain it! In my next discourse I shall endeavour further to confirm this great truth. In the mean time let us join in that prayer to God, which our church has dictated,* as suitable to that faith on this sacred subject, which we have been taught to receive.
“O God, the King of glory, who has exalted thine only Son, Jesus Christ, with great triumph unto thy kingdom in heaven, we beseech thee, leave us not comfortless, but send to us thine Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us into the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.Amen."
* Collect for the Sunday after Ascension Day.
JOHN 1. 1, 2, 3, AND 14.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; the same was in
the beginning with God; all things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. And 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.”
In my last discourse, in order to prove the divinity of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, I adduced, first, the command of our Lord, that their names should in the form of baptism be united with that of the Father, as equally the objects of Christian faith, adoration, and obedience; and next, their being also united in the apostolic benediction, as equally the sources of those spiritual blessings, which could proceed from the Divinity alone, and which are essential to the present sanctification, and the final salvation of every Christian soul. It thus appeared, that the union of three persons in one Godhead was to be admitted as an article of faith, essential to the reception of the Christian covenant; and was also to be perpetually cherished in the recollection of every believer, as the sure foundation of religious peace, and hope, and joy : while the bigotry of the Jews, and the idolatry of the Gentiles, rendering this doctrine to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness, proved it never would have been insisted on by the apostles, except under the clear authority of our Lord's command.
I would now consider the decisive testimony to our Lord's divinity, derivable from the celebrated declaration of the beloved apostle, contained in the text, and from the corresponding passages of the revealed word, which illustrate and confirm it. Before we enter on this argument, it may be proper to remark, that in the original, this important testimony of St. John* stands
See Note 3.
on clear and unquestioned authority. Found as it is in every manuscript and every version, no one presumes to suspect in it any interpolation or alteration; and it is acknowledged to have certainly been the genuine testimony of the beloved apostle. How clear and decisive this testimony is, and how abundantly confirmed by the concurring testimony of the other apostles, let us now consider.
Jesus Christ is here represented as united with God the Father, in the work of creation; and this not as a subordinate agent, or ministering spirit, but with such infinite power, exercised in such unlimited extent, as cannot for a moment be supposed to belong to any other being than the great First Cause, the supreme Almighty God. "All things,” says the beloved apostle, “ were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”* Thus, also, says St. Paul : “ By him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions, principalities or powers; all things were created by him, and for him, and he is before all things, and by him all things consist."I Can any words more expressly declare, that Christ Jesus, in union with God the Father, was the omnipotent Creator, not only of the material but the intellectual system of the universe ? All the holy angels, even the most exalted, whether they be thrones or dominions, principalities or power, not only owe to Christ their high preeminence, their noblest faculties, nay, their very existence; but they all, and with them the entire universe, "all things visible and invisible, were formed for his service and glory; not only were all things made “by him,” but “for him.” Nor was the power thus exercised by Christ, at the creation, a transitory act, as if performed by an energy then communicated, but afterwards withdrawn; no, it is still equally exercised in preserving that creation which it formed. Not only were all things created by him, but the apostle adds, “ by him all things consist;" or, as in another place it is expressed, not only by him who is “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person;" God who “ made the worlds,” but he it is who “ upholdeth all things by the word of his power.”I Surely, my friends, the inference is irresistible: he who created all things in heaven and earth, by whom all things consist, and who upholdeth all things by the word of his power, must be united with the great First Cause in nature, in attributes, in dignity; he must be one with God, he must be God.
* John i. 3.
+ Col. i. 16,
Heb. i. 2, 3.
Concurring as are these testimonies, and of unquestioned authority, and, if the Scriptures be taken in their plain and literal meaning, most clear and decisive, still many and strenuous are the efforts, to question the justice of our translation of these passages, and to alter it in some such way, that it may not so directly establish the pre-existence, the divinity, the creative power, the incarnation, and the glory of the Redeemer. Instead of entering into a minute refutation of the various contradictory,* and, at the same time, most ungrammatical meanings invented for this purpose, I shall be content with noticing them very briefly, and shall then proceed to support the true meaning, by bringing in confirmation of it other passages of Scripture, as to which no doubt can with any plausibility be raised, and which decidedly support the sense ascribed to the text in our translation.
The passage (according to the Socinian improvers of the sacred version) does not imply the pre-existence of Christ. “ In the beginning,” say they, means only in the beginning of Christ's ministry. “ The Word was with God,” means that he withdrew from the world to commune with God, to be prepared for his public teaching. “ The Word was God,” means, he was a god, that is, as Moses was a god to Pharaoh.
Not to dwell on the unnatural, forced, and obviously indefensible tenor of this translation, let me ask how is it reconcilable with the extraordinary but most explicit declaration of our Lord to the Jews, which excited amongst them such high indignation ;f • Verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am,” thus challenging a character peculiar to the great First Cause, even to Jehovah himself, that of an existence independent, unchangeable, eternal? How can we reconcile it with the Lord's declaration to his apostles, at the last solemn night, before his crucifixion, when he instructed them plainly in his true nature and dignity, to support them under this awful trial; then he declared, I “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world;" again, “ I leave the world, and go to the Father;": and immediately after, in continuation of the same discourse, he
• See Note 4. VOL. III.
John viii, 58
John xvi. 28.
prayed to his Heavenly Father, saying, * “ Father, I have glorified thee on the earth, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do; and now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory. I had with thee before the world was.” How clearly does this ascertain the meaning of the apostle in the passage which we are now considering, to be that which we ascribe to him ! how unquestionably does it establish the pre-existence, and the eternal glory of the Redeemer! Thus the apostles understood the former of these declarations; for they said unto him; “ Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb; now are we sure that thou knowest all things; by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.”+
The apostle proceeds in the text; “the same Word was in the beginning with God; all things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made."
Here the Socinian improvers of the Sacred text, directly oppose the distinguished prelate, by whose authority they attempt to sanction their translation, (while in every passage opposing their own system, as in this instance, they reject his authority,) for he explains this “ of the creation of the visible world by Christ.” No, say the Socinians, it only means ; “ that all things in the Christian dispensation were done by Christ, that is, by his authority, and under his directions; and in the ministry committed to his apostles, nothing was done without his warrant.
Here, without particularly noticing how utterly forced, unnatural, and almost incredible is this explanation, how extravagant an attempt to deprive our Saviour of his dignity, as Creator of the world—not to dwell on this, I would only ask, how can we reconcile this Socinian interpretation with the declaration of St. Paul to the Colossians, already quoted, when magnifying the mercy of God?“ Who," saith he, “hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son, in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature. For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him and
John, xvii. 5.
* John, xvi. 29.
See Note 5.