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"THERE IS One god, and ONE MEDIATOR BETWEEN god and MEN, THE MAN CHRIST JESUS."-1 Tim. ii. 5,
THERE are few passages in the Inspired Volume which convey, in so small a compass, so much weighty and important truth, as that which I have just read. Too frequently, however, its obvious meaning seems to be overlooked, and it is made to imply, if not absolutely to inculcate, very erroneous and dangerous sentiments. Among those who are chargeable with this perversion of the Apostle's meaning, I take leave to rank "first and foremost" the advocates of those pernicious opinions, which it is the object of this series of Lectures to expose and confute.
That its true meaning is frequently perverted to a purpose foreign from the intention of the Sacred Writer, will be obvious to every candid reader of their most celebrated authors; whilst the reference which they continually make to the passage in their controversies with the orthodox, sufficiently proves the importance which they attach to it, as ostensibly favourable to their own views, and equally unfavourable to the views of their adversaries.
The use which has been made of it already in the present controversy is corroborative of the truth of this remark; for no sooner did the list of subjects on which we proposed to discourse in this Church appear in print, than, in the counter list which was promptly put forth by our opponents, this favourite passage presented itself to view. And it is the more remarkable, as being the only passage of Scripture which they have thought proper to employ as a fitting text or motto for one of their controversial lectures.
Not having at that time prepared my discourse, nor even selected my text, I was happily free to fix upon this interesting, but too frequently distorted passage; and I determined at once that when my time to address you should arrive, I would make it the basis of any remarks which I might be able to offer upon the important subject before us.
And may He, whose I am, and whom it is my high privilege to serve in the Gospel of his Son, overrule all that may be said to the correction of error, and the furtherance of the belief and love of the truth! May He mercifully pardon me, if I should unhappily, though unintentionally, "darken counsel by words without knowledge!" And may He graciously enable every one of you to hear what shall be advanced with candour, and meekness, and seriousness of mind!
The object for which the Apostle introduces the words before us, will be obvious to every one who consults the preceding context. He had just been exhorting to the exercise of intercessory prayer for "all sorts and conditions of men," and more especially for kings and all in authority; that under their protection and good will, the disciples of Christ might live quietly and securely, as well as "in all godliness and honesty." And in order to stimulate to the
performance of this Christian duty of interceding for all men universally, he urges two considerations. The first is contained in the two preceding verses:-" For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." To a Christian, it must at all times be sufficient to impel him to any course of action, to know that it is "well pleasing unto God his Saviour:" and that the practice of praying for all men, is well pleasing unto Him, is evident from his expressed willingness that all should be saved by being brought to the knowledge of the truth.
The second consideration by which he urges the duty of intercessory prayer, is contained in the text and the succeeding verse, which are too frequently considered apart, instead of being read together, as their true spirit and bearing evidently require. "For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time."
The force of the Apostle's reasoning is easily perceived. 'Pray for all men, for all are the subjects of one Supreme Ruler. Think not, because they are heathens, that they are placed beyond the reach of God's mercy, any more than of his justice. "Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also."* Neither imagine that the office of our great Mediator is confined within any peculiar limits, whether of persons or of climes. He is the Mediator for all; he tasted death for every man; he is "the propitiation for the sins of the whole world." It was in behalf of all men that he took upon him that office; and it was in behalf of all men that he offered himself in man's nature, an acceptable and allsufficient ransom.'
Rom. iii. 29.
And with this accords a passage of a somewhat kindred character, to which the advocates of Unitarian sentiments are very fond of appealing; but which is really as little to their purpose as that which we are now considering: "to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him."* The connexion of this passage with its immediate context, shows the object of St. Paul to have been, to refute the polytheism of the Gentiles. In their opinion there were "gods many, and lords many;" "But," says the Apostle, "we have no plurality of deities. We acknowledge only one supreme Being,-the Father and Creator of all; and one Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, to whom, in his mediatorial character, is delegated all authority and power."
That by "the Father," in this passage, is meant, the undivided Godhead, irrespective of all reference to the several persons in the Godhead, must be obvious to every one who examines the construction of the sentence. And that the Lord Jesus Christ is here spoken of, strictly, in relation to his high, but delegated, office of Mediator, must be equally apparent. At all events, the Deity of Christ. can no more be denied, because the Father is here called "the one God," than the dominion of the Father be denied, because the Son is called "one Lord."
These preliminary remarks may serve, possibly, to disabuse the minds of some persons of the false notions which they are prone to attach to such passages of Scripture. But there may be others who refuse to be guided by any reference to the context, or to the object at which the Sacred Writer is evidently aiming. They deem the words of the Apostle, when taken in their isolated character, as very forcible in themselves, and quite conclusive
* 1 Cor. viii. 6.
in their favour; and they very naturally desire to press them upon our consideration. We care not,' say they, 'about the connexion in which the passage may stand in the Apostle's argument; nor will we listen to any train of reasoning, as to the object which he had in view in penning it. We take the words precisely as we find them; and we insist upon their being received apart both from the context, and from all other passages of Scripture.'
Be it so. Though the demand is not very reasonable, and betrays more of a desire to gain an end than to discover truth, we are not reluctant to return to our text, and see if it really contains any single proposition, which, in its naked simplicity, condemns any one article of our creed.
"There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus." Here is the passage, dissociated both from text and context. And which is the clause which condemns us? Is it the first, "There is one God?" Why, this is the primary doctrine which we hold. Language cannot be found to express more strongly than we do, in our various formularies, our full persuasion of this cardinal article of faith. We assert it in our creeds-we recognise it in our prayers.
"True," says the Unitarian; "but you virtually deny the doctrine, when you assert, at the same time, that there are three persons in the Godhead, and that each of these persons is God and Lord." How often shall we reply to this vulgar objection, that when we employ the word "persons," from the Latin "persona," we do not mean separate and distinct beings, but "subsistences" having the same divine essence, united in one eternal and undivided Godhead? And yet we are constantly represented, not only as holding an incomprehensible doctrine (for that we readily admit), but as maintaining an absurdity, and a contradiction in terms. But where is the contradiction?