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DELIVERED BY THE REV. NICHOLAS ARMSTRONG,
AT PERCY CHAPEL, MAY 29, 1831.
There are three questions asked in this chapter. The Sadducees put an interrogatory to Christ, and the Pharisees put another interrogatory to Christ, and they were not able to entangle him by their questions ; but he put a question to them which confounded them, and that is the question which I have chosen for your consideration this morning.
There are four propositions of Scripture connected with God, which a believer in the Christian revelation ought to be prepared to maintain. First, that the Father is God. Second, that the Son is God. Third, that the Holy Ghost is God. Fourth, that God is One. These propositions are all contained in the Scriptures ; and although there is a great and unfathomable mystery in these propositions, and although we cannot reconcile all the difficulties that are in the mystery which these propositions involve, yet still, since the Bible has come from God, and since the Bible contains these propositions, we ought to receive them, to cherish them, and delight in the comfort which the knowledge of them communicates. We ought not to reject them because there is mystery in them. My friends, there is mystery
in every thing above us and beneath us. The world which we see with the naked eye opens mysteries to us that we can never grapple with successfully. The world which we see with the microscope opens mysteries to us which our minds are not able to contemplate. The world which we see with the telescope opens similar mysteries. The world before the naked eye—the world that comes under the cognizance of the microscope—and the world that expands its glories before the telescope, all contain mysteries that man cannot grapple with. And if there be mystery through the whole line of the creation, up to the very throne of our God, shall mystery cease when it reaches the foot of the throne? Shall we find it from the smallest atom up through all the grades of creation, in the works which are greatest, and in those which are most minute; and shall the Almighty Worker himself be divested of all mystery and be perfectly intelligible to the finite capacities of his creatures? No such thing. The analogy of Nature seems to demand that there should be a great mystery in revelation; and men whoobject to the doctrine of the Trinity, who object to the doctrine ol Christ's Gospel, who object to the doctrine contained in those propositions I have adverted to, because they are mysterious; these men manifest as great an ignorance of nature as they do of revelation.
The proposition to which I desire to confine myself this day and to discourse upon, as closely according to Scripture as I can, dismissing philosophy, and vain deceit, and metaphysics from my mind as much as possible, is the second of those propositions—THAT THE SON IS GOD. And I feel my mind pressed to consider this point particularly, because it is perhaps the hinging doctrine of the Trinity. It is the nucleus proposition of those four propositions I mentioned before, and also because certain movements, in the Christian world, in our own times, press upon my mind the consideration of this truth, more peculiarly, just at this time.
My friends, I shall propose to you nothing new, for who can say any thing new on this glorious subject? but I shall endeavour to stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance, in bringing before you the things which can be maintained, and which are maintained, in the words of Holy Writ, respecting Jesus Christ as God; and then, if time permit, I shall say a word or two respecting the atonement of Jesus; and have a word of application at the close. May the Lord's Spirit enable us to speak according to the oracles of God!
The first thing to be proved respecting Jesus Christ is, That To Him Be
LONGs THE NAME OF Deity. Now,
first, the name of God—the name of God is applied to Jesus Christ, especially in that first chapter of St. John's Gospel —" In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." These are sublime sentences—here are sublime and abrupt sentences uttered by John; and one
of those sublime and abrupt sentences is—"the Word was God." It was a remark of one of the old fathers, that the name of the Son of thunder belonged to John, not so much on account of any violence in the manner of his ministration, but principally on account of the thunder-like sublimity and grandeur of the sentences he announces respecting the ministers of the Gospel, and respecting the union of the Church with its living head—the Lord Jesus Christ. When John comes before you, when he breaks on you with such a sublime sentence as this—'* In the beginning was the Word"—and carries you back to ages that are past, to a period before the creation had sprung into existence—when John comes before you with such a proposition as this, "the Word was with God"—when he says that "He that hath the Son hath life"—when he brings before you these sentences, teeming with mighty thoughts that cannot be expressed, he proves himself the Son of thunder, for he breaks upon your attention with all the blaze of the lightning, and with all the awe which the sound of thunder is calculated to produce.
In the first chapter of John, it is said that "the Word was God;" and the Socinian's objection here, is a frivolous one, which you will consider. The Socinian contends that the word "God," in the first verse, is used in a subordinate and minor sense; because the article, the Greek article, is not given to the substantive " God" in the text. He says, that if it were meant to be taken in its primary sense, its supreme sense, then the article would be given. But to say nothing of other passages of Scripture which militate against his criticism, in this very chapter before us his criticism is proved to be of no effect; because in the sixth verse of the first chapter of John, God, supremely, is spoken of, according to his own confession, and the article is omitted.— "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John." Again, in the thirteenth verse, God confessedly, in the supremest sense, is spoken of, and the article is again omitted. "Which was born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." Again, in the eighteenth verse, "no man hath seen God at any time." There God is confessedly the supreme God, yet the article is omitted, therefore his criticism is of no force, and his objection is answered at once by the very chapter from which he derives it.
But there is another objection made to this in reference to some passages which occur in the Old Testament. Thus, in the seventh of Exodus, Moses is called God in a certain sense, and we must meet the objection. "The Lord said unto Moses, see, I have made thee a god to Pharoah, and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet." And in the eighty-seventh Psalm, the kings and governors of the earth are called gods according to this language, "God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods. I have said, ye are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High." Well, the Socinian says, here you see the name of God is given to Moses and the prophets, and given to rulers, and therefore you must not argue from the name God being applied to Christ, that he is very God. Well, then, I say to him, I must take the context to inform me in what sense the term " God" is applied to Christ, and in what sense the term " God" is applied to Moses; and if I find the context instructs me, that the term "God" is applied to Moses, the prophets, and the judges of Israel in the same sense in which the teim God is applied to Christ, then I will sub
scribe to your dogma that Christ is only a delegated God, and not the supreme God. But if I find a great difference, if I find the context ascribing the name of " God" to Moses, and the judges, and at the same time ascribing it in such a manner as to make us feel, while we read it, it is only in the minor sense that the term is used; and if the term be ascribed to Christ, in such a sense, as that the context forces us to feel that all the works belonging to the supreme God are connected with that name when it is applied to the Lord Jesus Christ, then there is a distinction so great that you cannot prove any parallelism to exist between the passages, and the arguments which you derive from the appellation given to Moses and thejudges fall to the ground at once.
Now, with respect to this name given to Moses, it is said to be used here on a particular occasion—that is he stands before Pharoah with authority from God. And in the case of the eighty-second Psalm, the context informs us in what sense those persons are called gods. "I have said, ye are gods; I have said, ye are my representatives on the earth, but ye judge unjustly; ye do not defend the poor and fatherless; ye know not, neither will ye understand; ye walk in darkness, and all the foundations of the earth are out of course, in consequence of you. Ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes." Here, when these judges are called "gods," they are called "gods" in 6uch a manner, and in such a sense as to prevent the most cursory reader from attributing supreme deityship to them; for the name is connected with ignorance. While they are called "gods," they are also called ignorant. The name is connected with moral turpitude—they are said to be walking in darkness. The name is connected with injustice—" how long will ye act unjustly I" The name is also connected with death—" Ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes." So that, you observe, the context most carefully instructs us in how minor a sense, in how subordinate a sense, the term is applied to those persons who Were gods by delegation.
But now, let us see, dear brethren, when the name of God is applied to Christ, in what sense, and in what connexion, it is applied. Here, in this first chapter of John, it is applied to Christ in connexion with Creation :— "by him were all things made; and without him was not any thing made that was made." And we find, in the Old Testament, in the forty-eighth of Isaiah, and in the tenth of Jeremiah, God challenging the creation to himself as his great work, and using this language: — "mine hand hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens." "The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens." He challenges creation to himself as the peculiar mark of the true God. Now, we find this, which is the true characteristic of the true God, maintained by God himself, connected in the first of John with the name of God, as applied to the Lord Jesus Christ. As much as to say, when he is called God he appended that mark to the name to distinguish him from every other being called god, and which proves him to be the Supreme God. Again, he is called "God" in this connection, in the first chapter of Hebrews, where Paul says, "thy throne, O God! is for ever and ever; the sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom: thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning
hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the work of ikj hands. They shall perish, but thou remainest: and they shall wax old as doth a garment, and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail." Here he is called God in the same connexion with the creation.
But, observe, Christ Jesus is called the "true'god" in the first epistle of John. In the latter end of that epistle you will find this quotation—" this is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols." "This is the true God," the immediate antecedent was Jesus Christ. "We are in Him, that is true, even in his son Jesus Christ." "This (that is grammatically) Jesus Christ, is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols." But the Socinian would say, the pronoun "this" refers to Him that is true, that is the Father. Well, I say to the Socinian, this argument of yours is built on contradiction to the plain grammatical construction. I say to the Socinian, I have the grammatical construction in my favour. I say it is more according to grammar that the pronoun should agree with the immediate antecedent than with the remote antecedent. The immediate antecedent is Christ, the remote antecedent is the Father. I bring the pronoun back to the immediate antecedent, therefore I am speaking more according to the grammatical construction of the language—you bring back the pronoun to the remote antecedent, therefore you violate grammatical construction. But, I say to them again, the " eternal life" here, must be Christ, for this is the very name given to Christ. In the beginning of this epistle, and in the first and second verses, John announces himself thus: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life, for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us." The term "eternal life," the same which occurs in the close of the chapter, is ascribed here to Christ: "the word" which was revealed, whom the Apostle heard, whom the Apostle taught, whom the Apostle felt, whom the Apostle spoke of. Besides, this word "life" is one of the Dames by which Christ calls himself. You will doubtless remember how He uses the expression, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." This word "life" occurs in agreat many parts of the Scripture in connexion with Christ, as being peculiarly his name; so that it is said, "he that hath the Son hath life," because Christ is "eternal life." But here, it is said, that that Being who is the true God is also "eternal life:" therefore the Socinian'not only violates the grammatical construction, but he violates the whole of the Scriptures, which speak of "the life" in connexien with Christ, and call Christ by the name of " the life." We have not only the grammatical construction in our favour, but the use of this term in other places establishes the fact, that Jesus is "the life"—and being "the life," that he is the true God. Now, observe, we find him called God in connexion with creation; and we here find him called God with peculiar emphasis, because he is the true God. In the ninth of Isaiah he is called "the Mighty God." "Unto us a child is born, unto 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 everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." We know that this is Jesus Christ from the quotation in the be
ginning of Matthew, when he says, taking up the language of the prophet Isaiah in the same place, "A virgin shall conceive and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel." This quotation of Matthew is taken from the prophecy, which speaks of Christ as Immanucl—the God who is, the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Mighty God. Here then also, we find Jesus Christ called by another term, which shews us in what sense " God" is to be applied to him. When the name " God" is put after his name he is called " the Mighty God— Immanuel—God with us."
But again, he is called "God" in another peculiar sense. In the ninth of the Romans he is called "god Over All, blessed for ever." In the ninth chapter of the Romans, Paul, speaking of the privileges of the Jews, says, "whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever." Here, you see the antithesis is very much to be observed. He speaks of Christ in the flesh—he speaks of him as to his true humanity, and he speaks of him in another sense, as to his true divinity. "Concerning the flesh," "God over all, blessed for ever." I say that all the manuscripts contain these verses—all the Fathers almost contain these verses—and the whole of the learning of the Christian world goes to prove the integrity of the text, as we have it now, upon a comparison with all the fragments and relics of antiquity that we possess on the subject.
But here, you see, in what sense Christ is called God. He is called God in connexion with creation, in connexion with the term "life" and the "true God." He is called "God" in connexion with the term "Mighty;" and he is called "God" in connexion with his supremacy over all—" God blessed for ever."—