« PreviousContinue »
able to have supplied all his own wants. His divinity would either have preserved him from these distressful circumstances, or would have delivered him from them, without the interposition of any other power. But we find it was quite otherwise with Jesus. We find him praying with fervour, earnestness, and submission : and St. Luke informs us, that an angel from heaven was sent to copsole and strengthen him in the height of his agony. And can we imagine, that a person hypostatically united to the Su. preme Deity, could need the assistance of an angel, or be strengthened and assisted by one of his own creatures ?
I know the Trinitarians will tell us that Christ prayed, to give us an example of prayer, and in order to be a pattern of devotion to his followers.-And so he certainly was, and a most noble and excellent pattern too. But then our Lord might have recommended prayer strongly to his followers without committing an evident absurdity himself, which it certainly was for him to pray, if he was God equal with the Father. And this absurdity will appear still the greater, if we consider the manner in which Christ prayed, his retiring to mountains and solitudes, the length and fervency of his devotion, and, above all, his agony in the garden. To this the author of the Epistle to the He. brews seems to have alluded, when he tells us, Heb. v. 7. 'That in the days of his desh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, unto him that was able to save him from death ; and was heard in that he feared or on account of his piety.' Here our Lord is described, as praying with the greatest ardour and intenseness, and mingling strong crying and tears with his supplications, like one deeply interested in the success of his prayers ; and sensible of his own insufficiency, and the need he had of the assistance of a being far more powerful than himself. And we are told that on account of his filial piety* and humble resignation, he was heard, or met with a favourable answer to his prayers. From a con. sideration then of the manner and circumstances in which our Lord prayed, we have the highest reason to conclude
The Greek words ano ens evhaßolas, may be rendered on account of bis piety, or reverence of God.
that he was a person inferior in nature and character to almighty God.
In the ninth place, Jesus Christ is not the most high God, but a different and distinct being from him, because he is styled in scripture the image of God.' 2 Cor. iv. 4. The apostle observes, speaking of bad men who reject the gospel, that, the god of this world hath blinded their eyes, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God should shine unto them. Col. i. 14. " Who is the image of the invisible God;' and Heb. i. 3, Christ is said to be the express image of God's person. Now this appeNation discovers to us, that Christ cannot be of the same nature or essence with God, because, in this case,
he would be the image of himself, which is a con. tradiction. Adam is declared to have been made after the image of God;' and all mankind are said to be made after the same image, in James, iii. 9, where, speaking of the tongu
he says, "Therewith bless we. God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men who are made after the similitude or image of God.' Christ is said to be the express image of God, because he is the great revealer of his will, the most illustrious and dignified of his creatures, and because in him the perfections of the Father shine forth more eminently than in any other being. But there is an express distinction made betwixt him and the invisible God, whose image he is said to be.
In the tenth place, Jesus Christ is not the most high God, or the eternal and self-existent deity, because he is styled, Col. i. 15, “The first born of every creature;' and Rev. iii. 14, he styles himself, “The faithful and true wit. ness the beginning of the creation of God. In the first of these passages it is affirmed of Christ, that he was born or produced, which naturally implies, that there was a time when he did not exist; and also that he derived his being or existence from another. For no being can produce it, self; and no self-existent eternal being can ever be affirmed to be born at all. Christ is also here ranked or comprehended amongst the number of creatures, by being styled • the first born of every creature.'
Nor is there any way to avoid this conclusion, but by doing violence to the words of scripture, and perverting their plain and obvious meaning. Some Trinitarians have made attempts of this
kind, by insisting that the words ought to be rendered
the first bringer forth of every creature. But a learned commentaior has well shewn the impropriety of this translation. Ilis words are as follows: “ This passage is fairly rendered by our translators, and indeed the word is never used in any other sense in the New Testament, It is true, that TSWTOTOXOS is found sometimes used by profanc authors in an active sense, as when applied to a dam the first time she brings forth; and, accoringly, some would render the expression here the first bringer forth of every creature ;' but it may be questioned whether ever the wora is thus used with the genitive case after it, and especially wiih such an adjective as all joined with that genitive case. Who can find such an expression any where as this : "A dam that is the first bringer forth of all her offspring ? If the word were here to be taken in this sense, St. Paul's meaning must be expressed by some such perj. phrasis as this : Christ is one, who the first time he brought forth any thing, brought forth every creature,' which, I suppose, will hardly satisfy any man.
The second passage, in which Christ styles himself the beginning of the creation of God,' confirms the interpre. tation we have given of the first ; and proves, that it is no violation of the honour and dignity of our great and excellent master to call him a creature, since he takes that title to himself, and freely declares to his apostle, and beloved and favourite disciple John, that he is a part of the gene. ral creation of God.
In the eleventh place, Jesus Christ is not the most high God, but a dependent inferior being, because he is said in scripture to have been tempted of the devil.” Now the apostle James informs us, that God cannot be tempted of evil.' The perfect and infinite nature of God set him above all possibility of temptation; and if the soul of Jesus had been in personal union with a divine agent, equal to God the Father, it would be altogether absurd to suppose him to be tempted. But we are told by three Evangelists, that "Jesus was led by the spirit into the wilderness that he might be tempted of the devil. See Matt. iv. 1. Mark i. 12. and Luke iv. 1. ." But this temptation cannot be
* Mr. Pearce of Exeter, in loco.
supposed to have happened, if Jesus had been the most high God. For, first, what is more unworthy of God than to expose himself to this base and impious enemy, whom, for the contempt of his majesty, he had expelled , from his presence; to permit this spirit to solicit him to worship him, and thus to offer himself, of his own accord, to be mocked and insulted by the devil. Again (upon the Trinitarian scheme,) it may be asked, for what purpose should Christ permit an attempt of this kind ? Was it that it might appear, that the most high God was able to en. dure and overcome the temptations of the devil ? Was there any one that could entertain the least doubt of this, so as that it should be necessary to make a trial of it ? Farther, how can we suppose the devil to undertake so arduous an enterprise as this, or to have the least hope of success in it."* There are some ingenious and learned persons who suppose all this trial and temptation of Jesus to have been a myste. rious trance or vision, and that no evil being was concerned in it, and that the intention of this vision was to prepare and strengthen the mind of Jesus for the trials and troubles he was to undergo in the course of his ministry. But this conjecture makes equally against the Trinitarians; for what occasion could he have for trials and preparatory exercises of any kind, who was really and truly God, and so complete in all perfections and excellencies, and above the possibility of temptation of any kind.
But, in the twelfth place, Jesus Christ is not the most high God, because he is said in scripture to be a priest, and sometimes a "high priest.' Psal. cx. 4. The Lord hath sworn and will not repent; thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Heb. iii. 1, 2. Consider the apostle and high priest of our profession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to him that appointed him ;' or, as it may be more literally rendered, to him that made him.' Heb. iv. 14. “Seeing then, that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.' Aud in many other pla. ces Christ has this title given him. A great writer re. marks, " That the spirit of God seems to have intended
* Crellius de uno Deo parte.
by this appellation, to prevent any one from thinking that Christ was God, on account of his great power and dignity. For he that is a priest cannot be the most high God. For it belongs to a priest to be a minister of the sanctuary, from which also the very office of priesthood is called a ministry. It belongs also to the character of a priest to transactfor men with God, to offer to God for them, to intercede for them, and finally, to appear before God in their behalf. All which things are very clear, both from the nature of the office itself, and also from the epistle to the Hebrews, wherein they are in general affirmed, partly of priests, and partly, in particular, attributed to Christ himself. But none of these things are incident to the most high God. For he it is who hath priests of different ranks and degrees, but is himself priest of none. To him ministry and oblation are performed, to him intercession is made for others, before his face an appearance is made for the forgiveness of sins; but he ministers to none, he offers to none, he intercedes for none, he makes appearance before the face of none, in order to obtain the remission of sins. For he, by his own sovereign right and authority, pardons the sins of his creatures Now although some things in the epistle to the Hebrews) may be figuratively applied to Christ, yet this is certain, that these kinds of speaking could by no means be applied to him if he was the first and highest cause of the remission of sins, and forgave them unto men of himself by a power not received from another; that is, if he were the most high God. Nor can the pretended dis. tinction of natures in the least help the Trinitarians in this respect any more than in others; for if Christ, besides the human nature, had also a divine one, it would be necessary that he, no less than the Father, should have an high, priest, and this priest be himself ; since no reason can be assigned, that the Father should have a priest and Christ have none, if he bę God as well as the Father, yea, the same God in number with him. But where is there the least hint in holy scripture, from whence it can be inferred, that Christ hath an high-priest as well as the Father: It is evident that it is very absurd to imagine that the person of Christ offers to himself. Wherefore the priesthood of Christ is utterly inconsistent with the divine nature which :