« PreviousContinue »
of God cannot be a self-existent Person. It is likewise concluded, that there are no passages of Scripture which were designed to teach us that three Persons are but one intelligent Being; nor that there may be two intelligent Beings in one Person. As extraordinary as it may seem, both of these contradictory hypotheses pertain to your theory. God you suppose to be three distinct Persons; and yet but one intelligent Being. You also suppose that Christ is both God and a Man united in one Person. This, it is thought, amounts precisely to the hypothesis of two intelligent. Beings in one Person. Is it not, Sir, extraordinary, that great and good men should adopt two hypotheses so manifestly contradictory, while neither of them can be supported by Scripture, nor illustrated by any anology in nature ? But did not Christ say, I and my FATHER are on E * : Yes, Sir ; but he never said, I and my Father are but one intelligent Being. Nor have we any analogy which can justify such an interpretation of the words. There are many senses in which a Father and a Son may be one, besides that of one Being. And in no other case, in which the words are used by a Son, should we have the least suspicion that this is the intended import. God and Christ may be of one nature as a Father and Son ; they may be one in affection, in interest, and in operation ; they may also be one in respect to fulness and authority, as has been already noted and explained. When Christ made this declaration, the Jews accused him of blasphemy, and of “making himself God.” But Christ in his answer, distinctly let them know that his words imported no more than that he was truly the Son of God, and as such united with the Father—“Say ye of Him whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest, because I said, I am the Son of God 2* RULE III. So far as the Scriptures may interpret themselves, by comparing Scripture with Scripture, such interpretation is to be preferred to any human hypothesis. This Rule has been found of extensive application. The Divine names and titles given to the Son of God ; the Divine works and honors ascribed to him, and his Divine fulness, are all distinctly accounted for in the Scriptures, on the ground of the Father's love and pleasure. There
fore these titles, these works, these honors, or this fulness, may not be considered as evidence of the personal self-existence of the Son of God.
Rule IV. In many instances, it is necessary to take into view the customs of the people to whom the Scriptures were originally communicated, and to consider in what light they would most naturally understand particular passa goese
*†e prophecies respecting the Messiah were probably originally written for the comfort and benefit of the good people among the Israelites or Jews; at least, this may be supposed to be one principal object of the predictions. In the prophecies, the promised Messiah was called by various names, and some of them were Divine names,or names of Divine import. He was not only called David, and David the King, but it was predicted that his name should be called EMMANUEL, WonDERFUL, Counsellor, the TMIGHTY GoD, the EveRLASTING FATHER, and the PRINCE of PEAce.
If we would know how a Jew would be likely to understand these names or titles, we should consider a custom which was common among the Jews, viz. that of giving significant names to persons, places, altars, &c. At the close of our great Bibles we have a table of the names used in the Old Testament, with their several significations. If you will examine this table, you will find that other Persons had Divine names, besides the Messiah.-See a few of these names, with their signification—Eliashib, the God of conversion—Elijah, God the Lord, or the strong Lord— Eliphalet, the God of deliverance—Elisha, the salvation of God—Lemuel, God with them, or him. They also gave Divine names, or names of Divine import, to places and altars—jehovah-jireh, the Lord will see or provide— jehovah-Nisri, the Lord my Banner—El-elohe-Israel, God, the God of Israel.
Now, Sir, imagine yourself to have been a Jew, living in the days of the Prophets, and perfectly acquainted with the custom of giving significant names; then consider what ideas you would naturally have taken from the various names given to the promised Messiah. If you had heard him called David, or David the King, would you have supposed that the Man who killed Goliah was to appear again as the promised Savior: If you had heard the Prophet sav, respecting the promised Son, They shall call his name Emmanuel, would you have supposed that God himself was to come as the promised Messiah : Would you not rather have supposed the Son to be one in whom God would make some gracious manifestations of himself to men 2 If you had heard him called the Mighty God, and Everlasting Father, would it not have been natural for you to suppose that i. Son was to be one in whom the Mighty God and Everasting Father would make surprizing manifestations of his power and his kindness : If you had heard him called, “The Lord our Righteousness,” what would have been . more natural than for you to have supposed, that the Messiah was to be one in whom Jehovah would display his righteousness; or one through whose righteousness men should be benefited by Jehovah Accustomed as the Jews were to believe in one God only, and to speak of that God as only one Person ; accustomed as they were to the use of significant names of high import ; would it not have been unspeakably more natural for them to understand the names of the Messiah as significant, importing some such ideas as I have mentioned, than to suppose that the SoN to be born was the very GoD who had promised to senD HIM into the world 2 The Prophet did not say the SoN shall BE Emmanuel, but “they shall call his name Emmanual.” He did not say, the Son shall Be the Mighty God and Everlasting Father, but “his name shall be called,” &c. And this phraseology was probably used with direct reference to the custom of the Jews in giving significant names. And the Son's having the Divine names thus given him by the spirit of prophecy, is no proof that he is personally the self-existent God, any more than his being called David, or David the King, is a proof that he was personally David the son of Jesse. -It may be useful, in this connexion, to consider what expectations were in fact excited among the Jews, by the Divine names given to the promised Messiah. And is there, Sir, any evidence, that any Jew, whether learned or unlearned, good or bad, ever understood the Divine names given to the Messiah, as importing that He should be the self-existent God : If no such idea was excited in the minds of pious Jews, by the use of those names, we may
A fifth Rule of Interpretation stated and applied.
PERMIT me now to state and apply another Rule of interpretation. RuLe V. Particular phrases, terms, and epithets, are 'to be understood in a sense which is consistent with the general tenor of the Gospel, and the character of the objects to which they are applied. There are two things respecting Jesus Christ, which are, in my view, supported by the general tenor of the Gospel, V 12, . 1. That he is truly the Son of God. 2. That he obeyed, suffered, and died, to open the way for our salvation. These two points are not only supported by the general tenor of the Gospel, but they appear to be essential to the Gospel plan of salvation. If we deny these, do we not in effect deny the Gospel ? If we deny these, do we not make God a liar * If these are points unquestionably revealed, and supported by the general tenor of the Gospel, then all the particular phrases, terms, and epithets, used in respect to the Son of God, are to be understood in a sense which is consistent with these leading truths of the Gospel. There are several texts of Scripture which have been understood as supporting the idea that the Son of God is absolutely self-existent, independent, and immutable. But as this doctrine is, in my view, inconsistent with what have been stated as truths supported by the general tenor of the Gospel, let us examine those texts, and see whether they do necessarily import what you and others have imagined. John x. 18. “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” If, in any instance, the Son of God said any thing which imported that he had independent power, this is the instance —But Christ did not say, “I have independent poiver.”—
Besides, it is believed, that in this case the word power is the same as authority. And this authority or this commandment Christ says he received of his Father. We may add, the resurrection of Christ from the dead is abundantly and explicitly attributed to God in distinction from the Son—“GoD raised HIM from the dead.” Micah v. 2. “Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Whatever existed before the world, may be said to be of old, from everlasting. In the viii. chapter of Proverbs, Wisdom, or Christ under the name of Wisdom, is represented as using language similar to that in the text before us—“The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old: I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.” But Wisdom adds, “When there were no depths, I was brought forth”—Before the hills, was I brought forth—“Then I was by him as one brought up with him, and I was daily his delight”— Brought up with him as a Son with a Father; and as a Son, was daily his delight. The Son was from everlasting, as he was brought forth before there were either depths or hills. Rev. i. 17. “I am the First and the Last.” In the xliv. chaptor of Isaiah, the Lord of Hosts adopts this title, and says, “I am the First and the Last, and besides me there is no God.” In view of these-texts, Mr. Jones forms this argument —“There is no God besides him who is the First and the Last; but Jesus Christ is the First and the Last: therefore, besides Jesus Christ there is no God.” If this be fair reasoning, we may draw another conclusion, viz. “The GoD and FATHER of our LoRD JESUS CHRIST,” is not God.--Is it not amazing, that Mr. Jones should reason in such a manner: In several instances, his conclusions as fully exclude the FATHER from being GoD, as it is possible that language should do it. In Isaiah, God did not say, Besides us there is no God; but, “Besides ME there is no God.” His words therefore as fully exclude every other Person as every other Being. When Christ said, “I am the First and the Last,” he immediately added, “I am he that liveth, and was dead.” He is therefore to be considered as the First and the Last in a sense which is consistent with his having been DEAD.