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There are several senses in which Christ may style himself «« the First and the Last”—He may be so called as the constituted Head and Chief of creation ; and as in his glory, as well as the glory of the Father, all things will terminate He may be so called as the Author and Finisher of faith or, as a Son, he may bear the Divine titles of his Father.
Heb. xiii. 8. 'Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever.”
This text, on which so much reliance has been placed, has no verb in it; and, therefore, considered by itself, it contains no affirmation. For the beginning of the sentence, and the sense of the text, we have to look back to the prez ceding verse, “ Remember them who have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God; whose faith follow, considering the End of their conversation, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever.”
It is evident, that it is as the End of Christian conversation that Christ is here brought into view. And by Jeo. sus Christ, we may understand not merely his Person, but his interest and glory. This End of our conversation is of immutable and perpetual importance--the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.
Heb. i. 12. “ But thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.'
This text was quoted from the cii. Psalm, and there was used in an address to God. This circumstance is worthy of note, and in my view, is the only difficulty present::ed by the text. Why were words, which were first addressed to God, quoted and applied to the Son ? Perhaps you will not find me able to answer the question ; but if so, it will not hence follow that it is unanswerable.
In the 5th verse, the Apostle quoted a passage from the Old Testament, and applied it to Christ, which was originally used in respect to Solomon-" I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son.” These words are to be found three times in the Old Testament, and each time they are contained in a gracious promise of God to David respecting his son Solomon. Why then did the Apostle quote these words and apply them to Christ, as though they had been originally used in respect to him ? The answer must probably be this, that Solomon was a type of Christ. May we not then suppose, that the words, which
were first addressed to God, were quoted by the Apostle and applied to Christ as the Son and“ image of the invisible God ?”
Let us now attend to the import of the text : But thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.” Here we have exhibited a contrast between the material world and its cona stituted Creator. And what is the contrast?
One waxes old and is liable to perish, and the other will remain the same without end. This, it is conceived, is the most which can be supposed to be necessarily implied in the text. And what is here affirmed of Christ, agrees with what he said of himself, “ I am the First and the Last. I am he that liveth and was dead ; and, behold, I live forevermore."
You suppose the text imports absolute immutability. But, Sir, was it no change in the Son of God to pass from the form of God to the form of a servant ? Was it no change to die, and to be raised again from the dead? Is he now, at the Father's right hand, in all respects the same that he was when he cried with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Permit me, Sir, to ask, whether the Greek word autos, which in the text is translated same, is any where in the New Testament used as importing absolute immutability, unless it be in the two texts which I have been last considering? If the clause had been translated “ But thou art Heg" meaning nE with peculiar emphasis and distinction, would it not have been a literal and correct translation ?
But let the translation be as it is, only let the word same be understood in a sense which will not contradict the Gospel of Divine Love.--It is my choice to believe that God has spared not his own Son ; and not to believe that he made a mere show of so loving the world, when he did not in reality. It affords me far greater satisfaction to believe that the Son of God was capable of personally doing and suffering according to the representations of Scripture, than I could find in believing that there is a want of strict truth and simplicity in the Gospel representations of Divine Love.
Other Texts considered.
SOME texts, on which Mr. William Jones has placed great reliance, may now be introduced.
John iii. 2, 9. “ He that hath the Bride, is the Bride
Isaiah liv. 5. “ Thy Maker is thy husband, the Lord of Hosts is his name.'
Mr. Jones says, “The church, which is the Bride, can no more have two Husbands, than Christ can have two churches."
Whatever difficulty may be involved in the idea of two Husbands to the church, the difficulty cannot be diminished by supposing a greater number. Yet Mr. Jones' theory plainly supposes three distinct Persons or agents, each of whom is the Husband of the church.
The truth is, that there is in no other sense two Husbands to the church, than there are two Creators, Saviors, or Lords.
As God creates and saves by his Son, so by his Son he shows the kindness of a Husband to the Church. The Son is the constituted Creator, Savior, and Lord; so he is the constituted Head and Bridegroom of the church. Accordingly, “ The Kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain King, who made a marriage for his Son."
Rom. ix. 5. “ Whose are the Fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen."
That Christ is, in this text, called God, will not be denied. But if he be, we may reasonably suppose that it is in the same sense that the Father calls him God, in his address, Heb. i. 8, 9---that is, on the ground of a constituted character. See Part II. Letter IV.-But it is my prevailing opinion, that the latter clause of this text ought to be understood as an expression of gratitude and praise to God, the Father, for giving his Son to come in the flesh, and exalting him as Lord over all; and that the verb be is understood in the original, and should be supplied in the translation, so as to have the clause read, “ God be bless,
ed forever. Amen.” The verb be, you know, is often understood in the Greek, and often supplied in the translation; and it is so several times between the words blessed and God. By comparing the Greek word in this text, with other texts in which it is translated blessed, it appears to me clearly to import gratitude and praise ; * and such exclamations of gratitude and praise to God, are common in the writings of the apostle Paul. You will be pleased to examine and judge for yourself. As it respects the point in question, it is to me a matter of perfect indifferency in which of the two senses the text is understood.
2 Cor. v. 19. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself.”
Mr. Jones says, “ Were there no other passage of Scripture to be found, this alone is sufficent to overthrow the whole doctrine of Arianism." _However true this observation may be as it respects Arianism, the text will be found perfectly harmonious with my views. God is evidently spoken of as one Person only; and Christ as another Person distinct from God. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to HIMSELF." Himself is a proper pronoun for one Person, and God is the antecedent. This one Person called God, was in another Person called CHRIST. If Christ were himself God, and, as Mr. Jones affirms, the only true God, let me be informed what God was in Christ.
In remarking on this very text, Mr. Jones says, “ the word God, though of the singular number, is of plural comprehension ;” and he explains himself to mean that it comprizes three Persons. The import of the text would then be, that three Persons called God, were in CHRIST, reconciling the world to himself. It may be asked, ought not the pronoun to be themselves ?
Besides, 'if by God be meant three Persons, Christ is a fourth Person, and not one of the three included in the name God. The same would be true of the phrase, the Son of God.
1 John v. 20. “And we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal
* Was not our word eulogize, from the Greek word, in this text, which is translated blessed ? And if it were common to speak of eulogizing God, might not the sense of the text be thus expressed, Whose are the Fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God be eulogized forever. Amen.
With great confidence, this text has been urged as an infallible proof that Jesus Christ is personally the true and self-existent God. But let us, Sir, examine impartially, and take the connexion into view" And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding that we may know Him that is TRUE; and we are in him that 'IS TRUE, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the TRUE GOD, and eternal life.”
Sometimes the sense of a passage is rendered obscure by the repetition of pronouns ; and it is ever safe to substitute the nouns for the
pronouns. Let us do so in regard to this 20th verse.
The apostle had mentioned God, in the preced ng verse: He goes on to say,
* And we know that the Son of God is come,and hath given us an understanding, that we may know God that is true; and we are IN God that is true, even in God's Son Jesus Christ. This is the TRUE God, and eternal life.”
Now, it may be asked, which of the two is called the “Trur God" in the last sentence, he that is represented as the True God repeatedly in the preceding part of the verse, or the Son of the TRUE God who had come to give us an understanding that we might know God that is true Unless we are to believe that John meant to teach us that there are more true Gods than one, we must suppose the TRUE God in the last sentence is the same Person as the TRUE God in the preceding sentence, of whom Christ was the Son.
Christ, in his praver to the Father, whom he styled the ONLY TRUE Gon, said, “I have manifested thy name to the men thou gavest me out of the world.” This perfectly agrees with John's account, that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true. As Christ was in the flesh'; as the only true God was in Christ; and as the business of the SON was to give us an understanding of him that is true, or to manifest the TRUE God; so God was manifested in the flesh. [1 Tim. iii. 16.]
Isa. viji. 13, 14. “ Sanctify the LORD OP Hosts himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread. And He shall be for a Sanctuary : but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Ísrael."