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much as, when creation, under God's plastic finger, shall stand exhibited the fulness of Christ, there is its end, not its ending, as a subsistence, but its accomplishment as a structure, its perfection as a work of God, the ending indeed of its growth unto perfection; in which perfection it shall ever stand, bodying forth in the well pleased sight of God, his own complete purpose, and in itself feeling and enjoying the rich harmony, the sufficient provision, the perfect beauty, and the infallible strength which are essential to every idea and purpose of the mind of God. Now this is an exceeding great and precious truth ; a doctrine it is, which, like a key, doth unlock the deep things of the word of God; and without which I defy any divine, either to justify God in creation, or to defend the mystery of the Trinity, or to enjoy its inconceivable wealth of truth.
And yet, as I said above, large, yea and vast as this idea is, to which I gave utterance in my last lecture, and have now given repetition, it still lacketh something of the fulness of that which is expressed by the words, “ [ am the first and the last.” It doth not satisfy the contradiction which is in these words, “ I am the first and the last;" for a contradiction clearly there is: that which is the first cannot be the last, and that which is the last cannot be the first. So it is with the expression, “ I am the beginning and the ending ;” and the expression, “ I am the Alpha and the Omega,” and, if I mistake not, the same intentional contradiction is contained in the name of the Father, and of Christ also, 66 which is, and which was, and which is to come;" for that which is present, cannot at the same time be past, and that which is present and past cannot at the same time be future. Wherein then consisteth the meaning of setting down an idea by contradictory terms ? Because in this way, and in this way alone, can any idea be fully expressed, as bath been shewn by Coleridge, that precious relict of the school of sages, in his Aids to Reflection. It is of the essence of an idea that, it should be of the reason, and not of the sense ; and what is of the pure reason cannot be expressed in terms of the sense. But time and place are essential forms of the sense, either inward or outward, and therefore when you would express any idea with respect to time and place, the only resource
you have is, when you have said one thing to contradiet it by another. By so doing, you indicate whereabouts the thing you would express lies, and teach that it is not to be expressed under that category ; and there you leave it for your reader to exercise his reason, and see if he can find the idea there. When the ancient sage was asked to define God, he did it by contradictory conceptions, saying, that he was a circle, all centre, without cumference; thereby expressing the truth, that he was in all places, and beyond all place, and unlimited by place (without circumference), and yet not diffused, nor scattered over space, so as to be in parts, but all in every place (all centre). Such an idea also is the Trinity, and such an idea also is Eternity, and such ideas are contained in the expressions before us. For example, when it is said of God,
“ Which is, and which was, and which is to come,” it is asserted that he is all present in the present time, that he is all present in the past time, and that he is all present in the time to come; or, in other words, that there is no time when he is not all present, and therefore all unchangeable ; that time or succession of existence, is not an attribute of his ; and if not of his, then also not of Christ's, unto whom the same title, “ Which is, which was, and which is to come,” is applied. Men are willing enough to acknowledge this truth of God, but few men apprehend it to be a truth also of Christ. I mean not of Christ as God, but of Christ as Christ. And yet this is a fundamental truth, of which the Scriptures are more anxious to bear testimony than of the other. Now that same truth, in respect to order, is expressed by the words, “ I am the first and the last." When it hath been said, I am the first, lest that should be misunderstood to mean, that he was only the first of things existent in the purpose of God, it is instantly added, and the last ; and lest it should be understood, that he was only the one and the other, or both of these, they are joined together in one attribute, and, so joined, do signify that while his being included the whole series of succession, from first to last, it was not under the law of succession, but that he was the full Christ of God before the world was, before he was brought into the world of the virgin's seed, when he was of age, when he was a disembodied spirit and a dead body, as he is now, and as lie shall be, when he comes again; and as he shall
be for ever and ever; that is to say, that the Son, coessential, co-eternal, consubstantial with the Father, very God of very God, did before creation assume unto himself that limited form of the Christ, in which the Father saw before time, and independent of time, before change, and independent of change, his work complete in that beauty and perfectness to which it shall yet attain. And in this all containing form of being, image of the invisible God, fulness of the Godhead, the Son did create and order creation to the end of his becoming flesh, did take flesh, did redeem it, did glorify it, and is now bringing all things to be under it, as it were the parts, dependencies, and drapery of his being. All things headed up in him, both things in heaven, and things in earth. There are apparent changes, as his taking flesh; but this is not a real change of his being as the Christ of God: that is to say, he who taketh flesh, is the very same whom God set up, before the world was, by whom God created the world, who spake by the prophets. No change did his spiritual being undergo, in these acts of creating the world, redeeming flesh and the world. His spiritual being is that fulness of Godhead, which was the device and the joy of Godhead, in the purpose, and in the enjoyment before the light was created, and before he set his compass on the deep. The rest is but the acting of the Son, thus limiting himself, unto the end of bringing that form of being which he had assumed into outwardness from the Godhead itself; that is, into creation. While yet it was not outward, it was the delight of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, all the same as it shall be, when it is outwardly complete. And creation, therefore, addeth nought to the enjoyment of God within himself. It addeth not to his own essential glory, it is not for himself, but for the good of the creatures that he creates. Creation, and redemption, and regeneration, are all actions of the goodness of God outwardly, unto the works of his hands. - Reader, whoever thou art, call not these things dreams which be the essential truths of Godhead and the bases of a creation.
“I am he that liveth and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore; Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” It is thus in the original : “ I am the first and the last, and the living one; and I became dead, and
behold alive I am unto the ages
and I have the keys of hades and of death.” What then is meant by Christ's claiming to himself the characteristic of the
living one?” To explain this, we must go to the Gospel and First Epistle of John; in the former of which it is thus written of the Word : “All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made : in him was life, and the life was the light of man. And the light shineth in darkness, but the darkness comprehendeth it not ;” and in the latter, " That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, and which we have looked upon, and which 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).” So Christ saith of himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life."— These and such passages contain the same truth which is expressed in the words before us, “ I am the living One.” Now it is manifest to any one perusing them, that it is not his life in the days of his flesh that is spoken of. That was but “the manifestation of the life," which had a previous subsistence in Christ, which had an eternal subsistence in him with the Father before it was shewn unto us. The life here spoken of as appertaining unto Christ, is co-eval with the creation of the world and the light of men; yea, and it is before them, being an attribute of that Word which was with God, and which was God, and the source out of which the light of men arose. Creation of the matter of the world was his first act; to give life in its various forms was the next; and in man that life grew into the “ light of life,” which, as we find it elsewhere used, doth signify the clear vision of truth and discernment of God. 66 Yet a little while is the light with you ; walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you ; for he that walketh in darkness, knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have the light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of the light.” (John xii. 35.) And still more to the present purpose is it written, John viii. 12, “I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” The life and the light spoken of in these and other
passages, is the eternal life which knoweth not death; the true light in which God is beheld, and obeyed, and en
joyed. This life which, in its several degrees, was communicated at creation, is declared to have been in Christ contained, before that beginning of events, out of him to have come, and by him to have been imparted.
Now it was one of the great ends of the Incarnation, to demonstrate that Christ had life in himself: and, in gene. ral, it may be asserted, that the thing manifested in and by Jesus Christ, is not the original, but only the copy of that which was in him from the beginning, according to the purpose of the Godhead. Incarnation and creation itself are but shewings forth of that primordial and archetypal form of all existences, the Christ, the Beginning of the creation of God; not the Godhead, which is incomprehensible, but the Godhead brought into the comprehensible form of Christ. This I hold to be the very link which binds God and creation ; even Godhead comprehensible in Christ. Now when it is said that the life was in Christ, or that he is the living one, it is so asserted of that former Being which the Son assumed before the world was, and in which he is to be manifested for ever and ever. But for Godhead, in the person of the Son, to assume a form of being is an act or work unto which all the persons must concur: the Father, as the purposer of it; the Son, as the person in it; the Holy Ghost, as the life of it: for these are the proper offices of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in every work of God. If then, the Holy Ghost be the life of that form of being which before the world was, God set up in the person of Christ, we are given to understand by the expression, "I am the Living One," that he, even Christ, possessed the Holy Ghost as his life, not in the Godhead, subsisting, but in the Christ subsisting. Christ, therefore, hath the Holy Ghost as life, all life whatever was in the Word, before it came forth into creation. These are very deep truths, and being looked at heedlessly--indeed being otherwise looked at than with the greatest caution and consideration--might lead some to suppose that we were advocating the heresy of a pre-existing humanity. It is not so. We believe the humanity had no existence until the Word became flesh; but we, withal, believe that the Christ is before all, not as a man, but as the person of the Son, sustaining that limited form of being : I mean, that the Son was the Christ of God, as a purpose, as a reality, before the world was; in whom, as in the fountain