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ON THE SCRIPTURAL ACCOUNT OF JESUS CHRIST.
HAVING considered the lamentable condition of man, in his fallen and unregenerate nature, and having briefly adverted to the fact, which forms the centre and spring of the whole dispensation of the Gospel --that God sent his Son into the world to save sinners -- it is natural for us to press forward, with no slight degree of eagerness, to the examination of those passages of Scripture which unfold to our view the person and nature of our Lord Jesus Christ. Diversified and numerous as those passages are, and relating to a variety of different points, they will, nevertheless, be found very remarkably to harmonize together—to elucidate and confirm one another; and it will now be my endeavour to arrange a selection of them, in such a manner, as will, it may be hoped, produce on the mind of the reader a clear and useful impression of the whole subject.
The clue which I propose to follow, in making this attempt, is the history of the Son of God, as it is revealed to us in the Bible ; for I apprehend that the order of his history is the natural order of the subject before us; and the more closely we follow the natural order of any subject we may be investigating, the more satisfactorily and explicitly will that subject be opened to our understanding. Now, the revealed his
Ess. x.] Christ in his Preexistence. tory of the Son of God admits of being divided into three principal parts—his preexistence-his abode upon earth-and his reign in glory; and, while I hope not to forget the circumstances and results of our Lord's humanity, it will be my principal object to adduce, in connexion with each of these successive divisions, the testimonies borne by the sacred writers to the great doctrine of his deity.
ON CHRIST IN HIS PREEXISTENCE.
When we open the New Testament, and peruse the various statements contained in the four Gospels respecting the qualities and powers, the discourses and actions, of the Founder of our religion, we cannot fail to perceive that he was an extraordinary and wonderful being; and it is with irresistible force that the inquiry presents itself to our minds, Who was he, and what was his nature? The narrations of the four evangelists afford abundant evidence that he was born, lived, and died—that he was endowed with those physical and intellectual properties which we ourselves possess—that his body was a human body, and his mind a human mind; and therefore we cannot with any reason refuse to allow, that he was really and absolutely man. But did he possess any other nature besides the nature of man? Were his conception and birth the commencement of his being; or did he exist in some higher character and condition than those which appertain to mankind, before his conception and birth took place?
To these inquiries we shall have little difficulty in returning an affirmative answer, when we have calmly 216 217
He came forth from God. [Ess. x, reflected on the declarations of the Sacred Volume, that Jesus proceeded forth from God-that, in other words, he was the “Lord from heaven;" 1 Cor. xv, 47. “I proceeded forth,” said our Saviour to the Jews, "and came from God" (or more literally, I pro. ceeded forth from out of God and am come?;) “nei ther came I of myself, but he sent me:" John viii, 42, “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from (or from out of heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven:" John iii, 13. “For I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me :” vi, 38; comp. 41, 51, &c.
It cannot, with any colour of probability, be pretended that these expressions were applied by our Lord to his own circumstances, on the mere principle, that he was the messenger of God, and was invested (however eminently) with the prophetical office; for no such expressions are ever employed in Scripture to describe the mission either of the prophets or of the apostles. Among the inspired servants of the Lord, an exalted place was unquestionably held by John the Baptist, who was a burning and "a shining light,” and “more than prophet," and yet the distinction between John and Jesus Christ was this; that John was of the earth, earthly-Jesus Christ from above, from heaven, “He must increase," cried the Baptist, “but I must decrease. He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all :" John iii, 30, 31. The expressions in question, there, fore, must be interpreted (as far as the nature of the subject will allow) according to their literal and apparent sense--namely, as importing that Jesus Christ, at a certain appointed period, came forth from that im,
Ess. x.] He came down from Heaven. mediate presence of God, which the apostle emphatically describes as “the bosom of the Father,” John i, 18, and from that high and holy place, where, after a peculiar manner, he dwelt in glory, and that he then descended into this lower world.
That this is a just view of the subject is moreover evident, because the Scriptures teach us to estimate the reality of our Lord's descent from heaven by that of his ascent into heaven. It is a truth plainly declared in the New Testament, and universally allowed by Christians, that, at the close of his abode upon earth, Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, and went to his Father; and in certain passages of our Lord's discourses, his descent from heaven, and his ascent or return to heaven, are mentioned as parallel and corresponding circumstances. “ This is that bread," said he to the Jews, “ which came down from heaven........ Doth this offend you? What, and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where he was before?” John vi, 58–62. Again, to his disciples he said, “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father :" John xvi, 28. . If the inquiry be suggested, At what particular period did our Lord thus proceed forth from the Father, and descend from heaven? we may answer, on the authority of the passage last cited, and on that of others of a similar import, When he came into the world; and if again the question be asked, When did he come into the world? we may reply, At his incarnation or birth; for, to come into the world, and to be born, were, according to the customary phraseology of the Jews, synonymous terms. Such appears
. 3 Vide Lightfoot Hor. Heb. in John i, 9. So also Schleusner, Lex. in νοε. κόσμος, No. 4. “ Ηuc etiam pertinet formula έρχεσθαι εις τον
218 He Preexisted with the Father, [Ess. x. to have been the doctrine of the apostle Paul. “When the fulness of the time was come,” said he, “God sent forth his Son, made (or born) of a woman:" Gal. iv, 4., It was when Jesus Christ was born of a woman, therefore, that God sent forth his Son; and, in a very remarkable passage of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the coming and incarnation of the Son of God are mentioned as identical, or at least as coincident. “Wherefore, when he (the Son of God) cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me : in burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure: then said I, Lo! I come, (in the volume of the Book it is written of me) to do thy will, O God :" Heb, x, 5–7.
Since, therefore, when Jesus was born—when a body was prepared for him—when he was made incarnate of a woman, and thus came into the world-he proceeded forth from God, and descended from heaven, it follows, that, before his birth, before his incarnation, he was with God, and in heaven.
As the doctrine, that Jesus Christ, preexisted in glory with the Father, is thus plainly to be deduced from the declarations of Scripture, so are there other passages of the Sacred Volume (perfectly accordant with these declarations) from which we may derive much information respecting the antecedent extent of his preexistence.
We learn from the Gospel of Luke, that John the Baptist was about six months older than the Son of Mary, i, 26, 36; nevertheless, it is recorded in very explicit terms, that Jesus existed before John ; “ John bare
róquov, h. e. yevãodas, nasci, John xi, 27. ò sis rdv rómuovex Ólevos, homo factus ............ Ibid. vi, 14. ò égxómsvos eis töy xóquov, quem nasciturum prophetæ prædixerunt: Ibid. ix, 39 ; xii, 46. Rabbini etiam omnes homines vocant Dzw 83 73."