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And when the Jews murmured at him, because he said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven"—when they whispered, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?" Our Lord saith, " Doth this offend you? What, and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before!" John vi, 38, 40, 42, 62. And, alluding to "the glory which Christ had with the Father before the world was," John xviii, 5, John the Baptist says of him, "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, 31. Who does not see, that if our Lord and his forerunner be allowed to have spoken the words of soberness and truth, he reigned in glory with the Father before his incarnation?
John the Baptist was older than our Saviour according to his humanity, and began to preach before him; nevertheless, with regard to his Deity, John said, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world: this is he of whom I spake: he that cometh after me is preferred before me; for he was before me," John i, 15, 29. And well might he say so, since our Lord himself says, "Before Abraham was, I am;" since St. John declares that the "Word was, in the beginning, with God, [the Father,] and was God ;" and since David and St . Paul agree to say of him, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever—thou, Lord, in the beginning, hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands: they shall perish, but thou remainest: they shall wax old as doth a garment, and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years fail not."
3. He is a Son so exalted above all that are called gods upon earth, that St. Paul fears not to say, "He is the image of the invisible God," as a son is the image of his father, "the first born of every creature," that is, begotten before any creature:—" For," adds the apostle, showing that this is his true meaning, "by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible; whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers—all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, [before all creatures,] and by him all things consist," Col. i, 15, &c.
4. He is such a Son as can say, "All things that the Father hath, are mine," being fully possessed of the most incommunicable attributes of the Supreme Being. If the Father say, "I Jehovah search the heart: I try the reins," Jer. xvii, 10,—the Son says, with equal truth, "I am he that searcheth the reins and the heart," Rev. ii, 23. If Solomon said to the Father, "Thou, even thou, only knowest the hearts of all the children of men," 1 Kings viii, 39,—the apostles say to the Son, "Thou knowest the hearts of all men," Acts i, 24; John ii, 24. Doth the Father say, "lam the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God?" Isa. xliv, 6,—the Son says, "I am the first, and I am the last; I and the Father are one," Rev. i, 17; John x, 30. Doth the Father say, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end V Rev. i, 8,—the Son, his adequate image, echoes back the awful declaration, and says, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end," Rev. xxii, 13. Is the Father called "King of kings, and Lord of lords?" 1 Tim. vi, 15,—the Son is proclaimed "Lord of lords, and King of kings," Rev. xvii, 14. Doth St. Paul call the Father " Lord of all?" Rom. x, 12,—St. Peter says of the Son, "He is Lord of all," Acts x, 36. And to crown these glorious testimonies, if Isaiah names Jehovah "the mighty God," Isa. x, 21, he gives the very same title to the Son, chap. ix, 6,—and the apostle calls him, "Over all, God blessed for ever," Rom. ix, 5. And if the Father is so incomprehensible, that "no one knoweth him fully but the Son," the Son is likewise so incomprehensible that "no one knoweth him fully but the Father," Matt, xi, 27. "If no man cometh to the Father but by the Son," John xiv, 6, "no man can come to me (says the Son) except the Father draw him," John vi, 44. And as Philip did not satisfactorily know the Father before the joyful day in which the Son revealed him to the apostles by the Spirit, see John xiv, 8, 20, 23, and Acts ii, 1, so St. Paul did not satisfactorily know the Son till "it pleased God to reveal his Son in him, by filling him with the Holy Ghost," who alone can savingly teach us to "call Jesus Christ Lord, my Lord, and my God!" Gal. i, 16; Acts ix, 17, and 1 Cor. xii, 3.
From this common, equal, and full participation of the highest titles, and most distinguishing perfections of the Supreme Being, it follows, that the Son (with respect to Deity) is as perfectly equal to the Father, though all the Son's Deity came from his Divine Father; as Isaac (with respect to humanity) was equal to Abraham, though all the humanity of Isaac came from his human parent.
5. Accordingly our Lord was not only declared "Son of God with power," by his rising from the dead; but he declared himself the very source and fountain of life: "I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whoaoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die," John xi, 25. Could the Father speak stronger words to "declare himself the true and living God?" Nor ought we to wonder that the Son should speak in so lofty a manner; for being the truth itself, he must speak the truth—he must speak as the oracles of God, which represent the Father and the Son as so perfectly united, that they are one inexhaustible spring of life and action, of grace and peace. "No man hath seen God, [the Father,] at any time: the only begotten Son, who is [even while on earth] in the bosom of the Father, [and who came in the flesh,] he hath declared him," John i, 18. "I am not alone, but I and the Father who sent me," John viii, 16. "Believe that the Father is in me, and I in him," John x, 38. "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father: I am in the Father, and the Father is in me," John xiv, 9, 11. "They have not known the Father nor me," John xvi, 3. "Whoso denieth the Son, hath not the Father: he that acknowledgeth the Son, hath the Father also," 1 John ii, 23, &c. "Mercy from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father: he that abideth in Christ, hath the Father and the Son," 2 John, 3, 9. "If ye had known me, ye would have known my Father also," John xiv, 7. "He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father," John v, 23. "Our fellowship is with the Father and his Son," 1 John i, 3.
From these and the many scriptures where mercy and all blessings are equally and jointly implored from God the Father, and from the Son of God, we conclude that, as the natural sun, and the blazing radiance which it continually generates, make one wonderful luminary—so the Father and the Son, who is the brightness of his Father's glory, make but one God over all, blessed for ever.
That our Lord claimed the Divine honour of being the proper Son of God the Father, and laid down his human life in proof of this very truth.
Jesus Christ, says St. Paul, "being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross," Phil, ii, 6, &c. Hence the carnal Jews, who judged of him merely according to their carnal reason, being offended at him, verified the truth of Isaiah's prophecy: "He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." But "who shall declare his generation?" The Jews, I say, judging of him according to the flesh, charged him with blasphemy, and "sought to kill him because he said that God was his [i&ov proper] Father, making himself equal with God;" although, like a true Son, he acknowledged that the Father (in point of paternity) was greater than he, yet he never cleared himself of the supposed blasphemy, but defended himself by proper appeals to his works: "I and the Father are one," [ev stffisv,] so intimately one, that " the Son can do nothing of himself, but [like a Divine Son, in the most perfect unity with his Father who precedes him] he does what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever the Father doeth, those also doeth the Son likewise," whether they be the creation, or the preservation of worlds, the fixing, or the controlling the laws of nature. "For as the Father hath [a Divine and quickening] life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have [a Divine and quickening] life in himself. For as the Father raiseth the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. [Nay, added our Lord, there is one thing which the Father leaves entirely to the Son:] for the Father judgeth no man; but hath committed all judgment to the Son, that all men should honour the Son as they honour the Father," John v, 18, 26; x, 30. Thus our Lord, far from pleading not guilty to the charge of " making himself equal with God," proved, by two unanswerable reasons, that Divine honours are due to him as well as to the Father: (1.) He does the very works of his Father jointly with him: and (2.) The Father hath, over and above, committed to him the most awful and tremendous of all works—that of judicially killing and saving alive; "for the Father judgeth no man," in the daily course of providence, as well as in the great day: this Divine work is the Son's honourable prerogative, that none should scruple to " honour him as they honour the Father."
Let us see how this Divine Son defended himself against the same charge on another occasion. When he had asserted that "he and his Father were one, the Jews took up stones again to stone him, saying, We stone thee for blasphemy, and because thou, being a man, makest thyself God." What a fair opportunity had our Lord here to disclaim Divine honours, and to set kindly the Jews to rights, if they had mistaken his meaning! But far from doing this, he tries to convince them of his divinity by a rational argument, and by a farther appeal to his godlike works.
1. By a rational argument: "Is it not (saith he) written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, 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 V John x, 31, &c. The force of this argument may be better understood by a short paraphrase. It is just as if our Lord had said, If the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of David, gives the honorary title of gods to the prophets, judges, and kings of Israel, whom God appointed to be types of me, the Head of the prophets, and the Judge of all the earth, do ye not act very inconsistently with the Scriptures, which cannot be broken, when you suppose that I blaspheme, by saying, "I am the Son of God?" If the bare types and forerunners of me are titular gods in your own account, are you not as unreasonable as you are unjust, to be offended at me for saying, "I am the Son of God?" whereas I might have roundly said, that I am in union with my Father, "God over all, blessed for ever." If my shadows are called gods without blasphemy, do ye not break at once through the word of God, and through the bounds of common sense, when ye say, that I, the sum and substance of all types ana figures—I, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, who am sent by my Father, with godlike credentials, blaspheme, when I declare that "I am the Son [the proper Son] of God?"
2. After our Lord had advanced this convincing argument, he proceeded to an argument, the strength of which was felt by all those who had eyes and a grain of candour, I mean an appeal to his works. "If I do not the works of my Father, [the works of God,] believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works; so shall ye know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in him, [or to use his former expression,] that I and my Father are one," John x, 30, 37,88.
The effect of this last argument shows, that our Lord, far from having made any concession to the Jews, stood to his point, viz. that "he and the Father are one:" that being the proper "Son of God," he is, in union with his Father, the "one true God;" which he instantly proved by a Divine work: for the Jews, enraged at what appeared to them confirmed blasphemy, "sought again to take him;" but (notwithstanding their impetuous fury) "he escaped out of their hands," John x, 39.
And when at last he suffered himself to be apprehended by them, for the establishment of our faith, and to leave the enemies of his divinity, and the inconsistent admirers of his humanity, without excuse, he sealed with his blood the glorious truth, for which he had been stoned again and again; namely, that he was the very Son of God, to whom the psalmist says, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: therefore God, thy God [and thy Father] hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness," or hath appointed thee Christ for ever, Psalm xvi, 6. For when the high priest, standing "up in the midst, asked him, Art thou the Christ? [that very Christ of whom the Prophet Micah saith, 'Out of Bethlehem shall come forth he that shall be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting V Micah v, 2.] Art thou the Son of the Blessed?" that very Son, of whom the Prophet Isaiah says, Unto us "the Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace?" To this double question, which the Jews certainly understood in the high sense of the well-known prophecies by which I illustrate them, as appears from Matt, ii, 4, &c— to this awful question Jesus answered, "I AM; and ye shall see the Son of man [whom ye now reject because his form of God is veiled under the form of a servant] sitting on the right hand of Power, and coming [in his form of God] in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, and said, Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death," Mark xiv, 61, &c. So true it is, that the open or secret enemies of our Lord's Deity, who, when we speak of his pre-existence, and of the adoration due to him, as the everlasting Son of the blessed and everlasting Father, cry out, Absurdity! Blasphemy! Idolatry! and, in their indignation, rend the Church as Caiaphas rent his garments, have drunk into the very spirit of the priests and the Pharisees, who led the van of the Jewish mob when it cried, "Away with him!" He is only Joseph and Mary's son, and of course a proud blasphemer; for "he says that God is his [real and proper] Father, making himself equal with God," John v, 18.*
The view which the apostles give of Christ, after their most perfect illumination by the Spirit of truth.
1. IF we wish to see the true character of our Lord more fully ascertained, we cannot do better than attentively consider the view which the evangelists and apostles have given us of it. The Lord Jesus had informed them, "that he had many things to say unto them," but, adds he, "ye cannot bear them now: howbeit, when the Spirit of truth is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: he shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you: all things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you," John xvi, 12. Now, it is well known, they wrote all their epistles and the four Gospels after the accomplishment of this gracious promise; that is, after the " Spirit of truth had guided them into all the truth," after he had " glorified Christ, by receiving and showing unto them of the things which are his." We may, therefore, notwithstanding Dr. Priestley's unbelief in this matter, be fully assured of their inspiration, as writers as well as speakers; and may absolutely depend upon the certain truth of what they have delivered, especially respecting so important a point as the real character and dignity of their Master and Saviour, the true knowledge of whom it was the chief office of this Spirit of truth to reveal, and their chief business to teach.
2. Now, in looking over their writings, we not only meet with many expressions and sentences dropped, as it were, by the by, when they had
i Thua far Mr. Fletcher had proceeded when he was called to his reward.