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principally some other subject in hand, which expressions and sentences, however, give us great light in this matter ; but we find several pas. sages, written professedly, and of set purpose, to acquaint mankind with the character of Christ. And these passages we must especially attend to, if we desire to form a true judgment concerning him. Most of them, indeed, have already been transiently mentioned by Mr. Fletcher in the third chapter; in which the doctrine of the peculiar and proper Sonship of Christ has been stated and explained in the language of the inspired writers: but it may be well to review and examine two or three of those passages more particularly, that we may be more fully informed of his true dignity and glory.
3. The first paragraph of this kind that claims our attention is that which occurs in the beginning of St. John's Gospel. “In the beginning (says that greatly favoured and peculiarly enlightened apostle) was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. 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 men ; and the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not,” ver 8. John was “ not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light—which was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came to his own, and his own received him not : but as many as received him, to them gave he the privilege to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on lis name. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
4. “ These words (says Bishop Burnet) seem very plain, and the place where they are put by St. John, in the front of his Gospel,-as it were an inscription upon it or an introduction to it,---makes it very evident that he, who of all the writers of the New Testament, has the greatest plain. ness and simplicity of style, would not put words here, such as were not to be understood in a plain and literal signification, without any key to lead us to any other sense of them. This had been to lay a stone of stumbling in the very threshold ; particularly to the Jews, who were apt to cavil at Christianity, and were particularly jealous of every thing that savoured of idolatry, or of a plurality of gods. And upon this occasion I desire one thing to be observed, with relation to all those subtile expositions, which those who oppose this doctrine put upon many of those places by which we prove it: that they represent the apostles as magni. fying Christ, in words, which, at first sound, seem to import his being the true God; and yet they hold, that in all these they had another sense, and a reserve of some other interpretation of which their words were capable. But can this be thought fair dealing? Does it look like their being honest men to write thus, not to say men inspired in what they preached and wrote ? and not rather like impostors, to use so many subLime and lofty expressions concerning Christ, as God, if all these must be taken down to so low a sense, as to signify only that he was miracu. lously formed, and endued with an extraordinary power of miracles, and an authority to deliver a new religion to the world : and that he was, in consideration of the exemplary death, (which he underwent so patiently)
raised up from the grave, and had Divine honours conferred upon him? In such a hypothesis as this, the world falling in so naturally with the excessive magnifying, and even the deifying of wonderful men, it had been necessary to have prevented any such mistakes, and to have guarded against the belief of them, rather than to have used a continued strain of expressions that seem to carry men violently into them, and that can hardly, nay, very hardly be softened by all the skill of critics, to bear any other sense.
5 “ It is to be observed farther, that when St. John wrote his Gospel, there were three sorts of men particularly to be considered. The Jews who could bear nothing that savoured of idolatry : So no stumbling block was to be laid in their way, to give them deeper prejudices against Christianity. Next to these were the Gentiles, who, having worshipped a variety of gods, were not to be indulged in any thing that might seem to favour their Polytheism. In fact, we find particular caution used in the New Testament against the worshipping of angels or saints. How can it, therefore, be imagined, that words would have been used, that in the plain signification which arose out of the first hearing of them, im. ported that a man was God, if this had not been strictly true? The apostles ought, and must have used a particular care to have avoided all such expressions, if they had not been literally true. The third sort of men in St. John's time were those of whom intimation is frequently given, through all the epistles, who were then endeavouring to corrupt the purity of the Christian doctrine, and to accommodate it so both to the Jew and to the Gentile, as to avoid the cross and the persecution on the account of it. Church history, and the earliest writers after St. John assure us, that Ebion and Cerinthus denied the divinity of Christ, and asserted that he was a mere man. Controversy naturally carries men to speak exactly; and among human writers those who let things fall more carelessly from their pens, when they apprehended no danger or difficulty, are more correct both in their thoughts and expressions, when things are disputed; therefore, if we should no otherwise regard St. John than as an ordinary, cautious, and careful man, we must believe that he weighed all his words in that point which was then the matter in ques. tion; and to clear which, we have good ground to believe, both from the testimony of ancient writers, and from the method which he pursues quite through the whole, that he wrote his Gospel : and that, therefore, every part of it, but this beginning of it more especially, was written, and is to be understood in the sense which the words naturally import."
6. This being premised, I would observe upon this passage, first, here is a person spoken of termed the Logos or Word, ver. 1; and the "only begotten of the Father,” ver. 14. Secondly, this person is distinguished from God the Father, whose Word he is, for he is said to be with God, “ The Word was with God;" and again, “ The same was in the begin. ning with God, mpos Tov dsov.” Thirdly, He is said to have existed in the beginning. “In the beginning was the Word;" that is, as plainly ap. pears from the third verse, in which “all things” are said to be “made by him," before any creature was created, before any man or angel existed. Fourthly, He is then said by the apostle to have been God, not a titular god, or a god by office, a governor, surely, for there was then no creature for him to govern, or with respect to whom he could bear the title or sustain the office of a god in that sense. He must therefore have been God by nature, partaking of real and proper Deity, in union with the Father, whose Word he was.* This appears manifestly from the apostle's assuring us, fifthly, that “all things were made by him, and that without him was not any thing made that was made,” ver. 3, and in particular, ver. 10, that “the world (viz. this world] was made by him," it being perfectly certain and allowed on all hands, that as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews declares, he “ that built all things is God," properly so, creating power being undoubtedly Divine, if any power is so. See Rom. i, 20, 25.
7. It appears also from St. John's affirming, sixthly, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men; and the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not." For this life which was in him, in the beginning, and was “the light of men,” that is, the source of all their wisdom, holiness, and happiness, before their fall, and which, after their fall, “shineth in the darkness,”-that is, amidst the ignorance, sin, and misery of their fallen state: this life, I say, speaks him to be a living agent, and that agent to be Divine. It appears, seventhly, from his being termed, ver. 9, “ the true light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world :" for as no particular messenger from God hath ever appeared upon earth, whose doctrine hath been a mean of enlightening all flesh, those that went before him and had lived from the beginning, as well as those that were his cotemporaries, or should come after him; so we must of necessity understand this of that internal light, which, shining upon the understanding and conscience of even the most barbarous and brutal, and least civilized of mankind, enables them, in many instances, to distinguish right from wrong, and is a check upon them in their behaviour from day to day, restraining them from many vices, or accusing or condemning them when they commit those vices, and at the same time prompting them to some virtues. Now, as the Word here spoken of is affirmed to be this light, he must be one with that omnipre. sent and eternal Being, who, through the several ages of the world, has been and is visiting the minds of all mankind, by his presence, not leaving himself without witness in any, being, in the fullest sense of the word, " the light of the world,” even of the whole world. Accordingly he declares, Rev. iii, 20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock," viz. at the door of every heart. “If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in unto him, and will sup with him, and he with me;" words which no mere creature can possibly use with truth.
** It is to me most incredible,” says Dr. Doddridge, “ that when the Jews were so exceedingly averse to idolatry, and the Gentiles so unhappily prone to it, that such a plain writer as this apostle should lay so dangerous a stumbling block in the very threshold of his work, and represent it as the Christian doctrine, that in the beginning of all things there were two gods, one supreme, and the other subordi. nate: a difficulty, which, if possible, would be yet farther increased, by recollect. ing what so many ancient writers assert, that this Gospel was written with a par. ticular view of opposing the Cerinthians and Ebionites, on which account a greater accuracy of expression must have been necessary. On the other hand, to conceive of Christ as a distinct (or separate) and co-ordinate God, would be equally incon. sistent with the most express declarations of Scripture, and far more irroconcil. able with reason. The order of the words in the original, (Acos nu o doyos) is such, that some have thought the clause might more exactly be translated, God was the Word.” VOL. III.
8. Hence, eighthly, St. John, in a parallel passage in his first epistle, i, 1, 2, not only terms him “the Word of life,” (an expression which, however, would but ill suit a mere external messenger, but the life itself, yea, the “ eternal life," that “ was with the Father, and has been manifested unto us;" and here, ver. 14, assures us, he “is full of truth and grace;" and again, ver. 16, that “out of his fulness they had all received grace for grace,” or, as xapiv AVTi zapitos may be rendered, “ grace upon grace;" which things are certainly too much to be affirmed of any creature, however exalted. How can a creature be “ life,” the “ eternal life," " full of truth and grace” himself, and a fountain of truth and grace to others? This “the Word that was in the beginning with God” was, even after he had laid aside his “form of God,” and had taken the “ form of a servant, being made in the likeness of man;" after he was made flesh and dwelt among us.” He was even then “ life," the “ eternal life,” and “ full for all of truth and grace.” Accordingly, he declared himself to be “the living bread that came down from hea. ven, and the living vine," of which the holiest men are but branches, and “the head of his body the Church.” He complained that men “ would not come to him that they might have life," and invited, saying, “ If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink : let him that is athirst, come; and whosoever will, let him come, and take of the fountain of the water of life freely.” These are certainly not the words of a mere man, or mere creature.
9. Two things more are to be observed in this remarkable passage. St. John tells us, verse 10, ninthly, that “he was in the world,” viz. in his pre-existent and Divine nature, appearing to the patriarchs and prophets; and that when he came in the flesh to the Jews, “ he came to his own,” he having been, through all the ages of their commonwealth, (in union with the Father, the “God of Israel," and “ King of the Jews." These particulars also I hope to make fully appear, in the farther course of this work.
10. In the meantime, as a confirmation of the sense in which I under. stand St. John, let me observe in the words of Bishop Pearson on the creed,* “ This [ doctrine of St. John concerning the creation of all things by the Divine Logos) was no new doctrine, but only an interpretation of those scriptures which told us, God made all things by his Word. For God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.' And so, By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the hosts of them by the breath of his mouth. From whence we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God.' Neither was it a new interpretation; but that which was most familiar to the Jews, who, in their synagogues, by the reading of the paraphrase, for the interpretation of the Hebrew text in the Chaldee language,] were constantly taught that the Word of God' was the same with God, and by that Word all things were made; which undoubtedly was the cause why St. John delivered so great a mystery in so few words, as speaking unto them who, at the first appre. hension, understood him.”
11. In proof of this, the bishop produces in his notes divers passages from the paraphrase, in which (NODD) the “ Word of God” is used for
* Fifth edition, p. 117.
(mm) God himself, and that especially with relation to the creation of the world. “ As upon Isaiah xiy, 12, where the Hebrew text says, “I made the earth, and created man upon it.' The Chaldee translateth it, “I by my Word made the earth,' &c. In the same manner, upon Jer. xxvii, 5, and Isa. xlviii, 13: and Gen. i, 27, where the text is, God created man,' the Jerusalem Targum has it, The Word of God created man.' And Gen. iü, 8, They heard the voice of the Lord God;' the Chaldee paraphrase interprets it, • They heard the voice of the Word of the Lord God. Now this which the Chaldee paraphrase calls napib, the Hellenists, (the Jews that used the Greek language,] named Hoyos, as appears from Philo the Jew, who wrote before St. John, and reckons in his divinity first, watSPO TUV owv, the Father of all, and then, Deutepov BEOV, OS EOTIV EXSIV8 hoyos, the second God, who is his Word, whom he calls opdov Oax logov opwToyovov vlov, the unerring Word of God, and first begotten Son. Nor ought we to look on Philo Judæus in this as a Platonist, but merely as a Jew, who refers his whole doctrine of the Royos to the first chapter of Genesis. And the rest of the Jews before him, who had no such knowledge out of Plato's school, used the same notion. For as, Isa. xlviii, 13, • The hand of God is, by the Chaldee paraphrase, translated · Word of God;' so in the Book of Wisdom, n WAVTO uvoquos 08 XEIP XO XTIADA TOV XoOuov, xi, 17, thy almighty hand which created the world, is changed into a Tavroduvauos os hoyos at' spave), xviii, 15, thy almighty Word from heaven. And, Eccles. xliii, 26, ev doyw aUTS ouyxeiral wavra, by his Word all things are established. Nay, the Septuagint hath changed Shaddai, the undoubted name of the omnipotent God, into hoyos, the Word. And, therefore, Celsus, writing in the person of a Jew, acknowledgeth that the Word is the Son of God; E. ys o Royos εςιν υμιν υιος σε Θεέ, και ημεις επαιναμεν,-If with you the Word is the Som of God, this we also approve of.”
12. Agreeable to this extract from Bishop Pearson, Dr. Doddridge, in his note on John i, 2, observes, “ It would be the work of a treatise, rather than a note, to represent the Jewish doctrine of the creation of all things by the Divine hoyos, or Word.” And he presents us with the fol. lowing remarkable passage from Philo, as a specimen of the rest. (De Profug. p. 465.) “ Speaking of the cherubim on the mercy seat as symbolical representations of what he calls the creating and governing powers, Philo Judæus makes this additional reflection, The Divine Word, aayos, is above these, of whom we can have no idea by the sight, or any other sense—he being the image of God, the eldest of all intelligent beings, sitting nearest to him who is truly the only one, there being no distance between them. And, therefore, he (that is God) says, “I will speak unto thee from the mercy seat, between the two cherubims ;" thereby representing the Logos or Word, as the charioteer by whom the motion of those powers is directed ; and himself who speaks to him as the rider (or person carried) who commands the charioteer how he is to manage the reins.'” This, Doctor Doddridge thinks, is a key to a great many other passages in Philo. He quotes another (from his book de Agricult. p. 195,) where Philo represents God as “ governing the whole course of nature, both in heaven and earth, as the great shepherd and king, by wise and righteous laws, having constituted his unerring Word, his only begotten Son, to preside as his viceroy over his holy flock."