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For the illustration of which, he (Philo) quotes Exod. xxiii, 23, though in a form somewhat different from our reading,—" Behold, I Am : I will send my angel before thy face, to keep thee in the way." (See Doddridge's Family Expositor.)
13. But not to dwell any longer on the testimony of Philo and the Chaldee paraphrast, let it be observed that He, who is by St. John termed the Logos or Word, and the "only begotten" of the Father, is, by St. Paul, Col. i, 15, called "the image of the invisible God, the first bom of every creature," or as watfric tfltiiwe means, of the whole creation, and, by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, is said to be " the brightness of his Father's glory," [aifavyad^a. ri\s Sogiis, the effulgence of his glory,'] and "the express image, [jpupaxTiip This virogadews avlit, we character, exact delineation, or perfect resemblance] of his person." By the "first born of the whole creation," the apostle must mean either begotten before the existence of any creature,* viz. from everlasting, as Micah has it, or the head, the Lord, the heir of the whole creation, the first born being heir and lord of all. Hence the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says, the Father hath appointed him "heir of all things," and St . Peter entitles him "Lord of all," Heb. i, 2; Acts x, 36. "The image of the invisible God," is an expression, which must at least signify, that he exactly resembles his Father, and is the person in and by whom the invisible God is, as it were, made visible; in and through whom the glory of God is displayed, and shines forth to his creatures. According to the words of St. John, "No one (xSeis) hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him:" and according to the words of our Lord himself to Philip, when Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us;" and Jesus replied, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou, Show us the Father?" In the same sense he is undoubtedly said to be "the brightness [or effulgence] of his glory," and "the express image [or exact delineation] of his person."
14. Now that he, whose person is characterized in this language, is not a mere creature, is plain, because the apostle distinguishes him from all creatures, even from the most exalted—from angels, and that in four respects: FIRST, he is a Son, and the angels are but servants. "Being so much better than the angels," says he, verse 4, 5, "as he hath by inheritance obtained [xsxXrlpovofATjxsv, hath inherited] a more excellent name than they," viz. the name of a Son. "For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son: this day have I begotten thee?" And again, "I will be to him a Father, and he shall be unto me a Son." Not but that the angels may be called, and are "sons of God," as Mr. Fletcher has observed above: but not in a proper sense; for being mere creatures, they have no natural right to the appellation: they do not inherit it, as the apostle's expression is: it is
* "The first born of every creature,—that is (says Bishop Pearson) begotten by God, as the Son of his love, antecedently to all other emanations, before any thing proceeded from him, or was framed and created by him. And that precedency is presently proved by this undeniable argument,—that all other emanations or productions came from him, and whatsoever received its being by creation, was created by him." (Pearson on the Creed, p. 127, 2d edit. J 662.)
not theirs by birthright. Not so the Son; he being the Word of the Father, begotten of him before any creature, "the brightness of the everlasting Light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of his goodness," see Wisdom vii, 26, is properly a Son; and, therefore, when he takes upon him the character and form of a servant, he empties himself of his original and proper dignity, and uses great condescension, (as the apostle informs us, Phil, ii, 7,) in so doing.
15. Again. As a SECOND reason why he is "better than the angels," and therefore not a mere creature, the inspired penman applying to him a passage quoted from the 7th verse of the 97th Psalm, viz. "Worship him all ye gods," says, "When he bringeth his first begotten into the world," he saith, "And let all the angels of God worship him." Now certainly he who hath forbidden idolatry to men, would not enjoin it to angels. Surely he would not command those bright intelligences to fall down before one like themselves, a mere creature, at an infinite distance from true and proper Deity.
16. As a THIRD reason why he is to be preferred before angels, and therefore before the most exalted creatures, the apostle next reminds us that his character is drawn in language very diflerent from that in which theirs is described, in the Old Testament, verse 7-12: "Of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire:" but unto the Son he saith, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom:" and, "Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thine hands: they shall perish, but thou remainest, and 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." And, Foitrthly, no creature, not even the highest angel, hath been exalted to the dignity, authority, and power, to which the Son is exalted: for (verse 13,) "Unto which of the angels said he at any time, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?" Their highest honour is, (verse 14,) to be "ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them that shall be heirs of salvation."
17. In perfect consistency with all this, he infers, lastly, in the beginning of the next chapter, from this manifest superiority of the Son to angels, that the guilt of those who reject or slight the Gospel spoken by him, is greater than that of those who formerly transgressed the law delivered by them. "Therefore," says he, "we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, [viz. the law delivered by their ministry,] and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward,—how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by those that heard him, God also [viz. the Father] bearing them witness with signs and wonders, and divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will!"
18. It appears, therefore, beyond dispute, First, That the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews considered the Son of God as a being superior to angels, that is, to the most exalted creatures, as he expressly, and of set purpose, distinguishes him from them all, giving us, regularly, four explicit reasons why he is better than they. And, Secondly? It appears that he believed him to be possessed of a nature truly and properly Divine, because, among other passages quoted from the Old Te^ament, he produces two, and applies them to the Son, which David undoubtedly meant of Jehovah the true God—I mean the passages taken from the 97th and the 102d Psalms. Now whether we reflect that the author of this epistle (most probably St. Paul) was Divinely inspired, and therefore could not be mistaken, at least, in so important a point as that which respected the true character of his Master, whether he was truly God, or only a mere creature; or whether we consider the conclusiveness of his reasoning from the writings of the Old Testament, (which, as our Lord says, cannot be broken, or are infallible,)— we are certainly authorized to believe and maintain, that the Logos, the Word, "the only begotten of the Father," who "was in the beginning with God," and therefore, in some sense, is to be distinguished from God, nevertheless was God, and that in the true and proper sense of the word, even the " true God and eternal life," 1 John v, 20.
That, the apostles, in their quotations from the Old Testament, apply to Christ many passages which were most manifestly spoken of the true God, the God of Israel, and consider all the appearances of Jehotxih made to the patriarchs and prophets of old, to be made in his person.
1. THE true character of Christ will more fully appear, if we attend to another point, viz. that the apostles not only call him God, and that repeatedly and absolutely, as "The Word was God, Emmanuel, God with us, God manifest in the flesh, My Lord and my GOD;" but they apply to him, without scruple, divers passages of the Old Testament, which were manifestly intended of the true God, the "God of Israel." Of this we have had two remarkable instances already. "The Lord reigneth, (says David, Psalm xcvii, 1, &c,) let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of the isles be glad thereof. Clouds and darkness are round about him, righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about. His lightnings enlightened the world. The earth saw and trembled. The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory. Confounded be all they that serve graven images, and boast themselves of idols: worship him, all ye gods." Now to this last clause the inspired author of the Epistle to the Hebrews undoubtedly refers, in the passage above quoted, from chap. i, ver. 6, when, as we have seen, applying it to the Son, he says, "Let all the angels of God worship him." And with what propriety he could do this, if the Son, the Word, were not, in union with his Father, the true God, I confess I am at a loss to say.
2. The other instance we have had is full as remarkable. "My days," says David, are like a "shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass: but thou, O Lord, [Heb. Jehovah,] shalt endure for ever, and thy remembrance to all generations: thou shalt arise, and have mercy on Zion, for the time to favour her, yea, the set time is come. When Jehovah shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory," Psalm cii, 1, &c. "I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days: thy years are throughout all generations. Of old hast thou laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thine hands: they shall perish, but thou shalt endure; yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years fail not," verse 24. Now as no one can doubt that the true God is the person spoken of by the psalmist in these words; so no one that compares herewith the above cited passage, Heb. i, 10,11,12, can question whether the author of that epistle considered the words to be applicable to Christ, and indeed to be intended of him.
3. Another instance of the same kind we find Eph. iv, 8-10, where the apostle quotes and applies to Christ a passage of the sixty-eighth psalm, in which David manifestly celebrates the praises of the true God, the God of Israel, who had brought the people out of Egypt, led them through the wilderness, established them in the possession of Canaan, and had taken up his abode first in the tabernacle, and then in their temple. "O God," says he, "when thou wentest forth before thy people, when thou didst march through the wilderness, the earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel," ver. 7. "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place: thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive; thou hast received gifts for men, [Heb. es-iio in the man, that is, in the human nature,] yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them," ver. 17. Now, as this last verse undoubtedly had a reference to something farther and greater than the ascent of the ark (an emblem of the Divine presence) to Mount Zion, even to the ascension of the Lord Jesus into heaven, (as recorded Acts first,) so it is accordingly applied to this remarkable event in the passagr ibove mentioned. And it is applied in such a manner as to show that the apostle considered it as chiefly intended of Christ. "Unto every one of us," says he, "is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ: wherefore he [David, or the Holy Spirit by David] saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. Now, he that ascended, what is it? [what does it imply ?] but that he descended first into the lowest parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things, and he gave some apostles," &c. And is it a mere man, or a mere creature, of whom the apostle speaks in this passage: to whom he ^applies the. words of David, thus manifestly spoken of the God of Israel, and of whom he says that he first descended before he afterward "ascended up far above all heavens, and that he fills all things?"
Nor is this the only passage in which it appears that St. Paul considered Him who brought Israel out of Egypt, gave them the law on Sinai, led them through the wilderness by a pillar of cloud by day, and fire by night, and dwelt in their tabernacle and temple, to be Christ hia pre-existent and Divine nature. There are sundry other passages of his writings which manifest the same. For instance: "They drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Chri Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents," 1 Cor. x, 4 and 9. "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh: for if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him lh speaketh from heaven: whose voice then shook the earth, but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but heaven also," Heb. xii, 25, 26. "They stumbled at that stumbling stone: as it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offence; and whosoever believeth in him shall not be ashamed," Rom. ix, 32, 33. The apostle not only refers in these words to Isaiah xxviii, 16, "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious stone; a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not mat haste;"—but he also and especially refers to Isaiah viii, 14: "Sanctify Jehovah of hosts, 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 Israel:" words to which St. Pete also refers,—" To you who believe, he is precious; but unto them whicl be disobedient, a stone of stumbling and rock of offence, to those thai stumble, disobeying the word, unto which also they are disposed," 1 Pet ii, 7, 8. And, to the same passage old Simeon alludes, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sigr that shall be spoken against," Luke ii, 34. In all which passages, Isaiah's words concerning Jehovah are plainly applied to Christ, and represented as fulfilled in him. Compare also Rom. x, 13 and 14, with Joel ii, 32, and Rom. xiv, 11, with Isaiah xlv, 23.
5. In this last mentioned passage, the only living and true God, the God of Israel, is undoubtedly the person who speaks: "I am Jehovah," says he, "and there is none else: there is no God beside me. That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me: I am Jehovah, and there is none else. They shall go into confusion together, that are makers of idols: but Israel shall be saved in the Lord, with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded, world without end. For thus said the Lord that created the heavens, God himself that formed the earth and made it, I am the Lord, and there is none else. Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come, and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed: in the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory."
6. Now as it is the Lord Christ, the " Word made flesh," that is in a special and peculiar sense, "the Saviour," the person to whom we must "4ook and be saved;" as it is in him especially, that " we have righteousness and strength," and in him that all the true Israel of God "are justified, and glory;" so we find the apostle, in the passage above