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Heb, 7: 3. The inspired author, speaking of Melchizedek, the king and priest of Salem, says of him, “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life ; but made like unto the Son of God, he abideth a priest continually.”
God-man, the incarnate Word. I admit that the title “Son of God” is sometimes a designation of the compound person, the God-man; but I connot be persuaded that it is always, or that it is generally so used: and when it is employed in this manner, it is always done with a reference to the human nature, the man Jesus Christ. If this title were always a designation of the compound person, the God-man, as such, and not used with reference to his human nature, it would follow that the God-man, as such, is inferior to the Father, could do nothing of himself, put up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears to him that was able to deliver him from death, learned obedience by the things which he suffered, knew not the day nor the hour of the judgment, etc. etc. But if these consequences must be admitted, they will prove that the divinity of Christ is not true divinity. Nothing is gained by distinguishing between the Logos incarnate and the Logos not incarnate. If the Logos be co-equal with the Father, he is always co-equal, whether incarnate or not. His union with the human nature could not change the nature of divinity, and the dignity of the compound person is therefore not less than the dignity of the Logos, which is the dignity of the Godhead. As the God-man, our Redeemer could not be subordinate to God, could not be exalted, could not in any sense be dependent. But as the Son of God, he is all this. Consequently the title Son of God is not properly a designation of the God-man, but of the man Jesus.”
The discriminating reader will bear in mind that we do not maintain, in our suggestions above, that the title in question is “always a designation of the compound person, the God-man," but only that it appears to be used in the New Testament as a common name of the Messiah, whether spoken of in reference to his divine or his human nature, or in reference to both. We can not therefore agree with our author that when it is employed to designate the compound person, “it is always done with a reference to the human nature.” This would lead to consequences, on the other hand, quite as absurd as our author has shewn to result from the exclusive use of the title to designate the compound person.
Here it seems, at first view, that the Son of God, as the Son, is without either beginning of days, or end of life, and consequently, as the Son, divine. But by this rule of interpretation he must also be without a father as well as without a mother ; which would prove more than the theory we are opposing will admit. To find the sense of the place, let it be observed, that the subject of discussion here is not the person of Jesus Christ, but his priesthood ; and the comparison with Melchizedek is therefore confined to this one point. Jesus Christ was constituted a high-priest after the order of Melchizedek, not after that of Aaron. His priesthood is therefore superior to the priesthood under the law, on two grounds: first, because Melchizedek was a greater man than Aaron ; for even Abraham, the common father of the whole Israelitish nation, paid tithes to him, and received his blessing ; secondly, because the priesthood of Melchizedek, so far as it appears at all, was an unchanging one. The Aaronitic priests were continually changed. Every one was the son of a father who had been the high-priest before him, and the father of a son who took the office after him; and none, therefore, continued long. But Melchizedek appears in the history without either parents or posterity; without a beginning of days, or end of life, to admit of succession in his priesthood; the first we learn of him is, that he is a priest of the Most High God; and the last we learn is that he is still the same priest. He is thus a type of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who, in his glorified state, abides a priest for ever.
I have now considered all the texts which appear to me most worthy of notice in this controversy, and have shewn, I think, not only that Jesus himself gave no such explanation of the appellation Son of God as to make it a title of divinity, but that the New Testament contains none. Consequently the resurrection of Jesus, while it is admitted to be a public acknowledgment of God of the validity of all the claims which he had made, and of all the explanations which he had given, is no proof at all of his divinity ; and consequently, no proof that the term Son of God is a designation of that divinity. We shall now be prepared for that interpretation of the text, at the head of this article, which we believe to be the true one.
I have already remarked,(page 139) that the primary error of interpreters, from which all the rest necessarily fol.
low, consists in taking the terms flesh and Spirit of holiness to designate something in Christ himself, not something distinct from, and external to him. This error, as far as I know, is universal. The most usual and most approved interpretation makes the flesh the human nature of Christ. This obliges the interpreter to make the Spirit of holiness his divine nature. In so doing he violates the usus loquendi, and involves himself in the consequence, that Jesus is the Son of God according to his divinity, which is again contrary to the usus loquendi; and that he was proved to be divine by his resurrection, which is contrary to truth. In defending these positions, which he is thus compelled to take, the interpreter becomes embarrassed with new difficulties from which there is no escape.
The terms flesh and Spirit of holiness do not designate two constituents of the person of Christ, but two external agents that co-operated in making him what he is. The apostle's main thought in the text is not what Jesus Christ is, but how he was constituted and proved to be such as he is, namely, the Son of David and the Son of God. There were, in his conception, two distinct births, and two distinct agents that brought him to those births. The one birth was natural ; it was from the mother's womb; by this he became the Son of David ; and the agent that operated in it, and made him David's son, was the flesh, i. e. human nature or man; for after the miraculous conception, all the rest was natural. The other birth was supernatural; it was from the grave, in his resurrection from the dead ; by this he was declared to be, the Son of God, i. e. God's chief-beloved ; and the agent that wrought in it was not the flesh, not man, but the Holy Spirit of God.
This interpretation appears to me natural, easy,and clear, It gives a good sense; it violates no rule of exegesis, and creates no new difficulties that require to be solved; it is agreeable to the usus loquendi, harmonizes with the connection of the place, and accords with what is elsewhere taught concerning Christ. I have already shewn that the phrase Spirit of holiness means the Holy Spirit. There can be no question that the term flesh has the meaning of human nature or man ; and if the Spirit of holiness be the Holy Spirit, or God, the flesh must, by the rule of antithesis, be human nature, or man. Neither can there be any doubt that the
SECOND SERIES, VOL. III. NO. I 22
terms according to the flesh-according to the Spirit, adapt themselves perfectly to our interpretation. The apostle's meaning is, Jesus Christ was constituted the Son of David, so far as the flesh operated ; and he was declared to be the Son of God, so far as the Holy Spirit was operative ; with this latter operation the flesh, or man, had nothing to do. According to the one he was born from the womb of Mary, who was a lineal descendant of David : according to the other he was brought forth from the grave, where he had lain among the dead. That St. Paul conceived the resur: rection of Jesus in the similitude of a birth, appears from the place where he calls him “ the first-born from the dead.” Col. 1: 18. So likewise did the author of the Book of Revelation, ch. 1: 5. Enough has been said to shew the meaning of the term Son of God. That meaning is the only one that suits the connection of this place. The resurrection could not, in any way, prove Jesus to be God ; but it was a very satisfactory proof that he was the beloved of God. St. Paul has, however, a farther reference to the high dignity of Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the Prince and Saviour of the people of God; and his meaning is, he was proved by his resurrection to be that beloved one of God who sustains this exalted office ; and, perhaps, after all, the term ļv duvapei, in, or with power, may have reference to this dignity and dominion,
A similar antithesis of the flesh and the Spirit occurs in 1 Pet. 3: 18, where it is, however, obscured by a wrong translation. In the common English version the text reads thus ; " For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us unto God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” In the Greek the clause which is here put in italics is, davatwbers May d'aqxi, Sworoinders de tvɛupati. The nouns 'aqxi and avaumatı are in the dative case of the agent after the passive participles θανατωθεις and ζωοποιηθεις. Both ought to have been rendered in the same way with the preposition by ; and the clause should read thus: being put to death by the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit. The translators were perfectly well acquainted with this rule of grammar, and were also sufficiently familiar with the rule of interpretation which requires that an antithesis in the original should be preserved in the translation ; but they were misled by what appeared to them the exigentia
in the dias and quith the preath by the
loci. Having taken for granted that the term flesh designates the human nature of Christ, and the term Spirit his divine nature, they saw indeed that the latter clause might be translated, agreeably to the rule of grammar, quickened by the Spirit ; but they could not see how the former could be rendered put to death by the flesh; for it would have been absurd, as well as false, to say that Christ was put to death by his own human nature. They preferred, therefore, though they must destroy the antithesis by it, to render the clause,“ put to death in the flesh;" because it was true that Christ suffered in his human nature. But they could not now restore the antithesis by translating the second clause "quickened in the spirit ;" for this would have involved the absurdity of supposing that the divine nature of Christ had died as well as the human; and that it was made alive, while the human nature was left in death. Here was an exigency indeed; but it arose out of their first error; and it should have caused them to suspect the truth of an opinion which they had taken for granted, rather than to violate both grammar and exegesis. · The respected brother before referred to has translated this clause so as to preserve the antithesis, but to destroy the sense. “Christ," says he,“ is said to have been put to death as to the flesh, but to have remained alive as to the Spirit.” He evidently took the Greek verb & WOTOIEQUcu in a Hebrâistic sense, supposing that like the Hebrew verb 7777 which signifies both to live and to remain alive, it might be rendered in this way. It is true that Hebrâisms are of frequent occurrence in the New Testament ; but a Hebrâism of this sort would hardly occur. The active form SWOT OLEW to make alive, to quicken, corresponds to the Piel or to the Hiphil conjugation of the Hebrew verb, but not to the Kal, in which alone that verb signifies to live and to remain alive : the passive form SWOTO&quois does not answer to either of those conjugations. This translation has been chosen to meet another exigentia loci, which, like the former, arose out of the error of taking the flesh for the human nature of Christ, and, while that erroneous interpretation was retained, could not be avoided. The proposed translation of this worthy brother is, however, a very unsatisfactory expedient to meet this exigency. It makes the apostle tell his readers that, when Christ was put to death