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After this, philosophizing christians began to add to the pre-existent dignity of Christ in another way, and at length, carried it much higher than those upon whom this apostle animadverted with so much feverity. They said that Christ was originally in Goch being his reason, or logos which came out of him, and was personified before the creation of the world, in which he was the immediate agent, and that this new personage was henceforth the medium of all the divine communications to mankind, having been the perfon who spake to Adam in paradise, to Noah, to Abraham, and all the patriarchs, who delivered the law from mount Sinai, and lastly inhabited the body of Jesus of Nazareth.
On this principle they explained many passages in the Old Testament, in which the word of God is spoken of, as that of the pfalmift, By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, &c. making this word to be a person, distinct from God, whose word it was ; whereas nothing can be more plain, than that by the word of God in this place is meant the power of God, exerted with as much ease as men utter words.
These philosophizing christians took great pains to explain how the reason or wisdom of God could thus become a person, distinct from God, and yet God continue a reasonable being; but their account of it is too trifling to be recited in this place. However, it was far from being pretended, in ger.eral, that the doctrine of the divinity of Christ was such
a mystery a mystery as could not be explained. For by mystery they only meant something of a solemn nature, which was unknown 'till it was revealed or explained. And indeed this is plainly the use of the word mystery in the New Testament; and it was also the usual meaning of the word when the present translation of the bible was made; the mysteries of any particular trade being the secrets of that trade, which yet every master taught his apprentices.
In this state the doctrine continued 'till after the council of Nice in the year of our Lord 325; but in all this time a real superiority was always acknowledged in the Father, as the only fource of divinity; and it was even explicitly acknowledged that there was a time when the fon of God had no separate existence, being only the reason of God, just as the reason of man is a part, or a property of man. One of the most eminent of the christian fathers says, « There was a time when God was neither a father,
nor a judge; for he could not be a father before « he had a son, nor a judge before there was fin."
So far were they from supposing the son of God to be equal to the Father, that when they were charged, as they frequently were, with making two Gods they generally replied, that the son was only God of God, as having proceeded from a superior God, which is the language of the Nicene creed; whereas the Father was God of himself (avlodia) by which they meant underived, which they held to be the prerogative of the Father only.
In all this time the jewish christians, who were not tainted with the heathen philofophy, maintained the doctrine of the proper and simple humanity of Chrift. Athanafius himself was fo far from being able to deny this, that he says all the jews were so fully persuaded that their Messiah was to be a man like themselves, that the apoftles were obliged to use great caution in divulging the doctrine of the divinity of Christ. He says, that the reason why Peter Axts ii. 22. only calls him a man approved sf God', and why, on other occasions in the course of that book and other parts of the New Testament, he is simply called a man, was, that at first the apostles did not think proper to do more than prove that Jesus was. the Chrift, or Meffiah, and that they thought it prudent to divulge the doctrine of the divinity of Christ by degrees. He likewise fays, that the jews of those times, meaning the jewish christians, being in this error themselves drew the gentiles into it. Athanasius greatly commends the apostles for this address in their circumstances. But what the apostles fcrupled to teach, we should be fcrupulous in believing. Chryfoftom gives the same account of the situation of the apostles with respect to the jews.
It also clearly appears from ecclesiastical history that the unlearned among the christians were exceedingly averse to the doctrine of the divinity of Christ,
fore, obliged to suppose that Christ was a real facrifice. And though we, like him, should be called actually to lay down our lives for our brethren, 1 John iii. 16. which, in imitation of him, we are enjoined to be ready to do, we should be facrifices only in the figurative sense of the word.
. It is true, that no man who is a finner (and all men have finned) can be justified by his works. We all stand in need of, and must have recourse to, free grace and mercy; but it is a great dishonour to God to suppofe that this mercy and grace takes its rise from any thing but his own essential goodness; and that he is not of himself, and independent of all foreign confiderations whatever, what he solemnly declared himself to Mofes, at the time of the giving of the law, to be, namely, a God merciful and gracious, longsuffering, abundant in goodness and in truth. Exod. xxxiv. 6. or that he requires any other facrifices, than the
sacrifices of a broken spirit, and a contrite heart, which he will never despise. Pr. li. 17.
Can we wish for a more distinct and perfect representation of the manner in which God forgives the fins of his offspring of mankind, than our saviour has exhibited to us in that most excellent parable of the prodigal fon; in which the good father no sooner fees his child, who had abandoned him, and wasted his substance in riotous living, returning to him and to his duty; but without waiting for any atonement or propitiation, even while he was yet a great way off, he ran to him, fell upon his neck, and kissed him, Luke xv. 20. The same representation we see in the parable of the creditor, who freely forgave his servant, because he humbly desired him. Let us not then, my brethren, deprive the ever-blessed God of the most glorious and honourable of all his attributes, and leave him nothing but justice, or rather vengeance, which is expressly faid to be his strange work, Isaiah xxviii. 21.
It is impossible to réconcile the doctrine of the fatisfaction for sin by the death of Christ, with the doctrine of free grace, which, according to the uniform tenor of the scriptures, is so fully displayed in the pardon of fin, and the justification of finners. When, therefore, the apostle Paul fays, Rom. iii. 24. That we are justified freely by the grace of God, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, the latter claufe must be interpreted in such a manner as to make it confiftent with the former; and it is far from requiring any force or straining of the text to do it. For it is only necessary to suppose that our redemption (or, as the word properly signifies, and and is indeed frequently rendered by our translators, our deliverance) from the power of fin, i.e. our repentance and reformation, without which there is no promise of pardon, is effected by the gospel of Jesus Christ, who came to call finners to repentance; 'but ftill God is to be considered as the giver, and not the receiver, with respect to our redemption ; for we read