Page images
PDF
EPUB

they charged him with no other crime than that of blasphemy, in making himself God. Accordingly, “ the high priest said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said. Nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what farther need have we of witnesses ? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy, what think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.” Thus Christ professed to be a divine person while he lived ; and when he died, he sealed his testimony with his own blood. It is as certain, therefore, that he possessed divinity, as that he possessed the least degree of truth, or moral sincerity.

It only remains to consider,

III. Upon what grounds Christ asserted both his humanity and divinity.

And here, in the first place, let us inquire upon what foundation he asserted his humanity. Was it simply because he was born of a woman, and had a body of human shape and size ? This is what some suppose. But is this supposition credible? Does a mere human body, born of a woman, though destitute of a human soul, constitute a human person? Adam was a man, though he never was born. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are men, though their bodies have been long since separated from their souls. It is not to be supposed, therefore, that Christ would assert his humanity upon the mere ground of his being born of a woman, and having only a human body. A human soul without a human body might have constituted him a man. But a human body without a human soul could not have given him the essence of humanity. This leads us to conclude that he asserted his humanity upon the just foundation of having “ a true body and a reasonable soul,” united in the same manner as the soul and body are united in other men. And if he had a human soul united with a human body, then he may be as properly denominated a man, as any of his progenitors, whose names are mentioned in the first chapter of Matthew.

Let us next consider the ground upon which he asserted his divinity.

He could not pretend to be a divine person upon Socinian ground, which is that of divine inspiration. A divine person has no occasion of being divinely inspired. This the Socinians allow, and therefore do not consider Christ as a divine person because he had the gift of inspiration, but place him upon a level with other inspired men.

Nor could he assert his divinity upon Arian ground; which is, that he possessed all divine excellences except self existence and independence. For, however great the powers and capacities of a dependent being may be, yet he cannot possess a single attribute which may be properly called divine. The Arians run into a plain absurdity, which the Socinians avoid. The Socinians deny that any being is divine, who is destitute of self existence and independence; but the Arians maintain that a being may be divine who wants both these incommunicable attributes of the Deity. They plead that Christ possessed divine power, wisdom and goodness, though he was absolutely dependent, and derived his being and all his powers from the supreme God and Father of all. But it is totally inconceivable that a derived, dependent nature, should really possess any of those divine perfections which essentially belong to an underived, independent, self existent Being. No communications from God to Christ could make him a divine person. Nor could any intercourse with the Deity, however near and intimate, make him a Deity. So that no excellences and perfections of his nature, short of self existence and independence, could justify him in asserting his divinity.

Nor could he pretend to be a divine person upon Unitarian ground; which is, that he was only a super-angelic Nature united with a human body, and sent by the one only true God to perform the work of redemption. Upon this hypothesis, he could assert neither his humanity nor divinity; for he was neither a man, nor an angel, nor a Deity; but a being sui generis - of a peculiar kind. Accordingly, the Unitarians do not pretend that he was a Deity, or possessed of any truly divine attributes. And we cannot suppose that he would assert his divinity upon a ground which was not just, and which the Unitarians themselves suppose was not sufficient to support such an assertion.

There remains no other ground, therefore, upon which he could assert his divinity, but that of his being God and man, in two distinct natures and one person. A personal union between his divine and human nature would properly constitute him a divine person. And it appears from his own expressions, that he did assert his divinity upon this ground. He says, " No man hath ascended up to heaven but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man, which is in heaven." Here he represents his one individual person as being both in heaven and on earth, at one and the same time. And upon the supposition of his human and divine natures being personally united, he might properly say this; but upon no other supposition. A prophet could not say this, in his nearest approaches to God. Paul could not say this, when he was caught up to the third heaven. An angel could not say this, either in heaven or on earth. Nor could Christ say this, unless his human nature were personally united with the divine. Any other union, however near and intimate, could not justify him, who was a man, in making himself God.

But here it may be inquired what is meant by Christ's human nature's being personally united with his divine nature. It is easy to say what is not meant by it. It does not mean that his human nature was made divine nature. Omnipotence could not transform his humanity into divinity, because that would be the same as to produce divinity, or create a Creator. But supposing his human nature could have been made divine nature; yet that would have prevented his being God and man in two natures and but one person, which is what he professed to be.

Nor, on the other hand, does his human nature's being personally united with his divine nature, mean that his divine nature was made human nature. For there was the same impossibility of degrading his divinity into humanity, as of exalting his humanity into divinity. And could this have been done, it would have equally prevented his being what he professed to be, God and man in one person.

Nor does his human nature's being personally united with his divine nature, mean that his two natures were mixed or blended together. For it evidently appears from scripture that he personally possessed every divine perfection and every human quality, except sin. He discovered, in the course of his life, human ignorance and divine knowledge; human wants and divine fulness; human weakness and divine power; human dependence and divine independence.

But, if the personal union of the two natures in Christ does not mean, that his humanity became divinity nor his divinity became humanity, nor that these were mixed or blended together, then the question still recurs, what is meant by Christ's being one person in two natures ? I answer, the man Jesus, who had a true body and a reasonable soul, was united with the second person in the Trinity, in such a manner as laid a foundation for him to say with propriety that he was man, that he was God, and that he was both God and man; and as laid a foundation also to ascribe what he did as God and suffered as man, to one and the self same person.

If

any should here ask, how could bis two natures be thus personally united ? only say, it is a mystery. And there is no avoiding a mystery with respect to Christ. His conception was a mystery. And if we admit the mystery of his conception, why should we hesitate to admit the mystery of the personal union between his two natures? If we only admit this, all Christ said concerning himself is easy and intelligible. Being a man, he might with propriety make himself God.

We can

[ocr errors]

I shall now close the subject with a few serious remarks.

1. To deny the divinity of Christ, is virtually to impeach his moral character. He knew that there was a great variety of opinions entertained of him. Many inquired at his own mouth what manner of person he was. İn several instances he was pleased to answer them in terms sufficiently plain and unequivocal. And though they objected against his answers as extremely impious, yet he never contradicted or softened them. In this manner he treated the grand question concerning his divinity, for several years. At last the subject became more serious. The Jews conspired against him, and arraigned him before their highest ecclesiastical court, where they accused him of blasphemy, for making himself God. The high priest, in order to come at the truth of the case, laid him under the solemnity of an oath, and commanded him to say in sincerity whether he had ever professed to be a divine person. In that peculiar situation, while the oath of God was upon him, and death itself before him, he confirmed and repeated his pretensions to divinity, and appealed to the day of judgment to sanction his declarations. There is now no need of farther evidence that he solemnly professed to be a divine person; and therefore we cannot call his divinity in question, without joining with the Jews and impeaching his moral character. His declarations are recorded, and carry the same authority now that they did when they were uttered, and when they confounded his opposers. It will not save the appearance of modesty to plead that we do not mean to contradict, but only to explain his expressions. It is now too late to explain Christ's words upon this subject; because he has, in the most plain and solemn manner, explained them himself. Hence there is only this alternative before us, either to believe his divinity, or to deny his veracity. But to deny his veracity upon this subject, is to blast his whole moral character, and to represent him in as odious a light as ever the Jews did, when they called him a blasphemer, and said he was mad and had a devil. To impeach the moral character of Christ is extremely criminal. For it is not only blaspheming his name, but denying his religion. To say that Christ was a blasphemer, is to say that Christianity is a falsehood. If there was no truth in Christ, there is no truth in his religion. Hence it seriously concerns those who deny the divinity of Christ, impeach his character, and subvert his gospel, to prepare to meet him when he shall come in the clouds of heaven, and settle the solemn dispute between them.

2. To deny the divinity of Christ, is virtually to set up human reason against divine revelation. The Bible so plainly represents Christ to be a divine person, that none would hesi

[ocr errors]

tate to believe his divinity, if they could only comprehend the mystery of his being God and man in two natures, and yet but one person. This was the stumbling block to the Jews. They could not comprehend how Christ, being a man, could make hirnself God; or how he could say, when he was not fifty years old, “ before Abraham was, I am.” And this is the stumbling block to those who now deny the divinity of Christ. The mystery contained in this doctrine leads them to explain away the plainest passages of scripture in favor of it, and to bend all their force to prove that the personal union between the two natures of Christ is a plain and palpable absurdity. A late writer, when he is reminded that the apostles maintained the doctrine of Christ's divinity, scruples not to say, “ As it is not pretended that there are any miracles adapted to prove that Christ made and supports the world, I do not see that we are under any obligation to believe it, merely because it was an opinion held by an apostle.” He adds, “It is not, certainly, from a few casual expressions, which so easily admit of other interpretations, and especially in epistolary writings, that we can be authorized that such was the serious opinion of the apostles. But if it had been their real opinion, it would not follow that it was true, unless the teaching of it should appear to be included in their general commission, with which, as I have shown, it has no sort of connection."

But is it safe for men to lean to their own understanding, in opposition to the plainest declarations of scripture ? Let experience speak. Some have made the trial upon this important subject; but greatly to their own disadvantage. For their attempt to avoid the seeming inconsistency of Christ's divinity, has driven them into a number of most plain and palpable absurdities. By denying him to be God as well as man, they have been obliged to ascribe such things to his humanity, as properly and necessarily belong to his divinity. This will clearly appear in a variety of instances.

The scripture represents Christ as existing from eternity. But this they are obliged partly to acknowledge and partly to deny; and so maintain that he neither existed from eternity nor yet had a beginning of existence; which is a plain absurdity. The scripture represents Christ as creating the world, which belongs to him as God. But this they are obliged to ascribe to him as man; which is a plain absurdity. The scripture represents Christ as governing the world, which belongs to him as God. But this they are obliged to ascribe to him as man; which is a plain absurdity. The scripture represents Christ as having power to raise the dead at the general resurrection, which belongs to him as God. But this they are obliged to

75

VOL. IV.

« PreviousContinue »