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was seen by many, and even after his ascension he was seen by Paul, if not by Stephen; and he is probably in this world at present, attending to the affairs of his church ; and therefore may even be literally with his disciples, upon important occafions, even to the end of the world; and the notion of a local heaven, above the clouds, is altogether fanciful.
John v. 13. No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the son of man, who is in heaven. This language is evidently figurative; but if Christ could be in heaven at the fame time that he was on earth, conversing with Nicodemus, it is plain that his being said to have come down from heaven cannot necessarily imply that he had ever been any where but on the earth. In fact, the phrases being in heaven, being with God, or in the bofom of God, &c. express a state of very intimate communication with God, such as qualified Christ to speak of heavenly things, as he expresses himself to Nicodemus, and to make his Father known to us. John i. 8. No man hath feen God at any time : the only-begotten fon, which is in the bofom of the Father, he hath declared him.
The omnipresence, and consequently the proper divinity of Christ, could not be meant by his being said to be in heaven at the same time that he was visible on earth, because he is, on this occasion, called the fon of man, which is always allowed to denote his humanity, and which certainly could not be present in two places at the same time.
John vi. 51. I am the living bread, which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he fall live for ever, and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the fles of the son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. By these and other expressions of a similar nature, our Lord staggered not only those who followed him for the sake of the loaves with which he had fed them, but even many of his other disciples ; and perceiving this, he says unto them, ver. 61. Doth this offend you, what and if ye Mall see the for of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. In this our Lord seems to be reproving the ftupidity of his disciples, in not understanding that by himself, and his flesh and blood, he meant his doc' trine, which came down from heaven. For if it was his body that was to be of such benefit to mankind, what would they say if they fhould see it taken from them, ascending into heaven, from whence he had spoken of its descending to be the life of the world? They must then be satisfied that his flesh could profit them nothing, and therefore must conclude that his doctrine must have been the spirit, and the life, of which he spake. Os we may, perhaps,
understand our Saviour, in this place, as referring to his ascension, which was an ocular proof of his having had that intimate communication with God, and having been sent of God concerning which he had been speaking. Besides, if this passage be interpreted literally, it will imply that the body of Chrift came from heaven, which is not pretended.
Col. i. 15. Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature. For by him were att things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions, or principalities, or powers ; all things were created by him, and for him, and he is before all things, and by him all things confift: and he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead ; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence. For it pleased the Father, that in him should all fulness dwell.
In this passage we have a view given us of the great dignity and dominion to which Christ is exalted by his father, and of the great and happy change that was made in this world by his gospel ; for by creation we are to underltand the new creation, or renovation, in which sense the same word is used by the apostle, when he says, We are his workmanjoip created in Chrif Jesus unto good works. Eph. ii.
So great a change is produced in the world, in the tempers and conduct of men by the gospel, that both the terms creation and regeneration are made N
use of to express it. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God, John iii. 3. so that by regeneration, or netu creation, we are to understand a new-modeling, or new-constituting. We shall see less harshness in this figure, when we consider, that what is called the Mosaic creation was probably similar to this; since, for any thing we know, it was only the re-making or re-conftituting of the world, out of a former chaos.
There are several passages in which the words, which we generally render to create, or creation, fignify only a renewal or restoration. Eph. ii. 10. To make in himself, of twain, one new man, so making peace. 2 Cor. v. 17. If any man be in Chrift he is a new ercature. In 1 Pet. ii. 13. the same word is rendered ordinance. Be ye subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake. The places in which the influence of the gospel is termed a new creation are illustrated by the following prophesy of Isaiah, in which it is described in the fame language, If. Ixv. 17, &c. Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad, and rejoice for ever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.
The word all must necessarily respect the subject concerning which the affirmation is made, and be limited by it. Thus when all the world is said to be taxed, Luke ii. 1. it is plain that nothing but the
Roman empire could be understood. In like manner, when all things are said to be created by Christ, or for him, and also when all things are said to be subject to him, or put under his feet, nothing can be meant but such things as can properly come under his guvernment as the Meffian, and be fubfervienti to him in the conduct of it, including probably the visible powers and kingdoms of this world, and the invisible administration of angels; and therefore the. apostle, with great propriety, concludes and sums up the whole of Christ's authority, by saying that he is the head of the body the church.
Before often signifies before in point of rank, and pre-eminence', and not in point of time; so that when Christ is said to be before all things, the meaning is, that he is the chief, or moft excellent of all. And when it is said that in him all things
. confift, wei are to understand that in him all things are completed, and compacted ; since the christian difpenfation is the last, and most perfect of all, compleating one great and regular scheme of revelation, continually advancing from the more imperfect to the more perfect. I would further observe that the things here said to be created by Christ are not material things, as the heaven and the earth, but things in heaven and earth, as thrones, principalities, &c. and therefore are naturally interpreted, of that power and dignity to which he is advanced, and