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most aggravated and painful. It is here, indeed, that we can, for the first and the last time, see at once the power to avenge, to forbear, and to forgive, united : wealth unlimited, for he was King of the princes of the earth, associated with the wanderer who had not where to lay his head; and all undertaken, submitted to, and carried on, purely to seek and to save that which was lost, and to reconcile fallen man with his offended Maker and God. Whatever philosophy may have thought of its ideal perfect man,* (and, in this respect, its conclusions are valuable,) we possess, in the simple and unaffected narrative of the Evangelists, infinitely more, and what is incomparably better, in the life and conversation of the Son of God: virtue higher than any thing which morality has ever dictated ; and purposes as just as they are glorious and animating, exhibited, realised, recommended. And if these are, indeed, such as to exceed every expectation fully to make our own; they are still such as we can cordially labour to imitate. And, when it is known, that grace sufficient shall be afforded, faith can rest assured, that its labour shall never be in vain. Here, then, we have (what it is reasonable to expect would be afforded, had the Deity himself condescended to instruct and inform us) precepts the most perfect and pure, illustrated and urged by an example the most intelligible and encouraging. And, if these are too elevated to allow of even a hope that they can ever be altogether complied with by us, they do, at least, present us with something with which the most fastidious can never find fault, or the most illiterate misunderstand ; and, what is perhaps the crowning glory of them all, they teach us that, “ if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins.” But, it may be affirmed, that had an imperfect law been proposed for the purpose of regulating our conduct, or an imperfect example to illustrate it, then might an objection fairly have been urged against both the divinity and reasonableness of such a system; and finally, against its general reception. In the present case, however, we have not only ample room for the exertion of the highest virtues ; but encouragement to press on for the acquisition
• Plato's Republics, book 2.
of still greater degrees of excellence, with an example before us, which can only become the more amiable and inviting the more nearly we approach it; and which cannot but administer greatly to our strength, while it holds out the certain prospect of success.
Questions may, however, arise as to the particular Divinity of the Son; whether, for instance, he may be considered as Divine, by himself and alone, and be compared with the Father, as it regards His several attributes, or otherwise.
I answer: I can only say, that as the Scripture appears to represent Christ as proceeding from the Father, and being very God, just as any son of man may be said to proceed from his natural father and be very man, although it is quite out of my power to particularise about the process in either case; so I think I can reasonably believe Christ to be of God, and very God; a Being proceeding from the eternal, invisible, and incomprehensible Fountain of life and light, and adapted to the comprehension of creatures such as we are, as far as such comprehension is necessary to our instruction and welfare. If it be asked, Whether the Father and the Son can be considered, each as existing absolutely and independently of the other, and exerting the powers of independent Deity ? I answer at once: I cannot tell. Reason has nothing to offer on the subject, the one way or the other; and the Scriptures are silent. The revelation of the Divinity of our Lord seems to have been made for practical, not abstract, purposes; and, if the salvation of the soul can be secured on this view of it, I need never be anxious about the metaphysical part of the question. Further knowledge may, indeed, enable me to enter upon this : but, as I am fully convinced that such knowledge is now unattainable; I am content, as I think I ought to be, with that which has been revealed, and revealed manifestly for my good. If it be said, that what has just been advanced is impossible, and therefore incredible; my answer is: I wish to be informed on what grounds this impossibility can be made out. All that can be said must amount merely to this : that it is not consistent with what we now know; but this I shall deny. It indeed requires knowledge greater than any we possess, but it presents nothing inconsistent with what we have. Any king may invest his son with the executive part of his government; and this we know has often been done. The analogy, therefore, will here hold good, as far as our knowledge of the different cases extends. And, if the nature of such king be, that he is invisible, incomprehensible, and inaccessible, (which we may suppose, for the sake of argument) it will perhaps be difficult to conceive any other method, by which an intercourse with his subjects could be carried on. Let it be borne in mind, however, It is not my intention to attempt to solve this mighty problem; much less to limit the powers of Christ to the executive of the Christian dispensation. I only contend for the reasonableness of the doctrine; and maintain, that he is revealed to us, and represented as having created all things, and being the judge of all men : that this is all I know, and therefore all I can say; but it will not hence follow, that this is all the truth, or all that is known on this subject by superior beings: this will involve questions totally different, and questions with which I have nothing whatever to do. I only contend, that the doctrine, as far as it is known, is reasonable and most encouraging; that it presents the object of Christian worship, as dignified and definite ; as the anointed of the Father, and appointed the head of all things to his Church; as the prophet, priest, and king, of his followers; and as the judge and avenger of his own honour. That such a Being should become incarnate, * I can see nothing either difficult or improbable to suppose ; particularly if some adequate end was had in view; and this, we are plainly taught, was the case. How the Deity ought to dispose of his favours or exercise his power, it cannot be the province of reason to determine; if he has exercised the one, and disposed of the other, in a way intelligible, and such as to make them available and accessible to all, (which we
* John, i. 14:“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us," &c. And Heb. ii. 16 : “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham." The consideration of Christ's becoming incarnate, in order to accommodate himself to our capacity, is often dwelt upon by the earlier fathers of the Church ; and, as they generally applied this in answer to the philosophers of their day, it appears to me to be sound and appropriate. See Catholic Epist. of Barnabas; Wake's edit. pp. 166, 7. “ But he ... was content ... to appear in the flesh ... For had he not come in the flesh, how should men have been able to look upon him, that they might be saved ?" &c. So Ignatius, ib. p. 73: “God (himself) appearing in the form of a man.” Justin Martyr, I. Apol. ed. 1700. pp. 10, 46, 95, &c. See also are taught he has done), it is the duty of reason, not only to accede, but to be thankful; not only to admire, but to extol; and to bring all situated within the sphere of its influence, both to embrace and to enjoy.
Another very common and very plausible argument advanced on this subject is : - The Scriptures represent God as One ; but the doctrine of a Trinity represents him as Three; arguing, nevertheless, at the same time, that God is One; and thus presenting the insuperable paradox, that One is Three, and Three are One. I will answer: If this is really the state of the case, nothing can be more absurd or monstrous. If, for example, any one should affirm and insist upon it, that one man is three men; and vice versa, that three men are only one man, I should have no hesitation whatever in affirming, that such person must be out of his senses. But, I believe, this is not the true state of the case. The truth is, it is only a supposition stated as a fact; and then from this, the argument, framed on what has been termed a reductio ad absurdum, has been proposed. The doctrine is, as I understand it, thus held: God is One; but this One God has, for reasons the most encouraging to us, thought proper to reveal himself in the persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. In the first, he is the incomprehensible origin of all things; in the second, he is my Redeemer; and in the third, he supports and sanctifies me. The end of all this I can see and appreciate ; but how this mystery exists, revelation has no where informed me; and, the facts of the case being far above my observation and research, reason cannot. The miraculous character of the Bible (for such it professes to be) demands my faith in all its declarations ; but the limited nature of my faculties will not enable me fully to analyse them all; and this last may be said of every elemental principle in every science. These I must take for granted. Is it, then, I ask, too much to require, that reason should stop short when the essence of the Divine mind is proposed for matter of debate? or, the manner in which it exists, or ought to be revealed, is attempted to be ascertained ? To say, in such a case, that the persons in which He has thought proper to reveal himself, being three, cannot subsist in his divinity, because that is said to be one, is to assume a knowledge of principles and of facts, to which none but a madman would think of laying claim; and, to determine what must be the nature and particular properties of an Almighty Being, whom no man hath seen, or can see. Why, then, it may again be asked, has the revelation said so much on this subject, and so little that can be reduced to the level of our capacities? Why, for example, has it introduced the question sufficiently definite to excite inquiry, and then stopped short, refusing that further information, which is necessary to ensure belief? My answer is: There appears to me to be no more revealed on this point, than is necessary to be believed by every man who would entertain a reasonable hope of salvation. If it was, indeed, the will of the Deity that this should be effected by the redemption that is in Christ; and by the power which we are further taught consists in his mediation: and if both reason and the Scripture have declared, that no man can redeem his brother; and that this fell not within the compass even of angelic powers; then was it reasonable and right that the ụncreated dignity of the Redeemer should also be revealed, in order to demand and to exercise the faith of every candidate for eternal bliss. Cursed, we know, is he that trusteth in any son of man, however lofty his situation or extensive his power : but, when we are told that our Redeemer was with God before the world existed, and was God, and that he then enjoyed the incommunicable glory of the Father; we then know that he is worthy to be honoured, even as the Father is; and that he who believes in the Father, can with confidence also believe in him. But we are also told, that although now elevated above the heaven, he is still touched with the feelings of our infirmities : and if so, then are the principles and the object of our faith
the Bishop of Lincoln's admirable work on Justin's opinions, &c. chap. ii.; Shepherd of Hermas (edit. 1710), p. 280 ; Arnobius adversus Gentes, lib, i. p. 36 (ed. 1634). Irenæus, lib. iii. cap. 18, has: “Unus Christus Jesus Dominus noster ... invisibilis visibilis factus, et incomprehensibilis factus comprehensibilis, et impassibilis passibilis, et Verbum homo.” Ib. cap. 20: ... “Per quem omnia facta sunt, qui et semper aderat generi humano, hunc in novissimis temporibus, secundùm præfinituin tempus à Patre, unitum suo plasmati, passibilem hominem factum,” &c. Eusebius, in his “Demonstratio Evangelica” (as does also Dr. Clarke, in his “Scriptural Doctrine of the Trinity") accounts for this mystery by having recourse to the emanation system. This is more than I dare do.