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In the Preface, an objection is anticipated regarding the originality of Christ as a teacher, which ought to have been preliminary to these sections, because, more or less, it applies to them all. We quote it on account of its general importance.
The reader is probably aware that, during the interval which elapsed between the cessation of the Old Testament oracle and the advent of Christ, many new terms came into use; especially new epithets for designating the expected Messiah and the Holy Spirit ;such, for instance, as the names, Logos and Paraclete: and, also, that various theological opinions prevailed; which, while they pleaded an Old Testament origin, were taught, if taught there at all, only by inference and suggestion. Now when a person first becomes aware of this fact, and discovers also that some of these terms and opinions were adopted by Christ, and incorporated by him into his New Testament record, he may be tempted to depreciate in thought the divinity and originality of these particular parts of our Lord's teaching.
'But let him reflect, first, that, as to the divine origin of these particular truths,-the persons who first announced them, no doubt, derived the idea of them from the ancient scriptures, and could have pointed to the precise passage or passages which, in their opinion, warranted the idea. And, secondly, as to our Lord's claim to originality in teaching these particular truths—this becomes a question of mere words. For though originality was no longer possible, in the sense of novelty, still his office was original-he was the first to announce these truths as divine.
Suppose, for example, an inspired prophet were now to appear in the church, to add a supplement to the canonical books,—what a Babel of opinions would he find existing on almost every theological subject! —and how highly probable is it that his ministry would consist, or seem to consist, in the mere selection and ratification of such of these opinions as accorded with the mind of God. Absolute originality would seem to be almost impossible. The inventive mind of man has already bodied forth speculative opinions in almost every conceivable form; forestalling and robbing the future of its fair proportion of novelties; and leaving little more, even to a divine messenger, than the office of taking some of these opinions, and impressing them with the seal of heaven. Imagine him to choose for his theme-that vinum dæmonum of the church in every age-the subject of a millennium; and may it not be confidently affirmed, that whatever his divine doctrine might be, an anticipation of it, if not the identical doctrine itself, has appeared already among the thousand theories which the church has heard on the subject? Yet how important the office which would still devolve on him, in evoking the one truth, and dispersing the multiplied attendant errors; and how worthy of a teacher sent from God. Humanly speaking, the task of the aged seer, in selecting from the eleven sons of Jesse the future king of Israel, was easy, compared with the task of him who has to choose from a multitude of speculative opinions, all of which are specious, and popular, and possessed of an apparent likeness, the one heaven-born truth, and anoint it for the Lord.
Now such was the relation in which Our Lord may be said to have stood to some of the doctrines of the New Testament. Originality, in the sense of novelty, was, on these particular subjects, impossible: for the teeming mind of man, quickened to activity by some hint of scripture, had already occupied the ground with theories of every grade of merit, and opinions adapted to every taste. With these, hypothetically speaking, the Saviour might be acquainted, or he might not. On the supposition that he did not know them, the doctrine he taught on either of these subjects, however familiar it might already have been to human ears, was unborrowed, original, and emphatically his own; it had no other channel in its descent from the celestial throne to the human heart, but his own inspired lips. On the supposition that he knew them,-his office, at least, was original, and equally dignified; for still he proclaimed the particular truth, not because man had patronized it, but because he knew it to be the true saying of God. And more than that, he redeemed it from the base companionship of error, and made it free of the universe. He not merely rescued it from the gloomy region of doubt, but enabled it to shine in its own light, and to illuminate the surrounding darkness. If he found it one of the multitude, he raised it to the throne. If he found it a guess, he left it a doctrine-a living and incorporated member of the immortal body of truth. If he found it an outcast, he took it within the pale and royalty of truth, and surrounded it with the awful sanctions of the God of truth. He proved himself to be the Word and the Wisdom of God.' pp. xxxi—xxxv.
These views are followed up at page 42, in the beginning of this Essay, where we think they ought to be placed. Before he distributes the first section, which treats of God the Father, into its distinct and separate parts, the Author briefly shews, that besides the circumstantial originality of the Saviour's teaching, his claims to this quality are to be referred to merits peculiarly his own, derived from additional revelations and momentous disclosures of Divine Truth.
Had he only commented on the volume of nature, had he even read from the book of the universe the names and titles of its author, our advantage, comparatively, would have been small indeed. That volume was originally meant only for the eye of sinless humanity. It uttered no prediction, awoke no presentiment of the fall; in no part of its hallowed contents could a line be found foretokening woe. The morning of the day of transgression dawned on the world, unconscious of the impending change. The sun poured forth as full a flood of living light; the air was as rich in fragrance and song; earth and heaven appeared to live in each other's smiles; nature lay open at as fair and bright a page, as at the moment when God complacently pronounced it to be very good. The tremendous catastrophe of that day took it by surprise. So far from furnishing man with resources for the event, it was itself involved in the calamity; it was "cursed for his sake." So far from being able to utter a consolatory truth in hu man ears, it required itself to be solaced and sustained, for it lay
prostrate and panting under its Maker's frown. Wounded by the stroke, and cumbered with the weight of sin, it sent forth a cry, in which all its natural harmonies were drowned; a cry of helplessness and of suffering, which has never from that moment ceased, but which has gone on, from age to age, waxing louder and louder, till the whole creation has become vocal with woe, and groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now," labouring in its pangs, and struggling to be free.
So far from shewing commiseration, and whispering hope, there is a sense in which all nature stands ready to avenge the quarrel of God with man. Take, as examples, the histories of Pharaoh and Herod. When the former refused to obey the mandates of heaven, all nature expressed its sympathy with its injured Maker; armed in his behalf, and put itself in motion to avenge the insult. The latter affected to be thought a god, forthwith an angel, jealous of Jehovah's honour, descends and smites him; and, at the same moment, the meanest insects begin to devour him: the highest order of created intelligence, and the lowest form of animal existence, the two extremes in the scale of creation, unite to prostrate and punish his impiety, It will be found, in the history of the divine justice, that every element of nature has taken its turn, as a minister of wrath, to assert the quarrel of God with rebellious man. And, be it remembered, that one of these elements is held in reserve for the destruction of the world; he has only to speak, and it will wrap the globe in living flames. Meanwhile, he may be said to have laid all nature under a solemn interdict, not to minister to our most pressing wants: he has laid it under an eternal ban. Let there be no peace to the wicked, saith my God; let every thing be at war with him. If he will be the enemy
of God, let him live and die amidst a universe of frowns: let every thing in heaven, earth, and hell, be armed, and ready to assail him: let there be no peace to the wicked; and universal nature responds, there shall be none; and the universal experience of sinners, as it sends up its reply from the bottomless pit, declares, in accents of terrible despair, there is none. Could the sinner but open his eyes to the dreadful reality of his condition, were he endowed with a power of vision like the servant of the prophet, he would find himself surrounded, not indeed with horses and chariots of fire to guard him, but with terrible forms of anger and destruction, waiting to dart on him, and make him their prey. He would find himself standing in the great theatre of the universe, with every eye that it contains fixed and frowning upon him; with every weapon in the infinite armoury of God, ready, and levelled against him. And the hour arrives when he finds that sin has arrayed against him, not only all the universe without, but all the powers and passions within him; that it has armed him against himself; that it has given a sting to every thought, and turned his conscience into a worm that dieth not, and his depraved and ungoverned passions into fires never to be quenched.
O how unparalleled the infatuation of the man who pretends, that, from the doubtful and scattered intimations of nature, he can collect the materials of a sufficient creed; when, at the same time, they are so obviously intermixed with the fragments of a violated law. Nature,
indeed, is still an oracle on one point; and when consulted on that point, which relates to the great remedy for sin, her spontaneous response is, it is not in me: it is not until man has examined her by torture, that he extorts some doubtful reply, which—his vanity being made the interpreter-is found to coincide with his wishes, and to flatter his pride. On the fact of the divine existence, indeed, the protestations of nature, are positive, loud, and unceasing: this is a truth of which she is never making less than solemn affirmation and oath, with all her myriad voices: the unintermitting response of the living creatures heard by John, is only the echo of her voice in the sanctuary above, proclaiming to the universe his eternal power and Godhead. But, however able and ready to enlighten the inquiring mind on the fact of his existence, she could do nothing to dissipate the clouds of doubt and gloom which had gathered and settled into thick darkness round about his throne: on the anxious subject of his character, and his possible conduct towards the guilty, she has received no instructions, and is silent. By the introduction of sin, our condition has become preternatural, and the wisdom that prescribes for us, therefore, must be supernatural, or it will prove a physician of no value.'
This section has eight subdivisions, the subjects of which are, the Paternal Character and Universal Benevolence of Godhis Universal Dominion and Providence-his Love to Man, exemplified in the Mission of Christ-the only Means of Mercythe Free Gift of Eternal Life-Universality of InvitationCharacter of Christ the Character of the Father-God our Father, the name by which we are taught to invoke Him.
The most striking part of this portion of the Work, is that in which the Author describes the Character of Christ as the Character of the Father. We make no apology for quoting it.
'As long as we remain immersed in sense, we must be indebted for all our conceptions to sensible objects: hence the purest and most abstract of human sciences has its diagrams; and Christianity, the most spiritual form of religion, employs its symbols. The same necessity has, in every age, expressed itself in ardent desires for sensible manifestations of the Divine Being. The entreaty of Moses, 66 I beseech thee shew me thy glory," was again repeated by Philip, when he said, "Shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us; and both requests were only the echo of a universal desire; a desire of the mind for something to sustain it in its most etherial of efforts, its endeavours to think of God.
'Another necessity requiring to be met, was the exaggerated fears of the penitent sinner, when interpreting the rectoral office of the Father in the covenant of grace, into a proof of his avenging inexorableness. In the ministry of the gospel, the constant reference which is necessarily made to his just requirements in maintaining the rights of Deity, is extremely liable to produce on a mind, perturbed with guilt, an impression of dread, which no mere abstract descriptions of
the love of God can effectually remove; which makes it impossible to speak of that love in terms of excess. Now, of both these necessities, the Saviour took special cognizance; against each of them he fully provided, when, standing forth before the eye of the world, he proclaimed himself the perfect representative of the Father; and, in that capacity, challenged for the Father, the confidence, and affection, and cordial allegiance of mankind. "I am in the Father," said he, "and the Father is in me: .... "From henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? .... the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake." "I and my Father are one."
Instead of leaving our faith to apprehend an infinite abstraction, he has, in his own person, invested the Deity with that power over our minds which a definite object alone can exercise. Instead of claiming our affections merely for the invisible and impalpable cause of mercy, he wrestles with our fears, and challenges our embracing affections, by protesting that there is no feature to be loved in himself, which is not equally to be loved in the character of God; that if we admire the tenderness and compassion of his character, we are admiring the very same qualities in the Father; that we do injustice to his representative character, if we do not receive it entire as a perfect reduplication of the mind of God. He would have us to believe, and to act on the belief, that so far from attempting to bribe and beguile our affections for God, by expressing for us a kindness to which the heart of God does not respond, he could not have omitted a single expression of that kindness without giving us a defective idea of the divine benevolence; that so utterly impossible would it be for him to give us an exaggerated conception of that benevolence, that could we by any process collect and concentrate all the varied expressions of his grace to a focal point, and receive the effect of the whole entire, and at once, that effect, after all, would be a bare and inadequate impression of the love of God to man. Whatever doctrine of grace he propounds, whatever promise he gives, whatever deed of love he performs, whatever divine attractions he exhibits,-every such attraction in him is to be regarded as an index to the same quality indefinitely greater in the character of God. The conduct of Christ is a copy, a living map of the immense expanse of the divine perfections, reduced from its infinite dimensions, and subdued to a scale studiously adapted to the feeble vision of man. The character of God, so infinitely reduced, is to be seen in the life of Christ; the excellences of Christ, if infinitely magnified and restored to their original proportions, are to be found in the perfections of God. The character of Christ is the conception of a being of infinite amiableness, seeking to engage the heart of a world that reasons by analogy, and to enamour it of divine excellence. How often did he authenticate the life of Jesus, and give it currency as a copy of his own. Had the Almighty Father veiled his glories, and dwelt among us, the