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in the Scriptures, as inferior to the Father. All the alleged exhibitions of this nature, may be advantageously ranged under two heads.
Those made by himself ;-and,
An answer to the principal of these will, it is believed, be an answer to the rest.
1st. Christ, as the Unitarians assert, exhibits himself as inferior to the Father, and therefore declares in unequivocal language, that He is not truly God.
Particularly, 1st. He declares, that he is not Omnipotent.
John v. 19, Then Jesus answered, and said unto them, Verily, Verily, I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of himself. And again, in the 30th verse, I can of mine own-self do nothing. And again, John viii. 28, Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of Man, then shall ye know, that I am He, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.
It will not I presume, be pretended, that these words, in either of the påssages, are used in the strict and absolute sense. That Christ would literally do nothing of himself will not be asserted, in the sense, that he had no power at all, and could not act to any purpose whatever. Whoever Christ was, he doubtless possessed some degree of inherent power, or power which was his
and by it could do, at least some such things, as are done by men generally. What, then, is intended ? Undoubtedly, either, that Christ could do nothing compared with what the Father can do ; or that Christ could do nothing, except what was directed by the Father, according to the Commission, given to him by the Father, to act in the Mediatorial character.
That the latter is the true interpretation is, in my view, unanswerably evident from the following considerations :
1. The subject of a comparison between the power of Christ and that of the Faiher, is not even alluded to in any preceding part of the Chapter, either by himself, or by the Jews.
The only debate between Christ and the Jews, was concerning the rectitude, or lawfulness, of his conduct. As the Jews were about to kill him for having acted unlawfully, both in healing a man on the Sabbath-day, and in saying, that God was his Father; it is incredible, (because it is imputing to him a gross absurdity) that Christ should here, instead of replying to the accusation of the Jews, and justifying his conduct as lawful, enter on a comparison between his ability, and that of the Father. This would have been a total desertion of the important subject in controversy ; and could not have been of the least use, either for the purpose of justifying himself, or of repressing the violence of the Jews. On the contrary, it would have been the assumption of a subject totally foreign; totally unconnected with the case in hand; without
any thing to lead to it; incapable of being understood by those, to whom it was addressed, and a species of conduct which, so far as I can see, would have been irreconcileable with common sense.
2dly. This interpretation is refuted, so far as the objection is concerned, by the discourse, of which it is a part.
The whole drift of this discourse is to show the extent of that authority, which Christ possessed, as the Mediator. In displaying this authority, He also displays, necessarily, the power which he possesses. In Chapter v. 19, from which the first of the objected declarations is taken, is this remarkable assertion : What things soever He, that is, the Father, doeth; these, also, doeth the Son likewise. It is presumed, that not even a Unitarian will imagine, that in a verse, in which this declaration is contained, Christ could intend, by any phraseology whatever, to exhibit a limitation of his own power
With this complete refutation of the meaning, now in question, in our hands, it can scarce be necessary to observe, that, in many subsequent parts of this discourse of Christ, it is also overthrown in the same complete manner.
This interpretation being thus shown to be false ; the other, the only remaining one, might be fairly assumed as the true interpretation. At the same time, it may be easily evinced to be the true one, by other considerations.
1st. It is perfectly applicable to the case specified.
That the proposition, containing it, expresses what is true, viz. that Christ, as the Mediator, could do nothing of himself; that is, that while acting under a commission from his Father, he could do nothing of his own authority, but must do all things by the authority, and agreeably to the commission, which he had received; will,' i suppose, be admitted by every man. But this proposition is not more clearly true, than it is applicable to the case in hand. If Christ in those things, of which he was accused by the Jews, acted by the authority, and agreeably to the commission, which he had received from the Father; then, plainly, that which he did was right. Of course the objections, and the animosities of the Jews, were without cause, and wholly reprehensible. In this sense, the answer of Christ was perfectly pertinent, and the only valid answer, which could be given.
2dly. That this is the true meaning is evident from John viii. 28, (the last of the passages quoted above.) Then said Jesus unto ihem, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am He, and that I do nothing of myself ; but, as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. In this passage Christ informs the Jezus, that, after they had lifted him up, on the cross, they should know, that he was the Messiah; and that he did nothing of himself: not that he did nothing by his own power: but nothing by his own authority. The former having nothing to do with the subject: the latter being perfectly applicable to it.
Therefore he adds, As my Father hath taught me, or, as we say in modern English, According to the Instructions which I have received from my Father, I speak these things. It will hardly be questioned, that Christ here speaks of his authority only, and not at all of his power.
3dly. We find the same language, used in the same manner, in various other passages of Scripture. In Gen. xix. 22, Christ himself, acting in the same Mediatorial character, says to Lot, beseeching him to permit himself and his family to escape to Zoar; Haste thee ; escape thither; for I cannot do any thing, till thou be come thither. It will not be pretended, that so far as his power only, was concerned, Christ could not as easily have begun the work of destroying the cities of the plain, before Lot had escaped, as afterward. But as it was a part of the divine determination to preserve Lot and his family; so the authority of Christ did not in this case extend to any thing, nor permit him to do any thing, which involved the destruction of Lot.
Numbers xxii. 18, Balaam says, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more. This declaration of Balaam, I consider as expressing fully and completely the very thing, which, in the objected passages, Christ expressed elliptically. And again chapter xxiv. 12, 13, And Balaam said unto Balak, Spake I not also to thy messengers, which thou sentest unto me, saying, if Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the Lord, to do either good or bad, of mine own mind; but what the Lord saith, that will I speak ? I shall only add to these observations the obvious one; that
persons, acting under a commission, now use similar language, in similar circumstances.
Should any one question, whether Christ acted under a commission; He himself has answered the question in his intercessory prayers, John xvii. 4: I have glorified thee on the earth ; I have finished the work, which thou gavest me to do.
From these observations, it is, if I am not deceived, clear, that the declarations of Christ, here objected to, do not in any sense refer to his power; but only to his authority as Mediator; and are therefore utterly irrelevant to the purpose, for which they are alleged.
2dly. The Unitarians object, that Christ exhibits himself, as inferior to the Father in knowledge.
The passage quoted to prove this assertion is, especially, Mark xiii. 32: But of that day, and that hour, knoweth no man, no, not the Angels which are in Heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
Here, it is said, Christ confesses himself to be ignorant of the day and hour specified.
On this objection I observe, 1st. That ihe subject, of which Christ is here declared to be igno.
rant, is a subject, which demanded no greater extent of knowledge ; or rather, which demanded knowledge in a less extent, than many subjects, disclosed by him, in the same prophecy. The subject is the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. In this very prophecy, as well as in various others, he had uttered many things, which appear to demand as great a measure of prescience, as this can be supposed to have done. Such were the arising of false Prophets; the preaching of the Gospel through the world; the earthquakes, famines, and pestilences; the fearful sights, and great signs, which should precede the destruction of Jerusalem; the hatred and treachery of parents and others to his Disciples, and the protraction of the ruinous state of Jerusalem until the times of the Gentiles should be fulfilled. The foreknowledge of the particular period of its destruction was, certainly, no very material addition to the foreknowledge of these things; and would imply no very material enlargement of the mind, by which they were foreknown. Several of the Prophets, it is to be remembered, were furnished with a foreknowledge of dates, not differing from this in their importance: thus Isaiah foreknew the date of the destruction of Ephraim; Jeremiah, that of the Babylonish captivity; and Daniel, that of the Death of Christ; and no reason can be imagined why the foreknowledge of this particular date should be withholden from Christ, even if we admit, that He was a mere man; when so many other things, relating to the same event, of so much more importance, were revealed to him.
There is, therefore, no small reason to believe, that the Greek word, old, has here the signification of gowgisw, according to the comment of Dr. Macknight ; and denotes, not to know; but, to cause to know; a signification, which it sometimes has, as he has suf. ficiently shown: particularly in 1 Cor. ii. 2, For I determined to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified: that is, I determined to MAKE KNOWN nothing among you, &c. If this sense of the word be admitted, the meaning of the passage will be, of that day no one causeth men to know, but the Father : that is, when, in his providence, He shall bring the event to pass. In other words; the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, shall not be disclosed by prophecy; but shall be made known only by the providence of God, bringing it to pass. I need not say that was literally the fact.
2dly. Christ himself informs us, that no one knows the Son but the Father, and that no one knows the Father, but the Son, and he, to whomsoever the Son shall reveal him.*
In this declaration Christ asserts, that he possesses an exclusive knowledge of the Father, in which no being whatever shares with him: a knowledge, totally distinct from that, which is acquired by revelation; and therefore immediate, and underived.
* Matthew xi. 27
He also declares, John v. 20, that the Father sheweih Hiin all things, that Himself doeth ; that He searcheth the reins and the heart, Rev. ii. 23; and that He is with his disciples alway, to the end of the world, and, therefore, omnipresent, Matthew xxviii. 20. Peter also says to him, John xxi. 17, Lord, thou knowest all things : an ascription, which, if not true, Christ could not have received without the grossest impiety; and which he yet did receive, because he did not reject, nor reprove, it.
But He, of whom these things are said, certainly foreknew the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. If, then, the objected text denotes, that Christ did not know that time, the declaration cannot be true, except by being made concerning Christ considered in a totally different character, and sense, from those, in which the same book teaches us that He knows the Father, and knows all things. It is, therefore, not a shift, nor fetch, nor evasion, in the the Trinitarians, to assert, that this passage, if thus understood, is spoken of Christ in his human nature only, and not in the nature exhibited in the passages, with which it has been compared. On the contrary, it is a deduction from the Scriptures, irresistibly flowing from what they say; and the only means, by which they can be either consistent, or true. 3dly. It is objected by the Unitarians, that Christ has denied him.
, self to be originally and supremely Good.
The passage, chosen to support this objection, is the answer of Christ to the Young Ruler, Matt. xix. 17, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but One : that is God. Here Christ is supposed to disclaim original and supreme goodness, as belonging to himself; and to distinguish between his own goodness and that of God. What the real reason was, for which Christ gave
this answer, 1 shall not here examine. If Christ is not God; then he certainly would disclaim, and ought to disclaim, this character. If he is; then this assertion does not at all declare, that he is not possessed of this goodness. The decision of this question will, therefore, determine the true application of this answer.
It has heretofore been proved in these discourses, that Christ was the person, who proclaimed on Mount Sinai his own Name to Moses. This Name he declared to be, the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, slow to anger, abundant in goodness and truth. It will not be contested, that the Person, who made this proclamation, was good in the original or absolute sense. Until this Pcrson is proved not to have been Christ, the objection, founded on this text, is a mere begging of the question.
But it is further to be remembered, that Christ was also a man. According to the doctrine of the Trinitarians, therefore, as entirely as to that of their opposers, Christ used this declaration, in the very sense in which they allege it, with the most perfect propriety.