God, Angels, Jesus Christ, and the Crucifixion
With reverence, we approach the subjects proposed for consideration in the present lecture.
That Christendom is astray in its conceptions of God will, unhappily, be but too evident. That we must possess Scriptural knowledge of the subject will also be evident. The “knowledge of God” is an essential feature of Christian attainment, according to the apostolic standard. Those “who know not God” are among those whom vengeance is to overtake (II Thess. 1, 8). Knowledge of God is the basis of sonship to God. Without it, we cannot enter the divine family. How can we love and serve a being whom we do not know? Knowledge is the foundation of all. It is the rock upon which everlasting life itself is built. “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, THE ONLY TRUE GOD, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3).
Where shall we find this knowledge? We cannot find it where we please. It is to be found only where God has placed it. It is to be found in the Scriptures. We cannot get it anywhere else. Nature tells us something. The consummate wisdom of all her arrangements—the ineffable skill displayed in the construction of even the smallest animalcule, show us the presence, in the universe, of a supreme designing and perfect intelligence, but nature can do no more. It can tell us God is, because He must be, but it can tell us nothing of His being, His character, His purpose, His will with regard to man, or His object in forming the universe. Speculations on these points only lead to the monstrosities of ancient and modern heathenism.
That a revelation of Himself has come from the Creator of all things will excite the highest admiration and gratitude in every mind that is enabled to realise what this stupendous privilege means. Peace now and life everlasting for the endless ages coming is easily spoken of: but who can measure the wealth of well-being involved in the words? This wealth comes with the knowledge God has given us: and the knowledge he has given us comes to us through the Bible, and through no other medium-ship in our day.
But we are in a peculiar position with regard to this knowledge. It no longer shines before us in its pristine simplicity and glory. Along with almost every other item of divine truth, it has been covered up in the most dangerous way by the organised Apostasy from original truth, which obtained ascendancy in Christendom very early in the Christian era. The Apostasy does not professedly deny the God revealed in the Bible. On the contrary, it makes an ostentatious profession of belief in Him. It holds up the Bible in its hand and declares it to be the source of its faith—that the God of Israel is its God. In this way, the impression is made universally that the God of popular religion is the God of the Bible, so that in reading the Bible, people do not read critically on the subject, but necessarily and as a matter of course, recognise the popular God in the phrases by which the Bible designates the God of Israel. If the case were otherwise—if popular theology in words denied the God of the Jews, and asserted its own conceptions in opposition to Hebrew revelation, there would be a greater likelihood that people would come to a knowledge of what God has truly revealed concerning Himself, because they would be prepared to sit down clear-headedly, discriminatingly, and independently to ascertain what the Deity of Hebrew revelation is. As it is, people are misled, and find the greatest difficulty in rousing themselves to an apprehension of the difference between the orthodox God and the Bible Deity, and the importance of discerning it.
Popular theology says that God is three eternal elements, all equally increate and self-sustaining, and all equally powerful, each equally personal and distinct from the other, and yet all forming a complete single personal unity. There is, say they, “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost,” each “very God,” each without a beginning, each omnipotent and separate from the other, and yet all ONE.
If we ask why one of these elements should be called the Father, not having preceded or given existence to the others; and why another should be called the Son, not having been brought into existence by the Father, but co-eternal with Him; and why the third should be called the Holy Ghost (or Spirit), since both “God the Father,” and “God the Son” are holy and spiritual, we are not met with an explanation. Popular theology contents itself with saying that the truth is so—that there are three in one and one in three: that as to how such a thing can be, it cannot say, as it is a great mystery.
Mystery indeed! There are mysteries enough in creation—things, that is, that are inscrutable to the human intellect, such as the ultimate nature of light and life; but Trinitarianism propounds—not a mystery, but a contradiction—a stultification—an impossibility. It professes to convey an idea, and no sooner expresses it than it withdraws it, and contradicts it. It says there is one God, yet not one but three, and that the three are not three but one. It is a mere juggle of words, a bewilderment and confusion to the mind, all the more dangerous, because the theory for which it is an apology, employs in some measure the language of the Bible, which talks to us of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
We will look at the Bible representation of the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” We shall find that representation in accord with a rational conception of things, enlightening the understanding as well as satisfying the heart—agreeing with experience, as well as revealing something beyond actual observation. We shall find it to supply that consistent and intelligible information of the First Cause of all things which the intellect of the noblest creature He has formed in this sublunary creation craves, and information of a character such as would be expected to come from such a source.
To begin with “The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:14), as God is apostolically described, who was made known to Israel by the angels, revealed through the prophets, and manifested in Jesus. The first thing revealed about Him is His absolute unity. He is declared to be ONE. This is one of the most conspicuous features of what is revealed on the subject. We submit a few illustrations of the testimony:—Moses to Israel (Deut. 6:4):—
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is ONE Lord.”
Jesus to one of the Scribes (Mark 12:29):—
“Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments, is, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is ONE Lord.”
Paul to the Corinthian believers (I Cor. 8:6):—
“To us there is but ONE GOD, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him.”
Paul to the Ephesians (Eph. 4:6):—
“There is ONE GOD and Father of ALL, who is ABOVE ALL, and through all, and in you all.”
Paul to Timothy (I Tim. 2:5):—
“There is ONE GOD, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
With these statements agree the Almighty’s declarations of Himself, of which the following are examples:—
“I am God, and THERE IS NONE ELSE … and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times the things that are not yet done” (Isa. 46:9, 10).
“I am the Lord, and there is none else: THERE IS NO GOD BESIDE ME” (Isa. 45:5).
“Thus saith the Lord, the King of Israel, and His Redeemer, the Lord of Hosts: I am the first and I am the last, AND BESIDE ME THERE IS NO GOD … Is there a God beside Me? Yea, there is no God; I know not any” (Isa. 44:6, 8).
The only statement in the New Testament that amounts to a plain inculcation of the Trinitarian view, is unanimously renounced by Bible critics as a spurious interpolation upon the original text. On this ground is has been omitted altogether from the Revised Version of the New Testament. It is in the 7th verse of the 5th chapter of I John:—“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one: and there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one.” The interpolation is enclosed in brackets. The verse reads intelligibly without the interpolation, and affirms a fact patent to the early believers. The interpolation bears its condemnation on its face; for it would confine the presence of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”—that is, God in every form according to Trinitarianism—to heaven, and thus upset the Scriptural and obvious fact that the Spirit is everywhere, and that God’s presence, by it, fills the universe.
“This text is not contained in any Greek MS. which was written earlier than the fifth century. It is not cited by any of the Greek ecclesiastical writers, not by any of the earlier Latin fathers, even when the subjects upon which they treat would naturally have led them to appeal to its authority. It is, therefore, evidently spurious, and was first cited, though not as it now reads, by Virgilius Tapsensis, a Latin writer of no credit, in the latter end of the fifth century; but by whom forged is of no great moment, as its design must be obvious to all.” Such is a statement of the grounds upon which the passage has been omitted from the Revised Version.
The revelation of the Deity’s unity, set forth in the testimonies quoted, agrees with the one great induction of modern science. Nature is seen to be under one law and one control throughout its immeasurable fields. There is no jar, no conflict; the power that constitutes, sustains, and regulates all is seen to be ONE. Cold freezes and heat dissolves in all countries alike. The light that discloses the face of the earth, irradiates the moon and illuminates the distant planets. The power that draws the moon in circular journey round the earth, impels the earth around the sun, and drags even that stupendous and glorious body, with all its attendant planets, in a vast cycle, with the rest of starry creation, AROUND AN UNKNOWN CENTRE; that is, a centre distinctly indicated in the motion of the stellar universe, but whose locality cannot even approximately be determined on account of the vastness of the motion, and the impossibility of obtaining data for calculation in the compass of a human life-time.
The suggestion that this Unknown Centre is the source of all power is in significant harmony with what the Scriptures reveal concerning God. There is a source—there must be a source—and this source must be a centre, because all power is manifested at centres. The earth draws every object on it to its centre, and pulls the moon round it as well. The earth in its turn is attracted towards the sun and drawn around it; and the sun itself with the whole framework of creation is drawn round A CENTRE. These are facts in the economy of things, and they are therefore divine facts, because the economy of things is the handiwork of God.
The testimonies quoted say that all things are OUT OF the Father. But where is THE FATHER? Does His name not imply that He is THE SOURCE? And, being the Source, is He not the Centre of creation? Some shrink from the suggestion that Deity has a located existence. Why should they? The Scriptures expressly teach the located existence of Deity. We submit the evidence: Paul says in I Tim. 6:16. God dwells “IN THE LIGHT which no man can approach unto.” Here is a localisation of the person of the Creator. If God were on earth in the same sense in which He dwells in LIGHT UNAPPROACHABLE, what could Paul mean by saying that man cannot approach? If God dwells in UNAPPROACHABLE LIGHT, He must have an existence there, which is not manifested in this mundane sphere. This is borne out by Solomon’s words: “God is IN HEAVEN, thou upon earth” (Ecclesiastes 5:2); “therefore let thy words be few.” Jesus inculcates the same view in the prayer which he taught his disciples: “Our Father which art IN HEAVEN.” So does David, in Psalm 102:19, 20: “He (the Lord) hath looked down from the height of His sanctuary; from heaven did the Lord behold the earth, to hear the groaning of the prisoner.” And again, in Psa. 115:16: “The HEAVEN, even the HEAVENS, are the Lord’s; but the earth hath He given to the children of men.” Solomon in the prayer by which he dedicated the temple to God (recorded in the 8th chapter of I Kings), made frequent use of this expression: “Hear Thou IN HEAVEN Thy dwelling place.” It is impossible to mistake the tenor of these testimonies: they plainly mean that the Father of all is a person who exists in the central “HEAVEN OF HEAVENS” as He exists nowhere else. By His Spirit in immensely-filling diffusion, He is everywhere present in the sense of holding and knowing, and being conscious of creation to its utmost bounds; but in His proper person, all-glorious, beyond human power to conceive, He dwells in heaven.
Consider the ascension of our Lord, after his resurrection, and mark its tendency in this direction. Luke says (chap. 24:51), “He was parted from them, and carried up into HEAVEN, ” and Mark reiterates the statement: “He was received up INTO HEAVEN, and sat on the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19). These statements can only be understood on the principle that the Deity has a personal manifested existence in “THE HEAVENS.” What part of the wide heavens this honoured spot may occupy, we cannot and need not know. Probably it is that great undiscovered astronomical centre to which allusion has already been made.
There is great and invincible repugnance to this evidently Scriptural and reasonable, and beautiful view of the matter. It is the popular habit, where serious views of God are entertained at all, to conceive of Him as a principle or energy in universal diffusion—without corporeal nucleus, without local habitation, “without body or parts.” There is no ground for this popular predilection, except such as philosophy may be supposed to furnish. Philosophy is a poor guide in the matter. Philosophy, after all, is only human thought. It can have little weight in a matter confessedly beyond human ken. The question is, What is revealed? We need not be concerned if what is revealed is contrary to philosophical conceptions of the matter. Philosophical conceptions are just as likely to be wrong as right. Paul warns believers against the danger of being spoiled through philosophy (Col. 2:8). Philosophy or no philosophy, the Scriptures quoted plainly teach that the Father is a tangible person, in whom all the powers of the Universe converge.
There is other evidence in the occurrences at Mount Sinai. There Moses had intercourse with the Deity. We will not say that the Being with whom he had this intercourse was actually THE ETERNAL ONE, because it is evident, from what Stephen and Paul teach, that it was an angelic manifestation (Acts 7:38, 53; Heb. 2:2); and because Christ declares no man hath seen God at any time (John 1:18). Yet it is affirmed that to Moses it was a similitude of Jehovah (Num. 12:8). It was, therefore, a manifestation of the Deity; and, if so, it illustrated the reality of the Deity; for the Deity must be higher, greater, and more real than His subordinate manifestations. The testimony is as follows:—
“The Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I COME UNTO THEE IN A THICK CLOUD, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever.… Be ready against the third day: for the third day THE LORD WILL COME DOWN in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai … And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were THUNDERS AND LIGHTNINGS, and a thick cloud upon the Mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud, so that all the people that were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the nether part of the Mount.
And Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, BECAUSE THE LORD DESCENDED UPON IT IN FIRE, and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.… And God spake all these words (the ten commandments) … And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they removed and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, ‘Speak thou with us and we will hear; but let not God speak with us lest we die’.… And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness, WHERE GOD WAS. And the Lord said unto Moses, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven,” etc. (Ex. 19:9, 11, 16–18; 20:1, 18–22).
Further on this subject, we have the following in Ex. 24:1, 2, 9–12, 15–18:—
“And He (Jehovah) said unto Moses, come up unto the Lord, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship ye afar off. And Moses alone shall come near the Lord; but they shall not come nigh, neither shall the people go up with him.… Then went up Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, AND THEY SAW THE GOD OF ISRAEL. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel He laid not His hand; also they saw God, and did eat and drink. And the Lord said unto Moses. Come up to Me into the Mount, and be there, and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written, that thou mayest teach them.… And Moses went up into the Mount, and a cloud covered the Mount. And the glory of the Lord abode upon Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And the seventh day He called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud; and the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the Mount in the eyes of the children of Israel. And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the Mount; and Moses was in the Mount forty days and forty nights.”
All subsequent reference to these things is founded on the idea that they are related to a real person and presence. Thus we read in Numbers 12:8:—
“With (Moses) will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches, and the SIMILITUDE of the Lord shall he behold.”
Again (Exodus 33:11):—
“And the Lord spake unto Moses FACE TO FACE, as a man speaketh unto his friend.”
Again (Deut. 34:10):—
“And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.”
Now, though the manifestation witnessed in these cases was a manifestation through angelic mediumship, yet the manifestation speaks to us of a Being higher and more real than that manifestation. It helps the mind to climb to some conception (though necessarily superficial and inadequate) of Him “who maketh His angels spirits; His ministers a flaming fire” (Psa. 104:4)—who is “light, and in whom is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5)—who “inhabiteth eternity” (Isa. 57:15)—who is a “consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29)—whom no man hath seen, nor (on account of our grossness and weakness of nature) can see; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto (I Tim. 6:16)—who is of purer eyes than to behold the iniquity of the children of men (Hab. 1:13)—the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, who fainteth not, neither is weary, and there is no searching of His understanding (Isa. 40:28).
“Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and meted out heaven with a span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or, being His counsellor, hath taught Him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed Him and taught Him in the path of judgment, and taught Him knowledge, and showed to Him the way of understanding?… All nations before Him are as nothing, and they are counted to Him less than nothing, and vanity. To whom, then, will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto Him?” (Isa. 40:12–18). Who can, by searching, find out God? (Job 11:7). Behold, God is great, and we know Him not; neither can the number of His years be searched out (Job 36:26). His eyes are upon the ways of man, and He seeth all his goings.
The testimony before us is, that God is the only underived and self-sustaining existence in the universe. All other forms of life are but incorporations of the life which is in Him—so many subdivisions of the stream which issues from the great fountainhead. The following statements affirm this view:—
“The King of kings, and Lord of lords, who ONLY hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto” (I Tim. 6:15, 16).
“IN HIM we live, and move, and HAVE OUR BEING” (Acts 17:28).
“For out of Him (ex autou), and through Him, and to Him ARE ALL THINGS” (Rom. 11:36).
“To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom ARE ALL THINGS” (I Cor. 8:6).
Popular theology teaches that God’ made all things “out of nothing.” This is evidently one of many errors that have long passed current as truth. It has proved an unfortunate error; for it has brought physical science into needless collision with the Bible. Physical science has compelled men to accept it as an axiomatic truth that “out of nothing, nothing can come,” and having been led to believe that the Bible teaches that all things have been made out of nothing, they have dismissed the Bible as out of the question on that ground alone. They have taken refuge by preference in various theories that have recognised the eternity of material force in some form or other.
The Bible teaches that all things have been made out of God—not out of nothing. It teaches, as the passages quoted show, that God, as the antecedent, eternal power of the universe, has elaborated all things out of Himself. “Spirit,” irradiating from Him, has, under the fiat of His will, been embodied in the vast material creation which we behold. That Spirit now constitutes the substratum of all existence—the vary essence and first cause of everything. All things are “in God,” because embraced in that mighty effluence which radiating from Himself, fills all space, and constitutes the basis of all existence. In this way God is omnipresent; His consciousness is en rapport with all creation by reason of the universal prevalence of His Spirit, which is one with His personal Spirit-substance, in the way that light is one with the body of the sun. The idea of God’s omniscience is too high for us to readily grasp, but we see it illustrated on a small scale in the fact that the human brain in certain sensitive states is conscious of everything within the radius of its own nervous effluence. Though located in the heavens, the Creator, by His universal Spirit, knows everything; and His infinite capacity of mind enables Him to deal with everything, contemplatively or executively, as the case may require.
So much at this time concerning THE FATHER—the Root and the Rock of creation. We next introduce the subject of “the Spirit” for investigation.
We have had to say much of this in speaking of the Father, but it calls for separate consideration. The Spirit is much spoken of throughout the whole course of Scripture. We are introduced to it as early as the first chapter of Genesis, and only part from its company in the last chapter of Revelation. We get a key to the subject in the fact testified, that the Father is “spirit” in His personal substance (“God is spirit”—John 4:24), and that the Spirit in its diffusion has to do with the Father, for He styles it “My spirit” (Gen. 6:3). Nehemiah says, Thou “testifiedst against them (our fathers) by THY SPIRIT in Thy prophets” (Nehem. 9:30). The Father and the Spirit are one. Yet there is a distinction between the Father and the Spirit as to the form in which they are presented to our apprehension. Of the former, as we have seen, it is testified that He dwells “in heaven—in unapproachable light,” and is therefore, located; while of the latter, it is declared that it is everywhere alike.
“Whither shall I go from Thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in hell (or the grave, or unseen place), behold, Thou art there; if I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me; if I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me, even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from Thee, but the night shineth as the day. The darkness and the light are both alike to Thee” (Psa. 139:7–12).
But, in addition to its universality of diffusion, the Spirit is also presented in the aspect of an agency used by the Father in the accomplishment of His designs. Thus, in speaking of the origin of the various tribes of living creatures that inhabit the earth, David says, “Thou sendest forth Thy spirit, they are created: and Thou renewest the face of the earth” (Psa. 104:30). Again, “By His spirit He hath garnished the heavens” (Job 26:13). Again, “The spirit of God hath made me; and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life” (chap. 33:4). “The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:2). Also, how frequently throughout the history of Israel we read the words that the “Spirit of God came upon” this and that prophet, when anything wonderful was accomplished (e.g., Jud. 15:14). All prophecy and revelation were communicated in the same way. “Thou testifiedst … by Thy spirit in Thy prophets” (Nehem. 9:30). “I am full of power by the spirit of the Lord” (Micah 3:8). “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (II Pet. 1:21).
It will occur to every reflecting mind that if this spirit is an actual element in universal creation, its presence ought to be detected in the course of the extensive and relentless researches now and for many years going on into the secrets of nature, in the laboratory of the experimental chemist. It may shock the current theological mind to suggest so intimate a relation between the Deity and His works. But the higher forms of intelligence cannot exclude the perception that if God has evolved the material universe out of His own energy, and sustains and controls it by His power, that energy cannot be a nullity, but must be an actually present force in the economy of things.
Now, it is a fact that in our day, there has been discovered a subtle, unanalysable, incomprehensible principle, which, though inscrutable in its essence, is found to be at the basis of all the phenomena of nature—itself eluding the test of chemistry or the deductions of philosophy. Scientists have called it ELECTRICITY. This is everywhere, and is the foundation of all organisation, in fact, of all substance, whether organised or unorganised. MATTER in every form is but a combination of grosser elements held together by electricity. Electricity governs the laws of an animal’s life and a planet’s motion—omnipotent under the hand of intelligence to destroy or build up.
What is this? The name “Electricity” tells nothing; that really means “amber-icity” (electron being the Greek word for amber), and was adopted as the name of the inscrutable element from the circumstance that its existence was first discovered from the friction of amber. Could a better name be devised than what the Scriptures have given it—SPIRIT? It is one of the highest proofs of the truth of Jewish revelation, that its disclosure of the Deity in His relation to the universe coincides with the facts brought to light by the researches of the human intellect in the field of nature.
The employment of this element in accomplishing the designs of intelligence, is illustrated in the facts of animal magnetism, mesmerism, biology, table rapping, clairvoyance, and “spiritualism.” In these sciences and systems—(some of them ignorantly made the basis of pretensions to divine prescience and authority)—men make use of the divine “ruach” which they naturally possess, to accomplish results which cannot be developed apart from the action of willpower. Though animals have the same spirit, they lack the intelligence to use it in this form. They use it all up in the mere process of existence. Men having intelligence, find this wonderful agent at their command to a limited degree. One man can influence another by it. Inanimate objects can be moved. Distant facts and occurrences can, in a high state of nervous susceptibility, be perceived by it. Unopened letters can be read; and numberless other prodigies accomplished, made familiar by science and the facts of “spiritualism”—a false and absurd system, based upon misunderstood facts of nature.
We are thus enabled to comprehend the relation assigned in the Scriptures to this universal, invisible agent, in the operations of Deity. If a human being, who is but the faint image of the divine, can in certain stages, have his powers of cognition extended beyond his material person by the action of spirit, it is easy to conceive that the Deity’s observation and presence are as universal and infinite as spirit itself. If a human being can move a needle, lift a table, and compel another to act without the intervention of material instrumentality, by the employment of this invisible fluid as the medium of his will, what difficulty is there in understanding the Deity, who is infinite, doing anything He may will to do, and communicating a revelation of Himself to chosen men in the way recorded in the Scriptures?
Spirit concentrated under the Almighty’s will, becomes Holy Spirit, as distinct from spirit in its free, spontaneous form. In the one, we are in the domain of fixed law; in the other, God is in communion with us for words of wisdom or works of power, independently of fixed law. It is given to but few to experience this form of the Spirit’s manifestation. It is given to none in the present day. The apostles were the recipients of it on the day of Pentecost. Its power was real and felt. Its influx was accompanied with the sound of a mighty wind, that shook the material fabric of the building in which they were assembled. Its results were manifest, God’s hand was upon the apostles, and they were endowed with powers above natural law. Their faculties were preternaturally exercised. They were enabled by the Spirit to speak fluently in languages they had never learnt; not in unknown tongues, but words which were identified by the bystanders as the current languages of the time. These bystanders were Jews and proselytes from the various countries of the globe, assembled to keep the feast of Pentecost at Jerusalem. When they heard the apostles, they said:—
“Are not all these which speak Galileans? And how hear we every man IN OUR OWN TONGUE wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:7–11).
By the same power, the apostles were instructed in things they did not know naturally, according to the promise of Christ. “When he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak, and he shall show you things to come” (John 16:13). It also endowed them with miraculous power, evinced in the instantaneous cure of disease, the raising of the dead, and other wonderful works. The Spirit was the medium, instrumentality, or power by which these things were done. It was a reality, a palpably present something pervading the persons of the apostles. Thus, from the body of Paul “were brought unto the sick, handkerchiefs, or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them” (Acts 19:11, 12). The healing spirit-power in Paul could be conveyed in conducting media, and brought medically to bear on the afflicted. Thus, also the shadow of Peter crossing the sick was efficacious for cure (Acts 5:15). The same peculiarity is apparent in the case of Jesus, to whom the Spirit was given without measure (John 3:34). When a certain afflicted woman in a crowd came stealthily behind him and touched the hem of his garment, that she might receive benefit, Jesus “perceived that virtue had gone out of him” (Luke 8:46; Matt. 14:35, 36).
These miraculous powers were necessary to qualify the apostles for the performance of the work they had to do. That work was to bear witness to the resurrection of Christ (Acts 1:22), as the basis of the truth built upon that fact. Now, how could they have done this with any effect if their testimony had not been miraculously confirmed? How could they have obtained credence to the naturally incredible announcement that a man publicly executed by the Romans, had been secretly raised from the dead, unless their words had been confirmed by the power alleged to be on their side? It is true the apostles were witnesses, in a natural sense, of the fact that Christ was alive, and would have steadily maintained their testimony to the fact, even if God had not worked with them, but how could the work of getting many to believe their testimony have been accomplished? The earnest protestation of belief on the part of the apostles, though it might have influenced a few, could not have produced that widespread conviction which was necessary to the creation of the Body of Christ.
The effusion of the Holy Spirit did this. By the manifestation of supernatural powers, it bore witness to the truth of what the apostles declared. It is said, “They went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following” (Mark 16:20). Paul describes the case in similar terms:—“The great salvation which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him, God also bearing them witness with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit” (Heb. 2:3, 4). In this sense, the Holy Spirit is styled a witness of Christ’s resurrection; “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree, … and we are His witnesses of these things, and so is also the HOLY SPIRIT, whom God hath given to them that obey Him” (Acts 5:30–32). This is in accordance with what Christ had said: “When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me. And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26, 27).
The power granted to the apostles for the confirmation of their testimony, was deposited in them as heavenly treasure in an earthen vessel, and they had the power of imparting it to others. This is evident from an incident recorded in Acts 8. Philip, the evangelist, went down to Samaria, and so proclaimed the truth (of which miraculous attestation was produced by him), that many believed and were baptised; but these did not at the time receive the gift of the Holy Spirit:—
“Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the Word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John, who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that, on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:14–19).
This power of bestowing the Spirit was invariably exercised where the truth was received. In almost every case recorded, the reception of the Spirit followed the reception of the truth. It was, indeed, a matter of promise that this should be so. On the day of Pentecost, Peter said, “Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit: for the promise is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:38, 39). This promise was realised in the experience of the churches founded in the days of the apostles. The spirit distributed to believers its preternatural powers in different forms and degrees. Paul says:—
“There are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the serf-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (I Cor. 12:6–11).
The object of this general diffusion of spiritual power in apostolic times, is thus stated by Paul:—
“He gave some apostles; and some prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:11–14).
This is perfectly intelligible. If the early churches, consisting of men and women fresh from the abominations and immoralities of heathenism, and without the authoritative standard of the completed Scripture which now exists, had been left to the mere power of apostolic tradition intellectually received, they could not have held together. The winds of doctrine, blowing about through the activity of “men of corrupt minds,” would have broken them from their moorings, and they would have been tossed to and fro in the billows of uncertain and conflicting report and opinion, and finally stranded in hopeless shipwreck. This catastrophe was prevented by the gifts of the spirit. Properly qualified men, as to moral and intellectual parts, were made the repositories of these gifts, and empowered to “speak and exhort, and rebuke with all authority.” They “ruled” the communities over which they were placed, feeding the flock of God over which the Holy Spirit had made them overseers, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind, neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock (Acts 20:28; I Peter 5:2, 3). In this way the early churches were built up and edified. The work of the apostles was conserved, improved, and carried to a consummation. The faith was completed and consolidated by the voice of inspiration, speaking through the spiritually-appointed leaders of the churches. By this means the results of gospel-preaching in the first century, when there were no railways, telegraphs, or other means of a rapid circulation of ideas, instead of evaporating to nothing, as, otherwise, they would have done, were secured and made permanent, both as regards that generation and succeeding centuries.
But it must be obvious that the case stands very differently now. There is no manifestation of the Spirit in these days. The power of continuing the manifestation doubtless died with the apostles; not that God could not have transferred it to others, but that He selected them as the channels of its bestowment in their age, and never, so far as we have any evidence, appointed “successors.” There are many who claim to be their successors; but it is not the word but the power of a man that must be taken as the test in this matter. Let those who think they have the Spirit produce their evidences. There is a great outcry about the Holy Spirit in popular preaching; but nothing more. There are phenomena which are considered outpourings of the Holy Spirit; but they bear no resemblance to those of apostolic experience, and, therefore, must be rejected. They are explicable on natural principles.
When an exciting and highly mesmeric preacher gets a crowded audience, it is not a great wonder if his inflammatory exertions are successful in stimulating the susceptible among his hearers, to a state of mind corresponding with his own. He but uses a natural means, which evokes a natural result. If any of the natural conditions are wanting, the result is impaired to that extent. The “spirit,” for instance, never descends to the same extent at an outdoor meeting as in a crowded chapel, especially if the day be windy. It is not dispensed so liberally to half-filled as to well-occupied pews. It does not come so quickly at the bidding of a dull temperament and barren imagination, especially if the man be of small stature—as it does to that of a lusty, exciteable, well-built man, or a nervous, wiry, emphatic man. The reason is, that all these conditions are unfavourable to the play of the latent magnetism of the human system.
Were it the Holy Spirit that attended these operations, it would overleap all barriers, and not only so, but its result would be of a more worthy and permanent character than the impressions made at “revival meetings,” and rather more in harmony with what the Spirit has said through its ancient media, than the sentiments induced at these gatherings. But the fact is, it is not the Holy Spirit at all. It is the mere spirit of the flesh worked up into a religious excitement, through the influence of fear—an excitement which subsides as rapidly as the agency of its inception is withdrawn.
The result of an intelligent apprehension of what the word of God teaches and requires, is different from this; this has its seat in the judgment, and lays hold of the entire mental man, creating new ideas and new affections, and, in general, evolving a “new man.” In this work, the Spirit has no participation, except in the shape of the written word. This is the product of the Spirit—the ideas of the Spirit reduced to writing by the ancient men who were moved by it. It is, therefore, the instrumentality of the Spirit, historically wielded: the sword of the Spirit by a metaphor which contemplates the Spirit in prophets and apostles in ancient times, as the warrior. By this, men may be subdued to God—that is, enlightened, purified, and saved, if they receive the word into good and honest hearts, and “bring forth fruit, some thirty-fold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” By this they may become “spiritually minded,” which is “life and peace” (Rom. 8:6). The present days are barren days, as regards the Spirit’s direct operations. They are the days predicted in the following language:—
“I will send a famine in the land; not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, AND SHALL NOT FIND IT” (Amos 8:11–12).
“Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them. Then shall the seers be ashamed and the diviners confounded; yea, they shall all cover their lips, for there is no answer of God” (Mic. 3:6–7).
Jesus says, “No man hath seen God at any time”; yet in Genesis 32:30, Jacob says, “I HAVE SEEN GOD FACE TO FACE, and my life is preserved.” There are other places in scripture in which God is said to have appeared, and to have been seen and talked to, which is in seeming contradiction to the statement of Jesus, and requires explanation.
The explanation introduces us to THE SUBJECT OF ANGELS: for it so happens that the difficulty has been created by the improper translation of terms employed in connection with God’s angelic manifestations. God’s manifestations have chiefly been by angelic mediumship. This will be evident to the ordinary New Testament reader from Paul’s description of the law given to Moses as “the word spoken by angels” (Heb. 2:2); and Stephen’s remark that God, who spoke to Moses in Sinai, was “the angel that spake to him” (Acts 7:38). This feature will be found constantly recurrent.
Now, the names by which these angelic beings are designated are appropriate to them as the subordinate agents of the Deity. But this fact is concealed in the English version of the Scriptures by the translation of all divine names uniformly by the terms “Lord” and “God.” Dr. Thomas says:—
“The names of God which occur in the Bible are not arbitrary sounds; and one of the chief imperfections of the English authorised translation, or rather version, is the slovenly manner in which all the names by which God has been pleased to make Himself known to His people, have been rendered after the fashion of the Septuagint, by the two words, ‘Lord’ and ‘God’. These words do not convey the ideas of the spirit in its use of terms. ‘Lord’ is of Saxon origin, and signifies monarch, ruler, governor, something supreme or distinguished …
“It fails to represent the meaning of Ail, Eloah, Elohim, Shaddai, and Yahweh; for all of which it is often, or rather most frequently, and almost generally used. The word Adon [another of the names of God employed in the original] is properly enough rendered by ‘Lord’, but not the other words, for which it should never be used. The common use of God in the English language is as little justifiable as that of the word Lord. God, in Saxon, signifies good, a meaning which cannot possibly be extracted from any of the names recited above; God is indeed good, but that word is not a translation of any of the words before us, and when used in their stead, leaves the mind in the dark concerning the things which they were intended to convey.”
He then goes on to give a definition of each of the various words referred to. Ail, signifying strength, might, or power: Eloah, having the same signification; and Jehovah, or, more properly, Yahweh, literally He who will be, are all names appropriated to the uncreated Deity; but Shaddai and Elohim are plural names otherwise applied. Shaddai signifies mighty or powerful ones, from Shahdad, to be strong or powerful; while Elohim is the plural of Eloah, and means gods or powerful ones. Now these plural names are very frequently employed in the record of God’s transactions with men; and it will be found they are descriptive of the angels. In Hebrews 1:6, Paul quotes a statement from Psalm 97:7, in which the word “Elohim” occurs. In the Psalm it is rendered “gods”—“Worship him, all ye gods”; in Hebrews, it is rendered as follows:—“Let all the angels of God worship Him.” Here, to Paul’s mind, Elohim represented angels.
Again, in Exodus 3, we have an account of the unconsumed burning bush, which God selected as a medium of communication with Moses. It is stated that Moses hid his face and was afraid to look upon God, who announced Himself from the bush as “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”; yet in the second verse, we read that “the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of the bush”; so that the agency was angelic, though the power was of God.
Again, in the instance already cited, Jacob says that he had “seen God face to face”; while from Hosea we find that it was not the Most High God that Jacob saw, but one of the Elohim, or angels. The prophet (Hosea 12:3, 4) referring to the incident, says, “Jacob by strength had power with God; yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed.”
These instances prove that “Lord” and “God,” as employed in the English version, do not always signify the great Increate, but sometimes, in fact almost generally, those glorious beings who act and speak in His name and with His authority. Keeping this in view, many seeming difficulties made much of by unbelievers entirely disappear.
The angels are referred to by David in these words:—“Bless the Lord, ye His angels, that excel in strength, that do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word” (Psalm 103:20). Who are these angels? Popular theology represents them in books and on hearses, tombstones, etc., as baby cherubs with wings. Many believe that their ranks are greatly recruited from time to time by arrivals from earth of baby-spirits, who, thenceforth, become their mothers’ guardians—a beautiful poetical fancy, and very pleasing to maternal instincts; but as a matter of serious teaching, to be dismissed from the rational mind. It is simply untrue. The whole of popular belief concerning the nature of angels is characterised by the same mysticism and misconception which we have seen to pertain to other doctrines. The angels of the Bible are as real as ourselves, though of a much more exalted order of being: and, instead of babyhood, are distinguished by all the maturity and dignity which belong to perfect intelligence. Three of them appeared to Abraham (Gen. 18:1–5):—
“He sat in the tent door in the heat of the day, and he lift up his eyes, and looked, and lo! three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, and said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; and I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on.”
Abraham thought they were ordinary wayfarers, and desired to extend his hospitality towards them. Paul, referring to the circumstances in Heb. 13:2, says: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels UNAWARES.”
“And the men said unto Abraham, So do as thou hast said. And Abraham took butter and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.”
In the next chapter, we read:—
“There came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground, and he said, Behold, now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet; and ye shall rise up early and go on your ways. And they said, Nay, but we will abide in the street all night. And he pressed upon them greatly, and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat.” (vv. 1–3).
Lot, also, like Abraham, supposed his angelic visitors to be ordinary men, and was among the number of those who “entertained angels unawares.” He was only brought to a knowledge of their true character when they said:—
“Bring all that thou hast out of this place, for we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord; and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it.” (Gen. 19:12, 13).
Manoah, the father of Samson, fell into a similar mistake (Judges 13:15). He pressed an angel-visitor to partake of his hospitality; and it is added (verse 16), “for Manoah knew not that he was an angel of the Lord.” These narratives prove that the angels of God are like ourselves, so far as figure is concerned; and that they are not the ethereal beings of popular theology. Eating and having their feet washed takes them out of the category of “orthodox” angels. They are as real and substantial as mortal men, but of a higher nature. Like the glorified righteous of the future age, they are incorruptible in substance, and, therefore, immortal, and luminous in appearance when that quality is not restrained. We read in the account of Christ’s resurrection (given by Matthew, chapter 28:2, 3), that “the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow”; and Cornelius, when describing the vision of an angel which he had seen, says (Acts 10:30), “A MAN stood before me in bright clothing.”
The angels, in form and feature, resemble human beings. They eat and drink, and walk and talk, and deport themselves in general like ourselves; but unlike us, they are incorruptible, deathless, perfect, and strong in the might with which God has invested them for the execution of His purposes. They have power to traverse space; but it does not require wings to do this, for the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven without the aid of such appendages. It is only necessary to possess power to counteract the influence of physical gravitation, and the ability to command it at will. This power dwells in the angels and in the Lord Jesus Christ, and seems generally to be the characteristic of spirit-bodies. In the angels we behold an exemplification of what the saints will be after the resurrection; for Jesus says:—
“They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; neither can they die any more; FOR THEY ARE EQUAL UNTO THE ANGELS, and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection” (Luke 20:35, 36).
At present, the righteous are “a little lower than the angels” (Heb. 2:7); then, they will be on the same level. This is a confirmation of all that was advanced in the last lecture regarding the state of the righteous after they have attained to immortality. It is a state in which they will be real, substantial, human-like in form, of flesh and bone, yet incorruptible, glorious, powerful, never-dying, perfect in happiness, uncloyed in the exercise of the functions of their exalted condition.
On the Nature of Jesus Christ
If Christendom is astray as to the Father and the Holy Spirit, it is not wonderful that we should find it astray in its conception of the Lord Jesus who is the manifestation of the Father by the Spirit. Christendom believes Christ to be the incarnation of one of three distinct essences, or personalities, which are supposed to constitute the God-head; and that though clothed in human form, he was God in the absolute sense of being the Creator.
This is the doctrine of the Trinitarian section of Christendom, in opposition to which, another section believes that Christ was a mere man, begotten in the ordinary process of generation, and distinguished above his fellows by a pre-eminent endowment of the “virtues” of human nature, which fitted him to be an example to mankind. This (the Unitarian) view regards him as a teacher sent from God, and is in some sense the Son of God; but denies the essential divinity of his nature. Both these views will be found equally removed from the truth. The truth lies between.
The testimonies which teach the indivisible unity of the Deity, as the One Father, out of whom all things have proceeded, and who is supreme above all, even above Christ (I Cor. 11:3), are inconsistent with the Trinitarian representation of God. The supremacy and unity of the Father would not be affirmable if there were three co-equal personalities in His One personality—a doctrine which presents us with a contradiction in terms as well as in sense. Jesus emphasises the distinction between himself and the Father, in the following statements:—
“I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30).
“My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me” (John 7:16).
“It is written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself; and the Father that sent me (the other witness), beareth witness of me” (John 8:17–18).
“This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, AND Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3).
The marked distinction recognised and affirmed in these statements is incompatible with the doctrine which regards the Son as an essential constituent of the one “triune” Father. There are “the Father,” “the Son,” and “the Holy Spirit.” The question is, what is the relation between the three, as taught in the Scriptures? The objection now urged is against the relation which Trinitarianism teaches to exist between these three. The endeavour is to show that they are not three co-equal powers in one, but powers of which one is the head and source of the others. The Father is eternal and underived; the Son is the manifestation of the Father in a man begotten by the Spirit; the Holy Spirit is the focalisation of the Father’s power, by means of His “free spirit,” which fills heaven and earth. There is, therefore, a trinity of existences to contemplate, and a certain unity subsisting in the trinity, inasmuch as both Son and Spirit are manifestations of the one Father; but the Trinitarian conception of the subject is excluded.
But the Unitarian view, still more so. Joseph was not the father of Jesus. He himself repudiated his paternity, and was about to put away Mary, his betrothed, when an angel came to him with this message:—
“Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife. For that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:20).
This marvel had been previously intimated to Mary by the angel Gabriel, as recorded in Luke 1:35:—
“The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee; and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”
The Unitarian evades these testimonies by denying the authenticity of the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke. The reasons for this denial are altogether flimsy and insufficient: nay, they are bad. The evidence in proof of the genuineness of the (by them) rejected chapters is more than decisive: it cannot be answered: it is irresistible. It leaves no room for doubt or gainsaying. There is the united evidence of all the accessible ancient MSS. and versions, supported by the recognition of the very earliest Christian writers, confirmed by the internal character of the chapters and the necessity for the event which they narrate, to explain the character and mission of Jesus of Nazareth. Against this, there is the merely negative fact that the disputed chapters are absent from the Ebionite gospel, which at the time of its production was pronounced a corruption; and from the Evangelium of Marcion, a gospel which he wrote to suit his own heathenish notions, and from which he recklessly omitted, not only the disputed chapters, but everything that interfered with his peculiar ideas.
The first writer who mentions the Ebionites is Irenæus, who speaks of them as a sect not only separated from the general body of Christians, but who opposed the doctrines preached by the Apostles, and rejected, not only the disputed chapters, but the greater part of the books of the New Testament, rejecting all the epistles of Paul, whom they called an apostate from the law. They only made use of a Hebrew gospel, which they called Matthew’s, but which differs from Matthew in many particulars besides the two chapters. Here is a sect which rejected whole books of authentic Scripture, because they were inimical to their notions. How can a reasonable man accept such a sect as affording guidance on the question of the authenticity of two particular chapters absent from their version, but present in almost all other MSS. throughout the world? Their “Matthew” was impugned at the time. It was proclaimed a corruption of the genuine gospel, while the “canonical” Matthew, as we have it, was never called in question. Epiphanius thus speaks:—“In that gospel which they (the Ebionites) have called the gospel according to Matthew, which is not entire and perfect, but corrupted and curtailed, and which they call The Hebrew Gospel, it is written” (and he quotes), “Thus,” says he, “they change the true account into a falsehood … They have taken away the genealogy from Matthew, and accordingly begin their gospel with these words: ‘It came to pass, in the days of Herod, King of Judæa.’ ” Origen alludes to it thus:—“It is written in a certain gospel, which is called, ‘according to the Hebrews,’ if indeed any one is pleased to receive it, NOT AS OF AUTHORITY, but for illustration of the present question” (and then he quotes). He afterwards quotes this as a specimen of the same gospel according to the Hebrews: “Just now my mother, the Holy Ghost, took me by one of my hairs, and carried me to the great mountain Tabor.” This absurdity, and another passage, quoted by Origen, prove that the text of the Hebrew gospel, read by Origen, was not the same as our Greek gospel of Matthew, with which its friends suppose it to be identical. It differed on many points besides the first two chapters. The absence of the first two chapters of Matthew from the Ebionite and Nazarene gospels is of no weight in view of their rejection of Paul’s epistles, which even the Unitarians accept. The omission is accounted for in the way the rejection of Paul’s epistles is accounted for; the two first chapters did not coincide with their notions, and therefore they struck them out. The Nazarene and Ebionite copies of Matthew’s gospel not only omit the first two chapters, but in several instances they contradict the other three gospels of Mark, Luke, and John, whereas the corresponding passages in our Greek copy of Matthew agree with them, which shows which way the tampering has occurred.
As to Marcion, he omitted the two disputed chapters: but he also rejected the whole of the Old Testament, both the law and the prophets, as proceeding from the God of the Jews, whom he regarded as the creator of this world, in contrast to a higher Creator. As to the New Testament, he made one for himself consisting of only one gospel, supposed to be compiled chiefly from Luke, and only ten of Paul’s epistles, which are altered from the received version in numerous instances, in order to make the text more pliable to his gnostic notions. People who quote him against the miraculous conception are bound consistently to follow him in these variations as well. He did not admit Christ to have been born at all. Consequently, be begins his gospel thus:—“In the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius, God descended into Capernaum.” He not only omits the first two chapters of Luke; he omits also the account of John the Baptist, the baptism of Christ, and his visit to Nazareth. He also omits part of chapter 8:19; 10:21; 11, part of verse 29, and all of verses 30, 31, 32, 49, 50, 51; 12:6, 28, part of verses 8, 30, 32; 13:1–5: altered verse 28, omitted from 29 to end of chapter: 15:11–32; 17, part of 10–12: whole of verse 13: whole of 17:31–33; 19:28–48; 20, from 9 to 18: also 37, 38; 21:18, 21, 22; 22:16, 35, 37, 50, 51; 23:43; 24:26–7, and verse 25 altered.
Those who quote Marcion as an authority in the case of the first two chapters, ought to accept him as such in all these cases. That they disregard him in these cases is a proof that, even in their opinion, his authority is of no weight.
The divine paternity of Jesus would stand an unassailable truth, even if the records of Matthew and Luke had no existence. These records are, however, invaluable. They are the circumstantial illustrations of a truth which, though the nature of the case, and the prophetic testimony necessitate it, we could not have so clearly and satisfactorily comprehended without them. They explain to us the appearance and character of Christ, and make us privy to the divine method of procedure, from its incipiency onwards, in the most wondrous work of God among men.
That Christ was an example in the sense of being “holy, harmless, and undefiled” is beyond doubt; but it is also true that he was a great deal more. The speciality of his mission is so plainly stated as to leave no room for the Unitarian doctrine of moral example. “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world, ” said John the Baptist, on seeing Jesus (John 1:29). How did he take it away? The answer is in the words of the apostle Paul:—“He put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26). Jesus himself had said, “I lay down my life for my sheep.” Paul also says to Timothy, in the second epistle, first chapter, tenth verse, “Jesus Christ hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”; a fact which is stated by Christ himself in this form, “God sent His Son, that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17). Furthermore, Peter says, “There is none other name under heaven given whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12). Salvation is thus directly connected with the first appearing of Christ, and with what he accomplished then; not on the principle of moral stimulus supplied, but in virtue of the essential result secured by the course he fulfilled.
Leaving both Trinitarianism and Unitarianism, we may find the truth in the Scriptures for ourselves. The simple appellation of “Son,” as applied to Christ, is sufficient to prove that his existence is derived, and not eternal. The phrase, “Son of God,” implies that the one God, the eternal Father, was antecedent to the Son, and that the Son had his origin in or “out of” the Father to whom he must therefore be subordinate in a sense inconsistent with Trinitarian representation. “This day have I begotten thee” is the language of Scripture, dearly pointing to a commencement of days. This view is confirmed by the statement of Christ:—“As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself” (John 5:26).
Christ, therefore, though now possessed of inherent life, had been invested with it; it is not in this case underived. It is only the Great Uncreate, the Father, that can say, “I am, and there is none else beside me.” Yet, though Christ’s is not an underived existence, it is more directly divine than the human. A man is an embodiment of his father’s mortal life-energy. Jesus was not born of the will of the flesh, but of God. He was begotten of Mary through the power of the spirit. This was the origin of his title, “the Son of God.” See the angel’s words to Mary:—“Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
But, though Son of God, he was flesh and blood. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of THE SAME.… He took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren” (Heb. 2:14, 16, 17). He was made sin for us, who knew no sin (II Cor. 5:21). As he was in character sinless, this could only apply to his bodily constitution, which, through Mary, was the sin-nature of Adam. As Paul says elsewhere (Rom. 8:3), “God sent his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.” “He was sent forth made of a woman” (Gal. 4:4), “of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Rom. 1:3). Jesus was “a man approved of God by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him (after his thirty years’ preparation) in the midst of Israel” (Acts 2:22). This is Peter’s description of him. Paul speaks of him as “the man Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 2:5). He was tried and disciplined as Adam was, but succeeded where Adam failed. “Though he were a son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” (Heb. 5:8). This precludes the idea of his being “very God.” He was the Son of God, the manifestation of God by spirit-power, but not God himself. “The life was manifested, ” says John, “and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested unto us” (I John 1:2).
Again, in his gospel narrative (chapter 1:14), he says:—“The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth,” from which it is evident that Christ was a divine manifestation—an embodiment of Deity in flesh—Emmanuel, God with us. “God giveth not the spirit by measure unto him,” says the same apostle (chapter 3:34). The spirit descended upon him in bodily shape at his baptism in the Jordan, and took possession of him. This was the anointing which constituted him Christ (or the anointed), and which gave him the superhuman powers of which he showed himself possessed. This is clear from the words of Peter, in his address to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius—(Acts 10:38)—“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed.”
This statement alone is sufficient to disprove the popular view of Christ’s essential Godhead. If he were “very God” in his character as Son, why was it necessary he should be “anointed” with spirit and power? He did no miracles before his anointing. He had no power of himself. This is his own declaration: “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30). “The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John 14:10). On Calvary, left to the utter helplessness of his own humanity, he felt the anguish of the hour and cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). Before his anointing, he was simply the “body prepared” for the divine manifestation that was to take place through him. The preparation of this body commenced with the Spirit’s action on Mary, and concluded when Jesus, being thirty years of age, stood approved in the perfection of a sinless and mature character. After the Spirit’s descent upon him, he was the full manifestation of God in the flesh. The Father, by the Spirit, tabernacled in Christ among men. “God was in Christ,” says Paul, “reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.”
When raised from the dead and glorified, he was exalted to “all power in heaven and earth ”; his human nature was swallowed up in the divine; the flesh changed to spirit. Hence, as he now exists, “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the God-head bodily” (Col. 2:9). He is now the corporealisation of life-spirit as it exists in the Deity. But this change from what he was “in the days of his flesh” has not obliterated a single line of his human recollections. This is evident from Paul’s words in reference to his priestly function: “We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Heb. 4:15). This can only be on the principle that Jesus retains a memory of the infirmity with which he himself was encompassed in the day of his flesh career upon earth.
When Jesus said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father,” he did not contradict the statement that “no man hath seen God at any time,” but simply expressed the truth contained in the following words of Paul:—Christ is “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15); “the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3). Those who looked upon the anointed Jesus, beheld a representation of the Deity accessible to human vision.
Jesus declares things of himself which are held to sanction the idea that he existed as a person before his birth of Mary; such as that “he came down from heaven to give life to the world” (John 6:33); that “he proceeded forth and came from the Father” (John 8:42; 16:28); that he had “power to lay down his life and power to take it again” (John 10:18); that he “had glory with the Father before the world was,” and was “loved of Him before the foundation of the world” (John 17:5–24), etc.
It is evident, however, that we must understand these expressions in the light of the undoubted facts of Christ’s life and mission. These literal facts are that he was begotten of the Holy Spirit, and born a baby at Bethlehem (Luke 1:35; 2:5–7); grew up to be a man, increasing in wisdom with years, stature, and experience (Luke 2:52); remained the private and undistinguished son of Joseph the carpenter, until the power of the Spirit was shed upon him at his baptism (Luke 3:21–23): after which, he did the works and spoke the words recorded; that he was put to death through weakness (II Cor. 13:4); was deserted of the power of the Father when suspended on the cross; and that he was afterwards raised from the dead by the Father (Acts 2:24, 32; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30, 37, and so on).
With these facts in view, we are enabled to attach the proper sense to statements which, in a naked and detached form, would appear to teach a personal pre-existence. For instance, when Jesus said to the Pharisees that he came down from heaven, he could not mean that the person standing before them had bodily descended from the clouds, as his words, literally understood, would have taught, and as the Pharisees appeared to have understood; he meant to say that his origin was from heaven. The “Holy Spirit” that came upon Mary—the “Power of the Highest” that overshadowed her, came down from heaven; consequently, the resultant man could, without extravagance, say he came down from heaven. The sense was literal as applied to the Power of the Highest that produced “the man Christ Jesus”; both at the stage of his begettal and the stage of his anointing on the banks of the Jordan, when the Spirit descended in bodily form and abode upon him; but not literal as applied to the man Christ Jesus.
When he said he proceeded forth and came from God, it was in the sense of these facts. He could not mean that as a person he had emanated from the very presence of the Almighty, but that the Father had sent him in the way disclosed in the record of his birth and baptism. John is described as “a man sent from God,” without meaning to suggest that John existed before he was born and sent.
When Jesus said he had power to take up his life after it should be laid down, he expressed the confidence that God would raise him. It was not power in the dynamic sense; but authority (εξονσια); he immediately adds, “This commandment HAVE I RECEIVED OF MY FATHER”; that is, the taking up of his life would result from the Father’s power and authority, exercised in accordance with the pledge given by the Father. Literally, Jesus did not take up his life; the Father raised him (see the references to Acts, three paragraphs back); but because it was the Father’s purpose, and because the Father spoke through Jesus (John 14:10), Jesus could appropriately say that he had power to raise up himself. An example of this style of language, in which what a person has a relation to in the divine purpose, is considered as under his control and referable to his power, occurs in Jer, 1:10:—
“See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.”
Literally, the prophet did none of these things, but was overpowered and slain, as nearly all the servants of God were; yet the things he predicted came to pass, and this is taken as a sufficient basis for the highly-wrought language above quoted, which imputes the result of Jeremiah’s predictions to Jeremiah’s individual operations.
Christ’s statement that he had glory with the Father before the world was, must in the same way be understood in harmony with the elementary facts of the testimony. The glorification of Jesus was a purpose with the Father from the beginning: and, in this sense, he had glory with the Father before the world was. This may appear a strained explanation; but a regard to the scriptural habit of speech will justify it, in view of the testified facts of the case.
The Lord said to Jeremiah (chapter 1:5):—“Before I formed thee in the belly I KNEW THEE; and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I SANCTIFIED THEE: and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” Now Jeremiah did not exist before his conception. Yet these words would seem to teach it, if understood as those who believe in the pre-existence of Christ, understood the statements about him. As a purpose Jeremiah existed; his person was as clearly present to the divine mind as if he had stood before Him in actual fact. This is the explanation of words, which, rigidly construed, would imply Jeremiah’s pre-existence.
Look again at the words spoken of Cyrus, the Persian ruler, more than a hundred years before he was born (Isaiah 45:4):—“For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name; I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.” The same remark applies here: Cyrus was present to the divine contemplation as really as if he existed. Hence a style of language which would seem to assume his existence before he was born.
On the same principle, the purpose to raise a dead man is expressed by ignoring his death, and assuming his continued existence. Thus Jesus deduces the resurrection from the fact that God styled Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, at a time when these men were dead. The Sadducees saw the force of the argument, and were silenced (Matt. 22:31–34). The principle of the argument is expressed in the words of Paul (Rein. 4:17)—“God who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not (but are to be) AS THOUGH THEY WERE.”
The words spoken of Jesus are of this order. When he said in prayer to the Father, “Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world,” he did not teach that he existed from “he foundation of the world,” but that the Father regarded him with love from the beginning, and that, therefore, to the Father’s mind, he was present. In the words of Peter, “He was fore-ordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times.” (I Peter 1:20).
The same style of language is adopted with reference to Christ’s people: “He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.” Literally, this would prove the existence of believers before the world began, for properly, a thing must exist to be the object of choice; actually, it only proves divine foresight. The glory which Jesus had before the world was, was the glory which God purposed for him from the beginning. Literally, he had not the glory referred to before the world was. What was the nature of that glory—the glory Jesus received in answer to this prayer? He—the bodily Jesus—the body prepared —that which was evolved from the substance of Mary and made the subject of the anointing—was made incorruptible in substance, and the spirit shed upon that substance so abundantly, that it made him more luminous than the sun (Acts 26:13), and gave him power to bestow the spirit, and control providence in heaven and earth. Was Jesus possessed of this glory before he was born? Was he a body anointed with the spirit before he was the body prepared? Was he a real resurrected Jesus before Jesus of Nazareth was born in Bethlehem? Yet this was the glory he had with the Father before the world was. It was a glory he had in the Father’s purpose, but in no other sense.
In the same way are we to understand the words, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). This was Christ’s answer to the incredulity excited by his statement, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad.” The Jews thought he meant to insinuate that he was contemporary with Abraham, whereas he only meant to express the fact stated by Paul in the following words:—“These all (including Abraham—see verse 8) died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off” (Heb. 11:13). It was this seeing of the promise of Christ “afar off” that made Abraham glad. It was the day presented in the promises that he saw, but, as they almost always did, the Jews mistook Jesus, and, as he was prone to do, he deepened their bewilderment by using another form of speech, which still more obscured his meaning, on the principle indicated in Matt. 13:11–15: a form of speech which in one phrase expressed two aspects of the truth concerning himself, viz., that he was purposed before Abraham existed, and that the Father, of whom he was then the manifestation, existed before all.
Jesus said, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). He could not mean, in view of all the testimony, what Trinitarians understand him to mean, that he and the Father were identically the same person (“the same in substance, equal in power and glory”), but that they were one in spirit-connection and design of operations. This is apparent from his prayer for his disciples, “That they may be one, EVEN as we are one.” The unity is not as to person, but as to nature and state of mind. This is the unity that exists between the Father and the Son, and the unity that will be ultimately established between the Father and His whole family, of whom Christ is the elder brother. When this unity is established, Christ will take a more subordinate position than he now occupies, in relation to the race of Adam. Paul says, “When all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto Him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all” (I Cor. 15:28).
This was Christ’s great act of obedience; but why was such an act of obedience necessary? Nothing has more staggered thoughtful minds than this question; and yet nothing is simpler when the Scriptural elements of the case are all placed together. It is a theological habit to represent the death of Christ as an act on his part to appease the wrath of the Father towards sinners. The Scriptures, on the contrary, always speak of it as an expression of God’s love towards fallen humanity. We read:—
“God SO LOVED the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Again, John, in his First Epistle 4:9 and 14, says:—
“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him, … and we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.”
Paul expresses the same sentiment in Romans 5:8:—
“God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
And again in II Corinthians 5:19:—
“God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.”
But the question presses: How was God’s love manifested in the death of Christ? Could not divine love have been manifested without so tragic an event? Evidently not; for on the very eve of crucifixion, Christ prayed to the Father in these agonising terms—“If it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” The cup did not pass; therefore, it was not possible. He drank it deep, pouring out his soul unto death. Why was the death of Christ indispensible? What did it accomplish? A consideration of the testimony will guide us to an answer which the discarding of the doctrine of natural immortality prepares us to understand. First let us consider the following New Testament allusions to the object of the crucifixion:—
“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (I Cor. 15:3).
“He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5).
“He put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26).
“Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (I Cor. 5:7).
“God spared not His own Son, but delivered him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32).
“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
“We have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:14).
“Having made peace through the blood of his cross, to reconcile all things” (verse 20).
“You He hath reconciled in the body of his flesh through death” (verse 22).
“His own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree” (I Pet. 2:24).
“The Son of Man came to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
“The man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all” (I Tim. 2:5, 6).
“Our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity” (Titus 2:13, 14).
“Our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world” (Gal. 1:3, 4).
“This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28).
“Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood” (Rev. 5:9).
These statements affirm a connection between the death of Christ and the restoration of sinful man to divine favour and life. There may not, at first, appear to be a logical connection between the two things; but a consideration of all the facts of the case will reveal the deepest philosophy in the whole arrangement—using the term philosophy in its true sense, in the conviction that absolute wisdom characterises everything with which the mind of Deity has to do—the principles involved in the death of Christ are simple and easily understood. It is the going astray of Christendom from these first principles that has thrown obscurity over the sufferings of the Man of Sorrows. It is of the first importance to get rid of this obscurity. It is not the mere fact of Christ’s transfixion on the cross by the Romans, that constitutes the saving and enlightening truth of the matter; it is the principles involved in the tragedy that constitute the truth to be known.
These principles have been divinely revealed. The first is, that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Paul says, “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin” (Rom. 5:12). What this means, we have seen, Adam disobeyed a command given to him, and, in consequence of disobedience, WAS CONDEMNED TO RETURN TO THE GROUND FROM WHENCE HE CAME. Hence, “sin,” which has become an obscure and unintelligible term, is simply disobedience. It is, in fact, so styled by Paul in the very chapter in which he describes Adam’s act as “sin.” He says, “By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (Rom. 5:19). If it is used in any secondary sense (such as when Paul speaks of “sin that dwelleth in me”) that secondary sense is covered by, or included in, the major sense of disobedience. Sin being disobedience or transgression (agreeable with John’s definition, “Sin is the transgression of the law”—I John 3:4), we are enabled to understand the relation of death to it.
This death is not a “state of the soul,” or “peril of eternal damnation in the flames of hell”; both of which are unknown to Scripture, either in word or idea, being pagan corruptions of the truth. The death resulting from Adam’s transgression is a dissolution of being in the grave. Hence Paul puts resurrection by Christ in antithesis to death by Adam. “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.” This being the nature of death, we are enabled to understand the law which makes it the result of sin. Sin being the transgression or disobedience of the divine law, the perpetrator of it is out of joint with the law of well-being, whether as regards himself, others, or God. He cannot have joy of himself, he cannot yield happiness to others, and he cannot yield pleasure to his Creator. Misery is the result of such a state; and it is one of the beneficent ordinances of God that perpetual existence shall be impossible under such circumstances—that death (extinction of being) shall follow in the train of moral pestilence, and wipe its evil results from the face of creation. He will not allow the evil to become permanent. So far from decreeing or countenancing an eternal hell, where sinners shall writhe and devils triumph to all eternity, His law, with jealous and inexorable power, follows close on the heels of sin, and suppresses the very germ of rebellion and misery.
This is the first principle to be apprehended before the crucifixion can be understood. Adam, the father of the race, disobeying in face of the declared penalty of death, brought upon himself the threatened sentence, and his posterity are involved in the same condemnation, for the simple reason that they are but propagations of his own being in all its qualities and relations, and also because they are themselves, every one of them, sinners by actual transgression, and, therefore, on their own account, subject to death.
Now here is the problem to be solved, and which has been solved in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus: how is condemned human nature to be emancipated from the law of sin and death, in harmony with the righteousness that has brought that law into force? If humanity were left to itself, it would inevitably perish; because it. is not only incapable of a perfect righteousness, but it cannot set aside the condemnation in which it already exists. God’s plan in Christ has given usa scheme by which human salvation is achieved without the violation of any of His laws, which are necessary to the maintenance of His supremacy in the universe. Christ meets all the necessities of the case. The first necessity was that the law, both Edenic and Mosaic, should be upheld. The law required the death of the transgressing nature, viz., human nature. He had this nature, and he died:—
“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same … He took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham” (Heb. 2:14, 16).
“God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3).
But it was also necessary that such a sufferer should be sinless, because sin would have prevented resurrection to life immortal. This necessity for sinlessness in “the Lamb of God” was constantly prefigured under the law by the spotlessness of the beasts offered in sacrifice. Christ as the great antitype fulfilled this condition: “He was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.” He could triumphantly ask his persecutors, “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” (John 8:46). If Christ had been a son of Adam merely, he would have been a sinner, and, therefore, unfit for sacrificial purposes. On the other hand, if he had been clothed with angelic or immaculate nature, he would have been equally disqualified, inasmuch as it was necessary that the sinning nature should suffer in him. The combination of condemned human nature with personal sinlessness was effected through divine power begetting a son from Mary’s substance. A “Lamb of God,” was thus produced, guileless from his paternity, and yet inheriting the human sin-nature of his mother.
It is not possible that “The blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Heb. 10:4), for the reason that appears in view of all these facts. The law would admit of no substitute, but exacted the very nature obnoxious to its penalty. Christ, then, “being found in fashion as a man,” and yet being sinless, was a perfect sacrifice; because being the representative of human nature he could meet all the claims of God’s law upon that nature, and yet triumph over its operation by a resurrection to immortal life. The Lamb being provided, the sacrifice followed. The “Messiah was cut off.” “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities: … the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
God dealt with him representatively. There is a great difference between a representative and a substitute. A representative is not disconnected from those represented. On the contrary, those represented go through with him all that he goes through. But in the case of a substitute, it is otherwise. He does his part instead of those for whom he is the substitute, and these are dissociated from the transgression.
Christ suffering as the representative of his people, is one with them, and they are one with him. In what he went through they went through. Hence, Paul says believers were crucified with Christ, and baptised into his death. This death he declares to have been “the declaration of the righteousness of God,” which God required as the basis of the work of reconciliation and forgiveness (Rom. 3:24–26).
Christ having died, God raised him from the dead to a glorious existence, even to equality with Himself. This was the essential point of the scheme, as appears from 1st Corinthians 15:17, 20: “If Christ be not raised YOUR FAITH IS VAIN, ye are yet in your sins. But now is Christ risen from the dead”; and being raised, he constitutes the “one name given under heaven whereby men may be saved” (Acts 4:12). If Christ had been a personal transgressor, the law of sin would have kept him in the grave, and the scheme of salvation would have miscarried at its vital point. The way of salvation could not have been opened through him; a dead Saviour would have been no ark of refuge—no life-giver to the mortal sons of men.
But Christ, after suffering the natural penalty of disobedience in human nature, having been raised from the dead to live for evermore, he is “the Saviour of all such as come to him.” He has life for bestowal by his own right. “This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life; and this life IS IN HIS SON. He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (I John 5:11, 12). Life is deposited in him for our acceptance, on condition of allying ourselves to him, yea, on condition of our entry into him, and becoming part of him; for Paul says of those who are in Christ, “We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones,” and the aggregate of such are designated “the Bride, the Lamb’s wife,” —“His body, the church.”
Divine wisdom, which is foolishness with men, has provided a means whereby we get the benefit of the result achieved in Christ. Baptism in water is the ceremony by which believing men and women are united to Christ, and constituted heirs of the life everlasting which he possesses in his own right. This will be demonstrated more particularly in a later lecture. Meanwhile, we quote Paul’s words: “As many of you as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). Entering into Christ, we are made one with him, and become heirs to the privileges of the position which he has established in himself, after the analogy of the woman who, at her betrothal, obtains a prospective title to that which belongs to the man to whom she is betrothed. In the first Adam, we inherit death without the possibility of retrieving our misfortune, so long as we remain connected with him. In the last Adam (who, however, it must always be borne in mind, ascended to the last Adam position from the first Adam state), we obtain a title to eternal life. Hence the words of the apostle Paul: “As in Adam all die; even so in Christ shall all be made alive,” that is, the “all” of whom he is speaking, viz., believers of the truth, as may be seen by the context (I Cor. 15:22, 23), and only those who are found worthy at the judgment-seat. He is speaking here of being made alive immortally, not of mere resuscitation of mortal life to judgment, of which many will be the subjects who have never been Christians, but who are among the responsible unjust by reason of their privileges.
By nature we are in Adam. By the gospel and baptism we pass “into Christ.” This is God’s appointment; and we cannot be saved except by compliance with His appointments.
Natural virtue will avail nothing, because, in itself, it is related only to the present, and establishes no right in respect of future existence. Those who are trusting to it, are building their house upon a foundation of sand. There is only one name given under heaven whereby men can be saved; and if we refuse to put on that name, and thus reject Christ, “who is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (I Corinthians 1:30), there remains nothing for us but the utter worthlessness of our own mortality, which without redemption will perish for ever under the just condemnation of Him who hath already passed the decree in prospect: “Whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.”
O reader, “refuse not Him that speaketh.” Turn not thine ear from the invitation which calls thee to drink of the fountain of the water of life freely. Gladly accept it; humbly comply with its requirements; and thou shalt, in due time, be delivered from the bondage of mortal flesh which lies heavy upon thee, and be promoted to the glorious liberty of the children of God!