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LETTER XV.

On the Divinity of Jesus Christ.

Four things,” said the great and judicious Hooker, « concur to make complete the whole state of our Lord " Jesus Christ : his Deity, his manhood, the con6 junction of both, and the distinction of the one from « the other, being joined in one. Four principal 6 heresies there are which have in those things withstood 66 the truth. Arians, by bending themselves against

the Deity of Christ; Apollinarians, by maiming 66 and misinterpreting that which belongeth to his “ human nature; Nestorians, by rending Christ 66 asunder, and dividing him into two persons: the 6 followers of Eutiches, by confounding in his person “ those natures which they should distinguish. Against “ these there have been four ancient general councils : “ the council of Nice, to define against Arians, A. D. “ 325; the council of Constantinople against Apolli“ narians, A. D. 381 ; that of Ephesus against Nesto- rians, A. D. 431 ; against Eutichians that of Chalce“ don, A. D. 451: the decisions of which may be com6 prised in four words aangas truly, TENEWS perfectly, αδιαιρετως ιndivisibly, and ασυγχυτως distinctly. The 6 first applied to his being God; and the second to his “ being Man; the third to his being of both one ; 66 and the fourth to his still continuing in that one

both. We may fully, by way of abridgment, com“ prise whatsoever antiquity hath at large handled, « either in declaration of Christian belief, or in refu“ tation of the aforesaid heresies, within the compass “ of these four heads." (0)

This view of the Messiah's person agrees with the opinion that has most universally prevailed, among Christians, from the first introduction of Christianity into the world down to the present period. Nor does the mere existence of other opinions by any means militate against the truth of this : for, since evidence, though it be clear, forcible, and satisfactory, does not necessagily convince, the human mind being free either to receive evidence with its due weight, or to "reject it as defective; it follows that a doctrine, as well as a fact, may be disbelieved by minds of a peculiar structure, however preponderating and decisive may be the evidence in its favour. This is undoubted, and an apostle referring to matters of faith, accounts for it in language which I tremble while I quote :-“ If our Gospel be “ veiled, it is veiled to those that destroy themselves, whose minds the god of this world hath blinded.

Many learned and ingenious men disbelieve the Divinity of Christ; but neither the process by which they have arrived at their disbelief, nor that by which they endeavour to prove that we are in error, seems calculated to operate strongly upon the minds of those who have been previously persuaded that the Scripture is the production of inspired writers, who were so inspired that they might teach doctrines infallibly true

(0) Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity, book v. & 54.

(many of which could be known no other way), and whose instructions, therefore, are to be implicitly received. Having ascertained that the Bible is the Word of God, that none of the discrepances between the various existing copies in the original languages affect any doctrine, or any important precept,—and that the translation we adopt is correct,—we have nothing to do but to determine its plain and obvious meaning, and receive it as true. (p) But this is not the plan pursued by those who deny the Divinity of the Messiah. They constantly examine the Scriptures rather as critics, than as humble inquirers after truth: the natural consequence of which is, that they are critical beyond measure, and adopt those "refinements in criticism “ which make men nauseate what is obvious, and

(p)“ It hath been the custom of late to lay too much stress upon “ Jewish idioms, in the exposition of the didactic paits of the New 56 Testament. The Gospel is a general revelation. If it is delivered in “ a style which is not perspicuous to the illiterate of any nation except 66 the Jewish, it is as much locked up from general apprehension, as if - the sacred books had been written in the vernacular gibberish of the " Jews of that age. The Holy Spirit, which directed the apostles and " the evangelists to the use of the tongue, which in their day was the “ most generally understood the Greek-would, for the same reason, “ it may be presumed, suggest to them a style which might be generally “ perspicuous. It is therefore a principle with me, that the true sense 66 of any phrase in the New Testament is, for the most part, what may 66 be called a standing sense : that which will be the first to occur to com“ mon people of every country, and in every age ; and I am apt to 66 think, that the difference between this standing sense and the Jewish 6 sense will, in all cases, be far less than is imagined, or none at all; “ because, though different languages differ widely in their refined and “ elevated idioms, common speech is in all languages pretty much the " same.” Horsley's Letters in Controversy with Dr. Priestley, p. 122, Ed. 3.

“ pursue through the mazes of etymology what was “ never imagined before.” This, indeed, is the necessary result of adopting a defective hypothesis. If both the Divine and human nature meet in the person of the Messiah, and if they are essentially distinct though they are inseparably united, then is it to be expected that some passages should clearly announce his Divinity, others as clearly his humanity, while others may (perhaps indistinctly) indicate both. But if Jesus Christ be merely man, then all those texts which declare his Divine nature, or indicate his compound nature, must be either rejected as spurious, or explained away by the arts of criticism. Hence Socinians argue, that when Jesus is called “ the Son of man,” the words must not only be construed in the most literal, but in the most restricted, sense, so that the word man shall be understood to mean one particular man: but when he is called “ the Son of God," they must be explained to mean knowledge, commission, affection, office (though the office of son is a strange vagary, that would enter the mind of none but a Socinian critic), any thing or nothing, provided it be not taken literally. If one phrase of St. John be in favour of the Deity of Christ, it is either a solecism, or it is Hebraical-Greek; if another phrase of the same writer have the same tendency, it is an oratorical flourish, or it is an Atticism, or it is an hyperbole : as if it were not contrary to the entire scope and practice of the sacred writers to employ hyperboles in order to do prejudice to the glory of God; which, nevertheless, is done repeatedly not only by John, but by all the apostles, if

beheld

18 mirach. On of the

the Socinian hypothesis be true; if in a third place he says, when speaking of Jesus, “ We beheld his glory, “ the glory as of the only Son of the Father ;” (9) we are told it means “his miracles,” which it should seem are “ used to express merely a higher degree of affection.If Jesus Christ call himself “ the Son of God;" it is a strong expression, conformable to the Eastern phraseology, signifying that he was sent by God; though the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who were at least as well acquainted with Eastern phraseology as we are, understood the language literally, and said that Jesus was guilty of “blasphemy, because he made himself equal 56 with God.” (r) If, as Jerome and Eusebius state, John wrote his Gospel principally in vindication of our Lord's Divinity, against Cerinthus and the Ebionites, (s)

(g) See the Socinian version of John, i. 15, and the notes upon that text, p. 201, 202.

(r) John, v. 18. x. 33.

(8) It is highly probable, however, that John had other heretics in his eye than those above-named, both when writing his Gospel and his First Epistle. Thus the names and titles applied to our Lord at the very commencement of John's Gospel would certainly puzzle, if not silence, those in the first century who were inclined to contend, either that he was a mere man, or a Divine appearance merely without flesh. Even in the first chapter, he is denominated :-1. The Word. 2. God. 3. The Life. 4. The Light. 5. The True Light. 6. The Only Begotten of the Father. 7. Jesus Christ. 8. The Only Begotten Son. 9. The Christ, or Anointed. 10. That Prophet. 11. The Lord. 12. The Lamb of God. 13. A Man. 14. The Son of God. 15. The Messias. 16. Jesus of Nazareth. 17. The Son of Joseph. 18. The King of Israel. 19. The Son of Man. Whence this extraordinary diversity of terins, but to designate an extraordinary character, and to excite the utmost attention to the history of the nature, words, actions, and offices of Him in whom, by a glorious unity of design, the diversity

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