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294 BY THE MAGI,
Peter and the angel, thus called forth the earnest inhibition of the one, because of his being a man, and of the other, because of his being a servant of God, was the very act which, so many persons addressed to Jesus Christ; and in the narrations of this frequently occurring circumstance, the sacred writers have never once offered us the most distant hint, that such a mark of adoration, as offered to him, was inconsistent with that primary principle of true religion, that God alone is the object of worship. This fact is the more important, because many of the narrations alluded to afford collateral indications, that the worship thus addressed to Jesus Christ was nothing less than religious adoration.
The first example which claims our attention, is that of the wise men who came to Jerusalem, " saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship
him and lo! the star which they saw in the east,
went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy; and when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his Mother, and fell down and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh:" Matt. ii, 2. 9—11. Respecting this very remarkable circumstance, it may be observed, that these "wise men" came from the east to worship the child who was born king of the Jews, and at a period when a human king was already reigning over Judeaea— that Herod himself pretended an intention of uniting with them in their worship, (ver. 8)—that the conduct of the Magi, and the profession of the monarch, must,
BY HIS DISCIPLES, 295
beyond all doubt, have been founded on ancient prophecies —that the prophecies respecting the coming of the Messiah, recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures, plainly assert his divinity—that the notion of deity incarnate is still prevalent among many of the oriental nations—and, that according to Chalcidus the Platonic philosopher,9 who has noticed this part of the evangelical history, the rising of the star was understood to be a portent that the Deity had descended. On the whole, then, we are in possession of no inconsiderable reasons for concluding, that the worship offered by the Magi to the child Jesus, was a spiritual adoration.1 In the instances of worship addressed to our Lord during the course of his ministry, there is to be observed an almost uniform feature, viz.: that the act of homage is described as a sign of religious faith, directed to Christ as its object. This faith had, in
9 Chalcidius flourished during the third century after Christ. The reader will, I am persuaded, agree with me in regarding his expressions on the present subject, as very striking: "Est quoque," says the philosopher in his commentary on Tinueus, "alia sanctior et venerabilior historia, quae perhibet ortu stellae cujusdam, non morbos mortesque denunciatos, sed descensum Dei venerabilis ad humanae conservationis rerumque mortalium gratiam; quam stellam cum nocturno itinere inspexissent Chaldaeorum profecto sapientes viri et consideratione rerum ccelestium satis exercitati, quaesisse dicuntur recentem ortum Dei, repertaque ilia majestate puerili, veneratos esse, et vota Deo tanto convenientia nuncupasse:" vide Grot. de verit. lib. iii, 14.
1 On the highly probable supposition, that the gifts of the wise men were all symbolical, we may, perhaps, accede to the opinion of certain early fathers, that the gold represented the regality of Christ, the myrrh his death and burial, and the frankincense his divinity—points in the circumstances and character of the Messiah, which had severally been made the subject of prophecy. Speaking of the Magi, Origen says, <pigovng fJ.h dSiga a (IV ourug ovofiaHii) euv^irij) r'm Ik ©sou xai ai&guTrou SjMjroS rpoerjviyxav avftfioKa fih, ug BousiXiT rbv ygyebv, ii( Si r&vrfeoflivy rfiv <ffivgvav, ug Si Qitji rhv "KiSamrov. "They offered their gifts as symbols, to one who was (if I may so express myself) jointly both God and man. The gold they offered to him as to a king—the myrrh as to a man who was soon to die—the frankincense as to God:" Contra Cel. lib, i, sect. 60, Ed. Ben. i, p. 375. Irenaeus has given a precisely similar explanation of the gifts of the Magi: "Matthaeus autem," says he, "Magos ab oriente venientes ait dixisse, Vidimus stellam ejus in Oriente et venimus adorare cum, deductosque a Stella in domum Jacob ad Emmanuel, per ea quae obtulerunt munera ostendisse, quis erat qui adorabatur,myrrham quidem, quod ipse erat qui pro mortali humano genere moreretur et sepeliretur: aurum vero quoniam Rex, cujus regni finis non est; thus vero quoniam Deus qui et notus in Judaea /actus est, et manifestus eis qui non quaerebant eum. Contra ]lucres.: lib. iii, cap. ix, Ed. Ben. p. 184.
296 IN TOKEN OF THEIR FAITH
some instances, an obvious respect to his omnipotence. The leper, when worshipping Jesus, cried out, " If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean:" Matt. viii, 2. "My daughter is even now dead," exclaimed the ruler when prostrate before his Lord, " but come, and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live:" ix, 18; comp. xv, 25. Now, that faith in the divine power of Jesus which such addresses to him plainly indicated, was probably connected with the doctrine of which so many traces are to be found in the writings of the early Jews, that God is manifested to mankind by his Word or Son; and arose out of the conviction, that Jesus was himself this Son of God. Accordingly, we find that the followers of Jesus on other occasions, after witnessing the miraculous exertions of his divine power, not only worshipped him, but accompanied the act of worship with the confession of their belief in him, as the Son of God. When Jesus had interrupted for a time one of the laws of nature, by walking on the surface of the sea, and when he had hushed the winds and waves into a calm, they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, " saying, of a truth thou art the Son of God:" Matt. xiv, 33. Again, we read that after he had bestowed sight on the nian who was born blind, he found him and said unto him, "Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he Lord, that I might believe on him f And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe; and he worshipped him:" John ix, 35—38.
Even the devils worshipped Jesus because he was the Son of God; for it is to them that the act must be attributed, when it was performed by the man who
IN HIS DIVINE CHARACTER, 297
was possessed with them, and when they cried out in the agony of their fear, " What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?" Matt. viii, 29; comp. Mark v, 7. Lastly, it could surely be no civil homage—it could be nothing short of spiritual adoration—which the whole company of the apostles addressed to their divine Master after they had witnessed his glorious ascension. "And it came to pass," says the evangelist, "while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven: and they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God:" Luke xxiv, 51—53.
Now, that the very writers who have recorded the reprobation of the reverential act, when addressed to Peter and the angel, although, in both cases, it was probably a token of mere submission, should have described the worship so often offered to Jesus Christ, under circumstances plainly indicative of a spiritual homage, and should never have hinted that it was in any degree objectionable—that Peter also should freely and frequently have addressed to Jesus that very act which, when it was offered to himself, he so strenuously resisted, because he was a man—appears to be utterly unaccountable, unless we allow that the evangelists and apostles were themselves persuaded of our Lord's divinity, and of his therefore being, with the Father, a legitimate object of religious adoration.
But, it is still more remarkable, still more conclusively to the point, that the holy Jesus himself, the perfection of whose humility no Christian dares to dispute, should not only have tolerated the divine homage thus offered to him, but should have gra
298 AND BY THE ANGELS.
ciously accepted and richly rewarded it, as an evi- , dence of faith, piety, and obedience. "I will," replied he to the believing and worshipping leper, " be thou clean;" and to the Canaanitish woman, who lay prostrate before him, he said, "O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt." If we admit that all the words and actions of Jesus were lawful and right, I think we must also admit, that in thus receiving and blessing the adoration of which he was himself the object, and which was addressed to him as a sign of religious faith, the lowly Saviour of men has afforded us an indirect, yet irresistible evidence, that he truly participates in the nature and dignity of that Almighty Being, to whom alone he has declared all worship to be due: Matt. iv, 10: comp. John v, 23.
In conclusion, and in confirmation of the whole argument, it only remains to be observed, that the incarnate Son of God is declared to be the object of worship,—of spiritual surely and divine worship—not only to men, but to angels. "When he bringeth the firstbegotten into the world, (says the apostle to the Hebrews) he saith, And Let All The Angels Of God Worship Him:" Heb. i, 6; comp. Sept. Ps. xcvii, 7."
IV. Independently of the three leading and general facts to which we have now adverted, (namely, that Jesus Christ during his abode on earth, claimed the divine character, exercised the divine attributes, and received divine honours) there are several circumstances recorded in the Gospels, in connection with our Lord's birth, life, and death, which, although not in all
"The whole subject of the worship addressed to Jesus Christ, during his abode on earth, will be found ably treated in discourses delivered at Oxford, in 1816, 1817, by Edward Nares, D.D., and since published.