Divinity of Christ
Continuation of Sermon V.
“Never man spake like this Man.” John 7:46
In tracing the accomplishment of prophecy concerning the Messiah, in the person of our most glorious Christ, the preceding discourse was principally intended to point out proofs of our blessed Lord’s possessing that mysterious unity of nature which was predicted should constitute the Messiah’s character. The evidences brought before you to substantiate the claim of Jesus to this distinguishing peculiarity, in demonstrating that his birth was altogether miraculous, were, I hope, convincing and unanswerable. And the subsequent events in our Lord’s history (as far as we have yet proceeded in the subject) tended no less to prove that his nature was more than human. The testimony derived from the peculiar manner and authority by which Christ wrought his miracles, and imparted ability to his disciples in his name to perform theirs, carries with it (as I then observed to you) a species of evidence in support of his Godhead, which, I am sure, will appear more satisfactory the more it is attended to.
It was impossible in that discourse to comprise the whole of the arguments to this doctrine as they arise from the incidents in the life of Christ. I have now, therefore, reassumed the topic, in order to finish what was then unavoidably postponed; and to examine, with the same fairness and impartiality, the other testimonies on this subject which appear in our Lord’s character.
The first to which I shall beg your attention is, that which is suggested in the words of the text; I mean the unparalleled discourses of Christ: for these certainly very highly express a peculiar dignity in his person.
Among the ancient prophets we can clearly discern the credentials of the commission by which they acted. The system of morality delivered by Moses was evidently a divine system; and, as far as it extended, differed in nothing from that of Jesus Christ. But it is not in the moral part of the gospel only we are to look for traces of our Lord’s greatness of character, but in the whole scope and tendency of his religion taken altogether. The perceptive doctrines of Christianity are perhaps the least from whence we derive evidences of the divinity of its blessed Author. Much higher proofs abound from the peculiar and distinguishing points of his religion. His solemn assurances that the great purport of his embassy was to expiate the sins of our nature; the language he assumed when expressing this awful truth; the personal authority by which he proclaimed pardon to the penitent and faithful in this world, and happiness in that which is to come: the divine wisdom by which he uttered these, and the like doctrines, and the divine power by which he declared he would accomplish the whole of his designs, by “drawing all men unto him,” (John 12:32), these are among the unequalled subjects of our Lord’s discourses, which fully prove that “he spake as never man spake.”
It will not be required of me that I should select from the gospel any particular passages to establish the truth of this observation. The fact itself will more fully appear by a reference to the New Testament. Let me beg of you to examine the words of Jesus by the severest test of criticism, and see whether it is possible to account, either for the sum and substance of what he taught, or the manner in which he delivered his doctrines to the world, upon any other supposition than of his being more than man. I conceive the strongest evidence will result from this review of our Lord’s discourses in favor of his Godhead and it is such as will admit of the greatest stress being laid upon it.
All the former teachers of mankind in the will of God delivered their message with a solemn declaration in whose name they came, “Thus saith the Lord:” but Jesus gives his precepts in a tone of personal authority. “Behold, I say unto you,” is the usual form with which Christ prefaced his commandments. And his invitation to his people to embrace his gracious terms of salvation runs in the same style, as from himself. “Come unto me, (is the language made use of when calling them to his gospel) all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” (Matt. 11:28). “If any one come unto me, I will in no wise cast him out,” (John 6:37). Who among the prophets ever opened their commission in terms like these? Well might the people be astonished (as it is said they were) at his doctrine, for this was teaching, no doubt, “as one that had authority, and not as the Scribes,” (Matt. 7:29).
But though this manner of speaking is so peculiar to our Lord, and very strongly marks the dignity of his person, yet these are but the slightest and most inconsiderable instances of the wisdom and spirit by which he spake. When Christ dwells upon the great and interesting doctrines of his gospel, his language rises to a much higher degree of sublimity. “And all bare him witness (the evangelist informs us) and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth,” (Luke 4:22). What numberless proofs of this unequalled dignity do we find in every page of the gospel! “In this place is one greater than the temple,” (Matt. 12:6). “The Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day,” (Matt. 8:1). “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread which I shall give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world,” (John 6:51). “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me (as the Scripture saith) out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water,” (John 7:37-38). When we trace through the whole tenor of our Lord’s discourses a vein of language like this, and attested by a train of events equally great and mysterious; when we hear him also, declaring himself to be the resurrection and the life, and that he possesses the supreme power of raising the dead, and finally determining the fate of all the race of men; that “the hour is coming when all that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and come forth,” (John 5:28); and that the rewards of fidelity, and the punishments to disobedience, will wholly result from his determination: surely there is something in all this, which defines the character of the Son of God most perfectly, and draws an everlasting line of separation, between the person of Jesus and the highest of the sons of men. In short, let us only suppose the Divine Being was to descend from heaven, and to live and converse with mankind, as Christ did; what greater evidence could we desire, in proof of the greatness of his nature, than our Lord gave in the spirit and wisdom by which he daily spake? And whoever reads the discourses of our Lord as they are found in the gospel, fairly and candidly, and with an unprejudiced mind, will be frequently induced, during the perusal, to make the same observation which the Jewish officers did in the text, “Never man spake like this man.”1
The next argument in proof of our blessed Lord’s Deity, arising from the circumstances of his life, may be taken from the divine attributes which he possessed. And as these are clearly among the peculiar character of Godhead, the only object I shall have to accomplish will be to prove the certainty of the thing itself that these properties were in the person of Jesus. Some of them, indeed, are so evident, that we can plainly discover them ourselves, in the words and actions of Christ; and others are so fully ascribed to him by the apostles and inspired writers, that there can be no hesitation in concluding that he possessed them. A few quotations from scripture will be sufficient to our purpose.
Omnipresence is so peculiar an attribute of Godhead, that our Lord’s possessing this perfection would of itself be sufficient to determine the certainty of his divine nature; for what less than an Infinite Being can fill infinite space? We shall require nothing more to substantiate the fact of our Lord’s ubiquity than his own declarations. During the course of his ministry he had assured his disciples, that where “two or three are gathered together in his name, there is he in the midst of them,” (Matt. 27:20). “And if any man love me,” (says Christ) “my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him,” (John 14:23). And agreeably to this, in his last interview with the apostles, when he gave them his final commission to go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature, he confirmed this assurance of his perpetual presence: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,” (Matt. 28:20). Such proofs of the omnipresence of the Lord, and founded on his own solemn declarations, show in what sense it is we are authorized to infer the Godhead of Jesus, from his possession of this peculiar and distinguishing attribute of the Godhead.2
Omnipresence necessarily includes another of the incommunicable perfections, namely, Omniscience. The continual presence of a Being un-circumscribed by space, and unlimited in operation, naturally implies his continual observation. And Jesus had given so many proofs of his possessing this faculty during his abode upon earth, that his disciples universally ascribed it to him upon all occasions. Our Lord perceived the woman in the throng who had touched him, (Matt. 9:20). He knew that Lazarus was dead before he proceeded to Bethany, (John 11:14). He knew the poor man at the pool of Bethesda, had been a long time laboring under his infirmity, (John 5:6). He penetrated the hearts of the Scribes and Pharisees, and beheld the scheme that was forming against him, and by his words intimidated them from putting it, at that time into execution, (Luke 20:26). By a look only upon Peter, he convinced him that he knew of his denial; and by a word to his disciples, he intimated that he was no stranger to their intentions. In short, it would be tedious to enumerate all the instances we meet with in the Evangelists, in proof of our Lord’s omniscience. It was the exercise of this perfection which wrought conviction in the heart of Nathaniel, that Jesus was the Messiah, and drew from him in consequence of it, that ever memorable confession, that Christ was the Son of God, and King of Israel, (John 1:49). It was the same which made the apostle Peter cry out, “Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee,” (John 21:17). And hence we hear the frequent observation in our Lord’s history, that “Jesus knew their thoughts. He knew that they were desirous to ask him,” and accordingly reasoned with them upon the subject, just as if they had communicated their sentiments. “He knew all men,” (says St. John) “and needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man,” (2:25). Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at him, (John 6:61). He knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him, (John 13:11). Nothing can more fully prove a Divine Being possessing divine powers than such facts as these! Christ therefore gave this unequivocal testimony of himself during his abode upon earth; but the full display of this great attribute is reserved for that day when “the Lord will come to judgment, to bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and to make manifest the counsels of the heart.”3
The eternity of the Son of God may, in a great measure, be inferred from what hath been already shown, (see Sermon II). Both from his own declarations, and the character in which the sacred writers have considered him as the Creator, and Preserver of the universe, we have full authority to conclude that his goings forth were, as the prophet declared of him, from everlasting, for he “which had glory with the Father before the world,” and “without whom was not any thing made that was made,” must have been himself “without beginning of days, or end of life.” But to put the matter beyond all dispute, our blessed Lord confirmed the whole when he appeared to his beloved apostle, in that glorious vision mentioned in the Book of the Revelations; and called himself by these divine titles, which can only be applied to an Eternal Being, “I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last,” (Rev. 1:8 & 11).
Immutability is another peculiar and distinguishing attribute of Godhead; and if the testimony of an apostle be valid, we cannot forbear ascribing it to the person of Christ. “Jesus Christ,” (says he) “the same yesterday, to-day and for ever,” (Heb. 13:8). Terms which need no explanation. The same apostle, in another place, speaking of the eternal and unchangeable nature of Christ, draws a striking contrast between him and his works. “Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thy hands; they shall perish, but thou remainest, and they all shall wax old as doth a garment, and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed; but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail,” (Heb. 1:10, et seq.). These are strong expressions of the immutability of the divine nature; and there can be no doubt to who the whole refers, if we consult the original.
Omnipotency is another peculiar character of the Deity. And nothing can be more clearly applied to Christ. All the works of Creation, Providence, Grace, and Judgment, are declared to be his. As all things are said “to be made by him, so by him do all things consist.” “He upholdeth all things by the word of his power.” “He is able to subdue all things to himself.” He it is, who is “full of grace and truth,” out “of whose fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.” The resurrection and the life, at “whose voice all that are in their graves will come forth,” and by whose power all will be raised to judgment at the last day, “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.” His mighty angels! how fully descriptive of sovereignty and power! And who can behold such an assemblage of qualities uniting in the person of our glorious Lord, and constituting every idea we can form of omnipotence, and still question his claim to Godhead?
Holiness is so distinguished an attribute of the Godhead, that perhaps it is this, more eminently than any other, which draws the line of separation between the divine and human nature. And this is also ascribed to Jesus. He is not only called Holy, but by way of emphasis the Holy One, (Acts 13:35). And the prophet Daniel, in describing the future events of the Messiah’s kingdom, makes use of the same appellation, the Most Holy, (Dan. 9:24). In the Apocalypse, our blessed Lord is revealed under the same exalted character “These things saith he that is holy, he that is true,” (Rev. 3:7); as if this phrase was applicable only to himself.
From the attributes let us pass on to examine the names by which Jesus Christ is no less distinguished in scripture, and we shall find the same invariable testimony arising from hence of his divinity. In short, both titles and attributes, and all the peculiar and distinguishing properties and perfections of the Godhead, which are in one part or other fully ascribed to the person of our Lord, all concur to justify his own assertion, when he said, “All things that the Father hath are mine,” (John 16:15).
Some of the names and titles by which Christ is known in scripture, have been incidentally noticed in what hath been already offered. It will be the less necessary, therefore, to be particular. I shall produce a few instances sufficient to answer the present purpose.
It is well known that the highest and most eminent distinction by which the Father is revealed in his holy word, is the incommunicable name of the great Jehovah. This, indeed, is so peculiarly his own, that it can be applicable to none but the self-existing and independent God. Now this very term we frequently find made use of when speaking of the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the most part, the word Jehovah in the Old Testament is the same as Lord in the New. And had the original been preserved, this would have been more manifest. In the Old Testament, the great Jehovah is said to be the only Saviour over all the earth. “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else; I, even I, am the Lord, and beside me there is no Saviour,” (Isa. 65:22; 43:11). In the New, Testament, the same character is preserved, and the correspondence shown. St. Peter explains this very passage of the prophet, and applies it to our blessed Lord, when he says, “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved,” (Acts 4:12).
The prophet Jeremiah clearly defined the person of our Lord; when he proclaimed the Messiah under that distinguishing name, Jehovah our Righteousness. For Christ alone is our Righteousness, according to the apostle, and, “wisdom, and sanctification, and redemption,” (1 Cor. 1:30). And the prophet Zechariah, when, speaking in the character of Jehovah, he says, “they shall look on him whom they have pierced,” could mean no other than him whom the apostle John declared was pierced by the soldier on the cross, that this “scripture might be fulfilled, (compare Zech. 12:10 with John 19:37).
You will not expect me to enumerate all the passages with which the word of God abounds, in proof that the incommunicable name of the great Jehovah is frequently made use of when speaking of the person of our Lord. This would be unnecessary. I shall dismiss the consideration of it, therefore, with only observing, that when we behold this sacred distinction of the self-existent and untreated Being, thus repeatedly, and without hesitation applied to Christ, nothing can more clearly imply his Godhead. For he, “whose name is Jehovah” (as the Psalmist justly observes), “can only be the Most High over all the earth,” (Ps. 83:18). And when to this we add how exceedingly scrupulous the Jews were of using this hallowed name, lest they should incur the penalty threatened to the taking it in vain; it cannot be supposed the apostles, who were all of them Jews, and bred up in Jewish notions, would have been forward in ascribing it to our Lord, but upon the most perfect conviction of its being right. And, therefore, we may very safely adopt the words of the apostle Peter, “Let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus which was crucified, both Lord and Christ,” (Acts 2:36).
Another term of distinction by which our blessed Lord is frequently mentioned in scripture is that of God. The prophet, when declaring the advent of the Messiah, said, his name shall be called the “Mighty God,” (Isa. 9:6). And the apostles of Christ have confirmed it. St. Paul calls Jesus the “Great God,” (Titus 2:13). “God our Saviour,” (Titus 1:3); and “God over all, blessed for ever,” (Rom. 9:5). And, speaking of his church, he declares it to be the church of the “living God,” (1 Tim. 3:15). St. John, to the same amount, styles Christ the true God: “this is the true God, and eternal life,” (1 John 5:20), alluding, perhaps, to our Lord’s account of himself, when he says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” And St. Jude, in his epistle, terms him “the only wise God our Saviour,” and ascribes to him all divine honors. “To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, now and for ever,” (Jude 25). All which very strongly express the Godhead of him to whom they applied, and are such characters as cannot possibly be ascribed to any inferior being.
Nor are these all! Christ is yet further known in his holy word, under other titles of a like exalted nature. He is said to be “the Lord of glory, which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory,” (1 Cor. 2:8). He is declared to be the “Lord of all,” (Acts 10:36); and St. Peter, in his sermon to Cornelius, and his company, called him by this name. But more particularly the beloved apostle hath left on record such testimonies of his divine Lord, in those revelations with which he was favored, as leave no room to question the Godhead of his person. More than once he heard a voice proclaim him under that almighty character, “King of kings, and Lord of lords,” (Rev. 17:14, 19 & 26); than which nothing can more fully show his power and greatness. And it is remarkable that in the same chapter in which it is said, that “Jesus sent his angels to testify these things in the churches,” it is also said, that it was “the Lord God of the Prophets that sent his angel;” a plain proof that “Jesus is the Lord God of the Prophets,” (Rev. 22:6).
And to sum up all, our blessed Lord doses the sacred canon of scripture with this testimony of himself: “I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last. I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of hell and death,” (Rev. 22:13). This solemn declaration was made to the apostle by one whom he saw like the Son of man, the well-known character of our blessed Lord. Indeed; had the person not been specified, the words themselves would clearly have ascertained to whom they belonged. None but Christ could have said, “I am he that liveth, and was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore.” And to leave the full impression of those glorious truths on the minds of the faithful, he repeats the same assurances of his eternity in the conclusion of the visions. “I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” All which are parallel to the declarations God is pleased to make of himself, by his servant the prophet: “I am the First and the Last, and beside me there is no God,” (Isa. 44:6).
Now, then, consider the united evidence arising from the attributes and names by which Christ is everywhere distinguished in the Holy Scripture. We find the same, or equivalent phrases applied both to the Father and the Son, and from this equal participation of all the perfections of the Godhead what can we possibly infer less than the Godhead of Jesus? Is not this what Christ means, when he says to his Father, “All mine are thine, and thine are mine?” (John 17:10).
Besides, is it possible for any man to believe the sacred writers would all have concurred in speaking of the person of Jesus under such eternal distinctions, by which alone the great Sovereign of the universe is known to his creatures, unless they had received the most perfect conviction of it? For it should be observed, that those attributes and titles of Jehovah are not ascribed to our Lord in one or two passages only, and of a doubtful nature; but in numberless instances, of the clearest and most obvious meaning, and scattered over every part of the apostolic writings. Supposing, then, it were possible to be mistaken in the application of any single part of our evidence, yet this ought not, it cannot, indeed, affect the whole. The clear proof of our Lord’s possession of any one of the eternal perfections ascribed to him, must determine at once the certainty of his divinity. And to imagine that such a body of should arise in scripture, testifying as to a matter of fact what was yet questionable, would be childish in the extreme. It would be to suppose the sacred writers were either ignorant themselves of the real character of Jesus; or, what is, if possible, yet less to be believed, were perfectly indifferent what consequences might follow their testimony. Nay, more than this, that God himself should suffer a spirit of delusion and error to make its way into the church, instantly on its establishment, and continue its baneful influence through so many ages from the days of the apostles to the present hour; which is at once the most senseless, not to say ungodly idea that can be conceived. And yet the conclusion seems inevitable on the presumption that our Lord is not truly divine. In short, the evidences are so numerous and diversified, in support of this great article of our faith, that the want of belief is not to be accounted for on common principles, and can only be ascribed to what holy scripture hath stated: “If our Gospel be hid,” (saith Paul) “it is hid to them that are lest; in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”4
But what raises the character of Jesus to the highest point of sublimity is, that important purpose which is declared by the sacred writers to be the great end and design of his mission; I mean, “the taking away sin by the sacrifice of himself,” (Heb. 9:26). This implies a superiority in his nature distinct from all former prophets or teachers of mankind, and which, from very evident causes, could never be accomplished by any being merely human. And hence the prophet, who proclaimed our Lord’s approach, and became the herald of his appearance, pointed to Jesus under this remarkable character, “Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” (John 1:29).
It would be departing, in some measure, from the more immediate object of my discourse, to go over all the evidences we have in Scripture, respecting the great doctrine of atonement; and yet I cannot content myself without observing, that it is this, of all others, which peculiarly distinguishes the Christian faith.
Independent of all the authority we derive from holy writ, it is a fact which remains not now to be disputed, that forgiveness of sins has been the great object mankind in all ages have stood in need of; and sought after with the most anxious solicitude, to calm the fears of an awakened conscience, when smitten with the sense of guilt. The heathen world, long before the coming of Christ, had the most lively apprehensions of what sad consequences might follow the sins of this life, and studied by every mean in their power to prevent them. Hence they had recourse to every offering superstition could invent, to propitiate the offended Deity. The religion of the Jews partook much of the same nature. By expiatory sacrifices, they were led to hope some compensation was made for the breach of moral duties. And as these were of divine appointment, though the human mind could trace no affinity between the slaughter of a beast and the sin of a man, yet it seemed to soothe the conscience with the hope of pardon.
Now, whether or not what the apostle to the Hebrews hath asserted, will be admitted, that “these were shadows of good things to come, of which the substance was Christ,” (Heb. 10:1 & 9); yet one thing is certain, this universal consent to expiatory sacrifices plainly shows the great anxiety of the world on this important point: and it is but a fair conclusion, that if God were pleased, in compassion to his sinful creatures, to make a further revelation of his will, after the many ineffectual attempts which had been made by his servants the prophets to bring mankind from ways of sin to paths of virtue; and that another more powerful messenger should come on this grand embassy; he would at least satisfy the mind of man concerning the means of propitiation, and show wherein the efficacy of the offerings appointed under the law did consist. For to suppose otherwise, by leaving mankind in the dark on this interesting topic, would be to suppose the gospel still defective in that part particularly, which most materially concerned the wants of our nature.
But if Christ came to teach a system of moral virtue only, and no more, alas! this had been done before. Moses had done it. Many prophets and righteous men had done it. But to what effect? It was not mere precept and example that could restore human nature to its original purity. Neither was it the calling upon sinners to return to the Lord, which gave them the power of returning. This would have been like bidding a man who was chained down to the earth with bars of the hardest iron, to burst asunder the bands of his own accord, and rise up and walk. Supposing, therefore, that Christ came only to answer this purpose, wherein did his commission differ, or in what point was it superior to that of Moses? And could it be an object worthy a messenger from heaven to deliver a law of righteousness which had been so ineffectually delivered more than a thousand years before, and to preach the same doctrines which had been so repeatedly preached in vain? Is it possible, that any man can seriously think that God would deal thus with his poor, fallen, and helpless creatures? Let reason answer the question (for to this great arbiter I here appeal for the decision), whether this would have been either to the honor of God or the advantage of man?
When you have duly pondered the force of this argument in favor of the great doctrine of atonement, go on and review the evidences for the fact itself.
The prophets had predicted, that “the Messiah should be cut off, but not for himself: that he should make his soul an offering for sin: that by his righteousness he should justify many, and bear their iniquities.” In conformity to this, when our blessed Lord came into the world, he declared himself to be this very sacrifice, and that the end of his mission was for this express purpose. “I am the good Shepherd: the good Shepherd layeth down his life for the sheep,” (compare John 10:11 with Isa, 53 & Dan. 9:26). And in his discourses he frequently made mention of his death, sometimes in a figurative way, and at other times more openly; but always as an event of the utmost importance to mankind, and as the great end of his ministry. “I am the living bread which came down from heaven, if any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified: verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit,” (John 12:24). And as the time approached nearer, Christ expressed himself more openly concerning this great event. “Now is my soul troubled; and what? shall I say, Father, save me from this hour; but for this cause came I unto this hour,” (John 12:27). And when discoursing with his disciples at one time upon the interesting subject of his mission, he in plain terms declared to them, that his death was purposely appointed as a sacrifice for sin. “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many,” (Matt. 20:28). To give his life a ransom for many! What could this imply, but that he was to be an expiatory offering? When do we find any moralist, any of the old prophets or messengers from God, talk in a language like this? Surely these expressions must evidently prove that some higher purpose than merely instructing mankind was included in the ministry of Jesus, and that his death was more particularly to be considered also in the nature of an oblation and atonement for sin!
Nor is this all the evidence that Christ gave respecting this doctrine. The institution of that solemn Supper which he appointed as a standing ordinance in his church, implied the importance of the object it was intended to perpetuate. The bread which was to be broken, and the cup to be poured forth, were altogether emblems void of meaning, if the death of Jesus be considered in the light of a martyr only to his cause. But viewed as the memorial of an oblation for sin, they then become apt and significant representations of his body, which was broken, and his blood, which was shed, for “the sins of the world.” And hence the apostle justly reasons, “the bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16). The communion of the body and blood of Christ is a strong expression, and clearly intends something more than the commemoration of his death. To have a full idea of it, let us only suppose it had been said of any of the apostles, that, in a service of this kind, it was called the communion of their body and blood and the ungodliness of the application will be immediately glaring.
But it is not only on the authority of Christ himself, great and unquestionable as that authority ought to be, that we ground the certainty of this doctrine. The apostles, also, after their being endued with the influence of the Divine Spirit, in all their discourses inculcate the same thing. The writings of those inspired men abound, with phrases of the plainest kind in proof of it One assures us, that Christ “died for our sins according to the Scriptures,” (1 Cor. 15:3); that “we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins,” (Eph. 1:7); that “he made our peace through the blood of his cross,” (Col. 1:20); and that “he gave himself a ransom for all,” (1 Tim. 2:6). Another declares, that “Christ bare our sins in his own body on the tree,” (1 Pet. 2:24); that “we are not redeemed with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish, and without spot,” (1 Pet. 1:18-19). A third proclaims, that it is “the blood of Christ which cleanseth from all sins,” (1 John 1:7); and that “he is the propitiation for our sins,” (1 John 2:2). And all concur in asserting that the great end of our Lord’s coming was, to “put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Are all these mere words without meaning? If so, how comes it to pass that such things should be said of Jesus only, and not of any former messenger of God? Do we discover any expressions of a similar tendency in any of the writings of the prophets? Was it ever said of Moses or Elijah, or any other holy servant of God, that they took away sin by the sacrifice of themselves?
And, as if all these were not sufficient to confirm the certainty of the doctrine, it is further remarkable, that when the apostle John, in a vision, saw heaven opened, and heard the acclamations of the happy multitude; this, he tells us, was the universal chorus of praise and thanksgiving, which he heard, “Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood,” (Rev. 5:9). All which, if language can be depended upon, decidedly prove, that the first and leading principle of the gospel, is the atoning blood of its blessed Author. And it is not without the strongest evidences we conclude, that Christ is to us a sacrifice for sin, as well as an example of a godly life. But I pursue this reasoning no further. Suffer me only to assume the possibility of the fact itself, that “we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ,” (Heb. 10:10), and the superiority of his nature must immediately be admitted. For to give efficacy to that oblation, it became expedient that he should be “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners,” (Heb. 7:16), and in every way untainted with the pollution of that fallen race whose guilt he suffered to expiate. And hence, therefore, must be inferred the Godhead of his person.
The evidences in proof of this important doctrine, which arise from the last scenes of our Lord’s history, though carrying with them a peculiar energy, are of a nature much easier to be conceived than expressed. In the plain and unaffected narrative of the Evangelists, it is impossible, under grace, not to feel their impression. The awful signs which they relate as accompanying the death of Jesus, and the glorious manifestation which attended his resurrection and ascension; altogether proclaim a dignity in the person of our Lord, infinitely transcending all ideas of a being merely human; especially when it is considered that Christ had foretold every remarkable circumstance which distinguished those events. He had declared, indeed, not only that his death was voluntary, but that his resurrection should be the result of his own immediate power. “No man taketh my life from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again,” (John 10:18). “For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given the Son to have life in himself. And as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will,” (John 5:20-21). And hence it was that Christ said to the Jews, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” “But he spake” (the Evangelist tells us) “of the temple of his body. When, therefore, he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he said this unto them,” (John 2:19, et seq.).
But on these topics I forbear to enlarge. They possess an energy in the words of the Evangelists perfectly inimitable, and which cannot but suffer under a representation from all other pens.
One evidence, however, of Christ’s Godhead resulting from the view of the conclusive scenes of our Lord’s life, is so very pointed, that I venture to propose it to your more particular consideration; namely, the unequalled dignity which they have given to our Lord’s person and manner, during his last interview with his apostles; and the authority with which he delivered to them his final commission.
“He had shewn himself alive to them after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them for forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God,” (Acts 1:3); and having “opened their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures,” and showed them the expediency on which it was founded, that “thus it was written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day,” (Luke 24:45-46); he now proceeded to deliver to them that commission which involved in it all the great events of his church. “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. And lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,” (Matt. 28:18, et seq.). “And these signs shall follow them that believe. In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover,” (Mark 16:17-18). “And he led them out as far as Bethany, and he lifted up his hands and blessed them. And it came to pass, 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,” (Luke 24:50). “And they went forth and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” (Mark 16:20). What grandeur and sublimity are there in these words! What a concurrence of circumstances to illustrate and, prove the divinity of our blessed Lord! With an authority unequalled he dismisses his humble followers to the arduous enterprise of the conversion of a world, assuring them at the same time of his continual presence! And in the proof of the high commission under which they acted, they were to carry the fullest evidences with them of his divine power. In his name they were to cast out devils, and perform all their mighty works. And accordingly, when they went forth upon their employment, it is said, “the Lord was working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.” Are not these very high demonstrations of the Godhead of Jesus? Did ever any character among the sons of men assume a language like this? or had ever anyone his pretensions justified by the correspondence of events so singular? I ask not what prophet or messenger of God acted in this manner; but I demand, what angel from heaven ever claimed such distinctions, or mentioned his own name as the efficient cause of his ministry?
But this is not all. The apostles before they proceeded to preach the Gospel were to receive supernatural assistance to qualify them for the work in the descent of the Holy Ghost; and even this, Jesus declared, should be his own immediate gift. When the Comforter is come whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth which proceeded from the Father, he shall testify of me,” (John 15:26). “He shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear that shall he speak, and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine, therefore said I that he should take of mine, and shew it unto you, (John 14:13, ex seq.). Is it possible to hear these things, and still question the Godhead of him by whom such declarations are made? That Christ should say of the blessed Spirit “which searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God,” (1 Cor. 2:10), and whom “to speak a word against is pronounced to be unpardonable sin,” (Matt. 12:32); “that when the Comforter is come whom I will send, he shall not speak of himself, but he shall receive of mine, and show it unto you!” Can we conceive it possible that any being less than the great Supreme should talk thus freely of the Holy Spirit? And that the Holy Spirit should actually descend upon the minds of the apostles in perfect conformity to those declarations of Jesus?
Nay, more. The form of baptism which our Lord appointed for the introduction of converts into the Gospel-covenant, and which is become the grand charter of the church, is yet, if possible, more difficult to be accounted for upon the supposition that his Godhead be denied. When Christ sent his disciples into all the world to preach the Gospel to every creature, the command was, “baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” (Matt. 28:19). In which form Jesus classes himself in priority of rank, before the Eternal Spirit, and separates, as it were, between the Father and the Holy Ghost. Was this without design, and without meaning? Had our Lord no object in view in doing it? I should suppose this impossible. And what then are we to conclude, that any created being, however high or exalted, would be so presumptuous as to place himself on a level with the Father, and the Divine Spirit? What could be more blasphemous, or derogatory from the honor of God! Surely the advocates for the simple humanity of Jesus must, upon their own principles, suppose that our blessed Lord far exceeded his commission by thus encroaching upon the divine prerogatives; for it is impossible to assign any reason for his assuming this equality, unless it were his right. And, for my own part, I cannot but observe, that this form of baptism, (which is evidently the solemn dedication of Christians to God in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) would of itself be more than half conviction with me of the divinity of our blessed Master, even if unsupported by the other direct testimonies of holy Scripture.5
One point more remains yet to be considered, by which the dignity of the great Author of the Christian faith is clearly ascertained, namely, the supreme character in which he is to appear as the Judge of the world.
The Scriptures have so fully and plainly revealed the doctrine of a future judgment and a day of account, that it forms a part of every man’s creed, and is the common object of universal expectation. That our blessed Lord is to preside at this awful tribunal, is an opinion also in which all Christians are agreed, though the divinity of his person is by some rejected. But certainly the exercise of supreme authority but ill corresponds with the notion of a subordinate being. The very description which the sacred writers have given of this “great day of the Lord,” is enough to impress the mind with the fullest conviction that there must be somewhat truly divine in his person and character, who possesses a sovereignty so supreme. When we read, that “the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God,” (Thess. 1:7); that “he cometh with ten thousand of His saints, to execute judgment upon all,” (Jude 15); and that “the very heavens and earth will flee away from the face of Him who sitteth upon the throne,” (Rev. 20:11). Are these things credible upon the supposition that Christ is no more, after all, than a human being? Is the belief of it consistent with principles of common sense?
Again, our blessed Lord, in his predictions of this day, declared that “all who are in their graves should hear his voice and come forth;” but is it to be the voice of a glorified man which is to affect this? too rouse the dead, to reanimate the lifeless mass of dust and ashes, and to abolish forever the empire of death and the grave? Can this be really possible? But what is still more astonishing, (and which the rejecters of our Lord’s Godhead must receive with unreserved conviction), is the opinion, that this man, Christ Jesus, in consequence of his exaltation, possesses such an intimate knowledge of the human heart, with the infinite circumstances and transactions of life, as to be able to determine the exact measure of duty or disobedience in every man’s conduct; and can draw the line of strict justice with the nicest hand, so as to ascertain the rewards and punishments due to every individual of the innumerable race of Adam. Can anyone seriously and coolly adopt this opinion?
Let us for a moment, however, pass the boundaries of probability, and in opposition to the numberless obstructions in the way, let it be admitted. Now, then, we reduce in idea the great Judge of all the earth to the humble standard of humanity. But even here again a new difficulty arises. To what cause can we reasonably ascribe this wonderful exaltation? What was there in the life of Jesus, simply considered as a man, which merited this astonishing accession to the right-hand of power, to be the Judge of quick and dead, and to determine the everlasting fate of millions? I speak with all possible reverence and even with a religious apprehension upon my mind, while proposing questions of this bold nature. But surely, it could never be merely for preaching a system of moral virtue, or being a pattern of the most perfect righteousness, much less for dying as a martyr to his cause, and sealing the testimony of his doctrine with his blood. These are very inadequate causes, wherefore “a name should be given to him which is above every name,” (Phil. 2:9). Great as these characters are in themselves, and surpassing all comparison with those of the highest and best of men, yet is there no proportion between the merit and the reward: it is without parallel, in all the dispensations of Providence that have ever been revealed to mankind.
But now, consider the subject in another point of view. Suppose this spotless preacher and example of righteousness, to be literally and truly what the sacred writers have declared him to be, the Son of God, and possessed, as himself hath assured us, of “glory with his Father before the world;” then, for the purposes of our salvation, and in mercy to a fallen race, conceive him descended from this state of felicity, clothed in a body of flesh, in that form offered a sacrifice upon the cross for human guilt; and, having accomplished this important end, suppose him returned to his original glory, whence he will come again at the last day, agreeably to his promise, to judge the subjects of his moral government.
Beheld in this light, nothing appears disproportioned in the Gospel dispensation; but one uniform scheme of infinite wisdom, blended with justice and mercy. The strictest propriety is visible in his being the Judge of mankind, who hath been their Creator and Redeemer. And though, no doubt, the highest mystery is veiled under a dispensation so awful, yet we see enough to admire, and in that admiration to adore, the gracious ordination of heaven in this last, best, and unspeakable gift, (2 Cor. 9:15).
What true believer, in a review of those proofs of divine love, can refrain from joining the apostle in his animated exclamation: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and goodness of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been his counsellor? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever, Amen,” (Rom. 11:33-36).
1 However decisive to the great point in question, the evidence arising from our Lord’s unequalled manlier of speaking may be, in the outward ministry of the word; there is yet a much higher proof, arising from the same cause, which I pray God the reader may possess, for without the attainment of it, indeed, the other is nothing worth: I mean, when the inward effect of the words of Jesus is applied by the Holy Ghost to the heart of man. Men may assent to the great truths of the gospel, from the mere conviction of the understanding, without being at all interested in them as so many principles of conduct: and this, it is to be apprehended, by what is daily manifested in the world, is the case of thousands; but this is perfectly a distinct thing from the operation of the voice of Jesus in the heart. “His sheep hear his voice; and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out; they know his voice and follow him.” Terms these, which evidently demonstrate that there is somewhat more implied than the mere outward ministry of the word: and that an inward powerful effect accompanies it. They are his sheep which hear his voice; them he calls by name; speaking directly to their minds and consciences by a personal application; as in the case of Paul on the road to Damascus, when “they that were journeying with him saw indeed the light and were afraid, but heard not the voice of him that spake.” They knew his voice by its effect. “I shall never forget thy word,” (says David). And why? Because, “by it thou hast quickened me.” And hence the apostle Paul could tell the Thessalonians, that their election of God was known: because “our gospel” (says he) “came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.” I cannot snore effectually serve the reader, than in recommending him to an earnest and diligent enquiry after the evidence of these things. However, in the general, satisfied you may be of the Godhead of Jesus, from this proof of the unparalleled manner in which he spake; I am most awfully convinced, that you have not yet heard him to the great and effectual purposes of salvation, unless that voice which first commanded the light to shine out of darkness “hath shined in your heart to give you the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” (2 Cor. 4:6). Beg of God, therefore, for this unspeakable gift, and say in the language of the church, “Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice: cause me to hear it,” (Song 8:13).
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2 The perpetual presence of the Lord with his people, besides the testimony it carries with it of his Godhead, opens another source of divine consolation, to the church, in the perpetual manifestations the Lord gives to them of his presence; and when known and felt and lived upon, produces in the spiritual mind, “a joy unspeakable and full of glory, receiving the end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls.” Our adorable Lord promised this, before his return to glory, when assuring his disciples, that not only He himself would come, “but the Father would come, and make their abode with them: and the Holy Ghost would abide with them for ever,” (John 14:23, 16). All the blissful events of communion which John speaks of, (1 John 1:1-4), arise out of this. For as every effect must have a cause; so here, the effect of our joy, arises from this cause of the presence, and manifestation, of the Holy Three in One, agreeable to John’s statement; “if we love Him, it is because he first loved us,” (1 John 4:19). I glanced somewhat at this subject before, in the Preface; but the several acts of the gracious manifestation of the Holy Trinity to the Church; and the calling forth of the faith and affection of the Church in return; these are not only blessed attestations of the Godhead of Christ, in confirmation of his promises; but also open to such a precious communion, between the Lord and his people, as are among the highest felicities in a life of faith, as can only be exceeded in a life of open vision in glory, that I make no apology for drawing my reader’s attention to it in a short note.
It needs not be insisted upon by way of establishing the reality of the blessedness itself: that as Jehovah, in his Trinity of Persons, hath graciously condescended to make himself known unto his people by distinct acts of love by which each is personally revealed; so hath the Lord engaged under these distinctions of character to visit and make himself known unto them. Hence God our Father having himself chosen every one of them, and revealed himself as their Father in Christ; so he hath very blessedly said, that as this is to the adoption of children in Christ, they shall know him as their Father; and shall come to him as their Father; “the Spirit bearing witness with their spirits that they are children of God,” (Jer. 3:4 & 19; Rom. 8:14). Hence therefore, if by regeneration, I, or you, are conscious of this relationship, and spiritually feel our souls comforted under these precious assurances of God the Father’s everlasting love: is it possible to live a day without the goings forth of the spirit in desires after and communion with our Father, whose very adoption of his Church is for this express purpose here in grace, and hereafter in glory? God our Father hath not simply chosen his, Church, for heaven, or happiness in another world. He hath not adopted them for kingdoms or empires: but for Himself. “This people have I formed for myself: they shall shew forth my praise,” (Isa. 43:21; Ps. 4:3). The same may be said, yea, and must be said, of each of the other glorious Persons in the Godhead, (Rev. 3:20). The whole book of the Songs, (1 Cor. 6:19). And let me not be thought harsh or unkind, for I mean it in the greatest affection, when I add, that among all the evidences of the renewed life, this is the highest and the best; namely, “fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ,” (1 John 1:3). It is very blessed, to go to ordinances and the several means of grace, when led by the Holy Ghost: Communion with the Lord’s people when the savor of his presence is known, and felt, in the assembly, is also blessed: but there may be, and the best of the Lord’s people will, I believe, be ready to confess, that sometimes, and not infrequently, there are other causes, than singly with an eye to the Lord’s glory, the Lord’s people attend prayer-meetings and assemblies of a like nature. But for you, or me, to retire from all society of men to enjoy communion with God; here can be no delusion. Hence I venture to make conclusion, not dissimilar to what the Holy Ghost commanded John the Baptist to make his apprehension of the person of Christ. “He that sent me to baptize with water, (said John) the same said unto me: Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is He which baptized with the Holy Ghost. “And I saw” (said John) “and bare record, that this is the Son of God,” (John 1:31-34). In humble imitation and under the same unction we may form a scriptural judgment of the true followers of the Lord. Where the Holy Ghost hath descended and remains and communion with the Holy Three in One is daily known and lived upon; here is the child of God! Click here to return to reading.
3 1 Cor. 4:5. To avoid prolixity I have not noticed in the body of the discourse, (what must ever be considered a very strong additional evidence of our Lord’s Godhead) the prescience he manifested concerning future events. Some of them were of that nature, that, to all human apprehension, they were not only wonderful, but highly improbable. Not to dwell upon many incidents relating to himself that he foretold, I consider the destruction of Jerusalem, which our blessed Lord so exactly described, as one of the highest and most uncontestable proofs of his possessing this divine attribute in its full extent. The destruction both of the city and the temple; the signs and wonders which should precede these events; the calamities which should ensue; the dispersion of the Jewish people; nay, the very ensigns of the nation, by whom the destruction was to be effected; all are related with a precision surpassing credibility, in a mind merely human, and can only be resolved into the infinite knowledge of him, to whose observation, the past, present, and future, are but as the same object. One part of this memorable prophecy of our Lord remains yet to be fulfilled. And the same prescience which predicted the dispersion of Israel could not err in the assurance that they should again be gathered in. A day will come when “the Deliverer will arise from Zion, and turn away ungodliness from Jacob,” (Rom. 11:26). May the Lord hasten this glorious event, and bring on that promised (lay of grace when “a little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation!” (Isa. 60:22).
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4 2 Cor. 4:3-4. I cannot prevail upon myself to close this view of the Redeemer, under those exalted characters, in the united testimony to his deity, from the attributes and appellations by which he is described in scripture, without subjoining a short note, by way of carrying additional conviction to any unbelieving reader into whose hands these feeble discourses may come; and also to point out what resources of comfort such views of Jesus ought to afford to all his faithful people. Click here to return to reading.
I would first desire the man who hath not yet received sufficient evidences to satisfy his understanding of the divinity of Christ; but yet whose mind is not absolutely shut against all conviction, only coolly and dispassionately to review once more what hath been brought before him in the course of this Sermon, concerning our Lord’s possession of all divine attributes, and those eternal distinctions of character by which he is known. Let him ask himself this single question, whether it be possible to suppose that a Being can be distinguished by such incommunicable properties, to be present at all times, and in all places, “upholding all things by the word of his power;” his eye unremittingly directed to take in with one comprehensive glance, every object both in heaven and in earth; his ear open to the numberless cries of all creatures; his arm stretched forth to support, restrain, protect, punish, and reward the various subjects of his providence: and all this to millions and millions of creatures, in one and the same moment; and yet all the while be a created being, or the delegated creature of another? Oh! the absurdity of modern infidelity! What contradictions will it not reconcile rather than bow down to the truth? Reader! whoever thou mayest be, who art tainted with this spirit, think, I charge you, before it be too late, how awful the case of those who die in unbelief. “If ye believe not that I am,” (says Christ) “ye shall die in your sins,” (John 8:24). Grant, Lord, the power of believing! take away all hardness of heart from this people: open every blind eye; and unstop every deaf ear; that we may not be any longer “rebellious, or turn away backward.”
But for you who are his believing people, contemplate, I charge you, in those gracious perfections of your Redeemer, what a rich provision you possess in Him for all you need. Recollect, moreover, that all the dispensations, both of providence and grace, are his. Not a sparrow can fall to the ground but by his appointment: nay, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. In his hands all your concerns are safe. “He hath the keys of David. He openeth, and no man shutteth: he shutteth and no man openeth.” Oh! what an inexhaustible resource have all true believers in Christ, under every dispensation both of sorrow and of joy, in the perfections and merciful designs of their Redeemer! Keep up, I beseech you, an unceasing attention to him, ye that are his believing people, in all the events of life; and learn to make the same personal and practical application of all the checkered circumstances of a transient existence, which the apostle did for himself and his faithful companions in the gospel: “I am persuaded” (says he) “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come; nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Rom. 8:38-39).
5 The form of baptism, if considered with all its attending circumstances, carries with it a peculiar evidence in proof of the Godhead of our Lord. The great Author of our faith had lately suffered death upon the cross, for the supposed blasphemy of calling himself the Son of God. In this solemn interval of his resurrection and ascension, when he was delivering his final commission to his disciples, concerning the future events of his church, and at the time when he had received “all power in heaven and in earth;” can it be supposed that if any misconception had been taken, either of his Person or doctrine, from what himself had taught, he would not have embraced this favorable season for correcting their error? More particularly in so momentous a point, as that of entertaining right notions of his person and character, would he have left them in ignorance whether he was really and truly what he had all along professed himself to be, the Son of God, and for which he had suffered death, or had assumed this title only by way of distinction of character? Instead of this, or any explanation to a similar effect, what are our Lord’s final declarations? Truly, the fullest confirmation of his “unity with his Father,” in the appointment of a solemn service by which the converts to the faith were to be initiated into the Christian communion, in the joint name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; what conclusion can possibly be made of it, but an equal participation of Godhead? When we recollect the numerous passages of Scripture, which ascribe divinity to each of the sacred persons of the Godhead, and then behold Christ in the instance before us, as enjoining all his followers to be baptized in the equal profession of this faith, from which no tribulation whatever was deemed to be a sufficient justification for receding; the appointment and form of this service become, I conceive, a very decisive evidence of the great point in question.
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