« PoprzedniaDalej »
rite of baptism, “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
This distinction of persons in the Deity was accordingly uniformly taught and insisted upon as a fundamental article of Christian faith in the first ages of the Church. Of this we have a proof in the epistles of St. Paul, the beginning and conclusion of which are generally in this solemn form, “Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ;" And, “The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God, and the Communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all ;" fu careful was that holy Apostle to keep alive in the minds of the Christian converts the great doctrine in the profession of which they had been baptized.
This doctrine of the essential divinity of Jesus Christ, thus explicitly declared by himself, so far from being called in question by any of his immediate disciples, became the first rule of religious service in the Apostolical Church. While Jesus was in the act of lifting up his hands and blerfing his disciples, “ he was parted from them and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, (magosxuingeytes ævloy) and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and were continually in the temple praising and bleiting God.” (Luke xxiv. 50, 53.) That the “ worship’ paid to Christ on Mount Oliver, was the highest act of religious service, is evi. dent from this, that the Evangelist here uses the same word to express it, as is adopted in other places for the worship of God. Thus when St. John fell at the feet of the angel to worfhip him (75 ÇOOXUYNEKI alwe thinking probably that he was the angel of the covenant, the answer he received was “See thou do it not; I am thy fellow-feryant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God; (TW OW TgooxUmoove”) Rev. xix. 10,
Now when the Apostles paid their religious adoration to their ascending master which would have been idolatry if he was a creature, they had angels for their witnesses, who, in. stead of reproving them for their millaken zeal, and misapplied devotion, thus encouraged their service and assisted them in their faith, “This same Jesuswhich is taken up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner, as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts i. 12.)
The next service in which we find the Aposles engaged, and in which they made a solemn profession of the same faith, was in the filling up the vacancy occasioned by the apostacy of Judas. After nominating the two disciples for
the Apostleship, they offered up this prayer: “ Thou, Lord, which knoweft the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, that he may take part of this ministry and apostleihip, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.”
That this prayer was addressed to Christ may be proved from the nature of the service in which they were employed, and the tenour of his promise to them that “ he would on every such occasion be with them to the end of the world.”
The dying declaration of St. Stephen the protomartyr must also be received as a decisive and glorious testimony of the faith of the early church in the divinity of Christ. His ejaculatory address, '“ Lord Jesus, receive my spirit," is a prayer of the most feryent kind, and as full a confession of the Deity of the Being invocated, as could be uttered in hu. man language. Yet a Socinian of no ordinary name,* when gravelled by this evidence, was weak enough to term it “very inconsiderable.” To this he received the following admi. rable reply from his powersul antagonist.t
“Why is it inconliderable ? Is it because it was only an ejaculation ? Ejaculations are often prayers of the most fervent kind; the most expressive of self-abasement and adoration. Is it for its brevity that it is inconsiderable? What then is the precise length of words, which is requisite to make a prayer an act of worship. Was this petition preferred on an occasion of distress, on which a Divinity might be naturally invoked? Was it a petition for a succour, which none bura Divinity could grant? If this was the case, it was surely an act of worship? Is the situation of the worshipper the cir. cumstance, which in your judgment, lessens the authority of the example ? You suppose, perhaps, foine confternation of his faculties, arising from distress and fear. The history juftifies no such supposition. It describes the utterance of the final prayer, as a deliberate act of one who knew his situation, and poffeffed his understanding. After praying for himself, he kneels down to pray for his perfecutors; and such was the composure with which he died, although the manner of his death was the most tuinultuous and terrifying, that, as if he had expired quietly upon his bed, the sacred historian fays, " he fell asleep." If, therefore, you would insinuate, that Stephen was not himself, when he sent forth this “ short ejaculatory address to Christ," the history refutes you. If he was hintelf, you cannot justify his prayer
· * Dr. Priestley. ' + Bishop Horsley's Letters, p. 104.
to Christ, while you deny that Christ is God, upon any principle that might not equally justify you, of me, in praying to the blessed Stephen. If Stephen, in the full possesfion of his faculties, prayed to him who is no God"; why do we reproach the pious Romanist, when he chaunts the litany of his faints ? If the persuasion of Christ's divinity prompted the holy martyr's dying prayer, then there is no room to doubt, but that the affertion of Christ's divinity was the blaf. phemy, for which the Jews, hardened in their unbelief, condemned him." · The remarkable circumstance which attended the martyrdom of Stephen, that of the opening of the heavens, and the manifestation to him of the Shechinah, with Jesus in the midst of the splendour, is an additional proof of this doctrine, and of the early belief that the “ divine glory!! was the incommunicable majesty of God. It was not till Stephen said openly to the council that he beheld the “ Son of Man at the right hand of God,” that the Jews charged him with the fin of blasphemy, that is, of ascribing, according to them, the glory of the deity to a creature. Thus the first martyr in the Christian Church died for bearing witness, not merely to the divine mission and the prophetic character of Chrift, but to his essential glory, as “God over all, bles. sed for ever.” If the declaration of Stephen concerning the person of Christ, and his ejaculatory prayer to him, appear is inconsiderable" to modern oppugners of the faith, it is certain that they were not so understood by the council of the Jews, before whom he was arraigned, and who knew full well that no creature can be said to be “in the midst of the divine glory," without blasphemously giving to it the attributes of God. :
The apostolical history affords us another inemorable in. stance of the belief of this doctrine, and of its effets upon the hearts of the first preachers of the gospel. The converfion of St. Paul is not a stronger evidence of the truth of Christianity itself, than it is of the doctrine of Christ's divi. nity. In the language of an eminent writer “it appears to have been a repetition of the scene at the bush, heightened in terror and folemnity. Instead of a lambent flame appearing to a solitary shepherd amid the thickets of the wilderness, the full effulgence of the Shechinah, overpowering the fplendour of the mid-day fun, bursts upon the commissioners of the Sanhedrim, on the public road to Damascus, within a small distance of the city. Jesus speaks, and is spoken to as the divinity inhabiting that glorious light. Nothing can
exceed the tone of authority on the one side, or the submission and religious dread upon the other.*".
St. Paul, in his apologies, took a pleasure in relating the · extraordinary manner of his conversion to the Christian faith, and always described in the strongest terms that celestial glory in which Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus. It is observable that the apoitle did not relate this part of his history, when brought before the Gentiles, but only when the whole, or a principal part of his auditors were of the Jewish persuasion, who knew that by the “divine glory ap. pearing from heaven,” the manifestation of the SHECHINAH was to be understood.
The account which Paul gave to king Agrippa is more minute than that contained in the preceding history; and it would be difficult for any one who heard it to suppose that the apostle believed himself, or wished others to believe, that he had received this commission' from a deified man: "And I faid, who art thou, Lord ? And he said, I am Jesus, whom thou persecuteft. But rise, and stand upon thy feet, for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness, both of those things which thou haft feen, and of those things in which I WILL APPEAR UNTO THEE ; DELIVERING THEE FROM THE PEOPLE, AND FROM THE GENTILES UNTO WHOM NOW I SEND THEE, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are fančtified by faith that is in me.” (Acts xxvi. 15–18.)
Such is the account of the apostle's conversion, and of the authority by which he acted; an authority which he takes a special care to prove was from above, even from him who inhabited the divine glory, and possessed all power in heaven and upon earth.
This view of the faith of Christians in the apostolical age, is taken from great and striking facts, and it might easily be corroborated by numerous passages from the New Testament, in which the same prayers and praises are offered to Jesus Christ, and to God the Father, and in which the essenvial attributes of deity are occasionally ascribed to each of the sacred Threct:
* * Bishop Horsley's Letters, p. 105.
+ See among other places, Matt. xii. 31. xxvii. 40. Luke i. 16,35. Joho i, 1, 48, 49. Acts v. 3, 4. Rom. i. 3, 4, 5,7. 1
Cor. What the order of Worship was in the church below after the ascension of her Lord, and during the whole of the first century, may be learned from the sublime description of the united service of the saints in heaven and those on earth, re. corded by St. John, “ The four beasts [Swa, living creatures and four and twenty elders fell down before the lamb, haying every one of them harps and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sung a new fong, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof : for thou waft Nain and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and haft made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth. And I beheld and I heard. the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the beasts and the elders. And the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands ; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in the heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and fuch as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I, saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that fitteth upon the throne, and unto the lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts or living creatures] faid Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever." Rev. v.8-14.
If it be said that no stress is to be laid upon the figurative description of a prophecy that merely paints the great progress of the gospel and the universal diffusion of religious truth over the earth, we may juftly answer that this only serves to prove ftill more forcibly the early belief of the divinity of Christ, and of the worship of him as God among the first disciples who were called by his name. Had the opposite doctrine been true; and if divine.worship was not paid to Je. sus Christ in the apostolical age, such a description of the faith and worship of the church,' militant and triumphant, would certainly never have appeared in the Apocalypse. And even though this mystical book be rejected from the facred canon, its antiquity will give weight io the testimony afforded by it to the doctrine and worship of the age in which it was written. The Apocalypse is cited as a work of au
1 John ii. 22, 2$.
Cor. ii. 16. Heb. i. 3, 4, 5. Ibid. ix. 14.