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rection, he so plainly foresaw. "O that my words were now written!" said the afflicted patriarch, "O that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead, in the rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer liveth, (or is the Living One)* and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:† and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:" xix, 28 -26.
Abraham was born about two thousand years before the incarnation of Christ. Nevertheless Christ was in being before Abraham. "Your father Abraham," said he to the Jews, "rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I Aм:"‡ John viii, 56
The Bible opens with the statement, that "in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth;" and this also was a time at which Christ existed, and existed with the Father. Such is the doctrine of the apostle John, who denominates Christ the Word, and who, in the exordium of his Gospel, (a passage marked by the most obvious allusions to the Mosaic
conspectu, is very usually employed to denote a precedent date, but can scarcely be understood as implying mere supereminence. I apprehend that the former clause simply declares the existence of Jesus before John; and that the latter confirms this doctrine, by the further declaration, that he was first before him. So Whitby's Paraphrase: "This is he of whom I said, He that cometh after me is before me; and this I said because he indeed was before me, as being in the beginning with God."
עפר יקוס + על ואחרון
"Shall stand in the latter day upon the earth." These words may rather be rendered, " And he the last, shall stand or rise up over the dust." So Schultens, Eumque novissimum super pulverum staturum." According to either of these versions, the prophet's words appear to be applicable only to the Son of God, who, in the day of final retribution, will again make his appearance in the world, and will also stand over the dust, to raise the dead to life: vide John xiv, 3; Acts i, 11; John v, 29; Phil. iii, 20, 21.
† John viii, 53. Πρὶν ̓Αβραὰμ γενέσθαι, Ἐγώ εἰμι. That these expressions are rightly understood, as proving the doctrine of the existence of Christ before Abraham, is evident, not only from the literal meaning of the words, which is indeed exceedingly plain, but from the immediate context. The remark and inquiry of the Jews related to the period during which Jesus had existed. Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham ?" The answer of Jesus therefore must be interpreted as relating to the same subject: "Before Abraham was, I AM."
account of the creation) emphatically declares, that "in the beginning was the Word," and that "the Word was with God:" John i, 1.
That, during the ages which were antecedent to the creation of the world, Christ was with the Father, the partner of his glory, and the object of his love, we learn from the expressions used by our Lord in prayer, shortly before his crucifixion. "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was ;" and again," For thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world:" John xvii, 5. 24.
When we reflect on these passages in the prayer of Jesus, and on the declaration previously cited from the exordium of the Gospel of John, and we call to mind that Christ, that eternal lover of our unworthy race, is declared by an apostle to be himself" the Wisdom of God," (1 Cor. i, 24) we can scarcely avoid deducing the inference, that it is our Saviour who, in the character of wisdom is introduced as speaking in book of Proverbs: "The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old; I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was... When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass on the face of the depth.........when he appointed the foundation of the earth; then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him rejoicing in the habitable parts of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men:" viii, 22—31. Nor can it be denied, that the probability of the correctness of this passage is materially strengthened by the memorable words with which it closes: "Whoso findeth me, findeth LIFE, and shall obtain favor of the Lord. But he that sinneth against me, wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love DEATH :" v, 36; comp John iii. 36; viii, 24; xi, 25, 26; xiv, 6: Col. iii, 4: &c.
Finally, the "goings forth" of Christ have been "from of old, from everlasting." Such is the declaration of the Lord, through his prophet Micah, in a passage which Jews as well as Christians have long been accustomed without hesitation to interpret as relating to the Messiah of Israel. "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall HE come forth unto me that is to be the Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting, (or more literally) from ever, from the days of eternity:"* Mic. v, 2; comp. Matt. 6; John vii, 42.
fre (עולס and קדס) Both the words here employed .מקרס מימי עולם *
Such are some of the principal passages in Scripture on which Christians ground their belief, that their Redeemer preexisted in some higher condition than that which appertains to mortals; and which enable them to trace his preexistence backward, even to the "days of eternity." What then was the nature in which Christ thus preexisted? I venture to reply, on what I deem to be the clear authority of the sacred records, not the nature of men-not that of angels-not that of any order of creatures, however eminent in the scale of being, but the nature of GOD HIMSELF. The principal evidences on which this assertion is grounded are as follow.
I. In the first place, it may be observed, that the doctrine of the Godhead or deity of Christ is a necessary deduction from that of his eternal preexistence: for, while the being of every creature of God has necssarily commenced at some particular point of time, God alone has existed from eternity. Now, this latter doctrine I conceive to be true, first, because the Scriptures, while they make clear mention of the preexistence of Christ before the creation of all things, (John i, 1; xvii, 5) af ford no hint whatever of the commencement of that preexistence at any definite time: secondly, because such is obviously the most natural interpretation of the passage now cited from the prophecies of Micah: thirdly, because the Lord Jesus, in the Revelation expressly says of himself, "I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last:" (i, 11;) "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending; the first and the last :" Rev. xxii, 13. Let it be observed, that, in close connexion with these declarations, there are two other passages of the Revelation, in which the Supreme Being (styled in one of them, "the Almighty," and in the other, "God,") describes himself in the very same terms :i, 8; xxi, 6, 7. If then in the passages last alluded to, it is the Son who speaks, the deity of the Son is at once established. If, on the other hand, it is the Father who speaks in them, it is undeniable that these sublime expressions are descriptive of some divine attribute; and, in that case, how can they be reasonably explained otherwise than as signifying the original, independent, eternal, ex
guently denote a real eternity: vide Deut. xxxiii, 27; Ps. lv, 20. Hab. i, 12; xc, Ps. 2. xciii, 2. ciii, 17, &c. And, in this passage, the addition of one term to the other, goes far to strengthen the notion of eternity,
.לעולס ועד as in the very common expression
*See Rosenmuller on Rev. i, 8. "Ego sum ab æterno in æternum. Omnium primus sum, nec unquam finem sum habiturus....rò A naì Tò
. i. e. Ante me non fuit alius Deus, et post me non erit ullus. Est locutio a Rabbinis desumpta, qui dicunt op n y (ab Aleph usque ad Tau). Johannes eam locutionem aptavit ad alphabeticam Græcam, quia ispe Græcè scribebat."
istence of the Great First Cause? * Thus saith JEHOVAH, the king of Israel, and his Redeemer, Jehovah of Hosts, I am the FIRST, and I am the LAST; and beside me there is no God:" Isa. xliv, 6; comp. xli, 4; xlviii, 12.
II. In the second place, Jesus Christ preexistent was in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God. "Let this mind be in you," says the apostle Paul to the Philippians, "which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; wherefore God also has highly exalted him," &c. : ii, 5—9.* In this luminous passage, the apostle has evidently adverted to four successive stages in the history of Jesus Christ, viz.his original glory; his reduction from that glory; his further humiliation unto the death of the cross; and his final exaltation. Now, it is indisputable that his condition of original glory was enjoyed before he made himself of no reputation, or (as the Greek more properly imports) emptied himself, or made himself void of that glory; and, from the construction of the original (more especially) it is equally clear, that this emptying of himself was accompanied by his taking upon him the form of a servant, and by his being made in the likeness of men.† Since, then, Jesus Christ assumed the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men when he became incarnate (for these expressions are wholly inapplicable to any other period of his history), it follows, that before his incarnation he was in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God. Hence we again derive the doctrine of the real divinity of Christ preexistent; for whether we understand the declaration that he was in the form of God, as conveying the notion that he displayed the characteristic attributes of deity; or more simply as importing, that he subsisted in the divine nature, (for the word rendered " form," sometimes denotes the nature of a thing)*-it is in either case a necessary inference,
* The Greek Text is as follows: Τοῦτο γὰς φρονείσθῳ ἐν ὑμῖν ὅ καὶ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ· ὃς ἐν μορφῇ Θεοῦ ὑπάρχων, οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἶσα Θεῷ· ἀλλ ̓ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσε, μορφὴν δούλου λαβὼν, ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος· καὶ σχήματι εὑρεθεὶς ὡς ἄνθρωπος, ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτὸν, γενόμενος ὑπήκοος μέχρι θανάτου, θανάτου δὲ σταυροῦ· διὸ καὶ ὁ Θεὸς αὐτὸν ὑπερύψωσε, κ. τ. λ.
The original might here be more literally rendered-" He emptied himself taking the form of a servant and being made in the likeness of men."
‡ I apprehend that the word uógon would be best re ndered in this
that he was truly God. So also it appears to be impossible that he should not think it robbery to be equal with God, or (as the Greek may rather be rendered) to be on an equality with God, on any other principle than that of his actually participating in the Father's Godhead. For, between God and the most exalted of his creatures there is surely no equality, no evenness of claim on the worship of men and angels: but rather a determined, unalterable, infinite, disparity.*
passage, "nature." Schleusner (in voc.) explains it as here signifying ipsa natura et essentia; a sense which he considers this substantive sometimes to adopt in classical Greek. Thus Plato says of the gods, ἕκαστος αὐτῶν μένει ἀεὶ ἁπλῶς ἐν τῇ αὑτοῦ μορφῆ, unusquisque eorum simpliciter semper manet in propria ipsius natura: De Rep. The ancient Greek philosophers taught that the φύσις or ουσια—the nature or being of a thing-consisted first of its a» (substance), and secondly of its eidos or uógon (form), and that the latter was its end or perfection ―TÉKOS, ÉVTEXÉX Ela: see Aristotel. Natural. Auscult. lib. iii, sect. 8, ed. Paris, 1629, vol. i, p. 337. De Anima, lib. ii, cap. 1, vol. i, p. 630. So again, we read that the Son of God "took the form of a servant”— expression which appears to denote nothing less than that, when he was made flesh, he actually became a servant; for his whole human life was devoted to the service of God: and, in a less proper sense, he was also the servant of man, to whose wants he ministered. Those ancient Greek commentators, Theodoret and Theophylact, both interpret μógon in this passage as signifying ciola, nature: in loc.
* In rendering the words ou agrayμòv nyúoaro, “thought it not robbery," the translators of our version have adhered literally to the orig inal Greek; for substantives ending in aμos or quos are active in their signification. As ἀσπασμὸς means the action of saluting, and ἀκοντισμὸς the action of darting, so ágrayuòs properly denotes the action of seizing, and is explained by Scapula as equivalent with ȧgrayń (In voc.) So Plutarch, de lib. educ. (as quoted by Wetstein)—ròv en Kearns na20úμevov ȧgrazuor, "That which is called the seizure out of Crete." Many critics, however, both ancient and modern, appear to understand agrauis as of the same force, in this passage, with agragua-res rapta, a booty siezed; in which case the words of the apostle would convey the notion that "Although Christ was in the form of God, yet he did not regard his equality with the Father, (or his being equally honored with the Father) in the light of a booty-of a possession violently obtained, and therefore eagerly to be insisted on-but made himself of no reputation, &c." So Theodoret and Theophylact in loc. Chrysostom De Christi precibus x, ed. Ben. tom. i, 538, Schleusner, and others. Now, although I conceive that agraquès is incapable of a passive meaning, and therefore that the common English version of this passage is clearly the preferable one, yet I would request the reader to observe, that either of these interpretations secures the doctrine of the equality of Christ (as it relates to the divine nature) with the Father. That the passage conveys that doctrine, appears to have been the general and unhesitating opinion of the early fathers, and Greek commentators on the New Testament: see, for example, Isidorus Pel. lib. iv, 22. Cyril. Alex. in Esai, lib. iv, Orat. 4. Ed. Lutet. ii, 661. Theodoret, Theophylact, Ecumenius, and Damascenus, in loc.