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enough). But when did a mere man ever appear in the form of God, or think of thus appearing? How could a man thus presume, without the utmost height of pride and blasphemy? And yet this conduct is introduced in the passage, by the inspired Apostle, as a memorable instance of condescension and humility! That is, that Christ had not eagerly done, that which would have been the most monstrous act of impiety and presumption to have even thought of!
And when was Christ in the form of God, upon this hypothesis? The Unitarians say, By his miracles. But miracles were performed by others, both before and after Christ; and none ever dreamt of being thereby in the form of God: nay, they cautiously disclaimed all Divine honours, and ascribed their miraculous powers to the hand of God.
And this " being in the form of God" is represented in the text as Christ's previous state. But Christ's previous state, by the hypothesis I am opposing, was merely that of an obscure peasant. His being in the form of God, must be subsequent to this state, not antecedent. If he was in the form of God by the possession of miraculous powers, this was after his estate of mean parentage and obscure infancy, in direct opposition to the language of the Apostle. But on the orthodox hypothesis, all is natural. Christ appeared in ancient times to the fathers in the form of God. The appearance of the Lord on Mount Sinai, to Joshua, to Isaiah in the temple, were transient anticipations of his incarnation. "These things spake Isaias," says the Evangelist John, "when he saw his glory, and spake of him." "The Similitude of the Lord shall he behold," said God to the Israelites concerning Moses, with whom he spake mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not by dark speeches. And thus God often appeared to Israel under the similitude and form of his peculiar majesty and glory.
Suppose then, as I have done,
and as the Scriptures affirm, that these were appearances of Christ; then we have Christ in the form of God, his proper form, his natural form; for he is the Brightness of his Father's glory, and the express Image of his person. And having been in this state from eternity, and having appeared in it to the fathers, we understand what is meant by his making himself of no reputation, his emptying himself, divesting himself of his glory: for he appeared as a mere man, he grew up as a root out of a dry ground, he had no form nor comeliness.
But when did Christ empty himself of his miraculous gifts? He never ceased, during his whole life, from working miracles, from performing cures, from establishing his Divine mission by supernatural operations. If being in the form of God mean only our Lord's possession of miraculous powers, we have nothing of contrast, in the history of his ministry, to it, and in opposition with it: where, then, is the proof of condescension ?
But consider further. "He took on him the form of a servant," says the Apostle. This stands manifestly opposed to his being in the. form of God. He was in the form of God, but he took upon him the form of a servant. Now, as all confess that he was truly in the form of a servant, why should we not confess that he was truly in the form of God? Why should we understand the one expression simply, and the other metaphorically? thing be more likely to perplex a plain reader than this? Did Christ really possess the form of a servant? we have the same evidence that he had the form of God. If the expression, the form of a servant, implies that he was truly man; the expression, the form of God, proves that he was truly God.
"A servant." The word is the same as when the Apostle calls himself the servant of God. It does not mean a slave; for Christ never appeared in a servile capacity,
but acted amongst nen as a master, a lord, a rabbi: "Ye call me Master, and Lord; and so I am." But he did appear in the character of a servant of God; "he was made of a woman, made under the law, that he might" obey the law which man had broken. And herein appears his inconceivable condescension, that he should come down from his estate, the form of God, and take on him the form of a servant; that he who made the law, should stoop to be under the law.
"Made in the likeness of men," is a further part of our Lord's condescension. But if Christ be a mere man, then this can only mean, made in the likeness of a common man, a mean man. But why are we to be allowed thus to add epithets contrary to the usual force of a sentence, to make out a sense? What is it which we may not make of the Scriptures by insertions? We have no right to suppose that any thing different was meant by the Apostle from what the words imply, that our Lord's appearing in the likeness of men was an act of condescension. "Because the children were partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself," says St. Paul, describing the incarnation, "took part of the same." He deliberated upon it; he had a motive in doing it; because the children were partakers of flesh and blood. It was a voluntary descent; a stooping to a nature below his own.
Was ever such language held of any one but Christ? Of Moses? of Isaiah? for example. They and many others performed very splendid miracles. Moses especially was distinguished, not only by the possession of miraculous powers, but by the formation of a new policy, and the founding of a new nation : he was a legislator, a mediator, a friend of God, who spake with him face to face. But where is it said, as a proof of his humility, that he was made in the likeness of men; when he never was, nor could be, any thing else than man?
But that the eternal Son of God; he who was with God, and was God; he who created all things in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or domi. nions, or principalities, or powers; he who upholds all things by the word of his power; that he should be made in the likeness of men, was a miracle of condescension indeed.
The Apostle goes on, "And, being found in fashion as a man.” But if Christ be only a man, what wonder is it that he should be found in fashion as a man? What instance of condescension is it, that he was found of that order of beings to which he belonged, and out of which he had no existence at all?
"He humbled himself," is next added. He was not satisfied with being found in fashion as a man, but he humbled himself, as to the whole manner of his appearance in our nature; and, having humbled himself, "became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." He might have appeared in the highest form of human nature; he might have appeared leading captive prostrate nations; and putting down all human dignity, authority, and power. But he humbled himself. The brightest glory of men would have been mere darkness, compared with that inaccessible glory in which Christ dwelt from all eternity. It would have been the greatest condescension in him to have received the homage of the world in the most prostrate form. But, having condescended to take our nature, he humbled himself in every step of the descent; nor did he cease his humiliation, till he be came obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
"He became obedient." There was therefore no necessity to obey at all. But he assumed voluntarily a nature which made him capable of suffering: and he obeyed in that nature even unto death, the death of the cross; in order that he might make it becoming the character of
God, as a moral governor, to grant pardon to a whole race of apostate and guilty, but believing and peni
And yet we are told that Christ is not to be called a Saviour exclusively we are told that Paul, and Peter, and others, shared in the glory of saving mankind. And we are told that all this argument of the Apostle in the text, conclusive as it is, both from the words and phrases which are employed, and from the disposition in the mind of Christ which the whole of the reasoning implies-we are told that all this argument, instead of proving the pre-existence and Divinity of Christ, proves nothing of the kind. Nay, the leader of the Unitarians in the present day declares that no words can ever be clear enough to prove to him that Christ is God; and that if he should find any such words in the Scripture it would only go to weaken the evidence of the truth of the Christian revelation, but would not convince him that the statement was true. With such men we can have no communion. Such a spirit shuts up all the avenues to truth and conviction; such a temper is the height of arrogance and practical infidelity in a creature like man. For it not only leads to error, and dangerous, fatal, destructive error, but it goes the frightful length of setting itself above Revelation; of limiting the wisdom of the Infinite Mind; of declaring that such and such statements, concerning the incomprehensible God, cannot be true. Thus the whole foundation of faith is subverted.
Whereas to the humble believer the argument of the text is incontrovertible. He cannot but avow, after calmly studying the drift of the Apostle's reasoning, that if any words can be found in human language to express the exact idea of the Divine pre-existing state of Christ these words are those of the text.
We now proceed to notice briefly,
II. The doctrine of our Lord's Deity and condescension in the practical view for which the Apostle introduced it.
But here let us first offer a reflection on the value of the soul of man, and the immense blessings of redemption prepared for it. For what can illustrate the value attached by the all-wise God to the spiritual, accountable, immortal soul of his creature man, if these acts of our Lord's condescension do not? Every view we can take of Christ's original glory in the form of God, and of the depth of his condescension in emptying himself of all his glory, till he expired on the cross, teaches us the unutterable value of the soul, the importance of its salvation, the misery of its lost state, the inconceivable moment of redemption.
And do not the same considerations shed a bright radiance on the blessings of Redemption? Does not the immense and untold price which was paid enhance our estimate of the riches of the purchase made, the certainty of the promises, the magnitude of pardon and holiness, the vastness of the future inheritance? Can we doubt whether He, who spared not his own Son but delivered him up for us all, will with him also freely give us all things?
These remarks prepare the way for the particular exhortation arising from the Apostle's argument in the text. Let us imitate the example of humility and condescension exhibited by our Lord, and exhibited for our sakes. Let this mind be in us, in some faint measure, which was also in Christ Jesus. Let us condescend to men of low estate. Let us be ready to deny ourselves. Let us humble ourselves, and descend lower and lower, if called to it. Let us, if needful, lay down our lives for the brethren.
1 John i. 3: And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
As John leaned on the bosom of our Saviour, and there drank of that fountain of love that flowed within, so his Epistle breathes the spirit of love; love to mankind at large, and especially to those who were partakers with him of the same precious faith. In the verse preceding the text he breathes an ardent desire that his brethren might have fellowship with him in the Gospel, and all its privileges; and he then describes in the text what this fellowship is. He invites them hereby to no common privilege, to no common community; but to one the most elevated and most extraordinary,fellowship with God in Jesus Christ. No error is more serious than that which prevails so much in the present day, of interpreting every high and glorious description of the privilege of Christianity as confined to the Apostles and the Apostolic age. To commit so fatal an error, is to exhibit a melancholy proof of the truth of another passage, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them." For may we not justly fear that these interpreters, finding nothing in their own experience that agrees to these high representations in Scripture, and not knowing well how to deal with them, have thus been led to set them down as referring to a state of feeling and privilege peculiar to the first Christians; and have at length come to condemn all claims to them as enthusiastical, and invading the miraculous powers of the Spirit given to the Apostles and first
sent directory of faith and practice, would only be an ancient record of past sentiments, with which we should have no concern as a matter of experience ourselves. But, on the contrary, our religion is a counterpart of that recorded in the New Testament. We find those sentiments, feelings, and hopes, within the breasts of Christians now, which are registered as the representations of Christianity in its first age.
Amongst the blessings included in these representations, fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ occupies a prominent place. It comprehends all the internal blessings and immunities of Christianity.
Fellowship, or communion, is the participation of two or more persons in the same thing. If any number of persons, two or more, enjoy certain advantages or privileges in common, they have fellowship with each other in them. All men are brethren, as partaking of one common nature: they have communion with each other in all the emotions, duties, advantages of general benevolence, sympathy, love, as fellow-creatures and men. Those who are placed under the same government, and who share in common its benefits as fellow-countrymen, are drawn yet closer: they have fellowship with each other in all the blessings of legitimate government. Those, again, who reside in the same town, or form together a neighbourhood, and intermingle in all the offices of social life, have participation with each other, as fellow-citizens, in the benefits of municipal regulations, and the mutual charities and aids of neighbours. Those who form the same family have also fellowship with each other in the affections and relationships of a family. This is the closest of all fellowships; and in this class are included the comhusbands and wives, masters and munion of parents and children,
The expression, therefore, in the
text, must be understood in this sense: it is a participation of some blessings in common with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. It must be explained, indeed, in a manner suitable to the subject to which it is applied; but still the meaning must be the same: it is still the partaking of something in common. There is no meaning in the word but this. What, then, is this fellowship? It is of true Christians that the words are spoken. Others are invited to seek the blessing; but none but true Christians actually partake of this fellowship. I. This fellowship consists in the moral excellencies of the Divine Being; what the Apostle calls, "a divine nature."
Fellowship with God implies a participation of the same disposition of heart, the same moral tendency of mind. It is by Jesus Christ, the way to the Father, that this fellowship begins. We must come back to God first through a Mediator, and be justified by faith in his blood, before we can be qualified for this exalted communion. We thus become united to Christ; and are by faith partakers of the privilege of being sons of God. In this relation we stand and as the children of God we have a new nature; we are partakers of a Divine nature, as the Apostle speaks. This expression is not rhetorical; it is not merely synonymous with any thing great; but it means that we are partakers of that moral nature in which God exists: his moral excellencies are impressed upon the heart of the Christian; he partakes of God's holiness. Being adopted into his family, he has the spirit of adoption: he not only sees the excellency of God, but he receives some reflection and impress of it. And this excellency of God he discerns in the person of Jesus Christ: "We have fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ:""Beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from
glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." All Christians have fellowship with each other in this new nature or disposition; and this springs from their fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ, in a portion of their moral excellency. They walk in the same spirit, they follow the same steps. "Walking in the light, as He is in the light, they have fellowship one with another; and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses them from all sin."
This is a most exalted privilege: for we had lost the image of God, and were in a state of alienation and ruin; but this restoration of the Divine image makes us again lovely in the eyes of God: it restores the highest distinction of our nature.
II. This fellowship includes an intercommunity of preference and delight.
When two or more persons are assimilated in disposition and moral feeling, they are prepared to appreciate one another aright, and to cultivate friendship. All friendship between God and man is founded on this assimilation. All complacency of God in man, and all delight of man in God, is the effect of renovating grace. Christians are capable of appreciating the beauty of the Divine holiness. They see God to be lovely, as well as great and awful. They are attracted by a sense of his benefits; but they also perceive his excellency in himself; and thus they love him, and delight in him, for his own moral attributes, for what he is in himself. They have a perfect esteem for his infinitely holy principles and character. They choose God as their portion; and he con. descends to choose them as his portion, and the lot of his inheritance. They say of God, "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of Thee;" and God sees nothing under the whole heaven to attract his complacency but them. He delights in them as he doth in his own Son: "That the world may know that thou hast sent me, and