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LIFE OF CHRIST.
RETROSPECT OF THE EVENTS WHICH PRECEDED THE INCARNATION OF OUR LORD.
The wonderful union of divine and human nature in Jesus Christ---this doctrine stated by John, in the beginning of his gospel---the Logos, the word or wisdom of God---how understood by Jews and Heathens---was in the beginning---was God, yet distinct from the Father---the Creator of all things---dwelt in the person of Jesus Christ---the light of the world--if Christ be not properly God, the apostles have been the means, by their teaching, of leading mankind to the practice of idolatry---the doctrine credible, but to be discussed with modesty---the hypothesis of Milton, compared with the Mosaic account of the fall, and with different passages of scripture---consequences of the fall--are mitigated or removed by Jesus Christ---why the interval of four thousand years elapsed between the fall of the first Adam, and the incarnation of the second---the seed of the woman---the antediluvians were probably favoured with a traditional revelation, which prescribed rules of life, and indicated the coming of the Messiah---how Christ preached, in the days of Noah, to the spirits in prison---the Lord God of Shem--the causes, progress, and consequences of idolatry---the call of Abraham---Melchisedec--whether one of the three angels, that visited Abraham, was the Logos---Lot---the faith and covenant of Abraham---Isaac---Jacob---Shiloh---remarks on the character. of Job, and on the book which bears his name---his faith in the Redeemer---the children, of Israel go down into Egypt---wisdom and goodness displayed in this dispensation of divine providence---character of Moses, as a lawgiver, an historian, and a poet---his prediction concerning Christ---Balaam---the age of the Judges---the schools of the prophets---David---the Psalms---different states of the chosen people, from the times Abraham to those of Solomon---the commerce and wealth of the Jews under Solomon--his temple---Proverbs---Ecclesiastes---the Song of Songs---the four prophetic periods--the prophets of the age of David---Nathan---Gad---Ahijah---Shemaiah---Iddo, &c.---the age of Jehosaphat---Elijah---Elisha---Micaiah---Jonah--age of Isaiah---Isaiah--- Hosca---Joel---Amos---Micah---Nahum, &c.---age of the captivity---Jeremiah---Lamentations---Obadiah---Habakkuk---Zephaniah---Ezekiel---Daniel---Haggai---Zechariah—and
Malachi---nature and style of the prophetic writings---the reformation in the days of Ezra---Jeshua murdered in the temple---visit of Alexander to Jerusalem---Jerusalem taken by Ptolemy---persecution under Ptolemy Philopator---Antiochus the Great facours Jerusalem---quarrel between Onias and Simon the high-priest---usurpation of Jason, and general apostacy---Menelaus turns Pagan, plunders the temple, and murders Onias---Antiochus Epiphanes takes Jerusalem, and murders forty thousand of the inhabitants---Apollonius plunders Jerusalem, massacres many of the inhabitants, and carries an hundred thousand into captivity--the temple service abandoned---the worship of Jupiter set up in Jerusalem---Mattathias has recourse to arms---is very successful--Judas Maccabeus restores the temple worship---death of Antiochus Epiphanes---Judas Maccabeus slain---Jonathan and Simon the brothers of Judas---Hyrcan---Aristobulus--Alexander---Janneus---civil war between Hyrcanus and Aristobulus---the two brothers apply to Pompey, who besieges and takes Jerusalem---Judes divided into five districts--Herod the Great---his cruel tyranny---conclusion.
OF all the events of which man has received information, there is none more astonishing than the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The birth of the most celebrated poet, historian, legislator, or conqueror, is no otherwise interesting, than as beginning a life, which succeeding conduct rendered afterwards worthy of attention. But the nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ is remarkable in itself, as displaying such an union of divine and human nature, as never took place on any other occasion. Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; the government is laid upon his shoulders, and he is fitly called the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father (or Father of eternal life,) the Prince of Peace.
The beginning of the gospel according to John, when carefully read and examined, casts as much light upon this subject, as, perhaps, it is capable of receiving. John i. 1..18. In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the light, that all men, through him, might believe. He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light. That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth. John bare witness to him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake; he that cometh after me is preferred before me; for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
On this passage it may be proper
to make a few remarks.
I. The name here translated the word, is, in the Greek original, Logos, and signifies,
according to the Greek etymology, both discourse and reason. Le Clerc, in his notes on this passage, takes it in the latter sense, when applied to the Son; because long before John wrote the Platonists, and after them, several learned Jews, particularly Philo, had used it in that sense, to signify the Creator of the world. The Stoics, too, seem to have affixed a similar idea to the word Logos; when they affirmed, that all things were formed by reason or the divine wisdom, in opposition to the Epicurean system, which taught, that the world came into being by chance, or was made without reason. The Platonists and Philo, by the divine reason, understood, sometimes, the most perfect idea, conception, or model, which God had formed of every thing in his own mind, and of which he stamped the signature on his works. At other times, these writers speak of the Divine Reason or Logos as a distinct being, inferior or subordinate to the supreme God. Nevertheless, they have, more than once, spoken of him in terms not unlike to those used by the inspired writers. Thus Philo, in his book of agriculture, page 152, calls the Logos, God's first-born Son; an epithet, the same in signification with that which the apostle has given to our Lord, Col. i. 15. Likewise the same author, in his book concerning the formation of the world, affirms that Moses calls the Logos, the image of God, a term which he is very fond of himself. So the apostle, Col. i. 15, calls Christ, the image of the invisible God. Induced by such reasons as these, Le Clerc fancies, that as the name Logos was familiar to the philosophers and learned Jews, who had imbibed Plato's principles; such Christians as admired the writings of Plato and his followers, must very early have adopted, not the name of Logos only, but all the phrases which the Platonists used, in speaking of the person to whom they gave that name, and consequently were in danger of corrupting Christianity with the errors of Platonism. At the same time he imagines, that though the notions of these philosophers, concerning the Logos, were in general very confused, they had derived certain true ideas of him from tradition; and that the evangelist John, in speaking of the same person, made use of the term, to which they had been accustomed, to show in what sense, and how far it might be used with safety by Christians: but as it is uncertain whether the primitive Christians studied the writings of Plato and Philo ; it is not probable, that John would think it necessary, in composing his gospel, to adopt the terms and phrases of these philosophers. Accordingly, the generality of commentators have rejected Le Clerc's suppositions, believing that John borrowed the name, Logos, either from the Mosaic history of the creation, or from Psalm xxxiii. 6, where, in allusion to that history, it is said, The heavens were created by the word of God; or from the Jewish Targums, particularly the Chaldee paraphrases, in which the Word of God is often substituted for what in the text is Jehovah.
II. The Logos, whether translated word or reason, existed in the beginning at the time of the creation. Here is an apparent allusion to the first verse in Genesis, where it is said, that In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The doctrine here advanced, is agreeable to what our Saviour is described as saying to John, in the first chapter of Revelations, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last.
III. The Logos is here expressly called God. This may be compared with Romans ix. 5; where speaking concerning the Israelites, Whose are the fathers, and of whom concerning [according to] the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Also to the same purpose, as the first of Hebrews, 8 and 9. But unto the Son he saith, thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, a sceptre of righteousness [equity] is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness [justice] and hated iniquity, therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fchows.
IV Here appears to be a distinction marked out between the Logos and the eternal:
Father. He is said to be with God; which implies a being, in some respect distinct, with whom he exists. He is thus described in the 18 verse, as the only begotten Son, who was in the bosom of the Father.
V. The creation is here, in the most express terms, asserted to have been his work. All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing [not one thing] made that was made. This expression seems to refer, not merely to the formation of this world, but also to the giving existence to angels, and every being, visible or invisible, which God has created. It is therefore a stronger expression, than that which is made use of in 10, 11, and 12 verses of the first chapter of Hebrews. And thou, Lord, in the beginning, hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thine hands. They shall perish, but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment. And as a vesture thou shalt fold them up, and they shall be changed; but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.
VI. From the whole of this passage it appears, that the divine Logos who was in the beginning, who was God, and yet, in some sense, distinct from the Father, who was the Creator of every dependant being; was made flesh and dwelt among men, residing in the body of Jesus, as in a tent or tabernacle; which is the express import of the verb, here translated, to dwell. The life which was in him was the light of men; his human life being employed in communicating religious knowledge, and given up to accomplish the salvation of sinners; and that eternal principle of life which he possessed, as God enlightening mankind; both as he is their maker, who has put into their minds the light of reason; and as he is the word of God, and author of revelation. This light has shined, in greater or less degrees, from the time of our first parents to the present, in the midst of an ignorant and corrupt world; yet wicked men do not comprehend and receive it: they however, who are obedient to his teaching, become the sons of God; and receive out of his fulness, grace for grace.
If it be said that Christ is God, not by nature, but by office; and that he ought not to be reverenced with the same adoration as is due to the eternal Father; it is difficult, as Dr. Macknight justly observes, to clear the evangelists and apostles, from the imputation of having laid in men's ways, a violent temptation to idolatry. For it is well known, that as in all ages men have been exceedingly prone to worship false gods; so it was the prevailing vice of the world, when the New Testament was written; that the grossest corruptions of the morals of mankind, have ever flowed from this poisonous spring, [Rom i. 24;] and that to destroy idolatry and bring mankind to the worship of the true God, was the great end proposed by God, in all the revelations which he made of himself to men. This being the case, is it to be imagined, that either Christ himself, who brought the last and best revelation of the divine will; or his apostles, who delivered that revelation to writing; would, on any occasion, have used such expressions, as in their plain and obvious meaning, could not fail to lead, at least, the bulk of mankind to think, that the names, perfections, and actions of the true God, were ascribed to a creature; and that the worship due to the truc God, was due to him? [Heb. i. 6,] while in reality they meant no more, but that he was iniraculously formed: was commissioned to deliver a new religion to the world; was endowed with the power of miracles; and, in consideration of his exemplary life, was raised from the grave, and his divine honours conferred upon him. him. Instead of reforming the world, this was to have laid in their way such a temptation to idolatry, as they could not well resist. Nor has the effect been any other than what was to be expected; for the generality of Christians, moved by these expressions, have all along considered Christ as God, and honoured him accordingly.
If any one now object, that the representation of the incarnation of our Lord is be