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bérless, passages in which God is said to have raised Christ from the dead, the language is plain, so as to give no suspicion of one thing being said, and another thing being intended. And surely we ought to interpret what is less intelligible by what is more so, and not that which is more intelligible by that which is less so, which is the rule which you have followed.
But let us interpret the language that Christ used, by itself. He says, I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again. If, therefore, the latter power was voluntary, and exerted at his own pleasure, so was the former. But did Christ die, that is, expire on the cross, by any proper act of his own, and not as the natural consequence of his crucifixion ? This is very far from any thing that is said, or that is intimated, by the historians; and, if it had been the fact, .would have reflected the greatest dishonour upon him, and must have had a very bad effect with respect to his example jo suffering as it would have been said, that he exerted a power to shorten his sufferings, of wbich his folu lowers were not possessed., is And the natural suspicion would have been, that by the same power by, which he shortened his sufferings (putting a period to his own life, and thereby certainly authorizing suicide) he prevented the natural effect of scourging and crucifixion, so as felt no pain at all in the whole of the transaction.
have such thoughts as these from those who profess to respect and honour Christ, as the author of their faith, and the pattern they propose to follow.
You seem, however, to have adopted this idea of Christ having voluntarily dismissed his spirit, strange as it appears to me, equally dishonourable to Christ, and unfriendly, to the gospel. For you say, “ After hanging on the cross a sufficient time, and crying with a loud voice. It is finished, he bowed his head, and dismissed his spirit (wapowxe To aveupa)... This was dying as no one eyer died. It verified his declaration, that no one took his life from him, but that he
up of hiniself.”+ On this subject, which is of some importance, I wish to make a few observations and his
1. Had it been the real opinion of the writers of the gospel history, that Christ voluntarily dismissed his own spirit, and did not die as other men do, by the exhausting of what may be called the vital powers, they would all of them,
See, on John X. 18, Vol. XIII. p. 234.
# Sermons, p. 126, Note. (P.)
have expressed themselves so clearly, as to have put the matter out of doubt. The thing was so new, and so extraordinary, that none of them would have contented himself with describing the fact, in such language as could have led any one to conclude that he might have died as other men did. But both Mark and Luke, describing the death of Christ, simply say.EET VEUT E, he expired, or breathed his last, though Matthew says, dørxé to Dyeuped, and John, whom you quote, says trageowxe To Wyeupa.*
2. Had you looked into Wetstein on Malt. xxvii. 49, you would have found four examples of natural deaths being described by Heathen writers, in the same manner as the death of Christ is described by Matthew and John. Euripides uses the very same phrase with Matthew, arxe TO σνευμα. . In two of Ælian, and one of Herodotus, we have aonxe to fuxny. In the Septuagint, (Gen. xxxv. 18,) the death of Rachel is described in the same manner, ev t® apievas autoju tay yuxne, literally, when she dismissed her soul. How, then, can any stress be laid on this phraseology? How does it prove that no one died as Christ did ?
3. I would farther observe, that if the connexion between the body and soul of Christ was of the same nature with that which subsists between the bodies and souls of other men, (and as his pre-existent spirit is supposed to have supplied the place of a proper human soul, one would imagine that the connexion must have been of the same nature,) its agency upon the body must, according to your idea, have ceased at death.
On the whole, therefore, we are abundantly authorized to interpret the very few expressions on which you lay so much stress, agreeably to the plain and uniform tenor of scripture, (according to which Christ was raised from the dead by the power of God his Father, and not by any power of his own,) as only importing his voluntary acceptance of the part that he acted in life, with a view to the reward that he was to have for it, voluntarily submitting to be put to death, in order to be raised again. And I conclude, that what he said of no man having power to take his life from him, is best explained by his declaration, that he could have prayed to the Father, who would have sent him legions of angels to rescue him, and not by his manner of expiring on the cross.
Stress has been laid on the circumstance of Christ crying
See Vol. YUI. n. 361.
with a loud voice immediately before he expired, and on Pilate's wondering that he should have been so soon 'dead. But what Christ had previously suffered in his agony in the garden should be taken into consideration. Such distress of mind as he must have felt, (probably through a great part of the night, which he passed without sleep,) and which produced great drops of sweat falling to the ground, (even though they should be supposed not to have been drops of blood,) must have exhausted him very much. Such terror of mind as this has been known, of itself, to occasion death. No wonder then, that Christ was not able to carry his cross, and that he expired before the two thieves. As to the loudness of his cry, nothing is more common than great exertions of any kind before death, and they contribute to death, by exhausting the vital powers. *
When you shall have considered all these circumstances, I flatter myself that you will see sufficient reason to be satisfied that Christ did not accelerate his own death. To think that he died naturally, and as other men do, in and by torture, is infinitely more honourable to him, and more favourable to Christianity, though less favourable to your peculiar opinion concerning the pre-existent dignity of his nature. And if the phrase power to take away his life, does not mean a voluntary power of putting an end to it, the corresponding phrase, power to take it again, cannot be construed to'imply a power of raising himself from the dead.
I am, &c.
of the Argument for the pre-existent Dignity of Christ from particular Passages of Scripture supposed to assert, or to
imply it. :,, ! DEAR FRIEND,
tipis I am rather surprised that you should lay any' stress on Christ's praying for the glory which he had with God before the world was,t when this is so naturally interpreted of the glory that was intended him before the world was. This glory was evidently the reward of what he did in the world, and not of any thing that he did before he came into it. John xvii. 4, 5:“ I have glorified thee on the earth, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.”
Besides, how unnatural must it be to suppose that Christ could have any occasion to pray for a degree of glory of which he was possessed before he came into the world, when the part that he had acted in it would naturally entitle him to something more! As we are assured he was exalted, so, no doubt, he knew the Divine intention, and may be supposed to have had that exaltation in view in the glory for which he prayed.
If we must interpret the language of scripture in an absolutely literal manner, we must admit, as I have shewn in some of the former letters, not only that Christ eristed, but ale that he was slain before the foundation of the world ; and not only that he had glory, but also that we had glory with him before the world began.*, bitllur 11.!!!!!
You make it an argument for the pre-existent dignity' of Christ, that Paul says, 2 Cor. viii. 9, “ Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes, he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be made rich.”+ :" When,” you say, " did our Lord possess riches ?. When did he exchange riches for poverty, in order to make us rich? In this world, he was always poor and persecuted.”+ But may not a man be said to be rich, who has the power of being so, or is supposed to bave that power? Now Martha says to Christ, John xi. 22, “ I know that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee;" and he himself said, when he was apprehended, that he could have prayed to his Father, and that thereupon he would have sent him legions of angels to rescue .bim. Was not this to be rich and powerful? And might not his declining the actual possession of riches and power which were within his reach, be called his becoming
But you say, “ In my opinion, the most decisive text of all is that in Phil. ii. 57 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ, who," as you properly translate it, “ being in the form of God, did not covet to be honoured as God; but divested himself, and took on him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, humbled himself to death, even the death of the cross.
2. See, on John xvii. 5, Vol. XIII, p. 383. i Sce Vol. XIV. pp. 177, 178.
Sermons, p. 137. (P.) § Sermons, pp. 137, 138. Dr. Priestley added here vers. 9–11, but they are
not quoted by Dr Price
After reciting the Socinian interpretation of this passage, you add, " It is natural to ask, here, when did Christ divest himself of the power of working miracles? The gospel history tells us that he retained it to the last, and that he was never more distinguished than when; at his crucifixion, the earth shook, the rocks weré split, and the sun was darkened: Indeed, the turn and structure of this passage are such, that I find it impossible not to believe, that the humiliation of Christ, which St. Paul had in view, was not his exchanging one condition on earth for another, but his exchanging the glory he had with God before the world was, for the condition of a man, and leaving that glory to encounter the difficulties of human life and to suffer and die on the cross. This was in truth, an event worthy to be held forth to the admiration of Christians."1111'110 rid 10 211 9.11 i 1194,'*1
Indeed, had such an extraordinary event as this, really taken place, it certainlyn would have been asserted i with unequivocal clearness, have been frequently repeated, and have been dwelt upon, as its importance required.' But because it is no where clearly asseried, and much less, dwelt upon, by the sacred writers, I cannot persuade myself that any such thing ever took place. For, whatever you may infer from this passage, the apostle neither here nor else. where, plainly says that Christ existed before he was born in this world.
Til Whatever be meant by the phrase the form of God, whether the power of working miraclės, or any thing else, we are not told that he was possessed of it before his birth. To affirm that he was, is not interpreting scripture, but adding to it. And as the same exaltation of Christ, which you make to be the reward of this degradation, is always said to have been the reward of his suffering of death; we are, in my opinion, abundantly authorized to conclude, that these two cireumstances, which had the same consequences, were the same things, let the terms in which they are expressed be ever so different.
') , You ask, " When did Christ divest himself of the power of working miracles ?” I answer, that he ceased to exert
"The sense they" (the Socinians) “ give," says Dr. Price, " is this Who'being in the form of God, (by the power which he possessed of working miracles,) did not choose to retain that power, and so to appear like God, but divested himself of it, and took on him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. Here they add the epithet ORDINARY, and read this passage as if it had been—And was made in the likeness of an ordinary man; and being found in fashion as an ORDINARY man, humbled himself to death.”. Sermons, p. 138.
+ Tid. pp. 188. 180.: (P) 't Heb. i. 9. See Vol. XIV. p. 353.