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Secondly; but if the condition in which our Saviour appeared exceedingly disappointed the Jewish expectation, the nature of which he described himself to be differed as much from what they conceived or expected. He described himself as a being, though in form and fashion as a mere man, yet in reality, and in his nature, far transcending the whole human race-far, inasmuch as these are but creatures of a birth; "Dust thou art, and to dust shalt thou return." He was from the beginning," before Abraham ;"-possessed glory with the Father before the world was. "He came forth from the Father, and came into the world, as he left the world, and went to the Father." "He came down from heaven, even as he ascended up to heaven."
Again; we believe that there are orders of creation in the universe much above us, as much, at least, as we are above the brute creation. He was elevated far beyond all these, a "being so much better than these, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they," for unto which of the angels, said he, at any time, "thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?"
Again; whereas no man hath seen God at any time he was with the Father, in the bosom of the Father; he spake that which he had seen with the Father-the Father loved him, and showed him all things.
Again; he was next and dearest to his father,
above and beyond all creatures: he was not only the first born of every creature, but of all others "the only begotten of the Father;" which phrase must needs denote a relation, unknown, it is true, and unintelligible to us, but of peculiar value to him, and well understood. He was appointed also to be judge of the quick and the dead; "for the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgement unto the Son." "It is he," saith Saint Peter, "which was ordained of God to be the judge of the quick and dead." "We shall all stand," Saint Paul assures us," before the judgement-seat of Christ."
Lastly; he was invested by the Father with power to raise us up, to recall us to life at the last day. "For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; i. e. to have the same power over life." "And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise them up at the last day." "I am the resurrection and the life; as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive." It seems by this, not only figuratively, but literally true, that through the sin of Adam human nature became mortal. By the efficacy and power of Christ, the same nature is made capable of a restoration to life. "It is he," St. Paul assures us, "who is to change our vile body, that
may be like his glorious body.”
Now these several particulars put together compose
a character, or more properly speaking, a nature, not only different from any thing the Jews looked for from the Messiah, and in many particulars the reverse of it; but it is entirely, absolutely, and truly original. There was no example that could suggest it, no precedent to authorise it.
The next natural, and as I have argued already, not at all improbable, supposition, had he been guided by any thing else than truth, was, that he would be seen just what the Jews expected the Messiah should be seen; that these expectations had suggested the thought, and were to be the foundation of his claims, and the means of success.
But had our Saviour presented himself as a public and better instructor of mankind in his day, he would have had examples of this in the old philosophers. Had he assumed the character of a Jew, to the Jews he would have been a second Moses. Had he appeared an inspired prophet, instances of such had been of old frequent among the Jews.
But why he should not only depart from the established persuasion of his own country, and of all the world, concerning the Messiah who was expected, but assume pretensions different and unforeseen, superior to any of these already mentioned, and without any instance or example to lead to or suggest such a scheme and character, unless he was, as we believe him to be, really and truly what he called himself, it seems impossible to account for.
The character of Christ is single and alone in
the history of mankind. If he was an impostor, there never was such lame and useless imposture. If he was an enthusiast, produce an instance of any character made up so well of enthusiasm, so calm, so rational, so sublime.
MATT. XVII. 54.
Truly this was the Son of God.
OUR Saviour's miraculous birth, and still more miraculous life, distinguished him from every person that ever appeared in the world. History affords nothing like him—and these miracles form, no doubt, our assurance, that "He was sent from God." He preserved his pretensions by his works: the wonders of his nativity were followed by the performances of his life. This was the reason his followers believed on him at the time; and this must be a reason for believing on him, throughout all ages.
But, with considerate minds, there is a further reason for believing in him, exceedingly impressive, and that is, the excellency of his character. In this respect he surpasses the best men, of whom we have any knowledge. It might be expected that it would be so, with so great, so distinguished a messenger, sent from God; and it was so.
Pilate said of Jesus, "I find no fault with this man," " and he spoke truly; nor has any one, that