Being An Answer To The Inquiries Of An Unitarian Student Of Divinity
In the first place, there are the direct passages—John 1:1: “The Word was with God, and was God.” This is in every way a striking passage: when every thing began, He was— that is, had no beginning, was God, as indeed it must be, yet was a distinct personality; He was with God, and always such, was so in the beginning, that He created everything. Subsequently we find the Word made flesh. The effort to weaken the force of the word of God here by the absence of the article is perfectly futile; unless in reciprocal propositions the predicate never has the article.
We find in Hebrews i the same truths. He the Messiah, for of Him he speaks, the Son, is God, is worshipped by angels, in the beginning laid the foundations of the earth, and is “the same” —in Hebrew (Psalm 102), atta Hu, Thou art the existing One, the Being, where the testimony is so much the stronger by comparison with verse 12 of the Psalm, where Christ in humiliation addresses Jehovah.
In John 8 we find, “before Abraham was I AM,” in contrast with His age as man; which the Jews perfectly understood, and would have killed Him for blasphemy.
Colossians 1:16: “All things were created by him and for him,” where it is unquestionable Christ is spoken of, the true force of verse 19 being “all the fulness (pleeroma) was pleased to dwell in Him,” and spoken of Him as man living upon earth, and accomplished in fact in chapter 2:9,” in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”
John 10: “I and my Father are one.”
His name is called Jesus—Jehoshua, that is, Jehovah the Saviour, for He shall save His people—who, and whose people, in connection with the explanation of such a name? Christ is the Jehovah of the Old Testament. Thus John 12, Isaiah saw His glory, and spoke of Him, quoting Isaiah 6. Whose glory was seen there? Jehovah of hosts.
Hebrews 12:24-26: whose voice spoke from heaven (compare chap, 1:1, 2)—whose at Sinai on earth? Hence His name was also Emmanuel, God with us.
So John the Baptist’s ministry was preparing the way of Jehovah, Matthew 3:3, quoting Isaiah 40: Malachi 3:1, “I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me, and Jehovah, whom ye seek, shall come.” (Compare Mark 1:41.) If the judgment to come on the earth is referred to, difference of interpretation as to this, or the passing on from Christ’s first coming to His second, does not affect the question of the Person who comes; He who first came will come again.
The more we compare passages as to this, the more we shall see this identification, and that it is not forcing one or two texts, but the doctrine of Scripture woven into its whole texture. Jehovah is Israel’s righteousness, but Christ is made our righteousness. “The Lord (Jehovah) my God shall come, and all his saints with thee” (Zech. 14:5); “and Jehovah said… a goodly price that I was prized at of them, and I took the thirty pieces of silver,” etc. “Then shall Jehovah go forth… and his feet shall stand in that day on the Mount of Olives,” chaps. 11, 14. So, as to Redeemer, Jehovah alone is their Redeemer. In Isaiah 63 this Redeemer is clearly Christ. So in Isaiah 50: “Thus saith Jehovah… Wherefore when I came was there no man? “And then He goes on, and asserts His unenfeebled divine power, yet He continues, “Jehovah-Elohim hath given me the tongue of the learned,” and the sufferings of Christ are then spoken of.
In Psalm 2 the kings of the earth are called to trust in the Son—the Christ—yet a curse is pronounced on trusting in man, or in any one but Jehovah. See Revelation 22, He who comes quickly is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the last. (I do not quote chapter 1:11, as it is probably not genuine, nor verse 8, because its application to Christ may be questioned, although I have no doubt of it.)
In many of the passages in which God and the Lord Jesus are mentioned, with one article in Greek, it may possibly unite them, only in the subject matter of the sentence. Hence, although I think they prove a great deal as to the identification of God and the Lord Jesus, I do not quote them as simply proving, in an absolute way, the divinity of Christ. But the force of the passage in Titus is apparent, “Waiting for the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.” It is unquestionably Christ who appears; as it is now in the face of Jesus Christ that we see the glory of the Lord.
This unity of God and Christ is manifest throughout John’s writings, “I and my Father are one.” “We are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” Take, again, such an example—for it is only an example—” And now, little children, abide in him, that when he shall appear we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him. Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God; therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” Now, who will say to whom this applies—Christ, or God? It is impossible to distinguish them. What characterises all the writings of John, in the language of Christ, is One who has the place and title of perfect equality, yet now being a Man, takes nothing, never glorifies Himself, but receives all from His Father, as in John 17. In them we have God over all, blessed for ever (Rom. 9:5), which, I doubt not, for my part, is the only true sense; and other passages I do not quote, as they are matters of criticism. Indeed, I have only cited such as suggest themselves to my memory. So Thomas— “My Lord and my God.”
But there is another class of texts, which to the mind, sensible of what is due to God, evidently shew who He is. Grace coming from Him, as is found everywhere— “Out of his fulness have we all received, and grace for grace.” Christ is all. His love passes knowledge. Christ is to dwell in my heart by faith. If Christ be to me what the scripture says He is to be to me, and be not God, He must exclude God altogether. The very fact that Christ made Himself of no reputation when in the form of God, is again a moral proof of His divine nature. Every creature was bound to keep its first estate; He who was high and sovereign could, in grace, come down and take another nature.
Everything confirms this. He does not merely work miracles and cast out devils, but sends others out, and gives them authority over all devils. When He says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” who was dwelling in the temple? This kind of proof shines forth in every page of the gospels, and to the mind whose eye is open to see, affords a proof more powerful even than individual texts stating it in the letter, as I speak of the letter.
Let me add the remark, that when it is said the fulness of the Godhead dwells in Him bodily, it is not a vague word, as we speak of what is divine. The Greek has a distinct word for these two things; for the vague thought it is theiotees, used in Romans i; and theotees, used in Colossians 2.
Where the leper says, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst, and He says, I will, be thou clean—who can so speak? The proofs that He is a man must not be cited against it. We hold to this as anxiously as any one. His being God is only of special value to us because He is man—a true very man, though a sinless one—God with us, and then we in Him before God— One who took flesh and blood, that He might die, and partook of flesh and blood because the children were partakers of it—a dependent, obedient man, who, though He had life in Himself, lived by every word that proceeded out of the mouth of God.
When I am called to believe in Jesus Christ come in flesh, which Christians are, they hold He is a man; but why insist on this? If He was simply a man, how else could man come? Not an angel, for an angel must not leave its estate, and He did not take up angels—words which have no sense if He had been one, and was taking up the cause of others as such. When He says, “the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father,” and that He is in the Father, and the Father in Him, the last might be said of a man, perhaps; the former impossible as a mere man, or of any but a divine Person. So, when He says, “None hath ascended up to heaven,” that is, to state what is there— “save he that came down from heaven, the Son of man, who is in heaven.” And, if all men are to honour the Son even as they honour the Father, it cannot be that He is a mere man, or not have the nature which is to be honoured.
Jehovah has sworn that every knee shall bow to Him, and every tongue give an account of himself to God, but it is at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow. Hence, though the Son quickens whom He will, as the Father, yet the Father judges no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son as they honour Him. There is no God but Jehovah—I know not any, as says the prophet; but we have seen, by multiplied examples that Christ is Jehovah.
That as Son He has taken a place subject to the Father as man, every Christian believes—receives the glory He once had with the Father before the world was—every one who bows to Scripture joyfully accepts; for He is a man for ever, in that sense a servant, but He who is the servant can say, I and my Father are one, and I am in the Father, and he who has seen Him has seen the Father also.
Compare the description of the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7 and Revelation 1, and see if the Ancient of Days, who receives the Son of man in Daniel 7, be not the Son of man in Revelation 1, and in Daniel 7 too; from verse 22 of the chapter the Ancient of Days comes. Hence we have, “the blessed and only Potentate, King of kings, and Lord of lords” —then, the appearing of Christ; but in Revelation He who comes on the white horse has on His vesture and on His thigh, King of kings, and Lord of lords. You see, the more Scripture is gone through, the more comes to light that He is the true God and Eternal Life.
I know not that I need multiply passages, after these I have quoted. What you will remark, is, that it is not a question of expressions as to which criticism may be exercised, but the doctrine and system of Scripture. It is Christianity, as it is given to us in Scripture. I take up Christianity as the truth, and that is Christianity. A religion is what it professes itself to be, and that is what Christianity professes itself to be—the revelation of God, and eternal life in the Person of Christ.
It professes another truth, that is, atonement, or expiation of sin. It does not teach a goodness of God which can bear with any sin, but maintains the perfect holiness of God, and the putting away of sin, but it does it in a way which equally maintains infinite and perfect love. Man instinctively felt the need of expiation. This is publicly known in heathenism; but there it was very much the dread of a god who had passions like ourselves, and men might justly say, tantæne animis cælestibus iræ (can such anger dwell in heavenly minds)? Judaism, as revealed of God, maintained this thought, but it began by a deliverance of the people, and witnessed a God not revealed, but who gave commandments, ordained sacrifices, which kept up the thought that sin would in nowise be allowed; but it was the “forbearance of God” in view of a work to be accomplished, the way into the holiest not yet having been made manifest, nor peace given to man’s conscience, though it was relieved through sacrifice when occasion called for it; Christ appears in the end of the world to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself; was once offered to bear the sins of many, and give a perfect conscience, without diminishing—nay, in maintaining in the highest way—holiness, in the judgment of sin in the conscience, according to the majesty of God; and withal giving the perfect sense of unbounded love, in that God did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us—the love that gave Christ. Christ gave Himself in a love that is divine, and passes knowledge.
The foolish question has been asked, What righteousness is there in an innocent being suffering for the guilty? It is a foolish question. There is no righteousness in my paying my friend’s debts. It is kindness, love; but it meets the righteous claim of his creditor. The claims of a holy God are maintained—intolerance of evil; and that is of the last importance for the conscience and heart of man; it gives him the knowledge of what God is in holiness. There is no true love without it. Indifference to good and evil, so that the evil-doer is let pass with his evil, is not love, and the dissociation of right and wrong, by God’s authority—the highest possible evil. Now, good and evil are elevated to the standard of it in God’s nature. We walk in the light, as God is in the light, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses from all sin. The glory of God is maintained, and the heart of man placed in association with the perfectness of that nature, and in peace with “the perfect knowledge of His love, and that is the highest blessing, the highest good. Diminish the holiness, diminish the love—I have not God, I have not my soul formed into communion with Him. Take away the character of judgment or righteousness exercised, as regards evil, and you obliterate the authority of God—the creation, place, and responsibility of man.
This part of the truth, again, enters into the whole texture of Scripture, from Abel to the allusions to it in Revelation. I shall merely quote a sufficient number of passages to shew that Christianity must be given up, as taught by Christ and His apostles, if expiation be. I do not quote the Old Testament; expiatory sacrifices are, beyond all question, its doctrine, and prophetic testimony is clear that He was wounded for our transgressions, the chastisement of our peace laid upon Him, and that with His stripes we are healed; that He made His soul a sacrifice for sin, and that He bare our iniquities.
When I turn to the New Testament, I find Christ stating that He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28). The Lord’s supper—the standing institution of Christianity—is the sign of His blood shed for many, for the remission of sins. John the Baptist points Him out as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world; John 1:29. Paul tells us that God hath set Him forth as a propitiation, through faith in His blood (Rom. 3:25); Peter, that we are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Pet. 1:18, 19); John, that He is the propitiation for our sins and the whole world (1 John 2:2); Peter, again, that He bare our sins in His own body on the tree; 1 Pet. 2:24. The Hebrews enlarges on it fully as a doctrine. He must offer for sins (chap. 9). He offers one sacrifice for sins, and then sits down (chap. 10). We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins; Eph. 1:7. We are justified by His blood; Rom. 5:9. Without shedding of blood is no remission; Heb. 9:22. He gave Himself for our sins; Gal. 1:4. It is when He had made the purification of our sins that He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens; Heb. 1:3. Cleansing, justification, forgiveness, peace, redemption, are all attributed to His blood. He bare our sins, gave Himself for our sins, makes propitiation for the world, is delivered for our offences.
As I have said, it is a doctrine interwoven with all Scripture, forms one of the bases of Christianity, is the sole ground of remission—and there is none without shedding blood—and that by which Christ has made peace; Col. 1:20. The thought that He was sealing merely His doctrines by His death is utterly groundless, it is never stated as its force in Scripture, expiation is constantly; and if it was a mere testimony—perfect as He was in it—it does not serve for one, for the testimony would be, that the most faithful of men was forsaken of God. What testimony would that be? Take out expiation, and Scripture becomes impossible to understand: introduce it, and all is plain.
I have not written a treatise, but simply recalled what must present itself to every unprejudiced reader of Scripture, as memory furnished it, and what the soul convinced of sin cannot do without. If Christ be not God, I do not know Him, have not met Him, nor know what He is. No man can by searching find it out. If Christ has not offered Himself as a sacrifice for sin, then I had neither peace of conscience according to the holiness of God—but pass lightly over the guilt of sin, remaining at a distance from God—nor do I know God’s love, who so loved as not to spare His own Son. There is no true knowledge of sin without it, no true knowledge of God.