By Adam Clarke
THE DIVINITY OF CHRIST .—Four
things are asserted in Col. i, 16, 17:—
Now, allowing St. Paul to have understood the terms which he used, he must have considered Jesus Christ as being truly and properly God:—
"In the beginning was the Word;" that is, before any thing was formed, ere God began the great work of creation. This phrase fully proves, in the mouth of an inspired writer, that Jesus Christ was no part of the creation, as he existed when no part of that existed; and that consequently he is no creature, as all created nature was formed by him. Now, as what was before creation must be eternal, and as what gave being to all things could not have borrowed or derived its being from any thing, therefore Jesus, who was before all things, and who made all things, must necessarily be the ETERNAL GOD .
In Genesis i, 1, God is said to have created all things. In John i, 3, Christ is said to have created all things; the same unerring Spirit spoke in Moses and in the evangelists; therefore Christ and the Father are one. To say that Christ made all things by a delegated power from God is absurd; because the thing is impossible. Creation means causing that to exist that had no previous being: this is evidently a work which can be effected only by Omnipotence. Now, God cannot delegate his omnipotence to another; were this possible, he to whom this omnipotence was delegated would, in consequence, become God; and he from whom it was delegated would cease to be such; for it is impossible that there should be two omnipotent beings.
From the first impression made by the reported miracles of Christ, Nicodemus could say, "No man can do the miracles which thou doest, except God be with him." And every reasonable man, on the same evidence, would draw the same inference. But we certainly can go much farther, when we find him, by his own authority and power, without the invocation of any foreign help, with a word, or a touch, and in a moment restoring sight to the blind, speech to the dumb, hearing to the deaf, and health to the diseased; cleansing the lepers, and raising the dead.
These are works which could only be effected by the omnipotence of God. This is incontestable. Therefore, while the cleansing of the lepers, and the feeding to the full so many thousands of men and women with five barley loaves and two small fishes, stand upon such irrefragable testimony as that contained in the four evangelists, Jesus Christ must appear, in the eye of unbiased reason, as the Author of nature, the true and only Potentate, the Almighty and everlasting God.
"I will, be thou clean." The most sovereign authority is assumed in this speech of our blessed Lord. I WILL. There is here no supplication of any power superior to his own; and the event proved to the fullest conviction, and by the clearest demonstration, that his authority was absolute, and his power unlimited.
What an astonishing manifestation of omnific and creative energy must the reproduction of a hand, foot, &c., be at the word or touch of Jesus! As this was a mere act of creative power, like that of multiplying the bread, those who allow that the above is the meaning of the word will hardly attempt to doubt the proper divinity of Christ.
How much must this person be superior to men! They are brought into subjection by unclean spirits; this person subjects unclean spirits to himself.
If Jesus Christ were not equal with the Father, could he have claimed this equality of power without being guilty of impiety and blasphemy? Surely not. And does he not in the fullest manner assert his Godhead, and his equality with the Father, by claiming and possessing all the authority in heaven and earth?
"There am I in the midst." None but God could say these words, to say them with truth; because God alone is everywhere present, and these words refer to his omnipresence. Wherever— suppose millions of assemblies were collected in the same moment in different places of the creation, (which is a very possible case,) this promise states that Jesus is in each of them. Can any, therefore, say these words except that God who fills both heaven and earth? But Jesus says these words: ergo— Jesus is God.
How correct is the foreknowledge of Jesus Christ! Even the minutest circumstances are comprehended by it!
To worship any creature is idolatry: Christ is to be honoured even as the Father is honoured; therefore Christ is not a creature; and if not a creature, consequently the Creator. Jesus Christ can be no creature, else the angels who worship him must be guilty of idolatry, and God the author of that idolatry, who commanded those angels to worship Christ. Take Deity away from any redeeming act of Christ, and redemption is ruined.
THE INCARNATION OF CHRIST —We must carefully distinguish the two natures in Christ, the divine and human. As MAN, he laboured, fainted, hungered, was thirsty; ate, drank, slept, suffered, and died. As GOD, he created all things, governs all, worked the most stupendous miracles; is omniscient, omnipresent, and is the Judge, as well as the Maker, of the whole human race. As God and man, combined in one person, he suffered for man, died for man, rose again for man; causes repentance and remission of sins to be preached in the world in his name; forgives iniquity; dispenses the gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost; is Mediator between God and man; and the sole Head and Governor of his church.
It was necessary that the fullest evidence should be given, not only of our Lord's divinity, but also of his humanity: his miracles sufficiently attested the former; his hunger, weariness, and agony in the garden, as well as his death and burial, were proofs of the latter.
He was a man, that he might suffer and die for the offences of man; for justice and reason both required that the nature that sinned should suffer for the sin. But he was God, that the suffering might be stamped with an infinite value.
That God manifested in the flesh is a great mystery none can doubt; but it is what God himself has most positively asserted, John i, 1-14, and is the grand subject of the New Testament. How this could be we cannot tell; indeed the union of the soul with its body is not less mysterious; we can just as easily comprehend the former as the latter: and how believers can become "habitations of God through the Spirit," is equally inscrutable to us. Yet all these are facts sufficiently and unequivocally attested; and on which scarcely any rational believer, or sound Christian philosopher entertains a doubt. These things are so; but how they are so belongs to God alone to comprehend; and, as the manner is not explained in any part of divine revelation, though the facts themselves are plain, yet the proofs and evidences of the reasons of these facts, and the manner of their operation, lie beyond the sphere of human knowledge.
Reason, in reference to the incarnation, can at least proceed thus: "I have an immortal spirit; it dwells in and actuates my mortal body; as, then, my soul can dwell in my body, so could the Deity dwell in the man Christ Jesus."
He who can believe that Isaiah, or any of the prophets spoke by inspiration, that is, "as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," must believe in the possibility of the incarnation of Christ. And he who can believe it possible that Christ can dwell in the hearts of his followers, can as easily believe that the Messiah or Logos, which was in the beginning with God, and was God, "was made flesh, and dwelt among us full of grace and truth," John i, 14. Reason says, If the one were possible, so is the other; and as one is fact, so may the other be also. The possibility of the thing is evident: God says the fact has taken place: that, therefore, which faith saw before to be possible and probable, it sees now to be certain; for God's testimony added puts all doubts to flight. The Lord Jesus, the Almighty's Fellow, was incarnated of the Holy Ghost, and was made man; and by being God and man was every way qualified to be Mediator between God and man.
But while we distinguish the two natures in Jesus Christ, we must not suppose that the sacred writers always express these two natures by distinct and appropriate names: the names given to our blessed Lord are used indifferently to express his whole nature: Jesus Christ, Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, Son of man, Son of God, beloved Son, only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour, &c., &c., are all repeatedly and indiscriminately used to designate his whole person as God and man, in reference to the great work of human salvation, which, from its nature, could not be accomplished but by such a union.
THE OFFICES OF CHRIST .—No person ever born could boast, in a direct line, a more illustrious ancestry than Jesus Christ. Among his progenitors, the regal, sacerdotal, and prophetic offices existed in all their glory and splendour. Christ alone was Prophet, Priest, and King; and possessed and executed these offices in such a supereminent degree as no human being ever did, or ever could do. Jesus is a Prophet to reveal the will of God, and instruct men in it. He is a Priest, to offer up sacrifice, and make atonement for the sin of the world. He is Lord, to rule over and rule in the souls of the children of men; in a word, he is Jesus the Saviour, to deliver from the power, guilt, and pollution of sin; to enlarge and vivify, by the influence of his Spirit; to preserve in the possession of the salvation which he has communicated; to seal those who believe heirs of glory; and at last to receive them into the fulness of beatitude in his eternal glory.
Jesus was ever acting the part of the philosopher, moralist, and divine, as well as that of the Saviour of sinners. In his hand every providential occurrence and every object of nature became a means of instruction; the stones of the desert, the lilies of the field, the fowls of heaven, the beasts of the forests, fruitful and unfruitful trees, with every ordinary occurrence, were so many grand texts from which he preached the most illuminating and impressive sermons, for the instruction and salvation of his audience. This wisdom and condescension cannot he sufficiently admired.
It is worthy of remark that on the fourth day of the creation the sun was formed, and then "first tried his beams athwart the gloom profound;" and at the conclusion of the fourth millenary from the creation, according to the Hebrew, the Sun of righteousness shone upon the world, as deeply sunk in that mental darkness produced by sin as the ancient world was while teeming darkness held the dominion, till the sun was created as the dispenser of light. What would the natural world be without the sun? A howling waste in which neither animal nor vegetable life could possibly be sustained. And what would the moral world be without Jesus Christ, and the light of his word and Spirit? Just what those parts now are where his light has not yet shone: "Dark places of the earth, filled with the habitations of cruelty," where error prevails without end, and superstition, engendering false hopes and false fears, degrades and debases the mind of man.
Christ is called the Prince of peace, because by his incarnation, sacrifice, and mediation he procures and establishes peace between God and man; heals the breaches and dissensions between heaven and earth, reconciling both; and produces glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will among men. His residence is peace, and quietness, and assurance for ever, in every believing and upright heart.
In all his miracles Jesus showed the tenderest mercy and kindness. Not only the cure, but the manner in which he performed it, endeared him to those who were objects of his compassionate regards.
Reader, take him for thy King as well as thy Priest. He saves those only who submit to his authority, and take his Spirit for the regulator of their heart, and his word for the director of their conduct. How many do we find among those who would be sorry to be rated so low as to rank only with nominal Christians, talking of Christ as their Prophet, Priest, and King, who are not taught by his word and Spirit, who apply not for redemption in his blood, and who submit not to his authority! Reader, learn this deep and important truth: "Where I am, there also shall my servant be; and he that serveth me, him shall my Father honour."
The kingdom of Christ is truly spiritual and divine; having for its objects the present holiness and future happiness of mankind. Worldly pomp as well as worldly maxims were to be excluded from it. Christianity forbids all worldly expectations, and promises blessedness to those alone who hear the cross, leading a life of mortification and self- denial.
The name of this kingdom should put you in mind of its nature: 1. The King is heavenly. 2. His subjects are heavenly minded. 3. Their country is heavenly, for they are strangers and pilgrims on earth. 4. The government of his kingdom is wholly spiritual and divine.
Christ will never accommodate his morality to the times, nor to the inclinations of men.
Every thing that our blessed Lord did he performed either as our pattern or as our sacrifice.
The incarnation of Christ might have been supposed sufficient to answer all the purposes of reconciling men to God. Could it be supposed that the good and benevolent God would look on those with indifference who were represented by so august a person; one who shared their nature, who assumed it for the very purpose of recommending them to God, and who, while he felt the sympathies and charities of humanity, was equally concerned for the honour and justice of God; and who, from the perfection of his nature, could feel no partialities, nor maintain nor advocate the interests of one against the honour of the other! I believe the reason of man could not have gone farther than this; and had revelation stopped here, reason would have thought that the incarnation was sufficient, and that even divine Justice could not have withheld any favour from such an Intercessor. Even this would have appeared a noble expedient, worthy of the benevolence of God; and a sufficient reason why he should receive into his favour the beings who were, by this incarnation, united to Him who from eternity lay in the Father's bosom, and in whom he ever delighted. But God's "ways are not as our ways, nor his thoughts as our thoughts." Had man never sinned, and was only to be recommended to the divine notice, in order to receive favours, or even to obtain eternal life, this might have been sufficient; but, when he had sinned, and become a rebel and traitor against his Maker and Sovereign, the case was widely different. Atonement for the offence was indispensably requisite; in default of which the penalty, fully known to him previously to the offence, must be exacted: "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die;" "for the soul that sinneth it shall die." On this account the incarnation alone could not be sufficient, nor did it take place in reference to this, but in reference to his bearing the penalty due to man for his transgression; for without being incarnated he could not have suffered nor died.
It does appear to me that it is absolutely necessary to believe the proper and essential Godhead of Christ, in order to be convinced that the sacrifice which has been offered is a sufficient sacrifice. Nothing less than a sacrifice of infinite merit can atone for the offences of the whole world, and purchase for mankind an eternal glory: and if Jesus be not properly, essentially, and eternally God, he has not offered, he could not offer such a sacrifice. The sacred writers are nervous and pointed on this subject; nor can I see that any sinner, deeply convinced of his fallen, guilty state, can rely on the merit of his sacrifice for salvation, unless they have a plenary conviction of this most glorious and momentous truth. As eternal glory must be of infinite value, if it be purchased by Christ, or be given as the consequence of his meritorious death, then that death must be of infinite merit, or else it could not procure what is of infinite value. So that, could we even suppose the possibility of the pardon of sin without such a merit, we could not possibly believe that eternal glory could be procured without it. It must be granted, if Christ be but a mere man, as some think, or the highest and first of all the creatures of God, as others suppose, let his actions and sufferings be whatever they may, they are only the obedience and sufferings of an originated and limited being, and cannot possess infinite and eternal merit.
God destroys opposites by opposites. Through pride and self- confidence man fell; and it required the humiliation of Christ to destroy that pride and self- confidence, and to raise him from his fall. There must be an indescribable malignity in sin, when it required the deepest abasement of the highest Being to remove and destroy it. The humiliation and passion of Christ were not accidental, they were absolutely necessary; and had they not been necessary, they had not taken place. Sinner, behold what it cost the Son of God to save thee! And wilt thou, after considering this, imagine that sin is a small thing? Without the humiliation and sacrifice of Christ, even thy soul could not be saved. Slight not, therefore, the mercies of thy God, by underrating the guilt of thy transgressions and the malignity of thy sin. Christ's agony and distress can receive no consistent explication but on this ground: "He suffered, the just for the unjust, that he might bring, us to God." Oglorious truth! Oinfinitely meritorious suffering! And O, above all, the eternal love that caused him to undergo such sufferings for the sake of sinners!
There are many things in the person, death, and sacrifice of Christ, which we can neither explain nor comprehend. All we should say here is, "It is by this means that the world was redeemed; through this sacrifice men are saved: it has pleased God that it should be so, and not otherwise."
The death of Christ was ordered so as to be witnessed by thousands; and if his resurrection take place, it must be demonstrated; and it cannot take place without being incontestable: such are the precautions used here to prevent all imposture.
The more the circumstances of the death of Christ are examined, the more astonishing the whole will appear. The death is uncommon, the person uncommon, and the object uncommon; and the whole is grand, majestic, and awful. Nature itself is thrown into unusual action, and by means and causes wholly supernatural. In every part the finger of God most evidently appears.
How glorious does Christ appear in his death! Were it not for his thirst, his exclamation on the cross, and the piercing of his side, we should have found it difficult to believe that such a person could ever have entered the empire of death; but the divinity and the manhood equally appear, and thus the certainty of the atonement is indubitably established.
Fear of death was in Christ a widely different thing from what it is in men; they fear death because of what lies beyond the grave; they have sinned, and they are afraid to meet their Judge. Jesus could have no fear on these grounds: he was now suffering for man, and he felt as their expiatory victim; and God only can tell, and perhaps neither men nor angels can conceive, how great the suffering and agony must be which, in the sight of infinite Justice, was requisite to make this atonement. Death, temporal and eternal, was the portion of man; and now Christ is to destroy death by agonizing and dying! The tortures and torments necessary to effect this destruction Jesus Christ alone could feel, Jesus Christ alone could sustain, Jesus Christ alone can comprehend.
He died for every human soul, for all who are partakers of the same nature which he has assumed; the merit and benefits of his death must necessarily extend to all mankind, because he has assumed that nature which is common to all. Nor could the merit of his death be limited to any particular part, nation, tribe, or individuals of the vast human family. It is not the nature of a particular nation, tribe, family, or individual, which he has assumed, but the nature of the whole human race: and
"God has made of one blood all the nations, for to dwell on all the face of the earth," that all those might be redeemed with "one blood;" for he is the kinsman of the whole. The merit of his death must, therefore, extend to every man, unless we can find individuals or families that have not sprung from that stock of which he became incarnated. His death must be infinitely meritorious, and extend in its benefits to all who are partakers of the same nature, because he was God manifested in the flesh; and to contract or limit that merit, that it should apply only to a few, or even to any multitudes short of the whole human race, is one of those things which is impossible to God himself, because it involves a moral contradiction. He could no more limit the merit of that death, than he could limit his own eternity, or contract that love which induced him to undertake the redemption of a lost world.
If the many, that is, all mankind, have died through the offence of one; certainly, the gift by grace, which abounds unto the many, by Christ Jesus, must have reference to every human being. If the consequences of Christ's incarnation and death extend only to a few, or a select number of mankind, which, though they may be considered many in themselves, are few in comparison of the whole human race, then the consequences of Adam's sin have extended only to a few, or to the same select number: and if only many and not all have fallen, only that many had need of a Redeemer. For it is most evident that the same persons are referred to in both clauses of the verse. If the apostle had believed that the benefits of the death of Christ had extended only to a select number of mankind, he never could have used the language he has done here; though, in the first clause, he might have said, without any qualification of the term, "Through the offence of one, many are dead;" in the second clause, to be consistent with the doctrine of particular redemption, he must have said, "The grace of God, and the gift by grace, hath abounded unto some.
As, by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; so, by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon some to justification. As, by one man's disobedience, many were made sinners; so, by the obedience of one, shall some be made righteous. As in Adam all die; so in Christ shall some be made alive." But neither the doctrine nor the thing ever entered the soul of this divinely inspired man.
As the light and heat of the sun are denied to no nation nor individual, so the grace of the Lord Jesus—this also shines out upon all; and God designs that all mankind shall be as equally benefited by it in reference to their souls, as they are in respect to their bodies by the sun that shines in the firmament of heaven. But as all the parts of the earth are not immediately illuminated, but come into the solar light successively, not only in consequence of the earth's diurnal revolution around its own axis, but in consequence of its annual revolution around its whole orbit; so this Sun of righteousness, who has shined out, is bringing every part of the habitable globe into his divine light; that light is shining more and more to the perfect day, so that gradually and successively he is enlightening every nation and every man; and when his great year is filled up, every nation of the earth shall be brought into the light and heat of this unspotted, uneclipsed, and eternal Sun of righteousness and truth. Wherever the gospel comes, it brings salvation, it offers deliverance from all sin to every soul that hears or reads it. As freely as the sun dispenses his genial influences to every inhabitant of the earth, so freely does Jesus Christ dispense the merits and blessings of his passion and death to every soul of man. From the influence of this spiritual Sun no soul is reprobated, any more than from the influences of the natural sun. In both cases, only those who wilfully shut their eyes, and hide themselves in darkness, are deprived of the gracious benefit. It is no objection to this view of the subject, that all nations have not yet received this divine light. When the earth and the sun were created, every part of the globe did not come immediately into the light; to effect this purpose fully there must be a complete revolution, as has been marked above, and this could not be effected till the earth had not only revolved on its own axis, but passed successively through all the signs of the zodiac. When its year was completed, and not till then, every part had its due proportion of light and heat. God may, in his infinite wisdom, have determined the times and the seasons for the full manifestation of the gospel to the nations of the world, as he has done in reference to the solar light; and when the Jews are brought in with the fulness of the Gentiles, then, and not till then, can we say that the grand revolution of the important year of the Sun of righteousness is completed: But, in the meantime, the unenlightened parts of the earth are not left in total darkness; as there was light"——ere the infant sun Was roll'd together, or had tried his beams Athwart the gloom profound."
Light being created, and in a certain measure dispersed, at least three whole days before the sun was formed; (for his creation was a part of the fourth day's work;) so, previously to the incarnation of Christ, there was spiritual light in the world; for he diffused his beams while his orb was yet unseen. And even now, where, by the preaching of his gospel, he is not yet manifested, he is that true Light which enlightens every man coming into the world; so that the moral world is no more left in absolute darkness where the gospel is not yet preached, than the earth was the four days which preceded the creation of the sun, or those parts of the world are where the gospel has not yet been preached. The great year is rolling on, and all the parts of the earth are coming successively, and now rapidly, into the light.
The vast revolution seems to be nearly completed, and the whole world is about to be filled with the light and glory of God. Hasten the time, thou God of ages! Even so. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
"His disciples came by night." This was as absurd as it was false. On the one hand, the terror of the disciples, the smallness of their number, (only eleven,) and their almost total want of faith; on the other, the great danger of such a bold enterprise, the number of armed men who guarded the tomb, the authority of Pilate and of the sanhedrim, must render such an imposture as this utterly devoid of credit. "Stole him away while we slept." Here is a whole heap of absurdities. 1. Is it likely that so many men would all fall asleep, in the open air, at once? 2. Is it at all probable that a Roman guard should be found off their watch, much less asleep, when it was instant death, according to the Roman military laws, to be found in this state? 3. Could they be so sound asleep as not to awake with all the noise which must be necessarily made by removing the great stone, and taking away the body? 4. Is it at all likely that these disciples could have had time sufficient to do all this, and to come and return without being perceived by any person? And, 5. If they were asleep, how could they possibly know that it was the disciples that stole him, or indeed that any person or persons stole him?—for, being asleep, they could see no person. From their own testimony, therefore, the resurrection may be as fully proved as the theft.
The resurrection of Christ is a subject of terror to the servants of sin, and a subject of consolation to the sons of God; because it is a proof of the resurrection of both, the one to shame and everlasting contempt, the other to eternal glory and joy. Christ, having made an atonement for the sin of the world, has ascended to the right hand of the Father, and there he appears in the presence of God for us. In approaching the throne of grace, we keep Jesus, as our sacrificial victim, continually in view; our prayers should be directed through him to the Father; and under the conviction that his passion and death have purchased every possible blessing for us, we should, with humble confidence, ask the blessings we need; and, as in him the Father is ever well pleased, we should most confidently expect the blessings he has purchased. We may consider, also, this his appearance before the throne, in his sacrificial character, constitutes the great principle of mediation or intercession. He has taken our nature into heaven; in that he appears before the throne; this, without a voice, speaks loudly for the sinful race of Adam, for whom it was assumed, and on whose account it was sacrificed. On these grounds every penitent and every believing soul may ask and receive, and their joy be complete. By the sacrifice of Christ, we approach God; through the mediation of Christ, God comes down to man.
So important is the sacrificial offering of Christ in the sight of God, that he is still represented as being in the very act of pouring out his blood for the offences of man. This gives great advantages to faith; when any soul comes to the throne of grace, he finds a sacrifice there provided for him to offer to God. Thus all succeeding generations find they have the continual sacrifice ready, and the newly shed blood to offer.
We are not only indebted to our Lord Jesus Christ for the free and full pardon which we have received, but our continuance in a justified state depends upon his gracious influence in our hearts, and his intercession before the throne of God.
As we cannot contemplate the humiliation and death of Christ without considering it a sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and atonement for sin, and for the sin of the whole world; so we cannot contemplate his unlimited power and glory, in his state of exaltation, without being convinced that he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God through him. What can withstand the merit of his blood? What can resist the energy of his omnipotence? Can the power of sin?—its infection?—its malignity? No! he can as easily say to an impure heart, "Be thou clean," and it shall be clean; as he could to the leper, "Be thou clean," and immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Reader, have faith in him; for all things are possible to him that believeth.
JESUS ! be thou the centre to which my soul shall incessantly gravitate! Yea, more,—let it come more particularly into contact, and rest in thee for ever and ever! Amen.