Theological Institutes

Part Second - Doctrines of the Holy Scriptures

By Richard Watson

Chapter 14


THIS argument is in confirmation of the foregoing; for, if not only the proper names of God, his majestic and peculiar titles, and his attributes, are attributed to our Lord; but if also acts have been done by him which, in the nature of things, cannot be performed by any crea­ture, however exalted, then he by whom they were done must be truly GOD.

The first act of this kind is creation-the creation of all things. It is not here necessary to enter into any argument to prove that creation, in its proper sense, that is, the production of things out of nothing, is possible only to Divine power. The Socinians themselves acknowledge this; and, therefore, employ their perverting, but feeble criticisms in a vain attempt to prove, that the creation, of which Christ, in the New Testament, is said to be the author, is to he understood of a moral creation, or of the regulation of all things in the evangelic dispensation. I shall not adduce many passages to prove that a proper creation is ascribed to our Lord; for they arc sufficiently in the recollection of the reader. it is enough that two or three of them only be exhibited, which cannot be taken, without manifest absurdity, in any other sense but as attributing the whole physical creation to him.

The ascription of the creation of " all things," in the physical sense, to the Divine Word, in the introduction to St. John's Gospel, has been vindicated against the Socinian interpretation in a preceding page. I shall only farther remark upon it, first, that if St. John had intended a moral, and not a physical creation, he could not have expressed himself as he does without intending to mislead;. a supposition equally contrary to his inspiration and to his piety. He affirms that "all things," and that without limitation or restriction, "were made by him;" that "without him was not any thing made that was made;" which clearly means, that there is no created object which had not Christ for its Creator; an assertion which contains a revelation of a most important and fundamental doctrine. If, however, it be taken in the Socinian sense, it is a pitiful truism, asserting that Christ did nothing in establishing his religion which he did not do: for to this effect their Version itself expresses it,- "all things were done by him, and without him was not any thing done that hath been done ;" or, as they might have rendered it, to make the folly still more manifest;" without him was not any thing done that was done by him, or which he himself did." Unfortunately, however, for the notion of arranging or regulating the new dispensation, the apostle adds a full confirmation of his former doctrine, that the physical creation was the result of the power of the Divine Word, by asserting, that "THE WORLD was MADE by him;"[1] that world into which he came as "the light," that world in which he was when he was made flesh; that world which" knew him not." It matters nothing to the argument, whether "the world" be understood of men or of the material world; on either supposition it was made by him, and the creation was, there­fore, physical. In neither case could the creation be a moral one, for the material world is incapable of a moral renewal; and the world which "knew not" Christ, if understood of men, was not renewed, but unregenerated; or he would have been "known," that is, acknowledged by them.

Another passage, equally incapable of being referred to any but a physical creation, is found in Heb. i, 2, "By whom also he MADE THE WORLDS." "God," says the apostle, "bath in these last days spoken unto us by his SON, whom he hath appointed heir of all things;" and then he proceeds to give farther information of the nature and dignity of the personage thus denominated "SON" and "HEIR;" and his very first declaration concerning him, in this exposition of his character, in order to prove him greater than angels, who are the greatest of all created beings, is that "by him also God made the worlds." Two methods have been resorted to, in order to ward off the force of this decisive testimony as to the Deity of Christ, grounded upon his creative acts. The first is, to render the words, "FOR whom he made the worlds;" thus referring creation immediately to the Father, and making the preposition &a, with a genitive case, signify the final cause, the reason or end, for which "the worlds" were created. Were this even allowed, it would be a strange doctrine to assert, that FOR a mere man, FOR the exercise of the ministry of a-mere man, as Christ is taken to be upon the Socinian hypothesis, "the worlds," the whole visible creation, with its various orders of intellectual beings, were created. This is a position almost as much opposed to that corrupt hypothesis as is the orthodox doctrine itself, and is another instance in proof that diffi­culties are multiplied, rather than lessened, by departing from the obvious sense of Scripture. But no example is found, in the whole New Testament, of the use of &a with a genitive to express the final cause; and, in the very next verse, St. Paul uses the same construction to express the efficient cause,-" when he had by himself purged our Bins." "This interpretation," says Whitby, justly, " is contrary to the rule of all grammarians; contrary to the exposition of all the Greek fathers, and also without example in the New Testament."

The second resource, therefore, is to understand "the worlds," tou~ aiwna~, in the literal import of the phrase, for "the ages," or the Gospel dispensation. But "oJ aiwne~, absolutely put, doth never signify the Church, or evangelical state; nor (10th the Scripture ever speak of the world to come in the plural, but in the singular number only." (Whitby.) The phrase o aiwne~ was adopted either as equivalent to the Jewish division of the whole creation into three parts, this lower world, the region of the stars, and the third heaven, the residence of God and his angels; or as expressive of the duration of the world, extending through an idefinite number of ages, and standing opposed to the short life of its inhabitants. Aiwn primo Thngum tempus, postea eternitatem, apud Scriptores N. T. vero kosmon mundum significat, cx Hebraismo, ubi mlv< et mymlv< de mundo accipitur, quia mundus post tot generationes hominum perpetuo durat. (Rosenmuller.) The apostle, in writing to the Hebrews, used, therefore, a mode of expression which was not only familiar to them; but which they could not but understand of the natural creation. This, however, is put out of all doubt by the use of the same phrase in the 11th chapter-" through faith we understand that the WORLDS were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things that do appear;" words which can only be understood of the physical creation. Another consideration, which takes the declaration, "by whom also he made the worlds," out of the reach of all the captious and puerile criticism on which we have remarked, is, that, in the close of the chapter, the apostle reiterates the doctrine of the creation of the world by Jesus Christ: "But unto THE SON he saith," not only, "Thy throne, 0 God, is for ever and ever;" but, "Thou, Lord, (Jehovah,) in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands :" words to which the perverted adroitness of heretics has been able to affix no meaning, when taken in any other sense than as addressed TO Christ and which will for ever attach to him, on the authority of inspiration, the title of "Jehovah," and array him in all the majesty of creative power and glory. It is, indeed, a very conclusive argument in favour of the three great points of Christian doctrine, as comprehended in the orthodox faith, that it is impossible to interpret this celebrated chapter, according to any fair rule of natural and customary interpretation, without admitting that Christ is GOD, the Divine Son OF GOD, and the MEDIATOR. The last is indicated by his being the medium through whom, in these last days, the will of God is communicated to mankind, "God hath spoken" by him; and by his being "anointed" priest and king "above his fellows." The second is expressed both by his title, "THE SON," and by the superiority which, in virtue of that name, be has above angels, and the worship which, as the SON, they are enjoined to pay to him. He is also called GOD, and this term is fixed in its highest import, by his being declared "the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person," and by the creative acts which are ascribed to him; while his character of Son, as being OF the Father, is still preserved by the two metaphors of "brightness" and "image," and by the expression," God, even thy God." On these prin­ciples only is the apostle intelligible; on any other, the whole chapter is incapable of consistent exposition.

The only additional passage which it is necessary to produce, in order to show that Christ is the Creator of all things, and that the creation of which he is the author, is not a moral but a physical crea­tion; not the framing of the Christian dispensation, but the forming of the whole universe of creatures out of nothing, is Coloss. i, 15-17: "Who is the IMAGE of the invisible GOD, the FIRST BORN of every creature: for by him were all things CREATED that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created BY him, and For him; and lie is BEFORE all things, and by him all things CONSIST." The Socinians interpret this of "that great change which was introduced into the moral world, and particularly into the relative situation of Jews and Gentiles, by the dispensation of the Gospel." (improved Version.) But,

1. The apostle introduces this passage as a reason why we have "redemption through his blood;" ver. 14; why, in other words, the death of Christ was efficacious, and obviously attributes this efficacy to the dignity of his nature. This is the scope of his argument. 2. He, therefore, affirms him to be "the image" (eicwn,) the exact representation or resemblance of the invisible God; which, when compared with Heb. i, 2, "who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person," shows that the apostle uses the word in a sense in which it is not applicable to any human or angelic being,-" the first born of every creature ;" or, more literally, "the first born of the whole erection." The Arians have taken this in the sense of the first-made creature; but this is refuted by the term itself, which is not "first made," but "first born ;" and by the following verse, which proves him to be first born, FOR, or BECAUSE (oJti) "by him were all things created." As to the date of his being, he was before all created things, for they were created by him: as to the manner of his being, he was by generation not creation. The apostle does not say, that he was created the first of all creatures; but, that he was born before them: (Vide Wolf in loc.)-a plain allusion to the generation of the Son before time began, and before creatures existed. Wolf has also shown, that among the Jews Jehovah is sometimes called the primogenitum mundi, "the first born of the world," because they attributed the creation of the world to the Logos, the Word of the Lord, the ostensible Jehovah of the Old Testament, whom certainly they never meant to include among the creatures; and that they called him also the Son OF GOD. It was, then, in perfect accordance with the theological language of the Jews them­selves, that the apostle calls our Lord "the first born of the whole creation."

The Arian interpretation, which makes the first-made creature the Creator of the rest, is thus destroyed. The Socinian notion is as manifestly absurd. If the creation here be the new dispensation, the Christian Church, then to call Christ the first born of this creation is to make the apostle say that Christ was the first-made member of the Christian Church; and the reason given for this is, that he made or constituted the Church! If by this they mean simply that he was the author of Christianity, we have again a puerile truism put into the lips of the apostle. If they mean that the apostle declares that Christ was the first Christian, it is difficult to conceive how this can be gravely affirmed as a comment on the words; if any thing else, it is impossible to dis­cover any connection in the argument, that is, between the proposition that Christ is the first born of the whole creation, and the proof of it which is adduced, that by him were all things created. The annotators on the New Version say, "It is plain from comparing this passage with verse 18, (where Christ is called the first born from the dead,) that Christ is called the first born of the whole creation, because he is the first who was raised from the dead to an immortal life." This is far from being "plain;" but it is plain that, in these two verses, the apostle speaks of Christ in two different states, first, in his state "before all things," and as the sustainer of all things; and, then, in his state in "the Church," verse 18, in which is added to the former particulars respecting him,-that "he is the head of the body, the Church, who is the beginning, the first born from the dead." Again, if in verses 15, 16, 17, the apostle is speaking of what Christ is in and to the Church, under the figure of a creation of all things in heaven and in earth, when he drops the figure and teaches us that Christ is the head of the Church, the first born from the dead, he uses a mere tautology; nor is there any apparent reason why he should not, in the same plain terms, have stated his proposition at once, without resorting to expressions which, in this view, would be far-fetched and delusive. In "the Church" he was "head," and "the first born from the dead," the only one who ever rose to die no more, and who gives an immortal life to those he quickens; but before the Church existed, or he himself became incarnate, "before all things," says the apostle, he was the "first born of the whole creation," that is, as the fathers understood it, he was born or begotten before every creature. But the very terms of the text are an abundant refutation of the notion, "that the creation here mentioned is not the creation of natural substances." The things created are said to be "all things in heaven and upon the earth;" and, lest the invisible spirits in the heaven should be thought to be excluded, the apostle adds "things visible and things invisible ;" and, lest the invisible things should be understood of inferior angels or spiritual beings, and the high and glorious beings, who "excel in strength," and are, in Scripture, invested with other elevated properties, should be suspected to be exceptions, the apostle becomes still more particular, and adds, whether "thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers," terms by which the Jews ex­pressed the different orders of angels, and which are used in that sense by this apostle, Ephesians i, 21. It is a shameless criticism of th authors of the New Version, and shows how hardly they were pushed by this decisive passage, that "the apostle does not here specify things themselves, namely, celestial and terrestrial substances, but merely states of things, namely, thrones, dominions, &c, which are only ranks and orders of beings in the rational and moral world." Was it, then, forgotten, that before St. Paul speaks of things in rank and order, he speaks of all things collectively which are in heaven and in earth, visible and invisible? If so, lie then, unquestionably, speaks of "things themselves," or he speaks of nothing. Nor is it true, that, in the enumera­tion of thrones, dominions, &c, he speaks of the creation of ranks and orders. He does not speak "merely of states of things, but of things in states; he does not say that Christ created thrones, and dominions, and principalities, and powers, which would have been more to their purpose, but that he created all things, 'whether' etre, 'they be thrones,' &c" The apostle adds, that all things were created by him, and FOR him, as the end; which could not be said of Christ, even if a moral creation were intended, since, on the Socinian hypothesis that he is a mere man, a prophet of God, he is but the instrument of restoring man to obedience and subjection, for the glory and in accomplishment of the purposes of God. But how is the whole of this description to be made applicable to a figurative creation, to the moral restoration of lapsed beings? It is as plainly historical as the words of Moses, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." "Things visible" and "things on earth" comprise, of course, all those objects which, being neither sensible nor rational, are incapable of moral regeneration, while "things in heaven" and "things invisible" comprise the angels which never sinned and who need no repentance and no renewal. Such are those gross perversions of the word of God which this heresy induces, and with such indelible evidence is the Divinity of our Lord declared by his acts of power and glory, as the UNIVERSAL CREATOR. The admirable observations of Bishop Pearson may, properly, conclude what has been said on this important passage of inspired writ.

"In these words our Saviour is expressly styled the 'first born of every creature,' that is, begotten by God, as 'the Son of his love,' antecedently to all other emanations, before any thing proceeded from him, or was framed and created by him. And that precedency is presently proved by this undeniable argument, that all other emanations or productions come from him, arid whatsoever received its being by crea­tion was by him created, which assertion is delivered in the most proper, full, and frequent expressions imaginable: First, in the plain language of Moses, as most consonant to his description: 'for by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth;' signifying thereby that he speaketh of the same creation. Secondly, by a division which Moses never used, as describing the production only of corporeal substances: lest, therefore, those immaterial beings might seem exempted from the Son's creation, because omitted in Moses's description, he addeth 'visible and invisible;' and lest in that invisible world, among the many degrees of celestial hierarchy, any order might seem exempted from an essential dependence on him, he nameth those which are of greatest eminence, 'whether they he thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers,' and under them comprehendeth all the rest. Nor doth it yet suffice, thus to extend the object of his power, by asserting all things to be made by him, except it be so understood as to acknowledge the sovereignty of his person, and the authority of his action. For lest we should Conceive the Son of God framing the world as a mere instrumental cause which worketh by and for another, he showeth him as well the final as the efficient cause; for, 'all things were created by him and for him.' Lastly, whereas all things first receive their being by creation, and when they have received it, continue in the same by virtue of God's conservation, 'in whom we live and move and have our being;' lest in any thing we should not depend immediately upon the Son of God, he is described as the conserver, as well as the Creator, for 'He is before all things, and by him all things consist.' If then we consider these two latter verses by themselves, we cannot deny but they are a most complete description of the Crea­tor of the world; and if they were spoken of God the Father, could be no way injurious to his majesty, who is nowhere more plainly, or fully set forth unto us as the Maker of the world."

But our Lord himself professes to do other acts, beside the great act of creating, which are peculiar to God; and such acts are also attri­buted to him by his inspired apostles. His preserving of all things made by him has already been mentioned, and which implies not only a Divine power, but also ubiquity, since he must be Present to all things, in order to their constant conservation. The final destruction of the whole frame of material nature is also as expressly attributed to him as its creation. "Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thine hands; these shall perish, but thou remainest, and as a vesture SHALT THOU FOLD THEM up, and they shall be changed." Here omnipotent power is seen "changing," and removing, and taking away the vast universe of material tmngs with the same ease as it was spoken into being and at first disposed into order. Generally, too, our Lord claims to perform the works of his Father. "If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not; but if I DO, though ye believe not me, believe the works."- Should this, even, be restrained to the working of miracles, the argument remains the same. No prophet, no apostle, ever used such language in speaking of his miraculous gifis. Here Christ declares that he performs the works of his Father; not merely that the Father worked by him, but that he himself did the works of God ; which can only mean works proper or peculiar to God, and which a Divine power only could effect.[2] So the Jews understood him, for, upon this declaration, "they sought again to take him." That this power of working miracles was in him an original power, appears also from his bestowing that power upon his disciples. Behold I GIVE unto you power to tread on serpents, and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you," Luke x, 19.- "And HE GAVE them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases," Luke ix, 1. Their miracles were, therefore, to be performed in his NAME, by which the power of effecting them was expressly reserved to him. "In MY NAME shall they cast out devils;" "and ins NAME through faith in HIS NAME bath made this man strong."

The manner in which our Lord promises the Holy Spirit is farther in proof that he performs acts peculiar to the Godhead. He speaks of "sending the Spirit" in the language of one who had an original right and an inherent power to bestow that wondrous gift which was to impart miraculous energies, and heavenly wisdom, comfort, and purity to human minds. Does the Father send the Spirit? He claims the same power,-" the Comforter, whom I will send unto you." The Spirit is, on this account, called "the Spirit of Christ," and "the Spirit of God." Thus the giving of the Spirit is indifferently ascribed to the Son and to the Father; hut when that gift is mediately bestowed by the apostles, no such language is assumed by them: they pray to Christ, and to the Father in his name, and he, their exalted Master, sheds forth the blessing-" therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, HE bath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear."

Another of the unquestionably peculiar acts of God, is the forgiveness of sins. In the manifest reason of the thing, no one can forgive but the party offended; and as sin is the transgression of the law of God, he, alone, is the offended party, and he only, therefore, can forgive.-Mediately, others may declare his pardoning acts, or the conditions on which he determines to forgive; but, authoritatively, there can be no actual forgiveness of sins against God but by God himself. But Christ forgives sin authoritatively, and he is, therefore, God. One passage is all that is necessary to prove this. "He said to the sick of the palsy, Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee." The scribes, who were present, understood that he did this authoritatively, and assumed, in this case, the rights of Divinity. They therefore said, among them­selves, "This man blasphemeth." What then is the conduct of our Lord? Does he admit that he only ministerially declared, in conse­quence of some revelation, that God had forgiven the sins of the paralytic? On the contrary, he works a miracle to prove to them, that the very right which they disputed was vested in him, that he had this authority-" but that ye may KNOW that the Son of man hath POWER on earth to forgive sins, then saith he to the sick of the palsy, Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thine own house."

Such were the acts performed by our Saviour, in the days of his sojourn on earth, and which he is represented, by his inspired apostles, to be still constantly performing, or as having the power to perform.- If any creature is capable of doing the same mighty works, then is all distinction between created, finite natures, and the uncreated Infinite destroyed. If such a distinction, in fact, exists; if neither creation, preservation, nor salvation be possible to a mere creature, we have seen that they are possible to Christ, because he actually creates, preserves and saves; and the inevitable conclusion is, THAT HE IS VERY GOD.


[1] "The world was enlightened by him," says the Now Version; which per. fectly gratuitous rendering h as been before adverted to.

[2] "Si non facio ea ipsa divina opera, quae pater meus facit; si quae facio, non habent divinae virtutis specimen." (Rosenmuller.) "Opera Patris mei, i.e. quae Patri, sive Deo, sunt propria quae a nemino alio fieri queunt." (Peli Synop.)