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VIEW OF THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST.
was God: the same was in the beginning with God.”_"And the Word was made flesh (or became incarnate) and tabernacled among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father-full of grace and truth.”* This was Emmanuel, God with us—God manifest in flesh--the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person—the appointed heir of all things, by whom the worlds were made, and who upholdeth all things by the word of his power-and, though found in fashion as a man, he was nevertheless “the image of the invisible God :”+ so that he could say, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.”+
These Scripture testimonies, taken in their plain and obvious sense, give us the most exalted views of his character, and imply that he is an eternally divine person—by nature equal with the Father; that he came into the world to save sinners, and for that purpose assumed human nature into personal union with the divine. S Thus his incarnation answered one of the grandest purposes that is conceivable, and was altogether agreeable to the declared end of his manifestation, which was to save his people from their sins.|| For “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” His own account of his mission into this world is that “the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and give his life a ransom for many."** He said he came as “the good shepherd, to give his life for the sheep:”++ and this he declared was a voluntary act of his own—for that no man took his life from him, but he “laid it down of himself,” inobedience to the will of his heavenly Father, who sanctified him and sent him into the world for that specific end. IF Moreover, we find him declaring that his blood was “shed for many, for the remission of sins"--and that his obedience was so well pleasing to his heavenly Father, whose righteous servant he condescended to become, that he both loved him for it, and raised him from the dead, and rewarded him with the highest glory in the heavens.$ This is the sum of the doctrine of his mediation, which the apostle thus states to the Romans:
* Joh. i. 1, 14. † Matt. i. 23. ; 1 Tim. iii. 16; Heb. i. 2, 3; Phil. ii. 6-8 : Col. i. 15. # Joh. xiv. 9. § Heb. ii. 14. || Matt. i. 21. (John iii. 16. ** Matt. xx. 28. tt Joh. x. 11. # Ver. 17, 18. $$ Matt. xxvi. 28 ; Joh. x, 17.
“ He was delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification.”* And again, to the Corinthians, “God was in (or by) Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing unto men their trespasses, and he hath made him to be a sin-offering for us, though he knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”+ In this way we are taught that his death answered not only to the one transgression of the first man, whereby all his posterity were made sinners, but also to the many offences of those for whom he died: for “as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous”—and thus “Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ the Lord.”
The offices which he is represented as sustaining in the economy of grace are those of prophet, priest, and king. Moses, the Jewish lawgiver, had said, “the Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet, from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me: unto him ye shall hearken.”'S Subsequent writers spoke largely of his priestly character; in which respect, and in that of king also, he was typified by Melchizedek, in the days of Abraham, who was both priest of the Most High God and at the same time king of Salem.|| Numerous are the predictions, relating to both his priestly and kingly character, that are to be found in the book of Psalms and the writings of the prophets, to some of which reference is made below, but they are too numerous to be quoted in this place: and I shall now proceed to offer a few observations on the character of this sublime Being, who visited the earth for the benefit of our guilty race.
We have already seen that the evangelists and apostles represent him as uniting the divine and human natures in his one individual person, which eminently qualified him for the all-important duties of a mediator betwixt God and man. His relation to the Deity, as the Eternal Word, and his intimacy with the former, gave him the means of being fully acquainted with the nature and attributes of the Father-he knew his gracious designs and perfectly understood his will in all respects. He was “the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom,” or secret councils,
* Rom. iv. 24, 25. . ☺ Deut. xviii. 15.
+ 2 Cor. v. 19. #Rom. vi. 19, 21. || Gen. xiv, 18; Ps. cx. 4; Heb. vii. 1.
VIEW OF THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST.
“ of the Father,” which councils he declared to the world in his public ministry. Hence we find him saying, “The Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things that himself doeth.”* “All things are delivered unto me of my Father, and no man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father but the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.”+ The relation, therefore, in which he stands to the Father as his only begotten Son, and his being ever with him, the partaker of his councils, gave him opportunity to know perfectly the whole designs of God respecting the salvation of men, and qualified him for declaring the same to us with the utmost precision. It is manifest, too, that the divine dignity of our Lord's character, as the Son of God, is calculated to stamp an authority on every thing he said to show the infinite importance of the truths he came to reveal, and the high value which the blessed God puts upon the human race. If the doctrines of Christianity had been of little moment in themselves, or of little importance to mankind, the all-wise God would not have sent his Son from heaven to reveal them. If the perishing of the human species had been a small matter in the sight of God, his Son would never have taken part with them in flesh and blood, and suffered what he did to save them. Yet “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”I
But Jesus was not only God, he was also truly and properly man. He possessed all the constituent parts of human nature; he had a real body and reasonable soul. The former was nourished by food; it grew in stature, and was subject to hunger, thirst, weariness, cold, sleep, pain, and death. He had a human soul in which resided all the principles of the spiritual part of our nature. For, independently of the faculties of reason, memory, and will, which in him had the usual progress from small beginnings to a state of maturity, he possessed all the appetites natural to humanity, but under the most perfect government. He was susceptible of those pleasures and pains which affect the human mind through the medium of the senses. He had all the affections of our nature, whether of the inferior or superior kind
* Joh. v. 20.
+ Matt. xi, 27.
#Joh. iii, 16.4.
admiration, love, friendship, pity, tenderness, joy, grief, indignation, anger. In a word, if we except sin, there is nothing human which the Son of God did not possess—in him Deity and humanity were essentially combined, and shone forth with united splendour in all his words and actions.
We may further observe, in this place, that his assumption of human nature into personal union with the divine was absolutely necessary to his performing the work of obedience and sacrifice, which are the declared ends of his mission into the world. Without this he could not have tasted death for the heirs of salvation, according to Heb. ii. 14. Without this he could not have made atonement for sin, by the shedding of his blood; for it was only in his human nature that he was susceptible of suffering: and, finally, his participation of human nature eminently qualified him for the discharge of the office of intercession with the Majesty of heaven in the behalf of his brethren on earth. In order to be a high priest he must be a man, and partake of the nature of those whom he was to represent, and for whom he was to officiate; and, to be a merciful and faithful high priest, it was necessary that he should have experience of human weakness, temptations, and sufferings, that so he might be qualified to sympathise with, and have compassion on his brethren in all their infirmities, sufferings, and trials, and be the more deeply interested and feelingly engaged to act with faithfulness in all their concerns relating to God, and particularly to make reconciliation for the sins of the people--and this is the doctrine of the apostle Paul concerning him in Heb. ii. 9 and iv. 15. But, not to enlarge further on a subject which will unavoidably present itself for consideration in the following Lectures, we shall now proceed to offer some general remarks upon it.
In reviewing the character of Christ, as set before us in the simple and artless details of the evangelists, we are presented with a vast variety of particulars in his demeanour towards God and man, in every different situation and circumstance of life, in all of which he appears to demand our highest veneration and devoutest affection. His conduct in the several relations of human life, in retired intercourse with his chosen disciples, in the company of admiring thousands, in the midst of malicious detracters and inveterate enemies, is distinctly brought in view. He is ex
VIEW OF THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST.
hibited in situations which are not only conceivable, but which have frequently been experienced by his followers; and what he did, how he spake and felt in these, is related with a particularity which places him directly before us, and brings him not only within the limits of human conception, but within the circle of human converse. Under a form which we can contemplate and appreciate, he invariably preserves the highest consistency of character, and, in every relation, lays himself open to the clearest inspection. Entertaining no diffidence of his own character, he shows no anxiety to support it: nor, considering the greatness and splendour of the evidence attending his mission, was it proper that he should discover any thing of the kind. When his enemies required signs in proof of his divine mission, knowing their malicious intentions, he treated them with an indifference more demonstrative of the justness of his claims than if he had performed the miracles required. The mighty works which he wrought in the course of his ministry, and the miraculous circumstances which attended his life, were plainly divine. Commissioned of God to instruct mankind in the things which concern their eternal interests, we never find him discoursing on subjects that were foreign to his mission and ministry. He never touches on any topic of natural philosophy, mathematics, logic, rhetoric, grammar, or politics. His ministry and doctrine, as the great prophet of the church, were restricted to matters of religion and morality; and in handling these he did not entertain his hearers, like the Greek sophists, with empty speculations, calculated merely to gratify the curiosity and vanity of the human mind. He propounded no metaphysical disquisitions on the nature and attributes of God, nor upon the divine decrees, nor on liberty and necessity, nor on the entrance of sin into the world. These are subjects which the human understanding never can unravel. But he taught from what cause the universe derives its origin, by whom it is governed, and to whom all reasonable beings must ultimately render in their account. He testified of the world that it was naturally in a lost, fallen, and undone state; that mankind were universally the subjects of sin and exposed to condemnation and misery; and he declared that he came down from heaven to work out that righteousness through which alone God could be just in justifying any of the human race. He did not deliver his