« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
of Christ, did he divest himself ? As this clause commences the positive statement of the instances of his humility, preceded by, contrasted with the dignity involved in the attribute of “ being in the form of God,” it seems necessary to understand it in relation to that prior dignity. But this, on the socinian hypothesis, is impossible, since they place the form of God in his possession of miraculous energy, of those supernatural powers, of which, from the time of his entering on his ministry, he neither divested himself at any time, nor suspended the exercise. “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work;” nor is there the slightest intimation throughout the whole evangelical history, that his humility was rendered conspicuous by his declining the exercise of miraculous powers. Here, then, the illustration, upon the supposition we are combating, completely fails at the very outset, from the total absence of that bold and striking contrast which the first member of the sentence leads us to expect. The form of God is attributed to him as the basis of a certain elevation, let its precise import be what it may. And, when the antithetic form of expression prepares us to expect something opposed to it, our expectation is frustrated, and the form of God is still retained. Did this divesture consist of his descending from a superior station in society? But this he never possessed. His worldly rank and estimation, humble as it was, was as great in the last, as in the first period of his ministry. To decline a possible distinction, and to lay aside a distinction already possessed, are certainly things very distinct; nor is it easy to conjecture why, if the former was intended, the latter is expressed : besides that, admitting such a confusion of language to be possible, the conception conveyed bears no relation to the form of God.
The words of the apostle evidently suppose that our Saviour possessed, in the first instance, some great and extraordinary distinction; that, in the execution of his commission, from motives of pure benevolence, he submitted to a state of great comparative meanness and humiliation. The order of the words, as well as the very species of excellence they are designed to illustrate and enforce, necessitate the placing of the dignified attribute first. But on the hypothesis of the simple humanity of Christ, the real order of things, the actual course of events, is just the reverse. Our Saviour, on that hypothesis, was elevated immensely above his native condition by his delegation as the Messiah, and, from a state of extreme obscurity and poverty, he became, in consequence of it, possessed of the form of God. His poverty and meanness compose the first stage of his history; and whatever elevation above his equals he afterwards possessed, was purely the effect of his appointment to the office of the Messiah. So that in the office he sustains, he exhibits a marvellous instance of incredible elevation from meanness, instead of affording a striking example of voluntary humiliation.
On the socinian hypothesis the whole of what is truly admirable is, that a mean and obscure individual should have been raised from so much meanness, not that he voluntarily submitted to it. It must be obvious to the thoughtful and intelligent, that this hypothesis completely frustrates the design of the passage, and presents the whole matter in an inverted position.
His public undertaking, in the room of affording an unparalleled instance of condescending benevolence, is the greatest example of eminent virtue conducting to illustrious honour, the world ever witnessed.
In a complex train of action, involving considerable space of time, and a great variety of events, if there be any conspicuous feature insisted on in the character of the agent, it ought to be of such a nature as to pervade the whole mass. The benevolence and condescension of our Lord are uniformly represented by the inspired writer as actuating him in the whole course of his proceedings, as the chief spring of his conduct, so as to characterize his whole undertaking. “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” saith St. Paul, “how that though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might become rich.” His giving himself for the church is celebrated as a most interesting instance of condescension and love. But if, apart from his public engagements, as the great Teacher sent from God, he possessed no separate nor original dignity ; if
to these engagements he is indebted for all that distinguished him above the meanest peasant in Galilee, what candour or sobriety appear in such representations ? If we listen to the writers of the New Testament, his undertaking the office he sustained, was a proof of matchless humility ; if we look to the facts, we find all the honour he ever possessed was the pure result of these offices. That it is possible to combine with such views of his character the admission of an eminent portion of virtue, we are far from denying; but it is not that sort of virtue, nor includes any of that sacrifice of personal honour and interest, which such representation supposes.
ON THE SPIRIT AND TENDENCY OF
SOCINIANISM. Psalm xix. 7.—The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul:
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The minute examination of the minor parts of a great and complex object, will not suffice to give us a just conception of it, unless it is joined with an attentive survey of it as a whole. We have hitherto been occupied with the consideration of the errors of the socinian or unitarian system in detail. We have endeavoured to evince the opposition of several of its fundamental tenets to the clear, unequivocal testimony of scripture ; and, in the course of the inquiry, have felt the necessity of descending to minute distinctions and tedious discussions. Could we even suppose the reasoning employed in the several branches of this extensive argument, to have wrought all the conviction we could wish, the conclusion might still continue destitute of an adequate impression of the general character and tendency of the system, against which these discourses have been directed. Instead of attempting a recapitulation of the topics discussed, and the arguments adduced, useless as it would possibly be if slight and general, and insufferably tedious if accurate and extensive; allow me to close these lectures by directing your attention to some of the distinguishing characteristics of the system, designated by the appellation of Modern Unitarianism.
1. It will occur to the most superficial observer to remark, that, as far as it differs from the orthodox, it is almost entirely a negative system, consisting in the bold denial of nearly all the doctrines which other denominations are wont to regard as the most vital and the most precious. It snatches from us almost every thing to which our affections have been habituated to cling, without presenting them with a single new object.
It is a cold negation, a system of renunciation and dissent, imparting that feeling of desolation to the heart, which is inseparable from the extinction of ancient attachments ; teaching us no longer to admire, to adore, to trust, or to love—but with a