CHAPTER II.

STATES OF CHRIST.

SECTION 1.--ORIGINAL GLORY.

BEFORE HIS INCARNATION, THE SON OF GOD WAS IN INTIMATE COMMUNION OF GLORY AND BLESSEDNESS WITH THE FATHER.[1]

The existence of Christ, previous to his appearing in the world, is proved by passages of Scripture, that do not expressly declare his divinity.

If we had no further teaching on the subject, we might suppose that he was a created spirit, had enjoyed honor and happiness in the presence of God, and had consented to appear, in obedience to the will of God, in the person of Jesus Christ. But the proofs which have been adduced from other parts of Scripture, clearly show that this pre-existent spirit was God, and not a creature.

Several names are ascribed to the pre-existent divinity of Jesus Christ. John calls him the Word of God.[2] He is more frequently called the Son of God. Various passages speak of him as the Son of God, antecedent to his coming into the world. He is called the Angel of the Lord, the Angel of the Lord's presence, the Angel of the Covenant, the Captain of the Lord's hosts. It is also supposed that he is intended to be designated, in the 8th chapter of Proverbs, by the name Wisdom.

To ascertain the precise import of these several names, is attended with difficulty. He appears to be called the Angel or Messenger, because he is sent to make known, or to execute, the will of God. He is probably called the Word of God, because he is the medium through which the mind of God is made known. Why he is called the Son of God, is a question on which divines have differed. His miraculous conception, his mediatorial office, his resurrection from the dead, and his investiture with supreme dominion, have been severally assigned, as the reason of the title; but these appear rather to declare him to be the Son of God, or to belong to him because of that relation, than to constitute it. The phrases first-born, first-begotten, only-begotten, seem to refer to the true ground of the name, Son of God: but what these signify, it is probably impossible for us to understand. The ideas of peculiar endearment, dignity, and heirship, which are attached to these terms, as used among men, may be supposed to belong to them, as applied to the Son of God; but all gross conceptions of their import, as if they were designed to convey to our minds the idea of derived existence, and the mode of that derivation, ought to be discarded as inconsistent with the perfection of Godhead. Some have considered the titles Christ, the Son of God, as equal and convertible; but the distinction in the use of them, as pointed out in our examination of the charges brought against the Redeemer, shows the error of this opinion. When Saul at Damascus,[3] and Apollos in Achaia,[4] preached to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ, the aim was to convince them that Jesus was the Messiah, long expected by their nation. But when Saul preached "Christ, that he is the Son of God,"[5] and when the eunuch professed his faith, "I believe that Jesus is the Son of God,"[6] more than the mere messiahship of Jesus is manifestly intended. Christ or Messiah is a title of office: but the phrase "Son of God," denotes, not the mere office, but the exalted nature which qualified for it.

The possession of proper deity is alone sufficient to show that the Son of God was glorious and happy eternally; but we may learn the same truth from the language of Scripture directly referring to this subject. "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee, before the world was."[7] "For ye know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich."[8] "Then I was by him, as one brought up with him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him."[9] "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God."[10] "The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father."[11] The full communion of the Son with the Father, in all the glory and blessedness of the Godhead, is to be inferred from these passages.

SECTION II.--HUMILIATION.

THE SON OF GOD ASSUMED HUMAN NATURE, AND IN THAT NATURE LIVED A LIFE OF TOIL AND SORROW, AND DIED AN IGNOMINIOUS AND PAINFUL DEATH.[12]

The full history of this wonderful humiliation, is given by the four Evangelist; and is often referred to in the New Testament, and sometimes in the prophetic declarations of the Old.

In contemplating this mystery of "God manifest in the flesh," we are not to suppose that the divine nature underwent any real change. God cannot cease to be God. The change was in the manifestation, and not in the nature. In this manifestation, even the angels were concerned, for it is a part of the mystery that "God manifest in the flesh" was "seen of angels;"[13] but so wonderful was this new mode of manifestation, that the angels could not readily know their God, in this humble form, as the babe of Bethlehem, and the man of sorrows. Hence, they needed a special command from the eternal throne, before they could render him divine worship: "When he bringeth the first-begotten into the world, he saith, `Let all the angels of God worship him.' "[14] But this fact, it may be objected , shows it to have been a concealment, rather than a manifestation. This, to some extent, is true; but it is a concealment resembling that by which God showed himself to Moses in the cleft of the rock, concealing the beams of insufferable brightness, that the favored servant might see the back parts of his glory. So the angels, while they behold the Godhead veiled in human nature, obtain views of the divine glory, which would otherwise have been impossible. These are the things "into which the angels desire to look."[15] "Unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the Church."--by the redemption and salvation of the Church, through the humiliation and death of Christ,--"the manifold wisdom of God."[16]

The lowest point of Christ's humiliation, was his death by crucifixion, and his being held for a time under the power of death, as a prisoner in the grave. Some have thought that he descended into hell; but this opinion has arisen from misinterpretation of the Scripture, "It was said, Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell:"[17] but the word "hell" signifies in this place, as in many others, the unseen world, or the state of departed spirits. When it is said, "He went and preached unto the spirits in prison[18], the meaning is, that he, by his spirit, in the ministry of Noah, who was a preacher of righteousness, preached to the antediluvians, who, being disobedient, and rejecting the ministry, were swept away by the flood, and were, when these words were penned, spirits in prison.

The glorious benefits resulting to us from the deep humiliation of Christ, are intimated in the words of Paul: "that ye through his poverty might be rich."[19] The extent of the riches which we shall acquire by this poverty, eternity must disclose.

SECTION III.--EXALTATION.

THE SON OF GOD, IN HUMAN NATURE, WAS RAISED FROM THE DEAD, ASCENDED TO HEAVEN, AND WAS INVESTED WITH SUPREME DOMINION OVER ALL CREATURES.[20]

The facts of Christ's exaltation, like those of his humiliation, are related in the Scripture narrative, and referred to in various parts of the sacred volume.

The exaltation, like the humiliation, produced no real change in his divine nature. It affected the manifestation of it, and also wrought a real change in the condition of the human nature. This nature is now perfectly happy. Jesus has received the joy that was set before him;[21] and saints, who are to be happy with him for ever, are said to "enter into the joy of their Lord."[22] On this nature rests, also, the full glory of the Godhead, "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."[23] As through him the brightest manifestations of the divine glory are made to intelligent creatures, so through him they receive the commands of supreme authority. "He is head of principalities and powers." "He raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principalities and powers, and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come."[24]

The glory to which Christ has been exalted, is not a subject of idle speculation, in which we have no interest. In his address to his Father, he said, in allusion to his disciples, "The glory which thou hast given me, I have given them."[25] Hence, while we suffer with Christ,[26] and for Christ, in this world, we may rejoice in the hope of being glorified with him.

[1] John i. 15, 30; iii. 13, 17, 31; vi. 38; viii. 58; xvii. 5; 1 Cor. xv. 47; Gen xvii. xxii. 15; xxxii. 30; Ex. iii. ; xx.; Acts vii. 30, 35, 38; John i. 3; Col. i. 16; Heb. i. 2, 10; Mic. v. 2; John viii. 58; Heb. i. 8; xiii. 8; Rev. i. 8, 18.

[2] John i. 1.

[3] Acts ix. 22.

[4] Acts xviii. 28.

[5] Acts ix. 20.

[6] Acts viii. 37.

[7] John xvii. 5.

[8] 2 Cor. viii. 9.

[9] Prov. viii. 30.

[10] Phil. ii. 6.

[11] John i. 18.

[12] I Tim. iii. 16

[13] Phil. ii. 6.

[14] Heb. i. 6.

[15] 1 Pet. i. 12.

[16] Eph. iii. 10.

[17] Ps. xvi. 10.

[18] I Pet. iii. 19.

[19] 2 Cor. viii. 9.

[20] Matt. xxviii.; Mark xvi.; Luke xxiv.; John xx.; Acts i. 11; vii. 56; ix. 4; 1 Cor. xv. 4-8; Phil. ii. 9, 10, 11.

[21] Heb. xii. 2.

[22] Matt. xxv. 21.

[23] 2 Cor. iv. 6.

[24] Eph. i. 20, 21.

[25] John xvii. 22.

[26] Rom. viii. 17.