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verses of Chap. i. go before Chap. iii. 1 : but the impossibility of that has been already shewn; for the expression “in those days" would then refer to the birth of Christ, which is pal. pably untrue, instead of to his dwelling at Nazareth (according to the received version) which is as palpably true. 2. Precisely the same thing is observable in St. Luke's gospel, which Mr. Barker would make to begin at Chap. iii. 1 : for this verse also begins with the Greek word de, “ Now in the fifteenth year.” The gospel then could not possibly have commenced here, but must have had something before, Nor could it have commenced with the second Chapter ; for the first verse of that also has the decisive word de, which is in this passage translated “and."
Upon the whole then, considering the overwhelming proof we possess of the truth of this account, as well as the total absence of anything like a valid objection to it of any kind whatever, a candid mind capable of understanding an argument will be disposed to think the parable we commenced with rather under, than over, coloured. We may safely say, that not a chapter in the whole Bible can be proved to be genuine more positively than these four. You may just as rationally cut out any other portion of scripture whatever from Genesis to Revelation, as these accounts of the Mira. culous Conception. Nor would it be one atom more absurd to deny that such persons as Alexander the Great, Julius Cæsar, or Napoleon Buonaparte, ever existed, than it is to deny that St. Matthew and St. Luke were the authors of the two narratives in question.
One important point yet remains to be noticed, namely, the necessity that existed for the Saviour being thus born. This is pointed out in the words of our text, “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.” If Jesus had been begotten by man, he would have received man's corrupt nature, for “that which is born of the flesh is flesh "* But though God sent forth his Son in real flesh, yet it was not in "sinful flesh,” (for how then could he have offered up a pure sacrifice for the sins of the world?) but only “ in the likeness of sinful flesh," If there were no other passage in scripture to prove the two doctrines, that the nature which man receives by generation from his father is a fallen nature; and therefore, that Jesus must have received his human nature in some other way—this would be of itself sufficient. For in the first place flesh" generally is pronounced "sinful;" and in the second place, the word “likeness" distinctly shews tbat the flesh, which Jesus had, was not sinful,- which
* See previous lecture on Man's Fallen Nature.
it must have been, if he had received it in the ordinary way. He would then have had to say with David, “ Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. The Saviour's Immaculate Conception then is not only necessarily referred to, but may be absolutely proved from, those numberless passages of scripture, which speak of him as “holy, harmless, undefiled," * without sin," it without blemish and without spot.' And is not this striking testimony, which the Miraculous Conception thus bears to the reality of original sin, a main cause of the attempt that is made to get rid of it? We would not class together the deceiver and the deceived, or accuse all who disbelieve the Miraculous Conceptiou of wilful dishonesty: but knowing what a blinding effect deep-rooted error has upon the mind, we have no hesitation in expressing our conviction, that a dispute on the subject would never have been heard of in the Christian Church, if the scriptural account had not stood in the way of some theory, which the advocates of it were determined not to yield.
* A very little reflection will soon convince any one, that the objection about original sin being usually attached to the fact of being “born of a woman" is a mere cavil: inasmuch as in no case, except that of Jesus, was any one born of a woman without a human father; and in his case, the Apostle has pointed out the peculiarity of his birth by the expression made of a woman,” which in the original is very marked.
THE PRE-EXISTENCE OF CHRIST.
I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world. Again I leave the world, and go to the Father. His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. John xvi. 29.
HAVING already shown, that “ Christ Jesus came into the . world to save sinners," or in other words that he was the fore. told Messiah from his birth; and further, that he“ ceived of the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary; we now advance another step, to prove his previous existence with God in some form or other before he was born into the world. No argument is wanted here, inasmuch as the objections, which are raised against our Lord's Deity, do not affect the question of his pre-existence. It will take us but a very short time to adduce the few passages of Scripture that are required for the proof; but as the question is a distinct one of itself, it appeared better to bring forward the evidence for it in a separate Lecture, instead of intermixing it with the proofs of Christ's Godhead.
Let us then begin with the testimony of John the Baptist.
John i 30. '« This is hè, of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before mg: for he was before me." John here states the pre-existence of Jesus to be one ground on which he had a right to higher honour than himself.
John jii. 30, 31. “ He must increase but I must decrease. He that cometh from above is above all; he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaver is above all.” If any one should think that the expressions “cometh from above” and “cometh from heaven" may only mean commissioned or sent by God, I would remind them that John himself was sent by God; and yet he is here show. ing the difference between himself and Jesus, one of whom was “ of the earth,” and the other “from heaven," If then “coming from heaven" means that Jesus was sent by God, “ being of the earth" must mean that John was not sent by God which is manifestly false. Equally strong are the words of Jesus himself.
John iii. 13. “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man, which is in heaven." We shall have occasion to consider the latter part of the verse another time. At present we bave oply to do with our Lord's statement that be came down froin heaven"; wbicli, from being joined to the words “ascended up to heaven," must evidently be taken literally. I don't know whether Mr. Barker adopts the supposition, that Jesus went up to beaven after his baptism and came down again : I should think he scarcely could, from bis horror of " theologi. cal fictions" invented " to help pecple out of their difficulties.”
Jobn vi, 33. “For the bread of God is be, which cometli down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world."
Jobin viii. 14. “For I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come and whither I go." Whence then did he come?
John vi. 62. “What and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where he was before ?" On this passage Dr. Priestly, not being satisfied with any of the attempted explanations, says that, rather than believe Jesus to have claimed a pre-existence, he would suppose that St. John did not bear quite correctly what Jesus said, or that the secretary, who was writing the gospel under John's dictation, put something in of his own accord.
What a remarkably useful book the Bible must be on this principle!
John viii. 42 “I proceeded forth and came from God." Did any prophet ever claim to have a proceeded forth" from God? "Mr. Barker tries to get over all these passages by quoting a line from one of Wesley's Hymns, in which he speaks of his converts as “born from the skies But did John Wesley, or any one else in his senses, ever say that regenerate persons "proceeded forth and came from God," that they came out from the Father," that they “ came forth from the Father," that they “came down from heaven," and that when they go to heaven they “ascend up where they were before"?
John xiii, 3, " Jesus knowing that the Father has given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God." Here the close connection between coming from God and going to God shows that, if one is taken literally, the other must be taken so too. Now no one will deny that Jesus actually "went to God"; therefore he must have actually, not figuratively, “come from God.” Besides, the authority Jesus received from God is mentioned in the words imme. diately before, “knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands": but he knew something more than this“ and that he was come from God."
John xvi. 28, 29. “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again I leave the world, and go to the Father. His disciples say unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb." If Jesus in those words did not mean to say that he was with the Father before he canie into the world, instead of his speaking with more than usual plainness, as the disciples seemed to think, he never said any thing more difficult or obscure in his life.
Juhn xvii. 5. “And now, O Father, glorify me with thine own self, with the glury which I had with thee before the world was." No comment can either add to, or take from, the force of this.
John xvii. 8. “And they have received them; and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me." The Apostles are here said to believe two things; Ist, that Jesus “ came out from" God; and 2ndly, that he was sent by God.
Jolin xvii. 24. “For thou lovedest me before the founda. tion of the world."
What can induce any one to resist such positive declarations as these, I am at a loss to conceive: unless it be a determination to degrade the person of the Saviour to the lowest possible point. That “the natural man" should be staggered by some of the difficulties connected with Christ's Deity or the Atonement, is not at all to be wondered at: but as to his preexistence, ihere is not a shadow of an excuse to be inade for disbelieving it. Indeed the great bulk of those who denied our Lord's Deity in the first seventeen centuries, always con. tended that he biad a pre-existence as the Son of God, though not as God. But the tendency of error is to sink lower and lower ; and few in the present day ure satisfied with Arianism. Even those who begin with it like Dr. Priestly, generally end like him with the lowest kind of Unitarianism.