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be or be not the doctrine of scripture: for it is a matter of pure revelation: and with regard to this point,

I. I have obferved, that, if it were true, it would not merit the ftrefs that has been laid upon it: it would be a matter only of curious fpeculation, having no neceffary connection with the regard due to Chrift, with that faith in him, and obedience to him, required in the gospel. It is very evident perfons may disbelieve this particular, and yet retain every principle of love, gratitude and obedience towards the Lord Jefus, every inftance of chriftian faith, difpofition, conduct, and hope. The denying of our Saviour's preexiftence, therefore, is in no degree prejudicial to true christianity: nor has any, the least, tendency to diminish our veneration for the character of Christ, leffen our sense of chriftian obligations, or weaken any one motive to chriftian faith and obedience. But the admitting of it has actually occafioned the greateft confufion, produced intricate perplexing fchemes, and much hindered both the spread and influence of the gospel

in the world.

II. I have obferved, that it is not a clear doctrine of fcripture: it is not plainly taught in the New Teftament, and therefore ought not to have been admitted among the articles of chriftian faith. I do not know of one fcripture paffage, either directly affirming or neceffarily implying it. If

we

we give up this point; our idea of the perfon and character of our bleffed Saviour, may be eafily formed, in a manner fatisfactory to reafon, agreeable to the nature of things, confiftent with the analogy of Providence, and with the whole ftrain of the evangelical narration, and tending to fecure the highest and most rational love, efteem, and veneration for our bleffed Saviour. However, as feveral paffages of fcripture have been generally thought to affirm, imply, refer to, or reprefent the existence and ftate of Chrift previous to his appearance among men; I have thought it proper to produce, and lay before you, what appears to me the real meaning of fuch paffages.

As to those paffages which speak of our bleffed Saviour, as fent of God, coming from God, coming from heaven,* and fuch like (which often occur in the New Teftament) they who suppose

* See John iii. 13, and 31. John vi. 33, &c. 1 Cor. xv. 47. This expreffion occurs more frequently in the fixth chapter of John than in any other part of the New Teftament. But fo figurative is the strain of the difcourfe recorded in this chapter, that our Lord tells the Jews that except they eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, they have no life in them (ver. 53.). If we be to understand him literally in this chapter when he fpeaks of his defcending from heaven, it will follow that he corporeally defcended, fo that no argument can be deduced from it in favour of his pre-existence. "I am the living bread which "came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he " shall live for ever: and the bread which I shall give is my flesh.” (ver. 51.) Editor.

the

But

the foul of Chrift pre-exiftent (whatever notions they may have of the ftate or qualities of fuch a pre-exiftent foul) underftand thefe expreffions as denoting, that Chrift properly defcended from heaven, where he was with God in his preexistent state, and leaving heaven, came down, to take a human body and dwell among men. there is not the leaft neceffity for underftanding them in fuch a fenfe. I am thoroughly perfuaded they have no fuch meaning. They are as feems to me evidently expreffive only of his divine commission, heavenly authority, his speaking and acting in the name of God: for phrases of this kind are applied to prophets, to John the Baptift:†

There is no neceffity for understanding them in this fenfe, because the phrase of being from beaven is used in cafes which are incompatible with the idea of any local descent. Matt. xxi. 25. "The baptifm of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? "2 Cor. v. 2. In this we groan earnestly, defiring to be clothed

upon with our boufe which is from heaven." James i, 17. "Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh "down from the Father of lights." Ed.

† Numb. xvi. 28. John i. 6. "There was a man fent from God, whofe name was John." It is obferved by Mr. Lindsey with reference to the phrafe "coming from God," that, fimilar language is often used by us without fuppofing that we had lived in another world. So that incomparable person, father Paul, a little before he died, fpoke to his friend Fulgentio, who had been wearied with long watchful attendance on him, "Go you to reft, whilft I go to God, from whom we all came." And Ecclef. xii. 7. "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit fhall return unto God who gave it." Ed.

nay

nay we may all be faid to be fent of God into the world. However, expreffions of this kind, applied to Jefus Chrift, are to be understood in a diftinguishing and fuperlative, even in the highest sense, as he was honoured with a commission of superior dignity and importance, with more eminent and glorious qualifications, and was the fent of God, by way of diftinction above all others. It may alfo greatly confirm the truth and justice of explaining all the paffages of this kind as only expreffive of our Saviour's divine commiffion; if we obferve, the remarkable manner in which our bleffed Lord expreffes the commiffion he gave to his apoftles. In one place (John xvii. 18.) he fays, as thou haft fent me into the world, even fo have I also fent them into the world. In another place he fays, as the Father hath sent me, fo fend I you (John xx. 21.). It is very manifeft therefore that the phrafeology of this fort has no reference to, and affords not the leaft proof of, a pre-existent ftate this I cannot but fuppofe must be very clear and evident to every one.

In the feventeenth chapter of St. John's gospel and the fifth verfe is recorded our Saviour's addrefs to his Father, in thefe words, and now O Father, glorify thou me, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. Our Saviour's actual exiftence, and actual poffeffion of glory in the prefence of God, from eternal ages, before his incarnation, has been efteemed too generally a juft inference

from

from this paffage. But I am really surprised it fhould for is it not very unrcafonable to fuppofe, the glary, here intended, to be what our Saviour had actually been poffeffed of before his coming into this world, when, according to the whole tenour of the gofpel, and the most manifeft and clear expreffions in the context, he is here praying not for a glory, he had formerly actually enjoyed, but for a promised, additional, remunerating glory, a glory which was to be the reward of his faithful discharge of the mediatorial office, and confequently a thing, fubfequent to his obedience and fufferings on this earth? Chrift you know was firft to fuffer, and then to enter into his glory: after enduring the crofs, he was to receive the joy that was fet before him: because of his obedience to death, he was to be highly exalted, and be honoured with a name above every name,* be made head over all things, placed at God's right hand.

I have finished the work, says he, which thou gavest me to do, and now, O Father, glorify thou me with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. The glory which he had with the Father before the world was, according to well known Jewish phrafeology, intends not a glory that had been actually and already enjoyed by him, but the glory, that was in the eternal counfels of the

* See Lu, xxiv, 26. Heb. xii, 2. Phil, ii, 8, 9.

Divine

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