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The Question" What think ye of Christ ?" answered by a Unitarian. A Discourse delivered in Devonport, on Sunday Evening, February 12, 1826. SIR, Devonport, February 13, 1826.. THE following discourse was delivered last evening in the lecture room of the late Literary and Philosophical Society in this town, (which is now used on Sundays for Unitarian Christian worship,) in consequence of a pamphlet recently published by the Rev. Doctor Hawker, of Plymouth, bearing the following title: "What think ye of Christ? The great Question of the Gospel, as proposed to his Disciples by Christ himself, Matt. xxii. 42; and when opened and explained by the Lord to the spiritual Understanding of the Lord's People, an infallible Security against all the Heresies of the present CHRIST-DESPISINg GeneraTION. The subject humbly contemplated, in a Salutation to the Spiritual Church of our MOST GLORIOUS CHRIST; on the Entrance of the New Year of OUR LORD GOD, 1826." If the discourse be admissible into the Christian Reformer, its early insertion will oblige the friends of Unitarianism who were present at the delivery.
I confess I am unable to comprehend the worthy Doctor's meaning in some parts of his work; and he seems to have anticipated as much in regard to many of his readers, for he thus concludes: Through grace I never suffer myself to lose sight of his oneness, in all that constitutes GoDHEAD, With JEHOVAH in his Trinity of Persons. And in all my approaches to the mercy-seat, I approach to the one undivided JEHOVAH, through the mediation of CHRIST, in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the GODHEAD bodily. And as the GoDHEAD of the HOLY THREE in ONE, is alike inaccessible, the mediation of CHRIST AS CHRIST (that is, GoD and man in one person) is as necessary to the approach of the divine nature of the Son, as that of the FATHER, or of the HOLY GHOST. This may be considered a solecism in the world's vocabulary; but the word loseth its meaning when applied to the glorious truths of God: there are no solecisms in scripture. The LORD enableth his scripture church to receive the LORD's manifestations spiritually. And then, while carrying about with us this charter of grace, the precious question of our most glorious LORD, put by himself, and opened by himself, in all its beauty and fulness, will be like an anchor to the soul, in the darkest night of heresy, silencing all the blasts of a
CHRIST-despising generation.-What think ye of CHRIST?" This is a fair specimen of the gifted author's style; but I question Mr. Editor, whether you can understand his meaning much better than
Matt. xxii. 42: "What think ye of Christ ?”
THIS, my friends, is an important question; but it has been variously answered by different persons. Some have said that Christ was an angelic or super-angelic spirit who descended from the celestial regions, and, uniting with the man Jesus, enabled him to perform all his wonderful works;, others, that he was created by God out of nothing for the purpose of being used by him as an instrument in the formation of the material universe; that he afterwards animated the body of Jesus, and enabled it to effect, by its sufferings and death, the recovery of man from the effects of the fall, and that by his energy the universe is now sustained ;others, that he was produced by the Father from eternity, deriving his existence in a manner different from and superior to all other beings, and that he is equal to the Father in all things, except necessary existence;-others, that he is one of the three co-equal persons who compose the Godhead ;-and others, that he is himself the One Eternal Jehovah !
These opinions, you will readily admit, cannot be all true. To my apprehension they are all false, and some of them grossly absurd. Let me, therefore, solicit your candid and serious attention this evening, while, as a Unitarian Christian, I briefly state my own views of the person of Christ and however different they may be from those entertained by others, I trust they will be found, on careful examination, to be supported by the dictates of common sense and the testimony of the sacred Scriptures.
To the question, then, "What think ye of Christ ?" I reply, in the first place, That he was the long-predicted Messiah.
Every one who carefully studies the New Testament, must perceive that Jesus Christ was the very person whose advent was foretold by the ancient Jewish Prophets. To the prophecies he and his apostles continually appealed in proof of his divine mission. "Search the Scriptures," said he, "for they testify of me.' "Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me." After
his resurrection, it is related of him, that when conversing with two of his disciples, on the road to Eminaus, he " explained to them from Moses and all the Prophets, in all the Scriptures, the things concerning himself." Paul reasoned with the Jews at Thessalonica out of the Scriptures, plaining them, and alleging that Christ must needs have suffered, and have risen again from the dead;" and that this Jesus whom he preached" is the Christ."
In the 18th chap. of Deuteronomy we read, " And the Lord said unto me, (i. e. to Moses,) I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I command him: and it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken to my words, which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him." This prophecy is expressly applied to Jesus Christ by the apostle Peter, in the 3rd chap. of Acts. But the most remarkable prophecy is that contained in the 52nd and 53rd chapters of Isaiah, which Philip, when he went to preach the gospel to the Ethiopian nobleman, found him reading in his chariot; and from which he preached to him the glad tidings of Jesus.
That Jesus Christ was a divinely-commissioned teacher, is also evident from the miracles which he wrought. The declaration of Nicodemus is perfectly correct: Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” The miracles of Jesus, my friends, were "not done in a corner," they were subject to the closest examination, and were acknowledged even by his most bitter enemies. They, however, instead of allowing, with Nicodemus, that his miracles were produced by divine power, absurdly and ignorantly charged our Lord with being a messenger acting under the dominion of Beelzebub, the supposed prince of demons. But we are satisfied that this personage never had an existence, and that the whole system of demonology is entirely fabulous; the miracles of Jesus, therefore, afford decisive evidence that his mission was divine; and not only that he acted, but that he also taught by the power of God, his heavenly Father. "My doctrine," said Jesus, "is not mine, but His that sent me." "The FATHER who sent me, gave me a commandment what I should say, and what I should speak." "The works which MY FATHER hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me,
that THE FATHER hath sent me." "I seek not mine own will, but the will of THE FATHER Who hath sent me.' "My meat is to do the will of HIM that sent me, and to finish HIS work."
It is then manifest, from the predictions of the Jewish prophets, from the miracles which he wrought by the power of God, and from his own declarations, that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, the anointed, the sent of God: but if God anointed and sent him for the purpose of executing his will, in the recovery of mankind from error, sin and death, he could not be himself God: the anointed must be a person wholly distinct from the Anointer-the sent from the Sender.
2." IVhat think ye of Christ ?" That he was a man, a proper human being. It is evident that the apostles were of this opinion, for they never once addressed him as God, but uniformly as one of the human race. There is not a person in this assembly who could possibly have conversed so familiarly with the Supreme Being, as the apostles and first disciples conversed with their revered Master. They invariably treated him as a man; indeed, they occasionally went so far as to expostulate with and rebuke him; and when he was apprehended as an enemy to his country, they all forsook him and fled;" but never in one instance did they treat him as JEHOVAH, their Creator and Governor. Can any of you, my friends, conceive it credible, that they would expostulate with and rebuke the ALMIGHTY to his face; or that they would desert him, when under the pres sure of the most accumulated difficulties? Impossible!
Nor did they, after the resurrection of Jesus, ever entertain a different opinion of his person. The two disciples, when on the road to Emmaus, did not say to the supposed stranger, they had entertained the opinion that Jesus of Nazareth was God, but a PROPHET mighty in deed and in word before God and all the people; and that they "trusted that it had been he who should have redeemed Israel;" i. e. delivered their nation from the Roman yoke, and made them a great and independent people; and though they subsequently formed more correct views of the spiritual nature of the Messiah's kingdom, they did not alter their opinion of his proper humanity.
Our Lord's own language clearly shews that he considered his heavenly Father as a being entirely distinct from himself, and that he was inferior and subordinate to him. "No man," says he, "" taketh my life from me, but I lay it
down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." But was this power inherently his own? Certainly not; for he thus closes the sentence: "This commandment have I received of My Father." r This," says he, "is life eternal, that they might know THEE, the ONLY TRUE GOD, and Jesus Christ whom THOU hast sent." "As the Father gave me commandment, even so I do." "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love, even as I have kept MY FATHER's commandments, and abide in his love." "All things that I have heard of MY FATHER, I have made known unto you." "Whatsoever ye shall ask THE FATHER in my name, HE will give it you." "Of that day and that hour knoweth no man; no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but THE FATHER." "To sit on my right hand and on my left, is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared by my Father."
If then there were things which Jesus did not possess, if there were future events the time of the fulfilment of which he was ignorant, if all that he had was given to him, and if the Father, to whom he prayed, was the only true, God, Jesus must necessarily have been a distinct being, inferior to his Father and subordinate to him and he himself positively declared, "My Father is greater than I." How can any person, therefore, with these plain passages before him in the New Testament, presume to assert that he and his Father are one being, and that he is equal to his Father in power and dignity?
Does not prayer, let me ask, imply dependence and want? But on whom can the SUPREME BEING be dependent? Or in what circumstances can he be placed to render the aid of another being necessary? We find, however, that Jesus prayed to God with as much humility and resignation as any of his followers, which he never would have done were he himself God. Why should one God pray to another God if they were both equal? Or why should God pray to himself? Or why should one-third of the Godhead pray to one of the other thirds, omitting entirely the remaining third? Or if it be said it was the human nature only of Jesus that prayed, why did it not pray to the divine nature with which (according to the popular creed) it was so intimately united? The very idea of Jesus praying to his Father destroys their supposed equality. When the Saviour was overwhelmed with afflic