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I. Did the Second Person in the Trinity exist before he entered on the mediatorial work, and what rank did he then hold? Or were there no distinctions of persons in the Godhead? From eternity as well as to eternity Christ was God. "Before Abraham was, I AM." He hesitates not to appropriate to himself this peculiar name of Jehovah, I AM, the verb of existence-he that was, and is, and is to come, the Alpha and Omega-God from eternity. Again, he prays: "Glorify me with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." He was in the beginning, he was with God, and he was God. "I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the world was. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills, was I brought forth. When he prepared the heavens, when he gave to the sea his decree, when he appointed the foundations of the earth, then I was by him as one brought up with him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him-and my delights were with the sons of men." He was the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person.
Before the incarnation-before the earth was-Christ was God-was King and Sovereign of the universe-the co-equal of the Father, and shared with him all the honors and prerogatives of the eternal throne-raised above all principalities and powers -enthroned amidst dominions, attended by angels, and honored by archangels. All creatures do him reverence. The morning stars sing before him, and the sons of God shout for joy. But he descends from his throne, lays aside the sceptre and the crown, and yields up the glory he had with the Father. He becomes the babe of Bethlehem, though once the King of glory. He becomes the man of sorrows, though once in the bosom of the Father, in whose presence is joy, and at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore. Angels desire to look into these things. To see the Sovereign of ten thousand worlds humble himself to become a man-to take on him the form of a servant-to submit to the infirmities and temptations of humanity, transcended the conception of the wisest angel.
II. The next aspect in which I would have you contemplate Christ as pre-existent, is in the Covenant of Redemption the compact or agreement entered into by the three persons of the Godhead, by which each stood pledged to act a specified part, and each harmonize with the other. The manner and terms of this covenant appear in the 53d chapter of Isaiah. I quote the passage as translated by Bishop Lowth: "If he shall make a propitiatory sacrifice, he shall see a seed which shall prolong their days, and (the pleasure) the gracious purpose of Jehovah shall prosper in his hands. Of the travail of his soul he shall see (the fruit) and be satisfied. By the knowledge of him shall my servant justify many; for the punishment of their iniquity he shall
bear. Therefore will I distribute to him the many for his portion; and the mighty people shall he share for his spoil: because he poured out his soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sins of many; and he made intercession for the transgressors." The Father officially acts as the superior and the Son as subject to him. He proposes the terms and specifies the reward; the Son accepts the terms, and, for the reward, the joy set before him, enters on the work. The conditions are, that he shall make a propitiatory sacrifice for sin, by pouring out his soul unto death, and being numbered with the transgressors; and that he shall make intercession for transgressors should be a High Priest, to make atonement and intercession. The condition on the part of the Father was the bestowment of the specified reward, and the gift of the Spirit by whom the elect should be brought to Christ.
The reward Christ should receive is his church washed and purified and glorified with him forever. For this he entered on the mediatorial work; for this, submitted to the humiliation of the incarnate state, and offered himself a sacrifice for sin. "He should see a seed which should prolong their days." This defines who this seed is. Certainly not the wicked; for they shall not stand-they shall be cut off-shall be as grass-as stubble before the fire-their memory shall perish-their candle shall go outthey shall be no more. They shall not prolong their days, which be as a shadow. Only they who are washed in the blood of the Lamb, and whose names are written in heaven, "shall endure forever-shall abide in his love." "The world passeth away and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever." "They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved." To secure such a seed he submitted to sufferings and death.
It is in this work alone that Christ is, officially, inferior to the Father. He voluntarily put himself in a position of subordination and obedience: and here he says of himself: "My Father is greater than I." It is as when three kings of equal rank and power go out to battle against a common foe. It is not meet that they all go out as kings or commandants. They make an adjustment of power for the general good. Two accept the command of a division of the confederate army, while the third retains the command of the whole, including of course his two royal compeers. There is now, officially, a disparity, the one sending, the others being sent-the one commanding, the others obeying.
Among the three persons of the Trinity, in the work of Redemption, there is no inequality in character or essence, only in office. There was no necessary subjection, but a voluntary submission. Christ had power to lay down his life and power to take it again. Voluntarily had he left the glory he had with
the Father, and clothed himself in humanity; and when he would, he could quit the scene of his humiliation, and reinstate himself in the empire of universal glory.
What a spectacle have we now before us! Man, the inhabitant of a little province in God's empire, had raised the standard of rebellion. A race was doomed to die. The dreary dungeon of the damned was built, and, but for the timely interposition of divine compassion, had been peopled by an entire race. God surveyed the scene of desolation with pity. Man, body and soul, was in ruins-the earth was in ruins. "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain." The bowels of the divine compassion yearned over this moral Aceldama. The outreachings of his love would have drawn the curtain of benevolence over this unlovely spot. But love, the mere outburstings of benevolence, may not triumph over justice. God would save his creature, man, but he would not save him at the expense of his justice-the ruin of his government and the happiness of the universe. What then could be done? Man must die, or divine justice fall. But there was an alternative. In the wise councils of eternity a scheme is devised by which both ends may be gloriously secured. The demands of justice may be answered by substitution. Man may be saved by an imputed righteousness. But who is able to accomplish such a work? "I looked, and there was none to help, and I wondered that there was none to uphold" when I heard a voice from the Lamb on Mount Zion, saying, "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God."
Did earth, heaven, or hell ever witness such a spectacle before! What condescension, what love! He saw every step before him. He knew that when he should come to his own, his own would not receive him. He foreknew every groan, counted every thorn-numbered every tear-knew well the scenes of the garden, of the judgment hall, and of Calvary. Well did he know the bitter cup that he should drink; yet his soul drew not back. In face of all the fiery darts of hell, he entered the field and vanquished the foe.
There is something morally sublime in seeing a man buckle on his armor and grasp his weapon and rush to the rescue of his neighbor or friend. But how infinitely below all reality is every comparison when applied to Him who periled his life for sinners. In full view of all the suffering, of all the ignominy, he gave his life for us. Was ever love like this? Was ever benevolence so disinterested-compassion so large and free?
Such is Christ in the covenant of Redemption: all glorious with the Father from eternity-the King of kings and the Lord of lords; he leaves the heavens and comes down-becomes the babe of Bethlehem-the object of Herod's hate--the destitute stranger who had not where to lay his head--the mourner at the grave of Lazarus-the rejected at Pilate's bar-the object of
another Herod's scorn-the bearer of his own cross to Calvarythe sufferer on the accursed tree. Can any thing exceed the solemn sublimity of such a Personage, in full view of all that must befall him, entering on such an undertaking?
III. The next attitude in which I would present Christ is as Creator, Preserver, and Governor of all things. The great and leading object of God, as touching this world, doubtless is the work of human redemption: and as he saw fit to commit this work, officially, to his Son, he committed to him, also, the work of previous arrangements, among which were the creation, preservation and government of the world. A suitable platform or theatre for the acting of the august drama of man's salvation, must be erected. This was the work of the second Person in the Trinity. "By him all things were made, and without him was not any thing made that was made." And not only the earth, but the universe: "For by him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions, principalities or powers, all things were created by him and for him:" for the manifestation of his glory, for the illustration of his benevolence in the work of Redemption.
The creation of angels, and probably of the universe, was preparatory and auxiliary to the work of Redemption. For we know not what positions and relations human redemption may have to the universal empire of God. It may be that the attributes herein developed and the principles herein exemplified are essential to the highest good and the final perfection of the entire family of intelligent beings, from the highest and holiest angel, down to the humblest of an earth-born race. Angels are Christ's messengers, ministering spirits to them that shall be heirs of salvation. Though to human vision behind the curtain, they are important actors on the great theatre-parts of the great prospective arrangement entered upon before the foundation of the world.
Nor is it enough that Christ has built the platform on which the august drama is to be acted, and fitted it up with every needed appendage, and formed all the actors, but the preservation and government of the whole is committed to his hands: "By him all things consist." "Who being the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person, upholds all things by the word of his power."
He is, too, the Governor of all he has made: "His throne is forever and ever." "Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands." "The government shall be upon his shoulders." "He is Lord of all things." Jesus says, "All power in heaven and earth is given to me." "I have the keys of death and hell. I shut and no one openeth; I open and no one shutteth."
To what a commanding position these few scattered declarations exalt Christ. He is the great Proprietor of all things, whether of this world, or the countless systems of worlds which occupy immeasurable space. He is the Author of all things, of men, of angels, of things visible and invisible. By his strong arm all are sustained. From the exhaustless storehouse of his riches all are supplied; and his sceptre is swayed over all the works of his hands.
Such is the Saviour to whom the Christian may come and repose an undying confidence. He may lean upon him as on a never-failing support. From this fountain of all blessedness he derives strength, grace, wisdom, all things needful either for the body or the soul, for time or eternity. What security the Christian has here! His hopes, his confidence is in the mighty One of Israel. What grounds of confidence have we here that all things shall work together for good to them that love God-to them who are the called according to his purpose. For if Christ be the Proprietor of all things, and have all needful power to exercise dominion over all things; and if it be his good pleasure -his eternal purpose-to bring all that put their trust in him to glory, all that make him their friend must be safe. He cherishes in us no delusive hope when he says, "I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any one pluck them out of my hands." Omnipotence is engaged for them. No power in the universe can frustrate the purposes of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And such, too, on the other hand, is the Saviour offered to the sinner. He is mighty to save--able to save to the utmost all that come to him-able to keep them from the evil that is in the world, and to present them faultless before the presence of the Father's glory-able to control all events for them in such a manner as shall bring them safe to heaven. He is just such a Saviour, or friend, as a sinner needs. But oh! what a fearful thing to have such a Being for an enemy. Suppose he were but a man, a kind, benevolent human monarch, clothed in supreme power, the owner of your property and lives, yet just and benevolent to all who should regard his will; would it not be dreadful to encounter such a potentate as your enemy? You would thereby forfeit all his favor-forfeit all your privileges under his rule, and you would engage his power, and his justice armed by his displeasure against you. You would be ruined. A dungeon and chains might be the portion of your cup. You might have basked in the sunshine of the royal favor, and shared in all the good that his vast power, and justice, and great benevolence could bestow. But you made him your enemy; you fell under his displeasure, and were crushed beneath his power. But how infinitely more dreadful to fall under the displeasure, and to be crushed beneath the power of Him who is able to destroy both