« ZurückWeiter »
which belongs unto the rest of the sons of God, that he may be clearly and fully acknowledged the only-begotten Son. For although to be born of a virgin be in itself miraculous, and justly entitles Christ unto the [title of the] Son of God; yet it is not so far above the production of all mankind, as to place him in that singular eminence, which must be attributed to the only-begotten. We read of “ Adam the son of God,” as well as “ Seth the son of Adam :" (Luke iii. 38.) and surely the framing Christ out of a woman cannot so far transcend the making Adam out of the earth, as to cause so great a distance as we must believe between the first and second Adam. Beside, there were many, while our Saviour preached on earth, whó did believe his doctrine, and did confess him to be the Son of God, who in all probability understood nothing of his being born of a virgin ; much less did they foresee his rising from the dead, or inheriting all things. Wherefore, supposing all these ways by which Christ is represented to us as the Son of God, we shall find out one more yet, far more proper in itself, and more peculiar unto him, in which no other son can have the least pretence of share or of similitude, and consequently in respect of which we must confess him the only-begotten.
To which purpose I observe, that the actual possession of his inheritance, which was our fourth title to his Sonship, presupposes his résurrection, which was the third : and his commission to his office, which was the second, presupposeth his generation of a virgin, as the first. But I shall now endeavour to find another generation, by which the same Christ was begotten, and consequently a Son before he was conceived in the virgin's womb. Which that I may be able to evince, I shall proceed in this following method, as not only most facile and perspicuous, but also most convincing and conclusive. First, I will clearly prove out of the Holy Scriptures, that Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, had an actual being or subsistence, before the Holy Ghost did come upon the Virgin, or the power of the Highest did overshadow her. Secondly, I will demonstrate from the same Scriptures, that the being which he had antecedently to his conception in the Virgin's womb, was not any created being, but essentially divine. Thirdly, We will shew that the divine essence which he had, he received as communicated to him by the Father. Fourthly, We will declare this communication of the divine nature, to be a proper generation, by which he which communicateth, is a proper Father, and he to whom it is communicated, a proper Son. Lastly, We will manifest that the divine essence was never communicated in that manner to any person but to him, that never any was so begotten besides himself; and consequently, in respect of that divine generation, he is most properly and perfectly the only-begotten Son of the Father.
As for the first, that Jesus Christ had a real being or exist
ence, by which he truly was, before he was conceived of the Virgin Mary, I thus demonstrate. He which was really in heaven, and truly descended from thence, and came into the world from the Father, before that which was begotten of the Virgin ascended into heaven, or went unto the Father, he had a real being or existence before be was conceived in the Virgin, and distinct from that being which was conceived in her. This is most clear and evident, upon these three suppositions not to be denied. First, That Christ did receive no other being or nature after his conception before his ascension, than what was begotten of the Virgin. Secondly, That what was begotten of the Virgin had its first being here on earth, and therefore could not really be in heaven till it ascended thither. Thirdly, That what was really in heaven, really was; because nothing can be present in any place, which is not. Upon these suppositions certainly true, the first proposition cannot be denied. Wherefore I assume; Jesus Christ was really in heaven, and truly descended from thence, and came into the world from the Father, before that which was begotten of the Virgin ascended into heaven, or went unto the Father; as I shall particularly prove by the express words of the Scripture. Therefore I conclude, that Jesus Christ had a real being or existence before he was conceived in the Virgin, and distinct from that being which was conceived in her. Now that he was really in heaven before he ascended thither, appeareth by his own words to his disciples; “ What and if you shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before ?” (John vi. 62.)* For he speaketh of a real ascension, such as was to be seen or looked upon, such as they might view as spectators. The place to which that ascension tended, was truly and really the heaven of heavens. The verb substantive, not otherwise used, sufficiently testifieth not a figurative but a real being, especially considering the opposition in the word before. Whether we look upon the time of speaking, then present, or the time of his ascension, then to come, his being or existing in heaven was before. Nor is this now at last denied, that he was in heaven before the ascension mentioned in these words, but that he was there before he ascended at all. We shall therefore farther shew that this ascension was the first; that what was born of the Virgin was never in heaven before this time of which he speaks: and being in heaven before this ascension, he must be acknowledged to have been there before he ascended at all. If Christ had ascended into heaven before his death, and descended from thence, it had been the most remarkable action in all his life, and the proof thereof of the greatest efficacy towards the disseminating of the Gospel. And can we imagine so divine an action, of so high concernment, could have passed, and none of the evangelists ever make mention of it? Those who are so diligent in the de
θεωρήτε asit came topass, βλεπόντων αυτών επήρθη, Acts i. 9. όπου ήν.
scription of his nativity and circumcision, his oblation in the Temple, his reception by Simeon, his adoration by the wise men; those who have described his descent into Egypt; would they have omitted his ascent into heaven? Do they tell us of the wisdom which he shewed, when he disputed with the doctors? And were it not worthy our knowledge, whether it were before he was in heaven or after? The diligent seeking of Joseph and Mary, and their words when they found him, “ Son, why hast thou dealt so with us?” (Luke ii. 48.) shew that he had not been missing from them till then, and consequently not ascended into heaven. After that he went down to Nazareth, and “was subject unto them:" (Luke ii. 51.) and I understand not how he should ascend into heaven, and at the same time be subject to them; or there receive his commission and instructions as the great legate of God, or ambassador from heaven, and return again unto his old subjection, and afterwards to go to John to be baptized of him, and to expect the descent of the Spirit for his inauguration. Immediately from Jordan he is carried into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, and it were strange if any time could then be found for his ascension : for“ he was forty days in the wilderness,” (Mark i. 13.) and certainly heaven is no such kind of place; he was all that time “with the beasts," who undoubtedly are none of the celestial hierarchy; and “tempted of Satan,” (Ibid.) whose dominion reacheth no higher than the air. Wherefore in those forty days Christ ascended not into heaven, but rather heaven descended unto him ; for “ the angels ministered unto him.” (Ibid.) After this he “ returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee,” (Luke iv. 14.) and there exercised his prophetical office: after which there is not the least pretence of any reason for his ascension. Beside, the whole frame of this antecedent or preparatory ascension of Christ is not only raised, without any written testimony of the word, or unwritten testimony of tradition, but is without any reason in itself, and contrary to the revealed way of our redemption. For what reason should Christ ascend into heaven to know the will of God, and not be known to ascend thither ? Certainly the Father could reveal his will unto the Son as well on earth as in heaven. And if men must be ignorant of his ascension, to what purpose should they say he ascended, except they imagine either an impotency in the Father, or dissatisfaction in the Son ? Nor is this only asserted without reason, but also against that rule to be observed by Christ, as he was anointed to the sacerdotal office. For the Holy of Holies “made with hands was the figure of the true (that is, heaven itself),” (Heb. ix. 24.) into which “ the high-priest alone went once every year:” (Ibid. 7.) and Christ as our high-priest “ entered in once into the holy place.” (Ibid. 12.) If then they deny Christ was a priest before he preached the Gospel, (Mark ii. 2.) then did he
not enter into heaven, because the high-priest alone went into the type thereof, the Holy of Holies. If they confess he was, then did he not ascend till after his death, because he was to. enter in but once, and that not without blood. Wherefore being Christ ascended not into heaven till after his death, be-, ing he certainly was in heaven before that ascension, we have sufficiently made good that part of our argument, that Jesus Christ was in heaven before that which was begotten of the Virgin ascended thither. Now that which followeth, will both illustrate and confirm it; for as he was there, so he de.. scended from thence before he ascended thither. This he often testifieth and inculcateth of himself: “ the bread of God is he, which cometh down from heaven; and, I am the living bread which came down from heaven.” (John vi. 33. 51.) He opposeth himself unto the manna in the wilderness, wbich: never was really in heaven, or had its original from thence. “ Moses gave you not that bread from heaven,” (John vi. 32.) but the Father gave Christ really from thence. Wherefore he saith, “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” (John vi. 38.) Now never any person upon any occasion is said to descend from heaven, but such as were really there before they appeared on earth, as the Father, the Holy Ghost, and the angels : but no man, however born, however sanctified, sent, or dignified, is said thereby to descend from thence; but rather when any is opposed to Christ, the opposition is placed in this very origination. John the Baptist was "filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb;" (Luke i. 15.) born of an aged. father and a barren mother, by the power of God: and yet he distinguisheth himself from Christ in this; “he that cometh from above is above all : he that is of the earth is earthy, and speaketh of the earth; he that cometh from heaven is above. all.” (John iii. 31.) Adam was framed immediately by God, without the intervention of man or woman : and yet he is so far from being thereby from heaven, that even in that he is distinguished from the second Adam. For “ the first ma is : of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.” (1 Cor. xv. 47.) Wherefore the descent of Christ from heaven doth really presuppose his being there, and that antecedently to any ascent thither. For “that he ascended, what is it, but that he also descended first?" (Eph. iv. 9.) So St. Paul, asserting a descent as necessarily preceding his ascension, teacheth us never to imagine an ascent of Christ as his first motion between heaven and earth; and consequently, that the first being or existence which Christ had, was not what he received by his conception here on earth, but what he had before in heaven, in respect whereof he was with the Father, from whom he came. His disciples believed that he “came out from God:" and he commended that faith, and confirmed. the object of it by this assertion: “I came forth from the
Father, and am come into the world ; again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.” (John xvi. 27, 28.) Thus, having by undoubted testimonies, made good the latter part of the argument, I may safely conclude, that being Christ was really in heaven, and descended from thence, and came forth from the Father, before that which was conceived of the Holy Ghost, ascended thither; it cannot with any show of reason be denied, that Christ had a real being and existence antecedent unto · his conception here on earth, and distinct from the being which he received here.
Secondly, We shall prove not only a bare priority of existence, but a pre-existence of some certain and acknowledged space of duration. For whosoever was before John the Baptist, and before Abraham, was some space of time before Christ was man. This no man can deny, because all must confess the blessed Virgin was first saluted by the angel six months after Elizabeth conceived, and many hundred years after Abraham died. But Jesus Christ was really existent before John the Baptist, and before Abraham, as we shall make good by the testimony of the Scriptures. Therefore it cannot be denied, but Christ had a real being and existence some space of time before he was made man. For the first, it is the express testimony of John himself'; “ This is he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me, is preferred before me, for he was before me.” (John i. 15.) In which words, first, he taketh to himself a priority of time, speaking of Christ, “he that cometh after me:” for so he came after him into the womb, at his conception; into the world, at his nativity; unto his office, at his baptism; always after John, and at the same distance. Secondly, He attributeth unto Christ a priority of dignity, saying, " he is preferred before me;" as appeareth by the reiteration of these words, “He it is who coming after me, is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.” (John i. 27.) The addition of which expression of his own unworthiness sheweth, that to be “
preferred before bim” is the same with being “worthier than he," to which the same expression is constantly added by all the other three evangelists. Thirdly, He rendereth the reason or cause of that great dignity which belonged to Christ, saying " for (or rather, because he was before me.” (John i. 15.) And being the cause must be supposed different and distinct from the effect, therefore the priority last mentioned cannot be that of dignity. For to assign any thing as the cause or reason of itself, is a great absurdity, and the expression of it a vain tautology. Wherefore that priority must have relation to time or duration (as the very tense, “ he was before me,' sufficiently signifieth), and so be placed in opposition to his coming after him. As if John the Baptist had thus spoken at large: 'This man Christ Jesus, who came into the world, and entered on his prophetical office six months after me, is not