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Catholic and Apostolic church from the earliest times, the consent of the Fa-
In the primitive times, those who had died for religion were held in great
Protestants have, with good reason, rejected the notion of angelical and human intercessors. There is not one word in the Scriptures to favour it, or rather it is expressly condemned by them. The worship of angels is one of the corruptions against which Paul warns us, in the Epistle to the Colossians;
• Concil. Trident. Decreta, Sess. xxv. de invocatione, &c. VOL. II.-12
and still less, surely, is religious honour to be given to the saints, who are of an inferior nature. The pretended practice of the church from the earliest ages, (I call it pretended, because the practice was unknown in the primitive times, the consent of fathers and the decrees of councils, are lighter than vanity in the estimation of those who consider human authority as of no value in matters of religion, and weigh all doctrines in the balance of the sanctuary. “ To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
It is unnecessary to add any other argument against this doctrine, besides the want of scriptural authority ; but we may observe, that the intercession of the saints presupposes that they hear our prayers, and are acquainted with our circumstances. But this is a gratuitous assumption. How can Papists prove that the saints in heaven know what is passing upon earth? To us it should seem, that being creatures limited in their powers, and confined to a particular place, they cannot, in a world so distant from ours, see what is done and hear what is spoken by men. The doctrine under consideration imports that they are omnipresent or omniscient; for how could the blessed virgin, for example, otherwise have any knowledge of the prayers which are addressed to her at the same time in ten thousand places, and it may be by millions of individuals? To say that the saints see all things in God, must mean, if it have any meaning, that they are endowed with the gift of omniscience, or at least that God reveals to them what he knows; that is, when men pray to the saints, God informs them that they are praying, and what are their desires, and thus qualifies them to be their intercessors. But where is the proof? For all this we have no evidence, except the authority of the infallible church, the mother of lies and all abominations.
It has been said, that it is as lawful to ask the saints in heaven, as the saints upon earth, to pray for us. Between the two cases, however, there is this difference, that we have a command in the one case, but none in the other; that the saints on earth hear us, while we have reason to think that those in heaven do not; that we do not pray to the saints upon earth, but merely request them; and that we do not consider them as intercessors in the sense of the Roman church, but simply as friends who will join with us in supplication to him who is the hearer of prayer. We use no such form as the following, but look upon it as in the highest degree impious, although it is found among the prayers of the Antichristian church : Let the intercession of such a person, we beseech thee, O Lord, recommend us, that what we cannot obtain by our own merits, we may procure by his patronage.”
I would ask the abettors of this idolatrous worship, Why should the saints intercede for us? Is it because Jesus Christ has not interest enough with his Father to obtain for us the blessings which we need ? This, I presume, they will not dare to affirm, in the face of the express declaration, that he is able, by his intercession, to save us to the uttermost? Is it because he is so great that we may not venture upon an immediate approach to him? This notion is contrary to his own invitation to come to him, which is accompanied with a promise of rest to our souls. Is it because the saints are more nearly allied to us, being men like ourselves ? The supposition is false, because our High Priest is also a man, bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, and has had full experience of our infirmities. Is it because the saints are more disposed to sympathise with us? Here also they err to their own ruin, and the dishonour of our Redeemer, who as much excels all angels and all men in love and pity, as in dignity. “We have not a High Priest who cannot be touched with a feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted as we are."
• Heb. iv, 15.
Upon him alone, therefore, we will depend, and say, in opposition both to Popish and to Pagan idolatry, which are indeed substantially the same, with only a change of names, " Though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him ; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him."* And if somne men will still put their trust in beings, great in power, it is acknowledged, and elevated to the highest honours, but less than nothing when compared with Him upon whom we rely, we will add, “ Their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.”+
CHRIST'S STATE OF HUMILIATION.
Distinction between the Condescension and Humiliation of Christ.-Circumstances of Humi
liation; in his Birth, his Subjection to the Law, the Events of his Life, his Death, and his Burial.—Opinions respecting his “ Descent into Hell.”
There are two states in which our Redeemer may be viewed, very different in themselves, but both necessary to the execution of his offices.
The one exhibits him humbled and abased; the other exhibits him exalted and glorified. 'The first was not expected by the Jews, for reasons well known, and formerly mentioned. Their notions were natural to men who, disregarding the Scriptures, or attending to those parts of them alone which were congenial to their feelings and inclinations, permitted imagination to fill up the general outline of the character of the Messiah, as the deliverer of the people of God. What, indeed, should any man have expected when he first heard of the descent of the Son of God to the earth, but that he would appear in circumstances corresponding to his native dignity, and be revealed to mortal eyes by the rays of his Godhead, giving splendor to the veil of humanity which attempered his glory to our weakness ?' Might it not have been expected that his advent would be signalised by signs in heaven, and signs on earth ; that the celestial spirits would wait upon him in a visible form; that princes and kings would lay their crowns and sceptres at his feet; that all the tribes of mankind, and in particular the nation of the Jews, would welcome him with shouts of joy and triumph; and that now, if upon any occasion, the words of prophecy would receive a literal fulfilment, that seas, and mountains, and forests, would break out into a universal chorus of praise? “But God's thoughts are not as our thoughts." Our Saviour did not come unnoticed to all the world, though but few were apprised of the arrival of the illustrious visitant. A great part of his life was spent in privacy and obscurity ; when he came forward upon the public stage, he had to encounter the contempt and ridicule of the majority of his countrymen, and his short career terminated in ignominy and blood. All this, although foretold by the prophets, had been overlooked by the Jews, and hence the bitter disappointment which they felt, and the scorn with which they rejected his claims : " How can this man save us !"
The design of this Lecture is to trace the several steps of his humiliation.
of Christ; the former consisting in the assumption of our nature, and the lat. ter in his subsequent abasement and sufferings. The reason why the assump: tion of our nature is not accounted a part of his humiliation, is, that he retains it in his state of exaltation. The distinction seems to be favoured by Paul, who represents him as first “ being made in the likeness of men,” and then “ when he was found in fashion as a man, humbling himself, and becoming obedient to the death of the cross."* Perhaps this is a more accurate view of the subject; but it has not been always attended to by Theological writers, some of whom have considered the incarnation as a part of his humiliation. As we have already spoken of the incarnation, it is not necessary to settle the propriety of introducing it at present.
Jesus Christ did not bring his assumed nature from heaven, as some have dreamed, affirming that the Virgin was merely the conduit or channel through which it passed; nor was it formed like the body of Adam, out of the dust of the ground. It was, indeed, miraculously conceived ; but it was composed, like the body of every human being, of the substance of his mother. He was literally “bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh.” Had his nature not been derived from the same stock with ours, but only resembled it, there would not have been such a relation between us as should have rendered his mediation available for our good. If it was necessary that the precepts of the law, which we had violated, should be fulfilled, and its penalty should be executed, the surety must be one of ourselves, that his obedience and sufferings might be so far accounted ours, as to be imputed to us for our justification. Now, there was only one way in which he could be a partaker of our nature, namely, by being conceived and born of a woman; and surely it was the first step of his humiliation, that he submitted to a process by which, though all things were created by him, he was placed upon a level with his own creatures. He thus became a child, which, although it possesses all the elements of our nature, is considered as an imperfect being, because its faculties are in a dormant state ; and, although destined afterwards to display the powers of intellect, it differs only in shape from the young of the irrational tribes. As we have no reason to suppose that, at this period, there was any other distinction between him and other infants, except his exemption from the taint of original sin, we may say that, when he was born, he knew not into what place he had come, was capable only of those sensations which every living being must feel as soon as it comes into contact with external objects, without being able to reflect upon them, and was helpless and entirely dependent upon others. Let us remember, that we are describing the state of him who is now King of kings,” and “ Lord of lords,” and was then “God over all blessed for ever." The apostle Paul, when speaking of this subject, makes use of a very strong expression, imutov S2E@Te, which our translators have rendered with a licence in which they have rarely indulged : “ He made himself of no reputation;" while they ought to have said, “ He emptied himself.”+ It is evident that Paul does not mean that he divested himself of his glory literally, but only economically; that is, he as effectually concealed it as if he had laid it entirely aside. No trace of Divine perfections could be seen in a new-born child. He who is greater than all, appeared in the lowest stage of human existence.
In addition to the circumstance of his birth, let us attend to the meanness of his condition. Judging according to our ideas of fitness, we might have expected that he would be the son of a mighty princess; that the place of his birth would be a magnificent palace; and that the king and the nobles of Judea would be assembled to receive, with every demonstration of reverence and joy, this wonderful child, whose career would be so glorious, and whose future
empire would extend over heaven and earth. But this expectation was not realised in a single particular. There were, indeed, some circumstances which shed a transient splendour on his birth, as the appearance of angels, who announced it to the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem, and the visit of the eastern Magi, who, conducted by a miraculous star, came to adore him, and to present their gifts. God would not permit his Son to come into the world altogether unnoticed ; and, in his deepest abasement, he bore testimony to him whom men despised, by signs and wonders. But, in every other respect, nothing could be more lowly than his entrance upon this earthly scene. His mother, indeed, was a descendant from the family which once swayed the sceptre in Jerusalem ; but this was only a nominal honour, which did not protect her and her offspring from the contempt with which poverty is regarded by the world. It is an empty homage which is paid to the children of kings, who, for ages, have ceased to reign; and the honours of blood are forgotten when all their former glory is obscured by the meanness of their present condition. Mary was a woman in the most humble rank of society ; and her husband was a mechanic, who earned his bread by the labour of his hands. The most illustrious female, it is true, was unworthy to be the mother of the Son of God, and her station would have reflected no dignity upon him ; but we must judge, at present, by a human standard, and, in this view, he humbled himself, when he stooped to be born of the wife of a carpenter.
Conformable to the lowly station of his mother, was the place where he first drew the breath of life. He was born in Bethlehem, that prophecy might be fulfilled; but Bethlehem was not the chief city of the kingdom. among
the thousands of Judah, celebrated, indeed, as the city of David, but a small town at some distance from the capital. In Bethlehem, although the city of David, his illustrious Son did not meet with an honourable reception. When Joseph and Mary arrived there, it was so crowded with strangers, who had assembled in obedience to the decree of the emperor, to be enrolled, that there was no room for them in the inn. They, therefore, took up their residence in a stable ; and there was he brought forth who was to rule over the house of Jacob for ever. In this obscure manner did he make his appearance upon earth. No person knew who he was but his parents, and a few shepherds who had received information from a heavenly messenger, Others, who might accidentally hear of the event, would consider him as the lowest of the low, on account of the humble circumstances of his parents, and the unusual place of his nativity. Who would have thought of searching for the Redeemer of Israel, and the Son of the Most High, in an out-house appropriated to the use of cattle? Who would have supposed, if he had by chance seen an infant lying in a manger, and attended by two unknown individuals, that this was he of whose advent and glory prophets had spoken in strains of enraptured eloquence? Who could have recognised in this unpromising form, the Saviour of the human race, the future Judge of angels and men ?
“When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.”* Attend to the important fact, that he was made under the law, for it was an eminent part of his humiliation, and, at the same time, accounts for the other particulars in which it consisted. You will perhaps ask, how he could be humbled by subjection to the law, since this is the necessary condition of all men, and all angels; and it is the glory as well as the happiness of a creature, to obey his Creator? It is not enough to say, that his humiliation appears from the consideration, that he of whom we speak was more than a creature, and, in his Divine person, was above the law; for, although his subjection to it was the act of his person, as were all his media
Gal. iv. 4.