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it, if a prayer, as a prayer to God, to Him whom Paul styles the only God, and the God of Jesus Christ.-2 Thess. ii. 16, 17: Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and our God and Father who hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope by His grace,' or gracious gift (of Gospel blessings), comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.' The intervening clause shows in what way God had granted everlasting comfort and hope to the Apostle, viz. by the gift of the Gospel; and the passage may only mean, May the blessed influences of the Gospel of Jesus comfort and strengthen you! If, however, it imply that our Saviour, by means of those powers which were intrusted to him, sometimes influenced the minds of his followers in a supernatural way, it contains a devout wish that the Thessalonians might have such supernatural supplies of strength and consolation; but in that case it cannot be used in the present day, without scriptural evidence, that Jesus now exercises those powers. It does appear to me, that this and some other passages refer to those peculiar interpositions by which Jesus, agreeably to the authority given him, directed the concerns of the church in the Apostolical age: see 1 Cor. i. 7, 8. Eph. iv. 11. 1 Thess. iii. 11. John xiv. 13, 14. Phil. ii. 9, 24. 1 Tim. i. 12. (and p. 199). If it do, it affords no ground to believe that such interpositions continue: they may, but we have no proof of them; and we therefore are not justified in employing any language which implies them.-Be the precise import, however, of this devout wish of the Apostle what it will, it is not prayer to Jesus, and in no way au
thorizes prayer to Jesus, and that is all which immediately concerns my purpose.
I have now, I believe, noticed all the modes of expression, and every essential passage, which can be considered as in any way authorizing the divine worship of Jesus; and when I consider that there is not one precept in favour of it, not one certain example of prayer to Jesus, not one instance of the direct address of praise to him when not sensibly present, it appears to me almost incredible, that the express, unambiguous, and continual directions of the Old Testament, the express and unambiguous declarations and uniform example of our Saviour himself, and the precepts and practice of the Apostles, have not prevented thinking and conscientious persons from offering religious worship to any being except Him respecting whom our Saviour himself says, THOU SHALT WORSHIP THE LORD THY GOD, AND TO HIM ONLY SHALT THOU PAY RELIGIOUS SERVICE*.'
* I cannot forbear subjoining to this section, the following impressive passage from the Discourse mentioned in p. 207, note (2). "A passage in the Communion Service of the Established Church expresses our convictions, and prescribes the course that in conscience we ought to pursue. It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty and Everlasting God.' This is a sentence worthy of a Christian assembly, breathing the spirit of prophets and apostles: but it almost surpasses belief, that to this admirable prayer there is attached in the rubric a direction, that "These words, Holy Father, must be omitted on Trinity Sunday.' Unholy day! that requires that the knee should not then bow to the only true God! Unchristian doctrine! that, for the sake of consistency, prohibits the disciples of Jesus from complying with the plainest, the most solemn, the most frequently repeated of the divine injunctions,-from glorifying God, even he Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!" Vindication, p. 24.
Consideration of the Passages which are supposed to prove the PRE-EXISTENCE of our Lord.
This doctrine supposes a circumstance altogether miraculous, and what, from the very nature of the case, could only be known by express revelation. As the simple pre-existence is not held in connexion with the doctrine of vicarious sufferings, few, probably, of its advocates consider it as of any importance in the Christian scheme of salvation (see p. 18); and those must surely allow, that its importance depends upon its being known. The question then is, whether this doctrine is explicitly and distinctly declared in the N. T.; and if not, whether there are any passages which so far imply it, that they cannot receive an adequate explanation accordant with the opinion, that Jesus was a man in the usual sense of the term.
Now it deserves to be well considered, that if Jesus were a being who existed in a state of great glory and happiness before his human birth, and was then united with a human frame, (which is the doctrine of pre-existence,) then he was not truly and properly man1; and, consequently, every pas
n I do not think it necessary to enter into the question how far a being not human, could become truly inan, because our convictions respecting it must ultimately depend upon revelation. But if the Hartleyan doctrine of association be well founded, and the whole system of internal feelings, whether intellectual ideas, or affections, arise from the relicts of sensations variously connected or blended together by that ever-active
sage in which he is called man, and every expression and reasoning apparently founded upon his being man, must be understood figuratively. Admitting the doctrine of the simple humanity of our Lord, a very small number of passages must be interpreted figuratively; but, on the other hand, various plain and direct expressions and reasonings, and the whole tenor of the narratives of his ministry, are to be taken in their literal and obvious sense: admitting the doctrine of the pre-existence, some of those few passages may be taken literally; but then those plain and direct expressions and reasonings (to say nothing of the whole tenor of the narratives of our Lord's ministry) must be taken in a figurative sense. The one doctrine I allow is not without difficulties; but they are few, and I think light: those which affect the other are very numerous, as well as great;
principle, and if, what is indisputably the fact, sensations do not affect and modify the internal system of a man as they affect and modify that of an infant or a youth, then it follows, either, I, that the pre-existent being possessed a human system of thought and affection before his human birth, which is inconsistent with every supposition; or, 2, all the peculiarities of the pre-existent being, even to his very consciousness of pre-existence, must have been annihilated, when he became susceptible of sensations by means of a human body; or, 3, he could not, when that body came to maturity of growth, have possessed an internal system of ideas and affections similar to that of man. No other case seems possible; and of these the last must, I should suppose, be preferred; and if so, every passage of the N. T. which represents our Saviour as acting, feeling, and thinking as a man, is to be regarded as a direct argument against the doctrine of pre-existence; and though an express declaration of Jesus or an Apostle would of course outweigh this inference, yet till such express declaration is produced, I must consider the doctrine of simple pre-existence as totally destitute of adequate evidence.
I must say that to myself they appear insurmountable.
In the examination of those passages which are thought to favour the doctrine of pre-existence, I shall chiefly follow the order of the Table, p.86-91: and I here beg leave to call the attention of the reader to the table, in order that they may give its due weight to the circumstance, that of the eight Apostles or Evangelists whose writings are contained in the N. T., five, (viz. Matthew, Mark, Luke, James, and Jude,) have said nothing which in any way refers to this supposed fact, though the first three have written the history of our Lord's ministry, and, as is generally supposed, two of them an account of his birth; and that of the remaining three, (viz. Peter, John, and Paul,) Peter, if he at all refer to it, (No. 60,) does so very obscurely, and Paul, though he may be thought by many to speak less obscurely, no where either asserts the fact, or employs language necessarily implying the truth of it, (see No. 60-68.) Is it conceivable, that such a fact should be unknown to any of the N.T. writers? or that, if known, any should have omitted to mention it expressly and unambiguously? That the writings of John in no way declare this fact I hope to show; and I refer to this striking scantiness of evidence, to lead our readers to my own conclusion, that obscure or ambiguous passages, seeming to imply this doctrine, ought, if it can be done justly, to be explained by such as are clear and unambiguous, -and that the language of one Apostle ought not, unnecessarily, to be interpreted so as to oppose the plain and obvious meaning of the rest.