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before he was man was in heaven, and at his birth came down from heaven, but that the person who then spoke to the Jews, the Son of Man, the Man Christ Jesus, came down from heaven; and if we adopt a literal interpretation, we must further admit that at some period previous to his conversation with Nicodemus he actually was in heaven. As every thoughtful reader of the Scriptures must know, the word heaven greatly varies in its signification: sometimes it denotes the atmosphere, in which the clouds and mists are suspended, or the firmament in which the sun and stars appear to be fixed, or both together, the whole space surrounding our earth as far as the imagination can reach; sometimes it denotes a place permanently favoured with peculiar manifestations of the divine presence, the residence of superior and happy intelligences, or such a state without explicit or even implied reference to place; and sometimes again it denotes God himself. It has several other meanings, chiefly of a figurative kind, but the above include the principal of those which are literal. It is I think clear, that our Lord's being in heaven must refer to the period when, according to the Evangelist, he was with God, viz. at the beginning of his Ministry;" and we are, therefore, led to one of two suppositions, either that Jesus was carried up from this earth into a place called heaven, (in like manner as Paul, 2 Cor. xii. 1-4, was, really or in imagination, taken up to the third heaven, to paradise), or, that he was in heaven while in his mountainous abode in the desert, inasmuch as he was then with God, favoured with peculiar intercourse with him,

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peculiar manifestations of his presence, and peculiar intimations of his will. To the devout, the ardent and susceptible mind of Jesus, to be so with God, must be heaven itself. The former supposition best suits the phraseology in ch. vi. 62, because it refers it to place rather than state; but it is not countenanced by any thing which is recorded respecting the period of discipline and instruction which succeeded our Lord's baptism: the latter sufficiently well accords with that verse, if we allow that heaven may denote the state without reference to a specific place; and it is fully sanctioned by the fact, that at the period above mentioned Jesus was with God.

I would now appeal to the judgement of any candid person, whether phraseology, which, when taken completely literally, is in fact inconsistent with the doctrine of pre-existence, and which admits of a completely literal meaning entirely

q It is to be observed, that our Lord uses the phraseology in question only on two occasions, his conference with Nicodemus soon after the beginning of his ministry, and his conversation in the synagogue at Capernaum, probably a short time before his crucifixion. The Evangelist once uses some what corresponding phraseology in his remarks on the declaration of the Baptist, ch. iii. 31. Is it conceivable that they should have meant what is generally understood, and yet never speak of the supposed fact in plain unambiguous language, and so seldom even employ language founded upon it? Now, when it is recollected, r. that, in both the cases referred to, our Lord's language was highly figurative, and appparently intentionally so; 2. that he often speaks of God, as in heaven; and 3. that in several instances be uses the word heaven to denote God himself,——it may not appear in any way unnatural, unaccordant with his own phraseology (and certainly it was not with that of the Jews in general), to speak of himself as having been in beaver at that most important period when he was with Gid

independent of it, and involving no supposition in any degree so improbable as the incarnation of a pre-existent spirit, or in any degree inconsistent with the general tenor of the Scriptures, can be any proof of that doctrine. Though I regard the old Socinian opinion, that Jesus was actually removed from the earth to a place called heaven, as rendered improbable by the silence of the Evangelists, and by its being unnecessary to explain our Lord's words, yet it appears to me to have in every respect the advantage over the pre-existent scheme; it is perfectly accordant with the strictly literal meaning of our Lord's words, and with the general tenor of the N. T. as to the person of Christ; and it is not in opposition to any recorded fact:-and if no other explanation presented itself, I could not, therefore, hesitate for a moment to which to give a decided preference. But my own conviction is, that Jesus was properly speaking in heaven when he was with God; that, therefore, he went up into heaven when his peculiar intercourse with God began; that he came down from heaven when he came forth from God to discharge the great work which his Father, who is in heaven, had given him to do: -and if it be objected, that the expressions employed suppose local motion, I reply, that it is decidedly probable, that the spot where Jesus was with God was one of those very high rocky elevations with which the Desert abounds; but that, if Jesus considered himself as in heaven at the time he was with God, even though he referred only to state, he would naturally employ, when speaking

of that state, expressions which were commonly used in connexion with the word heaven.

I have been more particular in considering this phraseology, because I apprehend that it is what furnishes, among those at least who are satisfied with what is called the plain and obvious sense of Scripture, the chief support of the doctrine of preexistence; and yet in reality when accurately examined it affords no independent proof of it, and would scarcely suit it if proved. Difficulties it is admitted attend the other explanations; but as far as the phraseology itself is concerned, they are not greater than what attends the common interpretation; and, in point of consistency with the Scriptures, the others have the most striking superiority. The figurative meaning, and that which on the authority of the Evangelist I adopt, so much coincide with each other, that some may regard them as in reality the same; they have, however, a different foundation, and lead to somewhat different interpretations. In one respect they fully agree, they

It may be desirable to mention what I regard as the jast explanation of the respective passages, founded upon the above reference to the time when Jesus was with God.-Ch. iii. 13.

And no one hath been favoured with peculiar intercourse with God and acquaintance with His will, except him who came forth from God to declare His purposes to mankind, that is, the Son of Man, who still enjoys direct intercourse with God, and continual manifestations of His powerful approbation.' If the last clause be genuine, it may be considered as corresponding to ch. i. 51. Ye shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.' If it be said, that on this interpretation the first clause is not true, for Moses also was with the Lord, I reply, the same difficulty rests on the other schemes; Elijah ascended to hea


are each perfectly consistent with fact, and with the general tenor of the N. T., and the only point which gives my mind decision between them is, that that which appears to me to be a literal meaning, best accords with, and is best borne out by, the phraseology of the Scriptures.

As I have already, in p. 81 (a), considered the expression, root of Jesse or David, which occurs in Rom. xv. 12. Rev. v. 5. xxii. 16, and in No. 22, the appellation beginning, asyn, or chief of the creation of God, which occurs in Rev. iii. 14, (which, however, does not best class with the evidence for

ven, and Moses was made completely acquainted with the purposes of God as they respected the Jews.


Ch. ii. 31. Jesus spoke (vs. 3.) of the necessity of being born from above, avesy, denoting the spiritual and heavenly nature of that change which must be undergone by his disciple. The Evangelist uses the same adverb here; and appears to mean, He who comes from God invested with authority from God is superior to all; he who is not from God, manifests the origin of his teaching, and his words have not their requisite authority; he whose authority is divine, who comes from God, [is superior to all, and] testifieth what he hath seen and heard in his communications with God.'

Ch. vi. 38. • I came forth from peculiar intercourse with God, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent


Ch. vi. 62. Do ye revolt at this? if then ye should see the Son of Man ascending to Him with whom he was before, to the total extinction of all your hopes that the Christ would be a temporal prince? Yet, though what I have said displeases you, you might easily have known, that the principles which

inculcate, and which you must receive, are that which gives life; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words which I speak to you are spirit and are life.'

Ch. vi. 33, &c., in which our Saviour speaks of himself as the bread of life, appear so clearly to refer to his doctrine, (see p. 253,) which we all allow was from heaven, that is, from God, that, whatever be the meaning of the other passages, this figurative meaning is here decidedly preferable.

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