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The Doctrine stated, and the Scriptures considered which plainly express or strongly imply it.
THE holy soul of the christian views with peculiar pleasure the extensive powers vested in JESUS his REDEEMER. He delights in the contemplation of that sacred doctrine which CHRIST taught his disciples concerning his authority over all things, and his interest in the church, to which he was related by the most ancient, sacred, and indissolvable engagements. When he says "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth," what an extensive view of future consolation opens to the gracious mind, which strengthens his faith, increases his love, raises his joy, and perfects his hopes? It must be pleasant as well as astonishing to coutemplate how far the glorified soul of our exalted LORD in union to, and under the conduct of the divine nature may be concerned in the government of the world, the management of providence, and the general judgment at last. This consideration yields comfort, and invites our faith to look forward to the blessed day of the resurrection, and is pregnant with holy pleasure and expectation. And if we study the scriptures with care and impartiality, and look backward to the beginning of things, we may see early glories attending his sacred person, which, perhaps, we never duly thought of before.
By a careful search into the divine word of GOD, we will find it revealed with, perhaps, unexpected evidence, that the glorious human soul of our Lord Jesus Christ had an existence, and was united to the divine nature, long before it came to dwell in flesh and blood:-that by this glorious person, JEHOVAH managed all the affairs of his ancient church as his own supreme minister, and as the great Mediator and King of his people—and tha at a certain appointed period of time, GoD sen. down this blessed soul, willingly divested of primitive glories, to take flesh in the womb of a virgin, to dwell in the body of an infant, and grow by degrees to the perfection of a man,-in that body to suffer innumerable indignities from men and devils, -to sustain intense agonies from unknown manifestations of the wrath of GOD against sin, and at last yield his body to death and the grave.-By finding such doctrine clearly contained in revelation, a new lustre will spread over our former ideas of the glory of CHRIST, even in his human nature, and add to our wonder at the amazing condescension of our dear LORD considered as EMANUEL our SAVIOR. Besides, it will make the book of GOD, which contains the whole scheme of our salvation, more intelligible to all such as delight in the knowledge of christian doctrines:-and will render the sacred volume much more defensible against those men who either doubt or deny the blessed doctrines contained therein, concerning JESUS CHRIST Our LORD.
I know no denomination of professed christians, but those called Socinians, who deny that CHRIST had an existence previous to his incarnation. And among these who believe his pre-existence, there is this difference in general, that on one side it is maintained that nothing of CHRIST existed before he appeared in flesh but his pure Deity,
created, as the Arians say, uncreated, as the orthodox affirm. But others believe that CHRIST's human soul existed in union with Deity, even before the creation of the world.--Among the last I acknowledge myself to be one, and am fully persuaded that the sentiment is amply supported by the plain sense of many texts in revelation, and in not a few expressed in plain words.
I shall not here stay to prove that CHRIST had an existence before he appeared in flesh, this would be to engage with the Socinians, and carry us too far from the present purpose: let such as would be satisfied on that head consult the texts cited in the margin.*. But shall rather proceed immediately to the consideration of these texts in which we think the doctrine of the pre-existence of CHRIST'S human soul,† is either strongly expressed or implied.
* John i. 1, 3, 14. xii. 41. iii. 13. viii. 38. i. 15. iii. 30, 31. vi. 33, 38, 51, 62. xvi. 23. xvii. 5. 1 Cor. xv. 47. x. 9. 2 Co viii. 9. Phil. ii. 6, 7. Col. i. 15. Heb. i. 2. 1 John iv. 2, 3. Rev. iii. 14.
Though the terms pre-existence, human soul, and creature nature, used in this treatise, be not literally scripture words, yet the meaning of them is so plain, and consistent with the doctrine of scripture concerning Jesus Christ, that it will be only such as want to find faults who will censure them. But if the rigid critic will have them rejected, because not scripture terms-he must for the same reason, reject the terms human nature, reasonable soul, &c. and what will then become of all the systems concerning the person of Christ? The terms Jesus Christ, which certainly imply his human nature, would have been only used, had it not been necessary to distinguish betwixt his divine and human natures, which are both included in his name JESUS CHRIST. Therefore such terms as human soul, creature nature, are used to convey the idea of his human nature only, when that nature only is the subject of enquiry. I know the doctrine is under reproach, of which the defenders must be content to partake, and in derision is called the PRE-EXISTENT SCHEME: but it is certain, that he who takes such liberties, is either a Socinian, or he knows not what he says. For none but Socinians deny that Jesus Christ existed before he was
The words of CHRIST himself in his prayer,* are plainly to this purpose," I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." Here CHRIST declares that he parted with a glory which he had before he came in flesh, and prays to have it restored. If nothing but his divine nature existed before, that could not empty or divest itself of any glory: therefore it must be his inferior nature, or his human soul, which did thus exist and divest itself of its ancient glory for a time, to do the work which God had given him to do on earth.
Now it could not be the divine nature that parted with this glory, either essential or manifestative. The first is the very nature of GOD, and can neither be lost nor lessened; it could not be the other, as it did not exist before any creatures to manifest it to. And though it should be supposed that there might be angels before the world to whom the glory of Deity might be manifested, yet that was not parted with when CHRIST came in flesh, and therefore could not be the glory to be restored, because angels continued to glorify him,—they worshipped him,† and on various occasions ministered to him as their sovereign. Therefore it must follow that the human nature existed, and had a glory before the world: for we cannot suppose it would pray for a glory it never had.
born of the virgin: and the very names as necessarily imply the existence of the human nature as of the divine, otherwise we could make no sense or application of the terms Jesus Christ in the economy of man's salvation. Take out the consideration of Christ's human nature, and consider pure Deity only, and you destroy the whole plan of man's redemption from its contrivance to its consummation.
* John xvii. 4, 5.
+ Heb. i. 6.
How forced and unnatural is the sense which the Socinians are obliged to put upon this text, viz. That the human nature prays for a glory which it had in the eternal counsels and decrees of GOD. But in this sense all the elect had a glory before the world, as well as CHRIST, and therefore such an interpretation is void of reason and common sense. All interpreters of this text who would not admit the pre-existence of CHRIST's human soul, have been puzzled to find any tolerable sense to it.* But how easy and plain is the sense if supposing the soul of JESUS CHRIST to be the "first-born of every creature," and to enjoy real glory and dignity in the presence of God before the world was, as well as in the following ages, till he voluntarily emptied himself of it at his incarnation, and having done his work, he prays-" Father, I have finished the work on earth, which thou gavest me to do in my humiliation here; and now, O Father, take me to thyself in heaven, where I once was, and glorify me with the real glory which I had there before the creation: my days of appointed abasement are past, therefore let the power and splendor which I possessed in thy presence before the world was, be restored to me."
A very old divine who would never grant the truth of CHRIST'S pre-existing soul, fortified himself against it by every mean he could use in the art of criticism, of which he was very capable. His manuscript containing critical notes on the texts used in favor of the doctrine is before me; in which I find a great deal of human learning,-the great scholar and the critic; but no conclusive arguments against the reality of the doctrine. When he comes to consider this text, weakness and perplexity are visible in his opposition to it: nay, even contradiction to his own received opinions in doctrine. It is hard, if not impossible to get free of the force of evidence in this text, without giving up several other received truths. Something of this kind being pointed out to this learned minister, seems to be above the power of criticism to reconcile, as he has not attempted it, nor gone any further with his observations than this text; which may be properly called the ne plus ultra of all who oppose the doctrine of Christ's pre-existent soul.