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wards him, and the importance of the dispensation by him.
« Our Lord,” says Mr. Lindsey (Sequel, p. 222,) “ without regarding the impertinent question of the Jews, goes on to confirm what he had before been saying concerning Abraham: 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am :' that is, You need not be surprised at what I have asserted of the great account Abraham made of me; for I assure you, that before Abraham himself was born I am he, or the Christ. Not that he actually existed before Abraham, but only in the destination and
appointment of God, to whom all live who are in any future time to be brought into being."
“ Jesus did not say,” says Dr. Priestley in his Note upon the Text, either that he had seen Abraham, or that Abraham had seen him, but only his day :' All that he meant . was, that as the future glory and happiness of the posterity of Abraham was connected with his kingdom, and that this had been intimated to Abraham, this kingdom of his must have been intended in the divine counsels before the time of Abraham. Christians are also said to be chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world; Eph. i. 4: though it is certain they had no being at that time. But in the eye of God, whatever is to be may be said already to exist. With him a thousand years are as one day, and one day as a thousand years."
" It was determined,” says Mr. Wakefield, in his Inquiry into the Opinions of Christian Writers, p. 129, “ in the counsels of Providence, before the ages, before Abraham was; that the Messiah should appear, that Jesus of Nazareth should be the Messiah. So the names of the true servants of God were written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, Rev. xii. 8; xvii. 8. Events determined are often spoken of in Scripture as already accomplished. Matt. xvii. 11; xxvi. 45. This manner of speaking, with a view to the pre-determinations of the Deity, was customary among the Jews. · Before the world was created the Lord Jehovah created the Law, he prepared the garden of Eden for the just. Targum of Jonathan on Gen. iii. 24.”
"In the conversation, of which this clause is a part,” says Mr. Simpson in his accurate Essay upon this Text, p. 112, “ Jesus says, 'Your father Abraham earnestly desired to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad.' This cannot signify that Abraham was alive while Jesus was speaking, or during any part of his ministry. The apostle
Paul will assist us in the interpretation of this passage. Gal. iii. 8, he says, ' The Scripture having foreseen that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, proclaimed before glad tidings to Abraham, saying, Through thee all nations shall be blessed.' Abraham's seeing the day of the Mes. siah, therefore, means only his having very general information of the previous divine purpose and appointment that the Messiah should descend from him. In like manner, the clause · Before Abraham was born, I was he,' signifies that previous to Abraham's existence God had appointed that Jesus should be the Messiah. Since every event from the beginning to the end of time, and throughout eternity, is present to the omniscient mind of the Deity, and since every thing which he appoints will certainly come to pass, his original appointments are represented in the language of Scripture as being actually fulfilled before the events really take place.” · In the explanation of this important text it was thought necessary to be thus particular, because it is in a great measure decisive of the whole controversy : for, if this declaration does not establish the pre-existence of Christ, no other passage can. And the impartial reader will consider whether, when our Lord had declared, “ Your father Abraham saw my day,” meaning thereby in prophetic vision; and when, immediately afterwards, he assigns as a reason, “ Before Abraham was born, I was he," it be not most reasonable, and most consistent with the connexion, to understand these words in the corresponding sense, not of real existence, but of existence in the divine purpose.
Further, As it appears to have been common with the sacred writers to represent persons and things as actually existing, which existed only in the divine counsels, it follows that wherever Christ or his glory is represented as existing previously to his appearance on earth, it may justly be understood of an existence in the divine purpose
and decree only, unless the connexion necessarily determines it to the contrary signification.
VIII. John xiii. 3. - Jesus knowing that he was come from God and went to God.” See No. VI.
He came from God as the messenger of his will to man. kind. See John i. 6. He was returning to God, having finished his embassy, to render an account of his mission.
Dr. Harwood (Soc. Sch. p. 45,) cites this text as de. cisive in favour of the pre existence of Christ. Dr. Clarke, with more judgement, appeals to it (Scrip. Doct. No. 51,) only as a proof of the inferiority of the Son.
John xvi. 28. “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world; again, I leave the world and go to the Father.” . It is here argued, that as the last clause clearly refers to a local ascent into heaven, so the first and corresponding clause ought in all reason to be understood of a prior local descent from the Father. Hence Arians and Trinitarians argue the pre-existence of Jesus Christ, and the Polish Socinians infer his ascent into heaven antecedently to his public appearance as a messenger from God.
On the other hand it has been urged, that's it is frequent with the best authors, and with the sacred writers in particular, when the same words are put in opposition to each other, to take the one in a literal, the other in a figurative sense. Matt. viii. 22, “Let the dead bury their dead.'” So Jesus came into the world in a figurative sense as a messenger from God; but he left the world and went to the Father literally and locally when he ascended into heaven. But it is better to take both clauses figuratively. As F 2
Jesus came into the world when he appeared in public as a messenger from God ; so, conversely, he left the world and returned to the Father when his mission closed, and he ceased to appear any longer as a public teacher 63.
. X. John xvii. 5. “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thy own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was."
]. This text is understood by many Trinitarians as a petition to the Father from our Saviour in his divine nature, requesting that his human nature might be assumed to a participation of those honours which the divine nature had from all eternity possessed. The truth of this hypothesis it would be useless tò discuss 64.
2. By the advocates for the pre-existence of Christ, this text is understood as a prayer to be restored to that dig
63 Slichtingius argues strenuously, from the opposition of the two clauses, the local ascent and descent of Christ. Wolzogenius, Grotius, and Mr. Lindsey, Comm. and Ess. vol. i. p. 395, contend for the figurative interpretation of the first, and the literal sense of the latter clause, It may be remarked, that in this text the Arians take both clauses in the same, i. e. the literal sense : and the Unitarians understand one literally, and the other figuratively. In John iii. 13, “ Who hath ascended up into heaven but he that came down from heaven ?" the Arians understand the first clause figuratively, and the second literally; whereas the Unitarians interpret both clauses figuratively. And surely it is always right to interpret the same words in the same sense, whether literal or figurative, where they occur in the same sentence, unless the connexion imperiously requires contrary. Upon this principle, the figurative interpretation of both clauses in the present case appears the most eligible.
(4« Nunc autem, O Pater, adsumnito hanc mortalem naturam ad participationem honoris et dignitatis et gloriæ, quâ antequam mihi hanc conjungerem naturam, ante creationem mundi, imo ab omni æternitate fruebar.” Hammond in loc.--" Declarat se nihil adventitium cupere, sed tantum ut appareat talis in carne, qualis fuit ante conditum mundum.” Calvin. - Dr. Whitby gives the same interpretation, which he supports by a quotation from Theophylact, “gry ανθρωπινης με φυσιν αγαγε εις την δοξαν, ην είχαν παρα σοι εγω hoyasi"