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I. TIMOTHY III. 16.
“GOD WAS MANIFEST IN THE FLESH."
At the present awful crisis,* in the hour of overthrow of our ancient national system—at that very moment when the spirit of reform seems content with nothing short of general conciliation and equalization, requiring that in this chosen residence of pure Christianity, Papist, Jew, and Protestant shall have a place and equal rights; nay, even that time of vital change when a new oath must be devised for him who has so long been considered throughout the habitable world, as Defender of the true Faith—my selection of a subject for this discourse may seem strangely injudicious, if not absurd and unaccountable, to many of my
Clerical Brethren. Their feelings, on a late trying and truly mortifying occasion, have been openly, manifestly, and strongly declared ; and so deeply has conscience been interested in the question, that my belief is, such would have been the
* Alluding to the passing of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill.
case, had the whole bench of Bishops swerved to the left hand. It may be well thought-nay, very fairly concluded—that no choice of subject is left to the Public Preacher, at the present moment, and least of all to one called upon to address his Clerical Brethren on the state of the Church militant now on earth. The peril, now confessedly most awful and imminent, is certainly not that which might be averted or overthrown by an able exposition of the Text.
The Successor of St. Peter—that insatiably ambitious Potentate-cannot be charged with a denial of the divinity of Christ. He rather allows not his human nature-making him a God entire—and no part man—by offering up divine honours and worship to the wife of Joseph, his Mother in the flesh.
But permit me to shrink from the great undertaking,—from a call so importunate and almost irresistible,-not, however, from any conscious inability to maintain so good, so clear, so strong an argument, but from a hope that in resigning the important task, it will be left to an abler and more practised Championto one, who has already tried his armour in the lists of the Lord.
If, however, I do not obey that Call, which, far above all others, may be deemed the most urgent and imperious; yet cannot it be objected, that the one to which it is my
wish to transfer your attention is unimportant, or without considerable present interest: for it respects the doctrine of a leading article of our faith,—one, too, which has been much and bitterly opposed and controverted by a host of modern Sceptics and Sectarians.
May the Spirit and Grace of God lend me their precious aid,-guide me in the right path of argument,-prevent every false conclusion, and what in me is dark, illumine!!
My view of the subject now before me is capable of being exhibited in few words. It is this :- If, during Christ's ministry on earth, there was an evident display of the Godhead; if the Divinity was apparent and effulgent even in the tabernacle of the flesh, well may we then believe the Sacred Writers, when they assure us, that he was with God before the world existed; and that now he is on the right hand of his Father in heaven. My assumption is, that this may easily be done ; and not only so, but that, if no previous idea had prevailed of an over-ruling power or Deity, Christ must have brought this light into the world, as well as life and immortality.
My object, then, in this discourse, is not so much to prove the existence of the Deity in the person of our Saviour, or that Christ was God, as to show that, if no previous idea of a divine power had by any means been communicated to mankind, the ministry on earth of our blessed Saviour would of itself have been sufficient to proclaim the Godhead. “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him ?”.
66 Was it ever done after this fashion ?” “ Did ever man speak like this man ?”—are all of them exclamations, which, considering the works that he performed, and the authority with which he spake, might well be expected from every beholder and hearer,—from all who had eyes to see, ears to hear, or an understanding to reflect and reason upon such an immense and wonderful display of power, proceeding from one who had the appearance and form of a man. With those who were not unacquainted with this great fundamental truth, though in a sadly and shockingly disguised state, the immediate conclusion would have been, not merely that Christ was God, but the very greatest, the Supreme Head and Ruler of their Pantheon. This may fairly be inferred, and, on the strength of an'a fortiori argument, drawn from the New Testament. But they who had lived without God in the world, without any notion of a Creator, Preserver, and Controller of the Universe, who had never seen or heard of a miracle, must have been still more astonished ; and not having a Jupiter or Mercurius to be reininded of, would have contemplated, with still greater amazement, works surpassing human power, and which, therefore, must have been performed by one who was more than man; or, in other words, -God, or a commissioned agent of God; proving in either case the existence of a Deity.
" What manner of man is this ?” was a very natural question among those who were eye-witnesses of the stupendous miracles of Jesus Christ; and it is by a very similar question (what manner of work is this ?) that the existence of a God is proved by the Philosopher, ethical or religious, of the present or past ages. The being and perfections of the Author are argued and established on the strong ground, that the work is such, that no finite power or wisdom_none of which man can form a conception—are sufficient for its accomplishment. The utmost wisdom, strength or ingenuity of man-nay, all united are inadequate to the formation of any the meanest reptile, or of simplest construction ;-how much more so to the Creation of this globe,—the Universe, and all therein contained ? Nay, where is there among the sons of men, notwithstanding their wonder-working arts, one who can produce out of nothing a particle of vile and worthless chaff ?- Vile and worthless did I say? but only so to be called when it has performed its heavenly-appointed office,— when it has ceased to be a shield and protection to the staff of human life ?