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Deity, is able to say, he was dead and is alive; who, therefore, demands by all considerations of reverence, gratitude, and love, thy most attentive audience, and most obedient regard."
The same glories, which this text mentions, are given to Christ in Rev. 1. 8, and also in the 11th verse; but, as the first passage is applied by our opponents to the Father, and the second is not in the Greek manuscripts, and is given up by Griesbach as a spurious reading; I have chosen the eighth verse of the second chapter for my text at this time; because no objections can be made to its authenticity. It is as full in its testimony to our Lord's supreme Deity, as the other passages that I have passed by; or as any text in the New-Testament can possibly be. The words before us shall now be considered as a solemn declaration of the Supreme Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. After this proposition shall have been proved and illustrated, the text will be applied to the passages whose authenticity is contested by our adversaries.
I. It is to be shewn, that the text in view is an express and solemn declaration of the Supreme Deity of Christ. No other sense can be consistently given to these expressions-"The first and the last." If Jesus Christ be the first, then we may rest assured, that there was no other being before Him: and if He be the last, no other being can succeed Him, or live when He is no more. It may be truly said of Him, as it is of the Almighty-"Thou art from everlasting, to everlasting: and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations." Saying that Christ is "the first and the last," is roundly asserting the proper eternity of His existence. The Almighty speaks repeatedly of himself in the same manner. He saith-"Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last." Isa. 47. 12. "I am
the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God." Chap. 44. 6. No prophet-no apostle-no mere creature except Christ, if he be one, ever said, "I am the first and the last; I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death." Rev. 1. 18. This is a similar declaration to the one contained in our text; being only a little more amplified. Should any created being express himself in our hearing in such a manner, we certainly should be as greatly shocked as the Jews were, when Jesus said in their hearing-"I and my Father are one."
Rev. 1. 17, 18, is a little varied by Griesbach in phraseology and punctuation; but its sense is completely retained. As the passage has an important relation to the subject in hand, it will now be stated as it appears in his Greek Testament. He makes it read thus-"I am the first and the last, and the living one: and I was dead; and behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death." Allowing this to be the most correct reading of the text, it is as fully in our favor as the English translation. It is on these words-"The first and the last," that my reliance is placed; and they are completely retained by Griesbach, with such expressions, as sufficiently show that they are spoken of Jesus Christ. "The first and the last," denote a proper eternity, and involve the idea of self existence and independence, which things cannot be said of any other being, but the Supreme God. There is not a circumstance in the text, which is the theme of this discourse, nor in the parallel one that has been quoted, that goes to show, that we may understand the expressions-"The first and the last," with any limitation, or in any sense different from Isa. 44. 6, and 48. 12. In Rev. 22. 13, Christ repeats the eternity of his own existence three times; saying, "I am Alpha
and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." The authenticity of this passage is not called in question; neither can its application to the Son of God be very easily denied. The same Being saith in the preceding verse-" Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his works shall be.". We know that it is Christ, who shall descend from heaven and judge angels and men. This might be proved from many direct testimonies. It is impossible that such expressions should be so repeatedly applied to Jesus Christ, unless he is like his Father, "from everlasting to everlasting."
The proper Divinity of the Redeemer, might be proved from many other testimonies; but as the text leads us only to this, no other arguments, at present, will be urged. This as completely settles the point in view, as an exhibition of all the evidence which arises from other considerations. God only is the "first" of all beings; and, if Christ be the "first," then He is truly God. The eternity of his being, and consequently, Deity, have been amply supported from our text, and the parallel passages which have been mentioned.
To show, however, that the proper Divinity of Christ is not confined to the book of Revelation, some other sacred passages will be added, which are corroborative of the same glorious doctrine. Long before He appeared in the flesh, a prophetic voice proclaimed,-" Unto us a child is born, unto us a Són is given: and the government shall upon his shoulder and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." Isa. 9. 6. No candid mind can have any doubt, but that Christ is the one, who is meant in this sublime passage. The thing is irresistibly evident. In connection with the other things which are
said of Christ in this passage, the eternity of his being is expressly announced, by calling him-" The everlasting Father." It is also said of Him by another prophet— "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." Mic. 5. 2. Coming out of Bethlehem, and ruling in Israel, clearly show, that the sacred writer is speaking of Christ; and his eternity is declared in these words, "whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." Nothing more is necessary to convince the mind that this passage is in point, in relation to the present subject.
But, a few passages will be selected from the New-Testament, as a farther establishment and illustration of the doctrine under consideration. It is said by an apostle"But unto the Son, he saith-Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever." Heb. 1. 8. It is necessary to apprise you, however, my hearers, how the modern Anti-Trinitarians render this text, to silence its voice against their system. They give it this reading-"God is thy throne for ever and ever." In respect to this, Dr. Doddridge says, "To render this as some do, 'God is thy throne forever and ever; that is, God will establish thy throne, appears to me very unnatural." But Dr. Carpenter, who is a leading Anti-Trinitarian in England, has given up this rendering, as being inconsistent with the Greek idiom. Whether the other writers of that school will have the temerity to advocate it still, time must determine. We may rest satisfied, however, that our translation is correct in this case; and that the passage fully establishes the eternal Deity of Jesus Christ. Wetstein, who is also an An-Trinitarian, freely acknowledges that "the sacred writer has called
Christ, in this passage, by the name of God." No doubt he has done it with strict propriety. The text under consideration, expressly proves the eternity of Christ's existence; and that is the simple point to which it is now applied. In relation to the proposition we are establishing, these words apply-" Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever." Heb. 13. 8. If this language were used in respect to the acknowledged God, nobody would hesitate about the propriety of the application; nor doubt, that the words denoted a proper eternity. We may therefore consider them as being a cogent proof that Jesus Christ is "the first and the last." It must also be allowed that Melchizedeck is either Christ himself, or an eminent type of his Person and character; and it is expressly said of him, that he is King of peace; without Father, and without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a Priest continually." Heb. 7. 2, 3. On the evidence which has been adduced, we may rest assured, that Christ is from eternity; and of course, the Supreme JEHOVAH-the God of the universe.
II. The text, as thus explained, is now to be applied to the passages which are contested by our theological adversaries. In doing this, let it be observed,
1. If Christ is "the first and the last-was dead and is alive;" then we may infer, that his divine and human nature form one identical person. It is as God, that He is "the first and the last ;" and it is as man, that He "was dead and is" now" alive." These things are all predicated of one and the same person.
The mystery of the hypostatical union, as it is called by divines, is established by our subject beyond contradiction. Our incapacity of explaining it, is no proper reason why we should refuse to receive it as an article of our faith.