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Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
The Lord and Saviour of mankind. He is called Christ (anointed, ) because he is anointed, furnished, and sent by God to execute his mediatorial office; and Jesus (Saviour, ) because he came to save his people from their sins. For an account of his nativity, offices, death, resurrection, &c. the reader is referred to those articles in this work. We shall here more particularly consider his divinity, humanity, and character. The divinity of Jesus Christ seems evident, if we consider,
1. The language of the New Testament, and compare it with the state of the Pagan world at the time of its publication. If Jesus Christ were not God, the writers of the New Testament discovered great injudiciousness in the choice of their words, and adopted a very incautions and dangerous style. The whole world, except the small kingdom of Judea, worshipped idols at the time of Jesus Christ's appearance. Jesus Christ; the evangelists, who wrote his history; and the apostles, who wrote epistles to various classes of men, proposed to destroy idolatry, and to establish the worship of one only living and true God. To effect this purpose, it was absolutely necessary for these founders of Christianity to avoid confusion and obscurity of language, and to express their ideas in a cool and cautious style.
The least expression that would tend to deify a creature, or countenance idolatry, would have been a source of the greatest error. Hence Paul and Barnabas rent their clothes at the very idea of the multitude's confounding the creature with the Creator, Acts 14:1-28 : The writers of the New Testament knew that in speaking of Jesus Christ, extraordinary caution was necessary; yet, when we take up the New Testament, we find such expressions as these: "The word was God, John 1:1 . God was manifest in the flesh, 1 Timothy 3:16 . God with us, Matthew 1:23 . The Jews crucified the Lord of glory, 1 Corinthians 2:8 . Jesus Christ is Lord of all, Acts 10:36 . Christ is over all; God blessed for ever, Rom.ix. 5." These are a few of many propositions, which the New Testament writers lay down relative to Jesus Christ. If the writers intended to affirm the divinity of Jesus Christ, these are words of truth and soberness; if not, the language is incautious and unwarrantable; and to address it to men prone to idolatry, for the purpose of destroying idolatry, is a strong presumption against their inspiration. It is remarkable, also, that the richest words in the Greek language are made use of to describe Jesus Christ. This language, which is very copious, would have afforded lower terms to express an inferior nature; but it could have afforded none higher to express the nature of the Supreme God.
It is worthy of observation, too, that these writers addressed their writings not to philosophers and scholars, but to the common people, and consequently used words in their plain popular signification. The common people, it seems, understood the words in our sense of them; for in the Dioclesian persecution, when the Roman soldiers burnt a Phrygian city inhabited by Christians; men, women, and children submitted to their fate, calling upon Christ, THE GOD OVER ALL.
2. Compare the style of the New Testament with the state of the Jews at the time of its publication. In the time of Jesus Christ, the Jews were zealous defenders of the unity of God, and of that idea of his perfections which the Scriptures excited. Jesus Christ and his apostles professed the highest regard for the Jewish Scriptures; yet the writers of the New Testament described Jesus Christ by the very names and titles by which the writers of the Old Testament had described the Supreme God. Compare Exodus 3:14 . with John 8:58 . Is. 44: 6. with Revelation 1:11; Revelation 1:17 . Deuteronomy 10:17 . with Revelation 17:14 . Psalms 24:10 . with 1 Corinthians 2:8 . Hosea 1:7 . with Luke 2:1-52 . Daniel 5:23 . with 1 Corinthians 15:47 . 1 Chronicles 29:11 . with Colossians 2:10 . If they who described Jesus Christ to the Jews by these sacred names and titles intended to convey an idea of his deity, the description is just and the application safe; but if they intended to describe a mere man, they were surely of all men the most preposterous. They chose a method of recommending Jesus to the Jews the most likely to alarm and enrage them. Whatever they meant, the Jews understood them in our sense, and took Jesus for a blasphemer, John 10:33 .
3. Compare the perfections which are ascribed to Jesus Christ in the Scriptures, with those which are ascribed to God. Jesus Christ declares, "All things that the Father hath are mine, " John 16:15 . a very dangerous proposition, if he were not God. The writers of revelation ascribe to him the same perfections which they ascribe to God. Compare Jeremiah 10:10 . with Isaiah 9:6 . Exodus 15:13 . with Hebrews 1:8 . Jeremiah 32:19 . with Is. 9: 6. Psalms 102:24; Psalms 102:27 . with Hebrews 13:8 . Jeremiah 23:24 . with Ephesians 1:20; Ephesians 1:23 . 1 Samuel 2:5 . with John 14:30 . If Jesus Christ be God, the ascription of the perfections of God to him is proper; if he be not, the apostles are chargeable with weakness or wickedness, and either would destroy their claim of inspiration.
4. Consider the works that are ascribed to Jesus Christ, and compare them with the claims of Jehovah. Is creation a work of God? "By Jesus Christ were all things created, " Colossians 1:1-29 . Is preservation a work of God? "Jesus Christ upholds all things by the word of his power, " Hebrews 1:3 . Is the mission of the prophets a work of God? Jesus Christ is the Lord God of the holy prophets; and it was the Spirit of Christ which testified to them beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow, Nehemiah 9:30 . Revelation 22:6; Revelation 22:16 . 1 Peter 1:11 . Is the salvation of sinners a work of God? Christ is the Saviour of all that believe, John 4:42 . Hebrews 5:9 . Is the forgiveness of sin a work of God? The Son of Man hath power to forgive sins, Matthew 9:6 . The same might be said of the illumination of the mind; the sanctification of the heart; the resurrection of the dead: the judging of the world; the glorification of the righteous; the eternal punishment of the wicked; all which works, in one part of Scripture, are ascribed to God; and all which, in another part of Scripture, are ascribed to Jesus Christ. Now, if Jesus Christ be not God, into what contradictions these writers must fall! They contradict one another: they contradict themselves. Either Jesus Christ is God, or their conduct is unaccountable.
5. Consider that divine worship which Scriptures claim for Jesus Christ. It is a command of God, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve, " Matthew 4:20 . yet the Scriptures command "all the angels of God to worship Christ, " Hebrews 1:6 . Twenty times, in the New Testament, grace, mercy, and peace, are implored of Christ, together with the Father. Baptism is an act of worship performed in his name, Matthew 28:19 . Swearing is an act of worship; a solemn appeal in important cases to the omniscient God; and this appeal is made to Christ, Romans 9:1 . The committing to the soul to God at death is a sacred act of worship: in the performance of this act, Stephen died, saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit, Acts 7:59 . The whole host of heaven worship him that sitteth upon the throne, and the Lamb, for ever and ever, Revelation 5:14; Revelation 15:1-8 :
6. Observe the application of Old Testament passages which belong to Jehovah, to Jesus in the New Testament, and try whether you can acquit the writers of the New Testament of misrepresentation, on supposition that Jesus is not God. St. Paul says, "We shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ." That we shall all be judged, we allow; but how do you prove that Christ shall be our Judge? Because, adds the apostle, it is written, "As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God, " Romans 14:10-11 , with Is. 45: 20, &c. What sort of reasoning is this? How does this apply to Christ, if Christ be not God? And how dare a man quote one of the most guarded passages in the Old Testament for such a purpose? John the Baptist is he who was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, Prepare ye the way, Matthew 3:1; Matthew 3:3 . Isaiah saith, Prepare ye the way of THE LORD; make straight a highway for OUR GOD, Is. 40: 3, &c. But what has John the Baptist to do with all this description if Jesus Christ be only a messenger of Jehovah, and not Jehovah himself? for Isaiah saith, Prepare ye the way of Jehovah. Compare also Zechariah 12:10 . with John 19:1-42 . Is. 6: with John 12:39 . Is. 8: 13, 14. with 1 Peter 2:8 . Allow Jesus Christ to be God, and all these applications are proper. If we deny it, the New Testament, we must own is one of the most unaccountable compositions in the world, calculated to make easy things hard to be understood.
7. Examine whether events have justified that notion of Christianity which the prophets gave their countrymen of it, if Jesus Christ be not God. The calling of the Gentiles from the worship of idols to the worship of the one living and true God, is one event, which, the prophets said, the coming of the Messiah should bring to pass. If Jesus Christ be God, the event answers the prophecy; if not, the event is not come to pass, for Christians in general worship Jesus, which is idolatry, if he be not God, Isaiah 2:1-22 : Zephaniah 2:11 . Zechariah 14:9 . the primitive Christians certainly worshipped Him as God. Pliny, who was appointed governor of the province of Bithynia by the emperor Trajan, in the year 103, examined and punished several Christians for their non-conformity to the established religion of the empire. In a letter to the emperor, giving an account of his conduct, he declares, "they affirmed the whole of their guilt, or their error, was that they met on a certain slated day, before it was light, and addressed themselves in a form of prayer to Christ as to some God."
Thus Pliny meant to inform the emperor that Christians worshipped Christ. Justin Martyr, who lived about 150 years after Christ, asserts, that the Christians worshipped the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Besides his testimony, there are numberless passages in the fathers that attest the truth in question; especially in Tertullian, Hippolytus, Felix, &c. Mahomet, who lived in the sixth century, considers Christians in the light of infidels and idolaters throughout the Koran; and indeed, had not Christians worshipped Christ, he could have had no shadow of a pretence to reform their religion, and to bring them back to the worship of one God. That the far greater part of Christians have continued to worship Jesus, will not be doubted; now, if Christ be not God, then the Christians have been guilty of idolatry; and if they have been guilty of idolatry, then it must appear remarkable that the apostles, who foretold the corruptions of Christianity, 2 Timothy 3:1-17 : should never have foreseen nor warned us against worshiping Christ. In no part of the Scripture is there the least intimation of Christians falling into idolatry in this respect. Surely if this had been an error which was so universally to prevail, those Scriptures which are able to make us wise unto salvation, would have left us warning on so important a topic. Lastly, consider what numberless passages of Scripture have no sense, or a very absurd one, if Jesus Christ be a mere man.
See Romans 1:3 . 1 Timothy 3:16 . John 14:9; John 17:5 . Philippians 2:6 . Psalms 110:1; Psalms 110:4 . 1 Timothy 1:2 . Acts 22:12; Acts 9:17 .
But though Jesus Christ be God, yet for our sakes, and for our salvation, he took upon him human nature; this is therefore called his humanity. Marcion, Apelles, Valentinus, and many other heretics, denied Christ's humanity, as some have done since. But that Christ had a true human body, and not a mere human shape, or a body that was not real flesh, is very evident from the sacred Scriptures, Is. 7: 12. Luke 24:39 . Hebrews 2:14 . Luke 1:42 . Philippians 2:7-8 . John 1:14 . Besides, he ate, drank, slept, walked, worked, and was weary, He groaned, bled, and died, upon the cross. It was necessary that he should thus be human, in order to fulfil the divine designs and prophecies respecting the shedding of his blood for our salvation, which could not have been done had he not possessed a real body. It is also as evident that he assumed our whole nature, soul as well as body. If he had not, he could not have been capable of that sore amazement and sorrow unto death, and all those other acts of grieving, feeling, rejoicing, &c. ascribed to him. It was not, however, our sinful nature he assumed, but the likeness of it, Romans 8:2 . for he was without sin, and did no iniquity. His human nature must not be confounded with his divine; for though there be an union of natures in Christ, yet there is not a mixture or confusion of them or their properties.
His humanity is not changed into his deity, nor his deity into humanity; but the two natures are distinct in one person. How this union exists is above our comprehension; and, indeed, if we cannot explain how our own bodies and souls are united, it is not to be supposed we can explain this astonishing mystery of God manifest in the flesh.
See MEDIATOR. We now proceed to the character of Jesus Christ, which, while it affords us the most pleasing subject for meditation., exhibits to us an example of the most perfect and delightful kind. "Here, " as an elegant writer observes "every grace that can recommend religion, and every virtue that can adorn humanity, are so blended, as to excite our admiration, and engage our love. In abstaining from licentious pleasures, he was equally free from ostentatious singularity and churlish sullenness. When he complied with the established ceremonies of his countrymen, that compliance was not accompanied by any marks of bigotry or superstition: when he opposed their rooted prepossessions, his opposition was perfectly exempt from the captious petulance of a controversialist, and the undistinguishing zeal of an innovator. His courage was active in encountering the dangers to which he was exposed, and passive under the aggravated calamities which the malice of his foes heaped upon him: his fortitude was remote from every appearance of rashness, and his patience was equally exempt from abject pusillanimity: he was firm without obstinacy, and humble without meanness.
Though possessed of the most unbounded power, we behold him living continually in a state of voluntary humiliation and poverty; we see him daily exposed to almost every species of want and distress; afflicted without a comforter, persecuted without a protector; and wandering about, according to his own pathetic complaint, because he had not where to lay his head. Though regardless of the pleasures, and sometimes destitute of the comforts of life, he never provokes our disgust by the sourness of the misanthrope, or our contempt by the inactivity of the recluse. His attention to the welfare of mankind was evidenced not only by his salutary injunctions, but by his readiness to embrace every opportunity of relieving their distress and administering to their wants. In every period and circumstance of his life, we behold dignity and elevation blended with love and pity; something, which, though it awakens our admiration, yet attracts our confidence. We see power; but it is power which is rather our security than our dread; a poser softened with tenderness, and soothing while it awes. With all the gentleness of a meek and lowly mind, we behold an heroic firmness, which no terrors could restrain. In the private scenes of life, and in the public occupation of his ministry; whether the object of admiration or ridicule, of love or of persecution; whether welcomed with hosannas, or insulted with anathemas, we still see him pursuing with unwearied constancy the same end, and preserving the same integrity of life and manners.
" White's Sermons, ser. 5. Considering him as a Moral Teacher, we must be struck with the greatest admiration. As Dr. Paley observes, "he preferred solid to popular virtues, a character which is commonly despised, to a character universally extolled, he placed, in our licentious vices, the check in the right place, viz. upon the thoughts; he collected human duty into two well-devised rules; he repeated these rules, and laid great stress upon them, and thereby fixed the sentiments of his followers; he excluded all regard to reputation in our devotion and alms, and, by parity of reason, in our other virtues; his instructions were delivered in a form calculated for impression; they were illustrated by parables, the choice and structure of which would have been admired in any composition whatever: he was free from the usual symptoms of enthusiasm, heat, and vehemence in devotion, austerity in institutions, and a wild particularity in the description of a future state; he was free also from the depravities of his age and country; without superstition among the most superstitious of men, yet not decrying positive distinctions or external observances, but soberly recalling them to the principle of their establishment, and to their place in the scale of human duties; there was nothing of sophistry or trifling, though amidst teachers, remarkable for nothing so much as frivolous subtilties and quibbling expositions: he was candid and liberal in his judgment of the rest of mankind, although belonging to a people who affected a separate claim to divine favour, and, in consequence of that opinion, prone to uncharitableness, partiality, and restriction; in his religion there was no scheme of building up a hierarchy, or of ministering to the views of human governments; in a word, there was every thing so grand in doctrine, and so delightful in manner, that the people might well exclaim
Surely, never man spake like this man!" As to his example, bishop Newcome observes, "it was of the most perfect piety to God, and of the most extensive benevolence and the most tender compassion to men. He does not merely exhibit a life of strict justice, but of overflowing benignity. His temperance has not the dark shades of austerity; his meekness does not degenerate into apathy; his humility is signal, amidst a splendour of qualities more than human; his fortitude is eminent and exemplary in enduring the most formidable external evils, and the sharpest actual sufferings. His patience is invincible; his resignation entire and absolute. Truth and sincerity shine throughout his whole conduct. Though of heavenly descent, he shows obedience and affection to his earthly parents; he approves, loves, and attaches himself to amiable qualities in the human race; he respects authority, religious and civil; and he evidences regard for his country, by promoting its most essential good in a painful ministry dedicated to its service, by deploring its calamities, and by laying down his life for its benefit. Every one of his eminent virtues is regulated by consummate prudence: and he both wins the love of his friends, and extorts the approbation and wonder of his enemies.
Never was a character at the same time so commanding and natural, so resplendent and pleasing, so amiable and venerable. There is a peculiar contrast in it between an awful greatness, dignity, and majesty, and the most conciliating loveliness, tenderness, and softness. He now converses with prophets, lawgivers, and angels; and the next instant he meekly endures the dulness of his disciples, and the blasphemies and rage of the multitude. He now calls himself greater than Solomon; one who can command legions of angels; and giver of life to whomsoever he pleaseth; the Son of God, who shall sit on his glorious throne to judge the world: at other times we find him embracing young children; not lifting up his voice in the streets, nor quenching the smoking flax; calling his disciples not servants, but friends and brethren, and comforting them with an exuberant and parental affection. Let us pause an instant, and fill our minds with the idea of one who knew all things, heavenly and earthly; searched and laid open the inmost recesses of the heart; rectified every prejudice, and removed every mistake of a moral and religious kind; by a word exercised a sovereignty over all nature, penetrated the hidden events of futurity, gave promises of admission into a happy immortality, had the keys of life and death, claimed an union with the Father; and yet was pious, mild, gentle, humble, affable, social, benevolent, friendly, and affectionate. Such a character is fairer than the morning star. Each separate virtue is made stronger by opposition and contrast: and the union of so many virtues forms a brightness which fitly represents the glory of that God 'who inhabiteth light inaccessible.'"
See Robinson's Plea for the Divinity of Christ, from which many of the above remarks are taken; Bishop Bull's Judgment of the Catholic Church; Abbadie, Waterland, Hawker, and Hey, on the Divinity of Christ; Reader, Stackhouse, and Doyley's Lives of Christ; Dr. Jamieson's View of the Doctrine of Scripture, and the Primitive Faith concerning the Deity of Christ; Owen on the Glory of Christ's Person; Hurrion's Christ Crucified; Bishop Newcome's Observation on our Lord's Conduct; and Paley's Evidences of Christianity.
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Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Jesus Christ'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/cbd/j/jesus-christ.html. 1802.