PREFACE and CONTENTS THE LORD FROM HEAVEN

THE LORD FROM HEAVEN

PREFACE and CONTENTS

Some years ago the Author was asked to mediate between the Committee of one of our Missionary Societies and certain of their younger agents, whose faith had been disturbed by Moslem hostility to the truth of the Sonship of Christ. Though not unversed in the literature on the subject, he could find no book that definitely met the difficulties of the missionaries, and the project of writing such a book was suggested to him. And a recent correspondence disclosed the fact that, by those who deny the Lord's Deity, that truth is supposed to depend on the special texts which teach it explicitly. These pages accordingly seek to unfold the doctrine of the Sonship, and to call attention to some of the indirect testimony of Scripture to the Deity of Christ. The book is not controversial. It is a Bible study. And if the perusal of it proves as helpful to any, as the writing of it has been to the Author, its purpose will be satisfied.
He wishes here to acknowledge help received in the preparation of it. To the Bishop of Durham he is under very special obligations for kindly and valuable criticism and counsel. And his labours were lightened by his friend, Miss A. R. Habershon, who, besides aid freely given in other ways, prepared for his use New Testament "concordance" of the names and titles of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It may be well to mention that in these pages the references to Scripture do not specify which of our Versions is quoted, save where it is desired to call special attention to the reading adopted.

TO THE SECOND EDITION
THE publication of this book has brought me many striking proofs that a book of the kind is needed. The mass of men are unreached by learned works upon this great subject, and mere popular treatises fail to convince the thoughtful. But in these pages there is nothing which any Bible student cannot follow, and yet they contain enough to satisfy all who accept the authority of Christ as a divine Teacher, or the authority of Holy Scripture as a divine revelation. And this, being the scheme of the book, I have refrained from quoting the writings of theologians; and my acquaintance with ancient controversies has been used solely to enable me to shun the heresies which provoked them.
It would seem that very many who, by habitually repeating the creeds, give a conventional assent to the doctrine of the Deity of Christ, are practically agnostics in relation to it. And to me this discovery is made still more startling by the fact that their doubts seem to be confirmed by the language of the very formulas which were intended to set the question at rest for ever. For the phrase, "the persons of the Trinity," apparently conveys a meaning wholly different from that which the original words were intended to express. And to the illiterate it suggests error which leaves them an easy prey to the Unitarian propagandist.
As the Latin Dictionary tells us, the word persona is "from per-sono, to sound through"; and it means "a mask, especially that used by players, which covered the whole head, and was varied according to the different characters to be represented." And, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, our word "person" means "(1) a character sustained or assumed in a drama, or the like, or in actual life; part played; hence function, office, capacity; (2) an individual being." It will thus be seen how closely the primary and classical signification of "person" is allied to the Latin persona, and what slight affinity it has with the popular and ordinary meaning of the word. And yet its ordinary meaning has a definite influence upon the minds of ordinary people when they speak of "the persons of the Trinity."
The Deity is not to be likened to a triumvirate acting in unison. God is One. But He has manifested Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and the crowning manifestation of Himself was in the Son. At the coming of Christ He was "manifested in flesh." The somewhat doubtful revised reading of 1 Timothy iii. 16 in no way affects the force of the passage. The statement that the Man of Nazareth "was manifested in flesh" would be nothing better than a grandiloquent platitude. "He who was manifested in flesh" must refer to God. The words are the equivalent of John i. 18, which tells us that the Son has declared H im.
But, we are asked by people who own that they are in the habit of repeating the creeds, "How could the Son be God, seeing that He prayed to God, and spoke of God as a Being distinct from His own personality?" This is a real difficulty; and it is not to be met by attempting to explain "the mystery of God, even Christ," but by freely owning that the mystery is one which reason cannot solve. How strange it is that while, on "the authority of the Church," men give an unquestioning assent to the superstitions of what they deem to be " the Christian religion," we hesitate to accept the mysteries of the Christian faith upon the authority of the Word of God! And with great humility I hazard the opinion that, in their zeal for the truth, the orthodox Fathers went to unwise lengths in analysing and defining the Deity. But be that as it may, certain it is that the formularies of those days create difficulties in many devout minds in our own times.
In presence of the mystery of God, which, we are expressly told, we cannot fathom, our part is simply to accept the "It is written." But let us see to it that what we accept is really what is written. I am here reminded of help received many years ago from having my attention called to the Greek text of John i. 1. My lesson was learned during a railway journey, and my teacher was a Roman Catholic friend, one of H.M.'s judges of the Supreme Court, who pointed out to me the significance of the presence of the Greek article in the one clause, and its absence in the other clause, of the familiar passage, (rendered in Greek) - Our English idiom fails us here; but if we might use the word "Deity" as a synonym for "God," any one could appreciate the difference between the statement that the Word was with the Deity, and the further statement that the Word was Himself Deity.
Of course the Unitarian fritters away the force of this. But even in days when the language of Scripture is treated with reckless freedom, the significance of the words which follow cannot be evaded. For we are told, "All things were made by Him"; and if the Creator of all things be not God, language has no meaning. Classic paganism, indeed, could fall back on the figment of a subordinate God- a conception which modern enlightenment rejects- and the Arian heresy would never have gained such a hold in the Patristic Church had not the minds of so many of the Fathers been corrupted by the paganism of their early training (see p. 54 post). Indeed, we learn from 1 Corinthians viii. that even the Christians who enjoyed the benefit of direct Apostolic teaching were not wholly free from pagan error in this respect.
We need to keep this in view in reading that chapter, for the 6th verse, "To us there is one God the Father," is the Unitarian's charter text. And this, we are told, is rendered the more emphatic by the sequel, "And one Lord Jesus Christ."
But the teaching here is aimed at the pagan errors which then prevailed; and, in view of the immediate context, it is an impossible suggestion that the Apostle Paul intended to teach that the Lord Jesus Christ was but a creature. For the added words, "by whom are all things," unequivocally declare the truth which is more fully revealed in Colossians i. 15-17, that the Lord Jesus is the Creator of the universe. And if this do not assert His Deity, I again repeat, words have no meaning. He "by whom are all things" must be God. Any one, therefore, who refuses the truth that the Lord Jesus is God, must acknowledge two Gods. The Christian reads the passage in the light of the words, "I and My Father are One." But, we are told, these words are to be explained by His prayer to the Father on behalf of His people, "that they may be one even as we are One" (John xvii. 22). Surely we might suppose that even a child could understand the difference between perfect unity and essential oneness. When Hooker wrote, "Our God is one, or rather very oneness," he was not giving expression to a mere platitude, but to divine truth about the God whom we know as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The prayer of the betrayal night points to the time when the unity between His people and God will be as perfect as the unity between the Father and the Son. But that is vastly different from essential oneness. Will that unity empower them, either corporately or as individuals, to create worlds, to forgive sins, or to give life to whom they will! And these supreme prerogatives of Deity pertain to the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no escape from the dilemma in which this places us. If there be not two Gods, we must own that the Father and the Son are One.

But, some one demands, "How then do you explain"? Without waiting to hear what form the inquiry assumes, we reply at once that we do not attempt to explain "the mystery of God." "No one knoweth the Son, save the Father." And the force of this is intensified by the sequel, "Neither doth any one know the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal Him." The truth of the Fatherhood is a mystery revealed in Christ: the truth of the Sonship remains an unrevealed mystery which transcends reason, but which faith accepts. In teaching our children we often find that what to us seems clear is beyond the mental grasp of childhood; and yet we fail to recognise that divine truth may be beyond the capacity of finite minds. "Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection ?" The Arian controversy assumes that we can / Heresy trades upon isolated texts, and the Unitarian heresy, as we have seen, ignores even the context of the words on which it relies. Take another striking instance of this. At the grave of Lazarus "Jesus wept." And presently "He lifted up His eyes and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard me." What proof this gives of His humanity, and that His relation to God was that of a man dependent on the divine Father? Yes, truly; but at that same time, and in that very scene, it was that He spoke the words, "I am the resurrection and the life." No Gentile, perhaps, can fully realise what those words conveyed to a devout Jew. If He who uttered them was not divine in the fullest and most absolute sense, the men who crucified Him were obeying one of the plainest commands of the divine law in putting Him to death.
In, saying this we assume, of course, that the Lord actually spoke the words attributed to Him. For these pages are addressed to Christians; and if the Gospels be not the divinely accredited records of His ministry, the Christian faith must give place to agnosticism in the case of all but the superstitious.
And while utterly rejecting the Kenosis theology -that our Lord's words were at times the expression of divine truth, and at other times of Jewish error -we may notice that, as these particular words were in such violent opposition to all Jewish thought, they must, even on that profane hypothesis, be accepted as divine. With some people religious doctrines seem to be kept in water-tight compartments. And thus they can hold divine truth along with human error which conflicts with it. But truth is really one, and if any part be assailed the whole is imperilled. If, for example, we let go the Deity of Christ, which is the foundation truth of Christianity, the doctrine of the Atonement is destroyed. For in the whole range of false religions there is not a more grotesquely silly superstition than that the death of a fellow-creature could expiate the sin of the world.
But in these days the need of expiation is largely ignored. And this because the ordinary conception of sin is so inadequate as to be practically false. Therefore it is that the truth of the Lord's Deity is held so lightly. For men are content with a vague belief in a reconciliation brought about in some undefined way by the example of a perfect life and a self-sacrificing death. And even this is lost by those who adopt the figment that the Lord belonged to a higher type of creaturehood than humanity. Certain it is that He who died for men must Himself be man.
And yet were He only man His death would avail us nothing; for, as the Bishop of Durham puts it, "A Saviour not quite God is a bridge broken at the farther end." And we must be on our guard against another error. The popular conception of "a divine man," "a God-man," a being half human and half divine, savours of old-world paganism. The Lord Jesus Christ is "very man" and yet "very God." He is the "type" and pattern of humanity, and yet He is the Son of God in all which that title signifies. He is the only God the world shall ever know. Apart from Him "no one has ever seen God": apart from Him no one of mankind can ever see Him.
And He it is who died for us. For "He who knew no sin was made sin for us." And if it be demanded how could this be? we answer with Bishop Butler, "All conjectures about it must be, if not evidently absurd, yet at least uncertain." "And," as he adds, "no one has any reason to complain from want of further information unless he can show his claim to it," God here retreats upon His divine Sovereignty, and faith accepts the divine "It is written."
But everything depends upon the Deity of Christ; and, therefore, as Athanasius said long ago, in contending for that great truth "we are contending for our all."