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A PARTIRE DAR SE SACRED BIOGRAPHY.
JOHN, i. 1-14. . In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God,
and the word was God. The fame was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him ; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; ani the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness ; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man fent from God, whose name was John. The fame came for a witners, to bear witness of the light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light. That was the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many a's received him, to them gave he porn er to become the jons of God; even to them that believe on his name : which wer: born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, ( and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the father,) full of grace and truth.
THE idea of a beginning involves that of antecedent exift.
ence, from which that beginning originated. The begin. ning of a man's life implies parentage ; the being of a tower of a city, necessarily supposes a pre-existent head to plan, and a hand to execute. The vast frame of Nature must have had its commencement from a preceding skill to contrive, and a power to perform. The Mosaic account of the Creation is the
only one that found reason can admit. If God created the heavens and the earth, God was before the heavens and the earıh. Moses the historian, and Join the evangelift carry us back to one and the same era, carry us up to one and the tame all-wise, all-powerful Being. Nature and Grace issue from the same fource, and end toward the same grand consumma:ion. The prophet and the apostle employ the self-fame terms to describe the same objects. “He that built all things is God”
It has been remarked that the four Evangelists introduce their great subject in a retrograde series of representation. Matthew's gospel opens with a difplay of the Saviour's human. ity, and pref.nts us with his descent as a man. Mark conveys us back to the age of prophecy, and " the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God” is traced up to the predictions of Malachi and Isaiah. Luke the beloved physician gefers us to the Levitical priesthood, to the altar of incensa, and the services of an earthly lanciuary, " a shadow of good things to come." Bút John soars above all height ; he recurs to the birth of nature, and ascribes that birth to a pre-existeni, omnific WORD,which in “ the tulness of time was made flesh, and dwelt among us." We have beheld his glory displayed in the ages before the flood, in the persons and predi&tions of patriarchs and prophets, by whom “God at sundry times and in divers manners spake unto the fathers.” But Moses and Elias have disappeared ; the “ voice crying in tiie wilderness" is heard no more ; it is lost in a "voice from heaven," saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well plealed ; hear ye Him."
We are now therefore to contemplate" him, to whom all the prophets gave witness,” in his own person, doctrine, and mighty works; and, as the order of things prescribes, our contemplation inuft commence in what he was in the beginning, prior to the lapse of time for “he is before all things, and by him all things confift.” John, “ the disciple whom Jelus foved," long survived the rest of his fellow-disciples He knew what some of them had written. He lived to see the progress of the truihas it is in Christ. He saw the divine origin of Christianity demonstrated by its success, and he became a joyful martyr to the truth which he published to the world. A “ brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience ot Jesus Christ,” in common with other faints, he retired into exile in "the ifle that is called Patmos," a cheerful victim to "the word of God, and the teftimony of
Jelus.. Jesus Chrif.” In that sacred retirement, more to be prized thas all the bleslings of society, he is visited with the visions of the Almigh:y, and becomes the highly honoured minifter of unfolding the charaller, offices and work of his divine and beloved Master, from the days of eternity 10 the finalcon. fummation, when He who littech upon the throne fhall fay. “Behold I make all things new." The Gospel, according to St. John, and the Revelation of St. John, may therefore be considered as together, forming an abstract of the plan of Providence from the first dawning of light upon the world of nature to the perfect day of “ the reftitution of all things." And one and the Same Agent is reprelenied as the animating principle which is belore all, and through all, and in all.
In the beginuing. The mind, with all its powers, loses itselt : in surveying the works and the ways of God. I have a dark, indiftinct recollection of my first emersion into thought. I can remem'ser some of the impressions made, of the sorrows and joys felt, when I was a little child. Soon after I began to exist, I began to perceive that I did exist, but for the knowledge of all that preceded I stand indebted to a father's intelligence, to a mother's tenderness. They were to me the beginning of days and the oracles of truih. Their own pittance of illumination lowed in the same channel. But there must have been a point when thought began. There must have been an intelligence which could communicate the power of comprehension; there must have been a spirit which could breathe into man's noftrils the breath of life; there must have been one without a beginning to makea beginning. And who He was the Evangelist antolds.
In the beginning was the WORD. Let us not contend a.. bout the import of a Greek term. If our evangelift has not an intention to mislead, but one idea can be affixed to that term. He is evidently describing God the crea'or, in the view of leading us to know and to acknowledge the Redeemer of marikind as one and ihe lame with him. “Who was made flesh and dwelt among us ?” Who “came to his own and his own received him not ?" Who " was despised and rejećled of men?” The WORD that was in the beginning, and who has revealed himlelf by a display of so many glorious attributes. " Without controversy, great is the mystery of godlinels : God was manifest in the fleth.” Is this proposition to be rejected because it is mysterious ? For the same reason the lyf. tem of nature, in whole, and in all its parts, is to be rejećied. All is mystery ; and all is revelation and discovery, from the in
fect too small for fight swimming in a drop of water, up to yon. der flaming orb which revolves at an immeasurable distance over our heads. Is not man a great mystery to himself ? But is hę to renounce his being because he is unable to explain it? Is he to call the union of matter with mind an absurdity be. cause their mutual influence escapes his penetration ? How many combinations actually exist of which we have no per, ception, and which we would pronounce to be impossible ! In all the ways and works of the Most High there is a wonderful mixture of luminousness and obscurity, of minuteness and magnitude, of complexness and fimplicity. And Scripture 'ex. hibits the connexion of extremes similar to that which is ap. parent in the world o! nature and in the ways of Providence. This is a presumption at leaft, if not a proof, that they have all one original ; and who can that original be but the divine perfon emphatically called THE WORD, which exited in the plenitude of power. widom and goodness “ before the world was,” but of whose pra existent state very general ideas only are communicated. Indeed none other can be communica. ted, for when the mind launches into infinity it is overwhelmed and loft. If the wisdom which cries, and the understanding which puts forth her voice in the writings of Solomon, be the same with the WORD which was in the beginning, as a comparison of the two passages will render highly probable, we shall have a sublime and interesting idea of this pre-existent ftate. The evangelist says,
The word was with God, as the deliberative, active, 'deter, mining principle of the Eternal mind. The wile man ex. pands the thought, and reprelents the plans of eterna! Wisdom as digesting ; the framing, arranging, supporting, governing, redeeming of a world, as in contemplation. As if admitted into the counsels of peace, he thus untølds the pur, pose of Him who worketh all things after his own will, that all should be to the praise of his glory : “ The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works ot old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths I was brought torth ; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Betore the mountains were settled; before the hills was I brought forth : while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens I was there ; when he set a compass upon the face of the depth; when he established the clouds above ; when he strengthened the fountains of the deep ; when he gave to the fea his decree, that the waters should not pass his command, ment; when he appointed the foundations of the earth ; then I was by him, as one brought up with him ; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him : rejoicing in the hab. itable part of his earth; and my delighis were with the fons of men.” Thus was the Word with God trom eternity taking plealure in the prospect of the fabric which He was about to rear; of the creature whom he was going to frame, and whole nature he was in due time to assume ; that he might make the children of men " partakers of the divine nacure," an union as mysterious and incomprehensible as that of soul and body, as that of the persons in the Deity, and as evidently matter of truth and revelation as there are.
And the Word was God. Here " the disciple whom Jesus loved" recognizes in his Master, on whose bosom he leaned at supper, “all the fulness of the godhead dwelling bodily.” Left the expression the Word was with God might be sup, posed to imply separation, difference, as a man who lojourns with his friend is nevertheless a different being from that friend, the evangelift speaks out fairly, tully, unequivocally, the truth which he himself believed, and wbich he was divinely inspired to deliver to mankind, that they also might believe. If St. Johnbe not in these words delivering the doctrine of the realand proper Deity of Jesus Christ, he is either himself labouring under a delusion, or he intentionally means to deceive, or there is no meaning in language, and consequently no distinct and sate channel of communication between man and man.
The same was in the beginning with God. John speaks as a prophet as well as an evangelift. Foreseeing that “false teachers” should arise, “ even denying the Lord that bought them, he employs a clearness, a copiousness, a force of expreslion on this momentous point, not to be misunderstood, not to be slighted, not to be explained away. When a matter charges his servant with a message of peculiar importance, he repeats it again and again, he puts it into every different form, in order to avoid ain. biguity and to prevent mistake. This is evidently the case here. It must not be made a question, “ Of whom speakerh" the evangelift thus? “ of himself, or of some other man?" The iden. tity of the person is ascertained beyond the reach of doubt, He is the same before time began its race ; the same who set time a flowing; the fame through every period of duration ; the Jame under every character and in every condition.
Where is the proof that the Word was God? All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made