God, Angels, Jesus Christ, and the Crucifixion
WITH REVERENCE, we approach the subjects proposed for consideration in the present lecture.
That Christendom is astray in its conceptions of God will, unhappily, be but too evident. That we must possess Scriptural knowledge of the subject will also be evident. The "knowledge of God" is an essential feature of Christian attainment, according to the apostolic standard. Those "who know not God" are among those whom vengeance is to overtake (II Thess. 1, 8). Knowledge of God is the basis of sonship to God. Without it, we cannot enter the divine family. How can we love and serve a being whom we do not know? Knowledge is the foundation of all. It is the rock upon which everlasting life itself is built. "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, THE ONLY TRUE GOD, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent" (John xvii, 3).
Where shall we find this knowledge? We cannot find it where we please. It. is to be found only where God has placed it. It is to be found in the Scriptures. We cannot get it anywhere else. Nature tells us something. The consummate wisdom of all her arrangements--the ineffable skill displayed in the construction of even the smallest animalcule, show us the presence, in the universe, of a supreme designing and perfect intelligence, but nature can do no more. It can tell us God is, because He must be, but it can tell us nothing of His being, His character, His purpose, His will with regard to man, or His object in forming the universe. Speculations on these points only lead to the monstrosities of ancient and modern heathenism.
That a revelation of Himself has come from the Creator of all things will excite the highest admiration and gratitude in every mind that is enabled to realise what this stupendous privilege means. Peace now and life everlasting for the endless ages coming is easily spoken of: but who can measure the wealth of well-being involved in the words? This wealth comes with the knowledge God has given us: and the knowledge he has given us comes to us through the Bible, and through no other medium-ship in our day.
But we are in a peculiar position with regard to this knowledge. It no longer shines before us in its pristine simplicity and glory. Along with almost every other item of divine truth, it has been covered up in the most dangerous way by the organised Apostasy from original truth, which obtained ascendancy in Christendom very early in the Christian era. The Apostasy does not professedly deny the God revealed in the Bible. On the contrary, it makes an ostentatious profession of belief in Him. It holds up the Bible in its hand and declares it to be the source of its faith--that the God of Israel is its God. In this way, the impression is made universally that the God of popular religion is the God of the Bible, so that in reading the Bible, people do not read critically on the subject, but necessarily and as a matter of course, recognise the popular God in the phrases by which the Bible designates the God of Israel. If the case were otherwise--if popular theology in words denied the God of the Jews, and asserted its own conceptions in opposition to Hebrew revelation, there would be a greater likelihood that people would come to a knowledge of what God has truly revealed concerning Himself, because they would be prepared to sit down clear-headedly, discriminatingly, and independently to ascertain what the Deity of Hebrew revelation is. As it is, people are misled, and find the greatest difficulty in rousing themselves to an apprehension of the difference between the orthodox God and the Bible Deity, and the importance of discerning it.
Popular theology says that God is three eternal elements, all equally increate and self-sustaining, and all equally powerful, each equally personal and distinct from the other, and yet all forming a complete single personal unity. There is, say they, "God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost," each "very God," each without a beginning, each omnipotent and separate from the other, and yet all ONE.
If we ask why one of these elements should be called the Father, not having preceded or given existence to the others; and why another should be called the Son, not having been brought into existence by the Father, but co-eternal with Him; and why the third should be called the Holy Ghost (or Spirit), since both "God the Father," and "God the Son" are holy and spiritual, we are not met with an explanation. Popular theology contents itself with saying that the truth is so--that there are three in one and one in three that as to how such a thing can be, it cannot say, as it is a great mystery.
Mystery indeed! There are mysteries enough in creation--things, that is, that are inscrutable to the human intellect, such as the ultimate nature of light and life; but Trinitarianism pro-pounds--not a mystery, but a contradiction--a stultification--an impossibility. It professes to convey an idea, and no sooner expresses it than it withdraws it, and contradicts it. It says there is one God, yet not one but three, and that the three are not three but one. It is a mere juggle of words, a bewilderment and confusion to the mind, all the more dangerous, because the theory for which it is an apology, employs in some measure the language of the Bible, which talks to us of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
We will look at the Bible representation of the "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." We shall find that representation in accord with a rational conception of things, enlightening the understanding as well as satisfying the heart--agreeing with experience, as well as revealing something beyond actual observation. We shall find it to supply that consistent and intelligible information of the First Cause of all things which the intellect of the noblest creature He has formed in this sublunary creation craves, and information of a character such as would be expected to come from such a source.
To begin with "The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph. iii, 14), as God is apostolically described, who was made known to Israel by the angels, revealed through the prophets, and manifested in Jesus. The first thing revealed about Him is His absolute unity. He is declared to be ONE. This is one of the most conspicuous features of what is revealed on the subject. We submit a few illustrations of the testimony:-- Moses to Israel (Deut. vi, 4).-
"Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is ONE Lord."
Jesus to one of the Scribes (Mark xii, 29): --
"Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments, is, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is ONE Lord."
Paul to the Corinthian believers (I Cor. viii, 6):--
"To us there is but ONE GOD, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him."
Paul to the Ephesians (Eph. iv, 6):--
"There is ONE GOD and Father of ALL, who is ABOVE ALL, and through all, and in you all."
Paul to Timothy (I Tim. ii, 5) :--
"There is ONE GOD, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."
With these statements agree the Almighty's declarations of Himself, of which the following are examples :--
"I am God, and THERE IS NONE ELSE... and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times the things that are not yet done" (Isa. xlvi, 9, 10).
"I am the Lord, and there is none else: THERE IS NO GOD BESIDE ME" (Isa. xlv, 5).
"Thus saith the Lord, the King of Israel, and His Redeemer, the Lord of Hosts: I. am the first and I am the last, AND BESIDE ME THERE IS NO GOD... Is there a God beside Me.9 Yea, there is no God; I know not any" (Isa. xliv, 6, 8).
The only statement in the New Testament that amounts to a plain inculcation of the Trinitarian view, is unanimously renounced by Bible critics as a spurious interpolation upon the original text. On this ground is has been omitted altogether from the Revised Version of the New Testament. It is in the 7th verse of the 5th chapter of I John:-- "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one: and there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one." The interpolation is enclosed in brackets. The verse reads intelligibly without the interpolation, and affirms a fact patent to the early believers. The interpolation bears its condemnation on its face; for it would confine the presence of "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit "--that is, God in every form according to Trinitarianism--to heaven, and thus upset the Scriptural and obvious fact that the Spirit is everywhere, and that God's presence, by it, fills the universe.
"This text is not contained in any Greek MS. which was written earlier than the fifth century. It is not cited by any of the Greek ecclesiastical writers, not by any of the earlier Latin fathers, even when the subjects upon which they treat would naturally have led them to appeal to its authority. It is, therefore, evidently spurious, and was first cited, though not as it now reads, by Virgilius Tapsensis, a Latin writer of no credit, in the latter end of the fifth century; but by whom forged is of no great moment, as its design must be obvious to all." Such is a statement of the grounds upon which the passage has been omitted from the Revised Version.
The revelation of the Deity's unity, set forth in the testimonies quoted, agrees with the one great induction of modern science. Nature is seen to be under one law and one control throughout its immeasurable fields. There is no jar, no conflict; the power that constitutes, sustains, and regulates all is seen to be ONE. Cold freezes and heat dissolves in all countries alike. The light that discloses the face of the earth, irradiates the moon and illuminates the distant planets. The power that draws the moon in circular journey round the earth, impels the earth around the sun, and drags even that stupendous and glorious body, with all its attendant planets, in a vast cycle, with the rest of starry creation, around AN UNKNOWN CENTRE; that is, a centre distinctly indicated in the motion of the stellar universe, but whose locality cannot even approximately be determined on account of the vastness of the motion, and the impossibility of obtaining data for calculation in the compass of a human lifetime.
The suggestion that this Unknown Centre is the source of all power is in significant harmony with what the Scriptures reveal concerning God. There is a source--there must be a source--and this source must be a centre, because all power is manifested at centres. The earth draws every object on it to its centre, and pulls the moon round it as well. The earth in its turn is attracted towards the sun and drawn around it; and the sun itself with the whole framework of creation is drawn round A CENTRE. These are facts in the economy of things, and they are therefore divine facts, because the economy of things is the handiwork of God.
The testimonies quoted say that all things are OUT OF the Father. But where is THE FATHER? Does His name not imply that He is THE SOURCE? And, being the Source, is He not the Centre of creation? Some shrink from the suggestion that Deity has a located existence. Why should they? The Scriptures expressly teach the located existence of Deity. We submit the evidence: Paul says in I Tim. vi, 16. God dwells "IN THE LIGHT which no man can approach unto." Here is a localisation of the person of the Creator. If God were on earth in the same sense in which He dwells in LIGHT UNAPPROACHABLE, what could Paul mean by saying that man cannot approach? If God dwells in UNAPPROACHABLE LIGHT, He must have an existence there, which is not manifested in this mundane sphere. This is borne out by Solomon's words "God is IN HEAVEN, thou upon earth" (Ecclesiastes v, 2); "therefore let thy words be few." Jesus inculcates the same view in the prayer which he taught his disciples: "Our Father which art IN HEAVEN." So does David, in Psalm cii, 19, 20 "He (the Lord) hath looked down from THE HEIGHT Of His sanctuary; from HEAVEN did the Lord behold the earth, to hear the groaning of the prisoner." And again, in Psa. cxv, 16 "The HEAVEN, even the HEAVENS, are the Lord's; but the earth hath He given to the children of men." Solomon in the prayer by which he dedicated the temple to God (recorded in the 8th chapter of I Kings), made frequent use of this expression "Hear Thou IN HEAVEN Thy dwelling place." It is impossible to mistake the tenor of these testimonies they plainly mean that the Father of all is a person who exists in the central "HEAVEN OF HEAVENS" as He exists nowhere else. By His Spirit in immensely-filling diffusion, He is everywhere present in the sense of holding and knowing, and being conscious of creation to its utmost bounds; but in His proper person, all-glorious, beyond human power to conceive, He dwells in heaven.
Consider the ascension of our Lord, after his resurrection, and mark its tendency in this direction. Luke says (chap. xxiv, 51),
"He was parted from them, and carried up into HEAVEN," and Mark reiterates the statement "He was received up INTO HEAVEN, and sat on the right hand of God" (Mark xvi, 19). These statements can only be understood on the principle that the Deity has a personal manifested existence in "THE HEAVENS."
What part of the wide heavens this honoured spot may occupy, we cannot and need not know. Probably it is that great undiscovered astronomical centre to which allusion has already been made.
There is great and invincible repugnance to this evidently Scriptural and reasonable, and beautiful view of the matter. It is the popular habit, where serious views of God are entertained at all, to conceive of Him as a principle or energy in universal diffusion--without corporeal nucleus, without local habitation, "without body or parts." There is no ground for this popular predilection, except such as philosophy may be supposed to furnish. Philosophy is a poor guide in the matter. Philosophy, after all, is only human thought. It can have little weight in a matter confessedly beyond human ken. The question is, What is revealed? We need not be concerned if what is revealed is contrary to. philosophical conceptions of the matter. Philosophical conceptions are just as likely to be wrong as right. Paul warns believers against the danger of being spoiled through philosophy (Col. ii, 8). Philosophy or no philosophy, the Scriptures quoted plainly teach that the Father is a tangible person, in whom all the powers of the Universe converge.
There is other evidence in the occurrences at Mount Sinai. There Moses had intercourse with the Deity. We will not say that the Being with whom he had this intercourse was actually THE ETERNAL ONE, because it is evident, from what Stephen and Paul teach, that it was an angelic manifestation (Acts vii, 38, 53; Heb. ii, 2); and because Christ declares no man hath seen God at any time (John i, 18). Yet it is affirmed that to Moses it was a similitude of Jehovah (Num. xii, 8). It was, therefore, a manifestation of the Deity; and, if so, it illustrated the reality of the Deity; for the Deity must be higher, greater, and more real than His subordinate manifestations. The testimony is as follows:
"The Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I COME UNTO THEE IN A THICK CLOUD, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever Be ready against the third day: for the third day THE LORD WILL COME DOWN in the sight of all the people upon Mount Sinai... And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were THUNDERS AND LIGHTNINGS, and a thick cloud upon the Mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud, so that all the people that were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the nether part of the Mount.
"And Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, BECAUSE THE LORD DESCENDED UPON IT IN FIRE, and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly . . . And God spake all these words (the ten commandments) . . . And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they removed and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, 'Speak thou with us and we will hear; but let not God speak with us lest we die'.... And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness, WHERE GOD WAS. And the Lord said unto Moses, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven," etc. (Ex. xix, 9, 11, 16-18: xx, 1, 18-22).
Further on this subject, we have the following in Ex. xxiv, 1, 2, 9-12, 15-18:--
"And He (Jehovah) said unto Moses, come up unto the Lord, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship ye afar off. And Moses alone shall come near the Lord; but they shall not come nigh, neither shall the people go up with him .... Then went up Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, AND THEY SAW THE GOD OF ISRAEL. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone. and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel He laid not His hand; also they saw God, and did eat and drink. And the Lord said unto Moses. Come up to Me into the Mount, and be there, and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written, that thou mayest teach them And Moses went up into the Mount, and a cloud covered the Mount. And the glory of the Lord abode Upon Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And the seventh day He called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud; and the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the Mount in the eyes of the children of Israel. And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the Mount; and Moses was in the Mount forty days and forty nights."
All subsequent reference to these things is founded on the idea that they are related to a real person and presence. Thus we read in Numbers xii, 8 :--
"With (Moses) will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches, and the SIMILITUDE of the Lord shall he behold."
Again (Exodus xxxiii, 11):--
"And the Lord spake unto Moses FACE TO FACE, as a man speaketh unto his friend."
Again (Deut. xxxiv, 10):--
"And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face."
Now, though the manifestation witnessed in these cases was a manifestation through angelic mediumship, yet the manifestation speaks to us of a Being higher and more real than that manifestation. It helps the mind to climb to some conception (though necessarily superficial and inadequate) of Him "who maketh His angels spirits; His ministers a flaming fire" (Psa. civ, 4)--who is "light, and in whom is no darkness at all" (I John i, 5)--who "inhabiteth eternity" (Isa. lvii, 15)---who is a "consuming fire" (Heb. xii, 29)--whom no man hath seen, nor (on account of our grossness and weakness of nature) can see; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto (I Tim. vi, 16)--who is of purer eyes than to behold the iniquity of the children of men (Hab. i, 13)--the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, who fainteth not, neither is weary, and there is no searching of His understanding (Isa. xl, 28).
"Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and meted out heaven with a span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or, being His counsellor, hath taught Him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed Him and taught Him in the path of judgment, and taught Him knowledge, and showed to Him the way of understanding? . . . All nations before Him are as nothing, and they are counted to Him less than nothing, and vanity. To whom, then, will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto Him?" (Isa. xl, 12-18). Who can, by Searching, find out God? (Job xi, 7). Behold, God is great, and we know Him not; neither can the number of His years be searched out (Job xxxvi, 26). His eyes are upon the ways of man, and He seeth all his goings.
The testimony before us is, that God is the only underived and self-sustaining existence in the universe. All other forms of life are but incorporations of the life which is in Him--so many subdivisions of the stream which issues from the great fountainhead. The following statements affirm this view :--
"The King of kings, and Lord of lords, who ONLY hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto" (I Tim. vi, 15, 16).
"IN HIM we live, and move, and HAVE OUR BEING" (Acts xvii, 28).
"For out of Him (ex autou), and through Him, and to Him ARE ALL THINGS" (Rom. xi, 36).
"To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom ARE ALL THINGS" (I Cor. viii, 6).
Popular theology teaches that God' made all things "out of nothing." This is evidently one of many errors that have long passed current as truth. It has proved an unfortunate error; for it has brought physical science into needless collision with the Bible. Physical science has compelled men to accept it as an axiomatic truth that "out of nothing, nothing can come," and having been led to believe that the Bible teaches that all things have been made out of nothing, they have dismissed the Bible as out of the question on that ground alone. They have taken refuge by preference in various theories that have recognised the eternity of material force in some form or other.
The Bible teaches that all things have been made out of God --not out of nothing. It teaches, as the passages quoted show, that God, as the antecedent, eternal power of the universe, has elaborated all things out of Himself. "Spirit," irradiating from Him, has, under the fiat of His will, been embodied in the vast material creation which we behold. That Spirit now constitutes the substratum of all existence--the very essence and first cause of everything. All things are "in God," because embraced in that mighty effluence which radiating from Himself, fills all space, and constitutes the basis of all existence. In this way God is omnipresent; His consciousness is en rapport with all creation by reason of the universal prevalence of His Spirit, which is one with His personal Spirit-substance, in the way that light is one with the body of the sun. The idea of God's omniscience is too high for us to readily grasp, but we see it illustrated on a small scale in the fact that the human brain in certain sensitive states is conscious of everything within the radius of its own nervous effluence. Though located in the heavens, the Creator, by His universal Spirit, knows everything; and His infinite capacity of mind enables Him to deal with everything, contemplatively or executively, as the case may require.