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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 must 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 consist.” John, “ the disciple whom Jesus loved,” long survived the rest of his fellow disciples. He knew what some of them had written. He lived to see the progress of the truth as it is in Christ. He saw a 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 of Jesus Christ,” in common with their saints, he retired into exile in “ the isle that is called Patmos," a cheerful victim to “ the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” In that sacred retirement, more to be prized than all the blessings of society, he is visited with the visions of the Almighty, and becomes the highly honoured minister of unfolding the character, offices and work of his divine and beloved Master, from the days of eternity to the final consummation, when He who sitteth upon the throne shall say, “ Behold I make all things new.” The Gos pel 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 restitution of all things.” And one and the same agent is represented as the animating pinciple which is before all , and through all, and in all
. In the beginning. The mind, with all its powers, loses itself in surveying the works and the ways of God. a
I have a dark, indistinct recollection of my first emersion into thought. I can remember some of the impressions made, of the sorrows and joys felt, when I was a little child. Soon after I began to exist, I be,
gan 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 truth. Their own pittance of illumination flowed 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 nostrils the breath of life; there must have been one without a beginning, to make a beginning. And who He was, the Evangelist unfolds.
In the beginning was the WORD. Let us not contend about the import of a Greek term. If our evengelist has not an intention to mislead, but one idea can be affixed to that term. He is evidently describing God the creator, in the view of leading us to know and to acknowledge the Redeemer of mankind as one and the same 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 rejected of men ?” The Word that was in the beginning, and who has revealed himself by a display of so many glorious attributes. “Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh.” Is this proposition to be rejected because is is mysterious ? For the same reason the system of nature, in whole, and in all its parts, is to be rejected. All is mystery; and all is revelation and discovery, from the insect too small for sight, swimming in a drop of water, up to yonder flaming orb, which revolves at an immeasurable distance over our heads. Is not man a great mystery to himself? But is he to renounce his being because he is unable to explain it? Is he to call the union of matter with mind an absurdity, because their mutual influence escapes his penetration? How many combinations actually exist of which we have no perception, and which we would pronounce to be impos
sible ! In all the ways and works of the Most High, there is a wonderful mixture of luminousness and ob. scurity, of minuteness and magnitude, of complexness and simplicity. And Scripture exhibits the connexion of extremes similar to that which is apparent in the world of nature and in the ways of Providence. This is a presumption at least, if not a proof, that they have all one original; and who can that original be but the divine person emphatically called the WORD, which existed in the plentitude of power, wisdom, and goodness, “before the world was,” but of whose pre-existent state, very general ideas only are communicated. Indeed none other can be communicated, for when the mind launches into infinity, it is overwhelmed, and lost. 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 state. The evangelist says,
The word was with God, as the deliberative, active, determining principle of the Eternal mind. The wise man expands the thought, and represents the plans of eternal 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 unfolds the purpose 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 of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before 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 sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment; 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 habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.” Thus was the Word with God from eternity, taking pleasure in the prospect of the fabric which He was about to rear; of the creature whom 'he was going to frame, and whose nature he was in due time to assume; that he might make the children of men “partakers of the divine nature,” a 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 these 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.” Lest the expression the Word was with God might be supposed to imply separation, difference as a man who sojourns with his friend is nevertheless a different being from that friend, the evangelist speaks out fairly, fully, unequivocally, the truth which he himself believed, and which he was divinely inspired to deliver to mankind, that they also might believe. If St. John be not in these words delivering the doctrine of the real and 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 safe channel of communication between man and man.
The same was in the beginning with God. John speaks as a prophet as well as an evangelist. Fore.
seeing that “false teachers” should arise, “even denying the Lord that bought them,” he employs a clearness, a copiousness, a force of expression on this momentous point, not to be misunderstood, not to be slighted, not to be explained away. When a master 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 ambiguity and to prevent mistake. This is evidently the case here. It must not be made a question, “Of whom speaketh” the evangelist thus ? of himself or of some other man ?” The identity 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 same through every period of duration ; the same 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 that was made.. Behold the execution of the eternal plan. The design is copied to an iota. It is the incommunicable prerogative of Deity to create. He who creates cannot be himself a creature. By the WORD were all things made, the Word therefore could not have been made. What God did by the Word of his power, he did by himself; and “through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.” Mark the universality of this creative energy ; All things were made by him. The apostle makes a splendid enumeration of those all things, in his epistle to the Colossians, ch. i. v. 16. Him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers ; all things were created by him and for him.” Whereever therefore there is created existence, there is omnipotent, omnipresent, creating and sustaining virtue ; and there can be but One Omnipotent, Omnipresent. “ Angels” are said to “ excel in strength," but that
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