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hand of God, he was revealed, manifested, declared to be more excellent than all the angels in heaven.
But I see no reason why we should desert the proper and most usual signification of the word, nothing in the context persuading us so to do. Besides, this suits not the apostle's design, who doth not prove from the Scripture that the Lord Christ was manifested to be more excellent than the angels, but that really he was preferred and exalted above them.
So then, xquirlo y ropesyos is as much as preferred, exalted, actually placed, in more power, glory, dignity, than the angels. This John Baptist affirms of him, εμπροσθεν με γεγονεν, ότι πρώτος M8 nv, “ He was preferred before me, because he was before me." Preferred above him, called to another manner of office than that which John ministered in; made before or above him in dignity, because he was before him in nature and existence. And this is the proper sense of the words. The Lord Jesus Christ, the revealer of the will of God in the gospel, is exalted above, preferred before, made more excellent and glorious than the angels themselves, than all or any of them, who ministered unto the Lord in the giving of the law on Mount Sinai.
Some object to this interpretation, that he who is said to be made or set above the angels, is supposed to have been lower than they before. To which I answer, And so he was, not in respect of essence, subsistence, and real dignity, but in respect of the infirmities and sufferings that he was exposed unto, in the discharge of his work here on the earth, as the apostle expressly declares, ch. ii. 9. | 2d, And this gives us light into our second inquiry on these words; namely, When it was that Christ was thus exalted above the angels.
1. Some say, that it was in the time of his incarnation ; for then the human nature being taken into personal subsistence with the Son of God, it became more excellent than that of the angels. This sense is fixed on by some of the ancients, who are followed by sundry modern expositors. But we have proved before, that it is not of either nature of Christ absolutely or abstractedly that the apostle here speaketh, nor of his person, but as vested with his office, and discharging it. And moreover the incarnation of Christ was part of his humiliation and exinanition, and is not therefore especially intended, where his exaltation and glory is expressly spoken of.
2. Some say, that it was at the time of his baptism, when he was anointed with the Spirit, for the discharge of his propheti. cal office, Isa. Ixi. 1, 2. “But yet neither can this designation of the time be allowed ; and that because the main things wherein he was made lower than the angels, as his temptations, and sufferings, and death itself, did follow his baptism and unction.
3. It must therefore be the time of his resurrection, ascension, and exaltation at the right hand of God, which ensued thereon, that is designed as the season wherein he was made more excellent than the angels, as evidently appears from the text and context.
For, 1. That was the time, as we have shewed before, when he was gloriously vested with that all power in heaven and earth, which was of old designed unto him, and prepared for him. 2. The order also of the apostle's discourse leads us to fix on this season. After he had by himself purged our sins, he sat down, &c. being made so much more excellent; that is, therein, and then he was so made. 3. The testimony in the first place produced by the apostle in the confirmation of his assertion, is elsewhere, as we shall see, applied by himself unto his resurrection and the glory that ensued, and consequently they are also in this place intended. 4. This preference of the Lord Christ above the angels, is plainly included in that grant of all power made unto him, Matt. xxvii. 18. expounded Eph. i. 21, 22. 5. The testimony used by the apostle in the first place, is the word that God spake unto his King, when he set him upon his holy hill of Sion, Psal. ii. 6–5. which typically expresseth his glorious instalment in his heavenly kingdom.
The Lord Christ then, who in respect of his divine nature was always infinitely and incomparably more excellent than all the angels, after his humiliation in the assumption of the human nature, with the sufferings and temptations that he underwent, upon his resurrection was exalted into a condition of glory, power, authority, and excellency, and intrusted with power over them, as our apostle here informs us.
3d, In this preference and exaltation of the Lord Christ, there is a degree intimated ; being made so much more, &c. Now our conceptions hereabout, as to this place, are wholly to be regulated by the name given unto him. Look, saith the apostle, as the name given to the Messiah exce's the name given to angels, so much doth he himself excel them in glory, authority and power; for these names are severally given them of God, to signify their state and condition. What, and how great this difference is, we shall afterwards see, in the consideration of the instances given of it by the apostle in the verses ensuing
4th, The proof of this assertion which the apostle first fixeth on, is taken from the name of Christ. His name, not given him by man, not assumed by himself, but ascribed unto him by God himself. Neither doth he here by the name of Christ, or the name of the angels, intend any individual proper names of the one or the other; but such descriptions as are made of them, and titles given unto them by God, as whereby their state and condition may be known. Observe, saith he, how they are called of God, by what names and titles he owns them, and you may learn the difference between them. This name he declares in the next verse: God said unto him, “ Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee.” It is not absolutely his being the Son of God that is intended, but that by the testimony of the Holy Ghost, God said these words unto him, “ Thou art my Son," and thereby declared his state and condition to be far above that of the angels, to none of whom he ever said any such thing, but speaks of thein in a far distinct manner, as we shall see. But hereof in the next verse.
Some by this excellent name understand his power, and dignity, and glory, called his name above every name,” Phil.ji. 8. but then this can no way prove that which the apostle produceth it for, it being directly the same with that which is assert. ed, in whose confirmation it is produced.
5th, The last thing considerable is, how the Lord Christ came by this name, or obtained it. Kexangovou nxe, he obtained it by inheritance, as his peculiar lot and portion for ever. In what sense he is said to be xarigoropos, the heir, was before declared. As he was made the heir of all, so he inherited a more excellent name than the angels. Now he was made heir of all, in that all things being made and formed by him, the Father committed unto him, as Mediator, a peculiar power over all things, to be disposed of by him unto all the ends of his mediation. So also, being the natural and eternal Son of God, in and upon the discharge of his work, the Father declared and pronounced that to be his name ; see Luke i. 35. Isa. vii. 14. ch. ix. 6. His being the Son of God, is the proper foundation of his being call. ed so ; and his discharge of his office the occasion of its decla. ration. So he came unto it by right of inheritance, when he was declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resur. rection from the dead, Rom. i. 3.
This then is the sum of the apostle's proposition, and the confirmation of it. A name given by God to that end and purpose, doth truly declare the nature, state and condition of him or them to whom it is given. But unto Christ the Mediator, there is a name given of God himself, exceedingly more excellent than any that by him is given unto the angels; which undeniably evinceth, that he is placed in a state and condition of glory far above them, or preferred before them.
I shall only observe one or two things, concerning the Hebrews to whom the apostle wrote, and so put an end to our exposition of this verse.
First, then, This discourse of the apostle, proving the preeminence of the Messiah above the angels, was very necessary unto the Hebrews, although it was very suitable unto their own principles, and in general acknowledged by them. It is to this day a tradition amongst them, that the Messiah shall be ex. alted above Abraham, and Moses, and the ministering angels. Besides, they acknowledged the Scriptures of the Old Testament, wherein the apostle shews them that this truth was taught and confirmed. But they were dull and slow in making application of these principles unto the confirmation of their faith in the gospel, as the apostle chargeth them, ch. v. 11, 12. And they had at that time great speculations about the glory, dignity and excellency of angels, and were fallen into some kind of worshipping of them. And it may be this curiosity, vanity and superstition, was heightened in them by the heat of the controversy between the Pharisees and Sadducees about the angels ; the one denying their existence and being, the other, whom the body of the people followed, exalting them above measure, and inclining to the worship of them. This the apostle declares, Col. ii. 18. Treating of those judaizing teachers who then troubled the churches, he chargeth them with fruitless and curious speculations about angels, and the worshipping of them. And of their ministry in the giving of the law they still boasted. It was necessary therefore to take them off from this confidence of that privilege, and the superstition that ensued thereon, to instruct them in the pre-eminence of the Lord Christ above them all, that so their thoughts might be directed unto him, and their trust placed in him alone. And this exaltation of the Messiah, some of their later doctors assert on Dan. vii. 9. 77 1117 797 71072 97, “ I beheld until the thrones were set,” placed, eralted, as in the original Chaldee; and as all old translations, Greek, Latin, Syriac and Arabic, render the words, (although our translation renders them, until the thrones were cast down), affirming that one of those thrones was for the Messiah, before whom all the angels ministered in obedience.
Secondly, It may not be amiss to remark, that the Jews have always had a tradition of the glorious name of the Messiah ; of which even since their utter rejection, they retain some obscure remembrance. The name which they principally magnify is 117009, Metatron. Ben Uzziel in his Targum on Gen. v. ascribes this name to Enoch when he was translateil, “he ascended into heaven in the word of the Lord,” 790 Nypr
and his name aras called Metatron the great ,מטטרון ספרא רבא
Scribe. But this opinion of Enoch being Metatron is rejected and confuted in the Talmud. There they tell us that Metatron is Shyn yw, the prince of the world: or, as Elias calls him in Thisbi, S D 70, the prince of God's presence. And in the first mention of this name which is Talmud. Tract. Saned. cap. iv. fol. 38. they plainly intimate, that they intended
he be, unto whom may be assigned what they ascribe unto Me.
For as Reuchlin from the Cabbalists informs us, they
the teacher of Moses himself anas ;רבי של משה מטטרון ,say
Metatron. He it is, saith Elias, that is the angel always appearing in the presence of God, of whom it is said, “ My name is in him." And the Talmudists, that he hath power to blot out the sins of Israel: whence they call him the chancellor of heaven. And Bechai on Exod. xxiii. affirms, that this name signifies both a Lord, a messenger, and a keeper. A Lord, because he ruleth all; a messenger, because he stands always before God to do his will; and a keeper, because he keepeth Israel. I confess the etymology that he gives of this name to that purpose, is weak and foolish ; as is also that of Elias, who tells us that Metatron is 7pouha, in the Greek tongue; one sent. But yet what is intended by all these obscure intimations is evident; the uncreated prince of glory, and his exaltation over all, with the excellency of his name, is aimed at. For the word itself, it is either a mere corruption of the Latin word Mediator, such as is usual amongst them, or a Gematrical fiction to answer '90, the Almighty, there being a coincidence in their numeral letters.
The doctrine of the preference and pre-eminence of Christ, is insisted on by the apostle unto the end of this chapter; and therefore I shall not treat of it, until we have gone through all the proofs of it produced; and even then but briefly ; having already in part spoken of it, in our consideration of his sovereignty and lordship over all.
That which we are peculiarly instructed in by these words is, that,
All pre-eminence and exaltation of one above others, depends on the supreme counsel and will of God.
The instance he gives of him who is exalted over all, sufficiently confirms our general rule. He had his name, denoting his glory and excellency, by inheritance; an heritage designed for him, and given unto him in the counsel, will and good pleasure of God: he gave him that name above every name, Phil. ii. 9. And that of his own will and pleasure; “it pleased the Father, that in him all fulness should dwell.” That so in all things he might have the pre-eminence, Col. i. 16, 17. He fore-ordained him unto it from eternity, 1 Pet. i. 20. and actually exalted him according to his eternal counsel in the fulness of time, Acts ii. 36. v. 31.
This prelation then of Christ above all, depends on the counsel and pleasure of God; and he is herein a pattern of all privilege and pre-eminence in others.
Grace, mercy and glory, spiritual things and eternal, are those wherein really there is any difference among the sons of men. Now that any one in these things is preferred before