« السابقةمتابعة »
“Behold a man who has been wrestling with God in prayer that the Messiah might come, and that it might be his privilege to see him; and he has prevailed. The Messiah has already come, and now stands before him.” Well might Philip flatter himself that if Nathanael would “come and see,” he would soon be convinced.
2. But what signifies the remainder of the sentence—“in whom is no guile.” The allusion is still to Jacob; and perhaps our Lord added these words, partly for the very purpose of making it more apparent to Nathanael that such was the allusion intended. Be that as it may, we very well know that Jacob supplanted his brother by guile, and that he discovered a strong propensity to practice it in other instances. And, indeed, the name Jacob signifies a supplanter, an artful manager, and was given to be predictive of one leading trait in his character. But when he wrestled with the angel he was sincere, he was in earnest. Hence, the pointed significance of the angel's question, “What is thy name ?” He asked, not for information, but that he might take occasion from the answer to change his name, and by the change to signify to him most impressively, that he was no longer to be regarded as having obtained the blessing by supplanting his brother, but as a prince of God, who had wrestled with him in prayer for it, and prevailed. “Thou shalt no longer be considered as a supplanter, a deceiver, but as a sincere and successful pleader with God.” The Lord thus pardoned his sin and wiped away his reproach. Understanding our Saviour, therefore, as speaking in strict allusion to the significance of names, what he said amounts to this, “ Behold a inan who may properly be called Israel, according to the real import of the name, in distinction from being called Jacob, in the descriptive sense of that
3. This view of the subject accounts naturally for Nathanael's surprise, and for the question by which he expressed it, “Whence knowest thou me ?” He comprehended in a moment the meaning of our Saviour's remark, and saw in it the perfect delineation of his own likeness as he was under the fig-tree; and filled with astonishment, he was already beginning to be convinced.
4. Our Lord's reply finished the driving and clenching of the nail : " Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee.” This, to the consciousness of Nathanael, explained the whole matter. He perceived that the eye of Jesus was one that “seeth in secret ;" that he had been a witness of his inmost thoughts and feelings, of the intensity of his desires and petitions ; and however his connection with Nazareth might be explained, he was convinced that this same Jesus was no other than the Messiah.
5. Nathanael, in the freshness of his convictions, and from the fulness of his heart, now professes his faith in Christ without further misgiving or hesitation. “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.” Perhaps by the last expression, “thou art the King of Israel,” he intended to keep up the allusion to Jacob, and to signify that he comprehended it. “If I may properly be called Israel, thou art the King of Israel; thou art my King, and my Lord, and as such I receive thee.".
6. The reply of Jesus to this profession harmonizes freely with the train of thought suggested. “Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig-tree, believest thou? Are you convinced by this single proof of my power to discern the hidden things of the heart, that I am the Son of God, and do you therefore receive me in faith as your Lord and King ? Thou shalt see greater things than these.” Jesus was just now beginning to make himself known to the world as sent of God, and this was one of the first exhibitions of his wondrous power and knowledge. Many other signs were to follow more striking, and more convincing, than this.
7. And, finally, Jesus ended the conference by throwing out a prophetic, and somewhat enigmatic intimation of what they might expect to see further. This he did in that solemn and impressive manner which he often adopted when he wished to fix the attention of his hearers, and put their minds closely on the alert. Addressing himself to the whole company in the plural, he said, “ Verily, verily, I say unto you, hereafter (or henceforth) ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” Nathanael had pronounced him “the Son of God," and this title he did not decline. But now, to bring into conjunction with that, the view of his human nature also, he calls himself “the Son of man.” He was both; and the lad. der which Jacob saw set up on the earth, and the top of it reaching to heaven, was strikingly emblematical of both. The allusion to Jacob is still kept up, though the scene changes to another incident in his life. Our Saviour, doubtless, intended to be understood as meaning that he was represented by the ladder that Jacob saw in his dream, the foot of it on earth, the top of it in heaven, and the angels of God ascending and descending on it. Gen. 28: 12. In his human nature, Jesus was on earth like other men; in his Divine nature, He was one with God in heaven. As he said to Nicodemus, “ And no man hath ascended up into heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” Like the ladder, he was on earth and in heaven at the same time. He was “God manifest in the flesh,” the only medium of communication between earth and heaven, between man and God, aptly represented by the angels ascending and descending upon the Son of man, and through him as Mediator, acting as ministering spirits to them who shall be heirs of salvation. The enlarged understanding and faith of
Christ's disciples would thereafter comprehend this mediatorial arrangement, as if they saw heaven open, like Jacob in his dream, and witnessed the process of reconciliation and intercommunication between God and man.
Understood in this manner, the purport and design of the whole conversation are clear and consentaneous, the scene morally beautiful and impressive in the highest degree, and the instruction remarkably rich, comprehensive, and suggestive. Nathanael and his friends were furnished, in a few words, with a theme for study and meditation all their days; a theme never yet exhausted by the Christian church, and one into which the angels desire to look.
By Rev. Edward BEECHER, D.D., Boston.
The attention of the Christian community has been of late, specially directed not only to the subject of the Trinity, but also to the great doctrine of the Incarnation of ihe Son of God. The relations of this wonderful dispensation of Divine wisdom and love are two-fold, first to the intelligent universe at large, and secondly to men as especially and personally interested in the blessings which it was primarily designed to confer. There is at this time a strong tendency in many minds to overlook the first aspect of this doctrine, and to convert the character, and work of Christ, into a more moral power, designed to effect a renovation of the sinful mind of man. No one familiar with the Word of God, will ihink of denying that the character of Christ is such a moral power. But he will regard it as an extremely limited and one-sided view to restrict the mind to this aspect of the subject.
We know indeed that of late the doctrine of angelic agency, as held for ages by the church, has been thrown into those heaps of theological rubbish, which the progress of true science is to sweep away, and that a theory has been promulgated of a universal necessity among all orders of beings, of passing through a salutary discipline of sinning in order to obtain a finished spiritual education and to arrive at a state of confirmed and established virtue. The incarnation of Christ, has been wrought into a system founded upon a theory of the universe which has this philosophy for its basis. We are told that the “God of Calvary and of the firma. ment, the love of one and the grandeur of the other, are gradually
melting into union. We have still immense masses of theologic rubbish on hand, which belong to the Ptolemaic system, huge piles of assumption about angels that have never sinned and angels that have, about other worlds and the reach of Christ's atonement there, which were raised up, evidently, on the world when it was flat, and must ultimately disappear, as we come into a more true sense of the astronomic universe.” God in Christ : p. 314. When we have come into this true sense of the astronomic universe, we shall find, it would seem, that the events of this world, even although they include the incarnation and atonement of the Son of God, are not the central events of the moral universe, any more than this earth is the center of the solar and starry systems, and that the attractive power of Christ's atonement no more reaches to distant worlds, and to all orders of beings in the intelligent universe, and holds them to the throne of God, than the attraction of this world holds together the solar system, and those innummerable orbs of light which fill on all sides the infinitude of space. We shall on the other hand discover that this vast universe in all its extent, is, and ever must be, a system of educating intelligent minds by the aid of a necessary process of sinning, in order to try out by experience the nature of things, and to gain a true knowledge of good and evil.
Though this system may occasionally coincide in ideas and language with some parts of the Scriptural system of Christianity, it is impossible to overstate the magnitude and importance of the difference between them, both in their essential nature and in their results.
It is not, however, our purpose to undertake a radical investigation of this system, but merely to state as we understand it, its Scriptural antagonist. Neither is it our purpose to go at great length into the proof of the views which we shall advance. Our great end at present is merely a symmetrical statement of our views of the relations and influences of the Incarnation of the Son of God. We shall indeed give to our discussion a Scriptura! aspect, and advance, in evidence of the truth of our statements, various Scriptural proofs; but the limits to which we are restricted will forbid an extended and complete investigation of all those portions of the Word of God which throw light upon the subject.
God manifest in the flesh, is doubtless the great mystery of godliness, the most wonderful occurrence which a created mind has ever contemplated, and even if revelation had been silent, and reason had thrown no light on this subject, we might have concluded, a priori, that most important ends were to be accomplished by an occurence so wonderful in the eyes of an astonished universeinto which angels desire to look.
Many, we are aware, seem to think that little is revealed on this subject, and that salvation by an incarnate Mediator is a dispen
sation to be submitted to, but not understood -a mystery to be believed but not to be investigated; and some even think the investigation of it a kind of irreverence. Others, as already intimated, take limited views of the subject, and confining their attention to a particular point, attach to it undue importance, and exclude other considerations, of equal or greater consequence. Thus some think of Christ merely as an example, a teacher, or a source of moral power, and neglect all his other important relations and works.
But if we would arrive at safe and infallible results on this subject, we must consult the Word of God alone. What facts he has revealed we may safely collect, compare and classify, neither adding nor omitting. If we proceed thus we shall find that much more is revealed than many imagine. Not only are facts revealed, but also their connections and bearings, and much of what we may call the philosophy of the subject is presented to our view. We do not assert that there are not many things connected with this subject, yet unrevealed, and which in another world may be disclosed, but this should not induce us to overlook what is revealed ; for a comparison of various parts of the Bible with each other, will throw floods of light on this subject. We shall therefore proceed to state the reasons which God has assigned for the Incarnation of Christ, and the relations and effects of his incarnation
1. He became incarnate in order to defeat the designs of evil angels, especially of the Devil, their leader and head. This is directly asserted by John. (1 Jn. 3: 9,)“ For this purpose the Son of God was manifested in the flesh,) (see 4: 2, 3,) that he might destroy the works of the Devil :” and again, Paul expressly asserts that he became incarnate “that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil.” (Heb. 2: 14.) Of the evil angels there are many ranks, called in the Bible by different names. Peter and Jude speak merely “of the angels that kept not their first estate," but Paul speaks of them under the name of “principalities and powers, in high places”-and, likewise, speaks of the holy angels under the name of “ tbrones, dominions, principalities and powers.” It is a fundamental doctrine of the Bible, that a conflict exists between these fallen angels and God; not of physical power, for He could with ease annihilate them, but of moral influence. He does not annibilate them, He permits them to live, and they attempt to disorganize and destroy his government, by tempting others to rebel. He by moral power, designs to defeat their plans, to preserve holy, the greater part of the universe, and to redeem from ruin, many whom they have actually induced to revolt, and finally to destroy the influence of the rest, and by their punishment, sustain his kingdom. They 'manifest a peculiar hatred of man, probably because from the human race a church is to be redeemed who shall be exalted to the place whence they fell.