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BY CHRIST ALL THINGS CREATED.
[SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.]
COL. i. 15-17.
15. Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
16. For by 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.
17. And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
Ir does not admit of a moment's doubt; that this is a description of Jesus Christ. For, in the verses preceding, the Apostle calls on the Colossians to give thanks unto the Father for "translating them into the kingdom of his dear Son, in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." Then follows my text.
In this passage, which occurs in one of the lessons for the day, there are expressions which
immediately indicate an exalted dignity and power which would lead the unprejudiced mind to attribute to Christ uncreated divinity; and others which seem to depress him to the grade of a creature. He, who is the "image of the invisible God," we should think must possess the attributes of that God, of whom he is the image. He, who" created all things," who "is before all things," and " by whom all things consist," it would seem impious to consider, as less than God. While the appellation "the first born of every creature," would, at the first view, seem to establish an inferiority of nature incompatible with his Divinity.
My brethren, whatever God has revealed of his infinite nature, it is surely of importance that we should believe. And if faith in Jesus Christ be the prescribed condition of salvation, it is of indispensible importance to ascertain the nature and character of him in whom we are called to profess our faith. Let us then turn our attention to the investigation of the meaning of a passage which exhibits him to us in so many striking expressions.
The first expression by which he is represented the image of the invisible God."
In the ordinary acceptation of words, when is one person said to be the image of another?
When the former resembles the latter in corporeal or intellectual qualities. In what sense then can it be said that Christ is "the image of the invisible God?" Without doubt, as resembling God in the spiritual properties of the Divine nature. And, let it be observed, the resemblance is not partial, in the possession merely of certain communicable attributes of wisdom and righte ousness, in which sense man is said to have been made "in the image of God";" but is full and perfect-embracing the incommunicable properties of the Divine essence-so that the same Apostle, in the epistle to the Hebrews, styles Christ" the brightness and the express," the exact, "image of his person"." But how can Christ be the exact image of the Father's person, and thus possess all the attributes and properties of the Divine essence, without being God? It is not sufficient, therefore, to say that Christ is the image of God, merely because he discloses to us the Divine perfections and will, in which sense this appellation is bestowed upon him by the Apostle in the Epistle to the Corinthians. He cannot be the image of the invisible God, the express, exact image of the Father's person, unless he possesses all the properties and attributes
of the Divine nature.
In this sense, of a sameness of nature and
• Gen. i. 27.
b Heb. i. 3.
c 2 Cor. iv. 4.
properties, as denoting the substance and not merely the shadow, is the word image used by the Apostle, when he says, "As we have borne the image of the earthly we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." And, in the Hebrews, "The law containing a shadow of good things to come and not the very image of the things"." Image, then, in apostolical language, denotes the possession on the part of the person or thing, to whom it is applied of all the properties and of the nature of the person or thing with whom or with which the comparison is drawn. Christ, therefore, "who is the image of the invisible God," must possess the Divine nature.
But how does this possession of the Divine nature comport with the next title bestowed on Christ in the passage under consideration?
The title applied to Christ," first-born," simply considered, might lead to the supposition, that he was the first of created beings. But when we connect these terms with the succeeding "the first-born of every creature," the phrase means, born before all creatures; or, as the Apostle declares in a subsequent part of this same passage" he is before all things." But could he be born before all creatures, could he be "before all things," and be himself a creaturea part of that creation before the whole of which
1 Cor. xv. 49.
e Heb. x. 1.
it is said, he existed? Impossible. And if he be not a creature, whom can he be but the uncreated Being, who, existing before all things, existed necessarily from all eternity? Begotten indeed the Son was; deriving his nature, in an incomprehensible manner, from the Father; and therefore styled, "own Son" and "the only-begotten Son of God." But he thus ineffably derived his divine nature, was thus begotten, "before all things," "from the beginning, or
ever the world was."
And that he was thus God, begotten before the whole creation, is confirmed by the subsequent declaration of the Apostle, in sublime terms exhibiting him as the Creator of the worlds.
"For by 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. And he is before all things, and by him all things consist."
"By him were all things created"-and therefore he must be "before all things," himself uncreated. By him"-not as the instrumental efficient cause, in the same sense, in
but as the
Rom. viii. 3. John i. 14. 18.