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the same with ár' d'exñs, from the beginning, 1 John i. 1.; where, speaking of Chriit by the name of eternal life, and of the word of life, That (says he) which was from the beginning. Nonnus, the ancient paraphraft of St. John's gospel, by way of explication of what is meant by his being in the beginning, adds, that he was eXpovos, without time ; that is, before all time: and if so, then he was from all eternity. In the beginning was the Word; that is, when things began to be made he was ; not then began to be, but then already was, and did exist before any thing was made; and consequently is without beginning, for that which was never made, could have no beginning of its being. And so the Jews used to defcribe eternity, before the world was, and before the foundation of the world; as also in several places of the New Teftament. And so likewise Solomon describes the eternity of Wisdom, Prov. viii. 22. 23. &c. The Lord (says he) 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 he prepared the heavens, I was there : then I was by him as one brought up with him, rejoicing always before him. And fo Justin Martyr explains this very expression of St. John, that he was, or had a being before all ages. So likewise Athenagoras, a most ancient Christian writer: “God, (fays
he), who is an invisible mind, had from the beginning the Word in himself.”
2. That in the beginning the Word was with God. And fo Solomon, when he would express the eternity of Wirdom, fays, it was with God: and so likewise the fun of Sirach speaking of Wisdom, says, it was perd To Beco, with God. And fo the ancient Jews often called the Word of God, “the Word which is before the Lord;" that is, with him, or in his presence. In like manner the Evangelist says here, that the Word was with God; that is, it was always together with him, pártaking of his happiness and glory: To which our Saviour refers in his prayer, John xvii
. 5: Glorify me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. And this
being with God the Evangelist opposeth to his appearing and being manifested to the world, v. 10. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world
is that is,
knew him not ; that is, he who from all eternity was with God, appeared in the world; and when he did so, though he had made the world, yet the world would not own him. And this opposition between his being with God, and his being manifested in the world, the fame St. John mentions elsewhere, i John i. 2. We few unto you that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.
3. That he was God. And so Justin Martyr says of him, That “he was God before the world; from all eternity. But then the Evangelist adds by way of explication, The same was in the beginning with God; that is, though the Word was truly and really God, yet he was not God the Father, who is the fountain of the Deity, but an emanation from him, the only begotten Son of God, from all eternity with him; to denote to us, that which is commonly called by divines, and for any thing I could ever see properly enough, the distinetion of persons in the Deity ; at least we know not a fitter word whereby to express that great mystery. 4. That all things were made by him.
This seems to refer to the description which Mofes makes of the creation, where God is represented creating things by his word, Gen. i. God said, let there be light, and there was light: and so likewise the Pfalmist, Psal. xxxiii. 6. By the word of the Lord were the heavens made ; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. And so St. Peter alfo expresseth the creation of the world, 2 Pet. iï. 5. By the word of the Lord the heavens were of old, and the earth made out of water.
And in the ancient books of the Chaldeans, and the verses ascribed to Orpheus, the maker of the world is called the Word, and the divine Word. And so Tertullian tells the Pagans, that by their philosophers the maker of the world was called Ayos, the Word, or Reason. And Philo the Jew, following Plato, who himself most probably had it from the Jews, says, that the world was created by the Word; whom he calls the name of God, and the image of God, and the Son of God: two of which glorious titles are afcribed to him, together with that of maker of the world, by the author of the epistle to the Hebrews : In these last days (says he) God hath spoken to us by his Son, by whom
also he made the worlds: who is the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his perfon. And to the same purpose St. Paul, speaking of Christ, Colof. i. 15. 16. 17. calls him the image of the invisible God, the first-borna of every creature; that is, born before any thing was created; as does evidently follow from the reason given in the next words why he called him the first-born of every creature : For by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible : all things were created by him, and for him. And he is before all things, and by him all things subfift. From whence it is plain, that by his being the first-born of every creature, thus much at least is to be understood, that he was before all creatures, and therefore he himself cannot be a creature, unless he could be before himself. Nay, the Apostle fays it expressly in this very text in which he is called the first-born of every creature, (or of the whole creation), that he is before all things; that is, he had a being before there was any created being, he was before all creatures both in duration and in dignity; for so must he of necessity be, if all things were made by him; for as the maker is always before the thing which is made, so is he also better, and of greater dignity.
And yet I must acknowledge, that there seems to be no small difficulty in the interpretation I have given of this expression in which Christ is faid by the Apostle to be the first-born of every creature, or of the whole creation ; because in strictness of speech the first-born is of the same nature with those in respect of whom he is said to be the first-born : and if so, then he must be a creature as well as those in respect of whom he is faid to be the first-born. This is the objection in its full strength, and I do own it to have a very plausible appearance: and yet I hope, before I have done, to satisfy any one that will consider things impartially, and without prejudice, and will duly attend to the scope of the Apostle's reasoning in this text, and compare it with other parallel places of the New Testament, that it neither is, nor can be the Apostle's meaning in affirming Christ to be the first-born of every creature, to insinuate that the Son of God is a creature. For how can this possibly agree with that which fol
lows, and is given as the reason why Christ is said to be the first-born of every creature, namely, because all things were made by him. The Apostle's words are these: The first-born of every creature, (or of the whole creation); for by him all things were created : but now, according to the Socinian interpretation, this would be a reason just the contrary way: for if all things were created by him, then he himself is not a creature. So that the Apostle's meaning in this
expression must either be, that the Son of God, our blessed Saviour, was before all creatures, as it is said presently after, that he is before all things; and then the reason which is added will be very proper and pertinent, He is before all things, because all things were created by him. In which sense it is very probable, that the Son of God elsewhere calls himself the beginning of the creation of God, Rev. iii. 14: meaning by it, as the philosophers most frequently use the word ipvå, the principle or efficient cause of the creation: and so we find the same word which our translation renders the beginning, used together with the word first-born, as if they were of the fame importance, Colof. i. 18. the beginning and first-born from the dead; that is, the principle and efficient cause of the resurrection of the dead.
Or else, which seems to me to be the most probable, and indeed the true meaning of the expression, by this title of the first-born of every creature, the Apostle means, that he was lord and heir of the creation : for the firstborn is natural heir; and Justinian tells us, that heir did anciently signify lord: and therefore the scripture uses these terms promiscuously, and as if they were equivalent. For whereas St. Peter says of Jesus Christ, that be is Lord of all, Acts x. 36. ; St. Paul calls him heir of all things, Rom. iv. 13.; and then the reason given by the Apostle why he calls him the first-born of every crea
very fit and proper, because all things were created by him. For well may he be said to be lord and heir of the creation, who made all things that were made, and without whom was not any thing made that was made.
And this will yet appear much more evident, if we consider, that the Apostle to the Hebrews (who, by seves ral of the ancients, was thought to be St. Paul, where he
ture, will be
gives to Christ some of the very fame titles which St. Paul in his epistle to the Colossians had done, calling him the image of God, and the maker of the world) does, instead of the title of the first-born of every creature, call him the heir of all things and then adds, as the reason of this title, that by him God made the worlds. God (says he) hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath constituted heir of all things : who being ihe brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, &c. which is exactly parallel with that passage of St. Paul to the Colossians, where Christ is called the image of the invisible God; and where it is likewise faid of him, that he made all things, and that by him all things do fubfift. Which the Apostle to the Hebrews, in different words, but to the very fame fense, expresseth by his upholding all things by the word of his power; that is, by the fame powerful word by which all things at first were made : but then, instead of calling him the first-born of every creature, because all things were made by him, he calls him the heir of all things, by whom God also made the worlds:
And indeed that expression of the firft-born of every creature cannot admit of any other fcnfe which will agree so well with the reason that follows, as the sense which I have mentioned; namely, that he is therefore heir and lord of the whole creation, because all creatures were made by him; which exactly answers those words of the Apostle to the Hebrews, whom he hath constituted heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.
And now. I appeal to any sober and considerate man, whether the interpretation which I have given of that expression of the first-born of every creature, be not much more agreeable both to the tenor of the scripture, and to the plain scope and design of the Apostle's argument and reasoning in that text ?
I have insisted the longer upon this, because it is the great text upon which the Arians lay the main strength and stress of their opinion, that the Son of God is a creature, because he is said by the Apostle to be the first-born of every creature; by which expression, if no more be meant than that he is heir and lord of the whole creation, which I have shewed to be very agreeable both to