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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
James Abbadie and Dean of Killaloe. Originally written in French. Translated into English by Abraham Booth.
From A Treatise on the Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 1777
The apostles and evangelists, when aliening the dignity of their Divine Master, made no scruple of applying to him those oracles of the Old Testament which express the characters of God's essential glory. Of this various instances have been already produced, which we shall examine more particularly hereafter. And our adversaries themselves do not deny it, since they pretend that those oracles are applied to Christ by way of allusion or accommodation.
But it is very surprising and absolutely unaccountable that the apostles should make such application to him, if he be not the true God. For common sense, one would have thought, was sufficient to inform them that such things as were spoken only of the Creator ought not to be applied to a mere creature. It was never known that such applications were made without being censured by those that feared God of impiety and blasphemy.
The ancient heathens, indeed, were not very scrupulous in this respect. For it was common with them to debase God and to exalt creatures by attributing to them the glories of the Deity; and in this the prodigious excess of their superstition principally confided. Their example, however, ought to have no weight with us; as it was, we may allure ourselves, detested by the apostles. For they had been instructed in the school of the prophets; they, therefore, were incapable of falling into such a mistake. The care of the prophets, in that respect is very remarkable. Always jealous for the glory of God; they are perpetually cautious that the Creator should not be confounded with any of his creatures. And being thus constantly upon their guard, they never apply the characteristics of Jehovah's glory to any mere creature.
It cannot, I think, be supposed that those exalted and descriptive characters, which the apostles give of Jesus Christ are more sacred, or more peculiar to him than those which the prophets gave of the God of Israel. As therefore we should not dare to apply the peculiar characters of Christ to any of his apostles; so a similar reason ought to hinder us, ought to have hindered all, from applying the distinguishing characters of Jehovah to Jesus Christ if he be not the true God.
A man would be justly charged with blasphemy, were he to apply to Peter, for instance, the following names, characters and works of Jesus Christ. Were he to call him:
Were he to proceed and assert that Peter redeemed the church with his own blood. That he bare our sins in his own body on the tree. That we have redemption through his blood, and are reconciled to God by his death. That there is no name but that of Peter, by which we must be saved. That Peter is made unto us of God, wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption. That Peter dwells in our hearts by faith. And that there is no condemnation to them that are in Peter. Were any one thus to speak of that great apostle, what would the Christian world say of him? They would certainly call him, either a madman, or a blasphemer.
Nor would their indignation against his conduct be much abated, were they to hear him once and again acknowledge that “Jesus Christ is greater than Peter.” For they would boldly tell him that by such a declaration, he only contradicted himself, and tacitly confessed his blasphemy. Nor would it avail such an one to say that the application he makes of the characters and attributes, the grace and works of Jesus Christ to Peter, is only by way of allusion and accommodation. For it would quickly be replied that such allusions and accommodations are impious, are absolutely unwarrantable, and are pregnant with blasphemy.
If, then, an application of the principal characters, attributes, and works of our Lord to Peter would be considered and treated by Christians, as abominable blasphemy; it must be a much higher degree of that malignant crime to apply the names and titles, the attributes and works of the Supreme Being to Jesus Christ if he be not a Divine Person. Nor is it any wonder that the Jews should so consider it. For if the disproportion between Jesus and Peter lie great, that which is between Christ and God is inconceivably greater according to the principles of our opponents; the former being finite, the latter unbounded. Consequently, the blasphemy in the one case is infinitely greater than that in the other.
The impiety of applying the characters of Christ to Peter will appear in a still stronger light, if, in the case supposed, he who makes the application be considered as knowing that this question, “Is Peter equal to Jesus Christ?” had been debated on very important occasions; and that he foresaw this error, would become general in the world; so that, for many ages, Peter would bear the names and receive the honours of Jesus Christ. In such a case, he would be guilty of prodigious impiety indeed; the consequences foreseen being so injurious to the honour of Christ, and so fatal to the souls of men.
This, it is obvious, is applicable to the apostles. For they were not ignorant that this question, “Is Jesus Christ equal with God?” had been debated. Nay, they well knew, that it was under a charge of pretended blasphemy, for claiming an equality with God, that the Jews had persecuted their Master and procured his death. And as they foresaw that false teachers would arise in future ages, and were able to describe their heretical doctrines. They could not be ignorant, that vast multitudes profaning Christianity would so apostatize, as to put Jesus Christ, a mere creature, in the place of God.
But if they knew and foresaw these things, ought not a zealous regard for the honour of God, and a tender concern for the souls of men, to have prevented their applying those oracles of the Old Testament, which express the glory of JEHOVAH, in contradistinction to that of his creatures, to Jesus Christ? Who, then, on the principles of them we oppose, can justify the conduct of the apostles, in so doing? Who can exculpate Jesus himself, by whole command and inspiration they wrote? Who can justly condemn the conduct of the Sanhedrin, who arraigned him for blasphemy and caused him to end his life on the cross, as an enemy to God and a deceiver of men? Or who can blame the modern Jews for continuing in their infidelity?