Verse 12. "And they shall be changed" - Not destroyed ultimately, or annihilated. They shall be changed and renewed.
"But thou art the same" - These words can be said of no being but God; all others are changeable or perishable, because temporal; only that which is eternal can continue essentially, and, speaking after the manner of men, formally the same.
"Thy years shall not fail." - There is in the Divine duration no circle to be run, no space to be measured, no time to be reckoned.
All is eternity-infinite and onward.
Verse 13. "But to which of the angels" - We have already seen, from the opinions and concessions of the Jews, that, if Jesus Christ could be proved to be greater than the angels, it would necessarily follow that he was God: and this the apostle does most amply prove by these various quotations from their own Scriptures; for he shows that while he is the supreme and absolute Sovereign, they are no more than his messengers and servants, and servants even to his servants, i.e. to mankind.
Verse 14. "Are they not all ministering spirits" - That is, They are all ministering spirits; for the Hebrews often express the strongest affirmative by an interrogation.
All the angels, even those of the highest order, are employed by their Creator to serve those who believe in Christ Jesus. What these services are, and how performed, it would be impossible to state. Much has been written on the subject, partly founded on Scripture, and partly on conjecture. They are, no doubt, constantly employed in averting evil and procuring good. If God help man by man, we need not wonder that he helps man by angels. We know that he needs none of those helps, for he can do all things himself; yet it seems agreeable to his infinite wisdom and goodness to use them. This is part of the economy of God in the government of the world and of the Church; and a part, no doubt, essential to the harmony and perfection of the whole. The reader may see a very sensible discourse on this text in vol. ii., page 133, of the Rev. John Wesley's works, American edition. Dr. Owen treats the subject at large in his comment on this verse, vol. iii., page 141, edit. 8vo., which is just now brought to my hand, and which appears to be a very learned, judicious, and important work, but by far too diffuse. In it the words of God are drowned in the sayings of man.
THE Godhead of Christ is a subject of such great importance, both to the faith and hope of a Christian, that I feel it necessary to bring it full into view, wherever it is referred to in the sacred writings. It is a prominent article in the apostle's creed, and should be so in ours. That this doctrine cannot be established on ver. 8 has been the assertion of many. To what I have already said on this verse, I beg leave to subjoin the following criticisms of a learned friend, who has made this subject his particular study.
BRIEF REMarkS ON HEBREWS, chap. 1, ver. 8.
∆o qronov sou, o qeov, eiv touve aiwnav.
It hath ever been the opinion of the most sound divines, that these words, which are extracted from the 45th Psalm, are addressed by God the Father unto God the Son. Our translators have accordingly rendered the passage thus: "Thy throne, O God, is for ever." Those who deny the Divinity of Christ, being eager to get rid of such a testimony against themselves, contend that o qeov is here the nominative, and that the meaning is: "God is thy throne for ever." Now it is somewhat strange, that none of them have had critical acumen enough to discover that the words cannot possibly admit of this signification. It is a rule in the Greek language, that when a substantive noun is the subject of a sentence, and something is predicated of it, the article, if used at all, is prefixed to the subject, but omitted before the predicate. The Greek translators of the Old, and the authors of the New Testament, write agreeably to this rule. I shall first give some examples from the latter:-
qeov hn o logov.
- "The Word was God." John i. 1.
∆o logov sarx egeneto.
- "The Word became flesh." John i. 14.
pneuma o qeov.
- "God is a Spirit." John iv. 24.
∆o qeov agaph esti.
- "God is love." 1 John iv. 8
∆o qeov fwv esti.
- "God is light." 1 John i. 5
If we examine the Septuagint version of the Psalms, we shall find, that in such instances the author sometimes places the article before the subject, but that his usual mode is to omit it altogether. A few examples will suffice:- ∆o qeov krithv dikaiov.
- "God is a righteous judge." Psa. vii. 11.
∆o qeov hmwn katafugh kai dunamiv,-"God is our refuge and strength." Psa. xlvi. 1.
kuriov bohqov mou.
- "The Lord is my helper." Psa. xxviii. 7.
kuriov sterewma mou kai katafugh mon.
- "The Lord is my firm support and my refuge." Psa. xviii. 2.
qeov megav kuriov.
- "The Lord is a great God." Psa. xcv. 3.
We see what is the established phraseology of the Septuagint, when a substantive noun has something predicated of it in the same sentence.
Surely, then, we may be convinced that if in Psa. xlv. 6, the meaning which they who deny our Lord's Divinity affix, had been intended, it would rather have been written qronov sou, o qeov, or qronov sou, qeov. This our conviction will, if possible, be increased, when we examine the very next clause of this sentence, where we shall find that the article is prefixed to the subject, but omitted before the predicate.
∆rabdov euquthrov h rabdov thv basileiav sou.
- "The scepter of thy kingdom is a scepter of rectitude."But it may be doubted whether qeov with the article affixed be ever used in the vocative case." Your doubt will be solved by reading the following examples, which are taken not promiscuously from the Septuagint, but all of them from the Psalms.
krinon autouv, o qeov.
- "Judge them, O God." Psa. v. 10.
∆o qeov, o qeov mou.
- "O God, my God." Psa. xxii. 1.
soi yalw, o qeov mon.
- "Unto thee will I sing, O my God." Psalm lix. 17.
uywsw se, o qeov mon.
- "I will exalt thee, O my God." Psalm cxlv. 1.
kurie, o qeov mou.
- "O Lord my God." Psa. civ. 1.
I have now removed the only objection which can, I think, be started. It remains, that the son of Mary is here addressed as the God whose throne endures for ever.
I know that a pronoun sometimes occurs with the article prefixed to its predicate; but I speak only of nouns substantive.
I must not fail to observe, that the rule about the subject and predicate, like that of the Greek prepositive article, pervades all classes of writers. It will be sufficient, if I give three or four examples. The learned reader may easily collect more.
proskhnion men o ouranov apav, qeatron d∆ h oikoumenh. "The whole heaven is his stage, and the world his theater." Chrysostom. We have here two instances in one sentence. The same is the case in the following examples:-
bracuv men o xullogov, megav d o poqov.
- "Small indeed is the assembly, but great is the desire." Chrysostom.
kalon gar to aqlon, kai h elpiv megalh.
- "For the prize is noble, and the hope is great." Plato.
to t∆ aiscron ecqron, kai to crhston eukleev.
- "That which is base is hateful; and that which is honest, glorious." Sophocles.
Having spoken of nouns substantive only, I ought to state that the rule applies equally to adjectives and to participles. Near the opening of the fifth of Matthew, we find eight consecutive examples of the rule. In five of these the subject is an adjective, and in the other three, a participle. Indeed one of them has two participles, affording an instance of the rule respecting the prepositive article, as well as of that which we are now considering. makarioi oi peinwntev kai diywntev. "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst." In the Apocalypse there are four examples of the rule with participles, and in all these twelve cases the predicate is placed first. See the supplement to my Essay on the Greek Article, at the end of Dr. A. Clarke's commentary on Ephesians.
I am aware that an exception now and then occurs in the sacred writings; but I think I may assert that there are no exceptions in the Septuagint version of the book of Psalms. As the words o qronov sou, o qeov, occur in the book of Psalms, the most important question is this: Does that book always support the orthodox interpretation? With regard to the deviations which are elsewhere occasionally found, I think there can be little doubt that they are owing to the ignorance or carelessness of transcribers, for the rule is unquestionably genuine.
- H. S. BOYD.
The preceding remarks are original, and will be duly respected by every scholar.
I have shown my reasons in the note on Luke i. 35, why I cannot close in with the common view of what is called the eternal Sonship of Christ. I am inclined to think that from this tenet Arianism had its origin. I shall here produce my authority for this opinion. Arius, the father of what is called Arianism, and who flourished in A. D. 300, was a presbyter of the Church of Alexandria, a man of great learning and eloquence, and of deeply mortified manners; and he continued to edify the Church by his teaching and example till the circumstance took place which produced that unhappy change in his religious sentiments, which afterwards gave rise to so much distraction and division in the Christian Church. The circumstance to which I refer is related by Socrates Scholasticus, in his supplement to the History of Eusebius, lib. i., c. 5; and is in substance as follows: Alexander, having succeeded Achillas in the bishopric of Alexandria, self-confidently philosophizing one day in the presence of his presbyters and the rest of his clergy concerning the holy Trinity, among other things asserted that there was a Monad in the Triad, filotimoteron peri thv agiav triadov, ev triadi Monada einai filosofwn eqeologei. What he said on the derived nature or eternal Sonship of Christ is not related. Arius, one of his presbyters, a man of considerable skill in the science of logic, anhr ouk amoirov thv dialektikhv leschv, supposing that the bishop designed to introduce the dogmas of SHebellius, the Libyan, who denied the personality of the Godhead, and consequently the Trinity, sharply opposed the bishop, arguing thus: "If the Father begot the Son, he who was thus begotten had a beginning of his existence; and from this it is manifest, that there was a time in which the Son was not. Whence it necessarily follows, that he has his subsistence from what exists not." The words which Socrates quotes are the following, of which the above is as close a translation as the different idioms will allow: ei o pathr egennhoe ton uion, archn uparxewv ecei o gennhqeiv? kai ek toutou dhlon, oti hn ote ouk hn o uiov? akolouqei te ex anagkhv, ex ouk ontwn ecein auton thn upostasin. Now, it does not appear that this had been previously the doctrine of Arius, but that it was the consequence which he logically drew from the doctrine laid down by the bishop; and, although Socrates does not tell us what the bishop stated, yet, from the conclusions drawn, we may at once see what the premises were; and these must have been some incautious assertions concerning the Sonship of the Divine nature of Christ: and I have shown elsewhere that these are fair deductions from such premises. "But is not God called Father; and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? "Most certainly. That God graciously assumes the name of Father, and acts in that character towards mankind, the whole Scripture proves; and that the title is given to him as signifying Author, Cause, Fountain, and Creator, is also sufficiently manifest from the same Scriptures. In this sense he is said to be the Father of the rain, Job xxxviii. 28; and hence also it is said, He is the Father of spirits, chap. xii. 9; and he is the Father of men because he created them; and Adam, the first man, is particularly called his son, Luke iii. 38. But he is the Father of the human nature of our blessed Lord in a peculiar sense, because by his energy this was produced in the womb of the virgin. Luke i. 35, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; THEREFORE also that HOLY THING WHICH SHALL BE BORN OF THEE shall be called THE SON OF GOD. It is in consequence of this that our blessed Lord is so frequently termed the Son of God, and that God is called his Father. But I know not any scripture, fairly interpreted, that states the Divine nature of our Lord to be begotten of God, or to be the Son of God.
Nor can I see it possible that he could be begotten of the Father, in this sense, and be eternal; and if not eternal, he is not God. But numberless scriptures give him every attribute of Godhead; his own works demonstrate it; and the whole scheme of salvation requires this. I hope I may say that I have demonstrated his supreme, absolute, and unoriginated Godhead, both in my note on Col. i. 16, 17, and in my Discourse on Salvation by Faith. And having seen that the doctrine of the eternal Sonship produced Arianism, and Arianism produced Socinianism, and Socinianism produces a kind of general infidelity, or disrespect to the sacred writings, so that several parts of them are rejected as being uncanonical, and the inspirations of a major part of the New Testament strongly suspected; I find it necessary to be doubly on my watch to avoid every thing that may, even in the remotest way, tend to so deplorable a catastrophe.
It may be said: "Is not God called the eternal Father? And if so, there can be no eternal Father if there be no eternal Son." I answer: God is not called in any part of Scripture, as far as I can recollect, either the eternal or everlasting Father in reference to our blessed Lord, nor indeed in reference to any thing else; but this very title, strange to tell, is given to Jesus Christ himself: His name shall be called the EVERLASTING FATHER, Isa. ix. 6; and we may on this account, with more propriety, look for an eternal filiation proceeding from him, than from any other person of the most holy Trinity.
Should it be asked: "Was there no trinity of persons in the Godhead before the incarnation!" I answer: That a trinity of persons appears to me to belong essentially to the eternal Godhead, neither of which was before, after, or produced from another; and of this the Old Testament is full: but the distinction was not fully evident till the incarnation; and particularly till the baptism in Jordan, when on him, in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape, like a dove; and a voice from heaven proclaimed that baptized person God's beloved Son: in which transaction there were three persons occupying distinct places; as the person of Christ in the water, the Holy Spirit in a bodily shape, and the voice from heaven, sufficiently prove; and to each of these persons various scriptures give all the essential attributes of God.
"On the doctrine of the eternal Sonship of the Divine nature of Christ I once had the privilege of conversing with the late reverend John Wesley, about three years before his death; he read from a book in which I had written it, the argument against this doctrine, which now stands in the note on Luke i. 35. He did not attempt to reply to it; but allowed that, on the ground on which I had taken it, the argument was conclusive. I observed, that the proper, essential Divinity of Jesus Christ appeared to me to be so absolutely necessary to the whole Christian scheme, and to the faith both of penitent sinners and saints, that it was of the utmost importance to set it in the clearest and strongest point of view; and that, with my present light, I could not credit it, if I must receive the common doctrine of the Sonship of the Divine nature of our Lord. He mentioned two eminent divines who were of the same opinion; and added, that the eternal Sonship of Christ bad been a doctrine very generally received in the Christian Church; and he believed no one had ever expressed it better than his brother Samuel had done in the following lines:- "From whom, in one eternal now, The SON, thy offspring, flow'd; An everlasting Father thou, An everlasting God." He added not one word more on the subject, nor ever after mentioned it to me, though after that we had many interviews. But it is necessary to mention his own note on the text, that has given rise to these observations; which shows that he held the doctrine as commonly received, when he wrote that note; it is as follows:- "Thou art my Son" - God of God, Light of Light. This day have I begotten Thee - I have begotten Thee from eternity, which, by its unalterable permanency of duration, is one continued unsuccessive day." Leaving the point in dispute out of the question, this is most beautifully expressed; and I know not that this great man ever altered his views on this subject, though I am certain that he never professed the opinion as many who quote his authority do; nor would he at any time have defended what he did hold in their way. I beg leave to quote a fact. In 1781, he published in the fourth volume of the Arminian Magazine, p. 384, an article, entitled "An Arian Antidote;" in this are the following words: "Greater or lesser in infinity, is not; inferior Godhead shocks our sense; Jesus was inferior to the Father as touching his manhood, John xiv. 28; he was a son given, and slain intentionally from the foundation of the world, Rev. xiii. 8, and the first-born from the dead of every creature, Col. i. 15, 18. But, our Redeemer, from everlasting (Isa. lxiii. 16) had not the inferior name of Son; in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God from eternity, and the Word, made flesh, was God," &c. This is pointedly against the eternal Sonship of the Divine nature. But why did Mr. W.
insert this? and if by haste, &c., why did he not correct this when he published in 1790, in the 13th vol. of the Magazine, eight tables of errata to the eight first volumes of that work? Now, although he had carefully noticed the slightest errors that might affect the sense in those preceding volumes, yet no fault is found with the reasoning in the Arian Antidote, and the sentence, "But, our Redeemer, from everlasting, had not the inferior name of Son," &c., is passed by without the slightest notice! However necessary this view of the subject may appear to me, I do not presume to say that others, in order to be saved, must view it in the same light: I leave both opinions to the judgment of the reader; for on such a point it is necessary that every man should be clear in his own mind, and satisfied in his own conscience. Any opinion of mine my readers are at perfect liberty to receive or reject. I never claimed infallibility; I say, with St. Augustine, Errare possum; haereticus esse nolo. Refined Arians, with some of whom I am personally acquainted, are quite willing to receive all that can be said of the dignity and glory of Christ's nature, provided we admit the doctrine of the eternal Sonship, and omit the word unoriginated, which I have used in my demonstration of the Godhead of the saviour of men; but, as far as it respects myself, I can neither admit the one, nor omit the other. The proper essential Godhead of Christ lies deep at the foundation of my Christian creed; and I must sacrifice ten thousand forms of speech rather than sacrifice the thing. My opinion has not been formed on slight examination.