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properly said, that “ it was manifested in the flesh :" nor that it was received up into glory."
Without deciding this point, I shall now proceed to explain the several following expressions of the text. And I suppose it will appear, that which soever of these two readings we follow, the meaning is much the same.
The first thing here affirmed, whether the subject be “ the mystery of godliness," or " God,” is, was manifest,” or manifested “ in the flesh.” And certainly, the connection is very good, understanding this to be spoken of the former of the two. And how it may be said, appears from many of the texts before alleged, when it was shown, that by “ the mystery of godliness," is to be understood the evangelical dispensation, or the doctrine of the gospel. For in those, and other texts, the apostle speaks of “ the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but is now made manifest:" and, the mystery, which had been hid from ages and generations, but now is made manifest unto his saints. The mystery of godliness," or the doctrine of the gospel, had been made manifest, by the preaching of John the Baptist, of our Saviour himself, and his apostles after him. It had been manifested “ in the flesh," that is, to, and among men.
But take our present, and more common reading. “.God was manifest in the flesh." And the expression will not be very difficult to be understood; the same thing being often said, and spoken of in other places of scripture. For God was manifested in the human nature of Jesus Christ. As St. John says at the beginning of his gospel : “ And the word was made flesh and dwelled among us.' And at the beginning of his first epistle : " For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us. And says St. Paul, Col. i. 9, “ In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily:" that is really and durably, not figuratively and typically, as in a bright cloud or glory, sometimes appearing under the ancient dispensations. The same apostle therefore says of Christ, Col. i. 15, that he is “ the image of the invisible God.” And Heb. i. 3, “ the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person.” For in him appeared the wisdom, the power, the truth, the holiness, the goodness, the mercifulness of God. In the like manner, and for the same reason, Jesus is called “ Emmanuel," or “ God with us," Matt, i. 23; or, as St. Peter expresseth it, Acts x. 38, “ Ye know, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost, and with power; who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil. For God was with him.”
And so far as we can perceive, those ancient christian writers, who read “ which,” understood this, and also the following particulars, concerning Jesus Christ.a
-justified in the spirit, or by the spirit. This is easily understood either of the mystery of godliness,” or of " God manifested in the flesh.” For the doctrine of the gospel was proved and attested by many miraculous works. Or, the divine authority and mission of the Lord Jesus were proved and evidenced by the spirit. As John the Baptist declares in his testimony to him. John iii. 34,“ He whom God hath sent, speaketh the words of God. For God giveth not the spirit by measure unto him.” And our Lord himself, Matt. xii. 28, “ If I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then the kingdom of God is come unto you,” And compare Luke xi. 20, and John v. 36, “ The works, which the Father has given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.” And to the like purpose elsewhere.
The whole doctrine of the gospel, the divinity of this dispensation, and all things concerning the Lord Jesus, were confirmed by his resurrection from the dead. As St. Paul says, Rom. i. 4, “ Declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead; and also by the plentiful effusion of gifts of the Spirit upon the apostles, and other believers, after his ascension, in conformity to his predictions and promises concerning that matter. So John xvi. 13, 14, “ Howbeit, when the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth. And he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me.
For he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.” And St. Paul reminds the Corinthians, 1 Cor. ii. 4, that be had preached to them “ in demonstration of the Spirit and
· Quod. Clar. Lat. Vulg. Syr.-Hieron. Fulgentius aliique Latini. Qui tamen omnes cum Græcis in eo consentiunt, quod partem hanc cum sequenti. bus in Christi personam interpretentur. Mill. in loc.
So Mill. I shall put down here the passages of some early Greek writers, who have referred to this text, and understood it of Jesus Christ.
Ου χαριν απεσειλε λογον, ινα κοσμω φανη" ος υπο λαε ατιμασθεις, δια αποσολων κηρυχθεις, υπο εθνων επιτευθη. Εp. ad Diognel. p. 50i. D. Paris. Ω μυςηριον. MO
ημων ειδον οι αγγελοι τον Χριςον, προτερον ουχ ορωντες. Clem. A. C. vii. Hypot. citat. ab Ecum. in loc. Vid. Clement. Fragm. ap Potter. p. 1015. et J. Ittig. Bib. PP. p. 162.
Εαν δε ο εμος Ιησος αναλαμβανεσθαι εν δοξη λεγηται. Orig. Contr. C. 1. 3. p. 129. Cant. 467. C. Bened. See Vol. i. ch. xi. and xxxviii. VOL. IX.
power.” See also 1 Thess. i. 5, 6, and Heb. ii. 3, 4, “ How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will.” And St. Peter, 1 Epist. i. 12, “ Of which salvation the prophets have inquired--unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us, they did minister the things which are now reported unto you, by them that have preached the gospel unto you, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.” That is,“ justified by the Spirit.”
It follows: “ seen of angels:" which also may be well understood of " the mystery of godliness.” For St. Peter, in the place just cited from him, says of the ancient prophets, “ that they did minister the things,” which had been fately “reported :-—which the angels desire to look into.” And St. Paul, Eph. in. 9, 10, “ To make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world has been hid in God-To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.”
Understand this article of “ God manifested in the flesh," or in the human nature of Jesus Christ. And then we may suppose to be hereby meant the appearances of angels at our Saviour's nativity, their ministering to him after his temptation in the wilderness, and upon divers other occasions, and particularly their attendance on him at his resurrection and ascension.
“ Preached unto the Gentiles :" that is, to all the world, not to Jews only, but to Gentiles also. This, as every one iinmediately perceives, may be properly said either of the mystery of godliness, or of the divine manifestation in the person of Christ. The doctrine of the gospel in its genuine purity, simplicity, and fulness, was preached by Paul and others both to Jews and Gentiles. And “ God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them,” 2 Cor. v. 19.
“'Believed on in the world.” It met with acceptance, and had great effects all over the world. This may be fitly understood of either of the two subjects so often mentioned. Says the apostle to the Romans, i. 5, 6,“ By whom we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for his name. Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ.” 2 Cor. ii. 14, “ Now thanks
be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.” And Col. i. 5, 6, “ We give thanks to God for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the truth of the gospel ; which is come unto you, as it is in all the world, and bringeth forth fruit, as it does also in you, since the day ye heard it, and knew the grace of God in truth.”
Finally, “ received up into glory.” If this be understood of “ the mystery of godliness," or the doctrine of the gospel, the meaning is, that it was gloriously exalted; inasmuch as thereby the knowledge of God had been spread over the earth, more than by reason alone, or any former revelation; and that it had a more powerful effect and influence than any other doctrine whatever, for enlightening, sanctifying, and saving men.
But this expression may be also very properly understood of “ God manifested in the flesh," meaning our Lord's glorious ascension. Acts i. 2,“ -until the day in which he was taken up.” And ver. 11, “ they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up.” Indeed the phrase, "received up into glory,” taken separately, might be very properly used concerning our Lord's ascension into heaven. The chief difficulty attending this interpretation is the place in which it is mentioned, last in order; whereas the ascension of Christ preceded several things here observed : “ preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world.” However, possibly, this objection may be solved, by only supposing, that the apostle, having begun with that particular, ** God manifested in the flesh," meaning his appearance in the human nature of Christ, might choose to conclude with that which put a period to our Lord's personal presence, and visible appearance among men in this earth; his triumphant ascension to heaven, and his reception there into glory, at the right band of God.
Thus I have represented the several senses of these expressions, and according to my ability briefly explained the whole.
And I presume, that the truth of the observation, mentioned at the beginning of this discourse, may now be more apparent; that there is nothing in this text but what is perfectly agreeable to many other texts of scripture; and that the several particulars here mentioned, are articles of faith received by all christians in general; whether the subject here spoken of be “the mystery of godliness,” or “ God” himself.
Suppose the first. It is known and believed by all christians, that the doctrine of the gospel was “ manifested,” to and among men, by Jesus Christ and his apostles : that it was “justified by the Spirit,” confirmed by miracles wrought by Christ himself, and by his apostles, and others afterwards : “ seen of angels,” beheld by them with ready approbation, and with surprise and wonder: “ preached to the Gentiles," as well as Jews: “believed on in the world,” received by men of all characters in all nations: “received up into glory," gloriously exalted, greatly honoured and magnified by that reception, and by its effects in the hearts and lives of men.
Suppose this to be said of God. It is also true, and received by all christians in general. There was an especial presence, and most extraordinary manifestation of the Divine Being in the human nature, or person of Jesus Christ, who is therefore called Emmanuel, or God with us. The divine authority of Jesus was “ justified by the Spirit," by many miraculous works, and by a very plentiful effusion of the Holy Ghost upon such as believed in him. He was seen and ministered to, “ by angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world," and finally “received up into glory,” in heaven.
APPLICATION. What remains after this paraphrastical explication of the words of the text, is an application in two or three inferences,
1. We must here see reason for praise and thanksgiving to God for the revelation of his will, and for the manifestation of himself to us in Christ, and his gospel; especially if we ourselves have not only been favoured with this discovery, but have also heartily embraced it, and reaped benefit by it. As our Lord said to his disciples, “ to whom it was given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven," and who had diligently attended to the instructions afforded to them. “ Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, that inany prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them," Matt. xiii, 16, 17.
2. We may bence perceive it to be a duty, especially incumbent upon the ministers of Christ, in his church, to support and defend the true doctrine of the gospel.
It is with this view that this matter is now mentioned to Timothy. And every thing here insisted upon is very proper to engage and influence those who are in a station