Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.

The power of God unto salvation online

. (page 1 of 13)
Online LibraryBenjamin Breckinridge WarfieldThe power of God unto salvation → online text (page 1 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


3 3433 068261

84 5








♦Publishers'^ Weakly


Benjamin B. Warfiei/d. D.D., IJ>.I>.

Gbe Presbyterian pulpit





Professor in Princeton Theological Seminary





Copyright, 1903, by the Trustees of
The Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-
School Work

Published April, IQ03


I. The Revelation of Man

II. The Saving Christ .

III. The Argument from Experience

IV. The Paradox of Omnipotence
V. The Love of the Holy Ghost

VI. The Leading of the Spirit .

VII. Paul's Earliest Gospel .

VIII. False Religion and the True






The Sermons included in this volume have all
been preached in the chapel of the theological
Seminary at Princeton








" But one hath somewhere testified, saying, What is man, that
Thou art mindful of him ? Or the son of man, that Thou visitest
him ? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels ; Thou
crownedst him with glory and honor; Thou didst put all things
in subjection under his feet. For in that He subjected all
things unto him, He left nothing that is not subject to him.
But now we see not yet all things subjected to him. But we
behold Him who hath been made a little lower than the angels,
even Jesus, because of the suffering of death, crowned with
glory and honor." — Heb. ii. 6-9. (R. V.)

These words form the beginning of a marvel-
ous passage the subject of which is " Christ our
Representative." That He might become our
Representative, the inspired writer teaches, it was
needful that He should identify Himself with us.
Therefore it was that He became man.

Language had been exhausted to exhibit the
divine dignity of our Representative. In contrast
with those men of God, the prophets, in whom



God dwelt and through whom God spoke, He is
called a Son through whom the worlds were
made and by the word of whose power all things
are upheld ; who is the effulgence of God's glory
and the very impression of His substance. In
contrast with the most exalted of the creatures
of God, the angels, He is given the more excel-
lent name of the Son of God, His firstborn, whom
all the angels of God shall worship ; nay, He is
given the name of the almighty and righteous
God Himself, of the eternal Lord, who in the
beginning laid the foundations of the earth and
framed the heavens, and who shall abide the same
when heaven and earth wax old and pass away.

Language is now exhausted to emphasize the
perfection of the identification of this divine being
with the children of men, when He who by
nature was thus infinitely exalted above angels
was made, like man, "a little lower than the
angels . . . because of the suffering of death."
" It behooved Him," we are told, " in all things
to be made like unto His brethren " ; and " since
then the children are sharers in blood and flesh,
He also Himself in like manner partook of the
same," in order " that through death He might
bring to nought him that had the power of death,
that is, the devil ; and might deliver all them who


through fear of death were all their lifetime sub-
ject to bondage." The emphasis is upon the
completeness of the identification of the Son of
God with the sons of men, that by His sufferings
many sons might be brought unto glory. And
the implication is that as He was thus so com-
pletely identified with us for His work, so we are
equally completely identified with Him in the
fruits of that work. He shared with us our estate
that we might share His merit with Him.

There is a great deal more precious truth in
this passage than we can profitably attempt to
consider in a single discourse The whole
gospel of the grace of God is in it. I have
chosen its initial words for my text, and I pur-
pose to ask you to fix your attention on its
initial thought — the perfect identification of
Christ with man. And even this in only one of
its aspects, viz.: the consequent revelation of man
which is brought us by the man Christ Jesus.
Because our Lord is the Son of God, the im-
pressed image of God's substance — as the stamp
of a seal is the impressed image of the seal — His
advent into our world was the supreme revelation
of God. But, equally, because of His perfect
identification with the children of men, partaking


of their blood and flesh, and made in all things
like unto men, He stands before us also as the
perfect revelation of man. It behooves us to
look with wondering eyes upon Him whom to
see is to see the Father also, that we may learn to
know God — the God and Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ, who " so loved the world, that He gave
His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth
on Him should not perish, but have eternal life."
It may also behoove us to look upon Him who
is not ashamed to call us brethren, that we may
learn to know man — the man that God made in
His own image, and whom He would rescue from
his sin by the gift of His Son.

The text assuredly fully justifies us in looking
upon Christ as the revelation of man. It begins,
as you observe, by adducing the language of the
eighth Psalm, in which God is adoringly praised
for His goodness to man in endowing him,
despite his comparative insignificance, with
dominion over the creatures. The psalmist is
contemplating the mighty expanse of the evening
sky, studded with its orbs of light, among which
the moon marches in splendor ; and he is filled
with a sense of the greatness of the God the
work of whose hands all this glory is. " O Lord,
our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the


earth, who hast set Thy glory upon the
heavens !" He is lost in wonder that such a
God can bear in mind so weak a thing as man.
" When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy
ringers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast
ordained ; what is man, that Thou art mindful of
him, and the son of man, that Thou visitest
him?" But his wonder and adoration reach
their climax as he recounts how the Author of all
this magnificent universe has not only considered
man, but made him lord of it all. In an inextin-
guishable burst of amazed praise he declares:
" Thou hast made him but little lower than the
angels, and crownedst him with glory and honor.
Thou madest him to have dominion over the
works of Thy hands ; Thou hast put all things
under his feet." He enumerates the minor ele-
ments of man's strange dominion, emphasizing
its completeness and all-inclusiveness. " All
sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field ;
the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas."
Nothing is omitted. So the praise returns upon
itself and the Psalm closes with the repeated and
now justified exclamation, " O Lord, our Lord,
how excellent is Thy name in all the earth !" It
is a hymn, you observe, of man's dignity and


honor and dominion. God is praised that He
has dealt in so wondrous a fashion with mortal
man, born from men, that He has elevated him to
a position but little lower than that of the
angels, crowned him with glory and honor, and
given him dominion over all the works of His

Now, observe how the author of this epistle
deals with the Psalm. He adduces it as authori-
tative Scripture declaring indisputable fact. " One
hath somewhere testified, saying, What is man,
that Thou art mindful of him ? Or the son of
man, that Thou visitest him ? Thou madest him
a little lower than the angels ; Thou crownedst
him with glory and honor; Thou didst put
all things in subjection under his feet." He
expounds its meaning accurately. " For in that
He subjected all things unto him, He left nothing
that is not subject to him." And then he argues
thus : " But now we see not yet all things sub-
jected to him. But we behold Him who hath
been made a little lower than the angels, even
Jesus, because of the suffering of death, crowned
with glory and honor." That is, of course, in
Jesus only as yet do we see in actual pos-
session and exercise, in its completeness and
perfection, that majesty and dominion which the


inspired psalmist attributes to man. God has
expressly subjected all things to man ; man has
obviously not entered into his dominion ; but the
man Jesus has. Therefore it is to Him that we
are to look if we would see man as man, man in
the possession and use of all those faculties,
powers, dignities for which he was destined by
his Creator. In this way the author of this epis-
tle presents Jesus before us as the pattern, the
ideal, the realization of man. Looking upon Him,
we have man revealed to us.

I beg you to keep fully in mind that our Lord's
adaptation to reveal to us what man is, is based
by the author of this epistle solely on the perfec-
tion of His identification with us in His incarna-
tion. To the author of this epistle, our Lord in
His own proper person is beyond all comparison
with man. As God's own Son, the effulgence
of His glory and the impressed image of His
substance, He is beyond comparison even with
prophets and infinitely above angels. He became
identified with us by an act of humiliation and
for an assigned cause, viz. : for the sake " of the
suffering of death," that is, in order that He
might be able to undertake and properly to fulfill
His high-priestly work — as we are immediately


instructed in detail. This act of humiliation is
expressed here, for the sake of giving point to
the argument, in language derived from the
Psalm : " He hath been made a little lower than
the angels." Observe, then, the pregnant difference
which emerges in the use of this phrase of man
and of our Lord. That man was made but little
lower than the angels marks the height of his
exaltation : " Thou didst make him a little
lower than the angels, Thou didst crown him
with glory and honor." That our Lord was made
a little lower than the angels, marks the depth
of His humiliation : " We behold Jesus, who hath
been made a little lower than the angels for the
suffering of death." So wide is the interval that
stretches between Him and man. He stoops to
reach the exalted heights of man's as yet unat-
tained glory.

But the perfection of His identification with us
consisted just in this, that He did not, when He
was made a little lower than the angels for the
suffering of death, assume merely the appearance
of man or even merely the position and destiny
of man, but the reality of humanity. Note the
stress laid in the passage, on the reality of the
humanity which our Lord assumed, when, as the
inspired writer pointedly declares, He was made


like to His brethren in all things. He was made
like them in their physical nature : as they were
" sharers in blood and flesh, He also Himself in
like manner partook of the same." He was
made like them in their psychical nature: as
they suffered and were tempted, He also " Him-
self hath suffered being tempted. " Jesus Christ
is presented before us here as a true and real
man, possessed of every faculty and capacity
that belongs to the essence of our nature : as a
veritable "son of man," born of a woman, and
brother to all those whom He came to succor.
It is because He was in this true and com-
plete sense what He so loved to call Himself, the
Son of man — doubtless with as full reference to
the eighth Psalm as to Daniel's great apocalypse
— that He reveals to us in His own life and con-
duct what man was intended to be in the plan of

We must keep these great facts in mind that
we may preserve the point of view of the inspired
writer, as we strive to follow him in looking
upon Jesus as the representative man, in whose
humanity man is revealed to us. He is not the
representative man in the sense that man is all
that He is. When He entered the sphere of
human life, by the assumption of a human nature,


He did not lay aside His Godhead. He is,
while being all that man is, infinitely more. He is
God as well as man. He is not the representa-
tive man in the sense that in Him the age-long
process of man's creation was first completed —
that His exalted humanity is the goal toward
which nature had been all through the aeons
travailing, till now at last in Him the man-child
comes to a tardy birth. He is the revelation of
man only in the sense that when we turn our
eyes toward Him, we see in the quality of His
humanity God's ideal of man, the Creator's inten-
tion for His creature; while by contrast with Him
we may learn the degradation of our sin ; and
happily also we may see in Him what man is to
be, through the redemption of the Son of God
and the sanctification of the Spirit. Let us think
a little on these things.

And, first, in the quality of Christ's manhood
we may see the perfect man, the revelation of
what man is in God's idea of him, of what the
Creator intended him to be.

And what is the quality of Jesus' manhood ?
There is no other word to express it except the
great word perfection. Sin ? We cannot think
of it in connection with Him. Those who com-


panied with Him testify that He was " without
blemish and without spot "; that " He did no sin,
neither was guile found in His mouth." The
author of our epistle declares that He was " sepa-
rate from sinners," that He was, in the midst of
temptation, " without sin." The story of His life
and sayings leaves us without trace of acknowl-
edgment of fault on His own part, without
betrayal of consciousness of unworthiness, with-
out the slightest hint of inner conflict with sinful

And if the quality of His excellence is too
positive to permit us even to speak of sin in
connection with it, it is equally too universal to
admit of adequate characterization. The excel-
lences of the best of men may usually be con-
densed in a single outstanding virtue or grace
by which each is peculiarly marked. Thus we
speak of the faith of Abraham, the meekness of
Moses, the patience of Job, the boldness of
Elijah, the love of John. The perfection of Jesus
defies such particularizing characterization. All
the beauties of character which exhibit themselves
singly in the world's saints and heroes, assemble
in Him, each in its perfection and all in perfect
balance and harmonious combination. If we
ask what manner of man He was, we can only


respond, No manner of man, but rather, by way
of eminence, the man, the only perfect man that
ever existed on earth, to whom gathered all
the perfections proper to man and possible for
man, that they might find a fitting home in His
heart and that they might play brightly about
His person. If you would know what man is,
in the height of His divine idea, look at Jesus

Is it not well for the world once to have seen
such a man ? How easy it is to accuse nature
of our faults, to confront God with what we have
wrought, and to seek to roll upon our Creator
the responsibility for the creatures which our own
deeds have made us. How easy to look upon
corruption as the inevitable incident of existence
for such beings as men ; and to speak of sin as
only the mark of our humanity. How easily a
cynical temper waxes within us as we mix with
men in the world's marts and tread with them
the devious paths of life. We mark their ways
and ask, waiting, like Pilate, for no answer, Who
shall show us any good ? How easily our ideals
themselves sink to what we fancy the level of
human powers. We note the aims of those who
strive about us. We note the aims of the great
figures which flit across the pages of history,


commanding the acclamation of all the ages.
We look within at the seething caldron of pas-
sions and impulses of our own souls. Do not
all these voices call us to one natural, one una-
voidable issue ? If in the far distance we faintly
discover hanging above us the beckoning glim-
mer of some star of heaven — what is poor wing-
less man, that he should hope to rise to grasp it ?
Is it not the part of wisdom, as well as the
demand of nature, that worms shall crawl ? Is
it not folly unspeakable for such as we to attempt
to mount the skies ? But we see Jesus, and the
scales fall from our eyes; in Him we perceive
what man is in his idea, and what it may be well
for him to seek to become.

The man Jesus stands before us as the revela-
tion of man's native dignity, capacities, and
powers. He exhibits to us what man is in the
idea of his Maker. He uncovers to our view, in
their perfection and strength, those qualities and
forces of good, the ruins of which only we may
see in our fellow-men, and enables us to admire,
honor, love, and hope for them, because they still
possess such qualities and capacities though in
ruins. To look upon Him is to ennoble and ele-
vate our ideals of life ; the sight of Him forbids
us to forget our higher nature and higher aspira-


tions ; it quickens in us our dead longings to be
like Him, men after God's plan and heart, rather
than after our own corrupt impulses. It is well
for the world once to have seen such a man.

Once and once only. Ah, there is the pity of
it, and there is the despair of it ! In no other than
in Him has the ideal ever been realized. And
the more we look upon His perfections the more
we perceive, as in no other light, how far short of
the ideal man have been our highest imagina-
tions. For we need to note, secondly, that in
the light of Jesus' perfect manhood we have, by
contrast, revealed to us what man is in his sin
and depravity, what he has made himself in his
rebellion from good and from God.

The Greeks had a proverb : " By the straight
is judged both the straight and the crooked; the
rule is singly the test of both." And so it is.
Wherever the straight is brought to light, there
inevitably is also the crookedness of the crooked
made visible. Let the builder hang his plumb-
line, with whatever careless intent, over any wall ;
and if the wall be not straight, every wayfarer may
perceive it. Let the carpenter lay his straight-
edge alongside of any board, and every crook and
bend is brought to the instant observation of all.


This is what is meant when the Scriptures tell
us that by the law is the knowledge of sin. For
the law is for moral things what the plumb-line
and the straight-edge are for physical things : it is
the rule by which our hearts are measured and in
the presence of which what we really are is made
manifest. We may sin and scarcely know we sin,
until the straight-edge of the law is brought
against us. Oh, how we fall away from its line of
rectitude !

Now, our blessed Saviour, as the perfect
one, full of righteousness and holiness, is the
embodiment of the law in life. And more per-
fectly and vividly than any law — though that
law be holy and just and good — does His pres-
ence among men measure men and reveal what
men are. The presence of any good man in
our midst acts, in its due proportion, as such a
measure. And, therefore, from the beginning of
the world men have been stung by the presence
of a good man among them to hatred of him, and
have evilly entreated and persecuted him. He is
a standing accusation of their sins. " There is cer-
tainly," says Miss Yonge in The Heir of Redcliffe
— that uplifting story which has been such a factor
in the lives of such men as Mr. William Morris
and Dr. A. Kuyper — " there is certainly a ' tyran-


nous hate' in the world for unusual goodness,
which is a rebuke to it." But no man ever so
feels his utter depravity as when he thinks of him-
self as standing by the side of Jesus. In this
presence, even what we had fondly looked upon
as our virtues hide their faces in shame and cry,
Depart from us, for we are sinful in thy sight, O

Lay open the narrative in these gospels, of
how the Son of man went about among men, in
the days of His sojourn here below. Note on the
one hand the ever-growing glory of that revela-
tion of a perfect life. And note on the other hand
the ever-increasing horror of the accompanying
revelation of human weakness and human de-
pravity. It could not be otherwise. When we
see Jesus, it must be in the brightness of His
unapproachable splendor that we see those about
Him : as it is in the light of the sun that we see
the forms and colors and characters of all ob-
jects on which it turns its beams. Especially
when we see Him in conflict with His enemies,
as we cannot avoid being moved with amazement
by the spectacle of His utter perfection ; so must
we, in that light, be shocked by the spectacle
of the utter depravity of men. Men are revealed
in this presence in their true, their fundamental


tones of nature with a vivid completeness in
which they are never seen elsewhere.

Now, such a crisis as this, Jesus is bringing into
the life of every man upon whom the light of His
knowledge shines. No man can escape the test.
Christ Jesus has come into the world and He con-
fronts every one with the spectacle of His perfect
humanity. When men are least thinking of Him,
lo ! there He is by their side. Every time His
name is mentioned in the assemblies of men,
every time His image rises in a brooding human
heart, the crisis comes again to human souls.
They may not realize it ; they may prefer other-
wise; they may determine otherwise. But they
are being tried and tested against their wills every
moment they live in His presence. Some, like
the priests, burn with rage at every thought of
the supreme claim He makes upon their homage,
and refuse with all violence to have this man to
rule over them. Others, like Pilate, yield a lan-
guid and chill recognition to His goodness and
worth, yet choose the pursuit of pleasure or gain
above the service of Him. Others, like the mob,
may in easy indifference prefer some other leader,
though he be a robber and a murderer. Thus a
crisis is brought by His presence to every heart ;
and a revelation of man in his true depravity is


the result. As He moves through the world the
whole race lies at His feet self-condemned. We
shudder as, in the light of His brightness, we see
man as he is.

Yet we have the word of Jesus Himself for it
that God sent not His Son into the world to con-
demn the world, but that the world through Him
might be saved. Let us turn our eyes away,
then, from the terrible spectacle of a race revealed
in its sin to observe, in the third place, that in the
perfection of Christ's manhood we have the reve-
lation of what man may become by the redemp-
tion of the Son of God and the sanctification of
the Spirit.

We observe that the element of promise is
made very prominent in the text and in the wider
passage of which the text is a part. Mark those
words of hope, " Not yet." " We see not yet all
things subjected to him." The psalmist's ascrip-
tion is then yet to be fulfilled in man himself. In
Jesus' dominion, and in Jesus' perfection, we are
to see only the earnest and the pledge. When
He entered through sufferings into glory, it was in
the process of bringing many sons unto glory. If
He is the sanctifier, they are the sanctified ; and
He is not ashamed to call them brethren. If He


became like them in order that He might die in
their behalf; this death was to be accomplished in
order that He might, by making propitiation for
their sins, deliver them from their bondage. In a
word, we are to look upon Jesus in His perfect
manhood as our forerunner. In His perfection
we are to see the revelation of what we too shall
be when He shall have perfected His work in us
as He has already perfected it for us.

Let us bless God for these precious assurances.
Without them the sight of Jesus could but bring
us despair. Men speak of Him, indeed, as our
example ; and we praise God that He has given

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryBenjamin Breckinridge WarfieldThe power of God unto salvation → online text (page 1 of 13)