Pre-existence of christ
The following item was published by Bro Thomas in The Herald of the Age to Come (in 1855), and is reproduced for the benefit of our readers:
DEAR BROTHER THOMAS,—Believing you to be fully competent to a critical exposition of the word, you would much oblige me by explaining John xvii. 5, and chap. i. 1—5; as some of the brethren here seem to think that Christ had no existence previous to his birth; that the world was created for him; and that Abraham saw his day through faith. FROM A READER OF THE HERALD. Scotland Feb. 28, 1855.
It is written in the word:
“Happy is the man that findeth WISDOM, and the man that getteth understanding. Jehovah by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens. Unto you, Ο men,” saith Wisdom, “ I call; and my voice is to the sons of man. I, Wisdom, dwell with sagacity. I am understanding ; I have strength. Jehovah 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 there were no depths, I was brought forth. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was 1 brought forth; while as yet He had not made the earth, nor the open places, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass on the face of the depth ; when he established the clouds above; when he strengthened the fountains of the deep ; when he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment; when he appointed the foundations of the earth;—then I was by him, as one brought up by him ; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth : and my delights are with the sons of men.”
Here was the offspring of Jehovah, of whom it is said : “She is more precious than rubies. Length of days is in her right hand; in her left hand, riches and honor: a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.”
Here is an existence previous to the existence of the earth and all that it contains. “ By me,” says Wisdom, “ Jehovah formed the earth.” “ I am understanding;” and “by understanding he established the heavens.” As a comment upon this, it may be remarked that in Job it is written : “ By his SPIRIT he garnished the heavens;” or in the words of David, “ By the WORD of Jehovah were the heavens made ; and all the host of them by the Spirit of his mouth.” For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. From these premises, then, it is evident that Wisdom, the Word, and the Spirit, are but different terms, expressive of the same thing; so that the phrases, the Spirit of Wisdom, and “the Spirit of Counsel and of Might” are combinations expressive of the relations of the Spirit in certain cases.
The apostle John, in speaking of this, saith, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was made not any thing which exists. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” This appears to me to be a very intelligible account of the matter. The Word, Wisdom, Spirit, God, all one and the same; for He, being the fountain and origin, is as the emanation from himself.
Now, this Spirit, Word, or Spirit of Wisdom, Peter styles “the Spirit of Christ, which was in the prophets;” or in the words of Nehemiah, who saith to Jehovah concerning Israel, “ Thou gavest also thy good Spirit to instruct them;” “many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy Spirit in thy prophets.” But why was the good spirit of Jehovah in the prophets styled by Peter the Spirit of Christ? Because it was the same spirit that dwelt in Noah, Moses, and the prophets; that afterwards dwelt in Jesus without measure, and so constituted him pre-eminently the Anointed One, or Christ.
Now, of this anointing it is said in the prophets concerning “the man whose name is the Branch: The Spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon him; the Spirit of Wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of Counsel and of Might, the Spirit of Knowledge and of the fear of Jehovah; and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of Jehovah.” This was one spirit, not many; and styled in the New Testament, “the Eternal Spirit through whom Jesus offered himself without fault to God.”
“The Spirit of Jehovah,” said David, “spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.” Let us hear, then, what the Eternal Spirit saith by David in the fortieth Psalm: “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire ; My ears hast thou carved for me: burnt-offering and sin-offering thou hast not required. Then I said, Lo! I come: it is written of me in the volume of the book, Thy will, Ο my God, I delight to do ; yea, thy law is within my heart. I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, Ο Jehovah, thou knowest.” Thus spake the Eternal Spirit of Wisdom, who was brought forth before the earth had being, and who was from the beginning by Jehovah, as one brought up with him. Did not Jehovah, then, sustain the relation of a Father to the Spirit; called “eternal,” because, previous to the beginning, it was in him, concentrated and condensed in his Divine Substance, not having then as yet irradiated, or been brought forth therefrom ? Yea, the Spirit of Wisdom is the Son or Offspring of God, “by whom all things were created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”
Again, the Spirit of Wisdom saith by David concerning the ears carved of the Father for him: “My body was not hid from thee which was formed in secret, and diversified in the lower parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my embryo, and all of them upon thy books were written in what days they should be fashioned, when not one of them existed.”
These testimonies show that in a time appointed, the Eternal Spirit of Wisdom would connect itself with a body that would be formed in embryo, as other human bodies are; and that there was a time in relation to this body when not one of its members existed; for the decree of their future manifestation at a predetermined date was recorded, saith the Spirit, “when there was not one of them”. The last quotation from the Spirit concerning the body it intended to shine through, is very remarkable. He speaks of its first being formed in secret; that is, in embryo: and then of its being embroidered or diversified “in the lower parts of the earth;” that is, in the grave. Is it not reasonable to conclude that the Spirit of Wisdom would contemplate this body with great interest and affection even before it had a being, styling it “my soul,” “my darling” and affirming wonderful things concerning it, which, before its creation, could be declared only of himself? It is; hence, when he foresees it encompassed by dogs, he saith to Jehovah, “ Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog!” And when he foresees the body embroidered with glory derived from its eternal union with himself, he calls it by his own Father’s name, “ the Lord of hosts,” and says, “ the God of the whole earth shall he be called.”
Jehovah styles this body he promised to prepare for the Spirit of Wisdom, a precious stone; and said, “I will engrave the graving thereof.” In other words, He would not permit the Spirit of Christ to manifest Him through an ordinary human body—ordinary, in its origin, as being born of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man. He had told Abraham and David that the body should be taken from their race and nature; but that when the days for its being fashioned should arrive, He would engrave, dig, or carve it out himself; so that it should be to Him a Son—Son to David according to its nature; Son to Jehovah, as having formed it by his Spirit.
This, however, was not to be all. It was to be embellished as well as engraved. The engraving was to be in the fashioning of the foetus in utero; but the diversifying of the body was to take place in the grave. When it entered this, styled “the lower parts of the earth,” it was as a victim sorely infected with disease; but, before its departure thence, the disease was to be cured, and the body made perfectly sound, and incorruptible. Hence, it was made different, or diversified, from its original constitution ; and became thenceforth an appropriate medium for the eternal manifestation of the Spirit of Wisdom, “whose delights are with the eons of men.”
Now, if these things be duly comprehended, the prophetic testimony concerning the body to be prepared for the Spirit in the days appointed, will not be difficult of comprehension. The testimony has relation first, to the body before its diversification in the grave; and second, after that operation has been perfected. These divisions must not be confounded ; for the things they treat of are as diverse as corruption and incorruptibility—blood-flesh and body in eternal union with the Spirit.
Of his future body before its diversification, the Spirit of Wisdom saith,” There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; nor rest in my bones because of my sins. For mine iniquities are gone over my head; as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink, and are corrupt because of my sin. I am troubled ; I am bowed down greatly ; I go mourning all the day long. For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease, and there is no soundness in my flesh.” “ Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” “Deliver me from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I. Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name.” The reason why the Spirit speaks thus of its body, is, because it was to be a Sin-Body before it should be diversified, or made different. Being fashioned out of Abraham’s nature, it could be no other; for that nature being human nature, “in iniquity,” “sin,” “without soundness,” “corrupt because of sin,” “loins filled with a loathsome disease,” are expressions which define its quality.
Hence, in the New Testament, it is styled, “sinful flesh,” or flesh full of sin ; and sometimes simply “sin.” If it be asked, why the body was to be of this quality first? The answer is, Because sin was to be condemned in the flesh of a sinless character; which would have been impossible, if there had been, in the physical sense, no sin there. Thus, by preparing a sin-body, or a body made of sinful flesh, for the Spirit of Wisdom, He laid upon that Spirit “the iniquity of us all;” and when the time came to make it “an offering for sin,” it was “offered through the Eternal Spirit;” and thus, in the Spirit’s own body our sins were borne upon the tree.
But of all bodies woman-born, which was the body fashioned for the Spirit? This question could be answered only by Him “who engraved the graving thereof” in secret. All who profess to believe the New Testament confess that the body born of Mary was the Sin Covering, or Vail, for the Spirit, to be rent in due time. “And the Word” says John, “became flesh;” not, however, in utero but some thirty years afterwards, when the Spirit of Wisdom descended from the Father in the form of a Dove, and filled the son of Mary with understanding, counsel, and might, knowledge and the fear of Jehovah: and then, when the Eternal Spirit united himself to the body prepared of the Father, a voice from the excellent glory said, “ This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased!”
After this union was effected between the Eternal Spirit and the nature of Abraham, “the Life which was the light of men shone in to the darkness;” and the Galileans who sat therein, saw the greatness of it; and as one of them says, “we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth;” but generally speaking, “ the darkness comprehended it not;” for it was in the region and shadow of death” in which it blazed. Behold then the Lamp ordained for David! The true light which enlighteneth every man coming into the state. He was in the state, and the state was made by him, and the state knew him not. He came into his own land, and his own people did not receive him: but as many as received him, to them gave he power to become children of God, to them believing into his name,” whose faith leads them into his name; who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
The Eternal Spirit walked, and taught, and accomplished mighty works in this body for three years and a half. When in the temple he said to the Jews, “Destroy this temple,” alluding to his body, “and in three days I will raise it up.” On another occasion: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread he shall live in the age: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” And again, “ I speak that which I have seen with my Father. I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad.” By this the Jews understood him to say that he had seen Abraham, which greatly surprised them: but he astonished them still more by saying, “Before Abraham was born I am.”
In another place the Spirit continues, “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father, who dwells in me, and doeth the works. Believe me, that I am in the Father, and the Father in me. Because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and/in you” After all this, can there be any doubt in our correspondent’s mind as to the meaning of the Spirit of Wisdom, when he addresses the Father through the body in which be walked, saying, “And now, Ο Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was ?”
The body of Jesus had no existence before its formation in Mary; but the Spirit of Christ which forsook it on the cross a short space before the Vail of the temple was rent in twain, was “brought forth” from everlasting “ or ever the earth was.” “ It was with God, and was God;” and was revealed to Moses as Jehovah, or I shall be; because he would meet him again in an Abrahamic Veil upon the Mount of Transfiguration; and hereafter in glory upon his Davidian throne.
Herald of the Age to Come, 1855)