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Sermon II

Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature.—Col. 1:15.

The apostle having mentioned our redemption, doth now fall upon a description of the Redeemer. He is set forth by two things:—

First, His internal relation to God.

Secondly, By his external relation to the creature.

Doct. It is a great part of a believer’s work to have a deep sense of the Redeemer’s excellency imprinted upon his mind and heart.

[Outline of this sermon]

Here I shall show:—

            How it is set forth in this verse.

            Why this should be much upon our minds and hearts.

I.          How it is set forth in this scripture:—

A.         That he is ‘the image of the invisible God.’

B.         ‘The first-born of every creature.’

II.         For the first expression there I shall consider:—

A.         What belongs to an image.

B.         In what respects Christ is the image of God.

C.         How he differeth from other persons.

I.          [The Image of the Invisible God]

A.         What belongeth to an image, and that all this is in Christ. In an image there are two things—impression and representation. Both are in Christ. There is a divine impression upon him[1], and he doth represent God to us.

1.         For impression, there is:—

a.         Likeness; for an image must be like him whom it representeth. [That is, if Christ is the image of the invisible God, then Christ must somehow represent God. Manton does not always “show his work.” Having raised a point, he moves to implications where conclusions or questions. But he does not always spell out the in-between step. Here, having said that Christ is the image of the invisible God, we come to two problems: (1) we may not make images of God, and (2) how can anything represent an invisible God? He combines both of these problems into a single question.]

i.          An artificial image of God, or such as may be made by us, is forbidden upon this account. Is. 40:18

ii.         [We are forbidden to make an image because]What is there among all the creatures that can be like such an infinite and almighty essence? or by what visible shape or figure would they represent or resemble God?

2.         Deduction and derivation.  [This is the image of a father to son] … .it is verified in Christ because of his eternal generation. Like him, because begotten of him.

a.         There is not a likeness in a few things, but a complete and exact likeness;

i.          …Heb. 1:3, ‘The express image of his person.’

ii.         There is not only likeness, but equality. [The argument here relies upon two logical propositions based upon the nature of God. It is also a nice bit of writing]

iii         God cannot

                        [1] make a creature equal to himself, nor

                        [2] beget a son unequal to himself.

3.         Representation; for an image it serveth to make known and declare that thing whose image it is.

a.         [He begins with a line from the Nicene Creed, the Son is described as “God of God, light of light”]. If light produce light, the light produced doth represent the light and glory producing….

b.         And this is the reason why the word invisible is added, because God, who in his own nature is invisible, and incomprehensible to man, revealeth himself so far as is necessary to salvation to us by Christ.  [“There is no hidden God, no Deus Absconditus, no God behind the back of the Lord Jesus.” T.F. Torrance, ‘War Service’, Unpublished Memoir, 49. https://www.academia.edu/36455985/_There_is_no_God_Behind_the_Back_of_Jesus_Christ_The_Mediation_of_Christ_in_the_Theology_of_T_F_Torrance%5D

c.         Visible things are known by their visible images, with more delight, but not with more accuracy.

i.          The image is not necessary to know the thing; but here it is otherwise. We cannot know God but by Christ: John 1:18, ‘No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.’

ii.         God is invisible, and incomprehensible by any but Jesus Christ, who being his only Son, and one in essence with the Father, he doth perfectly know him, and reveal unto mankind all that they know of him. …

B.        In what respects Christ is the image of God.

1.         In respect of his eternal generation. So Christ is ‘the express image of his person’—not substance, but subsistence[2].

a.         [This explanation only makes sense after you understand the term. See the footnote.] We do not say that milk is like milk, nor one egg like another, because they are of the same substance; so Christ is not said to be of the same substance, but of the same subsistence.

b.         He is, indeed, of the same substance with him whom he doth resemble, but the image is with respect to the subsistence; so he resembleth the Father fully and perfectly. There is no perfection in the Father but the same is in the Son also. He is eternal, omnipotent, infinite in wisdom, goodness, and power[3].

2.         As God incarnate, or manifested in our flesh; so the perfections of the Godhead shine forth in the man Christ Jesus, in his person, word, and works.

a.         In his person. They that had a discerning eye might see something divine in Christ: John 1:14, ‘We beheld his glory, as the glory of the only-begotten of the Father.’ There is the as of similitude, and the as of congruity; as if a mean man taketh state upon him, we say he behaveth himself as a king, but if we say the same of a king indeed, we mean he behaveth himself king-like, that is, becoming the majesty of his high calling. So we beheld his glory as, &c., that is, such a glory as was suitable and becoming God’s only Son….

b.         In his word; where God is revealed to us savingly, so as we may be brought into communion with him, so it is said, ‘lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them,’ 2 Cor. 4:4. As God shineth forth in Christ, so doth Christ shine forth in the gospel. …

c.         His works—all which in their whole tenure and contexture showed him to be God-man. If at any time there appeared any evidence of human weakness, lest the world should be offended and stumble thereat, he did at the same time give out some notable demonstrations of his divine power. When he lay in a manger at his birth, a star appeared, and angels proclaimed his birth to the shepherds; when he was swaddled as an infant, the wise men came and worshipped him; when he was in danger of suffering shipwreck, he commanded the winds and the waves, and they obeyed him; when he was tempted by Satan, he was ministered unto by the angels, Mat. 4:11; when they demanded tribute for the temple, a fish brought it to him, Mat. 17:26; when he was deceived in the fig-tree (which was an infirmity of human ignorance), he suddenly blasted it, discovering the glory of a divine power; when he hung dying on the cross, the rocks were rent, the graves opened, the sun darkened, and all nature put into a rout. Though he humbled himself to purchase our mercies, yet he assured our faith by some emissions and breakings forth of his divine power. …

[1] The impress which God makes upon Christ: something stamped.

[2] Manton is casually dropping some sophisticated philosophical terms into his sermon.  “What is common and general is predicated of the included particulars. Essence, then, is common as being a form [eidos, class, form], while subsistence is particular. It is particular not as though it had part of the nature and had not the rest, but particular in a numerical sense, as being individual. For it is in number and not in nature that the difference between subsistences is said to lie. Essence, therefore, is predicated of subsistence, because in each subsistence of the same form the essence is perfect. Wherefore subsistences do not differ from each other in essence but in the accidents which indeed are the characteristic properties, but characteristic of subsistence and not of nature. For indeed they define subsistence as essence along with accidents. So that the subsistence contains both the general and the particular, and has an independent existence, while essence has not an independent existence but is contemplated in the subsistences. Accordingly when one of the subsistences suffers, the whole essence, being capable of suffering. is held to have suffered in one of its subsistences as much as the subsistence suffered, but it does not necessarily follow, however, that all the subsistences of the same class should suffer along with the suffering subsistence.” It goes on a great length along these lines. John Damascene. “An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith.” St. Hilary of Poitiers, John of Damascus, edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, translated by S. D. F. Salmond, vol. 9b, Christian Literature Company, 1899, p. 50.

[3] “Thus, therefore, we confess that the nature of the Godhead is wholly and perfectly in each of its subsistences, wholly in the Father, wholly in the Son, and wholly in the Holy Spirit. Wherefore also the Father is perfect God, the Son is perfect God, and the Holy Spirit is perfect God. In like manner, too, in the Incarnation of the Trinity of the One God the Word of the Holy Trinity, we hold that in one of its subsistences the nature of the Godhead is wholly and perfectly united with the whole nature of humanity, and not part united to part4. The divine Apostle in truth says that in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily5, that is to say in His flesh. And His divinely-inspired disciple, Dionysius, who had so deep a knowledge of things divine, said that the Godhead as a whole had fellowship with us in one of its own subsistences6. But we shall not be driven to hold that all the subsistences of the Holy Godhead, to wit the three, are made one in subsistence with all the subsistences of humanity. For in no other respect did the Father and the Holy Spirit take part in the incarnation of God the Word than according to good will and pleasure But we hold that to the whole of human nature the whole essence of the Godhead was united. For God the Word omitted none of the things which He implanted in our nature when He formed us in the beginning, but took them all upon Himself, body and soul both intelligent and rational, and all their properties. For the creature that is devoid of one of these is not man. But He in His fulness took upon Himself me in my fulness, and was united whole to whole that He might in His grace bestow salvation on the whole man. For what has not been taken cannot be healed.” John Damascene. “An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith.” St. Hilary of Poitiers, John of Damascus, edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, translated by S. D. F. Salmond, vol. 9b, Christian Literature Company, 1899, p. 50.